Postal Service Reports Increase In Dog Attacks On Letter Carriers

The U.S. Postal Service announced on Thursday that the number of dog attacks on letter carriers had increased in 2016. Above, USPS letter carrier Jamesa Euler delivers mail in Atlanta in 2013.

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David Goldman/AP

The United States Postal Service has released its annual count of postal employees attacked by dogs – and the numbers aren’t good for letter carriers. USPS says there were 6,755 such attacks in 2016, more than 200 higher than the previous year.

Los Angeles topped the list, with 80 attacks last year. Houston, Cleveland, San Diego and Louisville rounded out the top five.

“Even good dogs have bad days,” says Postal Service Safety Director Linda DeCarlo in a statement.

Americans own approximately 70 million dogs, according to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation. About 36 percent of U.S. households own a dog, with an average of 1.6 dogs per household.

The postal service releases the dog-attack numbers as part of Dog Bite Prevention Week, along with some advice on how people can keep their dogs from biting letter carriers.

Among the tips:

  • If a letter carrier delivers mail to the front door, put the dog in a different room. Dogs have burst through screen doors and plate-glass windows to attack visitors.
  • Some dogs might perceive a letter carrier handing mail directly to a family member as a threat, so the postal service advises not taking mail from letter carriers in the presence of the family pet.
  • On USPS.com, people can indicate whether they have dogs at their address. This helps fill-in letter carriers who don’t know all the neighborhood hounds.

While letter carriers encounter plenty of dogs, they aren’t the ones bitten the most. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that children are most likely to be bitten. The rate is highest among kids age 5-9. Among adults, men are more likely than women to be bitten.

Almost one in five dog bites gets infected, according to the CDC. Some diseases that can be contracted from a dog bite include rabies, pasteurella, tetanus and MRSA (a type of Staph infection).

Cities that had the most dog attacks on postal workers in 2016:

  1. Los Angeles (80)
  2. Houston (62)
  3. Cleveland (60)
  4. San Diego (57)
  5. Louisville (51)
  6. Detroit (48)
  7. Denver (47)
  8. Chicago (46)
  9. Indianapolis (44)
  10. Minneapolis (43)

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During World War I, U.S. Government Propaganda Erased German Culture

This week marks the centennial of U.S. entry into World War I, a conflict that shattered empires and cost millions of lives. On the American home front, it made this country less culturally German.

Today, when the question of loyalty of immigrants has again become contentious, what happened a century ago has special relevance. World War I inspired an outbreak of nativism and xenophobia that targeted German immigrants, Americans of German descent and even the German language.

German-born Robert Prager was lynched in Collinsville, Ill., in 1918. Some Germans and German-Americans were attacked during World War I.

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Courtesy of Jeffrey Manuel

It was a remarkable reversal of fortune. Germans were the largest non-English speaking minority group in the U.S. at the time. The 1910 census counted more than 8 million first and second generation German Americans in the population of 92 million.

There were still more German-American families that had been in the country longer, many since colonial times. They were Catholics and Protestants, Lutherans and Mennonites, German Jews and free thinkers of no religion at all.

“During the 1850s, 900,000 — almost a million — Germans went to the United States,” says historian Kenneth Ledford of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. “That’s at a time when the German population was only about 40 million.”

German Americans often worshiped in churches where German was used. They could live on city streets or in towns with German names. And while many immigrants assimilated into the English-speaking mainstream, many others sent their children to German-language public schools.

Ledford says cities such as Cleveland, Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Chicago gave parents the option for their children in elementary school to receive their instruction in German as well as in English.

“German was the lingua franca of the literary scene, of the entertainment scene, of the theaters,” says Richard Schade of the University of Cincinnati. He says many cities were also home to German language newspapers and clubs where German was spoken.

Inside The Vacant Caverns Of St. Louis’ Other Beer Baron

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The social life of the community was lubricated with the beverage Germans brought from the old country. Lager beer was drunk cold in beer halls. Beer put Germans on a collision course with the growing Temperance Movement. But the biggest collision ahead was over language. Before World War I, German wasn’t just an ethnic minority language, it was the most studied modern foreign language in America.

