Month: January 2017

Drug-Resistant Malaria Turns Up In The U.K.

If you get malaria somewhere in the tropics and end up in a British hospital, the treatment is pretty simple.

Or at least it used to be.

The recommended treatment in the U.K. for “uncomplicated” malaria (that’s a case where you’re pretty sick but not on death’s door) is an artemisinin-based drug combination called Artemether-lumefantrine. The patient takes a few pills over the course of three or four days, the drugs kill the malaria parasites and everybody feels better. That’s why, over the last decade and a half, artemisinin has become the go-to drug to beat back the most common malaria infections both in British hospitals and across much of the developing world.

Recently, however, malaria parasites have started to adapt so the drugs won’t knock them out. Resistance to artemisinin-based medications has been slowly developing in Southeast Asia. And now these malaria wonder drugs look like they may be starting to lose their mojo in Africa, too.

Late in 2015, health officials in Britain for the first time came across a cluster of malaria cases that refused to succumb to Artemether-lumefantrine. The patients were travelers who had returned from three different African countries — Angola, Liberia and Uganda. After being treated with Artemether-lumefantrine, each patient appeared to be cured.

Then the parasitic infections came racing back.

“It was very surprising,” says Dr. Colin Sutherland, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “We might not get too concerned about the occasional treatment failure. But when four cases come along at once, it does make us think we’ve got something important that we need to investigate. Interestingly at about the same time Swedish colleagues reported a similar finding in Sweden.”

In an article published in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, Sutherland and his colleagues document the four cases. Part of what is useful to researchers about these U.K. cases is that the patients were in Britain when their malaria cases rebounded. None of them had left the country after initially being treated. So when the malaria parasites re-emerged in their systems, the doctors were able to quickly realize that the artemisinin-based drugs had failed. The patients were subsequently treated with different drugs.

“Because our patients were living in a country where we don’t have malaria, we knew it had to be the same parasites that weren’t adequately treated the first time around,” says Sutherland. That’s not the case in Africa, where people live with malaria on a day-to-day basis. So if they get sick again, he says, “it’s difficult to determine if maybe they just got another mosquito bite.”

There’s been concern about the potential development of artemisinin resistance in Africa but very little concrete evidence that it’s happening there.

These cases in the U.K. show that strains of malaria are emerging in Africa that can’t be cured with the most common drugs to treat the disease. But Sutherland urges caution: “It would be unwise for us to sit here in Europe and say, oh, we’ve got four cases so Africa’s got a problem. But the public health impact in Africa could be enormous. It’s a clear message that we need to now put in place the right kind of studies in Africa [to track resistance].”

Malaria remains one of the most troublesome diseases in the developing world. According to the World Health Organization there were more than 200 million cases in 2015 and roughly 430,000 deaths from the disease.

The good news is that efforts against malaria, including insecticide-treated bed nets and artemisinin-based treatments, have cut the rates of malaria transmission particularly in Africa significantly over the last 15 years with the total number of cases in the world dropping by a third and malaria deaths being cut in half.


Donald Trump cancels Milwaukee visit amid protest concerns

President Donald Trump will not be visiting Milwaukee Thursday, and CNN is reporting that the cancellation stems from Harley-Davidson’s discomfort in hosting the president during expected protests.

CNN attributed its report to an unnamed Trump administration official.

Trump was expected to deliver a speech on the economy and manufacturing here.

Over the weekend, sources told the Journal Sentinel that the Trump team had been scouting locations ahead of the planned visit, and were considering places like State Fair Park and Harley-Davidson.

Trump’s recent actions on immigration, including banning refugees from seven Muslim countries, have caused massive protests across the country.

“Six years ago, Democrats tried to disrupt reforms and overturn the electoral process here in Wisconsin,” said Alec Zimmerman, spokesman for the Republican Party of Wisconsin. “Whether it’s protesting election results, the free transition of power, or reforms in Washington, Democrats are returning to the same desperate tactics. It did not work for them then and it will not work for them now.”

Trump was last in Wisconsin in December, when he held a “thank you” tour stop at the Wisconsin State Fair Park Exposition Center.

Trump is scheduled to attend the National Prayer Breakfast at the Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., on Thursday morning — an annual event hosted by the U.S. Congress and The Fellowship Foundation.

Trump was the first Republican presidential candidate to win the popular vote in Wisconsin since 1984.

