2019
May
30
Thursday
Kim Campbell
Culture & Education Editor

Last weekend, I was at a graduation ceremony where students with top grades stood to be recognized and the colleges they will be attending were announced.

It’s a common practice. But after this spring's college cheating scandal, there are signs of rethinking around such customs. 

A group at Palo Alto High School in California decided recently that announcing college plans perpetuates a “toxic” culture of competition. As editors of the student paper, they broke with a decades-old tradition and chose not to publish the annual map showing which colleges seniors are headed to in the fall. “We hope this decision sparks discussion about the values and priorities of students, families and community members,” they wrote.

On the face of it, the map just presents facts, argue some students. But as the editors saw it, the cumulative effect of the map, plus constant discussions about who did and didn’t get into certain schools – and a day set aside to wear college T-shirts – created an environment that wasn’t inclusive. Other student papers have also dropped the map in recent years.

Instead, the editors published comments from students and faculty describing a range of post-graduation choices, like the military and community college. One teacher-adviser included a reminder he often gives: “College is a match, it is not a reward.”  

Our stories for you today feature resiliency, heroism, and the satisfying feeling of rooting for a hometown team that is finally getting its due.

Share this article

shadow

1. Truce crumbles in Syria’s last refuge, and residents fear the worst

A Russian-Turkish ‘de-escalation’ agreement has kept a tense peace in Syria’s Idlib province, the last refuge for rebels and many others with nowhere else to turn. Now it has failed, and regime forces are advancing.

Kim
Khalil Ashawi/Reuters
A displaced Syrian boy from the al-Ahmed family drinks water with the help of a family member in the town of Atmeh in Idlib province, Syria, May 16.

Two ways to read the story

  • Quick Read
  • Deep Read ( 7 Min. )

In the course of Syria's civil war, more than half the population has either fled the country or endured repeated internal displacement. And for years, Idlib province in northwestern Syria has been the last major refuge of rebel forces, their families, and civilians who had nowhere else to go.

Ever since Russian-backed government troops began reclaiming territory from rebel forces, analysts have warned that a final attack on Idlib would come. Now, a so-called de-escalation agreement brokered by Russia and Turkey has collapsed, and, on April 28, the Syrian army launched a campaign that residents in opposition areas in and around Idlib describe as the worst to date.

For Umm Mohammed, a widow living in a displaced persons camp in Idlib, her toughest task this month has been explaining to her young son and daughter that they cannot visit the grave of their father, located in what is now government-held territory. “War has deprived us of so many things,” she says. “My son was weeping last night because he will not be able to see his father’s grave. ... Even this simple dream has been snatched from my children by the army of Bashar al-Assad.”

Collapse

Truce crumbles in Syria’s last refuge, and residents fear the worst

One of the toughest things this Ramadan for Umm Mohammed, a widow now living in a displaced persons camp in Syria’s Idlib province without water or electricity, has been explaining to her young son and daughter that this year they will be unable to visit the grave of their father.

He was killed by regime forces in the early days of the Syrian civil war, and for the past seven years, on the Eid holiday that follows Ramadan, it has been the family tradition to visit him – one impossible to keep after their hometown in Hama province fell this month to government forces.

“War has deprived us of so many things,” she says. “My son was weeping last night because he will not be able to see his father’s grave this year. Even this simple dream has been snatched from my children by the army of [President] Bashar al-Assad.”

Such stories are commonplace in Syria, where more than half the population has either fled the country or endured repeated internal displacement. And ever since Russian-backed government troops began reclaiming territory from rebel forces, analysts have warned – and regime opponents have feared – that a final attack on Idlib would come.

For years, the province in northwestern Syria has been the last major refuge of rebel forces, their families, and civilians who had nowhere else to go. Hundreds of thousands of them fled to Idlib as opposition strongholds fell. Today, more than 3 million people are crowded into the province next to the border with Turkey, enduring jihadist rule even as they fear slaughter by forces loyal to Mr. Assad.

Now, a so-called de-escalation agreement brokered by Russia and Turkey has collapsed, and, on April 28, the Syrian army launched a campaign that residents in opposition areas in and around Idlib describe as the worst to date.

As the Syrian regime widens the scope of its operations, which have also affected parts of Hama and Aleppo province, civilians are flooding camps closer to the Turkish border, in the hope of finding relative safety. But with Ankara unwilling to play host to even more refugees, the border is closed.

Ursula Mueller, the United Nations assistant secretary-general for Humanitarian Affairs, told the Security Council Wednesday that heavy shelling and aerial bombardment since April 28 had killed more than 160 civilians and displaced some 279,000 people in northwest Syria, with attacks targeting markets, schools, hospitals, and sites for already displaced people.

Preparing for the worst

The fighting has continued despite the announcement of a cease-fire May 17. Its failure has reinforced the sense of abandonment among Syrians who have suffered only disappointment whenever they have placed their faith in international institutions and global or regional powers.

For now, the hoped-for revival of the de-escalation deal is the best shot at a semblance of peace amid dire humanitarian conditions. On the ground, activists capture the daily grind of horrors with shaky cameras and dogged determination that every name and face (when possible) will be remembered.

Yet analysts are quick to say the current offensive is likely not the final push, if only because the government is not yet ready.

The United Nations has warned that an all-out offensive in Idlib would create a humanitarian catastrophe of a magnitude that dwarfs the many bloody chapters of the conflict, possibly making Idlib the worst humanitarian crisis of the 21st century.

This apocalyptic scenario had been delayed by the tenuous deal that Russia and Turkey reached last September, laying the foundations for joint or coordinated patrols in a buffer zone separating regime from opposition forces and clearing that space of “terrorist groups.”

