The Burning Bush phenomenon, occurring on the winter solstice, at Mount Karkom in the Negev Desert in southern Israel.Credit...Amit Elkayam for The New York Times
MOUNT KARKOM, Israel The mountain kept its secrets for centuries, its air of sacred mystery enhanced by a remote location in the Negev Desert in southern Israel.
But one day last week, hundreds of Israeli adventurers headed deep into the wilderness to reach Mount Karkom, determined to get closer to answering a question as intriguing as it is controversial: Is this the Mount Sinai of the Bible, where God is believed to have communicated with Moses?
Mount Sinais location has long been disputed by scholars both religious and academic, and there are a dozen more traditional contenders, most of them in the mountainous expanses of the Sinai Peninsula across the border in Egypt.
But Mount Karkoms claim has gained some popular support because of an annual natural phenomenon that an intrepid group of archaeology and nature enthusiasts had come to witness for themselves.
In 2003, a local Israeli guide and ecologist happened to be atop Karkoms vast plateau one day in late December around the time of the winter solstice, when he came upon a marvel.
At midday, with the sun low in the sky on one of the shortest days of the year, he peered across a deep ravine and spotted a strange aura of light, flickering like flames, emanating from a spot on a sheer rock face.
Spare me the Republican pieties about the horror of activist judges legislating from the bench. These days, judicial activism in the service of conservative causes is not just acceptable its openly encouraged. Witness a new Supreme Court brief from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
The brief comes in a case involving Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), challenging an obscure provision of federal election law that bars candidates who lend their campaigns funds to get elected from raising more than $250,000 after the election to pay themselves back the theory being that post-election fundraising is less about engaging in political speech and more about currying political favor.
The day before his 2018 Senate election, Cruz lent his campaign $260,000 not because it needed the money (it had more than $2 million cash on hand) but because, he openly acknowledges, he wanted to set up a challenge to the repayment provision. Cruz argues that the law violates the First Amendment, stifling candidates political speech by deterring them from lending to their own campaigns.
The Federal Election Commission, defending the provision, contends that Cruz has no standing to contest it because, among other things, he created the problem himself. Senator Cruzs injury is self-inflicted, since he and his campaign deliberately arranged their transactions so as to create a legal barrier to full repayment of the loan, Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar told the court. In any event, she said, the loan-repayment limit imposes at most a modest burden on the right to make and accept contributions.
The case, to be argued Jan. 19, offers a particularly vivid illustration of the conservative mania to undo even the most inoffensive campaign finance restrictions. But the McConnell brief, authored by former Trump White House counsel Donald McGahn and former Trump administration solicitor general Noel Francisco, is notable for a different and more alarming reason: There is, it seems, no argument too extreme for this crowd in their effort to reshape the law to their liking.
As the United States ends the year with the highest levels in new infections of the covid pandemic, the historical question naturally arises: Were a hefty portion of Americans entirely out of their senses?
Some of this rapid spread has come from breakthrough infections, caused by the insidiously transmissible omicron variant. But after a ghastly year of rumor, alarm and needless death, nothing is going to erase the harsh verdict against Americans in 2021: They were granted a miracle drug, and tens of millions refused to take it (or take enough of it).
In the grab bag of reasons for vaccine resistance, the religious exemption claimed by evangelicals is perhaps the most perplexing. The default ethical stance of Christianity is the Golden Rule: Do to others as you would have them do to you. This principle was developed in a variety of other religious and moral traditions. (See the Babylonian Talmud: What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah.) In the New Testament, the Golden Rule is the moral culmination of the Sermon on the Mount. And it is clear from the text that Jesus is not encouraging a calculating ethic of reciprocity. His goal is to inspire a kind of aggressive, preemptive generosity. If anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
The proper application of this principle can be difficult, particularly when it comes to Christian participation in a just war. But the case of vaccination is not really a hard one. Here the tunic is the prick of a needle and a minuscule risk of a bad reaction. The result is a significant benefit for the vaccinated and the community they live in.
