Yeshiva World News

November Delivers Another Hit To Sinking Consumer Confidence

U.S. consumer confidence fell to a nine-month low in November, clipped by rising prices and concern about the coronavirus. The Conference Board reported Tuesday that its consumer confidence index dropped to a reading of 109.5, down from 111.6 in October. It was the lowest reading since the index stood at 95.2 in February. The survey was completed on Nov. 19 and would not include the ramifications of omicron, a new variant of the coronavirus that has begun to spread with few solid answers about the damage it might do to the U.S. and global economies. Even before the omicron variant appeared, consumer optimism was being tested by price spikes across the board, particularly for gasoline and food. The Conference Board’s present situation index, which measures consumers’ assessment of current business and labor conditions, fell to 142.5, down from 145.5 in October. The expectations index, based consumers’ outlook for income, business and labor market conditions, fell to 87.6 in November from 89.0 in October. The Conference Board said that concerns about rising prices and to a lesser degree, lingering worries about the delta variant, were the primary drivers of the November decline. But economists believe rising prices and any jolt from the omicron variant will not have a major impact on holiday spending this year, something that can have a sizable impact on the U.S. economy. Nancy Vanden Houten, lead U.S. economist at Oxford Economics, said she expected the omicron variant would have only a “moderate negative impact on growth.” She is looking for the overall economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, to expand at an annual rate of 7.9% in the current quarter ending in December, a big improvement from the lackluster 2.1% GDP gain in the July-September quarter. The decline in the Conference Board confidence index followed an even bigger drop reported last week in the University of Michigan’s gauge of consumer sentiment, which fell in November to a decade-low of 7.4, compared to a final October reading of 71.7. The smaller decline in the Conference Board survey reflects the fact that this index places more emphasis on the labor market, which has been performing well this year. (AP)

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Flatbush Family Loses Everything in Chanukah Blaze [PHOTOS]

A fast-moving blaze tore through a Flatbush home on the third night of Chanukah, causing extensive damage and undermining the structure’s integrity. The fire began just after 8 pm on East 5th Street near Avenue V. Thankfully, all of the home’s inhabitants were able to safely evacuate. The FDNY and NYPD responded to the inferno within minutes, and successfully brought the fire under control after approximately 45 minutes. The family unfortunately lost all of its valuables in the fire. Flatbush Shomrim has been assisting the family with their most pressing needs and are working tirelessly to obtain necessities, such as clothing, that the family no longer has. An emergency fund has been set up to assist the family. Please donate generously. (YWN World Headquarters – NYC)

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Putin Warns West: Moscow Has ‘Red Line’ About Ukraine, NATO

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday sternly warned NATO against deploying its troops and weapons to Ukraine, saying it represents a red line for Russia and would trigger a strong response. Commenting on Western concerns about Russia’s alleged intention to invade Ukraine, he said that Moscow is equally worried about NATO drills near its borders. Speaking to participants of an online investment forum. Putin said that NATO’s eastward expansion has threatened Russia’s core security interests. He expressed concern that NATO could eventually use the Ukrainian territory to deploy missiles capable of reaching Moscow in just five minutes. “The emergence of such threats represents a ‘red line’ for us,” Putin said. “I hope that it will not get to that and common sense and responsibility for their own countries and the global community will eventually prevail.” He added that Russia has been forced to counter the growing threats by developing new hypersonic weapons. “What should we do?” Putin said. “We would need to develop something similar to target those who threaten us. And we can do that even now.” He said a new hypersonic missile that is set to enter service with the Russian navy early next year would be capable of reaching targets in comparable time. “It would also need just five minutes to reach those who issue orders,” Putin said. The Zircon hypersonic cruise missile, capable of flying at nine times the speed of sound to a range of 1,000 kilometers (620 miles), has undergone a series of tests, most recently Monday. Ukrainian and Western officials have expressed worries this month that a Russian military buildup near Ukraine could signal plans by Moscow to invade its ex-Soviet neighbor. NATO foreign ministers warned Russia on Tuesday that any attempt to further destabilize Ukraine would be a costly mistake. The Kremlin has insisted it has no such intention and has accused Ukraine and its Western backers of making the claims to cover up their own allegedly aggressive designs. Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 after the country’s Kremlin-friendly president was driven from power by mass protests and also threw its weight behind a separatist insurgency that broke out in Ukraine’s east. Earlier this year, a spike in cease-fire violations in the east and a Russian troop concentration near Ukraine fueled war fears, but tensions abated when Moscow pulled back the bulk of its forces after maneuvers in April. Putin argued that to avoid tensions, Russia and the West should negotiate agreements that would safeguard each party’s security interests. “The matter is not whether to send troops or not, go to war or not, but to establish a more fair and stable development and taking into account security interests of all international players,” he replied when asked if Russia was going to invade Ukraine. “If we sincerely strive for that, no one will fear any threats.” The Russian leader noted that Russia has worried about NATO drills near its borders, pointing at a recent exercise that involved U.S. strategic bombers. “Strategic bombers, which carry precision weapons and are capable of carrying nuclear weapons, were flying as close as 20 kilometers (12 miles) to our border,” Putin said. “That represents a threat for us.” After the buildup of Russian troops near Ukraine early this year, Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden held […]

