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A Jewish journalist takes sides in America’s ‘slow civil war’

(JTA) — Jeff Sharlet admits up front that his book about what he and others call the “Trumpocene” epoch is not objective.

“Transparent subjectivity is a virtue for this kind of reporting,” he said. “I am trying to understand the proliferation, which is very real, of fascist flags [across America]. I don’t like it when I see a movement [creating] fascist folk art.”

In “The Undertow: Scenes from a Slow Civil War,” the religion reporter and writing professor chronicles his recent journeys across America interviewing QAnon acolytes, Christian nationalists, proud misogynists, unrepentant January 6ers, armed militia men and strict anti-abortion activists — all still in thrall to Donald Trump.

It’s a familiar story of an America on the edge, but Sharlet adds the perspective of a journalist who has long covered religion. He was among the first to note that Trump rallies were less political events than religious revivals. And like many religions, he says, Trumpism is resistant to the kinds of “civil discourse” that many people propose as an antidote to polarization.

“We cannot fact check a myth, right?” Sharlet told me in a video interview from his home in Vermont. “It’s not going to work to say, ‘That’s not true.’”

I wanted to speak to Sharlet to discuss what he calls the “gospel of Trump” and how it differs from partisan politics as usual. And I wanted to know more about his own Jewish background and how that has informed his project.

Sharlet, a professor of writing at Dartmouth College, shapes his narrative largely around the story of Ashli Babbitt, the 35-year-old woman who was killed by a Capitol police officer during the Jan. 6 riot. He talks to those who lionize Babbitt, standing on porches under flags reading “F— Biden” and “No Surrender.” He describes the ways she has become a martyr on the far-right, part of a mythology that inverts what happened on that day.

Babbitt, he suggests, was a victim of the “undertow” of the book’s title: a sense of “grief and loss and mourning” that animated protesters like her. Trump spoke directly to this “erosion of white power, which was felt more severely down the socio-economic ladder,” Sharlet said. “Ashli Babbitt experiences it as a loss, but she can’t name the structural details – like the fact that there’s such a lack of banking regulation that she ends up with a loan that literally nobody can pay back.”

So she joined the mob charging the Capitol. “Unprocessed grief curdles into rage, rage that just sits there until along comes Trump,” said Sharlet. The result is a stew that he unhesitantly calls fascism, which he has defined as a right-wing cult of personality that takes pleasure in violence, disdains democracy and considers its opponents decadent.

Sharlet visits churches where the same rage is heard in the pulpit and where Trump is regarded as a prophet, leading outsiders to wonder how faithful Christians could embrace Trump despite his own lack of Christian values.

On the latter assertion, Sharlet notes that Trump does have Christian values, rooted in the teachings of his childhood pastor, Norman Vincent Peale. The author of “The Power of Positive Thinking” and a proponent of the “prosperity gospel,” Peale saw material wealth as a sign of divine providence, and “applied Christianity” as a way to achieve it.

“Politicians have long borrowed from religion the passion and the righteousness, but no other major modern figure [before Trump] had channeled the tension that makes Scripture endure, the desire, the wanting that gives rise to the closest analogue to Trumpism: the prosperity gospel, the American religion of winning,” he writes.

He also speaks to pastors and followers who would read Trump’s words “like Scripture”: “Every tweet, every misspelling, every typo, every strange capitalization — especially the capitalizations, said [one pastor] — had meaning.” Sharlet compares this to Gnosticism, the heretical Christian movement that believed in “a form of exclusive knowledge reserved for the faithful, a ‘truth’ you must have the eyes to see.”

Sharlet, whose earlier book “The Family” was about a fundamentalist ministry influential among the Washington political elite, said Christian nationalists who are drawn to dictators and flawed strongmen often cite the story of King David. The Old Testament king gains God’s favor despite killing his rival Uriah and, depending how you look at it, seducing or raping Uriah’s wife Bathsheba. “They’re very invested in this idea of chosenness, and King David is chosen,” said Sharlet.

