The Biden Admin is Failing to Reform U.N.’s Palestinian Refugee Agency
Plus, the Booming—and Not Entirely Trustworthy—Business of Prenatal Genetic Testing.
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DAVID MAY: Biden Administration Failing to Reform U.N.’s Palestinian Refugee Agency.
Beyond teaching materials, UNRWA personnel are also part of the problem. In August 2021, another watchdog group, UN Watch, issued a report detailing 113 UNRWA staffers who promoted terrorism, violence, and anti-Semitism, mainly on social media. For example, multiple teachers praised Hitler, espoused conspiracy theories of global Jewish domination, and shared Hamas propaganda videos. Following the report, UNRWA suspended at least six employees. What happened to the other 107 remains unclear.
UNRWA has also failed to demonstrate its neutrality. During the latest Hamas-Israel war, then-UNRWA Gaza chief Matthias Schmale drew Hamas’s ire and earned himself a one-way ticket out of Gaza for merely acknowledging that Israel’s strikes in Gaza were precise and largely avoided civilian casualties. Schmale is no longer with UNRWA. His replacement quickly met with Hamas and thanked the terrorist group for its “positivity and desire to continue cooperation.”
UNRWA also appears to be failing in its commitment not to support terrorists, having contracted with at least two organizations tied to terrorist groups in 2021. In both cases, the contracts were with health-care related institutions, but the connections to terrorist entities are troubling. UNRWA spent over $366,000 at Rassoul al-Azam, a Hezbollah-owned and -operated hospital in Beirut. UNRWA also paid over $1.2 million to the Union of Health Work Committees (UHWC), reportedly the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s (PFLP) Gaza-based health organization. (The U.S. government designated the PFLP as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1997.) The August 2019 murder of an Israeli teenager perpetrated by members of several PFLP-linked nongovernmental organizations elevated concerns regarding the PFLP’s use of NGOs as fronts.
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PAUL ALEXANDER: The Booming—and Not Entirely Trustworthy—Business of Prenatal Genetic Testing.
One company that has been active in NIPT screening for genetic disorders, known in the industry as microdeletions, is Natera, a medical technology company in Austin, Texas, that describes itself as a “global leader in cell-free DNA testing.” According to the Times, the company ran 400,000 tests for DiGeorge syndrome in 2020, deemed a “rare disorder” by the Center for Rare Diseases, even though there was an 81 percent chance that any given positive result was wrong. And this is just one rare disorder for which the company is running tests.
The Times noted that while Natera had done well with basic testing, conducting two million screenings for Down syndrome over the last nine years, it was in fact screenings for microdeletions that company management wanted to trumpet. “This is a really significant moment for the microdeletions business,” Steve Chapman, Natera’s CEO, said to investors in early 2021. Should additional insurance companies begin to pay for more microdeletion testing, he said, the prospects for profits were “enormous.”
In a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission dated January 14, Kuppersmith observed that Natera’s website contained descriptive phrases about the company like “the most accurate non-invasive prenatal testing on the market,” “trusted resource,” and “evaluated in 23 peer-reviewed publications in more than 1.3 million pregnancies.” However, no mention was made of the Times investigation of microdeletion disorders such as DiGeorge and Prader-Willi syndromes that found results “are incorrect approximately 85% of the time,” prompting one industry insider to call the exploitation of the microdeletion sector “purely a marketing thing.”
ZANDY HARTIG: ‘Belle de Jour,’ an Un-Erotic Masterpiece.
One of the only productive things I did over the last couple years of isolation was watching movies—specifically older, influential, “important” ones I am intimidated by (a truly silly notion since they’re not going to insult my children or say my house is messy). I consumed multiple Goddard, Truffaut, Kubrick, and Fellini movies in HBO Max’s wonderful film catalog with gusto. Which is how the algorithm delivered me to Luis Buñuel’s Belle de Jour.
I’d heard that Belle de Jour (1967) was an erotic masterpiece. After watching it three times, I only halfway agree. It is absolutely a masterpiece, but it is not erotic. Belle de Jour’s producers, Raymond and Robert Hakim, were famous for making sexually suggestive films. They approached Luis Buñuel to adapt and direct the movie based on the erotic novel by Joseph Kessel, but Buñuel agreed only if he were given complete creative control. The result is a sublime tragi-comedy and an indictment of the bourgeoisie. But it is definitely not titillating.
Belle de Jour is about a beautiful, aristocratic young woman, Séverine Serizy (Catherine Deneuve) who won’t consummate her marriage to her impossibly handsome doctor husband, Pierre (Jean Sorel). Instead, she has dreams of total sexual degradation at the hands of Pierre and other men. After hearing about another wife in her social circle who is secretly working as a prostitute, Séverine becomes obsessed with the idea for herself. Husson (Michel Piccoli), a distasteful and mysterious acquaintance, drops the name and address of a brothel he used to frequent. Séverine leaves her tony eighth arrondissement apartment to search for the brothel in a distinctly proletariat section of Paris. After a tentative start, she begins working there in the afternoons. The madam, Anaïs (Geneviève Page) gives her the alias “Belle de Jour” (“beauty of the day”) since she can only work afternoons while her husband is at the hospital. Thus begins her double life: the perfect, if chilly, bourgeois wife to Pierre at night; the blooming, liberated woman Séverine becomes during the day at Madame Anaïs’s whorehouse.
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