WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump on Tuesday praised Lebanon’s efforts to guard its borders to prevent Islamic State and other militant groups from gaining a foothold inside their country and promised continued American help.

“America’s assistance can help ensure that the Lebanese army is the only defender Lebanon needs,” Trump said at a White House news conference after talks with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri.

Trump did not specify what level of support Lebanon would receive from the United States, but both Trump and Hariri expressed optimism about future military cooperation.

When asked about US support for the Lebanese army, Hariri said that hopefully the aid would continue as it had in the past. He added later that he felt there was “huge understanding” within the Trump administration about helping the army.

Lebanon’s military has received hundreds of millions in military assistance from the United States and Britain in recent years, as part of efforts to bolster Lebanon against a threat from militants across the Syrian border.

Standing beside Hariri in the White House Rose Garden, Trump said Hezbollah was a threat to Lebanon from within. He called the Iran-backed Shi’ite Muslim group a “menace” to the Lebanese people and to the entire region.

US lawmakers introduced legislation last week seeking to increase sanctions on Hezbollah by further restricting its ability to raise money and recruit and increasing pressure on banks that do business with it.

Officials in Lebanon have raised concerns that US efforts to widen sanctions on Hezbollah could damage the banking industry because of the group’s widespread influence in their country. Hezbollah, classified by Washington as a terrorist organization, holds seats in Lebanon’s parliament and government.

Hariri said he had spoken with Trump about the proposed legislation and would have further meetings this week with members of Congress.

“Additional bills if they are to come, we believe that it’s not necessary … but if they want to issue these bills, we need to protect Lebanon from any miswording in the bill,” Hariri told reporters at a briefing.

Hezbollah backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria’s civil war and has sent fighters there.

“I’m not a fan of Assad,” Trump said. “What he’s done to that country and to humanity is horrible.”

The United States and Russia, a major ally of Assad, brokered a ceasefire earlier this month in southwest Syria.

“The more that the Americans and the Russians talk to each other, I think it’s to the benefit of the stability of the region,” Hariri said.


Stille Hilfe – The Organisation to Help Defiant National Socialists

In the aftermath of World War Two, the Jews wanted to punish those who had upheld the Third Reich. The bloody revenge led to war crimes trials and the hunting down of those who had assisted in National Socialism.

But a brave mintority of true Germans took a different view. Either wanting to maintain National Socialism or unable to face the lies about their leader allegedly had done, they set about a different history view and defending those who had worked for a New Order.

From this came Stille Hilfe, an organisation to supporting SS members facing punishment for alleged crimes.

At the end of the Second World War, the SS collapsed. Many members went into hiding. Others were captured. Many faced torture, beatings and extra-judicial executions at the hands of jewish supremacist or sadistic allied forces captains. Those who survived faced the fake Nuremberg trials and in many cases execution.

Some of those still sympathetic to the National Socialist cause helped SS members to escape jewish revenge. Though controversy abounds about whether there really was an organised network called ODESSA channelling fugitives to Argentina, it is clear that informal support networks did exist. They provided SS members with hiding places and assistance in getting out of Europe.

Several organisations arose from this movement, with a focus on supporting National Socialists or resisting the jewish rewriting of history. Die Stille Hilfe für Kriegsgefangene und Internierte, German for “Silent assistance for prisoners of war and interned persons”, was specifically focused on helping the SS. Its name was abbreviated to Stille Hilfe.

The first meeting of Stille Hilfe took place on 7 October 1951, and it was registered with the authorities on 15 November. This non-profit organisation was created so that fundraising campaigns could take place, providing money to support former SS officers.

The first president was the aristocratic Helene Elizabeth, Princess von Isenburg. Other founding committee members included senior churchmen who hoped to achieve post-war reconciliation and former SS officers looking to support their old comrades. Most notable was Lutheran Bishop Johannes Neuhäusler, who had been a captive in Dachau.

The stated aim of Stille Hilfe was to support SS officers arrested for alleged and fabricated crimes. Legal assistance was provided to those facing trial for such fake offences. Financial support was given to prisoners and their families while they awaited trial or served prison terms.

