2021
January
08
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Monitor Daily Podcast

January 08, 2021
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TODAY’S INTRO

How inmates raised $30,000 to put student through school

April Austin
Weekly Deputy Editor, Books Editor

It was an unusual act: incarcerated men pooling their prison earnings to pay tuition for a young man to attend a private high school. But when you probe deeper, it’s clear that a larger purpose was at work. 

In 2016, Sy Green’s parents couldn’t pay for his sophomore year at Palma School, a Roman Catholic boys school in Salinas, California. After medical challenges and job losses, even with the school’s help the tuition was out of reach. Enter a group of inmates at a state correctional facility in Soledad, who wanted to sponsor a student in appreciation for the school’s ongoing prison outreach. They asked teacher Jim Micheletti if he could recommend someone who needed their help.

“I was incredulous,” Mr. Micheletti says by phone.

One of the incarcerated men, Jason Bryant, who helped collect donations from others in his unit, says the men who contributed were eager to add value to someone’s life. “The damage to our victims can’t be undone, and we can make the choice to sow new things into the world. Now we have the opportunity to sow goodness, to sow charity, to sow love,” he says. 

Today, Mr. Bryant and four others are out of prison. Four of them work at a nonprofit that supports individuals inside and outside prison. And they are working on providing another scholarship.

Mr. Green, the student, graduated from Palma last spring. He started his first year of college, where he’s majoring in communication and playing basketball. He remains in close touch with Mr. Bryant.

He says that with so much invested in him in high school, whenever he was tempted to do less than his best, he knew he had to deliver 100%. “It was extra motivation,” he says.

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After Capitol attack, GOP grapples with its future

Wednesday’s events went too far for many mainstream Republicans. But whether the party can reinvent itself in the post-Trump era remains to be seen.

April
Carlos Barria/Reuters
A supporter of President Donald Trump stands at the Lincoln Memorial a day after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, Jan. 7, 2021.

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The extraordinary events of this week – and the preceding weeks that set the stage – have cleaved the Republican Party in ways rarely seen in its 167-year history. 

In retrospect, the violent mob that overtook the Capitol on Wednesday can be seen as the logical climax of President Donald Trump’s two-month campaign to sow grievance among his followers, after repeated claims the election was stolen and a refusal to concede defeat. 

To many mainstream Republicans, who stuck with Mr. Trump as best they could despite his stylistic excesses, Wednesday may have been a bridge too far. This casts doubt on his potential for a comeback in 2024. 

But the fact remains that among many in the party, perhaps even a majority, Mr. Trump and his brand remain compelling.

“There’s obviously been, for now, a backlash against Donald Trump for inspiring the mob that attacked Congress,” says Terry Moe, a political scientist at Stanford University. “But the fact of the matter is, long term, Trump’s populist base is still there. It’s still angry. It’s big. And it’s politically powerful within the Republican Party.”

After Capitol attack, GOP grapples with its future

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The Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln, Dwight Eisenhower, and Ronald Reagan is no more. In its place, a new GOP is emerging. 

But the journey has only just begun, following the extraordinary events of this week – and the preceding weeks that set the stage – which have cleaved the party in ways rarely seen in its 167-year history. 

In retrospect, the violent mob that overtook the Capitol on Wednesday can be seen as the logical climax of President Donald Trump’s two-month campaign to sow grievance among his followers, after repeated claims the election was stolen and a refusal to concede his Nov. 3 election defeat. 

What’s more, the Republicans’ loss of both Georgia Senate seats in Tuesday’s runoff, effectively handing Democrats the chamber’s majority – and therefore control of both the legislative and executive branches – has dealt yet another blow to party fortunes. Senate Republicans fear that Mr. Trump’s claims of election fraud on Nov. 3 may have depressed turnout on Jan. 5. Party strategists say they were out-organized by the Democrats. 

But the Republican Party is far from dead; it’s evolving, as parties do. And while President Trump’s departure from office in 12 days will resolve nothing for the GOP’s future, it represents the next step in that evolution.

In recent days, major party figures – including Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – have defied Mr. Trump’s wishes and accepted Joe Biden’s presidential victory. But the fact remains that among many in the party, perhaps even a majority, Mr. Trump and his brand remain compelling.

“There’s obviously been, for now, a backlash against Donald Trump for inspiring the mob that attacked Congress,” says Terry Moe, a political scientist at Stanford University in California. “But the fact of the matter is, long term, Trump’s populist base is still there. It’s still angry. It’s big. And it’s politically powerful within the Republican Party.”

An analysis by Amy Walter of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report shows just how large that segment of the party has become. For years, she writes, the GOP was a “three-legged stool consisting of religious conservatives, small-government types, and military hawks.” Now, Ms. Walter says, add a fourth: the Trump wing. 

Poll data, in fact, suggest the Trump wing represents a majority of the party. The final NBC-Wall Street Journal poll before Election Day showed 54% of Republicans identifying with Mr. Trump versus 38% identifying as a supporter of the GOP. 

That was before the Jan. 6 melee in the Capitol, which interrupted the certification of Mr. Biden’s victory and left five people dead, shaking the nation to its core. Some Republicans have since abandoned Mr. Trump, and are calling on him to resign. On Friday, he tweeted that he would not attend the inauguration of President-elect Biden.

His former chief of staff and Homeland Security secretary, John Kelly, said Thursday that the Cabinet should meet to discuss removing the president via the 25th Amendment to the Constitution. If he were still in the Cabinet, he said, he would vote for removal.

But within Congress, even after the attack on the Capitol, 147 GOP lawmakers still objected to the election results. On Thursday, in a phone call to the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting in Florida, Mr. Trump was greeted with applause. Trump loyalist Ronna McDaniel won reelection Friday as party chair without opposition. 

Democrats, meanwhile, have urged use of the 25th Amendment and threatened a second impeachment. On Friday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House will move to introduce articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump on Monday, if he doesn’t resign “immediately.”

