2019
March
22
Friday

Thirty-two years ago this spring I covered almost every day of the Iran-Contra hearings for the Monitor. It was a fascinating story, featuring clandestine cash flows, mysterious foreign characters, and documents smuggled out of the White House inside a secretary’s clothing.

But in the end, the hearings seemed unsatisfying. They did document that the Reagan administration had secretly sold arms to Iran and funneled profits to Nicaraguan contra rebels, defying Congress. But they never established what the president knew and when he knew it or who was responsible for approving the whole thing at all.

The lesson I learned? Scandals aren’t cinematic. Watergate, with its clear narrative arc, was the exception. Sometimes Washington doesn’t fit into a screenwriter framework. Conclusions aren’t conclusive. Things don’t always turn out the way you expect.

That brings us to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and his long-awaited report, which he submitted Friday evening to the attorney general. As with Iran-Contra, we’ve already learned lots of details, from Trump Tower meetings with Russians to code names used by Russian hackers.

But meaning remains opaque. As reporter Scott Shane points out in The New York Times, we don’t yet know how much we don’t know. Did we know 90 percent or 20 percent of what Mr. Mueller’s found out? Who will see it? Will it be a bombshell, a nothing burger, or a cliché between those two?

“Nobody knows anything,” screenwriter William Goldman famously once wrote. He meant about Hollywood. Today it applies to Washington as well. Mr. Mueller’s final work will appear soon. Once it becomes public we can begin to sort through and comment on his work.

Now for our five stories of the day.

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1. Long neglected, white supremacy earns new urgency after Christchurch

Where Islamist terrorism is seen as a global phenomenon, that has not been the case for white supremacist terror, which has been viewed more regionally. The Christchurch mosque attacks may have changed that.

Peter
Jorge Silva/Reuters
A police officer stands guard outside Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 22. Last week’s attacks, which killed 50 people, may spur global action against the threat from far-right extremists.

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The deadly mosque attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15 are proving a watershed event in drawing the world’s attention to a rising transnational threat of violent white supremacism – and how it has so far been underestimated and misunderstood. While governments have tended to view far-right extremism as a homegrown problem, white supremacists today are using the proliferation of social media and cheap travel to operate internationally, much as other terrorists have.

Government counter-extremism resources remain largely focused on combating Islamist terrorists, including by targeting their online activities. White-supremacist terrorists – partly in response to Islamist extremism – have rallied in recent years around an ideology that merges white nationalism with anti-immigration and anti-Muslim sentiment, experts say.

Experts agree that the Christchurch attacks are a wake-up call that may spur necessary action against the threat of violence from far-right extremists. “This is a dramatically different attack in scale and scope,” says Seth Jones of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “What it may do is continue to raise the concern about the threat from far-right extremism among intelligence and law enforcement agencies across now multiple continents.”

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1. Long neglected, white supremacy earns new urgency after Christchurch

The setting alone was shocking: a pastoral, oceanside city in New Zealand, the country ranked the planet’s second-most peaceful, after Iceland. When a white-supremacist terrorist opened fire in two Christchurch mosques on March 15, taking 50 lives including those of a 3-year-old child and 78-year-old man, the brutal display of racial hatred – livestreamed on social media – jolted the world.

The man arrested in the deadliest terrorist attack in New Zealand history carefully calculated his actions for maximum impact on a global audience. He published a ranting, 74-page manifesto – praising far-right terrorists from Europe and the United States and inciting white men to violence against people of color, immigrants, and especially Muslims.

Yet while the repercussions of the attack are unclear, it has already proved a watershed event in drawing the world’s attention to what experts agree is a rising transnational threat of violent white supremacism – and how it has so far been underestimated and misunderstood.

While governments have tended to view far-right extremism as a homegrown problem, white supremacists today are using the proliferation of social media and cheap travel to operate internationally, much as other terrorists have. “It is very mobile, it is very transnational,” says Paul Spoonley, who studies the far-right in New Zealand. Hate crime is “an international phenomenon,” says Dr. Spoonley, who wrote the book “Politics of Nostalgia: Racism and the Extreme Right in New Zealand.” 

Jorge Silva/Reuters
New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (c.) attends the Friday prayers at Hagley Park outside Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 22.

“This is a much bigger global challenge than it is a challenge just in New Zealand or just in the U.K., with Britain First, or just in the U.S. with the [Ku Klux] Klan and a range of other neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups,” says Seth Jones, director of the Transnational Threats Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “There’s a broader collective concern here.”

The number and lethality of attacks by far-right terrorist groups has increased sharply in North America and Western Europe since 2002, according to the 2018 Global Terrorism Index, an annual report by the Institute for Economics and Peace based on data gathered by the University of Maryland. Far-right messaging is amplified by online platforms, according to the report, which found “elements of Islamophobia and xenophobic sentiments” in 50 different far-right organizations.

“Right-wing extremism is on an uptrend in [the United States] now and in Europe, and in English-speaking countries,” says J.M. Berger, author of the book “Extremism” and a research fellow with Vox-Pol, a research network focused on violent online political extremism. Right-wing extremist groups tend to be decentralized and difficult to track, he said, but their members number “thousands in the U.S. at least and thousands more in Europe.”

Overlooking domestic threats?

One major reason the rise of far-right terrorism has remained under the radar has been the preoccupation of governments with violent Islamist extremism since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

That focus has been warranted, as Islamist terrorists have been responsible for the vast majority of attacks and deaths since 2001. In 2017, four terrorist groups – Islamic State (ISIS), the Taliban, Al Shabab, and Boko Haram – were responsible for nearly 60 percent of the 18,800 deaths worldwide from terrorism, according to the Global Terrorism Index.

Deaths from terrorism have been declining overall – falling more than 40 percent since the peak of 2014 – largely because of a decline in violence in conflict zones such as Iraq and Syria, as ISIS has weakened and lost most of its territory and revenue sources. Yet even outside the war zones, Islamist terrorism has declined somewhat, experts say. For example, “Al Qaeda has been quiet in the West,” says Mr. Berger.

Still, government counter-extremism resources remain largely focused on combating Islamist terrorists, including by targeting their online activities.

That, in turn, has allowed white supremacy to grow, says Heidi Beirich, the Intelligence Project director at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama. “I’m not saying that Islamic extremism isn’t important. I’m just saying that there’s been a willingness to ignore this kind of terrorism in favor of that kind of terrorism,” she says.

“As international intelligence and law enforcement agencies were cracking down on online extremism and demanding that the Facebooks and the YouTubes of the world remove ISIS content, which they did,” she says, “nobody said a word about white supremacy, which is just as virulent, is just as radicalizing. And it has been allowed to flourish online until relatively recently.”

There are also legal limitations and political factors, such as First Amendment rights in the U.S., that have led governments as well as tech companies to apply more pressure to foreign Islamist extremists than to domestic, right-wing terrorist groups, analysts say.

For example, “it gets a little tricky for U.S. intelligence agencies to get involved in assessments of domestic terrorist organizations, especially organizations like the CIA to collect on domestic organizations,” Dr. Jones says. “Though with more extensive international communication and travel, clearly it starts to blur the line.”

