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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Missing teen from Rye found safe

A 15-year-old boy from Rye, New York who had been missing since Friday was reportedly found by police safe and unharmed early Thursday morning.

Pierce Crowley, a freshman at Iona Preparatory School, was located in New York City, reported

Additional details were not available.

Crowley's mother made public appeals to her son that he would not be punished when he returned home.

Hundreds of volunteers searched for the teen. Private investigators were also brought in to search.

Brooklyn DA: Intimidation in Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Sex Abuse Cases Worse Than Mob Cases

Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes continued to defend his office's record on sex abuse cases in the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community at an unrelated press conference Wednesday. He said the victim intimidation in that community is worse than what he's seen in organized crime and police corruption cases over his nearly two-decade career.

"I haven't seen this kind of intimidation in organized crime cases or police corruption, and the reason for that is in organized crime cases, I can get witness protection," Hynes Explained. "In police intimidation cases, I can protect them as well."

The New York Times and some Jewish publications reported that Hynes doesn't pursue sexual abuse cases against Ultra-Orthodox Jewish suspects as aggressively as he does others because of his political ties to the community. The reports have also claimed Hynes failed to intervene when an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish organization told him that followers had to get permission from a rabbi before reporting allegations of sex abuse to authorities.

Hynes has maintained that a significant hurdle in sex abuse cases involving Orthodox Jews is that the community cares more about protecting suspects than victims.

"These victims don't believe they have anywhere else to turn. They live in this community, they want to continue to live in this community, and they want to live at peace. And they're not allowed to live at peace because no one gives a damn about victims. All they care about is protecting the abuser," Hynes said.

He called the effort of the community to protect possible abusers "relentless."

Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, the executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, a powerful ultra-Orthodox organization, could not be reached for comment. In the past, however, he said people need to be cautious over allegations of abuse because a person’s life can be ruined by a false report. Last year, his organization said observant Jews should not report any allegations to authorities unless the first speak to a rabbi.”

As to the claim that Hynes is soft on crimes in the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, he pointed to his prosecution record.

“I really showed my gratitude to the ultra-Orthodox community with more Ultra-Orthodox prosecutions than any prosecutor in this whole country," he told reporters. "You don’t think I have a monopoly on ultra-Orthodox people, do you?”

Hynes is pushing for legislation that would require rabbis and other religious leaders to report allegations of child sex abuse to authorities and has assembled a task force to target known victim intimidators within the Ultra-Orthodox community.


Gay porn actor is named as suspect in body parts case

Luka Rocco Magnotta

Montreal - An actor in low-budget gay porn films is the prime suspect after three severed body parts belonging to the same person were found in three different places in Canada, authorities said Wednesday.

Montreal police have named Luka Rocco Magnotta, 29, in the gruesome case, in which a severed human foot was sent to the headquarters of Canada’s ruling Conservative party and a blood-soaked package with a hand was stopped by police at a Canada Post terminal.

Police found a torso Tuesday in a locked suitcase behind a Montreal apartment building.

The building’s manager, Eric Schorer, said Magnotta had been living in the building for almost four months.

“He seemed like a nice guy,” Schorer told The Canadian Press.

Several residents in the building told the Montreal Gazette that police believe the torso belongs to an Asian man who also lived in the apartment building and is apparently missing.

A video claiming to show Magnotta stabbing a man several times on a bed was sent to the Montreal police, the Gazette reports.

Montreal police commander Ian Lafreniere told reporters Wednesday that Magnotta does not have a criminal record.

“The suspect and victim knew each other,” Lafreniere said. “It isn’t linked to organized crime.”

Details on Magnotta’s whereabouts and motives are hazy.

Police have not released the victim’s name. An autopsy will be performed to determine how the victim was killed and when the body was dismembered.

“Some police officers have never witnessed a crime such as this,” Lafreniere told The Associated Press.

The suspect has a murky past.

He has worked as a porn actor, an official close to the investigation told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not given permission to discuss the grisly case.

Authorities told the AP that the suspect is also known by the names Eric Clinton Newman and Vladimir Romanov. He is 5-foot-8 with blue eyes and black hair, cops say.

Magnotta has also been accused online of killing kittens and posting videos of their deaths on the Internet, the Gazette reports.

The suspect has responded to those accusations on his website,

“Many hoax websites are created using my image and name, posing as me to seem more believable in respect to the type of audience these websites have,” Magnotta wrote in an article titled “Cyber Stalking.” “I feel I don’t need to list them specifically but people need to be told, not to believe what they read and to take it as fact.”

Sex offenders fight for right to use Facebook

INDIANAPOLIS -- Registered sex offenders who have been banned from social networking websites are fighting back in the nation's courts, successfully challenging many of the restrictions as infringements on free speech and their right to participate in common online discussions.

The legal battles pit public outrage over sex crimes against cherished guarantees of individual freedom and the far-reaching communication changes brought by Facebook, LinkedIn and dozens of other sites.