In response, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who voted to object to the election results on Wednesday, called for national unity. “Impeaching the President with just 12 days left in his term will only divide our country more,” he said in a statement. 

Earlier, Ms. Pelosi asked the nation’s top military officer to deprive the president of access to the nuclear codes, calling him “unhinged.” 

Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary under President George W. Bush, suggests that going forward, the party should focus on what Mr. Trump got right. 

“The future of the party lies in something Donald Trump put his finger on, and that is to be a working-class, blue-collar-focused outsider party that stands up to China and stands for religious freedom and individual freedom, without a hint of violence,” Mr. Fleischer says. 

He doesn’t think that’s a hard formula to follow. If they do, “Republicans can regain much of what they lost in the suburbs and among college-educated voters.” 

Another Republican strategist, with ties to the Trump White House, echoes those remarks. “You’ll see the party stress the American worker – wage growth, jobs, anti-China, anti-illegal immigration,” he says. 

Even on his way out the door, Mr. Trump is still pushing his immigration message, reportedly planning a trip to the U.S.-Mexico border before leaving office Jan. 20. 

In the post-Trump era, GOP talking points will also focus on “freedom, cancel culture, and the undermining of American exceptionalism and capitalism,” the Republican strategist says. 

Still, the shocking images from the Capitol on Wednesday – broadcast globally, in an embarrassing blow to America’s identity as a beacon of peaceful democratic rule – will not fade from memory anytime soon. 

To many mainstream Republicans, who stuck with Mr. Trump as best they could despite his stylistic excesses, Wednesday may have been a bridge too far. This casts doubt on his potential for a comeback in 2024, if he attempts one. 

“For a lot of Republicans, Trump isn’t their first choice, but they liked having a Republican president and they liked the things he did that any Republican president would have done,” says Scott Jennings, a political adviser in the second Bush White House. 

“But no Republican I know would say, ‘We can put up with a little insurrection.’ People did put up with certain things. They put up with crassness, rudeness. But until [Wednesday], I don’t think he went so out of bounds as it relates to our constitutional norms that it fully tripped the wires of ‘this isn’t right.’” 

Staff writers Noah Robertson and Story Hinckley contributed to this report. 

Global report

As US democracy stumbles, the world watches and wonders

As chaos unfolded in Washington Wednesday, the rest of the world was watching. What thoughts came to people’s minds? Nine of our correspondents went to find out, while London-based columnist Ned Temko stood back to survey the fallout. Here, people from Lagos to Moscow air some of their fears, hopes, and disappointments.

April
Corinna Kern/Reuters
A man gestures toward a municipal building as it is lit up in the colors of the American flag, in a show of solidarity for democracy, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Jan. 7, 2021.

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At a time when democracies are on the defensive worldwide, the U.S. Capitol crisis resonated strongly. What hit home among allies from Canada to Germany wasn’t just the mob violence. It was the fact that a sitting president instigated the assault, with the declared aim of staying in power.

Whether in Beijing, Amman, or Tel Aviv, President Trump’s maneuvers have further fed the suspicion – not a new one – that the ostensible gold standard of democracy was nothing of the sort. Perhaps the U.S. was not all that different from the autocracies and pseudo-democracies that it has tried to hold to higher standards.

Some gloated. “A Mob Smashes Capitol Hill, and American-style Democracy is Smashed,” proclaimed China’s official state TV network. 

Others were frustrated. “For years America and American media depicted us as a violent people fuelled by ancient hatreds who could never learn democracy,” said Abdullah Saedi, a Jordanian engineer. “It we went by American standards, it seems many Americans need to learn democracy.”

And some tried to feed a flame of hope. “It was like watching a horror movie, but painful as it was ... democracy was saved,” said Stav Shafir, chair of Israel’s Green Party.

President-elect Joe Biden has pledged that “America is back.” But restoring the country’s moral authority may prove even more daunting than repairing its alliances.

As US democracy stumbles, the world watches and wonders

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His words were striking, but the imagery even more so: French President Emmanuel Macron, voicing U.S. allies’ shock and alarm at this week’s mob invasion of the U.S. Capitol, was framed by two national flags – the French tricolor and the Stars and Stripes.

For Americans, their flag can mean many things: national pride, unity, celebration – or, like so much else beset by today’s bitter political divisions, tribalism, hostility, and anger.

Yet in the rest of the world, friend and foe alike, it has come to symbolize one thing above all: democracy. A world power whose influence has derived not only from military and economic strength, Big Macs, and Hollywood movies – important though all these have been to America’s global reach – but from a political culture rooted in individual rights, freedom of expression, fair elections, the peaceful transfer of power. All of this subject not to the whims of any one political leader, but to the rule of law.

At a time when democracies worldwide have found themselves on the defensive – against populist politicians at home and authoritarian governments elsewhere – the events in Washington this week have resonated especially strongly. And what hit home among democratic allies wasn’t just the mob violence. It was the fact that Donald Trump, a sitting president, instigated the assault with the declared aim of tossing out the result of a national election and staying in power.

Germany: “This happened in the motherland of modern democracy. Many people in Europe perceive this as a more severe crisis than the one in Europe.”  Dr. Florian Böller, transatlantic relations expert.

China: “A Mob Smashes Capitol Hill, and American-style Democracy is Smashed.” Title of a commentary on China’s official state television network, CCTV.

Nigeria: Nigerians recall how, during the 2015 election, a supporter of the sitting president named Godsday Orubebe attempted to hijack the vote-counting process on live television. He failed, but his name remains synonymous with chaos. “To Orubebe” means to try to disrupt the democratic process. Back then, many Nigerians thought only Africans could Orubebe.

