Vote for Barack - Take Back America with Obama-Biden

In every language, we need political change.

We need a return to values - the values of truth, logic and facts, judgment and ethics.

Please go out and vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden in November.



Jon Stewart Video: Old Florida Jews not Voting for Obama

You betcha - this is funny!

Times: How to Fabricate Social Habits

There are three categories of repeated voluntary periodic social behavior that I have observed:
  1. Mannerism - repeated actions that are usually personal but may be shared in families or smaller groups
  2. Habit - discussed in this article below
  3. Ritual - more dramatic than habit and institutionalized within a larger cultural or religious context
As a student of religions I want to study and elucidate ritual. The discussion in this article of inculcating habits related to the concepts of the clean and unclean in a social setting speaks loud volumes to me.

Dr. Curtis wanted to create a ritual taboo.

The question I have for Dr. Curtis is why she went to marketers when she could have gone to religious authorities and obtained much better guidance.
Warning: Habits May Be Good for You

A FEW years ago, a self-described “militant liberal” named Val Curtis decided that it was time to save millions of children from death and disease. So Dr. Curtis, an anthropologist then living in the African nation of Burkina Faso, contacted some of the largest multinational corporations and asked them, in effect, to teach her how to manipulate consumer habits worldwide.

Dr. Curtis, now the director of the Hygiene Center at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, had spent years trying to persuade people in the developing world to wash their hands habitually with soap. Diseases and disorders caused by dirty hands — like diarrhea — kill a child somewhere in the world about every 15 seconds, and about half those deaths could be prevented with the regular use of soap, studies indicate.

But getting people into a soap habit, it turns out, is surprisingly hard.

To overcome this hurdle, Dr. Curtis called on three top consumer goods companies to find out how to sell hand-washing the same way they sell Speed Stick deodorant and Pringles potato chips.

She knew that over the past decade, many companies had perfected the art of creating automatic behaviors — habits — among consumers. These habits have helped companies earn billions of dollars when customers eat snacks, apply lotions and wipe counters almost without thinking, often in response to a carefully designed set of daily cues.

“There are fundamental public health problems, like hand washing with soap, that remain killers only because we can’t figure out how to change people’s habits,” Dr. Curtis said. “We wanted to learn from private industry how to create new behaviors that happen automatically.”

The companies that Dr. Curtis turned to — Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive and Unilever — had invested hundreds of millions of dollars finding the subtle cues in consumers’ lives that corporations could use to introduce new routines.

If you look hard enough, you’ll find that many of the products we use every day — chewing gums, skin moisturizers, disinfecting wipes, air fresheners, water purifiers, health snacks, antiperspirants, colognes, teeth whiteners, fabric softeners, vitamins — are results of manufactured habits. A century ago, few people regularly brushed their teeth multiple times a day. Today, because of canny advertising and public health campaigns, many Americans habitually give their pearly whites a cavity-preventing scrub twice a day, often with Colgate, Crest or one of the other brands advertising that no morning is complete without a minty-fresh mouth.

A few decades ago, many people didn’t drink water outside of a meal. Then beverage companies started bottling the production of far-off springs, and now office workers unthinkingly sip bottled water all day long. Chewing gum, once bought primarily by adolescent boys, is now featured in commercials as a breath freshener and teeth cleanser for use after a meal. Skin moisturizers — which are effective even if applied at high noon — are advertised as part of morning beauty rituals, slipped in between hair brushing and putting on makeup.

“OUR products succeed when they become part of daily or weekly patterns,” said Carol Berning, a consumer psychologist who recently retired from Procter & Gamble, the company that sold $76 billion of Tide, Crest and other products last year. “Creating positive habits is a huge part of improving our consumers’ lives, and it’s essential to making new products commercially viable.”

Through experiments and observation, social scientists like Dr. Berning have learned that there is power in tying certain behaviors to habitual cues through relentless advertising.

As this new science of habit has emerged, controversies have erupted when the tactics have been used to sell questionable beauty creams or unhealthy foods. But for activists like Dr. Curtis, this emerging research offers a type of salvation.

For years, many public health campaigns that aimed at changing habits have been failures. Earlier this decade, two researchers affiliated with Vanderbilt University examined more than 100 studies on the effectiveness of antidrug campaigns and found that, in some cases, viewers’ levels of drug abuse actually increased when commercials were shown, perhaps in part because the ads reminded them about that bag of weed in the sock drawer.

A few years later, another group examined the effectiveness of advertising condom use to prevent AIDS. In some cases, rates of unprotected sex actually went up — which some researchers suspected was because the commercials made people more frisky than cautious.

To teach hand washing, about seven years ago Dr. Curtis persuaded Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive and Unilever to join an initiative called the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing With Soap. The group’s goal was to double the hand-washing rate in Ghana, a West African nation where almost every home contains a soap bar but only 4 percent of adults regularly lather up after using the toilet.

Over the last several years, such partnerships between corporations and those trying to save the world have become commonplace. Companies like Microsoft, Pfizer and General Electric have worked with nonprofit groups on health, technology and energy programs.

Not everyone is comfortable with the arrangements. Some critics complain that public health professionals are becoming too cozy with companies ultimately focused on their bottom lines. Others worry that these advertising techniques may be manipulative.

But what Dr. Curtis learned in Ghana suggests that saving the world may be as easy as hawking chewing gum, or, to use a more contemporary example, as simple as training Americans to spray perfumed water on couches that are already clean.

FEBREZE — the perfumed water used on couches — is one of the most successful examples of a habit-creation campaign, and, in a sense, the playbook for how Ghana learned to wash its hands.

Procter & Gamble introduced Febreze in 1996 as a way to remove odors from smelly clothes. Consumer surveys had shown that people were leaving their jackets and blouses outside after an evening in a smoke-filled bar. P.& G., which at the time already sold products that cleaned one out of every two laundry loads washed in American homes, decided to spend millions to create a spray to remove offensive smells.

The company ran advertisements of a woman complaining about a blazer that smelled like cigarette smoke. Other ads focused on smelly pets, sweaty teenagers and stinky minivan interiors.

But Febreze flopped. In fact, early sales were so disappointing that the company considered canceling the entire project.

One of the biggest problems, P.& G.’s researchers discovered, was that bad smells simply didn’t happen often enough in consumers’ lives. Interviews showed that consumers liked Febreze when they used it, but that many customers simply forgot that it was in the house.

At about the same time, the company’s staff psychologists were beginning to extend their understanding of how habits are formed.

“For most of our history, we’ve sold newer and better products for habits that already existed,” said Dr. Berning, the P.& G. psychologist. “But about a decade ago, we realized we needed to create new products. So we began thinking about how to create habits for products that had never existed before.”

Academics were also beginning to focus on habit formation. Researchers like Wendy Wood at Duke University and Brian Wansink at Cornell were examining how often smokers quit while vacationing and how much people eat when their plates are deceptively large or small.

Those and other studies revealed that as much as 45 percent of what we do every day is habitual — that is, performed almost without thinking in the same location or at the same time each day, usually because of subtle cues.

For example, the urge to check e-mail or to grab a cookie is likely a habit with a specific prompt. Researchers found that most cues fall into four broad categories: a specific location or time of day, a certain series of actions, particular moods, or the company of specific people. The e-mail urge, for instance, probably occurs after you’ve finished reading a document or completed a certain kind of task. The cookie grab probably occurs when you’re walking out of the cafeteria, or feeling sluggish or blue.

Our capacity to develop such habits is an invaluable evolutionary advantage. But when they run amok, things can become tricky.

Consider a series of experiments Dr. Wansink performed with a bowl of tomato soup that was secretly connected to a tube that pumped more and more liquid into the bowl. Diners ended up eating almost twice as much soup as usual, though they didn’t report feeling any fuller after the meal.