“Both Russia and Turkey had seemed committed to the maintenance of the deal right up until this most recent escalation,” says Beirut-based Sam Heller, senior analyst for the International Crisis Group, pointing out how Turkey had initiated patrols as recently as March. “Why precisely it [the government offensive] started and why Russia has lent its support to the Syrian army is less clear.”

Damascus, he says, aims to retake Idlib in the long term, but he doubts that is the goal now. “I don’t think that this is likely to be their current aim if only because the recapture of the entirety of Idlib would be a major lift militarily,” he says.

Scorched earth policy

But that’s little consolation for residents of Idlib.

Mustafa al-Haj Yousef, head of the Idlib civil defense, a rescue service commonly known as the “White Helmets,” says the Syrian regime is pursuing a “scorched earth” campaign in Idlib and Hama. The asymmetry of the conflict is evident in dynamics such as seven attack helicopters targeting villages of no more than 5,000 people – as was the case Tuesday.

Yet again the Syrian regime is serving up its lethal cocktail of air attacks, missiles, barrel bombs, and cluster munitions. There have also been unconfirmed reports of chemical attacks.

Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets/AP
This photo posted May 28, 2019 and provided by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows Civil Defense workers searching for victims under the rubble of a destroyed building after an airstrike by Syrian government forces, in the town of Ariha, in Idlib Province, Syria.

“There are many families that are still sleeping out in the open,” says Mr. Yousef. “For civilians who were able to find indoor shelter in buildings or caves, these shelters have turned into mass graves.”

The toll on the population in opposition areas is evident in a steady stream of grisly photos and footage: collapsed buildings, lifeless children and adults caked in dust or buried in rubble, body bag after body bag.

Mr. Yousef also notes it is spring harvest season in Idlib and that the Syrian regime is systematically obliterating wheat fields and other crops – a move consistent with its widely tested and consistently successful strategy of bombing and starving opposition hubs into submission.

“Every day we have at least 40 cases of agricultural storage facilities burning down,” he says. “Our people are working day and night to put out and contain the fires arising from direct hits to wheat fields and silos in the liberated areas.”

Before and after satellite photos from al-Habeet village in Idlib and the town of Kafr Nabouda in Hama show scorched orchards and olive groves, craters in the middle of fields and fires that appear to rage on. Kafr Nabouda is one of the front-line towns in northwest Syria and has changed hands several times in recent weeks.

Damascus defends the escalation as a necessary response to “terrorist breaches,” a reference to Idlib-based jihadists carrying out raids on neighboring government-held areas. Caught in the middle, as always, are the civilians.

Attacks on hospitals

The president of the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) is clear on what needs to happen in the wake of the third attack targeting a women’s hospital in the last few weeks. On Tuesday, a missile landed just 200 yards from the women’s facility in Atareb, forcing the hospital to downgrade its services to emergency women’s health services.

“Why anyone would target a women’s hospital is beyond me,” says Dr. Ahmad Tarakji. “The United Nations Security Council needs to establish a mechanism to investigate attacks on hospitals. Some sides may not want to have this, but that is the most ethical stand they can have in a conflict – to at least say we will protect hospitals.”

Targeting hospitals is a war crime under international law, but a total of 25 health care facilities have been attacked in the past month alone, according to the World Health Organization. It has about 1,800 medical personnel spread in hospitals and clinics across towns and villages in northwest Syria. The strategy has been to address medical needs where they arise in order to stabilize communities and prevent further displacement.

Being in the middle of it all comes at a cost – about 30% of the hospitals that have been hit in Syria are linked to SAMS. The organization has lost 35 members of its medical staff since the start of the Syrian conflict, one in the latest offensive.

Dr. Tarakji says he took part in talks with the United Nations to “de-conflict” hospitals, which involved sharing the coordinates of medical facilities. That risk was taken primarily for well-known hospitals and ones that had been hit in the past.

“For patients, for the physicians, this is their last line of security,” he notes. “If there is 1% chance that the missile will miss them and not hit them, they will take it. When they agreed to give the coordinates, that was based on trust that the U.N. would do something to protect them.”

That has not been the case. In order to ensure the safety of doctors and staff it also runs a handful of undisclosed hospitals in underground basements and caves. These too have been targeted by shelling but have been able to withstand the pressure, no small miracle in an area where activities at more than 49 medical facilities have been partially or fully suspended due to security concerns.

“The underground and cave ones have been effective in terms of protecting patients and staff,” Dr. Taraki notes. “We use them as backup hospitals.”

A chronicle

Yousef Qarbi in Ariha, which was pounded by Syrian war planes during noon prayers Monday, struggled to convey in words the magnitude of the suffering. He turned to videos and pictures instead – sharing first footage of the aftermath of the air strike in Ariha, showing a man rushing away with a child covered in dust as others came forward to help survivors.

Next up was a portrait of a relatively happy-looking redhead, his cousin who had come to Syria from Turkey to see his mother for Ramadan. That image was followed by a video of the same man’s body being washed for burial. Rescue workers were still searching for his cousin’s wife and a daughter, he said, sharing an image of the blast site, while he struggled to tell two surviving boys what had happened.

The day’s casualties also included his neighbors – a family of five, including twin girls whose last picture shows them smiling ear to ear, dressed in pretty shirts, hair swept up in tidy ponytails.

“What is the point of Turkey’s observation points [in Syria] amid all this bombing?” he asks depleted. “Turkey is now complicit in our suffering. Every day it witnesses the crimes committed against us and stays silent.”

shadow

2. After Tubman $20 delay, what makes a real American hero?

The announcement that the Harriet Tubman $20 bill would be delayed until after President Trump leaves office raises age-old questions that linger: Who is a hero? Are heroes allowed to be human? What is greatness?

Kim
Library of Congress/Reuters
Anti-slavery crusader Harriet Tubman, shown in a picture from the Library of Congress taken by photographer H.B. Lindsley between 1860 and 1870.