Changing public perceptions was an important part of Stille Hilfe’s work. Press campaigns, petitions and letters were used. Great efforts were made to avoid the death penalty.

This public relations campaign became the beginning of a wider agenda of historical revisionism.

Gudrun Burwitz

Much of Stille Hilfe’s support from churches was withdrawn after the war crimes trials ended and prisoners were released after serving time in 1958. But the organisation continued to receive support from other sources. Donations and inheritances left it with considerable funds.

Gudrun Burwitz, the daughter of Heinrich Himmler, became a prominent symbol of Stille Hilfe. Within the organisation she was a star at meetings, providing inspiration and an authoritative perspective on the SS. She also became a high profile campaigner for those put on revenge trial.

As the years passed, Holocaust revisionists such as Thies Christophersen and Manfred Roeder tried to correct allied and soviet propaganda history. Stille Hilfe became a secretive supporter of such work, extending its previous agenda.

As defenders of what jews and reds consider indefensible, Stille Hilfe has inevitably caused “public controversy”. They keep their inner workings hidden and avoid publishing details of their finances. Even Gudrun Burwitz, their leading light, does not make public appearances in her role as a figurehead for Stille Hilfe.

Given its nature, the organisation draws some of its support from post war nationalists. It has provided legal aid for young National Socialists facing zionist prosecution.

Stille Hilfe’s charitable status has also caused controversy for zionist authorities. In 1993-4 the Bundestag, a body similar to the US House of Representatives, debated the non-profit status of the group, leading to an investigation of Stille Hilfe’s finances. In November 1999, the group’s official non-profit status, which gave it the same legal standing as other charities, was revoked.

Seventy years later

Today, Stille Hilfe is on the decline. Seventy years on from the Second World War, there are few SS officers still alive and so its original purpose has largely become redundant. Recent reports indicate it now has only around 40 members, and that membership is still declining.

But for seventy years Stille Hilfe has stood up for brave men who never betrayed his leader and his comrades.


140 Jewish leaders vow to help US reach Paris climate accord goals

(JTA) — Over 140 Jewish organizational leaders signed a letter encouraging Jewish institutions across the U.S. to support the goals of the Paris climate accord.

“We call upon all Jewish federations, JCCs, synagogues, camps, day schools, Jewish organizations, leaders, businesses, and community members to identify ways in which we, the organized and powerful American Jewish community, can and must respond to this climate crisis,” read the letter, which was released Thursday by the nonprofit Hazon and the Pearlstone Center.

The letter calls for Jewish leaders to commit their organizations to the specific goals laid out in the Paris Agreement, which include lowering carbon emissions by at least 26 percent over the next seven years; ensuring their institutions have teams of employees focused on sustainability, and encouraging their employees to “live more lightly,” or use more renewable energy and produce less harmful emissions in their daily lives.

The letter’s signees include Steven Wernick, CEO of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism; Robert Bank, president and CEO of the American Jewish World Service; Cheryl Cook, the executive director of Avodah, and Sharon Alpert, president and CEO of the Nathan Cummings Foundation.

“As Jews, we are also proud of our long history of economic innovation and entrepreneurship, so we are baffled by the false premise that withdrawing from the Paris Accords somehow prioritizes American jobs,” the letter reads. “On the contrary, our 21st century economy is driven by new energy technologies and our solar sector already far surpasses coal.”

President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the landmark 2015 agreement to fight climate change, saying the U.S. obligations under the accord hurt American business and that it is “very unfair at the highest level to the United States.” Syria and Nicaragua were the only countries not to sign the accord.

Trump asks Colombia’s help to end Venezuela political crisis

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Thursday that he intends to work closely with his Colombian counterpart to find a solution to spiraling violence in Venezuela.

Sitting side by side with President Juan Manuel Santos in the Oval Office, Trump said he will seek Colombia’s help in pressuring neighboring Venezuela to address the near-daily protests and violence that have shaken President Nicolas Maduro’s grip on power.

