Muslims volunteer to help repair US Jewish cemetery after vandals attack

Hundreds of headstones, some of them more than 100 years old, were cut in half, local media reported Sunday.


A local rabbi, who was unnamed, told ABC television affiliate WPVI, that the affected graves at the historic Mt Carmel Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia’s northeastern Wissinoming neighborhood also included those of one-time members of the Quaker and Muslim communities.

New Jersey resident Aaron Mallin discovered the vandalism on Sunday when he came to visit his father’s grave at the cemetery.

“It’s just very disheartening that such a thing would take place,” he told WPVI.

A campaign has been organised by the Muslim community to help repair the desecration. 

BREAKING: Nearly 100 graves vandalized at Jewish cemetery in Philly. Muslims will also help via #RestInPeace funds: 长沙桑拿,长沙SPA,/N9WPRxo4Hz

— Tarek El-Messidi (@Elmessidi) February 26, 2017

Police say they are investigating the vandalism.

The Anti-Defamation League has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon posted a statement on Twitter saying, “#Philadelphia Jewish cemetery desecration is shocking and a source of worry. Full confidence #US authorities catch and punish culprits.”

The attack comes a week after more than 100 headstones were damaged at a Jewish cemetery in St Louis, Missouri. The incident prompted a Muslim-led crowdfunding campaign to raise more than $100,000 to repair the cemetery, and a visit by Vice President Mike Pence.


Among more recent attacks, vandals spray-painted swastikas on several cars, highway overpasses, buildings and an elementary school playground over the weekend in Buffalo, New York, The Buffalo News reported.

After remaining silent on the subject for several days, President Donald Trump on Tuesday decried the anti-Semitic threats against Jewish community centers across America as “horrible” and “painful.”

However, concern is rising about his embrace by white supremacist groups and an “alt-right” movement given a platform on Breitbart, the online news outlet once headed by Trump’s chief White House strategist Steve Bannon.

The White House raised eyebrows on International Holocaust Remembrance Day late last month by issuing a statement that made no mention of the six million Jews killed in the Nazi genocide.

Other groups have also been targeted. On Wednesday, a drunk white man fatally shot an Indian engineer and wounded another in Kansas City, screaming racial slurs and telling them “Get out of my country!”

Tax cuts risk living standards: Bowen

Labor has jumped on new research warning pursuing company tax cuts before the budget is on a clear path to surplus risks future living standards.


The Grattan Institute argued in a report released late on Sunday that Australia’s low investment environment risks “economic stagnation”.

It says Australia has experienced its biggest five-year fall in mining investment, while non-mining investment as a share of gross domestic product is around a 50-year low.

It says the Turnbull government’s plan to reduce the company tax rate from 30 per cent from 25 per cent would help lure foreign investment to Australia.

But it would also hit the budget immediately and it would be years before the benefits are seen.

“Given large and ongoing deficits, and projections that lack credibility, the government should ensure any company tax cut is offset by other tax increases so there is no net increase in budget deficits,” the institute’s Jim Minifie says.

The report offers a variety of other tax options to boost investment.

Dr Minifie argues pursuing company tax cuts on their own before the budget is on a clear path to surplus “risks future living standards”.

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen says the institute’s work makes it clear the company tax cuts should only pursued as part of a broader tax reform package.

“The government’s company tax cut package is not funded and in 10 years the annual cost of the cuts will reach $14 billion,” Mr Bowen told AAP.

“As it stands, the government’s company tax cuts are left to be paid for by middle income earners paying higher marginal tax rates through bracket creep.”

Debate on the government’s 10-year plan to incrementally reduce the business tax rate is due to resume in the House of Representatives during this parliamentary sitting week.

Melbourne cabbies not slaves: protester

Aris Angelopoulos says he did not come to Australia to be a ‘slave’ and wants fair compensation for a taxi license he bought for $500,000.


He was one of hundreds of taxi drivers who gathered at state parliament in Melbourne on Monday in their ongoing dispute against the Victorian government’s proposed changes to taxi licenses.

“The government wants to pay me $50,000 when I owe the bank half a million for my taxi licence” Mr Angelopoulos told AAP.

“I work hard, I have two children, and I am the only worker in my family”.

Holders of taxi licences will be eligible to apply for the $50 million Fairness Fund in addition to the compensation of $100,000 for their first licence and $50,000 for subsequent licences.

“For every individual license holder, their financial arrangements are different” Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan told 3AW.

