3/31/08

Rabbi Arnie Wolf Supports His Neighbor Barack

From the Jewish Standard...
Neighborly conversation
By Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf

Barack Obama is more than a presidential candidate to me; he’s also my neighbor.

The Chicago synagogue at which I’ve served for 27 years, KAM Isaiah Israel, sits across the street from Obama’s home. As an Illinois state senator, Obama spoke to our members; since he hit the campaign trail, his Secret Service agents have occasionally had to visit our washrooms.

But I support Obama not out of neighborly instincts. I do so because he stands for what I believe in, what my faith demands.

In the mid-20th century, Jewish and black America forged a vital alliance. Our communities shared a common vision. I and many Jewish Americans stood shoulder to shoulder with the giants of our generation, demanding freedom for all.

Today, though, many in both communities find it too easy to forget our shared history. Grumbling can be heard in our synagogues and churches, community halls, and workplaces. It’s rarely expressed in polite company, but it’s there, beneath the surface.

Beneath it, that is, until someone like Obama’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, crosses the line of polite discourse and all hell breaks loose.

On March 18, the Obama candidacy had to stop in its tracks to confront the ill-conceived comments of the man who once led the candidate’s church. Obama stood accused of guilt by association, and the man known best for his soaring inclusionary rhetoric had to declare what anyone with any sense should have known: He disagrees with Wright.

In fact, he doesn’t just disagree. Obama believes that Wright’s recently disclosed statements on race express "a profoundly distorted view of this country," that they "denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation." On March 14, he called Wright’s comments "inflammatory and appalling."

Judaism has a long and proud tradition of dialogue. We expect to wrangle over scriptural interpretation and practice, and I believe I’ve learned as much by listening to my congregants as I hope they’ve learned from me. Certainly many people who call me their rabbi have held opinions far different from mine. A preacher speaks to a congregation, not for it.

This is, in essence, what Obama said about Wright. "Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views?" he asked March 18. "Absolutely — just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed."

And though many people may have forgotten the old black-Jewish alliance, it’s significant that Obama himself has not. Speaking before a Jewish group in Cleveland earlier this year, he drew a clear line from our shared past to the present: "I would not be sitting here," he said, "if it were not for a whole host of Jewish Americans."

The strong positions Obama has taken regarding the Iraq war, poverty, the climate, and the genocide in Darfur all speak directly to struggles in which American Jews have been intimately involved. His candidacy represents an historic opportunity to re-forge the links between our communities and once again fight together for justice.

On a personal level, I can say that I’ve worked with Obama in Hyde Park, Ill., for more than a decade. So has my son, a lawyer who represents children and people with disabilities, and greatly admires Obama’s dedication and skill dealing with issues affecting our most vulnerable citizens. We have not always agreed on every point — personally, I occasionally find Obama too conservative in his consideration of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — but I have seen him for who he is: a brilliant, open-hearted man, the one figure on the political scene who remembers our past, and has a real vision for repairing our present.

He is also, it should be noted, far wiser and more thoughtful than his former minister, and he offers what this country needs most: a leader willing to ask hard questions and grapple with difficult answers.

It has been a privilege to engage in conversation with such a man over the years. It is my deep hope that this nation will afford itself the same opportunity by choosing Barack Obama as its next president.

Arnold Jacob Wolf is rabbi emeritus at Chicago’s KAM Isaiah Israel, Illinois’s oldest Jewish congregation.

Abbott Developing Melt Away Heart Stent

Our Nominee for Invention of the Month!
Melt-Away Stent Works Well in Trial
By Ed Edelson
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, March 13 (HealthDay News) -- A polymer stent that is quietly absorbed by the body after it has done its job of keeping a coronary artery open has worked well in an international trial, researchers report.

The stent was successfully implanted in 29 of 31 attempts, the report said. In a one-year follow-up, none of the arteries in which the bio-absorbable stent had been implanted had closed again. One of the 30 people given the stent had a heart attack during that time, but no other adverse events were reported, according to the report in the March 15 issue of The Lancet.

A major clinical trial of the experimental stent is under way in several countries, said Karin Bauer, a spokeswoman for Abbott Laboratories, the company that developed the device. Plans for a U.S. trial are in the preliminary stages, she said.

"We currently are looking at the safety and feasibility of using the bio-absorbable stent platform in patients here," Bauer said. "Once we have completed the international trial, we will look at the feasibility of bringing such a trial to the United States, but we haven't made any decision as to when that might be."

The new stent has a backbone of lactic acid. It also is coated with everolimus, a drug that prevents formation of scar tissue.

Traditional stents are wire metal mesh tubes used to prop open an artery during angioplasty, a procedure done to clear blockages from the blood vessel. ...

Rev. Wright Kerfuffle Good for Obama

Over the weekend I realized how glad Barack must be that the Rev. Wright kerfuffle has had such wide coverage.

What? Obama glad?

You see, lots of rumors were flying around about Barack being a Muslim.

Now everybody knows that he has been sitting in a Christian church for 20 years. That's good for Barack.

Wrong church, you say? I don't worry about that part. Let the one who has the sane clergyman throw the first stone.

[Psst... I heard that Hillary is a Muslim... pass it on. And McClain, well he's a Jain...]

Woman Superdelegate Jumps on Obama Bandwagon

AP reports a move - does it indicate a trend?

Second Female Senator Endorses Obama

WASHINGTON (AP) — Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar is backing Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

Klobuchar became the second female senator to endorse Obama for president. She said Obama represents the kind of change she ran on.

Klobuchar joins Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, who endorsed Obama in January. Overall, Obama has the support of 13 senators, all superdelegates who could help decide the election.

Obama rival Hillary Rodham Clinton also has the support of 13 senators, including six women.

Klobuchar says she doesn't agree with some Obama supporters who say it's time for Clinton to drop out. She says that Clinton has run a strong campaign and should remain in the race.

3/30/08

BBC: Cigarette-Holcaust Kills 5 Million People Every Year

It is a disgrace that we allow this to continue year after year.
BBC NEWS: Smoking 'kills five million a year'

Almost five million people died from smoking-related diseases across the world in 2000, researchers estimate.

A study published in The Lancet found that for the first time, deaths from smoking that year were as high in the developing world as in industrialised countries.

Over three-quarters of deaths among smokers worldwide were among men.

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston say the only way to stop deaths increasing is to improve education and prevention work.

They looked at smoking deaths globally, including the developing world, where an estimated 930m of the world's 1.1 billion smokers live.

The researchers estimated that there were 4.83m premature deaths from smoking in 2000 - 2.41m in developing countries and 2.4m in industrialised countries.

In developing countries, 84% of deaths were among men.

Increase expected

Cardiovascular disease was the leading cause of death, killing 1.69m people, followed by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (970,000) and lung cancer (850,000).

The researchers used US data on deaths from lung cancer as an indication of smoking-related risk, plus data from 125 individual countries.

Dr Majid Ezzati from Harvard School of Public Health, said an accumulation of the health risks of smoking plus population growth and ageing would mean smoking-related deaths in developing countries would increase over coming decades.

He said: "Mortality as a result of smoking will rise substantially unless effective interventions and policies that curb and reduce smoking among men and prevent increases among women in these countries are implemented."

Amanda Sandford of the campaign group Action on Smoking and Health told BBC News Online there were a number of factors involved in the increase in smoking-related deaths in developing countries.

"Partly it's because in a growing population, so there are more people are smoking.

"But it also stems back to the actions of the tobacco companies,

"They are aggressively marketing their products to developing countries.

"I think we'll be seeing this until the countries themselves put a stop to it."

Ms Sandford added education and prevention measures were essential to reduce smoking-related deaths.

Global killers
Cardiovascular disease - 12m a year
Cancer - 6.2m a year
HIV/Aids - 3m a year
TB - 2m a year
Malaria - 1m

Nut Case Rabbis Decide Israeli Women Not Fit for Army


This is the man who decided last week that Israeli women should not serve in the Israel Defense Forces.

Who in the world asked you?

This ruling is, "a joke." Regarding the authority of this Neanderthal "Rabbi" or Stone Age "Professor" -- using your own words, "There is no place for any flexibility and compromise," just go back to your cave.

You must be told that by this nutty proclamation you make Judaism look stupid, backwards, sexist and arbitrary. You insult all Israeli women, all of the IDF military leadership and all of the secular Israeli public. Above all since you claim to be a supreme rabbinic body speaking for all rabbis, I must go on record clearly and without equivocation. You do not speak for me.
Sanhedrin demands expulsion of women from military

Self-appointed Supreme Judicial Court of the Jewish People says that by integrating women into army units, IDF is surrendering to 'political and ideological demands'

Kobi Nahshoni

The self-appointed Supreme Judicial Court of the Jewish People, also known as the Sanhedrin, passed down on Thursday a halachic ruling which calls to exempt women from army service and expel those who have already been recruited.

