August 2018

Xuecheng has denied the sexual assault allegations [File: Jason Lee/Reuters]

A prominent Buddhist monk in China with a social media following of millions has been removed as abbot of Beijing's Longquan Monastery after being accused of coercing several nuns to have sex with him.

The country's top religious authority said on Thursday that Xuecheng, a Communist Party member and former head of the Buddhist Association of China, was sacked last week after it consulted a report by two former monks at the monastery.

He has been under criminal investigation since the two monks accused him of sexual and financial improprieties, including sending explicit text messages to at least six nuns and breaking national financial rules at the monastery.

The 95-page report by the two monks, which circulated online late last month, cited them as saying that at least four women gave in to Xuecheng's threats and cajoling to have sex with him.

Xuecheng told the women it was a part of their Buddhist studies, the monks said according to the report.

Both men were asked to leave Longquan monastery after news of the report broke.

Xuecheng had stepped down as head of the Buddhist association earlier this month. He had been silent on China's Twitter-like Weibo service since August 1, when he posted a statement rejecting the sexual assault claims.

Beijing's Longquan Monastery has made headlines for combining Buddhism with modern technology, launching last year a two-foot-high robot monk that dispenses mantras and karmic advice.

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Geert Wilders, an anti-Islam opposition leader in the Netherlands, has cancelled a competition for cartoons depicting Islam's Prophet Muhammad that sparked protests in Pakistan.
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The far-right politician, who is known for his incendiary speeches and protests against immigration and Islam, said on Thursday he did not want others endangered by the contest he planned for November.

"To avoid the risk of victims of Islamic violence, I have decided not to let the cartoon contest go ahead," he said in a written statement, claiming to have received death threats.

The scheduled contest sparked angry protests in Pakistan and a death threat this week from a 26-year-old man, reportedly a Pakistani, who was arrested on Tuesday in The Hague.

Earlier on Thursday, a Dutch judge extended by two weeks the detention of the man who allegedly threatened to attack Wilders.

Prosecutors said in a statement that an investigating judge ordered the suspect held while he is investigated on charges of making a threat, making preparations for a murder and incitement.

Stijn van Kessel, a political scientist at Queen Mary University of London, told Al Jazeera that the competition was a tactic by Wilders to get media attention in the face of waning public support.

"He is not truly interested in a cartoon contest but this is a way for him to generate media attention; he hopes that will eventually translate to votes," Kessel said.
Deeply offensive

Physical depictions of the prophet are forbidden in Islam and deeply offensive to Muslims.

In Pakistan, thousands of people angered over Wilders' plans marched towards the capital, Islamabad, on Thursday.

Pakistan's government has vowed to protest the contest at the UN [The Associated Press]

About 10,000 supporters of the Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan party set out on the march on Wednesday, calling on the government to cut diplomatic ties with the Netherlands.

Pakistan's government had vowed to protest the contest at the United Nations.

The Dutch government has distanced itself from the competition, with Prime Minister Mark Rutte clarifying that Wilders, leader of the opposition Freedom Party, is not a member of the government.

Wilders announced the contest in June and claimed to had received 200 entries so far. The winner was supposed to receive a cash prize.

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Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman toured the communities adjacent to the fence on the northern border Thursday morning in order to assess the progress of the plan he initiated to fortify northern communities, which was recently approved by the cabinet.

The Defense Minister visited, among other places, Metula, Kiryat Shmona, Zarit and Shlomi - where he met with council heads from the north.

At the end of the meeting, Liberman said, "The goal is to examine all the communities adjacent to the fence, first of all, and in addition I held a meeting with the mayors on the confrontation line, with an emphasis on the communities up to 9 kilometers (5.6 miles) from the border. First of all, in terms of the priorities of the Ministry of Defense, this year we identified 21 communities near the fence as having priority for us, in terms of the care and investment of the Home Front Command, of the National Emergency Authority, of all the bodies involved in the treatment of communities near the fence. This year, we raised 220 million shekels (61 million dollars) for the whole treatment, both in communities near the fence and in all public shelters and all educational and welfare institutions within a range of up to 9 kilometers from the border, and even up to 20 kilometers from the border."

"I would also like to thank the heads of the local authorities for the cooperation between the Unit for Settlement of the Ministry of Defense, the National Emergency Authority, Home Front Command, the Northern Command, the Chief of Staff, Regional Defense officers, the heads of the local authorities and the security officers. There is cooperation here which is rare and we are already seeing the results," he added.

According to the defense minister, "We intend to deal with all the elements: warning, escape routes, warning systems and, of course, shelters. In the second stage I will also get into treatment of the bomb shelters, and every home, practically speaking, every resident on the confrontation line and in communities near the fence must also have a bomb shelter and not just a public shelter.”

"When everyone knows you will know, and not a second earlier," Liberman replied to a question about the appointment of the next chief of staff. "Beyond that, if you have already mentioned it, what is important is to pay attention to all the changes across the border. I mean what is happening in Syria. We see various gatherings in different places, in Ankara, in Tehran, in Geneva, in other places as well, they are talking after the battle for Idlib on the redesign of Syria.”

"From the point of view of the State of Israel, with all due respect and esteem for all the agreements and all understandings - it is not binding for us. What binds us is solely the security interest of the State of Israel. All the other agreements they reach in all sorts of places simply are irrelevant as far as we’re concerned. We will be scrupulous to maintain all previous agreements and the security interests of Israel," he stressed.
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As Canada rushes to join NAFTA negotiations, and India and the United States prepare to discuss Iranian oil imports, oil prices were down slightly heading into the Labor Day weekend in the United States.

Some turbulence in markets is expected Friday as Canada approaches its deadline to join the trade deal, already negotiated between the United States and Mexico, which is intended to serve as a successor to the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"Markets would really, really like a deal," James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute told CNBC. "They would quit trying to play scenarios about withdrawing and what that would mean. They want that certainty."

Canada's Federal Court of Appeal ruled against the government's approval of an expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline on Thursday. The plan, which could bring 590,000 barrels per day to market, was rejected, the court said, because the National Energy Board's environmental assessment of the project was flawed. The expansion is already behind schedule, and the latest delay could push the completion target date to 2021.

The court sent the case back to the government for more environmental reviews. The NEB said the ruling nullifies its certification of the expansion, adding that it is taking measures to safely shut down the project.

"We remain committed to building this project in consideration of communities and the environment, with meaningful consultation with indigenous peoples and for the benefit of Canadians," an NEB statement said.

The average retail price of regular gasoline in the United States prior to the Labor Day weekend is the highest this year since 2014.

The average U.S. price on Aug. 27, the Monday before the holiday, was $2.83 per gallon, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said on Friday. The price was $3.45 per gallon on the same day in 2014. The difference is an $18 per barrel increase in crude oil between then and today.

Crude Oil Futures were at was at $77.49 per barrel as of 11:30 EDT, down 0.36 percent. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, was at $69.97 per barrel at the same time, down 0.40 percent.

The market drop coincides with strong gasoline demand in the United States. U.S. Federal Highway Administration data indicate that the cumulative miles driven in the United States through the first half of 2018 increased by 5.2 billion miles, or 0.3 percent, from the same period in 2017. The EIA said Friday that the price of gasoline peaked in May and will likely remain flat through the fourth quarter of the year.

Talks in New Delhi next week between India and the United States will likely include discussion of India's plan to continue importing some Iranian crude oil after U.S. sanctions resume in November. India is one of Tehran's best oil customers, and its import goals will be a factor in determining the amount of decline in Iranian exports when the sanctions begin.

"We have been discussing regularly with India issues related to both Iran and [U.S. sanctions against Russia] and are looking, as with other partners, to identify ways to cooperate to support our policy goals with regard to both those issues," a senior State Department official said on Thursday.

The State Department has not said if India sought or obtained a waiver to the sanctions in exchange for a reduction in Iranian oil it buys.

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Serena Williams defeated sister Venus Williams in straight sets on Friday in New York, advancing into the round of 16 at the 2018 U.S. Open.

"It feels good for the match to be over with," Serena told reporters. "Win or lose, it just feels that that's done."

Serena won the 1:12 match 6-1, 6-2 in Arthur Ashe Stadium at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. She battles Kaia Kanepi on Sunday in the fourth round of the tournament.
By Alex Butler

"I think it's the best match she has ever played against me," Venus said. "I don't think I did a lot wrong, but she just did everything right. Obviously at that level is definitely where she is going to want to stay during this whole tournament."

No. 7 Elina Svitolina also beat Wang Qiang in straight sets. No. 3 Sloane Stephens beat Victoria Azarenka 6-3, 6-4 and No. 8 Karolina Pliskova eliminated Sofia Kenin.

