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Israeli Shares Fall 7% After U.S. Downgrade, Local Protests

Tel Aviv brokers
© ReutersSunday retreat is steepest intraday fall since the global economic crisis erupted in 2008
Tel Aviv stocks plunged across the board on Sunday, losing more than 7% in reaction to America's loss of its perfect credit rating late last week and a sharp selloff in world markets Thursday. The Sunday retreat was the steepest intraday fall since the global economic crisis erupted in 2008.

An opening loss exceeding 5% triggered circuit-breakers, causing a series of brief suspensions in trading. But stocks started off almost six percent in the red and by the close, blue chips had lost more than 7%.

Not a single large-cap stock escaped the rout, which had household investors pulling a billion shekels out of mutual funds on Sunday. Sunday's session was marked by sharp drops in stocks associated with Nochi Dankner's IDB group of holding companies and a pullback in oil and gas exploration stocks and biomed shares.

Star of David

Academic Claims Israeli School Textbooks Contain Bias

African migrants in Israeli school
© Ariel Schalit/APChildren of African migrants play inside the Bialik-Rogozin school in Tel Aviv, Israel, in February 2011. Pupils at the school have survived genocide, war and famine. But they were all smiles after learning that a documentary about their plight then eventual safety and asylum in Israel, Strangers No More, had won an Oscar. An Israeli academic is claiming that Israeli schools are racist.
Nurit Peled-Elhanan of Hebrew University says textbooks depict Palestinians as 'terrorists, refugees and primitive farmers'

Nurit Peled-Elhanan, an Israeli academic, mother and political radical, summons up an image of rows of Jewish schoolchildren, bent over their books, learning about their neighbours, the Palestinians. But, she says, they are never referred to as Palestinians unless the context is terrorism.

They are called Arabs. "The Arab with a camel, in an Ali Baba dress. They describe them as vile and deviant and criminal, people who don't pay taxes, people who live off the state, people who don't want to develop," she says. "The only representation is as refugees, primitive farmers and terrorists. You never see a Palestinian child or doctor or teacher or engineer or modern farmer."

Peled-Elhanan, a professor of language and education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has studied the content of Israeli school books for the past five years, and her account, Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education, is to be published in the UK this month. She describes what she found as racism - but, more than that, a racism that prepares young Israelis for their compulsory military service.

"People don't really know what their children are reading in textbooks," she said. "One question that bothers many people is how do you explain the cruel behaviour of Israeli soldiers towards Palestinians, an indifference to human suffering, the inflicting of suffering. People ask how can these nice Jewish boys and girls become monsters once they put on a uniform. I think the major reason for that is education. So I wanted to see how school books represent Palestinians."

Star of David

Palestine: The Wrong Struggle

Israeli Wall Aparthied
© ActivestillsThe real victims of the state's housing policies are Arabs.
Nearly three weeks ago angry young residents of Tel Aviv took to the streets to protest soaring housing prices. The protests have rapidly reached different sectors of the Israeli society. The Israeli media has propagated the event as a glorious democratic manifestation, while Western media rushed to compare it to the people revolutions in neighboring Arab countries.

Yet it must be recalled that by far the Tel Aviv protests are taking place within the Zionist consensus. For many Arab citizens, the protests are widely seen as a bourgeois distributional conflict over Zionist colonial spoils. No wonder the protests are directed against high housing prices per se rather than against the founding policies and fundamental causes behind the crisis.

We should remember that the real victims of the state's housing policies are not the middle-class Jewish Israelis longing for the exclusive and luxurious privileges offered by the Tel Aviv center. They are the poor Arab residents of Jaffa who have been pushed out of the city by decades of ethnic gentrification, urban exclusion and alienation.

In the meantime, the Israeli media reports the event as if the Arab population, the real victims of the state's economic policies, does not exist. The real narrative- the dispossession, the disempowerment, the unrelenting daily grind of injustice and discrimination, and the daily violation of human rights and dignity - does not fit into the format of the Israeli media's agenda.


France: Deviations of MIVILUDES: Raid of 70 policemen on a biodynamism centre

© REUTERS/Robert PrattaPresident of MIVILUDES Georges Fenech
One more case of misuse attempt of the law on the abuse of weakness

On 22 February 2011, on the initiative of MIVILUDES (Inter-Ministerial Mission Monitoring and Fighting against Sectarian Deviations), 70 policemen assisted by the CAIMADES (department of six persons inside the police specialized in sectarian deviations) invested the 'Centre for teaching biodynamism' in Nyons (Drôme region) and interrupted a training program for people lacking self-confidence. Four persons were put in custody, including the director of the Centre, a former 53-year old physiotherapist. The Centre had been created in 2007. They were suspected of 'potentially sectarian activity' and of 'overcharging training sessions' (500 EUR per week).