The ruling comes just two months after three religious soldiers belonging to a Yeshivat Hesder (program that combines advanced Talmudic studies with military service) were jailed for refusing to participate in a class given by women instructors.

According to the Sanhedrin rabbis, by integrating women into mixed army units the IDF is surrendering to "political and ideological demands".

The ruling stated that "rabbis and parents will not send their sons to an army that recruits women to mixed units. There is no place for any flexibility and compromise (in this matter).

'Failures in the battlefield'

Sanhedrin member Professor Hillel Weiss told Ynet that separating male and female soldiers would not due, and called to expel women from the army entirely.

"I remember when I would be called up for reserve duty and the IDF sent women instructors to show us how to operate a heavy machine gun; they couldn't even cock the large weapon," he said. "Today I meet women soldiers who say they are proud to be serving in the Armored or Artillery corps. It's a joke.

"However," Professor Weiss added, "there is room for technological and other units in which only women will serve, but this should be done outside the military framework.

"Just as there is the National Service for the State (alternative voluntary service for those that cannot or do not wish to serve in the IDF), there can also be National Service for the army" he said, "the women who would take part in this program would not even have to be in uniform.

The Sanhedrin's ruling also mentions the IDF's "failures in the battlefield", stating that the establishment of mixed units has resulted in a "disruption of the conscience".

"There seems to be a connection between the inability to make the distinction between the genders and the inability to make the distinction between friend and foe. Both of these characterize the post-Zionist army, which deems such distinctions racist," the ruling stated.

3/27/08

Warning! Graphic Video Violence: Dutch Movie Fitna Attacks Islamic Terrorism

Update:
Video REMOVED by LiveLeak due to threats.... but then put back again (3/31)

Warning! This Dutch video contains many graphic scenes of violence. It is a disturbing video, especially for Jews and Americans who are directly singled out by Islamic terrorists as targets of violence.

LiveLeak posts anti-Islam film
Video-sharing site offers controversial short
By ALI JAAFAR
Right-wing Dutch politico Geert Wilders has finally found a home for his controversial anti-Islam short "Fitna" after video-sharing site LiveLeak allowed the 15-minute film to be posted online.

"Fitna," whose title is an Arabic word that can be translated as "strife" or "discord" and is usually used in a religious context, has been the subject of heated debate and protests ever since Wilders announced his plans to release it earlier this year.

Dutch TV broadcasters refused to air the film following vocal criticism from the Dutch government, forcing Wilders to take the online route.

The Net, initially at least, proved as restrictive -- U.S.-based website host Network Solutions shut down Wilders' site pending a probe into whether it contravened its acceptable use policy.

LiveLeak's decision to post the film, which features graphic images of terror attacks in New York, London and Madrid and also reproduces the notorious Danish cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed with a bomb on his head, means viewers around the world will now be able to see what the fuss was all about.

"LiveLeak.com has a strict stance on remaining unbiased and allowing freedom of speech as so far as the law and our rules allow," read a statement on LiveLeak's homepage. "There was no legal reason to refuse Geert Wilders the right to post his film 'Fitna,' and it is not our place to censor people based on an emotive response. We in no way endorse Geert Wilders, his views, nor the views expressed within 'Fitna.' "

In February, attempts by Pakistani authorities to block users there from accessing the short's trailer on YouTube led to a temporary and unintentional worldwide block on the site.

Here is an Update.......

Renegade Rabbi Calls For Pagan Vengeance

It's all over the news... A rabbi calls for pagan vengeance against the perpetrators of the terrible attack on the Yeshiva Mercaz Harav in Jerusalem.

Just be clear. Judaism does not advocate massive revenge. It advocates justice. By advocating pagan revenge, this rabbi has lost his right to use his title. This is a disgrace.

Rabbi urges 'terrible revenge' for Jerusalem killings

JERUSALEM (AFP) — A prominent Israeli rabbi has called on the state to exact "terrible revenge" against Palestinians for the recent killing of eight teenagers at a religious school in Jerusalem, drawing heavy criticism.

In an article on the front page of a Jewish nationalist pamphlet, Shmuel Eliyahu, chief rabbi of the northern city of Safed, blasted the state for failing to avenge the March 6 attack...

Not Fair - Richard Silverstein in the Guardian Distorts Jewish Response to Its own Terrorists

I like when this blog gets a link from abroad. But here Richard Silverstein distorts the content to make his incorrect point in a post, "Acting in ignorance: Israeli extremists have built themselves a vacuum of hatred. Liberal Jews have a responsibility to prevent them flourishing." He links to a comment in one of our posts that comes from a fringe maniac. The post itself does exactly what Silverstein says we don't do. We do rail against Jewish extremism. So does the Jewish Week. So do many other papers and blogs. There is no vacuum, no conspiracy of silence. Richard is not honest here:

More recently, the dean of the Yeshiva University rabbinical school told students in Jerusalem that if Ehud Olmert "gave away" Jerusalem in a future negotiation that they should "shoot" him and desert the IDF. Subsequently, the rabbi and university president released statements feebly claiming the former didn't believe what he said. Since the audience laughed at his remark, it must mean that the speaker was really in jest and not in earnest. No one has satisfactorily explained how imagining the assassination of a prime minister can be said to be a jest. Instead of being investigated and cautioned by the Israeli police for his behaviour, the rabbi cancelled his stay and returned hastily to New York.

A Portland Chabad rabbi recently wrote in a blog that Israeli government ministers should be sent to the gallows for betraying the nation. The problem is that when Jews incite they are excused. But when Arabs incite it's plastered all over the media. I don't excuse incitement on either side. But if Jews expect Arabs to restrain their side then they will have to do a better job of restraining their own. Incitement is a two-way street. As Gorenberg so cogently writes about recent events: "The terrorist and the would-be lynch mob exist in a strange symbiosis. Hate feeds on hate and conjures up more hate."

Not fair Richard. I called for Yeshiva University to fire the rabbi who advocated (as a joke) violence against the PM of Israel. What did you want me to do? Did you want me to advocate that he be shot?

Jews who incite are not excused. You are just plain wrong. You are distorting the record.

Adobe We Love You: Photoshop Express Free on the Web

From the world's best software company, on the Web: http://www.photoshop.com/express
Free Web Version of Photoshop Launches
By Amanda Fehd, Associated Press Writer

Adobe Launches Free, Online Version of Photoshop, Hoping to Draw New Users

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The maker of the popular photo-editing software Photoshop on Thursday launched a basic version available for free online.

San Jose, Calif.-based Adobe Systems Inc. says it hopes to boost its name recognition among a new generation of consumers who edit, store and share photos online.

While Photoshop is designed for trained professionals, Adobe says Photoshop Express, which it launched in a "beta" test version, is easier to learn. User comments will be taken into account for future upgrades.

Photoshop Express will be completely Web-based so consumers can use it with any type of computer, operating system and browser. And, once they register, users can get to their accounts from different computers...

Whoops: British News Site Fooled by Purim Humor

They took the parody seriously. Jolly good! Hi-ho!

Story on Roman’s rabbis was not kosher

The First Post’s People column has a confession to make: we have been ‘had’ by the Jewish equivalent of an April Fool’s Day joke. We reported on Monday on a story published in the Jewish Chronicle claiming that Roman Abramovich planned to invest as much as £100m in the United Synagogue, the body responsible for mainstream Jewish faith in Britain. The Chelsea FC owner, it was said, intended to spend part of his fortune recruiting a team of world-class rabbis and building a new headquarters for Judaism at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge ground.

The story was far from kosher: on Tuesday a spokesman for the Jewish Chronicle admitted that the report was a Purim spiel - a joke made to celebrate the festival of Purim which commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people after a Persian plot to annihilate them in the 6th century BC was foiled by Queen Esther. Look up the Book of Esther if you want to know more. And hats off to the JC for a good joke.

Original report: ‘Roman to bring rabbis to the Bridge?’ More

We Demand Hillary Disclose All of Her Minister's Sermons Since 9/11

I'm waiting for Hillary to disclose her tax returns.

More important - I'm waiting for her to disclose all of the sermons of all of her pastors over the past 7+ years.

What is she hiding? It seems she's hiding plenty.

The Atlantic starts us off on the answer with this eerie essay about Hillary's strange and bizarre church fellowship.

