February 2020

By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL
 4 minutes

The “Classic Days” auto show in Berlin’s main shopping district was cancelled because “the anti-Jewish Al-Quds day demonstration was permitted by the authorities at the same time.”

Demonstrators attend an 'al-Quds Day' protest rally in Berlin, Germany, July 11, 2015 (photo credit: FABRIZIO BENSCH / REUTERS)
Demonstrators attend an 'al-Quds Day' protest rally in Berlin, Germany, July 11, 2015
(photo credit: FABRIZIO BENSCH / REUTERS)
Berlin authorities pulled the plug on a scheduled  May Old-Timer auto show in favor of an Iranian regime rally  that calls for the obliteration of the Jewish state.
The B.Z. paper reported on Saturday that the “Classic Days” auto show in Berlin’s main shopping district was cancelled because “the anti-Jewish Al-Quds day demonstration was permitted by the authorities at the same time.”
The “Classic Days” organizer Frank Peppel told the paper that on May 16 a hate demonstration will take place. “It's a shame for Berlin,” said Peppel, adding "Several hundred thousand visitors have to give way to radicals who protest against Jews."
Peppel told the paper that he applied for a permit in May 2019 for the Classic Days and heard nothing from the authorities for six months. In early January, the authorities told him that the Al Quds Day has priority.
The founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, launched the Al Quds Day in 1979 calling for the destruction of Israel. Al Quds is the Arabic word for Jerusalem. The Berlin Al Quds demonstration has been held each year since 1996 in the capital.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Berlin mayor Michael Müller have ignored appeals over the years from the Israeli and American governments, as well as Germany’s Jewish community, to ban the antisemitic rally.
The Jerusalem Post reported that in 2019, Israel’s Ambassador to Germany, Jeremy Issacharoff, spoke at a demonstration against the al-Quds march attended by some 400 people. He wrote on Twitter: “Speaking in Berlin against the Al Quds Day and its Iranian sponsors. This blatantly antisemitic and hateful event should be banned. Iran as the leading sponsor of terror, a serial abuser of human rights that seeks to undermine any chance for ME [Middle East] peace has no place in Berlin.”
Al Quds in Berlin is attended by members and supporters of the EU and US designated terrorist organizations Hezbollah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. In addition to the operatives from Iran’s chief proxy, Hezbollah, German neo-Nazis have participated in the event.
Germany’s government refuses to ban all of Hezbollah in the federal republic, where 1,050 Hezbollah members and supporters raise funds and recruit new members, according to German intelligence reports reviewed by the Post.
The Federal Republic has merely banned Hezbollah’s so-called “military wing” in Germany. The Arab League, Israel, Britain, the US, Canada, and many Latin American countries have classified Hezbollah’s entire movement a terrorist entity.
In January, President Reuven Rivlin urged Germany during his Bundestag speech to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day to outlaw all of Hezbollah.
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By TZVI JOFFRE 2-3 minutes

"You all know Lebanon, the lies in Lebanon, and agents in it. My brother will come to Lebanon and take revenge on my behalf from the General Security."

People wearing face masks take a picture with a mobile phone outside Rafik Hariri hospital, where Lebanon's first coronavirus case is being quarantined, in Beirut (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMED AZAKIR)
People wearing face masks take a picture with a mobile phone outside Rafik Hariri hospital, where Lebanon's first coronavirus case is being quarantined, in Beirut
(photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMED AZAKIR)
A Lebanese woman suspected of carrying the coronavirus from the Iranian city of Qom to Lebanon claims that she's only suffering from a cold and will take revenge on the Lebanese government for lying about the case, according to Al-Arabiya.
Taghrid Ali Sakr, 45, who arrived from Qom last week, was reported by the Lebanese Health Ministry as the country's first coronavirus case.
"You all know Lebanon, the lies in Lebanon, and agents in it. My brother will come to Lebanon and take revenge on my behalf from the General Security," she is heard saying in an audio recording quoted by Lebanese media.
Sakr later stated that she did not mean to "insult her homeland" and that she had just returned from Qom after spending the past six months in the Iranian city.
Lebanese Health Minister Hamad al-Hassan announced on Saturday that there was "no need to panic." Two more people in Nabatiyeh suspected of having the coronavirus were not showing any symptoms on Saturday, according to Lebanon's National News Agency. Others who were on the plane with Sakr have not shown any symptoms either.
"Anxiety is permitted, but excessive panic is harmful to us all, including state institutions, ministries and public administrations," Hassan said on Saturday.
Lebanon's Minister of Information, Dr. Manal Abdel Samad Najd, asked Lebanese media to only use the National News Agency and official sources for reports on the virus in order to prevent the spread of false reports and to reduce possible panic.
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By GABE FRIEDMAN/JTA
7-9 minutes

The blood-soaked series boasts a cast packed with Jewish actors, many with close personal connections to the Holocaust.

