PHOTOS: The Storm Subsided for Kovod Hameis – ZAKA Reburies Jewish Man WHo Was In Christian Cemetery

January 7th, 2015

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[PHOTOS IN EXTENDED ARTICLE]

A lonely Jew who was niftar six months ago was interred in a Christian cemetery in the center of Israel due to a lack of identification.

A month ago, a number of relatives that live abroad began having strange dreams and in each of these dreams the niftar appeared to the various family members. At first they ignored the dreams, viewing them as one time occurrences. However, when the dreams began to reoccur they understood something was going on. When the family members began probing they learned the relative who had died and was interred in a Christian cemetery. The family turned to Zaka earlier in the week explaining the dreams and after probing they learned their relative had been buried in a non-Jewish cemetery. They learned he was buried between graves bearing crucifixes R”L.

As Zaka volunteers were becoming involved the storm alerts began appearing. They consulted with the organization’s rabbonim including Rav Yaakov Rosa, who instructed them to do everything possible to exhume the niftar and remove him from the Christian cemetery as soon as possible, even during the harsh weather.

A team headed by Zaka commander Berela Yakobovitz got the required equipment and arrived at the cemetery on Wednesday morning, as the storm picked up nationwide. The strong winds and accompanying rains would make their work near impossible. However, as they began digging the rain halted and for two hours, as they worked to exhume the body, the skies remained dry. Not even a drop of rain was felt. When they completed their task and placed the niftar in a Zaka ambulance the rains resumed, almost immediately.

The niftar was interred in the Ramle Beis Hachaim by Zaka.

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(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)

 

Tobacco Companies Criticize Federal Judge

January 7th, 2015

smokenTobacco companies on Wednesday accused a federal judge of forcing them to inaccurately describe themselves as unscrupulous villains who continue to deceive the public.

In an appeals court filing, the industry said statements ordered by the judge in a government lawsuit would only trigger public anger against the companies and should be scrapped.

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ordered the largest cigarette makers to admit they had lied for decades about the dangers of smoking, and to publicize a federal court’s conclusion that Altria, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Lorillard, and Philip Morris USA deliberately deceived the public.

The companies said the statement was misleading and too broad.

In 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit directed Kessler to craft corrective statements confined to purely factual and uncontroversial information that would reveal previously hidden truths about the tobacco industry’s products.

But the companies said in the new filing that Kessler went beyond those instructions and ordered a series of inflammatory statements that require the defendants to denigrate themselves.

The companies said that in accordance with the appeals court’s ruling, they stand ready to disseminate statements that provide public health information about cigarettes.

Arguments in the case will be heard on Feb. 23.

(AP)

NYPD: Security Stepped Up After Paris Attack

January 7th, 2015

nypdaNew York City police say they’ve stepped up security after an attack on a Paris newspaper killed 12.

The NYPD’s deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism says the department has a detective stationed in Paris and is closely monitoring the situation. John Miller also says the NYPD is putting out a cadre of heavily-armed officers in highly visible locations.

Police Commissioner William Bratton said Wednesday there is no credible threat against New York.

The masked gunmen stormed the Paris offices of a weekly newspaper that had caricatured the Prophet Muhammad.

Mayor Bill de Blasio called Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo to offer his condolences and to express New York City’s support for the people of Paris.

(AP)

Israel: First Annual Conference – Mega Trends in the Global Economy

January 7th, 2015

benThe first Foreign Trade Conference hosted by the Foreign Trade Administration at the Ministry of Economy was held on Tuesday, 15 Teves at the Hilton Tel Aviv. The theme of the conference was “Mega Trends: Global Economic Trends and Business Opportunities for Israeli Exporters”.

The event program began with Minister of Economy MK Naftali Bennett who said, “The Foreign Trade Administration at the Israeli Ministry of Economy is an excellent tool for the private business sector, we are leading a significant plan of mobilizing resources eastward and have more economic attachés in China today. These attachés can help exporters resolve local regulatory issues and provide assistance to business development in every sense of the term.

“Recently there is a trend of complaining how bad everything is in this country. I want to say life is good in this country: We have a strong economy, with very good growth, export to Europe is on the rise with nearly 10% growth in the past year alone, our Hi-Tech industry is at a record year regarding the number of Israeli companies going public and the amount of investment in Israeli companies. 50% of Israeli exports are from the Hi-Tech industry! This is an amazing feat, unparalleled anywhere else in the world.”

Keynote speaker Bret Stephens, a senior editor at the Wall Street Journal added “The US dollar’s appreciation exceeds that of the yen, euro and British pound, and so importing to the US is cheaper. This is good news for Israeli exporters, who annually export goods worth $15 billion. It becomes more expensive still after arriving in the US, which means the dollar’s dominance becomes more attractive. This will help the real estate market in places like Manhattan, San Francisco and Miami. It can make acquisitions of foreign companies more attractive for US investors.”

Head of Foreign Trade Administration Ohad Cohen told the forum “Israel’s first foreign trade conference is a special event for us. Exports are the market’s engine of growth, the engine of the economy’s development. During the conference, we will reveal all the tools that the government and the private sector, with which we work in partnership, can use to help exporters gain a foothold in international markets. We will present valuable information on the different instruments at your disposal. Additionally, we are trying to increase the number of stable exporters. Give us goals and present to us your obstacles, we can help you manage your customer relations.”

