Trump Supports Plan to Cut Legal Immigration by Half

WASHINGTON — President Trump embraced a proposal on Wednesday to slash legal immigration to the United States in half within a decade by sharply curtailing the ability of American citizens and legal residents to bring family members into the country.

The plan would enact the most far-reaching changes to the system of legal immigration in decades and represents the president’s latest effort to stem the flow of newcomers to the United States. Since taking office, he has barred many visitors from select Muslim-majority countries, limited the influx of refugees, increased immigration arrests and pressed to build a wall along the southern border.

In asking Congress to curb legal immigration, Mr. Trump intensified a debate about national identity, economic growth, worker fairness and American values that animated his campaign last year. Critics said the proposal would undercut the fundamental vision of the United States as a haven for the poor and huddled masses, while the president and his allies said the country had taken in too many low-skilled immigrants for too long to the detriment of American workers.

“This legislation will not only restore our competitive edge in the 21st century, but it will restore the sacred bonds of trust between America and its citizens,” Mr. Trump said at a White House event alongside two Republican senators sponsoring the bill. “This legislation demonstrates our compassion for struggling American families who deserve an immigration system that puts their needs first and that puts America first.”

In throwing his weight behind a bill, Mr. Trump added one more long-odds priority to a legislative agenda already packed with them in the wake of the defeat of legislation to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s health care program. The president has already vowed to overhaul the tax code and rebuild the nation’s roads, airports and other infrastructure.

But by endorsing legal immigration cuts, a move he has long supported, Mr. Trump returned to a theme that has defined his short political career and excites his conservative base at a time when his poll numbers continue to sink. Just 33 percent of Americans approved of his performance in the latest Quinnipiac University survey, the lowest rating of his presidency, and down from 40 percent a month ago.

Democrats and some Republicans quickly criticized the move. “Instead of catching criminals, Trump wants to tear apart communities and punish immigrant families that are making valuable contributions to our economy,” said Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. “That’s not what America stands for.”

The bill, sponsored by Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia, would institute a merit-based system to determine who is admitted to the country and granted legal residency green cards, favoring applicants based on skills, education and language ability rather than relations with people already here. The proposal revives an idea included in broader immigration legislation supported by President George W. Bush that died in 2007.

More than one million people are granted legal residency each year, and the proposal would reduce that by 41 percent in its first year and 50 percent by its 10th year, according to projections cited by its sponsors. The reductions would come largely from those brought in through family connections. The number of immigrants granted legal residency on the basis of job skills, about 140,000, would remain roughly the same.

Under the current system, most legal immigrants are admitted to the United States based on family ties. American citizens can sponsor spouses, parents and minor children for an unrestricted number of visas, while siblings and adult children are given preferences for a limited number of visas available to them. Legal permanent residents holding green cards can also sponsor spouses and children.

In 2014, 64 percent of immigrants admitted with legal residency were immediate relatives of American citizens or sponsored by family members. Just 15 percent entered through employment-based preferences, according to the Migration Policy Institute, an independent research organization. But that does not mean that those who came in on family ties were necessarily low skilled or uneducated.

The legislation would award points based on education, ability to speak English, high-paying job offers, age, record of achievement and entrepreneurial initiative. But while it would still allow spouses and minor children of Americans and legal residents to come in, it would eliminate preferences for other relatives, like siblings and adult children. The bill would create a renewable temporary visa for older-adult parents who come for caretaking purposes.

The legislation would limit refugees offered permanent residency to 50,000 a year and eliminate a diversity visa lottery that the sponsors said does not promote diversity. The senators said their bill was meant to emulate systems in Canada and Australia.

The projections cited by the sponsors said legal immigration would decrease to 637,960 after a year and to 539,958 after a decade.

“Our current system does not work,” Mr. Perdue said. “It keeps America from being competitive and it does not meet the needs of our economy today.”

Mr. Cotton said low-skilled immigrants pushed down wages for those who worked with their hands. “For some people, they may think that that’s a symbol of America’s virtue and generosity,” he said. “I think it’s a symbol that we’re not committed to working-class Americans, and we need to change that.”

But Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, noted that agriculture and tourism were his state’s top two industries. “If this proposal were to become law, it would be devastating to our state’s economy, which relies on this immigrant work force,” he said. “Hotels, restaurants, golf courses and farmers,” he added, “will tell you this proposal to cut legal immigration in half would put their business in peril.”

Cutting legal immigration would make it harder for Mr. Trump to reach the stronger economic growth that he has promised. Bringing in more workers, especially during a time of low unemployment, increases the size of an economy. Critics said the plan would result in labor shortages, especially in lower-wage jobs that many Americans do not want.

