Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Police Custody Death Tests NYPD's 'Broken Windows' Crackdown on Petty Offenses
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, center left, speaks
to the media during a vigil demanding justice for Eric Garner,
a Staten Island man who died while being arrested by New York
City police, Tuesday, July 22, 2014, in New York. Demonstrators
gathered at a park Tuesday, near where police attempted to arrest
Garner, 43, on suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes.
(AP Photo/John Minchillo) 
NEW YORK (AP) — Eric Garner, who died in police custody last week after he was put in an apparent chokehold, was suspected of committing the relatively minor crime of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes on the street.

The encounter was an unintended consequence of the New York Police Department's embrace of the policing tactic called "Broken Windows" — the idea that going after smaller crimes such as public drinking or graffiti helps stop greater disorder such as assault and murder.

But Garner's death has put Broken Windows under renewed scrutiny, with some lawmakers and experts saying the decades-old theory no longer applies to a city with far less crime, unnecessarily puts nonviolent people at risk and fuels tensions in the city's minority communities.

"I don't think it's a necessary police tactic," City Councilman Andy King said Tuesday during a news conference about Garner's death. City Councilwoman Inez Barron added that such enforcement "leads to confrontations like this."

The tactic caused a stir even before Garner's death. An 84-year-old pedestrian on Manhattan's Upper West Side who tussled with police officers trying to stop him for jaywalking earlier this year ended up with a bloody head injury. He's since filed a $5 million claim against the city alleging he was assaulted.

But the Garner case has turned up the heat. His arrest was captured on a widely-distributed amateur video that appears to show an officer putting the asthmatic, 350-pound father of six in a banned chokehold after he refused to be handcuffed. He can be heard yelling, "I can't breathe!" as several officers take him down.

Autopsy results are pending on a death that has sparked protests, a criminal probe and a warning by the Rev. Al Sharpton that Garner's family would explore asking for a federal civil rights investigation. The family held a candlelight vigil Tuesday night on the eve a funeral set for Wednesday night.

The criticism comes at a time when the new administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio has sought to ease tensions between police and minorities by curtailing the department's widespread use of street stops of young men — so-called "stop and frisk" — as a strategy to curb crime. De Blasio's pick for police commissioner, William Bratton, uses Broken Windows as an alternative tool to help keep crime rates at historic lows.

Bratton vowed on Tuesday to stick with the program, saying the NYPD plans to next target illegal vendors who rent bikes in Central Park. He credited a similar crackdown on fare beaters during his first tenure as police commissioner in the 1990s with being the "tipping point" for a drastic reduction in overall crime in the subways.

"There's no change in that focus at all," Bratton said of Broken Windows. "That's a key part of what we're doing."

But critics say Broken Windows is broken.

"This is a defining moment for that administration. ... There is no human being who can look at that video and say nothing wrong occurred," said City Councilman Jumaane Williams.

The idea that the approach reduces serious crime is a hypothesis without any data to back it up, said Brooklyn College sociology professor Alex Vitale.

Vitale said Broken Windows and systematic stop and frisk tactics are examples of "over-policing" that would have been considered a waste of resources in past eras.

"Twenty years ago, if an officer had brought in Eric Garner for selling loose cigarettes," Vitale said, "his sergeant would have laughed him out of the precinct house."
Funeral To Be Held For Staten Island Man Who Died In Police Custody
People call for justice in the policy killing of Eric Garner.
July 23, 2014 7:49 AM

NEW YORK (CBS NewYork/AP) – A wake and funeral will be held Wednesday for a Staten Island man who died while in police custody.

Demonstrators marched through the streets on Tuesday to demand swift justice for Eric Garner.

“It ends today,” the crowd of Garner’s relatives, friends and local elected officials chanted as they walked from a Staten Island park across from where police confronted him last Thursday to the precinct where the officers involved were stationed.

An amateur video of Garner’s arrest shows an officer putting him in an apparent chokehold after he refuses to be handcuffed.

The tactic is banned by the NYPD, but has been the subject of more than 1,000 complaints to the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board over the last five years.

Garner’s sister, Ellisha Flagg, said at a vigil at Tompkinsville Park that the chokehold likely exacerbated the effects of the 6-foot-3, 350-pound Garner’s asthma, a condition he battled since childhood.

“My brother even respected the police all the way to the end,” she said. “He still has his hands up in the air. He even allowed them to take his breath and didn’t fight back.”

Police were arresting Garner on suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes.

The video of the arrest shows an officer putting his arm around Garner’s neck as Garner is taken to the ground and his face is pushed into the sidewalk. Garner, before losing consciousness, is heard yelling repeatedly, “I can’t breathe!”

Autopsy results are pending in Garner’s death. Police officials said Garner died while being transported to the hospital, but that a preliminary investigation shows no damage to his windpipe.

In the wake of his death, two paramedics and two emergency medical technicians who responded to the call were suspended without pay pending the investigation, Richmond University Medical Center said.

Two police officers on the case have also been placed on modified duty. Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who appeared to have put Garner in the chokehold, surrendered his gun and badge.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said Tuesday the police department would retrain its officers on the use of force.

“The department needs to do a lot more in terms of training,” Bratton said at a news conference.

“A top to bottom review of all of the training that this department provides to its personel, specifically focusing on use of force.”

That training includes sending a team of officers next week to Los Angeles, where Bratton served as commissioner for seven years, to learn how that city’s police department modified its use-of-force protocols after several high-profile episodes of brutality.

Bratton also said multiple investigations were underway in Garner’s death and more are expected.

A criminal investigation already has been launched by the Staten Island District Attorney’s Office, along with an internal police investigation by the Internal Affairs Bureau.