Hillary's Minister Problem

Since Hillary Clinton has launched a frontal attack on her opponent's church and pastor, it's worth noting that she has some odd religious ties of her own. When I was profiling her two years ago, I learned about her involvement with a secretive Christian organization called The Fellowship that has operated in the Washington shadows since the 1930s. I found the story of Clinton and The Fellowship so bizarre that I made it the lede to my piece. In light of recent events, it's worth revisiting.

If you've never heard of The Fellowship (also known as The Family), it will sound like some shadowy organization in a John Grisham novel. (Indeed, as a Google search will demonstrate, critics consider it a cult.) The group was formed in the 1930s to minister to political and business leaders throughout the world, modeling itself as a kind of Christian Trilateral Commission. Several members of Congress are affiliated with the group, mostly Republicans, but some Democrats, too. To the extent The Fellowship is known beyond its members it is probably for founding the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.

Like Jeremiah Wright's Trinity Baptist Church, The Fellowship is run by its own mysterious and controversial figure, Douglas Coe, although temperamentally Coe is Wright's opposite. He eschews the spotlight and has never made a controversial public utterance that I'm aware of -- mainly because he rarely speaks publicly at all. (You won't find him on YouTube.) But like Wright, Coe has ministered to a Democratic frontrunner. He personally leads a private Senate prayer group that Clinton has been a part of.

In my piece, I chose to focus on the Senate prayer group, but others have written extensively about the strangeness and secrecy of The Fellowship. As this Los Angeles Times story and this exquisitely reported Harper's piece make clear, there is something deeply strange about the group. They certainly do not like press coverage, so in that regard Clinton's attraction might make sense. Reporters hoping to look into the group might want to think again. A few years ago, The Fellowship’s archives, which are held at Wheaton College, the evangelical school in Illinos, were reclassified as “restricted” and placed under lock and key.

But what else is Hillary hiding?

Guardian writer Elana Shor reports, "The view from Clinton's former church:"
...Dean Snyder, a senior minister at Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, has issued a statement warning white Americans that judging Wright "on the basis of two or three sound bites does a grave injustice" to the Chicago pastor, to Obama, and to the black church tradition in the US. The Clintons regularly attended Foundry services during their years in the White House...

Snyder said Obama's pastor "has been an agent of racial reconciliation while proclaiming perceptions and truths uncomfortable for some white people to hear".

The Foundry pastor, who is white, followed up in sermons on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, decrying racism and asking his congregation, "Who doesn't want to say God damn to this part of our national life together in which we just keep crucifying each other over and over again?"

Snyder also chastised white Americans for succumbing to fear in their reaction to Wright rather than listening to his message - which Snyder likened to resurrection.

"When the Jeremiah Wright sound bites appeared this week, I wish white Americans could have said, 'Tell us more, Dr Wright ... We may end up disagreeing with you, but we are going to take some time to try to understand what you have to say,'" Snyder said.

"What a wonderful thing that would have been for white America to do. But instead we became afraid."

3/25/08

There She Goes Again Our Miss Speaker Hillary

Huffington Post and just about everyone else is piling on Hillary for lying about her travels.

She misspoke. About this event.

But as Cheney would say, "So?"

She wasn't under oath.

Oh yes. The voters. So?

She may not win another primary.

3/24/08

How Bad is Arab Hatred of Israel? This Bad.

How Bad is Arab Hatred of Israel? This Bad.

Here is what the Arab News (The Middle East's Leading English Language Daily) says for instance in one article about (1) Merkel's visit to Israel and (2) the murder of Yeshiva students:
Palestine Peace a Matter of Global Resolve
Samar Fatany

Angela Merkel publicly announced her shame over the Jewish Holocaust at a time when a Palestinian Holocaust is taking place — also with German sympathy and blind support. The same kind of acquiescence that led to the first Holocaust is allowing this new Holocaust to continue unabated.

The German Stuka dive-bombers and the Panzer tanks have been replaced by the helicopter gunship and the Israeli tank. The Jewish victims have been replaced with Palestinians, and the former oppressed has now become the oppressor.

In the last month, more than 100 Palestinian women and children have become the victims of a perverse, extremist sect within Israel that relishes blood and misery and uses its influence to ensure that peace will never come....

A Palestinian from East Jerusalem, enraged by the slaughter, slays eight students and wounds several others at the religious school of Zionist extremists Mercaz HaRav. The religious institution is the center of the extremist settlement movement, which openly calls on Israelis to rob Palestinians of their lands and incites hatred against all Palestinians in the occupied territories. An argument you might hear in the Middle East is that his targets are Israeli militias planning the genocide against Palestinians living in their own homeland.

Israel calls it a terrorist act, and the Western world refuses to acknowledge the real problem. No matter who gets elected or what happens, Israel always finds an excuse to avoid peace....
Here is how I read this:

(1) No fair that you have a Holocaust. We want a Holocaust too.

(2) No fair that you have Yeshivas training, "Militias planning the genocide against Palestinians living in their own homeland." We want to do things like that in our madrasas.

I don't want you to have a Holocaust. And I do wish you would stop doing those things in your religious schools.

Carville: Richardson is Judas Because He Betrayed Carville's Lord Hillary

Carville claims a Judas accusation is an okay "seasonal metaphor" for accusing a politician of betrayal by endorsing Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton.

Sure why not? Use any metaphor you'd like as you go down on your metaphorical sinking ship. You might want to start packing because just remember that metaphorically speaking, "No one wants to be the last rat on the sinking ship." The Boston Globe:
Carville sticks by Richardson as Judas
Posted by Foon Rhee, deputy national political editor

James Carville, a Hillary Clinton partisan, today did not back away at all from comparing New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson to Judas.

Carville had said Richardson had betrayed the Clintons -- much as Judas betrayed Jesus -- by endorsing Barack Obama on Friday despite working in former president Bill Clinton's administration. Richardson should have stayed neutral in the Democratic primary fight, Carville said today on CNN.

Carville said he wanted to show his strong displeasure and used a "seasonal metaphor."

"I'm not going to get in the gutter with him," Richardson responded on MSNBC this afternoon, saying that some Clinton supporters seem to believe she is entitled to the presidency.

"This litmus test of loyalty is unfortunate," he said.

Richardson called on both campaigns to stop the personal attacks, saying that the "bloodletting" was hurting both. "We're tearing each other apart," he said.

3/23/08

Times Ethicist Fails to See that Grade Change by Intimidation is More than Unethical

The Ethicist says that it is unethical for a professor to change a grade for a student from an F to a D so that she can continue to receive financial aid, health insurance and housing.

Randy is right but does not justify his decision properly and does not get to the heart of the issue. Here is what he says first, followed by my commentary.
The Ethicist
A Failing Grade
By RANDY COHEN

I teach at a state university. Sometimes at the end of a semester a student asks me to raise a grade. Typically it is a student with children, who receives financial aid, health insurance and housing and risks losing these benefits if she receives the F she earned rather than the D I could bestow — harsh consequences. Should I raise the grade? —l; V.H., MONTANA

You should not. I admire your sensitivity to the fact that a grade can have repercussions more severe than a professor intends or most of us find humane. But you are considering the wrong solution to this problem.

You must grade consistently; you may not establish a Free Pass for Poor Students. If you do so, why not announce it at the start of the term, saving these students the inconvenience of attending class and sparing their classmates the demoralizing spectacle later of someone handed a grade she does not merit?

Instead, you should intervene early in the term. It must be apparent long before the end of the semester that a student is foundering. You might give her a chance to make up poor work or find remedial tutoring. If burdens outside of class overwhelm a student, grant her an incomplete or provide extra time for an assignment.

There is something faintly disingenuous about these grade-change pleas. A single F is unlikely to be catastrophic; the student could be failing other courses too. Have you been importuned because you are a soft touch?

That said, neither you nor the student should have to face such a dilemma. It is a cold society indeed that makes a mother’s housing and health care contingent on her grades.
First, the inability of a professor to fail a student these days is well-known. There are armies of administrators and advisors employed by universities to insure that students pass every course. Students know they can turn to the "office of passing every course" and get a reprieve, exemption, extension, or extenuating override to almost every attempt by a professor to fail that student.

Most professors don't have time to engage these administrative adversaries. So the no-fail system works for more and more students each year and the word is out. The colleges tolerate and encourage the rapid multiplication of such no-fail options because they see every student with a tatoo of "$30,000" on his or her forehead or in the case of a state school with a tatoo of "reduced tuition + satisfied statistic." In today's competitive higher ed climate, failing a student is not something that has any upside for any administrator.

This is the background from which Randy derives the ethical inquiry du jour. Without alerting us to this context the question is simply astonishing -- as follows.

