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The Evolutionary Perspective
Daily Archives: March 25, 2020
Posted: March 25, 2020 at 9:46 am
According to a study published last week in the journal Scientific Reports, theres a minuscule chance that Mercury, our Suns closest neighbor, has all it needs to host life.
It is possible that as long as there was water, the temperatures would be appropriate for the survival and possibly the origin of life, co-author Jeffrey Kargel from the Planetary Science Institute told The New York Times.
In the study, the team of researchers suggest that the Mercurys chaotic surface isnt the result of earthquakes, as the prevailing theory holds. Instead, they argue, cracks in the surface are rather caused by volatiles elements that can quickly switch from one state to another such as a liquid turning into a gas bubbling up from below.
Volatiles such as water could provide an environment friendly to life underground the surface itself is far too hot, heating up toaround 800 degrees Fahrenheit during the day.
The idea of life on Mercury is still a long shot, but the researchers are hopeful.
I thought [co-author] Alexis [Rodriguez] had lost it at some point, Kargel told the Times. But the more I dug into the geologic evidence and the more I thought about the chemistry and physical conditions there, the more I realized that this idea well it might be nuts, but its not completely nuts.
READ MORE: Life on the Planet Mercury? Its Not Completely Nuts [The New York Times]
More on Mercury: Mercury Is Every Planet in the Solar Systems Closest Neighbor
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Scientists Say There Could Be Life on Mercury - Futurism
Posted: at 9:46 am
We still dont know if theres water on Mercury.
MercuriousAccording to a study published last week in the journal Scientific Reports, theres a minuscule chance that Mercury, our Suns closest neighbor, has all it needs to host life.It is possible that as long as there was water, the temperatures would be appropriate for the survival and possibly the origin of life, co-author Jeffrey Kargel from the Planetary Science Institute told The New York Times.Bubbling UpIn the study, the team of researchers suggest that the Mercurys chaotic surface isnt the result of earthquakes, as the prevailing theory holds. Instead, they argue, cracks in the surface are rather caused by volatiles elements that can quickly switch from one state to another such as a liquid turning into a gas bubbling up from below.Volatiles such as water could provide an environment friendly to life underground the surface itself is far too hot, heating up toaround 800 degrees Fahrenheit during the day.Not Completely NutsThe idea of life on Mercury is still a long shot, but the researchers are hopeful.I thought [co-author] Alexis [Rodriguez] had lost it at some point, Kargel told the Times. But the more I dug into the geologic evidence and the more I thought about the chemistry and physical conditions there, the more I realized that this idea well it might be nuts, but its not completely nuts.READ MORE:Life on the Planet Mercury? Its Not Completely Nuts [The New York Times]More on Mercury:Mercury Is Every Planet in the Solar Systems Closest Neighbor
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Scientists Say There Could Be Life on Mercury Futurism - News Collective
Posted: at 9:46 am
The next generation of genetic medicine may be inspired by a bizarre genetic trick that a small squid species uses to edit its own genome on the fly.
The longfin inshore squid can edit the RNA inside its nerve cells, Wired reports, meaning that it can drastically alter the behavior of its biological machinery as needed perhaps to help the animal rapidly adapt to new environments. Its a bizarre discovery, and one that could potentially lead to better genetic treatments for humans.
Researchers from the Marine Biological Laboratory found that the squid alters the RNA within its axons instead of the DNA within its nuclei, according to research published Monday in the journal Nucleic Acids Research. Thus far, its the only animal known to do so.
RNA editing is a hell of a lot safer than DNA editing, lead researcher Joshua Rosenthal told Wired. If you make a mistake, the RNA just turns over and goes away.
Because it happens outside the nucleus, RNA editing would be an improvement over modern genetic treatments, Wired reports. To gene-hack a patient with CRISPR, the new genetic information needs to breach not only a cells membrane but also the membrane of that cells nucleus to reach its DNA.
But it will be some time before medical doctors start to use the longfin inshore squids weird gene-hacks on people. For now, researchers still arent even sure why, exactly, the squid alters its genes.
