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Jews have split over the funding for settlements by storied charities

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Jews have split over the funding for settlements by storied charities

 

In the Jewish National Fund, a 120-year-old Zionist organisation that acquires land, plants trees and carries out construction projects in the Holy Land, generations of Jews have dropped spare change into the famous blue boxes.

But the Israeli party, known by its Hebrew acronym KKL, is now considering extending its operations officially into the occupied West Bank. That has ignited fierce opposition in the United States from left-leaning Jewish groups, widening a divide with Israel’s increasingly right-wing government.

The debate has drawn attention to the fact that, for decades, the KKL, which controls more than a tenth of all the land in Israel, has been secretly operating in the West Bank, constructing and growing settlements that are considered a breach of international law by most of the international community.

A separate organisation based in New York, also known as the Jewish National Fund, does not take a stand on settlements and is primarily interested in Israel.

When the Axios news website announced that the KKL was contemplating a plan to publicly finance land purchases from Palestinians in the West Bank, the controversy exploded earlier this month. Potentially, the move could channel hundreds of millions of dollars into settlement expansion, some of them deep within the occupied territories.

In the 1967 war, Israel took the West Bank, and the Palestinians want it to be the key part of their future state. The colonies, which house almost 500,000 Israelis, are seen by them as the biggest barrier to a two-state solution to the conflict.

Israel sees the West Bank as the Jewish people’s biblical heartland and insists any division should be negotiated in peace talks that have been essentially moribund for over a decade.

The plan will have to be accepted by the board of directors of the KKL, which is composed of members of many Jewish organisations and is not expected to decide before the country holds national elections on 23 March.

“The KKL-JNF operated in all parts of the Land of Israel, including Judea and Samaria, throughout the years and up to this very day,” it said, using the biblical name of the West Bank. “There is no intention at this stage of opening up a new area in Judea and Samaria.”

It added that all projects were confirmed in advance by donors, indicating that the funds allocated to projects within Israel would not be moved to the occupied territories.

But Peace Now, an Israeli anti-settlement watchdog, claims that for decades the KKL has been secretly working in the West Bank, purchasing at least 65,000 dunams (16,000 acres) of settlement land, primarily through a subsidiary.

Brian Reeves, spokesman for Peace Now, said, “This has happened before, and so this is not a sea change.” “But this would be the first time they have officially endorsed this openly, the idea of buying land in the West Bank, saying, in essence, ‘we don’t agree with international law, or that there is occupation, or that the two-state solution is important.'”

The selling of land to settlers is seen by Palestinians as a violation of their national cause, so such transactions are typically done secretly or through intermediaries, opening them up to accusations of fraud. They lead, in some instances, to the eviction of Palestinian families who say they have never sold their land.

While the settlements enjoy wide support within Israel, many Jews in the West, who are often at odds with the Israeli government on religious issues, have come to see them as an obstacle to peace. Most American Jews belong to Judaism’s more secular streams and feel alienated by the ultra-Orthodox authorities of Israel, who challenge their religion and practises.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, North America’s largest Jewish movement, says the KKL’s change stems from the recent World Zionist Congress elections that brought right-wing politicians more closely associated with the Israeli government to power.

The KKL plan has been denounced by his party and others opposed to treaties and have vowed to oppose it when the board meets, but it is uncertain if they have enough votes. Jacobs is worried that for many in the West, the move could tar the KKL or cause conflicts with the current U.S. administration, which is also opposed to the expansion of settlements.

He admitted that the KKL has worked in the West Bank in the past, but says its activities have fallen significantly over the last two decades before quietly resuming and accelerating in recent years, causing the URJ and other groups to oppose it.

“We basically blew the whistle and said wait a minute, there’s a whole lot of land buying going on under the table, without oversight under the radar, and honestly, without even the formal authorization to do so,” he said.

“The majority of Jews here in North America are opposed to the proliferation of the settlement business,” he said. “That’s something very strongly felt by American Jews.”

With its own board and its own offices in New York and Jerusalem, the U.S.-based JNF is a distinct agency. Russell Robinson, CEO, said it does not participate in politics and focuses on ventures in Israel’s Negev and Galilee areas.

“It’s not where most people want to be involved in politics,” he said. “They want to be involved in making a better place for the world, and we’re giving them that chance.”

In what Robinson refers to as a “seller service,” the U.S. JNF contracts out forestry and reservoir-building to the KKL. It has also funded several small projects in the occupied territories, including a heritage museum in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc.

Robinson opposes the infighting within the major Zionist organisations and claims that it has had no effect on the fundraising of his party. Jacobs, however, says that Israelis should be worried about the fraying ties between their Hawkish government and their foreign allies.

