Posts Tagged ‘history’
Tel Aviv (AP) – In its latest report on what it calls Israeli intransigence, Peace Now calls attention to the Jewish State’s declared intent of maintaining itself despite opposition from hundreds of millions of opponents. Peace Now called the news “disappointing” and “yet another example of the Netanyahu administration’s willful political and demographic blindness.”
In advance of a visit to the area by US Secretary of State John Kerry, the Peace Now report covers numerous areas of Israeli activity as it affects the question of the dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace process. It characterizes the Israeli assertion of the country’s right to exist as a way to establish certain facts on the ground that would make accommodation of any good-faith proposals by the secretary unlikely.
“Once again the radical right-wing government of Netanyahu and his ideological allies have demonstrated their complete unwillingness to consider dismantling the entire Zionist enterprise, which we have long maintained is the only just way to resolve the issues surrounding the Occupation of Palestinian territory,” the report’s conclusion reads. “Only by subjecting Jewish Israelis to expulsion, genocide and oppression at the hands of Palestinian hordes can this administration satisfactorily demonstrate its commitment to a negotiated peace.”
Former Peace Now director Yariv Oppenheimer said his organization focuses on Israeli settlement activity in the Occupied Territories, referring to all areas acquired by Israel in war. Since Israel secured its initial existence by defeating several invading as well as local armed groups, that definition applies to all areas currently under Israeli civilian or military rule.
“International Law does not distinguish between territories acquired in a defensive war and those captured in an offensive war,” explained Oppenhemier. “In which case all of the areas that the nascent Israeli armed forces secured in 1948 and 1949 are to be considered illegally occupied. The question of 1967, ” meaning the additional territories captured by Israel from Egypt, Jordan, and Syria in a pre-emptive series of operations against amassing enemy forces, “is merely an extension of the same illegality inherent in Israel since the beginning.”
The report calls on Netanyahu to negotiate the complete relinquishing of all Israeli territory in good faith.
As its practice has always been the Netanyahu government ignored the Peace Now report, but others welcomed it. “We have been claiming the very same thing for generations now,” said Haled Mash’al, the now-retired head of Hamas, the Islamic militant movement that runs the Gaza Strip. “We are not wedded to the sword. If the Zionist entity would agree to destroy itself, we would let it do so unmolested.”
Washington, DC (AP) – In a dramatic shift pregnant with implications for the debate over the legality and morality of abortion, the Republican National Committee announced today that it intends to alter its attitude toward the issue: the rising number of homosexuals in American society means a greater proportion of fetuses are homosexual, and the GOP will therefore no longer oppose abortion.
“The problematic morality of aborting a fetus remains,” said Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, at a press conference, “but on balance we give priority to the greater good of ridding our society of the evil of homosexuality; if it means aborting many fetuses to do so, we are willing to pay that price.” He cited other cases in which conservatives have supported sacrificing human life for higher goals, such as the 2003 Iraq invasion, which produced the societal benefit of enriched defense contractors and, at least temporarily, American control over oil-producing areas.
To some observers, the GOP shift was to be expected. “It was never really about abortion per se,” said Ann Coulter, a conservative commentator. “We conservatives talk about the sanctity of life quite a bit, but that’s just a simplification. If we cared about life so much we’d be all for expanding welfare and health care.” In fact, says Coulter, homosexuality is a greater threat to societal morality than abortion, since the most likely and numerous cases of abortion involve populations that the GOP wrote off long ago as irredeemably immoral: African-Americans, Latino immigrants, and anyone with an annual Adjusted Gross Income of less than $180,000.
While echoing Coulter’s assessment, other analysts cast the GOP’s change of position in starker demographic terms. “The Republican Party suffered an unexpected backlash this past November when their campaign strategy clearly indicated they view women, African-Americans, and Latinos as threats to society’s fiber, moral or economic,” explained Immie Grant, who writes about politics for The Los Angeles Times. “The election results gave the GOP a wake-up call about the future of America’s population: browner, poorer and in favor of greater government involvement in social affairs.”
Grant noted that some of the less scrupulous Republican rhetoric during and after election time accused the Democrats of registering illegal immigrants and others to vote. Although voter fraud accounted for an insignificant fraction of voter turnout, the demographic menace implied by that accusation made the Republicans realize they must act either to embrace those growing demographics with more a more solicitous platform, or combat the very growth of those populations. Since the number of unwanted pregnancies is high in those population sectors, the new GOP strategy will also have the effect of limiting the number of registered voters hostile to Republicans, to the tune of thousands per year.