The National Immigration Forum, an advocacy group, said the country was already facing a work force gap of 7.5 million jobs by 2020. “Cutting legal immigration for the sake of cutting immigration would cause irreparable harm to the American worker and their family,” said Ali Noorani, the group’s executive director.

Surveys show most Americans believe legal immigration benefits the country. In a Gallup poll in January, 41 percent of Americans were satisfied with the overall level of immigration, 11 percentage points higher than the year before and the highest since the question was first asked in 2001. Still, 53 percent of Americans remained dissatisfied.

The plan endorsed by Mr. Trump generated a fiery exchange at the White House briefing when Stephen Miller, the president’s policy adviser and a longtime advocate of immigration limits, defended the proposal. Pressed for statistics to back up claims that immigration was costing Americans jobs, he cited several studies that have been debated by experts.

“But let’s also use common sense here, folks,” Mr. Miller said. “At the end of the day, why do special interests want to bring in more low-skill workers?”

He rejected the argument that immigration policy should also be based on compassion. “Maybe it’s time we had compassion for American workers,” he said.

When a reporter read him some of the words from the Statue of Liberty — “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” — Mr. Miller dismissed them. “The poem that you’re referring to was added later,” he said. “It’s not actually part of the original Statue of Liberty.”

He noted that in 1970, the United States allowed in only a third as many legal immigrants as it now does: “Was that violating or not violating the Statue of Liberty law of the land?”




Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed with Washington in recent weeks the idea of redrawing the borders in any future agreement with the Palestinians, incorporating the major settlement blocs into Israel, while drawing out the heavily populated Israeli-Arab area of Wadi Ara and making it part of a future Palestinian state, a senior diplomatic official confirmed on Thursday.

The discussions, first reported by Channel 2, mean that Netanyahu – in conversations with US President Donald Trump’s advisers Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt – has adopted a proposal put forward years ago by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman. Israeli- Arab politicians have vehemently opposed any plans to redraw the map in such a way that many Israeli Arabs would become citizens of a future Palestinian state.

The phone call took place a number of weeks ago, before the current crisis over the Temple Mount. The three terrorists who killed two Border Police officers on July 14 were from Umm el-Fahm in Wadi Ara, and their funeral on Thursday – attended by thousands of people who sang their praises and shot off fireworks – infuriated many across the political spectrum.

Wadi Ara, also called Nahal Iron, is located northwest of the Green Line, in the Haifa District.

The leak of the phone call comes as Netanyahu has tacked significantly to the Right following his decision earlier this week to remove the metal detectors at the entrances to the Temple Mount, a decision that polls indicated was highly unpopular with the general public, let alone his political base.

In the days since that decision Netanyahu has come out in favor of legislation that would annex Gush Etzion and Ma’aleh Adumim to Jerusalem; has not ordered the removal of settlers who moved into a disputed home in Hebron; directed his chief of staff to “immediately” ensure the renewal of work on Amihai, the new settlement to be constructed for the evacuees from Amona; and come out in favor of the death penalty for the terrorist who killed three members of the Solomon family in Halamish last Friday night.

A White House official did not deny that such a proposal may have been raised by Netanyahu, but suggested that Kushner and his team would only entertain land swaps in the context of a larger, comprehensive peace agreement with the Palestinians.

“This may have been one of many ideas discussed several weeks ago in the context of a peace agreement, and not in the context of a separate annexation,” the official told The Jerusalem Post.

Ravens Surprise Scientists By Showing They Can Plan

A raven flies in the Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge in Wyoming.

Tom Koerner/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

As recently as 10 years ago, humans were thought to be the only species with the ability to plan.

Recent studies on great apes showed the ability is not uniquely human. Now, scientists in Sweden have come to the surprising conclusion that ravens can also deliberately prepare for future events.

“It is conservative to conclude that ravens perform similarly to great apes and young children,” the researchers write. However, monkeys have failed similar experiments.

We’ve known that ravens, and other members of the corvid family, are smart. Previously, they were shown to think ahead by caching food to eat later.

But some scientists argued that food caching was not proof of an ability to plan because the birds could simply be biologically wired to do so, cognitive zoologist Can Kabadayi from Lund University tells The Two-Way.

So, Kabadayi and co-author Mathias Osvath set up a series of experiments to see if five ravens could flexibly plan during tasks that they don’t do in the wild: using tools and bartering. These are similar to studies done on great apes. Their findings were published today in the journal Science.

The researchers trained the birds how to use a simple tool, a rock, which could be used to open a box containing a treat (a piece of dog food) if the birds dropped it through a small tube.

They then tested whether the birds could pick the right tool from a series of “distracter” objects – such as a wheel, a ball, a metal pipe and a toy car – then save it and use it later to open the box.

