Earlier this month, the RAC co-sponsored a screening of the documentary “The Invisible War” about sexual assault in the military. This wasn’t the first time I had heard of, or even seen parts of, this film. It wasn’t the first time I was appalled by the injustices, angry at the violations or moved by the testimonies. But it was the first time I left feeling that, finally, others were paying attention.
Martin Luther King’s letter from a Birmingham Jail is one of the most powerful and stirring documents of the Civil Rights movement in America—in some ways more compelling than the now legendary “I Have a Dream” oration, which electrified the historic March on Washington 50 years ago.
Unlike the Dream speech, which was aimed at the conscience of all Americans, the jail speech was deeply personal and directed specifically at the leading clergymen in Birmingham who had called on King to abandon his public Birmingham campaign and content himself with the small, non-controversial steps that the clergymen were promoting behind the scenes.
If there’s one new sleight-of-hand term we’ve learned in the past few months, it’s “flexibility.” Last week, flexibility gained a new meaning, as the House of Representatives passed the so-called Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013. Flexibility in this bill, though, actually means less flexibility, less choice, less time and less money for working families.
This bill proposes to grant workers more flexibility by allowing them to convert overtime hours into future vacation time, instead of earning extra pay. Speaker John Boehner says that this would grant working parents the flexibility to choose more time off when they need it: “This week, we’ll pass [Representative] Martha Roby’s bill to help working moms and dads better balance their lives between work and their responsibilities as parents.” In reality, though, this bill is nothing but bad news for parents.
On June 14, Iranians will go to the polls to elect their next president. While the world watches to see what course the next Iranian government will take, we at the RAC thought that it might be helpful to break down the Iranian election in advance of the vote.
While the president of a country is generally regarded as the most important figurehead of the country he or she governs, Iran does not fit this generalization. In Iran, power rests with the Supreme Leader, currently Ayatollah Khamenei. In addition to controlling the country’s media and appointing the head of the judiciary and leaders of Iran’s armed forces, the Ayatollah is responsible for appointing half of the 12-member Guardian Council. The Guardian Council exercises a veto right over any legislation and, importantly, is responsible for vetting and approving all presidential candidates.
Although the Guardian Council has not yet announced its list of approved candidates (which will be shortened from the nearly 700 that declared their candidacy), the main presidential contenders are relatively clear. According to a Guardian Council ruling, we should not expect to see any women among the contenders, as they are outlawed from running for office by the Iranian constitution.
The list of likely candidates can be broken into three camps. Camp 1 (indeed the only camp with multiple contenders) is comprised of the Supreme Leader’s picks. These include the Iranian Speaker of Parliament, the Mayor of Tehran, a senior advisor to the Ayatollah on international affairs, and the chief nuclear negotiator of Iran. Camp 2 is held down by one man, Esfrandir Rahim Mashaie. Mashaie is President Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff. President Ahmadinejad is currently under fire for illegally accompanying Mashaie to register his candidacy. Under Iranian law, Ahmadinejad could face up to 74 lashes of 6 months in prison. Whether or not he will be held accountable for such an infraction remains to be seen. Camp 3, another singular outpost, is represented by Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. A late entry into the race, Rafsanjani, who serves as President from 1989 to 1997, and lost his bid for a third (disconnected) term to Ahmadinejad in 2005.
While the Iranian election is very much focused on domestic issues, the international community is eager to see if Iran’s next president will be a more formidable diplomatic partner than President Ahmadinejad has been, potentially improving nuclear negotiations with the West and their relationship with Israel. Stay tuned to RACblog as we closely follow the election.
Image courtesy of Salem-News.
Talk radio is very popular in Israel. Animated debates on every topic under the sun fill the airwaves every day. One station, Kol BaRama, a station with a large Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) listenership, has the practice of not allowing women to speak on air. They say this is to respect the feelings of all who tune in to hear them. We, at IRAC, have been saying for two years that it is simply illegal and immoral to silence a woman’s voice on publically funded airwaves. After months of debate, it seems Israel’s politicians are starting to agree with us, and not just about this one case, but also about gender segregation in general.
In this week’s Torah portion, we are exposed to one of the Torah’s more troubling stories. Miriam, who has been a character around which the Israelites have gathered and rallied through the exodus from Egypt, speaks poorly of her brother Moses. As a result, Miriam is cursed with leprosy. While there are many problematic elements in this story, one of the key takeaways is that words – both in the Bible and today – have a lot of meaning.
Back in September, we blogged about the scary prospects of 3D printed weapons. Fast forward eight months: the first fully printed weapon works, and its designs have been posted and can be downloaded for free over the Internet. Although the State Department moved quickly to shut down the host-site, the ready-to-print and fully functional design had been downloaded over 100,000 times. Read more…
This post is part of a weekly feature on RACblog. Check in at the end of the week for a roundup of stories in which the RAC has been featured!
Welcome to this week’s edition of “Featuring the RAC,” written from the offices of the Jerusalem Post’s 26th most powerful Jew in the world! In all seriousness, we were immensely proud to see Rabbi Saperstein on JPost’s list, and equally proud of our friend Anat Hoffman who scored the #5 spot.
This week, Rabbi Saperstein also joined the Interfaith Alliance, National Council of Jewish Women, and other religious organizations calling for the inclusion of a ban on religious profiling in the immigration reform bill. Here at the RAC we’ve been hard at work advocating for comprehensive immigration reform more broadly, as well.
Rabbi Saperstein also voiced concern this week over the status of the Jewish population in Hungary by signing a letter with several other leaders of American Jewish organizations. The letter, addressed to Secretary of State John Kerry and Ambassador Michael Kozak, read in part: “Given the growth of hatred against Jews and other minorities (particularly the Roma) in Hungary, we urge you to keep the issue of intolerance and discrimination squarely on the US-Hungarian bilateral agenda…We also encourage you to raise the matter personally in your direct dealings with Hungarian officials.”