2021
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Monitor Daily Podcast

July 13, 2021
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TODAY’S INTRO

She made us afraid of ‘Jaws.’ Now she wants us to connect with sharks.

If you’re afraid of swimming in the ocean – or maybe even getting into the bathtub – because of the movie “Jaws,” Valerie Taylor wants to apologize. She’s the diver who filmed great whites for Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster. 

“The thing that I regret is that people went out and killed sharks everywhere,” Ms. Taylor says in an upcoming National Geographic documentary about her life, “Playing With Sharks” (debuting July 23 on Disney+). It’s a story about her dramatic transformation. Once a spearfishing shark killer, the Australian is now trying to save the creature from being hunted for sport or for fin soup. 

Sharks can, of course, be deadly. But Ms. Taylor tells the Monitor that her early perception of sharks was based on media exaggerations during the 1950s. The first time she saw the docile grey nurse species while snorkeling, her brother yelled, “Swim for your life, Valerie.” Years later, Ms. Taylor and her husband, Ron, amplified that terror with their 1971 hit documentary, “Blue Water, White Death.” Soon after, Mr. Spielberg came calling. 

But as the Taylors spent more time filming underwater, they realized sharks have personalities. The creatures don’t usually attack people. Bites tend to be a result of mistaken identity or provocation by humans. 

“I don’t particularly love a shark – I might have loved one or two – but I respect them,” she says. 

The conservationist advocates teaching children to be unafraid by taking them snorkeling. 

“Look down and see grey nurse sharks minding their own business,” she says. “You lose that fear of the unknown and the dangerous. You realize it’s not unknown; it’s not that dangerous.”

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A deeper look

Generation left behind? Millennials work to shed that financial label.

Millennials have been called a “sandwich generation.” Not just because they’ve been squeezed by two economic crises but because they’re often caring for both their parents and their children. Even so, many are not only learning financial prudence but also making economic progress.

John Wakeman
Ross Wakeman-Hines, shown here with his wife, Honghong, and two children, Lucas (left) and Louie, is a millennial engineer in Viera, Florida, who experienced financial setbacks because of the Great Recession and the pandemic. 

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Through no fault of their own, millennials have become the generation playing financial catch-up. They started their careers around the time of the Great Recession and struggled to rebound – and then the pandemic came. It hit women like Andrea L’Heureux harder than men. She lost her job at a Sacramento candy store and moved back with her parents. 

Their story is one of perseverance and often of progress against these head winds. But the pandemic affected workers without a college education more than those with degrees, and hit Black millennials hardest of all. Even before the pandemic, their wealth continued to decline while other groups were recovering from the Great Recession. 

But many of their struggles are paying off. With a new baby and a new house with a mortgage, Kristen L. Pope and her husband both lost their jobs in 2018 and eventually racked up $120,000 in personal loans and credit card debt. The couple cut out discretionary spending, focused on debt repayment, and found new employment. By the end of 2020, they had wiped out that debt. “I have to be optimistic because I have a child," Ms. Pope says.

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Generation left behind? Millennials work to shed that financial label.

Ross Wakeman-Hines, a millennial electrical engineer from Viera, Florida, bought a house last year right before the onset of the pandemic.

The trouble was, he hadn’t sold his present home. And when the lockdowns hit, the old house sat on the market – and sat and sat for a full year before he finally unloaded it.

That meant double mortgage payments and double the expenses of home maintenance, which forced him to suspend his 401(k) contributions to conserve cash.

His wife, Honghong, had it worse. The pandemic, along with rising political tensions with China, killed her business of helping students from China apply and get accepted to U.S. colleges. She’s now selling life insurance.

If ever there was a generation that could complain about lousy timing, it’s millennials. Through no fault of their own, they started their careers in and around the Great Recession, then in midcareer got hit with a pandemic that locked down businesses and threw millions of workers out of jobs. 

Their story is one of perseverance and – for many – of progress against these head winds. But the setbacks exaggerated trends already underway in the rest of the American workforce: A widening of the already-yawning gap between the haves and have-nots played out along gender, educational, and racial and ethnic lines. 

The hardship – and the pluck and creativity with which they are meeting it – goes beyond the Great Recession and the pandemic.

“What this generation uniquely has going against them is just the high cost of so many essential things in life,” says Lowell Ricketts, a data scientist at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. The rising cost of homes, higher education, and child care makes it more difficult for millennials to get ahead. “On so many fronts, this generation is pinching its budget,” he says.

While income certainly plays a role, big disparities are showing up in wealth. Typically, a generation’s wealth accumulation takes off very slowly. How slowly depends on the state of the economy when entering the workforce: Start during boom times, and advances and pay increases come quickly; start during a recession, and you’re playing catch-up.

The latter is what happened to millennials who, although the best-educated generation in history, couldn’t find jobs during the Great Recession.

Mr. Wakeman-Hines, although a well-educated engineer who survived all the layoffs at his avionics equipment company in 2008, nevertheless had to take a pay cut and was stuck with that new-hire pay for two years until he went to his boss and got a raise. By 2010, the first full year out of the recession, millennials like him had accumulated 48% less wealth than previous generations had at that point in their careers, according to a study by the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank.

Significant recovery for many

They spent the rest of the decade catching up at an amazing pace, according to the study. By 2019, the wealth of these older millennials (born in the 1980s) was only 11% behind what previous generations had accumulated. Then the pandemic hit. 

