• ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, April 13

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

     US-Russia: “Candid discussions,” as the diplomats say. The rest of us say: “frosty”

    • Sec. of State Tillerson and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, hold a chilly press conference.
    • Pres. Trump shrewdly holds a press conference with NATO head at the same time

    NYT headline: U.S. Takes Sharper Tone on Russia’s Role in Syria

    President Trump and Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson sought on Wednesday to isolate President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia for backing the Syrian government in the wake of its lethal chemical weapons attack on civilians, and worked to build international pressure on Moscow to change course.

    In Washington, Moscow and New York, the Trump administration publicly chastised Mr. Putin but privately worked to hash out increasingly bitter differences with him. At the same time, Mr. Trump embraced NATO — a military alliance he had previously derided as obsolete — as an effective and vital force for peace and security in a region where Russia has been an aggressive actor. –New York Times

    Comment: Right now, the issue is Syria, but tomorrow it could be Ukraine or the Baltics. There is a full plate of differences and, despite Russia’s high hopes that Trump would be a friendly patsy, he has been tougher than Obama (though not necessarily tougher than Hillary would have been). As Tillerson say today, relations are at a low point, and that’s a dangerous thing when both are bristling with nuclear weapons.

     Melania Trump, defamed by British tabloid, takes them to the cleaners. The UK’s Daily Mail pays her big money and issues an apology.Here’s what a fair headline looks like: Melania Trump wins damages from Daily Mail over ‘escort’ allegation (BBC)

    Now, watch here’s the Washington Post‘s effort to deny Melania won: Melania Trump settles lawsuits with Daily Mail.

    That headline actively avoids giving readers the story, which they could have done by using the words: “Melania Trump triumphs in lawsuit with Daily Mail”

     Today in WTF: Cursing banned at Philadelphia construction site

    The site is at Temple University, where students apparently need a lot of protection. (Fox News)

    Comment: Of course, they mostly need protection getting back and forth to school in that neighborhood. But I digress. Philadelphia is actually best known as the city that actually booed Santa Claus. (True.)

     CNN doubles down on its attack angle: Trump’s people colluded with Russia.

    Today’s CNN headline: “The Russia story just keeps getting worse for President Trump” (CNN)

    Comment: I watched some of Don Lemon’s show tonight. He had on several guests, but it was a charade. 

    The network plans to continue until an airplane is lost at sea. That always struck me as odd because airports are the main venue for CNN.

     Two men from Zion, Illinois, charged with giving support to terrorist Islamic State. (Chicago Tribune)

    Comment: Odd choice for Zionists.

     Three Steps to Making Solar Power More Efficient (Edgy Labs) Two banal, one wrong.

    1. Put solar power into the grid instead of storing it
    2. Improve the cells’ efficiency
    3. Create practical infrastructure for solar

    Comment: The last two qualify as “well, d’uh.”

    And the first one seems wrong. We do want to put it into the grid, of course, but it is intermittent so we need better storage.

    What’s right about the article is that solar installation costs are falling and greater use would reduce pollution. 

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, March 12

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

     Turkey’s relations with Europe continue to decline. The latest: Netherlands deny entry to Turkish foreign minister; Turkey’s leader, Erdogan calls the Dutch “Nazi remnants.” (Fox News)

    Comment: Erdogan is transforming his country, and not for the better. For years, Turkey was secular, a legacy of Ataturk’s revolution after World War I. Erdogan has turned it toward Islam, though not as strident a form as some other countries. For years, Turkey was a semi-democracy. He has increasingly assumed dictatorial powers and is in the midst of an election to reinforce those powers.

    Having failed to enter the European Union, his latest gambit was to hold up Europe for ransom to slow the flow of refugees fleeing regional wars. Now, Erdogan sounds less and less interested in that bargain.

     As North Korea’s arsenal grows, experts see heightened risk of ‘miscalculation’  (Washington Post)

    ZipDialog has frequently focused on the growing threat from this belligerent, erratic country with an unstable regime.

    Over the past year, technological advances in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs have dramatically raised the stakes in the years-long standoff between the United States and the reclusive communist regime, according to current and former U.S. officials and ­Korea experts. Pyongyang’s growing arsenal has rattled key U.S. allies and spurred efforts by all sides to develop new first-strike capabilities, increasing the risk that a simple mistake could trigger a devastating regional war, the analysts said.

    The military developments are coming at a time of unusual political ferment, with a new and largely untested administration in Washington and with South Korea’s government coping with an impeachment crisis. Longtime observers say the risk of conflict is higher than it has been in years, and it is likely to rise further as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un seeks to fulfill his pledge to field long-range missiles capable of striking U.S. cities. –Washington Post

     Saturday Night Live has become an editorial page. Will viewers prefer that or comedy? 

