Israeli airline asked her to change seats – must not offend an Orthodox male

Renee Rabinowitz is a sharp-witted retired lawyer with a Ph.D. in educational psychology, who escaped the Nazis in Europe as a child. Now she is about to become a test case in the battle over religion and gender in Israel’s public spaces — and the skies above — as the plaintiff in a lawsuit accusing El Al, the national airline, of discrimination.

Ms. Rabinowitz was comfortably settled into her aisle seat in the business-class section on El Al Flight 028 from Newark to Tel Aviv in December when, as she put it, “this rather distinguished-looking man in Hasidic or Haredi garb, I’d guess around 50 or so, shows up.”

The man was assigned the window seat in her row. But, like many ultra-Orthodox male passengers, he did not want to sit next to a woman, seeing even inadvertent contact with the opposite sex as verboten under the strictest interpretation of Jewish law. Soon, Ms. Rabinowitz said, a flight attendant offered her a “better” seat, up front, closer to first class.

Reluctantly, Ms. Rabinowitz, an impeccably groomed 81-year-old grandmother who walks with a cane because of bad knees, agreed.

“Despite all my accomplishments — and my age is also an accomplishment — I felt minimized,” she recalled in a recent interview…

Now, a liberal advocacy group that had spent two years searching for a test case on switching seats plans to sue the blue-and-white flag carrier on Ms. Rabinowitz’s behalf in a Tel Aviv court next week.

“We needed a case of a flight attendant being actively involved,” explained the group’s director, Anat Hoffman, “to show that El Al has internalized the commandment, ‘I cannot sit next to a woman…’ ”

❝ “When did modesty become the sum and end all of being a Jewish woman?” Ms. Rabinowitz asked. Citing examples like the biblical warrior Deborah, the matriarch Sarah and Queen Esther, she noted: “Our heroes in history were not modest little women.”

I have no notion of how Israeli courts will rule. That nation’s relationship with state religion is obviously very different from the United States. As are many other countries with official state religions. There are standards for international commerce and travel and I believe – at a minimum – segregated flight isn’t allowable.

Maybe not.

Condom wars between China and Japan


Quick quality control check at Daming

The latest battle in Sino-Japanese relations is playing out in the bedroom, with the holy grail being the thickness of a condom.

Or rather, whose condom is thinner.

On Monday, a court in Guangzhou’s Yuexiu District ruled that Japanese condom company Okamoto must immediately stop advertising its condoms as the world’s thinnest and remove condom packages that say as much from stores, according to the state-run China News Service.

The court said Okamoto’s behavior “violated the principle of honesty for business operators and negatively affected the competitiveness” of Aoni condoms, which are made by Guangzhou Daming United Rubber Products, a Chinese condom maker that filed the lawsuit.

Okamoto’s condom sales have skyrocketed recently, in part due to increasing numbers of Chinese tourists traveling to Japan and bringing the ultrathin condoms home.

Daming, a company founded in 1992 that says it has sold 7 billion condoms, filed the lawsuit against Okamoto in September 2014, after the Guinness World Records verified in December 2013 that Daming’s Aoni condom was indeed the thinnest latex winner. The Aoni has an average thickness of 0.036 mm, while Okamoto’s clocks in at 0.038 mm, according to the Guinness World Records.

“We accept the decision and have no plans to appeal it,” an Okamoto spokesman said…

The court has ordered Okamoto to pay a compensation of just one yuan to Daming, a request that Daming proposed in its lawsuit, indicating that the alleged violation likely had little impact on the Chinese company’s business.

Erm, OK. The least likely popular tastes concern food and sex. Especially national differences.

Cripes, I just remembered past dealings in my own working life – with Okamoto Riken. And some pretty salacious tales involving how and why they brought the bicycle company Zebra-Kenko to the United States, BITD.

Har!

Judge approves $940 million settlement between Federal government and Native Americans


Oglala Sioux President John Yellow Bird Steele at the settlement announcement

A judge has approved a nearly $1 billion settlement between the Obama administration and Native American tribes over claims the government shorted tribes for decades on contract costs to manage education, law enforcement and other federal services.

Attorneys for the tribes learned Wednesday that a federal judge in Albuquerque approved the agreement, about five months after the Interior Department and tribal leaders announced they had reached a proposed $940 million settlement in the class-action lawsuit…

Nearly 700 tribes or tribal agencies are expected to claim compensation, with amounts ranging from an estimated $8,000 for some Alaska Native villages and communities elsewhere to $58 million for the Navajo Nation.

Some underfunded federal contracts in the case reportedly dated back to the 1970s, when a policy change allowed tribes to gain more oversight of federal programs meant to fulfill obligations established through treaties and other agreements.

Val Panteah, governor of Zuni Pueblo, described “a financial death spiral” that came as his government tried to offset losses from the contracts in New Mexico. Other tribal leaders described trying to stem losses from the underfunded contracts with painful budget cuts as they tried to meet critical needs in their communities.

The case was first filed in 1990 by the Ramah Navajo Chapter, a community of about 4,000 that became the case’s lead plaintiff, along with the Oglala Sioux Tribe in South Dakota and Zuni Pueblo.

In 2012, the case went before the U.S. Supreme Court, which sided with the tribes and sent the case back to the lower courts before the Interior Department announced a proposed settlement in September.

Since the Supreme Court ruling, Congress has appropriated hundreds of millions of dollars to fully fund contract support costs for tribes.

The American dream of equal opportunity always seems to look around first to see if there’s some minority segment of the population that can be screwed. Unfunded mandates, underfunded mandates were made for political ideologues in Congress. Nice to see one of them overturned.