On the eighth day, God made oxycodone

New York City narcotics agents announced the indictment of five Brooklyn men yesterday, members of a Sabbath-observant drug ring that operated out of Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.

Defendants Jack Zibak, 28; Jack Zaibak, 24; Eduard Sorin, 38; David Gerowitz, 37; and Philip Mandel, 25, were charged with multiple crimes, from illegal possession of narcotics to illegal possession of a weapon, according to CBS news.

Police reportedly seized around 900 doses of heroin, as well 335 oxycodone pills, cocaine, Xanax, Suboxone and Klonopin from the group during their initial arrest in April. They also found a sawed-off shotgun and ammunition.

The name of the NYPD sting operation that led to the drug bust? Only After Sundown.

Though cavalier about New York’s drug laws, the group was scrupulous about observing the Sabbath. Text messages from members of the gang show them alerting their clientele of their weekly sundown-to-sunset hiatus.

“We are closing 7:30 on the dot and we will reopen Saturday 8:15 so if u need anything you have 45 mins to get what you want,” they wrote in a group text-message to clients.

Praise for Selig and no sympathy for drug cheats

From the ballparks to the anti-doping war rooms of those leading the battle against performance-enhancing drugs, Major League Baseball's crackdown on drug cheats was hailed as an MVP moment in the fight against doping on Monday.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), that not long ago labeled MLB's anti-doping efforts “a joke”, praised commissioner Bud Selig's get-tough stance.

And the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) viewed the unprecedented suspension as a dramatic shift in the doping culture.

“All clean athletes won an MVP award today, as this is a strong and powerful message that their rights and the integrity of the game will be protected,” USADA chief Travis Tygart told Reuters. “When truth and integrity are upheld that's a good day for clean athletes.”

Following an exhaustive MLB investigation into players linked to Biogenesis, the now-shut Miami anti-aging clinic accused of distributing performance enhancing drugs, Selig dropped the hammer on the drug cheats.

He handed out bans to 13 players, including a record 211 game suspension to baseball's highest paid player, New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez.

“WADA commends the actions taken by the MLB in suspending 13 players associated with the performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) scandal concerning the Biogenesis Clinic in Miami,” WADA said in a statement.

“As we have said previously, non-analytical methods are proving to be an increasingly effective means of helping uncover those athletes who have committed foul play and breached anti-doping rules.

“The MLB has approached the matter in a professional manner throughout, and we look forward to maintaining our close relationship as we move forward in our efforts to protect clean athletes and advocate doping-free sport.”

The 14 players caught in the MLB drug sweep, including Milwaukee Brewers Ryan Braun, the 2011 National League MVP who earlier accepted a 65 game suspension, received little sympathy from fellow players although the players' union said it would back Rodriguez's appeal of his ban.

As the suspension announcement approached, the Twitter-verse exploded with reaction, most of it directed at the drug cheats for the damage they have done to the great “American Pastime”.

“Today is a sad day for MLB, the fans of this great game, and all players who may have been negatively affected by others selfishness,” tweeted Tampa Rays Evan Longoria.

“Ultimately, although today will be a day of infamy for MLB, it is a tremendous step in the right direction for the game we love.”

Tygart singled out Selig for particular praise and Rodriguez for scathing scorn for appealing his suspension and failing to face up to his punishment.

Long accused of turning a blind eye to doping, Selig has seen the light after a series of drug controversies that have badly tainted the sport, and evolved into an anti-doping hardliner.

“I commend the commissioner for his leadership on this issue,” said Tygart.

“Obviously they learned in the late 90s and early 2000s this (doping) is the biggest threat to sport and to have the commissioner of one of most popular pro leagues in the world to take a firm stand and support it is really refreshing and give all clean athletes hope.

“They absolutely did the right thing, when you are between a rock and hard place and you do the right thing that is true leadership.”