"It's going to be really, really hard, I think, to write something that will achieve the state's purpose in protecting children online but not be restrictive enough to be unconstitutional," said Carolyn Atwell-Davis, director of legislative affairs at the Virginia-based National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

Courts have long allowed states to place restrictions on convicted sex offenders who have completed their sentences, controlling where many of them live and work and requiring them to register with police. But the increasing use of social networks for everyday communication raises new, untested issues. The bans generally forbid offenders to join social networks or chat rooms or use instant-messaging programs - just a few of the online tools that civil liberties advocates say have become virtually indispensable to free speech.

After hearing challenges, federal judges in two states threw out laws or parts of laws that they deemed too stringent. In Nebraska, the decision allowed sex offenders to join social networks. And in Louisiana, a new law lets offenders use the Internet for shopping, reading news and exchanging email. A case filed against Indiana's law is under review.

Authorities insist the bans address a real problem: the need to protect children from pedophiles who prowl online hangouts visited by kids.

"It's hard to come up with an example of a sexual predator who doesn't use some form of social networking anymore," said Steve DeBrota, an assistant U.S. attorney in Indianapolis who prosecutes child sex crimes.

Ruthann Robson, a professor of constitutional law at the City University of New York, said the bans could eventually be taken up by the Supreme Court if the justices decide there's a constitutional question.

"If we think that the government can curtail sex offenders' rights without any connection to the actual crime, then it could become a blanket prohibition against anyone who is accused of a crime, no matter what the crime is," Robson said.

Supporters of the bans say they target repeat offenders such as a Maryland man charged with extorting a 16-year-old girl Indiana girl to perform sexual acts during video chats. He was free on bond when he was accused of doing the same thing to more underage girls.

Trevor J. Shea, 21, of Mechanicsburg, Md., was sentenced to 33 years in federal prison in January after pleading guilty to seven counts of production of child pornography.

Xavier Von Erck, founder of Perverted Justice Inc., a group devoted to exposing online sexual predators, said it doesn't make sense for judges to let pedophiles troll the Web for more victims but revoke the voting rights of people convicted of lesser crimes. He called that "judicial hypocrisy."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, which is challenging Indiana's 2008 law, argues that it's unconstitutional to bar sex offenders who are no longer in prison or on probation from using basic online services.

"To broadly prohibit such a large group of persons from ever using these modern forms of communication is just something the First Amendment cannot tolerate," said Ken Falk, legal director of Indiana's ACLU chapter.

The case is scheduled for a court hearing Thursday. The main plaintiff, referred to in the suit only as "John Doe," was convicted on two counts of child exploitation in 2000 and released from prison in 2003, according to federal court documents.

The man cannot send questions to televised debates or comment on news stories on local websites because doing so requires a Facebook account, the ACLU contends. Neither can he communicate with his out-of-state family members using the social network or post his business profile on LinkedIn.

The plaintiff is also forbidden to supervise his teenage son's Internet use or investigate questionable friend requests sent to his child, the ACLU claims.

Prosecutors argue that social networking sites aren't the only forms of communication.

"The fact is that telephones still work. People including registered sex offenders may still congregate, discuss, debate and even demonstrate," Indiana Deputy Attorney General David Arthur wrote in a brief.

Television and radio are still widespread and offer numerous call-in shows. Newspapers still accept letters to the editor, he added.

The ACLU says precedent is on its side. The lawsuit cites a February ruling in Louisiana in which U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson found that the state's prohibition was too broad and "unreasonably restricts many ordinary activities that have become important to everyday life."

Louisiana lawmakers passed a new law this month that more narrowly defines what sites are prohibited. News and government sites, email services and online shopping are excluded from the new rules, as are photo-sharing and instant-messaging systems. The measure takes effect Aug. 1.

But courts continue to wrestle with the issue in Indiana and Nebraska, where a federal judge in 2009 blocked part of a law that included a social networking ban. A second legal challenge by an Omaha-area sex offender is set for trial in July.

"I think policymakers are struggling to come up with the right policy that makes sense," Atwell-Davis said. "There's no silver bullet."

When a Breslover's Flight Is Delayed

Breslov Chassidim traveling to Uman for the holiday of Shavuos dance and sing in the airport as they await the boarding call for their flight, which has been delayed. At the 0:45 mark they sing a familiar sounding niggun, but with different words.

Rabbi: gay marriage opponents 'might as well support stoning'

People who oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds are taking a “pick and mix” approach to scriptures and might as well support stoning children or slavery, a leading Rabbi has said.

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, said that Christians and Jewish people who oppose homosexual relationships on biblical grounds were applying double standards unless they also believed in some of the more obscure commands in the Old Testament.

He told a debate on gay marriage in London that religious texts had to be reinterpreted for new generations meaning, he argued, that same sex couples should be allowed to marry.

The debate, co-hosted by the religious campaign group Catholic Voices and the British Humanist Association also heard claims that David Cameron’s plans to legalise gay marriage had more to do with “elitism” and “snobbery” than equality.

Dr Romain, the minister of Maidenhead Synagogue, is a leading figure in the liberal-leaning Reform Judaism which has publicly given its support to same-sex marriage.

He told the debate that Christians could not take references in the Old Testament to homosexuality as an “abomination” literally unless they also practised circumcision or adhered to the Jewish food laws.

“No Christian or secularist can quote those passages – or certainly not with any credibility,” he said.

