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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Rabbi Noson Leiter, Blames Hurricane Sandy On Gay Marriage

Crown Heights - Thieves Rob, Attempt to Rape Crown Heights Woman

Last night at about 9:00pm, a young Jewish woman was walking in Crown Heights when she was accosted by three African-American males, who threw her to the ground, covered her mouth and began to tug off her skirt.

The incident occurred on Carroll St. between Troy and Schenectady Ave.

The girl realized what they were trying to do; she pulled her mouth free and begged them to just take her belongings and leave her alone.

Thankfully, the perpetrators acceded. They grabbed her shoulder bag, and made off.

After recovering slightly from the shock of what had transpired, the girl called Shomrim, who arrived quickly.

Her bag and glasses were found discarded at the end of the block – near Schenectady Ave. Her money, credit cards, camera, iPod and cell phone were all missing.

Shomrim then took her to the 71st precinct, where she filed a criminal report. The police refused to categorize the crime as attempted rape, despite the girl’s insistence that they had attempted to do so.

NY - Fire crews battle two-alarm blaze in Brighton Beach

Firefighters battled a two-alarm blaze in Brighton Beach this morning, authorities said.

The fire broke out around 5:25 a.m. in the first floor of a building on Brighton Beach Avenue near Brighton 7th Street, said a spokesman for the FDNY.

The flames continued to intensify and caused the building partially collapsed, officials said. Firefighters continued battling the blaze from outside of the building and called for a 2nd alarm at 6:05 a.m., said a spokesman for the FDNY.

There are no injuries reported and the fire is still ongoing, officials said.

Female Soldier: Haredi man spat on me and my mother

A female IDF soldier filed a police complaint against a haredi man whom she claims spat on her and her mother while the two were sitting inside their car on the Bar Ilan road in Jerusalem.

Police scanned the area but could not trace the man. "I felt helplessness and frustration," Haleli Yitzhak said.

According to the soldier, the haredi man shouted the words "Good women, good women" at her and then spat at her mother. "He hit her neck and then spat on me," she claims.

"Several minutes later we made a u-turn and returned to the junction," she recounted. "I noticed him entering a yeshiva and managed to take a photograph of his back before he disappeared."

She further added, "As a native of Jerusalem I know and respect this society. I know it's just a handful of people that tarnishes the reputation of an entire sector. I was very offended by what he did."

Yitzhak said she would recognize the man if she saw him again.

Jerusalem District Police said in response, "Patrol officers arrived at the scene and launched a search. The suspect has yet to be traced."

NYC Subways To Reopen Thursday With Limited Runs

New York City’s subway system will resume limited operations on Thursday, four days after it was shut down ahead of the arrival of Sandy, the massive storm that brought unprecedented flooding to the world’s financial capital, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

Limited service on suburban commuter rail lines serving Long Island to the east and Westchester County and Connecticut to the north was to resume on Wednesday afternoon, Cuomo said at a press conference. Trains were to begin operating on the Long Island Railroad and Metro North Railroad systems at 2 p.m. (1800 GMT) on Wednesday.

Cuomo said the restored subway service would be supplemented by a “bus bridge” between Manhattan and Brooklyn given that four of the seven tunnels connecting the two boroughs under the East River remain flooded. Three of the seven tunnels were now clear of water, he said.

In Manhattan, there would be no subway service south of 34th Street, Cuomo said.

New York City was brought to a near standstill by flooding, power outages and transportation closures after the storm hit Monday night.

The city counts an average of 5.3 million riders each weekday. The system, which runs around the clock, comprises 21 subway routes linked by 468 stations, and stretches across 660 miles (1,062 km) of track.

Cuomo said officials faced huge task to restore not only transportation services but other key portions of the city’s infrastructure damaged when Sandy swept a record storm surge of nearly 14 feet (4.3 metres) over southern Manhattan and other low-lying waterfront neighborhoods.

“It was frightening. It was frightening. It looked apocalyptic,” Cuomo said of the flooding he witnessed on Monday night at the height of the storm.

School Bus Rage: Racist Attack On Ethiopian Bus Guard In Northern Israel

An resident of the northern city Kiryat Bialik is suspected of allegedly assaulting Ziona Mangistu, a public service employee in charge of escorting municipality school buses.

The incident occured on Tuesday, when Mangistu was instructed by the schools' principal to refuse boarding one of the kids, since he was suspended by the school.  
Shortly after complying with that order, Mangistu received a call from the boy's father whom she claims shouted racist slurs at her. Mangistu's husband Yossi said those remarks included "Stinking Ethiopian, we will have you sent back to where you came from."

The husband added that later on the father boarded the bus and "in front of some 30 kids punched Ziona in the face, breaking her nose. She is still in bed suffering from pain and might have to return to hospital.
More than the pain, she is shocked by the whole incident. This hatred. We do not comprehend the violence and racism; we are like any other citizen of this country," he added.

The father fled the scene shortly after the incident, while Mangistu was taken to hospital for medical care. She reported the incident to the school's principal, who her husband says advised her against filing a police complaint.

The Kiryat Bialik Municipality rejected this claim; Mayor Eli Dukorsky said he "expects the police to convey zero tolerance message to aggression against public employees including this case." The mayor visited Mangistu and said the municipality will support and assist her.

Zvulun regional Police detained the father for questioning, and later on released him to house arrest for five days.

Fires raging in New Jersey shore town hit hard by Sandy; 14 homes already destroyed

MANTOLOKING, NJ — Fires that destroyed about 14 homes in a New Jersey shore town that was hit hard by Sandy have rekindled, fueled by natural gas.

