Chicken Soup for the Kind Soul
November 14, 2019
“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” – Henry James
“No one has ever become poor by giving.” – Anne Frank
The Truth Shall Prevail
Retired career diplomat Bill Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent were the first witnesses to give public testimony Wednesday in President Trump’s impeachment hearings. Before they spoke, opening statements were made by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Ranking Republican Devin Nunes (R-CA).
Schiff said the impeachment inquiry seeks to answer whether Trump invited Ukraine’s interference in US elections, whether Trump conditioned a White House meeting and US aid on announcing political investigations, and “if President Trump did either, whether such an abuse of his power is compatible with the office of the presidency?” Nunes accused Democrats of undertaking a “scorched-earth war against President Trump,” saying they were using a “carefully orchestrated media smear campaign” to impeach the President.
Taylor and Kent gave opening statements describing their backgrounds, life-long, non-partisan commitments to public service under presidents of both parties, and reciting testimony each had given in closed sessions. Taylor also provided new details of a previously unknown conversation Trump had, a day after his July 25th phone call with the Ukrainian president, that highlighted his personal involvement in pressuring Ukraine to open investigations into political rivals. Taylor testified that EU ambassador Gordon Sondland told an aide that Trump’s interest in Ukraine was the “investigations of Biden,” and that he cared more about an investigation of Joe Biden than he did about Ukraine.
Republicans were combative, accusing the witnesses of having only hearsay instead of firsthand evidence, and contending no crime was committed because the Ukrainian president said he hadn’t felt pressured, and the military aid was ultimately released. Republican staff attorney Steve Castor was ridiculed on social media for his reliance on conspiracy theories and his utterly confusing line of questioning.
Return of the Black Plague
- China’s state news media announced Tuesday that doctors in Beijing have diagnosed two people from the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia with pneumonic plague – the same disease that caused the Black Death that killed some 50 million people during the Middle Ages.
- Plague is caused by bacteria and transmitted through flea bites and infected animals; the pneumonic form is more virulent and always fatal unless timely treated with antibiotics.
- It’s the second time the disease has appeared in the region. The bubonic plague, also thought to be eradicated, killed a Mongolian couple last May after they ate the raw kidney of a marmot, a local folk health remedy. (CNN)
- CDC report: 35,000 Americans die of antibiotic-resistant infections each year (STAT)
(Insect) Apocalypse Now
- A leading UK ecologist has reported that 400,000 insect species are facing extinction due to heavy use of pesticides, which has doubled in the last 25 years. This “unnoticed insect apocalypse” poses a risk to all life on Earth.
- The analysis has a particular focus on the UK, whose insects are the most studied in the world. Twenty-three bee and wasp species have become extinct in the last century and UK butterflies with particular habitats have fallen 77 percent since the mid-1970s. Another expert estimates we may have lost 50 percent or more of our insects since 1970.
- Insects are essential for all ecosystems, as pollinators, food for other creatures, and recyclers of nutrients, scientists warn. Conservationists have warned us to set firm targets to cut pesticide use, and make urban parks and gardens more wildlife friendly so that insect populations can be rescued. (Guardian)
- E.P.A. to Limit Science Used to Write Public Health Rules (NYT, $)
The Rise of Russian Influence
- Russian influence is coming to a region near you. The country was written off as a regional power after the fall of the Soviet Union, but under President Putin, it has shown itself to be remarkably resilient.
- It’s covert operations and diplomatic maneuvering have helped change the political direction of western countries; it has taken territory the size of Texas away from Ukraine, and won militarily in Syria despite the imposition of sanctions. Today, Russia is a power broker in that country, but its achievements in the Middle East are much larger.