On the men's side, No. 1 Rafael Nadal outlasted No. 27 Karen Khachanov. No. 5 Kevin Anderson also won his marathon match against No. 28 Denis Shapovalov. No. 9 Dominic Thiem beat Taylor Fritz. No. 11 John Isner beat Dusan Lajovic.

No. 3 Juan Martin del Porto wrapped up the night beat beating Fernando Verdasco at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Kanepi seeks to beat Williams after upsetting world No. 1 Simona Halep in the first round. She has yet to drop a set at the Grand Slam.
 
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People who've had a stroke face up to twice the normal risk of dementia, a new review suggests.

In what they say is the largest analysis of its kind, British researchers examined 48 studies that included 3.2 million people worldwide.

"We found that a history of stroke increases dementia risk by around 70 percent, and recent strokes more than doubled the risk," said researcher Ilianna Lourida, from the University of Exeter Medical School.

"Given how common both stroke and dementia are, this strong link is an important finding," Lourida added in a university news release. "Improvements in stroke prevention and post-stroke care may therefore play a key role in dementia prevention."

The association between stroke and increased dementia risk remained even after other dementia risk factors such as blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease were taken into account, the researchers said.

Though the study did not prove that strokes cause dementia, this is the strongest evidence to date of a link between the two, according to the researchers.

Researcher David Llewellyn, also from the University of Exeter, said, "Around a third of dementia cases are thought to be potentially preventable, though this estimate does not take into account the risk associated with stroke.

"Our findings indicate that this figure could be even higher, and reinforce the importance of protecting the blood supply to the brain when attempting to reduce the global burden of dementia," he said.

More study is needed to find out if factors such as ethnicity and education influence dementia risk following stroke, the study authors added. In the latest review, there was some suggestion that the risk might be higher for men.

The investigators also noted that most stroke survivors do not develop dementia, so further research is needed to determine whether differences in post-stroke care and lifestyle can reduce the risk of dementia.

About 15 million people worldwide have a stroke each year, according to the World Health Organization. About 50 million people worldwide have dementia, and that's expected to almost double every 20 years, reaching 131 million by 2050.

The findings were published Aug. 31 in Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association.
More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more on dementia.

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Scientists have found a genetic marker for aggressive prostate cancer, which ultimately could lead to a better way to detect the disease.

The genetic mutation is responsible for high risk of the aggressive form of cancer, according to researchers at the University of Turku in Finland, who published their findings Wednesday in the International Journal of Cancer.

No test currently exists to diagnose aggressive prostate cancer at an early stage. Prostate cancer, the most common malignancy among men in the United States, will affect approximately 11.6 percent of men during their lifetime, according the National Cancer Institute.

For the aggressive prostate cancer, the 10-year survival rate for men is 26 percent, according to The Prostate Center in England.

Researchers studied DNA from 1,769 prostate cancer patients and 1,711 healthy men. Their previous research had suggested there could be links to the mutated ANO7 gene.

"We found that small genetic changes to the ANO7 gene increase a patient's risk of aggressive prostate cancer," lead author Dr. Johanna Schleutker, of the Institute of Biomedicine of the University of Turku, said in a press release.

Mutations to ANO7 were associated with the gene being more active and this suggests its biological function may be an important role in why these cancers are more aggressive, the researchers said.

But, they say, the function of ANO7 is not fully understood and requires further research.
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Former sprint king Bolt turned out for Central Coast Mariners in a pre-season friendly.

Usain Bolt, Jamaica's sprinter turned footballer, has made his first appearance as a professional footballer in a pre-season friendly in Australia.

Bolt, who has been trialling with Australia's A-League club Central Coast Mariners since last week, debuted against an amateur side at the club's stadium in Gosford, 80km north of Sydney, in front of more than 12,000 people.

Bolt took on the field with a smile in the 71st minute, wearing jersey number 95, after the crowd chanted "We want Bolt".

The Mariners had already scored six goals by the time Bolt came on as a left winger.

Bolt has been training with the club for an "indefinite training period" and the 32-year-old admitted earlier this week he was struggling with the physical demands of professional football.

"I know I'm not going to have a perfect game," the eight-time Olympic gold medallist and 11-time world champion said on Tuesday.

Coach Mike Mulvey has said Bolt has "rudimentary skills" and was "doing ok" but would take some time "to adjust".

The 100 and 200-metre world record holder Bolt ended his running career last year and has been trying to start a new career as a professional footballer, trialling with German, Norwegian and South African teams.

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Rodrigo Duterte has been condemned by women's rights groups after the Philippine president joked about the number of rape case in the southern city of Davao.

At a public event on Thursday, Duterte suggested that the high number of rape cases recorded in Davao was due to the 'many beautiful women' in his home city.

"They say there are many rape cases in Davao," Duterte said at the event in Cebu. "Well, for as long as there are many beautiful women, there will be many rape cases, too."

But the president's comments would "help normalize rape" and threaten the status of women in the country, according to a Filipino women's rights activist Elizabeth Angsioco.

"Duterte seems to hate women so much that he comes up with statements that help normalize rape," Angiosco told Al Jazeera on Friday. "This is unacceptable. Not from anyone, especially not from the highest official of the land.

"Not only does he advance the idea that rape normally happens to beautiful women, he makes men believe that it is ok to rape.

"For decades, Filipino feminists have worked for women's rights to be respected, recognized and enshrined in our laws. We've had some success with the progressive pro-women laws. Duterte is destroying all our gains and that pushes us back to the dark ages."

Throughout his presidency, Duterte has come out with crude and misogynistic content in his speeches.

In July 2017, Duterte suggested that he thought it would be acceptable for someone to rape the winner of Miss Universe, an international beauty pageant.

Earlier that year, while addressing a group of soldiers, he joked that men would be allowed to rape three women without punishment.

In a statement issued on Friday, Gabriela, a Philippines women's rights network, stressed that rape was a crime punishable under Filipino law.

"Yet again, President Duterte sends a very dangerous and distorted message in his latest rape remark, that a woman's beauty is a cause of rape," the organisation said in a statement.

"He toys with Davao pride and misogyny to gloss over a very important detail that women in his hometown of Davao City suffered the most number of rape cases in the country.

"This latest theatric only confirms one thing: President Duterte is proud to have rolled back whatever gains and legal mechanisms that have been instituted for women's rights in Davao City."

Duterte's spokesman, Harry Roque, however, defended the president saying, "I don't think we should give to much weight on what the president says by way of a joke".

Roque said that people from southern Philippines, where Duterte hails, have "more liberal" standard of what is offensive and not offensive.
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Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reiterated his country's need for the highly advanced Russian S-400 missile system, a planned purchase the US opposes.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony for military officers, the Turkish leader said Ankara would try to procure the missile system as soon as possible.

The S-400, touted by experts to be one of the most advanced systems in the world, can engage multiple aerial targets within a 400 kilometre range.

NATO circles view Turkey's intended purchase of the Russian-made equipment with suspicion, as it is believed to be incompatible with the systems used by the alliance.

Earlier this month, Russia said the S-400 missiles would be delivered to Turkey in 2019.

US military officials and politicians have expressed concerns over Turkey's intention to buy the Russian system, and the purchase comes amid a growing rift between Turkey and its NATO allies.

The US imposed sanctions against Turkey earlier this month in an effort to force the release of a US pastor who Ankara claims is linked to plotters of a failed 2016 military coup.

Turkey, which has until now relied on Patriot batteries from NATO for its air defence, has been looking to procure its own system for years.

In 2012, Ankara requested air defence support against threats posed by missiles from neighbouring Syria.

Responding to the request, several NATO allies contributed missile batteries to augment Turkey's air defence. But the vast majority were withdrawn in 2015, despite Ankara's concerns over the security of its border.

Turkey is not the only country buying the state-of-the-art S-400 from Russia.

On Thursday, the US said it might consider sanctions against India if it purchases the missile defence system.

Washington has warned that any country engaging in defence or intelligence sharing with Russia could be subject to sanctions.

Countries such as China, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have also bought or are planning to buy the S-400.
F-35 fighter jets

At the same event, Erdogan said Turkey also needs F-35 stealth fighter jets, which will be bought from the US.

However, after relations between the US and Turkey worsened, Erdogan said that Ankara would look at other vendors, if the US delayed delivery.

In 2014, Ankara placed a buy order of about 100 jets to replace its current F-4 and F-16 fleet.

Several US legislators have objected to the planned sale over concerns including Turkey's plans to buy the S-400.
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Fishermen in Hodeidah reportedly targeted by Saudi-UAE air raid

An air raid by a Saudi Arabia-UAE coalition battling Houthis rebels in Yemen has killed fishermen off an island in the war-torn country's Hodeidah province, according to media linked to the rebel movement.

In a statement carried by the Houthi-run Saba news agency on Friday, the ministry of fisheries blamed the Saudi-UAE military for targeting "a gathering of fishermen near the island of Ugban" on Thursday.

