Day: April 1, 2017


Despite history of inciting terror, Palestinian leader slated to visit the US

Controversial Palestinian Authority leader Jibril Rajoub is slated to enter the United States for a high-profile speaking event at the Israel Policy Forum (IPF) next week – prompting outcry from terror watch experts and victim’s families who claim that his incitements led to the murder of their Israeli-Americans loved ones.

“The families are outraged. Jibril is a terrorist leader,” Itamar Marcus, Israel-based political activist, researcher and the founder and director of Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) told Fox News. “And the U.S needs to make a statement that he is not welcome.”

In a letter sent this week to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, PMW claims that Rajoub has “promoted Palestinian terror for years and most actively promoted terror during the 2015-2016 terror wave, in which 40 people were murdered and over 500 were wounded” including four American citizens. The letter was also signed by five terror victim’s family members – the fathers’ of Taylor Force and Naftali Fraenkel, mothers’ to Ezra Schwartz and Hallel Yaffa Ariel and the son of Richard Lakin. All were U.S citizens killed in Palestinian-inspired terror attacks in Israel between 2014 and 2016.

The activist group is subsequently calling on authorities to ban Rajoub from entering the U.S. or if he does, that he be investigated for “incitement to murder American citizens.”

Rajoub was recently named the Secretary General of the Fatah Central Committee, the paramount decision-making wing of the Fatah political party, and is the former Palestinian Authority (PA) security chief in the West Bank and comes with a checkered past.

In 1970, the then 17-year-old was sentenced to life in prison for throwing a grenade at an Israeli army bus, but was released 1in 1985 in a prisoner exchange for Israeli hostages.

In more recent times, Rajoub has made a string of highly inflammatory comments.

On official PA TV in 2015, Rajoub encouraged Palestinians to kill Israelis, calling them “individual acts of bravery” and espousing his pride in “whoever confronts, fights or dies as a Martyr.” Last year, he repeated calls to murder and referred to them this time as “individual acts of heroism” that “we in the Fatah movement bless and encourage.”

Rajoub also urged U.S designated terrorist group Hamas to kidnap Israelis during a TV broadcast in 2014. A few months later, U.S citizen Naftali Fraenkel and his friends – fellow teens Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach – were abducted and killed on their way home from school in the West Bank settlement of Alon Shvut, leading to a massive escalation of violence and triggered the seven-week conflict known as Operation Protective Edge.

As Marcus pointed out, U.S. law stipulates that any alien who “endorses or espouses terrorist activity or persuades others to endorse terrorist activity or persuades others to endorse or espouse terrorist activity” is “ineligible for visas or admission.”

Nonetheless, Rajoub is still set to be in New York City on Wednesday at IPF’s guest attendee as part of their 2017 Joseph Forum. A representative for IPF confirmed that he will arrive next week and that the organization is paying only for his expenses, not an additional speaking fee.

“IPF is appalled when hateful and incendiary rhetoric is used in any way, particularly by Palestinian leaders who wish to represent their people in this conflict,” a spokesman for the forum, Martin Irom, told Fox News. “We are deeply sympathetic to the pain of the families whose loved ones have been victims of Palestinian terrorism, and we do not diminish their suffering and anger in any way.”

But despite the staunch opposition to giving Rajoub being given such a platform, IPF – a tax-exempt organization that seeks to advance the goal of a two- state solution – specifically established its Joseph Forum with the aim of fostering productive debate.

“We seek solutions to end violence and bring peace to the region, which will ultimately require dialogue with Palestinian leaders. We fully intend to challenge Rajoub on his rhetoric in our upcoming meeting, and call out his past and current rhetoric and positions,” Irom said. “We are hopeful to accomplish our goal for this program; to convene a dialogue that is both challenging and constructive for all in attendance, serving to inform and improve our efforts to support Israel, its security, and the goal of two states for two peoples.”

Rajoub will be joined on stage by Brig. Gen. (res.) Michael Herzog, Israeli security expert, the Milton Fine International Fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest negotiating team. The conversation between the two is to be moderated by Tamara Cofman Wittes, Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.

The Palestinian leader is considered by many experts to be next-in-line to succeed Mahmoud Abas as President of the PA. Marcus expressed deep concern that “any legitimacy he gets” – especially from an organization “as reputable as IPF” – would boost his leadership prospects would ultimately destroy any chance of peace between the two sides.

Meanwhile, the IPF instead acknowledged that Rajoub “undoubtedly will play an influential role in the decision-making of the Palestinian leadership” thus his views on the future come at a critical time.




