Archive For The “News” Category

Opinion: Report On Racism, But Ditch The Labels

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Opinion: Report On Racism, But Ditch The Labels

U.S. President Donald Trump listens during a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, July 16, 2019.

Oliver Contreras/Getty Images


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Oliver Contreras/Getty Images

Editor’s note: NPR this week has described the language in President Trump’s tweets about a group of Democratic congresswomen as “racist.”

Keith Woods, NPR’s vice president for newsroom training and diversity, argues that journalists should not be using the term “racist” to describe the president’s tweets. He explains why below.


Once again, the president of the United States has used the sniper tower of Twitter to take aim at immigration, race relations and common decency. And once again, journalists are daring their profession to boldly call bigotry what it is: bigotry. Enough of the vacuous “racially charged,” “racially loaded,” “racially insensitive” evasions, they say. It’s racist, and we should just call it that.

I understand the moral outrage behind wanting to slap this particular label on this particular president and his many incendiary utterances, but I disagree. Journalism may not have come honorably to the conclusion that dispassionate distance is a virtue. But that’s the fragile line that separates the profession from the rancid, institution-debasing cesspool that is today’s politics.

It is precisely because journalism is given to warm-spit phrases like “racially insensitive” and “racially charged” that we should not be in the business of moral labeling in the first place. Who decides where the line is that the president crossed? The headline writer working today who thinks it’s “insensitive” or the one tomorrow who thinks it’s “racist?” Were we to use my moral standards, the line for calling people and words racist in this country would have been crossed decades ago. But that’s not what journalists do. We report and interview and attribute.

I am not a journalism purist. I came into the profession 40 years ago to tear down the spurious notion of objectivity used to protects a legacy of sexism, xenophobia and white supremacy. The better ideals of truth telling, accountability, fairness, etc., are what give journalism its power, while the notion of “objectivity” has been used to obscure and excuse the insidious biases we do battle with today.

I’ve been an informed consumer of the media since my days as a paperboy. I read the Times-Picayune as I delivered it, and the distorted view it offered of black and poor New Orleans told me all I needed to know about “objectivity.” We have come miles since then as a profession. But why should I trust that we’re all on the same page with our labels now? Weren’t last week’s tweets racist? Or last year’s? Weren’t some misogynistic? Vulgar? Homophobic? Sexist? The language of my judgment is generous, and they are my opinion, and they belong in the space reserved for opinions.

What’s at stake is journalism’s embattled claim to be the source of credible news grounded in the kind of deep, fair reporting that exposes injustice and holds powerful people to account. It may be satisfying to call the president’s words, or the president himself, racist, given the attacks tweeted from his bully app and so often aimed at our profession. But at what cost?

It’s already nearly impossible to separate actual journalism from the argumentative noise on the cable networks that dominate so much of public perception. There are already too many journalists dancing day and night on the line that once separated fact and judgment. When that line is finally obliterated and we sink into the cesspool beckoning us to its depths, this historically flawed, imperfect tool for revealing and routing racism will look and sound indistinguishable from the noise and become just as irrelevant.

On Sunday, the president wrote this:

“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

His words mirror those of avowed racists and xenophobes that date back to the birth of this country. Was that moral judgement, my last sentence? I would argue no. I’d call it context, and it doesn’t require my opinion, just a basic understanding of history. That’s an alternative to labels: Report. Quote people. Cite sources. Add context. Leave the moral labeling to the people affected; to the opinion writers, the editorial writers, the preachers and philosophers and to the public we serve.

We just have to do journalism.


For more on this, check out our latest podcast episode, where Keith Woods and NPR’s Standards and Practices editor discuss why they disagree on what language to use.

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Diver Swims Alongside A Jellyfish That’s As Big As A Human

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Diver Swims Alongside A Jellyfish That’s As Big As A Human

Woah!!!!! We went diving in Falmouth yesterday to finish off #WildOceanWeek and came across this GIANT barrel jellyfish! 😱 What a way to finish off this marine wildlife adventure! πŸ’™ pic.twitter.com/NNwDelfWyV

β€” Lizzie Daly (@LizzieRDaly) July 14, 2019

A diver looking for interesting undersea video footage recently got more than she bargained for off the coast of Cornwall, England, when she happened upon a giant barrel jellyfish that was bigger than she is.

“I’ve never seen a barrel fish β€” or any jellyfish β€” that big,” diver and biologist Lizzie Daly said in a video about the dive. Clearly elated, she added, “It was the size of my body, and it was the best thing I’ve ever done.”

In video footage of the encounter, the jellyfish looms large, pulsing along, its large frilly tentacles trailing behind it as Daly swims alongside.

Sharing a swim with the gargantuan jellyfish was “absolutely incredible,” Daly said.

The giant barrel is the largest jellyfish found in U.K. waters. The Wildlife Trusts says this species of jelly, Rhizostoma pulmo, has a bell up to 3 feet wide and can weigh nearly 80 pounds. The leviathan Daly saw was clearly larger.

While she swam near it, the animal trundled along, pulsing through the water. Daly tells The Guardian that she wasn’t worried about its tentacles: “It has got a very mild sting and poses no threat to humans – some people don’t even feel it.”

Surely, though, they would see it.

The jellyfish made such an impression on Daly, a conservation advocate and wildlife host who works with the BBC and other outlets, that on Tuesday she wrote a thank-you note to her new rhizostomatid friend.

“Dear Giant Jellyfish,” Day wrote. “Do you know how many people you have inspired in the last few days? People asking..what is it? Is it really that big? That cannot be in UK waters?!!”

Daly’s swim with the jellyfish was captured on video by underwater camera operator Dan Abbott β€” who captioned his photo of Daly being dwarfed by the jellyfish, ” I can’t believe that just happened!”

Daly and Abbott were working on a special called Wild Ocean Week, highlighting the splendor that can be explored underwater, and to encourage people and organizations to do more to preserve the oceans’ beauty.

Saying her goal was to inspire a wider audience, Daly wrote, “Giant jellyfish you have done just that. So THANK YOU!! I feel humbled to have shared the same space as you.”

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The Doctor Who Helped Israeli Spies Catch Eichmann But Refused Recognition For It

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The Doctor Who Helped Israeli Spies Catch Eichmann But Refused Recognition For It

Adolf Eichmann standing in a glass booth, flanked by guards, in the Jerusalem courtroom during his trial in 1961 for war crimes committed during World War II.

AP


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AP

The fake license plates, forged passports and concealed surveillance camera were locked away in the musty archives of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency for 50 years. Now they are touring the U.S. in a traveling exhibition about the Mossad’s legendary capture of Nazi officer Adolf Eichmann.