Bratton also said Tuesday the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will also likely launch federal investigations.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, speaking at the Garner vigil Tuesday night, said she is determined to make sure his death is fully and quickly investigated.

“It’s difficult to avoid being overwhelmed by sadness, by anger and a deeply disturbing concern that we’ve all been here before,” she said.

Garner’s death has raised questions about the NYPD’s embrace of the “broken windows” theory of policing.

Critics say the theory, that low-grade lawlessness such as drinking in public and making graffiti can invite greater disorder including traffic fatalities and violent crime, can needlessly put nonviolent people at risk and fuel tensions in minority communities.

Such enforcement “leads to confrontations like this,” City Councilwoman Inez Barron said at a news conference about Garner’s death.

Bratton vowed to stick with the program, saying the NYPD plans to next target illegal vendors who rent bikes in Central Park.

He credited a similar crackdown on subway fare beaters in the 1990s with being the “tipping point” for a drastic reduction in overall crime in the subway trains.

Garner had been arrested 31 times since 1988 on charges including drug possession, assault and selling untaxed cigarettes, according to police.

He was facing two open untaxed-cigarette cases, plus a third case in which prosecutors dropped that charge but were still pursuing unlicensed driving and marijuana possession charges stemming from an August 2013 car stop, court records show.

He was fighting them all, his attorneys said.

In 2007, he filed a lawsuit against a NYPD cop charging his civil rights were violated during a strip search. The case was dismissed  because of a technicality. Garner had not updated the court with his current address.

Garner had a son starting college, five other children and two grandchildren. He had a couple of temporary jobs with the city Department of Parks and Recreation in recent years, most recently helping with horticulture crews and maintenance in 2013.
Ghana Government Urged to Save NHIS From Collapse
Ghana health care campaign threatened with collapse.
Accra, July 8, GNA – The Universal Access to Health Care Campaign (UAHC) has urged government to consider mobilising sufficient resources to help save the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) from collapse.

The Universal Access to Health Care Campaign is a National Campaign driven by a network of Local and International Non-governmental organisations.

A statement to the Ghana News Agency on Tuesday by the National Coordinator of UAHC, Sidua Hor, said the scheme is facing many challenges that called for urgent government action.

Two major service providers, Christian Health Association of Ghana and Health Insurance Service Providers Association of Ghana, had warned that they may suspend no longer  provide health care services to NHIS card holders.

According to Mr Hor, that is due to the inability of the National Health Insurance Authority to pay outstanding bills and economic tariffs for services rendered.

“Subscribers of NHIS…will be made to pay cash before receiving any health care,” he added.

Mr Hor said: “NHIS is indebted to CHAG in excess of GH¢50 million. There are about 183 mission hospitals in the country which provide health care services to Ghanaians, especially those in deprived communities.”

He noted that the way health systems are financed is an important pre-requisite for achieving Universal Health Coverage.

However, he said, the current state of funding the NHIS is not sustainable because even though majority of the funds are from the National Health Insurance Lev and 2.5 per cent of VAT on goods and services, a large number of people are unable to access NHIS because they cannot afford to pay the annual premium.

“Current enrolment rates on the NHIS stands at only 34 per cent of the population as quoted in the 2010 NHIA Annual Report.”

A 2013 World Bank Report projected that Ghana’s NHIS will go bankrupt if it continues with its current funding mechanism.

Mr Hor said: "there are a lot of inefficiencies with the Scheme arising from poor payment of premium and membership card administration."

The cost of claims administration is estimated to have increased by around 40 folds since 2004.

Mr Hor also called on the Ministry of Health to set up adjudication committee of the NHIS to facilitate the speedy adjudication of cases among service providers, subscribers and the NHIA.

This is a requirement as contained in Section 106 of Act 852.


Source: GNA Story (
Published: 2014-07-08 17:13:32
© Ghana News Agency
Organised Labour to Strike on Thursday in Ghana
Long lines at petrol stations in Ghana.
Accra, July 22, GNA – Mr Kofi Asamoah, General Secretary, Trade Union Congress (TUC), on Tuesday said organised labour would demonstrate against the worsening economic situations in the country on Thursday as announced.

According to him, although the government had pleaded for the TUC to rescind the decision to hit the streets of Accra and all the Regional capitals because it coincides with the commemoration of the second anniversary of the Late President John Atta Mills, “the demo will go on”.

Addressing a news  conference organised by the Tema District Council of Labour in Tema, he said organised labour per constitutional requirement have obtained permit from Ghana Police Service and expressed optimism that the  Police would provide security for the demonstrators.

He advised workers to ensure that the exercise is peaceful to carry the real import of the predicament facing the Ghanaian worker and how they should be handled.

He said demonstrators would call for the revamping of the railway sector,  Tema Oil Refinery , measures to address the rising cost of living and the depreciation of the Cedi and other pressing national issues.

He called for efficient production and distribution of electricity and water to assure that citizens do not pay for the inefficiencies of utility companies.

Mr Asamoah asked the Pensions Regulatory Authority to address the challenges in the implementation of the new pension scheme.

He called on government to address the widespread corruption that has reached unprecedented levels the history of Ghana.

Ghana TUC Calls Police Bluff…”We Will Demonstrate, Police Or No Police”

Secretary General of the Ghana Trade Union Congress Kofi
Date published: July 22, 2014
By Bernice Bessey with Bureau files

AFTER REJECTING the call by the government to put on hold the intended strike and nationwide street protest against unbearable economic situation in the country, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) is now on a collision course with the Ghana Police Service, which has stated publicly that it cannot provide men to police the intended demonstrations.

The Acting Director of Public Affairs at the Ghana Police Service, DSP Cephas Arthur was quoted by Joy FM   as saying that: “We will not be in the position to provide adequate protection for the demonstrators, as well as other people, who are going about their duties peacefully, and so we suggested to them to hold the demonstration on a regional basis to enable the police mobilize enough personnel to provide security and protection for the demonstration.”

