What Happened Today: August 1, 2022
Pelosi’s expected Taiwan visit rankles China; FBI padding domestic terrorism data; Florida filling teacher vacancies with veterans
The Big Story
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will follow through on her planned trip to Taiwan this week, according to aides speaking anonymously with The New York Times and local Taiwan media with direct knowledge of her plans—dispelling rumors that Pelosi had canceled the visit under pressure from the White House, which wants to avoid aggravating tensions with China. On Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Pelosi’s “stature as the No. 3 U.S. official would be highly sensitive,” underscoring his promise last week that China would take “firm and resolute measures” if Pelosi were to travel to the independent island nation, which Beijing claims as part of its own territory. Over the weekend, a former Chinese state media editor Hu Xijin was more bellicose, writing on social media that “it is OK [for China’s military] to shoot down Pelosi’s plane.”
It’s unlikely China would do more than escort Pelosi’s plane as a show of power, though China might use retaliatory economic sanctions or cyberattacks against Taiwan following the visit. It’s been 25 years since a sitting U.S. House speaker traveled to the self-ruled island, and Chinese leaders were irritated then that Newt Gingrich’s arrival could disrupt China’s ongoing acquisition of Hong Kong. But times have changed, and for President Xi Jinping, the stakes over Taiwan are even higher now. He’s made control of the island a key plank of his foreign policy agenda while consolidating his authority ahead of an anticipated third term as president. For the United States, the diplomatic hand-wringing signals the continued decline of U.S. capacity to freely aid its allies as it once saw fit. As Elbridge Colby, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense, wrote of American foreign policy power on Twitter on Monday, “The biggest issue now is we don’t have enough power to do everything. So where do we focus?”
Read More: https://www.cnn.com/2022/08/01/politics/nancy-pelosi-taiwan-visit/index.html
In the Back Pages: Ukraine’s Jewish President Targets its Jewish Oligarchs
→ To mark the 20th anniversary of the Hebrew University bombing, in which Hamas killed 9 students studying at a school in Jerusalem and injured more than 100, the Palestinian Authority has raised the salary it pays to the families of those responsible for the atrocity by 14.29%, from NIS 7,000 ($2,251) per month to NIS 8,000 ($2,572). These payments are part of what the PA calls its “Martyrs’ Fund,” which pays a monthly stipend to the families of those injured or killed while carrying out acts of violence against Israel, be it a suicide bomber at a school or a man with a knife at a bus stop. In its effort to combat this bounty program, Israel’s Knesset passed a law in 2018 authorizing the country to calculate the amount paid out to the families and withhold that amount from the taxes it collects and then passes along to the PA. Nonetheless, these payments remain a strong incentive in the West Bank, where the salary for those who attack Jews is a good deal higher than for those who labor in one of the worst economies in the world.
→ The FBI is padding its terrorism data in an effort to support the Biden administration’s narrative that domestic violent extremism is the “greatest threat” facing the country, according to whistleblowers from the agency, who reached out to Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee. “From recent protected disclosures,” wrote Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) to FBI Chief Christopher Wray, “we have learned that FBI officials are pressuring agents to reclassify cases as ‘domestic violent extremism’ even if the cases do not meet the criteria for such a classification. Upon entering office, President Biden initiated “a 100-day comprehensive review of U.S. Government efforts to address domestic terrorism, which has evolved into the most urgent terrorism threat the United States faces today.” Rep. Jordan and his colleagues now claim that officers in the bureau, not finding enough domestic terrorism examples to satisfy their superiors, were “encouraged and incentivized to reclassify cases as [domestic terrorism] cases even though there is minimal, circumstantial evidence to support the reclassification.”
→ Free Speech Systems, the company founded by conspiracy entrepreneur Alex Jones, has filed for bankruptcy—a move seemingly intended to jam up lawsuits brought against Jones after he endorsed the theory that the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, which claimed the lives of 26 people, was a staged event. The bankruptcy filing comes after Jones was found liable for a previous lawsuit from the families of Sandy Hook victims, and a day after Jones filed a complaint against his own media company. The still-pending lawsuit is demanding $150 million in compensation from the Infowars host.
→ Number of the Day: 9,000
The number of teacher vacancies Florida is facing ahead of the start of the school year—“a crisis” said Andrew Spar, Florida Education Association president, before adding that “in 2010, there were 8,000 graduates from Florida’s colleges and universities becoming teachers. That number was between 2,000 and 3,000 for the year that just ended.” Now, in a desperate bid to staff classrooms, Florida will allow military veterans to fill these roles. Bypassing the usual training requirements for teachers, veterans will need 60 college credits, a 2.5 GPA, and bachelor’s-level sufficiency in subjects they’re teaching. All other teachers in Florida’s public school system, meanwhile, are required to have a B.A. and a teaching certificate. Given that only 53% of Florida’ students passed the statewide reading exam in 2021, it’s clear the old system had problems, but teachers’ organizations in the state are not thrilled with the new proposal. “You can’t just throw a warm body in a classroom. That’s not the answer,” said the president of the Sarasota County Teachers Association, Barry Dubin.
→ With online trolling now a dominant form of political combat, Pennsylvania’s Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has spent the past several weeks waging a social media onslaught against his senate opponent Dr. Mehmet Oz, arguing in a series of sporadically funny memes that Oz is a carpetbag New Jersey resident. More recently, California Gov. Gavin Newsom sought to rack up trolling points with the passage of a new gun-control law designed to mock and mimic recent Texas abortion policy. The new California law allows residents to sue a fellow resident involved with illegal gun sales or distribution. Guilty parties will be penalized the same $10,000 fine at the heart of a Texas abortion law, which allows residents there to sue each other for abetting illegal abortions. “If they’re going to open that door … to put women’s lives at risk, I’ll do it to save people’s lives any day of the week,” said Newsom, who—in case anyone failed to get the troll—has taken out advertisements about his bounty-hunter law in Texas newspapers.