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ALERT IN FLATBUSH: Youths Have Stolen Numerous Vehicles From Brooklyn Shuls Over Shabbos in Recent Months

A disturbing phenomenon has been taking place in Flatbush over the past several months, in which a group of teenagers have been breaking into shuls on Friday night. Sadly, these teenagers are members of frum Flatbush households. The teens have been gaining access to the shuls by figuring out the combination patterns, after which they have been stealing money from pushkas, as well as going through shtenders in search of car keys. Unfortunately, they have successfully stolen many vehicles this way over the past 3 months. Flatbush Shomrim has been able to recover a large percentage of the stolen vehicles, and reports that a number of the teens involved in the delinquent behavior have long rap sheets. On Tuesday morning, two of these individuals were arrested in connection with a vehicle they stole from HaRav Shimon Alster’s shul on Bedford Ave. and Ave. L this past Friday night. One of the suspects, despite being just 16 years old, has already been arrested on numerous occasions and has even been charged twice on lethal weapons violations. Flatbush Shomrim has been increasing their Shabbos patrols manned by retired NYPD officers and urges the community not to leave any valuables – keys or otherwise – in their shtenders or anywhere else besides for a locked safe. It is additionally important that shuls ensure that they are secured and brightly lit during nighttime hours, especially now as the nights are long and provide ample opportunity for these perps to carry out burglaries. If you have had valuables stolen from you by these teens or anyone else, call 911 and file a police report and call Flatbush Shomrim at 718-338-9797. (YWN World Headquarters – NYC)

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Ex-Trump Aide Meadows Cooperating With House Jan. 6 Panel

Mark Meadows, Donald Trump’s former chief of staff, is cooperating with a House panel investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, putting off for now the panel’s threat to hold him in contempt, the committee’s chairman said Tuesday. But the panel “will continue to assess his degree of compliance,” Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson said in a statement. The agreement comes after two months of negotiations between Meadows and the committee and after the Justice Department indicted longtime Trump ally Steve Bannon for defying a subpoena. Thompson said Meadows has produced records and will soon appear for an initial deposition. “The Select Committee expects all witnesses, including Mr. Meadows, to provide all information requested and that the Select Committee is lawfully entitled to receive,” Thompson said. Meadows’ lawyer, George Terwilliger, said he was continuing to work with the committee and its staff on a “potential accommodation” that would not require Meadows to waive executive privilege nor “forfeit the long-standing position that senior White House aides cannot be compelled to testify before Congress,” as Trump has argued. “We appreciate the Select Committee’s openness to receiving voluntary responses on non-privileged topics,” Terwilliger said in a statement. The tentative agreement with Meadows highlights the committee’s efforts to balance its need for information about Trump’s role in the violent insurrection with the former president’s assertions — including in an ongoing court case — that Congress cannot obtain information about his private conversations with top aides at the time. While the committee has rejected Trump’s arguments and President Joe Biden has waived the privilege as the current executive, the panel wants to move quickly and avoid lengthy legal entanglements, if possible, that could delay the investigation. Terwilliger had previously made clear that Meadows wouldn’t comply with the panel’s September subpoena because of Trump’s executive privilege claims. The committee rejected those arguments, especially after the White House said that Biden would waive any privilege over Meadows’ interview and as courts shot down Trump’s efforts to stop the committee from gathering information. The House panel argued that it has questions for Meadows that do not directly involve conversations with Trump and couldn’t be blocked by privilege claims. In the committee’s subpoena, Thompson cited Meadows’ efforts to overturn Trump’s 2020 election defeat and his pressure on state officials to push the former president’s false claims of widespread voter fraud. The committee has scheduled a vote for Wednesday to pursue contempt charges against a separate witness, former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, after he appeared for a deposition and declined to answer questions. (AP)

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Appeals Court To Weigh Trump Arguments To Withhold Records