But one object crucial to the mission’s success is not on display: the needle used to inject a sedative into Eichmann’s arm before he was smuggled onto a plane back to Israel to stand trial.

The story of the needle is also the story of Dr. Yonah Elian, a renowned Israeli anesthesiologist recruited for the Eichmann mission to administer the sedative, who hid the needle in a drawer most of his life and refused to come out of the shadows β€” even as the other Israelis on the mission were crowned national heroes.

The fake identification card prepared for Dr. Yonah Elian to take part in the Mossad operation to apprehend Adolf Eichmann in Argentina. The Mossad team posed as El Al flight crew members.

Courtesy of Operation Finale Exhibit


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Courtesy of Operation Finale Exhibit

“Many times, I asked him, ‘Dad, why won’t you talk about this? What’s so secret?’ ” said Danny Elian, the doctor’s son, who spent years seeking answers.

The doctor’s tale, and the secret he kept, have only come to light in recent years. But Eichmann’s story is well known.

Dubbed an “architect” of the Holocaust, Eichmann oversaw the deportation of Jews to their deaths. He escaped to Argentina after the war. In 1960, Mossad agents tracked him down, captured him, held him in a safe house, then dressed him in an Israeli flight crew uniform and sneaked him past Argentinian airport authorities onto a plane headed back to Israel.

Dr. Elian, known among his colleagues as something of a medical magician for his expertise in safely sedating babies, injected just the right dose of sedative to pass Eichmann off to Buenos Aires airport authorities as a sick crew member.

“That’s why the doctor was with him. He needed to keep him like a puppet,” said former Mossad agent Avner Avraham, who curated the Mossad’s exhibit, “Operation Finale: The Capture & Trial of Adolf Eichmann,” now on display at the Holocaust Museum Houston.

“My father was always impressed with the doctor,” said Amram Aharoni, the son of the late Zvi Aharoni, one of the Mossad spies in the squad. “How could he control Eichmann in a way that on one hand, he wasn’t really conscious, he was like a little zombie, but on the other hand, he was still awake and still responding to certain orders?”

Eichmann was brought to Jerusalem for a trial that was broadcast around the world, with more than 100 Holocaust survivors taking the witness stand. He was sentenced to death by hanging in December 1961. At age 56, Eichmann was hanged in June 1962.

The story created the legend of the Mossad, a daring spy agency from a tiny, young country determined to settle accounts with its enemies. Though the Mossad has come under criticism in recent years for its secret assassinations, its capture of Eichmann continues to be glorified in books and movies. The Mossad agents who captured him wrote autobiographies and appeared on television, and many volunteers who played minor roles in the Mossad’s operation have shared their stories.

But the doctor never wanted to talk about the Eichmann operation. He even refused to go to the Israeli parliament in 2007 to accept an award for his role in the capture.

His son Danny, a 66-year-old cardiologist, found out about his father’s role in the capture from a friend when he was a teenager. For years, Danny pressed his father to explain his silence.

Fake passports used by an Israeli Mossad agent (left) and another one manufactured to fly Adolf Eichmann (right) out of Argentina, are displayed in an exhibition in Jerusalem in 2011, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the verdict against Eichmann. The exhibition displayed items collected by the Mossad during the operation as well as the booth Eichmann sat in during his trial.

Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images


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Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images

Dr. Elian finally offered an explanation: He had acted against the Hippocratic Oath, the pledge that doctors take to do no harm to their patients.

“I told him I understand the argument, but the Hippocratic Oath is so unfitting for the situation. This is Eichmann we’re talking about. A mass murderer, mass killer,” Danny recounted.

Something was strange. In Israel, so much is debated β€” but not Eichmann.

Danny’s twin sister, Miri Halperin Wernli, interpreted her father’s silence differently.

“It’s not that unusual,” she said. “Many people are involved in the Mossad in Israel … there are things that you don’t ask.”

Indeed there was something else, something important that their father did not talk about. It was revealed many years later, when Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman published a newspaper story in 2006 referencing a secret government vault.

“Inside that safe was a file which proved that something that was whispered as a sort of an urban legend throughout the years was in fact 100% right,” said Bergman, author of Rise And Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations.

It was the story of the Mossad’s first major operation. Alexander Israeli, an Israeli army officer accused of trying to sell military secrets to the Egyptian Embassy in Rome, was captured in 1954 by Mossad agents and bundled onto a plane back to Israel to stand trial. Dr. Elian was recruited to sedate him for the flight.

Adolf Eichmann (far left) in an Israeli courtroom, March 9, 1961, where papers were signed automatically extending his detention.

AP


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AP

But the mission went terribly wrong. The doctor’s drugs killed the captive.

It was not only a failure of the mission, but a failure of the Mossad’s mandate. As Bergman put it, quoting then-Mossad chief Isser Harel, who oversaw the operation: “We do not kill Jews.”

The Mossad chief ordered the plane flown back over the Mediterranean Sea, and the Israeli officer’s body was tossed out of the plane. His name was erased from army records, and his wife and son were kept in the dark.

The only civilian in Israel who knew firsthand about the cover-up was Dr. Yonah Elian. A secret government inquiry absolved him of wrongdoing, and he was ordered to keep quiet. The failed operation was one of the “lowest points in the annals of Israeli intelligence,” wrote Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman in Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars. Dr. Elian was one of several hospital doctors the Mossad has recruited over the years to assist in operations, said Melman.

Decades later, Bergman exposed the story in the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot, without naming the doctor. In 2010, Dr. Elian’s identity was exposed in the Israeli press and in The Mossad, a book by Michael Bar-Zohar and Nissim Mishal.

Soon after, Dr. Elian, then about 57, received a phone call. The caller politely introduced himself as Moshe Tsipper, the son of the Israeli officer who disappeared nearly 60 years earlier. He said he wanted to hear about his father’s last moments and asked Dr. Elian if they could meet.

The doctor refused. But he did open up to his own son, Danny, about what happened.

He told Danny the atmospheric conditions on the old Israeli military aircraft affected the way the captive reacted to the sedative, leading to his death. It was not an emotional confession, Danny recalled, but more like two doctors discussing a case.

Still, Danny said, “I know that this thing β€” this story, this incident β€” really sat with my father. I mean it really, really stayed with him.”

In 2011, Dr. Elian stopped taking his habitual long walks, then stopped leaving the house at all. He was growing old, and was perhaps ill and depressed, Danny said.

“If I could inject myself with something, I would,” Danny recalled his father saying.

One day while Danny was visiting his father, Dr. Elian got up from his chair, went to his bedroom and emerged holding a small plastic bag labeled “Eichmann Needle.”

The needle Dr. Yonah Elian used to sedate Adolf Eichmann was displayed at the Museum of the Jewish People in Israel in 2012.

