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Today’s Top Tweet – Another juicy one from the parapsychology corner

Today’s top tweet happens to be my only tweet today. Truth be told, I’m deeply engrossed in trying to figure out xubuntu, which is a Linux operating system. I have installed it parallel to Windows XP on an old laptop (which I’m using now). So right now my mind is on tech stuff, not the news.

Having said that, I will always be interested in the possibility of hostile spies and parapsychology.

See ya’ll in a day or so once I get xubuntu working with my wifi. If that is… 🙂


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Today’s Top Tweet – RT (Russian Television)… life after the zombie apocalypse?

We get RT through our cable package. Every now and then it’s fun to watch. You get a totally – and I mean totally – different slant on the news. Coverage of Europe seems a bit better than the major American and Canadian networks. But what really struck me last night was the coverage of the US.

With an almost obsessive focus on the States, RT showed clips of a seemingly harmless group of anarchist protesters being clubbed by American police in LA. In this case, I don’t think the video was lying. But I’m not sure if it was the 1992 riot or something more recent.

Members of the Toronto Police Force

Members of the Toronto Police Force (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The scenes reminded me of a time, a few years back, when people questioned whether Toronto police were too heavy-handed during a G20 protest.

If a news network were to repeat a few choice clips of that Toronto event, it could make Canada look like, well, the Russian front!

But the point is, on the whole our cops are pretty decent people who do a good job, and a very difficult and dangerous job to boot. And I suspect it’s the same in the US.

Sadly, the veneer of civilization is pretty thin. This was painfully evident during a Toronto blackout a few years ago.

Before long people began to vandalize and rob. I began to feel scared. Would the downtown mobs reach my North Toronto neighborhood? A nearby bus shelter was trashed, shattered glass everywhere. They got close.

English: Plainclothes Officers -- circa 1919

Plainclothes Officers — circa 1919 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Even in our enlightened age, it seems that life without cops would quickly revert to jungle life.

But I digress.

To return to RT, except for a story about apparently innocent athletes tested for drugs, I also noticed a dearth of news about Russia, itself. Always this obsessive attention to other countries. And the anchors, forgive me for saying, look like they are slightly doped. Say the wrong thing and God knows what happens to them. Even Larry King, whom I used to admire, has a show on RT. I’m not sure what’s worse. That, or his cheesy paid for TV interview/ads.

Speaking of ads, I didn’t see any on RT. Just lots of filler between news stories. Promos for RT.

By way of contrast, CNN’s Carol Costello seems so alive this morning and certainly NOT drugged. A real personality. I wonder what it is about Russians and their history that has lead to these dull, controlled mouthpieces we see on their news? Whatever happened to Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Pushkin, Gogol, Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky? Clearly not all Russians seem like they’re auditioning for a zombie flick.

Why don’t the people stand up?


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Today’s Top Tweet – Muslim youth in US reaching out to Toronto for help

Okay look. America is a great country, we all know that. The nation has an impressive store of achievements. It dominates many aspects of global culture. And Anderson Cooper is the best newsperson, anywhere. Supergirl is pretty amazing too.  😉

But I have to laugh when I hear those long-winded speeches about how America is the greatest country on Earth. Put simply, Canada is decades ahead in terms of cultural integration. Some Americans might cringe at that notion. In fact, some visitors from the US have. When faced with the multicultural reality of downtown Toronto, some of our sheltered US acquaintances have been visibly rattled.

My family had Chinese/Australian neighbors in the 1960s and 70s. Best neighbors we could have hoped for. Friendly, fun to hang out with. But they also minded their own business. So as a kid I got a good introduction to living with people who look different and who hold beliefs distinct from our own (there was a big seated Buddha in their front hall, which I found intriguing). In fact, we didn’t even think about it. We just had a good time playing ball hockey, basketball, ping pong, badminton, you name it.

And driving to the nearest mall, back then called Thorncliffe, we were introduced to a wide range of peoples. Even in the 1970s.

So the next time I hear that America is “the greatest place on Earth,” I’ll chuckle again. And hope that next year, less Muslim youth feel compelled to call Toronto for the help they’re not getting from their fellow Americans.


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Muslims Have Many Allies Against Hate Crimes

Image via Wikipedia - Click for fullsize

Image via Wikipedia – Click for fullsize

By Rabbi Allen S. Maller

The FBI reports that hate crimes against Muslims in the USA rose in 2015 to their highest levels since the aftermath of the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks. In 2015, there were 257 incidents of anti-Muslim bias compared to 154 incidents in 2014, an increase of 67%.