“In the political life of the United States, American Jews are very involved,” he said. “We work overtime to bridge the differences and create more commonality, but to do so, we will not forsake our core obligations.”

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The Festival Latino of the Berkshires will celebrate its 25 anniversary

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The Festival Latino of the Berkshires will celebrate its 25 anniversary

GREAT BARRINGTON, MA (NEWS10) – The Festival Latino of the Berkshires will celebrate its 25th Anniversary on Saturday, September 25, from 12:00 to 6:00 p.m., rain or shine, at the Town Hall Green Park and Saint James Place on Main Street.

The Berkshires Hispanic community continues to grow and thrive in the area, making invaluable contributions. The event takes place during Hispanic Heritage Month, which is one of Berkshire’s most eagerly anticipated cultural events of the year.

The festival provides a sense of pride, inspiration, and education to immigrants and their children, which engages the joy of the Latin arts to students and adults alike.

Kicking off at 12:00 p.m. will be a variety of Latin American cuisine vendors with local Mexican singer Laura Cabrera, and D.J. Bernardino will provide the best Latin music hits for exploring the foods, social services, artists, artisans, and activities present at the festival.

The Latino Festival is free of charge, open to the public, and alcohol-free, committed to maintaining public health by following all Covid-19 safety guidelines as recommended by the CDC.

For further information, visit the festival Latino website or Facebook page.

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Aides of former Gov. Cuomo on hook for new legal bills

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Aides of former Gov. Cuomo on hook for new legal bills

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York state has stopped paying legal bills for state employees who worked for former Gov. Andrew Cuomo as he faced ongoing investigations on the state and federal level. Gov. Kathy Hochul’s spokesperson Haley Viccaro said Wednesday that the state stopped paying for those aides’ legal bills after September 2.

Cuomo and his former aides face an ongoing probe by the state attorney general into Cuomo’s use of state employees to help with a book he wrote about his leadership during the pandemic and scrutiny from federal prosecutors who are investigating his administration’s handling of nursing home death data. Cuomo himself is also facing a state ethics commission inquiry.

The Hochul administration is now deciding whether there is a legal basis for the state to pay bills for legal services on or before September 2. Viccaro did not specify how many staffers had legal bills paid for by the state. She also didn’t say whether the state is considering requiring Cuomo aides to reimburse the state for past legal fees.

The state has agreed to pay a maximum of $9.5 million in bills for lawyers representing Cuomo and his administration over sexual harassment allegations and other matters as well as for lawyers investigating the former governor and his administration, according to the Associated Press review of available contracts.

That figure includes up to $5 million for lawyers who have represented Cuomo’s office. It doesn’t include the legal fees of Cuomo’s private attorney, Rita Glavin, whose bills are being paid by his campaign committee. It’s also unknown how much money has been paid to Paul Fishman, whose Washington, D.C.-based firm Arnold & Porter said it was representing Cuomo aides.

Cuomo resigned from office following an investigation overseen by Attorney General Letitia James that concluded he sexually harassed 11 women. Cuomo—who denies touching anyone inappropriately or intending to make suggestive comments—accused the women of exaggerating or misinterpreting his behavior.

A former aide of Cuomo alleged he groped her, according to a criminal complaint that the Albany County district attorney and sheriff are investigating. At least one woman, Lindsey Boylan, has said she intends to sue the ex-governor “and his co-conspirators” over their conduct. The investigation found Cuomo aides retaliated against Boylan.

Meanwhile, Cuomo and aides face the results of an impeachment investigation by the Assembly’s judiciary committee, though Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has argued the body doesn’t have clear legal authority for impeaching Cuomo to prevent him from running for office again.

Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Lavine has said the committee will release findings from their months-long investigation, but it’s unclear when it will do so or how comprehensive they will be. The committee has looked at whether Cuomo’s book deal violated ethics laws, sexual misconduct allegations, his administration’s handling of COVID-19 data, and whether members of Cuomo’s family were unlawfully prioritized for COVID-19 testing when tests were scarce.

Lavine, a Democrat, didn’t respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

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DOH: State’s school COVID tracker will be back up before October

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DOH: State’s school COVID tracker will be back up before October

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- Since the beginning of the school year, the state’s COVID tracking website for school districts has been unavailable while undergoing maintenance. At the latest, it will be back online by September 27, according to the Department of Health (DOH).

Beginning September 13 New York schools were required to report COVID cases to the DOH on a daily basis, as they were during the 2020-2021 school year.

“All the information will be available when the website update is complete and updated daily during the week.  Local school districts outside of New York City should also have this information readily available on their website,” said DOH Spokesperson, Abigail Barker.

