Joining the Fight Against Voter ID
- JSPAN Joins Fight Against Voter ID Law
- A Pernicious Drive Toward Secrecy
- The Leak Police
- Texas Set To Execute Marvin Wilson Despite Diagnosis Of 'Mental Retardation'
- Let Chick-fil-A Fly Free
- Rabbi Sues Over Pennsylvania Law On Funeral Directors, Last Rites
- Raising The Olympic Bar
- In Wisconsin, Jews Reach Out To Sikhs After Milwaukee Shooting
|JSPAN Joins Fight Against Voter ID Law|
As mentioned in the last newsletter, JSPAN has joined in a brief to challenge the Voter ID Law in Pennsylvania. The Jewish Exponent reported JSPAN's involvement
and quoted JSPAN Vice President Burt Siegel. - Ed.
The Jewish Exponent
The Jewish Social Policy Action Network joined in a brief filed in a state court last week as part of a challenge to the constitutionality of the Pennsylvania Photo Identification Law.
Opponents have charged that the new law, which requires voters to have a photo ID to cast their ballots, could prevent seniors and minority voters from voting. Proponents contend that the law will curb voter fraud.
The case is fraught with national political implications since Pennsylvania is a key swing state, and it is believed the law could have a disproportionate effect on Democratic voters.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups have filed a lawsuit to overturn the law.
The brief, filed by the Senior Law Center, AARP and others, argues that older Pennsylvanians, including many Jews, will be adversely affected by the law. Burt Siegel, the vice president of JSPAN who participated in a recent rally against the legislation in Harrisburg, said that when "our grandparents came to America, they were seeking political freedom as well as opportunities that largely did not exist for Jews in places like Russia and Poland."
|A Pernicious Drive Toward Secrecy|
Will our current culture of secrecy in the name of national security undermine our democracy? The editorial and commentary from the New York Times looks at recent
developments - Ed.
The New York Times
In response to recent news media disclosures about the so-called kill list of terrorist suspects designated for drone strikes and other intelligence matters, the Senate Intelligence Committee has approved misguided legislation that would severely chill news coverage of national security issues.
Drafted in secret without public hearings, the provisions are part of the intelligence authorization bill for fiscal 2013. If enacted, the bill would undermine democracy by denying Americans access to information essential to national debate on critical issues like the extent of government spying powers and the use of torture.
|The Leak Police|
The New York Times|
By Bill Keller
August 5, 2012
In the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, this newspaper famously published a number of stories regurgitating the Bush administration hype about Saddam Hussein's supposed arsenal of mass destruction. A few journalists elsewhere - notably Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel, then of the Knight Ridder newspapers - dug deeper, discovered contrary intelligence, and challenged the official line.
They got it from government officials with access to classified information, who risked their jobs to confide the truth to journalists. Critics call these "leaks," although such stories hardly ever spill out unbidden; they are painstakingly assembled by teasing out bits of information, triangulating, correcting, testing, confirming. I'd call them a public service.
Washington is currently going a little nuts on the subject of leaks. The Obama administration, which has, without really setting out to do so, already surpassed all previous administrations in its prosecution of leakers, has begun new investigations into disclosures by The Times, Newsweek, The Associated Press and others. Congress has mandated surveillance systems that make it easier to identify leakers and to prevent unauthorized downloads of classified material.
Is this latest outbreak of leak panic just another mood swing? Or is something else going on?
|Texas Set To Execute Marvin Wilson Despite Diagnosis Of 'Mental Retardation'|
International Business Times|
By Joseph Orovic
August 6, 2012
Death row inmate Marvin Wilson's attorneys petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to stay his execution, set for Tuesday, arguing the convict's date with a lethal injection runs contrary to a 2002 ruling by the nation's highest court. The catch, and what Wilson's lawyers hope will spare his life, remains his I.Q. of 61 coupled with a medical diagnosis of mental retardation.
Texas' counter? Wilson is wholly dissimilar to a fictional character created by novelist John Steinbeck.
The 54-year-old was convicted in 1992 of murdering a police drug informant. His planned execution is becoming another linchpin in the exhaustive battle over capital punishment, this time calling into question who or what exactly determines "mental retardation."
Wilson's execution would stand contrary to the Supreme Court's ruling in Atkins v. Virginia, which blocked the execution of the mentally disabled under the Eighth Amendment's ban on excessive punishment.
"The mentally retarded should be categorically excluded from execution," the court wrote in its decision, due to "their disabilities in areas of reasoning, judgment and control of their impulses."
Marvin Wilson was executed by the State of Texas on Tuesday evening after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected arguments that he was too mentally impaired to qualify for the death penalty. - Ed.
|Let Chick-fil-A Fly Free|
The New York Times|
Op-Ed By Seve Salbu
August 1, 2012
RECENTLY, Dan Cathy, the president of the fast-food chain Chick-fil-A, commented publicly on his beliefs about same-sex marriage. He emphasized that his business is very supportive of family and that Chick-fil-A is family-owned and family-led. He advocated for what he called "the biblical definition of the family unit" and observed that supporting same-sex marriage invites "God's judgment on our nation."
Predictably, Mr. Cathy's comments drew a strong response from opponents and supporters alike. In protest, the Jim Henson Company said it would no longer make toys for Chick-fil-A; in support, the former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, now a television host, declared a Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.