Legal historianPaul Finkelman says in 1915 about 25 percent of all high school students in America studied German. But by the end of the World War I that changed dramatically. German had become so stigmatized only 1 percent of high schools even taught it.

“During the war, there is an argument that if you learn German, you will become the ‘Hun,’ ” Finkelman says, using the pejorative term for anyone from Germany. “And there was this notion that language was somehow organic to your soul. So if you spoke German, you would think like a German, you would become a totalitarian in favor of the Kaiser.”

For the first three years of the war, the American people were divided over getting involved. When members of minority groups spoke against entering the war in support of Britain, including some, but not all German Americans, their patriotism was questioned. They were disparaged as “hyphenated Americans.”

After President Woodrow Wilson took the country into war he said, “any man who carries a hyphen about with him, carries a dagger that he is ready to plunge into the vitals of this Republic when he gets ready.”

Schade says this anti-German sentiment extended to internment.

“Hans Kuhnwald, the concert meister of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra was interned, the German language was forbidden, the German-American press was heavily censored, libraries had to pull German books off the shelves, German-American organizations were targeted,” Schade says, “and what happened, of course, is the German Americans considered themselves to be good Americans of German extraction, several generations removed from the old country.”

The demonization of German Americans took its ugliest turn in Collinsville, Ill., which is now a suburb of St. Louis. On April 4, 1918, a German immigrant, Robert Prager, was lynched.

Robert Stevens, vice-president of the historical museum in Collinsville, says Prager’s nationality wasn’t the only thing that led to his murder. He was a socialist who worked at a local coal mine, and he was on the wrong side of the miners’ union. But that April night, Prager got on the wrong side of a drunken mob that accused him of spying for Imperial Germany.

“They stripped him totally naked, and they put a rope around his neck, and they paraded him down Main Street, making him sing patriotic songs,” Stevens says. “And they would take their beer bottles and break them in front of him. So he had to step on the broken beer bottles, cut his feet really badly.”

Lynching Of Robert Prager Underlined Anti-German Sentiment During World War I

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Prager professed his love for America and kissed the flag that his tormentors wrapped him in. Even so, he was taken to the edge of town to a hanging tree.

“The group lowered him down quickly and, you know, break his neck,” Stevens says. “They hollered, ‘once for the red,’ and they lowered him again, ‘once for the white’ and ‘once for the blue.’ “

Pete Stehman, who grew up in Collinsville, says the townspeople didn’t talk about Prager for decades, but over the years he became fascinated with the mob’s crime and the town’s silence. He’s written a book about it.

He says that when 11 men were put on trial for the lynching, they were all acquitted. And he points out that the local newspaper wrote about the verdict.

“The community is well convinced he was disloyal,” the newspaper article read. “The city does not miss him. The lesson of his death has had a wholesome effect on the Germanists of Collinsville and the rest of the nation.”

Years later, in his memoir, the editor who wrote that article would call the trial “a farcical patriotic orgy.”

While historians differ on what effect this had on German Americans, Frederick Luebke, author of Bonds of Loyalty: German-Americans and World War I, says “a few reacted by asserting their Germanness with new vigor.” But he adds, “others sought to slough off their ethnicity as painlessly as possible.”

In the anti-German hysteria of World War I, the assimilation of German Americans was accelerated. And being a hyphenated American would mean being suspect in nativist eyes for decades to come.

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Federal Judge Approves Consent Decree To Overhaul Baltimore Police

A mural dedicated to Freddie Gray was painted near the location where he was arrested in Baltimore, Md. A judge has approved a court-enforceable consent decree to overhaul the city’s police department, after an investigation prompted by Gray’s death.

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A federal judge has approved a court-enforceable consent decree to institute reforms in Baltimore’s troubled police department, over the objections of the Trump administration.

