Israel

Senate Democrats Leave Door Open To Skip Netanyahu Speech

ASSOCIATED PRESS Susan Walsh

BuzzFeed

Only one senator asked by BuzzFeed News — Sen. Ben Cardin — said he’d definitely go.

WASHINGTON — When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint session of Congress in March, it is unclear whether everybody invited will actually show up.

Democrats have criticized House Speaker John Boehner for circumventing the administration when he invited Netanyahu to speak, and the White House has already said Obama will not meet with him when he’s here.

BuzzFeed News asked several Senate Democrats whether they planned on skipping the speech or not. Most said they either hadn’t thought about it or they hadn’t decided. But there were no hard answers in the negative. Only one senator definitively said he would go.

Sen. Tim Kaine, who serves on both the Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees and recently traveled to Israel, said it’s “too early” to decide whether he’ll attend or not.

“It is not the norm to do this right before an election and it is being widely reported in the Israeli press as the U.S. expressing some kind of a preference,” Kaine said.

Sen. Chris Murphy expressed a similar sentiment.

“I’m sick about the fact that protocol has been violated, but you know, I’m always eager to hear what he has to say,” Sen. Chris Murphy said. “It’s not something that I have thought about one way or the other.”

A Democratic aide said their office was only informed of the scheduled date on Thursday and it was unclear if “anything’s been discussed at this point by anyone in the Senate.”

Netanyahu’s arrival will come at a tense time. He’s up for re-election in mid-March and many have said they are uncomfortable having him make a political speech to Congress so close to that vote. The U.S. is also in talks with Iran over its nuclear program.

Netanyahu is slated to address Congress on March 3.

When asked whether he’d attend, Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said he’d “figure that out later.”

Sen. Chris Coons, who serves on the Foreign Relations Committee, said, “I’ll be weighing what’s the best thing to do.”

“I remain hopeful that his address would be delayed until after their election,” the Delaware Democrat told BuzzFeed News.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein declined to comment. Sen. Ed Markey referred BuzzFeed News to his press office.

Sen. Ben Cardin, a senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee, was the lone senator who said he would attend no matter what.

“I’d be more than happy to meet with opposition leaders if they want to meet with us, give them opportunities, etcetera,” Cardin told BuzzFeed News. “But if the Prime Minister of Israel addresses a joint session of Congress, I would be there.”

Speaking at the Democrat retreat in Philadelphia Wednesday night, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi warned of the effects a visit from Netanyahu could have on the Iran talks.

“In terms of invitations to speak to Congress — the Prime Minister has spoken two times. The only person who has spoken more is Winston Churchill,” Pelosi said. “One of the times, my father was in the room; Dec. 26 — the day after Christmas — 1941, right when we were going into World War II. It’s a serious, big honor that we extend. That it should be extended two weeks before an election in a country, without collaboration among the leaders of Congress, and without collaboration with the White House, is not appropriate. It is not appropriate.”

5 things you need to know now – 1-29-2015

Al-Kassasbeh, a Jordanian pilot, was captured by ISIS last month after the fighter jet he was flying crashed in Syria. ISIS says he’s still alive, but Jordan’s foreign minister told CNN his government has asked for a proof of life, but hasn’t received it. | CNN

The Week

1.

ISIS gives Jordan until sunset Thursday for prisoner swap

In a new audio message posted Wednesday, a person purported to be ISIS hostage and Japanese journalist Kenji Goto says that if Jordan does not bring a failed suicide bomber to the Turkish border by sunset Thursday, a Jordanian fighter pilot held by the group will be executed. ISIS had previously said it would kill both Goto and the pilot, Mu’ath al-Kasaesbeh, unless Jordan releases Sajida al-Rishawi, a woman who was put in prison for her involvement in a 2005 botched suicide attack targeting a hotel in Amman. The latest message only mentions al-Kasaesbeh’s fate, and not Goto’s.

Source: NBC News

2.

Raul Castro demands U.S. return Guantanamo Bay before ties restored

On Wednesday, Cuban President Raúl Castro publicly issued some new demands before the two countries normalize bilateral relations. Among them: Ending the U.S. trade embargo, agreeing to “give back the territory illegally occupied by the Guantanamo naval base,” and paying Cuba hundreds of millions of dollars as “just compensation to our people for the human and economic damage that they’re suffered” from the embargo. Castro’s demands, made in a speech at a Community of Latin American and Caribbean States summit in Costa Rica, aren’t likely to be met, but the nascent U.S.-Cuba negotiations will continue.

Source: The Associated Press

3.

Hezbollah not planning to escalate skirmish, Israel says

Israel’s defense minister announced Thursday that Lebanese militant group Hezbollah isn’t planning further action against Israel after Wednesday’s attack. Hezbollah’s missile strike on an Israeli convoy in a disputed area near the Israel-Lebanon border killed two Israeli soldiers and wounded seven. After the attack, Israel sent helicopters and fired at least 35 artillery shells into Lebanon, according to Lebanese security officials. “We received a message that from their standpoint, the incident is over, but we are, of course, prepared for any development,” Israeli defense minister Moshe Yaalon said on Army Radio. The attack area was quiet Thursday, but Israeli troops remained on high alert.