Dan Balilty/AP


hide caption

toggle caption

Dan Balilty/AP

Danny had no idea his father had saved it all those years.

“Keep this,” Elian said, handing it to his son. (His twin sister remembers the story differently and says their father gave the needle to her.)

In April 2011, on the 50th anniversary of the opening of Eichmann’s trial, Mossad curator Avraham debuted his exhibit about the Eichmann capture in the Mossad headquarters. To prepare for the exhibit, he had interviewed the Israeli agents who took part, but was told Dr. Elian did not wish to talk.

Two months later, at age 88, Dr. Elian took his own life. He left no note.

Days later, Dr. Elian’s family received a condolence call from veteran Mossad spymaster Rafi Eitan, who had recruited the doctor for the Eichmann capture. Eitan said he would invite Danny over to tell him more about what his father had done for the Mossad β€” the stories Danny’s father never agreed to tell.

But Eitan never called, and Danny Elian wondered if the spymaster’s offer was sincere. That meeting did not take place until NPR arranged one in February 2018, a year before Eitan died.

Eitan, then 91, and his wife Miriam sat with Danny in their art-filled Tel Aviv living room. It was a polite meeting that turned uncomfortable when they discussed Dr. Elian’s role in the botched operation.

As the spymaster told Danny about his father’s role volunteering for the Mossad, Danny came to understand what he had not previously realized: the timeline. The botched mission, in which Dr. Elian accidentally killed the captive, was the doctor’s very first mission with the Mossad. Eichmann’s capture came six years later.

The realization made Danny understand his father in a different light. Despite the trauma the accidental death caused Dr. Elian, he did not give up his medical practice, and when his country needed him again to capture Eichmann, he got back on a plane. To Danny, this is what made his father a hero.

The accidental death is alluded to in the 2018 Hollywood film Operation Finale, starring Ben Kingsley as Eichmann. Screenwriter Matthew Orton said the doctor’s character in the film represents the voice of morality in the Mossad’s mission to bring Eichmann to Israel to stand trial, rather than kill him on the spot.

“The whole reason [the doctor] is there is to bring him back alive,” Orton said.

Still, Elian’s children struggled with their father’s lifelong silence, and wrestled with what to do with the needle he entrusted in their care.

“It was a significant needle for him,” said his daughter, Halperin Wernli. “I think it meant something to him, without expressing what it was.”

At first, Danny sought recognition for his late father. He had the needle photographed and published in an Israeli newspaper, and approached museums to find a home for it, eventually loaning it to the Mossad’s exhibition mounted in Tel Aviv.

But before the exhibition traveled to the U.S., Danny took it back. He thought it belonged in the family, not in the Mossad’s traveling show. The label his father wrote in shaky English letters on the bag, “Eichmann Needle,” is the only piece of his father’s handwriting he has left.

The needle connects two moments in his father’s life when he served his country. In one, he was supposed to be a hero. In the other, a ghost.

“The needle is just a needle,” Danny said, sitting at his desk at a Tel Aviv medical center. “It does not replace stories, discoveries, confessions that never were.”

Today, Danny keeps the needle in a drawer at home. One day, he said, he’ll give it to his own children, and they’ll have to decide what to do with the legacy.

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The Doctor Who Helped Israeli Spies Catch Eichmann But Refused Recognition For It

By |

The Doctor Who Helped Israeli Spies Catch Eichmann But Refused Recognition For It

Adolf Eichmann standing in a glass booth, flanked by guards, in the Jerusalem courtroom during his trial in 1961 for war crimes committed during World War II.

AP


hide caption

toggle caption

AP

The fake license plates, forged passports and concealed surveillance camera were locked away in the musty archives of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency for 50 years. Now they are touring the U.S. in a traveling exhibition about the Mossad’s legendary capture of Nazi officer Adolf Eichmann.

But one object crucial to the mission’s success is not on display: the needle used to inject a sedative into Eichmann’s arm before he was smuggled onto a plane back to Israel to stand trial.

The story of the needle is also the story of Dr. Yonah Elian, a renowned Israeli anesthesiologist recruited for the Eichmann mission to administer the sedative, who hid the needle in a drawer most of his life and refused to come out of the shadows β€” even as the other Israelis on the mission were crowned national heroes.

The fake identification card prepared for Dr. Yonah Elian to take part in the Mossad operation to apprehend Adolf Eichmann in Argentina. The Mossad team posed as El Al flight crew members.

Courtesy of Operation Finale Exhibit


hide caption

toggle caption

Courtesy of Operation Finale Exhibit

“Many times, I asked him, ‘Dad, why won’t you talk about this? What’s so secret?’ ” said Danny Elian, the doctor’s son, who spent years seeking answers.

The doctor’s tale, and the secret he kept, have only come to light in recent years. But Eichmann’s story is well known.

Dubbed an “architect” of the Holocaust, Eichmann oversaw the deportation of Jews to their deaths. He escaped to Argentina after the war. In 1960, Mossad agents tracked him down, captured him, held him in a safe house, then dressed him in an Israeli flight crew uniform and sneaked him past Argentinian airport authorities onto a plane headed back to Israel.

Dr. Elian, known among his colleagues as something of a medical magician for his expertise in safely sedating babies, injected just the right dose of sedative to pass Eichmann off to Buenos Aires airport authorities as a sick crew member.

“That’s why the doctor was with him. He needed to keep him like a puppet,” said former Mossad agent Avner Avraham, who curated the Mossad’s exhibit, “Operation Finale: The Capture & Trial of Adolf Eichmann,” now on display at the Holocaust Museum Houston.

“My father was always impressed with the doctor,” said Amram Aharoni, the son of the late Zvi Aharoni, one of the Mossad spies in the squad. “How could he control Eichmann in a way that on one hand, he wasn’t really conscious, he was like a little zombie, but on the other hand, he was still awake and still responding to certain orders?”

Eichmann was brought to Jerusalem for a trial that was broadcast around the world, with more than 100 Holocaust survivors taking the witness stand. He was sentenced to death by hanging in December 1961. At age 56, Eichmann was hanged in June 1962.

The story created the legend of the Mossad, a daring spy agency from a tiny, young country determined to settle accounts with its enemies. Though the Mossad has come under criticism in recent years for its secret assassinations, its capture of Eichmann continues to be glorified in books and movies. The Mossad agents who captured him wrote autobiographies and appeared on television, and many volunteers who played minor roles in the Mossad’s operation have shared their stories.

But the doctor never wanted to talk about the Eichmann operation. He even refused to go to the Israeli parliament in 2007 to accept an award for his role in the capture.

His son Danny, a 66-year-old cardiologist, found out about his father’s role in the capture from a friend when he was a teenager. For years, Danny pressed his father to explain his silence.

