Local Rally Denounces Right-Wing Extremists in Wake of Charlottesville


Rally held at Linwood Park. Photo: Sam Haut.

Over the weekend at a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest the removal of a Confederate statue, neo-Nazis and white supremacists skirmished with counter protesters. The rally left three people dead and many more injured, causing shock among people across the country.

Blessing Osazuwa, a sophomore at Drexel University, was one of the many horrified by what was happening in Virginia and felt she had to do something. Her need to act turned into a rally called Stand Up for Love that was held at Linwood Park in Ardmore on Sunday evening, with about 300 people in attendance. [Read more…]

Stereotyping Race and Culture

Despite progress, many stereotypes plague the Jewish community as well as other minority groups. Jews deal with anti-Semitism, a prejudice that generates harmful stereotypes.

Stereotypes are not only directed at Jews, but also at a wide range of other ethnicities, races and cultures, from Asian to Hispanic to African American.

Anita Friday, founder of Open Hearts: A Path to Racial Healing, said Jews and other groups were excluded from housing for many years.”There were certain restrictions on deeds: ‘No blacks, no Jews, no Catholics.’ Different nationalities couldn’t buy a house,” Friday said at her talk entitled,”Suspicion…..Why and at What Cost?”

The event at Haverford’s YMCA had about 30 people in attendance. Friday’s presentation focused on stereotypes, specifically those affecting African Americans. During her talk, Friday shared her experiences as a black woman in America as a way to explain racism. [Read more…]

Proposed PA Bill Supports Solar Energy While Threatening Water Quality

Solar panels in Pennsylvania. Photo courtesy: https://understandsolar.com/pennsylvania/

In the Pennsylvanian Congress, an administrative bill is making its way through various iterations to become law and it has some questioning the particulars as a catch-22: solar energy for quality water.

The bill, whose prime sponsor is Republican Senator Thomas McGarrigle, presents a smorgasbord of changes to various departments and administration officers.  But of the recent changes appears to both help and hurt the environment. While the bill may help solar energy by changing trade laws in Pennsylvania, it harms the environment by allowing more toxins into water supplies.

The proposed changes are to the  2004  law entitled the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act which pushed energy supplying companies to meet certain renewable energy requirements over the course of 15-years. As of now, when companies generate electricity from solar power, they receive Solar Renewable Energy Certificates or SREC. Each SREC represents one megawatt hour of electric energy generated from solar power. In Pennsylvania and nine other states, there is a market for these certificates. In order to meet solar energy generation requirements, electrical utility companies must generate a certain amount of their energy through renewable sources. In Pennsylvania, by 2020, 18 percent of the energy produced must come from renewable sources, with 0.5 percent of that coming from solar power.

[Read more…]

Steve Berman Finds Silver Lining in Ossoff Defeat

In the hotly contested race in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, Republican Karen Handel beat out Democrat Jon Ossoff 52 to 48 percent for the vacated seat of current Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price.

Steve Berman

One of Ossoff’s earliest supporters was Steve Berman, co-founder of The Weber School and a leader in the Atlanta Jewish community. Berman worked with Ossoff’s campaign and helped to co-host campaign fundraisers.

Berman said that while Ossoff may have lost the election, there is still a silver lining:

Let’s keep things in perspective. Victories are better than moral victories, but we made up close to 20 points over what even Tom Price won by in November. So you have to keep your eye on progress, and this is real progress. So I would much prefer victory, but this is a teachable moment, and this is a doable moment.

He is right. Progress has been made for Democrats in trying to grab this seat, which has been held by Republicans since 1979 — and has been won with 20 percent or more of the vote over the past 20 years.

Berman was quick to notice the differing energy levels of the two campaigns:

I went to the headquarters last night for the gathering to watch the returns, and the enthusiasm was unbelievable, and it’s going to be carried on. The Republicans, if you watched their headquarters on television last night, they didn’t have a fraction of the enthusiasm.

Berman also pointed out that the Jewish community’s involvement in Ossoff’s campaign was greater than he had ever seen. He said, “There were more Jews getting involved than I know in canvasing for Ossoff and working for the campaign in ways that they have never done before.” He described people who had never been involved, who were going out and going door to door four days a week.

Jon Ossoff

According to Berman, Ossoff’s message evolved during the course of the campaign: Ossoff changed from being an anti-Trump candidate in the first round of voting to being a more well-rounded candidate in the runoffs. During the 16-person primary, Ossoff’s first tweet to the public focused on standing up to Trump, and Berman said that “Democrats coalesced around him very quickly.” But, Berman explained that Ossoff “pivoted away” from that position:

He understood that to get people from the middle or center right to consider voting for him, he had to show that as a person, he was willing to work with anybody, and he rarely, if ever, invoked Trump’s name after that.