Democrats block confirmation votes for Sessions, Price and Mnuchin

January 31 at 8:18 PM
Democrats intensified their opposition to President Trump on Tuesday by further delaying the confirmations of several of his Cabinet nominees, prompting a bitter showdown with Republicans who accused them of paralyzing the formation of a new administration.

First, Democrats boycotted a Senate committee scheduled to take two votes, one on Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), Trump’s nominee for secretary of health and human services, and the other on Steve Mnuchin, his choice to lead the treasury. Then, they blocked a vote on Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Trump’s nominee for attorney general.

The theatrics reflected growing concern over Trump’s travel ban for refugees and foreign nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries, an order issued Friday with virtually no consultation with top government officials or senior lawmakers. In blocking Sessions, Democrats also cited the president’s firing Monday night of acting attorney general Sally Yates for refusing to defend the ban.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-
Calif.) and other Democrats strongly defended Yates against Trump’s claim that she had betrayed the Justice Department. Yates’s defiance of Trump “took guts,” Feinstein said.

“That statement said what an independent attorney general should do. That statement took a steel spine to stand up and say no.”

Boycotts and outrage: A new normal on Capitol Hill?

Republicans were forced to reschedule votes for key cabinet picks after Democrats intensified their opposition to President Trump’s nominations. (Video: Alice Li, Whitney Leaming/Photo: Getty/The Washington Post)

“I have no confidence that Sen. Sessions will do that,” she added. “Instead, he has been the fiercest, most dedicated and most loyal promoter in Congress of the Trump agenda.”

Democrats alone lack the votes needed to block any of Trump’s nominees from taking office — and there are no signs of Republican opposition to any of his picks. In fact, Republicans lashed out at Democrats for what they described as partisan, obstructionist moves.

“It is time to get over the fact that they lost the election,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said. “The president is entitled to have his Cabinet appointments considered. None of this is going to lead to a different outcome.”

That did nothing to tamp down enthusiasm among liberal activists and some Democratic lawmakers to mount a fierce resistance to Trump’s priorities. On the 12th day of Trump’s presidency, Democrats said they now plan to match growing anger in the streets by exhausting every mechanism at their disposal — even if it still results in Trump’s nominees taking office.

“Democrats are going to keep fighting back,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). “We are going to stand with people across the country. And we will keep pushing Republicans to put country above party, and stand with us.”

That stance was met with praise from liberal activists, labor unions and constituents, who have been pressuring Democrats to mount more resistance to Trump.

“We’re seeing someone who came into office with a historic popular vote loss come in and push a radical, unconstitutional agenda,” said Kurt Walters, the campaign director of the transparency group Demand Progress. “Yes, radical and bold tactics are what senators should be using in response.”

During a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Democrats criticized Trump for firing Yates and said that they would vote against Sessions out of concern that he would never similarly defy Trump in the face of a potentially unconstitutional act. Then they invoked an arcane rule to block the committee from holding a roll-call vote on the nomination, forcing Republicans to postpone the vote until Wednesday.

In a nearby hearing room, the Senate Finance Committee convened to vote on Mnuchin and Price. Democrats boycotted that meeting entirely, denying Republicans a necessary quorum and forcing them to reschedule both votes.

They had less success delaying confirmations elsewhere. They tried once again to stall a committee vote to advance Trump’s pick for education secretary, ­Betsy DeVos, but Republicans prevailed on a party-line vote despite new revelations that her written responses to hundreds of questions from committee members appeared to include passages from uncited sources.

Senators also confirmed Elaine Chao to serve as Trump’s transportation secretary by a vote of 93 to 6 — although, in a sign of a new level of toxicity, Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) was among six members of the Democratic caucus who voted against her. Chao, who is also McConnell’s wife, is the first transportation secretary ever to earn “no” votes, according to a C-SPAN review of Senate records.

Additionally, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved the nominations of former Texas governor Rick Perry to be energy secretary and Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) to be interior secretary — both with bipartisan majorities, sending them to the full Senate for final up-or-down votes.

Developments in the Judiciary and Finance committees, however, signaled how defiant Democrats remain in stalling Trump’s nominees. Most of the drama unfolded along a fluorescent-lit hallway on the second floor of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) sat at the dais with just three other Republican senators at the start of his hearing. Having just come from the Judiciary Committee, Hatch told his colleagues, “Jeff Sessions isn’t treated much better than these fellas are.”

