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10 per cent of Ontario public schools has a COVID-19 case with 74 more cases reported


The number of new COVID-19 cases in public schools across the province has jumped by 74 in its latest report, to a total of 749 in the last two weeks.

In its latest data released Monday morning, the province reported 48 more students were infected for a total of 430 in the last two weeks; since school began there has been an overall total of 736 cases.

The data shows there are 10 more staff members for a total of 106 in the last two weeks — and an overall total of 203.

The latest report also shows 16 more individuals who weren’t identified for a total of 213 in that category — and an overall total of 373.

There are 483 schools with a reported case, which the province notes is 10 per cent of the 4,828 public schools in Ontario.

Four schools are currently closed, according to the Ministry of Health figures, two in York Region and two in Ottawa.

Holy Name Catholic Elementary School in King City and Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Elementary School in Woodbridge are closed until Oct. 26.

In Ottawa, École secondaire catholique Franco-Cité, a French Catholic high school, closed after 15 people tested positive while St. Jerome elementary school closed after two staff tested positive.

There is a lag between the daily provincial data at 10:30 a.m. and news reports about infections in schools. The provincial data on Monday is current as of 2 p.m. Friday so it doesn’t include weekend reports. It also doesn’t indicate where the place of transmission occurred.

The Toronto District School Board updates its information on current COVID-19 cases throughout the day on its website. As of Monday at 9 a.m., there were 118 TDSB schools with at least one active case — 128 students and 43 staff.

The Toronto Catholic District School Board also updates its information on its website. As of Monday at 10:25 a.m., there were 68 schools with a COVID-19 case, with 68 students and 20 staff infected.

Epidemiologists have told the Star that the rising numbers in the schools aren’t a surprise, and that the cases will be proportionate to the amount of COVID that is in the community. Ontario reported 704 new cases overall on Monday — 244 in Toronto, 168 in Peel, 103 in York Region and 51 in Ottawa.

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Cheyenne Bholla





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Toronto school board confirms first case of COVID-19 in a student


The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) confirmed that a student had tested positive for COVID-19 on the first day back for in-person classes for many secondary schoolers.

According to a letter sent to parents shared with the Star, the York Memorial Collegiate Institute announced Thursday that one of their students had tested positive for the virus.

“We have no reason to believe there is any cause for concern for students and their families as this student was very briefly at the school on Monday, was not at school today and will not return until cleared by TPH,” wrote Donna Drummond, principal of the public secondary school, in the letter.

As of Thursday, eight schools have announced COVID-19 cases in the Toronto region. All have one case each. Seven are staff members, and one a student.

TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird told the Star that, while Toronto secondary schools are opening their doors to all students on Thursday, students in Toronto’s Special Education Congregated Sites and Intensive Support Programs began their classes earlier on Tuesday.

The affected student went to school “briefly” on Monday before the start of full-time classes, Bird said.

The school is “working closely with Toronto Public Health (TPH) with regard to this case,” according to Drummond’s letter.

“As a precaution, an enhanced cleaning was conducted in the impacted areas but no further steps have been advised by TPH at this time,” Drummond said.

However, because the case was discovered before the first day of class, parents won’t be getting a letter from Toronto Public Health, she continued.

“We just wanted to let you know about this particular case as it must be reported to the Ministry of Education and Toronto Public Health.”

Alexander Brown, chair of the TDSB, said it’s not unexpected that there is a student case of COVID-19, and said the board continues to follow Toronto Public Health’s lead.

Local health units have the power to shut down schools if there are multiple, linked cases. That happened in Renfrew County on Wednesday after three staffers contracted the virus, forcing Fellowes High School in Pembroke to close until further notice.

Given the higher numbers of COVID-19 cases in urban centres such as Toronto, “parents are worried ‘is there going to be an outbreak at my school?’ Brown said. “Our concern at the TDSB — and it’s the concern of every board — is to keep the health and safety of kids and everyone in the building our priority, whatever that takes.”

Experts said earlier that it’s expected for schools to report COVID-19 cases as soon as they reopen. This doesn’t indicate in-class spread, but rather community cases from before classes reopened.

