Monday, October 14, 2019

Turkey Begins Offensive Aimed At Kurdish Fighters In Syria

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Shortly after the Turkish operation inside Syria had started, local residents cheer and applaud as a convoy of Turkish forces vehicles is driven through the town of Akcakale, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, at the border between Turkey and Syria, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. Turkey launched a military operation Wednesday against Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria after U.S. forces pulled back from the area, with a series of airstrikes hitting a town on Syria's northern border. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

AKCAKALE, Turkey (AP) — Turkey launched airstrikes and fired artillery aimed at crushing Kurdish fighters in northern Syria on Wednesday after U.S. troops pulled back from the area, paving the way for an assault on forces that have long been allied with the United States.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the start of the campaign, which followed an abrupt decision Sunday by U.S. President Donald Trump that American troops would step aside to allow for the operation.

Trump’s move drew bipartisan opposition at home and represented a shift in U.S. policy that essentially abandoned the Syrian Kurdish fighters who have been America’s only allies in Syria fighting the Islamic State group. After Erdogan announced the offensive, Trump called the operation “a bad idea.”

There were signs of panic in the streets of Ras al-Ayn— one of the Syrian towns under attack with residential areas close to the borders. Cars raced to safety, although it was not clear if they were leaving town or heading away from border areas. Near the town of Qamishli, plumes of smoke rose from an area close to the border after activists reported explosion nearby.

At least one member of the Kurdish-led force known as the Syrian Democratic Forces was killed in the Turkish bombardment, Kurdish activists and a Syria war monitor said.

A U.S. defense official and a Kurdish official in Syria said the SDF has suspended operations against IS militants because of the Turkish operation. The officials who confirmed the suspension spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to provide details on the situation.

Turkey’s campaign — in which a NATO member is raining down bombs on an area where hundreds of U.S. troops are stationed — drew immediate criticism and calls for restraint from Europe. In his statement, Trump emphasized that there are no American soldiers in the area under attack.

“Our mission is to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border, and to bring peace to the area,” Erdogan said in a tweet announcing what he called “Operation Peace Spring.”

He said that Turkish forces, with Ankara-backed Syrian fighters known as the Syrian National Army, had begun to eradicate what he called “the threat of terror” against Turkey.

Minutes before Erdogan’s announcement, Turkish jets began pounding suspected positions of Syrian Kurdish forces in the town of Ras al Ayn, according to Turkish media and Syrian activists. The sound of explosions could be heard in Turkey.

It was difficult to know what was hit in the first hours of the operation.

Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, said Turkish warplanes were targeting “civilian areas” in northern Syria, causing “a huge panic” in the region.

Before Turkey’s attack, Syrian Kurdish forces that are allied with the United States issued a general mobilization call, warning of a “humanitarian catastrophe.”

The Turkish operation meant to create a “safe zone” carries potential gains and risk for Turkey by getting even more deeply involved in the Syria war. It also would ignite new fighting in Syria’s 8-year-old war, potentially displacing hundreds of thousands.

Kurdish forces warned of a possible “humanitarian catastrophe.”

A resident of Tal Abyad said one of the bombs hit an SDF office, and he fled with his wife and mother by car to Raqqa, nearly 100 kilometers (60 miles) to the south, to flee the bombing. The resident, who gave his name as Maher, said the road to Raqqa was packed with vehicles and families, some fleeing on foot “to get away from the bombing.”

“People fled and left everything behind,” he said in a text message after he reached safety.

Turkey has long threatened to attack the Kurdish fighters that Ankara considers terrorists allied with a Kurdish insurgency in Turkey. Expectations of an invasion increased after Trump’s announcement Sunday, although he also threatened to “totally destroy and obliterate” Turkey’s economy if the Turkish push went too far.

U.S. critics said he was sacrificing an ally, the Syrian Kurdish forces, and undermining Washington’s credibility. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, told “Fox & Friends” that if Trump “follows through with this, it would be the biggest mistake of his presidency.”

Trump later said the U.S. “does not endorse this attack and has made it clear to Turkey that this operation is a bad idea.”

Trump said he made clear from the start of his political career that “I did not want to fight these endless, senseless wars — especially those that don’t benefit the United States. Turkey has committed to protecting civilians, protecting religious minorities, including Christians, and ensuring no humanitarian crisis takes place — and we will hold them to this commitment.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, while noting that Turkey “has legitimate security concerns” after suffering “horrendous terrorist attacks” and hosting thousands of refugees, said the country should not “further destabilize the region” with its military action in Syria.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas condemned the offensive, saying it will “further destabilize the region and strengthen IS.” The operation also was criticized by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

The EU is paying Turkey 6 billion euros ($6.6 billion) to help the country cope with almost 4 million Syrian refugees on its territory in exchange for stopping migrants leaving for Europe.

Fahrettin Altun, the Turkish presidency’s communications director, urged the international community to rally behind Ankara, which he said would take over the fight against the Islamic State group.

Turkey aimed to “neutralize” Syrian Kurdish militants in northeastern Syria and to “liberate the local population from the yoke of the armed thugs,” Altun wrote in a Washington Post column published Wednesday.

Erdogan discussed the incursion by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Erdogan’s office said he told Putin the military action “will contribute to the peace and stability” and allow for a political process in Syria.

In its call for a general mobilization, the local civilian Kurdish authority known as the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria asked the global community to live up to its responsibilities as “a humanitarian catastrophe might befall our people.”

The Kurds also said they want the U.S.-led coalition to set up a no-fly zone in northeastern Syria to protect the civilian population from Turkish airstrikes.

The U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish group urged Moscow to broker talks with the Syrian government in Damascus in light of the Turkish operation. The Syrian Kurdish-led administration said it is responding positively to calls from Moscow encouraging the Kurds and the Syrian government to settle their difference through talks.

Syria’s Foreign Ministry condemned Turkey’s plans, calling it a “blatant violation” of international law and vowing to repel an incursion.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused Washington of playing “very dangerous games” with the Syrian Kurds, saying the U.S. first propped up the Syrian Kurdish “quasi state” in Syria and now is withdrawing support.

“Such reckless attitude to this highly sensitive subject can set fire to the entire region, and we have to avoid it at any cost,” he said in Kazakhstan.

Earlier Wednesday, three IS militants targeted the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in Raqqa, once the de facto IS capital at the height of the militants’ power. An activist collective in Raqqa reported an exchange of fire and an explosion; the Observatory said two IS fighters engaged in a shootout before blowing themselves up.

IS claimed responsibility, saying one of its members killed or wounded 13 SDF members.

The SDF, which holds thousands of IS fighters in detention facilities in northeastern Syria, has warned that a Turkish incursion might lead to the resurgence of the extremists. The U.S.-allied Kurdish-led force captured the last IS area controlled by the militants in eastern Syria in March.

Nobel Prize Honors Breakthroughs On Lithium-Ion Batteries

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Nobel chemistry winner John B. Goodenough poses for the media at the Royal Society in London, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. The 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to John B. Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino for the development of lithium-ion batteries. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

STOCKHOLM (AP) — If you’re reading this on a cellphone or laptop computer, you might thank this year’s three winners of the Nobel Prize in chemistry for their work on lithium-ion batteries.

The batteries developed by the British, American and Japanese winners are far more revolutionary than just for on-the-go computing and calling. The breakthroughs they achieved also made storing energy from renewable sources more feasible, opening up a whole new front in the fight against global warming.

“This is a highly charged story of tremendous potential,” quipped Olof Ramstrom of the Nobel committee for chemistry.

The prize announced Wednesday went to John B. Goodenough, 97, an American engineering professor at the University of Texas; M. Stanley Whittingham, 77, a British-American chemistry professor at the State University of New York at Binghamton, and Akira Yoshino, 71, of chemicals company Asahi Kasei Corp. and Meijo University in Japan.

The three scientists were honored for a truly transformative technology that has permeated billions of lives across the planet, including anyone who uses cellphones, computers, pacemakers, electric cars and beyond.

“The heart of the phone is the rechargeable battery. The heart of the electric vehicle is the rechargeable battery. The success and failure of so many new technologies depends on the batteries,” said Alexej Jerschow, a chemist at New York University, whose research focuses on lithium-ion battery diagnostics.

