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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Princess Diana, that SAS murder claim and why it may not be as mad as you think Sue Reid, who's studied all the evidence, has found tantalising new clues

The final, haunting photo of Princess Diana, taken on the night she died, shows her sitting with her boyfriend Dodi Fayed in the back of a Mercedes car as it roars away from the rear entrance of the Paris Ritz Hotel, heading for the couple’s secret love-nest near the Champs-Elysees.

Diana is twisting her head to peer out of the Mercedes’ rear window, anxiously looking to see if her car is being chased by the paparazzi who had besieged her and Dodi since their arrival in the French capital from a Mediterranean holiday eight hours earlier.

At the wheel is chauffeur Henri Paul. Dodi’s bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones is in the front passenger seat.
What happened over the next two minutes is central to a new probe by Scotland Yard into an astonishing claim from an SAS sniper, known as Soldier N, that members of his elite regiment assassinated Diana seconds after the Mercedes sped at 63mph into the notoriously dangerous Pont d’Alma road tunnel.

Many will dismiss Soldier N’s claims as yet another conspiracy theory. After all, millions of words have been written about Diana’s death at 12.20am on Sunday, August 31, 1997.

Two inquiries, by Scotland Yard and the French police, have found the deaths were a tragic accident.
An official inquest, which ended five years ago, came to the same conclusion.

The world was led to believe the blame lay with the grossly negligent driving of an intoxicated Mr Paul and the pursuing paparazzi.

But — however unlikely they may seem at first glance — I am convinced there is something in Soldier N’s claims.

Ever since Diana’s death at the age of 36, I have investigated forensically the events that led up to the crash and what happened afterwards.

I have spoken to eye-witnesses, French and British intelligence officers, SAS soldiers and to friends of Diana and Dodi. And I have interviewed the Brittany-based parents of the 41-year-old chauffeur Henri Paul. 

They told me, with tears in their eyes, that their son was not a heavy drinker: his chosen potion was a bottle of beer or the occasional Ricard, a liquorice-flavoured aperitif.

The fact is that too many of these accounts suggest that Diana’s death was no accident.

Crucially, my investigations show that the paparazzi who supposedly hounded Diana to her death were not even in the Pont d’Alma tunnel at the time of the car crash.

They also reveal how a high-powered black motorbike — which did not belong to any of the paparazzi — shot past Diana’s Mercedes in the tunnel.

Eyewitnesses say its rider and pillion passenger deliberately caused the car to crash.

In addition, my inquiries unearthed the existence of a shadowy SAS unit that answers to MI6, as well as the names of two MI6 officers who were linked by a number of sources to Diana’s death.

Could the Establishment really have turned Henri Paul and the paparazzi into scapegoats? Could there have been a skilful cover-up by people in powerful places to hide exactly what did happen?

There is little doubt that Diana, recently divorced from Prince Charles, was a thorn in the side of the Royal Family. Her romance with Dodi, though only six weeks old, was serious.

The Princess had given her lover her ‘most precious possession’ — a pair of her deceased father’s cufflinks — and phoned friends, saying she had a ‘big surprise’ for them when she returned from Paris.

Read more: Dailymail

Benjamin Netanyahu silent, right-wing critical on Obama’s Syria strike delay

Maintaining Israel’s efforts to stay out of the Syrian crisis, most members of the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stayed silent Saturday night in response to President Barack Obama’s decision to seek Congressional authorization for a strike against the Assad regime.

Only members of the hardline Jewish Home party responded, criticizing the president. 

Uri Ariel, the minister of housing (Jewish Home), declared that “In Tehran, they’re opening the champagne, and switching into a higher gear en route to nuclear weapons.” Ariel noted the 100,000 corpses in Syria, accused the world of doing nothing, and concluded that, “facing real dangers, no one in the world will stand with us.”

The Netanyahu cabinet is to be briefed by the chief of the General Staff, Benny Gantz, and other security chiefs, on Sunday.

Privately, officials in Jerusalem were said to be unsurprised by Obama’s decision, regarding it as being in accord with his approach to the presidency. 

The initial sense in Jerusalem, according to Israel Radio, is that Obama will win Congressional approval for a strike. 

Nonetheless, the delay of more than a week before Congress meets on the issue from September 9, could open other avenues, including a possible Russian effort to persuade the Assad regime to send its chemical weapons supplies to Russia and thus avert a strike, the radio report said. 

Talks on such an arrangement could potentially continue for weeks.

Several leading Hebrew media commentators said Netanyahu was likely less than happy by the delay, at best, in US military action, which was announced by Obama only a day after Secretary of State John Kerry spoke of the imperative for action. 

Kerry insisted Friday that President Bashar Assad’s regime had carefully planned the August 21 attack, in which he said 1,429 people were killed.

Nadav Eyal, on Israel’s Channel 10 news, said Obama’s hesitancy would give Netanyahu nightmares about the US president’s capacity to thwart Iran’s nuclear drive.

On the same channel, analyst Zvi Yehezkeli, said that Tehran would consider Washington as “a paper tiger.”

Opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich, by contrast, praised Obama’s “moral” handling of the crisis, and said Israel needed to rely on its friend and ally to consider the moral and strategic aspects of tackling “a dictatorial regime that is murdering its own people.”

MK Nachman Shai (Labor) said that the delay would give Israel a time to prepare for the eventuality  – slight by official estimations — that Israel would absorb rocket attacks in retaliation for an American strike.

“We received a narrow window to speed up the production and distribution of protective kits, to fill holes in our readiness, and to preapre the population for an population,” he wrote on Facebook.

Shai, who as IDF spokesman during the first Gulf War served as a soothing voice to calm the fears of many Israelis, recently told The Times of Israel that the Home Front was in better shape than two decades ago, but gas mask distribution issues still needed to be worked out.

Hebrew media reports late Saturday reported that Syrian government officials were bragging that the US had “lost the war before it started,” and that Syria’s mufti was claiming Obama “has withdrawn; we have been victorious.”

Jacob Dayan, a former Israeli consul general to Los Angeles, said Obama “broadcast weakness today,” and that this would harm the US deterrent capacity in the Middle East.

Israel about to launch its fifth communication satellite into space

Israel is about to launch an additional satellite into orbit. The communications satellite "Amos 4," will join the rest of the Israeli satellites that are circling the globe. It will be launched from the Russian operated Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

"Amos 4" arrived at the Kazakh space center several weeks ago and is currently going through the final stages of preparations before being launched into space on board a "Zenit" –type rocket.

The communications satellite will provide broadband broadcast to Russia, India, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. A Russian website published photos of the preparations on Saturday showing the docking of the satellite on its carrying rocket.

