Yeshiva World News

Australia Passes Law To Make Google, Facebook Pay For News

Australia’s law forcing Google and Facebook to pay for news is ready to take effect, though the laws’ architect said it will take time for the digital giants to strike media deals. The Parliament on Thursday passed the final amendments to the so-called News Media Bargaining Code agreed between Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday. In return for the changes, Facebook agreed to lift a ban on Australians accessing and sharing news. Rod Sims, the competition regulator who drafted the code, said he was happy that the amended legislation would address the market imbalance between Australian news publishers and the two gateways to the internet. “All signs are good,” Sims said. “The purpose of the code is to address the market power that clearly Google and Facebook have. Google and Facebook need media, but they don’t need any particular media company, and that meant media companies couldn’t do commercial deals,” the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair added. The rest of the law had passed in Parliament earlier, so it can now be implemented. Google has already struck deals with major Australian news businesses in recent weeks including News Corp. and Seven West Media. Frydenberg said he was pleased to see progress by Google and more recently Facebook in reaching commercial deals with Australian news businesses. But Country Press Australia, which represents 161 regional newspapers across the country, has raised concerns that tiny publications outside large cities might miss out. Sims said he was not surprised that the platforms would strike deals with the large city businesses first. “I don’t see any reason why anybody should doubt that all journalism will benefit,” Sims said. “There things take time. Google and Facebook don’t have unlimited resources to go around talking to everybody. I think this has got a long way to play out,” he added. Chris Moos, a lecturer at Oxford University’s Business School, said the latest amendments amounted to a “small victory” for Zuckerberg. Moos said the legislation would likely result in small payouts for most Australian news publishers. But Facebook could again block Australian news if negotiations broke down. The legislation was designed to curb the outsized bargaining power of Facebook and Google in their negotiations with Australian news providers. The digital giants would not be able to abuse their positions by making take-it-or-leave-it payment offers to news businesses for their journalism. Instead, in the case of a standoff, an arbitration panel would make a binding decision on a winning offer. Frydenberg and Facebook confirmed that the two sides agreed to amendments to the proposed legislation. The changes would give digital platforms one month’s notice before they are formally designated under the code. That would give those involved more time to broker agreements before they are forced to enter binding arbitration arrangements. Facebook Vice President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg said on Wednesday that the Australian law, without this week’s amendments, would have enabled media conglomerates to “demand a blank check.” “Thankfully, after further discussion, the Australian government has agreed to changes that mean fair negotiations are encouraged without the looming threat of heavy-handed and unpredictable arbitration,” Clegg, a former British deputy prime minister, wrote in a Facebook post. Facebook last week prevented Australians from sharing news, but also blocked access to pandemic, public […]

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Chief: Capitol Police Were Warned Of Violence Before Riot

