Thursday, 28 June 2012

Chinese man proves that watching too much soccer on television can be deadly

I don't understand how anyone can stay awake for 11 consecutive nights to watch soccer on television; I have trouble staying awake for 11 consecutive minutes watching the game (I always found playing soccer to be much more fun than watchng it). As reported by Tom Phillips of the London Daily Telegraph, June 22, 2012:

A football-obsessed man from Changsha in south-central China has reportedly died after staying up for 11 successive nights to watch Euro 2012 matches.

According to a report in Hunan province's Sanxiang Metropolis newspaper, the 26-year-old was found dead by his mother after his 11-day football-watching marathon, finally expiring after Ireland's 2-0 defeat to Italy on June 18.

The time-difference between Europe and China means that most of the Euro 2012 matches only start at 2.45am local time, finishing at daybreak...

...Mr Jiang reportedly returned home at 5am last Tuesday but when his mother attempted to wake him for dinner that evening she found him dead.

Liu Zhiling, a doctor from the local People's Hospital ER, told the newspaper: "Jiang was in good health. But staying up through the night and not sleeping enough weakened his immune system and he drank and smoked while watching the football, triggering his condition."

"If you use beer to replace water that is not good. Alcohol harms [the body]," Dr Liu added.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Canada strengthens defense links with Israel

As reported by Murray Brewster of The Canadian Press, June 19, 2012 (updated June 20, 2012):

Israel has received private assurances Canada stands ready to help defend the Jewish state, but just how far the Harper government intends to take that commitment remains unclear.

Newly released documents say Defence Minister Peter MacKay told Israel's top military commander, Maj.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, during a 2011 visit to the Middle East, that "a threat to Israel is a threat to Canada."

The statement came a year after cabinet colleague Peter Kent was upbraided as junior foreign affairs minister for telling a Toronto-based publication that "an attack on Israel would be considered an attack on Canada."

The declaration, appearing in an internal summary of MacKay's trip to Israel, could have important implications given the increasing military co-operation between the two countries.

Under the Harper government, Canada's support of Israel has been unwavering, even in the face of mounting international tensions over Iran's nuclear program.

When he met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Ottawa earlier this year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper emphasized Canada wants to see a peaceful resolution in the troubled region, but it's unclear how far Canada has committed itself in the volatile region.

A spokesman for MacKay said the defence minister's comment was intended as an expression of support.

"Minister MacKay was making a statement of political solidarity with the Israelis and reminding our friends there that they are not facing global security threats alone," said Jay Paxton in an email.

The Israeli embassy declined comment, but pointed to remarks Netanyahu made to Canadian-Jewish publications following a speech by U.S. President Barack Obama on March 5, 2012.

"I appreciated the fact he made clear that when it comes to a nuclear-armed Iran, containment is simply not an option, and equally in my judgment, and perhaps most important of all, I appreciated the fact that he said Israel must be able to defend itself, by itself against any threat," the Israeli prime minister said.

Defence relationship deepens

Canada's military and industrial relationship with Israel has grown enormously. The two countries are negotiating or have signed a series of defence-based agreements over the last few years, details of which have been withheld.

The two countries do not have a binding defence arrangement, similar to Canada's obligations under NATO, but critics have begun to question the details and extent of the emerging relationship.

"These kinds of comments have consequences," said NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar.

"We're talking of a very sensitive part of the world. Every word you use has to be chosen carefully and so the question is: Is this the position of the Canadian government — or the Conservatives — when comes to a conflict in the Middle East?"

MacKay's assurances, unearthed by a Queen's University researcher using the federal access-to-information law, came during a Jan. 9-12, 2011, bilateral visit, where MacKay also met with Netanyahu, Defence Minister Ehud Barak and opposition leader Tzipi Livni.

To underscore how intertwined trade and defence have become, the Israeli prime minister emphasized "the Iranian threat," but also expressed interest in buying waterbombers from Montreal-based Bombardier and asked MacKay to convey a letter to Harper.

Speaking to Barak, MacKay "stated Canada was a solid partner and that both countries were looking through the same filter" on the region, said the Feb. 14, 2011, summary.

Dewar said it's no secret the Conservatives have a one-sided approach to the Middle East, but he believes it will ultimately damage relations with Washington.

"It's fine to say we are friends of Israel and we support Israel. Sign me up, absolutely," he said. "But Canada's role in the world is to be able to talk to people the Americans can't talk to and to go to places where the U.S. can't."

MacKay and Barak signed a memorandum of understanding following their meeting, a document that acts framework to guide defence co-operation.

Deal covers intelligence, technology, procurement

Documents obtained by The Canadian Press under access to information shed light on the scope of that co-operation, which extends to the exchange of classified information, defence science and technology research, and defence procurement.

On the military side, the Canadian air force has taken the lead and "is looking at deepening relations with Israel given its modern and dynamic Air Force," said a July 27, 2011, briefing prepared for MacKay.

Also last year, Brig.-Gen Eden Attias was quietly named as Israel's defence attache in Ottawa, the first to be appointed in North America outside of Washington since 1948.

The countries have agreed to exchange secret defence information, a matter that required considerable negotiation, according to the documents.

Another aspect of the arrangements raises the possibility of joint military procurement. The two countries co-operated extensively when Canada went shopping for drones during the Afghan war and settled on the Israeli-made Heron.

The agreements also open the door to more Israeli participation in Canadian defence projects, specifically Elisra Electronics Systems Ltd.'s work on the Halifax-class frigate upgrade.
See my February 17, 2010 post about Peter Kent's comments on Israel.

BBC admits it "made a mistake" in its reporting of Palestinian massacre of West Bank Jewish family

As reported by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, June 22, 2012:

(JTA) -- ...In March 2011, Palestinians entered the Fogels’ home and murdered Udi, 36, Ruth, 35, and their children, Yoav, 11, Elad, 4, and Hadas, who was 3 months old. Another daughter, who was outside of the house at the time of the killings, came home and discovered the bodies.

Two Palestinian men were each sentenced to five consecutive life sentences for the Fogels’ murders.
The item was reported in more detail by Jessica Elgot of London's Jewish Chronicle, June 21, 2012:

The BBC “got it wrong” by not giving prominence to the massacre of the Fogel family by Palestinians in the West Bank settlement of Itamar, the outgoing director-general has admitted.

Mark Thompson was quizzed by Conservative MP Louise Mensch, who made various complaints to the BBC about the coverage, at a Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee hearing on Tuesday. Mrs Mensch said the BBC’s decision not to include the story as part of its rolling news coverage generated “the most reaction I have ever had in all my time in politics.”

She said: “The BBC ran the story on Radio 4 and a lead item on the website but they never subsequently touched it in broadcast or on the 24-hour rolling news programme on BBC News 24. I only found out, after the event, from an American blog, called “Dead Jews is no news” and the more I went into it, the more shocked I was.

“I was overwhelmed by response from the Jewish community both here and abroad. There was a feeling the BBC just didn’t care and that, if a settler had entered the home of a Palestinian family, slit the throat of their children, that the BBC would have covered that.”

Mrs Mensch had subsequently received an apology from BBC News’s Helen Boaden but wanted Mr Thompson’s reassurance about the BBC’s “even-handedness” on the Middle East conflict.

Mr Thompson said the story had come during a “very busy news period” including the fighting in Libya and the tsunami in Japan.

“News editors were under a lot of pressure,” he said. “Having said that, it was certainly an atrocity which should have been covered across our news bulletins that day.”

But he added: “I don’t believe that should be taken as systemic bias. We try very, very hard… to reflect suffering on both sides of that conflict. When there has been a humanitarian incident in Gaza, we try to show the effects of rockets in Sderot.”

He said he stood by his decision not to have shown the DEC humanitarian appeal for Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. “I believe I was right, many people thought I was wrong. It might have given the impression we were more sympathetic to one side of that dispute than the other. Israel and Palestine, like Kashmir and Sri Lanka, are so hot in terms of people’s sensitivity.

“But I do want to say, to all our audience including our Jewish and Israeli audiences here and around the world, we do want to make sure we are fair and impartial. We made a mistake in this instance.”

Mrs Mensch said after the meeting that she was extremely pleased with Mr Thompson’s response. “I was very satisfied with his frank admission, He understood how this had affected the Jewish community.”
Mrs. Mensch was gracious in her response to Mr. Thompson, but I agree with the earlier response from the British Jewish community--if it had been a Jewish settler massacring Palestinians, it would have received much more coverage.

Freedom for Jewish religious practices upheld in Netherlands, threatened in Norway and (possibly) Germany

As reported by Ynet News, June 20, 2012:

The Dutch upper house, the Senate, on Tuesday rejected a bill that would have banned the ritual slaughter of animals and had been criticized by both Muslim and Jewish groups.

The bill, proposed by the small Party for the Animals, stipulates that livestock must be stunned before being slaughtered, contrary to Muslim halal and Jewish kosher laws, which require animals to be conscious.

