• He heard an old man speak to students–and he did something wonderful for him

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    Drew Principe, 17, was one of the California high school students who recently heard Henry Oster’s talk about surviving the Holocaust. They listened as Oster described the depths of despair, his fear and loss, and finally his survival.

    Dr. Oster, who is now nearing 90, explained that he had been on the eve of celebrating his Bar Mitzvah when the Nazis rounded up–and killed–his family at Auschwitz. (His father starved to death in the ghetto.)

    Somehow, he alone survived.

    After the war, he moved to California, became a doctor, and lived out his life there.

    That’s the story of loss and survival Dr. Oster told the high school students.

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    Reaching out to help

    Then, young Mr. Principe did something extraordinary:

    When Principe learned that Oster had never been to Israel, he started a fundraising effort for the once-in-a-lifetime trip [to visit Oster’s last living relative there]. –Daily Mail

    Principe raised $15,000 to fund Mr. Oster’s trip.

    On Monday, 89-year-old Henry Oster left for that dreamed-of trip to visit his last living relative.

    Drew Principe and his family are tagging along to share the joy.

    The story and picture of Principe and Oster are here. (Daily Mail)

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, April 29

    Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple

     North Korea responds to US criticism at United Nations by launching a test missile. It blows up, their 4th straight failure

    The Reuters headline has it exactly right: North Korea test-fires ballistic missile in defiance of world pressure

    North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile on Saturday shortly after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned that failure to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs could lead to “catastrophic consequences”.

    U.S. and South Korean officials said the test, from an area north of the North Korean capital, appeared to have failed, in what would be the North’s fourth straight unsuccessful missile test since March. –Reuters

    Comments:

    • If someone is hacking these launches, they are doing a good job.
    • China’s reaction here is crucial. If Kim did this after he was warned by Beijing, he will pay for it.
    • Trump is playing the China card correctly. His public position is “China and the US are working together on this.” That does more than save face for China. It says, subtly, that if China cannot stop North Korea, it is Pyongyang that is showing up Beijing, and Beijing won’t want to let that happen.
    • Sending Tillerson to the UN was important. It says to the world: “This is on our front burner.”
    • At some point, the US will have to decide whether to include Chinese entities in any sanctions aimed at North Korea. All North Korean connections to the world, meager as they are, go through China. Any sanction against Chinese entities, even a small move against a small bank, meant as a signal, would risk future collaboration with China on the North Korean issue. So, the US will probably hold off on that for a while.
    • What has been missing in the analysis: those missiles aimed at South Korea and Japan could also hit China, and Beijing has to worry about that if North Korea continues its nuclear program.

     Despite all the happy talk, the US economy grew very slowly in the first quarter. Under 1%.  (New York Times)

    The reason: a sharp, unexpected slowdown in consumer spending. The NYT offers a sensible explanation of the political and economic consequences of the 0.7% growth number:

    The softness last quarter also provides crucial ammunition for the Trump administration’s arguments that big tax cuts and regulatory rollbacks are necessary for the economy to grow the way it did in the 1980s and 1990s.

    Tax cuts, regulatory relief, trade renegotiations and an unfettered energy sector are needed “to overcome the dismal economy inherited by the Trump administration,” said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. “Business and consumer sentiment is strong, but both must be released from the regulatory and tax shackles constraining economic growth.”

    The first-quarter fade is also sure to be noticed by the Federal Reserve as it contemplates whether to proceed with two more interest-rate increases planned for this year. –New York Times

     MS-13 Murderous Drug Gang targeted by DOJ. Jeff Sessions tells them: “We are coming after you”  The South American drug cartel has spread across the US, branched into other criminal enterprises, and committed a string of murders recently on Long Island. (Fox News)

    Comment: They are major profiteers from the opioid epidemic and were among the targets of candidate Trump’s famous “bad hombres” comment.

    Politically, the Trump Administration is wise to focus on gangs like this. US citizens are being victimized, and even the staunchest defenders of open borders don’t want to defend the entrance of criminal gangs like MS-13.

    Bernie calls Barack’s Wall Street paydays “distasteful”  (CNN)

    Comment: Sanders made the comment from his office, not one of his three homes.

    Elizabeth Warren has made similar comments about Obama’s high-priced speeches to financial executives.

