Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Trump says his budget will make government ‘lean.’ It’s really a scam.

Washington Post   The president's numbers are too good to be true.

What if I told you that I could save you thousands and thousands of dollars a year, and you don’t even have to cut back on anything important in your life? What if I promised you that, just by saving a penny a day, your whole life could change for the better? What if I said you could improve your overall finances by working less and spending more?

You’d probably think that sounded too good to be true. You’d probably suspect that I was trying to scam you. You’d be right on both counts.




If early reports are accurate, President Trump’s budget blueprint will be trying to run that same scam on the American people. His budget will pretend that he can achieve huge savings without any pain. He’ll try to focus attention on huge cuts to relatively small programs — cuts that’ll be devastating for the people those programs serve but won’t make a dent in the overall budget picture. He’ll promise that he can provide public services, fund the benefits on which American families rely and make the critical investments that grow our economy, all with less tax revenue, even as he increases spending on things like a border wall. Just like all scams, this one will sound good on the surface, but it will leave us all worse off in the end.

In January, the Hill reported that Trump was crafting a budget plan with more than $10.5 trillion in cuts over the next decade, a deliberately eye-popping number. At the same time, Trump administration officials are promising that popular and critical programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will remain untouched, and that he will actually increase military spending significantly. These goals are all but impossible to reconcile. If he exempts Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (which he can’t cut, even if he wants to, without persuading Congress to change existing laws), there’s only $13.7 trillion in spending even available to cut over the next 10 years. That means Trump’s budget would have to reduce all other public services and programs — everything from veterans benefits to health-care research to highways to special education — by more than 75 percent to meet his spending-cuts goal. Like all great scams, the claim of massive cuts with no pain falls apart the moment you look a little closer.

And like all great scam artists, Trump is hoping you won’t look closer. Instead, he is hoping to distract you by focusing attention on enormous cuts to relatively small programs.

Most of the reporting in the lead-up to Trump’s budget has prominently mentioned a few notable public services that are on the chopping block. These often include the National Endowment for the Arts and the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Legal Services Corporation. Regardless of whether you support the mission of these agencies, their budgets are comparatively tiny: Even combined, they will make up just 0.03 percent of all federal spending in 2017. Fully eliminating them is exactly the same as saving a buck on a $3,333 purchase. Moreover, these sorts of programs have been essentially flat-funded for a decade. These four, for example, will spend less this year than they did in 2007, after accounting for inflation. Trumpeting big cuts to select parts of the budget — parts that just happen to be already small and already shrinking — sounds good in a tweet, and it’s all part of the scam.

“We are going to do more with less and make the government lean and accountable to the people,” Trump said Monday morning. “We can do so much more with the money we spend.”

But the biggest part of the budget swindle happens on the other side of the ledger. Trump is throwing around huge numbers and promising to eliminate a list of relatively tiny programs, all in the hopes that you won’t notice or care that he’s trying to give an enormous tax cut to the richest people in America. According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, the Trump campaign’s tax plan would reduce federal tax revenue — and thereby increase federal debt — by at least $6.1 trillion. Roughly half of that money would go directly into the bank accounts of the richest 1 percent.

Of course, Trump will argue — as good snake-oil salesmen do — that picking your pockets is good for you. You can be sure he will try to sell you on the idea that enormous tax cuts for the wealthy will boost the economy for everyone. Never mind that we’ve tried that before, both at the national level with President George W. Bush’s tax cuts and at the state level — for instance, in Kansas — to no measurable effect. Never mind that the last thing a giant, multinational corporation making billions in profits and already paying little in taxes needs is another tax cut. And definitely ignore the fact that the primary beneficiaries of such a tax cut will be people like Trump and his family (though we can’t be sure how much he will profit, because Trump has still not released his tax returns).[...]

Georgia couple gets prison for racist threats at child's birthday party



A Georgia couple who rode with a Confederate flag-waving group that made armed threats against African-Americans at a child's birthday party were sentenced to prison Monday.

Jose "Joe" Torres, was sentenced to 20 years, with 13 years in prison, after a jury convicted him on three counts of aggravated assault, one count of making terroristic threats and one count of violating of Georgia's Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act.

Kayla Norton was sentenced to 15 years, with six years in prison. She was convicted on one count of making terroristic threats and one count of violation of the Street Gang Act.

"Many people tried to make the case about simply flying the Confederate Battle Flag," Douglas County District Attorney Brian Fortner said in a statement. "This case was about a group of people riding around our community, drinking alcohol, harassing and intimidating our citizens because of the color of their skin."

On July 25, 2015, Torres and Norton, joined about a dozen other people in a convoy of pickup trucks waving large Confederate flags as they drove around Douglas County, a suburban Atlanta community. Most of them belonged to a group called "Respect the Flag."[...]

The party-goers said the people in the trucks yelled racial slurs as they passed, the statement said.