Goodenough, who is considered an intellectual giant of solid state chemistry and physics, is the oldest person to ever win a Nobel Prize — edging Arthur Ashkin, who was 96 when he was awarded the Nobel for physics last year.

Goodenough still works every day and said he is grateful he was not forced to retire at age 65. “So I’ve had an extra 33 years to keep working,” he told reporters in London.

Whittingham expressed hope the Nobel spotlight could give new impetus to efforts to meet the world’s ravenous — and growing — demands for energy.

“I am overcome with gratitude at receiving this award, and I honestly have so many people to thank, I don’t know where to begin,” he said in a statement issued by his university. “It is my hope that this recognition will help to shine a much-needed light on the nation’s energy future.”

The three laureates each had unique breakthroughs that cumulatively laid the foundation for the development of a commercial rechargeable battery to replace alkaline batteries containing lead, nickel or zinc that had their origins in the 19th century.

Lithium-ion batteries are the first truly portable and rechargeable batteries, and took more than a decade to develop. Their discovery drew upon the work of multiple scientists in the U.S., Japan and around the world.

The work had its roots in the oil crisis in the 1970s. Whittingham, who had researched superconductors at Stanford University, was hired by Exxon at a time when the petroleum giant was investing in research into other fields of energy amid concerns about depleting oil reserves.

Exxon gave researchers like him “the freedom to do pretty much what they wanted as long as it did not involve petroleum,” the Nobel committee said.

In his work, Whittingham harnessed the enormous tendency of lithium — the lightest metal — to give away its electrons to make a battery capable of generating just over two volts. Lithium, of all the elements, “is the one that most willingly releases electrons,” the committee said.

By 1980, building on Whittingham’s work, Goodenough had doubled the capacity of the battery to four volts by using cobalt oxide in the cathode — one of two electrodes, along with the anode, that make up the ends of a battery.

But that battery remained too explosive for general commercial use. That’s where Yoshino’s work in the 1980s came in. He eliminated the volatile pure lithium from the battery, and instead opted for lithium ions that are safer.

Yoshino substituted petroleum coke, a carbon material, in the battery’s anode. This step paved the way for the first lightweight, safe, durable and rechargeable commercial batteries to be built and enter the market in 1991.

“We have gained access to a technical revolution,” said Sara Snogerup Linse of the Nobel committee for chemistry, alluding to the environmental benefits of the discoveries. “The ability to store energy from renewable sources — the sun, the wind — opens up for sustainable energy consumption.”

Whittingham said he had no inkling that his work decades ago would have such a profound impact.

“We thought it would be nice and help in a few things, but never dreamed it would revolutionize electronics and everything else,” he told The Associated Press. He called the prize “recognition for the whole field.”

“Hundreds of people have worked on lithium-ion batteries, and I think people felt that they were being overlooked,” he said. “We’re hoping this will push the field further and faster.”

The trio will share a 9-million kronor ($918,000) cash award. Their gold medals and diplomas will be conferred in Stockholm on Dec. 10 — the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel’s death in 1896.

The announcement came on the third day of Nobel week.

On Tuesday, Canadian-American James Peebles won the Nobel physics prize for his theoretical discoveries in cosmology together with Swiss scientists Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz, who were honored for finding an exoplanet — a planet outside our solar system — that orbits a solar-type star.

Americans William G. Kaelin Jr. and Gregg L. Semenza and Britain’s Peter J. Ratcliffe won the Nobel for advances in physiology or medicine on Monday. They were cited for their discoveries of “how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability.”

Two Nobel literature laureates are to be announced Thursday — one for 2018 and one for 2019 — because last year’s award was suspended after a sex-abuse scandal rocked the Swedish Academy. The coveted Nobel Peace Prize is Friday and the economics award will be announced on Monday.

Yoshino said he mistakenly thought there might be a long wait before the Nobel committee turned to his specialty. He broke the news to his wife, who was just as surprised as he.

“I only spoke to her briefly and said, ‘I got it,’ and … she was so surprised that her knees almost gave way,” he told reporters in Tokyo.

The laureates said the field and its applications are still a work in progress, and they want to keep at it.

Yoshino said lithium-ion batteries could have greater application in the ocean and space, but that further research and development are needed to adapt them to other gadgets and purposes. “Lithium-ion itself is still full of unknowns,” he said.

The prize turned out to be a bit of a family affair among the researchers: Yoshino said he visits Goodenough nearly every year in Texas.

“For him, I’m like his son,” the Japanese laureate said. “He takes very good care of me.”

Goodenough, in his own way, seemed to return the favor, telling reporters in London that in all of his 97 years: “What am I most proud of? I don’t know, I would say all my friends.”

German Synagogue Attacked On Yom Kippur; 2 Dead Nearby

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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, Germany (AP) — A heavily armed assailant tried to force his way into a synagogue Wednesday in eastern Germany on Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day, and two people were killed as he fired shots outside the building and into a kebab shop, authorities and witnesses said.

The attacker shot at the door of the synagogue in the city of Halle but did not get in as 70 to 80 people inside were observing the holy day, a local Jewish leader said. Video of the attack was livestreamed on streaming site Twitch, which said it had “worked with urgency” to remove it.

Germany’s top security official, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, said authorities must assume that it was an anti-Semitic attack, and said prosecutors believe there may be a right-wing extremist motive to it. He said several people were injured.

Police said in a tweet early Wednesday afternoon that “the suspected perpetrators” had fled in a car after the attacks and quickly reported that one person had been arrested. Officers spread out in force across Halle, a city of 240,000, urging residents to stay at home.

Several hours later, police said there was no longer an “acute” danger to the city and residents could go back into the streets. They gave no details about the person who had been arrested.

Police also didn’t specify why their assessment had changed, but the news agency dpa and the Bild newspaper cited unidentified security sources as saying the evidence points to a lone assailant.

News magazine Der Spiegel, which didn’t cite its sources, said the suspect is a 27-year-old man from Saxony-Anhalt state, where Halle is located.

Rita Katz, the head of the SITE Intelligence Group, wrote on Twitter that 35 minutes of footage of the attacks were posted online, and that the attacker said in English before the shooting that the “root of all problems are the Jews.”

She said it showed the attacker shooting a woman in the street after failing to enter the synagogue, then entering a business and killing another person before fleeing. Twitch said it would permanently suspend any account found to be posting or reposting “content of this abhorrent act.”

The filming of Wednesday’s attack echoed another horrific shooting halfway around the world, when a far-right white supremacist in March killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand and livestreamed much of the attack on Facebook. That massacre drew strong criticism of social media giants for not immediately finding and blocking such a violent video.

The attack was the third to target a synagogue in a year, following attacks in the United States on synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway, California.

Federal prosecutors, who in Germany handle cases involving suspected terrorism or national security, took over the investigation into the attack in Halle.

A video clip broadcast by regional public broadcaster MDR showed a man in a helmet and an olive-colored top getting out of a car and firing four shots from behind the vehicle from a long-barreled gun. It wasn’t clear what he was shooting at.

Pictures from the scene showed a body lying in the street behind a police cordon, opposite the synagogue, which was about 30 meters (yards), dpa reported.

The head of Halle’s Jewish community, Max Privorozki, told Der Spiegel that a surveillance camera at the entrance of the synagogue showed a person trying to break into the building while there were 70 or 80 people inside.

“The assailant shot several times at the door and also threw several Molotov cocktails, firecrackers or grenades to force his way in,” he said. “But the door remained closed — God protected us. The whole thing lasted perhaps five to 10 minutes.”

Dpa quoted unidentified security sources as saying that an assailant laid home-made explosives outside the synagogue.

A witness interviewed on n-tv television said he had been in a kebab shop when a man with a helmet and a military jacket threw something that looked like a grenade, which bounced off the doorframe. Conrad Roessler said the man then shot into the shop at least once.

“All the customers next to me ran, of course I did too. I think there were five or six of us in there,” Roessler said. “The man behind me probably died.”

“I hid in the toilet,” he said. “The others looked for the back entrance. I didn’t know if there was one. I locked myself quietly in this toilet, and wrote to my family that I love them, and waited for something to happen.”

Police then came into the shop, he said.

Synagogues are often protected by police in Germany. Security was stepped up at synagogues in other cities after the shooting in Halle.

German officials rushed to condemn the attack.