Two ways to read the story

  • Quick Read
  • Deep Read ( 7 Min. )

The plan to make a heroic black woman the face of one of the most popular bills in the world suggests a deeper struggle for a polarized electorate to cede any ground on a common vision not just of country, but also of heroes, icons, and the definition of greatness itself.

“Where is the glue? It’s a good question,” says Tod Lindberg, author of “The Heroic Heart.”

For many, the Harriet Tubman $20 bill represents a chance to redefine America’s vision of heroism to the world.

A former slave, Tubman walked the woods soundless, embedded code in spirituals, and by some estimates led about 300 people to freedom, proudly telling fellow abolitionist Frederick Douglass that she “never lost a single passenger.”

“For me, it is not about picking sides – about who is a hero and who isn’t – but more about making room for a broader definition of heroes to include women,” says Kate Clifford Larson, author of “Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero.” “If we look historically at how our country has celebrated its patriots and heroes, it has always been a figure of a man who has fought for liberty and justice, freedom – and equality, too.”

Collapse

After Tubman $20 delay, what makes a real American hero?

When the mock-up image of Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill popped up on a screen during a ceremony at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington in January 2017, many in the room started wiping away tears.

Dignified was the word that came to mind as a portrait of the American hero – the “black Moses” who helped conduct the Underground Railroad – emerged. Andrew Jackson – the war hero turned populist president – would move to the back of the bill.

The effect was striking: A black freedom fighter replacing a white slaveholder on 9.4 billion U.S. pocket monuments that travel the world’s wallets.

“The weight of history hit us at that moment,” says Kate Clifford Larson, author of “Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero.”

Last week’s announcement that the bill would be delayed until after President Donald Trump leaves office raises age-old questions that linger: Do heroes define their time, or do they emerge in response to the age? Which idols are false? Are heroes allowed to be human? What is greatness?

Defining heroism 

For 19th century philosopher Thomas Carlyle, who coined the term “hero worship,”  “heroism is never a finite quality,” nor can it be measured by wealth or political status, says David Sorensen, professor of English at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

“True heroes inspire by their example – they actually create heroes out of those who long to realize what Matthew Arnold once called their ‘best selves’ – but heroes rarely, if ever, experience enduring victories,” Professor Sorensen says. He cites Winston Churchill, whom he calls a “deeply flawed and exhausted politician” who became a transcendent force, and Abraham Lincoln, who was reviled in language that is still shocking today, as heroes in the tragic Carlyle mold.

Meantime, Americans recognize the heroic in sports, entertainment, and their own communities. In several recent school shootings, the United States valorized students who charged the shooters to save their classmates, dying in the process.

More broadly, for many, the Tubman $20 bill represents a chance to redefine America’s vision of heroism to the world.

“For me, it is not about picking sides – about who is a hero and who isn’t – but more about making room for a broader definition of heroes to include women,” says Ms. Larson. “If we look historically at how our country has celebrated its patriots and heroes, it has always been a figure of a man who has fought for liberty and justice, freedom – and equality, too. But there are a whole lot of women who personify those qualities better than many of the men who we have deemed heroes and patriots.”

A former slave, Tubman walked the woods soundless, embedded code in spirituals, and by some estimates led about 300 people to freedom, proudly telling fellow abolitionist Frederick Douglass that she “never lost a single passenger.” “I wanted people to know that Tubman is saying, ‘I am American, too,’” Ms. Larson remembers the bill’s lead designer saying at the unveiling.

Carolyn Kaster/AP
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testifies before the House Committee on Financial Services in Washington, May 22, 2019. Mr. Mnuchin says the redesign of the $20 bill to feature 19th century abolitionist leader Harriet Tubman has been delayed.

Political tug of war

In announcing the Tubman bill’s postponement until 2026, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin cited security issues. Earlier this year, Rep. John Katko, a New York Republican, introduced the Harriet Tubman Tribute Act of 2019, which would force a 2020 reveal of the bill. Currently, Congress by law has only one override on currency: The Washington dollar bill cannot be changed without its consent.

To be sure, political scientists say it’s hard to not detect Mr. Trump’s thumbprint on the decision. He has special affinity for Mr. Jackson, a populist whose portrait hangs prominently at the White House.

But the plan to make a powerful black woman the face of one of the most popular bills in the world suggests a far deeper struggle for a polarized electorate to cede any ground on a common vision not just of country, but also of heroes, icons, and the definition of greatness itself.

“Where is the glue? It’s a good question,” says Tod Lindberg, author of “The Heroic Heart: Greatness Ancient and Modern.”

There was of course never a common pantheon of American heroes.

“The bill can be previewed next year, and everybody knows it,” says Ms. Larson. “They don’t want it. Trump wants to get elected again, and that is a very sad statement when a presidential candidate is playing to the racist hearts of a segment of our country.”

Instead, she says, the bill has become embroiled in a larger tug of war about race, gender politics, and political correctness.

After all, there are calls to rename John Wayne Airport in California’s Orange County after the unearthing of a 1971 interview in which the actor said he supported white supremacy and disparaged the intelligence of black people. Mr. Trump questioned the heroism of the late Sen. John McCain, whose hero status as holding out in a concentration camp to win release for fellow soldiers was largely iconic. And the U.S. has endured a nearly two-decade fight over whether Confederate monuments are expressions of heritage or racist oppression.

Jackson has not been immune. Old Hickory’s heroic gleam has dulled, in large part due to the estimated 4,000 deaths during the forced relocation of Native Americans known as the Trail of Tears. But in 2016, Mr. Trump called the bill replacement plan “pure political correctness.” His administration has elevated Jackson’s portrait in the Oval Office.