READ MORE: Squids Gene-Editing Superpowers May Unlock Human Cures [Wired]
More on gene-hacking: George Church Told us Why Hes Listing Superhuman Gene Hacks
Posted: at 9:46 am
With South Africa headed into a 21-day lockdown this week, combatting the threat of the Covid-19, has been made a key national priority. Never before in our democracy have we seen a national lockdown taking place, but the gravity of the current situation absolutely demands it.
Futurist, Marius Oosthuizen
Being a few weeks behind some other affected nations, Oosthuizen notes that South Africa is fortunate to have real-life case studies of countries that have handled this crisis well such as South Korea and those that havent, such as Italy and the US. We know from the case of South Korea that the only way to effectively curb the social spread of the virus is through a combination of government and civil action early on.
He notes, however, that South Africa remains particularly vulnerable from an economic perspective. The pandemic started as an infection problem with a supply-side disruption from China, but has gradually moved over to a lock-down environment causing a global economic slow-down, which has precipitated the combination of a disease burden in society and a currency and fiscal crisis something that South Africa is at major risk of.
The second wave of impact will be the disease burden, social distancing and psychological strain that will be felt over April and May. The scale and rate of infection will depend on the scale and effectiveness of response, he says, noting that the third and final wave of impact that the country will likely experience over June and July, will be based on adapted conduct, the level of supply disruptions, fiscal restructure and decline in earnings.
South Africa, in addition to already being in a fragile economic state prior to this pandemic, is dependent on commodity exports and is highly exposed to Asian and US consumer markets. It is for these reasons that I believe we will face a contraction in GDP of between 3-5% as a result of Covd-19, says Oosthuizen.
This means that South Africa risks seeing the second scenario, the perfect storm, play out. Here we would see a fast rate and large scale of infection, with ineffective response, he warns, noting that South Africa is particularly vulnerable to this scenario considering the number of people with respiratory diseases like tuberculosis, as well as the high rate of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) among the population.
Fortunately, Oosthuizen believes that the measures needed to avoid the perfect storm scenario are completely within the countrys control. We are seeing these measures being implemented now with the national lockdown, which will hopefully take us into an after the storm scenario. If this scenario plays out, the real challenge will be the economic recovery, which is why the Department of Small Business Development has already launched a debt relief fund to help mitigate the impact on smaller businesses.
The fourth and final potential scenario that Oosthuizen presents, namely Africa spared, is a major wildcard which he says is extremely unlikely at this point. This is a scenario where, for some exogenous reason such as climate, Africa only has a limited number of infections with effective responses.
At this point, Oosthuizen has made it clear that South Africa is likely facing either the perfect storm or an after the storm scenario. The most important thing for South Africa to do now, is accept these two scenarios and do everything in our power to avoid the perfect storm from playing out. This is especially crucial considering how vulnerable some parts of the African continent are and how devastating this pandemic would be if it were to continue spreading.
Of course, for this to be effective, South African people and businesses need to do everything in our power to follow these national efforts together, we can flatten the curve. says Oosthuizen.
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The economic impacts and prospects of Covid-19 - Bizcommunity.com
The Neo-Futurists Announce Their Digital Platform, ‘The Infinite Wrench Goes Viral’ – Broadway World
Posted: at 9:46 am
The Neo-Futurists have announced the digital version of their flagship show, The Infinite Wrench via i??Patreon currently titled as The Infinite Wrench Goes Viral Known for performing 50 weeks of the year, The Neo-Futurists took an unprecedented step to suspend performances of its "surprising, occasionally powerful, often hilarious and always entertaining" (Chicago On Stage) show, along with classes, events, and other ancillary programming in order to ensure the safety the ensemble, staff, students, and audiences as concerns regarding the containment of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) evolved.
To honor the non-stop nature of The Neo-Futurists' work, the ensemble has created an easily accessible version of The Infinite Wrench by adapting current works for online audiences, which is accessible on its website, neofuturists.org
"Our work is constantly responding to what's happening in the world. As a collective that creates new material every single week, we're accustomed to constraints that lead us to new unexplored territory" said Artistic Director Kirsten Riiber. "For 31 years, we've provided a space for audiences to come together and see their experience reflected to them with honesty; and this is one of those times where staying present with our audiences, who we've never been able to do our work without, is vital."
