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Member since: 2003 before July 6th
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AIPAC Is Losing Its Influence

For 40 years, Aipac, the American Israel Political Action Committee, has been the definitive lobbying voice for Israel in US politics.

A body with 100,000 members, Aipac has used its financial muscle and political skills to become arguably the most influential non-governmental voice on foreign policy in the US.
For most of that time, Likud-dominated governments have been in power in Israel and the organisation’s unquestioning promotion of Likud’s right-wing agenda — and Aipac acolytes’ harsh criticism of those who disagree — has left many US Jews, by inclination liberal, feeling alienated.

Slowly, though, Aipac’s supremacy is being challenged. Here are two recent examples.
On January 24, New York’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, held an unannounced meeting with Aipac leaders. A reporter sneaked into the meeting and recorded it. Mr De Blasio told the group: “City Hall will always be open to Aipac. When you need me to stand by you in Washington or anywhere, I will answer the call and I’ll answer it happily because that’s my job.”

Within days, an open letter to the mayor was circulated to the Jewish press taking him to task for the meeting and reminding him...



Elderly, Children Evacuated from Blockaded Syrian City

The United Nations says 83 Syrian civilians, including the elderly and children, were evacuated from rebel-held areas of the city of Homs Friday.

Aid workers escorted frail old men and women draped in blankets as part of a three-day humanitarian pause to let civilians out and help in.

A year-long blockade of Homs by Syrian government forces has created severe food shortages. U.N. relief coordinator Valerie Amos says many sick and wounded civilians remain trapped. She is calling on all sides to grant humanitarian workers full access to Homs and other besieged Syrian cities.

Russia said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government made an agreement with the United Nations Thursday for a three-day cease-fire to allow aid into Homs.

Also Friday, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Makdad said the government will take part in the next round of peace talks with the opposition. The new talks are set to open Monday.



Post-Snowden, Why Were U.S. Diplomats Talking On Insecure Line?

BERLIN — Not long before Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Victoria Nuland was secretly recorded cursing the European Union’s efforts in Ukraine, two European Union officials were caught in a very similar situation, complaining about the United States.

In the first recorded conversation, EU diplomat Helga Schmid was speaking to the EU’s ambassador to Ukraine, Jan Tombinski, discussing perceived slights.

“The Americans are going around telling people we’re too weak, while they are tougher on sanctions,” Schmid can be heard saying. “It really bothers us that the Americans are going around naming and shaming us.”

But what matters more than the content of the calls – in hers, Nuland was recorded saying “F--- the EU” – is the context: Both calls were made by senior diplomats in Kiev, both were discussing the crisis there, both were recorded and both audio recordings were anonymously put up on YouTube.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2014/02/07/4806031/post-snowden-why-were-us-diplomats.html#storylink=cpy

'Israel Must Prosecute West Bank Land Thieves'

Settlement depends on deception, lies and theft. So why aren’t the police and prosecution doing everything in their power to put an end to it?

By Yesh Din (written by Yossi Gurvitz)

The story was supposed to be simple: Yoel Tzur, the CEO of the Company for the Development of the Yeshiva Town in Beit El (Yesh Din dealt with this shady company previously) admitted during his police interrogation that he built what would come to be known as “Ulpana Hill” on private Palestinian land, for which he had no valid contract. Tzur told the police that he began construction in 1998, and that by 2000 he thought he obtained a contract for the land, which turned out to be forged. That is, Tsur himself says he began the construction two years before he even thought he had a contract. Everything was done on private land (since it’s Palestinian land, who cares?), and not just that – as was exposed by the press (Hebrew), Tzur also misled the buyers, good Jews who preferred not to ask any questions.

But the police preferred to close the case, citing, with chutzpah, the “no criminal guilt” clause. That was impressive even by the usual standards of the SJPD (Samaria and Judea Police District). As part of Tzur’s investigation, the investigators came uncomfortably close to Ze’ev “Zambish” Hever, whose hand is in every plate. During his interrogation, Tzur connected Hever’s communal society, Amana, to the land purchase that never took place. Hever denied it. The police, which interrogated him as a witness rather than as a suspect, did not bother to do what was expected of it and didn’t search Amana’s offices nor its computers. This, after all, comes too close to the centers of power.

