Former KKK leader David Duke to run for Senate


David Duke, the anti-Semitic former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, announced he will run for Senate in Louisiana.

Duke is a registered Republican, and will run in that party’s primary for the Louisiana Senate seat being vacated by Republican David Vitter, according to the Associated Press. Duke served one term as a state representative more than 20 years ago and has run unsuccessfully since then for higher office.

“Thousands of special interest groups stand up for African Americans, Mexican Americans, Jewish Americans, et cetera, et cetera,” Duke said in a message announcing his candidacy. “The fact is that European Americans need at least one man in the United States Senate, one man in the Congress who will defend their rights and heritage.”

Duke supports Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, which has landed Trump in controversy. Earlier this year, Trump demurred when asked to disavow Duke’s support, before disavowing it — claiming he had misunderstood the original question.

Gunman opens fire at Louisiana theater, kills 3, injures 7


A lone gunman opened fire inside a crowded movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana, on Thursday evening, killing two people and injuring seven others before taking his own life, police said.

The gunfire erupted during a 7 p.m. CDT showing of the film “Trainwreck” and took place almost three years to the day after a massacre at a cinema in Aurora, Colorado, that killed 12 people.

Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft said two people died in the hail of bullets before the 58-year-old suspect killed himself with a handgun as officers rushed to the scene shortly after 7:30 p.m.

Seven people suffered injuries ranging from non life-threatening to critical, Craft said.

Authorities said they knew the gunman's identity but were not releasing his name during the early stage of the investigation. They offered no immediate motive and did not disclose any clues they might have found.

“The shooter is deceased. We may never know,” Craft said, adding that the man appeared to have a criminal history that he described as “pretty old.”

Police officials said that bomb-sniffing dogs had alerted on a backpack inside the theater and that they had also signaled “suspicious” items inside the suspect's car. A robot was being used to probe the vehicle further.

Investigators also headed to the gunman's home. His body remained inside the theater several hours later. None of the victims, who were described as ranging in age from teens to early 60s, were immediately identified by authorities.

Witnesses said the gunman abruptly stood up in the darkness of the theater about 20 minutes into the movie and began shooting.

“He wasn't saying anything. I didn't hear anybody screaming either,” Katie Domingue, who was watching the film with her fiance, told the local Advertiser newspaper.

Republican Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal traveled to Lafayette, a city of about 120,000 people roughly 55 miles (90 km) southwest of Baton Rouge.

“As governor, as a father and as a husband, whenever we hear about these senseless acts of violence it makes us both furious and sad at the same time,” he said at a briefing.

Jindal said that two of the wounded victims were teachers and that one of them managed to pull a fire alarm in the theater after being shot.

The shooting came three years after a gunman opened fire at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, during a midnight screening of the Batman film, “The Dark Knight Rises”, killing 12 people and wounding 70 others.

James Holmes, a former neuroscience graduate student at the University of Colorado, was convicted last week on 165 counts of murder, attempted murder and explosives in the July 20, 2012, rampage.

Jurors in that case were trying to determine if Holmes should face the death penalty or life in prison during a penalty phase of that case.

The United States has witnessed several mass shootings in the last two months.

A gunman is accused of a racially motivated shooting at a black church in South Carolina that killed nine church members in June. More recently, a gunman attacked military offices in Tennessee last week, killing five U.S. servicemen.

Jindal, who last month announced his candidacy for president, said he had ordered National Guard members at offices and other facilities to be armed in the wake of the Tennessee attack.

Real estate scion Durst pleads not guilty to Louisiana gun charges


Real estate scion Robert Durst pleaded not guilty on Thursday in Louisiana state court to firearms charges, as prospects for his swift extradition to California to face a murder charge appeared increasingly remote.

Prosecutors in California have been seeking Durst's return to Los Angeles County, where he stands accused of the 2000 slaying of a longtime friend, Susan Berman, in a case recently chronicled in the HBO documentary series “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.”

The final episode of the series aired one day after his March 14 arrest at a New Orleans hotel, where authorities said he was staying under an assumed name with $42,000 in cash, a revolver, a stash of marijuana and a latex mask.

A grand jury in New Orleans indicted Durst on Wednesday on charges of possessing a weapon as a felon and carrying a firearm with a controlled substance.

A federal criminal complaint filed a day earlier similarly accused him of possessing a weapon as a felon. His attorneys on Thursday attended a closed-door hearing on that case, in which he has not been indicted.

“I feel like we're being tag-teamed, and I feel like we need to be in California where the main case is so we can try the case,” Dick DeGuerin, an attorney for Durst, told reporters.

