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Occupy Wall Street movement brings Jewish ethos to demonstrations

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Protesters are undeterred by weather Oct. 10 at the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco
Photo By Emma Silvers

By Danielle Fleischman and Dan Klein

JWeekly.com
The Occupy Wall Street economic movement that has spread rapidly from New York to cities across the country, including San Francisco and Oakland, has taken on a Jewish flavor for some protesters — from holding outdoor Yom Kippur services to welcoming donated Shabbat challahs.

In New York and other locations, hundreds gathered for open-air Kol Nidre services on Oct. 7. “For many of us, social justice is where we find our Judaism,” said Regina Weiss, communications director for the New York–based Jewish Funds for Justice. “For many there is no more important way to stand up and express Judaism on the holiest night of the year than to stand with people who are hurting and to stand up for greater equality in the country.”

In downtown Oakland, activists erected a sukkah on Oct. 12 in Frank Ogawa Plaza to show solidarity with the movement on the eve of the Sukkot holiday. The sukkah was co-sponsored by an East Bay group, Jewish Youth for Community Action, and Kehilla Community Synagogue of Piedmont.

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Hundreds gather in New York for Kol Nidre service to support the Occupy Wall Street movement
Photo By David A.M. Wilensky

Other groups around the country also built sukkahs, including Occupy Judaism, an online campaign that is trying to establish a Jewish presence at the protests nationwide.

The New York sukkah was donated by PopUp Sukkah, a company co-owned by Chabadnik Yoni Reskin, who said the protests represented an opportunity to have Jews fulfill the mitzvahs of Sukkot. “It’s not a political angle,” he said. “I truly believe that on Sukkot everyone should be able to celebrate the holiday. When I found that this opportunity was available, I wanted to be able to help perform the mitzvah.”

In San Francisco, Jewish protesters reflected a more regional, laid-back flavor.

In the city’s Financial District on Oct. 10, local legend “Diamond Dave” Whitaker, a staple of the beat poetry scene and a protest organizer, said he and other Jews on hand likely would be open to organized Jewish activities.

“If someone wanted to come down here with challah and whatnot, I think we’d be happy to do Shabbat,” he said, adding that his politics were in part shaped by time spent living in Israel on a kibbutz as a young man.

But another Jewish protester who showed up on the rainy Monday after Yom Kippur took a more global view of his participation.

“I came out today because I want to take part in what feels like an awakening of working people in this country, standing up against these really glaring economic inequalities that stare us in the face every day,” said the San Francisco resident, who wished to be identified as Phil H.

Days after an Oct. 6 police raid, protesters appeared undeterred as they rebuilt their camp, donned ponchos and huddled under tarps in front of the Federal Reserve Bank at 101 Market St. Bicycle-fueled generators powered laptops as people passed around donated bags of snacks.

“It’s messy,” said Phil H., a student at San Francisco City College, “but it’s a rediscovery in participatory democracy. I don’t know that that’s something that can or should be divided along religious lines. I think everyone has something to contribute.”

In New York, the person credited with the idea of holding the Kol Nidre services to support the demonstrators, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, said protesting is a key part of Judaism.

“The reason there is a Jewish place in these protests is that there is a protest place in Judaism,” said Waskow, director of the Shalom Center. “From the Exodus, from Isaiah, from Jeremiah and all the way down to rabbinic Judaism, there is a sense that Judaism is constantly struggling against top-down power of the Pharaoh.

“Judaism calls for freedom, democracy and feeding the hungry,” he added.

Some Jews in the New York protest said they’re trying to combat a minority strain of anti-Zionism and anti-Semit-ism running through the movement.

“There was a guy with a sign ‘Zionists control the financial world,’ ” said Kobi Skolnick, an ex-Chabadnik who attended a yeshiva in the West Bank. “They have freedom of speech, but so do I. What we did is we wrote on a big, 10 times bigger, sign: ‘This sign sucks, and it is not representative here.’ ”

Activist Daniel Sieradski, the organizer of Occupy Judaism, said there are anti-Zionist ideologues involved in the Occupy Wall Street protests who believe that Israel is central to U.S. economic issues.

They “think that the issue of the Israeli occupation is inseparable from the economic situation. They think that Israel is an outpost of American imperialism, including economic imperialism,” he said. “There is a tendency on the left to make Jews who identify with Israel uncomfortable. I hope we can overcome that. There are plenty of people against the Israel occupation, but that’s not what this is about.”

The Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly donated 120 High Holy Day prayerbooks for the Yom Kippur service in New York.

“Wherever there is an opportunity to bring Torah and learning to Jews, wherever they are, we want to be there,” said Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, the organization’s executive vice president.

Sieradski, who also organized the service, read from a labor leader’s midrash at the event: “Kol Nidre reminds us that though we make commitments under duress, ultimately we are accountable only to the higher values of justice and righteousness.”

The sounds of prayer drowned out the drumbeat at the lower Manhattan plaza protesters have occupied since Sept. 17.

Congregants arranged themselves in concentric circles around the bimah and a Torah scroll on loan from an Orthodox synagogue, chanting and singing so that the words of the service could carry back to the edges of the crowd. It was hard to tell whether the Kol Nidre call and response was borrowed from an old labor tactic or Jewish summer camp. Halal food carts ringed the congregation.

Demonstrator Rachel Feldman, 26, noted that the Kol Nidre service drew many of her friends who would never go to traditional synagogues.

“This is what shul should feel like,” said Feldman, surrounded by a congregation wearing a mix of sneakers, ties, tallits, yarmulkes, jeans and T-shirts. “Overwhelmed by community.”

J. staff writer Emma Silvers contributed to this report.

See Related: American Distrust of Banks Archive


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Federal Prosecutors say advertising medicinal marijuana is against the law – Will prosecute the press

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By Michael Montgomery
CaliforniaWatch.com

Federal prosecutors are preparing to target newspapers, radio stations and other media outlets that advertise medical marijuana dispensaries in California, another escalation in the Obama administration’s newly invigorated war against the state’s pot industry.

This month, U.S. attorneys representing four districts in California announced that the government would single out landlords and property owners who rent buildings or land where dispensaries sell or cultivators grow marijuana. Now, newspapers and other media outlets could be next.

U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy, whose district includes Imperial and San Diego counties, said marijuana advertising is the next area she’s “going to be moving onto as part of the enforcement efforts in Southern California.” Duffy said she could not speak for the three other U.S. attorneys covering the state but noted their efforts have been coordinated so far.

“I’m not just seeing print advertising,” Duffy said in an interview with California Watch and KQED. “I’m actually hearing radio and seeing TV advertising. It’s gone mainstream. Not only is it inappropriate – one has to wonder what kind of message we’re sending to our children – it’s against the law.”

Federal law prohibits people from placing ads for illegal drugs, including marijuana, in “any newspaper, magazine, handbill or other publication.” The law could conceivably extend to online ads; the U.S. Department of Justice recently extracted a $500 million settlement from Google for selling illegal ads linking to online Canadian pharmacies.

Duffy said her effort against TV, radio or print outlets would first include “going after these folks with … notification that they are in violation of federal law.” She noted that she also has the power to seize property or prosecute in civil and criminal court.

William G. Panzer, an attorney who specializes in marijuana defense cases, said publishers may have a reason to worry. Federal law singles out anyone who “places” an illegal ad in a newspaper or publication. Nevertheless, Panzer said he is not aware of a single appellate case dealing with this section of the law.

“Technically, if I’m running the newspaper and somebody gives me money and says, ‘Here’s the ad,’ I’m the one who is physically putting the ad in my newspaper,” he said. “I think this could be brought against the actual newspaper. Certainly, it’s arguable, but the statute is not entirely clear on that.”

Panzer said the penalty for a first offense is a maximum four years in prison and eight years for someone with a prior felony conviction.

In the federal law, an exception is made for ads that advocate the use of illegal drugs but don’t explicitly offer them for sale or distribution. Newspapers, Panzer said, could argue that they have a right under the First Amendment to run the ads, and any “prior restraint” before publication is itself illegal.

Duffy said she believes the law gives her the right to prosecute newspaper publishers or TV station owners.

“If I own a newspaper … or I own a TV station, and I’m going to take in your money to place these ads, I’m the person who is placing these ads,” Duffy said. “I am willing to read (the law) expansively and if a court wants to more narrowly define it, that would be up to the court.”

(Update: Lauren Horwood, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of California – which includes Bakersfield – told The Bakersfield Californian that U.S. Attorney Ben Wagner is not currently focusing on newspapers and television and radio stations that take advertising from medical marijuana collectives and cooperatives. She could not comment on whether Wagner might consider similar action in the future.)

Seven states, including California, allow for medical marijuana to be distributed in dispensaries, though more than 200 California cities and nearly two dozen counties have bans or moratoriums in place on storefront pot businesses. The industry has otherwise exploded in recent years, including a marked increase in delivery services.

Ngaio Bealum, publisher of West Coast Cannabis, described as “the Sunset magazine of weed,” said he receives a significant portion of his revenue from dispensary ads, though he has tough competition from alternative newspapers and even The Sacramento Bee, which began running print advertisements for dispensaries this year.

Bealum said it was “misguided for the Department of Justice to come after people who are following state law and doing well for the economy in a recession.” He disputed the notion that marijuana ads target children.

“We’re just in doctor’s offices and cannabis collectives, where you have to be 18 years old or where you have to be a patient,” he said. “We’re not targeting anyone but cannabis patients.”

Duffy said Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act, passed by California voters in 1996 has transformed from an effort to supply marijuana to sick people through nonprofit groups into a profit-making industry. She said the advertising is part of that – and “it’s illegal.”

Duffy said she’s seen marijuana stores advertise coupons, bring-a-friend deals, extra samples for buying a certain amount of marijuana, magazines devoted entirely to the industry, T-shirts for sale, marijuana linked to video games – all things, she said, “in large part directed at our youth and children.”

“The good intentions behind that law,” she said, “have almost completely been taken over by people who are trying to use that permission law to get rich, to distribute marijuana and traffic drugs to people who aren’t sick, to our youth and to people who are using drugs on a recreational basis.”

It’s clear that alternative newspapers throughout the state have benefited from the increased business, even as other advertising sources have dwindled.