“Shots being fired at a synagogue on Yom Kippur, the festival of reconciliation, hits us in the heart,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Twitter. “We must all act against anti-Semitism in our country.”

Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that “all our country’s citizens of Jewish faith can be sure that we are with them with our whole heart and we will give them all the security that is possible.”

The U.S. Embassy in Berlin said “today’s attack is an attack on all of us, and the perpetrators must be held accountable.”

Police said shots were also fired Wednesday in Landsberg, about 15 kilometers (nearly 10 miles) from Halle but it wasn’t clear whether the two situations were related.

The European Parliament held a moment of silence at the start of its session Wednesday to mark the unfolding situation in Halle.

Manfred Weber, the German leader of the center-right EPP group in the parliament, declared that “anti-Semites and anybody who wants to question freedom of belief are not just our opponents, they are our enemies.”

___

Moulson reported from Berlin. Associated Press writer Raf Casert in Brussels contributed to this report.

 

Tens Of Thousands Of Jews Pray At The Kotel On Eve Of Yom Kippur [VIDEO]

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Thousands attend Selichot, or penitential prayers at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem early on Oct. 8, 2019, prior to the start of Yom Kippur. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Tens of thousands of Jewish worshippers gathered at the Western Wall in Jerusalem for the final selichot, or penitential prayers, before Yom Kippur.

The services began after midnight on Tuesday morning, and brought worshippers from around the country.

Yom Kippur begins at sundown on Tuesday and lasts for 25 hours.

In Israel, the country grinds to a halt. All stores and shops close, and public transportation ceases until the end of the observance. Ben Gurion International Airport shuts down for the 25 hours of the holiday. Israeli television and radio channels and broadcasters also shut down their broadcasts until sundown on Wednesday.

Thousands of Israeli children and adults revel in the empty roads, filling them with bicycles.

White House: US Withdrawal Not ‘Green Light’ To Turkey To Massacre Kurds

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Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters (Photo Credit: Flickr)

WASHINGTON (JNS) — Contrary to public perception, the White House has insisted that U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision this week to withdraw U.S. forces along the Syria-Turkey border isn’t a “green light” for Ankara to massacre Syria Kurds.

A senior Trump administration official told reporters on a call Monday night that 50 to 100 U.S. special forces troops would withdraw from northeastern Syria; however, the United States isn’t entirely withdrawing from the country. The official also emphasized that Trump isn’t endorsing the Turkish plan to invade that part of Syria.

The White House announced the withdrawal on Sunday, following a call between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, eliciting alarm from the Syrian Kurds, whom Erdoğan considers terrorists.

Trump’s decision was met with quick and harsh bipartisan condemnation, including from U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

Jewish and pro-Israel groups also reacted unfavorably to the announcement, though Israel for the most part has been quiet.

In the agreement between Turkey and the United States, joint U.S and Turkish ground and air patrols had created a security area that spans more than 78 miles along the Syria-Turkey border.

Erdoğan said on Saturday that the invasion could start “as soon as today or maybe tomorrow.”

60% Of Jewish Israelis Plan To Fast On Yom Kippur, Poll Finds

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(iStock/Getty Images Plus)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — About 60 percent of Jewish Israelis plan to fast on Yom Kippur, a poll found, but synagogue attendance for Judaism’s holiest day is not nearly as widespread.

According to the special Yom Kippur survey by the Israel Democracy Institute’s Guttman Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research, 42 percent of Jewish Israelis plan to attend all or some of the holiday services, while 39 percent said they will not attend any of them.

The survey of 501 adults aged 18 and over, men and women, was conducted Oct. 3-6 via the internet and telephone.

Yom Kippur begins Tuesday night at sundown and lasts for 25 hours.

The survey found that 60.5 percent of Jewish Israelis plan to fast on Yom Kippur, while 27.5 percent do not and 5 percent of respondents will only drink liquids. The rest are undecided.

The results are similar to a 2000 survey, when 63 percent of Jewish Israelis said they planned to fast, but are a drop from the 73 percent in 1994.

In terms of synagogue attendance, 23 percent of Jewish Israelis said they plan to attend all the services and 19 percent said they will attend some, while 12 percent said they will go just to hear the shofar.

The sampling error is plus or minus 4.1 percent.

Ahead Of Yom Kippur, Jewish Leaders In New York Insist On Stepped-Up Security

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Borough Park, a heavily Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

NEW YORK (JNS) — A total of 311 hate crimes were reported in New York from January through September, an increase compared to the 250 reported during the same period last year, according to Deputy Inspector Mark Molinari, head of New York Police Department’s Hate Crimes Task Force.

Molinari said 163 of the reported hate crimes targeted Jews.

While he called 87 percent of the anti-Semitic crimes “criminal mischief,” which is generally vandalism involving the drawing of swastikas and other offensive symbols, the remaining 13 percent included crimes such as assault.

Jewish leaders in New York are demanding more police officers to patrol their communities leading up to Yom Kippur and its 25-hour fast, which begins on Tuesday night.

“Enough is enough,” said Brooklyn Councilman Chaim Deutsch, who represents the 48th District of New York City. “If they have to bring in 200 cops to patrol our streets to show their visibility, that’s what has to be done.”

“I’ve heard from Holocaust survivors how they are afraid to walk in the streets,’’ he said. “More than 75 years later, after the Holocaust … for them to say in 2019, ‘I am afraid to walk in the streets,’ sends us all a bad message.”

Flatbush Jewish Community Council co-founder Chaskal Bennett added, “There is no community in New York City that appreciates and values the Police Department more than the Orthodox Jewish community.”

Nevertheless, he continued, “we feel that our community is vulnerable and has been subject to an alarming increase in hate crimes. That feeling must be met with the full force and protection of the NYPD.”

Lam Says Chinese Military Could Step In If Uprising Gets Bad

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Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks during a press conference in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam warned Tuesday that the Chinese military could step in if an uprising for democratic reforms that has rocked the city for months “becomes so bad” but said the government still hopes to resolve the crisis itself.

Lam urged foreign critics to accept that the four months of protests marked by escalating violence were no longer “a peaceful movement for democracy.”

She said seeking Chinese intervention was provided for under Hong Kong’s constitution but that she cannot reveal under what circumstances she would do so.

“I still strongly feel that we should find the solutions ourselves. That is also the position of the central government, that Hong Kong should tackle the problem on her own, but if the situation becomes so bad, then no options could be ruled out if we want Hong Kong to at least have another chance,” she said at a news conference.

The protests started in June over a now-shelved extradition bill that would have allowed some criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial but have since morphed into a larger anti-government movement. Protesters say the bill is an example of Beijing’s increasing influence over the former British colony, which was promised a high level of autonomy when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

The unrest has pummeled tourism and hurt businesses in the global financial hub, further bruising the city’s economy as it grapples with the effects of the U.S.-China trade war.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to ensure a “humane solution” in Hong Kong. He warned that any “bad” outcome could hurt trade talks ahead of negotiations in Washington on Thursday.

Hardening her government’s stance on the protests last week, Lam invoked a colonial-era emergency law to criminalize the wearing of masks at rallies but it fueled more anger, with daily violence over the long holiday weekend. Police officers last week fired gunshots while under attack from protesters, wounding two teenagers who were the first victims of police gunfire since the protests started.

Enforcement of the mask ban began Saturday, and Lam said it was too early to call it a failure.

Police regional chief Kwok Yam-yung said 241 people were detained in widespread “atrocities” over the last four days that saw ferocious attacks on officers and those with opposing views.

He said that included 77 who violated the mask ban and that 14 of them were charged Tuesday, bringing the total number of prosecutions to 16. The mask ban is punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine, which is light in comparison to those accused of rioting, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years.

Since June, 2,363 people have been arrested, with more than 200 charged with rioting.

“Ruthless and reckless acts are pushing the rule of law to the brink of total collapse,” Kwok said.

Critics fear the emergency law, which gives Lam broad powers to implement any measures she deems necessary, could pave the way for more draconian moves. Lam said the government would make a “careful assessment” before deciding on other emergency measures such as internet controls.

She also pledged to continue a dialogue and take steps to address livelihood and economic problems in a policy address due Oct. 16 when the Legislative Council resumes.

Protesters stormed and damaged the legislative building on July 1, requiring repairs. Lam appealed for peace when the legislative session reopens, warning that further disruptions would set back the approval of bills and impede the city’s development.