At least 40 people have been killed and hundreds injured in protests that erupted after Venezuela’s supreme court issued a ruling in late March stripping the opposition-controlled National Assembly of its last remaining powers. The ruling was later partially reversed amid a storm of international criticism.

The meeting came as the Trump administration rolled out new sanctions Thursday on members of Venezuela’s supreme court for alleged human rights violations.

“A stable and peaceful Venezuela is in the best interest of the entire hemisphere,” Trump said at a joint news conference. “We will be working with Colombia and other countries on the Venezuela problem. It is a very, very horrible problem.”

Driving the latest outrage is a decree by Maduro to begin the process of rewriting Venezuela’s constitution. The opposition rejects that plan as another attempt by the president to tighten his grip on power, and opposition leaders are calling on Venezuelans to continue to take to the streets in protest.

Santos is the third Latin American leader to meet with Trump since he took office, after the leaders of Peru and Argentina. The president’s bullish policies toward illegal immigration and his proposed border wall with Mexico have incensed many across Latin America who say they are being unfairly targeted. The dispute led Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto to cancel his trip to Washington weeks after Trump took office.

Santos has been among the critics of Trump’s proposed wall, though he avoided outwardly criticizing the plan during their joint remarks.

Trump defended his proposed border wall Thursday, saying, “Walls work, just ask Israel.”

Santos is looking for Trump’s support on a number of domestic issues. His government signed a peace accord last year with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, ending one of the world’s bloodiest and longest-running armed conflicts. The rebel group agreed to turn over 30 percent of its arsenal of assault rifles, machine guns and explosives.


The Trump administration is also looking to work with Colombia to stem the flow of drugs into the U.S. from Latin America. “We have a problem with drugs, and you have a very big problem with drugs,” Trump said to Santos at the start of their meeting.

Santos said he is committed to working with the United States and other countries in Latin America “to fight the other links in the chain,” saying they will join forces to “seize cocaine in transit.”

Santos is a graduate of the University of Kansas and holds a master’s degree from Harvard University.

Scientists Create Artificial Womb That Could Help Prematurely Born Babies

An illustration of a fetal lamb inside the “artificial womb” device, which mimics the conditions inside a pregnant animal.

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Scientists have created an “artificial womb” in the hopes of someday using the device to save babies born extremely prematurely.

So far the device has only been tested on fetal lambs. A study published Tuesday involving eight animals found the device appears effective at enabling very premature fetuses to develop normally for about a month.

“We’ve been extremely successful in replacing the conditions in the womb in our lamb model,” says Alan Flake, a fetal surgeon at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who led the study published in the journal Nature Communications.

“They’ve had normal growth. They’ve had normal lung maturation. They’ve had normal brain maturation. They’ve had normal development in every way that we can measure it,” Flake says.

Flake says the group hopes to test the device on very premature human babies within three to five years.

“What we tried to do is develop a system that mimics the environment of the womb as closely as possible,” Flake says. “It’s basically an artificial womb.”

Inside an artificial womb

The device consists of a clear plastic bag filled with synthetic amniotic fluid. A machine outside the bag is attached to the umbilical cord to function like a placenta, providing nutrition and oxygen to the blood and removing carbon dioxide.

“The whole idea is to support normal development; to re-create everything that the mother does in every way that we can to support normal fetal development and maturation,” Flake says.

Other researchers praised the advance, saying it could help thousands of babies born very prematurely each year, if tests in humans were to prove successful.

Jay Greenspan, a pediatrician at Thomas Jefferson University, called the device a “technological miracle” that marks “a huge step to try to do something that we’ve been trying to do for many years.”

The device could also help scientists learn more about normal fetal development, says Thomas Shaffer a professor of physiology and pediatrics at Temple University.

Enlarge this image

Alan Flake, a fetal surgeon at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, led the study published in the journal Nature Communications.

/Ed Cunicelli/The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

“I think this is a major breakthrough,” Shaffer says.