The government has proposed introducing legislation that will scrap the current $23,000 it costs to own a taxi license.

The deregulation of the taxi industry will also bring it into competition with ride-sharing services such as Uber that require no license to operate.

Victorian Taxi and Hire-Car Families spokeswoman Sandy Spanos says they want the government to negotiate a better deal.

“We want the government to talk to us, to consult and negotiate” Ms Spanos told AAP.

Motorists were earlier forced to divert onto emergency lanes on the Tullamarine as cabbies made their way in a slow protest towards parliament house on Monday.

“It’s actually not bringing people to their cause – it’s driving them away,” Ms Allan told 3AW on Monday.

Liberal Senator denies apparent link of ‘fleas’ to boat arrivals

The Immigration Department has appeared before a parliamentary estimates committee in front of senators.


It was a chance to ask questions of the Department bureaucrats, not just politicians.

There was also a legal responsibility to answer questions.

The department’s head, Michael Pezzullo, revealed none of the approximately 12-hundred refugees on Manus Island and Nauru are being screened by officials from the United States.

“It’s ready to commence and Australia’s assisting in that regard so we’re doing some work that will assist in the expedition of the vetting but US officials are currently not in a position to undertake the vetting until they get that direction.”

The Australian government has been reassuring the public that it has secured a deal with the Trump Administration to send refugees to the US.

Although the US President has condemned the deal as ‘dumb’, he has indicated he will honour it, subject to strict vetting of the refugees.

But Mr Pezzullo told the estimates committee there’s no guarantee the refugees will be granted permission to settle in the US.

“All persons who go to America under this agreement can only go once they’ve been vetted by the American security authorities. In the end, the US will decide how many they take and they will take the numbers they can subject to their vetting procedures.”

The Immigration Minister also defended the government’s efforts to secure Australia’s borders.

Liberal Senator David Fawcett added that it was the preceding Labor government which allowed so many unauthorised arrivals.

“I do question the ethics of nitpicking when your particular group perhaps brought the fleas in the first place.” [Unidentified voice – Hear hear, nicely put]

A few hours later, Senator Fawcett said he was taken out of context by the media, saying he wasn’t labelling refugees and asylum seekers as fleas.

“I was objecting to the fact the Labor Party were pursuing very small detail in the process in the departments that occurred at a period of great activity and stress for the department. So the metaphor was that if they were nitpicking, they were responsible for the cause of that irritation. It’s certainly not intended to apply to people who are refugees. “

The Australian Border Force also revealed concerns about the mental health of its officers taking part in Operation Sovereign Borders.

ABF Commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg said the effort to stop illegal boat arrivals into Australia was taking its toll.

“[There is] Significant anecdotal evidence in relation to stress suffered by those working on the frontline, not just those that were pulling dead bodies out of the water but those that were dealing with the trauma of the interceptions, the capsizes. Several of our officers went overboard, [and] were at significant risk of harm and indeed death to themselves.”

He has asked medical professionals to investigate if any ABF officials are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and the extent of it across the Force.




Relationship costs QBE boss $550K

QBE chief executive John Neal has lost more than $550,000 in pay for a delay in telling his board that he was involved in a relationship with his personal assistant.


The insurance boss led QBE to a 23 per cent increase in full-year profit but the company’s annual report shows he had $552,500 in incentive payments docked for what was termed “personal decisions … inconsistent with the board’s expectations”.

QBE was not specific about why Mr Neal’s short-term incentives had been cut but it is understood that he failed to notify the board quickly enough that he was in a relationship with his personal assistant.

Nonetheless, QBE lauded Mr Neal’s performance as chief executive and still paid him $2.2 million in short-term incentives as part of a total remuneration package of just over $3 million.

“His performance is well regarded by the board,” QBE said on Monday in its annual report.

“However, both parties agree some recent personal decisions by the chief executive have been inconsistent with the board’s expectations.”

QBE’s code of conduct states that employees must disclose to their manager any close personal relationship that may cause a conflict of interest.

There is no suggestion of inappropriate behaviour by Mr Neal.

QBE launched a $1 billion share buyback after its full-year profit jumped 23 per cent to $US844 million ($A1.1 billion),

Its insurance profit margin for the 12 months to December 31 rose 0.7 percentage points to 9.7 per cent, while adjusted profit – which strips out one-off costs and asset sales – rose 2.5 per cent to $US833 million.

QBE said there are signs of an improving market in the insurance industry and that gross written premium, which fell 4.6 per cent to $US14.4 billion ($A18.7 billion) in 2016 – is likely to remain stable during 2017.

