Daily Archives: January 4, 2009

Israelis do a war dance in anticipation of Gaza invasion

Israeli troops dance as they await the order for a Gaza war

McClatchy | Jan 3, 2009

By Dion Nissenbaum

ALONG THE ISRAEL-GAZA STRIP BORDER — In a muddy field overlooking the smoke-blackened Gaza Strip skyline on Tuesday, young soldiers from an Israeli tank unit linked arms with euphoric civilians and joined them in the hora, a circular dance, in anticipation of a possible ground invasion of the Palestinian territory.

Far overhead, a pair of Israeli Apache helicopters fired on a target inside Gaza, unleashed diversionary flares and disappeared to the north. Elsewhere in the autonomous Palestinian region, Israeli jets, helicopters and ships pummeled the area with new strikes against dozens of targets.

Hour after hour, Israeli jets, helicopters and ships pummeled the region with new strikes against dozens of targets as diplomats took the first tentative steps to head off a ground offensive.

Four days into the Israeli military campaign, the death toll among Palestinians topped 370, including at least 90 civilians, according to U.N. personnel and Palestinian human rights workers.

Palestinian rocket attacks have killed four people on the Israeli side since the offensive began Saturday, and Israel says its military operation won’t end until the rockets stop crashing into Israeli cities.

Gaza militants warned of dire consequences should Israeli leaders launch a new, more dangerous phase of the offensive to destabilize the militant Islamist group Hamas, which controls Gaza, and end the sporadic rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza.

“If you enter Gaza, the children will collect your flesh and the remains of your tanks, which will be spread out through the streets,” said a leading Hamas spokesman, who goes by the nom-de-guerre Abu Obeida, in a videotaped statement delivered to reporters in the Gaza Strip.

The militants fired rockets ever-deeper into Israel Tuesday, with one of about 40 harmlessly hitting the outskirts of Beersheba, a city with 185,000 residents about 28 miles from the Gaza Strip border.

On the Israeli side of the frontier, however, the prospect of an expanded war unleashed a surge of emotions. Huge speakers blasted religious songs from the tops of two beat-up cars that brought dozens of civilians to cheer on some of the thousands of troops who would take part in any possible ground invasion.

“His breath kindleth coals,” read a quote from Job in Hebrew on a sign alongside the Israeli tank unit at the staging area on the border. “And a flame goeth forth from his mouth.”

“It’s a war,” said a 25-year-old Israeli military police captain. “We have to go in. What else can we do?” The officer declined to give his name because he said he could be disciplined for talking a reporter.

International pressure for a cease-fire was building Tuesday, but the Bush administration, which has blamed Hamas for the crisis and declined to criticize Israel’s actions, hasn’t demanded an immediate cease-fire.

European ministers, meeting in Paris, called Tuesday evening for an “immediate and permanent cease-fire,” as well as the opening of all border crossings into the Gaza Strip. That call was echoed at the United Nations following a conference call that included Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and representatives from the European Union and Russia.

President George W. Bush and Rice intensified their telephone diplomacy, with Rice urging Arab leaders to pressure Hamas to accept a cease-fire and halt rocket attacks on Israel, according to diplomats and others briefed on the talks.

Israeli officials said privately that Defense Minister Ehud Barak was contemplating a French proposal for a 48-hour cease-fire to alleviate the crisis.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, however, quickly dismissed the idea.

“Israel thinks that taking the pressure off Hamas, giving them a respite to regroup and rearm and prepare for a second round is a mistake,” said Olmert spokesman Mark Regev.

Regev emphasized that Israel was “open to every creative humanitarian idea” to allow more aid into Gaza.

However, Israel Tuesday targeted more of the elaborate network of smugglers’ tunnels between Egypt and Gaza that’s provided the main supply line for 1.5 million Palestinians living in the densely populated Mediterranean region.

With more tunnels shut down, supplies are running dangerously low in Gaza. Israel and Egypt have allowed in limited amounts of aid, but Palestinians said that demand was far outstripping supply.

Grocery stores were reported to be running out of food. Large swaths of the Gaza Strip were thrown into longer blackouts, and hospital blood supplies have run low.

Israel allowed five ambulances provided by Turkey to enter Gaza as Palestinian hospitals struggled to deal with more than 1,800 people injured in the ongoing assault.

Earlier Tuesday, the Israeli navy rammed a 60-foot yacht run owned by pro-Palestinian activists that tried to bring three tons of medical aid from Cyprus to Gaza. The boat, which previously had made four trips from Larnaca to Gaza, was forcibly turned away by the Israeli navy and limped back north to Lebanon.