Durst's attorneys have argued that FBI agents who arrested him and initially searched his hotel room did so improperly.

Durst is next due in court on the Louisiana state charges on May 7.

Also on Thursday, the Los Angeles Times published a letter apparently from Durst, in which the writer fondly recalled living in Los Angeles, expressed enjoying professional football and opera and said he left California for Houston for a medical procedure, but made no mention of the charges against him.

The HBO series documented several police investigations of Durst over the years, including the dismemberment killing of a male neighbor in Texas in 2003 for which he was tried and acquitted of murder, and the 1982 disappearance of his wife, Kathleen, in New York.

Toward the end of the series, he was presented with evidence his handwriting appeared to match that of Berman's likely killer. Durst's voice was subsequently captured on a microphone as saying he had “killed them all.”

Durst has long been estranged from his powerful family, known for its significant New York real estate holdings.

Robert Durst denied bail in New Orleans, linked to Vermont cold case


Robert Durst, the real estate scion awaiting extradition to California to face a murder charge, was denied bail on Monday in New Orleans, as police in Vermont said they were probing a link between him and an 18-year-old woman who went missing in 1971.

Durst, recently featured in the HBO documentary “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” must remain in Louisiana on weapons charges until his next court date on April 2, Magistrate Judge Harry Cantrell ruled, finding him a likely flight risk and a potential danger to others.

Durst's lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, did not seek bail but argued his client's arrest and the search of his hotel room earlier this month in New Orleans were improper, and that investigators wrongly interviewed him without counsel present.

Durst's attorneys want to expedite his extradition to Los Angeles County, where he has been charged with the 2000 murder of longtime friend Susan Berman and could face the death penalty.

The HBO documentary broadcast Durst being presented with evidence his handwriting appeared to match that of Berman's likely killer.

The 71-year-old Durst's voice was subsequently captured on a microphone saying that he had “killed them all.”

Long a suspect in the disappearance of his wife, Kathleen Durst, in 1982 in New York, Durst was acquitted in the dismemberment killing of his neighbor in Texas in 2003.

Also on Monday, police in Middlebury, Vermont, said they were probing a link between Lynne Schulze, a college student who vanished 44 years ago, and Durst, who owned a health food store in town.

“We have been aware of this connection for several years and have been working with various outside agencies as we follow this lead,” police said in a statement, adding they were releasing no further details.

The final HBO episode aired one day after Durst's arrest at a New Orleans hotel, where he was staying under an alias and had over $42,000 in cash, a revolver, marijuana and a latex mask that could fit over his neck and head, authorities have said.

FBI agents arrested Durst over fears he would flee the country, the agency has said.

Durst, long estranged from his powerful family with its major New York real estate holdings, appeared in court on Monday with his head shaved, revealing a long scar on the right side of his head.

James O'Hern, an investigator for the local district attorney's office, testified that authorities tracked Durst down after he placed two calls from a phone at the hotel to the voicemail on his personal phone.

Also in his room was a scribbled tracking number for a package that authorities later seized, which contained $117,000, O'Hern said.

Former Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro, who reopened an investigation in 2000 into the disappearance of Durst's wife, was also in court.

Durst's attorney asked her to be removed from the courtroom as a potential witness. Cantrell allowed Pirro, now a Fox News host, to stay.

The Book of Jonah: when doves call


It’s time for Jonah again. I cherish this prophet, whose Hebrew name, “Yonah” means “dove,” the bird of peace. I consider him a member of the family.

Shortly after the deaths
of my mother and sister in 1971, the rabbi of New Orleans’ synagogue, Shir Chadash, gave my dad, Mike Brener (z’l), the honor of reading the Book of Jonah on Yom Kippur afternoon. The rabbi hoped this would engage my father in the community and deliver him from the waters of grief.

My father embraced the invitation. Like Jonah he escaped drowning.



I wrote this prayer several years ago. I read it to a congregation for the first time last year in New Orleans:

Unatana Tokef

We now confront the meaning of this day
As we stare into the face of our own mortality.
We form a circle.
Hands and souls linked,
We stand as community.
Together we contemplate
The Yomim Noraim.
The days of awe,
The days of trembling.

Our eyes scan the room
And lock with the eyes of others,
As we consider the year just begun.

As we cross the threshold of a New Year,
We are not so foolish
As to think that it will be
A year unblemished by tears.

Give us the strength to stand as a circle,
When the year is touched by anguish and pain.
When injustice, illness, and death,
Enter the circle,
Give us the compassion not to avert our gaze.

