Soros, the far right’s boogeyman, is again a target
By ADAM GELLER
AP National Writer
Sunday, October 28
NEW YORK (AP) — When pipe bombs turned up in the mail of Hillary Clinton and other prominent Democrats this week, the first recipient — billionaire investor and liberal philanthropist George Soros — quickly fell out of the headlines.
But there’s no chance his many critics and enemies have forgotten him.
White nationalists and others on the political fringes have long cast Soros as the supposed leader of a globalist Jewish plot to undermine white Christian civilization. Now, President Donald Trump, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and other political leaders have brought the vilification of Soros into the mainstream.
This year, Soros has been accused by critics including Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, of purportedly funding a caravan of Central American migrants marching toward the U.S. Others have charged him with hijacking a campaign by Florida high school students demanding gun control. Trump tweeted recently that women who confronted Republican senators about Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court were actually professional protesters, paid by Soros.
For many on the far right, Soros is “like the Jew behind the curtain, from their perspective, not just in the U.S., but all over the world. He’s the number one enemy of folks on the radical right,” said Heidi Beirich, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks U.S. hate groups. “The demonization of sorts has been going for a while, but it has really hit sort of a fever pitch in the last three to four years.”
On Friday, investigators arrested a south Florida man, charging him with carrying out the mail bomb scare, in which no one was hurt. The suspect, Cesar Sayoc, 56, maintained social media accounts promoting conspiracy theories about Soros.
The fact that Soros was a target seemed less a surprise than a logical progression, Beirich said.
In an analysis of millions of anti-Semitic Twitter posts over the year that ended in January, the Anti-Defamation League found that Soros was among the most frequent targets.
Trump has tapped into those sentiments, and several Republican politicians have followed his lead.
“For those who control the levers of power in Washington and for the global special interests, they partner with these people that don’t have your good in mind,” Trump said in the final ad of his 2016 campaign, featuring video of Soros and others.
In an interview last year with Vice News, Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Arizona, suggested that Soros had backed activists behind the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that turned deadly.
“Who is he? I think he’s from Hungary. I think he was Jewish and I think he turned in his own people to the Nazis. We better be careful about where we go with those,” Gosar said, repeating another right-wing myth about Soros’ past that has been debunked.
The 88-year-old Soros has given more than $32 billion to his Open Society Foundations to fund causes including free debate and government accountability. That spending has fueled countless conspiracy theories. Some of the depictions of Soros draw on bits of truth, while contradicting much of his life story.
“My father acknowledges that his philanthropic work, while nonpartisan, is “political” in a broad sense: It seeks to support those who promote societies where everyone has a voice,” the investor’s son, Alexander Soros, wrote this week in an opinion piece published in The New York Times.
“There is a long list of people who find that proposition unacceptable.”
Soros was born in Budapest in 1930. His family changed their last name from Schwartz to hide their religion from the Nazis, who slaughtered more than 500,000 Hungarian Jews. After World War II, a penniless, 17-year-old Soros left for England and eventually enrolled at the London School of Economics. He embraced the teachings of philosopher Karl Popper, whose ideas about how people interact in open societies helped shape Soros’ beliefs about the need for democracy, as well as the behavior of investors and financial markets.
Soros’ investment strategies and his aggressiveness in acting on them made him one of the world’s most successful traders.
“It wasn’t that he was right more often about which way the dollar was going to go or which way the stock market index is going to go… but when he was right and he had conviction, he put on these enormous bets,” said Sebastian Mallaby, author of “More Money Than God: Hedge Funds and the Making of a New Elite.”
Soros became known as the “Man Who Broke the Bank of England,” for wagering heavily against the British pound in 1992, betting that it was overvalued. When the pound fell sharply, as Soros predicted it would, he made an estimated $1 billion.
Soros moved to the U.S. in 1956 to take a job at a small New York brokerage. He got U.S. citizenship and in 1969 helped launch the Quantum Fund, which delivered stellar returns over more than three decades. In 2011, he announced he was closing the fund to all but family members.
By then, he had become very active in philanthropy, dating to the 1970s when he paid to help black students attend college in apartheid-era South Africa.
In 2014, Forbes estimated Soros’s fortune at $23 billion. But transfers to his foundation have reduced the money he now holds to $8 billion, making him the 190th richest person in the world, the magazine estimates.
“The three parts of George Soros are the philosopher, the speculator and the philanthropist/politician,” Mallaby said, “And they’re all animated by the same belief that you can trigger a cascading change if you are willing to bet enough money to kind of shock the system and start the change.”
In recent years, right-wing populist leaders in Eastern Europe have accused Soros of using his money to force liberal values and refugees on their societies.
