Baltimore’s homicide rate, Harvard’s new president & Olympic Gold

Baltimore CeaseFire

Baltimore has gone 11 days without a homicide – a murder-free milestone that hasn’t been seen in years. In August 2011, October 2013 and March 2014, the city went 10 days without a murder — and eight days in November 2014. But none of those top the current stretch, according to WJZ-TV. The city’s police department says it’s more aggressive with stopping criminals, and since December, they’ve arrested more than 300 people for warrant and gun violations. The department says there is also an increased focus on police visibility. All 46 cadets who recently graduated from the academy are on foot patrol. According to The Baltimore Sun’s Baltimore homicides map, there were 344 homicides in all of 2017 and 27 so far in 2018.

Read more: Baltimore Now 11 Days Without A Homicide, Streak Began During Ceasefire

Corrupt Cops

A federal grand jury on Monday convicted Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor, two former members of a Baltimore Police Department team charged with getting weapons off city streets, of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, robbery and wire fraud charges, according to reporters covering the case. Hersl and Taylor were both acquitted of one charge: possession of a firearm in furtherance of crime of violence. The pair represent two of eight Baltimore police officers who were indicted for their involvement in the racketeering scheme in March 2017. Six others have pleaded guilty to racketeering, robbery and fraudulently filing for overtime. Four of them took the stand in the trial. Baltimore Police Commissioner-Designate Darryl De Sousa said in a statement Monday that both Taylor and Hersl will be terminated “upon final conviction,” according to Baltimore Fishbowl. Both have been suspended from the force since they were indicted March 1, 2017.

Read more: Gun Trace Task Force Members Hersl and Taylor Convicted of Racketeering, Robbery and Other Charges

Heart Ball

Dr. Robert Chrencik, left, president and CEO of University of Maryland Medical System and “Heart Hero” honoree, and Dr. Scott Rifkin, right, event chair and CEO of Mid-Atlantic Health Care, stand with Heart Man, portrayed by Ryan Ritzes. (Photo by Steve Ruark)


Baltimore Heart Ball raises funds for research

More than 560 people attended this year’s Baltimore Heart Ball at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel. The Feb. 10 gala was co-hosted by Jmore Publisher Dr. Scott Rifkin, who served as the event’s chair, and WJZ-TV anchor Denise Koch, who was the mistress of ceremonies for the evening. The evening raised $860,000 for the Mid-Atlantic affiliate of the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association.

Read more and see photos from the event: Baltimore Heart Ball Raises $860,000 for Cardiac Research


Harvey Weinstein

Harvey Weinstein at the 12th Zurich Film Festival, Sept. 22, 2016. (Alexander Koerner/Getty Images)

New York v. Weinstein

The state of New York has filed a lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein, his brother and their production company for violating laws against sexual harassment and sexual abuse. The lawsuit could harm a deal to sell the Weinstein Company, which had been expected to be finalized on Sunday, and push the company toward bankruptcy, The New York Times reported. The lawsuit filed in New York State Supreme Court on Sunday includes “new and extensive allegations about longtime company CEO Harvey Weinstein’s vicious and exploitative mistreatment of company employees,” the office of state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement. It follows a four-month investigation that included interviews with multiple company employees, executives and survivors of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct. Executives of The Weinstein Company “repeatedly failed to take meaningful steps to protect company employees or curb Harvey Weinstein’s misconduct,” the lawsuit alleges. The civil rights lawsuit calls for the defendants to pay restitution and damages to the victims, something that was not provided within the framework of the sale of the company. —JTA

Kosher slaughter

The Polish parliament is preparing to vote on a bill that proposes to limit the export of kosher meat, a European Jewish lobby group said. The 48-page bill on animal welfare is neither focused on the ritual slaughter of animals — which in 2013 was banned in Poland but legalized again due to a high court ruling in 2014 – nor does it propose to ban the custom anew, according to the European Jewish Association. But it does propose “restrictions on exporting kosher meat from Poland, which would affect a very large part of the Jewish communities in Europe,” the EJA said in a statement Monday. Polish kosher and halal abattoirs are a major source of meat for retailers across the European Union and beyond. Violation of the restrictions, which the EJA did not specify, may lead to four years in jail. The Sejm, the lower house of the Polish parliament, is scheduled to vote on the bill this week, according to EJA. The bill would also prohibit slaughtering animals when they are “in an unnatural state,” a stipulation which is thought to mean when they are standing up. This “makes it very difficult to perform kosher slaughter due to some kashrut laws that forbid to apply any pressure on the knife to protect the animal from unnecessary pain,” EJA Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin said. Preventing this pressure “is not possible when the animal is standing, and its head is leaning heavily on the knife,” he added. Opponents of ritual slaughter of animals say that the kosher and halal methods are cruel, though advocates of the methods reject this. Both in Judaism and in Islam, animals must be conscious when their necks are cut according to religious law. “These restrictions on kosher slaughter are in complete contradiction to the principle of freedom of religion of the European Union,” Margolin said. “The situation in Poland is unacceptable.”--JTA