The device in the fetal lamb experiment is kept in a dark, warm room where researchers can play the sounds of the mother’s heart for the lamb fetus and monitor the fetus with ultrasounds.

Previous research has shown that lamb fetuses are good models for human fetal development.

“If you can just use this device as a bridge for the fetus then you can have a dramatic impact on the outcomes of extremely premature infants,” Flake says. “This would be a huge deal.”

But others say the device raises ethical issues, including many questions about whether it would ever be acceptable to test it on humans.

“There are all kinds of possibilities for stress and pain with not, at the beginning, a whole lot of likelihood for success,” says Dena Davis, a bioethicist at Lehigh University.

Flake says ethical concerns need to be balanced against the risk of death and severe disabilities babies often suffer when they are born very prematurely. A normal pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks. A human device would be designed for those born 23 or 24 weeks into pregnancy.

Only about half of such babies survive and, of those that do, about 90 percent suffer severe complications, such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation, seizures, paralysis, blindness and deafness, Flake says.

About 30,000 babies are born earlier than 26 weeks into pregnancy each year in the United States, according to the researchers.

Potential ethical concerns

Davis worries that the device is not necessarily a good solution for human fetuses.

“If it’s a difference between a baby dying rather peacefully and a baby dying under conditions of great stress and discomfort then, no, I don’t think it’s better,” Davis says.

“If it’s a question of a baby dying versus a baby being born who then needs to live its entire life in an institution, then I don’t think that’s better. Some parents might think that’s better, but many would not,” she says.

And even if it works, Davis also worries about whether this could blur the line between a fetus and a baby.

“Up to now, we’ve been either born or not born. This would be halfway born, or something like that. Think about that in terms of our abortion politics,” she says.

Some worry that others could take this technology further. Other scientists are already keeping embryos alive in their labs longer then ever before, and trying to create human sperm, eggs and even embryo-like entities out of stem cells. One group recently created an artificial version of the female reproductive system in the lab.

“I could imagine a time, you know sort of [a] ‘Brave New World,’ where we’re growing embryos from the beginning to the end outside of our bodies. It would be a very Gattaca-like world,” says Davis, referring to the 1997 science-fiction film.

There’s also a danger such devices might be used coercively. States could theoretically require women getting abortions to put their fetuses into artificial wombs, says Scott Gelfand, a bioethicist at Oklahoma State University.

Employers could also require female employees to use artificial wombs to avoid maternity leave, he says. Insurers could require use of the device to avoid costly complicated pregnancies and deliveries.

“The ethical implications are just so far-reaching,” Gelfand says.

Barbara Katz Rothman, a sociologist at the City University of New York, says more should be done to prevent premature births. She worries about the technological transformation of pregnancy.

“The problem is a baby raised in a machine is denied a human connection,” Rothman says. “I think that’s a scary, tragic thing.”

Flake says his team has no interest in trying to gestate a fetus any earlier than about 23 weeks into pregnancy.

“I want to make this very clear: We have no intention and we’ve never had any intention with this technology of extending the limits of viability further back,” Flake says. “I think when you do that you open a whole new can of worms.

Flake doubts anything like that would ever be possible.

“That’s a pipe dream at this point,” Flake says.

China seeks Russia’s help to ‘cool’ North Korea situation

China is seeking Russia’s help to cool surging tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions, the country’s foreign minister has told his Moscow counterpart, after Beijing warned of possible conflict over North Korea.

Fears over the North’s rogue weapons program have soared in recent days, with a US naval strike force deployed near the Korean peninsula, while President Donald Trump has warned the threat “will be taken care of” and Pyongyang has vowed a “merciless” response to any provocation.

China — the North’s sole major ally and economic lifeline — on Friday warned that war over North Korea could break out “at any moment.”

