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Star of David

Israel: Unknown Chemicals Sprayed in Palestinian Cars at Checkpoints

Jenin checkpoint contraption 1
© Abir Kopty
Lately I've been going to Jenin every two or three weeks with family members. We usually do our vegetable shopping in the city market.

Last Saturday, on our way back from Jenin to Nazareth, we were surprised to find a new technology to check "suspicious" cars at the Israeli checkpoint.

The checkpoint examination usually goes like this: There are about six lines of cars going out through the checkpoint. At each line, there are one or two "security" officers that ask for IDs, and decide whether the car and its riders do or do not constitute a major threat to Israel's "security" and "existence." If they do not, the officer gives the car a white ticket, which means they are done with the "security" check. If they do, then the car gets a green ticket. Once you get the green one, you have to go to the far right line for a special check. You are asked to open all doors, take out all your belongings and go through a physical check while the car is separately searched.

You can't ever understand the logic and the considerations of any of the checkpoint's officers. Sometimes our car gets the green ticket, sometimes the white.
Nuke

12,000 Protest Nuclear Power in Tokyo

People with “No Nukes” signs march, Tokyo
© AFP
People with “No Nukes” signs march on a Tokyo street, demanding Japan abandon atomic power on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012.
Thousands demonstrated in Tokyo on Saturday against nuclear power generation, 11 months after a massive earthquake and tsunami sparked reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Kenzaburo Oe, the 1994 Nobel prize winner for literature, told a central rally at Yoyogi Park, "Radioactive waste from nuclear power plants will be borne by generations to come."

"This must not be condoned by human beings. It is against ethics," the 77-year-old novelist said.

The rally was attended by 12,000 people, according to its organizers. Police estimated the turnout at around 7,000.

The March 11 quake-tsunami disaster left more than 19,000 dead or missing and sparked the Fukushima crisis, the world's worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, on Japan's northeast coast.
Info

Chinese Village Experiments with Democracy

© Agence France-Presse
A local resident casts his vote in first-ever open democratic elections for the village committee in Wukan, in Shanwei city, south China's Guangdong province.
A Chinese village which staged an extraordinary rebellion against authorities last year has taken a key step in a process to freely elect its own governing committee, according to residents.

Thousands of residents of Wukan in the southern province of Guangdong voted Saturday for more than 100 representatives who will put forward candidates for a seven-member village committee to be elected in March, they said.

The move followed protests by the village last December when they faced off with authorities for more than a week in an uproar over land grabs.

The demonstrations prompted a drawn-out stand-off with police and officials, but the Guangdong provincial government eventually capitulated and sought to pacify the villagers as their case made headlines.

The rare concessions included pledges to support free village polls.
People

Liberal Constipation: Conservatism Thrives on Low Intelligence and Poor Information

There is plenty of research showing that low general intelligence in childhood predicts greater prejudice towards people of different ethnicity or sexuality in adulthood.

Self-deprecating, too liberal for their own good, today's progressives stand back and watch, hands over their mouths, as the social vivisectionists of the right slice up a living society to see if its component parts can survive in isolation. Tied up in knots of reticence and self-doubt, they will not shout stop. Doing so requires an act of interruption, of presumption, for which they no longer possess a vocabulary.

Perhaps it is in the same spirit of liberal constipation that, with the exception of Charlie Brooker, we have been too polite to mention the Canadian study published last month in the journal Psychological Science, which revealed that people with conservative beliefs are likely to be of low intelligence. Paradoxically it was the Daily Mail that brought it to the attention of British readers last week. It feels crude, illiberal to point out that the other side is, on average, more stupid than our own. But this, the study suggests, is not unfounded generalisation but empirical fact.

It is by no means the first such paper. There is plenty of research showing that low general intelligence in childhood predicts greater prejudice towards people of different ethnicity or sexuality in adulthood. Open-mindedness, flexibility, trust in other people: all these require certain cognitive abilities. Understanding and accepting others - particularly "different" others - requires an enhanced capacity for abstract thinking.
Stormtrooper

US: Cop allegedly pulled gun on pregnant woman over too many grocery items in Illinois

Oswego, Illinois residents Jason and Nicole Thurmond.
© Screenshot via NBC Chicago
Oswego, Illinois residents Jason and Nicole Thurmond.

Police in Kendall County, Illinois said Friday that they were investigating whether an off-duty officer drew his firearm and pointed it at a pregnant woman because she had more items than Walmart recommends for self-checkout lanes.

Nicole Thurmond and husband Jason were reportedly checking out recently at a Walmart store in Oswego, Illinois when a man confronted them wearing civilian clothing, not identifying himself as an officer. The couple said it was only after his gun was drawn that the man told onlookers he was a police officer.

Nicole Thurmond told NBC Chicago that officer Craig French just walked up to her and said, "Don't you know how to count? You are holding up the whole store."