“For if they do suddenly start getting pious about verses in the Bible – by which I mean the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament – then they can only do so if they adhere to other verses in it such as circumcising all your male children, as it also commands; abstaining from pork or prawns, as it also commands; not wearing garments in which wool and linen is mixed, as it also commands.

“If you don’t keep up these, but do object to homosexuality, then you are just doing a pick and mix job, and are driven not by religious beliefs but by gay prejudice."

He added: “If you take this approach to scripture you should also not object to stoning rebellious children or nailing your slave’s ear to the door post.”

He also rejected arguments that same-sex marriage would undermine the institution of marriage and family life as an unrealistic “Armageddon scenario”.

But Brendan O’Neill, editor of the website Spiked, argued that the plans to introduce gay marriage had little in common with civil rights movements and more to do with political positioning.

“I do think the remarkable ease with which gay marriage has moved up the political agenda is very revealing,” he said.

“What it shows is that this is an issue which the political elite feels very comfortable with, in fact which the political elite finds very useful.

“And that is because, for all the gay-marriage activists’ rather desperate claims to be like the oppressed blacks of the past, this is in fact a very elitist campaign.

“It is underpinned by an aloof and disdainful political outlook.”

He added that supporters of the change too often looked down on opponents as “knuckle draggers”.


Brooklyn DA Outing Jewish Orthodox pervs imperils victims

Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes blamed witness intimidation in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community — which he compared to the kind of threats carried out by the Mafia — for his unwillingness to name accused sexual predators.

Lashing out against those who have accused him of kowtowing to political pressure by refusing to identify the nearly 100 Orthodox Jews charged with sex crimes in Brooklyn over the last three years, Hynes said, “I haven’t seen this kind of intimidation in organized-crime cases or police-corruption cases.”

Identifying the accused, Hynes said, would put their accusers in jeopardy of being outed by segments of the Orthodox community.

“No one gives a damn about victims,” he fumed. “All they care about is protecting the abusers.”

Since setting up a program in 2009 that’s aimed at going after perverts in Brooklyn’s ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, Hynes said prosecutors have had unprecedented success in bringing criminal charges.

“The numbers are there,” he said, citing a “72-percent” conviction rate.

“For 18 years, we could not mount a successful prosecution, because as soon as we would give the name of the defendant ... they would engage this community in a relentless search for the victims,” Hynes said. “And they’re very, very good at identifying the victims.

“And then the victims would be intimidated and threatened, and the case would fall apart.”


New sex scandal at Brooklyn HS where two teachers were caught naked together

English teacher Erin Sayar, 35, allegedly had an affair with one of her 16-year-old students at James Madison High School.

Horndog High keeps on howling.

A married city teacher at a Brooklyn high school where two of her colleagues carried on a sapphic tryst had a monthlong sex romp on the campus grounds with her 16-year-old student, a new court filing says.

English teacher Erin Sayar, 35, is accused of having sex with 11th-grader Kevin Eng at least eight times last December when she was supposed to be tutoring him. The trysts happened in her SUV and at Brooklyn’s scandalized James Madison High School — which was dubbed “Horndog High” in 2009 when two female teachers were axed after two handymen caught them in a naked embrace in a classroom.

Sayar also plied her pupil with pot she kept in a work file cabinet, according to court documents the teen’s family filed in Brooklyn Supreme Court on Wednesday.

The affair may have continued if not for the teen’s jealous girlfriend, who hacked into his Facebook account and discovered steamy messages between Sayar and him, the filing says.

The girlfriend then snitched to school officials, who informed the student’s mother in January.

Kevin, who’s now 17, initially denied any hanky-panky but eventually ’fessed up to an investigator in late March.

“As parents, we entrust our teachers with the care of our children to cultivate and nurture their foundations, not to exploit their innocence, nor rob them of their childhood,” the family’s lawyer, Bruce Baron, said.

The court filing is a legal notice that the teen’s parents, Maureen and Stephen Eng, plan to sue the city for more than $10 million.

City Education Department spokeswoman Margie Feinberg confirmed they’re investigating the allegations and have removed Sayar from the classroom.

“We are proceeding with charges seeking her termination,” she added.

Sayar lives in a Park Slope apartment with her lawyer husband and their baby daughter. She has worked in city schools for 12 years and earns $78,885 a year. She couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.

James Madison has had its share of forbidden affairs.

Spanish teacher Alini Brito and French instructor Cindy Mauro were the teachers busted in a 2009 after-hours rendezvous.

That same year, social studies teacher Allison Musacchio was under investigation for an inappropriate relationship with a male student.

The probe into Musacchio was closed because the teen was of legal age and had left the school.

Citywide, at least seven Education Department employees have been arrested for sex crimes this year, prompting Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott to push for legislation that would allow school districts — not arbitrators — to fire workers involved in sexual misconduct.

By Ben Chapman AND Oren Yaniv / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

New Square, NY - Structure Fire at New Multiple Dwelling

NEW SQUARE — Flames could be seen for several blocks as a fire ravaged the top two floors of a three-story, multi-family home late Wednesday evening.

