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Chicago - The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and 25 state and local agencies on Tuesday unveiled a crackdown on robocalls as a congressional panel approved a bill that would take new steps to reduce the unwanted calls. The FTC said it was making public 94 actions in “Operation Call it Quits,” targeting individuals, groups and companies responsible for more than a billion calls pitching a variety of products and services, including credit card interest rate reductions, money-making opportunities and medical alert systems. State and local agencies are also participating in the...
Israeli drugmaker Teva will pay Oklahoma $85 million in a settlement reached in May and approved by a state court on Monday in an opioid abuse suit. Teva has been accused of worsening the opioid crisis there. The court “initially refused to sign off on the deal, demanding more answers regarding the settlement’s compliance with newly passed legislature,” reported Calcalist. Like other opioid producers, Teva is facing similar lawsuits in the United States, “most of which will be debated in the Cleveland federal court in October,” per Calcalist. In 2016, “54 percent of all overdose deaths in Oklahoma involved an opioid,” according to INTEGRIS Health, the state’s biggest hospital network.
Reacting to what he called a "disturbing level of violence" over the past several days that left 12 shot and four dead, Baltimore police Commissioner Michael Harrison pleaded for the public's help. In at least three of the cases, Harrison said at a news conference, the victim was at least acquainted in some way with the person police believe shot them. And in many cases, police responded to the scene seconds or minutes after the sound of gunfire. Harrison said he believes shooters are being protected by a "culture of violence" where even the people affected by gun violence fear reprisal if they speak out. "Now officer are very often in the right places and right time, but violent crimes are being committed anyway, which speaks to a certain culture of violence where criminals do not...
The same day as a billion-dollar cocaine bust at the Philadelphia seaport, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at the Port of Baltimore made the port's largest ever cocaine seizure. Authorities and local partners seized 333 pounds of cocaine found June 18 in a shipping container of beach chairs from China that had passed through Panama. The beach chairs were destined to a Maryland address. The 125 bricks had a street value of $10 million. The previous record for a cocaine seizure in Baltimore came in April 2007, when authorities seized 311 pounds of the drug, officials said. “This seizure illustrates the complexities of Customs and Border Protection’s multi-faceted missions, from ensuring that imported goods comply with U.S. trade regulations to interdic...
In concluding remarks on the security summit with Israel, Russia, and the US in Jerusalem, US National Security Adviser John Bolton called the Palestinian boycott of economic conference in Bahrain a ‘mistake’. “It’s a mistake for the Palestinians to boycott,” Bolton said in response to i24NEWS correspondent Jordana Miller’s question concerning the Peace to Prosperity workshop that is meant to be the first part of the Trump administration’s peace proposal for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While the two-day event is being boycotted by the Palestinians, representatives from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt will participate. Read more at i24NEWS.
One of the highlights of the Torah Umesorah 75th anniversary dinner was an original song and video production depicting the heartfelt belief and mission of Torah Umesorah as instilled in us by our Roshei Yeshiva : To ensure that all of our children can aspire to the level of our Gedolim. Despite carrying the weight of klal Yisrael’s challenges on their shoulders, our Gedolim never hesitate to make the chinuch of even the youngest of our tiknokos shel beis raban a top priority. Torah Umesorah is grateful for their daily hadracha, helping our students to not only succeed, but to reach for the stars - by being lifted up and riding On The Shoulders of Giants. Credits: Composed and Sung By: Baruch Levine Lyrics By: Malka Leah Josephs Video Produced by: Kol Rom Music Arranged and ...
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A new survey showed a rise in the number of Americans who said small businesses should have the right to refuse service to Jews if doing so would violate the owners’ religious beliefs. Conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, which has partnered with the Brookings Institution and Georgetown University, the survey revealed that 19 percent of Americans felt discrimination against Jews on religious grounds was acceptable. This marked a seven-percent rise since 2014, when only 12 percent agreed. According to the data, 24 percent of Republicans, 17 percent of Democrats, and 16 percent of independents said such discrimination should be permitted. In 2014, only 16 percent of Republicans and nine percent of Democrats did so. There is a gender gap on the subject, with 22 perc...
Washington - The acting commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency, John Sanders, is resigning and will leave his post on July 5, the agency said on Tuesday, a move that coincides with an outcry over the treatment of detained migrant children. The relocation of 250 migrant children from an overcrowded Texas border patrol station, where they were held for weeks in squalid conditions without adequate food and water, has stepped up criticism from immigration activists and Democrats of Republican President Donald Trump’s hardline immigration policies. The New York Times first reported that Sanders was resigning. Sanders has led the agency since April, when Trump reshuffled the management of U.S. immigration agencies under the Department of Homeland Security. B...
Manama, Bahrain - President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, appealed Tuesday for the Palestinians to consider a $50 billion economic support plan they have already rejected because it does not include a political resolution to the long-running conflict with the Israelis. Kushner, speaking at a conference in Bahrain, defended the proposal as the foundation of any eventual peace plan. Meanwhile, Palestinians protested the plan in the streets of the West Bank, Gaza and elsewhere. “We don’t need money. We are not hungry for bread,” said Gaza physician Said Jadba, one of the protesters jamming the streets of West Bank cities as the plan was unveiled. “We are hungry for dignity.” The president’s son-in-law sought to defend...
Baqaa Camp, Jordan - A U.S. Middle East peace plan is stirring anger and apprehension in Palestinian refugee camps around the region by raising the prospect that a long-cherished dream of returning to former homes in what is now Israel will be forever crushed. In camps around the region, Palestinians staged strikes, burned Israeli and U.S. flags and played nationalist songs from loudspeakers to protest against a plan they say could result in their permanent expulsion from ancestral homes. The Trump administration launches a $50 billion economic initiative at an international meeting starting in Bahrain on Tuesday as the first part of its broader political blueprint to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While the plan’s political details remain secret, for many Palestinians ...
Parsha Hashavua
Parshat Shelach -The Panic Button