    The New York Daily News, which shares SNL’s politics, puts it this way: “Trump-dominated SNL showdown features ‘complicit’ Ivanka Trump, ‘racist’ dog, ‘distracted’ Jeff Sessions” and called it a “mud-slinging showdown.”

     Harvard Library lists many legitimate, conservative news sites as fake. (Washington Examiner)

    Included on their “fake, false, and misleading” list are the Washington Free Beacon, the Weekly Standard, the Daily Caller, the Washington Examiner, and Independent Journal Review, but not Fox News. The sites listed are legitimate sites with strong conservative leanings (of different varieties). Comparable progressive sites, such as Mother Jones, are not listed.

    Comment: If this were an editorial for Slate or the New Republic, it would be par for the course. But it is not. It is presented as a seemingly-neutral, professional guide for students and scholars. In that guise, with Harvard’s official imprimatur, it is truly shameful

     Genetic testing and the workplace: major privacy issues  CNBC reports

    Workers participating in so-called workplace wellness programs reportedly could be ordered to get genetic testing — and hand over the results — by their employers or face financial penalties, if a bill being pushed by congressional Republican becomes law.

    That bill, passed by a House committee Wednesday, could end up as part of the second phase of planned Obamacare-replacement legislation, the STAT health-care news site reported Friday. –CNBC

    Comment: Expect a slew of ethical, legal, financial, and political issues to arise as medical-testing technology improves. We will have ever-increasing capabilities to link genes to future diseases and even behavior. Employers and insurers will want to know. Individuals will want privacy.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, March 2

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

     Comment on allegations against AG Jeff Sessions: If there is anything substantive in the allegations about Jeff Sessions, that would be a big deal. Brief discussions are not, but knowingly misleading a Senate Committee would be. Obviously, the attacks are part of a broader Democratic effort to deligitimate the Trump Administration, which is on the edge of a Witch Hunt, but the underlying facts and the truthfulness of Sessions’ testimony will determine.

    In any case, it would be wise for Sessions to accede to Democratic demands to remove himself (though perhaps not recuse himself) from any investigation of Russian ties to the Trump campaign.

    Meanwhile, the Democrats are edging up to asking, “Are you now or have you ever been . . .?” They will ask it now of every Trump nominee.

     Stay Classy: Valerie Jarrett has moved into Pres. Obama’s house in DC which “is now the nerve center for their plan to mastermind the insurgency against President Trump,” according to the Daily Mail.

    Comment: As with so much of Jarrett’s activities, this is the opposite of wisdom. Why. First, because it leave fingerprints. Second, because it keeps Obama and his team prominently in the party’s leadership at a time when the Democrats desperately need new leadership . . . after their party was decimated at all levels during the Obama years. Third, because it highlights the Democratic Party’s role as full-frontal obstructionists. Other than that, smart move.

    Sad-but-true footnote: CNN has actually hired Valerie’s daughter as their main reporter on the Department of Justice. Are these CNN executives so clueless or so partisan they don’t understand that you cannot do this and present yourself as a disinterested news organization?

     Excellent economic news: “U.S. jobless claims near 44-year-low as labor market tightens” (Reuters)

    The stronger labor market combined with rising inflation could push the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates this month.

    It was the 104th straight week that claims remained below 300,000, a threshold associated with a healthy labor market. That is the longest stretch since 1970, when the labor market was much smaller. It is now at or close to full employment, with an unemployment rate of 4.8 percent. –Reuters

    The offsetting news this week is that economic growth in 2016 Q4 was still sluggish.

    Comment: For all the criticism of Pres. Obama’s economic management–some deserved, some not–he deserves praise for nearly all of the 104 weeks of low jobless claims.

     North Korea sez: “Heart attack, not nerve agent, killed Kim Jong Nam”  (Washington Post)

    Comment: And if you don’t agree, you, too, will die of a heart attack.

    In other news, Pyongyang is offering going-out-of-business prices on the Brooklyn Bridge.

     Think Baltic tensions with Russia are high? Well, Sweden just brought back the draft  (BBC)

    Non-aligned Sweden is worried about Russia’s Baltic military drills.

    In September, a Swedish garrison was restored to Gotland, a big island lying between the Swedish mainland and the three ex-Soviet Baltic states.

    Why is this happening?

    Ms Nyh Radebo [speaking for the Defense Ministry] said the return to conscription was prompted by “the security change in our neighbourhood”.

