Search This Blog

Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Facebook divorces: Facebook site is cited in 'a THIRD of splits'

Nasty surprise: A third of the 5,000 petitions filed with Divorce-Online in the past year mentioned Facebook

Facebook is becoming a major factor in marriage breakdowns and is increasingly being used as a source of evidence in divorce cases, according to lawyers.

The social networking site was cited as a reason for a third of divorces last year in which unreasonable behaviour was a factor, according to law firm Divorce-Online.

The firm said it had seen a 50 per cent jump in the number of behaviour-based divorce petitions that contained the word ‘Facebook’ in the past two years.

Mark Keenan, managing director of Divorce-Online, said: ‘Facebook has become the primary method for communicating with friends for many people.

People contact ex-partners and the messages start as innocent, but lead to trouble.

If someone wants to have an affair or flirt with the opposite sex then it’s the easiest place to do it.

Thirty-three per cent of the 5,000 behaviour petitions filed with the firm in the past year mentioned the site.

The most common reasons for Facebook causing problems in relationships were a spouse finding flirty messages, photos of their partner at a party they did not know about or with someone they should not have been with.

Anne-Marie Hutchinson, at Dawson Cornwell Solicitors, said: ‘If you are keeping things from your partner, Facebook makes it so much easier for them to find out.

She said the site can be used as evidence of unreasonable behaviour, adding: ‘If you are complaining that they have a drinking problem and they have posted statuses about going out on the razzle... that could be used.

Mr Keenan said he warned his clients to keep off Facebook while going through divorce proceedings.

He added: ‘People need to be careful what they put on Facebook as the courts are now seeing a lot more evidence being introduced from people’s walls and posts in disputes over finances and children.

Kiddush Hashem! Chasidic Community raises $15,000 After Hit & Run Kills Mother In Brooklyn

Police investigate Christmas morning hit-and-run on Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, where Donna Fountain was killed.

Community leaders are banding together to make sure one of Donna Fountain’s dreams didn’t die with her.

The single mom was carrying a list of her life goals when she was killed by a hit-and-run coward Christmas morning. Among them: making sure son Elijah graduated from college.

State Sen. Eric Adams announced the creation of a scholarship fund for the 8-year-old boy on Friday, launched with $25,000 in donations.

“There's nothing we can do to take back that nightmare,” Adams said of the crash on Eastern Parkway.

“But today we’re going to continue her dream of giving her son an education.”

Adams kicked in $5,000 of his own money; the Hasidic community raised another $15,000; and Korean activists donated $5,000.

“If he doesn’t have a mother at least he should get the right teaching in school and a proper education,” Rabbi Joel Friedman said of young Elijah.

The child’s uncle, Ben Fountain, said the family is concerned that while he has been told his mother is dead, he has not grasped it yet.

“It’s like he’s asleep, it’s a dream,” he said.

“He and my sister were joined at the hip. He doesn’t understand that she will not be returning in this life.”

He said that after the holidays, Elijah will live with him in Westchester. He was touched that so many strangers dug into their pockets to ensure the boy’s future.

“I am completely moved by it,” he said.

Officials said there is also a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest of the driver who left the home health aide dying in the street.

Fountain’s family said police told them they have located the car that hit her, but are still looking for the driver.

“Now is a good time to do the right thing and surrender to the authorities,” Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Brooklyn) said.

“If you don’t, rest assured we will all be at criminal court to make sure you are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Ben Fountain said he has no doubt police will make an arrest. In the meantime, he is concentrating on arrangements for a funeral 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Safe Gospel Assembly Church at 777 Rutland Road in Brooklyn.

Anyone with information about the driver who hit Donna Fountain is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS.

For donations to the fund, contact Adams’ office at (718) 284-4700.

The ‘sicko’ The NYPD cops let go

Steven Pappas, accused of posing as a police officer to lure and molest two boys, is loaded into a car outside the NYPD’s Special Victims Unit offices in Brooklyn.

Cops blew a golden opportunity two years ago to chase a badge-flashing child molester now suspected of assaulting a 15-year-old Brooklyn boy.

A 12-year-old boy told officers in 2009 that a man — now identified as Steven Pappas, 50 — pretended to be a cop and sexually assaulted him, but the claim was dismissed by authorities, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly revealed yesterday.

Pappas is back behind bars for allegedly pulling the same heinous ruse on a Brooklyn teen on Dec. 23.

“What happened is when he [the 12-year-old] spoke to the Special Victims Unit when this happened in 2009, they weren’t certain of his credibility,” said Kelly, following an interfaith breakfast in Midtown.

“His mother [this week] sees this individual who was arrested — Pappas’ picture — on television, finds out the circumstances were very similar to what her son reported. She calls the [police] hot line, and that’s how we got involved to investigate.”

Kelly defended Special Victims cops, saying they had to make a tough judgment call in 2009.

“You have to judge credibility,” the NYPD’s top cop said. “I think the important thing is that this individual is under arrest.”

Pappas was remanded without bail after pleading not guilty to a slew of raps including sexual assault, kidnapping and criminal impersonation. Prosecutors said both boys successfully picked him out of a police lineup.

The Dec. 23 and 2009 attacks bear a chilling resemblance.

Pappas approached the most recent victim after the youngster tossed a bag of potato chips onto the platform of the 53rd Street subway station in Sunset Park, police alleged.

The suspected perv flashed a fake police shield and took the boy to 92nd Street in Bay Ridge, where he sexually assaulted him, law-enforcement sources said.

On Feb. 4, 2009, Pappas allegedly approached the 12-year-old boy — also at the 53rd Street station platform — after the youngster tossed a bottle or can of soda at a moving train, sources said.

Pappas allegedly identified himself as a cop, flashed a shield and escorted the boy into his blue sedan.

Once inside, Pappas drove to 97th Street and Fort Hamilton Parkway, where he allegedly assaulted the boy. Prosecutors said the boy failed to pick him out of a lineup at the time.

Kelly said Special Victims officers “are trained in this, do it extremely well, and, in this instance, it proves the young man — the boy — was correct.”

“But that’s what happens in this business,” Kelly said.

“There’s a fair amount of recantation that takes place as far as the claims of sexual abuse. It’s a sensitive, complex area. I think they do it well.”

Pappas has been in and out of custody for most of the past 30 years. He has done eight separate stints upstate for a variety of crimes, including sexual abuse, burglary and possession of stolen property. The sexual-abuse conviction involved impersonating a cop.

Pappas had claimed he was a cop before handcuffing a 14-year-old boy at a subway station in Borough Park on Aug. 2, 1999, law-enforcement sources said.

He was busted a day later and served eight years behind bars.

HAPPY NEW YEAR: The Drunk Hasid

This man was happily jaunting along Eastern Parkway when I asked for a photograph. He agreed, on the condition that I sit with him for a few minutes.

He was very much the director of this photo shoot. He would never really agree to the photographs I wanted to take. (“How about a nice one over there, under the trees?“) He would just shake off the suggestion and return to his own inspired ideas. In particular, he was very intent on getting an extreme close-up of his eyes.

Sefer Torah Stolen From Monticello Synagogue

MONTICELLO — Someone broke into the Landfield Avenue Synagogue sometime between Friday evening and Saturday morning and stole a Torah scroll.

Rabbi Ben-Zion Chanowitz said he got in around 9 a.m. Saturday and noticed the break-in after a class when he went to get the scroll.

Chanowitz said he found a broken window and a couple of open doors. The burglar or burglars went into a couple of offices in the synagogue. Not much else was taken, though.

"It seemed like they were after the scroll," he said.

The scroll, or Sefer Torah, is used for Torah readings during services. It is imbued with sacred significance in Judaism and treated with great respect.

This scroll has a blue mantle. The congregation got it about a decade ago. Many members of the congregation contributed money to buy it, Chanowitz said.