Public trampling on the sacrosanct is almost a new sport, in part egged on by an American public historically resistant to worshipping heroes proclaimed from above. After all, autocratic governments establish the icons and force the populace to bow. Small-d democrats note that Socrates was forced to drink hemlock in part because he refused to bow to the local deities.

What is new, says Mr. Lindberg, is the ability for small groups to become “outrage machines” that scramble even the definition of hero. In 2012, he wrote that a “wiki-culture” has given way to hero specialization: “One need not be a hero to all to be a hero to many.”

“My view has since darkened” about that phenomenon, he notes this week, with seemingly every potential hero looked at through a political lens.

“You could solve this problem by not having any monuments to anybody, because eventually somebody will find something on them and you have to tear them down,” says Mr. Lindberg, a senior fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute in Washington. “Is that a solution? Isn’t that just a way of saying ... that we are trying to be disconnected from the past that made us who we are and brought us to where we are?”

But he also acknowledges that hyperactive political trench-digging doesn’t necessarily reflect broader American concerns.

He recalls complaining to a friend about the 1998 redesign of the $20 bill. Mid-rant, his lunch companion began to fidget.

“He finally told me, ‘Tod, I don’t have a bug ... about the new $20 bill,’” says Mr. Lindberg. “It helped me realize I was getting a little too worked up about certain kinds of things. Some will think, ‘Yeah, it’s nice to have Harriet Tubman on it.’ Others will say, ‘I like Jackson, he was a colorful character, he’s not so bad.’ Instead, we get driven instantly to our extreme-most positions.”

Redesign goes underground 

When it comes to the $20 bill, no one knows why Jackson replaced Grover Cleveland in 1928 – the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing has no records of the decision. Some think it could even have been a joke. After all, Jackson despised the idea of paper money.

But in Tubman’s case, there is a more distinct trail. Some 600,000 people voted in a referendum that listed a slew of other female heroes, from Eleanor Roosevelt to Wilma Pearl Mankiller, the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation. Tubman emerged the victor.

Originally, the $10 bill was the one scheduled to get a facelift. But then the musical “Hamilton,” about the “ten-dollar Founding Father,” became a worldwide phenomenon. Meanwhile, Susan Ades Stone, a journalist who was a producer at CNN in its early years, thought Tubman should grace the $20. Her group, Women on 20s, had been told by former Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew that it would have to continue to pressure future administrations, suggesting that “political will” would ultimately determine the bill’s fate.

Under Mr. Trump, however, the group has maintained a low profile.

“In this presidency, it’s really just so easy for a tweet to completely reverse a popular decision that came out of the last administration, and we were very mindful of that,” says Ms. Ades Stone. “We decided to stay quiet and in the background so that maybe the process would get far enough along that it couldn’t be reversed.”

If Mr. Trump doesn’t want to be the president who replaced Jackson, Ms. Ades Stone notes, Mr. Mnuchin could yet emerge as the person who saved the $20 bill. At the very least, she says, he may not want to be known to history as the treasury secretary who struck Tubman from U.S. currency.

“The $20 bill redesign is very complicated and there is a lot going on behind the scenes, and when [Mr.] Mnuchin would make pronouncements and people would react, we knew that they were misreading him,” she says. “They would automatically say, ‘Oh, he’s killing it.’ But we knew that wasn’t what was going on. If anything, he was trying to protect it.”

Editor’s note: This article has been clarified to more accurately reflect Susan Ades Stone’s role at CNN.

shadow

Patterns

Tracing global connections

3. US-China: A new cold war that’s not like the other

Can you have a cold war with a country that's deeply integrated into the world economy? China poses a far different challenge for the U.S. than the Soviet Union did.

Kim

Two ways to read the story

  • Quick Read
  • Deep Read ( 3 Min. )

It’s rightly being called a new cold war. But in comparison with the U.S.-Soviet conflict, the U.S.-China rivalry will be much harder to navigate. Still, a modus vivendi could ultimately emerge based on competition and cooperation.

Superficially, the two cold wars are similar. Both involve Communist-ruled states with nuclear arsenals and rival geopolitical ambitions.

But the USSR’s military power was offset by its inability to match the West economically and technologically. China is incomparably different. It is the world’s second-largest economy, with growing high-tech investment. It is an important consumer market. It is intricately entwined in global economic and financial systems.

Could all that be unraveled? Yes – in theory. But that would risk real pain to the U.S., China, and the world, as the escalating tariff war and disputes over the use of Chinese-owned Huawei’s technology suggest. That might hold another message. Washington has struggled to get members of the trans-Atlantic alliance to join in excluding Huawei from 5G networks. It bears remembering that the strength of that partnership, of which the U.S. is often dismissive, loomed large in the outcome of the first Cold War.

Collapse

US-China: A new cold war that’s not like the other

The timing is striking. Leading up to June 6, D-Day commemorations on the south coast of England and the beaches of Normandy will cast the world’s gaze back to World War II – and the Cold War with the Soviet Union that followed. And they’ll be held amid rumblings of what’s rightly being called a new cold war – with China.

Yet as that conflict has intensified, there are signs this cold war will be different: less predictable, potentially more destabilizing, and harder to win. Ultimately, a more likely outcome may see the world’s two main powers sealing some form of modus vivendi – a mix of competition and cooperation – with which neither side will be entirely happy. 

For now, even that seems a long way off, with the escalating tariff war between the U.S. and China and the Trump administration’s move this month to rein in Chinese-owned Huawei, one of the world’s leading technology companies. But the Huawei dispute highlights both the reasons for intensifying competition with Beijing and why it could be tougher than the first Cold War to navigate.

If they’re different, why do they look similar?

On the surface, the two cold wars are similar: against Communist-ruled nuclear powers, geopolitical rivals intolerant of political dissent.