Capitol Police knew armed extremists were primed for violence at the iconic building on Jan. 6 and even provided officers with assault rifles to protect lawmakers, the acting chief acknowledged Wednesday. But the wild invasion of the Capitol was far worse than police expected, leaving them unprepared to fight it off. A day earlier, her predecessor as chief testified that police expected an enraged but more typical protest crowd of Donald Trump supporters. But Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman said intelligence collected ahead of the riot prompted the agency to take extraordinary measures, including the special arming of officers, intercepting radio frequencies used by the invaders and deploying spies at the Ellipse rally where President Donald Trump was sending his supporters marching to the Capitol to “fight like hell.” Pittman’s testimony, submitted ahead of a House hearing on Thursday, provides the most detailed account yet of the intelligence and preparations by U.S. Capitol Police ahead of the insurrection when thousands of pro-Trump rioters invaded the Capitol aiming to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election victory over Trump. Three days earlier, On Jan. 3, Capitol Police distributed an internal intelligence assessment warning that militia members, white supremacists and other extremist groups were likely to participate, that demonstrators would be armed and that it was possible they would come to the Capitol to try to disrupt the vote, Pittman says. “Based on the assessment, the Department understood that this demonstration would be unlike the previous demonstrations held by protesters with similar ideologies in November and December 2020,” Pittman says in her prepared remarks. But at the same time, she argues police didn’t have enough intelligence to predict the violent insurrection that resulted in five deaths, including that of a Capitol Police officer. They prepared for trouble but not an invasion. “Although the Department’s January 3rd Special Assessment foretold of a significant likelihood for violence on Capitol grounds by extremists groups, it did not identify a specific credible threat indicating that thousands of American citizens would descend upon the U.S. Capitol attacking police officers with the goal of breaking into the U.S. Capitol Building to harm Members and prevent the certification of Electoral College votes,” Pittman says in her testimony. Steven Sund, the police force’s former chief who resigned after the riot, testified Tuesday that the intelligence assessment warned white supremacists, members of the far-right Proud Boys and leftist antifa were expected to be in the crowd and might become violent. “We had planned for the possibility of violence, the possibility of some people being armed, not the possibility of a coordinated military-style attack involving thousands against the Capitol,” Sund said. The FBI also forwarded a warning to local law enforcement officials about online postings that a “war” was coming. But Pittman said it still wasn’t enough to prepare for the mob that attacked the Capitol. Officers were vastly outnumbered as thousands of rioters descended on the building, some of them wielding planks of wood, stun guns, bear spray and metal pipes as they broke through windows and doors and stormed through the Capitol. Officers were hit with barricades, shoved to the ground, trapped between doors, beaten and bloodied as members of Congress were evacuated and congressional staffers cowered in offices. Should police have been better prepared? With the amount of information available […]

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New COVID-19 Variant Identified In New York City

A new coronavirus variant that has some similarities to the South African and Brazilian variants is on the rise in New York City, researchers stated on Wednesday, according to a Reuters report. The new variant, known as B.1.526, was first identified in New York in November. By mid-February, it was behind 12% of new cases, according to researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. The researchers said that when performing an analysis of databases, they identified only a small amount of the South African and Brazilian variants. “Instead we found high numbers of this home-grown lineage,” said Dr. Anne-Catrin Uhlemann, assistant professor in the division of infectious diseases at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. The study revealed that the New York variant shares worrying characteristics with B.1.351, the variant first identified in South Africa, and P.1., which was first identified in Brazil. Both variants are more transmissible, may be more deadly, and have shown evidence of being more resistant to existing vaccines. (YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)

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Most Mehudar Yissachar-Zevulun Deal

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AP FACT CHECK: Biden On Virus Deaths, Kerry’s Climate Crisis

President Joe Biden and his team are getting the numbers wrong when they talk about the enormity of the mounting COVID-19 death toll and the looming climate change threat. A look at the claims: BIDEN: “Each day, I receive a small card in my pocket that I carry with me in my schedule. It shows the number of Americans who have been infected by or died from COVID-19. Today, we mark a truly grim, heartbreaking milestone: 500,071 dead. That’s more Americans who have died in one year in this pandemic than in World War One, World War Two and the Vietnam War combined.” — remarks Monday. BIDEN: “As of yesterday, there are 500,071 people who have died from this — 500. That’s more people that died in World War One, World War Two and Vietnam combined, in a year — in a year.” — remarks Tuesday in roundtable with Black essential workers. THE FACTS: His list of three wars is wrong. Based on conventional measures, coronavirus deaths in the U.S. currently do not exceed those from World War I, World War II and the Vietnam conflict. According to the Congressional Research Service and the Department of Veterans Affairs, there were 116,516 U.S. deaths in World War I, 405,399 in World War II — which includes both battle deaths and other deaths in service but not in theater — and 58,220 in the Vietnam conflict. That adds up to about 580,000, exceeding the half million COVID-19 deaths as of Monday. The virus death toll instead all but matched the number of Americans killed in World War II, Korea and Vietnam combined. With 36,574 deaths in the Korean War, the total number of casualties from those military conflicts was 500,193. Asked for Biden’s accounting, a White House official said Biden had meant in his speeches to say “combat” deaths in World War I, World War II and Vietnam — which totaled a more modest 390,000. JOHN KERRY, Biden’s climate envoy: “Well, the scientists told us three years ago we had 12 years to avert the worst consequences of climate crisis. We are now three years gone, so we have nine years left.” — interview with CBS News on Feb. 19. KERRY: “Three years ago, scientists gave us a stark warning. They said we have 12 years to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.” — virtual climate adaptation summit, hosted by the Netherlands on Jan. 25. THE FACTS: He’s incorrect that 2030 is a drop-dead date to avert the “worst consequences” of climate change, though it’s true that the planet will get progressively worse with each passing year. It’s not an all-or-nothing type of situation that his comments imply, according to climate scientists. A report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, drawn from the work of hundreds of scientists, uses 2030 as a prominent benchmark because signatories to the Paris climate change agreement have pledged voluntary emission cuts by then. The date is not a last-chance, hard deadline for action. The report “did not ever say we had ’12 years left’ in 2018,” said Jim Skea, an IPCC co-chair and one of the report’s lead authors. He said Kerry and others are wrongly interpreting references to the year 2030 in the report, which was used as a goal post “for […]