All this mixing of religion, power and grievance made me wonder if liberal denominations have an adequate response to the stirrings on the far right.

“In the book I go to Glad Tidings, a church in Yuba City, California. And you walk in and there’s no crosses, because the pastor thinks the cross is a weak symbol of sacrifice. Instead the pulpit is made of swords,” said Sharlet. “That’s not to say that liberal religion is always weak — I mean, you have Reverend William Barber of the Forward Together Moral Movement in North Carolina, and liberal, religiously motivated activists who put themselves in the position of abortion clinic defenders.”

Rage also curdles into conspiracy theories. Many of his interviewees share the dark fantasies of QAnon, which imagines that the U.S. government is secretly controlled by Satan-worshiping pedophiles. As outlandish as these ideas sound, he said, “It’s hard to find Republicans now who have not absorbed some element of QAnon. People have never even heard of QAnon, but are worried about pedophiles in the schools, ‘grooming’ their children, apocalyptic visions of cities as battlegrounds of crime. This is straight out of QAnon.”

An audience member holds up a large “Q” sign, representing QAnon, a conspiracy theory group, while waiting in line to see President Donald J. Trump at his rally in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, August 2, 2018. (Rick Loomis/Getty Images)

I ask Sharlet if his sample is selective, and if he only looked for and included people on the fringe to prove a point.

He countered by recalling his conversation with a woman who believed that the deadly Las Vegas shooting, by a high-stakes gambler who left 58 dead in 2017, was actually an attempt by ISIS on the life of Trump (who wasn’t in Vegas at the time). Sharlet was convinced the idea was hers alone. But a Google search told him that the theory was gaining traction on the far right, and that Tucker Carlson had invited a former congressman and retired brigadier general to talk about the “Vegas mystery” on his Fox News show.

Before his abrupt ouster last week, “Tucker Carlson had an audience of 4 million and a reach they say of more around 70 million – which is immeasurably greater than mine,” noted Sharlet. “So who is fringe? Me or Carlson?”

QAnon, he said, agrees with those who say QAnon draws on classic antisemitism. “It infuses QAnon,” he said. “You know, the blood of children being used to keep a secret elite, a secret cabal, directed by [Jewish financier and philanthropist George] Soros, and all the ‘globalist’ language. I was asked on a podcast what they mean by globalists and my answer was simple: the Jews. That’s what they mean, even when they don’t know that they mean it.”

Sharlet, the son of a Jewish dad and a Christian mom, describes himself as “a weird Jew, a secular Jew.”

“I was maybe more forcibly aware of this Jewishness when I grew up in a small town called Scotia, New York, and I got beat up for being a Jew,” he said.

After getting a degree in American history at Hampshire College, he went to work at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts, where he edited Pakn Treger, its literary magazine.

“I don’t like to say that my Jewishness is formed by antisemitism,” he said. “My Jewish education is working for the Yiddish Book Center and all the complications of Yiddish.”

He says the anger he encountered on the road has come to his small town in “a very blue area.” “The folks opposed to fascism still outnumber those who are coming to praise it,” he said. “But my kid goes to a school district that is facing legal threat from far-right people, including Jews, who think that it is too supportive of kids like my queer kid and they want the school to be reporting any instances of kids showing up not wearing the right gender clothes and so on.”

That experience has also shaped his response to those who ask if he is elevating a fringe through his writing.

“I have a queer nonbinary child who is being criminalized in about 20 states now. This is where I keep coming back to,” said Sharlet. “To the folks who say, ‘It’s just terrible what they’re doing to the trans kids,’ I want to say that they really haven’t learned from history. They think that fascism is like, ‘Well, we got our victim. We’re all done here now.’ No. It comes for everybody.”

If there is a solution to this unraveling, Sharlet says it will come from liberals who learn from their right-wing counterparts and create institutions that fight for their values.

“The prime example is higher education,” he said. “For a long time liberals want to insist that higher education is neutral.” And while the left is insisting on neutrality, the right is creating colleges — Regent University in Virginia Beach, the evangelical Liberty University, Oral Roberts University, Hillsdale College in southern Michigan — dedicated to its ideas. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis is diverting state funding to transform a small liberal arts college, New College of Florida, into a conservative-leaning school.