Tunisian Jews were enlisted into forced labor by the Nazis during their six-month occupation from November 1942 (photo credit: YAD VASHEM)
Tunisian Jews were enlisted into forced labor by the Nazis during their six-month occupation from November 1942
(photo credit: YAD VASHEM)
NEW YORK  — “This is not murder, this is mitzvah.”
That’s a quote from Meyer Offerman, a wealthy Holocaust survivor with a thick Yiddish accent played by Al Pacino, in the first episode of Amazon Studios’ “Hunters,” a hyped new show about a diverse band of Nazi hunters in 1970s New York City that debuts Friday on the streaming service.
The blood-soaked series boasts a cast packed with Jewish actors, many with close personal connections to the Holocaust. Those actors say they are looking forward to having viewers join them in grappling with the ethical puzzle embedded in Meyer’s quote.
“The center of the series really revolves around the moral, ethical question about ‘Does it take evil to fight evil? Do you have to be a bad guy in order to effectively combat the bad guys?’” Logan Lerman, who plays the show’s protagonist Jonah Heidelbaum, says in a phone interview from Los Angeles. “I’m really curious to see what people’s responses are.”
The show, which was co-produced by Jordan Peele — the acclaimed writer and director behind the horror blockbusters “Get Out” and “Us” — whirls into motion after Jonah’s grandmother is murdered in her Brooklyn apartment. Jonah’s quest to discover the perpetrator brings him into contact with Meyer, who has assembled an “Ocean’s 11”-style team with members whose specialties range from combat to disguise. Jonah fits in immediately as a code-breaker because of his ability to recognize written patterns.
Meyer informs Jonah — one of multiple Jewish members of the squad — that there are many Nazis hiding in plain sight throughout the country. In fact, in the show’s world, there is a large Nazi network that plans to establish a “Fourth Reich.” The hunters set to work to dismantle it, and they aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty (and very bloody) along the way.
The show imagines an alternate history in which some of the thousands of Nazis and Nazi collaborators who made their way to the U.S. after World War II maintained their Nazi identities rather than hiding them. (It’s Amazon’s second alternate Nazi history drama following “The Man in the High Castle.”) Simon Wiesenthal’s famous Nazi-hunting organization also was established in 1977, the year the show takes place.
But the series also draws from the graphic violent style of Quentin Tarantino — his 2009 film “Inglourious Basterds” is arguably the most famous in the Jews-killing-Nazis genre — as well as comic book culture. There are numerous comic book character jokes and references: At one point Lonny Flash, a member of the gang played by Josh Radnor, calls Jonah, who in fact works at a comic book store, a “real life f***ing Jew-perhero.”
Creator David Weil said that his first and main inspiration was his grandmother, who survived imprisonment in the Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps, and whom Weil said he used to see as a superhero while growing up in a Conservative Jewish family on Long Island.
“It is a love letter to my grandmother, it is a way to honor my birthright and my heritage and my Judaism, and it’s a way to shed light on hidden crimes and secrets,” Weil tells the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Steven Spielberg’s “Munich,” an epic drama about Mossad agents who seek to retaliate against the Palestinians responsible for the “Munich Massacre” at the 1972 Olympics, was another influence looming large in Weil’s mind.
The show offers two arguments for the need for violent Jewish revenge — one is the biblical eye-for-an-eye means of paying back the Nazis for the suffering they caused. The show is full of flashbacks to scenes of chilling Nazi atrocities, such as a chess match that SS officers play involving real prisoners, who are forced to kill each other as the game progresses.
“The Talmud is wrong. Living well is not the best revenge,” Meyer tells Jonah in episode one. “You know what the best revenge is? Revenge.” (The “living well” axiom is actually attributed to a 17th-century British poet and priest.)
The other argument is one of self-defense. As the hunters torture a Nazi by blaring loud music into his ears, Jonah urges them to stop — he is clearly conflicted by inflicting pain on someone else. But the goal of the torture is to extract information about who else the Nazi might be working with in order to stop a possible plot that could harm Jews and others.
“If ‘Inglourious Basterds’ is one end of the spectrum, and ‘Munich’ is the other end of the spectrum, I think ‘Hunters’ lives in the middle,” Weil says.
Weil also says he felt an urge to create “badass” Jewish characters.
“Growing up, I had two Jewish superheroes — there was Judah Maccabee and Jeff Goldblum, and very few people in between,” he says. “And so to be able to show a Jewish superhero with might, with power, with strength, not just a Jew who is as the media often portrays us, as ineffectual or intellectual only or nebbishy … that was so important to me.”
In separate conversations, the Jewish actors who worked on the show all said they were undecided on how they feel about the idea of revenge.
Veteran actress Carol Kane, who was nominated for an Academy Award in 1976 for playing a Jewish immigrant in “Hester Street,” plays Polish immigrant and weapons expert Mindy Markowitz. She admits that she was shocked by parts of the script.
“I really thought, ‘Oh my goodness, that’s really a huge moral question,’” Kane, who believes some of her Russian and Austrian relatives died in the Holocaust, says about the show’s violence.
After a long pause, she adds: “I still don’t know. I have not made up my mind. In general in the world I feel that forgiveness leads to a better world, but this particular circumstance is so completely unforgivable. I really don’t know the answer.”
Josh Radnor, the star of the sitcom “How I Met Your Mother,” avoids the issue, saying instead that he thinks the show works to break common stereotypes about Jews.
“I think it’s the audience’s job, and the job of journalists and thinkpiece writers, to grapple with those bigger questions,” Radnor says.
Lerman, best known as the star of the “Percy Jackson” movies, says something similar. He notes, however, that his family’s complicated Holocaust history — relatives on his father’s side ended up in China and Mexico — added to his work on the show.
“I can’t tell you that I have a specific opinion,” Lerman says. “I think that the question is complicated and nuanced and one for audiences for debate after completing the first season.”
The cast members do agree enthusiastically on at least one thing: the brilliance of Pacino, who stayed in character, with a thick Yiddish accent, for the six-plus months of filming.
“Hearing him talk about ‘Serpico’ in a Yiddish accent was pretty hilarious,” Radnor says. “He’s a toweringly great artist.”
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4 minutes A telecommunication giant that used "grossly misleading flattery" in a bid to secure a broadband contract with a council has won back court costs.
18072016 Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King. Wellington High Court.
A high court judge has awarded Chorus costs. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King
Chorus sought costs from Creative Development Solutions, which it strung along last year to try and win a deal with the Marlborough District Council to roll out broadband in the Marlborough Sounds.
Creative last year claimed at the High Court, in Wellington, that Chorus breached a non-disclosure agreement by making use of its "confidential information" in a bid for the government's rural broadband initiative.
Justice Dobson dismissed the proceeding in November after finding Creative's information was not of value to Chorus and ordered each party to cover their own costs. But Chorus asked him to "reconsider" a month later, as it tried to settle the dispute before it reached court.
On 12 June, Chorus offered $750,000 if a settlement was reached by 28 June, a day before it was due to submit evidence briefs. It also offered $500,000 if a settlement was reached after 28 June but by 2 August.
Chorus filed papers claiming compensation from the June deadline for Creative's failure to accept their offer, plus "increased costs", as their offer was rejected "without reasonable justification".
But Creative solicitor Michael Wigley said in a response earlier this month that the offer was not enough to overcome the "unusual circumstances".
Last year, Justice Dobson said in his judgement that Chorus used a "misleading, flattering tone of approval" to hide a "negative" view of Creative's intellectual property, in what was a "most unusual dynamic".
The flattery began when Chorus, Creative and the council came together to submit to a Crown Infrastructure Partners initiative in February 2018.
Creative asked Chorus for help after the council's previous submission to the initiative, which it helped develop, was unsuccessful.
But it later discovered Chorus was attempting to bid on its own for the government initiative using what Creative thought was their "confidential information".
Wigley said the circumstances were enough to negate the costs claim.
But Justice Dobson disagreed in a judgement last week, and awarded Chorus half its legal costs and half its disbursement costs from 28 June.
He said despite Creative's "annoyance at the misleading flattery Chorus had subjected it to", their offer was enough to support a claim for costs.
"Acceptance of either offer would have produced a substantially better outcome for [Creative] than has resulted from my substantive judgement."
Creative's communications director Brendon Burns said on Thursday he was unsure how much Creative owed Chorus, and declined to share what it had cost for the company to pursue the court case.
He said Creative had filed an appeal to the Court of Appeal on Justice Dobson's November decision, which he hoped would occur later this year.
no metadata
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One person has died following a serious crash in the Waikato - the eighth person to die on New Zealand roads this weekend.
Police generic
Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller
The crash on State Highway Three near Mangakowhai Road at Piopio was reported around 12.40pm.
Since Saturday five people have died in four separate crashes in the Waikato and three were killed in a single-vehicle collision in Northland.
Around 10 people were also injured in the crashes, prompting an appeal from the Police and NZ Transport Agency for drivers to take care.
Early this morning, three people died and a child was left in a critical condition following a car crash in Northland.
The car crashed into a tree on Whananaki North Road, near Whangarei, at about 2am.
Yesterday police attended three fatal crashes throughout the Waikato, which collectively killed four people.
Police Acting National Manager of Road Policing Inspector Gini Welch said while it was too early to know the causes of the collisions, most road fatalities can been avoided.
"Every loss of life on our roads is a tragedy and these deaths will have a major impact both on individual families and wider communities."
Drivers are being reminded to make sure everyone is wearing a seatbelt, avoid distractions, drive within the speed limit, and never get behind the wheel if intoxicated.
The latest crashes bring the road toll so far this year to 49.
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3-4 minutes
A woman who lost her mother in the collapse of the CTV building in the 2011 Christchurch earthquake says an apology from the mayor falls short of what she really wants.
About 200 of those who lost loved ones in the earthquake, which killed 185 people, heard the apology from Lianne Dalziel today.
A royal commission in to faulty buildings found serious errors by engineers and the Christchurch City Council.
Christchurch 22/2/20
]Lianne Dalziel pictured yesterday at the memorial service for victims of the Christchurch earthquake. Photo: RNZ / Katie Todd
Julie Hibbs lost her mother, who had been in the CTV building seeing a doctor. She said the apology was good, but what she really wanted was for somebody to be held accountable.
There wouldn't be any closure for her until those responsible for the building's collapse were brought to justice, she said.
"We shouldn't be seeing any names on the wall, I shouldn't be wearing a t-shirt with my mum's face on it. She should be here enjoying life."
Yesterday marked nine years since the 6.2 magnitude earthquake and Julie Hobbs questioned why Dalziel was apologising now.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for some of the CTV families said the council and government needed to do better at identifying quake prone buildings.
Maan Alkaisi was amongst the 200 in Christchurch today and said despite the royal commission findings, faulty buildings were still being approved.
He points to one at 230 High Street that the council signed off on three years ago, that was subsequently found to have 10 serious failings.
"We still have cracks in the system that we have to fill. We simply cannot have another CTV tragedy in Christchurch."
David Selway who lost his sister, Susan Selway in the CTV Building, said it was good to hear a heartfelt apology from the mayor for the role her council played in signing off the building as safe.
"There were buildings in Christchurch where it was known that they had deficiencies and in the CTV building that was absolutely the case. It wouldn't have taken much effort for some flags to be raised from people who knew that there were deficiencies to prevent those deaths. And that's the really sad part."
David Selway said he would also like to hear an apology from the designers of the building.
In a letter to friends and family of those who died, inviting them to today's apology, Dalziel said an apology was something she had wanted to do for a long time.
She said the end of the police inquiry into building failures meant she was finally able to do this.
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3-4 minutes
Brazil's famed Carnival kicked off in earnest this weekend, as millions of scantily-clad revellers poured into the streets, many of whom took the opportunity to parody or otherwise comment on the nation's deeply polarised politics.
Revellers cheer during the Amigos da Onca street party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Revellers cheer during the Amigos da Onca street party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: AFP or licensors
Since right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro took office in January 2019, Brazilians have been sharply divided, with supporters crediting the former army captain for a rapid drop in violent crime and an improving economy, while his detractors have denounced what they consider racism, sexism and disrespect for the poor.
Along with a clutch of conservative allies, including Rio de Janeiro's evangelical mayor Marcelo Crivella, Bolsonaro has shown little interest in Carnival and at times denounced what he sees as debauched behaviour during the festivities.
To be sure, most partiers on Saturday were dressed in distinctly apolitical garb, ranging from mermaid to cowboy costumes, indicating Brazilians were focused on revelry first, and politics a distant second.
A reveller of the Imperio de Casa Verde samba school performs during the first night of carnival in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
A reveller of the Imperio de Casa Verde samba school performs during the first night of carnival in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Photo: AFP or licensors
But in the biggest cities, there was no love lost, as many costumes poked fun at Brazil's leaders.
In the northeastern city of Recife, home to one of the country's most famous Carnival celebrations, musician Antonio Nobrega dedicated an opening performance to Brazil's artists and journalists. Both those groups have repeatedly drawn ire from Brazil's political leaders, with politicians often singling out individual journalists and newspapers for criticism.
The famed Mangueira samba school, a type of performing troupe that spend months preparing elaborate parades for Carnival, has already ruffled feathers with plans to march through Rio de Janeiro's legendary Sambodromo on Sunday night with a performance expected to take jabs at police violence.
Revellers cheer during the Amigos da Onca street party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Revellers cheer during the Amigos da Onca street party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: AFP or licensors
Under Bolsonaro, homicide rates in the city have plummeted, but killings by police have sky-rocketed, sparking a major debate about policing tactics, particularly in poor and minority communities.
Early on Saturday, the Tom Maior samba school paid homage during their performance to Marielle Franco, a black, lesbian Rio de Janeiro city councilwoman whose 2018 assassination triggered protests throughout the country.
"I thought it was beautiful, it really moved me," said Renato Santos Aguessy, a 37-year-old schoolteacher, who attended. "She left a legacy for us of struggle, of confronting adversities in this country, which is being dominated by fascism."
- Reuters
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4-5 minutes
The Queenstown Lakes District Council has called an extraordinary meeting next week - the next step to address a long-running stand-off between the council and the council-owned Queenstown Airport Corporation.
The approach to Queenstown Airport.
An aerial view of the Queenstown Airport. Photo: Queenstown Airport
Last year the council twice rejected the airport's proposed statement of intent - a document that broadly outlines strategy and plans for the coming three years.
But the saga goes further back than that, to mid 2018, when the airport announced plans to double the number of flights over 30 years.
The backlash was swift and directed with many high-profile locals saying tourist numbers were unsustainable and needed to be capped.
In its defence, the airport said it was just putting on the table the projected growth for the area and the number of flights in and out of Queenstown each year would have to expand from 21,000 to 41,600. That was so it could cope with an expected 2.5 million passengers that will be travelling to and from the resort by 2045.
If they did not come by plane, then they would arrive by car, the airport said.
The airport eventually backed down and took its proposal off the table, and turned its attention to Wānaka - which proved just as problematic.
When the airport took its statement of intent to the council last June, public sentiment had spilled into the council chambers and councillors narrowly rejected it.
Following October's elections, the newly appointed council did the same.
A steering group was formed - which included three councillors, Mayor Jim Boult, council chief executive Mike Theelen and the airport's chief executive Colin Keel - to assist the airport corporation.
No caption
A plane takes off at Queenstown Airport. Photo: 123rf
The airport was due to bring its statement of intent to the council by 1 March.
But on Tuesday they would meet to decide whether to give the airport an extra month, until April, to present the draft.
According to a council report that would have no effect on the timeline for the final draft, which would still be due on or before 1 July.
At the same time consultancy firm MartinJenkins was seeking community views on the future options for the district's airports.
Anyone was able to complete the survey by visiting the council's website or at the Queenstown or Wānaka council offices.
"While the engagement is being run independently by MartinJenkins, QLDC is encouraging as many people in the community as possible to participate and have their say. The survey will be open for a three-week period and will be available via the QLDC Let's Talk site," the council said.
"Early insights and key themes from the engagement will be provided to councillors along with findings from the economic and social impact assessments, by early March. The final report will be presented in early May. These early insights and the final report will help to inform Council's decision-making for the next Queenstown Airport Corporation Statement of Intent and the draft Spatial Plan."
Councillor Quentin Smith, an at-times critic of the airport, said he encouraged the public to take part.
"We hear very loudly the fears of the community and I, in many respects, share a lot of that concern," he said.
We do hope that people take the opportunity to do the survey - whether it's perfect or imperfect - in order to have a voice and exercise that voice
"I hope a very clear message comes out through that survey."
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By REUTERS4-5 minutes