The decree was negotiated in the final weeks of former President Barack Obama’s administration. As we reported this January, it “calls for an independent federal monitor to observe the department, as well as a community oversight task force,” and “instructs police to use de-escalation tactics before resorting to violence and calls for police to be instructed on implicit bias and victim-centered practices for handling sexual assault cases,” among other things.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions had expressed “grave concerns” that some provisions would “reduce the lawful powers of the police department.”

“This decree was negotiated during a rushed process by the previous administration and signed only days before they left office,” he said. The Department of Justice sought more time to review the agreement.

U.S. District Judge James Bredar denied that request. He called the agreement “comprehensive, detailed and precise,” and said the problems that it addresses are “urgent.”

The decree was negotiated after a long civil rights investigation into Baltimore police conduct, following the 2015 death of Freddie Gray. The Department of Justice, under Obama, issued a report describing excessive force, routine violations of citizens’ constitutional rights and pervasive racial bias.

“Time is of the essence,” Bredar said, as he announced he had approved the decree over the objections of the new Department of Justice.

The Associated Press reports:

“The Justice Department can appeal the judge’s decision, but it would have to show the judge made an error or abused his discretion.

“That would be difficult to prove, said Jonathan Smith, a civil rights attorney in the Obama Justice Department who oversaw negotiations with troubled police departments.

“Justice Department lawyers also could try to modify the consent decree, but the burden is high, requiring them to show there has been a substantial change in the facts or the law, Smith said.”

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Gov. Jerry Brown Lifts Drought Emergency For Most Of California

Motorcyclists enter the Carrizo Plain National Monument near Taft, Calif., during a wildflower “super bloom” on Wednesday. After years of drought, an explosion of wildflowers in southern and central California is drawing record crowds.

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It has been quite a while since Californians have seen such green. Riding the coattails of an unseasonably wet season, some valleys have become riots of color, deserts have been blanketed with blooms so suffusive they earn the word “super” — and the state’s officials have taken notice.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed an executive order Friday lifting California’s drought emergency in all but four counties. That emergency had been in place since 2014; now, only Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Tuolumne counties remain under the emergency’s much-diminished umbrella.

“This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner,” Brown said in a statement. “Conservation must remain a way of life.”

That warning amounts to more than hollow rhetoric. Despite the end of the emergency, California will maintain several water restrictions of the past two years.

Brown’s executive order continues prohibitions on wasteful water use such as hosing off sidewalks, watering lawns within 48 hours of a rainstorm and irrigating the turf on street medians. It also continues to require urban agencies to report their water use to the state.

The state’s announcement also offered a sobering reminder of the effects of a drought that caused “the driest four-year statewide precipitation on record,” from 2012 to 2015.

“The drought reduced farm production in some regions, killed an estimated 100 million trees, harmed wildlife and disrupted drinking water supplies for many rural communities. The consequences of millions of dead trees and the diminished groundwater basins will continue to challenge areas of the state for years.”

Lately things have been looking up, though.

NPR’s Kirk Siegler notes that snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains this year is 164 percent of average — great news for a state highly dependent on its reservoirs. Only small patches of the state are now in danger of drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Still, officials remain wary, as California Water Resources Control Board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus told Kirk.

“You can’t stay at Defcon 1 forever, but you can figure out how to maintain sort of sensible vigilance.”

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After U.S. Strikes On Syria, The Gloves Come Off In Moscow

Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Vladimir Safronkov speaks during a Security Council meeting on the situation in Syria, Friday, at United Nations headquarters.

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Mary Altaffer/AP

The Kremlin’s rhetorical cease-fire is officially over.

Following Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Russian government and its loyal media gave the new American president the soft touch. But following the U.S. missile strike on Syria, the gloves have come off in Moscow, as hopes for friendlier relations fizzle.

When Rex Tillerson makes his first trip to Russia as secretary of state next week, he can no longer expect a warm welcome. Instead, he will be faced with well-rehearsed accusations of American hypocrisy and double standards.

Russian President Vladimir Putin described the U.S. attack as “an act of aggression against a sovereign state” and a blow to joint efforts in fighting terrorism. In response to the attack, Russia suspended an agreement with the U.S. to avoid mid-air collisions over Syria and called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council.