Fake passports used by an Israeli Mossad agent (left) and another one manufactured to fly Adolf Eichmann (right) out of Argentina, are displayed in an exhibition in Jerusalem in 2011, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the verdict against Eichmann. The exhibition displayed items collected by the Mossad during the operation as well as the booth Eichmann sat in during his trial.

Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images


hide caption

toggle caption

Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images

Dr. Elian finally offered an explanation: He had acted against the Hippocratic Oath, the pledge that doctors take to do no harm to their patients.

“I told him I understand the argument, but the Hippocratic Oath is so unfitting for the situation. This is Eichmann we’re talking about. A mass murderer, mass killer,” Danny recounted.

Something was strange. In Israel, so much is debated β€” but not Eichmann.

Danny’s twin sister, Miri Halperin Wernli, interpreted her father’s silence differently.

“It’s not that unusual,” she said. “Many people are involved in the Mossad in Israel … there are things that you don’t ask.”

Indeed there was something else, something important that their father did not talk about. It was revealed many years later, when Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman published a newspaper story in 2006 referencing a secret government vault.

“Inside that safe was a file which proved that something that was whispered as a sort of an urban legend throughout the years was in fact 100% right,” said Bergman, author of Rise And Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations.

It was the story of the Mossad’s first major operation. Alexander Israeli, an Israeli army officer accused of trying to sell military secrets to the Egyptian Embassy in Rome, was captured in 1954 by Mossad agents and bundled onto a plane back to Israel to stand trial. Dr. Elian was recruited to sedate him for the flight.

Adolf Eichmann (far left) in an Israeli courtroom, March 9, 1961, where papers were signed automatically extending his detention.

AP


hide caption

toggle caption

AP

But the mission went terribly wrong. The doctor’s drugs killed the captive.

It was not only a failure of the mission, but a failure of the Mossad’s mandate. As Bergman put it, quoting then-Mossad chief Isser Harel, who oversaw the operation: “We do not kill Jews.”

The Mossad chief ordered the plane flown back over the Mediterranean Sea, and the Israeli officer’s body was tossed out of the plane. His name was erased from army records, and his wife and son were kept in the dark.

The only civilian in Israel who knew firsthand about the cover-up was Dr. Yonah Elian. A secret government inquiry absolved him of wrongdoing, and he was ordered to keep quiet. The failed operation was one of the “lowest points in the annals of Israeli intelligence,” wrote Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman in Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars. Dr. Elian was one of several hospital doctors the Mossad has recruited over the years to assist in operations, said Melman.

Decades later, Bergman exposed the story in the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot, without naming the doctor. In 2010, Dr. Elian’s identity was exposed in the Israeli press and in The Mossad, a book by Michael Bar-Zohar and Nissim Mishal.

Soon after, Dr. Elian, then about 57, received a phone call. The caller politely introduced himself as Moshe Tsipper, the son of the Israeli officer who disappeared nearly 60 years earlier. He said he wanted to hear about his father’s last moments and asked Dr. Elian if they could meet.

The doctor refused. But he did open up to his own son, Danny, about what happened.

He told Danny the atmospheric conditions on the old Israeli military aircraft affected the way the captive reacted to the sedative, leading to his death. It was not an emotional confession, Danny recalled, but more like two doctors discussing a case.

Still, Danny said, “I know that this thing β€” this story, this incident β€” really sat with my father. I mean it really, really stayed with him.”

In 2011, Dr. Elian stopped taking his habitual long walks, then stopped leaving the house at all. He was growing old, and was perhaps ill and depressed, Danny said.

“If I could inject myself with something, I would,” Danny recalled his father saying.

One day while Danny was visiting his father, Dr. Elian got up from his chair, went to his bedroom and emerged holding a small plastic bag labeled “Eichmann Needle.”

The needle Dr. Yonah Elian used to sedate Adolf Eichmann was displayed at the Museum of the Jewish People in Israel in 2012.

Dan Balilty/AP


hide caption

toggle caption

Dan Balilty/AP

Danny had no idea his father had saved it all those years.

“Keep this,” Elian said, handing it to his son. (His twin sister remembers the story differently and says their father gave the needle to her.)

In April 2011, on the 50th anniversary of the opening of Eichmann’s trial, Mossad curator Avraham debuted his exhibit about the Eichmann capture in the Mossad headquarters. To prepare for the exhibit, he had interviewed the Israeli agents who took part, but was told Dr. Elian did not wish to talk.

Two months later, at age 88, Dr. Elian took his own life. He left no note.

Days later, Dr. Elian’s family received a condolence call from veteran Mossad spymaster Rafi Eitan, who had recruited the doctor for the Eichmann capture. Eitan said he would invite Danny over to tell him more about what his father had done for the Mossad β€” the stories Danny’s father never agreed to tell.

But Eitan never called, and Danny Elian wondered if the spymaster’s offer was sincere. That meeting did not take place until NPR arranged one in February 2018, a year before Eitan died.

Eitan, then 91, and his wife Miriam sat with Danny in their art-filled Tel Aviv living room. It was a polite meeting that turned uncomfortable when they discussed Dr. Elian’s role in the botched operation.

As the spymaster told Danny about his father’s role volunteering for the Mossad, Danny came to understand what he had not previously realized: the timeline. The botched mission, in which Dr. Elian accidentally killed the captive, was the doctor’s very first mission with the Mossad. Eichmann’s capture came six years later.

The realization made Danny understand his father in a different light. Despite the trauma the accidental death caused Dr. Elian, he did not give up his medical practice, and when his country needed him again to capture Eichmann, he got back on a plane. To Danny, this is what made his father a hero.

The accidental death is alluded to in the 2018 Hollywood film Operation Finale, starring Ben Kingsley as Eichmann. Screenwriter Matthew Orton said the doctor’s character in the film represents the voice of morality in the Mossad’s mission to bring Eichmann to Israel to stand trial, rather than kill him on the spot.

“The whole reason [the doctor] is there is to bring him back alive,” Orton said.

Still, Elian’s children struggled with their father’s lifelong silence, and wrestled with what to do with the needle he entrusted in their care.

“It was a significant needle for him,” said his daughter, Halperin Wernli. “I think it meant something to him, without expressing what it was.”

At first, Danny sought recognition for his late father. He had the needle photographed and published in an Israeli newspaper, and approached museums to find a home for it, eventually loaning it to the Mossad’s exhibition mounted in Tel Aviv.

But before the exhibition traveled to the U.S., Danny took it back. He thought it belonged in the family, not in the Mossad’s traveling show. The label his father wrote in shaky English letters on the bag, “Eichmann Needle,” is the only piece of his father’s handwriting he has left.

