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Mexico's coronavirus-skeptical president is setting up his country for a health crisis

Source: Vox

As Mexico fast approaches what’s highly likely to be a large coronavirus outbreak, the country’s leadership — mainly its president — mostly insists that everything is fine.

In speech after speech, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known by his nickname AMLO, tells Mexicans they shouldn’t fear Covid-19, even as hundreds of thousands of people have confirmed infections worldwide. Despite warnings from global health officials, he continues to hold political rallies, kiss supporters, and request that Mexicans go out shopping to prop up the country’s sputtering economy during a global slowdown.

“Live life as usual,” he said in a video posted to Facebook on March 22, showing him outside at a restaurant. “If you’re able and have the means to do so, continue taking your family out to eat … because that strengthens the economy."

AMLO’s advice, experts say, is deadly. What makes matters worse is that his policies over the past few years have set the stage for a profound health crisis. In a major effort to cut government spending, AMLO has reduced funds for the country’s hospitals and medical centers by millions. It’s left the nation short of physicians, medical equipment, beds, and coronavirus tests.

Read more: https://www.vox.com/2020/3/26/21193823/coronavirus-mexico-andres-manuel-lopez-obrador-health-care


Is it “normal” for elderly Holocaust survivors to be murdered while celebrating Passover? That’s what today’s Op-Ed in the New York Times appears to suggest.

The piece, by anti-Israel activist Raja Shehadeh, uses the coronavirus scare as a pretext to attack the Jewish state. The hook is that American cities are ordering people to stay at home to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The pitch is that cruel Israelis ordered Palestinians to remain indoors for no reason at all. Shehadeh strains to squeeze anti-Israel talking points into his ostensible lesson about the coronavirus. Or is it the other way around? “Unlike the Israeli guns that posed an equal threat to anyone moving outside of their homes without permission, the virus discriminates by age.” He writes of Israel’s “strangulating roadblocks.”

And for what? Apparently nothing. In what is the piece’s most disingenuous and offensive passage, Shehadeh writes,

In 2002, when my neighbors and I had our movement severely restricted by an Israeli military siege, I tried my best to continue living as normally as I could. It was springtime then, as it is now. I would look out the window and lament my inability to venture out to the lush hills all around covered with wildflowers. But the danger lurking outside my house back then was readily recognizable: armed soldiers enforcing the stay-at-home orders. Only Palestinians were under threat. While we suffered, normal life continued elsewhere, indifferent to what we were enduring.


The natural evolution of a bad analogy

I'm not surprised, just the other day a poster here used the term "final solution" to describe trump's approach to Democrats.


For starters, the choice of Anne as a sole symbol of our tragedy is problematic and in many ways exposes a bias, favoring educated, secular, city-dwelling Jews from Western Europe over the majority of the Holocaust's victims who were nothing like that.

But worse is this: the Holocaust doesn't begin or end in the Extermination Camps and the infamous gas chambers. In the USSR alone, some 1.3 million Jews were murdered via much more rudimentary means, being shot to death or burned alive.

But starvation and disease were just as much a part of the genocide apparatus as the gas chambers and killing ditches were. Anne Frank's death was not a case of criminal negligence, it was murder.

Three more tweets.

'Cat Tracker' study reveals the secret wanderings of 900 house cats

THE GOAL OF the massive international Cat Tracker project was simple: find out where pet cats go when they’re outside. Researchers have tried to tackle this question in the past, either by following cats on foot (good luck!) or by putting radio-transmitters on collars around cats’ necks, but Cat Tracker was singular in its scale—nearly a thousand cats across four countries wore GPS trackers for a week to shed light on how far they range and where they go.

After six years, the results are in. Published in the journal Animal Conservation, a new report the Cat Tracker team compiled data across continents to find that for most cats, there’s no place like home.

“I was surprised at how little these cats moved,” says lead author Roland Kays of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. “Most of them spent all their time within 100 meters [330 feet] of their yard.” While it’s good news that most cats aren’t wandering into natural areas, the study reveals that pet cats nonetheless can cause ecological mayhem and put themselves in danger. (Read more about following in the footsteps of felines here.)

Michael Cove, a cat expert at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute who studied the effects of feral and free-roaming cats on endangered small mammals in the Florida Keys, lauded the study as “quite an accomplishment."

“I am unaware of any studies that have examined the spatial ecology of this many individual domestic cats, or any domesticated species for that matter,” he says.


Biden wants a woman as his running mate. Val Demings could be the one.

If what happened on Super Tuesday is any indication of what will happen in Florida’s primary, I think that we’re gonna be in really good shape,” Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) told me during an interview last week. She was right. Despite disruptions due to the coronavirus, Florida saw record turnout that powered the 40-point victory of former vice president Joe Biden, whom Demings endorsed.

Demings wouldn’t engage in direct political talk when I asked her about Biden’s remaining rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), especially given his comments about the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Demings’s reticence was unsurprising since we were sitting in her Capitol Hill office, where such talk runs afoul of the rules. But she found a way to get her point across.

“I certainly will not guess about what Sen. Sanders said or what he meant to say. But what I do know is that several people who live in a very diverse state were upset by those comments,” Demings, a former police chief in Orlando, told me when I asked whether Sanders’s praise for Castro’s literacy programs was damaging in the Sunshine State. “We’re in the middle of a race. We’re going to let Floridians decide.”


With antisemitic hate crimes in Germany there seems to be classification issues.

Doubts about the ministry’s methodology have become more pronounced as its data have increasingly diverged with information from across Western Europe — and from the perceptions of German Jews themselves.

Last month, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said that supporters of far-right groups were responsible for about 90 percent of the 1,800 recorded anti-Semitic incidents recorded in Germany in 2018, a 20 percent increase over the previous year.

