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          8-14 Iyar, 5778                                               April 24-30, 2018 -- THE JEWISH OBSERVER, LOS ANGELES --  606th Web Ed.


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NEW YORK – The Central Conference of American Rabbis President Rabbi David Stern and Chief Executive Rabbi Steve Fox announced Rabbi Fox’s intent to retire in June 2019, capping a 13-year term of service.

Rabbi Fox assumed the role of chief executive in 2006.  Under his leadership, the CCAR has achieved new milestones in rabbinic leadership and education, support for rabbis, placement and transition services, and publications.  During that time, Rabbi Fox also strengthened the Conference’s governance, renewed its financial stability, and built today’s senior leadership team.  New educational and ethics initiatives and strengthened financial stability are highlights of 13-year tenure

“It is with mixed emotions that I announce my plans to retire from the CCAR in 2019,” said Rabbi Fox. “We have accomplished much in these years together. Now is the moment for the CCAR leadership to consider the future direction of the Conference, to affirm our mission in bold new ways, to assert our leadership role in the Reform Movement and broader community, and to consider new avenues to add value to our members’ lives, focusing on all rabbis no matter where or how they serve, with a new chief executive to lead at the helm.”

Rabbi Fox oversaw the creation of the CCAR Lifelong Learning/Continuing Professional Education program, which provides a vast array of Torah and professional development classes to reform rabbis through in-person seminars, webinars, extensive study at Conventions, and regional Kallot (convenings). His strong track record of fundraising and donor engagement secured major new streams of funding to expand these and other CCAR programs.

In recent years, the CCAR has had an increased focus on supporting members in both their professional and personal lives. Also, CCAR Press, the publishing arm of the CCAR, has enjoyed considerable growth during Rabbi Fox’s tenure. After a period of seven years in which only one book was published, CCAR Press now maintains a robust publishing program of 6-12 books a year.

Rabbi David Stern said, “Rabbi Fox has been a transformational leader for our Conference. I have tremendous admiration for his range of expertise and depth of commitment, and for the heart he brings to the work of the Conference each and every day.  We are a very different organization than the one he came to lead thirteen years ago. We have moved from crisis to stability to growth and great promise, due in no small part to Steve's professionalism, standards and soul.”

The CCAR President Rabbi Stern has appointed Rabbi Mara Nathan (Senior Rabbi of Temple Beth-El in San Antonio, Texas) and Rabbi Bill Kuhn (Rabbi Emeritus, Congregation Rodeph Shalom, Philadelphia) to co-chair a search committee for Rabbi Fox’s successor.


US President Donald Trump's top lawyer is under criminal investigation, the US justice department has announced.  Prosecutors say they are focusing on Michael Cohen's business dealings rather than his work as a lawyer.

Mr Cohen has been under investigation for months, the court filing says.  The filing was in response to efforts by Mr Cohen's own lawyer to stop prosecutors reviewing material seized from Mr Cohen's office on Monday.

Mr Cohen's team argues that the papers are covered by the attorney-client privilege.

President Trump has condemned the office raid, calling it "disgraceful" and "an attack on our country".

During a court hearing in New York on Friday, prosecutor Tom McKay accused Mr Cohen of trying to use attorney-client privilege "as a sword to challenge the government's ability to review evidence".

 Government prosecutors also said they believed Mr Cohen had "a low volume of potentially privileged communication" because he seems to only have one client - President Trump.

"It is neither apparent that Cohen, in his capacity as an attorney, has many, or any, attorney-client relationships other than with President Donald Trump," the filing said.

It added that while Mr Cohen was an attorney, "he also has several other business interests and sources of income", and is "being investigated for criminal conduct that largely centres on his personal business dealings".

A new lawyer for President Trump, Joanna Hendon, said the president had an "acute interest" in the case. Ms Hendon, who was hired on Wednesday, asked the judge to adjourn the session so she had more time to prepare.

According to a New York Times report, the president phoned Mr Cohen to "check in" on him today. Lawyers tend to advise clients not to discuss investigations - which means their discussion could cause them problems, depending on what they talked about.

In a separate development, Mr Cohen reportedly negotiated a $1.6 million settlement with a former Playboy model on behalf of a Republican fundraiser, according to a Wall Street Journal article.