“The rate of decline in global pricing is easing and, while there is variation between markets, we anticipate that pricing in markets other than Australia will be broadly flat in 2017,” QBE said in a statement.

“We are also encouraged by the improved US macro-economic outlook following the presidential election, while investment income should benefit from higher bond yields in all major markets.”

QBE declared a final dividend of 33 cents, 50 per cent franked, taking its full-year payout to 54 cents – four cents up on 2015.

QBE’s shares closed up 30 cents, or 2.4 per cent, at $12.60.

QBE LIFTS PROFIT * Net profit up 22pct to $US844m ($A1.1 billion)

* Gross written premium down 4.6pct to $US14.4b ($A18.7 b)

* Final dividend up three cents to 33 cents, 50 per cent franked.

Yes, Le Pen could win in France

At the headquarters of her National Front (FN) party in Nanterre outside Paris, officials believe the same forces that led to the Brexit vote in Britain and Donald Trump’s victory in the United States could carry Le Pen to power.


Even some of her rivals concede a victory for the far-right firebrand is possible.

“I think Madame Le Pen could be elected,” former conservative prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said this month.

Another former premier, the Socialist Manuel Valls, has also warned of the “danger” of assuming that Le Pen cannot win.

Polls show that support for the 48-year-old anti-immigrant and anti-EU candidate has been consistent for four years now.

Marine Le Pen tweeted on Sunday that “the victory is there, at the end of the path.”

“La victoire est là, au bout du chemin. Soyez forts, soyez déterminés : soyez Français ! Vive la République, Vive la France !” #NantesMLP pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/XcsUeH3hSG

— Marine Le Pen (@MLP_officiel) February 26, 2017

Since 2013, surveys have shown she will progress through the first round to reach the runoff stage in France’s two-stage presidential election.

Pollsters now note that although Le Pen is not currently forecast to win the all-important showdown on May 7, she has whittled down the projected gap between herself and her main challengers.

The woes of others

The legal woes of her conservative challenger Francois Fillon have especially played into Le Pen’s hands.

When Fillon saw off pre-contest favourite Alain Juppe to clinch the rightwing nomination in late November, polls showed he would win 67 percent of the vote in the runoff to 33 percent for Le Pen.

Then in January allegations surfaced that Fillon had paid his wife hundreds of thousands of euros for parliamentary work she might not have done. Surveys now show Le Pen would score 44 percent to 56 percent for Fillon if the second round was held today.

François Fillon is the subject of a judicial inquiry over allegations that he paid family members for fake parliamentary assistant jobs.AAP

The pressure on 62-year-old Fillon moved up a notch on Friday when prosecutors announced he would face a full judicial investigation into the claims.

A similar picture emerges when Le Pen’s projected second-round score is compared to that of Emmanuel Macron, the pro-business centrist who has moved from outsider to genuine contender in the space of a few months.

Although Macron’s performance against Le Pen has only been tested since January, the winning margin has dropped from 30 points to around 20 in a month.

The latest Ifop poll gives Macron 61.5 percent to 38.5 for the far-right standard bearer.

Macron has previously tweeted that The National Front gains its popularity by “playing on people’s fears.”

Le Front national est aux portes du pouvoir et joue sur les peurs. Les temps politiques ont changé.

— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) February 23, 2017

Le Pen is also caught up in an expenses scandal and faces accusations she has misused European Parliament funds. Yet unlike Fillon, who once led the race, the allegations have not damaged her support.

Experts caution however that predicting the second-round scores in a contest that has already thrown up a host of surprises is fraught with risk.

And the polls have been wrong in election after election over the last two years.

When canvassed by L’Opinion newspaper in mid-February, polling experts were divided on whether Le Pen could win.

‘She has a chance’

Bernard Sananes of the Elabe polling group said it was “both possible and improbable”.

Jerome Sainte-Marie of Polling Vox nuanced his answer, saying: “Against Macron, she has a chance of winning.”

Ifop’s Jerome Fourquet told AFP that if on the eve of the second round, the polls show Le Pen at 40 percent to 60 percent for a rival, “the gap is too big for there to be a surprise”.

“But if it’s 55-45, it could be a different matter,” he said.

Fourquet said Le Pen’s performance in the first round would be crucial to see if she can gain the momentum to snatch a win in the runoff.


In the 2002 presidential election, Marine’s father Jean-Marie Le Pen rocked the political establishment by reaching the runoff.

