Barack Obama’s Nelson Mandela Lecture

Barack Obama’s Nelson Mandela Lecture

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When my staff told me that I was to deliver a lecture, I thought back to the stuffy old professors in bow ties and tweed, and I wondered if this was one more sign of the stage of life that I’m entering, along with gray hair and slightly failing eyesight. I thought about the fact that my daughters think anything I tell them is a lecture. I thought about the American press and how they often got frustrated at my long-winded answers at press conferences, when my responses didn’t conform to two-minute sound bites. But given the strange and uncertain times that we are in—and they are strange, and they are uncertain—with each day’s news cycles bringing more head-spinning and disturbing headlines, I thought maybe it would be useful to step back for a moment and try to get some perspective. So I hope you’ll indulge me, despite the slight chill, as I spend much of this lecture reflecting on where we’ve been and how we arrived at this present moment, in the hope that it will offer us a roadmap for where we need to go next.

One hundred years ago, Madiba was born in the village of Mvezo. In his autobiography he describes a happy childhood: he’s looking after cattle; he’s playing with the other boys. [He] eventually attends a school where his teacher gave him the English name Nelson. And, as many of you know, he’s quoted saying, “Why she bestowed this particular name upon me, I have no idea.”

There was no reason to believe that a young black boy at this time, in this place, could in any way alter history. After all, South Africa was then less than a decade removed from full British control. Already, laws were being codified to implement racial segregation and subjugation, the network of laws that would be known as apartheid. Most of Africa, including my father’s homeland, was under colonial rule. The dominant European powers, having ended a horrific world war just a few months after Madiba’s birth, viewed this continent and its people primarily as spoils in a contest for territory and abundant natural resources and cheap labor. The inferiority of the black race, an indifference towards black culture and interests and aspirations, was a given.

Such a view of the world—that certain races, certain nations, certain groups were inherently superior, and that violence and coercion is the primary basis for governance, that the strong necessarily exploit the weak, that wealth is determined primarily by conquest—that view of the world was hardly confined to relations between Europe and Africa, or relations between whites and blacks. Whites were happy to exploit other whites when they could. And, by the way, blacks were often willing to exploit other blacks. Around the globe, the majority of people lived at subsistence levels, without a say in the politics or economic forces that determined their lives. Often they were subject to the whims and cruelties of distant leaders. The average person saw no possibility of advancing from the circumstances of their birth. Women were almost uniformly subordinate to men. Privilege and status was rigidly bound by caste and color and ethnicity and religion. And even in my own country, even in democracies like the United States, founded on a declaration that all men are created equal, racial segregation and systemic discrimination was the law in almost half the country and the norm throughout the rest of the country.

That was the world just a hundred years ago. There are people alive today who were alive in that world. It is hard, then, to overstate the remarkable transformations that have taken place since that time. A second world war, even more terrible than the first, along with a cascade of liberation movements from Africa to Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, would finally bring an end to colonial rule. More and more peoples, having witnessed the horrors of totalitarianism, the repeated mass slaughters of the twentieth century, began to embrace a new vision for humanity, a new idea, one based not only on the principle of national self-determination but also on the principles of democracy and rule of law and civil rights and the inherent dignity of every single individual.

In those nations with market-based economies, suddenly union movements developed, and health and safety and commercial regulations were instituted, and access to public education was expanded, and social welfare systems emerged, all with the aim of constraining the excesses of capitalism and enhancing its ability to provide opportunity not just to some but to all people. And the result was unmatched economic growth and a growth of the middle class. In my own country, the moral force of the civil-rights movement not only overthrew Jim Crow laws but it opened up the floodgates for women and historically marginalized groups to reimagine themselves, to find their own voices, to make their own claims to full citizenship.

It was in service of this long walk towards freedom and justice and equal opportunity that Nelson Mandela devoted his life. At the outset, his struggle was particular to this place, to his homeland—a fight to end apartheid, a fight to insure lasting political and social and economic equality for its disenfranchised nonwhite citizens. But through his sacrifice and unwavering leadership and, perhaps most of all, through his moral example, Mandela and the movement he led would come to signify something larger. He came to embody the universal aspirations of dispossessed people all around the world, their hopes for a better life, the possibility of a moral transformation in the conduct of human affairs.

Madiba’s light shone so brightly, even from that narrow Robben Island cell, that in the late seventies he could inspire a young college student on the other side of the world to reëxamine his own priorities, could make me consider the small role I might play in bending the arc of the world towards justice. And when, later, as a law student, I witnessed Madiba emerge from prison, just a few months, you’ll recall, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, I felt the same wave of hope that washed through hearts all around the world.

Do you remember that feeling? It seemed as if the forces of progress were on the march, that they were inexorable. Each step he took, you felt this is the moment when the old structures of violence and repression and ancient hatreds that had so long stunted people’s lives and confined the human spirit—that all that was crumbling before our eyes. Then, as Madiba guided this nation through negotiation painstakingly, reconciliation, its first fair and free elections, as we all witnessed the grace and the generosity with which he embraced former enemies, the wisdom for him to step away from power once he felt his job was complete, we understood that—we understood it was not just the subjugated, the oppressed who were being freed from the shackles of the past. The subjugator was being offered a gift, being given a chance to see in a new way, being given a chance to participate in the work of building a better world.

During the last decades of the twentieth century, the progressive, democratic vision that Nelson Mandela represented in many ways set the terms of international political debate. It doesn’t mean that vision was always victorious, but it set the terms, the parameters; it guided how we thought about the meaning of progress, and it continued to propel the world forward. Yes, there were still tragedies—bloody civil wars from the Balkans to the Congo. Despite the fact that ethnic and sectarian strife still flared up with heartbreaking regularity, despite all that as a consequence of the continuation of nuclear détente, and a peaceful and prosperous Japan, and a unified Europe anchored in NATO, and the entry of China into the world’s system of trade—all that greatly reduced the prospect of war between the world’s great powers. From Europe to Africa, Latin America to Southeast Asia, dictatorships began to give way to democracies. The march was on. A respect for human rights and the rule of law, enumerated in a declaration by the United Nations, became the guiding norm for the majority of nations, even in places where the reality fell far short of the ideal. Even when those human rights were violated, those who violated human rights were on the defensive.

With these geopolitical changes came sweeping economic changes. The introduction of market-based principles, in which previously closed economies, along with the forces of global integration powered by new technologies, suddenly unleashed entrepreneurial talents to those that once had been relegated to the periphery of the world economy, who hadn’t counted. Suddenly they counted. They had some power. They had the possibilities of doing business. And then came scientific breakthroughs and new infrastructure and the reduction of armed conflicts. Suddenly a billion people were lifted out of poverty, and once starving nations were able to feed themselves, and infant mortality rates plummeted. And, meanwhile, the spread of the Internet made it possible for people to connect across oceans, and cultures and continents instantly were brought together, and potentially all the world’s knowledge could be in the hands of a small child in even the most remote village.

That’s what happened just over the course of a few decades. And all that progress is real. It has been broad, and it has been deep, and it all happened in what—by the standards of human history—was nothing more than a blink of an eye. And now an entire generation has grown up in a world that by most measures has gotten steadily freer and healthier and wealthier and less violent and more tolerant during the course of their lifetimes.

It should make us hopeful. But if we cannot deny the very real strides that our world has made since that moment when Madiba took those steps out of confinement, we also have to recognize all the ways that the international order has fallen short of its promise. In fact, it is in part because of the failures of governments and powerful élites to squarely address the shortcomings and contradictions of this international order that we now see much of the world threatening to return to an older, a more dangerous, a more brutal way of doing business.

So we have to start by admitting that whatever laws may have existed on the books, whatever wonderful pronouncements existed in constitutions, whatever nice words were spoken during these last several decades at international conferences or in the halls of the United Nations, the previous structures of privilege and power and injustice and exploitation never completely went away. They were never fully dislodged. Caste differences still impact the life chances of people on the Indian subcontinent. Ethnic and religious differences still determine who gets opportunity, from Central Europe to the Gulf. It is a plain fact that racial discrimination still exists in both the United States and South Africa. And it is also a fact that the accumulated disadvantages of years of institutionalized oppression have created yawning disparities in income, and in wealth, and in education, and in health, in personal safety, in access to credit. Women and girls around the world continue to be blocked from positions of power and authority. They continue to be prevented from getting a basic education. They are disproportionately victimized by violence and abuse. They’re still paid less than men for doing the same work. That’s still happening. Economic opportunity, for all the magnificence of the global economy, all the shining skyscrapers that have transformed the landscape around the world, entire neighborhoods, entire cities, entire regions, entire nations have been bypassed.

In other words, for far too many people, the more things have changed, the more things stayed the same.

And while globalization and technology have opened up new opportunities and driven remarkable economic growth in previously struggling parts of the world, globalization has also upended the agricultural and manufacturing sectors in many countries. It’s also greatly reduced the demand for certain workers, has helped weaken unions and labor’s bargaining power. It’s made it easier for capital to avoid tax laws and the regulations of nation-states—can just move billions, trillions of dollars with a tap of a computer key.