Iranian authorities have yet to announce the turnout and the final result of the Feb. 21 election for the 290-seat parliament — a litmus test of the popularity of the establishment.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gestures as he delivers a Friday prayer sermon in Tehran on January 17 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gestures as he delivers a Friday prayer sermon in Tehran on January 17
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Iran on Sunday announced a 42% turnout in its parliamentary election, the lowest rate since the 1979 Islamic revolution, while its top leader said Tehran's enemies played up the new coronavirus threat to dissuade people from voting.
With Iran facing growing isolation and threats of conflict over its nuclear standoff with the United States, and increasing discontent at home, the turnout is seen as a referendum on the popularity of the Islamic republic's rulers.
"The turnout across the country was 42.57% ... In Tehran, it was around 25%. Across Iran, over 24 million people voted," Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli told a televised news conference. Turnout was 62% in the 2016 parliamentary vote and 66% of voters cast ballots in 2012.
The final results, announced by the Interior Ministry, showed big gains by hardline loyalists close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the last say on all state matters.
In Tehran, a list of hardliners gained 30 seats for the capital, with former commander of the elite Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, topping the list.
Qalibaf's pedigree as the Guards' air force commander, a war veteran and a national police chief has endeared him to Iran's supreme leader, bolstering his chances of becoming the next parliament speaker.
Khamenei, who on Friday said that voting was "a religious duty", blamed the low turnout on the "negative propaganda" about the new coronavirus by Iran's enemies.
"This negative propaganda about the virus began a couple of months ago and grew larger ahead of the election," said Khamenei, according to his official website Khamenei.ir.
"Their media did not miss the tiniest opportunity for dissuading Iranian voters and resorting to the excuse of disease and the virus."
Iran, which confirmed its first case of the new coronavirus two days before the polls, has announced 43 cases of the virus in four different cities, including Tehran. With eight deaths, Iran has the highest death toll from the new coronavirus outside of China, the homeland of the outbreak.
The parliament has no major influence on foreign affairs or Iran's nuclear policy, which are determined by Khamenei. But it might bolster hardliners in the 2021 contest for president and toughen Tehran’s foreign policy.
The United States’ 2018 withdrawal from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, and its reimposition of sanctions, have hit Iran’s economy hard.
The establishment's legitimacy was badly damaged after nationwide protests in November, which were met with a violent crackdown that deepened resentment over economic hardship and corruption.
The hardline Guardian Council, which must approve candidates, removed thousands of moderates and leading conservatives from the race by barring about 6,850 hopefuls from in favour of hardliners from among 14,000 applicants.
"Our people's participation in Friday's election was good," said Khamenei.
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2-3 minutes

