Tag Archives: Dale Yeager blog

Chris Pratt Bashed for his Faith and Politics

Chris Pratt

Chris Pratt, the stud in such movies as “Guardians of the Galaxy’’ and “Jurassic World,” who’s shined his Hollywood star on a slew of film and TV roles, has apparently broken from the pack of bland, pretty-boy ­actors — by farming the land, openly worshipping God and observing a brand of personal and political conservatism capable of making progressive heads explode.

How dare he! Perhaps more ­remarkable considering all of the above, in 2015, Pratt was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world on the annual Time 100 list.

And yet that didn’t stop Kaitlin Thomas from going after him in a snarky piece published by TV Guide last week as part of the magazine’s “12 Days of Chris-Mas’’ feature — a celebration of 12 dudes named Chris, including Chris Pine and Chris Tucker, even Ludacris. Pratt comes in fifth place, but only after a sound drubbing.

The piece — headlined, “How to Love Chris Pratt Without Hating Yourself: He’s Definitely the Most Divisive of the Chrises” — is so petty and mean-spirited, it could only have been intended to turn fans against its subject. This, even as the author asserts that “many people” — maybe in Tinseltown — share the author’s distaste for Pratt’s way of life.

“When you take a deeper look at Pratt the man and not necessarily Pratt the actor, some of the shine wears off,” Thomas wrote. And then she goes at Pratt for, apparently, trying to give away his family’s aging cat via Twitter in 2011. The cat found a good home, and crisis was averted. But that was only Thomas’ first gripe.

Next, she attacks Pratt because he and his then-wife, Anna Faris, tried to get rid of the family’s pet Chihuahua five years later (the couple’s son was allergic), resulting in the pooch for a while wandering the streets of Los Angeles.

Horrors! The beastie was ­returned to a loving home. But of all the animal-cruelty complaints against Pratt, the most wickedly ­unfair is Thomas’ diatribe about his love of hunting — a responsible and clean method of feeding his family. (And I would never kill an animal.)

Writing about the lambs he raises on his farm on an island off the coast of Washington state, Thomas condemns Pratt for a video he posted to Instagram this year, in which he said: “They are the happiest lambs on the planet, they are so sweet and then one day they wake up dead and they’re in my freezer.” The writer doesn’t ­divulge if she eats meat.

Pratt then comes under fire for joking about the “outrage culture’’ that has engulfed society, which the TV Guide piece, I would venture, illustrates perfectly. He also takes licks for telling Men’s Health in 2017 that stories about his kind of blue-collar upbringing are ­under-represented in Hollywood. Well?

“The idea that Pratt doesn’t see himself — though he may come from a working-class family and spends most of his time on a farm, he’s also a successful, straight white man at the heart of two ­major film franchises — as being represented in television or film is ridiculous,” Thomas writes. “But the truth is, the reason Pratt’s comment enraged so many people is because it ignored the fact there are a number of communities ­actually struggling for better representation.’’

Perhaps to fend off people coming for him with pitchforks, Pratt actually apologized for making this “stupid’’ comment about the lack of characters like him in Hollywood fare.
He shouldn’t have bothered.

Thomas makes clear that her main grievance against Pratt is with something over which he has no control — he’s a “straight white man.” As much as she might ­resent Pratt’s skin color, his sexual orientation and his success, she can’t just wish him away.

Then there was the egregious Instagram post in which Pratt told people to “turn up the volume” and not just “read the subtitles” — which apparently could offend the hearing impaired. Whatever.

One thing not expressly referred to in TV Guide is Pratt’s deep Christian faith, a rarity in amoral Hollywood. And something I ­applaud. You are free to hate Chris Pratt’s hunting, his conservatism, even his acting. But don’t hate him. He is to be praised, not scorned, for the way he lives. This is one good and humble man.

By Andrea Peyser

In Search of Leonard, my Martyred Ancestor

Murder of Christians

Eastern Turkey had a large and thriving community of Christians a little over 100 years ago, but since then most have been dispersed or killed. The BBC’s Eli Melki went to look for traces of a relative, who was martyred at the age of 33.

