• A woman dreamed that she walked into a new store and found God behind the counter. She asked, “What do you sell here?” God replied, “Everything your heart desires.” The woman replied, “That’s wonderful. I want peace of mind and love and wisdom and happiness and freedom from fear. Not just for me. For everyone.” God smiled and then said, “I think you have Me wrong. We don’t sell fruits here. Only seeds.”
• Some friends of Mark Twain wrote him a humorous letter for his birthday, but then discovered that they did not have his address, because he was so often globe-trotting. So the friends addressed the letter: “MARK TWAIN. LORD KNOWS WHERE.” A few months later, one of the friends in the group received a note from Mr. Twain: “HE DID.”
• In 1976, the Missionaries of Charity opened a home in a very poor section outside of Mexico City. The Sisters were surprised by the requests of the poor people they were there to serve. Despite their poverty, these impoverished people did not ask for food, medicine, or clothing. Instead, they said, “Sisters, talk to us about God.”
• Rabbi Israel Salanter went to the synagogue to observe the Yahrzeit (one-year death anniversary) of his father and to recite the mourner’s Kaddish. Also at the synagogue was a man present to observe the Yahrzeit of his daughter. Because Rabbi Israel was mourning the death of his father, he was given precedence in reciting Kaddish, but he saw how sad was the man who had suffered the loss of his daughter. At the time when the mourner’s Kaddish was to be recited, Rabbi Israel allowed the other man to recite it, thus giving up his right of precedence. Was Rabbi Israel showing disrespect for the soul of his own father? No. Rabbi Israel said later, “I have indeed caused my father’s soul to perform a Gemiluth Hessed — a deed of kindness — towards the soul of that poor childless woman (this man’s departed child, his daughter). A deed of this nature carries through it more for the repose of the departed soul of my father than a Kaddish.”
• Enrico Caruso could be very generous. One day, he visited the Metropolitan Opera to try on some new wigs for his costumes. While he was there, a man brought Mr. Caruso some of his non-Metropolitan Opera earnings, placing several notes for $500 each on a counter. The man in charge of the wigs was very impressed, saying, “Such a lot of them! Why, if I had only one, I could take my wife home to Europe for all summer, to see our folks!” The man in charge of the wigs went about his duties, then left. He was surprised later to find $500 in one of his pockets, and he rushed back to Mr. Caruso to apologize and to say that he had no idea how the money had gotten into his pocket. Mr. Caruso explained, “I put it in while you were so busy with the wig. You said you could take the missus to Europe if you had one of those bills. So now you have it and you shall go!”
• Is it ever a good thing to pretend that God may not exist? Yes. Rabbi Moshe Leib of Sasov worried about people who saw someone in distress, then said a prayer for the distressed person and walked away, leaving it to God to take care of the distressed person. Therefore, whenever the good rabbi saw someone in distress, he would help that person, pretending that God did not exist and that only human beings could help that person. For himself, however, he had faith that God would help him. (The good rabbi was well aware that having faith in God does not mean that we have no obligation to help distressed people.)
• One of the things you learn from a liberal arts education is that people are capable of great evil and they are also capable of great good. In telling which people will do what, you can’t apply criteria of sex, race, religion, nationality, or cultural origin. Instead, as Viktor Frankl points out in Man’s Search for Meaning, only two “races” of men exist: the race of decent men, and the race of indecent men (the term “men” here includes both sexes). Even among the World War II concentration camp guards, a few were capable of at least small kindnesses.
© Copyright Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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Henry Louis Gates
Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka will be attending this fall’s PEN America literary gala, flying in from his native Nigeria to help present an award to the author, scholar and filmmaker Henry Louis Gates Jr.
“It means a great deal to Skip Gates and to PEN America that Wole Soyinka has decided to join us for what will be an unforgettable occasion,” PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement Wednesday. “Wole Soyinka is a giant in world literature. His stature is proportionate to the momentous task of recognizing Professor Gates for his contributions to our understanding of history and culture.”
Oscar-winner Jodie Foster will also speak about Gates at the PEN event, either in person or through a taped message, the literary and human rights organization announced.
Gates, a Harvard University professor who directs the school’s center for African and American research and has worked on a wide range of books and films, is to receive the PEN/Audible Literary Service Award. He knows both Soyinka and Foster well. Foster was his student when she attended Yale University in the 1980s and he helped advise her on her senior thesis about Nobel laureate Toni Morrison. Gates and Soyinka, the 86-year-old novelist, playwright and poet, first met in 1973 when both were visiting Fellows at Clare College.