But Hever is not the only powerful man involved: the lawyer who edited the forged purchase documents is David Rotem. You may know him as member of Knesset David Rotem from Yisrael Beitenu, or former head of the Law, Constitution and Justice Knesset Committee. But do the cops look for trouble? They eventually closed the case.

Yesh Din expects little of the SJPD. Its expertise, after all, is botching investigations, at which it is quite successful. Turns out there’s nothing much to expect of the prosecution. We appealed the police’s decision on December 14th, 2010, more than three years ago, demanding the investigation be completed and Tzur be indicted. We have been waiting for the conclusion since.



Guest Lineups For The Sunday News Shows

“Meet the Press” on NBC

• U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul
• Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), chairman, Senate Rules Committee
• Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio)

“Face the Nation” on CBS

• Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)
• Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.)
• Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.)

“This Week” on ABC

• Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich), chairman, House Intelligence Committee
• Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.)
• Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.)
• Former White House senior adviser David Plouffe

“Fox News Sunday” on Fox

• Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)
• Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.)
• Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas), chairman, House Homeland Security Committee
• Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.)

“State of the Union” on CNN

• Former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano

Boycotting Israel and the First Amendment

Common sense, and maybe a renewed appreciation for first principles, seems to be stymying dangerous legislation that would undermine free speech in a misguided attempt to appear pro-Israel.

On Friday, BuzzFeed, quoting a pro-Israel Democratic strategist, reported that two major Jewish groups – the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Anti-Defamation League – are not planning to back a bill in Congress that would withhold federal funding from American academic entities that boycott Israel.

“There’s no way they’ll say they support it,” the strategist reportedly said. We hope he is right.

The bill was introduced by two Illinois congressmen, Republican Peter Roskam and Democrat Dan Lipinski, in retaliation against the American Studies Association and other groups that support a call by Palestinians to boycott Israeli academic institutions.

In endorsing the boycott in December, the association said it would refuse formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions, with scholars who represent those institutions, or the Israeli government until “Israel ceases to violate human rights and international law.” The boycott does not apply to individual Israeli scholars engaged in ordinary exchanges.



U.S. Hiring Struggles To Rebound From Winter Chill

(Reuters) - U.S. job creation slowed sharply over the past two months, turning in the weakest performance in three years and raising the prospect that the economy may be losing momentum.

At the same time, however, the unemployment rate hit a new five-year low of 6.6 percent in January even as Americans piled back into the labor market to search for work.

The Jekyll and Hyde report from the Labor Department on Friday whipsawed U.S. markets in early trade. Many economists cautioned against reading too much into it given the extreme weather that has hit much of the nation this winter.

"It supports the view that momentum is slowing in the first quarter, but it's too early to draw conclusions and we should not be too pessimistic either," said Thomas Costerg, a U.S. economist at Standard Chartered Bank in New York.

Nonfarm payrolls rose only 113,000 last month after a meager 75,000 gain in December, the report showed. Economists had expected payrolls to rise 185,000 in January and had looked for a big upward revision to December that failed to materialize.



Iran Rift Risked as IAEA Seeks Details on Rare Atomic Experiment

By Jonathan Tirone Feb 6, 2014 6:00 PM ET

United Nations nuclear investigators want Iran to produce more information about experiments it conducted in the early 1990s with polonium, a rare metal that has been used to trigger nuclear weapons.

International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors are traveling to Tehran for a meeting with Iranian officials tomorrow, when they’ll try to craft a plan to clear up alleged nuclear-weapons work. While the IAEA had previously said past Iranian experiments with polonium appeared peaceful, Director General Yukiya Amano told the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 2 that investigators want more details.

Iran’s polonium work is “something that would benefit from further clarification,” IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor said in an e-mailed reply to questions. She added that Amano had been responding to a question from a member of the audience.