The 40 economic attachés working at the Foreign Trade Administration posted in global trade centers presented exporters with various opportunities to increase their activity and penetrate new markets.

The keynote speaker and guest of honor at the conference is Mr. Bret Stephens, editor of the international edition of the Wall Street Journal. Stephens presented global and local trends and spoke of their influence for the economy of the US, the world in general, and Israel.

Senior officials in the government, the market and academics presented macro-economical analyses and discuss new opportunities for Israeli exporters in various sectors around the world.

The first session: An aging population in a developing world: This session dealt with business opportunities born out of the gradual aging of the world’s population, side by side with other demographic changes. This affects consumer products, financial services and of course medical services and medical equipment, and all these aspects create business opportunities for Israel.

The second session dealt with the growth of developing countries: The central segment of the world in constant growth since 2008. Hundreds of millions of people in Asia, Africa and South America move from the peasant class to the middle class and as a result a rapid process of urbanization is taking place. This creates tremendous business opportunities for Israeli exporters. These countries need to renew water and energy infrastructure, develop constantly growing cellular services, and produce new food products in markets slowly edging toward a western mode of consumption.

Head of Foreign Trade Administration Ohad Cohen noted: “The relative part of Israeli exports in total Israeli production is growing year by year and thus also its contribution to the economic growth. The shifts occurring in the world today – in developed and developing countries – create for exporters of different industries extraordinary and significant business opportunities, and as the people in charge of Israel’s foreign trade we intend to help and to create tools to realize these opportunities, constantly adjusting these tools to a changing world with changing needs.”

Other participants at the conference included Mr. Alex Maghen, EVP of strategy and business development at Warner Bros., on the best strategies for Israeli startups who want to work with major media companies, Mr. Reinhard Franzen, senior VP at Bayer HealthCare, Mr. Rene Awambeng, a senior manager at Ecobank, Africa’s largest bank, as well as many senior government officials including: Israeli Minister of Economy Naftali Bennett, Ministry of Economy Director General Amit Lang, Head of Foreign Trade Administration Ohad Cohen, as well as senior executives and CEOs from leading companies.

The Israeli Ministry of Economy’s economic attachés arrived in Israel ahead of the conference. These emissaries are posted in trade centers around the world to help exporters and Israeli business entities break into new markets and locate international investments. While in Israel, the attachés met with business people, entrepreneurs and exporters interested in entering foreign markets or identifying new export avenues.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)

Florida’s Marco Rubio Says He Can Win Presidential Election

January 7th, 2015

rubioFlorida Sen. Marco Rubio said Wednesday he believes he can win the next presidential election, offering an unusually aggressive assessment of his chances while dismissing concerns they’re threatened by potential rival and his political mentor, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

In an interview with The Associated Press, the 43-year-old first-term senator said he had yet to make a final decision about whether to seek re-election to the Senate or run for president in 2016, but he spoke more confidently about making a bid for the White House than he has in the past.

“I believe that if I decide to run for president, we have a path to be a very competitive candidate, and ultimately to win,” Rubio said.

“I can’t guarantee a victory. Certainly these races will be very competitive, and there’s factors outside of our control that will determine a lot of it,” he said. “But if we made the decision to run for president, I believe that we can put together the organization and raise the money necessary to win.”

Should he run for president, Rubio reiterated Wednesday, he’ll do so at the expense of seeking re-election to the Senate.

“If you decide that you’re going to run for president of the United States, that’s what you need to run for. You need to be focused,” Rubio said. “If I decide to run for president, I’ll run for president. And I’m not going to be looking for some exit strategy or off-ramp in case things don’t work out.”

Should Rubio get into the race, he’ll join a field expected to include several high-profile Republicans, including Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. His greatest potential challenge, however, may come from Bush, who last month announced plans to actively consider a presidential run and has spent recent weeks laying the groundwork for a national campaign.

“We have a lot of talented people in the Republican Party,” Rubio said of Bush, who served as Florida’s governor while Rubio was rising in state politics. “Jeb is one of them. But there are others, too.”

Rubio has become one of the GOP’s more aggressive voices on international affairs during his four years in the Senate. The senator also occupies a unique place in the Republican political spectrum, having championed the Senate’s unsuccessful push for immigration reform in 2013 in addition to carving out more traditionally conservative positions on cultural issues, health care and international affairs.

Rubio is set to appear in a series of interviews next week to promote his new book, and will follow with a more comprehensive book tour during the Senate’s February recess. In the book to be released next week, Rubio confronts his immigration critics while refusing to apologize for pushing for a comprehensive approach that included a pathway to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally.

“When people hear that we have over 12 million people here illegally, they feel as if we are being taken advantage of,” Rubio writes in “American Dreams: Restoring Economic Opportunity for Everyone.” ”They see how hard it is to find and keep a steady and well-paying job, and they worry that more people will mean more competition for already scarce work.

“That’s not nativism,” Rubio continues, referencing a preference by some people for native-born residents over immigrants. “That’s human nature.”

Rubio’s comments on “nativism” counter what President Barack Obama told The Economist in an interview published last August criticizing Republicans’ opposition to immigration changes. The GOP, Obama told the magazine, “knows we need immigration reform, knows that it would actually be good for its long-term prospects, but is captive to the nativist elements in its party.”