“Some of this is just because they don’t like the president,” Hatch said, later adding that Democrats “ought to stop posturing and acting like idiots.”

Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) agreed. “I think this is unconscionable,” he said.

“We did not inflict this kind of obstructionism on President Obama,” added Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.), the only other senator in the room. He added that the Democrats were committing “a completely unprecedented level of obstruction. This is not what the American people expect of the United States Senate.”

In fact, in 2013, Republicans similarly boycotted a Senate committee’s vote on Gina McCarthy to serve as former president Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency administrator. Senators said at the time that she had refused to answer their questions about transparency in the agency. Republicans did it again that year to one of Obama’s nominees to serve as a deputy secretary of homeland security. And throughout 2016, they blocked a hearing for Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland.

Aware of the growing national anger with Trump’s travel ban, Democratic senators began mulling their options over the weekend, aides said. In a series of interviews on Monday, Schumer threatened to jam the Senate calendar if Trump did not revoke his order or if Republicans did not allow a vote on legislation that would rescind it.

“Senate Democrats, we’re the accountability,” Schumer boasted in an interview with Spanish-
language network Univision.

Strategy discussions continued late into Monday night and coincided with two developments: first, Trump’s dramatic decision to fire Yates and a Wall Street Journal report on a discounted stock purchase by Price.

A series of stock buys Price made in an Australian company, Innate Immunotherapeutics, has brought Democratic scrutiny for weeks. In 2016, he received a discounted price for his purchases as part of a private offering made to only a certain number of investors; the questions have been whether he received certain insider information from Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), a company board member and its largest investor, and whether he got a special price when he bought $50,000 to $100,000 in shares last year.

The Journal reported Monday that Price received a “privileged” offer that he had mischaracterized in the hearings when he said they “were available to every single individual that was an investor at the time.”

Innate Immunotherapeutics chief executive Simon Wilkinson told The Washington Post on Monday that Price received the same 12 percent discount as about 620 shareholders in Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), the ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee, told reporters that Price’s statements contradicted those by Wilkinson and other company officials.

“At a minimum,” Wyden said, “I believe the committee should postpone this vote and talk to company officials.”

On Tuesday, shortly before the Finance Committee hearing began, committee Democrats huddled in Wyden’s office and agreed to boycott the meeting.

They also voiced several concerns about Mnuchin: He initially misstated his personal wealth on a financial disclosure form, and he misstated under oath how OneWest Bank, a bank he led as chairman and chief executive officer, scrutinized mortgage documents.

“In some ways, we’re doing President Trump a favor,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said in explaining the boycott. “If these nominees had been confirmed, and then these stories broke about how they lied, how they made money on foreclosures, how they made money off of sketchy health-care stock trades, this would have been a major scandal for the administration. Now it’s just a problem we can fix.”

In the Judiciary hearing, Republicans defended Sessions but said little about Trump’s executive order. Democrats ended the hearing by using the obscure “two-hour” rule that permits either party to stop committees from meeting beyond the first two hours of the Senate’s official day. During the Obama administration, Republicans used the same rule against Democratic Cabinet nominees.

Then senators toiled over the actual vote on DeVos’s nomination. Democrats complained that the vote should not count because Hatch — a committee member who was simultaneously dealing with events in the Judiciary and Finance meetings — was allowed to submit a proxy vote. After a recess and several minutes of heated argument, Republicans ordered a new vote with Hatch in the room and approved DeVos along party lines, 12 to 11.

Hatch, the longest-serving Republican senator, later marveled at having to rush back and forth between three contentious hearings.

“I lost some weight here today,” he quipped.

Further delays and high-level vacancies across federal agencies could have far-reaching consequences. Some Republicans complained that the slowdown of Price’s confirmation is hampering Republican plans to begin repealing the Affordable Care Act.

San Francisco sues Trump over executive order targeting sanctuary cities

San Francisco sued the Trump administration on Tuesday, charging that its crackdown on sanctuary cities violates the state rights provisions of the U.S. Constitution.

The filing in federal court comes less than a week after President Trump issued orders putting cities and counties on notice that they would lose federal funding if they did not start cooperating with immigration agents.

The move has broad implications for California, a state that aggressively protects immigrants who are in the country illegally from deportation.