Dr. Wood studied exercise habits among students who transferred from one college to another. When locations remained stable — the new school had an outdoor track just like the old school, for example — students continued running regularly. But if the tracks were too different, the exercise tapered off, on average. In another experiment, conducted by researchers studying smokers, those wanting to quit were more than twice as successful if they started kicking the habit while on vacation, when surrounded by unfamiliar people and places.

“Habits are formed when the memory associates specific actions with specific places or moods,” said Dr. Wood, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke. “If you regularly eat chips while sitting on the couch, after a while, seeing the couch will automatically prompt you to reach for the Doritos. These associations are sometimes so strong that you have to replace the couch with a wooden chair for a diet to succeed.”

The researchers at P.& G. realized that these types of findings had enormous implications for selling Febreze. Because bad smells occurred too infrequently for a Febreze habit to form, marketers started looking for more regular cues on which they could capitalize.

The perfect cue, they eventually realized, was the act of cleaning a room, something studies showed their target audience did almost daily. P.& G. produced commercials showing women spraying Febreze on a perfectly made bed and spritzing freshly laundered clothing. The product’s imagery was revamped to incorporate open windows and gusts of fresh wind — an airing that is part of the physical and emotional cleaning ritual.

“We learned from consumer interviews that there was an opportunity to cue the clean smell of Febreze to a clean room,” Dr. Berning said. “We positioned it as the finishing touch to a mundane chore. It’s the icing that shows you did a good job.”

In a sense, a product originally intended for use on piles of smelly, dirty clothes was eclipsed by its exact opposite — a product used when women confronted a clean and tidy living room. And the more women sprayed, the more automatic the behavior became.

Today, Febreze is one of P.& G.’s greatest successes. Customers habitually spray tidied living rooms, clean kitchens, loads of fresh laundry and, according to one of the most recent commercials, spotless minivans. In the most recent fiscal year, consumers in North America alone spent $650 million buying Febreze, according to the company.

Dozens of other companies have also redesigned advertising campaigns around habitual cues. Beer commercials, once filled with busty women in ill-fitting tops, are now more likely to feature groups of buddies, because research shows that groups of friends are one of the strongest habit cues. Candy bar companies, through commercials, have tied their products to low-energy cues, transforming what was once a dessert into a pick-me-up for cubicle dwellers.

FOR Dr. Curtis and the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing With Soap, such tactics offered enormous promise in a country like Ghana.

That nation offered a conundrum: Almost half of its people were accustomed to washing their hands with water after using the restroom or before eating. And local markets were filled with cheap, colorful soap bars. But only about 4 percent of Ghanaians used soap as part of their post-restroom hand-washing regime, studies showed.

“We could talk about germs until we were blue in the face, and it didn’t change behaviors,” Dr. Curtis said. So she and her colleagues asked Unilever for advice in designing survey techniques that ultimately studied hundreds of mothers and their children.

They discovered that previous health campaigns had failed because mothers often didn’t see symptoms like diarrhea as abnormal, but instead viewed them as a normal aspect of childhood.

However, the studies also revealed an interesting paradox: Ghanaians used soap when they felt that their hands were dirty — after cooking with grease, for example, or after traveling into the city. This hand-washing habit, studies showed, was prompted by feelings of disgust. And surveys also showed that parents felt deep concerns about exposing their children to anything disgusting.

SO the trick, Dr. Curtis and her colleagues realized, was to create a habit wherein people felt a sense of disgust that was cued by the toilet. That queasiness, in turn, could become a cue for soap.

A sense of bathroom disgust may seem natural, but in many places toilets are a symbol of cleanliness because they replaced pit latrines. So Dr. Curtis’s group had to create commercials that taught viewers to feel a habitual sense of unseemliness surrounding toilet use.

Their solution was ads showing mothers and children walking out of bathrooms with a glowing purple pigment on their hands that contaminated everything they touched.

The commercials, which began running in 2003, didn’t really sell soap use. Rather, they sold disgust. Soap was almost an afterthought — in one 55-second television commercial, actual soapy hand washing was shown only for 4 seconds. But the message was clear: The toilet cues worries of contamination, and that disgust, in turn, cues soap.

“This was radically different from most public health campaigns,” said Beth Scott, an infectious-disease specialist who worked with Dr. Curtis on the Ghana campaign. “There was no mention of sickness. It just mentions the yuck factor. We learned how to do that from the marketing companies.”

The ads had their intended effect. By last year, Ghanaians surveyed by members of Dr. Curtis’s team reported a 13 percent increase in the use of soap after the toilet. Another measure showed even greater impact: reported soap use before eating went up 41 percent.

And while those statistics haven’t silenced critics who say habit-forming advertisements are worrisome, they have convinced people who run other public health initiatives that the Ghana experiment is on the right track.

Today, public health campaigns elsewhere for condom use and to fight drug abuse and obesity are being revamped to employ habit-formation characteristics, according to people involved in those efforts. One of the largest American antismoking campaigns, in fact, is explicitly focused on habits, with commercials and Web sites intended to teach smokers how to identify what cues them to reach for a cigarette.

“For a long time, the public health community was distrustful of industry, because many felt these companies were trying to sell products that made people’s lives less healthy, by encouraging them to smoke, or to eat unhealthy foods, or by selling expensive products people didn’t really need,” Dr. Curtis said. “But those tactics also allow us to save lives. If we want to really help the world, we need every tool we can get.”


Two Years and 880,000 Deaths Later - Smoking is (still) a Sin - Rabbinical Council of America

Have the rabbis done anything more about this since we posted this last, a year ago?

So another 440,000 have died. Some effective ban!

440,000 people in the US die each year from cigarettes.

The US Surgeon General Reports:

... tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of disease and death in the United States, causing approximately 440,000 deaths each year and costing approximately $157 billion in annual health-related economic losses.

We ought to put a little more effort this year into our anti-smoking efforts in the US, in Israel and around the world.

What can you do? If you smoke - stop. And more. Ask all the smokers that you know to stop smoking.

Won't you please use your blogs to spread this message and to help save lives?

And yes the news now (7/5/2006) is that rabbis say that smoking is a sin.

JTA - Rabbinical committee bans smoking - (finally does something useful) - Breaking News:

A committee of the centrist Orthodox rabbinical organization said Jewish law is opposed to smoking.

The halachah committee of the Rabbinical Council of America said the decision is based on a combination of the value placed by Jewish sources on health and scientific findings on the dangers of tobacco products.

The decision calls on all Jews to avoid or quit smoking.

RCA Release -- Text of the Ban on Tobacco

Signatories on the ban:

This teshuvah is issued unanimously by the Va’ad Halacha of the RCA, whose members are Rabbi Yosef Adler, Rabbi Kenneth Auman, Rabbi Asher Bush (Chairman), Rabbi Daniel Feldman, Rabbi Tzvi Flaum, Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb, Rabbi Chaim Jachter, Rabbi Yaacov Lerner, and Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky.

It is issued with the haskamah of the following members of the Va’ad HaPoskim: Rabbi Dovid Cohen, Rabbi Michael Rosensweig, Rabbi Hershel Schachter, Rabbi Gedalia Schwartz, and Rabbi Mordechai Willig.

Palestinian News Network (PNN) Accuses Israel of Ethnic Cleansing of Thousands Based on One Anecdote

This story told by one Palestinian lacks all credibility. Specifically, Who, when traveling, leaves $500 in cash in their jacket pocket in their suitcase? The rest of the story this man tells is equally sketchy.

I'd ordinarily be inclined to listen sympathetically to a man's story of injustice and frustrating bureaucratic persecution at entry to Israel. Lord knows the Israeli immigration authorities at unpredictable intervals can give anyone and everyone a hard time.

But the details of this story make no sense to me. Examples: Confiscation of papers in SF - makes no sense. Denial of wife's right to leave Israel and return - makes no sense. Alleged theft of $500 by inspectors - makes no sense. (Why not accuse them of stealing $5000? $50,000?)

What is utterly insulting to all people of good sense is this story's generalization from one bizarre and sketchy anecdote to its conclusion.