Moshe launches a reconnaissance mission and expects honest reporting. We can't possibly conquer this hotly contested country without accurate intel and without truthful information. Yet the story of "the spies" represents the lowest point in Moshe's career and of the desert saga. What was so notorious about this incident? Why did it torpedo the march toward the promised land, reroute the Jews for an additional 38 desert-years, and reshape the arc of Jewish history?



Our Chazal identified the essential failure of the spies and the mob they foment. G-d asserts that this day– the 9th of Av – the day the Jews whined needlessly (bechiyah shel chinam)- would be converted into a perennial day of tragedy. Evidently, it was the pointlessness of their whimpering which was so troubling and implicating.



Moshe had dispatched agents to gather hard facts and their discoveries did indeed warrant reassessment, precaution and the adopting of new military tactics. It also required a boosting of faith in recognition that this war would be waged supernaturally and not purely through military might and political clout. Adjustments, prayers, and safeguards would all have been appropriate in light of the new facts which surfaced.



However, these findings do not justify the wide-scale panic and fright which spooks an entire nation. Life commonly presents adversity and seemingly insurmountable challenges and the acquisition of the land Israel is no different. However, these trials demand calm reactions but not panic and dread. Repeatedly, the responses -both of the actual spies as well as the riled-up populace – are driven by fear and anxiety rather than resolute confrontation of future challenges.



At least three examples of panic-driven comments are recorded:


1. Irrational Fears: "A Land which Devours its Inhabitants"



It is one thing to fear the military might of the local chieftains. Similarly, concerns about impregnable walls and hilly landscapes are all warranted. However, it is ridiculous to assume that a particular region or a particular climate is toxic or deadly. This type of irrational fear would be foolish for anyone but is even more bizarre for a nation which had survived a year of lethal plagues in Egypt and had thrived for over a year under extreme desert conditions. Life may indeed be more rugged in this land of giants and of outsized fruit, but it is ludicrous to imagine a land actually infecting its inhabitants. In our panic our reason is distorted, our judgement clouded and we are hypnotized us into irrational beliefs.