Millions of Americans lost income and jobs, an employment deficit the United States is still climbing out of. The hardest hit financially: millennials and the younger generation known as Gen Z, according to a June survey by financial services company Edward Jones.

More than a third of millennials said the pandemic had a negative impact on their financial security. That impact has proved uneven, hurting women more than men.

 

Melissa L'Heureux
Andrea L'Heureux, shown here in Walnut Creek, California, is a millennial who lost her job because of the pandemic. She now works part time for the family business while she plots her next step.

Less than a month after the pandemic hit, Andrea L’Heureux lost her job as assistant manager of Andy’s Candy Apothecary in downtown Sacramento, California. “I was locked down by myself,” she recalls. “It was very hard to manage that.”

Ms. L’Heureux moved back in with her family in the Bay Area and started working part time in the family business. That and a few freelance gigs have kept her head above water while she contemplates her next step.

“It’s the tale of two different millennial tracks,” she says. “I have friends who are selling their houses because the market’s so great. But then you have people in my shoes. I call it untethered. You can do anything. That’s cool. But there’s less structure.”

The pandemic has made her more pessimistic about the future, she says. “This whole year has been risk assessment day to day.”

Both Mr. Wakeman-Hines and Ms. L’Heureux are college-educated and white. For those with no more than a high school education and for people of color, the future looks dimmer.

For example, while college- and non-college-educated older millennials were fairly close in terms of wealth expectations in 2013, only the college-educated group had made substantial progress by 2019, according to the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank study. They went from being 21% behind previous generations of college graduates in 2013 to only 2% behind in 2019.

But for non-college-educated millennials, things barely improved during the same period: 23% behind the wealth of previous generations without a college degree to 19% behind.

Older Hispanic millennials made substantial progress during that period: from 37% to only 10% behind. Black millennials, however, went backward: from 28% to 52% less wealthy than previous Black generations. How could the best-educated generation of African Americans be so far behind? 

Part of it, ironically, is because of those college degrees.

The tough road for Black millennials

“We are starting off behind,” says Anna N’Jie Konte, who is herself a Black millennial and a financial adviser in Silver Spring, Maryland, serving other millennials of color. “You don’t have an inheritance. You don’t have financial support from your family. ... Oftentimes, you’re the only one in your nuclear family that’s doing well.”

Without family help, Black students often have to take on more college debt than white students – an average of $25,000 more, according to the latest report by EducationData.org. Nearly half say they owe more in student loans four years after graduation than at graduation.

There’s another challenge: As first-generation wealth-builders, Black millennials are often called upon to help out parents, grandparents, or siblings who are less well off.

“You are really sandwiched between your kids and your grandparents,” Ms. Konte says. “It’s a lot of tension.” Part of her work involves getting her clients to set boundaries on family support, as difficult as that might be. “They have to be financially strong before they can help other people,” she says.

Marvin Germain./Courtesy of Kristen L. Pope
Unlike many Black millennials, Kristen L. and Richard Pope of Natick, Massachusetts, made progress during the pandemic, getting better-paid jobs and paying off $120,000 in personal loans and credit card debt. About the financial future of Black millennials, she says, "I have to be optimistic because I have a child," Lily, age 4.

Even Black millennials with a good income describe their financial position as precarious. If there’s no inheritance, no cushion of wealth from family members, problems can quickly add up if something goes wrong.

”Being Black and middle class is a false sense of security,” says Kristen L. Pope, a social media manager from Natick, Massachusetts. 

In 2018, with a new baby and a new mortgage, she and her husband, Richard, found themselves both unemployed. After three months, Mr. Pope got a new position in the notoriously up-and-down hedge fund industry. It took her eight months to find a new job. By then, the debts had begun to mount, eventually reaching $70,000 in personal loans and another $50,000 in credit card debt. “No one was coming to save us but God himself,” she says.

The couple cut out discretionary spending, devoted all of Mr. Pope’s bonuses to debt repayment, sold a home in Pennsylvania that he had been renting out, and refinanced their own home mortgage – twice.

While the pandemic was throwing millions of Americans out of work, Ms. Pope landed a new job creating social media and digital content for a university that paid her $60,000 more a year. Her company, Pope Productions Inc., which coaches, trains, and places aspiring journalists into jobs, was able to keep a contract with an after-school program in Harlem because she could continue the work remotely.

By the end of 2020, the couple had wiped out that $120,000 debt and reduced monthly expenses by a whopping $5,000.

“Our faith in God has really carried us over this ditch,” she says. “It’s a true, true testimony. ... We are very fortunate, but we have come against the same barriers to entry” that previous generations of African Americans have faced. 

For example, the first time the Popes refinanced their home last year, the appraiser came, “he saw me, and made the decision to appraise below average and below comps,” the comparable neighborhood properties against which a property is judged. The couple went to another appraiser – an online one – to complete the refinancing.

“I have to be optimistic”

Those racial barriers, sometimes overt, sometimes subtle, make her pause for a long time when asked if she’s hopeful about Black millennials’ financial future. “I have to be optimistic because I have a child,” she says.

Ms. L’Heureux, the former candy store manager, is pretty sure she won’t out-earn her dad, a successful entrepreneur. And even Mr. Wakeman-Hines, the engineer, is skeptical that the dream of American parents – that their children will be better off than they were – will be realized by his generation.

“Things are getting tougher for the younger generation, and inflation has happened and wages haven’t really been keeping up with inflation,” he says. “So it’s kind of hard to get the same kind of lifestyle that my parents had, you know, without working really hard at it.”

