Still think the climate isn’t changing? Here’s one for the record books: an unusually fierce spring storm system on Tuesday brings record breaking blizzards to South Dakota, Nebraska, ice storms as far south as Oklahoma. Winter storm warnings stretched from Utah to Minnesota on Tuesday, said the Washington Post weather blog. NBC News reported temperature in Denver dropping 55 degrees in 24 hours. And:
On Tuesday, temperature differences across the Plains were more than 90 degrees. Highs ranged from 12 degrees in Cheyenne, Wyo., to 108 degrees in Laredo, Texas.
The culprit, AccuWeather.com explains, is an unusual blast of freezing Arctic air moving south, colliding with a low-pressure system moving eastward off the Rockies and a warm, moist air mass moving north from Texas. And this, dear readers, is almost exactly what caused Hurricane Sandy last fall to become the East Coast catastrophe it became.
The critical piece is that freezing Arctic air mass showing up where it doesn’t belong. You won’t be surprised to hear me suggest that it’s another nasty consequence of global warming. Here’s how it works:
A ho-hum New York City mayoral race just got a whole lot more interesting.
Sext scandal-ridden former congressman Anthony Weiner announced, a few paragraphs into a laudatory New York Times Magazine profile, that he’s considering joining the crowded Democratic field.
That could shake up allegiances among New York City’s political clans, including some city Jews. And analysts warned against betting against Weiner, given his potent resume and proven vote-winning prowess.
“Before his difficulties, before his personal troubles, he was going to be mayor,” said Michael Tobman, a New York City-based political consultant, alluding to the pervading sense prior to Weiner’s 2011 scandal that he was the frontrunner in the mayoral race.
Weiner ceded that leading spot in the Democratic field to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. In a race without any Jewish candidates, Quinn and the progressive Public Advocate Bill De Blasio have been contending for the city’s non-Orthodox Jewish votes.
Quinn’s strength is in Manhattan, where her City Council district is located. De Blasio, who previously represented parts of Brooklyn in the City Council, has built support in Brooklyn and Queens.
“Weiner makes trouble for Public Advocate De Blasio and Speaker Quinn,” said Hank Sheinkopf, another New York City political consultant. “He’s got the right name and a history in the outer boroughs, in places where the bulk of the Jews live.”
From Tuesday’s Yediot Ahronot, as translated in the emailed Daily News Update of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace comes a fairly detailed description by Alex Fishman of John Kerry’s game plan for restarting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Fishman is Yediot’s veteran, impeccably well-sourced military affairs correspondent. He attributes this information to State Department sources. It doesn’t appear on line (neither in Hebrew nor English) so I’m posting the Abraham Center’s translation below in full.
In brief, Fishman reports that Kerry is aiming for a 4-way meeting in Amman between Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the United States and Jordan. (Kerry is very eager to have Jordan step in as a sponsor of peace talks, both to give Abbas some substantive Arab backing and to give King Abdullah II a boost.) You’ll note at once that Abbas is already refusing to attend without a clear gesture from Israel. In the past he’s demanded a full Israeli settlement freeze. Lately he’s begun demanding a map showing Bibi Netanyahu’s notion of a future Palestinian state. As I’ve reported in the past, Abu Mazen has been refusing to talk to Bibi (after willingly talking to Ehud Olmert before him) because his sense is that Bibi has no intention of ever ceding enough land for a real state. The idea of the map is to show that the talks will go somewhere, so Abu Mazen doesn’t enter a dead end and end up looking like a fool.
So if you stop reading after paragraph 2, you get the sense that Kerry’s plan is dead in the water. But Fishman goes on to report that Kerry thinks he can eventually get Bibi to give up some lesser concessions that will satisfy Abu Mazen and get the talks started. The two sides’ notions of final borders are impossibly far apart at this point, but Kerry is aiming for an interim agreement on Israel ceding 80% of the West Bank as a first stage. It’s a long shot, but who knows? So were the 1969 Mets…
The Kerry Plan
By Alex Fishman, Yediot Ahronot, April 9, 2013
The new American secretary of state, John Kerry, is trying to get Israel and the Palestinians to sit down to a four-way meeting in Jordan. The answer he’s received from Abu Mazen, at least for the time being, has been flat out refusal.
