October 6, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 8:46 PM


Orthodox say Cuomo 'blindsided' them as he shuts community down during High Holidays (Ari Feldman, October 6, 2020, The Forward)

"In Jewish teaching, one of the most precious principles is saving a life," Cuomo said at the press conference, at which he discussed Jewish communities more than any other group. He was explicitly evoking the Jewish ethic of pikuach nefesh, which requires breaking religious rules to preserve life. Cuomo said that he was imposing the harsh rules "out of respect, and it's out of love, and it's because I want to protect them."

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Grand jury indicts St. Louis couple who pointed guns at protesters (CELINE CASTRONUOVO, 10/06/20, The Hill)
A grand jury in St. Louis on Tuesday indicted Mark and Patricia McCloskey on counts of exhibiting a weapon and tampering with evidence four months after footage circulated showing the couple pointing guns at Black Lives Matter protesters outside their home.

Posted by orrinj at 6:34 PM


The Met's Stream of Wagner's 'Ring' Offers a Chance to Consider the Meaning of Life (James Jorden • 10/06/20, NY Observer)

The company is streaming videos of its legendary 1990 presentation of Richard Wagner's stupendous tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen free on the Met Opera website as part of a week-long festival of the composer's works. The four related but self-contained operas arrive Wednesday October 7 through Saturday October 10, with each installment available for a 24-hour window.

The work could be described in an oversimplified way as "Lord of the Ring for adults," a drama of intrigue in which mortals and supernatural beings grapple over ownership of a magical band of gold that confers mastery over the world. What sets the Wagner apart is its intricately thoughtful analysis of how ambition for power is always ultimately destructive.

Though the Ring does offer moments of breathtaking visual spectacle--the procession of the gods over a rainbow bridge to their fortress Valhalla is beautifully realized by director Otto Schenk--the emphasis is less on what happens in real time and more on the psychological and moral meaning of those events.

By far the best thing about this version of the Ring is the participation of the late dramatic soprano Hildegard Behrens in the central role of Brünnhilde, the disgraced Valkyrie who learns compassion. Yes, her singing is sometimes less than luxurious, but especially in video closeup the entire drama seems reflected on her face.

In a long scene in the second act of Die Walküre, the god Wotan confesses his complicity in the theft of the magic ring. Bass James Morris sings this scene with vocal beauty and sound musicality, but the focus is (as it should be) on Behrens' listening Brünnhilde as she slowly comprehends and ponders the complex morality of Wotan's actions.

As in another, more recent time-intensive tetralogy, the Avengers film series, the action of the Ring includes the death of a hero, self-sacrifice, the end of one universe and the beginning of another. All this should happen sometime not too long before midnight on Saturday, when the combination of Behrens' electric performance, the Met's spectacular special effects, and, above all, Wagner's transcendent music bring the 15 hours of the Ring to its redemptive close.

Posted by orrinj at 6:31 PM


Why Trump lost his battle against the trade deficit (DOUG PALMER, 10/06/2020, Politico)

As President Donald Trump enters the final month of his reelection campaign, it's increasingly clear that he has failed at one of the signature goals of his presidency: reducing the U.S. trade deficit.

And critics of his trade policy argue Trump's "magical thinking" created little chance for success.

New figures out Tuesday show the U.S. trade gap is on track to exceed $600 billion this year. That would be the highest since 2008, just before the global financial crisis. 

The greatest trick the devil ever played was to convince people he'd been president. 

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Delaware County prosecutors are bringing a proven, data-driven gun violence prevention program to Chester (Vinny Vella, October 5, 2020, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Modeled after the focused deterrence program used in such major cities as Philadelphia, Boston, and Indianapolis, CPSN will target the small percentage of Chester's population that commits the majority of its violent crime. Through regular call-in meetings, prosecutors from Stollsteimer's office will meet with young people in the city deemed to be at risk of being affected by gun violence and tell them the penalties for carrying guns will be steep -- and shared..

If one member of a neighborhood crew is carrying a gun, for instance, police will be vigilant toward the people they're known to associate with, assuming that they, too, are armed. The week after a shooting, the county sheriff's office might prioritize serving warrants, even low-level ones, in the city, or stiffen probation reporting requirements for associates of the alleged shooter.

