January 17th, 2009

' jules
  • schmiss

(no subject)

Israeli Cabinet Appears Ready to Declare a Gaza Cease-Fire



Israel’s security cabinet is expected to meet Saturday night to declare a cease-fire in Gaza and will keep its forces there in the short term while the next stage of an agreement with Egypt is worked out.

“It looks as if all the pieces of the puzzle are coming together,” Mark Regev, a spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said Friday. “There will be discussions tomorrow morning, and it looks like a cabinet meeting will take place tomorrow night. Everyone is very upbeat.”

The most promising element for bringing the three-week conflict to a close occurred in Washington on Friday, where Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni of Israel signed an understanding on a range of steps the United States would take to stem the flow of new arms to Hamas from the Egyptian Sinai, mostly via tunnels.

The agreement came on the last business day of the Bush administration and set the stage for the Obama administration to play a more active role in resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict. President-elect Barack Obama and Secretary of State-designate Hillary Rodham Clinton signed off on the plan, the State Department said.

Whether Hamas will comply with the terms of parallel talks with Egypt was unclear. At a meeting organized by Qatar, a top exiled Hamas leader rejected Israeli terms for a cease-fire and called for increased resistance.

“Israel will not be able to destroy our resistance, and the United States will not be able to dictate us their rules,” the leader, Khaled Meshal, said in defiant remarks broadcast worldwide. “Arab countries should help Hamas to fight against the death of civilian Palestinians.”

But the Gaza branch of Hamas, squabbling with exiles out of the line of Israeli fire, seems to have agreed to much of Egypt’s cease-fire proposal.

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Israeli TV Airs Gaza Doctor’s Desperate Pleas

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli television broadcast desperate cries for help from a Palestinian doctor on Friday after his children were killed in an Israeli attack in the Gaza Strip and troops later helped surviving members of the family.

The telephone calls created extraordinary scenes during evening news broadcasts as the doctor, a Hebrew-speaking physician who spoke regularly on Israeli television, said three of his children were killed in a tank strike and others were wounded.

“My girls were sitting at home planning their futures, talking, then suddenly they are being shelled,” he said in a voice shaking with emotion. “I want to know why they were killed, who gave the order?”
Izz el-Deen Aboul Aish is a gynecologist who worked in one of Israel’s main hospitals before Gazans were effectively sealed off behind an Israeli-led blockade on the Hamas-controlled enclave. He often gave interviews to Channel 10 television.

' jules
  • schmiss

In other news, Blago's hair is the final cylon

Gov. Rod Blagojevich's lawyers to boycott impeachment trial
They compare the upcoming proceedings to a political lynching



With Gov. Rod Blagojevich's Senate impeachment trial looming at month's end, his legal team abruptly announced Friday that it would boycott the proceedings, likening them to a political lynching.

Though the decision raised the possibility that the governor won't have an attorney as the proceedings begin, Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) said he still planned to start the trial Jan. 26 as scheduled.

"He can get another lawyer. He's a lawyer himself," Cullerton said. "If he chooses to not have a lawyer, that's up to him."

After wrestling over strategy for the last few days, lawyers Edward Genson, Sam Adam and son Sam Adam Jr. acknowledged they would not be present when the Senate begins weighing Blagojevich's removal from office. The governor endorsed their move, the lawyers said.

Genson, who recently complained bitterly before a House impeachment panel that he was "fighting shadows" as he defended Blagojevich, said he would not file an appearance with the Senate as scheduled. Genson said the inability to call witnesses—or to know the identities of some parties in alleged pay-to-play schemes at the center of the accusations against Blagojevich—makes it impossible to defend him.

Even if no attorney for the governor files an appearance at the trial, Blagojevich would be considered to have pleaded not guilty under the Senate's rules, Cullerton said. The governor is not expected to be present.

