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 on: Oct 25, 2014, 07:49 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
In the USA...United Surveillance America

Grateful for US strikes, Syrian Kurds name baby ‘Obama’

Agence France-Presse
25 Oct 2014 at 05:28 ET      

Sultan Muslim, a Syrian Kurd, had no doubt what to name her seventh child when he was born, safely in Turkey, after a harrowing month-long flight from her home in Kobane: Obama.

Desperate to flee the flashpoint Syrian border town, the heavily pregnant mother, her husband and six other children made it across the frontier just in time for the boy’s arrival.

Islamic State (IS) jihadists, accused of widespread atrocities, seized control of the strategic locality and US-led bombing raids launched in the last few weeks have tried to stop their advance.

“I gave my son this name from my heart. I will never change this name,” the shy 35-year-old said in a refugee camp in Suruc, just inside Turkey.

“He dispatched planes, aid for us. Because of his help maybe we will get rid of this cruelty and get back to our homes,” she said, cradling her three-day-old son.

The family started their exodus almost a month ago, following some 200,000 Kurds who have already entered Turkey to escape the IS onslaught on Kobane.

“We were stranded at the border for days, without water or food,” said the young mother. “We did not take any clothes to wear. We did not have any blankets … I was pregnant and had no chance of taking a bath.”

Though not the world’s first baby named after US President Barack Obama, the choice reflects the relief of many locals who thought help would never come.

- ‘No friends but the Americans’ -

“We named him Muhammed Obama Muslim,” father Mahmut Beko said, in symbolic gratitude for the US assistance to save Kobane.

“We want Obama to help us so that we can get back home. We are also human beings. We, the Kurds, attacked whom, fight against whom?” he cried out.

The family is housed at the “Rojova Cadir Kenti” refugee camp, whose name is a mix of Turkish for “tent city” and the name of the northern part of Syria.

There, joy abounds over the air strikes by a coalition of Western and Arab allies that have killed more than 500 Islamist fighters during a month-long campaign in Syria.

US planes have also dropped bundles of supplies, which include ammunitions and weapons, to help Syrian Kurdish fighters trying to defend Kobane from the IS, an extremist Sunni Muslim group that has seized control of large parts of Syria and Iraq.

Turkey, long at odds with Kurdish separatists, has criticised the air drops and officials said some of the supplies have fallen into IS hands.

Near Suruc, both Turkish and Syrian Kurds watch from hilltops, breaking out in cheers, whistles and chanting, “Obama, Obama” at each airstrike.

“Like the Americans, the whole world should help the Kurds in Kobane. We have no true friends other than the Americans,” said Selami Altay, a Turkish Kurd, sitting on a rock watching the battles.

Sultan Muslim, meanwhile, said despite all she had an easy birth, taken by ambulance from the tent city to a hospital in Suruc. And despite the miserable conditions and uncertainty, she has dreams for her baby.

“The day will come when he grows up and becomes like him (President Obama) and saves people from cruelty.

“Nobody helped us, but him,” she said.

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Amnesty International Asks U.S. to End Discriminatory Policing

by Naharnet Newsdesk
24 October 2014, 17:37

The U.S. government should take action to stop discriminatory policing across the country, rights group Amnesty International said in a report on Friday that documented abuses during the Ferguson protests.

The racially charged killing of 18-year-old black youth Michael Brown reflected "systemic racial discrimination" which the government should do more to eradicate, Amnesty said.

"The shooting of Michael Brown highlighted on a national level the persistent and widespread pattern of racially discriminatory treatment by law enforcement officers across the United States," the report said.

The U.S. Department of Justice should ensure that there is compliance with international human rights obligations and international policing standards, the report said.

Brown was shot to death two months ago by white policeman Darren Wilson in the town near St. Louis.

Accounts of the shooting of the unarmed teenager differ and a federal investigation is ongoing.

His death sparked protests that highlighted aggressive police tactics in America and tensions between law enforcement and African American communities.

In the report, Amnesty International asks the government to probe rights violations during the protests and says "all those found responsible, including commanding officers, must be brought to account."

The report drew from accounts of a team of observers that monitored the rallies in Ferguson in August as well as media reports.

It records a long list of possible human rights abuses carried out by Missouri police.

Alleged abuses include the shooting of peaceful protesters and reporters with rubber bullets, stopping protesters from assembling and the use of riot gear to disperse protesters.

"Toxic chemical irritants, such as tear gas, should not be fired directly at an individual," the report noted.

Amnesty International called for Missouri to review its possibly "unconstitutional" use of lethal force statute. And for the  Justice Department to begin reporting on police use of force nationally.

The rights group also called for Congress to stop the militarization of the country's police forces and generally bring policing in line with international norms.

Source: Agence France Presse

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Doctor at New York hospital tests positive for Ebola virus

Preliminary test confirms virus in Craig Spencer, a physician with Doctors Without Borders who had been working in west Africa  

Jessica Glenza and Nicky Woolf in New York
theguardian.com, Friday 24 October 2014 20.11 BST   
    
A physician who recently returned to New York from Ebola-ravaged west Africa has tested positive for the disease, officials announced.

Craig Spencer, 33, a doctor who lives in the Harlem neighbourhood of the city, was taken to hospital in New York on Thursday after displaying symptoms consistent with those caused by Ebola, including a fever of 100.3F (38C) – lower than the 103F (39.5C) that was initial reported by health officials.

A preliminary test on Thursday confirmed that Spencer, who arrived back in New York from Guinea on 17 October, has the virus. Federal officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has sent a team to New York City to assist city and state officials in the response, will carry out a further test to confirm the result.

Officials told a press conference at Bellevue hospital on Thursday that they were monitoring four people with whom Spencer had contact. His fiancée, Morgan Dixon, and two friends had been quarantined, while the fourth person, a taxi driver, was not considered to be at risk.

Spencer took several trips on the New York subway in the past week, visited the Gutter bowling alley in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn on Wednesday night and took an Uber cab, all before he began to display symptoms, officials said.

