Monday, October 14, 2019

ICE Criticizes Ruling Restricting Use Of Immigrant Databases

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Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Matt Albence speaks in the Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Thursday criticized a judge’s ruling barring his agency from relying solely on databases that have at times led to the wrongful detention of American citizens.

Speaking Thursday at the White House, Matthew Albence called the September ruling an example of “judicial overreach” that threatened public safety.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge André Birotte Jr. bars ICE from issuing requests known as “detainers” based solely on database searches considered to be unreliable. It applies to states that do not explicitly authorize civil immigration arrests using detainers.

ICE cross-checks jail rosters around the U.S. with federal databases that track people’s nationality and immigration status. When it detects that a person is unauthorized to be in the U.S., ICE will issue a detainer asking the agency to hold the person until he or she can be taken into immigration custody.

Advocates allege relying on electronic databases alone to issue detainers is unreliable because they often have erroneous data and can lead to falsely accusing people of being in the U.S. illegally.

Citing ICE’s data, Birotte wrote that 42 detainers between May 2015 and February 2016 were explicitly lifted because the person was a citizen. Nearly 800 detainers out of almost 13,000 issued during that time were withdrawn because the person was a citizen “or otherwise not subject to removal,” the judge wrote.

Asked about the detention of Americans, Albence said he could not speak about ongoing litigation.

“Many times, individuals that we come across that are United States citizens don’t even know that they are because the laws around citizenship are so complicated,” he said.

Jennie Pasquarella, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, which helped bring the lawsuit, said the ruling was “critical to protecting the rights of everyone” and ensuring that ICE does not subject people to baseless arrests and detention.

U.S. immigration agencies earlier this year detained an American-born 18-year-old for more than three weeks even though he had copies of paperwork documenting his citizenship.

A Democratic congresswoman from California visiting a Border Patrol processing center in South Texas in July encountered a 13-year-old girl holding a U.S. passport next to her mother, who had been accused of crossing the border illegally.

Albence spoke next to local sheriffs from around the U.S. who are cooperating with ICE. As the agency has faced resistance to its operations in some parts of the country, the Trump administration has held several White House events featuring local officials who support its immigration priorities.

Officials and supporters have also highlighted cases of crimes committed by immigrants in the U.S. without permission and used charged rhetoric to criticize illegal immigration.

Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn of Fort Worth, Texas, said releasing jailed immigrants instead of turning them over to ICE would lead to more crime.

“If we have to turn them loose or they get released, they’re coming back to your neighborhood and my neighborhood,” he said. “These drunks will run over your children, and they will run over my children.”

Pasquarella said Waybourn’s statement was “fueled by xenophobia and racism.”

“They’re applying this narrative they would never apply to citizens just because they’re not citizens,” she said.

Who By Fire: 38,000 Pounds Of Bagels Burnt In Truck Days Before Yom Kippur

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Tons of frozen bagel went up in flames when a semi's rear axle caught fire. (Courtesy of the Indiana State Police)

CHICAGO (JTA) — Midwest Jews may need to find something else to eat when Yom Kippur ends — tons of their bagels are now toast.

Some 38,000 pounds of frozen bagels met an unhappy fate on Sunday, just a couple of days ahead of the Jewish Day of Atonement, when they were burnt to a crisp in a truck fire. An Indiana state trooper noticed that a semi heading north on I-65, about 90 miles southeast of Chicago, was smoking heavily from the rear axle, according to a news release from the Indiana State Police.

The trooper pulled over the truck, but it was too late: The fire was spreading to the trailer, and the rear tires exploded, burning the break-fast staple. The driver, a Floridian, was unharmed. A Chicago-area company owned the truck.

The news release did not say where the bagels were from or where they were going, but it’s safe to say that as we approach the holiest day of the Jewish year, some of them have become dust and ashes.

Florida Men Tied To Giuliani Arrested On Campaign Charges

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This picture provided by The Campaign Legal Center shows, from left, Donald Trump Jr., Tommy Hicks Jr., Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, posted on May 21, 2018. Parnas and Fruman were arrested on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, on campaign finance violations resulting from a donation to a political action committee supporting President Donald Trump's reelection. (The Campaign Legal Center via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two businessmen tied to efforts by President Donald Trump’s lawyer to get Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son were charged Thursday with campaign finance violations in the U.S. The charges relate to a $325,000 donation to a political action committee supporting Trump’s reelection.

Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, associates of Rudy Giuliani, were arrested on a four-count indictment that includes charges of conspiracy, making false statements to the Federal Election Commission and falsification of records. The men had key roles in Giuliani’s efforts to launch a Ukrainian corruption investigation against Biden and his son, Hunter .

The indictments mark the first criminal charges related to the Ukraine controversy. While they do not suggest wrongdoing by the president, they are likely to add fuel to the House impeachment inquiry, raising additional questions about whether those close to Trump and Giuliani sought to use their influence to affect U.S. foreign policy decisions.

Trump has dismissed the impeachment inquiry as baseless and politically motivated.

Records show that Parnas and Fruman used wire transfers from a corporate entity they controlled to make the $325,000 donation to the America First Action committee in 2018. But wire transfer records that became public through a lawsuit show that the corporate entity reported as making the transaction was not the true source of the money.

Prosecutors also allege that Parnas urged a U.S. congressman to seek the ouster of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, at the behest of Ukrainian government officials. That happened about the same time that Parnas and Fruman committed to raising more than $20,000 for the politician.

The congressman wasn’t identified by name in court papers, but the donations to “Congressman 1” in the indictment match campaign finance reports for former Rep. Pete Sessions, a Texas Republican who lost his re-election bid in November 2018. In May 2018, Parnas posted a photo of himself and his business partner Correia with Sessions in his Capitol Hill office, with the caption “Hard at work !!”

John Dowd, an attorney for the men, hung up on an Associated Press reporter calling about the case. Giuliani said he couldn’t comment on the case and that he didn’t represent them in campaign finance matters.

The men, who were arrested at Dulles International Airport and booked at a local jail in Alexandria, Virginia, late Wednesday night, were expected to appear in federal court. Two other men, David Correia, a U.S. businessman, and Andrew Kukushkin, a Ukrainian-born U.S. citizen, were also charged in the case.

The indictment says Parnas and Fruman “sought to advance their personal financial interests and the political interests of at least one Ukrainian government official with whom they were working” and took steps to conceal it from third parties, including creditors. They created a limited liability corporation, Global Energy Producers, and “intentionally caused certain large contributions to be reported in the name of GEP instead of in their own names,” according to the indictment.

Prosecutors charge that the two men falsely claimed the contributions came from GEP, which was described as a liquefied natural gas business. At that point, the company had no income or significant assets, according to the indictment.