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Report: Israelis, Saudis Held High-Level Talks On Biden’s Iran Plan

Senior Israeli and Saudi officials held several discussions by phone in recent weeks regarding the Biden administration’s plan to rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, Kan News reported on Tuesday. The discussions also focused on Saudi Arabia’s concerns about the Biden administration’s focus on human rights. Even before Biden entered office, he stressed that he “will make [the Saudis] the pariahs that they are.” According to an Axios report on Tuesday, Biden is planning on calling Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Wednesday ahead of the release of a likely damaging intelligence report about the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. The call will be Biden’s first contact as president with Salman. A previous Axios report said that the Saudis have been “sending signals” to the US that it will improve its human rights record and cooperate on ending the war in Yemen in an effort to avoid a crisis with the Biden administration. (YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)

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Reading the Megillah: An Overview

By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com The obligation is to read the Megillah at night and in the day in commemoration of the miracle, where they cried out day and night. The daytime reading begins at sunrise and continues until the end of the day.  If it was read from Amud HaShachar – dawn, the Mitzvah has still been fulfilled.   It is interesting to note that the Mishna does not mentione the night reading at all. The reader must read the Megillah as if it was an iggeres – a letter.  Therefore, he should not pause between the Psukim more than a breath.  This is the ruling of the Tur and the Mogain Avrohom. The chapter splits of Megilas Esther are NOT OF JEWISH ORIGIN.  Therefore, it is wrong for the reader to end off a chapter with a different tone or melody.  (Kuntrus Toras HaKoreh). The nighttime reading begins when three stars come out and continues throughout the night until 1 and 1/5th hours before sunrise. If one lives far away and can only travel to hear one reading of the Megillah, it is preferable to hear the day reading rather than the night reading. If it is absolutely impossible to hear the Megillah otherwise, and one cannot read the Megillah by oneself, may one fulfill the obligation by telephone?  Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (IM OC IV 91:4) permitted a woman to hear Havdallah in a hospital through the telephone if there was no other possibility.  Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Minchas Shlomo Vol. I #9) disagreed but did hear a ruling from the Chazon Ish that it is not so simple to dismiss this possibility.  Some Poskim therefore rule that when there is no other choice at all, one should opt for the telephone option. The most preferred manner of fulfilling the Mitzvah is to read the Megillah publicly, and in the Synagogue.  When attending the Megillah in a bigger place one should have in mind that he or she is giving greater glory to Hashem by hearing the Megillah there.  This Kavannah serves to bring us closer to Hashem, and is an action similar in purpose to the recitation of Kaddish, an extremely holy endeavor.   Pirsumei Nissah   Reading the Megillah involves the notion of Pirsumei Nissah – publicizing the miracle.  Because of this, it sets aside any other Mitzvah – even a Torah Mitzvah.  Even the study of the Torah is set aside for the reading of the Megillah. The only Mitzvah which is not pushed off is the Mitzvah of providing burial for a dead person, when there is no one else available to do so.  This is interesting because reading the Megillah is only a Rabbinic Mitzvah.  If the other Mitzvah cannot be performed later, however, and it is a Biblical Mitzvah – that Mitzvah would come first.  A Bris Milah is an exception to this halacha.  The Bris Milah is performed before the reading of the Megillah. Even if there are many people in one’s company, he should not read the Megillah at home, but should rather go to the Synagogue, since, ‘In a multitude there is Majesty;’ and the miracle is made known more widely. The Brachos on the Megillah Before reading it, the reader of the Megillah recites these three blessings: “Al […]

