Welcome to cat shabbos, Saturday, November 17, 2023, and National Apple Cider Day. I used to buy gallon jugs of the stuff and then let them start to ferment; cider is best when it’s slightly alcoholic and has a bit of fizz.
It’s also National Adoption Day, National Survivors of Suicide Day, Mickey Mouse Day (he made his debut in the cartoon “Steamboat Willie” on this day in 1928), and National Vichyssoise Day, and, in Morocco, Independence Day, celebrating the independence of Morocco from France and Spain in 1956.
Here’s “Steamboat Willie,” with Mickey appearing just 30 seconds into the cartoon. It’s good, too!
Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the November 18 Wikipedia page.
*Once again the NYT slants its reportage against Israel, pointing out that the IDF has not yet made a “definitive” case that Al-Shifa hospital and the tunnels under it were a Hamas commend center. Do they expect instant results? I predict that nearly every day the NYT will point out the lack of a smoking gun. Now if this proves to be the case (although we already know there was terrorist activity there), it will be a major failure of intelligence that resulted in needless Palestinian deaths, including those of patients. But let’s wait a couple of weeks before we start pointing fingers:
How much time could it take for Israel to provide a conclusive account?
It could take weeks, months, or could never come, American military officials said on Friday.
American and Israeli officials said that many of the tunnels could be booby-trapped with bombs either remotely triggered or set to explode when something crosses a tripwire. In 2013, six Israeli soldiers were wounded, and one was blinded, when a booby trap exploded as they tried to shove a camera into a Hamas tunnel.
Whether this is the case under Al-Shifa Hospital or not, Israeli forces will view sending soldiers down into the tunnels as a measure of last resort, one Pentagon official said Friday.
Col. Elad Tsury, commander of Israel’s Seventh Brigade, said it might be days before troops descended into the shaft.
. . .Senior U.S. officials said Friday that they remained confident that Hamas and Palestinian militants had been operating under the complex of Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, even as the Israeli military has struggled to produce proof to back its assertion that Hamas was using the hospital and its patients as human shields.
A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss U.S. intelligence, said intercepted communications between fighters operating in Gaza showed that Hamas had been using hospitals as command centers and ammunition depots.
While the Biden administration has cautioned Israel not to use airstrikes against the hospital, where thousands of Palestinians have taken refuge, it has also backed Israel’s contention that the hospital has been used by Hamas. On Tuesday, John F. Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, declined to provide details about the source of the U.S. intelligence, first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
And the IDF is now moving to the south:
Israel signaled on Friday that it was expanding its offensive in Gaza to include the southern half of the territory, after claiming control of the north and taking over a Gaza City hospital it had identified as a priority in its military operation.
The Israeli military’s chief spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said late Friday that its troops would continue their offensive “in every place that Hamas is, and it is in the south of the strip.” His remarks appeared to telegraph a new phase in Israel’s war on Hamas, three weeks into the ground invasion and less than three days after Israeli troops entered the grounds of Gaza’s largest hospital, Al-Shifa, saying the armed group had been using it as a command center.
Here’s a screenshot of the front-page headlines:
*As I always say, if you’re going to subscribe to a site beyond a conventional newspaper, I’d recommend the Free Press, which has tons of good stuff. Have a look. But my favorite item is Nellie Bowles’s weekly “TGIF” news summary, which appears on Friday. Her snarky but heterodox liberal take on things is funny but also rings true. As always, I’ll steal three of Nellie’s items for this column; these come from her latest summary, “TGIF: Letter to America“:
→ Update on that clumsy old man: In L.A. last week, an Arab professor at a local community college smashed a bullhorn into a Jewish man’s face, knocking him onto the concrete and killing him. Well, that professor has finally been arrested. Sure, he’s charged only with involuntary manslaughter, but I’ll take it (I’m sure the original effort was to charge him with a parking ticket). Anyway, finally, an arrest in the killing of Paul Kessler. Or as CNN will tell you:
Sadly, the concrete and the bullhorn couldn’t be read their Miranda rights, so they went with the guy who allegedly did it.