    “The Russian illegal annexation of Crimea [in 2014], the conflict in Ukraine and the increased military activity in our neighbourhood are some of the reasons,” she said. –BBC

    Comment: They aren’t drafting very many (only 4,000), but it’s the thought that counts.

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Ed Vidal
     for Valerie Jarrett story

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, February 20

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

     Malaysian probe of murder of North Korean leader’s half-brother “strains Malaysia-North Korea ties,” says Reuters. No one doubts the murder was ordered by Kim Jong Un.

    Malaysian police are hunting four North Koreans who fled the country on the day of the attack, having already detained one North Korean man, a Vietnamese woman, an Indonesian woman, and a Malaysian man.

    At least three of the wanted North Koreans caught an Emirates flight to Dubai from Jakarta late on the same day, an immigration office official in the Indonesian capital told Reuters. Malaysia’s Star newspaper reported that all four had returned to Pyongyang.

    South Korean and U.S. officials have said the killing was probably carried out by North Korean agents.–Reuters

     In a difficult military operation, Iraqi army (with US help) starts to retake the western Mosul, ISIS’ capital and last stronghold (New York Times) The city’s eastern section has already been liberated. The western section has denser population and small, winding streets, and ISIS is well-entrenched there, making it a brutal location for urban fighting. It should take several months for Iraqis to retake.

    Comment: After liberation, the city will need to be stabilized politically and militarily. That, too, is a major task.

     Michael Novak, Catholic theologian who championed capitalism and constitutional democracy, has died at 83. (New York Times obituary) He is best known for his 1982 book, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism.

    Comment: The best way to grasp his depth and his insights is to watch him. Here is a brief video–less than 5 minutes–with real understanding of what make America special, done without any chest-pounding.

    Here is another brief interview, answering the question, “Does Capitalism Corrode Morality?”

     Tucson Mayor’s Prius Carjacked at Gunpoint (Fox)

    Comment: The silver lining, police say, is that Tucson’s air quality was not harmed.   

     How much do Manhattan’s wealthy liberals hate Trump? Well, they forced the cancellation of a skating party at their kids’ hyper-exclusive, hyper-expensive private school. . . because it would be held at a public rink Trump rebuilt in Central Park. The NY Post story is here.

    Trump renovated the rink in 1986 after the city fumbled the job for six years.

    Another Dalton parent said a clique of Upper East Side “liberal moms” upset with Trump pressured the headmaster to call off the event, a source said. –New York Post

    Comment: Speaks for itself.

     VP Pence continues his European tour, reassuring NATO allies (Washington Post) The WaPo stresses Pence’s differences from Trump on NATO.

    Although the vice president repeatedly stressed that he was speaking on behalf of President Trump, the two men indeed seemed as though they were separated by an ocean.

    Pence offered bland mollifications, forced to calm and cajole European countries that, in the post-Cold War order, until recently never had cause to question the support of the United States. But at a campaign rally Saturday evening in Florida, Trump did the opposite, again criticizing NATO — hours after Pence had extolled its virtues in Munich — and offending yet another ally when he implied that there was a recent terrorist attack in Sweden, one that seemed to exist only in the president’s imagination. –Washington Post

    Comment: What the Post sees as differences might be that, but they might be something else, something smarter. They might be a shrewd way of convincing Europeans to pay more without undermining NATO’s deterrent posture toward Russia.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, February 19

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

     Trump’s HUGE rallies: He is clearly buoyed by the crowds, using the campaign-style rally to push his agenda

    Comment: I watched the enthusiastic, campaign-style rally in central Florida. Here is what struck me.

    • Pres. Trump’s effective showmanship–and his love of being in the public arena. His calling a fan out of the audience and asking him to speak was brilliant. To the cheering crowd, it was not only fun and unexpected, it said “we are all in this movement together.”
    • His ability to move easily between the teleprompter and improvisation; it was difficult to tell when he was reading, and when he was ad-libbing.  That is a skill he has mastered in several months and will serve him well since it allows him to have a more-disciplined agenda in the written text, without constraining his ability to go off-script occasionally.
    • His straightforward appeal to old-fashioned American values: love of country, desire for a strong military and safe communities, respect for law enforcement, and a thirst for economic growth that helps ordinary working people.

    There was not a trace of condescension. These voters can smell the contempt of Beltway insiders and economic elites. They have known that stench for decades. They would grudgingly tolerate it if those elites were delivering the goods. They aren’t.

    What Trump conveyed at the rally was a sense that he is working for people with jobs at a grocery story or auto plant, kids in public school, no retirement savings, lousy healthcare, and clothes from the sales bin at Wal-Mart. They are working hard and want better jobs, not handouts. They want safer neighborhoods, not apologies for the criminals who endanger them. And they damned sure don’t want to be told they are “privileged” by people living off their tax dollars.