San Francisco, one of 400 sanctuary cities and counties in the country, stands to lose more than $1.2 billion a year in federal funding, most of it for healthcare, nutrition and other programs for the poor, according to San Francisco City Atty. Dennis Herrera.

“The president’s executive order is not only unconstitutional, it’s un-American,” Herrera said. “That is why we must stand up and oppose it. We are a nation of immigrants and a land of laws. We must be the ‘guardians of our democracy’ that President Obama urged us all to be in his farewell address.”

The cities Trump is targeting have many tools to strike back. Among the most potent are high court decisions that have interpreted financial threats such as the one Trump is now making as an unlawful intrusion on states’ rights.

New York Atty. Gen. Eric T. Schneiderman also announced Tuesday that New York would join a lawsuit filed by the ACLU against Trump over the sanctuary city directive.

“I will continue to do everything in my power to not just fight this executive order, but to protect the families caught in the chaos sown by President Trump’s hasty and irresponsible implementation,” Schneiderman said in a news release.

Trump has called for local officials to report to immigration officers people who are in jail and could be deported when they are released.

The issue of local cooperation with immigration officials came into the national spotlight after Kathryn Steinle, 32, was shot to death in July 2015 on a pier at San Francisco’s Embarcadero.

The man arrested in her death, Mexican national Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, had been jailed on an immigration law violation after returning to the United States despite being deported five times. He was released from custody months before the shooting after San Francisco prosecutors decided not to pursue a decades-old bench warrant in a marijuana case.

Trump described the murder as “a senseless and totally preventable violent act committed by an illegal immigrant.”

San Francisco’s lawsuit contends that Trump’s executive order violated the 10th Amendment, which established a balance of power between the federal government and states.

“The Executive Branch may not commandeer state and local officials to enforce federal law,” the lawsuit stated.

Herrera described Trump’s action as a “wild overreach.”

“This country was founded on the principle that the federal government cannot force state and local governments to do its job for it, like carrying out immigration policy,” Herrera said.

The lawsuit stated that federal funds make up 13% of the city’s budget and asks that Trump’s directive be blocked immediately.

San Francisco’s sanctuary law prohibits local law enforcement officers from cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention requests and limits when the officers may notify the federal agency of a person’s release from jail.

The lawsuit argued that the purpose of the sanctuary law was to protect children, not criminals, and to ensure that parents in the country without a green card can bring their children to schools and to doctors.

The law prohibits San Francisco officials from holding an individual who is eligible for release from jail on the basis of a civil immigration detention request from the federal government. The city does honor criminal warrants, the suit said.

“Strong cities like San Francisco must continue to push the nation forward and remind America that we are a city that fights for what is right,” Mayor Ed Lee said.

UC Irvine Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, a constitutional law professor, said the Supreme Court has interpreted that the Constitution prevents the federal government from commandeering state and local governments to administer a federal law.

In 1997, the conservative majority on the high court ruled that the federal government could not force states to do background checks prior to gun sales. The late Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the ruling.

In a 2012 ruling on Obamacare, the court decided 7 to 2 that the federal government could not threaten states with loss of money for failing to comply with a Medicaid requirement.

Chemerinsky said the rulings strongly bolster lawsuits filed on behalf of sanctuary cities against Trump.

“The federal government can’t force local governments to administer a program under the threat of losing federal money,”  Chemerinsky said.

Trump left unclear what funding is at stake and which cities and counties are threatened. The administration would be on shaky legal ground going after money allocated for anything other than law enforcement, and taking funds away from police is a risky proposition for a new president promising to restore order in the streets. And even that, attorneys for the Legislature assert, takes an act of Congress.

More than 400 jurisdictions across the country have some sort of policy regarding how they deal with people in the country illegally, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and about 40 others in California.

There is no neat definition of a sanctuary city, but in general, cities that adopt the designation seek to offer political support or practical protections to people who are in the country illegally.

For some cities, the sanctuary movement consists simply of encouraging people without legal status to get more involved in government. For instance, Huntington Park has never declared itself a sanctuary city, but it appointed two people without legal status to a city commission, a move that generated national attention.

