Category Archives: Current Events

Muslim and Jewish Groups at Forefront of Efforts to Rebuild Black Churches

By Max Blau, Guardian UK

12 July 15


Groups seek to raise hundreds of thousands for southern churches that burned after Charleston shooting: ‘If we don’t stand up … we’re all going to suffer’

ore than a half-dozen black churches have burnt to the ground in the American south since the killing of nine black people inside a historic African American church in Charleston, South Carolina, last month.

Since the shooting, authorities have ruled at least three of the church fires to be arson, with none of those so far being deemed hate crimes. Some leaders of those churches located in Charlotte, North Carolina; Knoxville, Tennessee; and Macon, Georgia, have grown increasingly suspicious of the motives for the recent attacks. And many others, some of whom now face thousands of dollars in repairs, have now begun the slow rebuilding of their sanctuaries.

In the wake of those arsons, dozens of religious institutions and nonprofits have raised cash for those churches. To the surprise of some pastors, the recovery effort is being partially led by Jewish and Muslim leaders, who understand both the sanctity of houses of worship and the seriousness of attacks against them.

“If there’s a silver lining, these kinds of incidents draw communities together,” said Christopher Strain, a Florida Atlantic University professor of American studies and author of Burning Faith: Church Arson in the American South. “There’s an unintended effect of bringing people together.”

Faatimah Knight, a 23-year-old black Muslim student, has helped organize a group of Muslim nonprofits including Ummah Wide, the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative, and the Arab American Association of New York. With one week left, the crowd-funded campaign has raised more than $58,000 from over 1,300 donors.

Knight says the groups’ online fundraising effort has a current goal of $75,000 and is considering raising that figure to $100,000. Her group, which is considering joining their efforts with the Rebuild the Churches Fund, ultimately wants to establish a long-term relationship with the scorched churches as they begin their own healing processes.

In the wake of the Charleston shooting, which happened on the first night of Ramadan, some members of the Muslim community were also shaken by the attack on another house of worship. Knight fears the trend will continue in what she characterizes as a “very particular history” of racially motivated attacks against black churchgoers. She says the recent underreporting of church attacks had made her feel more vulnerable, as if the safety and security of her own mosque could be threatened.

“It was painful for a lot of people,” Knight says. “It shook the country in a lot of ways. Especially for black people, it’s extra personal given that these were in a black church, a place where you expect to be safe. If churches burn down, there’s a void where God’s name isn’t being mentioned.”

Rabbi Susan Talve, who heads the Central Reform Congregation in St Louis, Missouri, says a broad coalition of more 150 religious institutions has raised more than $150,000 toward its $250,000 goal to help rebuild black churches. She says the groups involved with the Rebuild the Churches Fund began working together after the death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson.

When the southern black churches went up in flames, Talve says, the group quickly tapped into an established network of rabbis who lived near the communities affected by arson. Within 48 hours after the arsons, the group’s members had connected with those churches’ respective pastors.

“We believe the church is the heart and soul of a community,” Talve says. “So we wanted to help them out. If you burn them down with hate, we’re going to build them back with love. If you burn them down, we’re going to build them back better and stronger.”

According to Talve, every dollar raised will go directly to at least three burnt churches, with more being added to the list should investigators say arson led to their destruction. With insurance companies helping rebuild some sanctuaries, she says, a sizeable portion of the fund will help replace the things probably not insured including new prayer books or choir robes. The fund could also pay for security improvements to prevent future attacks at those churches.

Talve, pointing to the 2014 fatal shootings of two people at a Jewish community center in Kansas City, Missouri, says people of Jewish faith have long experienced the vulnerability that comes with being a target of hate and violence. Following the events of Ferguson and now Charleston, she says, it’s time to fight racism by supporting other religious institutions in their greatest times of need.

“Hate is hate whenever you see it,” Talve says. “This has been a time for us to show that, as allies, we understand that if we don’t all work together to end hate – racism, antisemitism, homophobia, Islamophobia – and if we don’t stand up when it happens, then we’re all going to suffer.”

Super Crane: First Historic Lift, Placement on New Bridge

Kaleidoscope Eyes

Placements can take from 1 to 4 hours/© Janie Rosman 2015 Placements can take from 1 to 4 hours/© Janie Rosman 2015

Another page of bridge history was written yesterday when the I Lift NY fitted a 600-ton precast concrete pile cap on a set of piles.

It was the super crane’s first of many placements and future lifts.

“You have the tub sitting over four piles that are accepting the load, so precision is key,” Prof. Ted Zoli, HNTB National Bridge Chief Engineer on the bridge project, explained.

Strong winds and choppy waters were no match for the crane’s precision and zero margin for error.

Prof. Ted Zoli describes to reporters the intricate process of placing a cap on groups of piles/© Janie Rosman 2015 Prof. Ted Zoli describes to reporters the intricate process of placing a cap on groups of piles/© Janie Rosman 2015

“You’re surveying it and want to hold it (tub) vertically so you’re not changing the position of the load,” Zoli said. Cleared around the piles, the arm began lowering the tub carefully, slowly, within that…

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Allodoxaphobia – the Fear of other People’s Opinions: Is that a Workplace Thing?


