U.S. Briefs 12-20-11

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Did you know? Jews wrote popular Christmas songs

Click photo to download. Caption: A Christmas tree. Credit: Lotus Head.Although it sounds counterintuitive, Jews have contributed a lot to Christmas, at least in popular culture. Everyone knows that the famous song “White Christmas” was written by Irving Berlin, who was Jewish, but that’s not only one.

The American Society of Composers and Publishers will soon release its list of the 25 most popular holiday season songs. Jews composed about half of the songs, the New York Daily News reported.

This includes “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “A Holly Jolly Christmas” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” which were all written by the Jewish composer Johnny Marks.

According to Rich Conaty, host of “The Big Broadcast” Sunday nights on WFUV (90.7 FM), “a huge percentage of the great Tin Pan Alley songwriters were Jewish,” he says. “So by the law of averages, they were going to write some of our great Christmas songs. If not them, who?”

 “Silver Bells,” another popular song for the season, was written by Jay Livingston and Walter Evans, both Jewish.

—JointMedia News Service

Panetta: Nuclear Iran likely a year or less away

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said Monday that despite efforts to thwart Tehran’s nuclear program, the Iranians are likely to possess atomic weapons in a year or less, according to Israel Hayom.

CBS News anchor Scott Pelley interviewed Panetta for a segment on the news magazine 60 minutes, during which he asked if Iran could have a nuclear weapon in 2012. “It would probably be about a year before they can do it,” Panetta responded. “Perhaps a little less. But one proviso is if they have a hidden facility somewhere in Iran that may be enriching fuel.”

Panetta, who has cautioned against a military strike against Iran, said the U.S. does not want Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, saying that would constitute “a red line for us and that's a red line, obviously, for the Israelis.”

“If [Iran] proceeds and we get intelligence that they are proceeding with developing a nuclear weapon, then we will take whatever steps necessary to stop it,” Panetta said. When Pelley asked if that included military intervention to thwart the Iranians, Panetta said, “There are no options off the table," adding that a nuclear Iran is “unacceptable.”

—JointMedia News Service

Defense bill could give belated Medal of Honor to Jewish soldier

Before the end of the year, President Barack Obama may sign a $662 billion defense bill that, among other things, would call for the review of contested military awards cases. This bodes well for Elsie Shemin-Roth, whose father fought in World War I. She said her father was denied the Medal of Honor because he was Jewish, St. Louis Today reported.

“The level of heroism exhibited by him far exceeds that of other Medal of Honors that were awarded,'” said Retired Army Col. Erwin Burtnick of Baltimore, who will present Shemin’s case to the Army.

In 1918, at the age of 19, Sgt. Shemin dashed into no-man’s land three times from the French trenches. He ran through bullets to rescue wounded comrades. After many of his fellow-soldiers were killed, he took command until he was shot in the head with a machine gun. Sgt. Shemin survived his injuries but died in 1973.

If his case is reviewed under the William Shemin Jewish World War I Veterans Act provision, introduced by Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer R-St. Elizabeth, the soldier could finally get his long-deserved honor.

“It is important that Jewish Americans like Sergeant Shemin have the opportunity to be recognized for their acts of bravery in defense of our nation,” Luetkemeyer said.

—JointMedia News Service

Jewish Federation activist Maynard I. Wishner dies at 88

Chicago-based ational Jewish activist Maynard I. Wishner passed away at 88, according to the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) reported.

Wishner served as president of the Council of Jewish Federations (a precursor to JFNA), chair of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (now JCPA), and national president of the American Jewish Committee (AJC). In his local community, Wishner was chairman of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago (JUF) and also headed the Illinois Humanities Council.

“One of the characteristics that a great leader should possess is a sense that others want to be in the same room with him and attach themselves to his priorities and concerns. Maynard Wishner was the quintessential expression of that kind of leader,” Dr. Conrad Giles, chair of JCPA, said in a statement.

—JointMedia News Service

Emergency Committee for Israel mounts NYT ad in support of Israel

Click photo to download. Caption: Bill Kristol. Credit: Gage Skidmore.The Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI), headed by William Kristol and Gary Bauer, ran a New York Times ad last week in which the group accused President Barack Obama of using Israel as a “punching bag.”

