Video Of Interest: Sukkos Hachnosas Orchim with HaRav Chaim Kanievsky and HaRav Eliezer Yehuda Finkel in YerushalayimSeptember 23rd, 2013
[VIDEO IN EXTENDED ARTICLE] Brooklyn DA candidates Ken Thompson celebrated his stunning upset over incumbent Joe Hynes, Sunday night, at a Sukkot celebration with community leaders and elected officials in Crown Heights.
At an annual Sukkot gathering in the sukkah of R’ Chanina Sperlin, one of Crown Heights’ most influential community leaders, Mr. Thompson was introduced as “the next DA” following his stunning victory over incumbent Joe Hynes, despite losing the Jewish vote in certain neighborhoods of Brooklyn.
Mr. Thompson, sometimes beaming and sometimes serious, thanked the Crown heights community for their vote of confidence, as well as pledging to be fair to all communities in Brooklyn, once sworn in as the next District Attorney. “I intend to be a DA that will be a champion for every community in Brooklyn,” Mr. Thompson said in his brief remarks. “I believe it’s time to have a DA that will not only keep us safe but make sure that we are all treated fundamentally fairly, and that’s my commitment to you. I am here today, but I will be here over and over again. My commitment to you, to our families and neighbors is to make sure that Brooklyn is better.”
(Jacob Kornbluh – YWN)
As the latest poll showed him trailing by a huge margin, Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota challenged Democrat Bill de Blasio to face off in weekly debates in every borough between now and the election.
Lhota called for at least five more debates, on top of the two the candidates are required to participate in by the city Campaign Finance Board, both of which are in Manhattan.
“The people of the city of New York need to have a vigorous debate between the mayoral candidates,” Lhota said. “It’s important that we go out to the people and they see the contrast between the two of us, the contrast in our approaches the contrast in our philosophy.”
More debates could raise the profile of Lhota, who suffers both from lower name recognition than de Blasio and the city’s overwhelming Democratic advantage.
Lhota said debates would lay bare a slew of differences between him and de Blasio on issues from schools and the economy, but especially emphasized their different approaches to the NYPD.
“In areas of public safety I think we differ tremendously,” Lhota said, citing a federal court ruling declaring stop and frisk unconstitutional and two City Council bills passed to rein in the practice, all of which de Blasio supports.
“All of these bills, all of these actions, have had a chilling effect upon the Police Department, and they’re not doing the proactive policing that’s necessary to keep crime down. We need to have this vigorous debate in all five boroughs.”
And how does he expect to fare against de Blasio in the showdowns?
“I’ll hold my own,” he said. “I’m not worried about having a debate. I’ve had them my entire life, no matter where I was.”
As for format, he had one preference: “Standing at a podium,” he said. “I find sittting to be too comfortable, and not appropriate.”
He brushed off the results of the latest Quinnipiac poll, which showed him trailing 66% to 25%.
“These are early polls. I expected to be in this position. I’m not worried about being in the underdog position,” he said. “I won’t be defending a position; I’ll be on offense the whole time.”
(The Daily News Blog)
The well-known Misaskim organization is offering a magnificent Waltzing Waters show to the community on Monday September 23 at 9:00 and 10:15 pm located on the corner of 36th St. and Church Ave. The Waltzing Waters will be part of a special Chol Hamoed for Yesomim but will then be offered to the community at large as a public service. Waltzing Waters®, Inc. was the first fountain company in the world to incorporate high-tech dichroic filters integrated within submersible lighting. These produce brilliant, saturated colors, up to four times brighter than ordinary fountain lighting. This lighting combined with the spectacular effects produced by Waltzing Waters®, evokes the description “liquid fireworks,” a term frequently coined by the public when viewing the shows.
Misaskim is known for their dedication and skilled attentiveness to detail, whether it is for a community event or on the scene of a disaster. Founded in 1999, Misaskim is well known for its services to thousands of mourners who receive the required special furniture, Sifrei Torah, and even air conditioners. It is also the major force in the community in preparedness for any possible disaster with a full team of volunteer rescuers as well as a sophisticated communications center and emergency equipment.