One evening in June, I sat in the sunset among the Roman ruins of Zirzawan hill, in south-east Turkey. This is where it’s said the remains of one of my ancestors are buried in a mass grave. Leonard Melki was about 33 years old at the beginning of World War One, and his fate was determined by his Christian faith.

At that time, between a fifth and a quarter of the inhabitants of eastern Turkey – then part of the Ottoman Empire – belonged to an array of Eastern denominations of the Christian Church, including the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Syriac Church, the Church of the East (Nestorians) and the Chaldean Church.

Leonard Melki
Leonard Melki’s beatification began in 2005

All except the Armenians worshipped in Syriac – a dialect of Aramaic, the language of Christ.

They lived among the empire’s Muslim majority and, while many prospered, at some times and in some places they were subject to outright persecution; in World War One, it went far, far beyond that.

Leonard, my great-grandfather’s cousin, was born a member of one of the Eastern churches – the Maronites – but later became a Capuchin friar, and in his mid-20s he was sent to run the order’s school in the city of Mardin, close to what is now the border between Turkey and Syria.

At this point Christians represented between 35% and 40% of Mardin’s inhabitants. The Capuchin monastery, where Leonard taught boys the rudiments of the Christian faith, stood alongside a Franciscan monastery in a prominent position in the city centre.

To find out more about Leonard, I spoke to his great-nephew, Fares Melki, who has set up a website dedicated to Leonard and other missionaries from Baabdat, the small town near Beirut where we were both born. As we sat under our family oak tree, he told me that Leonard was born Yusuf (Joseph in Arabic) in about 1881, one of 11 children. As a boy he would have tilled the land around where we were sitting.

Baabdat oak tree

Fares showed me some yellowed letters and photographs Leonard sent to relatives and to his superiors. They reveal a young man dedicated to his faith, attached to his sister Tamar, and eager – despite problems with his health – to embark on a mission 1,000km from his picturesque and prosperous home in Mount Lebanon.

In one letter, written in 1912, he wrote about young Muslim men from Mardin being sent to fight in the Balkan Wars.

“Poor souls, I pity them. They are marching like sheep to the slaughter, poorly trained and equipped, but displaying an admirable courage despite of it all. Lacking everything – even bread – they end up by devastating everything and terrorising people wherever they set foot. May God put an end to all this misery, and grant peace and tranquillity to the land.”

But not long afterwards, World War One did the opposite, and the nationalist Young Turks then in control of the Ottoman Empire began to fear a possible alliance between the local Christian populations and Russia, which had quickly gone on the offensive.

 

The decision was taken to deport the Armenian population into the interior provinces – though in practice men were often simply executed, and women and children forced into convoys that morphed into death marches.

While these actions were directed against the Armenians, they had the effect of signalling that all Christians in the region had lost the protection of the state. The result was a wave of pogroms, carried out both by the local Ottoman authorities and some Kurdish tribesmen.

Some Syriac Christian churches are estimated to have lost up to half their congregation in the violence. They call this Seyfo, the Year of the Sword, and Leonard was one of the victims.

Today, almost nothing remains of Mardin’s ancient Christian heritage. There is no trace of the Capuchin monastery in Mardin, though by chance I met a local historian – possibly the last Armenian living in the city – who was able to point out the precise location of the neighbouring Franciscan monastery. Using old photographs and the memoirs of her grandmother – once a pupil at the girls’ school run by Franciscan nuns – she has been able to pinpoint exactly where each arch of the building stood. Today the site is a busy and noisy car park among the narrow shopping streets of this Turkish city. It’s hard to imagine now the sounds of the schoolyards and the monastery bells.

The car park in Mardin

But below ground level, in a former public bath building, my Armenian guide showed me an archway, a remnant of one of the two defunct monasteries. And suddenly in my mind’s eye I could see Leonard and his pupils passing by – or being dragged along after his arrest.