American and Israeli press outlets (Washington Post/AP, Detroit Free Press, Times of Israel, Arutz Sheva/Israel National News) are carrying unsourced reports that Secretary of State Kerry, currently visiting Turkey, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, is hoping to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks on the basis of the “dormant” Arab Peace Initiative, which is “suddenly” springing back to life.
That would be the Saudi-initiated plan adopted unanimously by the League of Arab States in 2002, and reaffirmed in 2007. It offered Israel full recognition, normalized diplomatic relations and a formal end to the Arab-Israeli conflict in return for a return to the pre-1967 borders and an “just” and “agreed” resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem. Kerry reportedly wants to dust off the supposedly long-forgotten plan and introduce certain “sweeteners,” such as better security guarantees and border modifications, to make it more palatable to Israel, which has never formally responded to the offer.
The funny thing is, from the Arab point of view the plan isn’t dormant at all. It turns out the Arab League considers it very much alive and actually has a standing Peace Initiative Follow-up Committee that’s been meeting regularly (2010, 2011, 2012 to discuss the plan and figure out how to get it moving. The committee is meeting today in Doha, Qatar, with the Palestinian Authority’s president Mahmoud Abbas, foreign minister Riyad Malki and chief negotiator Saeb Erekat in attendance, to finalize plans for a delegation of foreign ministers that will go to Washington on April 29 to meet with Kerry.
Margaret Thatcher was a challenge to most feminists, myself included. She was well into her second term as Britain’s first woman prime minister when I moved to London as a foreign correspondent. Beneath the polished veneer that so tantalized Americans at that time, Britain was in utter turmoil — bludgeoned by terrorist violence, divided by the brutal miner’s strike and economic upheaval, and uncertain about its role in a changing Europe.
Anyone trying to steer this battered ship of state would court controversy, but Thatcher didn’t just court it. She grabbed it by the lapels, yelled in its face and dared it to respond.
She wasn’t at all what one would expect of a woman leader, then or now. Was that right? Was that fair?
Europe’s foundations are constructed upon ashes and dust. They are built where the walls of the ghettos were once erected around overcrowded quarters in Warsaw, Łódź, and Krakow. They are built upon the pits of Babi Yar and the mass graves made across Poland, Russia, and the Ukraine. They are built upon the ruins of the camps whose names are forever branded on our collective memory: Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Sobibor.
Europe exists because of the Holocaust – it is forever tied to that awful past. Through education, commemoration, and memorialisation, the peoples of Europe are constantly borne back to the horrific events which preceded our zero hour, in the knowledge that they were of our own making and that it is our responsibility as a continent to ensure such things never occur again. European institutions exist precisely in order to prevent another war to end all wars, another war of imperialism, slavery, and annihilation.
By extension, Europe also exists in order to protect those who were the victims of the last great war and Hitler’s campaign of racial and biological purification, including and perhaps above all the Jewish people. Ensuring the safety and allowing for the political, economic, and cultural flourishing of European Jewry is or should be one of postwar Europe’s founding principles. It is an obligation of national governments and the European community to uphold it at all costs.
The nations of Europe have indeed succeeded in preventing another war, another catastrophe, yet across the continent conditions for Jews are worsening. In 2012, recorded anti-Semitic hate crimes increased by 30 percent year-on-year, ranging from physical violence to the vandalism of synagogues and cemeteries. This was not, as it has been in the past, a phenomenon linked to events in the Middle East, a revulsion at times of conflagration and unrest in Gaza or Lebanon. Rather, there has been an overall deterioration in the economic and political state of Europe, with Jews suffering disproportionately as a consequence.
Back in 2008, it looked like the living conditions of Holocaust survivors were, at long last, to significantly improve. A state commission of enquiry, headed by retired Judge Dalia Dorner, concluded that there should be major increases in money directed to survivors, and the government agreed.