And as it stands, Rajoub won’t be denied access nor taken away in handcuffs next week. The U.S State Department did not respond to a follow-up comment request regarding Rajoub’s meetings outside of the IPF, but in their original comments hinted that he may have an additional audience.

According to a spokesperson, they are “aware of his plans to visit the country” and that the “Administration is committed to reaching a comprehensive Middle East peace agreement” which includes “meeting with a range of both Israeli and Palestinian officials, including Rajoub.”

“The U.S. government does not endorse every statement Mr. Rajoub has made, but he has long been involved in Middle East peace efforts, and has publicly supported a peaceful, non-violent solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” added the spokesperson. “We continue to press Fatah officials, including Rajoub himself, to refrain from any statements or actions that could be viewed as inciting or legitimizing others use of violence.”

Hollie McKay has been a staff reporter since 2007. She has reported extensively from the Middle East on the rise and fall of terrorist groups such as ISIS in Iraq. Follow her on twitter at @holliesmckay

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NYC officials abandon subway trash bin ban experiment

NEW YORK (AP) — Faced with too much trash in one of the world’s biggest — and arguably dirtiest — subway systems, New York transit officials tried an unusual social experiment. They removed garbage bins from 39 out of the more than 400 stations, figuring that would deter people from bringing trash into the system.That was a no-go in a go-go city where eating and drinking is often done on the run.

People who toss their soda bottles and potato chip bags onto platforms and tracks kept doing it, causing fires. And hungry rats kept scurrying through stations, drawn by garbage.The Metropolitan Transportation Authority run by New York state decided to put the bins back.”It took the MTA five years, but we are gratified that it recognized the need to end this controversial experiment that showed little to no improvements in riders’ experience,” said New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who had released audits saying that fires started by trash thrown on the tracks system-wide didn’t decrease as a result of the program.

A transit spokeswoman, Beth DeFalco, said in a statement that the pilot was worth trying, and did lead to some improvements, including fewer track fires without the sometimes overflowing bins. But in the end, it “wasn’t the most efficient way to clean the stations.”

The MTA said the decision was made in September, and state officials are only now making their final evaluations.The reason for canceling the experiment may have something to do with the pace of New York City life, its disposable culture and the premium that residents put on convenience.In New York, pedestrians are rarely more than a few steps from a trash bin. And because they mostly aren’t driving, they carry everything they need in their hands or on their shoulders, or simply buy it on the go.

Passengers who rely on the subways to get around dealt with the lack of bins, but many didn’t like it.”Without them, it’s a bunch of trash, and more trash, everywhere,” said Desiree Bard, an artist, as she boarded a train Thursday at a station on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. When she encountered a station without a bin, and needed to throw something out, “I would just hold on to it until I found a trash can, above ground, and I found that kind of difficult; I don’t want to have trash in my bag.”Jade Griffin, another Manhattan subway rider, said she had also been willing to temporarily stash trash occasionally in her purse, “but not everyone carries a purse.””I think you should have trash cans everywhere,” she said. “If not, that creates other problems like littering, or putting the trash where it’s not supposed to go.”Initially, the MTA had been encouraged by results in the two stations that launched the program in 2011. But when they expanded the number of participating stations to 39 of the total 472 stations, rider evaluations were less rosy. There were also complaints from some businesses and private residences located near station entrances about their trash bins being used by passengers unable to toss their trash somewhere in the subway.

In any case, the MTA has moved on to a more traditional solution for dealing with the 40 tons of daily garbage in the subways: an intense cleanup campaign.Last summer, the MTA launched its “Operation Track Sweep” program. Workers are cleaning about 90 stations every two weeks, three times as many as previously. Portable track vacuums are being tested and the agency is purchasing more vacuum trains and cars that pick up the contents of 3,500 station receptacles more frequently.

The agency says the cleaning effort has resulted in the number of track fires dropping by 41 percent.

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Record-breaking coin auction fetches $106.7M

A rare 1804 silver dollar fetched almost $3.3 million dollars in what officials say is a record-breaking coin collection auction.

A five-part sale of the D. Brent Pogue coin collection that ended Friday netted a total of almost $106.7 million.

The five auction events were held over the past two years by Stack’s Bowers Galleries of Santa Ana, California, in conjunction with Sotheby’s in Baltimore.

Friday’s final auction yielded about $21.4 million, including the 1804 dollar, an 1811 half cent that brought $998,750, and a 1793 Liberty Cap cent that sold for $940,000, making it the most valuable circulated cent ever sold.


