Start your day here: Biden makes an inflation argument; the first Veterans Day in 20 years without a war in Afghanistan; historic Flint settlement means cash for lead victims

Published November 11, 2021 at 7:55 AM EST
President Biden speaks about the recently passed $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill at the Port of Baltimore on Wednesday.
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President Biden speaks about the recently passed $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill at the Port of Baltimore on Wednesday.

Good morning.

Here's what we're following:

Inflation and the supply chain: President Biden said the newly approved infrastructure package, which includes cash for U.S. ports, will help ease inflation and supply-chain bottlenecks.

Veterans Day: Today is the first in 20 years that the U.S. has not been at war in Afghanistan. A Marine Corps veteran who served two toursthere spoke to NPR about what's changed.

Flint settlement: The deal makes money available to every Flint child who was exposed to lead in the water, as well as every adult who can show an injury, some business owners and anyone who paid water bills.

🎧 Also on Up First, our daily podcast, Texas schools can require face masks after a federal judge struck down Gov. Greg Abbot's ban on mask mandates.

— The Morning Edition live blog team

(Carol Ritchie, Rachel Treisman and Chris Hopkins)

Politics

Sen. Josh Hawley claims masculinity is under attack. This historian disagrees

Posted November 11, 2021 at 11:35 AM EST
A white man wearing a suit and blue shirt and tie speaks into a microphone, with his pointer finger raised, against a dark background.
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Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in September.

Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley was the first lawmaker to publicly vow to challenge the 2020 presidential election results, and memorably raised his fist in solidarity with protesters outside the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Now he has a new focus: defending the men of America.

In a keynote speech at the National Conservatism Conference last month, Hawley accused the political left of seeking to redefine traditional masculinity as toxic, and called for a "revival of strong and healthy manhood in America."

"This is an effort that the left has been at for years now and they have had alarming success," he said. "American men are working less, they are getting married in fewer numbers, they're fathering fewer children, they're suffering more anxiety and depression, they're engaging in more substance abuse."

Hawley said he did not want to paint all men as victims. But he blamed the left for wanting to define "traditional masculine virtues" like courage, independence and assertiveness as "a danger to society."

"Can we be surprised that after years of being told they are the problem, that their manhood is the problem, more and more men are withdrawing into the enclave of idleness, and pornography, and video games?" he said at one point.

In a TV interview with Axios last week, Hawley again accused liberals of telling men that their masculinity is "inherently problematic." And he said he'll make masculinity a signature political issue.

When pressed on whether any of his claims are supported by data, Hawley said millions of men are idle in part because of liberal policies. He pointed to a lack of jobs, fatherlessness and the "social messages we teach our kids in school."

Others disagree — like Kristin Kobes Du Mez, a gender studies professor at Calvin University and author of the book Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation.

"I think there are many challenges that the younger generation is facing right now, women and men," Du Mez said. "But there are a lot of assumptions that Hawley's making that the problems are caused by some sort of destruction of manhood or destruction of masculinity, when we could look at: What are the expectations of masculinity that might be inappropriate, that might be out-moded, that are perhaps exacerbating this crisis."

There are many ways in which liberals are actually working to strengthen fathers, she added, pointing to things like paid paternity leave and broader family leave policies.

"There can be ways to find common ground here rather than pitting half of America against the other half," she said. "And I think that white men actually have a really critical role to play in that respect."

Du Mez spoke to Morning Edition about what she makes of Hawley's recent comments (NPR has invited him on the program too, host Steve Inskeep notes). Listen to the interview here or read highlights below.

Hawley doesn't offer many specifics

So what is exactly is the ideal man, in Hawley's view?

"A man is a father. A man is a husband. A man is somebody who takes responsibility," he told Axios.

In his keynote speech, Hawley said society needs "the kind of men who make republics possible."

Hawley doesn't exactly define masculinity in his remarks, Du Mez said, though she noted a call to action.

"He is calling on conservative men to step up to their roles as providers and protectors — protectors of faith, family and nation and to protect what he calls 'our culture,'" she said.