Blagojevich's other lawyers, Adam and Adam Jr., said they couldn't in good conscience represent the governor in a Senate trial without due process of law, saying they refused to take part in a "Potemkin-like lynching proceeding."

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barack eye

Obama and Biden in Delaware! Wheeeee!

Obama cites founding fathers, heading for capital

PHILADELPHIA – President-elect Barack Obama, tracing the train route Abraham Lincoln took nearly a century and a half ago, undertook the final leg of his inaugural journey to the nation's capital Saturday, pledging to reclaim America's spirit but also warning of steep challenges facing the country.

"Starting now, let's take up in our own lives the work of perfecting our union," he said at Philadelphia's historic 30th Street train station. "Let's build a government that is responsible to the people and accept our own responsibilities as citizens to hold our government accountable. ... Let's make sure this election is not the end of what we do to change America, but the beginning and the hope for the future."

 

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  • bispo

The Top 43 Appointees Who Helped Make Bush The Worst President Ever

george-w-bush
Next week, “change is coming to America,” as President George W. Bush wraps up his tenure as one of the worst American presidents ever. He wasn’t able to accomplish such an ignominious feat all by himself, however; he had a great deal of help along the way. ThinkProgress heralds the conclusion of the Bush 43 presidency by bringing you our list of the top 43 worst Bush appointees. Did we miss anyone? Who should have been ranked higher? Let us know what you think.
1. Dick Cheney — The worst Dick since Nixon. The man who shot his friend while in office. The “most powerful and controversial vice president.” Until he got the job, people used to actually think it was a bad thing that the vice presidency has historically been a do-nothing position. Asked by PBS’s Jim Lehrer about why people hate him, Cheney rejected the premise, saying, “I don’t buy that.” His top placement in our survey says otherwise.

2. Karl Rove — There wasn’t a scandal in the Bush administration that Rove didn’t have his fingerprints all over — see Plame, Iraq war deception, Gov. Don Siegelman, U.S. Attorney firings, missing e-mails, and more. As senior political adviser and later as deputy chief of staff, “The Architect” was responsible for politicizing nearly every agency of the federal government.

3. Alberto GonzalesFundamentally dishonest and woefully incompetent, Gonzales was involved in a series of scandals, first as White House counsel and then as Attorney General. Some of the most notable: pressuring a “feeble” and “barely articulate” Attorney General Ashcroft at his hospital bedside to sign off on Bush’s illegal wiretapping program; approving waterboarding and other torture techniques to be used against detainees; and leading the firing of U.S. Attorneys deemed not sufficiently loyal to Bush.

4. Donald Rumsfeld — After winning praise for leading the U.S. effort in ousting the Taliban from Afghanistan in 2001, the former Defense Secretary strongly advocated for the invasion of Iraq and then grossly misjudged and mishandled its aftermath. Rumsfeld is also responsible for authorizing the use of torture against terror detainees in U.S. custody; according to a bipartisan Senate report, Rumsfeld “conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees.”
5. Michael Brown — This former commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association was appointed by Bush to head FEMA in 2003. After Katrina made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane, Brownie promptly did a “heck of a jobbungling the government’s relief efforts, and was sent back to Washington a few days later. He was forced to resign shortly thereafter.
6. Paul Wolfowitz — As Deputy Secretary of Defense from 2001 to 2005, Wolfowitz was one of the primary architects of the Iraq war, arguing for the invasion as early as Sept. 15, 2001. Testifying before Congress in February 2003, Wolfowitz said that it was “hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself.” Wolfowitz eventually admitted that “for bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction,” as a justification for war, “because it was the one reason everyone [in the administration] could agree on.”

7. David Addington — “Cheney’s Cheney” was the “most powerful man you’ve never heard of.” As the leader of Bush’s legal team and Cheney’s chief of staff, Addington was the biggest proponent of some of Bush’s most notorious legal abuses, such as torture and warrantless surveillance, and is a loyal follower of the so-called unitary executive theory.

