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Romney comments at fundraiser outrage Palestinians

Source: AP

Romney comments at fundraiser outrage Palestinians

By By KASIE HUNT and KARIN LAUB – 1 hour ago

JERUSALEM (AP) — Mitt Romney told Jewish donors Monday that their culture is part of what has allowed them to be more economically successful than the Palestinians, outraging Palestinian leaders who suggested his comments were racist and out of touch with the realities of the Middle East. Romney's campaign later said his remarks were mischaracterized.

"As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality," the Republican presidential candidate told about 40 wealthy donors who ate breakfast at the luxurious King David Hotel.

Romney said some economic histories have theorized that "culture makes all the difference."

"And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things," Romney said, citing an innovative business climate, the Jewish history of thriving in difficult circumstances and the "hand of providence." He said similar disparity exists between neighboring countries, like Mexico and the United States.

Palestinian reaction was swift and pointed.

"It is a racist statement and this man doesn't realize that the Palestinian economy cannot reach its potential because there is an Israeli occupation," said Saeb Erekat, a senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

"It seems to me this man lacks information, knowledge, vision and understanding of this region and its people," Erekat added. "He also lacks knowledge about the Israelis themselves. I have not heard any Israeli official speak about cultural superiority."

Read more: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jUO0F3oTD_POLpUvSsyDkIYj1SWA?docId=f2542195c4d04d0b99881100e2a317df


Obama seen by Americans as more likable than Romney, new USA Today-Gallup poll shows

Source: Washington Post

If you believe the polls, it would appear there is one big factor standing in the way of Mitt Romney being elected president: Americans don't like him as well as they do Barack Obama.

That was confirmed again in a new USA Today-Gallup survey, in which respondents gave Romney higher marks on every issue that voters say they care most about this year: the economy, jobs, taxes, the deficit. But President Barack Obama crushed Romney -- 60 percent to 30 percent -- on the question of which of the two was more likable.

In April, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found an even larger gap, with 64 percent of those surveyed describing Obama as the friendlier, more likable candidate, and only 26 percent saying that about Romney.

"We're not going to win a personality contest. It's not an election for class president. It's who can best solve the problems of the country," said Romney's own pollster, Neil Newhouse. "Likability isn't fixing the economy or helping the middle class make ends meet."

Read more: http://www.cleveland.com/nation/index.ssf/2012/07/obama_seen_by_americans_as_mor.html

Reuters: Syria SNC asks allies for heavy arms

Source: Reuters

Sun Jul 29, 2012 7:42am EDT
(Reuters) - The Syrian opposition appealed on Sunday for its foreign allies to provide with heavy weapons to fight President Bashar al-Assad's "killing machine" and said it would soon start talks on forming a transitional government to replace him.

"The rebels are fighting with primitive weapons. We want weapons that we can stop tanks and planes with. This is what we want," Abdelbasset Sida, head of the Syrian National Council (SNC) opposition alliance, told a news conference.

. . .


Visiting Abu Dhabi to meet United Arab Emirates officials, Sida did not say when exactly a transitional government might be formed, telling the news conference that he had discussed the idea with Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan, the UAE's foreign minister.

Last week, Brigadier General Manaf Tlas, one of the highest-ranking defectors to flee Syria, said he would try to help unite Syria's fragmented opposition inside and outside the country in order to agree a roadmap for a power transfer.

Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/29/syria-crisis-snc-idUSL6E8IT1JY20120729

Robert Fisk: Syrian war of lies and hypocrisy

Robert Fisk: Syrian war of lies and hypocrisy

The West's real target here is not Assad's brutal regime but his ally, Iran, and its nuclear weapons

ROBERT FISK July 29 2012

Has there ever been a Middle Eastern war of such hypocrisy? A war of such cowardice and such mean morality, of such false rhetoric and such public humiliation? I'm not talking about the physical victims of the Syrian tragedy. I'm referring to the utter lies and mendacity of our masters and our own public opinion – eastern as well as western – in response to the slaughter, a vicious pantomime more worthy of Swiftian satire than Tolstoy or Shakespeare.

While Qatar and Saudi Arabia arm and fund the rebels of Syria to overthrow Bashar al-Assad's Alawite/Shia-Baathist dictatorship, Washington mutters not a word of criticism against them. President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, say they want a democracy in Syria. But Qatar is an autocracy and Saudi Arabia is among the most pernicious of caliphate-kingly-dictatorships in the Arab world. Rulers of both states inherit power from their families – just as Bashar has done – and Saudi Arabia is an ally of the Salafist-Wahabi rebels in Syria, just as it was the most fervent supporter of the medieval Taliban during Afghanistan's dark ages.

