Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Back Story on Trump and Vaccines

Donald Trump Picks Fight with Civil Rights Legend John Lewis on MLK Weekend

Daily Beast    President-elect Donald Trump would start a fight in an empty broom closet. As a candidate in the Republican primary and then later in a hard fought campaign against Hillary Clinton, the former real estate developer exuded precious little grace—preferring brickbats to olive branches. Without question, Trump is far less prone to rise above the bar of decency than he is to slither beneath it.

In a mere six days he will rest his briefcase in the Oval Office, where he will face a myriad of critical issues— both foreign and domestic. However, if his latest skirmish on social media is any indication, Trump will step onto the world stage and come face-to-face with his most formidable foe: himself.

His latest outburst—an attack on Congressman John Lewis just before the nation celebrates Martin Luther King Day-- drew consternation from both sides of the aisle and social media erupted with indignation. That’s because Lewis was not only a King foot soldier. He was president of the Student Nonviolent Coordination Committee (SNCC) and is the youngest and only living member of “The Big Six.” Lewis was one of the original 13 Freedom Riders, young people who risked their lives to challenge racial segregation in the South. He was arrested 45 times, beaten and bloodied in the name of human rights.

After one of the most divisive national contests this country has endured and with looming suspicions of Russian intervention, Lewis declared that he would not attend the upcoming inauguration. In an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd, Lewis—clearly angered by intelligence briefings—said he did not see the former reality show personality as a “legitimate president.”

That, of course, did not sit well with Trump.

He might have responded with some modicum of grace, urging the country to come together in perilous times. He might have thanked the venerated civil rights icon for his service, affirmed his own commitment to human rights and welcomed Lewis to meet with him to discuss the issues. I mean, if he has time for Ray Lewis, Steve Harvey and Kanye West, surely there is room on the calendar for someone who is steeped in public policy and who possesses decades of experience both building and crossing bridges.

Instead, Trump hit back in a pair of outlandish tweets, he saying, “Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results.”

“All talk, talk, talk — no action or results,” Trump concluded. “Sad!”

That Trump would respond in such a feckless and disconnected manner should surprise no one. That he appears to have a nascent understanding on our nation’s history—and Lewis’s critical role— should not raise an eyebrow. With skin as thin as unsweetened tea, surrounding himself with sycophants who dare not question him, it is abundantly clear that he has spent no time thinking about who Lewis is and even less time in Atlanta.

Lewis’s “results” are a proliferation of human rights, as well as increased economic and political opportunity. He was on the right side of history when it came to LGBT and reproductive rights, among other issues. In 1994, when the country was caught up in hysteria and pushed a crime bill that later destroyed whole communities, John Lewis was one of only eleven black members of the House to stand against it.

One can argue about the validity of a “dossier” strewn with behavior unbefitting the Oval Office, but there can be no dispute about the “good trouble” Lewis has gotten himself into over the course of his adult life. One of the “results” of his activism was the Fair Housing Act, the very legislation under which the Justice Department sued Donald Trump and his father.

While Trump was getting repeated military deferments for his sore feet, Lewis’s feet were on the avenues, highways and byways attempting to fashion a more inclusive society.

Let's be clear: Georgia’s 5th Congressional district is thriving. Comprised by a large swath of the city and cutting through two counties, it is home to the Georgia governor’s mansion, Spelman and Morehouse Colleges, Georgia Tech, the Buckhead business and entertainment district, and the world’s most travelled airport—Hartsfield Jackson International. Home to Fortune 500 companies, the district is both racially and economically diverse.

Migration to Atlanta from other regions of the country over last three decades tells a story of growing, comparatively broad based prosperity.

Like every other big city in America, public safety is a priority for local leaders. However, Atlanta is certainly not “infested” with crime. And nothing about my city says it is “falling apart.” In fact, just as the city seal implies, Atlanta has been rising from the ashes since General Sherman burned down the west end.[...]