Up to this day, Israel has launched four communication satellites into orbit: "Amos 1," Israel's first communications satellite, was launched in 1996, going out of service over the last few years. "Amos 2" was launched in 2003. It is currently servicing clients in the Middle East, Europe and the east coast of the United States.

In 2008, an additional satellite "Amos 3" was launched. It was joined in 2011 by "Amos 5," which was the first satellite Israeli satellite operator Spacecom purchased from the Russian JSC Information Satellite Systems and not from Israel's Israel Aerospace Industries.

President Obama turns to Congress to OK strike against Syria

President Barack Obama said on Saturday he had decided the United States should strike Syrian government targets in response to a deadly chemical weapons attack, but said he would seek a congressional vote for any military action. 

Waiting for congressional approval essentially means an attack would wait until Congress returns to session on September 9.

"We cannot and will not turn a blind eye to what happened in Damascus," Obama said in statement at the White House Rose Garden.

The president challenged lawmakers to consider "what message will we send to a dictator" if he is allowed to killed hundreds of children with chemical weapons without suffering any retaliation.

Obama's decision likely delays US action for at least 10 days.

In a statement from the White House Rose Garden, US president said he had authorized the use of military force to punish Syria for a chemical weapons attack on August 21 that US officials say killed 1,429 people. Military assets to carry out a strike are in place and ready to move on his order, he said.

But in an acknowledgement of protests from US lawmakers and concerns from war-weary Americans, Obama added an important caveat: he wants Congress to approve.

"Today I'm asking Congress to send a message to the world that we are ready to move as one nation," Obama said.

Obama's decision was a big gamble that he can gain approval from Congress in order to launch a limited strike against Syria to safeguard an international ban on chemical weapons usage, guard US national security interests and protect regional allies like Turkey, Jordan and Israel.

"I have long believed that our power is rooted not just in our military might, but in our example as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people," Obama said.

His decision was also a significant shift away from what was perceived to be a strike fairly soon against Syrian targets. He had been prepared to act unilaterally after the British parliament refused to go along with American plans.

Protracted and expensive wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have left Americans reluctant to get involved in Middle Eastern conflicts.

Most Americans do not want the United States to intervene in Syria. A Reuters/Ipsos poll taken this week showed only 20% believe the United States should take action, but that was up from 9% last week.

A debate has raged for days in Washington among members of the US Congress over whether, or how quickly, Obama should take action.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell backed the move, which he said Obama had told him about.
"The president's role as commander in chief is always strengthened when he enjoys the expressed support of the Congress," said McConnell.

Obama's decision was announced after he met his national security team at the White House. Top aides were to brief senators later in the day and members of the House of Representatives are to receive a classified briefing from administration officials on Sunday.

The objective is to show solid proof that US intelligence officials say shows conclusively that the Syrian government of Syrian President Bashar Assad launched a large chemical weapons assault in Damascus suburbs that left among the dead 426 children.

Obama has broad legal powers to take military action, and he insisted he felt he had the authority to launch a strike on his own. But he said he wanted Congress to have its say.
The Lebanese newspaper Al Diyar reported Saturday that Syrian President Bashar Assad was in an underground war room in an unknown location. According to the Lebanese report, he was with his work team, which includes military officers.

Additionally, the report claimed that his wife and children were in a safe location as well. Other senior Syrian regime officials are reported to have sent their families to safe, apparently underground locations.

UN inspectors arrived in Amsterdam after spending several days in Syria collecting soil samples and interviewing victims of an attack last week in the Damascus suburbs. Officials said it could me more than a week before their final report is complete.

It seemed unlikely Obama would wait that long to order any strike, given the flotilla of US warships equipped with cruise missiles and massed in the Mediterranean; Friday's release of a declassified US intelligence assessment saying Assad's chemical weapons killed 1,429 civilians; and an intensifying round of briefings for lawmakers clamoring for information.

The president said Friday that he was considering "limited and narrow" steps to punish Assad for the attack, adding that US national security interests were at stake. He pledged no US combat troops on the ground in Syria, where a civil war has claimed more than 100,000 civilian lives.

With Obama struggling to gain international backing for a strike, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged him to reconsider his plans, saying he speaking to him not as a president but as the recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize.

"We have to remember what has happened in the last decades, how many times the United States has been the initiator of armed conflict in different regions of the world, said Putin, a strong ally of Assad. "Did this resolve even one problem?"

Friday, August 30, 2013

7 JFK Airport Baggage Handlers Arrested

Seven men who worked as contract baggage handlers for El Al Airlines at John F. Kennedy International Airport have been charged with stealing iPads, iPhones, cash and jewelry from passengers' luggage.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said Friday the Israeli airline installed a video camera in a baggage hold from April 1 to Wednesday after customers complained about missing items.

The seven suspects — Queens residents Tristan Bredwood, 22, Udhoo Doodnauth, 27, Julio Salas, 44, and Oshaine Christie, 22; Brooklyn residents Romaine Smith, 25, and Nkosi Cunningham, 24; and Dashawn Schooler, 25, of Long Island — were recorded rifling through luggage and pocketing jewelry, cash, watches, computers and other items, according to court documents.

Prosecutors say the video shows defendants stuffing jewelry, cash, watches, computers and other items in their pockets and down their pants.

Authorities say thousands of dollars' worth of stolen goods were found in their homes and cars.

Investigators say they went to one suspect's home and recovered bottles of cologne, Valentino sunglasses, a Sony Playstation and 14 watches, including one worth $5,000.

Cameras and a Cartier watch were discovered at another defendant's home.

Dino Bouterse, son of Suriname’s president, charged in U.S. with trafficking cocaine

Dino Bouterse

The son of the president of the South American country of Suriname has been arrested on U.S. drug and weapon charges, federal prosecutors said Friday.

Dino Bouterse, director of Suriname's anti-terrorism unit, was arrested Thursday in Panama by local authorities and turned over to U.S. agents, said Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

His arrest comes as his father, Desi Bouterse, himself convicted of drug offenses, hosts the annual UNASUR summit for leaders of South American countries. Officials in Suriname announced Friday that the opening statement by Desi Bouterse would be postponed by several hours.

Local government officials have declined further comment.

Dino Bouterse was scheduled to appear in Manhattan federal court on Friday afternoon after being flown to New York late Thursday, officials said.

"Bouterse is a significant drug trafficker," said Derek Maltz, special agent-in-charge with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Bouterse faces a U.S. federal indictment alleging he worked with a man identified as Edmund Quincy Muntslag to smuggle cocaine into the United States starting in or about December 2011. It also charges him with violating firearms laws by brandishing a light anti-tank weapon during the narcotics offense.