Firefighters arrived to the new-construction housing development at 13 Berdichev Way about 10:45 p.m., said Hillcrest Fire Chief Lloyd Hovelmann. The building was believed to be unoccupied.

“I got here and we had fire coming out of the second floor and advancing to the third floor,” Hovelman said. “We set up our operation and went offensive. We went aerial because the roof was about to collapse.”

The flames could be seen for blocks in the village and a large group of spectators had come out to watch firefighters from Hillcrest, Spring Valley and New City tackle the blaze.

After about 30 minutes, the situation was under control with no reported injuries. Shortly before 11:30 p.m., firefighters continued to check the building, breaking windows and moving through the home to make sure the flames had all been knocked down.

The top two floors of the home were completely destroyed by fire, smoke and water. The bottom floor looked to have been largely spared by the flames, but did appear to have sustained heavy water damage.

Attached homes on both sides of unit 13 also appeared to have been damaged by the flames and water.

Hovelmann said late Wednesday that it was too soon to determine whether the blaze was suspicious or accidental. A Bureau of Criminal Investigations unit as well as the New Square Fire Inspector were said to be investigating at the scene.

Ramapo police, the Spring Hill Ambulance Corps and Hatzolah Ambulance assisted at the scene.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Crown Heights Shul Pulls an All-Nighter, TED Style

CROWN HEIGHTS — While most New Yorkers were busy reveling in a balmy Memorial Day weekend, congregants at Crown Heights' Chevra Ahavas Yisroel were hitting the books on President Street.

In Brooklyn, at least, they were hardly alone. The three-day weekend coincided with the Jewish festival of Shavuot, which celebrates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, and is traditionally observed with an all-night marathon of religious study, lectures and other programs.

"When Hashem came to give us the Torah, everyone was sleeping," the congregation's charismatic leader Rabbi Chezzi Denebeim, 26, explained. "There’s a lot of Kabbalistic explanations, and more practical reasons, but the fact is we all slept in that morning — so every single Shavuos since then, we stay up all night to make up for it."

But though almost every Jewish congregation in New York City hosted its own all-nighter, probably no other Hasidic shul in Brooklyn could boast a lecture list that included "Moshe, Rap and Freud" and a discussion on private browser settings.

"These are the richest traditions, and it would be a shame to have them wasted, with people just staying up for the sake of staying up," said Denebeim, who helped organize "TEDShavuos", a decidedly modern take on the ancient tradition. "The TED talks are good, because they keep your attention. You have to deliver your whole speech and all of your great ideas in 15 minutes."

In the year and a half since it opened in a basement on President Street, Ahavas Yisroel has earned its fair share of attention for its somewhat unorthodox — if completely kosher — approach to ultra-Orthodox Judaism. It's also built up a large following among young Lubavitchers, particularly women—more than two hundred people regularly show up for the Sabbath, while holidays draw hundreds more.

"All of the presenters are young people from our shul," Denebeim said. "We wanted people from our community who aren’t speakers but have some kind of passion or some kind of specialty to give a presentation on that thing, in a Torah light."

In addition to the unusual lecture series, the congregation also held a cheesecake bake-off (observant Jews eschew meat and feast on dairy during the two-day celebration) and a potluck picnic in Brower Park for the occasion.

"The cheesecake bake-off—it’s a fun thing, it promotes community, it gives people a sense of health," Denebeim said. "If we’re healthy, than we’ll make the right decisions."

The shul's unique mix of playfulness and piety seems to be paying off — despite some pushback from within the community, Chevra Ahvas Yisroel has seen so much success in the past 18 months that it hopes to close on a new, larger space on Albany Avenue this week.

"Our shul is mamish," Denebeim said, deploying a Yiddish emphatic with no true English equivalent, but which might translate to 'real' in the hip-hop sense of the word. "It was difficult, because our shul is full of young people," without the same means as a more established congregation.

But the money came.

"This is the power of the people," the rabbi said.

By Sonja Sharp, DNAinfo

Prophecy Drives Firm to Dig Holy Land for Diamonds

People walk in front of a portrait of the late Lubavitcher Rabbi Menachem Schneerson in Brooklyn, New York, March 31, 2009. Schneerson once said that Haifa had precious gems hidden beneath it.

Diamond firm which followed rabbi's prediction about buried treasures is 'close to success' ...after 10-year hunt

An employee of Shefa Yamim sifts through rocks in search of precious stones at the firm's laboratory in Acre, northern Israel

Somewhere in the Carmel hills of northern Israel, diamond exploration company Shefa Yamim hopes to uncover the exact spot where faith meets science.

Inspired by the words of a revered rabbi who prophesised that precious stones were divinely buried in the area, the firm has been mining for about a decade along the steep hills and lush valleys that surround the city of Haifa.

Now, Shefa Yamim, the first and only diamond explorer in Israel, says it has found strong signs that significant diamond deposits are indeed hidden in the Holy Land, surprising many who had dismissed the mission as a pipe dream.

Potential new mines are big news in an industry that gets most of its diamonds from 20 or so mines, and where no large discovery has been made in 15 years.

Israel has long been a global leader for polishing diamonds, but it was never considered to be a possible source for rough diamonds, which it imports from abroad.