In April, the Sacramento News & Review published a special supplement devoted exclusively to marijuana dispensaries. “This year’s edition includes more than 100 regional medical-cannabis dispensaries, physicians, and med-delivery and hydroponics shops for the 2011 Green Pages,” the newspaper wrote. Marijuana dispensary ads, which can cost $2,000 for a full page, allowed the News & Review to hire additional reporters.

“I don’t see how the News & Review running medical-marijuana ads is any different from TV stations running massive amounts of commercials for pharmaceutical companies selling drugs,” Jeff vonKaenel, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review, wrote in a May 2010 column about the advertising.

In an interview about Duffy’s statement, vonKaenel said he was “stunned by that interpretation of the First Amendment.” He said his publications “receive quite a bit of revenue from (dispensaries) and it would have a detrimental impact” if he was forced to stop publishing the ads.

Panzer said he doesn’t think the federal government can effectively shut down the marijuana industry, even if it makes short-term gains by targeting high-profile dispensaries and newspapers. Given the government’s lack of resources and the huge size of the marijuana industry, Panzer said officials’ efforts are “a losing proposition.”

“The government is trying to put the genie back in the bottle,” Panzer said.

Circumventing the law on advertising the sale of illegal drugs can bring expensive consequences. In August, Google agreed to pay a $500 million settlement for accepting illegal advertisements from online Canadian pharmacies. Employees of the company had been working with pharmacies to bypass Google’s own internal controls, even as Google executives testified before Congress, claiming the company had clamped down on the illegal ads.

The fine was one of the largest ever from a U.S. company. At the time of the settlement, Google said in a statement that “it’s obvious with hindsight that we shouldn’t have allowed these ads on Google in the first place.”

California is not the only state struggling with the issue of marijuana ads. In Colorado, the city of Boulder recently voted to ban medical marijuana ads that target young people or recreational users. Now, the city clerk will decide if the tone of the ads crosses the line.

The federal government’s recent crackdown on the marijuana industry coincides with a February 2011 memorandum written by the state’s four top federal prosecutors, outlining a uniform approach to enforcing federal marijuana laws in California. The document, reviewed by California Watch, places an emphasis on federal investigations that target “leaders and organizers of the criminal activity as opposed to lower-level workers.”

The memorandum sets thresholds that make investigations more likely to be prosecuted. Those include distributors caught with at least 200 kilograms of marijuana, including distribution near schools, playgrounds and colleges; cultivators with gardens of at least 1,000 plants that are not on federal land and at least 500 plants on federal or tribal land or where there is significant damage; and dispensaries that sell more than 200 kilograms or 1,000 plants annually.

See Related: San Francisco Republican Party Chair Harmeet Dhillon threatens government action against local press

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Gilad Shalit to return home Tuesday

IDF chief informs Gilad Shalit’s family of expected procedures ahead of long-awaited reunion

By Ahiya Raved
YNetNews.com

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen Benny Gantz officially informed Noam and Aviva Shait that their son, captive soldier Gilad Shalit, is set to return home next Tuesday after five years in Hamas captivity. Gantz visited the Shalit family home in Mitzpe Hila on Thursday, ahead of the impending prisoner swap.

The IDF Chief briefed the family about the details of the deal, explaining that the first phase of the swap will take place on Tuesday: According to the agreement, Gilad will be flown to Egypt and from there to the Tel Nof Air Force base – where his family will finally reunite with him.

The IDF chief declined to speak to the media upon leaving the Shalits’ home.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Tuesday that Hamas had finally agreed to a prisoner exchange deal: Israel will release 1,027 Palestinian security prisoners in return for Gilad Shalit’s safe return.

The deal will take place in two stages: The first stage, which is set to take place within a week, will see 450 prisoners released parallel to Shalit. Shalit will be transferred to Egypt and from there to Israel. The second stage, scheduled to take place in two months time, will see 550 additional prisoners released.

Shimshon Libman, who heads the Shalit campaign, told reporters that “the chief of staff met with the family… He probably discussed the preparations being made ahead of Gilad’s return. “I hope that we’ll have Gilad back home by Simchat Torah night, barring any problems.”

Also on Thursday, the International Red Cross offered to play a neutral intermediary role in the prisoner exchange. “We are talking to both sides about our offer. We have offered our services as a neutral intermediary to both sides,” Red Cross Spokesman Marcal Izard said.

Popular Resistance Committees’ Spokesman Abu Mujahid said Thursday that Shalit’s captures will release a video documenting his time in captivity, after the prisoner exchange is completed.

“The video will show that he was treated well and with respect, as demanded by the Islamic dogma,” he said.

See Related: Gilad Shalit Agreement


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Were banks rewarded for bad behavior?

Al Jazeera

In the final episode of Meltdown, we hear about the sheikh who says the crash never happened; a Wall Street king charged with fraud; a congresswoman who wants to jail the bankers; and the world leaders who want a re-think of capitalism.

The financial crash of September 2008 brought the largest bankruptcies in world history, pushing over 30 million people into unemployment and bringing many countries to the brink of insolvency.

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Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al Maktoum calls himself Dubai’s CEO. He claims to run his government according to strict business principles, but now many are quietly questioning his judgement and his leadership.

In the years before the meltdown, Dubai had the biggest real-estate bonanza in the world. During the crash, the market tumbled, losing 50 per cent of its value, leaving Dubai virtually insolvent. But this did not deter the sheikh.

In January 2010, Sheikh Mohammed threw a massive party to mark the opening of the world’s tallest building – the Burj Khalifa – using PR strategies to suggest that the real estate crash was a good thing for the emirate.

As one world leader handles the crisis through denial, other leaders try to re-think capitalism. Even though the causes of the 2008 meltdown are now clear, there is no magic formula to stop it from happening again.

The world has to start planning for the next crisis, even as we recognise that this one is not over yet.

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See Related: American Distrust of Banks Archive


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Fitch cuts bailed-out lenders Lloyds TSB and RBS credit ratings

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The Guardian

Ratings agency Fitch cut the credit score of bailed-out lenders Lloyds TSB and Royal Bank of Scotland today, saying the Government had become less likely to give them further financial support.

Fitch’s downgrade of Lloyds and RBS followed a similar move last week from rival Moody’s, which also cited a reduced likelihood of additional state assistance for the banking sector.

“Support dynamics are changing in the UK,” Fitch said.

“The banking system is not only large relative to the UK economy, but there is also more advanced political will to reduce the implicit support for the country’s banks.”

Rating agencies had been widely expected to downgrade British banks amid signs the Government’s commitment to supporting them has waned.

The Independent Commission on Banking’s recommendation in September that banks ring-fence their retail units from riskier investment banking operations and hold more capital overall, has also been seen as negative for their credit rating.

Lloyds and RBS are 41 per cent and 83 per cent state-owned, respectively, after receiving billions of pounds aid during the 2008 financial crisis.

Fitch also placed rival bank Barclays on “rating watch negative,” signalling it too might be downgraded, citing exposure to volatile, market-sensitive business activities.

RBS and Lloyds shares were down 3.8 per cent and 2.5 per cent respectively.

Fitch’s decision – which led to further falls for banking shares on the London Stock Exchange – reflects moves by the Government to shift risk away from taxpayers and on to creditors but could see the cost of borrowing for the affected financial institutions increase.

But Fitch said Lloyds and RBS had shown steady improvement in their risk profiles and prospects over the past two years and they should achieve higher ratings in the medium term.

Lloyds, which is 40.2% owned by the taxpayer, said last week that it did not expect Moody’s decision to hit funding costs, while RBS, which is 83% state-owned, said it was “disappointed” by the move.

Manthos Delis, analyst from Cass Business School, said: “There is always a possibility that a forecast becomes self-fulfilling and spreads to the economy.

“We must understand that a downgrade by one basis point should not imply grave danger for British banks, but it should be taken as a wake-up call for action.”

See Related: American Distrust of Banks Archive


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Hedge fund founder sentenced to 11 years in prison – Insider trading

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Raj Rajaratnam, co-founder of Galleon Group, enters federal court in New York
before being sentenced in the biggest hedge-fund insider trading scheme
in U.S. history.
Bloomberg News Photo

The Los Angeles Times

NEW YORK— A former billionaire who was the primary target of what prosecutors called the biggest hedge fund insider trading case in U.S. history was sentenced Thursday to 11 years in prison.

Galleon Group founder Raj Rajaratnam also was fined $10 million. U.S. District Judge Richard J. Holwell announced the sentence after concluding that Rajaratnam made well over $50 million in profits from his illegal trades.

“His crimes and the scope of his crimes reflect a virus in our business culture that needs to be eradicated,” Holwell said.

The judge also said Rajaratnam needs a kidney transplant and suffers from advanced diabetes, an illness he took into consideration in giving him leniency.

And he credited Rajaratnam’s charity work, which he called “the defendant’s responsiveness to and care for the less privileged.” The judge cited Rajaratnam’s work to help victims of the earthquake in Pakistan and Sept. 11, among others.

The sentencing culminates a series of convictions and sentencings that followed the October 2009 announcement of Rajaratnam’s arrest. More than two dozen people were arrested; all were convicted. The other defendants got sentences ranging from a few months to 10 years.

The prosecution placed Rajaratnam’s profits from illegal trades between $70 million and $75 million, saying he switched so much money around within his multibillion dollar funds that the movement of price in individual stocks could be traced to his trading whims.

Prosecutors had asked Holwell to send the 54-year-old to prison for at least 19 1/2 years for his May conviction on securities fraud charges. They said federal sentencing guidelines called for up to 24 1/2 years.

The defense asked for leniency partly based on Rajaratnam’s “failing health” and his “unique constellation of ailments.” They said a lengthy prison term will amount to a death sentence.

Lawyers for the Sri Lanka native argued for 6 1/2 to 9 years. They said the illegal profits actually total around $7 million, when the trades at his Galleon Group are disregarded.

