What Happened Today: August 16, 2022
Germany to keep nuclear power plants open; Iran blames Rushdie for the attempt on his life; The Legacy of Carson for Religious Education
The Big Story
Three nuclear plants slated to close in Germany at the end of the year will now remain operational, in a move similar to the recent reopening of previously shuttered coal plants in Germany that underscores the vulnerability of European energy supplies amid gas shortages driven by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Last winter Germany closed three nuclear plants, a winding down of nuclear energy sources that was a marquee effort led by the Greens and the Social Democrats, the two leading political parties. But the move to become the only industrial nation to entirely abandon nuclear energy became less popular with Germans following the Ukraine conflict and subsequent energy crisis, with a recent German poll finding that more than 80% of Germans are now in favor of keeping the nuclear plants open.
The final decision to keep the nuclear plants open will ultimately depend on a parliament vote and the support of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s cabinet. According to three senior government officials speaking to The Wall Street Journal, the cabinet awaits the results of a forthcoming energy audit to make their decision, but that is a “foregone conclusion.” “This is painful for all of us,” said Rosi Steinberger, a member of the Green Party, which was originally formed to oppose nuclear energy. “But we are also under the shadow of this war in Ukraine.”
In the Back Pages: The Legacy of Carson for Religious Education
→ Several months after the annual gathering of the Southern Baptist Church (SBC), where it passed a raft of measures that signaled it was taking sexual abuse allegations seriously after largely ignoring them for years, the SBC leadership announced that they would “fully and completely cooperate” with a new Department of Justice investigation into the alleged crimes. In an independent review of the period between 2000 and today, a private firm hired by the church in May found that church leadership had suppressed reports of sexual misconduct for decades and that an internal list kept track of who was accused of abusing church members and where they were reassigned.
→ This week marked the one-year anniversary of the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban’s takeover of the country. “This day is the day of the victory of truth over falsehood and the day of salvation and freedom of the Afghan nation,” said the Taliban’s spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, as the terror organization celebrated its ascendance to power. The year has been one defined by drought, hunger, malnutrition, and the steady erasure of women’s rights in the country. “We are all heading to darkness and misfortune,” a doctor from southeastern Afghanistan told Reuters. “People have no future, especially women.” More than half the country—some 25 million people—now live in poverty, while the West withholds aid until the country improves its human rights record, which the Taliban has flatly refused to do.
→ Quote of the Day
“I feel like socialists are taking over. They’re marching through the institutions. They’re … taking over education. It looks like they’ve taken over a lot of the corporations. It looks like they’ve taken over the military. And it’s just continuing.”
John Mackey, the co-founder and retiring CEO of Whole Foods and longtime proponent of “conscious capitalism,” dropping some bombs on his way out the door. For years, in fact, Mackey has worried that capitalism has gotten a little too conscious, propelled by the people who are behind both “the movement on gun control” and the attacks on the free market of speech, commerce, and “a lot of the liberties that I’ve taken for granted most of my life,” he said. Whole Foods execs worked hard to keep the lid on Mackey, but he’s not having it anymore. “I was telling my leadership team, ‘Pretty soon, you’re going to be hearing about ‘crazy John’ who’s no longer muzzled, and you’re going to have to say, ‘We can’t stop John from talking any longer.’”
→ Tweet of the Day:
Posted by a San Francisco Chronicle staff photographer, the door window of a San Francisco-area school classroom details lockdown procedures for a school shooting, including the need to “prepare a plan of action if the intruder gains entry (e.g., all-out assault on the intruder).”
→ Following the attempted assassination of novelist Salman Rushdie at a literary event on Friday—a knife attack the author is expected to survive, despite damage to his liver and the loss of one eye—Iranian officials on Monday denied any involvement, instead blaming Rushdie. “We do not blame, or recognize worthy of condemnation, anyone except himself and his supporters,” said Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani, adding that the novelist’s work crossed “the red lines of more than 1½ billion Muslims.” On Monday, State Department representative Ned Price said Tehran blaming the attempted assassination on Rushdie was “despicable” and “disgusting.”
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→ Andreessen Horowitz, the venture capital firm of Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz, announced yesterday that it would write its largest check ever to invest in WeWork founder Adam Neumann’s new housing startup, Flow. “We think it is natural that for his first venture since WeWork, Adam returns to the theme of connecting people through transforming their physical spaces and building communities where people spend the most time: their homes,” a spokesperson for Andreessen Horowitz wrote in a statement. “Residential real estate—the world’s largest asset class—is ready for exactly this change.” Neumann had been booted by his shareholders from his own company in 2019 and has offered the public little information about Flow beyond touting its 2023 launch and its aim to disrupt the rental market by offering “community-driven” and “experience-centric” units with the Flow brand featured prominently—a dormitory for adults, of sorts. News of this investment comes on the heels of Andreessen Horowitz’s investment in JoinBelong, a residential management system that promises to make “renting magical for homeowners and renters.”