8. Stephen Johnson — The “Alberto Gonzales of the environment,” EPA Administrator Johnson subverted the agency’s mission at the behest of the White House and corporate interests, suppressing staff recommendations on pesticides, mercury, lead paint, smog, and global warming.

9. Douglas Feith — Undersecretary of Defense for Policy from 2001-2005, Feith headed up the notorious Office of Special Plans, an in-house Pentagon intelligence shop devised by Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz to produce intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq. A subsequent investigation by the Pentagon’s Inspector General found the OSP’s work produced “conclusions that were not fully supported by the available intelligence.”
10. John Bolton — As Undersecretary of State, Bolton offered a strong voice in favor of invading Iraq and pushed for the U.S. to disengage from the International Criminal Court and key international arms control agreements. A recess appointment landed Bolton the job of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, despite his stringent animosity toward the world body. Today, he spends his time calling for war with Iran.
11. John Yoo — As a lawyer for the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, Yoo authored a series of legal memosdetainee to be buried alive.
12. Ari Fleischer — Bush’s first press secretary helped redefine the role as that of liar-in-chief rather than informer of the public, earning a reputation as “the world’s most dishonest flack.” Whereas his successors sometimes looked uncomfortable lying, Fleischer was having fun, spinning a cowed and gullible press corps through two massive tax cuts and the initiation of a war undertaken on false pretenses.
13. John Ashcroft — In 2003, as Bush’s first Attorney General, Ashcroft approved waterboarding and other torture techniques on detainees. Ashcroft’s nomination was controversial, as he had a history of opposing school desegregation. The chief architect of the invasive Patriot Act, Ashcroft maintains to this day that Bush is “among the most respectful of all leaders ever” of civil liberties.

14. Henry Paulson — Even as the financial system was crashing down around him, Treasury Secretary Paulson insisted for months that the banking system was “safe and sound.” Once he decided that the economy needed saving, Paulson requested nearly unfettered authority to send billions of taxpayer dollars to banks with no oversight.

15. L. Paul Bremer — This Presidential Medal of Freedom winner took over the Coalition Provisional Authority in May 2003. Under his mismanagement, the insurgency exploded in Iraq. Bremer claimed he had all the troops he needed to secure the country, overestimated the strength of the new U.S.-trained Iraqi army, disbanded the Iraqi army leaving thousands of Iraqi soldiers with no income and no occupation, and enacted a de-Baathification law that barred many experienced Iraqis from government positions.

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Me--State Fair

Will.I.Am: A Song To Inspire A Nation

Weekend Edition Saturday, January 17, 2009 - William James Adams, a.k.a. will.i.am, has recorded his share of hits as the frontman for Black Eyed Peas. But he's arguably better known for putting a campaign speech to music last year and creating a hit.
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http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=99464506

THIS IS GETTING RATHER EXCITING!!!!!
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Taliban threats close Pakistan schools

Taliban threats close Pakistan schools

In a dark echo of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, violent religious extremists in Pakistan are moving to restrict girls' education as they seek to impose a draconian version of Islamic law on a beleaguered population.


In a northern valley where Taliban guerrillas have been waging a bloody war against security forces for more than a year, hard-liners have blown up or burned down some 170 schools, most of them for girls. Then in December, a warning by militants in a pirate radio broadcast: All schools for girls should close by Jan. 15.

This week, an association representing 400 private schools for boys and girls in the Swat valley said they would all remain closed after the winter break because of the threat.

"Since the Taliban's warning, attendance in our schools has reduced by almost half" to some 20,000 students, association president Ziauddin Yousufzai told The Associated Press on Friday.

"From today, we have closed our schools as we cannot run our education system in this insecure environment," he said.
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comedy | J. Peterman

"Senior official: Israel to announce unilateral cease-fire".

10 minutes ago:

JERUSALEM (CNN)
-- Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is expected to announce a unilateral cease-fire Saturday evening, according to a senior Israeli official.