See Related: American Distrust of Banks Archive


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Catch the Silver Coach at the Asian Art Museum – On Scene with Bill Wilson

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Jay Xu, Director of the Asian Art Museum standing in front of the Maharaja
of Bhavnagar’s silver coach.
Photo By Bill Wilson © 2011

By Bill Wilson
Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson © 2011

In 1915 Colonel H.H. Maharaja Raol Shri Sir Bhavsinhi II Takhtsinhji Sahib, Maharaja of Bhavnagar placed an order for a silver coach with the Fort Coach Company of Bombay. That coach will be part of the exhibit “Maharaja: The Splendor of India’s Royal Courts” which will open to the public on October 21 at the Asian Art Museum. It arrived at the museum on Monday September 26 in a crate too large to make it through any of the museums doors so it was lifted by a crane through the window. There are two clips on You Tube of the arrival and uncrating. If you stop the second clip at around 58 seconds you will see me photographing the carriage.

The coach itself is a beautiful work of art. Objects that serve a functional purpose take on added beauty. Instead of just a metal elevated strip to prevent the coachman’s foot from slipping off the footrest, that piece of metal takes on the beauty of a lying down greyhound poised to jump into action.

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The lying greyhound is just visible on the footrest
Photo By Bill Wilson © 2011

I don’t know if the bulldog plays a role in Indian mythology, or if the Maharaja just loved bulldogs but every end of a bar is in the shape of a face of a bulldog.

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There are three bulldog heads in this picture. One on the right is labeled.
Photo By Bill Wilson © 2011

When I was a little kid my grandfather stored props from the Valley Forge Music Fair in his barn. We grandchildren would play on the stagecoaches, carriages and wagons, so I enjoyed imagining what it must have been like to be the “royalty” traveling in this conveyance.

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An undated photo of the Maharaja of Bhavnagar
Photo By Bill Wilson © 2011

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The family crest adorning the door of the coach
Photo By Bill Wilson © 2011

The maharaja’s coat of arms consists of 2 bulls flanking a shield with a golden eagle. Above the shield are a helmet and a dhow, a traditional sailing vessel, which refers to Bhavnahar’s involvement with maritime trade. The motto below the coat of arms reads “Mani shya Yatna Ishawara Kripa” which means “Man’s Endeavour, God’s Grace.”

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Tranquil scene portrayed in silver on the footrest of the coach
Photo By Bill Wilson © 2011

As beautiful as the coach is, I had a more practical question. Who gets to polish it? Turns out the who and the how is explained in a posting on the internet from the exhibition’s previous stop in Toronto.

Maharaja: The Splendor of the India’s Royal Courts will be at the Asian Art Museum from October 21 to April 8, 2012

See Related: Asian Art Museum Archive

See Related On Scene with Bill Wilson Archive

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BILL WILSON
Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson is a San Francisco-based veteran photojournalist. Bill embraced photojournalism at the age of eight. In recent years, his photos capture historic record of the San Francisco LGBT community in the Bay Area Reporter (BAR), The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The San Francisco Examiner, SFist, SFAppeal. Bill has contributed to the Sentinel for the past seven years. Email Bill Wilson at wfwilson@sbcglobal.net.


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Wall Street set to slash 10,000 jobs – American distrust of banks grows

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Solidarity: Singer Kanye West joined with demonstrators at the Occupy Wall Street movement
which is drawing attention to corporate greed and corruption

The Mail

New York’s financial sector has been hit by a further setback – with the prediction that 10,000 people working in the city’s securities industry will lose their jobs.

The announcement, forecast for 2012, will mean a staggering 32,000 people in the city’s industry would have lost their jobs since January 2008. But it may come as good news for the Occupy Wall Street movement - which has taken over the city’s Zuccotti Park to protest against corporate greed.

The news will pile even further pressure on New York’s battered economy, which is struggling to cope with the fall out from the European debt debacle and turbulence in the financial markets.

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in his 2011 statement: ‘The securities industry had a strong start to 2011.

‘But its prospects have cooled considerably for the second half of this year. It now seems likely that profits will fall sharply, job losses will continue, and bonuses will be smaller than last year.

‘These developments will have a rippling effect through the economy and adversely impact State and City tax collections.’ He said the securities industry had lost 4,100 jobs in August, wiping out many of the 9,900 job gains between January 2010 and April 2011.

According to the report, by the Office of the State Comptroller, securities-related activities accounted for one in eight jobs in the city.

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Set back: Another 10,000 jobs are set to be lost in New York’s securities industry

It also represented 14 per cent of New York State’s tax revenues and nearly 7 per cent of New York City’s. The report also said that each job gained or lost in the industry leads to the creation or loss of almost two additional jobs in other industries in New York City.

Mr DiNapoli added: ‘As we know, when Wall Street slows, New York City and New York State’s budgets feel the impact and that is a concern.’

A slew of financial services companies have disclosed plans to cut jobs in recent months, including Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, HSBC and Barclays. Investment banks are forecasted to report big declines in third-quarter earnings in the coming weeks due to big trading losses in the financial markets.

Profits for member firms of the New York Stock Exchange are seen tumbling to $18 billion in 2011, marking a one-third decline from the year before.

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Timing: The Occupy Wall Street movement may take comfort in news of the job losses

The OSC said the expected new job cuts are due to the current debt crisis in Europe, the ‘sluggish’ domestic economy, turbulence in the stock markets and regulatory changes aimed at forcing banks to be less risky.

Like many analysts, the OSC said cash bonuses are expected to shrink this year, marking the second-straight year of declines.

But it is not all bad news.

The report revealed the average salary in the industry jumped by 16.1 per cent last year to $361,330.

This is in comparison to an average salary of $66,120 in the private sector.

The protests against the state of the U.S. political and economic systems, which started with a handful of people, have now spread to more than 25 cities – from Sacramento to Seattle, Anchorage to Atlanta and Mobile to Minneapolis.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he will allow Occupy Wall Street protesters to stay indefinitely at their Manhattan village – but suggested some have only camped out there because of the warm weather.

He also said demonstrators will only be allowed to stay in Zuccotti Park as long as they obey the laws.

See Related: American Distrust of Banks Archive


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Denied Veterans Benefits over same-sex marriage, ex-sailor challenges law

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Carmen Cardona of Norwich, Conn., a Navy veteran who wed her partner last year,
is fighting the Defense of Marriage Act
Photo By Evan McGlinn

By James Dao
The New York Times

In what experts say is the first case of its kind, a disabled Navy veteran from Connecticut is challenging the constitutionality of two federal laws that define marriage as being between opposite-sex partners, saying the government denied her veterans benefits because she is married to a woman.

The former sailor, Carmen Cardona of Norwich, married her partner in Connecticut last year. But when she applied for an increase in her monthly disability compensation because she was newly married, the Department of Veterans Affairs regional office in Hartford rejected her application, citing a federal statute that defines a spouse as “a person of the opposite sex.”

In a case to be filed before the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, a special federal court in Washington that handles disputes over veterans benefits, Ms. Cardona’s legal team from the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School will argue that the government’s definition violates her Fifth Amendment right to due process. The lawyers intend to file their notice to appeal on Thursday.

But the legal team, which includes law student interns, says it will also challenge the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

Though the constitutionality of the marriage act has been challenged in federal courts around the country, experts said this would be the first time a plaintiff had tried to use the veterans court of appeals to attack the law.

Michael Allen, a professor of constitutional and veterans law at Stetson University College of Law in Florida, called the case part of a “cultural legal shift” in which the expansion of same-sex marriage to more states — most recently New York — and the end of the military’s ban on openly gay, lesbian and bisexual troops have opened the door to challenges against federal rules on marriage.

“These challenges are bubbling up all over the place,” Professor Allen said. “With the recognition of same-sex marriage in New York, a big state, you’ll see this more frequently.”

Advocates for gay rights say they also anticipate lawsuits challenging the federal definition of marriage to be filed by active-duty troops in same-sex marriages who have been denied benefits granted to heterosexual married couples, like military health care, housing and commissary rights for spouses.

The case poses a possible conundrum for the Obama administration. In February, President Obama directed the Department of Justice to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act against lawsuits challenging its constitutionality.

But cases before the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims are generally argued by lawyers from the Department of Veterans Affairs — and some veterans lawyers said it was possible the department might try to chart a different legal course.

“If an appeal is filed, V.A. lawyers will analyze the legal arguments made by the appellant and respond appropriately in its briefs,” said Josh Taylor, a spokesman for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Yet even if the department chooses not to defend the laws against Ms. Cardona’s challenge, it is possible that lawyers hired by the House speaker, John A. Boehner of Ohio, to defend constitutional challenges against the Defense of Marriage Act will handle the case.

And even if no government lawyer defends the laws, the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims could still rule against Ms. Cardona. The court consists mainly of judges — most of them former military officers — appointed by President George W. Bush.

If Ms. Cardona loses her appeal, she can take her case to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and, ultimately, the Supreme Court.

The Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims was created in 1988 to provide an independent judicial body to hear disputes between veterans and the government.

Previously, veterans who felt they had been unfairly denied disability compensation or other benefits by the Veterans Administration, as it was known then, had to appeal their cases to a board that itself was part of the department.

The Court of Appeals, like other federal courts, has the power to rule federal laws unconstitutional. But it typically tries to avoid making sweeping rules, experts said, preferring instead to find narrowly tailored resolutions to legal battles.

Still, even a narrow legal decision in Ms. Cardona’s case could set an important precedent for other same-sex couples seeking veterans benefits.

Ms. Cardona, 45, served in the Navy for 18 years, 12 on active duty and 6 in the Reserves. She received an honorable discharge in 2000 at the rank of petty officer second class, and went to work as a correctional officer for the State of Connecticut.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has rated her 80 percent disabled because of carpal tunnel syndrome in both her hands, for which she receives a monthly disability check. More severely disabled veterans with dependent spouses, children or parents are eligible for supplements to their disability checks.

But after she wed her partner of nine years in 2010, the department rejected her petition for a spousal increase in her benefit because her wife was of the same sex.

In an appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals, the department’s administrative panel for resolving disputes, Ms. Cardona argued that federal laws and regulations had unconstitutionally used sexual orientation to deny her valuable property.

In its ruling, the board said it did not have the authority to reverse the law.

But the board also said it “is sympathetic to the arguments advanced by the veteran, especially in light of her honorable service.”

“I was in disbelief when I was rejected,” Ms. Cardona said in a telephone interview. “I served my country for so many years.”