The truth is Donald Trump is a lot like Bull Connor, only with much more bull. Connor, the Birmingham public service commissioner Lewis and others took on as Freedom Riders, at least understood the math. Trump is walking into the White House based on a 70,000 vote margin across three states. That’s no mandate. That’s a fluke.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Rav Herschel Schachter - A posek can give binding pesak concerning whom you must marry

Seforim Blog by Dr. Marc Shapiro

Among other interesting comments in R. Schachter's shiur  [“Da’as Torah – What are Its Parameters in non-Halachic Issues”]is that he states that a posek can give you a binding pesak concerning whom you must marry.[3] This too I find difficult, since where does a posek get the authority to tell someone whom he must marry? An individual can certainly consult with a posek for his advice in this matter, but since this consultation is done voluntarily by the potential groom, how do we go from there to a situation of pesak which binds the person asking the question? 
[Subsequent to writing these words I saw R. Schachter and asked him about this matter. He reaffirmed his position, stating that whom one marries is a halakhic matter and therefore a posek can indeed tell you whom you must marry. He added that this is almost always theoretical since in order to make such a ruling the posek would need to know both the bride and groom for many years so as to be sure that what he is saying is correct. But he also insisted that if the posek does have the requisite knowledge he can indeed give a binding pesak about whom one must marry.] 
3] At 1:14:30. The Lubavitcher Rebbe had a different perspective. See Joseph Telushkin, Rebbe: The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History (New York, 2014), p. 189, who quotes what the Rebbe told R. Leibel Groner: "When it comes to a marriage, not I can help you, not your father can help you, not your mother can help you, not your seichel [your intellectual faculties] can help you. The only thing that can help you is your heart. If you feel for her, go ahead. If you don't do not."

German court rules that Muslims firebombing synagogue is not anti-Semitic but justified protest against Israel

Jerusalem Post   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 synagogue by three men in 2014 was a justified expression of criticism of Israel’s policies.

Three German Palestinians sought to torch the Wuppertal synagogue with Molotov cocktails in July, 2014. The local Wuppertal court panel said in its 2015 decision that the three men wanted to draw “attention to the Gaza conflict” with Israel. The court deemed the attack not to be motivated by antisemitism.

Israel launched Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014 to stop Hamas rocket attacks into Israeli territory.

The court sentenced the three men – the 31-year-old Mohamad E., the 26 year-old Ismail A. and the 20-year-old Mohammad A.—to suspended sentences. The men tossed self-made Molotov cocktails at the synagogue. German courts frequently decline to release the last names of criminals to protect privacy.

The attack caused €800 damage to the synagogue. The original synagogue in Wuppertal was burned by Germans during the Kristallnacht pogroms in 1938. Wuppertal has a population of nearly 344,000 and is located in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.[...]

After the local Wuppertal court decision in 2015, Volker Beck, a leading Green Party MP, said the “attack on the synagogue was motivated by antisemitism” and blasted the court for issuing a decision stating that the goal of the attack was to highlight the war in Gaza.[...]

Friday, January 13, 2017

Hatzalah: Terror attack with truck which killed four soldiers in Jerusalem

Supreme Court rules in favor of Women of the Wall

The Supreme Court issued a challenge to Israel’s status quo on religion and state, ordering administrators of the Western Wall to justify the ban on women from leading prayers at the holy site, as sought in a petition.

In accordance with Jewish tradition and historical precedent, there are separate prayer sections for women and men at the Western Wall.

As per tradition at the Wall, and in accordance with the custom of most worshippers at the holy site, women are not permitted to lead group prayers or read from Torah scrolls. A small group of left-wing activists, however, have been campaigning for the religious status quo at the Western Wall to be altered.

The Israeli Supreme Court's decision on the side of the activists who submitted the petition demanding the changes was issued on Wednesday.

The petition came after a dramatic but controversial agreement was reached last year to create a third space for alternative prayer groups at a part of the Western Wall not bordered by the Kotel plaza and which would be open to both women and men. It is located near historic Robinson's Arch, the remnant of a bridge that was used to enter the Temple Mount area in 2nd Temple times.

The Women of the Wall organization, which for years has agitated for an end to the status quo at the Wall, accepted the agreement.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Maharal - woman was created before man because she is less important

Maharal (Vayikra 12:2):... in fact the woman was created before the man because even though regarding the taking of one of Adam’s ribs (Bereishis 2:21) this was done after the creation of man – but the actual creation of Eve was prior to this. Because it says in Bereishis (5:2), Male and female they were created and He called their name Adam. That shows that prior to the taking of Adam’s rib a female was created as one of the two faces of Adam (Bereishis Rabba 8:1) and the creation of the female was first. That is because the order of creation was first the animal and then the woman and afterwards the male was created. You see that in creation it is always that which is most important is created last. So also here, the male was created last because he is most important. Because of this reason our Sages (Nida 45b) say that the woman matures faster then the man because as the age of adulthood for a girl is 12 years and one day while for a male it is 13 years and one day. This is an example that which is more complete finishes completion later. Therefore the forming of the male was at the end and not the beginning.