While Soros has funded left-wing causes, many of his donations have also gone to causes like improving public health and transportation. Hungary’s Orban was among those who benefited. He received scholarships from Soros in the 1990s to study in the West or conduct research.
During a parliamentary campaign last spring, Orban’s government plastered anti-Soros ads across the country accusing the philanthropist of seeking to transform Europe from a place that is predominantly white and Christian to one dominated by Africans and Muslims. One campaign poster showed a photo of a smiling Soros with the words “Let’s not let Soros have the last laugh.”
Soros has also been denounced in Macedonia and Poland, as well as in Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused him of funding opposition to a government plan to deport refugees.
The repeated attacks on Soros carry the risk that some people might act on that demonization, said Aryeh Tuchman, associate director of the ADL’s Center on Extremism.
Tuchman pointed to a 2010 shootout between police and a California gunman who set out to kill people at a foundation partially funded by Soros because he thought the billionaire was responsible for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. That gunman pointed to a conservative television commentator’s diatribe against Soros.
“There are crazy people out there, for lack of a better word, people inclined toward extremism, inclined to act out based on the ideas that they hear,” Tuchman said. “And to the extent that there is this drumbeat of anti-Soros conspiracy mongering and demonization, it is not shocking that once in a while that someone takes that one step further.”
AP reporters Vanessa Gera in Warsaw and Bernard Condon in New York contributed to this story.
This story has been amended to correct the name of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Why washing your hands well is so important to protect your family from the flu
October 23, 2018
Michelle Sconce Massaquoi
Doctoral candidate, microbiology, University of Oregon
Disclosure statement: Michelle Sconce Massaquoi does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: University of Oregon provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
During my second year of graduate school, I moved in with my sister’s family to save money. “You must get the flu shot if you are going to live here,” my sister declared. Both of my nieces were under the age of 5, putting them at a high risk of flu complications; therefore, it was critical that I do my part in, first, getting vaccinated to minimize my risk of getting the flu, and second, not passing the flu to a vulnerable population. A key part of this was, and still is, washing my hands regularly.
This is serious business. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 900,000 people were hospitalized from the flu last season and more than 80,000 people died in the U.S. As the flu season approaches, it’s important to marshal all our defenses against influenza.
As someone who has a history of fainting after shots, including an experience that resulted in multiple stitches just shy of my temple, I understand high anxiety when it comes to needles. But in the evenings when my 4-year-old niece is looking at the intriguing images within my microbiology textbook and asks with each turn of page, “Auntie Chelle, what’s that?” I couldn’t fathom putting her at a higher risk of the flu or any sickness by not getting vaccinated or not washing my hands regularly.
How does the flu virus spread?
The flu virus spreads by droplets made from a cough, sneeze or talk of people who are infected. These droplets can land within the mouths, lungs or noses of people up to 6 feet away. Heavily populated places, such as schools or airports, could increase the transmission of the virus and put people at higher risk of getting the flu. It’s also possible to get the flu by touching a surface, such as chairs, tables or door handles that has flu virus on it and then touching your own mucous membranes in your mouth, nose or eyes. A behavioral study of medical students at the University of New South Wales found that of the 26 participants, students touched their face an average of 23 times per hour and 44 percent of the time it was in contact with a mucous membrane.
With flu season ahead of us and also our holiday travels, do we really stand a chance of preventing the spread of the flu and other germs by keeping our hands clean? Yes, but it takes some work.
There are two main strategies in hand washing.
The first is to decrease the overall biomass of microbes – that is, decrease the amount of bacteria, viruses and other types of microorganisms. We do this by lathering with soap and rinsing with water. Soap’s chemistry helps remove microorganisms from our hands by accentuating the slippery properties of our own skin.
Studies have shown that effectively washing with soap and water significantly reduces the bacterial load of diarrhea-causing bacteria.
The second strategy is to kill the bacteria. We do this by using products with an antibacterial agent such as alcohols, chlorine, peroxides, chlorhexidine or triclosan.
Some academic work has shown that antibacterial soaps are more effective at reducing certain bacteria on soiled hands than soaps without them.
However, there’s a problem. Some bacterial cells on our hands may have genes that enable them to be resistant to a given antibacterial agent. This means that after the antibacterial agent kills some bacteria, the resistant strains remaining on the hands can flourish.
Further, the genes that allowed the bacteria to be resistant could pass along to other bacteria, causing more resistant strains. Together, the “take-over” of resistant strains would render the use of the antibacterial agent essentially ineffective.
Also, the long-term use of some antibacterial products may harm your health.