Video from WNBC-TV in New York shows flames reaching over Mantoloking. There's a large cluster of flames and smaller fires spread out from it.

An official with the Ocean County Emergency Management Office says authorities believe natural gas lines are fueling the flames. The official says the homes burned down two days ago when Sandy pounded the affluent town.

The official, who would not give his name, says firefighters can't reach the scene because the roads are impassable. The town was under a mandatory evacuation order ahead of the storm.

The fire is in the southern end of the town in the Curtis Point section

Shocking Video: Thugs Assault, Rob Man During Storm

Surveillance video obtained by reveals shocking footage of the ruthless beating and mugging of a Jewish man during Hurricane Sandy Monday night.

A gang of five African-American males loiters around the corner of Albany Ave. and President St. in wait for their victim to pass.

As the victim passes, the assailants knock him to the ground with a blow to the face and continue to pummel him with punches and kicks to the head - knocking him unconscious - before rummaging through his pockets and stealing his wallet and cell phone.

As if his thirst for violence and brutality hadn't yet been quenched, one of the perpetrators sadistically steps on the unconscious man's head before walking away.

Hurricane Sandy: 8 NYPD officers treated for hypothermia

Rescued cops from Coney Island’s flooded 60th precinct were rushed to the hospital Monday night with hypothermia.

The Brooklyn station house was evacuated after being surrounded by

water from Hurricane Sandy’s surge. Some officers were brought to

Maimonides Medical Center when their body temperatures dropped to

dangerously low levels.

“The Maimonides ER treated and released eight NYPD personnel for

hypothermia related to a flooding situation in Coney Island,” the

hospital confirmed to the Daily News.

A source who was being treated in the emergency room at the same time

says that one female cop was who was hypothermic was unconscious, and

that other officers feared she might die at one point.

Another had to be rescued from the basement screaming, according to the source.

By Gina Salamone / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Cops bet they’ve got $1.6M casino-chip thief

LAS VEGAS — A man suspected of sneaking into a restricted area of the Venetian resort and stealing $1.6 million in casino chips was arrested in Southern California, Las Vegas police said Tuesday.

Authorities credited media attention about the case for a tip that led them to Palmdale resident Akingide Cole, 31.

Deputies from the San Bernardino and Los Angeles county sheriff's offices took Cole into custody on Oct. 24, near his mother's home.

Cole was being sought for investigation of grand larceny, burglary and possession of burglary tools, and is expected to be extradited to Nevada. He is listed at a Los Angeles jail, but jail officials didn't immediately respond to requests seeking to determine if he has an attorney.

Police didn't disclose exactly how the theft at the Las Vegas Strip resort occurred, but they said no weapon was involved, and the suspect didn't confront anyone during the incident about 6 a.m. Oct. 10.

Las Vegas police detectives who traveled to California during the investigation said they recovered about $396,000 in chips. Investigators are likely working on tracking the other missing chips, Officer Laura Meltzer said.

It was unlikely anyone would have been able to redeem all the stolen, high-value chips, which are usually circulated among a small group of high-rollers, said Nevada Gaming Control Board Chief of Enforcement Jerry Markling.

Casinos typically have a second, differently styled set of chips that can be put into circulation after a theft, Markling said. That way, someone trying to play with stolen chips would stand out.

In light of those protocols, casino officials had pegged the redeemable value of the stolen chips at $10,000.

The discreet Venetian theft was a departure from two high-profile Las Vegas heists in recent months. In May, two men wearing wigs walked up to a table at the Bellagio, pepper-sprayed a blackjack dealer, and snatched $115,000 in chips.

A casino supervisor tackled one of the men and retrieved 23 chips worth $5,000 each. The other man got away.

In another at the Bellagio, a man wearing a motorcycle helmet waved a gun and made off with $1.5 million worth of high-value chips nearly two years ago. He was arrested trying to redeem a $25,000 chip.

Hurricane Sandy: Parents, children & heroes among dead

Sandy’s destructive path through the New York area was also deadly.

The storm killed at least 35 people, including a Staten Island cop who died saving his family, and a young Brooklyn couple crushed by a tree while walking their dog.

As of late last night, the death toll had risen to 22 in the city and 13 in the suburbs, including six in New Jersey, three in Westchester, two in Suffolk and two in Nassau.

At least four of the dead were children.

“We expect numbers to go up,’’ Mayor Bloomberg said.

The deaths included gripping tales of heroism — and terrible tragedies.

NYPD Officer Artur Kasprzak, 29 — a six-year veteran of Manhattan’s First Precinct — died after saving seven family members, including a 15-month-old boy, stuck in their flooded home on Doty Avenue in South Beach.

He was washed into the basement by a 10-foot tide.

“He was in the basement getting family out when they lost sight of him,” a source said.

His body was found at 7 a.m. yesterday.

Rescuers on Staten Island also frantically searched for two kids, 2 and 4, who went missing Monday night when their mother’s SUV was flipped over by waves on Father Capodanno Boulevard.

The search was called off after dark. The kids are presumed dead, a source said.

In Brooklyn, high-school teacher Jessie Streich-Kest and her boyfriend, Jacob Vogelman, both 24, were crushed by a falling tree while walking their dog, Max, on Ditmas Avenue at around 7 a.m. yesterday.

The dog survived and was taken to an emergency veterinary hospital.

Streich-Kest taught at the Brooklyn School of Social Justice and was a social activist with New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets.

“I can’t believe she is not here anymore,” said friend Matt MacLean. “Her passion for animal welfare, political activism and her new career as a high-school teacher were so amazing.”