A student comes to a professor after failing a course and essentially proposes that the professor collude with her in defrauding the government out of "financial aid, health insurance and housing." Those benefits are bestowed on students in good standing who meet the minimum requirements of the state university. This student does not meet the standards, but she begs the professor to conspire with her so that she can receive these benefits under false pretenses. If true, this is a criminal proposition, nothing less. But the good news is that the whole story is likely false.

The professor has not asked the student for proof that indeed she has children. The professor has not asked the student for proof that she currently receives aid. The professor has not asked the student for evidence that she will lose that imagined or real aid if she receives and F or that she will keep the aid if she receives a D. The student has every reason to lie about all these circumstances since it is a simple ploy to con the professor into granting her a free pass after the failing-fact.

The professor not only has no time to investigate or contest the student's assertions. He now has the good fortune to be in a position to perform an act of social justice for a needy downtrodden student mother. Why would he hesitate? After all a D is quite close to an F. It's not a big deal to compromise when the result is justice for the weak.

And of course, the professor may be an adjunct, a contract employee who earns around $2000 for teaching a course. This plea comes after the contract has closed and accordingly the professor is not compensated for the trouble of attending to the student's situation. The adjunct likely wants to continue teaching and so will not alienate the college by blowing off the request. Accordingly, the ideal resolution will be to dispose of the student situation quickly with all parties left satisfied. The quick change from F to D is a no-brainer. And the student knows this.

The ideas that Randy the Ethicist puts forward that the professor should intervene early so that such situations do not arise, give the student a chance to make up the work, extra time or a grade of incomplete - all of these alternatives obviously have been addressed by the time we get to the case at hand. All decent professors keep students informed as to how they are doing and allow for leeway in cases that merit it.

We are dealing here with a classic ploy. The student blew off all available remedies already and has failed and now has invented a story to present to the professor and asks for his complicity to circumvent (in Randy's words) that, "cold society indeed that makes a mother's housing and health care contingent on her grades."

Randy, you have been conned into sympathy by a student who has selected a sob-story from the available menu of proven choices.

You came to the right conclusion that the professor should not change the grade. But you give all the wrong and credulous reasons. And by now you are writing next week's Ethicist column.

Meanwhile the professor has to deal with the student, the department head, the dean and the "office of passing every course." He has to worry about his 1% salary increase if he is a regular appointee or the renewal of his exploitative adjunct contract with a 0% increase.

Regardless of your advice, in 999 out of 1000 cases the student will get her grade changed.

And one can point a finger at you now and say that you failed to protect the public. You gave short shrift to the issue that came to you. And your superficial response allowed the unethical behavior to continue and to spread.

The result is that more students will graduate college by conning their professors, not by mastering course materials and achieving genuine passing grades.

They will have learned less of the syllabus that we intended them to master and more of the lessons of life that we fear they will absorb. They will have learned that conning the authority in charge is not difficult, that it pays off and has no repercussions.

The corporation that hires this student will have been defrauded, and so on down the line, as all the clients and interactions that student partakes in will perpetuate the taint of her corruption.

The problem we face is not grade inflation. It's grade intimidation.

3/22/08

Times' Deborah Solomon Questions for Megaminister Rev. Hagee

I like this guy Hagee for substantive reasons - his deep love of Israel. He is for us for real.

Solomon moves him one step closer to the mainstream. Yes, okay, there are lots more steps to go. But it's one step in the right direction.

As a prominent evangelical pastor based in San Antonio, you were recently catapulted into national controversy when you endorsed Senator John McCain for president. Is it true that McCain actively sought your endorsement? It’s true that McCain’s campaign sought my endorsement.

How did you feel when critics called you a Catholic-basher and said McCain should reject your endorsement? My statements regarding the Catholic Church have been grossly mischaracterized. I never called the Catholic Church “the anti-Christ” or a “false cult system.” I was referring to those Christians who ignore the Gospels.

What about your observation in a recent book that “most readers will be shocked by the clear record of history linking Adolf Hitler and the Roman Catholic Church in a conspiracy to exterminate the Jews”? What I was trying to express was the fact that Christian anti-Semitism — both Catholic and Protestant — contributed to an environment in which Nazi racial anti-Semitism could flourish.

But why bring all of that up now? ’Cause most of the world don’t know it. Christians don’t know it at all.

Two years ago, you founded Christians United for Israel , an influential lobbying group that has won accolades from many Jewish leaders. I’m trying to do something beneficial for the state of Israel and the Jewish people. It’s the right thing to do. If you take the Jewish contribution away from Christianity, there would be no Christianity.

That’s a touching sentiment, but some are concerned that the Zionism of American evangelicals stems from self-interest. Isn’t your involvement in Israel based on a desire to speed the second coming of Jesus? Our support of Israel has nothing to do with any kind of “end times” Bible scenario.

You’re not just sitting around waiting for the Rapture? No. My support of Israel is based on a recognition of the enormous debt we gentiles owe to the Jews. I have given millions of dollars to build hospitals and orphanages in Israel and to bring 25,000 Russian immigrants to Israel, because every Jewish person who comes to Israel makes it a stronger nation.

You’re often described as the pastor of a megachurch. Yes.

What makes it a megachurch instead of just a big church? I think they call you a megachurch when you go over 5,000. I have over 19,000 active members at Cornerstone Church in San Antonio.

You are also the president of Global Evangelism Television, which broadcasts your Sunday sermons around the country. I am on five days a week. My show can be seen throughout the world on several networks, including God TV, TBN and Daystar.

What do you make of Barack Obama’s oratorical skills? He is going to be difficult to beat, because the man is a master of communication. If he were in the ministry, he would make it in the major leagues overnight.

Let’s talk about your much-quoted comment that Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for a gay rights parade in New Orleans . We’re not going down there. That’s so far off-base it would take us 33 pages to go through that, and it’s not worth going through.

I am not eager to rehash it either, although I wish that evangelicals were not so hard on gays. Our church is not hard against the gay people. Our church teaches what the Bible teaches, that it is not a righteous lifestyle. But of course we must love even sinners.

Do you have any gay friends? I don’t want to say that I have any friends, because when you say, “Who are they?” I don’t want them jumping off the balcony.

Do you have an Easter prayer to share with us? May the joy of Easter fill your heart and home.

Spiegel: Merkel's Unqualified Support of Israel


This is the news we like to see...

ISRAEL'S 60TH BIRTHDAY

Uncritical Merkel Gets Red Carpet Treatment in Israel

By Ralf Beste, Ralf Neukirch and Christoph Schult

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has become Israel's staunchest ally in Europe. This week, the country has pulled out all the stops to welcome the German leader. Back home, though, many wish Merkel would finally speak up about Israeli excesses in the Gaza Strip. ..story

Reuters: Pope's Secret Muslim Baptism

Here we go; back to the Middle Ages and the Church's secret baptisms.
Pope baptizes famous Muslim convert
By Philip Pullella

Pope Benedict led the world's Catholics into Easter on Saturday at a Vatican service where he baptized a Muslim-born convert who is one of Italy's most famous and controversial journalists.

The German-born pontiff, marking the third Easter season of his pontificate, began the service in the atrium of a darkened St Peter's Basilica where he carved the Greek letters Alpha and Omega on a large candle.

The basilica became a sea of flickering flames as thousands of faithful inside lit candles before the lights were turned on in a ritual symbolizing the darkness in the world after Christ's death and the light of the resurrection.

Easter, the most important day in the Church's liturgical calendar, commemorates Christ rising from the dead three days after he was crucified.

In his sermon, Benedict wove a connection between the resurrection of Christ and the sacrament of baptism, the initiation rite of Christianity.

"...from the abyss of death he was able to rise to life. Now he raises us from death to true life. This is exactly what happens in baptism," the pope said.

The pope traditionally baptizes newborns on January 1 and adult converts to Catholicism on Easter eve.

One of the seven adults he baptized on Saturday night was Magdi Allam, 55, an Egyptian-born journalist who, as deputy director of the leading newspaper Corriere della Sera, is one of Italy's best-known intellectuals.

Allam, a fierce critic of Islamic extremism and a strong supporter of Israel, is protected by a police escort because of threats he has received.

WELL-KEPT SECRET

His conversion to Christianity was a well-kept secret, disclosed by the Vatican in a statement less than an hour before the Easter eve service started.

"For the Catholic Church, each person who asks to receive baptism after a deep personal search, a fully free choice and adequate preparation, has a right to receive it," it said.

Allam defended the pope in 2006 when the pontiff made a speech in Regensburg, Germany, that many Muslims perceived as depicting Islam as a violent faith.