In keeping with its confrontational stance of late, the party decided to stand up directly for the values it espouses, and elected to oppose the growth of those undesirable populations instead of appealing to them. The availability of abortions is but one prong in their strategy: others include maintaining the ban on narcotics and other controlled substances, which helps foster gang violence and reduce the number of inner-city residents available to compete with whites for coveted jobs and influence; and keeping firearms freely and easily available to increase the chances that those minorities will fall victim to the use of those weapons.
Coulter did note that the shift might bring the GOP on a collision course with more traditionally minded voters, especially in conservative Christian circles, and with the Catholic Church. She declined to speculate how the party will navigate the new set of considerations, but did mention that ideological integrity has never been a strong point with Republicans.
“Remember, this is the party that gave us a ‘fiscally conservative’ Reagan who increased government spending like no one before him,” she said.
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New Delhi, India (AP) – In the wake of several violent rapes over the last several months, the Indian government has announced a cap on horrifically brutal sexual assaults, limiting the number to 12 per year. The law will go into effect in January 2014.
The four-year-old victim of an April 17 rape in Madhya Pradesh died today, on the heels of a similarly brutal rape involving a five-year-old girl in New Delhi two weeks ago. Sexual assault of minors in India has become increasingly common in recent years, or at least have become increasingly reported. Two other cases of gang rapes made international headlines in December and January and sparked tumultuous protests across the country. Demonstrators accused the police and prosecutors of treating accused rapists leniently and turning a blind eye to the phenomenon.
The new legislation, formally ratified this morning, applies only to those “non-consensual sexual acts,” as the bill refers to them, that generate significant media coverage and spark public outcry. Theoretically, all twelve highly publicized annual beating-rapes or rapes of children could occur in the same month, as long as none occurred during the rest of that calendar year. And since the law only covers the assaults that make headlines, it will not affect the thousands of rapes that continue to occur.
“This is a call to rapists to be much more careful,” said Shewantsit Dontcarewatchusay, a Mumbai sociologist who has studied the issue extensively with the young offspring of his neighbors. “It would be too ambitious, I think, to call for a complete elimination of excessively violent rapes in so short a time, but anything to keep things quiet is a welcome step.”
Dontcarewatchusay expects further legislation in the same vein if the community of rapists and child molesters embraces the new law. The practice of highly publicized gang rape might fall out of disuse entirely if adherence to the new limits takes hold. “It’s in their interest to generate as little publicity as possible so they can continue their work,” he said of his fellow practitioners.
Some advocates have been agitating for more reform along different lines. Idowanna Takkabowdittagain, a lobbyist, represents a number of organizations that would prefer the simpler step of a ban on using social media to facilitate the unwanted publicity that has made these incidents so unpopular. The advantages of such a policy, she noted, have been demonstrated in locales such as North Korea, where not a single rape has been reported in international media in decades.
Others call for more sweeping measures. “If we outlaw women this problem would solve itself,” argues Missengh Deforestforthetrees, who leads a non-profit legal research foundation. He referred to similar initiatives in other countries, but concedes that India’s huge population might make implementation of the measure a formidable logistical challenge.
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Memphis, TN (AP) – Following in the footsteps of earlier efforts to forestall the use of Biblical sources in support of distasteful causes, a grass-roots religious coalition called Personal Responsibility Union for Decent Ethics (PRUDE) is lobbying various churches to purge the mention of the rainbow following the Deluge in the book of Genesis, out of concern that the image may be taken as an endorsement of homosexuality.
In the biblical account, God wipes out most of humanity and land life when society becomes mired in immorality. He then enters into a covenant with the Earth not to bring another such deluge, and uses a rainbow to symbolize that commitment.
Ironically, the verses leading up to the divine decision to destroy all of humanity except Noah and his family stems from a series of crimes that include wanton sexual immorality, in addition to perversions of justice and pervasive violations of property.
Although the rainbow only came to symbolize the Gay Rights movement over the last several decades, PRUDE is taking no chances. “We know how dangerous images can be, and we’re not going to allow the Gay Agenda to dictate people’s understanding of Holy Writ,” said Pastor Rob Eublind of Chattanooga. “When all is said and done, and we have wiped the twin scourges of homosexuality and liberal politics from the Earth, we can go back to seeing the rainbow as it was supposed to be. In the meantime, we’re just going to keep it covered up,” just like allegations of children molested by clergy, he added.
