Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. – John 8.44

“I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.” Rev 3.9

“I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.” Rev. 2.9

GOD cursed the Satanists out of Jerusalem for life. Jesus focused on Jerusalem because it was the most unholy, evil, place on earth... still is today.

The nomadic Turks (ashkeNAZI & sephardic Jews) have been behind all the Evil in the world since Cain's children... using their News networks to create the news, and set the stage, to blame their opponents, for everything evil they do, across the globe.



Jewish Communist Dictum:- "Accuse the enemy of those crimes you are guilty of"

1.PROBLEM 2.REACTION 3.SOLUTION.

The Elite Jews create the illness, then sell the Cure. They create Chaos & Terrorism, then sell the solution... for more control and power.

Islam and Christianity have become servants of the Jews. Acting as physical and spiritual cattle for the Jews to harvest in building their Global Satanic Kingdom.

If I converted to Buddhism, does that make me Chinese? If I converted to Hinduism, does that make me Indian? When Khazarians (Turks) converted to Judaism in 740 BC and stole the true Semite Israelite Aegean identity, did that make the counterfeit Jews Hebrew? Well, the Jew World Order seems to think so. They crucified Jesus Christ for exposing them.

The invention of the Muslim Terrorist by our Jewish Governments... to keep us in fear, and to justify raping the World, and slaughtering billions of innocent families in every country for power and control...for their 2 horned God Lucifer... which the Jews named him "Morning Star."

Every Religion Church and Mosque has been infiltrated by the Jews. How do you know? ... if your Church has not discussed the below phrases by Christ... then it has been compromised.

Marching to Zion

Marching to Zion

New documentary by Paul Wittenberger and Steven L Anderson exposing the lies of Judaism and proving that the New Testament Christians are God’s chosen people.

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Purim – Jewish Blood libel

Purim – Jewish Blood libel

Jews harvesting the blood of the young

67 comments

In this image, the yenta Madonna and Guy Ritchie can be seen dressed up in festive costumes for a purim celebration of genocide with her local kabbalah friends. The jewish media often portrays this as just an innocent, harmless “jewish halloween”, but humans don’t drink blood and ritually slaughter babies for halloween.

For the year 2010 purim fell on February 28th through March 1st, as can be seen here, and I planned to have some information about this disgusting jewish holiday of blood lust, genocide, and cannibalism, before it came around, but better late than never. If you’re not familiar with purim, you probably should be, because it highlights just how pathetic and repulsive jewish behavior and beliefs are once unmasked.

Purim parades itself as an innocent celebration and a necessary part of jewish religion. The truth is, the so-called jewish religion is nothing more than a sick, twisted ideology that condones and promotes jewish hatred for non-jews, supremacism, racism, elitism, murder, genocide, rape, pedophilia, subversion, deceit, usury, and all the other ills jews were once very commonly known for in almost every country on earth.

If you doubt this, go watch the 1940 movie Jud Süß and have a look at how society really saw the jews, who have always behaved as intrusive, destructive, murderous parasites. This movie wasn’t Nazi propaganda, as a jew writer at the New Yorker just tried to say here, while slighting Subverted Nation as an “anti-semitic” website. Nice of them to mention me, but the way he tries to make the subversive nation wrecking, murderous, rapist jew Oppenheimer look like a victim is just plain rotten.

So, what about purim? What is it? To put it simply, purim is a festival held annually on the 14th of the hebrew month Adar, because supremacist jews don’t even use the same calender as we do. In human terms, the holiday usually falls around February or March, with Passover following a month later. During this time of purim, jews celebrate the mythical slaughter of 75,000 of their enemies, i.e. genocide.

Here a couple jews are dressed up for their celebration of purim in Israel. Can you tell which one is the real female? Or are both of them men? No doubt they would carry along an American made assault rifle, just in case a Palestinian might need to be offered up as a sacrifice.

The jews celebrate the mass murder of their enemies, on the pretext that these enemies of the jews are just evil people, who deserved to be viciously murdered in cold blood, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Historically, the enemies of the jews have been ALL of your ancestors, for those of you who are non-jewish. Historically, the enemy of the jew has been the hard working, ethical, human beings with a conscience, which makes us completely alien to jews.

For jews, conscience and compassion do not exist. They are merely traits of ours that they mimic so that they might manipulate us. In fact, almost all of the behavior of jews today is a mimicry of our own behavior. Behind closed doors, or out of sight of non-jewish “goyim” (cattle) as they call us, it is a whole different story.

Look at the story of purim as chabad jews (some of the most vile jews) describe it here:

The Persian empire of the 4th century BCE extended over 127 lands, and all the Jews were its subjects. When King Ahasuerus had his wife, Queen Vashti, executed for failing to follow his orders, he orchestrated a beauty pageant to find a new queen. A Jewish girl, Esther, found favor in his eyes and became the new queen—though she refused to divulge the identity of her nationality.

Meanwhile, the anti-Semitic Haman was appointed prime minister of the empire. Mordechai, the leader of the Jews (and Esther’s cousin) defied the king’s orders and refused to bow to Haman. Haman was incensed and convinced the king to issue a decree ordering the extermination of all the Jews on the 13th of Adar—a date chosen by a lottery Haman made.

Mordechai galvanized all the Jews, convincing them to repent, fast and pray to G‑d. Meanwhile, Esther asked the king and Haman to join her for a feast. At the feast, Esther revealed to the king her Jewish identity. Haman was hanged, Mordechai was appointed prime minister in his stead, and a new decree was issued—granting the Jews the right to defend themselves against their enemies.

On the 13th of Adar the Jews mobilized and killed many of their enemies. On the 14th of Adar they rested and celebrated.

This terrorist jew murderer walked into a mosque during purim with grenades and an M-16 and started slaughtering Muslim worshippers. Luckily, this pathetic wretch was stopped and beaten to death with fire extinguishers. This is how all jews should be dealt with.

Basically, a jewess weaseled her way into the King’s favor, much like Oppenheimer in the movie Jud Süß. She hid her identity, because up until just this last century, the entire world was well aware of the dangers that jews posed to sane people, and humanity as a whole. The righteous Haman did as many of us have done today. Declared that all jews should be exterminated for their crimes against our peoples, and their refusal to stop their destructive, murderous, treasonous, and subversive behavior.

Unfortunately, the jews are good at using sex, greed, and lust to undermine many people’s ability to think clearly. Since Esther, a jewess, had now slithered in and made herself the object of the king’s desire, she would wield this influence to have Haman killed for the decree he ordered. Don’t be fooled, because jews do not believe in or pray to a god, as stated above, or they wouldn’t have such a problem spelling the word god, which they substitute “G-d” for. Whatever they “pray” to is a dark, demonic force of evil energy, to which they also sacrifice human babies to.

After using her influence to stop Haman from righteously having jews exterminated, Esther used her sexual and emotional pull with the king to have Haman executed instead. Then the jews “mobilized” and murdered 75,000 people, to stifle any real opposition to their machinations. Haman’s ten sons were also executed by hanging, taking this despicable story down in morality another notch.  Again, this story is a fable, but that doesn’t stop jews from enjoying their feast of genocide. The jews celebrate this holiday with great passion, and great fanfare. Here’s more of what they do on purim:

a) Reading of the Megillah (Book of Esther), which recounts the story of the Purim miracle.

b) Giving money gifts to the poor.

c) Sending gifts of food to friends.

d) A festive Purim feast.

It is also customary for children to dress up in disguising costumes.

So, the jews ensure they read the story of slaughtering their enemies during this holiday to keep the thought of genocide against non-jews at the forefront of this murderous “celebration”. Next, they give gifts of money to poor jews, so that they might rise up to positions of power and influence over non-jews, and the kids dress up like the goblins that they are, before they enjoy their feast of blood lust.

You can click here to see the story of Baruch Goldstein, who walked into a Muslim mosque during purim with grenades and an American made M-16 rifle, and started slaughtering Muslims as part of his celebration. This is not the only murder by jews coinciding with purim, but the telling part is how jews erected a shrine to this murderer in Israel, and now hold him to be a hero and a martyr. How many other cultures purposely celebrate murderous terrorists like Goldstein?  Now matter how pathetic they sound, don’t dare show pity for the jew, they have none for you or the people they murder for these festive events.

Purim snacks include hamantashen or Haman’s Ears, treats fashioned to look like human body parts, which are often made with dried human blood. You still want these pathetic creatures hanging around your country?

How many other cultures can you really find evidence of people celebrating genocide and terrorism, besides the jews?  The answer is none, but this is a real life example of jewish mass murder on purim, and jew celebrating said murders.  One couldn’t ask for a better illustration, but the world could certainly ask to do without jews, so that we wouldn’t have to experience these murders to begin with.

The jews send gifts of food to each other, but what kind of food? You will find it interesting to note that on purim, jews celebrate by sharing a special treat called Hamantashen. This name is purposely distorted by jews, because in Yiddish it means “Haman’s pockets”, but it turns out there is another term for this treat that espouses a more truthful definition of this so-called “treat”. The treat is actually called “Oznei Haman” in hebrew, meaning “Haman’s ears”. Check it out here.

That’s right, on purim jews celebrate by giving each other gift baskets containing a “treat” that is meant to represent human body parts, while celebrating the murder of 75,000 of their enemies. Is the picture starting to become clear yet? Well, if you believe the jew at the New Yorker, this website is merely anti-semitic and therefore shouldn’t even be read at all! You’re lucky you made it this far!  Here is even more tasty snacks to tease jews with an appetite for human flesh:

Purim foods don’t end with just cookies. Kaveyos di Haman, meaning “Haman’s hair,” is a noodle dish tossed with a lemon sauce. And Keylitsh is an oversized challah made to represent the ropes that killed Haman.

Purim merely seems to fulfill the need jews have for fantasies of genocide and rivers of blood. The jews enjoy slaying their enemies by the thousands, and they have even far surpassed this by slaughtering millions upon millions of people in real life. The jews also know that most of you do not know about any of this, and it’s jews like the one at the New Yorker who work tirelessly to make sure that you never do.

Now that we’ve determined how vile the premise behind purim is, you might rightly wish to ask, how important is this murderous feast to the jews? Well, it turns out that it’s important enough for jews to forfeit a playoff game for their yeshiva high school girl’s basketball team, as evidenced here. These next generation jewish racists first tried to have the game rescheduled, so that they wouldn’t have to miss their celebration of murdering “goyim” or their playoff game.

Look at the smirks on the faces of these jewesses as they shake the hands of their bewildered non-jewish (goyim) opponents. It’s as if their faces are saying, “we will feast on your blood rather than play games with you, silly goy”.

These supremacist little beasts wanted the whole playoff schedule altered to suit their genocidal festival. When that didn’t work as planned, these murderous little demons decided it best not to play, with the excuse that they will be fasting before they celebrate genocide of the human cattle (goyim), meaning they wouldn’t be able to have water during their game play. To these jews, it’s far more important to party it up to rivers of blood and sacrifice, than it is to play a ball game with the cattle used for slaughter.

The article states, “the school did make an attempt to play”, but only if the “goyim”, ignorant of their genocidal feast, would change the whole damn schedule to suit the supremacist jews. In the end, the little jewesses showed up on the basketball court to forfeit their game, so that they may not forfeit their putrid holiday of hate and murder against non-jews.

There is no doubt, the little girls who shook their hands on the court that day, had no idea what the real reason was that these ghouls wouldn’t play. In fact, they probably thought it was a godly religious devotion that kept these beasts from dribbling basketballs with them, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.  The dribbling of human blood down their disgusting faces is far more important to these jewesses. This truth is such a polar opposite that the brainwashed children from the public schools would gasp at the sound of it, and cover their ears as if hearing it alone could make their ears bleed.

Yes indeed, because on purim, not only do jews celebrate genocide and murder, but as demonstrated with Baruch Goldstein, they often engage in mass murder and ritual murder of non-jews for purim.  Many don’t realize that the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was interestingly announced by George Bush during purim that year. You can see here his speech was given during purim 2003 (March 18-19).

The announcement of the invasion of Iraq and the bombing of Saddam’s palace were timed to coincide with the purim holiday of 2003. Is this bloody enough to appease whatever demon jews sacrifice humans to?

Subsequently, over 1 million Iraqis have been murdered and mutilated by depleted uranium, apache gunships, M1 Abrams tanks, and thousands of US Soldiers.  Many thousands of these Soldiers have also lost their lives, carrying out the purim initiated war against the Middle East, which has now spread from Iraq and Afghanistan to Pakistan, Yemen, and beyond.

You can even look here on wikipedia and see that the invasion was “preceded by an air strike on the Iraqi Presidential Palace on 19 March 2003”, making sure their attacks would coincide with their murderous purim holiday.

Now that we’ve established purim as a genocide festival, let’s take a look at another interesting, and much more important aspect that goes along with purim, ritual murder. It seems the jews have a thing for slicing and dicing humans, drying their blood, and eating it in some of the snacks mentioned above, shaped like human body parts.

At first that might sound silly, until you realize that almost every country that exiled the jews, counted ritual murder of non-jews among the many reasons for doing so. After eighty four countries go through this, you don’t want to sound ridiculous trying to write it off as “vicious libel”, but the vicious barbaric jew has no problem using the media to write it all off as mere slander.

Many people have herd the term “blood libel”, and I assure you, this is not merely an anti-semitic slander.  This is something that has been thoroughly documented throughout history.  In fact, it seems all throughout history are cases of ritual murder associated with purim.  Have a look at what Arnold Leese said in his book on jewish ritual murder here.

This feast is often celebrated by an exhibition of gluttony, intoxication, and curses on the memory of Haman; and even to this day in London, the Jewish bakers make cakes in the shape of human ears which are eaten by the Jews on this day, and are called “Haman’s Ears,” revealing once again the inherent hate and barbarism of the Jew in our midst. The two principal feast-days associated with Ritual Murder have been (1) Purim, and (2) Passover, the latter at Easter and the former about one month before it. When a Ritual Murder occurred at Purim, it was usually that of an adult Christian who was murdered for his blood; it is said that the blood was dried and the powder mixed into triangular cakes for eating; it is possible that the dried blood of a Purim murder might sometimes be used for the following Passover. When a Ritual Murder was done at Passover, it was usually that of a child under seven years old, as perfect a specimen as possible, who was not only bled white, but crucified, sometimes circumcised and crowned with thorns, tortured, beaten, stabbed, and sometimes finished off by wounding in the side in imitation of the murder of Christ. The blood taken from the child was mixed either in the powdered state or otherwise into the Passover bread. Another festival at which it is thought that Ritual Murder has sometimes been indulged in is Chanucah, which occurs in December, commemorating the recovery of Jerusalem under the Maccabees in B.C. 165. Examples of Purim murders are those of Damascus, Rhodes, Xanten Polna, Gladbeck and Paderborn.

Isn’t it lovely how jews poke babies full of holes, and drain their blood into a basin, and all that to celebrate the murder of 75,000 non-jews! Purim is a wonderful festival of hatered, racism, and genocid!

It can easily be seen that people have been talking about jewish ritual murder for centuries.  This is but one example.  There are literally hundreds of sources of information on known cases of jewish ritual murder all around the globe. Leese’s book covers a large number of ritual murders of a long period of time.

In the book, Leese even gets it right by attributing this to a racial issue, but seems to muddy the water about what jews are as a race, confusing things with the khazar theory among others. That aside, at least he keeps the issue focused on the jewish race (however he defines it) while laying out tons of undeniable evidence for jewish ritual murder, and the book is a valuable reference none the less.

There are other authors covering this topic as well, some of which you can see mentioned  here where the ritual murders in Damascus, and many others are covered in fairly good detail. Here is a glimpse of just how many cases there really are to investigate. However, I implore you to do more research on your own if you feel you must. This subject is so far stranger than fiction, you couldn’t make it up if you tried.

1750s–Algeria: bribe money was used to quash the facts. 1791–Pera (Constantinople): Helmut Schramm records the ritual murder of a young Greek child. 1810–Aleppo, Syria: murder of a woman at Easter/Purim time. 1812–Isle Of Corfu: three Jews were convicted in the murder of three children. Monniot in Le Crime Rituel Chez Les Juifs says the records were kept in the official archives of the island. 1821–Beirut, Lebanon: an adult Christian male was the victim. 1824–Beirut: Fatallah Sayegh, a Muslim, was slain for ritual purposes. 1824–Schramm cites yet another child ritual murder case on Corfu. 1826-1827–Antioch: at Easter, two Christian boys were ceremonially slain. 1829–Hama, Syria: the Jews of Hama slew a Muslim girl, and subsequently were expelled from the city. 1834–Tripoli, Libya: a Christian Greek fell victim. 1838–Jerusalem: There was an attempt to murder a Muslim for ritual purposes. 1847–Lebanon: Jews were apprehended after murdering a Christian boy.[3] Nor were these the last cases to arise in Damascus, another occurring in 1890.[4]

The following two cases bear most directly on the Damascus murders.

1839–Beirut, Lebanon: Both Sir Richard Burton and Arnold Leese mention that inspectors detected a mysterious flask of blood while it passed through the Customs House in Beirut. Leese gives the details: “A Remittance of Blood. During the Damascus Ritual Murder trial, the French Consul, Comte de Ratti-Menton, by whose energy and determination the case was brought to light, received a letter from Comte de Suzannet, who wrote: ‘Nearly a year ago, a box arrived at the custom-house that a Jew came to claim; on being asked to open it, he refused and offered first 100 Piastres, then 200, then 300, then 1,000 and at last 10,000 Piastres (2,500 Francs). The custom-house official persisted, and opened the box, discovering therein a bottle of blood. On asking the Jew for an explanation, the latter said that they had the custom of preserving the blood of their Grand Rabbis or important men. He was allowed to go, and left for Jerusalem.’ Comte Ratti-Menton (also French Consul for Damascus) later looked for the chief of the custom-house, but found that he had died. His successor only vaguely recollected the affair; but he confirmed that the box had several bottles of red liquid. The man who came to claim the shipment was Aaron Stambouli of Damascus, who had told him the substance was an efficacious drug.” The quick death of the chief custom-house officer is not surprising; witnesses to the crimes of Israel are subject to a sudden demise. But the reader will perhaps be more interested by the fact that Aaron Stambouli was one of those found guilty in the Damascus murders the very next year.![5]

1840–Isle of Rhodes: This transpired at almost the same time as the better-known Damascus Affair. The circumstances are familiar: a small boy, missing, last seen going into a home in the Jewish Quarter. A public outrage and demand for action followed, and Ottoman Governor Yusuf Pasha ordered an investigation. As in Damascus, this was at the instigation of several European Consuls. From here on, the Rhodes Case is a mishmash of charges, counter-charges and allegations. The Alliance Israelite Universelles of France and other important Judaic organizations of the day, bribed the authorities, paralleling what happened in Damascus. In yet another parallel, Austria withdrew its call for an investigation and supported dismissal of all charges. Sir Moses Montefiore, Adolph Cremieux, and the Rothchild barons (financiers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) were successful — the charges were dropped and the accused freed. The Greek Orthodox clergy and European consuls were left holding the bag, their honor impugned by involvement in a case with no results. And the victim and his killers? The case remained unsolved. No one else was ever accused.