But in that second round, voters of various political stripes reluctantly got behind conservative candidate Jacques Chirac to block the far right.

Regional elections in December 2015 give a more recent precedent. Both Le Pen and her 27-year-old niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen were soundly beaten in the second round despite high scores in the first round, as the mainstream parties joined forces to block them.

Since then, “Le Pen has cleared another hurdle, but the barrier she still has to clear is very high,” Fourquet said.

Researcher Joel Gombin, a specialist on the FN, believes Le Pen is still some way short of getting the keys to the glittering Elysee Palace. 

“As things stand, where are the votes necessary to move up from 25 percent or even 30 percent to 50 percent?,” he said.

Qld Labor MP Miles defends his seat switch

Queensland Environment Minister Steven Miles denies he’s running from a fight by moving to an outer-Brisbane seat after his electorate was split up in the recent boundary redistribution.


Dr Miles has avoided an upcoming election showdown with shadow treasurer Scott Emerson by moving out of his current electorate of Mt Coot-tha and into Murrumba.

Among the drastic changes in the electoral redistributions, Mt Coot-tha was merged with Mr Emerson’s seat of Indooroopilly to form the new electorate of Maiwar.

Mr Emerson immediately announced he would contest Maiwar, but Labor’s Dr Miles took time to weigh up whether he should stay in the inner-western area.

But on Monday the environment minister said he would move to Murrumba, north of Brisbane, with current Murrumba MP Chris Whiting to move to the new seat of Bancroft.

Mr Emerson said he couldn’t believe Dr Miles decided to leave.

“He said he was committed to the area, but the first opportunity, he’s cut and run,” Mr Emerson told reporters.

“He’ll be 40 kilometres away from this local community at the next state election.”

Dr Miles denied abandoning his electorate.

“The option to run in Mt Coot-tha was not there. The seat itself was abolished,” he said.

“Maiwar is not the seat I live in. It’s not the seat I’m close to.”

Mt Coot-tha has consistently been the best-performing seat for the Queensland Greens, and candidate Michael Berkman says he hopes they will have a similarly strong showing in Maiwar

“Just talking to people on the ground there I think we have a really strong chance,” Mr Berkman told reporters on Monday.

“We’re long overdue to have a strong, independent, Greens voice in state parliament and that’s what we’re hoping to achieve in Maiwar

Queensland MPs have spent the weekend deciding their future after the draft changes were released on Friday.

The redistribution has seen formerly safe seats become more marginal, while some have technically changed their allegiance.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says all 42 sitting Labor MPs will contest a seat, while the party will have preselections for six others – Cook, Cairns, Jordan, Macalister, Mansfield and Mount Ommaney – before the end of April.

“We have a very important budget to deliver in June this year,” she said.

Govt stymies Labor over penalty rates

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has accused Labor of rank populism after the opposition used parliament to demand the government overturn a Fair Work Commission decision on Sunday penalty rates.


The government had the numbers in the lower house to prevent Labor leader Bill Shorten tabling a private bill and have it debated and voted on by Monday afternoon.

Mr Shorten will have to wait three weeks for another opportunity.

But that didn’t stop opposition MPs from demanding the prime minister intervene in the commission’s decision to align Sunday and Saturday penalty rates for hundreds of thousands of workers.

“Today I’m offering the prime minister the chance to work with us to protect penalty rates and take-home pay of hard-working Australians,” Mr Shorten told parliament.

“A decision to not remedy this decision of the Fair Work Commission is a decision to support it.”

Mr Turnbull was scathing in his response.

“There has been a complete and utter blackflip undertaken by the Labor Party on this,” he told MPs citing Labor’s long-standing tradition of supporting the independent industrial umpire.

“This is rank populism.”

Mr Turnbull said Mr Shorten, as minister at the time, helped establish references for the commission’s review of penalty rates in the hospitality and retail sectors.

The Labor government had also provided funding to the Council of Small Business to argue its case for lower penalty rates before the commission.

Labor claims up to 700,000 workers will lose about $77 a week because of the commission’s decision, leading the Greens to warn of civil unrest.

“Young people are getting screwed over and if this government doesn’t fix it there’ll be rioting in the streets,” Greens MP Adam Bandt told reporters.

The latest Newspoll, showing another slide in voter support for the coalition, should come as no surprise, he said.

“Young people are getting screwed over, owning a home is out of reach, study is getting more expensive, work is getting more insecure and now many young people’s wages will be cut,” Mr Bandt told parliament.