Top Israeli diamond dealers even have their own mining operations in Africa but with booming demand for the gems driven by prosperity in China and India there are certain to be many more speculative projects.

Shefa Yamim's workers have dug up thousands of geological indicators - including 77 macro and micro-diamonds - in their trenches and boreholes, said Chief Executive Avi Taub.

Taub, an Orthodox Jew who wears a skullcap and has a long, white beard, said: 'It's a mission ... We're talking about divine providence.

'I hope I'm going to have the right to reveal it.'

In 1999, Taub founded Shefa Yamim, which means 'bounty of the seas' in Hebrew, based on a conversation that took place 11 years earlier in Brooklyn, New York between the late Rabbi Menachem Schneerson and the then mayor of Haifa. The dialogue was caught on video.

'The uniqueness of Haifa is that it has a sea and it has a valley - and in the valley are precious stones and gems.

The holy one, blessed be he, did a wondrous thing, he concealed them in the depths of the earth,' the rabbi told his visitor.

Many of Schneerson's followers believe him to be the messiah, making the comments a decree of sorts, and Taub answered the call.

Religious belief and biblical verse have inspired others to search for natural resources in the Holy Land.

In the same year Schneerson spoke about precious stones buried near Haifa, he also received a letter from a geologist who is now the chief explorer of Givot Olam, which is drilling for oil in central Israel.

The letter described how the Bible and Jewish commentary both contain 'a poetic description of fundamental principles of modern petroleum geology'.

Texas-based Zion Oil and Gas is exploring for hydrocarbons in the same area as Shefa Yamim and was inspired by a map of the 12 biblical tribes of Israel.

These companies are all optimistic, but have yet to announce commercial finds.

Shefa Yamim has licenses to explore 165,000 acres. The company's website is filled with hard geological data, but also contains Jewish scripture and commentary.

When Shefa Yamim chose to go public in Tel Aviv, a sceptical Israel Securities Authority delayed the issuance for a year until the Energy Ministry, which oversees the country's natural resources, could confirm the findings. The company was listed in April and has kept a market value of roughly $62 million.

Research analysts at Canada's Canaccord Capital think early-stage companies like Shefa Yamim that have found diamond-bearing kimberlite have only a 5-10 percent chance of success.

Only about 1 percent of kimberlite pipes - the geological structures where diamonds are concentrated - that have been discovered to date have been economically viable. They are mostly found in South Africa, Siberia, North America, Brazil and Australia.

Shefa Yamim has until now been focusing most on alluvial mining, which is shallower along the riverbed in the valley. It will need a significant injection of capital if it is to dig deeper to find bigger diamonds and move closer to its goal.

Shefa Yamim's consultant geochemist Mark Fedikow of Mount Morgan Resources in Winnipeg, Canada, believes its chances for success are as high as 20-30 percent due to the abundance of mineral indicators. He thinks it could reach the point of production in three to five years.

'There is no reason why you can't connect faith with economics here,' Fedikow said.

'There is no basis to throw up your hands and laugh. You accept what the rabbi said and developments after are not based on faith but on hard fact.'

President Obama to rabbis: I'm vilified because of Muslim name

US president tells group of Conservative Movement leaders Republicans falsely portraying him as being unsupportive of Israel

WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama met with a group of Conservative rabbis and Conservative Movement leaders on Tuesday in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.

The wide-ranging discussion included a focus on Israel, Iran, and domestic concerns. The president and his chief of staff Jacob Lew spent an hour answering questions from Conservative leadership from across the country.

During the meeting, Obama told the rabbis that when he was running for Senate some accused him of being the Jewish lobby's "puppet" because of his many Jewish associates in Chicago. Now, he said, the Republicans are trying to portray him as not being supportive of Israel by stressing the fact that his father was Muslim and he has a Muslim name, as well as by claiming that he had been overly aggressive in pushing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to promote the peace process with the Palestinians.

According to the US leader, he had Israel's best interest in mind.

The president further told the rabbis that as a senator he fully backed legislation aimed at preserving Israel's qualitative military edge.

During the meeting, one of the rabbis told Obama that he has a gay son and thanked the American leader for publicly supporting gay marriage.

"The president shared his sense of personal connection to the State of Israel and his deep knowledge and appreciation of Jewish tradition,” said Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly (RA), which is the international umbrella organization for Conservative rabbis. “He especially encouraged us to carry forward Judaism’s message of communal responsibility and the religious mandate to seek the welfare of all people in society.”

During the meeting, rabbis asked questions on subjects including the

administration’s position on the environment, immigration, the Middle East Peace Process and civil discourse.

Rabbi Jack L. Moline, public policy director of the Rabbinical Assembly, said “The opportunity to speak with candor and depth to the president was a privilege especially at a time when we are usually limited to (sound bites) and media selectivity."

Child molester who hanged himself called ‘most evil person’

Convicted child molester James Lee Crummel, right, confers with defense attorney Richard Myers in court during a hearing in July 2004.

SAN QUENTIN, Calif - A Newport Beach police officer who investigated the murder, kidnapping and sexual assault of a 13-year-old Orange County boy said he hopes the victim's family and others can have peace after the convicted child molester hanged himself on death row.

