Saturday, March 21, 2020

From Ian:

Israel’s first virus fatality named as 88-year-old Holocaust survivor Aryeh Even
Israel’s first fatality in the coronavirus pandemic was on Saturday named as 88-year-old Holocaust survivor Aryeh Even.

In a statement, Even’s family said they regretted that they were unable to be by his side for his final moments.

“He was a dear and beloved man, living a full life, devoted to his family, a strong man until the end. We are sorry to have passed his last days and moments at a time when his family members were prevented from being by his side.”

Even immigrated to Israel alone from Hungary in 1949. He is survived by four children, 18 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center said late Friday that Even had been admitted in very serious condition with multiple preexisting conditions. Despite intensive treatment, including being resuscitated from heart failure, his state deteriorated rapidly and he died, the hospital said.

Even was among several residents of the Nofim Tower senior home in Jerusalem who have contracted the virus.

The virus generally only shows mild symptoms in the young and healthy, but can cause serious respiratory issues and death in older adults and those with underlying conditions.
883 Israelis diagnosed with coronavirus, 15 in serious condition
The Health Ministry announced on Saturday that 883 Israelis have tested positive for the coronavirus, 15 of whom are in serious condition.

Among those in critical condition are mostly older adults or those with pre-exisiting conditions. However, according to the ministry, one person is in his 40s and was healthy before contracting the virus.

Moreover, more than 3,000 medical professionals are in isolation, including 814 doctors and 893 nurses.

The 178-person increase represents the largest jump in numbers Israel has seen to date.The ministry added that 274 of those diagnosed are currently hospitalized.
Over 20 vaccines, multiple treatments currently in development for coronavirus
The World Health Organization has said at least 20 vaccines for coronavirus are in development around the world — though the process is likely to take many long months, as the medical world races to find both preventive measures and treatments for those infected.

“At least 20 vaccines are in development for COVID-19. Their first clinic trials are already starting,” Maria Van Kerkhove, head of the WHO’s emerging and infectious diseases unit, said Friday.

She cautioned that “We are still some time away before we would have a vaccine that could be used, and they still need to go through the trials for efficacy, but this work is under way.”

The head of WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, Dr. Mike Ryan, stressed that “There is only one thing more dangerous than a bad virus, and that’s a bad vaccine.

“We have to be very, very careful in developing any product that we are going to inject into potentially most of the world’s population.”

He added that China’s work on sequencing the genome of the virus before it became a global pandemic, and its sharing of that data, had helped work on vaccines around the world move much faster.

On Wednesday, The Times of Israel spoke with Dr. Ofer Levy, of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Precision Vaccines Program, whose team is one of the groups working on developing a vaccine, with a unique focus on a solution for the elderly.

Currently, there is no medicine specifically approved for treating COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, which has infected nearly 300,000 people worldwide and killed nearly 13,000 people.



Friedman: US, Israel to emerge stronger than ever
US Ambassador David Friedman usually has a very busy schedule, going from one meeting to another with Israeli officials, flying to Washington to meet with US President Donald Trump, or addressing major Israeli or American organizations.

This week, however, Friedman was forced to scale back. After attending the AIPAC Policy Conference at the beginning of the month and returning to Israel after March 5, the ambassador had to self-quarantine for a few days under the Health Ministry’s instructions. He has since been working mostly from home.

The Jerusalem Post checked in on Friedman and found him to be in high spirits and confident about the ability of the US and Israel to pull through the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘Jerusalem Post’: It may be too early to ask this question, but how do you think this pandemic will end?

Ambassador Friedman: I have no doubt that the US and Israel will both recover, learn important lessons and emerge stronger. Both countries are taking extraordinary measures to arrest the spread of the virus and they will succeed.






James Rosen Drops Bombshell Report That the CDC ‘Lied’ to the White House About Wuhan Virus Testing
I’ll preface this by saying that it’s possible “lie” is too strong of a word here. Nonetheless, James Rosen dropped a bombshell report today that could explain the early slow distribution of Wuhan virus tests. It involves a former official speaking on the record about what he saw at the time.

