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Friday, August 31, 2012

President Obama: US downsizes military drill with Israel

A massive US-Israeli military exercise that was scheduled for this fall amid mounting concerns over an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities might not be as grand as it was initially expected to be, with Washington deciding to significantly scale back on its participation in the drill, Time Magazine reported on Friday, citing Israeli and American sources.

In January, the two countries decided to postpone the drill, but while it is expected to go forward this October – weeks prior to the presidential elections – it won't be nearly the same event.

According to the report, the US slashed the number of American troops who were slotted to travel to Israel by more than two-thirds; instead of the approximately 5,000 troops originally announced for Austere Challenge 12, as the exercise is dubbed, the Pentagon will send only 1,500 service members, and perhaps as few as 1,200.

The number and the potency of missile interception systems that were to be used in the maneuvers were also reduced. Patriot anti-missile systems will arrive in Israel as planned, the crews that can operate them won't. Instead of two Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense warships, only one is to be deployed – and even that is not certain, Time said, citing officials in both the US and Israeli militaries.

The report postulated that a smaller US deployment may make it more difficult for Israel launch a pre-emptive strike on the Islamic Republic.

"Basically what the Americans are saying is, ‘We don’t trust you,’” a senior Israeli military official told the magazine.

Curbing strike aspirations

A Pentagon spokesperson refused to comment on the reduced contingent, noting that the specifics are classified. But Commander Wendy L. Snyder of the US military said in an e-mail that Israel has been informed of the changes.

The official explanation was budget restrictions; however, the decision coincided with growing tensions between the Obama Administration and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government on Israel’s persistent threats attack Iran.

Israeli analyst Efraim Inbar told Time that the rationale for the retreat was quite clear.

“I think they don’t want to insinuate that they are preparing something together with the Israelis against Iran – that’s the message,” says Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. “Trust? We don’t trust them. They don’t trust us. All these liberal notions! Even a liberal president like Obama knows better.”

Assistant secretary of state Andrew J. Shapiro last November branded Austere Challenge as “by far the largest and most significant exercise in US-Israeli history.”

According to the report, the goal was to “improve interoperability” between American and Israeli anti-missile systems – which are already significantly linked. The US has intalled a radar in the Negev, pointed toward Iran and linked to Israel’s Arrow anti-missile system.

While the radar is so sensitive it can detect a softball thrown into the air from thousands of miles away, only American officials are allowed to see what’s on the screens, a safeguard likely meant to prevent Israel from striking Iran on its own – after all, the US' equipment can detect an Iranian missile six to seven minutes earlier than Israel’s best radar.

US Joint Chiefs chairman General Martin Dempsey told reporters in London this week that a military strike could damage but not destroy Iran’s nuclear capability, and added, “I don’t want to be complicit if they choose to do it.”

On Friday, the White House on reiterated President Barack Obama's commitment to Israel's security, claiming that the US' ties with Israel have never been closer.

"I can simply say that, under President Obama, cooperation with Israel between our military and intelligence communities has never been closer," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters.

"Assistance provided to Israel by the United States has never been greater than it has been under President Obama."

NY State trooper injured in helicopter incident

A State Police helicopter made a hard landing in Steuben County, N.Y.

A New York state trooper was injured when the police helicopter he was piloting made a hard landing due to mechanical problems.

The incident happened at approximately 11 a.m. on Friday near Bath in Steuben County off Interstate 86.

Police say the pilot was returning from a search for a missing person in an Aviation Bell 407 helicopter when he experienced an in-flight mechanical emergency and lost power.

The trooper made a controlled descent, which resulted in a hard landing.

The trooper suffered non-life threatening injuries and was transported to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester.

The cause of the incident is under investigation.

Brooklyn DA Hynes Orders Special Prosecutor To Investigate Assemblyman Vito Lopez for preying on female aides

Assemblyman Vito Lopez could face criminal charges in the ongoing sexual harassment scandal that has doomed his political future.

The Brooklyn DA called Friday for a special prosecutor to investigate the Brooklyn Democratic boss for allegedly preying on young female aides.

Charles Hynes, who has longstanding political ties to Lopez and a daughter who used to work for him, made the call as the drumbeats calling for Lopez to resign have gotten louder.

Lopez was stripped of his leadership positions in the state Assembly after the Assembly ethics committee substantiated the claims of two former staffers who accused Lopez of groping them and making their lives hell after they resisted his creepy advances.

Two other aides received a six-figure settlement after lodging a separate workplace harassment complaint this year.

Hynes said in a statement that the ethics committee advised him that some of the possibly criminal behavior it reviewed occurred in Brooklyn.

Hynes said he’s referring the case to a special prosecutor because his longstanding relationship with Lopez requires him to recuse himself from any investigation.

Lopez has denied abusing any staffers and so far has resisted calls for him to step down, though he has agreed to relinquish his position and Brooklyn Democratic party chair.

“I believe they are not true and they are unfounded,” he told The Daily News last week.

Toronto - Heshi Nussbaum Arrest for Alleged Sexual Assault After 40 Years

Toronto, Canada - A former Rabbi and teacher at Eitz Chaim Hebrew day school near Bathurst and Steeles is facing sex assault charges dating back to the early 1970’s.

