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Name: Chris Bastian
Gender: Male
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
Home country: USA
Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 89,834

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Afghan refugees arrive at Dulles


The New Chief Chaplain at Harvard? An Atheist.

New York Times

The Puritan colonists who settled in New England in the 1630s had a nagging concern about the churches they were building: How would they ensure that the clergymen would be literate? Their answer was Harvard University, a school that was established to educate the ministry and adopted the motto “Truth for Christ and the Church.” It was named after a pastor, John Harvard, and it would be more than 70 years before the school had a president who was not a clergyman.

Nearly four centuries later, Harvard’s organization of chaplains has elected as its next president an atheist named Greg Epstein, who takes on the job this week.

Mr. Epstein, 44, author of the book “Good Without God,” is a seemingly unusual choice for the role. He will coordinate the activities of more than 40 university chaplains, who lead the Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist and other religious communities on campus. Yet many Harvard students — some raised in families of faith, others never quite certain how to label their religious identities — attest to the influence that Mr. Epstein has had on their spiritual lives.

“There is a rising group of people who no longer identify with any religious tradition but still experience a real need for conversation and support around what it means to be a good human and live an ethical life,” said Mr. Epstein, who was raised in a Jewish household and has been Harvard’s humanist chaplain since 2005, teaching students about the progressive movement that centers people’s relationships with one another instead of with God.

Not sure I agree. Would prefer to not have a chaplain at all, (pastoral care doesn't have to be theological) but if you're going to have one, it seems they should have some religious profile.

EU moves to reintroduce COVID travel curbs on U.S. -diplomats

Source: Reuters

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -The European Union on Friday moved to reinstate COVID travel restrictions like quarantine and testing requirements for unvaccinated citizens of the United States and five other countries, two diplomats told Reuters.

EU countries started a procedure to remove the United States from a list of countries whose citizens can travel to the 27-nation bloc without additional COVID restrictions.

The non-binding list currently has 23 countries on it, including Japan, Qatar and Ukraine, but some of the 27 EU countries already have their own limits on U.S. travellers in place.

One diplomat said other countries that would be removed from the safe travel list were Kosovo, Israel, Montenegro, Lebanon and North Macedonia.

Read more: https://news.yahoo.com/eu-moves-reintroduce-covid-travel-140645729.html

NYC Surpasses San Francisco As Most Expensive Rental Market In The Country


With rents across the city beginning to surge back to pre-pandemic levels, New York has reportedly surpassed San Francisco as the country's most expensive rental market.

The median rent for a one-bedroom in New York is now $2,810, slightly outpacing the $2,800 average in San Francisco, according to a new report from the real estate website Zumper.

It's the first time that New York has held the top spot since the site began tracking rental prices in 2014. Just two years ago, the spread between the two cities was more than $800.

But while both urban areas saw rents drop off as residents fled during the early days of the pandemic, the cities have taken vastly different trajectories in recent months.

You can't make a city affordable if people want to live there...

Judge strikes Seattle charter amendment on homelessness from November ballot

Seattle Times

A judge has ruled that Charter Amendment 29, known as “Compassion Seattle,” won’t go before Seattle voters in November. The measure could have changed the way the city addresses homelessness if it had passed, although how much isn’t clear.

King County Superior Court Judge Catherin Schaffer said that she actually liked the ballot initiative and would have voted for it if it was on a ballot — but her ruling was about whether it goes beyond the power given to cities by state law.

“But my view is kind of irrelevant to what’s before me,” Shaffer said during a hearing Friday. If passed, Charter Amendment 29 “would be local folks seeking to overturn the will of the state population as expressed through our state representatives in legislation. And that’s not how it works.”

The measure would have temporarily amended the city’s charter, its founding document, to demand that the city set up 2,000 shelter or housing units in a year, rewrite its budget so more money goes to social services, and “develop policies and procedures to address those individuals who remain in public spaces,” which the next mayor — who will be chosen in November — could have interpreted a number of ways.

Andrew Cuomo plots his revenge


As governor of New York, ANDREW CUOMO was notorious among the Albany press corps for using the media as a tool to inspire fear and sow mayhem. He’d speak to reporters on background as a “senior administration official,” and use that anonymity to defend himself. He’d plant unsavory stories about political opponents. He’d get his aides to carry out his dirty work.

It’s an approach Cuomo plans to continue in life after office.

Playbook has learned that RICH AZZOPARDI — Cuomo’s longtime spokesperson and senior adviser — is the former governor’s first big hire using the $18 million in leftover campaign cash the governor had amassed for his now-defunct reelection campaign — and which he now plans to use to mount a campaign of retribution against his perceived political enemies, including now-Gov. KATHY HOCHUL.

According to a dozen reporters and political aides, during Cuomo’s final two weeks in office, Azzopardi mounted an aggressive last-ditch attempt to salvage the governor’s political career, including:
— Posing as an ally of Hochul’s and suggesting that he was recruiting candidates for her transition — a move that some observers saw as an attempt to test Cuomo aides for loyalty. Senior members of Hochul’s staff say they were unaware of Azzopardi’s outreach and, in the words of one senior aide, view it as “nonsensical.”
— Cold-calling reporters to plant stories about Cuomo’s perceived enemies.
— DMing journalists on Twitter and encouraging them to tweet out messages questioning the veracity of New York A.G. TISH JAMES’ report into the accusations of sexual harassment against Cuomo.
— Serving up background quotes questioning the competence of then-Lt. Gov. Hochul.