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→ A government watchdog in Kenya said it might have to block Facebook if it doesn’t rein in hate speech, including the promotion of ethnic cleansing, that has proliferated on the social media platform in the run-up to the country’s upcoming elections. Ahead of the threatened suspension, Facebook said in a press release it was going above and beyond its normal effort to crack down on calls for violence in its effort to “ensure a safe and secure general election in Kenya.” However, shortly after the company boasted of using a “combination of artificial intelligence, human review and user reports” to clean up its platform, its ad sales team reportedly gave the green light to a fresh batch of content calling for ethnic violence. One local ad-watch group said several of the ads were “dehumanising, comparing specific tribal groups to animals and calling for rape, slaughter, and beheading.”
→ Quote of the Day:
A homeless shelter worker and people close to Ms. Leyden questioned whether, despite her gender identity, Ms. Harvey should have been placed in a homeless shelter for women, given her history of attacking and murdering them.
From The New York Times coverage of the latest murder by Marceline Harvey, né Harvey Marcelin, a transgender octagenerian serial killer who was let out on parole in 2019 after going to prison for murdering a woman in 1985 (his second such conviction, after going to prison for murdering a woman in 1963), and who is now awaiting trial after being accused of killing a third woman earlier this year. Harvey began to identify as a woman after being released from prison for the second murder and was therefore allowed to live in a women’s shelter. When the administrator running Harvey’s intake objected to someone with a long record of abusing and killing women being admitted to a women’s shelter, her supervisors overruled her. “Apparently [Harvey’s] feelings and identity were far more important than all the other women that were terrified of him,” said the intake officer.
Read More: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/30/nyregion/how-did-a-two-time-killer-get-out-to-be-charged-again-at-age-83.html
→ Lawlessness is overwhelming Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince, with rival gangs bulldozing entire neighborhoods to the ground as they compete to reach the city’s presidential palace. While gang violence in Haiti is not new, this level of indiscriminate terror is. “Now the bandits don’t care,” one resident of Port-au-Prince, forced to flee when bulldozers came to crush her home at 5 a.m., said. “They will just open fire and shoot at you.” In just over a week in July, almost 500 people disappeared or were killed as the gangs murdered their way toward the city’s center. The G-9 Family, now the gang poised to take control of the city and country, encapsulates the underlying logic of the crisis: Its leader, a former policeman named Jimmy Chérizier, rose to power on the payroll of the country’s political and business elites, who bid against one another in an effort to make the gangs to do their bidding. G-9 now controls many of the island nation’s ports and thus what enters and exits the country.
Read More: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/30/world/americas/haiti-government-gangs.html
Additional reporting and writing provided by The Scroll’s associate editor, David Sugarman
TODAY IN TABLET:
Spinster Sisters Versus Nazis Phyllis Chesler on the story of Ida and Louise Cook, two opera buffs who lived with their parents while running a scheme to rescue Jews from Hitler.
Read More: https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/arts-letters/articles/ida-louise-cook-third-reich
The New Jewish Awakening Benjamin Spratt and Joshua Stanton say our obsession with the narrative of our community’s decline overlooks threads of optimism and opportunity.
Read More: https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/community/articles/new-jewish-awakening
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The following dispatch comes from Tablet’s Ukraine correspondent, Vladislav Davidzon. The complete archive of Davidzon’s reporting on the war in Ukraine can be found here.
The government of Ukraine, led by President Volodymyr Zelensky, has spent the past few months practically walking on water as far as the international press is concerned. But Kyiv is now catching serious flak after reports last week that three of the country’s most colorful businessmen, all of them Ukrainian Jews who are also involved in politics, would be stripped of their citizenship. Jewish organizations are left wondering why a Ukrainian president of Jewish descent is persecuting a trio of well-known Jewish figures in the midst of a war that Moscow claims to be fighting as a campaign of denazification. The underlying political realities may be more complex, but the optics, as they say, are not great.
The reports that Igor Kolomoisky, Hennadiy Korban, and Vadim Rabinovich—all prominent figures within Ukrainian politics—are due to be denaturalized are based on a grainy scan of an unsigned presidential decree published on the internet by the Ukrainian parliamentarian Serhiy Vlasenko. The document allegedly strips the three and several other Ukrainians of their citizenship. The government of Ukraine has yet to corroborate or deny the news, but in the case of Korban, Ukrainian media documented him being turned away from the border in late July after his passport was confiscated by border guards.
Quietly stripping political foes who have found themselves on the wrong side of the current government of their citizenship is a time-honored Ukrainian political tradition. Readers may recall the epic saga of former Georgian President Saakashvilli, who was brought into the Ukrainian government by his erstwhile friend President Petro Poroshenko and soon after stripped of his citizenship for having turned on his former ally. Up until now, however, the Zelensky administration has been less prone to using the tactic than previous governments.
Technically what is at issue is that all three of the businessmen hold Israeli citizenship, which is against the Ukrainian constitution—but then again, so is the selective stripping of a Ukrainian citizen of their passport.
Each of the three men is openly and proudly Jewish and is associated with Jewish philanthropy and social projects. Further, it should be noted that none of the three men are recognizably moral or likable people. All are singularly colorful and over-the-top characters, whom I have met and written about at length over the years for Tablet. None of them would last more than a second with their political or economic shenanigans in the context of a Western democracy or rule of law. Beyond those facts, however, it is not immediately obvious the three of them have much else in common.
Read the rest here.