Authorities announced Tuesday that James Lee Crummel, 68, hanged himself at San Quentin State Prison on Sunday. He was sentenced to death for killing 13-year-old James "Jamie" Trotter, who was on his way to school in Costa Mesa in 1979 when authorities say Crummel kidnapped, sexually abused and then murdered him.

Trotter's body wasn't found until several years later, and Crummel wasn't sentenced for the crime until 2004. By then, he was already in prison for other crimes.

"He was the most evil person I had ever had contact with," said Randy Lawton, a Newport Beach police officer who investigated the case. "May all his victims, known and unknown, now have peace."

Crummel was one of the first Orange County targets of "Megan's Law," which allows authorities to notify neighbors if any "high-risk" sex offenders live in their midst.

Mothers who ousted a convicted child molester from their Newport Beach neighborhood in the late 1990s lauded his death Tuesday.

He was living in the Newport Crest condominiums in 1997 when Newport Beach police notified neighbors that a repeat child molester lived nearby. Crummel had been previously convicted of sex crimes in four states dating to the 1960s.

Darleen Savoji's son fell on his bike in front of Crummel's home and was propositioned to come inside. Savoji, one of Crummel's neighbors, led a group of mothers who picketed outside his condominium.

"I can't believe after all these years I get closure," she said Tuesday. "I don't feel bad. I feel justice has been done."

Amid the mothers' protests, and while police were investigating the murder of Trotter, Crummel was arrested for molesting three teenage boys.

Another former Newport Crest mother, Justine Howard, said she supports the death penalty as a deterrent, but that in California it's broken and expensive.

"I'm sorry if I sound heartless, but to me he did a favor for the taxpayers," she said. "There's no sympathy on my part as a mother."

Facebook Posts Lead to Bust of Crown Heights Gang

NEW YORK -- Police have arrested 14 young men ages 13 to 20 in a burglary spree that they say culminated in the gang rape of a woman in Brooklyn.

The suspects, allegedly members of the so-called Brower Boys burglary crew, are charged in a string of burglaries and assaults.

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and Kings County District Attorney Charles Hynes announced the arrests Wednesday.

The gang members allegedly used fire escapes to access their victims' apartments in the Brower Park area of Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant, looking for open windows and ringing doorbells to ensure no one was home. Police say that in one instance, they viciously gang raped a 22-year-old woman who they surprised in her Bed-Stuy home.

The suspects were tracked down thanks, in part, to social media. The alleged gang members reportedly followed news accounts closely and joked with one another that they might be next.

Kelly said a police officer friended the burglars to the point where he learned their next move, which is how the NYPD caught them on video in the act of a burglary in progress. They were taken into custody on site.

Police say there was at least one among the gang's friends who didn't have much stock in Facebook's confidentiality, posting, "'If they was coming after the Brower gang, you all just gave yourselves away," after one of suspects joked, "They are coming after Brower next."

Another suspect complained, "Don't say that...look at my facebook name." It was signed "Brower Boy body-bags."

One 18-year-old with the Facebook name "Pretty Boy Sleepy" posted videos and photos of himself with a gun.

In another instance, police say the Brower Boys argued on Facebook over a laptop and other proceeds of a burglary.

Texas suspect Yaser Said could be hiding in plain sight as NYC cabbie

Yaser Said (inset) is suspected of killing his daughters because he believed they were becoming too westernized.

The Egyptian-born cab driver suspected in the 2008 "honor killing" of his two daughters in Texas because they were dating non-Muslim boys may be working at his old trade in New York, according to a private investigator who has tracked him.

Yaser Said fled his Dallas-area home after allegedly shooting daughters Amina, 18, and Sarah Said, 17, on New Year’s Day in 2008 and is now on the FBI's list of most-wanted fugitives. Although he took his Egyptian passport and $9,000 when he bolted,

Bill Warner, a private detective who has worked for Said's sister-in-law, believes he never made it out of the country. With family ties to New York and a large community of his countrymen to blend into, Warner says the odds are good the suspected killer is behind the wheel of a car for hire in the Big Apple.

“It’s all he knows and I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if he’s there working as a taxi driver,” Warner, who has worked on and off tracking Said, told “He could blend in at a metropolis like New York.”

Said’s brother, Yassein Said, lives just north of the city in Westchester County and the FBI notes Yaser Said's ties to the area on his wanted poster, saying he "may have fled to New York or Egypt." Warner, who is based in Sarasota, Fla., believes the money Said took would not have been enough to flee to his native Egypt and set up a new life.

“He was not financially solvent,” the investigator said, “He did not own the cab he drove. He didn’t have the financial strength to leave.”

“The brothers are really tight, so it’s likely they assisted him in some way,” Warner also said, citing that a few years ago he located a post office box in Westchester County under the names of Yaser Said and his brother.

New York's Taxi and Limousine Commission, which regulates yellow cabs as well as livery cars, requires criminal background checks conducted by the state for anyone applying for a license, according to a commission spokesman. But Said could easily rent a licensed car under the table or simply use his own vehicle to pick up fares illicitly, according to Fernando Mateo, president of the New York State Foundation of Taxi Drivers.