Five years on, ask most survivors and they’ll tell you that nothing has changed. A survey of survivors by the Tel Aviv-based Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel has just reported that 56% of survivors surveyed take the view that there has been no change in the way the government treats them since the commission of enquiry. It conducted its survey ahead of Yom Hashoah next week.
The Foundation found that some 67% of survivors are dissatisfied with the way the state treats them.
Shockingly, it found that a fifth of Holocaust survivors living in Israel have skipped at least one meal in the last year due to financial worries. One in eight survivors found that in the last year they could not afford all the medicines they needed; that more than half can’t afford all their monthly living costs; that more than one in three faces financial difficulties; and that only 6% say they are free of economic problems.
With a new government in place in Jerusalem, a new Knesset, and lots of new optimistic promises in the Israeli political sphere, these statistics five years after a government actually adopted a state commission of enquiry underscores just how far proposals for change can get without actually being translated in to reality.
Yuri Foreman, the rabbi-in-training who doubles as a boxer, was dreaming big after winning the latest fight in his comeback trail.
He wants to be the next Jewish champ.
“In the 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s there were so many Jewish boxing champions, the best at that time, the strongest people,” he said. “So I am part of that legacy only a little couple decades later. I’m representing my people, Jewish people, and I want to be world champion again, since I was a kid.”
The visions of glory came after Foreman easily dispatched Gundrick King in a unanimous decision.
King in the end did not pose much of a challenge to Yuri Foreman. Significantly shorter and noticeably slower than Foreman, King just could not keep up with Foreman’s fluid motions in the ring. Foreman danced around King landing his punches with ease and after a relatively brisk six rounds Foreman had another victory by unanimous decision in his pocket.
Foreman, less tentative than his previous fight against Brandon Baue, displayed efficient speed in the fists and legs. Sans knee brace thanks to a new New York State rule prohibiting them in the ring, Foreman was clearly the better fighter. One’s only complaint could be that Foreman struggled somewhat in cutting off the angles in the ring so that he could catch King in the corners, otherwise Foreman fought an almost perfect fight.
King simply did not punch enough to warrant a defense or an offense. In the locker room, Foreman’s trainer summed up the match against King, “He’s a tough kid to hit. The kid didn’t want to engage, and Yuri was able to do his business [with him] regardless of that.”
When asked about Foreman’s next step, trainer Mark Puttenvink said that he would like to see Foreman fight for a belt this fall. Puttenvink floated the idea of Foreman fighting Ishe Smith for the IBF light middleweight title. With championships in the air, a local reporter from New Haven asked Foreman what it would mean to him to be world champion again.
Of course we could not resist asking Foreman if he would like for that championship fight to happen in Israel.
“There is always a chance.” Foreman said, “I don’t know how big is the chance.”
Yesh Atid surprised pundits when it came second in the January general election in Israel, despite the fact it was a brand new political party with a leader, Yair Lapid, who had never served in Knesset. But it doesn’t stop there. If a poll released today is right, then Yesh Atid has increased its popularity by almost 50% since the election.
It has 19 of the Knesset’s 120 seats, but if new elections were held now, according to a Knesset Channel survey, it would win 28. And you guessed it — that means that it would be the biggest Knesset party and Yair Lapid would be Prime Minister.
In today’s poll, it looks like Yesh Atid has been winning its newfound support from the right. The religious-Zionist Jewish Home party loses two seats and Likud-Beytenu, which was already miserable at winning only 31 seats in the election, is down to 25.
It would seem that the opinion changes since the election reflect the fact that the coalition negotiations led by Likud-Beytenu’s Benjamin Netanyahu were long and chaotic, and that Lapid came out looking like a winner. After all, he stuck to his insistence that Haredi parties were omitted from the coalition, and that the new government progresses legislation for a draft of Haredi men to the army.