The drivers parked the trucks near the house, prosecutors said. Torres was part of a smaller group that "threatened to kill the party goers while repeatedly using derogatory racial slurs against them," said the statement.

"Torres, who had retrieved a shotgun from his vehicle, pointed his shotgun at the group of African American party-goers and stated he was going to kill them while his co-defendants stated that 'the little ones can get one too,' referring to the young children at the party," the statement said.

Norton was accused of making similar threats. The victims said some member of Torres' group was armed with a knife and a tire tool.[...]

Monday, February 27, 2017

Father of Commando Killed in Yemen Refused to Meet Trump - was it just a political show?


The father of the commando killed in a Special Operations raid in Yemen last month said in an interview published this weekend that he had refused to meet with President Trump on the day his son’s body was returned home, and criticized the White House over the mission, saying, “Don’t hide behind my son’s death to prevent an investigation.”

“The government owes my son an investigation,” the father, William Owens, told The Miami Herald, referring to Chief Petty Officer William Owens, 36, a member of the Navy’s SEAL Team 6.

The death of Chief Owens on Jan. 29, in the first Special Operations raid approved by Mr. Trump, came after a chain of miscues and misjudgments that plunged the elite commandos into a ferocious 50-minute firefight with Qaeda militants in a mountainous village in central Yemen. Three other Americans were wounded, and a $75 million aircraft was deliberately destroyed.

In a risky mission where almost everything that could go wrong did, the Pentagon has acknowledged that several civilians, including some children, were also killed. The dead included, by the account of relatives interviewed by human rights groups in Yemen, the 8-year-old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born Qaeda leader who was killed in a targeted drone strike in 2011.[...]

But the comments by Mr. Owens, his first public remarks since his son’s death, cast a new spotlight on whether the mission’s risks — to the American commandos and to Yemeni civilians — had been considered fully enough by Mr. Trump and his top aides.[...]

“Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn’t even barely a week into his administration? Why?” said Mr. Owens, who told The Herald that he had not voted for Mr. Trump. “For two years prior, there were no boots on the ground in Yemen — everything was missiles and drones — because there was not a target worth one American life. Now all of a sudden we had to make this grand display?”

The operation was the first known American-led ground mission in Yemen since December 2014, when members of SEAL Team 6 stormed a village in southern Yemen in an effort to free an American photojournalist held hostage by Al Qaeda. That raid ended with the kidnappers killing the journalist and a South African held with him.[...]

Shortly after the raid, Trump administration officials called the mission a success, saying that criticisms like those from Senator John McCain of Arizona, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, who called the mission a failure, dishonored Chief Owens’s memory.[...]

U.S. Refugee Vetting Process

A Letter From A Mother of a child abuser - the perspective from the other side


It takes courage to write my story. I am not a young woman anymore and I feel compelled to put my family’s story on paper to give us a voice when we have none. I hope that by sharing our painful story, other parents can learn from our mistakes and that we will ultimately be able to open a dialogue about judgment and forgiveness – for ourselves and others. What follows is story of a regular family and a tragedy that unfolded while we were not looking. In that, ours is a cautionary tale for every parent.

It all began with a phone call. I was on my way to work when a woman called saying, “Do you know that your son Yisroel [a pseudonym] sexually abused my son in camp several years ago?” So shocking was this accusation that at first, I didn’t quite take it in. In the few seconds it took me to assimilate the information, I blurted out, “No. I don’t know anything about it, but I will find out and do whatever has to be done.”

I can’t really explain the effect this call had on me. I wondered if it could be true. This wasn’t the introverted, gentle son I knew – could he have done this terrible thing? Then, as any parent would, I started searching for any hint that I could’ve missed; what didn’t I see? And I searched my heart, wondering what I had done wrong. This child had been born at a chaotic time when I was overburdened with family troubles. My mother had cancer, and I had been turning the world upside down in a futile search for the doctors and treatments that would save her. Sadly, my efforts were too little and too late, and I was left grieving and feeling guilty. The next few years brought the death of my father and other medical crises, but despite it all, our family life seemed normal. In all the hours of soul-searching that followed, I wondered if this child, who perhaps needed the most attention of all my kids, didn’t get all that he needed. I know we had struggled to do the best we could.

Yisroel had been diagnosed with ADHD and had difficulty making friends at school. He was bullied and became sullen and withdrawn, and he seemed to lack social skills needed to make close friendships. We sought advice from a child therapist but nothing helped. When he finally made what seemed to be a good friend, a neighborhood boy a couple of years older than him, I was so happy. But my impression was terribly wrong. My son was being sexually exploited and I was totally oblivious. These events took place many years ago, and in those more innocent times, such things were unimaginable to most people. This older boy was “frum” and from our own Orthodox neighborhood, and I felt very comfortable. In fact, I saw this new relationship as a “bracha” for my child who was so bereft of friends. [...]