The U.S. rationale that it had to respond to a Syrian chemical weapons attack on civilians was only a pretext for a long-planned missile strike, the Kremlin said.

“The real estate billionaire has repeated the deplorable experience of his predecessors,” the Russian government’s official newspaper, Rossiiskaya Gazeta, said in a commentary Friday. “This isn’t the first demonstration of a completely incompetent U.S. approach — similar to a big elephant in a small china shop — to solving the most acute international problems.”

Syria has been the key to the Kremlin’s relations with the United States since 2015, when Russia intervened militarily to back Syrian President Bashar Assad in his country’s bloody civil war.

Isolated internationally after seizing Crimea and backing separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014, Putin used military might in Syria to force himself back onto the world stage. Like it or not, the Obama administration had to deal with Putin as a Middle East power broker.

Military cooperation between the two countries was limited to trying to stay out of each other’s way, and joint diplomatic efforts to find a political solution fell apart, mainly because the U.S. and Russia were backing Syrian forces on opposite sides of the battlefield.

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford (left) and Russia’s Chief of Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov (right) attend a meeting with Turkey’s Chief of Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar in Antalya, Turkey, on March 7. Dunford and Gerasimov have met twice since President Trump’s inauguration; before that, the last meeting on that level took place before Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Turkish Military, Pool Photo via AP

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Turkish Military, Pool Photo via AP

With the election of Trump, who said he’d work with Russia to defeat ISIS, Putin saw an opportunity to revive his idea of forming an international coalition to fight terrorism. The Kremlin has angrily denied that Russia tried to sway the U.S. presidential election in favor of Trump, saying accusations of Russian meddling were meant to distract from the Democrats’ own failures.

Following Trump’s inauguration, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, met twice with his Russian counterpart, Gen. Valery Gerasimov. Before those contacts, the last meeting on that level had taken place before Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

After the U.S. missile strike on the Syrian airfield, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia had been informed of the attack in advance “through existing channels” but that Putin hadn’t been contacted directly.

“Those who feared U.S.-Russian collusion will now have to fear their collision,” tweeted Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, a regional think tank.

In a statement on Friday, Russian Gen. Igor Konashenkov said the U.S. assertion that Syrian forces had used chemical weapons on civilians was “groundless.”

He called the effectiveness of the U.S. strike “extremely low,” saying that only 23 of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from American warships had reached their targets at a Syrian airbase. A warehouse, a training facility, a mess hall, six MiG-23s under repair and a radar station were destroyed in the attack, according to Konashenkov, but the airstrip and parked jets were not damaged.

Konashenkov said he “hoped” there had been no coordination between the U.S. and fighters from ISIS and the Nusra Front, who he said launched attacks on Syrian positions after the U.S. missile strike.

“It is not difficult to imagine how much the spirits of these terrorists have been raised after this support from Washington,” Russia’s deputy U.N. Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov said during Friday’s Security Council session.

The change in tone has also been noticeable in Russia’s foreign ministry, where Tillerson’s upcoming visit had been seen as a first step in getting relations back on track.

The experience of John Kerry, Tillerson’s predecessor, served as a warning that even a good working relationship with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov wouldn’t necessarily lead to success. Their repeated efforts to come up with a cease-fire plan for Syria were scuttled by developments on the ground.

Tillerson, who headed Exxon Mobil’s operations in Russia before becoming its CEO, received a medal from Putin in 2012. On Thursday, hours before the missile strike, Tillerson said Russia had “failed in its responsibility” to keep chemical weapons out of the hands of its Syrian allies and was either “complicit or incompetent.”

“Possibly some people have held on to their illusion about the new American secretary of state,” the Rossiiskaya Gazeta commentary said. “Once again we’re reminded that there’s no such thing as friends in business, especially with Washington, whose ill-conceived actions are even more detrimental to Russian-American relations.”

Before the missile strike, U.S. officials were hoping Tillerson’s trip to Moscow would improve “de-confliction” – the avoidance of mid-air collisions or other inadvertent attacks on each other’s forces in Syria – and counter-terrorism cooperation.

