Monday, October 14, 2019

US Suspends Tariff Hike In Limited China Deal

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Chinese Vice Premier Liu He accompanied by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, left, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, greets the media before a minister-level trade meetings at the Office of the United States Trade Representative in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States is suspending a tariff hike on $250 billion in Chinese imports that was set to take effect Tuesday, and China agreed to buy $40 billion to $50 billion in U.S. farm products as the world’s two biggest economies reached a cease-fire in their 15-month trade war.

The two countries are leaving the thornier issues — including U.S. allegations that China forces foreign countries to hand over trade secrets in return for access to the Chinese market — until later negotiations.

The tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese imports was set to rise Tuesday from 25% to 30%.

Rumblings Quiet After Likud Vote Assures Netanyahu As Party Head And Premier Designate

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Likud members and others at the plenum hall of Israeli parliament on the opening of the 22nd Knesset in Jerusalem, on Oct. 3, 2019. (Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash90)

JERUSALEM (JNS) — As the situation stands right now, Israel seems to be headed toward a third election in the early months of 2020.

The Likud Central Committee met on Thursday night and voted that their party’s only candidate for prime minister is Benjamin Netanyahu. The central committee also determined that the Likud will only join a government during the 22nd Knesset if Benjamin Netanyahu serves as its prime minister—either alone or as part of a rotation.

While only 300 out of the party’s 3,700 central committee members showed up to vote, the move makes it impossible for another Likud Knesset member to try to represent the party as candidate for prime minister.

“There are people who want to replace Netanyahu as prime minister in middle of this term,” said Israeli Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev of Likud, explaining why this vote was necessary.

Netanyahu is in his second week of a 28-day period during which he has been tasked to form a government. If he fails, the president will give Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz the chance to form a government. If he fails—and there seems to be no way for him to get to the 61 seats he needs for a government—then any Knesset member can try to bring 60 other Knesset members to support them for prime minister.

There have been rumblings about prominent Likud Knesset members trying to take control of the party during those 21 days and form a unity government with Blue and White. Thursday night’s vote closed the door on that. It also closes the door on Likud MKs trying to push Netanyahu out because of his legal woes at any time during this Knesset term.

David Amsalem, Likud’s communications minister, told the voters in the audience that “the left as usual are not being democratic. For two months, they are telling us that the prime minister is not legitimate. But we went to elections. And more than 1,100,000 people voted for him. And together with the rest of the national camp, more than 2 million people voted that they want Netanyahu to be prime minister. But they just cannot accept it.”

Likud Knesset member Keti Sheetrit told JNS that people need to understand that “the DNA of the Likud is to protect its leaders regardless of what may be going on.” In fact, the party has only had four leaders in its 45-year history (compared to 10 different leaders in the Labor Party during this time).

Blue and White has made it clear that it won’t join a government with Netanyahu as prime minister given the indictment that he faces on corruption charges. And Likud reinforced that it won’t replace Netanyahu. Blue and White also says it wants to negotiate with Likud alone for a national unity government. Likud insists that it is coming to the negotiations with three other parties representing their 55-mandate right-wing/religious bloc.

There was some hope that Knesset member Avigdor Lieberman, chairman of the eight-seat Yisrael Beiteinu Party, would present an idea that could somehow break the current stalemate and prevent heading to a third election. But the plan he presented two days ago did not accomplish that. He suggested a three-headed government made up of Likud, Blue and White, and his own party, which would be a 71-seat government. He also proposed that these three parties establish the guiding principles of their government and pass a state budget. Then, any other parties that accept these principles and values are welcome to join their government.

Yisrael Beiteinu Knesset member Oded Forer told JNS that “the plan Lieberman announced is the only plan that can prevent a third election. Each side will have to compromise. Netanyahu will have to compromise on his 55-seat bloc and join a government without them. Gantz will have to compromise on being first in the prime minister rotation and allow Netanyahu to go first.”

Forer then emphasized, “If both sides do so, we can establish a liberal, national unity government in a matter of days.”

But while he calls for a national unity government that includes Likud, Lieberman has simultaneously attacked Likud in recent days, labeling one prominent Likud minister “a liar” and calling another “an animal.” He has also attacked Netanyahu, saying “the problem with Bibi is that the moment you have a different approach or opinion than his which goes against his interests, you immediately become his enemy.”

That reality, along with the fact that neither Likud nor Blue and White has shown any willingness to move towards Lieberman’s proposed compromises, yields little hope for a breakthrough to prevent a third election.

Power Coming Back In Northern California, Fire Danger Eases

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Strong Santa Ana winds in Chatsworth, Calif., blew across power lines causing them to arc and transformers to explode. Power was out for street signs, businesses and residents. Dan Rosen stands in the doorway of his Edward Jones investment office in Chatsworth on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019. (Dean Musgrove/The Orange County Register via AP)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The lights were back on Friday for more than half of the nearly 2 million Northern California residents who lost electricity after Pacific Gas & Electric Co. switched it off earlier this week to prevent its equipment from sparking wildfires during dry, windy weather.

But the threat of widespread outages loomed in Southern California after the winds moved to the Los Angeles area, where a wildfire fueled by strong Santa Ana winds prompted officials to order the evacuation of 100,000 people from their homes in foothills of the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles County.

PG&E restored the power in Northern California after workers inspected power lines to make sure it was safe to do so. The winds had increased the possibility of transmission lines toppling to the ground and starting wildfires.

The utility said 426,000 Northern California businesses and residences got their power back — but that 312,000 customers were still in the dark. About half of those who lost power in the San Francisco Bay Area had it again on Friday. The city itself was not subject to the preventive outages. Experts have said there are between two and three people for every electrical customer.

Some people in the largely rural Butte, Plumas and Yuba counties and in Northern California’s famed wine country counties were in their third day without electricity.

Butte County is where a fire started by PG&E equipment last year decimated the town of Paradise and killed 85 people. In Napa and Sonoma counties north of San Francisco, the outages began on the two-year anniversary of deadly wildfires that killed 44 and destroyed thousands of homes.

In the mountainous Butte County community of Magalia, Jay Middleton spent $4,500 to buy three generators and fuel — but the four space heaters the generators were powering during his family’s three-day ordeal without electricity were not enough to keep his family warm with temperatures dropping to the low 30s (0 Centigrade) at night.

And the generator didn’t work to power the family’s electric stove. Middleton and his wife were trying to keep their children entertained with ball games, wrestling matches and movies but planned to rent a hotel room if the power does not come back soon.

“The kids are bickering and fighting a bit more,” Middletown said. “No one is getting good sleep, no one is getting to shower, we’re not getting good meals. The tension is growing.”