Rabbi Heshi Nussbaum taught at the school and is alleged to have committed an indecent on a male from 1972-1975.

The victim was 12 at the time of the allegations.

It appears that Rabbi Nussbaum may have also been the choir master at the Toronto Boys Choir during the same time period, although police have yet to confirm that.

Police believe there could be more victims.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 416-808-3205, Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477), online at, text TOR and your message to CRIMES (274637).

Austria - Report: Vienna Police Refuse To Intervene As Rabbi Is Taunted With “Hitler Salute”

Rabbi Shlomo Hofmeister

Austria - Rabbi Shlomo Hofmeister of Vienna’s Jewish community was repeatedly taunted with the “Hitler salute” by fans attending an Austrian soccer match this week, according to Die Jüdische Public displays of support for Nazis and their ideology are forbidden under Austrian law.

Although Vienna police were present at the match and witnessed the despicable acts, they refused to intervene despite several calls by Rabbi Hofmeister to do so.

The rabbi said he intends to file a complaint with the Vienna police.  

Haredi men verbally assault young woman on public bus

Dolev Karazi

The controversy over the exclusion of women in Israel resurfaced on Thursday when Dolev Karazi, a young woman who boarded an Egged bus in Ramat Gan, claimed that ultra-Orthodox men told her to sit at the back of the bus and proceeded to curse and spit at her.

Karazi said she was considering filing a criminal complaint against those behind the assault. In a conversation about the incident with Israel Hayom, she said that she got on the 319 bus after a day at college to head home to Nes Ziona. She sat in one of the front rows near the driver and during the course of the ride, several ultra-Orthodox men boarded the bus as well. According to Karazi, at one of the stops an elderly haredi man got on the bus, noticed her and demanded that the driver force her to move to the back of the bus.

"I was reading a newspaper and the man, a very old man with white hair, began ordering me to go to the back," Karazi said. "He said that according to the Halacha [Jewish law] women must sit at the back and called me a 'shiksa' [a derogatory term for non-Jewish women], 'holera' [literally 'cholera,' or vile] and 'dirty.'"

Karazi updated her Facebook page as the incident unfolded. "An old haredi man ordered me to move to the back," she wrote. "When I replied that I wasn't interested in doing that, I was shouted, cursed and spat at. I said to myself 'dear God, it's Israel in 2012, is this what you meant in your Torah?'"

In the continuation of her real-time update, Karazi wrote, "I stayed at the front of the bus until the end of my ride. The curses became more obscene throughout the incident. The spitting also got worse. The driver said he couldn't intervene, so I just sat there and remained silent the entire trip."

Karazi told Israel Hayom that at one point during the incident the haredi men asked the driver to do something about her but the driver said he was not permitted to take any such action. She said she was frightened even though she realized she was not in a life threatening situation.

"They did not stop shouting and spitting at me for about an hour until I arrived at my parents' home. Unfortunately, there were no secular people on the bus. Except for one religious woman who told them to leave me alone, and who was quickly silenced by the men, no one was there to stand up for me," Karazi said.

After the incident, Egged released a statement saying that according to the results of an investigation into the incident by the company "the driver rejected a request by an ultra-Orthodox man to force the girl to move to the rear of the bus because he is prohibited by law from doing so."

According to a report by the Israel Religious Action Center released in late Dec. 2011, exclusion of women from the public sphere was dramatically on the rise in Israel during that month. The report cited a 66 percent increase in reported incidents in which women were excluded or discriminated against, where most of the incidents occurred in places such as buses, cemeteries and medical centers.

In the same month, a ministerial committee on the status of women, headed by Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat (Likud), held deliberations to discuss the marked increase in the exclusion of women. The committee voted to create an inter-ministerial panel that would submit recommendations for combating the phenomenon.

The committee also agreed that the Civil Service Commission should formulate and publish clear procedural guidelines for state and governmental ceremonies, a move that came after a group of religious IDF soldiers walked out of a military ceremony because they refused to listen to women singing.

In recent months, the battle over the exclusion of women from the public sphere has resulted in rising tensions between Israel's secular and Orthodox communities in the city of Beit Shemesh. Several incidents of gender discrimination in the city have lead to public demonstrations and political activism in an attempt to stem the phenomenon.

House Arrest for Driver Who left 4-year-old in Car, Where Boy Was Later Found Dead

Nahman Stitzer

The Jerusalem Magistrate's Court has decided against remanding a Modiin Illit resident who is suspected of leaving the 4-year-old Haim Boimel in a car for hours, leading to the boy's death.

Police sought to extend Nahman Stitzer's remand for five days on Friday but the court opted instead to place him under house arrest. Stitzer, 22, who works as a teacher, is suspected of negligent manslaughter.

Police were hoping to keep the suspect under remand over concerns that he would disrupt the investigation but Judge Anna Schneider ruled that he be placed under complete lockdown at his parents' home.

During the remand hearing police representative Shabtai Shmueli said that Stitzer was also suspected of running an illegal school transportation service, which is why the victim was in his car.