The Neo-Futurists' ensemble members, contracted artists, and staff will continue to receive payment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Infinite Wrench Goes Viral will be available to subscribers of The Neo-Futurists' Patreon site. Several tiers have been made available to those able and interested in supporting the organization and its various communities during this dire time. The base-level perk, which starts at just $3.00 per show, offers the opportunity for patrons to watch the show from the comfort of their own homes, where they can choose the order of the show, just like they can at the traditional Infinite Wrench.
"One of our greatest strengths is our resilience and ability to create in a small window of time, and The Infinite Wrench Goes Viral is another example of that adeptness, " said Managing Director Jorge Silva. "It is my sincerest hope that by making The Infinite Wrench accessible online and affordable, we can bring some relief to our artistic community and provide comfort to our audiences during this bewildering time."
A preview performance of The Infinite Wrench Goes Viral was published online this past Sunday, March 22, 2020 and all are invited to take part in the 'opening night performance' set for Sunday, March 29, 2020 at 8:00 PM CST. Additional options are being tailored for those interested in supporting The Neo-Futurists community outside or beyond the Patreon platform. Those interested in donating to The Neo-Futurists and their ambitious efforts should go to The Neo-Futurists' website portal.
Posted: at 9:46 am
University City Science Center, a nonprofit that helps innovators and entrepreneurs take their creative ideas to the marketplace, was designed to be a place of collaboration, and has only grown since its start in 1963.
The center, which moved into its new uCity Square location at the end of 2018, was slated as the next hub to be featured in Technical.lys 10-week series ahead ofPhilly Tech Week 2020 presented by Comcast thats connecting historical figures to modern spaces that embody innovation. (See how the programmers of the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computerconnect to Pennovation Works if youre not caught up.)
Alas, when we launched this series and spent the past several months planning this years Philly Tech Week events, we didnt anticipate a pandemic ripping through our region and bounding residents to their homes. (Maybe youve heard?) Accordingly, PTW20 is now postponed to later this year. But we couldnt resist sharing one more story of an innovator from Phillys past and, happily, one with the strongest connection yet to its assigned PTW hub.
The Science Centers mission has three pillars: commercializing promising companies, convening people to share and support ideas, and cultivating future talent in STEM. Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983) spent time there as a World Fellow in Residence during the 1970s and early 1980s.
The futurist and author behind the concept of Spaceship Earth is known for designing the geodesic dome, which you may know from the shape of Disneys Epcot Center. The Science Center honored Fuller in its inaugural class of the Innovators Walk of Fame in the art category in 2014.
David Clayton, director of in-house STEM education program FirstHand, feels like Fuller is the patron saint of the Science Center: Fuller used resources to better humanity, something Clayton believes speaks to the culture of innovation the org is trying to create.
Some of his principles are things we still look to today, said Clayton. I think its something that he was doing far ahead of time through his books, lectures and projects.
At FirstHand, Clayton works with middle school youth to give them early exposure to careers in science, design, and entrepreneurship.
Were creating a platform where young people can start to solve the problems of tomorrow and start thinking about those problems now, Clayton said. Fuller is at the roots of that.
Bucky, as hes referred to affectionately, preferred the title of design scientist over anything else. He spent his life working in multiple fields, including architecture, design and engineering, in his pursuit to make the world work for all of humanity. He often paired art with technology; the Science Center connects the two as well.
The center is home to the Esther Klein Gallery and uses creative arts to explore the intersections between art, science and technology. The gallery shows six exhibitions each year that are based on some type of art and tech. Fuller displayed his work in a solo exhibit at the gallery in the early 1980s which featured his latest invention at the time, the 4D dymaxion book case.
Bucky had a lot of really amazing ideas he put into practice, but he also had a lot of ideas that never came to fruition, said Angela McQuillan, curator of the Esther Klein Gallery. I think that just shows he wasnt afraid to experiment and be super creative.