The question now is whether Prime Minister Netanyahu can pull back from the humiliation of the coalition negotiations and regain his political dominance. There are no obvious initiatives on the horizon that will see him woo the public, apart from any flexing of muscles on security matters. But we’re now entering the phase where Lapid’s newness to the political fold may lead to the end of his honeymoon and the start of Bibi’s reassertion of his power. Lapid has just become Finance Minister, a position he didn’t particularly want, and only once his decisions start to filter through and impact of people’s day-to-day lives will we know if he’s built for politics, or whether today’s poll is a case of him peaking early.
Yuri Foreman (29-2), the heralded rabbi-in-training continues his comeback trail in New York City tonight at the Roseland Ballroom.
His opponent is Gundrick King (18-9), a former college football player for the University of North Alabama, who not to be outdone intellectually, studied applied microcomputer design while in college. On paper this could be considered one of the more cerebral matchups of 2013.
Foreman is coming off a 6 round victory by unanimous decision over Brandon Baue (12-8) at the B.B. King Blues Club and Grill in Times Square this past January. He is looking for his first consecutive victory since 2008. A win for Foreman will most likely extend his comeback to eventually challenge for a championship. A loss might see him seeking a permanent post at the pulpit.
King is coming off a third round technical knockout loss against George Tahdooahnippah at the Comanche Nation Casino in Oklahoma. While not a household name, King primarily fights in the South and represents another important step forward for Foreman.
King’s lone match in New York since turning professional in 2007 came last year and pitted him against title contender Charlie Ota of Tokyo, Japan at the Madison Square Garden Theatre. King suffered a technical knockout while standing in the 7th round of an 8 round contest.
Make sure to follow @jdforward for live coverage at the fight. You can also watch the fight live online via Dibella Entertainment’s website: dbe1.com or on the old fashion television on Sportsnet starting at 7 p.m.
The sprawling Texas county where two prosecutors have been shot in recent weeks has the unlikeliest of Jewish roots.
Kaufman County, a 780-square-mile jurisdiction just 20 miles southeast of Dallas, is named for David Spangler Kaufman. He holds a place in history books as a lawmaker in the Republic of Texas and was the only Jewish Texan to serve in the U.S. Congress until the 1970s.
The county, in which dog bites and escaped cows usually make up the police blotter, has made national headlines for the shocking recent killings of local law officials. County district attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, were found shot to death inside their home in the Kaufman County town of Forney on Saturday.
UPDATE: The Texas prosecutor and his wife who were shot at their home on Saturday each suffered multiple gunshot wounds, and sheriff’s deputies found cartridge casings next to their bodies, according to an affidavit reviewed by Reuters on Tuesday.
On Jan. 31, one of McLelland’s lead prosecutors, Mark E. Hasse, was shot and killed in a parking lot as he strolled to his office at the county courthouse.
The murders took place in an area named for a Jewish pioneer who did his home state proud. According to the Texas State Historical Association, David Spangler Kaufman (1813–1851) was a “lawyer, Indian fighter, and politician.” Pennsylvania-born, Princeton-educated Kaufman began his legal career in Natchitoches, Louisiana, in 1835. Two years later he settled in Nacogdoches, Texas, where he continued practicing law.
There was an old slogan on the left in the years between the wars: Fascism means war. Succinct, it managed to say at once that war is inherent to fascism, since it is both expansionist and authoritarian, and that fascism demands war as an ideology so heinous it must be combated.
Such sentiments evidently still mean something to David Miliband.
The British Labour MP resigned from the board of English Premier League team Sunderland AFC Sunday, after the club appointed Italian Paolo Di Canio as their new manager following the sacking of Martin O’Neill. In a brief statement, Miliband said:
I wish Sunderland AFC all success in the future. It is a great institution that does a huge amount for the North East and I wish the team very well over the next vital seven games. However, in the light of the new manager’s past political statements, I think it right to step down.
Miliband’s move came days after he announced his intention to leave the House of Commons in order to take up the directorship of the International Rescue Committee in New York.
Di Canio has always been a controversial figure in European soccer, regardless of his ‘past political statements’, because of his passionate and erratic behaviour on and off the field. In 1998 during his playing career, Di Canio was banned for 11 matches and fined $15,000 for pushing over a referee. During the 2002-03 season while playing for West Ham United he repeatedly criticised his manager, Glenn Roeder, in the press as the club slumped to the bottom of the Premier League. Di Canio left his last job as manager of Swindon Town under a cloud following disagreements over finances and transfers while the club was in the middle of a takeover.
