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The Nonprofits Making Billions off the Border Crisis. Plus. . .

Michael Oren on Biden’s betrayal. La Leche League erases mothers. Eurovision. Qatari money in NY schools. Seinfeld’s commencement speech. And much more.

On today’s Front Page from The Free Press: Jerry Seinfeld’s Duke address on hard work and the importance of humor; Michael Oren on Biden’s betrayal; La Leche League erases mothers; Tanya Gold on Eurovision; and much more. 

But first, Madeleine Rowley investigates how federal funding has turned the business of resettling migrant children into a goldmine for a handful of NGOs—and their top executives.

While the border crisis has become a major liability for President Biden, threatening his reelection chances, it’s become a huge boon to a group of nonprofits getting rich off government contracts.

Although the federally funded Unaccompanied Children Program is responsible for resettling unaccompanied migrant minors who enter the U.S., it delegates much of the task to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that run shelters in the border states of Texas, Arizona, and California.

And with the recent massive influx of unaccompanied children—a record 130,000 in 2022, the last year for which there are official stats—the coffers of these NGOs are swelling, along with the salaries of their CEOs. 

“The amount of taxpayer money they are getting is obscene,” Charles Marino, former adviser to the Department of Homeland Security under Obama, said of the NGOs. “We’re going to find that the waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer money will rival what we saw with the Covid federal money.” Read the full investigation here.

In a sure sign that fun is back, Jerry Seinfeld took the stage at Duke’s commencement ceremony Sunday to give the keynote address. There was observational humor about the Titan submersible—“If the fish where you are have eyes like Shelley Duvall and a bendy straw with a work light hanging off of their head, you do not belong there”; life advice, like focus on work and fall in love; and a defense of feeling uncomfortable. 

“The slightly uncomfortable feeling of awkward humor is okay,” Seinfeld advised. “It is worth the sacrifice of an occasional discomfort to have some laughs. Don’t lose that. Even if it’s at the cost of occasional hard feelings, it’s okay.” It got big applause from both students and faculty onstage. On the subject of privilege he mused, “My point is we’re embarrassed about things we should be proud of and proud of things that we should be embarrassed about.”

His words feel true, and funny, and you’ll benefit from listening whether you graduated from college yesterday, fifty years ago, or never. 

Watch the whole thing below—we especially think you’d benefit if you’re one of the handful of Duke graduates who missed the remarks!—or read a full transcript on our site.

  1. The crowd at anti-Israel protests is disproportionately female, observes Heather Mac Donald. Her explanation? “The victim ideology that drives much of academia today. . . has a female character.” (City Journal)

  2. Why you should be bullish on solar energy: it’s cheap, popular, safe, simple, and scalable. Roger Pielke Jr., an environmental studies academic turned independent researcher, has this to say: “I don’t think it will be too long until conventional wisdom considers wind energy like we look back at the Blackberry phone, and solar like the iPhone.” (The Honest Broker

  3. Axios on Friday: Nikki Haley is under “active consideration” as running mate by Donald Trump. Trump on Saturday: “Nikki Haley is not under consideration for the VP slot, but I wish her well!” (Axios

  4. Xi Jinping thinks science can solve China’s economic problems. Tanner Greer, director of the Center for Strategic Translation, explains the thinking behind Beijing’s techno-nationalist drive. (The Scholar’s Stage)

  5. Interest payments on U.S. government debt just surpassed the amount we spend on defense and Medicare. It’s an ominous milestone given Ferguson’s law (coined by friend of The Free Press Niall Ferguson): “Any great power that spends more on debt service (interest payments on the national debt) than on defense will not stay great for very long.” (CRFB)

  6. The Wall Street Journal called 1960s anti-war protesters to ask them what they thought about the campus protests of 2024, and not all of them are happy with comparison. Steve Lewis, 74, notes that some of today’s protesters have called for “intifada.” “When we were protesting. . . it was calling to save the lives of Vietnamese people and save the lives of American soldiers. Not to kill people.” (WSJ

  7. Attack of the zombie salmon. A debate over salmon farms just off the coast of Iceland has become a bitter, polarized national fight. (Spiegel International)  

  8. The influential Democratic pollster Mark Penn says Joe Biden is going about his reelection bid all wrong: “His campaign appears all-too-focused on firming up his political base on the left with his new shift on Israel, a $7 trillion budget, massive tax increases, and failing to connect on the basic issues of inflation, immigration, and energy.” (NYT