President Trump’s maneuvers have fed the suspicion – lamented by allies, pointedly amplified by rivals or critics – that the ostensible gold standard of democracy was nothing of the sort. Perhaps the U.S. was not all that different from the autocracies and pseudo-democracies that America has criticized or tried to hold to higher standards, countries like China and Russia, Hungary and Poland, Turkey and Venezuela.

Iraq: “Maybe we’re not so different after all. Maybe our flawed democracy isn’t as flawed as Americans made us think it is. America now has zero credibility when discussing peaceful transfers of power.” A Western-educated Iraqi official who asked not to be identified.

Egypt: “For young democracies or activists, when you see the democratic process disrupted and face mob violence in the most established democracy in the world, of course it is disheartening because it drives home the idea that even consolidated democracies are not safe.” Amr Hamzawi, Egyptian democracy activist and former member of Parliament.

Hong Kong: Wednesday’s riot was “a gift for the Communist regimes, not just in China, but around the world – it shows how democracies fail.” Kenneth Chan, associate professor of government at Hong Kong Baptist University and a former Hong Kong legislator.

“America is back,” President-elect Joe Biden said after November’s election, a pledge welcomed by allies around the world. By that, he meant not only a reengagement with alliances and international institutions shunned by Mr. Trump. He meant reburnishing the flag behind President Macron’s right shoulder when he spoke this week, including by advancing plans to hold a summit meeting with other democracies early in his administration.

But restoring America’s moral authority, a core component of U.S. influence, may prove even more daunting a challenge than repairing America’s alliances.

Canada: “Our international influence works best when we’re seen by countries around the world as being of the same mind as the United States … so we’ve been watching the degeneration of American norms over the last four years with huge trepidation north of the border.” Drew Fagan, a former Ontario deputy minister.

Israel: “Over the last year, we have seen that an America that cannot police itself cannot police the world. That has an impact on Israel as we relied on American willingness to project power and it’s gone … and the Russians and Chinese and Iranians know it.” Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to Washington.

Russia: “These scenes in Washington the other day were yet another blow to those who want to perceive the US as a hopeful and inspiring model. It’s very dispiriting to see this. What happened in DC was horrifying to watch. There’s no point in blaming the Kremlin for taking advantage, because, why wouldn’t they?” Masha Lipman, liberal Russian commentator.

Well before Wednesday’s assault on the Capitol, America’s reputation had begun to tarnish. The arc is perhaps best charted from another day in recent American history when the country collectively gasped at televised images: Sept. 11, 2001, when Al Qaeda operatives crashed hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon.

Benoit Tessier/AP/File
President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and French President Emmanuel Macron attend a commemoration for Armistice Day, 100 years after the end of World War I, at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris Nov. 11, 2018. World leaders including Ms. Merkel and Mr. Macron have condemned the storming of the U.S. Capitol by Mr. Trump's supporters.

Then, the international response was nearly unanimous: solidarity with a democracy under terrorist attack. But over the years that followed, the image of America evolved. Unsurprisingly, U.S. foreign policy has never perfectly lived up to Washington’s staunch public commitment to democratic values and human rights. But the Iraq War, especially the torture and abuse of detainees in Abu Ghraib prison by American Army and CIA personnel, marked an important turning point.

The largest shift, however, has occurred under President Trump, whose apparent lack of concern for human rights and democratic accountability abroad, and his bid to exert personal control over traditionally independent legal and judicial processes at home, have alarmed U.S. allies. 

Jordan: “For years America and American media depicted us as violent people fueled by ancient hatreds who could never learn democracy. If we went by American standards, it seems many Americans need to learn democracy.” Abdullah Saedi, a Jordanian engineer.

Nigeria: “Wednesday’s riot in Washington shows us that … there are no perfect democracies. It is something that should be nurtured at all costs. Trump’s actions delegitimize the work of people like us because autocrats will ask ‘why does an organization like the CDD exist and condemn us when their paymasters are even worse?’” Idayat Hassan, director of the U.S.-funded Center for Democracy and Development.

Russia: Most Russians always regarded the U.S. with high respect and sympathy, even if they saw it as an adversary. But now it kind of looks as though the America we knew is gone, that it just won’t be that America anymore. Some might be gleeful to see this, but I think most are sad about it.” Vladimir Pozner, veteran Russian international affairs commentator.

Concern among America’s friends about the way things were going crescendoed within hours of the polls closing at November’s election, when Mr. Trump preemptively claimed victory and urged states to stop counting votes while he remained ahead.

They had been holding their breath in the weeks since, hoping Mr. Trump would ultimately recognize Mr. Biden’s victory and that Washington could set out on its path to “coming back.”

That remains their hope – not just for the sake of the U.S. but for the broader prospects of democratic governance internationally. They’ve been taking some solace from the fact that the core structures of the American system seemed to hold in the end, with Congress returning after the mob was expelled from the Capitol and certifying Mr. Biden’s victory.

Britain: “This isn’t helping America’s sell, but I don’t know if the image is irreparable. Is it the image of the U.S. or the image of Trump?” Alexandre Christoyannopoulos, senior lecturer in politics and international relations at Loughborough University.

Israel: “It was like watching a horror movie, but painful as it was ... democracy was saved and that should give us hope. The elections proved it was possible to save democracy even from hands of those who have no moral standards.” Stav Shafir, chair of Israel’s Green Party and a former lawmaker.

Yet the stakes were enormous, as Mr. Macron made clear. “We believe in American democracy,” the French president said. Declaring that “the temple of American democracy” had been attacked, he added that when “supporters of an outgoing president challenge with the use of weapons the legitimate result of an election, it is the universal idea of ‘one man, one vote’ that is breached.”

For France and other allies, however, a nagging question remains: how, and whether, U.S. democracy as they’ve known it can be repaired and reinvigorated, especially since Mr. Trump won the support of nearly half of America’s voters in November, and of a significant number of Republican congressmen in this week’s effort to challenge the election results.

