JTA — In December, Arkansas Tech University announced that a new scholarship was being named after a longtime professor who had bequeathed nearly $200,000 from his estate for its creation. Michael Link, an associate professor of history, had been working at the public university for 51 years at the time of his passing in 2016. He asked for the scholarship to be named after him and his mother. Shortly after the announcement, Sarah Stein, an assistant English professor at the university, which has a student body of almost 10,000 on its main campus in the city of Russellville, said a fellow staff member told her that Link had been engaging in Holocaust denial. As she started looking into the matter, Stein found a 2005 letter from one of Link’s colleagues to the university president at the time. The colleague wrote that a student had brought to his attention that Link had given students the option of choosing from a reading list of books about the Holocaust.  At least two of the books contained outright Holocaust denial. One of them was published by Noontide Press, which produces anti-Semitic pseudohistorical works such as the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a fabricated text describing a purported Jewish plan to take over the world. Link allegedly presented the books as valid historical texts.


Gay comedian Stephen K Amos was ready to confront Pope Francis over homosexuality before a "life-changing" conversation. Gearing up to meet the pontiff in the Vatican, non-believer Amos was prepared to challenge the head of the Catholic Church over its doctrines. Amos grew up in a believing household but has never felt the need for organised faith, which made him feel like he did not belong either in a religious community, or in a potential afterlife. The stand-up star was given an audience with Francis and braced himself for dismissive answers from the papal leader, who he believes is a progressive exception to the religious rule. But Amos has said his meeting with Francis was life-changing and has given him "faith in human beings". Francis told Amos that all humans have dignity and too much attention is paid to defining adjectives such as "gay".


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will on Thursday begin a series of negotiations as he seeks to put together a coalition government for his fifth term in office, with an initial focus on the key Justice Ministry. President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday officially tasked Netanyahu with assembling a coalition to govern the 21st Knesset with a plea to Israel’s leader to soothe social divides after a combative election campaign. Netanyahu’s most likely option is a 65-seat coalition of right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties comprising Likud (35 seats), Shas (8), United Torah Judaism (8), Union of Right-Wing Parties (5), Yisrael Beytenu (5) and Kulanu (4).