The lower house of parliament passed the bill a year ago, leaving a loophole saying religious groups could continue ritual slaughter if they proved it was no more painful than other methods of slaughter.

Earlier this month, the Dutch government and the Jewish and Muslim communities in the Netherlands reached an agreement that asserted that animals could continue to be ritually slaughtered as long as they lost consciousness within 40 seconds of their throats being cut. After that period they would have to be stunned.

But the Senate rejected the bill on Tuesday by 51 votes to 21, meaning it cannot become law.

Dutch Muslims, mostly of Turkish and Moroccan origin, had complained they felt stigmatized by the measure.

European Union regulations require animals to be stunned before slaughter but allow exceptions for ritual slaughter, which the European Court of Human Rights has ruled is a religious right.

The Rabbinical Center of Europe (RCE) lauded the decision by the Upper House of the Dutch Parliament.

Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs, a prominent member of RCE and chief rabbi of the Inter-Provincial Rabbinate in Holland, expressed satisfaction after the vote. “The vote in the Dutch Senate is a victory for tolerance and common sense,” said the rabbi, who played a prominent role in the agreement.

“I would like to thank our government and all the politicians, especially Deputy Agriculture Minister Henk Bleker, who were involved to prevent the attempts to ban shechitah (ritual slaughter). The rejection of this law, is not only good for the Jewish community, whose future was threatened by it, it is good for Dutch society as protects freedom of religion as enshrined by the European Charter of Fundamental Rights,” he argued.

The RCE was highly involved in the campaign to protect shechitah since it first came under attack over a year ago by animal welfare groups in Holland.

“Holland has a long history of tolerance and as a welcome place for Jews so it is important that Jewish traditions are protected in the Netherlands,” deputy director of the RCE, Rabbi Aryeh Goldberg said.

“The vote against the law sends an important message to other parts of Europe that Jewish life is an important facet on our continent," he added. "Unfortunately, there are other groups who are trying to attack Jewish traditions in Europe, so this is an important victory, not just for the Dutch Jewish community, but for wider European Jewry.”
Rabbi Goldberg might have had Norway in mind. As reported by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, June 25, 2012:

A Norwegian political party said it will seek to outlaw circumcision in Norway.

“Circumcision on religious grounds should be a criminal offense,” Jenny Klinge, a spokesperson for Norway’s Centre Party, said in an interview earlier this month with the newspaper Dagbladet.

Klinge added that “Fortunately, circumcision is already illegal in females. The time has come for boys to receive the same legal protection."

The Centre Party, a member of the Norwegian coalition, occupies 11 seats out of the 169 in parliament.

Ervin Kohn, president of the Jewish Community in Oslo, told JTA that he considers the issue “an existential matter” for the community.

“Banning circumcision would send a loud message that the Jewish minority is not wanted here,” he said. Norway has a Jewish community of about 700.

Last year, the government offered the Jewish community a compromise to regulate circumcision that requires the presence of medical personnel during the procedure. Kohn said the community found the requirement acceptable. The government's preoccupation with the issue started last year, after Norway’s Children’s Ombudsman proposed setting 15 as the minimum age for ritual male circumcision.

“In the aftermath of discussions, several parties have come to oppose circumcision altogether," Kohn said. "Now we are seeing an escalation in the debate over the issue.”

A spokesman for the ruling Labor Party told Dagbladet that his party has yet to formulate a stand on the issue. The Centre Party has four government portfolios.

Norway is among a handful of European countries where the kosher slaughter of animals is prohibited.
Of course, opposition to circumcision of boys and ritual slaughter of animals is always motivated by concern for the welfare of boys and animals; Europeans are so liberal and tolerant that it's inconceivable that their opposition to these practices could be motivated by hatred of Jews. ;)

June 27, 2012 update:
And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.
This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.
And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.
And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.
He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.
Genesis 17:9-13

The District Court of Cologne has ruled that a child's right to "bodily integrity" outweighs the right of parents to have boys circumsised for religious reasons. As reported by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, June 27, 2012:

BERLIN (JTA) -- Germany’s top Jewish leader called on the federal Parliament “to ensure religious freedom” following a Cologne court ruling that said circumcising young boys on religious grounds amounts to grievous bodily harm.

Though Monday's decision by the District Court of Cologne does not outlaw circumcision, it is still “outrageous and insensitive,” Dieter Graumann, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said in a statement issued Tuesday.

Ritual circumcision by a medical doctor or a mohel with “medical competency" is “an integral part of the Jewish faith that has been practiced around the world for millennium,” he added. “This right is respected in every country of the world.”

The court ruled that the "fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighed the fundamental rights of the parents."

The decision involved the circumcision of a Muslim boy in Cologne. The parents took their 4-year-old to a hospital several days after his ritual circumcision in 2010 after they became concerned about bleeding from the incision.

According to reports, the bleeding was normal and quickly brought under control. However, local prosecutors filed suit against the doctor. A lower court ruled on behalf of religious freedom and the right of parents to decide.

On appeal, however, a higher court gave precedence to the right of the child to be protected from bodily harm and that the "fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighed the fundamental rights of the parents."

The doctor was acquitted on all charges, but the ruling suggests that those performing circumcisions in the future could be committing a criminal offense, since the court holds the right of the child sacrosanct.

Berlin attorney Nathan Gelbart worries about the notion that "the parents have to accept that only the child can decide about his religion when he grows up, and that circumcision is a pre-decision" being forced on the child.

Other courts are not restricted by the decision of the Cologne court, one of 55 district courts. The ruling could be appealed to a higher court, and is not binding unless there is a decision by the High Court of Justice or High Constitutional Court.

Meanwhile, Holm Putzke, a professor of criminal law at the University of Passau who has argued for several years for a ban on involuntary circumcision, told JTA that he hoped the ruling would spark discussion in Germany about "what should be given more weight, religious freedom or the right of children not to have their genitals mutilated."

In late 1999, Germany’s top court ruled in favor of religious freedom, protecting the right to Islamic ritual slaughter and, by association, kosher slaughter. The ruling came after an Islamic butcher challenged a 1995 German law banning the slaughter of animals without stunning them first, which is against the laws of kosher and halal.
This seems to be yet another example of coercion masquerading as compassion. I suspect that this ruling has a lot more to do with hatred of Jews and a backlash against an increasing Islamic presence than it does with the welfare of children. Beware of individuals and societies claiming to care about children while supporting abortion. As some have commented, the "fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity" doesn't seem to apply when the child is still in the womb.

July 13, 2012 update:
Despite the German court's ruling, the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel will not be prosecuting circumcisions if done in a "responsible manner." As reported by Stephen Brown of Reuters, July 13, 2012:

BERLIN - Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman promised Germany's Jewish and Muslim communities on Friday they would be free to carry out circumcision on young boys despite a court ban which has provoked concerns about religious freedom.

In a country that is especially sensitive to allegations of intolerance because of the Nazis' slaughter of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust, the government said it would find a way around the Cologne court ban in June as a matter of urgency.

"For everyone in the government it is absolutely clear that we want to have Jewish and Muslim religious life in Germany," said Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert. "Circumcision carried out in a responsible manner must be possible in this country without punishment."

European rabbis descended on Berlin this week to lobby against what they see as an affront to religious freedom - with the backing of Muslim and Christian leaders in an unusual show of unity, as well as the support of many German politicians.

Ruling in the case of a Muslim boy taken to a doctor with bleeding after circumcision, the Cologne court said the practice inflicts bodily harm and should not be carried out on young boys, but could be practiced on older males who give consent.

This is not acceptable under Jewish religious practice which requires boys to be circumcised from eight days old, nor for many Muslims, for whom the age of circumcision varies according to family, country and branch of Islam.

"It is well know that in the Jewish religion early circumcision carries great meaning, so it is a matter of urgency that this right be restored," said Seibert, adding that Merkel's own office would be involved in efforts to resolve the problem.

"We know a quick decision is needed and that this cannot be put off. Freedom of religious practice is a very important legal right for us," he said.


Germany is a close ally of Israel and its ambassador there has promised parliament's Diaspora Affairs Committee to defend the rights of Germany's growing Jewish community.

European rabbis ended their meeting in Berlin on Thursday in a defiant mood. They plan talks with German Muslim and Christian leaders in Stuttgart next week to see how they can fight the ban together.

The ruling by the Cologne Regional Court applies to the city and surrounding districts with a total population of just over 2 million people. The total population of Germany is about 82 million. Cologne is home to about 120,000 Muslims, whose plans for a new central mosque has stirred anti-immigrant sentiment.

The head of the Conference of European Rabbis urged Jews in Germany to continue carrying out circumcision despite the ban.

But the German Medical Association, while opposing the ban because it could drive circumcision underground with greater risk of infection through poor hygiene, advised doctors not to carry out the operation until the legal situation is cleared up as they could risk prosecution.