Former President Donald Trump’s lawyers will try to persuade a federal appeals court to stop Congress from receiving call logs, drafts of speeches and other documents related to the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol led by his supporters. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will hear arguments Tuesday from lawyers for Trump and the House committee seeking the records as part of its investigation into the riot. Trump’s attorneys want the court to reverse a federal judge’s ruling allowing the National Archives and Records Administration to turn over the records after President Joe Biden waived executive privilege. Judge Tanya Chutkan rejected Trump’s claims that he could exert executive privilege overriding Biden, noting in part, “Presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not president.” The appeals court issued an administrative stay after Chutkan’s ruling to review the case. Democratic presidents nominated all three judges who will hear arguments Tuesday. Patricia Millett and Robert Wilkins were nominated by President Barack Obama, and Ketanji Brown Jackson is a Biden appointee. Given the stakes of the case, either side is likely to appeal to the Supreme Court. In their appeal to the circuit court, Trump’s lawyers said they agreed with Chutkan that presidents were not kings. “True, but in that same vein, Congress is not Parliament — a legislative body with supreme and unchecked constitutional power over the operations of government,” they wrote. Trump has argued that records of his deliberations on Jan. 6 must be withheld to protect executive privilege for future presidents and that the Democrat-led House is primarily driven by politics. The House committee’s lawyers rejected those arguments and called Trump’s attempts to assert executive privilege “unprecedented and deeply flawed.” “It is difficult to imagine a more critical subject for Congressional investigation, and Mr. Trump’s arguments cannot overcome Congress’s pressing need,” the committee’s lawyers said. (AP)

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After Mending Ties With UAE, Erdogan Says Israel & Egypt Are Next

Following Turkey’s recent rapprochement with the United Arab Emirates, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that he plans to mend ties with other regional powers — including Egypt and Israel — and would reappoint ambassadors to those countries. Following the release of the Israeli couple detained in Turkey earlier this month, Erdogan spoke with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, the first public conversation of an Israeli prime minister with the Turkish leader since 2013, as well as President Issac Herzog. Erdogan expressed an interest in strengthening Israeli-Turkish ties during the conversations with both leaders. “Just as a step was taken between us and the United Arab Emirates, we will take similar steps with the others,” Erdogan told a group of journalists on his return from a trip to Turkmenistan late Sunday. Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince visited Ankara last week, making his first official trip to Turkey since 2012 and the highest-level visit by an Emirati official since relations between the two countries hit a low. Erdogan and the crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who’s seen as the facto leader and the force behind the UAE’s foreign policy posture, oversaw the signing of nearly a dozen cooperation deals during the visit, while a top Emirati official said the UAE has earmarked $10 billion for investment in Turkey. Erdogan told a group of journalists on his return from a trip to Turkmenistan late Sunday that the crown prince’s visit took place in an “almost family like” environment and hailed the visit as a “step that is instrumental in starting a new era between Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.” “G-d willing, I will make a return visit to the UAE in February,” Erdogan told journalists, adding that the country’s foreign minister and intelligence chief would travel before him to prepare the groundwork. His comments were reported by the state-run Anadolu Agency and other media on Monday. Turkey and the UAE found themselves on opposing sides of regional conflicts, including a proxy conflict in Libya and well as as disputes in the Gulf and the eastern Mediterranean. At the core of their tensions was Turkey’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood in the region, which the UAE and other Arab nations see as a top national security threat that could upend their hereditary rule and tight grip on decision making. Ankara, for its part, suspects that the UAE backed a network led by a U.S.-based Turkish Muslim cleric which Turkey accuses of orchestrating a failed coup in 2016. The UAE is engaged in efforts to recalibrate its foreign policy following an unsuccessful attempt to isolate fellow Gulf state Qatar in 2017. Turkey is also trying to mend its frayed ties with regional powers, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Israel after finding itself increasingly isolated internationally. (YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem & AP)

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Omicron Variant May Have Reached Europe Earlier Than Thought