In France, by contrast, more than half of anti-Semitism incidents, and virtually all the violent ones, are perpetrated by immigrants from Muslim countries or their descendants, according to the National Bureau of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism.

In Britain, the Community Security Trust suggests that far-right perpetrators are responsible for 50-60 percent of the incidents where victims offered a physical description of their attackers. This happened in about 30 percent of 1,652 cases in 2018, a 19 percent hike from the previous year.

In the Netherlands, the previous director of CIDI, the country’s foremost watchdog on anti-Semitism, said that Muslims and Arabs are responsible for about 70 percent of all cases recorded in any given year.

In a 2016 survey of hundreds of German Jews who had experienced anti-Semitic incidents, 41 percent said the perpetrator was “someone with a Muslim extremist view” and another 16 percent said it was someone from the far left. Only 20 percent identified their aggressors as belonging to the far-right.

“There is clearly a mismatch here, and it speaks to the inaccuracy of the German official statistics,” the RIAS researcher Poensgen said.


Poensgen doubted that official German statistics are being deliberately mislabeled for political purposes.

“Most likely it’s the result of an out-of-date classification system, that for historical reasons is designed to monitor far-right anti-Semitism,” he said.

He cited one case in 2014 in which about 20 men shouted the Nazi slogan “Sieg heil” at an al-Quds Day march, an annual pro-Palestinian event where the mostly Muslim participants typically chant anti-Israel and anti-American slogans. The episode appears as a far-right incident in the Interior Ministry’s records.

Such mislabeling does, however, help the German far-right’s attempt to discredit the government, Poensgen said.


For special-needs kids, New Jersey rabbi offers chance of a 'LifeTown'

LIVINGSTON, N.J. (Reuters) - Looking out of his office window, Rabbi Zalman Grossbaum finds it hard to get work done as he watches kids enjoying the miniature town he built for them.

The village of storefronts inside his enclosed “LifeTown” complex in Livingston, New Jersey, lets children with special needs - “special abilities,” Grossbaum insists - hone their social skills, and he always wants to join them.

“I feel this magnetic pull to come out here and to be with the kids and experience life with the kids, because there’s something absolutely magical for what happens here,” Grossbaum said standing in the miniature town, known as LifeTown Shoppes.

If there is any lingering frustration over the seven years it took to convert the 53,000 square-foot (4,924 square-meter) building into his dream, including a year of construction that stretched into three, Grossbaum does not show it.


'Mensch' Joe Biden sees surge in Jewish support

Many American Jewish leaders may be able to talk about the first time they met Joe Biden – the guy has, after all, been a fixture in Washington for 44 years – but Rabbi Michael Beals’ story is a doozy: He met Biden at a shiva call.

In 2006, Biden was still a Democratic Senator from Delaware, and Beals was the newly-installed spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Shalom in that state’s largest city, Wilmington. A synagogue member named Sylvia Greenhouse had died at the age of 83, and her apartment was too small to fit the gathered mourners, so Beals was leading a service in the building’s laundry room, and in walked the state’s senior Senator.

Biden explained to the rabbi that in every election campaign since his first Senate run in 1972, Greenhouse, a retired DMV employee, had sent him donations of $18 – a number that in Judaism symbolizes life. So Biden was there to pay his respects.

“And nobody was covering it, nobody from the press, there wasn’t an assistant,” Beals recounted. “It’s just who he is.”


The BDS Faith: Judaism without Zion


Jews don’t know what antisemitism is because they don’t have the right definition of Judaism. Such is the claim of many self-identified progressives who deny Israel’s right to exist. Israel has no connection to Judaism, they say, so therefore anti-Zionism has no connection to antisemitism. William Kolbrener explains why they are wrong.

Those advocates of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement who claim no connection between antisemitism and anti-Zionism have their own definitions of both antisemitism and Judaism. For them, religion, revolves around faith, as it does for Christians, but not the distinctly Jewish conception of nationhood – so that the State of Israel is seen not as a genuine expression of Judaism, but a cynical colonialist grab for power. This is one thing Trump gets right – Judaism is a nation before a religion in the Christian sense.

The refusal of Jewish exceptionalism has a long history. BDS-supporting progressives, wearing the multi-cultured garment of intersectionality, are not unlike most Christians before the founding of State of Israel: both seek to deny Jewish difference. The idea that ‘there is no Jew nor Greek,’ asserted by the apostle Paul, informs contemporary progressive versions of community. Such progressives may bristle at hearing themselves described as akin to Christian universalism, but in their urge to deny Jewish difference, they show many affinities to older forms of antisemitism. Just as they did in relationship to Christianity, today Jews give the lie to universalist claims. Then, as now, the Jew is made the excluded outsider, the one difference excluded from the universalism of difference.

Today, the most obvious expression of Jewish exceptionalism is the State of Israel, and thus the target of antisemitic attack. For those progressives who reject Judaism as defined through peoplehood and practices, mere Judaism as faith does not justify Jewish nationhood, in fact it’s an affront to their sensibility, a betrayal of what real faith should be. But Judaism encompasses every aspect of public and private life – mandating not only laws about diet, sex and work, but laws in relationship to farming, commerce, charity. The latter category of laws also includes ways in which produce of the Land of Israel must be designated for the poor. That is, Judaism imagines itself – in its ideal form – as a way of life and aspires to found that encompassing life in relationship to Jewish community in the Land of Israel. This is the way Jewish peoplehood has been expressed as an ideal in exile for at least two thousand years, and as a lived reality, however flawed, in the current State of Israel. Those who advocate BDS, however, having determined what Judaism is, can go ahead and deny any connection between anti-Zionism and antisemitism, calling out the Jewish State as colonialist because they insist that religion, and therefore Judaism, must be determined by faith alone.


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