The Vatican statement announcing Allam was joining Catholicism said all newcomers were "equally important before God's love and welcome in the community of the Church."

Allam, who has been living in Italy for 35 years, has said he was never a very devout Muslim. Still, his conversion to Christianity came as a surprise.

"What amazes me is the high profile the Vatican has given this conversion," Yaha Sergio Yahe Pallavicini, vice-president of the Italian Islamic Religious Community, told Reuters.

The Easter eve service was the first of three at which the pope presides. On Sunday he will celebrate a mass and then deliver his twice-yearly "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) blessing and message.

SPIEGEL: POPE 'INSULTING TO JEWS'

From the German press...


'INSULTING TO JEWS'

Leading German Rabbi Condemns Pope's Good Friday Prayer

Jewish groups around the world have condemned Pope Benedict XVI's new version of a Catholic Good Friday prayer. SPIEGEL ONLINE talks to prominent German rabbi Walter Homolka about why the prayer is insulting to Jews and discusses alleged anti-Semitic tendencies within the Catholic Church.

Rabbi Walter Homolka: "The Catholic Church does not have its anti-Semitic tendencies under control." Around the world, millions of Catholics are celebrating Good Friday, when they commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. But for many Jews, this year's ceremonies leave a bitter aftertaste, due to a controversial new version of a prayer that many claim is anti-Semitic.

Last month, the Vatican announced that Pope Benedict XVI had revised the so-called "Good Friday Prayer for the Jews" which forms part of the Tridentine Mass, often referred to as the Latin Mass. The new version, translated from the Latin, reads: "Let us also pray for the Jews: That our God and Lord may illuminate their hearts, that they acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Savior of all men." ...

3/21/08

Reuters: German Jewish Leader Slams Pope for Bad Good Friday Prayer

It's transparent and self-evident that this Pope is moving his church in the wrong direction.

Bravo to the German Jewish leader Charlotte Knobloch for standing up and saying the obvious.
German Jewish leader criticizes Pope over prayer

BERLIN (Reuters) - The leader of Germany's Jewish community said on Friday she was surprised Pope Benedict could have allowed a new version of a Good Friday prayer for the conversion of Jews.

Charlotte Knobloch, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told Reuters Television she could not fathom Pope Benedict putting forward the new decree because he experienced discrimination against Jews in Germany as a young man.

"I would have assumed that this German pope, of all people, had got to know first hand the ostracizing of Jewry," she said. "I could not have imagined that this same German pope could now impose such phrases upon his church."

Jewish groups complained last year when the Pope issued a decree allowing wider use of the old-style Latin Mass and a missal, or prayer book, that was phased out after the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, which met from 1962 to 1965.

They protested against the re-introduction of the old prayer for conversion of the Jews and asked the Pope to change it.

The Vatican last month revised the contested Latin prayer used by a traditionalist minority on Good Friday, the day marking Jesus Christ's crucifixion, removing a reference to Jewish "blindness" over Christ and deleting a phrase asking God to "remove the veil from their hearts".

Jews criticized the new version because it still says they should recognize Jesus Christ as the savior of all men. It asks that "all Israel may be saved" and Jews say it keeps an underlying call to conversion that they had wanted removed.

Knobloch said that she could not envision a continuation of the inter-religious dialogue as long as the old prayer stands.

"The inter-religious dialogue has suffered an enormous setback because of this version and I assume that one will find a way very soon to continue the dialogue, but at the moment I don't see it happening," she said.

"As long as the Catholic Church, that is to say Pope Benedict, does not return to the previous wording, I assume that there will not be any further dialogue in the form that we were able to have in the past," Knobloch said.

A Dastardly Clinton Dirty Trick in Teaneck

This morning I had an Obama lawn sign on my front lawn in Teaneck.

This afternoon when I returned home, I had a Hillary lawn sign on my front lawn instead.

The Obama sign is gone.

Henry, if that is your Hillary sign, come by before Tuesday to get it back. It's out by my garbage.

And so the Clinton dirty tricks machine is working hard - even on holidays.

Times: Training Secrets of Swimmer Ryan Lochte



I'm in the pool every day. And every four years the Times rediscovers the sport of swimming, just in time for the Olympics.
Faster, Higher, Stronger
A Swimmer’s Different Strokes for Success
By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS

RYAN LOCHTE may be the best American male swimmer not named Michael. At the 2004 Olympic Summer Games in Athens, he won a silver medal in the 200-meter individual medley, losing only to that Michael (Phelps, of course).

He also earned a gold medal as part of the 4-by-200-meter freestyle relay in Athens. And at the 2007 World Championships last March, Lochte shattered the world record in the 200-meter backstroke on his way to capturing a gold medal, serving notice for what may come at the Beijing Olympics this summer.

Lochte (pronounced LOCK-tee) swims 3 to 5 miles most days, sometimes even twice a day. Few non-Olympic hopefuls could, or would want to, replicate that kind of distance. But other aspects of the 23-year-old Lochte’s training (such as his use of fins and buoys) and routines (his dryland exercises) can be adopted by recreational swimmers or athletes, and perhaps even by parent coaches facing a rough patch with their teenage protégés. ...

Times: Professors Drop Their Pants on the Internet

Figuratively of course.
The Professor as Open Book
By STEPHANIE ROSENBLOOM

IT is not necessary for a student studying multivariable calculus, medieval literature or Roman archaeology to know that the professor on the podium shoots pool, has donned a bunny costume or can’t get enough of Chaka Khan.

Yet professors of all ranks and disciplines are revealing such information on public, national platforms: blogs, Web pages, social networking sites, even campus television.

When scholars were recently given the chance to refute student criticism posted on the Web site RateMyProfessors.com, a cult-hit television series, “Professors Strike Back,” was born. The show, which has professors responding on camera to undergraduate gripes such as “boring beyond belief,” made its debut in October on mtvU, a 24-hour network broadcast to more than 7.5 million students on American college campuses.

“It’s our dominant show driving half of the traffic to mtvU now,” said Stephen Friedman, general manager of the network. “It gets more than our music premieres.”

There was a time when professors did not outrank music premieres on television. They were buttoned-up authority figures, like the legendary fictional Professor Kingsfield, portrayed by John Houseman in “The Paper Chase.” The personal lives of professors could only be imagined from the sparse clues of clothing, handwriting and the contents of offices.

These days, the clues are usually digital and are broad invitations to get to know the person behind the Ph.D. It is not uncommon for professors’ Web pages to include lists of the books they would take to a deserted island, links to their favorite songs from bygone eras, blog posts about their children, entries “written” by their dogs and vacation photographs.

While many professors have rushed to meet the age of social networking, there are some who think it is symptomatic of an unfortunate trend, that a professor’s job today is not just to impart knowledge, but to be an entertainer.

Certainly, professors have embraced the Internet since its earliest days, using it as a scholarly avenue of communication, publication and debate. Now it is common for many to reveal more personal information that has little connection to their work.

Some do so in hopes it will attract attention for a book or paper they have written; others do so inadvertently, joining Facebook to communicate with students and then finding themselves lured deeper by its various applications.

Many, though, say that by divulging family history and hobbies, they hope to appear more accessible to students.

William Irwin, an associate professor of philosophy at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., has a Facebook profile, appeared on “Professors Strike Back” and, last summer, created a MySpace page (with a harpist playing music by Metallica) that he says had some 10,000 friends.

Note the word “had.” Mr. Irwin’s page, on which he was blogging constantly, he said, vanished around Thanksgiving for reasons he has yet to unravel.

“There were all kinds of people I was meeting,” he said. “It was kind of an exciting alternate universe to be part of.”

Mr. Irwin updates his Facebook page with photos and titles of books he is reading, but he misses what he calls the Las Vegas feel of MySpace. Still, his postings ignite a conversation with students. “Anything I can do to kind of meet them halfway,” he said, “I try to do.”

This sentiment is shared by scholars who think that knowing that your Latin professor likes fly fishing and runs a knitting circle could improve the teacher-student relationship.

David H. Collingwood, a mathematics professor at the University of Washington and a Web page pioneer, whose online photographs show him drinking wine in Italy, mountaineering and scuba diving, said in an e-mail message that undergraduates in large classes often fear approaching the professor for help. Having a common interest can break the ice.

“I have students come to my office hours and comment on a commonality between their interests and mine,” he wrote. “For example, one student said they had sat in precisely the same spot as I had in the Italian Cinque Terre town of Vernazza.”

Nate Ackerman, a lecturer in mathematics at the University of Pennsylvania, whose Web page includes information about his wrestling achievements and photos of him with his cats, agreed. “It’s better when your professor’s human,” he said.