Leonard was seized in June 1915, when the authorities rounded up a number of clergymen and other notables of the city on trumped up charges of collaboration with the enemy, usually the French. Christians had widely come to be seen as a fifth column of the Western powers, and the missionaries treated as enemy agents.

We walked along the winding old main street referred to by a Dominican monk, Jacques Rhétoré, in his account of the arrests.

Capuchin friars in Mardin and the Franciscan monastery
Capuchin friars in Mardin and the Franciscan monastery

“Father Leonard, a Capuchin, was in front of the convoy of detainees, between two students of Saint Francis’s school. As he passed by his convent, he looked upward, in a last salute to the holy house where he lived in the bliss of doing good deeds. There, the soldier flanking him dealt him a blow on the head with a club, yelling at him: ‘Walk straight you dirty Fraranji (Frenchman)!'”

The convoy, one of many, was led towards the city of Diyarbakir, where the detainees were to be tried for treason. However, in the middle of the journey, the column of detainees, now in a sorry state, was led to the hill of Zirzawan.

The motorway at the bottom of Zirzawan hill
Looking down from Zirzawan: The old road along which the detainees were driven is to the left of the new motorway

Their final hour was recounted by another Dominican, Hyacinthe Simon.

“They were killed by groups of four, with knives, daggers and scimitars, or clubbed to death, then their bodies were thrown in the wells. The old fortress still holds their bones and the secret of their last moments,” he wrote.

Sitting on Zirzawan hill, I wondered what must have gone through Leonard’s mind as his life was about to end. Did he remember our peaceful hometown, the family land with its majestic oak tree, his fellow friars, his beloved sister?

For me, Leonard personifies the tragedy of hundreds of thousands of mostly innocent and unarmed people, who were were killed during the fateful spring and summer of 1915 in the eastern part of the Ottoman Empire. It helps me to fathom the enormity of this disaster.

In the distance, I could still see the sprawling new city of Mardin. The old road taken by the death march has now been replaced by a motorway, emblematic of a resurgent Turkey, a country where the two-millennia-old Christian presence has been reduced to the ruins of places of worship. And to about 2,500 Syriac speaking people, who still cling, against all odds, to a handful of towns and villages in the nearby region of Tur Abdin, the “Mountain of the Worshippers”.

What was once one of the most ancient and dense Christian presences in the world now stands on the brink of extinction.

Amnesty International criticised for not including antisemitism in landmark abuse report

 

Amnesty International antisemitism

The study analysed millions of tweets but human rights campaigners claimed they lacked the data to explore Jew-hate

Amnesty International has been criticised for not including antisemitic abuse of Jewish women in the largest ever study of abuse of female politicians and journalists on Twitter.

The study analysed millions of tweets received by 778 journalists and politicians from the UK and US who were selected by researchers concluded that black women were “disproportionately targeted” by “abusive or problematic tweets.”

But the human rights campaigners insisted they “didn’t have enough data” to explore antisemitic, misogynistic abuse of MPs like Luciana Berger, Ruth Smeeth, despite the fact the issue is so pressing it prompted a parliamentary conference on addressing it three weeks ago.

Claudia Mendoza, the Jewish Leadership Council’s director of policy and public affairs, condemned the abuse against MPs like Diane Abbott but said: “Amnesty International may wish to look further into the antisemitic abuse aimed at prominent Jewish women including MPs so prevalent on Twitter.

“This is even more important considering that such abuse has occurred from within their own organisation.”

This refers to how, in 2012, Amnesty campaigns manager Kristyan Benedict tweeted an antisemitic joke about three Jewish MPs.

Mark Gardner, the Community Security Trust’s director of communications, referred to a previous Amnesty report into Twitter abuse against women – published in September 2017.

He told the JC: “This is the second time in just over a year that Amnesty has released reports on misogyny, racism and social media that utterly ignores antisemitism, despite the widely documented Jew-hatred that so many female Labour MPs have suffered in recent years.