Shmueli noted that "in order to augment his livelihood , the suspect offers transportation to and from school on his way to work.

The entire incident came about due to negligence.

This is a private car into which he put five or more children between the ages of three to four. Some had seatbelts on, some did not."

Boy went unnoticed

Shmueli went on to say that "the suspect claimed that when he opened the (car's) back door he noticed something go by and thought it was the deceased. The back windows of his car have curtains so he couldn't see what was going on in the back.

"The suspect claimed that he left the spot assuming that the child was no longer in the vehicle, locked the car with a remote control and continued on his way.

The suspect also claimed that he usually goes out to his car throughout the day to get cigarettes, sadly, it didn't happen on the day (of the incident), he had his cigarettes on his person so he did not go out to the car."

The investigation revealed that Stitzer went back to his car a few hours later with another teacher at which time they noticed a child lying on his side in the back seat of the car.

Stitzer and the other teacher suffered from severe shock and could not contact emergency services which is why they ran over to other teachers for assistance. A Magen David Adom team pronounced the boy dead at the scene.

Shmueli noted that the suspect was cooperating with the investigation and had pleaded guilty to the charges. It was also noted that the suspect "broke down" several times during the investigation.

5 LAPD officers under investigation in death of woman

At least five Los Angeles police officers are under investigation in the death of a woman who stopped breathing during a struggle that included an officer stomping on her genital area and the use of additional force by others to take her into custody, police officials confirmed Thursday.

The altercation in front of her South Los Angeles apartment was captured by a patrol car's video camera.

When asked by The Times about the incident, LAPD Cmdr. Bob Green confirmed that one officer, while trying to get Alesia Thomas into the back of a patrol car, threatened to kick Thomas in the genitals if she did not comply, and then followed through on her threat.

After officers forced Thomas into the back seat of the police car, she is seen on the video breathing shallowly; she eventually stopped breathing.

"I take all in-custody death investigations very seriously," LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said in a statement late Thursday. "I am confident we will get to the truth no matter where that leads us."

The incident came to light a day after Beck announced he was transferring a captain from his command after a separate videotaped incident in which officers were shown slamming a handcuffed woman to the ground. Beck said that video raised concerns and that the department was investigating the officers.

The Thomas case occurred in the early morning hours of July 22 after she left her 3-year-old and 12-year-old children at the LAPD's Southeast Area station, according to a department account released the following day.

Green, who oversees the Southeast Area station, confirmed that Thomas tried to surrender custody of the children to police because she was a drug addict and felt she could not care for them.

Officers went in search of Thomas, finding her at her home in the 9000 block of South Broadway. After questioning her briefly, the officers attempted to arrest her on suspicion of child endangerment, the department's account said.

Thomas "began actively resisting arrest" and one of the officers took her to the ground by sweeping her legs from beneath her, the LAPD's official account said.

Two others handcuffed Thomas' hands behind her back and attempted to lead her to a patrol car while a supervising sergeant observed, according to the department's version.

Two more officers were summoned as Thomas continued to struggle. Green confirmed that Thomas was a large woman. A "hobble restraint device" — an adjustable strap — was tightened around Thomas' ankles to give the officers more control and she was eventually placed in the back of the patrol car, the LAPD account said.

The official account, however, made no mention of what Green confirmed was a female officer's questionable treatment of Thomas.

The department's account said officers immediately notified paramedics. It is unclear whether the officers attempted to resuscitate her and how much time passed before paramedics arrived. Thomas died shortly after being transported to a hospital.

A neighbor who witnessed part of the incident told The Times he did not see officers do anything wrong and described Thomas as the aggressor.

Gerald McCrary Sr., 55, said he was awakened by the commotion and saw police wrestling with Thomas, who managed to break free from plastic handcuffs.

The officers secured her with metal handcuffs and tried to calm her down as she sat against a wall, McCrary said.

"They were talking to her, asking her to calm down, that everything will be all right," he recalled. They brought Thomas some water to drink.

"My heart hurts. I can't walk anymore," he recalled Thomas telling police.

Two officers escorted her down the stairs in her apartment complex, one on each arm. McCrary eventually followed and said he saw Thomas in a patrol car "shaking her head against the back seat." Some time later, he saw her sprawled out on the sidewalk without a blouse. Paramedics had just arrived.

McCrary said police interviewed him on two separate occasions about the incident but never mentioned that Thomas was dead.

Charmaine Hood, McCrary's live-in caregiver, also witnessed Thomas' encounter with police. She said officers were trying to help Thomas.

"I didn't see them try to harm her in any shape or fashion," Hood said. "I seen them protect her from hurting herself."   Beck's statement said he wanted to find out whether Thomas had been under the influence of any drugs or suffered from a medical condition that could have caused her death before he passed judgment on the officers.

Four police officers and the sergeant were removed from field duties immediately after the incident and the department is conducting criminal and administrative investigations into the officers' conduct.

News of the investigation comes after Beck transferred Capt. Joseph Hiltner from the department's Foothill Division following another videotaped police confrontation.  