While Rubio criticizes “detractors” in his own party who argue against any update to the nation’s immigration laws, he again says in the book that he now favors the one-piece-at-a-time approach supported by some conservatives.

In the Wednesday interview, Rubio said he was more interested in fixing the “broken” immigration system than the politics of the debate.

“I ran for office to identify problems and try to solve them,” he said. “Now, we tried to solve them last year through a comprehensive bill. And it’s clear that that approach won’t work.”

(AP)

Terrorists Hurl Firebombs at Beit Hadassah Homes

January 7th, 2015

parThe snow did not deter Islamic terrorists in Hebron on Wednesday afternoon, 16 Teves. Two firebombs were hurled at homes in the Beit Hadassah area of Hebron. B’chasdei Hashem there were no fatalities or injuries. A brush fire broke out and firefighters responded to extinguish the blaze. The terrorists were not apprehended.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)

Rav Mazuz is Concerned with the Future of Eretz Yisrael

January 7th, 2015

mazuzSpeaking at a Yarhzeit event, HaGaon HaRav Meir Mazuz Shlita expressed his concerns regarding the future of Eretz Yisrael. Mentioning Rav Kook Z”TL in his address. Rav Mazuz stated this is the reason the new Ha’Am Itanu party was launched, to fight to safeguard Eretz HaKodesh.

Thousands took part in the “hilula” for HaGaon HaRav Matzliach Mazuz ZT”L, Rabbi Meir Mazuz’s father. The rav explained “Moshe’s way was to bring those who are far away back to the fold, even those who throw stones at the Torah. Take the Moshe Rabbeinu of our generation too, Maran HaGaon HaRav Ovadia Yosef ZT”L. Take Rav Kook ZT”L too. Both of them brought Jews back. Rav Kook met a young philosopher, David HaCohen, a young person who heard Rav Kook davening in the morning and took a liking to him. He became the rav/nazir under Rav Kook’s spell”.

Rav Mazuz continued, “There are those who state Rav Kook was not acceptable, those who forget what gedolim said about him. Rav Sonnenfeld and Rav Aryeh Levine. One may include Rav Elyashiv too, who was a son-in-law of Rav Levine and the chareidi gadol hador and admired Rav Kook. The Chazon Ish called Rav Kook ‘a holy man’. The Chazon Ish called him ‘Maran’. Once, at a large event, the chareidi rabbonim wanted to cancel because it was a kippa sruga event. Maran said ‘everyone is a Jew’. The roshei teivos of “Yachad” are “chareidim, dati’im and Yehudim” the rav continued.

The rav added “We hate machlokes and division but I saw there isn’t anyone standing firm on behalf of Eretz Yisrael. You should know this pained Rav Ovadia a great deal. We must fight for our land even if there are other comfortable places…”

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)

VIDEO: Prime Minister Netanyahu Comments on Paris Terror Attack

January 7th, 2015

bibn[VIDEO IN EXTENDED ARTICLE]

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, 16 Teves, released the following statement after hearing of the fatal terror attack in Paris that claimed 12 lives.

“The people of Israel send their condolences to the people of France over the brutal acts of savagery in the heart of Paris today. The attacks of radical Islam know no boundaries – these are international attacks and the response has to be international. The terrorists want to destroy our freedoms and our civilization. And therefore, all the free countries and all the civilized societies have to band together to fight this scourge. And if we stand together and if we are not divided, then we can defeat this tyranny that seeks to extinguish all our freedoms. I wish once again to express the sympathy that all the citizens of Israel feel for the people of France and for the grieving families. We are experiencing these attacks time and again, we know the pain but we also know the resolution with which free societies can defeat terror – however dreadful, however threatening.”

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)

EJC Calls For Clampdown On Extremism After Gunmen Murder 12 In Paris

January 7th, 2015

p03The European Jewish Congress has called on French authorities to take extensive measures against extremists in the wake of an attack on the headquarters of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

“Unfortunately, there is the beginning of wave of terror on the streets of Europe,” Dr. Moshe Kantor, President of the EJC, said. “This is a war against freedom of speech and the European way of life which has already seen Jewish children gunned down at school and people murdered in cold blood while visiting a museum in Brussels.”

“We must use all tools necessary to prevent these terrorist attacks which must begin with a significant clampdown on extremists and those that promulgate hate. The authorities must take preventative measures, but also increase the powers of law enforcement agencies and increase intelligence cooperation to ensure that these types of attacks do not happen again.”

“The EJC sends its deepest condolences to the families of those killed and the French people with whom we stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity at this time.”

(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)

Israel: Wednesday Evening Storm Briefs

January 7th, 2015

IMG-20150107-WA0071· 19:44: The Jerusalem Municipality announces a decision regarding the opening of schools on Thursday will be made at 6:00AM Thursday morning.

· Israel Electric Company (IEC) reported at about 19:30 that 17,000 families nationwide are without electric at this time.

· IEC predicts an all-time record will be reached for electricity demand on Wednesday night.

· Efrat, in Gush Etzion, announces schools will remain closed on Thursday.

· In Shomron, schools will remain closed in the Gush Shilo area as well as for school in the Talmonim area. In addition, schools for the communities of Psagot, Migron, Ofra and others will remain closed. Some schools in the regional council’s jurisdiction will operate.