The needle connects two moments in his father’s life when he served his country. In one, he was supposed to be a hero. In the other, a ghost.

“The needle is just a needle,” Danny said, sitting at his desk at a Tel Aviv medical center. “It does not replace stories, discoveries, confessions that never were.”

Today, Danny keeps the needle in a drawer at home. One day, he said, he’ll give it to his own children, and they’ll have to decide what to do with the legacy.

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Trump Taps Health Care Expert As Acting Top White House Economist

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Trump Taps Health Care Expert As Acting Top White House Economist

President Trump has named Tomas Philipson as acting chair of his Council of Economic Advisers. Philipson, who is already a member of the council, is a University of Chicago professor who specializes in the economics of health care.

He previously served as a top economist at the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Philipson takes over from White House economist Kevin Hassett, whose departure was announced on Twitter last month.

“I want to thank Kevin for all he has done,” Trump tweeted. “He is a true friend!”

“I’m leaving on very good terms with the president,” Hassett said in an interview. He stressed that two years is a typical tenure for CEA leaders, many of whom come to the White House on loan from universities.

“One of the reasons why CEA has stayed an objective resource over all these years is that the chairmen have tended to turn over after a couple of years, which is not really enough time to go native,” Hassett said. “If you stay here too long, then you might end up being too fond of all the political types over in the West Wing and it might be a little bit harder to tell them the difficult truths.”

Hassett, a sunny optimist who co-authored the book Dow 36,000 at the height of the dot-com bubble, hasn’t felt the need to tell many difficult truths. While many forecasters predict a slowdown in the U.S. economy this year, Hassett continues to project economic growth of at least 3%.

Colleagues describe Philipson as a top-notch economist and a creative problem-solver.

“Tom is a very fresh thinker,” said Mark McClellan, a veteran of the George W. Bush administration who recruited Philipson to work for him, first at the FDA and later at CMS. “Tom had a great background in health economics and wanted to do work that was very policy relevant. So it was a win-win.”

Although Philipson grew up in Sweden, where the vast majority of health care costs are covered by the government, he stresses market-oriented reforms and consumer choice.

“Coming from the University of Chicago, it’s probably not surprising that as an economist he would envision a big role for consumers in improving how markets function,” McClellan said. “I would emphasize as well, though, that he has a good understanding of government institutions and the role of regulation.”

At the FDA, McClellan said, Philipson helped institute a system in which drugmakers and medical device manufacturers paid higher fees to facilitate faster approvals. At CMS, he worked on Medicare Advantage β€” a program that allows about a third of Medicare recipients to get their benefits through private insurers.

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Israeli Education Minister Causes Uproar, Endorses Discredited Gay Conversion Therapy

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Israeli Education Minister Causes Uproar, Endorses Discredited Gay Conversion Therapy

An Israeli cabinet minister has backed the discredited practice of conversion therapy, drawing objections from LGBTQ activists and the prime minister.


ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

In Israel, the new education minister has caused an uproar by saying gay conversion therapy works. The practice has been widely discredited. NPR’s Daniel Estrin reports from Jerusalem.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Education Minister Rafi Peretz is an Orthodox rabbi and heads a Jewish religious nationalist party. In an interview this weekend with an Israeli TV channel. He was asked whether a gay person could be converted to being heterosexual.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RAFI PERETZ: (Speaking Hebrew).

ESTRIN: He said, “I think it’s possible” and that he had suggested it to one of his religious students. So-Called conversion therapy is widely discredited by researchers, and Israel’s own health ministry has said it can inflict psychological harm. Other politicians condemned the comments, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it didn’t reflect the position of his government. Peretz said he respects all students regardless of their sexuality and wasn’t advocating the therapy, but the idea persists in Orthodox Jewish circles in Israel. Many groups that offer it don’t promise a full conversion but say it helps people who want to lead traditional family lives in their conservative communities. That concerns LGBT activists.

NADAV SCHWARTZ: Unfortunately in the religious community, it is still a valid option.

ESTRIN: Nadav Schwartz is an activist in Israel’s religious Jewish LGBT community. Schwartz sought out gay conversion therapy when he was 18 but today rejects the practice. He says in Israel, there are five different groups offering a form of the therapy to religious Jewish men and two groups for women. People who want to live as traditional Orthodox Jews marry a member of the opposite sex and raise a family. Liberal religious circles are becoming more openly accepting of their gay members, and Schwartz says increasingly gay religious Jews don’t want to choose between their sexuality and their religious beliefs and religious garb they wear.

SCHWARTZ: Oh, wow, you can see today a lot of people wearing their tsitsiyot outside in gay party. It’s a wonderful, wonderful experience seeing more and more yarmulkes.

ESTRIN: Today he says he’s openly gay and accepted in his mainstream Orthodox synagogue, but that’s not the case for everyone. Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Jerusalem.

Copyright Β© 2019 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Giant Shipper Bets Big On Ending Its Carbon Emissions. Will It Pay Off?

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Giant Shipper Bets Big On Ending Its Carbon Emissions. Will It Pay Off?

The Danish company Maersk has been shipping goods around the world since the age of steamships. Now it wants to usher in a new era, with carbon neutral transport.

David Hecker/Getty Images


hide caption

toggle caption

David Hecker/Getty Images

Maersk β€” the world’s largest container shipping company β€” has an astonishing goal. By 2050, the company vows to send goods β€” everything from electronics to soybeans to sneakers β€” around the world with zero carbon emissions.

The environmental logic behind such a promise is straightforward: Shipping contributes substantially to global climate change.

But the business case is not as obvious.

The goal, announced late last year, will cost Maersk billions to develop new technologies. Meanwhile, it will be competing in a crowded, competitive market against rivals who aren’t bearing that burden. And there’s no guaranteed financial payoff if the engineers’ work succeeds.

So why do it?

The question is not unique to Maersk, or the shipping sector. A growing number of businesses are paying serious attention to the risks of climate change. But, at the same time, they face shareholders who expect returns.

According to both Maersk and outside analysts, this ambitious promise hinges on the answer to three questions:

  • Will consumers pay more to cut their carbon footprint?
  • Will new technology eventually be cheaper than oil?
  • Will the world actually decide to tackle climate change, and impose regulations with teeth?

A lot on the line

Maersk operates 750 vessels, with one calling at a port somewhere around the world every 15 minutes. Some of the ships are as long as the Empire State Building is tall.

The Danish company has been shipping goods around the world since the age of steamships. Now it wants to usher in a new era, with zero carbon transport.