Saeedi claimed that the outbreak was Trump's way of fulfilling his promise to hit Iranian cultural sites if the Islamic Republic took revenge for the killing of Soleimani.

An Iranian cleric walks in front of the Shrine of Fatima Masumeh in Qom (photo credit: WANA NEWS AGENCY/REUTERS)
An Iranian cleric walks in front of the Shrine of Fatima Masumeh in Qom
(photo credit: WANA NEWS AGENCY/REUTERS)
The Friday Prayer Imam of the religious city of Qom, which has been struck with a coronavirus outbreak that has left 29 infected and six dead, blamed US President Donald Trump on Saturday for targeting the city with the virus in order to "make Qom look like an unsafe city and to take revenge," reported Radio Farda.
"The enemy wants to instill fear in people's hearts, make Qom look like an unsafe city and to take revenge for all its defeats," said Hojjat ol-Eslam Seyyed Mohammad Saeedi, the Friday Prayer Imam and Custodian of the Shrine of Masoumeh. "Trump will die frustrated in his wish to see Qom defeated."
The cleric added that Trump targeted the city because it is a "shelter for the Shi'ites of the world, the center of religious seminaries and the city where Shi'ite sources of emulation live."
Saeedi claimed that the coronavirus outbreak was Trump's way of fulfilling his promise to hit Iranian cultural sites if the Islamic Republic took revenge for the killing of former IRGC Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, according to Radio Farda.
In January, Trump warned in a tweet that if Iran strikes any Americans or American assets, the US had targeted "52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture."
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By EYTAN HALON
3-4 minutes

Moovit Israeli mobility app uses up to six billion anonymous data points daily, the company says, "to add to the world's largest repository of transit and urban mobility data."

Moovit (photo credit: MOOVIT)
Moovit
(photo credit: MOOVIT)
Ness Ziona-made transportation app Moovit is continuing its global expansion and now provides its urban mobility service in a total of 100 countries, the company has announced.
Launched in 2011, the Moovit app and website assist individuals plan and navigate their way around urban areas, using all modes of available transport. The company says it has served over 720 million users in over 3,100 cities, spanning six continents, to date.
Moovit uses up to six billion anonymous data points daily, the company says, “to add to the world’s largest repository of transit and urban mobility data.”
In addition to its popular app, the company also provides analytics platforms to cities, transit authorities and businesses, enabling optimized planning and operations for residents and employees.
“Urban mobility is the lifeline to jobs, healthcare, and education, so we are so proud that in just a few years Moovit is now providing service to millions of users in 100 countries, helping them get from A to B with confidence and convenience,” said Moovit co-founder and CEO Nir Erez.
“We have grown drastically, from offering a consumer app, to also now licensing a multitude of MaaS solutions to cities, governments, and transit agencies. We are also glad to see the likes of Uber, Microsoft, and Cubic choosing Moovit's high-quality MaaS platform to power their mobility offering.
Moovit also announced the appointment of Uli Gal-Oz as the company’s new vice-president of business development. Gal-Oz, who most recently served as vice-president of business development at Magisto prior to its $200 million acquisition by Vimeo, will be tasked with overseeing Moovit’s initiatives with strategic partners and customers - including Uber, Microsoft and Cubic.
“Moovit’s dedication to simplifying urban mobility is unmatched and I’m thrilled to bring my experience to the team,” said Gal-Oz. “I’m looking forward to growing with Moovit and maintaining its leadership in the urban mobility industry.”
Earlier this month, Moovit announced the beta release of Way Finder, an augmented reality (AR) feature displaying digital directions on top of the smartphone camera view to improve user navigation. The feature, initially rolled out to iOS users, helps passengers locate bus stops and subway entrances.
Future capabilities, the company said, include guiding users to taxi pick-up locations and shared scooter locations.
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By SETH J. FRANTZMAN 3-4 minutes

