Take One: Shabbat 14 and 15:  Tablet, Mar. 20, 2020 Today’s Daf Yomi pages, Shabbat 14 and 15, usher us into a discussion of a deeply complicated subject: the rules of purity. But what starts out like a seemingly esoteric topic soon grows eerily relevant in this time of coronavirus awareness: Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin joins us to explain how the Talmud’s concept of transmission and infection uncannily mirrors that of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and why we should be grateful for the special place hand-washing has always played in Jewish life. Why should we always rush to scrub our hands as soon as we wake up? Listen and find out.

COVID-19 Outbreak Cases in Europe (Source:Wikipedia)

Table of Contents:

COVID-19 Is an Opportunity for EuropeLucrezia Reichlin, Project Syndicate, Mar. 10, 2020

I’m a Doctor in Italy. We Have Never Seen Anything Like This.:  Marco Pavesi, NYTimes, Mar. 18, 2020

America in a New Upside-Down World: Victor Davis Hanson, American Greatness, Mar. 15, 2020

The Huge Discrepancy Between the German President’s Words and Reality:  Manfred Gerstenfeld, Arutz Sheva, Feb. 6, 2020

______________________________________________________COVID-19 Is an Opportunity for Europe
Lucrezia Reichlin
Project Syndicate, Mar. 10, 2020For years, fears have been mounting that a “black swan” would test the European Union’s crisis-management capabilities. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus, those fears have come to pass – and it is not at all clear that the EU will be able to withstand it.The COVID-19 epidemic is not just any stress test. For starters, it is likely to affect the entire world, leading to a synchronized growth slowdown or even recession. Synchronized recessions are virtually always deeper and longer-lasting than downturns affecting individual economies, and they hit open economies like the EU particularly hard.

Compounding the problem, because every EU member state is facing a severe shock, they will be far less able to help one another than they were during the eurozone crisis that began in 2010. To be sure, Italy has suffered the most so far. But past transmission patterns elsewhere suggest that COVID-19 will continue to spread across Europe, putting every country under growing strain.

Of course, it is impossible to say precisely how the epidemic will unfold. But that uncertainty will only exacerbate the economic fallout, because it will undermine investment and household consumption.

Already, the virus has disrupted supply chains and slowed global trade, with predictably negative effects on corporate revenues and employment. The tourism and transport sectors have been hit particularly hard, owing not only to government-mandated travel restrictions, but also to voluntary “social distancing” and reductions in movement. As a result, overall demand is already declining, reflected in plummeting oil prices – typically a harbinger of global recession.

To be sure, the consequences of a negative shock like COVID-19, however painful, could be short-lived. But while China seems to have brought new infections under control, the number of cases continues to rise elsewhere. Unless this changes soon, the economic effects are unlikely to be temporary.

A more probable scenario is that the COVID-19 shock will test the resilience of public-health systems, labor relations, and formal and informal solidarity mechanisms across the EU. And if the pandemic is not confronted with an aggressive and timely policy response, its effects are likely to be long-lasting, especially if amplification mechanisms are activated.

Such mechanisms typically work through the financial sector. The good news is that, thanks to improved regulation, banks are better capitalized than they were in 2008, when the last global financial crisis erupted. But some countries still have serious weaknesses, and the resilience of small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) remains dubious. In the manufacturing sector, SMEs are already suffering. In the event of a protracted crisis, the damage to them will end up on banks’ balance sheets. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

I’m a Doctor in Italy. We Have Never Seen Anything Like This.
Marco Pavesi
NYTimes, Mar. 18, 2020

None of us have ever experienced a tragedy like it.

We know how to respond to road accidents, train derailments, even earthquakes. But a virus that has killed so many, which gets worse with each passing day and for which a cure — or even containment — seems distant? No.

We always think of calamity as something that will happen far from us, to others far away, in another part of the world. It’s a kind of superstition. But not this time. This time it happened here, to us — to our loved ones, our neighbors, our colleagues.