Israel will retain the right to respond to any rocket fire, the official said.Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are expected to announce the cease-fire during a news conference after a security Cabinet meeting, the official said.
The senior official says he expects Olmert to announce a "cessation of military operations because we have achieved our goals both militarily on the ground and with our international partners,"
"Hamas' military machine has been substantially destroyed," the official added. "They have been given a sufficient deterrence that they will think twice before attacking again."

Saturday's security Cabinet meeting was meant to vote on the basics of a plan that could end the fighting in Gaza. It came a day after Israeli and U.S. diplomats signed an agreement designed to stop arms smuggling into the Palestinian territory through tunnels. Collapse )

Source: CNN
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Isn't The Onion supposed to do PARODIES of the news?

Blagojevich Just Getting Started

SPRINGFIELD, IL—Hoo, boy, if you thought Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich had finished soliciting bribes from state officials, shamelessly defying federal investigators, and generally acting like a megalomaniacal lunatic, you'd better think again. The crazy bastard, sources confirmed Monday, is just getting warmed up. "I will not relinquish my position as governor, and I will continue to fight these outrageous allegations," Blagojevich said Tuesday, referring to the multiple counts of fraud and extortion being leveled against him, and hinting at a range of other insanely illegal activities you wouldn't believe if he told you. "I know the good people of the state of Illinois support my complete and total exoneration, and look forward to my possible 2016 presidential bid." As of press time, no one could believe the stones on this guy.



I don't get it; at what point, in this "fake" news story, did they exaggerate the already absurd reality of the ongoing news about Blago, in any way whatsoever?
K-Box cartoon

"Evidence-based" prevention versus abstinence-only education: Which is more effective?

No, really; take a wild guess:



Health Departments React with Alarm to New CDC Surveillance Data
STD Rates Higher Than Ever While Funding For Prevention Declines


January 15, 2009 -- Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released national sexually transmitted disease (STD) surveillance data for 2007. The report shows persistent and staggeringly high rates of STDs as well as a disproportionate burden of infections on youth, minorities, and women. Upon the release of this information, the National Coalition of STD Directors called for a renewed commitment from Congress and President-elect Obama to fight the STD epidemic in the U.S.

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"In addition to the need for a greater investment of resources for CDC's Division of STD Prevention, NCSD strongly urges Congress and President-elect Obama to support evidence-based prevention programs to prevent STDs, particularly for young people," stated Don Clark. More than $1.6 billion in federal funds have been spent on abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, which have been unable to demonstrate effectiveness at delaying sexual activity, or reducing rates of STDs, including HIV/AIDS, or unintended pregnancy. Clark continued, "It is time to end these ineffective and harmful programs, and invest in science based approaches to STD prevention, including comprehensive sex education."

The 2007 STD Surveillance Report is currently available on CDC's STD home page: http://www.cdc.gov/std/.



But ... how can this possibly be, when you have abstinence-only educators who speak to the youth of America as effectively as DEREK DYE?


Why, if I'd seen a program like that, back when I was a horny teen, it would have been VERY effective in ensuring that I NEVER felt tempted to have sex, either before OR after marriage, with ANYONE EVER.

The dude's outfit alone gives me a hard-OFF, as does his ultra-subtle metaphor (or is that a simile?) with the machetes.
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Gaza civilians struggle with bombardments

Gaza civilians struggle with bombardments

The group of boys gather defiantly to play soccer each day, war-weary after three weeks of near-constant shelling and dearly in need of some childhood release.

This border town of a couple hundred thousand people has been especially hard hit during the 22-day Israeli assault against Hamas militants in Gaza as Israel seeks to destroy hundreds of tunnels used to smuggle in weapons — but which also provide an economic lifeline for destitute Gazans.

Yet militants were nowhere to be seen Saturday in Rafah, a run-down frontier town where symbols of Hamas authority — from police stations to prisons and mosques_ have been flattened. Militants shed their fatigues at the beginning of the offensive and have largely melted back in to the civilian population.