He began to feel feverish on Thursday between 10am and 11am. He contacted Doctors Without Borders, the organisation with which he had been working in Africa, which in turn contacted the New York department of health. Officials organised for him to be transported to Bellevue hospital in the city, a designated site for Ebola patients, under strictly controlled conditions.

“I know the word Ebola right now can spread fear just by the sound of the word,” said New York state governor Andrew Cuomo at a press conference. “Ebola is not an airborne illness, it is contracted when a person is extremely ill and symptomatic.”

Officials urged residents of New York not to panic, and drew a comparison with the response to an outbreak in Dallas, Texas, where the city’s principal hospital bungled its initial contacts with an Ebola patient who later died, Thomas Duncan.

“I know it’s a frightening situation, I know when you watched it on the news and it was about Dallas it was frightening; that it’s here in New York is more frightening,” Cuomo said. “New York is a dense place, a lot of people are on top of each other. But the more facts you know, the less frightening the situation is.”

Spencer’s apartment in Harlem was cordoned off on Thursday night, and health officials were on the scene, giving out information to residents. His fiancée was being monitored in a separate quarantine ward at Bellevue hospital. A team of epidemiologists - referred to by mayor Bill de Blasio at the press conference as “medical detectives” - were questioning Spencer’s contacts and using information from his Metrocard, which would give details of his subway travel, and credit cards.

Doctors Without Borders, known internationally as Médecins Sans Frontières, said Spencer had acted in accordance with its guidelines for returning field workers.
Craig Spencer Dr Craig Spencer, who was diagnosed with Ebola at a New York hospital on Thursday. Photograph: LinkedIn

“A person in New York City, who recently worked with Doctors Without Borders in one of the Ebola-affected countries in west Africa, notified our office this morning to report having developed a fever,” it said in a statement.

Uber confirmed that one of its drivers had transported Spencer on Wednesday evening. The CDC and the New York department of health assured the company that its driver was unlikely to catch the disease. “We have communicated this to the driver, and the [New York department of health] medical team met with the driver in person, assuring him that he is not at risk. Our thoughts are with the patient and his loved ones.”

Spencer’s public Facebook page, which has since been taken down, showed a photo of him dated 18 September wearing protective gear announcing he was heading to Guinea with Doctors Without Borders. It showed him checking into a location in Brussels on 16 October.

His LinkedIn profile identified him as a fellow of international emergency medicine at Columbia University-New York Presbyterian hospital.

New York Presbyterian hospital released a statement in which it did not identify Spencer by name but called the patient “a dedicated humanitarian on the staff of NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University medical center who went to an area of medical crisis to help a desperately underserved population”.

It said he has not returned to work at the hospital or seen any patients since returning from west Africa, where more than more than 4,500 people have died since the current outbreak began.
Police officers stand outside the home of Craig Spencer, a Doctors Without Borders physician diagnosed with Ebola patients. Police officers stand outside the home of Craig Spencer, a Doctors Without Borders physician diagnosed with Ebola patients. Photograph: John Minchillo/AP

Officials have attempted to reassure New Yorkers that the city and state are safe. City health officials repeated that Ebola is difficult to contract, since people must come into direct contact with body fluids of an infected and symptomatic person.

Many fears about the disease have swirled around New York’s status as a transport hub. Airports in the metropolitan area process most of the of the passengers arriving in the US from west Africa every day. John F Kennedy international airport and Newark, New Jersey’s airport are among only five in the US permitted to accept passengers from the worst-affected countries – Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Starting on Monday, passengers from these countries will be monitored for 21 days after arriving in the US.

As part of the New York governor’s Ebola preparedness plan, two ambulances are regularly stationed at JFK and Newark airports, the city’s transit authority was provided with protective gear and training, and unannounced drills are being conducted at airports, college campuses and in subways. The governor designated eight hospitals in the state to handle Ebola patients, including Bellevue.

To ease healthcare workers’ fears about the disease, New York City held an Ebola educational session on Tuesday.

Barack Obama had spoken by telephone with both Cuomo and De Blasio about the positive test, the White House said, and discussed the deployment of officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Some CDC officials were already in New York and an additional response team would be there by late Thursday night.

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Dallas nurse receives thanks, hug from Obama

A nurse who caught Ebola while caring for a Dallas patient who died of the disease walked out of a Washington-area hospital virus-free Friday and into open arms. Ebola Nurse: 'I Feel Fortunate and Blessed'

By JESSICA GRESKO
Associated Press

BETHESDA, Md. —

A nurse who caught Ebola while caring for a Dallas patient who died of the disease walked out of a Washington-area hospital virus-free Friday and into open arms.

Nina Pham got a hug from President Barack Obama in the Oval Office at the White House. And outside the hospital where she had been since last week, she got hugs from the nation's infectious disease chief, who oversaw her care.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest called the meeting with Obama "an opportunity for the president to thank her for her service." But the close contact between the president and the former patient also came as officials in New York tried to calm fears after a doctor was diagnosed with Ebola in that city.

Pham said she felt "fortunate and blessed to be standing here today," as she left the National Institutes of Health's Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where she had been since she arrived Oct. 16 from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.

Pham thanked her health care teams in Dallas and at the NIH and singled out fellow Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly, who recovered after becoming infected in Liberia, for donating plasma containing Ebola-fighting antibodies as part of her care.

"Although I no longer have Ebola, I know it may be a while before I have my strength back," Pham said at a news conference.

Pham arrived at a Fort Worth, Texas airport just before midnight CDT Friday.

CareFlite pilot Jason Davis said he flew Pham back to Texas and said, "she's great." Davis described Pham as being in "great spirits."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told reporters that five consecutive tests showed no virus left in her blood. Five tests is way beyond the norm, he stressed, but his team did extra testing because the NIH is a research hospital. He had walked out to the news conference with his arm around Pham and later gave her a big hug.

"She is cured of Ebola, let's get that clear," Fauci said.

Pham stood throughout the approximately 20-minute press conference and was joined by her mother and sister. She read from a prepared statement and took no questions, but she called her experience "very stressful and challenging for me and for my family."

