The Alabama America is seeing is not my Alabama

first_imgThere my great-grandfathers, Marcus and Abraham, sat side by side, stitching costumes for Mobile’s fabulous Mardi Gras.My family had fled pogroms, Cossacks and ghettos.They crossed the Atlantic in steerage with no more than a battered Torah, a samovar and passports marked Vilnius and Tbilisi.To Alabama they came and there they found the thing they hungered for most: acceptance.Over a generation, their Yiddish would yield to deep Southern drawls, their kosher palates to gumbo, their circle of friends widening well beyond their own faith.On Jan. 15, 1894, before a Mobile court, my great-grandfather Abraham renounced his allegiance to the sultan of Turkey and became a U.S. citizen, but also, and always, a proud Alabaman — a tale as improbable as it is distinctly American.So it pains me to read how today’s Americans view Alabama, where much of my extended family still lives, as home to the sanctimonious Senate candidate Roy Moore, accused of trolling for children, and as a backwater state rife with bigotry, hypocrisy and xenophobia. Categories: Editorial, OpinionIn my family, Alabama was always spoken of as a magical place reflecting much of what is best about America.That may be hard to swallow for some.But for the Gups, Mobile was a haven.Hence, my father’s taste for grits; my courtly bachelor uncles, Nat and Gabe, lived there.In the city archives, a black-and-white photo of 56 Dauphin St. captures a sign reading “Gup The Tailor.” In this moment of national doubt and angst, we need to look down our noses at someplace else, to express the disdain of those who themselves have become unmoored, complacent or resigned.Alabama is the perfect foil in the Trump era, a reference point on the Southern horizon — a safe distance from Los Angeles and New York — that offers us the sense that we are somehow different, better and above.My adopted home, smug Boston, like so many other places quick to judge, can block out its own dire record on race and religious intolerance as it spurns its Southern cousins (mine, literally).But it is self-delusion, the kind that compromises the conscience and allows for the rest of us to descend deeper into the abyss.In each of us, there is a bit of Alabama, the shameful and the noble, warring for dominance.Ted Gup is a Boston-based author and professor of journalism at Emerson College.More from The Daily Gazette:EDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motoristsEDITORIAL: Find a way to get family members into nursing homesEDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the censusEDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidationFoss: Should main downtown branch of the Schenectady County Public Library reopen? I think of the Alabama to which I was reverently introduced in my youth — an Eden with live oaks draped with Spanish moss, wide porches and open hearts, romanticized to be sure.Mobile took my family in when no one else would. I feel indebted.In the minds of many, particularly in the North and Northeast, Alabama has become the poster child of the narrow-minded, the self-righteous, the extreme.It is the butt of jokes.(What is “Alabama” backward? Alabama is backward.)The cesspool of modern politics would seem to find its drain in Alabama, where even God is seen to lend his blessing to corruption.But if Alabama makes us uncomfortable, it is perhaps because our own foibles are writ a little larger there, magnified that we may see ourselves for who we are and what we are becoming.center_img But the Alabama my family knew and knows is only partially reflected in the headlines.It is not the caricature of the ignorant Southerner, not the Bible-thumping congregation that prefers a potential child molester to missing out on a tax cut.My relatives in Alabama could not be more pained by the thought of Moore’s ascent to the U.S. Senate.But their anguish should be familiar to many well beyond the state who wince at Donald Trump as president, commander in chief and the face of the United States.Alabama is no more monolithic than the rest of the country, and no less divided.The war for the soul of America goes on there as it goes on in states and homes across this land.The truth is that if Alabama did not exist, we might have to invent it. Alabama hosts rank partisanship and evangelical fervor (both religious and political) that contravenes the Christian spirit.It has demagoguery and scapegoating, the demonizing of fellow citizens, zealotry, suspicion and tribalism — but in none of this is it alone.In Alabama it just seems to play out on a wider screen. It is the mirror we shun — not just a state but a state of mind.We hold it at arm’s length because we cannot face the truth about ourselves.Walking among my family’s graves in Mobile, I know that even in death it was “White Only,” and that a foreign-born Jew had access to this soil when a native-born black man did not.The legacy of Gov. George Wallace, the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, the water cannons and police dogs now find full expression in the face of Moore, who champions the Ten Commandments but sees them as a license to lie, hate and bring out the least Christian of impulses in his constituents.He is a master of mixing virtue and vice till neither is distinguishable from the other.last_img read more