Some scholars suggest that the need to present oneself so chummily is indicative of student demands. Sam Gosling, a psychologist and an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin, who has about 300 students on his MySpace page, said there are students today who think professors are not doing their jobs unless they convey information in zany, interactive ways.

It is something he sees reflected in student evaluations and something that anyone can observe on RateMyProfessors, where students critique classes with comments like “bring a pillow.”

When David Linton, a communication-arts professor at Marymount Manhattan College, was asked in “Professors Strike Back” to respond to a student who said his class was “not a happy learning experience,” he said in part: “What the hell does that mean? Who the hell said it was supposed to happy? I hope it’s good. I hope it’s stimulating.”

With his frank rebuttals and voluminous puff of gray hair, Mr. Linton has become something of a celebrity thanks to such appearances. “I walked into the gym the other day and some woman on the treadmill looked up and said ‘I just saw you on RateMyProfessors.com,’ ” said Mr. Linton, who is now dreaming up a series, “Professors at Play,” that would juxtapose scholars’ work at universities with their personal hobbies. Were he to have his own episode, he would like to be ice or roller skating.

“It bespeaks a certain kind of desire that all of us have for that moment of fame,” he said.

But there are those who prefer to be more opaque, at least in cyberspace. “I can see it if somebody’s using a Web page to store syllabi and articles and store biographies, store vita and that’s fine,” said Stephen Eric Bronner, a political science professor at Rutgers. “But just to say ‘I shoot pool’ or ‘I play poker,’ this kind of thing, what does it really mean? You humanize yourself in front of your students. You don’t have to do it through that.”

Mr. Bronner, who recently returned from Darfur, was perplexed that more people remarked about his appearance on “Professors Strike Back” than his trip. “I don’t know, I find it a very odd thing,” he said. “It’s just, it’s irksome in a way.”

There are many reasons professors have embraced the Web and other media to reveal more of themselves. Mr. Gosling, whose studies include personality and virtual environments, noted that people are far less formal in all areas of life. “Twenty years ago, many fewer professors would have been wearing jeans and sneakers to work,” he said.

It is also possible, he added, that some professors are doing online what they have long done in their offices: displaying family photos and personal artifacts, decorating with posters, literally keeping their doors open.

Mr. Friedman of mtvU said it is the nature of the age. “I think it’s part of this increased transparency,” he said.

He acknowledged that watching the uninhibited scholars responding to student criticism on “Professors Strike Back” is “almost as if your therapist, who you know nothing about, is going to come and respond.”

“It feels as if they are breaking some kind of wall,” he said.

And yet, in some ways, the online and on-screen chumminess may not cross over beyond those realms. A number of professors said the most disarming thing of all to students is when they encounter a professor not on a Web page, but in the real world.

When a student spotted Mr. Gosling on a street near campus, he said, “She looked at me in, like, horror. Like, ‘Wait a minute, you have a life?’ The idea that I would continue to exist — it was sort of a violation of her expectations.”

Times: Harvard Muslim Students' Complaints

You know that Harvard is a secular university. You are a fundamentalist Muslim and yet you enroll at Harvard. Then you decide to complain.

There is no Islamic law that says that Islamic women must work out in a Harvard gym. Indeed the consensus among Imams I am sure is that Harvard is the Muslim equivalent of treyf.

Solutions: Don't go to Harvard. Don't go to the Harvard gym (there are others). Wear modest clothes when you work out. (You've heard of the Burqini, haven't you? See picture.) Wear normal workout clothes and let the men worry about temptation.

Aside: Why is there no Islamic University in the US? Lack of money. I think not. Something to ponder.
At Harvard, Students’ Muslim Traditions Are a Topic of Debate
By NEIL MacFARQUHAR

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Two issues of Muslim practice — whether the call to prayer should ring out across Harvard Yard and whether the university should grant women separate gym hours — have unleashed small waves of controversy over how Harvard practices tolerance.

Heated discussions have erupted on dormitory chat rooms, students said, while various opinion articles in the student newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, have denounced both practices.

“I think that because Harvard is a secular campus, there is a fear among some students that religious beliefs or practices might be imposed on people who don’t want anything to do with them,” said Jessa Birdsall, a 20-year-old sophomore who said she thought the university should accommodate the beliefs of all students.

The debate began in early February, when the undergraduate college restricted one of the three largest gyms on its main campus, the Quadrangle Recreational Athletic Center, to women only on Mondays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., and Tuesdays and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.

The college spokesman, Robert Mitchell, would not describe how the decision was reached, but various students said a small group of Muslim women undergraduates living in the Leverett House dormitory asked for the change.

The group of women felt that workout clothes violated the Muslim prescription that both sexes wear modest dress in shared environments. So they asked that the dormitory set aside its mini gyms for women a few hours each week. The request eventually made its way to the Harvard College Women’s Center and it was decided that the Quadrangle center, which Mr. Mitchell called the college’s least-used athletic facility, would be restricted to women only at certain times. He said the change was an experiment that would be re-evaluated in June.

The second controversy occurred after the adhan, or call to prayer, was once again broadcast across Harvard Yard at noon from the steps of the Widener Library for several days late last month. The broadcast was part of Islam Awareness Week, sponsored by the Muslim student club, the Harvard Islamic Society.

On March 13, an op-ed article by three graduate students denounced the practice, which has been going on for several years. They wrote that while pluralism was fine, the adhan espouses Muslim intolerance toward other faiths by stating that the Prophet Muhammad is God’s messenger. Calling it proselytizing, the op-ed article said, “The adhan, it seems, is the exception to Harvard’s unspoken rule of religious tolerance and respect.”

The arguments over both issues boiled down to whether Harvard was being admirably tolerant or was disrupting the lives of everyone to placate a vocal minority.

Rauda Tellawi, a 21-year-old senior who veils her hair, said that the animated arguments about the gym hours that unrolled on her dorm’s in-house chat room noted that even some men felt intimidated by the presence of women in the gym if they were, say, not bench-pressing as much as a buddy. Ms. Tellawi said she habitually left the gym if men were hovering nearby while she ran or did sit-ups.

“Even if you have loose clothing on, they are going to see things that we are not supposed to let them see,” she said, adding, “Islam doesn’t encourage you to physically lie down in front of men.”

Ms. Tellawi did not consider it discriminatory to set aside some hours at the gym for women. Instead, she views it as a healthy accommodation. She noted that students who follow kosher eating rules have a separate area in her dining hall and said that some non-Muslim women also supported the separate gym hours.

The new system has been criticized for not attracting enough women to warrant separate hours, and several students said perhaps only 15 people use the center during peak periods at night, despite the fact that it offered its own locker rooms, squash and basketball courts, weights and aerobic machines.

Nicholas J. Wells, a junior who used to work out in the morning, said he thought the change was “unfair to men and inconvenient for women.” While he was all for supporting Muslim women, he said there had to be a more practical way so that Quad residents did not lose access to their main gym.

A junior, Lucy M. Caldwell, echoed those arguments. She criticized the hours for women only as too drastic an accommodation to make for a religious minority, dismissing the idea that many non-Muslim women supported it.

When word of the new gym hours became public, Harvard was attacked in the blogosphere for being a bastion of liberalism run amok.

As to the call to prayer, Muslim students said the adhan was a basic statement of their creed and had nothing to do with denying other faiths. The debate focused mostly on whether Muslims were getting a right denied to people of other religions.

One student wrote in the comments section of The Crimson’s Web site that Harvard Yard was not a comparative religion class, while another said if students could romp there naked and urinate on the statue of John Harvard, surely forbearance toward other cultures was warranted.

Many students seemed oblivious to either issue, saying they were preoccupied with midterm examinations.

Taha Abdul-Basser, the Muslim chaplain at Harvard, said both episodes were indicative of the growing number of Muslims in the United States.

“There are some people who are not just comfortable that Muslims, by virtue of the change of demographics, are going to become more and more visible,” he said.

3/20/08

CNN: They Were Digging for Dirt for Dirty Tricks in Obama's Passport Files

Let's not put the best spin on it. Let's assume the worst. Enemies were looking for ammunition to smear Obama. Until disproven, that is the thesis that we should accept.
State Department: Someone snooped in Obama's passport file

* Story Highlights
* NEW: Three separate contractors looked at file three times since January
* Campaign spokesman: "This is an outrageous breach of security and privacy"
* Obama camp calls for complete investigation into the breach
* State Department says two contractors were fired; a third was disciplined

(CNN) -- On three occasions since January, Sen. Barack Obama's passport file was looked at by three different contract workers, said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

The contractors accessed information in the file in an unauthorized way, he said.

Two contractors were fired and one was disciplined by the contractor's company, McCormack said.