Traditional gender roles and white Christian nationalism

Du Mez said that Hawley's keynote remarks draw on the notion that God created men and women as distinct and even opposite, with men as more assertive and women as more submissive.

Though his speech focused on masculinity, Hawley did take a moment to acknowledge the role of women and to describe their virtues as "every bit as necessary to the success of our republic." (He also slammed liberal lawmakers and advocates for using the phrase "birthing people" instead of "mother" and "trying to destroy women's sports, as if women and men are somehow interchangeable.")

"Men are protectors, women are designed to be protected," Du Mez said. "This vision of gender difference really runs through conservative Christianity and through American conservatism more generally."

She cautioned that she was not speaking to Hawley's personal beliefs, but noted this line of thinking is a widespread religious belief that would "resonate powerfully" with conservatives, especially conservative evangelicals.

Traditional masculine virtues are in the service of white Christian nationalism, Du Mez argues. She described Hawley's language as "militant" and said militancy does sanction violence, something that would also resonate with much of his base.

She cited survey data that shows the majority of white Evangelicals believe the 2020 election was stolen, with 39% of those believing political violence may be necessary to save the country. NPR reported on those findings earlier this year.

A note on race

Inskeep asked Du Mez why she is using the term "white Christian nationalism," anticipating that Hawley might point out he didn't bring up race himself.

Du Mez answered that it's important to understand how Hawley's words might resonate with this base in particular ways.

"With this calling on men to defend our 'shared culture,' in his words, he really does seem to be tapping into a distinctive notion of who real Americans are," she said. "And those are Americans who share his conservative values, not just around gender but arguably also around what this country is supposed to be, what this country is supposed to look like."

Transportation

Thanksgiving airline bookings surge as travelers make up for a pandemic year at home

Posted November 11, 2021 at 11:24 AM EST
Unclaimed baggage wells up between carousels for passengers arriving on Southwest Airlines flights at Denver International Airport in October after hundreds of flights were canceled due to weather and air traffic control issues.
David Zalubowski/AP
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AP
Unclaimed baggage wells up between carousels for passengers arriving on Southwest Airlines flights at Denver International Airport in October after hundreds of flights were canceled due to weather and air traffic control issues.

If you're planning to fly somewhere for Thanksgiving, brace yourself for the possibility of jam-packed airports, long security lines, unruly airline passengers and disrupted flights.

Bookings for Thanksgiving are up 78% over last year and are even slightly higher than at this time in 2019, says Vivek Pandya, who tracks airline booking data as lead analyst for Adobe Digital Insights.

"We're seeing a lot of people very much looking to travel and fly for Thanksgiving this year and make up for maybe staying at home last year," Pandya says.

But as bookings rise, so do prices: Airfares are up significantly from last year's pandemic bargains.

Some airlines have had trouble handling the rapid recovery in air travel demand in recent months. Southwest, Spirit and American have all had operational meltdowns because they had too few pilots and flight attendants available to recover from bad weather. Each ended up canceling thousands of flights.

Kathleen Bangs, a former commercial pilot who is now with the flight tracking firm Flight Aware, notes that with winter weather coming, airlines need to have plenty of extra pilots and flight attendants on standby.

"Because it's one thing to have a meltdown at the end of October," Bangs says. "But it's another thing completely if you ruin somebody's Thanksgiving or Christmas or make them miss it altogether. That is on a whole other level."

American Airlines, which had the most recent meltdown, has now brought back all its flight attendants who took leaves of absence during the pandemic and will have 600 new hires as of Dec. 1. In addition, flight attendant union spokesman Paul Hartshorn Jr. says American will pay flight attendants 150% of their normal rate for working key holiday trips.

"And if you didn't call in sick for a certain period of time throughout the whole holiday season, they will, in turn, pay you triple pay, 300%, for those trips," he says.

Hartshorn notes that flight attendants continue to face a high number of incidents of verbal and physical abuse on flights.

"We've had flight attendants shoved, punched, pushed to the floor and hit their head on the armrest on the way down," he says. "Really, really serious injuries that we're dealing with here."