Other places, such as San Francisco, adopt far-reaching policies, such as taking steps to cut ties with federal immigration officials and refusing to fully cooperate with them. San Francisco declared itself a sanctuary city in 1989, and city officials strengthened the stance in 2013 with its “due process for all” ordinance. The law declared that local authorities could not keep immigrants in custody to be handed over to federal immigration officials if they had no violent felonies on their records and did not face charges.

San Francisco’s lawsuit comes amid growing rancor over Trump’s orders, which include restrictions on travel from some Muslim-majority countries and plans to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Report: Emails Show Atlanta Falcons Were Giving Players Incredible Amounts Of Painkillers

Emails first published by the Associated Press show that members of the Atlanta Falcons’ front office were worried about the team’s excessive use of painkillers when treating injured players.

The emails were sent in 2010, and the discussion was started by Marty Lauzon, who was the team’s head athletic trainer at the time and is currently the organization’s director of sports medicine.

In May of 2010, shortly after he was hired, Lauzon sent an email to GM Tom Dimitroff and strength coach Jeff Fish in which he detailed the findings of a review conducted by a firm called SportPharm, which the NFL contracted to examine how teams were purchasing, dispensing, and tracking medications. Lauzon’s email read:

Within the first two days on the job, I was informed that we barely missed a DEA investigation because of improper billing issues.

SportPharm informed us after their visit, of their major concerns with the Falcons in-house pharmacy:

1. High inventory of medication on-site which can lead to high return of unused medication, poor control, excessive dispensation, unnecessary increase in budget.

2. High dispensation of narcotics and regular medication compared to other clubs; this creates culture of dependency and goes against healthy lifestyles and care, even for an NFL player. My concern is also with these players at the end of their careers going through medical issues, and also with the ease of access to media outlets that can provide them the opportunity to say they abused or are now addicted to a number of medications.

3. After Mary Anne Fleming [Director of Player Benefits at League Office] reviewed our issues with SportPharm, her recommendations were to start clean on all levels including new team physician, new head trainer, and new pharmacy account number.

4. Overspending in regards to medication. We were informed on average an NFL team spends about 30k per year on player prescriptions. We spent 81k in 2009 between two pharmacies. In comparing our new medication process to 2009, we spent $700 on players prescriptions in April in 2010, compared to $8,700 in 2009 while improving our quality of care for the players.

Please review, as with all of our meetings so far, another productive one. Our goal is to strive to provide the highest standard of care to our players. Please let me know if you need further information.

After receiving Lauzon’s email, Dimitroff forwarded it to team owner Arthur Blank. “I thought it important for you to be aware of a rather sensitive subject and one we need to discuss before include others on this topic matter,” he wrote. “In my mind and I’m sure yours, this is very important and needs to be handled in a correct and expeditious manner.”

Blank responded, and suggested that team president Rich McKay be looped in on the discussion. After being looped in on the email thread, McKay reached out to notorious league concussion quack Elliot Pellman and expressed concern over Fleming’s recommendation that the Falcons replace their team doctors. McKay’s email read:

Here is an exchange that I am not happy about—this is Jeff Fish trying to get after Scott G. My question is Mary Anne Fleming recommending the replacement of our Drs. I need to know—is this really true and does she realize the on-site trainer is really in control??? I need to keep this confidential…

Pellman replied to the email by offering to call McKay on the phone.

These emails were entered into court record last week as part of a proposed class-action lawsuit brought by 1,800 former NFL players who claim they were encouraged to abuse painkillers by team doctors. A similar suit was filed by eight former NFL players in 2014, but that case was dismissed by a federal judge who ruled that the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement offered better avenues for settling their grievances. That ruling is currently being appealed, and this new suit attempts to skirt it by suing individual NFL teams rather than the league as a whole.

According to the Associated Press, the emails sent by Lauzon and Dimitroff are just a small sample of the thousands of pages of evidence that the players’ attorneys have gathered in discovery.

You can read the full emails here.

Police kill man whose stabbing rampage injured 3 on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood

Los Angeles police fatally shot a man in a Hollywood fast-food restaurant Tuesday, just moments after the man stabbed three others in an apparently unprovoked attack.

The assailant — described only as a man in his 30s — stabbed a bicyclist about 2 p.m. along the north side of Sunset Boulevard near Ivar Avenue, said Sgt. Frank Preciado, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department.

The attack occurred on a popular corridor along Sunset Boulevard, near the ArcLight Cinemas, Amoeba Music and the Los Angeles offices of CNN.