“We have to build out cultural institutions and we have to recognize and own up to the fact that colleges are places of values,” he said. “They do not sit with fascism. So own that space, defend that space, be proud of that space. I think every synagogue in America whether it wants to accept this or not and even some of the politically conservative ones have to ask, which side are you on? Neutrality isn’t an option. As Jews especially, we don’t have a choice.”

The post A Jewish journalist takes sides in America’s ‘slow civil war’ appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Canada’s economic growth projected to be about 1% in the first half of 2024

Canada is a country with a thriving Jewish community and has traditionally offered the security of a strong economy for residents. The national economic outlook is naturally something that everyone in Canada’s Jewish community keeps track of – especially those involved in business in the various provinces.

With this in mind, the July 2023 Monetary Policy Report from the Bank of Canada made for interesting reading, projecting a moderate economic growth figure of around 1% for the first half of 2024. This is in line with growth figures that had been forecast for the second half of 2023, and sees the country’s economy remain on a stable footing.

Steady projected growth for first half of 2024

Although projected economic growth of around 1% in early 2024 is not as impressive as figures of around 3.4% in 2022 and 1.8% in 2023, it is certainly no cause for alarm. But what might be behind it?

Higher interest rates are one major factor to consider and have had a negative impact on household spending nationally. This has effectively seen people with less spending power and businesses in Canada generating less revenue as a result.

Interest rate rises have also hit business investments nationally, and less money is being channelled into this area to fuel Canada’s economic growth. When you also factor in how the weak foreign demand for Canadian goods and services has hit export growth lately, the projected GDP growth figure for early 2024 is understandable.

Growth in second half of 2024 expected

Although the above may make for interesting reading for early 2024, the Bank of Canada’s report does show that economic growth is expected to pick up in the second half of the year. This is projected to be due to the decreasing effect of high interest rates on the Canadian economy and a stronger foreign demand for the country’s exports.

Moving forward from this period, it is predicted that inflation will remain at around 3% as we head into 2025, and hit the Bank of Canada’s inflation target of 2% come the middle of 2025. All of this should help the country’s financial status remain stable and prove encouraging for business leaders in the Jewish community.

Canada’s economic growth mirrors iGaming’s rise

When you take a look at the previous growth figures Canada has seen and also consider the growth predicted for 2024 (especially in the second half of the year), it is clear that the country has a vibrant, thriving economy.

This economic growth is something that can be compared with iGaming’s recent rise as an industry around the country. In the same way as Canada has steadily built a strong economy over time, iGaming has transformed itself into a powerful, flourishing sector.

This becomes even clearer when you consider that Canadian iGaming has been a major contributor to the sustained growth seen in the country’s arts, entertainment and recreation industry, which rose by around 1.9% in Q2 of 2023. The healthy state of online casino play in Canada is also evidenced by how many customers the most popular casino platforms attract and how the user experience these operators offer has enabled iGaming in the country to take off.

This, of course, is also something that translates to the world stage, where global iGaming revenues in 2023 hit an estimated $95 billion. iGaming’s global market volume is also pegged to rise to around $130 billion by 2027. These kinds of figures represent a sharp jump for iGaming worldwide and show how the sector is on the ascent.

Future economic outlook for Canada in line with global expectations

When considering the Canadian economic outlook for 2024, it is often useful to look at how this compares with global financial predictions. In addition to the rude health of iGaming in Canada being reflected in global online casino gaming, the positive economic outlook for the country is also broadly in line with expectations for many global economies.

Global growth is also predicted to rise steadily in the second half of 2024 before becoming stronger in 2025. This should be driven by the weakening effects of high interest rates on worldwide economic prosperity. With rate cuts in Canada already expected after Feb 2024’s inflation report, this could happen in the near future.

