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As jury launches deliberations in Pittsburgh synagogue massacre, defense concedes shooter’s hatred of Jews

PITTSBURGH (JTA) — After 11 days of graphic and emotionally fraught testimony in the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting trial, and a 90-minute closing argument that included gruesome photos and the replay of harrowing 911 calls, it was time for the defense to speak.

A lawyer for Robert Bowers, accused of being the gunman who murdered 11 worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue, on Thursday walked across the courtroom to a podium, faced the jury,  and spoke for just 19 minutes.

Elisa Long acknowledged the immensity of the crime on Oct. 27, 2018, and offered only half a defense. Bowers did not intend to keep Jews from worshipping, she said, but he did appear to hate Jews.

“There is no question that his posts on and his statements that day reflected animosity and hatred toward Jews,” Long said, referring to a social media site that is a virtual redoubt for extremists.

It was a critical concession that 11 of the government’s charges, that Bowers committed capital hate crimes, may be irrefutable.

A prosecutor took another 20 minutes to rebut Long’s barebones defense, and then Judge Robert Colville ordered the jury to begin deliberations. Seven women and five men filed out of the court at 2:30 p.m., and clerks followed them with wheeled carts piled with evidence. They retired Thursday without arriving at a verdict.

The defense, which barely registered as a presence during the guilt phase of the trial, appears to be reserving its arguments for the death penalty phase, which begins a week after the jury returns a verdict, if it determines that Bowers is guilty of any of the 22 capital  crimes out of 63 charges in the indictment.

Defense lawyers in March said they would bring up Bowers’ mental health, including evidence that he suffers from epilepsy and schizophrenia. On the first day of the trial, Colville forbade them from doing so during the guilt phase of the trial, but said they may raise mental health during the penalty phase.

In her closing argument, Long devoted most of her time to sowing doubt about 11 of the capital charges, that Bowers “intentionally obstructed by force … the enjoyment of free exercise of religious beliefs,” resulting in 11 deaths.

“It is vitally important not to convict him of crimes he did not commit,” she said.

The free exercise of religious beliefs “does not include the engagement in good works or conduct that may or may not be part of religious belief,” she said.

Then jurors would have to determine whether Bowers was seeking to stop a religious service “or to stop people who were supporting the resettlement of refugees,” she said.

One of the three congregations housed in the Tree of Life synagogue, Dor Hadash, was partnered with HIAS, the Jewish immigration advocacy group. She quoted Bowers’ Gab posts in which he identified Jews with what he believed was a planned genocide of white Americans to be carried out by immigrants.

“HIAS is a huge enabler of refugee invasions,” Bowers posted on Oct. 25, Long pointed out, two days before the massacre. Dor Hadash, she noted, was on that Saturday planning a “Refugee Shabbat.” His responses were “shocking and irrational,” she said, but “after learning about HIAS” and its advocacy, “Mr. Bowers’ sense of urgency increased.”

Long began her closing argument by acknowledging, as lead defense attorney Judy Clarke had done in her opening argument, that Bowers had carried out the massacre.

“There is no dispute that on Oct. 27. 2018, armed with an AR-15, he shot and killed 11 people and seriously injured two others who were in their sacred space,” Long said. The defense on day one of the trial promised “we would not offer justification, and we have not done so,” she said.

Summing up, Long appeared to anticipate the mental health arguments the defense would make during the penalty phase, while being careful not to violate Colville’s order not to explicitly raise the topic.

She described a 46-year old man “living alone in an apartment” where he slept on a mattress on the floor and who was obsessed with computers, coding and guns. “How and why this man who lived a quiet and law abiding life until 2018” committed the crimes may be “inexplicable,” she said.

In the months before the massacre Bowers “spent an immense amount of time on the internet absorbing hate,” she said.

Long  did not argue that the government had proved the 11 capital hate crimes. But she also did not argue that it had not, telling the jury, “These are the charges the federal government has brought and these are the decisions you as jurors must make.”

In his rebuttal, Eric Olshan, a U.S. attorney, ridiculed Long’s claim that obstructing worship was not germane to Bowers’ intentions.

Facing the jury, he spun around and pointed to Bowers.

“On Oct. 27, 2018, that man, Robert Bowers, went into Tree of Life, where three congregations, not just Dor Hadash” were getting ready for services. The other two are Tree of Life and New Light. “He didn’t focus on Dor Hadash, he focused on any Jew he could find to kill or try to kill.”

He accused Long of cherrypicking Bowers’ Gab posts, and reminded jurors of evidence that in the months prior to the attack, Towers had “liked” just two posts mentioning HIAS, while “liking” some 400 mentions of “Kike,” an antisemitic epithet, and some 2,300 mentions of “Jew.”