By the time the distraught mother called me with the accusation, Yisroel was 22 years old and immersed in Torah studies. I immediately confronted him and told him about the call. I won’t lie; I hoped with all my heart that he would be shocked and deny it. I hoped it would wind up being untrue, a mix-up – that it was not my son; that it didn’t happen. But my son just looked at me with an expression I couldn’t interpret and was silent. Heartsick, my husband and I took him to see a therapist, a specialist in the treatment of sexual abuse recommended by an Orthodox referral service. A battery of tests confirmed that he had been abused himself and also had abused his camper. My husband and I, together with our other children, were enlisted in Yisroel’s treatment plan, charged with enforcing his attendance in therapy and monitoring his comings and goings, but he was anxious to cooperate in the treatment and continued willingly for six years.

Life went on almost normally. Eventually, Yisroel met and began dating a young woman. Concerned about whether he was ready for marriage, we consulted his therapist, who assured us that he was healthy and posed no danger to the community since he had received treatment early and had never repeated his offense. He gave my son his blessings for the marriage, and we were thrilled that our son was finally reentering life, albeit with a heavy burden.

It was three years after his marriage and almost 10 years after the abuse incident that another surprise phone call upended our lives again. This time, the former camper himself called and accused my son of molesting him. Yisroel readily admitted his guilt, apologized profusely and explained that he was still in therapy. But, unbeknownst to my son, there was a police detective listening in and recording the conversation, and in a classic sting operation, he arrested my son based on his admission.

Life has a way of forcing us to learn many lessons that we would rather never know, and so, we began our tutorial on the legal system that would occupy such a dominate place in our lives to this day. We became aware of the various classes of felonies: since the statute of limitations had passed, the state would have to apply the higher-level offence, which subjected our son to a mandatory sentence of five to 25 years. We learned that our only option was a plea bargain which required an admission of guilt, 10 years probation and being registered as a sex offender, and mandatory therapy through the court system, although he had already had six years of specialized therapy. We learned that in some respects, the law is unfair to the victim, instituting an unreasonable time frame for charges to be brought, and to the perpetrator, in that all offenders are lumped into one undifferentiated bunch. There was little we could do other than agree to the terms we were offered. We live with enormous guilt and anguish knowing that our son so grievously hurt another child and caused tremendous suffering to the victim and his family. To undo the damage is impossible, and we made the only reparation we could, paying unstintingly for the victim’s therapy, which ran into six figures.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Trump falsely claims credit for debt drop - will he next claim responsibility for the tides?

NY Times

In a message posted on Twitter on Saturday, President Trump highlighted a dip in the national debt during his first month in office, contrasting it with an increase in the first month of the Obama administration.

Follow
Donald J. Trump ✔ @realDonaldTrump
The media has not reported that the National Debt in my first month went down by $12 billion vs a $200 billion increase in Obama first mo.

The numbers are broadly accurate, but the lack of attention to them is for good reason: Neither president bore responsibility for changes in the federal debt in his opening month in the White House. The slight decline cited by Mr. Trump — a drop of 0.06 percent, according to Treasury data — is a temporary fluctuation, not a change in direction.

The federal debt is determined by the government’s decisions about taxing and spending, and by the strength of the American economy. The debt was increasing rapidly in early 2009 because the economy was in free fall, and because of policy decisions made during the administration of President George W. Bush.

The debt is rising more slowly now because economic growth has strengthened and because of policy decisions made during Mr. Obama’s administration. But the debt is on a clear upward trend. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated in January that the debt would increase by $559 billion in the current fiscal year, ending in September.

The exact amount of the debt bounces around that trend line because the Treasury borrows money by selling securities with maturities — or repayment dates — ranging from 28 days to 30 years. That creates an irregular pattern of inflows and outflows from the federal cash box.[...]

Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, issued a statement applauding the president for focusing on the national debt while noting that “the improvement this early in his term has to do with normal fluctuations in spending and revenues rather than new policies he has implemented.” [...]

The national debt increased sharply during Mr. Obama’s first term as the government increased spending in response to the 2008 financial crisis. The debt grew more slowly during his second term as the economy improved and tax increases brought more money into the government’s coffers.

Post-Truth - Is Race a matter of choice? Is Gender a matter of choice?

Fox News

Trump's attacks are benefiting the New York Times - NY Times editor DESTROYS Donald Trump

Trump vs. Press: Crazy, Stupid Love

NY Times  by Maureen Dowd

Much has been made of Melania Trump’s absence from the capital.

But our new president’s most intense, primal, torrid relationship is in full “The War of the Roses” bloom here. And it is not with his beautiful, reserved wife. It’s with the press, the mirror for the First Narcissus.

President Trump thinks that the mirror is cracked and the coverage is “fake.” And many in the press, spanning the ideological spectrum, think that he is cracked and that a lot of his pronouncements are fake.