But even at periods of high tension in the first cold war – like the early 1980s, when I was the Monitor correspondent in Moscow – the USSR’s military power was offset by its inability to match the West economically and, above all, technologically.

Though the microcomputing age was in its relative infancy, I still remember the best of the self-deprecating Soviet jokes at the time. It was about a central-planning slogan for the USSR’s computer industry: “Soviet microchips … the largest microchips in the world!”

China, and the 21st-century world, are different, as the Huawei dispute and the wider U.S.-China trade war make clear. China has the world’s second-largest economy. Under President Xi Jinping, it has been recalibrating toward high-tech investment. It is also one of the West’s most important consumer markets. And it is intricately entwined in the world economic and financial systems, whether as part of complex international supply chains or as principal holder of U.S. Treasury bonds (America’s debt).

Could all that be unraveled, especially at a time when U.S. President Donald Trump and other nationalist-populist leaders have been echoing concerns, and resentment, about the pace of globalization? The short answer is yes. In theory. But – unlike in Cold War 1 – that would risk both sides, and the world economy, feeling real pain.

The ability to disrupt

In moving to limit U.S. companies’ dealings with Huawei, President Trump undeniably has the ability to inflict major disruption on the Chinese tech giant. Even his political critics broadly accept the administration’s view that Huawei’s world-leading role in equipment for telecommunications networks raises a potential security threat, especially with the planned rollout of next-generation 5G systems.

But with many Western suppliers still behind Huawei, that could mean a delay in 5G. And Huawei’s state subsidies, plus its ability to draw on government credit lines, mean it can undercut competitors on price.

Huawei is also the world’s second-largest producer of smartphones. Keeping U.S. manufacturers from supplying microchips, or Google from licensing its latest software, would seriously set back the Chinese firm, until and unless it could source or develop alternatives. But again, U.S. companies would lose revenue.

Just this week, China issued a new reminder of its own potential leverage against the U.S. and the West. It hinted at curbing exports of so-called rare-earth minerals, a group of elements with properties making them critical in manufacturing everything from smartphones and pharmaceuticals to lasers and airplane engines. China accounts for about 70% of world production.

This competing leverage has already been evident in the U.S.-China tariff war. Yet the Huawei dispute may hold another message for the longer term.

So far, Washington has had mixed results in getting European states to exclude the Chinese company from their 5G networks – even though Europe does share U.S. concerns about China’s growing economic and geopolitical footprint, and its potential security implications.

So it may be worth remembering, with the current U.S. administration often dismissive of the trans-Atlantic alliance, that the strength of that partnership was a major factor in the outcome of the first Cold War.

shadow

4. After losing in 2018, female candidates wrestle with a rematch

Often women have to be convinced to run for office – and after a loss, launching another campaign can seem daunting. Yet if they can overcome that reluctance, they’re as likely to be successful as men.

Kim

Two ways to read the story

  • Quick Read
  • Deep Read ( 7 Min. )

2018’s Year of the Woman saw a sweep of political victories for female candidates at the state and local level, and led to a record-breaking number of women in Congress. The flip side of so many women running, however, was that more female candidates actually lost than won.

As the 2020 campaign season gets underway, former losers have an obvious advantage when it comes to running again, since they already have name recognition, a donor base, and experience. But less than 10% of the women who lost statewide bids in 2018 have launched a new campaign for 2020 or announced that they are considering running again. For a variety of reasons – ranging from a perceived double standard in the media that treats female losers more harshly, to the greater toll that campaigning can take on their family life and careers – women tend to shy away from rematches.

“I think the losses just hit you harder [as a woman],” says Brianna Wu, who lost her bid to defeat Rep. Stephen Lynch in last year’s Massachusetts Democratic primary, and has decided to run again. “The public humiliation of losing – it makes you feel like a failure.”

Collapse

After losing in 2018, female candidates wrestle with a rematch

One month before the election, Brianna Wu knew she was going to lose.

Ms. Wu, a software engineer and video game developer, always knew winning the 2018 Democratic primary for Massachusetts’s 8th Congressional District would be difficult. She was a female political newcomer running against an eight-term male incumbent.

“They said this about my race: ‘It’s the year of the woman. It’s the year of women candidates,’” says Ms. Wu. “It’s a heroic arc, but it’s not really how politics works.”

And this is no Cinderella story. Ms. Wu lost on Sept. 4, 2018, with less than 30 percent of the vote. But that same night, she started tweeting about her next bid in 2020.

Last year saw a sweep of political victories for women at the state and local level, and led to a record-breaking number of women serving in Congress. In the 2020 presidential race, six women – the most ever – are running for the Democratic nomination.

The flip side of more women running for political office, however, is that more women lose. According to Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), more female candidates lost in 2018 than won. The side without victory speeches or big balloon drops – Ms. Wu’s side – is often ignored after election night.

As the 2020 campaign season gets underway, candidates who lost have an obvious advantage when it comes to running again, since they already have name recognition, a donor base, and experience. But for a variety of reasons – ranging from a perceived double standard in the media that treats female losers more harshly, to the greater toll that campaigning can take on their family life and careers – women tend to shy away from rematches more than their male counterparts.

Still, experts say that women who can get over that reluctance may find themselves rewarded. When women run for political office, they are typically as successful as men. And the majority of Americans say they want more women in high political offices.

 “Your odds skyrocket the second time around because you know how to raise money, you know how to work a crowd, you know how to give a speech,” says Ms. Wu. “You have all these skills that you can’t really learn until you’ve gone out there and done it.”

‘It makes you feel like a failure’

Ms. Wu says she became friends with several female candidates in 2018, who were running for a variety of positions in a variety of locations. Of the ones who lost, none have decided to try again.

“I think the losses just hit you harder [as a woman],” says Ms. Wu. “The public humiliation of losing – it makes you feel like a failure.”