Pinchas Goldschmidt, the Swiss-born chief rabbi of Moscow who organized the meeting, said the ban was a fresh example of creeping prejudice in European law against non-Christians, after a Swiss ban on minarets, French and Belgian bans on Islamic veils in public and an attempted Dutch ban on halal meat.

"Circumcision represents the basis for belonging to the Jewish community. It has been practiced for 4,000 years and cannot be changed," said Goldschmidt.

Germany is home to about 120,000 Jews and 4 million Muslims. Many of the latter originating from Turkey, which has also condemned last month's court ruling.

While Israel deports South Sudanese aliens, American Jewish groups support illegal aliens in the U.S.A.

As reported by Omri Ephraim of Ynet News, June 26, 2012:

Going back home: total of 144 South Sudan citizens who infiltrated Israel in recent years were sent back to their home country early Tuesday onboard an Ethiopian Airlines flight.

The migrants were brought to Ben-Gurion Airport Monday onboard buses from Arad and from Tel Aviv ahead of their departure.

Immigration officials said all of them – 91 adults and 53 minors – agreed to leave Israel voluntarily and were to receive $500 per child and $100 per adult upon their departure from Israel.

The departing migrants will join the 127 South Sudan citizens who left Israel last week. Two more flights are expected to head to South Sudan next week.

Some 1,500 asylum seekers from South Sudan are believed to be in Israel at this time. In recent weeks, more than 300 of them were detained by authorities as part of the effort to reduce the number of migrants in Israel. More than 600 people signed documents indicating they wish to leave voluntarily.

However, aid groups said the "voluntary departure" is a sham, and is in fact tantamount to forced expulsion, as the migrants face only two choices – voluntary departure or expulsion following detainment.

At this time, some 60,000 infiltrators are estimated to live in Israel. About 50,000 of them are citizens of Sudan and Eritrea and are therefore not sent back to their homeland by Israel, as result of international obligations.
Meanwhile, back in the U.S.A., as reported by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, June 25, 2012:

WASHINGTON (JTA) -- Most Jewish groups who have weighed in on Arizona's controversial immigration law saw progress in the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling to repeal three of the law's four parts, but had concerns that law enforcement officials would still be allowed to check the legal immigration status of people they detain.

The high court on Monday invalidated the provisions authorizing police to arrest illegal immigrants without warrant if there was probable cause that they committed an offense that made them eligible for deportation; making it an Arizona state crime if immigrants did not carry registration papers or some sort of government identification; and forbidding immigrants unauthorized to work in the country to apply, solicit or perform work.

The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society was among the groups that welcomed the repeals but had reservations with the court's decision.

"Though we view the positive part of this ruling as another step in the advancement of immigrant rights -- forwarded recently by President Obama's executive order halting deportations of Dream Act eligible individuals -- we remain extremely concerned about the potential for racial profiling as a result of today's decision," Mark Hetfield, the interim president and CEO of HIAS, said in a news statement.

The law, passed in April 2010, was meant primarily to deal with illegal immigrants coming from Mexico, according to proponents of the measure at the time of its passage. They also noted that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer had issued an executive order establishing a training program on how to avoid racial profiling when implementing the new rules.

In April, HIAS coordinated a letter to Brewer, a Republican, and also joined more than 100 other faith-based organizations and civil rights groups in submitting an amicus brief that urged the Supreme Court to strike down Arizona's law.

Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham Foxman and national chair Robert Sugarman in a news statement called the ruling a "mixed outcome."

"One of our primary concerns has been that Arizona's law would exacerbate fear in immigrant communities and, in particular, make victims and witnesses of hate crimes reluctant to speak with police," they wrote.

Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, noted in a statement that RAC welcomed the Supreme Court's decision to overturn most provisions in the law, but called on Arizona to urge caution on the remaining part.

"We urge Arizona and the lower courts to endorse the principle that all women, men and children deserve equal protection under the law, as appearance offers no grounds on which to assume the legal status of an individual," Saperstein wrote. "Engaging in racial profiling only jeopardizes the safety of entire communities, as members of immigrant communities fearful of being profiled are discouraged from cooperating with law enforcement on issues."

Nancy Kaufman, the CEO of the National Council for Jewish Women, wrote in a news statement that the high court's ruling "is a welcome step toward ending the efforts by state legislatures to superimpose their own vindictive legislative regime on federal immigration law."
To quote Tal Brooke from a slightly different, but similar, context: "The double standard is outrageous, but no one dare protest above a whisper."

50 years ago: U.S. Supreme Court rules against school prayer

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Constitution of the United States of America, Article [I.] (ratification completed December 15, 1791)

On June 25, 1962, the United States Supreme Court handed down its ruling in the case of Engel v. Vitale. The court, in a 6-1 vote, ruled that government-directed prayer in public schools violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, even if the prayer is denominationally neutral and students may remain silent or be excused from the classroom during its recitation.

Justice Hugo Black, writing for the majority, stated:

The respondent Board of Education of Union Free School District No. 9, New Hyde Park, New York, acting in its official capacity under state law, directed the School District's principal to cause the following prayer to be said aloud by each class in the presence of a teacher at the beginning of each school day:

"Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our Country."

This daily procedure was adopted on the recommendation of the State Board of Regents, a governmental agency created by the State Constitution to which the New York Legislature has granted broad supervisory, executive, and legislative powers over the State's public school system...

...Shortly after the practice of reciting the Regents' prayer was adopted by the School District, the parents of ten pupils brought this action in a New York State Court insisting that use of this official prayer in the public schools was contrary to the beliefs, religions, or religious practices of both themselves and their children. Among other things, these parents challenged the constitutionality of both the state law authorizing the School District to direct the use of prayer in public schools and the School District's regulation ordering the recitation of this particular prayer on the ground that these actions of official governmental agencies violate that part of the First Amendment of the Federal Constitution which commands that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" -- a command which was "made applicable to the State of New York by the Fourteenth Amendment of the said Constitution." The New York Court of Appeals, over the dissents of Judges Dye and Fuld, sustained an order of the lower state courts which had upheld the power of New York to use the Regents' prayer as a part of the daily procedures of its public schools so long as the schools did not compel any pupil to join in the prayer over his or his parents' objection...

...We think that, by using its public school system to encourage recitation of the Regents' prayer, the State of New York has adopted a practice wholly inconsistent with the Establishment Clause. There can, of course, be no doubt that New York's program of daily classroom invocation of God's blessings as prescribed in the Regents' prayer is a religious activity. It is a solemn avowal of divine faith and supplication for the blessings of the Almighty. The nature of such a prayer has always been religious, none of the respondents has denied this, and the trial court expressly so found...

...The petitioners contend, among other things, that the state laws requiring or permitting use of the Regents' prayer must be struck down as a violation of the Establishment Clause because that prayer was composed by governmental officials as a part of a governmental program to further religious beliefs. For this reason, petitioners argue, the State's use of the Regents' prayer in its public school system breaches the constitutional wall of separation between Church and State. We agree with that contention, since we think that the constitutional prohibition against laws respecting an establishment of religion must at least mean that, in this country, it is no part of the business of government to compose official prayers for any group of the American people to recite as a part of a religious program carried on by government...

...The First Amendment was added to the Constitution to stand as a guarantee that neither the power nor the prestige of the Federal Government would be used to control, support or influence the kinds of prayer the American people can say -- that the people's religions must not be subjected to the pressures of government for change each time a new political administration is elected to office. Under that Amendment's prohibition against governmental establishment of religion, as reinforced by the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment, government in this country, be it state or federal, is without power to prescribe by law any particular form of prayer which is to be used as an official prayer in carrying on any program of governmentally sponsored religious activity.

There can be no doubt that New York's state prayer program officially establishes the religious beliefs embodied in the Regents' prayer. The respondents' argument to the contrary, which is largely based upon the contention that the Regents' prayer is "nondenominational" and the fact that the program, as modified and approved by state courts, does not require all pupils to recite the prayer, but permits those who wish to do so to remain silent or be excused from the room, ignores the essential nature of the program's constitutional defects. Neither the fact that the prayer may be denominationally neutral nor the fact that its observance on the part of the students is voluntary can serve to free it from the limitations of the Establishment Clause, as it might from the Free Exercise Clause, of the First Amendment, both of which are operative against the States by virtue of the Fourteenth Amendment. Although these two clauses may, in certain instances, overlap, they forbid two quite different kinds of governmental encroachment upon religious freedom. The Establishment Clause, unlike the Free Exercise Clause, does not depend upon any showing of direct governmental compulsion and is violated by the enactment of laws which establish an official religion whether those laws operate directly to coerce nonobserving individuals or not.
Justice Potter Stewart, the lone dissenter, wrote:

The Court does not hold, nor could it, that New York has interfered with the free exercise of anybody's religion. For the state courts have made clear that those who object to reciting the prayer must be entirely free of any compulsion to do so, including any "embarrassments and pressures."...