The lingering message from this week’s events was encapsulated by a diplomat from Germany, a nation whose own democracy was built and encouraged by the U.S. after the defeat of the Nazis in World War II. “After our catastrophic failure in the 20th century, we Germans were taught by the U.S. to develop strong democratic institutions,” Andreas Michaelis, the German ambassador to Britain, wrote on Twitter.

“We also learnt that democracy is not just about institutions. It is about political culture, too. All democratic nations need to constantly defend it.”

Egypt: “As an MP, I saw this type of polarization happening between Islamists and seculars, old and new ruling establishments; there was no way to mediate between them, which is one reason why the democratic process there failed. In a way, this attack should be a wakeup call for democratic institutions.” Amr Hamzawi, Egyptian democracy activist.

Israel: “I think it could do good for democracy because it gets people thinking. I don’t see yesterday as some breaking point.” Ehud Morris, a 32-year-old industrial designer in Tel Aviv.

Shola Lawal in Lagos, Nigeria; Taylor Luck in Amman, Jordan; Scott Peterson and Shafi Musaddique in London; Fred Weir in Moscow; Ann Scott Tyson in Seattle; Lenora Chu in Berlin; Dina Kraft in Tel Aviv, Israel; and Sara Miller Llana in Toronto contributed reporting to this article.

Why Canadians are fuming at footloose politicians

Canadians have a reputation for following the rules and thinking of the common good. So does it strike Canadian society more deeply when its politicians and elites ignore the rules they’ve espoused?

April

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In Canada, the arrival of the holidays often means those who can afford it take trips to escape the harsh winter. But with the pandemic, politicians warned the public that this year would have to be different, and travel would have to be avoided for the common good.

So it caused an uproar when people found out many of these same politicians were jetting off to tropical destinations for Christmas. Now, the international exploits of the Canadian elite have dominated headlines in a country that holds notions of the greater good dear – values often cited as the reason Canada has fared better than the United States during the pandemic in the first place.

This has touched a particular nerve because of how high the stakes feel at the start of 2021. Canada is in the middle of a second wave that far eclipses its first.

The sense of frustration, anxiety, and fear have put people’s patience at zero, says pollster Frank Graves. “I think it comes in an inflamed environment where the public are saying, ‘Are you kidding? We’re in the crisis of a lifetime. Everybody is telling us to behave. Most of us are, and you’re going on a trip to Hawaii and Arizona?’”

Why Canadians are fuming at footloose politicians

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Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press/AP/File
Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips, shown here speaking at a press conference in Toronto on Nov. 3, 2020, was forced to resign after he went on a Caribbean vacation for Christmas even as the government urged people to avoid nonessential travel during the pandemic.

It was the perfect setting for Ontario finance minister Rod Phillips’ Christmas Eve address to his constituents in Canada. In a black turtleneck, he sits in front of a glowing fireplace, a gingerbread house and glass of eggnog on the coffee table beside him.

“Now I know that this Christmas is a bit different from Christmases in the past. We’re meeting virtually and online, and not able to be in person with as many family and friends as we’d like to,” he says in the staid message.

Except Mr. Phillips wasn’t isolating at home on Christmas Eve. His Christmas was much more typical for Canadians perennially drawn to warmer climes during the holiday season. He was in St. Barts in the Caribbean.

His tropical vacation has drawn the ire of Canadians – both for the fact of it and the intent to disguise it. And pressure has been such that he was forced to come home and resign on New Year’s Eve.

Yet this was just the beginning of elites touching down from international destinations to find a public uproar. The latest incident emerged Tuesday, when the CEO of two hospitals in Ontario, who also sits on a health advisory board directing Ontario on COVID-19, resigned after admitting he just returned from the Dominican Republic.

The Canadian media has been publishing running updates of their excursions, some with photo montages that resemble “wanted” posters, reflecting just how fed up the nation is.

Canadian leaders aren’t alone in misreading public tolerance. Mexico’s COVID-19 czar was photographed at an oceanside restaurant over the holidays, while American public health officer Deborah Birx announced her intention to retire after traveling to celebrate Thanksgiving with various family members.

But the international exploits of the Canadian elite have dominated headlines in a country that holds rule-following and notions of the greater good dear – values often cited as the reason Canada has fared better than the United States during the pandemic in the first place.

“People have sacrificed a lot. The holidays really gave a lot of us time to think about everything we’ve lost this year. And in that exact moment, we found out that the people who made the rules that we’re living under actually think that the rules don’t apply to them,” says Kai Nagata, communications director at Dogwood, a British Columbia-based community organizing group focused on democratic reform, climate change, and Indigenous rights. “I think that Canadians still have some pretty strong collectivist instincts about what it means to pull together and face a common enemy. And when you have people who don’t follow the rules, it very quickly erodes solidarity.”

It’s not the first time politicians here have lost moral authority on their pandemic response. But this has touched a particular nerve because of how high the stakes feel at the start of 2021. As the New Year arrived, with hopes of vaccines and putting the lockdowns of 2020 behind, Canada is in the middle of a second wave that far eclipses the first.

The sense of frustration, anxiety, and fear has put people’s patience at zero, says Frank Graves, president of EKOS Research Associates, a public opinion firm in Ottawa. “I think it comes in an inflamed environment where the public are saying, ‘Are you kidding? We’re in the crisis of a lifetime. Everybody is telling us to behave. Most of us are, and you’re going on a trip to Hawaii and Arizona?’”

The decisions to travel internationally for nonessential purposes is also an affront to a society that likes to think of itself as rule-abiding and community-minded, he says, especially compared to the U.S. “I don’t find [the cultures] as strikingly different as Canadians would imagine,” he says, “but there is a national mythology that we are more dutiful and respectful of authority.” And thus, the disappointment rings louder.