The children, along with much of the population, have grown indifferent to the roaring fighter jets overhead and the all-powerful thuds of explosions nearby.

"We're not afraid of the bombs anymore, we play football everyday," 13-year-old Mohammed Gheiss said Saturday. Gheiss is the goalkeeper for the small team of boys playing in a relatively safe wasteland about a mile from the more dangerous border area.

"What's sad is that we're not as many as before," he said, pointing at the improvised tent nearby for the wake of his friend, Eissa Ermallat.
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’92 Ponzi Case Missed Signals About Madoff

’92 Ponzi Case Missed Signals About Madoff

Seventeen years ago, federal investigators questioned for the first time whether Bernard L. Madoff was connected to a Ponzi scheme. Their inquiry centered on Frank Avellino, an accountant who had been funneling investors to Mr. Madoff since the 1960s.

The investigators did not get far. Within days, Mr. Avellino agreed to return to investors the money he and his partner had raised and to pay a small fine to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The inquiry petered out, and Mr. Avellino — represented in the case by Ira Lee Sorkin, the same lawyer who now represents Mr. Madoff — kept sending money to Mr. Madoff.

Now questions have again arisen about the ties between Mr. Madoff and Mr. Avellino. A lawsuit claims that Mr. Avellino warned his housekeeper, who had invested with him, that her money was lost 10 days before Mr. Madoff’s fraud became public.

Through his new lawyer, a former federal prosecutor, Mr. Avellino declined to comment on his relationship with Mr. Madoff.
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WTF NOT ANOTHER ONE!!... SEC WHAT THE HELL!!!

Another Bernard Madoff? Hedge-fund manager Arthur Nadel vanishes with $350 million of clients' cash

In a case with parallels to the Bernie Madoff scandal, a prominent Florida hedge-fund manager has vanished - and so has up to $350 million of his clients' money.

Sarasota police said they are looking into claims that Arthur Nadel, 76, defrauded investors before leaving a distraught note for his family and disappearing.

Nadel's wife, Peg, filed a missing person report with police on Wednesday. She told the Daily News on Saturday that she's cooperating.

"We are being very proactive," she said.

"There is nothing to show that anything was taken. They're investigating his disappearance for his own safety and his own well-being."

Some reports estimated that the hedge fund was out some $350 million, but Spitler said it's too soon to say exactly how much it was worth.
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Greek police protest against violence

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About 400 police officers in Athens demonstrated against violence on Thursday, following riots in Greek cities and attacks on police by a terrorist group. Some protesters were in uniform as they gathered in the city's main Syntagma Square.

Last months' riots were sparked by the fatal police shooting on December 6 of a teenage boy. Police were targeted in shootings on December 23 and January 5; one officer was seriously wounded. The far-left group Revolutionary Struggle has claimed responsibility.

"Our colleagues are not afraid," said Giorgos Vlachos of the Greek police officers association. "Of course we remain on guard - that is our duty."

Vlachos said police are hoping to improve their image. The Beatles' song Let it be blared as police gathered under a banner that read "no to violence."

"We are protesting because we are part of society," said Vassilis Alimaras, a 23-year-old policeman. "Violence against the Greek police is violence against Greek society. We're against any kind of violence."

In a 9,000-word statement published in an Athens newspaper on Thursday, Revolutionary Struggle vowed to continue attacks on police:
"The only way to disarm the cops is for revolutionaries and the armed public to disarm them," the group said.

Revolutionary Struggle first appeared in 2003 and has carried out at least six bombings, targeting police stations, government ministries, a bank and a courthouse. Two years ago, the group claimed responsibility for attacking the US Embassy in Athens with a rocket-propelled grenade. Afterward, the United States offered a $US1 million ($A1.52 million) reward for information leading to the capture of the group's members.