A Queens man, too, was killed by a tree.

Tony Laino, 29, of Flushing, was sleeping at about 7 p.m. Monday when the tree crashed through his home and crushed him in his bed.

Neighbors and relatives said that his family had pleaded with the city to remove the tree that wound up killing him — but that officials told them it was healthy enough to stay.

“The Parks Department was here last month cutting trees, but they let this one stay,” said neighbor Joanne Evangelista, 66.

Laino’s heartbroken fiancée, Danielle Valente, couldn’t hold back her tears as she stared at the home where her would-be husband died.

“This is awful,” Valente said, sobbing. “I don’t want to go back. I don’t want to be by myself.”

Two people were found dead in downtown Manhattan: A 55-year-old man pushed by water into a commercial building on 90 Broad St., and a parking attendant in his 40s found dead on the first floor of the garage where he worked.

Two Westchester boys — Jack Baumler, 11, and Michael Robson, 13 — were crushed by an oak tree that fell into the family room of Jack’s North Salem home Monday at 7:45 p.m.

“Heaven got two all-stars way too soon,” said a tearful Daniel Seymour, Jack’s uncle, outside the destroyed home on Bonnieview Street.

“Our hearts are broken.”

The boys’ neighbors and family members — who suffered minor injuries in the incident — worked with local firefighters in an intense, debris-filled operation that took several hours to chop the tree and clear the area.

In Mendham Township, NJ, two parents driving home with their children, ages 11 and 14, were also crushed by a tree at 7:30 p.m. Monday as they tried to clear a path home.

The parents had gotten out of their truck to remove one tree from their path when a second one fell on them — killing them in front of their children.

Angela Dresch — an eighth-grader at Totten Intermediate School on Staten Island — was found dead yesterday morning after a massive wave destroyed her home and several neighboring houses.

Her father, George, was still missing last night. Her mother, Patricia, a teacher at Tottenville’s Our Lady Help of Christians School, was in critical condition at Staten Island University Hospital in Prince’s Bay.

Queens resident Lauren Abraham, 23, was electrocuted Monday when she got too close to downed power lines on her block, neighbors said.

The recent college grad stepped outside her home in South Richmond Hill at 8:30 p.m. to snap pictures — and was zapped by the wire.

“I looked out my window and I saw the girl across the street taking pictures of the live wire sparking near my car, so I ran outside to move my car,” said neighbor Mahendra Chetram, 35.

“Her body was gyrating; smoke was coming from her,” Chetram said.


NYPD Helicopter Rooftop Rescues

NEW YORK  -- The NYPD has released video of four rooftop rescues on Staten Island of residents who were trapped due to rising waters.

It shows police lowering a basket to the victims and pulling them up.

In one video an officer is lowered on a line to a rooftop where a person is lying. The officer huddles over the victim, who eventually sits up. A basket is lowered and the person is pulled up to the helicopter.

In all, five adults and one child were removed to safety.

Police said the rescue was performed on Tuesday by Helicopter 23. It's named after the 23 New York City police officers who were killed on Sept. 11, 2001.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Benajmin Netanyahu set to visit site of Toulouse attack

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will fly to France this week for a two-day visit during which he will meet with French President Francois Hollande to discuss, among other things, the difficult situation of French Jewry, which has been hit with a recent increase in anti-Semitic incidents.

Netanyahu will also visit Otzar Hatorah, the Jewish school in Toulouse where terrorist Mohammed Merah killed three children and a rabbi in March. Merah was shot and killed by a police sniper in a standoff after his killing spree, which also included the shooting deaths of three French paratroopers.

"It's no secret that the Jews of France are experiencing a difficult period since the Toulouse incident," Barnea Hasid, Israel's consul-general in Marseilles, said.

Barnea was a guest of honor at a gathering sponsored by CRIF, the umbrella group of Jewish communities in France, on Sunday. The theme of the gathering was the rising tide of anti-Semtism in France and the global Iranian threat, issues which are slated for discussion as well between Netanyahu and Hollande when they meet at the Elysee Palace.

"French society and government are aware of the increase in anti-Semitism in their country and are working determinedly to stem the phenomenon," Barnea said.

Last week, anti-Semitic material was placed in mailboxes throughout the southeast city of Aix-les-Bains. A flyer was found by many residents in their mail saying, "The Jews are damaging the white population." The approximately 1,000 mostly traditional Jews who reside in the city were shocked by the flyer and turned to the local police for help.

"There is a renewal of incidents based on anti-Semitism here, and when a grenade was thrown at a Jewish shop owner in Sarcelles, it proved that the aim was the disruption of routine Jewish life," said a member of the French parliament representing Marseilles. "But Israel should know that Interior Minister Manuel Valls has set his sights on fighting anti-Semitism."

Nicole Yardeni, CRIF director in Toulouse, said, "The visit of an Israeli prime minister in Toulouse is of great importance. It shows the residents that the people of Israel and the Jewish people in general are expressing their solidarity with the residents after the horrific attack there. I wouldn't say that after the incident the Jews are living in greater fear, because they seem to be carrying on with their lives. But they are certainly shocked by the level the hatred against them has reached."

NYPD: 9 Arrested For Thefts Following Sandy

NEW YORK  — Nine people have been arrested for allegedly stealing from businesses near the Rockaways in Queens during and after Superstorm Sandy.

Three people were arrested at a gas station, three at a Radio Shack, and two at a clothing store.

The Rockaway Peninsula was severely damaged by flooding and violent winds during the storm. Surges left Rockaway Beach inundated, and an out-of-control six-alarm fire destroyed more than 80 homes in the Breezy Point section of the peninsula Monday night.