The strike "resulted in fishermen being killed and the destruction of three fishing boats, as well as preventing paramedics from approaching the area", the statement added, without offering a figure for the death toll.

Al Jazeera's Alan Fisher, reporting from neighbouring Djibouti, said it was difficult to verify the reports of the attack and the casualty numbers because of the location of the alleged incident. Ugban island is located off the coast of Houthi-held Hodeidah, a strategic Red Sea port city that is the target of a Saudi-UAE-backed offensive.

"Three fishing vessels, according to reports, were setting out to do their normal job when they were targeted by the Saudi-led coalition and were sunk," he said.

"Initial reports suggest that about 70 fishermen are missing. That figure has now been amended by Houthi media to 19.

"No one can get to the location to verify the number and the exact details of the incident."

The reports of the attack came a day after a US Navy destroyer seized more than 1,000 AK-47 rifles from a "stateless" skiff in international waters off the coast of Yemen believed to be part of an illicit weapons shipment to the war-torn country, according to ABC news.

In an attack on a fish market in Hodeidah earlier this month, 28 people were killed and more than 30 were injured.

A team of UN-mandated investigators said earlier this week they had "reasonable grounds to believe that the parties to the armed conflict in Yemen have committed a substantial number of violations of international humanitarian law".

The damning report blamed the Houthis and the Saudi-UAE coalition for the violence in Yemen but said air attacks by the military coalition had caused the most direct civilian casualties in the war.

It added that a blockade of Yemeni ports and airspace may have violated international humanitarian law.

A US official called for an investigation into attacks by the Saudi-UAE coalition in Yemen and for perpetrators to be held accountable.

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The government of Nicaragua's embattled President Daniel Ortega has ordered the expulsion of a United Nations human rights team, rights groups have said.

The move on Friday came two days after the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights published a critical report blaming the government for the violent repression of opposition protests.

The UN report described repression that stretched from the streets to courtrooms, where some protesters face terrorism charges.

It demanded urgent action and criticised authorities over their heavy-handed response to anti-government protests during months of turmoil that have left hundreds of people dead, according to rights groups.

"The Nicaraguan government has expelled the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in retaliation for their damning report on the bloodbath in Nicaragua," Jose Miguel Vivanco, the executive director for the Americas division at Human Rights Watch, tweeted in English and Spanish on Friday.

In a press conference on Friday, Vilma Nunez, president of Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH), said the expulsion reflected "the spirit of someone who feels completely lost and can no longer hide his responsibilities and hide from the truth", in a clear reference to Ortega.

Nicaragua's turmoil was triggered on April 18 when relatively small protests against now-scrapped social security reforms were met with a government crackdown, backed by armed paramilitaries.

The UN denounced a wide range of serious violations, including disproportionate use of force by police, which in some cases resulted in extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention and torture.

"The violence and impunity of these past four months have exposed the fragility of the country's institutions and the rule of law," UN rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein warned in a statement, describing a "climate of fear and mistrust."

Ortega refuted the claims and described the UN as "an instrument of the policies of terror, lies and infamy." He has rejected calls to hold early elections and resign.

The UN Security Council is expected to discuss the situation in Nicaragua in early September

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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has pledged its "full support" for Argentina as the country seeks to overcome an ongoing economic crisis that has prompted a world-record interest rate hike and seen the value of the peso plunge to a record low against the dollar.

An IMF delegation will meet with Argentine officials on Tuesday to agree on a "revised economic plan" following President Mauricio Macri's request this week for an early release of funds from a $50bn bailout package agreed to in June.

"We are confident that the strong commitment and determination of the Argentine authorities will help the country overcome the current difficulties," Gerry Rice, the IMF's chief spokesperson, said in a statement on Friday.

His comments came a day after students and university professors rallied in the capital, Buenos Aires, to protest against austerity measures - including education budget cuts - tied to the IMF package.

Many Argentines are wary of the body after its perceived role in the country's worst ever financial crisis, during 2001-2002, which left one out of every five people unemployed and thrust millions into poverty.

In May, a survey of more than 1,000 people by Argentine pollsters D'Alessio Irol/Berensztein revealed that 75 percent of respondents felt seeking assistance from the Washington, DC-based IMF was problematic.

On Friday morning, the peso rallied slightly after a disastrous Thursday which saw it drop by 13.5 percent against the dollar by the time markets closed, marking a 53 percent loss in value since the beginning of the year.

In a bid to arrest the decline, Argentina's Central Bank has raised the country's interest rate from 45 to 60 percent - the world's highest.

The government is expected to announce further economic measures at the beginning of next week.
'Political blowback'

The economic crisis, which worsened after Macri said on Wednesday he had reached a deal with the IMF for accelerated payouts, has spooked investors and prompted public protests.

The General Confederation of Labour, the country's largest labour union, has called for general strikes in late September over the government's economic policies.

Argentina has agreed with the IMF to cut its fiscal deficit to 1.3 percent of gross domestic product by 2019, down from 3.9 percent last year, resulting in cutbacks including slashed energy subsidies and the freezing of some government salaries.

Fiona Mackie, the Economist Intelligence Unit's regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, warned the country's attempt at a "rapid" economic adjustment could prove "painful".

"Recession could be deep, and political risk will spike amid dwindling confidence at home," she said in a Twitter post on Thursday.

The economic problems and Macri's alignment with the IMF have cast doubt over his chances of re-election in next year's polls.

Monica de Bolle, a senior fellow at the US-based Peterson Institute for International Economics, questioned on Thursday whether there will be a "big political blowback" during the vote with "risks on the rise" ahead of the ballot in October 2019.

Macri's Chief Cabinet Minister Marcos Pena, meanwhile, said on Thursday that Argentina was "not facing economic failure".

"This is a transformation, not failure. In that transformation there are difficult moments," Pena told a Council of the Americas meeting in the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires.

Argentina, Latin America's third-largest economy, currently has an unemployment rate of about nine percent.

According to the World Bank, more than 28 percent of its some 43 million people live in poverty.

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Aretha Louise Franklin, a US music icon who died earlier in August at the age of 76, has been given a star-studded, six-hour funeral in her hometown Detroit in the state of Michigan.

Political dignitaries and music royalty joined the family, friends and thousands of the members of the public on Friday to bid goodbye to the singer dubbed the Queen of Soul, known for her singular, soaring voice.

The funeral service, a celebration of Franklin's life and legacy, featured emotional tributes by high-profile politicians and civil rights leaders.

Remembering Franklin’s "breathtaking talent", Bill Clinton called her "the voice of the century".

"We started out, not as a president, a first lady, a senator, a secretary of state. We started out as, like, Aretha groupies or something," added the former president, who was accompanied by his wife and former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.
Clinton plays Franklin's song on his phone while speaking at the funeral [Mike Segar/Reuters]

Clinton also said he was happy that Franklin's coffin was still open when he arrived because he just had to see what she was wearing.

"I wonder what my friend has got on today. I wanted to see what the girl was carrying out," Clinton said, to a wave of laughs and claps from the crowd.

For three days, Frankin lay in a golden, open-coffin, dressed in a different outfit each day - red on Tuesday, blue on Wednesday, rose gold on Thursday - and a golden sparkling dress for her funeral on Friday.

Clinton ended his address by playing Franklin's mega-hit Think on his phone into the mic. "It's the key to freedom," he said.
'Soundtrack to civil rights movement'

Others who attended the funeral included civil rights leaders Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and singers such as Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson.

Sharpton called Franklin's music "the soundtrack to the civil rights movement".

Sharpton also read a statement from former president Barack Obama, who wrote that Franklin's "work reflected the very best of the American story". Another statement from George W Bush, another former president, said she would continue to inspire future generations.

Sharpton received loud cheers when he criticised President Donald Trump for saying that the singer "worked for" him in a statement after her death.

"She performed for you," Sharpton said of Franklin, who had sung at Trump-owned venues. "She worked for us."

Having sung at the inaugurations of three presidents - Jimmy Carter, Clinton and Obama - Franklin was considered an American institution. In 2005, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Star-studded tribute

The Detroit church swelled with gospel music for the funeral, driving mourners to their feet to clap and sing. "Come on, this is a church service, lift your voice!" Bishop Charles Ellis III exhorted the congregation.

After Bible readings, Faith Hill sang the old standard What a Friend We Have in Jesus, which Franklin included on her 1972 live album Amazing Grace. Ariana Grande sang one of Franklin's biggest hits, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.

Al Jazeera's John Hendren, reporting from Detroit, said that 1000 "lucky" locals were initially allowed by the Franklin family to attend the funeral, but the invitation-only event was opened for the general public at the last moment.