Now the secretary of state’s trip will be focused on containing any more damage in relations, rather than turning a new page.

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Trump Organization Settles Lawsuit With Chef José Andrés

The Trump Organization and celebrity chef José Andrés announced a settlement on Friday in the two-year legal dispute over a flagship restaurant in Trump’s Washington, D.C. hotel. Above, the Old Post Office building in July 2015 under renovation before the hotel’s opening.

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The Trump Organization has settled a legal battle with the chef José Andrés that had stretched on for two years. The lawsuit concerned a restaurant deal that Andrés pulled out of after Trump made comments disparaging Mexicans.

Andrés’ restaurant was to be in the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., which operates inside the historic Old Post Office. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, and both parties declined comment beyond a joint statement from the Trump Organization and Andrés’ restaurant group, Think Food Group.

“I am glad that we are able to put this matter behind us and move forward as friends,” Donald Trump, Jr. said in the statement. “Since opening in September 2016, Trump International Hotel, Washington, D.C. has been an incredible success and our entire team has great respect for the accomplishments of both José and TFG. Without question, this is a ‘win-win’ for both of our companies.”

“I am pleased that we were able to resolve our differences and move forward cooperatively, as friends,” said Andrés in the statement. “I have great respect for the Trump Organization’s commitment to excellence in redeveloping the Old Post Office. … Going forward, we are excited about the prospects of working together with the Trump Organization on a variety of programs to benefit the community.”

The Washington Post reports that Andrés had already planned a menu for the restaurant, which was to be called Topo Atrio, and that in the spring of 2015, “Andrés and Trump’s daughter Ivanka traded design ideas and advanced plans for the restaurant.”

But those plans fell apart in 2015, after Donald Trump made disparaging comments about Mexicans, calling them “rapists” and said that they were bringing drugs and crime into the U.S. Andrés pulled out of the deal, and Trump sued for $10 million in a breach of contract suit.

Think Food Group countersued for $8 million, saying that Trump’s comments had hurt business:

“The perception that Mr. Trump’s statements were anti-Hispanic made it very difficult to recruit appropriate staff for a Hispanic restaurant, to attract the requisite number of Hispanic food patrons for a profitable enterprise, and to raise capital for what was now an extraordinarily risky Spanish restaurant.”

A few weeks before taking office in January, Trump sat for a videotaped deposition in the suit.

The General Services Administration said last month that the Trump Organizations is in “full compliance” with a lease that specifically says no “elected official of the Government of the United States … shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom[.]” That decision has been questioned by many ethics and contract experts.

The Trump Organization is reportedly looking to open a second hotel in Washington.

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In Syria, The News Of U.S. Missile Strike Is Greeted With Ambivalence

Syrian residents of Khan Shaykhun hold signs and pictures on Friday during a protest condemning a suspected chemical weapons attack on their town earlier this week.

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In the early hours of Friday morning, the U.S. struck a Syrian airbase in retaliation for an alleged chemical weapons attack on Tuesday by Syrian government forces in the town of Khan Shaykhun.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons says it’s still establishing the facts behind the deaths of dozens of people. Syrians on the ground have mixed feelings about what the U.S. strikes might mean for their future.

The barrage of Tomahawk missiles came as surprise for many Syrians, whether allied or opposed to President Bashar Assad. This is the first time the U.S. has intentionally bombed government forces over the course of the country’s six-year civil war.

That might seem like it would be welcome news to those opposed to Assad, especially in the area where the apparent chemical attack took place. But that’s not how it was being talked about today.

Samer al-Hussein lives just a few miles outside Khan Shaykhun, the town that produced the images that horrified the world — of children and adults choking due to apparent chemical exposure. He visited the town shortly after Tuesday’s attack.

Hussein spoke to NPR after attending Friday prayers.

“The imam of the mosque said the U.S. strikes were a joke,” he said. “They were just to save face. They were strikes that were not fruitful — because today, Russia is still killing [Syrian] civilians.”

What he meant is people are getting killed by conventional airstrikes carried out by Syrian — and even more powerful Russian — warplanes every day.