    Trump was particularly effective in his attack on the federal courts’ adverse ruling on his temporary immigration ban. Instead of the reckless, personal attacks he used last week, he was substantive. He actually read the law to the cheering crowd. Its plain language, he said, gives the President the power to do what he did in the Executive Order. Then he landed the knockout punch. Because the law is so clearly on his side, he said, the judges didn’t cite any of its language in ruling against him. That is a substantive argument. It says these courts have arrogated to themselves authority over national-security policy that the law doesnot grant them. That is a far better argument than personal attacks, which he continued on the media.

    At these rallies, Trump renewed his campaign promises to his voters, and they renewed their support of his presidency.

    What they have seen in the first weeks has been rocky–did they really buy his lines that his administration is a “smooth-running machine?–but they have been reassured by one crucial thing the media considers a flaw. Trump is showing his base that he has not been sucked into the Washington world. He remains the guy they voted for.

    Now, he has to deliver on those promises.

     CNN is not happy being called “fake news.” They show it with their headline on the rally: “Trump gets what he wants in Florida: Campaign-level adulation”  

     Two important deaths:

    • “Roe” of the 1973 Supreme Court decision, “Roe v. Wade,”
    • “The blind sheik” who waged terror inside the US

     Roe’s real name was Norma McCorvey. She died of heart failure, aged 69. (New York Times)  In 1970, she a young, unmarried mother, pregnant with a third child she did not want. 

    Plucked from obscurity in 1970 by Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, two young Dallas lawyers who wanted to challenge Texas laws that prohibited abortions except to save a mother’s life, Ms. McCorvey, five months pregnant with her third child, signed an affidavit she claimed she did not read. She just wanted a quick abortion and had no inkling that the case would become a cause célèbre.

    She had little contact with her lawyers, never went to court or was asked to testify, and was uninvolved in proceedings that took three years to reach the Supreme Court.

    On Jan. 22, 1973, the court ruled 7-2 in Roe v. Wade (Henry Wade, the Dallas County district attorney, was the defendant in the class-action suit) that privacy rights under the due process and equal rights clauses of the 14th Amendment extended to a woman’s decision to have an abortion in a pregnancy’s first trimester “free of interference by the state,” in the words of Justice Harry A. Blackmun, who wrote the opinion. –New York Times

    Her daughter, born in 1970, was given up for adoption, as her second child had been.

    Later in life, Ms. McCorvey became an Evangelical Christian and then a Roman Catholic and a strong foe of abortion.

     The blind sheikh, Omar Abdel-Rahman, plotted the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, which killed 6, injured over 1,000, and inspired the 9/11 attacks. Abdel-Rahman died of natural causes, aged 78 (CNN) Before being sentenced, he told the judge (in Arabic), “This case is nothing but an extension of the American war against Islam.”

    Comment: It was, of course, exactly the opposite.

     NATO: VP Pence confirms what Sec. of Defense Mattis said the day before: the US remains committed to NATO  (Boston Globe)

    Comment: Meanwhile, at Trump’s campaign rally in Florida, the President demanded that freeloading nations pay their fair share.  Some would call these mixed messages; others would say they are precisely the mix the US needs to convince European allies to pay up while still deterring Russia.

     With so more controversy surrounding Milo Yiannopoulos on college campuses, it is wonderful to have a thoughtful essay on “Why Milo Scares Students and Faculty Even More” by Prof. Rachel Fulton Brown.  (Personal note: I know and respect Prof. Brown, who teaches medieval Christian history at the University of Chicago Divinity School. She has a special focus on medieval ideas about the Virgin Mary.)

    The issues that Milo talks about are usually considered political, but in fact have to do with people’s deepest convictions: the proper relations between women and men, the definition of community, the role of beauty, access to truth. Milo professes himself a Catholic and wears a pair of gold crosses around his neck. He speaks about the importance of Christianity for the values of Western civilization. As he put it in one interview: “[Western civilization] has created a religion in which love and self-sacrifice and giving are the highest possible virtues… That’s a good thing… But when you remove discipline and sacrifice from religion you get a cult.”