President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin are set to speak on Thursday, in preparation for Jan. 10 talks, convened to address Putins demand for security guarantees that aims to stymie NATOs ability to carry out its functions in Europe. Moscows elite diplomats and talking heads are openly discussing Russias goals and strategies. Arguing for Americas total capitulation, with the Kremlin allegedly planning to offer no concessions or guarantees, Russian experts propose a plan to make such an outcome acceptable to the general public in the U.S. by waging an aggressive international info-campaign.
Russias state TV propagandists express their delight in seemingly having the likes of Tucker Carlson in their corner, praising his coverage as the prime example of Russias successful influence operations abroad. Carlsons talking points often sound identical to those pushed by the Kremlins propagandistsor by Putin himself.
During one of his broadcasts on Fox News in December, Carlson argued that NATO exists primarily to torment Vladimir Putin. He worried about the possibility of a NATO takeover of Ukraine, and described the 2014 Maidan Revolution as a U.S.-organized coup in Ukraine. He also baselessly accused Joe Biden of fomenting a hot war with Russia. The very next day, translated quotes from Tucker Carlsons show were widely broadcast on Russias state television. After watching Carlsons remarks during the live taping of 60 Minutes, Igor Korotchenko, member of the Russian Defense Ministrys Public Council and editor-in-chief of the National Defense magazine said: Excellent performance, with which we can only express solidarity.
Carlsons claims that the U.S. is pushing the world to the brink of a nuclear war with Russia fit squarely within the Kremlins current propaganda offensive. During Tuesdays live broadcast of The Evening With Vladimir Soloviev, host Vladimir Soloviev expressed his concerns about convincing Americans that the fears of war are real: Americans change their behavior only when there is an existential threat to their population Their memory of WWI is much greater than that of WWII, because of the numbers of those who perished and the difficulty of that war. We often think of Americans as the mirror image of ourselves and our concerns. They only look like us. Their mentality is completely, absolutely different.
LEBANON, Pa. In November 2008, Pennsylvania Trooper Jay Splain was honored at a county law enforcement banquet as a hero, the police officer of the year. The reason: He had shot and killed a suicidal man who allegedly pointed an Uzi submachine gun at him.
That was the first killing. Trooper Splain went on to fatally shoot three more people in separate incidents, an extraordinary tally for an officer responsible for patrolling largely rural areas with low rates of violent crime. All four who died were troubled, struggling with drugs, mental illness or both. In two cases, including that of the man with the Uzi, family members had called the police for help because their relatives had threatened to kill themselves.
The most recent death was last month, when Trooper Splain shot an unarmed man in his Volkswagen Beetle. After learning that the officer had previously killed three other people over nearly 15 years, the mans sister, Autumn Krouse, asked, Why would that person still be employed?
Trooper Splain is an outlier. Most officers never fire their weapons. Until now, his full record of killings has not been disclosed; the Pennsylvania State Police even successfully fought a lawsuit seeking to identify him and provide other details in one shooting. In the agencys more than a century of policing, no officer has ever been prosecuted for fatally shooting someone, according to a spokesman. That history aligns with a longstanding pattern across the country of little accountability for police officers use of deadly force.
After listening to every single episode of conservative election lawyer Cleta Mitchells podcast, Whos Counting? a simple truth emerges: This isnt about Donald Trump.
Yes, you may know Mitchell for advising Trump on his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia. (She chimed in frequently on the call in which Trump pressured Georgias secretary of state to find the votes he needed to win.) Trump also blurbed Mitchells podcast last month, saying that the show exposes our Corrupt and Rigged voting systems.
But Mitchell also has institutional cred among conservatives that goes back decades, the kind of swing that can land you a post-insurrection seat on a government elections advisory board without much public fuss, even during the Biden administration. When Mitchells current home, the Conservative Partnership Institute, brought her on to lead its Election Integrity Coalition in March, it called her, archly, the consigliere to the vast right-wing conspiracy.
And they didnt mean the QAnon kind. CPI, the post-White House home of former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, is part of a web of deep-pocketed right-wing influence operations seeking to steer the Republican Party during the Trump Age. And Mitchell is all business: Conservatives, she says, need to spend their time and energy taking back control of Americas elections from a runaway left wing.
Were going to take those election offices back, and we need you to help us, Mitchell told listeners at the end of her first episode.