When her husband returned from getting an item they forgot, he described the situation he encountered as "a guy in her face, yelling at her."
People

Hundreds of Thousands Rally in Portugal Against Austerity

Portugal rally
© AFP
Hundreds of thousands protested in Portugal Saturday against austerity measures ahead of next week's talks with international creditors, with unions vowing to keep up the pressure.

Officials from the so-called Troika -- the European Union, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund -- will next week evaluate progress on the country's bailout programme.

Demonstrators arrived in Lisbon from across the country in the rally described as one of the country's biggest in three decades.

Many were brandishing banners such as "The struggle continues" and "No to exploitation, no to inequality, no to impoverishment."

The CGTP union which called the march estimated 300,000 people took part, while police would not give any figures, in line with their usual practice.

"We are convinced that it is one of the biggest demonstrations in the last 30 years," said Armenio Carlos, general secretary of the CGTP, in a speech at the end of the protest in the landmark Praca do Comercio (Commerce Square).
Butterfly

US: Whitney Houston Dies at 48

Whitney Huston
© The Associated Press
Whitney Houston, who reigned as pop music's queen until her majestic voice and regal image were ravaged by drug use, erratic behavior and a tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown, has died. She was 48.

Publicist Kristen Foster said Saturday that the singer had died, but the cause and the location of her death were unknown.

At her peak, Houston the golden girl of the music industry. From the middle 1980s to the late 1990s, she was one of the world's best-selling artists. She wowed audiences with effortless, powerful, and peerless vocals that were rooted in the black church but made palatable to the masses with a pop sheen.

Her success carried her beyond music to movies, where she starred in hits like The Bodyguard and Waiting to Exhale.

She had the he perfect voice, and the perfect image: a gorgeous singer who had sex appeal but was never overtly sexual, who maintained perfect poise.

She influenced a generation of younger singers, from Christina Aguilera to Mariah Carey, who when she first came out sounded so much like Houston that many thought it was Houston.
Handcuffs

Chinese 'Birth Agent' Charged in Hong Kong

© unknown
A woman has admitted arranging for mainland Chinese women to give birth in Hong Kong, reports said Saturday, the first prosecution of its kind as the southern city cracks down on the practice.

The Chinese city has been struggling with an influx of tens of thousands of mainland women who come to Hong Kong each year to give birth, to gain residency rights for their children and to circumvent China's one-child policy

Local women have taken to the streets to protest at the influx, which critics say has led to a shortage of maternity beds in hospitals. The outcry has prompted the government to step up enforcement.

Mainland woman Xu Li, 29, was charged in a Hong Kong magistrates' court on Friday for her role as a "birth agent", according to the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post and Apple Daily newspapers.
V

People Power! Europeans Protest Controversial Internet Pact

ATCA
© Agence France-Presse/Nikolay Doychinov
Protesters hold a a banner and wear Guy Fawkes masks during a protest against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) in downtown Sofia.
Tens of thousands of people marched in protests in more than a dozen European cities Saturday against a controversial anti-online piracy pact that critics say could curtail Internet freedom.

Some 41,000 people rallied in Germany, including 16,000 in Munich and 10,000 in Berlin, against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which was negotiated between the 27-nation European Union and 10 other countries.

Many brandishing "Stop ACTA" banners and wearing Guy Fawkes masks -- a symbol of hacker-led rallies -- the mostly young protestors also braved subzero temperatures to mass in cities such as Budapest, Bucharest, Bratislava, Prague, Paris, Sofia, Tallinn, Vilnius and Vienna.

ACTA is awaiting ratification from several governments, but intense opposition led by Internet users has forced some EU states including Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia to freeze their ratification process.

"We see the suspension of ratification as a victory, but we cannot over-estimate it," said the vice-president of the Czech Republic's pirate party, Mikulas Ferjencik.
Nuke

US: Community Takes Stand on San Onofre Nuclear Plant

San Onofre Nuclear plant
© Courtesy of SONGS
Laguna Beach will back San Clemente's appeals to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to ensure that San Onofre doesn't replicate last year's disaster in Fukushima, Japan.

The City Council on Tuesday voted 4 to 1 to send a letter to the commission requesting the resolution of public concerns before any consideration is given to extending San Onofre's operating license due to expire in 2022.

The letter had been requested by San Clemente Mayor Lori Donchak, but the action might be moot.

"Southern California Edison has not made a decision on whether we'll apply for renewal," said Edison spokesman Christopher Abel.

The majority of 14 speakers at Tuesday's meeting would be delighted if Edison immediately dismantled the plant, let alone opted not to renew the license.

Abel verified that 4,000 tons of high-level, radioactive waste are stored there.

"There is no way the plant should be storing waste material," said Kathleen Jepson-Bernier.
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