"I ask for my privacy and for my family's privacy to be respected as I return to Texas and try to get back to a normal life and reunite with my dog Bentley," she said, drawing laughter with the mention of her 1-year-old King Charles spaniel. Bentley has been in quarantine since Pham's diagnosis but has tested negative for the virus.

Pham is one of two nurses in Dallas who became infected with Ebola while treating Thomas Eric Duncan, who traveled to the United States from Liberia and died of the virus Oct. 8. The second nurse, Amber Vinson, is being treated at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, which on Friday issued

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2014 Midterm Reporting In One Screenshot

By karoli October 25, 2014 7:00 am -
CrooksAndLiars

One Google search, two headlines which contradict one another.
2014 Midterm Reporting In One Screenshot

I did a search on Paul Davis' name around 9:00 on Friday night. These were the first two results.

How can Davis simultaneously lose ground and open a wider lead on Brownback? Only journalists know for sure.

Here's the Huffington Post, with their doom and gloom AP headline:

    After lifting the spirits of Kansas Democrats eager to oust conservative Republican Gov. Sam Brownback over his aggressive tax-cutting experiment, challenger Paul Davis appears to be losing ground as the state's GOP loyalties and a hail of negative television ads take their toll.

    The closely watched race has begun moving in the incumbent's favor since the Republican Governors Association began bombarding television viewers with spots focused on how Davis was caught as a young attorney in a strip club during a 1998 meth raid. An officer reported finding Davis in a back room with a woman wearing only a G-string, a long-ago embarrassment that Republicans have used to question Davis' judgment.

Oh, it's the AP. That explains everything.

Here's the second headline story from The Kansas City Star:

    A second consecutive poll shows increasing promise for Democrat Paul Davis in his bid to unseat Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.

    A new poll out Friday shows Davis with 52 percent to 45 percent for Brownback. It was the second straight poll showing Davis above the magical 50 percent barrier against Brownback.

    The latest Rasmussen Reports poll surveyed 960 likely voters Oct. 20 and 21. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.

That's a Rasmussen poll, even. I usually add a few points to the Democrat on Rasmussen polls because they're so off.

This is your midterm media, in one screenshot. Don't believe your lyin' eyes, just listen to Uncle AP.

Now go read this excellent Rolling Stone article about how Brownback has completely screwed Kansas in one term.

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-great-kansas-tea-party-disaster-20141023?page=2

That's right. The best reporting on the midterms is coming from places like Rolling Stone, because the rest of them are just corporate mouthpieces for the billionaires.

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Democratic Senator Bob Casey Wants To Restore The Voting Rights Act

By: Adalia Woodbury
PoliticusUSA
Friday, October, 24th, 2014, 4:40 pm   

On Friday, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) called on his colleagues to restore the gutted portions of the Voting Rights Act.  In light of the attacks on voting rights by Republican controlled States and with support from conservative Judges, Senator Casey said we need to restore the Voting Rights Act to ensure that voting rights are protected under federal and state laws.

    The right to vote has been called the most precious of our rights, the ‘primary right by which all other rights are protected,’ however, over the past few years, legislation and court decisions at both state and federal levels have been slowly chipping away at this right,” said Senator Casey. “I am calling on Congress to act quickly to reaffirm the Voting Rights Act and put in place the necessary protections to guarantee all citizens the right to vote, regardless of race, national origin or language. When Congress reconvenes I will be looking at ways Congress can underscore and protect American’s most fundamental right, the right to vote.

Senator Casey outlines provisions for a Voting Rights Amendment Act that would restore Section Five of the Voting Rights Act with an updated preclearance formula.

    It would allow courts to “bail in” a state or political subdivision. Bail-in requires preclearance for voting changes in State’s that meet the following criteria.

    Five or more violations of the Fourteenth or Fifteenth Amendments, federal voting rights law and Section two of the Voting Rights Act within the past fifteen years. Or failure or denial of preclearance by a court or failure or denial of preclearance by the Attorney-General.

    There must be at least one State-wide violation.

The Bail-in criteria for political subdivisions are:

    Three or more violations within the previous fifteen years. Alternatively, a political subdivision can be “bailed-in” if there is one violation with “persistent and extremely low minority voter turnout.”
    States or political subdivisions will be covered for 10 years beginning on January first of the year of the most recent violation.  The exception is if the state or subdivision gets a “bail-out.”

    State and political subdivisions (including covered States) can bail out of coverage if they are violation free.

Senator Casey also proposes an expansion of Section 3(c) to allow bail-in based on violations of federal voting laws and discriminatory effect, rather than only when plaintiffs can show intentional discrimination.

In total, 34 states have restrictive voter ID laws.  In 2008, the Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s stricter photo ID, basing their decision on Federal Court Judge Richard Posner’s ruling on Indiana’s voter ID law in Crawford v. Marion County.

In June 2013, the Supreme Court placed preclearance requirements on life support when it gutted the preclearance formula in Shelby v. Holder. While the ruling was technically correct when it called on Congress to revise the VRA’s preclearance formula, the political reality is this ruling was welcomed by Republicans. Still, Senator Casey called on Congress to expedite restoration of the Voting rights Act.

    I’m calling on Congress to immediately come together on a plan that would restore voter protections and ensure all Americans have equal protections when it comes to voting. In 2006, Congress reauthorized the Voting Rights Act in a nearly unanimous fashion. It’s time for Congress to come together in that same bipartisan spirit and fix this egregious ruling. Countless Americans fought and some died to secure the protections in the Voting Rights Act. We can’t just honor those courageous actions in words, we must also come together to make sure those protections are a staple of our laws

The combination of this ruling and lack of action in Congress cleared the way for more draconian measures like those in Texas and North Carolina that would have failed under preclearance.

In October 2013, Judge Posner denounced his own ruling saying,

    I plead guilty to having written the majority opinion (affirmed by the Supreme Court) upholding Indiana’s requirement that prospective voters prove their identity with a photo ID—a law now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than fraud prevention.

Everyone knows the VRA is toxic to Republican lawmakers because its return would mean they would have to recognize that “the will of the people” includes the will of African-Americans, Hispanics, young voters, seniors, low-income workers and women most of whom vote Democrat.