(YWN Desk – NYC)
Bayit Yehudi leader Minister Naftali Bennett commented on Sunday, 18 Tishrei 5774 following the weekend terrorist murder of IDF soldier Sgt. Tomer Hazan HY”D.
Bennett stated “we cannot make peace with those murderers who throw the body in a well.”
The minister added that the PA (Palestinian Authority) has not issued any condemnatory statement, adding “if the victim was an Arab, we would have heard statements of apology and condemnation from across the political spectrum.”
Bennett condemned Fatah, which is viewed as the moderate faction, headed by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) for its silence in the wake of the murder of the 20-year-old soldier.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)
Maran HaGaon HaRav Ovadia Yosef Shlita is out of surgery after a pacemaker was successfully inserted to stabilize the gadol hador’s heartbeat and improve his cardiac function. Kikar Shabbat repots the procedure was conducted under local anesthesia as planned.
Family members of the rav are calling on the tzibur around the world to be mispallel on his behalf.
The rav felt ill on Shabbos and he did not participate in minyan in his beis medrash. His physician decided on motzei Shabbos to have him readmitted to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital. Earlier on Sunday morning, 18 Tishrei 5774 it was reported that doctors were concerned with diminished kidney function.
Later in the day there were reports of a “critical surgical procedure” which appears to have been the insertion of a pacemaker.
The tzibur is urged to be mispallel on Rav Ovadia’s behalf.
רבי עובדיה יוסף בן גורג’יה לרפואה שלימה בתוך שאר חולי ישראל
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)
The city’s poverty rate, defined as $23,314 for a family of four, rose to 21.2 percent in 2012, up from 20.9 percent in 2011 and 20.1 percent in 2010.
New York City’s median household income of $50,895 was barely above the 2011 median of $50,657. It has not caught up with the 2008 figure of $54,695 despite the economic recovery that started the following year.
“The rising tide of recovery has yet to lift all boats,” said Triada Stampas, a spokeswoman for the Food Bank for New York City, which distributes food to more than 1,000 food pantries, soup kitchens and other community-based programs.
David R. Jones, president of the Community Service Society, a research group concerned with poverty, noted that the poverty rate for single mothers rose from 40.4 percent in 2011 to 43 percent in 2012. Hispanic New Yorkers had the highest poverty rate of any ethnic group at 29.8 percent.
“We’re seeing an explosion of poverty problems particularly in the Latino community,” Jones said. “They are concentrated in many low-wage sectors that are particularly hard hit, such as car-wash workers and fast-food workers.”
Fourteen percent of New Yorkers had no health coverage, either private or public.
The figures show stark economic inequality in New York City, where the mean household income of the lowest fifth was $8,993 while the mean income of the highest fifth was $222,871.
Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio, whose campaign is based on a “tale of two cities” narrative of inequality, said in a statement Thursday, “This shameful income disparity proves once again that we must chart a bold new path toward equality if we want to create real opportunity for all New Yorkers — and this starts by asking the wealthy to pay a little more to fund universal early education and after-school programs.”
But Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs said Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration has made progress in reducing poverty.
“The national recession increased poverty rates across the country, but other major cities saw their poverty rates increase by more than what we have seen in New York City, largely because we’ve been a national leader in creating jobs and breaking the cycle of poverty,” Gibbs said.
In Manhattan’s Chelsea section, where $2 million condos abut low-income housing projects, the line outside the soup kitchen run by the Church of the Holy Apostles stretched around the block Thursday.
The line included Michael Stewart, 54, who said he lost his job driving a truck in 2009.
Stewart said he can’t make enough to get by with the part-time work that’s available like hawking free newspapers and picking up trash in parks.
“Even the affordable apartments are unaffordable,” he said.
[PHOTOS AND VIDEO IN EXTENDED ARTICLE] Democratic candidate for NYC Comptroller, Scott Stringer celebrated his well-earned victory over Eliot Spitzer, Sunday evening, at a Sukkah celebration hosted by Ezra and Gabriella Friedlander, the CEO of the Friedlander group and a year-long supporter and adviser.
“They say nice people finish last; Scott Stringer has proven that not to be the case. Nice people finish first” said the host Ezra Freidlander in introducing the guest of honor.
