The next primary contest after Florida is shaping up to be a confusing mess -- and one billionaire is getting a very special accommodation.
Updated 7:25 p.m.
If you thought the confusion surrounding the Iowa caucuses was bad, wait until you see Nevada.
When the traveling Republican circus moves on after Tuesday's Florida primary, it will head for the Silver State -- giving Newt Gingrich's most generous backer, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, a chance to cast a vote for his candidate.
But with the caucuses scheduled for a Saturday morning, Adelson, an observant Jew, originally would not have been able to participate. So, largely at his urging, the state's Republicans will hold a special extra caucus, hours after the rest of the state has finished voting and reporting its totals.
In case the symbolism wasn't clear enough, the extra caucus, scheduled for 7 p.m. Pacific time, is being held at the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Educational Campus, an Adelson-funded private school in Las Vegas.
Party officials insist that's just a coincidence, but insiders say without the influence of Adelson, a generous donor to local candidates and causes, the rogue caucus almost certainly would not exist.
Here's how it is supposed to work, according to a conference call with Nevada GOP officials Friday afternoon. Nevada has 17 counties, but more than half the Republican voters are in Clark County, which encompasses Las Vegas.
Each county was allowed to set its own caucus procedures this year, leading to a divergent array of start times and rules across the state. Some precincts will open their doors as early as 8 a.m.; others won't get under way until noon. But all must wrap up the action by 3 p.m.
At 5 p.m., the party will publicly announce the results of the caucuses for the 16 smaller counties. (Since these results will have been announced at the precinct level, the campaigns and media likely will already have a sense by then.)
At 7 p.m., just as the special evening caucus is getting under way, the results for the rest of Clark County will be announced.
Needless to say, this is not a normal way to run an election. Even the Iowa caucuses, for all their flaws, started at the same appointed hour across the state. Four years ago, Nevada's GOP caucuses, which drew 44,000 voters, all commenced promptly at 9 a.m.
The bizarre arrangement leaves the door open to all kinds of campaign hijinks. Party officials say attendees at the evening caucus will have to sign an affidavit swearing that they didn't already vote earlier, and their names will be checked against the voter rolls. Officials expect about 500 to attend the evening caucus, and while it is meant to accommodate those who observe a Saturday sabbath, such as Jews and Seventh-Day Adventists, the party won't "police" that requirement, executive director David Gallagher said on Friday's conference call.
Supporters of Ron Paul, who has a well-organized campaign in Nevada, have complained bitterly about the situation, which they believe will allow Adelson to somehow rig the caucus results in favor of Gingrich.
"This is all happening because Sheldon Adelson feels like he needs to intervene and cause chaos," said Carl Bunce, Nevada chairman of the Paul campaign. He likened the situation to allowing absentee balloting after an election has already ended.
Gallagher said the school's selection as a caucus site came before the Adelsons dumped $10 million into the Winning Our Future super PAC's scorched-earth effort on behalf of Gingrich, and that the school does not belong to the Adelsons, though they donated $25 million to build it and are expected to show up to vote there.
"It just happened to be Sheldon's name on the building," he said. "Sheldon doesn't own it. It's a school that has his name on it."
Other party regulars wonder why Jewish voters couldn't simply participate in the absentee balloting system the party set up to accommodate active-duty military personnel. But the party officials on Friday's conference call downplayed the situation, saying the evening caucus was the best way to accommodate the most voters.
For the Nevada Republican Party, which caved to pressure from New Hampshire and moved its contest from third to fifth on the calendar, the result seems likely to be an embarrassing mess that satisfies no one but gives everyone reason to complain. (One insider called the state party "a bad idea machine.")
But the party's chairwoman, Amy Tarkanian, professed Friday to be ecstatic about the arrangements. "I could not be any more happier than I am right now," she said.