Source: Reuters, The New York Times

4.

New Greek leader halts privatization plans

Greece’s new prime minister, anti-austerity leader Alexis Tsipras, on Wednesday abruptly ordered a halt to privatization plans called for under the recession-ravaged country’s international bailout. The move was a direct challenge to Greece’s European creditors, whose aid Greece needs to pay its massive public debts. Germany has warned it would not negotiate Greece’s $270 billion bailout package. The clash spooked investors, dragging down financial markets.

Source: Reuters

5.

Malaysia declares airliner’s 2014 disappearance an accident

Malaysia’s Civil Aviation Authority on Thursday formally declared the March 2014 disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 an accident. Officials also said none of the 239 passengers and crew survived. The declaration cleared the way for relatives to receive compensation. No trace of the airliner, which was traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, has been found despite an international search covering 5,300 square miles in the southern Indian Ocean, where the plane was presumed to have crashed.

Source: BBC News

10 things you need to know today: January 4, 2015

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee | Darren McCollester / Getty Images

The Week

Mike Huckabee prepares for a 2016 run, the first popularly elected black senator dies, and more.
1. Mike Huckabee leaves Fox News to consider 2016 bid

Fox News host Mike Huckabee announced Saturday he would leave his TV show while weighing whether to mount another White House bid. The former Arkansas governor, who fell short to eventual nominee John McCain in 2008, said the speculation surrounding his intentions was not fair to Fox and that the “honorable thing to do at this point” was leave the network. Huckabee said he would make a final decision on a 2016 bid by late spring. [Politico]

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2. Edward Brooke, first elected black senator, dies

Edward W. Brooke, the first African-American ever elected by popular vote to serve in the U.S. Senate, died Saturday at the age of 95. A Republican, Brooke won his first Senate election in Massachusetts in 1966, and later became the first Republican senator to call for President Richard Nixon’s resignation. The only two black senators to precede Brooke, Blanche K. Bruce and Hiram R. Revels, were both elected by Mississippi’s legislature — not the people — in the 1870s. [The Boston Globe]

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3. Israel withholds Palestinian tax payment

Israel on Saturday froze about $127 million in tax payments in retaliation for Palestine applying to join the International Criminal Court. Palestine moved on Friday to join the ICC in hopes of addressing alleged Israeli war crimes. Collected by Israel on behalf of Palestine, the tax revenue makes up more than half of the Palestinian Authority’s annual budget. [The Wall Street Journal, Al Jazeera]

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4. North Korea blasts U.S. over Sony hack sanctions

North Korea on Sunday struck back at the U.S. over new sanctions aimed at punishing the Hermit Kingdom for its alleged role in the massive Sony cyberattack. Imposed Friday, the sanctions target three companies and 10 government officials the U.S. claims had a hand in the hack. In response, North Korea continued to deny any involvement in the breach, instead accusing Washington of “groundlessly stirring up bad blood” and maintaining an “inveterate repugnancy and hostility” toward the Pyongyang. [BBC]

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5. Funeral to be held Sunday for slain NYPD officer

The funeral of New York Police Department officer Wenjian Liu, who was killed in the line of duty last month, will be held Sunday in Brooklyn. Thousands of police officers and politicians from around the country are expected to attend the memorial service. At a funeral last weekend for Rafael Ramos, the other officer killed in the December ambush, some members of the city’s police force turned their backs on Mayor Bill de Blasio, highlighting lingering tension between City Hall and the NYPD. [CBS]

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6. U.N. report: 12,300 civilian deaths in Iraq last year

An estimated 12,282 civilians died last year in violence across Iraq, making it the deadliest year there since 2007, according to the United Nations. The bulk of the deaths came later in the year as ISIS gained ground in the country. “This is a very sad state of affairs,” Nickolay Mladenov, a U.N. representative for Iraq, said. [The Los Angeles Times]

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7. Boko Haram abducts dozens in Nigeria

The militant Islamist group Boko Haram last week abducted about 40 men and boys from a village in northern Nigeria. The group seized its captives on Dec. 31, but news of the abduction didn’t trickle out for a few days due to faulty communications infrastructure destroyed in previous Boko Haram attacks. [CNN]

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8. Pope Francis names 15 new cardinals

Pope Francis on Sunday named 15 new cardinals from disparate places around the globe, saying the selections were intended to “show the indelible tie with the church of Rome to churches in the world.” Francis tabbed cardinals from Myanmar, Ethiopia, and Tonga, among others. [The Associated Press]

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9. Oregon, Ohio, to change name for college football championship

The town of Oregon, Ohio, says it will temporarily change its name ahead of next week’s college football title game. The first ever College Football Playoff National Championship pits the Oregon Ducks against the Ohio State Buckeyes, which prompted two Oregon — the suburb, not the state — natives to petition the city council for a name change. Oregon City Administrator Michael Beazley told the Toledo Free Press the town had not settled on a new name yet, but that they were “going to do something” in the next few days. [Toledo Free Press, ESPN]