“Did he go to a refugee resettlement meeting? Did he go to the border to stop Jews” from facilitating the entry of immigrants? Olshan asked. “Did he go to the HIAS office in Maryland? He drove about 30 minutes from where he lived to Squirrel Hill, the center of Jewish life in Pittsburgh.”

Again Olshan pointed at Bowers. “That person intended to obstruct them from free exercise of religion,” he said. “This is not rocket science.”

In any case, Olshan, who is Jewish, said HIAS’s work is inextricable from Jewish faith. “Welcoming the stranger” appears 36 times in the Torah, he said, including in the passage the congregations would be reading that morning. “That just proves his guilt,” he said.

Throughout the day, Bowers never looked toward the jury. Clad in a gray sweater with a collared blue shirt, he stared at a computer screen where he monitored evidence and scribbled notes, occasionally whispering to his lawyers.

Bowers’ aunt and a cousin were present in the courtroom, as were survivors of the attack and families of the victims. There was an expectation that a verdict would be quick; the overflow room for families was packed. Maggie Feinstein, who counsels the victims, was in the court room. So was Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who testified on the first day that he expected to die where he was hiding, and recited the Shema prayer. He wore a white kippah emblazoned with the synagogue’s symbol, a blue tree.

The day began with Colville warning the jury that his instructions to them would be exceptionally long; he took 80 minutes. Then Soo Song, an assistant U.S. attorney, spoke for 90 minutes, reconstructing the day of the massacre, Oct. 27, 2018, detail by gory detail. Of the 11 people killed, she said, six were shot in the head.

She anticipated the argument Long would advance, repeatedly emphasizing the rituals Bowers interrupted with deadly results. Using bloody photos of victims in their place, she focused especially on religious implements.”The defendant committed mass murder in a synagogue,” she said. “He turned that sacred space into a place littered with prayer shawls and prayer books and 11 deceased worshippers.”

She concluded naming the 11 victims: Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax and Irving Younger.

Olshan ended the day holding two evidence bags, each with half of a bloodstained kippah. “No longer a reminder of God’s presence,” he said. “This is what he did to Irving Younger, leaving this tattered reminder found amid the shocks of Irving younger’s white hair.”

The obstruction of worship was “the natural and probable consequence of his actions,” Olshan said.”The only justice is a verdict of guilty in every charge in this case.”

The post As jury launches deliberations in Pittsburgh synagogue massacre, defense concedes shooter’s hatred of Jews appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Canada’s economic growth projected to be about 1% in the first half of 2024

Canada is a country with a thriving Jewish community and has traditionally offered the security of a strong economy for residents. The national economic outlook is naturally something that everyone in Canada’s Jewish community keeps track of – especially those involved in business in the various provinces.

With this in mind, the July 2023 Monetary Policy Report from the Bank of Canada made for interesting reading, projecting a moderate economic growth figure of around 1% for the first half of 2024. This is in line with growth figures that had been forecast for the second half of 2023, and sees the country’s economy remain on a stable footing.

Steady projected growth for first half of 2024

Although projected economic growth of around 1% in early 2024 is not as impressive as figures of around 3.4% in 2022 and 1.8% in 2023, it is certainly no cause for alarm. But what might be behind it?

Higher interest rates are one major factor to consider and have had a negative impact on household spending nationally. This has effectively seen people with less spending power and businesses in Canada generating less revenue as a result.

Interest rate rises have also hit business investments nationally, and less money is being channelled into this area to fuel Canada’s economic growth. When you also factor in how the weak foreign demand for Canadian goods and services has hit export growth lately, the projected GDP growth figure for early 2024 is understandable.

Growth in second half of 2024 expected

Although the above may make for interesting reading for early 2024, the Bank of Canada’s report does show that economic growth is expected to pick up in the second half of the year. This is projected to be due to the decreasing effect of high interest rates on the Canadian economy and a stronger foreign demand for the country’s exports.

Moving forward from this period, it is predicted that inflation will remain at around 3% as we head into 2025, and hit the Bank of Canada’s inflation target of 2% come the middle of 2025. All of this should help the country’s financial status remain stable and prove encouraging for business leaders in the Jewish community.

Canada’s economic growth mirrors iGaming’s rise

When you take a look at the previous growth figures Canada has seen and also consider the growth predicted for 2024 (especially in the second half of the year), it is clear that the country has a vibrant, thriving economy.

This economic growth is something that can be compared with iGaming’s recent rise as an industry around the country. In the same way as Canada has steadily built a strong economy over time, iGaming has transformed itself into a powerful, flourishing sector.