Economic powerhouses Japan and France reported their first cases of the omicron variant Tuesday, while new findings indicate the mutant coronavirus was already in Europe close to a week before South Africa sounded the alarm. The Netherlands’ RIVM health institute disclosed that patient samples dating from Nov. 19 and 23 were found to contain the variant. It was last Wednesday, Nov. 24, that South African authorities reported the existence of the highly mutated virus to the World Health Organization. That indicates omicron had a bigger head start in the Netherlands than previously believed. Together with the cases in Japan and France, the finding illustrated the difficulty in containing the virus in an age of jet travel and economic globalization. And it left the world once again whipsawed between hopes of returning to normal and fears that the worst is yet to come. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned in Latvia that “as long as the virus is replicating somewhere, it could be mutating,” which could mean it “can defeat the existing vaccines or induce greater illness or be more transmissible.” Much remains unknown about the new variant, including just how contagious it is, whether it makes people more seriously ill, and whether it can thwart the vaccine. But a WHO official said that given the growing number of omicron cases in South Africa and neighboring Botswana, parts of southern Africa could soon be witnessing a steep rise in infections. “There is a possibility that really we’re going to be seeing a serious doubling or tripling of the cases as we move along or as the week unfolds,” said Dr. Nicksy Gumede-Moeletsi, a WHO regional virologist. After a period of low transmission in South Africa, new cases began to increase rapidly in mid-November. The country is now seeing nearly 3,000 confirmed new infections per day. It is unclear exactly where or when the variant first emerged, and Tuesday’s Dutch announcement further muddies the timeline. Previously, the Netherlands said it found the variant among passengers who came from South Africa on Friday — the same day the country and other European Union members began imposing flight bans and other restrictions on southern Africa. But the newly identified cases predate that. Belgium reported a case involving a traveler who returned to the country from Egypt on Nov. 11 but did not become sick with mild symptoms until Nov. 22. Japan announced a ban on all foreign visitors starting Tuesday — the same day the country confirmed its first omicron case, in a Namibian diplomat who had recently arrived from his country. France likewise recorded its first case, in the island territory of Reunion in the Indian Ocean. The patient was identified as a man who had returned to Reunion from South Africa and Mozambique on Nov. 20 — before WHO learned of the variant. Many health officials tried to calm fears, insisting that vaccines remain the best defense and that the world must redouble its efforts to get the shots to every part of the globe. Emer Cooke, chief of the European Medicines Agency, said that the 27-nation EU is well prepared for the variant and that the vaccine could be adapted for use against omicron within three or four months if necessary. England reacted to the emerging threat by making face […]

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CHANUKAH PRESENT: CNN Suspends Chris Cuomo For Helping Brother In scandal

CNN indefinitely suspended anchor Chris Cuomo on Tuesday after details emerged about how he helped his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, to face charges of harassment earlier this year. The network said documents released by New York’s attorney general Monday indicated Cuomo took a greater level of involvement in his brother’s efforts than CNN executives previously knew. “As a result, we have suspended Chris indefinitely, pending further evaluation,” the network said. The CNN anchor pressed sources for information on his brother’s accusers and reported back to the governor’s staff, and was active in helping craft their response to the charges, according to emails and a transcript of his testimony to investigators working for state Attorney General Letitia James. Her office found Andrew Cuomo harassed at least 11 women. Chris Cuomo previously acknowledged talking to his brother and offering advice when the governor faced harassment charges. But the information released Monday revealed far more details about what exactly Chris Cuomo did. Andrew Cuomo resigned in August to avoid a likely impeachment trial. View this post on Instagram A post shared by (@theyeshivaworld) (AP)

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President Of Belarus Offers To Host Russian Nuclear Weapons

The longtime president of Belarus said Tuesday that his country would be ready to host Russian nuclear weapons if NATO moves U.S. atomic bombs from Germany to Eastern Europe. In an interview, President Alexander Lukashenko also said for the first time that he recognizes the Crimean Peninsula as part of Russia and plans to visit it soon. Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, a move that the West regards as illegal. Lukashenko made the remarks as he moves to cement ties with Russia, his main ally and sponsor, amid tensions with the West over his disputed reelection last year and a crackdown on dissent in Belarus. Asked about the possible redeployment of U.S. atomic bombs to Eastern Europe if Germany’s new government were no longer willing to house the weapons, Lukashenko responded that he would invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to send nuclear weapons that were withdrawn after the 1991 Soviet collapse back to Belarus. “I would offer Putin to return nuclear weapons to Belarus,” Lukashenko said in the interview with Dmitry Kiselyov, the head of Russian state media group Rossiya Segodnya. The Belarusian leader wouldn’t elaborate on what kind of weapons Belarus would be willing to accommodate, saying that it would host those that would be “the most efficient.” He added that Belarus has carefully preserved the necessary military infrastructure dating back to the Soviet era. Opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who left Belarus under pressure after unsuccessfully trying to unseat Lukashenko in last year’s election, denounced the president’s comments. “Such a person shouldn’t be trusted to handle matches, let alone nuclear weapons,” she told The Associated Press. Tsikhanouskaya said the deployment of Russian nuclear weapons to Belarus would violate international arms agreements and the will of Belarus’ people. “The majority of Belarusians have spoken for Belarus’ neutrality,” she said. Speaking earlier this month, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the Western military alliance would need to ponder redeploying nuclear weapons east if the new German government changes the country’s policy on nuclear sharing. “Germany can, of course, decide whether there will be nuclear weapons in your country, but the alternative is that we easily end up with nuclear weapons in other countries in Europe, also to the east of Germany,” Stoltenberg said. Alexei Arbatov, a Moscow-based foreign policy expert, described the possible redeployment of U.S. atomic bombs to Eastern Europe as a “mad, adventurist move.” If Moscow responds by sending its nuclear weapons to Belarus, “the situation would be more dangerous than it was during the Cold War times,” the Interfax news agency quoted Arbatov as saying. Lukashenko has edged closer to Russia since he faced Western pressure over his election to a sixth term in an August 2020 vote that the opposition and the West rejected as rigged. Belarusian authorities responded to protests triggered by the election with a sweeping crackdown, prompting the European Union and the United States to slap Belarus with several rounds of sanctions. Tensions have escalated further since the summer over the arrival of thousands of migrants and refugees on Belarus’ border with EU member Poland. The European Union has accused Lukashenko of retaliating for its sanctions by using desperate asylum-seekers as pawns and tricking them into trying to enter Poland, Lithuania and Latvia to destabilize the entire EU. Belarusian authorities have denied […]