Can this strange, symbiotic relationship be saved? Probably not. It is too inflamed and enmeshed, too full of passionate accusations. It’s going to end like all those plays and movies — from “Othello” to “Endless Love” — where the mutual attraction is so powerful, it’s toxic.

Trump could not live without the press. It is his crack. He would be adrift and bereft without his sparring partners, lightning rods, scapegoats and amplifiers.

And while many in the press may disdain the way Trump uses them to rile up crowds and deflect from transgressions, they know they have a rare story and a tantalizing, antagonizing protagonist.

As the New York Times White House reporter Maggie Haberman tweeted in January: “Trump has frequently complained about my reporting,” yet, “He remains the most accessible politician I’ve ever covered.”

The press is everything to Donald Trump, from interior décor — his Trump Tower office was plastered wall to wall with framed magazine covers reflecting his face back at him like an infinity mirror — to daily reading. For decades every morning, he had his assistant print out a sheaf of stories published about him and keep a store of videotapes for ego gratification. Once Trump became a Twitter addict, this morphed into an incestuous, vertiginous spiral, as he got upset and shot back against news reports he did not like.

His campaign staff “cracked the code for tamping down his most inflammatory tweets,” Tara Palmeri reported in Politico last week, by ensuring “his personal media consumption includes a steady stream of praise. And when no such praise was to be found, staff would turn to friendly outlets to drum some up — and make sure it made its way to Trump’s desk.”

Talk about fake news.

He is the biggest story on the planet, “King Lear meets Rodney Dangerfield,” as Lloyd Grove tweeted after Trump’s recent press conference. As our new president is well aware, he’s a rainmaker and a troublemaker for media.

Financially pressed news organizations are not being shy about seizing the moment to celebrate — and cash in on — their aggressive independence. They are responding with a missionary zeal to being treated as “the opposition party” that “should keep its mouth shut,” as Trump enforcer Steve Bannon put it.[...]

It doesn’t seem to have sunk in with Trump that he can’t manipulate the press as easily today. He’s the president. When he exaggerates and makes things up now, it has global consequences and subverts American values. It is not like whispering lies about which famous women are panting for him.

In his pouty speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, he reiterated his sour denunciation of journalists as “the enemy of the people.” The man who made his flashy reputation by being an anonymous and pseudonymous source — and who still spews a constant stream of wild assertions based on anonymous sources — blustered that the press “shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name.”

The White House has been trying to shape coverage by giving passes and questions at press conferences to Breitbart and other conservative outlets, including some fringe ones. And on Friday afternoon, the White House barred several news organizations from a Sean Spicer briefing. This included The New York Times and CNN, which angered the White House by reporting on links between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence officials.

This Russian-style domination of the press came only a few hours after the president told CPAC: “I love the First Amendment; nobody loves it better than me. Nobody.”

Fake news. Let’s just hope he doesn’t love the First Amendment to death.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

When medical research contradicts medical practise - This article can save lives


Long after research contradicts common medical practices, patients continue to demand them and physicians continue to deliver. The result is an epidemic of unnecessary and unhelpful treatments

First, listen to the story with the happy ending: At 61, the executive was in excellent health. His blood pressure was a bit high, but everything else looked good, and he exercised regularly. Then he had a scare. He went for a brisk post-lunch walk on a cool winter day, and his chest began to hurt. Back inside his office, he sat down, and the pain disappeared as quickly as it had come.

That night, he thought more about it: middle-aged man, high blood pressure, stressful job, chest discomfort. The next day, he went to a local emergency department. Doctors determined that the man had not suffered a heart attack and that the electrical activity of his heart was completely normal. All signs suggested that the executive had stable angina—chest pain that occurs when the heart muscle is getting less blood-borne oxygen than it needs, often because an artery is partially blocked.

A cardiologist recommended that the man immediately have a coronary angiogram, in which a catheter is threaded into an artery to the heart and injects a dye that then shows up on special x-rays that look for blockages. If the test found a blockage, the cardiologist advised, the executive should get a stent, a metal tube that slips into the artery and forces it open.

While he was waiting in the emergency department, the executive took out his phone and searched “treatment of coronary artery disease.” He immediately found information from medical journals that said medications, like aspirin and blood-pressure-lowering drugs, should be the first line of treatment. The man was an unusually self-possessed patient, so he asked the cardiologist about what he had found. The cardiologist was dismissive and told the man to “do more research.” Unsatisfied, the man declined to have the angiogram and consulted his primary-care doctor.

The primary-care physician suggested a different kind of angiogram, one that did not require a catheter but instead used multiple x-rays to image arteries. That test revealed an artery that was partially blocked by plaque, and though the man’s heart was pumping blood normally, the test was incapable of determining whether the blockage was dangerous. Still, his primary-care doctor, like the cardiologist at the emergency room, suggested that the executive have an angiogram with a catheter, likely followed by a procedure to implant a stent. The man set up an appointment with the cardiologist he was referred to for the catheterization, but when he tried to contact that doctor directly ahead of time, he was told the doctor wouldn’t be available prior to the procedure. And so the executive sought yet another opinion. That’s when he found Dr. David L. Brown, a professor in the cardiovascular division of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The executive told Brown that he’d felt pressured by the previous doctors and wanted more information. He was willing to try all manner of noninvasive treatments—from a strict diet to retiring from his stressful job—before having a stent implanted.