The rabbi said he doesn't know what the thief or thieves plan to do with the scroll — although scrolls are expensive, a stolen scroll is not something you can easily resell.

The synagogue has another scroll it can use for now. Chanowitz said he hopes it gets the stolen one back.

"The scroll is really parchment and ink, and it's written by a scribe. But what we believe, more than anything else, is the spiritual part of the scroll," he said. "The spiritual part cannot really be sold ... because God is all over. I feel it will get back to us.

"Wherever it is, it's still ours."

State and village police are investigating. Anyone with any information is asked to call village police at 794-4422 or 791-8477.

Monkey missing from San Francisco Zoo

A hunt is underway for Banana Sam, a 17-year old squirrel monkey.

A hunt is underway in San Francisco to find a 2-pound squirrel monkey that disappeared from the zoo Friday morning after vandals broke into his exhibit.

Banana Sam, 17 years old, disappeared overnight after vandals cut two holes in the mesh of the squirrel monkey exhibit.

Sam is 1 foot tall and looks harmless but has sharp teeth and "will definitely bite if provoked," San Francisco Zoo officials said in a statement.

"He is a valued member of the zoo, and we wish for a safe and speedy return," officials said.

It's unclear whether he escaped on his own or if the vandals stole him.

By Friday afternoon, someone had created a Twitter account for the missing monkey and was tweeting the primate's experiences around town.

"Arrived Fisherman's Wharf. People still wear fanny packs? Considering going back to zoo," @sf_BananaSam tweeted.

"OMG YOU GUYS RAINFOREST CAFE IS NOT WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE," said another tweet. "It's basically an Applebee's with a 'Sounds of the Jungle' CD playing. I'm out."

Surprisingly, Banana Sam isn't the first missing zoo creature with a Twitter account. An Egyptian cobra that disappeared from the Bronx Zoo in April managed to attract 200,000 followers before he was found six days later — still at the zoo, curled up in a dark corner of the reptile house.

Let's hope Banana Sam has found an equally safe place to hide.

Just in case, anyone with information on Sam's location can call the San Francisco Police Department at (415) 553-8090.

A private donor has issued a $5,000 reward for the monkey's safe return.

Bolivia to Sell Rice Seized From US Jewish Businessman

Jacob Ostreicher

Bolivian authorities plan to sell more than 13,000 metric tons (14,000 tons) of rice seized from a jailed American businessman, an official said Friday.

Jacob Ostreicher has been jailed without being charged since June in connection with a money laundering investigation.

Ostreicher, who runs a New York flooring business, has said he went to Bolivia to salvage a rice-growing investment after the local manager defrauded investors and planted some of their rice on land owned by the brother of a Brazilian drug trafficker.

Prosecutors allege the $25 million invested in the rice venture was obtained illegally. Ostreicher maintains he is innocent.

Moises Aguilera, who heads a Bolivian agency in charge of handling seized goods, said the rice is to be sold in mid-January so that it doesn't go bad.

"Each ton is valued at between $80 and $100," Aguilera said. At that price, the sale would bring in more in than $1 million.

Ostreicher's lawyer, Jerjes Justiniano, called the sale of the rice illegal, saying the authorities had not notified him of the plan or given him an opportunity to appeal.

He said the proceeds of the rice sale are to be held in a government account and if Ostreicher eventually goes free, he is supposed to recoup the money.

There were conflicting accounts of how much rice was seized. Justiniano said the authorities had held about 18,000 metric tons (20,000 tons) — or about 5,000 metric tons (5,500 tons) more than the amount cited by officials.

Ostreicher's unusually lengthy detention has prompted U.S. officials to intercede on his behalf with senior Bolivian officials. A Bolivian human rights groups has also backed him, accusing prosecutors of suspicious behavior.

A judge in September ordered Ostreicher's release on bail, then six days later revoked that decision. His next court hearing is scheduled for next week.

Also jailed in connection with the money laundering investigation is Claudia Liliana Rodriguez, of Colombia, who had worked as the local manager in the rice-growing investment. Ostreicher and a Swiss associate, Andre Zolty, had entrusted the venture to Rodriguez but now accuse her of stealing millions of dollars from them.

Meah She'arim - In Holocaust Garb

Ultra-Orthodox men, some wearing uniforms like those worn by Jews during the holocaust, take part in a protest against what they called oppression of Ultra-Orthodox Jews, in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighbourhood December 31, 2011.

NYPD Tactic: Keeping Crime Reports Off the Books

Katherine Davis said that when a man climbed through her living room window, the police did not take an official report.

Jill Korber walked into a drab police station in Queens in July to report that a passing bicyclist had groped her two days in a row. She left in tears, frustrated, she said, by the response of the first officer she encountered. “He told me it would be a waste of time, because I didn’t know who the guy was or where he worked or anything,” said Ms. Korber, 34, a schoolteacher. “His words to me were, ‘These things happen.’ He said those words.”

Crime victims in New York sometimes struggle to persuade the police to write down what happened on an official report. The reasons are varied. Police officers are often busy, and few relish paperwork. But in interviews, more than half a dozen police officers, detectives and commanders also cited departmental pressure to keep crime statistics low.

While it is difficult to say how often crime complaints are not officially recorded, the Police Department is conscious of the potential problem, trying to ferret out unreported crimes through audits of emergency calls and of any resulting paperwork.

As concerns grew about the integrity of the data, the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, appointed a panel of former federal prosecutors in January to study the crime-reporting system. The move was unusual for Mr. Kelly, who is normally reluctant to invite outside scrutiny.

The panel, which has not yet released its findings, was expected to focus on the downgrading of crimes, in which officers improperly classify felonies as misdemeanors.

But of nearly as much concern to people in law enforcement are crimes that officers simply failed to record, which one high-ranking police commander in Manhattan suggested was “the newest evolution in this numbers game.”

It is not unusual for detectives, who handle telephone calls from victims inquiring about the status of their cases, to learn that no paperwork exists. Detectives said it was hard to tell if those were administrative mix-ups or something deliberate. But they noted their skepticism that some complaints could simply vanish in the digital age.

Detective Louis A. Molina, president of the National Latino Officers Association, said that for some officers, the desire of supervisors to keep recorded crime levels low was “going to be on your mind,” and that it “can play a role in your decision making.”

“For police officers,” he added, “it’s gotten to the point of what’s the most diplomatic way to discourage a crime report from being taken.”

Some public officials have said they have received more complaints from constituents that their reports of crime were not being recorded. State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn said his office had to contact “local precincts directly to make sure that criminal complaints were filed and processed appropriately.”

In the case of Ms. Korber, the police did eventually take a report of her being groped, but only after her city councilman, Peter F. Vallone Jr., intervened, she and Mr. Vallone said. In fact, Mr. Vallone said that he had grown so alarmed over how many women were being groped in his district that he contacted the 114th Precinct; his staff then asked Ms. Korber to go there again.

Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman, said each precinct must audit police responses to radio dispatches four times a month “to assure that crime complaints are taken when necessary and prepared accurately.”

“Alleged failures to take a report of a crime are investigated by the Internal Affairs Bureau and, if corroborated, the officer is subject to disciplinary action,” Mr. Browne said.

Additionally, Mr. Browne said the department conducted frequent audits of written reports to ensure that officers were properly classifying crimes. The most recent of those audits have found an error rate of 1.5 percent, down from 4.4 percent in 2000, he said.

The reasons for not taking a report, police officials said, can vary. Some officers seek to avoid the dull task of preparing reports; others may fear discipline for errors in paperwork. Sometimes officers run out of time because they are directed to another job.

There are certainly calls that do not merit a crime report: a victim’s account of an alleged crime can be deemed dubious, for example.