Earlier in August, several Ontario teachers unions advocated for smaller class sizes, including plans to shrink elementary classes down to 15 or 20 students. However, the Province struck down the idea.

Leslie Wolfe, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation in Toronto, told the Star: “I’m concerned for the wellbeing of students. I’m very concerned for the wellbeing of the adults who work with the students,” she said. Several of her union members are older, she continued, and Wolfe is “concerned for their health.

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“I don’t think anyone will be surprised at the fact that there is a student case in the city of Toronto,” she said. “And I expect this will not be a one-off.”

—With files from Kristin Rushowy

Kevin Jiang





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Fomenko’s Case: Europe should reconsider its policy on fake news distributors


The European Union must fight harder against the spread of fake news, which has become widespread in the digital age. Still, there are essentially no effective mechanisms in place for such a battle, said Viola von Cramon-Taubadel, a member of the European Parliament from Germany and Vice-Chairman of the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Association Committee, in a comment to journalists.

 

“The main instrument in the fight against misinformation is a highly educated society that can reveal and recognize fake news, what type of information it conveys, and how to fact-check it,” Cramon-Taubadel stated.

 

The MEP further revealed that it is still very difficult to defend legally against fakes and smear campaigns, especially when it comes to slander.

 

“The law is tied to the physical world, not the virtual one. Our prosecutors cannot keep track of all the cases which may be relevant and which could be brought before a criminal court – and that is a problem. Therefore, we need a better justice system, more prosecutors specializing in the digital environment, and an effective way to address such issues. We have to come up with a systematic approach to working with large digital companies and all social media,” said Cramon-Taubadel.

 

The European Union remains helpless in the face of smear campaigns using fake information. Meanwhile, the people behind such campaigns are becoming more creative and audacious – particularly those involved in spreading Russian propaganda.

 

“Concerning the systematic misinformation that often comes from Russia and its propaganda institutions, its main goal is destabilization. They cleverly designed these deceptive campaigns in various countries to make them appear not alike. In Ukraine, the used narratives entirely differ from those that appear in Germany, which, in turn, are completely unlike the ones in the Czech Republic, and so on. That is, in the EU, there are different forms of deceptive campaigns that are usually run by the Russian Federation,” explained Viola von Cramon-Taubadel.

 

Fake news distributors feel confident enough to target the main institutions of free Europe – the European Commission and the European Parliament. A striking example is a hoax created by Dmytro Fomenko, a businessman from Dnipro (Ukraine). He announced a roundtable to take place in the European Parliament on June 16, 2020. The event was supposed to be organized by the European People’s Party, and among the participants were well-known European parliamentarians – Viola von Cramon-Taubadel among them. Soon, it became clear that neither the European People’s Party nor the deputies knew anything about this roundtable. Ultimately, the event did not happen at all. As journalists later found out, it was a complete fake.

 

“In general, such events – with the co-organization of deputies – can come about. Having said that, it is quite appalling to steal and illegally use the logo of a party or political group and create a fake event,” stated Viola von Cramon-Taubadel.

 

Even before the roundtable supposedly took place, the MEP denied her participation in it, calling the event “fake news.” Fomenko later accused Cramon-Taubadel of working for the Kremlin and receiving bribes for denying her participation in the event.

 

“This person is not even worth mentioning. As I have said, Ukraine suffers from many significant problems: it is on the verge of an economic crisis; the country cannot properly deal with the pandemic as well. We have to talk about serious topics concerning Ukraine, which are plenty; not about this case of Fomenko, which I’m not going to discuss any further,” said Cramon-Taubadel.

 

Meanwhile, Fomenko’s case has proved once again that the EU needs to review its policy on organizers and distributors of fake news. In the digital age, information is capable of instant dissemination. And in some cases, it can lead to serious political, social or economic destabilization.

 

“I know that many member states are working on a more structured legislation. We are working on a digital database to combat hate speech, fake news and so on. But as far as I know, it is not over yet, and we will discuss it after the summer recess,” the MEP summed up.

 

 



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BBC must provide more information for Gerry Adams defamation case, judge rules


The High Court has ordered the BBC to provide more information to lawyers for former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams for his pending defamation action against the UK broadcaster.