Even as Iranians were lining up to buy masks to help stop the coronavirus from spreading, the regime was urging the Houthis in Yemen to attack Saudi Arabia amid the G20 gathering.

Supporters of the Houthi movement shout slogans as they attend a rally to mark the 4th anniversary of the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen's war, in Sanaa, Yemen March 26, 2019.  (photo credit: KHALED ABDULLAH/ REUTERS)
Supporters of the Houthi movement shout slogans as they attend a rally to mark the 4th anniversary of the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen's war, in Sanaa, Yemen March 26, 2019.
(photo credit: KHALED ABDULLAH/ REUTERS)
Even as Iranians were lining up to buy masks to help stop the coronavirus from spreading, the regime was urging on the Houthis in Yemen to attack Saudi Arabia amid the G20 gathering. Finance ministers from around the world as well as other central bank governors met in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh on Saturday amid the growing virus crisis and concerns over security in the region.
Iran and its allies were planning to disrupt the meeting. On Sunday naval forces from the Saudi Arabia-led alliance stopped an “Iranian-backed Houthi militia attempt to conduct imminent and hostile action,” according to Saudi-led coalition spokesman Col. Tukri al-Maliki. The Houthis had tried to use a booby-trapped boat.
In addition, several marine mines were found in the Bab al-Mandab straits. The remote controlled boat laden with explosives was found in the Red Sea. In 2017, Houthis attacked a Saudi ship with a missile. They also attacked a ship in July 2018 and tried again in July 2019.
Saudi Arabia also says it has intercepted ballistic missiles fired from Yemen by the Houthis that were intended to disrupt the G20 gathering. These included a missile fired from near Sana’a in Yemen that flew toward the port city of Yanbu on Friday. The Houthis and Iran call this a “balance of deterrence” in a new report at Tasnim. They claim that the attack was indeed designed to coincide with the eve of the G20 meeting, and as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was traveling to Oman. “The message was sent in response to the killing of 40 Yemeni civilians on February 15,” the Houthis claim.
Saudi Arabia and allies have been fighting the Houthis since 2015 when the kingdome intervened in Yemen. The message is a warning to Riyadh and Washington, the Houthis further claim. This has wider regional implications and was likely conducted with Iran’s direct approval and support.
The Houthis also launched 12 Sammad drones and two Quds-type missiles, Tasnim says. The US says it intercepted an Iranian smuggling attempt last November.
Only last week were the contents of the seized ship revealed by CENTCOM. They include drone and cruise missile components, as well as a new 358 missile. These munitions show Iran’s technological expertise. The new missile has electro-optical sensors and may be a threat to helicopters. Tehran increasingly wants to arm groups like the Houthis with its most sophisticated equipment. This may be a way to test Iran’s drones and missiles. It is also a way to send a message to Saudi Arabia.
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By ANNA AHRONHEIM6-8 minutes

At least one PIJ terrorist was killed while placing an IED near the Gaza border fence. Defense minister says uproar over how body was retrieved a "hypocritical criticism of the left"

IDF tanks along the Gaza border  (photo credit: REUTERS)
IDF tanks along the Gaza border
(photo credit: REUTERS)
 The IDF is increasing the number of Iron Dome missile defense batteries after an IDF bulldozer prevented Palestinians from retrieving the body of a suspected terrorist who was killed while reportedly placing an improvised explosive device near the border fence with the Gaza Strip on Sunday morning.
Video from the scene uploaded to social media on Sunday morning showed a crowd of Palestinian youth throwing stones towards an Israeli bulldozer sent to retrieve the body of the dead suspect.
He was identified as 27 year-old Muhammed Ali al-Na’im, a commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s military wing, the Al-Quds Brigade, in the Khan Younis area.
The graphic footage showed the bulldozer driving at high speed toward a group of Palestinian youth to prevent them from taking the body. Several people were seen carrying one individual, but the bulldozer was seen lifting the body of the deceased suspect from the ground before it returned to Israel along with an IDF Merkava tank which had been guarding it.
— Anna Ahronheim (@AAhronheim) February 23, 2020
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett called the uproar over retrieval of the terrorist’s body by the IDF bulldozer as “hypocritical criticism of the left,” and supported the IDF’s way to collect the body.
“I am tired of the  hypocritical criticism of the left against the ‘inhumane’ use by the bulldozer to retrieve the body of a terrorist who tried to murder Israelis. Gentlemen, you are not human. Hamas holds the bodies of Hadar and Oron,” he said, referring to the bodies of two fallen IDF soldiers in the hands of Hamas since Operation Protective Edge in 2014.
“I support the IDF troops that killed the terrorists and retrieved the body. It should be done and will be done. We will work intensely in the face of terrorists.”
The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza was quoted by Maan News Agency as saying that another two men were injured by IDF gunfire while trying to retrieve the body and the wounded individual.
According to the IDF’s Spokesperson’s Unit, two Palestinians were identified approaching the fence and placing an improvised explosive device on it near the southern city of Khan Younis. They were fired upon by troops from the military’s Kfir brigade “who were deployed to the location following the detection” of the suspects.
The Israeli military said the cell affiliated with the PIJ terror group which had placed the explosive device near the border fence on Sunday morning was responsible for two other similar incidents in recent months near the fence.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad called the incident “a brutal crime” and vowed to “not let the occupation deal with us as it does with some Arab states. We are placing our hands on the trigger and we will avenge the blood of the martyrs by firing on Tel Aviv.”
Last week, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said that Israel would begin to “hoard” the bodies of Palestinian terrorists to use as “bargaining chips” to pressure Hamas to release of the two fallen IDF soldiers and two Israeli citizens held by the terror group in the Gaza Strip.
This is the second time in less than a week that IDF troops have opened fire on Palestinians near Khan Younis.  Last week a Palestinian Islamic Jihad sniper cell fired towards troops stationed near the Gaza border. Israeli security forces-both IDF and officer’s from the police’s elite counter-terrorism unit-responded with artillerly fire.
While the IDF said that it had “identified a hit,” there were no Palestinian reports of casualities.
The incidents come as Israel is trying to broker a long-term ceasefire arrangement with the Hamas-run coastal enclave. 
On Saturday evening, former defense minister and Yisrael Beteinu Party chairman Avigdor Liberman revealed that Mossad director Yossi Cohen and the Head of the IDF’s Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Herzi Halevi made a secret visit to Qatar earlier this month.
During the visit, which lasted less than a day, the two met with the Qatari envoy to the Gaza Strip Mohammed al-Emadi and Qatari national security advisor Mohammed Bin Ahmed al-Misnad and reportedly “begged” the Qataris to keep sending money to the blockaded Strip.
“Both the Egyptians and the Qataris are angry with Hamas, and they were going to cut all ties with them. All of a sudden Netanyahu shows up as a Hamas advocate, pressuring Egypt and the Qataris to continue” Lieberman told Channel 12 news.
Qatar, who is the main financial provider to Gaza, sends millions of dollars to Hamas every month. On Friday Doha said it would be increasing aid to the impoverished Strip and will provide some 120,000 families with $100 dollars by the end of February. Another $24 million will be used to build a new hospital in Rafah in the southern Strip.
Over a dozen rockets and mortars as well as countless explosive balloons and condoms have been fired towards southern Israel, as tension spiked following the release of US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan at the end of January.
In mid-February following the launching of several projectiles into southern Israel, Jerusalem announced it would reduce the Gaza fishing zone from 15 to 10 nautical miles, and reduced the number of work permits from 2,000 to 500 for Gaza businessmen to enter Israel. The restrictions were lifted several days later.
The restrictions were lifted several days later.
Last week Bennett warned that “the lawless conduct of Hamas leadership is bringing us closer to fatal action against them. We will not announce when or where, but no one will be immune.”
“The State of Israel does not want a war with Hamas in Gaza, but we have a commitment to the security of southern residents,” he said. “Hamas faces the choice: to choose life and economic prosperity or to choose terror and pay an unbearable price.”
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By ANNA AHRONHEIM 3 minutes