The performance of the US economy is always of interest in Canada, as this is the country’s biggest trading partner. Positive US Q2 performances in 2023, powered by a strong labor market, good consumer spending levels and robust business investments, were therefore a cause for optimism. As a US economy that continues to grow is something that Canadian businesses welcome, this can only be a healthy sign.

Canada set for further growth in 2024

Local news around Canada can cover many topics but the economy is arguably one of the most popular. A projected GDP growth figure of around 1% for Canada’s economy shows that the financial state of the country is heading in the right direction. An improved financial outlook heading into the latter half of 2024/2025 would make for even better reading, and the national economy should become even stronger.

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The Legal Landscape of Online Gambling in Canada

Online gambling has grown in popularity around the globe in recent years. While many jurisdictions have legalized land-based gambling, it hasn’t applied to online platforms. Nonetheless, Canada is one nation that has legalized online gambling with their provinces’ licensing and regulating sites.

Nonetheless, Canadians of legal age can enjoy playing their favourite online games where available. So many games like slots, blackjack, and roulette still maintain their popularity even in the digital sense.  Want to learn about what’s legal in Canada for online gambling? Let’s take a look.

What is legal for online gambling in Canada?

What is the best online casino in Canada? The list we provide you here should be a good start. It’s also important to note that most Canadian provinces do not have laws that prohibit offshore online casinos.

Many provinces provide licensing to online casinos. They even regulate them as well. For example, Alberta and British Columbia have sites regulated by their respective governing bodies. The Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) allows legal online gambling and oversees the services it offers to Maritime provinces such as New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

However, there are some caveats to address. In Newfoundland and Labrador, online gambling that is not offered by the ALC is considered illegal. Therefore, it is the only Canadian province as of 2024 that prohibits offshore options.

In terms of the legal age, there are three provinces where the legal age is 18: Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec. The remaining provinces establish 19 as the legal age for gambling including online.

Who are the regulatory bodies for gambling in Canada?

At the Federal level, the Canadian Gaming Association is the regulatory body for gambling in Canada. Thus, they cover both land-based and online gambling in the country. There are also provincial and regional regulatory bodies such as the Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) – which covers the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador.  

The Western Canada Lottery Corporation covers Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nunavut, Northwest Territories, and the Yukon Territory. A handful of provinces also have their regulatory bodies covering lottery and gaming.

Canada requires online casinos that wish to accept players from the country to adhere to regulations and licensing. These licenses are provided by provincial regulatory bodies. When licensed, online casinos must follow the regulations and security standards.

However, there is the belief that many of the laws about gambling in Canada may be outdated. This could be because these laws were created long before the advent of the Internet. Therefore, such laws may need to be modernized. Nonetheless, online gambling for the most part is legal, just dependent on the province.

Are there any legal grey areas to discuss?

The grey area that is considered a concern pertains to the use of offshore sites. As mentioned earlier, Newfoundland and Labrador is believed to be the only province that prohibits it. Even online casinos with no licensing by Canadian or provincial authorities accept residents of the country.

On the players’ end, many Canadians are allowed to play at online casinos. However, they may be restricted from certain platforms. This is to ensure that the players themselves are protected from unknowingly playing on platforms that may be illegal. 

What are the other laws and regulations about online gambling in Canada?

Online casinos have implemented measures for responsible gambling. This includes providing support and resources to problem gamblers on their site. They are also restricted regarding the marketing and advertising aspects of promoting their platform. 

One restriction of note is that marketing that is targeted at minors is prohibited. Another prohibits professional athletes from appearing in online casino ads in Ontario.

Even offshore casinos must adhere to these laws and regulations. Especially if they have obtained a license from the provincial bodies that allow them to operate.

Canada’s online gambling is legal – but will things change

As it stands right now, the legality of online gambling in Canada seems to fall under the purview of provincial laws and regulations. Canadian citizens must perform their due diligence further to see which online casinos are allowed by their respective provinces. Just because it may be legal in one province, it may not be the same in others.

Nonetheless, the question is: will any laws relax certain restrictions? Will Newfoundland and Labrador change their tune regarding offshore casinos? It’s unclear what the future holds – but watch this space for any changes about online gambling in Canada.  