The raid was triggered by a local anti-sect movement.

While the neighbors considered the people running the Center 'quiet and discreet', the secretary general of MIVILUDES, Hervé Mashi declared that according to information collected in 2009, the founder of the Center seemed to exert mental control on the trainees and to abuse their weakness.

Bad Guys

US: Infamous Abu Ghraib Guard who Brutally Tortured Prisoners Released From Prison

© UnknownCharles Graner was released from prison on Saturday
A U.S. military guard known as a ringleader in the physical abuse and sexual humiliation of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison was released Saturday after serving more than six years in a Kansas military prison barracks, a U.S. Army spokesperson said.

Charles Graner, 42, was released from the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, after serving six-and-a-half years of his 10 year sentence, said U.S. Army spokeswoman Rebecca Steed.

Graner, a former U.S. Army reservist was credited with good conduct. He served his prison term as a private, with no salary and was to be dishonorably discharged after the release.


Flashback Unbelievable: Indiana Court Overturns Right to Resist Illegal Entry

Remember the Revolutionary War? One of the many reasons it happened was because British soldiers, under British rule, were allowed to search and seize colonists' homes using broad warrants, and American colonists had virtually no right to resistance. When the so-called 'writs of assistance' were challenged in a 1754 court, a Boston lawyer named James Otis represented the colonists pro bono, and gave a speech that a then-25-year-old John Adams later called 'the spark in which originated the American Revolution." In 1791, the Fourth Amendment, protecting citizens against unlawful search and seizure, was added to the Constitution, but the concept of privacy in one's home actually dated back to a 1604 common law.

Which is to say the Indiana Supreme Court's new ruling is archaic by at least 400 years, and undermines one of the most important aspects of the Bill of Rights. The Chicago Tribune:

truth is no defence
© Unknown
People have no right to resist if police officers illegally enter their home, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled in a decision that overturns centuries of common law.

Bad Guys

World Leaders Confer on Debt Crises This Weekend

© Reuters / Ralph OrlowskiJean-Claude Trichet, President of the European Central Bank (ECB) ponders a question during his monthly news conference at the ECB headquarters in Frankfurt, August 4, 2011
Global leaders on Saturday arranged a round of emergency calls to discuss the twin debt crises in Europe and the United States that are causing turmoil in financial markets.

After a week that saw $2.5 trillion wiped off global stock markets, they are under pressure to show political leadership and reassure markets that Western governments have both the will and ability to reduce their huge and growing public debt loads.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who chairs the G7/G20 group of leading economies, conferred with Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron ahead of a call planned for this weekend by G7 finance ministers and central bankers.

"They discussed the euro area and the U.S. debt downgrade. Both agreed the importance of working together, monitoring the situation closely and keeping in contact over the coming days," a spokesman for Cameron said.

Standard and Poor's deepened the urgency for action late on Friday by stripping the United States of its top-tier AAA credit rating, a move that over time could ripple through markets worldwide by pushing up borrowing costs and making it more difficult to secure a lasting recovery.


Ayatollah of the RAF: Academic 'university' head is Muslim convert who claims Nazi gas chambers were British propaganda and criticises Libya air strikes

© unknownRAF role: Dr Joel Hayward teaches at the RAF's pilot training college
The head of studies at the Royal Air Force pilot training college is a convert to Islam who has criticised Nato air strikes on Libya in a Muslim magazine.

Dr Joel Hayward is dean of the college at Cranwell, the RAF's equivalent of Sandhurst, and has taught many of the pilots spearheading the military operation against Colonel Gaddafi.

But, to the dismay of defence chiefs, he has cast doubt on the widely held belief that the Nato actions averted the mass killing of civilians in Benghazi. He also warned against the RAF becoming 'the air corps of a rebel army'.


270,000 Attend Israel's Biggest Pocketbook Protest

© The Associated Press / Ariel SchalitThousands of Israelis march during a protest against the rising cost of living in Israel, in central Tel Aviv , Israel, Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011. Angry over the ever increasing cost of living, Israelis poured en masse into the streets of major cities Saturday night in a big show of force by the protest movement that is sweeping the country and proving to be a real challenge to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government. Thousands of mostly middle class Israelis marched through the streets in central Tel Aviv waving flags, beating drums and chanting: "Social justice for the people."
At least a quarter of a million Israelis, fed up with the mounting cost of living, poured into the streets of the country's major cities Saturday night to demand that their leaders address their plight - and proving by their tremendous numbers that they will not go away.