The crusade has won support from conservative churches throughout the South and Midwest, and RePress Publications is preparing a special edition that replaces the rainbow with a metaphor less confusing to the modern reader: a fiery cross. “The new image solves two problems at once,” explained Carrie Uggrudge, an editorial consultant with RePress. “While short-circuiting any possible misuse of a rainbow by the Evil Gay Agenda proponents, the explicit use of a cross allows us to implant explicitly Christian messages in the Old Testament,” which have been sorely lacking.
Many of the church groups involved in the project also cited a secondary motivation: they have always felt uncomfortable with the ideals of the Rainbow Coalition, which advocates for the rights of African-Americans. Editing the text, they hope, will deny rhetorical ammunition to forces seeking to disturb the conservative social order.
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Cairo, Egypt (AP) – Embattled Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi took time today to extend an olive branch of sorts to Jews throughout the world, inviting them to return to his country to assume once again the social status they had there several millennia ago.
“We look forward to welcoming back the descendants of the ancient Hebrews to occupy the niche they filled so well all those years ago,” read a statement by Morsi. “We would also like to conduct a thorough reckoning of the possessions that the departing Israelites ostensibly ‘borrowed’ from their Egyptian neighbors and have yet to return.”
Jewish lore records Egypt as the venue of a formative stage in the development of the Israelite nation, namely their centuries of subjugation and oppression at the hands of the Egyptians in the second millennium before the Common Era. The period of Israelite residence in Egypt began innocently enough, with Jacob’s offspring rising to prominence and flourishing. Soon, however, the Egyptian ruling class saw them as a threat and levied increasingly oppressive taxes and workloads on the emerging Hebrew people. The enslavement ended after ten plagues were visited on Egypt by the Israelite deity, and the newly liberated nation despoiled Egypt as the relieved host nation welcomed their departure.
The Egyptian model has served other societies that played host to the descendants of the Israelites. Most recently, Nazi Germany adopted a swift program of segregation, oppression, enslavement and extermination of Jews following centuries of significant Jewish contribution to German culture, society, industry and scientific achievement. In fifteenth-century Spain, the once-tolerant kingdoms adopted a progressively more hostile attitude, culminating in the expulsion of all openly practicing Jews in 1492, followed by a similar move by Portugal in 1497. Jews had contributed positively to Iberian society, culture and politics since at least the tenth century.
Many analysts see Morsi’s move as a two-pronged strategy. “Of course he wants to take some of the heat off himself,” said Nate Thenlever, a fellow with the Brookings Institution, a think-tank. “Egypt is convulsing with political unrest right now. And if the President can reestablish the existence of a slave class to serve the rest of Egyptian society, that will relieve a good bit of the economic and social underpinnings of the revolution.”
Jews worldwide have responded with confusion to the overture. “Huh?” said Moshe Cohen, 75, of Ramat Gan, Israel. “My family was kicked out of Egypt after the 1967 war and had all our assets confiscated. Is Morsi going to give them back?” When informed that the Egyptian President intends to take even more from Jews, Cohen muttered a phrase from the Passover Haggadah about being oppressed in every generation yet surviving.
Egypt and southern Israel have been blanketed this week by swarms of locusts, the eighth of the ten plagues.
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Geneva, Switzerland (AP) – The United Nations Refugee Agency announced today that the number of refugees who have fled Syria to neighboring countries has now hit one million, an auspicious milestone in the international effort to rid the country of all twenty million or so inhabitants.
“With a million people in flight, millions more displaced internally, and thousands of people continuing to cross the border every day, Syria is spiraling towards full-scale disaster,” the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, said in a statement. “This is well ahead of our agency’s projections, and represents a welcome augmentation of the Syrian refugee trend.”
It has taken two years, since the start of the uprising against Basher al-Assad’s rule,for the refugee numbers to begin growing as quickly as they are now. Guterres estimates that 7,000 to 8,000 refugees leave the country each day, which is well beyond initial projections. “Even if we don’t adjust for the slower pace of refugees in the initial years of the conflict, it should take only another forty years to completely empty Syria of people,” he said.
The UN agency, and a separate UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, have set a long-term goal of transforming the entire Middle East population into refugees, but have enjoyed only mixed success. The lion’s share of refugee population maintenance and cultivation has been at the hands of UNRWA, which provides education and other services to millions of Palestinians descended from the original population displaced in 1948-9 and 1967. Those services provide incentive for the refugees to remain stateless, and the agency’s policies dovetail with Palestinian Authority laws barring the development of infrastructure in refugee camps that would help the population lead some semblance of normal lives – but which could therefore be construed as acceptance of the displacement. The global Palestinian refugee population is estimated at five million.