The executive had been very smart to seek more information, and now, by coming to Brown, he was very lucky, too. Brown is part of the RightCare Alliance, a collaboration between health-care professionals and community groups that seeks to counter a trend: increasing medical costs without increasing patient benefits. As Brown put it, RightCare is “bringing medicine back into balance, where everybody gets the treatment they need, and nobody gets the treatment they don’t need.” And the stent procedure was a classic example of the latter. In 2012, Brown had coauthored a paper that examined every randomized clinical trial that compared stent implantation with more conservative forms of treatment, and he found that stents for stable patients prevent zero heart attacks and extend the lives of patients a grand total of not at all. In general, Brown says, “nobody that’s not having a heart attack needs a stent.” (Brown added that stents may improve chest pain in some patients, albeit fleetingly.) Nonetheless, hundreds of thousands of stable patients receive stents annually, and one in 50 will suffer a serious complication or die as a result of the implantation procedure.

Brown explained to the executive that his blockage was one part of a broader, more diffuse condition that would be unaffected by opening a single pipe. The cardiovascular system, it turns out, is more complicated than a kitchen sink. The executive started medication and improved his diet. Three months later, his cholesterol had improved markedly, he had lost 15 pounds, and the chest pain never returned.

Now, listen to the story with the sad ending: Not long after helping the executive, Brown and his colleagues were asked to consult on the case of a 51-year-old man from a tiny Missouri town. This man had successfully recovered from Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but radiation and six cycles of chemotherapy had left him with progressive scarring creeping over his lungs. He was suffocating inside his own body. The man was transferred to Barnes Jewish Hospital, where Brown works, for a life-saving lung transplant. But when the man arrived in St. Louis, the lung-transplant team could not operate on him.[...]

Meanwhile, the man’s lung tissue continued to harden and scar, like molten lava that cools and hardens into gray stone. Until one day, he couldn’t suck in another breath. The man had survived advanced-stage lymphoma only to die in the hospital, waiting until he could go off needed medication for an unneeded stent.

What the patients in both stories had in common was that neither needed a stent. By dint of an inquiring mind and a smartphone, one escaped with his life intact. The greater concern is: How can a procedure so contraindicated by research be so common?

When you visit a doctor, you probably assume the treatment you receive is backed by evidence from medical research. Surely, the drug you’re prescribed or the surgery you’ll undergo wouldn’t be so common if it didn’t work, right?

For all the truly wondrous developments of modern medicine—imaging technologies that enable precision surgery, routine organ transplants, care that transforms premature infants into perfectly healthy kids, and remarkable chemotherapy treatments, to name a few—it is distressingly ordinary for patients to get treatments that research has shown are ineffective or even dangerous. Sometimes doctors simply haven’t kept up with the science. Other times doctors know the state of play perfectly well but continue to deliver these treatments because it’s profitable—or even because they’re popular and patients demand them. Some procedures are implemented based on studies that did not prove whether they really worked in the first place. Others were initially supported by evidence but then were contradicted by better evidence, and yet these procedures have remained the standards of care for years, or decades.

Even if a drug you take was studied in thousands of people and shown truly to save lives, chances are it won’t do that for you. The good news is, it probably won’t harm you, either. Some of the most widely prescribed medications do little of anything meaningful, good or bad, for most people who take them. [...]

[...] consider the $6.3 billion 21st Century Cures Act, which recently passed Congress to widespread acclaim. Who can argue with a law created in part to bolster cancer research? Among others, the heads of the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Public Health Association. They argue against the new law because it will take $3.5 billion away from public-health efforts in order to fund research on new medical technology and drugs, including former Vice President Joe Biden’s “cancer moonshot.” The new law takes money from programs—like vaccination and smoking-cessation efforts—that are known to prevent disease and moves it to work that might, eventually, treat disease. The bill will also allow the FDA to approve new uses for drugs based on observational studies or even “summary-level reviews” of data submitted by pharmaceutical companies. Prasad has been a particularly trenchant and public critic, tweeting that “the only people who don’t like the bill are people who study drug approval, safety, and who aren’t paid by Pharma.”

Perhaps that’s social-media hyperbole. Medical research is, by nature, an incremental quest for knowledge; initially exploring avenues that quickly become dead ends are a feature, not a bug, in the process. Hopefully the new law will in fact help speed into existence cures that are effective and long-lived. But one lesson of modern medicine should by now be clear: Ineffective cures can be long-lived, too.

Greenblatt-Kaminetsky Heter: Is Tamar considered as if she was forced to marry her second husband?