Power won’t be restored to the county in the Sierra Nevada foothills where Middletown lives and other places until PG&E crews inspect power lines before they can be re-energized.

Getting to those remote areas is challenging for the crews and that’s prolonging the outages, said Jeff Smith, a PG&E spokesman.

“We understand that our customers are frustrated, particularly customers who have been without power for several days, but the inspection process in remote areas can be a little more challenging,” he said.

PG&E said in a statement that employees located 11 spots where parts of its systems were damaged during the strong winds, but Smith said he could not provide damage details or specific locations. That information will be in a state-mandated report the utility must give regulators within 10 business days after the outage ends.

PG&E faced hostility and second-guessing over the shut-offs, which prompted runs on supplies like coolers and generators and forced institutions to shut down. The University of California, Berkeley, was closed Friday for the third day.

Ryan Fisher, a partner in consumer goods and retail practice at global consultancy A.T. Kearney estimated $100 million in $200 million in fresh food was likely lost because of the outages along with $30 million a day in consumer spending.

PG&E cast the blackouts as a matter of public safety to prevent the kind of blazes that have killed scores of people over the past couple of years, destroyed thousands of homes, and ran up tens of billions of dollars in claims that drove the company into bankruptcy.

The utility suggested it was already seeing the wisdom of its decision borne out as gusts topping 77 mph (122 kph) raked some hilltops where wildfire risk was extremely high.

“We have found multiple cases of damage or hazards” caused by heavy winds, including fallen branches into overhead lines, said Sumeet Singh, a vice president for the utility.

Utility CEO Bill Johnson promised if future wind events require similar shut-offs, the utility will “do better” at communicating with customers. It’s unacceptable that its website crashed, maps were inconsistent and call centers were overloaded, Johnson said.

“We were not adequately prepared,” he said.

Two Victims Of Synagogue Attack In Germany Identified

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Jana Lange and Kevin S. have been identified as the two victims of attack in Halle, Germany, on Yom Kippur outside the synagogue and at a nearby kebab shop, Oct. 9, 2019. Source: Twitter

HALLE (JNS) — The two victims of the Wednesday attack on a synagogue in Halle, Germany, on Yom Kippur, have been identified.

German pop-music enthusiast Jana Lange, 40, and outdoor painter Kevin S., 20, were shot and killed near the synagogue by 27-year-old Stephan Balliet, who first attempted to break into a synagogue, but was unable to open the massive wooden doors, which were bolted shut.

After failing to gain entry to the synagogue, Balliet shot and killed Lange. Minutes later, he shot and killed Kevin S. (his last name has not been released) while he was eating lunch at a nearby kebab shop.

The suspect livestreamed the attacks on Twitch, with the 35-minute video being viewed by 2,200 people in the 30 minutes before it was taken down, according to the video platform.

Balliet has since confessed to the attacks, which were condemned by Jewish and Israeli leaders. The United States also expressed its condolences.

“Stephan [Balliet] has admitted to the accusations and specifically to his anti-Semitic as well as right-wing extremist motives,” said Markus Schmitt, press officer of the prosecutor of the German federal court.

Israeli Woman Sentenced To 7.5 Years In Russian Prison On Drug Charges

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Naama Issachar, a young Israeli woman who has been incarcerated in Russia on charges of smuggling drugs (Photo Credit: Courtesy)

MOSCOW (VosIzNeias) — As previously reported by VosIzNeias, an Israeli woman was arrested in Moscow on her way back to Israel from a post-service trip in India. Naama Issachar was pulled aside in the airport after Russian officials found 9 grams of marijuana in her luggage, an amount that would be non-prosecutable in Israel. Issachar denies that her intention was to cross Russian border security, and therefore can not be classified as a drug smuggler.

Issachar was first held in prison for several months, only being allowed minimal family visits and phonecalls. For the first few months she had not been allowed to air her defense.

But now Russia has announced a verdict. Issachar has been sentenced to 7.5 years in prison. Israel’s Foreign Ministry has called the sentence “excessive.”

According to reports, the sentencing comes after Israel rejected several attempts by the Russian government to arrange a prisoner exchange. Russia sought the release of Aleksey Burkov, a Russian IT specialist who was arrested in Israel in 2016 at the request of Interpol. Burkov is accused of being the mastermind behind a massive multi-million dollar credit card fraud scheme in the United States. Burkov is currently scheduled to be extradited to the United States.

Israel had reportedly rejected the exchange, so as not to damage their relationship with the US, since the extradition process had already been initiated. Cancelling the extradition was not possible, since the Supreme Court had already approved the move.

Chabad 770 Headquarters Evacuated Due To Small Fire

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CROWN HEIGHTS (VosIzNeias) — The famed Chabad headquarters located at 770 Eastern Parkway was evacuated Friday morning due to a small fire.

After people smelled fire and saw some smoke in the basement of 770, the fire department was called. FDNY arrived at approximately 9:30 AM.

According to the FDNY, there was indeed a small blaze in the basement. The fire was likely electrical, as it was found in a utility closet.

The power was cut in order to deal with the fire, and the building was evacuated.

Although hundreds of people were in the building at the time, there were no injuries.

Australian Jewish Boy Forced To Kiss Muslim Classmate’s Shoes Received Threatening Messages

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A photo showing a Jewish boy allegedly being forced to kiss a classmate's feet is causing outrage in Australia. (Twitter)

MELBOURNE (JTA) — The Jewish boy who was forced to kneel and kiss the shoes of a Muslim classmate has been sent threatening text messages.

The messages were sent Friday after photos of the incident were splashed across the front pages of newspapers in Australia and around the world, the Daily Mail reported. The photo was first published by the Australian Jewish News.

The messages told the 12-year-old boy that he would be slaughtered and asked if he wanted to “talk about suicide,” according to the report.

Victoria Police confirmed to the Daily Mail Australia that they were investigating a report of such text messages but would not comment further.

Dvir Abramovich, chairman of B’nai B’rith’s Anti-Defamation Commission, called the threats “vile and deplorable.” He said the boy’s parents now want a broader inquiry into anti-Semitism in schools.

Abramovich has helped the family to relocate the boy from Cheltenham Secondary College in suburban Melbourne to a Jewish school.

The incident did not take place on the school’s campus. Reports said a group of older students threatened the boy with violence if he did not comply.