The indictment says Bouterse was involved in smuggling a suitcase filled with 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of cocaine aboard a commercial flight from Suriname to the Caribbean in late July.

Federal prosecutors said Muntslag was arrested Thursday in the Caribbean island of Trinidad.

Bouterse's father is a former coup leader and convicted drug trafficker who was elected president of Suriname in July 2010. Shortly after his inauguration, Bouterse appointed his son as director of Suriname's Counter Terrorist Unit, drawing heavy criticism from opposition legislators who expressed concern that no legal framework was created for the unit to operate.

In 2011, unit officials were criticized for acting as police officers when they killed two men suspected in several violent crimes.

In August 2002, prosecutors in Suriname charged Dino Bouterse with stealing 50 guns from the government intelligence service.

Police at the time accused Bouterse of fleeing to Curacao to avoid arrest, although his father said Bouterse had traveled there for personal business.

A year later, prosecutors dropped charges, citing a lack of evidence.

Police detained the younger Bouterse again in September 2004 after seizing a large number of assault weapons, ammunition and 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of cocaine from a local auto shop.

He was sentenced to eight years in prison in August 2005 after a judge found him guilty of leading a ring that trafficked in cocaine, illegal arms and stolen luxury cars.

The president, a two-time dictator who first seized power during a 1980 coup, was convicted in absentia in 1999 on drug trafficking charges by a court in the Netherlands. At home, he and 24 associates face trial on charges of killing 15 prominent political opponents in 1982, but the case has been stalled while courts determine if they are covered by an amnesty law adopted last year.

Bouterse has said he intends to run for a second elected term as the 2015 elections approach. The former Dutch colony of some 560,000 people is located on the shoulder of South America. Its economy relies largely on exports of alumina, gold and oil, although roughly 70 percent of is population lives below the poverty level.

Lamar Odom arrested on DUI charge

Proving that things can always get worse, Lamar Odom was just arrested for DUI.

The basketball player was pulled over by police early this morning just outside of Los Angeles, reports TMZ.

The gossip site reports that Odom was pulled over for driving slowly and in a "serpentine manner." He ignored police for three exits, and when he finally stopped, failed several sobriety tests.

He refused any chemical tests while at the police station and is being held on $15,000 bail.

It’s been a bad summer for the former NBA Sixth Man of the Year. 

He’s been dogged by rumors that his marriage to Khloe Kardashian is falling apart, and reports this weekend said he had a serious drug problem – either crack or OxyContin depending on the source.

Odom, is still without a team for the upcoming NBA season, but the Los Angeles Lakers have said they will resign their former player if he goes to rehab.

NJ State Police dashboard camera shows incident with Bergen County Police

NEW JERSEY  - A confrontation between plainclothes Bergen County police officers and a uniformed New Jersey state trooper on the New Jersey Turnpike back in May was all caught on a dashboard camera.

The state trooper, who was concerned about a rash of police impersonation robberies, pulled his weapon as he investigated why the plainclothes cops in an unmarked minivan had pulled over a car on the turnpike.

What followed was a profanity-laced tirade that escalated quickly and could have ended tragically.

The video, which was obtained by, shows the state trooper arriving at the scene. With his gun unholstered, he approaches the minivan, which has its lights flashing. The Bergen County officer had pulled another vehicle over.

When the Bergen officer sees the weapon, he gets angry and the argument starts.

The trooper told the cop that because of several recent robberies involving suspects who impersonated police he was being extra cautious. But that doesn't even come close to settling this dispute.

The verbal jousting continued and a law enforcement turf war played out all while two suspects sat in that vehicle and traffic zipped by.

Things escalate when a Bergen County police sergeant arrived.

In a statement, Col. Rick Fuentes, the superintendent of the State Police, said that in light of the recent law enforcement impersonations the "trooper fully justified in approaching this stop with the utmost caution."

Bergen County Police Chief Brian Higgins said in a statement that "neither the trooper or the officers were at fault... they were all doing their jobs."

It is easy to see that keeping the peace was not a priority.

State Police has jurisdiction on highways. It is unclear why the county police officers were apparently stopping a motorist on the turnpike.

The plainclothes Bergen County officers involved were both reportedly disciplined.

US Jewish organizations get $9m. for ‘homeland security’

WASHINGTON — American Jewish institutions will get a leg up from the federal government this year with the awarding of $9 million in non-profit security grants designed to help Jewish non-profits protect themselves against and respond to terror threats. 

Community leaders welcomed the announcement, which marked the eighth straight year that the Jewish community received the lion’s share of the available grants.

On Thursday, the Jewish Federations of North America expressed “gratitude” toward federal officials, including retiring US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and a number of Congressional leaders for renewing the grant, despite cutbacks to the federal budget.

The total budget for the grants this year was $10 million – down from $19 million in 2011 and $25 million in 2005 – with Jewish organizations receiving almost 90% of the awards. 

Although the budget for the program has declined precipitously under the continuing resolution budgets of the past two years, Napolitano ensured that this year’s awards would be spared from the across-the-board 5% cut anticipated due to sequestration.

“The Department of Homeland Security has demonstrated a great commitment to protecting at-risk communities,” said Michael Siegal, chair of the Jewish Federations’ Board of Trustees. “We applaud Secretary Napolitano for recognizing the merits of the program, sparing the program from $500,000 in sequestration cuts this year.”

Napolitano was not alone in her support for the program. Senate support for maintaining the grants was led by Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), who was one of two co-sponsors of the initial program in 2005, together with former Pennsylvania senator Arlen Specter (R-PA).  

The program continues to receive such bipartisan support in both chambers, and Senate Appropriations Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL) as well as House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY) and Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY), and Senate and House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee leaders also supported it.

The funds, which total $138 million awarded since 2005, subsidize efforts by non-profits — including schools, synagogues, and community centers — to acquire and install physical security enhancements and undertake preparedness training. 

Qualifying organizations must meet federal guidelines for a tax-exempt non-profit organization (known by its tax status as a 501(c)3), and must be judged to be “at high risk of a terrorist attack and located within one of the 25 FY 2013 UASI-eligible urban areas.” All but one of the ten largest concentrations of Jewish population in America — Cleveland, Ohio — are included on the list.

In the years after the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon,  the Jewish Federations, and a number of partners in the American Jewish community including the Orthodox Union, lobbied hard for the establishment of the grants as a small subset of the $1.2 billion dollar Homeland Security grants available. 

The vast majority of the program – over $1 billion — is devoted to funding for state, local and tribal governments.

But despite its small size relative to the program as a whole, the non-profit grants have been valuable to the Jewish community. 