The Aug. 21 incident began when the officers pulled over Michelle Jordan at a Del Taco restaurant in Tujunga because she was holding a cellphone while driving. As the 5-foot 4-inch Jordan left her vehicle, she allegedly failed to comply with officers' commands to get back into the car and was slammed to the ground by the male officers and placed in handcuffs, according to police officials.

While cuffed, she was led to the officers' patrol car. Moments later, she was slammed again to the pavement, apparently with more force, by one of the officers, who was much larger than Jordan, the officials said. The video footage appears to show the two officers exchanging high fives after Jordan was taken down.

Beck said he believed the captain "was severely deficient in his response" for failing to notify superiors and remove the two involved officers from the field. The chief said he ordered the footage shown at roll calls when officers begin their shifts.

Hiltner, a 34-year LAPD veteran, could not be reached for comment.   

 By Joel Rubin, Angel Jennings and Andrew Blankstein - L.A. TIMES

Israel Police accuse U.S.-Israeli rabbi of robbing graves

A controversial ultra-Orthodox organization that seeks to protect Jewish graves is calling this week's early-morning arrest of a Beit Shemesh man with U.S. citizenship "unjustified and totally outrageous."

Thirty-eight-year-old Chizkiya Kalmanowitz was released by police on Thursday afternoon after his attorneys posted a NIS 50,000 bond.

He was in custody for three days after police accused him of trying to steal bones on July 26 from a contested archaeological site along Route 38 near the community of Eshtaol, some 30 kilometers outside of Jerusalem. A major road construction project of Route 38 is underway near the site.

"The rabbi and one other suspect were arrested on suspicion of trying to steal bones from one of the graves and were questioned in the Jerusalem District," said Superintendent Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman. "The police investigation is continuing."

Kalmanowitz, who holds dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship, is a high-ranking member of Atra Kadisha, a small, decades-old fringe group of Haredim that views as its mandate the protection of Jewish graves.

It has clashed bitterly in recent years with Israeli authorities and fellow Haredim over the protection of ancient grave sites and whether, and under what circumstances, graves can be exhumed.

According to Kalmanowitz's wife, Hindy, who is an American citizen, Kalmanowitz was arrested at his home Tuesday when police arrived with a search warrant at 4:30 A.M. They confiscated computers, files and cash in front of his eight children, she said.

"To come to a man's home in an early morning raid and arrest him in front of his wife and children is unjustified and totally outrageous," Rabbi David Shmidel, leader of Atra Kadisha, told Haaretz.

On the day of Kalmanowitz's arrest, more than 100 Haredim demonstrated at Jerusalem's Shabbat Square and tried to block the intersection while calling for the release of Kalmanowitz and another suspect.

Yehuda Fried, an attorney for Kalmanowitz, said his client was an engineer and consultant "with an international reputation" to whom communities and developers frequently turn when grave sites are threatened.

He said Kalmanowitz was abroad when seven Haredi protesters were arrested at the archaeological site on July 26, and he questioned the decision by law enforcement officials to arrest him a month later.

Fried acknowledges that his client has been accused of trespassing and damaging property but disputed police reports that Kalmanowitz was accused of any involvement in the reported theft.

Fried claimed Kalmanowitz's arrest was "political" and likely the result of simmering tensions with competing grave-preservation groups in the Haredi community.

St. Paul police officer caught on video kicking suspect in face

Police in Minnesota are investigating a case of police brutality after an officer in St. Paul was filmed kicking a man in the face during an arrest.

The video, shot Tuesday and posted to YouTube on Wednesday, shows officer Jesse Zilge arresting Eric Hightower, 30, for allegedly threatening to kill a woman he knew, St. Paul police said.

Hightower is lying on the ground and shouting at Zilge that he didn't do anything and doesn't know why he's being arrested, the video shows.

Hightower starts coughing - bystanders say officer had pepper-spayed him - and Zilge kicks him in the face or the chest before cuffing him.

Zilge and another officer then pull the burly suspect to his feet and slam him on the hood of their cruiser before searching him and placing him in the back seat.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman called for an investigation into the incident, saying the video "raises serious questions about the conduct of the officer."

"I have high expectations for the department and its employees. We will fully investigate and take appropriate action," the mayor said in a statement.

St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith ordered an investigation Wednesday, local station KARE reported.
or Stitts, a friend of Hightower's and the man who shot the video, said the two were walking together Tuesday evening when the cops drove up, hopped out and maced his pal.

"You see he's clearly choking on the mace, not resisting arrest or anything - kicked him in the face for no reason," Sitts told KARE while watching the video. "Nobody can understand why he would do that."

Zilge has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

Vito Lopez staffers initially demanded $1.2 million hush payout

Rita Pasarell

Vito Lopez’s victims initially demanded $1.2 million from the Assembly to buy their silence — even though one of the two women was never groped or harassed by him, sources and documents say.

His ex-deputy chief-of-staff Rita Pasarell claimed only that she was working in a hostile environment, while co-plaintiff Leah Hebert said that, at most, he made inappropriate comments to her, a source said.

“Nothing was ever done to [Rita], nor did she ever claim that anything was ever done to her,” the source said.

But the Assembly got worried when celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred threatened to air all of Lopez’s dirty laundry to the media, the source said.