However, some commanders said, officers sometimes bend to pressure by supervisors to eschew report-taking. “Cops don’t want a bad reputation, and stigma,” one commander said. “They know they have to please the sergeants.” Like several other officers and supervisors, he spoke only on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

The sergeants, in turn, are acting on the wishes of higher-ups to keep crime statistics down, a desire that is usually communicated stealthily, the commander said. As an era of low crime continues, and as 2011 draws to a close with felony numbers running virtually even with last year’s figures, any new felony is a significant event in a precinct and a source of consternation to commanders.

On the Upper West Side in July, a man in red shorts climbed through a window into the living room where Katherine Davis, 65, was reading the paper. She ran, a few steps ahead of him, and locked herself in an adjacent apartment, where she watched through the peephole as the man searched for her before he left.

Officers drove her around to look for the intruder, unsuccessfully. Ms. Davis asked if they could take fingerprints. But the officers said, “Oh, no, that’s only if you have a detective, or investigation,” she recalled. She asked for a case number.

“They said, ‘There is no case number,’ ” she said.

No one came to interview her or to seek videotape from the numerous surveillance cameras nearby, she said. That is where things ended.

“I just assumed it was laziness,” Ms. Davis said. “Why bother to take a report?”

Even when New Yorkers follow up, they are sometimes surprised to learn that their complaints were never classified as a crime. In one case, Sandra Ung, 37, went to the Fifth Precinct in Chinatown after her wallet disappeared at a Starbucks.

“I had it and then it was gone,” she said of the Feb. 23 episode. She said she believed her wallet had been stolen, but could not prove it. She assumed the police had recorded it as pickpocketing, but when she retrieved a copy of the report days later, she saw it was recorded not as a crime, but as lost property that had gone “missing in an unknown manner.”

That report also reflects the line of questioning Ms. Ung faced; it noted that “she wasn’t bumped nor jostled.”

In June, the Police Department issued a guidebook that instructed officers how to categorize all imaginable variations of crimes — including 24 situations involving identity theft and 3 types of strangulation. Its section on pickpockets could be viewed as a rebuke to how officers handled Ms. Ung’s case and possibly others like it.

The guidelines focused on the very words that the police used to discount her suspicions: “The victim does not need to have witnessed, felt or otherwise been aware of being bumped or jostled in order to properly record the occurrence as grand larceny.”

Despite the new guidelines, some critics say subtle tweaks in police protocol offer opportunities to avoid taking reports. In 2009, the department came up with a new policy that might seem inconsequential: Robbery victims would have to go to the station house to give their reports directly to a detective or patrol supervisor.

The intent was to get an investigator on the case as quickly as possible, but one police commander said supervisors were aware that another consequence could be that fewer crimes would be reported.

The policy was restored to its original form last year, with uniformed officers once again allowed to take the initial report of a robbery.

“A police report wouldn’t get made because they make you wait in the police station for hours,” one commander said. Eventually, he added, the crime victim would give up and leave.

London: Frum Couple Struck By Vehicle In Anti-Semitic Attack Friday Night

After a deliberate anti Semitic incident on Golders Green Road, Shomrim NW London appeal for information from anyone who may have witnessed the incident.

A well-known middle aged community Askan and his wife were deliberately struck by a vehicle on Golders Green Road, in North West London, while they were walking home from shul on Friday night.

The vehicle sped off after the incident leaving the two victims lying in the middle of the road.

Hatzola NW London treated both victims and rushed them into hospital.

Both husband and wife are going into surgery and the community is asked to daven for their well being.

שלמה בן אסתר חנה, ברכה בת חנה רחל Shlomo ben Esther Chana, and Brocha bas Chana Roche.

If you witnessed this incident and have any details which may assist Police with this investigation, please call the Shomrim NW London 24 hr Emergency Hotline on 0300 999 1234 .
הרה"ח ר' שלמה אסטרייכער הי"ו ראש קהילת מונקטש בשכונת גולדרס גרין בלונדון וזוג' נפגעו ע"י תאונת פגע וברח בחזרתם מתפילת ליל שבת בביהמ"ד מונקאטש ברח' המרכזי בשכונה
מפי עדי ראיה נשמע שגוי אנטישמי חיכה ברכבו בעבר לרחוב וברגע שר' שלמה ואשתו התחילו לחצות את הרחוב דהר לקראתם במהירות ופגע בהם קשות ונמלט תיכף מהמקום והשאיר אותם דוממים באמצע הכביש עד שהאמבולנס של הצלה הגיע והובילו אותם לביה"ח עם רגליים שבורים ה"י

הם אמורים לעבור ניתוח מחר בבוקר
הציבור מתבקש להתפלל עבור ר' שלמה בן אסתר חנה וזוג' ברכה בת חנה רחל לרפו"ש בתושח"י

L.A. fires likely set by more than one arsonist, police believe

Escape: Residents flee their apartments. One man, pictured, is escorted from his home with a cage of birds

Los Angeles authorities investigating a string of more than 35 fires set over the last two days strongly suspect the blazes are the work of more than one arsonist.

On Friday morning, 21 fires were started in a relatively small area around Hollywood and West Hollywood. On Friday night and Saturday morning, 16 more fires were reported. They were similar to the ones in Hollywood but were spread out over a much larger area.

Eight of the fires occurred in North Hollywood, three in the foothill area of the San Fernando Valley, three in the Wilshire Division of the Los Angeles Police Department, one on the Westside and one in Lennox.

Law enforcement sources told The Times that it would be difficult -- but not impossible -- for one person to set all those fires. The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case was open, said it's possible there is more than one arsonist or that some fires are the work of copycats.

One source said a single arsonist would have to be a "superman" to have set all the blazes Saturday morning.

Officials described the blazes set Friday as one of the worst arson rampages in Los Angeles in recent history.

Among the properties damaged was the Hollywood Hills home where The Doors' Jim Morrison once lived. The home inspired Morrison's song "Love Street."

Friday night's fires left L.A.-area residents on edge and investigators perplexed as they began the painstaking search for clues on who had set the fires and why.

Nearly all of the fires began with a vehicle being set ablaze. Several times, however, the flames jumped to nearby apartment buildings or houses, causing significant damage at some of the locations.

Estimates of the total damage were not available, although officials from the Los Angeles County Fire Department said that four fires set in West Hollywood alone destroyed about $350,000 worth of cars and property.

One firefighter suffered back and neck injuries and was taken to a hospital.

His condition was not thought to be serious.

The only clue officials have released about the Saturday fires is that they are looking for a male driving a white and tan mid-1990s Lexus ES300. No further description of the suspect was released.

חובה לראות! בלה פרוינד נגד "פרענקית חוזרת בתשובה"

הכירו את בלה פרוינד

Chile detains Israeli on suspicion of causing massive wildfire

Rotem Singer, 23

SANTIAGO -- Investigators in Chile arrested an Israeli tourist Saturday who they believe inadvertently set off a massive wildfire that has ravaged tens of thousands of acres of pristine forest land in Patagonia.

"An Israeli citizen has been arrested as the perpetrator, presumably in an act of negligence," said Patagonia's prosecutor Juan Melendez, speaking on Chilean radio, without identifying the suspect.

High winds fanned the blaze at the Torres del Paine National Park, a 600,000 acre (240,100 hectare) paradise of mountains, glaciers, natural forests and lakes in deep southern Chile visited by more than 100,000 people each year.

After meeting emergency officials struggling to get a grip on the inferno, President Sebastian Pinera announced the park would remain shut throughout January.

Some 27,200 acres (11,000 hectares) of woodland and scrub, nearly four percent of the total area of the park, has already been destroyed by the blaze, which more than quadrupled in size in less than 24 hours.

The Chilean government has deployed four planes and a helicopter to the remote mountainous region, where 300 firefighters, soldiers and forest rangers were engaged in a desperate effort to get the inferno under control.