The area was in the Evacuation Zone A delineated by Mayor Michael

Bloomberg over the weekend. But many residents did not evacuate.

The theft incidents happened between Monday and Tuesday.

Rabbi and Organized Crime - What Next?

משטרת ישראל מחפשת אחר צ'רלי אבוטבול שמוגדר כראש ארגון פשיעה. על פי החשד, אבוטבול ואנשיו חטפו וכלאו תלמיד ישיבה מהצפון, לאחר שהתבקשו לעשות כן בידי רב הישיבה. עד כה, עצרה המשטרה שמונה חשודים בפרשה, ובהם אשתו של אבוטבול, אולם הוא עצמו עדיין מבוקש לחקירה.

האירוע החל לפני מספר שבועות כאשר נפרץ ביתו של הרב בצפון הארץ. מהבית נגנבו מאות אלפי שקלים במזומן. נאמני הרב חשדו כי אחד מתלמידי הישיבה עומד מאחורי הפריצה, ואיימו עליו כדי שיחזיר את השלל. תלמיד הישיבה הכחיש כל קשר לפריצה.

מקורבי הרב החליטו, ככל הנראה באישורו, לפנות לצ'רלי אבוטבול כדי שאנשיו ילחצו על התלמיד להודות ולהחזיר את הכסף. על פי החשד, אנשיו של אבוטבול הגיעו לצפון, לכדו את תלמיד הישיבה, כפתו וחטפו אותו. התלמיד נכלא ביחידת דיור בבית פרטי בעיר נתניה. במקביל אנשיו של אבוטבול חיפושו בחדרו של תלמיד הישיבה אולם עד לרגע זה לא נמצא כסף.

במשטרה חושדים כי אנשיו של אבוטבול כפתו את התלמיד בדירה בנתניה, חסמו את פיו והיכו אותו בכל חלקי גופו, במטרה להוציא ממנו וידוי ולספר להם היכן החביא את הכסף. כעבור שעות בהן היה כלוא בנתניה, הצליח בחור הישיבה להשתחרר מכבליו והצליח להימלט מהמקום. מיד לאחר מכן התלמיד הגיע למשטרה, וזו החלה בחקירה סמויה של המקרה.

בשבוע שעבר הפכה החקירה, המנוהלת בידי היחב"ל, לגלויה וכמה חשודים נעצרו. היום (שלישי) הגיעו החשודים לבית משפט השלום בראשון לציון שם הוארך מעצרם. במשטרה סבורים שיגיעו לצ'רלי אבוטבול בזמן הקרוב וייתכן כי יסגיר את עצמו בקרוב. גם אשתו של אבוטבול נעצרה כדי לנסות ולהבין היכן מסתתר בעלה.

The Rishon L’Tzion Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday, Partially lifted a gag order on a case involving an abduction and imprisonment of an avreich by members of the underworld.

The story begins about a week ago when the home of a well-known rav in Rechasim was broken into and $200,000 was stolen. The Rabbi is reported to be affiliated with mosdos chinuch of the Shas party. The rav’s home is open to all, had just returned from a shlichus in Morocco. He was hosting a regular guest, an avreich from Yerushalayim who became a suspect in the rav’s eyes as having stolen the large sum of money.

It appears a member of the rav’s family, who has a relationship with members of the Nahariya Abutbul crime family turned to them for assistance in recovering the money. The gangsters came to Yerushalayim last week, found the avreich and forced him into a car and drove back to the Abutbul home in Netanya and placed him in the basement where he was bound, gagged and beaten.

The avreich managed to make a run for it and called police for assistance. He was visibly injured with facial fractures and bruises over his head and entire body. He told police he was bound and gagged and literally tortured as they wished to learn where he put the stolen money, but he explained he never took any money.

Police have made eight arrests in the case to date and believe 15 people were involved. Among those arrested is the rav from Rechasim who they fear may have sent the underworld thugs to grab the avreich, believing he took the money.

The names of those involved are still under the gag order with the exception of Mrs. Sonia Abutbul, the wife of Charlie Abutbul, who is viewed as the head of organized crime in Israel. Police are now looking for Charlie, who will also be placed under arrest.

Attorneys Yaniv Peretz and Chen Meiri are representing the Abutbul family members state their clients have no connection to the ongoing case.

New York Stock Exchange Will Reopen Wednesday

Manhattan, NY - The New York Stock Exchange will reopen for regular trading Wednesday after being shut down for two days because of Hurricane Sandy.

The exchange said in a statement Tuesday that its building and trading floor are fully operational.

Tuesday marks the first time since 1888 that the NYSE remained closed for two consecutive days due to weather. The last time was due to a massive snow storm.

Sections of Manhattan were inundated with water and power was shut off to thousands of people and businesses.

Global markets rebounded Tuesday, though trading was subdued in the wake of the storm.

NYC Mayor: New York City Subway Likely Out For 4 To 5 Days

New York - New York City’s subway is likely to be out of service for another four to five days after monster storm Sandy, Mayor Bloomberg said on Tuesday.

The mayor said at a press conference that the city was hoping to resume limited bus service on Tuesday and full bus service on Wednesday.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said at a separate press conference that all bus fares would be suspended on Tuesday.

New York City experienced 23 fires during the storm, with a severe one in Breezy Point, Queens, that burned more than 80 houses.

Throughout New York state, 15 people died in connection with the storm, which touched down in New Jersey late on Monday, Cuomo said.