Thursday's police rally took place shortly before a student protest in central Athens, attended by about 1,000 demonstrators. Small groups of youths hurled rocks and oranges at police. Police did not respond and the march ended peacefully.
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Not Your Father's Republican Party?

Not Your Father's Republican Party?

Diversity and inclusion have become key buzz words in Republican circles as the beleaguered party looks to bounce back from resounding defeats in Congress and the White House.

With President-elect Barack Obama preparing to take office next week as the nation's first black president, the Republican Party is poised to perhaps make history of its own at the end of the month, as two viable black candidates, Michael Steele and Kenneth Blackwell, compete for the party's chairmanship.

Steele and Blackwell are part of a six-way race to become chairman of the Republican National Committee, which includes Katon Dawson, the South Carolina Republican chairman who quit his membership in an all-white country club before entering the race. Another contender is Tennessee party chairman Chip Saltsman, who was widely criticized for giving party members a holiday CD that included the song "Barack, the Magic Negro," an incident that one strategist said may cost him the election.

And while the election of either Steele, the former lieutenant governor of Maryland, or Blackwell, the former Ohio secretary of state, would go a long way toward shedding the party's image as a bastion of white male dominance, leading Republicans say the party is risking its long-term viability if it cannot make greater inroads with voters of color.

"The electoral map has changed," said GOP media consultant Alex Castellanos, who is backing Steele for the GOP chairmanship. "The GOP can't be reduced to the old white southern country club party, and if we don't expand our ability to reach more female and minority voters ... there aren't enough fish for us to get a good meal. The Republicans need more than token ethnic representation or leadership. We need a message."

Other political observers agree that a change in leadership will not be a quick fix to the party's challenges.
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amélie: gnome

The 'misunderestimated' president?

The 'misunderestimated' president?



All politicians are prone to make slips of the tongue in the heat of the moment - and President George W Bush has made more than most.

The word "Bushism" has been coined to label his occasional verbal lapses during eight years in office, which come to an end on 20 January.

Here are some of his most memorable pronouncements.

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&#39; jules
  • schmiss

Sexy.

Obama tries to seduce Republicans



It's no secret Barack Obama is trying to seduce Republicans these days. But his conservative courting runs much deeper and wider than is publicly known.

Obama has had meetings with his former opponent John McCain, GOP congressional leaders and some of the country’s leading conservative commentators. He’s also honoring McCain and Colin Powell in high-profile pre-inaugural dinners, where Obama is expected to toast the Republicans.

Behind the scenes, Obama and his team are working just as hard, courting prominent Republicans and conservatives through frequent phone calls, e-mails and private sit-downs.

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hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
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Lebanese fear Israel's next step

Lebanese fear Israel's next step

United Nation helicopters circle in the cloudless sky above South Lebanon. The bumpy road below them is dotted with Lebanese army checkpoints.

Past them lies what is known here as the land of resistance - the villages where the Shia militant group Hezbollah controls hearts and minds.

From here, its fighters battled Israel in a fierce conflict in 2006 and now the portraits of Hezbollah fighters killed in that war look down from the roadside billboards.

Some look straight at Israel, which stretches just a couple of hundred of yards away beyond the barbed wire.

Hezbollah's turn

During the war in Gaza, Israeli officials warned Hezbollah that after Hamas it would be their turn. And so what is happening on the other side of the border concerns everyone in Lebanon.
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Soldiers' mother: Stop Gaza doctor's propaganda


Soldiers' mother: Stop Gaza doctor's propaganda

Confrontation at Sheba medical center: Mother of three soldiers interrupts press conference convened by Gaza doctor who lost his three daughters, says 'why is he engaging in propaganda? Have you all gone crazy?'

The Sheba medical center was the site of a confrontation Saturday, as Israeli visitors to the hospital slammed the "propaganda" of a Gaza doctor who lost three of his daughters after an IDF shell hit his home in the Strip.