The city’s subway and trains, which carry some 5 million passengers daily, mostly reopened Tuesday but will shut early amid fears of more protests. The entire MTR network was shut down Saturday, with limited service the last two days.

Videos on local media showed masked protesters smashing windows of a train heading to mainland China late Monday as passengers screamed — the first time a train carriage was attacked. Protesters also threw objects on the track as the train pulled away. An MTR spokesman, who identified himself only as Terry, confirmed the incident and said some cross-border services were suspended Tuesday.

Scores of students wore masks in defiance as they returned to school after the holiday. Some rallied at lunchtime, chanting slogans and holding placards that read “You may take away my mask but not my belief” and “Ideas are bullet-proof.”

Swiss Scientists Celebrate Nobel Physics Win

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FILE - In this Thursday, Aug. 11, 2005 file photo Swiss Astronomers Michel Mayor, right, and Didier Queloz, left, pose for the photographer at the Astronomical Observatory of the University of Geneva. The 2019 Nobel prize in Physics was given to James Peebles "for theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology," and the other half jointly to Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz "for the discovery of an exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star," said Prof. Goran Hansson, secretary-general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences that chooses the laureates. (Laurent Gillieron, Keystone via AP)

GENEVA (AP) — Two Swiss scientists are celebrating their Nobel Prize in Physics for discovering a planet outside our solar system orbiting a solar-type star.

The University of Geneva has quoted Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz as saying that “this discovery is the most exciting of our whole career and for it to be rewarded with a Nobel Prize is simply extraordinary.”

Mayor and Queloz announced their discovery of the planet, known as 51 Pegasi B, 24 years ago. Mayor recalled that “no one knew whether exoplanets existed or not. Prestigious astronomers had been searching for them for years, in vain!”

Canada-born James Peebles, who won the other half of the award “for theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology,” was asked what he would tell young scientists. He told a news conference that “you should enter it for the love of science. You should enter science because you are fascinated by it.”

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

This was the 113th Nobel Prize in Physics awarded since 1901, of which 47 awards have been given to a single laureate. Only three women have been awarded it so far: Marie Curie in 1903, Maria Goeppert-Mayer in 1963 and Donna Strickland in 2018, according to the Nobel website.

Company Making Costco Pajamas Flagged For Forced Labor

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FILE - In this Dec. 5, 2018, file photo, two layers of barbed wire fencing ring the "Hotan City apparel employment training base" where Hetian Taida Apparel Co. has a factory in Hotan in western China's Xinjiang region. The Trump Administration is blocking shipments from Chinese company Hetian Taida Apparel, which makes baby pajamas sold at Costco warehouses, after the foreign manufacturer was accused of forcing ethnic minorities locked in an internment camp to sew clothes against their will. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — The Trump Administration is blocking shipments from a Chinese company making baby pajamas sold at Costco warehouses, after the foreign manufacturer was accused of forcing ethnic minorities locked in an internment camp to sew clothes against their will.

The government is also blocking rubber gloves sold by industry leader Ansell whose customers include surgeons, mechanics and scientists around the U.S., accusing a Malaysian manufacturer of staffing its factories with migrants from Bangladesh, Nepal and other countries who went into crushing debt from paying exorbitant recruitment fees. Imports of bone charcoal from Brazil that firms like Plymouth Technology and ResinTech Inc. used to remove contaminants in U.S. water systems, diamonds from Zimbabwe and gold from eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, were stopped as well.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Oct. 1 slapped rare detention orders on goods imported from an unprecedented five countries in one day based on allegations that people producing those items might be children, or adults subjected to forced labor. The orders are used to hold shipping containers at the U.S. ports of entry until the agency can investigate the claims of wrongdoing.

CBP did not release information about the companies that were importing the goods covered by last week’s detention orders. But The Associated Press tracked items to several buyers, including Costco and the U.S. subsidiary of Ansell, an Australian protective gloves manufacturer. The companies said they were not aware that their products were being made with forced labor.

Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan said the orders, the most issued in a single day, “shows that if we suspect a product is made using forced labor, we’ll take that product off U.S. shelves.”

Custom’s action last week is sending ripples globally, with exporters now on notice to improve labor conditions. Domestically, some U.S. importers were shaken to learn their products might have been made by people forced to work against their will or under threat of punishment. Human rights experts warn as many as 25 million people globally are victims of forced labor. In recent years, investigations by media organizations and advocacy groups have tracked products suspected of being made by forced labor as they travel from manufacturers, through brokers and dealers, into the hands of American consumers.

“CBP’s announcement is significant because of the unprecedented number of actions and for the message that it sends across corporate supply chains,” said labor advocates at Humanity United and Freedom Fund in a joint statement. “We know that myriad imported goods U.S. consumers enjoy every day — from clothing to electronics to chocolate, fruits and vegetables, and other food s— are likely tainted by forced labor in their supply chains. Making real progress to change this will require a concerted effort across and outside of government, including through strong enforcement of existing laws like this.”

Until recently, the detentions orders used to block the shipments last week would have been almost impossible.

Before 2016, the Tariff Act — which gave Customs and Border Protection the authority to seize shipments where forced labor was suspected and block further imports — had been used only 39 times over its first 85 years, largely because of two words: “consumptive demand” —meaning if there was not sufficient supply to meet domestic demand, imports were allowed regardless of how they were produced.

After an AP investigation found that seafood caught by slaves in Southeast Asia was ending up in restaurants and markets around the U.S. with impunity because of the loophole, Congress and President Barrack Obama changed the law . Since then, under both the Obama and Trump administrations, CBP has used its detention authority 12 times to stop shipments, including those last week.

Under the law, U.S. importers have 90 days to prove no forced labor was used to produce their products. If they can’t, they can either ship their products to another country or surrender them to Customs.

Costco Pajamas

One major case from last week involves China’s Hetian Taida Apparel, which AP reported last year was forcing Uigher Muslims and other ethnic minorities to sew clothes for U.S. importers inside a Chinese re-education camp.

This was one of a growing number of internment camps in China’s far western Xinjiang region, where by some estimates 1 million Muslims are politically indoctrinated while detained and forced to give up their language and their religion. The Washington-based Worker Rights Consortium published further evidence this year that Hetian Taida was doing business both inside a camp, and at nearby state-subsidized factories where detainees are sent once they are released.

In response, Hetian Taida’s U.S. buyer Badger Sportswear, in Statesville, North Carolina, cut off imports and Hetian Taida stopped exporting to the U.S., according to records published by ImportGenius, which tracks shipping activity around the world.

But last month, Costco Wholesale Corp. began importing baby pajamas made by the company. On September 21, 2019 and again on Sept. 26, 2019, Hetian Taida sent shipping containers filled with 100% polyester blanket sleepers for babies and toddlers to the U.S., labeled for Costco, according to shipping records.

In an interview with the AP, Costco officials said “we believe (the baby sleepers) were made in a factory other than the one that was the subject of the CBP detention order. As the facts develop, we’re prepared to consider what action we should take relative to the issue of a supplier to our supplier owning factories that may have problems.”

As of last weekend, the microfleece, zippered pajamas, sold under the label Absorba, were seen by an AP reporter on some Costco shelves in packs of two, for $14.99.

Scott Nova, executive director of Worker Rights Consortium, said he was shocked that Costco agreed to do business with a firm already associated with China’s re-education camps. “The Chinese government has created a human rights nightmare for the Uighur people and Hetian Taida has been an active partner in Beijing’s brutality. The company’s use of forced labor is well documented and CBP is right to act,” said Nova.

Reached by phone on Monday, Hetian Taida Chairman Wu Hongbo told the AP that the company will cooperate with U.S. Customs and provide the agency with any documents it needs. Wu declined to answer further questions and said he has chosen to reject all media interview requests.

Rubber Gloves

Meanwhile in Malaysia, which supplies half of the world’s medical exam and surgical gloves, government and industry officials were shaken that one of their own — WRP Asia Pacific — had its products detained by Customs for allegations of forced labor.

The news sent Malaysian ministry officials immediately to the U.S. Embassy for information on how much of the rubber glove industry would be affected by the U.S. government actions. It later sparked an anxious rubber glove manufacturer’s town hall.

“The industry has since last year worked on social compliance initiatives in order to continuously improve the welfare of the employees in the rubber glove industry,” the Malaysian Rubber Export Promotion Council said in a statement.