Aerial photographs showed a vast cloud of smoke obscuring the beautiful backdrop of snow-clad granite peaks, wild steppes and turquoise lakes.

Federal agent, robber fatally shot in gunfight outside Long Island pharmacy

A federal agent was fatally shot Saturday outside a Long Island pharmacy in a gunfight involving an armed robber, an off-duty NYPD cop and a retired Nassau County cop, officials said.

The thief, a local man in his 40s whose name was not immediately released, also was shot to death at the scene.

He had entered Charlie’s Family Pharmacy in Seaford, flashed a gun and announced a stick-up just before 2 p.m., Nassau County police said.

Leaving with a stash of stolen Oxycotin and cash, he was confronted outside by the off-duty NYPD cop, a retired Nassau County cop and a federal agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearm and Explosives, police said.

One of the law-enforcement agents fatally shot the robber.

But the ATF agent, Jonathan Capano, 51, was also shot in the confrontation, officials said. It was not immediately clear Saturday night who shot Capano.

Capano, a father of two girls who lived in Seaford, was rushed to Nassau University Medical Center, where he died, officials said.

“He was a family man and a hero,” said Chief Joseph Anarumo of ATF, who noted that Capano had done a four-month tour in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The violence erupted about 30 miles from a Medford pharmacy where a druggie fatally shot four people in July.

Police Report Shooting At L.I. Pharmacy :

Fake vodka could harm New Year’s revelers, British officials warn

It may be a little pricier, but picking a brand you know like Smirnoff could be a smarter choice this New Year’s Eve.

Cheap vodka may result in more than a bad New Year’s hangover, British officials are warning revelers.

The fake booze popping up in shops recently is so poisonous it could leave partiers blind.

"Everyone wants a bargain, especially at this time of year, but surely the potential health risks far outweigh any financial savings. Purchasing it also does nothing to help legitimate businesses stay afloat," one official told the Telegraph.

Signs of fake vodka include a nailpolish-like odor, weird labels or partially filled bottles, according to the newspaper.

The Surrey County Council issued a warning earlier this month, urging imbibers to stay away from "Drop Vodka", which contains chloroform and may be manufactured by gang members.

"Drop Vodka doesn't actually contain enough alcohol to be legally called vodka. It's not registered which means it hasn't been through the rigorous testing process which all food and drink must go through before they can be sold," Surrey County Council Trading Standards' Steve Playle said in the press release.

While this fake vodka apparently hasn’t leaked into the United States, homemade liquor killed 140 people in India earlier this year, the Guardian reported.

Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews protest in Jerusalem against 'exclusion of Haredim'

ultra-Orthodox protesters wearing badges in Jerusalem, December 31, 2011

Over a thousand ultra-Orthodox men assembled Saturday night in Jerusalem’s Kikar Hashabbat (Sabbath Square), in protest of what they termed the exclusion of Haredim, a response to the recent outrage over the exclusion of women in Beit Shemesh and elsewhere.

The protesters also expressed their solidarity with Shmuel Weissfish, one of the leading activists in the radical Sikrik group. Weissfish is slated to begin his two-year prison sentence on Sunday for vandalizing a computer store in the same Kikar Hashabbat.

Some of the protesters are wearing yellow badges, with which they mean to express that they are being persecuted for their Jewishness.

A fight broke out in the crowd, after one of the participants was suspected of being a undercover police officer.

The past week has given rise to an increasingly intense confrontation between ultra-Orthodox and secular Israelis. A Channel 2 expose about an eight-year-old girl attacked by Haredi men for her ‘immodest’ attire, led to public outcry that culminated in a mass demonstration in Beit Shemesh on Tuesday.

Israelis have been also scandalized by gender-segregated bus lines and advertisers pandering to Haredi will by running ads devoid of women.

Friday, December 30, 2011

One ultra-Orthodox woman who did not stay silent

When Yocheved Horowitz, an ultra-Orthodox woman from Ashdod, sat down in the front of the gender-segregated bus, she believed her protest would provoke a change among the silent Haredi majority. Others aren't so optimistic.

When she sat down last week in the front of a gender-segregated bus on its way from to Ashdod to Jerusalem, the sole Haredi woman amid men, Yocheved Horowitz did not imagine that her actions would prompt such contradictory responses. In Haredi society, it is not customary to protest radicalization, and it certainly is not customary for women to do so.

Horowitz was prepared for abusive comments. As a Haredi woman, news of the publication of her unusual remarks condemning the humiliation of women on the so-called mehadrin buses spread quickly. Even before Shabbat, many had read the article about her in Haaretz or in pieces on the Haredi news sites. The story spread through the ultra-Orthodox community, where everyone knows everything about everyone. Within hours everyone knew who her husband was and how to reach her.

Phone calls started coming in. Some condemned not only her protest, but primarily the fact that she had cooperated with a secular newspaper. She responded to all: "Let me say these things in a Haredi newspaper."

"After all, if I could give an interview to a Haredi newspaper, I would do so," she says. "That shut up the critics. They know you can't denounce the mehadrin [bus lines] in Yated Neeman. The only way I can express my opinion is by bypassing the Haredi press. The trouble is that most of the people responding hadn't read the article. If they had, they would have seen that I did not in any way desecrate the Lord's name," she says.

"What I found funniest was that commenters called me a 'secular woman in a wig.' People who write things like that are empty," she says. "I wasn't offended. I'm not afraid of those who oppose me; what's important is that they speak with respect. And I told those who contacted me that it is not written anywhere that women have to sit in the back."

But along with the expected opposition, she also received positive responses. "Courageous woman," "you are privileged," "you sanctified the Heavenly Name in public" are some of the things fellow ultra-Orthodox told her, whether in online comments on news sites or in Haredi forums, or phone calls from strangers.

Many Haredi streams - the entire Lithuanian public, Sephardim, Shas and the like - oppose gender segregation on buses. But now they seem to be pleased that Horowitz did their work for them, despite the convention in conservative societies of not washing dirty laundry in public. Many people evidently felt that she spoke for them.

She had been thinking of protesting for a long time. "I wanted to signal to the extremists, and not only on buses, that women are not hefker" [literally "ownerless property," though in this context meaning expendable]. "Of course I was scared at first. The Haredim don't like things like this. They fear having their name and image publicized. I was afraid of what people would say, especially my family. But I went with my truth and I knew that without a name the act would be less credible, and so I decided to go public."

Horowitz views the campaign in Beit Shemesh by the extremist Sicarii, who made headlines last week after grown men spat at an 8-year-old girl whom they believed was not dressed modestly enough, as yet another misinterpretation of the Torah. "The Sicarii are insane, and I don't even consider them religious. Lately everything has become forbidden, and I think that's extremist and twisted."

Following the reactions to her protest, Horowitz says she believes others will join her campaign against exclusion of women. "Suddenly they [the Haredim] can see that there is someone with the courage to broach this controversial topic. They never dreamed that a Haredi woman would know how to answer, wouldn't be afraid and would know how to handle insults. Now I am waiting for other women to start talking."

'Vulgarization of religion'

One person who encouraged Horowitz but sounds a lot less optimistic is Dov Halbertal, an attorney and lecturer in Jewish law at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Halbertal, who is himself Haredi, has been visiting the home of Ashkenazi Haredi leader Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv for years. He has long warned against what he calls the politicization of religion, and against radicalization, such as that embodied by mehadrin buses or the Beit Shemesh zealots. He denounces "the vulgarization of religion that finds expression in the exclusion of women."

"This is not just an internal problem within Haredi society," he says. "Religion is taking over politics because it has a tendency to take over, and the ones who are pulling this cart are the silent ones," he says. This makes Horowitz's action "brave and truly unique."