    Pres. Obama’s spokesman, Eric Schultz, responded,

    Obama will continue to focus most of his post-presidency on writing a book, giving speeches and “training and elevating a new generation of political leaders in America.” –CNN

    Comment: Neither Sanders nor Warren will want to go too far here. They want to keep up the heat on Wall Street for their progressive base, but attacking the former President, who is very popular among Democrats, is not a game with much upside for them.

    Comment: Democrats certainly need a new generation of political leaders, the ones Obama’s spokesman is promising.

    • The most popular Democrat is not even a member of the party. He is a Socialist.
    • The current, elected leadership is all drawing Social Security
    • Rising D’s in their 40s and 50s were wiped out en mass during the Obama presidency. His record of grooming future leaders is, ahem, not strong. 

     Marine Le Pen, in the runoff for France’s presidency, faces more stench from her political base, the National Front

    After Le Pen advanced to the runoff last Sunday, she resigned her leadership of the National Front. Her successor was Jean-François Jalkh. In on-the-record interviews in 2000, he denied the Nazis used poison gas to kill millions in concentration camps. When those comments were publicized this week, Jalkh denied making them. But they were on tape. So, now, Mr. Jalkh has decided to spend more time with his family and has been replaced by the mayor of a northern industrial town. The search is undoubtedly on to see if he said what he really thinks to anybody who recorded it.

    The story is in the Washington Post.

    Comment: Le Pen is an underdog in the runoff, but her presence at the top of French politics is a very disturbing sign.

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  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Wednesday, January 18

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

     German court rules burning a synagogue is a justified expression of criticism of Israel

    The article in the Jerusalem Post says

    A regional court in Germany has decided that a brutal attempt to set fire to a local synagogue in 2014 was an act meant to express criticism against Israel’s conduct in its ongoing conflict with Hamas.

    A German regional court in the city of Wuppertal affirmed a lower court decision last Friday stating that a violent attempt to burn the city’s Bergische Synagogue by three men in 2014 was a justified expression of criticism of Israel’s policies.

    The court sentenced the three men – Muhammad E., 31, Ismail A., 26, and Muhammad A., 20 – to suspended sentences for tossing firebombs at the synagogue. and causing €800 worth of damage.

    The original synagogue in Wuppertal was burned by Nazis during the Kristallnacht pogroms in 1938. –Jerusalem Post

     Betsy DeVos survives tough questioning, on path to confirmation as Sec. of Education according to Politico. (Story here.)

    Comment: Listening to Sen. Elizabeth Warren ask DeVos if she or her children had taken out student loans to go to college left me embarrassed as a fellow human being. When DeVos said “no,” that she and her family had been fortunate but that she had worked with children who had experienced student debt, Warren could see the answer was going in a bad direction and immediately cut off DeVos. Whether you agree with Warren’s views or not, this is demagoguery masquerading as inquiry.

     Samantha Power’s exit speech is a blistering attack on Russia  Time magazine has the story.

    Comment: It is a very strange world, indeed, to see a Republican president-to-be so restrained about Russia and to see the Democrats so hawkish.

    ◆ Related Story: NYT Editorial headlined, “Russia Gains When Donald Trump Trashes NATO”  Editorial here.

    Comment: The Times is absolutely right. Although NATO has serious flaws, including free-loading by allies, it is the lynchpin of US international relationships. Trump’s comments create serious dangers for America, particularly if they encourage Putin to think he can push harder against Russia’s European neighbors. 

     State Department sends $500 million to UN Climate Fund this week, just beating the change of administration  Obama had pledged $3 billion; he send $500 million in March, and now this next $500 million, according to the Washington Post. (Story here)

    Comment: I am sure Kerry and Obama are correct in thinking, “no one’s going to cut that check next week.”

     Why aren’t any Senators boycotting the Trump Inauguration, as more than 50 Congressmen are?  Simple, says the Washington Post. They are looking at broader constituencies, including lots of people who voted for the President-elect. For some, that’s people in their own state. For others, that’s a national electorate for a future presidential run.

    Senate Democrats represent far broader numbers of people and have to be respectable and responsive to, in most cases, millions of their constituents who voted for Trump. And 25 of them are up for reelection in 2018. “So there are 25 senators who probably think it’s risky,” said Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), who will join [Rep. John] Lewis’s boycott. –Washington Post

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Seth Charnes
     for the disturbing story about the firebombing of a German synagogue

    ◆ Andrew Aronson for the Betsy DeVos hearings