Ms. Konte, the financial adviser, is more optimistic about millennials, especially the Black millennials she advises.

“My clients, they are earning more money than they ever had, and they’re investing more money than they ever had,” she says. “And ... once that genie is out of the bottle, you can’t put it back in. ... I wouldn’t be surprised if 30 years down the road, we look at this as a sea change.”

One thing seems clear. The generation hit by two once-in-a-lifetime financial disasters before their 40s is taking nothing for granted. For some, that means securing their financial life with more focus and seriousness that their boomer parents did.

“They’re going to be more serious,” says Michael Solari, a financial adviser with millennial clients with offices in Boston; and Bedford, New Hampshire. “It’s because they have to be that they are going to take it more seriously.”

Will the Greens lead a post-Merkel Germany into the future?

The German Greens party, which stands a fighting chance of winning the next elections, could herald a changing of the generational guard, driven by new values on everything from taxes to the environment.

Michael Sohn/AP
Germany's Greens co-chairwoman Annalena Baerbock smiles after being nominated as the party's chancellor candidate during a party convention in Berlin, June 12, 2021.

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With German Chancellor Angela Merkel stepping down after a 15-year reign, the outcome of Germany’s elections this fall will hint at not only the country’s future direction but also what values will be at the helm of the European Union. And Germany’s Greens party, for the first time, has a realistic chance at replacing Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and its rival Social Democratic Party with a new crop of voices that trend progressive, younger, and female.

Voters were dissatisfied with the CDU-coalition-led government’s handling of the coronavirus and its vaccination missteps, which underscored the Greens as a viable alternative. The Greens’ platform is progressive, promising to usher in individual income tax increases and billions in new spending, and upping the carbon tax, among other proposals.

“Our [chancellor] candidate, Annalena Baerbock, is a woman who has modern answers for our time,” says Greens party member Olaf Bursia. “We have had a similar upbringing. We experienced German reunification, and we’ve experienced a world crisis like climate change. ... Our generation has taken over leadership in NGOs and so many other parts of society – but not yet in politics. This is my generation currently trying to take over the wheel.”

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Will the Greens lead a post-Merkel Germany into the future?

When he was a teenager, Olaf Bursia felt he had the right answers about the future. That was when he joined the fledgling Greens political party, with its reputation for environmental radicalism, in his hometown of Dusseldorf.

But in the 30 years since, the Greens have moved into the mainstream. The party, once dismissed as fringe, now has a platform of combating climate change, being more inclusive of migrants, and promoting social equality. The Greens have flirted with the top spot in countrywide polling and have put forth a 40-year-old working mother for chancellor in this September’s federal elections.

Now, Mr. Bursia feels that a good chunk of Germany finally sees his way of thinking.

“Our candidate, Annalena Baerbock, is a woman who has modern answers for our time,” says Mr. Bursia. “I am a father, she is a mother, and we are about the same age. We have had a similar upbringing. We experienced German reunification, and we’ve experienced a world crisis like climate change. ... Our generation has taken over leadership in NGOs and so many other parts of society – but not yet in politics. This is my generation currently trying to take over the wheel.”

With Chancellor Angela Merkel stepping down after a 15-year reign, the outcome of the elections will hint at not only Germany’s future direction but also what values will be at the helm of the European Union. And the Greens, for the first time, have a realistic chance at ending the domination of Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its rival Social Democratic Party over German governance, and replacing it with a new crop of voices that trend progressive, younger, and female.

“We’re not a movement anymore – we are part of the system,” says Ekin Deligöz, a Green member elected to parliament in 1998. “Where will society be in 10 years? What does ‘quality of life’ mean for us? How do we overcome the gap between rich and poor? What’s the role of German technology? Germany is the fourth richest country in the world – what’s our role in Eastern Europe and the world? These are the questions of the future, and you need courage to go there.”

A bigger tent in a more diverse society

Ms. Deligöz, the Green parliamentarian, grew up straddling two disparate worlds. Born in Turkey, she migrated to Germany in the late 1970s with her parents. She didn’t speak German, and attended Turkish schools separate from the native German population. Turkish children, like their parents who arrived as guest workers, weren’t expected to integrate and become part of German society.

Gregor Bauernfeind/dpa/Newscom
Greens parliamentarian Ekin Deligöz speaks in the German Bundestag in Berlin, Feb. 12, 2021. She says that German multinational corporations "know that they need [Greens'] ideas to keep up with the future. Without our ideas, they will get lost.”

She was the first migrant to attend her gymnasium, as Germany calls its elite secondary schools that fast-track into higher education. “Everyone looked at me as a strange person,” Ms. Deligöz says. “I was always searching my way through two systems and where I belong. A lot of my [immigrant] generation got lost.” The inequity she saw growing up shaped her propensity for politics.

She found the Greens, joining the party as a teenager growing up in Bavaria. “If you see something not right, you’re searching for the ways that might be right in society,” says Ms. Deligöz. “The Greens didn’t close doors [or] say to me, ‘You have to accept that you’re not part of us.’” The party’s expansive, open tent ushered her all the way through her teen years, into adulthood, and finally into German parliament, where she’s been an elected member since 1998.

Women are highly educated and want to work, and the economy depends on their labor. New migrants are getting educated, becoming German, and must better integrate into the fabric of society, Ms. Deligöz says today. The CDU, she says, has stagnated when it comes to digitizing Germany, boosting the innovation economy, and tackling a climate change crisis.

