Thursday, January 22, 2015

Canada and Israel sign new air service agreements

Lisa Raitt, Canada's minister of transport, signed an air transport agreement in Israel this week, along with a declaration of intent on aviation security and a memorandum of understanding on transportation.

Suffice it to say the new agreement will permit a far greater number of Canadian and Israeli airlines to offer air services to more cities in both countries and allow for the scheduling of many more flights each day for both passenger and cargo purposes.

Jump here to our good friends at Size Doesn't Matter for a full account and some historical quick facts.

Former Saved by the Bell star pleads not guilty

For anyone who grew up in the 1990s, a Saturday-morning staple for adolescents and teens was Saved By the Bell. The show ran from 1989 to 1993, spawning a prime-time spinoff Saved by the Bell: The College Years, and later Saved by the Bell: The New Class, which extended the series to the turn of the century.

Many know Dustin Diamond (whose father is of Ashkenazi decent), or more accurately his character Samuel "Screech" Powers, the often socially awkward yet loyal-to-the-end best friend of Mark-Paul Gosselaar's character Zack Morris. Diamond was present in every iteration of the show from its initial beginnings on the Disney Channel, when it was called Good Morning Miss Bliss before it was retooled by then-NBC president Brandon Tartikoff.

While Diamond, now 38, has largely stayed out of the public eye since his sitcom days, falling back on his stand-up comedy, the actor went through many hard times both personally and professionally. The recent holiday season was anything but kind to the once-beloved actor. He and his 27-year-old girlfriend, Amanda Schutz, were arrested following a brawl last month inside Port Washington, Wis.'s Grand Avenue Saloon. Diamond was charged with second degree reckless endangerment and two misdemeanours, while Shutz was charged with disorderly conduct. They've both pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Diamond is accused of wielding a stiletto folding blade and stabbing a man who grabbed him as he trying to come to the defence of Schutz, who was being roughed up by a pair of bar patrons.

His one-time fictional school principal Mr. Belding would definitely not approve.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Famed comedian makes Marvel Comics debut

American comedian Sarah Silverman has revelled in success after success – from conquering the stage and screen, both big and small, to writing best-selling books and lending her celebrity to causes around the world.

Now Silverman has been immortalized, like many before her, in the pages of a beloved comic book series.

In Deadpool # 40, about a fictional mercenary anti-hero whose real name is Wade Winston Wilson, from the Marvel canon of characters, the often-vulgar entertainer takes a stand with the equally abrasive Deadpool, or the "Merc with a Mouth," as he's often called, against the Roxxon company and its environmentally damaging practice of "gracking."

Gracking is a softer term for the real-world equivalent of hydraulic fracturing, used to extract natural gas from the earth, only in the Marvel universe, Roxxon's process uses dangerous Gamma rays that turned mild-mannered scientist Bruce Banner into the brute known as the Hulk.

We really enjoyed this full account by Renee Ghert-Zand for The Times of Israel about comedians making appearances in the pages of Marvel and DC comics.

Check it out.

The Wachowskis' new film to finally hit theatres

It's been a long road for Andy and Lana (formerly Larry) Wachowski to get their latest motion picture into theatres.

After giving us The Matrix trilogy, their follow-up films have not quite generated the same level of notoriety nor basked in the same level of success at the box office.

Their last major outing, Cloud Atlas in 2012, starring Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, made a disappointing $130 million and was not entirely well received by critics or cinema-going audiences alike.

Jupiter Ascending, starring Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum, was pulled from last summer's blockbuster roster, as the sibling directors felt the special effects scenes did not meet the level of quality they sought to put forth. Now with a Feb. 6 release date, how will it fare against the Oscar-nominated films contending for this year's coveted awards?

Do you still believe the Wachowskis can capture audiences' attention as they once did?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

You could be sitting on the Iron Throne in Tel Aviv

There are a great many television shows that generate niche followings, and then there are the global phenomena that keep everyone talking. The American fantasy drama Game of Thrones, which airs on HBO, falls into the latter category.

