N.Y. Lawmaker Carl Kruger Quits Over Bribery Charges


A New York lawmaker who had strong Orthodox Jewish backing because he rejected a gay rights initiative quit after pleading guilty to charges that he funneled bribes through his gay partner.

State Sen. Carl Kruger, a conservative Democrat who has held his Brooklyn seat since 1994 and was one finance chairman, resigned Tuesday just before pleading guilty to laundering up to $1 million from lobbyists through Michael Turano, a real estate agent described by prosecutors as Kruger's "intimate associate" and housemate.

Matisyahu Sheds Signature Beard


Jewish reggae star Matisyahu shaved his signature beard and issued a statement saying "No more Chassidic reggae superstar."

The artist posted two photos of his beardless face on Twitter and a statement about his decision on his website.

"When I started becoming religious 10 years ago it was a very natural and organic process," he wrote. "I felt that in order to become a good person I needed rules -- lots of them -- or else I would somehow fall apart. I am reclaiming myself."

Ross: Iran Nukes Pose Danger Of Nuclear War


The greatest danger posed by a nuclear Iran would be the increased likelihood of a Middle East nuclear war, Dennis Ross said.

"If Iran has nuclear weapons, the potential for nuclear war in the Middle East goes up dramatically," Ross, who retired as the White House's top Iran policy official, said during his first post-Obama administration address at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Second Explosion At An Iranian Facility Unexplained


Seven people were killed in an explosion at an Iranian steel mill that has been linked to the country's nuclear program.

The explosion occurred Dec. 11 at the Ghadir steelworks. The plant opened six months ago.

Some of the dead are believed to be North Korean nuclear experts, according to reports. The mill reportedly is processing North Korean steel in order to produce the proper grade of steel to construct centrifuges for uranium enrichment.

Jewish Activists Vandalize West Bank Army Base


Following a confrontation at a West Bank military base, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered Israeli security forces to "act aggressively" against Jewish activists who attack soldiers.

The directive issued Tuesday came after West Bank settlers and right-wing activists vandalized the base late Monday night after gathering at a nearby outpost following rumors that it was to be dismantled..

Israel Apologizes to N.Y. Times Photographer


Israel's Defense Ministry apologized to a pregnant New York Times photographer who was forced to go through an X-ray machine during a security check.

Lynsey Addario reportedly was made to go through the X-ray machine three times despite being asked to be patted down, and then was required to go through a strip search when entering Israel from the Gaza Strip, The Associated Press reported. The incident occurred last month.

Addario, who is based in India, said she was mocked by soldiers while in the X-ray machine.

Wife Of Alan Gross Urges Activism On His Behalf


The wife of American contractor Alan Gross called for increased pressure on Congress and President Obama to get her husband released from a Cuban jail.

Judy Gross spoke Monday at a protest on her husband's behalf outside the Cuban Interests Section in Washington. The rally was organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington.

Dec. 3 will mark two years since the arrest of Alan Gross.

“I spoke with Alan two days ago. Never have I heard him more hopeless and depressed,” Judy Gross told the rally.

Iranian Blast Cause Unknown


The cause of an explosion that rocked an Iranian city that houses a key nuclear facility remains unclear.

Monday's explosion in Isfahan reportedly caused windows to shake throughout the city.

The local government told news agencies that the explosion was part of a military drill. Some news agencies said the explosion came from a gas depot.

The Isfahan uranium conversion plant is supervised and frequently visited by the United Nation's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Rockets from Lebanon strike Israel


Four Katyusha rockets were fired into northern Israel from Lebanon -- the first rockets to be fired on the area since 2009.

The rockets fired late Monday night caused damage to two buildings in the western Galilee and struck a gas tank, causing a fire that took firefighters hours to control. No one was injured in the attacks.

The Sheikh Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which is affiliated with al-Qaida, on Tuesday claimed responsibility for the attacks. The Israel Defense Forces had said that it did not believe that Hezbollah fired the rockets.

Iceland Recognizes Palestinian State


Iceland's parliament voted to recognize an independent state of Palestine.

The motion, which passed Tuesday, paves the way for Iceland to become the first Western European nation to recognize a Palestinian state. In December, several South American nations recognized Palestine, including Brazil, Venezuela and Bolivia.

Tuesday's motion, which also called for a peaceful resolution of the conflict on the basis of mutual recognition of Israel and a Palestinian state, came on the 64th anniversary of the U.N. vote to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states.

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