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MAILBAG: The Demented Deluxe Donut Craze [$111.00 For A Dozen Donuts?!]

Yesterday, I went shopping for donuts. Today, I’m wondering how I’m going to pay my credit card bill next month. You see, I wanted to get donuts for a small family Chanukah party. How much could it cost already for a dozen – twenty bucks? Not a problem, I’m happy to spend that money in exchange for a smile. But as I prepared to leave, it was made very clear to me that the standard jelly and custard donuts I’ve been accustomed to for my entire life were no longer “chic.” “These days,” I was told, “you have to get the nicer donuts or else you’re a nerd.” Odd, but alright, nicer donuts it’ll be, I decided. I went to a local store and asked for a dozen of their upper-end donuts. The worker behind the counter was very courteous and helped me choose between the dozen-or-so varieties they had to offer, each one more tantalizing than the one before it. After boxing up my catch, my credit card was swiped and then I took that fateful look at the receipt. My jaw literally dropped and my eyes bulged. “$111 for 12 donuts?!?! You’ve got to be kidding,” I said to the cashier. He looked at me dumbfounded. “Yeah, that’s pretty standard,” he replied, staring at me like I’d fallen off the moon. Shaken up, I drove back home and demanded an explanation. Everyone had the same reaction as the cashier – sure, $111 for a dozen donuts is totally normal nowadays. Now, lest I make myself to sound like an old, grumpy man, let me assure you that I am not that. I am very open-minded and I embrace revolutionary ideas and new ways of doing things with zest and vigor (I’m even writing this on an iPad – no dinosaur zeidy here!). But guys, c’mon. We’ve completely fallen off our rockers! Whatever happened to Chanukah being a time for family and friends to fulfill our happiness needs? Whatever happened to Chanuka being a celebration of ruchniyus over gashmiyus? Whatever happened to good old sensibility? If you’re not a millionaire, you can’t afford these donuts. Can you get by? Sure, perhaps so. But these donuts don’t fit into your budget in any way, shape, or form. They’re an unnecessary, gluttonous expense. And somehow, the stores baking them, or the society trumpeting them, has made it not only commonplace to spend these sickening amounts of money on donuts, but you’re actually a “nerd” if you don’t! This is what happens when the insane people start running the asylum. When you have individuals in the community who spend their money (or more likely, rack up credit card debt) like drunken sailors, and those same people are seen as individuals to follow and emulate, the chickens will wind up coming home to roost. With all the terribly high, and rising, expenses frum families are already facing, from clothing to food to tuition, do we really need the fleeting gooey goodness of a overpriced donut that tastes no better than the “nerdy” ones? It says that kol haragil b’ner havei lo banim chachomim. With the stupidity surrounding the deluxe donut craze and retarded spending habits in general, we desperately need children to grow up with more sense than their pparents. So better get moving […]

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Panel Weighs Safety, Effectiveness Of Merck’s COVID-19 Pill