He said the contractors are not linked.

The State Department hires contractors to design, build and maintain their systems and help employees with searches. McCormack said two of the contractors in the Obama case were "low-level" personnel and the other was in a mid-level position with no management role.

The breach seems like "imprudent curiosity" among the contract workers, said McCormack, adding that senior management at the State Department was not aware of the incidents until Thursday afternoon. Breaches occurred January 9, February 21 and March 14.

Obama's campaign is asking for a complete investigation to find out who looked at Obama's passport file and why.

"This is an outrageous breach of security and privacy, even from an administration that has shown little regard for either over the last eight years," said Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton in a statement.

"Our government's duty is to protect the private information of the American people, not use it for political purposes."

The White House declined comment Thursday evening, just hours after the State Department upper management learned of the breach.

3/19/08

InformationWeek: Google Gives Free Portal to Non-Profits

They really are better than just, "Do no evil."

Google is giving away its services to do good.

That is a really valiant thing to do. Bravo.
Google Debuts Portal For Non-Profits
This site features ideas and tutorials for how to use Google tools to promote a group's work, raise money, and operate more efficiently.

Google (NSDQ: GOOG) on Tuesday launched Google For Non-Profits, a portal that provides access to select Google applications for non-profit organizations.

"This site features ideas and tutorials for how you can use Google tools to promote your work, raise money, and operate more efficiently," said Chris Busselle, investments manager at Google.org, Google's non-profit arm, in a blog post. "And to get inspired, you'll also find examples of innovative ways other non-profits are using our products to further their causes."

Google For Non-Profits includes a Gmail, Checkout, Docs, Calendar, and Analytics.

Commercial users of Google Checkout have to pay fees, but non-profits can use the online payment service without monthly, setup, or gateway fees until 2009.

Google For Non-Profits also provides a series of tutorials that aim to teach non-profits how to best use Google's services.

One such tutorial explains how to use Google Grants, which allow qualified 501(c)(3) organizations to place AdWords ads at no cost for the duration of their grant, subject to keyword bid caps, monthly ad spend caps, and other restrictions.

Other tutorials explain how to use YouTube, Blogger, Maps & Earth, Groups, and Gadgets.

Google has committed 1% of its profits to charitable causes though Google.org. It is focused on five major initiatives: developing renewable energy sources that are cheaper than coal, accelerating the commercialization of plug-in hybrid vehicles, responding to emergent disease and environmental threats, empowering citizens, communities, and policymakers through information access, and increasing the flow of investment capital to small- and medium-sized businesses in developing nations.

Bad Friday for the Jews. My Angst Over Catholic Good Friday Prayers

I've posted 22 posts about the pope (linked here) and many of them about his restoration of the bitterly antisemitic Catholic Good Friday prayers.

I'm not suggesting that the pope is bringing back the medieval physical violence that Jews faced on Good Friday in Europe. But he is fostering the church's plan to convert the Jews. Not the hope for some messianic age. The plan is for now, or if not now, for very soon.

"That's who they are" and "that's integral to the definition of the church" and "that's what they believe" - all those statements are no excuse for the head on attacks and insults that Catholics will be reciting in some Churches this Friday.

The Pope and Mel Gibson think that all is fine and dandy in the traditional forms of the Catholic liturgy including this repugnant Good Friday Tridentine Mass.

I disagree. I'm hurt if even one Catholic goes to recite sacred words that proclaim to beseech we Jews to, “remove the veil from their hearts; so that they too may acknowledge Jesus Christ our Lord.” And I cringe that after congregants kneel and pray silently, the priest calls to God, “who dost not exclude from thy mercy even Jewish faithlessness: hear our prayers, which we offer for the blindness of that people; that acknowledging the light of thy Truth, which is Christ, they may be delivered from their darkness.”

And if you water that down, so what. That's not progress. That's perpetuation of insult. The claim to fame of the present pope is that he has condescended to insult us less bluntly. Woo.

And then if the Catholics say, as they have with straight-faced chutzpah, "We will continue our prayer because you do it too," that is adding another affront to insult. We are powerless and less than 16 million in the world. Our prayers are in fact eschatological and not programmatic.

But you are 2 billion in the world and your prayers are part of your practical project plans for conversion of the Jews in the here and now.

Please. Leave us alone this Friday. Let us be. Remove your wanton and evil prayers from your churches.

3/18/08

Times Calls Obama Speech: Profile in Courage

They call it, "Mr. Obama’s Profile in Courage."

You won't see a more favorable Times editorial than this one that ends,
We can’t know how effective Mr. Obama’s words will be with those who will not draw the distinctions between faith and politics that he drew, or who will reject his frank talk about race. What is evident, though, is that he not only cleared the air over a particular controversy — he raised the discussion to a higher plane.
Wow.

Businessweek: World's best software company beats expectations once again - hey they actually make something!

Unlike the investment banks that are going down the tubes, Adobe is a company that creates a product that brings new value to the marketplace. Not surprisingly they continue to beat expectations year after year. They are the world's best software company.
Adobe profit up 52 pct, beats Wall St.
By AMANDA FEHD

SAN JOSE, Calif. Software maker Adobe Systems Inc. beat Wall Street's expectations in the first quarter with profits that rose 52 percent on continued demand for its design and Acrobat products.

For the three months ended Feb. 29, Adobe posted a profit of $219.4 million, or 38 cents per share, according to an earnings report after the close of trading Tuesday.

That was up from $143.9 million, or 24 cents a share, in the same period a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, Adobe earned 48 cents per share in the latest quarter. On the same basis, analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial had expected, on average, earnings of 45 cents per share on sales of $875.8 million.

Revenue jumped 37 percent to $890.4 million from $649.4 million in the first quarter a year earlier as booming growth in digital content, from Web sites to online publishing, drove demand for Adobe's products.

But the company did not raise its yearly guidance.

"We are not immune to any type of recession, were one to come, and we are keeping our eye on the U.S. business," Adobe chief financial officer Mark Garrett told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday. Garrett said the company's diversification in terms of products, geography and customers help it weather economic downturns.

Adobe shares closed Tuesday at $31.88, up $1.09 or 4 percent for the day. In after-hours trading after release of the earnings report, they rose another $1.81 or 5.68 percent to $33.69.

The quarter was the first for Adobe's new chief executive Shantanu Narayen, who took over from former CEO Bruce Chizen in December.

Narayen also responded with confidence to concerns about the wider economy during a conference call with investors.

"We know how to balance between investing for the long-term, as well as dealing with any short-term hiccups that might happen. We get all this data, but frankly in many cases these are the times when the strong companies like Adobe actually get stronger," Narayen said.

The company reiterated that it expects 13 percent revenue growth in 2008 and earnings per share of $1.45 to $1.51. Excluding special items like stock-based compensation, Adobe forecasts earnings per share of $1.86 to $1.92.

Martin Pyykkonen, and analyst with Global Crown Capital, said Adobe may be overly cautious in not raising its guidance.

"They are a conservative company normally and somewhat more so tone-wise right now, which is just basic prudence, nothing that I think they are signaling," Pyykkonen said.

"When you just did 37 in the quarter and you are guiding for 13 for the year, that's one of the things people do get a little frustrated on with Adobe. You know, come on, get real. If you are going to do 13 percent this year, you are basically saying the year is going to fall apart," Pyykkonen said.

Video: Lieberman Saves McCain from Moronic Gaffe

Lieberman Saves McCain from a Moronic Gaffe or as the WSJ puts it McCain Stumbles on Iran and Al Qaeda - indeed!



Just what we need. Another moron president.

Yeshiva University Shoots Self in Foot - Dis-Invites Ari Goldman

Shame. Ari Goldman, a true YU success story and a contemporary of mine at YC, was dis-invited last summer from speaking at the campus. Why? Because somebody says that now he is trayf? Oy vey. Rabbis have gone wild.
Caution: These Ideas Are Too Dangerous For Today's Yeshiva
Ari Goldman

Over the summer I got a call from the Office of Student Life inviting me to spend a Shabbat on the Wilf Campus to give talks on Friday night and Shabbat. I have a firm policy when it comes to Yeshiva: I never say no. I am a proud and loyal graduate and will always do what I can to help the school. Over the years, I have been a guest speaker in many classes in the college and I was even a scholar-in-residence at Stern for a semester in 2003. We picked the weekend of Nov. 30-Dec. 1 for my Shabbat visit. I was also looking forward to connecting with today's yeshiva students.