One version of the experiment had a delay of 15 minutes between selecting an object and being presented with the reward box, and the ravens succeeded 86 percent of the time. The second extended that period to 17 hours, and the success rate was even higher, at 88 percent.

The birds were also trained to use a specific token to barter with a human for a food reward. Then, a different experimenter offered them a tray with the token on it along with other distracter objects. “When the ravens knew that trading would only happen on the next day, they chose and stored these tokens as soon as they were offered to them,” scientists Markus Boeckle and Nicola S. Clayton wrote in a separate Science paper on the Lund University research.

The researchers found that the birds would tend to opt out of immediate food rewards because of the promise of a larger, tastier treats later.

They were more likely to be willing to endure delayed gratification when they only had to wait a few seconds, rather than minutes for the larger treat – which is also a key component of human decision making. “We basically found that the further ahead in the future a reward for ravens, the less value it gets,” says Kabadayi.

It’s safe to say that ravens and mammals have not inherited planning skills through a common ancestor, says Kabadayi – they last shared an ancestor about 320 million years ago.

To plan, “you need a lot of different skill sets to work together and that’s interesting, because how can that be similar between corvids and great apes given they are so different to each other evolutionarily?” says Kabadayi. The skills likely evolved independently, through convergent evolution, he says.

Why would ravens develop the ability to plan? Kabadayi says there are many different theories.

He says this kind of complex cognition may have developed in reaction to ravens’ complex social hierarchy – for example, they would need to remember previous interactions with other birds, which could contribute to memory and planning skills. However, he says there are many other hierarchical species that don’t have planning abilities.

Factors like environmental pressures or the fact that they are scavengers competing with each other could also contribute, he says. The sheer density of neurons in a bird’s brain, even though it is small compared to apes, might also play a role.

Kabadayi says that scientists would need to test a large number of species for their abilities to plan, and see how this correlates with the possible explanations.

Parrots would be interesting to test next, he says, because they have a “huge number of neurons in their brains” and have been shown to have good memories.

Plan to face scan US citizens flying out of SFO, other international airports stirs privacy issues

HOUSTON (AP) — If the Trump administration gets its way, U.S. citizens boarding international flights will have to submit to a face scan, a plan privacy advocates call an ill-advised step toward a surveillance state.

The Department of Homeland Security says it’s the only way to successfully expand a program that tracks nonimmigrant foreigners. They have been required by law since 2004 to submit biometric identity scans — but to date have only had their fingerprints and photos collected prior to entry.

Now, DHS says it’s finally ready to implement face scans on departure — aimed mainly at better tracking visa overstays but also at tightening security. But, the agency says, U.S. citizens must also be scanned for the program to work.

Privacy advocates say that oversteps Congress’ mandate.

“Congress authorized scans of foreign nationals. DHS heard that and decided to scan everyone. That’s not how a democracy is supposed to work,” said Alvaro Bedoya, executive director of the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown University.

Pilots projects are underway at six U.S. airports — Boston, Chicago, Houston, Atlanta, New York City and Washington, D.C. DHS aims to have high-volume U.S. international airports engaged beginning next year. San Francisco International Airport, Mineta San Jose Airport and Oakland International are not included in the pilot.

During the pilots, passengers will be able to opt out. But a DHS assessment of the privacy impact indicates that won’t always be the case.

“The only way for an individual to ensure he or she is not subject to collection of biometric information when traveling internationally is to refrain from traveling,” says the June 12 document available on the website of Customs and Border Protection, which runs the DHS program.

John Wagner, the Customs and Border Protection deputy executive assistant commissioner in charge of the program, confirmed in an interview that U.S. citizens departing on international flights will submit to face scans.

Wagner says the agency has no plans to retain the biometric data of U.S. citizens and will delete all scans of them within 14 days. However, he doesn’t rule out CBP keeping them in the future after going “through the appropriate privacy reviews and approvals.”

A CBP spokeswoman, Jennifer Gabris, said the agency has not yet examined whether what would require a law change.

Privacy advocates say making the scans mandatory for U.S. citizens pushes the nation toward a Big Brother future of pervasive surveillance where local and state police and federal agencies, and even foreign governments, could leverage citizens collected “digital faceprints” to track them wherever they go.

Jay Stanley, an American Civil Liberties Union senior policy analyst, says U.S. law enforcement and security agencies already exert “sufficient gravitational pulls in wanting to record and track what masses of individuals are doing,” he says.

A network of government databases collects face scans — which computers read as mathematical formulas, or algorithms, from mug shots, driver’s license and other images.