"Beit Shemesh and the buses are not the main problem," Halbertal claims. "They are symptoms of the politicization of religion. They are the results of extremists feeling secure because they're receiving backing from the establishment. They have tremendous backing and tremendous security because they receive funding from the state. After all, what motivates them is taking control of the country. How could buses be stopped in Mea She'arim [as happened several years ago] and the police do nothing? One day you'll find yourselves, secular women and the general public as a whole, silenced altogether."

Halbertal says "the solution is to use force against the extremists and to forcibly remove the skullcap from the state." He has taken a great deal of flak from his community over his call for separation of religion and state, so he knows how hard it is for sane Haredim to go against the flow. Like Horowitz, he too evokes contradictory reactions. His Haredi detractors call him a fascist and a leftist, but he also has supporters.

"The Haredi street is against me. The online commenters swooped down on me from every direction. They consider me less than dust. But there are quality people in the Haredi world, mainly young people, including the sons of yeshiva heads, sons of people in key positions, who tell me, 'Go ahead.' They tell me, 'we can't express ourselves, but you speak for us.'"

He understands why they aren't speaking out, but he believes the majority's silence is a show of cowardice and servility. "The little guy doesn't usually come out against the majority. But that is a problem. Martin Luther King, Jr., said that more than condemning the bad people, we must condemn the silence of the good."

He can't vent his opinions in the Haredi press. "If I write in Yated Neeman, I'll be immediately thrown out of the community. The community is terrorized by way of such issues as matchmaking. After all, everyone has to arrange marriages for his children. But if you say a word or two in favor of secular people, they won't want to match anyone to your children. So you have a responsibility. The upshot is that your average Haredi is captive. Therefore only those handful of people who are not submissive can do something that might lead to change."

"There are many matters about which the public has an opinion, but keeps it to itself," concurs a Haredi man who refuses to give his name. "People don't want to oppose, and they've gotten used to the extremists calling the shots. It's a dictatorship. The public doesn't like that it has to go along with the trend. So if you do hear from a man with other opinions, it influences you. It rouses you to action."

However, Haredi journalist Moshe Glasner thinks ultra-Orthodox condemning the exclusion of women won't change the consciousness of their public. Moreover, he says the media's preoccupation with these matters has hurt the cause by strengthening the community's sense of persecution.

"All this has done is strengthen the extremists, because the attack was on us as a Haredi public, and it was brutal," Glasner says. "Right now, people feel they are under heavy artillery fire, that the discussion has gone beyond the legitimate. In this state we cannot respond to the issue at hand, and that places the entire public reluctantly on the extremists' side. Even if there is a sane public that opposes segregated buses, they cannot speak out right now." Glasner adds, "It would be like proposing a vote of no-confidence during wartime. After the war, as it were, we'll set up a committee of inquiry. And we'll do the reckoning ourselves."

He says the Orthodox deal with issues such as segregated buses and the Sicarii on a regular basis. Within the Haredi media, there is a fundamental debate regarding who is to blame for all of this, and why the rabbis have not clearly denounced the Sicarii's extremism. Glasner says we have to wait and see what will happen when the smoke clears, but adds, "Anyone who thinks that the media spotlight will halt the exclusion of women, stop the mehadrin and force the extremists to surrender is mistaken."

'Cursing isn't a sex offence'

Shlomo Fuchs, 44 Is it sexual harassment to call someone a slut?

Shlomo Fuchs, 44, accused of sexually harassing female soldier on public bus, files appeal with J'lem court. 'Unpleasant remarks are heard every day, most of them sexual,' he claims

Is it sexual harassment to call someone a slut ?

Jerusalem resident Shlomo Fuchs, 44, accused of sexually harassing Doron Matalon, a female soldier on a public bus, calling her a "slut," has filed an appeal with the city's Magistrate's Court on Friday.

"Unpleasant remarks are heard every day in Israel, including some which may be considered humiliating, and most of them are based on a person's sexuality. Those who curse are never put on trial," Fuchs claimed in the appeal.

The court partially accepted Fuchs' appeal, ordering him to pay NIS 5,000 ($1,310) instead of NIS 20,000 ($5,242) in bail. He is scheduled to be released from jail on Friday.

Fuchs also claimed that even if cursing a woman "is deserving of moral obloquy, it does not constitute a criminal offense of sexual harassment." He further stated that the decision to put him on trial is based on an unfounded perception, claiming "there is no reasonable ground to suppose that the court… will not acquit the claimant.

Even if the expression he used was unpleasant to hear, the appeal stated, Fuchs should not be arrested for it, adding he's not considered a threat to the public.

'Not a sexual offender'

"I am not a sexual offender," Fuchs, father of 12, told his attorney on Thursday. "If anything – she harassed me. I wanted to move away and she kept moving closer."

Fuchs' attorney claimed this was not a criminal offense. "We live in a free country. We're allowed to curse, its part of the freedom of expression," he explained.

If the court does decide this is a sexual harassment case, said the attorney, then any man who calls a woman a "bitch" or other curse words would be considered a sexual offender.

According to the appeal, the Jerusalem court has no foundation to determine whether this is a growing phenomenon. Fuchs attorneys believe that the police was likely influenced by the current atmosphere. "Fuchs has nothing to do with Beit Shemesh."

Police officials said Fuchs' behavior was unruly, and that he sexually harassed Matalon by humiliating her and making sexual remarks.

The indictment against Fuchs follows a warning issued by Israeli authorities saying they would not tolerate the exclusion of women from the public sphere or any acts of violence towards women. State Prosecutor Moshe Lador stressed that "the prosecution will work with the police to bring this radical phenomenon of haredi extremism to an end.

L.A. - Night of fire in Hollywood

Burning up: A fire engine arrives at a blaze in the Laurel Canyon section of West Hollywood on Friday, where former Doors lead singer Jim Morrison used to live

Video cameras may hold the key to solving a string of 19 arson fires set in Hollywood and West Hollywood early Friday morning.

Los Angeles Police Cmdr. Andrew J. Smith said investigators are scouring businesses and buildings in the vicinity of each of the fires for video cameras that might have captured images of the people or people who set the blazes.

The fires were set within blocks of each other -– and mostly started in cars, carports and trash, said Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Eric Scott.

Police are also canvassing residents in the area of the fires. Police issued a citywide tactical alert at 12:45 a.m., allowing officers to work past their shifts. The Los Angeles Fire Department has doubled the number of arson teams on call to four.

In total, four suspected arson fires occurred in West Hollywood and 15 in Hollywood, including a blaze at the former home of Jim Morrison. Police said calls started coming in shortly after midnight.

The latest fires come a day after police arrested Samuel Arrington, 22, of Sunland in connection with three arsons that occurred on a five-block stretch of Sunset Boulevard on Thursday morning.

Smith said Arrington was caught "pretty much red-handed" and remains in custody.

Police and LAFD arson investigators don't yet know whether the rash of blazes Friday night was the work of a copycat connected to the earlier set of fires, that of an accomplice or accomplices in the earlier fires, or altogether unrelated, Smith said.

2-year-old fatally shot in Newark apartment

Outside 57 St. James Place in Newark where a two-year old was shot and killed.

NEWARK — Police are searching for a man in his 20s who might have been involved in the fatal shooting of a 2-year-old boy in Newark’s South Ward, city police Director Samuel DeMaio said.

"As of now, we know for a fact the shot came from within the house," DeMaio said "There was a male that was with the child's mother when they arrived at the hospital."

The child was discovered in a St. James Place apartment and the death was confirmed after 10:30 a.m. by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, whose investigators are now interviewing possible witnesses.

The man and woman apparently brought the child to Beth Israel Medical Center together, and the man left. Police began searching for him to question him. Detectives are currently questioning the child's mother.