And it’s easy to feel like you’re alone in the humiliation, say former and current candidates. Democratic Rep. Robin Kelly of Illinois, who lost a bid in 2010 for Illinois state treasurer, says female politicians often give the campaign process a “rosy bent” once they are in office. Since winning her campaign for Congress in 2013, Representative Kelly says she’s careful to be honest about the political process, and the reality of losing.

“It’s hard, especially those first runs,” she says. “It’s better now, but it’s still harder for women to step up and run. ... If someone loses, and they don’t try again, that’s our loss.”  

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., followed by Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., responds to reporters’ questions at the Capitol in Washington, May 22.

Many candidates and experts say women experience political loss differently from men, which makes sense considering their campaigns often begin differently as well. Studies have shown that the biggest barrier to female representation in politics is getting women to run in the first place, as they often consider themselves underqualified and have to be asked to run by someone else.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a freshman congresswoman who shot to Democratic stardom after her victory in 2018, was recruited to run by an outside group. New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, one of the six women currently seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, says it took her 10 years to muster up the courage to run for Congress.

“Women are the biggest self-doubters,” Senator Gillibrand told The New York Times in 2016.

And if, after deciding to run for office, they then lose – after enduring what many say are a different set of standards and biased media coverage – trying again can feel daunting. After she narrowly lost the Georgia gubernatorial race in 2018, Stacey Abrams pointedly said she was not “lifted up” by the media the way Beto O’Rourke, now a 2020 presidential candidate, was after his similarly close loss to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. Likewise, when Hillary Clinton published her book “What Happened” a year after she lost the presidency to Donald Trump, she was met with a chorus of critics urging her to, essentially, remove herself from the national stage.

Of course, a double standard around losing is nothing new. Feminist leader Bella Abzug, after narrowly losing a special election for New York’s 18th Congressional District in 1978 – her third consecutive loss – spoke out against her portrayal in the media.

“I object to people writing my political obituary,” Ms. Abzug told reporters. “If a woman is defeated, she’s meant to return to the kitchen. If a man is defeated, he’s given time to get a suntan and a shave and go on to other things.”

Male candidates are also more likely to have a “soft landing” after a political loss, experts say. A high-profile run – even a losing one – can be an asset when former candidates go back to jobs as lawyers or businessmen. Some gain cable TV contracts and book deals.

“For men it feels like losing an election was just part of a successful political career, but for women it felt like a potential career-ender,” says Amanda Hunter, director of communications and research at the Barbara Lee Family Foundation.

During the last Year of the Woman in 1992, when a record number of women ran for Congress, there were also a record-breaking number of female candidates (60) who lost their races for the U.S. House. Few ran for political office again. But some who did, such as current Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, went on to win even bigger positions.  

In a recent study by the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, Ms. Hunter and her colleagues found that losing female candidates are generally still seen by voters as likable and qualified. To capitalize on this goodwill, they suggest women should start their next campaign on election night. They caution, however, that messaging is key: Voters do not want to hear candidates make excuses or assign blame for their loss. And their campaign must be focused on the voters, not themselves.

Not squandering political capital

If loss is potential, then 2018 had a lot of it.

More than 550 women won primary or general elections for statewide positions in 2018, according to CAWP, but more than 560 women lost.

And while more than 1,800 women won general elections for state legislatures, more than 1,500 lost – and that’s not including the primaries. CAWP doesn’t keep a tally on women who lose state legislature primaries – typically a first hurdle for women entering politics – but according to individual state election websites examined by the Monitor, hundreds more women lost bids for state senator or state representative in 2018. In Washington state’s 34th District, for example, eight women lost in a single primary election.

“This is an opportunity,” says Debbie Walsh, director of CAWP. What’s important now is for women who ran and lost not to squander their political capital “by not knowing what to do next.”

According to a tally by CAWP, less than 10 percent of the women who lost statewide bids in 2018 have launched a new campaign for 2020 or announced that they are considering running again.

One of those is Texas Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones, who recently launched her 2020 rematch bid after narrowly losing in 2018 to the Republican incumbent, U.S. Rep. Will Hurd.

Another is Ms. Wu.

Ms. Wu has a list of things she plans to do better this time around. She says her past campaign made her realize the importance of an experienced staff, and she is spending a lot more time fundraising. A year and a half out from 2020, Ms. Wu says she feels more prepared than she did one month before the 2018 primary election.

It will still be an uphill battle for Ms. Wu. During the first fiscal quarter of this year, Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch reported $1.4 million in his campaign account. Ms. Wu has less than 4 percent of that on hand.

In her second-floor home office-turned-campaign headquarters in Dedham, Massachusetts, Ms. Wu runs through a call list of potential donors with her two-person campaign staff. She leaves a voicemail for Jonathan, a supporter who gave her multiple small-dollar donations in 2018.

“Hey Jonathan, this is Brianna Wu, candidate for United States Congress. I was just calling to say thank you so much for your support of my campaign,” says Ms. Wu in an upbeat voice. “And I want to give you an update about 2020.”

But Ms. Wu says her biggest takeaway from her failed bid is “you can’t run a campaign on anger.” In 2018, she was angry about Mr. Trump’s victory and seeing the country go in a direction she didn’t agree with. It propelled her to run for office in the first place – but she’s realized it’s not what her constituents want from politics.

“Leading with empathy, leading with love, having people look me in the eye and knowing, ‘I care about you’ – that’s what people want in a leader,” she says. “And I couldn’t have learned that without running first.”

shadow

5. For Toronto immigrants, Raptors’ rise to NBA Finals is personal

Everyone loves an underdog story. But for the heavily immigrant and minority fanbase in Toronto, the Raptors’ rise to the NBA Finals carries an added layer of sweet victory.