In an October report,  the Georgetown center estimated more than one in four U.S. state and local law enforcement agencies can run or request face recognition searches — on their own or others’ databases —and said federal agencies including the DEA, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the IRS have all had access to one or more state or local face recognition systems.

Bedoya said the images of at least 130 million U.S. adults in 29 states are stored in face recognition databases. He says there is a danger the airport scans could be searched against them — meaning travelers’ faceprints could be compared in real time against those of fugitives.

The FBI alone has more than 30 million photos in a single database, and New York state recently announced it would begin scanning the faces of drivers entering New York City bridges and tunnels.Another DHS initiative worrying privacy advocates is TSA’s Precheck, the voluntary program designed to speed enrollees through airport security with more than 5 million enrollees.

Participants are not being told the digital fingerprints and biographical data they submit for background checks when enrolling are retained in an FBI identity database  for life, said Jeramie Scott, an attorney with the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a public interest nonprofit. Since last month, trials  that let enrollees use a digital fingerprint scanner to speed through TSA security are underway in Atlanta and Denver.

EPIC worries not just about potential governmental abuse but also the vulnerability to hackers. In the 2015 breach of the federal Office of Personnel Management, 5.6 million sets of fingerprint images were stolen.

The biometric exit endeavor will cost billions. That’s partly because U.S. airports don’t have dedicated secure immigration areas for departing international flights. Domestic and international passengers commingle in the same concourses.

Currently, foreigners arriving in the U.S. submit to photo and digital fingerprint recording, initially when applying for visas. There are no “exit” scans. U.S. citizens are subject to neither; their photos are digitally stored in a microchip in their passports with biographical data.

In written testimony  to Congress in May, CBP said U.S. citizens leaving on international flights cannot be exempted from face scans because: “First, it is not feasible to require airlines to have two separate boarding processes for U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizens, and second, to ensure U.S. citizen travelers are the true bearer of the passport they are presenting for travel.”

Face recognition technology is getting better, but is far from perfect. A smile recorded at the gate could, for example, trigger a mismatch when compared to a serious gaze in a passport photo.

In a previous Atlanta pilot that processed about 28,000 travelers, the match rate was 90 percent or higher, said Gabris, the CBP spokeswoman.

Robert Mann, an aviation consultant in Port Washington, New York, said such a failure rate would be “a non-starter” by slowing the boarding process.

Congress last year approved up to $1 billion over the next decade collected from visa fees to get the program rolling technically. That won’t cover the additional border agents needed to gate checks, for starters.

DHS officials hope to defray costs through partnerships with airlines that are incorporating biometrics to boost efficiencies. Two airlines in the pilot program — Delta and JetBlue — tout identity-verification technology’s convenience for other ends: Delta for speeding baggage handling, JetBlue for eliminating boarding passes.

Airline officials reached by The Associated Press declined to discuss the programs potential pitfalls — and additional costs — reflecting concerns about whether it will significantly enhance security.

Even CBP knows it won’t have a full picture of who is overstaying visas until face scans are also done at U.S. land and sea borders.

Such concerns shouldn’t stop the government from moving ahead with the program and U.S. citizens have already sacrificed considerable privacy as the price of fighting terrorists, said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which promotes restrictions on immigration.

“We have as a nation a moral and security imperative to begin introduce this kind of system given the sheer volume of people who are moving in and out of our country.”

But Ben Ball, a biometrics consultant and former DHS analyst, says the government hasn’t yet addressed the thorniest questions.

“This is still a theoretical system,” he said. “We are the first country on earth to attempt a comprehensive biometric system and it’s technically very complicated.”



Movements on the Left and Right on Wednesday announced preparations for political activity surrounding US President Donald Trump’s May 22 visit.

Peace Now is organizing a rally for May 27, the Saturday night after the visit. Labor and Meretz are cosponsoring the event in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, the site of a peace rally where Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in November 1995.


Organizers said the event would mark “50 years of occupation and control of the territories” and react to diplomatic overtures Trump might make during his visit.

“We haven’t taken to the streets en mass in way too long to protest the lack of hope from the right-wing government,” Peace Now head Avi Buskila said. “We have held back for way too long on the occupation, the violence, and the racism. We have let an extremist, power-hungry gang spread hatred and incite against minorities, the free press, the courts and whoever dares criticize the government. Enough is enough.”

The left-wing Darkenu organization is planning a campaign ahead of the Trump visit in favor of withdrawing from territories. The campaign will feature billboards and flyers with the slogan “Israel says yes to separating from the Palestinians.”

“President Trump is reawakening diplomatic dialogue and hope that Israel will reenter negotiations that can achieve a deal [with the Palestinians],” Darkenu head Polly Bronstein said. “A pragmatic approach that demands responsibility from both sides without blaming either could succeed. We call upon the prime minister and Knesset to say yes.”