And mainstream Western media, meanwhile, have given more extensive coverage to Islamist terrorist attacks – especially those targeting Americans and Europeans, ensuring they gain more public attention. The media “tends to exaggerate threats from certain communities, such as Muslims and blacks, and underestimates the threat coming from white supremacists or groups that are more easily linked to the society’s mainstream,” says Mohamad Elmasry, associate professor of journalism, media, and cultural studies at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies in Qatar.

The blind spot also stems simply from people’s tendency to focus more on foreign than domestic threats, says Oren Segal, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. “It’s almost human nature to identify threats that are outside the family, from abroad, and it’s harder for people to look within to understand what those threats are,” he says.

Francois Lenoir/Reuters
A far-right supporter throws an object during a protest against the Marrakesh Migration Pact in Brussels on December 16, 2018.

A vicious circle

White-supremacist terrorists – partly in response to Islamist extremism – have rallied in recent years around an ideology that merges white nationalism with anti-immigration and anti-Muslim sentiment, experts say.

“Anti-Muslim rhetoric has risen to the top” for white-supremacist groups such as neo-Nazis, Mr. Berger says. “White supremacy has had a devastating effect on the world.”

Far-right extremists are now using the threat of Islamist extremism in an effort to attract more recruits, justify violence, and spread their racist ideology. “They are not just talking about ‘you can’t allow Muslims in because they are terrorists’ – it’s because they are brown people and it’s a threat against the existence of the white race. They use the language of invasion to try to spread fear and anxiety among white people,” Mr. Segal says.

For their part, Islamist terrorists similarly take advantage of right-wing violence against Muslims to call for revenge – as a spokesman for ISIS did three days after the Christchurch killings. Breaking a nearly six-month silence, the ISIS spokesman called for retaliation against the mosque attacks, issuing a rare statement urging Muslims to “wake up” and “avenge their religion.”

“It’s a disgusting tit for tat we see, and … people around the world are unfortunately the victims,” Mr. Segal says.

Europe has been the theater of some of the deadliest attacks, both by groups claiming allegiance to Islamist terrorist organizations and the extreme right, over the past decade.

Anders Behring Breivik, who was referenced in the Christchurch manifesto, killed 77 people in July 2011 in a bomb attack and mass shooting at a political summer camp for children in Norway. In Paris in November 2015, 130 people were killed in a multisite attack on a concert hall, a soccer stadium, and various restaurants and cafes by terrorists linked to ISIS. In June 2016, British Labour parliamentarian Jo Cox was shot and stabbed to death by a far-right extremist, and a year later, a British man drove a van into Muslim worshippers during Ramadan near Finsbury Park mosque in London. In between were the Nice, Berlin, Manchester, and London Bridge attacks, all carried out in the name of Islam.

Lise Aaserud/NTB Scanpix/AP/File
Anders Behring Breivik raises his right hand at the start of his appeal case in Skien, Norway, in January 2017.

The rash of attacks underscores how in Europe, the conflict between the two types of extremist groups – Islamist and far-right – is most stark. “In Europe you get this spiral of an attack by an Islamic extremist and then a reaction by white supremacists because that signals to them that the Muslims are taking over,” says Dr. Beirich. “It taps into that history in Europe” of Muslim invasions, she says, because many immigrants in Europe are Muslim or Middle Eastern.

Ineke van der Valk is a researcher at the University of Leiden for the European Union-funded DARE (Dialogue about Radicalization and Equality), which is studying radicalization among young people in 13 countries. “Islamist radicalization is very much on the political agenda, while right-wing extremism is underemphasized, at least in the Netherlands,” Dr. Van der Valk says. “But these are two forms of radicalization and they mutually influence each other.”

It’s a dynamic that’s also been on display in Canada. In the government’s latest figures on hate crimes, Quebec reported a 50 percent increase in hate crimes from 2016 to 2017, much of that Islamophobic. Incidents against Muslims peaked in February of 2017. That is the month after the attack on the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec, which left six congregants dead. The shooter’s name was written on the weapons used in the New Zealand attack.

“Within a month of people being shot in Canada, the [anti-Muslim] rhetoric did not change, in fact it got worse,” says Abdullah Shihipar, a Canadian of Sri Lankan descent. He believes it was backlash to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s proposal for a motion for the government to root out Islamophobia. Far-right groups protested what they called the “Islamization” of Canada; some told him at a protest that the motion would usher sharia (Islamic law) into Canada.

The interplay is nowhere clearer this week than in the Netherlands. Last weekend began with news of the Christchurch massacre. It ended Monday morning with a mass shooting on a tram in Utrecht by a Turkish man who killed three people. Authorities have accused the man of acting with terrorist intent and are investigating other possible motives.

In the Netherlands, “right-wing extremism … is really growing and becoming more mainstream,” Dr. Van der Valk says. She says attacks such as the desecration of mosques, for example, were once carried out anonymously but now groups readily take claim, much like ISIS does after a terrorist attack.

SOURCE: National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), University of Maryland. (2018). The Global Terrorism Database (GTD) [Data file]. Retrieved from https://www.start.umd.edu/gtd; The Institute for Economics and Peace Global Terrorism Index 2018
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Jacob Turcotte/Staff

Hate crimes perpetrated by the far-right have grown, from Europe to the U.S. and Canada. Most immediately, anti-Muslim hate crimes reported in Britain soared nearly sixfold the week after the New Zealand mosque attacks – and most contained direct references to those attacks – according to the independent monitoring group TellMAMA, The Guardian newspaper reported. In Canada, police-reported incidents were up in 2017 from the previous year. Incidents against Muslims in Ontario, Canada’s largest province, grew by 207 percent. As the Canadian federal election nears, anti-immigrant sentiment has grown louder, but activists here warn that politicians and the media are not paying attention.

“This has been akin to the idea of the boiling frog in a pot of water, where you’re slowly raising the temperature and it’s rising so slowly that people are not necessarily conscious of it,” says Amira Elghawaby, a human rights advocate and board member of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network. “It’s to the point where I do believe it could boil.”

The mainstreaming of far-right rhetoric

Political shifts in Europe and the U.S. are contributing to the rise of right-wing extremism, experts say.

“For a long time, we have seen a bright line between mainstream and extremist discourse, and those lines are getting blurry,” says Mr. Berger.

Far-right political parties are vying for power and employing divisive “us-versus-them” rhetoric, which has a normalizing effect. Across Europe that includes Geert Wilders’ Party of Freedom, far-right firebrand Marine Le Pen in France, or Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who won the last election on a platform of defense of the “Christian nation” – against migrants, against globalism, and his No. 1 enemy, American-Hungarian Jewish philanthropist George Soros.

President Donald Trump, meanwhile, has been blamed for, at worst, inciting hate, and at best, tolerating it. During the Charlottesville, Virginia, marches by white nationalists and their opponents in 2017, the U.S. president said there were “very fine people” on both sides, which for many observers served to endorse white-supremacist sentiment. Mr. Trump said after Christchurch, when asked about a global threat of white nationalists, “I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems.”