Received the following letter from Rabbi Shalom Spira concerning the Friedman-Epstein disaster. I am not convinced however that Tamar should be assumed not to be fully aware of the opposition to the Greenblatt-Kaminetsky heter and therefore I don't think she should be considered forced. [See a previous discussion of this issue Daas Torah - A Refutation of a proposed Heter]





Shalom Aleikhem R. Daniel Eidensohn, shlit"a,
I wept as I read your moving essay today regarding the agunah tragedy in Philadelphia.
http://daattorah.blogspot.com/2017/02/aharon-friedman-is-free-to-remarry.html
You will also recall that you generously showcased my prenup agreement on a past occasion, thereby highlighting (what is in my opinion) the optimal way to prophylactically prevent agunah tragedies:
http://daattorah.blogspot.com/2016/01/prenuptial-agreementrabbi-shalom-spira.html  
Accordingly, I just wanted to present a possible solution to Ms. Epstein's tragic plight, since (though I have no personal knowledge of the Philadelphia community) I am distantly spiritually related to one of its poskim. Namely, my semikhah (a copy of which is presently appended) is from the late R. Joshua H. Shmidman, zatza"l, whose son (presently carbon copied) is the Mara de-Atra of the Lower Merion Synagogue.  
My impression is that, [...], it appears that Ms. Epstein is anoosah, having honestly thought she was acted correctly, as per the derashah on "ha-adam bi-shevuah" (Leviticus 5:4) presented by the Gemara, Shevu'ot 26a. That derashah exculpates people who become confused by honest emotions beyond their control. Or Zaru'a. Hilkhot Yibbum ve-Kiddushin no. 637, employs this very derashah to exonerate from all sacrificial liability a gentleman who waits the statutory three months of clarification after his (apparently) childless brother died to wed the widow through levirate marriage, and then some time later discovers that the widow had been pregnant all along from her original husband, with the fetus being concealed. Since the brother acted in good faith, his unlawful incest is deemed to be anoose, not shogeg. 
Therefore, I would argue that Ms. Epstein has been anoosah until now, honestly believing that she was following a legitimate heter, and she should be allowed to return to her original husband, and not be asurah la-ba'al as would normally be the case for an adulterous lady.  [And I am sure an appropriate replacement shiddukh can be found for the second husband, who in fact no longer appears to be a husband altogether, if your refutation of the heter is accurate.] If matters would be explained to all the principals of the case in this manner, it may be possible to convince them to return to Beth Din as early as tomorrow, thereby bringing about a productive resolution. 
Thank you and best wishes,
Shalom Spira
Montreal, Canada

Friday, February 24, 2017

FBI refused White House request to knock down recent Trump-Russia stories

CNN The FBI rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump's associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign, multiple US officials briefed on the matter tell CNN.

But a White House official said late Thursday that the request was only made after the FBI indicated to the White House it did not believe the reporting to be accurate.

White House officials had sought the help of the bureau and other agencies investigating the Russia matter to say that the reports were wrong and that there had been no contacts, the officials said. The reports of the contacts were first published by The New York Times and CNN on February 14.

The direct communications between the White House and the FBI were unusual because of decade-old restrictions on such contacts. Such a request from the White House is a violation of procedures that limit communications with the FBI on pending investigations.

Late Thursday night, White House press secretary Sean Spicer objected to CNN's characterization of the White House request to the FBI.

"We didn't try to knock the story down. We asked them to tell the truth," Spicer said. The FBI declined to comment for this story.

The discussions between the White House and the bureau began with FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus on the sidelines of a separate White House meeting the day after the stories were published, according to a US law enforcement official.

The White House initially disputed that account, saying that McCabe called Priebus early that morning and said The New York Times story vastly overstates what the FBI knows about the contacts.

But a White House official later corrected their version of events to confirm what the law enforcement official described.

The same White House official said that Priebus later reached out again to McCabe and to FBI Director James Comey asking for the FBI to at least talk to reporters on background to dispute the stories. A law enforcement official says McCabe didn't discuss aspects of the case but wouldn't say exactly what McCabe told Priebus. [...]

The Trump administration's efforts to press Comey run contrary to Justice Department procedure memos issued in 2007 and 2009 that limit direct communications on pending investigations between the White House and the FBI.

"Initial communications between the [Justice] Department and the White House concerning pending or contemplated criminal investigations or cases will involve only the Attorney General or the Deputy Attorney General, from the side of the Department, and the Counsel to the President, the Principal Deputy Counsel to the President, the President, or the Vice President from the side of the White House," reads the 2009 memo.

The memos say the communication should only happen when it is important for the President's duties and where appropriate from a law enforcement perspective.

A Department of Justice spokesman said Attorney General Jeff Sessions is reviewing the memos and that "the Department is following the guidelines in its communications with the White House."

