Sections of Western Wall, Roman theater unseen for 1,700yrs uncovered in Jerusalem (PHOTOS)

By ethan / October 17, 2017

Archaeologists have discovered an eight-meter-high section of the Western Wall and a subterranean Roman theater, which haven’t been seen by human eyes for almost two millennia.

The Israel Antiquity Authority announced the discovery on Monday following a two-year excavation of the site.

“From a research perspective, this is a sensational find,” archaeologist Joe Uziel said at a press conference on Monday morning in Jerusalem’s Old City, as cited by The Jerusalem Post.

“The discovery was a real surprise. We did not imagine that a window would open for us onto the mystery of Jerusalem’s lost theater. Like much of archeological research, the expectation is that a certain thing will be found. But at the end of the process, other findings – surprising and thought-provoking – are unearthed,” Uziel added.

Archaeologists have searched for the ruins for 150 years, according to The Times of Israel, and their discovery is already altering their perceptions of Roman-occupied Jerusalem after the fall of the Second Temple and destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE.

READ MORE: US withdraws from UNESCO, cites ‘continuing anti-Israel bias’

Early discoveries indicate that the city was in a state of upheaval at the time: the theater itself was not fully constructed, the paving stones used for roads had been turned into makeshift benches, and even drainage ducts had been rerouted to accommodate additional Roman construction work on a stadium.

“A number of findings at the site indicate this, among them a staircase that was never completely hewn,” said Avi Solomon, another member of the archaeological team. “It is clear that great effort was invested in the building’s construction. But oddly, it was abandoned before it was put to use.”

“The reasons for this are unknown,” he added. “But they may have been connected to a significant historical event – perhaps the Bar Kokhba revolt. Construction of the building may have been started, and then abandoned when the revolt broke out.”

READ MORE: Long-lost Roman city of Neapolis discovered off Tunisia (PHOTOS)

The dig is taking place beneath Wilson’s Arch, beside the men’s section of the Western Wall. The team also constructed a reinforced floor to prevent any disruption to worshippers at the Temple Mount, one of Jerusalem’s holiest sites.  

The team will continue its work for at least another six months with a view to uncovering ruins and relics from Jerusalem’s First Temple era. They are awaiting the results of carbon-14 dating but Uziel says the find “dates pretty solidly to the late Roman period.”

“Advanced research methods from various fields were employed to uncover remains invisible to the naked eye, but only viewable through a microscope,” said Uziel.

“This enables conclusions to be drawn at a level of precision that would have been impossible in the past, transforming the study of the findings at Wilson’s Arch into pioneering, cutting-edge micro-archeological research,” Uziel added.

“What happened on the Temple Mount between the destruction of the Second Temple and the Muslim period is one of the riddles we have yet to solve,” said Uziel. The team have yet to uncover any evidence of the Roman Temple of Jupiter, which was rumored to have been built on the Temple Mount.

READ MORE: Mosaic found in Jerusalem once decorated ‘ancient hostel’ – study

“We have a great deal of archaeological work ahead and I am certain that the deeper we dig, the earlier the periods we will reach, further anchoring the profound connection of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and to Jerusalem,” said Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, Rabbi of the Western Wall and the Holy Places.

The team’s findings will be presented later this year at a conference entitled, “New Studies in the Archeology of Jerusalem and its Environs,” which will mark 50 years of archaeology since the unification of Jerusalem.

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British man facing jail in Dubai for ‘touching man’s hip’ speaks of ‘unbearable’ ordeal

By ethan / October 17, 2017

A Scottish man facing jail for putting his hand on a man’s hip in a bar in Dubai says his “unbearable” ordeal is far from over despite charges being dropped by the claimant.

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© Pascal Deloche / Global Look Press

Jamie Harron, 27, faces up to three years’ imprisonment for allegedly touching Jordanian businessman Emad Tabaza’s hip while at the Rock Bottom Bar on July 15. Harron says he was simply trying to avoid spilling his drink.

While Tabaza has dropped the complaint, prosecutors are still pursuing it.

Harron, who has already been handed a 30-day jail sentence for public drinking and making a rude gesture, has lost his job because of the case and has spent over £32,000 ($ 42,500) in expenses and legal fees trying to resolve the matter.