Ms. Cardona said she made her initial request for spousal benefits on the advice of a counselor from a veterans organization, and not because she was trying to make a larger legal point.

But in her case before the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, Ms. Cardona says the issue has gone beyond money.

“I just want to put it out to the public for people like me,” she said. “We worked hard for our country, we should be able to receive the same benefits as heterosexuals.”

See Related: Marriage Equality Archive

See Related: On Scene with Bill Wilson Archive


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Bay Area Reporter endorses Bevan Dufty First Choice for San Francisco Mayor

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EBAR.com

For more than six weeks the Bay Area Reporter editorial board has been meeting with the numerous candidates for mayor. This is the first city election in many years where there is neither an incumbent nor an obvious heir apparent running. We have come away from the process with a number of impressions. First is the depth of the candidate field. Of the nearly 20 candidates on the ballot, we believe that at least six, perhaps more, have the experience, expertise, intelligence, motivation, and vision to serve as a capable mayor.

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Mayoral candidate Bevan Dufty greeted potential
voters at the Castro Street Fair earlier this month
Photo By Jane Philomen Cleland

The city is indeed fortunate to have such a large number of dedicated public servants from which to choose. We were also impressed that every candidate that accepted our invitation to meet with us (and only one did not), and each had a long history of support for the LGBT community and the issues that are most important to us: full equality in the community, including marriage equality; inclusion in all levels of decision making in city government; full transgender rights and inclusion; total intolerance of bigotry or hate whether it be found in government, in the schools, or on the streets. Regardless of who is elected mayor, we will have a friend and ally in Room 200 at City Hall. And while many are qualified, some particularly stand out. These are our recommendations for mayor.


BevanDufty.com/Contribute

We recommend Bevan Dufty as voters’ first choice on Election Day. Dufty, who is gay, served two terms as District 8 supervisor and ran the Office of Neighborhood Services under former Mayor Willie Brown, and knows how San Francisco works. He’s developed city budgets and knows that most residents care about their neighborhoods – streets, Muni, the homeless, parks, and preserving the unique character that is San Francisco.

We’re not endorsing Dufty just because he is gay. But political recommendations are part of our responsibility as the leading LGBT newspaper and it would be significant for America’s gayest city to have an out mayor. It’s important to us that one day San Francisco have a gay mayor and Dufty is as qualified as anyone else in the field. The late Harvey Milk often urged LGBTs to elect their own. We find it curious that Dufty could not secure the top spot from either of the city’s LGBT Democratic clubs; the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club left him off entirely.

It’s part of why Dufty is running. “I think it does make a difference to have a gay mayor in San Francisco,” he told us. “I am going to set the national agenda – responding to LGBT young adults. There is an agenda I’ve been part of setting in this city that I’m proud of.”

“In a decade where we will be fighting for our rights, it does make a difference,” he said.

Dufty is also a parent, which is another important aspect of his life. Gay and lesbian parents are becoming increasingly visible in ways that once didn’t seem possible – on the playground, in parent groups, and at their kids’ schools. Dufty’s first television ad features him and his daughter Sidney riding on Muni and delivers a heartfelt message about why he wants to be mayor. Sidney, he says, loves riding the Muni Metro and arriving “someplace new.”

“I want all of us to see it that way,” Dufty says.

Continue Reading: Bevan Dufty for Mayor


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Ambassador Michael Oren: Israel taking Iranian assassination plot seriously

Oren says recently thwarted Iranian plot to assasinate Saudi ambassador to U.S. is ‘definitely an escalation’,
Israeli embassy could potentially be Iranian target, Israel ‘always has to be vigilant’

By Natasha Mozgovaya
Haaretz

Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren said on Wednesday that Israel is taking the thwarted plot against the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. and the possibility that the Israeli Embassy was a target seriously, saying it was “definitely an escalation” in an interview with MSNBC.

U.S. authorities said on Tuesday that they had broken up a plot by two men linked to Iran’s security agencies to assassinate Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir. One was arrested last month while the other was believed to be in Iran.

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Ambassador Michael Oren

“We know the Iran regime. This is an Iranian regime that has not only sponsored terrorist organizations in our area, Hamas and Hezbollah, that have fired thousands and thousands of rockets at our civilian population, but they’ve struck abroad as well,” Oren said in the interview.

The Israeli ambassador then went on to recount how Iran was responsible for the bombing of the Israeli Embassy and a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, killing over a hundred people.

” Iranian terrorist organizations have killed hundreds of American servicemen, whether in Saudi Arabia, in Iraq, in Lebanon back then – we always have to be vigilant about the Iranian government,” Oren reportedly warned.

He said this was “definitely an escalation”, adding that “it’s not out of character for the Iranian regime; this is not a rational regime”.

When asked whether Israel is going to take action against Iran, Oren told MSNBC “we are always fighting against Iranian terror at our borders and beyond our borders, and we’re always vigilant and we have very good partners in the security and law enforcement institutions of the United States.”

The ambassador applauded the U.S.’s success in thwarting the Iranian plot. “But I think the important thing to keep in mind is Iran is doing all of this without nuclear weapons. Imagine what they could do if they actually had nuclear weapons,” he warned in the interview.

Oren also commented on the deal with Hamas to secure the release of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. “We hope he’s coming home. It was a very tough decision, a painful decision, but Gilad Shalit is the son of every Israeli. All of our kids serve in the army, so we know what it feels like. And our kids have to know that when they go out to defend our country, that if, God forbid, they fall prisoner, and we’ll do everything to get them home. We’re doing everything to bring Gilad home,” he said.

See Related: Iran Archive


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Calpine, GE celebrate construction of Russell City Energy City – Honor on-site Construction Workers

HAYWARD, Calif. – Executives of Calpine Corporation (NYSE:CPN) and GE (NYSE: GE) unit GE Energy Financial Services today joined state and local officials, construction trade representatives, contractors, community leaders and business partners in celebrating the continuing construction of the 619-megawatt, combined-cycle Russell City Energy Center in Hayward, California. The event honored hundreds of on-site construction workers.

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“We are very proud that the Russell City Energy Center will use the most advanced emissions control technology available today for a natural gas-fired power plant and that its construction is providing jobs at a time when they are greatly needed in California,” said Jack Fusco, Calpine’s President and Chief Executive Officer.

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Jack Fusco

“Calpine was founded in California and has always been committed to helping meet the state’s power needs in an environmentally responsible manner. This project will provide reliable and cost-effective electricity to citizens of Hayward and the Bay Area and, importantly, support the integration of increased renewable power.”

“We are glad to have our crew at work on constructing of the Russell City Energy Center project, which will put more than 700 people to work in the Bay Area,” said Andreas Cluver, secretary-treasurer of the Alameda County Building Trades Council. “Building this efficient, natural gas power plant has generated union construction jobs in Hayward at a time we need it most.”

“Wherever we work, our goal is to make a positive contribution in the community, and Russell City is no exception,” said Alasdair Cathcart, president of Bechtel’s power business. “We are pleased to be working with Calpine and GE to bring jobs and reliable, cleaner energy to the Bay Area.”

Construction of the Russell City Energy Center is on schedule. Several major foundations are completed, and underground pipe systems are being installed along with electrical duct banks and vaults. The project is expected to be completed during 2013.

“Today’s event commemorates a great achievement made possible by the combination of Calpine’s vision, GE’s support as a project development partner, and the cooperation of governments, our neighbors, and now the workers who are building this plant that will provide reliable energy to California,” said Alex Urquhart, President and CEO of GE Energy Financial Services.

During the celebration, Russell City Energy Center presented a check for $10 million to the City of Hayward for design and construction of a new library. In addition, Calpine, in cooperation with St. Mary’s College, presented six scholarships for the St. Mary’s summer basketball camp program to St. Bede’s Elementary School and the Southern Alameda County Catholic Youth Organization in memory of Rick Thomas, a former Calpine employee who played a crucial role in the Russell City project’s development.

Calpine began developing the Russell City Energy Center in 2001 and owns 75% of the project, while a GE Energy Financial Services affiliate owns the balance. In June, an $844.5 million credit facility was secured to finance construction of the plant, the nation’s first to receive a federal air permit that includes a voluntary limit on greenhouse gas emissions. Pacific Gas and Electric has agreed to purchase the full output of electricity from Russell City upon completion and will supply natural gas under a 10-year power purchase agreement approved by the California Public Utilities Commission in September 2010. The facility will play a critical role in meeting the Bay Area’s power needs as older, emissions-intensive plants are retired and in supporting the growing renewable integration projects in California.

The facility will use the most advanced emissions control technology available today for a natural gas-fired power plant. In addition to minimizing air emissions, the plant will conserve water by using reclaimed wastewater from the City of Hayward’s Water Pollution Control Facility for all cooling and boiler makeup. This environmentally responsible process will prevent up to four million gallons of wastewater from being discharged into San Francisco Bay each day. In addition, the plant will generate approximately $30 million initially in one-time tax revenue, followed by recurring property tax revenues.

About Calpine

Founded in 1984, Calpine Corporation is a major U.S. power company, currently capable of delivering approximately 28,000 megawatts of clean, cost-effective, reliable and fuel-efficient power from its 92 operating plants to customers and communities in 20 U.S. states and Canada. Calpine Corporation is committed to helping meet the needs of an economy that demands more and cleaner sources of electricity. Calpine owns, leases and operates primarily low-carbon, natural gas-fired and renewable geothermal power plants. Using advanced technologies, Calpine generates power in a reliable and environmentally responsible manner for the customers and communities it serves. Please visit our website at calpine.com for more information.

About GE Energy Financial Services

GE Energy Financial Services’ experts invest globally across the capital spectrum in essential, long-lived, and capital-intensive energy assets that meet the world’s energy needs. In addition to capital, GE Energy Financial Services offers the best of GE’s technical know-how, technology innovation, financial strength, and rigorous risk management. Based in Stamford, Connecticut, the GE business unit helps its customers and GE grow through new investments, strong partnerships, and optimization of its approximately $20 billion in assets. For more information, visit geenergyfinancialservices.com.