Florida starts turning on DeSantis


TALLAHASSEE — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been untouchable for the past year as he commanded the Republican culture wars to become heir apparent to Donald Trump. The latest coronavirus surge is starting to change that.

Covid infection rates continue to climb as the state faces shortages of health care staff, morgue space and even oxygen for patients. About 16,000 people are hospitalized. Child infection rates have shot up. School districts — even in Republican strongholds — have rebelled against DeSantis’ anti-mask mandates. And cruise lines are resisting DeSantis’ vaccine passport ban. Even his recent poll numbers are slipping.

It’s new terrain for a Republican governor who defied dire expectation during the first wave of Covid-19 but has continued his hands-off approach as the more contagious Delta variant infects large swaths of Florida’s unvaccinated population.

The most recent defeat came Friday when Leon County Circuit Court Judge John Cooper ruled DeSantis can’t punish school districts for passing mask mandates, as his administration had threatened after instituting emergency rules aimed at banning mask mandates in schools. The DeSantis administration has said those districts are breaking the law, an assertion directly refuted in a blistering ruling from Cooper read from the bench during a nearly two hour hearing.

Rep. Susan Wild (PA-7): Evacuation from Afghanistan "egregiously mishandled"


Justice Breyer on Retirement and the Role of Politics at the Supreme Court

Source: New York Times

WASHINGTON — Justice Stephen G. Breyer says he is struggling to decide when to retire from the Supreme Court and is taking account of a host of factors, including who will name his successor. “There are many things that go into a retirement decision,” he said.

He recalled approvingly something Justice Antonin Scalia had told him.

“He said, ‘I don’t want somebody appointed who will just reverse everything I’ve done for the last 25 years,’” Justice Breyer said during a wide-ranging interview on Thursday. “That will inevitably be in the psychology” of his decision, he said.

“I don’t think I’m going to stay there till I die — hope not,” he said.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/27/us/politics/justice-breyer-supreme-court-retirement.html

I would think looking back on a successful career at age 83 wouldn't be a heay lift.

What California's Recall Election Says About America

The Atlantic

How did things go sideways for a governor who three years ago won his first term by the biggest margin in California history? The recall vote shouldn’t be close. It shouldn’t even feel close. Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one in California, and the state is home to nearly as many Democratic-leaning independents as Republicans. Joe Biden beat Donald Trump by almost as many votes here last November as there are people in Wisconsin. But aside from a few scattered campaign events and an Elizabeth Warren TV ad for Newsom in heavy rotation on local news, there’s almost no sign that a recall election is coming.

But with less than a month to go before September’s extra Election Day, Newsom told me he feels as though he’s fighting not only for his own political existence, but for California’s future and for the entire Democratic agenda. He’s been obsessing over right-wing TV, wondering about the future of democracy, and he says he’s staying up late agonizing over COVID-19 deaths. He has watched Fox News pounce on his 10-year-old son for not wearing a mask. He overheard his 11-year-old daughter tell her brother, “You’re going to lose the recall for Daddy.” “You did nothing wrong,” Newsom said he told his son later. He has since pulled his children from the not-always-masking camp they were attending, wary of another COVID-hypocrisy scandal. The recall effort started as a protest against Newsom’s positions on immigration and the death penalty, and was propelled by Trump-inspired amateur stunt politics (a radio call-in show, hosted by recall organizers, called “Friday Night at the French Laundry,” for example). And it exploded because of wider frustration with Newsom’s handling of the pandemic. How this ends depends on how many of California’s 22 million registered voters fill out recall ballots mailed to them earlier this month. In theory, recalls are supposed to be distilled democracy, a way for voters to change their minds and hold their leaders accountable in the long periods between regularly scheduled elections. Many don’t realize, though, that the ballot contains two separate questions: first, yes or no on the recall, and then, in case a majority votes to recall Newsom, a ballot that does not include the governor’s name but does include 46 others. Newsom noted, he could receive 49.9 percent of the vote, lose the recall, and be replaced by a governor elected with 14 percent of the vote. This is the way democracy could play out in the largest state in the union—home to 40 million people—and the fifth-largest economy in the world.

Newsom’s aides worked hard in the spring to dissuade other well-known Democrats from entering the recall race, in the hopes of delegitimizing the process. He’s telling voters to vote no on the recall and skip voting on the second question altogether. If Newsom is recalled, his potential replacements include the radio host Larry Elder, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, the 2018 GOP gubernatorial nominee John Cox, and the assembly member Kevin Kiley, all Republicans who have embraced Trumpism to varying degrees. Newsom, meanwhile, has the support of pretty much every Democratic official and group in the state. Big-name donors have gotten involved on Newsom’s behalf too: The Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has donated so much money to the anti-recall effort that his name appears at the bottom of the governor’s commercials. (Laurene Powell Jobs, the chair of the board of The Atlantic, has donated $400,000 to a committee called Stop the Republican Recall of Governor Newsom.)

A poll released at the end of July showed that Newsom was on the edge, and that set off a round of concern. Critics point out that the poll included a relatively small number of Democrats, in an attempt to simulate what appears to be their still-lower enthusiasm for voting in the recall. This may have made the race look closer than it is.

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