Not all the Israeli civilians called up in the crisis were eager for the ground offensive.

“I really hope it will end in a short time with some kind of settlement,” said Tal, a 33-year-old Israeli reservist with a tank unit stationed near the Gaza border. “I think we made a big achievement and now I really hope the other side will stop shooting.”

Tal, a veterinarian from the Tel Aviv area who fought in Israel’s 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon, said the military was far better prepared this time.

“We made a lot of stupid mistakes,” he said of the 2006 war that led to the resignation of Israel’s defense minister and other top leaders who were blamed for leading the military into a costly ground offensive.

“I think this time we are doing much better,” Tal said while taking a coffee break near the Gaza border. “We are talking less and doing more.”

The Israeli military has told soldiers to expect booby-trapped tunnels, roadside bombs and other hazards if they punch into Gaza, and Israeli troops know that fighting in the densely populated Gaza Strip will be difficult, dangerous and deadly.

“I really think it will be bad for the two sides because, if we go inside, there will be lots of civilian casualties and a lot of soldiers might be killed,” Tal said before heading back to his unit to continue preparing for battle.

(McClatchy special correspondent Ahmed Abu Hamda in Gaza City and Warren P. Strobel in Washington contributed to this article.)

Horror Emergency Laws Set To Kill

Wise Up Journal | Jan 2, 2009

By Gabriel O’Hara

The majority of this article is made up from an absolutely horrifying section of the National Medical Bill. Horrors that you’ve not heard about in 70 years are actually wrote down and they are legal. Everything in this article has a link to the official bill. The section in question of the Medical Bill springs from the World Health Organisation standards and recommendations. Most countries are likely to have the same bills because most follow the WHO’s lead, however in some countries these emergency plans can not be seen even by homeland security so this Irish Medical Bill could be a window into what other Governments are also prepared to do.

These specific emergency measures can legally be carried out without the so called emergency every happening in your country, all that is required is a simple alert from the unelected people at the WHO. As we will see, these psychotic Government actions to a so called “imminent” emergency will actually do more damage than if the emergency hit.

We’ll come to the Medical Bill in a moment but first we’ll look at this 2008 pamphlet from the Government that states a worldwide pandemic would be caused by “a new influenza strain” and they are pretty confident when they state “there will be more pandemics”. It also lets us know who is in control of kicking off the alert and actions when it says, “You will be advised to begin these preparations if and when the World Health Organisation confirms that a pandemic is imminent.” The Department of Health & Children’s National Pandemic Influenza Plan shows the WHO puts our global society currently at phase 3 of a phase 6 global pandemic, “The World Health Organization (WHO) uses six phases of pandemic alert as a system for informing the world of the seriousness of the threat.“ Phase 3: “Human infection(s) with a new subtype, […] We are now in Phase 3 (January 2007).” The power to alert/get nations implementing WHO actions is further consolidated in to the hands of one person, the current Director-General (Chinese Margaret Chan) and the pandemic plan says, “the designation of alert phases, including decisions on when to move from one phase to another, is made by the Director-General of the World Health Organization. The transition between phases may be rapid and some phases may be skipped. “

Full Story

Canadian city endured coldest December in 44 years

Snow, cold set new standards

44-year-old record for December snowfall buried.

Nanaimo News Bulletin | Jan 2, 2009
By Rachel Stern

Old man winter blasted Nanaimo with cold air and buried the city in record snowfall in December, breaking a 44-year-old record.

Last month saw 118.4 centimetres of snow fall, breaking the 111-centimetre record from December 1964 and also far surpassing the 1996 snowfall of 95.2 centimetres.

The accummulated snow fell just short of the all-time snowfall record set in February of 1975 when 122 centimetres blanketed the city.

Nanaimoites also had to bundle up on many occasions, especially on Dec. 20 when the temperature fell to –20 C, tying the all-time record low for the month as well as the all-time lowest temperature set on Dec. 30, 1968.

“It’s the coldest air we’ve seen in a few years. Add to that locally there were clearing skies and an already low air mass that allowed the temperature to drop,” said David Jones, a meteorologist for Environment Canada. “Under an already cold air mass, the temperature dropped dramatically.”

Jones said it’s significant that Nanaimo tied its all-time low because records have been kept since 1947. He said it is also unusual because other nearby communities didn’t come close to breaking any all-time records.

“Typically you see it over a few systems, but in this case it was only in Nanaimo,” said Jones. “Local effects altered the temperature in Nanaimo.”

Two other records were broken this December.