Another potential holiday travel problem is long lines at airport security checkpoints. TSA spokeswoman Jessica Mayle says the agency is ready.

"They definitely know the times of day, the flight patterns, the passenger patterns that they see, and they keep their staffing appropriate so that you don't see wait lines beyond what we can expect," Mayle says.

But TSA employees must be fully vaccinated by Nov. 22, the Monday before Thanksgiving. And as of last month, about 40% had not reported their status.

TSA officials insist there won't be staffing shortfalls. They expect the actual number of unvaccinated officers to be small. Officers who do not comply will still be allowed to work while going through a period of education and counseling.

Education

A teacher who helps immigrants in Maryland just won a $1 million global prize

Posted November 11, 2021 at 10:43 AM EST

Keishia Thorpe immigrated to the U.S. as a child, hoping for a better life than the poverty she came from in Jamaica. She’s now a teacher in Maryland -- and her devotion to preparing young immigrants to succeed just brought her international recognition and $1 million, via the Global Teacher Prize.

In a sign that the committee chose the right teacher, Thorpe said it’s all about her students.

“This is to encourage every little Black boy and girl that looks like me and every child in the world that feels marginalized and has a story like mine and felt they never mattered,” she said in Paris, where the award ceremony was held via video conference.

The Global Teacher Prize is organized by UNESCO and the Varkey Foundation. The award committee recognized Thorpe for her work teaching English to 12th-graders who are English-language learners in Bladensburg, Md. Thorpe is also a founder of Food4Change, which supports immigrant families.

“Education is a human right, and all children should be entitled to have access to it,” Thorpe said after her win was announced by the emcee, French actress Isabelle Huppert.

“Every child needs a champion, an adult who will never, ever give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists they become the very best they can possibly be. And this is exactly why teachers will always matter. Teachers matter. Thank you.”

Climate

A big, messy issue at COP26: How much should wealthy countries pay to help poorer ones?

Posted November 11, 2021 at 10:33 AM EST
Activists dressed as debt collectors hold cutouts of the leaders of President Biden, Canada's Justin Trudeau, Australia's Scott Morrison, the UK's Boris Johnson and Italy's Mario Draghi as they demonstrate in front of the International Monetary Fund headquarters in Washington, D.C., last month to ask rich nations to keep their financial commitment to developing countries to tackle climate change.
Pedro Ugarte/AFP via Getty Images
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AFP
Activists dressed as debt collectors hold cutouts of the leaders of the United States, Canada, Australia, the UK and Italy in front of the International Monetary Fund headquarters in Washington, D.C., last month to ask rich nations to keep their financial commitment to developing countries to tackle climate change.

The U.N. climate summit in Glasgow is scheduled to wrap up on Friday.

Negotiators have released a draft agreement that calls on countries to speed up cuts in carbon emissions. Wealthy countries have historically contributed the most greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

One of the biggest outstanding issues is how much wealthy countries should pay to help poorer ones work towards building lower-carbon economies and adapt to some of the damage they’ve already suffered from climate change. NPR’s Frank Langfitt sat down this week with Achim Steiner, head of the United Nations Development Program.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Many people from these countries are really looking for help from the developed world. What’s the background?

One main issue really in Glasgow is: Are we able to frame a co-investment pact here? The richer countries have already for years promised $100 billion a year as contributions towards hundreds of billions of dollars developing countries will have to invest in their energy systems. Almost 11 years after the promise was first made in the Copenhagen climate conference, it still hasn't been met. So, for developing countries, there is a growing sense of not only frustration, but a lack of trust. We are constantly being asked as developing nations to make higher commitments, and yet we see only limited progress in developed countries.

Why is that?

I think because we underestimate, first of all, what an immense effort developing countries have to undertake. Secondly, it's always difficult to take money that you would spend on yourself and invest it in someone else.

How much of this comes down to domestic political decisions in these developed rich nations?

Well, ironically, virtually everything that is being negotiated here comes down to national political dynamics, and this is where political leadership is really called for. Because if we simply decide the future of the world in terms of what my price per gallon of fuel is or how much electricity I'm being charged for, you essentially have a recipe for paralysis and for disaster.