“This was a long journey. Not always an easy one,” Mr. Stringer told the crowd assembled in the Sukkah located outside the Lisker shul on 50th street and 14th Ave. in Borough Park. “This was such an immense coalition – Both the Jewish community and our elected officials. We really brought together the best of New York.”
“I am very much honored to be part of this community. You supported me when you didn’t need to,” he added. “Once we get through November, I am going to keep my promise, work this job with great integrity, work to meet the challenges this neighborhood faces and our people face.”
“I am not going to let you down,” Mr. Stringer said as he turned to council members Brad Lander and David Greenfield. “Because you put your credibility and your beliefs on the line and you have to go back to your neighborhoods and say to the people you made the right choice.”
“I am optimistic about this celebration. I do believe change is coming. There’s a real opportunity to reshuffle the deck and get everybody to the place they have to be,” Mr. Stringer concluded his celebratory remarks.
Councilman David Greenfield, who was an early supporter of Mr. Stringer’s candidacy, joined fellow councilman Brad Lander in congratulating Mr. Stringer for a hard fought and well-earned victory. “Sukkoth is a time of celebration. This was a very significant race where the community came together and said clearly we support Scott Stringer, because he was not only the right guy but he was the good guy,” said Councilman Greenfield.
Senator Daniel Squadron, who’s in a runoff primary for Public Advocate, also address the assembled, urging those undecided to jump on the wagon in hope for victory on October 1st.
Also in attendance were: Assemblyman David Weprin; James Leonard Fire Chief of Brooklyn; Abe Eisner, adviser to Gov. Cuomo; Rabbi Yeruchim Silber, JCC of Boro Park; Dr. David Moskovits, Rosh Kehilas Skulen, president Endowment for Democracy in Eastern Europe; Rabbi Steven Burg, Director, Simon Wiesenthal Center on the Eastern Coast; Larry Spiewak, President Chai Lifeline, Chairman, Flatbush COJO; Stuart Appelbaum, President Retail, Wholesale & Department Store Union ( UFCW) and Pinny Ringel, community liaison to Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.
(Jacob Kornbluh – YWN)
It was once so addictive it inspired the nickname “CrackBerry.” President Barack Obama confessed to being among the millions of devotees who couldn’t bear to stop tapping feverishly away on its tiny keyboard. Madonna once said she slept with hers under her pillow.
Then came the iPhone.
Users newly addicted to photo-sharing and Angry Birds started flirting with the opposition. And as more smartphones flooded the market with their supersize Samsung screens and thousands of apps, the BlackBerry failed to keep up with the flash.
This year’s launch of BlackBerry 10, its revamped operating system, and fancier new devices – the touchscreen Z10 and Q10 for keyboard loyalists – was supposed to rejuvenate the brand and lure customers. But the much-delayed phones have failed to turn the company around. At their peak in the fall of 2009, BlackBerry’s smartphones enjoyed global market share of over 20 percent, says Mike Walkley, an analyst with Canaccord Genuity. Their piece of the pie has since evaporated to just 1.5 percent.
Now the company says it will lay off 4,500 employees, or 40 percent of its global workforce, as it tries to slash costs by 50 percent and shift its focus back to competing mainly for the business customers most loyal to its brand. A week earlier than expected, BlackBerry surprised the market by reporting Friday that it lost nearly $1 billion in the second quarter. It’s booking over $900 million in charges to write down the value of its glut of unsold smartphones.
Shares were halted pending the news. They plunged as low as $8.01 when the stock reopened for trading, before closing down 17 percent at $8.72.
“This is the end of the BlackBerry as we know it,” BGC analyst Colin Gillis said from New York. “This is a major pivot. They are cutting half of their employees and they’re going to focus on becoming a niche player focused on the enterprise.”
Gillis said he doesn’t expect to see a BlackBerry advertisement on television again.
He said it might be more interesting for a prospective buyer, though, now that that it has announced the restructuring. Gillis thinks it’s possible that BlackBerry could survive as a much smaller player. At the end of the second quarter, the company had total cash and investments of about $2.6 billion and no debt.