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Netanyahu Presents 5-Step Plan To Fully Open Economy

In a televised press conference on Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the nation that the government’s goal is to completely re-open the economy by the end of April. The Prime Minister presented a five-step plan to bring about a fully re-opened economy, with the first phase being the current one. Phase two scheduled for next week, will see more schoolchildren return to in-person learning. Phase three, in two week’s time, will see the green passport program expanded. During the last week of March, the government expects that all eligible Israelis will be vaccinated, allowing the full re-opening of the economy in April, which is stage 5. Netanyahu was joined at the press conference by top Health Ministry’s officials, heads of the health funds (HMOs), and Magen David Adom officials. During the press conference, Netanyahu said that while more than 5 million Israelis either received at least the first dose of the vaccine or have recovered from the virus, there are still about 1.2 million individuals over 16 who have not been vaccinated, blaming “fake news” for the slowdown. Netanyahu called on the public to go and get vaccinated numerous times and stressed that Israel is the only country in the world that has enough vaccines for all its citizens. Netanyahu said that he has been in contact with both Pfizer and Moderna to discuss the possibility of building vaccine factories in Israel, adding that Israel was also in contact with six other countries to build joint facilities. Earlier on Wednesday, the Knesset approved a bill allowing the Health Ministry to share the identity of people who are eligible to be inoculated but who have not done so – including names, ID numbers, phone numbers, and addresses – with municipalities and Education and Welfare ministries. (YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)

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Netanyahu Promises Will Be No Shortage Of Pfizer Vaccines

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu promised Israelis on Tuesday that there will be no shortage of Pfizer vaccines following reports on Monday that the supply of Pfizer vaccines is dwindling and clinics have been told to prioritize remaining doses for those who already received their first doses. “I have some important news,” the prime minister said. “I spoke last night with my friend, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, and we agreed that there would be a continuous supply of Pfizer vaccines without any shortage,” Netanyahu said. “No shortage, no interruption, no break. Go get vaccinated.” “We’re also receiving more and more vaccines from Moderna. Go get vaccinated.” About 4.5 million Israelis have received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and over 3 million have received both doses. (YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)

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Black Lives Matter Opens Up About Its Finances

The foundation widely seen as a steward of the Black Lives Matter movement says it took in just over $90 million last year, according to a financial snapshot shared exclusively with The Associated Press. The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation is now building infrastructure to catch up to the speed of its funding and plans to use its endowment to become known for more than protests after Black Americans die at the hands of police or vigilantes. “We want to uplift Black joy and liberation, not just Black death. We want to see Black communities thriving, not just surviving,” reads an impact report the foundation shared with the AP before releasing it. This marks the first time in the movement’s nearly eight-year history that BLM leaders have revealed a detailed look at their finances. The foundation’s coffers and influence grew immensely following the May 2020 death of George Floyd, a Black man whose last breaths under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer sparked protests across the U.S. and around the world. That growth also caused longstanding tensions to boil over between some of the movement’s grassroots organizers and national leaders — the former went public last fall with grievances about financial transparency, decision-making and accountability. The foundation said it committed $21.7 million in grant funding to official and unofficial BLM chapters, as well as 30 Black-led local organizations. It ended 2020 with a balance of more than $60 million, after spending nearly a quarter of its assets on the grant funds and other charitable giving. In its report, the BLM foundation said individual donations via its main fundraising platform averaged $30.76. More than 10% of the donations were recurring. The report does not state who gave the money in 2020, and leaders declined to name prominent donors. Last year, the foundation’s expenses were approximately $8.4 million — that includes staffing, operating and administrative costs, along with activities such as civic engagement, rapid response and crisis intervention. One of its focuses for 2021 will be economic justice, particularly as it relates to the ongoing socioeconomic impact of COVID-19 on Black communities. The racial justice movement had a broad impact on philanthropic giving last year. According to an upcoming report by Candid and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, 35% of the $20.2 billion in U.S. funding dollars from corporations, foundations, public charities and high-net-worth individuals to address COVID-19 was explicitly designated for communities of color. After the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida, BLM’s founders pledged to build a decentralized movement governed by consensus of a members’ collective. In 2015, a network of chapters was formed, as support and donations poured in. But critics say the BLM Global Network Foundation has increasingly moved away from being a Black radical organizing hub and become a mainstream philanthropic and political organization run without democratic input from its earliest grassroots supporters. BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors told the AP that the foundation is focused on a “need to reinvest into Black communities.” “One of our biggest goals this year is taking the dollars we were able to raise in 2020 and building out the institution we’ve been trying to build for the last seven and a half years,” she said in an interview. […]