  9. A Wall Street regulator is moving to ban betting on the election. Our schoolmarm overlords keep finding fresh ways to make the 2024 race unbearable. (Marginal Revolution)

  10. Where did all the male writers—and readers—go? “The shrinking male in modern literary fiction matters for what is getting left out: the interiority of men, nearly half the population, and particularly those who are failing.” (Political Currents)

The leading organization for teaching mothers to breastfeed now prefers the term chestfeeding and has opened its meetings to biological men, reports Bethany Mandel for The Free Press. 

Thanks to La Leche League workshops, Bethany breastfed all six of her children, a project that took up most of the last ten years. But she isn’t sure she’d find the same success if she started breastfeeding today. “La Leche League’s meetings are now also open to biological men,” she writes. “All attendees have to do is say they’re transgender or nonbinary, and they can come and watch women baring their breasts while obtaining breastfeeding support. When I learned to breastfeed at these meetings, I had my boob out for about 45 minutes. If a man were there as well, I wouldn’t have done that.” Read Bethany’s full piece here.

→ Michael Oren: Is America still Israel’s ally? Wading through the flood of information about the Biden administration’s opposition to a large-scale Israel incursion into Rafah, readers might have missed the tsunami. In a lengthy dispatch on the crisis, The Washington Post noted—almost in passing—that in return for not invading Rafah, the U.S. was offering Israel “sensitive intelligence to help. . . pinpoint the location of Hamas leaders and find the group’s hidden tunnels.” 

In other words, the White House apparently knows where these leaders are hiding but hasn’t told its ally—and won’t—unless Israel forgoes a military operation viewed by many Israelis as the only means of defeating Hamas and securing the hostages’ release. And since Hamas leaders shield themselves with hostages, it’s logical to conclude that the U.S. is also keeping the captives’ location secret from Israel.

If the report is true, it signifies a violation of trust even more egregious than the administration’s curtailing of crucial munition supplies to Israel. By withholding arms, the Biden administration helped to relieve the pressure on Hamas to release at least some of the hostages. Instead, they rejected what Secretary of State Blinken called “Israel’s extraordinarily generous offer.” The policy of withholding lifesaving information from Israel, more treacherously, aids Hamas’s war effort and further dims the hope of freeing hostages. 

In light of this news, one could reasonably ask, “Is America still Israel’s ally?”
 —Michael Oren, historian and former Israeli ambassador to the United States 

→ ‘Qataris write the check’ for New York City schools: At a House hearing on antisemitism in schools last week, the head of New York City’s public school system was asked about Qatari donations to the Department of Education and a map of the Middle East hanging in a Brooklyn school that replaced Israel with “Palestine,” a story The Free Press broke earlier this year

Chancellor David C. Banks testified that a teacher paid for the map, and that it was not provided using funds from QFI, the U.S. wing of the Qatar Foundation, a nonprofit owned by the Al Thani family, who runs the Arab state. Banks conceded that the Qataris “write the check” but that the foundation “had no impact on the curriculum that’s been developed and how it’s been implemented.” 

In short: the rulers of a country that harbors Hamas leaders are pouring cash into New York schools, but don’t worry. They don’t have any say over what happens to that money and get nothing in return. And the map was simply the work of an enterprising teacher. 

Read Francesca Block’s full report on the hearing here.

→ Europe’s blurry vision: Europe’s progressive left spent last week bullying Eden Golan, the twenty-year-old Israeli entrant in the Eurovision Song Contest. She was confined to her hotel room for much of the week for security reasons, and had to travel to the venue in Malmö, Sweden, in an armored motorcade. 

Malmö was where the Danish Jews rescued from the Holocaust were taken, but things have changed since then. Thousands of protesters screamed outside her hotel, and later, inside the venue itself. Greta Thunberg, who seems to think that Hamas is related to decarbonization, was arrested wearing a keffiyeh. Those unable to travel chimed in online as part of a growing cultural boycott of Israel, and “Zionists.” 