The title of the story is, "Denied Entry: another step in the ethnic cleansing process of Jerusalem."

Ethnic cleansing because one man has a problem? Do not insult our intelligence.

But then they do and they will continue to and that is why 60 years later there is no state for the Palestinians.

Not because of Israeli policies. Because of zero credibility for the Palestinians.

Here below is just one paragraph, in a story about one man, but which makes claims that it speaks of the anecdotes of "thousands" - "who are being ethnically cleansed."
Ziad Sad is in the US, a Jerusalem resident, and one of the thousands of Jerusalem residents who are being ethnically cleansed from the capital city of Palestine. Under international law it is illegal what the Israelis are doing in Jerusalem and this is well known by anyone who studies the law or the situation here. United Nations resolutions condemn it; however the Israelis have yet to heed the call.
No evidence. No lists. No authority. No logic. Zero credibility.

LA News' O'Connor Fights New Yorker Satire With More Satire

Right back at you New Yorker. Take this...


Times: The Sacred Battles the Profane in Venice

A battle of the subcultures rages in Venice Beach CA.

You would think that the adults party to the dispute could work out this friction. After all, this conflict is going to recur every Shabbat, duh!

But no. It appears that there is no one in LA who is focused enough to mediate this nonsense.

Hey, wait a minute. Maybe we can get Larry David to make this into an episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and convince him to write an ending that resolves the feud.

Yeah, that makes about as much sense as this story does.

Monica Almeida/The New York Times. The Pacific Jewish Center, an Orthodox synagogue, on the colorful Venice Beach boardwalk.
Los Angeles Journal
At the Intersection of Synagogue and Boardwalk, a Feud

LOS ANGELES — The only synagogue on the Venice Beach boardwalk has weathered 80 years’ worth of oscillating economies, winos, shamans and aggressive panhandlers, disintegration of its own community and surf seekers on all manner of speeding wheels. It has stood as much for tolerance as faith in a community where the former is in high demand.

But for its congregants, it has been increasingly difficult to countenance the mannequins in racy underwear, creeping ever so often unto the property of their tiny, sun-bleached house of worship.

Over the last few years, the Orthodox synagogue, the Pacific Jewish Center, has been at quiet war with the owners of its next-door neighbor, Unruly, a purveyor of T-shirts, bathing suits and undergarments.

Worshipers say workers in the shop blast music on Saturday mornings, overwhelming the religious service held with the door open to the boardwalk. When the worshipers ask for the music to be lowered for an hour, they are met with hostility, they say, some of it smacking of anti-Semitism. Once in a while, the police have been called.

Further, there have been occasions when mannequins dressed in G-strings and other clothes that are decidedly not part of the customary wardrobe of Orthodox Jews have been placed on the synagogue’s property line — as a matter of provocation, some members suggest.

“We haven’t been judgmental about their merchandise,” said Judd Magilnick, a member. “It is a question of common courtesy. Even the more Bohemian, alternative-lifestyle types on the boardwalk are aware of our requests and wait until afternoon on Saturdays before they strike up the band. We have friendly cooperation from everyone else, even people you think would be accountable to no one.”

Ruly Papadopulos, whose wife owns Unruly, said that the business felt harassed by the worshipers but that the extent of the problem had been exaggerated. “The rabbi comes over and asks us to turn it down,” Mr. Papadopulos said. “We say, ‘Calm down, we will.’ ”

This episodic neighborhood schism might have remained just that, had Eric Mankin, a science writer for University of Southern California publications and a Venice resident, not wandered into Unruly this month, chasing after his dog who had gotten off its leash.

Mr. Mankin said he mentioned to the owners of Unruly, where a neon sign reading “Sexetera” hangs over the door, that the synagogue next to the shop was “something I’ve always regarded as a landmark of Venice’s inclusiveness and diversity.”

Mr. Papadopulos, Mr. Mankin said, replied that he hated Jews — something Mr. Papadopulos flatly denies having said. Mr. Mankin, who is Jewish but not religious, said he was flabbergasted.

The next day, Mr. Mankin appeared in front of the store holding a sign that read “Ask the owner of Unruly why he hates Jews.”

“If someone is going to proclaim loudly they hate Jews,” he said, “then people who are going to shop in his store have the right to know about that.”

Mr. Papadopulos was displeased by this and called the police. “He was the aggressor,” Mr. Papadopulos said in an interview in front of his store. “I never said I hate Jews. I said: ‘I hate you. I hate you!’ ”

Sgt. Stephen Showler, who is in charge of the Venice Beach detail for the Los Angeles Police Department, responded.

“It was basically a First Amendment issue,” Sergeant Showler said. Mr. Mankin “has the right to protest,” he said. “When I got there, he said, ‘I’ve been out here a couple hours. I think I’ll call it a day.’ ”

During two generations of life on the colorful boardwalk, where karma analysis takes place next to impromptu pot parties that abut bongo drummers and flip-flop barkers, conflicts among neighbors have been few, say even the synagogue’s oldest members.

In the 1920s, as Venice evolved into the “Coney Island of the West,” Jewish immigrants played a vital role on the boardwalk. There were several synagogues along the beach, and the area was dotted with kosher butchers and other Jewish merchants. Working-class Jews from Los Angeles called Venice their summer home, and many others migrated to the area, according to the book “California Jews,” by Ava F. Kahn and Marc Dollinger.

The mid-1960s saw an exodus of Jewish families, and the synagogues all but disappeared. The Pacific Jewish Center was headed for a similar fate, but in the mid-1970s, a group of young Orthodox Jews led by the author Michael Medved revived it.

About 80 people pile onto the simple benches each Saturday morning to pray against the backdrop of waves. “We invite anyone who has expressed a genuine interest and has shirt and shoes,” said Gary Dalin, a member since 1979.

Its most high-profile conflict has been with the state’s Coastal Commission, which has taken a dim view (along with many residents) of members’ desire to hang a strand of fishing line several miles long to create an eruv, or symbolic religious enclosure that would permit them to perform certain tasks, like carrying things, outside their homes on the Sabbath.

Mr. Dalin and others said that they had heard Mr. Papadopulos refer to the members as “greedy” and make other vague remarks that suggest he may not be fond of Jews but said that they were not particularly worried or interested. They just want the music turned down.

Sergeant Showler said that he had never heard claims of anti-Semitism until now but that there had been flare-ups between the store and the synagogue in the past. “It is an interesting place to have a synagogue,” he said. “Hopefully it won’t be an issue between them, and they can be good neighbors. This is my goal.”

Newsweek: God Loves (His) Mutual Funds

We read this Newsweek article with, ahem, interest...
Islam Bullish In A Bear Market The Amana funds, invested according to Sharia, have more than doubled since 2003, to $1.3 billion.
Lisa Miller

The funny thing about faith-based mutual funds is, well, that there's anything called a faith-based mutual fund. For one thing, Scripture is full of exhortations against accumulating wealth. The New Testament, especially, repeatedly reminds followers of Christ that earthly wealth means nothing in heaven. "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God," says Jesus. Also, it seems quixotic to apply a religious framework to something as material as the markets. What, after all, does God have to do with mammon? Nevertheless, faith-based funds have grown to nearly $17 billion from $500 million over the past decade, according to Morningstar, which tracks market data.

Even funnier is that some religions outperform others on the free market—at least in the short term. Faith-based funds work by screening out stocks that don't reflect the values of the faith group. So the MMA Praxis funds, founded by the Mennonites, have a pacifist and pro-environment bent: their funds screen out most oil companies and weapons makers. But financial companies are "more or less benign," explains Chad Horning, senior equity investment manager at MMA. That's why, over the past year—with oil prices up and financial services down—the MMA Core Stock Fund has performed below the market. The Timothy Plan, a conservative-Christian group of funds, also screens out "sin stocks"—tobacco, alcohol and many entertainment companies—but it doesn't share MMA's "green" perspective. Heavily invested in energy stocks, Timothy's Large/ Mid-Cap Value Fund has outperformed the market over the past year.

