September 2, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 5:44 PM


Event Trying To Show Labour Party Isn't Anti-Semitic Will Be Held On Yom Kippur (Aiden Pink, 9/02/18, The Forward)

A group hoping to defend British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn from mounting public claims that he is an anti-Semite is hosting an event to defend him on September 18 -- which happens to be Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.

The event, called "Corbyn, Antisemitism and Justice for Palestine," will take place in Bristol. Two of the five listed speakers are Jewish.

Posted by orrinj at 5:38 PM


Wife of Former N.R.A. President Tapped Accused Russian Agent in Pursuit of Jet Fuel Payday (Matthew Rosenberg, Michael LaForgia and Andrew E. Kramer, Sept. 2, 2018, NY Times)

Ms. Butina's efforts to deal in Russian jet fuel, detailed in hundreds of pages of previously unreported emails, were notable not just for their whiff of foreign intrigue but for who they involved: David Keene, a former president of the National Rifle Association and a prominent leader of the conservative movement, who has advised Republican candidates from Ronald Reagan to Mitt Romney. They also involved Mr. Keene's wife, Donna, a well-connected Washington lobbyist, and Ms. Butina's boyfriend, Paul Erickson, who ran Patrick J. Buchanan's 1992 presidential campaign and who moved in rarefied conservative circles despite allegations of fraud in three states.

Their attempt to secure the fuel deal illustrates a reality that investigators have had to navigate in bringing a federal case against Ms. Butina. During her time in the United States, she surrounded herself not only with high-profile American conservatives but also with dubious characters who seemed bent on making a fast buck -- and it was not always easy to tell one from the other.

Posted by orrinj at 4:32 AM


A Palestinian Memoir to Counter Trump's Troubles in the Middle East (Robin Wright, September 1, 2018, The New Yorker)

Bashir's epiphany came in an unexpected--and violent--way. In 2004, a week after he turned fifteen, Bashir returned from school to find three U.N. officials visiting his father. The Israelis, ensconced in a nearby tower, soon ordered the U.N. team to leave. As Bashir and his father walked the officials to their car, a single gunshot from an M-16 automatic rifle rang out. "I felt something knock me to the ground, like I was crumbling," Bashir recounts. "I tried to get up but my legs would not move." He was in searing pain--and paralyzed from the waist down. The bullet went so deep into his back that the doctors could see through to his spine. Bashir's father urged Palestinians not to retaliate. "There is no time for anger," Khalil said. Yousef was furious with his father, whom he blamed as much as the Israelis.

The boy's life took an unexpected turn when, through his father's connections, he was transferred to a medical facility in Israel. "All I knew about Israelis was that they had guns and had the power to tell me and my family when to use the bathroom and when to go to school, and that one of them had almost ended my life a few weeks earlier. Apparently, just because he could," Bashir writes. When a group of Israeli military officers visited him at Tel HaShomer Hospital, in Tel Aviv, Khalil accepted their apology for his son's condition. Yousef--in "merciless" pain from three bullet fragments still lodged in his spine--did not.

The cycle of surgeries and therapy went on for months. "Sometimes I would hold my legs and talk to them," he writes. "I thought that if I did they might listen and get stronger. Sometimes my tears fell without my permission." Israeli patients and their families offered encouragement. Jewish student volunteers came to play games. Hasidic groups even serenaded him with Passover songs. Time, in Yousef's case, did heal. "In the midst of the pain," he writes, "I became aware that a miracle was unfolding within me, not only in my body but also in my soul." He particularly admired his nurse, Seema, an Iraqi Jew. He began to wonder "why everyone did not feel the love I was now feeling. I understood what my father meant when he said of the soldiers, 'They are just children, forgive them.' " [...]

Bashir, who now spends his time lobbying for the Palestinians, speaking to Jewish groups, including aipac, and telling his story to anyone who will listen, hasn't given up hope on peace, though he can occasionally sound forlorn. "I think I have finally understood Rumi when he wrote that there is no love greater than a love without a lover," he writes, referring to the thirteenth-century Persian poet. "My commitment to peace has been such a love affair without a lover." The book ends with its own peace offering: a letter to the anonymous shooter who disabled him. "Without your bullet, I might never have understood forgiveness," Bashir writes. "You were created by the same God who created me. You have the same humanity as I have. You are part of the same family as I am. I forgive you, my cousin."

Posted by orrinj at 4:31 AM

Sweet Corn and Zucchini Pie (Southern Kitchen)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large zucchini squash, thinly sliced
1/2 large Vidalia onion, chopped
2 ears sweet corn
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
3 large eggs, beaten
2 ounces cream cheese

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch pie plate.

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the zucchini and onion. Cut the corn off of the cobs and add it to the pan, cooking until the vegetables soften (do not allow them to get mushy), 5 to 8 minutes. Remove  from the heat and stir in the basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Stir in the cheddar, eggs and cream cheese.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pie plate. Arrange the top slices of zucchini so that they lay flat and the dish looks nice. Bake until bubbly and browned, about 30 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve in wedges.