The result of all these trends has been an explosion in economic inequality. It’s meant that a few dozen individuals control the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of humanity. That’s not an exaggeration; that’s a statistic. Think about that. In many middle-income and developing countries, new wealth has just tracked the old bad deal that people got, because it reinforced or even compounded existing patterns of inequality; the only difference is it created even greater opportunities for corruption on an epic scale. And for once solidly middle-class families in advanced economies like the United States, these trends have meant greater economic insecurity, especially for those who don’t have specialized skills, people who were in manufacturing, people working in factories, people working on farms.
In every country, just about, the disproportionate economic clout of those at the top has provided these individuals with wildly disproportionate influence on their countries’ political life and on its media; on what policies are pursued and whose interests end up being ignored. Now, it should be noted that this new international élite, the professional class that supports them, differs in important respects from the ruling aristocracies of old. It includes many who are self-made. It includes champions of meritocracy. And, although still mostly white and male, as a group they reflect a diversity of nationalities and ethnicities that would have not existed a hundred years ago. A decent percentage consider themselves liberal in their politics, modern and cosmopolitan in their outlook. Unburdened by parochialism, or nationalism, or overt racial prejudice or strong religious sentiment, they are equally comfortable in New York or London or Shanghai or Nairobi or Buenos Aires, or Johannesburg. Many are sincere and effective in their philanthropy. Some of them count Nelson Mandela among their heroes. Some even supported Barack Obama for the Presidency of the United States, and by virtue of my status as a former head of state, some of them consider me as an honorary member of the club. And I get invited to these fancy things, you know? They’ll fly me out.

But what’s nevertheless true is that, in their business dealings, many titans of industry and finance are increasingly detached from any single locale or nation-state, and they live lives more and more insulated from the struggles of ordinary people in their countries of origin. Their decisions to shut down a manufacturing plant, or to try to minimize their tax bill by shifting profits to a tax haven with the help of high-priced accountants or lawyers, or their decision to take advantage of lower-cost immigrant labor, or their decision to pay a bribe, are often done without malice; it’s just a rational response, they consider, to the demands of their balance sheets and their shareholders and competitive pressures.

But too often, these decisions are also made without reference to notions of human solidarity or a ground-level understanding of the consequences that will be felt by particular people in particular communities by the decisions that are made. And from their boardrooms or retreats, global decision-makers don’t get a chance to see sometimes the pain in the faces of laid-off workers. Their kids don’t suffer when cuts in public education and health care result as a consequence of a reduced tax base because of tax avoidance. They can’t hear the resentment of an older tradesman when he complains that a newcomer doesn’t speak his language on a job site where he once worked. They’re less subject to the discomfort and the displacement that some of their countrymen may feel as globalization scrambles not only existing economic arrangements but traditional social and religious mores.

Which is why, at the end of the twentieth century, while some Western commentators were declaring the end of history and the inevitable triumph of liberal democracy and the virtues of the global supply chain, so many missed signs of a brewing backlash—a backlash that arrived in so many forms. It announced itself most violently with 9/11 and the emergence of transnational terrorist networks, fuelled by an ideology that perverted one of the world’s great religions and asserted a struggle not just between Islam and the West but between Islam and modernity. An ill-advised U.S. invasion of Iraq didn’t help, accelerating a sectarian conflict.
Russia, already humiliated by its reduced influence since the collapse of the Soviet Union, feeling threatened by democratic movements along its borders, suddenly started reasserting authoritarian control and, in some cases, meddling with its neighbors. China, emboldened by its economic success, started bristling against criticism of its human-rights record; it framed the promotion of universal values as nothing more than foreign meddling, imperialism under a new name.

Within the United States, within the European Union, challenges to globalization first came from the left but then came more forcefully from the right, as you started seeing populist movements—which, by the way, are often cynically funded by right-wing billionaires intent on reducing government constraints on their business interests. These movements tapped the unease that was felt by many people who lived outside of the urban cores, fears that economic security was slipping away, that their social status and privileges were eroding, that their cultural identities were being threatened by outsiders, somebody that didn’t look like them or sound like them or pray as they did.

And, perhaps more than anything else, the devastating impact of the 2008 financial crisis, in which the reckless behavior of financial élites resulted in years of hardship for ordinary people all around the world, made all the previous assurances of experts ring hollow—all those assurances that somehow financial regulators knew what they were doing, that somebody was minding the store, that global economic integration was an unadulterated good. Because of the actions taken by governments during and after that crisis—including, I should add, by aggressive steps by my Administration—the global economy has now returned to healthy growth. But the credibility of the international system, the faith in experts in places like Washington or Brussels, all that had taken a blow.

A politics of fear and resentment and retrenchment began to appear, and that kind of politics is now on the move. It’s on the move at a pace that would have seemed unimaginable just a few years ago. I am not being alarmist. I am simply stating the facts. Look around. Strongman politics are ascendant, suddenly, whereby elections and some pretense of democracy are maintained—the form of it—but those in power seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning.

In the West, you’ve got far-right parties that oftentimes are based not just on platforms of protectionism and closed borders but also on barely hidden racial nationalism. Many developing countries now are looking at China’s model of authoritarian control, combined with mercantilist capitalism, as preferable to the messiness of democracy. Who needs free speech, as long as the economy is going good? The free press is under attack. Censorship and state control of media is on the rise. Social media—once seen as a mechanism to promote knowledge and understanding and solidarity—has proved to be just as effective promoting hatred and paranoia and propaganda and conspiracy theories.

So on Madiba’s one-hundredth birthday, we now stand at a crossroads, a moment in time when two very different visions of humanity’s future compete for the hearts and the minds of citizens around the world. Two different stories. Two different narratives about who we are and who we should be. How should we respond?

Should we see that wave of hope that we felt with Madiba’s release from prison, from the Berlin Wall coming down—should we see that hope that we had as naïve and misguided? Should we understand the last twenty-five years of global integration as nothing more than a detour from the previous inevitable cycle of history? Where might makes right, and politics is a hostile competition between tribes and races and religions, and nations compete in a zero-sum game, constantly teetering on the edge of conflict until full-blown war breaks out? Is that what we think?

Let me tell you what I believe. I believe in Nelson Mandela’s vision. I believe in a vision shared by Gandhi and King and Abraham Lincoln. I believe in a vision of equality and justice and freedom and multiracial democracy, built on the premise that all people are created equal, and they’re endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights. I believe that a world governed by such principles is possible, and that it can achieve more peace and more coöperation in pursuit of a common good. That’s what I believe.

And I believe we have no choice but to move forward, that those of us who believe in democracy and civil rights and a common humanity have a better story to tell. And I believe this not just based on sentiment. I believe it based on hard evidence:
The fact that the world’s most prosperous and successful societies, the ones with the highest living standards and the highest levels of satisfaction among their people, happen to be those which have most closely approximated the liberal, progressive ideal that we talk about and have nurtured the talents and contributions of all their citizens.

The fact that authoritarian governments have been shown, time and time again, to breed corruption, because they’re not accountable; to repress their people; to lose touch eventually with reality; to engage in bigger and bigger lies that ultimately result in economic and political and cultural and scientific stagnation. Look at history. Look at the facts.

The fact that countries which rely on rabid nationalism and xenophobia and doctrines of tribal, racial, or religious superiority as their main organizing principle, the thing that holds people together—eventually those countries find themselves consumed by civil war or external war. Check the history books.
The fact that technology cannot be put back in a bottle, so we’re stuck with the fact that we now live close together and populations are going to be moving, and environmental challenges are not going to go away on their own, so that the only way to effectively address problems like climate change or mass migration or pandemic disease will be to develop systems for more international coöperation, not less.

We have a better story to tell. But to say that our vision for the future is better is not to say that it will inevitably win. Because history also shows the power of fear. History shows the lasting hold of greed and the desire to dominate others in the minds of men. Especially men. History shows how easily people can be convinced to turn on those who look different, or worship God in a different way. So if we’re truly to continue Madiba’s long walk towards freedom, we’re going to have to work harder, and we’re going to have to be smarter. We’re going to have to learn from the mistakes of the recent past. And so, in the brief time remaining, let me just suggest a few guideposts for the road ahead, guideposts that draw from Madiba’s work, his words, the lessons of his life.

First, Madiba shows those of us who believe in freedom and democracy we are going to have to fight harder to reduce inequality and promote lasting economic opportunity for all people.

Now, I don’t believe in economic determinism. Human beings don’t live on bread alone. But they need bread. And history shows that societies which tolerate vast differences in wealth feed resentments and reduce solidarity and actually grow more slowly, and that once people achieve more than mere subsistence, then they’re measuring their well-being by how they compare to their neighbors, and whether their children can expect to live a better life. When economic power is concentrated in the hands of the few, history also shows that political power is sure to follow. That dynamic eats away at democracy. Sometimes it may be straight-out corruption, but sometimes it may not involve the exchange of money; it’s just folks who are that wealthy get what they want, and it undermines human freedom.