But less predictable - and troubling - was that officials in a number of cities expressed not only their ire but also their desire to keep Chick-fil-A out of their towns. In Boston, Mayor Thomas M. Menino urged Chick-fil-A not to open a restaurant, explaining to The Boston Herald: "You can't have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population." In Philadelphia, the City Council member James F. Kenney wrote to Mr. Cathy, instructing him to "take a hike and take your intolerance with you." A Chicago alderman opposed the opening of a new Chick-fil-A restaurant in his ward. And Speaker Christine Quinn of the New York City Council endorsed a movement by students at New York University who are pushing for the removal of Chick-fil-A from the school's campus.
As a gay man, I'm disheartened by statements like Mr. Cathy's, with their limited conception of what it means to be a family. "Family" is a treasured - I'll say it, sacred - word in the gay community. Through decades of modern-day oppression, gay men and lesbians have created families against all odds. Love, loyalty, commitment, mutual support: these things are family. They are scarce virtues that our society should do everything in its power to foster.
But that's my opinion. And a society that truly believes in individual freedom will respect Mr. Cathy's right to his views. Those who disagree with him are free to boycott Chick-fil-A in protest. But if our elected officials run Chick-fil-A out of town, they are effectively voting for all of us, regardless of our respective beliefs, and eliminating our individual freedoms.
|Rabbi Sues Over Pennsylvania Law On Funeral Directors, Last Rites|
By Ann Rodgers
August 7, 2012
An Orthodox rabbi is suing the state board of funeral directors, accusing it of violating religious freedom by insisting that licensed funeral directors oversee all funerals and burials.
The suit from Rabbi Daniel Wasserman of Shaare Torah Synagogue in Squirrel Hill was filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, in Scranton. It accuses the state board of intimidating rabbis, synagogues, Jewish families and funeral homes that work with rabbis, in a quest for profit.
The suit is "to preserve and restore the historical right of clergy to conduct religious burial and funeral rites free from interference and harassment by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and professional, secular funeral directors who serve no health or safety interest," the suit says, citing constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion.
Rabbi Wasserman "is now being threatened with civil action and criminal prosecution ... for conducting religious funerals in place of licensed funeral directors who, under color of state law, interfere in purely religious observances for no other justification than personal profit." The suit alleges that the board has targeted Orthodox Jews rather than Amish or Quakers because Jews are perceived to have more money to spend on funerals.
|Raising The Olympic Bar|
The Jewish Week (New York)|
By Steve Lipman
August 7, 2012
Alexandra "Aly" Raisman, who entered the London Olympics last week in the shadow of gymnastics teammates Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Wieber, stepped into the sunlight this week
A week after her performance in floor exercise sealed a team gold medal, and a few hours after she won an individual bronze medal in the uneven parallel bars on Tuesday, Raisman won gold in her specialty, floor exercise.
Captain of the "Fab Five" women's squad, she performed her earlier floor exercise routines in the team preliminaries and finals to "Hava Nagila," evoking rhythmic clapping from an SRO crowd. She also performed to the song Tuesday in her gold-medal floor performance.
Other Jewish medal winners at the London Games, which end on Sunday, are:
Raisman, a resident of Needham, Mass., last week competed in the pressure-packed anchor position during the final, floor exercise portion of the team event; she received the highest score awarded that night.
"Aly is what you see on TV ... gracious, confident, focused," Rabbi Keith Stern of Temple Beth Avodah in Newton Centre, Mass., the Raismans' congregation, told The Jewish Week in an e-mail interview. "She was the same at her bat mitzvah. She's a terrific big sister. Her family is very connected to temple and Jewish life.
"The congregation is "ecstatic about her success in London!" Rabbi Stern said. "We feel enormous pride in her as 'one of our kids.' We're hoping to do a welcome home and mazel tov for Aly when she gets home. She will be swamped with various press/media obligations, but we're scheduling something for sure
|In Wisconsin, Jews Reach Out To Sikhs After Milwaukee Shooting|
August 7, 2012
Almost as soon as she heard the news about a deadly shooting at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee, Elana Kahn-Oren's phone started ringing. As director of the Jewish Community Relations Council at the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, Kahn-Oren fielded call after call from concerned area Jews asking what they could do to help.
"We have to make sure to be respectful of the Sikh community and to make sure that we find appropriate avenues to express that support," Kahn-Oren told JTA.
A day after Sunday's shooting, the federation was offering counseling services, had opened a mailbox to receive donations for assisting with the financial needs of the victims and their families, and was in talks with the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee to figure out a way to bring religious leaders together for an interfaith prayer service.
"Coming together after events like these reaffirms the values of the community," Kahn-Oren said.
The assailant killed six people, including the president of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, in Oak Creek, before being shot dead by police. On Monday, police identified the shooter as Wade Page, an Army veteran with ties to white supremacists.
Jacob Herber of Congregation Beth Israel said the Milwaukee synagogue's weekday minyan would hold moment of silence to commemorate and express solidarity with the victims, just as it does when Jews are attacked.
"Unfortunately, because we have experienced through much of our history, bigotry hatred and anti-Semitism, this event is very acute for us in its pain," Herber said.
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