Posted by orrinj at 4:30 AM


The Mystery of Urban Psychosis (VAUGHAN BELL, JUL 15, 2016, The Atlantic)

The link between psychosis and city living was first noticed by American psychiatrists in the early 1900s who found that asylum patients were more likely to come from built-up areas. This association was sporadically rediscovered throughout the following century until researchers verified the association from the 1990s onwards with systematic and statistically controlled studies that tested people in the community as well as in clinics.

One particularly extensive study using health records for almost the entire population of Denmark found that the risk of being diagnosed with schizophrenia increased in a small but proportional way as people spent more time spent living in urban environments. Many studies have since replicated this finding, with neighborhood levels of social deprivation seeming to amplify the association and levels of social integration seeming to reduce it.

To many, this provides evidence that cities are universally bad for our mental health--something that chimes with a strong cultural belief that associates the natural world with tranquillity. It might seem like common sense that living in a run-down, inner-city neighborhood would wear away at your psychological wellbeing. But here is where the cultural cliché breaks down, because the effect is surprisingly selective.

The data shows that urban environments reliably increase the chances of being diagnosed with schizophrenia or having related experiences like paranoia and hallucinations. This is not the case for other mental health problems primarily caused, for example, by depression or mood instability. If it was a general effect on wellbeing, you would expect the chance of being diagnosed with any mental health problem to increase at an equal rate, but this isn't the case.

There are good reasons to think that city living might be the cause of some of these problems. The two big psychological negatives of city living, social isolation and social threat, are already well studied in mental health. They are risk factors for a range of psychological difficulties but have been particularly associated with misperceptions and paranoia. And for people who are already experiencing paranoid delusions, there is good evidence that urban environments amplify anxieties, increase the intensity of hallucinations, and weaken self-confidence.

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 AM


I'm pro-Boris, loathe jihadis and love Islam. Here's why (Qanta Ahmed, 1 September 2018, Spectator)

To the Saudis, I knew so little about my religion I was assumed to be a convert. Thanks to Saudi law (which mandates covering of the hair -- something my parents never enforced), I might have looked more Muslim -- but I certainly didn't feel it. Take the Hajj, for example -- the holy pilgrimage to Mecca that all Muslims are expected to undertake once in their lifetime, if their health and their means allow. Although many of my colleagues had jumped at the opportunity to do it, it wasn't something I had considered.

All of that changed following a nerve-wracking life-and-death intervention on one of our most fragile patients. I was with a religious colleague (not one I knew particularly well), having a soothing cup of tea. When I confessed I had never made Hajj, he begged me to do so -- after all, many Muslims wait for decades for the chance to be part of it. I decided to take his advice.

No matter who you are, there is something staggering about seeing the Hajj up close: an endless mass of pilgrims representing every age, ethnicity, nationality and language. So many different kinds of people yet -- in that moment -- they are all the same and equal before God. The pilgrimage centres on the Great Mosque of Mecca, its immaculate marble walkways leading to the Kaaba -- the most sacred site in Islam. Cloaked in black cloth woven with Quranic verse, the Kaaba was built by Abraham and his son Ishmael, some believe, to a blueprint by the angel Gabriel. I saw worshippers crying as they finally saw it.

While the sheer beauty of the Kaaba is overwhelming, I can honestly say that, as I looked upon it, I felt something beyond the earthly: as if a tenderness was being pulled from deep within my soul as I returned to my creator.

While moments like these can reignite your belief, ultimately acquiring faith is a process, and one which involves a degree of learning. After the Hajj, I began to study the Quran, as well as diving into the various schools of Islamic philosophy. With all the geopolitical sabre-rattling between Sunni and Shia, this is another thing which often gets distorted: in fact, true Islam is tolerant and respectful of other traditions -- I am not a Sufi, for example, yet I am fascinated by their commentaries.

There are, I should say, some quite big differences between Christianity and Islam. Take prayer, for example: while most Christian traditions are not prescriptive about how their followers pray (or indeed how often), Islam has set times and practices which all Muslims are supposed to follow. Oh, and we're supposed to do it five times a day. It's actually not too bad (even my cat likes to join me in the early morning prayer).

The point of praying, we are taught, is to remind us we are here to worship God and serve our fellow humans. Islam teaches us that we have a responsibility to help those in need, to console the grieving and sick and to care for the orphaned and vulnerable (values which -- while shared with many other faiths -- don't always make headlines).

Posted by orrinj at 4:20 AM


A Construction Boom to Lure Visitors to Morocco's 'Red City': As more wealthy tourists flock to Morocco, Marrakesh is reinventing itself with luxury hotels and resorts to attract its share. (Aili McConnon, Aug. 28, 2018, NY Times)

More than 11 million people visited Morocco in 2017, an increase of 10 percent over the previous year, according to the Moroccan Ministry of Tourism. The number of American visitors has increased at an even quicker pace. Last year, more than 254,000 Americans visited the North African country, a rise of 29 percent over 2016 and 81 percent over 2012.