“It typifies the way in which antisemitism is ignored by Amnesty and many other groups, from whom we still instinctively – but very wrongly – expect solidarity.”

Publishing the results of their Troll Patrol project on Tuesday, Amnesty produced a diagram illustrating the ethnic background of those receiving abuse did differentiate between women of Black, Latinx, Asian, Mixed race and White background.

Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said their survey backs up “what women have long been saying – that Twitter is endemic with racism, misogyny and homophobia.”

Danny Stone, chief executive of the Antisemitism Policy Trust (APT), criticised the failure to include analysis of antisemitic abuse.

Three weeks ago, research commissioned by the Community Security Trust and the APT showed Jewish women in parliament face a disproportionate amount of antisemitic abuse online.

Mr Stone told the JC on Tuesday: “This (Amnesty) report makes for shocking reading, it is appalling the extent of the abuse women experience online.

“Last month, we helped organise the Sara Conference, to shine a light on the growing and frightening overlap of misogyny and antisemitism, particularly online. That conference marked the beginning of a conversation which, judging by the omission of Jewish women from this report, is evidently very much required.”

One MP, who asked not to be named, said it was “beyond comprehension” why Amnesty had not identified abuse directly aimed at Jewish women in their study.

“Study after study in recent years has highlighted the issue of antisemitic abuse directed at Jewish women,” the MP added. “It is beyond comprehension why Amnesty were unable to look at this problem themselves.”

Amnesty said its findings were the result of a collaboration between Amnesty International and Element AI, an artificial intelligence software product company.

They surveyed millions of tweets received by 778 journalists and politicians from the UK and US throughout 2017  across the political spectrum.

Using cutting-edge data science and machine learning techniques, they said they were able to provide a quantitative analysis of unprecedented scale of online abuse against women in the UK and USA.

An Amnesty spokesperson told the JC: “Despite our best efforts, we didn’t have enough data about the Jewish background of the women in our sample – this was publicly available for women MPs in the UK but not for the journalists in our study.

“It was a level of analysis we were keen to make, together with disaggregation of abuse by women’s sexual orientation but that meta-data is much harder to research.

“That is why we are reinforcing our calls to Twitter to release meaningful data on how it responds to reports of abuse, in particular abusive tweets that direct hate against a protected category.”

Amnesty’s study found black women were 84 per cent more likely than white women to be subjected to abusive tweets. One in 10 posts mentioning black women contained “abusive or problematic” language.

Ms Abbott, the shadow home secretary, urged Twitter to take action over “highly offensive racist and misogynist” abuse on the platform.

Milena Marin, senior advisor for tactical research at Amnesty said: “Although abuse is targeted at women across the political spectrum, women of colour were much more likely to be impacted, and black women are disproportionately targeted.

“Twitter’s failure to crack down on this problem means it is contributing to the silencing of already marginalized voices.”

by Lee Harpin

BREAKING: Female Animal Rights Anarchist And Male Radical Islamist Communicated With Killer Dylann Roof While Planning Upscale Mass Murder

Elizabeth Lecron and Dylann Roof

An Ohio woman, one of two people accused on Monday of planning mass murders, was in contact with the racist gunman who shot up a South Carolina church and killed nine people in 2015, authorities said.

Elizabeth Lecron, 23, of Toledo, was one of two people arrested in domestic terrorism-related cases, the FBI announced. Lecron was arrested with 21-year-old Damon Joseph, of Holland.

Officials said Lecron posted many photos and comments on social media that glorified mass shooters, including Dylann Roof, who opened fire during a prayer service at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., leaving nine people dead.

Lecron had exchanged letters with Roof while he was in federal prison in Indiana, the FBI said. She was one of four people who Roof communicated with while he was locked up, according to Cleveland.com. She also idolized the Columbine High School shooters, authorities said.

The FBI said investigators found an AK-47, shotgun, handguns, ammunition and hand-caps, which are used to make pipe bombs, in her apartment. Authorities said she planned to attack a bar in Toledo and meet up with other anarchists and free animals from a farm. Her attack was described as “an upscale mass murder,” according to Cleveland.com.