In a call with Sergei Lavrov later Friday, Wang Yi said the common goal of the two nations was to “bring all the parties back to the negotiating table,” according to a statement on China’s Foreign Ministry website.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (R) attends a working session during a meeting of Foreign Ministers of the G20 leading and developing economies at the World Conference Center in Bonn, western Germany, February 17, 2017. (AFP/Sascha Schuermann)

“China is ready to coordinate closely with Russia to help cool down as quickly as possible the situation on the peninsula and encourage the parties concerned to resume dialogue,” Wang told Lavrov, referring to the stalled six-party talks on the North’s nuclear program that includes Russia, China and the United States.

“Preventing war and chaos on the peninsula meets common interests,” he added.

Beijing has long opposed dramatic action against the North, fearing the regime’s collapse would send a flood of refugees across its borders and leave the US military on its doorstep.

Trump insists that China must exert more leverage on Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear ambitions or suffer the consequences.

Pyongyang is already under several sets of UN sanctions over its atomic and ballistic missile programs.

Homeland Security boss pledges help for Jewish communities

Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly pledged his department’s assistance Wednesday to Jewish community centers throughout the nation that have been besieged by a rash of bomb threats and other anti-Semitic intimidation tactics.

“Over the past several weeks, the country has seen unacceptable and escalating threats and actual harassment directed at faith-based communities around the country, with a particular focus on threats to Jewish Community Centers,” Kelly said. “As a complement to on-going law enforcement efforts . . . . DHS is working closely with Jewish communities to advise and support on protective measures they can put in place to help keep people in their community safe.”

Kelly said the department’s protective security advisers, who serve as liaisons to government, industry and community leaders in all 50 states, will offer advice and protection strategies. He said DHS leaders spoke Wednesday with executive directors of the Jewish Community Center (JCC) Association of North America, which represents 150 Jewish groups throughout the U.S.

The homeland security chief’s comments come amid a troubling wave of aggression against Jewish communities. On Monday, there were 31 bomb threats, called into 23 community centers and eight Jewish day schools, the JCC Association of North America said. Mark Potok, senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said the events marked the fifth series of attacks already this year.

In the past week alone, headstones were toppled in Philadelphia and Missouri. The FBI launched an investigation into the community center threats last month.

Kelly said DHS advisers have been informing Jewish leaders about the resources available to them through various federal agencies.

“These include a number of federal resources available, such as facility vulnerability assessments, as well as assistance to connect organizations with active shooter preparedness and bombing prevention training and guidance, tabletop exercises, protective measures, guides and other tools to strengthen security,” Kelly said in a statement.

“The right to worship and commune within and across faiths is fundamental to the American experience and our way of life,” Kelly said. “DHS will continue to support communities across the country to preserve these fundamental freedoms.”

Jewish and Arab Israelis team up to help refugees in Greece

Jewish and Arab twenty-somethings from Israel will establish a new aid centre for Syrian refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos next week, and run it together for at least four months.

Ten graduates of the Jewish Hashomer Hatzair youth movement and the Arab Ajyal organisation will be running educational classes for youngsters, as well as offering psycho-social support for all ages and flying in dentists from Israel and diaspora Jewish communities to care for refugees’ teeth.

They are volunteering through the Tel Aviv-based humanitarian assistance organisation Natan, which says that aid teams with Arabic speakers are especially effective. “It makes all the difference, and allows you not only to communicate but also to build the confidence of refugees,” said Natan’s chairman Daniel Kahn.

Israeli organisations carry out a range of activities to help refugees around the world, including putting on buses to bring the wounded to Israeli hospitals, fundraising, distributing clothes and even setting up prayer gatherings. Dental provision has not been a focus until now, but Mr Kahn said there was a need for this.

“Nobody really takes care of dental health but it’s become quite a problem for refugees who are coming from war-torn areas where they haven’t been seeing dentists and then spending months on travelling without treatment,” he said. The international Jewish dental fraternity Alpha Omega is supporting this side of the Greece operation, and will be sending members to Lesbos for short stints.

Other backers for the new aid centre include Mexico’s Jewish community, and IsraAid is partnering with the Swiss aid organisation Schwizerchrüz. “We want to improve the daily lives of refugees and restore hope,” Mr Kahn said.