A scientist and a monk compare notes on meditation, therapy, and their effects on the brain
Can training the mind make us more attentive, altruistic, and serene? Can we learn to manage our disturbing emotions in an optimal way? What are the transformations that occur in the brain when we practice meditation? In a new book titled Beyond the Self, two friends—Matthieu Ricard, who left a career as a molecular biologist to become a Buddhist monk in Nepal, and Wolf Singer, a distinguished neuroscientist—engage in an unusually well-matched conversation about meditation and the brain. Below is a condensed and edited excerpt.
Matthieu Ricard: Although one ﬁnds in the Buddhist literature many treatises on “traditional sciences”—medicine, cosmology, botanic, logic, and so on—Tibetan Buddhism has not endeavored to the same extent as Western civilizations to expand its knowledge of the world through the natural sciences. Rather it has pursued an exhaustive investigation of the mind for 2,500 years and has accumulated, in an empirical way, a wealth of experiential ﬁndings over the centuries. A great number of people have dedicated their whole lives to this contemplative science.
The GOP succeeded in delivering on many of its promises. But the new code, which Congress will vote on this week, will not be as lasting, or as simplified, as they’d hoped.
The legislation congressional Republicans finalized on Friday and are likely to enact next week delivers on many of the party’s—and President Trump’s— promises for a landmark overhaul of the tax code. But the rush to pass the bill through a narrow Senate majority and without Democratic support forced the GOP to sacrifice some of their long-held aspirations for tax reform.
The final bill permanently reduces the corporate tax rate all the way from 35 percent to 21 percent, nearly matching the 20 percent goal House Republicans set in their 2016 campaign plan (though not as low as the 15 percent Trump ran on). It cuts taxes sharply for business owners, and companies will be able to write off costly purchases of new equipment and buildings.
Companies are going to be able to save a ton of money by locating factories abroad.
Despite Donald Trump’s “America first” rhetoric, many suspected that the tax plan he would support would actually increase the incentives for U.S. multinationals to move both profits and operations overseas. I wrote about this inevitability a few weeks ago, before the details of the Trump-GOP tax plan emerged.
Now that the bill is advancing, it’s clear that things aren’t as bad as many feared. They’re worse.
As discussed in the previous piece, Trump administration economic officials argue that by lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent and moving to what is called a territorial system—mainly, companies pay taxes on foreign earnings only to the foreign nation where those profits are booked and never owe anything to the U.S. no matter how low the foreign nation’s tax rate is—would lead to more jobs and profits staying in or coming back to the United States.
Surveying America back in 2013, I concluded that “Christmas Is Kicking Ass in the War on Christmas,” noting the open-air Nativity scenes in the secular progressive enclave of Santa Monica; the 76-foot Christmas tree uncontroversially erected in the heart of New York City; the choir publicly singing "Happy birthday, Jesus! Happy birthday, Lord!" in Washington, D.C., and more.
This affection for the holiday that marks the birth of Jesus Christ extended all the way to the White House, where President Barack Obama recorded videos wishing the nation “Merry Christmas” in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. “This is such a wonderful time of year,” Michelle Obama added one year, “a time to honor the story of love and redemption that began 2,000 years ago, to see the world through a child’s eyes and rediscover the magic all around us, and to give thanks for the gifts that bless us every single day.”
David Bentley Hart’s text recaptures the awkward, multivoiced power of the original.
In the beginning was … well, what? A clap of the divine hands and a poetic shock wave? Or an itchy node of nothingness inconceivably scratching itself into somethingness? In the beginning was the Word, says the Gospel according to John—a lovely statement of the case, as it’s always seemed to me. A pre-temporal syllable swelling to utterance in the mouth of the universe, spoken once and heard forever: God’s power chord, if you like. For David Bentley Hart, however, whose mind-bending translation of the New Testament was published in October, the Word—as a word—does not suffice: He finds it to be “a curiously bland and impenetrable designation” for the heady concept expressed in the original Greek of the Gospels as Logos. The Chinese word Tao might get at it, Hart tells us, but English has nothing with quite the metaphysical flavor of Logos, the particular sense of a formative moral energy diffusing itself, without diminution, through space and time. So he throws up his hands and leaves it where it is: “In the origin there was the Logos …”
How Iris Chang tried to bridge the gap between a fading memory and a horrific lived reality
The book case in my childhood bedroom contained worlds far from my own. There was my volume of folk tales from the Childcraft encyclopedia series, along with an illustrated Bible. Sandwiched between them was the blood-red spine of Iris Chang’s The Rape of Nanking. The book had awoken the mainstream Western consciousness to the truth of the Japanese military’s horrific massacre of Chinese soldiers and civilians prior to World War II. Unlike many historians, Chang thrust stories and photographs of rape, disfigurement, killing contests, and live burials in front of her readers, forcing them to choose either to shudder and remember or look away in complicity.
