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Among the many things I have been a part of in my life one which has stuck with me was my participation in United Synagogue Youth (USY) which is the youth group for kids and teens in Judaism's Conservative Movement (no relation to political conservatives).

Every year USY holds its annual convention in a different city during Christmas week. Besides the kids being off from school it is probably the least expensive week of the school year to hold a convention in any city that is not NYC. Anywhere from 800 to 1200 high school students gather at the convention for all sorts of activities over five days including prayer, education, social action/charity work, and election of officers (plus lots of social fun time).

From time to time the youth leaders of the organization decide to take on an issue by holding a rally or march. In the past the group has made public statements about teen drunk driving, Soviet Jewry, homelessness, hunger, and Darfur. This year, after Newtown, the teen leaders decided to make a public statement about gun violence in the United States. For security reasons these events are generally not open to the public but they always get local media attention, which is a big reason to hold such an event in the first place.

Today at 11:30 EST USY will be holding a Rally Against Gun Violence. Pastor Corey Brooks of the New Beginnings Church of Chicago will address the group along with Colin Goddard of the Brady Campaign, who is a survivor of the VA Tech shootings. The event will be broadcast live at livestream.com/usyic2012.

I think it is wonderful to see my old youth group (a) teach the members a bit about activism and (b) stand up and say something about this issue.

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This Diaryby Laura Clawson can tell you what you need to know about the strike. This is only about something I saw on TV that impressed me this morning.

My household cut the cable a couple of years ago; however, we were re-introduced to commercial TV when we moved into a new building with flat screens in all the public spaces. In the morning the TV in the coffee room (second best perk ever) is usually on HLN's Morning Express.

Many years ago, when HLN was actually Headline News it was a semi-serious TV version of local news radio; my father would always have his hotel room TV on it as he got ready for the day on business trips, very much the USA Today of TV news. Then, as many of you know, the Nancy Grace types took over, a news station became HLN, and the whole thing turned into sort of a televised tabloid.

What I did not know until living in the new place was that they have a halfway decent morning show that follows a lot of the channel's original format albeit in a stereotypical morning show sort of way.

That is why I was so surprised to see, in between celebrity news and holiday tips, an excellent, if short, report on yesterday's striking fast food workers in NYC. I can not find video for this anywhere, so here is the rundown (not a transcript):

HOST: Fast food workers went on strike in NYC yesterday. (video of strike) She then explained one of their demands - that wages of $8.75 an hour go up to $15 an hour.

This was followed by well-shot clips of two strikers. Both were middle aged African American women who spoke calmly, clearly, and comfortably to the camera. Some of their points:
- The low wages
- It is not enough to live on
- Many workers on food stamps
- Worker's can't afford apartments

Segment ended with a quote from an unnamed McDonalds owner that they respect their workers and want open dialogue.

That was it - no editorializing, no attempt to give equal time to employer and employees.

So, hats off to four folks:

  • First, the organizers for getting a TV news producer to shoot this story in this way. Also, for clearly choosing the right women to talk on camera.
  • Second, the women who spoke on camera. They sounded like pros and got the message across.
  • Finally, the producer of the segment. This was produced and cut in a way that portrayed the workers and their needs in as honest a way as can be done in a (I think) 60 second segment.

    If you want to praise the segment (I don't remember the title) you can submit a comment here. The segment was towards the end of the 8:00 hour.

Discuss

If the airplanes used on 9/11 to attack us had fallen in, say, Bayonne, NJ and Falls Church, VA, the US response may have been calmer than our full scale invasion of two countries.

That is because, even though people killed in a city or in the countryside are equally dead, the destruction of financial and/or political centers is symbolic and generates stronger emotions.

Yesterday Tel Aviv was under attack for the first time since the first Gulf War.

Just a little while ago air raid sirens went off in Jerusalem.

Think of the anger in the US when the WTC fell and the Pentagon was attacked. Imagine that level of anger among Israelis and their leaders with their economic, political, and religious centers under attack.

If you pray, please pray for peace. This is beginning to look like it could be much worse than anything we have seen in Israel, Egypt, Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon and Syria in quite a while.

Discuss

Many Jews are convinced that there is an anti-Israel bias in the way the media covers events that happen involving Israel, Palestinians, and other Arabs. While I disagree with this sentiment when applied to American journalism (most cover the Mid East just as lazily as they cover elections) what I really cannot stand is many of the arguments advanced in the Jewish community that are meant to be used (I think) to convince media and others to see Israel's actions in a better light.

I will preface this by writing what I have been writing over and over in many places over the past 24 hours - in the short term, Israel is doing the right thing for its citizens by firing back at Gaza. In the long term we have to figure out a better process than the current stagnation that leads to escalation of this level every couple of years; I would even go so far as predicting that the cycle will get shorter each time between escalations.

The only important argument this very moment is that Israel, as a sovereign nation, has an obligation (not right, the word "right" is too weak) to protect the lives of its citizens and to guarantee a certain minimum quality of life for them as well.

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