"It was probably the biggest funeral of the year in this part of the US," Hendren said.
Franklin was Detroit royalty

Programme covers showed a young Franklin, with a slight smile and sunglasses perched on her nose, with the caption saying: "A Celebration Fit For The Queen".

Detroit regarded Franklin as royalty.
Detroit residents wait to attend Aretha Franklin's funeral [Tony Dejak/AP]

"This is as close you get to royalty here in America and Aretha earned every bit of it," Missy Settlers, a 53-year-old automotive parts assembler, told Reuters news agency.

On Thursday, more than 30 artists performed for thousands at a free concert, billed A People's Tribute to the Queen, at Detroit's Chain Park, which is likely to be renamed Aretha Franklin Park.

Franklin died of pancreatic cancer on August 16, closing the curtain on a glittering six-decade career that spanned gospel, R&B, jazz, blues and even classical music, and turned her into a natural resource in Michigan, where she stayed all her life.

Franklin had influenced generations of female singers from the late Whitney Houston to Beyonce, with unforgettable hits including "Respect" (1967), "Natural Woman" (1968) and "I Say a Little Prayer" (1968).

Born in 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee, Franklin went on to win 18 Grammy awards and was voted the greatest singer of all time by Rolling Stone magazine.

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Imelda Staunton, Stephen Campbell Moore, Simon Jones, David Haig and Tuppence Middleton have been added to the ensemble of the Downton Abbey movie, the film's production companies said.

Variety.com reported Kate Phillips and Geraldine James will also appear in the film follow-up to the early 20th century-set, British costume drama, which wrapped in 2015 after six seasons.

Abbey icons Michelle Dockery, Elizabeth McGovern, Maggie Smith, Joanne Froggatt, Jim Carter, Allen Leech and Hugh Bonneville have all signed on to reprise their roles in the sequel.

Series creator Julian Fellowes wrote the film's screenplay and is producing the project.

"We are excited that photography is about to start on the long-awaited film and that the beloved main characters will be joined by such exceptional actors playing new roles unique to the movie," said Gareth Neame, Carnival Films' executive chairman, Thursday.

Collider.com reported Brian Percival was originally announced as the movie's director, but he has since been replaced by Michael Engler. No reason was given for Percival's move from director to executive producer.

Staunton has connections to several of the cast members. She is married to Carter, her Shakespeare in Love and Cranford co-star; acted in the Harry Potter franchise with Smith; and in the Paddington movies with Bonneville.

The Downton Abbey film was announced in July.
https://www.geezgo.com/sps/37316

A blast at a cafe in eastern Ukraine killed a Russian-backed separatist leader Friday, local officials said.

The explosion in Donetsk killed Alexander Zakharchenko, 42, who referred to himself prime minister of the so-called Donetsk People's Republic, a largely unrecognized breakaway state supported by Russia. Also identified as the DPR, the republic is designated as a terror group by Ukraine.

A Donetsk news agency run by the DNR said its finance minister, Alexander Timofeev, was injured in the explosion.

Security forces arrested Ukrainians suspected of causing the blast. Russia's foreign ministry accused the Ukrainian government of being behind the attack.

"Several Ukrainian saboteurs and people connected to them have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the assassination of the republic's leader," a security source told Russian state-run news agency Interfax.

Ukrainian security service chief Igor Guskov denied Ukraine was involved, blaming the blast instead on potential separatist infighting or Russian special forces.

Zakharchenko is the latest in a number of DPR leaders to die by violence since its creation. In October 2016, a pro-rebel Russian commander, Arsen "Motorola" Pavlov died in a bomb blast in his apartment building.

Zakharchenko called the killing of Pavlov "terrorism" and added, "As I understand it, [Ukrainian President] Petro Poroshenko has violated the cease-fire and declared war on us."

And in February 2017, a bomb exploded in the office of military commander Mikhail "Givi" Tolstykh, killing the 36-year-old.

Separatists seized parts of eastern Ukraine after an uprising in 2014. Despite a cease-fire between the separatists and Ukrainian forces, skirmishes have broken out in recent months.

https://www.geezgo.com/sps/37315

Iran “cannot avoid” talks on issues like its ballistic missile program and role in Middle East conflicts, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned on Thursday.

“Iran must respect the fundamentals of the JCPOA (nuclear deal) and I think that is the case, but Iran cannot avoid discussions, negotiations on three other major subjects that worry us,” Le Drian said as he arrived for a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Vienna, according to Arab News.

France is one of the signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal, along with Germany, Britain, Russia and China. The United States was a signatory to the deal as well, but President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal in May, and recently signed an executive order officially reinstating U.S. sanctions against Iran.

The European signatories to the deal did not agree with Trump’s decision to leave the deal and have been trying to save the accord, which they see as crucial to forestalling an Iranian nuclear weapon.

Tehran has demanded that Europe come up with an economic package to offset the effects of the U.S. withdrawal but so far has found Europe’s proposals to be unsatisfactory.

While France has made clear there is no “plan B” for the Iran nuclear deal, it has also expressed concerns over Iran’s ballistic missile program and has suggested that Iran could be sanctioned over it.

Le Drian’s comments came as the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that Iran is complying with the 2015 agreement.

Later, however, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stressed that honoring the 2015 deal is not Iran’s only option.
https://www.geezgo.com/sps/37314

Hear: How Abbas changed the biblical Canaanites into Palestinians who lived in this land 5000 years ago and continually remained there. That would be even before their claimed ancestor Abraham !

And: The sham tactics and fake stories to discredit President Trump.

Also: Walter is fascinated by the stories of what Jerusalem means to the famous who contributed their stories to a just published picture and text volume called "My Jerusalem", and what its editor has to say about it.

Plus: The US's final realization that for years UNWRA 'conned' them for money.

And: The land of Israel according to McDonald's burger company.
https://www.geezgo.com/sps/37312

Two lawsuits filed against an Israeli-based company allege that the United Arab Emirates used an Israeli spyware to track Qatari royals, the New York Times reported on Friday.

The lawsuits filed against the NSO Group, in Israel and in Cyprus, say the software, named Pegasus, was originally used to spy on political agitators locally and overseas through their mobile phones.

The report said that after being proposed an upgrade for the technology, Emirati officials inquired if they could use the spyware to tap figures like the emir of Qatar, a Saudi prince in charge of the kingdom's national guard, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and the editor of an Arab newspaper based in the UK.

Four days later, according to The New York Times, NSO sent back an email which included two recordings of calls made by Abdulaziz Alkhamis, the newspaper editor. Alkhamis confirmed to the newspaper he made the calls and said he did not know he was being recorded.

The lawsuits were filed by a Qatari citizen and a group of journalists and human rights activists from Mexico, who were hacked by NSO's technology.

The UAE does not officially recognize Israel, but leaked emails submitted in the lawsuits show it signed a contract to license Pegasus as early as August 2013.

The lawsuits note that the NSO Group and its affiliates could have sold the software to the UAE only with approval by the Israeli Defense Ministry.

The NSO group declined to comment until it could review the lawsuits. The Emirati Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.

Tensions between the UAE and Qatar reached a boiling point in 2013 over a struggle for power in Egypt. Qatar had allied itself with the Muslim Brotherhood, which won the elections held after the Arab Spring. The UAE backed the military takeover that cast the Islamists into prison.

Last year, the UAE was accused of orchestrating the hacking of Qatari government news and social media sites in order to post incendiary false quotes attributed to Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani.

It widely believed that comments published by the Qatar News Agency attributed to the Qatari emir were one of the factors that led to the decision of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain to cut off ties with Qatar last July.

In those comments, al-Thani allegedly described Iran as an "Islamic power", criticized U.S. President Donald Trump's policy towards Tehran and claimed his country’s relations with Israel were good.

Qatar immediately dismissed those comments and said the website of its news agency was hacked.

While the UAE and Israel do not have official relations, in 2015 an Israeli diplomatic mission was opened in Abu Dhabi. Emirati officials stressed at the time, however, that the move does not represent a change in policy regarding UAE-Israeli relations.

Despite the growing ties, animosity towards Israel remains visible in the UAE, as was seen last year when Israeli judokas were forced to compete in Abu Dhabi without any Israeli flags or identification of where they hail from.
https://www.geezgo.com/sps/37311

A supporter of the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group who plotted to kill British Prime Minister Theresa May was sentenced on Friday to at least 30 years in prison, The Associated Press reported.

Naa'imur Zakariyah Rahman was convicted last month of planning to bomb the entry gates to the prime minister's residence at 10 Downing Street and then attack May with a knife or gun when she emerged.

The 21-year-old was arrested in November after collecting a backpack he believed was stuffed with explosives. He thought he was getting it from ISIS adherents, but in fact had been talking to undercover police.