While Chang faced a barrage of attacks from other historians, as well as from the publisher contracted to translate her book into Japanese, the debate over what happened in Nanking from December 1937 to January 1938 had been raging before the publication of her book. Japan, for instance, remains divided over the number of Chinese killed in Nanking during those six weeks. The massacre camp generally supports the Tokyo War Crimes Trials figure of “upwards of 100,000” deaths; skeptics claim 15,000 to 50,000, while others venture only up to 10,000. Outside of Japan, James Yin and Shi Young, whose work Chang frequently cited, place the minimum death toll as high as 369,366.
Russia's strongman president has many Americans convinced of his manipulative genius. He's really just a gambler who won big.
I. The Hack
The large, sunny room at Volgograd State University smelled like its contents: 45 college students, all but one of them male, hunched over keyboards, whispering and quietly clacking away among empty cans of Juicy energy drink. “It looks like they’re just picking at their screens, but the battle is intense,” Victor Minin said as we sat watching them.
Clustered in seven teams from universities across Russia, they were almost halfway into an eight-hour hacking competition, trying to solve forensic problems that ranged from identifying a computer virus’s origins to finding secret messages embedded in images. Minin was there to oversee the competition, called Capture the Flag, which had been put on by his organization, the Association of Chief Information Security Officers, or ARSIB in Russian. ARSIB runs Capture the Flag competitions at schools all over Russia, as well as massive, multiday hackathons in which one team defends its server as another team attacks it. In April, hundreds of young hackers participated in one of them.
Content moderators review the the dark side of the internet. They don’t escape unscathed.
Lurking inside every website or app that relies on “user-generated content”—so, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, among others—there is a hidden kind of labor, without which these sites would not be viable businesses. Content moderation was once generally a volunteer activity, something people took on because they were embedded in communities that they wanted to maintain.
But as social media grew up, so did moderation. It became what the University of California, Los Angeles, scholar Sarah T. Roberts calls, “commercial content moderation,” a form of paid labor that requires people to review posts—pictures, videos, text—very quickly and at scale.
Roberts has been studying the labor of content moderation for most of a decade, ever since she saw a newspaper clipping about a small company in the Midwest that took on outsourced moderation work.
Progressive clergy are pushing a new movement that’s unapologetically political—and deeply rooted in textual traditions.
Since Donald Trump was elected one year ago, I’ve heard from a number of rabbis who feel caught. They’re not sure how to speak into this moment of intense partisan division, nasty rhetoric, and outrage; how to console and advise those who are devastated while not alienating congregants who support the president. This conundrum is sharpest in the Orthodox world, where a strong majority of Jews lean Republican. But even liberal Jewish leaders—those in the Reconstructionist, Reform, and Conservative movements—many feel hemmed in by board members, funders, or their own sense of clerical propriety.
Sharon Brous does not agree. The senior rabbi at IKAR, a non-denominational spiritual community in Los Angeles, believes this is not a normal moment in American politics, and Jewish leaders need to speak out. The models of Jewish movement-building are also changing, she says: Gone are the days when the president of the Union of Reform Judaism or the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly are the only voices who can speak for American Jews. A new generation of rabbis, working outside of traditional, hierarchical structures, are building followings and defining a new, often politicized, way of expressing Judaism.