Globe Briefs July 30

Globe Briefs July 30

Wecht: Nisman case more likely a homicide

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — Renowned forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht believes that the late Argentine special prosecutor Alberto Nisman likely was murdered.

“The evidence argues strongly and scientifically against it being a suicide,” Wecht said in an interview aired two weeks ago by Argentina television’s Channel 13. “It is much more likely that this was a homicide than a suicide.”

Wecht, of Pittsburgh, has been president of the American Academy of Forensic Science and the American College of Legal Medicine, and has performed about 17,000 autopsies. He has consulted on several high-profile cases, including the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

At the request of the Argentine current events show “Periodismo para todos,” hosted by Argentine journalist Jorge Lanata, Wecht analyzed Nisman’s case photos, videos, studies and forensic reports. Interviewed from Pittsburgh, Wecht said that the position of the gun would have made it difficult for Nisman to shoot himself.

Forensic experts have differed on the cause of death. Many have said it will be difficult to establish one unified version of how Nisman died, with some experts believing it was suicide and others murder.

Prosecutor Viviana Fein has not yet released a final ruling.

“I cannot determine for the moment whether it was a suicide or a homicide,” she said on March 6, when she convened the authors of the independent forensic report to examine their evidence.

Nisman was found shot to death in January in his Buenos Aires apartment hours before he was to present his evidence on an alleged government cover-up that implicated Argentine President Cristina Kirchner into Iran’s role in the deadly 1994 attack on the Buenos Aires Jewish center. Argentine courts dismissed Nisman’s complaint.

Author E.L Doctorow dies at 84

American Jewish author E.L. Doctorow, who wrote the novel “Ragtime,” has died at age 84.

Doctorow died of complications from lung cancer last week in Manhattan, according to The New York Times. Author of a dozen novels as well as assorted other works, Doctorow primarily wrote historical fiction. “Ragtime,” published in 1975, is set in New York in the lead-up to World War I and includes characters such as Sigmund Freud and the anarchist Emma Goldman. His works spanned periods from the Civil War to the present day.

Doctorow won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. He was a finalist for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Among his other prominent works are “Billy Bathgate,” “The Book of Daniel” and “The March.” Several of his books have been adapted into films.

Doctorow was born in 1931 in the Bronx to Jewish emigrants from Russia. He told the Kenyon Review that he grew up surrounded by talented Jewish refugees who had fled Nazi Germany. He attended Kenyon College and published his first novel, “Welcome to Hard Times,” in 1960. He lived in New York City.

Doctorow is survived by his wife, three children and four grandchildren.

Jewish tech billionaire gives $100M to Hawking’s search for aliens

A Jewish-Russian tech billionaire is teaming up with renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking to launch an unprecedented search for intelligent extraterrestrial life.

Yuri Milner, an investor in tech companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Spotify, is dedicating $100 million to the 10-year project, called the Breakthrough Listen Initiative, according to the French news agency AFP. The initiative will use powerful telescopes to scan the stars, reaching farther than previous methods employing radio signals or lasers.

The project will be 50 times more sensitive than previous attempts and scan 10 times more area, according to AFP. Milner said the project will take the search for aliens to “a completely new level.”

But Hawking warned that dangers come along with the project: If a civilization is far more developed than the Earth’s, it may view humans as unevolved and of no value.

“A civilization reading one of our messages could be billions of years ahead,” Hawking said, according to AFP. “If so, they will be vastly more powerful and may not see us as any more valuable than we see bacteria.”

New to Republican race, Kasich espouses wisdom of Torah

Political columnist Matt Bai recently got an old-fashioned Jewish guilt trip for skipping synagogue and not from his rabbi or his Jewish mother, but from an evangelical Christian politician angling for the White House.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who last week officially joined the jam-packed race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, is an ardent Protestant. But when he sat down with Bai in Columbus, Ohio, he went with a JDate-style icebreaker: “Do you go to synagogue?”

Bai, who spent years covering politics for The New York Times Magazine before moving to Yahoo News, admitted in a recent feature on Kasich that the question made him feel “oddly shamed.” And Kasich didn’t stop at asking about Bai’s shul attendance.

“Do you read the Torah?” the governor pressed. “Maybe you should. Do you realize how much wisdom there is for life?”

On paper, Kasich is a near-perfect Republican presidential candidate, Bai noted. The son of a mailman, he was elected to Congress when he was 30 and went on to become the chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee, where he helped balance budgets in the 1990s.

After a decade working for Lehman Brothers and hosting his own show on Fox News, Kasich was elected governor in 2010. Last year, he was re-elected with 64 percent of the vote — having presided over an impressive economic turnaround.

Yet, Kasich is not discussed as a top-tier candidate, and his supporters worry that unscripted “riffs” — part of an “impetuous” and “self-involved” public persona, according to Bai — aren’t helping. On the other hand, a certain bombastic billionaire is currently leading the Republican field.

Even if the whole leading-the-Free-World-thing doesn’t work out, Kasich has indicated he’ll be just fine. Speaking in April about a potential presidential run, he said: “If they like it, great. If they don’t like it, I’ll play more golf.”

N.Y. woman identified as ex-Chasidic jumps 20 stories to her death

A New York woman who has been identified as a former Chasid jumped 20 floors to her death from a rooftop bar in Manhattan.

Faigy Mayer, 30, grew up as a Belz Chasidic in the Williamsburg community of Brooklyn, media outlets reported.

According to reports, she climbed a ledge and jumped Monday evening, July 27 during a party on the roof of the 230 Fifth Restaurant and Lounge in the Flatiron District, just south of Midtown. Some bar patrons continued to drink after the woman jumped, and police cordoned off the area.

Mayer, who worked as an iOS developer at Appton, identified herself on her Twitter feed as “Former #hasid who codes in #iOS. Love#coding, #beacons, #bacon, the#appleWatch and life!”

Among the organizations with likes on Mayer’s Facebook page, renamed “Remembering Faigy Mayer,” is Openly Off the Derech, a support group for formerly religious people.

The Gothamist also reported that photos on her Facebook page showed her with members of the group Footsteps, which helps former Haredi Orthodox Jews make the transition to the secular world.

Mayer was featured in a 2012 National Geographic documentary titled “Only For God: Inside Hasidism,” which profiles several people discussing how they left the tight-knit community to live a secular lifestyle.

Poll: U.S. Jews much likelier to back Iran deal than non-Jews

A poll showed American Jews are much likelier than non-Jews to back the Iran nuclear deal.

The Los Angeles Jewish Journal poll published July 23 shows 49 percent of American Jews support the deal and 31 percent oppose it. Among all Americans, 28 percent support the deal and 24 percent oppose it.

Similarly, 53 percent of Jewish Americans polled want Congress to allow the deal to go ahead, while 35 percent want Congress to stop the deal. Among all Americans, the numbers are 41 percent wanting Congress to allow the deal and 38 percent supporting Congress should it kill the deal.

These polling results are largely the result of the fact that more Jews are Democrats than Republicans.  Somewhat confusedly more American Jews also believe that the Iran deal will make Israel more endangered (49 percent) rather than safer (33 percent), and most are not confident that the deal will prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons over the next 10 years or so (54 percent compared to 42 percent).