· Tzfas schools to remain closed on Thursday.

· Schools will remain closed on Thursday in the Shomron city of Ariel.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)

House GOP Ties To Regroup After Divisive Speaker Vote

January 7th, 2015

boehnerHouse Republicans began the new Congress with old divisions on display Wednesday, bitter fallout from a failed rebellion against Speaker John Boehner.

Boehner took swift action against two of the dissenters, knocking them from a key committee. But some of his allies demanded more, furious at the two dozen lawmakers who opposed him in Tuesday’s speaker vote, in the process starting the year with party infighting instead of a unified challenge to President Barack Obama.

“All of us think that they should have retribution,” said Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., a Boehner loyalist. “They put the conservative agenda at risk with their wanting to be on television and radio.”

Other lawmakers counseled caution, urging Boehner not to crack down on his opponents and instead focus on substantive issues.

The rebels themselves warned of their own payback if Boehner does take further steps against them.

“There’s going to be a fight,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, a Boehner foe, when asked what would happen if leaders retaliated against lawmakers who opposed Boehner’s re-election. “And it’s going to be real hard to bring the party together like they say they want to do.”

The dissenters were disorganized and never coalesced around an alternate candidate, instead spreading their votes among nine alternatives, some of whom got just one or two votes. But their total numbers were historically high for a speaker’s race. They included some of the same lawmakers who forced the government into a 16-day partial shutdown in the fall of 2013 in a failed effort to end Obama’s health care law, and who have repeatedly complicated leaders’ efforts to pass legislation on immigration, farm policy and other issues.

Many mainstream Republicans are sick of dealing with the dissenters at every turn and would like to see them neutralized as the new Congress gets underway with Republicans commanding a bigger majority of 246 in the House — the most in more than 60 years — along with control of the Senate.

Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, who often is a voice for the Republican establishment, said the two dozen Republicans who voted against Boehner should realize “that nine of out every 10 Republicans voted against me, against my position. Maybe I’m the one that’s out of step.”

“To me, it’s sort of amateur hour when you do this,” Cole said. “You need to be professional in the way you approach your job.”

It’s not clear whether Boehner will take further steps beyond removing Reps. Daniel Webster and Richard Nugent from their posts on the House Rules Committee. Webster got 12 votes in the speaker’s election on Tuesday, the most of any of the Boehner opponents.

At a closed-door meeting of all Republicans Wednesday morning, Boehner indicated that his move against Webster and Nugent wasn’t final and could be revisited, participants said.

Afterward, Boehner told reporters: “We’re going to have a family conversation, which we had this morning, about bringing our team together. And I expect that those conversations over the next couple of days will continue and we’ll come to a decision about how we go forward.”

(AP)

Drone Revolution Draws Near, But Big Obstacles Remain

January 7th, 2015

droneThe drones are coming.

Not as flying deliverymen that bring diapers, books or soup cans to your home, a vision put forth by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to much fanfare a little more than a year ago.

Instead, drones will help spray crops, inspect high-voltage power lines and hover over movie sets to provide directors with new vantage points. They will also work for insurance companies, real estate agencies, ski resorts and dozens of other businesses.

Eventually.

For now, this all remains theoretical. Except for a few locations, U.S. airspace is closed to commercial drones. Regulators say the danger is too great, and they want to go slow easing unmanned aircraft into the already crowded skies.

Advocates of the young drone industry complain that the long wait is keeping them grounded. Big-money investors are generally staying away, waiting for clear government guidelines. And the blanket flight prohibition has prevented companies from experimenting and advancing the technology. That includes developing sophisticated collision-avoidance systems or finding ways for the aircraft to navigate without human help.

“Most of these drones have very limited safety features,” says Maryanna Saenko, an analyst with science and technology consultancy Lux Research. If one crashes, “it’s a four- or five-pound brick coming out of the sky.”

Most Americans associate drones with the military, which uses unmanned aircraft to survey battlefields and hunt terrorists. In a similar manner, businesses of all kinds envision using them to perform jobs that are too difficult or dangerous for humans.

If safety and regulatory obstacles can be overcome, within the next three years, drones and the companies that support them could generate $13.7 billion worth of economic activity in the U.S. and create 70,000 new jobs, according to the industry’s trade group, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

That’s just domestically. In less than a decade, as many as 32,000 commercial drones could be flying worldwide, according to aerospace consultancy Teal Group. Only a third will be in the U.S.

The Federal Aviation Administration plans to release guidelines soon about who can fly drones weighing less than 55 pounds and under what conditions. They might include the extremely stringent — and costly — requirement that operators have a pilot’s license.

That means some of the most ambitious drone ideas, like Amazon’s package-delivery system, will probably have to wait. First, drones will tackle the hard-to-do jobs, the dangerous industrial tasks, often in remote places.

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THE FIRST ADOPTERS

To see the potential of drones, go to a plateau in the Southern California desert covered with cacti and brush. There, Teena Deering, a former Navy helicopter pilot who later taught drone warfare, is testing the idea of using unmanned aircraft to inspect power lines.

A generation ago, military pilots would retire and fly for airlines. Today, they are working on drones.

“It’s just the way of the future,” Deering says.