I’m an anesthesiologist at the Policlinico San Donato here in Milan, which is part of the Lombardy region, the heart of the Italian coronavirus outbreak. On Feb. 21, the day on which the first case was recorded, our hospital, which specializes in cardiac surgery, offered to help with the care of patients with Covid-19. Along with other hospitals, we created a task force of intensive care doctors to be sent to hospitals in the “red zone.”

All planned surgeries were postponed. Intensive care beds were given over to the treatment of coronavirus patients. Within 24 hours, the hospital created new intensive care places by converting operating theaters and anesthetic rooms. And 40 more beds were dedicated to patients suspected or proven to have the virus, though not in a serious condition.

But the increases in cases are astounding. As of Tuesday, nationwide, there were 31,506 cases, of which 2,941 recovered and 2,503 died. Lombardy, the region most affected, has 16,220 cases, with 1,640 dead, 879 in intensive care — 56 more than the day before — and 2,485 clinically cured. With these numbers, the country’s health care system may soon collapse.

The patients who arrive remain for many days, straining medical resources. Already across northern Italy — in Lombardy, Veneto, Emilia-Romagna and Marche — health care systems are under enormous stress. Medical workers are exhausted. As the virus spreads, other regions will soon find themselves in the same situation.

Fortunately, Lombardy and the national government adopted aggressive containment measures 10 days ago. By the end of this week — after 15 days, the incubation period of the infection — we will see whether such measures have been effective. Only then might we see a slowing down in the spread of the virus.

It cannot come too soon. There has been speculation that doctors may be forced to decide whom to treat, leaving some without immediate care. That’s not my experience: All patients at my hospital have received the treatment they require. But that may not last. If the number of patients infected does not start to drop, our resources won’t stretch to cover them. At that point, triaging patients — to give priority to those with more chances of survival — may become standard practice.

My colleagues, at the Policlinico and throughout the country, are showing a great spirit of sacrifice. We know how much we are needed right now; that gives us strength to withstand fatigue and stress. How long such resistance will last, I cannot say. Some colleagues have tested positive for the coronavirus, and a few have needed intensive care. For us all, the dangers are great. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

America in a New Upside-Down World
Victor Davis Hanson
American Greatness, Mar. 15, 2020

The world is changing at a pace not seen in years, and it is no time to become captives of fear despite the real and immediate dangers we face.

The coronavirus and the ensuing panic, at least for a few more weeks, have stagnated the economy and scared global financial markets, accompanied by both collateral, and independent and simultaneous, bad news. Rumor- and panic-mongers predominate; the rational and reasonable are written-off as naïve and out of it. Thousands may die, but millions who will not are terrified into anxieties and sleeplessness that they will.

COVID-19 itself has raised fundamental questions about the merits of globalization in general, and in particular the wisdom of any sovereign nation outsourcing key industries like high-tech, pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, and food processing to an autocratic, non-transparent—and dangerous—nation like China.

The current oil glut and price crash—a result of a Saudi-Russian price war, in part directed at record U.S. production, in part due to the crumbling of OPEC, and less demand as a global public, frightened by the specter of the Wuhan virus, stays closer to home—are radically changing the relationship between oil sellers and buyers. In particular, vulnerable cash-hungry exporting countries like Iran, Russia, and Venezuela are losing clout. Interest rates are also dropping. The world at large may for a time experience historic de facto negative interest.

Trump Was Right About China

Ostensibly, all of this news should be terrible. And, of course, terrible is the reality that as I write over 6,000 people have died worldwide (out a global population nearing 8 billion) from the disease caused by the coronavirus. But that said, there will emerge winners and losers in every crisis, whether medical, economic, psychological, or political.

Donald Trump was ridiculed for taking on the Chinese juggernaut in 2017, even though he was not wrong that China was a serial world trade cheater—manipulating currencies, dumping products below the cost of production, appropriating technology, infringing on patents and copyrights, and running up huge asymmetrical trade surpluses.