Kim
Carlos Osorio/Reuters
Fans watch the Toronto Raptors at Jurassic Park, outside the Scotiabank Arena, as they take on the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference finals in Toronto May 25.

Two ways to read the story

  • Quick Read
  • Deep Read ( 4 Min. )

“I knew one day that we would make it,” says Nav Bhatia. He’s talking about the Toronto Raptors, but he might as well be referring to himself or any of his fellow immigrant neighbors.

Mr. Bhatia, a Sikh who emigrated to Canada from India, is considered the Raptors’ biggest fan. In 24 years, he’s never missed a game. Decked out in a color-coordinated Raptors jersey and turban, Mr. Bhatia has become not just the team’s constant courtside champion, but also a reflection of Toronto and its multicultural ethos.

The team itself is celebrated for its diversity, with immigrants filling many positions from team president to center and power forward. Yet it’s the fanbase, outside or inside the Scotiabank Arena, that illustrates the diversity of Toronto, where 51.5 percent of residents identified as a “visible minority” in the latest census. People like Claudette Gardiner, born in Jamaica, talk about the Raptors’ plucky rise in Toronto as if it were their own story.

“We never give up,” says Ms. Gardiner. “We are such optimists.”

Collapse

For Toronto immigrants, Raptors’ rise to NBA Finals is personal

When Nav Bhatia, a Sikh who emigrated to Canada from India, first started appearing at Toronto Raptors games, he says fellow fans assumed he was a cab driver dropping other fans off.

But that was in 1995, when the NBA expanded northward into Canada. Mr. Bhatia bought two season tickets that first year, the most he could afford as a car salesman. Twenty-four years later, Mr. Bhatia, who color-coordinates his turban with his Raptors jersey, is today recognized as Canada’s most fervent basketball supporter.

Meet the Raptors’ official Superfan.

This week, as the Canadian team faces off against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals – the first time Canada has made it this far – Mr. Bhatia will be standing (or more likely waving and wildly cheering) not just as the team’s constant courtside champion, but as a reflection of Toronto and its multicultural ethos. Even his immigration story follows a similar arc to that of the Raptors. With persistence and resilience the team has earned basketball a place in a city that was, when the Raptors arrived on the scene here, decidedly a hockey town.

“I knew one day that we would make it,” says Mr. Bhatia, who has never missed a home game. On this evening, fans, the vast majority immigrants and minorities, line up for a photo with him before tipoff in Saturday’s historic Game 6 against the Milwaukee Bucks. “I have been waiting for 24 years; today is a very special time for us.”

The team itself is celebrated for its own diversity, starting at the top with Masai Ujiri, the team’s widely respected president from Nigeria. There is player Pascal Siakam of Cameroon or Serge Ibaka, born in the Republic of Congo. And one might argue that as the lone NBA team from Canada, the vast majority of the players come from somewhere else – specifically south of the border – like Raptors star players Kawhi Leonard (Los Angeles) and Kyle Lowry (Philadelphia).

Yet it’s the team’s fanbase, outside or inside the Scotiabank Arena, that illustrates the diversity of Toronto, where 51.5 percent of residents identified as a “visible minority” in the latest census – women like Claudette Gardiner, born in Jamaica, who is at the playoff game with her Canadian-born daughter Micaela Evans and who talks about the team’s plucky rise in Toronto.

Sara Miller Llana/The Christian Science Monitor
Raptors Superfan Nav Bhatia poses with other fans before tipoff in historic Game 6 against the Milwaukee Bucks. The vast majority are immigrants and minorities just like himself.

Even though it was a Canadian, James Naismith, who invented basketball, some of the customs of the game were unfamiliar here in 1995. One of the first players, Tracy Murray, mused to the CBC that fans inadvertently waved their thunder sticks when the Raptors were at the free throw line, distracting instead of supporting them.

They have come a long way since. “We never give up. We are such optimists,” says Ms. Gardiner. She is talking about the Raptors, but she could be easily talking about her own story.

There is Wasantha Abeywardena, who was born in Sri Lanka and has brought his 13-year-old son to the game. He echoes a similar sentiment, admiring above all the team’s grit. “They’ve been trying really hard,” he says.

And there is Andy Xu, who emigrated to Canada eight years ago. He was born in China and says he is a fan of Jeremy Lin, the first American of Chinese or Taiwanese descent to play in the NBA. But he adds the real appeal is feeling welcome in this arena – and in Canada. “Everyone is accepted. I feel so comfortable,” says Mr. Xu, who is studying mathematical physics.

“We the North,” the crowd chants, louder and louder, as the Raptors clinched the victory to go to the finals.

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press/AP
Toronto Raptors’ Kawhi Leonard hoists the trophy after the Raptors defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 100-94 in Game 6 of the NBA basketball playoffs Eastern Conference finals Saturday, May 25, in Toronto.

Marvin Ryder, who analyzes sports marketing as a professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, expects the basketball buzz to grow, at least in urban centers. Canada’s newcomers gravitate to basketball and soccer, which are more accessible than ice hockey. This season the Raptors have given Canada a chance at a badly desired championship. As television crews pan the arena, he says, it shows the pulsing metropolis that is today Toronto and that many outsiders (specifically Americans, he says) haven’t understood. “It is a great way to showcase that Toronto is truly a city of the 21st century,” Professor Ryder says.

It was not always that way, as Mr. Bhatia can attest. When he first arrived, as a trained mechanical engineer, he couldn't get a job in his field. Instead, he worked as a car salesman. He says at that time he was called far worse than a cab driver. “I never get upset; I do something positive to take away the negativity,” he says. For him that meant inviting underprivileged kids from all different religious and racial backgrounds to games, something he could afford as his own career grew from salesman to manager to successful car dealership owner today. “That is why today you will see here my community,” he says. “I use the game of basketball to bring the world together.”