...With all respect, I think the Court has misapplied a great constitutional principle. I cannot see how an "official religion" is established by letting those who want to say a prayer say it. On the contrary, I think that to deny the wish of these school children to join in reciting this prayer is to deny them the opportunity of sharing in the spiritual heritage of our Nation...

...Moreover, I think that the Court's task, in this as in all areas of constitutional adjudication is not responsibly aided by the uncritical invocation of metaphors like the "wall of separation," a phrase nowhere to be found in the Constitution...

...I do not believe that this Court, or the Congress, or the President has, by the actions and practices I have mentioned, established an "official religion" in violation of the Constitution. And I do not believe the State of New York has done so in this case. What each has done has been to recognize and to follow the deeply entrenched and highly cherished spiritual traditions of our Nation -- traditions which come down to us from those who almost two hundred years ago avowed their "firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence" when they proclaimed the freedom and independence of this brave new world.
I'll leave it to Americans to discuss the impact of this decision and that of Abington School District v. Schempp (1963), which declared school-sanctioned Bible reading in public schools to be unconstitutional. It might be worth noting that in the case of Engel v. Vitale, the governments of 22 states and the District of Columbia signed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief urging that the Supreme Court uphold the New York Court of Appeals ruling affirming the constitutionality of the prayer, while those submitting briefs urging the Supreme Court to overturn the New York Court of Appeals ruling included the American Ethical Union; American Jewish Committee; and Synagogue Council of America.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

French Jewish leader finds it shocking that his country's soccer team didn't consider going 853 miles out of their way to visit Auschwitz

If Jews wonder why Gentiles often regard Jews as excessively self-obsessed, the folowing item might offer a hint. As reported by Ynet News, June 18, 2012:

The president of the umbrella organization of France's Jewish communities said it was “shocking” that France’s soccer team did not visit Auschwitz. The team is playing in the European championship, which is being held in Poland and the Ukraine.

According to the JTA news agency, the British, Italian, Dutch and German teams all visited the Nazi extermination and concentration camp near Krakow.

The French team should have visited the camp “in light of how soccer players serve as role models for young people,” wrote Dr. Richard Prasquier, president of CRIF – the umbrella organization of French Jewish communities.

Prasquier published the statement on June 12 on the CRIF website, under the title: “My (probably unheeded) commentary.”

He added the visit was also necessary because of “the ignorance of many young people,” despite efforts to educate them about the Holocaust.

Prasquier noted that the French team was based at Donetsk in Ukraine, 853 miles from Auschwitz, while the British and Italian teams were based in Krakow.

“However, an airplane would have shortened the trip. The fact that the visit was apparently not even considered is shocking,” Prasquier wrote.
The original French version of Mr. Prasquier's editorial, titled Mon édito, probablement inattendu..., was published by
Conseil Représentatif des Institutions juives de France on June 12, 2012, and includes the following:

Il est vrai que l’équipe de France est établie à Donetsk en Ukraine à 1373km d’Auschwitz, alors que les Anglais et les Italiens sont installés à Cracovie, à une soixantaine de km du camp...Mais l’avion raccourcit les distances et le fait même que la visite ne semble pas avoir été envisagée est choquant.
Mr. Prasquier admits that the French team is based in Donetsk, Ukraine, 1,373 kilometres (853 miles) from Auschwitz, while the English and Italian teams are based in Krakow, only 60 kilometres (37 miles) from Auschwitz. Most people are capable of understanding the difference in distance between 37 miles and 853 miles, and I doubt that Mr. Prasquier would travel 853 miles for a brief sightseeing trip. From my perspective, 853 miles is the approximate distance between Edmonton and Vancouver to the west and between Edmonton and Winnipeg to the east--in each case a different time zone. Only someone as self-absorbed as Mr. Prasquier would find it "choquant" (shocking) that the French soccer team wouldn't consider spending money on air fare to go hundreds of miles out of their way. It doesn't seem to have occurred to him that the main priority of the French soccer team is playing soccer in the Euro 2012 tournament (part of which is being held in Ukraine, hence their base in Donetsk), and not pursuing education in Holocaust studies.

Monday, 18 June 2012

More discoveries of complexity in nature that shows God's greatness as creator

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. Revelation 4:11

Some recent items published in The Epoch Times:

Jurassic Giant Squid Ink Matches Modern Cuttlefish Ink (May 21, 2012) (go here to see original article)

This ink doesn't seem to have evolved much in 160 million years.

Complex Backbone in Fossil Fish Smashes Theories (May 25, 2012; updated May 30, 2012) (Go here to see original article)

This fish had a backbone of the type usually found only on land animals, but was just a water creature; evolutionists will go through contortions of their own to accommodate and explain this discovery.

Velcro-Like Cells in Flowers Help Insects Grip (May 28, 2012; updated May 30, 2012) (Go here to see original article)

Head Color Linked With Personality in Social Bird Species (June 6, 2012; updated June 11, 2012) (Go here to see original article)

Female Pheromone Can Detrimentally Distract Male Moths (June 7, 2012; updated June 13, 2012) (Go here to see original article)

Vampire Spiders Select Insect Victims Based on Antennae (June 7, 2012; updated June 14, 2012) (Go here to see original article)

Feeding in the Rain: Precipitation Helps Pitcher Plants Hunt (June 13, 2012; updated June 17, 2012) (Go here to see original article)

Toxic Taste Makes Mice Spit Out Seeds (June 14, 2012) (Go here to see original article)

Translating Slimy Moldy Intelligence Into Gaming Design (June 14, 2012; updated June 17, 2012) (Go here to see original news release)

Man commits murder over minor high school locker room prank that took place at least 55 years ago

[Love] does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. I Corinthians 13:5 (NIV)

lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; Hebrews 12:15b

Most of us suffer moments of humiliation in our school days, but I can't recall an example of someone carrying a grudge over a minor insult to such an extent as this. What part of "get over it" doesn't this man understand? As reported by Dirk Lammers of The Associated Press, June 15, 2012:

MADISON, S.D. — From the moment 73-year-old Carl Ericsson rang his old high school classmate's doorbell in January, verified the man's identity and then shot him dead, the question had been what prompted him to confront a man he hadn't even spoken to in years.

The startling answer, a prosecutor said Friday, was a 1950s locker room humiliation that festered in Ericsson's mind for a half-century.

"He said that a jockstrap was put on his head," Kenneth Meyer said. "It's the only thing he's ever mentioned in talking to law enforcement."

Ericsson, who a psychiatrist said suffered from anxiety and depression for years, last month pleaded guilty but mentally ill to second-degree murder in the death of Norman Johnson.

"I guess it was from something that happened over 50 years ago," Ericsson told a judge then. "It was apparently in my subconscious."

He was sentenced Friday to life in prison.

Johnson was a track star at Madison High School, and Ericsson a student sports manager. The prosecutor said he had no other details about the locker room story, which never was corroborated.

"I know of no one that remembers it or acknowledges it other than Carl," Meyer said.

He also declined to say whether in Ericsson's telling, it was Johnson who put the jockstrap on his head.

Beth Ribstein, Johnson's youngest daughter, said she couldn't understand how someone could hold onto a grudge for so long.

"It was just goofing off in a locker room," Ribstein said, shaking her head.

Ribstein, 50, addressed the court before Ericsson was sentenced, and accused him of envying Johnson's success in the Madison community.

After high school, Johnson played college football, earned a bachelor's and a master's degree and returned to Madison High to teach and coach for more than 30 years.

More than 600 people — about one-sixth of Madison's population — attended Johnson's funeral, including one of Ericsson's family members. Johnson was well-liked and respected across the community, Ribstein said.

"I can't blame you for being jealous of dad," she said to Ericsson.

Ericsson himself was no failure.

He had lived in Wyoming before returning to South Dakota and settling in Watertown, a town nearly an hour north of Madison. He has been married to his wife, Deanna, for more than 44 years, is a North Dakota State University graduate and recently retired from a 25-year insurance career, his attorney, Scott Bratland, has said.

But Ericsson was not well. In an affidavit supporting Ericsson's change of plea, psychiatrist Robert Giebink wrote that Ericsson has a long history of anxiety problems and suffers from "severe and recurrent depression that is, for the most part, treatment resistant." Giebink said Ericsson was significantly depressed and suicidal when they first met in January.

"Thinking was irrational. Judgment was impaired," Giebink wrote. "He made the comment that he wished each night that he would not wake up in the morning."

Investigators first learned of a potential past incident between the two from Ericsson's brother, Madison attorney Dick Ericsson. Ericsson said in the arrest affidavit that "there was an incident where Norm Johnson did something to Carl..."

...Ericsson pleaded not guilty to a first-degree murder charge in February and requested a jury trial. But Meyer and Bratland announced May 1 that a deal had been reached. The first-degree murder charge could have carried the death penalty if prosecutors chose to pursue it.