Government health advisers on Tuesday weighed the benefits and risks of a closely watched drug from Merck that could soon become the first U.S.-authorized pill for patients to take at home to treat COVID-19. The Food and Drug Administration asked its outside experts whether the agency should authorize the pill, weighing new information that it is less effective than first reported and may cause birth defects. A vote was expected Tuesday afternoon. The panel’s recommendations aren’t binding but often guide FDA decisions. The meeting comes as U.S. infections are rising again and health authorities worldwide size up the threat posed by the new omicron variant. If authorized, Merck’s pill would be the first that doctors could prescribe for patients to take on their own to ease symptoms and speed recovery, a major step toward reducing hospital caseloads and deaths. The drug, molnupiravir, is already authorized for emergency use in the U.K. Given the ongoing threat, the FDA is widely expected to approve emergency use of Merck’s pill. But new data released last week painted a less compelling picture than when the the company first publicized its early results in October. Last week, Merck said final study results showed molnupiravir reduced hospitalization and death by 30% among adults infected with the coronavirus, when compared with adults taking a placebo. That effect was significantly less than the 50% reduction it first announced based on incomplete results. FDA scientists said Tuesday the reasons for the difference were unclear, but appeared to be due to higher-than-expected hospitalizations among patients taking the drug during the second half of the study. Molnupiravir’s effectiveness is a key consideration as panel members weigh whether to recommend the drug and for whom. Another question is whether pregnant women or women of child-bearing age should avoid the drug. FDA scientists said Tuesday that company studies in rats showed the drug caused toxicity and birth defects in the skeleton, eyes and kidneys. Taken together, FDA staffers concluded the data “suggest that molnupiravir may cause fetal harm when administered to pregnant individuals.” Regulators said they are considering barring molnupiravir’s use during pregnancy or warning against it but leaving it as an option in rare cases. The FDA also proposed that doctors verify patients are not pregnant before starting treatment and recommend contraceptives to certain patients. In its own presentations Tuesday, Merck said it is not recommending the drug be used in women who are pregnant or lactating. But the drugmaker opposed a blanket restriction on prescribing to those patients, arguing there may be certain cases where the drug’s benefit outweighs its risk. The drug uses a novel approach to fight COVID-19: It inserts tiny errors into the coronavirus’ genetic code to stop it from reproducing. That genetic effect has raised concerns that the drug could spur more virulent strains of the virus. But FDA regulators said Tuesday that risk is theoretical and seems unlikely. Merck scientists said they believe their drug will be effective against the new omicron variant. They said the drug worked against other variants, including the prevailing delta strain. Panelists are also weighing whether the pills should be offered to patients who have been vaccinated or previously had COVID-19. Merck didn’t study the drug in vaccinated people, but data from a handful of patients with prior infections suggested it […]

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2nd TIME IN 2 DAYS: Israeli In Critical Condition After Choking On A Sufganiya

A 62-year-old woman in Israel on Tuesday was evacuated in critical condition to the Carmel Medical Center in Haifa after choking on a jelly doughnut. “When we arrived at the scene, we saw an unconscious woman who had no pulse and wasn’t breathing,” MDA paramedic Shmuel Dror said. “We immediately began advanced resuscitation techniques, and as we administered medical aid, we extricated pieces of dough from her throat with special medical equipment.” “We transferred her to an intensive mobile care unit and evacuated her to the hospital while continuing resuscitation techniques.” A similar incident occurred on Monday when a 63-year-old man from Yavneh also choked on a doughnut and was evacuated to the hospital in serious condition, sedated and ventilated. Fortunately, his condition improved in the hospital and he is now in light condition. “Every Chanukah our volunteers respond to medical emergencies of people choking on sufganiyot,” Hatzalah founder Eli Beer said. “It’s important to be careful when giving young children or older people sufganiyot as they have a higher risk of choking while eating and trying to swallow spongy foods.” (YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)

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The revolutionary initiative in Modiin Illit which has become the talk of the Torah world