Obama declares 'major disaster' in New York as 17 people die in Superstorm Sandy and swathes of the city wake up under water

*Storm damage projected at $20bn // Sandy kills at least 17 people in US and Canada - including five deaths in New York

*President Barack Obama has declared a 'major disaster' in New York and Long Island

*At least 7.4m properties across US East have lost power // New York City could be without power for a week

*NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg: 'We knew this was going to be very dangerous. This is a once-in-a-long-time storm'

*Bloomberg says city's 911 dispatchers are receiving 20,000 calls per hour and area without power is south of 34th St

*Mass transit system, schools, stock exchange and Broadway shut, as water overflows NYC's historic waterfront

*Record 13ft storm surge threatening lower Manhattan and howling winds left crane hanging from high-rise building

*Over 10,000 flights across the Northeast and the globe grounded due to Superstorm Sandy

*NYU Hospital loses backup power and evacuates patients // 19 workers trapped in Consolidated Edison power station

*More than 170 firefighters battled blaze destroying more than 50 homes in Breezy Point // Nuclear power plant on alert

*Water level in Manhattan lowest since 1821 // Levee has broken in northern New Jersey, flooding three towns

*Stock trading will be closed in the US again for a second day running - last time it was closed for two days was 1888

*Firefighters save 70 people trapped in Queens burning houses // Electrical explosion at power plant caught on camera

TNT on Plane that Crashed with Polish President

Traces of explosives have been discovered on the wreck of the Polish presidential jet which crashed in Russia in 2010, killing then President Lech Kaczynski and 95 other people, a newspaper reports.

"Tests have confirmed the presence of TNT and nitroglycerine on 30 seats. The substances were also found on the area linking the fuselage with the wing," Poland's leading Rzeczpospolita daily said on Tuesday.

The recent tests were conducted by "Polish prosecutors and experts" it said, but testing by Polish and Russian investigator immediately after the 2010 crash had ruled out explosives.

Rzeczpospolita raised the possibility the reported explosives might be traced to unexploded World War II bombs in Smolensk, an area of western Russia which saw heavy fighting.

"We must wait for prosecutors to draw their conclusions and establish the source of the substance before taking any measures," government spokesman Pawel Gras told public TVP broadcaster.

Zbigniew Rzepa, spokesman for Polish military prosecutors supervising the investigation, refused to comment but said prosecutors were expected to issue a statement around noon.

A July 2011 Polish crash report blamed errors by the ill-trained crew for the crash.

The report admitted most of the blame for the April 2010 disaster - in which all 96 people on board died - lay with Poland, but also faulted Russia, where the plane went down in thick fog.

It had ruled out "extremist versions" of events, including sabotage and pressure from third parties

on the crew to land despite bad weather.

The Russian investigation concluded that there was "psychological pressure" on the crew to land in dangerous weather conditions, prompting Warsaw to criticise their report as incomplete and riddled with errors.

Poland's conservative Law and Justice party - led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the late president's twin brother - has accused Prime Minister Donald Tusk's centre-right government of failing to take Russia to task.

A Law and Justice-run parliamentary commission that probed the crash blamed Russia, claiming it had forged the testimony of Smolensk's air traffic controllers, who it alleged had misled the pilots.

The doomed presidential delegation had been bound for a memorial ceremony in Katyn, near Smolensk, for thousands of Polish army officers slain by the Soviet secret police in 1940, a massacre denied by the Kremlin until 1990.

NY - Wall Street Still Dark, Exchanges Test Systems

Manhattan, NY - Lower Manhattan is still largely blacked out, and U.S. stock exchanges say they will be testing contingency plans to ensure trading resumes as soon as possible this week after Hurricane Sandy smashed into the East Coast.

U.S. markets will remain closed Tuesday but the New York Stock Exchange said that despite reports that its historic trading floor suffered irreparable damage, no such damage has occurred and that contingency plans are being tested only as a safety measure.

Futures trading will go on until 9:15 a.m. Eastern, but volume is light.

Dow Jones industrial futures are down 29 points to 13,025. The broader S&P futures have given up 1.4 points to 1,406.20. Nasdaq futures are down 11 points to 2,648.

Dozens of companies have postponed earnings reports this week.

Tel Aviv - Hurricane Grounds Second Day of Israel-US Flights

Tel Aviv - As the northeast United States continues to suffer from life-threatening winds and rains from Hurricane Sandy, airlines canceled more flights headed from Israel across the Atlantic on Tuesday.

El Al’s morning flight LY-007 to New York City had been cancelled, as was that of United Airlines – UA-085 to Newark. Both US Airways and United Airlines cancelled their respective Tuesday evening flights – US-797 and UA-091 – to Philadelphia and Newark.

United Airlines announced that the company would be suspending all flights on Tuesday to and from New York, Newark and Washington, D.C. airports, and went so far as to cancel those going in and out of Cleveland and Chicago.

All United passengers booked on the cancelled flights will be able to reschedule their plans at no cost before November 7, the company announced. El Al made a similar announcement, stressing that passengers would incur no flight change fees.

Jewish Gold Dealer Escapes Robbers En Route To Belgium

The Gold dealer's car was hit with bullets.

It was a miracle en route to Antwerp: A gold dealer who lives in Antwerp, Belgium, was traveling in his car last Wednesday as he does every week, with a very large amount of gold in his case, B’Hadrei Haredim reported.

Driving from Holland toward Antwerp, the dealer noticed that a car was following him, but didn’t give it much thought.

He made a stop at a gas station along the highway to fill up his tank.

After he started driving about 300 meters out of the gas station, a car with blue lights ordered him to pull over. Three armed assailants got out of the car with their guns pointing at him.