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Wiseman, Nathan Elliot
1944 – 2023
Nathan, our beloved husband, Dad, and Zaida, died unexpectedly on December 13, 2023. Nathan was born on December 16, 1944, in Winnipeg, MB, the eldest of Sam and Cissie Wiseman’s three children.
He is survived by his loving wife Eva; children Sam (Natalie) and Marni (Shane); grandchildren Jacob, Jonah, Molly, Isabel, Nicole, and Poppy; brother David (Sherrill); sister Barbara (Ron); sister-in-law Agi (Sam) and many cousins, nieces, and nephews.
Nathan grew up in the north end of Winnipeg surrounded by his loving family. He received his MD from the University of Manitoba in 1968, subsequently completed his General Surgery residency at the University of Manitoba and went on to complete a fellowship in Paediatric Surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital of Harvard University. His surgeon teachers and mentors were world renowned experts in the specialty, and even included a Nobel prize winner.
His practice of Paediatric Surgery at Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg spanned almost half a century. He loved his profession and helping patients, even decades later often recounting details about the many kiddies on whom he had operated. Patients and their family members would commonly approach him on the street and say, “Remember me Dr. Wiseman?”. And he did! His true joy was caring for his patients with compassion, patience, unwavering commitment, and excellence. He was a gifted surgeon and leaves a profound legacy. He had no intention of ever fully retiring and operated until his very last day. He felt privileged to have the opportunity to mentor, support and work with colleagues, trainees, nurses, and others health care workers that enriched his day-to-day life and brought him much happiness and fulfillment. He was recognized with many awards and honors throughout his career including serving as Chief of Surgery of Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg, President of the Canadian Association of Pediatric Surgeons, and as a Governor of the American College of Surgeons. Most importantly of all he helped and saved the lives of thousands and thousands of Manitoba children. His impact on the generations of children he cared for, and their families, is truly immeasurable.
Nathan’s passion for golf was ignited during his childhood summers spent at the Winnipeg Beach Golf Course. Southwood Golf and Country Club has been his second home since 1980. His game was excellent and even in his last year he shot under his age twice! He played an honest “play as it lies” game. His golf buddies were true friends and provided him much happiness both on and off the course for over forty years. However, his passion for golf extended well beyond the eighteenth hole. He immersed himself in all aspects of the golf including collecting golf books, antiques, and memorabilia. He was a true scholar of the game, reading golf literature, writing golf poetry, and even rebuilding and repairing antique golf clubs. Unquestionably, his knowledge and passion for the game was limitless.
Nathan approached his many woodworking and workshop projects with zeal and creativity, and he always had many on the go. During the winter he was an avid curler, and in recent years he also enjoyed the study of Yiddish. Nathan never wasted any time and lived his life to the fullest.
Above all, Nathan was a loving husband, father, grandfather, son, father-in-law, son-in-law, uncle, brother, brother-in-law, cousin, and granduncle. He loved his family and lived for them, and this love was reciprocated. He met his wife Eva when he was a 20-year-old medical student, and she was 18 years old. They were happily married for 56 years. They loved each other deeply and limitlessly and were proud of each other’s accomplishments. He loved the life and the family they created together. Nathan was truly the family patriarch, an inspiration and a mentor to his children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and many others. He shared his passion for surgery and collecting with his son and was very proud to join his daughter’s medical practice (he loved Thursdays). His six grandchildren were his pride and joy and the centre of his world.
Throughout his life Nathan lived up to the credo “May his memory be a blessing.” His life was a blessing for the countless newborns, infants, toddlers, children, and teenagers who he cared for, for his colleagues, for his friends and especially for his family. We love him so much and there are no words to describe how much he will be missed.
A graveside funeral was held at the Shaarey Zedek cemetery on December 15, 2023. Pallbearers were his loving grandchildren. The family would like to extend their gratitude to Rabbi Yosef Benarroch of Adas Yeshurun Herzlia Congregation.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba, in the name of Dr. Nathan Wiseman.

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