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Israel Reinstates Mandatory Quarantine In State-Run Hotels

Israel’s coronavirus cabinet reinstated the requirement for Israeli arriving in Israel to quarantine in state-run hotels until March 9, The move comes less than 24 hours after the regulation expired. The measure still needs the approval of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee. Returning Israelis will be required to quarantine in hotels for ten days if they agree to be tested twice for the coronavirus during that time, and 14 days if they don’t agree to be tested. Israelis who have a “green passport,” documenting that they have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from the coronavirus, will still be required to present negative coronavirus tests before boarding the plane to Israel and upon arrival but will not be required to quarantine. Exemptions to the quarantine hotel requirement will be evaluated on an individual basis by a Health Ministry committee at Ben Gurion Airport. The decision follows the revocation of the requirement for returning Israelis to quarantine in state-run hotels by the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Sunday. In response, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Transportation Minister Miri Regev, and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein made a decision to reduce the number of people allowed into Israel each day from 2,000 to 200. UTJ MK Yaakov Asher, chairman of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, who publicly opposed the hotel quarantine requirement, agreed to reinstate it on a temporary basis after Netanyahu promised him he will search for an alternative solution to hotels in the near future. Asher has demanded that the government find a better way of monitoring travelers so they can quarantine at home. Coronavirus czar Prof. Nachman Ash has stated that between December 2020 and January 2021, 1,701 coronavirus carriers entered Israel, infecting 2,683 Israelis, ultimately leading to 4,384 coronavirus cases. (YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)

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Outrage On Delta Flight After Hasidic Jews Kicked Off [SEE THE VIDEOS]

*OUTRAGE ON DELTA FLIGHT AFTER JEWISH FAMILY IS KICKED OFF-* A group of Hasidic men were forced to deplane a Delta flight from Miami International Airport to LaGuardia, Wednesday night. Initial reports say that the incident unfolded after an elderly Chassidish man took off his mask, allegedly for a brief moment to eat something. Video shows the apparent son, saying that his father has heart issues, and that he has trouble breathing, “So he took off his mask for a minute,” the video shows. Moments before departure from Miami, the flight crew instructed all passengers to depart from the aircraft. After the plane was emptied, a Delta employee informed the Hasidic Jews that they wouldn’t be continuing to LaGuardia with Delta, and could be facing a permanent ban from flying with the Airline. Videos from the incident show many passengers unhappy with the decision, calling it anti-Semitic on the part of Delta, with one women saying that the elderly individual didn’t understand the flight crew’s instructions because of a language gap. Another video showed a female passenger sitting in first class, shouting at the family, repeatedly saying “SHAME” to them. (YWN World Headquarters – NYC)

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Diplomatic Doses: Israel Gives 100,000 Vaccine Doses To 19 Countries