“That’s probably the feedback they’ve been getting. They don’t do all this if you have a buyer lined up,” Gillis said. “Some of the actions may have been driven by feedback by potential buyers down the road. Nobody wants to come in and buy the company and hold an all hands meeting and say, `By the way, half of you are fired.’”
Gillis said he can’t understand why BlackBerry would release the earnings late Friday, a week early. “That’s abysmal,” he said. “Did you really need to do it 3:15 p.m. on a Friday? Couldn’t you have just waited a week or done it Monday morning?”
BlackBerry had been scheduled to release earnings next week. But the Waterloo, Ontario company surprised the market late Friday afternoon by announcing that it expects to post a staggering loss of $950 million to $995 million for the quarter, including a massive $930 million to $960 million write-down of the value of its inventory. Revenue of $1.6 billion is only about half of the $3 billion that analysts expected, according to FactSet. The company’s expected adjusted loss of 47 cents to 51 cents per share falls far below the loss of 16 cents per share projected by Wall Street.
BlackBerry said it wants to slash operating costs in half by the first quarter of 2015 so cutting its global headcount to 7,000 total employees is necessary. The company let 5,000 people go last year.
“We are implementing the difficult, but necessary operational changes announced today to address our position in a maturing and more competitive industry, and to drive the company toward profitability,” Thorsten Heins, President and CEO of BlackBerry, said in a statement.
BlackBerry said last month that it would consider selling itself. The company reiterated Friday that a special committee of its board of directors continues to evaluate all options. The company said it plans to focus on offering only two high-end devices and two entry-level handsets going forward, with emphasis on the business market.
“Going forward, we plan to refocus our offering on our end-to-end solution of hardware, software and services for enterprises and the productive, professional end user,” said Heins. “This puts us squarely on target with the customers that helped build BlackBerry into the leading brand today for enterprise security, manageability and reliability.”
BlackBerry, formerly known as RIM, was once Canada’s most valuable company with a market value of $83 billion in June 2008, but the stock has plummeted from over $140 share to less than $9. Its decline is evoking memories of Nortel, another Canadian tech giant, which ended up declaring bankruptcy in 2009.
Of BlackBerry’s remaining employees, thousands live in Waterloo, a university town 90 minutes’ drive from Toronto, where everyone seems to know someone who works for the company. Residents have said they’ve been talking about the company in hushed tones for the past few years.
“Our thoughts are with those who have lost their jobs at BlackBerry, it is always a cause for concern for our Government,” Canadian Industry Minister James Moore said in a statement.
President Barack Obama on Sunday memorialized the victims of the Washington Navy Yard shooting by urging Americans not to give up on a transformation in gun laws that he argued are to blame for an epidemic of violence. “There is nothing inevitable about it — it comes about because of decisions we make or fail to make,” Obama said.
Reprising his role of the nation’s consoler in chief after yet another mass shooting, Obama issued a call to action on gun control measures that failed to pass earlier this year and show no new momentum in the wake of last week’s rampage at a military installation just blocks from the Capitol.
“Our tears are not enough,” Obama told thousands gathered to mourn at the Marine Barracks. “Our words and our prayers are not enough. If we really want to honor these 12 men and women, if we really want to be a country where we can go to work and go to school and walk our streets free from senseless violence without so many lives being stolen by a bullet from a gun, then we’re going to have to change.”
Obama said when such senseless deaths strike in America, “it ought to be a shock to all of us, it ought to obsess us. It ought to lead to some sort of transformation.”
But, Obama said, “nothing happens. Alongside the anguish of these American families, alongside the accumulated outrage so many of us feel, sometimes I fear there is a creeping resignation that these tragedies are just somehow the way it is, that this is somehow the new normal. We cannot accept this. As Americans bound in grief and love, we must insist here today there is nothing normal about innocent men and women being gunned down where they work.”
He said no other advanced nation endures the kind of gun violence seen in the United States, and blamed mass shootings in America on laws that fail “to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and dangerous people.”
“What’s different in America is it’s easy to get your hands on a gun,” he said. He acknowledged “the politics are difficult,” a lesson he learned after failing to get expanded background checks for gun buyers through the Democratic-controlled Senate this spring. Obama had proposed the measure after the shooting at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School killed 20 first-graders and six staff.