The ad asked readers “why does the Obama administration treat Israel like a punching bag?” and then outlined several cases of negative statements toward Israel by representatives of the U.S. government, including the recent remarks by Defense Secretary “eon Panetta, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman. 

The ad also reminded readers about the now infamous incident in which Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy were overheard on a microphone discussing Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu. Sarkozy called Netanyahu a liar and Obama responded “you’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him every day.”

ECI does have its critics. Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz told Politico that “this is just one more example of the absolute fact that ECI is nothing more than a Republican front organization,” adding that Obama’s support for Israel has been “stellar.” According to Kristol, ECI disagrees with this view of the president, saying “the pro-Israel wing of the pro-Israel community is punching back.” 

—JointMedia News Service

Kosher eatery closes due to Occupy Wall Street

Milk Street Café, a kosher eatery on Wall Street in New York City, closed Dec. 15 after losing business due to police barricades established during the Occupy Wall Street protests, according to reports.

Sales for the restaurant plummeted by 30 percent since the protests started in September. Even after the protests ended, police took a long time to clear the barricades which blocked customers from the eatery.

“It’s terribly sad,” Milk Street Cafe owner Marc Epstein told the New York Daily News. “This is now the 12th straight week of the barricades,” he added. 70 workers also had to be laid off with the decision to close the restaurant.

“Everyone has to understand the consequences of their actions,” Epstein said. “I have 90 plus people who put their faith in me. I feel horrible.”

—JointMedia News Service

Politicians, columnists fume over Friedman’s comments

Click photo to download. Caption: Thomas Friedman. Caption: Charles Haynes.U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ) called Thomas Friedman’s comments about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a recent New York Times column a “defamation.”

Friedman wrote in the Dec. 13 column that the standing ovation that Netanyahu received “in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.” Friedman also said many American Jews are extremely worried about the direction to which Israel is heading.

Rothman responded in a statement that, “Thomas Friedman's defamation against the vast majority of Americans who support the Jewish State of Israel...is scurrilous, destructive and harmful to Israel and her advocates in the US. Mr. Friedman is not only wrong, but he’s aiding and abetting a dangerous narrative about the US-Israel relationship and its American supporters...Mr. Friedman owes us all an apology.”

Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin also chastised Friedman, saying that in his eyes, “the entire U.S. Congress is bought and paid for by a cabal of Jews.” According to her there is still ample support for Israel from Republican and Democratic congressional members. 

She also cited a Democratic Senate aide who said, “If Friedman did actual reporting rather than opining from his anti-Israel perch at the Times, he would have learned that, in an otherwise polarized Congress, there is genuine, bipartisan support for Israel that reflects America’s heartland.”

—JointMedia News Service

Florida governor and delegates visit Israeli university

Click photo to download. Caption: Florida Governor Rick Scott. Credit: State of Florida.Florida Governor Rick Scott attend the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and the University of South Florida in Israel last week, a press release statement has revealed. 

The governor’s 50-member delegation, which included business people, academics and other representatives, was there to foster a relationship between the two universities and highlight Florida’s positive relationship with Israel.

“The people here care about Israel,” Governor Scott said. BGU’s Rector Prof. Zvi HaCohen, Vice President for External Relations Prof. Amos Drory and Vice President and Dean for Research and Development Prof. Moti Herskowitz hosted the delegation. Presentations took place during the visit that highlighted research collaborations between the universities.

“Our two universities have much in common. They are both young, exhilarating, dynamic and with the motivation to achieve,” said University of South Florida President Dr. Judy Genshaft, who was a member of the delegation. 

—JointMedia News Service

Obama vows Iran won’t become nuclear, Barak says

Defense Minister Ehud Barak met on Friday with U.S. President Barack Obama, shortly before the latter addressed the Union for Reform Judaism biennial, Israel Hayom reported.

In his speech, Obama assured the audience that the U.S. commitment to Israel is “unshakeable” and that “no U.S. administration has done more in support of Israel’s security than ours.”

Barak, who is frequently dispatched by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for talks with U.S. officials, later briefed the premier, telling him that, “Obama vowed not to let Iran become nuclear.” Barak also told Netanyahu that the "atmosphere in the meeting was great.”

Barak told journalists in Washington that he and the U.S. president “reviewed various issues at hand, as well as the challenges and opportunities that have resulted from developments in the region.”

—JointMedia News Service

Posted on December 19, 2011 and filed under Briefs, U.S..