The driver sped backwards into the gas station, got out of the car, grabbed his case from the back seat and ran into the store at the service station.

He shouted, “There is a robbery here!” and the shop owner immediately locked the doors and pressed an emergency alarm button. The shop was full of people at the time and the three unmasked bandits arrived on the scene within a short time brandishing their weapons.

They demanded that the owner open the doors and that the case with the gold be handed over to them. Police arrived on the scene shortly thereafter, but the criminals managed to escape.

After a thorough search, the bandits’ car was found abandoned. It had been reported stolen.

The main highway was closed due to the incident and there were traffic jams reported over the next six hours.

The Jewish man noted that when he was being interrogated by the police, he was asked if he hadn’t notice being shot at and he answered that he hadn’t. The police then showed him that the lower portion of the hood of his car had been hit by a few bullets. Apparently, the criminals used a silencer on their guns and he hadn’t realized his car had been hit.

On Shabbat, the man got an aliyah in shul and benched gomel.

Nechemya Weberman Case: Sex abuse accusations by teen stir uproar in Brooklyn Hasidic sect

THE MOST high-profile sex abuse trial in years to hit Brooklyn’s insular ultra-Orthodox community is scheduled to begin this week. But hundreds of Satmar Hasids are backing the suspect, not the victim.

Nechemya Weberman, 53, is charged with 88 counts of sexual misconduct for allegedly forcing a teenage girl to repeatedly perform sex acts on him when she was between 12 and 15.

Weberman is a prominent Hasidic counselor, whose ancestor is credited with founding the first yeshiva in Brooklyn.

“It’s going to be a very interesting trial,” said one of the seven attorneys who will argue Weberman’s high-stakes case. All are bound by a judge’s gag order, and declined to discuss details.

Since coming forward last year, the woman, now 18, and her husband have allegedly been the target of a massive intimidation effort, which advocates have argued has long been an obstacle to reporting such cases in the community. More than 1,000 men showed up at a Williamsburg hall this spring to raise $500,000 for Weberman’s legal defense.

But the couple has not wavered in their resolve, even after one man allegedly offered them $500,000 in exchange for their silence, and suggested they flee to Israel. Three other men ripped the husband’s kosher certificate from his restaurant, causing him to shutter the business.

The incidents led to Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes’ filing the most serious witness intimidation indictments ever within the community, against the four men in July.

Their trials are not expected until next year.

The issue of witness intimidation — common in Orthodox enclaves — was highlighted earlier this year in a series of articles that led to criticism of how Hynes handles molestation cases within the community.

Before 2009, only a handful of sex abuse cases came out of the Orthodox community, which prefers to handle matters internally through its civilian police and rabbinical courts.

Then Hynes established a program called Kol Tzedek specifically targeting the sex abuse problem in the Hasidic community, which has resulted in over 100 cases so far, the top prosecutor has said.

In the Weberman case, as the lead member of the ardent Satmar sect’s “modesty committee,” the unlicensed counselor was allegedly helping the sixth-grade girl because she was believed to be unchaste.

Prosecutors say there were six other women who were counseled by him as part of this “modesty committee” who complained about unwanted sexual advances. But the women would not proceed with pressing criminal charges.

Weberman and the teenager’s father secretly videotaped her in bed with an previous boyfriend while she was still underage, which they took to the DA to file statutory rape charges against the man, both the defense and prosecution agree. The teenager threatened suicide, and the statutory rape charges were dropped.

Weberman’s defense argues that the new claims against him are in retaliation for the videotaping and statutory rape charges.

But Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice John Ingram found that argument “speculative and not supported by any facts.” He forbade any mention of the tape at trial.

The Weberman case has stirred up strong emotions in the Hasidic community, which numbers some 250,000 people in Brooklyn. It’s the largest such group outside Israel.

“The community felt we’re under attack because he’s supposedly a problem solver,” while the young woman had left the strictly religious lifestyle, said an acquaintance of the accuser.

Hynes, who had previously came under fire for not releasing names of Orthodox men accused of abuse, has said intimidation of victims and their kin is rampant in that community.

Weberman hails from a prominent lineage. One of his ancestors, Ben Zion Weberman, is credited with helping to establish the very first yeshiva in Brooklyn in 1917. “He is very well respected,” A.J. Weberman, a secular distant cousin who compiled the family history, said of the man facing trial.

The publicity this case and similar ones have garnered is beginning to shift attitudes in the Hasidic community, insiders say.

Awareness is on the rise, said Mark Appel, founder of the advocacy group Voice of Justice. “There is a major change happening,” he added.


Superstorm Sandy Leaves Millions Without Power Across Tri-State Area

NEW YORK  – Millions of people across the Tri-State area are without power after Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on the region, bringing down trees and power lines.

Nearly 4.5 million customers served by Con Edison, LIPA, PSEG, JCP&L, Connecticut Light and Power, Orange & Rockland, and NYSEG were without power Tuesday morning.

Con Edison was reporting about 670,000 customers without electricity, mostly in New York City and Westchester County.

“This is the largest storm-related outage in our history,” said Con Edison Senior Vice President for Electric Operations John Miksad.

Sandy beat the previous record which was set last year when Hurricane Irene left more than 200,000 customers in the dark.

Crews are facing several challenges restoring service. Miksad said much of the low-lying areas of New York City and Westchester County remain underwater, 200 wires are down on Staten Island, and there are more than 180 roads closed in Westchester.

In Manhattan, power was knocked out around 8 :30 p.m. Monday following a transmitter explosion at a substation at East 14th Street, leaving a huge stretch from East 39th Street to the lower tip in the dark.