Prosecutors allege that Parnas and Fruman conspired to make illegal contributions in an effort to skirt the limit on federal campaign contributions. The men are also accused of making contributions to candidates for state and federal office, joint fundraising committees and independent expenditure committees in the names of other people.

The political donations were made “for the purpose of gaining influence with politicians, so as to advance their own personal financial interests and the political interests of Ukrainian government officials, including at least one Ukrainian government official with whom they were working,” the indictment charges.

The commitment to raise more than $20,000 for the congressman was made in May and June 2018. The lawmaker had also received about $3 million in independent expenditures from a super political action committee that Parnas and Fruman had been funding. A super PAC can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money in support of a candidate but isn’t allowed to directly coordinate with the official campaign.

The indictment also charges that Kukushkin conspired with the three other defendants to make political contributions, funded by a foreign national, to politicians seeking state and federal office “to gain influence with candidates as to policies that would benefit a future business venture.”

An unnamed foreigner wired $500,000 from a bank account overseas through New York to the defendants for political contributions to two political candidates for state office in Nevada, the indictment alleges. Foreigners are not permitted to contribute to U.S. elections.

The indictment accuses the four men of also participating in a scheme to acquire retail marijuana licenses through donations to local and federal politicians in New York, Nevada and other states. In September of last year, the indictment says, Correia drafted a table of political contributions and donations that was subsequently circulated to the defendants and an unidentified foreign national.

The big PAC donation in May 2018 was part of a flurry of political spending tied to Parnas and Fruman, with at least $478,000 in donations flowing to GOP campaigns and PACs in little more than two months.

The money enabled the relatively unknown entrepreneurs to quickly gain access to the highest levels of the Republican Party, including face-to-face meetings with Trump at the White House and Mar-a-Lago in Florida.

America First Action said the $325,000 contribution would remain in a separate account while the court cases play out. A spokeswoman, Kelly Sadler, said the committee will “scrupulously comply with the law.”

The AP reported last week that Parnas and Fruman helped arrange a January meeting in New York between Ukraine’s former top prosecutor, Yuri Lutsenko, and Giuliani, as well as other meetings with top government officials.

Giuliani’s efforts to launch a Ukrainian corruption investigation were echoed by Trump in his July 25 call with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy. That conversation is now at the heart of the impeachment inquiry .

House Democrats subpoenaed Parnas and Fruman on Thursday for documents they have so far refused to produce to three House committees. The panels have also subpoenaed Giuliani.

A whistleblower complaint by an unnamed intelligence official makes reference to “associates” of Giuliani in Ukraine who were attempting to make contact with Zelenskiy’s team, though it’s not clear that refers to Parnas and Fruman. That could put the two men squarely in the middle of the investigation into Giuliani’s activities.

2 Children Riding Bicycles Killed In Separate Incidents In Israel On Yom Kippur

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Israelis ride their bicycles along the empty Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv, on Yom Kippur, Oct. 9, 2019. The roads traditionally are empty on the holiest day of the Jewish year. (Miriam Alster/Flash 90)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Two children riding bicycles were killed in two incidents in Israel on Yom Kippur.

Israeli children and adults flood the streets of Israel on the holiday, when the roads are empty of cars, buses and trucks.

An 8-year-old boy was hit by a car on a main thoroughfare in Tel Aviv on Wednesday. The driver is suspected of drug dealing and of trying to hide the evidence after he hit the boy. Amir Abu Laben, 20, from Ramle, was seen throwing something into the bushes after the accident. Police searched the bushes and found 1.6 grams of cocaine.

A 10-year-old boy on a bicycle was hit by a motorcycle on Route 443 near the Ben-Shemen Youth Village in central Israel.

Magen David Adom told Israeli media that it treated more than 250 people for injuries related to cycling, rollerblading, scooters, and skateboards. Another nearly 270 people were treated for conditions related to fasting, including being dehydrated, feeling ill or fainting. MDA paramedics also delivered three babies and took care of 140 women in labor.

Mother Of Terrorist That Decapitated Fallen IDF Soldier ‘Very Proud’

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A poster in Gaza showing Hazem Yasser Arhim, an Al-Quds Brigades commander, holding the head of an Israeli soldier. (MEMRI)

JERUSALEM (JNS) — The mother of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist that decapitated a fallen Israeli soldier in Gaza in 2004 told a television interviewer last month that her son’s act makes her “feel proud and stand tall” to this day.

Al-Quds Today TV (Palestine) aired a Sept. 22 interview with the mother of Muhammad Yasser Arhim, an Al-Quds Brigades member who was killed in a clash with Israeli forces in April 2002, and Hazem Yasser Arhim, an Al-Quds Brigades commander killed by an Israeli airstrike in July 2004.

Earlier that year, Hazem had cut off and publicly displayed the head of an Israeli soldier who had been killed along with five other soldiers in a May 12, 2004 Islamic Jihad attack on an Israeli armored vehicle in the Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City.

The interviewer asked the men’s mother, named only as “Umm Maher,” if she felt pride when she sees images of her son “heroically” holding the head of a Zionist soldier.

“Even today, I am very proud of him,” answered the mother. “[Everybody is] familiar with Hazem’s story and how he walked around with the soldier’s head after he snatched it. … I always take pride in this wherever I go.”

The broadcast showed videos and images of Hazem holding a sack that supposedly contained the soldier’s head.

The following are translated excerpts from the interview:

Presenter: Dear viewers, for those of you who are not familiar with Hazem Arhim, he was a prominent commander in the Al-Quds Brigades who took the head of a soldier during an operation that was carried out by the Al-Quds Brigades in the Zeitoun neighborhood [in Gaza]. Six of the occupation soldiers were killed in the bombing of their Merkava tank. Everyone chanted “Allah Akbar” following this operation. All the people in the Gaza Strip were exhilarated when the martyr Hazem took the soldier’s head and presented it for the whole world to see. Everybody witnessed this heroic operation.

Umm Maher, when you see your son holding the head of a Zionist soldier and showing the whole world how the Zionist soldier was killed in the Merkava tank bombing operation… What did you feel? Were you very proud of this heroic achievement by Hazem?

Umm Maher: Allah be praised, even today I am very proud of him. All the countries of the world are familiar with Hazem’s story, and how he walked around with the soldier’s head after he snatched it. I always take pride in this where I go. Allah be praised, it makes me feel proud and stand tall.

Presenter: Allah be praised.

Umm Maher: Allah be praised.

Netanyahu Condemns Turkey’s Invasion Of Kurdish Areas In Syria

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Syrian Arab and Kurdish civilians arrive in northwestern Syria's Hasakeh province, after fleeing Turkish bombing on the northeastern towns along the border with Turkey on Oct. 10, 2019. (Delil Souleiman/AFP via Getty Images)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel condemned Turkey’s invasion of Kurdish areas of northeastern Syria and offered humanitarian aid to the Syrian Kurds.