McQuillan is also the director the Science Centers BioArt Residency program remember that engineered Lovesick virus that spreads kindness and empathy? which she founded in 2017. The program is a part of a partnership with biotech company Integral Molecular the folks trying to figure out what makes COVID-19 so infectious and was made to create interdisciplinary ideas and to get people talking about things from a different perspective and find solutions to problems. Three residents each year spend three months working alongside scientists to create a body of work for the gallery.
The Science Center continues to evolve as the needs of startup companies and entrepreneurs change over time, said Marketing Director Kristen Fitch.
Were trying to build on his legacy and not lose sight on the value of different ideas and different types of people and what they can collectively bring to the table, Fitch said.
Posted: at 9:46 am
Perhaps no bicycle manufacturer has bridged the bicycle and art as steadfastly as the Columbus steel tubing company.
Antonio Colombo, head of Columbus and Cinelli, may be in pandemic lockdown, like all Italians. But that isnt stopping the industry legend from reflecting on his other passion modern art. From his apartment in downtown Milan, Colombo, an avid art collector and gallery owner, is putting the final touches on his third exhibit celebrating the centennial of legendary Columbus steel tubing company, one that simply celebrates cycling and art. Here, we have a sneak peek at the bicycles and images that will be on display.
Throughout the 20th century, the bicycle was a common motif in the history of modern art. The bicycle was celebrated in Cubism, and Futurism as a modern tool in the early 1900s, while street artists like Keith Haring celebrated its timeless forms in the late 20th century.
Perhaps no bicycle manufacturer has bridged the bicycle and art as steadfastly as the Columbus steel tubing company. This year, as the company celebrates its own centennial, Antonio Colombo, the son of founder Angelo, has organized several exhibits in Milan to focus not only on the companys history, but the historic relationship of cycling and art.
Growing up in the 1960s, Antonio fell in love with modern art and, before he took over the family business, would travel the world to study it. Soon enough he began collecting, developing a personal relationship with many contemporary artists, and eventually opened his own Antonio Colombo Arte Contempranea gallery, in Milan, in the late 1990s.
Throughout 2019 and 2020, a series of exhibits entitled Columbus Continuum focuses on different aspects of the companys relationship to cycling and art.
The first exhibit Flessibili Splendori: Columbus and Tubular furniture, that opened last fall, focused on the prevalent use of the companys highly reputed steel tubing in modern furniture design, as the company had a close working relationship with the German-led Bauhaus school between the world wars.
Pioneering designers like Michael Breuer relied heavily on the bicycle tubes as the foundation of his historic chairs. Today several models like the Cesca and Wassily chairs can be found in museums around the world and are considered some of the most influential furniture designs of the 20th century.
Anima dAccacio: Columbus e il design della bicicletta, which ran until January 19 2020, focused on the evolution of the bicycling itself, while Traguardo Volante: Cinelli and Columbus, Crossing the Line Between Art and Bicycle, focuses on cycling as a recurrent motif in the visual arts.
Freedom is the territory of art and the territory of the bicycle, so it just normal that the two come together, Colombo told VeloNews on Tuesday. What you like when you get a bicycle is the freedom it gives you and artists are always in search of the freedom of expression.
Obviously, considering the current coronavirus crisis that has all of Italy in lockdown, the gallery is currently closed and the final exhibit is on hold. But that has not prohibited Colombo or his exhibit curator Luca Beatrice to make final selections for the exhibit.
The exhibits this year at the gallery were a way to bring together my passion for the bicycle, modern furniture and contemporary art, he said. The bicycle has been a central part of life in the 20th century so it is normal that artists would at times incorporate it into their own own.
Certain artists of course were more fascinated by the aesthetic form of the bicycle. And this was perhaps no more evident than with Marcel Duchamps revolutionary Bicycle Wheel, from 1913. Considered a Dada masterpiece just before the outbreak of World War I, Duchamp took two objects found in everyday life a wooden stool and the front fork and wheel of a bicycle to create his first Readymade piece of art.