But Secretary General of TUC, Mr. Kofi Asamoah is warning the police to put its house in order and provide men to protect the demonstrators on Thursday throughout the country.  “It is important that nobody put any spokes in the wheels of the determined workers who want to express their frustrations about the worsening socio-economic conditions in the country,” he warned, adding “I really do not see their problem.

For instance, when it’s May Day, we do it in all regions and the police ensure that all necessary security measures are done without any problem.” Meanwhile, before the police and the TUC could resolve the impasse and ensure smooth demonstration on Thursday, Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) had already hit the streets protesting against the economic hardship in the country, which they say could result in the collapse of industries and subsequent loss of jobs.

The demonstration, which took place in Tema yesterday, saw about six hundred members of the union holding various placards warning the government to salvage the economy.  Mr. Kofi Asamoah last week Friday addressed a news conference in Accra to announce the simultaneous demonstrations across the country on Thursday July 24, 2014, to protest against the deteriorating economic condition in the country.

He quoted Article 36 Clause One of the 1992 Constitution which states that: ‘The State shall take all necessary action to ensure that the national economy is managed in such a manner as to maximize the rate of economic development and to secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every person in Ghana and to provide adequate means of livelihood and suitable employment and public assistance to the needy’.

Mr. Kofi Asamoah regretted that the government in its policy formulation and implementation has breached these conditions entrenched in the constitution by constantly increasing utility tariffs, prices of petroleum products and enforcing other negative measures that are in conflict with the social life of the people.  “The economic situation has moved from bad to worse and it is deteriorating by the day. There seem to be no end in sight,” he noted.

He indicated that current trend of the economy was suffocating businesses, heighten unemployment rate, loss of jobs, increase commodity prices, energy deficiency among others.  Mr. Asamoah also touched on National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) which is in financial distress and Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) that is at the mercy of Bulk Distributions Companies, and the National Pension Regulatory Authority among others.

He said Organized Labour and the working population of Ghana, therefore, demand immediate action by the government to halt the depreciation of the cedi and rising cost of living, to bring on stream the gas pipeline, efficiency in the production and distribution of electricity, revive TOR and address corruption in the government.

Meanwhile the minister for Employment and Labour Relations, Haruna Iddrisu last Friday issued a statement appealing to the TUC to exercise restraint. The following is the full press statement; Government’s attention has been drawn to a declaration of a work boycott (strike action) on Thursday 24th July, 2014 at a press conference addressed by the Secretary-General of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) on behalf of organized labour.

Government appeals to organized labour to reconsider their decision and engage government in constructive dialogue and consultations with a view to addressing the issues raised within the constraints of the national budget and the overall performance of the economy.

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Ghana's External Debt Now $12 Billion
Republic of Ghana President John Mahama.
Ghana’s borrowing streak, which has become a subject of debate in recent days, continues unabated. Parliament was last Friday compelled to approve various loan agreements sourced from its development partners by the government, totaling US$495,788,879.

However, the approval did not escape criticism from the Minority, which demanded value for money in such agreements. Among the projects are Phase 1 of the Kumasi Central Market Redevelopment and the acquisition of buses and spare parts for the two state-run transport firms (Metro Mass Transit Limited and Intercity STC).

Out of the above-mentioned amount, US$40,030,463, sourced from Liaoning Huanghai Automobile IM/EXP Company Limited, is meant to finance the acquisition of 200 Huanghai Complete Built-Up (CBU) Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) City Buses for use by Metro Mass Transit Limited.

A further US$93,433,416, loaned from the HSBC Bank under the EKN Supported Export Credit Facility, is meant to partly finance the acquisition of 295 Scania buses and spare parts for the Bus Rapid Transit System and Intercity STC Coaches Limited.

An additional US$17,300,000, sourced from same HSBC Bank under the EKN Supported Export Credit Facility, would be used to part finance the acquisition of 295 Scania buses, spare parts and related infrastructure for the Accra Bus Rapid Transit System and Intercity STC Coaches Limited.

That notwithstanding, an amount of US$345,025,000 loaned from the Deutsche Bank and its affiliates and other financial institutions, of which part of it (US$135,512,500) was obtained under the SAIN Covered Export Credit Facility, is meant to finance the Kumasi Central Market Re-development Project (Phase 1).

The current loan adds up to the country’s overburdened external debt, which stood at US$11,461.71 million as at end December 31, 2013. Some Members of Parliament, who were not enthused with the short period with which loan agreements were brought to the House for consideration and approval, said it inhibits in-depth scrutiny, thereby impacting negatively on value-for-money for the country.

“It does not enable us to thoroughly and diligently consider it, even in committees, with the best of intentions,” noted the New Patriotic Party (NPP) MP for Sekondi, Papa Owusu Ankomah. He added: “Please, let us give ourselves the opportunity to be able to meaningfully exhaust all the agreements, so that, at the end of the day, when we come out with our report, and we debate them, we can say to ourselves that we have dealt very well with the referrals brought before this House.”

The strategy for the late submission of loan agreements for Parliamentary approval, presumably to avoid critical analysis, mainly from the opposition, has often been adopted by successive governments for fear that it might be shot down when submitted early.

Such agreements are normally brought to the plenary for consideration during the last day sitting of a particular session, where members are busily considering other business of the House, thereby, to a greater extent, escaping the eagle eyes of some members, mainly from the opposition.
20 Factories Threaten to Shutdown in Ghana
Tema workers speak out about plant closings and job losses in
The Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) has stated that over 20 companies in Tema have threatened to shut down if government fails to reduce excessive corporate taxes and address problems confronting the country’s economy.