A Toronto Star column condemned the “non-essential travellers’ wall of shame.” A CBC column likened elected officials in Alberta who traveled over the holidays to turkeys who can’t follow the simplest tasks. “‘Don’t skip town when your government has asked everybody to sacrifice their Christmas holidays with their extended families’ isn’t merely a reasonable ask,” wrote Jen Gerson. “It’s a painfully obvious ethical choice.” 

The number of officials who traveled abroad from Alberta, sometimes dubbed the “Texas of Canada,” has been particularly galling, says Melanee Thomas, a political scientist at the University of Calgary, because of the emphasis Premier Jason Kenney has put on personal responsibility in lieu of strict rules and sanctions. But then the conservative leader initially failed to chastise officials for not technically breaking rules until public outcry forced him to. “The double standard is just so obvious in this particular case,” Dr. Thomas says.

Angry constituents left a sign outside the office of Alberta’s municipal affairs minister, Tracy Allard, who went to Hawaii over the holidays: “Welcome Home #AlohaAllard,” it read. She too was forced to resign.

Part of the anger could owe to how closely it touches home. An online poll by the firm Leger in Montreal showed that 48% of Canadians said they visited family and friends outside their households over the holidays.

But perhaps more worrisome is the reaction to that poll. A typical response on Twitter by one user reads: “And nearly 50% of politicians visited with family, friends OUTSIDE the country!! How about you run that poll!!!?”

Indeed, compliance does break down when those in authority don’t adhere to their own policies, wrote Daisy Fancourt of the COVID-19 Social Study at University College London, in the Guardian. The study of rules adherence in the United Kingdom found that citizens started breaking them when they saw elites finding loopholes.

For Mr. Nagata, the democracy organizer in British Columbia, actions of political leaders who are not forthright about their whereabouts gives rise to mistrust. He cites the particular case of Mr. Phillips in Ontario. “Beyond contributing to people giving up on social distancing rules, it creates a broader long-term problem, which is that it forces people to question why they would ever trust what politicians are saying … which I think is a breeding ground for conspiratorial thinking.”

“I think the politicians who took their tropical vacations probably did so just out of selfishness and just being generally out of touch,” he says. “But the corrosive impact is going to cost lives because a lot of people are rightly going to say, ‘Well, why should I follow the rules if the people who designed the rules don’t?”

The Explainer

How will Warner Bros. streaming impact moviegoing? Three questions.

It’s a shake-up to how this business is normally run: One entertainment conglomerate is releasing each of its 2021 movies simultaneously in theaters and on its own streaming service.

April
Mario Anzuoni/Reuters/File
Cardboard cutouts of movie characters block seats to prepare for social distancing at the 60-seat independent theater, Arena Cinelounge, in Los Angeles, June 17, 2020. But with theaters in LA currently closed, the business has been operating a drive-in since Dec. 1, 2020.

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Would you rather stay home and see that first-run film or go to the theater? Beginning with the latest Wonder Woman movie, fans of Warner Bros. Pictures have the choice. But not everyone is happy.

Streaming service HBO Max will offer each Warner Bros. movie at the same time that it’s released in theaters, because both companies are owned by the same parent. WarnerMedia called the strategy temporary and creative. Hollywood creatives and theaters are skeptical. The strategy has fanned fears that moviegoing as we know it is over.

Paul Moore, professor of sociology and a media historian, doesn’t think so. “Going to the movies is always about going out in public, with friends and family, but also with strangers,” he says. “That excitement of a sold-out blockbuster ... that’s something that we never get with television.”

With more shows made with streaming in mind, Dr. Moore also says, “What will probably happen is that movies will get smaller and movies will end up more like TV. The boundary between a television series and a blockbuster movie could collapse.”

How will Warner Bros. streaming impact moviegoing? Three questions.

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Warner Bros. Pictures will debut its entire 2021 movie slate – which includes sci-fi flick “Dune,” the highly anticipated “Matrix 4,” and Sopranos prequel “The Many Saints of Newark” – on HBO Max. This is the first time a major studio has decided to put a year’s worth of would-be blockbusters online. In a Dec. 3 announcement, the chief executive of WarnerMedia Studios, which owns both Warner Bros. Pictures and HBO Max, called the move a “creative solution to address our fans, our filmmakers, and our exhibitors.” Not everyone agreed. Actors, directors, and theaters were quick to denounce Warner Bros.’ move as a bait-and-switch tactic to buoy an underperforming streaming platform, and for moviegoers and moviemakers alike, this streaming shakeup leaves many questions.

Q: Can I see these 2021 films at the theater?

That depends. Warner Bros. will release each of these 17 films online and simultaneously in theaters, and after the first month, a title will leave HBO Max and play exclusively at cinemas. Outside the United States, they will roll out as usual.

So if your local theater is open, at full or partial capacity, the films may be available. If viewers are comfortable attending the movies, and willing to pay roughly $20 for a ticket (a monthly HBO Max subscription is $14.99), they can watch Timothée Chalamet face alien sandworms on the big screen.   

For American audiences, the decision offers flexibility and positions in-house streaming services as a viable distribution mechanism, a trend that predates the pandemic but has accelerated.

Q: What does this mean for theaters post-pandemic?

Although Warner Bros. calls the hybrid release schedule a “temporary solution,” critics worry it could carry over into 2022 if it helps turn HBO Max – lagging behind Netflix by roughly 180 million subscribers in the third quarter  – into a real challenger. Even before Warner Bros.’ announcement, industry leaders were wondering what the moviegoing experience would look like as theaters reemerge from the pandemic with tougher competition from streaming services, and now this latest streaming strategy has fanned fears that moviegoing as we know it is through.

Paul Moore, professor of sociology and media historian at Ryerson University in Toronto, doesn’t think so. He says the rise of VHS in the 1980s inspired similar apocalyptic predictions, but home videos never replaced a night at the multiplex.

“Going to the movies is always about going out in public, with friends and family, but also with strangers,” he says. “That excitement of a sold-out blockbuster ... that’s something that we never get with television.”

