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Member since: 2003 before July 6th
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Scientists: Americans Are Becoming Weather Wimps


WASHINGTON (AP) - We've become weather wimps.

As the world warms, the United States is getting fewer bitter cold spells like the one that gripped much of the nation this week. So when a deep freeze strikes, scientists say, it seems more unprecedented than it really is. An Associated Press analysis of the daily national winter temperature shows that cold extremes have happened about once every four years since 1900.

Until recently.

When computer models estimated that the national average daily temperature for the Lower 48 states dropped to 17.9 degrees on Monday, it was the first deep freeze of that magnitude in 17 years, according to Greg Carbin, warning meteorologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

That stretch - from Jan. 13, 1997 to Monday - is by far the longest the U.S. has gone without the national average plunging below 18 degrees, according to a database of daytime winter temperatures starting in January 1900.

In the past 115 years, there have been 58 days when the national average temperature dropped below 18. Carbin said those occurrences often happen in periods that last several days so it makes more sense to talk about cold outbreaks instead of cold days. There have been 27 distinct cold snaps.



Lawsuit Filed Against Christie, Others Seeking Damages For Traffic Jams In NJ Community

Source: Associated Press

January 09, 2014 - 6:50 pm EST

TRENTON, New Jersey — Six New Jersey residents have filed a federal lawsuit against Gov. Chris Christie, the state of New Jersey, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and others over traffic jams in September.

The suit filed in federal court Thursday appears to be the first civil claim over traffic jams that appear to have been caused as political punishment for the Fort Lee mayor.

The plaintiffs want it certified as a class action.

Lawyer Rosemarie Arnold says she filed it after learning this week that lane closures on an approach to the George Washington Bridge were "deliberate actions." She says that her clients were late for work and that one suffered a panic attack.

Read more: http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/3a52c4a583fb4787b6ccc91d93b029e9/US-Christie-Traffic-Jams-Lawsuit

A Brother's Vengeance: The Preacher Who Could Topple Erdogan

The greatest threat yet to Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan comes from a former ally. Muslim preacher Fethullah Gülen and his influential followers seem determined to accomplish what the recent protest movement could not: overthrowing the current regime.

For a long time, Gülen and Erdogan were allies. This fall, however, the prime minister announced that tutoring centers run by the Gülen movement would be shut down. Erdogan has accused the preacher's supporters of creating a "state within a state," and since then the two sides have been locked in a bitter power struggle. The conflict appears to confirm what many once dismissed as a conspiracy theory -- that in many cases the Gülen movement controls the police and justice system.

Fethullah Gülen, who is believed to be 72, lives in exile in Pennsylvania. He fled Turkey in 1999 when the government, which was secular at the time, accused him of attempting to Islamize the country. His some 8 million supporters run schools, media companies, hospitals and an insurance company in 140 countries, including Germany. It is the "most powerful Islamist grouping" in Turkey, according to US State Department diplomatic cables made public by WikiLeaks in 2010. The network "controls major business, trade, and publishing activities, has deeply penetrated the political scene -- including AKP at high levels."

Gülen got his start as an imam in Ederne and Izmir, and soon persuaded pious businessmen to make donations. With this he financed schools, and his supporters founded student housing known as "houses of light," which are a fundamental part of the organization. Keles lived in one of these facilities, which often offer free accommodation in exchange for loyalty. Dropouts say the tone inside is militaristic; residents study Gülen's writings and sermons under a provost's supervision.

The community recruits new supporters in its schools and tutoring centers, training them as "soldiers of light." Their task, whether they become businessmen, politicians or judges, is to spread Gülen's vision of Islam.



Another Anti-Israel Vote Comes to Academia

Jan. 8, 2014 6:40 p.m. ET

Save for some college students refusing to buy Israeli hummus, the "boycott, divestment and sanctions" movement against the Jewish state has had very few successes over the past decade. That changed last month when the American Studies Association voted to boycott Israeli academic institutions. Now the Modern Language Association (MLA), a far more prominent group, is poised to condemn Israel at its annual meeting in Chicago. Anyone interested in academic freedom should pay attention.

Scholars at academic conferences are expected to offer original research and analysis in their presentations. That certainly can't be said of one MLA session this Thursday, called "Academic Boycotts: A Conversation about Israel and Palestine."

All the scheduled panelists are outspoken supporters of the boycott Israel movement: University of California, Riverside Prof. David Lloyd, Wesleyan Prof. Richard Ohmann, University of Texas Prof. Barbara Harlow, and Omar Barghouti, who has compared Israeli policies to those of Nazi Germany. Even the moderator, University of Texas Prof. Samer Ali, is a boycott supporter. In essays and public statements I have read, their message was clear: Israel, the worst human-rights violator on the planet, deserves to be made a pariah among nations.