In a statement released through campaign group Detained in Dubai (DiD), Harron said he had heard a rumor that the accuser had dropped the case, and he thought he would be freed.

“I am now being told that the prosecutors are not dropping the case, even though the accuser withdrew the complaint,” he said.

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© Artur Widak / Global Look Press

“It looks like this is going to continue.”

Harron added that he wanted to thank people who had sent him messages of support.

“I miss my family so much. The whole situation is unbearable and I just feel shattered, but I want to send my appreciation to everyone who is trying to help me and I really hope to see you all soon.”

Harron, who worked as an electrician in Afghanistan, was on a two-day stopover in the United Arab Emirates at the time of the incident on July 15.

Following his arrest, Harron was jailed for five days before being released on bail and having his passport confiscated.

The case is due for call again on Sunday.

The Briton is not currently in custody but is unable to leave the country. His lawyers are appealing against the sentence.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it was providing consular assistance on the matter.

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Comey drafted ‘unclassified’ statement ending Clinton email investigation long before case closed

By ethan / October 17, 2017

In newly-released documents, the FBI confirms that former Director James Comey sent a draft statement regarding the conclusion of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, months before interviewing her.

The title of the release is ‘Drafts of Director Comey’s July 5, 2016 Statement Regarding Email Server Investigation’. This title refers to a press conference Comey gave in which he said the bureau had completed its investigation into Clinton’s use of a personal email system, while also saying he would not recommend that the Department of Justice proceed with charges against Clinton.

The five-page document has a list of nearly 50 deleted pages and a redacted email thread titled ‘Midyear Exam’.

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Hillary Clinton and Huma Abedin © Carlo Allegri

The email is marked unclassified but the only available content is FBI senior counselor James Rybicki’s email dated May 16, 2016, which is a follow-up on a redacted email from Comey dated May 2 to other senior officials. In it, the FBI official says “Please send me any comments on this statement so we may roll into a master doc for discussion with the Director at a future date. Thanks, Jim.”

In August, Senator Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Lindsey Graham, a member of the same committee, sent a letter to new FBI Director Christopher Wray saying they had learned from interview transcripts released by the Office of the Special Counsel that Comey had drafted the statement in advance. Now this information has been confirmed in the release.

After Grassley and Graham made their disclosure, President Donald Trump accused Comey in a typical tweet of exonerating Hillary Clinton long before the investigation was over.

The FBI formally interviewed Clinton on July 2, 2016, while ruling three days later that it would not bring charges against her.

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Israel approves first new settlement in UNESCO-protected Hebron in 15 years

By ethan / October 17, 2017

Israel has approved 31 new settlement homes in the city of Hebron in the West Bank for the first time in 15 years.

Hebron is the largest Palestinian city in the West Bank and is home to a population of about 1,000 Israeli settlers who live in the middle of the Old City.

The new houses will be built for the Beit Romano settlement on what used to be a bus station on Shuhada Street. The Civil Administration’s Licensing Subcommittee approved the permits, but said they are subject to conditions, including appeal, the Times of Israel reports.

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A general view shows a construction site in the Israeli settlement of Efrat, in the occupied West Bank December 22, 2016. © Baz Ratner

The Times of Israel and the Jewish Press report the approval was seen as an Israeli response to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) recent decision to list Hebron’s Old City as an “endangered Palestinian World Heritage Site.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has approved a number of new settlements this year. The building of settlements on land in the Palestinian Territories is perceived as an obstacle to the peace process and is considered a violation of article 49 of the Geneva Convention.

Settlement advocates say even though there has been a number of announcements of new settlement construction, only a fraction may actually be built in the end, Reuters reports.

“The permits approved today would increase the number of settlers in Hebron by 20 percent,” Hagit Ofran of Israeli Peace Now told RT. “They required significant legal acrobatics that might not stand the test of the High Court of Justice. While doing everything in his power to please a small group of settlers, Netanyahu is harming Israel’s morality and image abroad, while crushing basic values of human rights and dignity.”