Indeed, 15 of the 19 hijacker-mass murderers of 11 September, 2001, came from Saudi Arabia – after which, of course, we bombed Afghanistan. The Saudis are repressing their own Shia minority just as they now wish to destroy the Alawite-Shia minority of Syria. And we believe Saudi Arabia wants to set up a democracy in Syria?

Then we have the Shia Hezbollah party/militia in Lebanon, right hand of Shia Iran and supporter of Bashar al-Assad's regime. For 30 years, Hezbollah has defended the oppressed Shias of southern Lebanon against Israeli aggression. They have presented themselves as the defenders of Palestinian rights in the West Bank and Gaza. But faced with the slow collapse of their ruthless ally in Syria, they have lost their tongue. Not a word have they uttered – nor their princely Sayed Hassan Nasrallah – about the rape and mass murder of Syrian civilians by Bashar's soldiers and "Shabiha" militia.

. . .

And all the while, we forget the "big" truth. That this is an attempt to crush the Syrian dictatorship not because of our love for Syrians or our hatred of our former friend Bashar al-Assad, or because of our outrage at Russia, whose place in the pantheon of hypocrites is clear when we watch its reaction to all the little Stalingrads across Syria. No, this is all about Iran and our desire to crush the Islamic Republic and its infernal nuclear plans – if they exist – and has nothing to do with human rights or the right to life or the death of Syrian babies. Quelle horreur!


Turkey sets up secret base to bring aid to Syria rebels, sources say

Source: Haaretz

Turkey sets up secret base to bring aid to Syria rebels, sources say
A Doha-based source said that Turkey is controlling the base militarily, in coordination with Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
By Reuters | Jul.27, 2012 | 3:10 PM |

Turkey has set up a secret base with allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar to direct vital military and communications aid to Syria's rebels from a city near the border, Gulf sources have told Reuters.

News of the clandestine Middle East-run "nerve centre" working to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad underlines the extent to which Western powers - who played a key role in unseating Muammar Gadhafi in Libya - have avoided militaryinvolvement so far in Syria.

"It's the Turks who are militarily controlling it. Turkey is the mainco-ordinator/facilitator. Think of a triangle, with Turkey at the top and Saudi Arabia and Qatar at the bottom," said a Doha-based source.

"The Americans are very hands-off on this. U.S. intel(ligence) are working through middlemen. Middlemen arecontrolling access to weapons and routes."

Read more: http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/turkey-sets-up-secret-base-to-bring-aid-to-syria-rebels-sources-say-1.454107

Assad hands control of Syria’s Kurdish areas to PKK, sparking outrage in Turkey

Source: McClatchey

Assad hands control of Syria’s Kurdish areas to PKK, sparking outrage in Turkey
By Roy Gutman | McClatchy Newspapers

ISTANBUL — President Bashar Assad, facing a growing rebel presence in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and its commercial hub, has turned control of parts of northern Syria over to militant Kurds who Turkey has long branded as terrorists, prompting concern that Istanbul might see the development as a reason to send troops across its border

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in comments late Wednesday, said that Turkey would not accept an entity in northern Syria governed by the Iraq-based Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, which has long waged a guerrilla war against Turkey, and its Syrian affiliate, the Democratic Union Party.

He said the two groups had built a “structure in northern Syria” that for Turkey means “a structure of terror.”

“It is impossible for us to look favorably at such a structure,” he said in an interview with a private television channel.

He warned that if Syrian Kurdish militants mount a terror operation or some other form of cross-border provocation against Turkey, “then intervening would be our most natural

Read more: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/07/26/157943/assad-hands-control-of-syrias.html


Economy In U.S. Grows At 1.5% Rate On Consumer Spending

Source: Bloomberg News

The U.S. economy expanded at a slower pace in the second quarter as a softening job market prompted Americans to curb spending.

Gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, rose at a 1.5 percent annual rate after a revised 2 percent gain in the prior quarter, Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for a 1.4 percent increase. Household purchases, which account for about 70 percent of the world’s largest economy, grew at the slowest pace in a year.