Organizations on the Right have not announced their own campaign yet, but they are working on many levels to prevent a diplomatic process from starting and succeeding.

Former Bayit Yehudi MK Orit Struck said the Right’s goals include preventing gestures, i.e. concessions, by Israel for talks to start, stopping progress toward a Palestinian state, and moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

“The Left appears more organized because it doesn’t really have any power,” Struck said. “We are in the government, and it’s important that our ministers set firm limits for Netanyahu and Trump.”

The Right’s efforts to send a message to Trump began with Sunday’s Jerusalem Post Conference in New York. Right-wing speakers were briefed in advance in an effort to send a unified message that concessions would not be tolerated. Right-wing politicians who came for the conference also relayed key messages to Trump advisers and cabinet members they met in the US.

“Trump’s advisers might believe they can persuade Netanyahu to abandon his right-wing coalition, but they know he cannot abandon the Likud,” Struck said. “The Likud ministers talked tough at the The Jerusalem Post Conference, and let’s just say it was not a coincidence. It sent a key message at a opportune time.”

Quiet Obama Plan to Take Down Trump Begins April 24

As the old adage goes, all good things must come to an end. And so it is with former President Barack Obama and his extended vacation following President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

After spending several weeks in French Polynesia, Obama has been planning a return to the public eye, with his first public event in Chicago on Monday, according to The New York Times.

The event will be a town hall-style meeting with students at the University of Chicago.

The former president will then attend an awards ceremony in Boston, which will be followed by a series of public speaking events and private paid speeches in the U.S. as well as Europe. Obama is also scheduled to make an appearance at the Brandenburg Gate in Germany with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The Times also reported that Obama wasn’t planning on responding to President Donald Trump’s policies, adding that he would rather focus on “broader themes” that will hopefully keep him “above the cable-television combat and the Capitol Hill debates.”

Those themes include “civic engagement, the health of the planet, the need for diplomacy, civil rights and the development of a new generation of young American leaders,” according to The Times.

Right. Most thinking people know all of that is code for “helping build an apparatus to destroy Trump’s agenda in the midterms, if not sooner.”

We already know Obama has been working on building a strong machine in Washington to work against Trump and Republicans at every level.

Obama will simply get rich(er) from all his speeches about civil rights, diplomacy and inspiring anew generation of leaders. Maybe he will donate some of that money to his favorite charities. Maybe not.

OK, probably not.

Nobody’s fooled by Obama’s rhetoric, but right now he is the most powerful weapon the Democrats have against Trump. They have been chomping at the bit for him to come back into the fray, and now that he is, he will do everything he can to undermine the president — as long as it doesn’t involve a direct confrontation, because we all know Obama would never take on Trump face-to-face.

Israel’s plan to absorb 100 Syrian orphans seems to be going nowhere (LOL…..)

A highly publicized Israeli plan to grant refugee status to 100 orphaned Syrian appears to be stuck in bureaucratic limbo, and the government ministry responsible is at a loss to explain why.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri authorized the absorption of the orphans into Israel in January, but since then the ministry has gone quiet on the issue.

Last week’s chemical attack in Syria, which was condemned in Israel as “a stain on humanity,” has not spurred the government into action on the matter.

Sabin Hadad, the spokesperson for the Population, Immigration and Border Authority (PIBA), a branch of the Interior Ministry, denied that Israel has dropped its decision to absorb the Syrians. “We are waiting to be told that there are permits from the necessary authority,” she told The Times of Israel on Wednesday.

But when asked who exactly PIBA — which normally approves entry visas — was waiting to get permits from, she had no details, other than to say it is “complicated.”

Syrians line-up waiting to receive meals distributed by the "Syria charity" NGO to impoverished families during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan in a rebel-held neighborhood of the northern city Aleppo, June 11, 2016 . (AFP/THAER MOHAMMED)

When announced, the plan called for giving 100 orphaned Syrian children temporary residency status that would become permanent after four years. They were supposed to be integrated into Arab Israeli families.

Furthermore, any of the children’s immediate relatives were also to be considered for refugee status.

“The answer is that we are not involved in the process and are waiting for the okay to move forward,” Hadad said Wednesday. “Because there are many factors in the process, many approvals are needed along the way.”

Hadad said the project was meant to be carried out in coordination with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

A spokesperson for the UN agency declined to comment.

Nir Boms (Courtesy)

Professor Nir Boms, a research fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University and a prominent activist pushing for Israel to do more to to help Syrians, told The Times of Israel that there appeared to be no political will to carry out the plan.

“If the prime minister is keen to advance the plan, he can do more by instructing relevant agencies to further pursue it,” he said.

The Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment.

“There was a certain process of investigation to see if this was feasible. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible,” Boms said.

According to Hadad, the original plan was for Israel to absorb Syrians who have already taken refuge in Europe from the now six-year-long civil war.

Gal Lusky, the head of Israel Flying Aid, an NGO that has been active in bringing humanitarian aid from Israel to Syria, said that Israel sought her advice on the issue and she “personally recommended the government bypass UNHCR and do it on its own.”

She said she pushed for Israel to take orphans who are still in Syria rather than in Europe, adding that the idea had been floating around for three years, and 1,500 Israeli families have already pledged to foster Syrian children.

“It’s just a matter of a decision, which lies with the prime minister,” she said.

The war was catapulted back into top headlines after an April 4 gas attack on the opposition-held city of Idlib killed over 80 people and injured over 200, many of them children.

The attack was widely blamed, including by Israel, on the Syrian government led by Bashar Assad, though Damascus denied involvement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “sharply condemned” the attack and called on the international community to complete the process of removing all of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles.

“When I saw pictures of babies suffocating from a chemical attack in Syria, I was shocked and outraged. There’s no, none, no excuse whatsoever for the deliberate attacks on civilians and on children, especially with cruel and outlawed chemical weapons,” he said.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin called the pictures coming out of Syria a “stain on all humanity.”

The pictures from Syria are a stain on all humanity. The international community must act now to bring an end to this murderous madness.

@Multied Well continue to aid the survivors of the horrors in Syria. We know all too well how dangerous silence can be, and cannot remain mute.

“We’ll continue to aid the survivors of the horrors in Syria. We know all too well how dangerous silence can be, and cannot remain mute,” he added.

On Sunday, the high-level Israeli security cabinet met in the wake of the gas attack and agreed to weigh a proposal to bring Syrian children wounded in last week’s chemical weapons attack to Israel for treatment.

However, even at this meeting and despite all the outrage expressed by Israeli leaders, the plan to absorb 100 Syrians was not mentioned, according to the Haaretz newspaper.

This photo provided Tuesday, April 4, 2017 by the Syrian anti-government activist group Edlib Media Center, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows victims of a suspected chemical attack, in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, northern Idlib province, Syria. (Edlib Media Center, via AP)

Israel has treated many of those wounded in the Syrian conflict for the past several years. Israel maintains a field hospital at the border, and around 3,000 Syrians have been treated in Israel since December 2013, according to the Israeli army.

The official line from the Israeli army is that it will treat any Syrian who requires serious medical assistance, no matter who they are. Medical assistance to Syrian civil war casualties, the IDF says, is a humanitarian initiative.

Anti-Israel groups plan Paris demonstration against ‘apartheid state’

(JTA) — Anti-Israel activists in France are planning to demonstrate against the Jewish state, which they accuse of apartheid.

The event is scheduled to take place Saturday on Chatelet Square, organizers from the Coordination of Appeals for a Just Peace in the Middle East, or CAPJPO, wrote on the group’s website.

“No to blackmail by means of anti-Semitism,” they wrote, implying that criticism of Israel is being unfairly labeled anti-Semitic. “No to the dictates of the Israeli lobby. No to attacks on freedom of expression. No the attacks by the fascist thugs of the Jewish Defense League.”

The protesters wrote that they will “demand sanctions instead of the current collaboration of the French government with Israeli apartheid.”

The International Solidarity Movement — a far-left group that, like CAPJPO, supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel – wrote on its website that the protest was for a “separation of CRIF and state.”

CRIF is the umbrella group of French Jewish communities, which defines itself as Zionist and engages in pro-Israel advocacy as well as lobbying efforts on this issue.

The organizers of the rally, which police approved, did not call for a boycott of Israel – an action that is illegal in France under 2003 legislation that proscribes discrimination against countries or their citizens.

Nonetheless, Meyer Habib, a French-Jewish lawmaker who served as vice president of CRIF, asked Interior Minister Matthias Fekl on Wednesday to ban the rally in an open letter published by the Huffington Post.

“It needs to be prohibited because anti-Semitism today in France feeds off of hatred for Israel,” Habib wrote. “This hatred uses the mantle of political correctness and support for the Palestinian cause and the BDS campaign, which is illegal.”

Democrats Plan to Filibuster to Thwart Gorsuch Nomination

WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats on Thursday vowed to filibuster the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, signaling an imminent partisan showdown over the nominee’s fate and the future of century-old rules in the chamber.

As committee hearings on Judge Gorsuch concluded on Thursday, it appeared increasingly likely that Republicans hoping to elevate President Trump’s choice for the court would resort to replacing longstanding rules with a simple majority vote on his confirmation.