Give me a sense of what it's like inside the negotiating room. Do you have developing nations lobbying very hard? What are the developed nations saying?

This is the “nerdier” part of the work, which is negotiating the details. How do we hold each other accountable? How do we create transparency? What are the baselines against which you measure the commitments of a country and how it is actually fulfilling them? That is often, I think, for the public difficult to appreciate. But without that, we don't have the transparency that allows us to have confidence in one another.

In terms of funding from the developed world to the developing world, can’t that be measured by actually how much finance comes in?

You'd think so.

If you told me you were going to give me 10 bucks and 10 bucks didn’t come in, you didn’t fulfill your pledge.

Yeah, but the question is, do the 10 bucks come from your government sending you a check? Does it come through your bank where you have to borrow, maybe at a lower interest rate? Is it a grant?

That sounds very messy.

That's why it has been a struggle.

If developing countries did not get what they consider at least sufficient for now, what would be the implications and the stakes of that?

Some countries would simply revert back to saying, “Well, never mind, we'll just do business as usual.”

And we'll just keep polluting as much as we want.

Exactly, because we've given up and we don't have the means to do something about it.

NPR’s London Producer Jessica Beck contributed to this report.

Climate

London's Thames, once biologically dead, is showing signs of a rebound

Posted November 11, 2021 at 9:56 AM EST
An aerial view of London's Tower Bridge over the River Thames, with skyscrapers and gray clouds in the distance.
Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images
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AFP
Tower Bridge over The River Thames and, in the distance, the secondary central business district of Canary Wharf are pictured as the sun sets in London on Saturday, May 8, 2021.

In 1858, sewage clogging London's Thames River caused a "Great Stink." A century later, parts of the famed waterway were declared biologically dead.

But the latest report on "The State of the Thames" is sounding a surprisingly optimistic note.

The river today is "home to myriad wildlife as diverse as London itself," Andrew Terry, the director of conservation and policy at the Zoological Society of London, writes in a forward to the report published Wednesday. Terry points to "reductions in pressures and improvements in key species and habitats."

The report highlights several promising trends. But it also cautions that work still needs to be done in other areas, and warns of the negative impact of climate change on the river, which is a major source of water for the city.

"Dissolved oxygen concentrations, critical for fish survival, show long-term increases," it says. "Further, phosphorus concentrations, have reduced in both the long and short term, showing the effectiveness of improved sewage treatment works to reduce harmful levels of nutrients entering waterbodies."

The short- and long-term outlook for birds and marine mammals on the river is improving, according to the report. However, it says the situation for fish is deteriorating slightly in the long term. Although it cautions that could be due to changes in sampling methods," it might "be an indication of pressures on fish populations either in the Tidal Thames, or further afield."

The report also notes "a long-term increase in nitrate concentrations" could also threaten water quality.

"In addition, the influences of climate change are clearly impacting the Tidal Thames, as both water temperature and sea levels continue to rise above historic baselines," it says. "This will undoubtedly affect the estuary’s wildlife, leading to changes in life-history patterns and species ranges."

The report says that the expansion of sewage treatment plants beginning in 1960 and limits on industrial discharges have helped, to some extent.

"However, because London’s sewage system was largely built in the 1800s when London’s population was less than a quarter of what it is today, storm events cause excess sewage to overflow into the Tidal Thames, posing a major threat to water quality," it adds.

But there is a fix on the horizon. London is currently building a "super sewer" project, which is called the Thames Tideway Tunnel and is due for completion in 2025.

"Once operational it will capture and store most of the millions of tonnes of raw sewage that currently overflow into the estuary," the report says.

Economy

Biden points to the infrastructure bill as a fix for inflation

Posted November 11, 2021 at 9:35 AM EST
President Biden speaks about the recently passed $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill at the Port of Baltimore on Wednesday.
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President Biden speaks about the recently passed $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill at the Port of Baltimore on Wednesday.

President Biden faces a tangle of economic problems. Yesterday the Labor Department reported that consumerprices were 6.2% higher in October than a year ago, the biggest increase in inflation since 1990.