DeMaio said police are looking at two scenarios:

"Either the child was playing with the gun and it was an accidental shooting or someone within the apartment shot the child." he said.

Investigators from the prosecutor’s office, the lead investigative agency, are looking for a weapon and for more witnesses but have secured a search warrant for the St. James Place home. The apartment, on the 100 block of St. James, is one of four in a brick, 2-story house in a residential neighborhood near Beth Israel, where the child was pronounced dead.

Kim Dixon, who lives two doors from the home, said she was in her upstairs bedroom when she heard a commotion at the house.

“I heard two people arguing,” Dixon said. “I didn’t know what it was about.”

A few minutes later, police had descended on the neighborhood, she said.

According to the prosecutor’s office, the child suffered a gunshot wound to the head.

The child’s death is the city’s second fatal incident involving a shooting in about 12 hours.

Last night, a person was shot and killed on Brookdale Avenue in the city’s Lower Vailsburg neighborhood, the prosecutor’s office confirmed.

That homicide was the city’s 89th so far this year. Authorities have yet to release details on that shooting.

If this death is ruled a homicide it would be the city's 90th.

NEW SQUARE - Skvere Hasid 17, charged with robbery, attempted sexual abuse

Pinches Surkis with a girl

NEW SQUARE - Ramapo Police arrested Pinches Surkis, age 17, hasid from New Square.

RAMAPO — A New Square 17-year-old has been accused of robbing two women he picked up under the guise of hiring them to clean his house, and of trying to sexually abuse one of them.

Pinches Surkis is charged with robbery involving purse snatchings reported Nov. 10 and Dec. 20 by two women, Ramapo Detective Sgt. John Lynch said Friday. Surkis also is charged with third-degree attempted sexual abuse as a result of the November incident.

In both cases, Surkis picked up a woman walking on the street and drove her around or to a specific location before asking her for sex, Lynch said. The women were Hispanic and cleaned houses for a living. They were walking either to or from their jobs, he said.

On Nov. 10, Surkis drove a woman to Wesley Hills Park on Willow Tree Road, Lynch said. He tried to have her perform oral sex, and when she refused, he forcibly took her pocketbook, stealing her cellphone, police said. She left the car, and he drove off.

On Dec. 20, Surkis picked up a 32-year-old woman walking on Maple Avenue near Monsey Boulevard, police said. As he drove her around, he solicited sex from her, police said. When she refused, he grabbed her pocketbook, police said. She was able to get out of the car on Hempstead Road at Brick Church Road, where she got help and the police were called, Lynch said.

“His motivation was to steal their money,” Lynch said.

Surkis, who lives on Bush Lane in New Square, was arrested Wednesday after an investigation by Ramapo police detectives. He was arraigned on two counts of third-degree robbery and one count of third-degree attempted sexual abuse by Ramapo Justice Rhoda Schoenberger.

Schoenberger set Surkis’s bail at $50,000 and sent him to the county jail in New City, where he remained Friday.

Lynch said detectives were investigating several similar incidents, though the descriptions of the main suspect in those cases don’t match Surkis.

Lynch said detectives have not ruled out Surkis being involved.

“We will reinterview our victims,” Lynch said. “We’re looking at a possible other suspect.”

Robbery, indicted: Pinches Sirkus, 17, of 23 Bush Lane, Spring Valley, was indicted by a Rockland grand jury Wednesday on two felony counts of third-degree robbery, according to the Rockland County District Attorney’s Office.

Sirkus is accused of picking up two women in the town of Ramapo between Nov. 10 and Dec. 20. It is believed Sirkus approached the women in his car, offered them work as house cleaners and then asked them for sex once they had accepted his proposal and entered the car. When the women refused, Sirkus is said to have robbed each of their pocketbook before letting them out of the car.

Flatbush: Residents Divided Over Expansion Of Shaarei Zion

GRAVESEND - Plans to expand a Gravesend synagogue on Ocean Parkway have divided nearby residents on the issue as some say they're not bothered with the expansion, but others see the proposed structure as an eyesore in their neighborhood.

The Shaare Zion Synagogue hopes to expand the 60-year-old house of worship to six stories, angering some local residents. Some are concerned about its impact on neighborhood aesthetics, while others worry about how much worse parking could get.

Community Board 15 rejected the plan last week in a 19-13 vote, but the vote was only an advisory one, so the Shaare Zion Synagogue can still move forward with obtaining approval from the Standard and Appeals board.

Neighbors say the expansion will provide additional classrooms and prayer space for the nearly 700 families who are members of the large Sephardic Shul.

Nassau County cop shot in East Meadow

EAST MEADOW - Police are on the scene of a shooting that involved a Nassau County police officer early Friday.

The incident happened around 5:30 a.m. in a parking lot near Hempstead Turnpike in the East Meadow Shopping Plaza.

Authorities say the injured officer was taken to Nassau University Medical Center with a gunshot to the right side.

There's no word if the officer was on duty at the time, and the circumstances are unknown, but it is believed the incident started with a traffic stop.

A suspect is reportedly in custody, but there were reports that he or she was shot and killed at the scene. Police covered a body lying in the parking lot with white sheets. They also cordoned off two vehicles.

Cop Shot At Long Island Shopping Plaza:

Judge orders 'DWI' NYPD cop to surrender driver's license

A Bronx judge today ordered a NYPD cop to hand over his driver's license after his off-duty drunken-driving crash on the Bronx River Parkway injured his partner.

Rafael Casiano surrendered his license after Judge Megan Tallmer said it should have been confiscated after he flipped his personal vehicle and admitted to cops, “I had a few drinks” following the Christmas Eve crash.

His “license is [now] suspended, pending prosecution,” Tallmer said.

Casiano's NYPD partner, fellow off-duty Officer Keith Paul, was in the car at the time of the smash-up. He suffered serious injuries.

The crash triggered an Internal Affairs investigation into why it took probers nine hours to conduct a Breathalyzer test on Casiano. Regardless, he still blew a .32 -- more than three times the legal limit of .08.

Casiano and Paul had just left a Christmas party. Casiano, who faces DWI and vehicular assault charges, must return to court Jan.24, 2012.

NYPD Sgt. Carlos Fabara gets arrested on Greyhound Bus in Philadelphia

Frame grab from video of an apparently drunken NYPD Sgt. Carlos Fabara being kicked off a Greyhound bus in Philadelphia

Sgt. Carlos Fabara had 13 civilians lodge complaints against him in 2006.

AN APPARENTLY boozed up NYPD sergeant, who has racked up a history of citizen complaints, was hauled off a Greyhound bus in Philadelphia by police, officials said Thursday.

The NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau is investigating the incident that left Sgt. Carlos Fabara in handcuffs and the star of an embarrassing YouTube video taken by a passenger, officials said.

In 2006, Fabara had 13 civilians lodge complaints against him, the most by an NYPD cop, the Daily News first reported.

In the video, first aired by Fox 5 News, the off-duty Fabara appears to be slurring his words and refusing orders from the bus driver and a security guard called to boot him off.

The incident happened Tuesday night at a bus terminal and delayed a full coach of passengers headed to New York by up to a half an hour.

“Let’s go! Let’s go now!” the security guard is seen in the video yelling at Fabara, who refused to budge from his seat.

Fed up passengers called the Philadelphia cops to assist the security guard. Some passengers began yelling and cursing at Fabara to get off the bus.

A Philadelphia police officer had little problem getting the veteran cop, who earns nearly $100,000, to stand up so he could be handcuffed and carted out.

“I’m not resisting,” said Fabara as fellow passengers cheered his exit.

Fox TV poll on Facebook: Do you think the Jews killed Jesus?

Popular news networks' Latin America outlet Poll apologizes for poll asking readers who they think is responsible for the death of Christ: Pontius Pilate, The Jewish People, or the High Priests.