While a parade of witnesses addressed the Senate Judiciary Committee, trading dueling views of Judge Gorsuch, the Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, went to the Senate floor and announced that he would try to lead Democrats in blocking an up-or-down vote on Judge Gorsuch. The Senate’s “cloture” rule requires a supermajority of 60 votes to overcome such a filibuster.

“After careful deliberation I have concluded that I cannot support Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court,” Mr. Schumer said, citing concerns over Judge Gorsuch’s record on workers’ rights and his degree of independence, adding, “My vote will be no, and I urge my colleagues to do the same.”

Judge Gorsuch must earn the support of at least eight Democrats to break a filibuster — a threshold he is not on track to meet, at least so far, according to interviews and internal party discussions.

If Democrats band together, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, has threatened to pursue the so-called nuclear option eliminating the filibuster for Supreme Court selections. Mr. Trump has urged Mr. McConnell to take that step if necessary.

Some Republicans have expressed reservations about changing the rules, but Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Thursday that he would relent if it meant seating Judge Gorsuch. “Whatever it takes to get him on the court, I will do,” Mr. Graham told “The Mike Gallagher Show” radio program.

Mr. McConnell has said he wants the Senate to confirm Judge Gorsuch to fill the vacancy, which was created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia more than a year ago, before departing for a scheduled recess on April 7. Last year, Mr. McConnell led his party in refusing to consider President Obama’s choice for the seat, Judge Merrick B. Garland, during a presidential election campaign.

On Thursday, Mr. McConnell accused Democrats of engaging in “obstructionist tactics” to block a well-qualified nominee.

“Despite the judge’s outstanding performance, his exceptional background, and the extensive support he’s received from people of all political leanings, we know that some Senate Democrats will continue trying to come up with any reason to delay the confirmation process,” Mr. McConnell said of Judge Gorsuch.

During the four days of hearings, even Judge Gorsuch’s critics did not dispute his credentials. On Thursday, representatives of the American Bar Association told the committee that it had unanimously found Judge Gorsuch to be “well qualified,” the group’s highest rating. That was particularly notable in light of studies that have shown the group has tended to favor the nominees of Democratic presidents.

“We do not give the ‘well qualified’ rating lightly,” said Nancy Scott Degan, an official of the bar association.

The group had also given its highest rating to Judge Garland. Since the evening Judge Gorsuch was nominated, liberal groups have been pressuring Democrats to filibuster the vote on him.

Four years ago, when Democrats controlled the Senate and Republican senators were blockading Mr. Obama’s appeals court and executive branch nominees, Democrats changed the chamber’s rules to bar filibusters for such positions — but left the filibuster rule in place for Supreme Court nominations.

Republicans have cited this history often in accusing their colleagues of hypocrisy on Judge Gorsuch.

To eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, Republicans would need to vote in virtual lock step: The party effectively has only 51 votes right now because one member, Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia, is recuperating from back surgery, so just two Republican senators could block a rules change.

Still, Judge Gorsuch’s nomination is broadly popular among conservatives. The question facing Democrats is whether to have a filibuster fight over Judge Gorsuch, highlighting what they consider the theft of a seat they believe Mr. Obama had a right to fill, or whether to save that attention-grabbing tactic for a hypothetical future vacancy if a more liberal justice dies or steps down and President Trump nominates a staunch conservative who would shift the court’s balance.

“I don’t think we should move forward on the Gorsuch nomination until the nomination of Merrick Garland has been dealt with fairly,” Senator Thomas R. Carper, Democrat of Delaware, said on Thursday, signaling his support for a filibuster.

Another moderate Democrat, Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, also said he would reject Judge Gorsuch and join the filibuster effort. Mr. Casey is among the 10 Democrats facing re-election next year in states that Mr. Trump won.

Others in the group were less eager to declare their intentions.

“I’m going to keep on my theme I’ve been on for a couple of months,” said Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri. “I’m not going to talk about Gorsuch.”

Even before Judge Gorsuch’s nomination, Ms. McCaskill inadvertently drew the ire of liberal activists by expressing support for “a full confirmation hearing process and a vote,” before making clear she believed in a 60-vote threshold.

Despite the escalating political friction, the atmosphere in the hearing room on Thursday was often more perfunctory than passionate, as panels of witnesses selected by Democrats and Republicans alternately expressed concerns that Judge Gorsuch was too conservative or praised him as a well-qualified and careful judge.

Two of Judge Gorsuch’s former colleagues on the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in Denver — Deanell Reece Tacha, appointed by President Ronald Reagan, and Robert Harlan Henry, appointed by President Bill Clinton — praised his intellect and temperament.