On Dec. 15 a temperature of –15.7 C broke the 1964 record for that day of –8.9 C. And on Dec. 13 a dump of 37 centimetres of snow broke that day’s previous record of 10.7 centimetres set in 1975.

Jones said the heavy snowfall and low temperatures in Nanaimo were caused by dry arctic air crossing over the Straight of Georgia and being forced upward when it collided with the mountain slopes on Vancouver Island.

He said Nanaimoites can expect rain or a mix of rain and snow over the next few days, but Environment Canada doesn’t expect more heavy snowfalls in the coming week.

“We’re going to be flirting with [snow] a little bit,” said Jones.

Environment Canada measures snowfall and temperatures at the Nanaimo Airport.

Wales braces for coldest weather in a decade

Get set for the coldest weekend in a decade

Wales Online | Jan 3, 2009

by Tim Lewis

PUT another log on the fire – it’s going to be a cold one.

The Met Office is warning this weekend is going to be bitterly cold as temperatures drop well below freezing.

Estimates suggest it will fall to as low as -5° overnight tonight and that will continue into tomorrow morning.

If so, it will be one of the lowest temperatures recorded in the UK within the last decade.

And, with wind chill factored in, it could feel even colder as sub-zero temperatures continue to grip the whole of Wales.

Most areas will enjoy long periods of unbroken sunshine but this will do very little to push the temperatures up.

A spokeswoman for the Met Office said: “We expect it to drop down around -4° or -5° on Saturday so everyone can expect a very frosty morning on Sunday.

“Cardiff will be very cold but it could get even worse up into the Valleys and over higher ground towards the Brecon Beacons.”

Cardiff City’s crunch FA Cup tie against Reading at Ninian Park looks set to go ahead despite the freezing conditions.

A number of third round ties are in danger of being called off this weekend, including local rivals Swansea’s game with non-league Histon.

South Wales has been lucky enough to escape the very worst of the cold snap, with parts of the nation further north falling to -8.4° on January 1.

The Met Office says the cold has been caused by a sustained period of high pressure that is expected to last well into next week.

“Sunday night could see some rain and that could bring problems as it falls onto frosty ground,” added the Met Office spokeswoman.

“We would urge people to be very careful as they make their way around on Sunday as there is likely to be a lot of ice on the ground.

“These temperatures are still a long way off the records for this time of year but it is definitely a very cold start to 2009.” Early signs from weather forecasters suggest there is also the possibility of snow towards the end of next week.

It is likely to be confined to easterly areas of England at first but there is a chance it could spread to the rest of the UK by Friday.

U.S. Debt Expected To Soar Another $2 Trillion This Year

$2 Trillion Increase May Test Federal Ability to Borrow

Washington Post | Jan 3, 2009

By Lori Montgomery

With President-elect Barack Obama and congressional Democrats considering a massive spending package aimed at pulling the nation out of recession, the national debt is projected to jump by as much as $2 trillion this year, an unprecedented increase that could test the world’s appetite for financing U.S. government spending.

For now, investors are frantically stuffing money into the relative safety of the U.S. Treasury, which has come to serve as the world’s mattress in troubled times. Interest rates on Treasury bills have plummeted to historic lows, with some short-term investors literally giving the government money for free.

But about 40 percent of the debt held by private investors will mature in a year or less, according to Treasury officials. When those loans come due, the Treasury will have to borrow more money to repay them, even as it launches perhaps the most aggressive expansion of U.S. debt in modern history.

With the government planning to roll over its short-term loans into more stable, long-term securities, experts say investors are likely to demand a greater return on their money, saddling taxpayers with huge new interest payments for years to come. Some analysts also worry that foreign investors, the largest U.S. creditors, may prove unable to absorb the skyrocketing debt, undermining confidence in the United States as the bedrock of the global financial system.

While the current market for Treasurys is booming, it’s unclear whether demand for debt can be sustained, said Lou Crandall, chief economist at Wrightson ICAP, which analyzes Treasury financing trends.

“There’s a time bomb in there somewhere,” Crandall said, “but we don’t know exactly where on the calendar it’s planted.”

The government’s hunger for cash began growing exponentially as the nation slipped into recession in the wake of a housing foreclosure crisis a year ago. Washington has since approved $168 billion in spending to stimulate economic activity, $700 billion to prevent the collapse of the U.S. financial system, and multibillion-dollar bailouts for a variety of financial institutions, including insurance giant American International Group and mortgage financiers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Despite those actions, the economic outlook has continued to darken. Now, Obama and congressional Democrats are debating as much as $850 billion in new federal spending and tax cuts to create or preserve jobs and slow the grim, upward march of unemployment, which stood in November at 6.7 percent.