“We thank the prime minister, government ministers, Knesset members and all public figures who worked with determination and dedication together with us to promote this construction,” the Jewish community of Hebron said in a statement, the Jewish News reports. “We ask everyone to ensure that the construction is indeed carried out without delay.”

The last time settlements were approved in Hebron was in 2002, when 10 units were built in Tel Rumeida.

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‘Worse week than Weinstein’: Veteran NFL broadcaster sorry for New York Giants’ form comment

By ethan / October 17, 2017

Veteran NFL broadcaster Al Michaels has apologized for comparing the New York Giants’ current form to the situation with disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

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© Dave Bedrosian / Global Look Press

Michaels made the comments on NBC’s ‘Sunday Night Football’ show, during which he said: “Let’s face it, the Giants are coming off a worse week than Harvey Weinstein, and they’re up by 14 points!”

Co-commentator and analyst Cris Collinsworth chuckled before replying, “Only my LA guy comes up with that one,” to which Michaels replied: “All you have to do is read the paper, any paper.”

The New York Giants have suffered numerous injury setbacks in recent weeks, and were winless this season before Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos, in which they claimed a 23-10 victory.

Weinstein, one of the most powerful figures in the Hollywood movie industry, is getting decades worth of sexual assault accusations piled up on him.

Michaels was hit with a barrage of criticism on social media, and apologized later in the show.

“Sorry I made a reference earlier … I was trying to be a little flip about somebody obviously very much in the news all over the country and it was not meant in that manner. So, my apologies, and we’ll just leave it at that,” the 72-year-old Emmy-winning broadcaster said. 

Despite the apology, NBC still came in for criticism.

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Oil prices rising as Iraqi forces advance on Kurdish-held territory

By ethan / October 17, 2017

Global crude prices have hit a three-week high as the conflict between Iraqi and Kurdish forces intensifies. Iraqi troops are advancing on the city of Kirkuk, reportedly seizing the region’s oil fields.

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© Zohra Bensemra

West Texas Intermediate crude rose 1.6 percent to $ 52.29 per barrel, setting it on track for its highest settlement price since the end of September, according to FactSet data.

Brent crude contracts for December gained 2.13 percent to $ 58.39, also trading around its highest level since late September.

The oil-producing region has been a contention between the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

The tension in the province has sparked a conflict between Bagdad and the KRG after Iraqi Kurds voted for independence from Iraq in a September referendum. Kirkuk was included in the vote, despite competing claims to the disputed area.

Kurdistan has reportedly shut down 350,000 barrels per day (bpd) of production from the region’s major Bai Hassan and Avana fields as the tension escalated.

According to reports, crude exports continue to flow from fields in Kirkuk despite clashes between government troops and Kurdish forces.

Industry analysts highlight current geopolitical risks may have a significant impact on the global oil market.

“In recent months we have stressed on a number of occasions that the tensions and potential effects on the production and transport infrastructure in the region pose the biggest risk to our fairly conservative price forecasts. We otherwise see the oil market as still amply supplied, which would rather justify a Brent price of $ 50 per barrel,” analysts at Commerzbank said as quoted by MarketWatch.

“The return of a geopolitical risk premium could usher in a sustained bout of price strength just as OPEC dithers over whether to prolong supply cuts,” said Stephen Brennock, oil analyst at PVM Oil Associates as cited by CNBC.

The oil fields in Kirkuk and deposits in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq were reportedly exporting about 600,000 barrels a day to Turkey via a Kurd-controlled pipeline.

In an attempt to regain control of the disputed area Iraqi troops reportedly captured a refinery, a gas plant and other facilities.

“The Iraqi government is cash-poor, for all the obvious reasons, so consequently gaining control of these northern oil fields, therefore, improves their ability to control a cash generator,” Bob Parker, senior advisor at Credit Suisse told CNBC.

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Kurdish protesters attack Iraqi embassy in London (VIDEOS, PHOTOS)

By ethan / October 17, 2017

Kurdish protesters staged a demonstration outside the Iraqi embassy in London as the country’s military continued its assault on the Kurdish city of Kirkuk in the north of Iraq.

Protesters gathered outside the embassy on Monday afternoon as the Iraqi military closed in on the oil-rich region. In a video posted on social media, one protester can be seen hurling an object through a window.