Eurovision’s aesthetic is camp, but this year it tried on Jew hate. A Polish journalist asked Golan if her presence made the competition dangerous for fellow contestants and fans. Last year’s Swedish winner, Loreen, said that if Golan won, she wouldn’t hand the prize to her. Marina Satti, the Greek entrant, mimed falling asleep as Golan spoke at a press conference. The Irish entrant—a “goth gremlin witch” called Bambi Thug (you must look at her)—said she cried when Golan went through to the finals and called the experience “horrible.” Silvester Belt, the Lithuanian entrant, said performing after “that country [Israel]” was “one of the worst things I had to go through. . . . [a] traumatic experience.”

Except, after all the vitriol from the participants, the Eurovision viewers loved Golan. 

There are two sets of votes for each country at Eurovision: the votes of expert juries compiled by each country and the popular vote. Israel did poorly in the jury vote but came second in the popular vote overall. And Golan came top among voters in 14 countries, including France, Germany, and the UK, plus the non-European “rest of the world” bloc, to finish a respectable fifth. 

We can’t know if this is because the Jewish diaspora voted in huge numbers (you could vote 20 times from one telephone), if anti-Israel activists boycotted the competition (venues canceled Eurovision parties, and drag queens cried their makeup off because of the mere presence of Golan in the competition), or if non-Jews, annoyed at being unable to access their city centers on the weekends due to pro-Palestinian protests, voted for Israel in their own protest vote. (Ireland gave Israel a high popular vote, and its Jewish population is infinitesimal, though probably too large for Bambi Thug.) 

Golan was loudly booed in the auditorium, prompting the German commentator to lash out, “Fuck all of you, you absolute scumbags.” But German schoolchildren know the history of European Jewry in a way pathologically self-absorbed goth gremlin witches do not.

The competition was won by the ludicrous Nemo of Switzerland, and artistically it was worthless. In general, that’s a good way of describing the whole Eurovision spectacle. Except for this year when a 20-year-old Israeli offered a master class in dignity. —Tanya Gold

→ Life lessons from the man who “solved the market”: James Simons, the founder of Renaissance Technologies who died Friday aged 86, has a claim to being the most successful investor of our time. Simons was a pioneer of quantitative investing—trading based on algorithms. 

The goal for any investor is whether he can beat the market (i.e., generate returns in excess of the S&P 500). Very few do so over an extended period of time. As the title of a biography about Simons put it, he didn’t just beat the market. He solved it. Simons once offered a short autobiography: “I did a lot of math, I made a lot of money, and I gave a lot of money away.” (For a longer version of the story, we recommend this 2005 profile by our very own Joe Nocera.) 

Simons’ success holds lessons bigger than the esoteric world of quant investing. A mathematician who once worked as a codebreaker for the U.S. government, he succeeded by zigging while others zagged. Rather than hiring Wall Street insiders in Manhattan, he set up shop in unglamorous East Setauket, Long Island, and hired fellow mathematicians and scientists. Then, he beat Wall Street at its own game. 

In 2010, when Simons stepped down from the day-to-day management of Renaissance, he was asked what guiding principles had served him well in life and business. He offered five, and they seem like pretty good advice, whether you’re in his line of work or doing something less lucrative: 

  1. Do something new; don’t run with the pack. I am not such a fast runner. If I am one of N people all working on the same problem, there is very little chance I will win. If I can think of a new problem in a new area, that will give me a chance.

  2. Surround yourself with the smartest people you can find. When you see such a person, do all you can to get them on board. That extends your reach, and terrific people are usually fun to work with.

  3. Be guided by beauty. This is obviously true in doing mathematics or writing poetry, but it is also true in fashioning an organization that is running extremely well and accomplishing its mission with excellence.

  4. Don’t give up easily. Some things take much longer than one initially expects. If the goal is worth achieving, just stick with it.

  5. Hope for good luck!

Josh recommends Paris 1919, the 1973 solo album by John Cale of the Velvet Underground: An eclectic, fascinating, and timeless listen—perfect for a long drive or a long night at the office. 

Christina recommends the Consumer Cellular Iris Flip Phone: For $50 you can free yourself from the shackles of your smartphone with this “dumbphone,” which can’t do much more than text (very slowly) and call. A month in, I have completed three books, learned to navigate around the city I’ve lived in for eight years without GPS, and been much more present with my two daughters. You can do it, too! 

Oliver Wiseman is a writer and editor for The Free Press. Follow him on X @ollywiseman

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