The assailant then ran down Sunset Boulevard and tried to get into a coffee shop, where employees held the door shut against him, Preciado said.

Next, the man continued eastbound and walked into a Jack in the Box, where he stabbed another man, Preciado said.

As the second victim fled the fast-food restaurant, police officers rushed inside. The man then knifed a third person.

Officers confronted the man and shot him an unknown number of times. Preciado said police also attempted to use a Taser.

The man died at the scene. Authorities did not release his name, and investigators were still trying to determine a motive for the attacks, Preciado said.

Video posted on social media from inside the restaurant showed a person calling for a belt or shoelace to be used as a tourniquet for a victim sitting in a chair with a pool of blood on the floor.

Moans could be heard. As an officer reports “shots fired,” another officer can be seen kneeling over a person face-down on the ground and holding the person’s arm.

L.A. City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, whose district includes Hollywood and East Hollywood, commended LAPD officers for their swift response.

“It saved lives,” O’Farrell said at a news conference Tuesday night.

Investigators were unsure if the assailant knew the three victims, or if they were otherwise connected in some way, police said.

For the inquiry into the shooting, authorities were planning to review surveillance video. Preciado said there was no footage from body-worn cameras to review.

All three victims were taken to hospitals with stab wounds. Two were initially listed in critical condition and were undergoing surgery late Tuesday, according to Josh Rubenstein, a spokesman for the LAPD. Both were considered medically stable.

The third man was expected to be released from the hospital Wednesday.

This photo of Jewish and Muslim kids protesting Trump’s immigrant ban has gone viral

This image of a Muslim girl and Jewish boy has been retweeted over 220,000 times. (Screenshot from Nuccio DiNuzzo/Twitter)

Thousands of demonstrators — including many Jews — flooding airports across the country this past weekend to protest President Trump’s executive order temporarily banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries. The Internet has been saturated with images from the various protests.

But this photograph has perhaps resonated the most on social media.

The photo, taken by Chicago Tribune photographer Nuccio DiNuzzo, shows a Jewish boy wearing a kippah and a Muslim girl wearing a hijab holding protest signs while they both sit on their fathers’ shoulders at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. The Jewish boy’s father’s sign, like many other Jewish-themed signs seen at this weekend’s protests, references the Holocaust.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the photo has been liked over 220,000 times on Twitter and retweeted over 110,000 times.

It has also been shared on Facebook thousands of times, including by former San Francisco mayor and current California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom.

DiNuzzo identified the Muslim father and daughter as Fatih and Meryem Yildirim of Schaumburg, Illinois, and the Jewish father and son as Rabbi Jordan Bendat-Appell and Adin Bendat-Appell of Deerfield, Illinois. Rabbi Bendat-Appell is program director of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality and the Center for Jewish Mindfulness in Chicago.

Bendat-Appell explained to the Tribune that Adin’s maternal grandparents were Holocaust survivors who themselves spent time in refugee camps.

“Our tradition is not ambiguous about remembering our history for the sake of acting out in this world today,” he said.

At least 17 bomb threats called in to JCCs nationwide in third wave of harassment (GOOD!!!!)

A view of the Lawrence Family JCC in San Diego. (Screenshot from YouTube)

(JTA) — At least 17 Jewish community centers across the United States were targeted with bomb threats in the third wave of such mass disruption this month.

Paul Goldenberg, the director of Secure Community Network — an affiliate of the Jewish Federations of North America that advises Jewish groups and institutions on security — said the threats were called in late Tuesday morning. Some of the messages were live, he confirmed.

“[I]n the past we know that the numbers can grow exponentially,” he said, adding that perpetrators have been “leveraging technologies to make mass calls.”

Goldenberg confirmed that threats had been called into JCCs in Albany, New York; Syracuse, New York; West Orange, New Jersey; Milwaukee, San Diego and Salt Lake City.

The JCC in New Haven, Connecticut received a live call at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday threatening violence. The JCC is housed in several locations following a Dec. 5 fire, and evacuated about 100 people from those places following the call. After law enforcement determined that the threat was not credible, the evacuees returned. The New Haven JCC was also targeted in a wave of bomb threats about two weeks ago.

“We recognize that we live under a new set of circumstances that we have to be responsive to, and take every possible precaution to keep our people safe,” said New Haven JCC CEO Judy Diamondstein. “While we are disrupted, we refuse to be daunted by this.”