According to ICU, the shutdown of BTI Limited, a steel company in Tema, led to the loss of over 200 jobs.

General Secretary of ICU, Solomon Kotei disclosed this while presenting a petition to the Mayor of Tema, Isaac Ashai Odamtten, which is expected to be forwarded to President John Mahama.

He claimed the closure of the said companies could affect about 4,000 workers.

He said the companies were facing “constant power outage and water shortage despite the continuous increase in tariffs, noting that the monies of workers in the 2nd Tier Contribution had not been released to fund managers or trustees for investment to benefit them.

According to Mr. Kotei, apart from taxes, duties and levies, which are having adverse effects on industries, the ineptitude of utility service providers had resulted in constant power outage and water shortages.

He said industries have been compelled to reduce production and maintain their workers.

The ICU General Secretary said trade liberalization policy, high inflation, fuel price increases and the dollarization of the country’s economy had negatively affected the country’s economy.

He called on government to immediately review the corporate taxes to enhance the growth of businesses.
Ghana Employers Association Calls Organised Labour’s Bluff
Ghana workers becoming more restive.
The Ghana Employers Association has warned employees from joining en masse the intended demonstration of Organised Labour.

According to the Association, the demonstration should not disrupt normal business activities in the country.

“Some of the employees can attend, and others can stay behind and work,” the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Employers’ Association, Alex Frimpong, told TV3’s Daniel Opoku in an interview on Tuesday, July 22, 2014.

Mr Frimpong’s warning comes in contrast to a directive given last Friday by Organised Labour that all employees including media personnel should join the nationwide demonstration on Thursday to register disapproval of government’s “insensitivity” to the woes of the ordinary Ghanaian.

A meeting held on Monday, July 21 between government officials and leadership of Organised Labour to find a consensus ended inconclusive.

An emergency National Tripartite Committee meeting has, therefore, been called to find a way forward.

“I am currently seeking good advice on how to handle that,” Minister of Employment and Labour Relations Haruna Iddrissu told TV3.

The employers’ association has also indicated it will make a strong showing at the meeting to “as partners be able to engage in talks”.

“We have had some discussion with the leadership of Organised Labour.”
Labour Protests: WANEP Warns of Revolution in Ghana
Workers protests in Ghana are escalating.
The West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) is warning of a revolution in Ghana if government fails to address the growing workers agitations and protests across the country.

While the revolution may not take the form of the Arab Spring, Coordinator of the Network, Isaac Bayor told Joy News the powers that be must not underestimate the widespread agitations in the country.

Ghana has been hit by a wave of demonstration with workers grumbling over worsening standards of living.

Fuel price hikes, utility price hikes, depreciating currency with a relatively static wages have conspired to increase the cost of living.

Prices of goods and services, transport fares have also gone up in the last six months, a situation workers insist has made life unbearable for them.

On Friday, the Trades Union Congress, the umbrella body of workers unions in Ghana, announced a one-day sit-down strike on Thursday July 24, 2014 to protest the worsening living conditions.

Even before that demonstration on Thursday, workers of the Industrial Commercial Union hit the streets on Monday to protest "government's bad economic policies."

Radio programmes have been inundated with calls about workers' suffering and the need for government to address the high cost of living.

WANEP issued a statement predicting a revolution in Ghana if steps were not taken to address the grievances of the workers.

Speaking to Joy News, the Coordinator of WANEP, Isaac Bayor said government must not take these demonstrations lightly because they have the potential of escalating into something else.

When asked how the strings of demonstrations could lead to a revolution similar to the Arab Spring, the Coordinator said "we are not nearer to the Arab spring" but "when these issues are not addressed properly people become rebellious."

Isaac Bayor added that elements who may have other aspirations could infiltrate these demonstrations to cause mayhem in the country.

While admonishing the workers embarking on the strikes and demonstrations to be law abiding, he added the duty bearers must quickly pay attention to the workers, dialogue with them with the view of resolving their grievances.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Our Partners Ditched Us In Trying Times, Says Ghana President Mahama
Ghana President John Mahama.
Ghana Web

President John Mahama says Ghana’s development partners have left the cocoa-producing West African country in the lurch, at a time when their assistance is desperately needed.

According to him, the country’s development partners have not been supportive of government’s homegrown strategies in dealing with the economic challenges confronting the burgeoning oil producer.

“It is in challenging times that one needs their friends. Unfortunately, our development partners have not been as responsive to our homegrown fiscal stabilisation policy as I would have hoped,” he stated.

He said government is in the process of finalising the “Senchi Consensus,” which proposes a number of solutions to the current economic crises – poor performing local currency, rising fuel prices, soaring utility tariffs, hikes in taxes, poor power supply among a raft of other problems.

The Senchi Consensus was reached after a non-partisan National Economic Forum some three months ago. Government has been criticised for the delay in implementing the agreement reached at the forum.

Addressing members of the National House of Chiefs on Wednesday July 16, the president said: “This year is a turn-around year."

“We will begin to feel the effects of economic recovery by the end of this year,” he promised, but added: “We however must learn to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. It is in challenging times that one needs their friends.”
Israel-Gaza Conflict: Air Canada Cancels Tel Aviv Flight Over Safety Concerns
Damage and smoke from the IDF bombings of Gaza.
FAA prohibits U.S. airlines from flying to Tel Aviv for next 24 hours

CBC News
Jul 22, 2014 5:03 PM ET

Air Canada has cancelled its scheduled flight to Tel Aviv from Toronto tonight, following the lead of other airlines concerned about rocket fire near Ben Gurion Airport.

Air Canada had a flight scheduled to leave for Tel Aviv from Toronto at 6:10 p.m. ET. The airline will continue to evaluate the situation and provide updates as needed, a spokeswoman said.