Turkey’s Refugee Plan Met With Widespread Scepticism

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Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks to his ruling party officials, in Ankara, Turkey, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019. Erdogan says that there have been 109 "terrorists killed" — a reference to Syrian Kurdish fighters — since Ankara launched an offensive into Syria the previous day. Erdogan also warned the European Union not to call Ankara's incursion into Syria an 'invasion,' and renewed his threat of letting Syrian refugees flood Europe. (Turkish Presidency Press Service via AP, Pool)

ISTANBUL (AP) — In the face of widespread international criticism for his military foray into northern Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan remains defiant, standing by his pledge to return as many refugees as possible to a border corridor that will be carved out by force.

“We will rebuild an area for 1 million people, for those who want to return to their country and don’t have a home to go back to,” he told members of his governing party on Thursday to widespread applause.

On Wednesday, Turkey sent its military into northern Syria after announcing plans to create a buffer zone which pushes back Kurdish militants and potentially allows some of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees settled in the country to return. The offensive was launched after U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of American forces in northern Syria, a decision that has been fiercely criticized around the world and within his Republican Party.

Opponents of Turkey’s offensive into northern Syria argue that the assault is purely aimed at driving out Kurdish fighters and U.S. lawmakers have warned of potential sanctions. The word betrayal is doing the rounds as Kurdish fighters proved pivotal in the fight against the Islamic State group.

But Erdogan’s stated reason, according to Turkey observers who spoke to The Associated Press, faces overwhelming financial, political and practical obstacles.

“Calculate it: A bus carries about 50 passengers. How many buses would it take to drive them into this area? And how many housing units would you need to make sure that they are not just dumped out in the cold?” Kemal Kirisci, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said.

“These people have children in school, sick people in hospitals, jobs, some are married to Turkish nationals. All this complicates things. And where would the organizational and financial capacity all for this come from?”

According to the United Nations refugee agency, there 3.6 million Syrians registered in Turkey — a number that has risen steadily throughout the war — as well as more than 350,000 refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. Most are protected under Turkish law banning the forced return to a dangerous country.

The proposed security strip, 20 miles deep, would span across most of Syria’s multi-ethnic northern border areas and rival administrations created by nearly nine years of civil war.

“Northeast Syria is a rural, underserviced region that can barely meet the needs of its already existing 5 million people. Turkey’s campaign could devastate large areas of northeast Syria, making the Turkish plan all the more impractical,” said Nicholas A. Heras, a senior fellow at the Center for New American Security, a Washington-based think-tank.

“Turkey’s timeline for resettling refugees is both ambitious and impractical. This would be a project that would require billions of dollars of support for infrastructure, security, and housing.”

The European Union has urged Turkey to halt its offensive while the prime minister of neighboring Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, has accused Ankara of trying to impose “a violent transformation of the demographic makeup of the region.”

Turkish officials say the returns would be voluntary, insisting that the operation will provide the stability needed to create an environment for resettlement.

Erdogan has accused the EU of failing to fully honor a 6 billion-euro ($6.6 billion) funding deal reached in 2016 to stop migrants from traveling westward to the Greek islands and European mainland. Erdogan angrily rejected international criticism of his military campaign.

“Hey, European Union!” he said Thursday. “Come to your senses. I repeat: Don’t call this an invasion, it’s not. If you persist, we will open the gates and send 3.6 million refugees your way.”

It’s a threat likely to have an impact, says Janroj Yilmaz Keles, senior research fellow in Politics at Middlesex University in London. “Because of the refugee crisis, Europe is soft with Turkey. To prevent the refugees from coming to Europe, the price is being paid by the Kurds, and Europe knows this very well,” he said.

The Brookings Institution’s Kirisci adds: “I hope I’m wrong but I have a sinking feeling: I think the European Union has a converging interest with (Erdogan). When it comes to refugees, the West may look the other way.”

Portland Trail Blazers Drop Sponsor With Ties To Israel After BDS Pressure

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PORTLAND,OREGON (VosIzneias) — Portland Trail Blazers president and CEO Chris McGowan has announced that the National Basketball Association (NBA) team will no longer accept sponsorship from a rifle scope manufacturer that has a contract with Israeli military. The move comes after a year-long campaign by local activists to pressure the Blazers to drop the sponsor.

Leupold and Stevens is a Beaverton, Oregon-based company which sponsored a segment during Blazers’ home games called “Leupold Hometown Heroes,” where military veterans and other individuals were honored by the crowd. The rifle scope manufacturer has a number of international contracts, including one with the Israeli military, prompting a number of local organizations, including the Portland Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and Jewish Voice For Peace, to spearhead an effort to get the Blazers to end their affiliation with the company.

McGowan claimed however that the team had not severed ties with Leopold and Stevens just because of BDS pressure:

“Leupold is no longer a partner of the organization,” McGowan said. “I thank them for many years of supporting our organization. They were a great partner when they were a sponsor. But, for various reasons…they’ve decided to go in a different direction, so they’re no longer a partner of our team.”

The Portland Trail Blazers tweeted out a statement denying that external pressure played a role in the decision.

The company itself also denied that they had dropped the sponsorship due to external pressure, stating that:

“Leupold & Stevens is proud to have been able to support the ‘Hometown Heroes’ program with the Portland Trail Blazers. The program honored the brave men and women of our nation’s armed forces, first responders, and other everyday heroes who put service before self. Leupold’s sponsorship contract officially expired at the conclusion of the 2018-2019 season. The company has made the decision to continue its never-ending support for local heroes through other programs.”

However the DSA claimed victory after the sponsorship was revoked:

“We are grateful for the hard work of the many community groups, activists, Blazers fans, and veterans who united around this important issue to stand up for Palestinian human rights,” DSA co-chair Olivia Katbi Smith said in a statement. “We are relieved that the Blazers have done the right thing and finally ended this completely unnecessary partnership with a company that has provided sniper scopes to a brutal occupying force.”

 

 

Trump Administration Ramps Up Deportations To Cuba

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In this Aug. 6, 2019, photo, Barbara Rodriguez poses for a photo outside of her home in Hialeah, Fla. Her husband, Pablo Sanchez, is seeking asylum in the U.S., but was placed in detention and is now facing deportation to Cuba. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

MIAMI (AP) — After seeking asylum in the United States at the Mexican border, Pablo Sanchez was placed in a detention center and is now facing what has become an increasingly common scenario under President Donald Trump: deportation to Cuba.

Since the end of the Obama administration, the number of Cubans deported from the U.S. has increased more than tenfold to more than 800 in the past year as the Trump administration enforces a new policy inked just days before it took over. It is also imposing its own sharp limits on who is eligible for asylum. That’s an unwelcome development for growing numbers of asylum-seeking Cubans who had long benefited from a generous U.S. approach and their government’s unwillingness to take its people back.

For decades, Cubans fleeing the communist-governed island had for the most part enjoyed unique privileges. Even after the cold war ended, they were given a certain path to legal residence once they touched U.S. soil through the policy known as “wet foot, dry foot.”