My visit never happened. The day before I was supposed to go, I got a call from my hosts at the Office of Student Life informing me that there was a "problem" with my appearance. Apparently some students had copied pages from my memoir "The Search for God at Harvard" (first published in 1991) in which I wrote about pre-marital sex and chilul Shabbat, two things that I indeed discussed but never endorsed. A debate was raging on campus about whether I was an appropriate speaker. The matter was taken to one of the roshei yeshiva who deemed me trayf....more
Now Goldman publishes his thoughtful not-given-speech in the student newspaper.

Bang, bang. Yeshiva shoots itself in the foot again.

Yeshiva College Mentor Program - Apply at Hooters

The juxtaposition of an ad for Hooters with a story about a Judaic Studies mentor program.

One of those funny little things of the Internet.

Video: Obama on Rev. Wright and Race in America

Barack tells us why Rev. Wright is Rev. Wrong.

Clear and crisp in style and substance, Obama puts Rev. Wright into perspective and rejects the reverend's wrong ideas and words.

Barack once again hits the ball out of the park. Brilliant!


And on the subject of Obama there is a web page for "Neurotic Jews for Barack Obama". It's www.OyWeCan.com.

3/17/08

The Destruction of Jerusalem - The Musical Version


Mel Brooks move over! Leon Botstein of Bard College has revived the musical version of the destruction of Jerusalem - the 1840 oratorio by the German composer Ferdinand Hiller. The Times liked it. And no there is no chorus, "Springtime for Vespasian and Rome."
Music Review
Next Time Jeremiah Sings, Zedekiah Ought to Listen
By ANTHONY TOMMASINI

Leon Botstein, the music director of the American Symphony Orchestra, is a tireless champion of the also-rans in music history. On Sunday afternoon at Avery Fisher Hall, he presented the remarkable results of his latest salvage operation when he conducted the orchestra, the Concert Chorale of New York and a fine roster of vocal soloists in the American premiere of “The Destruction of Jerusalem,” a two-part, two-hour oratorio from 1840 by the German composer Ferdinand Hiller.

The son of a wealthy Jewish merchant in Frankfurt, Hiller (1811-1885) was a prolific composer, a gifted pianist and a respected teacher who won the support of powerful colleagues, especially Mendelssohn, though they had a falling-out in 1843 when Hiller replaced Mendelssohn as the director of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra.

In the assured performance conducted by Mr. Botstein, “The Destruction of Jerusalem” made a strong impression. The music balances German Romantic sweep with compositional intricacy. The program for the performance reprinted two admiring reviews of the work by Schumann. The piece holds its own with the oratorios of Mendelssohn. So what happened?

In program notes Mr. Botstein suggested that Hiller’s oratorio was a work of its time, aimed at an audience with shared cultural values. Later generations have fixated on composers who were visionaries. But for Hiller, like Mendelssohn, large-scaled composition “needed to speak entirely to the present moment, communicating simply and without undue evidence of a narcissistic desire to shock the audience with startling originality and lay waste to the past,” as Mr. Botstein wrote.

If “The Destruction of Jerusalem” was never startling, it was consistently pleasing. It tells the story of the Babylonian threat to that sacred city during the reign of Zedekiah, the King of Judah. The prophet Jeremiah repeatedly warns the king of a coming attack. Enraged by this prophecy, Zedekiah has Jeremiah imprisoned. After the Babylonians besiege the city, Jeremiah prophesies that ultimately God’s house will stand taller than the mountains.

The choral episodes, vibrantly sung by the excellent chorale (James Bagwell is the director), are the most impressive elements of the score, starting with the opening “Chorus of Israelites,” vigorous music that swings broadly in a marching triple meter, as the voices sing proclamations in thick block harmonies, until a complex middle section when the choristers break into a studious fugato.

Hiller shows sure dramatic instincts in the way urgent passages of dramatic recitative segue seamlessly into reflective arias and choral outbursts. The demanding role of Jeremiah ideally wants a powerful baritone, and in some passages Lucas Meachem sounded as if he were straining his warm, robust but essentially lyric voice. Still, he gave a courageous account of this challenging music.

Also impressive were the bright-voiced tenor Scott Ramsay as Zedekiah; the earthy and affecting soprano Christine Brandes as the king’s mother, Chamital; the tenor Brian Stucki in the smaller role of Achicam, a pious Israelite; and as his sister, Hannah, the appealing mezzo-soprano Jennifer Rivera. And give these singers credit for learning roles they are unlikely to have opportunities to repeat.

'Heart attack snow' Threatens Minnesotans

They say that the eskimos have many many different words for snow (though this is alleged now to be an urban legend).

Minnesotans have lots of ways to describe the white stuff as I know from living in it for 18 years. Still until today, I've never seen this usage:
'Heart attack snow' coming to Twin Cities
March 17, 2008

There won't be enough snow today to earn a title like the "St. Patrick's Day Snowstorm," but Twin Cities area residents can expect at least 2 to 4 inches of snow by Tuesday's rush hour.

Of most concern, National Weather Service forecaster Tony Zaleski said, is taking care when shoveling.

Zaleski termed it "heart attack snow" -- a heavy, wet variety that will strain the bodies of shovelers tonight and Tuesday.

Snowfall should start in earnest around 7 tonight and continue through most of the morning rush hour.

Areas to the east in west-central Wisconsin and to the south in Goodhue County, Minn., could get more snow than the Twin Cities area.

As for temperatures, looking for highs into Wednesday in the upper 30s to low 40s, with some refreezing overnight.

--PAUL WALSH

Analysts: Palm Centro is Too Good

I could never be an equities analyst. Their thinking has its own logic. Because the Centro Phone is so good, they say, that's bad for Palm. People will buy Centros and not the more profitable Treos. Wrong. I've got a Centro and I never would have considered a Treo. Centro addresses a different client base. From Barron's:
March 17, 2008, 10:58 am
Palm: Analysts See Centro Strength Eating Into Margins
Posted by Eric Savitz
Palm (PALM) shares are taking some heat this morning as analysts look ahead to the company’s announcement this Thursday of results for its fiscal third quarter ended in February.
One question the Street is focusing on: the impact on the company’s margins from strong demand for the $99 Palm Centro smartphone. There is some concern that the device is cannibalizing demand for the higher-margin Treo.

3/16/08

CNN: Obama Pastor Under Unfair Attack

The political motives for the attacks on Rev. Wright are transparently obvious. All persons of good conscience must cry, Foul.
Church: Obama ex-pastor is under unfair attack

* Story Highlights
* Rev. Jeremiah Wright's former church criticized the news media Sunday
* They said his "character is being assassinated in the public sphere"
* Wright's former parishioner Barack Obama denounced his sermons
* Wright used racial epithet in a sentence about Hillary Clinton

Editor's Note: The following report contains objectionable language.


(CNN) -- The Rev. Jeremiah Wright's former church criticized the news media Sunday for coverage of his sermons, saying in a statement that Wright's "character is being assassinated in the public sphere."

Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Illinois, defended Wright, saying he "has preached a social gospel on behalf of oppressed women, children and men in America and around the globe."

The statement came two days after Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, a longtime friend of Wright and attendee of the church, denounced sermons that have become the subject of recent controversy. Obama called them "inflammatory and appalling."

"It is an indictment on Dr. Wright's ministerial legacy to present his global ministry within a 15- or 30-second sound bite," the Rev. Otis Moss III, the current pastor of the church, said in the statement.

"The African-American Church was born out of the crucible of slavery, and the legacy of prophetic African-American preachers since slavery has been and continues to heal broken, marginalized victims of social and economic injustices," Moss added.

"This is an attack on the legacy of the African-American Church, which led and continues to lead the fight for human rights in America and around the world."

In the same statement, the Rev. John H. Thomas, the general minister and president of the United Church of Christ -- the denomination to which Wright's church belongs -- said the news media were creating a "caricature" of his congregation.

"It's time for us to say 'No' to these attacks and declare that we will not allow anyone to undermine or destroy the ministries of any of our congregations in order to serve their own narrow political or ideological ends," Thomas said.

The sermons in question became the subject of scrutiny last week after being highlighted in an ABC News report.

At one December service, Wright argued Clinton's road to the White House is easier than Obama's because of her skin color.

"Hillary was not a black boy raised in a single-parent home; Barack was," Wright says in a video of the sermon posted on YouTube. "Barack knows what it means to be a black man living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people. Hillary! Hillary ain't never been called a 'nigger!' Hillary has never had her people defined as a non-person."

Wright, who retired this year from his post, also says in the video, "Who cares about what a poor black man has to face every day in a country and in a culture controlled by rich white people?"

In denouncing those sermons Friday, Obama defended his 20-year relationship with Wright, saying that the pastor has served him in a spiritual role -- not a political one.