Reporting by Steve Keating; by Julian Linden

Iranian VP blames ‘Zionists’ for illicilt drug trade

An Iranian vice president blamed “Zionists” for the global drug trade and said the Talmud encourages promoting addiction in non-Jewish communities.

Mohammad Reza Rahimi, Iran’s first vice-president, made the comments Tuesday during ceremonies marking the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in Tehran. He said evidence of the Zionists’ direct involvement in illicit drugs is the fact that “you cannot find a single addict among the Zionists,” the semi-official Iranian FARS news service reported.

Referring to the Talmud, he said, “The book teaches them how to destroy non-Jews so as to protect an embryo in the womb of a Jewish mother.”

European diplomats were among those in attendence at the United Nations-sponsored ceremony.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman condemned the speech and added that “Hitler said crazy things too – and he was able to execute his plan.”

The Anti-Defamation League called on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to immediately condemn the incendiary anti-Semitic and conspiracy-laden speech.

“To all those who thought that anti-Semitism is a thing of the past, certainly this makes it very clear that it is alive and well again,” ADL National Director Abe Foxman said in a statement. “What makes it more sinister and dangerous is the fact that it comes from a leader of a country that has vowed to destroy the Jewish state and is making efforts to obtain the means to do it.”

Community Briefs

Israeli ‘E’ Ring Uncovered?

Police believe they have broken a major Ecstasy ring, allegedly led by Israeli nationals, with the arrest of 15 suspects and the seizure of more than $8 million worth of the hallucinogenic drug. Capping a two-month investigation centered in the San Fernando Valley, police described the suspects as members of three interlocking circles. Detective Martin Vukotic of the Torrance Police Department’s major narcotics unit identified six of those arrested as Israelis, with an additional one listed as a fugitive.

Four members of the first circle are charged with conspiracy to transport and sell the bulk of the seized drugs, between 350,000 to 400,000 tablets, and are being held in lieu of $5 million each, according to Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office. Three of the four were identified by Vukotic as Israelis, brothers Sami Atias, 24; Nery Atias, 28, and Kobi Amsalm, 31. The fourth member is Portuguese.

Police seized a smaller haul of 26,000 Ecstasy tablets from a second circle of seven members, whose individual bail has been set between $200,000 to $270,000. Rafi Shotland, 34, was identified as an Israeli member, with a second, Mordechay Amado, being sought as a fugitive. The nationalities of other members are listed as American, Ukrainian American and Kuwaiti Canadian. A third circle of four members, described as wholesale buyers of Ecstasy, pulled out guns and tried to rob some of the dealers during a transaction gone wrong. Charged with armed robbery and other counts and held on $3.5 million bail each are Israelis Tal Brisman, 27, and Moshe Matsri, 35, along with two American citizens.

Ecstasy, also known as MDMA, is a synthetic stimulant and hallucinogenic that induces a euphoric high and heightens sensory sensations. Use of the drug can result in long-term brain damage, organ failure and death. One Ecstasy pill costs about 50 cents to manufacture in illegal labs, many located in Holland, and can sell for $20 on the street in Los Angeles and up to $40 elsewhere.

Since making its appearance at all-night rave parties of the 1990s, Ecstasy has gained in popularity across the United States. The illegal market is largely dominated by Israelis, say Vukotic and other law enforcement officers, paralleling the Colombian domination of the U.S. cocaine market.

Last year, Sean Erez, an Israeli Canadian, made headlines in New York when he admitted to running an Ecstasy-smuggling ring, in which he employed Chasidic yeshiva students as couriers. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Davis to UC, CSU: Combat

Gov. Gray Davis has asked the heads of the University of California and of the California State University to take immediate action against anti-Semitic incidents on their campuses and prevent their recurrence in the future. He proposed a seven-point plan of action in a letter to President Richard Atkinson of the nine-campus UC system and Chancellor Charles Reed of the 23-campus CSU system.