Madiba understood this. This is not new. He warned us about this. He said, “Where globalization means, as it so often does, that the rich and the powerful now have new means to further enrich and empower themselves at the cost of the poorer and the weaker, [then] we have a responsibility to protest in the name of universal freedom.” That’s what he said. So if we are serious about universal freedom today, if we care about social justice today, then we have a responsibility to do something about it. And I would respectfully amend what Madiba said. I don’t do it often, but I’d say it’s not enough for us to protest; we’re going to have to build, we’re going to have to innovate, we’re going to have to figure out how do we close this widening chasm of wealth and opportunity, both within countries and between them.

How we achieve this is going to vary country to country, and I know your new President is committed to rolling up his sleeves and trying to do so. But we can learn from the last seventy years that it will not involve unregulated, unbridled, unethical capitalism. It also won’t involve old-style command-and-control socialism form the top. That was tried. It didn’t work very well.

For almost all countries, progress is going to depend on an inclusive, market-based system, one that offers education for every child, that protects collective bargaining and secures the rights of every worker, that breaks up monopolies to encourage competition in small and medium-sized businesses, and has laws that root out corruption and insures fair dealing in business, that maintains some form of progressive taxation so that rich people are still rich, but they’re giving a little bit back to make sure that everybody else has something to pay for universal health care and retirement security, and invests in infrastructure and scientific research that builds platforms for innovation.

I should add, by the way, right now I’m actually surprised by how much money I got, and let me tell you something: I don’t have half as much as most of these folks, or a tenth or a hundredth. There’s only so much you can eat. There’s only so big a house you can have. There’s only so many nice trips you can take. I mean … it’s enough! You don’t have to take a vow of poverty just to say, “Well, let me help out. Let me look at that child out there who doesn’t have enough to eat or needs some school fees. Let me help him out. I’ll pay a little more in taxes. It’s O.K. I can afford it.” I mean, it shows a poverty of ambition to just want to take more and more and more.

It involves promoting an inclusive capitalism, both within nations and between nations. As we pursue, for example, the Sustainable Development Goals, we have to get past the charity mindset. We’ve got to bring more resources to the forgotten pockets of the world through investment and entrepreneurship, because there is talent everywhere in the world if given an opportunity.

When it comes to the international system of commerce and trade, it’s legitimate for poorer countries to continue to seek access to wealthier markets. . . . It’s also proper for advanced economies like the United States to insist on reciprocity from nations like China that are no longer solely poor countries, to make sure that they’re providing access to their markets and that they stop taking intellectual property and hacking our servers.

But even as there are discussions to be had around trade and commerce, it’s important to recognize this reality: while the outsourcing of jobs from north to south, from east to west, while a lot of that was a dominant trend in the late twentieth century, the biggest challenge to workers in countries like mine today is technology. The biggest challenge for your new President, when we think about how we’re going to employ more people here, is going to be also technology, because artificial intelligence is here, and it is accelerating, and you’re going to have driverless cars, and you’re going to have more and more automated services, and that’s going to make the job of giving everybody work that is meaningful tougher, and we’re going to have to be more imaginative. The pace of change is going to require us to do more fundamental reimagining of our social and political arrangements, to protect the economic security and the dignity that comes with a job. It’s not just money that a job provides; it provides dignity and structure and a sense of place and a sense of purpose. So we’re going to have to consider new ways of thinking about these problems, like a universal income, review our work week and how we retrain our young people, how we make everybody an entrepreneur at some level. We’re going to have to worry about economics if we want to get democracy back on track.

Second, Madiba teaches us that some principles really are universal, and the most important one is the principle that we are bound together by a common humanity, and that each individual has inherent dignity and worth.

It’s surprising that we have to affirm this truth today. More than a quarter century after Madiba walked out of prison, I still have to stand here at a lecture and devote some time to saying that black people and white people and Asian people and Latin American people and women and men and gays and straights, that we are all human, that our differences are superficial, and that we should treat each other with care and respect. I would have thought we would have figured that out by now. I thought that basic notion was well established. But it turns out, as we’re seeing in this recent drift into reactionary politics, that the struggle for basic justice is never truly finished. So we’ve got to constantly be on the lookout, and fight for people who seek to elevate themselves by putting somebody else down. We have to resist the notion that basic human rights like freedom to dissent, or the right of women to fully participate in the society, or the right of minorities to equal treatment, or the rights of people not to be beat up and jailed because of their sexual orientation—we have to be careful not to say that somehow, well, that doesn’t apply to us, that those are Western ideas rather than universal imperatives.

Again, Madiba anticipated things. He knew what he was talking about. In 1964, before he received the sentence that condemned him to die in prison, he explained from the dock that “the Magna Carta, the Petition of Rights, the Bill of Rights are documents which are held in veneration by democrats throughout the world.” In other words, he didn’t say, Well, those books weren’t written by South Africans, so I can’t claim them. No, he said, That’s part of my inheritance. That’s part of the human inheritance. That applies here, in this country, to me, and to you. That’s part of what gave him the moral authority that the apartheid regime could never claim. He was more familiar with their best values than they were. He had read their documents more carefully than they had. And he went on to say, “Political division based on color is entirely artificial and, when it disappears, so will the domination of one color group by another.” That’s Nelson Mandela speaking in 1964, when I was three years old.

What was true then remains true today. Basic truths do not change. It is a truth that can be embraced by the English, and by the Indian, and by the Mexican and by the Bantu and by the Luo and by the American. It is a truth that lies at the heart of every world religion—that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us. That we see ourselves in other people. That we can recognize common hopes and common dreams. And it is a truth that is incompatible with any form of discrimination based on race or religion or gender or sexual orientation. And it is a truth that, by the way, when embraced, actually delivers practical benefits, since it insures that a society can draw upon the talents and energy and skill of all its people. And, if you doubt that, just ask the French football team that just won the World Cup. Because not all of those folks look like Gauls to me. But they’re French. They’re French.

Embracing our common humanity does not mean that we have to abandon our unique ethnic and national and religious identities. Madiba never stopped being proud of his tribal heritage. He didn’t stop being proud of being a black man and being a South African. But he believed, as I believe, that you can be proud of your heritage without denigrating those of a different heritage. In fact, you dishonor your heritage. It would make me think that you’re a little insecure about your heritage if you’ve got to put somebody else’s heritage down. Don’t you get a sense sometimes that these people who are so intent on putting people down and puffing themselves up, that they’re small-hearted, that there’s something they’re just afraid of? Madiba knew that we cannot claim justice for ourselves when it’s only reserved for some. Madiba understood that we can’t say we’ve got a just society simply because we replaced the color of the person on top of an unjust system, so the person looks like us even though they’re doing the same stuff, and somehow now we’ve got justice. That doesn’t work. It’s not justice if now you’re on top, so I’m going to do the same thing that those folks were doing to me, and now I’m going to do it to you. That’s not justice. “I detest racialism,” he said, “whether it comes from a black man or a white man.”

Now, we have to acknowledge that there is disorientation that comes from rapid change and modernization, and the fact that the world has shrunk, and we’re going to have to find ways to lessen the fears of those who feel threatened. In the West’s current debate around immigration, for example, it’s not wrong to insist that national borders matter; whether you’re a citizen or not is going to matter to a government; that laws need to be followed; that, in the public realm, newcomers should make an effort to adapt to the language and customs of their new home. Those are legitimate things, and we have to be able to engage people who do feel as if things are not orderly. But that can’t be an excuse for immigration policies based on race, or ethnicity, or religion. There’s got to be some consistency. We can enforce the law while respecting the essential humanity of those who are striving for a better life. For a mother with a child in her arms, we can recognize that could be somebody in our family, that could be my child.

Third, Madiba reminds us that democracy is about more than just elections. When he was freed from prison, Madiba’s popularity—well, you couldn’t even measure it. He could have been President for life. Am I wrong? Who was going to run against him? Had he chosen to do so, Madiba could have governed by executive fiat, unconstrained by check and balances. But instead he helped guide South Africa through the drafting of a new constitution, drawing from all the institutional practices and democratic ideals that had proven to be most sturdy, mindful of the fact that no single individual possesses a monopoly on wisdom. No individual—not Mandela, not Obama—are entirely immune to the corrupting influences of absolute power, if you can do whatever you want and everyone’s too afraid to tell you when you’re making a mistake. No one is immune from the dangers of that.

Mandela understood this. He said, “Democracy is based on the majority principle. This is especially true in a country such as ours, where the vast majority have been systematically denied their rights. At the same time, democracy also requires the rights of political and other minorities be safeguarded.” He understood it’s not just about who has the most votes. It’s also about the civic culture that we build that makes democracy work.

We have to stop pretending that countries that just hold an election where sometimes the winner somehow magically gets ninety per cent of the vote, because all the opposition is locked up or can’t get on TV, is a democracy. Democracy depends on strong institutions, and it’s about minority rights and checks and balances, and freedom of speech and freedom of expression and a free press, and the right to protest and petition the government, and an independent judiciary, and everybody having to follow the law.

And, yes, democracy can be messy, and it can be slow, and it can be frustrating. But the efficiency that’s offered by an autocrat, that’s a false promise. . . . It leads invariably to more consolidation of wealth at the top and power at the top, and it makes it easier to conceal corruption and abuse. For all its imperfections, real democracy best upholds the idea that government exists to serve the individual, and not the other way around. And it is the only form of government that has the possibility of making that idea real.