Only for great talmidei chachomim aged 40 and over: Dozens of great talmidei chachomim in one kollel with increased stipends The new kollel is only for avreichim from the age of 40 ^The kollel is a precedential initiative by the Migdal Oz kollel network and will open its doors, b’ezras Hashem, on Zos Chanukah, giving increased scholarships to great talmidei chachomim ^Rav Yechezkel Etrog: “We are talking about the elite of the Torah world, who can raise many students, and have chosen to spend their time completely devoted to learning Torah”  A kollel for bnei aliyah: The kollel world is well-known to the public as the melting pot for acquiring great knowledge in sugyos in Shas or the Shulchan Aruch, and produces Torah scholars who teach many students, with the avreichim taking up positions in the Torah world as time goes on.  However, the initiative by Rav Yechezkel Etrog, head of the Migdal Oz national network of kollelim is taking an unprecedented step – opening an elite framework only for great avreichim who have chosen to continue diligently learning Torah, to strive ever upwards in the beis midrash to reach the practical halachah. The new kollel, which is a new addition to the Torah mosdos of Modiin Illit, has gathered dozens of advanced avreichim who were carefully selected from the Migdal Oz and other kollelim. The avreichim, most of whom have already reached the stage of marrying off their children, will receive increased stipends so that they can continue spending their time – day and night – studying the holy Torah. The opening ceremony for the new kollel together with a siyum on Maseches Chullin was held last Motzai Shabbos in Modiin Illit, with the participation of Maranan V’rabanan Gedolei Yisroel, who sought to strengthen the new kollel. The main speaker was the Rosh Yeshivah of Ateres Yisroel, member of the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah, Hagaon Hagadol Rav Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi shlita. The mara d’asra of Modiin Illit, Hagaon Hagadol Rav Meir Kessler shlita also spoke movingly about the great contribution the kollel network has made to the Torah city. Also present at the unique event were the head of the kollelim, Harav Hagaon Rav Yechezkel Etrog shlita, head of a kollel in Modiin Illit with around 200 avreichim, Harav Hagaon Rav Zeev Zalts shlita, and Harav Hagaon Rav Yehuda Harel shlita. And rosh kollel of the new kollel for great talmidei chachomim, Dayan Harav Hagaon Rav Shlomo Posen shlita, rav of the Neot Hapisgah neighborhood in Modiin Illit, and Harav Hagaon Rav Avraham Yeshayahu Kempe shlita. Also present to honor the occasion was mayor Reb Yaakov Gutterman shlita who praised the importance of the kollel to the future of the Torah city. Harav Hagaon Rav Yechezkel Etrog said that this is a kollel which will gather together the greatest forces in the Torah world. “We are beginning with a kollel which will gather together the greatest Torah scholars in the city, a pioneer in the Torah world, talmidei chachomim who have acquired great knowledge of Shas and poskim, and combine to comprise the elite unit of the Torah world, who can raise many students, and have chosen to spend their time completely devoted to learning Torah. The unique kollel will emphasize increased monetary help when marrying off children, so that […]

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Powell Says Fed May Accelerate Pullback In Economic Support

Chair Jerome Powell said Tuesday that the Federal Reserve will consider acting more quickly to dial back its ultra-low-interest rate policies to counter higher inflation, which Powell acknowledged will likely persist well into next year. The Fed has begun reducing its monthly bond purchases, which are intended to lower longer-term borrowing costs, at a pace that would end those purchases in June. But Powell made clear that Fed officials will discuss paring those purchases more quickly when it next meets in mid-December. Doing so would put the Fed on a path to begin raising its key short-term rate as early as the first half of next year. A higher Fed rate would, in turn, raise borrowing costs for mortgages, credit cards and some business loans. “The economy is very strong and inflationary pressures are high,” Powell said at a Senate Banking Committee hearing. “It is therefore appropriate, in my view, to consider wrapping up the taper of our asset purchases … perhaps a few months sooner.” Powell said the Fed should know more about the potential economic impact of the omicron variant of the coronavirus in time for that next meeting. But he suggested that for now, omicron hasn’t been factored into the Fed’s economic outlook. Stock prices tumbled after Powell’s comments, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down about 1.5% in mid-day trading. Many investors had hoped that Powell would signal that the Fed would put off any policy changes until the impact of the omicron variant had become clearer. Instead, he suggested that the Fed has taken a decisive turn toward reducing its economic stimulus. The emergence of a potentially dangerous new COVID-19 variant could make Powell’s job harder and more complicated next year. If omicron leads to another wave of factory and port shutdowns in the United States and overseas and to a reversal of the back-to-office return for many workers, Americans might keep spending heavily on goods such as furniture, appliances and cars. That trend would likely worsen supply bottlenecks and raise prices even more. At the same time, the variant could renew fears among many workers about becoming infected on the job. More resignations might then follow at a time when the rate of job quitting is already at record highs, thereby magnifying labor shortages. This would risk weakening the job market and the economy. Under such a scenario, the Fed’s dual mandates of stable prices and maximum employment could come into conflict. Powell hinted at these trends in his testimony before the committee. “The recent rise in COVID-19 cases and the emergence of the Omicron variant pose downside risks to employment and economic activity and increased uncertainty for inflation,” he said. “Greater concerns about the virus could reduce people’s willingness to work in person, which would slow progress in the labor market and intensify supply-chain disruptions.” Under fire from some Senate Republicans about worsening consumer inflation, which reached a three-decade high last month, Powell acknowledged that price increases have been worse than the Fed expected and will last longer than the policymakers initially thought. As a result, he said, the term “transitory” no longer works as a description of inflation. “It’s probably a good time to retire that word and try to explain more clearly what we mean,” he said. Powell’s comments come after […]

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US Tracking Of Virus Variants Has Improved After Slow Start