1839-1840 were active years for the ritual murder cult. Jonathan Frankel displays a revealing map, showing cases that year not only in Damascus and Rhodes, but at four other locations as well: Constantinople and Smyrna in the Near East as well as Schwetz, Prussia, and Julich, Bavaria.[6] He also says: “Falling into this category, too, were the many criminal investigations and trials in which Jews were accused of ritual murder. Probably the best-known of such events in the period under discussion here was the Beiliss Trial held in Kiev in 1913. Among contemporaries, especially the Jews in the countries involved, though, the cases of Tisza-Eszlar in 1882 (in Hungary), of Xanten in 1891 (in Prussia), and of Polna in 1899 (in Bohemia) engendered hardly less tension. The Damascus affair of 1840, as already noted, caused an extraordinary sensation in its own time.”[7] As the reader will soon see, this is an understatement.

I don’t want to even begin to attempt covering the hundreds of cases of jewish ritual murder throughout history, or even just the ones pertaining to purim itself.  I think it has been clearly demonstrated here that jews enjoy a festival of genocide, blood lust, ritual murder, drunkenness, and gluttony for what they call purim.  Some might have seen the story of the girls who avoided playing during their purim as just an innocent religious observance, but knowing what purim really means gives the entire thing a new twist. Again, jews aren’t a religion anyway, they are a twisted race of inbred neanderthal like beasts that feast on human flesh and blood.

Accounts of jewish ritual murder during purim are too many to list. The jews have been draining the blood of their conscious victims, slitting their throats to bleed them out, and making treats with human blood for millenium.

Passover is not long away, just about a month from now.  Keep a close eye on your children, before they end up crucified, and drained of their blood while still conscious.  Anyone defending jews and their behavior needs to know and understand jewish ritual murder of non-jews.  This behavior is beyond unacceptable, it’s so filthy fucking disgusting, that people should immediately want all of their lands rid of the jew.

Haman tried to facilitate just such a thing, by ridding Persia of jews in the fable of Esther, the infiltrating subversive seductress jewess who’s slimy, slutty tactics still give her people reason to rejoice today.  Much like the tales of little jew girls escaping death camps to grow up with a pack of wolves, or shrunken jew heads and jew skin lampshades, this too is a fable, but is still none the less used as a way for jews to revel in blood sacrifice, ritual murder, and genocide against all non-jews.

People need to stop thinking of jews as humans with a conscience like themselves.  Do these sound like the kind of people you want running your courts, governments, banking system, corporations, media, etc?  Do you think these blood thirsty beasts should be allowed quarter amongst our people, so that they might dine on the flesh of our children?  How many jews are a safe number to keep around in light of the facts?  If you have human compassion, a human conscience, and even one iota of common sense, your natural response will be “not a single fucking one”.

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5D Ascension Shift: The Human Genie Emerges from the Bottle

5D Ascension Shift: The Human Genie Emerges from the Bottle

5D Ascension Shift: The Human Genie Emerges from the BottleApril 16th, 2021

By Open

Contributing Writer for Wake Up World

In a recent Livestream I foretold that I felt there was a 6 month window to keep the field open to support a widespread emergence of consciousness out of lockdown and the bogus pandemic measures. As we progress through Easter, the signs are positive: in various countries, groups of people, especially the young, are emerging in party mode. I’ve no doubt the shadowstate has plenty more shenanigans up its sleeve, however, when I feel into the field, what comes to me is that “The Genie is out of the Bottle”…

The Badger, the Snake and the Fox

In my LiveStream (which you can watch here…Energy Workers Unite) I recounted the parable of the honey badger, the snake and the fox, based on an actual event you can watch on youtube.

A very diminutive and humble honey badger (that to me in the parable represented humanity) is suddenly seized upon by a humungous python and constricted in a vice like grip. The end looks nye, until that is, along comes a wily old fox, who for some inexplicable reason decides to intervene. The fox takes a firm grip of the python’s tail and starts to yank on it. The snake is distracted and just for a moment relaxes its grip on the honey badger; just long enough for the badger to ease around a little, so as to take a fierce bite at the snakes only weak point – just behind the head. The badger sinks in his teeth and holds on for dear life. Now the tables are turned. The snake weakens and in short order, unravels dead on the ground. The diminuitive badger then drags the huge python off to its den, to no doubt provide a welcome meal for its cubs for several days to come.

For me the story spoke directly into the current situation on the planet – I’m always shown these metaphors from nature. Everything is interconnected and speaking to us, assuming we’re prepared to take notice and inquire. In the story, to me, the fox represents the countless unseen energy workers around the planet, quietly working the field “off the radar”. They’re opening up flows of consciousness, which I believe plenty are now tapping into. I get the feeling sense, that as I connect into the field this Easter, there’s a wave of freedom rippling around the world. People are departing the bogus mainstream narrative in droves.

Are You A Lightworker? We Were Seeded for These Times

2020 was the Years of the Great Parting

When we look back through history, as we rest on 5D beaches some day, we’ll most likely recount the year 2020 – the year of the pandemic, the parting of the waves. Plenty will no doubt head into the synthetic reality being created in the name of the 4th Industrial Revolution. As sad as this is, nevertheless, I encourage all lightworkers to accept the choices that some people are clearly making.

Not everyone is ready for the shift into 5D. Plenty are a long way from it, and if somehow they were forced into that tremendous metamorphosis in just a short period of time, it would be for them highly destructive. Plenty are willingly choosing the synthetic reality to manifest and express something in their karma to unravel through.

And that’s entirely necessary for them.

The most important thing lightworkers can do is to embody your soul, shine the light, and walk your path. No matter what. It is not your responsibility to drag people along with you. No matter how much you love and care for them, and even if they are biological family. Their path is theirs to walk, just as is yours. As they witness your shining light, yes, they’ll no doubt be encouraged to wake up, but you can’t force that on anyone. It will happen to the soul when the timing is right. And let’s be clear, no one can be carried into the 5D. That’s a path each has to walk by themselves, when they are ready.

Discover How to walk the Path into 5D: Openhand’s 5D Ascension Program

2021 is the Years of Eagle Eye Focus

There is still much shenanigens going on around us, and no doubt for some time to come. The external situation is confused and confusing, the mainstream media little more than propaganda for the shadowstate. It’s essential therefore to turn inwards and to shift your orientation in life.

How do I mean exactly?

Whereas 2020 was all about reclaiming sovereignty, now it’s walking the path with spiritual alignment. It’s time to shift how we create reality. Rather than struggling to fix the outer world in some way, which merely contracts you into it, instead, it’s about focussing on the inflow of your soul and paying attention to that. The outer world starts to shape from the inner flow of soul consciousness itself.

As you witness more signs and synchronicity, as you feel the subtle perceptions and nuances of interrelation, then the outer landscape weaves itself miraculously from what you’re perceiving. All you have to do is now step into that new shaping reality as a path of light is forming under your feet.

This is what I meant by having Eagle Eye focus in 2021 – focus within, feel the soul, make aligned choices accordingly. Focus on the path of light.

Flying with Eagle-Eye Spiritual Focus in 2021

Becoming the Genie

It’s time to take the lid off your bottle and become the spiritual genie. If you’re reading this, you can do it. You’ll be amazed at just how alchemical and powerfully creative your soul consciousness is. But you do have to trust, like never before, and commit – commit to the feeling sense that now wants to illuminate your world and the next step.

My friends we have a golden opportunity unfolding before us. Release the grief you might feel for those who will head into the synthetic reality. That might well be their path and what their karma chooses. But YOU don’t have to go that way. And assuming a strong wave of humanity does wake up to challenge the state narrative, as I believe it will, then they’ll be enough 3D freedom for us to function and operate. We’ll be able to move around the planet and connect with each other in the field, to uplift us to ever greater heights.

I wish you all well at this pivotal point. Open the bottle on your consciousness. Let your soul out to express freely and without limitation – with joy and uplifting lightness. Shine your light out into the world. Watch for the universe sending you loving reflections of signs and synchronicity. Bathe in those and ripple that light far afield for plenty more to experience. I have a clear sense, that when we look back in years to come, we’ll say, “yes, that’s when the battle for the feedom of a new humanity was won”.

If you resonate with my sharing, do consider getting involved in Openhand’s 5D Ascension Program. It’s all about unleashing your spiritual genie for your own personal good and that of the planet:

Openhand 5D Ascension Program

In loving support

Open 5D Ascension Shift: The Human Genie Emerges from the Bottle

5D Ascension Shift: The Human Genie Emerges from the Bottle5D Ascension Shift: The Human Genie Emerges from the Bottle

Originally published at www.openhandweb.org and reproduced here with permission.

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5D Ascension Shift: The Human Genie Emerges from the Bottle

5D Ascension Shift: The Human Genie Emerges from the Bottle

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5D Ascension Shift: The Human Genie Emerges from the Bottle

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5D Ascension Shift: The Human Genie Emerges from the Bottle



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FedEx shooting: ‘Multiple victims’ as gunman enters facility near Indianapolis airport

At least eight people sustained gunshot wounds and a suspected shooter is believed to have taken his own life after a “mass casualty situation” was reported at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, according to Indianapolis Metropolitan police department spokesperson Genae Cook.

The incident happened at the building located at 8951 Mirabel Road in Indianapolis, WRTV reported. Multiple victims have been reported. The facility is located near the Indianapolis international airport.

Ms Cook told the media that the shooter is believed to have taken his own life and said that there was no “active threat” to the community at this time. At least eight are believed to have sustained gunshot wounds.

Those with gunshot injuries have been taken to hospitals as per local reports, however, the police didn’t yet confirm the seriousness of the injuries.

Sgt. John Perrine, Information Officer with the Indiana State Police Public, requested commuters to take alternate routes. He said: “I-70 is closed in both directions between I-465 and Ronald Regan Pkwy due to police activity in the area. Please seek alternate routes.”

CNN reported that FedEx is cooperating with the investigating agencies. Jim Masilak told CNN: “Safety is our top priority, and our thoughts are with all those who are affected. We are working to gather more information and are cooperating with investigating authorities.”

Family members of the victims were distraught. Fox 59 quoted a man, Ian Johnston, whose wife works at the facility. She texted him to inform him of the shooting, he told reporters.

“My wife works in there and she texted me to tell me there’s an active shooter and we communicated back and forth for a while, she’s since notified me she’s okay.” He added, “After I communicated with her for a while, then it went silent for a while, so I came here just to see what was going on and she texted me I’m okay.”

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UK summons Russian ambassador over ‘malign activity’

LONDON, United Kingdom — Britain on Thursday said it had summoned the Russian ambassador in the UK to express its deep concern at what it called Moscow’s “pattern of malign activity.”

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said that included “cyber intrusions, interference in democratic processes, and the build-up of military forces near the Ukrainian border and in illegally annexed Crimea.”

It came on the same day the United States announced sanctions and the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats in retaliation for what Washington says was the Kremlin’s US election interference, a massive cyberattack, and other hostile activity.

The British government said it “made clear the UK’s support for the actions announced by President Biden” as Russia’s top envoy in London was summoned to see FCDO Permanent Undersecretary Philip Barton.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, left, with the new Permanent Under Secretary Philip Barton arrive at the newly named Foreign, Commonwealth and Development office in London, September 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, Pool)

“He set out the UK assessment that the Russian Intelligence Services were behind the SolarWinds compromise,” an FCDO spokesperson said in a statement, referring to a hack last year that cybersecurity experts and Western nations blame on Russia.

“He informed the Ambassador that the UK will continue to work with our allies to call out and counter malign operations by the Russian Intelligence Services.”

Barton also stated Britain’s concern at the recent build-up of Russian military forces near the Ukrainian border and in Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014, the spokesperson added.

“These activities are threatening and destabilizing.

“Russia needs to cease its provocations and de-escalate tensions in line with its international obligations.”

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Adam Toledo: Bodycam video shows 13-year-old was unarmed and compliant when shot dead by police

Body camera footage of the police killing of 13-year-old Adam Toledo appears to show an officer firing a single round into his chest less than a second after he turns around with his hands up.

It does not appear in the video that Adam was holding a weapon when he turned around, and his hands were up.

The teenager was shot and killed in an alleyway in Chicago in the early hours of 29 March.

The video footage was released Thursday by Chicago’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability. Adam’s family viewed it on Wednesday.

During a press conference on Thursday, city mayor Lori Lightfoot said she watched the video and called it “excruciating” while holding back tears.

Adeena Weiss Ortiz, an attorney for Adam’s family, said: “At the time Adam was shot, he did not have a gun.”

She added: “That child complied. Adam complied with the officer’s request. The officer saw his hands were up and he pulled the trigger.”

The city’s police force has prepared for protests in the wake of the video’s release. Both Ms Lightfoot and Adam’s family have called for any demonstrations to be peaceful.

In a joint statement, Adam’s family and the mayor said: “We acknowledge that the release of this video is the first step in the process toward the healing of the family, the community and our city.

“We understand that the release of this video will be incredibly painful and elicit an emotional response to all who view it, and we ask that people express themselves peacefully.”

The shooting came in the wake of a chase by police of Adam Toledo and Ruben Roman, 21, after officers were called following reports of shots being fired near by.

The bodycam footage shows a police officer running down an alley shouting: “Freeze stop! Stop right f***ing now! Hey show me your f***ing hands! Drop it, drop it.”

As the boy turns round with his hands raised, the officer fires once. The teenager falls to the ground and the officer runs over to him and bends down, shouting “look at me, look at me, look at me – you all right?”, and “stay with me, stay with me”, as he lifts his shirt to find the wound and calls for medical support.

As other officers arrive and try to save Toledo, the officer who shot him walks away from the scene and appears to be crying. Shortly after, another officer calls over the police radio and instructs officers at the scene to turn off their cameras.

Mr Roman was arrested at the scene.

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How Israel kept the Arab Spring from becoming the winter of its discontent

Ten years ago, in late 2010 and early 2011, the Arab world experienced a series of convulsions that tore apart the Middle East as we knew it. Starting in Tunisia, where a young fruit vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire to protest corruption and police abuse, angry demonstrations spread throughout the region. Some of the world’s longest-ruling leaders were toppled within months. There was a sense of optimism, that the long-suffering citizens of Arab nations were finally rising up to demand basic human rights and dignity in secular, youth-led popular uprisings.

Observers in Israel were largely of a different mind. Tacit understandings and written agreements with Arab autocrats — demonstrably not with the masses — were long a foundation of Israel’s national security mindset. Now figures like Hosni Mubarak, who had maintained the peace treaty as eight Israel prime ministers came and went, were being pushed out, and Israel’s ties with the Arab world, both official and undeclared, were at risk of being undone by the Arab street that had never fully accepted them.

Unlike the wave of anti-Communist demonstrations that bolstered liberal democracy in the Eastern Bloc two decades earlier, in the Middle East Islamists would seize power from secular dictators, Israeli political and military leaders feared.

‘‘When some people in the West see what’s happening in Egypt, they see Europe 1989,’’ said an Israeli official. ‘‘We see it as Tehran 1979.’’

In many places, Israel’s fears became reality in short order. The Muslim Brotherhood and affiliated parties won elections in Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt. Protests spread across Jordan, with which Israel has had a peace treaty since 1994 that is vital to maintaining quiet in the West Bank and over the Temple Mount. Jihadists were pouring into Syria, filling the vacuum left by the collapsing Syrian army, which had maintained calm along Israel’s Golan Heights frontier for decades despite the enmity between the countries.

An Egyptian protester prepares to hang an effigy representing Hosni Mubarak at Tahrir Square last Friday (photo credit: AP/Amr Nabil)

An Egyptian protester prepares to hang an effigy representing Hosni Mubarak at Tahrir Square (AP/Amr Nabil)

Israel was the big loser in what became known as the Arab Spring, argued both Israeli and international pundits.

A decade later — astonishingly — the headlines look very different. “Ten years on, the Arab Spring’s biggest winner is Israel,” wrote Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer in December. “Why Israel is now delighted about the Arab Spring,” reads a January Middle East Eye headline.

How did Israel manage to emerge from a complex, fast-moving, and dangerous upheaval as a “winner”?

The descent

Israel’s approach over the decades has been to seek security and stability, which usually came via Arab strongmen at the head of repressive regimes who could clamp down on violence against Israel. While itself committed to representative democracy, Jerusalem has no interest in weak democratically elected leaders subject to the will of an anti-Israel and sometimes anti-Semitic public.

Initially, the Arab Spring challenged that approach. Yet looking back a decade later, it is hard to recall the initial hope about the blossoming of democracy across the Arab world. Today, the region is traumatized by arguably its most destructive decade of the modern era, with a few fitful moves toward political freedom in some parts of the Middle East the only lasting legacies of the Arab Spring.

The failure of democracy to take hold may have been a tragedy for hundreds of millions of freedom-seeking Middle Easterners, but for Israel, located in what then-defense minister Ehud Barak described as a “bad neighborhood,” it meant one less thing to worry about.

But that did not mean Israel was home free. As spring turned to winter, the collapse of autocratic regimes created power vacuums that set in motion a series of negative developments on the ground that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the IDF leadership had to confront.

Libyan revolutionary fighters load their machine gun during an attack against pro-Gadhafi forces in 2011. (photo credit: AP/Bela Szandelszky)

Libyan revolutionary fighters load their machine gun during an attack against pro-Gadhafi forces in 2011. (AP/Bela Szandelszky)

Iran took advantage of the collapse of traditional pillars of the Arab world to spread its influence through proxies and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’s Quds Force. Turkey, which had recently taken an overtly confrontational turn against Israel under prime minister (and later president) Recep Tayyip Erdogan, also took advantage of the upheaval by trying to position itself as the head of the Sunni Islamist camp. The stance gave Erdogan a platform as a leading critic of Israel and champion of the Palestinians, especially Hamas.

With time, Jerusalem also had to deal with the return to the region of Moscow, which had in the past supported Israel’s enemies and had even sent troops to fight Israeli forces on the battlefield.

In this environment, Israel had to make challenging decisions about whom to support, whom to strike, and how to maneuver a long period of consistent uncertainty.

Betrayal by Uncle Sam

Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was a reliable partner for Israel since he assumed office in 1981. While Israel changed leaders, battled Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza, and signed agreements with Yasser Arafat and King Hussein of Jordan, Mubarak was one of the constants Israel could rely on.

When massive sustained protests broke out in Cairo’s Tahrir Square starting on January 25, 2011, Israeli leaders understood that they were on the brink of a sea change that could destabilize the whole region.

“Very soon it was clear that it’s a kind of chain reaction,” said Itai Brun, who was the head of the IDF’s Intelligence Directorate Analysis Division from 2011 to 2015. “What is happening in Tunisia is also happening in the Gulf, and also in Egypt and also in Libya.”

In Israel, military analysts and others fretted about an Islamist takeover on their border and some leaders publicly backed Mubarak.

“We always have had and still have great respect for President Mubarak,” declared president Shimon Peres on January 31, 2011.

Hours later, US president Barack Obama said in a statement that he told Mubarak that an orderly transition “must begin now.” On February 11, Egypt’s vice president Omar Suleiman announced that Mubarak had stepped down, and that the military was taking control of the country until elections could be held.