Only You know what the year will bring.
Who will live and who will die.
Who will face cancer or depression
Or the other maladies of flesh and soul.

Job loss, addiction, infertility, heartbreak,
Temptations to stray from vows to family and community.
Impoverishment, earthquake, hurricanes, acts of terror,
We are vulnerable creatures subject to Your grace.

We do not ask to be exempt from the afflictions of being human.
We only ask that you be with us in the peaks and in the valleys,
That you help us to stand with each other in good times and in bad.
And that the circle of witness and consolation
Remains unbroken
In the coming year.

Amen.

— Anne Brener



In gratitude, my dad framed a wooden structure in the synagogue courtyard to be outfitted each year as a sukkah and used for celebrations. His gift captured the exquisite paradox affirmed after Yom Kippur when we build sukkot: Life is fragile, like these huts, but despite our vulnerability we celebrate zman simchatanu, “The Time of Our Joy.” My father continued to chant Jonah until his death in 1995. He and Jonah became so closely linked that the year after he died, only the rabbi would step up to the bimah on Yom Kippur afternoon to fill his shoes.

Jonah is so human. This prophet, who hears God’s call and runs in the opposite direction, speaks for the part of all of us that would rather sit, like Jonah, in the shade, drink cool drinks, and mutter about evil, rather than arm ourselves with righteousness and set upon the overwhelming wrongs we are called to confront.

While I am no prophet, in the last year I have had the sense of being called. Like Jonah, I would not have chosen my missions. As the Days of Awe approach, I realize that it has been a Year of Awe. The Hebrew word for awe, “yirah,” is variously translated as awe, fear, reverence, terror, and horror. It describes our shock when we come toe-to-toe with the great mysteries of life and death and cannot absorb them. Our spiritual imperative is to traverse the narrow bridge from the awe of fear and trembling to the awe that represents a renewal of reverence and love.

This year, with Jonah as my companion, I have taken two journeys on that bridge. These excursions have given me a frightening view of what Al Gore might call “An Inconvenient Promised Land.” I have visited the Land of Mass Environmental Disaster and the Land of Cancer. I fear these might be waiting for all of us, if we remain mired in fear and denial and do not find a way to steer our community to align with the Yom Kippur biblical call to “choose life.”

My call came three days before Rosh Hashanah last year. It came, not from heaven, but on my cellphone, through God’s representative: the current rabbi of Shir Chadash. I was in New York, after working with the Red Cross in Mississippi. I had intended to go to Baton Rouge where the relief efforts of the New Orleans Jewish agencies were regrouping. But Hurricane Rita was approaching. I headed East instead of West and waited out the storm.

I e-mailed the rabbi to ask if I could help, thinking he would ask me to make pastoral visits to congregants remaining in Louisiana. Within an hour, he called. Most of the congregation was in Houston. He was going there to lead Rosh Hashanah services for them. There was a small group left in New Orleans. They wanted a service. Would I lead?

Like Jonah, I was afraid. In the seconds between his question and my response, I reminded myself that I had only three days to learn an unfamiliar machzor, write sermons and review Torah portions. I had never led High Holiday services without a cantor. I blow shofar poorly. Then I thought of Jonah who ran away when he was called. I said, “Yes.”

A few frantic days later, I was on a plane, headed, not to Nineveh, but to New Orleans.

A flight into New Orleans used to have a party atmosphere. But on the day before the Yomim Noraim, my fellow travelers and I descended with mouths agape in horror. We looked down at the swamps that had reclaimed the Crescent City. My fellow travelers were in two categories. There were the relief workers: FEMA, the Corps of Engineers, Red Cross, Salvation Army and others from around the world on missions of mercy and repair. And there were the returnees: people coming home from exile, having fled to havens across the Southern states and further. I was in both categories.

I was coming to bring relief, and I was coming home. I fled New Orleans years ago, not because of a hurricane, but after the deaths of my mother and my sister. So in a sense, though I have spent much time in New Orleans in the ensuing years, I was also returning from exile. I was making the journey on the day before Rosh Hashanah, the day that had sent me running from the city in 1971. For it was on the day before Rosh Hashanah in 1971 that my mother killed herself.

As I headed to New Orleans, my early losses, my efforts at healing, first for myself and then through my writing and work as a psychotherapist and spiritual director, and, now my rabbinical studies, all of this seemed to be part of some mysterious curriculum that had been preparing me for this for my entire life. My teacher, Rabbi Jonathan Omer-Man, used to ask, “What is the question for which your life is the answer?”