Fox Latin America has apologized for a poll on whether Jews killed Jesus Christ that one of its staffers put on a Facebook page promoting the National Geographic Channel's Christmas special.

The poll asked readers who they think is responsible for the death of Christ: Pontius Pilate, The Jewish People or the High Priests.

The Simon Weisenthal Center in Buenos Aires calls it a defamatory reference to Vatican propaganda that "resulted in the persecution and murder of Jews for two millennia."

The Jewish group says it's outraged that Fox would perpetuate an idea that the Vatican annulled back in 1965.

Fox Spokeswoman Guadalupe Lucero apologized on behalf of National Geographic, saying the poll was removed immediately and measures have been taken to prevent such incidents in the future.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Toronto - Police move to reassure parents after four-year-old abducted

Toronto police are investigating after a four-year-old girl was found outside a Toronto home overnight, Monday, Dec. 26, 2011.

Toronto, Canada - A day after warning residents that a man who abducted and sexually assaulted a four-year-old Orthodox girl might strike again, Toronto police moved Wednesday to quell public fears.

In a news conference just steps from where the Dec. 26 incident occurred, Det. Sgt. LeeAnn Papizewski of the sex crimes unit assured residents “all resources possible” were being devoted to the investigation.

“We have a large team of investigators working on this case, and we have done so since we received the call. It is not a common call that we receive at our service, and, in fact, it is extremely rare,” Papizewski said, noting officers from across the city had been enlisted to help.

A command post was set up on Charleswood, in the north Toronto neighbourhood where the attack took place.

We have increased patrols in the area, and we’re doing everything that we can to solve this,” Papizewski said.

Police also were calling on residents with home surveillance systems to turn over any potentially relevant footage.

The four-year-old victim reportedly was visiting Toronto from Connecticut for the holidays when she was abducted. Police allege she was taken from the room where she was staying, at about 3 a.m. on Boxing Day, when a family member awoke to find the girl missing.

Relatives found her shortly afterward on a neighbour’s lawn. A suspect, described as a young white man between five-foot-six and five-foot-10, wearing a blue jacket or sweatshirt and a blue tuque with a stripe, was seen fleeing the scene.

Members of the community have provided police with “a wealth of information,” Papizewski said, but she urged others to come forward to aid the “very sensitive, very flowing” investigation.

Officers were also digging through old records for reports of any similar past incidents in the area.

Police have still not clarified how the suspect gained entry to the girl’s home. The four-year-old, who was hospitalized after the assault, has since been released.

Chareidi Man Indicted For Alleged Jerusalem Bus Assault

44-year-old Shlomo Fuchs

The Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on Thursday released to house arrest the haredi man arrested Wednesday on suspension of calling a soldier a "whore" on board a public bus.

The court ruled that Shlomo Fuchs will be permitted to attend his yeshiva every day while under house arrest but forbade him from riding public transportation.

On Wednesday, Fuchs asked a female soldier to move to the back of the bus the two were riding. When she refused, he allegedly began yelling "whore" at her and the police were called. He was charged with sexual harassment.

Romney Denounced By More Than "850" Rabbis As A "Dangerous Homosexualist"

Brooklyn activist Rabbi Yehuda Levin

At a special Chanukah conclave, The Rabbinical Alliance of America, a 70 year old organization of over 850 Orthodox Jewish Rabbis in the United States and Canada, serving approximately one half-million religious Jews, has condemned the decades long pro-homosexual record of former Governor Mitt Romney.

Kadafi's daughter reportedly eyeing asylum in Israel

Aisha Gaddafi is in exile in Algeria

JERUSALEM - Is Aisha Kadafi, daughter of the slain Libyan ruler Moammar Kadafi, considering seeking asylum in Israel? Unlikely as it seems, according to the Israeli news site Walla!, this may be the case.

The Israeli site quoted a report published in Intelligence Online that said Aisha indicated to confidants from Europe that only in Israel will she feel safe and hopes to be allowed to live there.

In August, she fled Libya for Algeria with her mother, two of her brothers and several other family members. Recently she expressed concern that her Algerian hosts may not be able to resist pressure from Libya's new government to extradite her to stand trial along with her brother, Saif al-Islam.

The report said her friends discouraged her from making an official request for asylum in Israel, which would probably balk at harboring the daughter of a slain Arab dictator.

Aisha Kadafi already has at least one Israeli connection -- her attorney. Until recently, Nick Kaufman was a senior prosecutor with the Israeli Ministry of Justice.

A former prosecutor at the United Nation's International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the Israeli lawyer was recently hired by Aisha and her brother Saadi to advance a probe into the killing of their father and another brother with the ICC, the International Criminal Court.

The family may have had other roundabout ties.

Two years ago, Saif al-Islam reportedly negotiated with Israel through a mediator for a peaceful compromise concerning an aid ship he sent toward Gaza, where a naval blockade keeps vessels from docking.

But Aisha may not need to make a formal request and chance refusal; she might qualify for immigration rights. Stubborn rumors have persisted among Libyan Jews in Israel for years that Kadafi himself is Jewish.

In recent years, several elderly Israelis of the Jewish community that once lived in Libya have come forth with stories about the dictator's allegedly Jewish heritage.

One of them is Gita Buaron, an Israeli approaching 80. She says she is related to Kadafi, whose mother was her great-aunt. As for his children, being half-Jewish won't cut it for religious purposes if it's the wrong half -- Judaism is acquired through matrilineal heritage (or conversion) -- but it's often sufficient for immigration under Israel's Law of Return legislation.

Adrienne Cooper, Yiddish Singer, Dies at 65

Adrienne Cooper, far left, with Nicki Parrott and Alicia Svigals at Carnegie Hall in 2009.

Adrienne Cooper an American-born singer, teacher and curator of Yiddish music who was a pioneer in the effort to keep the embers of that language smoldering for newer generations, died on Sunday in Manhattan. She was 65.

The cause was adrenal cancer, said her daughter, Sarah Mina Gordon, who is also a Yiddish singer.

Though the movement Ms. Cooper helped start in the 1970s and ’80s was often described as a Yiddish revival, less sentimental observers acknowledged that a true revival of the spoken language among secular Jews was unlikely, given that people who had learned it in their homes, like Holocaust survivors and children of turn-of-the-century Jewish immigrants, were dying out. But because of the teaching and organizational work of Ms. Cooper and a handful of others, klezmer has become a popular current of the music mainstream and Yiddish courses are given at scores of colleges.

“She was in a way the mother of the revival,” said her friend Alicia Svigals, a klezmer violinist.

Ms. Cooper, blessed with a lush, expressive mezzo-soprano and a crusader’s fervor, shepherded dozens of young performers into Yiddish music and its bedrock culture.

She taught Yiddish songs — obscure ones she unearthed, not just beloved chestnuts like “Raisins and Almonds” — to students in a Yiddish program given at Columbia University by the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, and in programs she arranged through her most recent position as a cultural executive at the Workmen’s Circle, the Jewish social welfare organization. Her interpretations were enriched by the context she brought as a onetime history student.

“Her performance has a depth and emotional fire that made it clear she understood where these songs came from,” said Samuel Norich, publisher of The Forward, the Jewish newspaper.

She was one of the two founders of KlezKamp, which since 1985 has convened annually in late December in the Catskills and become an incubator of klezmer musicians like the clarinetist Michael Winograd and a floating academy of Yiddish culture. It draws hundreds of musicians, connoisseurs of Yiddish language and amateur anthropologists eager to delve into the extinguished Jewish cultures of Eastern Europe.

Ms. Cooper, who called the gathering “a flying shtetl” and taught there, was the associate director of YIVO in the early 1980s when she turned a notion brought to her by an archivist of hillbilly music into reality, persuading officials like Mr. Norich, then YIVO’s executive director, to finance it.