→ Recess jihad: A Brooklyn parent group has been organizing students to protest the war. The teachers are on board. And so we have scenes out of Brooklyn this week of 700 students from some 100 schools marching, yelling pro-peace slogans like “Fuck the Jews.” Or there’s this great call and response the kids were doing as they marched. Call: Takbir! Response: Allahu Akbar! The kids stopped by some Jewish-owned businesses and did their chants. It was organized by the official parent advisory board, which is funded by taxpayers. I used to think “children are the future” was a hopeful phrase. . . anyway. Takbir!
→ The cops are being a little off, no? In England, the police seem very much to be on the side of pro-Palestine protesters. At one recent rally, they posed with a young boy who wore a keffiyeh across his face, showing only his eyes. They seem to clamp down only when the protesters are of the pro-England sort.
Here’s someone speaking to a crowd, railing against Braverman for daring to criticize the protests: “When we call for freedom, we’re not being hateful. . . . You’re probably wondering, why does the UK believe this? Why does Suella Braverman—probably her Jewish husband, her Zionist husband—why does she believe that it’s hateful?” Good question. Jewish husbands—never a good sign. Surely something going on. Anyway, this protestor seems totally not hateful. No red flags were raised in those sentences.
Watch the great Konstantin Kisin with the best take: “Suella was sacked for being right.”
*In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, “Hamas’s barbarity heightens the crisis in higher education,” Michael Bloomberg (a Democrat, remember, as well as a long-time mayor of New York City), mentions the University of Chicago’s Kalven Report on institutional neutrality. Emphasis is mine:
One can support the Palestinian people and still denounce the intentional slaughter of civilians.
Why have so many students failed to do so? The answer begins where the buck stops—with college presidents. For years, they have allowed their campuses to become bastions of intolerance, by permitting students to shout down the voices of others. They have condoned “trigger warnings” that shield students from difficult ideas. They have refused to defend faculty who run afoul of student sentiment. And they have created “safe spaces” that discourage or exclude opposing views.
College presidents have also allowed campuses to become institutions of conformity. In a 2014 commencement speech at Harvard, I warned that many of America’s top colleges had become Soviet-like in their lack of viewpoint diversity. As I noted, 96% of donations from Ivy League faculty and staff in the 2012 presidential election went to Barack Obama, while only 4% went to another Harvard alumnus, Mitt Romney.
Over the past decade, this combination of campus conformity and intolerance has only gotten worse. It is no surprise that support for terrorism, dressed in the language of social justice, has emerged from this environment.
. . .Similarly, the public has wondered why some college presidents who were quick to condemn the murder of George Floyd were slow to condemn the murder of 1,200 Israeli citizens. Others might wonder why the presidents issued no statements on Sudan’s civil war or the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Instead of issuing statements on selective issues,
Similarly, the public has wondered why some college presidents who were quick to condemn the murder of George Floyd were slow to condemn the murder of 1,200 Israeli citizens. Others might wonder why the presidents issued no statements on Sudan’s civil war or the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Instead of issuing statements on selective issues, college presidents should adopt the policy the University of Chicago has stuck to since 1967, when it declared: “The university is the home and sponsor of critics; it is not itself the critic.” Only a few other universities, including North Carolina and Vanderbilt, have adopted this policy.
*In medical news, the Associated Press Reports that doctors are about to embark on a gene-therapy treatment for sickle-cell disease and thalassemia, genetic ailment caused by having two copies of a mutant gene that produces defective hemoglobin. The goal is to take out the defective gene, fix it in stem cells using CRISPR technology, and then inject the “normal” gene back into the bone marrow, where it can make non-mutant hemoglobin protein (h/t Steve):
Britain’s medicines regulator has authorized the world’s first gene therapy treatment for sickle cell disease, in a move that could offer relief to thousands of people with the crippling disease in the U.K.
In a statement Thursday, the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency said it approved Casgevy, the first medicine licensed using the gene editing tool CRISPR, which won its makers a Nobel prize in 2020.
The agency approved the treatment for patients with sickle cell disease and thalassemia who are 12 years old and over. Casgevy is made by Vertex Pharmaceuticals (Europe) Ltd. and CRISPR Therapeutics. To date, bone marrow transplants, extremely arduous procedures that come with very unpleasant side effects, have been the only long-lasting treatment.