Americans actually fear not having an opinion to give.  Research has demonstrated that we will even provide opinions on fake subjects (such as our attitude towards completely fictitious drugs listed on a survey).  We can’t stand to be without firmly held convictions on pretty much any subject, real or imagined.  And if we can’t come up with our own, we’ll use somebody else’s, as others are all too willing to provide us with filler.  George Bernard Shaw once wisely observed, “If you leave the smallest corner of your head vacant for a moment, other people’s opinions will rush in from all quarters.”  We do so love expressing an opinion.

But apparently, there are unfortunate individuals that are pathologically afraid of other people’s opinions. If your neighbor is in the Klu Klux Klan or works for Fox News, you might be justified in a certain level of trepidation when they express…

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10 things I can’t live without

the learning, earning and fitness mama

1) A good book game-of-thrones

My favourite thing to do is read. Dr Seuss said ‘the more you read, the more you know. The more you know, the more places you go.’ When I read, I get transported to another world, I’m a different person and I can  have 100 different experiences all in the comfort of my home. At the moment I am loving the Game of Thrones book set- dragons, lions and dwarves! Oh my!

2) Face cleanser

Most nights I can get at least 6-7 hours of sleep. When the little ones are unwell or have some serious gas going on down there- I’ll be lucky to get two hours of sleep. Enter miracle cream. Even after an all nighter I will force myself to cleanse my face in this stuff. It helps to un zombie-fy my face. My skin just loves me for it- so will…

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The “American Dream” is the real problem. (response article)

Kamala Thompson

Bill O’Reilly, Russell Simmons Go Head-To-Head Over Violence In Black Communities”

“The bigger issue that you are not acknowledging is that the astronomical crime rate among young black men — violent crime — drives suspicion and hostility,” O’Reilly said. “You won’t acknowledge it, Russell. You won’t acknowledge it.”

“The crime rate is driven by the dissolution of the family,” O’Reilly argued. “No supervision, kids with no fathers — the black neighborhoods are devastated by the drug gangs who prey upon their own. That’s the problem!”

There are serious human rights issues being brought to the light, but little practical solutions being presented because we are not looking at the larger societal structures in place. So, let me break it down like this: We live in America, where we are corrupted by the overwhelming desire for financial prosperity and upward success, but not everyone in America has the resources…

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Go Yard Goats! Hartford announces new minor league baseball team name

HARTFORD – The votes are in…and Hartford’s new minor league baseball team will be called the Yard Goats!

The “Yard Goats” name originates from the railroad slang term for an engine that switches a train to get it ready for another locomotive to take over. The Yard Goats honors Hartford’s rich railroad history.


Is this Hartford’s quintessential “Yard-Goat”? The last of HELCO’s engines that shifted coal and oil loaded cars at their South Meadow Station for over 38 years! A workhorse of unbelievable strength and durability – still working today at the Connecticut Trolley Museum… perhaps the only real “Yard-Goat” that Hartford ever had

Find out more about the  Connecticut Trolley Museum

Gas-related explosion suspected in East Village fire that injures 22, takes down buildings, mayor says

A blast from a suspected gas leak set off a seven-alarm inferno that burned four Manhattan buildings, collapsed one, partially collapsed two others and injured 22 people, four of them critically, New York City officials said.

At least two people are unaccounted for on Friday afternoon, the mayor’s office and the NYPD said.

The explosion, which injured four firefighters, rocked the block where employees of a private contractor were adding a new plumbing and gas system to an existing one inside a sushi restaurant at 121 Second Ave. in the East Village, authorities said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Friday there could be a possiblity that a gas pipe had been accessed improperly.

Although city officials said it didn’t appear that anyone was missing, late Thursday Tyler Figueroa, 19, of Manhattan said his 23-year-old brother, Nicholas, had disappeared after going on a date at the sushi restaurant, which was leveled by the explosion, the Associated Press reported. Figueroa said the couple was paying for their meal when the blast occurred, and that his brother’s date, who is in the hospital, remembers only stumbling outside before losing consciousness.

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Emergency personnel move an injured New York City East Village building explosion: Photos Pommes Frites is seen engulfed in flames in RIP #PommesFrites

“I just pray my brother shows up,” he told the AP. “We just hope my brother comes back.” Police said early Friday they have no reports of a missing person.

Six of those injured were firefighters, de Blasio said on Friday.

Even hours after the blast on Thursday night, firefighters were hosing down the smoldering, smoking scene, where debris was still falling, as heavy rain poured down at times. They also used water pressure to take down leftover facades as displaced residents searched for shelter and Con Edison workers investigated.

“Preliminary evidence suggests a gas explosion,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said earlier at the scene in the East Village.

But he warned, “until we know what happened here, we cannot pass judgment.”

