June 6, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 8:27 PM


The new face of Israeli nationalism: The rise of Naftali Bennett suggests religious Zionism is no longer a priority (Macaes Bruno, June 7, 2021, UnHerd)
On the night of 15 April, the first day of the holy month of Ramadan, a squad of Israeli police officers entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem, brushed the attendants aside and proceeded to cut the cables to the loudspeakers that broadcast prayers to the faithful. Israeli president Reuven Rivlin was delivering a speech at the Western Wall, lying just below the mosque, and officials worried that the prayers would drown it out.

The act, shocking and brazen even in this bare description, set in motion the series of events culminating in widespread riots inside Israel and a recurrence of the armed conflict with Hamas in Gaza. Disconnecting the loudspeakers was a way to show who the real rulers are, not only in Jerusalem but in the Temple Mount itself. By making it clear that Jewish voices should take precedence, it was a way to put Muslims and Arabs in their proper place.

For a long time, the leading religious authorities in Israel ruled that Jews should not enter the gates of the Mount. This is because, there is no way for Jews to purify themselves to enter the sacred square, no way to rebuild the Temple, which is a task best left to God. He alone can send the Messiah, in a future for which the faithful should wait and pray. Shortly after the passage of the Protection of Holy Places Law in 1967, Israel's then religious affairs minister Zerach Warhaftig said that the Third Temple has to be built by God. The Temple Mount was the property of Israel by biblical Right, but the Muslim sites would be preserved. "This makes me happy," he added, "because we can avoid a conflict with the Muslim religion."

Unless, as Gershom Gorenberg once put it, the future is now. Unless the waiting is over; unless history is drawing to its climax. The events of 15 April show that the question can no longer be evaded. Jewish sovereignty is now everywhere visible on the Temple Mount. [...]

The stopping point on the route to a temple and a monarchical government -- the restoration of the House of David -- remains elusive. If the tradition of the halakha, the body of religious laws, expressed an attitude of distance and sanctity towards the Temple Mount, ethnic nationalism stands for a markedly different goal: the holy site as a totem expressing the ultimate sovereignty over the Land of Israel.

It's why Americans and Israel are drifting apart, why American Jews are so estranged from the regime and why Donald and the Right love it.

Posted by orrinj at 5:36 PM


In football, at least, Europe is at the top of its game (Simon Kuper JUNE 3 2021, Financial Times)

Today, knowledge exchange in European football is a model for all other sectors. The best teams play each other constantly. After Chelsea beat Real Madrid, the Madrileños go home and work out what Chelsea did better, and so the sport evolves. Spain updated the Dutch passing game, and then the Germans and English learnt from Spain.

English academies now produce footballers such as Mason Mount and Phil Foden, who play like continentals. In football, English exceptionalism died in about 1993, killed by the failings of the indigenous long-ball game with its warrior ethos. That's one difference between football and political ideologies: in football, success and failure are usually clear. You can blame the referee for one bad scoreboard, but after years of them, you have to start learning from other people.

Weaker versions of football's knowledge exchange operate in other sectors. Germany learnt from foreign school systems after its "Pisa shock" of 2001, when its schools underperformed in the OECD's rankings. Northern Europeans learnt about food from the French and Italians.

But football shows how much better this could be done. Here, knowledge is spread around the continent by multilingual émigré coaches such as Jürgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola, moving around an almost perfectly functioning single market. These men are revered in their adopted countries and have become advertisements for their home countries. Over the past year, Britons performed four times more Google searches for Klopp than for Germany's chancellor, Angela Merkel; Guardiola got 39 times more searches than Spain's prime minister, Pedro Sánchez.

Meanwhile, Europe's social democracy pays off in football. You can't pick future champions aged two based on body type. The only way to create talent is to get millions of kids of all backgrounds playing, on decent fields, with qualified coaches. The world's most egalitarian continent does this best. Nowadays it even gives girls a chance.