So for those of us who are interested in strengthening democracy, it’s time for us to stop paying all of our attention to the world’s capitals and the centers of power, and to start focussing more on the grassroots, because that’s where democratic legitimacy comes from. Not from the top down, not from abstract theories, not just from experts, but from the bottom up. Knowing the lives of those who are struggling.

As a community organizer, I learned as much from a laid-off steelworker in Chicago or a single mom in a poor neighborhood that I visited as I learned from the finest economists in the Oval Office. Democracy means being in touch and in tune with life as it’s lived in our communities, and that’s what we should expect from our leaders, and it depends upon cultivating leaders at the grassroots who can help bring about change and implement it on the ground and can tell leaders in fancy buildings this isn’t working down here.

To make democracy work, Madiba shows us that we also have to keep teaching our children, and ourselves, to engage with people not only who look different but who hold different views. This is hard.

Most of us prefer to surround ourselves with opinions that validate what we already believe. You notice the people who you think are smart are the people who agree with you. Funny how that works. But democracy demands that we’re able also to get inside the reality of people who are different than us so we can understand their point of view. Maybe we can change their minds, but maybe they’ll change ours. And you can’t do this if you just out of hand disregard what your opponents have to say from the start. And you can’t do it if you insist that those who aren’t like you—because they’re white, or because they’re male—that somehow there’s no way they can understand what I’m feeling, that somehow they lack standing to speak on certain matters.

Madiba lived this complexity. In prison, he studied Afrikaans so that he could better understand the people who were jailing him. And when he got out of prison he extended a hand to those who had jailed him, because he knew that they had to be a part of the democratic South Africa that he wanted to build. “To make peace with an enemy,” he wrote, “one must work with that enemy, and that enemy becomes one’s partner.”

So those who traffic in absolutes when it comes to policy, whether it’s on the left or the right, they make democracy unworkable. You can’t expect to get a hundred per cent of what you want all the time; sometimes you have to compromise. That doesn’t mean abandoning your principles, but instead it means holding on to those principles and then having the confidence that they’re going to stand up to a serious democratic debate. That’s how America’s founders intended our system to work: that through the testing of ideas and the application of reason and proof it would be possible to arrive at a basis for common ground.

I should add: for this to work, we have to actually believe in an objective reality. This is another one of these things that I didn’t have to lecture about. You have to believe in facts. Without facts, there is no basis for coöperation. If I say this is a podium and you say this is an elephant, it’s going to be hard for us to coöperate. I can find common ground for those who oppose the Paris Accords because, for example, they might say, Well, it’s not going to work; you can’t get everybody to coöperate. Or they might say it’s more important for us to provide cheap energy for the poor, even if it means in the short term that there’s more pollution. At least I can have a debate with them about that, and I can show them why I think clean energy is the better path, especially for poor countries, that you can leapfrog old technologies. I can’t find common ground if somebody says climate change is just not happening, when almost all of the world’s scientists tell us it is. I don’t know where to start talking to you about this. If you start saying it’s an elaborate hoax, where do we start?

Unfortunately, too much of politics today seems to reject the very concept of objective truth. People just make stuff up. We see it in state-sponsored propaganda. We see it in Internet-driven fabrications. We see it in the blurring of lines between news and entertainment. We see the utter loss of shame among political leaders, where they’re caught in a lie and they just double down and they lie some more. Politicians have always lied, but it used to be, if you caught them lying, they’d be, like, “Oh, man.” Now they just keep on lying. . . .

I don’t think of myself as a great leader just because I don’t completely make stuff up. You’d think that was a baseline. Anyway, we see it in the promotion of anti-intellectualism and the rejection of science from leaders who find critical thinking and data somehow politically inconvenient. And, as with the denial of rights, the denial of facts runs counter to democracy. It could be its undoing, which is why we must zealously protect independent media. We have to guard against the tendency for social media to become purely a platform for spectacle, outrage, or disinformation. We have to insist that our schools teach critical thinking to our young people, not just blind obedience.

Which, I’m sure you are thankful for, leads to my final point: we have to follow Madiba’s example of persistence and of hope. It is tempting to give in to cynicism: to believe that recent shifts in global politics are too powerful to push back, that the pendulum has swung permanently. Just as people spoke about the triumph of democracy in the nineties, now you are hearing people talk about the end of democracy and the triumph of tribalism and the strongman. We have to resist that cynicism. Because we’ve been through darker times; we’ve been in lower valleys and deeper valleys.

Yes, by the end of his life, Madiba embodied the successful struggle for human rights, but the journey was not easy. It wasn’t pre-ordained. The man went to prison for almost three decades. He split limestone in the heat, he slept in a small cell, and was repeatedly put in solitary confinement. I remember talking to some of his former colleagues saying how they hadn’t realized, when they were released, just the sight of a child, the idea of holding a child, they had missed—it wasn’t something available to them, for decades.

And yet his power actually grew during those years—and the power of his jailers diminished, because he knew that, if you stick to what’s true, if you know what’s in your heart, and you’re willing to sacrifice for it, even in the face of overwhelming odds, that it might not happen tomorrow, it might not happen in the next week, it might not even happen in your lifetime. Things may go backwards for a while, but, ultimately, right makes might, not the other way around. Ultimately, the better story can win out, and, as strong as Madiba’s spirit may have been, he would not have sustained that hope had he been alone in the struggle. Part of what buoyed him up was that he knew that, each year, the ranks of freedom fighters were replenishing, young men and women, here in South African, in the A.N.C. and beyond, black and Indian and white, from across the countryside, across the continent, around the world, who in those most difficult days would keep working on behalf of his vision.
And that’s what we need right now. We don’t just need one leader; we don’t just need one inspiration. What we badly need right now is that collective spirit. And I know that those young people, those hope carriers, are gathering around the world. Because history shows that, whenever progress is threatened, and the things we care about most are in question, we should heed the words of Robert Kennedy—spoken here in South Africa—he said, “Our answer is the world’s hope: it is to rely on youth. It’s to rely on the spirit of the young.”

So, young people who are in the audience, who are listening, my message to you is simple: keep believing, keep marching, keep building, keep raising your voice. Every generation has the opportunity to remake the world. Mandela said, “Young people are capable, when aroused, of bringing down the towers of oppression and raising the banners of freedom.” Now is a good time to be aroused. Now is a good time to be fired up. And, for those of us who care about the legacy that we honor here today—about equality and dignity and democracy and solidarity and kindness, those of us who remain young at heart, if not in body—we have an obligation to help our youth succeed. Some of you know, here in South Africa, my foundation is convening over the last few days two hundred young people from across this continent who are doing the hard work of making change in their communities, who reflect Madiba’s values, who are poised to lead the way.

People like Abaas Mpindi, a journalist from Uganda, who founded the Media Challenge Initiative to help other young people get the training they need to tell the stories that the world needs to know.

People like Caren Wakoli, an entrepreneur from Kenya who founded the Emerging Leaders Foundation to get young people involved in the work of fighting poverty and promoting human dignity.

People like Enock Nkulanga, who directs the African Children’s Mission, which helps children in Uganda and Kenya get the education that they need and then, in his spare time, Enock advocates for the rights of children around the globe, and founded an organization called LeadMinds Africa, which does exactly what it says.

You meet these people, you talk to them, they will give you hope. They are taking the baton; they know they can’t just rest on the accomplishments of the past, even the accomplishments of those as momentous as Nelson Mandela’s. They stand on the shoulders of those who came before, including that young black boy born a hundred years ago, but they know that it is now their turn to do the work.

Madiba reminds us, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and, if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart.” Love comes more naturally to the human heart; let’s remember that truth. Let’s see it as our North Star, let’s be joyful in our struggle to make that truth manifest here on Earth, so that, in a hundred years from now, future generations will look back and say, “They kept the march going. That’s why we live under new banners of freedom.” Thank you very much, South Africa. Thank you.

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July 19, 2018 at 01:46AM

No, Mr. President, Montenegro is Not Going to Start the Third World War

No, Mr. President, Montenegro is Not Going to Start the Third World War

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In the dozen years since it broke away from Serbia, Montenegro, a scenic little country on the Adriatic with fewer than seven hundred thousand people, has probably never had so much attention. On Tuesday, the Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson asked President Trump why, if Montenegro were attacked, his son should have to go defend it. Montenegro is the newest member of NATO; it just marked one year of membership. “I’ve asked the same question,” the President replied. “Montenegro is a tiny country with very strong people. They’re very aggressive people. They may get aggressive, and, congratulations, you’re in World War Three.”

Fresh off his NATO summit, President Trump somehow still does not know the basic idea behind the world’s most powerful military alliance—or much about geography either. First of all, Montenegro is far from being aggressive, and it has deployed troops to support the NATO mission in Afghanistan since 2010—seven years before it gained membership in the Western alliance. The President also apparently does not read statements sent out in his name. In April of last year, after the U.S. ratified Montenegro’s membership, a White House release stated, “President Trump congratulates the Montenegrin people for their resilience and their demonstrated commitment to NATO’s democratic values.”