2. Inaccurate Estimation of Others: "They viewed us as grasshoppers"!



The spies felt dwarfed by the local giants and they envisioned themselves as tiny grasshoppers. This feeling of intimidation is understandable and legitimate, but their ensuing comments aren't: "...and the locals viewed us this way [as grasshoppers] as well"!! How could the spies determine how they were being viewed by the locals? In fact, forty years later, Rachav, the woman living in the city gates, reports that the entire indigenous population was terrified by the Jewish nation who had traversed the oceans; evidently the locals were more frightened by these "grasshoppers" than the spies could ever imagine. Overwhelmed by dread, we often agonize or obsess over how we are viewed by others and this very preoccupation can itself be crippling. In this situation, the spies aren't only consumed with how they are viewed by others. They project their own fears into the mindset of these "giants" and assume that their own profiles as midgets was shared by the locals. Unhealthy panic causes us to obsess over how we are viewed and, additionally, causes us to stream our own self-image into the hearts and imaginations of others. Panic skews our perceptions and blurs our clear thinking.



3. Projection of our own flaws



Humans have a difficult time acknowledging their own flaws and faults. One 'easy' coping mechanism is to "project" these flaws onto others, thereby allowing us to face them "more easily". Though we constantly project, when we panic, the process sometimes becomes preposterous. Parshat Devarim mentions the mob's accusation of G-d : "Because G-d despises us, He emancipated us from Egypt only to slaughter us in the desert". While there could be many 'motives' for the Divine plan, it is delusional to imagine all this effort, all the liberation, miracles, see-splitting, desert protection, Torah delivery and constant pardoning, simply as Divine manipulation. How did they imagine that all this effort was driven by presumed Divine hatred? Rashi reveals the root of this absurd comment: G-d didn't hate them but, in reality, these protestors hated G-d. The dissenters were projecting their own hatred for G-d, upon G-d! This laughable projection is direct and tragic consequence of uncontrollable panic. Panic lays bare fears and flaws and we cope by projecting these shortcomings upon those closest to us.



Our parsha highlights the devastating impact of panicked behavior. Had their response been more professional and more steady, their reports would have been invaluable and the consequent adjustments would have been appropriate. Of course, panic isn't just a moral flaw or a hazard to healthy decision making. It is a fundamental deficiency of faith in G-d. Faith should never render us passive or ignorant of practical concerns. However, abject dread and panic ignores G-d's role and eliminates destiny from the equation. Pragmatism, practical measures and precautions are all synchronous with faith- panic is not and this parsha highlights the corrosive effect of panic. This panicky and pointless whining condemned this day as one of actual tears for real tragedies which would far exceed this mini-crisis.


AFTERWORD:
During the summer of 2014 we experienced the tragedy of the horrific kidnapping and subsequent murder of the 3 High School boys in Gush Etzion. A well-known Rabbi accused the parents of these boys as partially guilty for this crime. Their choice to educate their children in Gush Etzion- a dangerous area – was responsible for this tragedy. You can imagine the public and justifiable outcry against this very insensitive and theologically troubling statement. I recorded a response which was entitled "Why I agree with this Rabbi's statement". I fundamentally agreed that parents have a primary responsibility to provide for the safety and security of their children. I compared the statistics of non-natural deaths of adolescent males in Gush Etzion that summer versus the number of non-natural deaths in the home district in the USA of that Rabbi. Accounting for crime, drug-related and vehicular deaths the numbers were lopsided- it was far more dangerous to live in that USA community in the summer of 2014 than it was in Gush Etzion. That Rabbi had a parental responsibility to relocate his children to the safer environment in the Gush.
Terror is primarily a psychological weapon and it must be confronted psychologically. Of course, we must always implement precautionary safety measures to insure maximal security. However, if our panic frightens us into paralysis or retreat, we have awarded terror its victory. By doing so we have also exposed glaring deficiencies in our faith.

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Tel Aviv is moving towards becoming Israel’s first city with no public phones, removing 50 in the past few years and another 34 this year. Ramat Gan wants to replace its public phone booths with trees after finding that 80 percent of its populace no longer wants the town’s 232 public phones. Israel still has about 10,000 public phones, many of them no longer in use. The only people who may miss them are yeshiva students and chareidi children, who do not have personal cell phones. The number of phone booths in the US decreased from two million in 1999 to about 100,000, with a fifth of them in New York.
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