After jumping out to a quick start in its vaccination campaign, Israel announced Tuesday that it has decided to share almost 100,000 of its Moderna coronavirus vaccines with about 19 countries. While Israel does not produce vaccines, Netanyahu has moved aggressively to secure enough vaccines for Israel’s 9.3 million people in deals with Pfizer and Moderna. In just under two months, Israel has vaccinated roughly half its population, one of the highest per capita rates in the world, and is aiming to have virtually all of its adults fully vaccinated by the end of next month. “Our supply is beyond what is needed by the citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu told reporters Tuesday. “We have more than enough to help where we can. It is mostly symbolic.” Netanyahu’s office said some vaccines would be shared with the Palestinians. Israel’s public broadcaster Kan said on Tuesday that the countries include Guatemala, Honduras, the Czech Republic and Hungary — nations that have all opened diplomatic missions in Jerusalem [or promised to do so] in recent years, as well as Italy and Chad, and other African countries that renewed diplomatic ties with Israel. On Wednesday, another Kan News report said that more countries were added to the list, including, Cyprus, Mauritania, Guatemala, the Maldives, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Guinea. Each country will receive between 1,000 and 5,000 doses. In Prague, the Czech prime minister, Andrej Babis, said Israel was donating 5,000 doses to his country after a request for assistance. He said the Moderna vaccines would be given to 2,500 soldiers assisting in Czech hospitals. In Honduras, President Juan Orlando Hernández tweeted about 5,000 doses coming from Israel. He said they will be reserved for health workers. An Israeli official confirmed deals with Guatemala, Honduras and the Czech Republic. He said the vaccines were in response to requests from friendly countries, and not in exchange for any diplomatic favors. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter with the media. Netanyahu’s main rival and governing partner, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, harshly criticized the arrangements, saying they had been reached without any governmental deliberations. “The fact that Netanyahu trades in vaccines of Israeli citizens that were paid for from their tax money without any accountability shows that he thinks he is running a kingdom and not a state,” Gantz wrote on Twitter. Israel this month delivered 2,000 doses of Moderna vaccines to the Palestinian Authority for frontline medical workers in the West Bank, and it has pledged to share a total of 5,000 doses. But otherwise, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas so far has received just 10,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. An Abbas rival, meanwhile, organized the delivery of an additional 20,000 doses of the Russian vaccine to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip this week from the United Arab Emirates. Together, these doses are a tiny fraction of what the Palestinians need. Abbas is waiting for larger quantities from a World Health Organization program for poorer nations and other sources, but an exact delivery date is unclear. Both Russia and China have developed their own vaccines and used their supplies to wield global influence. (YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem & AP)

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Benshitrit Family Wil Get Up From Shiva Just In Time For Purim

Rabbi Yehuda Benshitrit continues to sit shiva with his four small children for his wife & their unborn child, who passed away from coronavirus complications. Though the general atmosphere in Israel right now is a happy one, with children already filling the streets in their costumes, the joy of the rest of the world only serves to compound the deep pain that the young children and their father are feeling. This year, Purim will be very different in the Benshitrit household. Last year, they happily dressed up, ate with family, and walked hand in hand with their mother down the streets greeting neighbors. Now, after the tragic passing of Osnat at just 32 years old, they will likely go without costumes or music, with fanfare or meal. As their friends celebrate and play outside, the devastated young boys will think only of the beginning of this week, when photographers captured heartbreaking photos of them wrapping their arms around the body of their beloved mother, and refusing to let go. Those close to the family ask that anyone who is moved by their story help the Benshitrit family by donating to their emergency fund. Rabbi Benshitrit’s income is not enough on its own to support his family, and they have a long and difficult journey ahead of them. CLICK HERE TO HELP 

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US: Human Rights Will Be ‘Central’ To Relations With Egypt

