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Jewish leaders, backers defiant a week after hostage siege

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Jewish leaders, backers defiant a week after hostage siege

On the eve of her 100th birthday Saturday, Ruth Salton told her daughter she was going one way or another to Friday night Shabbat services at Congregation Beth Israel, just days after a gunman voicing antisemitic conspiracy theories held four worshippers hostage for 10 hours at the Fort Worth-area synagogue.

“I want to support my people,” said Salton, a Holocaust survivor. She said she told her daughter “if she doesn’t take me, I’ll go by myself, because I feel I belong there. I am Jewish, and this is my faith, and I am supporting it.”

She’s far from alone.

At synagogues around the U.S., Jewish leaders marked the first Sabbath since last weekend’s hostage-taking at Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, with a show of defiance against it and other acts of antisemitism. Many called for a strong turnout to show unity among the faithful, and rabbis, public officials and others spoke out during the Friday night and Saturday services against acts of violence, hatred and intimidation aimed at Jews.

At Beth Israel’s service Saturday, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker and the three other people who were taken hostage last weekend stood in front of the congregation, linking arms as they sang the ritual blessings before and after the weekly reading of the Torah.

And at Friday night services marking the start of the Sabbath, or Shabbat, Cytron-Walker said: “The words Shabbat Shalom, to be able to offer that to each and every one of you, those words have never, never felt so good. While we have a lot of processing to do, God willing, the worst is over … and we can have a Shabbat of peace.”

Viewers of Beth Israel’s Facebook Live broadcast of its Saturday service sent greetings from Jerusalem, Florida, North Carolina and elsewhere.

Similar observances took place at other congregations.

“A terrorist tried to steal Shabbat from us last week. Claiming it this week is an act of resistance,” Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, of Central Synagogue in New York City, said during Friday night’s service.

During the standoff, the hostage-taker forced Cytron-Walker to call Buchdahl in a bid to win Siddiqui’s release, according to authorities. She then reported the call to law enforcement.

Christian and Muslim clergy joined in Central Synagogue’s Friday service in a show of solidarity, linking arms and swaying with Buchdahl and Mayor Eric Adams as the congregation sang a song of thanksgiving.

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78,000 pounds of infant formula arrives in US

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78,000 pounds of infant formula arrives in US

By MICHAEL CONROY

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Enough specialty infant formula for more than half a million baby bottles arrived Sunday in Indianapolis.

The formula, weighing 78,000 pounds (35,380 kilograms), was being transported by military plane, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One as President Joe Biden flew from South Korea to Japan.

It is the first of several flights carrying infant formula from Europe expected this weekend to relieve the deepening shortage in the U.S. The flights were authorized by Biden.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was in Indianapolis to greet the arrival of the first shipment in Indianapolis.

The Biden administration — which has struggled to address a nationwide shortage of formula, particularly hypoallergenic varieties — has dubbed the effort “Operation Fly Formula.” The crisis follows the closure of the nation’s largest domestic manufacturing plant in Michigan in February due to safety issues.

The White House has said 132 pallets of Nestlé Health Science Alfamino Infant and Alfamino Junior formula was to leave Ramstein Air Base in Germany for the U.S. Another 114 pallets of Gerber Good Start Extensive HA formula were expected to arrive in the coming days. Altogether, about 1.5 million 8-ounce bottles of the three formulas, which are hypoallergenic for children with cow’s milk protein allergy, are expected to arrive this week.

Indianapolis was chosen because it is a Nestle distribution hub. The formula will be offloaded into FedEx semitractor-trailers and taken to a Nestle distribution center about a mile away where the company will do a standard quality control check before distributing the supplies to hospitals, pharmacies and doctor’s offices, according to an administration official on site.

Air Force planes are transporting the initial batch of formula because no commercial flights were available this weekend.

The flight was the first of several to provide “some incremental relief in the coming days” as the government works on a more lasting response to the shortage, Brian Deese, director of the White House National Economic Council, said Sunday.

Reese told CNN’s “State of the Union” that Sunday’s flight brought 15% of the specialty medical grade formula needed in the U.S., and because of various actions by the government, people should see “more formula in stores starting as early as this week.”

Longer term, he said, the U.S. needs more formula providers “so that no individual company has this much control over supply chains.”

Under “Operation Fly Formula,” the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services are authorized to request Department of Defense support to pick up overseas infant formula that meets U.S. health and safety standards, so it can get to store shelves faster, according to the USDA.

Alfamino is primarily available through hospitals and home health care companies that serve patients at home.

U.S. regulators and the manufacturer, Abbott Nutrition, hope to have its Michigan plant reopened next week, but it will take about two months before product is ready for delivery. The Food and Drug Administration this week eased importation requirements for baby formula to try to ease the supply crunch, which has left store shelves void of some brands and some retailers rationing supply for parents nervous about feeding their children.

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WHO chief: The COVID pandemic is ‘most certainly not over’

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WHO chief: The COVID pandemic is ‘most certainly not over’

BERLIN (AP) — The COVID-19 pandemic is “most certainly not over,” the head of the World Health Organization warned Sunday, despite a decline in reported cases since the peak of the omicron wave. He told governments that “we lower our guard at our peril.”

The U.N. health agency’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told officials gathered in Geneva for opening of the WHO’s annual meeting that “declining testing and sequencing means we are blinding ourselves to the evolution of the virus.” He also noted that almost 1 billion people in lower-income countries still haven’t been vaccinated.

In a weekly report Thursday on the global situation, WHO said the number of new COVID-19 cases appears to have stabilized after weeks of decline since late March, while the overall number of weekly deaths dropped.

While there has been progress, with 60% of the world’s population vaccinated, “it’s not over anywhere until it’s over everywhere,” Tedros said.

“Reported cases are increasing in almost 70 countries in all regions, and this in a world in which testing rates have plummeted,” he added.

Reported deaths are rising in Africa, the continent with the lowest vaccination coverage, he said, and only 57 countries — almost all of them wealthy — have vaccinated 70% of their people.

While the world’s vaccine supply has improved, there is “insufficient political commitment to roll out vaccines” in some countries, gaps in “operational or financial capacity” in others, he said.

“In all, we see vaccine hesitancy driven by misinformation and disinformation,” Tedros said. “The pandemic will not magically disappear, but we can end it.”

Tedros is expected to be appointed for a second five-year term this week at the World Health Assembly, the annual meeting of the WHO’s member countries.

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Wisconsin couple kills bear that attacked them in their home

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Ravens kicker Justin Tucker’s record-breaking kick honored as NFL’s Best Moment of the Year

MEDFORD, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin couple say they killed a bear that attacked them inside their home after they spotted it eating from their bird feeder.

The Taylor County Sheriff’s office said the attack happened around 11 p.m. Friday at a home near Medford in north-central Wisconsin. The couple told authorities that the bear charged through a window after they yelled at it to go away.

Both the husband and wife were injured before they were able to stab the bear with a kitchen knife. Eventually, the man was able to grab a firearm and kill the animal.

The man and woman were treated at a hospital for several bites and other injuries before being released. The couple’s children were asleep in their bedrooms at the time and were not injured.

The sheriff’s office said the bear was an adult female, and one cub was seen running off as the bear ran toward the home. State wildlife officials took the bear for testing. Authorities have not specified what kind of bear it was.

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