But the program will also extend another option. If a teen surrounded by criminal activity wants help getting stable housing or food for his family, that can be arranged through the county's Department of Human Services at the call-in meetings. The department can also open the door to longer-term aid, like GED classes, trauma therapy, or jobs.

Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer, seen here in June, said the Chester Partnership for Safe Neighborhoods will seek out the most "at-risk" individuals in Chester, and offer them services from the county's DHS.
"We hope that that young person, because we're doing such great work clearing cases, might stop and think: 'Well, wait a minute, I'm going to get arrested. I'm actually going to go to jail. Maybe I should stop,'" Stollsteimer said. "And if we can stop them because we're giving them a better alternative, or we can stop them because we're going to arrest his ass. It doesn't matter to me.

"But at the end of the day," he said, "we got to get them to stop shooting each other."

Posted by orrinj at 2:20 PM


Biden takes 16-point lead over Trump in new poll as president tweets he's 'feeling great' (Robert Schroeder, 10/06/20, Market Watch)

Biden's lead in the CNN poll was 57% to 41%, in a survey taken after the first presidential debate and mostly after Trump's COVID-19 infection was made public. Taken together with other polls, including an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showing a 14-percentage-point Biden lead after the debate but before Trump's diagnosis was known, Biden's lead is a smaller -- though still significant -- 9.2 percentage points in the latest RealClearPolitics average. In an average of top battleground states, Biden's lead is just over 4 points.

Posted by orrinj at 2:17 PM


What Biden Told Me on the Train After Trump's First UN Speech: In the Biden-Harris vision, my multi-ethnic family is the fulfillment of America's promise to the world. (CHANDRIMA DAS, PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL CAREER ADVANCEMENT PROGRAMS FELLOWS ASSOCIATION, OCTOBER 6, 2020, Defense One)

On the train back in 2017, I told Biden that my sister and I owe our accomplishments to our parents for keeping us focused on education and taking us back to India to remember our roots. Biden told me that during one trip to India, he learned that one of his relatives had been a trader and settled in India. There are now five Biden families in Bombay. Biden then said to me with a wink, "You and I might be related." I replied, "It would be an honor," to which he said, "You are too kind."

I wish I had been surprised by Trump's comments earlier that day, but he already had been undermining U.S. leadership at the United Nations from the outset of his presidency. In his first budget request, he proposed cutting funding for the UN by 44 percent, stating that the UN was "working against U.S. foreign policy interest." In June 2017, he announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, a global action plan to fight climate change. He withdrew from UNESCO in October 2017, a UN organization that preserves historical and cultural sites. Later that year, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said she was "taking names" of UN member states critical of the U.S. embassy's move to Jerusalem. After a year of warnings, in June 2018, Trump withdrew the United States from the UN Human Rights Council, a move that has weakened our diplomatic clout and ability to counter increasing violence and human rights abuses around the world. Perhaps most egregiously, in May he cut U.S. funding for the World Health Organization in the middle of the COVID-19 global pandemic. As of this week, the virus has killed 210,000 Americans. From day one, Trump's words and actions were meant to pull the United States back from its historic leadership role at the UN, one that dates to the institution's founding 75 years ago. For four years, Trump has carried out a decades-old dream of far-right conservatives who have feared the institution and wanted to abandon it altogether.

It is clear that in order to reclaim America's standing in the world we must start at home, especially during these grim days living through a pandemic and witnessing police violence and injustice against black and brown people. I am hopeful that Biden will restore the Voting Rights Act and work with federal, state, and local officials to address systemic racism in our justice system. I believe a Biden-Harris administration will pursue policies to promote racial and social justice, so that my 10-month old son, Kiran, is judged by the content of his character and not the color of his skin. I welcome a president who strongly and unequivocally condemns white supremacy, and does not harness it for his own political gain.

That day on the train, I got a glimpse that a President Biden would be a leader who could unify America and reclaim the U.S.'s leadership role in the world, where once again we could be seen as an ally, not an adversary.