Joseph was arrested in a plot to attack a Toledo synagogue, authorities said. He was charged with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.

Authorities said Joseph converted to Islam and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State earlier this year. He expressed his distaste with “gays, Christians, Catholics and Jews” and thought the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack got what they deserved, the FBI said.

Lecron faces 10 years in prison if convicted. Joseph faces 20 years in prison if he’s convicted.

St. Louis three women sexually assaulted in Catholic shop. One woman dead.

Thomas Bruce

A woman was shot and killed at St. Louis religious supplies store earlier this week because she refused her attacker’s demands to “perform deviant sexual acts on him,” authorities said Wednesday.

The alleged attacker – identified as 53-year-old Thomas Bruce – on Monday forced three women who were in the store into a back room at gunpoint and forced them to strip, detectives said in a probable cause statement. He allegedly forced two of the woman to perform sex acts on him, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Jamie Schmidt

Jamie Schmidt

Bruce allegedly tried to coerce the third woman, Jamie Schmidt, a 53-year-old married mother of three, but she refused. He then shot her in the head, the probable cause statement said. Schmidt later died at a hospital.

Bruce then fled the store, prompting a two-day manhunt that frightened the region and led some schools, churches, and businesses to close.

Bruce was arrested in his mobile home trailer park Wednesday and booked into the St. Louis County jail, The Post-Dispatch reported. He faces first-degree murder, armed criminal action, and sodomy, among other charges, prosecutors said. He is being held without bail.

Chief Jon Belmar, a 32-year veteran of the St. Louis County Police called that attack one of the worst he’d seen in his career – one that “shocked the senses.”

Authorities are working to determine why Bruce targeted the store. Investigators said he has no criminal history.

St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch said a tip helped authorities track down Bruce.

POLICE GET 100 TIPS FROM PHOTOS OF MAN NEAR INDIANA DEATHS

Authorities noted similarities in the description of the Catholic Supply shooting suspect and a man wanted for the murder of two girls – aged 13 and 14 — in Delphi, Indiana last year, The Post-Dispatch reported. That case is still under investigation.

Indiana State Police have distributed a photograph and sketch of the suspect connected to the murder of two teenage girls in Delphi, Indiana last year. 

Indiana State Police have distributed a photograph and sketch of the suspect connected to the murder of two teenage girls in Delphi, Indiana last year.  (Indiana State Police)

First Sgt. Jerry Holeman said the Indiana State Police is aware of the St. Louis case and has been in contact with St. Louis County authorities.

“But it is way too early to tell if this is the same” person, Holeman said.

Indiana authorities have released a photograph and sketch of the Delphi suspect.

By Bradford Betz 

Law Banning Female Genital Mutilation Ruled Unconstitutional; Michigan Doctors Cleared Of Charges

female genital mutilation

A federal judge on Tuesday ruled that the U.S. law banning female genital mutilation was unconstitutional and dismissed charges against several doctors in Michigan who carried out the procedure on underage girls as part Muslim sect’s religious practice.

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman ruled that Congress had no authority to enact a law that criminalizes female genital mutilation (FGM). “As despicable as [FGM] may be… [Congress] overstepped its bounds” by banning the procedure, the judge said.

The ruling came after defense lawyers challenged the 22-year-old genital mutilation law that hasn’t been used until 2017 when Dr. Jumana Nagarwala was arrested and accused of mutilating the genitalia of young girls.

She allegedly headed a conspiracy, which lasted over 12 years and involved seven other people, and led to the mutilation of about 100 girls, according to prosecutors, as part of a religious procedure practiced by members of the Dawoodi Bohra, a Muslim sect.

While the charges of performing FGM were dropped, Nagarwala and other conspirators are still facing conspiracy and obstruction charges, according to the Detroit Free Press.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said officials are reviewing the judge’s decision and will consider appealing it.

Women’s rights groups condemned the ruling, saying it’s a setback to the rights of women in the U.S.