Letters to the Editor for Friday, Jan. 17

first_imgCategories: Letters to the Editor, OpinionTrump rescued us from sleazy politicsIf you are going to scrutinize, examine, critique, criticize, fault and dissect every single policy, choice, decision, word, expression and tweet that our duly elected president makes, then you better start doing the same for the foolish, lying, cheating, anti-American, self-serving criminals in Washington who sit on the left side of the aisle with their counterpart conspirators and corrupt media.This country has not seen a president like this in 50 years who puts us, ‘We the American People’ on a pedestal and actively and earnestly works to fix everything broken by Washington.You might ask; Why have prior presidents not done the same? Simple — Trump doesn’t fear the corrupt, conniving, life-long politicians who comprise the Washington machine that rigged a system for their personal benefit of profit and power while ‘We the American People’ pay for it with our hard-earned dollars and freedoms.Trump pulled back the curtain; the Washington criminals and contrived policies have been exposed. If you don’t recognize that America is being destroyed from within by sleazy Washington democRATS, then I’m sorry to tell you that you’re deaf, blind and, I’ll let you figure it out.Don DeMarcoSchenectadyElected officials not earning their payI have heard and read how all the elected officials in state and local government seats have been saying that the minimum wage workers are to get a 70- or 80-cent raise, from $11.10 to $11.80 an hour. Oh, how generous of them and how proud they are of themselves. Simply pathetic. They just gave the legislators a 35% raise, averaging $9,000 raises.Oh, then we pay for their medical and dental; some even get automobiles. Most still have jobs beside politics as lawyers, state or city workers. We, the money tree, must act together and give no more raises, no more perks, no more tax breaks or write-offs.You run for office to help your community. We give you plenty to cover your expenses. It’s not a full-time job and should not be.Meanwhile we were to get a 10%-plus tax break on city taxes for paying for the casino. We are still waiting. It’s time to demand that if the government would like a raise, then we the people of this state demand to set the pay scale for all politicians. We are not getting our money’s worth — no roads, no bridges, tolls are going up, medical costs are out of control, etc. They give you 80 cents and take $8,000 for themselves. You need to demand this change. It’s on you.David KeenanSchenectadyCan’t condemn ad but accept TrumpI have read that a group of conservative mothers have complained about Burger King’s advertisements using the word, “damn.” If these conservative women are supporters of Trump, I would ask them how they feel about Trump’s public use of language to describe how he would grab women, or how he talks about people who do not support him.Without a doubt, he is the most profane man ever elected to national office. If they complain about Burger King and are OK with Trump, the word “hypocrisy” strikes me as an appropriate description.If someone is a conservative Trump supporter, that is certainly their right; if someone objects to the use of “damn” in advertising, that is their right as well. However, you cannot have both conditions without being less than consistent in your beliefs; hence — hypocrisy.Rudy NydeggerBallston SpaMore from The Daily Gazette:EDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motoristsFoss: Should main downtown branch of the Schenectady County Public Library reopen?EDITORIAL: Find a way to get family members into nursing homesGov. Andrew Cuomo’s press conference for Sunday, Oct. 18EDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the censuslast_img read more

Niche market

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Propex to launch improved online investment service

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Bluewater helps Lend Lease to profits