A defendant can be sentenced to the state penitentiary under South Dakota's "guilty but mentally ill" law. Treatment for the mental illness can be given in prison, or the inmate can be transferred to other facilities under the jurisdiction of the Department of Social Services for treatment and then returned to the penitentiary to complete his or her sentence.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Crystal Cathedral Ministry moves into a Roman Catholic church, while the Crystal Cathedral, now under Roman Catholic ownership, becomes Christ Cathedral

Please note, in the following items, Bobby Schuller's positive comments about the Roman Catholic Church. As reported by Roxana Kopetman of the Orange County Register, June 7, 2012 (updated June 8, 2012):

GARDEN GROVE – The Crystal Cathedral Ministry, struggling to pay its $150,000 monthly rental to the Catholic Church, announced Thursday that it plans to leave its famous home in June 2013.

The ministry will be switching to St. Callistus Catholic Church.

As part of a sale agreement of the cathedral to the Catholic Diocese of Orange, the Protestant ministry had the option to move its congregation to the nearby Catholic church. Rent through December 2013 will be free and for the two years that follow, rent will be $25,000 per month.

The length of the lease has yet to be determined, according to a news statement released Thursday.

"This is another important step in the revival that has been taking place at the Crystal Cathedral," John Charles, president and CEO of the Crystal Cathedral, said in the press release. "With attendance and donations up, the sky is the limit."

At a meeting last month with its members, Charles said that the ministry's finances were weak, a planned move was in the works and St. Callistus was the only option they were considering.

The St. Callistus sanctuary seats about 1,200, a little less than half of the Crystal Cathedral's sanctuary, according to the release. In recent months, since the departure of Senior Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman and the return of a more traditional format to the services, attendance has doubled, including a total of 1,707 at two Sunday morning services over Memorial Day weekend, according to the news release.
As reported by Ms. Kopetman, June 9, 2012 (updated June 10, 2012):

GARDEN GROVE – The soaring glass-paneled church known to millions of television viewers around the world as the Crystal Cathedral will get a new name: the Christ Cathedral.

Catholic leaders announced the name Saturday morning at St. Columban Catholic Church during the moving pageantry of an ordination ritual – the type of event that will draw thousands once the Diocese of Orange move to the site.

The naming marks "the first significant effort to identify the iconic venue as a Catholic religious center," church leaders said.

It came four months after the diocese closed escrow on the $57.5 million sale, ordered by a court during the Protestant ministry's bankruptcy proceedings.

The event marked a joyous turning point for Catholics and a sad one for members of the Protestant mega-church.

"We are so excited. We prayed and prayed for the cathedral," said Deborah Tracy, an Irvine resident and member of the St. Cecilia Parish. "The cathedral is so well-known around the world. And with the name, it's an open door to all Christians."

"We weren't the highest bidder, so God had a hand in it," said Patt Gogo, a Tustin resident, following the ordination Mass.

For Crystal Cathedral congregants, it was another blow.

"I will always call it the Crystal Cathedral," said Tanya Kirkland, an active longtime member of the financially-troubled ministry.

This week, the bankrupt ministry famous for its "Hour of Power" television program announced that it is leaving its campus for St. Callistus Catholic Church in June 2013. For the first six months, rent will be free under an arrangement with the Catholic Church.

Meanwhile, Catholic leaders will begin renovations in July 2013 to convert the cathedral site – built by the Rev. Robert H. Schuller more than 50 years ago –to a Catholic place of worship. That process is expected to take at least a year.

For Catholics, the naming of a church is a formal process. A proposed name is submitted to the Congregation of Bishops, "the curia in Rome responsible for all matters pertaining to bishops and their churches," according to a news release. Diocese of Orange Bishop Tod D. Brown received approval April 26. A primary requisite in considering a church name is that it relate to the study, deeds and teachings of Jesus, he said.

The name Christ Cathedral best expresses its Christian identity, its initials also are CC and the name represents an "ecumenical dimension" with which members of other Christian communities can identify, Brown said following Saturday's service.

"I felt very bad that they lost their home. However, we needed a new Catholic cathedral because our cathedral is very small," Brown said. "Dr. Schuller himself said he wanted us to be the ones to purchase it, so we would continue Christian worship in the cathedral and Christian ministry on the campus. That would not have happened with another buyer."

The sale of the church is still disputed by many Crystal Cathedral congregants. Some still can't accept their church campus was sold. Others said they wish it had been bought by Chapman University, the competing bidder.

During the ordination of four Vietnamese men as priests Saturday, Brown also announced to the 1,500 congregants gathered that Father Christopher H. Smith will serve as Episcopal Vicar to Christ Cathedral.

Smith will oversee all administrative and policy matters for Christ Cathedral and its campus. Smith has served as a priest for more than 34 years and serves in various leadership roles...

...Smith's responsibilities will include managing the renovations, which will include installing a central altar, a bishop's chair and a tabernacle to house the Blessed Sacrament.

The modern structure "is not a highly liturgical place in the traditional sense," Catholic leaders have said.

"Yet, the Diocese of Orange considers it a 'clean palette' – while renovations are called for - not much deconstruction would be required and the iconic personality of the original architecture and design would, for the most part, be retained," Catholic leaders said in an earlier announcement.

They particularly praised the imposing organ "as one of the finest in the country," and the quality of light "and its allegory is consistent with the enlightenment of Christ."

"It will be glorious," said Sister Susana Guzman, of the Poor Claire Missionary Sisters in Santa Ana. Celebrations such as Saturday's ordination sometimes require tickets, she said, because the 1.2 million Catholics in Orange County don't have a large enough cathedral.

St. Columban is the largest Catholic venue in the county, with about half the number of seats as the cathedral site. The Diocese of Orange is the 10th largest in the nation, Smith said.

At an event last April, Smith was introduced to Schuller, the new head of the Christ Cathedral said in an interview. Schuller told him: "I built the cathedral for Christ. And I know that with the Catholic Church, it will be for Christ."

"It was a very humbling experience," Smith said.

The cathedral, Smith said, has always been a place to praise Jesus Christ: "It's his church."
As reported by Ms. Kopetman, June 10, 2012 :

GARDEN GROVE – Guest Pastor Bobby Schuller cut to the chase when he addressed several hundred congregants gathered at the Crystal Cathedral on Sunday.

"I wasn't supposed to say anything," Schuller said.
But in the past week, the news on the ministry "my grandpa built" has been big.

The bankrupt Crystal Cathedral Ministry announced last Thursday that it will leave its famous campus in June 2013 and move to St. Callistus Catholic Church. And on Saturday, the Catholic Church renamed as Christ Cathedral the glass-paned building and campus the Diocese of Orange bought in a court-ordered sale.

"There's something really sad about it, isn't it there?" Schuller said. "So much of our identity has been wrapped up in this beautiful place."

"How can we survive? Our name is Crystal Cathedral," said the grandson of founder Robert H. Schuller.

"Maybe it was a mistake," he said, to name the ministry after the towering building.

Schuller expressed sadness but said he also felt a "sense of hope."

"The Roman Catholic Church is of the Lord" and will continue to worship Christ at the cathedral, Schuller said.

Meanwhile, Schuller told congregants, the Crystal Cathedral ministry will have its best last year ever before it moves to St. Callistus. And the ministry has this year to make plans for the best year after that for its continued work and its world-renowned Hour of Power television program.

"We need everyone," Schuller said. "We need to do this together."

John Charles, president and CEO of the ministry, called it "a brand new era." During both morning services, Charles referred to embarking on a new adventure but throwing away "some of the old baggage."

The church has undergone tremendous turmoil in recent years, including a family feud about who would lead the ministry and a bankruptcy that included the sale of the campus to the Catholic Church for $57.5 million. The ministry continues to struggle financially. And in recent months, many of the Schullers, including its founders, have separated from the ministry.

"It's like day-to-day. We could certainly use a major donor or two," Bill Bennett, interim executive pastor, said following the Sunday morning services.

The ministry, Bennett said, is paying the Diocese of Orange $116,000 monthly rent since escrow closed February.

In a court agreement with the diocese, the Crystal Cathedral Ministry was offered free rent at St. Callistus for 2012. But before the two religious organizations could switch places, the ministry needed to give a six-month notice to the diocese to terminate its lease on the current campus and a one-year notice to accept the move to St. Callistus, according to Bennett.

The Protestant ministry also has a commitment to its K-12 school to continue through the end of the next school year without any disruptions, Bennett said.

Those were two key reasons why the Crystal Cathedral Ministry chose the June 2013 date for its move, Bennett said.

Lawrence Wilkes, interim senior pastor, told congregants that a small Korean congregation has met regularly at 5:30 a.m. to pray for the Crystal Cathedral. Wilkes said he, too, plans to lead a prayer service for the Crystal Cathedral Monday through Friday at 8 a.m.

"We want prayer for this ministry. We need that," Wilkes said.

Charles also encouraged congregants to support and follow the ministry. "We want to take all of you with us," he said.