Game of Thrones was adapted in 2011 from the same-titled first book of George R.R. Martin's wildly popular A Song of Ice and Fire four-part series. It's signature catch phrase, "Winter is coming," when heard, often signals the new season's premiere is soon to follow.

In 2012, an exhibition showcasing iconic artifacts, original scripts and costumes from its production travelled the world to transport fans to the epic world of Westeros and beyond. Having completed the North Amercian leg of its third annual tour in 2014, it has just been announced the exhibition will once again travel the world to seven international destinations..

Winter will come (in spring) to Israel with a stop in Tel Aviv this April during Passover (April 5-9). Other stops along the way will include London, Stockholm, Madrid, Berlin, Paris and Amsterdam.

If you have not yet attended the exhibition, here's a taste of what you'd see.

PM Netanyahu sends heartfelt letter to France

In the wake of the terrorist attack on the Paris headquarters of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, resulting in the deaths of 12 people and leaving 10 others wounded, five critical, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent this letter to Francois Hollande, president of the French Republic, with words of condolences for the loss of life and wishes for swift healing of the injured.

While further details of the attack on the offices are still sketchy, witnesses said the assailants knew exactly whom to target at the magazine, which has published a series of satirical cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, which may have precipitated the violent act.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Honest Reporting’s Mike Fegelman on how to fight anti-Israel media bias

In the wake of information leaks from government servers, the release of private emails from movie studios and the seemingly never-ending stream of celebrity assault scandals, adherence to the standards of journalism and the media’s code of ethics in reporting are often questioned and debated in the public sphere.

That’s not news for supporters of Israel.

When it comes to the Jewish state, many critics say journalistic integrity is regularly compromised when reporters from mainstream news outlets cover events in the Holy Land.

On Dec. 14, some 80 members of Toronto’s Holy Blossom Temple and the community at large attended a brotherhood breakfast and heard from Mike Fegelman, CEO and executive director of Honest Reporting Canada, on the ongoing battle against anti-Israel and anti-Jewish bias in mainstream news media and how we can all participate in combating the dissemination of negative narratives.

Fegelman said that when correspondents from many media outlets describe events in the region using words such as “occupation” and when they frame the defensive measures taken by the Israeli government in relation to Israel’s military superiority over its neighbours, it shapes a particular way of thinking about the State of Israel and its people.

And, as Fegelman said, “what gets reported today can essentially become foreign policy tomorrow.” 

News organizations rely on the power of the image, and images are often more powerful than a news report itself, he said.

Additionally, he said, while Hollywood is known for producing movies and TV programs that explore the human condition and shine a light on the accomplishments of notable figures in history, Pallywood is a term coined to describe how Palestinians manipulate and distort news stories, and spread damaging, and often falsified, images to cast doubt on the intent of Israel’s actions to win the public relations war against the homeland of the Jewish People.

Fegelman said that despite the fact “the lion’s share of foreign correspondents are located in Jerusalem,” only a short drive away from many news hot spots, “many human rights atrocities in the greater Muslim world go unreported, [and] these are the important stories we [the public] are not hearing”.

Recognizing that the bottom line for newspapers, radio and television is to sell eyeballs to advertisers and win ratings battles, Fegelman said that at times, journalists take to the airwaves or go to press before facts have been thoroughly checked, and reporters often speak selectively to local sources, as directed by their regional editors and managers.

So how can we encourage media outlets to better balance their reporting on Israel?

In closing, Fegelman suggested a few ways to mobilize and work to alter mis-conceptions promoted by inaccurate articles and broadcasts. He advised his listeners to continue to write letters and emails to the news editors of the outlets you watch, read or listen to. They carry more weight than most people realize, he said, noting that his organization, Honest Reporting Canada, often invites journalists and editors to coffee or dinner to point out critical information they omitted in bringing a story forward, in an attempt to sway them to balance their coverage.