FILE PHOTO: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks live on television after casting his ballot in the Iranian presidential election in Tehran June 12, 2009. REUTERS/Caren Firouz/File Photo
April 21, 2019
By Parisa Hafezi
DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s top authority Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has replaced the head of the influential Revolutionary Guards Corps, state TV reported on Sunday, days after the United States designated the elite group a foreign terrorist organization.
The TV station did not give a reason for the change when it announced the appointment of Brigadier General Hossein Salami to the position.
“The Supreme Leader has appointed Salami as the new commander-in-chief of the Guards, who will replace Mohammad Ali Jafari,” it said.
Major General Jafari had held the post since September 2007.
President Donald Trump on April 8 designated the Guards a terrorist organization, in an unprecedented step that drew Iranian condemnation and raised concerns about retaliatory attacks on U.S. forces. The designation took effect on April 15.
Tehran retaliated by naming the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) as a terrorist organization and the U.S. government as a sponsor of terrorism.
The IRGC, created by late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini during Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, is more than a military force. It is also an industrial empire with political clout and is loyal to the supreme leader.
Comprising an estimated 125,000-strong military with army, navy and air units, the Guards also command the Basij, a religious volunteer paramilitary force, and control Iran’s missile programs. The Guards’ overseas Quds forces have fought Iran’s proxy wars in the region.
The IRGC is in charge of Iran’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs. Tehran has warned that it has missiles with a range of up to 2,000 kms (1,242 miles), putting Israel and U.S. military bases in the region within reach.
Salami, born in 1960, said in January that Iran’s strategy was to wipe “the Zionist regime” (Israel) off the political map, Iran’s state TV reported.
“We announce that if Israel takes any action to wage a war against us, it will definitely lead to its own elimination,” Salami said after an Israeli attack on Iranian targets in Syria in January, Iranian media reported.
Israel sees Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs as a threat to its existence. Iran says its nuclear work is for peaceful purposes only.
Israel, which Islamic Iran refuses to recognize, backed Trump’s move in May to quit a 2015 international deal on Iran’s nuclear program and welcomed Washington’s reimposition of sanctions on Tehran.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise, William Maclean)
A Brooklyn judge on Thursday ruled against a group of parents who challenged New York City’s recently imposed mandatory measles vaccination order, rejecting their arguments that the city’s public health authority exceeded its authority.
In a six-page decision rendered hours after a hearing on the matter, Judge Lawrence Knipel denied the parents’ petition seeking to lift the vaccination order, imposed last week to stem the worst measles outbreak to hit the city since 1991.
The judge sided with municipal health officials who defended the order as a rare but necessary step to contain a surge in the highly contagious disease that has infected at least 329 people so far, most of them children from Orthodox Jewish communities in the borough of Brooklyn.
Another 222 cases have been diagnosed elsewhere in New York state, mostly in a predominantly ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Rockland County, northwest of Manhattan.
The New York outbreaks are part of a larger resurgence of measles across the country, with at least 555 cases confirmed in 20 states, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health experts say the virus, which can cause severe complications and even death, has spread mostly among school-age children whose parents declined to get them vaccinated. Most profess philosophical or religious reasons, or cite concerns – debunked by medical science – that the three-way measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine may cause autism.
The judge rejected the parents’ contention that the vaccination order was excessive or coercive, noting it does not call for forcibly administering the vaccine to those who refuse it.
He also dismissed assertions in the petition disputing the “clear and present danger” of the outbreak. “Vaccination is known to extinguish the fire of contagion,” the judge said.
The vaccination order, which was extended this week, requires residents of certain affected Brooklyn neighborhoods to obtain the MMR vaccine unless they can otherwise demonstrate immunity to measles, or face a fine.
The court challenge was brought in Brooklyn’s Supreme Court by five people identified only as parents living in the affected neighborhoods. Their identities were kept confidential to protect their children’s’ privacy, their lawyers said.
In court on Thursday, they told Knipel the city had overstepped its authority and that quarantining the infected would be a preferable approach.
Robert Krakow, an attorney for the parents, estimated that just 0.0006 percent of the population of Brooklyn and Queens had measles. “That’s not an epidemic,” he said. “It’s not Ebola. It’s not smallpox.”
The health department’s lawyers argued that quarantining was ineffective because people carrying the virus can be contagious before symptoms appear.
The judge cited 39 cases diagnosed in Michigan that have been traced to an individual traveling from the Williamsburg community at the epicenter of Brooklyn’s outbreak. The surge in measles there originated with an unvaccinated child who became infected on a visit to Israel, where the highly contagious virus is also running rampant.