Ministry leaders now have a place and date for the move and are working on the transition, Charles said.

Last February, Catholic leaders asked for suggestions to rename the Crystal Cathedral. The Diocese received 4,129 suggestions.

On Sunday, Charles told congregants: "We get to turn the tables on them" and rename St. Callistus. "We've got to pull our own kind of contest, if you will."

Monday, 11 June 2012

Some Jews in Jerusalem believe their rabbi's chair possesses spiritual power

As the thief is ashamed when he is found, so is the house of Israel ashamed; they, their kings, their princes, and their priests, and their prophets.
Saying to a stock, Thou art my father; and to a stone, Thou hast brought me forth: for they have turned their back unto me, and not their face: but in the time of their trouble they will say, Arise, and save us.
Jeremiah 2:26-27

Superstition can be found anywhere, as reported by Kobi Nahshoni of Ynet News, June 10, 2012:

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's beloved chair, which some believe has special powers, mysteriously disappeared from a Jerusalem synagogue last week but eventually found several days later.

Worshippers at the Tiferet Yerushalaim synagogue were recently shocked to discover that the wooden chair that had served Shas' spiritual leader for years, and which some would pay tens of thousands of dollars for, was not in its place.

"We so carefully guarded it and now it's gone," one of the synagogue's administrators said. The news was first reported by Shas journal Yom LeYom.

The mystery was eventually solved when one of the synagogue's managers confessed he had loaned it to be used in a circumcision ceremony without telling anyone, but said it will be returned soon.

He said that the baby's parents, members of a well-known rabbinical family, thought that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef would attend the service as the baby's godfather and wanted to surprise him with the chair. The rabbi did not attend the ceremony but the chair remained in the couple's house since.

The synagogue in question became popular after Rabbi Yosef first started giving his weekly sermons there. In recent years, he has relocated the weekly gatherings to a synagogue nearer to his house in Jerusalem's Har Nof neighborhood.

However, the synagogue's chair is still very special to Rabbi Yosef's disciples, some of whom believe it can make wishes come true. This has served to boost the chair's value.

Several years ago, it was almost sold to a buyer for tens of thousands of dollars when the synagogue experienced financial difficulties.

"According to my estimates, the missing chair could have been sold for $100,000 or even more," one source told Ynet. "One would have to be not only a thief but a truly heartless person to steal something like this, which is so sacred and valuable for so many people."

45 years ago: The Six-Day War

Jewish Ideas Daily has just published a brief and handy day-by day summary of the Six-Day War of June 5-10, 1967. The series starts with the day before the war began:

June 4, 1967: On the Eve of the Six-Day War

June 5, 1967: Day One

June 6, 1967: Day Two

June 7, 1967: Day Three

June 8, 1967: Day Four: "Attack! Attack"

June 9, 1967: Day Five

June 10, 1967: Day Six

It's a good thing the war lasted exactly six days, or another name for the war would have been necessary (clever, those Israelis).

The series is told from the Israeli perspective, so there's no mention of the June 8, 1967 attack by Israeli planes on the USS Liberty, which would have been regarded by the United States as an act of war if done by any other country.

Hebrew language school in Jerusalem brings Jews and Muslims together

As reported by Michael Orbach of Jewish Telegraphic Agency, June 11, 2012:

JERUSALEM (JTA) -- As an Arab living in eastern Jerusalem, Mohamad Neiroukh simply wants to learn Hebrew.

That’s why he is enrolled in an ulpan, an intensive Hebrew language program that has been a rite of passage for Jewish immigrants since the state’s founding.

“I needed to learn Hebrew. Everyone speaks Hebrew,” the 22-year-old college graduate said during a class break at Milah, as he stood with several other Arabs and Jews on a second-floor balcony overlooking a trash-filled alley off the city’s Ben Yehuda Street.

Milah, which means “word” in Hebrew, differs greatly from the ulpans -- which today number more than 90 -- that have educated millions of new immigrants and visiting Jewish students from abroad.

Founded in 1994 with funds from the Morrison family of Birmingham, Ala., Milah enrolls about 500 students a year. Since 2000, the number of Muslims has soared from 5 percent to 50 percent today.

The school also has attracted visiting Korean students, Spanish preachers and Italian nuns. Its Jewish students, too, are diverse in their background. One classroom alone has Jewish students from Canada, Ethiopia, France and Russia.

So it’s no surprise that the word “coexistence,” written in English with a crescent, cross and a Magen David, along with its Hebrew equivalent, casually crops up in the first few lessons of most class levels.

It’s all made Milah a friendly meeting ground. Neiroukh admits that he is surprised by how many Jewish friends he has at Milah.

“They help me all the time,” he said.

That’s exactly what longtime Milah director Clila Gerassi-Tishby wants.

“My vision was a place that students from all over the world and any walk of life -- all religions, cultures, languages -- where people could study Hebrew," she said on a recent Sunday afternoon while sitting in her tidy office. "It will be an island of peace, and that’s what it is.”

To accommodate its growth in Arab students, the school offers four Arab-only classes, and this year it hired its first Arab office employee: Afaf Ibrahim, 38, a registered nurse and a single mother from eastern Jerusalem.

Motivated by the licensing exams she was required to take in Hebrew for her Israeli nursing license, she was first a student at Milah.

“The Israel government said that you need to do the test in Hebrew,” she said, dressed in a hijab, the hair covering of religious Muslim women. “I was [also] embarrassed that I couldn’t speak or write Hebrew. The government sends us letters and we weren’t able to explain what was in the letters, and we needed to find someone who could speak Hebrew.”

Ibrahim since has begun a love affair with the Hebrew language, completing most of the courses available at the ulpan.

For Gerassi-Tishby, the increase in Arab students is a direct result of the country’s changed security situation in recent years.

“Until the second intifada, the [Arabs from eastern Jerusalem] didn’t need to study Hebrew,” she said, as they typically worked in Arab communities in the West Bank. “[Now] it’s really hard to get into Jericho and Ramallah. It’s really hard to work outside of Jerusalem. … Because of the borders and walls, movement became much harder.”

The ulpan’s collegial atmosphere, she adds, stems from the students’ professionalism and commitment. Most Arab students are university graduates, including lawyers and doctors studying for licensing exams.

“They want to find work,” Gerassi-Tishby said. “Sometimes [they say] if we go shopping or to restaurants. Sometimes they say it’s important to be a part of the country, but that’s rare...”

...Not all the Muslim women students appear to be traditional in their observance. Aseel Yassin, 24, an eastern Jerusalem pharmacist whose streaked blond hair and tight jeans belied a more liberal religious outlook, says her study of Hebrew has helped her better understand Jews.

“As you learn the language, you don’t see things in the perspective you [once] saw them,” she said.

She and other Muslim students are largely using pro-Israel educational material common in ulpans.

“I have to be aware that their stories and histories are different from ours,” said Avishag Rozenberg, 37, a teacher at the ulpan. “When the text is very Zionistic, I don’t stress it.”

Asked if the program’s rise in Muslim students could help nudge along the peace agreement, Gerassi-Tishby laughs.

“I hope so, but I’m not so naive,” she said. “Hopefully there will be better coexistence. That’s my vision and hope. … Maybe it’s a good sign. Life is stronger than politicians.”

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo acknowledges a second child--fathered by Mr. Lugo when he was a Roman Catholic bishop

And there may be more, as reported by Hugo Olazar of Clarín/Worldcrunch, June 7, 2012:

ASUNCION - The President of Paraguay, Fernando Lugo, has recognized paternity of a second child conceived while he was a Catholic bishop in San Pedro.

The announcement on Tuesday by Lugo’s lawyer that the president is the father of a now 10-year-old boy follows the public confession in 2009 that the bishop-turned-politician had a son with another woman. And there are still two pending paternity cases, from another two women, from Lugo's time as a supposedly celibate man of the cloth. One of the women waiting for a decision on a paternity case said that the President has another three sons, all with different women, in the department of San Pedro, the poorest region in Paraguay.

Lugo became a Catholic priest in 1977, and rose through the Church hierarchy, serving in Ecuador, Rome and Paraguay. He remained a bishop until 2008, when his election to office as president prompted his laicization.

The President’s lawyer, Marcos Fariña, surprised journalists in the presidential palace with his announcement. “The President gave me instructions to start, today, the legal procedures to confirm paternity of the boy, whose name is Angel and whose mother is Narcisa de la Cruz de Zarate. She is 42 years old and is a nurse,” he said.

Striking resemblance

Angel has his step-father’s last name, Zarate, Fariña said. The civil registry assigned paternity to her current husband, with whom she has four children, Fariña said, adding that he has already contacted the boy’s mother to annul her husband’s paternity and replace Angel’s last name with Lugo.

Responding to questions on why Lugo did not recognize paternity earlier, Fariña said “Because there was no legitimate way to do so, since he had his step-father’s last name, and the mother did not compel him to do so.” He also added that a paternity test is not needed when “both people agree.”