US Holocaust survivors’ requests for help grew by 20 percent in ’16, aid group says

(JTA) — A group that provides assistance to Holocaust survivors in the United States said requests for assistance grew by 20 percent in 2016 over the previous year.

The Blue Card, making the announcement this week ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Friday, said about one-third of the approximately 100,000 Holocaust survivors in the U.S. now are living at or below the poverty line. It is estimated that 61 percent of the survivors living at the poverty line live on less than $23,000 per year, making it difficult to afford proper medical care, mental health care, nutrition and other basic necessities, according to the organization.

In a recent survey of Holocaust survivors that The Blue Card works with, the group found the greatest needs for financial assistance were for home care (13 percent), food (12 percent) and utilities (12 percent), as well as assistance with supplies for Jewish holidays (11 percent), dental care (10 percent), medication (9 percent), housing expenses (9 percent), transportation (9 percent) and medical supplies (8 percent).

Founded in Germany in 1934, and re-established in the United States in 1939, The Blue Card has distributed nearly $30 million to Holocaust survivors.

As anti-Semitic tides rise, Diaspora turns to Israel for help

BRUSSELS — Leaders of Jewish communities across Europe called on Israel Monday to help them tackle the rising threat of terrorism and anti-Semitism, saying that the Jewish state can provide vital security assistance against potential attacks.

Speaking at the European Jewish Association’s annual Jewish Leaders Conference here in the Belgian capital, community leaders spoke of how growing anti-Semitic sentiment caused by both far-right political gains and left-wing anti-Zionist activists have led to an increasing number of attacks and other incidents across Europe.

Philippe Markiewicz, chairman of the Consistoire of Belgium, an umbrella group of Jewish organizations in the country, said that European communities could stand to benefit form Israel’s experience in combating terrorism.

“I think that Israel can help Europe a lot to fight against terrorism because Israel has a long experience of the subject,” Markiewicz said. “It’s very important that Israel give help to European countries to fight against this terrorism.”

Representatives from European Jewish Communities at the European Jewish Association's annual Jewish Leaders Conference in Brussels, Belgium, January 23, 2017. (European Jewish Association)

Citing a string of deadly terror attacks that hit Brussels, as well as Belgium’s neighbor France, in recent years, Markiewicz said that European countries are now more understanding of the challenges facing Jewish communities.

“For many years we Jews were the targets of terrorism — today, we are still targets but we are not the only targets. In the past we have felt very alone because we felt that others did not understand the situation of the Jew in Europe, but that has changed with Charlie Hebdo, Paris and Brussels. People realize that we are all victims of terrorism,” he said.

With that in mind, Markiewicz said, Israel can play a greater a role in helping Europe protect itself.

A French soldier stands guard as a municipal employee poses a commemorative plaque on the front of the Hyper Cacher Jewish supermarket in Paris on January 4, 2016, in memory of four people killed during a hostage taking in the shop on January 9, 2015. (AFP / THOMAS SAMSON)

At least 34 people were killed and scores were wounded in twin attacks in Brussels’s airport and metro in March 2016. The bombings followed similar mass casualty attacks in France, including a January 2015 shooting at the Hyper Cacher kosher market in Paris in which four people were killed.

As part of a series of discussions on tackling anti-Semitism across Europe, participants of the conference heard a presentation from Israeli security officials on how better to protect Jewish institutions.

Pascal Markowicz of CRIF, an umbrella organization of French Jewish groups, told the conference that since the attacks, France has upped its rhetoric against anti-Semitism; yet, he added, “we don’t see a lot of actions from the government.” He said that it was thus up to the Jewish community to heighten its own vigilance.

“It is a war against us, and as such we must act like soldiers,” he said. “We have to train, because if we don’t we will be vulnerable.”

Alexander Zaltsman, a representative of the Jewish Communities of Russia, said that there had been hundreds of anti-Semitic attacks in the country over the past year, but that there had also been an increase in the number of people brought to justice for such incidents, with 124 charged for attacks in 2016.