And it’s more than fuzzy feelings, he adds – it’s part of the business. Since the ’80s, movie ticket sales have only been the tip of the iceberg of studio revenue. Professor Moore says most profits come from rebroadcasting, movie rentals, and everything else that happens after a film leaves theaters. Yet the theatrical release is crucial for generating that momentum.

“It’s really not clear if [streaming platforms can] generate enough buzz and awareness to have a franchise like Toy Story or Star Wars,” says Dr. Moore.

Q: How will streaming affect future movies?

Even if moviegoing survives, a hyperemphasis on streaming could change the industry in other ways.

James Schamus, professor of professional practice at Columbia University School of the Arts, says the straight-to-streaming setup would certainly complicate the moviemaking process, in part because streaming platforms are famously opaque about their program ratings.

“If you make a hit movie, it’s just one more piece of content in a gigantic pile and [without ticket sales] it’s very difficult to understand the value of that success,” says Dr. Schamus.

And just as TV has become more movielike on Netflix and other streaming platforms, Dr. Moore imagines that boundary will continue to blur as movies are made with streaming services in mind.

“What will probably happen is that movies will get smaller and movies will end up more like TV,” he says. “The boundary between a television series and a blockbuster movie could collapse.”

Stepping Up

Profiles in Leadership

For Indian teen who launched village library, it’s about more than books

Eighteen-year-old Sadiya is used to taking on challenges. This one came closer to home: setting up the only library in her family’s ancestral village to open up new worlds for young readers.

April
Courtesy of Nawaz Rahman and Akbar Siddique
Sadiya Riyaz Shaikh spends time with children at the Maulana Azad Library, which she set up in her hometown of Deora, India.

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The Maulana Azad Library can easily be overlooked. Standing at the edge of a road in Deora, an Indian village of 3,500 people, the unassuming building was once a dilapidated guesthouse.

That changed this summer, when 18-year-old Sadiya Riyaz Shaikh returned to her birthplace to wait out the pandemic. Deora had no library, she noticed; it was a place where child marriage is common, and attending school is not. Some families don’t wish to educate daughters, she explains, and other children must work in the fields. 

After much discussion, she convinced family elders to hand over the guesthouse, which she’s transformed into a study space and library with hundreds of books, and a tutor. Two years of her prize earnings from public-speaking competitions went into the renovation. But she is intent on finding ways to provide the same opportunities she’s enjoyed to children in Deora. 

Some neighbors were critical of the project from the start, not believing that a young woman should take the lead. But “if I continue to listen to others, I’ll never be able to achieve anything,” says Ms. Shaikh, her oval face framed by a gray hijab. “The only way I can prove anything to anyone is to let them keep talking, while I keep working.”

For Indian teen who launched village library, it’s about more than books

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It’s 6 in the evening, and Sadiya Riyaz Shaikh is carefully painting the leaves of a tree on the powder-blue walls of a small room. Young visitors huddle around the 18-year-old, giggling shyly while advising her on colors. She writes the English alphabet and the numbers 1 through 10 along the branches. Outside, dusk has settled. In the glow of a tube light, a few older children quietly read their books in a corner. 

This is no ordinary place. Here in Deora, a small village in Bihar, a state in eastern India, it’s the only library. Standing at the edge of a road, the unassuming Maulana Azad Library can easily be overlooked, unless you stop to read the bright yellow board bearing its name. Just a few months ago, it was a dilapidated guesthouse. But when Ms. Shaikh came back to her ancestral village to wait out the pandemic, she had an idea.

Child marriage is common in Deora, she noticed, and attending school is not. The village of 3,500 has a male literacy rate of 45%, while the female rate is 38%, according to the last census. “Many families often withdraw their children from schools because they cannot afford to buy books for the prescribed syllabus or even uniforms,” Ms. Shaikh says over the phone. Some families don’t wish to educate daughters, she adds, and other children are forced to work in the fields with parents and siblings.

She herself was born here, but moved to Mumbai when she was 3 years old. Amid the pandemic, her father’s small manufacturing business had to temporarily shut shop, and the family was forced to return. Since September, she’s transformed the small space to provide schoolchildren with access to books they otherwise could not afford, and a supportive place to study.

It’s one of many times Ms. Shaikh has tried to use her own opportunities to open doors for others. A polyglot in Hindi, Urdu, and English, she often speaks at inter-college events on the right to education, women’s empowerment, and unemployment. For as long as she can remember, she’s loved standing in the midst of a spellbound audience. Last year, amid nationwide demonstrations against a contentious citizenship law accused of discriminating against Muslims, she took to the stage to speak out against rising intolerance and the police crackdown on student protesters. 

Getting to work

This July, back in Deora, Ms. Shaikh sat down with her family elders and proposed the idea of the library. Many shook their heads in disagreement – this wasn’t how a young girl should spend her time. 

After many discussions, she finally convinced them, and gained access to her relatives’ guesthouse, renovating it with almost 5,000 rupees ($67) she’d won in public-speaking awards over the last two years. She took the help of her uncle, Akbar Siddique, and cousin, Nawaz Rahman, and got to work. Walls were repainted, the bamboo roof was repaired and fastened to a crimson tarpaulin, lights and a bookshelf were installed, and the room was filled with plastic chairs and a table. Vivid charts tacked to the walls – from anatomy and transportation, to India’s “freedom fighters” for independence – enlivened the space.

The 7-by-12-foot room was ready for big dreams. 

Named after India’s first education minister, the Maulana Azad Library houses hundreds of new and secondhand school books (acquired through donations and fundraising). Coloring and story books are provided to younger children. Ms. Shaikh also managed to secure subscriptions to Hindi and Urdu newspapers. Not all the books are in great shape – some are dog-eared or slightly frayed. But for some readers, they are crown jewels. 