But others expressed concerns. One strain of criticism came from human rights and civil liberties activists, who expressed alarm over Judge Gorsuch’s experiences as a Justice Department official in the Bush administration in 2005 and 2006, when he helped to defend and advance the executive branch’s positions on matters like detainee treatment and surveillance.

Jameel Jaffer, who litigated national-security cases against the government as the former deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, urged the committee to scrutinize more closely Judge Gorsuch’s views on executive power and individual rights.

Mr. Jaffer pointed to documents showing, for example, that Judge Gorsuch had worked to get Congress to enact a law stripping courts of jurisdiction to hear lawsuits by Guantánamo Bay detainees, and in one email chain he criticized law firms that helped represent prisoners in seeking judicial review of their detention.

On Wednesday, Judge Gorsuch told the committee that the email had not been “my finest moment” and that he had been “blowing off steam with a friend, privately.”

As Trump envoy set to visit, Liberman pushes population transfer plan

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman cautioned the US against trying to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal on the basis of land for peace without also including a population transfer, as a senior Washington official tasked with kicking off peace efforts made his way to the region for the first time.

Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s special envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, is slated to land in Israel later Monday, and is expected to meet with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders as part of an opening gambit to try and broker fresh peace talks after years of stagnation between the sides.

In a statement posted to his Facebook page, Liberman said Greenblatt should “learn lessons from the past,” pitching the US official on his long-held belief that certain Israeli Arab towns should be made part of a Palestinian state, with many of the residents of those towns taking on Palestinian citizenship instead of Israeli.

“The first takeaway is that any attempt to solve the Palestinian issue on the basis of land for peace will be dead on arrival. The only way to reach a sustainable solution is land swaps and population transfers as part of a general regional agreement,” he wrote. “It can’t be that there will be a Palestinian state without any Jews — 100 percent Palestinian — and alongside that Israel will be a binational state with 22% Palestinians.”

Liberman’s controversial plan calls for towns in the “triangle” region southeast of Haifa, including heavily populated Arab cities, to become part of a Palestinian state in any peace agreement in exchange for Jewish settlement areas of the West Bank coming under Israeli sovereignty.

“There is no reason that Sheikh Raed Salah, Ayman Odeh, Basel Ghattas or Haneen Zoabi should continue to be citizens of Israel,” Liberman added, referring to the leader of the banned northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel and members of the Joint (Arab) List Knesset faction, respectively.

Responding to the statement, Ghattas said the fact that Liberman was born in the Soviet Union and moved to Israel made him a “passing visitor” while “Palestinians living in Israel own the place.”

“There’s no doubt that Liberman, a migrant from Moldova, doesn’t understand what it means to be born in your land, and in any agreement in the future, there is no room for settlers stealing the land of the Palestinian state, and no room for despicable racist migrants like Yvette,” Ghattas wrote, using a common nickname for Liberman.

Greenblatt’s visit will be the first major attempt by the new US administration to tackle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, after two months which have seen officials dither on support for the two-state solution, the location of the US Embassy and opposition to building in settlements.

Time for morning prayer (shacharit) at unexpected stop in Frankfurt. Pray for peace. @jdgreenblatt45

On Friday, Trump held his first phone conversation with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, inviting him to visit the White House.

According to reports, Trump and his team want to broker a regional peace initiative that will include Israel, the Palestinians, Saudi Arabia and others.

On Sunday, Abbas said that his phone conversation with Trump was “constructive” and that Trump “confirmed his full commitment to the peace process.”

He added: “We will continue to cooperate with [Trump], in order to arrive at a comprehensive and just peace that will bring security and stability to everyone.”

Other Palestinian sources said that Trump told Abbas he wanted to broker a deal, and that he referred to Abbas as a “partner.”

The goal of Greenblatt’s visit is reportedly to formulate the Trump administration’s position on settlements, including what the US will accept in terms of where and how much Israel can build, and to arrange Abbas’s visit to Washington.

The visit comes a month after Trump’s public request that Israel “hold back” on the settlement construction, whose literal meaning Jerusalem officials have been tirelessly dissecting.

Both Netanyahu and Liberman have recently tried to curb the discussion of settlements, with the understanding that the issue could cause tension with Washington.

According to a Channel 2 TV report Sunday, the prime minister will present Greenblatt with plans for a new West Bank settlement, one that he promised the residents of Amona ahead of their court-ordered evacuation in exchange for a peaceful evacuation of the hilltop community.

The Palestinians are expected to push the US administration to present its own peace plan, according to a report Monday in the Haaretz daily.

Tamar Pileggi contributed to this report.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story erroneously included that Abbas said Trump had expressed commitment to a two-state deal, based on a Palestinian transcript of the speech.

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