Hussein said the imam’s sermon focused more on the importance of education than on the U.S. attack, and urged parents to home-school their children on the many days when airstrikes make going to class impossible, to prevent an ignorant next generation.

Hussein says he and others are skeptical that the U.S. is truly concerned about their welfare.

“People are worried that [the attack is] just to make some media noise,” he said, “that this was a one-time U.S. strike on the Shayrat airport, that they won’t strike again, and the reckoning has ended.”

Another resident of the area is Muznah al-Jundi. She runs a woman’s center in the rebel-held northwest, which recently cancelled its programming due to an uptick in airstrikes that received little international attention.

Reached by phone, she said people are unsure what to make of the U.S. missile strikes.

“Honestly,” she said, “our feelings today are mixed between happiness and sadness.”

Jundi felt relieved that the Shayrat airport, from where Syrian planes took off to attack Khan Shaykhun, has been damaged. But she’s also upset over yet more destruction.

“As Syrians,” she said, “we never wanted the situation to get to this point. We didn’t want it to get to this level where Syria is being completely destroyed. But unfortunately, this is the point we’ve reached.”

She says that for this to be helpful, it needs to be part of a full U.S. strategy toward Syria, not just a one-time event.

The Syrian military, for its part, condemned the U.S. strikes as an act of aggression. It said the damage will only make it harder for the Syrian air force to fight ISIS and other terrorist groups.

The airbase the U.S. struck does provide support for government troops fighting ISIS. But Jundi knows when the government uses the word “terrorist” it refers to all of Assad’s opponents.

“The regime made a statement today that they’re fighting terrorists,” she said. “So this makes us more afraid.

“We’re tired inside. We’re tired of planes. We want to live a normal life.”

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Why Add A Banana To The Passover Table?

Franziska Barczyk

Franziska Barczyk for NPR

Next week, between 150 and 200 people will gather for a Passover seder at Temple Beth-El in Richmond, Va. When the traditional Passover question is posed — “Why is this night different from all other nights?” — there’s a new answer. Guests at the Seder, co-sponsored by the refugee aid agency ReEstablish Richmond, will include approximately two dozen locally resettled immigrants from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

Passover, after all, is the ultimate refugee holiday. It’s about an ancient flight to freedom by Israelites who were oppressed in Egypt. And the world is currently facing an unprecedented refugee crisis, with 65.3 million refugees worldwide.

One new version of the Haggada, from the American Jewish World Service, makes a directconnection: “Around the world today, courageous people are making similar journeys — leaving behind violence, poverty and persecution and seeking security, freedom, prosperity and peace.”

Against this backdrop, a number of Jewish organizations are offering new readings and rituals to include at the festive meal known as the Seder. These additions, says Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, are in keeping with the fact that the Haggada — the text read at the Seder — has always been flexible, “less of a fixed text than a user guide to tell the story.”

Here are some suggestions from Jewish organizations to link the ancient holiday with the current crisis. Think of it as three more questions to add to the traditional four.

Why put tropical fruit on the table?

Both the banana and the pineapple are being suggested as additions to the Passover table.

The banana is a connection to the story of 3-year-old Syrian refugee Aylan Kurdi, who drowned on a beach in Turkey in 2015 on the cusp of reaching safety.

In different interviews, the father of Aylan and his 5-year old brother (who also drowned) said he’d bring them a banana as a treat. This ritual was introduced last year by Rabbi Dan Moskovitz, of Temple Sholom Vancouver, British Columbia — the city where Aylan’s family had hoped to settle.

The pineapple has been a traditional symbol of welcome and hospitality since colonial times because of its exotic pedigree and rich flavor. In bygone days, a pineapple on the table demonstrated that the hosts had gone to special trouble to welcome and honor their guests, says Rabbi Ronni Handler, executive editor of ritualwell.org of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. The fruit has another connection to the holiday of Passover, with its focus on the lives of Jews as slaves in Egypt. Pineapples were often farmed by slave laborers in the colonial era.

What would you take with you?