You can watch the full hit above, which includes the comments from the former official about the CDC misleading the Trump administration on the viability of their early testing regimes. That’s been a hot topic in regards to judging how quickly the President did or didn’t act, often used as a bludgeon within the current news coverage.

This has actually been a question for quite a while, with strong evidence to support the idea that CDC, operating within all the red tape previously created, had really dropped the ball. Tests from overseas were rejected that could have gotten the U.S. testing capacity up and going much sooner. Eventually, the CDC would admit that their early tests were giving false positives, requiring a rework. That’s how we ended up where we are today, with private companies doing the lion’s share of the heavy lifting to get this done. The fact that those private companies had to get involved is a pretty good signal that the CDC screwed this up.

For their part, the CDC gave a statement that doesn’t really deny there were issues, but instead shifts to the current good work they are doing. That may be a reasonable response, as there’s a difference between “lying” about something and just screwing up early on. RedState writer Stu Cvrk gave his own opinions about the CDC’s resoponse in a recent write up.

Once this is all over, I’m sure we’ll see plenty of deep dives to get to the bottom of this, but the President is obviously not going to address it right now with the CDC playing a central role in combating the virus
Taiwan Says It Warned WHO About Coronavirus In December, But Its Warnings Were Ignored
Taiwan is blaming the World Health Organization’s relationship with China for its failure to act on early warnings of human-to-human transmission of coronavirus.

Taiwanese health officials alerted WHO of the infectivity of coronavirus in late December 2019, but the organization failed to report the claims to other countries, according to a Financial Times report.

Weeks after receiving Taiwan’s warning, on Jan. 14, WHO repeated China’s claim that coronavirus was not contagious among humans.

Taiwan reported its concerns to a WHO framework called the International Health Regulations on Dec. 31, 2019. The IHR framework is intended to be an exchange of epidemic data between 196 countries.

“While the IHR’s internal website provides a platform for all countries to share information on the epidemic and their response, none of the information shared by our country’s [Centers for Disease Control] is being put up there,” Taiwanese Vice President Chen Chien-Jen told the Financial Times.

“The WHO could not obtain first-hand information to study and judge whether there was human-to-human transmission of COVID-10. This led it to announce human-to-human transmission with a delay, and an opportunity to raise the alert level both in China and the wider world was lost,” Chen added.









Is It Still Safe to Be a Jew in America?
On a blustery Baltimore night in the late 1980s, I went to hear Louis Farrakhan speak to a packed crowd at Morgan State University, a historically black college. For more than five decades, the Nation of Islam leader has railed against Jews, variously describing them as “satanic,” “bloodsuckers,” and “termites.” He was at the peak of his influence at the time. As the editor of the weekly Baltimore Jewish Times, I wanted to experience firsthand the impact his hate-filled invective had on audiences.

Each weekday evening, get an overview of the day’s biggest news, along with fascinating ideas, images, and voices.

I went with a fellow editor from the paper, and ours were among a handful of white faces in the large crowd. In one of his long and angry tirades that night, Farrakhan focused his venom on white people, Jews, and the media.

Taking notes as surreptitiously as possible, my colleague and I exchanged worried glances, keenly aware that we represented a trifecta of evil in Farrakhan’s world. We sensed some hard stares from those around us, and as the gifted orator ratcheted up his pitch, rousing his listeners, we feared for our safety. A word from the reverend and the crowd might have turned on us. But then, as he neared the end of his rant, his pace slowed, his voice lowered, and he called on his listeners to show their pride and dignity when encountering television reporters outside the auditorium.

Farrakhan’s words had an immediate calming effect. I remember feeling a tug of gratitude for the shift in his tone and message, and noted how quickly a crowd can be stirred up or calmed down.

Amid the terrifying wave of anti-Semitism in the United States of late, I have thought of that scene and wondered what has stirred up such anger against Jews now.