Alejandro Alvarez/News2Share/Reuters/File
White nationalists carry torches on the grounds of the University of Virginia, on the eve of a planned Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, August 11, 2017.

Advocates for groups threatened by white supremacists, such as immigrants and Muslims, worry that the tone set by the president may tacitly encourage violence by right-wing extremists.

Islamophobia has increased in the U.S. along with “the normalization of hate and bigotry generally,” especially since the 2016 elections, says Sarah Stuteville, media and outreach director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Washington Chapter. “What is very dangerous is that it has been … pulled into the mainstream. We see that by what happens here, but also in New Zealand,” Ms. Stuteville says, citing FBI data for 2017 – the most recent year available – showing the growing numbers of hate crimes nationwide, including those that target Muslims.

The U.S. has recently seen extremist violence shift overwhelmingly to far-right groups. The Anti-Defamation League reports that every one of the 50 extremist-related murders in the U.S. in 2018 was carried out by a right-wing extremist (though one perpetrator converted to radical Islamist beliefs before committing murder). “If you’re objectively looking at where the terrorist threat lives in the Western world, and not just in the United States, you have to count white supremacy as important as Islamic extremism,” says Dr. Beirich.

‘A rough road ahead of us’

Experts agree that the Christchurch attacks are a wake-up call that may spur necessary action against the threat of violence from far-right extremists.

“This is a dramatically different attack in scale and scope,” Dr. Jones says. “What it may do is continue to raise the concern about the threat from far-right extremism among intelligence and law enforcement agencies across now multiple continents.”

Already, the U.S. and British governments have revised their counterterrorism strategies to acknowledge concerns over domestic terrorists, with London explicitly warning of a growing danger from “the extreme right wing.”

Officials have also been more willing to label as “terrorism” acts of violence by white extremists. In the Netherlands in 2016, for example, judges called an attempt by five men to set a mosque on fire a “terrorist” action. It marked the first time an act of right-wing violence was designated as terrorism and a sign officials were taking the crime more seriously, says Dr. Van der Valk.

Governments should also publish credible statistics on right-wing violence and ensure law enforcement has the tools necessary to combat domestic terrorism, says Simon Clark, a nonresident senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

A daunting challenge for nations and technology firms alike is how to remove hateful and far-right extremist content online. Unlike the 20th century, when institutions set standards for discourse in film, radio, television, and other media, online activity today is like the Wild West, and we are making up the rules as we go, Mr. Berger says. “We have a rough road ahead of us,” he says, predicting it will take another decade to develop and apply new standards for social media.

An international outpouring of sympathy and support for the New Zealand mosque victims signals the possibility of a growing public movement against such racially motivated terrorism.

Violent extremists – from ISIS to neo-Nazis – often fail in attracting many followers to their causes. History is full of such examples, including the case of Timothy McVeigh, who killed 168 people in a bombing in Oklahoma City in the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history. McVeigh sought to incite a civil war, but any support he enjoyed declined after the attack.

In the aftermath of the Christchurch killings, mosques in the city were protected by none other than local biker gangs, whose members stood guard during funerals and prayer services. Non-Muslim women donned headscarves in a sign of solidarity. On Friday, New Zealand’s national television broadcast live the Muslim call to prayer followed by two minutes of silence.

“Terrorism is a difficult tool to use to win public support,” Mr. Berger says. “Often you endure a backlash that makes your actions less popular.”

SOURCE: National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), University of Maryland. (2018). The Global Terrorism Database (GTD) [Data file]. Retrieved from https://www.start.umd.edu/gtd; The Institute for Economics and Peace Global Terrorism Index 2018
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Jacob Turcotte/Staff
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2. Trump-Netanyahu: True bromance, or marriage of convenience?

President Trump has expressed affection for several world leaders but seems to share more than just mutual interests with Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu. What has made their relationship so durable?

Peter

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None of President Trump’s courtships with world leaders has had the staying power of his relationship with Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. It’s a relationship that has addressed their professed priorities, from border security and the status of Jerusalem to, now, the Golan Heights. But is their bond a true friendship or just mutually beneficial?

As they prepare to meet again, close observers say their relationship is more than just a matter of aligned worldviews. More important, they say, is how Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu identify with each other as the shunned of their country’s elites. Both disparage tough media coverage as “fake news,” and both are under investigation. They “get that in each other and identify with it,” says David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “They feel like they’re in the foxhole together.”

But Charles Kupchan, at the Council on Foreign Relations, disagrees. “I don’t think Trump maintains deep personal relationships with anyone, Netanyahu included,” he says. “Yes, there are clear ideological and stylistic similarities,” but “this is a relationship that rests on the strong mutual benefits that it brings to both sides.”

Either way, a true test may come with Mr. Trump’s long-awaited Middle East peace plan and any demands it may make on Israel.

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Trump-Netanyahu: True bromance, or marriage of convenience?

As president, Donald Trump has had his share of bromances with world leaders – certainly more than his predecessor, the cool Barack Obama, ever did.

There was the short-lived fling with French President Emmanuel Macron, an early dalliance with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that failed to launch, and a cozying up to strongman leaders – from Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines – that remain a feature of Mr. Trump’s presidency.

And then of course there was Mr. Trump’s own admission that he and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un “fell in love.”

But none of these courtships has had the visceral kinship and staying power of the relationship between Mr. Trump and Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu – a relationship that has addressed each leader’s professed respective priorities, from border security and the status of Jerusalem to, now, the Golan Heights.

As the first-name-basis leaders prepare to meet again at a White House meeting and dinner Monday and Tuesday, close observers say the lasting bond between two ardent nationalists who have Iran at the top of their enemies list is not just a matter of aligned worldviews, although that is a major factor.

Even more important, they say, is how Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu identify with each other as the shunned of their country’s – and indeed the world’s – elites and as soulmates who understand their survival depends on a loyal, fervent, and forgiving political base.

“Bibi was Trump before there was Trump, always in a mode of solidifying and advancing his core base but not looking to be a unifying symbol of the state,” says David Makovsky, director of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a longtime Israel expert.

The two men “get that in each other and identify with it,” he says. “But maybe even more than that, they have a sense of common grievance, that they are up against the elites of their society, the deep state,” Mr. Makovsky adds. “They feel like they’re in the foxhole together, persecuted by essentially the same establishments, and they’ve decided to hit back at the same institutions of democracy, first among them the judiciary and the media.”

Mr. Netanyahu learned from Mr. Trump to disparage any tough coverage or media analysis of him as “fake news,” something Mr. Makovsky says the Israeli leader now does “just about every day.”

And of course both leaders find themselves and their political entourages under investigation by national judicial authorities: Mr. Trump under the cloud of the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and the felony convictions of a number of his high-level campaign aides; and Mr. Netanyahu set to be indicted by Israel’s attorney general on a number of corruption charges sometime after Israel’s April 9 elections.

More than warmth, utility

Still, for some, “bromance” just is not the right term for the Trump-Netanyahu tandem, because they see no warmth or real friendship to a relationship in which the key common denominators are a sense of being under siege and of mutual utility.