Recent past projects completed with the funds include installing a surveillance system at a local JCC, switching to bullet-proof doors and windows at a Jewish senior center, and placing x-ray machines at Jewish day-schools. Advocates say that these funds help stretch the budget at community institutions by providing for some of the security expenses.

For the past decade, the Jewish community has worked closely with the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI to understand the terror threats facing American Jews. 

It was this cooperation that formed the basis of the idea to seek Congress’s establishment of the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, as well as to launch the Jewish community’s own security initiative, the Secure Community Network.

“Since September 11, nonprofits generally, and Jewish communal institutions specifically, have been the victim of an alarming number of threats and attacks,” said William Daroff, Vice President for Public Policy and Director of the Washington Office of Jewish Federations.

Last year, the wording of the funding guideline was changed to include organizations which were “determined to be at high risk of a terrorist attack due to their ideology, beliefs or mission,” a move made to counter allegations that the previous wording offered an advantage to religiously-oriented organizations. 

Previous non-Jewish awardees have included a diverse assortment of organizations – both a Washington DC Planned Parenthood facility and a New York Catholic church received grants in 2012.

Ironically, the program has become a popular topic among anti-Semitic conspiracy-oriented bloggers, who collect information on award sizes to argue that Jewish interests have undue effect upon the American government. 

Jewish community leaders are extremely involved in providing guidance for small institutions in applying for the grants, and while Jewish participation is high, it has fluctuated – from 2007-2010, some 73% of the funds went to Jewish organizations, while in 2012 the number peaked at around 97%.

Can the outgoing Sephardi chief rabbi regain his place at Ovadia Yosef's side?

At a ceremony in Jerusalem's Old City, scheduled for right after Rosh Hashana, the new Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef will be officially proclaimed “Rishon Letzion,” the title by which the Sephardi community refers to its chief rabbi.

The event, to take place at the Rabban Yohanan Ben Zakai Synagogue, is a ritual that dates back to Ottoman times, at which the rabbi dons the traditional cloak and cap for the first time.

According to the protocol, the person that “anoints” the new chief rabbi and help him into the cloak is the outgoing chief rabbi, but this time, as has occurred periodically in the past, the two rabbis' controversial history is impeding on tradtion. 

Former Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who also happens to be an in-law of the newly chosen rabbi, was not invited to the ceremony, and barring any last-minute reversals, his absence will be rather conspicuous.

Though only a month has passed since the intense battles for the chief rabbi positions, the chosen two have been shoved out of the public eye, relegated to Channel 1’s Saturday night Judaism corner. 

The big stories are about the informal players in this saga, in particular, the rift between Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and Amar, who for years was one of Yosef’s closest associates.

Amar had been marked by Yosef for greatness. Yosef proclaimed him “light of the world,” and honored him by reciting in Amar's presence the special blessing said when seeing the sages of the generation, “who has shared His wisdom with those who fear Him.”

Amar, one of the unofficial symbols of Shas, risked almost all he had in the last rabbinate elections and blew it: His candidate for chief rabbi, Rabbi Tzion Bo’aron, lost. 

Now Shas leaders are doing everything they can to isolate Amar and destroy his authority. 

The door to Rabbi Ovadia’s home has been slammed in his face, and Shas-affiliated media outlets have stopped using the honorific titles of “hagaon” (“the genius”) and “maran,” (“our rabbi and teacher”) when referring to him. Now he is merely called “rabbi,” like any of the national-religious rabbis.

Rabbi Amar would like to be forgiven for what Rabbi Ovadia’s court, and probably Rabbi Ovadia himself, see as rebellion, betrayal and ingratitude. Amar has his own version of events, but it’s doubtful that he would ever again bet the ranch the way he did during the last election. 

On the other hand, despite his efforts at achieving forgiveness, he still hasn’t explicitly apologized for backing Bo’aron against Yitzhak Yosef.

There are those in Shas who say that the door to forgiveness has not been shut completely, but on the assumption he does not win “clemency,” it isn’t clear to what degree this might impeded his ambitious plans to be the next leading Sephardi Torah sage.

Amar, who has recently refused to be interviewed, has been spending his time attending pre-High Holy Day inspirational rallies and, as Haaretz has learned, is even seeking to assemble a council of sages to be an alternative to that of Shas.

While Ovadia Yosef never groomed an heir, Amar, a veteran rabbinical court judge and adjudicator, stood out among the Sephardic rabbis in Yosef’s inner circle, particularly with regard to issues of halakha, Jewish law. Over the years, Yosef has referred numerous complex halakhic cases to Amar, including conversions, and cases of agunot (women unable to obtain a divorce) and mamzerut (suspicions of halakhic bastardy).

Given their intimate relationship, Amar’s decision back his own candidate for chief rabbi surprised many people, including many within Shas. But the move demonstrated that Amar is trying to chart an independent course, on the assumption, yet to be proven, that he can manage without Shas and the House of Ovadia.

This rebellion is accompanied by very serious allegations being made by Amar’s associates against Yosef’s household – the Shas party leaders and Rabbi Ovadia’s sons. “Rav Ovadia is a hostage, they’ve turned him into a haggler in the market,” they argue, echoing allegations that have been made by various Shas rebels in recent years, including former MK Rabbi Chaim Amsallem and Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak.

Amar has tried to keep himself above the fray. On Monday, he met with the 93-year-old Yosef for the first time since the chief rabbis’ selection, surprising him at Hadassah-University Hospital at Ein Kerem, where Yosef had been hospitalized with heart problems (he was released Thursday afternoon after a five-day hospitalization).

The surprise visit at a neutral location spared Amar a possible confrontation with members of Yosef’s court. In the rabbi’s room in the hospital’s cardiology department were two other people: Moshe Yosef, the rabbi’s youngest son, and Tzvi Hakak, the rabbi’s personal assistant, who apparently took minutes of the encounter. 

Amar’s associates described the meeting as positive, which aroused ridicule in the home of Rabbi Ovadia, where they said that the elderly rabbi refused to shake Amar’s hand and made serious accusations against him. Among other things, he quoted to Amar the verse from Genesis, “What is my transgression, what is my sin that you have hotly pursued me?” which is what Jacob asked Laban, who had tricked him and chased him.

Not counting the quiet efforts being made, it was the second time Amar failed to appease Yosef. Two weeks ago he sent a letter to the rabbi, in which he used the most elaborate rhetoric possible to try to absolve himself.

“I, the small and despised, announce submissively that everything I did, I did for the honor of God,” Amar wrote, which apparently made Yosef even angrier. “I’m happy for Maran, may he live a long life, that there is continuity to his teaching by his son who now occupies his place,” a reference to the fact that Ovadia is also a former chief rabbi. 