On Saturday MLA members will also get to vote on a resolution by Wesleyan's Mr. Ohmann and Columbia University Prof. Bruce Robbins that "urges the U.S. Department of State to contest Israel's arbitrary denials of entry to Gaza and the West Bank by U.S. academics who have been invited to teach, confer, or do research at Palestinian universities."



Israel’s Defense Minister Calls Settlers’ Attacks on Palestinians ‘Outright Terror’


Israel’s defense minister, Moshe Yaalon, denounced a campaign of attacks on Palestinian civilians and property by extremist Israeli settlers as “outright terror” on Wednesday, after two cars were set on fire with Molotov cocktails and Hebrew graffiti — reading “price tag” and “Esh Kodesh revenge” — was sprayed on the walls of a West Bank village.

The vandalism took place in early morning near the village of Qusra, in apparent retaliation for an incident there the day before, in which a group of young settlers was captured and beaten by Palestinians who caught them trespassing. Village elders, and a Palestinian field worker for the Jewish group Rabbis for Human Rights, then stepped in to protect the settlers and arranged for them to be escorted away by Israeli soldiers.

Video posted online by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz showed West Bank settlers whose attack on Palestinian civilians was reportedly pre-empted on Tuesday.
The Tel Aviv daily Israel Hayom reported that military sources “said the settlers, all known right-wing activists, entered the village with the clear intent of carrying out a ‘price tag’ attack.” In recent years, extremists among the settler community have waged a campaign of revenge attacks whenever concessions were made by Israel to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, and the Hebrew words for “price tag” are frequently spray-painted as a calling card.

As my colleague Isabel Kershner explained, the Israeli military said that the confrontation on Tuesday began after Israeli security forces removed an illegal structure in Esh Kodesh, an unauthorized Israeli settlement outpost in the northern West Bank.

Images of the battered young settlers being turned over to Israeli soldiers at a Qusra construction site used as a makeshift detention center by Palestinians amounted to “an unprecedented humiliation” for the far-right activists, the Israeli television journalist Roy Sharon observed Tuesday night.



JPost Editorial: Leftists Bring Africans To Israel In Order To Undermine Jewish Majority

The Jerusalem Post, which has a history of unbelievable editorials, has done it again. “The world’s leading Jewish paper” claims that the arrival of African refugees is part of a conspiracy by left-wing NGOs, meant to undermine the Jewish majority in Israel. Don’t look for proof for those claims; even JPost admits that there is none. Here’s the money quote:

Many of these NGOs are striving to undermine the character of Israel as a Jewish state by fighting to keep as many African migrants as possible in Israel and by encouraging more to come. But they rarely declare their true intentions publicly because they know that they would lose public support in Israel if they did.

And this is by a newspaper that opposes the two-state solution, yet somehow thinks that 50,000 Africans are a bigger threat to the Jewish majority than 2 million Palestinians.


Russia To Be Ukraine’s Sole Gas Provider – Minister

KIEV, January 9 (RIA Novosti) – Ukraine has ceased buying gas from Europe and will instead purchase the fuel solely from Russia, as it offers the lowest prices, Ukraine’s energy minister said Thursday.

Russian gas is “the most profitable for today,” said Ukraine’s Energy and Coal Industry Minister Eduard Stavitsky.

Kiev has been buying gas from Poland and Hungary over the last two years and was close to striking another gas deal with Slovakia in a bid to reduce its dependence on Russian supplies, amid political tension over Ukraine’s previous policy of gradual economic alignment with Europe.

Ukraine was expected to sign an association agreement with the European Union in November, but President Viktor Yanukovich dropped the deal at the last minute, instead striking a $15 billion aid package and gas discount agreement with Russia in December.
Russia agreed to drop its gas prices for Ukraine from $400 per 1,000 cubic meters to $268 starting January 1, in a deal between Ukraine’s state energy firm Naftogaz and Russia’s Gazprom formalized on Thursday.



Memo to Media: Israeli Settlement Expansion Is Not All About the United States

Israel's decision to wait until Secretary of State John Kerry left the region before announcing it will pursue settlement expansion in the West Bank grabbed the headlines. It's the existence of the settlements, not the timing of the announcement, which should concern the media.

Thursday, 09 January 2014 00:00
By Justin Doolittle, Truthout | Op-Ed

The Israeli government, in its boundless benevolence, has decided to wait until Secretary of State John Kerry leaves the region before officially announcing plans to pursue more illegal settlement expansion in the West Bank. "We will respect John Kerry and not act to spite him," an anonymous Israeli official told The New York Times last week. The precise timing of Israel's announcements of imperialist intent has become its own little phenomenon in recent years; the Obama administration reportedly was furious when, in 2010, Israel announced new building plans while Vice President Joe Biden was visiting the country. Media outlets such as the Times report breathlessly on this diplomatic drama; the substance of what Israel is doing to the Palestinians is now almost secondary to the crucial point of whether it is announced on Day X or Day Y and, accordingly, whether or not any high-ranking American officials' feelings are hurt.

