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Argentine website’s analysis of Nisman recordings wins Google journalism prize  

(JTA)—An Argentine news outlet’s analysis of secret recordings concerning the bombing of the AMIA Jewish Center in Buenos Aires won a national prize from Google Argentina and the National Forum of Professional Journalists.

The Digital Journalism Innovation Award was announced on Saturday during the 6th National Congress of Digital Journalism, organized by the journalism forum, known as FOPEA, and Google.

La Nacion Data Argentina analyzed 40,000 audio recordings that included information on which Jewish special prosecutor Alberto Nisman based his allegation that the government of former President Cristina de Kirchner cooperated with Iran to cover up the Islamic Republic’s role in the bombing. The group also developed a database that makes it possible to search the recordings by topic or person. Nisman was found dead in 2015 just hours before he was to present his findings to Argentinean lawmakers.

Google Argentina recognized “the exploration and testing of different technologies to achieve the journalistic objective, one of which was the voice recognition to achieve an accurate transcription of the audios. The technology was unable to fulfill this task satisfactorily and this marks a way for Google and other industry companies to continue working on developing more and better tools.”

The analysis, which was conducted by 120 volunteers, uncovered several pieces of information that had not been previously disclosed. Among them:

* Iran’s local community paid bail to help a local activist accused of being a member of the violent movement Quebracho;

* A national senator from an official government party was discovered to be an active lobbyist for the Iranian government in partnership with local businessmen;

* Iran financed a local activist movement in favor of the Kirchner government that led demonstrations and protests against the U.S. Embassy.

Nisman was found dead on Jan. 18, 2015, hours before he was to present his allegations concerning the AMIA bombing, which killed 85 people and injured 300. His allegations named then-President de Kirchner, former Foreign Minister Hector Timerman and other government officials as co-conspirators in a cover-up.

Whether Nisman’s shooting in his apartment was murder or self-inflicted has yet to be determined.

The La Nacion data investigation is also shortlisted for the global Data Journalism Awards.

Jewish-Christian fellowship group increases aid to Arab Israelis during Ramadan

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews is increasing food and clothing assistance to Arab Israelis during the Muslim holiday season of Ramadan.

The fellowship currently is distributing 9,500 food and clothing vouchers during Ramadan, which began on May 26, through Israeli social services offices in 78 Arab and Arab-Jewish communities. More than 9,000 low-income families will receive the assistance. The fellowship also will distribute 5,500 food vouchers and 4,000 clothing vouchers to children in after-school clubs run by Israel’s Ministry of Social Services and Social Affairs.

The Ramadan aid is part of an overall $5.6 million that the fellowship is providing to needy Israeli Arabs in 2017, the group said. The fellowship’s founder and president, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, has called on the government of Israel to bolster Israeli Arabs’ connection to the country in the wake of a proposed law to officially declare Israel a Jewish state, which has stirred anxiety among Israeli Arabs and other minorities.

“It is important that the citizens of Israel understand that the legislation of the law declaring Israel as the nation of the Jewish people may be important, but the feeling of equality and quality of life among the Arab citizens of Israel, one-fifth of Israel’s citizens, is the real guarantee of the whole Israeli society and the future of a moral and sustainable nation,” Eckstein said in a statement.

The fellowship also recently invested in projects to improve medical services in Bedouin communities, and has provided educational scholarships for many hundreds of Christian and Muslim Arab and Druze Israelis.

Jewish nurse breastfeeds baby of injured Palestinian mother during hospital shift

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A Palestinian baby seriously injured in a car accident was breastfed by a Jewish nurse when he refused to take a bottle.

Nurse Ula Ostrowski-Zak nursed the nine-month-old boy throughout her shift at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital on Friday night, the Ynet news website reported.

The baby’s family had been in a head-on collision with a bus on Route 60 in the West Bank, killing the baby’s father and leaving his mother with a serious head injury. The baby was slightly injured and cried for seven hours in the emergency room while continuing to refuse a bottle, according to the report.

The baby’s aunts asked Ostrowski-Zak to help them find someone to nurse the boy and the nurse reportedly volunteered to do it herself. She nursed the baby five times during the next day. She then posted a request for help with nursing the baby on an Israeli Facebook page for nursing mothers and received many responses from women willing to come to the hospital, from as far away as Haifa, to help feed the baby until he is discharged.

The baby’s mother remains in serious condition.

Converging interests of Israel, Arab states is ‘opportunity,’ McMaster tells AJC

(JTA)—H.R. McMaster, the U.S. National Security Advisor, called the converging interests of Israel and other Middle Eastern countries an “opportunity,” during an address to the American Jewish Committee’s Global Forum in Washington.