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10. Opry star Jimmy Dickens dead at 94

Jimmy Dickens, a Country Music Hall of Fame member known best for his decades-long presence at the Grand Ole Opry, died Friday at a hospital in Nashville after suffering a stroke. He was 94 years old. Standing at just 4-foot-11, the country music star earned the nicknames “Little Jimmy Dickens,” and, as he called himself, “Mighty Mouse in Pajamas.” [The New York Times]

Texas Christian Fundamentalist Arrested in Israel for Allegedly Planning to Blow Up Islamic Sites

Are  Christian evangelicals trying to rush the “end-times”?  One has to wonder about the motives in cases like the following:

Alternet

Further evidence that most terrorism in the United States is conducted by non-Muslims.

Although the news media typically focuses on Muslim terrorists, the truth is that most terrorism in the United States is conducted by non-Muslims. Out of Israel this week comes a case that involves our country actually exporting this terror, as American Adam Livix was arrested for allegedly plotting to blow up Muslim holy sites.

Livix is a 30-year-old evangelical from Texas who left the United States last year when he was sought for drug-related charges. He has lived in Israel since March 2013, apparently overstaying his tourist visa (his charges include being an undocumented resident).

Livix first lived in Hebron and Bethlehem, among West Bank Palestinians, claiming to be a Navy SEAL. Interestingly, Livix lived in the section of Hebron where Jewish extremists who likely killed Palestinian-American Alex Odeh once fled to. The Israeli security agency Shin Bet claimed he was asked by Palestinian activists to be part of a plot to assassinate President Obama, but that he declined that offer (it isn’t clear who exactly who approached him about this earlier alleged plot, or if it even existed beyond conjecture).

Livix later moved to Israel, and began planning terror attacks on Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. He was assisted in this endeavor by an Israeli soldier with whom he lived. His roommate slowly obtained explosives and other armaments stolen from the Israeli army and “expressed … his negative opinion of the Arab population of Israel and his wish to harm sites in Israel holy to Islam,” according to Israel’s Justice Ministry.

Speaking to CNN’s Jake Tapper, correspondent Ben Wedeman said Livix was “ fairly close” to pulling off the plot, having successfully staked out sites for attacks and receiving the explosives from his roommate.

H/t: DB

10 things you need to know today: December 9, 2014

Samaria Rice calls for an indictment. 

Samaria Rice calls for an indictment |(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

The Week

U.S. embassy security tightened ahead of torture report, Tamir Rice’s mother calls for an indictment, and more

1. American embassies tighten security ahead of torture report
The U.S. beefed up security at embassies and military posts overseas ahead of the expected Tuesday release of a report on CIA terrorism techniques, including torture, after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The Pentagon placed 2,000 Marines on alert to respond to any threats in the Persian Gulf or Mediterranean. Republicans have criticized the decision by the Democratic majority on the Senate Intelligence Committee to release the report, the first public review of secret post-9/11 CIA interrogation centers overseas. [The Associated Press, NBC News]

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2. Tamir Rice’s mother calls for charges against the officer who shot him
The mother of Tamir Rice, the black 12-year-old fatally shot by a Cleveland police officer last month, on Monday called for indicting the rookie officer on criminal charges. The officer had been deemed unfit for duty by his superiors in a suburban police department before he quit, and was hired in Cleveland. He shot Tamir Rice when responding to a report that the boy was threatening people outside a rec center with a gun that turned out to be a toy. [The New York Times]

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3. Israeli lawmakers vote to dissolve parliament
Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, voted Monday to dissolve and hold elections two years earlier than planned. The unanimous vote came a week after the ruling coalition broke up when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired two members of his cabinet who had harshly criticized some of his policies, including the budget and a proposal to formally declare Israel to be a Jewish state. Netanyahu’s Likud party is expected to win the most seats in the March vote, but he will have to get other parties to align with him to gain the majority he needs. [Voice of America]

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4. U.N. asks for $16.4 billion to handle refugee crises
United Nations aid agencies warned Monday that armed conflicts around the world created an “unprecedented” refugee crisis. The groups said it would take $16.4 billion to deal with the problem in 2015. About 70 percent of global relief needs come from war-torn South Sudan, Iraq, Central African Republic, and Syria. The World Food Program recently had to shut down a rationing program for 1.7 refugees from Syria’s civil war due to a $64-million funding shortfall. [Los Angeles Times]

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5. Six die when plane crashes into Maryland house
Six people were killed Monday when a private jet crashed into a Maryland home, igniting a fire. Three of the dead were passengers on the plane. The others were a woman who lived in the house and her two small children, identified as Marie Gemmell, 36, and her two sons, 3-year-old Cole Gemmell and Devon Gemmell, an infant. Their bodies were found together on the second floor. “She tried to save these kids,” Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger said. “She had nowhere to go.” [The Baltimore Sun]