The number of measles cases worldwide nearly quadrupled in the first quarter of 2019 to 112,163 compared with the same period last year, the World Health Organization said this week.
Source: NewsMax America
Outspoken actor James Woods says firebrand freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., is a “blessing in disguise” for conservatives in 2020.
In a tweet, Woods responded to conservative commentator Mark Levin’s declaration he “won’t be silenced from criticizing America-hating anti-Semite Omar.”
The 71-year-ol Woods argued Omar “genuinely doesn’t recognize” the “deeply embedded” hatred she espouses.
“While her loathing of America and hatred of Jews is gut-wrenching, she may hand us the #2020Election singlehandedly. So let her bile flow freely. She is a blessing in disguise.”
Rep. Omar has come under fire for her controversial comments about Israel, and U.S. support of the nation — and most recently, for comments that were interpreted by conservatives as dismissive of the 9/11 terror attacks.
In a CNN interview this week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., argued there is “no taint” of anti-Semitism within the Democratic Party, and said she had not spoken to Omar about her controversial comments.
Woods also weighed in on the Pelosi remarks, including her claim far-leftisists in her party are only “like five people.”
“You are a memorial postage stamp at best,” Woods mocked, dismissing progressive women in Congress as “#ThreeWitchesOfTheEast,” in what may have been a slam at Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Omar, Western Journal reported.
Source: NewsMax Politics
Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin hands a letter of appointment to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as he is entrusted with forming the next government, during their meeting at the President’s residence in Jerusalem April 17, 2019. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
April 17, 2019
By Maayan Lubell
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s president on Wednesday nominated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to head the next government, after he won the backing of a majority of members of parliament following an April 9 election.
In office for the past decade, Netanyahu won a fifth term despite an announcement by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in February that he intends to charge the prime minister in three corruption cases. Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing.
“At a time of great turmoil in our region, we have managed not only to maintain the state’s security and stability, we have even managed to turn Israel into a rising world power,” Netanyahu said at the nomination ceremony after President Reuven Rivlin gave him the mandate to form a new government.
Netanyahu has 28 days, with a two-week extension if needed, to complete the task. If, as seems likely, he succeeds, he will become in July Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.
Netanyahu has said he intends to build a coalition with five far-right, right-wing and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties that would give the government, led by his Likud party, 65 seats. No party has ever won an outright majority in the 120-seat Knesset.
Among the most pressing issues awaiting the new government will be U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner said on Wednesday it would be unveiled once the new Israeli government is in place and after the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, which ends in early June. The plan, Kushner said, would require compromise by all parties.
A right-wing coalition in Israel would, however, likely object to any proposed territorial concessions to the Palestinians, who are boycotting the Trump administration over what they see as its pro-Israel bias.
Such a coalition would also be less likely to pressure Netanyahu to step down if he is indicted for corruption.
Netanyahu is under no legal obligation to resign if charges are brought against him and has said he plans to serve Israel for many more years. He can still argue, at a pre-trial hearing whose date has not been set, against the formal filing of bribery and fraud charges against him.
The election, brought forward from November, was widely seen in Israel as a bid by Netanyahu to win a renewed mandate in the hopes that it would strengthen his hand in the legal proceedings against him.
“I am not afraid of threats and I am not deterred by the media. The public has given me its full confidence, clearly and unequivocally, and I will continue to do everything in order to serve you, the citizens of Israel,” he said on Facebook on Tuesday.
(Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Gareth Jones)
FILE PHOTO: Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine Director at Human Rights Watch, is seen at his hearing at the district court in Jerusalem March 11, 2019. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
April 16, 2019
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The director of the Israeli office of Human Rights Watch on Tuesday lost his appeal against deportation, having been accused of promoting pro-Palestinian boycotts of Israel, the Justice Ministry said.
Omar Shakir had contested the revocation of his work permit last year. The New York-based watchdog has cast his case as a bid to suppress global criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
Israel says that Shakir, a U.S. citizen, supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Israel has criminalized BDS and has lobbied Western powers to follow suit.
Human Right Watch called the ruling “a new and dangerous interpretation of the law”, and said it would appeal to Israel’s Supreme Court and seek an injunction to let Shakir stay in Israel until any appeal was heard.
In its ruling on Tuesday, the Jerusalem District Court said that Shakir supported the boycott of Israel and of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. It gave him until May 1 to leave the country.
“The appellant continues to call publicly for a boycott of Israel, or parts of it, while at the same time asking (Israel) to open its doors to him,” said the ruling distributed by the Justice Ministry.
Human Right Watch said that neither it nor Shakir as its representative promoted boycotts of Israel.