Netanyahu and Mubarak at Sharm Al-Sheikh, January 2011 (photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO)

Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Hosni Mubarak at Sharm Al-Sheikh, in January 2011 (photo: Moshe Milner/GPO)

Mubarak’s fall might have been a disaster in Israeli eyes, but Netanyahu had few options to protect Israel’s ally.

“I think Israel’s influence was limited as the US saw its own ability to change things as limited,” said Daniel Byman, senior fellow at the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.

For Israel, the US-backed ouster of Mubarak was seen as a major blow to Israel’s peace agreement with Egypt. Netanyahu urged Obama and European leaders to ensure that the Egyptians honor the deal if they wish to gain legitimacy in Western eyes.

“We can do one only thing, warn the international community that they should put pressure on Egypt to keep the peace with Israel, whatever government emerges,” former Israeli ambassador Zvi Mazel told VOA news at the time. “If it is the Muslim Brotherhood, there will be, it may lead, it may lead to war. But is this the wish of the people of Egypt, to go back to war?”

Many also saw Obama’s abandonment of Mubarak, after days of mounting pressure and protests, as dangerously naive idealism on the part of the US administration.

US President Barack Obama meeting with members of his national security team to discuss the situation in Egypt, in the Situation Room of the White House in Washington (AP/White House Photo, Pete Souza)

The Obama administration “should have also thought about Israel before hurrying to call upon Mubarak to go,” Dov Weisglass, a former aide to Ariel Sharon, wrote at the time, according to Politico. “It is difficult to think of more serious harm to Israel’s security than the collapse of the peace accord with Egypt.”

Israeli officials did not feel there was much chance that the idealist young Egyptians in Tahrir Square would succeed in taking power. It would either be Egypt’s generals in the best-case scenario, or the Muslim Brotherhood.

“Many Israeli officials were very worried. They felt that the familiar ground was shaking and that the consequences could be unpredictable, especially in Egypt,” said Brun.

As feared, following Mubarak’s exit voices swiftly emerged calling the Egypt-Israel peace agreement into question. Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie called for the newly elected parliament to “loudly demand to stop the issue of normalization…and to review the Camp David Accord.”

On Israel’s southern border with Egypt, security along the once-quiet frontier began to dissipate as the transitional government under Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi came into power to replace Mubarak.

A jihadist insurgency in the restive northern Sinai gained steam, seemingly bolstered by Gazan terrorists.

The gas pipeline from Egypt to Israel has been sabotaged repeatedly by militant groups (photo credit: AP)

Illustrative: A gas pipeline in the Sinai Peninsula sabotaged by a jihadist group in 2012. (AP/File)

On April 7, 2011, terrorists in Gaza fired an anti-aircraft missile at a school bus in Israel, killing a 16-year-old boy. On August 18, a series of cross-border attacks from the Sinai left 8 Israeli soldiers and civilians dead. Attacks on a gas pipeline to Israel running through the peninsula became a regular occurrence, leading to fears that Israel’s energy supply would be choked off.

“All the fears of the Israeli political and military establishment were playing out,” said Brun. “We thought that this is what would happen and in a very short time, that was exactly what was happening.”

Israel understood it was entering a period marked by uncertainty. “The previous order that we knew had collapsed, we understood that the new order had yet to take shape,” said Brun. “Therefore, what we said to the senior military leadership and to the political echelon was that we are going into a transitional period that will be marked by uncertainty, instability, and volatility.”

Brig. Gen. Itay Brun, head of the IDF Military Intelligence research section, at a Foreign Affairs and Defense committee hearing at the Knesset on Tuesday (photo credit: Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)

Brig. Gen. Itai Brun, head of the IDF Military Intelligence research and analysis division, at a Foreign Affairs and Defense committee hearing at the Knesset in 2012 (Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)

Despite the familiar faces in charge of the country, Egypt’s military government took actions that worried Israel, including opening up the border crossing with Rafah in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

Israel tried to learn the new regime and create channels of dialogue. “Tantawi was a known figure,” said Brun. “The feeling was that one could do business with him in a way that at least was reminiscent of Mubarak.”

But that wasn’t always the case. In September 2011, after the killing of six Egyptian soldiers by Israeli troops who were pursuing Palestinian terrorists near the Egyptian border during the August attacks, thousands of protesters tore down a security wall around a high-rise building housing the Israeli Embassy in Cairo and ransacked its offices.

Obama called on the Egyptian government to “honor its obligations to safeguard the security of the Israeli embassy,” according to a White House statement at the time.

Following the US intervention, Egypt sent commando forces into the embassy complex to rescue the Israeli staff, who had taken refuge in a safe room. Years later, Netanyahu claimed he had been planning a raid to rescue the staff, though Foreign Ministry officials cast doubt on the prime minister’s version of events.

Egyptian protesters demolish a concrete wall protecting the Israeli embassy in Cairo, September 9, 2011 (photo credit: AP/Amr Nabil)

Egyptian protesters demolish a concrete wall protecting the Israeli embassy in Cairo, September 9, 2011. ( AP/Amr Nabil)

The attack prompted nearly the entire embassy staff to evacuate in one of the worst crises to hit the two countries’ relations since their 1979 peace treaty. Israeli officials said they tried frantically to reach their Egyptian counterparts, but were ignored.

The Muslim Brotherhood in charge

Nearly a year and a half after Mubarak was pushed out, Israel’s fears of a transition to democracy paving the way for an Islamist takeover were realized when Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi won the presidential elections.

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi speaks to supporters outside the Presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Nov. 23 (photo credit: AP/Aly Hazaza, El Shorouk)

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi speaks to supporters outside the Presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, November 23 (AP/Aly Hazaza, El Shorouk)

“A lot of people were very worried,” Ksenia Svetlova, a former Knesset member and fellow at Mitvim – The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies.

But Israel still held out hope it could work with Morsi, who reportedly told a Mossad agent that he had no intention of severing ties with the Jewish state, and was encouraged by the fact that much of the military leadership was left in place.

“There was still hope that it will be possible to work with [the generals],” said Svetlova, who contributes to Times of Israel Hebrew-language sister site Zman Yisrael. “They had less influence, but they still had influence.”

While Jerusalem and Cairo were perhaps farther apart than they had been in years, Israel still found ways to work with Morsi, mostly through defense operations.

Israel prioritized tangible expressions of continued security cooperation, said Moshe Albo, a modern Middle East historian and researcher at the Dado Center for Interdisciplinary Military Studies. This meant a focus on cooperation on border security, the continued functioning of the embassy in Cairo, and military attaches remaining in both countries.

Army trucks carry Egyptian military tanks in Egypt's northern Sinai Peninsula, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. (photo credit:AP)

Army trucks carry Egyptian military tanks in Egypt’s northern Sinai Peninsula, August 9, 2012. (AP)

“The focus was on security, then after that was settled they could discuss trade deals, etcetera,” said Albo.

As security in the Sinai, Gaza and southern Israel continued to deteriorate, Israel reportedly allowed Egypt to deploy extra troops, tanks and attack helicopters in the Sinai Peninsula in an attempt to crack down on terrorist groups in the region.

By November 2012, as Israel embarked on a three-week air campaign against Hamas to stem rocket attacks from Gaza, Egypt was able to play a role in helping broker a ceasefire, partially thanks to the fact that it had a Muslim Brotherhood Islamist in power.

The close ties between the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas were seen as an advantage by Israel, said Brun. “It was clear that the Egyptian mediation could help for the speedy conclusion of the operation,” he said.

Smoke rises from a building in the northern Gaza Strip after an Israeli airstrike on November 16 (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)

Smoke rises from a building in the northern Gaza Strip after an Israeli airstrike on November 16, 2012 during Operation Pillar of Defense. (Uri Lenz/Flash90)

Egypt had a profound interest in stability at the time and sought to play an active role in the region, according to Yossi Kuperwasser, who was then director-general of the Strategic Affairs Ministry.

“The fact that we enabled Egypt, under president Morsi at the time, to play a role, a positive role, in stabilizing the situation… I think this was very important,” he said.

At the same time, the Muslim Brotherhood-Hamas ties came with downsides for Israel. With Morsi in power, Hamas enjoyed a period of relative legitimacy on the international stage after the operation. In late 2012 and early 2013, it hosted visits to the Gaza Strip by the foreign ministers of Turkey and Tunisia, the prime ministers of Egypt and Malaysia, and the influential emir of Qatar.

The military strikes back

By the end of 2013, Israel had survived Egypt’s dalliance with democracy and was welcoming the rise of a new strongman, defense chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who ousted Morsi in a coup, ending his year of divisive rule.

“He was certainly seen as a figure whose orientation was similar to the regime before the Muslim Brotherhood,” Brun said of Sissi.

Egyptian Minister of Defense Lt. Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi meets with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi at the presidential headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, February 21, 2013. (AP/Mohammed Abd El Moaty, Egyptian Presidency)

Israel’s cooperation with Egypt under Sissi deepened around security and energy.

An annex of the 1979 peace accord giving Israel say over the scope of Egyptian military deployments swiftly became irrelevant as Cairo was given carte blanche, according to Israeli officials, a sign that Jerusalem was not concerned big Egyptian guns could be turned against it.

According to foreign reports, Israel has helped the Egyptian military crack down on the jihadist insurgency in the Sinai with its own bombing campaign, and Egypt has taken part in efforts to stunt Hamas in Gaza.

In 2014, an Egyptian court banned Hamas from operating in Egypt and ordered the seizure of its assets there.

Sissi also ordered the razing of homes to create a buffer zone with the Gaza Strip. In March 2014, Egypt’s military announced it had destroyed 1,370 smuggling tunnels under its border with the Gaza Strip.

When war broke out again in the Strip in July 2014 with Operation Protective Edge, private and public Egyptian media channels bitterly criticized Hamas for provoking another conflict with Israel.

Black smoke rises after an Israeli airstrike on the Gaza International Airport in Rafah, southern Gaza, on July 7, 2014. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

“The Egyptian reactions represent a dramatic change of course,” said Mira Tzoreff, who teaches Egyptian politics at Tel Aviv University’s Middle East and African Studies Department and the Moshe Dayan Center. “This didn’t begin with Operation Protective Edge but with Sissi coming to power, when he clarified who Egypt’s enemy is and what he plans to do with such an enemy… Sissi was exploding tunnels in the Sinai before we [in Israel] ever dreamed of exploding tunnels.”

In January 2019, CBS News asked Sissi if defense cooperation between Cairo and Jerusalem was tighter than it had ever been. “That is correct… We have a wide range of cooperation with the Israelis,” he said.

Today, Egypt has emerged as the one country that can effectively mediate between Israel and Hamas, sidelining Turkish and Qatari attempts to end the conflict and boost their standing.

The two sides also found common ground on energy cooperation as gas deposits found in the Eastern Mediterranean opened the door to new opportunities for both countries. With Egypt and Turkey on opposite sides of the Libyan civil war — another violent legacy of the Arab Spring —  Cairo, Jerusalem and other players came together to form the East Mediterranean Gas Forum as a bulwark against aggressive Turkish moves in the region.

Still, the same issues that dogged the Israel-Egypt relationship before February 2011 continue to do so. Powerful forces in Egyptian society that oppose normalization with Israel hinder a blossoming of ties. Hostility to Israel among elite civil society — the press, writers, academics — combined with popular anti-Semitism has tempered any public expressions of warmth.

While Mubarak met regularly with Israeli leaders, including Netanyahu, Sissi has avoided public meetings with the Israeli leader.

And yet, a decade after Israeli officials worried popular protests in Egypt would snowball into open war between the countries, Cairo and Jerusalem enjoy ties that appear to be closer than they were even under Mubarak. Everything Israel feared did come to pass — Islamists elected to power, instability, a deadly insurgency on the border, a pullback of US influence — but in the end what appears to be the only lasting effect of the Arab Spring in Egypt is a stronger Israel-Egypt pact.

“In the end, the strategic situation of Israel became more comfortable,” Brun pointed out, “but that isn’t only the regional shakeup. It’s also the Trump administration, and other factors, but when we look back, I think that Israel is one of the countries that gained the most from the regional shakeup, because the undermining of our adversaries was ultimately beneficial for Israel.”

The Syrian bloodbath

In Egypt, Israel found a way to navigate the upheavals of the Arab Spring by rolling with the punches and seeking ways to turn challenges into opportunities. The same holds true for its approach to Syria, though the outcome and the way it got there were radically different in many key ways.

As with Egypt, Israeli leaders watched with worry as popular protests snowballed into something larger, in this case an open civil war. While there was no love lost in Jerusalem for the Bashar Assad regime, and many Israelis hoped that Syrians would throw off the yoke of oppression, there was also fear, with risks for Israel whether Assad was overthrown or remained.

Since it could not get a sense of how events would unfold, Israel mainly prepared for a range of scenarios.

Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, speaks with Syrian troops during his visit to the strategic town of Habeet, in the northwestern province of Idlib, Syria, October 22, 2019. (Facebook page of the Syrian Presidency via AP)

“We understood quickly that there were two possibilities. First, that Bashar or some successor from the Assad order would survive and would be part of enhancing Iran and Hezbollah’s influence in Syria, and second, that he would fall, and that would be connected to the presence of jihadists on our northern border,” Brun said.

Daniel Byman (courtesy Georgetown University)

Israel focused on understanding how the conflict was unfolding instead of trying to influence its course. This decision seemed quite reasonable at the time.

Among other things, the country was still dealing with the trauma of the Lebanon occupation, in which its attempts to intervene in the domestic politics of an Arab country led to an 18-year quagmire that left hundreds of IDF soldiers dead.

“It is not clear to me what Israel could have done beyond individual operations in the Syrian war,” said Byman. “Staying out helped ensure that this important (and divisive) event in the region was not ‘about Israel’ and made it easier, over time, for Israel to work with Gulf states and other future allies.”

There were three exceptions to the policy to remain on the sidelines.  Israel would respond to shells that landed in its territory, offer covert humanitarian aid, and use airstrikes to keep weapons of mass destruction from falling into terrorist hands and precision missiles from reaching Hezbollah from Iran.

Syrians gather at the site of reported air strikes by government forces on May 1, 2014 in the Halak neighborhood in northeastern Aleppo (photo credit: AFP/AMC/Zein Al-Rifai)

It also resisted getting involved to defend the relatives of Syrian Druze residents of the Golan Heights, most of whom have not claimed Israeli citizenship and backed the Assad regime, from being threatened or attacked by rebel groups across the border.

However, it did provide medical aid to anyone who showed up at the border needing help, whether Syrian regulars or rebels, angering Druze who had seen terror groups allied with opposition forces carry out alleged atrocities against their brethren across the border.

Young members of the Druze community wave Syrian flags during a rally in the Druze village of Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights on October 6, 2018, commemorating the 45th anniversary of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war (AFP Photo/Jalaa Marey)

In June 2015, after a massacre of 20 Druze villagers by Al-Nusra Front fighters,  Druze men ambushed an Israeli ambulance and killed a wounded Syrian who was being transported for medical treatment in the Golan Heights. Days later, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon confirmed that Israel had been providing aid to Syrian rebels, on the condition they did not harm the Druze.

In November 2017, Israel said it would defend the Syrian Druze village Hader, hours after a terrorist from the Al-Nusra Front killed nine people in a suicide bombing just across the border that sparked clashes between Syrian government forces and rebels.

Some reports indicated that Israel sought to create a more robust buffer zone on the border that would last beyond the civil war. Opposition activists claimed Israel was providing salaries for armed groups that would keep pro-Iranian elements from the border area. If there was such an effort, it failed.

An IDF ambulance that was attacked by Druze Israeli residents in the Golan Heights as it ferried Syrian war casualties into Israel for medical treatment, June 22, 2015. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

“Israel did not succeed in establishing a buffer zone,” said Svetlova.

Though Israel managed to avoid being sucked into the fight while largely keeping it from spilling over into Israel, there were some drawbacks to its policy.

Some groups just over the border expected more out of Israel, and were left disappointed. “It seems that it’s never a good idea to betray allies,” said Svetlova. “Next time, it will be more and more difficult for Israel to look for allies across the border when we need them.”

As for the Assad regime, Israel deemed it preferable to stick with the devil it knew — the phrase prime minister Ariel Sharon used in 2005 to convince George W. Bush not to push for regime change in Syria.

The Syrian border had been Israel’s quietest since 1973, and should the regime fall, Israeli leaders reasoned, it would be replaced with Sunni jihadists who would be far more aggressive.

“We were really concerned about the possibility in those years that chemical weapons — there was a very large store of chemical weapons, including material, missiles that can carry chemical weapons — the possibility that these would find their way to less responsible actors, some of which were hostile,” Brun explained.

As the Syrian war ground on, though, that view began to change.

“I think in the last few years Israel started to realize that it wasn’t that accurate to assume that Bashar Assad is a better option for us,” said Itamar Rabinovich, a former lead Israeli negotiator with Syria and author of the new work “Syrian Requiem.”

“First of all, from a strategic point of view, Israel today acknowledges the fact that Bashar is the one to allow the Iranian entrenchment in Syria. And as long as it’s up to him, he will not do anything in order to remove the Iranian presence.”

“We do know that Iran is much stronger,” Svetlova stressed. “It has a much stronger presence in Syria than it did 10 years ago or even five years ago.”

Limited involvement in Syria

By 2013, Israel understood that the situation in Syria offered an opportunity. The fraying Syrian army meant that Israel enjoyed unprecedented freedom of action in the country to fight against Iranian entrenchment and Hezbollah’s military buildup. The IDF effort that emerged from that understanding was called the “campaign between wars,” or Mabam in its Hebrew acronym.

In May 2013, Israel began acknowledging generally that it was taking military action in Syria against Iranian missile shipments to Hezbollah, in addition to sites like Syrian chemical weapons facilities, which Obama publicly supported. Israeli officials mostly avoided commenting on specific incidents, which relieved pressure on Assad to retaliate. In 2017, the IAF acknowledged it had struck nearly 100 Syrian and Hezbollah targets since the beginning of the civil war.

Israel ramped up its attacks as time went on. In 2018, Israel accused Iran of firing 20 rockets from Syria at IDF positions, the first time Israel had directly accused Tehran of firing at Israel. According to Israeli officials, IAF planes retaliated in a massive operation by striking logistics and intelligence sites used by Iranian forces in Syria. According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, in a one-month period in 2018 alone, Israeli strikes killed 113 Iranian soldiers and allied militiamen. The IDF said at the time that it had struck over 200 Iranian targets in Syria that year.

Despite the Israeli campaign, Iran has continued to push ahead with its efforts to establish a bridgehead on Israel’s border to threaten the Jewish state, and has advanced plans for a range of attacks, according to Israel’s military. In January 2015, an IAF strike targeted the leaders of a substantial new Hezbollah terror hierarchy that was set to attempt kidnappings, rocket attacks and other assaults on military and civilian targets in northern Israel.

In recent years, Iran has also attempted to send attack drones into Israel. In August 2019, the military said it carried out bombing runs to thwart an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps plot involving what were described as “kamikaze” attack UAVs.