The writ against his pushback on China was that it was hopeless to fight a 1.4-billion-person powerhouse, destined to surpass the United States in annual GDP in just a few years. Or Trump was deemed naïvely reckless, given that to achieve symmetry, legality, and fairness would incur too much pain and involve ossified and discredited concepts like tariffs.

But either by design or accident, the Trump standoff tore off the China scab. The exposed putrid wound beneath has terrified the world: lying, deceit, and subterfuge surrounded the mysterious COVID-19 contagion that emerged from Wuhan late last year and now has spread worldwide and panicked the globe. The coronavirus helped remind the world that the Hong Kong democracy protests, the creepy 1-million-person reeducation camps for Uyghur Muslims, and internal Chinese Orwellian surveillance were characteristic not aberrant. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

The Huge Discrepancy Between the German President’s Words and Reality
Manfred Gerstenfeld
Arutz Sheva, Feb. 6, 2020

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier gave two important speeches toward the end of January. The first was delivered at the Fifth World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem at Yad Vashem on 23 January. I heard from several people unfamiliar with the German reality that they found it impressive.

The second took place on 29 January in the Bundestag, the German Parliament.

At Yad Vashem, Steinmeier said about the Holocaust: “Germans have tattooed numbers on lower arms. Germans have tried to dehumanize humans and make them into numbers and in the extermination camps to wipe out all memory of them…  The perpetrators were human. They were Germans. The murderers, the watchmen, the helpers of the helpers, the collaborators were German. The industrial mass murder of 6 million Jews, the greatest crime in human history, was committed by my compatriots… We Germans have learned forever from history.” 

Steinmeier added: “Yet I cannot say that when hatred and incitement are expanding. I cannot say that when Jewish children are spit at in the school courtyard. I cannot say that when under the cover of so-called criticism of Israeli politics, crude antisemitism comes up. I cannot say that when only a heavy wooden door prevents the right-wing terrorist on Yom Kippur from creating a bloodbath in a synagogue in Halle.”

A week later Steinmeier welcomed Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in the German parliament, the Bundestag. They had visited Auschwitz together. Steinmeier said to him: “Your presence is a sign of solidarity between our countries, between Israel and Germany. Even more than that: I see it as an obligation–an obligation to show ourselves worthy of the hand Israel has reached out to us. Reconciliation is a grace which we Germans could not hope for.”

Steinmeier concluded: “President Rivlin, we want to show Israel and the world that our country lives up to the newly bestowed confidence. That is the task given to us by memory. So that what can happen will not happen again.”

These two speeches have drifted far from reality. German Jewish historian, Michael Wolffson, wrote critically after the Yad Vashem speech: “Always the same words. Not a surprise that nearly nobody listens.” … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]


Europe Tries to Spend Its Way Out of the Coronavirus Crisis:  Stratfor, Mar. 17, 2020 As the coronavirus outbreak begins to bite deeper into economic growth, Europe is scrambling to provide lifelines to the increasing number of households and businesses now struggling to make ends meet under quarantine.

The New Struggle for Democracy in Central Europe: Timothy Garton Ash, Globe and Mail, Nov. 2, 2019 Imagine someone who had witnessed the liberation of Western Europe in 1945 returning in 1975, only to find the dictators coming back. That’s rather how it feels revisiting central Europe 30 years after the velvet revolutions of 1989.

‘Abraham Joshua Heschel’ Review: A Prophet for Postwar America:  Adam Kirsch, WSJ, Dec. 20, 2020 When Abraham Joshua Heschel was born in Warsaw in 1907, his future was easy to predict.

How Ben-Gurion Ensured a Government Monopoly on the Use of Force:  Efraim Inbar, Mosaic, Feb. 17, 2020 In retrospect, David Ben-Gurion made two fateful decisions in 1948: to declare statehood, and to establish the state’s central authority over the instruments of armed force. 

This week’s French-language briefing is titled:  Communique: Coronavirus: a biblical pandemic (Mar 20, 2020)

CIJR wishes our friends and supporters Shabbat Shalom, and good health!