Source: New York Times
With a caseload nearly twice that of the worst single days of last winter, the United States shattered its record for new daily coronavirus cases, a milestone that may still fall short of describing the true toll of the Delta and Omicron variants because testing has slowed over the holidays.
As a second year of living with the pandemic was drawing to a close, the new daily case total topped 488,000 on Wednesday, according to a New York Times database. (The total was higher on Monday, but that number should not be considered a record because it included data from the long holiday weekend.)
Wednesdays seven-day average of new daily cases, 301,000, was also a record, compared with 267,000 the day before, according to the database. In the past week, more than two million cases have been reported nationally, and 15 states and territories reported more cases than in any other seven-day period.
The rise has been driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant, which became dominant in the United States last week. So far, however, the increase has not resulted in more severe disease, as hospitalizations have increased only 11 percent and deaths have decreased slightly in the past two weeks.
Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/live/2021/12/30/world/omicron-covid-vaccine-tests/the-us-breaks-its-single-day-case-record-nearly-doubling-the-highest-numbers-from-last-winter
For months, the GOP-Fox News axis forecast the bluest of Christmases.
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy joined 159 House Republicans in a letter to President Biden saying his policies will certainly ensure that this Christmas will not be merry because of a supply chain crisis and inflation.
Chairman Jim Banks of the House Republican Study Committee, citing the same reasons, wrote to colleagues: Our job as Republicans is to explain to the American people what the grinches at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave did to ruin Christmas.
Fox News told viewers that Christmas presents for your kids may not arrive on time or even at all (Sean Hannity), that the president is the Biden Who Stole Christmas (Laura Ingraham) and that Biden is facing a nightmare come Christmastime, when gifts are going to cost a fortune, and thats even if youre lucky enough to snag anything (Jesse Watters).
Breitbart News trumpeted a Trump campaign advisers forecast for a frankly miserable Christmas the Biden Blue Christmas. Newsmax foresaw Bidens Blue Christmas: Shortages, Frustration, Economic Malaise.
And then a Christmas miracle!
Holiday retail sales were the highest ever, jumping 8.5 percent from last year and nearly 11 percent from pre-pandemic 2019, as consumers splurged throughout the season, Mastercard reported Sunday.
Less than three weeks before turning 37, LeBron James became the oldest player to record a 30-point triple-double when he finished with 30 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists against the Orlando Magic. December 12. He broke his own record 16 days later with 32 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists against the Houston Rockets in another landmark performance that saw him surpass 36,000 points for his career. It was his fifth consecutive 30-point performance, a streak that included 39 points against the Brooklyn Nets on Christmas Day.
Even with a little gray in his beard, the king can still rule his court.
James takes on a huge load for a rebuilt Lakers roster in his 19th season, and the wear and tear is starting to show. As the Lakers star celebrates his 37th birthday on Thursday, we take a look at his career development over the years.
One of the few things left for James in his career is claiming the NBA all-time scoring record. Starting the Lakers journey against the Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies this week, James was 2,418 points behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who has scored 38,387 points in 20 seasons.
James is in his 19th season with no sign of imminent retirement, making Abdul-Jabbars pursuit of the record a matter of when rather than if. Yet few of the games elite have maintained the type of production James seeks this late in their careers.
He's not only a great player, he's also a great human being.
TALLAHASSEE Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo is accusing the federal government of meddling in Floridas monoclonal antibody treatment program.
In a Tuesday letter to Xavier Becerra, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Ladapo said the federal government is actively preventing the effective distribution of monoclonal antibody treatments in the U.S. Ladapo went on to say that the government had suspended multiple monoclonal antibody therapy treatments from distribution in Florida.
Its the second time in three months that Florida officials have publicly disparaged federal officials over monoclonal treatments. In September, Gov. Ron DeSantis predicted a change in federal monoclonal policy would result in a huge disruption for patients. That never materialized.
This latest spat stems from when the federal government in late November temporarily paused shipments of GlaxoSmithKlines Sotrovimab antibody treatment to states while it assessed the drugs effectiveness against the omicron variant of COVID-19.
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