Between a shortage of bus drivers and an increase in COVID cases, the Galway School District had been back from summer vacation a little less than a week when they went to virtual learning. After a week of remote, the school welcomed students back.

“We are looking forward to our student’s in-person learning every day for the rest of the year,” said Superintendent Brita Donovan.

The Albany City School District posts COVID updates on its website and also sends them to NEWS10. On Wednesday the school reported eight new cases of COVID. There have been 54 cases since September 1, according to the district’s website.

Barker said opening schools has not impacted the community transmission rate, based on preliminary data. However, the Albany City School District isn’t taking any chances. They’ve cancelled all homecoming events because of COVID.

“We are disappointed to have to take this step. However, COVID-19 cases are continuing to rise in our school district and our region, and we believe cancelling this event is the best decision in our efforts to protect the health and safety of our students, their families, our employees, and the entire community,” the district said Wednesday.

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Gabby Petito investigation: Arrest warrant issued for missing Brian Laundrie

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Gabby Petito investigation: Arrest warrant issued for missing Brian Laundrie

Law enforcement officials issued an arrest warrant for Brian Laundrie, days after he went missing and the body of Gabby Petitio was found, FBI officials said Thursday.

The FBI urged people with information to come forward. Laundrie, without authorization, allegedly used a debit card and PIN to buy more than $1,000 worth of items between Aug. 30 and Sept. 1, according to the indictment.

“While this arrest warrant allows law enforcement to arrest Mr. Laundrie, the FBI and our partners across the country continue to investigate the facts and circumstances of Ms. Petito’s homicide,” the FBI said.

The attorney for Laundrie’s family quickly noted the arrest warrant is not for Petito’s death.

“It is my understanding that the arrest warrant for Brian Laundrie is related to activities occurring after the death of Gabby Petito and not related to her actual demise,” the attorney said. “The FBI is focusing on locating Brian and when that occurs the specifics of the charges covered under the indictment will be addressed in the proper forum.”

Search teams found nothing of note Wednesday at a Florida wilderness park where they have spent days looking for Laundrie.

The search resumed Wednesday morning at the 24,000-acre (9,700-hectare) Carlton Reserve park and ended just before dark, North Port police spokesperson Joshua Taylor said. Investigators say Laundrie’s parents told them he had gone there after returning home without Petito on Sept. 1.

Petito, 22, was reported missing Sept. 11 by her parents after she did not respond to calls and texts for several days while the couple visited parks in the West. Her body was discovered Sunday at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

Teton County Coroner Brent Blue classified Petito’s death as a homicide — meaning her death was caused by another person — but did not disclose how she was killed pending further autopsy results. Laundrie, 23, is not charged with any crime but is considered a person of interest in the case.

With online sleuths and theories multiplying by the day, the FBI and police have been deluged with tips about possible Laundrie sightings. Taylor, the North Port spokesperson, said none have so far panned out. He also batted down rumors that Laundrie had been captured Tuesday.

“These reports are unfortunately false. Please rest assured that when Brian is found, we will be more than happy to let everyone know,” Taylor said in an email.

Petito and Laundrie grew up together in Long Island, New York, but moved in recent years to North Port, where his parents live. Their home, about 35 miles (55 kilometers) south of Sarasota, was searched by investigators earlier this week and a Ford Mustang driven by Laundrie’s mother was towed from the driveway. Authorities believe Laundrie drove that car to the Carlton Reserve before disappearing.

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Goldschmidt homers twice, Cards beat Brewers for 12th in a row

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Goldschmidt homers twice, Cards beat Brewers for 12th in a row

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Paul Goldschmidt homered twice, and the St. Louis Cardinals overcame a five-run deficit to beat the Milwaukee Brewers 8-5 and extend their longest winning streak in 39 years to 12 games.

On a day Adam Wainwright faltered early, St. Louis trailed 5-0 before rallying with one run in the fifth, four in the seventh, two in the eighth, and one in the ninth.

The Cardinals moved five games ahead of Cincinnati and Philadelphia, who both played later Thursday, for the second NL wild card.

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Should I get a flu shot if I’m getting a COVID vaccine booster?

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Should I get a flu shot if I’m getting a COVID vaccine booster?

ST. LOUIS – COVID-19 booster shots could become more widely available right as doctors recommend that people get their flu shots. But is it okay to get both vaccines at the same time?

The flu season is upon us at a time when the country already is battling a resurgence of the coronavirus. Doctors are urging Americans to avail themselves of any and all vaccines they are eligible for.

An FDA advisory panel is endorsing the Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines for people 65 and older and those with certain health conditions that compromise their immune systems. The CDC says, yes, you can get the COVID vaccine and the flu shot at the same time and one won’t interfere with the other.