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TRUMP TAKES NAMES Amash targeted by White House social media chief

The list of House Freedom Caucus members being targeted by President Trump for sinking Republicans’ ObamaCare overhaul plan grew Saturday when the White House singled out Michigan Rep. Justin Amash for a primary defeat.

“Donald Trump is bringing auto plants & jobs back to Michigan,” tweeted White House social media Director Dan Scavino Jr. “@justinamash is a big liability. #TrumpTrain, defeat him in primary.”

Most of the ultra-conservative caucus’ roughly 35 members withheld their support for the Republican House leadership’s overhaul plan, which kept it from even getting a final vote in the GOP-led chamber, despite Trump’s rigorous dealmaking efforts.

The president invited caucus leaders to the White House and met with them and others in the GOP House conference on Capitol Hill in the days before the scheduled final vote.

Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., purportedly agreed to cancel the vote, instead of forcing non-supporters to cast “no” ballots on the record. However, Trump still appears bent on political revenge, with the White House suggesting support for a more moderate conservative against Amash in next year’s midterm elections.

“The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don’t get on the team, & fast,” Trump tweeted Thursday. “We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!”

Also that day, The Post and Courier newspaper in South Carolina reported that Trump dared Freedom Caucus member Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., to vote against the overhaul bill.

Sanford, who with Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul has a competing ObamaCare replacement bill, said White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told him: “The president asked me to look you square in the eyes and to say that he hoped that you voted ‘no’ on this bill so he could run (a primary challenger) against you in 2018,” according to the paper.

The Freedom Caucus members who opposed the House leadership plan say it doesn’t go far enough to repeal and replace ObamaCare, and they largely appear entrenched in that position.

“Trump admin & Establishment have merged into #Trumpstablishment,” Amash, a Tea Party favorite seeking a fourth term, tweeted Saturday in response to Scavino’s tweet. “Same old agenda: Attack conservatives, libertarians & independent thinkers.”

Previously, Amash had tweeted that instead of draining the swamp, Trump was being sucked into it.

Amash and Stanford are not the first Freedom Caucus members on Trump’s political hit list. Trump told caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., at the closed-door Capitol Hill meeting: “Oh Mark, I’m coming after you.”



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'YOU DIDN'T WIN THIS ELECTION' DNC chair Perez launches tirade against Trump, calls him a 'bully'

New Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez on Friday night said President Trump “didn’t win the election” and suggested his Republican Party doesn’t care about voters.

The comments by Perez, Labor secretary under President Obama, appear to leave little doubt about the direction in which he will try to take the struggling committee.

“Donald Trump, you don’t stand for our values. You didn’t win this election,” Perez said at the rally hosted by the New Jersey Working Families Alliance, according to a video posted by The Daily Caller.

Washington Democrats have since 2010 lost control of the House, then the Senate and the White House in 2016.

The defeat last year of frontrunner Hillary Clinton was an especially tough loss, considering hacked emails revealed that committee leaders tried to give Clinton the edge over primary challengers. And committee Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, resigned in the aftermath.

Perez spoke Friday in Newark, ahead of the state’s gubernatorial election in November, and thanked attendees for participating in the worldwide protests after Trump took office in January.

“We have a bully in Washington in the White House,” he also said, according to several news reports.

Perez was elected by Democrats in February, in a close race with Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress.

The contest was considered one between a progressive and an establishment candidate in Perez and raised concerns about whether either could reconnect with disaffected, Middle American loyalists who this time voted for Trump.


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'TOTAL SCAM' Trump blasts 'phony' Russia links controversy

President Trump on Saturday called the ongoing controversy about his White House campaign linked to Russia a “total scam.”

Congress and the FBI are conducting investigations about whether a direct connection existed between campaign officials and Kremlin operatives, amid Trump’s insistence about no such contact.

“It is the same Fake News Media that said there is ‘no path to victory for Trump’ that is now pushing the phony Russia story,” Trump tweeted. “A total scam!”

The U.S. intelligence community has already concluded that Russia meddled in the 2016 White House race, in which Trump upset Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton. However, there has been no clear evidence that Russian operatives and Trump campaign officials colluded to defeat Clinton.

The most recent turn of events is that Michael Flynn, fired as Trump’s national security adviser for not disclosing talks with at least one Russian official, is purportedly seeking immunity in exchange for testifying in the Capitol Hill probes.

At the same time, California GOP Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence committee, one of the two congressional panels investigating the Russia connection, is facing criticism for going to Trump after a secret intelligence briefing before reporting his findings to his committee.