Hebert and Pasarell “initially sought $1.2M and reduced their settlement number only once (to $600,000) before we drew a hard-and-fast-line at salary/benefits from their continuing employment to May 30 . . . and damages,” Assembly majority counsel William Collins wrote in a May 20 e-mail to Deputy Attorney General Arlene Smoler and Deputy Comptroller Nancy Groenwegen.

It said that after “extensive mediations/negotiations, we appear to have successfully concluded our negotiations with both complainants for a total cash outlay for damages and attorney’s fees of $135,080.”

Most of the money, $103,080, came from the taxpayer-funded Assembly — and Lopez was forced to pay the remaining $32,000 out of his own pocket.

A source said Smoler “told them she thought it was incredibly important that the member in question pay [at least some of the money] himself.”

Hebert and Pasarell — who have refused to comment — agreed to resign, and their employment was terminated on June 7, the day the payout was invoiced to the Assembly.

Lopez’s lawyer, Gerald Lefcourt, declined to comment.

Soon after the payments, Pasarell — a lawyer who unsuccessfully accused an upstate county legislator of stalking her — started volunteering for two of Lopez’s political enemies in Brooklyn.

She campaigned for Jason Otano to unseat incumbent state Sen. Martin Dilan, a Lopez crony, sources said.

And a broadly smiling Pasarell appeared in a campaign flier for Brooklyn district leader Lincoln Restler, a nemesis of Lopez.

“It smells to high heaven,” said a source, referring to Pasarell’s alliance with Lopez’s political enemies.

Two other female staffers accused Lopez of harassing them a month after Pasarell and Hebert got their secret payout — including legislative assistant Chloe Rivera, 24, sources said. She could not be reached for comment.

Lopez, who was censured by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver last week, has denied harassing any women.

Both Lopez and the Assembly denied any wrongdoing, while agreeing to the settlement, documents show.

Lopez, who didn’t want to settle with Hebert and Pasarell, had intially said “he would fight it alone,” a source said.

Lopez claims he was never alone in a room with Pasarell and never harassed her.

Lopez has “tons of text messages” from Hebert gushing about how much she loved working for him, the source said. But Hebert, 28, and Allred “threatened to go public” with their allegations, the source said, adding that Lopez viewed that threat as “blackmail.”

Silver and Assembly staff then leaned on Lopez to sign off on the deal, which he eventually did, the source said.

Lopez took out a loan for his $32,000 share, sources said.

Allred, who did not respond to questions about Pasarell and Hebert, blasted Silver for allegedly implying the women “sought only a settlement for financial gain and that they requested that no investigation occur.”

In 2008, while a law student in Albany, Pasarell accused local county legislator Brian Scavo of stalking her and making unwanted advances.

Scavo was arrested, but a judge dismissed the complaint a year later, saying the two alleged incidents did not rise to the level of stalking.

Scavo told The Post, “She was trying to shake me down for money . . . She smelled money.”

Outside her Brooklyn home, while walking her two dogs, Pasarell refused to answer any questions.

But when asked what she thought of Lopez, Pasarell grinned slyly, looked down at her pooches, and cooed, “Good dog.”


NYPD: 4 shot, 1 dead in Brooklyn shooting

A 29-year-old woman is dead and three other people are recovering after a shooting in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn.

Police say it happened just after 9 p.m. Thursday in front of 40 Clarkson Ave.

Police say the woman who died was shot in the back. A 13-year-old boy what grazed in the back by another bullet.

The pair was rushed to Kings County Hospital in an ambulance.

Two men, ages 29 and 26 were also shot. They went to Kings County Hospital on their own.

The NYPD says there are no arrests and the investigation is ongoing. The identity of the woman who was killed was not being released until the family was notified.

3 dead in shooting at New Jersey Pathmark

OLD BRIDGE, N.J.  – Three people are dead, including the gunman, in a shooting inside a supermarket in Old Bridge, CBS 2 reported.

Police said they got a 911 call around 4:30 a.m. about shots fired inside a Pathmark supermarket on Route 9.

According to store employees, a gunman walked in with a shotgun and started shooting, 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reported.

Two employees were shot and killed before the suspect turned the gun on himself, witnesses said.

Police have sealed off the entire area. The case has been handed over to the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office.

Employees said there were about a dozen workers inside the store when the shooting happened.

They said the store opens early to employees on Fridays so workers can do price changes, Sandberg reported.

The store was scheduled to open at 6 a.m.

The nearby New Jersey TRANSIT park-and-ride station has been closed due to police activity.

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Bolivia Denies Bail To Brooklyn Resident Jacob Ostreicher

La Paz, Boliva - A Bolivian court denied bail this morning to Jacob Ostreicher, a Borough Park, Brooklyn resident who has been incarcerated without formal charges for more than a year.

The bail hearing lasted nine grueling hours and was spread over two days while Jacob’s mother, a Holocaust survivor, sat through the entire process in the Bolivian courtroom along with her daughter, Jacob’s sister, both weeping uncontrollably.

Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn), who continues to advocate for Ostreicher, promised to re-double his efforts to set Jaob Ostreicher free.