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Pope postpones official audiences but working from residence: Vatican

first_img“But he thought it was best to postpone today’s official audiences. The meetings scheduled to take place in Santa Marta will take place regularly,” Bruni said, referring to the guest house where he lives.Bruni said the pope was “slightly unwell”.Pope Francis takes part in the penitential procession on Ash Wednesday in Rome, Italy, February 26, 2020. (REUTERS/Remo Casilli)The pope was to have received executives from Microsoft, IBM and other technology companies and make a speech to them in the Vatican that was to have been streamed to a conference in Rome on the need for ethics in Artificial Intelligence.The Vatican said on Thursday that the pope was suffering from a “slight indisposition.” On Thursday he cancelled a visit to a Rome basilica, where he was due to preside at a Lenten service with Rome priests.Topics : Pope Francis, who the Vatican says is still “slightly unwell,” has postponed all official audiences for Friday but is working from home.The Vatican did not specify what the pope was suffering from. At his general audience on Wednesday he appeared to have a cold and spoke with a slightly hoarse voice, and he coughed during an afternoon Ash Wednesday service in a Rome church.Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said the 83-year-old pope had said early morning Mass as customary in the chapel of the guest house and greeted those who attended.last_img read more

Health Ministry has doctors, nurses observed after death of Singaporean in Batam

first_imgAccording to Tjeptjep, AA died when he was still a suspected coronavirus patient. His test results were negative, but Tjeptjep said there was a possibility of flawed results from the test. Therefore, rigid measures were still being taken to observe the people who were in contact with AA.“There might be errors. We’re only human. If one of these 33 people tests positive, the others will be quarantined,” Tjeptjep said.AA was buried in Batam in a closed funeral on Wednesday evening, four days after his death.According to the police, the funeral took place at Sambau Cemetery in Nongsa, Batam, Riau Islands.Batam City Health Agency head Didi Kusmajadi told The Jakarta Post on Friday that AA was buried in Batam four days after his death due to administrative problems.Read also: Batam quarantines 15 people who had close contact with Singaporean COVID-19 patientsDidi denied allegations that AA’s funeral took place in Batam because Singapore refused his remains.“Singapore should not refuse their citizens, but due to a family decision, he was then buried here,” Didi said.“There were efforts from the consul to facilitate the transfer of the remains to Singapore, but he was then buried in Batam,” Didi said.He also said that AA’s funeral was held in accordance with official rules and procedures.The head of Commission II of Batam City Council, Hendra Asman, said that he had recommended that the Batam administration temporarily close ferry links between Batam and Singapore until the outbreak ended.“We will discuss the possibility of temporarily halting the ferry trips to and from Batam and Singapore as a manifestation of our seriousness in responding to the outbreak,” said Hendra. (gis)Topics : The Health Ministry has ordered the Riau Islands Health Agency to observe those who were in contact with a person referred to as AA, a 61-year-old Singaporean who died in Batam after showing symptoms similar to those of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Thirty-three people are under observation, including doctors and nurses who had treated the patient.AA died in an isolation room in Batam Indonesia Free Zone Authority Hospital (RS BP) on Feb. 22. The patient died after having been treated in the isolation room for two days. Riau Islands Health Agency head Tjeptjep Yudiana told The Jakarta Post on Monday that he had received instructions from the Health Ministry. “The 33 people [who were in contact with AA] have been observed and have undergone specimen tests, including the doctors, nurses, room service staff and drivers who helped him,” Tjeptjep said.Read also: BREAKING: Three people in Singapore latest to test positive for COVID-19 after visiting IndonesiaAA’s wife and two daughters, who are Singaporean nationals, are also under observation, Tjeptjep added.“His wife and daughters are not quarantined but are still being monitored,” he said.last_img read more