Turkey launched its assault on Wednesday, leaving thousands of Kurdish civilians fleeing their homes.

“Israel strongly condemns the Turkish invasion of the Kurdish areas in Syria and warns against the ethnic cleansing of the Kurds by Turkey and its proxies,” Netanyahu said in a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office on Thursday afternoon. “Israel is prepared to extend humanitarian assistance to the gallant Kurdish people.”

They were the Israeli leader’s first comments on the situation in northeastern Syria since President Donald Trump announced Monday that he would withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria, leaving the door open for the gap in territory to be filled by elements hostile to Israel. The Netanyahu statement did not mention the withdrawal.

The move came following a phone call between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said Turkey would begin a military offensive in the area.

“Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria,” a statement issued Monday from the White House said. “The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial ‘Caliphate,’ will no longer be in the immediate area.”

Netanyahu has previously announced support for an independent state for the Kurds.

Also Thursday, Israeli politicians across the political spectrum also issued statements in support of the Kurds.

US Denounces Attack On Synagogue In Halle, Germany

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Police respond to a shooting at a synagogue in Halle, Germany, on Yom Kippur, Oct. 9, 2019. Source: Screenshot

WASHINGTON (JNS) — The United States offered its condolences on Thursday in denouncing Wednesday’’s attack on a synagogue in Halle, Germany, on Yom Kippur.

“We offer our sincerest condolences to the friends and families of the victims killed in the attacks in Halle, Germany, and wish the injured a speedy recovery,” a State Department spokesperson told JNS. “At this time, we are not aware of any U.S. citizen casualties.”

Jewish and Israeli leaders also denounced the shooting.

The assailant, who has been identified as Stephan Balliet, 27, 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, he shot a woman passerby in her 50s. Minutes later, he attacked a nearby kebab shop with bombs and improvised weapons, killing one.

Balliet livestreamed the attack 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.

US To Hand Over To Iraq ISIS Members Evacuated From Syria

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FILE - In this March 30, 2019, file photo, Alexanda Amon Kotey, left, and El Shafee Elsheikh, who were allegedly among four British jihadis who made up a brutal Islamic State cell dubbed "The Beatles," speak during an interview with The Associated Press at a security center in Kobani, Syria, Friday, March 30, 2018. The men said that their home country's revoking of their citizenship denies them a fair trial. "The Beatles" terror cell is believed to have captured, tortured and killed hostages including American, British and Japanese journalists and aid workers. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)

BAGHDAD (AP) — The U.S. will hand over to Iraqi authorities nearly 50 Islamic State members who were transferred from Syria in recent days, two Iraqi intelligence officials said Thursday.

The officials said the IS members were expected to be handed over by Friday. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

The move comes after Turkey began a military offensive into northern Syria against U.S.-backed Kurdish-led fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces who are holding more than 10,000 IS members. Those include some 2,000 foreigners, including about 800 Europeans.

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that some of the “most dangerous” IS members had been moved, but he provided no details.

U.S. officials said Wednesday that two British militants believed to be part of an IS group that beheaded hostages and was known as “The Beatles” have been moved out of a detention center in Syria and are in American custody.

There are concerns that with the assault unfolding in northeastern Syria, the Kurdish-led forces in charge of guarding the detainees won’t be able to secure them or would divert forces to fend off against advancing Turkish forces.

Initially, Trump said before the assault began that Turkey would be responsible for all IS fighters in the area. It was not clear how that would be implemented.

The two men, El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Amon Kotey, along with other British jihadis, allegedly made up the IS cell nicknamed “The Beatles” by surviving captives because of their English accents.

In 2014 and 2015, the militants held more than 20 Western hostages in Syria and tortured many of them. The group beheaded seven American, British and Japanese journalists and aid workers and a group of Syrian soldiers, boasting of the butchery in videos released to the world.

Among the journalists they killed was American James Foley, who was first, followed by fellow Americans Steven Sotloff and Peter Kassig, British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning and Japanese journalists Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto. The beheadings, often carried out on camera, horrified the world soon after IS took over much of Iraq and Syria in 2014.

The two British men were captured in January last year in eastern Syria by the Kurdish forces amid the collapse of IS. Their detention set off a debate in the U.S. and Europe over how to prosecute their citizens who joined IS.

IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a so-called caliphate in 2014 in large parts of Syria and Iraq that the extremists controlled. IS was defeated in Iraq in 2017 and in March the SDF captured the last sliver of land that was held by IS.

SDF has handed over hundreds of IS fighters to Iraqi authorities over the past two years, including Europeans while some were repatriated to their home countries.

Earlier this year, Iraq tried 12 French IS fighters whom the SDF handed over to Baghdad in January sentencing most of them to death.

France at the time said the Iraqi court has jurisdiction to rule in the cases, though a spokeswoman reiterated the French governments opposition to the death penalty.

Trump and other U.S. officials have repeatedly pressed other nations across Europe and the Middle East to take back the detainees from their countries. But international leaders have been largely reluctant and have been slow to take any back.

Netanyahu: ‘Israel Will Defend Itself, By Itself, Against Any Threat’

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a memorial ceremony for Israeli soldiers who fell during the Yom Kippur War, at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem on Oct. 10, 2019. Photo by Flash90.

JERUSALEM (JNS) — Israel will never rely on other countries for its defense, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday, warning Iran that it would not ignore its threats of destruction.

Netanyahu, who spoke at the Hall of Remembrance on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem during the state memorial ceremony for the fallen soldiers of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, said that the lessons of the war made it clear that Israel could not afford to sit idly by as dangers amplify.

“The current focus of aggression in the Middle East is the Iranian regime in Tehran. Iran is striving to tighten its grip in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and the Gaza Strip,” he said. “It is relentlessly arming itself. It is equipping its proxies with dangerous weaponry. It is attacking freedom of navigation in international shipping lanes. It downed a large American UAV. It mounted a crude and unprecedented attack on Saudi oil fields. It has repeatedly crossed its threshold of brazenness.”

Netanyahu said Israel was unique in that it had to deal with a major Islamic country actively calling for its annihilation.

“Iran threatens to wipe us off the map. It says explicitly: ‘Israel will disappear.’ It has tried to attack us repeatedly; therefore, we must stand ready to defend ourselves against danger,” warned the prime minister.

He added that while Israel was tremendously grateful to get strong support from the United States, it must focus on its own capabilities.

“We do not aspire to be ‘a people who dwell alone,’ but we were forced to do so at the start of the Yom Kippur War; only towards the end did the American aid arrive. Like in 1973, today we very much appreciate the important support of the U.S., which has greatly increased in recent years, as well as the major economic pressure that the U.S. is using on Iran,” Netanyahu said, noting that “we will always remember and implement the basic rule that has guided us: Israel will defend itself, by itself, against any threat.”