In another, a number of protesters can be seen kicking a door of the building, trying in vain to gain access.

Monday’s military action saw troops take the city under Iraqi control in a matter of mere hours. Soldiers raised the Iraqi flag over key buildings in the city, following orders by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi that the flag be hoisted over Kirkuk and other areas under Kurdish control.

Kurdish Peshmerga forces have said that the move into Kirkuk represents “a flagrant declaration of war” and vowed that Iraq will pay a “heavy price.” They further described Baghdad’s assault as “retaliation against the right of the people to vote on their fate,” in reference to last month’s referendum on Kurdistan independence.

The Iraqi PM earlier said the operation was aimed at protecting the unity of Iraq following Kurdistan’s independence vote.

“It is my constitutional duty to work for the benefit of the citizens and to protect our national unity that came under threat of fragmentation as a result of the referendum that was organized by the Kurdish region,” al-Abadi said in a statement.

Kirkuk is an oil-rich province claimed by both the Kurds and the Iraqi central government. It is thought to have a Kurdish majority, but its provincial capital has large Arab and Turkmen populations.

Peshmerga forces took control of much of the area in 2014, when Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) swept through most of northern Iraq.  

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Inmate escapes from firefighting crew battling S. California’s Canyon Fire 2

By ethan / October 17, 2017

An inmate working for a corrections-related firefighting crew battling the Canyon Fire 2 in Orange County, California, left his assigned post unnoticed and made an escape. Authorities are now actively searching for the man.

Armando Castillo, 31, had been working with fellow inmates near Peters Canyon Regional Park in the city of Orange, where he was last seen on Sunday at 4:45pm. Castillo was discovered missing “when he needed to be counted” by corrections officials during a routine procedure, Krissi Khokhobashvili of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said.

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© Google Maps

CDCR officials, Cal Fire, the California Highway Patrol and local law enforcement agencies have been notified of the escape, and will be assisting in the search for the inmate.

Castillo is a minimum-security inmate assigned to Oak Glen Conservation Camp in Yucaipa, California, and is currently serving a five-year sentence for possession of a firearm and evading a peace officer while driving recklessly. He was scheduled to be released on probation in May 2018, according to KTLA.

There were 500 inmates assigned to the area to battle the blaze, the Orange County Register reported.

An inmate walking off from his assigned area is a rare occurrence, but most of the time the individual is located quickly after their escape, CDCR spokesman Bill Sessa said, according to KTLA.

Inmates like Castillo who opt to join the California fire camps get a day knocked off their sentences for every two days they work. They also earn $ 2 for every day they work, and $ 1 an hour while they are on a fire line, according to the Register.

The Canyon Fire 2 in Southern California is now 90 percent contained, after a week in which it destroyed 25 structures, damaged 55 and burned a total of 9,217 acres.

Those affected by Canyon Fire 2 are now eligible for direct federal aid, according to a White House decision announced on Sunday by Governor Jerry Brown, the Rancho Santa Margarita Patch reported.

READ MORE: Brushfire spreading in S. California prompts evacuations

The same type of assistance being made available to those affected by the Bay Area and Redding wildfires, will be available to those affected by the Southern California blaze, according to the governor’s office, the Patch reported.

The fire started as a brush fire in the region’s Anaheim Hills neighborhood in Orange County on October 9. Full containment of the blaze is expected by Tuesday October 17, according to officials, KTLA reported.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation by Anaheim Fire and Rescue.

The evacuations of 16,570 people from their homes in Anaheim, Orange and Tusting were ordered as the fire progressed after October 9. But the evacuees have since returned after the evacuation order was lifted on October 12, according to the Register.

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Supreme Court to hear DOJ petition in Microsoft email privacy case

By ethan / October 16, 2017

The US Supreme Court will review a Department of Justice request to overturn a landmark appeals court decision in favor of Microsoft over protections for company data stored overseas, mostly out of reach of US law enforcement.

The Supreme Court announced it had added the case to its docket on Monday.

In the appeal submitted on Friday, the DOJ argued that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruling “has created a regime where electronic communication service providers… can thwart legitimate and important criminal and national security investigations.”