Pope goes livestream to fight viral epidemic

first_imgIt recorded its first COVID-19 infection on Thursday and was awaiting the results of a test on another person who appeared at a Vatican-organized event last month.That conference was also attended by Microsoft President Brad Smith and European Parliament President David Sassoli.The Vatican said all those present were being notified about the test as a precaution. Pope Francis decided to deliver Sunday’s prayer by livestream and Italy called in retired doctors as the new coronavirus epidemic gathered strength and emptied streets in Europe’s worst affected country.The 83-year-old pontiff broke with centuries of tradition by enlisting the help of technology to keep crowds from descending on Saint Peter’s Square for the traditional Angelus Prayer.”The prayer will be broadcast via livestream by Vatican News and on screens in Saint Peter’s Square,” the Vatican said in a statement. Topics : It had originally promised to review the Argentine-born pope’s schedule “to avoid the dissemination” of the new COVID-19 disease.The Vatican appears to believe that the pope’s absence from his traditional spot at the window will keep the crowds on the vast square down and the threat of contagion low.The pope himself has been out of action for more than a week with a cold.The Vatican is in the process of unrolling unprecedented health precautions designed to keep the city state’s 450 mostly elderly residents safe.center_img ‘Focus on containment’ The sharp drop in visitor numbers is wreaking havoc with the Italian tourism industry and contributing to fears that the anaemic economy is about to tip back into recession.But the government’s most immediate concern is the threat of infections that had been largely contained to pockets of the richer north spreading to the poorer and the south where medical services are weaker.The World Health Organization urged the Italian government on Friday to keep “a strong focus on containment measures”.The government said its medical recruitment drive should increase the number of intensive care beds from 5,000 to 7,500 in the coming days.The number of Italians receiving intensive care treatment for COVID-19 reached 462 on Friday.The total number of coronavirus infections grew to 4,636.Italy’s mortality rate now stands at a relatively high 4.25 percent and may be explained by its older population, which is more susceptible to the virus.The death rate is 0.68 percent in South Korea and 3.81 percent in China.”We should not forget that Italy has an older population than China — 44.3 years compared to an average of 37.4 years,” Italian National Institute of Health head Silvio Brusaferro said. Coalition leader gets virus The Italian government finds itself at the forefront of the global fight against an epidemic that has convulsed the markets and paralyzed global supply chains since first emerging in China late last year.Ministers decided at an all-night emergency meeting to call in retired doctors as part of an effort to bolster the strained healthcare system with 20,000 additional staff.Italy’s death toll ballooned by a single-day record of 49 on Friday and now stands at 197 — the most outside China itself.The head of the Italian ruling coalition’s junior partner became the latest high-profile figure to confirm coming down with the new disease.”I am fine,” the Democratic Party’s Nicola Zingaretti said on Facebook. “I will have to stay home for the next few days.”The accelerating spread of the illness emptied Italian train stations and turned usually thronged parts of Rome into a ghost town.Many of the city’s outdoor restaurants and cafes were either closed on Friday night or had free tables overseen by forlorn staff with little to do but chat.The expansive street that runs from Rome’s Colosseum along the Forum was deserted and the magnificent ruins stood in their natural splendor — and without being swarmed by tourists — on a sunny Saturday afternoon.last_img read more

India coronavirus infections surge past 100,000, deaths top 3,000

first_imgTopics : Coronavirus cases in India reached 100,000 on Tuesday, matching its number of intensive care beds, and the rate of increase of new infections showed little sign of slowing.India reported 4,970 new cases over the previous 24 hours, taking its total to 101,139. Deaths rose by 134 to 3,163.India’s number of cases has easily outstripped that of China, where the virus emerged late last year and which has been one of Asia’s infection hot spots. Dhruva Chaudhry, president of the Indian Society of Critical Care Medicine, told Reuters last month that India probably had only about 100,000 intensive care unit (ICU) beds and 40,000 ventilators.Chaudhry warned there was not sufficient infrastructure or staff in the country of 1.35 billion people to handle a sharp spike in the number of critical patients.While not every coronavirus patient needs an ICU bed, health experts worry about surging cases in India, particularly as many believe the official tally falls short of the reality.India has not provided a detailed breakdown on the condition of people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, although authorities have reported that about 37,000 people have recovered.India’s death rate is less than that of some other big countries, at 3%, compared with about 6% for the United States, where some 89,000 people have died, and 14% for Britain. center_img China has reported nearly 83,000 cases but has kept its daily rise in new infections to single digits for the past week.In contrast, new cases in India have risen by an average of more than 4,000 a day over the past week, according to a Reuters tally based on official data, despite a severe weeks-long lockdown.India officially extended the lockdown on Sunday to May 31, although several states indicated they would allow businesses to reopen.Health experts and officials are worried about the strain the epidemic is placing on India’s over-stretched and under-funded hospital system.last_img read more

