Israeli Court Knocks El Al For Gender Discrimination

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In a case that almost didn’t get brought to court, Israel’s national airline, El Al, has been convicted of gender discrimination when a woman was asked to take a different seat because an ultra-orthodox man didn’t want to sit next to her.

That once-common practice, which caters to a whim of someone from a sect with otherworldly-strict beliefs, was brought down by a suit filed by a holocaust survivor who originally intended to ignore the affront. But a couple of weeks after her flight from Newark to Tel Aviv was marred by the incident, Renee Rabinowitz, 81, attended an event where a representative of the Israel Religious Action Center discussed IRAC’s campaign against airlines’ practice of accommodating what Rabinowitz described as “a Haredi-looking [ultra orthodox] gentleman”. Such individuals are members of a group representing the social and cultural interests of fervently religious Jews. Created in response to escalating assimilation and secularization within worldwide Jewry, they aim to preserve and maintain Torah-bound Judaism, both on the individual and collective level.

But in refusing to sit next to a woman on, for example, an airplane, “a passenger asking to move their seat because of their gender will qualify as discrimination, and as such will be prohibited,” the Israeli court said in an English-language statement.

More specifically, The Jerusalem Post reported, “Requesting a seat change on an airplane before or after takeoff, based on a passenger’s gender, constitutes a breach of the Prohibition of Discrimination in Products, [Services and Entry into Public Places Law],” ruled Judge Dana Cohen-Lekach of the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court.

The JP website added, “The phenomenon of ultra-Orthodox men insisting on not sitting next to unrelated women on air flights has developed into a familiar pattern in recent years, with such demands frequently causing problems and delays for airlines due to the refusal of such men to take their seats before takeoff.”

El Al has said it will take the ruling seriously, and the airline is expected to modify its rules and retrain flight attendants within the 45-day period specified by the court.

The Guardian quoted the airline as saying, “The sides reached an agreement that the airline’s procedures would be clarified to its employees. The court validated this agreement and the company will respect the verdict.”

Child- and Gang-Rapes Are Running Rampant in India

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The family of a five-year-old girl who was raped stage a protest on Mehrauli-Gurgaon Road seeking treatment for her at a private hospital in Gurgaon, India, and fast disposal of the case.

Of all the many and oh-so-varied cultures in the world, India’s seems to be among the least appreciative of the concept enshrined in the US Declaration of Independence, that: “All men are created equal.” Women there, only second to the second-class treatment of women in predominantly Moslem countries, far too often are made victims of brutal rapes. Even, even more sadly, when they are but children.

Two recent reports on Newser (and here) paint a horrid picture of the problem: A 10-year-old being raped, made pregnant, then having to struggle to get (as she finally did) permission to get aborted, and another couple of women getting gang raped – one in a moving car (the mind boggles!) – in a culture that, in too many instances, still also accepts revenge killings.

I am not a religious person, and I have trouble getting my mind about how, and why, practitioners of various religions – any of them – faithfully accepting, as they do, what they do.

My wife and I watched a “Law & Order” show recently about a case where a super-religious girl was taken advantage of – raped, in short – by a fellow believer in her ‘faith’ that him having sex with her – “curative sex” – would free her of her desire for another woman. Guess what? The spiritual leader who encouraged his flock to so behave, ended up, as the encourager of illegal actions, in prison. So, of course, did the rapist. And the saddest news what, they both believed they did nothing wrong.

Trash Spawns Super Ad Message

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Forty or so years ago, New Orleans’ Canal Street was spotted with cans intended to take in a sizable share of the throw-aways generated by citizens and visitors alike – in an area, just opposite the edge of the French Quarter, where drinking in public is not just legal, it’s virtually encouraged. (Where else could you ask for a take-out cup for a beer you didn’t finish in a restaurant, as I had occasion to do last week.)

To encourage the proper disposition of empties and similar detritus, the cans were labeled, “Hey, Mister, Toss Me Something!”