And so the EU, with 6 per cent of the planet's population, has become football's lone superpower. The only non-EU country to finish in the top three of the World Cup since 2006 is Lionel Messi's Argentina. Four different EU member states have won four straight World Cups. The German coach Franz Beckenbauer's boast in 1990 that a united Germany would become unbeatable proved false. Instead, knowledge spread from core Europe to the historically disadvantaged south: Spain (twice), Greece and Portugal have won the last four European championships.

Posted by orrinj at 4:14 PM


Germany: CDU fends off far-right AfD in Saxony-Anhalt state election (Deutsche-Welle, 6/06/21)

"This is quite a remarkable victory for Angela Merkel's CDU party," DW chief political editor Michaela Küfner said.

"It means the AfD's rise has been halted," she added.

"It will certainly give the CDU a boost," DW Political Correspondent Hans Brandt said of the results. "There's a lot of happiness in the faces of CDU representatives today because they have scored a significant victory here."

Populism isn't popular.

Posted by orrinj at 11:22 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Native American tribe in Maine buys back island taken 160 years ago (Alice Hutton, 4 Jun 2021, The Guardian)

The advert painted an idyllic picture of White's Island.

For $449,000 you could buy 143 acres of forests with sweeping views of the rugged shoreline of Big Lake in Maine, on the east coast of the United States. "[It's] a unique property ... steeped in history ... with only two owners in the last 95 years," wrote the real estate agent from privateislandsonline.com.

In fact, Kuwesuwi Monihq, or Pine Island, is its original name, and it technically has just one true "caretaker"; the Passamaquoddy: a small tribe of 3,700 Native Americans who had lived there for at least 10,000 years. [...]

In March, with a grant from conservation charities, the tribe raised $355,000, and finally bought the island back.

Many of our ancestors would be surprised how readily the Natives have adopted capitalism; we oughtn't be. The End of History spares no one in the long run. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Xi's change of heart is too late to stop China's collision with the west (Simon Tisdall, 6 Jun 2021, The Guardian)

Is it too late to halt the slide towards all-out confrontation between China and the western democracies? An apparently conciliatory speech last week by Xi Jinping led some observers to suggest China's president may want to mend fences. But a change of tone in Beijing will not cut much ice in Washington unless Xi's aggressive policies change, too.

Since coming to power in 2012, Xi has overseen a marked shift towards authoritarianism at home and increased "assertiveness" - a polite word for bullying - abroad. He has established the type of personal, almost cultish dominance over the Chinese Communist party not seen since the days of Mao Zedong.

So when Xi talks, as he did last week, about the need for arrogant CCP spokespeople and the country's antagonistic "wolf warrior" diplomats to present a more "lovable" and "humble" image of China to the world, he is really critiquing himself and his own management style.

Not understanding America, he was ill-prepared for our kicking his Nationalist buddy to the curb. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'Disgusting slap in the face': California governor slams judge as assault rifles ban overturned (Martin Pengelly,  5 Jun 2021, The Guardian)

The governor of California, Gavin Newsom, slammed a federal judge's decision to overturn his state's three-decade-old ban on assault rifles as "a direct threat to public safety and the lives of innocent Californians".

If only localities enforced their own laws...

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


HIV after Covid: Anthony Fauci and an army of researchers seek to regain momentum (Benjamin Ryan, 6 Jun 2021, The Guardian)

The highly effective Covid-19 vaccines now sending the US epidemic into retreat were whisked with lightning speed through clinical trials thanks, in many ways, to HIV paving the way.

In March last year, Fauci began overseeing the retooling of three major HIV global clinical trials networks into the Covid-19 Prevention Network (CoVPN). This meant teams of investigators already skilled at recruiting and retaining diverse participant populations, dealing with byzantine regulatory requirements and paperwork and conducting necessary statistical analyses soon enrolled tens of thousands into trials that have given the world the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

Fauci praised the "elegant science" that went into selecting the most promising Covid-19 vaccine candidates - a process, he stressed, facilitated by the pioneering efforts of HIV vaccinologists. Over the decades, such researchers honed the methods that in Fauci's words allowed scientists to "determine the precise confirmation of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein that allowed maximal immunogenicity, thus leading to high efficacious vaccines".