It’s easy to make a promise decades in the future, but by all accounts, Maersk is serious about its commitment. The company already has cut emissions substantially, at the cost of $1 billion so far. And it has an intermediate goal to cut emissions by 60% (relative to 2008 levels) by 2030. That’s challenging enough β€” especially since easy, cost-effective options such as efficiency improvements are already in place at Maersk. And then there’s the zero carbon deadline of 2050.

To call this ambitious is an understatement.

“The technology to get there doesn’t yet exist,” says Alisdair Pettigrew, a marine energy consultant. “There are millionaires that are going to be made out of coming up with the right solutions, but they’re not there yet.”

Today’s ships rely on fuel oil β€” and a particularly dirty variety of it β€” or liquefied natural gas. Zero carbon alternatives, including hydrogen and biofuels, don’t currently work at the scale required for massive container ships.

And there isn’t much time to come up with alternatives. While 2050 might sound a long way away, ships are built to last for 20 to 30 years. That means container ships that will be in service in 2050 will be hitting the oceans in just a few years. Meanwhile β€” as if that weren’t enough β€” new technology will also require a whole new supply chain to keep ships fueled up at ports around the world.

Ole Graa Jakobsen, Maersk’s head of fleet technology, says the fact that some people call the goal unfeasible is exactly why an ambitious target is necessary.

“We want to accelerate the development of solutions of getting there and not just sitting on the fence and waiting for somebody [to do] something,” he says.

But, he emphasizes, Maersk will meet its target in a “business-viable” way.

“An easy way to become carbon neutral … would be to make not-very-smart business decisions,” Jakobsen deadpans. “Then we would very fast be out of operation and emit no carbon.”

Shipping containers at the canal port in Dortmund, Germany.

Ina Fassbender/AFP/Getty Images


hide caption

toggle caption

Ina Fassbender/AFP/Getty Images

Saving the world and staying in business

There are three pillars to the company’s plan, he says: customers, cost reduction and regulations.

Maybe customers β€” the large companies that pay for shipping goods around the world β€” are interested in promoting a zero carbon system. Maersk is already marketing a carbon neutral option, using biofuels, to clients such as H&M.

But how many customers are on board, and how much extra will they be willing to pay? Would it be enough to justify the expense?

Probably not.

“We are not so naΓ―ve that we think … that all customers want to pay a lot to get carbon neutral solutions,” Jakobsen says.

The second option: Cost efficiency. Maersk says it’s essential to reduce the expense involved in these alternatives to fossil fuels.

And some analysts say the technology of the future could be cheaper than oil β€” eventually.

Shipping consultant Lars Jensen says that right now it’s very hard to beat oil on price, but the technology of the future could change the math considerably.

“I am not necessarily making a prediction that oil will suddenly become fantastically expensive,” he says. “I am more making the argument that alternative energy sources over time will become fantastically inexpensive.”

He points to what happened with power plants: the cost of wind and solar electricity has plummeted dramatically. Right now, that doesn’t help Maersk, but maybe similar transformations could arrive for shipping.

Then there’s the third possibility: Coordinated, global government action.

Say that within the next couple of decades, the world agrees to fight climate change with serious regulations. Think a price on carbon, high fees for burning fossil fuels, strictly enforced emissions caps.

If that happens, a company that starts going carbon neutral now will be ahead of the game, while its competitors struggle to adapt.

Helen Dewhurst, an analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance who focuses on sustainability, points out that the International Maritime Organization β€” the body that regulates the global shipping industry β€” is taking serious action on air quality. New limits for sulfur emissions kick in early next year, after many years of discussion.

Some companies have been caught off guard. “They didn’t think that the IMO would have the backbone to do it,” she says. “And they did.”

The IMO also has targets for carbon. But there’s no system to enforce them yet, and the targets fall well short of Maersk’s goal. But if that changes dramatically in coming years, Maersk’s bet could pay off.

But many analysts are skeptical, noting the recent history of inaction on climate change. They also say it’s difficult to enforce regulations in the maritime sector, which operates across jurisdictions and often far from the eyes of regulators.

Gambling on humanity

Given the uncertainty about the future of climate action, why would a company like Maersk place a big bet on the world changing direction so dramatically?

“I’ve been trying to think of it something like Pascal’s wager,” says Ned Molloy, a shipping consultant who focuses on regulations.

Blaise Pascal was a 17th-century mathematician, physicist and theologian.

His famous wager was about the afterlife. He argued that if you aren’t sure about the existence of God, you might as well be a believer and act accordingly.

If you’re right, you go to heaven β€” you win everything. If you’re wrong, well, you’re dead whether you believed or not. What does it really matter?

Molloy’s climate version has nothing to do with whether climate change is real. That’s not in dispute. The question is whether you believe in humanity’s ability to stop emitting carbon.

If you bet that we can do it, invest accordingly and you’re right, then you have a competitive advantage β€” a business win.

And if you’re wrong?

“If … governments won’t do anything to get climate change under control, then at least according to what I’ve read from climate scientists, there may not be much of a basis for a global container shipping industry to exist,” he says.

More extreme weather patterns are already causing disruption at ports. Add potential disruptions to global food production, upheaval in the world economy, the possibility of floods or droughts closing the Panama Canal.

“You’ve got far bigger problems if you’re wrong,” Molloy says.

Deciding whether to invest in going zero carbon is a business calculation, to be sure. But the bottom line can get a little existential.

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Giant Shipper Bets Big On Ending Its Carbon Emissions. Will It Pay Off?

By |

Giant Shipper Bets Big On Ending Its Carbon Emissions. Will It Pay Off?

The Danish company Maersk has been shipping goods around the world since the age of steamships. Now it wants to usher in a new era, with carbon neutral transport.

David Hecker/Getty Images


hide caption

toggle caption

David Hecker/Getty Images

Maersk β€” the world’s largest container shipping company β€” has an astonishing goal. By 2050, the company vows to send goods β€” everything from electronics to soybeans to sneakers β€” around the world with zero carbon emissions.

The environmental logic behind such a promise is straightforward: Shipping contributes substantially to global climate change.

But the business case is not as obvious.

The goal, announced late last year, will cost Maersk billions to develop new technologies. Meanwhile, it will be competing in a crowded, competitive market against rivals who aren’t bearing that burden. And there’s no guaranteed financial payoff if the engineers’ work succeeds.

So why do it?

The question is not unique to Maersk, or the shipping sector. A growing number of businesses are paying serious attention to the risks of climate change. But, at the same time, they face shareholders who expect returns.

According to both Maersk and outside analysts, this ambitious promise hinges on the answer to three questions:

  • Will consumers pay more to cut their carbon footprint?
  • Will new technology eventually be cheaper than oil?
  • Will the world actually decide to tackle climate change, and impose regulations with teeth?

A lot on the line

Maersk operates 750 vessels, with one calling at a port somewhere around the world every 15 minutes. Some of the ships are as long as the Empire State Building is tall.