But an agreement reached during the final days of the Obama administration ended that and required Cuba to take back citizens who receive deportation orders going forward and consider on a case-by-case basis the return of the thousands of other Cubans who had received such orders over the decades but remained in the U.S. because their country wouldn’t take them back.

Since Trump took office, more Cubans arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border have encountered new limits, including a policy introduced last month that denies protection to asylum seekers who have passed through another country before reaching Mexico and have not sought asylum there.

Despite the new agreement, Cuba remains reluctant to take its people back, and is one of 10 countries that the U.S. government labels “recalcitrant.” That makes it difficult for the administration to enforce its aggressive measures against asylum — and leaves many Cubans in limbo.

Many, like Sanchez, are baffled by their predicament.

Sanchez is married to Barbara Rodriguez, a naturalized U.S. citizen who lives in Miami, but was unable to apply for a visa in Cuba to join his wife in the U.S. because the Trump administration pulled most of its embassy staff out, outsourcing family-related visa petitions to consular services in Colombia or Guyana. Rodriguez claims Sanchez was facing increasing political persecution after having brushes with local authorities over such episodes as damaging a referendum ballot as a sign of protest.

The couple agreed he had to get out of Cuba, saying they had learned he was being investigated and could face jail time. Feeling they had no time to waste — and with no visa services available in Cuba — Sanchez traveled to Nicaragua and through Mexico to seek asylum in the U.S., at a port of entry where authorities detained him and later sent him to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for long-term custody.

“This is plain cruel, despite arriving in this country and demonstrating that you are persecuted and that you have credible fear. After all, this gets thrown away,” said his wife, Rodriguez, who talks to Sanchez on the phone daily. “The worse thing is that now I feel all that is left for him is deportation.”

It is unclear how the Cuban government treats people who are deported from the U.S., but rights advocates and lawyers say they could face retaliation for claiming asylum, especially those who claimed they were being persecuted. By contrast, deportees to Mexico and Central American countries typically get a warm welcome home.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla told The Associated Press the increase in deportations stems from the country “diligently fulfilling its commitments” outlined in the accord with the Obama administration, but at the same time he blasted the U.S. for cutting consular services in Havana.

“It is a shame to politicize the human bond between people and between nations,” he said.

A chartered U.S. government flight landed in Havana on Sept. 27 with 96 Cubans aboard, and another with 120 arrived Aug. 30. U.S. officials say Cuba’s acceptance of this limited number of deportees is a small step, but they believe the nation is still largely unwilling to work with the U.S. on repatriations. They note 39,243 Cubans living in the U.S. with deportation orders.

“Cuba is kind of a thorn in their side in this area,” said Julia Gelatt, senior policy analyst at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute.

Cuba remains on a U.S. government list of “recalcitrant” nations with nine other countries: China, Vietnam, Iran, Bhutan, Cambodia, Eritrea, Hong Kong, Laos and Pakistan.

About 21,000 Cubans have presented themselves to officials at U.S.-Mexico crossings since last October, triple the number seen the previous 12 months, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection statistics.

Thousands more Cubans have been stranded in northern Mexico cities on wait lists to request asylum and through a program that forces migrants to wait south of the border for their asylum cases to play out.

Of the Cubans who have been allowed into the U.S., many have been released from custody while they await court dates for their asylum cases, but hundreds have been turned over to ICE custody.

About 5,000 Cubans have received deportation orders since the new U.S.-Cuba agreement, and 1,300 of them have been deported, according to ICE data.

Luis Dayan Palmero left Cuba in April, traveling from Guyana to Brazil and Colombia, before passing through Central America and arriving in northern Mexico in August.

He crossed the Rio Grande and surrendered to Border Patrol agents, who sent him to Matamoros, Mexico. He now has a U.S. court appearing set this month.

“I plan to ask for asylum, and whatever happens is what God wants,” Palmero said.

Leading South African Jewish Psychologist Brutally Murdered During Robbery

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JOHANNESBURG (VosIzNeias) —  Mirah Wilks,a brilliant Jewish psychologist (69) who specialized in hate crime and violence in South Africa, was brutally butchered and had her throat slit in her own home by a gang of armed robbers. The intruders had waited until her husband Frank left to the local synagogue and then climbed on the roof, dropped into the house and stabbed her twelve times as well as cutting her throat.

Wilk’s husband Frank returned home from the synagogue Sunday night to find his wife of 45 years lying in a pool of blood.

Israeli-born Dr Wilks was renowned for her research into hate crimes, trauma and violence and was a highly respected former Chair of the Psychological Society of South Africa.

South African Police have launched a major man-hunt for the murderer who allegedly murdered her in her Johannesburg home just to steal two laptops and a mobile phone.

In a statement, her family said, “It is with deep sadness to confirm the passing of Mirah Wilks who was the victim of a violent crime that took place in her home in Sandown Estate on the morning of Sunday October 6, 2019. Mirah was stabbed by a solitary intruder who broke into the house through the roof and a struggle ensued in a passageway close to her study. The intruder fled the property with two laptops and one cell phone. Police are investigating the matter and we would like to provide them with support to conclude the case.”

A former art teacher who had made a career change to become a counsellor, Dr Wilks received her PhD in Hate Crimes from the University of South Africa last year after spending many years in South Africa as a top psychologist. Prior to this Dr. Wilks had lived in Australia before emigrating to South Africa. She had also gained degrees at the University of Queensland in Australia and the University of Pennsylvania in the USA and was working at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg when she was murdered.

Dr Wilks had recently started important research into ‘resilience as a means of adaption and survival’ with a special focus on South Africa’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Wilks had a special interest in resilience herself, having survived polio as a child as well as cancer in later life.

The Psychological Society of South Africa  published a poignant letter Dr Wilks had shared with her students, describing her experience as a polio survivor and Jewish refugee who had battled cancer.

‘Everyone has a story,’ Dr Wilks wrote. ‘I have often wondered how I survived, rebounded and found new pathways to health. What was the source of my ability to regenerate? Where was my source of hope and positivity? Did my attitude on life and my personality have anything to do with my experiences of resilience in adversity?’

Professor Juan Nel, a close friend of Dr Wilks and her dissertation supervisor, said that the Pyschological Society of South Africa was distraught after learning of her murder.

He said: ‘Dr Wilks was the victim of a violent crime that took place in her home and Mirah’s untimely death has left us with a deep sense of loss that will affect all of us here.

‘Mirah was known to a great many of her colleagues in the psychology fraternity and was a good soul and a person in the profession who had great integrity and honour’ he said.