“The IDF is prepared to preempt any threat, defensively and offensively, with crushing strength in weaponry and in spirit. This is the tremendous spirit that was instilled in us by the generation of the Yom Kippur War.”

Polish, Austrian Authors Awarded Nobel Prizes For Literature

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FILE - In this Monday, Dec. 10, 2018 file photo, a bust of the Nobel Prize founder, Alfred Nobel on display at the Concert Hall during the Nobel Prize award ceremony in Stockholm. Controversy stalks the Nobel prizes for peace and literature in a way it rarely does for science. The revamped panel at the Swedish Academy who will hand out the Nobel literature prizes Thursday Oct. 10, 2019, for both 2018 and 2019 would relish arguments about the winners, rather than intrigue about the #MeToo scandal that forced the institution to suspend the prize last year. (Henrik Montgomery/Pool Photo via AP, File)

STOCKHOLM (AP) — The 2018 Nobel Prize in literature has been awarded to Polish author Olga Tokarczuk “for a narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life,” while the 2019 prize went to Austrian author Peter Handke.

Mats Malm, the Swedish Academy’s permanent secretary, says Handke was honored “for an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience.”

The shortlist was made of eight names of which two were picked for the 2018 and 2019 awards, said Anders Olsson, chair of the Nobel Committee of the Swedish Academy.

With the glory comes a 9-million kronor ($918,000) cash award to be shared a gold medal and a diploma. The laureates receive them at an elegant ceremony in Stockholm on Dec. 10 the anniversary of Nobel’s death in 1896 together with five other Nobel winners. The sixth one, the peace prize, is handed out in Oslo, Norway on the same day.

Germany Seeks To Reassure Rattled Jews After Holy Day Attack

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A person with a flag of Israel stands next to flowers and candles in front of a synagogue in Halle, Germany, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019. A heavily armed assailant ranting about Jews tried to force his way into a synagogue in Germany on Yom Kippur, Judaism's holiest day, then shot two people to death nearby in an attack Wednesday that was livestreamed on a popular gaming site. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

HALLE, Germany (AP) — Top German officials headed Thursday to the scene of an attack on a synagogue in the city of Halle, seeking to reassure an unsettled Jewish community after members saw a man trying to break into their house of worship on Judaism’s holiest day.

The attack, in which two people were killed outside the synagogue and in a kebab shop, stoked renewed concern about rising far-right extremism and questions about the police response.

The head of Germany’s Jewish community, Josef Schuster, called the absence of police guards outside the synagogue on Yom Kippur “scandalous” as members of the congregation described waiting behind locked doors for the police to arrive, which took more than 10 minutes.

The assailant — a German citizen identified by prosecutors as Stephan B., firing what appeared to be home-made weapons — tried and failed to force his way into the synagogue as around 80 people were inside, then shot and killed a woman in the street outside and a man at a nearby kebab shop.

The attack, with the gunman ranting about Jews and denying the Holocaust in English, was livestreamed on a popular gaming site.

The head of the city’s Jewish community, Max Privorozki, was among those inside who watched the man trying to break in on monitors linked to a surveillance camera. “We saw everything, also how he shot and how he killed someone,” he said.

“I thought this door wouldn’t hold,” Privorozki said outside the damaged door.

“That was a shock for us, that was Yom Kippur, all phones were switched off, we had to understand what was going on first — then switch on my phone and then call the police,” he said. “It was really panic but I have to say after that, when the police came, we continued with the worship service, that lasted another three hours, the synagogue worship service.”

The worshippers were brought out on buses several hours later. A video posted by a reporter for Israeli public broadcaster Kan showed people on a bus dancing, embracing and singing.

A worshipper who was at the synagogue, identified only as Christina, told Israel’s Kan Reshet Bet radio that “it’s not easy being openly Jewish in Germany,” but “the main message is we can’t give up. We won’t give up on Jewish existence in Germany.”

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier laid flowers outside the synagogue and met with community representatives, the first of several officials who were due to visit.

Ahead of the visit, Schuster was sharply critical Wednesday night of the lack of a police presence outside. “I am convinced that if there had been police protection there, in all probability the assailant would not have been able to attack a second site,” he said.

Christoph Bernstiel, a local councilor who also represents Halle in the national parliament, told n-tv television that there will be a careful examination of how long the response took, “but at this point it would be too early to draw premature conclusions.”

Synagogues are often protected by police in Germany and have been for many years amid concerns over far-right and Islamic extremism. There has been rising concern lately about both anti-Semitism and right-wing extremism.

Germany’s domestic intelligence agency has said that the number of anti-Semitic acts of violence rose to 48 last year from 21 the previous year. It also said that the number of far-right extremists rose by 100 to 24,100 people last year, with more than half of them considered potentially violent.

In June, Walter Luebcke, a regional politician from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party, was fatally shot at his home. Luebcke was known for supporting the welcoming refugee policy that Merkel adopted during an influx of migrants in 2015. The suspect is a far-right extremist with a string of convictions for violent anti-migrant crimes.

Joachim Herrmann, Bavaria’s state interior minister, accused members of the nationalist, anti-migrant Alternative for Germany party of helping stir up anti-Semitism, an accusation the party rejected. Some figures in the party, which entered the national parliament in 2017, have made comments appearing to downplay the Nazi past.

The video streamed on Twitch, which apparently was filmed with a head-mounted camera, showed the perpetrator driving up to the synagogue in a car packed with ammunition and what appeared to be home-made explosives.

He tried two doors and placed a device at the bottom of a gate, then fired at a woman trying to walk past his parked car. The assailant then fired rounds into the synagogue’s door, which didn’t open. He drove a short distance to park opposite the kebab shop. He fired at what appeared to be an employee, while customers scrambled away.

What appeared to be a manifesto also appeared online, according to Rita Katz, the head of the SITE Intelligence Group

Thank G-d For Giving Us Life In The Synagogue Of Halle

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Police officers cross a wall at a crime scene in Halle, Germany, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. A gunman fired several shots on Wednesday in the German city of Halle. Police say a person has been arrested after a shooting that left two people dead. (Sebastian Willnow/dpa via AP)

HALLE (VosIzNeias) — A moving Facebook post was submitted by Talya Feldman, one of the congregants at the Halle synagogue which was attacked on Yom Kippur:

“Yesterday was Yom Kippur. The holiest day of the Jewish year, when G-d judges our past actions and sins and seals us in the book of life or death. And yesterday I was with the community of Halle in Germany, a community that welcomed me and my friends with open arms, when a shooter tried to break down the gate surrounding the synagogue and attack us. And yet he did not succeed. Not with bullets and not with explosives.
I do not know what the year ahead will bring, but I thank G-d that on the day of Yom Kippur He gave all of us in the synagogue of Halle life. And I mourn for those outside that were not as lucky.
While I continue to process all of this I want to thank the community of Halle, Jeremy, Rebecca, and my entire group of Base Berlin for remaining incredibly calm and brave, for singing together, for dancing together, and for choosing to pray the last bit of the Yom Kippur service in the hospital we were evacuated to despite the circumstances.
We are okay. We are alive. Am Yisrael Chai.”