Each Israeli strike, though, carries risks of inviting reprisal attacks or snowballing into a larger conflagration. Making the theater even more serious from an Israeli perspective is the fact that Russia too has attempted to exploit the chaos for its own gains.

In 2015, Russia moved forces to Syria to ensure Assad’s survival. Israel had to flex its muscles to set down clear red lines that the Russians would understand, and it turned to an Arab security partner to do so. According to Jordan’s King Abdullah, in January 2016, Israeli and Jordanian jets together confronted Russian warplanes over southern Syria and warned them away from crossing their shared border.

“We saw the Russians fly down, but they were met with Israeli and Jordanian F-16s, both together in Israeli and Jordanian airspace. The Russians were shocked and understood they cannot mess with us,” the Hashemite king was quoted saying at the time.

Israel and Russia established a so-called deconfliction mechanism to keep the sides from getting tangled up and Netanyahu met Russian President Vladimir Putin on multiple occasions to discuss the issue.

Israeli officials do not generally discuss the full extent of that coordination, but they stress that the Israeli military does not seek Russian permission before carrying out operations. At the same time, though, Israel’s freedom of action was seriously curtailed, especially after Russia provided advanced S-300 air defense batteries to Syria following an incident in which a Syria gunner, aiming for Israeli jets, knocked a Russian plane out of the sky instead, killing all 15 people on board.

It is clear that Iran is not about to stop sending Iranian troops and its proxy militias to Syria to attempt to carry out attacks against Israel. For its part, Israel has shown a firm resolve not to let that happen, and has shown that its intelligence and operational capabilities give it a distinct advantage over Iran in Syria.

Russian Su-25 ground attack jets prepare to land after returning from Syria at a Russian air base in Primorsko-Akhtarsk, southern Russia, March 16, 2016. (Olga Balashova/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

Russia as well is here to stay, along with its advanced air defense systems that could threaten Israel’s dominance of the skies over Syria. “Our freedom of action is in the hands of the Russians,” said Svetlova. “It’s not a Syrian-Israeli issue anymore. It’s a Syrian-Russian-Israeli issue.”

Illustrative: In this image released on Friday, June 23, 2017, long-range Kalibr cruise missiles are launched by a Russian Navy ship in the eastern Mediterranean. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

Russia’s growing naval presence in the Mediterranean, based in Tartus, Syria, could also limit Israel freedom of action at sea.

Russian anti-aircraft forces in Syria provide a protective umbrella for Russian ships, potentially complicating Israeli air operations in the area. In addition, Russia’s advanced intelligence systems mean they are constantly tracking Israeli movements, and potentially transferring that information to Syria or even Hezbollah.

Over the decade of civil war just over Israel’s border, Netanyahu managed to keep Israel from getting sucked into the conflict. Israel’s initial focus on chemical weapons shifted to Iranian entrenchment, which it has combated with purpose and effectiveness. But the fact remains that a hostile regime is in power, backed by Iran, a determined foe of Israel, and propped up by Russia, a world power that could turn quite dangerous.

“I think the fact that Bashar remained is a negative outcome,” Brun reflected. “Still, it’s not that that simple because I also agree that he does provide some sort of stability; he’s a responsible actor, we know him, we know how he will act, more or less. But in my eyes, the presence of Iran and Hezbollah in Syria — and even the moral side of him remaining in power after he killed so many people, he crossed too many international norms, he used chemical weapons — that is an extremely negative outcome in terms of  the liberal democratic order in the world.”

Adversaries on the defensive

Israel had much to fear 10 years ago. But the scenarios its leaders feared either didn’t come to pass, or occurred at a much lower level than expected. Chemical weapons did not reach the hands of terrorists; Egypt remains very much committed to security cooperation with Israel; jihadist organizations did not emerge as a major threat to Israeli citizens or soldiers; King Abdullah sits securely on the throne in Jordan.

The outcome is even better when one surveys how Israel’s adversaries fared. Iran, which enjoyed a wave of success in the early years of the Arab Spring, has been on the defensive of late. Senior commanders like Qassem Soleimani and key allies have been killed, it continues to suffer stunning intelligence failures around its nuclear program and its economy is in shambles under US sanctions.

Mourners holding posters of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani attend a funeral ceremony for him and his comrades, who were killed in Iraq in a US drone strike on Friday, at the Enqelab-e-Eslami (Islamic Revolution) Square in Tehran, Iran, Jan. 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

The Sunni jihadist networks have also been hit hard. The Islamic State’s caliphate was smashed, and al-Qaeda-linked groups have rejected it in Syria as senior leaders continue to be eliminated or spend long stretches in hiding.

At the same time, moderate Sunni states have come together around opposition to Iran and Turkey, while signing normalization agreements with Israel.

Though a number of factors played into the outcome, Netanyahu is credited for his leadership in navigating the drastic changes over the last decade, even by many who are not supporters of his policies in other realms.

“I personally disagree with Netanyahu’s views on peace with the Palestinians and the JCPOA,” said Byman, of the Brookings Institution. “However, given his beliefs, he played his hand very well. He helped foster discontent with the [Iran nuclear deal], which Trump withdrew from, and in general was able to use Iran to forge new relations with important states like the UAE. More broadly, he was able to work with Russia — though it was often difficult — as the US decreased its role in the region. Overall, Israel has emerged from the last decade with new or stronger ties to important regional players and has not had to make concessions on the Palestinian issue.”

MK Ksenia Svetlova of the Zionist Union party as a new member of the Israeli Knesset, March 29, 2015. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

“I think that some of his decisions have been correct,” said Svetlova, who served in the opposition as an MK while Netanyahu was prime minister, “such as the non-involvement in the Syrian civil war.”

Looking at the entire period, Netanyahu’s overall policy was correct, said Brun. “Israel took advantage of the chaos, or the war, to operate with relative intensity against existing and emerging threats. “

Times of Israel staff and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Ghislaine Maxwell seeks to delay trial after new sex trafficking charges added

NEW YORK (AP) — Ghislaine Maxwell’s lawyer asked Thursday that her July trial be delayed until next year, saying sex trafficking charges recently added to an alleged conspiracy to recruit teenage girls for Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse requires much more trial preparation.

Attorney Bobbi Sternheim wrote in a letter to a Manhattan federal judge that a superseding indictment last month makes it impossible to be ready for trial by July 12.

She asked for a minimum three-month delay but said postponing until mid-January was likely necessary because lawyers have prior commitments until then.

Maxwell, 59, who has pleaded not guilty, was arrested last July. She is held without bail.

Prosecutors said last week they will oppose delaying the trial.

Media outlets set up cameras outside the main entrance of the Metropolitan Detention Center, Brooklyn where British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell is held, July 14, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Original charges involved three girls from 1994 to 1997. The rewritten indictment added a fourth victim to the case and stretched the alleged conspiracy until 2004.

“Defending quarter-century-old allegations has required investigation across this country and around the world. Investigating the new allegations will require the same efforts and diligence,” Sternheim wrote.

She also called it “laughable” that prosecutors cited the coronavirus as a reason for a delay in bringing new charges while opposing additional time for the defense to prepare for trial.

“Defense preparation is not immune to the impact of the pandemic,” she said.

Epstein faced sex trafficking charges when he took his life in a Manhattan federal lockup in August 2019.

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Arab Israeli brothers shot to death in West Bank city of Tulkarem

Two brothers from the Arab Israeli city of Baqa al-Gharbiya were shot dead overnight Thursday-Friday in the Palestinian West Bank city of Tulkarem.

Shafa Abu Hussein and his brother Salah, both in their 20s, were shot in their vehicle in a drive-by shooting. The Palestinian police said the car carrying the gunmen also bore Israeli license plates, Friday reports said.

The motive remains unclear. Palestinian police said they were investigating. There was no immediate statement from Israel’s police.

The victims were taken to a local hospital in critical condition, where medical personnel pronounced their deaths.

The two became the 31st and 32nd Arab Israelis to die in violent circumstances this year, according to the Ynet news site.

In October, the victims’ mother was shot dead in Baqa al-Gharbiya. In December another three relatives of the victims were shot dead, also in their hometown.

Arab cities and towns have seen a surge in violence in recent years, with organized crime seen as the main driver. Arab Israelis blame the police, whom they say have failed to crack down on powerful criminal organizations.

Also overnight Friday, police say they arrested 69 suspects in the central Israel city of Ramla following reports of gunfire in the Gan Haqal neighborhood.

The suspects, from two feuding families, were said to have been shooting and hurling stones and Molotov cocktails at each other. A police officer was lightly wounded from gunfire during the chaos.

A car is seen damaged in Ramla after two feuding families were violently fighting on April 16, 2021. (Police Spokesperson)

On Monday, a 38-year-old woman was shot dead in the Arab Israeli city of Tira. Last Friday two cousins were shot dead in the Arab town of Deir al-Asad. Hours earlier, a man was shot dead at the entrance to his home in the Bedouin village of Ibtin.

In 2020, 96 Arab Israelis were killed, by far the highest annual toll in recent memory.

More than 90 percent of shootings in Israel last year took place in Arab communities, according to police. Arab Israelis account for around one-fifth of the country’s population.

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Executive Order on Blocking Property with Respect to Specified Harmful Foreign Activities of the Government of the Russian Federation

Executive Order on Blocking Property with Respect to Specified Harmful Foreign Activities of the Government of the Russian Federation

April 15, 2021

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) (IEEPA), the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.) (NEA), section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (8 U.S.C. 1182(f)), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code,
I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., President of the United States of America, find that specified harmful foreign activities of the Government of the Russian Federation — in particular, efforts to undermine the conduct of free and fair democratic elections and democratic institutions in the United States and its allies and partners; to engage in and facilitate malicious cyber-enabled activities against the United States and its allies and partners; to foster and use transnational corruption to influence foreign governments; to pursue extraterritorial activities targeting dissidents or journalists; to undermine security in countries and regions important to United States national security; and to violate well-established principles of international law, including respect for the territorial integrity of states — constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.  I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat.
Accordingly, I hereby order:
Section 1.  All property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person of the following persons are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in:
(a)  any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, and, with respect to subsection (a)(ii) of this section, in consultation with the Attorney General, or by the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, and, with respect to subsection (a)(ii) of this section, in consultation with the Attorney General:
(i)    to operate or have operated in the technology sector or the defense and related materiel sector of the Russian Federation economy, or any other sector of the Russian Federation economy as may be determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State;
(ii)   to be responsible for or complicit in, or to have directly or indirectly engaged or attempted to engage in, any of the following for or on behalf of, or for the benefit of, directly or indirectly, the Government of the Russian Federation:
(A)  malicious cyber-enabled activities;
(B)  interference in a United States or other foreign government election;
(C)  actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in the United States or abroad;
(D)  transnational corruption;
(E)  assassination, murder, or other unlawful killing of, or infliction of other bodily harm against, a United States person or a citizen or national of a United States ally or partner;
(F)  activities that undermine the peace, security, political stability, or territorial integrity of the United States, its allies, or its partners; or
(G)  deceptive or structured transactions or dealings to circumvent any United States sanctions, including through the use of digital currencies or assets or the use of physical assets;
(iii)  to be or have been a leader, official, senior executive officer, or member of the board of directors of:
(A)  the Government of the Russian Federation;
(B)  an entity that has, or whose members have, engaged in any activity described in subsection (a)(ii) of this section; or
(C)  an entity whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order;
(iv)   to be a political subdivision, agency, or instrumentality of the Government of the Russian Federation;
(v)    to be a spouse or adult child of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to subsection (a)(ii) or (iii) of this section;
(vi)   to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of:
(A)  any activity described in subsection (a)(ii) of this section; or
(B)  any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; or
(vii)  to be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the Government of the Russian Federation or any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order.
(b)  any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, a government whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to chapter V of title 31 of the Code of Federal Regulations or another Executive Order, and to be:
(i)    a citizen or national of the Russian Federation;
(ii)   an entity organized under the laws of the Russian Federation or any jurisdiction within the Russian Federation (including foreign branches); or
(iii)  a person ordinarily resident in the Russian Federation.
(c)  any person determined by the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, to be responsible for or complicit in, or to have directly or indirectly engaged in or attempted to engage in, cutting or disrupting gas or energy supplies to Europe, the Caucasus, or Asia, and to be:
(i)   an individual who is a citizen or national of the Russian Federation; or
(ii)  an entity organized under the laws of the Russian Federation or any jurisdiction within the Russian Federation (including foreign branches).
(d)  The prohibitions in subsections (a), (b), and (c) of this section apply except to the extent provided by statutes, or in regulations, orders, directives, or licenses that may be issued pursuant to this order, and notwithstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted before the date of this order.
Sec. 2.  The prohibitions in section 1 of this order include:
(a)  the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; and
(b)  the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person.
Sec. 3.  (a)  The unrestricted immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of noncitizens determined to meet one or more of the criteria in section 1 of this order would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and the entry of such persons into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, is hereby suspended, except when the Secretary of State or the Secretary of Homeland Security, as appropriate, determines that the person’s entry would not be contrary to the interests of the United States, including when the Secretary of State or the Secretary of Homeland Security, as appropriate, so determines, based on a recommendation of the Attorney General, that the person’s entry would further important United States law enforcement objectives.
(b)  The Secretary of State shall implement this authority as it applies to visas pursuant to such procedures as the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, may establish.
(c)  The Secretary of Homeland Security shall implement this order as it applies to the entry of noncitizens pursuant to such procedures as the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, may establish.
(d)  Such persons shall be treated by this section in the same manner as persons covered by section 1 of Proclamation 8693 of July 24, 2011 (Suspension of Entry of Aliens Subject to United Nations Security Council Travel Bans and International Emergency Economic Powers Act Sanctions).
Sec. 4.  (a)  Any transaction that evades or avoids, has the purpose of evading or avoiding, causes a violation of, or attempts to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is prohibited.
(b)  Any conspiracy formed to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is prohibited.
Sec. 5.  I hereby determine that the making of donations of the types of articles specified in section 203(b)(2) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1702(b)(2)) by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order would seriously impair my ability to deal with the national emergency declared in this order, and I hereby prohibit such donations as provided by section 1 of this order.
Sec. 6.  For the purposes of this order:
(a)  the term “entity” means a partnership, association, trust, joint venture, corporation, group, subgroup, or other organization;
(b)  the term “Government of the Russian Federation” means the Government of the Russian Federation, any political subdivision, agency, or instrumentality thereof, including the Central Bank of the Russian Federation, and any person owned, controlled, or directed by, or acting for or on behalf of, the Government of the Russian Federation;
(c)  the term “noncitizen” means any person who is not a citizen or noncitizen national of the United States;
(d)  the term “person” means an individual or entity; and
(e)  the term “United States person” means any United States citizen, lawful permanent resident, entity organized under the laws of the United States or any jurisdiction within the United States (including foreign branches), or any person in the United States.
Sec. 7.  For those persons whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order who might have a constitutional presence in the United States, I find that because of the ability to transfer funds or other assets instantaneously, prior notice to such persons of measures to be taken pursuant to this order would render those measures ineffectual.  I therefore determine that for these measures to be effective in addressing the national emergency declared in this order, there need be no prior notice of a listing or determination made pursuant to section 1 of this order.
Sec. 8.  The Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, is hereby authorized to take such actions, including the promulgation of rules and regulations, and to employ all powers granted to the President by IEEPA, as may be necessary to carry out the purposes of this order.  The Secretary of the Treasury may, consistent with applicable law, redelegate any of these functions within the Department of the Treasury.  All departments and agencies of the United States shall take all appropriate measures within their authority to carry out the provisions of this order.
Sec. 9.  Nothing in this order shall prohibit transactions for the conduct of the official business of the Federal Government or the United Nations (including its specialized agencies, programs, funds, and related organizations) by employees, grantees, and contractors thereof.
Sec. 10.  The Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, is hereby authorized to submit recurring and final reports to the Congress on the national emergency declared in this order, consistent with section 401(c) of the NEA (50 U.S.C. 1641(c)) and section 204(c) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1703(c)).
Sec. 11.  (a)  Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(i)   the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or
(ii)  the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.
(b)  This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
(c)  This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

THE WHITE HOUSE,
April 15, 2021.


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GOP leaders diverge on Trump, putting party in limbo

One by one, the Republican leaders of Congress have made the trip to Mar-a-Lago to see Donald Trump

Kevin McCarthy visited after the deadly Jan 6 Capitol insurrection, counting on the former president’s help to win back control of the House in 2022. The chair of the Senate Republican campaign committee, Rick Scott, stopped by to enlist Trump in efforts to regain the Senate. Lindsey Graham goes to play golf.

But missing from the appearances has been perhaps the most powerful Republican elected official in the country, Mitch McConnell a onetime ally who ushered the former president’s legislative and judicial agenda to fruition, but now claims to want nothing to do with Trump.

The very public pilgrimages, and the noticeable refusal to make one, have placed congressional Republicans at a crossroads, with one branch of the party keeping close to Trump, hoping to harness the power of his political brand and loyal voters for their campaigns, and the other splitting away, trying to chart the GOP’s post-Trump future.

With no obvious heir apparent or leader-in-waiting, the standoff between the party’s two highest-ranking figures poses an uneasy test of political wills and loyalties, particularly for the rank-and-file lawmakers in Congress dependent on both men for their political livelihoods. Congress has become more Trump-like in the former president’s absence, as a new generation of Trump-aligned lawmakers emerges, particularly in the Senate, and more centrist Republicans announce their retirements.

“We’ve got enough problems without fighting within ourselves,” said Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., who was swept into office this year with Trump’s support.

“You know, being a football coach, that’s what I would tell our players and coaches,” he said. “You bring your whole team down. So that’s pretty much how I think about this. As a team, we don’t need arguing between teammates. We just need them to be on the same page.”

The stark fallout was on display at the Republican donor retreat when Trump lashed into McConnell as a “stone-cold loser” but then was feted with an honorary award from Scott, the National Republican Senatorial Committee chair launching the campaign efforts.

Asked about it later, McConnell responded with perhaps the most cutting retort of all: He simply ignored Trump.

“What I’m concentrating on is the future,” said McConnell, the Senate Republican leader.

Unlike past presidents who did not win a second term, the end of Trump’s presidency has not brought closure as much as it has a lingering uncertainty on Capitol Hill about the party’s pathway back to power. He is promising to return to the political stage, perhaps for his own bid for the White House. But more immediately he is being enlisted by GOP leaders in support of congressional candidates to win back the House and Senate.

As McConnell tries to position Republicans as the opposition to President Joe Biden’s agenda, it is clear that while he is the leader of the Senate, Trump remains, for now, the leader of the GOP.

“Is it ideal? I don’t know. But is it sustainable? Sure,” said Scott Jennings, a GOP strategist and longtime McConnell confidant. “It’s easy to see how they both could frankly be successful in their individual goals without ever speaking another word to each other.”

Jennings said McConnell and Trump aren’t jockeying for power as much as bringing complementary skills to the campaigns ahead. The former president can rev up his base of supporters with rally-style speeches while McConnell can assemble the campaign strategies and candidates to regain control of the Senate.

“One of them is in party-building mode, which is McConnell, and the other one is in ax-grinding mode,” he said.