With a few quick movements of a wireless controller — the type used for model airplanes — Deering sends a 1-pound drone racing into the sky around a 165-foot tower. Live video streams back from the drone’s camera, showing her the condition of the lines.

Normally, the remote lines are inspected by helicopter, a difficult job that costs $1,200 an hour. But San Diego Gas and Electric thinks that drones might be a cheaper, faster way.

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FARMER DRONE

Perhaps the biggest industry ripe for drone use is farming. With the help of GPS mapping, drones can survey an entire farm, find bugs or soil that is too dry or too low in nutrients and then send the exact coordinates back to a tractor that will apply pesticide, water or fertilizer only to areas in need.

Taking it a step further, there are 2,500 unmanned miniature helicopters currently used by farmers in Japan to spray pesticides in hilly areas where tractors might roll over. Similar drones are operating in South Korean and Australia. In the U.S., the $150,000 helicopters are being considered for the steep slopes of California vineyards.

Farmers aren’t expected to buy the costly drones themselves but will hire new services for specific jobs.

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INDUSTRY VS. REGULATORS

The FAA estimates that 7,500 drones will be flying in the U.S. within five years. The industry puts the number in the hundreds of thousands. Compare that to the four largest U.S. airlines, with their combined fleet of 4,728 planes.

“The FAA is just scared to death,” says David Bridges, a mechanical engineering professor testing drones at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi. “U.S. airspace is one of the safest in the world. It’s their job to keep it that way.”

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta says drone technology is promising but needs to be phased in responsibly.

“We have a duty to protect people in the air and on the ground,” Huerta says.

Some of the greatest danger is close to airports, where hundreds of airline passengers could be at risk from errant drones. The FAA has reports of nearly 200 cases in the past 10 months where drones got too close for comfort to manned airplanes.

Even the military, with its expert pilots, crashes drones. The Air Force has lost 116 unmanned aircraft in the last decade and now has a rate of about five destroyed for every 100,000 hours of flying time.

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HOBBYISTS

While companies wait, more and more hobbyists are putting drones in the skies. Many can be operated with an iPhone or Android smartphone. Some cost just $300. French company Parrot has sold 670,000 drones worldwide in just the past four years.

The problem is that today’s aircraft lack brains. They must either be controlled remotely by a pilot or fly a predetermined route from one coordinate to another.

Technology that senses obstacles and avoids them isn’t proven. Battery life is limited. And questions remain about hackers or terrorists intercepting and controlling drones.

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DELIVERY BY DRONE

Amazon says its drone delivery service could someday get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less.

Through its Prime Air service, Amazon aims to have drones flying 50 mph and capable of carrying up to 5 pounds.

“They will become as normal as seeing delivery trucks driving down the street,” says Paul Misner, Amazon’s global vice president of public policy.

Not everybody is so optimistic. Drones, they say, aren’t a cost-effective replacement for existing systems.

German delivery company Deutsche Post DHL is already testing a drone, but only to a remote tourist island in the North Sea and just for urgent deliveries of medicine.

Drones aren’t intended to supersede planes and trucks, says spokeswoman Anita Gupta.

“It doesn’t replace the solid network we have developed for our ground transportation,” Gupta says. “This is not like some sci-fi movie.”

(AP)

3 Life Sentences for Mastermind of Abduction of Three Kedoshim HY”D

January 7th, 2015

knAn IDF court on Tuesday, 15 Teves, sentenced Hussam Kawasmeh, 40, to three life sentences for masterminding the abduction of Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrach HY”D.

Hussam also enlisted the terrorists who perpetrated the kidnapping murders, Marwan Kawasmeh and Omer Abu-Eisha, who are still at large and wanted by Israel.

Hussan planned to flee to Jordan using forged documents but he was apprehended by the ISA (Israel Security Agency – Shin Bet) in the Shuafat area of the capital. He raised over 200,000 NIS though the assistance of his brother in Gaza, money needed for the abduction plot. They purchased a vehicle, weapons and other materials. Hussam has already served seven years in an Israeli prison for his affiliation with Hamas.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)

Obama Starts 2015 On The Upswing, But Can It Last?

January 7th, 2015

obaPresident Barack Obama’s approval rating is creeping upward. The economy is growing. And a flurry of aggressive executive actions on domestic and foreign policy have energized the West Wing.

Obama’s challenge now is to figure out how to prevent this burst of momentum from being more than just a blip on the radar of his presidency’s waning years.

To the White House, the immediate answer lies outside of Washington. On Wednesday, Obama starts three days of travel to Michigan, Arizona and Tennessee to preview manufacturing, housing and education proposals that will be part of his Jan. 20 State of the Union address.

Not on Obama’s schedule during his first workweek of the new year: a meeting with the leaders of the Republican-led Congress, which officially began Tuesday. That won’t happen until early next week.

“I’m confident there are going to be areas where we disagree and there will be some pitched battles,” Obama said of the new GOP leadership, though he added that he was hopeful for a “productive 2015.”

The contours of the first fight were set within hours of the new Congress being gaveled into session. Republicans moved forward with plans to advance legislation approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline — and the White House vowed to veto the measure.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky lawmaker who will now serve as Senate majority leader, suggested the veto threat showed the president hadn’t learned the lessons of Democrats’ drubbing in the midterm elections.