How do we explain Jews being shot to death at Shabbat prayer in their synagogue by hate-filled white nationalists in Pittsburgh and Poway, California; and visibly Orthodox men and women violently attacked in Brooklyn and Monsey, New York, and shot down next door to a synagogue in Jersey City, New Jersey?

These headline-grabbing incidents are part of a broader pattern. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) began tracking anti-Semitic hate crimes four decades ago. This past year brought the third-highest spike on record. Jews make up less than 3 percent of the American population, but the majority of reported religiously based hate crimes target Jewish people or institutions. In a new study by the American Jewish Committee, 35 percent of American Jews said they had experienced anti-Semitism in the past five years, and one-third reported concealing outward indications of their being Jewish.
Bernie Sanders: the king of wishful thinking in the Middle East
The most reckless aspect of Sanders’s methods and statements is his cavalier approach toward US-Israeli relations. It demonstrates shortsightedness and poor US statecraft. The Sanders campaign views the US-Israeli relationship largely through the prism of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is an impaired perspective because it does not account for the importance of Israel in US regional objectives and the nature of U.S-Israeli relations.

In addition to addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Sanders campaign intends to implement regional policies for the Middle East. Regional policies require the cooperation of allies if they are expected to succeed - the US cannot do everything itself. The US lacks staunch allies in the Middle East, and Sanders is highly critical of traditional authoritarian US allies like Saudi Arabia. Therefore, who is left to assist US policy?

Pressuring Israel to partake in negotiations, particularly negotiations doomed to fail from the outset, does not bode well for future Israeli cooperation in US regional policies. Israel will balk at US requests and/or increase the price of its cooperation.

Pressuring Israel also demonstrates the poor management of an important US relationship. The US should only leverage an ally under ideal circumstances or when critical. If an ally is pressured too many times and/or under the wrong conditions, an ally like Israel will feel increasingly alienated. Israel will begin to strength alternative alliances (e.g. Russia).

It is not only pressuring Israel at an inopportune time that is problematic; it is the nature of the pressure that damages US-Israeli relations. Conditioning US military aid will have another negative repercussion. In the eyes of Israeli governments, consistent US military aid ensures the security and survival of Israel. It is this aid that makes Israel willing to take risks for peace. The Sanders tactic of conditioning aid will create distrust among Israelis about US intentions and make Israel less willing to take the necessary risks for peace.

It is wishful thinking for the Sanders campaign to believe its methods will facilitate a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and improve the Middle East. The Sanders campaign needs to confront reality and amend its thinking. Its methods would exacerbate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and weaken US interests in the Middle East.
How the ICC Is Encouraging Greater Civilian Casualties
The International Criminal Court prosecutor's decision to open a criminal investigation against Israel may well result in even higher casualties and more extensive property damage.

Like all Western countries, Israel makes great efforts to uphold customary laws of war, including by trying to minimize civilian casualties. In fact, Israel has historically caused fewer civilian casualties and less property damage than other Western armies. Many Israelis argue that the restrictions imposed on the army's use of force put Israel's own soldiers and civilians at greater risk.

Now, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has declared that all the IDF's efforts were worthless: that meeting or even exceeding the West's highest standards is no longer enough to keep you out of legal trouble. Thus, the ICC has essentially said there's no point in even trying to uphold the laws of war. This could lead other Western militaries to conclude that efforts to abide by the laws of war have become pointless.
Netanyahu: Full quarantine, economic crisis on the table but not yet
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he wants to locate and isolate the sick and let the healthy go out to work on Saturday night during an interview with Channel 12.

"No one knows where this is going to go," he said in the interview, the prime minister talked about rolling out a new coronavirus test that would allow the country to deem if someone had contracted the virus and built up immunity so that he or she could go out to work and resume life as usual. But he admitted that such a test did not yet exist or that medical professionals are still unsure if one can build up an immunity to the virus.

"I can save Israel," Netanyahu said. "To save our country ... join now. The hour is now."