Trump’s comment sparked both bewilderment and outrage. “I have no idea where Trump gets the idea Montenegro is ‘very aggressive,’ ” Ivo Daalder, a former U.S. Ambassador to NATO and now president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, told me. “It’s been independent twelve years and never even came close to starting any war. In fact, two years ago, months before Montenegro would accede to NATO, a Moscow-backed coup attempt sought to prevent it from joining the Alliance. If there’s been aggression, it’s come from Moscow, not Montenegro.” The failed coup was a Russian effort to prevent Montenegro, once a part of communist Yugoslavia, from aligning with the West.

Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican, tweeted a scathing rebuke of Trump for playing into the hands of Russian President Vladimir Putin—again. “The people of #Montenegro boldly withstood pressure from #Putin’s Russia to embrace democracy,” McCain wrote. “The Senate voted 97-2 supporting its accession to #NATO. By attacking Montenegro & questioning our obligations under NATO, the President is playing right into Putin’s hands.”

During his interview with Trump, Carlson phrased his question correctly in terms of what joining NATO means. “Membership in NATO obligates the members to defend any other member that’s attacked,” Carlson told Trump. The President then showed his ignorance about NATO’s mission—and the difference between defense and offense—by suggesting that the United States would have to back Montenegro if it launched a military offensive. (It’s an unlikely prospect anyway, given its size—smaller than Connecticut—and population.)

NATO is a defensive alliance. It always has been,” Douglas Lute, a former three-star general, Ambassador to NATO and National Security Council staffer in both the George W. Bush and Obama Administrations, told me. “If one of the member states is the target of an armed attack, then the others are obliged to come to its assistance. There’s no obligation to support offensive operations.”

NATO has invoked Article 5 of its treaty only once—after the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington. “As part of their obligation, members of the alliance came to our assistance, and that plays out today, including by small countries like Montenegro,” Lute said. The war in Afghanistan—America’s longest foreign war ever—rages on, with sixteen thousand NATO personnel still involved. In contrast, the U.S. war in Iraq was an offensive initiative that NATO did not have to support—and didn’t.

Nicholas Burns, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO, called Trump’s comments “reckless and ill-informed” and said they cast doubt on the U.S.’s willingness to lead the alliance. “Deterrence against a potential aggressor works when the credibility of the U.S. is clear and strong,” Burns told me. “Trump has now muddied the waters with his deeply unfortunate comments. He is playing into Putin’s hands. Putin wants to divide the U.S. from its allies and to weaken NATO.”

Of the thirteen Presidents who have embraced NATO—as it has grown from twelve nations, in 1949, to twenty-nine nations today—Trump’s commitment is “by far” the weakest, Burns told me. “I fear he is damaging both American credibility and the NATO alliance.”

Trump’s remarks follow the tense annual NATO summit in Brussels last week, where he insulted the German Chancellor and demanded that NATO members at least double their defense spending. “What his off-the-cuff comment reveals is that he really does doubt the value of NATO,” Lute said. “Despite his claims to the contrary, this reveals a deep doubt and deeply held suspicion of the value of the alliance and Article 5.”

The President’s insult to Montenegro is not the first. Last year, Trump was caught abruptly elbowing aside the Montenegrin Prime Minister, Duško Marković, when the leaders of NATO countries assembled for a group photograph. He did not acknowledge Marković—or apologize. The video went viral.

The feeling is mutual among some Montenegrins. I visited the mountainous country in May, 2016, as the U.S. election was heating up. One afternoon, I walked up a rock-strewn path to the Church of Our Lady of Remedy, which dates back to the sixteenth century. The site offers a breathtaking view of the Bay of Kotor. On the way up, I had to buy a ticket for access to the area. As I handed over five euros, the young ticket-taker asked, “Are you American?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“Please,” he told me, “Don’t vote for Donald Trump.” That sentiment has almost certainly increased since the President suggested Montenegro could start a third World War.

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July 19, 2018 at 01:46AM

New York City Looks to Crack Down on Airbnb Amid Housing Crisis

New York City Looks to Crack Down on Airbnb Amid Housing Crisis

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The New York City Council voted unanimously on Wednesday to significantly restrict Airbnb and other online home rental services, joining a growing movement of cities around the globe in stepping up regulation of the so-called sharing economy.

The bill aims to prevent landlords and tenants from illegally renting out apartments for a few days at a time to tourists, a phenomenon that the city says has aggravated the housing crisis by making short-term rentals more profitable than long-term leases.

Online rental services like Airbnb and HomeAway would be required to provide the addresses and names of hosts to the city’s Office of Special Enforcement every month, and to note whether rentals are for a whole apartment or just a room.

If the bill is signed into law, New York will join cities like San Francisco, New Orleans, Barcelona, Spain, and Vancouver, British Columbia, in regulating companies that profit from facilitating short-term rentals.

New York City is Airbnb’s largest domestic market, but under state law, it is illegal in most buildings for an apartment to be rented out for less than 30 days unless the permanent tenant is residing in the apartment at the same time. The new disclosure requirements would make it much easier for the city to enforce the state law and could lead to many of the 50,000 units rented through Airbnb in the city coming off the market. After similar rules went into effect in San Francisco, listings fell by half.

“The vacancy rate in New York City is very low,” Council Speaker Corey Johnson said before the vote. “We’re in an affordable housing crisis. We’re in a homelessness crisis. And Airbnb will not give us this data.”

A City Hall spokeswoman said the new restrictions had the support of Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has made affordable housing one of his priorities, and he is expected to sign the bill into law.

Companies will face fines of up to $1,500 for each listing they fail to disclose, down from the $25,000 originally proposed.

Airbnb opposed the bill, arguing that it would hurt everyday New Yorkers who were renting spare rooms in their apartments to make ends meet. Throughout the debate over the bill, the company accused City Council members of kowtowing to the hotel industry. Last month Airbnb published a list of City Council members and how much the hotel industry had contributed to each of their campaigns.

“After taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the hotel industry, we’re not surprised the City Council refused to meet with their own constituents who rely on home sharing to pay the bills and then voted to protect the profits of big hotels,” Liz DeBold Fusco, a spokeswoman for Airbnb, said in a statement, adding that the bill would violate the privacy of the sites’ users and subject them to “unchecked, aggressive harassment.”

The question of what would be best for “ordinary New Yorkers” was at the heart of the debate.

A report from the School of Urban Planning at McGill University, commissioned by the hotel workers’ union, found that nearly half of the New York City rental revenue on Airbnb was earned by 10 percent of hosts in the city, undercutting the company’s argument that regular New Yorkers benefit widely from short-term rentals.

“Occasional hosts might be the numerical majority of hosts, but they account for a surprisingly small proportion of the actual rental activity on Airbnb and earn a surprisingly small proportion of the actual revenue,” the report said.

An April report from the City Comptroller’s Office found that Airbnb was exacerbating the city’s affordable housing crisis, especially in crowded or gentrifying neighborhoods like Greenpoint, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Chelsea and Midtown. Over all, renters paid an additional $616 million in 2016 because of Airbnb, according to the report.

Airbnb disputed the methodology of both reports, accusing the McGill authors of having an “anti-home-sharing bias.” And on Wednesday, the day of the City Council vote, an Airbnb host sued the city, alleging retaliation for speaking out in support of home-sharing in June. Airbnb is financing the host’s suit.

City officials said the bill focused primarily on large-scale commercial landlords who were gaming the system.

“Yes, sometimes it’s the common New Yorker,” said Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, who introduced the bill. “But many times, especially in my district, these are landlords who are taking rent-regulated units out of the housing stock because they’d rather get a lot more money per night.”

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July 19, 2018 at 01:06AM

Millennials Spend a Bunch on Uber but Are Shifting Their Business Toward Lyft

Millennials Spend a Bunch on Uber but Are Shifting Their Business Toward Lyft

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There are a lot of stereotypes thrown around about millennials. We’re lazy, in-debt, killing the napkin industry and love our avocado toast. And while there may be some truth in some of those generalizations, one thing’s for sure, we are increasingly using ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft.

Money managing app Empower has compiled data on millennials’ spending habits when it comes to transportation. The company took anonymized transaction data from 50,000 of those aged 22 to 37, and found that some are spending more than $100 a month on Uber. However, the average person in the US spends about $62 a month on ride-hailing services (and that’s only counting Lyft and Uber).

These apps are getting significant business throughout the course of a year, Empower told TPG. The average Uber rider spent $691 on the service in the last 12 months while the average Lyft user doled out $638 over the same time period. It’s just another sign young city dwellers are ditching their cars and relying on the sharing economy.

We chose a handful of cities to highlight, and you can see that in more expensive, higher-density cities, Uber and Lyft are quite popular. Millennials spend more than $100 a month in San Francisco on Uber alone. Places where it’s more feasible to own a car like Phoenix and Austin have a much lower rate of spend.

If you’re not already, make sure you’re using a card that earns bonus points on ride-hailing purchases — like the Chase Sapphire ReserveChase Sapphire Preferred or Citi ThankYou Premier.