Initially the group was to be quarantined in Ashkelon, but according to the report the decision was made to quarantine the tourists at the Har Gilo military base.

Entrance to IDF base 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Eliana Aponte)
Entrance to IDF base 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Eliana Aponte)
Israel may quarantine some 200 South Korean tourists in a military base south of Jerusalem over fears of the deadly coronavirus, Ynet news reported on Sunday morning.
Initially the group was to be quarantined in Ashkelon, but according to the report, the decision was made to quarantine the tourists at the Har Gilo military base, which usually houses troops taking part in training and educational days. During the quarantine of the South Koreans, no IDF troops will be housed at the base.
The move is being coordinated with the Health Ministry and Israel’s National Security Council.
According to a report by Army Radio, another 30 military staff were ordered to enter quarantine on Sunday. Among them were two IDF soldiers who had come into contact with the Korean tourists who tested positive for the virus. Another 26 soldiers who had just returned from eastern Asian countries (the majority from Thailand) and Israel’s military attaché to China who had just returned home were also quarantined. 
Interior Minister Arye Deri said separately on Sunday that he had ordered South Korea and Japan to be added to a list of Asian countries where travel to and from Israel was being barred.
Two weeks ago, the IDF held joint military drills in southern Israel with an Asian country where the deadly novel coronavirus has infected dozens.
According to a report by Army Radio and confirmed to The Jerusalem Post, despite the concern over the spread of the virus, the military decided to continue with the exercise in order not to harm relations with the unnamed country which is an “important” ally for Israel.
While the soldiers who were in direct contact with IDF troops were allowed to move freely in the base where the drill is taking place, the Asian troops were being checked by military doctors several times a day for symptoms of the virus.
If any of the soldiers are found to have the coronavirus, preparations have been made for them to be quarantined.
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By REUTERS 4-5 minutes

Francis made his comments in the southern Italian port city of Bari, where he traveled to conclude a meeting of bishops from all countries in the Mediterranean basin.

Pope Francis delivers a speech after a meeting with Patriarchs of the churches of the Middle East at the St. Nicholas Basilica in Bari, southern Italy July 7, 2018 (photo credit: REUTERS/TONY GENTILE)
Pope Francis delivers a speech after a meeting with Patriarchs of the churches of the Middle East at the St. Nicholas Basilica in Bari, southern Italy July 7, 2018
(photo credit: REUTERS/TONY GENTILE)
BARI, Italy - Pope Francis on Sunday warned against "inequitable solutions" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying they would only be a prelude to new crises, in an apparent reference to US President Donald Trump's Middle East peace proposal.
Francis made his comments in the southern Italian port city of Bari, where he traveled to conclude a meeting of bishops from all countries in the Mediterranean basin.
"The Mediterranean region is currently threatened by outbreaks of instability and conflict, both in the Middle East and different countries of North Africa, as well as between various ethnic, religious or confessional groups," Francis said.
"Nor can we overlook the still unresolved conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, with the danger of inequitable solutions and, hence, a prelude to new crises," he said.
The participants included Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the head of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, whose jurisdiction includes Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan.
It was believed to be the first time the pope, who has often defended both Palestinian rights and Israel's need for security, has spoken in public about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since Trump announced the plan on Jan. 28.
The plan would recognize Israel's authority over West Bank Jewish settlements and require Palestinians meet a series of conditions for a state, with its capital in a West Bank village east of Jerusalem.
Although Trump's stated aim was to end decades of conflict, his plan favored Israel, underlined by the Palestinians' absence from his White House announcement with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side.
The Palestinians and Arab League foreign ministers have rejected the plan and the Palestinian Authority has cut all ties with the United States and Israel.
Palestinians, with broad international backing, want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state, while Israel views the whole city its "united and eternal" capital.
The pope expressed concern in 2018 when the United States announced the moving of its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, saying the city's "status quo" should be respected. Francis has called for all to honor UN resolutions on the city.
"There is no reasonable alternative to peace, because every attempt at exploitation or supremacy demeans both its author and its target. It shows a myopic grasp of reality, since it can offer no future to either of the two," Francis said, speaking in general about the Middle East.
Francis again warned against populist politicians who he said used "demagogic terms" such as "invasion" when talking of migration.
"To be sure, acceptance and a dignified integration are stages in a process that is not easy. Yet it is unthinkable that we can address the problem by putting up walls," he said.
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By MAAYAN JAFFE-HOFFMAN
3 minutes