Maharal - Women have binah yeseira - they have extra primordial intellect as opposed to the abstract intellect of man

The Maharal is often cited as a rabbinic authority that recognizes the equality or even superiority of woman over man. It is important to understand what his views actually are. Here is an example of the Maharal's understanding of gender differences regarding "binah yeseira" (extra understanding) - which is often cited to indicate that woman has superior intellectual powers.

However it is clear that the Maharal does not understand it that way. He comments are similar to those found in the Ibn Ezra and Ralbag as well as the Rambam and other Rishonim - that there is a coarser more primitive nature to women's intelligence and it is primarily useful in dealing with material rather than spiritual issues. There is a problem in that bina yeseira does not just mean practical or mundane wisdom
Peskita Zutrasa[1](Lekach Tov Devarim Zos Habracha):Yehoshua ben Nun – Why was was his name ben Nun? Because he had bina yeseira and similar we see in Bamidbar (34), Because Moshe placed his hands on him. G-d had only said to Moshe to place one hand on him and yet he placed both hands. From here we learn that a teacher is not jealous of his students....
Malbim(Divrei HaYomim 2:26.5):  
מלבי"ם דברי הימים ב כו
(ה) ויהי לדרוש אלהים. שר"ל שהיה אז העת המוכן לדרוש אלהים, כי היה בימי זכריה המבין בראות אלהים, שהנביאים ובעלי רוה"ק היו צופים במראות אלהים כמו יחזקאל שראה המרכבה, ויתר מחזות שראו הנביאים. והיה ביניהם מדרגות, שיש מהם שלא הבינו כל המראה על אמתתה, כי המראות הם ציונים מושכלים שעל ידם יציינו להם ההשגות הנוראות, כמו העולמות וההיכלות והפרצופים והספירות שרואים הנכנסים בפרדס, שיש מהם שהציץ ונפגע, ומעשה בתינוק שיצא אש מחשמל, כי צריך בינה יתירה להבין דבר מתוך דבר כר"ע שנכנס בשלום ויצא בשלום, וזכריה היה מבין המראות, ובדור שנמצא איש כזה היה העת לדרוש אלהים ממנו, ובימים שדרשו את ה' הצליחו. עתה יתחיל לספר הצלחותיו, א] נגד האויב החיצון:

Maharal[1](Nida 45b): This teaches that G-d gave bina yeseira (extra understanding) to the woman The explanation is G-d gave primordial (hayulani) intelligence to the woman because she is extra prepared for this. However the man has intelligence (seichel) and wisdom (chochma) in extra measure which is abstract intelligence. Primordial intelligences enables the woman to accept more. And thus our Sages say (Bava Metzia 59a), If your wife is short bend down and listen to her. According to one view this is referring to household matters while according to another view it is talking about worldly matters. That is because the woman’s intelligence comes from primordial intelligence which is more relevant to her than the man. Consequently regarding heavenly matters one should not listen to the advice of his wife because a woman has no connection to wisdom which requires abstract intelligence. It is important to understand clearly what our Sages hint at when they say woman was given extra binah (understanding). This is based on the language “vayiven” (build) where G-d builds  woman from the side of man. That is because the woman completes the building of man and from this aspect she has wisdom because completion produces this. Nevertheless the level of man is that he has abstract intelligence. It is important to understand this.

[1] מהר"ל (נדה מה:): מלמד שנתן בינה יתירה באשה וכו'. פי' דבר זה כי השכל היולאני נתן הש"י לאשה מצד שהאשה היא מוכנת לזה ביותר, כי האיש יש לו שכל וחכמה ביותר הוא השכל הנבדל, אבל שכל היולאני מוכנת האשה לקבל ביותר, וכך אמרו בפרק הזהב (בבא מציא נט.) אתתך גוצא גחון ותלחש לה, ומוקי ליה לחד לישנא במילי דביתא ולחד לישנא במילי דעלמא, והיינו כי האשה חכמה שלה מצד שכל היולאני שייך לה יותר מן האיש. ולכך אמרו שם במילי דשמיא אל ילך אחר עצת [אשתו] כי אין האשה שייך לה חכמה כי חכמה זאת אינ' רק מכח שכל הנבדל. אמנם כי יש לך להבין מאוד את שרמזו חכמים בזה שאמרו שנתן באשה בינה יתירה, ודבר זה נרמז בלשון ויבן, כי היא משלמת הבנין אל האיש, ומצד הזה שייך לה חכמה, כי ההשלמה ראוי לזה, ומ"מ מדריגת האיש שיש לו שכל הנבדל והבן זה.