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6. Oil prices fall to a five-year low
Oil prices dropped by more than $2 per barrel on Monday, hitting a five-year low. Brent crude fell by $2.42 to $66.62 a barrel. Oil has been declining this year due to falling demand and a glut in global supply. A Dec. 5 Morgan Stanley report predicted that oil prices could continue falling to as low as $43 per barrel in 2015. Kuwait, a member of OPEC, said prices could continue to be pushed downward for six months. [Reuters]

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7. Syria urges the U.N. to condemn Israel over airstrikes
Syria is calling on the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions on Israel, accusing its neighbor of bombing areas near Damascus’ international airport and its border with Lebanon. Syria’s military and other sources say that during the country’s civil war Israel has carried out airstrikes targeting missiles believed to belong to long-time foe Hezbollah, the Lebanese Islamist militant group. Israel has not confirmed the strikes. [Reuters, The Associated Press]

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8. VH1 star Stephanie Moseley dies in apparent murder-suicide
Dancer and VH1 star Stephanie Moseley and her husband, rapper Earl Hayes, were found dead Monday in a Los Angeles apartment in what police suspect was a murder-suicide. TMZ reported that boxer Floyd Mayweather was on FaceTime with Hayes when the fighter allegedly pulled a gun and shot Moseley, then himself, in a rage because he suspected she had an affair. [US Weekly, TMZ]

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9. Curiosity uncovers evidence of ancient lake on Mars
NASA’s Curiosity rover has discovered evidence that Mars had a massive, 96-mile wide lake 3.5 billion years ago. Curiosity found sedimentary rocks in what is now called Gale Crater, suggesting that the crater was once filled with water, and that Mount Sharp, a 3.5-mile high mountain within the crater, was created by sediment deposits that built up over tens of millions of years. NASA scientists said revelations about Mount Sharp could help in the search for signs of Martian life. [CNET]

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10. Actor Ken Weatherwax, The Addams Family‘s Pugsley, dies
Ken Weatherwax, the actor who portrayed Pugsley in the classic 1960s TV series The Addams Family show, has died at age 59. Weatherwax reportedly suffered a heart attack, and was found at his California home. His character was the son of Gomez and Morticia Addams, whose family of spooky oddballs appeared in 64 episodes on ABC from 1964 to 1966. Weatherwax also voiced Pugsley’s role in an animated Addams Family series in the 1970s, and played Pugsley senior in a 1977 Halloween reunion show. [BBC News]

10 things you need to know today: October 31, 2014

The Palestinian Authority said it saw Israel's closure of a holy site as a "declaration of war."

The Palestinian Authority said it saw Israel’s closure of a holy site as a “declaration of war.” (REUTERS/Ammar Awad)

The Week

Marshals capture Pennsylvania police ambush suspect, Israel reopens a key holy site, and more

1. Suspect in Pennsylvania police killing caught after 48-day search
Law enforcement officers captured Eric Frein, one of the FBI’s 10 most-wanted fugitives, in Pennsylvania on Thursday after a 48-day manhunt. Frein, a 31-year-old survivalist, is suspected of killing one Pennsylvania trooper and wounding another in a September sniper attack on a state police barracks in Blooming Grove. U.S. Marshals on routine patrol caught him inside a hangar at a small airport that had been abandoned since 1998. Authorities said Frein was armed but surrendered without a fight. [USA Today]

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2. Israel reopens holy site as tensions rise
Israel on Friday reopened the holy site known to Jews as the Temple Mount, and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, but said that Muslim men under 50 would not be allowed in for Friday prayers. Israel had closed off the Jerusalem sanctuary a day earlier after Israeli security forces killed a Palestinian man suspected in the attempted assassination of Rabbi Yehuda Glick, an American-born right-wing activist calling for letting Jews pray at the site. Palestinian leaders called the closing “a declaration of war.” [BBC News, The New York Times]

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3. Ebola nurse challenges Maine quarantine rules
The dispute between nurse Kaci Hickox and Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) escalated on Thursday, after Hickox went for a bike ride in violation of the state’s Ebola quarantine. Hickox tested negative after returning from treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone for Doctors Without Borders. LePage said he would “exercise the full extent of his authority” to enforce the 21-day quarantine. Doctors Without Borders said such policies had a “chilling effect” on anti-Ebola efforts in West Africa. [New York Daily News]

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4. U.N. says more jihadists than ever are entering Iraq and Syria
A United Nations Security Council report warned that foreign Islamist extremists are entering Iraq and Syria on “an unprecedented scale.” About 15,000 jihadists from more than 80 countries, including some that “have not previously faced challenges related to al Qaeda,” have joined ISIS and other extremist groups. The U.S. says more than 1,000 foreign fighters are entering Syria every month despite airstrikes against ISIS. [The Guardian, The Washington Post]

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5. Plane crashes at Kansas airport
Four people were killed Thursday when their small plane crashed into a building near Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport, igniting a fire. Among the dead were the pilot and two people inside the building. Four others were still unaccounted for several hours after the crash. Five people were sent to hospitals. “Firefighters engaged in a horrific fight for several minutes,” Fire Chief Ron Blackwell said. “We have the fire under control. [CNN]

