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Thu. December 18, 2014 EDITOR'S PICKS :  
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Issue: Israel's Jewish Identity. What Does it Mean?
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Israel's Single, Female, Orthodox Ambassador
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University of the People Opens Doors to African Refugees
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Palestinians Respond to Israeli Building Plans; Demands UN Actions; Reserves Right to ICC

The Palestinian Authority has launched a diplomatic offensive aimed at forcing Israel’s government to rescind its green-light for initiating plans to build 3,000 new homes in areas located on land it acquired in the 1967 war: land that the Palestinians claim for its future state. Acting off of the newly-bestowed non-member status at the United Nations, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas demanded that the Security Council act to block what one official called, “Israel’s contemptuous response” to last week’s General Assembly vote to elevate the status of the Palestinians. A resolution similar to the one the Palestinians propose was put before the Security Council two years ago and vetoed by the United States. It’s not clear whether President Obama would again use the veto to protect Israel. Other Palestinian officials reiterated that notwithstanding efforts by Western nations to convince the PA to forswear using the International Criminal Court as a tool to bring pressure on Israel, it clearly “reserves the right” to use the ICC or any other international body that will grant it standing. Abbas has stressed that the building in the area designated as “E1” is of particular concern because the Palestinians argue that Israeli building inside the corridor between Jerusalem and its suburb of Maaleh Adumim will prevent the territorial contiguity necessary for a viable Palestinian state. Prior to the UN General Assembly vote on the Palestinian status and in response to suggestions that the Palestinian UN gambit would undermine the peace process, Abbas said that when the UN gambit is complete, he would return to the negotiating table. Nevertheless, there has been no indication that it will happen any time soon.

NBC News Reports Syrians Armed Chemical Weapons

A number of Syrian missiles have been loaded with the components necessary to weaponize sarin gas according to NBC News. The report also quoted American intelligence officials as having determined that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad is willing and able to use the Syrian stockpile of non-conventional weapons – the largest in the world -- against his people. Reporting that the chemical agents have been “locked and loaded inside the bombs,” it now requires only that the precursor agents be mixed together to become an active chemical weapon. Warnings such as those being issued by American diplomats refer to what would happen after the chemical weapons were used, seemingly because there is no way to prevent their use if Assad decides to deploy them. The United Nations has withdrawn its personnel from Syria because of the inherent danger.

Violent Clashes Erupt Outside Morsiís Cairo Palace; Calls to Stop the Constitutional Referendum

Demonstrators protesting against Egyptian President Morsi’s power grab and plans to rush through a process of ratifying a constitution from which Liberals, leftists and Christians were removed fought with Morsi’s Islamist supporters outside the presidential palace in Cairo on Wednesday. The outbreak of violence had been feared with the two groups – pro- and anti-Morsi – sharing the streets to further their respective positions. The clash grew more violent after nightfall, with more than 350 injuries reported by medical sources. On Thursday morning it was reported that six people including a reporter had been killed and that tanks had been deployed by the Republican Guard. Certain of the electoral strength of the Islamists and their supporters, Morsi and shown no inclination to back down from his declaration that touched-off the present acute crisis: his decree that all of his decisions are immune to judicial review. Five of Morsi’s 17 political advisers have quit since the dispute began.

Lebanon Ranks Among Top 50 Corrupt Nations

Lebanon is absorbing the news that it ranks among the 50 most corrupt nations according to this year’s Transparency International survey. The international watchdog group placed Lebanon 128th out of 174 nations rated in its Corruption Perception Index – an indicator based on how corrupt experts and businesses see the nation in question. Most upsetting to those who take note of such surveys is that Lebanon did not fare well in comparison to other Arab nations. The Beirut-based Daily Star quoted Nada Abdul Sater, head of the Lebanese Transparency Association, who told a news conference that instead of competing with developed nations, “Our ambitions are now merely to catch up with some of the worst regimes.”  The worsening of Lebanon’s position on the survey stems from the government’s failure to prosecute those responsible for a number of scandals in the areas of medicine and food safety. “Silence and lack of accountability reinforce corruption,” she said. New Zealand, Denmark and Finland topped the survey, while Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia brought up the rear. In the region, Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Libya all fared more poorly than Lebanon.

 

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