The Biden administration on Tuesday told Egypt that human rights will be “central” to its policy in dealing with the key Arab state and major American partner in the Middle East. The pronouncement came just a week after the administration approved a nearly $200 million missile sale to Egypt despite concerns about Cairo’s jailing of dissidents, including American citizens and their families. It was not immediately clear how the new emphasis on human rights would manifest itself. The Trump administration had largely given Egypt’s leadership a pass on human rights. In addition to rights issues, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in a phone call on Tuesday that the U.S. is looking closely at Egyptian plans to buy advanced fighter jets from Russia. The timeframe for the jets’ delivery has not yet been set, but the U.S. in 2019 warned that Egypt risks American sanctions if it purchases them. “The secretary raised concerns over human rights, which he emphasized would be central to the U.S.-Egypt bilateral relationship, and Egypt’s potential procurement of Su-35 fighter aircraft from Russia,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. Price said Blinken had underscored the U.S. commitment to Egypt’s security and role as a stabilizing force in the volatile region and pledged to continue support for Egyptian counterterrorism cooperation in the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt, along with Israel and Jordan, is one of the largest Mideast recipients of American economic and military aid, but in recent years U.S. lawmakers have sought to condition that assistance on human rights improvements and reforms. Just a week ago, the Biden administration raised eyebrows and some alarm from human rights activists when it signed off on the $197 million sale of tactical missiles and associated engineering, technical and logistics support. The Feb. 16 announcement, which followed months of consultations between Cairo and the Trump administration, was made amid a continuing crackdown on dissidents by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi’s government. On Monday, el-Sissi met with Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of the U.S. Central Command. El-Sissi’s office said he expressed his commitment to Egypt-U.S. cooperation, particularly the well-established military cooperation, while the U.S. Embassy said they discussed shared security concerns and agreed on the strategic nature of the defense relationship. “Our defense relationship has endured — and will continue — for the benefit of both our great nations,” Gen. McKenzie was quoted as saying. Egyptian authorities have in recent years conducted a wide-ranging crackdown on dissent, jailing thousands of people, mainly Islamists, but also several well-known secular activists. Egypt this month released some prominent activists and journalists. However, rights groups accused authorities of targeting families of activists and rights defenders living abroad, in an apparent attempt to intimidate critics. Earlier Tuesday, Egyptian authorities released a university professor and activist after he spent more than a year in pre-trail detention. Hazem Hosny, a political science professor at Cairo University, was freed pending an investigation into allegations he disseminated false news and joined an outlawed group, according to his lawyer. (AP)

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Covid 19 and the Megillah: A Solution!

By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com There seems to be some misinformation that is out there regarding Megillah readings during the Covid pandemic.  The following was checked and approved by numerous Poskim and Morei Horaah. One May not fulfill the Mitzvah of hearing the Megillah on Zoom. Shuls should attempt to arrange for additional readings of the Megillah both for the night and morning readings.   This is so that the shuls can maintain adequate social distancing. People in quarantine who cannot read the Megillah themselves should try to obtain a kosher megillah for both readings and read aloud while following a tape recording or on zoom.  If they have a kosher Megillah, they may recite a bracha. If they do not have a kosher Megillah then they may hear the Megillah reading on zoom – but they have NOT FULFILLED the Mitzvah.  It is just so that the Megillah reading not be forgotten.   No brachos should be recited. If one can obtain a kosher Megillah – then follow along while listening to the youtube link below. https://youtu.be/PxgDPdPxgpE It is a tremendous Mitzvah to loan the home-bound a kosher Megillah and provide them with the link above. The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com

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Government Deliberates Extending Lockdown in Jerusalem

After the government voted unanimously to initiate a nighttime curfew over Purim weekend, the ministers realized that the majority of the large parties that would normally be held in Jerusalem would be taking place after the holiday was over, i.e. Sunday night. With the curfew set to end on Saturday night, the Health Ministry is weighing whether or not to extend the curfew in Jerusalem specifically, to include Sunday night as well. The curfew is currently slated to apply across the country every evening from Thursday night until Sunday morning, from 8:30 p.m. until 5:00 a.m. Deputy Health Minister, MK Yoav Kisch said on Wednesday, that the ministry is deliberating whether or not to extend the curfew and apply it only to Jerusalem and the surrounding area. Any extension would need ratification by the government prior to its application. (YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)

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Biden Moves To Reengage With Palestinians After Israel Focus