For example, animal studies investigating the antibacterial agent triclosan, which used to be in soaps, toothpastes and deodorant, has been shown to alter the way hormones work in the body. The Food and Drug Administration has prohibited the use of over-the-counter antiseptic wash products containing triclosan and many other antibacterial active ingredients.
Nonetheless, the flu is caused by a virus, rendering products with antibiotics useless.
With this in mind, you may want to stick with plain old soap and water.
To clean our hands, the CDC recommends that we:
- wet hands with clean water
- apply soap and lather/scrub every nook and cranny of your hands for 20-30 seconds (about the time to sing “Happy Birthday” twice)
- rinse well with clean running water
- dry hands with a clean paper towel or air-dry.
I was shocked to read a study that indicated that 93.2 percent of 2,800 survey respondents did not wash their hands after coughing or sneezing. Also, one study showed that across a college-town environment with observations of 3,749 people, the average hand-washing time was approximately six seconds.
If soap and water are not unavailable, the CDC recommends using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent ethanol. Alcohols have a broad-spectrum of antimicrobial activity and are less selective for bacterial resistance compared to other antibacterial chemicals.
However, alcohol-based hand sanitizers may not work on all classes of germs.
So what is the take-home message?
There is no doubt that washing our hands with liquid soap and water is effective in reducing the spread of infectious microorganisms, including those that are resistant to antimicrobial agents.
When you don’t have the opportunity to wash your hands after touching questionable surfaces, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Limit the touching of your hands to your mouth, nose and eyes.
Further, build additional protection against pathogens via maintaining a balanced gut-bacteria community by “fertilizing” them with a diversity of plant-based foods.
It’s not only a small world, but a dirty one as well.
Editor’s note: This is an updated version of an article that originally was published Dec. 13, 2017.
Terrence Treft: thanks for the important article.
some are suggesting that ordinary respiration can spread flu virus. regardless, aside from the importance of a flu shot, a $2 paper respirator is almost completely effective at preventing flu spread.
the niosh n95 respirator has been clinically tested at 99.8% effective, of course, if worn properly.
last year we had a historic flu infection in my county in missouri. i sometimes wore my n95 in public places. people stare a little, but they also give you the right of way more often than not.
i also wore hooded sweatshirts and discretely used the hood from behind my neck as a breathing filter. no research; just an intuition.
since the n95 is so effective, they could become popular if advertising made them sexy/status acquiring. they could be sold in colors/designs/images. if people think tattoos are flattering, why not respirators?
Ray Hall: Thank you for the article . One hopes the Drs Semmelweiss and others gain some sort of posthumous satisfaction from it . One question – has any study been done about the rates of flu in groups of keen hand-washers in comparison to the rates among non-hand washers ? Again- thanks .
Bucs’ Whitehead fined $26,739 for hit on Mayfield
By The Associated Press
Saturday, October 27
NEW YORK (AP) — The NFL has fined Tampa Bay safety Jordan Whitehead $26,739 for unnecessary roughness against Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield.
The league had said Friday that Whitehead should have been penalized for striking Mayfield in the side of the helmet during last Sunday’s 26-23 overtime win for Tampa Bay.
Mayfield was sliding at the end of a 35-yard scramble when he got hit by Whitehead, who was initially penalized before the officials conferred and decided to pick up the flag — and one against Mayfield for taunting.
First-year referee Shawn Hochuli made the situation worse by incorrectly announcing Mayfield “was still a runner and therefore is allowed to be hit in the head.”
Panthers safety Eric Reid was fined $10,026 for unnecessary roughness for his hit on Eagles tight end Zach Ertz in Carolina’s 21-17 win.
—Bengals safety Shawn Williams, $20,054 for unnecessary roughness for a helmet-to-helmet hit against the Chiefs. Williams also fined $10,026 for a Week 1 hit on Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.
—Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert, $10,026 for a chop block.
—Cowboys guard Connor Williams, $10,026 for a chop block.
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US tourist helps stop thief who tried to steal Magna Carta
By DANICA KIRKA
Sunday, October 28
LONDON (AP) — An American tourist from Louisiana helped stop a hammer-wielding thief who unsuccessfully tried to steal the Magna Carta at Salisbury Cathedral, working in tandem with a church employee to prevent the man from escaping.
Matthew Delcambre, of New Iberia, Louisiana, told The Associated Press that he and his wife Alexis were sightseeing in the southwestern English city when a man tried to shatter the glass encasing the precious manuscript in the church’s Chapter House. After Alexis tried to raise the alarm to others, Delcambre and other bystanders banded together to try to hold the thief back behind the doors of the Chapter House.
When the thief pushed past them, the 56-year-old IT expert gave chase into an outer courtyard. He grabbed the man’s arm near the courtyard gate and knocked away the hammer. A church employee tackled him and held him down.