Rahman said he planned to “take May’s head off” and wanted to make “big news” by storming 10 Downing Street as May talked to the press outside.

Judge Charles Haddon-Cave sentenced Rahman Friday to life with no chance of parole for 30 years. The judge said Rahman was "a very dangerous individual" and it was hard to predict whether he would ever be de-radicalized, according to AP.

Britain has suffered several terrorist attacks in recent years, including four deadly attacks last year that killed 36 people.

A year and a half ago, an attacker plowed a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing four people, then fatally stabbed a police officer before being shot dead in a courtyard outside Parliament.

The Westminster Bridge attack was followed by a suicide bombing at a pop concert in Manchester which killed 22.

Less than three months later, a van rammed into pedestrians on London Bridge before three men abandoned the vehicle and attacked weekend revelers in the nearby Borough Market. Eight people were killed and 48 injured.

Earlier this month, a 29-year-old British citizen originally from Sudan rammed his car into several people before crashing outside Britain's Parliament, injuring three.

https://www.geezgo.com/sps/37310

Palestinian Arabs riot along the Gaza border, throwing rocks, burning tires and grenades.
Elad Benari,

Violent protests by Palestinian Arabs along the Gaza border continued on Friday as they have been every Friday since March 30.

Thousands of Palestinian Arabs rioted in five locations along the border, throwing rocks and burning tires at soldiers and at the border fence. In one incident, a grenade was thrown at an IDF force. There were no injuries. The soldiers responded by using riot dispersal means.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said that 120 people were injured, including two in serious condition.

The Arabs also claimed that they had succeeded in downing an Israeli aircraft that fired tear gas canisters at demonstrators east of Rafah in southern Gaza.

The IDF confirmed that a rocket-propelled grenade launcher fell in southern Gaza, likely due to a technical malfunction. The IDF also said that there was no fear that any information had been leaked.
Arab demonstrator in Gaza
Reuters

As part of the weekly violence along the Gaza border. the Arabs have been using kites and balloons with explosives attached in order to set fire to Israeli property.

The thousands of balloons and kites carrying incendiary and makeshift explosive devices have sparked hundreds of fires and caused millions of dollars in property damage inside Israel.

The violent protests have been openly encouraged by Gaza’s Hamas terrorist rulers.

https://www.geezgo.com/sps/37309

Iranian FM Zarif slams 'bipolar demonization' of Iran, says it indicates 'cognitive disorder' on the part of the US.

Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Friday slammed the US "demonization" of Iran, claiming it indicates a "cognitive disorder."

"Bipolar demonization of Iran as either 'taking over MidEast' or 'fighting for survival' indicates US cognitive disorder & demagoguery unleashed by collapse of America's moral compass," Zarif tweeted.

"Iran has been and always will be a stable, powerful & responsible regional actor."

Over the past few months, Iran has moved several dozen ballistic missiles to Iraq. From there, the missiles are capable of targeting either Israel or Saudi Arabia.

On Thursday, newly-published satellite photos showed that Iran is constructing a missile factory in Syria, scheduled to be completed in early 2019.
 
https://www.geezgo.com/sps/37308

Palestinian reports claim explosives were thrown on IDF soldiers, no casualties were reported.

> Into the black smoke: Inside the 'Great March of Return'
> Residents of Gaza border communities fatigued by endless cycle of violence

The Palestinian March of Return protests took place on Friday with 7,500 Gaza residents reportedly demonstrating at various locations near the security fence.

The March of Return protests have been going on for 23 weeks.The Palestinian Ministry of Health reported that 120 Palestinian were wounded during the protests and 38 people required hospital care.

A terror balloon caused a fire in the region of Kibbutz Be'eri. Israeli fire fighting teams put out the fire with the help of Jewish National Fund Keren Kayemet teams. Two terror kites were reported as well.

Earlier in August, thousands of Israeli Gaza border communities residents protested in Tel Aviv against the ongoing tensions in the south of the country. Protesters carried signs claiming the right of a child near the Gaza border fence to safety is equal to that of a child in central Israel and called on the prime minister to "wake up" as the south is "on fire".

One protester reportedly cried out: "We're being used as cannon fodder!"


https://www.geezgo.com/sps/37306

The building from the late 19th century is one of the few remnants of the former Jewish Warsaw.
WARSAW, Poland – The city of Warsaw will allocate $41 million to give its Jewish theater a new home.

On Thursday, the Warsaw City Council approved the proposal by Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz to adapt a five-story tenement building. The building from the late 19th century is one of the few remnants of the former Jewish Warsaw. It is located on Prozna Street in the area of Grzybowski Square, where the original theater building was located before its demolition in 2017.The Warsaw Jewish Theater was closed in 2016, when the building’s owner decided to empty the building before authorizing its demolition. Its director and actors protested the decision.

Malgorzata Zakrzewska, a Warsaw City Council member, called the Jewish theater “one of the most important guardians of Jewish culture in Warsaw, and all over Poland.”

“It is our commitment, but also our responsibility for culture, which was a permanent element of the Warsaw landscape before the war,” Zakrzewska said Thursday at a news conference.

The $41 million will be used to hold an architectural competition and for design documentation in order to restore the splendor of the former Jewish tenement house. According to preliminary plans, there will be two stages along with facilities for the activities and promotion of Yiddish culture.

The city is waiting for conservation recommendations from the Provincial Conservator of Monuments, which will be the basis for the competition for architects.



The opening of the new theater is planned to take place in five years.

“The city authorities believed with us that this theater is an ambassador of Jewish culture,” theater director Gołda Tencer said at the news conference. “I promise that together with the actors, staff and administration, we will make something special here.”

https://www.geezgo.com/sps/37305

The singer claims she was unable to line up shows in both Israel and the Palestinian Authority and so canceled her upcoming Meteor Festival appearance.

American singer Lana del Rey stated on Friday on social media she will not be performing in Israel next week as she was unable to line up shows in the Palestinian Authority.

pic.twitter.com/Ii1kxFFxBL
— Lana Del Rey (@LanaDelRey) August 31, 2018

Claiming that it is important for her to treat her fans "equally" the singer stated she will wait until "a time when I can schedule visits for both my Israeli and Palestinian fans."



Singer-songwriter Elizabeth Woolridge Grant (Lana del Rey is a stage name) is one of the most beloved singers in the world today.

Responsible for such hits as “Summertime Sadness” and “Young and Beautiful”, del Rey is one of the most highly acclaimed singers today.

This is the second time del Rey has canceled a tour in Israel, with the first time being in 2014.

https://www.geezgo.com/sps/37304

Josh Shapiro made a name for himself nationally, compiling the extensive report on sex abuse in Pennsylvania’s Catholic churches.

The first days of November 2016 were a tense time for America, for Pennsylvania and for Josh Shapiro, a Democrat running for attorney general in a state that looked like it might go red.

Looking to succeed a corrupt member of his own party who had resigned in disgrace, Shapiro might have been expected to spend every second of the campaign’s final days trying to get out the vote.But on the Friday before Election Day, he was in a second-grade classroom at the Perelman Jewish Day School in suburban Philadelphia talking to the students about civics and supervising a mock election that pitted kazoos vs. rockets.

Five days later he narrowly won the attorney general race, even as the state went for Donald Trump, the Republican, for president.

This month, Shapiro made a name for himself nationally, compiling the extensive report on sex abuse in Pennsylvania’s Catholic churches. The 18-month investigation names at least 300 priests accused of child sex abuse, includes testimony by more than 1,000 victims, and accuses senior church officials in Pennsylvania and at the Vatican of a “systematic cover-up.” But even as the national and even global spotlight has swung his way, he’s at the Jewish day school all the time giving lectures or watching his kids play soccer and basketball. Friends and acquaintances of Shapiro say his success isn’t surprising, that he’s a straight shooter who has kept his feet on the ground even as his star has risen — and remains rooted in a Jewish community that helped shape his values and sense of service.



“For me, when you boil down all the teachings and all the rituals, fundamentally, Judaism is teaching that none of us is required to complete the task, but neither is any of us free to refrain from it,” he told the Philadelphia Jewish Voice in 2008. “It is really what guides me in my public service, and what that means, then, is that we don’t have a requirement on us to solve every problem, but we are also not permitted to sit on the sidelines and leave someone else do it for us.”

Shapiro has also stayed in touch with classmates from his own days at Jewish day school — some of whom have gone on to work under him or remain connected to his political career. He married his high school sweetheart, and two of his four children attend his alma mater in suburban Philadelphia, now named the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy.

“He has a fond sense of his past and his relationships,” said Jennifer Groen, a friend from childhood who is now a senior administrator at Barrack and saw him there this month.

“He cares very much about the people he grew up with,” she said. “Everything he’s doing now is a continuation of what he’s been.”