“It’s a giant step backward in the protection of women’s and girls’ rights,” Shelby Quast, the Americas director of Equality Now, told the newspaper. “Especially when there is a global movement to eliminate this practice.”

“It’s a giant step backward in the protection of women’s and girls’ rights … Especially when there is a global movement to eliminate this practice.”

— Shelby Quast, the Americas director of Equality Now,

She said that 23 states don’t criminal FGM, noting that “parents are aware of where there are laws against it and where there are not. And they will take advantage of that.”

Michigan state Sen. Rick Jones also slammed the ruling.

“I’m angry that the federal judge dismissed this horrific case that affected upwards of a hundred girls who were brutally victimized and attacked against their will,” he said in a statement. “This is why it was so important for Michigan to act. We set a precedent that female genital mutilation will not be tolerated here … I hope other states will follow suit.”

The case in Michigan prompted state officials to pass a state law officially banning FGM. The law carries a penalty of 15 years in prison for assisting or performing the procedure, but applies only to future instances. Nagarwala and other members of the sect were charged under an old federal law passed by Congress.

The federal law was passed in 1996 under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. The federal judge ruled the banning of the procedure under the clause was unconstitutional.

“There is nothing commercial or economic about FGM,” Friedman wrote in the opinion. “[FGM] is not part of a larger market and it has no demonstrated effect on interstate commerce. The Commerce Clause does not permit Congress to regulate a crime of this nature.”

Shannon Smith, Nagarwala’s lawyer, told the Free Press that they are “unbelievably happy” after the judge’s ruling, saying “The impact is huge. It eliminates four defendants from the indictment, and it severely punctures major holes in the government’s case.”

By Lukas Mikelionis 

More than 30 people failed to report Nikolas Cruz’s ‘troubling behavior’ until after Parkland: report

More than 30 people who experienced or knew of Nikolas Cruz’s worrying behavior didn’t report it until 17 people were killed in a school shooting in Parkland, Florida, earlier this year.

Cruz’s behavior was “troubling … and in many cases it probably should have caused them to report what they heard, saw or learned,” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Tuesday, according to The Sun-Sentinel. “But for a variety of reasons they did not.”

Gualtieri, who also chairs the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission — which was created after the massacre at the school — disclosed the news Tuesday as the commission opened four days of hearings.

Cruz, the suspected shooter, reportedly engaged in questionable behavior long before the mass shooting in February — including killing animals. According to a sheriff’s office detective, Cruz once showed another student a photo of a decapitated cat.

The 19-year-old also allegedly “said he was glad they killed all those gay people” in reference to the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, which left 49 people dead.

Cruz also reportedly “made bad jokes about Jewish people, Nazis and Hitler and wished all Jews were dead” and said “he did not like black people and would like to shoot them.”

Days after the massacre, the FBI admitted to receiving a call about Cruz in early January. The person called their Public Access Line (PAL) tipline to express concerns about his erratic behavior and social media posts.

The FBI said in a statement at the time that “under established protocols, the information provided by the caller should have been assessed as a potential threat to life” and that protocols were not followed after they received the tip.

The parents of Jaime Guttenberg, a student who was killed in the massacre, filed a lawsuit against the FBI on Tuesday because the tip wasn’t acted upon.

“Everybody failed, and this is going to be the shooting where we hold people accountable,” Guttenberg’s father, Fred, said at the hearing on Tuesday, The Miami Herald reported. “If only one person had stepped up and done their job, my daughter would be alive today.”

The Broward County sheriff said after the shooting said at least “20 calls for service” were made regarding Cruz in the last few years alone.

Gualtieri reiterated on Tuesday that if you “see something, say something.”

“It means something, and it has to be more than a phrase,” Gualtieri said. “We need it to resonate with the public because law enforcement simply cannot be everywhere at the same time, and we have to have the public’s help to effectively do our job.”

The sheriff’s detective said that while two students did report Cruz to school administrators in December 2016, they were ignored.