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6. Judge approves Stockton’s plan to exit bankruptcy
A federal bankruptcy judge on Thursday approved a plan proposed by Stockton, California, to exit bankruptcy without cutting planned pension payments to retired city workers. Earlier this month, the judge ruled that payments to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System were fair game as the city’s debts were restructured. But CalPERS had said that if Stockton bailed out it would owe $1.6 billion, immediately, and Judge Christopher Klein said Thursday that re-doing the city’s pensions would just be too difficult. [Los Angeles Times]

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7. Former Boston mayor Thomas Menino dies
Thomas Menino, who served an unprecedented five straight terms as Boston’s mayor, died Thursday of cancer. He was 71. Menino, a Democrat, was diagnosed shortly after leaving office early this year. He was a down-to-earth politician who avoided lofty promises and focused on fixing problems. “Visionaries don’t get things done,” he once said. His approach got results — on his watch, Boston experienced a renaissance, and he left office with a rare 82 percent approval rating. [The Boston Globe]

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8. Burkina Faso president refuses to leave despite escalating protests
Burkina Faso’s government collapsed on Thursday as protesters demanding the resignation of President Blaise Compaore torched Parliament. Compaore, who has already held office for 27 years, dissolved his government but said he would not step down. He did, however, promise to open talks with the opposition. After protests across Ouagadougou, the capital, grew increasingly violent, a government spokesman said a bill extending Compaore’s term had been put on hold. [The New York Times]

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9. Poland declines to arrest director Roman Polanski over U.S. sex case
Polish authorities questioned film director Roman Polanski about U.S. charges of having sex with a minor in the 1970s, but declined a U.S. request to arrest him, a spokesman for the Polish Prosecutor General’s office said Thursday. Prosecutors decided there was no need to detain him while the U.S. tries to get him extradited. Polanski pleaded guilty in 1977 to having sex with a 13-year-old (he was 43) but fled before sentencing. He said he hoped Poland’s decision settled the extradition question “once and for all.” [CNN]

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10. French town takes a stand against clowns
The tiny town of Vendargues in southern France has banned clown costumes on its streets this Halloween. Mayor Pierre Dudieuzere imposed the rule after a rash of incidents across France in which people dressed as clowns scared children in the streets, and in several cases attacked passersby. The town’s website said the ban was “absolute” on Halloween, and that nobody aged 13 or older would be allowed to sport clown garb in the street through November. [The Irish Times]

Ted Cruz and the most cynical, despicable political stunt of the year

Berating a persecuted religious minority for your own political gain? Not a good look, senator.

Berating a persecuted religious minority for your own political gain? Not a good look, senator. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

The following quote is not about Ted Cruz but given his hubris…it fits:

“No experience of the failure of his policy could shake his belief in its essential excellence.”  ~― Babara Tuchman

The Week

Aggressively supporting Israel is a political winner for conservatives. But when it comes at the expense of persecuted Christians who fear for their lives…

Since the second half of the 20th century, some of my fellow Christians have been the most persecuted religious group in the world. They still are. You probably are surprised to hear this. That’s because most of these persecuted Christians don’t live in the West. They are, as the awful phrase has it, too foreign for the right and too Christian for the left.

In recent weeks and months, however, the West has heard about the plight of at least one set of these persecuted Christians: those in the Middle East. These communities, many of which date back to the very beginning of Christianity, are now facing outright extinction. And it’s happening at the hands of ISIS, the West’s Public Enemy No. 1.

It is in this context that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) indulged in what might be the most cynical and despicable political stunt of the year, which is certainly saying a lot.

A summit was held this week in Washington, D.C., in support of Middle East Christians, and Cruz was supposed to be a keynote speaker. However, right in the second paragraph of his speech, he began exalting Israel. After a while, the assembly started to boo and heckle him. Cruz said, “If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you,” and left the podium.

Keep in mind that many Christians in the Middle East are ethnic Arabs who live under Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, and therefore have negative feelings about Israel. Of course, there are also many Middle East Christians who are supporters of Israel (indeed, there are even Arab Christians who serve, with distinction, in the Israeli Defense Forces).

As the excellent coverage, transcript, and recording provided by The American Conservative‘s Jonathan Coppage shows, the audience in Washington applauded Cruz’s first lines of support for Israel and the Jews. The crowd turned against him only when it became clear that he was launching into a rah-rah pro-Israel stump speech that had nothing to do with what they were doing there.

Now, I am no Ted Cruz antagonist. I am a supporter of the Tea Party — it’s done, on the whole, a world of good for the Republican Party by reinvigorating it and strengthening it. I even supported Cruz’s push to shut down the government to stop ObamaCare implementation. And I am also a full-throated supporter of Israel.

But let’s be clear about what Cruz was doing in D.C.: using one of the world’s most beleaguered minorities as a prop for his own self-aggrandizement.