City Average Spent on Uber Average Spent on Lyft
San Francisco $110 $89
Boston $95 $55
New York $84 $54
Fort Lauderdale  $46  $85
Washington DC $79 $46
Philadelphia $73 $46
Los Angeles $64 $48
Austin $48 $37
Denver $38 $40
Phoenix $30 $40

Spend on Lyft has increased significantly over the last 12 months, by a whole 36%, despite being “marginally more expensive than Uber.” This trend mirrors Lyft’s rapid revenue increase last year, which grew 2.75 times faster than Uber’s in the Q4 2017.

In the last month, the average price for a Lyft ride across the nation was $8.80 while Uber priced in at $8.50. Based on these prices, a person is taking Uber about 7 times a month and Lyft about 6 times per month. 

Featured image courtesy of Uber.

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July 19, 2018 at 01:01AM

5 Ways to Explore Newport, Rhode Island This Summer

5 Ways to Explore Newport, Rhode Island This Summer

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As part of a series on long weekend getaways, we’re showing you how to make the most of your summer Fridays, school breaks and the season’s extra-long days. Check back every week for inspired itineraries and easy escapes.

If you’re seeking a nautical New England getaway that’s not the crowded Cape Cod, look no further than Newport, Rhode Island’s historic waterfront playground.

Just an hour and half drive from Boston, three and half hours from New York City or a short ferry ride from Providence, Newport has lobster on lockdown, beautiful beaches and extravagant mansions. Made famous during the Gilded Age as the place where wealthy families like the Vanderbilts could build grand summer mansions, today Newport welcomes travelers of all stripes with a range of elegant hotels, seafood-driven restaurants and seasonal activities.

Block off a long weekend and bookmark this guide for a perfect coastal New England getaway in Newport this summer.

Sleep on an island

(Photo courtesy of Gurney
(Photo courtesy of Gurney’s Newport Resort & Marina)

The only hotel on Goat Island, Gurney’s Newport Resort & Marina has something for everyone, including two resident goats that guests can feed and pet. The resort also has indoor and outdoor swimming pools, plenty of lounge areas (including hammocks) with views of Narragansett Bay, the luxurious Seawater Spa and salon and an outpost of the tasty Italian restaurant Scarpetta overlooking Newport Harbor. With two lively bars (one poolside) and a coffee shop, as well as daily activities such as yoga and pilates, guests can easily spend all day at the resort and be perfectly content. Not to worry, though — getting into town is as easy as walking or cycling (the resort has bikes to borrow) across the bridge, or taking the resort’s boat or van shuttle.

Use the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and book your room at Gurney’s Newport at Hotels.com/Venture to get 10x miles on your stay. And don’t forget that the Hotels.com Rewards program gets you one free night for every 10 paid nights you stay, effectively boosting your return to 20% when you pay with the Venture card.

Go for a walk

One of Newport’s finest attractions is its gorgeous Cliff Walk, stretching from the western end of Easton’s, or First Beach, to the east end of Bailey’s Beach. The wildflower-strewn path, which is a National Recreation Trail inside a National Historic District, stretches for 3.5 miles, and is not particularly strenuous. The walk combines the natural beauty of the rugged shoreline with the architectural history of Newport, as many historic mansions are passed along the way.

Newport is famous for these over-the-top, so-called “summer cottages” built for the wealthy families of the Gilded Age. After glimpsing them from the Cliff Walk, step inside a few to see how the one percent lived at the turn of the century. Start at the gorgeous new Breakers Welcome Center, which assists visitors in navigating the area’s various mansions and tours. While the Vanderbilt family’s The Breakers is one of the most famous mansions, other favorites include the gleaming white, Versailles-inspired Marble House, the Rosecliff — commissioned by a silver heiress — and the Richard Morris Hunt-designed Belcourt, which is currently undergoing a multi-year, multimillion-dollar renovation but remains open.

Devour the seafood 

Photo courtesy of The Newport Lobster Shack.
Photo courtesy of The Newport Lobster Shack.

Being on the water and all, Newport obviously excels at seafood. From lobster in various forms (try it at the Newport Lobster Shack) to clam chowder and oysters plucked straight from the Bay at Benjamin’s Raw Bar, the most difficult part about a long weekend in Newport may be deciding what to order. Travelers can also seek out clam cakes, a Rhode Island specialty, at Flo’s Clam Bar.

Newport also excels at breakfast (try Cru Cafe, Belle’s Cafe in the Newport Shipyard and Salvation Café, all of which require early rising to avoid long lines) and it’s home to Mission, one of the best burger joints in the country. One of the oldest restaurants in the United States (White Horse Tavern, which dates back to 1673) is in Newport, and so are some splurge-worthy fine dining options, which all have stellar ocean views (The Spiced Pear, Castle Hill Inn Restaurant and The Vanderbilt Grill, to name a few).

Take to the water 

(Photo by EdoTealdi/Getty Images)
(Photo by EdoTealdi/Getty Images)

Whether it’s simply lounging on the beach or sailing the Narragansett Bay, Newport is a nautical city at heart. For prime beach-going, head to Easton’s or First Beach where most of the action (and food) is, or Gooseberry Beach, which is set back in a calm cove. For a quieter shoreline, try Reject’s Beach. It’s the part of the private Bailey’s Beach that’s not roped off, although few know about it.

Sailing the Newport Harbor is a must as, after all, Newport is known as the Sailing Capital of the World. Visitors can enjoy ogling the opulent yachts just as much as feeling the wind run through their hair. Tours and charters are available, many of which depart from Bowen’s Ferry Landing or Bannister’s Wharf.

Tour the museums 

Though Newport may be best known for its museum-like mansions, Newport is also home to several first-class museums, which feature collections dedicated to the arts, sports and even classic cars.

The Newport Art Museum, for example, has works by Dale Chihuly, Gilbert Stuart, Rita Rogers and more, which a special focus on American artists from or invested in the area’s arts scene. At the International Tennis Hall of Fame, where the first US National Tennis Championships were held in 1881, visitors will find the nation’s oldest continuously-used grass courts (and they can even reserve one to play on). The museum, which has more than 15,000 items in its collection, hosts the Tennis Hall of Fame induction ceremony and various summer tennis tournaments. And next door is the Audrain Automobile Museum, which houses a rotating display of cars from 1899 to present day. The current exhibition, for example, features a mix of playful vehicles fit for driving along Ocean Drive in the summer. (Think: a 1959 coral-colored Fiat 600 Jolly with wicker seats; a petite 1957 Inter 175A Berline Microcar from an aeronautical company; and a sexy 2018 McLaren 720S.)

Feature image by DenisTangneyJr/Getty Images.

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July 19, 2018 at 12:15AM

In Celebrating Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama Indicts Trumpism

In Celebrating Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama Indicts Trumpism

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Like a mad experiment proving the elasticity of time, the Trump era has confounded our temporal sensibilities. The past seven days have witnessed the hostile questioning of an F.B.I. agent by Republican members of the House of Representatives intent on exonerating the Trump campaign from the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation; Mueller’s indictment of twelve Russian intelligence officials on charges of interfering in the 2016 election; a bizarre set of exchanges between Donald Trump and NATO; a visit to the United Kingdom, during which the President insulted Prime Minister Theresa May; a press conference in Helsinki, in which he all but offered President Vladimir Putin a foot massage; and the arrest of a Russian woman with ties to the National Rifle Association on charges of espionage. This level of intrigue would be overwrought for a season of “Homeland”; as a moment in our national affairs it is vertigo-inducing.

Thus, on Tuesday, when Barack Obama walked onto a stage in Johannesburg to deliver the 2018 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, commemorating the centenary of the former South African President’s birth, he offered the sharpest possible contrast between himself and his successor—between statesman and demagogue—and, crucially, the distinction between a man who grasps history as the living context of our lives and one unburdened by the knowledge of how we arrived at the present and what that means for the future. President Obama was elegant and effortlessly charismatic in ways that recalled the finer occasions of his political tenure. He spoke fully aware of his status as the most credible living representative of American interests. But that charm and self-assuredness were also discordant amid the political alarms sounding in the background. These are “strange and uncertain times,” Obama noted at the outset of the lecture. Some observers had speculated that he might finally strike back at the many assaults on his character that Trump has made since taking office. But he chose not to criticize Trump—at least not explicitly. (“Politicians have always lied,” Obama said, and then added, to laughter and applause from the audience, “But it used to be that if you caught them lying they’d be, like, ‘Oh, man.’ Now they just keep lying.”) Instead, he dissected the forces that created the bedlam parade for which Trump serves as drum major.

The uncertainties that Obama mentioned are the product of a specific history, one that framed both Mandela’s life and his own emergence, first as a President and now as a figure of global influence. It is the narrative that connects the catastrophe of the First World War and the rise of fascism to the anti-colonial and civil-rights movements that took root during the Second World War and the geopolitical complications of the Cold War. Obama’s view of the twentieth century is one marked not only by titanic tragedy but also by the human capacity to learn from such tragedies and author newer, wiser paths toward progress. That tendency did not produce utopia, but, in his telling, “even when those human rights were violated, those who did so were on the defensive.” The best evidence of this doctrine of progress lay in the fact that here stood one black man, who served as the President of a nation once riven by Jim Crow, speaking in tribute to another black man, who served as the President of a nation once riven by apartheid.