“It’s inhumane the way Jacob has been treated,” said Assemblyman Hikind. “His human rights have been continually denied, his health is failing, and his family is suffering from his absence and mistreatment.

We have to continue to bring attention to this travesty of justice. We have to demonstrate that Jacob Ostreicher’s life and freedom matter.”

The Assemblyman is organizing thousands of synagogues into action on behalf of Jacob Ostreicher this Shabbos, September 1st (14 Elul), Shabbos Ki Teitzei.

Hundreds of thousands of Jews across America are expected to join in prayer and follow-up with calls and letters to elected officials.

The National Council of Young Israel, The Orthodox Union (OU) and The Rabbinical Alliance of America have all agreed to publicize Shabbos Ki Teitzei for Jacob Ostreicher to their rabbis, congregations and affiliates.

Rabbis across America will be speaking about Ostreicher in their Sabbath addresses and leading special prayers on his behalf. Following the Sabbath, congregational membership will be encouraged to urge their Congressman to adopt Ostreicher’s cause.

“I believe Jacob Ostreicher is fully innocent of all wrong doings,” said Assemblyman Hikind. “Numerous media reports from WABC’s ‘Nightline’ to The Wall Street Journal concur that Jacob is being used as a political football; his family, needlessly traumatized by this on-going nightmare.

And now, as feared, Jacob’s very life may be in danger. I am proud that Jews from across the country and all stripes of orthodoxy will be demonstrating their complete solidarity in this urgent matter. We cannot rest while Jacob is imprisoned.”

Thursday, August 30, 2012

NYPD: Chris Lighty found dead in apartment

Chris Lighty

NEW YORK  - New York City police say a hip-hop mogul who managed Sean "Diddy" Combs, 50 Cent and others was found dead in an apparent suicide.

Chris Lighty was discovered Thursday at his home in the Bronx with a gunshot wound to the head. The 44-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene. Chief police spokesman Paul Browne says a 9mm handgun was found at the scene. No note was found.

The medical examiner's office will determine a cause of death, but authorities say the shooting appears to be self-inflicted.

Lighty was behind some of rap's leading figures, helping them not only attain hit records but also lucrative careers outside of music.

He had been a part of the scene for decades, working with pioneers like LL Cool J before starting his own management company.

Veronica Schultz, Claims Top NYPD Official Rewarded Female Officers in Exchange For Sex

NYPD Officer Veronica Schultz

A sexual harassment suit against a top NYPD official is bogus because the deputy chief’s accuser is “lying,” the accuser’s former best friend and fellow cop testified Wednesday.

Officer Michele Alexander came to the defense of Deputy Chief Michael Blake in the civil trial in Brooklyn Federal Court.

Blake, 51, who has been accused by Officer Veronica Schultz of having "numerous sexual relationships" with female officers of the 103rd Precinct and rewarding them with favorable assignments.

Schultz has sworn in a deposition that Alexander gabbed in the locker room about her fling with Blake, reveling in details such of his taut physique.

She even played Schultz a voicemail message of Blake complaining that Alexander had invited another man to her home despite a planned rendezvous with Blake.

The high-ranking chief shifted uncomfortably and shook his head as city lawyer James Lemonedes read a portion of Schultz's deposition that had Alexander regaling Schultz with Blake’s prowess in the sack.

"He f----- the s--- out of her," Schultz had testified.

But it’s all a lie, Alexander said under questioning.

"Did you have a sexual relationship with Chief Blake?" Lemonedes asked.

"No," Alexander replied.

Alexander, who has filed her own sexual harassment complaint against another lieutenant from the precinct, insisted her complaint is "true." She said Schultz was a cop with integrity until she made her accusations against Blake.

"She's lying," Alexander said.

Schultz's suit also alleges Sgt. James Briones created a hostile work environment in the precinct's youth unit by making sexually inappropriate comments to her and at least one 15-year-old girl in the program.

She claims Blake ignored her complaints and Briones drummed her out of the unit because she rejected his romantic overtures.

Blake and Briones have denied the allegations.

Alexander acknowledged that before her falling out with Schultz she had advised the fellow cop to take notes and make secret recordings to bolster her sexual harassment complaint.


Man beaten and left on SI street is then accidentally run over by NYPD cop

A man beaten unconscious by two thugs on a Staten Island street was then accidentally run over by an off-duty cop in an SUV as the suspects fled early Thursday, witnesses said.

The battered and bloody victim was rushed to Staten Island University Hospital after the 2:30 a.m. attack on Richmond Ave. near the ferry terminal, sources said.

The vicious assailants “left him there to just basically die,” one woman told the Daily News. “Then he was laying there, and an off-duty cop came and hit him.”

According to witnesses, the victim absorbed a savage beating from the two men — who repeatedly smashed the outnumbered man with their fists until he collapsed in the street.

“It was two guys beating up somebody ... they knocked him out right on the floor,” said a man who watched the whole thing.

The attackers bolted and jumped inside a taxi cab to make their escape, the male witness said.

As they were fleeing, the off-duty officer accidentally ran over the body with his Ford Explorer. Witnesses said the driver never saw the man lying in the darkness in the middle of the street. The man had to be rescued from underneath the vehicle.