The effort to refute the CNN and New York Times stories came as increasing numbers of congressional members were voicing concern about Russia's efforts to influence individuals with ties to Trump. [...]

David Magerman, a top patron of Philadelphia’s Jewish schools and institutions, was punished for criticizing his Boss -, Trump Mega-Donor Robert Mercer


This morning, the Wall Street Journal reported on tension at the top of one of world’s most successful hedge funds. David Magerman, an Orthodox Jewish computer scientist who helped write the trading systems that made the legendary Renaissance Technologies a billion-dollar investment success, was at loggerheads with its CEO Robert Mercer. The point of contention: Mercer and his family’s generous support for Donald Trump, which Magerman asked him to stop.

Reported WSJ’s Gregory Zuckerman:
David Magerman says he was in his home office in suburban Philadelphia earlier this month when the phone rang. His boss, hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer, was on the line.
“I hear you’re going around saying I’m a white supremacist,” Mr. Mercer said. “That’s ridiculous.”
In the prior weeks, Mr. Magerman, a registered Democrat who calls himself a centrist, had complained to colleagues about Mr. Mercer’s role as a prominent booster of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
Now word of Mr. Magerman’s criticism had reached Mr. Mercer, co-chief executive of Renaissance Technologies LLC, one of the world’s most successful hedge funds.
“Those weren’t my exact words,” Mr. Magerman said he told Mr. Mercer, stammering and then explaining his concerns about Mr. Trump’s policy positions, rhetoric and cabinet choices. “If what you’re doing is harming the country then you have to stop.”

In the article, Magerman, a controversial philanthropist in his own right who has donated millions to Philadelphia’s Jewish institutions, explained his grievances with his boss in more detail. “His views show contempt for the social safety net that he doesn’t need, but many Americans do,” Magerman said. “Now he’s using the money I helped him make to implement his worldview” to ensure that “government be shrunk down to the size of a pinhead.”  [...]
But by this afternoon, the Journal had appended an update to its original piece:
On Thursday morning, after an online version of this story appeared, Mr. Magerman received a new phone call from Renaissance. A representative told Mr. Magerman that he was being suspended without pay and no longer could have contact with the company. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A majority of Americans are embarrassed by President Trump

Washington Post

For those interested in seeking adulation and acclaim, it’s easy to see why running for president might hold appeal. For a year, two years, you get to be one of the most-talked about people in the most powerful country in the world; on the off-chance that your bid is successful, you then get to extend that attention streak for four more years. That’s six years, minimum, that the country — if not the world — is holding you at the forefront of its attention and consideration.
But there is a downside: The country may not like what it sees.
Two polls released this week offer that downside to President Trump. New surveys from Quinnipiac University and McClatchy-Marist reveal that Trump — never terribly popular nationally — continues to be seen as dishonest, a poor leader and unstable.
What’s more, the U.S. is embarrassed by him.




Former Chief Rabbi - Yonah Metzger Gets 4.5 Years in Prison After Court Rejects Plea Deal


The Jerusalem District Court rejected on Thursday a plea bargain reached with former Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger and handed down a harsher sentence of 4.5 years in prison for bribery.

Metzger was convicted in January under a plea deal. Metzger and the State Prosecution agreed on a sentence of 3.5 years in prison, the confiscation of an apartment he owns in Jerusalem, a fine and back taxes. Under the deal, Metzger pleaded guilty to accepting 5 million shekels ($1.3 million) in bribes, down from 10 million in the original indictment, while other charges – including fraud, breach of trust, and money laundering – will be dropped.

On Thursday, the court criticized the plea deal, saying it was too lenient.

Metzger’s associates said at the time that he agreed to a plea bargain because he understood that his trial would likely end in conviction. The police enlisted a state’s witness in the case whose name cannot be published.[...]

Aharon Friedman is free to remarry without a Heter Meah Rabbonim


Based on the sources [Daas Torah Heter Meah Rabbonim] and after consulting with Rav Moshe Sternbuch (who is very upset with what the Kanminetskys have done) - who read through all the relevant material on the case which I provided him - the following is clear.

Aharon Friedman can remarry without a heter meah rabbonim. That is the view of the majority of poskim. The Heter Meah Rabbonim was created to protect the wife. In this case, Tamar as moredes and going to secular court as well as declaring that she was never married to Aharon – has thrown aside the protection of the Heter Meah Rabbonim.


Tamar is clearly a moredes by deserting Aharon and taking their daughter to live with her parents. Furthermore she went to secular court without permission of the Baltimore Beis Din that she signed an agreement to obey. Finally she says she has no need for a Get since she never was married to Aharon and is living in an adulterous relationship at the present time according to the consensus of the major poskim of our time.

Additionally there is no obligation for Aharon to give a Get and he is not even required to deposit a Get with Beis Din before getting married. However it would be desirable if he did deposit a Get in case Tamar ever realizes the terrible mistake she has made and returns and accepts the full authority of the Baltimore Beis Din to decide the issues. But clearly the permissibility for him to remarry is not dependent upon providing a Get – either directly or depositing one with beis din.