"There are 10,000 illegal drivers in New York City," Mateo said. "It's as easy as getting in your car and driving to the airport or picking up illegal street hails."

Said allegedly shot his daughters on Jan. 1, 2008, after they ran away from home a week earlier, fearing that he would kill them for dating American boys. The girls' aunt, Gail Gartrell, claimed the murders were an “honor killing,” an act practiced outside of mainstream Islam where a family member can be killed for bringing “great dishonor” to the family.

The girls’ American-born mother, Patricia “Tissie” Owens-Said, had fled with them days earlier to Gartrell’s house in Kansas, also fearing her husband's wrath. The three were planning to move to Tulsa, but Owens-Said convinced them to go back to Texas first to put flowers on their grandmother’s grave.

Upon returning to the Irving area, the girls were coaxed into going with their father in his taxi for something to eat, but were instead taken to a remote area and shot multiple times.

New calls have emerged for Owens-Said’s arrest, with advocates claiming she helped lure the girls back to their father so he could kill them.

“There’s always been the theory that she tried to cover it up,” said Warner. “She was abused by Yaser. If she didn’t do what he asked, she would get beaten. It was a battered woman syndrome.”

FBI officials declined to comment on the case, saying only that the bureau is assisting in the search for Said. On its wanted poster, the FBI describes the 6-foot-2, 180-pound Said as wearing a mustache and dark sunglasses, both indoors and outside. He frequents Denny's and I-Hop restaurants and smokes Marlboro Light 100 cigarettes. He is believed to be either 50 or 55 years old, according to the FBI.

"Additionally, Said is known to carry a handgun in his taxi cab at all times," the poster warns. "It has also been reported that Said always carries a weapon with him, to include knives."

Calls to the police department in Irving, Texas, where the murders occurred, were not immediately returned.

More common in the Middle East, honor killing has been a controversial issue among Muslims living in Western nations. Many say that the act has nothing to do with Islam and is a holdover from tribal society.

The case of the Said sisters is not the first alleged incident of honor killing on American soil.

In 1989, 16-year-old Palestina Isa, of St. Louis, was murdered by her father Zein Isa, who was helped by her mother.

Zein Isa had grown angry that Palestina had taken a part-time job without his permission and had a boyfriend who was black, further angering the father. The parents were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. Zein Isa died on death row due to complications from diabetes in 1997, while his wife's sentence was commuted to life in prison without parole.

More recently, Aasiya Zubar was beheaded by her husband, Muzzammil Hassan, in Buffalo, on Feb. 12, 2009, after she filed for divorce six days earlier. Hassan, who was CEO of Bridges TV, a Muslim-American television network, was sentenced to 25 years to life for second-degree murder.

By Perry Chiaramonte -Fox News

NY - Teacher Caught Kissing Her Student On Camera

NEW YORK  – A Manhattan high school teacher is under investigation after a shocking photograph allegedly shows her kissing a student.

The picture, which was published in the New York Post, shows a happy couple cuddling on a park bench.

The problem is that the woman is believed to be 26-year-old Julie Warning, a global studies teacher at Manhattan Theater Lab High School, and the person she’s kissing is allegedly her 18-year-old student.

“I think it’s disturbing, something that a teacher shouldn’t do,” junior Stephanie Batista said.

“That’s ridiculous,” senior Brittany Johnson said. “It’s not professional. It shouldn’t be going on.”

Some classmates said they’ve heard rumors floating around the hallways but all are stunned to see the picture, which was apparently taken by a fellow student who spotted the two in Greenwich Village, according to the Post.

Warning started working for the Department of Education in 2010 and quickly became popular with students — many of whom are now defending her.

“We don’t believe she would do that,” sophomore Monte Barronette said. “We all love her. She’s our favorite teacher, so we don’t believe it’s true.”

The DOE said it has referred the case to the Special Commissioner of Investigations and in the meantime, Warning has been reassigned to administrative duty.

She is just the latest in a string of nearly a dozen city school teachers who now stand accused of sexual misconduct with students.

The latest black mark for the DOE comes as Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Mayor Michael Bloomberg push for more control over how these types of cases are handled.

“What we’ve been proposing with new legislation is that final decision shouldn’t rest with an arbitrator,” Walcott said. “Really the chancellor in these types of cases should be the one to make that final determination but just because a student is 18 or 19 doesn’t make a difference at all.”

From a criminal viewpoint it does make a difference because the student is not a minor, so Warning can’t be criminally charged.

However, the DOE can take disciplinary action if it finds its policy against student-teacher relationships was violated.

Both Warning and the student have publicly denied that she is the person in the picture.

Shalom Bayit: Demi Moore & Ashton Kutcher Together Again

Could Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher actually be considering a reconciliation? Despite the fact that she filed for divorce amid rampant reports of his cheating, and that he has since been linked with beauties including former co-star Mila Kunis, a British tabloid claims they may be edging toward a reunion.

“They are still desperately in love and could be on for a reconciliation. The divorce isn’t being processed right now,” a source tells the U.K.’s Mirror.

The spouses of six years allegedly embraced for a full minute when they saw each other at the birthday party of Rabbi Yehuda Berg, who officiated at their wedding.