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In One Fell Swoop Obama Announces Solar Jobs For 50,000 Veterans and Takes On Climate Change

By: Rmuse
PoliticusUSA
Friday, October, 24th, 2014, 10:00 am      

Over the past five years Republicans have opposed any and every attempt by President Obama to jumpstart the economy; particularly when it came to creating jobs. He also made, what Americans concerned about anthropogenic (manmade) climate change believed were, modest proposals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions; that is until he called for a thirty percent reduction in carbon emissions earlier this year. Republicans reacted to that news with their typical fossil fuel industry devotion by launching vicious attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency tasked with ensuring power-generating plants’ comply with the new requirements.

Yesterday, in one fell swoop, the President took decisive action to address both job creation for Veterans and reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The White House announced that beginning this fall the United States will launch a six-year job training program for America’s Veterans in the growing solar panel installation industry. Since Republicans have relentlessly obstructed jobs programs for America’s Veterans, the President took it upon himself to enact the program at American military bases and provide job training for at least 50,000 veterans. It is training for about 50,000 more Veterans than Republicans have provided despite several proposals and requests by the President to help America’s fighting men and women returning from war.

The Veterans’ job training program is just one of many initiatives the White House said will reduce carbon dioxide emissions contributing to climate change by more than 300-million tons, and save American homeowners and businesses billions upon billions of dollars in energy bills. To create even more jobs, as part of the President’s lone crusade to reduce the damaging effects of climate change, the Agriculture Department will spend nearly $70 million to fund 540 new solar and renewable energy projects that will target rural and farming areas. There is also a new Energy Department proposal for stricter efficiency standards for commercial air conditioners the energy department said will cut emissions more than any other efficiency standard it has issued to date, and help businesses cut their energy costs substantially.

It is true the President’s proposals to create jobs and reduce the effects of climate change are modest compared with his previous requests for Congress to act, but with Republicans opposing any action on jobs, especially for Veterans, or to address climate change, something is better than nothing.  This President has begged, cajoled, and attempted to shame Republicans in Congress to do their jobs for the American people and promote cost-saving clean energy, invest in job-creating infrastructure projects, and support carbon emission reductions to no avail, so Obama exercised his Presidential authority and addressed two issues at once.

It is certain the Koch brothers will direct Republicans to launch an opposition campaign against both the Veteran’s job program and clean energy proposals. Through ALEC and the Koch’s Americans for Prosperity, there has been a multi-faceted assault on any renewable or clean energy programs across the nation because the Koch’s will not tolerate any energy source that cuts into the oil industry’s profits. In fact, it was reported yesterday that in Texas, the state’s Republican comptroller said it is unfair that the wind energy industry received tax credits to grow the industry. Susan Combs singled out wind energy and said tax credits gave the industry “an unfair market advantage over the other power source.” Translation; the fossil fuel industry will not countenance competition despite its “unfair market advantage” amounting to billions-of-dollars in tax credits, billions in taxpayer-funded subsidies, and freedom to pollute.

What is typically Republican about Combs remarks is the lie that cheaper energy costs and clean energy adversely affects Texas residents’ wallets. What Texas Republicans and the oil industry did not find unfair were tax exemptions covering the “high-cost natural gas drilling” that cut operators tax bills by more than $7 billion according to data from Republican Combs’ own comptroller office. Combs also failed to address the Texas state Legislative Budget Board’s recommendation to overhaul oil industry tax breaks and taxpayer-funded incentives that have “reduced many producers’ tax liabilities to zero.” Interestingly, a partner in an oil industry firm in Austin said that having a zero tax liability was being “misconstrued by the folks that would do harm to the oil and gas industry as a giveaway, but it’s really not.”

President Obama’s one-man action on climate change and a much-needed job training program for over 50,000 Veterans, although modest, is something the Koch-Republicans are not going to allow without a fierce battle.  It is noteworthy that the President’s action will not only help 50,000 Veterans, solar energy installed at military bases and installations will save the Defense Department untold billions of dollars in energy costs now and into the future that one would think budget conscious Republicans would celebrate. However, they have shown that where the fossil fuel industry is concerned, cost savings and budget restraint never enters into their austerity agenda.

Republicans have spent over five years demonstrating they are not the least bit interested in providing job training or jobs for any Americans, much less Veterans because they claim it is too costly. Subsidies, tax breaks, and incentives for the oil industry, on the other hand, are a necessary cost in Republicans’ minds. That’s why the President’s idea of a job training program specific to the renewable energy sector is brilliant; if for no other reason than to send Republicans a message that this President is serious about taking care of Veterans, creating jobs, and combatting climate change whether they like it or not.

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Wall Street’s Worst Nightmare: Elizabeth Warren As Hillary Clinton’s Treasury Secretary

By: Jason Easley
PoliticusUSA
Thursday, October, 23rd, 2014, 3:08 pm   

In an interview with People magazine, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said being possible future president Hillary Clinton’s Treasury Secretary was a fun thought. You can almost hear the horrified screams coming from Wall St.

According to People,

“They’re scared to death of Elizabeth Warren because she knows not only how banks operate, but she knows all about anti-trust law,” says Tufts University political science professor Jeffrey Berry.

So, if not chief executive, how would Warren feel about being Treasury Secretary under a President Hillary Clinton? Warren belts out a big, Clinton-caliber belly laugh. “Well, THAT’S a fun thought!”

As for Clinton, Warren says of the two women’s relationship: “We have talked. It’s not much more than that. Not much more.”

Warren was also asked about running for president, and she gave a maybe someday kind of answer that suggested that she would only run if Hillary Clinton chooses to sit out 2016. The odds of Clinton sitting out 2016 are getting close to zero, so that’s a big no from Warren on any immediate presidential campaigns.

The idea that Warren could be Hillary Clinton’s Treasury Secretary is a fascinating one. Judging from her reaction, I suspect the senator would love to have cabinet level power and influence over government economic and financial policy making.

The Clintons’ close ties to Wall Street mean that the chances of Warren running Treasury are slim, but there isn’t a thought that terrifies Wall Street and the big banks more than the prospect of Elizabeth Warren coming after them as Treasury Secretary.