Local schools often lack support, with sparse furniture and lighting. Deora’s students sit on thin floor mats. Those who really want to learn, like 14-year-old Ayaz Rahman, have to find alternatives. After-school tutoring can cost 500 rupees a month ($7), a huge investment for families like Ayaz’s. “I don’t have money for coaching classes,” he says bluntly. Ayaz lost his father a few years ago, which put his family under financial stress. His older brother, who works as a foreman, is the only earning member in the family of nine.

The library serves as a refuge that whisks him away every day, where he spends at least an hour studying or reading the Hindi newspaper. Using “book guides” that support his textbooks, “I’ve been able to cover my entire ninth grade syllabus,” he says. “Without the library, I wouldn’t have been able to manage it.” A tutor is paid to look after the space, and assist children with texts, alongside two young volunteers. 

Courtesy of Nawaz Rahman and Akbar Siddique
Sadiya Riyaz Shaikh reads in the Maulana Azad Library, which she founded and decorated. She used her own prize money from speaking competitions, as well as donations, to collect hundreds of books for the library.

“Let them keep talking”

Before the library opened, a few neighbors turned naysayers. Some, with great delight, prophesied that things would soon go south. But “if I continue to listen to others, I’ll never be able to achieve anything,” says Ms. Shaikh, her oval face framed by a gray hijab. “The only way I can prove anything to anyone is to let them keep talking, while I keep working.”

Her strongest ally is her father, Reyaz Ahmed Shaikh. Mr. Ahmed Shaikh recalls how certain villagers began looking at him “differently” once his daughter began undermining village expectations. “I think they’d prefer if my girl stayed at home and did not venture out in public,” he says. “Our culture dictates that girls should remain in purdah and they needn’t attend schools or colleges. But I see things differently. I know that girls are capable of doing great things just like boys, as long as they are respectful towards their parents and others. So, I don’t care about what the villagers think of me. I won’t let that stop my daughter.”

Ms. Shaikh is acutely aware of her privilege. The goal is to use it to rally one youngster after another, in hopes that they can alter the village’s trajectory. “These children have an intelligent mind. I’ve seen that,” she says.

Recently, she’s returned to Mumbai, but gets daily updates on the library from her cousin. In her eyes, the project is just beginning. Ms. Shaikh is working to organize scholarships for Deora’s children, and hopes to gather a group of volunteers to start libraries in neighboring villages as well.

Deora – like much of India – has been a ground for Hindu-Muslim discord. For now, only Muslim children are visiting the library, Ms. Shaikh says, but that’s something she wants to change. “It may be that non-Muslims fear they are not welcome in our library, but we want to eradicate such fears,” she says. “Books do not discriminate against who is reading them, so everyone is entitled to them.”

“I think the gap between Muslims and non-Muslims can only be repaired through education,” she adds. “If we want to change society, we have to take everyone with us in our progress.”

To continue the growth of the library project, Ms. Shaikh has set up a fundraising page.

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Resisting hibernation

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The pandemic has caused many people to let their instincts for winter hibernation take over even more easily. 

But going outside can do wonders for helping people escape from the dreary feeling that the pandemic has placed them under house arrest for the entire season.

To help citizens emerge from their hideouts, many cold-weather American cities are embracing the concept of “winter place-making,” creating attractive ways to lure citizens outside. They’re being inspired by cities in Canada and Scandinavia that have long looked at winter more as children do: a time for outdoor play, exploration, and enjoyment.

In Edmonton, Alberta, for example, the city clears picnic sites of snow so that they can be used year-round. Fire pits provide places to warm hands and faces, and maybe roast a marshmallow. Bring blankets and hot chocolate and enjoy a meal. 

Dozens of other concepts for cold-weather outdoor urban activities are featured in “Winter Places,” a guide produced by Patronicity, a community improvement organization based in Detroit. 

Ideally, the winter place-making idea will serve less-affluent urban neighborhoods as well. 

This winter most place-making efforts will be low-cost experiments that test what works and what doesn’t. If successful, the concept may have a bigger future in cities long after the pandemic departs.

Resisting hibernation

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A pedestrian is silhouetted against a wet street in downtown Kansas City Dec. 29, 2020, as a winter storm moved through the area.

The pandemic has caused many people to let their instincts for winter hibernation take over even more easily. It feels like time to stay at home, in the cocoon.

In the world’s cold-weather cities, the disinclination to get out and about is even stronger. The thought of freezing fingers or toes doesn’t send people scooting out the door.

But going outside can do wonders for helping people escape from the dreary feeling that the pandemic has placed them under house arrest for the entire season.

To help citizens emerge from their hideouts, many American cities are embracing the concept of “winter place-making,” creating attractive ways to lure citizens outside. They’re being inspired by cities in Canada and Scandinavia that have long looked at winter more as children do: a time for outdoor play, exploration, and enjoyment.

In Edmonton, Alberta, for example, the city clears picnic sites of snow so that they can be used year-round. Fire pits provide places to warm hands and faces, and maybe roast a marshmallow. Bring blankets and hot chocolate and enjoy a meal. The city even sponsors an outdoor film festival, using snow for the screen. And it encourages local weather forecasters to talk in a more positive way about the season’s weather. 

Some cold-weather cities are using bright lighting displays to lure shoppers away from their computer screens and into local retail stores. In Massachusetts, Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline are among those that allow restaurants to offer outdoor dining right through the winter. In some places pedestrians shop at outdoor food markets throughout the cold season. The Popportunity Winter Market in Cambridge features pop-up “mini storefronts,” with small businesses of various types.

Dozens of other concepts for cold-weather outdoor urban activities are featured in “Winter Places,” a guide produced by Patronicity, a community improvement organization based in Detroit. The group imagines open-air shelters that double as Wi-Fi hot spots, hothouse igloos, and pedal power stations, at which visitors ride stationary bicycles that are used to power lighted art installations, or maybe even a carousel, while keeping their riders warm.