Netanyahu was also interviewed on Channel 13. saying that a full quarantine is possible as well as declaring a national economic crisis, but that the time for that has not come yet.

The interviews came on the backdrop of discussion that the prime minister is expected to increase the restrictions on the public amid the coronavirus outbreak as many Israelis maneuvered through the existing quarantine restrictions and took advantage of the comfortable weather on Saturday.

Several videos on social media show that despite being told to only leave their homes for specific things, such as shopping for food or medicine, assisting the elderly or receiving medical attention, Israelis spent their Saturday outside, going mostly to beaches and parks.
Three Palestinians arrested for torching refugee camp on Greek island
The Greek authorities arrested three Palestinians for setting ablaze a refugee camp on the island of Lesbos earlier this month.

The Greek news outlet Sto Nisis (On the Island) reported on Saturday about the arrests in connection with the arson attack. According to the report, one of the Palestinians — a 59-year-old man – has a Greek passport and lives in Mytilene, the capital of Lesbos. The two other Palestinians live in Athens and travelled to Mytilene.

The news outlet said a fourth suspect was involved in the arson attack. According to the On the Island report, the local police arrested the Palestinians after viewing CCTV video footage from nearby businesses.

The three Palestinians allegedly torched the Swiss-run One Happy Family community center on Lesbos. The fire did not cause injuries to the 1,500 refugees and migrants who live at the camp.

Dr. Nikos Michailidis, Professor of Anthropology University of Missouri, St.Louis, and a political and Turkey analyst, told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday: "Greece is a country that has always been protecting vulnerable people. This incident provoked criticism by some international media, but in light of the recent arrests of the three Palestinian arsonists, the criticism was unjustified and presumptive, to say the least."
Jerusalem Friday Prayers See Smaller Crowds Amid Partial Coronavirus Lockdown
Palestinian worshipers scuffled with Israeli police in Jerusalem on Friday as crowds headed to Al-Aqsa Mosque to pray, amid a partial lockdown imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Police in riot gear and wearing face masks put barricades up outside Damascus Gate and other entrances to the walled Old City ahead of Friday noon prayers, and checked identity papers to limit the numbers attending.

The crowds were much lower than usual, witnesses said, with only a few hundred in attendance.

Some who were refused access prayed in the rain-sodden streets outside the walls, and there were light scuffles as police used tear gas and horses to disperse a crowd.

Al-Aqsa Mosque and the adjacent Dome of the Rock were closed by Muslim authorities last week, in a move to protect worshipers at Islam’s third-holiest site.

But the clerics permitted prayers on the huge open area around the two shrines, which sit atop the sacred compound known to Muslims worldwide as al-Haram al-Sharif, or The Noble Sanctuary, and to Jews as Har ha-Bayit, or Temple Mount.
COGAT coordinates the delivery of more coronavirus equipment into Gaza
Once again, large amounts of essential coronavirus products were delivered into Gaza through the Erez border crossing by the Defense Ministry's military unit COGAT (Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories), on Friday.

“COGAT and the PA are cooperating closely and effectively to manage the outbreak of the virus,” said the head of the coordinator's civil affairs department, Col. Sharon Biton, in a meeting with representatives of international organizations to evaluate the ongoing situation.

“The coronavirus, like other viruses, does not recognize geographic borders.”

Included in the delivery were hundreds of coronavirus testing kits, and 1,000 protective medical gear kits. The coordination was performed through the Coordination and Liaison Administration for the Gaza Strip.

COGAT also coordinated the delivery of an additional 1,000 protective medical gear kits, together with 100 liters of 'alcogel,' with hygiene maintaining and virus prevention uses.

With the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, concern is growing in Israel over an outbreak occurring in the Gaza Strip. The concern comes from the likelihood that should Gaza experience an outbreak of the virus, its weak healthcare infrastructure will be overwhelmed.
Secret airstrike destroys Iran’s Albukamal base
On Wednesday, March 11 a rocket attack killed several members of the US-led Coalition at Iraq’s Camp Taji. Hours later people in Albukamal in Syria and across the border in Qaim, Iraq reported airstrikes.