Larry Corey, director of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network - one of the three National Institutes of Health-funded networks that collaborated to launch the CoVPN - said that without the HIV research field, scientists would not have had at the ready the non-human primate research model that was used to transition from laboratory studies to human clinical trials of Covid-19 vaccines.

"We were able to do this in 11 months, start to finish, because science does build on science," said Corey, who has run the HVTN out of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle since 1999.

On the east coast, Myron Cohen, a professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina and co-principal investigator of the HIV Prevention Trials Network, a CoVPN collaborator, took his own global team's expertise in developing broadly neutralizing antibodies against HIV and channeled it into the increasingly fruitful effort to bring to market cocktails of monoclonal antibodies that attack SARS-Cov-2.

Other HIV experts have leapt at the chance to lend their skills to the Covid-19 endeavor. One is Steven Deeks, a leader in the HIV cure research field at University of California, San Francisco, who said his lab's extensive experience with the thorny logistics of establishing long-term research cohorts allowed them to start a study following people with "long Covid" in mere weeks.

HIV specialists have been among the most prominent voices educating the public and combating misinformation about Covid-19. Monica Gandhi of UCSF has championed evidence-based optimism and sanity in the face of anxiety and hysteria; Julia Marcus of Harvard has advocated harm-reduction methods to curb SARS-Cov-2; and Carlos del Rio of Emory University has covered anything and everything in between.

The vaccines are a triumph of government funding. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Recent Tower of Babel 'Discovery' Is Madness (Candida Moss, Jun. 6th, 2021, Daily Beast)

Last weekend British tabloid The Daily Express ran a story announcing the sensational discovery that the Tower of Babel actually existed. According to statements made by Tom Meyer, a professor of Bible Studies at Shasta Bible College, there is archeological evidence to suggest that it actually existed and became a tourist destination in the ancient world.

According to Genesis 11, the postdiluvian inhabitants of the world decided to try and climb up to heaven by building an ancient tower or, you might say, skyscraper. They started with a city built in Shinar (or Babylon) and constructed the city using baked bricks and tar for mortar. Their goal was to make a name for themselves. God, however, who observed this architecturally audacious endeavor, was unimpressed. Rather than destroying the construction like a game of celestial Jenga, God identified human collaboration and unity as the real problem. As a result, he "confuse[d] their language" so that they didn't understand each other and scattered them over the Earth.

"And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do."
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Germany backs carbon pricing in EU climate policy overhaul - document (Kate Abnett, 6/06/21, Reuters)

The German government is backing an extension of European Union carbon pricing and an end to free carbon permits for airlines as the bloc prepares new measures to help meet climate change targets, according to a document seen by Reuters.

The European Commission will propose a dozen climate policies on July 14, each designed to slash greenhouse gases faster in line with an EU goal to cut net emissions 55% by 2030 from 1990 levels.

The package will include reforms to the EU carbon market and a border levy to impose CO2 costs on imported goods. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


New England's success against COVID-19 could be a model (PHILIP MARCELO, 8/05/21, Associated Press)

 For Dr. Jeremy Faust, the moment he realized the pandemic no longer dominated his workday came over Memorial Day weekend, when he didn't see a single coronavirus case over two shifts in the emergency room at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

Kerry LaBarbera, an ER nurse a few miles away at Boston Medical Center, had a similar realization that same weekend, when just two patients with COVID-19 came through her unit, one of the busiest in New England.

"The past year and a half has been like going through a tornado or something terrible," she said. "You're holding on for dear life, and then you get past it and it's like, 'What just happened?' "

Massachusetts and the rest of New England -- the most heavily vaccinated region in the U.S. -- are giving the rest of the country a possible glimpse of the future if more Americans get their shots.

COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the region have been steadily dropping as more than 60% of residents in all six states have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

The Deep South states of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, in comparison, are the least vaccinated at around 35%, and new cases relative to the population are generally running higher there than in most of New England. 

New England is always the model.