“It’s hard for some old white guys to be told that ‘your time is gone, in the past, and you have to accept it,’” she says.

A day in the sun, or a sea change?

In April, the Greens were leading in a number of polls, an astonishing turn for a party that typically dealt in the single digits while the CDU usually gobbled up north of 30%.

Voters were dissatisfied with the CDU-coalition-led government’s handling of the coronavirus and its vaccination missteps, which underscored the Greens as a viable alternative. The Greens’ platform is progressive, promising to usher in individual income tax increases and billions in new spending, and upping the carbon tax, among other proposals. The party’s surge feels gratifying for longtime adherents and new joiners; membership surpassed 100,000 in 2020, making it the third largest party in Germany. Meanwhile, the Greens doubled their online spending to 2.5 million euros.

By contrast, the CDU has lost half its membership over the last three decades, and forging strong coalition partners has become more and more important. Its 60-year-old party leader, Armin Laschet, is the son of a coal-mining engineer, and a longtime politician who’s good at bringing people together.

The latest weekly poll has the CDU back in the lead, with roughly 28% to the Greens’ 17%. It’s a long way until September’s election, of course, but the CDU’s power machine is back in play, political experts say, and it doesn’t easily give up ground.

Ms. Baerbock has been roundly attacked by opponents online and in the media for everything from exaggerating details on her résumé to failing to pay taxes on a holiday bonus. It’s territory that comes with being a threat to the status quo. Yet her party’s progressive positions mean she also must play to the mainstream, and she’s taken pains to assure Germany’s powerful corporations they won’t be unfairly penalized under Green leadership.

Kay Nietfeld/dpa/AP
Annalena Baerbock, Greens candidate for chancellor, talks to employees of the ArcelorMittal steel company in Eisenhuettenstadt, Germany, June 18, 2021. The Greens have been polling solidly in second place and sometimes challenging Angela Merkel's CDU for the lead in September's elections.

In other words, the Greens are having to assure conservatives, to a certain extent, that things will stay the same. And, says Stefan Reinecke, political correspondent and opinion editor at progressive German daily Die Tageszeitung, Ms. Merkel’s CDU is very good at promising that things will stay the way they are.

“There is traditionally a lot of continuity in foreign and European policy,” says Mr. Reinecke. “Voters are conservative; they don’t like to vote governments out of office. This has happened only three times since 1949. Moreover, after the pandemic there is a need for normality, not change.”

CDU voters have sensed this turnaround in the Greens’ early 2021 momentum, and the question of the political hour will likely switch to what parties will be part of the governing coalition. No single party is large enough to govern alone. So will it be a “black-green” coalition of the “old and new bourgeoisie”? as Mr. Reinecke puts it, referring to the CDU (whose traditional color is black) and a Greens party that now does best with educated urban dwellers. The CDU in concert with the Greens could be consequential indeed, restructuring the economy toward climate neutrality with as little economic and social change as possible.

“The Greens stand for the promise that the 1.5 degree target [to limit global temperature increase under the Paris Agreement] will be seriously pursued, while [the CDU stands] for the promise that diesel cars will continue to be built and cheap meat will be sold in the supermarket,” says Mr. Reinecke. “Black-green also suits German industry. Now almost all CEOs realize they’ll look bad in the world market without eco-remodeling.”

Yet longtime CDU member Eckhard Finke believes the Greens are so focused on climate change that they forget about the economy, “such as the future we face with China. There are also social problems we need to deal with. We need to have a good mix and balance. These topics are all connected and to be able to see this connection is central to finding the best way forward for society, but also for Germany as a country within Europe.”

The CDU’s candidate, Mr. Laschet, is the best person to guarantee this balance, says Mr. Finke, who lives in Lotte. “He represents the middle, and that is very important for me.”

“Without our ideas, they will get lost”

Regardless, the Greens’ surge is indicative of a movement that’s permanently entered the mainstream consciousness. Its urbanism, inclusivity, and climate-aware platform resound with a younger generation, whose political power will only grow.

The powerful German multinationals know it: BMW and Allianz, for example, are calling the Greens now, says Ms. Deligöz, the Green parliamentarian. “They called me and told me they want to talk about how they can modernize our companies to become family-friendly, to become interesting for good, educated women. They know that they need our ideas to keep up with the future. Without our ideas, they will get lost.”

For Samy Charchira, a Dusseldorf city politician who was born in Morocco and came to Germany at age 14, Ms. Baerbock and the Greens represent a new understanding of politics. “The classic roles – right versus left, male-dominated, Western-dominated – this form of political engagement just doesn’t work anymore,” says Mr. Charchira.

“It doesn’t correspond with our reality. We have a new zeitgeist in politics.”

The Explainer

Taking on Big Tech: What the Federal Trade Commission can do

Is it possible to rein in the vast marketplace clout of Big Tech firms like Amazon using antitrust rules? Lina Khan is a believer that the Federal Trade Commission, which she now chairs, can revive a powerful watchdog role.

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Just weeks into Lina Khan’s tenure at the helm of a newly activist Federal Trade Commission, tensions over her approach are on full display. Amazon has accused Ms. Khan of undue bias and asked her to recuse herself from any FTC investigations involving the company, while opponents to Big Tech have praised her tougher posture toward companies that have amassed vast market power. 