Shapiro, 45, has caused reverberations globally with the 900-page report on the Catholic Church. It has sparked calls for reform in the Pennsylvania church and beyond. Fallout from another sex scandal in the Catholic Church has even led to demands for the resignation of Pope Francis.

“I put the full force of our office into this investigation,” Shapiro told The New York Times on Monday. “The notion this is just something that happened a long time ago, and that we need to move on, is exactly the wrong response. Child rape is child rape, whether it happened in 1970 or it happens in 2018. There is no excuse for allowing it. And there is no excuse for covering it up.”

(Shapiro’s office said he was unable to speak with a JTA reporter before this week’s deadline.)

Shapiro had an early start in politics and activism. His mother was active in the movement to free Soviet Jewry, and he followed her lead, setting up a pen-pal program with Soviet Jewish teens when he was in the seventh grade. He was flown out to Cleveland to speak to the Jewish community about the cause.

In high school at what was then the Akiba Hebrew Academy, Shapiro also took a leading role in the mock 1988 Democratic convention and was active in Students Against Drunk Driving. His one political setback as a teen — the only election he ever lost — was as Akiba’s student president. (The winner, who campaigned on bringing an ice cream machine to school, was Ami Eden, the CEO of 70 Faces Media, JTA’s parent company.)

“He’s honest, he’s genuine, he’s smart, he’s competent, he’s all the things you wanted to see in a student leader — which he was — and even more in this day and age we want to see in the leadership of government,” said Sharon Levin, now Barrack’s head of school, who had Shapiro as a student in three history classes.

She added that “Josh was an excellent basketball player — by Akiba standards.”

Shapiro may have understood how low those standards were when he tried out for the non-scholarship Division III team at the University of Rochester, only to be cut. Instead he ran for student government, serving as school president during his sophomore year. He would take various jobs on Capitol Hill while earning his law degree at Georgetown at night.

After moving back to the Philadelphia area, he was elected in 2004 to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, flipping the seat from red to blue. Against the backdrop of the state’s reputation for corrupt government, he campaigned on transparency, a moderate image and promises to pass legislation.

They have remained dominant themes throughout his career, down to the clean-cut image he presents. Shapiro’s parted hair, smooth face and rimless glasses looked so formal that Neil Oxman, his former political consultant, would call him a “bar mitzvah photo.”

“His inclination to always be around others and help others is a natural draw to see him move into the world of politics, from his first election for the statehouse back in 2004, when he wore through a number of pairs of shoes” knocking on constituents’ doors, said Shapiro’s younger brother, Adam.

Two years after his election, he engineered a coup, recruiting a moderate Republican to be the speaker of a statehouse with a slim but fractious Democratic majority. Shapiro took the newly created position of deputy speaker. From there he was elected commissioner of Montgomery County, in suburban Philadelphia, and then to the attorney general’s office.

“He was running on a platform of ‘I’m going to put the attorney general’s office back together again,’” said Dan Segal, chair of Philadelphia’s Jewish Community Relations Council. “What was important to the Democrats is that they won with the cleanest person. He’s just totally clean.”

Shapiro’s focus on fighting corruption may be why criticism of him appears relatively muted. Opponents in the primary and general elections for attorney general pointed to instances of him granting county contracts to companies shortly before or after receiving campaign donations from their executives.

“Josh Shapiro does not practice what he preaches. His rhetoric does not match his conduct,” said John Morganelli, a primary opponent in 2016, according to the Morning Call. “He runs around with ethics and integrity on his sleeve, but where is that same standard when it comes to his own conduct?”

Such allegations haven’t dogged him. And a lawyer for the Catholic officials named in the report on sex abuse told JTA that he had no comment on Shapiro’s personal conduct in the case but rather was focused on its content.

Shapiro has consistently taken liberal positions. In 2005, he publicly supported same-sex marriage. In the 2008 Democratic primary, he was an outspoken supporter of Barack Obama, defending the candidate from criticism over his relationship with the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright. He recently obtained an injunction in federal court to stop the 3-D printing of guns.

As attorney general, Shapiro has gone up against the president multiple times. He got an injunction against Trump’s order that birth control not be covered under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, as it is known. During the waves of bomb threats against Jewish centers last year, he attended a meeting with Trump and other attorney generals; it was Shapiro who told the media that Trump suggested the bomb threats were a false flag effort to “make others look bad.”

“I really don’t know what he means, and I don’t know why he said that,” Shapiro told a reporter at the time. (A Jewish Israeli man was arrested for making the majority of threats.)

“There’s a lot the president does that I disagree with, but I’m not some congressman that just opines all day about stuff,” he told The Times. “My job is to adhere to the rule of law and make sure the law is being followed.”

And in a climate where Democrats are becoming more critical of Israel, Shapiro is vocally supportive. Last year he spoke at a gala dinner for StandWithUs, a pro-Israel group that regularly defends Israel from criticism from the left. He spent part of his senior year of high school in the country with his class, and his daughter is doing the same thing now.

That history may be one reason why his friends in the Jewish community want to see his career keep advancing. Like nearly any politician, Shapiro has been coy about his ambitions. But if he does run for office — perhaps governor of Pennsylvania — there’s at least one constituency he can count on.

“I would love to see him as our next governor,” Levin said. “I would love to see him as the first Jewish president of the United States. … I and everyone else here would sign onto his campaign.”

https://www.geezgo.com/sps/37303

Ingredients

for 4 servings

1 cup sweet potato, diced (200 g)
1 cup red potato, diced (225 g)
1 cup red onion, chopped (150 g)
1 cup brussel sprout, quartered (100 g)
1 cup green beans, chopped (360 g)
1 cup carrot, chopped (120 g)
olive oil, to taste
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
½ tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
¼ cup dijon mustard (60 g)
¼ cup honey (85 g)
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 chicken thighs

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the sweet potato, red potato, red onion, Brussels sprouts, green beans, and carrots on the baking sheet in separate piles.
Drizzle everything with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, thyme, and rosemary. Rub the seasoning into the vegetables until evenly coated and spread flat on the baking sheet, keeping the vegetables separate. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the mustard, honey, garlic, salt, and pepper, and whisk until smooth. Set aside.
Place the chicken thighs skin-side down in a greased cast-iron skillet. Season with salt and pepper, then brush generously with the honey-mustard sauce. Flip the chicken thighs over and repeat, seasoning with salt and pepper, then brushing with the rest of the honey-mustard sauce.
Place the vegetables and the chicken in the oven on separate racks. Bake for 30 minutes or until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (75°C) . (Optional: Remove the vegetables once cooked and broil the chicken for 1-2 minutes, or until the skin crisps up.)
Let everything cool, then distribute into resealable containers, mixing up the combination of vegetables so that you get something a little different each day.
Cover and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
Enjoy!
https://www.geezgo.com/sps/37302

Business owners attending the fair included olive oil and honey producers, cheese makers, farmers and artists.
The escalation in violence on the Israel-Gaza Strip border caught the attention of the world's media in recent months, overwhelmingly drawn to powerful images of bloodshed and terror in fierce clashes along the border fence.

Beyond the camera crews focused on the border fence, however, lies a raft of small and medium-size businesses struggling to stay afloat as many Israelis have opted to stay away from Gaza border communities during the usually-busy summer period.Seeking to counter the loss of income suffered in recent months, more than 60 business owners from Gaza border communities gathered at Tel Aviv Port this week at the "Otef b'Kef" fair organized by the Ministry of Economy and Industry to boost the local economy and encourage residents of central and northern Israel to return to the region as calm is restored.

Miriam and Eli Sadeh, owners of Mavoch Miriam, a maze-like sensory experience of spices and shrubs in Nir Moshe, filled their stand with aromatic bags of leaves and herbs.

"Despite the calm, people are still not visiting our business. Residents of central Israel are hesitating to return because they perceive the current situation to be a form of 'nervous quiet'," Miriam told The Jerusalem Post, adding that the business she manages with her husband primarily offers guided tours to families, visiting groups and schools

"Those coming to stay in holiday accommodation in the area would also visit us. The moment that people decide not to holiday in the region, they also don't come to our business.

"We're living there, it's our choice," said Miriam. "We're bringing our products to central Israel, so the residents here can enjoy it."



Standing behind a table piled high with micro-brewery beers produced southern Israel, Hen Vaknin, owner of Pub Sderot, and his colleague Eran Ben-Gal said their business's success was primarily dependent on students. The pub, they said, fortunately avoided most loss of income as the majority of their regular customers were absent during the summer break anyway.

"We can't bring what we usually serve at the bar. Instead we have brought a range of beers from breweries in the area, from Kiryat Gat, Sderot and Beersheba," Vaknin told the Post.Although rounds of violence have the potential to harm business, Vaknin added that they can also have a uniting effect.