Here’s a guide to the Trumpian spin on the Russian hacking report

President-elect Donald Trump and his aides have offered all sorts of reasons for dismissing or minimizing the “high-confidence” assessment by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a cyberattack during the 2016 presidential election with the aim of undermining faith in the U.S. democratic process and hurting Hillary Clinton’s electability.

Here’s a guide to the talking points, drawn from statements made by incoming White House chief of staff Reince Preibus on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Jan. 8.

“Read the report itself. There is no evidence that Russia succeeded in any alleged attempt to disrupt our democracy or, in fact, to influence the election results.”

This echoes a claim that Trump made in a statement after the report was released – that “there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election.”
Donald J. Trump ✔ @realDonaldTrump
Intelligence stated very strongly there was absolutely no evidence that hacking affected the election results. Voting machines not touched!
1:56 PM - 7 Jan 2017
18,570 18,570 Retweets 68,918 68,918 likes
But this is clever sleight of hand designed to obscure the point of the report.

The intelligence report provided an accounting of Russian behavior during the election; the intelligence agencies were not tasked to assess whether Russian actions swayed the election. The report makes this clear:

“We did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcomes of the 2016 election. The US Intelligence Community is charged with monitoring and assessing the intentions, capabilities, and actions of foreign actors; it does not analyze US political processes or US public opinion.”

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. emphasized this when he testified before Congress on Jan. 5: Political analysis “certainly isn’t the purview of the U.S. intelligence community,” he said.

In other words, Trump officials are asserting a conclusion that does not exist in the report — because agencies were not asked to make such a conclusion. Because the report is silent on the question of whether the election was swayed, Trump officials falsely state there is “no evidence” that the Russian efforts succeeded.

Given Trump’s narrow election victory — just a switch of 40,000 votes in three states would have altered the outcome — analysts can point to any number of factors. Clinton’s email controversy — and the FBI investigation that resulted – was certainly a major drag on her electoral prospects. But at the same time, during the campaign Trump repeatedly seized on revelations made by WikiLeaks (which U.S. intelligence says came via Russia) to attack Clinton.

The answer will never be known, but it is not a question that U.S. intelligence was asked to explore.

“One of the two biggest political parties in the world, the DNC, that sat there like a sitting duck, allowed these entities into their computer systems.”

This is an example of attacking one of the victims, the Democratic National Committee. But it ignores the broader implications of the intelligence report — how the Russian government used Internet trolls and RT (Russia’s state-owned international news channel) to amplify negative reports on Clinton and U.S. democracy.

The Internet trolls started to advocate for Trump as early as December 2015, well before the WikiLeaks revelations began to be released on the eve of the Democratic National Convention.

Meanwhile, “RT’s coverage of Secretary Clinton throughout the presidential campaign was consistently negative and focused on her leaked e-mails and accused her of corruption, poor physical and mental health, and ties to Islamic extremism,” the report said. (It does not mention that these attack lines mirrored attacks made by the Trump campaign.)

“By their own admission, they said that they lacked the training, and that they didn’t respond to the FBI when they called.”

Again, Preibus pins the blame on the DNC. But there was a miscommunication between the DNC and the FBI.[...]

Finally, Trump officials like to point to President Obama’s actions — or inactions — after officials accused China of accessing the Office of Personnel Management and obtaining information on 22 million Americans. They argue that because Obama sanctioned Russia, but not China, he’s trying to score political points and undercut Trump’s victory.

They may have a point, but the two situations are not directly comparable. The Russian campaign, as described by U.S. intelligence, involved more than just hacking, with the aim of disrupting and possibly influencing the political process. The Chinese hack had a more isolated goal — espionage. China appears to have wanted the material in order to engage in possible blackmail.

U.S. officials also say that China responded to U.S. pressure after the hack was discovered, and there are signs its espionage activities have been reduced. Timing is often important in diplomacy: China may have been receptive to U.S. pressure at the time because President Xi Jinping was about to visit the United States, and he did not want the hack to mar the visit. China even announced it had arrested the alleged hackers. (Obama had signed an executive order that could have been used to issue sanctions against China for the attack.)

In any case, Obama administration officials say the China case is different because it was purely a case of spying — something the United States does as well.