“And that’s sometimes where the resignation comes from: the sense that our politics are frozen and that nothing will change. Well, I cannot accept that,” Obama said. “By now, though, it should be clear that the change we need will not come from Washington, even when tragedy strikes Washington. Change will come the only way it ever has come, and that’s from the American people.”
Obama joined military leaders in eulogizing the dozen victims killed in last Monday’s shooting, speaking from the parade grounds at the Marine Barracks, a site personally selected by Thomas Jefferson because of its close marching distance to the Navy Yard. The memorial service came on the first day of fall, which shone brightly in Washington, with sun sparkling off the instruments being played by the Navy Band and the gold dress uniform buttons worn by so many in the crowd.
The invitation-only crowd included around 4,000 mourners, with the victims’ tearful, black-clad family members directly in front of the speakers’ stage. The president and first lady Michelle Obama met privately with the families before the service, White House officials said.
Authorities say their loved ones’ lives were taken Monday by shotgun-wielding Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old former Navy reservist and information technology contractor who struggled with mental illness. Police killed Alexis in a gun battle.
Obama said it’s clear from the Navy Yard shooting that the country needs to do a better job to secure its military facilities and improve mental health services, but also address gun laws.
“I do not accept that we cannot find a common-sense way to preserve our traditions, including our basic Second Amendment freedoms and the rights of law-abiding gun owners while at the same time reducing the gun violence that unleashes so much mayhem on a regular basis,” Obama said. “It may not happen tomorrow and it may not happen this week, it may not happen next month. But it will happen because it is the change that we need. And it’s a change overwhelmingly supported by the majority of Americans.”
Earlier Sunday, National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre rejected any call for gun control. “The problem is there weren’t enough good guys with guns,” LaPierre said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
The military leaders who spoke before Obama at the memorial service, including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, avoided any mention of gun control as they remembered the victims as heroes. But Washington Mayor Vincent Gray spoke forcefully for action, mentioning that one of the Navy Yard victims, Arthur Daniels, had already lost his 14-year-old son to gun violence and citing the string of mass public shootings in recent years.
“Why is it that these tragic consequences and these tragic occurrences never seem to move us any closer to ensuring that guns don’t get into the hands of criminals or mentally unstable people?” Gray asked. “I don’t know the answer. But I do know this — that this time it happened within the view of our Capitol dome, and I for one will not be silenced about the fact the time has come for action.”
The service ended with a bugler playing taps and singing of the Navy hymn after a reading of the names of the fallen, who ranged in age from 46 to 73 and included civilian employees and contractors. Eight people were also hurt, including a police officer and two others who suffered gunshot wounds.
Obama also mentioned each victim — describing them in turn for their love of their family, their service to their community and their passions, ranging from classic cars to the Washington Capitals hockey team.
“Once more our hearts are broken. Once more we ask, Why?” Obama said.
Helicopters circling overhead, Kenya’s military launched a major operation Sunday at an upscale Nairobi mall and said it had rescued “most” of the hostages being held captive by al-Qaida-linked militants during a two-day standoff that killed at least 68 people and injured 175.
The military assault began shortly before sundown, with one helicopter skimming very close to the roof of the shopping complex as a loud explosion rang out, far larger than any previous grenade blast or gunfire volley.
Kenyan police said on Twitter that security forces had launched a “MAJOR” assault to end the bloody siege.
“This will end tonight. Our forces will prevail. Kenyans are standing firm against aggression, and we will win,” Kenya’s National Disaster Operation Centre said on Twitter.
The Kenya Defense Forces later said it had rescued “most” hostages and had taken control of most of the mall, though it did not provide details.
Many of the rescued hostages — mostly adults — were suffering from dehydration, Col. Cyrus Oguna, a military spokesman, told The Associated Press. He refused to say how many hostages were rescued or how many were still being held. He said some of the attackers had “most probably” been killed in the operation.
The assault came about 30 hours after 10 to 15 al-Shabab extremists stormed the mall Saturday from two sides, throwing grenades and firing on civilians.
Loud exchanges of gunfire rang out from inside the four-story mall throughout Sunday. Kenyan troops were seen carrying in at least two rocket-propelled grenades. Al-Shabab militants reacted angrily to the helicopters on Twitter and warned that the Kenyan military action was endangering hostages.