He pointed in particular to incidents at or near the UC Berkeley campus, including an attack on two Orthodox men, vandalism at the Hillel House, an illegal sit-in at Wheeler Hall by pro-Palestinian demonstrators and a spate of anti-Semitic graffiti.

Pro-Palestinian groups at San Francisco State University disrupted a pro-Israel observance, posted blood libels and used their Web site for Holocaust denials. The timing of the letter by Davis, who is running for re-election, puzzled some observers, since the incidents occurred from March through May and the campuses have been fairly quiet since.

Specific requests by Davis to Atkinson and Reed included:

A thorough review of all anti-Semitic incidents on all campuses and actions taken so far in response.

Assessment of planned steps to prevent such incidents in the future.

Review of campus policies governing demonstrations to ensure that free speech does not escalate into violence.

Promotion of such values as civility, tolerance and understanding within the academic community.

A review of course descriptions to ensure “that they are forums for intellectual inquiry and not vehicles for discrimination, intimidation and hate.”

Responding for UC, Michael Reese, assistant vice president for strategic communications, told The Journal that Atkinson was troubled by a rise in hate crimes at universities across the country and was working diligently to eliminate such incidents at UC in the future. — T.T.

LAX Victims Mourned

More than 200 people attended a July 21 memorial service for Victoria Hen and Yaakov Aminov, who were murdered at the Los Angeles International Airport El Al terminal on July 4. The memorial, which took place at the Stephen S. Wise Temple, included speeches by Rabbi Mark Diamond, Federation President John Fishel and Deputy Consul General Tzvi Vapni. The commemoration ended with the singing of the Israeli folk song “Al Kol Ayleh,” led by Cantor Linda Kates. — Gaby Wenig, Contributing Writer

‘Muslim’ Shooter Jewish?

Preliminary hearings scheduled for July 17 in the case of Jansha Cohen have been postponed while investigators reexamine the evidence. LAPD Detective Jim Willis, who has been investigating the July 3 shooting at Cheviot Hills recreation center for which Cohen was arrested, said “the facts are quite different than they were July 3,” and the case is “turning diametrically upside down from where it started.”

Cohen, 25, is being held on $2 million bail for the attempted murder of 19-year-old Farzad Sinai, who has been released from the hospital and is recovering at home. Among the discoveries since the shooting and arrest: Cohen originally having been suspected of belonging to a Muslim pride group, “We know now from sources that [Cohen is] Jewish,” Willis said, noting “the city is taking it very seriously,” using the resources of three LAPD divisions, the district attorney’s office and the FBI. — Mike Levy, Staff Writer

Men in Black

The 74th Annual Academy Awards program will be remembered, at least by me, for women’s gowns with faux see-through gauze fronts and men’s suit jackets down to the knees.

Sunday night. For my town, Malibu, Oscar night is a kind of Yom Kippur. Roads are deserted; the local restaurants close early. The sky sparkles with possibility, in which any kind of magic or healing might occur.

It was 9 p.m. I was at home with my parents, having already cried over Sidney Poitier’s tribute and drooled over Denzel Washington. Now I was deep into analysis of Gwyneth Paltrow’s sheer frontage when the doorbell rang.

There in my darkened doorway were two men in black mid-length coats with long, curly beards and black hats; a younger and an older man, with eyes burning so clear and bright that they seemed to be reading from an inner script. There was about their smiling countenances such a sense of purpose, that the word "messenger" sprang to mind. They knew and I knew. They had come for me.

If you read enough Torah, it can come easily to life: a blending of the "then" and the "now," the foretold and the foregone. The slightest stimulus revives the age of prophecy to our own time. Seeing these two men in black, I pictured myself alongside the biblical Abraham as he sat in his tent, healing from his circumcision, awaiting word from the three angels.

Abraham wanted an answer. So do I. Angels always come in human form. Here they were. For a second, I expected these two messengers would present me with a ticket to my destiny. If so, I was relieved to be wearing my wig, ready to go.