“The decision sends the chilling message that those who criticize the involvement of businesses in serious abuses in Israeli settlements risk being barred from Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank,” said Tom Porteous, deputy program director at Human Rights Watch.
Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan welcomed the court’s decision. “We will not allow the promotion of boycotts under the disguise of ‘human rights activists’ as Shakir did,” Erdan said on Twitter.
The Palestinians and many countries consider settlements to be illegal under international law. Israel disputes this, citing security needs and biblical, historical and political connections to the land.
The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, territories Israel captured in 1967. Israel has annexed east Jerusalem and withdrawn from Gaza. The West Bank remains under Israeli military occupation with limited Palestinian self rule.
(Reporting by Stephen Farrell and Maayan Lubell; Writing by Maayan Lubell)
President Donald Trump has kept up the pressure on Rep. Ihan Omar, D-Minn., for her anti-Israel positions and questioning who led the 9/11 terrorist attacks, calling the Muslim congresswoman “extremely unpatriotic and extremely disrespectful to our country.”
“Look, she’s been very disrespectful to this country,” President Trump told ABC-5 in Minneapolis during a visit to Minnesota on Monday. “She’s been very disrespectful, frankly, to Israel.”
Forget about an apology from the president, he said, despite Rep. Omar’s claims she has been receiving death threats for her comments about 9/11, which she adds were incited by the president’s rebuke of her positions.
“She is somebody that doesn’t really understand, I think, life, real life, what it’s all about,” President Trump continued. “It’s unfortunate — she’s got a way about her that’s very, very bad, I think, for our country.”
President Trump had tweeted out a video of Rep. Omar’s comments about 9/11 and he told ABC-5 he has no regrets having done so.
“No, not at all,” he said.
Source: NewsMax Politics
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., warned Monday, if Democrats focus on an attack strategy against President Donald Trump ahead of the 2020 election, “we lose.”
In a wide-ranging town hall sponsored by Fox News and held in Bethlehem, Pa. — a state that helped Trump win in 2016 — an energetic and confident Sanders hit some of the hot-button issues likely to be part of his second run at the White House, including political strategy, taxing the rich, and a single-payer healthcare system.
“I don’t think the American people are proud that we have a president who is a pathological liar,” he said. “It does not give me pleasure to say that. I disagreed with George W. Bush on almost everything. Bush was not a pathological liar. . . . It’s hard to believe anything that he says.”
But, he added, “if we spend all of our time attacking . . . Democrats are going to lose. Our job is to lay out a vision that makes sense to the working families of this country, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Sanders also was grilled on his taxes, which were released Tuesday — and he was unapologetic for being a millionaire, emphasizing he voted against a 2017 tax bill from which he admittedly benefited.
“You raised the issue I’m a millionaire,” he said, adding: “It came from a book that I wrote, pretty good book, you might want to read it . . . and we made money. If anyone thinks that I should apologize for writing a best-selling book, I’m sorry, I’m not going to do it.
“But let me reiterate, I voted against [the tax cut bill].”
He also took a sharp slap at Trump’s refusal to release his taxes.
“The president watches your network a bit, right?” he asked hosts Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, which triggered laughs from the audience and smiles of the hosts.
Then, looking at the camera, Sanders said: “Hey, President Trump, my wife and I just released 10 years of our taxes. Please do the same.”
There were brief boos from an otherwise supportive audience when the subject of terminating a pregnancy at birth was was raised.
“I think that that happens very, very rarely,” he said, adding “it’s being made into a political issue, but at the end of the day, I believe that the decision over abortion belongs to a woman and her physician, not the federal government, not the state government.”
Sanders also promoted a single-payer healthcare system.
“We are not talking about government-run healthcare,” he said. “The Veterans Administration and most veterans think that that’s a pretty good healthcare system . . . What we are talking about is simply a single-payer insurance program, which means that you will have a card which says Medicare on it, you will go to any doctor that you want, you will go to any hospital that you want.”
Sanders also addressed outspoken criticism by Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., of Israel.
“I think that she has got to do a better job in speaking to the Jewish community, but if your question to me is do I think she’s anti-Semitic, no, I don’t,” he said.
“Here is the point, also, I’m Jewish. I lost my father’s family, devastated by Hitler, so this is an issue of some sensitivity to me. I will do everything in my power, and I hope every member of Congress will fight not only anti-Semitism, but racism and anti-Muslim activity, so we create a nondiscriminatory society.
“But it is not anti-Semitic to be critical of a right wing government in Israel. It is not anti-Semitic.”
