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Sat, 30 May 2020
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Cult

Israeli extremists spread violent mayhem

Manger Square Christmas tree
© Musa Al Shaer / Getty
A Palestinian municipal worker decorates Bethlehem's Christmas tree in Manger Square.
If Christian pilgrims traveling to Bethlehem for Christmas this week happen to witness violence, for the first time militant Jews, not Palestinians, are most likely to be the perpetrators.

Now that a far right-wing government has governed Israel for almost three years, settlers feel emboldened so that Jewish extremists are wreaking havoc and mayhem. West Bank Palestinians, meanwhile, are standing by quietly, largely minding their own business - even as these settler-marauders repeatedly attack them. This has never happened before.

In the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority now employs a widely respected police force that has effectively kept the peace. And so it certainly will in Bethlehem. Secret cooperation between Palestinian police and Israeli security forces is "one of the reasons Israeli citizens enjoy such a calm security situation of late," Reuven Pedatzur, a columnist for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, wrote last summer, before the settler-extremist violence had reached its zenith.

But in just the last few weeks, these settlers have burned two mosques, torched Palestinian homes and cars, threatened Israelis they perceive to be leftist and attacked an Israeli army base, wounding one of its officers. That final act, attacking the army, finally roused the government from its lackadaisical approach to the violence.

Stormtrooper

Welcome Home! US Soldiers just back from Iraq get new orders: Afghanistan

 Soldiers arrive at their home base in Fort Hood, Texas, last week after being one of the last U.S. combat units in Iraq.
© CNN

Soldiers arrive at their home base in Fort Hood, Texas, last week after being one of the last U.S. combat units in Iraq.

Atlanta, Georgia -- Soldiers who just returned from Iraq are among several thousand being ordered to Afghanistan in six months as part of a mission designed to beef up Afghan forces ahead of a planned 2014 U.S. military withdrawal, officials said.

News of the pending Afghanistan deployments came as families at bases across the country were celebrating the return in recent days of troops who turned off the lights at a number of U.S. bases ahead of an end-of-the-year deadline to leave Iraq.

"We are glad that we have brought all soldiers back home in time for Christmas to spend with loved ones. We do have to put information out about an upcoming mission, though," the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, said Tuesday on its Facebook Page.

Heart - Black

US: Police torture and kill man with pepper spray

Tampa, Florida- No doubt you've heard the adage: a picture is worth a thousand words. A picture of 62-year-old Nick Christie could be worth thousands of dollars when a jury sees it.


The photo shows the Ohio man restrained inside the Lee County Jail with his body covered in pepper spray.

"This photo is a picture of a man who is strapped to a chair naked inside a jail for hours with a hood over his face. That evokes thoughts of being tortured," says Cleveland-based lawyer Nick DiCello who represents the Christie family.

Cult

Israel's treatment of women is hardly that of a democracy

Israel bus
© David Silverman/Getty
A woman on a bus looks out at an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man in Jerusalem, Israel.
A 'dignified' dress code and gender segregation show Israel is fast becoming bigoted about dissent and difference

While we've been distracted by alarmism over newly elected Islamist leaders enforcing hijabs and bikini bans in the Arab world, Israel is already embroiled in attempts to rein in this unruly matter of female "immodesty".

Last week, Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported on businesses in the southern town of Sderot signing up to a "dignified" dress code - whereby female employees must be "modestly" clothed. So far 20 stores have adopted this long-sleeves directive, initiated by a religious group which says it did not actively threaten to boycott non-signatory shops - but which, nonetheless, has considerable buying power. Not surprisingly, the women subjected to this new code have described it as religious coercion.

Family

Kremlin nervous as protesters return to streets of Russia

Anti Putin protest
© Mikhial Metzel/AP
A demonstrator holds a poster showing a photo of Vladimir Putin and the words "No! 2050" during a mass rally in Moscow, Russia.
Tens of thousands of Russians expected to demonstrate against election results that saw Putin's party take majority in Duma

Tens of thousands of Russians are expected to take to the streets on Saturday despite Kremlin efforts to ease tensions over disputed elections and Vladimir Putin's expected return to the presidency.

More than 50,000 people have indicated their intention to attend a protest on Moscow's Sakharov Prospect, named after the late leading Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov. Thousands more have signed up via social networking sites for protests in more than 80 Russian cities.

The protesters are hoping to capitalise on the momentum launched earlier this month, when up to 50,000 people turned out in Moscow alone demanding the Kremlin overturn parliamentary election results that saw Putin's United Russia take a majority in the Duma despite widespread accusations of fraud.

Stormtrooper

US: Occupy Albany Camp Dismantled As Police Pepper Spray Protesters

Occupy Albany
So much for the holiday spirit.