But Di Canio is also a fascist. To be specific, “I am a fascist, not a racist,” he declared in 2005, as if trying to distinguish between these two types of supremacisms makes his politics less abhorrent. While he was playing for SS Lazio, Di Canio became closely affiliated with the club’s ultras, and on three separate occasions celebrated scoring by raising his right arm in the fascistic style to a group of supporters known for their right-wing extremism. “What a delightful Roman salute!” Alessandra Mussolini is reported to have said after one such display during a game against cross-city rivals, AS Roma. “I was deeply moved. I will write him a thank you note.”
Passover this year came with a nasty jolt.
It wasn’t the company, mostly cousins I rarely see and always enjoy. It certainly wasn’t the food, which was traditional and delicious enough to satisfy any expectations: gefilte fish, knaidlech, horseradish, charoseth, and the most tender brisket I’ve had since my mother died. It wasn’t the conversation, the warmth, the seder plate complete with lamb shank and perfectly roasted egg, the salt water with parsley, the hiding of the afikomen. All those elements were in place, as always.
The jolt involved the hagaddah. It was brutal.
Everyone yearns for the hagaddah of their youth; for many that means the paperback version supplied by Maxwell House. But not for my family. Our hagaddah was the version, also paperback, put out by Barton’s candy, a company known for chocolates and almond kisses.
The Maxwell House hagaddah seems to be alive and well these days; a version of it (recently updated to be gender-neutral, among others things) was used by the Obamas at the White House seder this year. The Barton’s hagaddah has disappeared. I recently saw a version of it being hawked on eBay for $74. It was beautifully illustrated, which may explain the price.
But the illustrations, while part of the familiarity, of course, are not what I miss. No, it’s the words, the phrases, so many of which became an integral part of family lore.
From 1992: Jerry Seinfeld shows up at a Saturday Night Live Seder playing Elijah as an insult comic.
Despite initially facing resistance from the Hillel of Greater Philadelphia, student members of J Street at the University of Pennsylvania were able to host an event at Penn’s Hillel featuring Breaking the Silence, a group of Israeli Defense Force army veterans who speak out against Israeli military policy.
Thursday’s event drew about 60 people and there were no protests according to Akiva Sanders, a junior and co-president of J Street UPenn.
Shapiro, who noted that many Penn Hillel students would like to live in Israel after graduation, said that it was, “important for people to understand all the different details of the situation in Israel and the situation produced by the policies of a government that we give a lot of money to and we also support.”
J Street began planning to have a speaker from Breaking the Silence come to campus in October but was soon notified that Hillel of Greater Philadelphia would not allow the event to be held in the Hillel building. In January, J Street created a petition to support the event, which was signed by 27 Penn Hillel student leaders.
Sanders said the petition made the point that, “people across the Jewish community amongst my generation really want to have a kind of conversation that is supportive of Israel, loving toward Israel, but is thoughtful and can deal with the realities of the situation.”
A new poll indicates that Barack Obama’s Middle East visit left Israelis less convinced that he is pro-Palestinian.
A survey conducted before the visit found that 36% of Israelis considered the president more pro-Palestinian than pro-Israeli. This fell a remarkable 20% to 16% in a survey published today. Smith Research conducted both surveys.
Though Israelis now view Obama as less pro-Palestinian, there has been only a tiny increase in those who say that he is more pro-Israeli than pro-Palestinian. Only 27% of respondents took this view, compared to 26% before the visit.
The Jerusalem Post, which commissioned both Smith polls, stated that the new survey shows that Obama made an impression on Israelis but “not the impression he was trying to make.” But one wonders if this is a fair interpretation.
The results were a way of Israeli’s saying that they’re less skeptical and less convinced that Obama is on “the other side” but not yet ready to endorse him, which is only a natural part of the process of warming to him. Or at least, it’s a natural way of them expressing themselves if confronted with this rather odd line of questioning.