Source: NewsMax America
FILE PHOTO: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seen as he leaves a police station in London, Britain April 11, 2019. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/File Photo
April 15, 2019
QUITO (Reuters) – Hacking attempts on Ecuadorean government institutions have doubled since the country revoked WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s asylum at its London embassy last week, an official said on Monday.
Telecommunications Vice Minister Patricio Real told reporters the websites for the country’s presidency, central bank and foreign ministry, among others, has received 40 million hacking attempts per day since Assange was dragged out of the embassy on Thursday by London police.
Assange took refuge in the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden in a sexual assault investigation.
Real did not attribute the hacking attempts to any group in particular, and said it would be difficult to identify the hackers. But he said the hacking group Anonymous, which has taken credit for cyberattacks on government institutions in the United States and Britain, had made a threat.
“During the afternoon of April 11 we jumped from 51st place to 31st place worldwide in terms of the volume of cyberattacks,” Real said.
After his arrest, U.S. prosecutors announced charges against Assange for allegedly conspiring with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to gain access to a government computer as part of one of the largest compromises of classified information in U.S. history.
Real said the hacking attempts had not led to the theft of any government data, but had made it difficult for employees and citizens to access accounts on the sites. He added that the South American country would receive cybersecurity assistance from Israel.
On Saturday, an Ecuadorean judge ordered a Swedish citizen close to Assange jailed pending trial for alleged involvement in hacking government computer systems.
Interior minister Maria Paula Romo has said the government has identified two Russian hackers living in Ecuador, though they have not yet been arrested.
(Reporting by Alexandria Valencia; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Susan Thomas)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Sunday that she has taken steps to ensure the safety of Rep. Ilhan Omar following President Donald Trump’s retweet of a video that purports to show the Minnesota Democrat being dismissive of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The California Democrat also called on Trump to take down the video. Soon after her public request, the video was no longer pinned to the top of Trump’s twitter feed.
Pelosi was among Democrats who had criticized Trump over the tweet, with some accusing him of trying to incite violence against the Muslim lawmaker who has already seen one upstate New York man face criminal charges for making death threats against her.
The White House defended Trump earlier Sunday, saying the president has a duty to highlight Omar’s history of making comments that others find offensive and that he wished no “ill will” upon the first-term lawmaker.
Pelosi, who was traveling in London, issued a statement saying she had spoken with congressional authorities after Trump’s tweet “to ensure that Capitol Police are conducting a security assessment to safeguard Congresswoman Omar, her family and her staff.”
“They will continue to monitor and address the threats she faces,” the speaker said. She called on Trump to discourage such behavior.
“The President’s words weigh a ton, and his hateful and inflammatory rhetoric creates real danger,” Pelosi said. “President Trump must take down his disrespectful and dangerous video.”
The video in Trump’s tweet included a snippet from a recent speech Omar gave to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, in which she described the 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center as “some people did something,” along with news footage of the hijacked airplanes hitting the Twin Towers. Trump captioned his tweet with: “WE WILL NEVER FORGET!”
Critics accuse Omar of offering a flippant description of the assailants behind the attack that killed nearly 3,000 people. She later sought to defend herself by tweeting a quote from President George W. Bush. Days after 9/11, the Republican president referred to the attackers as “people.”
Neither Trump’s tweet nor the video included Omar’s full quote or the context of her comments, which were about Muslims feeling that their civil liberties had eroded after the attacks. The tweet was posted atop Trump’s Twitter feed for much of Sunday, with more than 9 million views. It remained lower in the feed after Pelosi made her request for the video to be pulled.
Sanders questioned why Democrats weren’t following Trump’s example and calling out Omar, too. Democrats who criticized the president over the tweet defended Omar. Some also noted their past disagreements with her.
“Certainly the president is wishing no ill will and certainly not violence towards anyone, but the president is absolutely and should be calling out the congresswoman for her not only one time but history of anti-Semitic comments,” Sanders said. “The bigger question is why aren’t Democrats doing the same thing? It’s absolutely abhorrent the comments that she continues to make and has made and they look the other way.”
Omar repeatedly has pushed fellow Democrats into uncomfortable territory with comments about Israel and the strength of the Jewish state’s influence in Washington. She apologized for suggesting that lawmakers support Israel for pay and said she isn’t criticizing Jews. But she refused to take back a tweet in which she suggested American supporters of Israel “pledge allegiance” to a foreign country.
Rep. Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat whose constituents include Manhattan’s financial district, which was targeted on Sept. 11, 2001, said he had no issues with Omar’s characterization of the attack.
“I have had some problems with some of her other remarks, but not — but not with that one,” he said.
Sanders commented on “Fox News Sunday” and ABC’s “This Week.” Nadler appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union.
Source: NewsMax Politics