My question had to have been, “Will you come to help after Katrina?”

And there was more. Thirty-five years ago, before the deaths of my mother and sister, I worked for the Ecology Center of Louisiana. I bicycled from the Garden District to the French Quarter each weekday to present a five-minute radio segment. We hoped to alert residents of the Gulf South to the dangers of the chemical by-products of the oil industry; the toxins in our food chain, water and air; global warming; the erosion of the coastal wetlands, and the potential for disaster when the Army Corps of Engineers tries to out-engineer God and nature.

That was in 1970 and 1971.

And when I returned to New Orleans, that day before the Birthday of the World, I witnessed the fulfillment of the environmental nightmare we forecast all those years ago. I visited homes weeks awash in the Katrina flotsam, reeking of mold and chemicals, penetrating every material thing that denoted daily life. Nearly every refrigerator in town was covered with the spores of long-decayed food, and set out on the sidewalk awaiting removal and disposal.

By whom? To where? I smelled the smells. In New Orleans they still smell the smells.

Now, late at night, as I begin to fall asleep, I return to New Orleans. I see the houses that are still stained with waterlines above their doorways and smell the mold that remains in many places more than a year later. I remember the gray of seemingly nuclear winter that covered the foliage, leeched by the fetid water of its verdant semitropical green. I feel the nausea that rose in me as I drove through the debris-filled streets around my father’s flooded and looted store in the Ninth Ward and saw not one other human being.

But that’s not the only nausea I have felt this year. Nausea has been an occasional side-effect of the treatment for the cancer found in my body shortly after I returned from my three months in the Gulf South. During these Days of Awe, I weigh these back-to-back catastrophes to see if there is a relationship between them. I try to find some meaning that will allow me to better align myself with the Holy Call to Heal the World.

As a child in Louisiana, I can remember the black skies of summer. Darkened, not by clouds prophesying rain, but by mosquitoes flocked so thickly they blocked the sun. Clouds of white followed them. Again, not the lamby clouds of impending precipitation, but of DDT belching into the sky to kill the insects. Did this give me cancer?

Or was it the secondhand smoke from my mother’s Salems as I rode in the passenger seat through the streets of New Orleans, stopping periodically at the gas station, where I inhaled the sweet fumes of refined Louisiana crude? Or was it swimming in Lake Pontchatrain before it became illegal?

Or maybe the birth-control pills or the diet sodas or the hormones or the toxins in hair products and cosmetics or the fact that I did not eat enough organic? Overeating? The L.A. air? My laptop sitting on top of the womb where the tumor was found?

During these Days of Awe, we contemplate what we must do to align ourselves with the Holy Call. What better way to observe the days between the Birthday of the World and the Day of Atonement than to ponder our connection to the planet?

When Dana Reeve died, the tender eulogies remembered her grace, courage and kindness. Commentators committed to fighting the disease, finding a cure and wiping the scourge of cancer off the face of the earth. No one mentioned the earth itself.

We early environmentalists made a public relations blunder that weighs heavily on me on these Days of Awe. Instead of “Earth Day … Friends of the Earth … Save the Earth,” we should have appealed to human narcissism, crying out, like Jonah in Nineveh, “Repent … save yourself … your days are numbered…” How grotesque would it have to be to be as effective as Jonah and rouse the community to break through denial and honor the sacred call of tikkun olam? And do we have time? The earth will take the time it needs to recover itself. It is human beings who are in urgent danger.

I was the first one to arrive last year at Shir Chadash on my mother’s yahrzeit to prepare for the next day’s service. Waiting, breathing New Orleans, I pressed my nose to the window, looking past the mud and mold, trying to see if the sukkah was still standing.

In the silence, I heard the cooing of a dove, a yonah. I followed it around the back of the synagogue. It led me over a fence toppled by Katrina, to my father’s sukkah. The sukkah was standing in the courtyard, not a splinter taken by the storm.

The next day, the congregation (100 for the evening service and 170 in the morning) gathered in the small chapel, stripped of its carpet, smelling slightly of mold. Present were Jews from every denomination, from unaffiliated to Chabad. At one point a group of men from Beth Israel, the Orthodox synagogue destroyed by Katrina, shared the bimah with me. There are some fences that Katrina toppled for which we can feel grateful.

Anne Brener is an L.A.-based psychotherapist. She is the author of “Mourning & Mitzvah: Walking the Mourner’s Path” (Jewish Lights, 1993 and 2001), a fourth-year rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and a faculty member of the Academy for Jewish Religion.