He is suing the BBC claiming it defamed him when it falsely alleged he had sanctioned the killing of former SF official Denis Donaldson who worked for decades as a spy for the British.

His action is being brought in the Dublin High Court over a 2016 BBC Spotlight programme in which the allegation was made. There was also a follow-up article on the BBC website in which the same allegation was made, he says.

The BBC denies defamation and says it can provide certain research materials it used in the making of the programme as part of the pre-trial preparation process but says other categories of court-discovery sought by him are too broad.

Mr Adams claimed the material provided to him so far was too vague and inadequate and he asked the High Court to rule on the matter. He also sought another order compelling the BBC to reply to certain questions put to the BBC by his legal team, a part of the pre-trial process known as a“notice for particulars”.

On Wednesday, Mr Justice Charles Meenan refused the order in relation to replies to particulars. He was satisfied Mr Adams had not established a basis for him to direct the defendant to do so.

However, in relation to material sought by him as part of pre-trial discovery, he directed the BBC to make discovery of seven categories of documents. There had been agreement between the parties in relation to three of those categories.

Documents

The judge said for ease of the parties he was directing the BBC must provide all documents evidencing and/or recording the circulation and extent of publication of both the programme and the article “within the jurisdiction of Ireland. ”

It must provide all documents evidencing and/or recording all editorial decisions bearing on the decision to publish the programme and article as well as documents created up until September 21st, 2016, related to research investigation analysis, inquiries, interviews, meetings and/or communications made for the publications.

It must also furnish all document created up until September 21st, 2016 comprising source material for the programme and, in particular, the claim that the IRA was responsible for the murder of Denis Donaldson and the allegation Mr Adams sanctioned the murder.

It must further provide all documents up until the same date evidencing attempts made to verify the allegations and in relation to efforts made to obtain and convey Mr Adams’ position before the publications were made.

The BBC must also provide all documents evidencing Mr Adams’ alleged involvement with the IRA and his alleged responsibility for IRA atrocities on which the BBC intends to rely.

In his action, Mr Adams says he suffered damage to his reputation as a result of what he says is the false allegation made by an anonymous source in the programme that he sanctioned the killing of Donaldson (55) who worked for Sinn Féin in Stormont but also was a spy for M15 for two decades.

Donaldson was shot dead at his isolated cottage near Glenties, Co Donegal in April 2006.

The anonymous source, referred to as “Martin” in the programme, said he (Martin) was also a paid State agent while a member of the IRA.

The BBC denies it was defamatory and claims the programme/publication was put out in good faith and during the course of discussion on a subject of public and vital interest. It constituted responsible journalism which was the result of careful investigation, it says.



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Man shot dead on London doorstep ‘in case of mistaken identity’



Detectives have called for witnesses to come forward after a man was fatally shot in his own doorway in what is believed to be a case of mistaken identity.

Officers were called to the scene in Haringey, north London, just after 8.20pm on Monday where they found a man had suffered a gunshot wound to the head.

He was later pronounced dead at the scene, the Metropolitan Police have confirmed. A murder investigation has since been launched

Detective Chief Inspector Andy Partridge, said: “This was a cowardly attack on an innocent man who was shot dead on his own doorstep.

“Although at an early stage of the investigation, I strongly suspect that he was not the intended target of this attack; making this case all the more tragic.

It would have still been light when the shooting took place and I’m hoping there are people out there who saw something who we’ve not yet spoken to”.

While officers continue to establish the full circumstances surrounding the case, it is believed the man was fired upon after opening the door to two suspects in dark clothing – their faces obscured by motorcycle helmets.

Following the incident the suspects are believed to have fled the scene on a moped.

Detective Chief Superintendent Treena Fleming, Commander of the Met’s North Area Command Unit, added: “I know that members of the community will naturally be very concerned and shocked.

“Whilst incidents of this nature are rare, that doesn’t detract from the impact this will have had; and I want to reassure local residents that we will continue to work closely with community leaders, key stakeholders and the local authority to update them and provide reassurance.

“It is at times like this that communities need to come together and support each other. In the meantime residents will see an increased number of officers patrolling in the area to offer reassurance”.