Counselling psychologist Dr Ingrid Artus said: ‘We have a scarcity of psychologists in South Africa and the service they provide to society are vital and her loss will impact on patients.

‘The work that she was doing in SA was vital to helping a country such as ours. This will perpetuate the fear that many associate with crime. She will be greatly missed,’ she said.

Dr Dvir Abramovich, chair of the Anti-Defamation Commission, said the Israeli and Jewish community in Australia was “heartbroken and devastated by this savagery”. “We send our profound condolences to the family of Dr Wilks,” he said.

Dr. Wilks is survived by her husband Frank, her children, Tarryn and Brett and her grandchildren.

 

Iran Says Oil Tanker Struck By Missiles Off Saudi Arabia

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This photo released by the official news agency of the Iranian Oil Ministry, SHANA, shows Iranian oil tanker Sabiti traveling through the Red Sea Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. Two missiles struck the Iranian tanker Sabiti traveling through the Red Sea off the coast of Saudi Arabia on Friday, Iranian officials said, the latest incident in the region amid months of heightened tensions between Tehran and the U.S. (SHANA via AP)

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Two missiles struck an Iranian tanker traveling through the Red Sea off the coast of Saudi Arabia on Friday, Iranian officials said, the latest incident in the region amid months of heightened tensions between Tehran and the U.S.

There was no word from Saudi Arabia on the reported attack and Saudi officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Oil prices spiked by 2% on the news.

“This latest incident, if confirmed to be an act of aggression, is highly likely to be part of the wider narrative of deteriorating relations between Saudi and the U.S. and Iran,” private maritime security firm Dryad Maritime warned.

“It is likely that the region, have being stable for the last month, will face another period of increasing maritime threats, as the Iranian and Saudi geopolitical stand-off continues,” it added.

Iranian state television said the explosion damaged two storerooms aboard the oil tanker and caused an oil leak into the Red Sea near the Saudi port city of Jiddah. The leak was later stopped, IRNA reported.

The state-run IRNA news agency, quoting Iran’s National Iranian Tanker Co., identified the stricken vessel as the Sabiti. It turned on its tracking devices late Friday morning in the Red Sea, putting its location some 130 kilometers (80 miles) southwest of Jiddah, according to data from MarineTraffic.com. The ship is carrying some 1 million barrels of crude oil, according to an analysis from data firm Refinitiv.

Images released by Iran’s Petroleum Ministry appeared to show no visible damage to the Sabiti visible from its bridge, though they did not show the ship’s sides. Satellite images of the area showed no visible smoke.

The ministry’s SHANA news agency said no ship nor any authority in the area responded to its distress messages.

The Sabiti last turned on its tracking devices in August near the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas. Iranian tankers routinely turn off their trackers as U.S. sanctions target the sale of Iran’s crude oil.

“The oil tanker … sustained damages to the body when it was hit by missiles 60 miles (96 kilometers) from the Saudi port city of Jiddah,” IRNA said.

The agency did not say whom Iranian officials suspect of launching the missiles.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi described the incident as an “attack” carried out by those committing “dangerous adventurism.” In a statement, Mousavi said the Sabiti was struck twice in the span of a half hour and an investigation was underway.

Lt. Pete Pagano, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet overseeing the Mideast, said authorities there were “aware of reports of this incident,” but declined to comment further.

Benchmark Brent crude oil rose over 2% in trading Friday to reach some $60.40 a barrel.

The reported attack comes after the U.S. has alleged that in past months Iran attacked oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, something denied by Tehran.

Friday’s incident could push tensions between Iran and the U.S. even higher, more than a year after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the nuclear deal and imposed sanctions now crushing Iran’s economy.

The mysterious attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, Iran shooting down a U.S. military surveillance drone and other incidents across the wider Middle East followed Trump’s decision.

The latest assault saw Saudi Arabia’s vital oil industry come under a drone-and-cruise-missile attack , halving the kingdom’s output. The U.S. has blamed Iran for the attack, something denied by Tehran. Yemen’s Houthi rebels, whom the kingdom is fighting in a yearslong war, claimed that assault, though analysts say the missiles used in the attack wouldn’t have the range to reach the sites from Yemen.

Mousavi also said that Iranian tankers have been targeted by “damaging activities” over recent months in the Red Sea. He did not elaborate.

In May, an Iranian oil tanker carrying more than 1 million barrels of fuel oil suffered a reported malfunction in the same area as the Sabiti came under attack. The kingdom helped the Happiness 1 reach anchorage off Jiddah, where it was repaired and later left.

In its analysis Friday, Dryad Maritime said the incident involving the Happiness 1 bore “the hallmarks of a potential explosive incident.”

Iran said in August another oil tanker, the Helm, faced a technical failure while passing through the Red Sea, without elaborating.

Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed Wins Nobel Peace Prize

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FILE - In this Sunday July 15, 2018 file photo, Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, second left, and Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, center, hold hands as they wave at the crowds in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Once official rivals, the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea have embraced warmly to the roar of a crowd of thousands at a concert celebrating the end of a long state of war. The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize was given to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Friday Oct. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene, File)

OSLO, Norway (AP) — Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2019 in recognition of his efforts to end his country’s long-running border conflict with Eritrea.

The Norwegian Nobel Institute on Friday also praised the “important reforms” that Abiy, Ethiopia’s leader since April 2018, has launched at home.

Chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen said some people may consider it too early to give him the prize, but “it is now that Abiy Ahmed’s efforts need recognition and deserve encouragement.”

Abiy, 43, took office after widespread protests pressured the longtime ruling coalition and hurt one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Africa’s youngest leader quickly announced dramatic reforms and “Abiymania” began.

In a move that caused surprise in the long-turbulent Horn of Africa region, he said Ethiopia would accept a peace agreement with Eritrea, ending one of Africa’s longest-running conflicts.

Within weeks, Eritrea’s longtime leader, visibly moved, visited Addis Ababa and communications and transport links were restored. For the first time in two decades people could, long-divided families made tearful reunions.

The improving relations led to the lifting of United Nations sanctions on Eritrea, one of the world’s most reclusive nations. But Ethiopia’s reforms appear not to have inspired any in Eritrea, which has since closed border posts with its neighbor.

At home, Abiy offered one political surprise after another. He released tens of thousands of prisoners, welcomed home once-banned opposition groups and acknowledged past abuses. People expressed themselves freely on social media, and he announced that Ethiopia would hold free and fair elections in 2020. The country has one of the world’s few “gender-balanced” Cabinets and a female president, a rarity in Africa.

And for the first time Ethiopia had no journalists in prison, media groups noted last year.

