2019
July
19
Friday

Welcome to your Monitor Daily. Today, listen as two astronauts who have been to the moon describe the wonder of space. In addition, we’ll explore the usefulness of political dialogue away from public glare, the ethics of technological augmentation, where truth trumps threats, and the unifying power of music.

But first: Saturday marks 50 years since Neil Armstrong took “one giant leap for mankind.” Millions of people watched live back on Earth as the Apollo 11 crew made history. Now, five decades later, the first moon landing has become one of those where-were-you-when moments.

Linda Feldmann, the Monitor’s Washington bureau chief, was almost 10 and watched on a friend’s color TV in her pajamas. Mideast editor Ken Kaplan celebrated with homemade rockets at sleep-away camp in Maine as an 11-year-old. Retired science reporter Pete Spotts, a recent high school graduate riveted by the coverage, thought about calling in sick for work as a disc jockey.

Covering the Apollo program, reporters felt a unique sense of duty, recalls Bob Cowen, longtime Monitor science editor, now retired. “We were writing for our publications, but we weren’t just doing that,” he says. “We were conveying the importance of this to all mankind.” 

I have never known a world in which people have not walked on the moon. But for those who did, there is a sense of “before Apollo” and “after.” 

“The moon landing marked the start of an irreversible optimism about setting audacious goals,” says the Monitor’s chief editorial writer, Clayton Jones, who was 18 at the time. “It made my previous goals in life seem small and needlessly constrained.”

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1. Missing from US-Iran clash, a back-channel safety valve

Back channels between adversaries always seem to be useful. They help limit tensions, and can pave the way toward peace. Yet as this round of U.S.-Iran tensions escalates, that outlet appears absent.

Eva
Dalton Swanbeck/U.S. Navy/Reuters
A UH-1Y Venom helicopter with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 (Reinforced), 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, takes off from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer during its transit through the Strait of Hormuz, July 18, 2019.

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Under President Barack Obama, back-channel diplomacy with Iran was instrumental in getting to the long and intense negotiations that resulted in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Under Donald Trump, tweets about Iran and pronouncements to the press are accompanied by sanctions designed, at least in part, to get the U.S. and Iran to the leader-to-leader talks the president says he wants.

What is not part of the equation are under-the-radar contacts that experts say are a key part of keeping tense relations from spilling over into a hot conflict that neither side appears to want.

“The lack of open lines of communication between the Trump administration and the Iranian regime has led to a vacuum that makes it incredibly difficult to judge the messages the other side is sending,” says Ned Price, a former CIA intelligence officer who served in the Obama White House.

When incidents occur – like Thursday’s drone shoot-down by the U.S., or Iran’s claim Friday that it seized a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf – the mechanism isn’t there to nip tensions in the bud.

“This vacuum we have now contributes to a situation where heightened conflict could much more easily spiral out of control,” Mr. Price says.

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Missing from US-Iran clash, a back-channel safety valve

As tensions have risen between the United States and Iran over recent months, communications between the two longtime adversaries have been carried out over Twitter, through press interviews, and in speeches by leaders on the two sides – the latter more often than not aimed at domestic audiences.

When the U.S. Navy shot down an Iranian drone over the increasingly conflicted Strait of Hormuz Thursday, President Donald Trump announced the most recent incident in a statement from the White House. “This is the latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran against vessels operating in international waters,” he said. Iran on Friday denied it had lost any of its drones.

Missing from the mix of communications between the two foes, or so it seems, is the kind of back-channel diplomacy that U.S. administrations have often deployed in the past to cool tensions and avoid potentially catastrophic misunderstandings – or to pave the way to direct high-level talks.

Indeed, the Obama administration used back-channel diplomacy with Iran to get to the long and intense negotiations – largely carried out by then-Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif – that resulted in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Fast forward to mid-2019, and a very different U.S. president is employing roughly the same playbook with Iran that he did with North Korea before meeting with Kim Jong Un for the two leaders’ groundbreaking Singapore summit in 2018.

Tweets about Iran and pronouncements to the press in cabinet meetings or on the White House driveway are accompanied by a “maximum pressure” campaign of crippling sanctions designed, at least in part, to get the U.S. and Iran to the direct leader-to-leader talks Mr. Trump says he wants.

On the other side, Mr. Zarif sits down for interviews with the American press, while back in Tehran, the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, gives fiery speeches in which he fulminates about an untrustworthy America.

A missing buffer

What is not part of the equation are under-the-radar contacts between governments that diplomats and regional experts say are a key part of keeping tense relations from spilling over into a hot conflict that neither side appears to want.