They assumed the Americans were retaliating. The US had retaliated in December after Iranian-backed proxies killed a US contractor. It turns out the intensity of the airstrikes on the night of March 11 were unique and badly damaged the Iranian base.

On the morning of March 12 the wreckage was clear. At least 26 fighters from Iranian-backed units in Syria were dead. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights pointed a finger at the US and Western countries. The Coalition said it wasn’t them. The mystery was left to percolate for a week.

Now we know that the airstrikes that night badly damaged or destroyed 15 structures according to images from ImageSat International (ISI). The images, distributed on Wednesday, March 18 include an assessment about the “massive attack” which was designed to get Iran to “abandon this base and to send a clear message that the US will not tolerate the presence of IRGC Quds Force and its allies in this area.”
Bernie Sanders Calls for U.S. to Rescind Iran Sanctions Because of Coronavirus
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called for the Trump administration to rescind sanctions against the Iranian government, to help the country deal with the coronavirus.

Sanders tweeted, “Iran is facing a catastrophic toll from the coronavirus pandemic. U.S. sanctions should not be contributing to this humanitarian disaster. As a caring nation, we must lift any sanctions hurting Iran’s ability to address this crisis, including financial sanctions.”

Former Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, who served in the Obama administration, similarly tweeted, “It is a moral abomination that the United States is continuing to enforce sanctions on Iran while its people die because of a virus that threatens all humanity.”

Some on Twitter disagreed with Sanders and Rhodes.

Foundation of Defense Democracies senior adviser Richard Goldberg, who previously served on the National Security Council during the Trump administration, tweeted, “The Islamic Republic of Iran is a moral abomination. Actually it is a virus and many have died from it for decades. We need to counter the Islamic Republic virus in addition to the new coronavirus.”

Pro-Israel activist Arsen Ostrovsky similarly tweeted, “Iran has consistently sought to circumvent sanctions & use JCPOA money to abuse human rights and sponsor global terror. Seriously, have you met a terrorist, dictatorial regime you did not like yet @BernieSanders?”


Columbia Faculty Members Back School President’s Antisemitism Condemnation, Pan Upcoming BDS Vote
A dozen Columbia University faculty members have penned a letter expressing support for President Lee C. Bollinger’s recent statement against antisemitism on campus and voicing opposing to an upcoming BDS referendum at the school.

The letter — organized by the Academic Engagement Network (AEN) — said, “We hope that President Lee C. Bollinger’s powerful speech against antisemitism will become the basis for a remedial action plan for the campus, with concrete and measurable goals. We stand ready to work with President Bollinger and others in the Columbia senior leadership to improve the campus climate for all students, including Jewish students.”

Regarding the planned BDS vote, the letter said, “[T]he proposal for divestment is unwise, analytically flawed, and violates a sense of fairness and proportionality.”

Other members of the Columbia faculty have been invited to sign the letter, available here.

In his March 6 statement, Bollinger noted his “concern” about “rising antisemitism on our campus,” connecting it to the activities of the BDS movement.

“What must be avoided at all costs, and what I fear is happening today, is a process of mentality that goes from hard-fought debates about very real and vital issues to hostility and even hatred toward all members of groups of people simply by virtue of a religious, racial, national, or ethnic relationship,” he said. “This must not happen.”


Wonder Woman 1984: Studio drops new stills for Gal Gadot superhero film and confirms it WILL be released in theaters despite coronavirus pandemic
Wonder Woman 1984 will get 'a full theatrical run' despite coronavirus fears.

Warner Bros. 'is sticking with its original plan to release the film nationwide,' said IndieWire on Friday.

And to promote the big budget tentpole, the studio released more stills from the film, which is still scheduled for release on June 5.

One image showed Gadot's character spinning her famous 'Lasso of Truth' during an intense battle sequence.



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