A Stamp Of Approval
August 17, 2021
The Good News
- Oregon’s Bootleg Fire is Fully Contained (NYT)
- Cornwall rescue: Cat’s meows alert rescuers to stricken owner (BBC)
“For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.” — Elie Wiesel
Holocaust Laws Draw Hostility
For years, Poland’s leaders have been loath to hear any reference to anything the country’s denizens might have done to Jews in World War II. They particularly wanted the world to know they had nothing to do with the six main extermination camps, and hundreds of concentration subcamps, built by the Nazis on Polish soil from 1941 to 1945. Especially offensive is hearing the term “Polish death camps,” rather than “Nazi death camps,” because it implies Poland’s complicity with what the Germans were doing after invading Poland in 1939.
Unlike in other European countries, Poland’s government did not collaborate with the Nazis. However, historians have documented a number of incidents in which Polish people did attack Jews, including a 1941 atrocity in the town of Jedwabne, where at least 340 Jews were rounded up, locked in a barn, and burned alive by their Polish neighbors.
In early 2018, President Andrzej Duda’s right-wing parliament passed the so-called Holocaust Law, which made it a crime punishable by fines and imprisonment up to three years to accuse any Poles of being complicit in Nazi atrocities during the Holocaust. Indicating he would likely sign the legislation into law, Duda declared: “There was no participation by Poland or the Polish people as a nation in the Holocaust.” An international outcry followed, resulting in the exact opposite of what the lawmakers intended. It caused rifts with close allies, fierce condemnation by the U.S., Israel, and Jewish groups worldwide, and an intense focus on the very questions of complicity that nationalist Poles were hoping to bury. Journalists wrote: “Even if Poles did not create the extermination camps, some of them collaborated. That cannot be legislated away.” A few months later, the law was walked back and the criminal provisions removed.
Duda’s nationalist government has now approved a new law restricting the rights of Holocaust survivors or their descendants to reclaim property seized by the country’s former communist regime, in power from 1945 to 1989. The law says nothing about the Holocaust or WWII; instead, it establishes that any administrative decision issued 30 or more years ago can no longer be challenged. In other words, property owners who had their homes or businesses appropriated in the communist era can no longer get compensation.
Poland enjoyed years of close ties to Israel under former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. However, Israel’s current government, which includes top officials who are the children of Holocaust survivors, has taken a far more confrontational approach. Hours after Duda signed the new anti-restitution law on Saturday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett condemned it, and announced Israel’s top diplomat would immediately be recalled from Warsaw in protest. Bennett labeled Duda’s decision to sign the law “shameful,” a “disgraceful contempt for the memory of the Holocaust,” and a choice to “continue harming those who have lost everything.” Israel’s Foreign Ministry also recommended that the Polish ambassador, currently on vacation at home, not return to Israel. (BBC, WaPo, AP News)
- The coronavirus pandemic pummeled India’s economy, which contracted 7.3% in the fiscal year that ended in March. Economists fear the country isn’t on track to experience the kind of rebound seen in the U.S. and other major economies.
- So, on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the launching of a $1.35 trillion infrastructure plan to boost the economy and create millions of job opportunities for Indian youth. Modi addressed the nation in a 90-minute speech delivered from New Delhi’s 17th century Mughal-era Red Fort, as part of the celebration marking the 74th anniversary of India’s independence from British rule.
- During his speech, Modi also listed his government’s achievements since 2014 and hailed India’s coronavirus campaign built around the creation of its own vaccine. So far, over 500 million doses have been given, but only about 11% of eligible adult Indians have been fully vaccinated. (AP News)
- A young Chinese woman hiding out in Dubai to avoid extradition back to China says she was abducted from her hotel room and held for eight days in a clandestine Chinese-run detention facility in Dubai. Beijing considers 26-year-old Wu Han’s fiancé a dissident; Wu said she was questioned and threatened in Chinese and forced to sign legal papers incriminating her fiancé for harassing her.
- While in detention, she saw or heard two other prisoners, both Uyghurs. Wu was finally released on June 8 and is now seeking asylum in the Netherlands. “Black sites” — secret jails where prisoners are held without any legal recourse — are common in China, but Wu’s account is the only testimony that Beijing has set one up in another country.
- If accurate, it would reflect how China is increasingly using its international clout to detain or bring back citizens it wants from overseas, be they dissidents, corruption suspects, or ethnic minorities. In a statement on Monday, Dubai police denied allowing any foreign governments to run any detention centers within its borders, and said Wu freely exited the country with her friend three months ago. (AP News)
Additional World News
- Sydney records deadliest day of COVID-19 pandemic, Melbourne lockdown extended (Reuters)
- Trudeau injects vaccine hesitancy into spotlight of Canadian election (Politico)
- Zambia election: Opposition candidate Hakainde Hichilema declared winner (BBC)
- India’s Modi to unveil $1.35 trillion infrastructure plan (AP)
- UK PM Boris Johnson intervenes over visas for Afghan students (Reuters)
- Britain’s first mass shooting in more than a decade leaves 5 dead, plus suspected gunman (WaPo, $)
- Airlines reroute flights to avoid Afghanistan airspace (Reuters)
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Dipping Into The Reservoirs
- The two largest reservoirs in America, both fed by the Colorado River, are at their lowest levels in their history. The largest by volume is Lake Mead, on the border between Nevada and Arizona. It has drained at an alarming rate this year, and at around 1,067 feet above sea level and 35% full, it’s the lowest it’s been since being filled after the Hoover Dam was completed in the 1930s. The second largest is Lake Powell, located between northern Arizona and southern Utah; it’s only 32% full. As of last week, more than 95% of the West was in drought, and the significance of the reservoirs’ rapid decline cannot be overstated.