The twenty-first century has taken another path: the emergence of a transnational ultra-élite, combined with the declining regulation of financial industries, created the conditions that wrecked the global economy a decade ago, and facilitated the surge of a nationalist bigotry and populism. The best evidence for that argument was also onstage in Johannesburg: Obama was there showing deference to one of the great moral visionaries of the twentieth century; a day earlier, in Helsinki, Trump had adopted a similar posture in regard to a present-day autocrat whose critics have a way of periodically turning up dead. Mostly, Obama’s performance highlighted how comforting it is to listen to a leader whose ideas form a coherent world view, even if you don’t always agree with it. Trump is governed by some algorithmic factor of ego, fear, impulse, greed, and the suasion of random celebrity petition; cogent analysis of social and historical dynamics seems to fare nowhere in his thinking.

Obama did not mention Trump in Johannesburg, but he didn’t need to. He praised the stabilizing influence of nuclear détente and of “a unified Europe anchored in NATO.” He cited the benefits of workers’ rights and immigration. He decried xenophobia, attacks on the press, anti-intellectualism, and the denial of science. “I can’t find common ground if somebody says climate change is just not happening, when almost all of the world’s scientists tell us it is,” he said. “If you start saying it’s an elaborate hoax, I don’t know what to—where do we start?” In the statement that drew the most comment, he warned, “Strongman politics are ascendant suddenly, whereby elections and some pretense of democracy are maintained—the form of it—but those in power seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning.”

As a rhetorical display, Obama’s speech was nearly flawless, though his suggestion, in what he called an ad-libbed aside, that the global élites—whose prerogatives have created a staggering degree of inequality not only between nations but within societies—should define ambition by the number of lives they can positively affect seemed almost quaint. It was an offering reminiscent of the social-gospel advocates of the robber-baron era (and, perhaps, of his own reticence in calling out attempted interference before the 2016 election). It’s difficult to criticize someone whose idealism led to the first black Presidency of the United States for failing to adequately consider our potential for selfishness and tribalism. When the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth was once asked why he had helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, he said it was because “rattlesnakes don’t commit suicide.” The comment stood in harsh contrast to the lofty rhetoric that is most closely associated with the civil-rights movement, but it was a more honest rendering of the nature of that struggle than many. The moment we inhabit is no less alarming.

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July 18, 2018 at 11:58PM

Score Lufthansa First Class for $1,051 + 19,000 Miles With LifeMiles Transfer Bonus

Score Lufthansa First Class for $1,051 + 19,000 Miles With LifeMiles Transfer Bonus

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Now through July 24, you’ll get 100% bonus miles when transferring Avianca LifeMiles to friends and family. Transferring miles costs $15 per 1,000 miles transferred, so if you have existing LifeMiles or at least one Citi ThankYou Rewards credit card, you’ll effectively be able to mint LifeMiles for just 1.5 cents per mile.

How does this work? Let’s step through the process to show how it can be an excellent opportunity for couples or friends to score some fantastic premium cabin redemptions — even if you’ve never heard of “LifeMiles” before now.

First, the basics. LifeMiles is a transfer partner of ThankYou Rewards (instantaneous transfer time), which means even if you don’t already have LifeMiles, you can get some quickly just by transferring ThankYou points. In addition, LifeMiles has a miles+cash booking option that allows you to purchase as much as 78% of the miles you need during the process of booking at a rate of just 1.5 cents per mile.

Combine these two elements with this transfer promotion and LifeMiles’ reasonable redemption rates (plus low taxes and fees), and that means right now you can book:

  • Business Class One-Way to Europe: 14,000 ThankYou Points + $766 total out-of-pocket
  • First Class One-Way to Europe: 19,000 ThankYou Points + $1,051 total out-of-pocket

Business Class to Europe

Here’s an example of how this can work in practice. Say you’re a couple that wants to fly business class to Europe. LifeMiles charges 63,000 per person for the one-way business class flight, for a total of 126,000 LifeMiles.

Start by transferring as little as 28,000 ThankYou points to one traveler’s LifeMiles account. Then, transfer these 28,000 points to the other person’s account, paying $420 to get 28,000 bonus miles.

That gives you with a total of 56,000 LifeMiles, which is still 70,000 miles short of the miles needed for two travelers. However, even if you don’t have enough LifeMiles, you can begin booking and use the LifeMiles + Money option to buy the remaining 70,000 miles for $1,050 a rate of 1.5 cents per mile:

In total, you’ll spend 28,000 ThankYou Points and pay a $420 transfer cost to produce another 28,000 miles, plus $1,050 for 70,000 miles and $61 in taxes/fees, for a total of $1,531 out of pocket to purchase two one-way business class flights to Europe.

Note that that’s using the least number of ThankYou points and buying the rest of the LifeMiles at 1.5 cents each. You can decrease your out-of-pocket cost by transferring more ThankYou points.

Lufthansa First Class to Europe

Now let’s run through the same example, but in first class. Avianca LifeMiles are especially valuable to use for booking Lufthansa First Class, as the program doesn’t pass along the pricey Lufthansa carrier surcharges. LifeMiles charges 87,000 miles for one-way first class awards between the US and Europe, and taxes and fees only add around $31 per person.

To get started, you’ll want to transfer at least 38,000 ThankYou Points to one account. By then transferring these miles to another account, you’ll effectively purchase 38,000 more miles for $570. Next, head to LifeMiles and book two one-way Lufthansa first class tickets for $1,531 plus the 76,000 LifeMiles you’ve generated so far. All in, you’ll pay 38,000 ThankYou points plus $2,101 for two first class award tickets to Europe.

Or, let’s say that you start with 54,000 ThankYou points from signing up for and spending $4,000 in the first three months on the Citi ThankYou Premier Card. You can transfer these points to LifeMiles and then transfer them again to your traveling companion with the transfer bonus for a cost of $810. Then use those 108,000 LifeMiles plus $1,140 out-of-pocket during booking to get two one-way Lufthansa first class tickets to Europe for $1,950 total out-of-pocket with one credit card sign-up bonus.

Bottom Line

LifeMiles is a program many beginner and immediate miles collectors may have never heard of or are afraid to start using. Considering the complexities of the program in the past, that’s completely fair. However, LifeMiles’ online booking system has improved significantly, and the program offers truly excellent redemption options, both for mileage cost and out-of-pocket cost. So, it’s certainly worth considering if you’re looking to book some excellent awards.

If buying LifeMiles at 1.5 cents per mile sounds good, don’t forget that you can mine LifeMiles for as little as 1.39 cents per mile through “Club LifeMiles”. The monthly subscription plan lets you buy either 80,000 or 112,000 miles per year through monthly purchases.

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July 18, 2018 at 11:30PM

New York City Will Compel Airbnb to Report Information on Hosts

New York City Will Compel Airbnb to Report Information on Hosts

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Airbnb Inc. will need to share the names and addresses of hosts in New York City with officials thanks to a new law, the latest setback for the home-rental company in one of the world’s largest tourism destinations.

The law, which passed 45-to-0 in a city council vote Wednesday, is designed to help enforce existing rules banning short-term rentals. Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he supports the bill. Earlier in the day an Airbnb host backed financially by the company filed a lawsuit against New York City, accusing officials of retaliating against him for speaking out in support of home rentals.

Chris Lehane, head of global policy at Airbnb, said the policy will subject innocent hosts to over-policing and violates their privacy. Lehane, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton, lashed out at the council in a conference call with reporters and accused the bill’s supporters of putting the interests of hotel owners and unions above regular New Yorkers. “This is a bill that really is designed to benefit the hotel industry,” he said.

The debate over Airbnb’s role in New York has raged for years, with housing advocates saying short-term rentals contribute to rising rents and gentrification, while the company argues it helps homeowners afford their mortgages. Regulation hasn’t stopped the rise of the San Francisco-based company, which is valued at about $31 billion and has faced resistance from local governments practically since it started a decade ago.

“This is about preserving as much affordable housing and housing stock as possible,” said Carlina Rivera, the councilwoman who introduced the bill. Before she was a politician, Rivera worked as a housing advocate and helped tenants who had been pushed out of their apartments by rising rents. “I would hear stories all the time of landlords that were hoarding apartments, that were running illegal hotels,” she said.

Council speaker Corey Johnson has led criticism of Airbnb for years, framing it as a way for property managers to escape taxes and safety regulations. New York City has been tightening rules on sites like Airbnb under de Blasio, including strengthening a ban on rentals lasting less than 30 days.

Despite Lehane’s protests, Airbnb played down the effect that the New York law would have on its business. “Most of our revenue is really coming from a much, much larger group of cities,” Lehane said. “This is not going to have an impact on us from a broader business perspective.”

–With assistance from Henry Goldman.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P. This article was written by Olivia Zaleski and Gerrit De Vynck from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Photo Credit: Airbnb Inc. will need to share the names and addresses of hosts in New York City with officials thanks to a new law. Ron Antonelli / Bloomberg

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July 18, 2018 at 10:11PM

Norwegian Cruise Line Is Moving Its Built-for-China Ship to the U.S.

Norwegian Cruise Line Is Moving Its Built-for-China Ship to the U.S.