Besides deserting Aharon and took away their daughter without his consent and going to secular court without the approval of the Baltimore Beis ;she compounded the problem by publicly shaming Ahron. Against the accepted halacha, she tried to pressure Aharon through shaming in the media world wide, public demonstrations, letters to have him fired from his job and even paid a poster displayed in the Washington Subway system against him. Goons were paid 60k to have him beaten up. She – with the assistance of ORA and Rabbi Schachter and Rabbi Kaminetsky was made into the poster girl for Agunos. Her reason for leaving Aharon was that she and her family thought she could do better – despite the fact she viewed him as a good father and husband – though not as sociable with her family as she wished. After failure to obtain a Get for a number of years – she switched gears and with the shameful collusion and encouragement of the Kaminetskys conducted a world wide shopping expedition to find a posek who would declare her marriage null and void. Through a phony psychiatrist report – from a therapist who didn’t even meet with Aharon – she had him declared to be totally crazy and unfit for marriage. A claim she never made to beis din or in any of the pronouncements to media while she was in her Aguna stage.

Much to the shame and disgrace of the Kaminetskys, they got Rabbi Nota Greenblatt to not only state that her marriage was annulled and that she had never been married – but he also married her to another man. Despite the world wide protest by the leading poskim of our times that the heter was invalid and she was committing adultery and despite the fact that Rav Dovid Feinstein and his beis ruled specifically at the request of the Kaminetsky - that the heter was not valid – Rabbi Greenblatt has not retracted. More importantly the Kaminetskys - while finally accepting the heter they engineered was invalid – refuse to tell Tamar that she should separate from her adulterous relationship. Tamar is saying that she has no need for a Get since she was never married to Aharon. The Baltimore Beis Din has said given these facts Aharon has no obligation at present to give Tamar a Get and there is no permission to publicly shame him into doing so.

==================

emes wrote:
The case is not a new case.. it is as old as the hills. frankly it has been paskened by many of the biggest Gedolim including Rav Akiva Eiger, the chasam Sofer etc. No Heter Meah rabonim is needed because the woman is a moredes, especially if it more than 4 years of rebelling (see opinion of Chasam Sofer) and rabbeinu Gershom was not goyzer in the case of a Moredes.
Please see the psak of Rav Chaim Oyzer in Shut Achiezer chelek 1. I do not have time to translate but it should be noted as the foremost psak of the 20th century in how to deal with these cases. For some reason it is not well known. THIS PSAK SHOULD BE PUT UP IN EVERY SHUL IN THE WORLD TO STOP THE CANCER OF ARKO"OYS ALREADY.
Here is the source, it is siman Yud (in chelek rishon). No disrespect to any of the other rabbonim mentioned but Rav Chaim Oyzer was the biggest posek in pre war Lita.
Please go to page 65 for the details if the link is broken
Frankly I am not sure why in Eretz Yisroel the Gedolim were so insistent on a Hetter Meah in these kinds of cases where the woman would not go to Bais Din. I suspect it was to prevent the situation where the woman was willing to go to Bais Din and the husband still would not give the Get. But to me they are totally different cases.

Majority of Americans trust the media more than Trump: poll

USA Today

When it boils down to matters of trust, a majority of Americans say they trust the media more than President Trump, according to a new poll.
The Quinnipiac University poll, released on Wednesday, asked participants if the media or Trump "tell you the truth about important issues." The survey said that 52% of voters trust the media, with only 37% saying they trusted Trump more.
Among Democrat voters, 86% said they were more inclined to believe the media than the president, while 78% of Republican voters said that Trump tells them the truth, not the media, according to the poll.
The survey comes after Trump repeated his criticism of the press, calling the "fake news media" the "enemy of the American people" in a Twitter post last week. Trump, who has increasingly called news coverage he does not agree with "fake," has also bashed on polls, tweeting earlier this month, "Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election," in reference to surveys conducted on his controversial travel ban.
Trump's attack on the media, as the Quinnipiac poll would suggest, has had a profound effect on the American public.
College-educated white voters and non-college educated white voters, for example, are divided on the trust level question — with 55% of the former trusting the media, compared to 55% of the latter believing Trump more, according to the poll. Nonwhite voters, in sharp contrast to non-college educated white voters, were more inclined to trust the media (68%) about important issues.
"The media, so demonized by the Trump Administration, is actually a good deal more popular than President Trump," Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said about the results.
Quinnipiac's report also suggests:
  • 90% of Americans voters say it is "very important" or "somewhat important" "that the news media hold public officials accountable." 
  • 61% of people disapprove the way Trump talks about the media, while 50% of voters disapprove the media's coverage on Trump.  
The poll, conducted by Quinnipiac University from Feb. 16-21, surveyed 1,323 voters across the U.S.