The utility said it could take up to a week to restore power to customers affected by the explosion.

It could take up to four days to restore power to about 6,500 customers affected by a planned power cut. Con Ed cut power intentionally to some customers in lower Manhattan and southern Brooklyn in an effort to protect equipment from salt water and allow for quicker restoration.

“We have to assess the damage,” spokesman Chris Olert said. “Now we have to get in there, get the salt water out, basically the dried salt, dry the equipment, test it and then make sure it’s safe to restore the power.”

Con Ed is advising customers to assume downed electrical wires are live and not attempt to move or touch it with any object.

“Just stay indoors; stay safe,” Olert said.

Customers can report downed power lines, outages, and check service restoration at or by calling 1-800-75-CONED (1-800-752-6633).

On Long Island, LIPA crews had to stand down because of the extreme winds, but would be out again restoring power beginning at 7 a.m. Over 900,000 customers were without electricity and it could take seven to 10 days to get the power back on.

In New Jersey, PSE&G was reporting more than 1.2 million customers without power as of 4 a.m. Tuesday, making it the largest storm in the utility’s history.

The utility said severe flooding from the storm surge affected substations in Essex, Hudson an Middlesex counties. The substations have been taken out of service and equipment will be cleaned and dried once the water recedes.

Crews will also have to wait for strong winds to subside so it is safe to work in bucket trucks and other equipment. The utility is working with town and county officials to work on clearing roads of debris so crews can get to locations with damage.

“PSE&G will be working around the clock to assess the damage and restore service,” PSE&G president Ralph LaRossa said.

PSE&G is urging customers to be ready for lengthy outages, lasting seven days or more.

To report a power outage call 1-800-436-PSEG.

Meanwhile, JCP&L was reporting 935,000 outages mostly in Ocean, Monmouth and Morris counties; Connecticut Light and Power had about 475,000 customers affected; Orange & Rockland was reporting 179,000 outages; NYSEG had about 100,000 outages.

Flooded NY transit system could be out of service four days

The MTA is scrambling to restore service by morning rush hour tomorrow — but flooding in subway tunnels and water damage to trains and buses could keep most of the system shut for four days, officials said yesterday.

And forget about riding the subways today. “There’s no chance mass transit will be back in time,’’ said Mayor Bloomberg.

Most major bridges and tunnels are expected to remain closed or under speed restrictions though the morning, and airlines will not resume flights until winds have died down.

But taxis were doing great: The Taxi & Limousine Commission said that 2,804 cabs provided 4,218 trips just between 1:00 and 1:30 p.m. yesterday.

Meanwhile, transit crews spent yesterday battening down the hatches to slow water from entering subway stations, but it likely won’t be enough to stop flooding.

“Our subway system and saltwater do not mix very well together,” said MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota.

Officials also worry that the underground pump system designed to remove water could short-circuit.

It could take anywhere from 14 hours to four days to clear water from the tunnels, officials said.

After that, the agency would still need to restore signals and equipment.

The MTA could bring back bus service sometime late tonight, as it did after Tropical Storm Irene last year.

Many bus drivers are sitting in depots, ready to roll as soon as it is deemed safe to do so.

Some areas of the subway system are more vulnerable than others.

Those include the Bowling Green and South Ferry stations in flood-prone lower Manhattan.

The 3 line — which starts in Harlem — is also in jeopardy because the yard where the trains are stored is at river level.

Much of The Bronx’s subway service is elevated and could be restored the quickest.

Before any subway trains can roll, though, workers must inspect all 468 stations and hundreds of miles of tracks.

Commuter rails haven’t fared any better. LIRR and Metro-North crews, too, must inspect miles of tracks before service is resumed.

Large stretches of Metro-North tracks were already flooded — before the strongest parts of the storm rolled in.

Most of the area’s major bridges — including the Verrazano, George Washington, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg, Triborough and Queensboro — closed yesterday evening.

The Marine Parkway and Cross Bay bridges to the evacuated Rockaway peninsula were closed. The Bayonne, Outerbridge Crossing and Goethals bridges. the three spans between Staten Island and New Jersey, all closed.

The Holland Tunnel and the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, too, were closed.

It’s the first time the Brooklyn Battery — recently renamed the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel — has closed in its 62-year history.

NJ Transit, PATH, and commuter bus lines were suspended, with no reopening dates set.

And the area airports were mostly ghost towns yesterday, with schedule boards showing thousands of canceled flights.

A handful of stranded fliers and homeless people sought shelter inside.

At the Central Terminal in La Guardia, ticket counters were empty and the electronic check-in kiosks were covered with plastic. So were luggage X-ray machines.

“It’s better to be here because here we can see the real news. And we can check the flights,” said Diego Branati, 36, a tourist from Italy.

Kim Wells, 50, a nurse from Raleigh, NC, was also one of the unlucky ones stuck at the airport.

“It’s frustrating,” she said. “Last night, we confiscated wheelchairs because they’re more comfortable to sleep on.”

Nearly all Amtrak service on the East Coast and west to Chicago was suspended.

FDNY says massive fire burning in Breezy Point section of Queens has destroyed 50 homes

Queens, NY - A huge fire that erupted as Sandy ripped through New York City with near-hurricane force winds on Monday night destroyed dozens of homes in one of the city’s most remote neighborhoods, officials said.

The neighborhood, Breezy Point in the borough of Queens, had been extensively flooded by Sandy’s record storm surge, and firefighters were hampered in their efforts to bring the blaze under control, a spokesman for the New York Fire Department said.

No casualties were immediately reported and the cause of the fire was under investigation.