Kenyan authorities said they would do their utmost to save hostages’ lives, but no officials could say precisely how many people were being held captive. Kenya’s Red Cross said in a statement, citing police, that 49 people had been reported missing. Officials did not make an explicit link but that number could give an indication of the number of people held captive.
Kenya’s Red Cross said the death toll rose to 68 after nine bodies were recovered Sunday. More than 175 people were injured, including many children, Kenyan officials said.
Somalia’s al-Qaida-linked rebel group, al-Shabab, claimed responsibility for the attack that specifically targeted non-Muslims, saying it was in retribution for Kenyan forces’ 2011 push into neighboring Somalia.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry condemned what he called “an enormous offense against everybody’s sense of right and wrong,” and called the attackers “ruthless and completely reckless terrorists.”
Kerry, who was in New York, for meetings at the United Nations, spoke Sunday with Somalia’s foreign minister and U.N. ambassador.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said U.S. law enforcement, military and civilian personnel in Nairobi were providing advice and assistance to the Kenyan authorities. She said five Americans were among the scores of people injured in the attack, but the U.S. had no reports of any American deaths.
Earlier in the day, al-Shabab said on its new Twitter feed — after its previous one was shut down Saturday — that Kenyan officials were asking the hostage-takers to negotiate and offering incentives.
“We’ll not negotiate with the Kenyan govt as long as its forces are invading our country, so reap the bitter fruits of your harvest,” al-Shabab said in a tweet.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who lost a nephew and the nephew’s fiancee in the attack, reiterated his government’s determination to continue fighting al-Shabab.
“We went as a nation into Somalia to help stabilize the country and most importantly to fight terror that had been unleashed on Kenya and the world,” said Kenyatta. “We shall not relent on the war on terror.”
Although this violent attack had succeeded, the Kenyan leader said, the country’s security forces had “neutralized” many others.
Former Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga told reporters that “quite a number” of people were being held hostage in two areas of the sprawling complex, which includes stores for such retail giants as Nike, Adidas and Bose. Many hostages were believed to be in a grocery and general department store called Nakumatt.
Kenyan security officials sought to reassure the families of hostages but implied that some of those being held could be killed.
“The priority is to save as many lives as possible,” said Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Lenku, adding that more than 1,000 people escaped the attack inside the mall on Saturday.
“We have received a lot of messages from friendly countries, but for now it remains our operation,” Lenku said, adding that Kenyan forces controlled the mall’s security cameras.
Westgate Mall is at least partially owned by Israelis, and reports circulated that Israeli commandos were on the ground to assist in the response. Four restaurants inside the mall are Israeli-run or owned.
In Israel, a senior defense official said there were no Israeli forces participating in an assault, but said it was possible that Israeli advisers were providing assistance. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing a classified military issue, would not elaborate.
Israel has close ties to Kenya going back many years. In recent years, Israel has identified East Africa as an area of strategic interest and stepped up ties with Kenya and other neighboring countries, due to shared threats posed by al-Qaida and other extremist elements. In 2002, militants bombed an Israeli-owned luxury hotel near Mombasa, killing 13 people, and tried to shoot down an Israeli airliner at the same time.
Kenyans and foreigners were among those confirmed dead, including British, French, Canadians, Indians, a Ghanaian, a South African and a Chinese woman.
Britain’s prime minister, in confirming the deaths of three British nationals, told the country to “prepare ourselves for further bad news.”
Kofi Awoonor, a Ghanaian poet, professor and former ambassador to Brazil, Cuba and the United Nations, died after being wounded in the attack, Ghana’s presidential office confirmed. Ghana’s ministry of information said Awoonor’s son was injured and is responding to treatment.
Kenya’s presidential office said that one of the attackers was arrested on Saturday and died after suffering from bullet wounds.
Britain’s Foreign Office said that Foreign Secretary William Hague chaired a meeting of Britain’s crisis committee and sent a rapid deployment team from London to Nairobi to provide extra consular support.
The United Nations Security Council condemned the attacks and “expressed their solidarity with the people and government of Kenya” in a statement.