The new prime minister also announced the opening-up of Ethiopia’s tightly controlled economy, saying private investment would be welcome in major state-owned sectors — a process that continues slowly.

But while Abiy became a global darling, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, troubles arose at home.

A grenade was thrown at him during an appearance in the capital. A large group of soldiers confronted him in his office in what he called an attempt to derail his reforms. In a display of the brio that has won Abiy widespread admiration, the former military officer defused the situation by dropping to the floor and joining the troops in push-ups.

More troubling these days are Ethiopia’s rising ethnic tensions, as people once stifled by repression now act on long-held grievances. Some 1,200 people have been killed and some 1.2 million displaced in the greatest challenge yet to Abiy’s rule. Some observers warn that the unrest will grow ahead of next year’s election.

Abiy had been among the favorites for this year’s prize in the run-up to Friday’s announcement, though winners are notoriously hard to predict. The Nobel committee doesn’t reveal the names of candidates or nominations for 50 years.

Since 1901, 99 Nobel Peace Prizes have been handed out, to individuals and 24 organizations. While the other prizes are announced in Stockholm, the peace prize is awarded in the Norwegian capital, Oslo.

So far this week, 11 Nobel laureates have been named. The others received their awards for their achievements in medicine, physics, chemistry and literature.

With the glory comes a 9-million kronor ($918,000) cash award, a gold medal and a diploma. Even though the peace prize is awarded in Norway, the amount is denominated in Swedish kronor.

JCM Featuring Game Room with Giant Games this Chol Hamoed

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It’s day one of Chol Hamoed Sukkos. The family has just finished breakfast and the age old debate has begun. Yes, this was supposed to have been decided a week ago but it wasn’t; where was the family going to go today? So the arguments begin, and before you know it you’re checking the clock and it’s 2pm. Where has the day gone?

Stop. Rewind. What could be more simple than having your tickets already purchased, knowing your plans in advance, and knowing you’re going on a trip guaranteed to be fun and exciting for all?

We spoke to the program director at the Jewish Children’s Museum to get a sneak peek of what goes into the creation of the Chol Hamoed programs.

“We start thinking of ideas about 6 months before a program starts. Once our team decides on an idea, we can start ordering. For about a month before a program there are constant packages being delivered… our offices are a mess! We always run a practice round a few weeks before to finalize the floor plan and make sure everything runs properly.

“To think of our ideas for Chol Hamoed we have to do a ton of research! We start off with brainstorming sessions with the team. We do lots of research online to find the best performers or the best places to buy things. We also get ideas from some of the members of our museum.

“This Chol Hamoed the entire second floor of the museum is going to be turned into a game room with giant games! We have a jumbo connect 4, giant bananagrams with Aleph Beis letters, huge checkers… it’s a kids dream come true!

“And that’s just the game room. There’s also all the exhibits, crafts, a play space full of zoobs, and game shows!

“We’re looking forward to greeting you!”

For more details and to book your tickets, visit jcm.museum or call (718) 907-8833.

Use the code GAME13 to get 10% off your visit!

Envoy To Ukraine Was Removed After Pushback On Giuliani

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FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2018, file photo, then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch, speaks in Kyiv, Ukraine. Yovanovitch was removed from her post after insisting that a request to Ukrainian officials to investigate President Donald Trump’s political rival be conveyed through official channels, according to a fellow former diplomat. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was removed from her post after insisting that Rudy Giuliani’s requests to Ukrainian officials for investigations be relayed through official channels, according to a former diplomat who has spoken with her.

The ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, is scheduled to testify before congressional lawmakers on Friday as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Democrats say they expect her to appear despite the White House’s position that no administration officials cooperate with the probe.

Yovanovitch was recalled from Kyiv in May as Giuliani — who is Trump’s personal attorney and has no official role in the U.S. government — pushed Ukrainian officials to investigate baseless corruption allegations against the Bidens.

In a July 25 call, Trump told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that Yovanovitch was “bad news,” according to a partial transcript released by the White House.

Neither Giuliani nor Trump have specified their objections. But a former diplomat, recalling a recent conversation with Yovanovich, said she was removed after insisting that a request for Ukrainian officials to join in an investigation be relayed according to long-established protocol.

The former diplomat said Yovanovitch refused to do “all this offline, personal, informal stuff” and made clear that the U.S. government had formal ways to request foreign governments’ help with investigations.

The former diplomat insisted on anonymity to disclose the private conversation.

The State Department traditionally relies on mutual legal assistance treaties, under which U.S. and foreign officials agree to exchange evidence and information in criminal investigations.

Yovanovitch is scheduled to speak to the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform committees behind closed doors Friday as part of the impeachment investigation. Despite Trump’s assertion that his administration will not cooperate, three people familiar with the deposition said that Yovanovitch is expected to appear. The people requested anonymity to discuss the closed-door meeting.

On Thursday, 10 Democratic senators sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanding an explanation for Yovanovitch’s removal before the end of her three-year assignment.

“In particular, her early recall raises questions about whether you put the personal interests of the President above the Department’s career personnel or U.S. foreign policy,” they wrote.

Earlier this week, the White House sent Congress a letter outlining its opposition to the impeachment probe and refusing to cooperate with requests for information, including interviews with administration officials. The House committees have moved to subpoena officials instead.

Even before the testimony, the attention on Yovanovitch was renewed Thursday after U.S. prosecutors arrested two Florida businessmen tied to Giuliani, charging them with campaign finance violations. An indictment filed in the case alleged that the men, who were raising campaign funds for a U.S. congressman, asked him for help in removing Yovanovitch, at least partly at the request of Ukrainian government officials.

Yovanovitch has led U.S. embassies in Kyrgyzstan and Armenia and is now a State Department fellow at Georgetown University. The director of the Georgetown program, Barbara Bodine, said the former envoy is declining all requests for interviews.

Former colleagues of Yovanovich said Trump allies’ characterizations of her as politically motivated are off-base.

She is “a top-notch diplomat, careful, meticulous, whip smart,” and unlikely to have badmouthed Trump, either to Ukrainian officials or her colleagues, said John Herbst, a predecessor as ambassador in Ukraine who worked alongside Yovanovitch there in the early 2000s.

Yovanovitch has always known that the role of diplomat “wasn’t about her” but about “serving American national interests and supporting the people around her,” said Nancy McEldowney, a former U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria who now directs a Foreign Service program at Georgetown.

Trump Aims To Turn Impeachment Probe Into Campaign Asset

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President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at the Target Center, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — President Donald Trump was defiant in the face of an impeachment probe Thursday as he sought to convert the threat to his presidency into a weapon on the campaign trail, with biting attacks on potential Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

Facing an investigation provoked by his unprecedented call for Ukraine and then China to assist in digging up dirt on his political rivals, Trump continued to lay into Biden and his son Hunter, whom he and his allies have accused, without evidence, of illegally profiting off his father’s office.