The idea was a clearer one. Whether it accomplished the intended goal or not is an open question. But those cans now are minus that slogan.

Meanwhile, in Texas, where self-pride in one’s heritage is an apparent birthright, a less and more subtle approach has been taken to reducing what had become, a few years ago, an intolerable trash burden. The Texas Department of Transportation took the proverbial bulls by the horns and advertised for ad agencies to come up with a way to address the issue. They did, in spades.

Smithsonianmag.com recently described how an exec at one agency noted, on walking somewhere one day, that all the trash was, as he put it, “a mess.” In a flash, he had the slogan: “Don’t Mess With Texas.”

The slogan was initially promoted during the 1986 Cotton Bowl, when an ad put out the “Don’t Mess WiTh Texas” message.

Within three years, trash volume on the streets dropped 72% from the 1986 level. And the ‘Don’t Mess With Texas’ phrase took on a life of its own.

In time, the Texas Department of Transportation copyrighted the phrase in order to reap rewards from its use. As if it hadn’t already!

A Less-Than-Friendly Lounge Preceded United’s ‘Friendly Skies’ At Newark Airport Last Week

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Whoops!

I recall once seeing an airplane crew member in an argument with one of the ground crew as the latter was trying to deliver something for the in-flight catering service. I thought, “They do this every day! How can they not get the job done smoothly?”

One of the jobs done infrequently, but just as important as the daily tasks, is ensuring that necessary licenses are updated as needed. Someone at United Airlines slipped up in that department recently, and failed to renew the liquor license for the carrier’s club room at Newark Liberty International Airport’s Terminal C. So, for two days last week, passengers passing through that lounge in one of United’s busiest terminals had to do without the free drinks the carrier usually dispenses there.

No beer, wine or spirits could be served – even for free! – until someone made a trip to Newark’s City Hall to get the matter sorted out. That happened in time for Friday morning travelers to innocently – most of them can be presumed to have not been flying out of there on Wednesday or Thursday – carry on consuming free cocktails before jetting off. (And yes, many fliers do enjoy getting a ‘lift’ before being taken airborne!)

“We resumed service this morning and apologize to our customers for the inconvenience,” United spokesman Rahsaan Johnson said on Friday.

News From China, Period

Fu Yuanhui

CBS News reported a few days ago that Chinese athletes don’t, these days, necessarily stick to the old formulaic language thanking the Communist Party, thanking the people, and thanking the country, then bowing out after winning an ‘honorable’ place in an Olympic event:

When Fu Yuanhui, a 20-year-old Chinese swimmer competing in Rio de Janeiro, who has more than six million followers on Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter, gave a post-game interview to state television last week, her pronounced facial expressions and giddy response to unexpectedly winning a bronze medal were quickly turned into GIF animations and went viral on the Chinese internet.

Then, when her team came in only in fourth place in the 4x100m event, she made news again by breaking the Chinese taboo of publicly discussing menstruation.

While her teammates talked to a reporter from China’s CCTV, vying to accept blame for the loss, she crouched behind a board but eventually stood up to say on-camera: “I didn’t swim well today, I’m sorry.”

When asked about “stomach pain,” she bluntly admitted, “yes, I’m having my period.”

Her dad Fu Chunsheng was quick to offer a comforting message on Weibo: “Baby, you’re always the best in dad’s heart, don’t let this ruin your mood, we should still respect nature.”

In 2010, 18-year-old speed skater Zhou Yang was criticized by a senior sports official when she thanked her parents, teammates and coaches for helping her achieve the gold medal, but forgot to mention the country and government.

But no one is criticizing Fu, who’s instead enjoying the love of millions of social media followers, many more fans all around China – and big advertisers.

And she seems to be taking it all in stride, even if the limelight has come as something as a surprise.

“I never thought so many people could like me. It puts me under a lot of pressure,” she admitted in a recent interview.