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Biden Unaware of Pentagon Chief’s Prostate Cancer Until Tuesday

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin attends a welcome ceremony before an annual security meeting with South Korean Defense Minister Shin Won-sik at the Defense Ministry in Seoul, South Korea on Nov. 13, 2023. Photo: JUNG YEON-JE/Pool via REUTERS

US President Joe Biden did not learn that his defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, had prostate cancer until Tuesday, the White House said, minutes after it was disclosed to the public along with an infection that was also kept under wraps.

Austin, who is 70, has been hospitalized since Jan. 1 at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center — a fact that the Pentagon had kept from the public, the White House, and Congress for much of last week, triggering a major political backlash.

Austin’s own deputy, Kathleen Hicks, was also kept in the dark for days, even after she was told during a vacation in Puerto Rico to assume some of his duties on Jan. 2.

“He [Biden] was not informed until last [Thursday] that Secretary Austin was in the hospital. He was not informed until this morning that the root cause of that hospitalization was prostate cancer,” White House spokesperson John Kirby said.

“Nobody at the White House knew that Secretary Austin had prostate cancer until this morning, and the president was informed immediately after.”

Austin and Biden spoke on Saturday and it was unclear why Biden did not learn until Tuesday about Austin’s prostate cancer.

Republicans seized on the incident as evidence of dereliction of duty by Austin, a retired four-star general who led forces in Iraq and is America’s first Black defense secretary. The Republican who leads the House Armed Services Committee launched a formal inquiry.

“With wars in Ukraine and Israel, the idea that the White House and even your own deputy did not understand the nature of your condition is patently unacceptable,” US Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) wrote in a letter to Austin on Tuesday.

Austin was taken by ambulance on Jan. 1 to Walter Reed after suffering complications from his Dec. 22 prostate cancer treatment, including nausea with severe abdominal, hip, and leg pain. After he was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection, Austin was moved on Jan. 2 to an intensive care unit.

“Further evaluation revealed abdominal fluid collections impairing the function of his small intestines. This resulted in the back up of his intestinal contents which was treated by placing a tube through his nose to drain his stomach,” the hospital said.

Austin’s prostate cancer treatment on Dec. 22 required Austin go under general anesthesia, but he has retained consciousness during his latest visit, according to a statement from Walter Reed.

Walter Reed gave an upbeat outlook for Austin but cautioned that his recovery could take time.

“His infection has cleared. He continues to make progress and we anticipate a full recovery although this can be a slow process,” it said in a statement released by the Pentagon.

Austin, who is 70, sits just below Biden at the top of the US military’s chain of command, and his duties require him to be available at a moment’s notice to respond to any national security crisis.

That includes always being ready to enter secure communications with other officials in the event of an incoming nuclear attack, something that would be difficult from an ICU bed.

The Walter Reed statement was signed by Dr. John Maddox, Trauma Medical Director, and Dr. Gregory Chesnut, Center for Prostate Disease Research of the Murtha Cancer Center Director at Walter Reed.

Biden’s administration has struggled to quiet the political furor that has erupted following revelations that the president, who is running for re-election, did not know of his defense secretary’s Jan. 1 hospitalization until Jan. 4.

The Pentagon initially said Austin’s December treatment was for an elective medical procedure. It was not clear how prostate cancer treatment would be considered elective.

Some prominent Republicans, including Donald Trump, called for Austin to be removed from his job.

But the Pentagon said the retired four-star general had no plans to resign and the White House said Biden was not seeking to remove him. Austin remains at Walter Reed.

“The secretary continues to remain focused on recovering but more importantly, on carrying out his duties as secretary of defense and defending the nation,” Air Force Major General Patrick Ryder told a news briefing.

The way the Defense Department handled Austin’s hospitalization stands in contrast to how the State Department dealt with then-Secretary of State Colin Powell’s prostate surgery on Dec. 15, 2003.

The State Department spokesperson at that time issued a statement in the morning making public that Powell, a retired four-star general and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was in surgery at Walter Reed and would remain there for several days.

It also disclosed Powell would be on a reduced schedule while he recovered from the operation. The department’s spokesperson at the time, Richard Boucher, then offered details on Powell’s surgery in his daily briefing.

Ryder said the Pentagon would do better as the White House acknowledged damage to its credibility.