“They don’t have to be golfing buddies,” he said.

The congressional leaders want, and expect, Trump to play a role in next year’s midterm elections as they try to wrest control from Democrats, who have the slimmest majorities in the House and Senate in recent memory.

“God, yes,” Graham, R-S.C., said recently. “He’s sitting on a mountain of money and has a 90% approval rating among Republicans.”

McCarthy, the House Republican leader, said Trump has been helpful so far in House GOP campaign efforts. “Like all of the former presidents, they help, they’re engaged in many different ways,” McCarthy said.

Yet as Trump assembles a political operation from his private club in Florida, his biggest priority so far appears to be trying to defeat some of the party’s most prominent lawmakers, including Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, who were among those voting to impeach him over the Jan. 6 insurrection.

While Trump has also endorsed some GOP incumbents, other Republican lawmakers, particularly in the Senate, have simply announced they are retiring.

Asked specifically if Trump should quit attacking the Republican Party’s leaders, McCarthy demurred.

“The No. 1 thing I want to have happen is make sure the next century is the American century,” he said. “If the next century is going to be ours, we’re going to have to change administrations, we’re going to have to change Congress. That’s my focus.”

The deadly riot has become a political line of demarcation on Capitol Hill over those GOP lawmakers who stood with Trump to overturn Biden’s victory during the Electoral College tally. Trump was impeached for inciting the insurrection as he urged a mob of supporters to “fight like hell” for his presidency.

One of the lawmakers Trump recently endorsed is Alabama GOP Rep. Mo Brooks, who is running for the Senate seat that will be vacant with the retirement of longtime GOP Sen. Richard Shelby.

Brooks had been a leader of the House efforts to challenge the election results and joined the rally outside the White House on Jan. 6. Trump encouraged the mob that day to head to the Capitol. Five people died, including a Trump supporter shot by police and a police officer who died later after fighting the mob of Trump loyalists who stormed the Capitol.

At a dinner last month at Mar-a-Lago, Scott said he encouraged the president’s support to win back the Senate — after the primaries are settled.

Many Republicans recall the 2010 election when they won back control of the House, but not the Senate, because some of the candidates who won primary elections on the tea party wave were too conservative or hardline to appeal to voters statewide.

Shelby said he wished the former president and McConnell would “put their differences aside,” minding President Ronald Reagan’s admonition not to battle each other.

“Republicans fighting Republicans benefits who? The Democrats,” said Shelby.

“I wish he’d stay out of all the Senate races, but he’s not,” Shelby said about Trump.

“He’s got a lot of energy, he’s got a dedicated following. I don’t think he’s looking for retirement.”

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France finally outlaws sex with children under 15 after Duhamel-Kouchner incest scandal reignites age of consent debate

French lawmakers have adopted a law cracking down on sex with children and incest, following a social media firestorm touched off by allegations of incestuous abuse against a prominent intellectual earlier this year.

The Assemblee Nationale voted unanimously on Thursday to set the age of consent at 15, classifying sex with children under that age – as well as incestuous sex with anyone under 18 – as rape, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

“This is an historic law for our children and our society,” Justice Minister Éric Dupond-Moretti told lawmakers, adding that it sends a clear message that “children are off-limits.”

The law also includes tougher penalties on internet pedophilia, with anyone caught grooming children under 15 online facing 10 years in prison and a €150,000 (approximately $180,000) fine. Previously, French prosecutors could only bring charges of rape or sexual assault if they could prove an adult forced, threatened or tricked a minor into sex.  

Also on rt.com France drops plan to set age of sexual consent at 15, triggering outrage & confusion

The new law did carve out an exemption for consensual relations between a minor and a young adult up to five years older – a so-called ‘Romeo and Juliet’ clause, named after teens in William Shakespeare’s famous tragedy. Dupond-Moretti defended its inclusion, saying he did not want “to put a youth of 18 on trial because he had consensual sex with a girl aged fourteen and a half.”

A previous attempt by French lawmakers to set the age of consent floundered in 2018. It was inspired by the case of a 28-year-old who was caught having sex with an 11-year-old girl, but was initially not charged with rape. The new law was driven in part by a book published in January this year, however.

In ‘La Familia Grande,’ Camille Kouchner accused her stepfather Olivier Duhamel of having abused her twin brother for years, starting when he was 14. She also claimed her mother’s “leftist intellectual friends” – as France24 put it – knew about the abuse, but kept it quiet. The conspiracy of silence apparently included her own father, former foreign minister and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) co-founder Bernard Kouchner. 

Duhamel, a prominent political scientist and TV pundit, has since resigned from public life. Earlier this week, French media reported he had confessed to the abuse to police.

Kouchner’s book prompted a Twitter user to publish their own accusation of incestuous abuse with a hashtag #MeTooInceste, which has since gone viral in France.

Also on rt.com ‘We are going to die, but not on stage’: Naked artists protest Covid restrictions in Paris

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Elon Musk’s Starlink To Offer Alternative High Speed Internet to Rural Australia

Rural and regional Australia may soon have high-speed internet after Elon Musk’s newest venture, Starlink Beta—the early stages of SpaceX’s satellite broadband program—came online in Australia, providing select remote and regional parts of the country with access to its high-speed satellite internet.

The service, currently in beta testing mode, is only available in rural areas of central Victoria and the southern tablelands region of New South Wales. However, the service looks set to become more widely available to other parts of Australia in mid to late 2021.

Satellite broadband is not new to Australia, with the technology first being launched in 2015-2016 and being used mainly to provide internet to remote regions that have difficult or no access to standard cables as part of the National Broadband Network (NBN), Australia’s project for the rollout of fibre optic cables.

It currently boasts a market of over 100,000 active customers who use services like the NBN Co’s Sky Muster broadband. Sky Muster’s two satellites orbit roughly 36,000 km above the Earth, a factor that has resulted in slower internet speeds and higher latency—the delay between when a person makes an action on the internet and receives a response—which can adversely affect things like live video conferencing and online gaming.

In contrast, Space News says Starlink has launched over 1,200 satellites into low Earth orbit. This Low Earth Orbit Satellite Broadband (LEOSB) makes the satellites around 60 times closer to the Earth than Sky Muster I and II, allowing for internet with far greater speeds and lower latency.

Epoch Times Photo
A batch of 60 Starlink test satellites stacked atop a Falcon 9 rocket, close to being put in orbit on May 24, 2019. (SpaceX)

As a result of the difference between the broadband quality, there have been suggestions that Starlink will become a direct competitor to NBN Co’s satellite internet and could even make it “virtually obsolete as soon as Starlink or any other competing LEOSB becomes available.”

Currently, NBN plans offer six tiers of internet categorised based on speed, with the top three providing download speeds of up to 100 Mb/s (fast), 250 Mb/s (superfast), and 1000 Mb/s (ultrafast).

Furthermore, according to WhileOut, as of December 2020, only 32 percent of premises that were NBN-ready were equipped with the infrastructure to handle superfast and ultrafast speeds.

Epoch Times Photo
Workers install cables for the Australian National Broadband Network in Sydney, Australia, May 30, 2017. (REUTERS/David Gray/File Photo)

The rest were capable of at most 100 Mb/s, on par with Starlink’s own network capabilities of between 50 Mb/s and 150 Mb/s, placing it as a direct competitor to the majority of Australia’s existing fibre network.

That being said, some may still find Starlink’s latency of between 20 ms and 40 ms impacting aspects such as live video conferencing or online gaming, with data provided by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission showing that almost all NBN providers offer better latency and less delay of around 10 ms.

In addition, Starlink will cost users $139 per month—on top of the $809 initial hardware and shipping fee—making it a more expensive choice than many Australians are used to.

Starlink also notes that users will experience occasional internet dropouts with brief periods of no connectivity but promises that customers will see internet speeds, latency, and outages ameliorate as SpaceX continues to launch more Starlink satellites.

SpaceX’s Starlink has become Australia’s first LEOSB supplier—but the company is not the only one, with Amazon announcing its Project Kuiper and Facebook reportedly developing Athena, its own LEOSB project.

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US exit from Afghanistan before peace is in place is causing alarm on the ground

T

he decision by the United States to withdraw troops from Afghanistan comes before any peace has been established for the country. Civilians are being killed and injured by the ongoing war at an alarming rate, and prospects for a deal between the country’s warring parties are dim.

President Joe Biden announced solemnly on Wednesday that the US would withdraw all of its troops from the mountainous, war-torn country after nearly 20 years by 11 September, ending America’s longest war.

“With the terror threat now in many places, keeping thousands of troops grounded and concentrated in just one country at a cost of billions each year makes no sense to me, and our leaders,” he said in a national speech.

“We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan, hoping to create ideal conditions for the draw and expecting a different result.”

The withdrawal announcement adds pressure on the Afghan government, and to a lesser extent the Taliban rebels fighting it, to come up with a viable peace agreement.

But on the ground in Afghanistan, the country appears to be sliding deeper into war, and Istanbul peace talks scheduled for this week have been delayed. Some Afghans are worried, even if they acknowledge that the presence of foreign troops may not wind up making a difference in bringing about peace.

Afghan security official check people at a checkpoint in Jalalabad, 15 April 2021

(EPA)

“The withdrawal of these forces is a desire of the Afghan people, but at the moment, the conditions have not been made for this to happen,” Afghan parliamentary speaker Mir-Rahman Rahmani was quoted as saying by Tolo News TV. “There is a possibility of the return of civil war, and this will change Afghanistan into a hub of international terrorism.”

Shortly after Mr Biden’s announcement, Taliban rebels attacked an Afghan army base in the southern province of Zabul, with clashes continuing until early Thursday, Tolo reported. At least 10 members of the US-trained Afghan security forces were killed.

The attack, along with others throughout the day, came despite a plea by Afghan president Ashraf Ghani for a Ramadan ceasefire, which the Taliban have rejected. Instead Taliban officials have warned that their fighters would attack all foreign forces inside Afghanistan from 1 May, the date former president Donald Trump had set as the deadline for a troop withdrawal.

Afghans are desperate for peace, but worry that the complicated conflict in the country could worsen, whether or not the US leaves.

Afghan army soldiers secure a military base that was previously in use by US soldiers, in Haska Meyna district of Nangarhar province, 14 April 2021

(EPA)

In recent months the country has become more unsafe. According to a United Nations report released on Wednesday, 1,783 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first three months of 2021, up 29 per cent from the same period last year. Since the start of intra-Afghan peace talks six months ago, civilian casualties have spiked 38 per cent, according to the UN.  

On 6 April, four civilians were killed and 13 injured by a roadside bomb which struck a bus along the highway between Kandahar and Herat provinces.  A day later, a woman and a child were wounded by a rocket in Kandahar city, and two civilians were killed and 27 were injured by roadside blasts in Jalalabad city, according to a UN summary.

“The number of Afghan civilians killed and maimed, especially women and children, is deeply disturbing,” Deborah Lyons, the UN secretary-general’s special envoy for Afghanistan, said in a 14 April statement. “I implore the parties to urgently find a way to stop this violence.”

Some worry that a US withdrawal would only exacerbate the violence. Parviz Ahmadi, a resident of Herat quoted by Pajhwok News, recalled that after Soviet troops withdrew from the country in the late 1980s, the country’s troubles only worsened.

“Thousands of Afghans and Afghans were killed, the military strength and dignity of the Afghans was destroyed,” he was quoted as saying.

“The irresponsible departure of the United States will lead to a house of war,” said Mohammad Alam Elmi, a resident of Baghlan province, quoted in the same report. “This departure is irresponsible, dishonourable.”



The irresponsible departure of the United States will lead to a house of war

Baghlan province resident

Afghanistan’s miseries are multiplying. Already one of the poorest nations in the world, companies and potential investors have begun to flee in anticipation of the US withdrawal.

In addition to the violence, authorities are struggling to contain an ongoing outbreak of measles, as well as dealing with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

A peace deal seems far off. The Afghan government has prepared a draft peace plan that has not even been fully endorsed by the government in Kabul, much less the Taliban. It is to be presented at a summit in the Turkish commercial capital of Istanbul later this month, but the Kabul government has not even agreed yet on who will represent Afghanistan at the summit.

The Taliban have also yet to offer up their own peace plan, even as they claim to be working on one, and many Afghans fear they are preparing to overrun the nation again once the US withdraws, just as they did in the late 1990s. Their demands have included the resignation of the Ghani government, which the Taliban consider a US puppet, and the establishment of an “Islamic system”.

Afghanistan is already one of the most religiously observant nations in the Muslim world, officially known as the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

“All institutions, parties, and political activists are in favour of peace with the Taliban and ending the conflict in the country through dialogue,” said a commentary in the Afghan newspaper Hasht-e-Sobh. “But a lasting and just peace is not on the Taliban’s agenda and this group is thinking more about the military option to seize full power.”

Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday that delayed peace talks in Istanbul would take place on 24 April, even though the Taliban has indicated that it will not participate in “any conference” until all international troops leave Afghanistan.

The talks are being hosted by Turkey, the United Nations and Qatar, which frequently serves as  an intermediary to the Taliban, a collection of armed groups rooted in Afghanistan’s ethnic Pashtun plurality that has been fighting the Kabul government for years.

The United Kingdom, Germany, France and other Nato allies have announced that they would coordinate their own withdrawals from Afghanistan with Washington.

Mohammad Naeem, spokesman for the Taliban’s political office, during a news conference in Moscow, in March 2021

(AP)

Though civilian casualties caused by US and other Nato nations’ airstrikes make headlines, the Taliban and the local branch of Isis are responsible for 61 per cent of civilian casualties in the country, while pro-government forces are responsible for roughly 27 per cent. The occasionally surging presence of Isis in Afghanistan, which fights against both the government and Taliban has complicated any peace calculations.

“The withdrawal will leave no US counterterrorism capability on the ground, increasing US reliance on Afghan partners to handle emerging threats,” said a note issued on Thursday by the Soufan Group, a security consultancy founded by former FBI agent Ali Soufan, who spent years hunting al-Qaeda.

“In addition to the potential for a resurgence of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, the Islamic State Khorasan Province is also active along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and may seek to exploit the uncertainty and security gaps left by the withdrawal.”

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What’s behind the escalating tensions in eastern Ukraine?

MOSCOW (AP) — Tensions are rising over the conflict in eastern Ukraine, with growing violations of a cease-fire and a massive Russian military buildup near its border with the region.

Ukraine and the West have become worried about the Russian troops’ concentration and have urged Moscow to pull them back. Russia has argued that it’s free to deploy its forces on its territory and sternly warned the government in Kyiv against using force to reclaim control of the rebel-held territory east where more than 14,000 people have died in seven years of fighting.

Here’s a look at some of the issues involving the conflict in eastern Ukraine:

What are the roots of the conflict?

Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union until its 1991 collapse, and since then Russia has sought to keep the neighbor in its orbit. The separatist conflict in Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland, known as the Donbas, short for Donetsk Basin, erupted in April 2014. That came a few weeks after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula following the ouster of a Moscow-friendly president by a popular uprising in the capital of Kyiv.

Armed rebels in the mostly Russian-speaking eastern region seized government buildings and proclaimed “people’s republics” in the Donetsk and the Luhansk regions, and the Ukrainian military and volunteer battalions moved to put down the unrest.

In this file photo a Russian flag flies near Pro-Russia militants sitting atop a 2S1 Gvozdika (122-mm self-propelled howitzer) as a convoy of pro-Russian forces takes a break as they move from the frontline near the eastern Ukrainian city of Starobeshevo in Donetsk region, on February 25, 2015. – Russian troop levels on the Ukrainian border are at their highest since 2014, when war first erupted between Moscow-backed separatists and Ukraine (Vasily MAXIMOV / AFP)

Ukraine and the West said Russia sent troops and weapons to the east to support the separatists. Moscow has denied those claims and insisted that Russians fighting alongside the rebels went there on their own.

Amid the hostilities, a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down on July 17, 2014, over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board. Dutch prosecutors allege it was shot by a Russian Buk missile from an area controlled by the Russia-backed separatists. Russia denied any involvement.

The United States and the European Union imposed sanctions on Moscow for its annexation of Crimea, which wasn’t recognized by most of the world, and its support for the separatists. The restrictions have halted the transfer of Western technology and blocked Russia’s access to global capital markets. Russia retaliated by banning most Western food imports.

The Kremlin has repeatedly vowed that no Western sanctions will ever force it to change its course on Ukraine.

Have there been efforts at a peace deal?

After a series of Ukraine’s military defeats, France and Germany helped broker a peace deal that was signed in February 2015 in the Belarusian capital of Minsk.

The agreement was a diplomatic coup for Russia, obliging Ukraine to grant broad autonomy to the rebel regions and declare an amnesty for the rebels. It stipulated that Ukraine would regain full control of its border with Russia in the rebel-held territories only after they elect local leaders and legislatures. Many in Ukraine saw the deal as a betrayal of national interests and opposed it.

A Ukrainian serviceman walks along a trench at a position on the frontline with Russia-backed separatists near Gorlivka, Donetsk region, on April 14, 2021. (STR / AFP)

The Minsk agreement helped end large-scale hostilities, but sporadic skirmishes have continued and efforts at a political settlement have stalled.

Ukrainian officials have repeatedly pushed for revising the Minsk deal, calls that Russia has rejected.

How is the peace deal faring?

While the separatists have asked Russia to incorporate the rebel territories, Moscow has ignored the demand — apparently figuring that those eastern regions would eventually help draw Ukraine back into Russia’s orbit and thwart Kyiv’s aspirations to join NATO and the EU. Russia has granted its citizenship to more than 600,000 people in the rebel-controlled regions.

Political novice Volodymyr Zelenskyy was elected president of Ukraine by a landslide in April 2019 on promises to end the fighting and root out the country’s endemic corruption. He pushed successfully for a series of prisoner exchanges and sought to secure a lasting truce by pulling back troops and heavy weapons from the line of contact.

In December 2019, the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany met in Paris and reaffirmed their commitment to the 2015 peace deal, but no progress has been reached on a political settlement.

Why have tensions escalated now?

The lack of a lasting resolution to the conflict has fomented new tensions. Ukrainian authorities say cease-fire violations have become more frequent in recent weeks, with nearly 30 troops killed this year.

They accused Russia of fueling tensions by deploying 41,000 troops near the border with eastern Ukraine and 42,000 to Crimea, where Russia maintains a large naval base.

The US and NATO say the Russian troops’ concentration is the largest since 2014. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the buildup in the past three weeks was part of readiness drills in response to what he described as threats from NATO.

Russia also has cast it as a necessary security precaution amid what it described as Ukraine’s provocations along the line of control. Kremlin officials have strongly warned Kyiv against trying to use force to retake the east, saying Russia could be forced to intervene to protect civilians if they face a threat of massacre.

What’s the US role?

The United States has provided political, financial and military assistance to Ukraine, conducted joint military drills and regularly sent its ships into the Black Sea in a show of support.