The Danish company has been shipping goods around the world since the age of steamships. Now it wants to usher in a new era, with zero carbon transport.

It’s easy to make a promise decades in the future, but by all accounts, Maersk is serious about its commitment. The company already has cut emissions substantially, at the cost of $1 billion so far. And it has an intermediate goal to cut emissions by 60% (relative to 2008 levels) by 2030. That’s challenging enough β€” especially since easy, cost-effective options such as efficiency improvements are already in place at Maersk. And then there’s the zero carbon deadline of 2050.

To call this ambitious is an understatement.

“The technology to get there doesn’t yet exist,” says Alisdair Pettigrew, a marine energy consultant. “There are millionaires that are going to be made out of coming up with the right solutions, but they’re not there yet.”

Today’s ships rely on fuel oil β€” and a particularly dirty variety of it β€” or liquefied natural gas. Zero carbon alternatives, including hydrogen and biofuels, don’t currently work at the scale required for massive container ships.

And there isn’t much time to come up with alternatives. While 2050 might sound a long way away, ships are built to last for 20 to 30 years. That means container ships that will be in service in 2050 will be hitting the oceans in just a few years. Meanwhile β€” as if that weren’t enough β€” new technology will also require a whole new supply chain to keep ships fueled up at ports around the world.

Ole Graa Jakobsen, Maersk’s head of fleet technology, says the fact that some people call the goal unfeasible is exactly why an ambitious target is necessary.

“We want to accelerate the development of solutions of getting there and not just sitting on the fence and waiting for somebody [to do] something,” he says.

But, he emphasizes, Maersk will meet its target in a “business-viable” way.

“An easy way to become carbon neutral … would be to make not-very-smart business decisions,” Jakobsen deadpans. “Then we would very fast be out of operation and emit no carbon.”

Shipping containers at the canal port in Dortmund, Germany.

Ina Fassbender/AFP/Getty Images


hide caption

toggle caption

Ina Fassbender/AFP/Getty Images

Saving the world and staying in business

There are three pillars to the company’s plan, he says: customers, cost reduction and regulations.

Maybe customers β€” the large companies that pay for shipping goods around the world β€” are interested in promoting a zero carbon system. Maersk is already marketing a carbon neutral option, using biofuels, to clients such as H&M.

But how many customers are on board, and how much extra will they be willing to pay? Would it be enough to justify the expense?

Probably not.

“We are not so naΓ―ve that we think … that all customers want to pay a lot to get carbon neutral solutions,” Jakobsen says.

The second option: Cost efficiency. Maersk says it’s essential to reduce the expense involved in these alternatives to fossil fuels.

And some analysts say the technology of the future could be cheaper than oil β€” eventually.

Shipping consultant Lars Jensen says that right now it’s very hard to beat oil on price, but the technology of the future could change the math considerably.

“I am not necessarily making a prediction that oil will suddenly become fantastically expensive,” he says. “I am more making the argument that alternative energy sources over time will become fantastically inexpensive.”

He points to what happened with power plants: the cost of wind and solar electricity has plummeted dramatically. Right now, that doesn’t help Maersk, but maybe similar transformations could arrive for shipping.

Then there’s the third possibility: Coordinated, global government action.

Say that within the next couple of decades, the world agrees to fight climate change with serious regulations. Think a price on carbon, high fees for burning fossil fuels, strictly enforced emissions caps.

If that happens, a company that starts going carbon neutral now will be ahead of the game, while its competitors struggle to adapt.

Helen Dewhurst, an analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance who focuses on sustainability, points out that the International Maritime Organization β€” the body that regulates the global shipping industry β€” is taking serious action on air quality. New limits for sulfur emissions kick in early next year, after many years of discussion.

Some companies have been caught off guard. “They didn’t think that the IMO would have the backbone to do it,” she says. “And they did.”

The IMO also has targets for carbon. But there’s no system to enforce them yet, and the targets fall well short of Maersk’s goal. But if that changes dramatically in coming years, Maersk’s bet could pay off.

But many analysts are skeptical, noting the recent history of inaction on climate change. They also say it’s difficult to enforce regulations in the maritime sector, which operates across jurisdictions and often far from the eyes of regulators.

Gambling on humanity

Given the uncertainty about the future of climate action, why would a company like Maersk place a big bet on the world changing direction so dramatically?

“I’ve been trying to think of it something like Pascal’s wager,” says Ned Molloy, a shipping consultant who focuses on regulations.

Blaise Pascal was a 17th-century mathematician, physicist and theologian.

His famous wager was about the afterlife. He argued that if you aren’t sure about the existence of God, you might as well be a believer and act accordingly.

If you’re right, you go to heaven β€” you win everything. If you’re wrong, well, you’re dead whether you believed or not. What does it really matter?

Molloy’s climate version has nothing to do with whether climate change is real. That’s not in dispute. The question is whether you believe in humanity’s ability to stop emitting carbon.

If you bet that we can do it, invest accordingly and you’re right, then you have a competitive advantage β€” a business win.

And if you’re wrong?

“If … governments won’t do anything to get climate change under control, then at least according to what I’ve read from climate scientists, there may not be much of a basis for a global container shipping industry to exist,” he says.

More extreme weather patterns are already causing disruption at ports. Add potential disruptions to global food production, upheaval in the world economy, the possibility of floods or droughts closing the Panama Canal.

“You’ve got far bigger problems if you’re wrong,” Molloy says.

Deciding whether to invest in going zero carbon is a business calculation, to be sure. But the bottom line can get a little existential.

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Trump’s Nationwide Immigration Raids Fail to Materialize

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Trump’s Nationwide Immigration Raids Fail to Materialize

Hundreds of people march in New York in opposition to the Trump administration’s plans to continue with raids to catch immigrants in the country illegally in Queens on Sunday.

Julius Constantine Motal/AP


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Julius Constantine Motal/AP

President Trump’s threatened roundup of undocumented immigrant families this weekend that sent migrants in many communities on edge showed few signs of materializing on Sunday, the second time rumors of a large-scale immigration enforcement operation failed to come to fruition.

Instead, in the cities where rumors of mass raids swirled, many immigrants stayed inside their homes, as jitters turned typically vibrant migrant markets and commercial corridors eerily quiet.

Immigrant advocates across the country, meanwhile, took to the streets to demonstrate in protest of the promised roundup.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement would not confirm any arrests, nor would immigrant rights activists.

“The ACLU has not heard reports of any raids today,” Ruthie Epstein, the American Civil Liberties Union’s deputy director for immigration policy, told NPR.