“He was smashed up underneath, like an accordion,” said the female witness. “It was awful.”

Police were reviewing surveillance video from nearby cameras as they searched for the two suspects. No arrests were made in the brutal attack, cops said.


Englewood, NJ - Authorities Searching for Missing Orthodox New Jersey Teen

Englewood, NJ – Authorities in New York and New Jersey need assistance in finding a missing person.

Caroline Starkman, an 18-year-old Touro College student from a modern Orthodox Jewish family in Englewood, NJ, disappeared after spending Shabbos in Brooklyn on the weekend of July 6th.

According to the missing person’s flyer, Starkman is described as 5’5” – 5’6” and weighs between 110 and 115 pounds. She has long blond hair, blue eyes, a 4-inch scar above her right big toe, and a beauty mark above her right eye.

Starkman also goes by the name Vicki or Victoria. Her shul, Congregation Ahavath Torah of Englewood, is offering $10,000 for her safe return.

Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Starkman filed a missing person’s report after their daughter’s disappearance, but “made the decision to issue a public appeal for assistance…as circumstances have developed.

Nothing has materialized…no concrete leads,” said Rabbi Shmuel Golden of Ahavath Torah, according to a report in the Jewish Week.

Her parents, Cherie and Steven, are distraught, but are lifted up by the outpouring of support and concern on Facebook, said a family friend. You can help by keeping Caroline in your heart, thoughts and prayers.

Her Hebrew name is Chana Eliana bat Chava Raizal.

If you have any information about Caroline Starkman’s whereabouts, Please call  

Det. Barry Miller at the Englewood Police Department, (201) 568-4875 or (201) 871-6416;  

Private investigator Jerry Clarke, (845) 264-5105 or (866) 357-4769

New York State Missing Persons organization, (877) 657-6481.

Nissan Shaham, Jerusalem police chief steps down amid allegations of sexual misconduct

Nissan ‘Niso’ Shaham on Thursday stepped down from his post as Jerusalem District police chief amid severe allegations of sexual misconduct with a number of female subordinates.

Shaham’s resignation, which comes a little over a month after word of the suspicions, and the investigation against him, were made public, came at the behest of Israel Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino.

Complaints against Shaham include sexual assault, sexual harassment, and illicit consensual sex with female officers under his command.

Shaham and a subordinate, Nissim Edri, who is suspected of ignoring complaints about Shaham’s behavior, have been on forced leave since July 26, when the allegations were first revealed.

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch appointed Yossi Pariente, commander of the Southern District, in Shaham’s place on Danino’s recommendation.

Shaham has denied forcing himself on any of the women, maintaining that all the sexual acts under investigation were consensual.

Man Charged with Stealing Religious Items from Three Queens Synagogues

Queens, NY - A Kew Gardens man was charged Wednesday with looting more than $3,000 worth of religious items from three Queens synagoues over the summer, authorities said.

Roman Iskhakov, 26, stole items ranging from silver Torah crowns and wine glasses to cash in the burglaries and then sold the items to pawn shops, according to Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown.

“The defendant is accused of being a one-man crime wave and brazenly breaking into houses of worship and stealing precious religious items,” Brown said in a statement.

Interpol: Help us identify Burgas bomber's accomplice

Over a month after a terror attack claimed the lives of six people, including five Israeli tourists, in the resort town of Burgas, Bulgaria, Interpol is attempting to recruit the help of its member nations for the effort to indentify one of the suspects in the case.

At the Bulgarian government's request, the international policing agency has posted on its website an image of the suicide bomber' alleged accomplice, and urged anyone who has information about his identity to notify the authorities.

"All INTERPOL member countries have been asked by Bulgarian authorities to make public a driving license photo and computer-generated images of a suspected accomplice to the man responsible for the bomb attack in July on an Israeli tour bus outside Burgas airport in Bulgaria, as part of a public appeal to identify the man," the agency wrote on its site.

The images, including a copy of a fake driver's license where the suspect appears to be wearing a wig, were initially released by the Bulgarian interior ministry two weeks ago.

The ministry cited evidence indicating that the suspect used the fake Michigan state identification card, which bears the name Ralph William Rico, as well as other ID cards.

Suspect of possible Mid-Eastern origin

In Thursday's message, Interpol describes the suspect as a man of possible Middle Eastern origin, 1.70-1.75 meters tall, with dark brown hair and eyes. He is said to be an English speaker with an accent.

A similar appeal was released on August 2 and included the computer-generated image of the terrorist who carried out the attack.
Immediately following the July 18 bombing, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asserted that Hezbollah mounted the attack at Iran's behest.
Hezbollah blames Israel for the 2008 assassination of one of its leaders, Imad Mughniyeh, while Iran has accused the Jewish state of taking out four of its nuclear scientists over the past three years. Both the militant group and the Islamic Republic denied responsibility for the bombing.

Iran's embassy in Bulgaria on Thursday accused Israel of attempting to sabotage the ties between Tehran and Sofia.

"Representatives of the Zionist regime are trying to incite the Bulgarian public against Iran in order to impair the historic and friendly relations between the two nations," the embassy said in a statement.