As the train brought us home from Trump's disconcerting speech that evening, I felt that Biden restored my faith in humanity, reassured me that our institutions are strong, and reminded me that 'We The People' are resilient. Vice President Biden and Senator Harris' vision for America is one in which my family is not the other but is the fulfillment of America's promise.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


George Bush always refused to leave D.C. until the day after Christmas; here's why (Yellowhammer)

Curl said they went with the President to Texas every summer -- "often for a month" -- and in the winter, too. But even though it is the President's prerogative to go and come whenever he pleases, Curl said President Bush gave the "hundreds and hundreds of people" accompanying him everywhere a very special gift each Christmas he was in office.

"In December, we never left Washington, D.C., until the day after Christmas. Never," he recalled. "Mr. Bush and his wife, Laura, would always depart the White House a few days before the holiday and hunker down at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland. After a few years, I asked a low-level White House staffer why.

"I still remember what she said: 'So all of us can be with our families on Christmas.'"

"For me, that one-day delay was huge," Curl continued. "My kids were 6 and 8 years old when Mr. Bush took office. When he went home to Prairie Chapel that last time in 2009, my girl was driving, the boy was 6 foot 1. But in the meantime, I was home for eight Christmas mornings, playing Santa, stoking the fire, mixing up hot chocolates."

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Biden bets big on Texas as Trump drags down Republicans in the Lone Star State: report (Sarah Toce, 10/05/20, Raw Story)

Democrats may have written off the state of Texas to Republicans during an election year for decades, but the tone is changing with a new ad buy reverberating through the southern part of the U.S. Democratic candidate Joe Biden is investing $5.8 million in the Lone Star State this election cycle. The advertising blitz is scheduled to run the duration of the next 29 days until Election Day 2020.

While Biden has yet to pay a visit during his presidential campaign, his investment is "a hell of a lot more than anybody else ever spent, that's for sure," said Texas Democratic Party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa. "This is a very good sign."

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Eric Trump deposed in New York probe into family business (Fadel Allassan, 10/05/20, Axios)

President Trump's son Eric Trump was questioned under oath Monday as part of New York's investigation into the Trump Organization's financial dealings, Bloomberg first reported and Axios can confirm.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


2020 U.S. Election Tracker: Biden Leads by 9 Points Nationally; Democrats Up 6 on the Generic Ballot (Morning Consult, OCT 5, 2020)

In the latest round of polling, Morning Consult finds former Vice President Joe Biden leading President Donald Trump by 9 percentage points -- his largest margin since late August -- while Democrats maintain a 6-point lead over Republicans on the generic congressional ballot.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Being woke is no joke (Kit Wilson, 10/05/20, CapX)

[A]s pretty much every psychological theory of humour attests, jokes deliberately smudge the line between expectation and reality. The snappily titled "ontic-epistemic theory" of humour, for instance, asserts that laughter is a reaction to a "cognitive impasse" -- the momentary realisation of two completely contradictory things coming together. But for those who genuinely believe we can bring about utopia here on earth, this reminder that the world is messy, not clean-cut and pure, is not the cause of hilarity, but horror.

All play is treated, therefore, with suspicion. Indeed, the trend on the left in recent years has been to boil all human interactions down to their most functional form -- simmering off mysterious and volatile things like intentions and body language, and leaving at the bottom only words: good words, and bad words.

The goal seems to be, since "language is power", to make our speech -- and by extension, our lives -- easier to control by reducing words to little more than 1s and 0s.

But the result is -- funnily enough -- utterly robotic. Think of the way Robin DiAngelo describes trying to patch up a relationship with a black colleague in White Fragility: "Would you be willing to grant me the opportunity to repair the racism I perpetrated toward you in that meeting?". Or the now infamous case of the social justice activist Melissa Fabello tweeting that, among friends, "asking for consent for emotional labour... should be common practice". Fabello subsequently provided a template for how to respond to a friend should "emotional labour" not be possible: "Hey! I'm so glad you reached out. I'm actually at capacity / helping someone else who's in crisis / dealing with some personal stuff right now, and I don't think I can hold appropriate space for you. Could we connect [later date or time] instead / Do you have someone else you could reach out to?"