California: Millions Playing Waiting Game Over Electricity Shutoffs

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Carlos Lama of Bayside Cafe, which was among businesses to lose power due to PG&E's public safety power shutoff, uses an LED lamp and light from his phone at the counter of the restaurant in Sausalito, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. Pacific Gas & Electric has cut power to more than half a million customers in Northern California hoping to prevent wildfires during dry, windy weather throughout the region. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal via AP)

SONOMA, Calif. (AP) — Millions of Californians played a waiting game with the winds Thursday as Pacific Gas & Electric watched the weather before deciding whether to restore power to an enormous portion of the state blacked out on purpose.

The state’s largest utility pulled the plug to prevent a repeat of the past two years when wind-blown power lines sparked deadly wildfires that destroyed thousands of homes.

The unpopular move that disrupted daily life — prompted by forecasts calling for dry, gusty weather — came after catastrophic fires sent PG&E into bankruptcy and forced it to take more aggressive steps to prevent blazes.

The blackouts began Wednesday, hitting more than 500,000 homes and businesses north of San Francisco Bay, in the wine country, the Central Valley and the Sierra Nevada foothills, where a November wildfire blamed on PG&E transmission lines killed 85 people and virtually incinerated the town of Paradise.

Late Wednesday night, after a full day of delays, PG&E began cutting power in the Bay Area, excluding the city of San Francisco.

Overall, about 734,000 customers and as many as 2 million people could be affected. PG&E has warned that they might have to do without power for days after the winds subside because “every inch” of the power system must be inspected by helicopters and thousands of groundworkers and declared safe before the grid is reactivated.

“It’s just kind of scary. It feels worse than Y2K. We don’t know how long,” Tianna Pasche of Oakland said before her area was powered down. “My two kids, their school situation keeps moving every second. It’s not clear if we need to pack for a week and go out of town or what to do. So I’m just trying to make sure we have water, food, charging stations and gas.”

“For me, this is a major inconvenience in my life as a parent but also, if it saves a life, I’m not going to complain about it,” she said.

Residents of the Oakland Hills, where a wildfire in 1991 killed 25 people and destroyed thousands of homes, spent the morning buying bottled water, getting cash and filling their cars with gas.

In the northern wine country, most of downtown Sonoma was pitch black when Joseph Pokorski, a retiree, showed up for his morning ritual of drinking coffee, followed by beer and cocktails.

The Town Square bar was open and lit by lanterns, but coffee was out of the question and only cash was accepted. Pokorski decided to forgo a 30-minute wait for a cup of joe from the bakery next door and move on to beers and a couple greyhound cocktails of vodka and grapefruit juice.

“I’m not a coffee freak,” Pokorski said. “I can take it or leave. It’s no big thing.”

In the El Dorado Hills east of Sacramento, California, Ruth Self and her son were taking an outage in stride while leaving a Safeway grocery store that had been stripped nearly bare of bottled water and ice.

Self said she wasn’t upset, given the lives lost nearly a year ago in Paradise, invoking images of people who burned in their cars trying to escape.

“I just can’t imagine,” she said. “Hopefully (the outages) are only for a couple days. I think it’s more of a positive than a negative. Ask me again on Friday night when I haven’t had a shower in two days, when I’ve had to spend two days playing card games.”

There was some good news. PG&E also announced that by reconfiguring its power system, it had restored electricity to 44,000 customers who weren’t in areas of high fire risk, and it could bring back power to 60,000 to 80,000 customers in the Humboldt area, where gusty winds had subsided.

Also because of shifting forecasts, the utility said it was reducing the third phase of its blackout plan, set to begin Thursday, to only about 4,600 customers in Kern County — one-tenth of the original estimate.

Unsurprisingly, the unprecedented blackouts sparked anger. A customer threw eggs at a PG&E office in Oroville. A PG&E truck was hit by a bullet that shattered a window in Colusa County before Wednesday’s outages, although authorities couldn’t immediately say whether it was targeted. PG&E put up barricades around its San Francisco headquarters.

“We realize and understand the impact and the hardship” from the outages, said Sumeet Singh, head of PG&E’s Community Wildfire Safety Program. But he urged people not to take it out on PG&E workers.

“They have families that live in your communities, they have friends, they are members of your communities,” he said. “They’re doing this work in the interest of your safety.”

PG&E took drastic action because of hot, dry Diablo winds sweeping into Northern California, said Scott Strenfel, PG&E’s principal meteorologist. They were also part of a California-wide weather system that will produce Santa Ana winds in the south in the next day or so, he said.

“These (weather) events historically are the events that cause the most destructive wildfires in California history,” Strenfel said.

Winds gusting as high as 70 mph in places were forecast to begin hitting Southern California later Thursday. Southern California Edison warned that it might cut power to nearly 174,000 customers in nine counties, including Los Angeles and its surrounding areas. San Diego Gas & Electric has notified about 30,000 customers they could lose power in back-country areas.

While many people said the blackouts were a necessity, others were outraged — the word that Gov. Gavin Newsom used in arguing that PG&E should have been working on making its power system sturdier and more weather-proof.

“They’re in bankruptcy due to their terrible management going back decades,” Newsom said in San Diego. “They’ve created these conditions. It was unnecessary.”

Singh said the utility has more than 8,000 employees and contractors who have been clearing brush, inspecting power lines and putting power lines underground.

But he said the power grid wasn’t built to withstand the changing weather and the previous safety factor “no longer exists.”

Although fire agencies had beefed up their crews because of red-flag conditions of extreme fire danger, very few fires were currently burning in California. Only a tiny fraction of acreage has burned, so far, this year compared with recent years, though no one has attributed that to the power cuts.

Ukraine President: ‘No Blackmail’ In Conversation With Trump

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks during talks with journalists in Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019. Ukrainian President is holding an all-day "media marathon" in a Kyiv food court amid growing questions about his actions as president. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Thursday there was “no blackmail” in the phone call with U.S. President Donald Trump that helped spark an impeachment inquiry.

Zelenskiy is trying to save his reputation and distance himself from the U.S. political drama. In an all-day “media marathon” held in a food court, he played down suggestions that Trump pressured him to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden in exchange for military aid to help Ukraine battle Russian-backed separatists.

Responding to questions from The Associated Press, Zelenskiy said he only learned after their July 25 phone call that the U.S. had blocked hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine.

“We didn’t speak about this” during the July call, Zelenskiy said.