The onset of hostilities across the Arab world two years ago initially gave the UN Refugee Agency hope that these developments would usher in a marked increase in the number of refugees, but with the exception of Syria, the conflicts ended too quickly to generate significant numbers of displaced people. In Tunisia and Libya, the overthrow of the regimes took weeks or months. In Egypt, the violence was comparatively contained and created no refugees. In Bahrain, the government successfully suppressed the unrest.
The UN has therefore pinned its hopes on Syria in the meantime, and has welcomed the international intervention of countries such as Saudi Arabia, Russia and Iran, which have supplied the warring factions with armaments, funds and training to help perpetuate and intensify the fighting.
Guterres laments the violence that has been directed at Palestinian refugees in various camps, decrying the waste of precious resources that could be put to better use creating more new refugees instead of attacking existing ones. “It’s shameful that the Syrian rebels have turned against the Palestinians in their midst. They should be taking lessons from them, not hurting them. The Palestinian refugees are our major success story, and it pains me to see that go unappreciated.”
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Rome, Italy (AP) – The impending resignation of Pope Benedict XVI in the coming weeks has presented the Roman Catholic Church with an opportunity to reconsider some of its fundamental positions, and the cardinals are already discussing doctrinal shifts that include a gradual elimination of Jesus Christ from the church’s teachings. The figure of Jesus as one who shakes up the current order and decries the stagnation and hypocrisy of spiritual leaders has proved more and more problematic to an institution that prides itself on safeguarding a particular spiritual tradition.
“The scandals of recent years have not merely given the Holy See a black eye,” said Timothy Dolan, a noted Catholic scholar. “They have highlighted just how out of touch and attached to power the leadership of the Church has become. Jesus never stopped railing against the Pharisees, and the cardinals, archbishops and other higher-ups recognize that they occupy the same niche as the old-time Rabbis. So getting rid of Jesus is a natural outgrowth of that.”
Since the identity of Benedict’s successor has yet to be determined, any actual changes to church doctrine will have to wait, but several dioceses are already preparing for the eventual emendations to orthodoxy. In Poitiers, France, church officials have solicited proposals from artists for replacements to medieval stained-glass windows in the city’s cathedral depicting various scenes from the Gospels featuring Jesus. In Cologne, Germany, the parish plans a community-wide effort to redesign its famed stained-glass crucifixion scene in that city’s cathedral, though some of the members, citing financial constraints, support keeping the scene and simply reinterpreting it as something else, such as a highly symbolic depiction of the Binding of Isaac.
“When Jesus disrupted the activities of the money-changers in the Temple, he was protesting, among other things, the way in which the people in authority use that monopoly on spiritual authority to enrich themselves,” explained Henri DuBois, who runs worship services in Poitiers. “And that’s essentially what the Church has become. Do you have any idea how many hungry people could be fed if the Vatican sold just a few of its priceless works of art? Or how much more relevance and compassion the Church could demonstrate if it endorsed the distribution of condoms in AIDS-plagued African countries?”
“The cardinals know what Jesus would do, and they’ve been doing the opposite,” he continued. “It’s pretty clear Jesus has become more of a liability to the Church leadership than an asset.”
Speculation is rife among theologians as to who, if anyone, might replace Jesus as the center of Roman Catholic teachings. Some, such as Dolan, foresee a greater focus on Noah, Isaac and other figures who submitted to divine authority unquestioningly.
Others, such as University of Pittsburgh professor Rick Santorum, wonder whether Catholicism might reinterpret the figure of Jesus negatively. A growing number of wealthy conservatives in the United States, for example, find Jesus’s personal care for the poor and downtrodden distasteful, and his clear mistrust of the moneyed classes have made the Church’s position awkward among those who see poverty as an indication of a person’s manifest lack of moral worth.
“The Church isn’t about to abandon its entire legacy – just a particular element of doctrine,” he explained. “The Church stood up to totalitarian communism for decades, and can leverage that moral standing to further the notion that private property and free enterprise are sacrosanct, unlike the ideas of a certain Democratic President.”
“But it’ll be an uphill battle at first,” concedes Santorum. “It will take years, if not decades, to overcome the existing literature and sensibilities. You can’t expect that the day after the changes are announced, an internet search on Church doctrine will suddenly bring up only acceptable results.”
“But I’m confident that particular Google problem can be managed,” he said.
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Washington, DC (AP) – FOX News reported this morning that several years prior to his election as President, Barack Obama fathered two children with a black woman.
“You won’t hear about this scandal from the fawning liberals over at CNN,” intoned the FOX anchor. “It takes reporters who are willing to go after the truth, not ignore everything bad there is about Obama.”
