NEW YORK NEWS
Saadah Masoud, a pro-Palestinian activist from Staten Island, has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for attacking three Jews in separate incidents motivated by anti-Semitism in 2021 and 2022. Masoud pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit hate crimes as part of a plea agreement in November 2022. The prison sentence has been hailed by victims and their advocates as an important step for the prosecution of hate crimes in New York, where Jews are targeted in hate crimes more than any other group. The lawyer for one of the victims said the sentence was meaningful, considering the usual leniency shown in such cases, where defendants often receive only a slap on the wrist. He added that he hoped for further action against Masoud’s co-conspirators, and that the case showed that many attacks on Jews were not isolated incidents, but rather part of a concerted effort to harm the Jewish community.
According to a recent ethics report, socialist politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez likely received “impermissible gifts” and did not pay for the infamous “Tax the Rich” dress she wore at the 2021 Met Gala until congressional investigators reached out to her. The Office of Congressional Ethics unanimously recommended that the House Ethics Committee should continue its investigation into the far-left New York Democrat’s attendance at the $30,000-a-ticket Upper East Side event, and subpoena the designer who outfitted her in the couture gown. Two conservative groups filed ethics complaints against the “Squad” member last year, alleging that she flouted House rules by attending the swanky event and that the gown constituted an impermissible gift. The 18-page report noted that Ocasio-Cortez was given more than just the outfit; she also received handbags, shoes, jewelry, hair, makeup, transportation, and ready-room services, and that “payment for these goods and services did not occur until after the OCE contacted [Ocasio-Cortez] in connection with this review” on Feb. 22, 2022. The report stated that “But for the OCE opening this review, it appears that Rep. Ocasio-Cortez may not have paid for several thousands of dollars’ worth of goods and services provided to her.”
New York will issue 300 licenses to open cannabis dispensaries across the state, doubling the originally planned number of 150 licenses. The decision is expected to enable more entrepreneurs to participate in the cannabis industry and to allow for the growth of the Seeding Opportunity initiative. This initiative enables individuals impacted by the prohibition of cannabis and nonprofit organizations aimed at supporting formerly incarcerated individuals to operate these businesses. The state aims to build an equitable market that will help overcome the disproportionate enforcement of cannabis prohibition. As per the New York State Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act of 2021 (MRTA), individuals with cannabis convictions are given priority for these licenses. The Office of Cannabis Management has so far received about 900 applications for Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary Licenses (CAURD), and the Cannabis Control Board has already issued 66 provisional CAURD licenses.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Mike Lawler toured Jewish communities in Monsey and New Square, attending a fundraiser and meeting with Jewish community leaders. McCarthy had previously visited the village in November to seek Lawler’s endorsement for Congress, but the endorsement went to his Democratic opponent who had helped the community in the past. During the recent visit, McCarthy spoke about how he is a friend of the community and expressed his appreciation of the Jewish community to the Skverer Rebbe. He also assured the Rebbe that he would push for the passage of the Parental Rights in Education Act, which gives parents a greater say in their children’s education. The meeting was positive, and the Rebbe discussed the needs of the larger Jewish community in a private meeting with the two congressmen. The visit was well received, with hundreds of children and residents of the village turning out to greet McCarthy.
Jack Carpenter III, a man accused of threatening Jewish Michigan public officials on Twitter, was ordered to return to jail after declining to contest the government’s request that he remain in custody while his case is pending. Carpenter agreed to detention, but his attorney filed a document challenging the court’s jurisdiction over him. The next hearing is set for March 15. According to the criminal complaint, Carpenter, a 41-year-old from Tipton, Michigan, tweeted on February 17 that he was returning to Michigan “to carry out the punishment of death to anyone” who is Jewish in Michigan government “if they don’t leave or confess, and now that kind of problem.” Carpenter also declared a new country, “New Israel,” around his home and had firearms and ammunition in his vehicle. Although the FBI has not identified the state officials publicly, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said Carpenter wanted to kill her, describing him as a “mentally disturbed man.” Carpenter’s arrest was brought to the attention of three Jewish officials by the FBI, who said they were constantly receiving threats. Representative Samantha Steckloff, a Democrat from suburban Detroit, said she had been dealing with extremism and anti-Semitism since October and November, but the constant threats did not affect her as they should have.