Though he did not express regret for having run a candidate against the elder rabbi’s son, Amar added, “If indeed I erred, do not hold it against me … for I will seek [Yosef’s] love and compassion forever.”

Yosef did not respond to the letter, but a member of his household said he heard Yosef describe the missive as “an arrogant letter.”

DA Hynes Apologizes To Jewish Community

Thursday, August 29, 2013

New Square - Sex abuse victim from Square speaks Out

NEW SQUARE - A shroud of secrecy surrounds the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of New Square. Many of the residents shun the outside world and keep to themselves.
However, a sex abuse victim from the community has spokenexclusively to News 12.

Yossi, who prefers to use only his first name, says he wants to speak out about his ordeal in the hope that other victims of abuse will come forward.
Yossi claims that Herschel Taubenfeld, a teacher in his community, inappropriately touched him three times a week for four months.

The teen asked for help from the head rabbis of New Square who had just set up their own sex crimes unit called the VAAD. The agency told him to see a therapist.
Two months later, Yossi reported the abuse to the Ramapo police. He says that his friends stopped talking to him and treated him like he didn't exist.

Yossi says his attacker admitted to the crimes, but religious leaders in the community sent Taubenfeld to Israel to obtain his rabbinical ordination.
He also says he was offered  $100,000 to keep quiet about the situation, which he refused.
In December 2011, one month after Yossi reported the abuse, Taubenfeld turned himself in.

He was charged with 30 misdemeanor counts of forcible touching, endangering the welfare of a child and third-degree sex abuse. However, the rabbi avoided jail time in exchange for six years probation.

According to students, Taubenfeld is still teaching at one of New Square’s largest religious schools.

westchester news12

Washington Post: Secret budget reveals US spying on Israel

WASHINGTON – The Washington Post has revealed a collection of clauses from the US government's top secret $52.6 billion "black budget," meant to finance the special operations of the intelligence services, including counterintelligence operations against Israel.
The 178-page budget summary for the National Intelligence Program, which was obtained by the Washington Post from former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, states that US intelligence officials take an active interest in foes as well as friends.

Pakistan is described in detail as an "intractable target," and counterintelligence operations "are strategically focused against (the) priority targets of China, Russia, Iran, Cuba and Israel."

The Washington Post reported that according to the government’s top secret budget, US spy agencies have built an intelligence-gathering colossus since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but remain unable to provide critical information to the president on a range of national security threats.
Although the government has annually released its overall level of intelligence spending since 2007, it has not divulged how it uses those funds or how it performs against the goals set by the president and Congress, the newspaper said.

In response to inquiries from The Washington Post, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. said the US has made a "considerable investment in the Intelligence Community since the terror attacks of 9/11, a time which includes wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Arab Spring, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction technology, and asymmetric threats in such areas as cyber-warfare.
"Our budgets are classified as they could provide insight for foreign intelligence services to discern our top national priorities, capabilities and sources and methods that allow us to obtain information to counter threats," he said.

Fresh Arrests Made in Paris Chabad Molestation Probe

French police have arrested two Jewish men from Paris on suspicion they pressured parents of allegedly molested minors not to press charges. 
The two men, identified as Andre T. and Rabbi A., were arrested July 31, according to the RTL news network. 

The two men deny the allegations, the report said. The actions attributed to the men are connected to sexual abuse allegations at the Chabad-Lubavitch Beth Hannah elementary school for boys. 

A supervisor at the school was indicted for sexual abuse of minors last year, AFP reported, and a principal, Rabbi Benjamin M., was indicted in February for “non-reporting of sexual abuse of minors under 15 years” of age. 

The men are both senior members of the Chabad movement in the Paris region, RTL reported. 

In a perceived reaction to the Beth Hannah affair, the Rabbinical Centre of Europe — an organization where senior Chabad rabbis hold key positions — issued a strongly worded statement in April urging “educational institutions to stop covering up abuse of children and in general.

” The statement came at the end of the annual session in Paris of the center’s Rabbinical Council, which appointed a special advisory committee on abuse in educational institutions headed by Binyomin Jacobs, a chief Dutch rabbi, and Rabbi Yitzchak Rubin of Manchester, England.

Iowa - Ex-Plant Manager Admits Role In Agriprocessors Immigration Scheme

A former Iowa slaughterhouse manager is admitting his role in a conspiracy to knowingly employ and harbor immigrants who entered the country illegally.

Hosam Amara, former poultry manager at the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, has signed a plea agreement calling for him to plead guilty to one count of conspiring to harbor undocumented immigrants for profit.
The agreement was filed Thursday in advance of a plea hearing Friday at the federal courthouse in Cedar Rapids. The charge carries up to 10 years in prison.

Prosecutors are expected to dismiss 26 other counts against Amara, who fled to Israel after a 2008 immigration raid at the plant led to the arrest of 389 workers. Amara was extradited earlier this year to face the charges.

Katie Holmes security team worried about Scientologists

Katie Holmes security guards are concerned that Scientologists are spying on her and her daughter Suri a year after her divorce from Tom Cruise.

The actress’s bodyguards have been quizzing paparazzi to ensure they aren’t members of the controversial church she belonged to during her six year marriage to the “Oblivion” star, reports the Daily Mail.

According to the paper, a member of Holmes’ six-member security team approached photographers on the Cleveland set of the actress’s latest film, “Miss Meadows,” and asked if they had any connection to the church.
Once it was determined they did not, tensions eased and they were also asked to “keep our eyes open for anything suspicious and to report it,” one of the shutterbugs said.

Last year TMZ reported that mother and daughter were being followed by mysterious vehicles shortly after the split.

Holmes’ spokesperson denied the photographer's story.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin splits from wife Anne Wojcicki

SAN FRANCISCO -- One of Silicon Valley's power couples has separated.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin is living apart from wife and 23andMe co-founder Anne Wojcicki, according to a report in technology blog All Things D.

Brin and Wojcicki, both 40, have been married for six years and have two children. The couple have been living apart for several months, a spokesman for the couple said.

"They remain good friends and partners,” the person said. They are not legally separated.

It's unclear if the couple will reconcile because, according to the report, Brin is dating a Google employee.

The split will reportedly not have an effect on Google even if the couple divorce. Brin and Wojcicki have a prenuptial agreement, All Things D said.

Brin is one of the world's richest men and is currently worth $22.8 billion, according to Forbes.

He also has many business entanglements with Wojcicki. He, Google and Google Ventures have all invested in 23andMe, which sells DNA test kits. 