After a slow start, the United States has improved its surveillance system for tracking new coronavirus variants such as omicron, boosting its capacity by tens of thousands of samples per week since early this year. Viruses mutate constantly. To find and track new versions of the coronavirus, scientists analyze the genetic makeup of a portion of samples that test positive. They’re looking at the chemical letters of the virus’s genetic code to find new worrisome mutants, such as omicron, and to follow the spread of known variants, such as delta. It’s a global effort, but until recently the U.S. was contributing very little. With uncoordinated and scattershot testing, the U.S. was sequencing fewer than 1% of positive specimens earlier this year. Now, it is running those tests on 5% to 10% of samples. “Genomic surveillance is strong,” said Kelly Wroblewski, director of infectious diseases at the Association of Public Health Laboratories. Contributing to the effort are nearly 70 state and local public health labs, which are sequencing 15,000 to 20,000 specimens each week. Other labs, including those run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and its contractors, bring the total to 40,000 to 80,000 weekly. Nine months ago, about 12,000 samples each week were being analyzed in this way. “We’re in a much, much better place than a year ago or even six or nine months ago,” said Kenny Beckman of the University of Minnesota, who credited federal dollars distributed to public and private labs. He directs the university’s genomics laboratory, which now sequences about 1,000 samples a week from Minnesota, Arkansas and South Dakota. A year ago, the lab did no sequencing. Relying on $1.7 billion in President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief bill, the U.S. has been setting up a national network to better track coronavirus mutations. Still, about two dozen countries are sequencing a larger proportion of positive samples than the U.S., said Dr. William Moss of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Omicron’s emergence could “stimulate the United States to do this better.” “I think we still have a long way to go,” Moss said. Some states are sequencing only about 1% of samples while others are in the range of 20%, noted Dr. Phil Febbo, chief medical officer for Illumina, a San Diego-based company that develops genomic sequencing technologies. “We could be more systematic about it and more consistent so we ensure there are no genomic surveillance deserts where we could miss the emergence of a variant,” Febbo said. Aiding the surveillance effort, standard PCR tests that use nasal swabs sent to laboratories can detect a sign that someone probably has the omicron variant. If a PCR test is positive for only two of the three target genes — a so-called S-dropout test result — it’s a marker for omicron even before the extra step of genetic sequencing to prove it. “It’s fortuitous,” said Trevor Bedford, a biologist and genetics expert at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. “If you need to do sequencing to identify the variant you’re always going to be lagged a bit and it’s going to be more expensive. If you just rely on this S-dropout as identification then it’s easier.” He said other variants also have sparked this quirk in PCR test results, but not the delta variant. […]

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4 NYC Firefighters Hurt In Ceiling Collapse At Restaurant

Four New York City firefighters suffered minor injuries Tuesday when part of a ceiling collapsed on them as they were battling a blaze at an upper east side restaurant, authorities said. The fire started at about 5 a.m. in a restaurant on the ground floor of a five-story apartment building on First Avenue and spread to the floors above, a fire department spokesperson said. More than 160 firefighters responded to the fire, which was not yet under control as of 7:30 a.m., the spokesperson said. The four firefighters who were injured in the partial ceiling collapse were treated at a hospital, authorities said. No other injuries were reported. The cause of the fire was under investigation. (AP)

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CAMPUS HORROR: Student Kills 3, Wounds 6 At Michigan School [VIDEOS]

Authorities say a 15-year-old sophomore opened fire at his Michigan high school, killing three other students and wounding six other people, including a teacher. Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe said at a news conference that he didn’t know what the assailant’s motives were for the attack Tuesday afternoon at Oxford High School in Oxford Township, a community of about 22,000 people roughly 30 miles (48 kilometers) north of Detroit. Authorities arrested the suspect at the school and recovered a handgun. They didn’t immediately release the names of the suspect or victims. (AP)

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Space Junk Forces Spacewalk Delay, Too Risky For Astronauts

NASA called off a spacewalk Tuesday because of menacing space junk that could puncture an astronaut’s suit or damage the International Space Station. Two U.S. astronauts were set to replace a bad antenna outside of the space station. But late Monday night, Mission Control learned that a piece of orbiting debris might come dangerously close. There wasn’t enough time to assess the threat so station managers delayed the spacewalk for at least a few days. It’s the first time a spacewalk has been canceled because of threat from space junk. The space station and its crew of seven have been at increased risk from space junk since Russia destroyed a satellite in a missile test two weeks ago. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the object of concern was part of the Russian satellite wreckage. During a news conference Monday, NASA officials said the Nov. 15 missile test resulted in at least 1,700 satellite pieces big enough to track, and thousands more too small to be observed from the ground but still able to pierce a spacewalker’s suit. NASA officials said astronauts Tom Marshburn and Kayla Barron faced a 7 percent greater risk of a spacewalk puncture because of the Russian-generated debris. But they said it was still within acceptable limits based on previous experience. Marshburn and Barron arrived at the space station earlier this month. (AP)

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