“Ashton was there quietly socializing, and Demi showed up a couple of hours later looking amazing,” a fellow partygoer relayed. “She went over to wish Yehuda a happy birthday and Ashton was right by him. Yehuda left them to talk. They started to chat and were extremely affectionate. She was staring at him like a lovesick puppy.”

During a speech for the guest of honor, Ashton allegedly broke down in tears, confessing, “I’ve made all these horrendous mistakes in the last year.”
And according to a Radar Online source, this isn’t the first time the two have reconnected lately — they’re said to have had a joint session with the rabbi at least once before the party.

“They have met up to discuss where to go next,” reveals the insider. “Whether it be to divorce, or if there is a journey to travel together. ... they both feel it’s important to have spiritual guidance to accomplish it.”

Can the rabbi help Demi and Ashton reconnect? Stay tuned!

Brooklyn DA Issues Warning To Rabbis On Sex Abuse Policy

Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes, top, and Rabbi David Zwiebel

After months of equivocal statements about Agudath Israel’s longstanding position that — with very limited exception — child sexual abuse allegations must first be investigated by rabbis, the Brooklyn district attorney has issued a clear warning to the haredi umbrella organization that its policy puts rabbis at risk of running afoul of the law.

According to a spokesman for Charles Hynes, “DA Hynes told Dovid Zwiebel [Agudah’s executive vice president] that it was a mistake to advise someone with information about child abuse to first speak with a rabbi,” the spokesman, Jerry Schmetterer, told The Jewish Week. In doing so, Schmetterer continued, “Zwiebel … risks having the rabbi prosecuted for obstructing a law enforcement investigation.”

When asked by The Jewish Week to clarify what someone should do if he or she had information about allegations of abuse — rather than direct information about abuse — Schmetterer said the individual should “report [the allegations] to authorities for investigation.”

James A. Cohen, associate professor of law and the director of the Trial Advocacy Program & External Affairs at Fordham University School of Law, concurs with the district attorney’s position. “Encouraging delay in reporting a crime, particularly a crime against a child, is obstructing justice,” Cohen, an expert in witness tampering told The Jewish Week.

Some believe that the Agudah’s position in and of itself may constitute a crime, as Rabbi Zwiebel has made it clear that unless a person is a victim or a direct witness of sexual abuse, reporting allegations to the authorities without first seeking rabbinic counsel constitutes mesirah — a sin that was once punishable by death and today often results in threats, acts of intimidation and social ostracism.

According to Orthodox attorney and author Michael Lesher, “Under federal law, it is a crime to use the threat of force to interfere with someone’s right to the benefits of state law, including the criminal justice system, if you make that threat because of the victim’s religion. By invoking the language of mesirah — a religious offense that authorizes the use of deadly force against any Jew who ‘informs’ to the authorities — Agudah’s stated policy amounts to a deliberate call for the use of force to stop a Jew, because he or she is a Jew, from going to police against a rabbi’s instructions.”

As such, Lesher told The Jewish Week, this “could make Agudah complicit in a civil rights crime any time an Orthodox Jew gets a threat for talking to the police when a rabbi told him not to.” It’s an “appalling step for any Jewish organization to take,” he added.

In an interview published last Wednesday in the Forward, Rabbi Zwiebel continued to affirm the organization’s position that even mandated reporters should have allegations vetted by rabbis before reporting them to the police.

(Indeed, last Wednesday WCBS News reported that Hynes plans to back legislation that would include clergy under the category of mandated reporters. However, because Agudah’s position requires even mandated reporters to consult with a rabbi before making a report, such a law would seem to have little effect on rabbis’ behavior as they too, would presumably have to consult with other rabbis before reporting.)

According to the Forward, Rabbi Zwiebel defended Agudah’s stance by noting that “having rabbis assess claims of abuse” was no different than the standard set for all mandated reporters, which “he characterized as a requirement for teachers and therapists to establish ‘reasonable suspicion’ before reporting a case to law enforcement under New York’s mandatory reporting laws.”

In an e-mail to The Jewish Week, Rabbi Zwiebel reiterated that the “threshold standard for reporting according to [rabbinic responsa] is similar, if not identical, to the requirement of NY law that a mandated reporter have ‘reasonable cause to suspect’ before reporting.”

However, Rabbi Zwiebel appears to have mischaracterized the mandated reporting law in a way that would make it erroneously appear to conform to the Agudah’s position on the issue.

New York State law does not in fact require the establishment of reasonable suspicion of abuse to trigger a report and certainly does not require mandated reporters to consult with other professionals prior to reporting allegations. Instead, the law says only that a there should be reasonable cause, a determination left to the reporter based on his or her own training in this area, to suspect abuse.

Indeed, according to the Administration for Children’s Services’ website, reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or maltreatment “is based on [the mandated reporter’s] observations, professional training and experience.”

Dr. Michael Salamon, a psychologist with expertise in treating victims of sexual abuse, told The Jewish Week that “mandated reporters are not required to determine whether or not an actual act of abuse has occurred, just that there is a suspicion.”

“Professionals are trained to look for cues but even in the absence of specific indicators the law is clear — any suspicion triggers the mandate to report,” he added.

By Hella Winston - The Jewish Week