There was some good news on Sunday, as Kenyan media reported that several people in hiding in the mall escaped to safety in the morning, suggesting that not everyone who was inside overnight was being held by al-Shabab.
Police lobbed multiple rounds of tear gas throughout the day to disperse hundreds of curious Kenyans who gathered near the mall.
WHAT IS AL-SHABAB?
Al-Shabab is an extremist Islamic terrorist force that grew out of the anarchy that crippled Somalia after warlords ousted a longtime dictator in 1991. Its name means “The Youth” in Arabic, and it was a splinter youth wing of a weak Islamic Courts Union government created in 2006 to establish a fundamentalist Islamic state in the East African nation. Al-Shabab is estimated to have several thousand fighters, including a few hundred foreign fighters. Some of the insurgents’ foreign fighters are from the Middle East with experience in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. Others are young, raw recruits from Somali communities in the United States and Europe. U.S. officials have expressed fears that militants fleeing Afghanistan and Pakistan could seek refuge in Somalia.
WHERE IS AL-SHABAB?
Al-Shabab won control of almost all of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, in 2006, and held large swathes of central and southern Somalia until a United Nations-backed force from the African Union, including soldiers from neighboring Kenya and Uganda, pushed the militants out of the city in 2011 and out of the vital port of Kismayo in 2012. The rebels still control many rural areas in Somalia where it imposes strict Shariah law, including stoning to death women accused of adultery and amputating the hands of accused thieves. In addition it has staged deadly suicide bomb attacks on Mogadishu and Kismayo.
HOW MANY FIGHTERS DOES IT HAVE?
No one knows for sure, but al-Shabab is believed to command thousands of fighters including hundreds of foreigners.
WHY ARE THEY ATTACKING KENYA?
Al-Shabab has warned for two years that it will attack Kenya in retaliation for the country’s leading role in sending troops to Somalia in 2011 and effectively reducing the extremist group’s power in Somalia. Al-Shabab also claimed responsibility for the July 2010 suicide bombings in Kampala, Uganda, that killed more than 70 people watching a World Cup final soccer match at a restaurant popular among foreigners. Ugandan troops also are fighting in the African force in Somalia.
The group has staged ongoing major attacks within Somalia for years.
Al-Shabab and al-Qaida in February 2012 announced their alliance, with al-Shabab leader Mukhtar Abu Zubair pledging allegiance to the global terror movement. Al-Qaida’s 2002 attacks on an Israeli-owned Kenyan resort in Mombasa and an attempted attack on a plane carrying Israeli tourists are believed to have been planned by an al-Qaida cell in Somalia. U.S. officials believe some of the al-Qaida terrorists who bombed the United States embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 were given refuge in Somalia.
WHERE DOES AL-SHABAB’S MONEY COME FROM?
Before African troops moved in, al-Shabab was making a steady income from duties and fees levied at ports and airports as well as extorting taxes on domestic produce and demanding “jihadi” contributions. A United Nations report estimated al-Shabab’s income in 2011 at between $70 million and $100 million. It has lost most of that revenue since it was forced out of Mogadishu and Kismayo. Al-Shabab’s only ally in Africa is Eritrea — which backs it to counter its enemy Ethiopia, which also has troops in Somalia. Eritrea denies charges that it helps arm al-Shabab.
Al-Shabab is believed to have fractured over its alliance with al-Qaida, which caused a rift that has grown between core Shabab fighters who believe their struggle should focus on Somalia, and growing tensions with foreign fighters who want to plot a regional terrorist strategy. Analysts think attack on Nairobi’s Westgate mall could indicate the extremists are winning that internal struggle. Further divisions are believed to have been caused by the group’s decision to ban foreign aid organizations from operating in the country and providing food to save millions of victims of conflict-induced famine. That decision was announced in 2011, when the U.N. said Somalia had the world’s highest child mortality rate.
U.S. ROLE IN THE FIGHT AGAINST AL-SHABAB?
The United States backed the first African intervention against al-Shabab, supporting Ethopian troops that invaded in 2006. Washington has given millions of dollars to support the U.N.-backed African force fighting al-Shabab, which it designated a foreign terrorist organization in 2008. The intervention from Ethiopia, a longtime enemy of Somalia, is considered to have radicalized al-Shabab and perhaps pushed it into the arms of al-Qaida, according to the U.S.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
WHAT INSPIRES THEM?