Workers at WRP and many other rubber glove factories have been forced to pay staggering fees as high as $5,000 in their home countries, including Bangladesh and Nepal, for jobs that don’t meet their promise, said activist Andy Hall, who has advocated on behalf of Southeast Asian migrant laborers. Some of the rubber glove makers don’t pay workers for months, house them in unkempt and overcrowded conditions, hold their passports so they can’t leave and don’t allow them to quit, he said.

Hall said CBP’s detention orders “fired a starting gun to warn both Malaysian and Thai governments that rubber manufactured products like gloves, condoms, medical equipment as well as an array of other labor intensive products from the region that are currently manufactured using systemic migrant forced labor cannot be exported to the US.”

WRP importers include some of the leading medical suppliers in the U.S. like global giant Ansell, as well as smaller firms like Bay Medical Company Inc. in Brisbane, California.

In a statement, Ansell said it was ending its business with WRP: “Ansell takes the labor practices of these third-party suppliers seriously, and any allegations of forced labor among the company’s suppliers are of the highest concern. ”

Bay Medical’s owner David Dorris was visiting WRP last week in Malaysia when he heard, first-hand, that his shipping container had been detained.

“We were completely blindsided,” he said. “It’s deeply disturbing for me personally and for our company.”

Dorris said he hopes the accusations are not true.

Bone charcoal, Gold and Diamonds

Bone charcoal manufacturer, Bonechar Carvão Ativado Ltd. in southern Brazil, said accusations leading to its CBP detention order came from a competitor’s unfounded smear campaign. Bone charcoal is made by workers who burn animal bones, mostly cattle, in sealed ovens at temperatures as high as 1,292 F (700 C). CBP alleged that Bonechar Carvão has deceptive hiring practices and abusive living and working condition.

Bonechar Carvão owner Francisco Meira said their workers are not abused, and that U.S. Customs blocked the shipment based on false allegations that have been investigated and dismissed by Brazilian authorities. Prosecutors concluded Bonechar was “framed in a criminal scam,” according to documents filed with the Office of the US Trade Representative in April 2019.

A handful of U.S. companies imported bone charcoal from the Brazilian company last year, mostly for use in water filtration, pigments and sugar refining, according to shipping records from ImportGenius. These included Plymouth Technology in Rochester Hills, Michigan, Ebonex Corporation near Detroit, ResinTech Inc. in West Berlin, New Jersey and American Charcoal Co. in Jackson, Wyoming.

AP reached out to all the firms for comment. Ebonex Corporation, the only company that responded to AP’s queries, said they were aware of the trade dispute, and that they didn’t believe Bonechar abused workers and wouldn’t import from them if they do. The other companies could not be reached for comment.

The CBP action also covers any gold mined at small artisanal mines in eastern Congo and all rough diamonds from the Marange diamond fields in Zimbabwe, areas with a history of conflict and abuse and already subject to other U.S. sanctions. Those imports are harder to track, because they aren’t specific companies.

Zimbabwe’s government, which insists it has cleaned up its diamond industry, called the U.S. decision “a blatant and shameless lie.”

Further north, in the Congo, as much as $600 million of gold smuggled out annually, often by armed groups responsible for ongoing deadly attacks, according to the United Nations. The Congolese Embassy in Washington D.C. did not respond to calls from the AP.

Advocates lauded the new orders on Congo’s gold.

“Customs action sends a strong signal to U.S. tech, financial, and other companies: either do their homework on gold from Congo and countries it is smuggled or refined in, or risk having their shipments stopped at the border,” said Sasha Lezhnev at the Washington-based Enough Project, which supports peace in Africa’s conflict zones.

Trump Defends Decision To Abandon Kurdish Allies In Syria

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President Donald Trump talks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump cast his decision to abandon Kurdish fighters in Syria as fulfilling a campaign promise to withdraw from “endless war” in the Middle East, even as Republican critics and others said he was sacrificing a U.S. ally and undermining American credibility.

Trump declared U.S. troops would step aside for an expected Turkish attack on the Kurds, who have fought alongside Americans for years, but he then threatened to destroy the Turks’ economy if they went too far.

Even Trump’s staunchest Republican congressional allies expressed outrage at the prospect of abandoning Syrian Kurds who had fought the Islamic State group with American arms and advice. It was the latest example of Trump’s approach to foreign policy that critics condemn as impulsive, that he sometimes reverses and that frequently is untethered to the advice of his national security aides.

“A catastrophic mistake,” said Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican leader.

“Shot in the arm to the bad guys,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Trump said Monday he understood criticism from fellow GOP leaders but disagreed. He said he could also name supporters, but he didn’t.

Pentagon and State Department officials held out the possibility of persuading Turkey to abandon its expected invasion. U.S. officials said they had seen no indication that Turkey had begun a military operation by late Monday.

Trump, in late afternoon remarks to reporters, appeared largely unconcerned at the prospect of Turkish forces attacking the Kurds, who include a faction he described as “natural enemies” of the Turks.

“But I have told Turkey that if they do anything outside of what we would think is humane … they could suffer the wrath of an extremely decimated economy,” Trump said.

In recent weeks, the U.S. and Turkey had reached an apparent accommodation of Turkish concerns about the presence of Kurdish fighters, seen in Turkey as a threat. American and Turkish soldiers had been conducting joint patrols in a zone along the border. As part of that work, barriers designed to protect the Kurds were dismantled amid assurances that Turkey would not invade.

Graham said Turkey’s NATO membership should be suspended if it attacks into northeastern Turkey, potentially annihilating Kurdish fighters who acted as a U.S. proxy army in a five-year fight to eliminate the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate. Graham, who had talked Trump out of a withdrawal from Syria last December, said letting Turkey invade would be a mistake of historic proportion and would “lead to ISIS reemergence.”

This all comes at a pivotal moment of Trump’s presidency. House Democrats are marching forward with their impeachment inquiry into whether he compromised national security or abused his office by seeking negative information on former Vice President Joe Biden, a political rival, from Ukraine and other foreign countries.

As he faces the impeachment inquiry, Trump has appeared more focused on making good on his political pledges, even at the risk of sending a troubling signal to American allies abroad.

“I campaigned on the fact that I was going to bring our soldiers home and bring them home as rapidly as possible,” he said.

The strong pushback on Capitol Hill prompted Trump to recast as well as restate his decision, but with renewed bombast and self-flattery.

He promised to destroy the Turkish economy “if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits.”

Sunday night the White House had said the U.S. would get its troops out of the way of the Turkish forces. That announcement came after Trump spoke by phone with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

One official described that White House announcement as a botched effort appeared aimed at making Trump look bold for ending a war. The official said attempts by the Pentagon and State Department to make the statement stronger in its opposition to Turkey’s military action were unsuccessful.

That official, like others interviewed, was not authorized to speak on the record and was granted anonymity to comment.

The official added that Erdogan appeared to be reconsidering his earlier resolve because he was relatively quiet Monday. But damage done to relations with the Kurds could be irreparable.

An official familiar with the Erdogan call said the Turkish president was “ranting” at Trump, saying the safe zone was not working and that Turkey couldn’t trust the U.S. military to do what was needed. And in reaction, Trump said the U.S. wanted no part of an invasion and would withdraw troops.

The announcement threw the military situation in Syria into fresh chaos and injected deeper uncertainty into U.S. relations with European allies. A French official, speaking on condition of anonymity on a sensitive topic, said France wasn’t informed ahead of time. A Foreign Ministry statement warned Turkey to avoid any action that would harm the international coalition against the Islamic State and noted the Kurds had been essential allies. It entirely omitted any mention of the United States.

U.S. involvement in Syria has been fraught with peril since it started in 2014 with the insertion of small numbers of special operations forces to recruit, train, arm and advise local fighters to combat the Islamic State. Trump entered the White House in 2017 intent on getting out of Syria, and even before the counter-IS military campaign reclaimed the last militant strongholds early this year, he declared victory and said troops would leave.

Trump defended his latest decision, acknowledging in tweets that “the Kurds fought with us” but adding that they “were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so.”

“I held off this fight for almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” he wrote.

In his later remarks, Trump asserted that American troops in Syria are not performing useful work. They are, he said, “not fighting.” They are “just there,” he said.