“The lack of open lines of communication between the Trump administration and the Iranian regime has led to a vacuum that makes it incredibly difficult to judge the messages the other side is sending and to understand the adversary’s motivations,” says Ned Price, a former CIA intelligence officer who served in the Obama White House National Security Council and is now director of policy at National Security Action, a Washington advocacy group.

What that means, experts say, is that when incidents occur – like Thursday’s drone shoot-down by the U.S.; or Iran’s confirmation earlier Thursday of its seizure of a foreign-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz (through which passes more than a fifth of the world’s oil and petroleum products); or when Iran shoots down a U.S. military drone it says was over national air space, as it did in May; or the U.S. imposes a new round of sanctions on Iranian leaders and businesses – the diplomatic channels aren’t there for the behind-the-scenes contacts that could nip tensions in the bud.

Those tensions appeared to ratchet up further Friday when Iran said that it had seized a British-flagged oil tanker in the Persian Gulf.

Lucas Jackson/Reuters
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at U.N. Headquarters in New York, July 18, 2019.

“This vacuum we have now contributes to a situation where heightened conflict could much more easily spiral out of control,” Mr. Price says.

He cites the example of Iran’s seizure in early 2016 of two U.S. Navy patrol boats with 10 crew members in Iranian coastal waters – a situation that under other circumstances could have easily led to a dangerous standoff or worse.

“But those sailors were sent on their way less than 24 hours after they were detained by Iranian forces,” he says. “That outcome didn’t happen by accident, it happened because the open channels of communication at various levels made it possible for Kerry to pick up the phone and work this out with Zarif.”

Path to nuclear deal

Moreover, Mr. Price points to the contacts the Obama administration had established with Iran under the auspices of the Omani government – talks carried out over several years by a number of administration officials, including then-Deputy Secretary of State William Burns – and says it was those secret talks that paved the way to the nuclear deal between Iran and six international powers, also known at the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

“I’m not sure that if the Oman talks had leaked before the JCPOA was finalized, that we could have got to the finish line, that’s how critical those talks were,” he says.

Mr. Trump’s personal diplomacy with North Korea’s Mr. Kim offers proof, of course, that back-channel diplomacy is not a prerequisite for launching direct, high-level talks with longtime adversaries. What worries some experts, though, is that showy summitry without the painstaking behind-the-scenes diplomacy that sets terms and defines expectations first can perpetuate misunderstandings and lead to bad deals for the U.S.

“What the North Koreans have learned from the two summits with Trump is that he is much more impetuous, much more willing to agree to things without prior negotiations or understandings of them than either [national security adviser John] Bolton or [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo would be,” says Bruce Klingner, senior research fellow for northeast Asia at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. “That leaves us where we are today, with the North Koreans refusing to meet with anyone other than Trump … and the growing realization that the North Koreans don’t really want to denuclearize.”

Indeed, some supporters of Mr. Trump’s foreign policy approach – and perhaps even the president himself – appear to be convinced that the administration needs some kind of ice breaker with Iran if direct talks are ever to come to fruition.

Channel blocker?

According to recent press reports, Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul used a golf outing with the president last weekend to propose he act as the administration’s bridge to the Iranian regime. His plan was to meet soon with Mr. Zarif, according to an account first reported in Politico. Mr. Zarif has been in New York this week for meetings at the United Nations.

And according to some White House officials, Mr. Trump gave the initiative his OK on the spot.

By Thursday Mr. Trump was denying he had appointed Mr. Paul as any kind of emissary, saying only that he had spoken with the senator and “he’s somebody I listen to.”

Still, some analysts saw in the episode at least tacit acceptance of the merits of a diplomatic back channel. Beyond that, the fact that a plan that presumably would have been carried out under wraps was so quickly outed in the press tells some with White House experience that some powerful people didn’t want the idea to go forward.

“My suspicion is that somebody put it out there with the intention to scuttle it,” says Mr. Price, who served as senior director for strategic communications on the National Security Council in the Obama White House. “Obviously Rand Paul’s views on Iran policy are very different from those of the Boltons and Pompeos of the administration,” he adds. Mr. Paul is a non-interventionist who had praised the president’s decision to call off retaliatory air strikes over Iran’s downing of a U.S. surveillance drone last month.

Yet as important as a diplomatic back channel might be to defusing incidents and potential blow-ups, some analysts say established lines of communication and quiet conversations are even more critical to substantive and successful diplomacy on a complex issue like Iran’s nuclear program.

“If you want to defuse the potential for missteps, you need to be able to communicate,” says Mr. Klingner of Heritage. “But even more, if you want something better than the JCPOA, at some point you have to sit down and negotiate.”

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2. In rise of brain implants, blurring lines between man, machine?