Police pepper sprayed Occupy Albany protesters in front of a man dressed as Santa Claus on Thursday night. The incident occurred as police dismantled the protester's camp, the AP reported.

After a judge issued a court order allowing the city to remove the camp's tents, a large group of city workers and police officers entered the camp. As the last tent was being removed, protesters began to fight back, holding on to it and engaging the cops in a tug-of-war. The AP reports that at least 5 protesters were pepper sprayed, 4 were arrested and 1 was taken away by an ambulance.

Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings defended the police action and insisted there was "no legal ambush" or "planned force."

Watch police clash with protesters in the video below.


People

Indonesian Tsunami Girl 'Turns up After Seven Years Presumed Dead'

Aceh was one of the worst hit places
© REX
Aceh was one of the worst hit places in the Indonesian tsunami
An Indonesian girl swept out to sea in the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami and long feared drowned has apparently turned up in her village and been reunited with her parents seven years later.

The girl named Wati, 15, who uses just one name, was ripped from her mother's grasp in the province of Aceh by the raging waters and has not been seen since.

But on Wednesday a friend of the girl's grandfather, Ibrahim, brought a teenaged girl in a headscarf to his house in the city of Meulaboh.

She had been discovered sitting in silence in a coffee bar, but when questioned she said that she had come by bus from Banda Aceh and was trying to find her way home and did not know how.

Candle

'If Jesus Were to Come This Year, Bethlehem Would be Closed'

A Palestinian shepherd
© Abir Sultan/EPA
A Palestinian shepherd watches his flock near the Israeli settlement of Har Homa, near Bethlehem.
If Joseph and Mary were making their way to Bethlehem today, the Christmas story would be a little different, says Father Ibrahim Shomali, a parish priest in the town. The couple would struggle to get into the city, let alone find a hotel room.

"If Jesus were to come this year, Bethlehem would be closed," says the priest of Bethlehem's Beit Jala parish. "He would either have to be born at a checkpoint or at the separation wall. Mary and Joseph would have needed Israeli permission - or to have been tourists.

"This really is the big problem for Palestinians in Bethlehem: what will happen when they close us off completely?"

Bethlehem is the heart of Christian Palestine and it swells with pride every Christmas. Manger Square is transformed into a grotto of lights and stalls crowned by a towering Christmas tree. Strings of illuminated angels, stars and bells festoon the streets. But just a few minutes' drive to the north, the festive atmosphere stops abruptly.

MIB

Breaking: WSRP wants your Presidential Preference NOW

Image

In an interesting move, the Washington State Republican Party is asking for your personal contact information and presidential preference (read "straw poll") through an online form, but also wants to know how you identify yourself. Republican? Progressive? Conservative? Liberal? Libertarian? Democrat?

The results of the presidential straw poll, according to Kirby Wilbur, will be released the day before the Iowa Caucus.

Will Rob McKenna, Slade Gorton or Sam Reed correctly identify themselves as "liberal"? We don't think so.

Heart - Black

US: The Ongoing Republican Plan to Shame the Poor

food stamp card
© Unknown
That House Republicans are opposed to anything that could assist regular Americans is par for the course. After all, this is a class of lawmakers who voted for two budgets that would slash social spending and gut the welfare state. What's remarkable, as seen in the current fight over extending payroll tax relief, is the extent to which House Republicans are eager to heap scorn and disdain on the poor and disadvantaged. In addition to forcing drug tests on those who receive unemployment insurance - as if recipients are prone to drug abuse and thus undeserving - House Republicans want to require GED training for anyone who receives UI and does not possess a high school diploma. The New Republic's Timothy Noah explains the problem with this egregious provision:
Requiring a drug test establishes that if you are collecting unemployment you are probably a disreputable character. It's morally repellant, but not particularly novel, since companies now routinely require lower-tier workers to piss into a jar as a condition of unemployment. [...]

The GED requirement, on the other hand, is a new way to communicate that if you lack a job you must be deficient.... If you don't have a high school diploma, or a GED, you're going to have a very difficult time getting a job. But if someone is collecting unemployment who lacks either of these things we know that person managed to get a job in spite of this educational deficit - otherwise he or she wouldn't be on unemployment. To require this person to enroll in a GED program as a condition of collecting benefits is in essence to say that you had no business being in the labor force to begin with.
If this sounds like an overread of the situation - or comically evil - I challenge you to reconsider. Over the last year, conservatives have doubled-down on their view that the unemployed are responsible for their fate, and that the mass of Americans are "mooching" from the "makers" of society. "Reasonable" Republican presidential candidates like Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman endorsed Representative Paul Ryan's draconian budget for the United States, while more conservative candidates like Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain pushed for budget plans that would wipe out the income of poor and working-class Americans with massive tax increases.