Two of the four Americans who were abducted in Mexico last week were found dead on Tuesday, while the other two were rescued alive, according to the governor of the border state of Tamaulipas, where the abduction took place. One of the Americans was killed at the scene of the attack on Friday when gunmen opened fire on their car, according to a senior Mexican official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Of the four kidnapping victims, “two of them are dead, one person is injured and the other is alive,” said Governor Américo Villarreal. The survivors are receiving medical attention in a secure location, according to the same official. The four Americans, who had crossed into Mexico from Texas seeking medical assistance, were kidnapped in the border town of Matamoros when gunmen shot at their vehicle, took them hostage, and then fled the scene. The incident resulted in the death of an innocent Mexican citizen, according to U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar. The Mexican and U.S. authorities have been cooperating to locate and rescue the victims, with several U.S. law enforcement agencies involved in the effort. One of the kidnapped Americans had a medical appointment in Matamoros on the day of the abduction.
The Justice Department has said that former President Donald Trump can be sued by Democratic lawmakers and injured Capitol Police officers over the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol building. The department rejected Trump’s claim of immunity from the claims, stating that a president would not be protected by “absolute immunity” if his words were found to have been an “incitement of imminent private violence.” The lawyers noted that the president has “an extraordinary power to speak to his fellow citizens and on their behalf,” but that the traditional function is one of public communication and persuasion, not incitement of violence. The department did not take a position on the lawsuits’ claims that Trump’s words incited the attack on the Capitol. Trump’s lawyers have argued that he was acting within the bounds of his official duties and had no intention to spark violence when he called on thousands of supporters to “march to the Capitol” and “fight like hell” before the riot erupted.
At least 23 people have been arrested and face domestic terrorism charges following violent protests at a proposed law enforcement training facility in Atlanta. The site, dubbed “Cop City” by its opponents, has been criticized for promoting militarized policing and environmental damage. Sunday’s demonstration is the start of a weeklong “mass mobilization” against the $90 million, 85-acre facility, which is to be built in a forest. Protesters are calling for Thursday to be a “National Day of Action Against Police Terror.” The demonstrations follow the fatal shooting of a protester at the construction site, with previous activists also facing domestic terrorism charges. During the protests, black-clad demonstrators threw rocks, bricks, Molotov cocktails, and fireworks at police officers and construction equipment. They also set fire to a construction tractor and other objects. The Atlanta Police Department has said that no officers were hurt and that those arrested included people from Georgia, other US states, Canada and France. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is to lead the prosecution.
The Biden administration officials have decided not to meet with Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich, who is visiting the United States next week to meet with leaders of Israel Bonds, a U.S. organization, due to his recent controversial remarks calling for a Palestinian village to be “wiped out,” followed by a backtrack. At least five liberal Jewish groups have urged the U.S. government to consider barring Smotrich from entering the country. Although the White House has been discussing whether to grant him a visa, officials suggest it is unlikely they will block his visit. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the remarks as inappropriate after the U.S. demanded that he reject the statement. However, Netanyahu did not appear to condemn the remarks outright, suggesting that Smotrich misspoke and calling for an end to incitement on all sides. Ned Price, the State Department’s spokesperson, declined to comment on Smotrich’s eligibility to enter the U.S. and said questions regarding Israeli ministers’ travel should be referred to Israel.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had a brief meeting on Thursday, marking their first contact since the beginning of the war in Ukraine over a year ago. The meeting, which took place on the sidelines of the G20 Foreign Ministers meeting in New Delhi, is significant since high-level engagements between the United States and Russia have been rare since the start of the war. The conversation took place amid heightened tensions between the two countries, deteriorating bilateral relations, and Moscow’s suspension of its participation in the New START Treaty, the only remaining nuclear arms control agreement between Russia and the US. Blinken initiated the conversation and raised the three key issues of the war, New START, and the wrongful detention of American Paul Whelan during the 10-minute-long engagement. Moscow continues to hold Whelan, which the State Department has deemed as wrongful detention. The meeting also comes with stern warnings to China about materially supporting Russia’s conflict.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) has announced its plans to purchase 9,250 battery electric vehicles from Ford starting later this year, in addition to an equal number of gasoline-powered models from Stellantis. Along with this, USPS will also deploy more than 14,000 charging stations at its facilities, after previously announcing plans to double its planned purchases of electric delivery vehicles. The postal service aims to acquire at least 66,000 electric vehicles by 2028.