“Regretfully, at least so far since the election, the president doesn’t seem to be moving off of the far-left,” McConnell told The Associated Press in an interview. “But we can’t afford to give up on him because he’s going to be there until January 2017.”

Beyond Keystone, the Republican priority list for 2015 includes making changes to Obama’s signature health care law, seeking to block his executive actions on immigration and rolling back environmental regulations favored by the White House.

It should come as no surprise that the president’s to-do list looks far different.

During an event at a Ford assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan, Obama was expected to tout the resurgence of the American automobile industry that followed the government bailout. He’ll then travel to Phoenix to discuss proposals for making home ownership more affordable, and close his roadshow Friday in Tennessee, where he is expected to tout the state’s new policy to pay for community college tuition.

Officials said the president planned to make additional stops around the country next week in an effort to gain traction heading into the State of the Union.

Escaping Washington has long been the Obama White House’s go-to strategy for generating momentum during tough stretches of his presidency. White House aides say one of the president’s biggest frustrations last year was his inability to travel around the country in support of Democratic candidates given his party’s wariness of his deepening unpopularity.

But in something of a surprise shift, the president heads out on this week’s fly-around with his approval rating showing some signs of strengthening. After dropping to 40 percent in the Gallup daily tracking poll around Election Day, the latest survey shows 46 percent of Americans approve of the president’s job performance. The percentage of people who disapprove of the president has also fallen below 50 percent.

The slightly improving environment for the president comes amid a surge in economic growth that’s been fueled by hiring gains, cheaper gas prices and rising consumer confidence. Administration officials are warily watching slowdowns in other parts of the world, including Europe, but say they believe the recent U.S. economic gains will be sustained, unlike other periods of progress under Obama’s watch that proved to be fleeting.

The president’s team also attributes some of the president’s improved standing to his willingness to eschew Congress and instead wield his executive powers. He angered many Republicans by unveiling plans to allow more than 4 million people living in the U.S. illegally to stay in the country. That action was followed by a surprise decision to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba after a half-century freeze.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that while the president wasn’t completely turning his back on the new Congress, he would continue to seek out areas to act on his own. He said he hoped that strategy would result in a continuation of the recent “trend in the poll numbers.”

(AP)

Scorekeeping Change May Help GOP Pass Tax Reform

January 7th, 2015

gopRepublicans controlling the House have changed the rules on budget scorekeeping and Democrats are unhappy with the new math.

At issue is so-called dynamic scoring, which factors in the economic effects of legislation when estimating its effect on the deficit.

The rules change promises to make it somewhat easier for Republicans to advance legislation such as an overhaul of the loophole-ridden tax code, since the positive economic effects of such legislation would generate greater tax revenue. That means lawmakers would have to come up with less in offsetting revenues to make up for bold cuts in income tax rates.

The House adopted the rule changes on a nearly party-line vote on Tuesday.

Republicans call it “macroeconomic scoring.” The rule would direct congressional scorekeepers to incorporate the macroeconomic effects of major legislation into their official cost estimates.

Democrats say the shift to dynamic scorekeeping will drive up the deficit.

“The bottom line is that this is a way to try to fast-track tax cuts for millionaires and make it look like there are not large costs,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Budget Committee.

The rules change comes as Republicans appear likely to replace Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf, a Democratic appointee, whose term expired last week. Democrats fear that a new GOP appointee to run the agency would be more likely to take liberties with the new scorekeeping mandate to help drive the GOP agenda. There are several competing models for evaluating the economic effects of legislation and estimates can vary widely.

Republicans say that the twin scorekeeping agencies — the Joint Committee on Taxation focuses on tax legislation while the CBO deals with most everything else — already perform macroeconomic analysis of major bills such as the Senate’s 2013 immigration overhaul or the 2010 health care law. The new mandate would incorporate such analysis into official cost estimates of legislation.

The incoming chairman of the House Budget Committee denied that the change amounted to “cooking the books” in favor of tax cuts.

“All that we’re trying to do is make certain that members of Congress have more information upon which to make decisions,” said Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., who is replacing former Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis. “What we’re trying to do is to simply say that if a piece of legislation is going to have a large effect on the economy that we include that effect in the official estimate.”

“Republicans will be able to hide the true costs of tax cuts behind a debunked mantra that tax cuts pay for themselves,” said No. 2 House Democrat Steny Hoyer of Maryland. In fact, Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, explicitly acknowledged during floor debate that tax cuts do not finance themselves through higher growth, and Republicans said the change is likely to only produce modest changes in cost estimates.

The new scoring approach would only be required for major legislation in which the budgetary effects of legislation — meaning an increase or decrease in revenue, spending or deficits — are at least 0.25 percent of the size of the economy. Had the rule been in effect last year, the threshold would have been $43 billion.

White House budget office director Shaun Donovan wrote a blog post blasting the idea.

“While all budget estimates are uncertain, there is substantially more disagreement among economists and experts about how policy changes affect the macroeconomy than about most other scoring issues,” Donovan wrote. “Dynamic scoring can create a bias favoring tax cuts over investments in infrastructure, education and other priorities.”

Estimates created under current “static” scoring rules only take into account the direct effects of legislation to government coffers.

“Right now, the House usually uses conventional estimates, which assume that, no matter what the federal government does, the size of the economy will stay exactly the same,” says a GOP fact sheet, adding, “But for major legislation, that’s not true.”