“I don’t think Trump maintains deep personal relationships with anyone, Netanyahu included,” says Charles Kupchan, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in Washington and an expert in security alliances. “Whether he’s dealing with democratically elected leaders or with strongmen, the ‘bromances’ have been short-lived and really haven’t gone anywhere.”

But what Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu have in common and the common vision they have of their political situations – these have allowed their relationship to last where others haven’t, Mr. Kupchan says.

“This is a relationship that rests on the strong mutual benefits that it brings to both sides,” he says. “Yes, there are clear ideological and stylistic similarities, and I’m sure that creates an affinity. But that doesn’t seem to create stickiness for Trump.”

Each leader finds the other very useful in maintaining strong support within his core political base. For Mr. Trump, that includes a large number of evangelicals and a small but fervent (and influential) slice of the American Jewish electorate, Mr. Kupchan says. For Mr. Netanyahu, it’s the conservative base of his Likud party and factions farther to the right.

Indeed, Mr. Trump’s surprise tweet this week that he intends to upend long-held U.S. (and international) policy with recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the contested Golan Heights was seen by some analysts to be as much about Mr. Trump playing to his own fervently pro-Israel base as it is about shoring up Mr. Netanyahu in the midst of a tough reelection battle.

Billboards in Israel

That Mr. Trump is intent on doing what he can to boost Mr. Netanyahu’s election prospects seems abundantly clear. And Mr. Netanyahu is pulling out all stops to showcase his alliance with the U.S. president, going so far as to tweet “Thank you President Trump!” shortly after Mr. Trump tweeted his Golan Heights decision.

Mr. Kupchan notes that, in the election campaign underway in Israel, Mr. Netanyahu is featuring billboards of himself standing proudly with Mr. Trump – something it’s hard to imagine many other world leaders doing (North Korea’s Mr. Kim did make liberal use of photos of himself standing shoulder to shoulder with the American president at last year’s Singapore summit).

Indeed, the White House has faced criticism for extending an invitation to Mr. Netanyahu less than one month before the April 9 elections. (The Israeli leader will be in Washington to address the annual meeting of the pro-Israel AIPAC, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, as will his chief rival in the election, Benny Gantz of the Blue and White political alliance.) Some critics say that the leaders’ meeting Monday is one thing but that the dinner Tuesday loudly signals Trump’s support for Mr. Netanyahu.

The same criticism marked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s stop in Jerusalem Thursday, when he visited the Western Wall with Mr. Netanyahu, making him the highest-ranking American official ever to make the visit to the Jewish holy site with an Israeli prime minister.

Even before Mr. Trump’s Golan tweet Thursday, Jerusalem was swirling with rumors the president would give Mr. Netanyahu a pre-election boost by recognizing Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights, seized from Syria in the 1967 war and occupied by Israel ever since.

Should Mr. Netanyahu prevail in next month’s elections – polls continue to show Likud trailing the centrist Blue and White alliance but with enough smaller right-wing parties factoring in to potentially shift victory to a Netanyahu-led coalition – the big test for the two leaders’ relationship is likely to be the Middle East peace plan Mr. Trump is expected to unveil later this spring or early summer.

So far the U.S. relationship with Israel under Mr. Trump has been mostly all gives and no asks, though Mr. Netanyahu did endorse Mr. Trump’s demand for a wall to enhance border security. First among those gives was Mr. Trump’s decision in 2017 to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The Golan Heights is only the latest gift, but it is one that longtime Middle East peace negotiator Dennis Ross, who has served in both Republican and Democratic administrations, says is sure to complicate prospects for getting Arab leaders to sign on to a Trump peace plan.

Any Israeli give on peace plan?

Mr. Trump’s approach to Israel seems likely to change under any credible plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Still, whatever the promised peace plan includes, Mr. Netanyahu would be likely to go to great pains to continue standing with Mr. Trump – just as he is currently in his campaign posters – analysts say.

“Netanyahu will have to be very very careful” in responding to an eventual peace plan, says the Washington Institute’s Mr. Makovsky. “He will say ‘Donald has done great work’ and ‘I will meet with [Palestinian leader Mahmoud] Abbas anytime’ … but he will not say no to Trump,” he says. “He’s going to count on Abbas to be the bad guy who says no to Trump.”

Of course, some say that Mr. Trump is unlikely to propose any tough measures for Israel in a final-settlement peace plan that risk provoking the ire of his political base.

“Trump is headed into a tough election season himself, so the last thing he’s about to do is something that sows doubt within his base,” says CFR’s Mr. Kupchan. “So I would be very surprised if the U.S. puts out an ambitious peace plan that causes a great deal of heartache in Israel.”

That may be, but at the same time Mr. Makovsky says Mr. Netanyahu is a “realist” who “gets” Mr. Trump and perhaps because of that is not misty-eyed about their relationship. “He’s worried that Trump is mercurial enough that he could turn on him if he scorns Trump’s big initiative.”

In other words, if bromance there is, it has its limits.

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3. In the growing gospel of ‘workism,’ is all work holy?

America’s Calvinist roots mean the “land of opportunity” has always valued working long hours, but debate is growing over whether it’s wise to seek a sense of purpose and identity from a job. We also noticed that sometimes US “work worship” neglects people who work with their hands.

Peter

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Jake Hammel gets up at 5 a.m. and drives his Chevy Silverado to work, installing HVAC metal ductwork in commercial buildings or putting siding on homes.

“When you finish something and see you actually did something with your time, other than just, you know, punch the clock and earn a paycheck and get home as soon as possible, it just feels good,” says the father of two.

Americans, particularly millennials, are seen as living to work rather than working to live, in what has been dubbed the “religion of workism.” In the upper rungs of achievement, urban professionals and others have long celebrated the 100-hour work week, and “workism” is certainly not a new phenomenon.

But observers say this ethos includes a more invested quest for meaning than other generations’. For millennials, “a job is about more than a paycheck – it’s about a purpose,” a Gallup poll in 2016 concluded.

The focus of the debate so far, though, has been about a specific type of work. Mr. Hammel – who worked 70 hours a week at a tire factory before going to trade school – says he knows the drill well, but in a very different way.

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In the growing gospel of ‘workism,’ is all work holy?

Jake Hammel kinda gets why a bunch of Hollywood celebrities and Manhattan muckety-mucks might try to spend their considerable dime trying to finagle their kids into a big-name college.

His own are just in kindergarten and first grade. When he heard on the radio how the FBI caught 50 of the nation’s most successful and wealthy families paying bribes and faking the merits of their children to get into the nation’s most prestigious schools, he could at least understand their motives.

“You know, wherever you’re at financially, you can just kind of scale it down and think, well, if I had a percentage of my salary that I could try to buy my kids’ way through something, would I do it?” says Mr. Hammel, a sheet metal worker in Carlyle, Illinois, a rural town in the southern part of the state.

But, yeah, while one of the most of important values in his life is to take care of his family and provide for their future, it also means a lot to him to be able to work hard, earn an honest wage, and feel good about what he does. He wants to instill that in his children too: that no matter what they do, they should want to put in the work for what they want to achieve.

“Later on down the road I’d like to be able to see them have and do whatever it is that they want to do,” he says. “And, you know, I’m gonna work as hard as I can over the next 15, 20 years to give them as much as I can, but they’re going to have to put up some of their own dukes and work hard for themselves to get them in the front door.”