Amazon has announced that it is temporarily stopping the construction of its second headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, citing a need to reassess office needs in light of remote work and the company’s deepest job cuts. The decision could cause delays in the e-commerce giant’s plans to fully establish its largest real estate project, as well as headaches for local developers and service workers who were expecting rapid expansion from Amazon. The construction pause will not affect Amazon’s commitment to spending $2.5 billion in Arlington by 2030 and hiring around 25,000 employees in the area. John Schoettler, Amazon’s real estate chief, confirmed the delay and reassured that the company remains committed to the area. Amazon has also announced the permanent closure of 8 of its 29 Amazon Go convenience stores, which allow customers to shop without checkout or scanning. The stores were designed to provide maximum convenience to customers and eliminate the need for staff positions, improving Amazon’s profits. The company opened its first Go store in Seattle in 2016 and initially predicted the stores would be the future of shopping. However, the stores failed to meet expectations, and Amazon never confirmed reports that hundreds or thousands of stores would be opened.
2024 Presidential Race
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis will be making his first visit to Iowa next week in what is believed to be a precursor to his expected 2024 presidential announcement later this year. DeSantis will be promoting his new book, The Courage to be Free, in two events scheduled for March 10 in Davenport and Des Moines, where he will be accompanied by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, who plans to remain neutral before the 2024 Iowa caucuses. The confirmation of these plans comes from two aides to Republican officials who spoke to the Associated Press on Thursday on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to preempt DeSantis’ announcement. DeSantis has been increasing his travel around the country as part of his book tour and his preparation for launching a bid for the White House, likely in late spring or early summer.
Larry Hogan, the former Republican governor of Maryland who positioned himself as one of his party’s fiercest critics of Donald Trump, said Sunday he will not challenge the ex-president for the GOP’s White House nomination in 2024. “I would never run for president to sell books or position myself for a Cabinet role,” the 66-year-old Hogan wrote in The New York Times. “I have long said that I care more about ensuring a future for the Republican Party than securing my own future in the Republican Party. And that is why I will not be seeking the Republican nomination for president.”
Self-help author and former Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson officially launched her 2024 presidential campaign on Saturday at Union Station in Washington, D.C. In her announcement, Williamson stated that it is the responsibility of the American people to disrupt the status quo and create a vision of justice and love that will overcome forces of hatred, injustice, and fear. While Williamson is the first major Democratic challenger to President Joe Biden, who is expected to run for reelection, her entrance into the race is not expected to sway leading Democrats who have expressed firm support for Biden and do not anticipate a conventional primary for the nomination. Nevertheless, Williamson’s candidacy offers a new voice in the conversation and an alternative vision for the future of the country.
Hungary is set to become the first European Union member state to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem next month, in what is seen as a diplomatic achievement for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban. The move follows an agreement between the two leaders reached in recent days, with details finalized in talks between Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and his Hungarian counterpart Peter Szijjarto. Sources at the Foreign Ministry, who confirmed the embassy transfer, linked the move to Orban’s desire to help Netanyahu, who is facing political instability over plans to overhaul the country’s judicial system. The two leaders have a longstanding bond and their relationship has grown even closer since Netanyahu returned to power after last November’s general election. While the move has been criticized by the EU, which opposes recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital without a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, Hungary’s move is a significant shift in its foreign policy and further cements the alliance between Orban and Netanyahu.
Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, criticized protesters on Thursday for demonstrating outside a Tel Aviv salon where she was getting her hair done the day before. Police were called to the scene for several hours until she was safely extricated. The incident occurred during protests held in Tel Aviv and other cities on Wednesday evening, following nationwide rallies against the government and its plans to curb the judiciary earlier that day. In response to the incident, Sara Netanyahu posted on Instagram, condemning the protest and calling for an end to the anarchy while thanking her supporters. Last week, the Prime Minister’s Office requested that the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) take over responsibility for protecting the Prime Minister’s wife and sons from the defense unit usually tasked with protecting government officials. On Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Shin Bet Affairs approved the request.