Before Sunday, there were weekend reports of attempted arrests by ICE in New York, New Jersey and Chicago, where The New York Times reported that a mother and her daughters were apprehended but the family was immediately released. But those actions appeared to be part of routine enforcement activity, not connected to a massive raid operation.

Still, fears of ICE catching migrants by surprise sent many into hiding on Sunday.

In Miami, one of the cities anticipating the crackdown on immigrants, a hush fell over a market usually buzzing with activity among immigrant merchants and shoppers.

“People are clearly hiding. If you look around, it’s the people who are working are basically the only people here. But the majority of our clients are immigrants. Some with papers, others with no papers, but they are all scared,” Yohanna Gomez, a Honduran immigrant who runs a Central American stall at the market, told WLRN.

A similar scene played out in in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood, typically bustling with immigrants from Latin America, Asia and the Middle East. But on Sunday, the streets were noticeably calmer and vendors seemed to have taken the day off due to the threatened raids.

A couple of hundred demonstrators at #abolishICE march now in Jackson Heights, Queens @WNYC pic.twitter.com/v4nnhYMWdN

β€” Beth Fertig (@bethfertig) July 14, 2019

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Saturday that ICE had already attempted to make arrests in the city, but they were not successful.

Activists have been spreading the word to migrants to not open their doors if an immigration agents knocks, since they cannot use force to enter a residence.

In Chicago, another city where federal immigrants officials were expecting to conduct raids, streets in immigrant communities were scarcer than on a normal Sunday. Mayor Lori Lightfoot addressed the residents on the north side of Chicago before the raids were supposed to start.

“This is a community that has a diversity of people coming from all over the world,” she said. “There’s been a lot of rumors,” Lightfoot said. “Dangling this sword over peoples’ head is causing great harm and trauma to entire households, entire communities.”

The weekend operation was reportedly supposed to focus on immigrant families who have been sent final orders of removal after failing to appear in court. And top administration officials have argued that many of the estimated 2,000 migrants who fit this category have ignored requests to turn themselves in. President Trump originally set the nationwide raids for June before delaying the planned mass arrests in order to give Congress more time to hammer out changes to federal asylum law.

The American Civil Liberties Union, representing four immigration legal aid nonprofit groups, sued to blocks the raids on Thursday, arguing that while the Trump administration claims the migrants have been given an opportunity to appear in court, many never received the paperwork because of letters being sent to wrong addresses, or when they did arrive, the requests to appear did not contain specific dates and times.

And so, the lawsuit claimed, the families that were expected to be targeted have never received proper notice of removal and did not have their day in court before an immigration judge.

“Unless this Court enforces that requirement, thousands of individuals could be deported without ever receiving a fair opportunity to appear before a judge, as required by the Due Process Clause and the immigration laws,” wrote lawyer Melinda LeMoine in the suit, which is pending a judge’s ruling.

WNYC’s Beth Fertig contributed to this report.

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‘I Was Utterly Gutted’: Farai Chideya Endures 3 Failed Adoptions

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‘I Was Utterly Gutted’: Farai Chideya Endures 3 Failed Adoptions

Empty baby beds stand in the maternity ward of a hospital (a spokesperson for the hospital asked that the hospital not be named). Six days after Farai Chideya took her adopted newborn child home from a hospital, she was forced to give him back to his birth mother.

Sean Gallup/Getty Images


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Farai Chideya wanted to become a mother. Five years and $50,000 after she began this quest, Chideya is still childless but has gained a harsh lesson about the ills of America’s adoption system.

Three times, Chideya was matched with a child and three times the mother changed her mind.

The journalist, author and one-time NPR host of News & Notes, wrote a personal essay in Zora, Medium’s platform for women of color, sharing her pain in the journey to motherhood.

For almost a week, Chideya thought her dream had come true, but six days after her first matched child was born, Chideya remembers the anguish of giving the baby back to his mother.

This might be the most personal piece I have published in my whole life, about why my 3 failed adoptions are not about my pain, but the pain of American mothers in a nation far behind other developed countries // Excuse Me, May I Raise Your Child? https://t.co/FibvBBru42

β€” Farai Chideya (@farai) July 13, 2019

“So to the baby I called Oliver and the other two boys, I say, ‘Godspeed and sleep tight,’ ” Chideya writes in the essay entitled, “Excuse Me, May I Raise Your Child?”

“Your mothers are all women who chose not only to love you but to care for you, diaper by diaper, sleepless night by sleepless night, paycheck to paycheck. Hold them as tightly as they hold you when you can because they made a hard decision in a very rich nation that does not take care of its families.”


Interview Highlights

On giving back her first matched child

He was a beautiful little boy. I named him Oliver for my grandfather. And I was really just getting to know him. He was so healthy and robust and then we get a call saying that the family has changed their mind, which is absolutely their right. Every state has a different revocation period. I was in a state where it was 30 days and I’d had the baby for six days.

And so two social workers show up – I have all these outfits, people had bought gifts for the baby, and I was crying like a banshee, and I handed him over to the agents, and my mother was weeping. And I was utterly gutted, and I was very much then in my own pain, which is normal … But I was not the only one hurting. We’ll just put it that way. I mean, I’ve learned that this system, when it doesn’t work, there’s a lot of emotional blood on the floor.

On reforming America’s family-care system

There needs to be transparency in contracting for agencies. There needs to be a national database of failure rates … This is the only developed country in the world that does not have federally mandated leave policies, which means that women like me, who are career women, delay childbearing because we’re like, “OK, it’s not a good time.” Reality: It’s never a good time. And younger women who are lower income are incredibly vulnerable.

On whether Chideya will continue searching through a formal adoption system

Part of my family comes from a farm community in Virginia. … in times of need someone would take in a child from someone else’s family… there was not a formal adoption system’ it was just like “OK, we’re really broke or someone died and we need somebody to help out with this family… ” The universe moves in all sorts of ways. So I can’t say what will happen. I’m willing to go back to a formal adoption system or foster care but I’m also hoping the universe may provide and we’ll see.

On why she chose to share her story

I think that we have just begun to wrap our brains around a lot of the psychic toll that infertility plays on American women. Again, in part, because of the lack of family support and the delayed childbearing of a lot of people. But we don’t hear as much about the agonies of adoption when it doesn’t go well. And I do think adoption is beautiful. I have adopted people in my family, I have adult adoptees who are friends, so I am not against adoption in any way, shape or form. I’m talking about making sure that it’s done well and done ethically.

And so, I had to make peace with this. But I also believe that we are at a point in this country where it is becoming insupportable for us to continue not to have paid parental leave and not to have child care that supports healthy families. It’s not good for America and it’s not good for the world.

Monika Evstatieva and Barrie Hardymon produced and edited this story for radio, and Josh Axelrod adapted it for the Web.

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