→ The entire staff of the Gillespie County Elections Office in Texas has resigned after repeatedly reporting incidents of abuse, stalking, and death threats in the wake of unproven claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump. “After the 2020 [election],” one now-resigned Texas elections official said, “I was threatened, I’ve been stalked, I’ve been called out on social media.” Some elections office staffers have hired off-duty security guards for personal protection, as people on social media have posted the officials’ home addresses with Twitter messages like “hang him when convicted from fraud and let his lifeless body hang in public until maggots drip out his mouth.” That cheerful promise of violence was reserved for Heider Garcia, an elections official who testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform last week; Garcia’s testimony came after one recent poll of Texas Republicans found that two-thirds of the state believes the 2020 election was not legitimate.
→ Graph of the Day
A new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine predicts that almost 1 out of every 2 Americans will be obese (BMI ≥30) by 2027 and that by 2030 there will be more severely obese Americans (BMI ≥35) than there were obese Americans in 1990, signaling a surge in the number of Americans who are at higher rates of mortality and morbidity. The growing number of severely obese Americans is especially prevalent among women, non-Hispanic black adults, and low-income adults, the study found. Given the health complications that often accompany severe obesity and its prevalence among the poor, the study noted—with alarm—that “the high medical costs of severe obesity have substantial implications for future health care costs.”
→ Number of the Day: 8 out of 10
The number of the 10 largest companies in the country that are using productivity tracking metrics to monitor their employees. Companies are keeping an eye on how many hours an employee is on the job, how many breaks they’re taking, and how much time is spent working. UPS, Kroeger, Amazon, radiology offices—the list is long and includes workers across the income spectrum. Barclays Bank had started using “friendly” nudges—“Not enough time in the Zone yesterday,” one read—until ending the program because of employee backlash. While workers complain about the dehumanizing and toxic feeling of being micromanaged, the main complaint is that the tracking software, which doesn’t see when an employee is thinking about a work issue, writing something down on paper, or taking an extra minute to talk to a customer, is simply inaccurate—at least for now.
→ A Tablet fellow, Tablet Magazine’s Australian correspondent, an attorney, a mother of three, and the founder of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance of Australia, Nomi Kaltmann is, clearly, indefatigable—and also now running for public office in Caulfield, in the southeast area of Melbourne. With the support of the recently formed Voices of Caulfield, Kaltmann follows in the recent surge of so-called teal candidates—a loosely affiliated coalition of independents, all women, whose focus on anti-corruption and climate change mitigation has helped it notch wins against a growing list of established liberal incumbents, most of whom are male. “Both major parties seem to lack integrity, there is a lack of representation of women in public spaces and public-facing leadership positions, and we’re not doing nearly enough about climate change,” Kaltmann said.
Additional reporting and writing provided by The Scroll’s associate editor, David Sugarman
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The Legacy of Carson for Religious Education
By Avi Schick
The Supreme Court’s most recent term ended with a bang, delivering historic decisions about the establishment and free exercise of religion, gun control, and abortion -- all in one final blockbuster week.
The first of these cases was Carson v. Makin, which involved a challenge to a Maine tuition assistance program that provides parents in rural school districts without public high schools the ability to choose an approved public or private school for their children, with the state footing the bill.
Critics and advocates alike have characterized the decision as a landmark ruling that may transform both public and religious education in the United States. The opinion, authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, may be important doctrinally and precedentially, but it is unlikely to have the kind of impact those on both sides of the issue are predicting.
The issue was that Maine prohibits sectarian schools from participating in the program. A school is deemed sectarian if it “is associated with a particular faith or belief system and . . . promotes the faith or belief system . . . and/or presents the material taught through the lens of this faith.”
Two parents who wanted to send their children to sectarian schools that were not approved by Maine sued to strike down the program’s restrictions.
As a result of Supreme Court decisions from the early 1970s, state funding for parochial schools was generally deemed impermissible. The Court began to show a more permissive attitude in 2002, when it upheld an Ohio voucher program that included religious schools. That decision permitted but did not require states to include religious schools in programs funding other private schools.
That middle ground was on display two years later, when the Court upheld Washington State’s refusal to permit state scholarship recipients to use state funds to pursue theology degrees. The Court explained that there is “play in the joints” between what the Establishment Clause prohibits and Free Exercise requires. In other words, the twin mandates of requiring government to permit the free exercise of religion while also prohibiting its establishment by government are not all encompassing. Some things are neither required nor prohibited; they are simply permitted.
That’s where things remained until five years ago, when the Supreme Court invalidated a Missouri program that excluded religious institutions from eligibility to participate in a grant program that funded safety enhancements at school playgrounds. And just two years ago, the Court ruled that Montana acted unconstitutionally when it excluded religious schools from receiving funds provided to other private schools, declaring that “a State need not subsidize private education. But once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”
That is where things remained until Carson v. Makin, which made it clear that not only is the disqualification of a parochial school because of its religious status not justified but also that a parochial school’s exclusion because of the funds are used for religious instruction will also not be tolerated.
That is as it should be.
Read the rest here.