“It wasn’t me by myself,” he said. “It was completely a group effort.”
The Magna Carta, which was protected by two layers of thick glass, wasn’t damaged.
Wiltshire police said Saturday that a 45-year-old man was freed on bail until Nov. 20 as officers continue their investigation.
Salisbury Cathedral’s Magna Carta is one of four existing specimens of the 1215 charter that established the principle that the king is subject to the law. It is considered the founding document of English law and civil liberties and influenced the creation of the U.S. Constitution.
The document, Latin for “Great Charter” was short-lived. Despotic King John, who met disgruntled barons and agreed to a list of basic rights, almost immediately went back on his word and asked the pope to annul it, plunging England into civil war. It was re-issued after the king’s death.
Even so, its importance cannot be underestimated, as it has inspired everyone from Mahatma Gandhi to Nelson Mandela. Matthew Delcambre, the director for the Center for Business & Information Technologies at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said he has been a bit taken aback by the attention his efforts have earned, but told his story so that his efforts would not be exaggerated at the expense of others.
Of all those who played a part in corralling the thief, he credits his wife Alexis first and foremost, since it was she who noticed the thief coming out of the disabled bathroom wielding the hammer and tried to get help. He played down earlier reports which depicted him as the hero, and said the people who should get the credit are cathedral workers and volunteers who tried to protect the Magna Carta.
“The heroes are the staff employees of the cathedral who protected the document, helped catch the guy and helped retain him until the police got there,” he said. “It was a team effort.”
This story has been corrected to show that Delcambre’s hometown is New Iberia, not Little Iberia.
John Ziegler, NHL president who oversaw merger, dies at 84
By JOHN WAWROW
AP Hockey Writer
Saturday, October 27
John Ziegler Jr.’s tumultuous 15 years as NHL president began with the league ushering in the Wayne Gretzky era and ended with labor unrest and a players strike in 1992.
The NHL on Friday confirmed Ziegler’s death, although the cause was not immediately known. He was 84 and living in Florida.
“His positive imprint on the game of hockey cannot ever be overstated,” Chicago Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz said. “While he will be missed, his legacy and contributions to our sport will carry on forever.”
Ziegler was the first American to run the league and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1987.
He was credited for helping the NHL become an international league by increasing the number of European players and opening the door for Russians to compete in North America.
Ziegler was the NHL’s fourth president, succeeding Clarence Campbell in 1977. Two years later, he played a key role in brokering a merger with the World Hockey Association in which the NHL added four teams from the upstart league — the Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets, Quebec Nordiques and Hartford Whalers.
While the Jets, Nordiques and Whalers eventually relocated, the Gretzky-led Oilers quickly succeeded, winning four Stanley Cups between 1984 and 1988. The Oilers posted a picture of Ziegler handing the Stanley Cup to a beaming Gretzky on the team’s Twitter feed.
The NHL eventually grew to 24 teams under Ziegler by expanding into San Jose in 1991. In 1978, the NHL had dropped to 17 franchises when the Cleveland Barons ceased operations after merging with the Minnesota North Stars.
Just as important, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman credited Ziegler for attracting talent from across the Atlantic. The share of NHL players not born in North America grew from 2 percent to 11 percent on Ziegler’s watch, Bettman said.
It was a period that introduced the NHL to its first wave of Russian-born stars such as Viacheslav Fetisov, Igor Larionov, Alexander Mogilny and Pavel Bure.
Contentious labor talks between the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association over playoff bonuses, free agency and pension funds led to the players voting to strike in the final weeks of the 1991-92 season. The strike lasted 10 days.
League owners unhappy with the labor agreement ousted Ziegler two months later. He was replaced on an interim basis by Gil Stein. The NHL hired Bettman the following year and appointed him the league’s first commissioner.
“John provided invaluable counsel during my early days as commissioner and was always generous with his time,” Bettman said.
Ziegler was from Grosse Pointe, Michigan, and broke into the NHL serving as legal counsel for the Red Wings and their arena Olympia Stadium in 1960. He worked his way up the ranks to eventually represent the Red Wings on the NHL’s board of governors.
During Ziegler’s time as league president the Red Wings were sold to the late Mike Ilitch, whose family still owns the team.
“We are extremely grateful for the guidance and support John provided as president of the NHL when our family purchased the Red Wings in 1982,” Red Wings governor Christopher Ilitch said. “John left an immeasurable mark on both the Red Wings organization and the sport of hockey worldwide.”
After leaving the NHL, Ziegler worked at a Detroit law firm and served as an alternate governor for the Chicago Blackhawks.
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