A tweet from the FDNY’s official Twitter feed said 50 or more homes were destroyed in the fire. The fire still was not under control by 5 a.m. (0900 GMT), the department said.

Local television showed firefighters wading through waist-deep water to get to the massive fire. Some used inflatable boats to reach it.

Breezy Point is a private beach community in the Rockaway area, a narrow spit of land barely above sea level that thrusts into the Atlantic Ocean southwest of John F. Kennedy International Airport.

It was one of a number of New York City neighborhoods that had been under a mandatory evacuation order as Sandy, one of the biggest storms ever to hit the United States, approached from the southeast.

According to a report from WABC-TV in New York, dozens of residents chose not to obey the evacuation order and as many as 40 had to be rescued by firefighters from homes in the neighborhood as the fire approached, driven by 70 mph (112 kmh) winds. The NYFD spokesman could not verify the television station’s report of rescues.

NYC 911 Overwhelmed with Calls Monday Night

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that the NYC 911 system received 10,000 calls per half hour on Monday night. A quick math suggests that this is 333.3 calls per minute, which in turn means 5.5 calls per second!

Context: In a typical day, the 911 system in NYC receives 1,000 calls per half hour; which is 33 calls per minute which in turn is somewhat more than one call per every other second.

Bottom Line: Calls Monday Night came in ten-fold the reguler amount.

Nuclear Plant Shuts Down Unit As Storm Hits Coast

Part of a nuclear power plant was shut down late Monday while another plant — the nation’s oldest — was put on alert after waters from superstorm Sandy rose 6 feet above sea level.

One of the units at Indian Point, a plant about 45 miles north of New York City, was shut down around 10:45 p.m. because of external electrical grid issues, said Entergy Corp., which operates the plant. The company said there was no risk to employees or the public. Another unit at the plant was still operating at full power.

The oldest U.S. nuclear power plant, New Jersey’s Oyster Creek, was already out of service for scheduled refueling. But high water levels at the facility, which sits along Barnegat Bay, prompted safety officials to declare an “unusual event” around 7 p.m. About two hours later, the situation was upgraded to an “alert,” the second-lowest in a four-tiered warning system.

Conditions were still safe at Oyster Creek, Indian Point and all other U.S. nuclear plants, said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees plant safety.

A rising tide, the direction of the wind and the storm’s surge combined to raise water levels in Oyster Creek’s intake structure, the NRC said. The agency said that water levels are expected to recede within hours and that the plant, which went online in 1969 and is set to close in 2019, is watertight and capable of withstanding hurricane-force winds.

The plant’s owner, Exelon Corp., said power was also disrupted in the station’s switchyard, but backup diesel generators were providing stable power, with more than two weeks of fuel on hand.

In other parts of the East Coast, nuclear plants were weathering the storm without incident.

Inspectors from the NRC, whose own headquarters and Northeast regional office were closed for the storm, were manning all plants around the clock. The agency dispatched extra inspectors or placed them on standby in five states, equipped with satellite phones to ensure uninterrupted contact.

Nuclear power plants are built to withstand hurricanes, airplane collisions and other major disasters, but safety procedures call for plants to be shut down when hurricane-force winds are present, or if water levels nearby exceed certain flood limits.

At the Salem and Hope Creek plants in Hancocks Bridge, N.J., which together produce enough power for about 3 million homes per day, officials were watching for sustained winds of 74 mph or greater that would trigger taking the plants offline. The nearby Delaware River posed another hazard if water levels exceed 99.5 feet, compared with a normal level of 89 feet.

Joe Delmar, a spokesman for Public Service Enterprise Group Inc., said that only essential employees had been asked to report to work but that current projections were that the plants would not have to close. One of the units at Salem had already been offline due to regular refueling and maintenance.

In Lusby, Md., the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant was operating at full power — enough to power more than 1 million homes. Additional staff, both onsite and off, were called in to prepare for the storm. Safety officials there will take the plant offline if sustained winds exceed 75 mph or water levels rise more than 10 feet above normal sea level.

At Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna plant in Salem Township, officials were ready to activate their emergency plan, a precursor to taking the plant offline, if sustained winds hit 80 mph.

“Our top concern is ensuring that the plants are in a safe condition, that they are following their severe weather procedures,” said Diane Screnci of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. She said that even though the agency’s headquarters and regional office had been closed, its incident response center was staffed, with other regions ready to lend a hand if necessary.

At the Millstone nuclear power complex on Connecticut’s shoreline, officials said earlier Monday they were powering down one of the two reactors to 75 percent of maximum output to maintain stability of the electric grid. Millstone spokesman Ken Holt said the grid’s stability could be affected if the unit was operating at 100 percent and suddenly went offline, which isn’t expected to happen.

Some 60 million people in 13 states plus the District of Columbia get their power from PJM, the largest regional power grid in the U.S. Contingency plans call for power to be brought in from other areas to replace power lost if a nuclear plant reduces output or goes offline.

“It’s done instantaneously,” said Paula DuPont-Kidd, a spokeswoman for the grid. “Even if multiple plants go offline at the same time, we’d have to see how adjustments would be made, but for the most part we plan for that scenario.”

In August 2011, multiple nuclear plants shut down due to Hurricane Irene, with others reducing power.

Although nuclear plants are built for resilience, their operations get more complicated when only emergency personnel are on duty or if external electricity gets knocked out, as often happens during hurricanes.

“When external power is not available, you have to use standby generators,” said Sudarshan Loyalka, who teaches nuclear engineering at University of Missouri. “You just don’t want to rely on backup power.”