With every major technological breakthrough comes the inevitable question: Should we, just because we can? That’s top of mind as the idea of linking brains to computers approaches reality.

Eva

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This week Elon Musk’s company Neuralink showed off a robot that can connect electrodes to the brain more accurately than a human can. The company also promised brain implants that can capture far more neuron activity than has occurred up until now. 

To medical researchers, this raises the prospect of better care for patients. Already, electrodes have been implanted to stimulate portions of the brain in more than 100,000 patients with certain diseases. But the technology also raises ethical questions. One is whether patient safety will take a front or back seat amid a flurry of corporate investment. Another is over the potential blurring of boundaries between man and machine. 

Mr. Musk argues the technology is imperative if humanity is going to keep up with artificial intelligence. He said that, “with a high-bandwidth brain machine interface, ... we can effectively have the option of merging with A.I.,” instead of being “left behind.”

Where some scientists warn against unwarranted fear of the technology, others emphasize the need for wider public debate about the ethics involved.

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In rise of brain implants, blurring lines between man, machine?

It sounds far-fetched: With a computer chip implanted in their brains, humans could boost their intelligence with instant access to the internet, write articles like this one by thinking it rather than typing, and communicate with each other without saying a thing ​– what entrepreneur Elon Musk calls “consensual telepathy.”

Of course, it’s not really telepathy. It’s radio waves transmitting data from one chip to another. And it’s still futuristic. But it raises important ethical questions, as academic researchers and industry scientists pursue a path that could lead to the merging of human thought with artificial intelligence through the routine use of brain implants.

This week, Mr. Musk’s company Neuralink revealed details of how its technology has pushed forward that future. 

“It is a big jump,” says György Buzsáki, a neuroscientist at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. Other scientists have pioneered many of the techniques that Neuralink has used. “What is impressive is making an industrialized version of this procedure,” eventually perhaps creating a product that could speed the spread of the technology.

The entry of companies – and especially the flow of venture capital into the field – raises some important ethical issues. While some wrestle with big philosophical questions like the further blurring of boundaries between man and machine, scientists are focused on the more immediate questions of patient safety and corporate priorities.

For radically different reasons, doctors, academic researchers, and industry scientists are moving to plant increasingly sophisticated technology into the brain.

A flurry of new research

For doctors and many academics, the goal is to mitigate the effects of disease. For some four decades, they have worked on implants that stimulate portions of the brain to treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s, for example, and depression. More than 100,000 patients worldwide now have these implants. The systems are relatively straightforward. They zap the brain with small amounts of electricity.

Medical researchers are now working on more sophisticated systems that can detect and record when the brain’s neurons fire and, hopefully, interpret what it means. Early work with rats and monkeys suggests paralyzed people could move a limb or control a computer to be able to communicate.

A host of companies are moving in to supply this medical market with implants carrying 100 or so electrodes. Neuralink has created a 3,000-electrode implant that it says it can scale up to 10,000 electrodes. That jump in electrodes should allow its system to capture far more neuron activity. 

The company also showed off a robot that can connect the electrodes to the brain more accurately than a human can. Mr. Musk wants permission from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to have one of his chips implanted in a human patient by the end of next year.

The role of private companies in this kind of research and development is controversial. On the one hand, the companies can routinize products and services that improve quality control and, thus, safety. And the influx of funds can speed up the research and deployment of devices, researchers and neuroscientists say. On the other hand, by focusing on products and profits, the companies risk giving a lower priority to patient safety.

That’s one reason François Berger, a neuro-oncologist now at a teaching hospital in Grenoble, France, left his job as director of a public-private partnership known as Clinatec. The safeguards for patients in the entrepreneurial environment weren’t high enough, he said in a 2018 interview. “We have an obligation to a slow science.”

“The thing that worries me is if they make a bad mistake,” says John Donoghue, a widely recognized neuroscientist, now at Brown University, who founded an early startup to work on computer-brain interfaces. “When somebody does something wrong, it can shut down the enthusiasm for the entire field, even when it’s not warranted.”

Humans in a race with A.I.?

The medical market is now large enough for companies to make a profit, Dr. Donoghue says. But some visionaries, like Mr. Musk, dream of a much larger market sometime in the future where ordinary people might opt for a brain implant to boost their intelligence in the way some now have their eyes lasered to improve their eyesight. For him, such technology is imperative if humanity is going to keep up with artificial intelligence.

“Even in a benign A.I. scenario, we will be left behind,” he said at Neuralink’s coming-out presentation Tuesday in San Francisco. But “with a high-bandwith brain-machine interface, I think we can actually go along for the ride and we can effectively have the option of merging with A.I.”