Witnesses or those with information that may help should call the incident room on 020 8358 0300 or contact Crimestoppers anonymously via 0800 555 111



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Oregon coronavirus infection becomes third case of unknown origin in U.S.



U.S. lawmakers demanded answers from administration officials Friday about the whistleblower who said workers from the Department of Health and Human Services without proper training or protective gear were sent to receive the first Americans evacuated from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. The workers were deployed to March and Travis military bases in California.

The whistleblower’s complaint alleges the workers had face-to-face contact with returning passengers in an airplane hangar and when they helped distribute keys for room assignments and hand out colored ribbons for identification purposes. The workers did not show symptoms of infection and were not tested for the virus, according to lawyers for the whistleblower, a senior HHS official based in Washington who oversees workers at the Administration for Children and Families, a unit within HHS.

The whistleblower is seeking federal protection, alleging she was unfairly and improperly reassigned after raising concerns about the safety of these workers to HHS officials, including those within Secretary Alex Azar’s office. She was told that if she does not accept her new position by March 5, she would be terminated.

After House Democrats had a closed-door briefing Friday morning, they said they were not satisfied by the answers they received and asked for a follow-up briefing from HHS. They were initially told they could expect such a briefing Friday afternoon, but that second briefing never came through.

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), who represents March Air Reserve Base, told reporters: “The question I asked was, ‘What assurances do we have that proper protocols were followed during the federal quarantine?’ And it was not as responsive as I would have liked.”

Takano said Robert Kadlec, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS, had agreed to meet with him and other California lawmakers to follow up. As of Friday afternoon, that follow-up was not scheduled.

“I think those of us who represent these bases, you know, deserve and merit this extra attention,” Takano said. “But this, the possibility that procedures weren’t followed, proper protocols weren’t followed, and proper training was not in place is really concerning.”

Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, sent a letter to Azar on Friday saying the whistleblower’s complaint showed that “mismanagement on the part of HHS placed these human services staff at risk.”

Wyden has asked Azar to describe in detail why the person was reassigned and details about the department’s protocols for deploying medical and agency personnel to health emergency locations, training and what steps HHS has taken to quarantine, monitor or test the ACF employees after their assignments.

HHS officials have said they take all whistleblower complaints very seriously, are providing the person “all appropriate protections under the Whistleblower Protection Act” and are evaluating the complaint.



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Michael Avenatti guilty on all counts in Nike extortion case


Disgraced lawyer Michael Avenatti, who rose to fame representing porn star Stormy Daniels in lawsuits against President Donald Trump, was found guilty Friday of trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike.

The jury’s decision in U.S. District Court in Manhattan came after a three-week trial for the California lawyer, who faces a statutory maximum of 42 years in prison when he is sentenced in June.

“Today a unanimous jury found Michael Avenatti guilty of misusing his client’s information in an effort to extort tens of millions of dollars from the athletic apparel company Nike,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement. “While the defendant may have tried to hide behind legal terms and a suit and tie, the jury clearly saw the defendant’s scheme for what it was — an old-fashioned shakedown.”

Avenatti glared at the jurors as the verdict was being announced, but didn’t say anything. Afterward, he shook hands with his lawyers and told them, “great job.”

One of his lawyers, Scott Srebnick, declined to comment but said he would appeal the conviction. Later, he released a statement to NBC News.

“Michael Avenatti has been a fighter his entire life. The inhumane conditions of solitary confinement he has endured over the past month would break anyone but he remains strong,” Srebnick said. ” We are all obviously deeply disappointed by the jury’s verdict. We believe there are substantial legal grounds for the appeal that he plans to pursue.”

Avenatti was arrested in March after he and an uncharged conspirator threatened to hold a news conference to ruin Nike’s reputation and crater its stock price unless it agreed to pay him and his client millions of dollars, the court papers said.

The next day, the FBI captured him on a recorded call hurling expletives as he pressured Nike reps to pay up, court papers said.

“I’m not f—ing around with this, and I’m not continuing to play games,” Avenatti told Nike reps, according to court papers. “You guys know enough now to know you’ve got a serious problem. And it’s worth more in exposure to me to just blow the lid on this thing. A few million dollars doesn’t move the needle for me.”