Elizabeth Warren has a bright future whether she runs for president or not in 2016. She appears destined for a role in the executive branch government. Warren’s popularity and power are growing. Wall Street might be trying to halt off the inevitable by try to derail Sen. Warren’s rise.

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Teenager shoots one person dead at Washington high school before killing himself
    
Rory Carroll in Los Angeles
theguardian.com, Friday 24 October 2014 22.58 BST   

A student at a Washington state high school is dead after opening fire in the cafeteria, killing one person and seriously wounding four others before apparently turning the gun on himself.

The teenager opened fire with a handgun at Marysville-Pilchuck high school at about 10.40am on Friday, prompting chaos as hundreds of students and staff members fled and hid in classrooms.

Authorities placed the school in lockdown as police raced to the scene and sealed off the area, about 30 miles north of Seattle.

Local media identified the shooter as a freshman who had been a hunter and popular athlete. Some reports said he recently broke up with his girlfriend and had been the victim of bullying. Police did not immediately confirm the name.

The Seattle Times quoted two law enforcement sources who said he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. It was unclear if the other fatality, a female, was a staff member or student.

The four wounded were described as young. One, a male, was being treated for a jaw wound at Harborview medical center in Seattle.

Two girls and a boy were being treated for head wounds at Providence regional medical center. Dr Joanne Roberts, the chief medical officer, said they were in critical condition. “Each is suffering tremendously,” she told a press conference.

Doctors focused on stopping the bleeding and controlling swelling.

Witnesses told local media that they heard bangs in the cafeteria, followed by an alarm, prompting some to initially think it was a fire drill. Video taken from helicopter shortly afterwards showed hundreds of students fleeing buildings, some with their hands up, as police, fire and medical units arrived.

One student told Kiro TV that the shooter shot himself in the neck after struggling with a lunch lady who grabbed his arm. He called her a “real hero”. The report prompted an instant hashtag: #lunchladyhero.

Sudents were bussed to a nearby church while police searched the sprawling campus to make sure there were no additional gunmen or casualties.

Marysville police commander Robb Lamoureux told a news conference details were still scant. “The shooting did originate in the cafeteria as we understand it, and so there was some type of activity there in the cafeteria, it is known. I do not know where the deceased were located.”

He said the initial school sweep was complete and police were now starting a more secure grid check.

Barack Obama was briefed about the shooting. Marysville mayor, Jon Nehring, said: “Our priority right now is to stand with the families.” June Robinson, a state house representative, said the news “drives a knife through your heart.” She added: “We’re not immune to violence.”

Relatives of the shooting suspect clustered at the school and expressed shock. One, who identified himself as an uncle, told Kiro-TV that that the teenager was a popular boy who liked the outdoors and was “not a monster”.

 2 
 on: Oct 25, 2014, 07:30 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Comet smells like rotten eggs, horse pee, alcohol and bitter almonds, scientists say

Agence France-Presse
24 Oct 2014 at 10:27 ET                   

Rotten eggs, horse pee, alcohol and bitter almonds: this is the bouquet of odours you would smell if a comet in deep space could be brought back to Earth, European scientists said on Thursday.

An instrument aboard the probe Rosetta has detected some intriguing chemical signatures from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko since their rendezvous in deep space in August, they said.

Molecules include ammonia, methane, hydrogen sulphide, hydrogen cyanide and formaldehyde.

“If you could smell the comet, you probably wish that you hadn’t,” the team said wryly in a blog posted on the European Space Agency (ESA) website.

The device, called Rosina-DFMS, is a mass spectrometer — it has been analysing the signature of gas given off by the “coma,” the comet’s head, as the distance closes with the Sun.

“The perfume of 67P/C-G is quite strong, with the odour of rotten eggs (hydrogen sulphide), horse stable (ammonia) and the pungent, suffocating odour of formaldehyde,” said Kathrin Altwegg, Rosina’s chief scientist.

“This is mixed with the faint, bitter, almond-like aroma of hydrogen cyanide.

“Add some whiff of alcohol (methanol) to this mixutre, paired with the vinegar-like aroma of sulphur dioxide and a hint of the sweet aromatic scent of carbon disulphide, and you arrive at the ‘perfume’ of our comet.”

The detection of so many different molecules at this stage has been a surprise, ESA said.

The Rosina team believed only the most volatile molecules — carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide — would be released as the comet’s icy surface started slowly to warm.

On a 6.5-year orbit, 67P/C-G is the target of an ambitious mission to shed light on the origins of comets, ancient travellers of the Solar System.

Rosetta caught up with it after a six-billion-kilometre (3.75-billion-mile) trek that required four flybys of Earth and Mars, using the planets’ gravity as a slingshot to build up speed.

It is now in close orbit around the comet at a distance of around 400 million kilometres from the Sun. The scout will send down a robot lander, Philae, on November 12 to carry out on-the-spot scientific tests.

On August 13 next year, the comet and Rosetta will be 185 million kilometres from the Sun, their closest approach to our star.

 3 
 on: Oct 25, 2014, 07:29 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Cosmic catastrophe: Earth hit by double asteroids 458 million years ago

Agence France-Presse
24 Oct 2014 at 09:30 ET                   

Some 458 million years ago, Earth was whacked in a double asteroid strike, leaving craters visible in Sweden today, space scientists reported on Thursday.

The event, they said, can be traced to “one of the largest cosmic catastrophes” in the history of the Solar System — a mighty collision in the asteroid belt around 12 million years earlier.

That smashup caused a 200-kilometre- (120-mile-) asteroid to break up, scattering large chunks of rock, some of which later crossed Earth’s orbit.

Two of these pieces slammed into shallow seas that covered modern-day Scandinavia, according to the study.

With uplift of the Earth’s crust, the signature of that event lies in central Sweden — the 7.5-km Lockne crater, located around 20 kms south of the city of Oestersund, and a 700-metre (yard) crater at nearby Malingen.

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, backs long-standing suspicions that these craters, just 16 kms apart, were caused by a “doublet”, an extremely rare double whammy caused by asteroids travelling in pairs.