Why ask people which “side” Obama is taking, constructing pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli as polar opposites? This makes an assumption that not all Israelis accept, but which all respondents are forced to adhere to. And perhaps in part the fact that the pro-Palestinian figure dropped without any significant increase in the pro-Israeli future points to the problem with this model of questioning.
Anthony Lewis devoted his life to preserving the ideals of that exceptional and quintessential American liberty: the First Amendment. In 2009, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) honored Lewis with its annual Burton Benjamin Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his contributions to press freedom (Lewis was a founding board member of CPJ).
Lewis died this week at 85, prompting an outpouring of tributes for the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner.
Who was the recipient of the award the year before Lewis?
A tenacious lawyer who has endured a police beating and imprisonment the very same week for her dogged defense of journalists and others in one of the world’s worst tyrannies: Zimbabwe.
Beatrice Mtetwa regained her freedom after a hellish week that began on March 17 when she was arrested and charged with the criminal offense of “defeating or obstructing the course of justice.”
The arguments over Proposition 8 – the California ban on same-sex marriage – gave tantalizing hints about the thinking of Supreme Court justices hearing the case.
After a lawyer in support of the ban, Charles Cooper, argued that procreation and child-rearing were fundamental to a state’s interest in marriage, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg brought up a previous Supreme Court case in which justices ruled prison inmates have a right to marry even though they may be prevented from procreating, according to the BBC.
“There are lots of people who get married who can’t have children,” Justice Stephen Breyer reportedly told Cooper.
And Justice Anthony Kennedy, often seen as a swing vote, suggested children of same-sex couples would suffer an “immediate legal injury” under the ban.
Despite the intriguing clues, a Jewish leader of the marriage-equality movement cautioned against reading too much into the arguments.
“Today’s argument was lively as the justices grappled with the mix of substantive and procedural questions raised in this challenge to Prop 8.,” Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, told the Forward in an e-mail.
“Now they are going to dig into the mountain of briefs and evidence from a who’s who of America … all showing there is no good reason for denying committed same-sex couples the freedom to marry. It’s always tempting, and often misleading, to speculate about oral argument, but the truth is that it’s in the opinion-writing and circulating process that the justices reach their result,” said Wolfson, widely regarded as a pioneer in marriage rights in the U.S.
Many analysts said the justices appeared to be considering a narrow ruling in the case and avoiding a pronouncement about whether a fundamental right to gay marriage exists in the constitution.
Just before the doors of the Old Family Dining Room swing open to welcome Elijah to the White House Seder, Dr. Eric Whitaker, a friend of President Obama, reads aloud the Emancipation Proclamation.
Last week, as I researched the Obama Seder (the only Seder hosted by a sitting President), I was struck by several things, including the homey feeling of it and the extraordinary circumstances of the first Seder on the campaign trail in 2008. But nothing struck me as much as this profound reminder of the real meaning of Passover.
The Emancipation Proclamation is perhaps the grandest-named document in American history aside from the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. But the practical implications for slaves when it was enacted on January 1, 1863, were far fewer than its name would imply.
Issued by Abraham Lincoln, the document only liberated a very small number of slaves. Freedom for most black Americans didn’t come about until the Civil War was won and the 13th Amendment was adopted nearly three years later. And, of course, it took a century more before even a semblance of real equality was achieved.
Despite its shortcomings, the sentiment of the document can not be overlooked. It was a crucial step in the fight to create a country where freedom and equality are rights granted to everyone.
Similarly, during the Seder, we end the story of the Exodus long before the Jewish people reach the Promised Land (40 years, to be precise). And most of those liberated from Egypt would die on that long journey towards a truly free life.
What if Martin Luther King, Jr., Anne Frank, Matthew Shepard and Yitzhak Rabin were still alive today?
A new video from the Anti-Defamation League depicts the contributions they could have made to society and asks viewers to envision a world without hate. Produced for the ADL’s 100th anniversary and set to John Lennon’s “Imagine,” the video has gone viral with over 350,000 views on YouTube.