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Member since: 2003 before July 6th
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Nelson Mandela discharged from hospital

JOHANNESBURG Former South Africa President Nelson Mandela was discharged from the hospital Wednesday, according to several reports.

Sources told CBS News he is returning to his Houghton home, where he will continue to receive medical care.

Officials had said the 94-year-old leader was improving in recent days since he was hospitalized on December 8. Mandela was diagnosed with a lung infection and underwent gallstone surgery.

Mandela, who battled apartheid before becoming the country's first democratic leader, has a history of lung problems. He suffered from tuberculosis towards the end of his 27-year prison term.



Naftali Bennett, Israel's New Rightwing Star

AFP - A smile on his lips, his voice direct and authoritative, his agenda rightwing but broadbased, Naftali Bennett is quickly turning into the newest darling of Israel's national religious bloc.

Just under a month before snap elections on January 22, Bennett's Jewish Home party is snatching seats away from the joint list of premier Benjamin Netanyahu's rightwing Likud faction and the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu of former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Polls project that the party, which now holds just three seats in the 120-seat Knesset, will win between 11 and 13 in the upcoming elections, many of them snapped from the Likud-Beitenu list, which still stands to win the most seats of any party, around 35.

The son of American immigrants to Israel, 40-year-old Bennett has succeeded in reviving the fortunes of a party that had its heyday in the 1960s, but has been a member of government coalitions from 1948 to 1992.



China on Alert After Japan Scrambles Jets over E. China Sea

Source: VOA

VOA News
December 25, 2012

China says it is on alert after Japan dispatched fighter jets over the East China Sea.

Japanese media report Japan sent F15 fighter aircraft after detecting a Chinese marine surveillance plane in disputed airspace near contested islands in the East China Sea.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters Tuesday Beijing will pay close attention to Japan's decision to dispatch fighter jets. She said China's surveillance plane was conducting routine patrols at the time.

"As far as I know, China's marine surveillance plane you mentioned has been conducting routine patrols in airspace over the East China Sea," Hua said. "The Chinese side is highly concerned with and alert to Japan sending the air self-defense force jets."

Read more: http://www.voanews.com/content/cihna-on-alert-after-japan-scrambles-jets-over-east-china-sea/1571985.html

Israeli PM Aims To Deport Tens Of Thousands Of Africans

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, December 24, 2012 21:00 EST

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday he aims to repatriate tens of thousands of African illegal migrants and that the inflow into Israel from the Sinai peninsula has been brought to a halt.

“Our aim is to repatriate tens of thousands of infiltrators now in Israel to their countries of origin,” he said, adding Israel had been in contact with several African governments.

“After having been confronted by the threat of hundreds of thousands (of illegal migrants), this month not a single infiltrator has reached cities in Israel,” he said, quoted in a government statement.

Rising tensions over the growing number of illegal immigrants exploded into violence in May when a protest in south Tel Aviv turned ugly, with demonstrators smashing African-run shops and property, chanting “Blacks out!”



New Wave Of Radical Israeli Settlers Digging In For The Long Haul In The West Bank

High on a windy limestone plateau in the ancient biblical land of Judea and Samaria is the settlement of Itamar, a Jewish bastion deep in what today is hostile Arab territory.

The farms and homes of its 230 families are protected by an electrified fence topped with barbed wire and monitored by the night vision cameras and sensors of the Israeli army. Jerusalem is within easy commuting distance by a fast road, although the drive to work can be hazardous and the past month has been more violent than usual.

Last week Palestinian youths were hurling rocks at Israeli cars, as they have done daily since last month's brief Gaza war, and they have taken it out on motorists since the Israeli government announced at the end of November that 3,000 homes are to be built in a planned settlement on a strategic chunk of the West Bank outside Jerusalem, a block of land called "E1".

"We're in the middle of Arab territory here, a place that a lot of Israelis are scared to come to," said Meir Rapaport, a 19-year religious student with a strong Bronx accent who arrived at Itamar from New York a year ago.

"Sometimes you get woken up at night and have to take shelter when there's a security alert, and you hear shots once in a while. My parents think I'm crazy to come here.
"When I first moved to Israel I headed for Tel Aviv and the party scene, but this is the place for me. This is our land. It says so in the Bible. You have to be ready to bleed for it and fight for it."



Asylum Seekers Arrested In Tel Aviv Raid After Authorities Announce Holiday Reprieve

Friday was a rainy day in Tel Aviv. The head of the immigration authorities, Amnon Ben Ami, had issued a press release promising to cease all arrest operations for the duration of the Christian holidays and New Year’s Eve.

The Levinsky Park multi-lingual library, an open library located at the center of the park, was closed due to the rain. Its regular visitors, children from asylum-seeking families, were left in the rain, wandering between the many homeless asylum seekers residing in the park. One of the girls, 9 years old, from a South Sudanese family, seemed worried. Her father had not returned home. While I was aware that her family had been granted temporary protection on humanitarian grounds (unlike most South Sudanese residents, who were deported this past summer), I was concerned, knowing all too well the “Oz” immigration unit often arrests people despite their protected status.

My concern was heightened because, only a couple of hours earlier, I was informed through a phone call from Juba that of the 700 deportees to South Sudan, 17 had died already, most from illness or violent attacks. My girlfriend Saranna and I decided to help the girl look for her father. Walking down Levinsky Street, we came across one Christmas procession after another, each of a different community: a Nepali, then a Philippine, and finally, an Eritrean procession. The girl accepted offers from the revelers, cheerfully joining the marches one after another, leaving her worries behind for a moment. Luckily, we found her father looking for her down the street.