 “It’s different worlds,” says Helen Mayberg, a neurologist at Mount Sinai in New York who pioneered the use of deep-brain stimulation for treatment-resistant depression. To her, the imperative to move forward is clear: She says she gets multiple emails a day from people diagnosed with the disease wanting to receive the technology.

“Why are we talking about enhancement [of people who are well] when we’re not doing such a great job of even having delivery of care and parity of mental-health services?” she asks. “That’s a disconnect for me.”

And it may be a longer way off than many of the optimists believe. Even with the advances in A.I., linking it with a human will require solving multiple problems, including such mundane things as finding materials capable of functioning in a body for a decade or more, says Dr. Donoghue. Then there’s the market challenge: Will the technology add enough value that people will really want it?    

“I use my phone for my short-term memory; I don’t need it plugged into my brain to do that,” he says. “Your mouth works at about the speed of thought. So you’re going to have to beat that [with an implant]. And you could be a little faster, but are you going to go around with all this hardware in your head just to be able to interact with your computer 20 percent faster? … I think we are really a long way off before you get a good enough interface that it’s going to give you a significant advantage.”

Other technologies, such as plastic surgery, have moved from strictly helping accident victims to enhancing body features for anyone. “Is it fair to society that some people look nicer because they can afford it? I don’t know,” says Dr. Buzsáki, the New York University neuroscientist. In the same vein, he says the spread of brain implants “has to be discussed by a wider group of people” than just scientists.

If nothing else, the presentations by companies like Neuralink will help bring that discussion to the fore. But the corporate activity also shows the risk that profit motives could dominate the discourse.

“I honestly believe in the separation between money and academic research,” says Dr. Buzsáki, who has worked in both worlds. “And the reason for that is that the moment money is involved, then that controls a lot. I’m not saying it’s overriding morals, but history says [that] most of the time it does.”

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3. When getting the story means years of threats, even bullets

The rich and powerful have always pushed back on investigative journalists. But when it comes to sexual crimes, the threats are losing to the pursuit of truth.

Eva

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Former Philadelphia Daily News reporter Nicole Weisensee Egan says she faced incessant intimidating calls from Bill Cosby’s lawyer as she investigated sexual abuse claims in 2005. Some media slammed her reporting on “America’s dad.”

“I had it coming at me at all sides, but my newspaper had my back the entire time,” says Ms. Egan.

Reporters who pursue sexual misconduct allegations against high-profile individuals say they face a flurry of pressure – from fans, newsrooms, and targets of stories. But the increasing impact of investigative journalism in exposing sexual violence cases may point to something promising: The pushback isn’t working.

“The bigger the targets, the more pushback you get,” says Mark Feldstein, a former investigative journalist and journalism historian. “But what actually strikes me about #MeToo is kind of the opposite – yeah they’re fighting back, but they’re not succeeding.”

Some observers point to Mr. Cosby’s 2018 conviction as a #MeToo milestone. The entertainer is serving three to 10 years for sexual assault.

“Sometimes you choose a story, and sometimes it chooses you,” says Jim DeRogatis, who has spent 20 years investigating R. Kelly. “I think you don’t let go of it if you are a journalist. Not when people are being hurt.”

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When getting the story means years of threats, even bullets

As a music critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, Jim DeRogatis received his first tip about R. Kelly via fax. It alluded to the R&B star’s problem with “young girls.” The critic broke the story of Mr. Kelly’s alleged sex with minors in December 2000.

The following month, Mr. DeRogatis received an anonymous sex tape. Within 12 hours, a bullet burst through his front porch window.

“I cannot say it was R. Kelly, but I think it was a message,” he says.

Mr. DeRogatis has covered Mr. Kelly for two decades, interviewing dozens of women who claim they survived the musician’s abuse. Mr. Kelly, who faces 18 charges from two federal indictments, was denied bond this week. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Mr. DeRogatis’ peers used to deride his coverage of the famed Chicagoan. Today, many herald Mr. DeRogatis’ work as helping advance justice.

It’s hard to separate empty threats from real danger, he says, though he recognizes that survivors of sexual crimes have it much worse. Mr. DeRogatis says he took heat from members of Mr. Kelly’s camp, including a phone call with the message, “We know you have a daughter.” Online attacks spiked around the release last month of his book, “Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly.” To his alarm, people have circulated images and video of his family on social media. “I never slowed down for a minute,” he says. “If anything, it redoubled my efforts.”

Reporters who pursue sexual misconduct allegations against high-profile individuals say they face a flurry of pressure – from fans, newsrooms, and targets of stories. But the increasing impact of investigative journalism in exposing sexual violence cases may point to something promising: The pushback isn’t working.