“This is what extortion sounds like,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Podolsky said after repeatedly playing Avenatti’s recorded demands.

Avenatti still faces other legal hurdles, including federal charges in California for defrauding clients and absconding with payments to them that he was able to obtain, including theft from a quadriplegic man. He also faces a separate federal case in New York tied to allegations that he kept $300,000 in money from a book publisher that was supposed to be paid to Stormy Daniels.

He rose to fame almost two years ago when he brought a lawsuit on behalf of Stormy Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, saying her ‘hush agreement’ with President Trump was invalid because he never personally signed it. Daniels has said that she had an extramarital affair with the Trump prior to his candidacy, an affair the president has strenuously denied.

In the Nike case, prosecutors said Avenatti demanded that the sportswear behemoth pay a client of his $1.5 million and compensate him and his co-conspirator $15 million to $25 million to conduct an “internal investigation” for the company.

The lawyer allegedly had debt of over $11 million at the time of his extortion scheme.

He had met with Nike representatives on March 19 claiming to represent a youth basketball coach who had information that Nike employees made illicit payments to the families of high school athletes, and threatening to hold a news conference to expose the company unless it agreed to pay him and his client millions of dollars, according to court papers.

Avenatti had pleaded not guilty. His lawyers said he was simply pursuing an honest negotiation with the company on behalf of a client, Gary Franklin, an amateur basketball coach who wanted Nike to clean up its act.

During closing arguments, one of his attorneys, Howard Srebnick, urged jurors to disregard the California attorney’s four-letter words. “This was exactly what the clients wanted. He acted in good faith,” Srebnick said. “Not guilty.”

“In the words of Nike itself, he went in there to ‘Just Do It,’ for his client,” he added with flourish.

But prosecutors drilled down on Avenatti’s debt, and said he was looking out for his bottom line, not his client. “Michael Avenatti, facing a mountain of debt, saw light at the end of the tunnel,” Podolsky said. “He saw a meal ticket: Gary Franklin.”

Avenatti’s former law firm office manager had testified that money was so tight there that some employees had been forced to leave their offices and work from home.

He owed the IRS $850,438 in unpaid taxes, plus interest and penalties, prosecutors said.

Avenatti has also pleaded not guilty to the accusation that he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars of Daniels’ book proceeds.

Daniels was owed money from a book deal, and Avenatti allegedly used a “fraudulent document purporting to bear his client’s name and signature to convince his client’s literary agent to divert money owed to Avenatti’s client to an account controlled by Avenatti,” according to a statement by federal prosecutors.

Prosecutors, who say he pocketed nearly $300,000 in the scheme, accused him of spending the money lavishly, like to pay off his Ferrari.

“No monies relating to Ms. Daniels were ever misappropriated or mishandled. She received millions of dollars worth of legal services and we spent huge sums in expenses. She directly paid only $100.00 for all that she received. I look forward to a jury hearing the evidence,” Avenatti responded when he was charged in May.

Both the case involving Daniels in New York and the case alleging fraud in Los Angeles federal court are scheduled to go to trial in the spring.

The Associated Press contributed.





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J’accuse! The Case for Pre-modernism, or, the Rural-urban Divide


Emile Zola’s now world-famous letter to the President of the French Republic, dated 13 January 1898, “J’Accuse!” (complete text of the letter in English translation here), set the stage for correcting a grave miscarriage of justice carried out by the French military and the secular French state against an innocent Jewish military officer, Alfred Dreyfus.  The degree of corruption that Zola identified in his letter occurred not in pre-Revolutionary France as a mobilizing force for the (secular) revolution.  Rather, it occurred in late-19th century France, a hundred years after the Revolution, at the height of modernism, secularism, and centralized state authority.

Without the Dreyfus Affair, which Zola brought to light with his letter, Theodore Herzl might not have had his political conversion experience in which he lost faith in the promises of the European secular Enlightenment and decided that Jews must have a national home of their own to defend their interests everywhere.  The Dreyfus Affair was some combination of beginning-point and turning-point for Herzl, as with many Jewish Europeans at the time.