Elliott Broidy, a Los Angeles investor, acknowledged "a consensual relationship" with the Playmate, who became pregnant. Mr Broidy said it was "unfortunate" that the personal matter was "the subject of national discussion" because of the involvement of Mr Cohen.

The investor was previously in the news after he urged President Trump to sack then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson over a diplomatic dispute.

Mr Cohen has admitted to have paid a porn actress, Stormy Daniels, $130,000 before the 2016 US presidential election. Ms Daniels claims she had an affair with Mr Trump, and he and his lawyers made attempts to buy her silence. The president denies the alleged relationship. --BBCi


Facebook has suspended a Canadian data firm that played a key role in the campaign for the UK to leave the EU.  The social media giant said AggregateIQ (AIQ) may have improperly received users' data.

It cites reported links with the parent company of Cambridge Analytica (CA), the consultancy accused of improperly accessing the data of millions.

AIQ denies ever being part of CA, its parent company SCL or accessing improperly obtained Facebook data.

The Vote Leave campaign paid AIQ £2.7m ($3.8m) ahead of the 2016 EU referendum.

An ex-volunteer with the campaign has also claimed Vote Leave donated £625,000 to another group to get around campaign spending limits, with most of the money going to AIQ. Vote Leave has denied any wrongdoing.

AIQ's website once quoted Vote Leave chief Dominic Cummings saying: "Without a doubt, the Vote Leave campaign owes a great deal of its success to the work of AggregateIQ. We couldn't have done it without them." The quote has since been removed.

In total, AIQ was given £3.5m by groups campaigning for Brexit, including Vote Leave, the Democratic Unionist Party and Veterans for Britain. The UK's Electoral Commission reopened an investigation into Vote Leave's campaign spending in November.

"In light of recent reports that AggregateIQ may be affiliated with SCL and may, as a result, have improperly received FB user data, we have added them to the list of entities we have suspended from our platform while we investigate," a Facebook spokesperson said.

"Our internal review continues, and we will co-operate fully with any investigations by regulatory authorities."

In a message posted to its website, AIQ says it is "100% Canadian owned and operated" and "has never been and is not a part of Cambridge Analytica or SCL".

It adds: "Aggregate IQ has never managed, nor did we ever have access to, any Facebook data or database allegedly obtained improperly by Cambridge Analytica."
Media captionHow the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal unfolded

It also denied ever employing Chris Wylie, the Canadian whistleblower who alleged that the data of 50m people was improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica. Facebook has since said the number of people affected could be closer to 87m. CA says it obtained the data of no more than 30m people and has deleted all of it.

Spotlight on Brexit campaign

Analysis by technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones

It was three weeks ago that Facebook suspended Cambridge Analytica just hours before a whistleblower's revelations to the Observer newspaper triggered the current scandal over improper use of data.

Christopher Wylie insisted that Aggregate IQ was closely linked to Cambridge Analytica, and supplied documents to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee which he said proved it.

Now Facebook's decision to suspend the Canadian firm from its platform appears to give further validation to Mr Wylie's claims. It also throws the spotlight back onto the potential use of Facebook data during the Brexit campaign.

Facebook says it is looking into whether the data that Cambridge Analytica acquired improperly from as many as 87 million people - 1 million of them in the UK - ended up with Aggregate IQ. The firm worked for both Vote Leave and BeLeave during the EU referendum campaign, but has always insisted it has never been a part of Cambridge Analytica, and has not had access to any of its Facebook data.

AIQ is a small company operating out of Victoria, British Columbia. It uses data to help micro-target voters and was founded by two Canadian political staffers.

Apart from its Brexit work the company has also been accused by Mr Wylie of distributing "incredibly anti-Islamic" content on social media ahead of the 2015 Nigerian presidential election to discredit Muslim opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari, who went on to win the contest.

The BBC has approached AIQ for a response to the Nigeria allegations.

Mr Wylie has said that AIQ was referred to among Cambridge Analytica staff as "our Canadian office". He told the Guardian he helped to set up the firm as a "Canadian entity for people who wanted to work on SCL projects who didn't want to move to London" and that he had known the firm's co-founder, Jeff Silvester, since he was 16.

AIQ says it "has never entered into a contract with Cambridge Analytica" and that "Chris Wylie has never been employed by AggregateIQ".

Cambridge Analytica is at the centre of a row over whether it used the personal data of millions of Facebook users to sway the outcome of the US 2016 presidential election and the UK Brexit referendum. --BBCi