Other artists, like the Futurists, were more interested in the speed and movement of the bicycle in action.
Colombos gallery is historically focused on more contemporary art. And while the final selection is still a work in progress itself, dont be surprised to see works by late 20th-century artists, as well as personal friends, like Kieth Haring or Mario Schifano.
While Colombo admits that it is impossible to announce an exact date for the opening, he knows that once his country frees itself from the current health crisis, there will be even more reason to celebrate.
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A look inside the Columbus Centennial exhibit of cycling and art - VeloNews
Posted: at 9:45 am
A judge allows a limited lawsuit from PEN America.
A New York federal judge on Tuesday ruled that PEN America may proceed on some of its claims against Donald Trump. Specifically, the U.S. president must continue to face allegations of violating the First Amendment by revoking press badges and security clearances.
Pen America is a literary organization that fights to protect free speech. The group sued Trump in October 2018 for using his power to punish and intimidate The Washington Post, CNN, NBC, the White House press corps and others who cover his administration.
Trump, in reaction to the lawsuit, moved to dismiss with the argument that PEN lacks standing to sue because none of its members have been injured (except for CNN's White House correspondent Jim Acosta, whose pass was reinstated after being revoked), that it failed to state a plausible claim and that the court lacks the power to control the official, discretionary actions of a sitting president.
U.S. District Court Judge Lorna Schofield rules Tuesday that PEN does have standing for at least some of the claims revocation of press badges and security clearances and can "establish a causal connection between the injuries and the challenged conduct."
Here's the full opinion.
The judge says the plaintiff may proceed in an attempt to get a declaratory ruling that President Trump is violating the First Amendment. PEN, however, won't be able to obtain an injunction.
"The Complaint explicitly pleads, quoting from the Press Secretarys e-mail, that [Trump] and his staff are ready to heed a court decision on proper rules of conduct for governing the White House press corps," states the opinion.
This decision comes merely a day after the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals considered whether a lower judge was correct to order President Trump to restore the press badge of Playboy's White House correspondent Brian Karem. PEN's dispute could provide some legal clarity beyond that singular situation.
However, PEN won't get to challenge some of Trump's other conduct allegedly flouting the First Amendment.
Schofield writes the literary group does not have associational standing to bring a suit over Trump's threats to revoke broadcast licenses, the Department of Justice's challenge to the AT&T-Time Warner merger and regulatory threats to internet companies among other things.
PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel commented about the judge's decision: "Its hard to think of a moment in American history in which unvarnished, accurate news reporting has mattered more than it does now. This decision is a victory not just for PEN America and our own writers, but also for the journalists and media outlets doing the vital, risky work of keeping us all informed. But above all, it is a win for all individuals who depend on a free press to dig out the facts and hold leadership accountable without fear of reprisal. We sued the president because we believe the First Amendment prohibits him from retaliating against speech he dislikes. We are grateful that this essential suit can move forward, vindicating the rights of all those who rely on a free press."
Posted: at 9:45 am
Warder Cresson was well strange. He was also the first American consul to Jerusalem. Seized with the evangelical fervor of the age, Cresson was convinced that the Second Coming was nigh, to come in 1847 to be precise. And Warder Cresson meant to claim a front-row seat.
Cressons main qualification for the job of counsul-general was his messianic zeal and his connection to then-Secretary of State John Clahoun, who prevailed upon President John Tyler to appoint him.
Cresson and his contingent arrived in the Holy Land with drooling passion along with great pompt and fanfare.Almost at once, he announced to the ruling pasha that he had come to witness the apocalypse.Dipolmats shortly informed the president that his delegate to Jerusalem was a religious maniac and madman.
By design, the United States Constitution takes a hands-off approach to religion. The operative part of the First Amendment provides that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof In time, in his own sort of thrashing way, Warder Cresson would test that most fundamental precept of the Constitution.