About GE
GE (NYSE: GE) is an advanced technology, services and finance company taking on the world’s toughest challenges. Dedicated to innovation in energy, health, transportation and infrastructure, GE operates in more than 100 countries and employs about 300,000 people worldwide. For more information, visit the company’s Web site at ge.com.

See Related: Energy Supply Archive


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Gilad Shalit prisoner swap may bring Hamas to forefront of Middle East politics

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Palestinians chant slogans as they take part in a rally celebrating a prisoner swap between Hamas and Israel,
in Gaza City on October 12, 2011. Israelis welcomed on Wednesday a major prisoner swap that will free
soldier Gilad Shalit after five years in captivity in return for the release of 1,000 Palestinians
Photo By Ismael Mohamad

By Ethan Bronner
The New York Times

JERUSALEM — The prisoner exchange between Hamas and Israel that is expected to begin next week could reshape regional relationships, strengthening Egypt, Hamas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel while posing an acute challenge to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

One result might be a more confrontational — and Hamas-imbued — Palestinian movement that could, in the long run, increase Israel’s difficulties, drawing inspiration from and invigorating popular protests across the Middle East. It could also tighten the relationship between Hamas, Egypt and Turkey.

“Hamas has been in the shadows and this moves it into the Palestinian forefront for now,” said Zakaria al-Qaq, a political scientist at Al Quds University in East Jerusalem.

Under the deal, announced on Tuesday, Israel will free more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the release of Staff Sgt. Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier seized in a cross-border raid by Hamas in 2006 and held ever since in Gaza.

President Shimon Peres of Israel announced that Turkey, which has angrily downgraded its relations with Israel in the last year, had played an unexpected role in helping broker the deal. Turkey is close to Hamas.

Some of the details of the Hamas-Israel deal have not been disclosed, making it hard to determine why the two sides suddenly came to agreement after failing to in past years, on what seem to have been similar terms. But the growing turmoil in the region played an important role, as did domestic politics.

Hamas is worried about its base in the Syrian capital, Damascus, given the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. It is exploring both Turkey and Egypt as possible future bases, and this deal will help it in both pursuits.

Israel, for its part, fears that after elections in Egypt, the government there might not be helpful, so it thought it best to act now.

In addition, Hamas, and to a lesser extent Israel, seemed to be reacting to efforts by the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority to gain membership in the United Nations. President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority earned the admiration of many of his people by pressing his case for statehood upon the Security Council, rejecting American requests to withhold the application and refusing to return to negotiations with Israel without a freeze on settlements in the West Bank.

Hamas, which rules in Gaza and calls for Israel’s destruction, has criticized the move, saying it lacked dignity and offered legitimacy to Israel. At the moment, Mr. Abbas is having trouble gathering sufficient support on the Security Council and among major European powers. Meanwhile, Hamas is promising desperate families of prisoners that they will soon be reunited with their loved ones, some of whom have been in jail for two decades.

For Mr. Netanyahu, bringing home Sergeant Shalit, whose image is everywhere in Israel, offers a significant political boost. The popular yearning for his return is in many ways comparable to the social protest movement here last summer that began with anger over the high costs of consumer goods and income inequality. It cuts across ideological lines and focuses on the perceived failure of the government to honor its social contract with the people: to do all it can to bring back its soldiers and serve its citizens.

Returning Sergeant Shalit to his family is likely to soften Mr. Netanyahu’s image as someone too focused on geopolitics and insufficiently caring toward average people and their daily concerns. It may also force the social protest movement to reduce its criticism of him, at least temporarily, building unity in an often fractured society and extending his government’s time in office.

For Hamas, the timing of the swap agreement is almost ideal. Anger over the conditions of Palestinian prisoners in Israel has been growing in the West Bank and Wednesday was a strike day in support of the prisoners, with government offices and universities closed.

In the West Bank city of Hebron, in front of thousands of people gathered in the main square in support of the prisoners, the local Fatah leader, Kifah al-Owiwi, congratulated Hamas — a rarity — and asked it to work harder at reconciling the two movements.

Hamas made a point in its negotiations with Israel of insisting that all Palestinian factions, as well as Israeli Arabs and Jerusalem residents, be represented in the prisoner release, giving it the ability to say that it is taking care of all Palestinians.

“Hamas is now gaining clout domestically and regionally, and this will strengthen the demands for reconciliation with Fatah to proceed,” said Khalil Shikaki, a political scientist in Ramallah. “And if the Muslim Brotherhood gains in elections in Egypt, as many expect, that improves Hamas’s position even more.”

Israel and Hamas are sworn enemies, but Israeli officials are also angry at Mr. Abbas for his United Nations move.

“Preserving Abbas’s image is no longer so important for Israel, which was happy to give him a slap in the face,” said Yitzhak Reiter, a professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

At the same time, Israel worries about having to contend with dozens of convicted militants’ suddenly being freed, some of them to the West Bank. At an intelligence briefing for Israeli journalists, it was disclosed that the perpetrators of some of the most notorious and murderous attacks would be freed, although not all to the West Bank.

Yaakov Amidror, Israel’s national security adviser, said on the radio that because the Israeli military maintained tight control of the West Bank, he was not so worried about the men who would be released there.

It appears that both sides did yield on some long-held positions in the negotiations. Hamas agreed to remove from its list of prisoners some of the most notorious from Israel’s point of view. Marwan Barghouti, of Fatah, who is seen as a likely future leader, was also removed at Israel’s insistence. Hamas accepted that some prisoners would be sent into exile for a period of years, which it had previously rejected.

“The greatest disagreement inside Hamas was if we should agree to the expulsion of such a large number of prisoners,” said Ribhi Rantisi, a Hamas activist in Gaza, on Israel Radio. “But they agreed and this was really the biggest concession.”

Fawzi Barhoum, Hamas’s spokesman in Gaza, said that at the outset of “five years of difficult negotiations” Israel had demanded the release of Shalit with “no price,” offering only to ease the blockade on Gaza. But, he said, Israel relented partly because the Arab Spring was changing the situation in neighboring countries.

He also appeared to suggest that some prisoners could be released to Arab countries, saying that “any deportation of any prominent member or detained people from occupation jails to any Arab countries during the spring of the Arab revolution” might prove to be only temporary in the new political climate in the region, and would be “a step to return back again to Palestine.”

For its part, Israel agreed to allow more prisoners back into the West Bank even though the history of such releases suggests that some released killers return to violence. One reason it did so was its belief that the Palestinian security forces there are more dedicated to stopping violence and more effective at it as well. But this exchange could also weaken the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

If talks over a future Palestinian state fail to resume, if the United States Congress cuts off aid to the Palestinian Authority because of its United Nations bid and if fears heighten of growing Hamas influence, those security forces may shift their focus.

In addition, if Syria implodes and Egypt fails to achieve democratic reforms while Israel’s hawkish right wing grows stronger, the Shalit exchange may end up damaging Israel’s interests more in the long run than it helps them in the immediate future.

Stephen Farrell contributed reporting from Gaza City.

See Related: Gilad Shalit Agreement Archive


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California cities warn of public safety crisis

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By Kevin Yamamura
The Sacramento Bee

As California begins redirecting new inmates and parolees to counties this month, nine big-city mayors are asking the cash-strapped state for money to address a “brewing public safety crisis.”

The mayors, including Sacramento’s Kevin Johnson and Los Angeles’ Antonio Villaraigosa, contend in a letter they sent Thursday to Gov. Jerry Brown that his “realignment” plan will result in higher police costs. Villaraigosa led the charge earlier last week by calling the program “political malpractice” and saying his city needed to move 150 police officers to help the probation department supervise offenders.

The mayors have asked Brown for “an immediate guaranteed funding stream for city-related realignment costs.” Cities also want funding as part of a November 2012 ballot initiative being considered by the governor to enshrine realignment dollars in the state constitution, said Villaraigosa spokeswoman Sarah Sheahan.

“On behalf of millions of Californians who reside in our cities, we respectfully request your immediate attention to a brewing public safety crisis that could threaten the success of the recently-launched realignment program,” the mayors’ letter states. “As a result, we believe the safety of our cities could be at risk.”

Brown officials question the new challenge from Villaraigosa, saying that he never raised serious concerns during the legislative process. In response to the issues he voiced, Brown spokeswoman Elizabeth Ashford said in an e-mail, “Realignment was debated by law enforcement and public safety experts for months in Sacramento. You would think that any legitimate concerns about the policy would have been raised before it was implemented.”

Beyond the Los Angeles officer shift, the mayors did not specify how costs would rise for police departments. Sheahan said that reasons vary by city, but additional officers would be needed on the streets and to help with managing the new offenders under local supervision.

The mayors are apparently still stinging from a June state budget provision that shifts $130 million in vehicle taxes from cities to counties to help pay for realignment. They cite that shift as a funding loss that reduces “the availability of city resources to help ensure the success of realignment.”

See Related: Crime Archive


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Banks protesters block San Francisco Wells Fargo world headquarters

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A group of ‘Occupy SF’ protesters were arrested early Wednesday after they blocked the entrances to the Wells Fargo’s world headquarters in San Francisco’s Financial District.

About a dozen protesters were blocking the doors and one by one were being arrested and removed by San Francisco police officers.

The arrests capped a march by several hundred ‘Occupy SF’ protesters through the financial district, disrupting rush-hour traffic. The protest began with a rally – addressed by several speakers including San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos, who is running for mayor.

“We are standing for a better world…Together we will win because we are not going to stop,” Avalos implored the crowd.

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Banks protester holds up a sign. People across the country, including in San Francisco,
have joined the protest

They then began a march through the financial district. The march was organized by a number of groups including Causa Justa Just Cause, Unite Here Local 2850, the California Partnership, Young Workers United and the Chinese Progressive Association.

Meanwhile, another group of protesters locked arms and blocked the entrance to the Wells Fargo building awaiting the arrival of the marchers.

The San Francisco demonstration was just one of many around the country targeting the nation’s financial institutions. Across the Bay, “Occupy Oakland” demonstrators were camped out on Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Dozens of tents dotted the lawn, and according to Lolo Schiener, an unemployed 27-year-old Berkeley resident with a master’s degree in speech pathology, the group has been receiving a steady stream of donations that will allow them to continue occupying the plaza.