In a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, new US President Joe Biden voiced concern over the Russian buildup near Ukraine and “called on Russia to de-escalate tensions.” The White House said Biden “emphasized the United States’ unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Vice President of the United States Joe Biden, left, geatures as he meets Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, March 10, 2011.The talks in Moscow are expected to focus on missile defense cooperation and Russia’s efforts to join the World Trade Organization. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

The Biden administration on Thursday raised the pressure on Russia, announcing an array of new sanctions, including a ban for US financial institutions to buy Russian government bonds directly from Russian state institutions. Washington also ordered the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats and targeted six Russian companies and 32 individuals with sanctions for trying to interfere in last year’s US presidential election, the massive SolarWinds hack and other activities.

Russia warned that it will respond with a series of retaliatory moves.

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Princely letter: Philip apologized to Nixon for ‘lame’ toast

Throughout his decades in public life, Prince Philip was known for putting his royal foot in his mouth with occasional off-the-cuff remarks that could be embarrassing. But his faux pas at a White House dinner with President Richard Nixon in 1969 was enough for Philip to actually lose sleep.

In a handwritten note to the president uncovered by archivists at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California, the Duke of Edinburgh wrote to “humbly apologize” for failing to toast the president’s health as dictated by protocol during a “stag” dinner in his honor.

“After the brilliance of the other speakers and yourself, I am afraid my contribution was very lame,” Philip wrote to Nixon from Greenland on Nov. 7 after his solo U.S. trip had concluded. He added: “That night I woke up in a cold sweat when I realized I had forgotten to propose your health!”

Philip died last week at age 99, and his funeral is Saturday. He was married to Queen Elizabeth for 73 years.

“I think the letter itself shows the character of Prince Philip that so much of the public in the U.K. and across the Commonwealth, and really across the world, have come to admire,” said Jim Byron, executive vice president of the Nixon Foundation. He said the letter was discovered before the coronavirus pandemic but made public this week, as a way of marking Philip’s death.

“It expresses some private feelings of a moment in time that the public really doesn’t always get a chance to see,” Byron added.

Known for his quick wit and willingness to be self-deprecating, Philip’s brand of cheekiness didn’t always go over well, and sometimes veered into racism. In 1995, he asked a Scottish driving instructor, “How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to pass the test?” Seven years later in Australia, when visiting Aboriginal people with the queen, he asked: “Do you still throw spears at each other?”

While visiting a military barracks, Philip asked a sea cadet instructor if she worked in a strip club, and even said to a woman who had lost two sons in a fire that smoke detectors were “a damn nuisance. I’ve got one in my bathroom, and every time I run my bath, the steam sets it off.”

During White House dinners, honored guests usually offer a toast to the president’s health and success. Philip wrote to Nixon that he couldn’t “begin to tell you how much I appreciated your very great kindness and hospitality at the White House. I was quite overwhelmed by the guests but delighted to meet such a distinguished company.”

He mentioned having then traveled to New York where he was interviewed by Barbara Walters for NBC’s “Today” show.

“The weather in New York was horrible but otherwise all went well,” Philip wrote, “and I found Miss Walters particularly charming and intelligent. I hope we did a good piece.”

The long guest list for the dinner was all-male. It included Vice President Spiro Agnew, most of the members of Nixon’s Cabinet and nongovernmental notables like business magnate Ross Perot and Britain-born comedian Bob Hope.

Byron said Nixon almost certainly replied to Philip’s letter, but, with the library archives remaining closed because of the pandemic, what he might have said is unknown. What Philip said in his remarks — other than omitting wishing Nixon good health — is unknown for the same reason.

The dinner came a day after Nixon delivered his famous “silent majority” speech in which he implored a national audience to unite behind the continuing war in Vietnam until his administration could achieve “peace with honor.” Byron said top aide H.R. Haldeman, who later went to prison for his involvement in the Watergate scandal, noted in his diary how absolutely joyful the president was that night, given that his address had been positively received.

Nixon, who died at age 81 in 1994, was a bit older than Philip, but the two had known each other for years by then. As vice president, Nixon and his wife met with Queen Elizabeth and Philip in London. The Nixons gave the royal couple a tour of Washington s sites when they made a state visit to the U.S. in 1959.

“Philip, by all measures, he was being kind,” Byron said of the letter. “And really expressing so much of his character.”

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US expels Russian diplomats and imposes sanctions for hacking

The US has announced it will expel 10 Russian diplomats and impose sanctions against dozens of people and companies, holding the Kremlin accountable for interference in last year’s presidential election and the hacking of federal agencies.

The sweeping measures announced on Thursday are meant to punish Russia for actions that US officials say cut to the core of American democracy and to deter future acts by imposing economic costs on Moscow, including by targeting its ability to borrow money.

The sanctions are certain to exacerbate tensions with Russia, which promised a response, even as President Joe Biden said the administration could have taken more punitive measures but chose not to in the interests of maintaining stability.

“We cannot allow a foreign power to interfere in our democratic process with impunity,” Biden said at the White House.

Sanctions against six Russian companies that support the country’s cyber efforts represent the first retaliatory measures against the Kremlin for the hack familiarly known as the SolarWinds breach, with the US explicitly linking the intrusion to the SVR, a Russian intelligence agency.

Though such intelligence-gathering missions are not uncommon, officials said they were determined to respond because of the operation’s broad scope and the high cost of the intrusion on private companies.

The US also announced sanctions on 32 individuals and entities accused of attempting to interfere in last year’s presidential election, including by spreading disinformation.

US officials alleged in a declassified report last month that Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised influence operations to help Donald Trump in his unsuccessful bid for reelection as president, though there’s no evidence Russia or anyone else changed votes.

The actions, foreshadowed by the administration for weeks, signal a harder line against Putin, whom Trump was reluctant to criticise even as his administration pursued sanctions against Moscow.

They mark the administration’s second major foreign policy move in two days, following the announcement of troop withdrawals from Afghanistan.

Until now, Biden has largely focused on the coronavirus pandemic and economy in his first months in office.

Russian officials spoke of a swift response, with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warning that “a series of retaliatory measures will come in the nearest time.”

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Gaetz and DeSantis: A friendship that may become a liability

When he launched his campaign to become Florida’s governor in January 2018, few expected Ron DeSantis to prevail in America’s toughest political battleground.

The 39-year-old congressman was largely unknown outside his Daytona Beach district. He didn’t have the professional staff or fundraising prowess typically required to compete in such a large state. And he was going up against a more established rival for the Republican nomination.

But at his side, DeSantis had a key ally with strong connections in state politics and the respect of the White House: Matt Gaetz, the Florida congressman now embroiled in a federal sex trafficking investigation. Gaetz appeared at campaign events alongside DeSantis, played his Democratic rival Andrew Gillum in mock debate preparations and encouraged then-President Donald Trump to back DeSantis for governor.

At one campaign stop in Navarre, Florida, Gaetz jokingly referred to DeSantis as “Batman” to his “Robin.”

There is no indication that DeSantis is tied to the federal probe of Gaetz, which has also ensnared several other prominent figures in Florida Republican politics. But the investigation could spark new scrutiny of their political partnership and become a liability for DeSantis as he runs for reelection ahead of a possible presidential bid in 2024.

The Associated Press spoke to nearly a dozen people with direct knowledge of how the DeSantis-Gaetz relationship evolved in recent years. Many of them spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations and observations. They describe a friendship of political convenience between two young, ambitious Republicans eager to rise in a party that was quickly being redefined by Trump.

Gaetz served as an informal political adviser to DeSantis. But as DeSantis became a more seasoned political player, the people said, the bond changed.

“When Ron first got elected governor, he did not have any experience in Tallahassee and Mr. Gaetz did, and so he relied on Mr. Gaetz for his Tallahassee knowledge when he first got there,” said Peter Feaman, a national committeeman for the Republican Party of Florida. “Once Ron got his feet underneath him up in Tallahassee, the only thing they’ve had in common is their support for Mr. Trump and conservative principles. Other than that, I’m not aware of any interaction between the two whatsoever.”

Government agents are investigating whether Gaetz had sex with a 17-year-old and other underage girls and violated federal sex trafficking laws, people familiar with the probe have told the AP. No charges have been filed, and Gaetz has vehemently denied the allegations. The governor has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

Still, the investigation may be moving uncomfortably close to the governor’s office. Besides Gaetz himself, the influential Florida political figures under federal scrutiny include Jason Pirozzolo, a hand surgeon and DeSantis campaign donor, and DeSantis’ political appointee Halsey Beshears, the state’s former top business regulator.

Asked specifically whether DeSantis or his staff had been questioned as part of the investigation, the governor’s spokesperson Meredith Beatrice said: “This is an ongoing DOJ investigation. We have no comment.”

DeSantis and Gaetz briefly overlapped in Congress. They were more frequent regulars at Fox News where Gaetz was a recurring guest and DeSantis used a flood of appearances to gain momentum in the governor’s race.

Those Fox News appearances also helped DeSantis get on Trump’s radar. Gaetz built on that growing profile and was among the Republicans who encouraged Trump to endorse DeSantis in the GOP primary. Trump’s ultimate backing unleashed a flood of fundraising dollars that put DeSantis on a path to victory.

Throughout the campaign, Gaetz was a steady presence. He was among those on stage with DeSantis when he was declared the winner in the governor’s race.

After the victory, Gaetz was one of just four chairmen — and the only current elected official — to lead DeSantis’ transition team. Gaetz, who spent six years in the Florida legislature, advised the governor-elect on hiring and policy decisions and appeared with him in public.

And as DeSantis began to fill out his administration, he tapped Gaetz’s father, former Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, to serve on a transition advisory committee on education and workforce development.

While the governor and the congressman were close politically, they were in very different places in their personal lives. DeSantis was married with young children. Gaetz was single.

Modest signs of tension began to emerge as DeSantis settled into the governor’s office.

One issue was Gaetz’s habit of showing up at Republican political events, often with different women, dressed as if they were going out to a nightclub. Critics suggested privately that Gaetz was acting like a “frat boy.” DeSantis’ wife, Casey DeSantis, one of the governor’s closest political advisers, was cooling to Gaetz as well.

Trump, who remains deeply popular among many GOP voters, could hold significant sway over each man’s political future. While the former president is said to be fond of Gaetz and DeSantis, he has been more publicly aligned with the governor recently.

Over the weekend, DeSantis was the lone presidential prospect invited to share the stage with Trump at a private donor reception at Mar-a-Lago. Gaetz did not participate in the event, which was the party’s biggest formal gathering since Trump left office.

As the investigation unfolds, DeSantis is taking steps to position himself for higher office. He recently hired veteran Republican consultant Phil Cox to lead his reelection team as part of a significant political expansion. The team is so far staying hyperfocused on his 2022 reelection, but allies privately acknowledge that a strong showing next year will put DeSantis in a strong standing for the 2024 presidential contest.

Meanwhile, Gaetz is continuing to look out for DeSantis’ political ambitions — whether DeSantis wants him to or not.

Even as investigators were probing his activities this spring, Gaetz issued three separate press releases from his congressional office promoting DeSantis.

“He is a strong potential presidential candidate in 2024,” Gaetz said he told Fox News, according to one of the official press releases. “The Biden team knows that, and so they’re trying to somehow cast aspersions on the Florida experience because you know what, throughout America there’s a lot of Florida envy right now.”

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Amid hesitancy, Louisiana gets creative in vaccine outreach

Brass bands playing at a 24-hour drive-thru coronavirus vaccine event. Doses delivered to commercial fishermen minutes from the docks. Pop-up immunization clinics at a Buddhist temple, homeless shelters, truck stops and casinos, with shots available at night or on weekends.

And now, door-to-door outreach getting underway in neighborhoods where few people have gotten vaccinated.

Louisiana is making a full-court press to get shots in arms, with aggressive — and sometimes creative — outreach to make it as easy as possible to get vaccinated. The effort comes as vaccine supplies are surging but demand is not.

The state has enlisted health care workers, colleges, community groups and church pastors to help cajole the hesitant and set up vaccination events. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has thrown open vaccine access to anyone age 16 or older. The health department has launched a call center to answer vaccine questions and set up appointments for those without internet access or limited tech skills.

Civic organizations and faith-based groups working with the state have started using get-out-the-vote tactics, knocking on doors and making phone calls, to pitch the vaccine.

But even with widespread ease of access, Louisiana officials struggle with a problem almost as vexing as COVID-19 itself: How to persuade those who are iffy about the shot to roll up their sleeves.

“I, quite frankly, don’t know what folks are waiting for. It just doesn’t make sense to me, but I’m going to continue to appeal to them,” Edwards said.

Health officials anticipate a difficult time reaching the threshold scientists believe is needed to stop uncontrolled spread of COVID-19, a benchmark of 70% or higher of the population having immunity either through vaccination or past infection. The problem has taken on particular urgency as more virulent and contagious virus strains reach the United States

State surveys indicate 40% or more of Louisiana residents are hesitant about getting the vaccine or entirely unwilling to do so. And while Louisiana is administering doses at rates greater than some other Southern states, it remains among the bottom six in vaccinating adults 18 and older, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Other states also are trying novel approaches, either because they’ve seen noticeable dips in vaccine interest or have concerns about equitable access.

Alaska’s health department is weighing creating vaccine clinics in airports. Ohio’s health agency asked vaccine providers to develop sites near bus stops and to consider offering mobile immunization services. In Connecticut, the health department launched an effort to call residents directly to schedule appointments. Mississippi is working with local organizations to bring vaccinations directly to homebound elderly people. Alabama’s health agency surveyed vaccine reluctance to determine how it should craft messaging to appeal to the hesitant.

Dr. Catherine O’Neal, chief medical officer of Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Louisiana’s capital, Baton Rouge said she’s hearing from people who believe vaccine misinformation from social media, but also from those who simply don’t have a sense of urgency about getting a shot. Others worry about side effects.

“We have enough vaccine. … If you want an appointment, you can get it within a week,” O’Neal said. But for many “there’s no driving force on when they’ll get it.”

Nearly 31% of the state’s population has received at least one dose of a vaccine that can require two doses, according to state data. More than 22% have been fully immunized.

Shane Pizani, a former Marine who lives in a New Orleans suburb, contracted COVID-19 shortly after Thanksgiving, with lingering symptoms for more than a month. Still, he was jittery about the vaccine.

To alleviate his worries, he did research and discussed it with his doctor, gaining information he said put him more at ease. When he got his first shot in mid-February, he had a panic attack.

Still, he got the second dose and then went to work to persuade his mom — who repeated anti-vaccine conspiracy theories she saw on social media.

“I just kept on, kept on, kept on. I told her, ‘We’re going to stop coming around with the kids, because I cannot live with myself if I gave you COVID and something happened to you,’” Pizani said. “So, she finally went and got her appointment.”

Kerri Tobin, an education professor at Louisiana State University initially worried the vaccine came together too quickly to be safe. Then, she watched as more friends in the health care industry and others she trusted posted on social media about receiving their doses.

“I see someone else doing it and they are OK. And that keeps happening,” she said.

Tobin received her second dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the end of March.

Health officials believe that sort of word-of-mouth among friends and family will help boost vaccinations.

Surveys show those who are reticent or don’t want the vaccine cross racial groups and regions. A recent LSU survey showed greater uninterest from Republicans than Democrats. State officials have particular concern about southwest Louisiana, where people are struggling with recovery from back-to-back hurricanes and appear less focused on the pandemic.

In each instance, Louisiana’s health department and state officials are trying to find a persuasive approach. For example, data shows Black people have gotten vaccinated at lower rates so the state reached out to African American pastors and is hosting immunization events at their churches. The state’s historically Black college system is doing its own targeted outreach enlisting alumni, and faith-based and social organizations to encourage people to get vaccinated.

Some parishes have started delivering vaccines to seniors who are disabled at home and worked out deals with rideshare services to offer free transportation to vaccination events.

Such vaccine outreach may be further complicated by this week’s pause of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine after reports of rare blood clots in six women who received it. Experts say it’s too early to tell whether that will increase reluctance in Louisiana and elsewhere.

Mike Bayham, secretary of the Republican Party of Louisiana, had a rough battle with COVID-19 in March 2020. He was bedridden for a week and dealing with symptoms for weeks longer.

He’s now received his first shot — and he’s encouraging fellow Republicans to do the same. Bayham tells friends and colleagues the vaccine is one of the greatest achievements of Donald Trump’s presidency, and he shares details of what it feels like to have COVID-19.

“You don’t want this virus. Whatever the vaccine can do to you, the virus is far worse,” Bayham said.

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Video: Live Q&A: Mike Lindell Launches New Social Network; Democrats Introduce Bill to Expand Supreme Court

Video: Live Q&A: Mike Lindell Launches New Social Network; Democrats Introduce Bill to Expand Supreme Court

Mike Lindell of MyPillow announced the launch of his new social media platform for April 19, 2021, and said it will uphold protections on free speech laid out in the U.S. Constitution. And a group of Democrats on Thursday unveiled their bill to expand the Supreme Court, but party leaders showed little support and Republicans assailed the proposal as radical. In this live Q&A with Crossroads host Joshua Philipp, we’ll discuss this story and others, and answer questions from the audience.

These stories and more in this episode of Crossroads.

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Impersonation nation? Israeli intel firms’ shady methods spotlighted in UAE flap

A report last week accusing a private Israeli intelligence firm of impersonating journalists in order to elicit information from opponents of an Emirati royal family shines a spotlight on Israeli cyber intelligence firms that reportedly do business in authoritarian regimes.

A Times of Israel investigation has revealed that the owner of the firm in question, Bluehawk CI, has a history of prior fraud prosecutions in Israel. The Defense Ministry chose not to respond to a Times of Israel’s inquiry as to why it had not regulated the firm’s activities abroad.

According to the April 6 report in The Daily Beast, in early 2020 individuals pretending to be a Fox News researcher and a reporter for Italy’s La Stampa newspaper approached two individuals who have fallen afoul of the leadership of Ras Al Khaimah, one of seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE). According to the Daily Beast, the journalist impersonators tried to trick the two men into divulging information about their legal disputes with the emirate.

The report underlines how Israel has in recent years spawned an industry of seemingly unregulated spy-for-hire firms, with former Israeli military officers privatizing skills they acquired in secretive intelligence units and often selling their know-how to sketchy individuals or authoritarian regimes.

The Daily Beast reportedly established the identity of the private intelligence firm by contacting Facebook, which revealed that accounts used by the two supposed journalists were associated with the Israeli firm Bluehawk CI.

Bluehawk CI did not respond to The Times of Israel’s request for comment.

A spokesperson for Israel’s Ministry of Defense said that Bluehawk CI does not appear on its list of approved vendors, but did not answer a follow-up question as to whether the ministry is supposed to be regulating the company in the first place.

According to Israel’s Defense Export Control Law, anyone exporting defense equipment or know-how abroad must register with and receive permission from Israel’s Defense Export Control Agency.

Bluehawk CI is one of the less well-known Israeli private intelligence firms. Founded in June 2018, it offers cyber technologies and intelligence solutions, including “social engineering & PR campaign management” and “complex intelligence investigations,” according to its website.

The company was founded and is owned by Guy Klisman, a former major in the Israel Defense Forces. Klisman is also the academic director of the Pafos Innovation Institute in Cyprus, a cybersecurity studies institute founded by Uriel Reichman, a law professor who heads the Interdisciplinary Institute in Herzliya. Klisman’s company, Bluehawk CI, is a sponsor of the Hapoel Tel Aviv basketball team.