Born to a well-to-do Quaker family, before arriving in Jerusalem, Cresson had spent two decades trying on the coats of half-a-dozen different apocalyptic cults, along the way abandoning his wife and six children.At different times, he had been a Shaker, a Millerite, a Mormon and a Campbellite before, at last, he became convinced that return of the Jews to Jerusalem would assure the second coming. Cresson adopted this literally as an article of faith.His faith, though flighty, was deep, abiding and maniacally sincere.
Ultimately the president tired of Cressons schtick and relieved him of his duties.But that did little, if anything, to deter Cresson. For several years, he continued to issue visas for the protection of Jews, converted to Judaism and changed his name to Michael Boaz Israel (or, more formally, Michoel Boaz Yisroel ben Avraham).
This was too much for his beleaguered wife.
Elizabeth Townsend Warder sued to have her wayward husband declared insane.
The peripatetic Warder Cresson-cum-Michael Boaz Israel jumped on a boat and sailed back from the Holy Land to Philadelphia to answer to the inquisition of lunacy which soon took on the buzz of the O.J. Simpson trial of its time.
What was at stake in an admittedly roundabout way was the precept of religious freedom.What the long-suffering Mrs. Cresson was testing was the constitutional right of an American citizen to believe whatever he or she desired.Hers was a frontal assault on the First Amendment.Could Warder-cum-Michael slake his religious fervor with what Mrs. Cresson believed was any cockamamie thought that flitted through what was surely his deluded brain?Wouldnt her success in doing so stomp on the very essence of Jeffersonian liberty?
At the trial, Warder Cresson was found to be insane.
But that was not the end of it.
He appealed and a retrial was ordered.
In the second legal bout, which went on for six days and entailed nearly 100 witnesses, the woebegone Mrs. Cresson lost.Warder/Michael, the court ruled, whoever the heck he wanted to be, could be, think, or believe any religious thing he wanted.There was no restraint on thought or the pursuit of religious satisfaction.
Cresson returned, triumphant, to Jerusalem.He established a model Jewish farm, studied the Torah, divorced his wife and remarried a woman who was more aligned with the religious paroxysms that dominated his actions and his thoughts, and fathered three more children.
What the strange case of Warder Cresson affirmed was that the First Amendment meant what it said; that there could be no state-aided constraint on the exercise of ones religious convictions, however odd, or like the rebounding of a Pachinko ball it may appear to others.Every citizen was entitled to accord with his/her beliefs and conscience. The state would not and could not aid or abet one set of beliefs or systems to be superior to any other.
Law, like God, at times works in mysterious ways.What often seems at first blush like a plain vanilla dispute between two parties take the domestic woes between Mrs. Cresson and her errant husband (or Rosa Parks refusing to give up her bus seat, or Earl Gideon establishing the Sixth Amendments right to counsel, or Ernesto Miranda affirming an accused Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination) can ripple out and have repercussions far beyond the nut of the initial dispute.In fact, at law at least, that is more the norm than the exception.It is the rare case where a party expressly sets out to make or challenge the law.
More often, what starts out as a private dispute swells with importance. Such then was the strange case of Warder Cresson who became a respected member of his adopted community and is buried on the Mount of Olives within easy view of the Old City of his beloved Jerusalem.
Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley with the law firm of Stevens, Littman, Biddison, Tharp & Weinberg LLC. His practice areas include business and commercial transactions, real estate and development, family law, custody and divorce and civil litigation. Robbins may be reached at 970-926-4461 or at his email address, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Robbins: Freedom of worship and the strange case of Warder Cresson - Vail Daily News
Posted: at 9:45 am
This is a nuts and bolts column regarding significant legal anti-BDS efforts, and the underlying tactics employed. Given the ubiquity of new laws aimed at stifling BDS efforts its important to understand the machinary employed in order to effectively respond. The good news is that civil rights groups like Palestine Legal and the ACLU have been working non-stop to counter these efforts. In further service to coherently understanding the legal context for such anti-BDS efforts, I will be unpacking arguments in the Harvard Law Review note examining this issue.