Last week’s news struck a deep bipartisan chord across the country after the Justice Department announced it had broken up a nationwide college admissions cheating scheme. A wide cross section of Americans remains stunned at how a cadre of elites, including Oscar-nominated actors, fashion designers, and high-powered New York attorneys, could spend as much as a college education itself to fake the merits of their children.

The scandal broke too in the midst of a wider national conversation that many were having about about the nature of American competition, the ideals of a meritocracy, and anxieties caused by a “religion of workism,” especially among millennials.

Behind the “gospel of T.G.I.M,” or “thank God it’s Monday,” preached by many of this generation’s competitive and mostly urban workaholics, lies a host of factors. One that cannot be discounted is economic anxiety stemming from growing up during the Great Recession and entering adulthood saddled with more than $1 trillion in collective college loans that have so far not guaranteed that this generation will have a more affluent life than its parents did. Certainly many Americans were zealous about seeking a sense of purpose from their jobs long before psychiatrist Wayne Oates published “Confessions of a Workaholic: The Facts about Work Addiction,” in 1971.

“Why we work so much is at least partly due to our national identity as hard-working, industrious people who live in the ‘land of opportunity’ where one can be self-made if only one tries hard enough,” says Carrie Bulger, professor of psychology at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut. “The Calvinist principles underlying the birth of at least part of the nation emphasized hard work, discipline, and frugality.

“And it’s is true that American workers still spend longer hours at work than any other developed nation in the world,” continues Professor Bulger. “It’s also true that we pay a psychological and physical toll for this in terms of rates of occupational stress, burnout, and stress-related illnesses.”

In the upper rungs of American achievement, urban professionals and others have wryly celebrated the 100-hour work week, and “workism” is certainly not a new phenomenon.

But as many millennials and others have embraced the tag #hustle to convey their commitment and brag about their hours worked, many observers say this ethos includes a more invested quest for meaning than other generations’. For millennials, “a job is about more than a paycheck – it’s about a purpose,” a Gallup poll in 2016 concluded.

“The problem with this gospel – Your dream job is out there, so never stop hustling – is that it’s a blueprint for spiritual and physical exhaustion,” noted Derek Thompson in The Atlantic, in his essay arguing the futility of seeking transcendence, rather than money, from a job. “Long hours don’t make anybody more productive or creative; they make people stressed, tired and bitter.

The focus of the debate so far, though, has been about a specific type of work: the kind that asks for a college degree. Mr. Hammel says he knows the drill well, but in a very different way. After he graduated from high school in 2010, he didn’t think college was for him, so he went to work at a tire factory, working up to 70 hours a week.

“Every day you had a different shift, so you’d end up working 7 to 3 one day, and then you might be off for eight hours, and then have to be back for the 11 to 7 shift – you know, the midnight shift the ‘next’ day,” he says.

And it’s true, it was hard to find a sense of meaning in this work, and it took a while for him to eventually decide to go to trade school in St. Louis, where he learned the trade of a metal worker – a job that he says has given him a deep sense of meaning and satisfaction.

It’s even a bit ironic in today’s relatively robust economy to hear of the growing anxieties and sense of spiritual burnout at the daily grind, suggests David Broomhead, co-founder and CEO of Trade Hounds, a Boston start-up that connects trade workers.

“I’ve worked in both a traditional finance job and in the trades,” Mr. Broomhead says. “I can say the job satisfaction I had working in the trades was much higher than working in finance.” Construction workers, in fact, rank among the most happy and satisfied in the nation, he says.

At the same time, about 80 percent of construction companies are having trouble finding qualified craft workers, according to the annual report of The Associated Contractors of America.

“For decades, high school teachers and parents have told kids to go to college, because it’s the only way to get ahead and get a good paying job,” Mr. Broomhead says. “This has led to a huge drop-off in kids attending traditional vocational schools and getting into a skilled trade.”

“The bad news is this has led to a huge skilled labor shortage, and construction companies don’t have enough manpower to build America,” he continues. “The good news is tradespeople are cashing in, with wages increasing and more benefits on the job.”

Indeed, the construction sector had some of the sharpest rates of wage growth in the country, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics.  

It’s not the easiest routine in the world, says Mr. Hammel. But when he gets up at 5 a.m. and drives his Chevy Silverado to work, installing HVAC metal ductwork in commercial buildings or putting siding on homes, “when you finish something and see you actually did something with your time, other than just, you know, punch the clock and earn a paycheck and get home as soon as possible, it just feels good.”

Same goes with his home life, helping with kids, planning a wedding with his wife-to-be in June, and finding time to play the fiddle with local bluegrass players. “It’s kinda hectic, but it’s nice that I can work hard at a job I like, I can get home every day and hang out with the kids, eat supper, and by that time, it’s homework, and then start getting them off to bed, and then do it all over again.”

“It can be tough,” he says. “But it’s very fulfilling. I’m happy.”

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4. With Turkey on edge, a look to architecture to bridge divides

How societies fill public spaces is often political, if not partisan. All the more so in Istanbul's Taksim Square, where a vast new mosque and a reconstructed cultural center are in seeming competition.

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Scott Peterson/Getty Images/The Christian Science Monitor
Architectural renditions of the new Atatürk Cultural Center line the sidewalks around the Taksim Square construction site on Feb. 27 in Istanbul. First built in 1969 with a modernist design meant to serve as the face of a new, secular nation, the center was closed in 2008 for renovation.

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The Atatürk Cultural Center, in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, was for decades a bastion of arts and culture. It was built to show the face of a modern, secular nation envisioned by its revered founder, Mustafa Kamal Atatürk. Across the square another major edifice is rising, long promised by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Islam-oriented party: a mosque that will one day house 2,500 worshippers.

While the mosque is nearing completion, the old cultural center is gone, construction of its replacement just underway. That symbolism makes many secular Turks angry, convinced there's a broader attempt to minimize Atatürk’s legacy while boosting Mr. Erdoğan. Yet it is that perception that has all sides pushing for a project that achieves a balance. The center's architects could not be more aware.

Plans are for the center to have glass walls to ensure that cultural events are “at the same time connected to the street.” Melkan Gürsel, a partner in the firm, says, "If you are making a cultural building, you should make a statement. It should say to everyone, ‘Come and be together.’”

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With Turkey on edge, a look to architecture to bridge divides

For decades, the Atatürk Cultural Center had been an architectural icon.

It stood in one of Turkey’s most dynamic political spaces, Istanbul’s Taksim Square, the scene of countless confrontations, many violent, between protesters and police.

A bastion of arts and culture with a bold facade of metal cladding, the Cultural Center, or AKM, was built in the late 1960s to show the modern face of a new, secular nation envisioned by its revered founder, Mustafa Kamal Atatürk.

But by 2013, at the peak of Turkey’s anti-government Gezi Park protests, the disused, ghost shell of a building had already been closed for years.

When one Turkish artist ventured inside back then, she did not know what to expect. She remembered as a teenager going every Saturday for morning classes, and for exhibitions and concerts. She found windows long broken and banners strung from the roof by protesters occupying the square and adjacent Gezi Park.