The team, led by Jens Ormoe of the Centre for Astrobiology in Madrid, Spain, carried out drilling into the craters, looking for traces of sediment altered by impact shock.

They also mapped the halo of ejecta — a ring of debris hurled up by the smash, which landed up to tens of kilometres away from the inner crater.

The Lockne impact was created by an object about 600 metres long, while the Malingen impactor was about 150 m long, the experts said.

They were so-called “rubble pile” asteroids, or fragments travelling in a cluster.

“Doublets” are a debated area of astrophysics.

Modelling of asteroids that come close to Earth suggest that about 16 percent of these objects travel in pairs.

But of the 188 known craters on Earth, only 10 — in Canada, Russia, Germany, Finland and Brazil — are considered to be serious candidates as doublets.

The twin impact 458 million years ago would be part of a “shower” of meteors that pummelled Earth after the big breakup in the main asteroid belt.

Some experts theorise that this had dramatic consequences for Earth’s climate and ecosystems, encouraging an explosion in species called Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event.

 4 
 on: Oct 25, 2014, 07:28 AM 
Started by Rose Marcus - Last post by Rad
Pope Francis brands life in prison a ‘hidden’ death sentence

Agence France-Presse
24 Oct 2014 at 09:27 ET   

Pope Francis on Thursday branded life-long prison terms “a hidden death sentence” in an attack on “penal populism” that included severe criticism of countries that facilitate torture.

In a wide-ranging speech to a delegation from the International Association of Penal Law, the pontiff said believers should oppose life-long incarceration as strongly as the use of capital punishment.

“All Christians and men of good faith are therefore called upon today to fight, not only for the abolition of the death penalty — whether it is legal or illegal and in all its forms — but also to improve the conditions of incarceration to ensure that the human dignity of those deprived of their freedom is respected,” the pope said in Italian.

“And this, for me, is linked to life sentences.

“For a short time now, these no longer exist in the Vatican penal code. A sentence of life (without parole) is a hidden death penalty.”

Broadening his comments in a manner likely to enhance his reputation as one of the most liberal of popes, Francis went on to slam what he described as the risk that sentencing in many countries was becoming disproportionately severe.

“In recent decades a belief has spread that through public punishment the most diverse social problems can be resolved, as if different diseases could all be cured by the same medicine.”

Reiterating the Catholic Church’s teaching that the use of capital punishment is a sin, the pope also made what appeared to be a thinly-veiled attack on the European countries which have, at the behest of the United States, facilitated the extraordinary rendition of terror suspects to detention centres in parts of the world where they can be tortured with impunity.

“These abuses will only stop if the international community firmly commits to recognising… the principle of placing human dignity above all else,” he said.

 5 
 on: Oct 25, 2014, 07:26 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
DNA from 45,000-year-old human bone sheds light on how humans spread across the globe

Agence France-Presse
24 Oct 2014 at 09:08 ET     

Scientists claim to have unravelled the oldest DNA ever retrieved from a Homo sapiens bone, a feat that sheds light on modern humans’ colonisation of the planet.

A femur found by chance on the banks of a west Siberian river in 2008 is that of a man who died around 45,000 years ago, they said.

Teased out of collagen in the ancient bone, the genome contains traces from Neanderthals — a cousin species who lived in Eurasia alongside H. sapiens before mysteriously disappearing.

Previous research has found that Neanderthals and H. sapiens interbred, leaving a tiny Neanderthal imprint of just about two percent in humans today, except for Africans.

The discovery has a bearing on the so-called “Out of Africa” scenario: the theory that H. sapiens evolved in East Africa around 200,000 years ago and then ventured out of the continent.

Dating when Neanderthals and H. sapiens interbred would also indicate when H. sapiens embarked on a key phase of this trek — the push out of Eurasia and into South and later Southeast Asia.

The new study, published in the journal Nature, was headed by Svante Paabo, a renowned geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, who has pioneered research into Neanderthals.

- Neanderthal interbreeding -

The bone found at the Irtyush River, near the settlement of Ust’-Ishim, carries slightly more Neanderthal DNA than non-Africans today, the team found.

But it takes the form of relatively long strips, whereas Neanderthal DNA in our genome today has been cut up and dispersed in tiny sections as a result of generations of reproduction.

These differences provide a clue for a “molecular calendar”, or dating DNA according to mutations over thousands of years.

Using this method, Paabo’s team estimate interbreeding between Neanderthals and H. sapiens occurred 7,000 to 13,000 years before the Siberian individual lived — thus no more than 60,000 years ago.

This provides a rough date for estimating when H. sapiens headed into South Asia, Chris Stringer, a professor at Britain’s Natural History Museum, said in a comment on the study.

If today’s Australasians have Neanderthal DNA, it is because their forebears crossed through Neanderthal territory and mingled with the locals.

“The ancestors of Australasians, with their similar input of Neanderthal DNA to Eurasians, must have been part of a late, rather than early, dispersal through Neanderthal territory,” Stringer said in a press release.

“While it is still possible that modern humans did traverse southern Asia before 60,000 years ago, those groups could not have made a significant contribution to the surviving modern populations outside of Africa, which contain evidence of interbreeding with Neanderthals.”

Anthropologists suggest a northern branch of Eurasians crossed to modern-day Alaska more than 15,000 years ago via an “ice bridge” that connected islands in the Bering Strait, thus enabling H. sapiens to colonise the Americas.

 6 
 on: Oct 25, 2014, 07:24 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Venezuela Interior Minister Sacked after Clashes

by Naharnet Newsdesk
25 October 2014, 07:16

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro abruptly replaced his interior minister on Friday, weeks after violent clashes in Caracas which left five people dead.

Defense minister Carmen Melendez was named as Miguel Rodriguez Torres' replacement.

"I want to thank Major General Rodriguez Torres for all his effort over the past 19 months," Maduro said.

The outgoing interior minister had been saddled with the task of tackling Venezuela's soaring crime rate, which has made the country one of the most violent in the world, according to the United Nations.

Torres Rodriguez's dismissal comes just a few weeks after a clash in Caracas between police and activists from groups loyal to late president Hugo Chavez which left five people dead.