Earlier, Treasurer Scott Morrison questioned what Mr Shorten was considering next.

“He doesn’t like what the Reserve Bank decides on interest rates and he decides he wants to legislate and change that?” he told 2GB radio.

Unions have called on all politicians to join them in their fight to protect workers’ pay.

Turnbull blames Abbott for ‘calculated’ damage to Coalition in latest poll

Malcolm Turnbull says the man he replaced as prime minister is to blame for the latest opinion poll that shows support for the Coalition has slumped to a new low.


The Newspoll shows a primary vote of 34 per cent, the worst result since the Coalition won power in 2013.

On a two party preferred basis, the government is trailing the Labor Opposition by 10 percentage points.

The polling was conducted over several days, beginning on Thursday last week – the same day Tony Abbott gave a speech in which he offered some sharp criticisms of the Turnbull government.

Malcolm Turnbull says the timing is no coincidence.

“We saw an outburst on Thursday and it had its desired impact on the Newspoll. It was exactly as predicted and as calculated.”

The prime minister says he will not let Mr Abbott distract him from governing.

“As I said, it was – he knew exactly what he was doing and he did it. I’m not going to be distracted by that. It’s a fact of life. That’s what’s happened. I am focused on the jobs of Australians.”

Malcolm Turnbull has retained his edge on Bill Shorten as preferred prime minister, leading 40 per cent to 33.

But Labor senator Sam Dastyari says the numbers spell trouble for Mr Turnbull’s leadership.

“There is nobody in this building who still believes that Malcolm Turnbull is going to survive with these types of numbers. And you’re going to have conservative politician after conservative politician, Liberal politician after Liberal politician, walk out and say ‘oh look, you know, there’s only one poll that matters, it’s the poll on election day’ and ‘it’s all fine’ and ‘nothing to see here’ and ‘the house is not on fire’. The house is on fire!”

Deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce says the poll should remind his government to listen to the concerns of voters.

” We do not rest – well, I don’t rest, and we just keep going as hard as we can. Some people say polls go up and polls go down, I’m not a fool, I’ve read them and what they are is a motivation to me that people have concerns, they want to be heard, and that’s precisely what I do in my job, and I intend to keep doing. We have to sell the message. We have to tell people how hard we are working and I intend to do that. “

The real winner in Monday’s poll was Pauline Hanson.

One Nation appears to have been the beneficiary of the Coalition’s falling numbers.

It now has a primary vote of 10 percent – double what it polled in November and equal to the Greens.

Crossbench South Australian senator Nick Xenophon says the strong support for One Nation, as well as his own Nick Xenophon Team, is evidence of voter dissatisfaction with the major

‘I think it’s a case of anyone but the two major parties. I know in my home state, pretty solid support for my team at around 20 percent, from the polls that I’ve seen. So it just gives you an idea that people want an alternative. I think that the alternative is somewhere in the political centre, not to the right or left of the major parties.”




Test win in India up with best: Gillespie

Australia’s first Test crushing of India could be considered the nation’s best-ever triumph on foreign soil, ex-Test great Jason Gillespie says.


Gillespie says the 333-run thumping in Pune has set up Australia for its first Test series victory in India since 2004.

“It’s one of, if not the best, performance by an Australian side overseas pretty much ever,” Gillespie told EON Sports Radio.

“With everything that was going against them, I think it’s right up there.”

Gillespie said if the Australians could keep their composure, a series win beckoned.

“I don’t see why not,” he said.

“India have to make the play here and take some risks and be ultra-positive.

“Australia just need to play, take the games deep, absorb pressure, put pressure on the (Indian) bowlers at times.

“And with the ball, it’s just a patience game.

“The simpler the Australian boys keep it, the longer the games go, the Indians will start to panic a little bit. They’ll start to create things when they’re not there and that is when the mistakes will come.”

Gillespie, a key member of Australia’s triumphant tour of India almost 13 years ago, said selectors should resist temptations to drop allrounder Mitchell Marsh for the second Test starting on Saturday in Bangalore.

“He made 31 in the second innings in a low-scoring game so he’s probably done enough, just, to hang on,” he said.

“But if they feel they can get away with two seamers, I would be tempted to potentially play someone like (Glenn) Maxwell, he’s a fine player of spin … he’s an under-rated long-form player.

” But I would envisage in Bangalore, they would need the back-up seam option. The wicket won’t be as bad as it was in Pune.”