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December 5, 2008

100 Years Ago in the Forward

An interesting and unusual case is currently before the courts in Warsaw. The editor of the Polish newspaper S.L. Kempner is being sued by a tailor named Yosef Cohen for reporting in the paper that in order to get out of paying rent, Cohen spread a rumor that ghosts and demons haunted the courtyard of his home at 45 Pavia Street. Cohen’s complaint argues that there are, in fact, ghosts and demons that haunt the courtyard, and that loud banging noises can be heard from under the ground. The complaint also notes that the residents of the building are simple people “who believe in God and in spirits” and that these people will continue to believe in them until scientific research gives a reasonable explanation for such natural occurrences. Cohen called more than 40 witnesses who live in the building — men, women, Jews and Christians — all of whom testified that the courtyard is haunted.

75 Years Ago in the Forward

After deliberating for less than one hour, a federal jury found former bootlegger and racketeer Waxey Gordon guilty of failing to pay income tax. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and given a fine of $20,000. Making matters worse for the erstwhile gangster, Gordon also must pay $60,000 for the cost of the trial. When U.S. attorney Thomas Dewey accused Gordon of lying on the witness stand, the brewer burst into tears. In an oddly worded defense, Gordon’s attorney argued that Gordon should be considered a hero because his brewery gave jobs to hundreds of unemployed men during a period of severe economic depression. The attorney also protested that while those who made Wall Street crash are free, a man who employed hundreds gets arrested. Gordon also argued that he, in fact, wasn’t the owner of the brewery, just a salesman trying to make a living. He said that the real owners, Sam Greenberg and Max Hassel, had been murdered.

50 Years Ago in the Forward

The Syrian-Israeli border has remained “hot” for the past month. Last week, Syrian soldiers shot and killed an Israeli farmer. Israel Border Police responded with light weapons fire, which caused the Syrians to begin shooting large caliber weapons not only at the Border Police, but also at Israeli farmers, who were taking their sheep and cows out to pasture, and at the town of Hulta. In Damascus, a Syrian spokesman said that their soldiers began shooting only after armed Israeli soldiers hiding in herds of cows entered Syrian territory. In related news, Israel confiscated an Egyptian ship that had lost its way near Haifa. The captain of the ship, which was on its way to Lebanon, thought that he had arrived and that Haifa was Beirut.

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