It would be difficult to identify another matter that more clearly illustrates the news media's essential superficiality and its subtle allegiance to a framework in which the concerns of the US and Israeli governments distinctly outweigh those of the Palestinians. In a serious media culture, coverage of the "timing" of these announcements and the delicate sensibilities of US officials would be limited to a sentence or two in broader news reports. This recent phony gesture of goodwill by the Netanyahu government, though, was apparently deserving of a full article, landing on Page A6 of the January 2, 2014, edition of The New York Times.

Consider the title of a July 2012 Times editorial on Israeli settlements and how they tangibly harm the prospects for peace: "Wrong Time for New Settlements" - which directly implies that there is a "right" time for new settlements, that some times are better than others. This kind of twisted analysis and fraudulent dissent evokes memories of "opposition" to the criminally insane American invasion of Iraq, which was based not on principle but, rather, on the grounds that it was an unfortunate geopolitical "mistake" and "poor strategy" given the demands of the ongoing war in Afghanistan. At issue here is a policy of relentless Jewish expansion into Palestinian land, which most of the world considers illegal and which continues to stand as the central obstacle to any realistic drive for peace. Everything else is noise.

Israel's brutal occupation of the West Bank soon will reach its 50th year. By now, even casual followers of international affairs understand the stakes involved in this conflict, its incalculable human toll and how it infuses Middle Eastern politics with bottomless hatred and division. This wholly bizarre fascination with the timing of Israel's settlement announcements and the attendant, ultimately meaningless vicissitudes in US-Israeli power dynamics reduces the most consequential conflict in the world to a juicy diplomatic gossip story between the very powerful leaders of two very powerful states.



Russia's Growing Middle East Influence

By Anna Borshchevskaya, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Anna Borshchevskaya is a fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy. The views expressed are her own.

Russian President Vladimir Putin achieved perhaps his most desired goal in 2013: He successfully positioned Russia as indispensable to resolving key international problems. And nowhere has his success been more visible than in the Syrian conflict and Iranian nuclear negotiations. The Moscow-brokered deal to put Syria’s chemical arsenal under control of international inspectors helped avoid military strikes against the Syrian regime. Meanwhile, Russia also emerged as a strong voice in the P5+1 group, allowing Iran to avoid tougher sanction against its nuclear program upon reaching an interim deal in Geneva in December 2013.

But behind the scenes, Russia is playing an even more significant role, and is an increasingly assertive player throughout the broader Middle East. It’s a trend the West cannot ignore.

According to Russian press reports, the Kremlin struck a $2 billion weapons agreement with Egypt last month, the culmination of years of quiet Kremlin efforts to revive Russia’s Cold War relationships in the region.

“Today Russia is coming back to many regions it lost in the 90s. I’m talking about the African continent and the Middle East,” Russian Federation Council Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Mikhail Margelov said during a speech in London last month. “Russia was quite explicit about its interests in those regions even before the Arab Spring...”

Russian influence in the region is multifaceted. For instance, Russia has grown increasingly assertive in the Middle East peace process, since it initially joined the Quartet more than a decade ago. Rather than simply endorse the U.S. or European position, the Kremlin has sought to put its own stamp on the agenda. In 2006, for example, Putin invited Hamas leaders to Moscow, suggesting that Hamas was a terrorist organization. Putin has also moved to parade his growing influence. In June 2012, Putin travelled to Israel, nine months before Barack Obama made his first visit there as U.S. president in March 2013.



Iraq Holding Off On An Offensive Against al-Qaida Because Of Fears Of Civilian Casualties

BAGHDAD (AP) -- Iraq's government is holding off on waging an all-out offensive to retake two key cities from al-Qaida because of fears that civilian casualties could incite Sunni anger and push moderate tribal leaders to side with the extremists, analysts and military officials said Thursday.

More violence flared in Baghdad, where a suicide bomber killed 21 people at an army recruiting center in a clear effort to demoralize the military.

Al-Qaida-linked fighters overran parts of the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi in Sunni-dominated Anbar province last week, seizing control of police stations and military posts, freeing prisoners and setting up their own checkpoints.

The United States, whose troops fought bloody battles in the cities, has ruled out sending its troops back in, but has been delivering missiles to bolster Iraqi forces. It is expediting shipments of more American-made missiles and 10 surveillance drones, but those may not arrive for weeks.

The U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 and withdrew in 2011. Both countries tried but failed to negotiate plans to keep at least several thousand U.S. forces in Iraq beyond the deadline to maintain security.


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