“We have a lot of food,” she said. “A lot of people have been donating food and money.”

The group has also been giving food to the homeless and those who ask for it.

Elsewhere, the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has spawned grass-roots activities around the U.S. and prompted comments from President Barack Obama, is now drawing political remarks from overseas.

Iran’s top leader said Wednesday that the wave of protests reflects a serious crisis that will ultimately topple capitalism in America. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei claimed the United States is now in a full-blown crisis because its “corrupt foundation has been exposed to the American people.”

The remarks came a day after U.S. officials said the Obama administration plans to leverage charges that Iran plotted to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador into a new global campaign to isolate the Islamic republic.

For the past 3 1/2 weeks, the economic protesters have besieged a park in lower Manhattan near Wall Street. A march on Tuesday, past the homes of wealthy residents, marked the first time the movement has singled out individuals as part of the 1 percent they say are getting rich at the expense of the rest of America.

More activities were planned Wednesday. In Ohio, the group Occupy Cincinnati was staging a march.

Protesters in New York planned to gather at the headquarters of JP Morgan Chase, where they’ll continue to decry the expiration of the state’s 2 percent “millionaires’ tax” in December.

Meanwhile, the lawyer for a woman pepper sprayed during an action last month is demanding that the Manhattan district attorney prosecute an NYPD deputy inspector on an assault charge. Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the matter is being investigated by police internal affairs and the Civilian Complaint Review Board.

Despite the onset of cold weather, protesters have indicated they’re in it for the long haul.

Occupy Seattle demonstrators sent the mayor a list of demands, including approval for large tents to be used as a kitchen, infirmary, storage area and information center — and written approval of long-term occupancy.

In Washington, six people were arrested Tuesday for demonstrating inside a Senate office building. More than 125 protesters in Boston were arrested after they ignored warnings to move from a downtown green space, police said.

The New York state comptroller has issued a report showing that Wall Street is again losing jobs because of global economic woes. The job losses threaten tax revenue for a city and state heavily reliant on the financial industry.

The industry shed 4,100 jobs in the late spring and summer and could lose nearly 10,000 more by the end of 2012, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said. That would bring the total industry loss to 32,000 positions since the financial meltdown of 2008.

The sector employed 166,600 people in investment banks, securities trading firms and hedge funds as of August.

Christopher Guerra, an artist and Occupy Wall Street protester from Newark, N.J., said the job losses aid the protesters’ cause.

“That means more people on our side,” Guerra said. “The companies are destroying this country by helping themselves, not the people, and pushing jobs out of America. If they get shafted, they will realize that what we are saying is true.”

See Related: American Distrust of Banks


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The Gilad Shalit Agreement: A contrast in cultures

The controversial exchange highlights one extreme difference: Israel values life

By Rabbi Ken Spiro
Aish.com

A couple of years ago I remember seeing an incredible contrast on YouTube. A very large and very old leatherback sea turtle (which is on the endangered species list) had been caught in a fisherman’s net off the coast of Gaza. The beautiful creature was hauled ashore and surrounded by a large crowd of Gazans. One of the men in the crowd explained to the reporter how the meat of the turtle would feed Gazan children, who were suffering due to the Israeli occupation, and the blood would help cure various ailments. The turtle was dragged behind a truck, flipped on its back and then slaughtered.

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Further up the Mediterranean coast in Israel, a much younger and smaller sea turtle had been injured by a boat and lost one of its limbs. The turtle was rescued by some Israelis and then taken to a special turtle sanctuary where it was operated on, nurtured back to health and then released back into the sea.

The contrast couldn’t have been more extreme.

When I heard about the impending exchange of Gilad Shalit for over a thousand Palestinians prisoners, many with “blood on their hands,” I was reminded of those two turtles.

To me those two turtles represented a microcosm of the values of Israel and the Jewish people versus the enemies that surround us.

In the summer of 2006, after Israel had withdrawn from Gaza, Gilad Shalit was kidnapped by Hamas terrorists from an Israeli tank guarding Israel’s border with Gaza. The terrorists had tunneled under the security fence and after killing the other members of the crew, dragged Shalit back to Gaza. In violation of international law no one was allowed to have contact with him, not even the Red Cross.

Israel has thousands of Palestinian security prisoners. All are treated humanely according to international law. They have the right to legal representation, visitation from family and the Red Cross and even educational opportunities while they are in prison.

The most striking contrast is the attitude of the two sides towards freeing these captives. The Israeli government has worked tirelessly for the release of Gilad. So important is the life of one soldier that the government of Israel is about to repeat what it has done numerous times before: embark on controversial, lopsided prisoner exchanges in order to free a few or even one Israeli prisoner. These exchanges have proven to be very problematic; hundreds of Israelis have been killed or wounded by terrorist who were released in one of these exchanges and then returned to terrorism. Controversy aside, the concern for the life of one soldier is a powerful testament to the humanity and moral strength of Israel and the profound concern that Judaism has always held for the value of life, a value which the Jewish people taught the world.

The contrast with Israel’s adversaries in the Middle East couldn’t be more extreme. The first question the International community should really be asking is why does the Arab world have so little respect for its own people that it thinks the life of one Jew is worth a thousand plus Arabs? Aren’t these exchanges usually a one-for-one deal? Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. These are the people who brought to the world hijackings and suicide bombings, who raise their children to want to be martyrs and who fire rockets from schools and hospitals. They have demonstrated time and time again that human life, even the life of their own people, has very little value.

Former Prime Minister Golda Meir once said, “We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.” Sadly the Arab world seems to moving further away from this goal and real peace still seems like a distant dream.

But let’s not end on a negative note. The Jewish people are about to celebrate the Holiday of Sukkot. A major theme of Sukkot is joy, to appreciate the beauty and wonder of God’s creation and focus on the specialness and the unique mission of the Jewish people.

As we celebrate Sukkot this year let us be aware that even though the Jewish people and Israel face many dangers and challenges, there is much to take pleasure in. Let us take particular pleasure in the values that we the Jewish people have not only taught the world but have lived by for centuries despite enduring great hardship at the hands of the nations of the world.

Despite living in the roughest “neighborhood” in the world-surround by hostility, war and terrorism, the Jews of Israel have not only maintained their dignity, but have a created a thriving, productive, free, democratic and technologically advanced country that is truly a testament to the power and humanity of the Jewish people, the Jewish spirit and the Jewish Faith.

For Shalit’s parents and others who have worked so tirelessly for these 1900-plus days to secure his release, the level of joy at this moment is unfathomable. Yes, the deal is controversial, reasonable people have reason to be opposed. Irrespective, let us all give thanks for the elation of a Jewish boy is being reunited with his family and his people.

See Related: Gilad Shalit Agreement Archive


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The LGBT community mourns the death of Frank Kameny

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LGBT pioneer Frank Kameny

By W. Badmin
The Washington Blade

Several LGBT rights organizations have released statements following the announcement of Frank Kameny’s passing. Many of these groups continue the work that Frank began when he fought back against his termination in 1957 from the Army Map Service. Frank will always be remembered for coining the term “Gay is good” in the 1960s through his work with the Mattachine Society.

Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund:

Frank Kameny, one of the most significant figures in the modern LGBT civil rights movement, has died, according to a report in the Washington Blade tonight.

In 1961 Kameny founded the Mattachine Society of Washington – one of the earliest LGBT rights organizations in the U.S. – pre-dating the Stonewall riots by nearly a decade. Kameny’s activism sprang from his termination from a federal government position because of his sexual orientation. He received an official apology from the federal government after President Barack Obama took office in 2009.

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Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund President and CEO Chuck Wolfe issued the following statement tonight:

“We mourn the loss of a hero and a founding father of the fight to end discrimination against LGBT people. Dr. Kameny stood up for this community when doing so was considered unthinkable and even shocking, and he continued to do so throughout his life. He spoke with a clear voice and firm conviction about the humanity and dignity of people who were gay, long before it was safe for him to do so. All of us who today endeavor to complete the work he began a half century ago are indebted to Dr. Kameny and his remarkable bravery and commitment.”

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Human Rights Campaign:

Upon the news that LGBT equality pioneer Frank Kameny has died, Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese issued the following statement:

“Frank Kameny led an extraordinary life marked by heroic activism that set a path for the modern LGBT civil rights movement. From his early days fighting institutionalized discrimination in the federal workforce, Dr. Kameny taught us all that ‘Gay is Good.’ As we say goodbye to this trailblazer on National Coming Out Day, we remember the remarkable power we all have to change the world by living our lives like Frank — openly, honestly and authentically.”

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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Diego Sanchez, Senior Legislative Advisor to Rep. Barney Frank:

For Frank Kameny to die on National Coming Out Day, Oct. 11, 2011, feels to me like my Dad dying on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2000 — when a career-long, victorious warrior went to God on a day that best represents his contribution to our country and American lives everywhere; the day will always represent both the symbol and the man, with honor and hope.

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Federal GLOBE: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Employees of the Federal Government:

An American Hero has passed away.

Frank Kameny died today at 86. Frank served his country his whole life. In the military, in government service, and in making the country a more perfect union when the government he fought for and toiled for fired him. Frank was fired just for being gay. He had done nothing untoward, not been a threat. Rather he was working on important technology which his removal from government service delayed for decades.

But Frank did not get bitter. He did what American’s have done since our founding—he righted the wrong. It did not come quickly or easily. Frank fought his dismissal all of the way to the Supreme Court. Frank fought the Civil Service Commission. Frank fought for the rights of every American to lead a good life. Frank was a leader for the LGBT movement when leaders were hard to find and paid dearly. Frank paid dearly.

Frank was the reason for Federal GLOBE to get started. Frank was our inspiration and was our father. He was our mother. He was our fairy/angel/mentor/pathblazer/blinding light. Frank was our inspiration. His meticulous research and articulation paved the way for LGBT civil rights advancements over the last 25 years.

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Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation:

NEW YORK, NY — The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) today issued the following statement following news that LGBT advocacy pioneer Frank Kameny died in his Washington, D.C. home:

“Frank Kameny sparked national change and set the example for gay and lesbian Americans to live their lives openly and proudly,” said Mike Thompson, Acting President of GLAAD. “He taught us the power that our visibility and stories have in changing hearts and minds. Today on National Coming Out Day, we honor Frank’s legacy not only by remembering this pioneer, but by continuing his work to speak out and share our own stories.”