Frictions have only grown after President Joe Biden signed an executive order on July 9 calling for actions – including new rules from the FTC – to stem an erosion of marketplace competition. Ms. Khan is a leading proponent of reviving antitrust activism during the current era of Big Tech giants and consolidation in industries from banking to hospital companies.

Yet Ms. Khan and her allies face hurdles. On June 29, a U.S. district judge dismissed two FTC lawsuits against Facebook, citing lack of evidence that the platform is a monopoly. Next up: The commission is taking a skeptical eye toward Amazon’s proposed acquisition of MGM Studios.

“[Ms. Khan’s arrival] is a real philosophical change,” says Matt Stoller, director of research at the American Economic Liberties Project. ”It’s one of those moments in history where things turn in a significant way.” 

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Taking on Big Tech: What the Federal Trade Commission can do

Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters
President Joe Biden hands a pen to Lina Khan, chair of the Federal Trade Commission, as he signs an executive order on “promoting competition in the American economy” as members of his Cabinet stand by at the White House in Washington, July 9, 2021.

Just weeks into Lina Khan’s tenure at the helm of a newly activist Federal Trade Commission, tensions over her approach are on full display. 

Is this progressive scholar an innovative reformer who’ll finally bring near-monopolies like Facebook to heel, or is she a proponent of questionable overreach at the agency?

Amazon has accused Ms. Khan of undue bias and asked her to recuse herself from any FTC investigations involving the company, while opponents to Big Tech have praised her tougher posture toward companies that have amassed vast market power. 

Frictions have only grown after President Joe Biden signed an executive order on July 9 calling for actions – including by the FTC – to stem an erosion of marketplace competition.

“[Ms. Khan’s arrival] is a real philosophical change. It’s one of those moments in history where things turn in a significant way,” says Matt Stoller, director of research at the American Economic Liberties Project.

What is the FTC’s antitrust role, and how has it evolved?

The FTC was established in 1914 in the aftermath of the breakups of companies like Standard Oil and American Tobacco, which were declared illegal monopolies by the Supreme Court. The independent agency was set up as a central government arbiter on fair commerce, with the power to both investigate questionable trade practices and also to regulate them.

Graeme Jennings/AP/File
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos speaks during a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on antitrust on July 29, 2020.

Although the FTC was initially weak, with critics accusing it of fostering monopoly power instead of fighting it, its authority and activism expanded under President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.

By the 1980s, however, backlash to the FTC’s authority had built, resulting in the emergence of a new “consumer welfare” theory that held that corporate mergers should only be prevented when it is clear that consumers would be harmed as a result. This now-dominant view has faced rising skepticism in the current era of Big Tech giants and consolidation in industries from banking to hospital companies.

Where does Lina Khan want to take the commission?

Ms. Khan, who came to fame by publishing a 96-page treatise on how “Amazon has marched toward monopoly by singing the tune of contemporary antitrust,” wants to return the FTC to where it was at its height. She wrote as much in the paper, where she criticized the current approach to antitrust and called for “restoring traditional antitrust and competition policy principles.”

To that end, she has the support of two fellow commissioners – Rebecca Slaughter and Rohit Chopra, both Democrats – granting her a 3-2 majority to implement her reforms. “The FTC has broad, economy-wide authority. It can write fair competition rules across many different sectors, and it just hasn’t done it. People rightfully don’t care about it, because why would you? It doesn’t do anything,” says Mr. Stoller. “I suspect that will change under Lina.”

So far, she has done exactly that. In the FTC’s first public meeting in decades, Ms. Khan put forward a set of policies aimed at correcting “the agency’s longstanding failure to investigate and pursue unfair methods of competition,” including administrative changes that would allow the agency to more easily propose rules and conduct investigations, as well as the implementation of penalties for companies that lie about their products being “made in America.” Each passed in a party-line vote.

Now comes President Biden’s July 9 executive order, which seeks to expand the FTC’s purview over labor rules, consumer rights, and mergers. Among other things, the order asks the commission to curb the use of noncompete clauses in hiring – which prevent workers from leaving for another job in the same industry – and to set rules on tech firms’ use of customer data. Standing proud behind him as he signed the order was none other than Ms. Khan.

What might this mean for the future of Big Tech?

It may take time for the dust to clear on that question. As Congress weighs its own possible efforts to rein in Big Tech, the FTC appears to be moving ahead with Ms. Khan’s ambitious strategies. The commission is taking a skeptical eye toward Amazon’s proposed acquisition of MGM Studios – a merger that might have easily cleared antitrust hurdles in the past.

Yet Ms. Khan and her allies face a number of challenges ahead that could dampen the FTC’s ability to influence Big Tech. Already, on June 29, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg dismissed two antitrust lawsuits brought by the FTC against Facebook, saying that the FTC failed to provide enough evidence that the platform was a monopoly. 

“It is almost as if the agency expects the Court to simply nod to the conventional wisdom that Facebook is a monopolist,” Mr. Boasberg added, indicating skepticism toward Ms. Khan’s more intuitionistic approach to antitrust.

For Mr. Stoller, the case is indicative of the structural opposition that the FTC will face as it pursues Big Tech. “The judiciary is not going to be friendly to her way of doing things,” he says. But the FTC has “other ways of [promoting competition], too.”

Why this space race to the moon will be different

The last moon mission took place when I was still in diapers! But now several nations are planning missions to the lunar surface. A giant leap for all mankind.