The couple also are involved with the Breakthrough Prize Foundation with another Silicon Valley power couple, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan. They also buy and renovate property in downtown Los Altos, Calif., near their home.

A spokesman told All Things D that Brin and Wojcicki would continue to work on these projects together.

Perhaps the stickiest situation: Susan Wojcicki, Anne's sister, is a top executive at Google.

The stunning revelation sent shock waves through Silicon Valley, where the couple have long held a high profile. 

The All Things D scoop was soon trending on Twitter and TechMeme. Tech writer Jessica Roy commented on Twitter: "Just gasped so loud I scared my cat."

Rabbi Bar-Hayim Blasts Flocking To Uman, Says Pilgrims Trying To Escape Realities Of Life

Rabbi David Bar Hayim

Jerusalem - In an explosive interview, a well known but controversial Israeli Rabbi and lecturer came out strongly against the custom of going to Uman for Rosh Hashana, calling both the practices of needing an intermediary to approach Hashem and of flocking to the Ukraine for Rosh Hashana “a distortion of authentic Torah Judaism.”

Rabbi David Bar Hayim, head of Jerusalem’s Machon Shilo, who prefers to be known as a Halachic Jew instead of an Orthodox Jew, has been at the center of central hotly contested issues, having made a claim in 2007 that all Jews are permitted to eat kitniyos on Pesach and that Israeli Jews should use their lulavim when the first day of Succos falls out on Shabbos. 

He is also a proponent of reviving the ages-old Nusach Eretz Yisroel and abandoning traditions of Eastern Europe and those established during the Babylonian exile in favor of ancient Israeli minhagim.

R’ Bar-Hayim blasted those who make the pilgrimage to the kever of the Breslover Rebbe, R’ Nachman, particularly on Rosh Hashana, saying that while the Torah does not command us to make the annual trip to the Ukraine, it does instruct Jews to live in Israel.

“Of all days you would think on Rosh Hashana a Jew would want to be, if he could be, in Eretz Yisroel.”

R’ Bar Hayim suggested that claiming that Jews need to be in a location outside of Israel on Rosh Hashana is a concept that is foreign to Torah teaching and is akin to “adding a new mesorah to the Torah.”

Saying that the notion that the only proper way to approach Hashem is by connecting with a “super-tzaddik” such as R’ Nachman, the Lubavitcher Rebbe or any other holy individual “smacks of Christianity”, R’ Bar-Hayim cautioned that many are attracted to Breslov as a means of protecting themselves from the harsh realities of life.

“This kind of approach is essentially a religious and, as it were, sanctioned form of escapism,” said Rabbi Bar Hayim.  “But in fact it is not a sanctioned form of escapism. There is no such thing as sanctioned escapism. 

Escapism is escapism.  Whether it is drugs or whether it is going to Uman, whether it is believing in a certain individual who died many years ago that he is the moshiach and insisting that this is the case.

No matter how many times you repeat such statements it doesn’t make it any more true.  No matter how many times a person goes to Uman it doesn’t make it any more correct.”’

R’ Bar-Hayim acknowledged that when R’ Nachman’s followers were still living in the Ukraine, making the trek to his kever on Rosh Hashana was a logical move, meant to inspire and unite Bresolver chasidim in the absence of their rebbe.  

But he expressed doubt that R’ Nachman, who frequently mentioned Israel in his writings, ever intended for his followers to leave Eretz Yisroel and travel to the Ukraine for Rosh Hashana.

“This is something quite ludicrous and flies in the face of everything the Torah teaches us,” observed R’ Bar-Hayim.

Noting that many find themselves uplifted by the pilgrimage, R’ Bar-Hayim suggested that they look to a closer source for inspiration, the words of Dovid Hamelech, designed to foster a deeper connection with Hashem and an essential part of every tefilla.

“Rather than looking for some strange, foreign and very, very devious substitute, let us turn to the real McCoy, the true source of tefilla which begins with Sefer Tehillim.”

R’ Bar-Hayim blasted the Ashkenazi Rosh Hashana davening, charging that many find it lengthy, cryptic, tiring and replete with “many piyutim which are not required by halacha” and are “extraneous to the core of tefilla.”  Suggesting that it be modified to a shorter nusach based on the teachings of chazal, gaonim and rishonim which would be shorter and more meaningful, R’ Bar-Hayim expressed his opinion that doing so might prevent people from looking to Uman for inspiration.

“Running away to Ukraine to escape problems of Ashkenzai davening is not the answer,” warned R’ Bar-Hayim.  “It is simply creating another problem.”

Mendel Epstein Says Divorce In Orthodox Community Stems From Misleading Hashkafos

Mendel Epstein

The 5 Towns Jewish Times wrote an article last week on the “proliferation of divorces” in the Jewish Orthodox community and on the current system that fails to protect women struggling to “navigate their way through difficult or bad marriages.”

The newspaper interviewed Mendel Epstein of Brooklyn, New York, leader of a Jewish community, an experienced judge, and “to’ein”, the Hebrew term meaning “advocate” who represents on behalf of someone in front of a Rabbinical court of law. 

Epstein has over three decades of experience dealing with over 2,000 Jewish divorce cases and felt the need to express the suffering he has seen due to the current system.

“There are so many women left in limbo by the process,” Epstein claims. “There is hardly a family in the community that is not dealing with divorce or a yeshiva that does not have one or two children at minimum in every class whose parents are either in the process or already divorced.”

There is a need for “airing these issues out in public,” and therefore, Epstein has articulated his points in a formal set of guidelines called, “Bill of Rights of a Jewish Wife.”

“I have authored the Bill of Rights of a Jewish Wife to clarify and strengthen the rights of the Jewish wife because I am disturbed by the number of women who find themselves in unbearably difficult situations due to incorrect hashkafa [views] and advice that they have received and therefore come to blame the Torah and Rabbis for their plight,” the Rabbi wrote.

Among the items on the Bill of Rights are the followiing basic halakhas: a wife must be treated with respect and not be abused, a woman in an abusive relationship has a right to seek a get [divorce document], she is entitled to be supported by her husband according to the ketubah [Jewish marriage certificate], a husband is obligated to honor and respect his wife’s parents, and she is entitled to a normal conjugal relationship.

In regards to the increasing amount of divorce cases within the Orthodox community, Epstein points out that many divorces are a result of infidelity in marriages, indicating that infidelity often begins “with people coming and going freely in and out of each other’s homes.”

He said that there is no age restriction on these circumstances that end in divorce. 

He added that they affect those who have been married a few months as well as those married a few decades.

Epstein additionally noted that these cases dramatically impact women and children involved and can translate into feeling resentment towards the Rabbinical Court process, and as a result to Rabbis in general.