The big winners in faith funds (if you can be so crass) are the Islamic funds. They screen out "sin stocks"—and producers of pork products. The profitable difference is riba, or interest. The Qur'an strictly prohibits the borrowing or lending of money at interest: "Whatever you give as riba so that it might bring increase through the wealth of other people will bring you no increase with Allah," it says. Because of this prohibition, Islamic mutual funds, like those in the Amana group, don't invest in financial-services companies: they escaped the subprime mortgage debacle altogether. Most energy companies, however, are fine. "We don't consider ourselves an environmental or socially responsible fund," says Monem Salam, Amana's director of Islamic investing. "Energy was a big part of our growth." Over the past year, the Amana funds outperformed the market; their assets have more than doubled from $400 million in 2003 to $1.3 billion this year. Five years ago, most of Amana's investors were American Muslims, Salam adds. Now, he guesses, 80 percent of new investors are non-Muslims.

The managers of the Christian funds say they're in the faith-based business not to help people get rich, but to help them save—for retirement, for college—with tools they can believe in. Arthur Ally founded the Timothy Plan 15 years ago. "There's nothing wrong with having money and making money," says Ally. "What's wrong is hoarding money." At MMA, counselors help investors think about the concept of "enough." "Is it to generate as much as you can in your retirement account? Or is it to generate enough to do what you want to do?" says Mark Regier, MMA's stewardship manager. Amana encourages investors to think about how to give 2.5 percent of their wealth to charity, a tax called zakat mandated by the Qur'an. "You can amass as much as you want," says Salam. "You're purifying your wealth by paying that tax." Faith-fund clients may be happy to know that so-called vice funds, which invest exclusively in tobacco, liquor, gaming and defense, are having a tough year.

My Phavorite Phone Photo

Outside of the UBS Headquarters I took this last year when I first got my Sprint Centro Phone -- looking out from Weehawken across the Yacht Club and the Hudson River towards the City. I post processed the contrast a bit and generally I like the composition and colors.


No Martinis this Shabbat at the Kiddush in Atlantic Beach

Since my wife is in Argentina and my brother is in Jerusalem, I got to visit my dad in Atlantic Beach for Shabbat.

Rabbi Steven Riskin spoke at the ABJC and I only got to hear the end of his derasha. He used the word "tragic" about four or five times to describe the contemporary situation in Israel.

I cornered him at the kiddush and spoke to him about my take on his bringing a distorted and negative message to the good diaspora materialistic Jews of the ABJC.

Look, I said. The optimist say the glass is half-full and the pessimist says the glass is half-empty.

And yet here, even when the glass is 95% full, the Orthodox rabbi says that the situation in Israel is "tragic." What gives?

I told him, in fact the situation in Israel today is unbelievably not tragic! I told him, "I respect you and I like you and I think that YOU ARE WRONG."

His response was that he must report what he sees and what he believes.

I told him no, that he most certainly does not have to do that. And then I went back to eat lunch with my dad.

They have a full lunch at the ABJC every Shabbat. Now, okay, this is just lunch. There are no waiters serving martinis at the kiddush here. For those, I am told that you have to go shul in Westhampton Beach.

Poor Riskin. He has become an Orthodox Jewish apocalyptic fanatic.

One fanatic. No martinis. The food was good, and such large portions!

Times Travel Section Discovers Tel Aviv

A really touching article in the Times Travel Section about Tel Aviv -- especially since I love surfing and my son got married there!

Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times A surfer and a wedding party present contrasting images in Neve Tzedek, a quiet corner of the city.

THERE’S room for everyone in Tel Aviv.

I’m riding bikes along the beach with my friend James. James is 12, and moved to Tel Aviv from New York with his Israeli mother two years ago.

“That’s the separated beach,” James tells me matter-of-factly, pointing at a group of some 30 Orthodox men on the edge of a placid, gorgeous Mediterranean not far from the Hilton. I read a sign that states: “The Separated Beach. Bathing days for women: Sun, Tues, Thurs. Bathing days for men: Mon, Wed, Fri.” Then, pointing at a different group of men just 50 yards down the sand, James adds, “And that’s the gay beach.”

A couple of hours later, eager to see what other strange bedfellows I’ll find huddled on the edges of the water, I conduct an informal census: I walk the two miles or so of beach from the Orthodox section all the way down to Jaffa, the old Arab port of Tel Aviv. Just south of the gay section I find a stretch of sand-and-sun worshipers that I instantly dub the Ambiguous Male Friendship beach; just south of that I find the I Hate What I’m Wearing beach. I walk farther, and proceed to find concentrations of, variously, surfers, young families, volleyball players, Ethiopians, hippie drummers and irritable girlfriends.... more

Teplitzky's Kosher AC Hotel Reincarnated

Sounds like a nice place to stay...

Originally, even before the Holiday Inn and Howard Johnson arrived, the old hotel at Chelsea Avenue and the Boardwalk was Teplitzky's, a kosher resort that catered mostly to Jewish guests.

In a tribute to the former owners, the Chelsea will have a Teplitzky's restaurant operated by celebrity restaurateur Stephen Starr. Found during the renovation work for the Chelsea was a Jewish prayer book that came from Teplitzky's hotel. Bashaw presented the prayer book as a gift to Claire Teplitzky, whose mother- and father-in-law, Esther and Hyman Teplitzky, founded the old hotel.

"Curtis Bashaw is a classy man," said Claire Teplitzky, who lives in neighboring Ventnor. "From the first time I met him and started telling him about our family, he drank up every word." more


Breaking News BR: Neighborhood Teaneck House Explodes

BR: Teaneck House Explosion

House at 1320 hastings Street in Teaneck explodes.

See the video:

EXPLOSION: Police find body
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Last updated: Thursday July 17, 2008, EDT 10:34 PM

Click here for a PHOTO GALLERY from the scene.

Police have identified a body recovered from a Teaneck house flattened by a massive explosion this evening as 66-year-old Richard Haas.

Hastings Street neighbors reported hearing and feeling the explosion from blocks away.

"It was deafening," said Millie Leben, who lives around the corner. "It sounded like a bomb."

"My whole house lifted up," said neighbor Meryl Arbisfeld. "I thought there was a bomb in my house. There was a bang, and I started screaming and ran out of the house."

The force of the blast blew the house’s front door across the street onto a neighbor’s property. Doug Lehman, who lives nearly a mile away, said his doors and windows shook.

Two men were taken to Holy Name Hospital: Milton Bodin, who lives with his wife, Doris, a few doors away, and his son, Michael, who is visiting from Arizona.

Doris Bodin said the two were out for a walk along Hastings just before 6:20 p.m. when the blast occurred. She said she got a phone call moments later from the two men, who said they were hurt by flying glass and debris.

Residents of the quiet block have been complaining about a gas smell off and on for a couple of weeks, said next-door neighbor Banji Ganchrow. It seemed to be coming from the house that exploded, she said.

A PSE&G work crew was out checking homes on Hastings Street earlier this afternoon and told her everything seemed fine, Ganchrow said.

PSE&G spokesman Ed Sullivan said the cause of the explosion wasn't clear. He also said he didn't know whether a work crew had visited earlier in the day and hadn't heard of any complaints about gas odors in the area.

Abie Cohen, a Hastings Street neighbor, said he smelled gas coming from the corner where the house was when he walked to prayer services on Saturday.

Cohen’s lawn is covered in ash. Nestled in his bushes is a burnt piece of paper from a copy of the Torah bearing a Yom Kippur prayer – apparently blown from the blast.

Running outside after hearing the blast, Cohen said he saw a dazed neighbor, blood trickling down his ear and leg.

The house “had crumpled into itself, and flames were shooting everywhere.”

Mayor Kevie Feit, who lives a couple of blocks away, said he ran to the house to find nothing but flaming rubble.