At the same time, retailers are scrambling to get goods on store shelves and delivery trucks in time for the holidays. But ports and warehouses are backed up and overflowing, victims of a pandemic-fueled worker shortage and booming demand from American consumers. That supply problem is a major driver of inflation.

The president went to the Port of Baltimore yesterday, and against the backdrop of stacked cargo containers, he said the $1 trillion infrastructure package will help ease both problems. Biden plans to sign the infrastructure bill Monday.

"By investing in our roads, our bridges, our ports and so much else, this bill's going to make it easier for companies to get goods to market more quickly," he said. "Here in Baltimore, you've got a port as older than America itself."

Biden conceded that the pandemic has shaken the economy, NPR's White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe told Morning Edition. But the Labor Department also reported that unemployment claims are down

The infrastructure bill includes $17 billion to improve the nation's ports, allowing supply to start meeting the demand and tamp down inflation. The bill will also bring high-wage jobs, Biden said — not $12 or $15 an hour, but $45-an-hour jobs that he said would boost the middle class.

You can hear more of Rascoe's report from Baltimore at this link.

Last month, Biden ordered ports to work around the clock to ease the backlog, and the situation has improved at the Port of Oakland, according to Danny Wan, head of the Port of Oakland and president of the California Association of Port Authorities. That port added new, taller cranes, boosted its workforce and diverted some traffic to other ports.

But container ships in Southern California ports are still backed up and waiting to unload, Wan told Morning Edition.

Veterans Day

Bridge the civilian-military divide with 'Home/Front,' a podcast from NPR's 'Rough Translation'

Posted November 11, 2021 at 9:14 AM EST
An illustration shows a person in military fatigues wearing a backpack standing alone, surrounded by combinations of other service people and civilians rolling suitcases.
Jamiel Law for NPR
In Home/Front from Rough Translation, NPR veterans correspondent Quil Lawrence explores the cultural and communication gap between those who have served in the military and those who have not.

This Veterans Day, we can do more than just thank people for their service. We can better understand the growing gap between civilians and the military with Home/Front, a special series from the NPR podcast Rough Translation. It explores what the civilian-military divide means for all of us and how some people have been trying to reach across it.

You can find all of the episodes here, and read more from the team behind it:


You could say reporting for this series started 20 years ago.

NPR's Quil Lawrence covered Iraq and Afghanistan from 2001 until 2012, and first noticed the civilian-military divide while living in Baghdad and Kabul. He began to share the feeling of separation between those Americans who felt gripped by the urgency of the wars and those American civilians who were never asked to do more than let troops board airplanes first.

When he moved home to start the veterans' beat at NPR — maybe the only national network with a reporter dedicated to covering veterans — Quil heard from many veterans who said civilians didn't seem interested and didn't seem to understand how to ask veterans about their experiences.

We started the series with a public call to our listeners asking them to tell us their stories about the civ-mil divide. We wanted to know, how does it assert itself in their lives? More than 300 people sent us emails and voice memos. It quickly became obvious that we had tapped into something big.

The vast majority of the respondents (84%) were either in the military or had family in the military. They told us how important it was to try to bridge this divide. Meanwhile, most of the civilians who wrote in seemed to be just learning that a divide existed. One thing they had in common, though, was a desire to seek understanding.

All seven episodes are available here.

Flint Water Crisis

A judge has approved a $626 million settlement for Flint residents, but questions remain

Posted November 11, 2021 at 8:48 AM EST
People load bottles of water into the trunk of a car, with green and orange trees in the distance.
Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images
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AFP
Volunteers help distribute water at Asbury United Methodist Help Center in Flint, Mich., on October 20, 2020.

A federal judge approved a $626 million settlement between the city of Flint and the state of Michigan for residents and others who were exposed to lead-contaminated drinking water over the course of several years.

Most of the money comes from the state, which was accused of overlooking the risks of switching Flint's water source without treating it to prevent contamination.

The settlement makes money available to every Flint child who was exposed to the water, every adult who can prove an injury, certain business owners and anyone who paid water bills. Read more about it here.