Ideally, the winter place-making idea will serve less-affluent urban neighborhoods too, as part of the “15-minute city” concept being adopted around the world. It seeks, among other goals, to provide closer access to shopping and better walkability.

Opening up these winter amenities to everyone, not just affluent neighborhoods, adds to the challenge. Children who don’t own a warm winter coat can hardly be expected to spend hours playing outdoors. Warming huts or igloos set up for a brief rest or a hot drink may turn into ad hoc homeless shelters. Confronting these issues as part of  place-making efforts can help raise awareness and open paths toward solutions.

This winter most place-making projects should be considered a form of “tactical urbanism,” low-cost experiments to test what works and what doesn’t. But if successful, the concept may have a future in cities long after the pandemic departs.

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.

God’s love heals character flaws and restores health

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Welcoming God’s cleansing, saving love into our lives can have a powerful and lasting impact – as a woman experienced after a proclivity for anger and a physical problem both came to a head.

God’s love heals character flaws and restores health

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Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition

Can unhelpful character traits, such as anger and self-righteousness, be overcome and healed through prayer?

Yes!

So great is God’s love for all that it operates as an incredible healing and cleansing force when it is welcomed into our thoughts and lives. In fact, the Apostle John declared that God is Love itself (see I John 4:8). And the book of Psalms in the Bible reassures us: “Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive? But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you” (130:3, 4, New Living Translation) – the meaning of “fear” here including reverence and love.

The Bible and Christian Science teach that God created each of us to bless – to partake of divine goodness and express it toward others. “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, defines “Christ” as “[t]he divine manifestation of God, which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error” (p. 583).

Jesus healed sickness and character flaws on just this basis, with the tenderest mercy and compassion, restoring people not only physically, but also morally, enabling them to be the blessing we were all created to be. When Jesus healed a man who couldn’t walk, he later told him not to sin anymore, or something worse might happen (see John 5:14).

Through Jesus’ healing ministry, he demonstrated everyone’s true nature as the image of God, spiritual and pure and flawless. It was this profound recognition of our true nature, and the God-power behind it, that that effected life-changing healings.

That same Christ presence is with us today to save and heal, to cleanse and restore, changing our lives for the better.

I had an example of this when I was practicing law a number of years ago. One morning I told the manager of a hotel I was working from that I was expecting several important phone calls from clients. He assured me he would ensure the messages were delivered to my room (this was before the days of cell phones).

At 4:00 in the afternoon I suddenly realized I had not received a single message. I went down to the lobby of the hotel only to discover that several clients had indeed been trying to reach me but that their messages hadn’t been delivered.

I found the manager and told him in no uncertain terms what I thought of his management of the hotel! Then I stormed back up to my room.

At that point, a serious physical problem I’d been dealing with became very exacerbated. As I prayed about this – an approach I’d found effective with other difficulties – a clear teaching of the Bible came to mind: “Cease from anger” (Psalms 37:8).

I thought of the anger and self-righteousness that had flared up in me that afternoon. “But I was right!” I thought defensively. But then Jesus’ clear and unequivocal teaching to love others – even our enemies! – came to thought.

Christian Science explains the laws and rules behind the healing ministry of the great Teacher, or Master, Christ Jesus. Science and Health refers to “the destruction of sin and sickness by overcoming the thoughts which produce them, and by understanding the spiritual idea which corrects and destroys them. To reveal this truth was our Master’s mission to all mankind, including the hearts which rejected him” (p. 233).

It occurred to me that anger characterized many of my dealings with people I thought were wrong. This character trait seemed so ingrained in my nature that it felt almost impossible to overcome. And my need was urgent! In heartfelt prayer, I turned to my loving Father-Mother, God, as a small child would go to a parent for help and forgiveness, earnestly desiring that this proclivity for anger be healed forever.

Then a deep feeling of love enveloped me. It was so powerful that I knew it was the healing and saving Christ. I heard these words, as if they were spoken to me: “I don’t see you that way! I see you as My beloved daughter, the perfect expression of My nature – loving, kind, unselfish. You are My reflection! I made you. I love you.”

That evening the physical problem was completely healed, and it did not return. I felt in my heart that my character was also lifted up and purified.

While I am still working to express even more of my true nature as God’s child, the anger was taken out of me to a wonderful degree that night. My interactions with others began more closely patterning the Christlike nature that is the true basis of every one of us as God’s children.

Welcoming the Christ presence, the healing activity of divine Truth and Love, into our lives cleanses us of problems and sins of all kinds. This brings physical healing, too. What joy and freedom this brings!

Viewfinder

Connecting with nature – and one another

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff/File
For those fortunate enough to live next to Chapada dos Guimarães National Park in the state of Mato Grosso in Brazil, a “Sunday in the park” is no banal experience. On a reporting trip to this region – about a year ago, and before the pandemic took off – staff photographer Melanie Stetson Freeman and I found ourselves in the city of Cuiabá on a weekend. We were tired and needed a day off, so we joined the throngs of urban dwellers heading out of the city for a typical Sunday afternoon. As we passed vendors selling coconut milk and palm-thatched restaurants leading into the park, we had no way of knowing that this unplanned excursion would take us to the most beautiful views of our entire trip – and that’s saying something, because we had just come from the Amazon. As we oohed and aahed at all the waterfalls, it became clear that the setting was familiar to the locals, who were far more interested in taking pictures of each other and themselves than the natural beauty that abounded. Eventually, though, we too became more interested in watching them delight in each other’s company than looking at the dramatic vistas around us. Click "view gallery" to see more images. – Sara Miller Llana
( The illustrations in today’s Monitor Daily are by Karen Norris. )

A look ahead

April Austin
Weekly Deputy Editor, Books Editor

Thanks for trusting us to help take you through this difficult week. We’ll have more on Monday from Congress as Democrats say they plan to move forward with introducing articles of impeachment.

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