"Malkah!" I was shaken from my reverie by the friendly voice of Rabbi Chaim Cunin of our local Malibu Chabad, addressing me by my Hebrew first name. He waves to me on my daily walks as he drives his SUV and talks on his cell phone.

"My father was in the neighborhood and wants to give you a prayer." Sure enough, the older man was Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin, director of West Coast Chabad Lubavitch.

"It’s the Rebbe’s birthday!" the elder Cunin booms out. "You need a blessing."

I certainly do.

Now let us talk about the power of suggestion: How much do you want something, and to what length will you go to get it?

As a person with lung cancer, I know there is only so much that medicine can do. After that, prayer must step in.

The other day, I began a new form of drug, an experimental clinical trial. The drug is so new it only has a number, not a name. It has the potential to work a miracle. That miracle is my prayer.

I am not the only one who is praying. Each time I see my oncologist, he looks at me for answers. His eyes get focused and he studies me for responses. The expert and the novice, neither of us know.

Prayer is possibility; it is the statement: "I don’t know all." Prayer asks, take me beyond my current knowledge to do good work.

Even the traditional kinds of prayer seek the extraordinary, the new.

I invited the rabbis into the living room where my parents were busy looking for Russell Crowe.

The Cunins presented us with a box of shmura matzah.

The elder Cunin asked my full Hebrew name.

"Malkah bas Henya," I said.

Then, while the TV screen showed Halle Berry’s sheer gown embroidered with silk flowers, the Chabad rabbi chanted at great decibel, for God and all of Malibu to hear, the traditional prayer for a full and speedy recovery.

I am getting answers to questions I have not asked.

Jewish Law and RU-486

How do Jews and how does Judaism view the recent approval of Mifeprex, a drug combination that can replace surgical abortion in many women?

Well, that depends on whom you ask.

Mifeprex, popularly call RU-486, can be used to terminate pregnancies for up to 49 days, counting from the beginning of a woman’s last menstrual period. A woman first takes 600 milligrams of mifepristone, which reduces the hormonal stimulation of the fetus. Two days later, she takes 400 micrograms of misoprostol, a drug that causes contraction in order to expel the fetus.

Two weeks after using the drugs, the woman returns to the doctor to be sure the pregnancy was terminated; the drug is 92 to 95 percent effective. Women who take the drug will get a Food and Drug Administration-approved brochure explaining how the drug works and what side effects to expect.

“The pills are certainly simpler than surgical abortion,” says Dr. Stephen Schuster, a gynecologist and clinical assistant professor at New York Hospital-Weil School of Medicine, who is also a member of the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists. “If the abortion is halachically permissible [permissible under Jewish law], then it’s an additional alternative if a doctor feels sure that the patient will contact the medical office immediately if any serious problems develop.”

Not surprisingly, Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Judaism have different ideas on the circumstances under which abortion is permitted under Jewish law.

“By approving mifepristone, the FDA has successfully placed women’s fertility back in the hands of a woman and her doctor,” says Rabbi David Saperstein, director of Reform Judaism’s Religious Action Center. “The Reform movement has long supported a women’s right to make moral decisions about her own life and her own body with privacy and without fear of government intrusion,” Saperstein said. He added that women will now be able to “use their moral and religious conscience in deciding whether or not to terminate a pregnancy within the comfort of their own homes, surrounded by their families.”

Sarrae Crane, spokeswoman for United Synagogue, which represents Conservative Judaism, was more tentative. “Conservative Judaism does not encourage abortion,” said Crane, “but we don’t believe that there should be obstacles put in a mother’s way either. Abortion is a religious and medical decision, not a governmental one.”

The Conservative Rabbinical Assembly Committee on Jewish Law takes the view that an abortion is justifiable if a continuation of pregnancy might cause the mother severe physical or psychological harm or when the fetus is judged by competent medical opinion as severely defective.

Rabbi Moshe Tendler, considered the leading Orthodox authority on Jewish medical ethics, and a professor at Yeshiva University, has reviewed data on the drug for the past 10 years.