Among the first to move were about 30 U.S. troops from two outposts who would be in the immediate area of a Turkish invasion. It’s unclear whether others among the roughly 1,000 U.S. forces in northeastern Syria would be moved, but officials said there was no plan for any to leave Syria entirely.

Bulent Aliriza, director of the Turkey Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that a U.S. withdrawal from Syria would be a major boost to Russia’s position there.

He added that other allies in the region, including the Kurds, will “look at this withdrawal as U.S. unwillingness to stand up for its rights and maintain its alliances in the region.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., another strong Trump supporter, said in an appearance on “Fox & Friends” that he had concerns.

“I want to make sure we keep our word for those who fight with us and help us,” he said, adding that, “If you make a commitment and somebody is fighting with you, America should keep their word.”

Former Trump administration officials also expressed concern.

Nikki Haley, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the U.S. “must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back. … Leaving them to die is a big mistake.”

Turkey considers the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has waged an insurgency against Turkey for 35 years.

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Netanyahu Proposes Air-Defense System To Defend Against Iran

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The Arrow-3 missile-defense system is tested in Alaska on July 28, 2019 (Photo Credit: Israeli Defense Ministry)

JERUSALEM (JNS) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed an advanced air-defense system in a cabinet meeting on Sunday that would counter the Iranian threat, reported Israel radio Kan.

After the strikes against Saudi oil facilities last month allegedly carried out by Iran, the defense system would focus on protecting against such cruise-missile attacks at a cost of billions of shekels.

Funding for the project would have to come from the existing defense ministry budget, cuts from other areas or an increase in taxes.

The more than 20 cruise missiles and drones that hit two Saudi Aramco oil facilities in September were launched from southern Iran, a senior U.S. official told CBS News at the time.

Lead Attorney Misses Last Two Days Of Netanyahu Hearings, Leaving Critics Crying Foul

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Israelis demonstrate in support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside the house of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit ahead of his hearing on corruption cases, Oct. 5, 2019. (Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

JERUSALEM (JNS) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s four days of hearings with the state prosecution are coming to an end, and all indications yield that the attorney general will move forward with his decision to indict the prime minister on corruption charges.

Justice Ministry officials involved in the hearings have revealed that “no contrary evidence to the charges” to defend the prime minister have been presented during the hearing, and “it won’t take long for us to come to a final decision.”

This is a very different message than the statement made by Netanyahu’s attorney, Amit Hadad, who said that “at the end of the day, we think these files need to be closed, and we believe that this will happen.”

Regardless of the final outcome, significant controversy has encompassed the matter after it was discovered that the prosecutor overseeing the cases against Netanyahu went on a family vacation instead of being present for the final two days of the hearing.

Liat Ben-Ari, who heads the taxation and economic-crimes division of the state prosecution’s Tel Aviv district and was recently appointed to serve as deputy state attorney, was present for the first two days of the hearing, but despite her close connection to the case, she missed the last two days to be part of a family vacation in South Africa.

“This prosecution has cost the country hundreds of millions of shekelim and two elections,” Moshe Koppel, chairman of the Kohelet Police Forum, told JNS. “It behooved the head prosecutor to sacrifice her travel deposit to be present at these hearings.”

A former prosecutor told JNS on condition of anonymity that “it is so beyond comprehension that the lead prosecutor would be absent from a hearing of this magnitude—determining the fate of the country’s prime minister—that there must be something else that is being hidden in terms of her connection to the case.”

The former prosecutor then continued, saying “but she is going to be right back on the case when she returns from her vacation, so this absence really is incomprehensible.”

The Justice Ministry released a statement that the prime minister’s hearings were originally scheduled for last Wednesday and Thursday alone, and that Netanyahu’s attorney’s requested additional days just two weeks ago, after Ben-Ari’s vacation plans were made. The ministry also explained that the hearing is going to take place before the attorney general—the one authorized to make the decision regarding the indictment—therefore, Ben-Ari’s absence is inconsequential.

Another official in the state prosecutor’s office speaking with anonymity said that Ben-Ari is “an unbelievably diligent prosecutor who has not taken vacation for a long time and doesn’t stop working.”

Still, the explanation and defense of Ben-Ari’s decision has not quieted critics. Sources close to the prime minister said that her absence indicates that she has already decided his fate without giving him a fair chance in the hearing.

“She is the one who will deal with the case if it goes to court, and she needs to know every nuance,” one of Netanyahu’s aides told Channel 13.” The aide called Ben-Ari’s decision to go on vacation “scandalous.”

Prominent civil-rights attorney Avigdor Feldman told IDF Radio that “this is unthinkable. It is a scandal. I am amazed that [Avichai] Mandelblit is holding the hearing. If the process doesn’t succeed, they will say it is because the person who is most expert in the case didn’t even attend the hearing.”

Even sources from within the Justice Ministry acknowledged that Ben-Ari’s decision to go on vacation “gives a feeling of being inappropriate” and was a “misjudgment.”

From the moment the charges against the prime minister were even hinted at years ago, Netanyahu has claimed to be a victim of an effort by the police, that prosecution, the media and his political opponents to force him out of power. These four days of hearings serve as the prime minister’s only chance to convince the attorney general to back off the draft indictment against Netanyahu which he issued in February for fraud and breach of trust in three cases and bribery in one. A lead prosecutor’s absence in favor of a family vacation certainly fits the prime minister’s narrative of a system out to get him and not giving him a fair chance.

‘I do not feel alone’

More than 1,000 demonstrators took to the streets on Saturday night to show support for Netanyahu near the home of the attorney general. The prime minister released a video thanking them for their support. “This warms the heart … after seeing and hearing you, I do not feel alone.”

Last week, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin tasked Netanyahu with forming a majority coalition of 61 Knesset seats to support him for prime minister. He has 28 days to do so, or he must give the mandate back to the president who will then give Blue and White leader Benny Gantz the chance to form a government.

It has been suggested that given the premier’s legal woes, which now includes a likely indictment and the fact that he has failed to form a government, that perhaps he will be ousted as Likud chairman or that the Likud Knesset members would support someone else for prime minister.

Nevertheless, after reports were scrapped that Likud was planning to hold a party leadership primary, the Likud Central Committee is slated to meet later this week to confirm Netanyahu as its leader.

A Walla poll has indicated that Likud maintains its strength with Netanyahu at the helm, but would lose seven mandates if another leader were to take them into the next election, further emboldening the prime minister’s position in his party.

While Israeli law allows a prime minister to remain in office while under indictment, it remains to be seen if public pressure would lead Likud to seek a new leader and bring Netanyahu’s record setting reign in the nation’s top job to an end.

What Next As UK And EU Seek Last-Minute Brexit Deal

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A construction worker works outside European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Friday, Oct. 4, 2019. British Brexit negotiator David Frost is continuing technical negotiations at EU headquarters on Friday, seeking ways to find a breakthrough in the stalled UK-EU divorce negotiations. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

LONDON (AP) — Britain is due to leave the European Union in just over three weeks, but still no one knows the terms of the divorce — or even whether the country will really meet that Oct. 31 deadline.

With both the U.K. and the EU saying this is a make-or-break week in the long-running Brexit drama, a look at what could happen next.

DEAL OR NO DEAL?

Almost a year ago, Britain and the EU struck a withdrawal agreement setting out the terms of Britain’s departure. Britain’s Parliament then rejected it three times, the U.K.’s departure date was postponed twice and Prime Minister Theresa May resigned in frustration and failure.

Last week, her replacement, Boris Johnson, sent the EU a new proposal. He calls it a “reasonable compromise” that solves the thorniest issue in the Brexit talks — how to maintain an open border between the U.K.’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.

The bloc says the proposals don’t fulfil the U.K.’s commitment to a frictionless border, because there would have to be customs checks on some goods, and because the arrangement would be subject to review by politicians in Northern Ireland.

Johnson has urged EU leaders to compromise and sit down for face-to-face talks. So far, the EU is resisting, saying the U.K. must show more “realism” in its proposals.

The last scheduled opportunity to reach a deal is Oct. 17-18, when all 28 EU leaders, including Johnson, are due to meet in Brussels. French President Emmanuel Macron has said the EU will decide by the end of this week whether a deal is possible, or whether the two sides should buckle up for a rocky no-deal departure.

SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?