On Thursday night, Con Edison released a statement saying its personnel had been at the building to “evaluate work the building plumber was doing inside 121 2nd Ave. in connection with a gas service upgrade. The work failed our inspection for several reasons, including insufficient spacing for the installation of the meter in the basement.

“We had no reports of gas odors in the area prior to the fire and explosion,” the statement continued. “A survey conducted yesterday of the gas mains on the block found no leaks. We continue to work with all agencies on the investigation into the cause, and we are praying for the recovery of all the injured.”

The boom was heard about 3:15 p.m., after the 2 p.m. Con Edison inspection that gave failing marks to the new work, preventing any gas from flowing through the new lines, authorities said.

“It sounded like two tractor-trailers hitting head on,” said Jason Birchard, whose family owns Veselka, a restaurant a block north.

He and his employees raced out to a smoky scene, and saw debris everywhere, then flames 10 to 15 minutes later.

“My first visual was multiple people down in the street . . . on Second Avenue on the sidewalk,” he said. “They were cut by flying glass, it looked like, some people just lying on the ground from the impact of the explosions, bleeding.”

Ataur Rahman, 57, general manager of the Dallas BBQ at one end of the block, said his building shook from the explosion. He ran outside to see what had happened.

“The storefront was completely empty,” Rahman said. “The glass was all over the street.”

There was just debris where the Japanese restaurant had been, he said: “I saw the whole storefront was on the street.”

Two bloodied victims were lying in the street, he said, and neighbors began stopping traffic rolling down Second Avenue.

Tobarka Hassan, a waiter working at a nearby Indian restaurant, said he rushed out at the sound of a huge explosion and spotted a woman on the third floor of one building fleeing to safety using the fire escape of an adjacent building.

“Everything was falling down,” Hassan said. “Fire was coming from the basement to the top of the building. I felt the heat from here, at least half a block away.”

The first of 250 firefighters arrived three minutes after the first 911 call came at 3:17 p.m., said FDNY Commissioner Dan Nigro: “They certainly didn’t expect to see the explosion blow the front of 121 across the street.”

Flames consumed the upper floors of the five-story buildings at No. 121 and 123.


Then just before 4 p.m., as firefighters had feared, No. 123 crumbled. A huge gray plume of smoke and dust mushroomed up, but no firefighters were hurt. No. 121 also partially collapsed.

The inferno spread to adjacent buildings, No. 119 and 125 and later, the FDNY said, 119 also partially collapsed.

De Blasio told reporters that subduing the fire was a tough battle.

“This is a complex and difficult operation they’re mounting here,” he said. Firefighters are “obviously doing everything they can to search for anyone who still may be in those buildings, but also to ensure that there’s no spread of fire to the surrounding buildings.”

Of the four critically injured, two had burns to their airways and one was knocked unconscious, Nigro said.

City officials said they did not have any reports so far of people smelling gas just before the blast.

Con Edison crews shut off gas to the area, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said the state Department of Public Service was on the scene to monitor the utility’s performance.

He also said the state agency will conduct a “full investigation” to determine the cause of the explosion.


“We will continue to monitor this tragedy and do whatever is needed to support the ongoing response and recovery in the days ahead,” he said in a statement.

Joe Esposito, the city’s emergency management head, said authorities were concerned about air quality and warned people to keep windows closed and limit time outside.

He said a “debris task force” would try to clear debris out as soon as possible.

Red Cross officials set up a shelter at a nearby school, where Anna Ramotowska, 26, and her roommate, Lucie Bauermeister, showed up.

Ramotowska said after lunch she had returned to their third-floor apartment at 129 Second Ave. when they felt the blast.

“It felt like an earthquake,” Ramotowska said.

They grabbed their dog, their phones and wallets, and ran out, where they saw glass all around the street and people, young and old, trying to escape down a mangled fire escape.

The roommates said they will stay with friends.

“We want to know what is going on,” Ramotowska said, “and when we can go back.”

About 79 adults and one child had registered for services at a Red Cross disaster center at PS 63, said Josh Lockwood, regional CEO for the American Red Cross Greater New York region.

“People are stunned. Most people are in a state of shock. They’re processing the day’s events. They’re grieving over the loss of a home. They might have a pet that’s missing,” Lockwood said.

Iranian Ambition, the Great Chessgame

Barataria - The work of Erik Hare

Netanyahu’s tone was measured and direct, fitting the prestige of the chamber he was addressing. “That deal would not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons — it would all but guarantee that Iran gets those weapons, lots of them,” he told Congress last Tuesday. It was classic Netanyahu in many ways – bold, dire, and ultimately a load of cowpuckey.

Netanyahu can’t claim to know what is happening in the “P5+1” talks to stop Iran’s uranium enrichment program, and if he does know he can’t prove it publicly. These talks have been going on for nine years now and have always hinged on one sticking point – Iran cannot obtain nuclear weapons. Any other result would have made the talks much easier and they would have been over by now. But these are important talks for reasons even larger than weapons of mass destruction.

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