As we tell the Passover story each year, we relive our own Exodus,” says Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, vice president of community engagement at HIAS, formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, which focuses on protecting and aiding refugees. The HIAS Passover supplement encourages participants to think about what necessary or treasured object they would take on a journey to freedom. It also provides examples of actual objects taken by recent refugees, like Farhad, who hid a photograph of his mother under his clothes when smugglers told him to throw everything away as he escaped Afghanistan; and Sajida, who kept the necklace her best friend gave her to remember her childhood in Syria.

Why put shoes on the doorstep?

HIAS also suggests continuing a ritual the organization introduced last year: putting a pair of shoes on the household doorstop to symbolize the fact that Jews have stood in the shoes of the refugee. This also provides an opportunity for Seder participants to discuss their own family journeys. For Rabbi Pesner, the contemporary immigration crisis echoes the story of his Grandma Fanny, who in 1916 at age 16 fled pogroms in Russia for a new life in America.

And that’s why Rabbi Knopf will be placing a pair of shoes at the door for the Interfaith Refugee Seder in Richmond on April 11, the second night of the holiday.

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Revisiting A Masterpiece: When Frank Sinatra Collaborated With Antonio Carlos Jobim

Frank Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim in the studio.

Courtesy of Frank Sinatra Enterprises

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Courtesy of Frank Sinatra Enterprises

Frank Sinatra was well into his Rat Pack era, the reigning American embodiment of masculine suavity and aplomb, when he teamed up with a maestro of Brazilian music to make one of the most exquisitely tender albums of his career. That album, Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim, has lost none of its luster since it was first released 50 years ago. In fact, a newly remastered anniversary edition extracts additional depth from Claus Ogerman’s orchestrations, which frame Sinatra’s voice like a Rolex on a velvet cushion.

Frank Sinatra’s album with Antonio Carlos Jobim came out 50 years ago this week.

Reprise Records

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Reprise Records

The album, recorded in Hollywood in the winter of 1967, captures both Sinatra and Jobim at an apex, flush with creative and popular success. Sinatra was coming off a knockout run of albums on his Reprise label — including Sinatra at the Sands, recorded with the Count Basie Orchestra, and That’s Life, which yielded an unstoppable single, “Strangers in the Night.”

Jobim, a pianist and guitarist as well as a composer, was the beating heart at the center of a worldwide bossa nova craze, following the success of Getz/Gilberto. A joint effort of the American tenor saxophonist Stan Getz and the Brazilian guitarist and singer João Gilberto, that album also served as a showcase for Jobim’s songs, including “The Girl From Ipanema,” a runaway smash.

Frank Sinatra with Antonio Carlos Jobim in 1967.

Ed Thrasher/Courtesy of Frank Sinatra Enterprises

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Ed Thrasher/Courtesy of Frank Sinatra Enterprises

The 50th anniversary edition of Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim has just been released in various formats, including two vinyl packages. And along with the music from the original album, it includes two previously unreleased tracks: A live medley from a television special, and part of a session reel for “The Girl From Ipanema,” which Sinatra and Jobim sing as a duet.

“Don’t let it run away, fellas, with the tempo,” Sinatra cautions at the top of the first take. “Just hold it down, let it settle down. Because it’s got a lot of — it’s got a gang of words.” After the take is finished, he calls for another one, “right away.” His decisive brusqueness strikes a jarring contrast to the singing, which is as delectably airy as a soufflé.

The commercial relevancy of bossa nova is one way to explain Sinatra’s keen interest in Jobim: He was aware of his tenuous position within a cultural moment increasingly defined by The Beatles. But his treatment of this music belies any charge of opportunism. While bossa nova presented a new angle for him as a singer — “I haven’t sung so soft since I had the laryngitis,” he quipped during the sessions — he clearly regarded the style as something more than a novelty.

“No other American pop star would so thoroughly immerse himself in the world of bossa,” writes Will Friedwald in his fine critical biography Sinatra! The Song is You: A Singer’s Art. “He not only recorded two whole albums’ worth of the stuff but sacrificed his signature stylistics in order to more smoothly fit into the new vernacular.”