This becomes even clearer when you consider that Canadian iGaming has been a major contributor to the sustained growth seen in the country’s arts, entertainment and recreation industry, which rose by around 1.9% in Q2 of 2023. The healthy state of online casino play in Canada is also evidenced by how many customers the most popular casino platforms attract and how the user experience these operators offer has enabled iGaming in the country to take off.

This, of course, is also something that translates to the world stage, where global iGaming revenues in 2023 hit an estimated $95 billion. iGaming’s global market volume is also pegged to rise to around $130 billion by 2027. These kinds of figures represent a sharp jump for iGaming worldwide and show how the sector is on the ascent.

Future economic outlook for Canada in line with global expectations

When considering the Canadian economic outlook for 2024, it is often useful to look at how this compares with global financial predictions. In addition to the rude health of iGaming in Canada being reflected in global online casino gaming, the positive economic outlook for the country is also broadly in line with expectations for many global economies.

Global growth is also predicted to rise steadily in the second half of 2024 before becoming stronger in 2025. This should be driven by the weakening effects of high interest rates on worldwide economic prosperity. With rate cuts in Canada already expected after Feb 2024’s inflation report, this could happen in the near future.

The performance of the US economy is always of interest in Canada, as this is the country’s biggest trading partner. Positive US Q2 performances in 2023, powered by a strong labor market, good consumer spending levels and robust business investments, were therefore a cause for optimism. As a US economy that continues to grow is something that Canadian businesses welcome, this can only be a healthy sign.

Canada set for further growth in 2024

Local news around Canada can cover many topics but the economy is arguably one of the most popular. A projected GDP growth figure of around 1% for Canada’s economy shows that the financial state of the country is heading in the right direction. An improved financial outlook heading into the latter half of 2024/2025 would make for even better reading, and the national economy should become even stronger.

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The Legal Landscape of Online Gambling in Canada

Online gambling has grown in popularity around the globe in recent years. While many jurisdictions have legalized land-based gambling, it hasn’t applied to online platforms. Nonetheless, Canada is one nation that has legalized online gambling with their provinces’ licensing and regulating sites.

Nonetheless, Canadians of legal age can enjoy playing their favourite online games where available. So many games like slots, blackjack, and roulette still maintain their popularity even in the digital sense.  Want to learn about what’s legal in Canada for online gambling? Let’s take a look.

What is legal for online gambling in Canada?

What is the best online casino in Canada? The list we provide you here should be a good start. It’s also important to note that most Canadian provinces do not have laws that prohibit offshore online casinos.

Many provinces provide licensing to online casinos. They even regulate them as well. For example, Alberta and British Columbia have sites regulated by their respective governing bodies. The Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) allows legal online gambling and oversees the services it offers to Maritime provinces such as New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

However, there are some caveats to address. In Newfoundland and Labrador, online gambling that is not offered by the ALC is considered illegal. Therefore, it is the only Canadian province as of 2024 that prohibits offshore options.

In terms of the legal age, there are three provinces where the legal age is 18: Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec. The remaining provinces establish 19 as the legal age for gambling including online.

Who are the regulatory bodies for gambling in Canada?

At the Federal level, the Canadian Gaming Association is the regulatory body for gambling in Canada. Thus, they cover both land-based and online gambling in the country. There are also provincial and regional regulatory bodies such as the Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) – which covers the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador.  

The Western Canada Lottery Corporation covers Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nunavut, Northwest Territories, and the Yukon Territory. A handful of provinces also have their regulatory bodies covering lottery and gaming.

Canada requires online casinos that wish to accept players from the country to adhere to regulations and licensing. These licenses are provided by provincial regulatory bodies. When licensed, online casinos must follow the regulations and security standards.

However, there is the belief that many of the laws about gambling in Canada may be outdated. This could be because these laws were created long before the advent of the Internet. Therefore, such laws may need to be modernized. Nonetheless, online gambling for the most part is legal, just dependent on the province.

Are there any legal grey areas to discuss?

The grey area that is considered a concern pertains to the use of offshore sites. As mentioned earlier, Newfoundland and Labrador is believed to be the only province that prohibits it. Even online casinos with no licensing by Canadian or provincial authorities accept residents of the country.

On the players’ end, many Canadians are allowed to play at online casinos. However, they may be restricted from certain platforms. This is to ensure that the players themselves are protected from unknowingly playing on platforms that may be illegal. 

What are the other laws and regulations about online gambling in Canada?

Online casinos have implemented measures for responsible gambling. This includes providing support and resources to problem gamblers on their site. They are also restricted regarding the marketing and advertising aspects of promoting their platform. 

One restriction of note is that marketing that is targeted at minors is prohibited. Another prohibits professional athletes from appearing in online casino ads in Ontario.