NASA
At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the core stage of the Space Launch System rocket for the Artemis I mission has been placed on a mobile launcher in between twin solid rocket boosters.

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The world is gearing up for a new space race to the moon, though this time with different players and different goals.

The United States is aiming to land humans on the moon again by 2024 as part of its Artemis program. Russia and China are teaming up on plans to build a lunar research station. Other nations are deciding which project to join.

Unlike the Cold War space race, which was about geopolitical power, this is about who takes the lead in setting the rules for space exploration. “The previous space race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union was an outright competition about being first," says one expert. "Now, it’s ... about who’s going to have the best coalition of countries.”

Returning to the moon would bring new science, including the search for frozen water deep in polar craters. But the ultimate goal is to use the moon as a steppingstone to Mars and beyond. “We’ve got to develop a lot of new techniques and technologies in order to go all the way to Mars,” says NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

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Why this space race to the moon will be different

At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, a behemoth is being built.

The Space Launch System (SLS) is the most powerful rocket ever constructed, designed to propel humans far beyond Earth’s orbit. But its early missions revolve around a single goal: returning humans to the moon after an absence of nearly 50 years.

Across the globe, there is a resurgence of interest in our nearest neighbor, with missions looking to launch later this year and in the coming decade.

“It’s fascinating to think we may now be moving into that era of exploration that we’ve seen in the Antarctic,” says Robert Massey, deputy executive director of the Royal Astronomical Society, “where you could have astronauts on a permanent base on the moon doing six-month shifts.”

The renaissance is partly scientific, and partly a new kind of space race, with different players and goals from the Cold War version. At the pinnacle of lunar exploration in the late 1960s and early 1970s – the only time humankind has ever set foot on Earth’s satellite – the moon was largely a symbol of geopolitical power. Today, it is a base camp for humanity’s first steps off the planet – a place to study, learn, and move onward.

“We’re going back to the moon in preparation for going to Mars,” says Bill Nelson, NASA’s administrator.

“We’ve got to develop a lot of new techniques and technologies in order to go all the way to Mars,” he adds. “We’ve got a lot of stuff we can do on the moon in preparation to sustain life on the way to Mars and to bring home our astronauts safely.”

Among the different initiatives:

  • The first launch of the SLS is slated for this year, with a human landing on the moon earmarked for 2024. NASA has christened this new wave of lunar exploration its Artemis program.
  • Russia and China have recently announced a similar collaborative effort. They plan to build the International Lunar Research Station somewhere on the moon. The hope is to have human visitors by the mid-2030s.
  • The European Space Agency (ESA) has started Project Moonlight, an effort to build a constellation of satellites around the moon for navigation and communications.

Some observers have spoken of a “second space race” pitting the United States against China and Russia.

Bill Ingalls/AP
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson speaks to employees at agency headquarters in Washington last month about plans for future Earth-focused missions as well as a robotic and human return to the moon through the Artemis program.

“I think that’s alarmist rhetoric; it has a lot of baggage,” says Todd Harrison, director of the aerospace security project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank. “The previous space race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union was an outright competition about being first. Now, it’s ... about who’s going to have the best coalition of countries.”

The Artemis program seeks to lay down guiding principles for the civil exploration and use of space, starting with the moon but extending to Mars, asteroids, and comets. To date, 12 countries have embraced the Artemis Accords.

Russia and China, meanwhile, are inviting international partners to join them in their moon-base project.

Some countries are considering joining both coalitions. While several European countries have agreed to the Artemis Accords, the ESA is in talks to join China and Russia. The United Arab Emirates is likewise negotiating with Russia and China, having already joined the Artemis Accords.

The prize for the broadest, most diverse coalition is to lead the way in setting the norms for behavior in space. Other countries can't be stopped from behaving in different ways, but the leaders can set parameters.

That’s key, given the goal of this round of moon exploration: learning how to operate on a celestial body, how to create a self-sustaining outpost, and, then, how to take this knowledge and expertise to Mars and beyond.

The first step out from Earth, however, will be a practical one. Explorers will have to find water on the moon, not only for drinking, but also potentially for breathing, cooling equipment, and rocket fuel.

The lunar surface is littered with craters, and, at the poles, the floors of these never see the sun. The resulting temperatures are some of the lowest in the solar system, and so could hold frozen water.

The first target of the Artemis moon landing will be the south pole, an area far from the Apollo landings but one that has been more thoroughly investigated robotically than any other. The idea of going somewhere new excites scientists.

“People think we’ve already been there and done that, so why do we need to go back again?” says Natalie Curran, a research scientist and principal investigator at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “Take Apollo 11, for instance: They only spent a few hours on the surface, and you could put the whole region they landed and walked on in half a football pitch.”

The surface of the moon is a “phenomenal laboratory of solar system history,” she says.

The Earth has plate tectonics, which gradually shift and distort the surface, as well as winds and oceans that erode the evidence of past events. The moon is comparatively pristine, its surface a record of impacts from asteroids, comets, and meteors. The largest impact basin lies at the south pole – the South Pole-Aitken basin – and is 1,550 miles wide and more than 5 miles deep.

This history can teach us much about Earth, such as the major-impact event believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs. But it can also help us understand the story of our solar system, providing insights into the evolution of the sun. Solar particles have been implanted in the lunar surface over billions of years.

In the end, says Dr. Massey of the Royal Astronomical Society, there is “an enduring cultural interest in the moon.”