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Consider the sensitivity of Sinatra’s phrasing on “Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars,” a version of Jobim’s “Corcovado” with English lyrics by the critic Gene Lees.

The balance of voice and orchestration is so impeccably calibrated that it has effectively been canonized: When Diana Krall made her own bossa nova album in 2009, she named it Quiet Nights, enlisting Ogerman as arranger (who won a Grammy for his efforts).

In its original iteration, Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim broke into the Top 20 and spent 28 consecutive weeks on the Billboard album chart. According to Michael Bourne, the host of Singers Unlimited on WBGO, it marked another layer of validation for bossa nova in the American pop mainstream. “Even after the album Getz/Gilberto won a Grammy as album of the year,” said Bourne, “the Sinatra/Jobim album was a musical apotheosis, a blessing of Jobim’s songs from America’s musical Pope.”

There was, however, one distinction that eluded the album. Sinatra had won album of the year at the previous two Grammy Awards — for September of My Years (1965) and A Man and His Music (1966) — but he wasn’t destined for a threepeat. While Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim was nominated, and perhaps even the frontrunner, the top honor went to another album that has stood the test of time: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

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As Measles Surges In Europe, Officials Brace For A Rough Year

Next week I’ll be hopping on a plane for an 11-hour ride to Europe with a strong-willed, 1 1/2-year-old toddler.

A big concern is how to deal with the inevitable meltdowns. But my top priority before boarding is about my little girl’s health: Is she protected from the measles?

The virus — which kills almost 400 kids each day worldwide — is hitting Europe hard this year.

Romania is fighting a large outbreak with more than 3,400 cases, including 17 deaths. And Italy is seeing a big surge in cases, with at least 400 already in 2017, the World Health Organization reported last week

The outbreak is only going to get worse.

“Preliminary information for February indicates that the number of new infections is sharply rising,” WHO wrote.

And the problem isn’t just in Europe. Guinea is battling a widespread outbreak, with nearly 3,500 confirmed cases, Doctors Without Borders reports. Nigeria is having an emergency campaign to vaccinate 4 million kids after an outbreak flared up in a region crippled by violence. And Mongolia — which was declared measles-free in 2014 — is still reeling from a massive outbreak nearly 20,000 cases.

In other words, 2017 is shaping to be bad year for the measles worldwide, says Dr. Seth Berkley, who leads the nonprofit Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, devoted to vaccinating children worldwide.

There’s one big reason why: Vaccine rates around the world have stalled, Berkley says.

Since the 1980s, the world has seen a massive plunge in measles cases, dropping from more than 4 million cases each year to fewer than 500,000.

But that improvement has plateaued.

“Over the past five years, measles vaccine coverage around the world has stagnated at around 78 percent,” Berkley says. “That in combination with the European outbreak is worrisome.”

For the measles, it’s not enough to have 78 percent of a population vaccinated. You need about 90 to 95 percent to stop outbreaks, Berkeley says.

Because measles is one of the most contagious diseases on Earth. One sick person spreads it to 18 others, on average. The virus literally floats around in clouds through the air, seeking out the unvaccinated.

“You don’t even need to be in the same room with a sick person to catch measles,” Berkley says. “If you were to leave a doctor’s office and someone came an hour later, that person could catch measles just from the virus left in the air.”

“So in places where vaccine coverage has dropped, we’re seeing a lot more cases,” he says.

That includes includes poor countries, like Guinea, Mongolia and Nigeria, where families just don’t have access to vaccines. But also rich countries, like Romania, Italy and France, where false perceptions about vaccine’s risks have kept parents from immunizing some kids. For example, the French have the lowest confidence in vaccines in the world, researchers reported last year. Nearly 40 percent say they don’t think vaccines are safe.

“The problem is measles is a disease that people don’t remember because the vaccine has been quite successful,” Berkley says. “But 1 out of 4 people who catch the measles will be hospitalized. One out of 1,000 will end up with brain swelling, which could lead to brain damage. And 1 or 2 out of 1,000 can die, even with the best care.”

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