Tendler says that Mifeprex must be viewed in the context of what Jewish law says about abortion, which is that abortion is permitted only when a pregnancy places the mother’s life in danger, and in consultation with a rabbinical authority, says Tendler.

In those situations in which Jewish law would allow an abortion and the abortion can be performed within Mifeprex’s time frame, the drugs are the preferred method, says Tendler, because the abortion is performed indirectly – by depriving the fetus of hormonal stimulation – instead of directly; that is, by surgically removing the fetus.

But Tendler is significantly concerned that Mifeprex will be viewed as a form of contraception – “it is much easier to take a few pills a few days after you become pregnant than to take a pill every day in order to avoid a pregnancy,” Tendler says. But that, he says, is halachically impermissible. “Contraception per se is not a free ride when it comes to Jewish law,” Tendler says. “Not for married folk and certainly not for unmarried folk.”

While the drug would be the preferred method for a halachically approved abortion, it is not the preferred method if it is being used as contraception. “In that case,” Tendler says, “it would be the greater of two evils.”

Furrow, Security and Hate

Buford O. Furrow Jr. will be tried first in federal court on charges of murdering a U.S. postal carrier. The state trial of the confessed gunman for the alleged shooting spree at the North Valley Jewish Community Center will be delayed until after the federal case is concluded.

A federal grand jury indicted Furrow Aug. 19 on two charges — the murder of mail carrier Joseph Ileto and the use of firearms to commit the alleged slaying. Both carry a possible death penalty.

Furrow is due to answer the indictment in court on Monday, Aug. 30.

State prosecutors will not be able to try Furrow on the same charges, but will put him on trial for the attempted murder of five persons, including three children, in the Aug. 10 shooting spree at the North Valley JCC in Granada Hills.

Furrow could get life sentences in the attempted-murder cases because Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti plans to charge that the crimes were based on hatred of Jews.

The decision to go first with the federal trial ended a week-long debate between federal and state prosecutors, with the latter citing their greater experience in prosecuting murder charges.

However, law professor and media analyst Laurie Levenson endorsed the order of precedence. She told the Los Angeles Times that, in federal courts, prosecutors automatically win the death penalty if they secure a conviction, while, in state courts, a subsequent penalty trial is required.

The national attention on hate crimes, gun control and terrorism aroused by the Furrow case, the fire bombing of three Sacramento-area synagogues, and the murderous attacks by a white supremacist in the Midwest found expression at a security conference in Sacramento last week.

Speakers at the meeting, convened by the Anti-Defamation League, advised synagogue leaders on basic security precautions and warned of likely future attacks.

Calling for a high degree of alertness, Mike Garner, a Sacramento Police Department bomb technician, said: “This isn’t Israel. This isn’t Ireland. But a little bit of paranoia is healthy.”

The audience also heard warnings by federal experts that hate groups may use the Y2K anxiety and apocalyptic end-of-the- millennium visions as excuses to assault Jews, minorities and homosexuals, the Times reported.

At another event last week, dramatically held at the Orange County jail in Santa Ana, ADL officials released a report that focused on the reportedly fastest-growing white supremacist gang in California.

The Nazi Lowriders are a rapidly rising force in both street crimes and the methamphetamine drug trade, the study warned.

Starting with 28 members in Orange County in 1996, the Nazi Lowriders, within two years, grew to an estimated 1,300 adherents nationwide.

Although gang members hate Jews, Asians and other minorities, their most vicious attacks have been against African-Americans, according to the ADL report.

As a result, Nazi Lowriders are segregated in county jails after repeated violence against black inmates, said Sheriffs Lee Baca of Los Angeles County and Mike Carona of Orange County.

The Times reported that Tom Leyden, a former neo-Nazi skinhead now working for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, described the Lowriders’ operations as unique, combining drug-selling expertise with the white supremacist credo of skinhead groups.