How Moderna executives are cashing in on COVID-19 vaccine stock speculation

first_imgBiotech firm Moderna Inc could reap tens of billions of dollars in sales and stock appreciation if it wins the race for a COVID-19 vaccine. If it loses, the early-stage company’s value could crash.In the meantime, the firm’s chief executive is pocketing millions of dollars every month by selling shares that have tripled in price on news of Moderna’s development progress, a Reuters analysis of corporate filings shows. The sales – by CEO Stéphane Bancel, his childrens’ trust and companies he owns – amount to about US$21 million between Jan. 1 and June 26, including $6 million in May.The company’s chief medical officer, Tal Zaks, has cashed out the majority of his available stock and options, netting over $35 million since January, the filings show. “This may be their one shot at making a boatload of money if the vaccine doesn’t work out,” Fried said. Executives have wide discretion in releasing information, he said, and Moderna’s chiefs have a powerful motivation to “keep the stock price up.”Reuters found no evidence that Bancel, Zaks or Moderna has exaggerated the company’s vaccine progress.Many news outlets have reported sales by Moderna executives in the wake of positive news on its vaccine efforts. Reuters is the first to report that Bancel and affiliated entities are selling 90,000 shares every month and that Zaks moved to sharply increase his sales in March, three days before Moderna released market-moving news.A Moderna spokesman said that Bancel is liquidating only a small portion of his holdings and that “substantially all of his family’s assets remain invested in Moderna.” This stakeholding reflected Bancel’s “long-term commitment” to the firm, the spokesman said.Bancel, his companies and his children’s trust own more than 24 million Moderna shares, making him the second largest stockholder, owning about 8 percent of the firm, down slightly from the beginning of the year.Zaks did not respond to requests for comment, and Moderna did not comment on his share sales.The high frequency, volume and profits of Bancel’s transactions – at about 90,000 shares monthly – are unique among the CEOs of 26 companies identified by Reuters as developing COVID-19 vaccines or treatments and that regularly publish information on executive trades of company shares.Twenty-one of the firms have seen their stock rise since the end of January, just before coronavirus spread globally, and ten of those, including Moderna, have seen share prices at least double. But just four of the CEOs of those firms, including Bancel, have sold company stock.Only one – Chad Robins of Adaptive Biotech – made substantial, regular sales under a 10b5-1 plan, like Moderna’s Bancel. Adaptive Biotech, however, has seen a far smaller recent stock-price increase – about 50 percent – than Moderna. During May and June, Robins sold about $12 million in stock after Adaptive’s stock price rose on news that it is researching antibody therapies and a coronavirus test that delivers faster results.Adaptive Biotech declined to comment and referred to a company filing that said Robins sold the stock to diversify his investments.Most of Bancel’s sales have been carried out through plans in place since December 2018, the filings show. The transactions started in November 2019, when a trust belonging to his children began selling 11,046 shares each week. This January, Bancel and two companies he controls started selling stock regularly. Since then, they have collectively sold about 90,000 Moderna shares each month.High risks, rewardsSuch scheduled sales are more common at early-stage biotech companies such as Moderna – which face intense risk-reward scenarios – than at more established and diversified drug firms, where executives frequently hold their equity until they leave the company.Executives’ ongoing sales are an effective hedge against the bigger downside risk faced by companies like Moderna. Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the firm has more than 20 therapies and vaccines in development – but none near approval.Investors view the firm as a frontrunner in creating a COVID-19 vaccine, but it faces 17 serious competitors with candidates in clinical evaluations and 129 others in earlier development stages, according to the World Health Organization. Only a very small number of companies are expected to get vaccines to market, biotech executives and health experts say.If Moderna successfully launches its coronavirus vaccine and a dozen other of its most promising trial medicines, its stock price could rise to $279 based on the new revenues, according to Morgan Stanley analysts. That would yield Bancel a fortune of about $10 billion including currently unvested share options, the Reuters analysis shows.The firm’s stock has soared from $18 in late February – just before it announced it had shipped its vaccine candidate to the US government for trials – to close at $56.57 on July 2, down 5 percent, after a report that the start of its large vaccine trial would be delayed. That gives the company a market capitalization of nearly $23 billion. The stock hit a high of $80 in May.But Morgan Stanley also has a “bear case,” in which the company would be worth only as much as the cash on its balance sheet if all of its vaccine and drug candidates don’t make it to market.