Microsoft and the DOJ have gone back and forth for four years over the tech giant’s cloud server in Dublin, Ireland, which the American government believed held key evidence for an investigation into narcotics trafficking.

The Microsoft customer under investigation told the company he was based in Ireland when he signed up for his account. The government issued a warrant to Microsoft to hand over email content that is stored on the server, because they believed the information would help them pin a notorious drug trafficker.

Under the 1986 Electronics Communications Privacy Act, aka the ‘Stored Communications Act,’ a service provider must disclose electronic communication to a government body if it will help with a criminal investigation. Microsoft refused to comply, arguing that the US did not have authority to make a request for information stored outside its borders.

After being found in contempt of court, Microsoft issued a formal challenge, but the decision was upheld in April 2014. A second appeal by the company to a higher court led to another loss. In July 2016, however, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously overturned the lower court’s decision.

“Neither explicitly nor implicitly does the statute envision the application of its warrant provisions overseas,” said the Seattle-based federal court said, referring to the Stored Communications Act.

Judge Gerard Lynch argued that the attempt to apply US law overseas could cause tensions with other countries, “most easily appreciated if we consider the likely American reaction if France or Ireland or Saudi Arabia or Russia proclaimed its right to regulate conduct by Americans within our borders.”

Much of the tech sector – including Amazon, Apple and Verizon – has opposed the US government’s position on this case.

“If US law enforcement can obtain the mails of foreigners stored outside the United States, what’s to stop the government of another country from getting your emails even though they are located in the United States?” Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer, said in a blog post on Monday.

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© David Gray

Critics of Microsoft’s stance, however, argue that law enforcement agencies around the world struggle to get the data they seek in connection with legitimate law enforcement operations, and sometimes resort to extreme measures.

“Cops in Brazil, India, and the U.K. are tired of American technology companies telling them they will not comply with a local judge’s warrant to compel data – something those companies are often barred from doing under ECPA. This is why many states are starting to get serious about the idea of forced data localization – compelling technology companies that operate on their soil to store data there too,” Andrew Woods wrote in the Brookings Institution blog TechTank.

If localization were enforced, it would impose enormous costs on technology companies, lower privacy protections for users, and make them less likely to use cloud services.

Congress has been exploring ECPA reforms. The House Judiciary Committee voted 28-0 in April 2016 to approve the Email Privacy Act which would require law enforcement to obtain warrants from a judge before forcing companies to hand over access to emails or other electronic communications, no matter how old they are. Under ECPA, the government only needs to bring a subpoena against a company.

Microsoft has complied with government requests under the act before, as well as similar laws from other jurisdictions around the world. Twice a year, the company publishes a country-by-country report on how it handles law enforcement requests.

This will be the second case on the Supreme Court’s current docket dealing with privacy rights in the digital age and the companies that hold that data. The other case, Carpenter v. US, is over whether police officers need a warrant to access historic location information on cell phone users that is held by wireless carriers.

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Man-eating bears ‘besieging’ Siberian villages – official

By ethan / October 16, 2017

Large bears have killed two people in Russia already this fall with a lack of food, making the animals increasingly aggressive and dangerous.

Authorities in the country’s far-east have had to shoot 83 bears as a result – a three-fold increase on previous years.

Two men, a hunter and a fisherman, died in September following bear attacks on Sakhalin, a large forest-covered island off Russia’s east coast. The bears have also reportedly attacked dogs cattle and other animals.

A local forestry worker, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told AFP that a lack of fish, berries and nuts are forcing the bears to seek out an alternative food source, putting them into contact with humans.

The source also said that overfishing of salmon was partly to blame.

“There should not have been any fishing nets installed at all this summer, there is so little fish, but they installed them anyway,” he said.

Usually rare occurrences, bear attacks on humans have increased this year, especially in Siberia. In September an oil worker was attacked and eaten by bears in the Yamalo-Nenets region.

Local media reports that some towns in the region are besieged by hungry animals, looking to build up fat reserves before hibernation.

“The animals are very active, they are seen right on the outskirts of settlements, scaring people and making them feel besieged,” the region’s wildlife and control service said, reported the Siberian Times.

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