“The bigger the targets, the more pushback you get,” says Mark Feldstein, a former investigative journalist and journalism historian. “But what actually strikes me about #MeToo is kind of the opposite – yeah they’re fighting back, but they’re not succeeding.”

Not so two decades ago. Journalists had dug into Harvey Weinstein’s rumored abusive behavior years before his arrest in May 2018. Mr. DeRogatis says three newsrooms turned down his story on Mr. Kelly’s alleged sex cult before BuzzFeed published it in July 2017. Former Vanity Fair reporter Vicky Ward tried to reveal allegations against financier Jeffrey Epstein in the early 2000s. 

While reporting a profile, Ms. Ward says she landed on-the-record interviews with two sisters who accused Mr. Epstein of sexual abuse. One alleged she’d been underage.

Leading up to publication, Ms. Ward, who was pregnant with twins at the time, says he called multiple times to threaten her and her unborn children, warning something would happen if the story displeased him. A lawyer for Mr. Epstein did not return requests for comment.

“I actually had to ask the hospital to make sure that they had 24/7 security for two months,” Ms. Ward said on a Slate podcast. “It was a horrendous time.”

As for the threats, “they made me more determined to nail” the story, Ms. Ward wrote in an email to the Monitor.

However, the women’s allegations were excised from the 2003 Vanity Fair profile. Graydon Carter, Vanity Fair’s then-editor, defended the cut, saying he “didn’t have confidence in Ward’s reporting,” Politico reported.

The registered sex offender’s arrest and new charges in July came 11 years after a controversial nonprosecution agreement. Alexander Acosta, who helped broker the deal as a U.S. attorney, resigned as U.S. labor secretary last week. Many credit extensive reporting by Miami Herald journalist Julie K. Brown for renewing scrutiny of Mr. Epstein.

“We were assisted by some excellent investigative journalism,” said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman for New York’s Southern District. On Thursday, a federal judge denied Mr. Epstein’s request for bail, calling him a danger to the community and a flight risk. Mr. Epstein has pleaded not guilty to the new charges.

Ted Shaffrey/AP/File
Ronan Farrow, a contributing writer for the New Yorker, speaks with reporters at The Associated Press headquarters in New York on July 27, 2018.

Intimidation of the press in the U.S. dates back to the first Colonial newspaper in 1690. British authorities shut down Boston’s Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick after one issue. President Donald Trump’s calling reporters “enemy of the people” is the latest in a long history of government pressure. In 2018, the killing of five Capital Gazette employees in Maryland brought home to U.S. journalists a horror more often faced by peers abroad. Twenty journalists have been attacked in the U.S. this year, reports U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

“When we see an increase in harassment and threats to journalists, it can have a real chilling effect on journalism,” says Sarah Matthews, a staff attorney at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “It’s depriving the public of important stories.”

In 2017, Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore threatened to sue the news site AL.com, after the local outlet published allegations of his “predatory behavior” toward teenage girls in Etowah County dating back to the 1970s. Mr. Moore’s counsel argued the coverage defamed the former state judge, who denied the claims.

Alabama Media Group rejected the cease-and-desist letter and stood by its reporting. Kelly Ann Scott, AMG’s vice president of content who joined in 2018, says the threat of litigation didn’t pack a punch.

“It made folks even more motivated to pursue the truth,” says Ms. Scott.

“There’s an openness now”

Mr. Weinstein awaits trial for rape and other offenses following his arrest last year. He has denied wrongdoing.

He’d spun a web of enablers with his towering influence who tried to snuff out allegations against him and derail negative press, according to reports in The New York Times and The New Yorker.

Mr. Weinstein allegedly hired private security agencies – including Israeli ex-intelligence officers – to track accusers and journalists, Ronan Farrow reported for The New Yorker in 2017. At the time, a spokesperson for Mr. Weinstein said it was “a fiction” to suggest that individuals were targeted.

A professor of journalism at the University of Maryland, Mr. Feldstein knows well the risks of investigative journalism – he was once beaten up for exposing migrant slavery in Florida in the 1980s. He says there could be more pushback on issues of sexual harassment because of the volume of current coverage.

“The men who predominantly run newsrooms in the United States now have come face to face with what women have found for a long time,” he says. “There’s an openness now to doing those stories, and a willingness now by the sources, the victims, to talk about it in ways that they weren’t willing to before.”

As Ms. Brown began digging into Mr. Epstein’s alleged sex ring in 2017, she’s said, a former Palm Beach, Florida, police chief warned her that previous reporters had failed, and the Miami Herald could face pressure to kill the story. Ms. Brown persisted, poring over thousands of records and tracking more than 60 alleged survivors of sexual abuse. Eight agreed to interviews.