Court filings show that before founding the company, Klisman was twice indicted by Israeli prosecutors, once for forgery and separately for multiple unauthorized charges to an acquaintance’s credit card. He acknowledged guilt in the forgery case while the second indictment was ultimately withdrawn.

According to The Daily Beast, in February 2020, someone claiming to be named “Samantha,” a FOX News journalist, contacted a man named Oussama El Omari by email. El Omari is the former chief executive and director general of the Ras Al Khaimah Free Trade Zone Authority in the United Arab Emirates. He was convicted in absentia in the UAE  for “embezzlement and abuse of position” following a succession battle in Ras Al Khaimah. El Omari claims the charges are politically motivated.

“Samantha” reportedly tried to elicit information about his legal disputes with Ras Al Khaimah. When contacted by The Daily Beast, Facebook reportedly told news site that “Smantha’s” account was in fact associated with Bluehawk CI.

According to the Daily Beast, another Facebook user pretending to be a reporter for Italy’s La Stampa newspaper contacted Khater Massaad, another foe of the current Ras Al Khaimah regime. Massaad was the head of Ras Al Khaimah’s sovereign wealth fund, RAKIA until 2012. He was convicted by an Emirati court in 2015 of embezzlement from RAKIA, charges Massaad likewise claims were trumped up and politically motivated.

The fake reporter, whom Facebook tied to Bluehawk CI, likewise tried to elicit information about his relationship with the rulers of Ras Al Khaimah, The Daily Beast reported.

‘High cost of living’

The recent normalization of ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates has been a boon for Israeli intelligence and cybersecurity firms, with companies like the iPhone-hacking NSO Group, venture capital firm Synaptech Capital and Cellebrite all reportedly making lucrative deals in the desert sheikhdoms.

Cybersecurity is Israel’s leading high-tech sector in terms of the amount of venture capital it attracts, according to the Israel Innovation Authority [Hebrew link].

For Bluehawk CI, work in the UAE may have been a source of desperately needed cash.

In 2015, prior to founding Blackhawk CI, Klisman and his then-wife declared bankruptcy, according to Israeli court filings. The couple had hundreds of thousands of shekels in consumer debt, which they attributed to Israel’s “high cost of living.”

Israel is one of the most expensive countries in the world, with Tel Aviv recently ranked as the world’s fifth most expensive city.

In 2016, Israeli prosecutors indicted Klisman for counterfeiting bailiffs’ and court documents in an effort to prevent the IDF from garnishing his salary to pay off creditors. A judge deemed him guilty of the crimes but did not officially convict him, sentencing him to 250 hours of community service. Klisman retired from the Israel Defense Forces at the end of 2017 and founded his company six months later.

In January 2018, Klisman was charged by fraud police with using the credit card number of a woman he met in a Whatsapp tennis group to make NIS 1,577 (about $450) in unauthorized purchases. A year later the government withdrew the indictment.

Klisman did not respond to The Times of Israel’s request for comment.

While it is unclear who may or may not have hired Bluehawk, Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, a company that represents clients in legal disputes with UAE governments, believes the government of Ras Al Khaimah is responsible.

“This is monstrous,” said Stirling in a press release.

“By contracting the espionage out to a private firm, the government of Ras Al Khaimah is trying to avoid accountability for spying on foreign nationals outside their jurisdiction; but this is a major breach and the UAE and Israel must be called to account,” Stirling said.

Where to draw the ethical red line?

According to a 2019 report by Israel’s cyber directorate, at the end of 2018, Israel had 421 active cyber companies of which 7 percent, or about 30, are engaged in “cyber intelligence.”

Elad Ratson, a former Israeli diplomat who is the Founder and CEO of Vayehee, a company that uses technology to counter fake news, foreign misinformation and what he describes as “online weapons of mass obstruction,” told The Times of Israel that in his estimate the number of such companies is higher.

Elad Ratson (LinkedIn)

“Most Israeli cyber intelligence companies specialize in OSINT or open-source intelligence,” he said. “This is an area of expertise of the Israeli intelligence services. There are huge amounts of openly available data online, and Israel’s intelligence services are reputable for their effective use of machine learning and artificial intelligence to extract quality intelligence from the sea of available big-data out there.”

The majority of Israeli cyberintelligence companies focus on passive OSINT, he said, merely scraping data that is freely available.

Some, however, also engage in what he calls “perception engineering,” or the manipulation of a target’s point of view through methods of “online deception.” Such companies, he said, one of the most famous of which is Black Cube, can often earn a bad reputation as a result of their activities.

Nevertheless, Ratson believes that many Israeli cyberintelligence companies do have ethical red lines they won’t cross.

“Unlike other government ministries in Israel, the Israeli Defense Ministry has a strong export regulatory arm. Israeli cyber companies are cautious about working for the ‘wrong’ type of clients and falling afoul of the Defense Ministry,” he said.

Nevertheless, “the temptation is high,” Ratson added. “Sometimes when there are large sums of money on the table, some companies have attempted to cut ethical corners. That’s when you start to see negative international press associated with Israeli cyber companies.

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US says Russia was given Trump campaign polling data in 2016

It was one of the more tantalizing, yet unresolved, questions of the investigation into possible connections between Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign: Why was a business associate of campaign chairman Paul Manafort given internal polling data — and what did he do with it?

A Treasury Department statement Thursday offered a potentially significant clue, asserting that Konstantin Kilimnik a Russian and Ukrainian political consultant, had shared sensitive campaign and polling information with Russian intelligence services.

Kilimnik has long been alleged by U.S. officials as having ties to Russian intelligence. But the statement in a broader Treasury Department sanctions announcement was the first time the U.S. government had so directly drawn a connection from the Trump campaign to the Kremlin’s intelligence services. The revelation was all the more startling because it went beyond any allegation made in either special counsel Robert Mueller s 2019 report or in an even more damning and detailed document released last year by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Both those investigations were unable to determine what Kilimnik did with the data and whether he shared it further.

The issue resurfaced Thursday because Kilimnik was one of 32 people and entities sanctioned by the U.S. government for interference in the 2020 election. Officials say Kilimnik sought to promote the bogus narrative that Ukraine, not Russia, had interfered in the 2016 election.

Kilimnik was a key but mysterious figure in Mueller’s investigation into potential coordination between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign. A business associate of Manafort’s who worked closely with him, even managing his firm’s office in Kyiv, Kilimnik is mentioned by name 156 times in the Mueller report. He was also indicted alongside Manafort on witness tampering allegations, but has not appeared in the U.S. to face those charges. The FBI has issued a $250,000 award for information leading to his arrest.

A key episode examined by Mueller involved Manafort’s decision to share campaign polling data with Kilimnik — something prosecutors say Manafort lied about when questioned about it. Investigators scrutinized a series of secretive encounters between the men, including one August 2016 session at the Grand Havana Club in New York.

There, according to statements provided by Mueller, Manafort briefed Kilimnik on internal campaign data and messaging and they discussed battleground states.

The exchange of polling data was an eye-catching data point, especially since it raised questions that perhaps Russia could have exploited such inside information to target influence campaigns aimed at boosting Trump’s election bid in 2016.

But Mueller’s team said it couldn’t “reliably determine” Manafort’s purpose in sharing it, nor assess what Kilimnik may have done with it — in part due to questions over Manafort’s credibility. The Senate committee also came up empty, though its report drew attention for its characterization of Kilimnik as a Russian intelligence officer.

It was not clear what new information, if any, led to the Treasury Department’s assessment that Kilimnik had “provided the Russian Intelligence Services with sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy.” A Treasury Department spokesman did not return an email seeking comment.

____

Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP

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Jimmy Lai, Martin Lee, Among 10 HK Dissidents to Be Sentenced Over Outlawed Pro-Democracy Protest

10 Hong Kong dissidents are expected to be sentenced on April 16, including media mogul Jimmy Lai, for taking part in unauthorized assemblies in 2019 during the height of the anti-Beijing, pro-democracy movement.

Lai and six other dissidents attended a mitigation hearing at the West Kowloon court building in the morning, over their roles at a protest on Aug. 18, 2019. The seven dissidents were found guilty in March of unauthorized assembly charges after they were arrested in April last year.

On Aug. 18, 2019, a rally at Victoria Park, which was was organized by the local pro-democracy group Civil Human Rights Front, drew more than 1.7 million Hongkongers, in protest against an extradition bill that would allow the Chinese Communist Party to send people charged with a crime in Hong Kong to China for trial. The police approved of the rally but did not approve an ensuing march.

Hong Kong protests
Protesters gather during a rally at Victoria Park in Hong Kong on Aug. 18, 2019. Pro-democracy protesters have continued rallies on the streets of Hong Kong against a controversial extradition bill since June 9 as the city plunged into crisis after waves of peaceful demonstrations and several violent clashes. (Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images)

Aside from Lai, the six other defendants are Lee Cheuk-yan, 64; Margaret Ng, 73; Leung Kwok-hung, 65; Cyd Ho, 66; Albert Ho, 69; and Martin Lee, 82. Lee is a barrister who has been dubbed the “father of democracy” in Hong Kong.

The seven pleaded not guilty in February, while two other dissidents, Leung Yiu-chung, 67, and Au Nok-hin, 33, pleaded guilty.

The court is expected to hand out sentences against all nine dissidents later on Friday, while a separate court hearing on Friday afternoon is expected to hand out additional sentences.

The afternoon case involved three dissidents, Lai, Lee Cheuk-yan, and Yeung Sum, over their roles in a protest on Aug. 31, 2019.

On Friday morning, about 100 people lined up outside of the West Kowloon court building to hear the case and voiced support for the seven dissidents. One woman dressed in black with a black hat held up a placard with the words “Free all political prisoners.”

Hong Kong
(L-R) Consular representatives from Australia, Canada, Sweden, France, and the Netherlands, outside of the West Kowloon court building in Hong Kong on April 16, 2021. (Sung Pi-lung/The Epoch Times)

Also attending the hearing were consular representatives from multiple countries, including Australia, Canada, France, and Sweden, as well as Charles Whiteley, deputy head of the European Union Office in Hong Kong and Macau. He said that the court case was a “legitimate interest to the international community.”

“We will be following the outcome today and reflecting on the outcome,” Whiteley said.

Hong Kong
Charles Whiteley, deputy head of the European Union Office in Hong Kong and Macau, speaks to reporters outside of the West Kowloon court building in Hong Kong on April 16, 2021. (Sung Pi-lung/The Epoch Times)

Emily Lau Wai-hing, former chairman of the local Democratic Party, also attended the hearing. She said that she was glad to see the presence of the consular corps in Hong Kong to come to the hearing.

“We want the international community to know what’s going on. Hong Kong is still an international city, and we hope our core values would not be destroyed completely,” Lau said. “I just hope that they will get a free and fair and objective trial and verdict.”

She added: “Maybe some of us will end up behind bars, but we have to continue to fight.”

Hong Kong
Martin Lee outside of the West Kowloon court building in Hong Kong on April 16, 2021. (Sung Pi-lung/The Epoch Times)

“We will not give up,” Lee told reporters when he arrived at the court. He added, “We will have hope if we continue our efforts.”

“The government can lock us up behind bars but they cannot lock up our mind, not our conscience. We are not the first [group] of prisoners of conscience, and we will not be the last,” Ng told reporters outside of the courthouse.

Hong Kong
Margaret Ng, Lee Cheuk-yan, and Figo Chan, the convener of local pro-democracy group Civil Human Rights Front, outside of the West Kowloon court building in Hong Kong on April 16, 2021. (Sung Pi-lung/The Epoch Times)

Local district councilor Cary Lo said that the Hong Kong government has taken away people’s freedom of speech, including their ability to comment on politics, and there wasn’t any venue for people to express their views about Beijing’s power grab in Hong Kong.

Lo was asked if he planned to leave Hong Kong, like many Hongkongers who have fled the city out of fear of being prosecuted for taking part in recent protests.

“This is our home, our family. We don’t leave here because we stand up here and want to commit more to serve and save Hong Kong,” Lo said.

Before entering the courthouse, Leung Kwok-hung shouted: “Peaceful assembly is not a crime.”

Hong Kong bureau of The Epoch Times contributed to the article.

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‘Hillbilly’ to Capitol Hill? Author eyes Senate bid in Ohio

Rodney Muterspaw figures J.D. Vance has already shown he’s got what it takes to be a U.S. senator.

Vance, the “Hillbilly Elegy” author and a fellow Middletown native, broke out of poverty and family chaos and never forgot his Appalachian roots on his way to success.

“I think he can talk in a way that the average person can understand,” said the retired police chief, who, like Vance, has eastern Kentucky roots. “I’m a hillbilly, and I understand him 100%.”

Muterspaw’s view is at the heart of the fiercest political debate in Ohio. With his 2016 book, Vance helped explain to the nation Donald Trump s popularity among the white Appalachian working class of his upbringing. Now at 36, the bestselling author is considering whether he can win the votes of the people he claims to know so well.

Vance says he’s “thinking seriously” about running for the Senate seat that Republican Rob Portman is vacating in 2022. Now a venture capitalist, he already has a billionaire backer supporting him and, despite previous criticism of Trump, has met with the former president. But other Republicans are hardly clearing the field, and Vance’s success is likely to hinge on whether the state’s white working-class voters embrace him as a home-state hero or an opportunist.

Muterspaw, 52, splashed some almond milk into his dark-roast coffee at Java Johnny’s, among the trendy restaurants and retail shops that have been popping up along Central Avenue — where there still are some of the “We Buy Gold” storefronts that sprang up during the Great Recession. Middletown is about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northeast of Cincinnati.

A Republican with mixed feelings about Trump, Muterspaw thinks Vance has the Trump-like ability to connect with GOP voters and a relatable life story.

Vance rose out of a family beset by chaos from his mother’s addictions; from a mill town that was in steep decline and ravaged by opioids as its major employers faltered amid globalization. He joined the Marines, served in Iraq, worked his way through The Ohio State University and graduated from Yale Law School before heading to Silicon Valley in 2014, then returning to Ohio in 2017.

His bestselling book told not only his own story but also highlighted the people of Appalachia and cities like his hometown that feel left behind, and it was embraced by small-government conservatives for depicting poverty as a cultural problem not easily fixed by government programs and aid.

He became a popular TV political commentator, dubbed “the Trump whisperer” for his ability to explain the Republican’s rise to the presidency, and his book became a Ron Howard-directed movie.

Vance didn’t respond to an interview request from The Associated Press. But in interviews and tweets, he’s signaled his interest in the culture war issues popular in the GOP.

At a forum on “Desegregating Poverty,” hosted by veteran civil rights activist Robert Woodford, he argued that addressing the problem of fatherless families, regardless of race, and focusing on the kind of stable home life he lacked are crucial to socioeconomic progress.

“I just wish that we could actually look at people as people, and if we did that, I think we’d have a much better sense of what their real problems are,” said Vance, who lives in Cincinnati with his wife, Usha, and their two sons.

Just before Easter, Vance posted a lengthy essay on his spiritual journey from Christian evangelical roots into atheism and then to becoming Catholic. Among others, he quoted Saint Augustine and Jules, the “Pulp Fiction” hit man played by Samuel L. Jackson. He expects his Christian faith to help guide his policies for those who are struggling in life.

Vance has been active on Twitter, criticizing “the ruling class,” immigration policy and Big Tech censorship. He stirred up Twitter last week with a defense of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, accused of using white supremacist rhetoric about immigrants.

“Tucker Carlson is the only powerful figure who consistently challenges elite dogma — on both cultural and economic questions. That is why they try to destroy him,” Vance wrote.

This week he resigned from the board of a Kentucky company that uses green technology to produce food in Appalachia. Vance didn’t provide an explanation publicly, but the Morehead, Kentucky, newspaper linked the resignation to the Carlson tweet and others.

Part of the Appalachian code warns against getting “too big for your britches.” Some think Vance has, perpetuating backward regional stereotypes while making his millions in Silicon Valley.

In December, Appalachian authors presented a program titled “Don’t Cry For Us, J.D. Vance.”

Meanwhile, political foes are skeptical about his motives.

Vance is “someone that, I feel, has purposely used poor people and the people of Appalachia and even his own family to promote his own image. It’s just shameful,” Ted Strickland, a Democratic native of southern Ohio who served as governor and congressman, said in a recent radio interview.

Strickland supports Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan who represents the northeastern part of Appalachian Ohio and is readying a Senate run.

Thirty-two of Ohio’s 88 counties are classified as Appalachian, with roughly 2 million residents in a state of 11.7 million. However, hundreds of thousands of more people in cities such as Columbus, Dayton and Middletown have Appalachian roots from parents and grandparents who migrated north for once-plentiful factory jobs available to workers without college degrees.

Trump rode their support in two sweeping victories in Ohio, and you can still find Trump flags, banners and yard signs left in place by diehards around the region. Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 was the last Democratic presidential candidate to carry Butler County, home of Middletown.

Life in Middletown, with nearly 49,000 people, long revolved around the Armco Steel company that became AK Steel during Vance’s youth. A yearlong lockout of 2,700 workers that began in 2006 underscored that the company’s patriarchal days of having a park, sports teams and a golf course for workers and their families here were long past.

It was once known nationally for Jerry Lucas, a 1950s “Middie” high school standout who went on to college and NBA stardom. Vance has helped “put Middletown back on the map,” Muterspaw said.

Staffers at Middletown High School had trouble finding Vance in the 2003 yearbook, his senior year. They looked under Vance, which was his “Papaw’s” family name he took for himself in adulthood, and also under Bowman, his biological father’s last name. They finally found James Hamel, the last name of a stepfather who adopted J.D. early in his mother’s series of husbands and boyfriends.

A woman answering the door at the two-story home where he spent much of his childhood across from Miami Park had no idea Vance had ever lived there.

At Richie’s Pawn Central — in business since the early 1950s, though Vance mistakenly wrote it had “long since closed” — sales employee Terry Stephens grumbled that the federal stimulus checks have slowed down the pawn business. He said he didn’t expect to vote for Vance to be senator.

“He’s smart and he’s done a lot of things, but I’m a minority in this town,” Stephens said. “I’m a Democrat.”

The GOP field already includes two candidates with statewide networks — former state party chair Jane Timken and former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel.

But Vance is not expected to have trouble raising money. Billionaire entrepreneur Peter Thiel, an early mentor and employer of Vance, gave $10 million to a super PAC formed to encourage his Senate candidacy.

While Vance is making up his mind, the GOP primary field continues to grow.

Former investment banker Mike Gibbons of Cleveland joined the race April 13, after Cleveland businessman Bernie Moreno announced his candidacy April 6. Several U.S. House members are considering a run. Among them is 10-term Rep. Mike Turner of Dayton, who shares Breathitt County, Kentucky, family roots with Vance.

Looming over the race is Trump — and his coveted, but not yet secured, endorsement. The former president has met with several of the Ohio contenders, including Vance. Thiel arranged and attended the meet-and-greet at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, according to a person familiar with the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity because it was private.