The only part of the Tudor-style house left standing is part of a brick wall.

Three other houses caught fire, but the flames were quickly extinguished. Police have moved people from the area as a precaution.

Hass had moved into the home to care for his parents, who died a couple of years ago, said Ganchrow.

"He doesn’t have any kids, he doesn’t have anybody," she said, although she said he owns several cats. He also has a vegetable garden, gives out vegetables to people on the street, and often takes bicycle rides, neighbors said.

Police had tried calling Haas's cellphone several times after the explosion. Attempts to reach relatives also failed.

House on the far left exploded.


Click here for a PHOTO GALLERY from the scene.

Police have identified a body recovered from a Teaneck house flattened by a massive explosion this evening as 66-year-old Richard Haas.

Neighbors said they'd been complaining of a gas smell.

Hastings Street neighbors reported hearing and feeling the explosion from blocks away.

"It was deafening," said Millie Leben, who lives around the corner. "It sounded like a bomb."

"My whole house lifted up," said neighbor Meryl Arbisfeld. "I thought there was a bomb in my house. There was a bang, and I started screaming and ran out of the house."

The force of the blast blew the house’s front door across the street onto a neighbor’s property. Doug Lehman, who lives nearly a mile away, said his doors and windows shook.

Two men were taken to Holy Name Hospital: Milton Bodin, who lives with his wife, Doris, a few doors away, and his son, Michael, who is visiting from Arizona.

Doris Bodin said the two were out for a walk along Hastings just before 6:20 p.m. when the blast occurred. She said she got a phone call moments later from the two men, who said they were hurt by flying glass and debris.

Residents of the quiet block have been complaining about a gas smell off and on for a couple of weeks, said next-door neighbor Banji Ganchrow. It seemed to be coming from the house that exploded, she said.

A PSE&G work crew was out checking homes on Hastings Street earlier this afternoon and told her everything seemed fine, Ganchrow said.

PSE&G spokesman Ed Sullivan said the cause of the explosion wasn't clear. He also said he didn't know whether a work crew had visited earlier in the day and hadn't heard of any complaints about gas odors in the area.

Abie Cohen, a Hastings Street neighbor, said he smelled gas coming from the corner where the house was when he walked to prayer services on Saturday.

Cohen’s lawn is covered in ash. Nestled in his bushes is a burnt piece of paper from a copy of the Torah bearing a Yom Kippur prayer – apparently blown from the blast.

Running outside after hearing the blast, Cohen said he saw a dazed neighbor, blood trickling down his ear and leg.

The house “had crumpled into itself, and flames were shooting everywhere.”

Mayor Kevie Feit, who lives a couple of blocks away, said he ran to the house to find nothing but flaming rubble.

The only part of the Tudor-style house left standing is part of a brick wall.

Three other houses caught fire, but the flames were quickly extinguished. Police have moved people from the area as a precaution.

Hass had moved into the home to care for his parents, who died a couple of years ago, said Ganchrow.

"He doesn’t have any kids, he doesn’t have anybody," she said, although she said he owns several cats. He also has a vegetable garden, gives out vegetables to people on the street, and often takes bicycle rides, neighbors said.

Police had tried calling Haas's cellphone several times after the explosion. Attempts to reach relatives also failed.

House on the far left exploded.

Urban Legend: Tattoos Not Kosher

We need the Times... to debunk Jewish the urban legend of no burial in a Jewish cemetery if you have a tattoo.

And if it is prohibited to get a tattoo but there is no such punishment...then what is the impact on non-observant Jews?

Skin Deep

For Some Jews, It Only Sounds Like ‘Taboo’

Justin Dawson

A WAY TO CONNECT Ari Bacharach uses a tattoo as an ironic statement about his Jewish identity.


ROBERTA KAPLAN, 71, has never been a fan of tattoos. “I’m a very Jewish person,” she said. “I was told from way, way back that you’re not supposed to desecrate your body.” more...

Top Ten Barack Jokes

Sorry, I don't have the Top Ten Barack Jokes here.

In fact Idon't want to hear them. Now why is that, you ask?

It's because I am suffering from eight years of Bush-the-Buffoon fatigue. I am jaded, worn down, fed up, disenchanted, disillusioned, drained, utterly exhausted of having a Commander-in-Chief who is a joke.

That's why I am hoping to be refreshed, invigorated, revived, re-energized and revitalized by a new, serious and substantial leader.

So when Maureen Dowd asks "May We Mock, Barack?" in response to the mocking New Yorker cover; when others protest that Barack should not be immune from irony; when hilarious comedians spend thoughtful moments worrying about how, where and when to satirize Obama; all of this kerfuffling is not meant to put up an off-limits sign or to imprudently react to teasing our candidate.

We all just want to think that it would be proper, fitting, appropriate, suitable and apt to spend some serious time considering the future of our country and to put aside the joking and indeed to get beyond the eight-year-joke who has devalued the decency of the highest office in our land.

That's why I don't want to hear the Top Ten Barack jokes right now.

Maureen Dowd says some intelligent things on this topic; not what I am saying here, but worth a peek anyway.
MAUREEN DOWD | The New York Times Wednesday, July 16

May We Mock, Barack?

It would seem a positive for Barack Obama that he is hard to mock. But is it another sign that he's trying so hard to be perfect that it's stultifying? Read Full Article »


Incisive Review: Abu El-Haj's Falsehoods Without Grounds

Here is a nicely balanced, not overstated, but completely devastating review by Ariel Zellman of a highly tendentious book by an opinionated and bigoted, if not utterly anti-Semitic, professor.

Review: Nadia Abu El-Haj’s Facts on the Ground

facts-on-the-ground Nadia Abu El-Haj’s Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society is a provocative attempt to challenge the very historical roots of Israeli nationhood. Not unlike Yael Zerubavel’s Recovered Roots, the author explores the role of national myth and sacred spaces in modern Israeli identity. Yet while Zerubavel’s work seeks to problematize accepted political interpretations of ancient Israelite history and their implications for modern Israeli identity, the clear intention of El-Haj’s book is to delegitimize this history altogether. Ultimately her political agenda far overshadows the potential analytical strength of her work and prevents her from providing a fair or balanced account of the role of archaeology in the construction of national identity in the Israeli-Palestinian context. ---more---

Forbes: Internet Guides to How to do Anything and Everything

Funny story...
The How-To-Do Anything Guide
Christopher Varmus

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; but teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. It's a nice thought, like a catchy pop song, and by the stunning proliferation of "How-To" guides, it's a very, very overplayed one. Google the phrase "how to" and you'll be inundated with nearly 1 billion matches.

For as long as people have been teaching other people how to do things, there have been "How-To" guides. Since the time of the cavemen ("How Kill Mammoth," "How Make Fire"), these celebrations of self-sufficiency have run the gamut of topics, from carpentry and social etiquette, to stock picking and six-pack abs.

Indeed, "do-it-yourself" is in our culture's very DNA. In the 1930s, How to Win Friends and Influence People became the manual for success in the business world. Two decades later, Marilyn Monroe starred in the film How to Marry a Millionaire; in the '60s, "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" was the buzz of Broadway.

In Pictures: ndy Guides To The 10 Most-Searched 'How To' Topics

The trend isn't slowing. Visit a Barnes & Noble and you'll see a whole rack of standardized, laminated, fold-out "How-To" guides, courtesy of Quamut (owned by B&N), on everything from baseball to bond trading. Quamut's tag line: "The fastest, most convenient way to learn how to do almost anything." Wisdom's price: $6 per guide.

In Quamut land, every subject is given equal weight. Whether your life savings is riding on it or not, the guides are all the same length. (Then again, perhaps "disaster preparedness" and "getting a cat" are essentially the same--either way, it's good to have canned food around, and there may be damage to your furniture.) The guides are written in an anonymous, omniscient voice, giving them the sheen of authority.

But who are these experts really? And can they be trusted? Many of the guides don't bear an author's name; others tuck it in fine print on the back.