Miami Herald managing editor Rick Hirsch says the #MeToo era contributed to people opening up about what they hadn’t been willing to share before.

The Herald didn’t face threats for its series – “nor would it have mattered,” says Mr. Hirsch.

“I had it coming at me on all sides”

In her book “Chasing Cosby,” former Philadelphia Daily News reporter Nicole Weisensee Egan says she faced incessant intimidating calls from Martin Singer, a former lawyer for Bill Cosby, as she investigated sexual abuse claims in 2005. Some media slammed her reporting on “America’s dad.”

“I had it coming at me on all sides, but my newspaper had my back the entire time,” says Ms. Egan.

She continued to follow the story at People and The Daily Beast. She finally saw the media take the allegations against Mr. Cosby seriously when a joke by comedian Hannibal Buress went viral in 2014. Dozens more women came forward to accuse Mr. Cosby of abuse.

“Cosby could control the media, but he couldn’t control social media,” says Ms. Egan.

Some observers called Mr. Cosby’s 2018 conviction a #MeToo milestone. The entertainer is serving three to 10 years for sexual assault, and continues to deny wrongdoing. An assistant for Mr. Singer did not respond to requests for comment.

Ms. Egan may have been spared online harassment because she uncovered allegations against Mr. Cosby pre-Twitter. Mr. DeRogatis, on the other hand, says he found a “hacker for good” to help him with cybersecurity. Two decades on the story, he perseveres.

“Sometimes you choose a story, and sometimes it chooses you,” says Mr. DeRogatis. “I think you don’t let go of it if you are a journalist. Not when people are being hurt.”

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Listen

4. ‘It smells like gunpowder’: Astronauts tell of their time on the moon

The moon landing may have been a shared experience for all of humanity, but in actuality only 12 people have set foot on the moon. Our reporter got to meet two of them.

Eva

What happens on the moon ... winds up in the NASA archives forever. 

From astronauts joking about losing the keys to the spaceship and calling each other “twinkle toes” to merrily singing as they float above the moon dust, footage from the Apollo-era moonwalks has immortalized the magic of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Monitor science reporter Eva Botkin-Kowacki had a chance to ask two of those national heroes directly about what that experience has meant to them. Charlie Duke was in mission control when Apollo 11 landed on July 20, 1969. He got the chance to go himself three years later. Harrison “Jack” Schmitt was one of the last two men to walk on the surface of the moon.

“Imagine being in a valley as deep as this one,” Dr. Schmitt says, “with a brilliant sun, a blacker than black sky, and the Earth hanging over the southwest wall of the mountain – always in the same place.”

Listen firsthand to their stories.

LISTEN: Astronauts tell of their time on the moon

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An appreciation

5. Remembering Johnny Clegg, the voice of South Africa

Music is often the language that connects people. In the case of South African pop singer Johnny Clegg, who died this week, it brought together races at a time of oppression.

Eva
ABDELHAK SENNA/AFP/NEWSCOM/FILE
South African singer Johnny Clegg, nicknamed the “white Zulu,” performs in 2009 at the Mawazine international music festival in Rabat, Morocco. Mr. Clegg's music, including songs “Scatterlings of Africa” and “Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World,” has had an international following.

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Growing up in South Africa, I witnessed firsthand how musician Johnny Clegg, who died this week, helped change his fellow countrymen’s minds about Nelson Mandela and apartheid.

It was often an uphill battle. Radio stations wouldn’t play the music of an early duo he was in, and due to apartheid restrictions they couldn’t book venues because Mr. Clegg’s musical partner was black. They earned a fan base the old-fashioned way, playing churches and universities. They also found an audience overseas. In 1983, the Juluka song “Scatterlings of Africa” became a minor chart hit in the United Kingdom. 

By the time I was given my first portable transistor radio in the mid-1980s, restrictions had loosened. Mr. Clegg’s new multiracial band, Savuka, was receiving regular airplay. At a time when white South Africans were largely disinterested in domestic music, hits such as “Great Heart” and “Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World” introduced us to the riches of African pop.

Mr. Clegg once told an interviewer that the long struggle to end apartheid taught him a lesson in patience. “People waited for 30, 40 years,” he said. “It bore fruit.” 

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Remembering Johnny Clegg, the voice of South Africa

In 1999, South African pop star Johnny Clegg was performing in Frankfurt, Germany, when statesman Nelson Mandela sneaked onstage. Mr. Clegg was singing “Asimbonanga,” his 1987 hit about Mr. Mandela’s imprisonment. Unbeknownst to the band, Mr. Mandela started dancing behind them.

“The audience erupted and I thought, ‘Wow! They know my song,’ but it was Mandela, walking behind me onstage,’” Mr. Clegg later recalled.