Political corruption, then, for small favors or nodes of power that seem consequential at the time may end with results in world historical shifts that the small (and large) instigators would never anticipate, nor likely desire.  It is unlikely that the anti-Semites who wrongfully imprisoned Alfred Dreyfus on charges of treason would have favored the establishment of a Jewish state.  At the risk of being too cheeky, although not, I think, heretical, the Dreyfus-Zola-Herzl-Israel chain of (at least in retrospect) path-dependent events is some of the best evidence I have ever heard for the existence of God – and that S/He has an awesome sense of humor.

Enter several of my great intellectual heroes, including James Scott, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, Clifford Geertz, Benedict Anderson, Ernest Gellner, Timothy Mitchell, E.P. Thompson, Eric Hobsbawm, and Mircea Eliade.  Putting them together suggests a story for the late-modern era (approx. mid-1700s to present) that looks something like the following:

Modernist bureaucrats and technocrats, acting upon their [almost certainly woefully flawed] understandings of contemporary science decide to raze the center of cities like Paris, or to flatten villages altogether.  They replace said cities, towns, and neighborhoods with quarters built upon grids that will require no local knowledge to navigate.  Local practices – social, political, economic, and otherwise – are violently, non-violently, and through intimidation crushed and banned in efforts to “homogenize” the populations into something that bureaucrats and technocrats can understand as one people or nation.  The state takes over lands that had supported many peoples, who are thus evicted and made homeless.  It takes over agriculture, or, it works in tandem with a few capital holders to institute mono-cropping on said lands, which results in forest death in old growth forests in parts of Europe.

According to Emile Durkheim, God, Grandfather and Grandmother are replaced with the [centralized] State in effort to maintain social solidarity based upon a social unit too small to have any chance of success at ever achieving social solidarity (e.g., the nuclear family).  The state is suddenly fascinated with collecting all manner of intimate minutiae about its citizens and its landscape, including family practices and home addresses for whatever eventualities might arise in terms of the state’s need to know (Enter, the state as voyeur.)

The “thick description” and “local knowledge” necessary to navigate (what Scott calls to “make legible”) pre-modern towns, villages, cities, agricultural works, and social relations (e.g., privacy) is replaced with the great impersonal (centralized and benevolent) State.  In reality, ethnographic variation, social solidarity, and the local knowledge needed to navigate it all are replaced with anomie for many and suicide for some (in increasing numbers at the time).  For others, new enforced land laws eventually result in mass migration to urban centers, and the demotion of agricultural peasants – who freely directed their own personal schedules and largely engaged in self-rule at the local level – to urban factory workers (e.g., prior to approximately the early 20th century, paid slave labor), often with no political franchise.

The replacement of God with secular authority is a significant part of the picture, as seen in important fictional works from the period, such as The Brothers KaramazovThe grounding, stabilizing, and (emphasis on self-) self-disciplining effect of experiencing the Divine for most people is crushed (at least in public expression) and discredited as a sort of heresy against modernism in what has long-since come to be known as modernization theory.

Closer to home, (sub-)urban cultural norms – which many officials and academics alike appear to approach as necessarily hegemonic, or which, at the least, go unquestioned as naturally hegemonic – are contrasted with that great enemy, Country Music, in as much as it appears to (and does) represent a sort of cultural and political opposition to the cultural hegemony of the Center.  In the U.S., by my observation, said self-appointed (cultural) hegemonic Center is dispersed geographically but is represented primarily by people whose families came from the Eastern Seaboard at least as recently as the 1950s and 1960s.

(Sub-)urban politics vis à vis rural peoples today smack of the worst of 19th century technocratic efforts to quash difference.  Difference and diversity exist within ethnic groups, not only across them. I suggest the rural/urban as our great and typically unquestioned divide in significant parts of the West today.  With it come our own religious-secular tensions, or what I am calling premodernism (e.g., an evoking of tradition in religion and social practices) in contrast to and in conflict with both modernization and postmodernization.  The latter two, when it comes to these questions, are very much the same in orientation: secular, top-down, authoritarian, and disappointingly non-self-reflective.