Johnson insists Britain will leave the EU on Oct. 31, with or without a divorce deal. But many EU leaders simply don’t believe him.

Many British lawmakers believe a no-deal Brexit would be economically devastating and socially destabilizing, and are determined to prevent it. Last month, opposition legislators with support from rebel members of Johnson’s Conservative Party passed a law ordering the government to seek a delay to Brexit if no deal has been struck by Oct. 19.

Johnson insists he won’t ask the EU to postpone Brexit — but also says the government will obey the law.

That has left some speculating the government will try to challenge the law in the courts. Others think Johnson is bluffing, and that when push comes to shove he will either do as Parliament orders, or resign and let someone else send the extension letter.

All 27 other EU members would have to agree to a postponement. The bloc is thoroughly frustrated by the endless Brexit melodrama, but also eager to avoid the disruption of a no-deal Brexit, so it is likely to agree.

ELECTION TO UNBLOCK THE DEADLOCK?

More than three years after voting to leave the EU, Britain is stuck because its Parliament, like the country as a whole, is divided about how, or even whether, to leave.

Both government and opposition say they want an election to break the deadlock — but they can’t agree on when.

Parliament has twice rejected calls by the government to hold an early election, fearing Johnson planned to time it so Britain would leave the EU without a deal during the election period.

Opposition parties say they will agree trigger a poll once no-deal Brexit has been ruled out. That could mean an election in late November or December.

Opposition politicians have discussed trying to oust the government with a vote of no confidence, and replacing Johnson with a national-unity leader who would serve only until an election. But the plan has foundered because the parties can’t agree on a unity candidate to lead an interim administration.

When an election comes, Johnson’s “do or die” pledge to leave the bloc on Halloween is likely to form the basis of a “people vs. Parliament” campaign. He will aim to win the votes of Brexit supporters by arguing that he tried his utmost to take the U.K. out of the bloc but was frustrated by Parliament and the EU.

The Conservatives hope that will give them a majority in Parliament, and with it the ability to leave the EU on terms of the government’s choosing. But there is every chance it could produce a legislature as messily divided as it is now.

Connecticut Rabbi, Accused Of Sexual Assault With A Minor, Found Guilty

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Rabbi Daniel Greer. Source: Screenshot

CONNECTICUT (JNS) — A Connecticut rabbi was found guilty on all four counts related to sexually assaulting a minor that could result in a maximum 80-year prison sentence.

Rabbi Daniel Greer, 79, had been a long-respected rabbi in New Haven who has been credited with revitalizing the Edgewood neighborhood.

However, prosecutors said that between 2002 and 2003, he repeatedly had illegal sexual encounters with Eliyahu Mirlis, then 15, at Yeshiva New Haven, which Greer had founded, taught at and served as dean.

Mirlis said that Greer had sexually assaulted him on school property, at the Greer home, and at motels in Connecticut and in Pennsylvania.

In 2017, Mirlis, now 31, and currently residing in New Jersey, was awarded a $15 million civil lawsuit against Greer and the school. The award is currently being appealed.

Mirlis considered Greer as a “father figure” and kept quiet about the illegal interactions until he told his future wife in 2005. He said he didn’t think that anyone would believe him.

Greer was also originally charged with four counts of second-degree sexual assault—charges that were dismissed because the state’s statute of limitations expired.

Following the jury announcing the verdict, Greer’s wife, Sarah, demonstrated little emotion, though attempted to talk to him before he was led off in handcuffs.

Greer paid a $750,000 bond, and was required to wear an ankle monitor and give up his passport. He is currently under home confinement.

Dow said his client plans to appeal the verdict.

After Outcry, UN Reschedules ‘Decolonization Committee’ Meeting That Fell On Yom Kippur

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A view of the UN. General Assembly hall. (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

UNITED NATIONS (JNS) — The U.N. Secretariat, one of the main organs of the United Nations, has rescheduled a meeting conflicting with Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, on Oct. 9.

A meeting set by the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee), one of six main committees of the U.N. General Assembly devoted to a diverse set of political issues including decolonization and the Middle East, was rescheduled as to not fall on what has become an official U.N holiday as well.

According to Gregory Lafitte, director of U.N. affairs for Brussels-based NGO European Coalition for Israel, the Secretary General and Permanent Mission of Israel found out about the conflict and urged the Secretariat to reschedule the meeting for Oct. 8, ending at 6 p.m., just before the holiday begins at sundown, and resuming again on Oct. 10 at 3 p.m.

Lafitte noted that the Special Committee on Decolonization is notoriously anti-Israel, singling out the Jewish state by adopting various resolutions against Israel—and only against Israel.

Last year, the 193 member states voted in the UNGA to adopt nine resolutions against Israel, including the United Nations’ “special committee to investigate Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the Occupied Territories,” a body that reports through the Fourth Committee to the General Assembly.

Lafitte recalled that Yom Kippur was secured as an official holiday in the world body in 2015 and implemented a year later, with the European Coalition for Israel first coming up with the idea to petition for the recognition in 2012. Seeing an anti-Israel bias in the United Nations, Lafitte told JNS, the organization sought to “encourage E.U. and U.N. member states to have better relations with Israel” and “see what we can do to help make the United Nations a better place for Israel and the Jewish people.”

Recognition of Yom Kippur as an official holiday, he said, was “a small step that we could do” to combat anti-Semitism and recognize how much the Jewish culture has contributed to humanity.”

He recalled, “Years ago, we had a Security Council meeting on Yom Kippur, and no one understood why the Israeli delegates were not there—everyone in New York knew it was Yom Kippur, as schools were closed, but the U.N. didn’t know. So we realized we needed to correct this, and went to see the Israeli government in Jerusalem and told them of our idea.”

After receiving praise for the idea from the Israeli government, the organization joined forces with Israel’s former Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ron Prosor in 2013, and later, the current Permanent Representative to the United Nations Danny Danon, who worked alongside them to make it a reality.

Resolution 69/250, formally adopted by the General Assembly in January 2015, acknowledged that “Yom Kippur is a significant local holiday which is observed in the host city of the headquarters of the United Nations,” inviting United Nations bodies at the headquarters and other duty stations where observed to “avoid holding meetings on Yom Kippur,” and encouraged that “this arrangement be taken into account when drafting future calendars of conferences and meetings.”

According to Lafitte, U.N. staff get 10 holidays a year—six holidays of the host country, plus two Christian holidays (Christmas and Easter) and two Muslim holidays (Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr). U.N. members can choose to take off either President’s Day or Yom Kippur, which was granted status as a “floating holiday,” along with Day of Vesak, Diwali, Gurpurab, Orthodox Christmas and Orthodox Good Friday.

The adoption of Yom Kippur as a holiday, said Lafitte, allowed the other floating holidays recognition where their recognition was formerly rejected.

The European Coalition for Israel, made up of Jews and non-Jews, worked not only to have Yom Kippur recognized, but additionally has organized Yom Kippur-related events every year with the Israeli Permanent Representative to the United Nations to “show how there is a universal message in Yom Kippur” with messages of “atonement, forgiveness, reconciliation.”

“We’ve had Rwanda speak about the role of atonement after their nation returned from genocide; Secretary General António Guterres has spoken, who says he values the message of Yom Kippur; and year to year, 80 to 100 nations are present,” reported Lafitte.

Although it is but a small step in his goal to “look at anti-Semitism in a new way through cultural diplomacy, we have to realize that a change happened and a change can happen, even when nobody thought it would be possible,” he said. “And it happened because of the hard work of the Israeli permanent mission and has resulted in more inclusiveness. Because of this, we believe other changes are also possible within the United Nations.”

NYPD Releases Photo Of Vehicle Suspected Of Attempting To Lure Boro Park Children [VIDEO]

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BORO PARK (VosIzNeias) — The Boro Park community is on edge after a suspicious vehicle went around Boro Park trying to lure children on at least 3 occasions Saturday night.

According to reports, the vehicle approached children between the ages of 9 and 12. Each time, the vehicle’s occupants attempted to the lure the children with candy.

The vehicle was a Toyota Rav 4, and contained at least 2 passengers.

According to the NYPD, the incidents occured on 18th Avenue and 47th Street, 55th Street near 15th Avenue and also on 51st & 17th Avenue.

In these 3 occasions, the children were frightened off and ran home before any damage could occur.