“You can see mountains and craters and valleys,” says Dr. Massey. “It looks like somewhere you could explore. ... And as soon as you have a telescope, you see a real world, a real landscape, and I’m sure that’s a driver for our interest.”

Farewell to a tree: An ancient maple held memories, sons, and wildlife

A homeowner in Maine reflects on his love for an ancient tree in his yard and his difficult decision to fell it. But its qualities are never lost.

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There is thunder all about my house. Limbs as heavy as anvils are hammering to earth as the massive silver maple in the front yard is deconstructed.

I didn’t decide this lightly. The tree was planted in the late 1800s. But last week, intense winds buffeted Maine. I was little prepared for the clamoring thud of the limb that landed on my roof, rattling the house. 

In the morning I called an arborist.

Silver maples are brittle and gangly. In spring, they shed plagues of winged seeds. In the fall, the leaf litter is so deep that I can move only half of it, leaving the rest for April.

Still, my tree was also a magnet for cardinals, chickadees, and orioles. It had multiple trunks, reaching out as if in invitation to climb into its arms, which both of my growing boys gladly did.

But today my concern is the safety of the young men who are up in its farthest reaches, carting chainsaws. I occasionally go out to haul off what I can for the wood pile, so that the tree that has warmed my heart all these years will, come winter, warm me one last time.

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Farewell to a tree: An ancient maple held memories, sons, and wildlife

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff/File

As I write this, there is thunder all about my house. Limbs as heavy as anvils are hammering to earth as the massive silver maple in the front yard is painstakingly deconstructed by a tireless team of arborists.

I didn’t come to this decision lightly. The tree was here when I moved in, many years ago. The previous owner, already advanced in years, told me that his great-grandmother had planted it somewhere around the end of the 19th century. It has always been the first thing visitors remark upon. “Look at that tree.” “Did you ever climb it?” “How old is it?” 

And then there was the comment that eventually came to shiver my timbers: “Aren’t you afraid it will fall on your house?”

Which brings me to the present moment, following a set of intense winds here in Maine. There was little to prepare me for the dense, clamoring thud of the limb that landed on my roof, rattling the house to its foundations. I sprang out of bed and hurried outside with a flashlight, fearful of what I might find. But fortunately there was no damage. In the morning I called my arborist friend, who was familiar with my tree.

“It’s time,” I said, and he knew exactly what I meant.

Silver maples are terrible choices as street trees. They’re brittle, and gangly, and their roots wander everywhere, as if saying, “I know there’s a sewer line somewhere around here to embrace.” In spring, they shed plagues of winged seeds that clog the rain gutters. In the fall, the leaf litter is so deep that I can move only half of it, leaving the other half for April (if the snow is gone by then). And whenever the wind blows, they unburden themselves of branch upon branch, scattering them on rooftop, porch, and driveway. Some of the fallen branches stick up out of the ground like spears thrown by an invading army.

Still, this tree had redeeming qualities. It was a magnet for cardinals, chickadees, blue jays, and, on occasion, mating pairs of orioles with their pendulous nests. It had multiple trunks, reaching out as if in invitation to climb into its arms, which both of my growing boys gladly did. They arranged ropes as rigging and called the tree their “pirate ship.” Even after they had moved away, I couldn’t bring myself to remove the ropes and left them there until, worn by time and weather, they fell apart of their own accord.

But perhaps the most notable feature of the tree was a beautifully centered hollow, reminiscent of the one described in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” in which Boo Radley placed trinkets for Jem and Scout. What could I do but put a few knickknacks in the hollow of my silver maple and append it with a small, hand-lettered, wooden sign that read, “Hey, Boo.”

Over the years I had the tree pruned now and then, here and there, to relieve it of the most threatening overhanging boughs. This always alarmed one neighbor or other who had grown fond of my tree and would trouble themselves to remark, “You ain’t gonna take ’er down, are ya?” To which I would reply, “No, no. Just a haircut.”

But that pounding the house took finally brought me around, and now the silver maple is coming down, piece by piece. As I watch from the snug side of my window, there is an occasional snow of sawdust as the chainsaws do their work, and my principal concern now is for the safety of the young men who are up, up, up in the farthest reaches of the ancient tree, picking their way among the limbs, carting chainsaws as they go. As they drop the limbs to earth, I occasionally go out to haul off what I can for the wood pile, so that the tree that has warmed my heart all these years will, come winter, warm me one last time.

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A higher law for a sea low on peace

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Most places on Earth are now governed by rule of law rather than rule by force. Not so in the South China Sea. In the past decade, it has become the scene of confrontation. This week, however, many Asia-Pacific nations marked an anniversary for this important waterway. Five years ago, a landmark decision by an international court set down some legal order for the South China Sea. It may have even prevented war between China and the United States.

In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague struck down China’s vast claims in the South China Sea. The ruling relied on the universal character of the 1982 Law of the Sea treaty to impose international law for China’s aggression against the Philippines. Since the decision, many nations with interests in portions of the sea have used the ruling to make legal or diplomatic moves rather than resort to military might.

Maritime law has long led to peaceful resolution of disputes between nations. The 2016 ruling has set a standard for the power of law over the power of guns in a critical waterway.

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A higher law for a sea low on peace

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Activists in the Philippines stage a protest July 12 outside the Chinese Consulate on the fifth anniversary of an international court ruling invalidating Beijing's historical claims over the waters of the South China Sea.