With Iran and world powers set to resume talks over a long-term nuclear accord on Feb. 18 in Vienna, some former IAEA inspectors say a renewed emphasis on polonium risks undermining the negotiations. The metal, which triggered the 1945 atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki and which was used in 2006 to poison a former Russian spy in London, can also be used to make nuclear batteries and to clear dust from high-performance instruments.

“The Feb. 8 meetings between IAEA and Iran are a time for candor, trust and transparency,” Robert Kelley, a U.S. nuclear-weapons engineer who led IAEA investigations of Iraq, said in an e-mailed response to questions. “If Amano is reopening a completely dead and settled issue, how can Iran trust him?”



Sanctions Against Israel - A Campaign That Is Gathering Weight

Israel’s politicians sound rattled by the campaign to isolate their country

Feb 8th 2014 | JERUSALEM

ONCE derided as the scheming of crackpots, the campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, widely known as BDS, is turning mainstream. That, at any rate, is the fear of a growing number of Israelis. Some European pension funds have withdrawn investments; some large corporations have cancelled contracts; and the American secretary of state, John Kerry, rarely misses a chance to warn Israel that efforts to “delegitimise” and boycott it will increase if its government spurns his efforts to conclude a two-state settlement of its conflict with the Palestinians. Israel, says Yair Lapid, Israel’s foreign minister, is approaching the same “tipping point” where South Africa found itself in opposition to the rest of the world in the dying days of apartheid. “Let’s not kid ourselves,” he told a conference of security boffins recently in Tel Aviv. “The world listens to us less and less.”

BDS has begun to grab the attention of some of the world’s largest financial institutions. PGGM, a big Dutch pension fund, has liquidated its holdings in five Israeli banks (though the Netherlands’ largest has affirmed its investments). Norway’s finance ministry has announced that it is excluding Africa Israel Investments and its subsidiary, Danya Cebus, a big building firm, from a government pension fund.

The campaign is drawing support from beyond northern Europe. Romania has forbidden its citizens from working for companies in the West Bank. More churches are backing BDS. An American academic association is boycotting Israeli lecturers. The debate turned viral after Scarlett Johansson, a Hollywood actor, quit her role as ambassador for Oxfam, a charity based in Britain, in order to keep her advertising contract with SodaStream, an Israeli drinks firm with a plant on the West Bank.

Mr Lapid, who favours a two-state solution, reels out figures to show how sanctions could hit every Israeli pocket. “If negotiations with the Palestinians stall or blow up and we enter the reality of a European boycott, even a very partial one,” he warned, 10,000 Israelis would “immediately” lose their jobs. Trade with the European Union, a third of Israel’s total, would slump—he calculates—by $5.7 billion.



Intercepted F-Bomb Phone Call Shows U.S. Role in Ukraine

By Terry Atlas and Nicole Gaouette Feb 7, 2014 11:02 AM ET

Some undiplomatic language by the top U.S. diplomat for Europe has rattled relations with the European Union and added more tension to the East-West strains over Ukraine’s political crisis.

“F--k the EU,” Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland said in a private phone call, expressing frustration with European Union efforts to resolve Ukraine’s political turmoil.

On the eve of Russia’s showcase Olympics in Sochi, the U.S. suggested yesterday that Moscow’s intelligence apparatus was involved in some way with the leaked recording of the intercepted phone call between Nuland and U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt. The call was made last month, based on references in the discussion.

Nuland today called the audio recording “impressive tradecraft” -- a word used to describe espionage activity. The clip, posted on Google Inc.’s (GOOG) YouTube by an unidentified individual, was subtitled in Russian rather than Ukrainian and accompanied by photographs and images of people mentioned in the call. Nuland spoke at a briefing in Kiev after arriving yesterday for talks in the Ukrainian capital. She declined to discuss the conversation further.

While saying the U.S. doesn’t know who recorded the call or posted it, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said an aide to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin was the first to draw attention to it in a posting on Twitter Inc. (TWTR) The aide, Dmitry Loskutov, tweeted in English: “Sort of controversial judgment from Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland speaking about the EU.”


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