"It's sometimes the opposite, when there's a round of violence people want to be together. But sometimes you don't even see a dog walk by the bar."

Other business owners attending the fair included olive oil and honey producers, cheese makers, artists, and quad bike tour operators.

"The situation isn't good for us. We've come here to present ourselves to the public," said Gal Miles from Be'eri Dairy Farm, an award-winning cheese business located approximately seven kilometers from the Gaza Strip border.

Organizers are planning a second fair to support Gaza border community businesses on September 26 and 27 in Sderot.
https://www.geezgo.com/sps/37299

In Rouen, the Sublime House building was closed to the public in 2001 over fears that terrorists might target it or try to blow up the courthouse above it.

The French city of Rouen will celebrate with an international symposium its renovation and planned reopening to the public of Europe’s oldest known Jewish building.

Next week’s conference titled “Medieval Judaism between Normandy and England” is focused on the Sublime House, the seat of a 12th-century yeshiva in the city of Rouen, 70 miles northwest of Paris.The event coincides with the European Days of Jewish Culture series of events, taking place annually across the continent since 1999 on September.

The building, which was discovered accidentally in 1976, has undergone a massive restoration that cost more the $1 million and is set to reopen in October.




The conference, featuring some of the world’s greatest authorities on Medieval Jewry, will begin on September 4 at Paris’ Museum of Jewish Art and History and continue the following day at the Hôtel des Societes savants in Rouen.

This years’ theme of the European Days of Jewish Culture is storytelling. Dozens of synagogues in the 28 participating countries will throw open their doors to the general public, who will receive guided tours there and in Jewish cemeteries.



In Western Europe, these events on the first week of September are a rare opportunity for non-Jews to visit synagogues that are normally under heavy protection and where only worshipers are allowed to enter.

At Amsterdam’s Uilenburger Synagogue, storyteller Karel Baracs will revisit on September 2 the rescue of hundreds of Jewish children from the prison where they were kept by the Nazis. Johan van Hulst, a Protestant school principal who oversaw that operation, died this year at the age of 107.

In Rouen, the Sublime House building — whose floor space is 1,615 square feet and whose walls feature Hebrew inscriptions reading “May the Torah Reign forever” and “This house is sublime” — was closed to the public in 2001 over fears that terrorists might target it or try to blow up the courthouse above it, according to Tendance Ouest.

The site was reopened for visits in 2009, but humidity and poor ventilation weakened it, leading to its closure in 2015. The restoration project began last year.https://www.geezgo.com/sps/37298

German and British authorities have previously warned their citizens that Beijing is using LinkedIn to try to recruit them as spies
It is highly unusual for a senior US intelligence official to single out an American-owned company by name and publicly recommend it take action

WASHINGTON: The United States’ top spy catcher said Chinese espionage agencies are using fake LinkedIn accounts to try to recruit Americans with access to government and commercial secrets, and the company should shut them down.
William Evanina, the US counter-intelligence chief, told Reuters in an interview that intelligence and law enforcement officials have told LinkedIn, owned by Microsoft Corp., about China’s “super aggressive” efforts on the site.
He said the Chinese campaign includes contacting thousands of LinkedIn members at a time, but he declined to say how many fake accounts US intelligence had discovered, how many Americans may have been contacted and how much success China has had in the recruitment drive.
German and British authorities have previously warned their citizens that Beijing is using LinkedIn to try to recruit them as spies. But this is the first time a US official has publicly discussed the challenge in the United States and indicated it is a bigger problem than previously known.
Evanina said LinkedIn should look at copying the response of Twitter, Google and Facebook, which have all purged fake accounts allegedly linked to Iranian and Russian intelligence agencies.
“I recently saw that Twitter is canceling, I don’t know, millions of fake accounts, and our request would be maybe LinkedIn could go ahead and be part of that,” said Evanina, who heads the US National Counter-Intelligence and Security Center.
It is highly unusual for a senior US intelligence official to single out an American-owned company by name and publicly recommend it take action. LinkedIn boasts 562 million users in more than 200 counties and territories, including 149 million US members.
Evanina did not, however, say whether he was frustrated by LinkedIn’s response or whether he believes it has done enough.
LinkedIn’s head of trust and safety, Paul Rockwell, confirmed the company had been talking to US law enforcement agencies about Chinese espionage efforts. Earlier this month, LinkedIn said it had taken down “less than 40” fake accounts whose users were attempting to contact LinkedIn members associated with unidentified political organizations. Rockwell did not say whether those were Chinese accounts.
“We are doing everything we can to identify and stop this activity,” Rockwell told Reuters. “We’ve never waited for requests to act and actively identify bad actors and remove bad accounts using information we uncover and intelligence from a variety of sources including government agencies.”
Rockwell declined to provide numbers of fake accounts associated with Chinese intelligence agencies. He said the company takes “very prompt action to restrict accounts and mitigate and stop any essential damage that can happen” but gave no details.
LinkedIn “is a victim here,” Evanina said. “I think the cautionary tale ... is, ‘You are going to be like Facebook. Do you want to be where Facebook was this past spring with congressional testimony, right?’” he said, referring to lawmakers’ questioning of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Russia’s use of Facebook to meddle in the 2016 US elections.
China’s foreign ministry disputed Evanina’s allegations.
“We do not know what evidence the relevant US officials you cite have to reach this conclusion. What they say is complete nonsense and has ulterior motives,” the ministry said in a statement.
https://www.geezgo.com/sps/37297

SYDNEY: A robot submarine able to hunt and kill the predatory crown-of-thorns starfish devastating the Great Barrier Reef was unveiled by Australian researchers on Friday.
Scientists at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) said the robot, named the RangerBot and developed with a grant from Google, would serve as a "robo reef protector" for the vast World Heritage site off Australia's northeastern coast.
The RangerBot has an eight-hour battery life and computer vision capabilities allowing it to monitor and map reef areas at scales not previously possible.
"RangerBot is the world's first underwater robotic system designed specifically for coral reef environments, using only robot-vision for real-time navigation, obstacle avoidance and complex science missions," said Matthew Dunbabin, the QUT professor who unveiled the submarine.
"This multi-function ocean drone can monitor a wide range of issues facing coral reefs including coral bleaching, water quality, pest species, pollution and siltation."
Software will also enable the bot to detect crown-of-thorns starfish, which eat coral, and "instigate an injection which is fatal" to the predators, he said, adding that the injection is harmless for other reef creatures.
The starfish have proliferated in recent times due to pollution and agricultural runoff.
The Great Barrier Reef, about the size of Japan or Italy, is reeling from two straight years of bleaching as sea temperatures rise because of climate change.
Experts have warned that the 2,300-kilometre (1,400-mile) long area could have suffered irreparable damage due to the combined effects of bleaching, damage from agricultural runoff and the impact of the crown-of-thorns starfish.
https://www.geezgo.com/sps/37296

URAYASU, Japan: The reception at the Henn na Hotel east of Tokyo is eerily quiet until customers approach the robot dinosaurs manning the front desk. Their sensors detect the motion and they bellow “Welcome.”
It might be about the weirdest check-in experience possible, but that’s exactly the point at the Henn na (whose name means ‘weird&rsquo chain, which bills itself as offering the world’s first hotels staffed by robots.
The front desk staff are a pair of giant dinosaurs that look like cast members of the Jurassic Park movies, except for the tiny bellboy hats perched on their heads.
The robo-dinos process check-ins through a tablet system that also allows customers to choose which language — Japanese, English, Chinese or Korean — they want to use to communicate with the multilingual robots.
The effect is bizarre, with the large dinosaurs gesticulating with their long arms and issuing tinny set phrases. Yukio Nagai, manager at the Henn na Hotel Maihama Tokyo Bay, admits some customers find it slightly unnerving.
“We haven’t quite figured out when exactly the guests want to be served by people, and when it’s okay to be served by robots,” he told AFP.
But for other guests the novelty is the charm: each room is staffed with mini-robots that look a bit like spherical Star Wars droid BB-8, and help guests with everything from changing channels to playing music.
Even the fish swimming in the lobby run on batteries, with electric lights in their articulated bodies flickering on and off as they work their way around giant tanks.
“The dinosaurs looked intriguing, and I thought my son would love it,” said Chigusa Hosoi, who was at the hotel with her three-year-old.
“My son is really happy. There’s an egg-shaped robot inside the room. He was playing with it a lot.”
The first Henn na Hotel opened in Nagasaki in 2015, and was certified the following year by Guinness World Records as the world’s first hotel with robots on its staff.
The travel agency group that operates the chain now runs eight hotels across the country, all with robots on the staff, some of them dinosaurs, but others taking a more humanoid shape.
Some humans are also on call to intervene in case of glitches, which customer reviews online suggest are a not infrequent problem at check-in.
But Nagai said relying on robots for everything from front desk duty to cleaning had proved an efficient choice in a country with a shrinking labor market.
“It’s becoming difficult to secure enough labor at hotels. To solve that problem, we have robots serving guests.”
https://www.geezgo.com/sps/37295