Stopping BDS efforts has become a major thrust of the Israeli government and US actors who correctly recognize BDS as a serious non-violent tactic for effecting Israeli governmental change towards occupied Palestinians (beyond the green line) as well as inside Israel, proper. Over the last few years, these efforts have accelerated and become more organized with, at this date, 28 US states having some sort of anti-BDS legislation on the books, and 14 more states attempting to pass legislation. There are also myriad smaller scale efforts as well as federal level efforts, that, while important, I will leave for future columns. What I want to do here is unpack the general outline of the legal strategy typically used by anti-BDS forces.
Although the in the weeds legal details dont matter, its important to understand the general approach in order to develop a more coherent understanding of the forces arrayed against BDS efforts. I will be using the recent and very thorough Harvard Law Review note (HLRn) that does a deep dive into the machinations of the legal theories involved. For our purposes, the two necessary things to understand concern the First and Fourteenth Amendments (Free speech and discrimination, respectively). These amendments map very well onto issues discussed here previously concerning the conflation of antisemitic behavior and language with criticism of the state of Israel.
To reduce anxiety, Ill give you the thumbnail first: its considered relatively settled law that BDS activity and language are protected by the First Amendment, and that discrimination claims have to reach a level that have, so far, and for the foreseeable future, not been achieved. Thus, the US supreme court would have to reverse established law based (obviously, this could happen given this supreme court) on what has been, heretofore, considered relatively weak merits. The civil rights movement in the US actually provides the strongest support for BDS efforts, as almost sacred SCOTUS decisions are providing the bedrock support for BDS.
Although BDS has been around since about 2005 as a consequence of Palestinian civil society calls to non-violently oppose the Israeli occupation, support refugee rights, and advocate for equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel, anti-BDS legislative efforts have only been around since around 2014 when Illinois was the first state to pass laws. Israel, in 2014, budgeted about $25 million dollars to establish an anti-BDS task force focused on the US. Thus, its pretty clear there has been a well-coordinated and funded effort that was quickly ramped up. Hoping to overcome first amendment issues, the gist of the anti-BDS legal argument is that BDS is targeting a particular group by inflicting economic harm, thus discrimination. Antisemitism is claimed by charging that BDS trades in antisemitic stereotypes and singles out the worlds only Jewish (democratic) state while ignoring state human rights abuses in other countries (the standard whataboutism tactic). Further, there is an attempt to link age-old exclusions of Jewish people from commerce to BDS as the latest version of economic warfare against Jewish people. The charge of antisemitism against almost any criticism of Israel or support of Palestinian rights has not really changed, its the main go-to tactic and, particularly in Europe, has been effective.
The legalization of this tactic is, however, new and Ill be drilling down a bit on why this matters. The main approach by anti-BDS forces is to employ some version of the anti-discrimination rationale often seeking to penalize activity that discriminates on the basis of religion, national origin and nationality. In addition to these contracting laws, many states have passed resolutions equating BDS as a way to spread antisemitism. These are often paired together to defensively counter obvious First Amendment challenges. The general class of these claims centers on the notion that BDS is discrimination, pure and simple, and the state has the power to prohibit such activity and that these issues of discrimination overcome First Amendment rights. In some instances, such as the Airbnb controversy, the claim was made that Airbnb was discriminating against Jewish Airbnb rentals in the West Bank. This politically and culturally head spinning/guffaw-inducing claim, easy enough to dismiss in most worlds, save the world of law, was enough to force Airbnb to retract its ban on such rentals.
The through-line here is to conflate antisemitism with anti-Zionism to such an extent that they are rendered, effectively, synonymous which then, allows for the relatively simple discriminatory claim of antisemitism to be made in almost all cases. The table was set for this by a 2010 US state department adoption of antisemitism that includes the 3 Ds demonization, delegitimizing and double-standards (read: we like whataboutism). The legal gravitas here centers on the transforming of ideology into something legally actionable (the legal term is cognizable).
