Is the Cure Worse than the Problem?

Distressed by the economic fallout caused by the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump is saying that America will get workers back to work by Easter, and is declaring loudly (and in all caps) that “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF.”

…how many times can Washington pass $2 trillion bills? No, this is not sustainable, nor will people stand for it except as a temporary expedient. President Trump is already expressing ­impatience with his own guidance against gatherings of more than 10 people for the next 15 days.

This is an extremely dangerous line of thinking, and not just because it will likely lead to more casualties. Encouraging Americans back to work before the virus is contained will not save the economy from catastrophe. Rather, it will set the country up to limp along, half-functioning as the pandemic spreads further.

It hadn’t yet been a week since Donald Trump declared himself a “wartime president” before he was itching to declare victory and thus end his sacrifices and the nation’s. Of course, it had only been a spare seven days since Trump had pivoted from coronavirus optimist to steely-eyed epidemiological commander-in-chief…

A Stimulus Deal Has Been Reached. What Does It Look Like?

After much debate, negotiation, mud-slinging, and finger pointing, Congress has at last reached a $2 trillion stimulus deal. This is the largest stimulus package in U.S. history and will involve expanded benefits for jobless individuals and direct payments made to all Americans.

The legislation, unprecedented in its size and scope, aims to flood the economy with capital by sending $1,200 checks to many Americans, creating a $367 billion loan program for small businesses and setting up a $500 billion fund for industries, cities and states.

Tempers flared on Monday on Capitol Hill as senators grappled with the need to pass the critical aid. Democrats twice blocked efforts to move forward with a vote on the legislation, arguing the proposal did not provide strong enough protections for workers, families and healthcare providers nor did it impose strict enough restrictions on businesses that receive federal bailout money. Republicans, in turn, fumed that Democrats were playing politics in a time of crisis.

The deal reportedly includes $50 billion specifically for passenger airlines, $8 billion for cargo airlines, and $17 billion “for firms that are deemed important to national security…”

…the airlines were singled out for special treatment because “airlines do provide significant resources and national security issues” as Secretary Mnuchin said Monday adding “I believe that’s something that’s very important to Americans.”

How Is Israel Handling Two Crises at Once?

Across the country, Israelis are self-isolating to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Meanwhile, in the Knesset, a possible political crisis is heating up as the country’s two rival factions vie for control. Will Netanyahu, who has a coalition but no majority, run the show? Or will it be Gantz, who has a majority but no coalition? More at Times of Israel.

Besides the coronavirus epidemic, Israel has another crisis on its hands. It’s inside the government and only tangentially related to COVID-19… the speaker of the Knesset, the Jewish state’s parliament, is refusing to allow the customary election for his replacement, even ignoring a Supreme Court order that it be done by Wednesday. The speaker, Yuli Edelstein, is a member of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party.

Since the vote, Netanyahu has become the face of Israel’s aggressive response to the outbreak. Appearing on television almost nightly, he has announced ever tighter restrictions on movement and far-reaching public surveillance, including the use of security agencies to track the cellphone data of citizens without their consent.

“It’s a confluence of too many things,” Dr. Amir Fuchs, a legal expert at the Israel Democracy Institute, told Foreign Policy. “There are many countries dealing with the corona crisis, but no country is doing it during multiple political crises.”

Will Silicon Valley Save the Day?

A pledge from entrepreneurs at Apple and Salesforce to donate 9 million masks to hospitals around the country has Americans both excited and concerned at the prospect of Silicon Valley stepping up to play a major role in combating the coronavirus.

This emergency, this moment, calls for a fundamentally new approach to technology—to abandon the myth of neutral metrics and engagement, and restructure technology to prioritize this corrective lens that can help save millions of lives.

This obligation to save lives is especially true of Facebook (and its subsidiary WhatsApp)

These public commitments have prompted friendly headlines for tech companies that may have forgotten lately what it feels like to receive positive coverage. And that’s why some on the left, such as Bernie Sanders adviser David Sirota, see the mask donations as a distraction from companies’ otherwise poor corporate citizenship.

Big tech needs to rapidly build and scale a cloud-based national ventilator surveillance platform which will track individual hospital I.C.U. capacity and ventilator supply across the nation in real-time. Such a platform — which Silicon Valley could build and FEMA could utilize — would allow hospitals nationwide to report their I.C.U. bed status and their ventilator supply daily, in an unprecedented data-sharing initiative.

Should You Start Baking During a Pandemic?

With so many people sheltering in place, the domestic arts have never been more popular. It seems that baking is America’s new hobby of choice in the time of the coronavirus.

Among the plethora of activities one could do with an abundance of free time at home, baking seems to be a no-brainer. Just scroll through Instagram, or do a quick Twitter search for “anxiety baking” or “stress baking,” and you’ll find all the cakes, pies, and cookies that momentary recluses are taking solace in these days.

The coronavirus has created the perfect environment for a surge in bread-baking. People suddenly have time around the house to do fiddly things they wouldn’t normally, like proofing yeast and monitoring rising dough. Some are looking for a fulfilling hobby, or for sustenance for their families, or just something to do with the home-schooled kids that’s not another video game.

I grew up in and out of the Chabad community of Las Vegas, where I debated rabbis on fossils and the morning blessing “thank you God for not making me a woman.”

Though I stopped saying prayers at 13 and believing in God around the same time, baking remains my form of prayer, my way of stealing stillness from a world that does not want it.

Can Judaism and Eastern Religion Go Hand-In-Hand?

Many Jewish communities around the world have begun integrating yoga and meditation practices into their services, but do these eastern rituals have any place in Judaism?

The Torah and centuries of rabbinical exegesis offer myriad pieces of advice for Jews who want to clear their minds, focus their attention appropriately on God, and be present in the wondrously beautiful world that God has given to humanity. Prayer, for one thing. Study of Jewish texts, for another…The list goes on. As for idolatry, with apologies to Romeo and Juliet, by any other name it would smell as foul.

The Land of Israel, suggests Nagen, is not only at the geographical crossroads of East and West, but at its spiritual center as well. “Judaism contains ideas that are generally identified with Eastern religions,” writes Nagen, “along with ideas that underpin Western thinking.”
The message of Judaism, he suggests, is the synthesis of these two elements.

What’s key is that one “brings it into a Jewish context.” In other words, if you’re going to chant, chant the “Shema.” If you’re going to do moonlit yoga, do it on Rosh Hodesh. And if you’re going to meditate, make sure your mantra is in Hebrew.

Today’s Hot Issues

Is the Cure Worse than the Problem? A Stimulus Deal Has Been Reached. What Does It Look Like? How Is Israel Handling Two Crises at Once? Will Silicon Valley Save the Day? Should You Start Baking During a Pandemic? Can Judaism and Eastern Religion Go Hand-In-Hand?