“It was just a shock, because people were waiting for it to be renovated and there was nothing done,” recalls the artist, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue. “I was shocked that it was empty already, because I saw it when it was full. It’s like seeing the Titanic after it sinks.”

Scott Peterson/Getty Images/The Christian Science Monitor
A mosque that will accommodate 2,500 worshippers is under construction on the edge of Taksim Square, one of Turkey's most dynamic political spaces, Jan. 16 in Istanbul. The project was promised by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Islam-oriented Justice and Development Party.

Today the AKM has been leveled and is finally being rebuilt, though in the midst of a hypercharged, divisive political atmosphere. Even municipal elections on March 31 have been branded by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the ruling, Islam-oriented Justice and Development Party (AKP) as a matter of national “survival.”

The optics on Taksim Square certainly appear to reflect Turkey’s deep social fracture: As work begins on the new AKM, on the opposite side of the square a vast new mosque that will one day house 2,500 worshippers is well on its way to completion, a project long promised by the AKP to its devout supporters.

Importance of balance

That symbolism makes many secular Turks angry, convinced that removal of the AKM is part of a broader attempt to minimize Atatürk’s legacy while – through the new mosque – boosting that of Mr. Erdoğan. Yet that public perception, and the underlying social tension, also has all sides pushing for a project that achieves a balance.

“The squares are important for governments; they use them to build their ideology and strategy,” says the artist, adding that it is “very normal” that the AKM was built by a staunchly secular government, and the mosque by the AKP, which has ruled Turkey since 2002.

“The AKM symbolizes culture in Turkey, and it being demolished means the culture is demolished, the arts, the way that we know it, [and] that there may be another way of arts coming around,” she says.

But the architects of the new AKM, led by Murat Tabanlıoğlu, the son of the original architect, could not be more aware of the need to preserve the center’s legacy for the future – and the need to bridge social divides in Turkey. They envision a multifunctional opera house complex that seats 2,350 people, in addition to an 800-seat theater hall, a conference hall for 1,000 people, and numerous other theater, cinema, and gallery spaces.

Scott Peterson/Getty Images)/The Christian Science Monitor/File
Protest banners hang from the Atatürk Cultural Center during the anti-government Gezi Park demonstrations of 2013 in Istanbul’s Taksim Square. Long a landmark building in Turkey, the original structure is being replaced by a new, larger cultural complex.

The massive cultural center – a $162 million project, at current prices, funded by the Ministry of Culture – will be the largest of its kind approved by the AKP government, which has focused most previous cultural efforts on throwbacks to the Ottoman era. Mr. Erdoğan personally called the architects, they say, to request they take on this project.

The new AKM will incorporate the signature metal cladding, as before, but also be largely transparent with glass walls to ensure that cultural events are “at the same time connected to the street” and therefore shared, says Melkan Gürsel, a partner of Tabanlıoğlu Architects. Inside, the opera house will be situated inside a vast orb covered with red tiles.

“It should create a synergy, and sometimes when you are looking from outside, next day you will say, ‘Let’s go there and be inside, and be a part of it,’” says Ms. Gürsel, whose firm has designed a host of specialized projects globally.

“I think those things are bringing more people together. It breaks the walls between social differences,” she says. “And you are on Taksim Square, if you are making a cultural building, you should make a statement. It should say to everyone, ‘Come and be together.’”

That is a “big” message for Turkey, she says, “because in our country we need that kind of message, because there are many different kinds of people, many different mentalities. But we are living in one country ... under one flag.”

Controversial from the start

Taksim Square has always been a political space, with critical events such as the killing of 36 demonstrators in 1977, frequent May Day clashes with police, and even a Kurdish suicide bombing in 2010 that wounded more than 30 people.

In keeping with that high profile, the AKM rebuild has been political and controversial from the start, not least because of delays due to its role during the Gezi protests. Demonstrators gathering on the AKM roof would simultaneously light flares, and their many banners created a wall of angry messages. When police recaptured the building, their first act was to hang Turkish flags and a portrait of Atatürk.

So rumors abounded that the ruling party wanted to bulldoze it to make way for yet another mall, in a bid to erase Atatürk’s secular legacy.

Scott Peterson/Getty Images/The Christian Science Monitor
An architectural model of the new Atatürk Cultural Center is displayed in the offices of Tabanlıoğlu Architects on Feb. 27 in Istanbul.

Indeed, on the eve of the demolition last year, a group of anonymous guerrilla artists beamed lasers into the AKM to spell the words Art Niyet. The translation means “plan for art,” but the term is a double-entendre with a second meaning: “concealed plan.”

Mr. Erdoğan underscored the controversy in February at the groundbreaking ceremony, using his typical “us-versus-them” rhetoric that analysts say has for years done much to exacerbate Turkey’s social chasm.

“Those who saw the old building as the center of their ideology tried to block this [new AKM] project. They tried to sabotage the project with protests in the streets,” Mr. Erdoğan said, as large banners of the president and Atatürk hung side by side.

Those against the project “are not acting out of sensitivity to culture and art, but out of ideological bigotry,” the president said. They are the ones, he charged, who during the Gezi protests “turned [the AKM] into a tool to assault our democracy, loot the property of our shopkeepers, and tear apart our streets.”

After the ceremony, Mr. Erdoğan crossed Taksim Square to visit the mosque site, eat roasted chestnuts, and talk with workers. One local official noted last November that the scale of the mosque “impresses you as an architectural wonder.”

The architects’ challenge

Former AKP Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, who is a candidate for Istanbul mayor, took a more inclusive tone at the groundbreaking event.

“Istanbul is not a city where anyone is going to dominate anyone else,” said Mr. Yıldırım. “Here, [our] differences live in harmony with one another.... We will continue, as we have in the past, to sit side by side to talk out our issues with one another, without fighting. For the city belongs to all of us.”

Amid the controversy, the challenge to rebuild this part of Turkey’s modern heritage will be to keep politics at a distance, say the architects.

“Sometimes what you are doing is more important than political conversations,” says Ms. Gürsel. “Everywhere, not only in Turkey, there are a lot of different ideas. But we should learn to live with these different ideas.”

Architecture plays a pivotal role “because it changes something,” she says.

“These are social sculptures, we should feel something inside,” says Ms. Gürsel. The AKM will “affect the city in a very good way, because one day we will forget all the negotiations, all the problems, all the desperations, and we will listen – all together – to some concert, which is very unique.”

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5. Rock on. How biopics are giving rock ‘n’ roll new life.

Copycat biopics are blossoming now that Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” showed what’s possible. Does more artist involvement reveal a concern about their music enduring in an age of information overload?

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Alex Bailey/Twentieth Century Fox/AP
Rami Malek embodies Freddie Mercury in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’ That record-breaking, Oscar-winning biopic about the rock band Queen has Hollywood bullish on upcoming stories about Elton John, David Bowie, Céline Dion, Dusty Springfield, and Aretha Franklin.