The Biden administration is moving slowly but surely toward reengaging with the Palestinians after a near total absence of official contact during former President Donald Trump’s four years in office. As American officials plan steps to restore direct ties with the Palestinian leadership, Biden’s national security team is taking steps to restore relations that had been severed while Trump pursued a Mideast policy focused largely around Israel, America’s closest partner in the region. On Tuesday, for the second time in two days, Biden’s administration categorically embraced a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, something that Trump had been purposefully vague about while slashing aid to the Palestinians and taking steps to support Israel’s claims to land that the Palestinians want for an independent state. The State Department said Tuesday that a U.S. delegation attended a meeting of a Norwegian-run committee that serves as a clearinghouse for assistance to the Palestinians. Although little-known outside foreign policy circles, the so-called Ad Hoc Liaison Committee has been influential in the peace process since Israel and the Palestinians signed the Oslo Accords in 1993. “During the discussion, the United States reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to advancing prosperity, security, and freedom for both Israelis and Palestinians and to preserve the prospects of a negotiated two-state solution in which Israel lives in peace and security alongside a viable Palestinian state,” the State Department said in a statement. “The United States underscored the commitment to supporting economic and humanitarian assistance and the need to see progress on outstanding projects that will improve the lives of the Palestinian people, while urging all parties to avoid unilateral steps that make a two-state solution more difficult to achieve,” it said. U.S. participation in the meeting followed a Monday call between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israel’s foreign minister in which Blinken stressed that the new U.S. administration unambiguously supports a two-state solution. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is close to Trump, has eschewed the two-state solution. Biden spoke to Netanyahu last week for the first time as president after a delay that many found suspicious and suggestive of a major realignment in U.S. policy. Blinken, however, has spoken to Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi twice amid ongoing concern in Israel about Biden’s intentions in the region, particularly his desire to reenter the Iran nuclear deal. In Monday’s call, Blinken “emphasized the Biden administration’s belief that the two-state solution is the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living in peace alongside a viable and democratic Palestinian state,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said. The Trump administration had presented its own version of a two-state peace plan, though it would have required significant Palestinian concessions on territory and sovereignty. The Palestinians, however, rejected it out of hand and accused the U.S. of no longer being an honest peace broker after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moved the U.S. embassy to the city from Tel Aviv, cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority, closed the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington and rescinded a long-standing legal opinion that Israeli settlement activity is illegitimate under international law. (AP)

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Listen: Shmuly Schneider releases new hit song in time for Purim!!! 

  Arranged by Eli Klein and Yitzy Berry After releasing his debut single Hisyatzivu which he composed, followed by his heartfelt Chasoif- We Need Your Light this past Chanuka, popular wedding singer Shmuly Schneider is back – this time joining forces with the incredible duo Eli Klein and Yitzy Berry to produce this powerful track! So get on those dancing shoes and turn up the volume! L’chaim! Composed by Menachem Elbaum Music arranged by Eli Klein and Yitzy Berry Mixed and mastered by Eli Klein and Yitzy Berry Graphic design by TechniqCreative Animation by Blinq Media Original song feat. on MBD – Tomid Besimcha(1994)  Free Download: https://mostlymusic.com/collections/featured-music/products/shmuly-schneider-zoche-single Follow Shmuly on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/shmulyschn

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11 People On New York To Israel “Rescue Flight” Tested Positive for COVID

At least 11 people who were on-board the El Al rescue flight from New York to Israel have tested positive for COVID-19. The flight, which originated in New York landed in Ben Gurion on Tuesday, where all of the passengers underwent a mandatory COVID -19 test. During the test, 11 passengers were found to be infected with the virus. It was also reported that some of the passengers, many being Chareidi, were bragging on the flight about having forged their documents to show that they were negative for Covid-19. The report said that some passengers, after hearing the bragging, approached flight attendants to complain. The staff said that at that point, there was nothing they could do regarding the forging of documents. According to some passengers who were on board the flight, a number of people got up a prayed in a group without wearing masks, which was in direct violation of protocols for the flight. After the 11 people were confirmed to be infected, all of the passengers were told that they need to enter isolation and be re-tested in the next few days. The Health Ministry also informed them that an investigation of the incident was being transferred to the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency). (YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)

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