Amrit Tiwana, a physiotherapist who is also a Sikh, lines up for a photo with Mr. Bhatia. “An immigrant has risen to be an ambassador of the Raptors,” says Mr. Tiwana. “It shows that Toronto is all about diversity, a city where it doesn’t matter where you come from.”

And now is the time to come together and celebrate it, he says, finally. “We’ve waited for this moment our whole lives.”

shadow

The Monitor's View

Why the world’s children are better off

Two ways to read the story

  • Quick Read
  • Deep Read ( 3 Min. )

One of the best indicators of progress for the world is its children. Are they smarter, healthier, better protected than in the past? It turns out they are, according to a report released this week by the charity group Save the Children.

The report documents massive progress in many areas from malnutrition to child labor. Humanity, in other words, has expanded its view of the worth of each child. And that expansive view can keep informing ongoing debates about children, such as their safety at school, their privacy online, and perhaps the revived debate over abortion in the United States.

The stunning improvements worldwide mean that children born today have a better chance than at any time in history to grow up healthy, educated, and protected with the opportunity to reach their full potential, concludes Save the Children in its “2019 Global Childhood Report.”

The report lists many factors behind this improvement. While economic growth has been important, much of the progress was driven by government policy and a range of investments that raised living standards and safety for children in some of the world’s poorest countries.

Collapse

Why the world’s children are better off

One of the best indicators of progress for the world is its children. Are they smarter, healthier, better protected than in the past? Or as a politician might ask on the campaign trail, “Are your kids doing better than you had it as a child?”

It turns out, according to a report released this week by the charity group Save the Children, hundreds of millions of kids are dramatically better off today than children in 2000.

The report documents massive progress in many areas: 44 million fewer children are stunted by malnutrition today compared to 2000; 115 million fewer children are out of school today; 94 million fewer children are now forced into work; and there are 11 million fewer child brides today compared to 2000.

Humanity, in other words, has expanded its view of the worth of each child. And that expansive view can keep informing ongoing debates about children, such as their safety at school, their privacy online, and perhaps the revived debate over abortion in the United States.

The stunning improvements worldwide mean that children born today have a better chance than at any time in history to grow up healthy, educated, and protected with the opportunity to reach their full potential, concludes Save the Children in its “2019 Global Childhood Report.”

The report lists many factors behind this improvement. While economic growth has been important, much of the progress was driven by government policy and a range of investments that raised living standards and safety for children in some of the world’s poorest countries.

Sierra Leone, for example, achieved big gains for children only two decades after a horrible civil war and a few years after a terrible Ebola outbreak. Rwanda has made similar improvements in the 25 years since a genocide. The list goes on, with the “most improved” including Ethiopia, Niger, Burkina Faso, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, and many others in Africa as well as in Central Asia, South Asia, and Asia.

Even though more children are suffering due to conflicts than in 2000 – such as in Yemen and Syria – there has been more collaboration to improve the lot of children in war zones.

One big driver of the advances was the global agreement signed in 2000 called the Millennium Development Goals. It brought wealthy and poor countries together in a coordinated strategy to accelerate change. Strong national leadership in a range of developing countries played a key role. These countries wisely invested in social programs and improved their capacities in education, water, sanitation, and other areas. They worked well with foreign donors and international agencies. Simultaneously, global assistance doubled since 2000 with strong evidence that much of the aid helped spur progress. 

Save the Children also concludes that the progress in empowering women and girls along with increasing the presence of women in leadership roles had positive impacts. Finally, the report argues that new information technologies, such as social media, greatly facilitated economic growth and programs focused on children. Global norms and practices were lifted up.

The report rates 176 countries, not just the poorest. The top 10 countries where childhood is most protected are Singapore, eight countries in western Europe, and South Korea. The U.S. comes in at 36, tied with China. Russia is only two below at 38. A look at other countries ranked near the U.S. (Bahrain, Belarus, Kuwait, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kazakhstan, and Qatar) suggests there is much work still to be done in America. Yet, the report also notes improvements in the U.S., with the rate of teens giving birth dropping by more than half since 2000 and school dropout rates falling by nearly two-thirds.

The rankings also identify countries where childhood is most endangered, mostly in Africa, as well as the only three countries where children’s well-being declined – Syria, Venezuela, and Trinidad and Tobago.

The vital message is that well-informed leadership investing in children can produce good results in a relatively short time. Children represent not only the future. They are also a window into humanity’s improved understanding of what generates progress.

shadow

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.

Made light

  • Quick Read
  • Read or Listen ( 1 Min. )

Here’s a poem that points to the divine light reflected in us all, which lifts burdens and inspires our lives.

Collapse

Made light

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
Loading the player...

Inspired by Matthew 11:28-30

To weary hearts
made heavy
by burdened lives:

Worldly weights
can’t weigh
you down

because you
are not bound
by clay-made life.

Your life is
made light
by the Spirit
that made all*

and the substance
of Spirit
is light.

*John 1:3

shadow

Viewfinder

E-X-C-E-L-L-E-N-C-E

Patrick Semansky/AP
Melodie Loya, 14, of Bainbridge, New York, reacts after correctly spelling a word in the finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee May 30 in Oxon Hill, Maryland. The second round will be televised on ESPN tonight at 8:30 p.m. EDT.
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte and Karen Norris. )
shadow

In Our Next Issue

( May 31st, 2019 )

Kim Campbell
Culture & Education Editor

Thanks for joining us. Come back tomorrow to learn more about Bernie Sanders’ rise from mayor of Burlington, Vermont, to one of the front-runners for the Democratic nomination for president.      

Monitor Daily Podcast

May 30, 2019
Loading the player...

More issues

2019
May
30
Thursday

Give us your feedback

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

 
of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.