It was Soyinka, Gates said in a statement, “who told me that my fate was to become a professor of African and African American Studies, and it was past time to abandon my parents’ dream that I become a physician. It took a bit for me to accept their advice, but soon I did and the rest they say.... !”
Henry Louis Gates
Jerry Seinfeld has made it clear he would not inject his comic genius into another sitcom, after generating arguably the best one ever. So he is turning to another outlet — the movie screen — and his relationship with Netflix has just won the streamer a plum project for its film slate. Seinfeld will star in, direct and produce Unfrosted, a film comedy he co-wrote with Spike Feresten and Barry Marder that is inspired by a joke he told on the stand-up stage about the world-shaking invention of Pop-Tarts. Netflix has committed to a green light and a production start next spring.
An auction quietly has been playing out for several days, and Seinfeld’s relationship with Netflix’s Ted Sarandos was helpful in swinging the deal to the streamer. Seinfeld signed a lucrative deal with Netflix in 2017 that brought his interview series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee to Netflix, as well the stand-up specials Jerry Before Seinfeld and 23 Hours to Kill. In addition, Netflix last year made a global deal to stream episodes of Seinfeld for five years, beginning later this year.
This follows recent Netflix deals that include an overall film pact with Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners, and landing two sequels to the Rian Johnson-Daniel Craig whodunit Knives Out.
The Unfrosted deal was confirmed for Deadline, and Seinfeld explained the film’s modest pandemic-related origins: “Stuck at home watching endless sad faces on TV, I thought this would be a good time to make something based on pure silliness,” he said. “So we took my Pop-Tart stand-up bit from my last Netflix special and exploded it into a giant, crazy comedy movie.”
Seinfeld deconstructed the Pop-Tart joke in a video segment for The New York Times. It recounted the moment when, as a schoolkid, his world was rocked by the breakfast product. “How did they know that there would be a need for a frosted fruit-filled heated rectangle in the same shape as the box it comes in, and with the same nutrition as the box it comes in?”
Netflix Dating Show
Contestants on a new Netflix dating show will don elaborate makeup and prosthetics in a feral attempt to answer an age-old question about love: How much do looks matter?
“Sexy Beasts,” which the streaming service said is a hybrid of “The Masked Singer” and “Love Is Blind,” premieres July 21.
Narrated by comedian Rob Delaney, the show will send contestants masked in intricate costumes on first dates to see if personality alone can make people fall in love.
The streaming service predicts there will be a roaring appetite for the show, whose contestants don’t look too different from furries, and has already ordered two seasons. The show is based on a U.K. series.
The trailer, which premiered Wednesday and has already racked up millions of views, shows contestants dressed in costumes of a beaver, a devil, a fox, a panda, various alien-like creatures and a scarecrow.
Jim Bakker and his southwestern Missouri church will pay restitution of $156,000 to settle a lawsuit that accuses the TV pastor of falsely claiming a health supplement could cure COVID-19.
Missouri court records show that a settlement agreement was filed Tuesday. It calls for refunds to people who paid money or gave contributions to obtain a product known as Silver Solution in the early days of the pandemic.
The settlement also prohibits Bakker and Morningside Church Productions Inc. from advertising or selling Silver Solution “to diagnose, prevent, mitigate, treat or cure any disease or illness.” Bakker, in the agreement, does not admit wrongdoing.
Republican Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt sued Bakker and Morningside in March 2020. Schmitt sought an injunction ordering Bakker to stop selling Silver Solution as a treatment for COVID-19 on his streaming TV program, The Jim Bakker Show. The lawsuit said Bakker and a guest made the cure claim during 11 episodes in February and March of 2020.
The hour-long Jim Bakker Show is filmed in southwestern Missouri. The consent agreement notes that during the program, Silver Solution was offered to those who agreed to contribute $80 to $125.
No Voter Fraud
An investigation into the Michigan election by state Republican lawmakers has concluded that there is no evidence of widespread fraud and dismissed the need for an Arizona-style forensic audit of the results.
The news comes amid a broad push by many Republicans – from Donald Trump to state parties – to push unfounded lies about Joe Biden’s victory, often promoting baseless conspiracy theories and evidence-free accusations of fraud.
The Michigan Republican report released on Wednesday followed 28 hours of legislative hearings starring local and national pro-Trump conspiracy theorists such as former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. The report labeled many of their claims “ludicrous” and called on the state Democratic attorney general to open investigations into those who may have profited from making false claims.
The report was authored by the Republican-controlled senate oversight committee and it said it found no evidence of dead voters, no precincts with 100% turnout and no evidence of a Detroit ballot dump that benefited Biden, as GOP activists have claimed occurred.