Most places on Earth, whether water or land, are now governed by rule of law rather than rule by force. Not so in the South China Sea. In the past decade, it has become the scene of confrontation among naval vessels and fishing boats over shoals and islets. Latest example: On Monday, China claimed it “drove away” a U.S. warship that passed through the disputed Paracel Islands.

This week, however, many Asia-Pacific nations marked an anniversary for this important waterway, one that is a critical conduit for about a third of all maritime trade.

Five years ago, a landmark decision by an international court set down some legal order for the South China Sea. It may have even prevented war between China and the United States.

In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague struck down China’s vast claims in the South China Sea, specifically to the rocks and reefs close to the Philippines. The ruling relied on the universal character of the 1982 Law of the Sea treaty to impose international law for China’s aggression against the Philippines.

As the victor in the lawsuit, the Philippines has used the anniversary not to criticize China – which still ignores the ruling as a “piece of wastepaper.” Rather, said Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin Jr., “We see it as it should be seen: as favoring all which are similarly situated by clarifying definitively a legal situation beyond the reach of arms to change.”

Since the decision, many nations with claims to or interests in portions of the sea have used the ruling to make legal or diplomatic moves rather than resort to military might. Malaysia and Vietnam, for example, have agreed to end their differences over the waters between them. Since 2019, at least 12 countries have exchanged notes or made statements that address the overlapping claims.

China, meanwhile, has been on the defensive, having to explain why it operates outside international law with bizarre claims to waters a thousand miles from its shores. And the Biden administration has endorsed a Trump administration policy of rallying maritime nations to reject China’s claims by sailing ships through the sea’s international waters.

“Nowhere is the rules-based maritime order under greater threat than in the South China Sea,” said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken this week.

Maritime law has long led to peaceful resolution of disputes between nations and has kept freedom of navigation in the high seas. The 2016 ruling, write Vietnamese scholars Nguyen Hong Thao and Nguyen Thi Lan Huong in The Diplomat, “has contributed greatly to the development of the international law of the sea.” It has also set a standard for the power of law over the power of guns.

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.

Where did they go?

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As families and friends continue to mourn those lost in the Surfside, Florida, condo collapse, we thought of this article from the archives. Though written nearly 20 years ago, it has a timeless message of God’s eternal care for all His children that feels just as relevant now as when it was first published.

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Where did they go?

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition

Where did they go?

A poignant question, when loved ones pass away. And the question is even more disquieting if – as with the victims of recent tragedies – people are missing as the result of sudden violent events. In these cases, families grieve that they cannot see their loved ones for one last time.

Yet, at the funerals or memorial services connected with these events, we so often hear the 23rd Psalm, with these words of consolation: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.” In the Bible, these words are preceded by “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Here the shepherd, who in biblical times had an important role maintaining the safety of the flock, is God, who keeps His children well-fed and safe.

But is the Shepherd still there if something happens, and a loved one doesn’t make it? Is there comfort, even then, rather than loneliness, or extinction? The psalm reassuringly says that the Shepherd, God, who never ceases to exist, is always there – even in the valley.

Just as a valley is the lower area between two mountains, so an interval is the space between two moments. Yet, Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, wrote that one moment of understanding what God really is provides a glimpse of permanent, uninterruptible harmony. “This exalted view,” she wrote, “obtained and retained when the Science of being is understood, would bridge over with life discerned spiritually the interval of death, and man would be in the full consciousness of his immortality and eternal harmony, where sin, sickness, and death are unknown” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 598).

This kind of reasoning is not abstract or philosophical. It coincides with Jesus’ teachings about eternal life, and it sustained me solidly when my husband passed on a few years ago.

I was alone with him at home. A few minutes after he had passed away, the words “never born and never dying” rang vividly in my thought. I looked up the whole sentence in Science and Health: “Never born and never dying, it were impossible for man, under the government of God in eternal Science, to fall from his high estate” (p. 258).

These words tenderly told me that my husband’s life had never descended below its original status in the reality of God’s existence – it had never had a beginning by birth or an end by death, and had never really passed through an interval; it had never fallen into “the valley of the shadow of death.”

I felt closer to my husband by knowing that he had never left the presence of God. And I didn’t need to look for him in an inert body that did not represent his real identity. I knew where he truly was, and I was sure that the tender Shepherd had never stopped and never would stop caring for either of us. God’s infinite love was very obvious to me, and I was not disturbed. This actually enabled me to actively carry on with my own life over the following days and months.

Yes, God, the Shepherd, is always there. The spiritual reality where each son and daughter of God has always lived is intact. And those bereaved families who cannot pay their last respects to the loved ones who remain missing after a tragic event can trust that, even so, each one of them will always be in the continuous presence of God and His love.

Originally published in the November 12, 2001, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

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Scoreboard aside, Britons show their support

Jon Super/AP
A boy stands by messages of support left on a mural of Manchester United striker and England player Marcus Rashford, on the wall of the Coffee House Cafe on Copson Street in Withington, Manchester, England, July 13, 2021. The mural was defaced with graffiti in the wake of England losing the Euro 2020 soccer championship to Italy. To learn more about Mr. Rashford's work on behalf of children, click below to read our 2020 article "Soccer star leads an awakening on child hunger in Britain."
( The illustrations in today’s Monitor Daily are by Karen Norris. )

A look ahead

Thank you for reading today’s articles. Tomorrow, our lead story is about resilience. Reporter Harry Bruinius details how some people have dealt with mental health challenges during the pandemic. 

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