“Don’t minimize the impact this is having on frum [religious] homes, as mothers begin to view trying to live according to a halakhic [Jewish law] or Torah lifestyle as being a prime cause of their problems,” Epstein says. 

And he adds that this attitude can easily trickle down to the children, where it can emotionally resonate for years.

However, “it’s not the Torah and it’s not the rabbis that are at fault or responsible for all the misery, heartache, and broken marriages and families out there,” Mendel Epstein says. Above all, it is false ideals and misguided advice which have cause the divorce rate to invade communities.

Epstein says he has shown his Bill of Rights to several leading rabbinical figures who agree with his honest approach and have encouraged the Rabbi to publicize these points.

Among those who endorsed his approach are Rabbi Peretz Steinberg of the Queens Vaad HaRabonim, Rabbi Hershel Kurzrock of the Rabbinical Alliance and Igud HaRabbonim, and Rabbi Moshe Bergman, a prominent Rabbi dealing with divorce cases in Brooklyn, all mainstream Orthodox figures.

Epstein highlights his frustration by rehashing a story of one of his clients, a woman who has been waiting to receive her get [Jewish divorce document] for more than three years. 

Epstein relates that he contacted the Rabbi who was stalling the divorce who said that the husband “requires a therapist as a third party to independently verify that the marriage could not be repaired or saved.”

In this case, there was already evidentiary proof that the husband was no longer observing the Sabbath and was also already dating other women.

Epstein established that there is no basis to back up this opinion and that “all this ignorant approach does is prolong the process and increase the suffering, usually on the woman’s side of the equation.”

He explains that the goal of many of the rabbis involved in these situations is to keep the couple together and try to keep the family unit intact. 

This may look like the best situation from the outside, but internally it can be doing more damage than anyone can imagine. “There are a lot of stupid women staying with their husbands,” the Rabbi says, “even though by right the marriage is over and for everyone’s good they should be out of there.”

Aside from infidelity and disloyalty in a marriage, divorce stems from economic pressures.

He states clearly that “a woman is entitled to be supported by her husband,” and that this is clearly and unequivocally defined in no uncertain terms in the ketubah that is the documented centerpiece of every Jewish marriage.

He states that another flaw in the system is that women turn to the municipal courts for help, when they should turn to the Rabbinical Court in order to be free from their destructive marriages.  

Although, Epstein does say that there are some times where going to court first is beneficial, especially when there is a particularly obdurate and uncooperative husband involved, because they can force him to reveal his assets.

At the conclusion of the interview, he spoke about why he believes there is so much dysfunction in marriages and divorces in the community; the young (and not-so-young) men who are untrained husbands and have never had to deal with compromise, doing without something they want and the complexities of life. 

They are not tested or evaluated and all too many do not even make it to morning minyan. They see their parents as an ATM machine.

“The main reason many young people are just not ready for marriage or parenthood is that many of the boys are just sitting in yeshiva. So when Mr. Spoiled marries Ms. Spoiled, why are we shocked that they cannot make a marriage work or successfully assume the responsibilities of parenthood?” he asks rhetorically.

IDF soldiers caught on film dancing in a Palestinian club

A video recently shown by Israeli media has documented some rather unconventional behavior from Israel Defense Forces soldiers in Hebron. 

During a patrol in the area, likely aimed at investigating the loud music emanating from a party in one of the city's neighborhoods, several soldiers decided to join in the celebrations, and can be seen dancing alongside partygoers.

The video clip was uploaded to the web on Tuesday, with the title "Israeli soldiers dancing at a Palestinian wedding in Hebron." With the popular song "Gangam Style" playing in the background, the solders are seen capering about the dance floor.

The soldiers dancing while clad in full gear, including helmets, vests, and weapons, make for a bizarre sight. 

The partygoers seemed to think so as well, as the video shows many people whip out their cellphones to document the strange scene. After a few moments, some of the other people at the party even hoist the soldiers up onto their shoulders. 

The "joint" celebration continues for a few minutes, and the party's DJ seems to be happy with the situation, as he can be seen clapping along in the video as well.

The IDF was not particularly pleased with the video, which raises doubts as to whether or not the soldiers in question followed regulations during that patrol. 

The soldiers could have easily caused some kind of clash with the partygoers, with serious consequences, rather than a slightly funny, if not bizarre video clip. 

Ditching a patrol to join in on the dance floor, even for a few minutes, is most likely a violation of standing orders.

The IDF Spokesperson's unit has not released an official response, but an IDF official stated that "the clip has been taken down from the web, and the soldiers that were involved and participated in the party have been suspended pending an investigation."

US asks Tehran to free Jewish ex-FBI agent

WASHINGTON — The United States on Wednesday repeated its call for Tehran to help three Americans Robert Levinson, Amir Hekmati and Saeed Abedini return to their families after lengthy detentions in Iran.

The State Department said in a statement that the US is “respectfully” requesting the assistance from Iran’s new president, Hasan Rouhani. Previous requests made to former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used slightly harsher rhetoric.

“President Rouhani has shared in his speeches and interviews over the past few months his hope and vision to improve the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s relationship with the world,” the statement said in the latest plea for the release of the three.

Levinson, a husband and father of seven who is Jewish, went missing from Kish Island in Iran in March 2007. The former FBI agent was working as a private investigator at the time.

“His family has endured with courage and quiet dignity the pain of spending so many important family milestones without him there,” the statement said.

“We call again on the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to uphold its offer to help find Mr. Levinson and return him safely to his family.”

The State Department said Thursday marks the two-year anniversary of the detention of Hekmati, a former US Marine who has been held in Iran since August 2011 on what the US claims are false espionage charges.

Abedini has been detained since September 2012. He was sentenced to eight years in prison on charges related to his religious beliefs, and reportedly has suffered physical abuse in Iranian detention.

Ex-girlfriend of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un executed by firing squad

The ex-girlfriend of North Korean leader Kim-Jong-un was one of a dozen people reportedly executed by a firing squad last week.

The South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reports that singer Hyon Song-wol and 11 others had been arrested on August 17 for violating North Korea's laws against pornography and was executed three days later.

The paper reported that the condemned, all members of the performing groups Unhasu Orchestra and Wangjaesan Light Music Band, were accused of making videos of themselves having sex and selling the videos, which the paper reported were available in China.

"They were executed with machine guns while the key members of the Unhasu Orchestra, Wangjaesan Light Band and Moranbong Band as well as the families of the victims looked on," a source told the paper. 

The source added that the victim's families appear to have all been sent to prison camps.

Kim Jong-un reportedly met Hyon Song-wol approximately 10 years ago, before he was married. 