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Queen is the champion of Spotify. The streaming service has little rock in its top 100, but the 1970s British band is one of the few acts to break through recently. The group’s advantage is a successful biopic about lead singer Freddie Mercury that recently won actor Rami Malek an Oscar and earned $879 million worldwide.

More movies are on the way – one about Mötley Crüe debuts today – and like Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and hip-hop group N.W.A.’s 2015 box-office hit “Straight Outta Compton,” these new projects are backed by the original artists. Beyond wanting to shape how they are remembered, musicians are getting involved to ensure their survival. In the era of information overload in which decades-old music risks obscurity, biographical films can reintroduce classic music to younger listeners.

“Older generations [of musicians] aren’t making money from streaming. They’re getting up there in years and can’t tour like they used to, and the usual revenue streams to which they have become accustomed have dried up,” says David Browne, a senior writer at Rolling Stone magazine. “What do you do to keep music in the public eye and make a living? Biopics and jukebox musicals are the way to go.”

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Rock on. How biopics are giving rock ‘n’ roll new life.

There’s one movie this year that boasts more spandex than the upcoming “Avengers.” That dubious honor belongs to “The Dirt,” a Netflix biopic debuting today, about the heavy-metal band Mötley Crüe. It’s the first in a spate of rock-music movies that has Hollywood costume designers stocking up on denim, leather, and rhinestones. Credit the unprecedented success of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Last year’s record-breaking, Oscar-winning biopic about Queen has Hollywood bullish on upcoming stories about Elton John, David Bowie, Céline Dion, Dusty Springfield, and Aretha Franklin.

Music biopics have been a regular fixture on screens since “The Jolson Story.” But the Mötley Crüe, Céline Dion, and Elton John movies are different from many past biopics. Like “Bohemian Rhapsody” and hip-hop group N.W.A.’s 2015 box-office hit “Straight Outta Compton,” these new projects are backed by the original artists. It’s an opportunity for the musicians to shape the narratives of how they’re remembered. There’s also another motivation: In the era of information overload in which decades-old music risks obscurity, biographical films can reintroduce classic music to younger listeners.

“Older generations [of musicians] aren’t making money from streaming. They’re getting up there in years and can’t tour like they used to, and the usual revenue streams to which they have become accustomed have dried up,” says David Browne, a senior writer at Rolling Stone magazine. “What do you do to keep music in the public eye and make a living? Biopics and jukebox musicals are the way to go.”

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Mötley Crüe band member Nikki Sixx arrives at the premiere of the film ‘Long Time Running,’ about Canadian group The Tragically Hip, in Toronto, September, 2017. ‘The Dirt,’ a biopic about Mötley Crüe, debuts on Netflix March 22.

Queen knows how to play the game. In 2002, the monarchs of rock emulated the success of the ABBA musical “Mamma Mia!” by creating their own London West End production, “We Will Rock You.” Queen also followed the subsequent “Mamma Mia!” movie with “Bohemian Rhapsody,” named after their own song with a “mama mia” refrain of its own.

Bohemian Rhapsody” not only earned $879 million worldwide – plus an Oscar for star Rami Malek – but its soundtrack album was a hit on Billlboard’s chart. In January, Queen briefly beat out Ariana Grande as Spotify’s No. 1 global artist. Even more astonishing? Seventy percent of those listeners were under age 35.

Aside from Queen, there’s virtually zero rock in Spotify’s current top 100 songs. Rock music is going the way of jazz, observers note, once too the vanguard of popular music. Artists from the ’60s and ’70s are already losing cultural purchase. Today’s radio defines “classic rock” as Nirvana and Pearl Jam. 

“The classic rock playlists are tightening up all the time and they are also shifting down a demographic,” says Matthew Wilkening, editor-in-chief of Ultimate Classic Rock, whose parent company, Town Square Media, owns 321 U.S. radio stations. “Something like two-thirds of the current airplay lists on classic rock is from the ’80s now. So these heritage bands, to some degree, are getting squeezed out.”

That explains why Alice Cooper wants a screenwriter to wrangle his life story (and pet python) into a “Bohemian Rhapsody”-style movie. Similarly, Elton John hopes that his self-produced “Rocketman” (starring Taron Egerton as the bespectacled and bejeweled pianist) will introduce a younger audience to “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” Like “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Straight Outta Compton,” Elton John’s film takes significant liberties with facts and chronology. By contrast, Mötley Crüe’s “The Dirt” seems unvarnished. It chronicles the fallout from the band’s R-rated rock ’n’ roll-lifestyle excess.

“With these movies it’s controlling your future image for the rest of time,” says Chris Willman, features editor for Variety. “Not letting some biographer tell your story but finding a sympathetic screenwriter, director, and studio who will shape your story in a way that, 30 years from now, you’ll seem lovable and someone who triumphed over adversity.”

But for every artist that gets to tell their story the way they want – for example, the late Aretha Franklin handpicked singer Jennifer Hudson to star in the upcoming “Respect” – other biopics are unauthorized. Lynyrd Skynyrd unsuccessfully sued former drummer Artimus Pyle over “Street Survivors,” a story of the band’s tragic 1977 plane crash. “Stardust,” about David Bowie’s formative years, hasn’t received the blessing of the singer’s family. Without the rights to an artist’s music, biopics can flounder. When the Jimi Hendrix estate denied permission to “Jimi: All is By My Side,” the flop movie depicted the guitarist playing blues standards.

Michael Cieply, a former film producer, is familiar with such hurdles. He spent nine years on the Sony Studio lot trying to develop a music movie. “I invested a lot of that time in a United Artists project that was never made,” says Mr. Cieply, now executive editor for the movie trade publication Deadline. “It was a Merle Haggard project. What you learn is that there are extra layers of technical difficulty that mostly have to do with music rights. There are dozens of these pictures that people would love to make. There was a fabulous script floating around for 20 years by Tom Epperson and Billy Bob Thornton about Otis Redding. It was a perfect movie, but no one could ever quite get the music rights.” 

In an era of dwindling song royalties and falling album sales, music publishing companies may have extra incentive to assist such projects. They’re also licensing music to non-biopic movies built around artists’ back catalogs. For instance, this summer’s “Blinded by the Light” is about a British Muslim teenager who discovers Bruce Springsteen’s music. Director Danny Boyle’s “Yesterday” imagines a world in which no one remembers The Beatles – except for one wannabe singer-songwriter who re-creates the Fab Four’s songs and pretends they’re his own compositions. (Well, perhaps not "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.") 

Beyond that, expect a rush to develop biopics that emulate VH-1’s “Behind the Music” series, just as “Bohemian Rhapsody” did.

“It’s largely the same template,” says Mr. Willman. “It ends on a moment that leaves people feeling happy and wanting to go out and buy the catalog.”

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The Monitor's View

A cyclone’s wake-up call on climate adaptation

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A cyclone that struck southern Africa has left both a devastated landscape and questions about how to better prepare for similar powerful storms. As climate change contributes to a future of rising sea levels as well as possibly larger and more powerful storms, the disaster throws a new spotlight on the need to help the world’s most vulnerable prepare.

Many wealthy countries already are making plans to adapt. And through better planning, a few developing nations are becoming more resilient. International climate accords, such as the 2015 Paris climate agreement, include pledges from wealthier nations to help developing countries protect themselves from rising sea levels and other effects of climate change. But funding and the pace of new projects are lagging.