In a speech Sunday night, McMaster noted a “reassessment of regional relationships, most notably between Israel and a number of our Arab partners—all friends of America, but too often adversaries of each other. Today their interests are converging. This is an opportunity.”

Citing the 1967 Six Day War as an example, McMaster said that what can appear to be an unprecedented challenge can present opportunities. Today, in the face of threats from Hamas, Hezbollah, the Islamic State and Iran, Israel “has adapted and performed amazingly well” because it “consistently recognized and acted on opportunities when others may have seen only difficulties,” he said.

McMaster praised Trump’s recent visit to the Middle East, noting that aimed to reaffirm American leadership in the world, build relationships with regional leaders and “promote a message of unity among the followers of three of the world’s great faiths.”

McMaster said that Trump convinced more than 50 leaders of Muslim countries he met with in Saudi Arabia to agree “to cut off the financing for extremists and prevent them from hijacking and perverting their religion,” a pledge he said the administration intended to monitor.

McMaster added that while in Israel, Trump “reaffirmed America’s rock-solid alliance with our closest military ally,” and emphasized to the Palestinian Authority leadership the need to counter terrorism.

The AJC Global Forum runs through June 6 in Washington, D.C., with more than 2,500 participants from across the United States and 70 countries around the world.

American UN Ambassador Nikki Haley to visit Israel on Wednesday

JERUSALEM (JTA)—U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley will visit Israel, including the Old City of Jerusalem and the Western Wall.

Haley will arrive in Israel on Wednesday, according to Israeli news reports.

She is scheduled to meet with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as senior Palestinian officials, the Times of Israel reported.

Haley is scheduled to fly over the country’s northern and southern borders in a helicopter, visit Tel Aviv and lay a wreath at Yad Vashem, accompanied by Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon. Her visit to the Old City of Jerusalem and the Western Wall are being billed as “private and religious,” however, and she will not be accompanied by Israeli officials. President Trump, in his recent visit to holy sites in Jerusalem, was also unaccompanied by Israeli political leaders.

In an interview in May with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Haley said that the Western Wall belongs to Israel and that Israel’s capital is Jerusalem. “I don’t know what the policy of the administration is, but I believe the Western Wall is part of Israel and I think that that is how we’ve always seen it and that’s how we should pursue it,” Haley said “We’ve always thought the Western Wall was part of Israel”

The comments came in the wake of reports that a Trump administration official, responding to a request that Israeli officials accompany the president when he visited the Western Wall, replied that the Western Wall “is not your territory, it’s part of the West Bank.”

In the interview, Haley also reiterated her support for moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

“Obviously I believe that the capital should be Jerusalem and the embassy should be moved to Jerusalem because if you look at all their government is in Jerusalem,” she said. “So much of what goes on is in Jerusalem, and I think we have to see that for what it is.”

As a candidate, Trump promised to move the embassy. But last week, Trump signed an order renewing the six-month waiver that allows the U.S. embassy to remain in Tel Aviv. An act of Congress in 1995 required relocating the embassy to Jerusalem, but successive administrations have delayed the change with a series of six-month waivers, citing national security concerns.

Democratic lawmakers want US to pressure Israel over its treatment of Palestinian activist

(JTA)—Four Democratic lawmakers are circulating a letter calling for the United States to urge Israel to reconsider charges against a prominent Palestinian activist.

The letter —which is being circulated this week by Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, who serves as deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, as well as Reps. Marc Pocan, D-Wis., Betty McCollum, D-Minn., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore.—urges Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to pressure Israel to drop charges against Issa Amro.

Amro, who advocates non-violent resistance against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and co-founded the group Youth Against Settlements, was indicted last year by an Israeli military court on a number of charges, including entering closed military zones and obstructing soldiers, according to Haaretz. The congressional letter cites criticism of the indictment by Amnesty International, which called the charges “baseless,” and the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“As the United States seeks to assist in brokering a peace agreement between both sides, we should encourage our steadfast ally in the region to uphold our shared values and respect activists like Issa Amro: freedom of expression must be a foundation for a just and lasting peace for the Israeli and Palestinian people,” reads the letter, posted online by the Foundation for Middle East Peace.

Eugene Kontorovich, a law professor at Northwestern University who opposes boycotts of Israel and the settlements, criticized the letter.

“The letter takes as holy writ the statements of the U.N. Human Rights Council, whose obsessive, biased and untruthful campaign against Israel is well known, and has recently been denounced by America’s ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley,” Kontorovich told Jewish Insider.

Sen. Al Franken cancels upcoming appearance on ‘Real Time with Bill Maher’

(JTA)—Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., cancelled his upcoming appearance on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” to protest the host’s recent on-air use of a racial slur.

The cancellation was first reported on Monday by the Huffington Post.

In an interview Friday with Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., the lawmaker invited Maher to join in for “work in the fields.” Maher demurred, saying that he was a “house n****r.”