The prime minister said he has called on the Police and Shin Bet to help ensure that fake news about the coronavirus does not impact the election.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Ya'akov Litzman discuss the dangers of coronavirus on February 23 (photo credit: GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Ya'akov Litzman discuss the dangers of coronavirus on February 23
(photo credit: GPO)
“We are prepared to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in Israel,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday during an emergency meeting held at the Ministry of Health in Tel Aviv. “We are conducting assessments each day and I will appoint a team of ministers to meet on a daily basis to address this major challenge.”
He said that the government is constantly reviewing its policy and adjusting it to adapt to evolving circumstances, including monitoring entry into Israel from other countries.
“Today, we added Australia and Italy to the list of countries from which returning travelers will be required to enter quarantine,” he said. “As necessary, we will add other countries to the list.
“I said over-preparation is better than lack of preparation," he continued. “To date, Israel has been more stringent than any other country, and we will continue to do what is necessary to prevent the spread of the virus in Israel.”
He called on the public to show “maximum responsibility” by adhering to the polices that the Health Ministry lays out.
The prime minister also reiterated an earlier message by Ministry of Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan of the importance of shying away from fake news regarding the spread of the virus, and to follow only those updates shared through official channels.
He said that he has asked for the involvement of the Israeli Police and the Shin Bet: Israel Security Service as necessary to ensure there are no foreign influences on the election.
“We all have an interest in stopping this" phenomenon, the prime minister said.
The meeting Sunday was attended by the Minister of Health, Minister of Finance, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Transportation, Minister of the Interior, among other senior officials.
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The city of Costa Mesa, Calif., has temporarily succeeded in preventing the transfer of patients who've tested positive for coronavirus to a Costa Mesa facility the city says is unsuitable to house them. Currently the patients in question are lodged at Travis Air Force Base in California, shown here. Photo by Nicholas Pilch/U.S. Air ForceThe city of Costa Mesa, Calif., has temporarily succeeded in preventing the transfer of patients who've tested positive for coronavirus to a Costa Mesa facility the city says is unsuitable to house them. Currently the patients in question are lodged at Travis Air Force Base in California, shown here. Photo by Nicholas Pilch/U.S. Air ForceA federal court granted a temporary restraining order preventing the government from transferring dozens of patients who have tested positive for coronavirus from Travis Air Force Base in Northern California to a building in Southern California.
The city of Costa Mesa filed a request for an injunction Friday against the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense, the U.S. Air Force, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services and the California Department of General Services.
U.S. District Judge Josephine Staton issued the ruling, which concerned the potential transfer of 50 patients to a complex the city said was not suitable to house patients.
An expedited hearing is expected to be held Monday.
In its lawsuit, the city, which is about 40 miles south of Los Angeles, also accused federal and state authorities of not informing or working with Costa Mesa officials on the quarantine.
"We have received no information regarding how the facility will be prepared, what precautions will be taken to protect those in the facility as well as those who live nearby, and other important planning measures," Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley said.
Before Friday, there were 15 confirmed cases of the virus in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
That number more than doubled when the CDC announced that 28 Americans, who have returned home after exposure to coronavirus aboard a Princess Cruise Ship in the Pacific, have tested positive for the illness.
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Niecy Nash arrives for the 71st annual Primetime Emmy Awards held at the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles on September 22. The actor turns 50 on February 23. File Photo by Christine Chew/UPI
Niecy Nash arrives for the 71st annual Primetime Emmy Awards held at the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles on September 22. The actor turns 50 on February 23. File Photo by Christine Chew/UPI | License Photo





Those born on this day are under the sign of Pisces.
They include:
-- Pope Paul II in 1417
-- British diarist Samuel Pepys in 1633
-- German composer George Frideric Handel in 1685
-- Mayer Amschel Rothschild, European banker/founder of the Rothschild financial dynasty, in 1744
-- Writer/philosopher W.E.B. DuBois in 1868
-- Film director Victor Fleming in 1889
-- Journalist/author William Shirer in 1904
-- Paul Tibbets, pilot of the Enola Gay on the 1945 flight that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1915

File Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force
-- Former congressman/longtime University of Nebraska football Coach Tom Osborne in 1937 (age 83)
-- Actor Peter Fonda in 1940
-- Football Hall of Fame member Fred Biletnikoff in 1943 (age 77)
-- Novelist John Sandford, born John Roswell Camp, in 1944 (age 76)
-- Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko in 1954 (age 66)
-- Actor Patricia Richardson in 1951 (age 69)
-- Japanese Emperor Naruhito in 1960 (age 60)

File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
-- Businessman/TV personality Daymond John in 1969 (age 51)
-- Actor Niecy Nash in 1970 (age 50)
-- Actor Kelly Macdonald in 1976 (age 44)
-- Actor Josh Gad in 1981 (age 39)
-- Actor Emily Blunt in 1983 (age 37)
-- Actor Aziz Ansari in 1983 (age 37)
-- Actor Dakota Fanning in 1994 (age 26)

Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
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Bob Odenkirk hopes Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman finds redemption in Better Call Saul. File Photo Jim Ruymen/UPI
Bob Odenkirk hopes Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman finds redemption in "Better Call Saul." File Photo Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
As the penultimate season of Better Call Saul begins, the actors contemplate the fate of their characters. Bob Odenkirk plays Saul Goodman in the Breaking Bad prequel and hopes he will meet a better fate than Walter White.
White, played by Bryan Cranston on the original series, was a high school chemistry teacher who became the crystal meth mogul Heisenberg. Saul, White's money laundering lawyer, became the focus of his own series.
Before Breaking Bad, Jimmy McGill took on the Saul persona after losing his law license. By Season 5, Jimmy has fully committed to being Saul.
"I want him to grow into a really good person," Odenkirk said in a roundtable interview. "It would be neat to me if it was kind of the opposite of Walter White's journey of degradation. It would be neat if he learned the right lessons from all his bad choices and trouble and trauma."
Saul was one of White's shady associates on Breaking Bad, but Odenkirk said his show has given Jimmy a chance at redemption.
"Over time, he's had moments of self-awareness," Odenkirk said. "The character can look at Kim and say, 'I'm sorry, what I did was wrong' and he's done that a couple times. So just having that self-awareness gives you a place to go OK, all right, he's not hopeless."
Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) was an associate at Hamlin, Hamlin and McGill, the firm where Jimmy's late brother Chuck (Michael McKean) worked. She has been Jimmy's girlfriend, but his shady schemes make her question their relationship.
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By Christen McCurdy Georgia authorities have named a suspect in the death of Anitra Gunn, a Fort Valley State University student whose body was found Tuesday night.
Earlier in February, DeMarcus Little, 22, was accused of breaking windows at Gunn's apartment and slashing her tires. Police have arrested the boyfriend of 23-year-old Georgia student Anitra Gunn in connection with her death. Gunn went missing on Valentine's Day and her body was found Tuesday. Photo via Anitra Gunn/Facebook
Shortly after a court appearance related to those charges Friday, prosecutors charged Little with malice murder, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Little was Gunn's boyfriend, authorities and family members say.
Police began searching for Gunn on Friday.
Her father, Christopher Gunn, said he texted her Friday morning to wish her a happy Valentine's Day and after she didn't respond to texts or calls for the rest of the day, he requested a welfare check at her home.
No signs of a struggle or robbery were found at her home, but on Gunn's car was found in a neighbor's yard, damaged and missing the front bumper.
Investigators found Gunn's body Tuesday afternoon in a wooded area in Peach County, Ga.
On Thursday, an autopsy was completed and the cause of death was announced as homicide, though the exact manner of death has not been released pending toxicology results.
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By Sam Bocetta8-10 minutesSince Android's unveiling in 2007, the platform has stayed true to its commitment to provide open and free source code. The source code is freely available to developers and device manufacturers who can, at their own discretion, install the software without worrying about the hassles of licensing fees.
The consequent reduction in fees allows device manufacturers to bring Android devices to the market at significantly lower prices than the competition, with the average price of an Android smartphone almost US$400 cheaper than an iPhone.
Android not only delivers cheaper smartphones -- it is the largest mobile OS in the world, used in everything from cars to watches to televisions. It dominates global mobile operating systems with a market share of more than 85 percent. That means one quarter of the world's population owns or makes use of an Android device. Still, the rise of new encrypted Android malware might bring an end to the world's fairytale romance with the platform.
Android Malware
New Android malware might signal the end of our love affair with the platform. (Image Credit: Wilson Nantes)
Android owners last year were alerted to a new type of spyware that could be delivered via a WhatsApp call. Users barely had recovered from the fact that the most trusted apps could be vulnerable to attacks when last month, Android owners once again were alerted to dozens of Google Play Store apps that contained questionable permissions and hidden malware.
The alert came only weeks after another warning around the escalating reign of terror on personal data by data munching bugs.
The latest warning is not related to the Google Play Store, however, but to malware that comes preinstalled on Android devices. It not only auto-installs apps, but also renders the phone unusable when the user attempts to uninstall the preinstalled malicious software.