The total is second only to the surge in anti-Muslim hate crimes following the 9/11/01 terror attacks, when 481 incidents against Muslims were reported. Fortunately, Muslims have many allies in the Anti-Hate Crime fight.

Scapegoating (blaming innocent minorities for widespread discontent and anxieties within the majority population) is wide spread in the USA so there are many different groups of people who are victims of hate crimes; which are not just directed against Muslims.

Attacks against LGBT, immigrants, blacks, women and Jews have also increased.

Jews have a very long history of being scapegoated for the ills of various European states, and are especially aware of the danger of scapegoating as an ill-conceived way of solving problems in the general society.

Thank God the anti-haters are now getting aroused, and that Jews are well represented among those opposing the attempt to scapegoat all Muslims for the sins of a very violent politicized few.

Although hate crimes against Muslims rose by 67%, in actual numbers, the 257 incidents of anti-Muslim bias were less than 5% of the total 5,850 reported hate crimes, and just under 22 percent of the 1,402 anti-religious hate crimes.

Of the 5,850 reported hate crimes in 2015:
59.2 percent of all victims were targeted because of bias against race or ethnicity;
19.7 percent were victimized because of bias against religion; and
17.7 percent were targeted because of bias against sexual orientation.

There are lots of hate filled individuals in America; and they have lots of different groups that they can hate. Often they hate several different scapegoats.

Of the 1,402 victims of anti-religious hate crimes:
52.1 percent were victims of crimes motivated by their offenders’ anti-Jewish bias.
21.9 percent were victims of anti-Islamic (Muslim) bias.
4.3 percent were victims of anti-Roman Catholic bias.
3.6 percent were victims of anti-Eastern Orthodox Christian bias.
3.4 percent were victims of anti-Protestant bias.

Religious-based hate crimes increased by 23% from 2014 to 2015. Many people expect that hate crime incidents for 2016 will rise by at least 1-3,000.

On the other hand, the Anti-Defamation League, which combats anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination, saw a 50-fold increase in online donations on the day after the election.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil liberties and outreach group, gained more than 500 volunteers in the two days after the election.

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which supports women’s reproductive rights, received donations from nearly 200,000 people in the week after the election, about 40 times more than in a typical week, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which defends the civil rights of individuals, said on Monday it had received more than $7 million from about 120,000 donations over the five days after the election. During the same period after the 2012 election, the group collected less than $28,000 from 354 donations.

And George Soros says he will commit $10 million from his personal foundation to combat the rise in hate crimes. Mr. Soros, a Jewish Holocaust survivor and an immigrant originally from Hungary, said he was “deeply troubled” by hundreds of reports of possible hate crimes since the election — including many Nazi swastikas spray-painted on cars and buildings.

And going well beyond the norm, the Jewish head of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an anti-bigotry group, has vowed to register as a Muslim if the USA creates a database of Muslim Americans. The idea of a Muslim database arose in November 2015, when Mr Trump told a reporter he would “certainly implement that. Absolutely”.

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL, said: “If one day Muslim Americans will be forced to register their identities, then that is the day that this proud Jew will register as a Muslim”.

Let us all follow the example of Jonathan Greenblatt, and the words of Pope Francis who delivered a ringing plea to the world and his own Catholic Church to reject “the virus of polarization and animosity” and the growing temptation to “demonize” those who are different.

Rabbi Maller’s web site is: www.rabbimaller.com


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Peace on Earth

Image via Tumblr / hymncharts.com

Image via Tumblr / hymncharts.com

Late last night there were just a handful of stores open in my area. I drove out to the all night pharmacy to pick up some last minute items for tonight’s feast. The rattle and din of the usual Christmas traffic had all died down. And I felt it. I finally felt it!

The Christmas spirit!

When I got home that magical feeling finally hit home. A quiet city. Children asleep in their beds, dreaming of new toys and, I guess in the 21st century, all the latest gizmos. Also to remember on a night like that are the poor who have no one to celebrate with. I wondered about a man at my parish who lives outside in the harsh winter cold. Was he desolate? Happy? I can’t know.

I recall one Christmas when I lived by a Salvation Army Mission in downtown Ottawa. One man who simply went by the name “Animal” yelled out loud Christmas morning,

IT’S CHRISTMAS!