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J’accuse! The Case for Traditional Capitalism


Max Weber brilliantly demonstrated the impact of religion and culture on politics, and even on world-scale institutions, at the beginning of the 20th century in his famous work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. A single religious idea, a theological principle, through a causal chain that Weber eloquently demonstrates, led to the establishment of modern, rationalized capitalism. Modern, rationalized capitalism, for Weber, was a particular form of capitalism to be distinguished from what he calls “traditional capitalism”. Modern, rationalized capitalism was characterized, for Weber, by an emphasis on constant production linked with worldly asceticism. Worldly asceticism, likewise, was made up of various factors, including: frugality, wealth accumulation, and various forms of (especially economic) self-abnegation. The (economic) self-abnegation implied abnegation of one’s family as well, as applied by a “responsible” adult (assumed to be a father in those cultural contexts). And, all of this, from the single religious – theological – notion of “the Calling”, as understood by John Calvin, and as mediated into cultural systems through the interpretations of specific communities in Europe and North America.

How does the causal chain work for Weber? Basically, like this:

The Protestant Ethic Causal Chain (causal schema is original to Patricia Sohn)

 

It short: it is okay, and even religiously positive, to accumulate as much wealth as you can as long as you self-abnegate. Just do not spend it (on yourself, your spouse, or your children) and you will be fine.

I am in no way advocating this position. In fact, I think that it is completely backward, morally, ethically, and – probably, in terms of God’s Grace!

Let me make a case for Traditional Capitalism. According to Weber, traditional capitalism was that capitalism more characteristic of Catholic societies in Europe in which one worked to maintain one’s chosen standard of living, where one was most comfortable. Rather than striving constantly to accumulate surplus wealth – more than one would need or be allowed, in terms of forceful social pressures, to spend – traditional capitalism involved striving for some periods, and spending long periods in quality time with one’s spouse, children, and extended family. It was also, typically, tied with large extended family units such that the striving to maintain the standard of living of one’s family was not a burden carried by only one or two people (in what Durkheim calls the “conjugal” or nuclear family), but, likely by several dozen people or more.

“Traditionalism”, that term maligned and beleaguered by modernization theory, begins to look a lot like “post-materialist values” when laid out in some of its everyday details. If one wanted to increase one’s standard of living in that period, one was free to head on to the Silk Route and be on the road for some years in order to do so. But if the open road was not appealing, having time for weekday lunch with the family, chess and tea in the afternoons does not sound so terrible. In fact, it reminds me of sheshbesh and sahlab on the Red Sea, or anywhere in North Africa. Keeping up with the painting on the walls and window sills can wait for a few years here and there in exchange for such freedom. It is all about priorities and accepting imperfection in some areas in exchange for freedom and quality of life.

Both freedom and quality of life defined are differently by different peoples. For modernists in the U.S., they seem to be defined, most often, in terms of having excess capital to spend.  For much of the world – and I am thinking here of Africa, the Middle East, parts of Asia, parts of the Caribbean and Latin America as well (e.g., much of the world) – both freedom and quality of life may be defined more in terms of Time. That is, the freedom to set one’s own schedule, the freedom to spend quality time with one’s family, the freedom to have time to cook delicious meals, all of these are more substantive freedoms for some people than are the “freedoms” offered by cold, hard cash.

Post-materialist values suggest that we choose “quality of life” over dollars, at least in relation to increasing numbers of issues. Quality of life is precisely one of the prime goals of Traditionalism, and of traditional capitalism, in as much as it was intended to uphold one’s freedoms to decent housing, enough food, and enough time to enjoy both of those and family.  It is worth noting that traditional societies rarely demonstrate the same distorted and, even, at times, pathological social behaviors among families that are epidemic within societies characterized by modern, rationalized capitalism.

We are getting somewhere in choosing post-materialist values over modern, rationalized capitalism. We are coming closer to Traditionalism and to some of the wisdom of parts of the Old World, which tended to maintain a focus on quality over quantity, and which did not posit meaningless (and, at times, cruel) abnegation of the self and the family in service of an existence better defined by Scrooge than by any positive models of this worldly existence as striving for something holding paradise as its prototype.