The Preinstalled Malware Debacle

Thanks to the open source nature of Android, manufacturers can create custom versions of the OS on their devices with their own unique sets of preinstalled apps. As many of these apps fall outside the Google-managed ecosystem, users have to trust the device manufacturers to stay within the boundaries of permissions granted, and to treat any received data with the utmost respect for privacy.
Unfortunately, many manufacturers have proven to be unreliable in this regard, which prompted an open letter drafted by Privacy International and more than 50 other NGOs requesting Google to take action against apps that enable data exploitation.
Although the chances of picking up malware with any mainstream Android device using default settings are extremely slim, the threat from preinstalled malware on Android devices being supplied by unethical manufacturers is growing.
One of the devices most recently found to have the catastrophic preinstalled malware is the Unimax (UMX) U686CL. Offered on Virgin Mobile's Assurance Wireless program as part of the U.S. government's Lifeline Assistance Program (aimed at assisting low-income families to afford mobile services), it comes boxed for as little as $35.
Looking at the current personal and national financial statistics, it is easy to see why this device would be popular. Lifeline currently gives more than 9 million Americans access to a phone or data plan.
The Unimax (UMX) U686CL comes with two destructive apps -- and one can not be removed. One, called "Wireless Update," updates the phone. In fact, it is the only way to update the phone's software. Unfortunately, it also can auto-install apps without needing user consent, and it does so from the moment the unsuspecting user logs onto the device.
"While the apps it installs are initially clean and free of malware, it's important to note that these apps are added to the device with zero notification or permission required from the user.," said Nathan Collier, senior malware intelligence analyst at Malwarebytes. "This opens the potential for malware to unknowingly be installed in a future update to any of the apps added by Wireless Update at any time."
The updater app can be uninstalled by pressing and holding the app's notification, clicking on "more settings", pressing on the app's icon, and finally clicking "uninstall" on the app's info.
However, it is important to note that after taking this course of action, users no longer would be able to install any updates.
The other threat on these devices is the Settings app itself, which can not be uninstalled as it would render the phone completely unusable. Anyone currently using this device would be well advised to start looking for an alternative.

Locating and Removing Malware on Your Android Device

There are several critical steps that can be taken to protect networks from security threats that arise from connected mobile devices, but it all starts with the user.
If you're worried that your current Android device might be infected with malware, there are certain tell-tale signs to look for. The best Web hosting companies give tips and tricks on how to ensure fast and responsive websites across PCs and mobile devices.
So, if your Android smartphone or tablet is running more slowly than your 1995 desktop computer, chances are you've downloaded an infected app. A magnitude of pop-up ads that bypass your Google settings, and a hanging or flashing screen are other indicators that your device is under threat.
Android Malware
Getting rid of malware might be easier than you think.
(Image Credit: Blogtrepreneur)
To stop a malware attack and clean your device, follow the following steps:

Step 1: Shut It Down

Shutting down your device may seem counterintuitive, as it will not stop the attack from doing damage. However, it can protect other devices on the network while giving you the opportunity to gather your wits and do research on the infected app.
Do you know which app infected your device? Did it download other software onto your device? Use a different device to look up the symptoms you are experiencing. You may consider installing an antimalware app to remove the infected software, but that could open you to more risk, as you would be restoring access to the Internet.

Step 2: Activate Safe/Emergency Mode

Switch over to safe/emergency mode immediately upon switching your device on again. This will limit the amount of damage the app can do while you're isolating the problem.
To activate safe mode, simply hold the power button for a few seconds when the device is powered on, then tap and hold the power off option. Depending on your device, several power options should be displayed on the screen, including the option to reboot to safe mode.
If you cannot locate your device's safe mode, switch to airplane mode.

Step 3: Find the App in Your Device's Settings

The Android Settings app usually has a gear-shaped icon but it may vary depending on your device arrangement and theme. Once in the Settings app, go to the Apps section and locate the problematic app.
If the full list does not become available, choose App Manager to open up the full list of apps. Select or click on the app, which should bring up the options to Force Stop, Force Close and Uninstall.

Step 4: Delete Anything Else Suspicious

Click on Uninstall and remove the unwanted app as well as any other suspicious downloads. Some core programs won't give you the option to uninstall. In these instances select Disable.
Oftentimes malware protects itself against this form of removal. If you encounter any obstructions, go back to the original Settings menu and click on Lock Screen or Security. Find the "Phone (Device) Administrators" tab and click on it. In Phone Administrators enable the functionality to remove malware.

Step 5: Download Antimalware Software

Any Android device is exposed and vulnerable if it is connected to the Internet. A variety of security and antimalware apps can scan for viruses, get rid of junk files, and protect your device against infected software.
Once you've deleted the infected software, download one of these security apps to protect your device from future attacks.
It's also a good idea to make sure your device is running on the latest version of the OS, as updates protect devices from attacks.
Never, ever, install an app if you don't know what it is.
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