Diamondstein said the JCC has drilled safety protocols extensively in order to be prepared for a situation like this. Diamondstein had a previously scheduled meeting Wednesday afternoon with an FBI officer to sharpen procedures for dealing with an active shooter.

“We have been diligent in looking at our security for a while now,” she said.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Police respond to a bomb threat at Albany JCC

Goldenberg said his organization was instructing the JCCs to be in touch with local police to determine if they should evacuate. The JCC MetroWest in West Orange, New Jersey announced an evacuation at 11:42 a.m.

“In light of the newest bomb threats, we must remain a resilient community, and we need to ensure that we are back at our JCCs as soon as local police advise the all-clear,” Goldenberg said.

He added: “Our Jewish community centers are focusing on security today more than ever before, and in spite of these continuous bomb threats I’m confident that our institutions are taking security seriously — and in many cases Jewish institutions are more secure than institutions frequented by the general public.”

On Jan. 18, some 30 Jewish institutions in at least 17 states received bomb threats. On Jan. 9, such threats were called into 16 JCCs across the Northwest and South, forcing the evacuation of hundreds.

VIDEO: @albanypolice spokesman @APDSmith answers questions about today’s bomb threat at Jewish Community Center, which is cleared.

Report: Trump Jewish aide Boris Epshteyn wrote Holocaust statement that omitted Jews

(JTA) — The White House statement for International Holocaust Remembrance Day that has generated controversy for omitting Jews reportedly was written by a Jewish aide to President Donald Trump.

Boris Epshteyn, a special assistant to the president, crafted the statement, the political news website Politico reported Monday evening, citing an unnamed source “with knowledge of the situation.”

Epshteyn, a former Republican political strategist, immigrated to the United States from his native Moscow in 1993 at 11.

On Monday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters at the daily briefing, “The statement was written with the help of an individual who is both Jewish and the descendant of Holocaust survivors.” Asked if it was Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a leading adviser, Spicer refused to say.

Spicer also said that complaints, including from major U.S. Jewish groups, about the omission of Jews from the statement issued Friday were “pathetic” and “disappointing.”

“The president went out of his way to recognize the Holocaust and the suffering that went through it, and to make sure America never forgets the people that were affected by it and the loss of life,” Spicer said.

“To suggest that remembering the Holocaust and acknowledging all of the people — Jewish, gypsies, priests, disabled, gays and lesbians — I mean it is pathetic that people are picking on a statement,” he said.

Since the United Nations launched the remembrance day in 2005, marking the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in 1945, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have noted in their statements that the principal aim of the Holocaust was the genocide of the Jews.

Jewish critics have said that omitting Jews from Holocaust commemoration statements, wittingly or not, plays into the agenda of groups that seek to diminish the Nazi genocide of the Jews.

Since the controversy erupted, Trump administration spokesmen, including his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, have doubled down on the argument that it is better not to single out Jews in order to be “inclusive.”

A New York-based investment banker and finance attorney, Epshteyn was a communications aide for Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008, focusing his efforts on the Arizona senator’s running mate, then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Jewish teen kicked out of German school for making Hitler salute

MUNICH (JTA) — A Jewish teenager has been kicked out of a vocational school in Germany for allegedly raising his arm in the Hitler salute in the classroom.

But Maksym M., 18, insists he was just raising his hand when attendance was taken at the Blindow-Schule in Leipzig, according to the Bild newspaper, which also reported that he has been doing well in the program. The state prosecutor declined to bring charges against him.

His parents told Bild that they were waiting for an apology from the school.

“Our son was punished for something that he did not do,” they said.

It is illegal in Germany to display the Hitler salute or other Nazi symbols.

“I didn’t do what they said,” said the teen, who is now attending a different school.

His teacher, Stefan M., reported, however, that when the student’s name was called, Maksym “raised his right arm with his palm flat, holding it at eye level.”

According to the teacher, one classmate defended Maksym by saying he had been blocking the sun from his eyes. Another said that since Maksym himself is a “foreigner,” he could not have intentionally done what he is accused of doing.

Classmates collected signatures for him, but Maksym remains dismissed from the school. An attorney for the family told the Bild that the teacher was “obviously overstretched” and was trying to gain the respect of other students by punishing Maksym.