The return flight to Toronto from Tel Aviv for Wednesday, July 23, has also been cancelled, the carrier confirmed.

Delta Air Lines and United Airlines suspended flights to Israel indefinitely Tuesday after a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed near Tel Aviv's airport, wounding one Israeli.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration subsequently issued a statement ordering U.S. carriers not to fly into Tel Aviv airport for the next 24 hours, starting Tuesday afternoon "due to the potentially hazardous situation created by the armed conflict in Israel and Gaza."

A Delta Boeing 747 from New York was flying over the Mediterranean headed for Tel Aviv when it turned around and flew to Paris instead. Flight 468 had 273 passengers and 17 crew members on board.

Air France, Dutch flag carrier KLM, and German flag carrier Lufthansa also said they were suspending their flights to Tel Aviv.

US Airways, which has one daily flight from Philadelphia, cancelled that flight Tuesday and the return trip from Tel Aviv. It said it was evaluating subsequent flights.

Possible economic harm

Palestinian militants have fired more than 2,000 rockets toward Israel, and several heading toward the area of Ben-Gurion Airport have been intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome defence system, but police spokeswoman Luba Samri said Tuesday's landing was the closest to the airport since fighting began on July 8.

Nadine Baudot-Trajtenburg, deputy governor of the Bank of Israel, pointed out that Israeli airlines are still flying.

But, in an interview with CBC’s Lang & O’Leary Exchange, she said any prolonged closing of the airport could result in economic harm to Israel.

“The closing off of the airport for 24 hours is a slightly more important impact. It will depend on how long it will last,” said Baudot-Trajtenburg.

“In this round of hostilities, for the first time in 20-odd years, we’re seeing rockets that can reach the economic centre of Israel, which is centred around Tel Aviv,” she added.

In the past, foreign investment and growth have not been affected by the outbreak of hostilities, but “we have to be careful,” she said.

24-hour ban

Airlines and passengers are growing more anxious about safety since last week, when a Malaysia Airlines jet was shot down over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.

The FAA said that the ban on flights is for 24 hours beginning at 12:15 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

The statement said the rocket strike landed about 1.6 kilometres from Ben Gurion International Airport on Tuesday morning.

The notice only applies to U.S. airlines, since the FAA has no authority over carriers from other countries.

The agency said it will continue to monitor and evaluate the situation, and that updated instructions will be provided to U.S. airlines "as soon as conditions permit, but no later than 24 hours" from the time the directive went into force.
U.S. Court Rulings Create New Uncertainty Over Obamacare
Obamacare ad encouraging people to enroll before the deadline in
early 2014.
4:00pm EDT
By David Morgan and Aruna Viswanatha

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two U.S. judicial panels on Tuesday injected new uncertainty into the future of President Barack Obama's healthcare law, with conflicting rulings over whether the federal government can subsidize health insurance for millions of Americans.
The appeals court rulings, handed down by three-judge panels in Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Virginia, augured a possible rematch before the U.S. Supreme Court, which in June 2012 narrowly upheld the Democratic president's 2010 healthcare overhaul.

The twin rulings fell in line with partisan disagreements over healthcare reform, with two judges appointed by Republican presidents deciding against the administration in the District of Columbia and three judges appointed by Democrats ruling in favor in Virginia. The rulings also reignited the debate over Obamacare on Capitol Hill and on the campaign trail to November congressional elections. Republican opponents of the law welcomed the D.C. decision as a further step toward dismantling Obama's signature domestic policy. The cases deal with the government's ability to offer premium tax credits to people who purchase private coverage through the federal insurance marketplace that serves the majority of the 8 million consumers who signed up for 2014.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in a 2-1 decision that the language in the Affordable Care Act dealing with subsidies shows they should only be provided to consumers who purchase benefits on exchanges run by individual states.

Most states including Florida and Texas, which have some of the largest uninsured populations, opted to leave the task of operating a marketplace to the federal government.

But plaintiffs in the D.C. Circuit case, known as Halbig v. Burwell, claimed that Congress did not intend to provide subsidies through federally operated marketplaces. The plaintiffs were identified as a group of individuals and employers from states that did not establish their own marketplaces.


The D.C. Circuit judges suspended their ruling pending an appeal by the administration.

Administration officials said they would appeal to the full circuit court, a process that could take up to six months, and stressed the ruling would have no impact on consumers receiving monthly subsidies now.

Hours later, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia ruled unanimously to uphold the same provision in the case of King v. Burwell, saying the wording of the law was too ambiguous to restrict the availability of federal funds.

The appearance of a split between separate circuit courts over the question of Obamacare subsidies could increase the chance of Supreme Court intervention. But legal experts and some Republicans on Capitol Hill said the full D.C. Circuit court, dominated by appointees of Democratic presidents, was likely to overturn its panel's ruling or at least revisit it.

The Supreme Court upheld the Obamacare law on constitutional grounds in 2012 but allowed states to opt out of a major provision involving Medicaid coverage. Last month, the high court's conservative majority ruled again on the law, saying closely held for-profit corporations could object to Obamacare's contraception provision on religious grounds.

“Today’s ruling is also further proof that President Obama’s healthcare law is completely unworkable. It cannot be fixed," House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement.

Obamacare advocates welcomed the Virginia ruling, which House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said "affirms the intent of the Affordable Care Act: to make quality, affordable health insurance available to every American in every state."

Outside the political sphere, stock market reaction to the rulings was muted for health insurers like WellPoint Inc and Aetna Inc, which sell plans on many Obamacare exchanges. Industry officials predicted that a final decision would take "months or longer" to sort out, with no immediate impact expected on their business.

"In the meantime, health plans remain focused on ensuring stability, affordability and accessibility for consumers," said Brendan Buck, spokesman for America's Health Insurance Plans, a main lobbying and trade group.