“Flu vaccine influenza vaccine has been co-administered with other vaccines for decades people needed their tetanus or some other vaccine at the same time we always did that we do them in separate arms because if you have redness or a reaction you want to know which one it was,” said Dr. Peter Montgomery, a physician with SSM Health Family Medicine.

Montgomery says the flu shots are available now.

“We want to get people vaccinated hopefully by Thanksgiving and it will take a while to get everybody in to get that done, ideally for the whole population around Halloween, so I would say if you can get it now, get it now,” he said.

The flu season can run from now until spring. SSM Health is reporting zero flu cases throughout its system so far this flu season. Last year, there were few flu cases reported. That is attributed to widespread mask use and social distancing.

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Two suspects arrested for shooting death of Denver man in Adams County

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Two suspects arrested for shooting death of Denver man in Adams County

Two suspects have been arrested in the shooting death of a Denver man in an Adams County apartment complex parking lot.

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Oldest human footprints in North America found in New Mexico

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Oldest human footprints in North America found in New Mexico

WASHINGTON — Fossilized footprints discovered in New Mexico indicate that early humans were walking across North America around 23,000 years ago, researchers reported Thursday.

The first footprints were found in a dry lake bed in White Sands National Park in 2009. Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey recently analyzed seeds stuck in the footprints to determine their approximate age, ranging from around 22,800 and 21,130 years ago.

The findings may shed light on a mystery that has long intrigued scientists: When did people first arrive in the Americas, after dispersing from Africa and Asia?

Most scientists believe ancient migration came by way of a now-submerged land bridge that connected Asia to Alaska. Based on various evidence — including stone tools, fossil bones and genetic analysis — other researchers have offered a range of possible dates for human arrival in the Americas, from 13,000 to 26,000 years ago or more.

The current study provides a more solid baseline for when humans definitely were in North America, although they could have arrived even earlier, the authors say. Fossil footprints are more indisputable and direct evidence than “cultural artifacts, modified bones, or other more conventional fossils,” they wrote in the journal Science, which published the study Thursday.

“What we present here is evidence of a firm time and location,” they said.

Based on the size of the footprints, researchers believe that at least some were made by children and teenagers who lived during the last ice age.

David Bustos, the park’s resource program manager, spotted the first footprints in ancient wetlands in 2009. He and others found more in the park over the years.

“We knew they were old, but we had no way to date the prints before we discovered some with (seeds) on top,” he said Thursday.

Made of fine silt and clay, the footprints are fragile, so the researchers had to work quickly to gather samples, Bustos said.

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Carolina RB Christian McCaffrey out at Texans with hamstring injury

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Carolina RB Christian McCaffrey out at Texans with hamstring injury

HOUSTON — Carolina running back Christian McCaffrey left Thursday night’s game against the Houston Texans with a hamstring injury and will not return.

McCaffrey had a 2-yard run early in the second quarter and went to the medical tent on the sideline soon after that. The team announced he was out for the rest of the game later in the second quarter.

McCaffrey had seven carries for 31 yards and two receptions for nine yards before he was injured.

McCaffrey has been great in the first two games for the Panthers. He entered the game with 45 carries for 170 yards and 14 receptions for 154 yards.

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MLB, union send notices of intent to seek labor changes

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MLB, union send notices of intent to seek labor changes

NEW YORK — Major League Baseball and the players’ association sent the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service letters of intent to seek new labor terms as the Dec. 1 expiration of the sport’s collective bargaining agreement approaches.

The notices, a formality under federal labor law required during every negotiation, were exchanged Aug. 26 by Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem and Ian Penny, the general counsel of the Major League Baseball Players Association.

Under federal labor law, a collective bargaining agreement may not be modified or terminated unless a side seeking to make changes notifies the other side more than 60 days in advance of expiration and tells the mediation service within 30 days of giving notice.

Baseball has not had a work stoppage since the 7 1/2-month strike that wiped out the 1994 World Series. The sides reached agreements without work stoppages in 2002, 2006, 2011 and 2016, but the relationship has become more strained in recent years as the salary escalation has slowed.

The average salary rose from $3.97 million in 2016 to just under $4.1 million in 2017, according to union figures, then dropped to $3.9 million in 2020 before accounting for a shortened season caused by the pandemic that reduced the figure to about $1.6 million.

Based on opening day figures, the 2021 final average is likely to be in the $3.6 million to $3.7 million range.

Negotiations have proceeded slowly, and both sides appear to be bracing for a lockout that could start either on Dec. 1 or when players are scheduled to report to spring training in February.

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