“There was no blackmail.”

Trump asked Zelenskiy during the call to “look into” Biden and his son, according to a rough White House transcript. Congressional Democrats believe Trump was holding up the military aid to use as leverage to pressure Ukraine and advance his domestic political interests before next year’s U.S. presidential election.

The July call is central to the impeachment inquiry, and embarrassed Zelenskiy because it showed him as eager to please Trump and critical of European partners whose support he needs to strengthen Ukraine’s economy and to end the conflict with Russia.

He said he “didn’t even check” whether the Ukrainian transcript of the July call is the same as that of the White House, but says “I think they match.”

Trump later said the military aid was frozen because of concerns about corruption in Ukraine, but the move prompted congressional outcry and the money was released in September.

But Zelenskiy said the call “wasn’t linked to weapons or the story with (Ukrainian gas company) Burisma,” where Biden’s son Hunter served on the board.

Asked what Ukraine did to persuade the U.S. to release the aid, Zelenskiy said: “We have many diplomatic contacts. And in case we need to find a solution to questions of this level, questions about our country’s security, we use all our powerful possibilities.” He didn’t elaborate.

“I don’t want to interfere in any way in the elections” in the U.S., he said. Zelenskiy appears to be playing to both U.S. political camps to ensure Ukraine has continued support no matter who wins the presidential election next year.

Zelenskiy said he thought the call would lead to an in-person meeting with Trump, and wanted the American leader to come to Ukraine. Zelenskiy said the “key question” for him was to try to persuade the White House to “change its rhetoric” about Ukraine as a corrupt and untrustworthy country.

He said he wanted to meet with Trump in person but that there were “no conditions” set for such a meeting.

He said he had “several calls” with Trump, but bristled at repeated questions about their relationship. “We are an independent country, we have relations with many countries,” not just the U.S., he said.

A TV and film comedian, Zelenskiy overwhelmingly won the presidency in April on promises to fight corruption and end the five-year conflict with Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. He’s treading carefully to ensure continued support from the U.S. while trying to make peace with powerful neighbor Russia.

Most of the questions at Thursday’s unusual media event related to the Russia conflict or Ukraine’s economic troubles.

In the July call, Trump sought help on two fronts. The first involves Trump’s claims that Ukraine allied with the Democrats in a plot to derail his 2016 presidential campaign. No evidence of such a plot has emerged.

At the same time, Trump is also pushing Ukraine to investigate any potential wrongdoing by the Bidens. Trump has said the United States has an “absolute right” to ask foreign leaders to investigate corruption cases, though no one has produced evidence of criminal wrongdoing by the former U.S. vice president or his son.

Zelenskiy also joked about Trump’s Twitter missives, saying he doesn’t expect a change in U.S.-Ukrainian relations in the future, “but if there is, we’ll learn about it on Twitter.”

White House And Democrats Clash Over Rules For Impeachment

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks during a news conference and with local officials about Venezuelan democracy efforts on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019, in Weston, Fla. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Constitution gives the House “the sole power of impeachment” — but it confers that authority without an instruction manual.

Now comes the battle royal over exactly what it means.

In vowing to halt all cooperation with House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, the White House on Tuesday labeled the investigation “illegitimate” based on its own reading of the Constitution’s vague language.

In an eight-page letter, White House counsel Pat Cipollone pointed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s failure to call for an official vote to proceed with the inquiry as grounds to claim the process a farce.

“You have designed and implemented your inquiry in a manner that violates fundamental fairness and constitutionally mandated due process,” Cipollone wrote.

But Douglas Letter, a lawyer for the House Judiciary Committee, told a federal judge Tuesday that it’s clear the House “sets its own rules” on how the impeachment process will play out.

The White House document lacked much in the way of legal arguments, seemingly citing cable TV news appearances as often as case law. And legal experts cast doubt upon its effectiveness.

“I think the goal of this letter is to further inflame the president’s supporters and attempt to delegitimize the process in the eyes of his supporters,” said Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas.

Courts have been historically hesitant to step in as referee for congressional oversight and impeachment. In 1993, the Supreme Court held that impeachment was an issue for the Congress and not the courts.

In that case, Walter Nixon, a federal district judge who was removed from office, sought to be reinstated and argued that the full Senate, instead of a committee that was established to hear testimony and collect evidence, should have heard the evidence against him.

The court unanimously rejected the challenge, finding impeachment is a function of the legislature that the court had no authority over.

As for the current challenge to impeachment, Vladeck said the White House letter “does not strike me as an effort to provide sober legal analysis.”

Gregg Nunziata, a Philadelphia attorney who previously served as general counsel and policy adviser to Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, said the White House’s letter did not appear to be written in a “traditional good-faith back and forth between the legislative and executive branches.”

He called it a “direct assault on the very legitimacy of Congress’ oversight power.”

“The Founders very deliberately chose to put the impeachment power in a political branch rather the Supreme Court,” Nunziata told The Associated Press. “They wanted this to be a political process and it is.”

G. Pearson Cross, a political science professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said the letter appeared to act as nothing more than an accelerant on a smoldering fire.

“It’s a response that seems to welcome a constitutional crisis rather than defusing one or pointing toward some strategy that would deescalate the situation,” Cross said.

After two weeks of a listless and unfocused response to the impeachment probe, the White House letter amounted to a declaration of war.

It’s a strategy that risks further provoking Democrats in the impeachment probe, setting up court challenges and the potential for lawmakers to draw up an article of impeachment accusing President Donald Trump of obstructing their investigations.

Democrats have said that if the White House does not provide the information, they could write an article of impeachment on obstruction of justice.

It is unclear if Democrats would wade into a lengthy legal fight with the administration over documents and testimony or if they would just move straight to considering articles of impeachment.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who is leading the Ukraine probe, has said Democrats will “have to decide whether to litigate, or how to litigate.”

But they don’t want the fight to drag on for months, as he said the Trump administration seems to want to do.

A federal judge heard arguments Tuesday on whether the House had undertaken a formal impeachment inquiry despite not having taken an official vote and whether it can be characterized, under the law, as a “judicial proceeding.”

The distinction matters because while grand jury testimony is ordinarily secret, one exception authorizes a judge to disclose it in connection with a judicial proceeding. House Democrats are seeking grand jury testimony from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation as they conduct the impeachment inquiry.

US Moves 2 British Is Members Known As ‘Beatles’ From Syria

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Syrians flee shelling by Turkish forces in Ras al Ayn, northeast Syria, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Wednesday the start of a Turkish military operation against Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria. (AP Photo/Baderkhan Ahmad)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two British militants believed to be part of an Islamic State group that beheaded hostages and was known as “The Beatles” have been moved out of a detention center in Syria and are in American custody, U.S. officials said Wednesday.