“The future of life-changing cures resides in CRISPR based (gene-editing) technology,” said Dr. Helen O’Neill of University College London.
Here’s how it’s done, and they’re doing it at the University of Chicago!
The new medicine, Casgevy, works by targeting the problematic gene in a patient’s bone marrow stem cells so that the body can make properly functioning hemoglobin.
Patients first receive a course of chemotherapy, before doctors take stem cells from the patient’s bone marrow and use genetic editing techniques in a laboratory to fix the gene. The cells are then infused back into the patient for a permanent treatment. Patients must be hospitalized at least twice — once for the collection of the stem cells and then to receive the altered cells.
“This is so exciting. It’s a new wave of treatments that we can utilize for patients with sickle cell disease,” said Dr. James LaBelle, director of the pediatric stem cell and cellular therapy program at the University of Chicago. He said Britain’s approval suggested the U.S. authorization was likely “imminent.”
Casgevy is currently being reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; the agency is expected to make a decision early next month, before considering another sickle cell gene therapy.
LaBelle said officials at the University of Chicago are “already moving forward to build not only the clinical infrastructure but also the reimbursement infrastructure to get these patients this treatment.”
We know in both cases exactly what the mutation is causing the disease, and it’s due to a single nucleotide that can be reverted through CRISPR to the normal form. If this works it will be a huge step forward in dealing with genetic ailments (not all of them, of course; Down Syndrome, which is due to three copies of a small chromosome instead of the normal two, wouldn’t be fixable this way).
This is Matthew’s bailiwick, of course, and when I asked him if it would work, he simply said “yes.”
*The WaPo reports that seven universities or school districts in the U.S. are under federal investigation for either antisemitism or “Islamophobia” (I take that to mean anti-Muslim bigotry):
The institutions under scrutiny, according to the department, are Cornell and Columbia universities; the University of Pennsylvania; Wellesley and Lafayette colleges; the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art; and the Maize Unified School District near Wichita.
Five of the investigations relate to antisemitism and two to Islamophobia, a department spokeswoman said.
Launched Wednesday and Thursday, the probes will explore alleged violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. That 1964 law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin, including harassment based on a person’s shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, in programs receiving federal funds.
Federal officials declined Friday to release any further details what incidents at those institutions had prompted their investigation.
I’m guessing that the anti-semitic accusations were leveled at Cornell, Wellesley, Columbia, Cooper Union, and the University of Pennsylvania.
*In the NYT, columnist David Brooks argues that “Universities are failing at inclusion,” but proposes an inclusion that involves more than race, concentrating instead on ideas, especially heterodox ones. But he also says that “inclusiveness” hasn’t included Jews, something you don’t often read.
Universities are supposed to be centers of inquiry and curiosity — places where people are tolerant of difference and learn about other points of view. Instead, too many have become brutalizing ideological war zones, so today the most hostile place to be an American Jew is not at some formerly restricted country club but on a college campus.
How on earth did this happen? I’ve been teaching on college campuses off and on for 25 years. It’s become increasingly evident to me that American adolescence and young adulthood — especially for those who wind up at elite schools — now happen within a specific kind of ideological atmosphere.
It centers on a hard-edged ideological framework that has been spreading in high school and college, on social media, in diversity training seminars and in popular culture. The framework doesn’t have a good name yet. It draws on the thinking of intellectuals ranging from the French philosopher Michel Foucault to the critical race theorist Derrick Bell. (For a good intellectual history, I recommend Yascha Mounk’s recent book, “The Identity Trap.”)
The common ideas associated with this ideology are by now pretty familiar:
We shouldn’t emphasize what unites all human beings; we should emphasize what divides us.
Human relations are power struggles between oppressors and oppressed groups.
Human communication is limited. A person in one group can never really understand the experience of someone in another group.
The goal of rising above bigotry is naïve. Bigotry and racism are permanent and indestructible components of American society.
Seemingly neutral tenets of society — like free speech, academic freedom, academic integrity and the meritocracy — are tools the powerful use to preserve their power.