(AP)

PM Netanyahu Makes a Shiva Visit to HaRav Cohen

January 7th, 2015

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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made a shiva visit to HaGaon HaRav Shalom Cohen Shlita, who is sitting shiva in his Jerusalem Old City home following the petira of a sister.

The prime minister arrived at the shiva home on Tuesday, 15 Teves during the evening hours. The prime minster arrived in an appropriate fashion, wearing a yarmulke, spending a half hour with the head of the Shas party Moetzas Gedolei Yisrael. The prime minister mentioned how his younger son recently entered the IDF and how he was a contestant in the annual International Bible Quiz competition. He told Rav Cohen he would like to bring his son in the future to receive a bracha. The rav response “You should merit [seeing] good roots from the family”.

The rav told the prime minister that he should be cognizant of to the words of Shlomo HaMelech, לב מלכים ושרים ביד ה’. Rav Cohen benched the prime minister with Birkas Kohanim, explaining it is a general bracha for everything.

Shas MK Yitzchak Cohen, who maintains good relations with Mr. Netanyahu, escorted him during the visit.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)

Bitterly Cold Air Stretches From Dakotas To Alabama

January 7th, 2015

colFrigid air is blowing across the United States, dropping temperatures in many areas into the single digits and leading weather monitors to issue wind chill advisories and politicians to plead with residents to check on their neighbors.

A National Weather Service wind chill advisory for much of the Northeast for Wednesday into Thursday warns of “dangerously cold air” with strong winds that could result in frostbite if people don’t put on their scarves, hats and gloves.

Here’s a look at how the winter weather plaguing almost two-thirds of the country is playing out and what’s to come.

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OPENINGS AND CLOSINGS

A stretch of the Thruway in western New York reopened after being shut down in both directions for more than three hours Tuesday night into Wednesday morning because of severe lake-effect storms near Lake Erie.

A 40-mile section of Interstate 90′s eastbound lanes closed shortly before midnight Tuesday. A 50-mile stretch of the highway’s westbound lanes from closed around the same time. The Thruway reopened in both directions around 3:15 a.m. Wednesday.

Tuesday’s lake-effect storms along the eastern shore of Lake Ontario dumped about a foot of snow on areas south of Buffalo

The blast of arctic air that’s blanketing most of the country prompted schools to close or delay openings from Alabama to the Dakotas.

Wind chill advisories and warnings for North Dakota and South Dakota, with the combination of arctic air and wind pushing wind chills into the minus 20s and 30s led to dozens of schools either closing or delaying their opening. The weather service has posted blizzard watches for southeastern South Dakota and northeastern North Dakota on Thursday.

Schools pushed back their starting times across Central and north Alabama because of the bitterly cold weather. In Tennessee, some schools that closed Wednesday planned to remain shut down on Thursday.

Dozens of school districts in Illinois, including Chicago Public Schools, canceled Wednesday classes due to subzero temperatures. In Indiana, Indianapolis Public Schools, one of the state’s largest school districts, canceled Wednesday’s classes, as did many others across the state’s northern half, where a daylong wind chill warning was in effect. There were also numerous school closings in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

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NORTHEAST, BUNDLE UP!

Residents across the Northeast have been warned: It’s brutally cold and getting colder.

The National Weather Service said already cold temperatures in the region dropped to the mid-teens early Wednesday and were expected to fall to the single digits before the morning commute. It said an arctic front moving in from the north and west had a chance of producing wind gusts up to 40 mph by afternoon.

Nighttime? Even colder, with wind chills of about 15 degrees below zero in the New York metro area and 20 below farther north.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio urged people in the nation’s largest city to prepare for temperatures expected to drop to 9 degrees on Wednesday night. He reminded them to watch over neighbors and relatives who may be at risk and asked service providers to check on their clients.

In Connecticut, officials urged people in need of shelter to call the 211 hotline as the state braced for a frigid blast. A cold-weather protocol activated by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy directs state agencies to coordinate with the hotline and the network of shelters to make sure the state’s most vulnerable residents are protected from the cold.

New Jersey is cleaning up from a snowfall that caused slick roads and numerous accidents.

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MOVE OVER, SNOW; WELCOME, COLD

Ohio residents who sighed with relief as snowfall that caused hazardous road conditions moved out of the state were warned to prepare for single-digit temperatures and wind chills below zero.

Early snowfall Tuesday led to slow morning commutes and numerous traffic accidents across the state. A Highway Patrol trooper was among four people injured when a woman lost control of her car on a slick highway in Clermont County and struck a police cruiser.

The forecast for Wednesday into Thursday calls for temperatures below zero for most of the state and wind chills possibly as low as 20 to 30 below zero.

Duke Energy said it’s prepared for increased demand but advised customers to check supplies of flashlights, batteries, bottled water and medicines. Columbia Gas of Ohio warned customers not to use ovens or ranges to heat their homes.

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… AND IN CALIFORNIA

A Central and Southern California winter heat wave has set records with highs topping 80 degrees.

Santa Maria’s airport on Tuesday recorded a maximum temperature of 82 degrees, 2 degrees above records for the day set in 1962 and 1918. Santa Barbara’s airport also hit 82 degrees, well above the 78 recorded in 1964.