President Donald Trump said earlier Wednesday that the U.S. has moved some of the Islamic State prisoners amid fears some could escape custody as Turkey invades northeast Syria.

The two men, El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Amon Kotey, along with other British jihadis, allegedly made up the IS cell nicknamed “The Beatles” by surviving captives because of their English accents. In 2014 and 2015, the militants held more than 20 Western hostages in Syria and tortured many of them. It beheaded seven American, British and Japanese journalists and aid workers and a group of Syrian soldiers, boasting of the butchery in videos released to the world.

U.S. officials said the two were taken out of Syria by U.S. military and law enforcement personnel to ensure they did not escape if security broke down as a result of the Turkish incursion. So far they are the only two IS militants removed from Syria by the U.S., but officials say a number of others could also be moved if needed.

Another official said the two men were taken to Iraq out of an abundance of caution, adding that the United States is still fully committed to seeing them brought to justice.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military movements.

Turkey is attacking the U.S.-backed Syrian Defense Forces, a Kurdish force that battled the Islamic State group alongside American troops and now is responsible for guarding thousands of detained militants.

But guarding those prisoners is now expected to be less of a priority for the Kurdish forces as they rush to defend their territory against the invading Turkish military.

Trump told reporters at the White House that some of the “most dangerous” had been moved, but he provided no details. Although just the two have been relocated so far, but thousands of other Islamic State group detainees remain in custody and there are no immediate concerns the Kurds will completely abandon the facilities.

“We’re putting them in different locations where it’s secure,” Trump said.

The U.S. officials said that some Kurds left the prisons to join the fight but did not flee in large numbers. The officials said operations against remaining members of the Islamic State group are on hold following the invasion Wednesday by Turkey, which sees the Kurds as a threat and is trying to create a buffer zone between the territory held by the SDF and the Syrian border.

The two British men were captured in January in eastern Syria by the Kurdish forces amid the collapse of IS. Their detention set off a debate in the U.S. and Europe over how to prosecute their citizens who joined IS.

Among the journalists they killed was American James Foley, who was first, followed by fellow Americans Steven Sotloff and Peter Kassig, British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning and Japanese journalists Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto. The beheadings, often carried out on camera, horrified the world soon after IS took over much of Iraq and Syria in 2014.

In March, Kurdish and U.S. forces cleared the last members of the Islamic State group from what was left of their self-declared caliphate, which once sprawled across a large part of Iraq and Syria.

U.S. officials said American forces are not out doing patrols looking for Islamic State group fighters because their Kurdish partners are more focused on the Turkish fight. But they said U.S. operations could restart quickly if needed.

About 30 to 50 U.S. troops were moved out of the way from two outposts in the border region. There are a number of U.S. forces in other bases just outside the so-called safe zone as well as in Manbij and other locations around the country. They have not been moved but are mainly staying in place to avoid attacks.

There are about 2,500 Islamic State foreign fighters being detained in Syria, along with about 10,000 fighters from Syria and Iraq.

Trump and other U.S. officials have repeatedly pressed other nations across Europe and the Middle East to take back the detainees from their countries. But international leaders have been largely reluctant and have been slow to take any back.

“They should go back, by the way, they should go back to Europe. Many of them came from Europe. And they should go back to Germany and France,” Trump said Wednesday.

Trump said other leaders told him they didn’t want the detainees.

“We don’t want them either,” he said. “Nobody wants them but they’re bad and somebody has to watch over ’em.”

Shooting Latest Indication Of Increasing Anti-Semitism

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Police officers secure a synagogue in Dresden, Germany, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. One or more gunmen fired several shots on Wednesday in the German city of Halle. Police say a person has been arrested after a shooting that left two people dead. (Robert Michael/dpa via AP)

HALLE (AP) — The shooting that left two dead and several injured in Halle, Germany, on Wednesday — when Jews celebrated Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for their faith — has shined a spotlight on the worldwide rise of anti-Semitic incidents.

The attack in Germany, where investigators are pursuing anti-Semitic motives after the assailant reportedly shot at the door of a synagogue in an attempt to gain entry, drew swift condemnation from United Nations Secretary General António Guterres and renewed calls from Jewish groups in the U.S. to step up cooperation in combating anti-Semitism.

“We have been saying for several years that anti-Semitism is real, it’s resurgent, it’s lethal and it’s multi-sourced,” American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris said in an interview.

Harris added that Wednesday’s Yom Kippur attack in Halle, coming on the heels of the one-year anniversary of an anti-Semitic shooting that killed 11 worshippers at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, “should all be triggering alarm bells. The question is whether they are.”

Robert Bank, President and CEO of American Jewish World Service, issued a statement calling on people “of every background around the world to combat the increasing waves of hatred and intolerance against all people, including anti-Semitic, racist, Islamophobic, misogynistic, homophobic and transphobic violence.”

A brief look at the state of global anti-Semitism:

UNITED STATES AND CANADA

The Anti-Defamation League, which called the Germany shooting “heartbreaking” in a Wednesday statement, reported earlier this year that violent anti-Semitic episodes in the United States doubled in 2018. Wednesday’s holy day of Yom Kippur also saw an anti-Semitic incident reported in New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a statement condemning what he called “the desecration of a Holocaust memorial” in the city of White Plains on the eve of the holiday.

In Canada, the government reported a 4% dip in anti-Semitic attacks last year — but only after a sharp rise in 2017.

EUROPE

Anti-Semitism is a top concern in Germany, where data shows reported, anti-Semitic incidents rose 10% last year, according to Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center, and where the trial of a group of alleged neo-Nazis for planning an attack in Berlin began last week. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government earlier this year affirmed its commitment to protecting Jews who wear skullcaps from anti-Semitic threats.

But beyond Germany, several other nations are grappling with spiking reports of anti-Semitic sentiment as well as behavior.

In the United Kingdom, the Community Security Trust charity recently reported a 10% rise in anti-Semitic incidents during the first six months of this year. In the Czech Republic, the Federation of the Jewish Communities reported a rise in anti-Semitic incidents last year.

Fire Started On Steps Of Brooklyn Jewish Center On Yom Kippur [VIDEO]

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Park Slope Jewish Center (Source: Screenshot/News12)

BROOKLYN (VosIzNeias) — A fire was set on the steps of the Brooklyn Jewish Center in Park Slope early Yom Kippur morning.

An unknown individual set a backpack on fire and left it on the steps of the Jewish center at approximately 1:00 AM on Wednesday, where it was discovered by police.

The FDNY arrived and extinguished the blaze.

The identity of the perpetrator is unknown at this time, however the NYPD reports that an unidentified male was seen setting the backpack on fire and fleeing on foot.

The investigation is ongoing.

