ONTD Political

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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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.
Source starts with big version of the image. Possible trigger warning for the image at the source, and also maybe for other NOT OK images described in the text below the cut.
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Israel has never acknowledged prisoner's existence and has gone to extraordinary lengths to stifle media coverage of case

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Israel's New Kingmaker
Yair Lapid's critics have dismissed the former TV personality as vapid and uninformed. They couldn't be more wrong.

TEL AVIV — Though one of Israel's best known public figures, Yair Lapid, the surprise star of the Jan. 22 election, is a mystery abroad. He now finds himself in the unexpected position of kingmaker, free to dictate terms to a badly weakened Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Lapid will likely emerge as Netanyahu's senior coalition partner, giving him significant influence over the direction of Israeli policy. There is a growing possibility that the former columnist and television anchor will be Israel's next foreign minister, putting his formidable media skills to good use as his country's top diplomat. But on policy, Lapid would enter the Foreign Ministry as something of an enigma: During the campaign, he focused largely on middle-class domestic issues such as compulsory army conscription for the ultra-Orthodox, and housing and education reform.

It would be wrong, however, to underestimate Lapid. He isn't simply a charismatic reader of teleprompters, and his worldview is far from "vapid," as some have dismissed it. Based on the available evidence, Lapid, a self-described centrist, has a definite worldview that hews closer to the left than the right. The signs are encouraging that he will be a moderating influence on the next Netanyahu government.Read moreCollapse )
A government official has for the first time acknowledged the practice of injecting women of Ethiopian origin with the long-acting contraceptive Depo-Provera.

Health Ministry Director General Prof. Ron Gamzu has instructed the four health maintenance organizations to stop the practice as a matter of course. The ministry and other state agencies had previously denied knowledge or responsibility for the practice, which was first reported five years ago. Gamzu’s letter instructed “all gynecologists in the HMOs not to renew prescriptions for Depo-Provera for women of Ethiopian origin if for any reason there is concern that they might not understand the ramifications of the treatment.” Gamzu also instructed physicians to avail themselves of translators if need be.

Gamzu’s letter came in response to a letter from Sharona Eliahu-Chai of the Association of Civil Rights in Israel, representing several women’s rights and Ethiopian immigrants’ groups. The letter demanded the injections cease immediately and that an investigation be launched into the practice.

About six weeks ago, on an Educational Television program journalist Gal Gabbay revealed the results of interviews with 35 Ethiopian immigrants. The women’s testimony could help explain the almost 50-percent decline over the past 10 years in the birth rate of Israel’s Ethiopian community. According to the program, while the women were still in transit camps in Ethiopia they were sometimes intimidated or threatened into taking the injection. “They told us they are inoculations,” said one of the women interviewed. “They told us people who frequently give birth suffer. We took it every three months. We said we didn’t want to.”


This is just horrifying. IDEK what to say.
Jerusalem (CNN) -- Yair Lapid, the charismatic journalist-turned-politician who surprisingly vaulted to second place in Israel's national election, has long been a familiar face across the Jewish state.
The 49-year-old leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party is a former journalist and talk show host, son of a prominent politician, and a one-time amateur boxer with a rep as one of Israel's sexiest men.

Lapid segued his journalism into politics and emerged as an archetype -- a voice of the middle-class Israeli striving for success, but anxious about the high cost of living, a voice representing Israelis who've had it with the exemptions from mandatory military service for the ultra-Orthodox, a voice of everyday optimism.

He now has the clout to choose between leading the political opposition or becoming the key partner in a Netanyahu-led coalition. Or, the question has been raised, would Israeli President Shimon Peres decide to ask Lapid to form a government?
Members of Yesh Atid range across the spectrum, Lapid said after the election in Tel Aviv. The bloc has attracted Jews from the West, the Middle East, and Africa, the religious and secular, centrists, leftists, and rightists, men and women.
"What unites all of them is that they said yes for hope and yes for mutual responsibility and yes to the fact that the truth is not being held in any side," Lapid said.
Lapid emerged in an election that displayed Israel's political polarization, between staunch right-wingers focused on security and centrists focused on a better economy and society.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remains the front runner to be prime minister, with exit polls reporting his rightist Likud-Beitenu party gaining 31 seats in the 120-seat Knesset. Naftali Bennett's far-right Jewish Home pulled in between 11 seats, according to exit polls numbers from the daily newspaper Haaretz. Shas, a religious party, gained 11 seats.
But the center and the left showed strength. Lapid's party gained at least 19 seats, onetime powerhouse Labor, 15, former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's Hatnua, 6, and leftwing Meretz, 6.

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Vera Baboun, a Christian, tries to raise hope in city plagued by economic woes, says ‘we’re celebrating birth of Jesus… and of Palestinian state’

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) — Bethlehem’s first female mayor, Vera Baboun, can’t walk through the main square of the biblical town without being stopped by admirers.

“This is our new mayor, who is turning Bethlehem into one of the greatest cities in the world,” a tour guide hollered to a group of Christian tourists passing by the Church of the Nativity, built over the grotto where tradition says Jesus was born.

Starting with Christmas celebrations — the high point of the year in the town — Baboun is hoping to turn things around in the troubled city. For the past seven years, the Islamist Hamas militant group had a strong presence in Bethlehem’s leadership, prompting a cutoff of international aid funds. But they lost their seats in the October elections that brought in Baboun, who is Christian, as Bethlehem’s mayors traditionally are.

The local economy is battered, with the highest unemployment in the West Bank, and local Christians continue to leave Bethlehem, which years ago moved from a Christian majority to a Muslim one. But Baboun is trying to raise hope, pointing to the Palestinans’ recent boost of status at the United Nations.

“We still have a long way to go, but the Christmas season is special this year because not only do we celebrate the birth of Christ, but we are celebrating the birth of the Palestinian state,” Baboun said, standing next to a 17-meter Christmas tree. “It is a Christmas of peace, of hope and love.”

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