In the spirit of preserving the integrity of the educational process, we assembled some quick-and-dirty guides that aim to answer the top 10 most-searched "How To" queries in 2007 (according to Google), from how to kiss, to how to skateboard. (For information on the most-searched "What Is" and "Who Is" queries, check out Google Zeitgeist 2007. At No. 1: "What is love?"--To which we can only answer: "Baby, don't hurt me, no more.")

Some highlights:

The ninth most popular how-to query on Google in 2007 was "how to levitate." The method here depends on whether you actually want to learn to levitate, or just want to learn to appear to levitate, in order to score with women hotter than you deserve, a la David Blaine. Basic physics dictates that the first method is impossible without the use of heavy pharmaceutical aids, which is not encouraged. To do it the David Blaine way, all you need is a bit of training in how to distract people while creating an illusion. It’s a bit more sophisticated than saying, “Hey! Look over there!," but not that much more.

At No. 8 was "how to flirt." First, lower your standards. If you're not actually attracted to the person you’re flirting with, then you can’t fail. Next, be charming. Talk about your Porsche, beachfront bungalow and diversified portfolio of investments that remains remarkably unscathed by the current credit crisis. Make mention, too, of other recent amorous conquests--it will get your target's competitive juices flowing. Finally, get all of this done before your beer buzz wears off.

No. 5: "How to dance." Step 1: Get your back up off the wall. Step 2: Get into the groove. Step 3: Prove your love to a significant other. Step 4: Hope that the person does indeed love you now that you can dance. (Disclaimer: You better really want to get down because, take it from Kool & The Gang, "How you gonna do it if you really don't wanna dance?")

Sticking with the art theme, the second most popular query was "how to draw." Easy enough. First, acquire some sort of marking device: pen, pencil, charcoal or gouging stick. Next, make lines and curves and dots and dashes on the surface of your choosing: paper, canvas, sandy beach, dirt floor of rustic cabin, skin of exceptionally trusting loved one. Then, stand back and admire--or loathe, depending on your perception of self-worth at the time--your work. (Note: Stick to abstract drawing. Comparing your own renderings to real-life objects such as a bowl of fruit or a nude model will only enrage you.)

Number one on the list was "how to kiss." Not surprising--the world's full of bad kissers. But there is only so much you can teach.

Christopher Varmus is a freelance writer and part-time “manny” who lives in Gowanus Heights, Brooklyn. He realized while writing this article that not knowing how to do anything does not--and maybe even shouldn't--preclude anyone from writing a how-to guide.

In Pictures: ndy Guides To The 10 Most-Searched 'How To' Topics


Forward's Blog: Amy Winehouse Rehabs to Kosher

From the Bintel Brief Blog:

WINEHOUSE’S KOSHER SPREE: Amy Winehouse must have had a hankering for some Jewish soul food.

The troubled songstress recently swung by a number of kosher food shops in London’s Golders Green and seemed to be in good spirits, obligingly posing for pics with fans.

Britain’s Jewish Chronicle has a photo, but I found a better one. (I imagine she was having the following epiphany: “All this time, I could have been high on rugelach…”) .

There are more photos here.

TTB says: "By the way, does anyone know who is this person?"

ST: Jesse the Fuzzball Ventura for the Senate in Minnesota?

We like Al Franken and we are sure that Jesse running will spoil the race for Al. So this dreaded news is not good for Al. We could say that it looks like a joke will ruin things for a joker...

Ventura is the epitome of fuzzballness - and many people (especially in Minnesota, take my word on this) are fuzzballs at heart, true closet weirdos.


Ventura is saving any news for TV
Former Gov. Jesse Ventura met with advisers on Friday to map out what a quick leap into Minnesota's U.S. Senate race might look like, although advisers say he still has not made a final decision.

That will be revealed on national television Monday night...on Friday afternoon reporters received word that he would give his decision on "Larry King Live" on Monday night.


Times: The Block Where I Grew Up in NYC... SIXTY-EIGHTH STREET between Second and Third Avenues

From the Times:

SIXTY-EIGHTH STREET between Second and Third Avenues is one of those nearly anonymous streets that get little attention. It has a giant apartment house on the north side and 16 overlooked row houses on the south. But that little group, built as a piece in 1881, has evolved into a varied palette of row-house designs, from 19th-century brownstone to 21st-century modern — with 20th-century historical thrown into the mix....more
Hat tip to Barak!

New York Mag: Roly-poly 75-year-old Talansky -- threatening businessman and bully

Roly-poly 75-year-old Talansky -- threatening businessman and bully -- what a story! Blowing up Penzer's car. No no oy vey! Not what they ought to do in the holy 5 towns.

Secret Tapes Show That L.I. Rabbi Who May Topple Olmert Has a Threatening History


Photo: Getty Images

Morris Talansky is the ordained rabbi, former Great Neck macher, and sometimes successful businessman who may bring down the government of Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert. In May, Talansky told Israeli prosecutors that he delivered envelopes of cash to Olmert, which he claimed were for both campaign and personal expenses. Olmert insisted on cash, Talansky said. “I just didn't really understand the system in Israel,” said Talansky, and so he acquiesced.

But in cross-examination scheduled for this week in Israel, Olmert’s lawyers are expected to paint the roly-poly 75-year-old Talansky as an aggressive, threatening businessman who has long had a reputation as a bully. Talansky has characterized himself as a naïve lover of Israel taken advantage of by a cunning politician.

A transcript of secret tapes obtained by New York Magazine suggests that Talansky can indeed be willful and determined, and even threatening.

Twenty years ago Talansky invested in a Pittsburgh office building which quickly went bust. He felt he’d been fleeced by the sellers, among them a couple of Long Island rabbis.

In the 29-page handwritten transcript, Talansky demanded his money back at meetings and in phone calls, which were secretly recorded. If he didn’t get it, he said, there’d be consequences. At one point an angered Talansky suggested that a bomb would be placed in the car of Richard Penzer, the lead seller on the building. One rabbi confronted Talansky over this.

“There were threats mentioned about blowing up his” — Penzer’s — “car,” he told Talansky.

At first Talansky denied that any threats had been made, then he acknowledged the bomb threat.

“Yeah, okay,” he conceded. “That was the anger when millions of dollars are at stake.”

Talansky, who one participant at the meetings described as a “wild man,” also introduced a mysterious character named Bernie into discussions. Bernie, he said, had lost a lot of money in the deal. No one ever met Bernie. But Talansky, Bernie’s confidant, let the rabbis know that Bernie was not someone to be trifled with. The transcripts make clear that the rabbis were afraid. For good reason: Bernie apparently wanted to kill one of the participants before Christmas.

Is he “some type of Mafia guy?” one rabbi asked.

Another participant responded, “That’s what Talansky implies … Someone told me this guy Bernie is someone you want to stay away from.”

The rabbis grew more frightened when, on Sunday morning, January 19, 1992, three bulky “goons” showed up at the Lawrence, New York, home of Richard Penzer. One of them, Michael Sciotto, later said that he’d gone to collect a debt for Morris Talansky, according to Sciotto’s affidavit.

“I was petrified,” says Penzer. “I had young kids at home.”

Sciotto later changed his story. After viewing a photo of Talansky, he said the person who sent him to Penzer’s door wasn’t Talansky, but someone who said he was Morris Talansky.