Most of us recoil at this empathy-by-algorithm. Humans are not automatons, and we do not simply process each other's sentences like spools of binary code -- play, ambiguity and laughter are essential aspects of life. Indeed, one of the strangest things about today's activists is how blind they are to this (to everyone apart from them) obvious fact. If they logged off for a moment and looked around, they'd realise that cultures around the world rely on humour -- often quite uncomfortable humour -- not only to soften the hardships of life, but also to bridge gaps with others.

The DiAngelo book is as funny as anything you're likely to read, not just for stuff like that but because it's a White Savior text.  Particularly delicious is her pushing Latinx on folks who don't want to be identified that way.  But, after all, she knows what's good for them...

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'I just want to kill Jews': New report links Trump and NRA to rise of militias behind violent threats ( Igor Derysh, 10/06/20, Salon)

The report links the National Rifle Association's (NRA) "potentially radicalizing messaging" to the "gun rights fanaticsm" driving the modern militia movement, which was further emboldened by Trump's "conspiratorial rhetoric." The trend was on full display at the first presidential debate when Trump, who said there were "fine people" on both sides of the deadly white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Va., urged the violent extremist group the Proud Boys to "stand back, and stand by" when he was asked to condemn white supremacy. Trump denounced white supremacy days later, but not before his message was celebrated by the far-right and emblazoned onto the Proud Boys' logo.

"The fact of the matter is the commander-in-chief of the United States, who is supposed to be doing everything in his power to protect the American people, just made them less safe from the debate stage," Nick Suplina, the managing director for law and policy at Everytown, said in an exclusive interview with Salon.

"The rise of extreme right violence is thanks in no small part to the fear mongering and enabling by the NRA, and more recently to Trump in encouraging these groups . . . including his statement to 'stand back, and stand by,'" Suplina continued.

NRA leader Wayne LaPierre under investigation for tax fraud (Mark Maremont Aruna Viswanatha, 10/05/20, Market Watch)

The Internal Revenue Service is investigating longtime National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre for possible criminal tax fraud related to his personal taxes, according to people familiar with the matter.

LaPierre was paid $2.2 million by the NRA in 2018, the most recent year available, the nonprofit group's public filings show. His total reported pay from 2014 to 2018 was $11.2 million.

In August, he was charged in a civil suit by New York Attorney General Letitia James with taking millions of dollars of allegedly undisclosed compensation from the NRA and its vendors, in the form of free yacht trips, private jet flights for his family, exotic safaris and other benefits.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How do Sweden's rape statistics compare to Europe? (The Local, 6 October 2020)

Holmberg said there were three key differences in how rapes are reported and recorded which could make it tough to compare countries.

Firstly, there is the question of how to define rape. Sweden recently followed the lead of several other countries in defining all non-consensual sex as rape, and its definition of rape covers acts of sexual violence which are categorised as 'assault' or other crimes elsewhere. According to Brå, around 40 percent of reported rapes in Sweden in 2016 did not involve violence, something which was a requirement for a classification of rape in Spain, for example, up until 2020.

Sweden also counts every incidence of assault or rape as a separate incident, whereas in other countries repeated rape within a relationship are counted as one incident. In the city of Malmö, for example, more than a third of all reported rapes in 2019 could be traced back to one single court case of a man accused of raping another person more than 140 times.

And Sweden's reported rape statistics include every incident where the victim claims to have been raped, unlike countries which only register reported rapes once an investigation is concluded and determines that a rape took place.

Brå's researchers tested the extent to which these factors might skew the reporting rate by recalculating Sweden's rape statistics using the legal and statistical definitions in Germany.

Eurostat figures show that Sweden had 64 reported rapes per 100,000 residents in 2016, compared to 10 in Germany. When Sweden's figures were recalculated using the German definitions, the new figure was 15 reported rapes per 100,000 residents. 

That's still 50 percent more than in Germany, but it would place Sweden around the middle in terms of reported rape in Europe if the same standards were used as in Germany (although without recalculating other countries' statistics using the German definitions).

"Those things are clear mathematics. "