“The kid knew that his dad wasn’t going to reject him. He can’t deny paternity, because they really look alike,” de la Cruz said when she heard of the president’s decision. She said that when Angel found out that Lugo had accepted paternity, he said, “You see, mom, dad loves me.”

De la Cruz, a nurse, said that she lied in 2009 when she denied, to journalists, having a child with the president. She said she lied because “my son has never wanted for anything.” She currently receives $650 dollars a month from Lugo.

It was in 2009, a year after Lugo’s election as president, that the scandals began. In April of that year, just before Easter, Lugo stopped a planned paternity suit from Viviana Carrillo in exchange for admitting paternity of her son, who was born in May 2007. Two more paternity suits were filed against Lugo in May 2009, both of which are still pending. The government has used judicial ploys to delay resolution of both cases.

Benigna Leguizamon, one of the two women with pending paternity suits, said “I know of three more sons in San Pedro. I hope that those women (whose last names she cited) file suits as we have. More children will keep appearing. They say that he has something like 18.” One of those supposed offspring has apparently moved to Spain, and another one is Ecuadorian, conceived during Lugo’s time as a priest in Quito.
En espanol: Lugo reconocerá a un segundo hijo concebido cuando era obispo

June 25, 2012 update: Mr. Lugo has been ousted as President by Paraguay's Congress, as reported by Daniela Desantis and Guido NejamkisReuters, June 22, 2012.

Headline of the year?

This isn't from a supermarket tabloid, but was posted at Apprising Ministries, June 7, 2012:


Conservative and Reform rabbis in Israel are now eligible to receive state funding--much to the displeasure of Orthodox rabbis

It seems that Orthodox rabbis in Israel regard some Jews as being more equal than others. The first item, as reported by Kobi Nahshoni of Ynet News, May 30, 2012:

Rabbis of conservative and reform communities will be recognized as official rabbis by the state, and will enjoy the same funding as orthodox rabbis who are appointed by the Chief Rabbinate.

The road to state funding was paved after the state and reform movement representatives reached an understanding in a petition which was filed in 2005.

An announcement presented by the State Prosecutor's Office to the High Court with regards to the petition on funding equality for non-orthodox rabbis stated that the disagreements between the reform movement and the State were at an end – with the State agreeing to define the spiritual leaders as "rabbis of non-orthodox communities" rather than "just" "community leaders."

When the petition was filed, the court sent both sides to mediation – without the court's involvement. The State, which at first was opposed to the reform movement's demands, agreed to offer funding several years ago – but the reform movement refused to remove the petition due to disagreements over the definition of their rabbis.

Now, with the State announcing it would agree to the definition of "rabbis of non-orthodox communities," the court's involvement has become unnecessary and it is set to approve the agreement.

Executive Director of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism Rabbi Gilad Kariv said in response: "The State's agreement to support the activities of the reform rabbis in regional councils out of a clear recognition of their position as rabbis, is an important breakthrough in the efforts to promote freedom of religion in Israel and is a true declaration for hundreds of thousands of Israelis.

"This is a first but significant step in the road to equality between the status of all streams of Judaism in Israel and we hope that the State will indeed be careful in implementing its commitment to the court in full.

"We expect this move to lead to additional moves that will end the deep discrimination towards the non-orthodox streams of Judaism in Israel," he added.
The reaction from Orthodox rabbis, as reported by Kobi Nahshoni on June 7, 2012:

The orthodox world is storming in face of the recent decision that recognizes rabbis of non-orthodox communities and allow them to receive the same funding as orthodox rabbis who are appointed by the Chief Rabbinate.

The announcement presented by the State Prosecutor's Office to the High Court with regards to the petition on funding equality for non-orthodox rabbis ended a seven-year long legal struggle and paved the road to state funding.

Kiryat Ono's Rabbi, Ratzon Arusi, who's also a Rabbinate member lashed at the decision, blaming the Israeli government for aiding "a fraud with no parallels in history. If I'll want to create a new judicial movement, will they recognize my people as judges?"

Arusi reiterated that a Rabbi is a traditional role, and it wasn't invented by orthodox. "You can't call a fraud 'rabbi', the same as judges and doctors. It forges the halacha." Arusi suggested to call the Reform jews "religious leaders instead. He further emphasized that the decision is directed only to allow funding through the Ministry of Culture, but expressed his concerns that this will bring about halachic recognition of non orthodox Rabbis as well.

Arusi further said that if this trend isn't stopped, "It will lead to a separation of religion and state, causing a great tear in the people, assimilation and the destruction of Judaism." Arusi cited the large numbers of assimilation in Europe and the US and called on the MK's to fight the decision.

Rabbi Haim Drukman too was shocked by the decision. "What Rabbis? This is fraud! There are ways to support them without recognizing them," he said. Drukman added he was relieved to know that the Reform Jews will not be funded by the Ministry of Religious Affairs, seeing it as a statement regarding their status. "I only hope this will not lead to recognition in their religious authority as well."

One-way bridge to Christianity

A senior ultra-orthodox city Rabbi called the decision "beyond ridiculous". "The Reform Jews are not Jewish, Christian or Muslim – this is a new religious that has nothing to do with the bible. They don't maintain the mitzvahs, so how can they be called Rabbis and receive state funding?

"These rabbis allow mix marriages world wide, and responsible for building a one-way bridge to Christianity. It is known that Reform Jews have no third or even second generations. Their children contribute to churches, not Synagogues," said the Rabbi.
June 19, 2012 update: Israel's chief rabbis aren't pleased with this development. As reported by Kobi Nahshoni of Ynet News on June 18, 2012:

Israel's Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger called on rabbis of cities, communities and regional councils to attend an "emergency gathering" following the State's decision to recognize rabbis of conservative and reform communities as official rabbis and give them the same funding as orthodox rabbis who are appointed by the Chief Rabbinate.

The "emergency" gathering is scheduled to be held next Tuesday, and the Rabbinate plans to send a letter signed by Amar and Metzger to hundreds of rabbis, urging them to attend the event.

According to sources at the chief rabbis' bureaus, the event aims to voice protestation against the "grave breach" allowed by the State, and also to come up with practical ways to thwart the move.

Last month, Attorney General Yeuda Weinstein announced that the State agrees to recognize leaders of reform communities as "rabbis of non-orthodox communities" – which will allow them to receive the same funding that is allocated to rabbis appointed by the Chief Rabbinate.

The decision stirred controversy among the Orthodox public, leading senior rabbis to claim that "you can't call a fraud 'rabbi', the same as judges and doctors. It forges the halacha."

The head of Israel's Reform Judaism movement Rabbi Gilad Kariv said in response to the chief rabbis' decision to convene an emergency meeting that "Rabbi Amar's intention to fight a decision of the State, which was backed by the Supreme Court, proves how much the Chief Rabbinate lost its state function, and how much it is disconnected from the Israeli public, which has had enough of the Orthodox monopoly.

"Rabbi Amar will do well to resign from his position, and then stage his political and public battles just like any other citizen of the State. Until he does so, he should internalize the principles of democracy and refrain from exploiting his official position in order to incite against a public of tens and hundreds of thousands of people that indentifies with the ways of Reform Judaism," he added.
June 27, 2012 update: Over 100 rabbis attended the "emergency meeting," as reported by Kobi Nahshoni, June 27, 2012:

Over 100 rabbis participated Tuesday in an "emergency gathering" following the State's decision to recognize rabbis of Conservative and Reform movements as official rabbis and give them the same funding as Orthodox rabbis, who are appointed by the Chief Rabbinate.

The gathering was called by Israel's Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who received Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's support.

In addition to Israel's Chief Rabbis Amar and Yona Metzger, hundreds of rabbis from the Religious-Zionist movement, Ministers Yakov Margi and Ariel Atias and MK's Uri Arieli and Michael Ben-Ari (National Union), attended the gathering in effort to protest the government's decision which received the High Court's seal of approval.

Amar claimed that the Reform and Conservative rabbis are "battling all that is holy. They are trying to the uproot the foundation of Judaism," he exclaimed, adding that "this is an attempt to tear the Jewish people into two nations .It's a danger without a remedy." He added that people should pray on this matter as they do in times of war, when "rockets are fired at Israel."

The chief rabbi called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to do all he possibly can to prevent the State's recognizing and funding of non-Orthodox rabbis.

Rabbi Metzger claimed that a mere 10% of third generation Reform Jews remain Jewish – a figure, he claimed, proves that "their way is not the right way."

'A danger without a remedy'
Dozens of Conservative and Reform rabbis staged a counter demonstration outside the Chief Rabbinate building in Jerusalem, demanding the state implement the recent ruling on state funding for non-Orthodox rabbis. They further said that "it is the will of thousands of Israelis to have the option of receiving religious services from non-Orthodox rabbis."