Talansky’s career has involved more than one charge of aggressive behavior. He’s currently under investigation by Nassau County for allegedly assaulting his 84-year-old former dentist over a bill dispute. Once he accosted Fed Schulman, a former business associate he claimed owed him $300,000, according to a police report filed by Schulman. Later a man calling himself “Rocco” and an associate began showing up at Schulman’s office. He claimed he’d bought the $300,000 note. He left threatening messages on Schulman’s phone, one of which Schulman recorded. Schulman’s attorney, Sheldon Gopstein, summarized the message this way: “We’ve been patient long enough. You owe us $300,000 … Me and my partner are going to come up there.” —Steve Fishman

Ynet: Rabbi Says Women Singing OK if it's not to Seduce Men

Yikes -- what is happening to our religious leaders? Are they going soft on women singing? How are we to know what women are intending. Sheesh.
Rabbi Bigman: Women can sing 'in innocence'

Following spat over Bnei Akiva singing contest, head of religious kibbutz decides to allow women to sing in public if song is not intended to seduce men, suggests five criteria by which singing can be deemed 'innocent'

TTB Poll: New Yorker Covers the Obamas

Here is the controversial cover:

Please vote to express your opinion of it in our TTB poll on the right.


There are Islamic Shariah Compliant Investments. Are there any Jewish Halakhah Compliant Investments?

Watch out - Goldman Sachs and AIG are not Shariah compliant.

Shariah compliant investment vehicles take socially responsible investing (SRI) to a new level, proving that conscious investing does not necessarily depress returns. Hedge funds can turn to specialty shops that specialize in weeding out investments that violate Islamic Law. Non-accredited investors (investors with less than $1 million to invest) can also gain admission by following Shariah indexes or mutual funds.

Investing Under Islamic Law
Islamic law does not permit investors to derive benefits from interest paid on loans, the sale of pork, firearms, and other sin investments related to pornography, gambling, alcohol or tobacco. Institutions that engage in short selling and the use of leverage are also frowned upon since borrowing goes against one of the basic principles of Islamic law. Following these rules cancels out the possibility of investing in investment banking firms like Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS), insurers like AIG (NYSE:AIG) and other financial service firms that use derivatives as a way to boost their profits. (To learn more, read What is an Islamic investment policy?)

Islamic Law Hedge Fund Advisor
Shariah Capital, one of the world's best Islamic financial institutions according to Global Finance Magazine, is one resource hedge fund managers turn to when developing strategies to meet the Shariah compliance needs of their clients. Islamic law scholars and attorneys work with clients to find suitable investments and devise products that attempt to mirror strategies involving short selling and the use of leverage.

Shariah Indexes for Individual Investors
Standard & Poor's (S&P) has compiled more than 20 Shariah indexes focusing on specific countries, such as Japan or emerging markets and broad categories like global infrastructure and global property. Individual investors can begin by focusing on two broad Shariah-compliant equity indexes introduced by S&P earlier this year. The S&P CNX Nifty Shariah Index and the larger S&P CNX 500 Shariah Index are both in partnership with India's National Stock Exchange. Indian outsourcer Infosys (NASDAQ:INFY) is the most familiar stock among the top three holdings on each index. The other top holdings of each include, oil conglomerates, reliance industries and India's largest engineering company Larsen & Toubro (OTC:LTOUF).

Shariah Compliant Funds
The Amana Trust Income Fund (AMANX) also helps investors take the guess work out of choosing Shariah compliant investments. The fund is almost completely void of financial service companies enabling it to outperform the Standard & Poor's 500 Index (S&P 500) by roughly 6% a year to date. The AMANX fund has a three and five year return of 11.72% and 15.78% respectively. The funds top three holdings, include United States Steel (NYSE:X), energy company FPL Group (NYSE:FPL) and natural gas company EnCana Corporation (NYSE:ECA). The Iman K Fund (IMANX) is a much smaller Shariah compliant fund with a similar focus.

Socially responsible investing is growing in the U.S. Investors should know the rules other cultures incorporate into their socially conscious investment decisions. In addition to the social benefit derived from choosing investments based on Islamic laws the strategy has also proved to yield positive returns for its investors.

Best Jewish Blog of the Week: Jew and the Carrot

Our old friend Alix Wall from the Jewish Standard writes for this site.

It's got wholesome content, it's Jewish, and it's the best design we've seen - ever!

Check Us Out! Changes at The Jew & The Carrot


Change is in the air at The Jew & The Carrot. It’s summer and we have some spiffy new duds to show off. So drop by, stay a while, and check out our new features.

Galei Zahal: Olmert Illegally Multi-Billed Agencies for Personal Travel

Serious stuff. PM Olmert is under investigation for phony travel billing, fictitious invoices to numerous agencies including Yad Vashem and the Wiesenthal Center. Olmert spokesman Amir Dan defends the practice with an "everyone is doing this" response - claiming authorities should look at the practices of every member of the Knesset, minister or mayor in Israel.

Sad stuff and serious charges. But Olmert is the PM and in his position he will stonewall and weather this storm.

אולמרט גנב כספים לנסיעות פרטיות

הדס שטייף וליאל קייזר

לאחר סיום חקירתו השלישית של ראש הממשלה, מפרסמות המשטרה והפרקליטות חשדות חדשים, אשר עליהם נשאל היום אהוד אולמרט: על פי הראיות החדשות, אולמרט ביקש וקיבל מימון לנסיעות רשמיות ממספר גופים ציבוריים במקביל, ובכסף העודף השתמש לנסיעות פרטיות

חשדות חדשים וחמורים נגד ראש הממשלה: המשטרה והפרקליטות פרסמו היום (ו') בהודעה משותפת חשדות נוספים נגד ראש הממשלה, לפיהם אהוד אולמרט ומשפחתו נהנו ממאות אלפי דולרים שהושגו במרמה, באמצעות קבלת מימון כפול למסעות רשמיים בחו"ל.

על פי החשד, בעת שכיהן כראש עיריית ירושלים ושר התמ"ת, נהג אולמרט לפנות למספר מוסדות ציבוריים ולעתים אף למדינה, בבקשה שיממנו את שהייתו בחו"ל - מבלי שגוף אחד יודע על האחר. בין הארגונים שממנו במקביל את אותן הנסיעות: "אקים" המטפלת בילדים הסובלים מפיגור שכלי; מרכז "יד ושם"; ומכון "ויזנטל" לחקר השואה.

העדויות המפלילות: גורמים בסוכנות הנסיעות של אולמרט

במשטרה סבורים, כי סוכנות הנסיעות "ראשון טורס" שטיפלה בענייניו, נהגה לשלוח מספר חשבוניות פיקטיביות לכל אחד ממוסדות אלו, לפיהן נשאו לבדם בכל עלויות הנסיעה, ובכירים בפרקליטות סיפרו כי גורמים בחברת הנסיעות הפלילו בעדותם את ראש הממשלה.

על פי העדויות, עודפי הכספים שהצטברו במרמה, הועברו לכאורה לחשבון פרטי מיוחד על שמו של ראש הממשלה, ושמשו אותו לטובת נסיעות פרטיות של משפחתו לחו"ל.

בהודעה נמסר כי הראיות החדשות עלו מתוך החקירה של פרשת מעטפות הכסף שלכאורה קיבל ראש הממשלה ממשה טלנסקי, ובחקירתו היום נשאל אולמרט בעיקר על הראיות החדשות שהתגלו, ולא על פרשת מעפות הכסף עצמה.

"ראש הממשלה לא השתמש בכסף לצרכים פרטיים"
מקורביו של אולמרט, אמרו בתגובה כי החשדות שמעלה המשטרה לא מצביעים על כך שראש הממשלה עשה שימוש בכסף לצבירת רכוש - אלא לנסיעות לטובת המדינה. באשר לנסיעות הפרטיות, אומרים הגורמים: "ראש הממשלה השתמש בנקודות שנאספו בנסיעותיו הציבוריות, ולא בכסף העודף שהצטבר".

יועץ התקשורת של ראש הממשלה, אמיר דן, הוסיף כי את השאלות שהעלו החוקרים בפני ראש הממשלה "ניתן להפנות לכל חבר כנסת, שר, או ראש עיר בישראל שמוזמן על ידי ארגונים ברחבי העולם ובמימונם". לדברי דן, השאלות התבססו כולן על רישומים שתועדו בלשכתו של אולמרט בתפקידיו השונים והועברו למשטרת ישראל כבר לפני כמה חודשים.