Analysts estimate that as many as five million people could be affected if subsidies disappear from the federal marketplace, which serves 36 states through the website Subsidies are available to people with annual incomes of up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or $94,200 for a family of four.

"This has got probably more rounds of appeals and so forth, so nothing is going to really happen right now," said John Holahan of the nonpartisan Urban Institute.

"Some states may jump into action to set up their own exchanges to qualify as state-based exchanges," Holahan added. "Others won't, in which case there will be a large number of uninsured that will remain and possibly grow."

The two-judge majority in the D.C. Circuit case, judges Thomas Griffith and Arthur Randolph, wrote: "The fact is that the legislative record provides little indication one way or the other of congressional intent, but the statutory text does. (It) plainly makes subsidies available only on exchanges established by states. And in the absence of any contrary indications, that text is conclusive evidence of Congress’s intent."

The D.C. panel's dissenting judge Harry Edwards, appointed by Democratic president Jimmy Carter, wrote the majority's judgment defied the will of Congress and ignored the authority Congress vested in agencies to interpret and enforce the healthcare law.

The Virginia appeals court, while siding with the administration, was lukewarm in its support, saying: "The court is of the opinion that the defendants have the stronger position, although only slightly."

(Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley, Susan Cornwell, Susan Heavey, Julia Edwards and Emily Stephenson in Washington; and by Caroline Humer and David Ingram in New York; Editing by Michele Gershberg, Howard Goller and Grant McCool)
Fighting in Libya Getting Worse
A damaged plane from rebel clashes at the Tripoli, Libya airport.
Jul 21st 2014, 18:21

OFFICIALLY Libya is not at war, but for the thousands of residents of the capital, Tripoli, who fled their homes at the weekend it is starting to feel like it. Fighting spilled across Tripoli's western districts after a battle between rival militias on July 19th and 20th for control of Libya’s main airport left 47 dead, marking it as the most violent day since the end of the 2011 CIA-Pentagon-NATO coordinated counter-revolution that toppled Muammar Qaddafi.

Militias from Misrata, some of the most racist and brutal since 2011, frustrated at their failure to capture the airport after a week of fighting with the Zintan militia that holds it, arrived with tanks to pound the perimeter. The Zintanis responded with shells and anti-aircraft fire. As the violence expanded, huge fires burned in the city's western districts. “A shell hit my neighbour’s house and a lot of people left,” says Seraj, a resident of the western suburb of Janzour.  “We stayed inside, it was not safe on the streets.”

When the smoke cleared, Zintanis remained in control of the airport, but it is now a shambles of wrecked buildings and burned-out aircraft. The transport ministry says 21 planes, valued at 1.9 billion dinar ($1.5 billion) have been damaged or destroyed. Brave Libyan pilots have flown two Airbuses belonging to Afriqiyah (a state-owned Libyan airline) and a third jet from Libyan Airlines, the flag carrier, to safety in nearby Malta.

Without command of any troops willing and able to intervene, Libya's foreign minister, Muhammad Abdul Aziz, on July 17th asked the UN Security Council to send military advisers to bolster state forces guarding ports, airports and other strategic locations. He warned that Libya risks going “out of control” without such help. But he found no takers. The Security Council, which passed resolution 1973 authorising the Pentagon-NATO blanket bombing of Libya in March 2011, worries about committing troops to a war featuring a mosaic of competing factions. “Whose side are we supposed to intervene on?”  asks a Western diplomat in Tripoli.

With airspace closed to most flights, foreigners continue to leave the country through the only available exit, the land border with Tunisia. Turkey and the Philippines have followed the UN in evacuating their staff, joined at the weekend by oil company workers from Italy’s ENI and Spain’s Repsol. America has an aircraft carrier stationed offshore in case it decides to evacuate its diplomats from the fortified embassy in Tripoli, where staff took to shelters on July 20th as shells fell around the walls. Almost all foreigners have already fled Benghazi, Libya's second city, in the country's east, where helicopter gunships allied with a renegade general, Khaled Haftar, a long time CIA operative, pounded Islamist militias over the weekend.

Libya's neighbours are rattled. Algeria and Tunisia this month deployed 15,000 troops to their borders with Libya. Egypt closed its border crossing on July 19th and warned of retaliation when a day later 21 border guards were killed by gunmen near the Libya frontier. Diplomats hope, perhaps in vain, that the chaos will end when the new parliament convenes in Benghazi early next month.

Until then, Libyans are resigned to more turmoil. The reluctance of some ships to enter Tripoli docks has meant a shortage of fireworks, which traditionally light up the sky at the end of Ramadan, due next week. “We have fireworks in the night, but those are fireworks we wish not to see,” says Seraj.
'Your Fight Is Mine' -- Letter to Detroit From A Netroots Nation Visitor
Denis Oliver-Valez visited Detroit to attend the Net Roots
July 20th, 2014, 10:54 AM

Denise Oliver Velez, a former Black Panther Party member who's now a cultural anthropologist, reflects Sunday at the Daily Kos website on Detroit's image and impact after a few days downtown:

As I prepare to leave Detroit, Michigan, today and head back to New York after attending the Netroots Nation 2014 gathering of bloggers, I'm thinking about the multi-faceted meanings Detroit has for me, not as simply a visitor, but as a political activist, ethno-historian and a person raised in black American culture.

I'm left with a montage of images, some current — dealing with protests against Detroit's water shut-off, which the United Nations has stated is a violation of human rights — and other images that emerge as flashbacks from different moments in time in my past.

Velez, a 66-year-old adjunct professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz, flashes back to local jazz legends, Motown Records, Diego Rivera, the 1967 riot and  labor activism of the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement and the League of Revolutionary Black Workers during the 1960s and '70s.