Why would he do this? This is speculation, but perhaps Cruz, who is a Southern Baptist and whose father is a fundamentalist Baptist preacher, was subtly pandering to a segment of fundamentalist Christians who do not believe that Middle East Christians are “real” Christians. To a serious undercurrent of American Fundamentalism, the Catholic Church is the Antichrist that has been oppressing the “true” Church for millennia, and anything that looks vaguely Catholic, with ordained priests and ornate liturgies, is equally evil. Of course, this is hokum: Middle East Christians were Christians (with their priests and liturgies and incense and icons) for 1,800 years before the Fundamentalists invented their revisionist history.

This much, however, is absolutely clear: Cruz tarred and attacked one of the most powerless and beleaguered minorities in the world, solely for personal political gain. He was speaking truth to the powerless. He was strong against the weak.

In the end, what was most striking about Cruz’s tirade was the last phrase: “If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you.” Cruz was literally standing in a room with his fellow Christians. In the Bible, the idea of the fellowship of Christian believers is a very important one, and to break fellowship is to put oneself outside the community. What Cruz was saying was that agreeing to his views on Israel was more important as a badge of fellowship than believing in Jesus Christ.

There are many things Christians disagree about, but surely one of the things they should agree on is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is more important than anything, and certainly more important than any political cause, as good as that cause may be.

That is Christianity. Obviously, whatever Ted Cruz believes in, it’s something different. And I hope that Christians who are registered to vote in America realize it.

10 things you need to know today: September 1, 2014

Russian President Vladimir Putin suggests statehood for southeastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin suggests statehood for southeastern Ukraine Robert Cianfione / Getty Images

The Week

Putin urges statehood for eastern Ukraine, a judge blocks Louisiana’s tough new abortion law, and more

1. Putin spokesman softens statehood push for eastern Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday called on Kiev to begin talks about granting “statehood in southeastern Ukraine.” Yet after the blunt remark riled Western observers, Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, said he wasn’t calling for independence per se — just greater autonomy for southeastern Ukraine under its current national government. The U.S. and its Western allies have imposed sanctions to punish Russia for its support of separatists and its March annexation of Ukraine’s breakaway Crimea region. [The New York Times]

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2. Judge blocks Louisiana abortion law
A federal judge temporarily blocked enforcement of Louisiana’s tough new abortion law shortly before it was to take effect on Monday. The law will technically remain on the books for now, but doctors can’t be penalized for violating it until a court challenge is resolved. The law requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Opponents say it will force the state’s five abortion clinics to close. [The Washington Times]

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3. Israel announces land seizure
Israel announced on Sunday that it was taking 988 acres of land in a Jewish settlement near Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank, in what an anti-settlement group called the biggest such land grab in 30 years. The Obama administration urged Israel to reverse the decision, calling it “counterproductive” to negotiations on a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine. [Reuters]

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4. Islamists take control of the abandoned U.S. embassy in Libya
The Islamist militia coalition Dawn of Libya took over the U.S. embassy compound in Tripoli on Sunday. The U.S. abandoned the post a month ago as fighting intensified among militia groups. A Dawn of Libya commander said the group had controlled the embassy since seizing much of the capital last week. Members of the group reportedly celebrated with an impromptu pool party. [The Guardian]

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5. Pro-democracy protesters clash with police in Hong Kong
Protests broke out in Hong Kong on Monday in reaction to China’s decision to rule out full democracy in the Asian financial center. Police used pepper spray to disperse a crowd of pro-democracy activists after a tense stand-off in front of a center where a senior Chinese official was explaining the decision. A movement called Occupy Central threatened future protests unless Beijing allows free elections in 2017. [Reuters]

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6. Demonstrators take over Pakistan’s state TV headquarters
About 1,000 anti-government protesters in Pakistan stormed the headquarters of the state-run television system and halted broadcasts on Monday morning. The demonstrators, brandishing wooden clubs, ransacked the building before Pakistani troops regained control. Most of the protesters reportedly appeared to be backers of cleric Muhammad Tahir-ul Qadri, who is demanding Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s resignation. [The New York Times]

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7. U.S. trained Alaskans to counter a Cold War invasion
The U.S. government recruited and trained fishermen, bush pilots, trappers, and others in Alaska early in the Cold War to provide intelligence in the event of a Soviet invasion, according to newly declassified documents. The plan was to have the citizen-agents hide if Soviet paratroopers came, and to then use stashes of food, cold-weather gear, and messaging equipment to report on enemy movements. The project was code-named “Washtub.” [The Associated Press]

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8. Five killed in Colorado small-plane crash
Five people were killed Sunday when a small plane crashed near an airport in Erie, Colorado, north of Denver. The Piper PA-46 airplane went down just a few hundred yards from the runway. Authorities could not immediately determine whether it had been landing or taking off. The wreckage was first reported by a driver passing the airport. Another witness reported seeing “a plume of dust shoot into the air,” but no sound. [USA Today]

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9. 49ers player Ray McDonald faces domestic violence charge
San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Ray McDonald was arrested Sunday on suspicion of felony domestic violence. Police did not elaborate on the circumstances of the case. The 49ers’ general manager, Trent Baalke, said the football team took such allegations seriously, but reserved comment on the case. The arrest came days after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced harsher penalties for league employees charged with domestic or sexual assault. [San Francisco Chronicle]

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10. Celebrities call hacking scandal a disgusting violation of privacy
Hackers posted nude photos of Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Lea Michele, Ariana Grande, Kirsten Dunst, and others on Sunday. A spokesperson for Lawrence blasted the leak as a “flagrant violation of privacy” and threatened anyone reposting the images, which first appeared on image-sharing site 4chan, with prosecution. Mary Elizabeth Winstead said she could “only imagine the creepy effort that went into this” given how long ago she had deleted the hacked photos of her. [Variety]

10 things you need to know today: August 27, 2014

A Palestinian girl celebrates the cease-fire with her father.