Frank Kameny is recognized as one of the pioneers of the modern LGBT advocacy movement. After being dismissed from the U.S. Civil Service Commission for being gay, he argued the first civil rights claim based on sexual orientation before the United States Supreme Court in 1961. Together with Jack Nichols, he co-founded the Mattachine Society of Washington and launched the first public demonstrations by gay and lesbian Americans at the White House in 1965. Kameny was appointed as the first openly gay member of D.C.’s Human Rights Commission and was a U.S. Army veteran of World War II.

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In 2007, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History included his picket signs from the White House demonstration. Papers documenting his life were added to the Library of Congress in 2006. In 2009, Kameny received the Theodore Roosevelt Award.

National Center for Lesbian Rights:

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — One of the most prominent leaders of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality movement—Dr. Frank Kameny—passed away at his Washington D.C.-area home today. He was 86.

In 1957, Kameny was dismissed from his position as an astronomer in the Army Map Service because he was gay, motivating him at the time to become a leading voice in the movement for equality and justice. He protested his firing and appealed his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, becoming the first known gay person to file a gay-related case before the high court.

Although the court denied his petition, the decision prompted Kameny to devote much of his life to LGBT advocacy.

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Statement by NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell, Esq.:

“Frank Kameny is among a small group of brave and uncompromising men and women without whom the modern civil rights movement for LGBT equality would have faltered. At a time when most lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals lived deeply shadowed and closeted lives, he stepped into the bright glare of public scrutiny and hostility and demanded respect and cultural evolution. It is fitting that his passing would happen on Coming Out Day. Were it not for his coming out, many of us would still be living a lie.”

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American Foundation for Equal Rights:

“Out and Proud, Kameny Was Fighting For Equality Long Before the Rest Of Us Knew We Could”

Los Angeles, CA – Today, America lost a legendary civil rights pioneer. The staff and board of directors at the American Foundation for Equal Rights extend heartfelt condolences to the friends and family of LGBT rights pioneer Franklin E. Kameny, who died of natural causes in his home today at the age of 86.

His passing comes less than a month before the planned celebration of the 50th anniversary of Kameny’s founding of the Mattachine Society of Washington, the first gay rights organization in the nation’s capital.

President of AFER’s board of directors, Chad Griffin, released the following statement about Mr. Kameny and the long legacy of hope and optimism he leaves behind, “America has lost a hero today. Out and proud, Frank Kameny was fighting for equality long before the rest of us knew we could.” He added, “Because there was one Frank Kameny, trailblazing and honest enough to speak out 50 years ago, there are now millions of Americans, coming out, speaking out and fighting for their basic civil rights. His is a legacy of bravery and tremendous impact and will live on in the hearts and minds of every American who values equality and justice.”

In the landmark ruling striking down Proposition 8, the U.S. District Court referenced the efforts of Frank Kameny and the Mattachine Society to chronicle the long and shameful history of state-enforced discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans. In particular, the Court cited the famous 1966 letter from the chairman of the U.S. Civil Service Commission rejecting the Mattachine Society’s request to rescind the policy banning “active homosexuals” from federal employment.

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See Related: Marriage Equality Archive

See Related: On Scene with Bill Wilson


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Buster Posey showing progress in recovery – Catching live Bullpen sessions now

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SBNation.com

San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey suffered a brutal, season-ending injury to his left leg during a game against the Florida Marlins way back on May 25th. The incident occurred when Marlins outfielder Scott Collins came in to score the game-winning run in a 7-6 game and collided with Posey.

Four-and-a-half months later, Posey is getting back into playing shape. According to a report by SFGate, Posey has started participating in live bullpen sessions with instructional league pitchers in Scottsdale, Arizona. Just this morning, Posey caught balls for the duration of an eight-minute session.

Posey was targeting a Nov. 1st return to live bullpen catching sessions but has managed to beat that mark by three weeks. He has also been taking batting practice of late and is scheduled to start participating in live batting practice sessions soon.

The injury update comes as good news for the Giants and the upcoming season. Both the Giants and Posey himself want to see Posey back in good shape at spring training in early 2012, and getting a three-week head start on catching (with live batting practice on the way) works favorably toward that goal.

See Related: Injured Giants fan Bryan Stow leaving hospital

See Related: Giants Archive


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Blessed Are You, Lord God, King of the World, Who Sets Captives Free

By Jewdar
HEEB.com

This was already shaping up to be a good week for Jewdar; we’ve got a 7 pound first cut corned beef brisket sitting in our fridge, ready to cook up for Sukkot, a cabinet full of beer, and Sunday we’re going to Comic-Con. But just when you think it can’t get any better, word comes out that a deal has been reached to free Gilad Schalit.

Now, normally, Jewdar would engage in some dazzling wordplay, make some snappy banter, connect it all to the important events in the Jewish world (e.g., the Rogen-Miller Wedding), but we are so happy and hopeful, that we don’t think we can do much better than the title of this post.

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To be sure, there are questions that will arise in the weeks to come–a big one being that if so many prisoners are going to be released, especially if there are going to guys like Marwan Barghouti on the list, why couldn’t this deal have been made years ago (Jewdar is inclined to believe the lovely and talented Mrs. Jewdar who’s guess is that Bibi’s about to make some sort of big concession and this is a way to cushion the blow to his constituents).

But the second-guessing and snarky comments can wait. Right now, we hope that Gilad comes home as safe and sound as possible, and kind of like the notion that tomorrow morning, when Jews around the world say the prayer used as the title of the post (and maybe quite a few who never said it before), they are going to say it like it’s never been said before.

See Related: Gilad Shalit Agreement Archive


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Gilad Shalit deal proves kidnapping works, says senior Hamas leader Khalil al-Hayya

Khalil al-Hayya promises more abductions

By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
IsraelNationalNews.com

Senior Hamas leader Khalil al-Hayya says the Shalit-for-terrorists deal proves kidnapping works, and he promises more abductions. The Israeli Cabinet late Tuesday night approved freeing kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit for 1,027 terrorists and security prisoners.

Al-Hayya, a Gaza legislator and a senior academic and political figure, told the Chinese news agency Xinhua, “Our prisoners can only be released through this way. The release of prisoners will lead to a bigger victory and will break forever the siege that had been imposed on the Gaza Strip for five years.”

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Khalil al-Hayya

Last week, he urged Palestinian Authority terrorists to kidnap more Israeli soldiers to gain the release of all prisoners, including terrorists, in Israeli jails.

“The one and only solution is more resistance against the Israeli oppression, and more abduction of Israeli soldiers and settlers,” he told the Al Quds satellite television network.

Meanwhile, de facto Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh is preparing a mass celebrating to welcome home terrorists to be freed by Israel in exchange for Shalit, whose psychological and physical conditions are not known.

“It is the historic moment of great victory,” Haniyeh told a spontaneous victory rally in Gaza Tuesday night.

See Related: Gilad Shalit Agreement Archive


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U.S. Jewish groups voice cautious support for Gilad Shalit prisoner swap

American Jewish organizations issue statements identifying with the joy of Gilad Shalit’s family,
who will soon be reunited with the IDF soldier who has been in captivity for the last five years

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By Natasha Mozgovaya
Haaretz

American Jewish organizations that were deeply involved in campaigns to raise awareness about captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit’s case issued some cautiously optimistic statements in reaction to news of a deal to release Shalit approved by the Israeli government early Wednesday morning.

The Jewish Federations of North America President and CEO Jerry Silverman spoke of an emotional connection, having just recently met with Shalit’s family in the tent outside the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem.

“Having had the privilege of sitting with Aviv and Noam Shalit in their tent, and seeing the pain of five years of captivity of a child, hearing this news, I don’t have words to describe how grateful and overjoyed I am for them and their family,” said Silverman.

“It is difficult to find words to describe the excitement and relief being felt here in Israel on this day. I know that Jewish communities across North America share these emotions,” added Rebecca Caspi, director general of JFNA’s Israel office.

“The Jewish Federations stand with Israel in times of need as well as in times of celebration,” Caspi said. “We are acutely aware of the difficulty and pain of those victims of terror and their families who have had to accept the release of terrorists from prison. Our thoughts go out to these Israelis while we pray for Gilad’s speedy re-entry to life in Israel.”

“The redemption of captives, along with the supreme value of human life, are among the most important teachings in Judaism. We empathize with the Israeli government over the difficult choices it was forced to make in agreeing to this deal, but we are also overjoyed of the news that Gilad Shalit may now be heading home to his parents and loved ones, and back with the People of Israel,” Caspi added.

Leaders of the Reform Movement echoed these sentiments. “On the eve of Sukkot, the holiday known as Zman Simchatanu – a time of rejoicing – we rejoice at the prospect of Gilad Shalit’s release,” Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Eric H. Yoffe said in a statement.

“We wait expectantly for [Shalit’s] safe return, and pray that he is in good health and can be embraced of his family and the citizens of Israel. While we know that negotiators for the State of Israel paid a high price, we support and applaud the Israeli Government for bringing these negotiations to a successful conclusion,” Yoffe’s statement read.

“This is a magnificent moment for the people of Israel, those of us who have been working for Gilad’s release the past 5 years, and above all for the Shalit family,” said Jewish Council for Public Affairs President Rabbi Steve Gutow.

“Gilad’s prolonged captivity, internationally condemned for its cruel isolation, has been a painful daily challenge for a country where mandatory military service for young men and women is a shared national experience,” Gutow said.

“The supreme importance of Gilad’s return is underscored by the difficult decision Israel’s leaders had to make in exchange: the release of 1000 terrorist prisoners many of whom are associated with the murder of Israeli men, women and children,” Gutow added.