"את השאלות שנשאל ראש הממשלה ניתן לשאול כל חבר כנסת, שר, ראש עיר בישראל שמוזמן על ידי ארגונים ברחבי העולם ובמימונם", אמר יועץ התקשורת של ראש הממשלה.

מהמשטרה נמסר כי במהלך החקירה שרר מתח רב בין ראש הממשלה לחוקרים, בעיקר עקב האשמותיו של אולמרט כי מהמשטרה מדליפים לתקשורת פרטים מחקירותיו.

ביום חמישי בשבוע הבא תחל החקירה הנגדית של העד המרכזי בפרשה, מוריס טלנסקי. לקראת החקירה, יועברו בשבוע הבא הראיות החדשות לצוות הגנה. ביום שני הקרוב צפויה שולה זקן להיחקר שוב במשרדי היחידה הארצית לחקירות הונאה.

Signs of the Messianic Age: Bank of Israel Props Up the Falling Dollar

Yes, the Messiah must be on his (or her) way. The Bank of Israel is buying dollars to prop up that weak currency! And next be on the lookout for lions and lambs cavorting and get ready to buy some Colt 45 hedge trimmers...
Haaretz: Dollar jumps 4% as Israel Bank announces plan to buy $100M a day
By Yuval Maoz and Nathan Sheva, TheMarker Correspondents

The Bank of Israel is once again intervening in an effort to slow down the steep decline in value of the American dollar against the shekel which has hit Israeli exporters hard.

The central bank announced Thursday it will begin buying on average $100 million per day effective immediately, up from the $25 million sum which it announced it would purchase in March. The move comes as part of the bank's efforts to raise its foreign currency surplus to the $35-40 billion range. more


New Story in Esquire by Apostate Nathan Englander

This New Story in Esquire by Apostate Nathan Englander is either groundbreaking in its creative presentation or its a bunch of random thoughts thrown together in numbered paragraphs - am I supposed to imagine that each one is a photograph in an album? Ah, genius. Or is it, ah, Esquire is where a noted writer publishes a story when The New Yorker passes on it...

We link, you decide..."Everything I Know About my Family on My Mother's Side. The author of The Ministry of Special Cases and For the Relief of Unbearable Urges writes his own version of a family tree."

Now that I'm completely secular, my little niece looks at me -- at her uncle -- through those old eyes. She asks my older brother sweetly, "Is Uncle Nathan Jewish?" Yes, is the answer. Uncle Nathan is Jewish. He's what we call an apostate. He means you no harm.


My great-grandfather gave up on religion completely. And my grandfather told me why he did. This is true, by the by. Not true in the way fiction is truer than truth. True in both realms.


What he told me is that his father and two other boys were up on the roof of a house in their village in Russia. One of the boys -- not my great-grandfather -- had to pee and peed off that roof. What he didn't see below him was a rabbi going by....


Haaretz: Orthodox in Israel Incensed Over Topless Hungarian Deodorant DJ

I don't really care about this one bit. But who could resist writing such a wonderful and mystifying headline?

Do the Haredim know how much this publicity is worth to the Axe brand? I never heard of it before and now I have watched (with utter disgust of course) about a dozen Axe commercials on YouTube including this one which is tame enough for me to post here, and viewed there nearly 3 million times.

The other Axe videos are awful -- too sexually suggestive and laced with nudity -- but verrry funny -- no, check that, I mean very terrible and objectionable and contributing to the decay of human civilization and especially damaging to Orthodox Jewish men, like me.

And now for that truly meaningless Haaretz story (worth $? in PR $?)...
Topless DJ at party leads Unilever to apologize; Haredim still offended
By Adi Dovrat and Nati Toker, TheMarker

A recent marketing campaign for Unilever's Axe deodorant for men raised the hackles of the ultra-Orthodox community when the corporation sponsored a poolside party for teens, DJed by a topless Hungarian disc jockey flown in for the event, and attended by other partially-clad young women.

Unsurprisingly, despite Unilever's written apology to the Haredi community, its leaders remain unsatisfied. Rabbi Gabriel Papenheim, who chairs the Kashrut Committee for Badatz, told TheMarker that the matter was initially to have ended with their apology, but Badatz is now demanding that an apology also be published in the secular press....
"Oh, and just one more video," he said, Columbo-like... justifying its inclusion here by noting the centrality of the Holy Bible to the commercial advertisement...
I hope someone notices my headline pun on "incensed" and "deodorant".

Times: At Last Marc Ecko Donates Laser Starred Bonds 756 Ball to Hall of Fame

We congratulated our Teaneck neighbor and Ecko Exec Josh Rochlin on the successful conclusion of this chapter.

Mr. Ecko sells shirts so we didn't expect that he'd be a great diplomat. But the parties worked it out anyway and.... the ball goes to the hall.
Deal Struck as Hall Receives Home Run Ball Hit by Bonds

After a day of disparate explanations from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and the man who owns Barry Bonds’s record-setting 756th home run ball, the controversial ball was driven to Cooperstown, N.Y., on Tuesday. It arrived around 7:45 p.m.

When discussions between Marc Ecko, the fashion designer who purchased the ball in an online auction for $752,467, stalled on Tuesday, the Hall issued a statement saying that Ecko had changed his mind about donating the ball, which he had marked with an asterisk.

“The owner’s previous commitment to unconditionally donate the baseball has changed to a loan,” the Hall said. “As a result, the Hall of Fame will not accept the baseball.”

But a few hours after the Hall’s statement, Ecko issued one of his own in which he said that he was “surprised” by the Hall’s stance. Ecko did not address whether he sought to adjust his donation to a loan and said that the “only open issue” was whether the Hall would be comfortable displaying the ball.

For the last nine months, the Hall has repeatedly said it would display the ball that Ecko intentionally defaced because it represents a memorable moment in history. Brad Horn, the Hall’s senior director for communications and education, said the museum planned to display the ball after it was received as an unconditional donation. And now that has happened.

“It’s being given as a donation,” said Laurie Baker, Ecko’s spokeswoman, who added that Ecko had always planned to donate it. “The ball is in a car.”

Baker said Ecko’s personal driver delivered the ball to Horn in Cooperstown. She said an asterisk was laser-cut into the ball above the Major League logo by a master engraver and that the ball was delivered in a specially designed glass case. The case includes the details of how Ecko decided to plant an asterisk on the ball.

After Ecko bought the ball, he held an online contest to determine its future. Voters had three choices: put an asterisk on the ball; leave it alone; or shoot it to the moon. The first two choices included the addendum that the ball would be donated to the Hall. Since Bonds has been suspected of using steroids to inflate his home run total, the notion of adding an asterisk was often mentioned.

Almost half of the 10 million votes said Ecko should affix an asterisk. In an interview last September, Ecko said the ball was “an artifact worth keeping at the Hall of Fame” and that he “always wanted” to see it there. Still, it took a stern, unexpected statement from the Hall to get the ball out of Ecko’s hands, into Ecko’s car and toward the museum.

“At this time, the ball is on route to the Hall of Fame,” Ecko said in his statement. “I hope that they will accept it and honor their commitment to display it at some point in time.”

Baker said Ecko’s desire was to ensure that fans “who helped put the ball into Cooperstown” would see it when they visited the museum. Although the ball is in a case, Baker says Ecko understands the Hall may remove it and display it as it sees fit.

Horn said that the museum was adamant about accepting donations instead of loans and that virtually all of the 35,000 artifacts were permanent. If the Hall needs an artifact to fill a void in an important story, it occasionally accepts loaned items. For example, Willie Mays loaned his glove from his over-the-shoulder catch of Vic Wertz’s fly ball in the 1954 World Series because the Hall did not have items from that Series.

Because Bonds donated his helmets from his 755th and 756th homers, Horn said Bonds’s story of surpassing Hank Aaron’s career home run mark was told without the record-setting ball. “That moment is represented,” Horn said.

Now it will be represented even more.