A Yom Kippur War Miracle

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A memorial for the Battle of the Valley of Tears from the Yom Kippur War in 1973 that took place in the Golan Heights. The tank battle that took place is one of the largest tank battles to ever occur in the history of tank battles in the world. June 13, 2013. Photo by Sarah Schuman/ Flash90

JERUSALEM (VosIzNeias) — IAF pilot Yiftach Spektor couldn’t believe his bad luck. The 107 Phantom squadron leader had been assigned a key mission on the fourth day of the Yom Kippur War: To bomb the Syrian petrol reserves and other key buildings situated near the Syrian Army’s HQ in Damascus. The goal of the mission was to destroy the infrastructure on which Syria’s war-making capacity depended, targeting strategic targets in Syria such as its oil industry and electricity generating system.

The first target was to be the Syrian General Staff Headquarters in the prosperous Abu Rummaneh district of Damascus. The raid was to disrupt Syrian command and control, but would also serve to deter Jordan from joining the war and would prove that despite the blows the IAF had suffered, it would not be deterred from taking the war to Syria. However Spektor encountered heavy cloud cover over the target and could not find any way of penetrating the clouds and hitting the targets without exposing himself to murderous anti-aircraft fire.

Spektor’s squadron had been preceded by 119 squadron led by Arnon Lavoshin. Unlike Spektor, Lavoshin’s squadron had been able to find a hole in the cloud cover and emptied their payload over the Syrian Army HQ, causing heavy damage and loss of life. Unknown to the Israeli pilots, the Israeli prisoners of war were being held in a building inside the compound, the only building left standing after the attack. The Syrians were stunned and could not fathom how the Israelis knew exactly where their POW’s were being held and how they managed not to bomb them.

Yet Spektor was frustrated and also did not know what to do with his squadron’s payload of bombs. He radioed HQ for advice and was told to drop his bombs on the Syrian tanks pouring into the Southern Golan Heights. After suffering heavy losses on the first days of the war, with the Syrians breaking through Israeli lines and moving towards the Kinneret, the Israelis had launched a counterattack the previous day, led by Moshe Peled’s 146th Division and Dan Lanner’s 205th division. Yet the Israelis were outnumbered by 10 to 1 and their attack was met by fierce resistance from the Syrian divisions.

Spektor arrived at the scene just as a long column of Syrian tanks was preparing to enter the battle zone and engage the Israeli forces. After identifying the column, Spektor and his fellow pilots attacked the Syrian division, causing heavy losses and leaving the Syrian lines in disarray. The Israeli tanks continued their counterattack unimpeded and crushed the Syrian advance.

Had Spektor not encountered cloud cover, he would have hit targets already attacked previously and would probably have killed the Israeli POW’s being held there. Instead, providentially, he was able to intervene at a crucial moment in the attack in the Southern Golan Heights and affect the course of the battle. Although not recognized as such, this was clearly one of the many miraculous events of the Yom Kippur war, enabling Israel to defeat its enemies despite their coordinated surprise attacks on two fronts.

 

For 1st Time, Joe Biden Calls For Trump To Be Impeached

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Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019, in Rochester, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

ROCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said Wednesday for the first time that President Donald Trump must be impeached for abusing the powers of his office to help his own reelection.

Biden made the remarks as part of a blistering 25-minute speech in New Hampshire, departing from his usual campaign pitch and signaling that he will aggressively confront Trump as the president pushes unfounded accusations that the former vice president and his son had nefarious dealings in Ukraine.

Trump is “shooting holes in the Constitution,” Biden said, by asking foreign powers to interfere in the 2020 election by pursuing dirt on the Bidens and then refusing to cooperate with a resulting House impeachment inquiry.

“This is a president who has decided this nation doesn’t have the tools, the power, the political will” to punish bad behavior, Biden said, cataloguing a litany of Trump’s actions that the former vice president said warrant impeachment.

“He’s not just testing us,” Biden said. “He’s laughing at us.”

Before Biden had concluded in New Hampshire, Trump retorted via Twitter. “So pathetic,” he wrote, to see Biden calling for his impeachment. The president maintained that he had done nothing wrong.

In a July 25 phone call to Ukraine’s leader, Trump asked for “a favor” of investigating Biden and his son Hunter, who previously served on the board of a Ukrainian energy firm that had drawn scrutiny in that country.

Without evidence and contrary to the accounts of several Ukrainian officials, Trump insists that Biden used his role as vice president to protect his son from corruption investigations when he pressed for the firing of the top Ukrainian prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, during President Barack Obama’s second term.

Ukrainian officials, including one Shokin successor, have disputed Trump’s theories, and Biden has previously noted that the Obama administration’s position was supported by many other Western governments, who saw Shokin as incompetent or corrupt.

Biden on Wednesday again blasted Trump’s “lies and smears and distortion” and said the president peddles them because he fears facing Biden in a general election.

“He’s trying to create a campaign where truth and facts are irrelevant,” Biden said, adding that the spectacle covers the president’s “manifest incompetence.”

“We’re not going to let Donald Trump pick the Democratic nominee for president,” Biden added. “I’m not going to let him get away with it. He’s picked a fight with the wrong guy.”

The speech comes as Biden’s campaign continues internal deliberations over the best way to handle Trump’s broadsides and an impeachment inquiry that could last months — and potentially never result in the Republican-led Senate removing Trump from office even if the Democratic-led House impeaches him.

In New Hampshire, Biden noticeably did not mention the Senate or its potential role in deciding whether to remove Trump from office.

Some Biden aides note that the situation underscores the fundamental argument that the former vice president has made about Trump from the start of his campaign, a point the candidate himself made Wednesday. “When I announced my candidacy,” he recalled, “I said I was running in order to restore the soul of America. That wasn’t hyperbole.”

But his advisers also point to the 2016 presidential campaign, when Trump dominated media narratives of the Republican primary and the general election against Democrat Hillary Clinton with a barrage of attacks on his opponents that forced them to campaign on his terms.

The former vice president nodded at that reality, as well, promising that he won’t let that get in his way.

“I’m not going to be distracted,” he said. “None of these attacks are true, and I’m going to stay focused on your lives. That’s what this election is about,” he continued, saying the country “can’t wait” for action on health care, education, gun regulations and the climate crisis. “The world can’t wait for America once again to lead a stable, peaceful international order.”

Biden got an enthusiastic reception, including from some New Hampshire voters who hadn’t considered him their top choice in the nation’s first presidential primary state.

“He spoke with conviction. He answered some of Trump’s charges, and he got some good shots in at Trump,” said Bill Hurley, a 71-year-old Democrat who named Biden his second choice behind Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

One undecided voter, Virginia Schonwald, a 63-year-old retired school librarian, said she liked that Biden was “very fact-based and that he was forceful.” She said she is now considering voting for Biden in the Democratic primary.

“I don’t think I was when I got here,” she said. “But I think I am now. … His speech made me more confident about him as a candidate.”