ONTD Political

This morning, residents of Cairo woke up to something they haven't seen in 112 years — snow! As winter storm Alexa sweeps through the eastern Mediterranean, parts of the region are seeing colder weather than they have in years.

The storm was originally only expected to affect areas in Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian territories, but temperatures were floating around 41–52 degrees Fahrenheit in Cairo on Friday afternoon, and are expected to sink to around 36 degrees Fahrenheit on Friday night.

The cold snap also triggered what some are reporting as the first snowfall in the Cairo area in 112 years, although the Egyptian Meteorological Authority has denied this claim. Either way, it's quite the sight, and something that hasn't been seen in a long while.

Several other parts of the Mediterranean and Middle East have also seen surprising amounts of snowfall over the past few hours and days. Areas such as Gaza City, Beirut, Jerusalem, Hebron, Nablus, Bethlehem, Ramallah, Istanbul and Amman are all "enjoying" a light blanketing of snow.

go to the source to see stunning pictures of snow in Cairo and Jerusalem
Photos were really big. Go look at them at source!
Swiss scientists who conducted tests on samples taken from Yasser Arafat’s body have found at least 18 times the normal levels of radioactive polonium in his remains. The scientists said they were confident up to an 83 percent level that the late Palestinian leader was poisoned with it, a conclusion that they said “moderately supports” polonium as the cause of his death.

A 108-page report (PDF) by the University Centre of Legal Medicine in Lausanne, which was obtained exclusively by Al Jazeera, found unnaturally high levels of polonium in Arafat’s ribs and pelvis, and in soil stained with his decaying organs.

The Swiss scientists, along with French and Russian teams, obtained the samples last November after Arafat's body was exhumed from a mausoleum in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.

Dave Barclay, a U.K. forensic scientist and retired detective, told Al Jazeera that with these results he was wholly convinced that Arafat was murdered.

“Yasser Arafat died of polonium poisoning,” he said. “We found the smoking gun that caused his death. What we don’t know is who’s holding the gun at the time.

“The level of polonium in Yasser Arafat’s rib … is about 900 millibecquerels,” Barclay said. “That is either 18 or 36 times the average, depending on the literature.”

Suha Arafat, the Palestinian leader’s widow, received a copy of the report in Paris on Tuesday. “When they came with the results, I’m mourning Yasser again,” she said. “It’s like you just told me he died.”

The Swiss report examined only the question of what killed Arafat. It did not address or point toward who killed him or how.
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source: Al Jazeera has a bunch of photos from report, plus link to whole text of report
Polio has returned to Syria, which had been free of the potentially paralyzing and at times fatal disease since 1999. “There are ten cases confirmed right now in the Deir Al Zour province” in northeast Syria and 12 more suspected cases, says Oliver Rosenbauer, spokesman for the World Health Organization’s Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

The cases in Syria are mostly among children who are age two or younger. In this conflict-ridden country, it has been difficult to reach all children for immunization. No one can say how the disease reached Syria, but what the outbreak shows, says Rosenbauer, is "that this is an epidemic-prone disease.”

There is worry that the highly infectious disease will spread farther, as people move in and out of the area to other parts of the country and across borders to refugee camps and nearby countries. “The whole region is now at risk,”
Rosenbauer says.
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For about a year-and-a-half I lived the reality of Occupation. Like other male and female soldiers serving in the Occupied Territories, I learned soon enough the kind of conduct acceptable and expected of me as a combatant in this reality. I learned to do the job assigned to me – controlling Palestinians. I learned to speak the language of occupation, a language of imperatives and demands. It became my mother-tongue.

In the reality of occupation there are no Palestinian civilians, there are only potential terrorists. Any Palestinian man might attack any moment, any Palestinian woman is – dangerous. They have no face and no rights. Our job is to rule. To do that, we must make the Palestinians obey us, and they will only obey if they are afraid of us.

Interesting read but TW for all the youtube videosCollapse )


OP: For those familiar with Breaking the Silence how are they received in Israel? Do a lot of people know about them? Do they care to hear these stories?
Israeli jets bombed a military research facility north of Damascus early Sunday, a senior official told NBC News -- the second Israeli attack on targets in Syria in recent days.

Heavy explosions shook the city, and video shot by activists showed a fireball rising into the sky after Sunday's strikes, according to Reuters.

On Friday, Israeli warplanes launched strikes against targets inside Syria, U.S. officials told NBC News. It’s believed the primary target was a shipment of weapons headed for Hezbollah in Lebanon, they said. A senior U.S. official said the airstrikes were believed to be related to delivery systems for chemical weapons.

An Israeli spokesman in Washington said that Israel would not comment specifically on the reports but said that “Israel is determined to prevent the transfer of chemical weapons or other game-changing weaponry by the Syrian regime to terrorists, especially to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

It wasn’t clear whether the Israelis alerted the U.S. before the attack. White House officials referred all questions to the Israelis.

Syrian government sources denied having information of a strike. Bashar Ja'afari, the Syrian ambassador to the United Nations, told Reuters: "I'm not aware of any attack right now."

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In the 1990s, ten mynas escaped a cage in central Israel and began to breed. Other aggressive tropical birds were introduced here by well-meaning amateurs. Today, the swelling population of foreign invaders is threatening the unique and fragile native ecosystem

The emerald-green birds first appeared in the trees around my Jerusalem apartment building several years ago, chasing each other raucously through the branches in the early morning and bestowing upon the neighborhood a certain tropical air.