Consumers are cutting back just as Europe’s debt crisis and looming U.S. tax-policy changes dent confidence, hurting sales at companies from United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) to Procter & Gamble Co. (PG) Cooling growth makes it harder to reduce unemployment, helping explain why Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke has said policy makers stand ready with more stimulus if needed.

“We’re starting the second half on a not-so-good footing,” Michael Hanson, a senior U.S. economist at Bank of America Corp. in New York, said before the report. “The economy is slowing notably. Given the risks, it is unlikely the Fed will sit on their hands the rest of the year.”

Forecasts of 82 economists in the survey ranged from gains of 0.7 percent to 1.9 percent. The GDP estimate is the first of three for the quarter, with the other releases scheduled for August and September when more information becomes available.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-07-27/economy-in-u-s-grows-at-1-5-rate-as-consumer-spending-cooled.html

Spain unemployment hits new high

Source: Al Jazeera

Spanish unemployment rate has hit record levels, with nearly one quarter of the labour force unable to find work and young people fearing the worst.

The unemployment rate rose in the second quarter to 24.63 per cent and a huge 53 per cent among the young, despite the start of the tourist season, official figures showed on Friday.

The increase in the overall jobless numbers was smaller than in the first quarter, with the number of eligible people out of work rising to nearly 5.7 million people.

Between April and June, 53,500 people lost their jobs, compared with 365,900 in the first quarter, the national statistics office said.

The unemployment rate rose from 24.4 per cent recorded in the first quarter - already the highest in the industrial world - as Spain entered its third straight quarter of economic contraction.

Among those aged 16 to 24, the rate rose to a huge 53.27 per cent from 52.01 per cent the previous quarter, reflecting the ongoing impact of Spain's double-dip recession following the collapse of a construction boom in 2008.

Read more: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/europe/2012/07/2012727101825621648.html

Will round-the-clock police surveillance be legacy of London Olympics?

LONDON — To understand the gargantuan security operation that authorities have prepared for the Olympic Games that open here Friday – nearly twice as many military troops are on the streets as Britain has deployed in Afghanistan, for starters – it helps to remember what happened the morning after London won the right to host these games seven years ago.

On July 7, 2005, homegrown militants detonated bombs in the city’s Underground subway and on a passenger bus, killing dozens in one of the worst terrorist attacks in the country’s history.

While there’s no evidence that attack was linked to the Olympic bid, it’s had an unmistakable impact on planning for these games. The 10,000 athletes competing for medals will be dwarfed by a contingent of more than 36,000 soldiers, police officers and private security staff, backed by American law enforcement agents, thousands of closed-circuit cameras, unmanned drones, at least six missile batteries positioned on rooftops in East London and the Royal Navy’s largest warship, the HMS Ocean, floating in the Thames.

“Lockdown London,” read one headline in the Guardian newspaper.

Authorities stress that there’s no specific threat to the games, but any attempt to deflect attention from the combat-grade planning evaporated last week, when the private security firm G4S shamefacedly admitted that it would fail to deliver all of the 10,000 personnel it had promised to guard Olympic venues.

On Tuesday, British officials said they’d activate another 1,200 military personnel to fill the shortfall, bringing the total of British troops who’ll work the Olympics to 18,200. For comparison, Britain deploys about 9,500 in Afghanistan.


18,200 troops? That's greater than division strength. I love sports, but is there really a point to the Olympics if that much money and security is necessary?

Al-Qaeda emerges as Bulgaria bomb suspect

Al-Qaeda emerges as Bulgaria bomb suspect
By Kaveh Afrasiabi

As the Israeli government seizes on last week's suicide bombing of a bus carrying Israeli tourists in Bulgaria as an opportunity to discredit Iran and Hezbollah, the on-going investigation in Bulgaria is increasingly pointing the finger at a different culprit - al-Qaeda.

As reported in Lebanese media, an al-Qaeda cell has taken responsibility for the suicide bombing that took the lives of five Israeli vacationers, as well as a bus driver and a suicide bomber. [1] This has been corroborated by Bulgarian media reports that focus on two individuals, an American and a former Guantanamo inmate from Sweden with ties to al-Qaeda.

Although the DNA evidence is still under investigation, on Thursday when Bulgarian media began identifying the suspected suicide bomber as Mehdi Ghezali, US officials quickly rejected this and insisted that "there was no evidence" linking him with the bomb. The same "anonymous" US officials simultaneously told the New York Times that this was a "tit-for-tat" Hezbollah job launched by Iran in revenge for Israel killing Iranian nuclear scientists.

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