Though the Detroit fist sculpture may be considered controversial by some viewers, to me it represents the power and the strength of the people of Detroit, who no matter how many punches they take, will keep fighting back.

Thank you Detroit for having stolen a piece of my soul. I feel like your fight is mine, and belongs to all of us who you have inspired over the years.
Editorial Comment: Israeli Offensive on Gaza, Has World Lost Its Voice?
Israeli bombs Gaza where over 600 have been killed.
July 22, 2014 Opinion & Analysis

GAZA is on fire and the world is apparently nonplussed, at least judging by the reaction of the vocal Western rabble-rousers who are quick to take to the podium even upon receiving news of skirmishes between rival party supporters in places like Mufakose.

Over 500 people, mostly unarmed civilians have been killed by Israeli bombing, artillery and mortar fire in Gaza, 100 of them innocent children with over 3 000 reported injured in the barbaric 15-day offensive.

Only yesterday, the Israelis bombed a hospital where the injured were recuperating killing several people, and still no condemnation from the White House or Number 10 Downing Street.

Only UN secretary general Mr Ban Ki-moon found a voice describing the Israeli bombardment as atrocious and calling for a ceasefire.

The UN ceasefire call would have made sense if Gaza and Israel were at war, but it is Israel which is bombarding Gaza where, by the UN’s own admission, over 70 percent of fatalities are innocent civilians, the least we expected from the UN was strong condemnation of the Israel offensive not a mere call for a ceasefire between victim and assailant.

But the UN’s feeble response does not come as a surprise to us given that Israel is blood-letting with the tacit approval of the United States that, by virtue of hosting the UN headquarters in New York, appears to have held that institution hostage.

More than 500 Palestinians — mostly civilians — have been killed and about 3 000 injured while 20 Israelis, including two civilians, have died, among them two American soldiers fighting with the Israel Defence Forces against the residents of Gaza.

This partly explains why international condemnation of the Gaza offensive has been muted as big brother is in the thick of things. Add to this the unfortunate downing of Malaysian airlines flight MH17 that provided a much-needed diversion for Israel and the Anglo-Saxon alliance, and you would be forgiven for thinking nothing much is happening in Gaza.

Despite mounting deaths including the use of banned munitions, there was little sign of real pressure on Israel.

In fact US president Barack Obama expressed his support for the Israeli offensive saying “no nation would tolerate an attack on its soil.’’

And in a televised Press conference Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu said the Gaza offensive would continue saying, after three ceasefire offers, it now had international backing: “We will continue this operation for as long as it takes,” Netanyahu said as he thanked the US for its support. “I appreciate the support we have received from president Obama on our right to self-defence,” Netanyahu told CNN.

Israel is the largest recipient of US military assistance and last year alone, Washington sent some US$3,1 billion in military aid to Tel Aviv, supplemented by allocations for collaborative military research and joint training exercises.

Israel’s actions have been rapped as one of the worst attacks on a people since the formal end of apartheid South Africa in 1994.

Ironically, the assault on Gaza has not been condemned as much as the downing of a Malaysian airlines plane, MH17, that had 298 people on board with Western media trying to build a case against Russia for reportedly supplying Ukrainian separatists with weapons, surprisingly the US that openly assists Israel with billions in military aid every year has not been similarly rapped by the same media organisations.

We urge the progressive world to speak in unison against the murderous regime in Tel Aviv, the United Nations must also find its voice or go the way of the League of Nations that twice failed to save the world from the scourge of war.

Netanyahu and his regime are clear candidates for The Hague and we expect ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo to show the same zeal he has shown over  Kenya.
The residents of Gaza deserve justice.
US, EU Condemned Over Gaza
Palestinians seeking refuge from IDF attacks on Gaza.
July 22, 2014
Herald Reporters

The United States, the European Union and their Western media embeds have been slammed for their failure to condemn the killing of hundreds of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip by Israeli Defence Forces over the past two weeks.The silence, that was only broken by United Nations secretary general Mr Ban Ki-moon yesterday who described the attack as an “atrocious action” and called for an immediate end to the Israeli bombardment, has continued despite revelations by UN bodies in Gaza that over 70 percent of the fatalities are civilians of which over 100 were children.

Israeli forces yesterday shelled a hospital where the injured were recuperating, killing more civilians bringing the death toll to over 500 dead and over 3 000 injured.

Despite this, there was still no condemnation of Israel’s actions by the US and its allies, with US president Barack Obama who was on record supporting the Israeli offensive only urging a ceasefire as if the residents of Gaza were at war with their assailants.

Political analysts and diplomats yesterday noted that the Western media would have been vocal if such killings had occurred in Zimbabwe or any of the countries that do not toe the western line.

This comes as the death toll rose yesterday to at least 514, as the UN Security Council convened an emergency meeting at the request of Jordan.

Zanu-PF spokesperson Cde Rugare Gumbo condemned the violence in the Gaza Strip, saying diplomacy should be the guiding principle in any conflict.

“We are opposed to violence that is taking place in the Middle East,” he said.

“The silence by the West did not come as a shock to us because we  used to see that during our war of liberation where we were labelled as terrorists. We say that diplomacy should take centre stage.”

Palestinian ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Hashem Dajani condemned the US for its apparent support of Israel which he said was killing defenceless women, children and the elderly.

“We don’t understand how the Americans would give support to Israel on the basis that it was for self defence, but ignore the same rights to the Palestinians,” he said.

“Unfortunately, this is despite the fact that they pretend to respect and honour human rights and values. We know that this is not true. We call upon the international community and people of conscience to stand up and stop the Israelis from this criminal bloodshed against civilians and innocent lives.”

Israel, said Mr Dajani, would not embark on such a massive aggression without the backing of high powered countries like the US.