The relationship between the two is believed to have ended after interference from Kim's father, Kim Jong-il, though the two had been rumored to be having an affair. Kim Jong-un's wife, Ri Sol-ju, was also a member of the Unhasu Orchestra before their marriage. It is not clear if she had any role in the executions.

Orthodox Jewish Youth pray for an end to the killing of innocent Syrian civilians

A group of youth involved in the religious-Zionist Bnei Akiva program have started organized prayers on behalf of Syrian civilians who are at risk due to the ongoing civil war in their country. 

The prayer initiative, which began in Petach Tikva, has now spread to Jewish communities around the world.

Bnei Akiva volunteers who are doing a year of national civilian service in Petach Tikva came up with the idea of coordinating prayers on behalf of innocent Syrians.

While Judaism teaches that any individual can pray to G-d and be heard, prayers said together as a group can have special power. 

The young volunteers also wished to have a formal prayer to say, in order to ask for divine mercy with the best possible wording.

They asked Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, a leading figure in the religious-Zionist world and the head of the Petach Tikva hesder yeshiva, to help them find the ideal wording for their request for divine assistance for Syrian civilians.

Rabbi Cherlow suggested that Psalm 37 and Psalm 120 would be particularly appropriate for the occasion. Both psalms speak of the plight of the innocent righteous when evil men plot against them.

Rabbi Cherlow also revealed that he has written his own prayer for the Syrian people. He passed it along to the young volunteers, and told them they could share it with others.

The rabbi praised the young volunteers for their initiative.

The secretary-general Danny Hirshberg heard of the initiative and was so inspired by the idea that he decided the movement as a whole should take part. 

Hirshberg called on Bnei Akiva youth in Israel and around the world, and on the Jewish community as a whole, to say a special prayer in synagogues this Sabbath for Syrian civilians.

“The Israeli public needs to look beyond the screen of hate and enmity to see the pain of those civilians being hurt by the Syrian tyrant,” Hirshberg said.

A translation of Rabbi Cherlow’s prayer:

We turn to You in prayer that You may awaken in the murderers mercy and simple humanity, and the recognition that we were all created in G-d’s image, and that even cruelty has its limits. And that You appear in the world as it is written in Your Torah, ‘Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God made He man.’

NYPD Pepper Spray Cop Refuses Questions From Civilian Control Board

New York, NY - The lawyer for a NYPD official who used pepper spray on a group of protesters during the 2011 Occupy Wall Street demonstrations won’t speak to the Civilian Complaint Review Board.

Attorney Lou LaPietra tells the Daily News the board doesn’t have the right to question Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna.

Bologna is scheduled to speak before the board on Friday. He was cleared of criminal charges in the incident in April.

A spokeswoman for the CCRB tells the paper the board’s review of the incident was delayed by NYPD and Manhattan district attorney’s office investigations.

Video of the September 2011 event shows a group of women getting hit with pepper spray by an officer, who was later identified as Bologna.

Bologna faces a federal civil suit.

Moscow - Amid Syria Tensions, Russia Sends More Warships To Mediterranean

Moscow - Russia is sending two warships to the eastern Mediterranean, Interfax news agency said on Thursday, as Western powers prepare for military action over last week’s alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria.

Interfax news agency quoted a source in the armed forces’ general staff as saying a missile cruiser and an anti-submarine ship would arrive in the coming days because of the “well-known situation” - a clear reference to the conflict in Syria.

The navy later denied the deployment was linked to events in Syria and said it was part of a long-planned rotation of its ships in the Mediterranean. It did not say what kind of vessels, or how many, were on their way to the region.

The initial Interfax report had made clear that the aim was to beef up the navy’s presence and not to replace the ships in the Mediterranean. The reason for the discrepancy in the two reports was not immediately clear.

The United States accuses Syrian government forces of carrying out last week’s chemical weapons attack and has said it is repositioning its naval forces in the Mediterranean.

Russia, President Bashar al-Assad’s main international ally, says it opposes any military intervention in Syria and that it has no plans to be drawn into any conflict. It says there is no proof that Assad’s forces carried out the attack.

מוכרים חוטים אדומים ברובע ומתעשרים על חשבון התיירים

תעשיית המכירה של חוטי הסגולה ברובע היהודי בירושלים פורחת. אחרי שהקרן למורשת הכותל בראשות רב
 המקומות הקדושים שמואל רבינוביץ' גירשה את הקבצנים מרחבת הכותל המערבי, החלו לשגשג עסקיהם של מוכרי החוטים האדומים, שנחשבים סגולה למזל טוב.

 רק בשבוע שעבר הוצא בכוח מרחבת הכותל מחוסר בית, שנשלח לבית חולים לבריאות הנפש אחרי שהציק למבקרי המתחם הקדוש. אך למרות סילוקם, הקבצנים מצליחים כעת להתפרנס בדרך אחרת, באמצעות מכירה של חפצי סגולות למבקרים ולמתפללים.

את קבצני החוטים אפשר למצוא בסמטאות הסמוכות לכותל, לצד פושטי יד אחרים ונגני רחוב, בין רחבת בית הכנסת ה'חורבה', מדרגות רחבת הכותל ושער

הכניסה למתחם. כעת שוררת גם תחרות עסקית עזה בין מוכרי החוטים. חלקם שדרגו את המכירות בעזרת מכירה של חוטים בצבע כחול, שעל פי הקבלה נחשב צבע מועיל יותר.

אחרים טוענים שהחוטים שהם מציעים מגיעים היישר מקבר רחל. יש מוכרים שמציעים גם תוספת של חרוז בחוט, שמייקרת את מחירו. אחד מבעלי הדוכנים במתחם הקשתות ברובע היהודי מסביר שהסגולה המיוחדת אינה בחוט עצמו אלא דווקא בכך שהוא נרכש בכספי צדקה.

מוכרת אחרת אומרת שהיא מעניקה את החוטים לכל תורם וללא מחיר מוגדר מראש. לדבריה, יש קבצנים "שרלטנים" שמנצלים את תמימותם של התיירים ודורשים סכומי כסף גבוהים עבור החוטים. "יש כאלו שיודעים אנגלית וסוחטים את התיירים במחירים ובסיפורים", היא מספרת. לדבריה, התופעה החלה לצבור תאוצה בחודש האחרון, חודש אלול, שבו פוקדים מדי ערב אלפי מתפללים את הכותל המערבי לצורך אמירת סליחות.

העירייה: "הפיקוח העירוני בשיתוף משטרת ירושלים פועל למיגור תופעת הרוכלות הבלתי חוקית במתחם הסמוך לכותל, באמצעות מתן קנסות והוצאת הרוכלים מהמתחם".