Congress is not planning to raise taxes or cut spending to cover the cost of those programs, because economists say doing so would further slow economic activity. That means the government has to borrow the money.

Some of the borrowing was done during the fiscal year that ended in September, when the Treasury added nearly $720 billion to the national debt. But the big borrowing binge will come during the current fiscal year, when the cost of the bailouts plus another stimulus package combined with slowing tax revenues will force the government to increase the debt by as much as $2 trillion to finance its obligations, according to a Treasury survey of bond dealers and other market analysts.

As of yesterday, the debt stood at nearly $10.7 trillion, of which about $4.3 trillion is owed to other government institutions, such as the Social Security trust fund. Debt held by private investors totals nearly $6.4 trillion, or a little over 40 percent of gross domestic product.

According to the most recent figures, foreign investors held about $3 trillion in U.S. debt at the end of October. China, which in October replaced Japan as the United States’ largest creditor, has increased its holdings by 42 percent over the past year; Britain and the Caribbean banking countries more than doubled their holdings.

Full Story

Polar Bear swim club endures coldest ocean plunge on record

polar_swim_club

In the eight years the polar plunge has been held, this year’s was, by far, the coldest and most potentially hazardous

New Haven Independent | Jan 2, 2009

Polars Take Coldest Plunge Yet

by Leonard J. Honeyman

The wind chill hovered near zero with gale-force winds.

Temperatures barely made it to a dozen degrees below freezing. The sun shone meekly over fresh snow. Even the gulls had a better place to be.

In other words, it was a perfect day for a swim.

More than 100 people signed up for, then perhaps half that number plunged into the 40-degree waters of Long Island Sound Thursday for the annual New Year’s Day Polar Plunge for the Parks at Lighthouse Park. The carousel was the headquarters for the 200 or so people who came out to participate or gawk at those who did.

It was different from the balmy weather that greeted the event two years ago and the rainy but relatively sane temperatures last year.

The reaction of those who participated in this year’s new year’s plunge ranged from exhilarating to shocking, with the former coming from 74-year-old Bob Brunell of Hamden.

Daniel Crass of New Haven waxed ecstatic about the experience from the warmth of one of three hot tubs provided to allow swimmers to warm up, but gently, in 80-degree water.

“It was a little bit cold, but liberating, exhilarating. I want to do it again,” he said.

Organizer Chris Ozyck of New Haven said the water was “painfully cold.”

In the eight years the polar plunge has been held, this year’s was, by far, the coldest and most potentially hazardous, he said. He spent at least 10 minutes before the 1 p.m. general plunge giving instructions to those who still wanted to enter the dark-grey-green water that the wind whipped into whitecaps.

The less clothing, the better, he said. Don’t dive in, but only enter the water up to your waste or knees, and then get out quickly, he extorted the dozens gathered about the bandstand to receive their instructions.

Full Story

Muslims taken off jet for alleged remarks

BBC | Jan 3, 2009

Nine Muslims were ordered off a US domestic flight after passengers heard one of them make what they thought were suspicious remarks.

Shortly after boarding the New Year’s Day AirTran flight from Washington DC to Florida the Muslims were led off the plane by federal air marshals.

The group, eight of them US citizens, were later cleared for travel and have received an apology from AirTran.

One of them said he felt they had been forced off because of their appearance.

The men had beards and the women wore traditional Muslim headscarves.

Atif Irfan, a lawyer from Virginia was travelling to a religious retreat in Florida with his wife, his brother and his brother’s family, including three children, aged seven, four and two, the Associated Press reported.

They were joined by his brother’s sister-in-law and a family friend.

Mr Irfan said when he boarded Thursday’s flight, he mentioned something to his wife and sister-in-law about having to sit in the back.

“My wife and I are generally very careful about what we say when we step on the plane,” he said, adding that they have received suspicious looks in the past.

“We’re used to this sort of thing – but obviously not to this extent.”

Forced to rebook

Shortly after taking their seats, they were approached by federal air marshals and taken off the plane for questioning, Irfan said.

Federal officials ordered the rest of the passengers from the plane and re-screened them before allowing the flight to depart about two hours behind schedule.

Mr Irfan said after his group was cleared by officials to travel, AirTran refused to put them on another flight and they were forced to rebook with another airline.

An Airtran statement said “we apologise to all of the passengers – to the nine who had to undergo extensive interviews from the authorities and to the 95 who ultimately made the flight,”.

“We regret that the issue escalated to the heightened security it did,” it added, but said “the steps taken were necessary.”

Airtran said it would reimburse the Muslims for the replacement tickets and has offered to take them back to Washington for free.