A Palestinian girl celebrates the cease-fire with her father. (Adel Hana/AP Images)

The Week

Israel and Hamas reach a long-term truce, audio of the Michael Brown shooting surfaces, and more 

1. A new cease-fire takes hold in Gaza
Israel and the Palestinians reached a deal on a long-term cease-fire aimed at ending their seven-week conflict in Gaza. The truce was negotiated in Cairo and took effect Tuesday evening. It appeared to be holding early Wednesday. The agreement called for the opening of blocked Gaza border crossings. Despite that concession to Palestinian demands, Israel claimed a significant victory, saying its armed forces had destroyed tunnels Hamas militants had been using to launch attacks in Israel. [Reuters]

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2. FBI examines audio that may include shots that killed Michael Brown
The FBI is investigating an audio recording that might include the sound of the gunshots thatkilled Michael Brown, the unarmed teenager who was shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. An unidentified man inadvertently made the recording with a phone app for creating video text messages, and realized later that he might have recorded the controversial shooting. The audio includes a volley of six shots — about the number initially reported — then a pause, and another four or five shots. [NBC News]

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3. ISIS demands $6.6 million for American woman’s release
Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is demanding $6.6 million in ransom for a 26-year-old American woman kidnapped a year ago in Syria. The family of the woman, who was working in a hospital in Aleppo, requested that she not be identified. ISIS, the group that beheaded journalist James Foley, also holds at least three other Americans. An American jihadist tied to ISIS, Douglas McAuthur McCain, was reportedly killed over the weekend in heavy fighting in Aleppo. [ABC News, The New York Times]

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4. Putin and Poroshenko discuss the Ukraine crisis as tensions rise
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko met for two hours Tuesday in Belarus to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine. The meeting — their first formal one since June — came as tensions intensified following the capture of 10 Russian paratroopers inside Ukraine. Putin described the talks as “positive,” and Poroshenko promised to begin preparing a “road map” for a cease-fire with pro-Russian separatists. [USA Today]

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5. Burger King agrees to acquire Tim Hortons for $11 billion
Burger King agreed to buy Canadian coffee and doughnut chain Tim Hortons for more than $11 billion, the companies announced Tuesday. The deal will create the world’s third largest fast-food powerhouse. The combined company will have 18,000 restaurants in 100 countries. It will be based in Canada, its largest market. The move from its U.S. headquarters will allow Burger King to reincorporate under more favorable Canadian tax laws. [Time]

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6. ‘Craigslist killers’ plead guilty
So-called “Craigslist killers” Miranda Barbour, 19, and her husband, Elytte, 22, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Tuesday in a deal that will spare them from the death penalty for a thrill-killing last year. The Pennsylvania couple confessed to luring the victim, Troy LaFerrara, into their car for sex. His body was found in an alley in November, with 20 stab wounds. Elytte Barbour previously told investigators they “just wanted to murder someone together.” [New York Daily News]

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7. Obama approves Civil War soldier for Medal of Honor
President Obama has approved a proposal to award a Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military decoration, to a Union Army officer who died standing his ground against Pickett’s Charge in the Battle Gettysburg, the White House said Tuesday. Medal of Honor recipients are normally selected within two years of their battlefield heroism, but Congress granted a special exception for Civil War soldier 1st Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing in December at the urging of descendants and Civil War buffs. [The Christian Science Monitor]

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8. Former Republican Crist wins Democratic primary in Florida
Former Florida Republican governor Charlie Crist won the state’s Democratic gubernatorial primary on Tuesday. Crist took three quarters of the vote to defeat Nan Rich, a former state Democratic leader. The victory, although widely expected, sealed a stunning turnaround for Crist, who became an independent in 2010 after falling hopelessly behind Marco Rubio in the state’s GOP Senate primary that year. He became a Democrat in 2012 and now will try to win back his old job from Gov. Rick Scott (R). [Politico]

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9. Study finds 1,400 child abuse victims in English city
About 1,400 children were sexually abused by criminal gangs over 16 years in the English city of Rotherham, according to a report released Tuesday. City officials ordered the inquiry after five men were found guilty in 2010 of exploiting teenage girls. “There were examples of children who had been doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight,” said lead author Alexis Jay. The perpetrators, mostly from the city’s Pakistani community, allegedly targeted girls from ages 11 to 16. [Deutsche Welle]

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10. 15-year-old Californian pulls off U.S. Open upset
CiCi Bellis, 15, stunned Australian Open runner-up Dominika Cibulkova on Tuesday to become the youngest player to win a match at the U.S. Open since Anna Kournikova in 1996. The Californian teen beat 12th-seeded Cibulkova 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 in the first round in what was just her 13th professional-level tennis match. “I went into the match thinking it was going to be such a great experience, but I never thought I would come out on top winning,” Bellis said. “I’m still in shock ” [Bloomberg]

10 things you need to know today: August 20, 2014

Foley in November 2012. 