Growing up in South Africa, I witnessed firsthand how Mr. Clegg, who died this week, helped change his fellow countrymen’s minds about Mr. Mandela and apartheid. The first concert I ever saw was Mr. Clegg’s sold-out arena show in Johannesburg in 1989. The songwriter had a multiracial band and his lyrics switched between English and Zulu. The frontman also performed traditional Inhlangwini dances with high kicks that would put a karate master to shame. In describing that show, Rolling Stone noted that “the capacity crowd shrieked with an abandon that bordered on Beatlemania.” 

As a young teenager, Mr. Clegg was on a shopping errand for his mother when he came across a man playing Zulu guitar. He was enchanted. He asked the man, Charlie Mzila, to teach him how to play in that style. Mr. Mzila became a mentor, later teaching him the art of stick fighting (a sort of dance that involves hopscotching with a knob-ended club). Mr. Clegg, who later lived in a hostel among black migrant workers, even wore ceremonial loincloths and armbands. He became known as the “white Zulu.” 

When Mr. Clegg formed the duo Juluka with fellow guitarist and singer Sipho Mchunu, he wrote about the experiences of those migrant workers. One of Juluka’s best songs, “Woza Friday,” was about a worker lamenting that Friday – payday – couldn’t arrive soon enough. It was an early example of the universality of Mr. Clegg’s lyrics.

But Juluka was prohibited from playing in regular venues due to apartheid restrictions, because Mr. Mchunu is black. State radio stations wouldn’t play their music, either. Juluka earned a fan base the old-fashioned way. They gigged in homes, churches, universities, and other nontraditional venues. They also found an audience overseas. In 1983, the Juluka song “Scatterlings of Africa” became a minor chart hit in the United Kingdom. 

By the time I was given my first portable transistor radio as a Christmas present in the mid-1980s, restrictions had loosened. Mr. Clegg’s new multiracial band, Savuka, was receiving regular airplay on the state-owned Radio 5. At a time when white South Africans were largely disinterested in domestic music, hits such as “Great Heart” and “Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World” introduced us to the riches of African pop.

Yet it wasn’t just Mr. Clegg’s protest lyrics that spoke loudest. It was how he lived by example. I’ll never forget the exuberant camaraderie of black and white musicians on that stage. Up through his Final Journey Tour, he exuded a grace that reflected his love of people and faith in humanity.

Mr. Clegg once told an interviewer that the long struggle to end apartheid taught him a lesson in patience. Change, as he noted, can take time. 

“People waited for 30, 40 years,” he said. “It bore fruit. It taught me that the new South Africa can’t be perfect. The new South Africa is going to take another 40 years to be truly flourishing and truly democratic, and truly offer its citizenship a flowering future.”

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The Monitor's View

The yeoman service to save Yemen

Two ways to read the story

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The place in the world with the most violent conflict, Yemen, is also home to the world’s largest aid operation. Yet the killing and the saving of lives are not simply parallel efforts. Since December, the United Nations has used the humanitarian cause to persuade the warring parties to negotiate a deal providing access for the delivery of aid. Out of shared compassion toward innocent life, the U.N. hopes, the Yemeni combatants could eventually piece together a political deal.

On Thursday, the U.N.’s special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, said Yemen may finally be “nearing the end of its war.” Houthi rebels and a pro-government coalition have expressed “unanimous desire” to quickly move toward a political solution.

The urgency is obvious. After four years of war, 80% of Yemenis need aid. The aid delivery is an apolitical activity that requires respect for humanitarian law. Such aid is neutral, impartial, and independent. Such qualities are also necessary for rule of law, which is the bedrock of democratic government. The deal thus puts universal ideals into the particulars of a temporary suspension of conflict.

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The yeoman service to save Yemen

The place in the world with the most violent conflict, Yemen, is also home to the world’s largest aid operation, or about $2 billion helping more than 11 million civilians in dire need. Yet the killing and the saving of lives are not simply parallel efforts. Since December, the United Nations has used the humanitarian cause to persuade the warring parties to negotiate a deal providing access for the delivery of aid. Out of shared compassion toward innocent life, the U.N. hopes, the Yemeni combatants could eventually piece together a political deal.

On Thursday, the U.N.’s special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, told the Security Council that Yemen may finally be “nearing the end of its war” – even as he admits the dangers of optimism in a country and a region so divided by tribe, religion, and big-power influence. He said the Houthi rebels and a pro-government coalition have expressed “unanimous desire” to quickly move toward a political solution for all Yemenis. That sentiment may be driven in part by the United Arab Emirates’ plan to withdraw the bulk of its forces.