John Forren, a Miami University political scientist in Vance’s native Butler County, said he thinks Vance has a potentially winning appeal.

“He’s a different kind of conservative who understands the Trump base and identifies with the Trump base, and he’s positioned very uniquely to do that,” Forren said.

In the battle to win Trump’s backing, GOP foes are likely to highlight Vance’s past criticisms of Trump, such as in a 2016 NPR interview in which he said: “I can’t stomach Trump. I think that he’s noxious and is leading the white working class to a very dark place.”

However, Anirudh Ruhil, who teaches government analytics at Ohio University, nestled in Appalachian southeast Ohio, thinks Vance can overcome that.

“Right now, J.D. Vance is going to be the Trump in 2022 for Portman’s seat,” he predicted. ”I think he has a good chance if he decides to run. His ‘hillbilly roots,’ as he puts it, will certainly help him out.”

___

Associated Press writer Jill Colvin in Washington contributed to this report.

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After saving neighbor, torch-lighter hopes to help others fight domestic abuse

Last year, Adi Guzi helped save her neighbor Shira Isakov from being murdered by her husband. Now she wants to help other women who are subject to domestic violence.

The two were among the honorees at Wednesday’s official torch-lighting ceremony, held annually at the start of Independence Day.

Guzi came to Isakov’s aid in September as her husband allegedly stabbed her 20 times and beat her in the presence of their child. Isakov’s husband, Aviad Moshe, was indicted for attempted murder over the assault, which occurred at their home in the southern town of Mitzpe Ramon.

“I lit [the torch] for women whose voice isn’t heard. Women sitting in the prison that is their homes. Let them see there is a way to get out of there,” Guzi told Channel 12 news during an interview Thursday.

Looking forward, Guzi said she plans to return to managing a gas station, but also hopes to address domestic violence and violence against women. Asked how, she said she would reach out to lawmakers.

“I have a lot of things, so many ideas. I was at this incident by chance,” she said. “This was a shocking incident, but I was there and today in retrospect I know the signs.”

Guzi implored Knesset members to meet with her on the issue.

“There are so many things to do, so many things to talk about — budgets, punishment, enforcement, legislation. I only want to be given the opportunity to talk about this,” she said.

Isakov — who recovered from critical injuries in the assault, and went on to publicly share her story on Israeli television — has been lauded for her efforts to raise awareness of domestic violence. Her case followed several high-profile murders of women by their partners, which sparked an outcry in Israel and calls for more government funding to combat domestic violence.

Last year, 25 women in Israel were killed by their domestic partner or someone close to them.

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White House: Intel on Russian ‘bounties’ on US troops shaky

The White House says that the intelligence community does not have conclusive evidence that Russian intelligence operatives encouraged the Taliban to attack American troops in Afghanistan

The assessment, revealed Thursday as the U.S. announced a host of new sanctions on the Russian government, undermines one of the sharpest attacks Joe Biden and other Democrats leveled against former President Donald Trump during the 2020 White House race. Biden repeatedly attacked Trump on the campaign trail for not standing up to Russian President Vladimir Putin despite his administration being aware of intelligence suggesting Russian agents were offering bounties to the Taliban.

But on Thursday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that after a review of those classified reports, the intelligence community determined it had only “low to moderate confidence” in their authenticity. She said that was due in part to the ways in which the intelligence was obtained, including from interrogations of Afghan detainees.

In June, The Associated Press reported that Trump White House officials were briefed on intelligence about potential bounties in 2019 and again in 2020. Then-national security adviser Robert O’Brien said Trump himself had not been briefed on the matter because the intelligence reports “have not been verified.” U.S. military commanders at the time also said the raw intelligence did not lead them to change their force protection posture in Afghanistan.

The intelligence assessments were first reported by The New York Times and prompted candidate Biden to repeatedly charge that Trump had abandoned U.S. troops by not forcefully responding to the intelligence assessments.

“His entire presidency has been a gift to Putin, but this is beyond the pale,” Biden said of Trump last June, days after the reports first appeared. “It’s a betrayal of the most sacred duty we bear as a nation to protect and equip our troops when we send them into harm’s way. It’s a betrayal of every single American family with a loved one serving in Afghanistan or anywhere overseas.”

Biden raised the subject of the reported bounties on U.S. troops during his first call with Putin on Jan. 26, the White House said at the time. No mention of the topic was revealed by the White House after their latest call on Tuesday.

Defense officials and military commanders repeatedly said that the reports of bounties had not been corroborated by defense intelligence agencies and that they were not convinced the reports were credible. They also said they didn’t believe any bounties resulted in U.S. military deaths.

The White House said Thursday’s sanctions were in response to Russia’s interference in U.S. elections, crackdown on dissidents, cyberintrusions and its occupation of Crimea — but not the reported “bounties” placed on American troops.

“The reason that they have low to moderate confidence in this judgment is in part because it relies on detainee reporting, and due to the challenging environment and also due to the challenging operating environment in Afghanistan,” Psaki said. “So it’s challenging to gather this intelligence and this data.”

Psaki added that U.S. intelligence has evidence that Russian military intelligence, known as the GRU, interacts with individuals in Afghan criminal networks.

“This information really puts the burden on Russia and the Russian government to explain their engagement here,” she said.

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Australia PM Cautions Against ‘Making Conclusions’ After Woman Dies Following COVID-19 Vaccination

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Premier Gladys Berejiklian have urged the public not to jump to any conclusions after a woman died after developing blood clots following her COVID-19 jab.

The 48-year-old woman from New South Wales (NSW) received her AstraZeneca vaccine last Friday and developed blood clots soon after.

Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and NSW Health are currently investigating whether the death was linked to the vaccine.

“It has not yet been established whether there is any link between the COVID-19 vaccine and the tragic death reported by NSW health officials,” TGA said in a statement. “NSW Health has said there is no confirmed link, but further investigations are underway.”

Berejiklian said she did not know any more than the public on whether the death was linked to the vaccine and offered her heartfelt condolences to the woman’s family and loved ones.

“We’re waiting for the federal authorities to let us know if there is a link,” Berejiklian told Nine. “Until that time, I think we should just wait for that medical advice.”

Epoch Times Photo
Premier Gladys Berejiklian during a COVID-19 update press conference in Sydney, Australia, on Nov. 25, 2020. (Damian Shaw-Pool/Getty Images)

Berejiklian believed the “vast majority” of Australians wanted to receive a COVID-19 vaccine despite several reported incidents of people experiencing adverse reactions soon after their vaccinations.

“The vast majority of our citizens know the benefits of taking a vaccine; they also know the risks, as slight as it is,” she said. “I turned 50 last year and got the jab and am very excited to get the second one. The vast majority of our citizens want a vaccine.”

The TGA said the blood clotting disorders connected to the AstraZeneca vaccine are “extremely rare” and differ from common blood clots.

“The clotting disorder being investigated in connection with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, which is now referred to as ‘thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), has been confirmed in only two cases out of over 700,000 people who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine in Australia,” TGA said.

Morrison said he would refrain from further comment until the medical authorities found conclusive evidence of the cause of the death.

“The federal and state authorities are still investigating that matter and seeking further clinical information,” Morrison said in a press conference. “I think there’s a lot more to understand and learn about that issue, and I would caution others in making conclusions on this at that point as well.”

Australians under 50 were recently advised against receiving AstraZeneca after the European Union’s drug watchdog confirmed the link between the vaccine to the rare blood clotting disorder. Meanwhile, Denmark has announced the complete suspension in its rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

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Another Child, 2, Dropped by Smuggler Over Border Wall: CBP Video

Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke of the San Diego area published a distressing video of a smuggler dropping a 2-year-old child from an 18 feet high border wall to the child’s father, who was standing at mid-altitude on a concrete structure.

Heitke said that the incident occurred on Sunday and that, luckily, the child wasn’t hurt.

“Sunday, #BorderPatrol agents witnessed a smuggler drop a two-year-old child from atop the 18-foot-high border wall into the arms of the child’s father,” wrote Heitke. “This event could have been catastrophic. Luckily, the child was not injured.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released an operational update last week, which stated that more than 172,000 illegal immigrants were apprehended in March along the Southwest border.

Compared to February, March has seen a 100 percent increase of unaccompanied minors from Central America—18,890, the agency stated.

Additionally, Chief Patrol Agent Austin Skero of the Rio Grande sector published two shocking photos, showing a lot of people stuffed in under boards in a trailer.

“An inspection located 2 children (ages 10 and 15) trapped under the trailer boards with 18 adults,” Skero wrote.

“With temperatures on the rise, smuggling attempts like these have a high potential to turn deadly.”

The chief patrol agent didn’t specify the origin of the illegal immigrants.

The Biden administration is considering sending cash to Central American countries to alleviate economic problems that motivate their citizens to leave for the United States.

Alongside the conditional cash transfer program, they are also considering sending CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus vaccines to those countries, the White House’s southern border coordinator Roberta Jacobson told Reuters.

“We’re looking at all of the productive options to address both the economic reasons people may be migrating, as well as the protection and security reasons,” the White House official said.

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Hundreds Pay Respects at Funeral of Slain US Capitol Officer

ADAMS, Mass.—The flag-draped casket of U.S. Capitol Police Officer William Evans was carried into a Massachusetts church on Thursday by his fellow Capitol officers as dozens of state police troopers stood in the street in a steady downpour and saluted.

Evans was killed this month when a driver struck him and another officer at a barricade outside the U.S. Senate in Washington.

The private funeral Mass at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in Adams was followed early Thursday afternoon by a procession to Bellevue Cemetery—where Evans was to be laid to rest beside his father, Howard.

Hundreds of police officers from department across the region lined up outside the church before the Mass under a U.S. flag held aloft by an Adams Fire Department ladder truck. Several residents stood under umbrellas nearby and gathered on the streets for the funeral procession to the cemetery to say goodbye to the officer whose death has shaken the small communities in the northwest corner of the state.

Evans, 41, was raised in North Adams and Clarksburg and was a graduate of Drury High School and Western New England University in Springfield.

william evans us capitol
U.S. Capitol Police officer William “Billy” Evans, an 18-year veteran who was a member of the department’s first responders unit, was killed on April 2, 2021. (U.S. Capitol Police via AP)

North Adams has about 14,000 residents, Adams 8,500, and Clarksburg has only about 1,700. Everybody knows just about everyone else in town, and if they don’t know them, they still share a hometown bond.

“This poor young man lost his life serving his country,” Adams resident Judy McConnell, who said she knows Evans’ mother, told The Berkshire Eagle. “His mother’s heart must be broken. Coming out is the right thing to do to respect people who put their lives on the line every day.”

“It shouldn’t have happened but it did,” Adams resident Greg Trottier told The Boston Globe. “Everybody was in shock. In a big city or something like that it’s different, but when it happens somewhere like here—it’s just terrible. I didn’t personally know him, but I’m just here to pay my respects.”

Evans had served with the U.S. Capitol Police since 2003.

“He has been a member of the First Responder Unit for over 15 years and assigned at the North Barricade, where his fellow officers came to lovingly call him ‘King of the North,’” according to his obituary.

Even when he moved to Virginia, he maintained his loyalty to the Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots, and participated in bowling and baseball leagues for his entire life.

He also loved board games.

“He spread his love of games to his family, with vacations spent around a table sharing laughs, critiquing strategies, and celebrating each other’s wins,” according to the obituary.

He lay in honor Wednesday in the Capitol Rotunda, where President Joe Biden in a eulogy said he was “defined by his dignity, his decency, his loyalty and his courage.”

Survivors include his children, Logan, 9, and Abigail, 7; their mother, Shannon Terranova; his mother, Janice; and his sister, Julie Kucyn.

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Democrats launch long-shot bid to expand US Supreme Court

WASHINGTON (AFP) — A group of congressional Democrats launched a daunting bid Thursday to expand the US Supreme Court from nine to 13 justices, angering Republicans who accused their rivals of attempting a power grab to enact President Joe Biden’s agenda.

The move appears to be an effort by the party’s progressive wing to pressure Biden on the explosive issue, less than one week after the president announced he was forming a commission to study reforming the high court, including the question of adding justices.

The Supreme Court sits as the final arbiter on fundamental American legal matters, which can include minority and LGBTQ rights, racism, the death penalty and electoral controversies — and its justices are appointed for life.

Several liberal Democrats have said expansion is necessary after Donald Trump gave the bench a 6-3 conservative majority with three picks, including one just eight days before the 2020 election and after millions of Americans had voted.

“We are here today because the United States Supreme Court is broken, it is out of balance, and it needs to be fixed,” Senator Ed Markey told reporters on the building’s front steps, adding that Americans worry the court is “no longer a neutral arbiter” of the nation’s constitutional questions.

The US Supreme Court building in Washington, May 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The bill, which would allow Biden to fill all four new seats, appears doomed to fail — at least for now.

Asked whether she supports it, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters “no,” adding she did not have plans to bring it to a floor vote.

Although hesitant, Biden has agreed to consider reform, and last week ordered the creation of a bipartisan commission of scholars, former administration officials and retired federal judges to study the issue.

The White House has downplayed any potential frustration over the lawmakers’ rush to introduce their legislation, although spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Biden would wait to hear from the commission before forming a view.

Achievements ‘unraveled’

Liberals point to recent decisions gutting the Voting Rights Act; opening the floodgates for corporate dark money to impact election campaigns; refusing to strike down voter suppression laws and upholding what critics see as gerrymandering to entrench Republican power.

“The rightwing majority on the Supreme Court has unraveled the greatest achievements of the civil rights movement to produce a government that does not look like, understand, or even pretend to represent the American people,” said congressman Mondaire Jones, one of the bill’s sponsors.

But the new legislation has raised eyebrows in Washington, where expanding the court, even with a commission’s study, would be a heavy lift in such a deeply divided Congress.

“Packing the court goes against everything we believe as Americans,” top House Republican Kevin McCarthy said on Twitter.

“This is about power and control. Democrats want to dismantle our institutions, including the courts, to enact their socialist agenda.”

Activists opposed to the confirmation of then US President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, dressed as characters from “The Handmaid’s Tale,” protest at the Supreme Court on October 22, 2020 in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

The issue has been a political football since the controversial confirmation of conservative Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court following the September 2020 death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal icon.

Trump nominated Barrett just weeks before the November election that he lost to Biden.

Outraged Democrats called her Trump’s second “stolen” justice, as they pointed to the Republicans’ refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick in early 2016 on the grounds that it was too close to that year’s November presidential election.

Congress reformed the court several times in the 19th century, including in 1863 when Republicans expanded it to 10 seats. It was reduced to seven a few years later, but in 1869 it was expanded back to nine, where it has remained.

One of the strongest arguments against court-packing — the notion that once an expansion is undertaken by one party, the other party will retaliate in kind when it gains power — was mentioned by Biden himself during a 2019 primary debate.

“We add three justices. Next time around, we lose control, they add three justices,” Biden said. “We begin to lose any credibility the court has at all.”

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Video of 13-Yr-Old Adam Toledo Being Shot Released by Chicago Police Watchdog

Chicago’s civilian police oversight agency on Thursday released a video of the fatal police shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo, which has been described as “incredibly difficult to watch” by Lori Lightfoot, the city’s mayor.

Toledo died of a gunshot wound to his chest early on March 29, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office said on April 1. The Chicago Police had reported that an officer was responding to a scene where gunfire had been detected when the officer shot the suspect.

A series of videos released Thursday by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (CAPO), tasked by the city council to investigate police shootings in Chicago, shows Toledo evading a police officer down an alley in Little Village, a neighborhood on the city’s West Side, before being shot.

Officers had been dispatched to the area shortly after 2 a.m. after what is called ShotSpotter technology detected the sound of gunfire in the area. There, police found two subjects trying to flee the scene.

Body cam footage shows one officer knocking down one subject and then running after another—Toledo—who was further away down the alley. As the officer gained ground in several seconds, he is heard shouting to Toledo to stop running.

“Police! Stop! Stop right [expletive] now!” the officer yells. Toledo stops as the officer shouts “Hands, hands, show me your [expletive] hands!”

Toledo proceeds to turn around toward the officer and proceeds to put up his hands. Almost simultaneously, the officer yells, “Stop, drop it!” and fires a single round at Toledo, the video shows. The boy collapses, holding his chest. The officer immediately calls dispatch to alert that shots had been fired and ask for an ambulance. He then turns to perform CPR on Toledo.

The officer in the video is identified as Eric Stillman, according to a police report (pdf). The report said that Stillman’s reason for having fired his gun was for “defense of self,” “defense of department member,” to “overcome resistance or aggression,” and “suspect armed with gun.”

Stillman was placed on administrative duty for 30 days—a routine protocol in circumstances where officers fire their weapons.

COPA is continuing is investigation into the situation. “We ask for calm and peace following today’s release and ask for patience as COPA continues to bring this investigation to conclusion,” the agency said in a statement.

“COPA is committed to completing a full, thorough and objective investigation of the entire incident which includes not only the officer’s use of deadly force but also the actions of other involved officers leading up to and following the deadly shooting to determine whether each officers’ actions complied with Department policy directives and training.”

Toledo was pronounced dead at the scene. Police said that a handgun was recovered at the scene. They noted that the other individual who tried to flee from the officers was 21-year-old Ruben Roman Jr., who was arrested on a misdemeanor count of resisting arrest.

According to Fox News, Roman Jr.had fired the gun before police arrived, and had passed off the weapon to Toledo.

CAPO initially said it couldn’t release the video because it involved the shooting of a minor but it decided to do so after Mayor Lightfoot and David O. Brown, the police superintendent, called for the video’s release.

Adam Toledo
A small memorial is seen where 13-year-old Adam Toledo was shot and killed by a Chicago Police officer in the Little Village neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois, on April 15, 2021. (Kamil Krzaczynski/Getty Images)

At a news conference prior to the release of the police cam footage, Lightfoot said what the videos showed was “excruciating.”

“It was excruciating. There are several videos that start at the beginning of the episode. But watching the body cam footage, which shows young Adam, after he’s shot,” she said. “It’s extremely difficult. And I would just say, and I’ve said this to a number of people on my staff or cabinet, as a mom, this is not something you want children to see.”

She called on the public to give Toledo’s family “space to breathe.”

“No parent should ever have a video broadcast widely of their child’s last moments, much less be placed in the terrible situation of losing their child in the first place,” she said. “Even as our understanding of this incident continues to evolve, this remains a complicated and nuanced story, and we all must proceed with deep empathy and calm and importantly, peace.”

Lightfoot said that assertions were “correct” that Toledo had a gun in his hand. She added, “I see no evidence whatsoever that Adam Toledo shot at police.”

Last week, Lightfoot appeared to suggest that Toledo may have been involved in gangs before the night of his death, and that a gang member gave him the gun.

“Gangs are preying on our most vulnerable, corrupting these young minds with promises of familia and lucre,” she said during a news conference on April 5. “None of us should accept that we have adults here and across Chicago preying upon vulnerable teenage boys.”

“That’s how we lessen the allure of gang life,” she added.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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On His Majesty Netanyahu’s Service

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Haaretz.com, the online English edition of Haaretz Newspaper in Israel, gives you breaking news, analyses and opinions about Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

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