Earlier this week, Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon reiterated Netanyahu's accusations during a ceremony held in memory of the attack victims.

Leah Hebert, Was The Victim of Pol Vito Lopez’s SEX Harassment

Leah Hebert

Disgraced Assemblyman Vito Lopez’s alleged sexual-harassment victims include his former chief-of-staff, who was paid at least part of a secret $103,000 settlement, The Post has learned.

Leah Hebert, 29, worked for more than a year in Lopez’s Brooklyn office until she was terminated June 7 — the same day that an invoice for that settlement was submitted to the Assembly, records show.

The taxpayer-funded money was paid out six days later to a Manhattan law firm connected to LA sexual-harassment attorney Gloria Allred.

The settlement was covered by a confidentiality agreement authorized by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who has since apologized for the veil of secrecy and is now a target of a state ethics probe.

A political source told The Post Hebert received at least a share of that payout.

Hebert refused to comment yesterday as she walked into a Brooklyn apartment building where she bought a co-op in May.

A friend earlier in the day declared, “She’s a victim here!”

Hebert was first hired by Lopez as a legislative assistant in March 2011 at a salary of nearly $45,000 a year.

She was promoted to chief-of-staff just five months later — at a salary of $75,000, records show. Her salary was slashed, for unknown reasons to $49,842 in January.

Two months later, Hebert was transferred out of Lopez’s office to an undisclosed assignment in the Assembly — although her termination wasn’t complete until June 7.

Records show that on top of her salary, Hebert was paid four times by the Lopez campaign in 2011 for “reimbursements” totaling $4,774.41.

In addition to the $103,080 paid by the Assembly to two women, Lopez also doled out $32,000, according to The New York Times.

It was not clear if the money came from his personal or campaign accounts.

The scandal is a black eye for Silver, one of the state’s most powerful Democrats.

Publicly, he welcomed an investigation yesterday by the Gov. Cuomo-created Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) — although privately, sources said he and his staff are “panicking” about the probe.

Silver defiantly stated the inquiry would “allow all the facts to come out.”

He also said the Assembly was “asking for a release from any confidentiality clauses that may exist” so it could disclose details about sex-harassment allegations against Lopez separately from the JCOPE probe.

But behind closed doors Silver and his aides “are under fire,” a source said.

“They can get hit in a lot of ways on this,” the source said, noting that Silver is also concerned about attacks from women’s groups angry about the settlement.

“Shelly made a crucial mistake here,” said another source, who believes the scandal weakens Silver’s position in dealing with Cuomo.

Last Friday, Silver’s Assembly Ethics Committee censured Lopez, 71, and stripped him of his leadership positions. That came after two more Lopez staffers accused him of groping and other sexual-harassment incidents in June and July.

Some Albany insiders wondered why Silver made the move, which only served to draw publicity to the settlement.

“There are a lot of things here that don’t make sense,” an official said. “What happened here that made Shelly have to do this? Why go public with this censure?”

When asked about Silver’s stunning apology for mishandling the situation, Mayor Bloomberg said, “The speaker said clearly that he, in retrospect, thought he should have handled it differently and would do it differently in the future. And I think that’s what he should have said. I think he’s probably right in that.”

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn sounded a similar note, and said Silver “has made appropriate reforms going forward.”

Hardly anyone else wanted to take on the powerful Assembly speaker on the issue.

Mayoral candidate Bill Thompson said it would have been better to make the matter public right away.

“Taxpayers deserve assurances that their dollars are not being wasted,” he said. “In the end, sunlight is not only a disinfectant, it is a deterrent to the abuse of women in the workplace.”

That echoed a statement Tuesday from Allred, who said a probe should be conducted not only to “protect past victims of sexual harassment, but also to ensure that discrimination and harassment come to an end for current employees.”

Lopez protégé Frank Seddio — the favorite to replace Lopez as Brooklyn Democratic leader — yesterday expressed doubt that the alleged harassment occurred, despite the settlement payout and the Assembly committee’s censure vote.

“If they’re true,” the sex-harassment charges are “abhorrent,” Seddio said.

“He’s indicated to me that these charges were unfounded,” Seddio said.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman clarified the role the state’s top lawyer played in the six-figure settlement.

The spokesman said the office “received unsolicited drafts of a settlement agreement, made one recommendation clarifying that the Assembly was the employer, and provided a model prelitigation settlement agreement, which included neither a confidentiality agreement nor any monetary terms.”


Secret Service agent leaves her gun in the bathroom of Mitt Romney's plane

TAMPA — A Secret Service agent left a surprise in the bathroom of Mitt Romney’s plane Wednesday — her gun.

The plane was shuttling the GOP challenger from the convention in Tampa to a quick campaign stop in Indianapolis when the agent used the water closet and had her moment of mile-high forgetfulness.

Her piece was later found in the plane’s privy by a reporter and eventually returned to the member of Romney’s security detail who’d left it behind.

“We take the care and control of equipment, especially firearms, very seriously,” said Secret Service spokesman Edwin Donovan.

“The incident is being investigated, and it will be handled internally and in an appropriate manner.”

The unnamed agent was not on the return flight to Tampa, officials said.