“The Bidens got rich, and that is substantiated, while America got robbed,” Trump said. While the young Biden did have business interest overseas while he father was in office, there is no evidence of misconduct. Trump’s adult children have faced congressional scrutiny for their foreign business dealings while their father is serving as president, and Trump still maintains ownership stakes in his family’s businesses.

The rally in Minneapolis, the first since Democrats began proceedings two weeks ago to remove him from office, served as a proving ground for the president as he tries to use the impeachment inquiry to energize supporters for his 2020 campaign by casting himself — and his supporters — as victims of Democrats in the Washington swamp.

The performance revealed a defense strategy utterly detached from the allegations Trump faces. Trump spent little time defending his phone call with the Ukrainian president or his actions. Instead he cast the impeachment fight in simpler basic terms — a battle between him and the swamp.

“They want to erase your vote like it never existed,” Trump said. “They want to erase your voice, and they want to erase your future.”

He added, “The Democrats’ brazen attempt to overthrow our government will produce a backlash at the ballot box the likes of which they have never ever seen before in the history of this country.”

Before Trump took the stage, his son Eric warmed up the crowd with an attack on the Bidens.

The younger Trump asked the crowd for an assessment of how Hunter Biden is feeling and suggested that the familiar Trump rally chant of “Lock her up” — directed at Hillary Clinton — become “Lock him up” instead. The crowd then chanted, “Lock him up, lock him up.”

The rally, scheduled before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced the impeachment investigation, came at a pivotal moment for Trump. His campaign strategy is focused on motivating his core supporters, rather than trying to win over a diminishing number of undecided voters, and the resonance of his appeal to the faithful may determine his second-term chances.

Trump has lashed out in acerbic tweets and public statements at Democrats, the media and even some Republicans as impeachment has dominated the national headlines. He has claimed that he is the victim of a “coup,” although impeachment is a constitutional process, and accused Democrats of trying to undo the 2016 election.

“Democrats are on a crusade to destroy our democracy,” Trump said, as he quoted from the letter his White House counsel wrote Tuesday to Democrats declaring the administration’s refusal to cooperate in the impeachment inquiry.

As polls show Americans’ support for removing Trump from office has ticked up since House Democrats launched the impeachment inquiry, his GOP allies have launched a countrywide campaign to try to reverse that trend and inflict political pain on vulnerable Democrats who are supporting the House investigation.

Both Democrats and Republicans are tuned in to the symbolism of the moment.

The rally at Target Center, the city’s basketball arena, drew thousands of supporters as well as protesters outside. Trump was joined by Vice President Mike Pence, who had a separate schedule of appearances in the state Trump is trying to tip his way next year.

Pence told the crowd that Democrats have spent the last three years trying to “overturn” the 2016 result. “Now, Minnesota, it’s our time to fight for him,” he said.

Trump fell about 45,000 votes short of beating Democrat Hillary Clinton statewide in 2016. He has had staff in the state since June building a network to turn out supporters next November.

“We are going to win this state,” Trump said Thursday.

Attacks on the “socialist” wing of the Democratic Party are the heart of Trump’s plan to hold onto the Rust Belt and become the first Republican presidential candidate to carry Minnesota since Richard Nixon in 1972.

But the state has additional significance as the home of Rep. Ilhan Omar, the Somali-American lawmaker whom Trump often holds up as a symbol of the liberal shift in her party.

Trump has tweeted that Omar should “go back” to her home country if she wants to criticize the United States, and Trump supporters broke into chants of “Send her back!” at a rally this summer in North Carolina. Both incidents drew widespread condemnation from otherwise stalwart Trump supporters, who called the chants racist and urged the president to condemn them.

Some lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and some of the president’s closest outside advisers privately warned Trump about the damage those chants could inflict on the GOP, according to four Republicans close to the White House who were not authorized to publicly discuss private conversations.

They believed the sight of thousands of mostly white attendees chanting “Send her back!” would dominate news coverage and turn off moderate voters, particularly women and suburban residents.

The chant did not recur at the Minneapolis, as the crowd chanted “four more years” and “USA” when Trump mentioned the lawmaker.

“She is a disgrace to our country and she is one of the big reasons that I’m going to win and the Republican Party is going to win Minnesota,” he said of Omar.

Protesters converged on the arena hours before Trump’s appearance, eventually packing the streets surrounding it. Many blew brightly colored whistles handed out by fellow protesters, adding to the din of frequent chants like, “Lock him up! Lock him up! Lock him up!” — referring to Trump himself. Some clutched helium-filled balloons depicting Trump as a baby, similar to the famed Baby Trump balloon that flew above a nearby building.

Lora Torgerson of suburban Inver Grove Heights clutched a sign that read “Liar Liar Diaper on fire.”

“I’m a registered GOP member, and I’ve never been more ashamed of our party,” she said. “I didn’t vote for him.”

Inside the arena, Lori Glass, a longtime Republican from White Bear Lake, a Twin Cities suburb, dismissed the talking of impeachment with one word: “Ridiculous.”

“He’s done so much for the country,” she said, citing the economy as Trump’s top accomplishment. Democrats are pressing for impeachment because “they don’t have a good candidate,” she said.

On Friday, Trump planned a rally in Louisiana against Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards. Aides said Trump is not endorsing one of the GOP candidates in the race before Saturday’s election to maximize the chances that Edwards falls below the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff.

Next week Trump is set to hold a rally in Dallas, a GOP stronghold in a state that has grown more competitive for Democrats in recent cycles.

Initiative Seeks To Double Number Of International Students In Israel Programs

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The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Source: LinkedIn

JERUSALEM (JNS) — The Council for Higher Education in Israel (CHE) this week officially launched the national initiative “Study in Israel” to double the number of international students enrolled in Israeli colleges and universities, initially targeting students in North America, China and India.

As many as 12,000 international students are currently studying in Israel.

The program touts dozens of short-term and longer study programs associated with high Israeli academic standards and an engaged approach to education with the theme “Engage in Excellence,” highlighting the country’s innovative academic and research landscape as part of the startup nation.

Recently, four Israeli universities were ranked among the top 50 undergraduate programs globally that produce the most venture capital-backed entrepreneurs, according to the latest ranking by PitchBook.

“We have committed to making Israel a ‘brain gain’ country for students and researchers from around the world—North and South America, Europe and Asia,” said Professor Yaffa Zilbershats, chair of the CHE’s Planning and Budgeting Committee. “With this new campaign, Israel is now more attractive than ever; we’re looking forward to bringing many more students from around the globe in years to come.”