Climate change adaptation, of course, should not come at the expense of efforts to reduce carbon emissions. And in developing countries, any resilience strategy must include the raising of living standards. Reducing poverty and improving education will contribute greatly to the self-sufficiency of these countries to withstand weather disasters like cyclones.

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A cyclone’s wake-up call on climate adaptation

A cyclone that struck the southern African countries of Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi earlier this month has left a devastated landscape. It also left questions about how to better prepare for similar powerful storms predicted by climate scientists.

Cyclone Idai caused hundreds of casualties, perhaps many more, and widespread flooding. One reason was a tidal surge of 13 feet or more in Mozambique, where half the population lives along a 1,550-mile coastline. The port city of Beira, whose population had been about 600,000, is reported to be 90 percent destroyed.

The region is already one of the world’s poorest. Many of its residents eke out a subsistence living. Emergency aid is arriving, and recovery efforts will soon begin. But as climate change contributes to a future of rising sea levels as well as possibly larger and more powerful storms, the disaster throws a new spotlight on the need to help the world’s most vulnerable prepare.

“The devastation wrought by Cyclone Idai is yet another wake-up call for the world to put in place ambitious climate change mitigation measures,” says Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for southern Africa.

Many wealthy countries already are making plans to adapt. Housing along coastlines is being built or raised on stilts that can resist damage from flooding. In the Netherlands, for example, some waterfront homes sit on floating platforms that rise with the tides. In some places barriers have been constructed or are being planned to hold back storm surges.

Through better planning, a few developing nations are becoming more resilient. In Bangladesh, for example, schools are being constructed on high ground. During storms, they also serve as shelters. More accurate mapping can help determine which areas are most likely to flood. And early storm warnings for remote populations are now more available via text messaging to basic cellphones.

One prevalent idea is to create more parkland near population centers to absorb floodwaters. That remains difficult in countries such as Mozambique where cities often grow largely unplanned. Areas prone to flooding are settled by those with nowhere else to live. In Beira, the city center was one of the least affected areas. It benefited from the first stage of a World Bank project that had upgraded its drainage system.

International climate accords, such as the 2015 Paris climate agreement, as well as the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund, include pledges from wealthier nations to help developing countries protect themselves from rising sea levels and other effects of climate change. But funding and the pace of new projects are lagging.

Climate change adaptation, of course, should not come at the expense of efforts to reduce carbon emissions. And in developing countries, any resilience strategy must include the raising of living standards. Reducing poverty and improving education will contribute greatly to the self-sufficiency of these countries to withstand weather disasters like cyclones.

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A Christian Science Perspective

About this feature

Each weekday, the Monitor includes one clearly labeled religious article offering spiritual insight on contemporary issues, including the news. The publication – in its various forms – is produced for anyone who cares about the progress of the human endeavor around the world and seeks news reported with compassion, intelligence, and an essentially constructive lens. For many, that caring has religious roots. For many, it does not. The Monitor has always embraced both audiences. The Monitor is owned by a church – The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston – whose founder was concerned with both the state of the world and the quality of available news.

A new view, a new life

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“Work was my life,” writes today’s contributor, until he suffered a stroke and was certified as totally and permanently disabled. Then he experienced a change in perspective – a spiritual sense of identity – that transformed his life, bringing healing and joy.

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A new view, a new life

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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Work was my life. For years I believed that if I worked really hard, I’d have all the things I could ever want. My work was very stressful, and I often worked long hours for weeks on end without taking a break. But it seemed to have paid off. After working my way to the top of my industry, I had the makings of a perfect life.

Then one night, I was rushed to the emergency room having had a massive stroke. Following a month in the hospital, I returned home in a wheelchair. I couldn’t comprehend even the simplest written words and was completely dependent on others for my basic daily care. I was eventually certified as totally and permanently disabled and sank into a deep depression.

One afternoon, something on the bookshelf above the television caught my attention. It was a book that had been given to me some 25 years before that had remained on the shelf, unopened and forgotten. The book was “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, and it begins, “To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, to-day is big with blessings” (p. vii). When those words were read to me, I felt a sudden and overwhelming sense of hope. Though I didn’t know it then, my recovery had begun with this simple statement and its promise.

Several days later I opened up the book and my eyes fell on this passage: “The relations of God and man, divine Principle and idea, are indestructible in Science; and Science knows no lapse from nor return to harmony, but holds the divine order or spiritual law, in which God and all that He creates are perfect and eternal, to have remained unchanged in its eternal history” (pp. 470-471).

I suddenly realized that not only was I reading for the first time in two years, but I understood the spiritual significance of that statement. I glimpsed that in the divine order of the universe, all of God’s children, and that included me, forever reflect God. So unless the nature of God had changed, I couldn’t have changed either. It dawned on me that maybe what I was seeing in a disabled body wasn’t the truth about what was really going on, wasn’t what God saw or knew.

Science and Health and the Bible became my constant companions, and I began to feel peaceful, hopeful. I’d spent several years trying desperately to change the image – the body – that I was seeing. Now I saw that it was my focus that needed changing. What I’d begun to realize was that when you look through the lens of a camera and see a distorted image, you don’t try to change the image. You simply change your focus. Getting a clearer idea of spiritual man, created in God’s image and likeness, we see and experience complete freedom.

Later that afternoon, I lifted my left arm for the first time since the stroke. It was clear to me that this was a result of the change in my perspective.

Over the next several months, the inspiration I was gaining from these two books began to transform my way of thinking. The depression I had felt for so long turned into joy. I felt safe in the arms of my Father-Mother, God, divine Love.

Even greater freedom came one morning as I read in Science and Health, “The illusion of material sense, not divine law, has bound you, entangled your free limbs, crippled your capacities, enfeebled your body, and defaced the tablet of your being” (p. 227). I began to weep with joy. The phrase “illusion of material sense” rang in my thought. I realized I’d been believing something about myself that was not true about God’s child. My divine right was liberty! I got up from my chair, unaided, and took my first steps alone.

From that point on, I lived with this idea every moment of every day, applying the spiritual facts I was learning to every challenge I encountered. Understanding God’s nature and my relation to God transformed, and continues to transform, my life. Today, I am completely healed and free of all effects from the stroke.

Adapted from a testimony published in the April 2005 issue of The Christian Science Journal.

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A marathon with a message

Nasser Nasser/AP
A runner passes by the Israeli separation barrier during the International Palestine Marathon in the West Bank city of Bethlehem Friday. Some 8,000 runners from 76 countries participated in the seventh marathon, and just over half of runners were women, according to organizers. This year’s route began in Nativity Square and stretched 13 miles to Solomon's Pools, constructed by King Solomon in 950 BCE, before turning back.
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Karen Norris. )
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In Our Next Issue

( March 25th, 2019 )

Be sure to come back Monday. We’ll have a story from Washington bureau chief Linda Feldmann on whether ideas, as opposed to personality, can be an animating force in the 2020 Democratic nomination race.

Monitor Daily Podcast

March 22, 2019
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