Army general Vladimir Lopez Padrino becomes defense minister.

Source: Agence France Presse

 7 
 on: Oct 25, 2014, 07:23 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Colombian Rebel Jailed for 27 Years over U.S. Hostage Case

by Naharnet Newsdesk
25 October 2014, 07:21

A former commander of Colombia's leftist FARC rebels was jailed for 27 years on Friday for his role in the 2003 kidnap of three U.S. citizens held captive for five years, the U.S. Justice Department said.

Alexander Beltran Herrera, 38, pleaded guilty in March to three counts of hostage-taking relating to the abduction of Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell.

The three men were taken prisoner by FARC fighters after their aircraft crashed deep in the Colombian jungle.

Two other men -- U.S. national Thomas Janis and Colombian Luis Alcides Cruz -- were murdered near the crash site by the rebels.

Gonsalves, Howes and Stansell ended up being held for 1,967 days before they were finally freed during a daring 2008 rescue by Colombian forces.

U.S. assistant attorney general John Carlin said Beltran Herrera's jailing in the United States "underscores our resolve to pursue and bring to justice those who target our citizens with violence anywhere in the world."

U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia Ronald Machen said the hostages had been held under "brutal conditions."

A Justice Department statement said Beltran Herrera had been responsible for moving the hostages and keeping them imprisoned, using choke harnesses, chains, padlocks and wires to restrain the men.

Founded in 1964, the FARC today has about 8,000 fighters and is the largest of the guerrilla groups waging Latin America's longest-running armed conflict.

FARC are currently locked in dialogue with Colombian government negotiators attempting to broker a peace deal to end the five-decade conflict.

Source: Agence France Presse

 8 
 on: Oct 25, 2014, 07:22 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Mexico's Students Not the Only Ones Missing

by Naharnet Newsdesk
25 October 2014, 07:23

A year before Mexico's latest nightmare -- the disappearance of 43 students -- there was another night of terror in a neighboring town when gunmen broke into homes and took people away, mainly youths.

Prosecutors in the southern state of Guerrero say they have received complaints over the disappearance of six people in the wee hours of July 1, 2013 in the village of Cocula.

But relatives of the victims put the number at 17, and say some people will not come forth because they fear police are in on the crime.

"Here everyone knows everything. You hear everything, and people spoke of 17 missing," said Cesar Penaloza, mayor of Cocula, a town of 4,300 located 200 kilometers (120 miles) from Mexico City.

One of the families that did file a complaint is that of Victor Albarran, an adolescent. His mother, Maura Varela, constantly relives that night of hell, which started with the arrival of a commando of 50 men.

"They were shooting all over the street," Varela recalls.

She and her husband rushed to get their kids out of bed and and hide them in the basement. But they missed Victor. He was in the bathroom. 

When the mother came up to look for her 15-year-old son, three hooded men shot their way into the house. They shot at the floor, kicked Victor, and after asking in vain for his older brothers, put him in a pickup truck where other hostages were already waiting. Many of them were young people, Varela said.

"I went after them, asking them not to take him away, as he was young, but they did not care," the 43-year-old mother said, crying. She is one of few neighbors willing to give her name.

"It seemed like a war. There were many explosions and people woke up afraid, without wanting to go outside," said Alfonso, a neighbor also wary of talking because he himself was abducted a year ago.

Residents say they never heard again from the 17, and that the police and soldiers who were sent in to investigate left the town six weeks later, having found nothing in their search. 

- Who is in the graves? -

Witnesses say they think the perpetrators of the attack were members of the Guerreros Unidos drug cartel, looking for members of the rival La Familia gang, which is dominant in the region.

Guerreros Unidos is accused of taking part in the shooting attacks against dozens of students in a rural teaching college on the night of September 26 in Iguala.

Forty-three students are still missing, and the crime has triggered outrage both in Mexico and abroad.

According to prosecutors, police from Iguala and Cocula turned over the students to henchmen of the Guerreros Unidos who, according to the testimony of detained members, probably killed and buried the students.

Cocula is separated from Iguala by a road surrounded by a scenic mountain range. But behind the lovely hills lies a veritable cemetery of victims of violence.

Since the start of the year, mass graves holding more than 80 sets of remains have been found in these hills, again shining light on the horror of missing people in Mexico.

Some 22,000 people have disappeared since the government sent in troops to fight the cartels in 2006.

Prosecutors say that of 28 sets of remains dug up since the disappearance of the students, none pertain to the 43 who have been missing since late last month.

Victor is not among the 28 either.

"It takes a bit of weight off my shoulders," his mother said.

- Wrong place, wrong time -

Before 14 police officers were arrested in the case of the missing students, the force had already triggered anger and suspicion among townspeople for not opposing the assault in 2013.

The mayor recalls that police told him they feared for their lives. After the attack, six of them resigned.

"Many police have not had physical or psychological training. Many do not even know how to handle a gun," he said.

With no sign of Victor, his mother asks that the government not only look for the students but the other vanished as well.

"I want them to help me get him back, and if he is dead I want to know because I believe one cannot live like this, with this constant anxiety."

Source: Agence France Presse

 9 
 on: Oct 25, 2014, 07:20 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Brazil Poll Rivals Clash over Corruption Claim

by Naharnet Newsdesk
25 October 2014, 09:02

Brazil's presidential candidates clashed over corruption allegations in Friday's final debate, as incumbent Dilma Rousseff rejected a report that she knew about a kickback scheme at state oil giant Petrobras.

The last debate before Sunday's run-off election was heated from the start as the report in conservative newsweekly Veja dominated opening exchanges before the candidates moved on to the economy and political reform.

Center-right challenger Aecio Neves demanded to know what his leftist rival knew about Veja's claim that she and her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva were personally aware of embezzlement within Petrobras, whose board Rousseff once chaired.

Rousseff insisted she was not and repeated a vow made prior to the debate that she planned to sue Veja for "slander and libel."

She chided Neves for repeating the claim and insisted voters could see through a Veja attempt to influence the poll outcome.

"Veja magazine has presented no proof -- this magazine has a habit of trying to pull off an electoral coup right at the end of campaigning," Rousseff stormed as both candidates prepared to field questions from undecided voters from around the country.