Foley in November 2012. (AP Photo/Nicole Tung, freejamesfoley.org)

The Week

The Gaza cease-fire unravels, ISIS beheads a kidnapped American photojournalist, and more

1. Gaza cease-fire collapses and Israel brings home its negotiators
The truce between Israel and Hamas collapsed on Tuesday. Palestinians fired rockets into southern Israel from Gaza. Israel responded with airstrikes that targeted a Hamas commander and killed three people, according to Gaza health officials. The violence began eight hours before the 24-hour extension of the truce, which was intended to give negotiators in Egypt time to hammer out a long-term peace. Israel called its negotiators home. [Reuters]

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2. ISIS releases video showing journalist’s apparent beheading
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria posted a video online Tuesday purportedly showing a militant beheading American freelance photojournalist James Wright Foley, who was kidnapped in Syria on Thanksgiving 2012. Later, the killer threatens to execute another journalist, Steven Joel Soltoff, unless the U.S. stops airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq. The White House said intelligence officials were working to determine whether the video was authentic. [NBC News]

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3. Perry turns himself in to face abuse-of-power charge
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) made a brief appearance Tuesday at the Travis County Courthouse to bebooked on charges of abusing his power by vetoing funding for anti-corruption prosecutors. Perry called last week’s indictment by a grand jury in liberal Austin “an attack on the constitutional powers of the office of governor.” He cut the funding after a Democratic prosecutor refused to resign after a drunken driving arrest. [New York Daily News]

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4. St. Louis police kill man wielding a knife, adding to Ferguson tensions
As unrest over a fatal police shooting continued in nearby Ferguson, St. Louis police officers shot and killed an emotionally disturbed 23-year-old black man on Tuesday after he approached them brandishing a knife. Police and witnesses gave similar accounts, saying the man had argued with people inside the Six Stars Market before confronting officers outside. In Ferguson, police reported less violence late Tuesday and early Wednesday than the night before. [The New York Times]

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5. Details emerge on Google’s YouTube subscription music service plans
Google plans to launch an ad-free subscription-based YouTube music service called YouTube Music Key, according to the blog Androidpolice.com. The company will offer a 30-day free trial with subscriptions for the service running $9.99 per month, the blog said, citing leaked screenshots. Eugene Munster, senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray, said such a move is risky, because a paid YouTube service “seems a little bit out of their character.” [Androidpolice.com, Techcrunch]

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6. Harshest drought conditions spread in California
“Severe” drought covers 99.8 percent of California, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitorreport. The state has held steady for the last two weeks — in May, 100 percent of the state was in “severe” drought. That does not mean relief has arrived — 82 percent of the state is in “extreme” drought, up from 77 percent in May, and 58.4 percent is in the harshest category — “exceptional” drought — up from 25 percent. [U.S. Drought Monitor, Los Angeles Times]

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7. Three of Pope Francis’ relatives die in car wreck
Three relatives of Pope Francis were killed Tuesday in a car crash in Argentina. A fourth — Emanuel Bergoglio, the 38-year-old son of a brother of the pope — was hospitalized with extensive injuries. Bergoglio’s wife, Valeria Carmona, and two children, ages 8 months and 2 years, died before reaching a hospital. A spokesman said Pope Francis asked “all who share in his grief to unite with him in prayer.” [The Associated Press]

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8. Protesters march on Parliament in Pakistan
Thousands of protesters marched on Pakistan’s Parliament building in Islamabad on Tuesday, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The protest was led by former international cricket star Imran Khan and cleric Tahir ul-Qadri. Khan accuses Sharif of rigging elections last year. The protests increased already intense pressure on a government struggling to contend with high unemployment and a Taliban insurgency. [Reuters]

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9. Apple shares rise as enthusiasm builds for next month’s iPhone 6 launch
Apple stock on Tuesday shot to its highest close ever (after adjusting for a 7-to-1 June stock split) as investors eagerly anticipated the iPhone 6 launch on Sept. 9. The company’s shares gained 1.4 percent to end the trading day at $100.53, slightly better than the previous record set two years ago, just before the iPhone 5’s debut. [CNET]

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10. Former Obama aide Plouffe joins Uber
On-demand car service Uber has hired David Plouffe, once a top adviser to President Obama, to help the startup company develop its political and branding strategy. Plouffe called Uber potentially a “once-in-a-decade if not once-in-a-generation company” with a shot at taking on the “taxi industry cartel.” Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said Tuesday that Plouffe would be a key player in the company’s global growth. [The Huffington Post]