The doctor, who works at Sheba, convened a press conference at the medical center where he spoke about his daughters. At one point, he was interrupted by a mother of three soldiers who said: "Why is he engaging in propaganda? He's talking against Israel at the Sheba hospital. You should all be ashamed. All my children are serving in Gaza. Who knows what he had at his home?"
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IDF: Shots fired from doctor's home

Army says it fired at Gaza doctor's home, killing three daughters, after troops were targeted by sniper fire; meanwhile, IDF says that shell hit fuel tank near UNWRA compound Thursday, but facility itself was not targeted

Not so innocent? The daughters of a Gaza doctor were killed by the IDF after sniper fire from the family's home targeted Israeli soldiers, the army said Saturday.
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You know, I learned something today. Gaza is actually a giant repository for weapons, The UN is actually a secret front of Hamas, and that all Gazans are secretly working for Hamas...
Sebastian Stan

Malia Obama Plays Photographer on Mom's Birthday



Like the hundreds of thousands flocking to Washington to witness history, Malia Obama, 10, is already at work on her inauguration photo album.

As President-elect Barack Obama launched his whistle-stop tour on a restored 1930s train car to Washington, D.C. on Saturday – which happened to be wife Michelle's 45th birthday – daughter Malia snapped pictures on a small digital camera – of her father in profile and of little sister Sasha, 7, leaning into Mom on stage inside Philadelphia's 30th Street Station.

But the photojournalists and paparazzi chronicling the incoming president's every move this pre-inauguration weekend need not fear any "inside" competition: "She's only taken a couple [photos], playing with someone else's camera," an Obama aide tells PEOPLE.

Close family friend Dr. Eric Whitaker brought his children along, giving Malia and Sasha some playmates for the 137-mile trip tracing the same route Abraham Lincoln took as he traveled to his own inauguration in 1861.

Stopping in Wilmington, Del., Obama announced his wife's birthday to the shivering crowd who broke into a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday." Mrs. Obama, her hands sheathed in long purple leather gloves, smiled and applauded.

Further along the route, while Mom and Dad braved the icy cold in Baltimore's War Memorial Plaza, the girls stayed on the train, decorating one car with balloons and pink crepe-paper streamers.

After the Baltimore rally, Mrs. Obama was greeted back aboard the train with a shrieked "Mommy!" as Malia reached up to cover her mother's eyes and lead her into the birthday car. Malia dropped her hand and, as Mrs. Obama took in the surprise, a party hat-wearing Sasha jumped up and down and draped a lei over her mother's neck while Malia took pictures. Someone cued a boombox and Mrs. Obama and her girls had a little impromptu dance party before the train pulled away.

Aides said the soon-to-be first lady would be treated to cake on board before the 10-car Amtrak train reached the nation's capital Saturday evening.

Source: http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20253490,00.html
naknaknaknak

Obama may keep BlackBerry after all

Chalk up one possible win for Obama: He might be able to keep his BlackBerry after all.

He's been resisting the advice of lawyers and others to give up the e-mail device upon taking office because he views it as his connection to the outside world.

“I think we're going to be able to beat this back,” Obama said in a CNN interview of the pressure on him to give it up. “I think we're going to be able to hang onto one of these. Now, my working assumption, and this is not new, is that everything I write on e-mail could end up being on CNN. So I make sure to — to think before I press ‘send.’

“It’s just one tool among a number of tools that I'm trying to use, to break out of the bubble. To make sure that people can still reach me. But if I'm doing something stupid, somebody in Chicago can send me an e-mail and say, ‘What are you doing?’ ” Obama said. “I want to be able to have voices, other than the people who are immediately working for me, be able to reach out and — and send me a message about what's happening in America.”

Obama didn’t describe what kind of arrangement he had made to keep the BlackBerry. After the interview, host John King said on CNN that Obama had not one but two BlackBerries with him Friday.

www.politico.com/news/stories/0109/17542.html

Obama/Blackberry otp?