Al-Shabab is inspired by the Saudi Arabian Wahabi version of Islam though most Somalis belong to the more moderate Sufi strain. While they initially won popularity with Somalis by promising security and stability after years of lawlessness and violence, al-Shabab’s destruction of Sufi shrines has cost them much support among locals.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR SOMALIA?
Somalia’s first elected government in more than two decades won power a year ago and, together with the African Union force, has the opportunity to create “a window of opportunity to fundamentally change Somalia’s trajectory,” according to the U.S. State Department. Business is growing and even foreign oil companies are negotiating concessions at the most hopeful moment in decades for that failed state.
An IDF soldier was arrested on Sunday morning, 18 Tishrei 5774 after he was apprehended transporting 23 PA (Palestinian Authority) residents who wished to illegally cross into Green Line Israel. The soldier, who was driving a commercial vehicle, was apprehended at a routine inspection stop at the Sharon Interchange.
The soldier and his passengers were taken for questioning. Security officials will determine if any of the PA residents appear on wanted lists. The soldier’s vehicle was impounded.
The news of the arrest comes a day after a terrorist from the Kalkilye area who worked illegally inside Green Line Israel, in Bat Yam, murdered IDF soldier Sgt. Tomer Hazan HY”D.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)
Firefighters responded to fires in two sukkas located on Abarbanel Street in Bnei Brak on Sunday, 18, Tishrei 5774. Hatzalah Gush Dan units were standing by in the event of injuries. Baruch Hashem their services were not required.
The firefighters extinguished fires in two sukkas in the residential building. The cause of the fires is not being reported at this time.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)
Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Affairs plans to begin phasing out the use of disposable plastic bags in stores. Minister of Environmental Affairs Amir Peretz believes he will succeed where his predecessors failed. The ministry will begin distributing reusable bags to shoppers around the country in the coming months, without charge. The program will continue for a defined period of time, after which the plastic bags will no longer be used in stores.
The experts in the ministry explain that after shopping in a shuk or supermarket consumers are left with a pile of plastic bags. While it is believed that most consumers will reuse the bags once or twice, ultimately they will be found in the nation’s garbage dumps where they continue to accumulate.
Peretz’s office began probing just how many bags are used and they were shocked to learn that Israelis will use 2.2 billion plastic bags annually. As such, the ministry is beginning by working with the larger nationwide chains such as Rami Levy, AM:PM, Mega and Sufersal.
While a timetable for the new program has yet to be set, it is believed the program will be underway in 2014. While the new bags are distributed for free, the plastic bags will still be offered, possibly accompanied by a minimal charge. This remains unclear at present. Peretz is aware that he cannot change a nation’s shopping habits over night. He is however optimistic and excited about the new environmentally friendly campaign. The operators of the major supermarket chains estimated 80 million NIS annually is spent on the plastic bags that are distributed free of charge so they too are willing to work towards the success of the new campaign.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)
An investigation was underway Thursday to determine what led to the fatal shooting of an 80-year-old man in an Encino neighborhood filled with million dollar homes.
Authorities didn’t know they were walking into a crime scene when they arrived at the house in the 5300 block of Andasol Avenue around 3 a.m.
The call came in as a medical emergency, not a burglary or a robbery, Capt. David Grimes of the Los Angeles Police Department said.
The victim’s wife called authorities after she said she was awakened by some sort of noise, and that she found her husband, Harvey Cohen, on the kitchen floor of the San Fernando Valley home.
Investigators noticed Cohen had a gunshot wound when they attempted to move him.
A bullet casing was also found near him, but there was no sign of a weapon, according to investigators.
Cohen was taken to a hospital where he later died.
The case is being investigated as homicide that resulted from a possible home invasion robbery, said Officer Rosario Herrera with LAPD’s Media Relations Section.
Police did not say how many times Cohen was shot or what may have led to the shooting, only that they were looking into all possibilities.
A door-to-door search was conducted for any security cameras that may have recorded the incident.
Authorities also planned to interview the victim’s business associates.