The report represents a stunning repudiation of the unsubstantiated claims made by the state’s pro-Trump activists and Trump himself in their bid to overturn the critical battleground state’s results. Biden won Michigan by about 154,000 votes, or three percentage points. The tally was upheld by judges appointed by both parties in state and federal court, the bipartisan boards of state canvassers and reviews by election officials.
Dems Want More US Support
A new poll on American attitudes toward a core conflict in the Middle East finds about half of Democrats want the U.S. to do more to support the Palestinians, showing that a growing rift among Democratic lawmakers is also reflected in the party’s base.
The poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds differences within both the Democratic and the Republican parties on the U.S. approach toward Israel and the Palestinians, with liberal Democrats wanting more support for the Palestinians and conservative Republicans seeking even greater support for the Israelis.
The survey also examined Americans’ opinions on the Biden administration’s handling of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. The survey was conducted about three weeks into a cease-fire following a devastating 11-day war last month between Israel and the Gaza Strip’s Hamas militant rulers. The fighting killed at least 254 Palestinians and 13 people in Israel.
The poll shows Americans overall are divided over U.S. policy toward Israel and the Palestinians. It also shows more Americans disapprove of President Joe Biden’s approach to the conflict than approve of it.
Among Democrats, 51% say the U.S. is not supportive enough of the Palestinians. The sentiment jumps to 62% among Democrats who describe themselves as liberal. On the other hand, 49% of Republicans say the U.S. is not supportive enough of the Israelis, a number that rises to 61% among those who say they’re conservative.
See Magnetic Fields
Many birds have a sixth sense. No, not seeing dead people: They detect Earth’s magnetic field, an ability that allows them to return to the same sites, year after year, during seasonal migration. Now, scientists have come closer to identifying the mechanism that our feathery friends use to feel Earth’s magnetic field—and it involves quantum mechanics in their eyes.
A research team, led by scientists from the University of Oldenburg in Germany and Oxford University, studied a protein known as cryptochrome-4, found in birds’ retinas. For 20 years, experts hypothesized that this protein served as birds’ magnetic sensor, a microscopic compass that points the bird in a particular direction. The protein participates in chemical reactions that produce varying quantities of new molecules that depend on the direction of Earth’s magnetic field. A bird’s neurons ultimately respond to the amount of these molecules to reorient the animal. “But no one could confirm or verify this in the lab,” said biologist Jingjing Xu of the University of Oldenburg in Germany.
In a step toward confirmation, Xu’s team has now observed, in great detail, how the protein responds to magnetic fields when isolated in a test tube. “This particular paper has added an important stack of evidence in support of the cryptochrome mechanism,” said neuroethologist Eric Warrant of Lund University, who was not involved in the study.
The researchers studied cryptochrome-4 that they produced themselves, rather than proteins extracted from actual birds. To make cryptochrome-4, they introduced the DNA instructions to produce the protein into E. coli bacteria. The bacteria read the instructions and made the proteins. “The protein you get out of the bacteria is identical to the one in the bird,” said biologist Henrik Mouritsen of the University of Oldenburg.
Then, the team orchestrated and observed the protein undergoing chemical reactions within a test tube placed in magnetic fields about a hundred times stronger than Earth’s. Comparing variants of the protein found in different bird species, they found that cryptochrome-4 in the migratory European robin is more sensitive to magnetic fields than the cryptochrome-4 found in chickens and pigeons, which don’t migrate. In addition, their observations indicated that cryptochrome-4 could plausibly trigger neuron activity—thus communicating with a bird’s brain—through its chemical reactions. “The [reaction products] exist for long enough and are produced in sufficient quantities to act as a signalling substance,” said Warrant.
Saved From The Bonfires
While some Pentecostal preachers in eastern Nigeria set fire to statues and other ancient artefacts that they regard as symbols of idolatry, one Catholic priest is collecting them instead.
The artefacts are central to the traditional religions practised by the region's Igbo people, who see them as sacred, and possessing supernatural powers.
But there are now very few adherents of these religions, as Christianity - led by Pentecostal churches - has become the area's dominant faith.
Although he is referred to as "fire that burns", there is nothing frightening about Reverend Paul Obayi, who runs the Deities Museum in eastern Nigeria's Nsukka city.
Located in the compound of Saint Theresa's Catholic Cathedral, the three-roomed museum boasts hundreds of totems, masks, a stuffed lion and carvings of Igbo deities.
When communities abandon traditional religious beliefs, primarily under the influence of Christian Pentecostal churches, some pastors light bonfires to burn the artefacts, which they say contradict the faith's monotheistic beliefs, and which represent "evil spirits that bring bad luck".