The next day, Saturday evening, the neighborhood filled with Oz immigration vans. A major operation was going on. The public statement informing the communities that no operations would take place over the holidays turned out to be a deception designed to create a sense of comfort within the communities, thereby facilitating a major arrest operation. Perhaps some bureaucrats in the Ministry of Interior even enjoyed the little joke: no operation on the holiday, but a major operation on the eve of necessary preparations for the holiday. What a grotesque image: a group of Philippine ladies, dressed in their Christmas costumes, the contents of their shopping bags full of presents for their kids spread out in the street around them, as they desperately searched for their documents, the absence of which would result in detention and deportation. For the first time in over five years of activities in the neighborhood, the immigration officers even made an attempt to detain Saranna, proving their skills in discerning even a minute trace of non-Jewish origin.



Foxman Calls Hagel Anti-Semitic, But Won't Oppose His Nomination (includes President Jimmy Carter)

It's a new phase of what can only be described as a campaign to prevent former Sen. Chuck Hagel's potential appointment as Defense Secretary. The pattern seems to be emerging here: the right-wing raises harebrained objections, no one bothers to defend the potential nominee, the campaign catches on and, before you know it, the candidate withdraws before they've even been appointed. Henceforth, the hyperventilating war cries against Hagel emanated only from dyed-in-the-wool neoconservatives and former AIPAC spokesman Josh Block, and Josh Block, and Josh Block (a distinction without a difference, perhaps). But now the Chuck Hagel affair is at the "campaign catches on" phase: the first of the relatively centrist or moderate pro-Israel Jewish groups just spoke up with a shocking statement.

Abe Foxman, the head of the Anti-Defamation League, released an exclusive statement to—where else?—the Washington Post's pugnacious neoconservative blogger Jennifer Rubin:

Chuck Hagel would not be the first, second, or third choice for the American Jewish community’s friends of Israel. His record relating to Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship is, at best, disturbing, and at worst, very troubling. The sentiments he’s expressed about the Jewish lobby border on anti-Semitism in the genre of professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt and former president Jimmy Carter.

What's most stunning about the accusation is that Foxman didn't here launch into what's become the more mild—and, I think all comers will agree, more reasonable—policy critiques of some of Hagel's positions. Instead, Foxman went for the nuclear option: that Hagel's statements on Washington's pro-Israel community "border on anti-Semitism." I've addressed the anti-Semitism charge against Hagel already, and Peter Beinart did so again in these pages in response to another attack alleging Jew-hatred in the Wall Street Journal today (Jen Rubin cited the latter, natch). But don't listen to me or Peter (or Miller or Kurtzer) that Hagel's views don't put him beyond the pale for the Defense Secretary position. Listen to Abe Foxman. According to a report in the Times of Israel—which came out after Rubin's exclusive—Foxman doesn't intend to oppose Hagel's nomination:



Syrian Rebels Say Capture Military Base, Seize Weapons

HAWA, Syria | Sun Dec 23, 2012 3:01pm EST
(Reuters) - Syrian rebels have seized a military base in the country's north, capturing weapons they hope will repel air raids by President Bashar al-Assad's forces, rebels said on Sunday.

Under cover of rain and fog, Col. Anas Ibrahim Abu Zeid led 200 fighters in a four-hour operation to take over the 135 Infantry Brigade base in the village of Hawa, a mostly Kurdish area in northern Aleppo province, on Saturday, they said, as they showed the base to journalists.

The rebels found about 150 soldiers at the base, though it can hold up to 3,000 troops, Abu Zeid said. Between 10-15 soldiers were taken prisoner, he said. They would not say what happened to the other troops, although a Reuters journalist saw at least one corpse.

The rebels said they lost six of their men.

The weapons were hidden in secret locations in Aleppo's countryside, where the majority of the rebels fighting in this part of the country are from. At a warehouse in a residential area down a narrow street, rebels showed off two .57mm field guns and three 14-1/2 mm anti-aircraft guns.



House Urges Obama To Shut PLO Office As Punishment For UN Vote

WASHINGTON - Just over half of the U.S. House of Representatives called on President Obama to shut down the PLO office in Washington as punishment for its ascension in United Nations status.

"One important way of expressing U.S. disapproval would be to send the message that such actions are not cost-free and that, at a minimum, they result in setbacks to U.S.-Palestinian relations," said the letter sent Dec. 21, initiated by the incoming and outgoing leaders of both parties on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and signed by 239 members, including leaders such as Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the majority leader, and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the minority whip.

"We can do this by closing the PLO office in Washington, D.C. We can also call our Consul-General in Jerusalem home for consultations," the letter said.

The Palestine Liberation Organization had its status elevated last month to non-member observer state, which could facilitate efforts to charge Israel with war crimes in the international court system.



Sean Hannity Waterboard Weasel - 1340 Days Since Promising To Undergo Waterboarding For Charity

It has now been 1340 days, or three years and eight months, since Sean Hannity said, on April 22, 2009, he'd undergo waterboarding to prove it's not torture - and do it to raise money for charity. Time to man up, Sean, to borrow one of you favorite phrases and either fulfill your promise or explain why you haven't.

Below is a video (from our friends at Crooks and Liars) showing Hannity's promise to undergo waterboarding - plus Keith Olbermann's offer to add $1,000 to charity for every second Hannity tolerates the process.

You can email Hannity via his website and let him know he may want to forget his promise but we won't!

MORE with video...

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