In response to the "emergency meeting," the head of Israel's Reform Judaism movement Rabbi Gilad Kariv said that "the hatred and incitement which were displayed during the convention will not stop the non-Orthodox movements from flourishing."

"On the contrary, he said, adding that "a convention of this sort just reminds the Israeli public of the Chief Rabbinate's extremism, and the absolute need for a functioning, honest and welcoming form of Judaism."

"If rabbi Amar and his friends continue on this inciting path, we will continue to build communities, build educational institutions and help with the conversion of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Most importantly, we will work towards social justice and tolerance," Kariv said.

President of the Israeli Conservative Movement Rabbinical Assembly Rabbi Mauricio Balter said that "Rabbi Amar's hurtful and harsh words against Reform and Conservative rabbis are inciting and this unprecedented gathering goes against the High Court's ruling. We will not keep quiet, while rabbis are being humiliated."

"We would like to remind these rabbis that the Torah commands us to 'love your neighbor as yourself."

Prior to the meeting, Amar sent out a letter addressed to hundreds of rabbis in Israel, calling on them to join the struggle. In his letter, the chief rabbi urged the rabbis to pray "in order to stop the destroyers and saboteurs of Judaism."

In response to Amar's harsh letter, Rabbi Balter and Conservative Rabbi Avinoam Sharon, filed a complaint with the police against him, claiming he incited against them and slandered them in the letter.

According to them, the letter he distributed and was directed against them can "arouse strife and animosity between different sectors of the population, which is considered mutiny according to Article 136/4 of the Penal Code.

"I was shocked by the way in which I was dishonored and humiliated in public, turning me into an object of hate and disdain," said Sharon, who is subscribed to the Rabbinate's mailing list and received a copy of the letter against him.

"Rabbi Amar describes in the letter how me and my colleagues trample the Torah, eradicate Judaism, destroy the religion and are responsible for the devastation of the people of Israel – all with the aim of harming the sanctity of the Torah."

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Pride Festival: An annual celebration of perversity diversity

Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. Leviticus 18:22

Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
Romans 1:24-32

June 8-17, 2012 marks the Edmonton Pride Festival, the city's annual celebration of sodomy. Go here to see the list of sponsors of this abomination.

I find it particularly interesting that the sponsors include Heritage Canada, the federal government department "responsible for national policies and programs that promote Canadian content, foster cultural participation, active citizenship and participation in Canada's civic life, and strengthen connections among Canadians." I don't see how promotion of an ungodly lifestyle fits into that. Heritage Canada wasn't a sponsor prior to 2010, and was a "rainbow" sponsor in 2010 and 2011, which I assume means the highest level of sponsorship. Heritage Canada has dropped a couple of notches to "red" for 2012; this could be the result of federal government budget cuts, or could be because Via Rail Canada, a crown corporation (i.e., technically owned by the Queen, but actually government-owned, although operated at arm's length from the government), has been added as a "red" sponsor.

Those of liberal views who think the "Conservative" government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper is out to implement a Christian social agenda, as well as Christians (especially easily-duped pastors) who are under the impression that this government is led by a devout Christian may have difficulty understanding or explaining the government's sponsorship of an event which so defiantly shakes a fist at God and His word.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

New Arabic translation of Babylonian Talmud is accused of containing anti-Israel messages

The Talmud, the record of rabbinical discussions of Jewish law and philosophy, consists of the Mishnah--the compendium of the oral law--and the Gemara--more detailed rabbinical commentary. The Babylonian Talmud (Talmud Bavli) was compiled in Mesopotamia from the 3rd to the 5th centuries A.D. As reported by Itamar Marlios of Ynet News, May 19, 2012:

...A group of some 90 Jordanian researchers has spent six long years translating the entire Talmud into Arabic – an echo of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, who labored 45 years translating the Babylonian Talmud from Aramaic into Hebrew.

The project is the brainchild of Jordan's Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES) an academic group that aims to make the Talmud accessible to the Arab population. Are Arabs taking advantage of that access? Certainly – the 20-volume set, which sells for $750, is in demand throughout the Arab world. According to the Ultra-Orthodox website Kikar Shabbat, the translated Talmud is being sold in markets and at book fairs.

Israel's National Library has also acquired a copy. Dr. Raquel Ukeles, curator of the library's Arabic collection, says: "We learned about the project to translate the Talmud into Arabic by chance, through reports of the storm it was causing among religious leaders in Riyyad, probably because it makes available a text considered so central to Judaism."

Ukeles says that contact was made with the CMES after an Israeli Talmud researcher expressed interest in the translation. "This is the first time in history that the entire Talmud has been translated into Arabic," she notes.

According to Ukeles, the Center for Middle East Studies actually focuses on political science, and the group's decision to translate the Gemara was a surprising one. Ukeles explains that the project began with a small number of researchers, who apparently didn't know how long the Talmud was and how difficult it was to understand. After those aspects of the project became clear, the center decided to increase the number of translators to 90 – both Christians and Muslims, some of whom research the Aramaic language.

Ukeles also expressed surprise that it was Jordanian academics who tackled the mission. "I would have expected that a project like this would take place in a country like Egypt, which has a Jewish community and a more extensive tradition of translating books from Hebrew to Arabic. Between 2007 and 2009 Egyptian researchers translated the entire Mishneh Torah into Arabic, and the Kuzari has also been translated (into Arabic) in Egypt," she observes.

The curator, who only recently received a copy of the translated Talmud, notes that the introduction to the text provides an interesting explanation of the motive behind the project: "They say that in Israel, religion is taking a bigger place in the public dialogue, and the importance of Judaism in Israel is growing."

The translators also noted, she says, that they had tried to buy a copy of the Talmud to translate, but rabbis had refused to sell them one.

The Talmud translation has not maintained the classic look of the Gemara page, and commentary, such as Rashi, is missing. However, it features a glossary and discussion of terms that pose a translation quandary. The translators say they hope that the work will enable new research into Judaism, as well as allowing comparison between Jewish, Muslim, and Christian law.

Ukeles says that the desire to translate such a work and the interest in Judaism were indicative of internal developments in Arab nations and expressed hope that the new translation will "allow us to study how we are perceived."

In the future, Ukeles says, she hopes to found a research group that will examine how the Talmud's "problematic" texts were translated.
The Jordanian scholars don't seem to like what they've seen in the Talmud, and the Israeli scholars aren't pleased with the comments of the Jordanians that accompany the text, as reported by Mr. Marlios on June 4, 2012:

It was just a few weeks ago that the first copy of the Talmud Bavli in Arabic landed in Israel and it seemed like this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Yet it has become apparent that the translation which was carried out by the Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES) in Jordan includes more than a few anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist political messages.

Dr. Raquel Ukeles, curator of the Israel's National Library Arabic collection, who read the introduction in Arabic said that in the text, the Talmud is "very clearly accused of racism." In fact, it is so clearly stated that one section of the introduction is simply titled "racism in the Talmud."

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) website presents quotes from the introduction to the text: "These texts confirm the racist and hostile perception toward the non-Jews, especially those who threaten the ‘chosen nation’ and stand in the way of its ambitions and hopes.

"There is no doubt that Israel is the best example of this racist position, both in the level of its daily crimes against the Palestinians and the level of its rejection and contempt for international resolutions and laws.

Anti Israeli message? The new Talmud

"For what applies to other countries in the world does not apply to contemporary Israel, as it is unique...Jews, according to this racist position (of the Talmud), are permitted to do what is not permitted for non-Jews.”

The conclusion states that: “The Talmudic heritage has a significant impact on the formulation of Jewish identity based on holy (principles of) racial isolation…It (the Talmud) also established the extreme positions that advocate hatred toward non-Jews, the violation of their rights and looting of their lands and property.”

The curator explains that what is especially intriguing about the introduction is the attempt to link Zionism and Judaism. "Up to now the Muslim approach was that Zionism
is a variation on European nationality that made its way to the provinces of the Middle East," she noted.

"In contrast, the introduction states that the deciphering of the Talmud will also help to better understand Zionism. Linking the two is a rather abnormal occurrence in the internal-Muslim debate."

Yet in spite of the racist tone of the introduction Ukeles is not rushing to judge the translation on the basis of its introduction alone. "The translation itself is not bad, and when you take into consideration that the team of researchers who wrote it are not Talmud experts, then their work is not bad at all.

"Apparently the version they had before them was a copy of the Talmud in Aramaic but they often used the English Schottenstein translation to better understand the text. I believe there is a certain gap between the relative fairness of the translation itself and the problematic introduction.

"I believe the introduction is a kind of lip service meant to appease the Arab reader who has a set agenda on Israel. I believe that eventually after all the reservations, it seems that the results of the project will be positive as the translation itself is useful and will allow Arab speakers to become familiar with Judaism from a perspective disconnected of the Israel-Arab conflict.

"Today's knowledge of Judaism in the Arab world is meager and filled with stereotypes. I believe these stereotypes will fade away for the reader who goes beyond the introduction."