These are, of course, all tenets of critical social justice, and aren’t novel, but this still, along with what’s below, makes this column better than the usual anodyne lucubrations of Mr. Brooks.
. . . Students have gotten the message that they are not on campus to learn; they are there to express their certainties and to advance a rigid ideological formula.
The right intellectual framework for effective diversity work is pluralism. Pluralism starts with a celebration of the fact that we live in one of the most diverse societies in history. The job of the university is to help young people from different backgrounds learn to work and live together. (Would you really want to hire someone who spent his college years learning how to demonize, demean and divide?)
Pluralists seek to replace the demonizing, demeaning and dividing ethos with one that encourages respect, relationships and cooperation.
. . . Donors who are offended by what’s happening on campuses today shouldn’t stop funding universities. They should fund pluralistic programs that offer an alternative to and a critique of the currently prevailing ideology. There is a rich tradition of thinkers who explore diversity, identity and history from a pluralistic framework: Kwame Anthony Appiah, Danielle Allen, John Courtney Murray, Miroslav Volf, Jonathan Haidt. Whole courses could be built around these bodies of thought.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is interrupted while sharpening her claws.
Hili: You are distracting me.Szaron: I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to.
Hili: Rozpraszasz mnie.Szaron: Przepraszam, nie chciałem.
From Divy, for ailurophiles:
From Masih; these morality police are scary!
In Tehran's subway station hallways or as Iranian women call them the “horror hallways”, the morality police are present, arresting Iranian women who resist the mandatory hijab. #ArmitaGaravand, a victim of the same morality police, was murdered in a subway station for refusing… pic.twitter.com/IoNTHLh5Lm
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) November 17, 2023
From Barry. Koalas sound like donkeys!
Ever heard the sound of a koala? pic.twitter.com/U4j8eO0pBF
— Buitengebieden (@buitengebieden) November 15, 2023
From Bryan; John Cleese talks to Helen Pluckrose, who is asked to pretend she’s a “woke person” to answer Cleese’s questions about wokeness.
Confused about the ideas behind “wokeness”?
— Andrew Doyle (@andrewdoyle_com) November 15, 2023
From my “home” feed:
Just because it’s Friday.. 😂
Sound on pic.twitter.com/JNtnxCL7CN
— Buitengebieden (@buitengebieden) November 17, 2023
I noticed that this is the tweet pinned at the top of one of Ilhan Omar’s two feeds (the non-congressional one). Note that it was posted on October 7, the day of Hamas’s incursion into Israel and resultant slaughter of more than a thousand. Israel had not yet responded, but Omar was already calling for de-escation and a cease-fire! The whole text:
I condemn the horrific acts we are seeing unfold today in Israel against children, women, the elderly, and the unarmed people who are being slaughtered and taken hostage by Hamas. Such senseless violence will only repeat the back and forth cycle we’ve seen, which we cannot allow to continue. We need to call for deescalation and ceasefire. I will keep advocating for peace and justice throughout the Middle East.
I don’t believe for a minute that her “condemnation” is sincere.
I condemn the horrific acts we are seeing unfold today in Israel against children, women, the elderly, and the unarmed people who are being slaughtered and taken hostage by Hamas. Such senseless violence will only repeat the back and forth cycle we've seen, which we cannot allow…
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) October 7, 2023
From the Auschwitz Memorial; a survivor whose birthday was yesterday:
November 17, 1930 | Gabriella Karin, a Slovak Jew, was born in Bratislava.
Her extended family was murdered in the war. Gabriella was liberated while in hiding.
Today is her 93rd birthday. Would you please join us in wishing her a wonderful day? pic.twitter.com/Eox5djFUAl
— Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Foundation (@ABMFusa) November 17, 2023
Tweets from Matthew. He loves the Mars helicopter “Dragonfly,” and here is a model demonstrating how it works:
— Jani Radebaugh (@radjanirad) November 15, 2023
Happy #PollinatorWeek2021! Here's your chance to learn more about our native fruit bats, as we'll be sharing information on the pollinating bat species of Peninsular Malaysia through this whole week, so stay tuned and keep your eyes peeled! #ProjectPteropus pic.twitter.com/2y4h9nisK3
— Rimba (@RimbaResearch) June 21, 2021