‘Science by press release’Bancel and Zaks have been bullish on Moderna’s prospects in public statements.Bancel calls the mRNA technology the company uses for all vaccine development the “software of life,” with potential to create “a new class of medicines.” He has also said Moderna’s process can create vaccines much faster and with a better chance of “technical success” – and, by implication, regulatory approval – than other firms.“We are not aware of anybody else who can do this at this scale, with this focus, at this speed,” he told investors on June 2. Earlier, in a May 7 earnings call, Bancel said he had “never been as excited and optimistic about the future of Moderna.”Many investors and analysts are optimistic as well but say it is difficult to evaluate Moderna’s prospects given the early stages of trials.The company drew criticism from scientists for releasing incomplete data from a trial being conducted by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).On May 18, Moderna announced that its vaccine candidate had produced protective antibodies in a small subset of healthy trial volunteers. The news pushed Moderna stock up 20 percent to its peak of $80.Some scientists suggested Moderna should have held off publishing until it had all test subjects’ results.“This was science by press release,” said Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Without complete data, he said, “you’re left to read the tea leaves.”Dr. Anthony Fauci – the nation’s top infectious disease expert – shared the test results with US governors, Vice President Mike Pence said in a Twitter post the day of Moderna’s announcement. But Fauci – who is running the Moderna trial – later said he didn’t like the company’s early release of incomplete data, according to an interview published by the STAT health news service.A spokeswoman for Fauci’s agency, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, did not comment beyond what Fauci said in the interview.Bancel told investors at a June conference that Moderna’s leadership worried the information had been seen by too many people, including at the NIH. He said the company made the partial findings public because it worried the data would get leaked – and it considered the incomplete results material information that all investors should receive at the same time.A company spokesman told Reuters the company believed it needed to release the information to comply with Securities and Exchange Commission rules.The day after the May 18 announcement, Zaks sold 125,000 shares – netting him nearly $10 million – at a price of $78, up from $66 on the Friday before the Monday press release. Company filings show the sale was executed in accordance with the plan that Zaks put in place on March 13.Topics : The lucrative liquidations highlight the unusually powerful incentives for biotech executives to highlight development milestones for drugs that often never get approved or sold, according to interviews with seven executive-compensation experts. Optimistic corporate statements on coronavirus vaccines, they said, could cause investors to overpay for company shares or create false hope among the public and health officials seeking new weapons to fight the pandemic.Bancel set a fixed schedule for his share sales – known as a 10b5-1 plan – long before the pandemic hit. Such executive share-sale plans are meant to guard against insider trading, avoiding the potential for executives to sell in advance of bad news they know is coming, or to put off selling until after a positive announcement.Zaks sharply increased the pace of his sales with a new plan he put in place on March 13. That was three days before Moderna announced it had dosed the first human with a vaccine candidate, news that sent its stock price up 24 percent and signaled that future development milestones might push the shares higher.The sales give the firm’s executives an unusual opportunity to lock in big profits on what could be fleeting market optimism, said Jesse Fried, a Harvard Law School professor who wrote a book about executive compensation.last_img read more