More flights, an easing of visa regulations and a concerted effort by the Kingdom of Morocco to modernize infrastructure and improve safety have all played a part. As more visitors come to Morocco, Marrakesh is reinventing itself to lure its share of tourists, who stay an average of three nights.

"One of the main challenges of the tourism sector in Marrakesh is increasing the length of stay," said Alexis Reynaud, an editorial manager at the Oxford Business Group, a research and consulting firm. "New high-end resorts and hotels are starting to offer much more than just luxury lodging to encourage people to stay longer."

Leading the pack among these new ventures is M Avenue, a $100 million multiuse project known as Garden Avenue because it will include nearly 108,000 square feet of gardens and landscaped areas alongside about 183,000 square feet of shops, restaurants, cafes and galleries. Lodging will include a 168-room hotel from the Portuguese hotelier Pestana and 88 private residences from the Four Seasons.

"We are trying to create a new city center," said Nabil Slitine, the chief executive of M Avenue Development, who in 2011 helped open the Four Seasons Resort, one of the first international hotels in the city.

Paul White, president of residential for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, said he wanted to increase the company's footprint in Marrakesh. M Avenue, which is near the airport and the Palais de Congrès conference center, offers "access to the sights of the city, including the medina and Menara gardens, while also acting as a convenient takeoff point to venture into the surrounding region, including the Atlas Mountains," he said.

Posted by orrinj at 4:11 AM


The Prosecutors Who Have Declared War on the President (Noah Feldman, August 26, 2018, Bloomberg)

In the span of one week, we learned that the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York had both secured a guilty plea from Trump Organization lawyer Michael Cohen and offered an immunity deal to the company's chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg. President Donald Trump should be worried. Once the Southern District gets its jaws onto a string of crimes, it doesn't let go.

Weisselberg, as part of his deal, will likely be required to provide information on all criminal activity he knows about. That spells potential disaster for Trump personally, and major problems for his presidency. That's apart from any potential state-level criminal investigation by the New York district attorney's office.

Trump is now facing a two-front war against the Justice Department. The team led by special counsel Robert Mueller is supposed to focus on Russian interference in the 2016 election. But the Southern District can investigate any aspect of Trump's behavior that took place in its jurisdiction, at any time.

And unlike Mueller, who could in principle be fired, the Southern District isn't one man; it's a whole office of career lawyers. It can't be fired. Even if Robert Khuzami, the acting U.S. attorney in this case, were removed, no new U.S. attorney could realistically call off the prosecutors.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


Kansas high court rules grand jury must be convened to investigate Kris Kobach (Associated Press, 9/01/18)
A grand jury must be convened to investigate whether Republican gubernatorial candidate and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach intentionally failed to register voters in 2016, the Kansas Supreme Court has ruled.

...find Nativist perps.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


From Mollie Tibbetts' father: Don't distort her death to advance racist views (Rob Tibbetts, Sept. 1, 2018, Des Moines Register)

Throughout this ordeal I've asked myself, "What would Mollie do?" As I write this, I am watching Sen. John McCain lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda and know that evil will succeed only if good people do nothing. Both Mollie and Senator McCain were good people. I know that both would stand up now and do something.

The person who is accused of taking Mollie's life is no more a reflection of the Hispanic community as white supremacists are of all white people. To suggest otherwise is a lie. Justice in my America is blind. This person will receive a fair trial, as it should be. If convicted, he will face the consequences society has set. Beyond that, he deserves no more attention.   

To the Hispanic community, my family stands with you and offers its heartfelt apology. That you've been beset by the circumstances of Mollie's death is wrong. We treasure the contribution you bring to the American tapestry in all its color and melody. And yes, we love your food.

My stepdaughter, whom Mollie loved so dearly, is Latina. Her sons -- Mollie's cherished nephews and my grandchildren -- are Latino. That means I am Hispanic. I am African. I am Asian. I am European. My blood runs from every corner of the Earth because I am American. As an American, I have one tenet: to respect every citizen of the world and actively engage in the ongoing pursuit to form a more perfect union.

Given that, to knowingly foment discord among races is a disgrace to our flag. It incites fear in innocent communities and lends legitimacy to the darkest, most hate-filled corners of the American soul. It is the opposite of leadership. It is the opposite of humanity. It is heartless. It is despicable. It is shameful.

President Reagan today at the United States Air Base at Bitburg (Ronald Reagan, 5/06/85)

Twenty-two years ago, President John F. Kennedy went to the Berlin wall and proclaimed that he, too, was a Berliner. Today, freedom-loving people around the world must say: I am a Berliner, I am a Jew in a world still threatened by anti-Semitism, I am an Afghan, and I am a prisoner of the Gulag, I am a refugee in a crowded boat foundering off the coast of Vietnam, I am a Laotian, a Cambodian, a Cuban and a Miskito Indian in Nicaragua.