The snowballing protest, which started out three weeks ago with a few 20-somethings pitching a tent encampment on a posh Tel Aviv street, has swiftly become a big headache for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, seen by many middle class Israelis as too friendly to big business. An aide to the Israeli leader said the government would soon devise a program to break the monopolies and cartels he blames for Israel's economic ills.

Protesters appeared to have a more sweeping agenda on their minds. Traveling by car, bus, train and foot, some 230,000 Israelis, according to police estimates, descended on Tel Aviv to mount the largest social protest in the country's history. Young, old and middle-aged, they beat drums and waved flags, some chanting, "Social justice for the people" and "Revolution."

Some held signs reading "People before profits," "Rent is not a luxury," and "Working class heroes." In Jerusalem, more than 30,000 protesters gathered outside Netanyahu's residence after streaming past some of the most expensive real estate in the city. Other protests took place in further flung cities in Israel's north and south, drawing about 10,000 people.


The Case for Moving Your Money

handful of money
© Unknown
Hey I think the time is right for a palace revolution
but where I live the game to play is compromise solution

-The Rolling Stones.

Most of us have an idea of what a small-town banker should be like. It's George Bailey, the character Jimmy Stewart played in It's a Wonderful Life.

We also have an idea of what a Wall Street "too big to fail" banker might look like. It's Gordon Gekko, the character Michael Douglas played in Wall Street and the sequel, Money Never Sleeps.

Although everyone wants to bank with George and no one wants to bank with Gordon, people keep winding up at Wall Street banks.

According to FDIC data from 2009, 57 percent of bank assets are with the top twenty banks. Thirty-eight percent of bank deposits went to the five largest banks, up dramatically from 1994 when only 13 percent of deposits went to the big five.


Big banks spend big money on advertising. The website Business Insider War Room combed through the annual reports of publicly traded companies and found that JP Morgan Chase spent $2.4 billion on advertising in 2010. Bank of America spent $1.9 billion, and Citigroup spent $1.6 billion.

The billions being spent in advertising would seem to casual observers to be the overwhelming factor in attracting customers, but that doesn't appear to the case.

My friend, New York Times opinion columnist Joe Nocera, wrote an award-winning book, A Piece of the Action. Joe tracked the evolution of personal finance in America, including the credit card and banking industries. He cited research that said people picked their bank primarily because of its convenience to where they live or work. No other feature mattered. Very few consumers shopped for better interest rates, lower fees, or better services.

Little has changed since Nocera wrote his book in 1994. A 2008 Compete.com survey asked 1,600 people who banked online about online and offline activities. The survey found that 52.6 percent gave "convenient location or ATM" as the reason they chose their bank. Less than 20 percent gave bank fees as the reason. And, despite the billions being pumped into advertising, only 6.3 percent said they chose their bank based on that factor. Since Bank of America has 18,000 ATMs and 6,233 branches, more than any other bank, it would make sense that it attracts the most deposits.

Based on the data and history, getting people to move their money from a Wall Street bank to a possibly less-convenient local bank would seem like an uphill challenge. But, at the beginning of 2010, Arianna Huffington and some of her friends decided to take on that challenge by creating the "Move Your Money" project.

According to a December 29, 2009, article that Huffington and economist Rob Johnson wrote for the Huffington Post, the idea arose at a pre-Christmas dinner they attended with political strategist Alexis McGill, filmmaker Eugene Jarecki, and Nick Penniman of the Huffington Post Investigative Fund. The group discussed "what concrete steps individuals could take to help create a better financial system."

They started with a website and a video. It has grown from there. According to Sara Ackerman, coordinator for the Move Your Money project, more than 4 million people moved their money away from Wall Street banks in 2010. Michael Moebs, CEO of the economic research firm Moebs Services, said that between 13 million and 17 million people will move their money from Wall Street to a community bank or credit union by the end of the project's third year (2012).

There are some practical reasons for consumers to move their money. Moebs Services research shows that overdraft fees in 2009 averaged $35 for large banks compared to $25 for small banks. A similar gap existed with bounced check fees and stop-payment orders.

Personal service is another point in favor of small banks. According to J.D. Power and Associates (and quoted on the Move Your Money website), "small banks have consistently rated higher in overall customer satisfaction than their Wall Street counterparts and that gap has only widened in the last few years."

Supporting small business is another benefit that Move Your Money touts. According to FDIC data, 57 percent of bank assets are with the twenty largest banks, but only 28 percent of small-business lending comes from that top twenty. Small banks (defined as under $1 billion in assets) provide 34 percent of the loans, and mid-size banks (assets between $1 billion and $10 billion) provide 20 percent of the loans.

Although data shows that moving money from a Wall Street bank has benefits for the consumer and for Main Street, a primary motivation for the Move Your Money movement is to decrease the power of Wall Street banks and their role in the financial markets.