    None of these issues, most especially the civilizational roots of culture and virtue in religious faith, are typically addressed in modern college education in America. Rather, they are, for the most part, purposefully avoided. Judging from my own experience of over 30 years in the academy, it is considered a terrible breach of etiquette, horribly rude even, to mention your religious faith if you are a Christian, never mind suggest that it in any way affects your work as a scholar. This relic of the self-censoring of the late 19th century is now so deeply embedded in American academic culture that most people are not even conscious of it. The real problem, however, is that while discussion of Christian theology may no longer be at the center of university education, religion still is—we just don’t call it that anymore. –Prof. Rachel Fulton Brown 

     

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  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Thursday, February 16

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

     Trump’s Budget Chief finally Approved; Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) has been a Tea Party favorite  (Washington Post)

    Comment: His position is a hot seat and will be difficult for him to manage politically. The difficulty, fundamentally, is that Trump’s spending and tax-cutting plans and his refusal to tackle entitlements are very different from the Tea Party’s and the House Freedom Caucus. Mulvaney will not only have to reconcile those vast differences, he will have to convince some of his former colleagues in the House–or be read out of their church.

     Alexander Acosta, nominated as Labor Sec. He is an experienced lawyer, who served in several positions in GW Bush administration, including National Labor Relations Board, and is chairman of a Hispanic community bank in Florida (Fox)

    Comment: Presumably better vetted than Andrew Puzder, who withdrew his nomination, and should be a straightforward approval. That won’t stop Chuck Schumer and Senate Democrats from slow-walking it. Vetting is fine. Slow walking is just gamesmanship.

     US Sec. of State Rex Tillerson meets his Russian counterpart. So far, no real news about what has become an increasingly conflictual relationship (New York Times)

     US Sec. of Defense reassures NATO that it will not cozy up to Russia No closer military ties between US-Russia, Mattis says  (New York Times)

     Senate to grill Trump’s nominee for US Ambassador to Israel  (CNN)

    Comment: David Friedman has supported settlements so he is reviled by the left. The Democrats will focus on Trump’s “abandonment of the two-state solution.” But that’s misleading. What Trump really did was say, correctly, the parties themselves have to strike a mutually-acceptable deal. We (the US) won’t constrain that. Smart, as a negotiating tactic.

    Of course, there will be no agreement because

    • The Palestinians do not have stable governance
    • One of their territories is rules by corrupt terrorists, the other by dead-ender terrorists, part of a larger Muslim Brotherhood movement, bent on overthrowing regimes across the Arab-Muslim world; and
    • The Palestinian people have not even begun to discuss the nature of the compromises that would be essential in a peace treaty. The Israelis did discuss those issues and were ready for compromise during the Clinton Administration.

    They have now given up on that possibility and are reluctantly moving forward to preserve their security without much cooperation from the Palestinians.

     

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  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . International Focus today on Friday, February 3

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

     Nikki Haley, new US ambassador to United Nations: blunt talk to Russia over Ukraine (CNN)

    The United States continues to condemn and call for an immediate end to the Russian occupation of Crimea.

    Crimea is a part of Ukraine. Our Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control over the peninsula to Ukraine. –Amb. Nikki Haley

    Comment: There is zero chance that the Putin regime will pull out of Crimea and slim-to-none that any successor regime would.

    Here’s my interpretation: The sanctions stay until Putin gives up something significant to Trump. My assumption here is that Trump is transactional and ready to bargain, but he will never give up anything without full compensation. Same for Tillerson. Big difference from Obama and Kerry. 

     “Decline, Not Collapse: The Bleak Prospects for Russia’s Economy” Important new paper from the Carnegie Foundation’s Moscow Center

    Russia faces bleak economic prospects for the next few years. It may be a case of managed decline in which the government appeases social and political demands by tapping the big reserves it accumulated during the boom years with oil and gas exports. But there is also a smaller possibility of a more serious economic breakdown or collapse. –Andrey Movchan at Carnegie’s Moscow Center

     UK Prime Minister Theresa May strongly supports NATO. Now, she will press Europeans to contribute more (BBC)

    Britain’s strategic ambition to act as a bridge between Europe and the United States long predates Brexit, but it has now become a central component of the government’s hopes of keeping and building influence in the world.

    But pressing for higher defence spending looks like a tough ask.

    And her hopes of becoming a bridge – or honest broker – between the EU and the US won’t be easily fulfilled either. –BBC

     Comment: This bridge needs building, but it cannot be built from the middle pier. It must have a strong anchor in Washington and buy-in, literally, from European nations that have been paying too little.

     Wall Street Journal reports that Trump Administration will sanction 25 Iranian entities for its missile test and provocations by regional proxies

    Comment: Washington’s simple message to Iran’s mullahs: “Under New Management”


    The Free Market. It’s like Uber, But for Everything.” –Robert Tracinski


     Sarah Silverman goes off the rails, calls for a military coup. She does it on Twitter. Perfect for a bird-brain idea

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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