Iceland gets a rabbi

The Chabad movement is sending emissaries, a rabbi and his wife, to Iceland, an island nation with 250 Jews where ritual slaughter of animals is illegal and circumcision is poised to be outlawed as well. Rabbi Avi Feldman, 27, of Brooklyn, N.Y., and his Sweden-born wife Mushky are slated to settle with their two daughters in Reykjavík, the world’s northernmost capital city, later this year, the couple told JTA last week. The announcement closely followed news last month that lawmakers from four political parties in Iceland submitted a bill proposing to outlaw non-medical circumcision of boys younger than 18 and equates that practice, common among Jews and Muslims, with female genital mutilation – the custom of removing parts of a girl’s clitoris, which is common in some African Muslim communities. “We hope to bring awareness of the relevance and importance of brit milah,” the rabbi told JTA, using the Hebrew-language word for Jewish ritual circumcision, which is typically performed on boys when they are eight days old. “We hope to bring this awareness to local Icelandic people and especially to lawmakers in their decision on rules, which we hope will have a religious exemption clause.” Rabbi Feldman and his wife visited Iceland in December and organized a Chanukah celebration for the community, which is made up of some locals and Jewish expatriates from the United States and Israel. The couple hopes to set up an educational framework for Jewish children, a synagogue and a mikvah, or Jewish ritual bath, none of which exist in Iceland, a nation of some 300,000 people. A Chabad spokesperson said Reykjavík is one of only a handful of European capital cities without a synagogue. The Feldmans will travel to Reykjavík next month to organize a Passover seder, they said.

Read more: Iceland to receive 1st resident rabbi in recent history

Lawrence Bacow

Lawrence Bacow speaking as he is introduced as Harvard University’s 29th president during a news conference in Cambridge, Mass., Feb. 11, 2018. (Paul Marotta/Getty Images)

Harvard gets a new president

Lawrence Bacow has been tapped to be the next president of Harvard University. The university made the announcement in a statement issued on Sunday, The Boston Globe reported. Bacow, a lawyer and economist, is the former longtime president of Tufts University.  He will replace Drew Gilpin Faust, who is retiring in June. Bacow had served on the search committee that hired Faust, according to the Globe. An expert in environmental policy, Bacow, 66, is originally from Pontiac, Mich. He received his undergraduate degree from MIT and has a law degree and PhD from Harvard. He was president of Tufts from 2001 to 2011.  Prior to leading Tufts, he was chancellor of MIT, where he also spent 24 years on the faculty. Bacow hung a mezuzah on the front of the President’s Residence at Tufts and participated in events at the campus Hillel. His mother survived Auschwitz and his father, who was born in Minsk, Belarus, was brought to the United States as a child “to escape the pogroms of Eastern Europe,” he said in a video interview with Harvard, the Globe reported. “I would not be standing here today, literally, if this country had turned its back on my parents,” Bacow said Sunday during a news conference.

Read more:  Lawrence Bacow named next president of Harvard

David Grossman

David Grossman posing after being announced as the winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2017 for his book “A Horse Walks into a Bar” at Victoria & Albert Museum in London, June 14, 2017. (Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)

David Grossman wins literature prize

Author David Grossman was named the winner of the 2018 Israel Prize for Literature. “Since the early ’80s, Grossman has taken center stage in the Israeli culture scene. He is one of the most profound, moving and influential voices in our literature,” the prize committee wrote. The Israel Prize is awarded each year in a special public ceremony on Independence Day. Grossman, 63, is the author of more than 17 books of fiction and nonfiction, including “See Under: Love” and “To the End of the Land.” His novel “A Horse Walks Into a Bar,” about the day in the life of a failing Israeli standup comedian, won the 2017 Man Booker Prize. Grossman is a left-wing peace activist, and his political leanings come through in his writing. His son Uri was killed in the 2006 Lebanon War between Israel and Hezbollah when the tank he was commanding was struck by a rocket. In a statement after announcing the prize, Israel’s education minister, Naftali Bennett, called Grossman “one of the most moving, profound and influential voices in Israeli literature. With great wisdom, human sensitivity and a unique language he became a world-renowned author.”

Read more: David Grossman named 2018 Israel Prize for Literature winner

Speaking of books…

In a round of company-wide layoffs, Barnes & Noble has cut lead cashiers, digital leads and other experienced workers, according to Fortune. Employees discovered the news when they showed up to work on Monday only to learn they no longer had jobs, CNBC reports. The nationwide book retailer has 632 stores nationally and as of April 29, 2017, employed about 26,000 people. The number of workers affected has not yet been determined. “[Barnes & Noble] has been reviewing all aspects of the business, including our labor model,” a spokeswoman told CNBC. “Given our sales decline this holiday, we’re adjusting staffing so that it meets the needs of our existing business and our customers. As the business improves, we’ll adjust accordingly.” In local bookstore news: The Daedalus Books Warehouse Outlet in Columbia is going out of business. Everything is 20 percent off for the month of February.

Read: Barnes & Noble Is Laying Off Workers Amid Declining Sales

Arielle Gold

Arielle Gold wins her first Olympic medal with a bronze in the halfpipe. (Screenshot)

Gold wins a bronze

American snowboarder Arielle Gold earned a bronze medal in the women’s halfpipe contest at the Winter Olympics. She came in behind silver medalist Jiayu Liu of China. The gold medal was snagged by American snowboarder Chloe Kim, 17, whose parents are originally from South Korea. Gold, 21, of Steamboat Springs, Colo., reportedly had considered retiring after dislocating her right shoulder while training for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. She ultimately was not able to compete four years ago, though her older brother, Taylor, did. During the competition on Tuesday in South Korea, Gold performed a 1080 snowboarding trick, a demanding trick involving three rotations, which was attempted by half of the competitors. “I think that Steamboat is proud to have so many Olympians here, but to be able to bring home a medal to the town that has given me so much is amazing,” Gold told the Denver Post. “It’s not even the results. It’s just like the whole experience, the whole process has been so much more enjoyable for me,” she also said. Gold, a former World Champion in the halfpipe event, currently is studying veterinary medicine at the University of Colorado, Boulder.–JTA

J-Word of the Day:

Shep Naches (Yiddish)
Meaning: To derive pleasure from something.
Usage: “My favorite teacher, she used to shep naches over my flawless handwriting on the chalkboard.”

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