We could easily, at this point, go down the rabbit hole of legalese and constitutional law we wont, but suffice it to say, its head spinning and the HLR note does an amazing job trying to keep it somewhat jargon free. For our purposes, its important to understand that the bulk of established law supports free expression against general discrimination claims, but that obvious discrimination cannot hide behind free expression. Thus, a white supremacist group organizing a boycott of black businesses could be considered illegal by the state. More concretely, Obama passed an executive law in 2014 prohibiting federal contractors from practicing anti-LGBT employment discrimination. This is similar to the claims now being made bythose arguing for anti-BDS legislation.
But lets not despair because almost all the laws developed to date are fairly weak constitutionally. Indeed, these are very specific laws that only apply to boycotts against Israel, this underinclusiveness speaks to the fact that no other boycotts of any kind in the US are protected with these anti-BDS laws. Its pretty clear that such laws are being developed to stifle/quash (in legal terms, disfavor) a particular viewpoint, directed at a specific country, Israel. To be clear, its more than fine to have boycotts against any other country, any US state or the US itself (if this were possible), but apparently not Israel.
Anti-BDS forces try to make the case that direct evidence exists that BDS discriminates against Israeli individuals or Jewish individuals, per se, just because of their status but this claim could not be further from the truth. Indeed, the Palestinian BDS national committee directly states that they do not tolerate any act or discourse which adopts or promotes. . . antisemitism, and it affirms Universal Declaration of Human Rights principles rejecting religious and national-origin discrimination. The Palestinian Boycott National Committee encourages supporters to select targets based on their complicity in Israels human rights violations, potential for cross-movement solidarity, media appeal, and likelihood of success. The movement does not select targets based on their national origin or religious identity.
There is a judo throw trick that anti-BDS forces also use in which they claim that criticism of the Jewish state or advocating the end of Israel as a Jewish state are direct evidence for antisemitism. Although this stance can be construed or directly stated as being anti-Zionist (a political stance that opposes Jewish ethno-Nationalism in Israel), it certainly isnt, by definition, equal to being antisemitic, (anti-Jewish animus).
Similarly, anti-BDS forces also argue that BDS ignores human rights abuses in other countries, and then uses but-for rhetoric, in the shape of but-for Israel being the Jewish state, or but-for Jews controlling political power in Israel, there would be no BDS movement. Analogously, claims that the US refusing to trade with Iran are based on anti-Shia Muslim animus instead of Iranian nation-state policy, would be considered idle. And the but-for argument immediately founders if we imagine a similar argument being made against BDS efforts in apartheid South Africa, but-for animus towards the Dutch Boer, there would be no BDS against South Africa.
In another attempted judo throw, anti-BDS tactics may involve claiming that BDS disproportionally affects Jewish Israelis, no matter the intent of BDS. But this runs up against settled case law, NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co., 458 U.S. 886 (1982),in which the claim that the local whites were more likely to be employed by the boycotted businesses, constituting discrimination against white (I kid you not), was rejected. Indeed, the point of the boycott was that whites were the only ones allowed to work and eat in these establishments due to racism. Similarly, BDS, if it has disproportionate effects on Israeli Jews is because the self-proclaimed Jewish State implements a policy of Jewish-only illegal settlements in the West Bank.
The bottom line is that anti-BDS efforts, in a legal context can easily be seen as an effort to stifle disfavored speech (with BDS considered a type of protected speech), precisely what the First Amendment is designed to protect. Attempts to use anti-discrimination argumentation is dependent on the cynical conflation of critique of Israels policies with antisemitic racism. Although there are some critics of Israel that may also be antisemitic, BDS has clearly stated its rejection of any kind of racist language or behavior. Attempts by anti-BDS forces to pass laws legislating against free speech, while successful in regard to getting onto the books in a majority of US states will most likely be rejected when constitutionally challenged. Palestine Legal has as its mission challenging these laws in court and I would urge people to see what they are doing here.
Pulling this back out of the legal context clearly these anti-BDS efforts can have a chilling effect on non-violent efforts to challenge Israels US-supported illegal occupation. The welter of local, state, and national laws and resolutions requires great commitment to fight against. This should not be surprising given the threat BDS poses to the status quo settler colonialism practiced by Israel.
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MuzzleWatch: Breaking down the legal attack against the BDS movement - Mondoweiss