“I think the Pentagon has been very, very honest with themselves about the, the challenge to credibility by what has transpired here and by what and by how hard it was for them to be fully transparent with the American people,” Kirby said.

The post Biden Unaware of Pentagon Chief’s Prostate Cancer Until Tuesday first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Texas University Plans to Close Qatar Campus Amid Scrutiny of Hamas Ties

A Qatar 2022 logo is seen in front of the skyline of the West Bay in Doha. Photo: REUTERS/John Sibley/File Photo

On Thursday, the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents voted 7-1 to end its contract with the Qatar Foundation, which will result in the college’s Qatar campus shutting down over the next four years.

Texas A&M said it decided to reassess its relationship with Qatar after Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, in which the terrorist group murdered 1,200 Israelis and took more than 240 more hostage. It cites regional instability as one of the reasons for its decision. The Qatari government also has extensive ties with Hamas’ political and military leadership.

The Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development is funded by the Qatari government and is the institution that funds Texas A&M’s Qatar campus.

The Chair of the university’s Board of Regents said it “has decided that the core mission of Texas A&M should be advanced primarily within Texas and the United States.” He continued, explaining that “By the middle of the 21st century, the university will not necessarily need a campus infrastructure 8,000 miles away to support education and research collaborations.”

The decision also comes amid heightened scrutiny of Qatar’s role in American higher education — as it spent almost $5 billion on American universities between 2001 and 2021 — as well as its role in funding terrorist groups such as Hamas. 

In an article for The Free Press in October, Eli Lake outlined what he saw as the significant influence Qatar is having on American higher education. He lists the universities that have gotten significant donations from Qatar, such as Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown, and Northwestern. He also notes that Qatar’s influence goes beyond money, affecting policies and programs within specific academic departments as well. For example, the Qatar campus of Northwestern, which is home to the U.S.’s best journalism program, had an agreement with the terrorist-sympathetic Al-Jazeera that it would help train its students.

The significant attention paid to these relationships is likely driven by the steep increase in anti-Israel and pro-terrorist sentiment in the U.S., particularly on college campuses. 

A 2023 report from the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy also concluded that concealed donations from foreign governments to U.S. educational institutions are associated with an increase in antisemitic incidents on campus and the erosion of liberal norms. 

However, the Qatar Foundation believes the decision was made for political reasons. In a statement, it wrote: “It is deeply disappointing that a globally respected academic institution like Texas A&M University has fallen victim to such a campaign and allowed politics to infiltrate its decision-making processes. At no point did the Board attempt to seek out the truth from Qatar Foundation before making this misguided decision.”

There have been no indications thus far that other universities that receive a significant amount of Qatari funding, or operate campuses in Qatar, are reconsidering their relationship.

The post Texas University Plans to Close Qatar Campus Amid Scrutiny of Hamas Ties first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Antisemitic Vandals Strike Hillel Building at University of Leeds in UK

Antisemitic message graffitied on Hillel House of University of Leeds. Photo: Union of Jewish Students/X

The Hillel House of University of Leeds was vandalized on Thursday night, raising further concerns about a hateful campus climate and rising antisemitism across the United Kingdom, particularly since Hamas’ October 7 attacks.

The vandals, according to pictures shared online, graffitied “FREE PALESTINE” on the building and additional scribble on two window panes.

“We are heartbroken and angry that after an uplifting and inspiring Challah Bake, our JSoc Hillel House was defaced with antisemitic graffiti,” Leeds JSoc, which uses the building for club meetings, said in a statement also signed by the Union of Jewish Students, an advocacy group. “It is shocking and outrageous that those who hate us would stoop to this level.”

The groups noted that a University of Leeds professor may be responsible for leading anti-Zionist to the building, alleging that he shared its address “for the sole purpose of intimidating Jewish students on campus.”

“We are working with CST and the police to ensure that those who committed this crime get the consequences they deserve,” the group added.

Anti-Zionists extremists struck elsewhere on Thursday, storming University of Birmingham with socialists and other far-left groups while holding signs that said, “Zionists off our campus” and “75 years of illegal occupation!” Many concealed their faces, covering them with keffiyeh.

“Jewish students are feeling less and less safe at university because of these vile antisemitic acts,” National Jewish Assembly (NJA), a Jewish civil rights nonprofit, said in a statement about the incidents. “It’s time we say enough. Jewish students deserve and must feel safe on campus.”

