March 19, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 9:19 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:31 PM


Israel is engaged In systematic self-destruction (Alon Ben-Meir, 20 March 2020, Online Opinion)

It is the Likud party that has enabled him over the years to chip away brick-by-brick at Israel's democracy, undermine the judiciary, discriminate against Israeli Arabs as well as Jews of color, alienate the American Jewish community, and torpedo any prospect of a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To be sure, the Likud party has long since lost its conscience as it continues to support its leader, whose manipulative skills are surpassed only by his deviousness and ever-insatiable thirst to stay as prime minister to his dying day - to hell with Israel's future.

And what about the other political parties? Why is it that after three elections, there is still no consensus to form a government? Had the business of the state assumed priority and consensus emerged in developing a cohesive strategy on how to deal with the difficult issues the country must grapple with and set aside personal ambition, a government could have been formed following the first election.

But that was not the case. Not a single party has advanced specific policies to address the rampant poverty that affects nearly two million Israelis (representing 23 percent of the Israeli population), half of whom are children, in a country that has, in relative terms, one of the strongest economies in the world.

Not a single party has a comprehensive plan as to how to fix the broken healthcare system in a country that has some of the most advanced scientific and technological research in medicine worldwide.

Not a single party is paying any attention to the continuing discrimination against some Sephardic Jewish communities and especially against Israeli Arabs, who constitute 20 percent of the population. They are accused of being disloyal and their representatives are shunned away from participating in the political affairs of the state; but then they are expected to support the government's treatment of the Palestinians in the territories as the perpetual enemy to justify their draconian policies.

Not a single party is addressing the growing emigration of disillusioned Israelis who are fed up with government's paralysis and corruption and have lost faith in the country's future. The number of those leaving Israel is greater than the number of immigrants into the country that was supposed to be the promised land for the Jews.

Not a single party is trying to remedy the destructively escalating social and political polarization between the secular and the orthodox, between Arab and Jews, between the haves and have-nots in a country that faces mortal enemies in a region awash with instability, violence, wars, and deadly rivalries for regional hegemony.

And above all, not a single party has come up with a realistic plan to end the seven decades old Israeli-Palestinian conflict that has and continues to consume the Israelis from within, having still no end in sight. Not a single leader of any of the parties can say where Israel will be in 10 or 15 years if there is no solution to the conflict with the Palestinians.

Posted by orrinj at 5:15 PM


Helping Hands: Iranians Unite To Help Those Suffering From Coronavirus (Golnaz Esfandiari, 3/19/20, Radio Liberty)

Facing one of the world's worst outbreaks of coronavirus, Iranians in local communities are coming together to help those affected as the country battles a disease that has claimed the lives of nearly 1,300 people and infected more than 18,000 across the country, according to official figures on March 19.

Doctors, nurses, celebrities, and others have been posting videos and online messages telling citizens to remain home while volunteers have sown masks, sanitized public places, and made care packages that include medicinal alcohol and masks for poorer families.

The private sector is also pitching in with a coalition of private businesses opening a clinic in the capital, Tehran, and donating protective gear to severely strained hospitals facing shortages of materiel due to the outbreak that has claimed the lives of many health-care workers.

A Tehran-based businessman involved with such efforts told RFE/RL that many feel they have to take matters into their own hands because "the government has no money due to [U.S.-led economic] sanctions, no power, and [poor judgement]."

Posted by orrinj at 5:09 PM


Charting the Spread of "Wuhan Virus": The name. Not the virus. (Frank Bednarz, 3/19/20, Arc Digital)

I scrapped Twitter for uses of "Wuhan virus" and related terms to figure out how this began. Among verified Twitter accounts, some used geography-based terms in January, but by early February they had all but disappeared.

This is unsurprising. After the World Health Organization (WHO) officially named COVID-19 on February 11, other terms faded, especially misleading terms like "Wuhan flu." As a result, "Wuhan virus" went virtually out of circulation for 45 days of the disease's brief existence.