That really summed it up for me. A street person, yelling out in joy, that is was Christmas morning. Animal knew what it was all about.

Merry Christmas to everyone who wishes to celebrate it!

Image via Tumblr

Image via Tumblr


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A Modern Miracle of Hanukah Dedication?

By Rabbi Allen Maller

This is the true story of retired Army Major Mike Neulander, from Newport News, Virginia, and who is now a Judaic silversmith.

In the fall of 1990, I received notice that I would be transferred to the First Cavalry Division, which was headed for Saudi Arabia. Then as now, Jews were forbidden to enter the country. But our Secretary of Defense told the king of Saudi Arabia, “We have Jews in our military. They’ve trained with their units and they’re going. Blink and look the other way.”With Kuwait occupied and the Iraqis at his border, King Fahd did the practical thing. We shipped out.

But there was a problem. Normally the dog tags of Jewish servicemen are imprinted “Jewish.” But the army, fearing that this would put Jewish soldiers at great risk should they be captured, substituted “Protestant B” on the tags. I didn’t like the whole idea of classifying Jews as Protestant-anything, and so I decided to leave my dog tag alone. I figured if I were captured, it was in God’s hands. Changing my tags was tantamount to denying my religion, and I couldn’t swallow that.

In September 1990 I went off to defend a country that I was prohibited from entering. The “Jewish” on my dog tag remained as clear and unmistakable as the American star on the hood of every Army truck.

A few days after my arrival, the Baptist chaplain told me. “I just got a secret message through channels,” he said. “There’s going to be a Jewish holiday. You want to go? It’s at 1800 hours at Dhahran Airbase.”

The holiday turned out to be Simhat Torah, a holiday that I hadn’t celebrated since I was a kid. Services were held in absolute secrecy in a windowless room. We couldn’t risk singing or dancing. We were strangers to one another in a land stranger than any of us had ever experienced, but for that brief hour, we felt at home.

The next time I was able to do anything remotely Jewish was Chanukah. As Rabbi Romer talked about the theme of Chanukah and the ragtag bunch of Maccabee soldiers fighting Israel’s oppressors thousands of years ago, it wasn’t hard to make the connection to what lay ahead of us. There, in the middle of the desert, inside an green tent, we felt like we were Maccabees.

We blessed the candles, praising God for the miracles He performed, in those days and now. And we sang the special blessing, the Shehecheyanu, thanking God for keeping us in life and for enabling us to reach this season. The feeling of unity was as pervasive as our apprehension. I felt more Jewish there on that lonely Saudi plain, our tanks and guns at the ready, than I had ever felt back home in a synagogue.

That Chanukah in the desert gave me the urge to reconnect with Judaism. I felt religion welling up inside me. I know that part of my feelings were tied to the looming war and my desire to get with God before the unknown descended on us.

The soldier sitting beside me stared ahead at nothing in particular, absentmindedly fingering his dog tag. “How’d you classify?” I asked, nodding to my tag. Silently, he withdrew the metal rectangle from beneath his shirt and held it out for me to read. Like mine, his read, “Jewish.”

During the remaining months before we returned home I never met a Jewish soldier whose dog tag was “Protestant B.” Maybe I had experienced a modern miracle of Hanukah dedication

Thanks to rabbimaller.com


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Today’s Top Tweet – Earth at night

OPINION

Part of me is tempted to go into the usual New Age preachy theme about how we’re all one and if we just came to realize this, there would be no war, no senseless killings, no crazed truck drivers, no hostages fearing their death…

Image via Wikipedia

Image via Wikipedia

But honestly, I don’t think it’s that simple. I believe there is evil in the world and that it furiously wants to sow discord. All you science-bots out there who think a new pill can save humanity can believe what you want. But I think you’re wrong. I don’t believe evil will ever be eradicated. And those who can recognize the difference between good and ill must take a stand.

Jesus talked about prayer and turning the other cheek. And in the ultimate sense he’s probably right. But in the course of history, if every good person merely prayed and turned the other cheek, I don’t think humanity would last that long. Evil would sweep the globe in a very short matter of time.

While no one perspective can solve our global problems, I do believe that the total dynamic is tilted toward the good. That means all the forces in existence, taken together, including pacifism and activism, will turn things out the right way.

This isn’t blind belief. I have reason to believe in an all-powerful God. Yet I realize not everyone does. To me, that’s their poverty, not mine.