Not long afterwards, the same exotic birds — green plumage, red beaks — began to be seen in significant numbers in the northern city of Nahariya, where my parents live, fearlessly battling burly black crows over aerial turf. They appeared outside my in-laws’ house at a kibbutz in the Beit She’an Valley, where, with mounting ferocity, they began undertaking seasonal campaigns against a nearby pecan tree.

The birds are ring-necked parakeets, and one should not be taken in, as I was at first, by their looks. They are an aggressive species of foreign invader, birds descended from pets brought to Israel from afar who tasted freedom years ago, saw that the land was good, and have been fruitful and multiplying ever since.

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For many Israelis, the biblical comparisons were irresistible: locusts were swarming across the border from Egypt three weeks before Passover, like a vivid enactment of the eighth plague visited upon the obdurate Pharaoh. Others with a more modern sensibility said it felt more like Hitchcock.

Israel first announced that it was on “locust alert” on Monday, after large swarms were spotted in the Cairo area. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations warned that wind and climate conditions increased the chances of an entomological cross-border invasion.

The Ministry of Agriculture set up a hot line for swarm sightings. By Tuesday, grasshoppers the size of small birds were reported on balconies and in gardens in central and northern Israel
. But the largest concentration, an ominous black cloud of millions, settled for the night near the tiny rural village of Kmehin in Israel’s southern Negev desert, not far from the border with Egypt.

Potato farmers in the area complained that their fields were being ruined. Drivers said they could not see through their windshields for all the bugs flying in their direction.

On the up side, some considered the curse almost a blessing. The popular Channel 2 television news showed delighted Thai agricultural workers frying up locusts for a crunchy snack. The Israeli television crew munched on a few too, noting that locusts are considered kosher.
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source: NY Times
the guy's face in that picture...

Afikim bus company to have special buses for Palestinian workers commuting from the West Bank to jobs in central Israel; announcement follows complaints from settlers that Palestinians are a security risk.

Starting on Monday, certain buses running from the West Bank into central Israel will have separate lines for Jews and Arabs.

The Afikim bus company will begin operating Palestinian-only bus lines from the checkpoints to Gush Dan to prevent Palestinians from boarding buses with Jewish passengers. Palestinians are not allowed to enter settlements, and instead board buses from several bus stops on the Trans-Samaria highway.

Last November, Haaretz reported that the Transportation Ministry was looking into such a plan due to pressure from the late mayor of Ariel, Ron Nahman, and the head of the Karnei Shomron Local Council. They said residents had complained that Palestinians on their buses were a security risk.

The buses will begin operating Monday morning at the Eyal crossing to take the Palestinians to work in Israel. Transportation Ministry officials are not officially calling them segregated buses, but rather bus lines intended to relieve the distress of the Palestinian workers. Ynet has reported that fliers are being distributed to Palestinian workers notifying them of the coming changes.

Any Palestinian who holds an entrance permit to the State of Israel is allowed by law to use public transportation. Officials at the Samaria and Judea District Police have said there is no change in the operation of the rest of the buses, nor is there any intention to remove Palestinians from other bus lines. But Haaretz has in the past reported incidents when Palestinians were taken off of buses, and witnesses at checkpoints say that such incidents are ongoing.

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haaretz. this is getting a crazy amount of press on the liberal blogosphere.

comments i'd love to read: context and insight from people better informed about this than i am.
stuff i am not here for: the usual bullshit that happens in these posts.
'Autonomous weapons', which could be ready within a decade, pose grave risk to international law, claim activists.

A new global campaign to persuade nations to ban "killer robots" before they reach the production stage is to be launched in the UK by a group of academics, pressure groups and Nobel peace prize laureates.

Robot warfare and autonomous weapons, the next step from unmanned drones, are already being worked on by scientists and will be available within the decade, said Dr Noel Sharkey, a leading robotics and artificial intelligence expert and professor at Sheffield University. He believes that development of the weapons is taking place in an effectively unregulated environment, with little attention being paid to moral implications and international law.

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Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2013/feb/23/stop-killer-robots

OP: Better call John Connor.
Some have called it a "meltdown."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu likes his ice cream — but he's frozen his annual ice cream budget after the size of it was publicized, The Associated Press reported.

An Israel economic publication, Calcalist, published an article last week pointing out purchases on the prime minister's annual expense budget, the AP reported. Netanyahu's office reportedly requested and was granted permission to buy up to 10,000 shekels -- or about US$2,700 -- of ice cream from the state budget per year, the Calcalist reported.

Following publication of the Calcalist's findings, the prime minister came under criticism at a time when he is working to pass an austerity budget that reportedly affects teachers, social workers and police officers, The Guardian reported.

Political opponent Shelly Yachimovich, leader of Israel's Labor Party, was critical of the ice cream funding in a Facebook post on Feb. 14.

"If there's no bread, let them eat ice-cream. Should we laugh or cry? Was that what he meant when he said there are no 'free meals'?" Yachimovich's post said, according to The Guardian's translation.
Netanyahu's office told the AP on Sunday that once the prime minister was made aware of this ice cream contract, he called it "excessive and unacceptable" and ordered that it be stopped right away, the AP reported.

But not everyone is upset.

"It's really a shame," ice cream maker Serena Kanfi told The Jerusalem Post. "He's also a human being. He should be able to eat ice cream wherever he wants."

"They have a lot of guests and invite a lot of people," Kanfi also told the newspaper.
Netanyahu has a fancy for vanilla and pistachio ice creams, according to the Calcalist.

NBC News
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