Highs in the low to mid-80s set or tied records in Camarillo, in Burbank and at UCLA.

In San Diego County, Escondido’s 87 beat the 86 recorded in 1969, and Alpine topped a 1969 record with a high of 82.

The National Weather Service said the heat will continue through Wednesday but cooler conditions beginning Friday could drop some areas into the 60s over the weekend.

(AP)

Shidduch Pictures, Rav Chaim Kanievsky, and a New Perspective

January 7th, 2015

Kanievsky[By Rabbi Yair Hoffman]

Another question that was brought to Rav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita, this past Sunday by Mr. Larry Gordon, owner of the Five Towns Jewish Times, concerned Shidduchim.
A few weeks ago, the Five Towns Jewish Times ran an article about the tendency for young men and their mothers to ask for a picture of any potential Shidduch.

The article cited the Chebiner Rav who responded in writing to a shadchan who conveyed such a request with a message to the other side, “Lo y’aseh kain bimkomeinu, lasais haTzurah lifnei haBechira.. – This shall not be done in our place, to give the Tzurah [the appearance of the girl – i.e. a photograph = pronounced BTW in the Chasidish havarah as Tzirah] before the Bechira – (Chassidish pronounciation for Bachura) the young lady.” The Chebiner devised a clever play on words using Tzurah – photograph, instead of Tze’irah – younger one referencing Lavan’s response to Yaakov Avinu in Bereishis 29:26, however, he did respond with a very clear message: This is clearly not something that Jewish people should be doing and is very far from the Torah way of life.

The article further explained that such a request demeans and cheapens the young lady under discussion. Each human being was created in the Divine Image, and to debase a Bas Yisroel in such a fashion runs counter to many fundamental yesodos in Yiddishkeit.

Finally, the article cited a few contemporary Poskim: Rav Dovid Feinstein shlita, was not happy when he heard of this growing practice and responded, “Why are we making things more difficult? There is a certain chein that young ladies have that often does not come across in a photograph, and can only be seen in person. We are making the shidduch crisis worse with these new requirements.” He did not forbid it from a halachic perspective, but he was clearly very much against it. Rav Moshe Heinemann, Shlita of Baltimore, when consulted by this author on the question, responded, “I do not think that it is within the framework of tznius for a girl to give a picture out where others can possibly see it. This is not with the ruach of Torah.” Rav Shmuel Fuerst, a Dayan in Chicago stated, “This wasn’t the mehalech for doros, and I think it is lacking in tznius. I don’t think it is a proper hanhagah and, besides, a picture can be very deceiving.”

So what did Rav Chaim say?

1. האם ראוי לבן-תורה לפני שיוצא עם בחורה בשידוכים לשאול את השדכן בשביל תמונה של הבחורה שיכול לברר אם תמצא חן בעיניו מטעם היופי שלה? והחשבון של הבחור שזה יחסוך לו זמן. או האם זה דבר מכוער לבן תורה או בן ישיבה לעשות? וגם אולי אפשר שיש לבחורה חן שלא נמצא בתמונה?

Is it proper for a Ben Torah, before he dates a girl for shidduchim, to ask the shadchan for a picture of the girl so that he can determine whether he will find her attractive? His reasoning is so that it will save him time. Is this an inappropriate thing for a Ben Torah or Ben Yeshiva to do? Perhaps also a girl has a certain type of beauty that is not found in a picture.

שתויות! הוא לא יראה כלום – צריך לפגוש!

Rav Chaim responded, “This is nonsense! He will not see anything [through the picture]. One must meet [her]!

Rav Chaim is clearly characterizing such requests as foolishness.

After the article on the proliferation of picture requests first appeared, this author was approached by a number of young men who rationalized the practice by explaining how asking for a picture had saved them countless hours. They explained that the average date now costs some $150, to say nothing of the 3 and ½ hours spent in traffic – aside from the date itself. The bitul Torah is enormous.

In response to this valid point, I would like to humbly suggest a slightly different modality to the entire shidduch scene. Let us recall the Gemorah in Brachos (60b). Rabbi Akiva tells us to be accustomed to say, “kol d’avid rachmana l’tav avid – All that the Merciful One has done He has done for the good.”

Instead of looking at dating to be an utter waste of time and Bitul Torah, why don’t we look at dating as an opportunity to perform a DeOraisah Mitzvah – of V’ahavta l’rayacha Kamocha? Seriously, many, many shidduchim have been brought about through peer to peer initiation – through a shadchan, of course. So why not here as well? Every bochur has friends or acquaintances that might be a perfect fit for the young lady that is currently in the car with him on this “waste-of-time” date. Let us also remember that the Mitzvah of v’ahavta l’rayacha kamocha also applies to the young lady whose resume we have just perused and actually considered to be our spouse. We have here an opportunity to a] look out for a shidduch for our friends, b] look out for a shidduch for this young lady, c] do a chessed for her parents in finding their daughter someone and d] possibly, possibly, she may have someone for the the young man dating too. Let’s think about it. Purim, Chanukah, 7 out of 8 days of Lulav and Esrog, these are all Derabanan Mitzvos. There are four recipients of Chessed here. When else do we have an opportunity to fulfill four full-fledged Torah Mitzvos at one shot?

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com

ARTICLE PUBLISHED BY 5TJT