Maher later apologized for the remark. HBO said it would not fire Maher over the comment

“Senator Franken believes that what Bill Maher said was inappropriate and offensive, which is why he made the decision not to appear on the next episode of ‘Real Time,’” Franken’s spokesperson said in statement emailed to Huffington Post. “He was glad to see Bill, who the Senator considers to be a good friend, apologize and express sincere regret for his comment.”

No other guests scheduled for the next show have announced that they would pull out. Symone Sanders, an activist and former national press secretary for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, confirmed to the Huffington Post that she would appear. Other scheduled guests include Ice Cube, Former Rep. David Jolly (R-Fla.) and journalist David Gregory.

Ship named for Gabby Giffords to be commissioned next week

(JTA)—A United States Navy warship named for Gabby Giffords will be put to sea next week.

The ship will be officially named Gabrielle Giffords in honor of the Arizona Democratic congresswoman who survived a 2011 gunshot wound to the head. It will be the first Navy ship named after a living woman in 160 years.

The ceremony, which will take place in Galveston, Texas, will feature Hillary Clinton and former Vice President Joe Biden.

The vessel is a 418-foot combat ship bearing machine guns and missiles, according to the New York Times. Below the mast, a box will hold an American flag patch that Giffords’ husband Mark Kelly, a retired astronaut, wore on his spacesuit; a purple heart left at the hospital where Giffords was treated for the gunshot wound; her congressional identification; and a 19th-century coin.

Six people died and 12 were injured in the January 2011 assassination attempt, in which Giffords was shot in the head at close range. She recovered from the attack and resigned her seat a year later. She learned that the ship would be named for her on the day she resigned. In the years since, she and Kelly have become gun safety advocates.

“That our Navy chose to give my name to this ship is an incredibly humbling honor—one I would never have imagined, one I will never forget, and one for which I always remain grateful,” Giffords said, according to the Times. “When we celebrate the commissioning this weekend, I will be thinking of the thousands of hardworking Americans who built this ship and the brave men and women who will serve aboard her.”

Pro-Israel event in London postponed over security fears

(JTA)—A pro-Israel event in London has been postponed due to security concerns in the wake of terror attacks in London and Manchester.

The Christians United For Israel’s annual “A Night To Honour Israel,” scheduled for June 22, in Westminster, London, was expected to draw more than 1,000 people. It was postponed on Monday and a new date was not announced.

The organization said in a statement posted on its website that it had already planned to increase security to “a much higher level than usual,” following recent terrorist attacks in London and Manchester.

“However, having assessed the current situation and received independent advice we have taken the difficult decision to postpone the event. Islamic extremists have called for the specific targeting of Christians and Jews during the month of Ramadan, during which our event was set to take place. Although no specific threat has been received, we have been advised that our event could be a target,” the CUFI statement said.

The John Hagee Ministries Conference that was expected to take place after the event also was postponed.

The CUFI statement added: “We are determined that the impact of Islamic extremism will not win. We are resolved to confront it through our work and over the next few weeks you will see more activity from CUFI in addressing some of these challenges. The roots of the threat currently facing this nation is the same that Israel has faced for years. Our standing with Israel against radical Islam is crucial at this time, as is standing with our country as it comes to terms with its impact.

A car ramming and stabbing attack on London Bridge and in the nearby Borough Market on Saturday night left seven people dead and dozens injured. The Islamic State late on Sunday claimed responsibility.

In March, a car ramming and knife attack in Westminster left five people dead, and two weeks ago a bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester killed 22 people.

Jewish middle school student suspended for alleged anti-Semitic incident

(JTA)—An eighth grade student was suspended from a Colorado middle school for an alleged anti-Semitic incident, even though both the student and the victim are Jewish.

A student at Oberon Middle School in Jefferson County, Colorado, tied another student to a soccer goal post and told him to “burn, Jew, burn.”

The school district learned about the incident through an anonymous school survey that asked students about their experiences during the past school year. After investigating the incident, the district suspended the student they believed to be responsible, according to the CBS Denver affiliate CBS 4.

“You don’t use ethnic slurs, racism isn’t okay in our schools. Any time this happens we are going to take action,” Jefferson County Public Schools spokesperson Diana Wilson told CBS 4.

The channel reported that it had discovered that the boys were friends and both Jewish.

The suspension comes after several allegations of anti-Semitism at the same middle school. One student told the district school board that she has to “constantly deal with anti-Semitism.” She also complained in a public forum about the incidents to Democratic Rep. Jared Polis, according to the report.

A student also complained that fellow students drew a swastika on his arm, and a teacher has complained about anti-Semitic incidents.

At another district middle school, students were suspended after making anti-Semitic remarks and drawings.

 

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