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A little more than a year ago, Norwegian Cruise Line was celebrating its first China-based ship, Norwegian Joy, at a ceremony in Shanghai. Everything at the christening — ship included — had been customized for the market: the hull art, featuring a phoenix; the choreographed dance; the guest list; and the godfather, pop star Wang Leehom, who gave a performance.

“After years spent carefully designing this amazing vessel, my team and I are both proud and thrilled to finally christen the world’s first cruise ship custom-designed for the wonderful people of China,” said Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of parent company Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, at the June 2017 event.

On Wednesday, Norwegian was singing another tune. The operator announced a series of deployment changes that will see the 3,883-passenger Norwegian Joy leave China in April for the more lucrative waters of Alaska. Eventually, the ship will be replaced in China by a much smaller vessel that will sail there seasonally, but Norwegian will have no vessels in the country for about a year.

“China’s a good market. But it’s not as good as Alaska,” Norwegian Cruise Line President and CEO Andy Stuart told Skift in an interview. “In this business, particularly when you’re not the biggest, we don’t have 100 ships where we have to have a significant deployment essentially in every region around the world. We can be a little more opportunistic in how we deploy the fleet.”

Norwegian Bliss, which launched this year, is sailing in Alaska already and setting records for the company. Norwegian Joy will join Bliss and another ship, Norwegian Jewel, next spring. The changes will also see a ship sail from Amsterdam for the first time, send another to Australia and New Zealand, and a third to Singapore and Hong Kong.

“That’s really the center of it, the opportunity to put a sister ship in Alaska alongside Bliss, which has just been a knock-it-out-of-the-park success, expand capacity in Europe, and build our presence across the Australasian region through the domino effect of all of that,” Stuart said.

$50 Million Upgrade

Before Norwegian Joy arrives, though, the vessel will get $50 million worth of renovations, including a Starbucks, an expanded spa and gym, downsized retail outlets and casinos, and more bars. In a note to investors, Wedbush Securities analyst James Hardiman noted that the upgrades were “somewhat of an unusual step for a ship just one year into its operation.”

Stuart said there were some features on the ship, which was built with China’s cruisers in mind, that wouldn’t translate for North American passengers, including larger retail and casinos, smaller gyms and spas, and tea rooms instead of bars. But he said the larger goal was to tailor Norwegian Joy to be as close as possible to Norwegian Bliss, which got a nationwide rollout this spring with stops in multiple cities.

“We’ll have two ships that are basically identical in Alaska, which was really the goal,” Stuart said. “You know how much we invested in showing Bliss to everyone we could possibly show the ship to.”

After sailing in Alaska, Norwegian Joy will move to Los Angeles to sail Mexican Riviera and Panama Canal itineraries in the winter of 2019 into early 2020, a market the company described as “historically underserved.”

Cruise industry expert Stewart Chiron, CEO of CruiseGuy.com, called the Mexico deployment a “terrific move for NCL,” especially considering Carnival Cruise Line recently announced it was sending a new ship to the region.

“Signals strong demand in the rebounding Mexican Riviera market,” he said in an email.

The China Backstory

Norwegian’s aspirations in China have evolved over the past year and a half as the market itself has fluctuated. In February 2017, Del Rio announced the company would send a second new ship to the country in 2019, saying it would be “the highest and best use” for the vessel.

He was sounding less certain a few months later, after tensions between China and South Korea forced cruise lines to stop calling on South Korean itineraries.

“Ships have propellers and rudders for a reason,” he said. “Our goal is to always deploy them in areas that we think can maximize profitability. Today, we think that place is China. The South Korea situation, we believe, is a temporary bump in the road and time will tell.”

By February of this year, Del Rio said the company would no longer deploy a second new ship to the market, and suggested it could be a couple of years before more capacity would head to China.

While he spoke highly of Norwegian Joy’s occupancy and ratings in March, Del Rio still described the market as “a work in progress” and a “long-term investment” that required patience.

In May, he did not give any indication that the company planned to withdraw from China for a while: Del Rio said he felt “better about China today than I certainly did six months ago” and said prices appeared to be rising as industry capacity dropped. Wednesday, he described the shifts as a correction.

“The realignment and optimization of ship assets also allows us to rightisize our capacity in China while maintaining our commitment to this promising cruise market,” Del Rio said in an announcement.

After years of rapid expansion, several cruise lines have lowered their China capacity this year amid forced itinerary changes and pricing struggles, sending ships to destinations with more favorable conditions.

While Norwegian has seven ships on order, due between 2019 and 2027, no new capacity has been announced for China. According to the plans released Wednesday, the 2,000-passenger Norwegian Spirit will move to China in summer of 2020 after an extensive refurbishment.

“Beyond that, we take a view and treat China like every other destination where we deploy capacity based on the demand as we see it,” Stuart said. “It’s a big market and one that we think has a positive future, but we don’t have a speicfic plan for capacity beyond Norwegian Spirit beyond this point.”

An Upbeat Update

Due to the changes, Norwegian said it expects to earn about 30 cents in incremental adjusted earnings per share in 2020. The company said it anticipated only a very slight benefit in 2019 due to an anticipated one-time write-off of about $25 million related to the Norwegian Joy upgrades, revenue that will be lost during the five weeks it will take to make the changes and reposition the ship, and cost of marketing the new itineraries.

For this year, the company said it expects to raise its forecast for adjusted earnings per share when it reports second-quarter results in early August.

“The booking environment for cruise demand shows no signs of slowing,” Del Rio said in the announcement. “Occupancy for the second half of 2018 continues to be ahead of last year with pricing well ahead of last year’s record levels. Similarly, the booked position for full year 2019 not only remains well ahead of the prior year’s record levels, the year-over-year gains in occupancy and pricing have also accelerated since our last earnings call.”

Shares closed at $50.14, up more than 5 percent from the previous day’s close.

Said Hardiman in his note to analysts: “This was probably the most significant positive stemming from today’s release, as investors are always keenly focused on whether trends have gotten better or worse versus the last update.”

Photo Credit: Norwegian Joy is shown in this promotional photo. The ship, which was built with a Chinese audience in mind, is being redeployed to North America. Norwegian Cruise Line

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July 18, 2018 at 10:04PM

Deal Alert: NYC to Europe From $299 Round-Trip — Carry-On Bags Included

Deal Alert: NYC to Europe From $299 Round-Trip — Carry-On Bags Included

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Want to see the latest flight deals as soon as they’re published? Follow The Points Guy on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to text message alerts from our deals feed, @tpg_alerts.

Airfare deals are typically only available on limited dates. We recommend you use Google Flights to find dates to fly, then book through an online travel agency such as Orbitz or Expedia, which allows you to cancel flights without penalty by 11pm Eastern Time within one day of booking. However, if you’re using The Platinum Card® from American Express, you’ll need to book directly with the airline or through the Amex Travel portal to get 5x MR points. Remember: Fares may disappear quickly, so book right away and take advantage of Orbitz or Expedia’s courtesy cancellation if you’re unable to get the time away from work or family.

The fare war for flights to Europe never fails to amaze. Just yesterday we came across a deal for Primera Air flights to Paris (CDG) from $99 one-way — which is still available. Today we’re seeing cheap flights to other European destinations like Amsterdam (AMS), Copenhagen (CPH), Stockholm (ARN) and Helsinki (HEL) from $299 round-trip. The discounted fares are being offered by Icelandair and are valid for travel this fall. Icelandair isn’t a low-cost carrier, so even its cheapest fares include things like carry-ons, seat assignments and free drinks. TPG Associate Editor Brendan Dorsey flew to Reykjavik on Icelandair’s 767 last year and enjoyed the experience.

To book, head to Google Flights and plug in your desired departure city. After finding dates that work best for you, book with Icelandair directly or with an OTA such as Expedia or Priceline. Remember, Icelandair partners with Alaska Airlines meaning you can earn valuable Alaska miles for these paid fares.

Airline: Icelandair
Routes: EWR/JFK to AMS/ARN/CPH/HEL
Cost: $299+ round-trip in economy
Dates: September – December 2018
Booking Link: OrbitzExpedia or directly with the airline
Pay With: The Platinum Card® from American Express (5x on airfare), Chase Sapphire Reserve, Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, Citi Prestige (3x on airfare plus excellent trip delay insurance) or Chase Sapphire Preferred (2x on travel)

Here are a few examples of what you can book:

Newark (EWR) to Helsinki (HEL) in December for $299 round-trip on Icelandair via Expedia:

Newark (EWR) to Amsterdam (AMS) in November for $308 round-trip on Icelandair via Expedia:

Newark (EWR) to Copenhagen (CPH) in December for $309 round-trip on Icelandair via Expedia:

New York (JFK) to Stockholm (ARN) in October for $328 round-trip on Icelandair via Expedia:

Maximize Your Purchase

Don’t forget to use a credit card that earns additional points on airfare purchases, such as The Platinum Card® from American Express (5x on flights booked directly with airlines or American Express Travel), Chase Sapphire Reserve, American Express Premier Rewards Gold or Citi Prestige (3x on airfare) or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (2x on all travel purchases). Check out this post for more on maximizing airfare purchases.

Featured image of Katajanokka Island, Helsinki by Lingxiao Xie / Getty Images.

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July 18, 2018 at 10:01PM