Thursday’s incidents followed a set-back for the academic Jewish community. Earlier this week, it was announced that a UK government agency which arbitrates disputes over employment law ruled that University of Bristol lacked standing to fire sociologist David Miller, an extreme anti-Zionist who was accused of harassing Jewish students and promoting antisemitic tropes, and said his “anti-Zionist beliefs qualified as a philosophical belief and as a protected characteristic.”

Pervasive antisemitism and anti-Zionism at UK universities is forcing members of the Jewish academic community to conceal their identities on campus, according to a June 2023 report issued by the Parliamentary Task Force on Antisemitism in Higher Education, a committee of lawmakers and established by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2022 in response to complaints of anti-Jewish racism and discrimination.

“We were told it was commonplace for Jewish students to choose not to wear certain clothing or jewelry around campus because it would make them visibly identifiable as Jewish,” the Task Force wrote in the report, titled Understanding Jewish Experience in Higher Education, noting that academic staff “also raised important comparable concerns about negativity surrounding their Jewish identity.”

The Task Force recommended that all universities adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which, it said, has not, contrary to the claims of its many opponents, diminished free speech and academic freedom.

Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post Antisemitic Vandals Strike Hillel Building at University of Leeds in UK first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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US House Committee Threatens Harvard University With Subpoena for Antisemitism Documents

Illustrative Harvard University students displaying a pro-Palestinian sign at their May 2022 graduation ceremony. Photo: Reuters/Brian Snyder

Harvard University on Wednesday was given a “final warning” to fully cooperate with the US House Committee on Education and the Workforce’s investigation of antisemitism on its campus.

In January, Chairwoman Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) gave the school, which spent the fall semester under fire for allegedly ignoring rampant antisemitic harassment and intimidation, two weeks to deliver documents relevant to the committee’s investigation. Harvard never did, and now Rep. Foxx is threatening to subpoena the material she requested.

“The committee has sought to obtain information regarding Harvard’s response to the numerous incidents of antisemitism on its campus and steps taken to protect Jewish students, faculty and staff,” Foxx wrote in a letter to Harvard University interim president Alan Garber and Harvard Corporation senior fellow Penny Pritzker.

“Harvard’s responses have been grossly insufficient,” she continued. “If Harvard continues to fail to comply with the committee’s requests in a timely manner, the committee will proceed with compulsory process.”

Foxx has requested a trove of documents, including “all reports of antisemitic acts or incidents” and “related communications” going back to 2021 that were sent to Harvard’s offices of the president, general counsel, dean of students, police department, human resources, and diversity, equity, and inclusion, among others. She also requested documentation on Harvard Kennedy School professor Marshall Ganz, who, the school determined during an investigation, “denigrated” several students for being “Israeli Jews.” Originally, Foxx gave Harvard a deadline of Jan. 23 by which to comply.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce is also investigating other top universities, including the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), to determine whether administrators at those schools ignored antisemitic discrimination. The probes were announced after the committee grilled the presidents of Harvard, Penn, and MIT about their plans to respond to rising anti-Jewish hate in their communities. During the hearing, Gay of Harvard and Elizabeth Magill of Penn — both of whom have since resigned from their positions — as well as Sally Kornbluth of MIT largely evaded lawmakers’ questions, infamously equivocating on whether calling for the genocide of Jews contravenes school rules.

For Harvard, America’s oldest institution of higher education and arguably its most prestigious, the presence of radical anti-Zionists on  campus has been a persistent issue. At the start of this academic year, a student and anti-Israel activist interrupted a convocation ceremony held by the school, shouting at Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana, “Here’s the real truth — Harvard supports, upholds, and invests in Israeli apartheid, and the oppression of Palestinians!”

However, the broader public largely did not take notice until Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre in Israel. As scenes of Hamas terrorists abducting children and desecrating dead bodies circulated worldwide, 31 student groups at Harvard issued a statement blaming Israel for the attack and accusing the Jewish state of operating an “open air prison” in Gaza, despite that the Israeli military withdrew from the territory in 2005.

For her part, Gay waited several days to condemn the Hamas atrocities, and when she did, her statement said nothing about antisemitism. When she resigned at the beginning of the new year, she accused her critics of racism.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post US House Committee Threatens Harvard University With Subpoena for Antisemitism Documents first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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