According to the report, Obama fathered the first child in 1998 with a black woman named Michelle, whom he had met while both were employed at the same Chicago law firm. The two continued their affair, producing another black child in 2001. Both children were born while Obama was serving in the Illinois State Senate. The FOX report noted that not a single major media outlet picked up on the scandal at the time, and that, said the anchorwoman, has only emboldened Obama as he continues to associate openly with the mother of those children, even bringing her with him to official state functions.
“The flagrancy with which Obama thrusts this black lover of his upon the eyes of America is just plain shocking,” said FOX personality Bill O’Reilly. “Strom Thurmond may have fathered a black child once upon a time, but at least he had the decency not to acknowledge it publicly.” Thurmond, who died in 2003, was for decades a staunch South Carolina segregationist, and never addressed the black daughter he fathered as related to him; he did, however, support her financially.
“But Obama is just blatant about it,” continued O’Reilly, “and that’s just the problem with liberals. They have no respect for boundaries. Certainly not the US-Mexico boundary,” he added, referring to immigration policies that Republicans have maintained are not restrictive enough.
“It’s more than immoral – it’s also cynical,” said former Vice Presidential candidate and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, a frequent Obama critic. “Those children will probably grow up to vote Democrat, to boot. And the country is paying for their posh accommodations, in the White House no less! Imagine! Black children in the White House! If this scandal isn’t worth an impeachment proceeding or two, I don’t know what is!”
Obama is not the first president to maintain an intimate relationship with a black woman and to father children through her. Thomas Jefferson, the nation’s third chief executive, has dozens of black descendants through his slave Sally Hemming. But according to Palin, since Hemming and her immediate descendants knew their proper place and never got “uppity,” in her words, American society was willing to tolerate the indiscretion.
“But Obama’s shoving it in our faces - and making us pay for it!” said Palin. The black woman and her daughters enjoy Secret Service protection, while their housing and transportation are covered with taxpayer funds. “Even their dog is black!” she remarked, referring to Obama’s Portuguese Water Dog Bo. “We have to take back America!” concluded Palin.
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Damascus, Syria (AP) – Following an Israeli air attack on a Syrian military convoy headed toward Lebanon, the Assad government and Iranian President Ahmadinejad condemned Israel’s “aggression” against the surface-to-air missiles the convoy was transporting.
“The Zionist regime has once again demonstrated its utter disregard for basic decency,” read a statement issued by Syrian President Basher Assad’s office, referring to Israel. “The innocent missiles were not armed with missiles. This is yet another gross Zionist violation of international law. The international community must take real steps to address this travesty.”
Iran, a staunch supporter of the beleaguered Assad government, also spoke out against Israel. In an address at a political function, President Ahmadinejad likened the preemptive strike to a snake uncoiling in pursuit of a victim, only to be crushed by a passing tank. “The cruelty of the Zionists against harmless missiles knows no bounds. Only a country with no moral compass would direct its forces against armaments that were not carrying even light ammunition, nor a single hand grenade. This vicious assault exposes the Zionists for what they are.”
US and Israeli experts believe the convoy was ferrying sophisticated Russian-made SA-17 missiles, which could pose significant risk for Israeli air operations over Lebanon. The likely recipient, they say, is Hezbollah, the militant Shiite movement that controls much of Lebanon and fought a war with Israel 2006. The movement also condemned the assault, calling it, “a betrayal of human values by the Zionist beast that would deprive Lebanon of its sovereign right to shoot down aircraft trying to prevent us from killing Zionists.” Hezbollah has been replenishing its arsenal of missiles, thousands of which were launched at Israeli towns and cities during the war.
This is not the first time Israeli aircraft have attacked unarmed targets inside Syria. In 2007 the Israel Air Force attacked and destroyed a nuclear reactor in Syria. At the time, the reactor had yet to receive its first shipment of uranium, which, at the time, experts said called into question whether Israel was playing fair. Israel has never commented on the attack and Syria never officially acknowledged it, even leveling the site before international inspectors could examine it, seeking to emphasize just how innocent and peaceful the site was.
In a similar case, Israel has never acknowledged an air attack that destroyed a suspected weapons factory in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, last year. The factory was undefended, prompting international outrage at Israel’s unprovoked aggression. Hamas, the Islamist militant faction that runs the Gaza Strip, is widely believed to be the intended user of the weapons supplied originally by Iran for use against Israel. At the time, a spokesman for the government of Sudan decried the Israeli action, calling it, “an unprovoked, evil attack on rockets and armaments that were just sitting there, not harming anyone.”
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