The NYPD is investigating the perpetrators from continuing these activities, and have now released photos of the suspicious vehicle.

Archaeologists Discover 5,000-Year-Old City In Northern Israel

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Excavations at the site of a 5,000-year-old Bronze Age metropolis in northern Israel (Yoli Schwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Archaeological excavations in northern Israel in preparation to build a highway off-ramp uncovered a 5,000-year-old city that was home to as many as 6,000 residents.

It is one of the first and largest early Bronze Age settlements excavated in Israel, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority, which announced the discovery on Sunday.

“This is the Early Bronze Age New York of our region; a cosmopolitan and planned city where thousands of inhabitants lived,” Itai Elad, Yitzhak Paz and Dina Shalem, directors of the excavation, said in a statement.

The antiquities were discovered during massive excavations, initiated by Netivei Israel-the National Transport Infrastructure Company, which was carrying out groundwork for construction of an interchange road to the new Israeli city of Harish.

The excavations have been in progress for 2 1/2 years. Deeper excavations found that the ancient city was built over an even more ancient 7,000-year-old settlement.

The attraction for both settlements appears to be two abundant springs originating in the area in antiquity, according to the IAA.

About 5,000 teenagers and volunteers participated in the excavations as part of the authority’s Sharing Heritage Project.

“There is no doubt that this site dramatically changes what we know about the character of the period and the beginning of urbanization in Israel,” the excavation directors said.

The new interchange will be built high above the ruins, preserving it for future generations.

Beis Din Allows ‘Shaming’ Of Get Refuser Who Abducted His Children Away From Their Mother

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BROOKLYN (VosIzNeias) — Here is and example of “sins for which Yom Kippur doesn’t atone”, according to Israeli website Kipah:

Yigal and Sarit Sagi married in Israel and had a family together. Yigal left Israel in 2009, leaving his wife Sarit an aguna – a woman chained to marriage. About six years ago, she agreed to send the children to him for a short summer visit – and since then she has not seen them.

Although the couple lived as secular Jews in Israel, since leaving Israel Yigal has apparently become a member of a religious Brooklyn community and has become observant. The children – who left Israel thinking they would return to their everyday lives in a month – apparently now study in Charedi institutions. Sarit, who suffered a stroke shortly after learning that the children wouldn’t be returning, required a long rehabilitation, and to this day has still not been able to see them, in spite of a number of attempts.

The Israeli Beis Din ruled that it is permissible to “shame” Yigal by publishing his name and picture, as well as to impose various sanctions: that people may not “do him a favor or help him or do business with him…This obligation applies to his relatives and family as well as to the entire community and religious courts in each location as well as anyone who helps him to continue in his refusal [to grant a get to his wife]…” This information should be brought to the attention of the Chabad community in Brooklyn which, based upon information received by his chained wife, is harboring Sagi and providing him with refuge.

Sarit Sagi has not given up the right to see her children or the right to live freely. The ruling was attained with the help of advocate Devorah Brisk of Ohr Torah Stones’s Yad La’isha Legal Aid Center, in the hope that publicizing Yigal’s name and picture will help bring justice.

Trump Defends Syria Troop Plan From Criticism Home, Abroad

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President Donald Trump talks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s sudden decision to pull back U.S. troops from northern Syria drew quick, strong criticism Monday from some of his closest allies in Congress. It was condemned, too, by Kurdish fighters who would be abandoned to face a likely Turkish assault after fighting alongside Americans for years against the Islamic State.

The announcement threw the military situation in Syria into fresh chaos and injected deeper uncertainty into U.S. relations with European allies. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham called it “a disaster,” while Syria’s Kurds accused the U.S. of turning its back on allies and risking gains made in the yearslong fight against ISIS.

Trump defended his decision, acknowledging in tweets that “the Kurds fought with us” but adding that they “were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so.”

“I held off this fight for almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” he wrote.

If the Turks go too far, he tweeted later, “I in my great and unmatched wisdom” will destroy their economy.

Hours after the White House announcement, two senior State Department officials minimized the effects of the U.S. action, telling reporters that only about two dozen American troops would be removed from the Turkey-Syria border, not all the U.S. forces in the northeast of the country. They also said Turkey may not go through with a large-scale invasion and the U.S. was still trying to discourage it.

Both officials spoke only on condition of anonymity to discuss what led to the internal White House decision.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened for months to launch a military operation across the Syrian border. He views the Kurdish forces as a threat to his country. Both Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. have warned that allowing the Turkish attack could lead to a massacre of the Kurds and send a troubling message to American allies across the globe.

U.S. troops “will not support or be involved in the operation” and “will no longer be in the immediate area,” in northern Syria, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in an unusual late-Sunday statement that was silent on the fate of the Kurds.

There are about 1,000 U.S. troops in northern Syria, and a senior U.S. official said they will pull back from the area — and could depart the country entirely should widespread fighting break out between Turkish and Kurdish forces. For the moment, the U.S. troops are not leaving Syria, officials said.

A U.S. official confirmed that American troops were already moving out of the security zone area, which includes the Syrian towns of Ras al-Ayn and Tal Abyad. That official was not authorized to speak for the record and was granted anonymity to comment.

Republican Sen. Graham of South Carolina said he would call for Turkey’s suspension from NATO and introduce sanctions against Ankara if the Turks attack Kurdish forces.

“This decision to abandon our Kurdish allies and turn Syria over to Russia, Iran, & Turkey will put every radical Islamist on steroids. Shot in the arm to the bad guys. Devastating for the good guys,” Graham wrote in a tweet.

Trump’s move appeared to take even his closest allies by surprise during a pivotal moment of his presidency. House Democrats are marching forward with their impeachment inquiry into whether he compromised national security or abused his office by seeking negative information on former Vice President Joe Biden, a political rival, from foreign countries.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., did say Monday in an appearance on “Fox & Friends” that he had been briefed by the president about the decision. But he also said he had concerns.

“I want to make sure we keep our word for those who fight with us and help us,” he said, adding that, “If you make a commitment and somebody is fighting with you, America should keep their word.”

Former Trump administration officials also expressed alarm.

Nikki Haley, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the U.S. “must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back. … Leaving them to die is a big mistake.”

And Brett McGurk, a former senior diplomat who was the special envoy for the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition until he resigned in protest, accused Trump of leaving “our allies exposed when adversaries call his bluff or he confronts a hard phone call.”

Sunday’s announcement followed a call between Trump and Erdogan, the White House said Sunday.

The decision is an illustration of Trump’s focus on ending American overseas entanglements — one of his key campaign promises. His goals of swift withdrawals in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan have been stymied.

As he faces the impeachment inquiry at home, Trump has appeared more focused on making good on his political pledges, even at the risk of sending a troubling signal to American allies abroad.

In December, Trump announced he would withdraw American troops from Syria but was met with widespread condemnation for abandoning Kurdish allies. That announcement prompted the resignations in protest of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and McGurk, and an effort by then-national security adviser John Bolton to try to protect the Kurds.

Since January, U.S. officials have tried to broker the creation of a “safe zone” in northern Syria to provide a security buffer between the Turkish military and Kurdish forces, but Turkey has repeatedly objected to its slow implementation.

Turkey considers the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has waged an insurgency against Turkey for 35 years.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces threatened to respond forcefully to any Turkish incursion.

A Kurdish official speaking on condition of anonymity said Monday the Kurds expected a limited Turkish operation and were still working to ascertain what will happen with American forces in the region.

The White House said Turkey will take custody of foreign fighters captured in the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State group who have been held by the Kurdish forces supported by the U.S.

The Kurds have custody of thousands of captured Islamic State militants. They include about 2,500 highly dangerous foreign fighters from Europe and elsewhere whose native countries have been reluctant to take them back and another 10,000 or so captured fighters from Syria and Iraq.

Trump has repeatedly demanded that European countries, particularly France and Germany, take back their citizens who joined the militant organization. He wrote Monday that it will now be up to countries in the region to decide what to do with captured fighters, and warned of retribution in response to any future attacks.

“We are 7,000 miles away and will crush ISIS again if they come anywhere near us!” he wrote.

IS was defeated in Iraq in 2017. In Syria it lost its last territory in March, marking the end of the extremists’ self-declared caliphate. Despite these battlefield defeats, IS sleeper cells have continued to launch attacks in Iraq and Syria.