The greatest difference that I have observed, as a political ethnographer, between Old World Orthodoxy (across religions) and modern New World secularism is that the former continues to strive to make this worldly existence into something modeled on paradise in small ways and large on a daily basis; whereas, the latter has resolved that this world is meant to be hellish, brutish, etc., and moves forward full-force to make that happen in practice on a daily basis.

I offer, instead, Traditionalism, or pre-modernism, which looks an awful lot like post-materialist values, as a viable way for religious and non-religious people alike to strive for the former rather than the latter.





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Scandinavian woman ‘forced to withdraw rape claim’ in case similar to British teen’s Cyprus ordeal


The British woman is led into a courthouse in Paralimni, Cyprus - AFP
The British woman is led into a courthouse in Paralimni, Cyprus – AFP

A Scandinavian woman says she was forced by Cypriot police to withdraw a rape claim or face arrest, in a striking parallel to the case of a British teenager who was allegedly gang raped on the Mediterranean island.

The Scandinavian woman said police officers questioned her aggressively for several hours after she was raped by two men outside a nightclub.

The officers accused her of lying and said that if she did not withdraw the rape claim they would arrest her and send her to prison.

Her account bears striking similarities to the alleged treatment of a British teenager who was convicted last week of lying about being gang-raped by Israeli tourists in the resort town of Ayia Napa.

She made the initial complaint in July but 10 days later, after being questioned without a lawyer for eight hours in a police station, signed a retraction statement.

<span>The alleged gang rape of the British teenager happened in the resort of Ayia Napa</span> <span>Credit: AFP </span>
The alleged gang rape of the British teenager happened in the resort of Ayia Napa Credit: AFP

She faces sentencing on Tuesday  and could be jailed for up to a year and fined 1,700 euro (£1,500) at Famagusta District Court in Paralimni.

The 19-year-old British woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told the trial that officers threatened to arrest her and her friends unless she retracted the claims of being gang raped by a group of young Israeli men.

After reading about the Ayia Napa case, the Scandinavian woman decided to come forward with her account of similar treatment at the hands of the Cypriot police 20 years ago.

It is the first time she has spoken publicly of the assault and has previously only discussed it with her doctor and her husband.

Now aged 43, she was 21 when she met the men in a nightclub in Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, in January 1998.

They offered to give her a lift to her hotel. Instead, they raped her in a car park. “I fought for my life and thought I was going to die,” she told The Telegraph.

She went to the nearest police station to report the rape and was taken to a hospital for an examination.

She was then taken to a police station for questioning. “The main investigator was extremely brutal and aggressive. I was in big shock so I had some difficulties remembering details.

“This made him very angry. He then started accusing me of making the whole story up to receive money from my insurance company.”

The same allegation was made by in court by Cypriot police against the British woman.

Both alleged victims said they were mystified by the accusation because they did not think that holiday insurance covered rape and had no intention of claiming any financial compensation.

“I was very afraid and felt trapped in the room with them. They treated me as a big criminal. They kept me in the police station for many hours. They told me that if I didn’t withdraw the rape allegation they would arrest me and send me to prison. So I did and they let me go,” said the Scandinavian woman, who asked to remain anonymous.

She said she was still deeply affected by the ordeal and had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder – just like the British teenager who is on trial. “The treatment I received from police was terrible,” she said.

<span>Michael Polak, a British lawyer representing the teenager in the trial</span> <span>Credit: AFP </span>
Michael Polak, a British lawyer representing the teenager in the trial Credit: AFP

Michael Polak, a British lawyer representing the British woman, told The Telegraph: “This case bears remarkable similarities to the teenager’s case. It raises serious questions about the investigation of rape in Cyprus and the treatment of rape complainants there.”

In a report in 1998, a Norwegian newspaper claimed that police on the island routinely dismissed rape claims, treating the victims as liars.

The report quoted a Norwegian tour operator who said that “police never take rape claims seriously. All such claims are treated as false.”

“Police have a theory that tourists make such allegations so they can claim expenses for their holiday,” the report said.

A senior Cyprus police officer was quoted as saying: “Why rape when it’s so easy to find somebody to have sex with?”



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