Meanwhile, the CHE also recently authorized 26 new international-degree programs in a range of fields Israel is globally recognized, including STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), innovation and entrepreneurship, Jewish studies, Middle Eastern studies, agriculture, urban studies, environmental studies and design.

The council has also earmarked funding to its public higher-education institutions to bolster marketing and recruitment efforts, create new courses in English and develop international-student services.

It also finances and manages a number of fellowship programs for international students and post-doctorate researchers.

El Paso Mass Shooting Suspect Pleads Not Guilty In 22 Deaths

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El Paso Walmart mass shooter Patrick Crusius is arraigned Thursday, Oct., 10, 2019 in the 409th state District Court with Judge Sam Medrano presiding. Crusius, 21-year-old, from Allen, Texas, stands accused of killing 22 and injuring 25 in the Aug. 3, 2019, mass shooting at an East El Paso Walmart in the seventh deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history and third deadliest in Texas. (Mark Lambie/The El Paso Times via AP,Pool)

EL PASO, Texas (AP) — The 21-year-old man charged with capital murder in the fatal shooting of 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, pleaded not guilty Thursday during a brief initial hearing.

Police have said Patrick Crusius of Dallas confessed to the Aug. 3 mass shooting and that he targeted Mexicans. Some two-dozen people survived the attack with injuries, and two of them remain in the hospital, hospital officials said.

Crusius walked into the courtroom wearing a dark suit, white shirt and glasses. He was sworn in, waived the reading of his indictment and pleaded not guilty. The entire hearing lasted less than three minutes.

Around 80 members of the public crammed into the courtroom on the top floor of the El Paso County Courthouse to witness his first appearance. A handful wiped away tears as Crusius pronounced his plea.

Among the crowd was a delegation from the Mexican Consulate. Eight Mexican citizens were killed in the attack and most of the victims had Hispanic last names. Among the dead was a German citizen who lived in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

A bailiff had asked the court to remain quiet and warned against outbursts.

Local prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty. Federal authorities are weighing capital murder and hate crime charges. The Department of Justice has called the shooting an act of domestic terrorism.

There were 2,000 witnesses at the scene of the massacre, so almost everybody in the city of about 700,000 knew somebody affected by the shooting.

The first judge assigned to the case recused herself because she knew one of the people killed in the attack. The lead prosecutor said his sister also was in the Walmart during the attack and that the gunman walked right by her.

Crusius fled the scene of the shooting in his car but turned himself in less than an hour later, according to police. His arrest warrant says he declared: “I’m the shooter.”

In documents filed Thursday, the El Paso prosecutor notified the court that he had shared evidence with the defense on Sept. 27. That evidence includes police and FBI interviews with Crusius, data from his cellphone, records from the Dallas-area schools he attended and tens of hours of footage captured by Walmart security cameras around the time of the shooting, according to court records.

In documents filed Thursday, the El Paso prosecutor notified the court that he had shared evidence with the defense on Sept. 27. That evidence includes police and FBI interviews with Crusius, data from his cellphone, records from the Dallas-area schools he attended and hours of footage captured by Walmart security cameras around the time of the shooting. The court records also included medical images taken from shooting victims, and jail mail and phone calls involving Crisius after his arrest.

It also includes the FBI’s “manifesto analysis” — a likely reference to a racist screed railing against an influx of Hispanics into the U.S. that authorities have said Crusius posted online before the shooting.

Meanwhile, the Crusius legal team appealed for open minds as they present their portrait of Crusius.

“There are two sides to this story,” said Mark Stevens of San Antonio, lead defense attorney. “… We’ll ask everybody, media and everybody else, to keep an open mind until you hear both sides of the story, what comes out in the courtroom.”

Joe Spencer of El Paso, assistant defense attorney, said he and Stevens “are morally opposed to the death penalty” and that they “will use every breath we have to try to save Patrick’s life.” He added that the El Paso community needs closure and healing, “and the quickest way to get closure and healing is not through seeking the death penalty.”

Crusius is being held without bond in an El Paso jail. He has been on suicide watch since shortly after his arrest and is separated from other prisoners.

Pompeo Accuses Iran Of Lying About Oil Delivery To Syria

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“Adrian Darya 1.” Source: Screenshot

WASHINGTON (JNS) — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Iran of lying about an oil delivery to Syria through its oil tanker Adrian Darya 1, which was impounded by the United Kingdom off Gibraltar in July and released the following month despite last-minute efforts by the United States to halt its release.

“Oil from the #AdrianDarya1 has been offloaded in Syria, proving that Iran lied to the UK and Gibraltar. This terrorist oil will fund Assad’s war and Iran’s sectarian violence. EU members should condemn this action, uphold the rule of law, and hold Iran accountable,” tweeted Pompeo on Wednesday.

The oil tanker, previously called the Grace 1 and allegedly owned by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was reported carrying around 2.1 million barrels of crude oil last month worth $130 million and switched off its Automatic Identification System, fueling speculation that it is heading towards Syria, which would violate U.S. sanctions against Iran’s energy sector.

Swastika Found At Yale Law School Ahead Of Yom Kippur

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Yale University Law School in New Haven, Conn. Credit: Juan Paulo Gutierrez/Flickr

NEW HAVEN, CT (JNS) — Yale Law School in New Haven, Conn., is investigating swastika graffiti discovered on steps of the school’s side entrance on Saturday night, days before Yom Kippur, the Yale Daily News reported.

“Yale Law School has zero tolerance for discrimination or harassment of any kind, and symbols of hate have no place on our campus or in our society,” Yale Law School dean Heather Gerken said in a statement on Monday. “We take an incident like this extremely seriously and are currently investigating.”

The graffiti was of a white, spray-painted swastika above the word “Trump” and has since been removed. This is the first reported incident of a swastika appearing on the Yale campus since 2014.

Gerken said no evidence indicates that a member of the Yale community painted it.

She added that the anti-Semitic act is “utterly antithetical” to the school’s values and encouraged anyone with information to reach out to her office.

Rabbi Jason Rubenstein, Jewish chaplain at Yale, revealed on Monday night that investigators are examining video footage from late Saturday night and early Sunday morning.

He said that the Yale Police Department told the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life on Sunday that they visited “all other likely targets of anti-Semitic activity” and found “no evidence that this incident is part of a larger campaign.”

Rubenstein said university administrators “see this as an attack not just on Yale’s Jewish community, but on Yale itself and its values, which is some of the most powerful consolation we can receive as we figure out what this mean[s] for our community.”