Parents with children who are suffering from respiratory diseases at a hospital in Chongqing, China, on November 23, 2023. (Photo by Costfoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The ‘Haunting Similarities’ Between Covid and a New Chinese Outbreak

Plus: A jaw-dropping congressional hearing. Jonathan Haidt on boys' mental health. Israel’s ‘Rambo.’ And more.

From alarming videos of crowded Chinese hospitals to a group of Republican senators calling for a ban on travel to and from China, things have taken a decidedly 2020 turn in the last few weeks. I’m sure that many of you, like me, saw headlines about a mysterious new respiratory illness in China and had just one reaction: “Please God, no!”

China insists everything is okay. At the request of the World Health Organization, Beijing has given assurances that the surge is not caused by a new virus but is rather a combo of the flu and other bugs in the country’s first winter without a lockdown.

And yet, China’s claims won’t completely alleviate global concerns because, as Alina Chan argues in her piece for The Free Press today, the country still has a chronic trust problem when it comes to public health.

“Everything is a state secret,” one frustrated Beijing parent recently told Taiwanese media. Meanwhile, global public health officials still lack the access they need to make their own conclusions about the outbreak.

And so, even if this latest illness really is nothing—or at least not Covid-level something—the situation still demonstrates how little we’ve learned from the Covid-19 pandemic. Alina argues for radical transparency measures that must happen soon—or else we may be doomed to repeat the mistakes of four years ago.

Israel’s ‘Rambo’

“We stayed the rest of the day, killing terrorists. And I felt nothing.” 

That’s Rami, a 70-year-old Israeli who fought in the Yom Kippur War 50 years ago, telling The Free Press’s Tim Samuels what he did when his kibbutz was attacked by Hamas on October 7. Rami’s story is just one example of the heroism shown by many Israelis that day—and the psychological toll the violence has taken on their lives. 

The full interview with the man now being called “Rambo” by some of his neighbors is a must-watch:

The Boys Aren’t Alright

In recent years, leading social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has been investigating the explosion in mental health problems among teenage girls coinciding with their use of social media.

Jonathan has long argued that, while mental health problems are on the rise for boys too, the problems girls suffer are so much greater we should focus our efforts on helping them. But, as he explains in an essay for The Free Press today, he’s changed his mind: “I’ve found that boys are doing very badly too, but it was harder to see.” 

Click through to read his full argument below:

A quick note: Jonathan’s piece was first published on the site of a new organization called the American Institute for Boys and Men. It was founded by Richard Reeves, who you may remember from the Father’s Day episode of Honestly and who is the author of an excellent book on the masculinity crisis, Of Boys and Men. We wish the AIBM well and will be following their work with great interest. 

A Jaw-Dropping Congressional Hearing on Antisemitism

Tuesday’s congressional hearing on campus antisemitism saw the presidents of Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, and MIT opt for exactly the kind of equivocation and double standards that have defined elite schools’ responses to hateful speech directed at Jews on their campuses since October 7. 

In one particularly astonishing turn, Rep. Elise Stefanik asked the university chiefs whether calling for the genocide of Jews breached their schools’ codes of conduct. Not a single one of them responded with a yes.

Bill Ackman, an investor and Harvard donor who has been critical of the school’s weak response to campus antisemitism since October 7, said the answers reflected the three presidents’ “profound moral bankruptcy” and called on them to resign. “If a CEO of one of our companies gave a similar answer, he or she would be toast within the hour,” he concluded. 

It’d be one thing if these college leaders were free speech hard-liners who consistently applied this principle toward all. But that, of course, is not the case. Take Harvard president Claudine Gay, who said yesterday that when it comes to calls for the genocide of the Jews, context is everything. The same Claudine Gay helped oust Harvard law professor Ronald Sullivan from an administrative post after his decision to serve on Harvey Weinstein’s defense team led to calls for his resignation. (For a fuller look at the hypocrisy, we recommend this piece by the Washington Free Beacon’s Aaron Sibarium.) 

When Gay could summon the courage to denounce antisemitism, she said it was “a symptom of ignorance” and that “the cure is knowledge.” 

It’s a nice thought, but the truth is more complicated—and more unsettling. After all, some of the most credentialed kids in the country have been taking part in hateful protests, calling for the freedom of Palestine “from the river to the sea.” 

This paradox is nothing new. As the late Justice Antonin Scalia said in a 1997 speech on the Holocaust, “the most frightening aspect of it all. . . [is that the Holocaust] happened in one of the most educated, most progressive, most cultured countries in the world. . . a world leader in most fields of art, science, and intellect.” 

Scalia quoted from John Henry Newman’s The Idea of a University: “Knowledge is one thing, virtue is another; good sense is not conscience, refinement is not humility. . . . it is well to have a cultivated intellect, a delicate taste, a candid, equitable, dispassionate mind, a noble and courteous bearing in the conduct of life. These. . . are the objects of a University.”

Virtue, conscience, humility. These were all in short supply at yesterday’s hearing. 

Also on our radar. . . 

The candidate’s dilemma: Nothing gets Joe Biden in the mood to overshare like a small group of very rich Democrats. Last year he mused to a room of multimillionaires about the very real risk of “Armageddon.” Yesterday at a fundraiser in Boston, Biden said: “If Trump wasn’t running, I’m not sure I’d be running.” 

Joe, Donald, can you please come to some kind of agreement? How about you settle this privately and let someone else, you know, run the country? 

Antisemitism with dance moves! A new survey of Americans under 30 suggests that TikTok isn’t just promoting antisemitism; it’s driving it. Researchers from Generation Lab found that a user of the Chinese-owned platform is nearly three times more likely than an Instagram user and nearly nine times more likely than an X user to hold antisemitic or anti-Zionist views, such as the idea that Jews are disloyal to America or that Jews control the media, or that Israel does not have the right to defend itself.

The same study also found that, for every view of a TikTok video with a pro-Israel hashtag in the U.S., there are 54 views of videos with pro-Palestinian hashtags. 

If only there were something we could do about this noxious app turning our kids into antisemites. Oh, wait. There is! 

Democracy with Chinese characters: From homelessness and overdose deaths to housing and the cost of living, San Francisco’s municipal leaders have a lot on their plate. But Supervisor Connie Chan is worried about a bigger problem: the dangerous threat to democracy that is non-Chinese candidates adopting “authentic” Chinese names in local elections. 

Ballots in San Francisco are printed in both English and Chinese. Under Chan’s proposals, Chinese names may be used by candidates only if they were born with them or they have been using them for more than two years. Otherwise, they must stick to a clunky transliteration of their actual name. 

“Cultural appropriation does not make someone Asian,” Chan told The San Francisco Standard. “There is no alternative definition to whether someone is Asian or not. It should be based solely on a person’s ethnicity and heritage. That’s what this law is about.” 

But this won’t stop San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, who adopted the Chinese name—謝安宜 or “safety, pleasant”—when she was appointed by the mayor last year. As long as she waits to file for reelection until next summer, she’ll be well within the two-year threshold. 

Oliver Wiseman is an editor and writer for The Free Press. Follow him on X @ollywiseman.

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