Marquez became uncooperative, appeared unable to care for herself and seemed to have mental health issues

LOS ANGELES: An actress who appeared on the hit TV medical drama “ER” and starred in the film “Stand and Deliver” was fatally shot by police officers in Southern California after they say she pointed a replica handgun at them.
Vanessa Marquez, who gained attention last year when she said George Clooney helped blacklist her from Hollywood, died at a hospital following Thursday’s shooting at her apartment in South Pasadena, just outside Los Angeles.
South Pasadena police officers were responding to a call from Marquez’s landlord that she needed medical help when they found her having a seizure, Lt. Joe Mendoza with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said Friday.
Paramedics treated Marquez, 49, who improved and began talking with three officers and a mental health clinician who spent an hour and a half trying to talk her into getting additional medical help, both physical and mental, Mendoza said.
Marquez became uncooperative, appeared unable to care for herself and seemed to have mental health issues, he said.
At some point, Mendoza said Marquez got what turned out to be a BB gun and pointed it at the officers, prompting two of them to shoot.
“It looked like a real gun,” he said, adding that it’s unclear where the gun was during her lengthy interaction with police.
The officers were wearing body cameras but footage won’t be released for at least six months pending the investigation, Mendoza said.
Terence Towles Canote, a close friend of Marquez’s, said the actress was having health and financial problems but that she showed no signs of depression or other mental troubles.
She talked about her dream of winning an Oscar one day and was hopeful for a career comeback despite her medical struggles, he said.
“She was looking forward to life,” Canote said. “This is not a woman who wanted to die.”
Marquez posted extensively on Facebook and in other outlets about her health problems, saying she was terminally ill and had seizures and celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that can damage the small intestine with the ingestion of gluten.
In 2014, she said in an online post that she had spent her entire life savings on doctors and hospitals who didn’t properly treat her and that she couldn’t work or “do most basic everyday functions.”
Marquez gained attention last year after tweeting that George Clooney helped blacklist her from Hollywood when she complained about sexual harassment and racist comments among their “ER” co-stars. Clooney said in a statement to “US Weekly” at the time that he was just an actor on the show and was unaware of any blacklist.
“If she was told I was involved in any decision about her career then she was lied to,” he said. “The fact that I couldn’t affect her career is only surpassed by the fact that I wouldn’t.”
Marquez also appeared on episodes of “Seinfeld,” “Melrose Place” and “Malcolm & Eddie” but her career largely fizzled after “ER.”
One of her posts talked about being grateful to be a part of “Stand and Deliver,” a 1988 film about a math teacher who motivated struggling students at a tough East Los Angeles high school.
“If you’re truly fortunate, you get to live your dream and do the work you were put on this Earth to do,” she wrote. “If you’re really, really fortunate you do a film that makes history and affects the lives of millions of people ... It will live on long after we’re gone.”
https://www.geezgo.com/sps/37294

In the second part of our series looking at the conclusion of the 21st century’s most devastating conflict, people in Idlib province speak of their fear as Assad’s army prepares to strike

In the crowded towns of Idlib province in Syria’s north-west, the displaced of the country’s seven-year war have nowhere left to run.

Hemmed in by all sides in the long, savage conflict, up to 3 million people are bracing for imminent attack by Russian forces who sense victory in one of the last parts of Syria still out of regime control.

As the Russian navy manoeuvred in the nearby Mediterranean on Friday, other nations also took positions; the Turkish army sent an armoured convoy deep into Syria, Iranian-backed militias mobilised to the south and the Syrian army, battered by the arduous fight, and propped up by its allies, was placed on high alert.

All have a stake in the most complex, feared – and possibly last – battle of the most consequential war of modern times, a conflict that has routinely crushed Syria’s old and frail in a never-ending rush to bury its young, while at the same time fuelling potent geopolitics that have shaken the country’s foundations and may end up reshaping its borders.

Idlib, a holdout as war consumed nearby Aleppo, Hama and Homs, as well as the capital Damascus, has steadily become a microcosm of the war – a place where every player in the conflict, from inside the country and out, has taken a stake.

As opposition strongholds elsewhere in the country crumbled, those who refused so-called reconciliation deals with the regime were steadily corralled into the small mountainous patch of the northwest, where they were blended in with extremists who have been influential in the area for much of the past six years.

Idlib is the one province of the country where terrorist groups have often held sway – helping fulfil the Assad narrative that all those who stood against him were terrorists. The al-Qaida aligned Jabhat al-Nusra – now known as HTS, remains strong, and its presence is being used as a pretext by Russia to attack.

Turkey, which has supported anti-Assad forces throughout the war – with varying levels of enthusiasm – has been tasked by Moscow with forcing HTS’s withdrawal. The jihadist group has refused, and attempts by opposition groups to force its exit have also failed.

So too have efforts to negotiate a safe passage for what will inevitably be another exodus of internal refugees. Having fled from all corners of the country, often to escape the Syrian state, few of the displaced say they will risk seeking shelter among officials whom they fear will persecute them.

“Jabhat al-Nusra is a shadow of the power it used to be,” said Abu Ruma, 34, an Idlib native. “Especially since other fighting battalions have joined under one force now. We are not expecting them to put up a fight. They’re residing in the north now with lots of refugees and families.”

Dounia Shehabi, 29, whose family fled eastern Aleppo when it fell to Iranian-backed forces in early 2017, said extremist groups had blended in with locals and the internally displaced, with many having abandoned their weapons. “They’re not our main concern. They are small in number and out of options. What we are worried about far more is where do we go when the Russians start their blitz.”

Labib al-Nahhas, who has been active in opposition political circles for the past five years, said the suggestion by Stefan de Mistura, the UN special envoy, to open humanitarian corridors into regime-held areas had “potentially devastating consequences”. Nahhas also condemned the UN claim that as many as 10,000 jihadists remained in Idlib.

“These claims are factually wrong and contextually misleading,” he said. “They feed into the Russian propaganda that is trying to falsely justify a full scale attack on Idlib with catastrophic results.

“It’s totally ludicrous to attempt to address the situation in Idlib through ‘humanitarian corridors’ towards regime areas – especially for civilians who fled from the regime’s controlled areas and preferred to live in refugee camps.

“Pushing civilians who fled from the regime’s oppression and persecution into Assad’s hands means they will suffer the same fate of hundreds of thousands other Syrians: either murdered, or imprisoned.”

Ahead of a strike, expected by regional officials within two weeks, the potential scale of the humanitarian crisis is causing widespread alarm. The bombardment of a tightly packed population, many of whom live under primitive shelter, with irregular supplies, will inevitably force an exodus towards Turkey’s tightly sealed border, or a swathe of northern Syria that has been under its control for 18 months.

Turkey has not yet decided whether it will allow refugees into the area, known as the Euphrates Shield Zone. It has been pushing Russia to hold off on launching an attack. Turkish officials said on Friday that they had little leverage over Moscow and feared a strike could be launched by a Russian naval group as early as next week.

“The Turkish areas Afrin and the Euphrates Shield areas do not have the infrastructure necessary to receive hundreds of thousands of new people,” said a senior aid worker in Turkey. “Sending people there will only move the catastrophe from one area to the other. Here’s a solution; don’t force them to leave. Be discerning with the bombardment. The world should hold the Russians and the regime to account.”

“The regime and the Russians might attack any day at any moment,” said a 27-year-old Idlib activist, who refused to be named. “We barely have a few forts to keep it together here. There are not many preparations. The Turks have been assuring people that there will not be fight, no battle.”

Among the ranks of the Turkish-backed opposition, which was raised to fight the Syrian army, but co-opted earlier this year to capture the border town of Afrin from Kurdish forces, there is a belief that regime forces do not have the numbers to launch a ground attack, and Iranian militias do not have the incentive.
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“The Iranians have already got what they wanted elsewhere in the country,” said Mohaned al-Rifai, an opposition member. “There are plenty of people up here who want to fight and know how to. They have incentive. They have lost everything elsewhere in the country. Many are from Ghouta, or Aleppo. There is a score to settle, and we know how the Russians work. There will be no running like there was in Aleppo.”

Munef al-Shami, an opposition leader, agreed. “The Turks will help us if we are in a corner. They don’t want to annoy the Russians, but they don’t want to lose their influence either. We are at the mercy of powers that are much bigger than us. This is a game that we cannot influence. It’s much bigger than the blood of the people and the soil it bleeds into.

“Idlib is where agendas all come together. There will be cruelty and massacres here. And on a global stage, there will be big losses.”
https://www.geezgo.com/sps/37293

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