Karen Handel

One of the perceived turning points in favor of the Democrats came during a debate between Handel and Ossoff a few weeks before the election. In a rebuttal, Handel said she does not support a living wage. Following the remark, many members of the media took this clip and ran with it, decrying how insensitive it was to those living on minimum wage. Handel later clarified her remark, saying that she meant she opposed a federally mandated wage. Berman said that the remark had no effect on the election:

Everybody realized she made a mistake, and she didn’t mean that, and that we should move on from that. That’s not something you can turn an election around on. Voters understood that she made a mistake. Cut her a break — she’s not my candidate, but I’m gonna give her a rain check on that.

For the Democrats to actually win elections in the future, Berman postulated that campaigns need to widen their demographic to include previously untapped areas:

We have to work on messaging. We have to work on identifying parts of the community that we are not getting through to and hear their concerns and respond to them, and I’m confident we will. I think that Republican voters in general think that Democrats don’t hear their concerns about taxes and government involvement with healthcare. You just have to show that your’re listening and your’re here, and that you’re responding in a thoughtful way — that’s half the battle right there.

Berman emphasized that Ossoff was very close to winning the seat, despite the high levels of gerrymandering in the 6th District. “This was a district drawn for Republicans,” argued Berman. “They can’t feel good about how close this was.”


“Wonder Woman” — Controversy and Accolades

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. Photo: Vox.

The Lasso of Truth (Wonder Woman’s weapon that transforms people into obedient truth tellers) says that DC Films’ “Wonder Woman,” directed by Patty Jenkins, is set to became one of the highest-grossing female-directed movies ever — even in the face of controversy.

The lead actress, Gal Gadot, is Israeli, which was cited as the reason for the film being banned in Lebanon. As is typical with some of Israel’s neighboring countries, Lebanon officially bans products from Israel. Although, according to Al Jazeera, “the principle of boycott is inconsistently enforced.” Previous movies in which Gadot played less central roles were shown in Lebanon. Last year’s release of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” which also starred Gadot, was not banned, despite an effort by the Lebanese Ministry of Economy and Trade and the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement.

Up until opening day, there was controversy over whether or not “Wonder Woman” would be shown in Lebanon.  The ban was announced days before the film was to premiere, despite Grand Cinemas saying eight hours earlier that it would not be banned and promoting it five days earlier. Yet multiple theaters still planned to show it. There was a protest on social media. Gal Gadot was criticized not only for being an Israeli, but also for serving in the IDF for two years and offering vocal support for the IDF on Facebook. According to The Washington Post, the movie was banned just two hours before the first showing was scheduled to begin. There has not been an official clarifying statement on this discrepancy. It is possible that because of Gadot’s leading role in “Wonder Woman,” there may have been  greater pressure to ban the movie. Variety reported that in addition to Lebanon, the movie was also cancelled in the relatively liberal countries of Algeria and Tunisia. The movie is being shown in Egypt, Morocco and the Arab Emirates.

Gal Gadot’s picture of her and her daughter, posted to her Facebook page with comments supporting IDF. Photo:  Architectguy.me.

Besides the Lebanon ban, “Wonder Woman” faced backlash when in October the main character was appointed U.N. honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls, with Gadot there to represent Wonder Woman. An issue arose when U.N. staffers voiced their concerns about the appointment, saying that it would be better to select a real person rather than a fictional character to the honorary position. The staffers also took umbrage with Wonder Woman’s sexualized image, saying that she was not a good role model for women and girls. Besides a protest at the appointment ceremony by dozens of U.N. staffers, a petition was also circulated, which has garnered almost 45,000 signatures.

Beyond the controversy surrounding it, the film itself was actually quite good. Compared to the more recent movies DC has put out, “Wonder Woman” was seen critically as the best among them, scoring an 8.1 on IMDB and a 92 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Conversely, it seems that so far “Wonder Woman” is set to perform below the other recent DC movies at the box office, pulling in a little over $466 million worldwide, whereas “Batman v Superman”, which got a 6.7 on IMDB and a 27 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, raked in over $870 million worldwide.

Rankings and box office earnings aside, “Wonder Woman” delivers a satisfying story. While the overall structure of the movie follows a similar formula to other superhero movies made by both Marvel and DC over the past decade, the execution of the movie makes the overall experience fun and interesting. For example, the characterization of Wonder Woman and her love interest, Steve Trevor (played by Chris Pine), helps to sell their romance and makes for a more engaging story.

The story structure is very similar to that of “Superman,” with a fish-out-of-water character trying to understand our strange rituals and customs. But unlike Superman, who grows up in our world, Wonder Woman does not get that luxury. She has to grapple with our rules, without any chance to get acclimated, which makes the story more interesting.

Unlike some of the bland and focus-tested DC movies that preceded it, “Wonder Woman” has more direction and purpose. While the plot is not overly complicated, it is unique enough to make it stand above the rest. What may also give this movie a fresh take is the female duo of director and lead, something that superhero movies have not seen since “Tank Girl” in 1995. With a steady stream of similar movies coming out, a mix-up in actors and directors is most welcome.