- Moscow has flexible semi-alliances with Turkey and Iran, oil price arrangements with Saudi Arabia, newly revived military ties with Egypt and a presence in Libya. It’s a would-be security broker between Iran and the Gulf States, all while maintaining an intimate relationship with Israel. This provides material support for Moscow’s claim to be a great power again. Russia will be playing in various regions around the world for years to come. (NYT)
- Deal With Taliban Will Free American and Australian Professors, Officials Say (NYT, $) & ISIS Leader al-Baghdadi May Have Had U.S. Hostage Executed, Witness Says (NYT, $)
Leaner, Meaner Hate Crime
- Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University San Bernardino, analyzes law enforcement data and recently co-authored a report released Tuesday that says the FBI reported a dip in hate crimes in 2018, but homicides and crimes against persons rose to a 16-year high. “That’s an important thing to look at,” Levin says.
- The majority of hate crimes reported in 2018 were motivated by bias against race and ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation; African-Americans, Jews, whites, gays and Latinos are targeted the most. Anti-Sikh attacks tripled between 2017 and 2018, and anti-Semitic homicides in the US reached their highest level ever.
- Incidents targeting gay males increased by nearly 7 percent, and anti-transgender hate crimes rose nearly 34 percent. Overall, anti-Latino, anti-gay, anti-Asian, anti-disability, anti-transgender, anti-Sikh and anti-white hate crimes seems to have increased in 2018.
- Considering the FBI’s annual tally counted 7,120 hate crimes reported last year, 55 fewer than the year before, one must ponder what the criteria is for labeling a crime one of “hate.” Perhaps, as Levin says, we are just “seeing a leaner and meaner type of hate crime going on.” (NPR)
- How to Fight Antisemitism (Jewish Currents)
- ‘Go back to California’: Wave of newcomers fuels backlash in Boise (LA Times)
- Civility Is Overrated: The gravest danger to American democracy isn’t an excess of vitriol – it’s the false promise of civility. (Atlantic, $)
- A Nation Coming Apart: The Meaning of the American Idea in 2019 (Atlantic, $)
- The Dark Psychology of Social Networks: Why it feels like everything is going haywire (Atlantic, $)
Additional USA News
- There’s a Surprisingly Plausible Path to Removing Trump From Office (Politico)
- Inside the NBA’s silent tension surrounding Daryl Morey (ESPN)
- Can Marriage Counseling Save America? Borrowing techniques from couples therapy to bring liberals and conservatives back together (Atlantic, $) & Empathy Is Tearing Us Apart: Americans are as polarized as they’ve ever been. Could the problem be that we’re caring for each other too much? (Wired, $)
Chicken Soup for the Kind Soul
- The notion of kindness has made headlines recently. And Daniel Fessler, the inaugural director of UCLA’s Bedari Kindness Institute, wants you to know being kind is not just something to joke about — it can actually extend your life. “We look at the scientific point of view. We aren’t sitting around in circles, holding hands. We’re talking about the psychology, the biology, of positive social interactions.”
- Fessler’s work has looked at how people can be motivated to be kind simply by witnessing acts of kindness — and working out who is affected by this “contagious kindness.” “I think it’s fair to say we live in an unkind age right now,” Fessler continues. We see it with the increasing political or religious polarization between individuals.
- Unkindness is “intolerant beliefs, the lack of valuation of others’ welfare.” Fessler explains: “Living with people who treat you, at best, with disregard or a lack of concern, and at worst with open hostility, is bad for you. It shortens your life, quite literally. Conversely, both receiving kindness from others, and providing kindness, both of those things are the antithesis of this toxic stress situation. And they’re good for you.” (BBC)
- Additional quote: “Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.” – Kahlil Gibran
- Why old people will always complain about young people – Prediction: Today’s “OK boomer” Gen Z will complain about the youth one day. Blame human memory. (Vox)
- History as a giant data set: how analysing the past could help save the future – Calculating the patterns and cycles of the past could lead us to a better understanding of history. Could it also help us prevent a looming crisis? (Guardian)
- The Google Squeeze (Stratechery)
- Disney+ Has Power and a Plan: Disney is the second megacorporation to debut a streaming service this month, but unlike Apple, it comes to the table with an unbeatable gigantic library and a savvy strategy that should make it instant competition for Netflix & The Mandalorian Is Here and Star Wars Will Never Be the Same (The Ringer & Gizmodo)
- Facebook is secretly using your iPhone’s camera as you scroll your feed (The Next Web)
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