Even offshore casinos must adhere to these laws and regulations. Especially if they have obtained a license from the provincial bodies that allow them to operate.

Canada’s online gambling is legal – but will things change

As it stands right now, the legality of online gambling in Canada seems to fall under the purview of provincial laws and regulations. Canadian citizens must perform their due diligence further to see which online casinos are allowed by their respective provinces. Just because it may be legal in one province, it may not be the same in others.

Nonetheless, the question is: will any laws relax certain restrictions? Will Newfoundland and Labrador change their tune regarding offshore casinos? It’s unclear what the future holds – but watch this space for any changes about online gambling in Canada.  

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Wiseman, Nathan Elliot
1944 – 2023
Nathan, our beloved husband, Dad, and Zaida, died unexpectedly on December 13, 2023. Nathan was born on December 16, 1944, in Winnipeg, MB, the eldest of Sam and Cissie Wiseman’s three children.
He is survived by his loving wife Eva; children Sam (Natalie) and Marni (Shane); grandchildren Jacob, Jonah, Molly, Isabel, Nicole, and Poppy; brother David (Sherrill); sister Barbara (Ron); sister-in-law Agi (Sam) and many cousins, nieces, and nephews.
Nathan grew up in the north end of Winnipeg surrounded by his loving family. He received his MD from the University of Manitoba in 1968, subsequently completed his General Surgery residency at the University of Manitoba and went on to complete a fellowship in Paediatric Surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital of Harvard University. His surgeon teachers and mentors were world renowned experts in the specialty, and even included a Nobel prize winner.
His practice of Paediatric Surgery at Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg spanned almost half a century. He loved his profession and helping patients, even decades later often recounting details about the many kiddies on whom he had operated. Patients and their family members would commonly approach him on the street and say, “Remember me Dr. Wiseman?”. And he did! His true joy was caring for his patients with compassion, patience, unwavering commitment, and excellence. He was a gifted surgeon and leaves a profound legacy. He had no intention of ever fully retiring and operated until his very last day. He felt privileged to have the opportunity to mentor, support and work with colleagues, trainees, nurses, and others health care workers that enriched his day-to-day life and brought him much happiness and fulfillment. He was recognized with many awards and honors throughout his career including serving as Chief of Surgery of Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg, President of the Canadian Association of Pediatric Surgeons, and as a Governor of the American College of Surgeons. Most importantly of all he helped and saved the lives of thousands and thousands of Manitoba children. His impact on the generations of children he cared for, and their families, is truly immeasurable.
Nathan’s passion for golf was ignited during his childhood summers spent at the Winnipeg Beach Golf Course. Southwood Golf and Country Club has been his second home since 1980. His game was excellent and even in his last year he shot under his age twice! He played an honest “play as it lies” game. His golf buddies were true friends and provided him much happiness both on and off the course for over forty years. However, his passion for golf extended well beyond the eighteenth hole. He immersed himself in all aspects of the golf including collecting golf books, antiques, and memorabilia. He was a true scholar of the game, reading golf literature, writing golf poetry, and even rebuilding and repairing antique golf clubs. Unquestionably, his knowledge and passion for the game was limitless.
Nathan approached his many woodworking and workshop projects with zeal and creativity, and he always had many on the go. During the winter he was an avid curler, and in recent years he also enjoyed the study of Yiddish. Nathan never wasted any time and lived his life to the fullest.
Above all, Nathan was a loving husband, father, grandfather, son, father-in-law, son-in-law, uncle, brother, brother-in-law, cousin, and granduncle. He loved his family and lived for them, and this love was reciprocated. He met his wife Eva when he was a 20-year-old medical student, and she was 18 years old. They were happily married for 56 years. They loved each other deeply and limitlessly and were proud of each other’s accomplishments. He loved the life and the family they created together. Nathan was truly the family patriarch, an inspiration and a mentor to his children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and many others. He shared his passion for surgery and collecting with his son and was very proud to join his daughter’s medical practice (he loved Thursdays). His six grandchildren were his pride and joy and the centre of his world.
Throughout his life Nathan lived up to the credo “May his memory be a blessing.” His life was a blessing for the countless newborns, infants, toddlers, children, and teenagers who he cared for, for his colleagues, for his friends and especially for his family. We love him so much and there are no words to describe how much he will be missed.
A graveside funeral was held at the Shaarey Zedek cemetery on December 15, 2023. Pallbearers were his loving grandchildren. The family would like to extend their gratitude to Rabbi Yosef Benarroch of Adas Yeshurun Herzlia Congregation.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba, in the name of Dr. Nathan Wiseman.

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