Following those revelations late last month, Nunes, who was a member of the presidential transition team, has resisted calls to step aside from his committee’s investigation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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'HE'S INSPIRATIONAL' Video: Armless basketball player wins game with shot

An armless eight-grader without prosthetics sank a three-point shot at the buzzer this week that won the game and made him an online sensation.

A cellphone recorded Jamarion Styles of Eagles Landing Middle School in Boca Raton, Fla., hitting the shot Wedensday and then being mobbed by teammates and fans on the court. The video went viral and was shown on ESPN, Miami Fox affiliate WSVN-TV reported Friday.

Jamarion developed a bacterial infection that forced the amputation of his right arm just below the shoulder blade and his left arm just below the elbow.

His disability hasn’t stopped him from playing basketball and football and dreaming of playing in the NFL when he is older, according to the station. He also plays the drums.

“I think he plays just like everyone else,” teammate Mark Steig said of Jamarion in an interview with the station.  “He goes through it. He has no excuses.” 

Mark added, “He’s inspirational too.”

Jamarion told WSVN he is enjoying the attention.

“Just stay positive and you can do whatever you can if you want to,” he said.

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REMAINS UNEARTHED Woman's body found under grave of WWII veteran

A Colorado man who pleaded guilty Friday to killing his estranged wife more than two decades ago recently led authorities to her body, which was buried under the grave of a World War II veteran.

John Sandoval, 52, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the 1995 death of Kristina Tournai-Sandoval.

As part of a plea deal, he told investigators March 22 the remains were buried at a Greeley cemetery.

Sandoval found an open gravesite early in the morning on Oct. 20, 1995, that was scheduled for a burial that afternoon. Prosecutors say he dug about 2 feet (0.61 meters) below the grave and buried Tournai-Sandoval’s body, which was wrapped in several layers of industrial-grade plastic.

Cemetery workers then unknowingly buried the veteran over her remains.

That day, detectives found a wet and muddy shovel in Sandoval’s car and muddy clothes inside his home. After he was arrested, investigators noticed scratch marks on his face, neck and chest.

Charges were not filed at the time because authorities could not find the body, any witnesses or a crime scene.

“For 7,826 days, 3 hours and 22 minutes, the location of Tina’s remains has been a mystery,” Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke said in a news release Friday. “Over the course of the last week, we have finally been able to give her family what they so desperately wanted.”

Sandoval was convicted in 2010 of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. But an appeals court overturned his conviction last year, ruling a judge wrongfully allowed evidence that Sandoval stalked other women, as well as expert testimony correlating stalkers with murderers.

Prosecutors had been preparing for a new trial when Sandoval acknowledged knowing the location of his wife’s body.

Court records show Sandoval had met with his wife to settle a debt before finalizing their divorce. Before the meeting, she warned family members that if anything happened to her, her husband was responsible. She also arranged to talk with her sister by phone after the meeting.

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112 dead after river overflows, destroying homes in Colombia

Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos says at least 112 people have been killed after intense rains triggered an avalanche of mud and water from overflowing rivers that swept through a small city.

Santos arrived at the disaster zone Saturday, warning the death toll could rise as the search for survivors continues.

The incident triggered by intense rains left at least 65 people injured in Mocoa, a city of 350,000 people located near Colombia’s border with Ecuador.

Carlos Ivan Marquez with Colombia’s national disaster agency says the river flooded around midnight, catching unsuspecting residents off guard in the early Saturday hours.

A surgeon at the local hospital says he believes there are at least 300 people injured and that doctors are running out of blood.

Witnesses described feeling buildings vibrate and say there was little time to seek refuge, catching some victims off guard in their sleep.

Images shared by residents online showed vast areas filled with wood planks and other debris.

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Pilots of 2 small planes dead in mid-air collision in Central Florida

The pilots of two small planes were killed Saturday in a mid-air collision near I-95 in Central Florida, according to reports.

“What I can tell you is a witness reported seeing two small airplanes collide, separate and fall to the ground,” Edgewater Police Chief David Arciero told the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

The crash site was in the vicinity of State Road 442 near Interstate 95 in Edgewater, Fox 35 Orlando reported. Emergency crews responded around 8:45 a.m.


Megan O’Keefe, of Edgewater, told the News-Journal she saw the collision. She said the two planes were flying in formation with several other planes at the time.

“We were in the woods, trying to find smoke but it was too far,” O’Keefe said.

Another witness told the paper, “They were flying in formation. The front had an issue. The plane started falling. One wing went into the other (plane). It went into a spin. And the other one fell backwards.”

Fox 35 reported that investigators with the NTSB were at the scene.

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