🎧 Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody spoke toMorning Edition from Flint.

The crisis started more than seven years ago.

Flint's drinking water became contaminated with high levels of lead after the city's drinking water source was switched in 2014 in an effort to save money, Carmody explains. That water was not properly treated and damaged pipes, which released lead and other contaminants into the drinking water and "made Flint a national symbol for failing infrastructure."

Authorities say the water is safe to drink now, but people in Flint don't necessarily trust it for themselves or their children. Government officials misled residents during the water crisis, Carmody adds, and it's been difficult to regain their trust.

Reaction to the settlement is mixed.

Under the agreement approved by U.S. District Judge Judith Levy, nearly 80% of the money is set aside for young children, who are most at risk of developing cognitive and other health issues from lead exposure.

Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley welcomed the decision, saying it provides some support for families who are still dealing with health problems related to the contaminated water. But activists and others — including former Mayor Karen Weaver, who led the city during the worst of the crisis — aren't satisfied.

Some believe the state of Michigan should be paying a much higher price, while others are upset that adult residents aren't receiving more compensation for health problems and property damage.

It's not the end of the legal wrangling by any means.

This particular settlement represents more than 50,000 plaintiffs, but does not settle all of the lawsuits. Many Flint residents opted out of the master settlement and have the option to pursue their own individual cases, Carmody says.

Plus, the settlement is far from squared away — it still needs to go through the claims process, in which a claims administrator figures out who qualifies for what. Among the many unresolved questions is how much the lawyers will be compensated. Carmody says attorneys could get $200 million dollars from the settlement, a number that does not sit well with residents.

More broadly, there is still an effort to hold specific individuals accountable. Nine former government officials, including former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, are facing criminal charges for their alleged roles in the water crisis. Criminal trials are still a way off, Carmody says, so "the courts will stay busy for some time to come."

Veterans Day

The U.S. isn't at war in Afghanistan this Veterans Day for the first time in 20 years

Posted November 11, 2021 at 8:10 AM EST
A bouquet of red roses lies on the grass next to a headstone inscribed with "Afghanistan" "Iraq" and dates.
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A bouquet of roses rests at the base of the headstone of a fallen soldier at Arlington National Cemetery on November 11, 2020 in Arlington, Virginia.

Today is the first Veterans Day since the U.S. withdrew its troops from Afghanistan, effectively ending America's longest war.

Much has happened since then, from the Taliban's rapid takeover and formation of a new government to the arrival and resettlement of thousands of Afghan refugees in countries including the U.S. Over the last few months, NPR has spoken to several veterans of the war in Afghanistan about how it ended, how they felt, what it meant to serve and who they left behind.

This Veterans Day, NPR's Rachel Martin spoke with Zoe Bedell, who served in the Marine Corps from 2007 to 2011 and deployed to Afghanistan twice during that time.

Bedell — who is now an attorney — served on female engagement teams, which went door-to-door in Afghan villages with the goal of hearing Afghan families' concerns and winning their trust.

Bedell describes her service experience as positive overall, even though she felt a lot of frustration with the sexism she experienced in the Marines. (She sued the Department of Defense after she left the service to end its ban on women in combat.)

"And the reality is that's not the case for everyone," she said. "I almost think of Veterans Day as being more for those people, more for the people who really sacrificed, whose lives were very fundamentally changed — not always for the better — in their service."

Listen to the full interview here or read excerpts below.

She's not surprised that the Taliban took over.

"We spent a lot of time bolstering the Afghan government, but in someplace as remote as Helmand [Province] it was very clear that their presence was weak at best, that they weren't really able to govern the area," Bedell said. "And so it's not surprising that as soon as the U.S. presence withdrew, that something else came and filled that vacuum."

She sees tangible support for veterans despite negative public opinion of the war.

Bedell served toward the middle of the war, during the so-called Afghan Surge, so she didn't get the standing ovation in restaurants and airplanes that some earlier veterans did. But she says people were still supportive of veterans — with things like "discounts and general appreciation" — even in places where the war was unpopular. That's a marked difference from how people treated veterans of other wars, like Vietnam, she said.