The big breakthrough was a deal reached in Stockholm last December to open the port city of Hodeidah for safe passage of aid convoys. Last Sunday and Monday, the warring parties met again on a ship in the Red Sea. The urgency is obvious. After four years of war, tens of thousands of people have been killed and 80% of Yemenis need aid. The “real story has been – and should continue to be – the humanitarian catastrophe that continues to unfold in Yemen,” says David Beasley, head of the World Food Program.

The aid delivery is an apolitical activity that requires respect for humanitarian law. Such aid is “neutral, impartial, and independent,” said Mr. Beasley. Such qualities are also necessary for rule of law, which is the bedrock of democratic government. The deal thus puts universal ideals into the particulars of a temporary suspension of conflict.

Although challenges remain to deliver the aid, “they are not stopping the world’s largest aid operation,” says the U.N. relief chief, Mark Lowcock.

The Yemeni factions have another reason to cooperate. As tensions build in the Gulf between Iran and Saudi Arabia along with its ally, the United States, Yemen could become a major battlefield for all-out war. Then the differences between Yemenis would surely look small. Better to bridge those differences now, starting with the most basic of common concerns: aid to the innocent people caught up in conflict.

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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.

Powerful new views

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  • Read or Listen ( 3 Min. )

Most of us will never experience firsthand the phenomenon of looking across the horizon and seeing the blue-green marble of Earth. But wherever we are, each of us can experience fresh, beautiful, spiritual views of reality that bring breakthrough inspiration and freedom.

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Powerful new views

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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Fifty years ago, on July 20, 1969, “one small step” of “giant” significance took place when humanity, represented by Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin, landed on the moon. I’ve always been so inspired by this remarkable achievement – the fruit of the vision, hard work, and dedication of countless individuals along the way.

Unlike Mr. Armstrong, Mr. Aldrin, and the 10 others who have walked on the moon since, most of us will never experience firsthand the buoyancy of a one-sixth weight equivalence or the phenomenon of looking across the horizon and seeing the blue-green marble of Earth. But that doesn’t mean we can’t experience life-changing discoveries and inspiring, breakthrough explorations right where we are.

The key, I’ve found, is one’s perspective. There’s some advice that has really stuck with me: “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2).

I remember thinking about that one summer night as I looked up at a full moon in a starry sky. I’d been learning as much as I possibly could about space, and to this 10-year-old considering “astronaut” as her career path, it was very encouraging counsel.

But there’s more to this statement, which was written by an early follower of Christ Jesus. It offers a thought-provoking take on how to think about, well, everything. It points to the radical idea that to understand reality, we need to look to God, divine Spirit, rather than to matter.

What does that tell us? Christian Science, which is based on the Bible, explains that God is Life itself and created all – the entire universe, including each of us. God is so powerful that He is the only source of what’s good and true. And everything He has made expresses His very nature; that is, not material or mortal, but the pure, spiritual expression of the goodness and grace of the Divine.

That’s the truest, most beautiful view of reality one could ever glimpse, and it’s available wherever we go. “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science and a pioneer in her own right, notes, “Each successive stage of experience unfolds new views of divine goodness and love” (p. 66).

When we’re open to those new views that reveal reality as wholly spiritual, we’re looking toward a horizon that holds unlimited possibilities. We find that, as Science and Health describes, “The harmonious will appear real, and the inharmonious unreal” (p. 347).

This isn’t merely a question of optics. Grasping something of the true, spiritual nature of existence paves the way for us to experience it more tangibly. For instance, when I was thrown from a horse last year, seeing “more clearly what always had been and always is the spiritual reality” led to the remarkably quick healing of injuries (see “Healed ‘quickly and wholly’ after riding accident,” March 11, 2019, Christian Science Sentinel).

There’s more to existence than meets the eye. Wherever in the world – or beyond! – we may be, each of us can look to beautiful new views of reality that bring inspiration, freedom, and harmony.

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Viewfinder

Watch your step

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
The view down can be dizzying. As visitors walk along the sheer granite cliffs in this part of British Columbia, some of the walkways are glass, a lens onto the gorge far, far below. But aside from any vertigo issues, the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park gives a taste of the dramatic nature that abounds in and around Vancouver without one having to go on a grueling adventure trek or overnight trip. The bridge spans 450 feet and is 230 feet above the Capilano River. When throngs of visitors cross it – which is constantly – it wobbles, delighting children and causing many an adult to grab for the nearest handrail. – Sara Miller Llana, Staff writer
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte and Karen Norris. )
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In Our Next Issue

( July 22nd, 2019 )

Thanks for joining us today. Come back next week. We’ll explore whether more Republican women in Congress might help calm political tensions in Washington. 

Monitor Daily Podcast

July 19, 2019
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