“We did not retaliate against an act of espionage any more than other countries necessarily retaliate against us for when we conduct espionage,” Clapper told lawmakers. “People who live in glass houses need to think about throwing rocks. Because this was an act of espionage and, you know, we and other nations conduct similar acts of espionage. So if we’re going to punish each other for acts of espionage, that’s a different policy issue.”

When the United States exposed a Russian spy ring in 2010, discovering agents who had embedded themselves in U.S. society, the spies were arrested and eventually became part of a spy swap between the two countries. No sanctions were imposed – though that was also during the period when Obama was trying to “reset” relations with Russia.

Trump alleges leaks by U.S. spy agencies, says that's something 'Nazi Germany would have done'

President-elect Donald Trump amplified his already heated war with the intelligence community Wednesday, accusing agents of disseminating an ugly and unsubstantiated report about him, and comparing the leak to Nazi tactics.

The showdown threatens to further undermine trust between the next commander in chief and America’s spies amid heightened threats to national security from terrorist groups and adversaries around the world with powerful new cyberweapons.

Trump, for the first time, acknowledged intelligence findings that Russia hacked Democratic files in an effort to interfere with the election, but he denied that Moscow tried to help him win, and he praised President Vladimir Putin, even suggesting that the hack ultimately helped American voters.

“Hacking's bad and it shouldn't be done,” he told reporters. “But look at the things that were hacked, look at what was learned from that hacking.”

The claim was one of several bizarre moments at a wide-ranging news conference, Trump’s first since July, that also touched on his business conflicts, his biggest campaign promises and another of his main foils, the media.

The event went off with a typical level of theatrics: Trump stood in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York next to stacks of file folders, ostensibly containing documents detailing the handover of his businesses to his older sons, though they were acknowledged only as an afterthought. Several other speakers took turns at the lectern, including a tax lawyer, a spokesman and Vice President-elect Mike Pence. Trump briefly argued with a CNN correspondent, refusing to take his question.

Trump was asked to rule out the possibility of contacts between his associates and Russian intelligence agents during the campaign and would not do so. But he lashed out against media organizations that published unverified allegations Tuesday from a report that claimed that Russians had gathered blackmail material against him and that people in his orbit had met with Russian agents during the campaign. [...]

“It was disgraceful — disgraceful that the intelligence agencies allowed any information that turned out to be so false and fake out,” Trump said. “That's something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do.”

Intelligence officials and their allies have stewed over Trump’s broadsides and were angered by his latest declarations of distrust.

“Kill the messenger and divert attention: That is the only trick Donald Trump has, and he does it viciously,” said Glenn Carle, a former senior CIA officer who spent more than two decades as a spy. “… The relationship is essentially damaged beyond the possibility of repair before it has even begun.”

Trump continued to dismiss criticism of Russia, much of it waged by members of his own party, over the hacking of Democrats. He noted that China also has breached U.S. government systems and insisted it is not getting the attention it deserves, one of several instances when he was asked about Russia and invoked China instead in his answer.[...]

“If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what, folks? That's called an asset, not a liability,” Trump said.[...]

Trump spoke positively of improving relations with Russia during his presidency, praising Putin and saying Moscow “can help us fight [Islamic State], which, by the way, is, No. 1, tricky.”

Some of those views not only put him at odds with some U.S. intelligence officials but also many Republican members of Congress who call Putin an autocrat who violates human rights and unlawfully invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea. That tension played out Wednesday on Capitol Hill, where Rex Tillerson, Trump’s choice for secretary of State, faced sharp questions during his initial Senate hearing from members of both parties. The former Exxon Mobil chief has had deep business ties in the country.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican who ran against Trump for president, showed particular frustration that Tillerson would not use the term "war criminal" to describe Putin, in light of atrocities reported in Syria, where Russian troops are aiding government forces.

And although Tillerson criticized Russia's invasion of Ukraine and said policy toward Russia had to be “clear-eyed,” he stuck with his skepticism toward economic sanctions, which he said too often end up hurting U.S. businesses. They have been a key tool for the Obama administration to punish Russia for its incursions into Ukraine.[...]

Democrats warned that Trump was being shortsighted.

“Trump may think that denigrating the intelligence community is good politics, or a useful way to deflect attention from the gravity of Russia's intervention on his behalf during the election,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.

At some point, Trump may need to rely on intelligence reports to justify military action overseas, he said.

“By casting doubt on their integrity, by mentioning the intelligence community in the same sentence as Nazi Germany, President-elect Trump is undermining the authority and credibility that he will need as president,” Schiff said.