Americans for Peace Now welcomed the news of a deal for Shalit’s release and expressed hope that the deal “will open better channels of communications between the Israeli government and Hamas’ government in the Gaza Strip for the benefit of Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

See Related: Gilad Shalit Agreement Archive


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Abbas praises Gilad Shalit swap agreement

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A masked Hamas fighter stands next to a mural of captured soldier Gilad Shalit
during a rally in Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza
Ma’an Photo

Ma’an News Agency

CARACAS, Venezuela — President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday threw his support behind a prisoner exchange deal between Hamas and Israel that would free 1,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

“We congratulate the exchange deal, and we will continue exerting our best efforts to free all prisoners” held by Israel, Abbas told Ma’an in Venezuela, where he is on a state visit.

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said Israel will release 1,027 prisoners in two stages. Within a week, 450 will be swapped for Shalit and the rest will be freed two months later. Twenty-seven women are among those on the release roster.

“We are happy with this great achievement and we thank our God for that. But our happiness is mixed with sorrow because we were not able to gain the freedom of all prisoners,” Meshaal said in a televised address from Damascus.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, asking his cabinet to approve the lopsided swap and under constant public pressure to bring Gilad Shalit home, said the soldier would be reunited with his family “in the coming days”.

See Related: Gilad Shalit Agreement Archive


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Banks protests spread globally

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By Peter Millership
Reuters

LONDON – Tahrir Square in Cairo, Green Square in Tripoli, Syntagma Square in Athens and now Zuccotti Park in New York — popular anger against entrenching power elites is spreading around the world.

Many have been intrigued by the Occupy Wall Street movement against financial inequality that started in a New York park and expanded across America from Tampa, Florida, to Portland, Oregon, and from Los Angeles to Chicago.

Hundreds of activists gathered a month ago in the Manhattan park two blocks from Wall Street to vent their anger at what they see as the excesses of New York financiers, whom they blame for the economic crisis that has struck countless ordinary Americans and reverberated across the global economy.

In the U.S. movement, Arab nations see echoes of this year’s Arab Spring uprisings. Spaniards and Italians see parallels with Indignados (indignant) activists, while voices in Tehran and Beijing with their own anti-American agendas have even said this could portend the meltdown of the United States.

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Inspired by the momentum of the U.S. movement, which started small but is now part of U.S. political debate, activists in London will gather to protest outside the London Stock Exchange on October 15 on the same day that Spanish groups will mass on Madrid’s Puerta del Sol square in solidarity.

“American people are more and more following the path chosen by people in the Arab world,” Iran’s student news agency ISNA quoted senior Revolutionary Guards officer Masoud Jazayeri as saying. “America’s domineering government will face uprisings similar to those in Tunisia and Egypt.”

Chinese newspapers splashed news about Occupy Wall Street with editorials blaming the U.S. political system and denouncing the Western media for playing down the protests.

“The future of America stands at a crossroads. Presuming that effective measures to relieve the social mood and reconstruct justice cannot be found, it is not impossible that the Occupy Wall Street movement might be the final straw under which America collapses,” said a commentary in the Global Times.

“This movement has uncovered a scar on American society, an iceberg of accumulated social conflicts has risen to the surface,” said the commentary in the tabloid, which is owned by the Communist Party mouthpiece, the People’s Daily.

“THIS IS TAHRIR SQUARE”

In Cairo, Ahmed Maher, a founder and leading member of Egypt’s April 6 Youth Movement which helped to topple autocrat Hosni Mubarak, said it was in contact with several groups organizing the anti-Wall Street demonstrations.

“A few days ago we saw a banner in New York that said ‘This is Tahrir Square’,” Maher said, referring to the Cairo square that became the epicenter of Egypt’s revolution.

“The Arab Spring has definitely inspired the burst of protests in the United States and Europe.”

Others noted differences between Arab protesters and U.S. protesters, branded by one Republican presidential candidate as “anti-American” and so jealousy-ridden that they wanted to “take somebody else’s … Cadillac.”

“The Arab protests started with requests for reform but quickly transformed into demands for governments to leave, or at least their leaders,” said Abdulaziz al-Uwaisheg, columnist in Saudi daily al-Watan. “The American protest is against specific policies … It did not ask to change the government.”

Spanish media have devoted daily coverage to Occupy Wall Street, dubbing participants “Indignados in Manhattan,” with left-leaning newspapers saying the U.S. protesters were inspired by Spain’s own disenchanted youth-led grouping.

“Occupy Wall Street is one more branch of a global movement,” said Veronica Garcia, a 40-year-old lawyer involved in the Spanish demonstrations.

MARCHES INSPIRED BY MOVEMENT

While Spain’s “Indignados” have poured much of their anger so far on politicians, Garcia said Saturday’s Madrid march was likely to focus more on bankers.

In London, which was hit by rioting and looting by disaffected people in early August, protesters were using social media like Facebook and Twitter to plan their Stock Exchange protest on Saturday.

The Occupy London protest aims to draw attention to “the economic systems that have caused terrible injustices around the world,” according to their website.

“Bankers have got off scot-free whilst the people of this country are being punished for a crisis they did not create,” a statement on the website said, echoing the chant taken up by U.S. marchers: “We are the 99 percent.”

Unions, which organized protests against austerity moves in debt-stricken Greece, welcomed the New York protests.

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“It’s optimistic because we haven’t seen such protests before,” Greek public sector unionist Despina Spanou told Reuters. “There is no coordination so far because most of this is spontaneous, but we cannot rule anything out.”

Newspapers around the world have sought to identify the true motor of discontent driving the Occupy Wall Street movement, with the Korea Herald seeing an historic dimension reflecting the civil rights movement and anti-Vietnam War rallies.

“But perhaps the closest historical parallel is with the Populist movement of the 1890s, which, like Occupy Wall Street, was a broad, economics-driven revolt that targeted a predatory class of corporate capitalists – the robber barons of the Gilded Age,” the newspaper said.

“THERE’S SOMETHING HAPPENING HERE”

Japan’s Kyodo news agency ran an interview from New York with organizer Kalle Lasn who said he hoped that “Occupy Wall Street” would inspire Japan’s jobless youth.

“Is there some beginning of some kind of ‘Occupy Tokyo’ or ‘Occupy Marunouchi’, something like that happening in Japan right now or not?” Kyodo quoted Lasn as saying, referring to the Marunouchi business district in Tokyo.

The Occupy Wall Street protests across the United States with their focus on banking bailouts and unfairness appeared to present a dilemma for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The protests support one Kremlin agenda by underscoring the economic troubles of Moscow’s Cold War foe, but could also send a signal encouraging street protests — not what Putin wants as he heads toward a second stint as president in a March vote.

This July, Putin said the United States was “acting like hooligans” in the global economy. In August, he said the United States was living beyond its means “like a parasite.”

Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev have not spoken publicly about the protests, but state-run TV stations they use to shape opinion seem to have found a way around the contradiction.

Footage of crowds protesting against perceived corporate greed and government connivance echoed the emphasis on U.S. economic inequality that was a Soviet-era propaganda staple.

Such footage may also back up Putin’s argument for a tight state rein on Russia’s corporate world — and his colorful depictions of the United States as a flagging, sometimes dangerously irresponsible financial power.

At the same time, news footage often focusing on outspoken, outlandishly dressed participants in the U.S. protests appeared aimed at lending the crowds a circus-like look that could be to discourage Russians from trying this at home.

The Chinese, however, have not been so subtle, using the movement to fire repeated broadsides at the capitalist system.

“The Occupy Wall Street movement was sparked by the extreme disparity between the rich and the poor,” the Hong Kong Economic Journal said in its editorial.

“Now it looks like the spark is being turned into a great fire that is spreading to other countries.”

British commentators were not so convinced by such an apocalyptic vision. Giles Whittell in the London Times, highlighting the movement’s lack of a coherent agenda, came to the conclusion in a headline that it was: “Passionate but Pointless.”

Reporting by Charlie Zhu in Hong Kong, Andrew Hammond in Dubai, Parisa Hafezi in Tehran, Marwa Awad in Cairo, Catherine Hornby in Rome, Michael Martina in Beijing, Antoni Slodkowski in Tokyo, Peter Griffiths in London, Tracy Rucinski in Madrid, Renee Maltezou in Athens, Steve Gutterman in Moscow, and David Cutler in London.

See Related: American Distrust of Banks


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Injured Giants fan Bryan Stow leaving hospital

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By Adam Berry
Giants.mlb.com

Bryan Stow made another major step forward in his recovery Tuesday, as his doctors announced he would be transferred from San Francisco General Hospital to a long-term rehabilitation center.

Chief of neurosurgery Dr. Geoff Manley made the announcement at a news conference Tuesday, according to multiple media reports, although Stow’s family was not able to attend. This milestone comes nearly 6 1/2 months after Stow, a 42-year-old paramedic and father of two, was brutally beaten on Opening Day outside of Dodger Stadium, where he was attacked and suffered a traumatic brain injury.

Stow, who had been at San Francisco General Hospital since May 16, has continued making significant strides in recent weeks. Stow’s family described him Thursday as “much more comfortable,” and while he is still easily fatigued, he is speaking “with a stronger and clearer voice.”

He received a visit last week from Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who gave Stow a signed hat and spoke with him for about 45 minutes. When Bochy left, Stow said, “Bye. I love you,” according to the family’s website.

The family also described a moment when his sisters informed Stow a lot of people wanted him to throw out the first pitch for the Giants next season. To that, the family wrote, Stow responded, “I’m there.”

See Related: Buster Posey showing progress in recovery – Catching live Bullpen sessions now

See Related: Giants Archive


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In Gaza, Palestinians celebrate Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal

Tens of thousands of celebrators hand out sweets, wave the green flags of the Islamist Hamas movement,
and chant slogans in support of the al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ armed wing

Haaretz

Tens of thousands of Palestinians took to the streets in the northern Gaza Strip late Tuesday, celebrating the news that after years of on-and-off German and Egyptian-mediated negotiations, Israel and Hamas had reached a prisoners’ exchange deal.

They handed out sweets, waved the green flags of the radical Islamist Hamas movement ruling Gaza, and chanted slogans in support of the al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ armed wing.

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Most of them were in Jabaliya, a refugee camp north of Gaza City, the hometown of many Palestinian militants jailed in Israel.

In Jerusalem, the family of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held captive in Gaza for the past five years, could be seen waiting nervously and excitedly in the protest tent that has been their home for the past months, outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence.

See Related: Gilad Shalit Agreement Archive


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