"And I think also, helpfully, we've moved past some of the performative aspects to more meaningful support for veterans," Bedell said, noting that she personally benefitted from the GI bill when she went to law school.

Civilians' understanding of PTSD has evolved over the last two decades

Bedell says it's probably quite easy for people to understand that specific incidents and combat experiences can cause trauma, but points out that repeated deployments to stressful environments can have a lasting impact too.

"It's a broader understanding of what can contribute to PTSD and how that plays out when people return to civilian life," she said.

She believes there is more awareness now about the experience of women in the military, with the public better understanding that women are just as prone to suffering the stress of combat as well as the military sexual trauma that she calls "an unfortunately large and prevalent part of women's service experience."

She sees Veterans Day as an opportunity to be present and supportive

Bedell points to a couple of memories that stick with her on Veterans Day. She thinks about the family of a Marine her unit lost during her first deployment — he had a wife and small child.

She also recalled that whenever someone was killed in action, people on the bases where the coffins would fly out would line up to send them off.

"That moment of being solemn, being present and lending our support, I sort of try to recreate that in my mind if that makes sense," Bedell added."It's very abstract, it's really vague and it never really feels sufficient, to be honest."

International

F.W. de Klerk, who joined with Nelson Mandela to end apartheid in South Africa, has died at age 85

Posted November 11, 2021 at 7:54 AM EST
Then-South African President F.W. de Klerk, left, with Nelson Mandela in 1990. Mandela was deputy president of the African National Congress at the time; the two were heading into talks between the ANC and the government in Cape Town.
Denis Farrell/AP
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AP
Then-South African President F.W. de Klerk, left, with Nelson Mandela in 1990. Mandela was deputy president of the African National Congress at the time; the two were heading into talks between the ANC and the government in Cape Town.

F.W. de Klerk, who led South Africa's last white minority government and shared a Nobel Peace Prize with Nelson Mandela for overseeing the end of apartheid, has died at age 85.

The F.W. de Klerk Foundation confirmed on Thursday that the former president died on Thursday at his home in Cape Town. He had been suffering from mesothelioma, a cancer that affects the lining of the lungs.

He served as South African head of state from 1989 to 1994.

De Klerk had risen through the ranks of the National Party, an Afrikaner ethnic party that provided a bulwark for apartheid. At one time, he had even been a member of the Afrikaner Broederbond, a secret society dedicated to white supremacy, according to The Associated Press. At the end of the Cold War, however, he saw a chance to break with South Africa’s repressive and often violent past and shake off the international opprobrium wrought by apartheid.

"The first few months of my presidency coincided with the disintegration of communism in Eastern Europe," he wrote in his autobiography, The Last Trek: A New Beginning, according to the AP.

"Within the scope of a few months, one of our main strategic concerns for decades was gone," he wrote. "A window had suddenly opened which created an opportunity for a much more adventurous approach than had been previously conceivable."

On Feb. 2, 1990, de Klerk delivered a speech in parliament announcing that Mandela would be released from prison after 27 years.

What followed was a long process of tough and detailed negotiations that frequently looked as though they could collapse, plunging the nation into a racial conflict.

In 1993, de Klerk and Mandela shared the Nobel Peace Prize. The following year, in the first post-apartheid elections, the National Party joined Mandela’s African National Congress in a unity government, with de Klerk serving as deputy president.

However, despite winning acclaim abroad for navigating South Africa over rough terrain toward a post-apartheid era, de Klerk’s efforts were less well-received by his own countrymen — both white and Black. Many Afrikaners, who had long ruled the country, viewed him as a traitor. Meanwhile, many Black South Africans held him responsible for failing to quell political violence in the years leading to the end of apartheid.

In remarks after Mandela’s death in 2013, de Klerk remembered the ANC leader for “his commitment to reconciliation,” and “remarkable lack of bitterness,” despite a long and undeserved imprisonment.

“He was a remarkable man and South Africa, notwithstanding political differences, [stands] united today in mourning this great, special man,” de Klerk said.