So what changed on March 9? First, Republican Congressman Paul Gosar announced he was under self-quarantine after interacting with a "Wuhan Virus" patient at the CPAC convention. (Tweet times are in UTC, so Rep. Gosar's Sunday evening tweet is March 9 in these graphs.)

In response, MSNBC's Chris Hayes called the expression "incredibly gross," and he was quickly joined by David Gura and Molly Jong Fast, both of whom called it flatly "racist," each garnering tens of thousands of likes.

The racism proposition turned out to be a powerful "scissors statement." Many on the left found the racism of "Wuhan virus" self-evident, while many on the right found it just as obviously not racist. This culture war skirmish can be seen in the chart below, which plots how many tweets with the geographic terms for COVID-19 also include words like "racist," "bigot," "xenophobic," and "stigmatizing." The orange-coded tweets are talking about the geographic terms, asserting or denying that they're racist, and do not appear in significant numbers until March 9.

Verified users who tweeted "Wuhan virus," "Chinese virus" and similar terms most frequently over the next week include the conservative blog RedState (151 tweets) and Pizzagate conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec (46). RedState's Twitter account had never used one of these terms prior to March 9, and Posobiec had not since February 3.

Usage spiked again after Donald Trump further popularized the term "Chinese virus," tweeting it for the first time on March 16. Trump's tweet has the most likes (325,000) and retweets (72,000) of any tweet to use "Chinese virus" or similar terms. The only tweet even close to this influence is Trump's encore on March 17.

Whether or not anyone saying "Chinese virus" intends it as racist, the term is now used almost exclusively by conservatives who don't mind arguing against commentary that it harms racial minorities.

It is precisely the racial nature that they find attractive. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:12 PM


Tulsi Gabbard's presidential campaign is officially over (Zack Beauchamp, Mar 19, 2020,  Vox)

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Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Arab-Israeli parties just recommended Benny Gantz to be prime minister. Here's why that's historic. (RON KAMPEAS, MARCH 18, 2020, JTA) 

Buried in the development is a history-making nugget: The Joint List of Arab-dominated parties was among those that recommended Gantz to President Reuven Rivlin as the man they wanted to form a coalition. Its 15 votes provided the necessary majority of 61.

It makes obvious sense: The Arab parties want to oust Netanyahu, whose ministers have reviled their lawmakers as traitors. But the referral heralded a breakthrough of integration that has vexed Jews and Arabs since before the state was established more than seven decades ago.  [...]

It's actually not the first time that Arab-dominated parties have supported an Israeli government. However, it doesn't take anything away from this political moment because Israeli politics have undergone tectonic shifts over the past few decades. 

Hadash and another Arab-dominated party, the Arab Democratic Party, backed the government led by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and then, after his assassination, Shimon Peres, from 1992 to 1996.

Their five members were critical ino keeping Rabin from being ousted after he launched the Oslo Accords. The peace deal with the Palestinians spurred the haredi Orthodox Shas party to leave the government in 1993, reducing Rabin's Knesset majority to the bare minimum of 61.

The two Arab parties reaped benefits for their support. Those four years included rollbacks of discriminatory laws and major investment in infrastructure in the Arab sector. 

But Netanyahu's election in 1996, his policy of marginalizing Arab-dominated parties and the second intifada of Arab violence launched in 2000 made those four years of influence for Arab legislators an anomalous blip.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


No new coronavirus cases in Wuhan, China, where global pandemic began (Rebecca Falconer, 3/19/20, Axios)

There were no cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours in Hubei Province, China, including the city of Wuhan, China, where COVID-19 was first discovered, per a post on the local health department's website Wednesday. [...]

Health officials are still trying to trace the source of the outbreak of the new strain of the coronavirus. But the first known case to have been reported appeared in Wuhan on Dec. 1, 2019, according to a study published in the peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet last month.