Neves said the ruling Workers' Party (PT) had a record of corruption dating back to the "mensalao" Congressional vote-buying scandal during Lula's 2003-2011 administration, in which lawmakers received cash to vote for PT legislation.

An investigation did not censure Lula but derailed some political careers, while a close Lula advisor was jailed.

But Rousseff hit back, accusing Neves of "wanting to take Brazil backwards" and reminding him there had been a scandal over vote buying in the state of Minas Gerais where he served as governor and where 10 accused were never tried.

And Rousseff went for the jugular in adding that one of the best-known of that group "is the coordinator of your campaign in Minas Gerais."

Neves retorted: "The best measure against corruption would be to take the PT out of power."

 

- Face-off on economy -

After tackling the Veja fallout, Rousseff and Neves moved onto Brazil's current economic recession and an inflation rate which has pushed through the government's own ceiling target of 6.5 percent.

Rousseff, who latest opinion polls going into the weekend gave a lead of between six and eight percent, in her defense pointed to record-low joblessness and rises in the minimum wage.

But business-world favorite Neves derided the leftist incumbent for excessive reliance on state intervention.

Both candidates agreed education required huge investment but disagreed on each other's record on improving schools.

Neves complained that the PT had not sufficiently addressed poor infrastructure and public services, issues that brought more than a million protesters onto the streets a year ago, saying millions of households lacked proper sanitation.

Rousseff concluded by saying nothing would deflect her in her aim of building a better Brazil for all, while Neves insisted he was the candidate of much-needed change.

Source: Agence France Presse

 10 
 on: Oct 25, 2014, 07:19 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Israeli Troops Kill Palestinian Teenager in the West Bank, the 2nd in 8 Days

By ISABEL KERSHNER
OCT. 24, 2014
IHT

JERUSALEM — Israeli troops on Friday shot and killed a Palestinian teenager who also held American citizenship. The Israeli military said its forces opened fire as the teenager threw a firebomb onto a main road in the West Bank that is often used by Israeli settlers, an account that could not be verified.

Dr. Sameer Saliba, of the Palestinian Medical Complex in Ramallah, said that Orwa Abdel Wahab Hammad, 14, from Silwad, a village northeast of Ramallah, was brought to the hospital about 6 p.m. with a bullet wound to the head, and that he was dead on arrival. Other Palestinian reports put his age at 15 or 17.

Local residents said that Palestinians throwing stones clashed with Israeli soldiers in the village after Friday Prayer, but that Orwa was apparently killed hours later.

The State Department called for a speedy and transparent investigation of the killing. “We continue to urge all parties to help restore calm and avoid escalating tensions in the wake of the tragic recent incidents in Jerusalem and the West Bank,” Jen Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman, said in a statement.

It was the second fatal shooting of a Palestinian teenager in the occupied West Bank in eight days. Soldiers shot Bahaa Sameer Mousa Bader, 13, in the chest during a confrontation on Oct. 16 near Israel’s separation barrier in Beit Liqya, another village near Ramallah.

On Wednesday a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem plowed his car into an Israeli light rail station in the city, killing a 3-month-old girl, Chaya Zissel Braun, who also held American citizenship. The Israeli authorities treated it as a terrorist attack, and a police officer shot and killed the driver as he tried to flee, the police said. Relatives of the driver said they believed he had simply lost control of the car.

Al-Haq, a Palestinian human rights organization, said it had documented the killing of 34 Palestinians in the West Bank or East Jerusalem by Israeli forces or settlers since mid-June, six of them minors. Palestinian and Israeli critics have expressed skepticism about internal army investigations, saying they rarely yield results.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel this week accused President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority of inciting violence against Israelis after Mr. Abbas called for Palestinians to defend their holy sites in Jerusalem “by all means.” Saeb Erekat, an Abbas aide, called the accusation “unfounded and inflammatory,” saying that “the Israeli occupation of Palestine remains the main source of violence and instability in the region.”

************   

Victory for Women: Women of the Wall hold first ever Torah reading at the Western Wall

Tiny Torah scroll smuggled into women's section of the wall after large scroll banned; Western Wall rabbi: This will never happen again.

Kobi Nachshoni
10/24/2014
Jewish News

The Women of the Wall organization won a major victory Friday, smuggling in a Torah scroll to the Western Wall women's section to hold their first ever Torah reading by a woman at the site.

The tiny Torah was smuggled into the compound in a tallit bag owned by one of the group's members, and used for a reading at a bat mitzvah. The tiny scroll was undetected by guards at the Western Wall who search all bags being taken into the compound.

In 2013, Jerusalem District Court issued the precedent-setting ruling that women were allowed to read from the Torah at the Western Wall. However, regulations at the site, which only allow for the use of its own Torah scrolls and prohibit worshippers from bringing books from the outside, had prevented them from doing so until now.

The group held their regular monthly prayers at the Western Wall to mark Rosh Chodesh (the start of the month), as they have done for the past 25 years. This month, however, they were accompanied by Sasha Lutt, who is celebrating her bat mitzvah. 

"With great excitement, today we carried out the mitzvah of reading from the Torah, which had been illegally and arbitrarily denied to us," said Women of the Wall Director Lesley Sachs. "This tiny Torah was written in order to be hidden and allow its reading despite the prohibitions on Jewish prayer in the Diaspora. For precisely these reasons we had to bring it in secretly, only this time it is Jews imposing restrictions on Jews."

The office of Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi of the Western Wall, accused the group of perpetrating a deception, and said that every effort would be made in the future to prevent a repetition of the Torah reading.

"A small group of Women of the Wall carried out a deception this morning; after they were prevented from entering with a large Torah scroll – they cunningly took a small Torah into the women's section (of the Western Wall)," said the statement from Rabinowitz.

"The Western Wall rabbi decided not to give further importance to the incident, and has asked for their failure to abide by the rules at the Wall, out of concern for the sanctity of the Torah. In future, efforts will be made to ensure that this does not happen again, and the introduction of Torah scrolls will be banned for everyone - men and women."

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