- The Colorado River supplies water to more than 40 million people living across seven U.S. states and Mexico. Together, Lake Mead and Lake Powell provide a critical supply of drinking water, hydropower, and irrigation for many communities, rural farms, and tribal nations across the region. On Monday, federal officials issued a first-ever declaration of a “tier 1” shortage at Lake Mead, triggering mandatory water cuts in western states.
- Arizona will be hardest hit, losing nearly 20% of the water it receives from the Colorado River. In Pinal county, farmers and ranchers will see the amount of water they get from the river drop by half next year, and disappear entirely by 2023. Nevada will lose 7% of the water it gets from the Colorado River; Mexico will see its supply reduced by 5%. By 2023, federal officials and water experts expect a tier 2 shortage. And when the lake’s level dips to 1,025 feet, a tier 3 declaration will trigger supply cuts to cities and tribal lands. Two weeks ago, California enacted its own water restrictions that will prevent thousands of farmers and landowners from using water drawn from an enormous system of streams and rivers that services nearly two-thirds of the state. (CNN, Guardian)
A Stamp Of Approval
- As directed by Congress in the 2018 Farm Bill, and with the expressed support of President Biden’s January 22 Executive Order, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) conducted a data-driven review of the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP), used to calculate Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, or as they’re commonly known, food stamps. On Monday, they released the re-evaluation.
- The resulting cost adjustment — which reflects notable shifts in the food marketplace and consumers’ circumstances over the past 45 years — is the first time the purchasing power of the plan has changed since it was introduced in 1975.
- Beginning October 1, average monthly benefits will permanently increase more than 25% from pre-pandemic levels. For example, the 2019 per person benefit of $121 will rise to $157. All 42 million people in the program will receive the additional aid. The move does not require congressional approval. (USDA, NYT)
Additional USA News
- The First 24 Hours: Tribune photos of the Parleys Canyon Fire (SLT)
- Can a Covid Mask Protect Me From Wildfire Smoke? (NYT, $)
- Man stabbed at anti-vax rally in LA is released from hospital (LAT, $)
- US could soon hit more than 200,000 new coronavirus cases per day, NIH director warns (CNN)
- A Storm Soaks Austin and the Texas Corridors of Power (NYT, $)
- Fred regains tropical storm status en route to Florida as Haiti braces for Grace (CNN)
Africanized honey bees are those homicidal insects that will chase you down and can literally kill you and other large mammals. They’ve been preeminent schoolyard bullies for a while now, but they might be on the verge of losing their title. Enter: the Asian giant “murder hornet.”
These vicious stingers are the world’s largest hornet, and a worrisome (to say the least) invasive species that originates from East Asia and Japan. The queens can grow up to two inches long. Murder hornets live to kill wasps and those gentle honey bees that sound so much like Jerry Seinfeld.
Murder hornets have mandibles shaped like spiked shark fins; they decapitate the bees and fly away with the thoraxes to feed their young. For larger targets, the hornet’s potent venom and stinger, which is long enough to puncture a beekeeping suit, make for an excruciating combination that victims have likened to hot metal driving into their skin. Asian giant hornets are responsible for the deaths of as many as 50 Japanese in a year. And in the fall of 2019, two of the predators were discovered in the northwest corner of Washington State, after they’d decimated a number of beehives on a beekeeper’s property in Custer, Washington.
The first murder hornet of 2021 was just spotted in a rural part of Washington state, doing what it does best — attacking a paper wasp nest. The sighting is only about 2 miles from where the first Asian giant hornet nest was eradicated in October 2020. Agriculture officials say honey bees have the most to worry about. “These hornets may attack honey bee hives in the late summer or early fall. A small group of Asian giant hornets can kill an entire honey bee hive in a matter of hours.” (NYT, NPR)
- A Study On Motivating People To Wear Masks: Can It Help The US? (NPR)
- Nichelle Nichols: Conservatorship battle of ‘Star Trek’ star (LAT, $)
- Boston’s famed Skinny House back on market, listed for $1.2M (AP)
- Mutant ‘daddy shortlegs’ created in a lab (LiveScience)
- Ripples in Saturn’s rings reveal planet’s ‘fuzzy’ core (CNN)
- Cardinal hospitalized with COVID, breathing with ventilator (ABC)
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