News of Ms. Cooper’s death came just as KlezKamp was gathering in Kerhonkson, N.Y. Henry Sapoznik, a Ukrainian cantor’s son and the archivist who was the other founder, said the news “cast a pall, but at the same time people realize that her contributions are really present.”

On the liner notes of her last album, “Enchanted,” Ms. Cooper wrote that she and her friends embraced Yiddish for its “hard-to-describe delights, for the rage it brings to injustice, for its wonderful weight on the tongue, for the arc it forms between poles of Jewish identity — from otherworldly to this worldly, from grit to grace — and for the astonishing ushpizin, unexpected guest spirits, who show up and have what to say.”

Ms. Cooper was an inveterate performer, singing about vagabond peddlers, Yiddish poets, labor leaders, Hasidic masters, even gefilte fish. As an ardent feminist, she often sang about the struggles of women.

She sang and recorded with klezmer performers like Ms. Svigals and bands like Kapelye, the Klezmatics, the Klezmer Brass All-Stars and the Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band. She brought music about tenements and ghettos to Carnegie Hall and European concert halls.

She also composed Yiddish music with her partner, the pianist Marilyn Lerner, and the poet Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, and created several musical works: “The Memoirs of Gluckel of Hameln”; “Esn: Songs From the Kitchen,” where a feast was cooked onstage; and “Ghetto Tango,” which she wrote with Zalmen Mlotek, artistic director of the National Yiddish Theater-Folksbiene.

Ms. Cooper was born on Sept. 1, 1946, in Oakland, Calif. Unlike Mr. Norich and Mr. Sapoznik, who grew up in the Yiddish-speaking homes of Holocaust refugees, Ms. Cooper was reared in an English-speaking household. But she was surrounded by Jewish music — her mother, Buni, performed in opera and musical theater, her grandfather was a synagogue prayer leader and her grandmother made wax discs of Yiddish folk songs.

She studied vocal music with her mother’s teacher and then in Jerusalem, where at Hebrew University she also completed her undergraduate studies. She received her M.A. in history from the University of Chicago and then in New York studied with Lazar Weiner, a composer of Yiddish songs, and Wolf Younin, a poet and lyricist.

In addition to her daughter and Ms. Lerner, she is survived by her mother and her brothers, Michael and Stephen. Ms. Cooper was divorced from Jonathan Gordon in 1984.

While many looked on the revival efforts as quixotic, Ms. Cooper, her daughter said, “was fearless” and was “not burdened by counting numbers.”

“She was interested in people expressing their Judaism through their language and their culture,” Ms. Gordon said. “She taught people how to do that.”

NY TIMES Caught in Lie over 'SPAM' E-MALIS

New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger sports a black eye.

The Gray Lady is red-faced.

The New York Times blundered twice yesterday — first telling more than 8 million people via e-mail that they had canceled their subscriptions, then claiming, erroneously, that the e-mail deluge was all due to spam.

The comedy of errors began at 1:20 p.m. when 8.6 million e-mails from the Times were sent out addressed to “Dear Home Delivery Subscriber.”

The message said that the Times’ records show that the recipients had recently canceled their subscriptions and begged them to come back for an “exclusive rate of 50 percent off for 16 weeks.”

“We do hope you’ll reconsider,” the e-mail said.

The e-mail seemed legit: It was sent from an address listed as:

It told recipients to contact an 877 telephone number if they were interested.

But callers to the number either got a busy signal or a message that said, “Due to high call volume, your call cannot be completed at this time.”

Within an hour, the newspaper realized that its mass e-mail had flooded in-boxes. But the Times told media reporters that it was the victim, not the perpetrator.

“The e-mail is SPAM and was not sent from The New York Times. We are alerting subscribers immediately,” the paper told reporters by e-mail at 2:08 p.m. “That’s our immediate concern. When we learn more, we will let you know. ”

About the same time, the Times’ Twitter feed said, “If you received an e-mail today about canceling your NYT subscription, ignore it. It’s not from us.”

But it was from the paper. The Times’ story changed drastically by 3:29 when the paper’s media reporter Amy Chozik tweeted, “The e-mail was sent by the NYT, a spokeswoman said. Should’ve gone to approx 300 & went to over 8 mil.”

That message was passed on to reporters at 3:47 in an e-mail that retracted the earlier spam claim and admitted the Times was the source of the e-mail flood.

“The e-mail should have been sent to a very small number of subscribers but instead was sent to a vast subscription list made up of people who had previously provided their e-mail address to The New York Times,” the paper said. “We regret the error and we regret our earlier communication noting that this e-mail was SPAM.”

The Times also went back to the 8.6 million, apologizing for “any confusion” this may have caused.

By 4:28 the Times Web site told the rest of the world of the apparent “send-to-all blunder made by a Times employee.

It added that the newspaper had “initially mischaracterized the mishap as spam.”

By then the screw-up had inspired a parody Twitter account, @NYTSpam. It soon had more than 150 followers who were enjoying the Times squirm.

The account’s description of itself read: “Not affiliated with @NYTimes or actual spammers — just sick of bad digital strategy.”

Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said that despite the e-mail blast, “No one’s security has been compromised.”

She said the newspaper would not extend the 50 percent discount offer to the 8.6 million who received the faulty e-mail.

Rod Covlin allegedly killed his Jewish Wife took control of life-insurance payout for their kids

Rod Covlin with his wife, money manager Shele Danishefsky Covlin, who was found dead at her Upper West Side apartment on New Year’s Eve in ’09.

The man being sued for allegedly murdering his Upper West Side wife surreptitiously took control of the $1.6 million life-insurance-policy payout she’d left behind for their two kids, The Post has learned.

Rod Covlin, 39, filed papers in Westchester County Surrogate’s Court in April seeking to be named guardian of the cashed-in Aetna policy that Shele Danishefsky Covlin, a money manager, had left for Anna and Myles.

“I am Anna’s father,” an affidavit reads. “I have her best interests at heart, and I am in the best position to determine her current and future needs.”
He filed a similar petition to control Myles’ half of the windfall.

Covlin’s bid was successful. Surrogate Anthony Scarpino named him guardian in July, apparently unaware he’s the prime suspect in Shele’s Dec. 31, 2009, murder.

Both kids were asleep in her apartment at the time of her death. Anna found her body in the bathtub.

The children are supposed to get what remains of the cash at age 18. Covlin has power to invest the money, and he can withdraw the cash with the court’s permission.

A source said Covlin had originally been listed as the beneficiary of the Aetna policy but Shele switched it to her kids about a month before she died as their marriage disintegrated and she told friends she feared he was going to kill her.

The circumstances of his taking control of the funds appear shady.

Covlin filed the petition to be named guardian in Westchester even though Shele’s estate case is being heard in Manhattan and the kids already have a law guardian acting on their behalf there.

His petition doesn’t say that there’s an ongoing case or that the kids have a guardian.

He also left blank the answer to a question about whether the kids’ custody had ever been the subject of a court order — and an order of protection had been filed against him before and after his wife’s murder, allowing him only supervised visits with the pair.

He also wrote “n/a” under a question asking for the name and address of the kids’ maternal grandfather and grandmother, who have been fighting to keep him from getting their daughter’s money in the Manhattan case.

He also touted his financial expertise, saying, “I have managed securities firms throughout my career, held many securities licenses, and traded [professionally],” although court papers show he’s been unemployed for years and spends his time gambling.

He and the kids now live with his parents in Scarsdale.

There’s no record of Covlin having notified the county public administrator, which is acting as executor of Shele’s estate, the judge handling the estate or Danishefsky’s family about his action.

Covlin, who has not been charged criminally in the death, did not return a call for comment.

Marilyn Chinitz of the law firm Blank Rome, which is representing Shele’s family, declined comment.