“We consider this action as a blatant war crime before the eyes of the entire international community,” he said “There is urgent need for all countries to take their responsibilities seriously and intervene to save lives and stop the violation. I consider the situation in Gaza as a deliberate massacre of innocent lives.”

A diplomat who preferred anonymity said the Western media and the US would have called for drastic action if such killings had occurred in Zimbabwe.

“The US and EU had a deep seated interest in Zimbabwe and would not afford to miss any opportunity that discredits Harare,” said the diplomat.

“On the case of Palestine, they cannot be seen condemning the killings because they support Israel.”

European Union head of mission in Zimbabwe Mr Aldo Dell”Ariccia declined to comment yesterday, saying he was waiting for an official statement from Brussels, the headquarters of the Western bloc even though the bombardment was being televised on CNN and the BBC for all to see.

He also refused to comment on how the situation would be had the deaths in Gaza occurred in Zimbabwe.

“I would not want to start speculating if it had happened in this country or that country,” he said. “I am waiting for an official statement.”

US ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Bruce Wharton had not yet responded to questions send to him by the time of going to press despite assurances from his office that a response would be made on time.

University of Zimbabwe Law lecturer Professor Lovemore Madhuku described the bombings in the Gaza Strip as totally unacceptable.

“It shows the heartlessness of the Western world in the sense that Israel is supported by the US,” he said. “There can be no worse human rights abuse outside extermination of life – it is the worst kind of arrogance.”

Prof Madhuku described the killing of people in Gaza as a genocide.

“They are killing people in broad day light and (Benjamin) Netanyahu (Israeli Prime Minister) is proud of every moment of that inhumane genocide. If he goes to the US he will get a red carpet for that.”

Federation of Non-Governmental Organisations president Mr Goodson Nguni said the US and the EU were motivated by racist considerations and had no soft spot for non-whites.

“Human rights abuses by the US and EU relate to those issues that are in their interest,” he said. “They have an interest in Israel, so they do not see anything wrong with that war.

“The war in Gaza is between Arabs and Jews. Palestinians are not whites, so in this case the US does not give a damn.”

Israel launched the operation dubbed: “Operation Protective Edge” on July 8 ostensibly targeting the Hamas movement, which controls the region, and its allied groups of Palestinian rebels.

Ten days later, the Israeli army switched to a ground offensive that increased casualties.

Ironically, the assault on Gaza has not been condemned as much as the downing of a Malaysian airlines plane, MH17, that had 295 people on board, with Western media trying to build a case against Russia for reportedly supplying Ukrainian separatists with weapons.

Surprisingly, the US that openly assists Israel with billions in military aid every year, has not been similarly rapped by the same media organisations.
Palestinian Fighters Kill Over 40 Israeli Soldiers
Over 40 IDF soldiers have been killed in Gaza.
Tue Jul 22, 2014 12:6AM GMT

Palestinian resistance fighters have killed over 40 Israeli soldiers since Tel Aviv started its offensive on the besieged Gaza Strip.

Al-Qassam Brigades, which is the military wing of Palestinian resistance movement Hamas, said that its forces killed 15 more Israeli forces in eastern Gaza City on Monday alone.

The Palestinian fighters also targeted an Israeli Merkava-4 tank in the east of Gaza City on the same day.

Hamas also fired dozens of retaliatory rockets into Israel. Warning sirens have sounded in Tel Aviv, Yavne, Gadara, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and many other places.

Top Hamas leader in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh said on the same day that the besieged Gaza Strip will become "a graveyard for Israeli soldiers" who are committing crimes against the Palestinians in the blockade enclave for more than two weeks.

The latest casualties bring the Palestinian death toll to nearly 600 from 14 days of Israeli attacks. Over 3,000 Palestinians have also been injured in the onslaught.

Medical workers are now raising alarm over a humanitarian crisis in Gaza where hospitals are running low on basic medical supplies.

Meanwhile, anti-Israeli rallies are being held worldwide in condemnation of Tel Aviv's ongoing atrocities against Palestinians, urging an immediate end to bloodshed in Gaza.

Pro-Palestinian protests have turned violent in France with angry demonstrators clashing with security forces in a Paris suburb.

A group of US demonstrators, joined by anti-Zionists, has gathered in front of the White House to protest Tel Aviv’s escalating ground and aerial offensives.

Similar rallies have been held in the Netherlands, Austria, Chile, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Britain, Morocco, Bolivia, and Australia, among others.
Israeli War Kills More Palestinians in Gaza Strip
Palestinians killed by the IDF loaded into body bags.
Tue Jul 22, 2014 4:10AM GMT

At least seven Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip as Israeli warplanes and tanks keep targeting the besieged enclave.

According to Gaza authorities, the latest deaths on Tuesday took place in several cities, including Khan Younis, Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya.

The fatalities came a day after Israeli tanks shelled the Al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital in the Deir al-Balah city in the central Gaza Strip, leaving five people dead and several others injured.

The latest casualties bring the Palestinian death toll to nearly 600 from more than two weeks of Israeli attacks. Thousands of Palestinians have also been injured in the onslaught.

Since the deadly Israeli offensive started on July 8, huge numbers of people in Gaza have fled their homes, with the UN saying over 100,000 people have sought shelter in 69 schools run by its Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA).

Meanwhile, top Hamas leader in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh has said the blockaded Gaza Strip would become “a graveyard for Israeli soldiers,” who are committing crimes against the Palestinians in the enclave. Around 30 Israelis have so far been killed in the war.
Two Israeli Soldiers Killed in Gaza
Israeli soldiers mourn deaths of IDF troops killed in Gaza.
Tue Jul 22, 2014 5:1AM GMT

Two more Israeli soldiers have been killed in combat in the Gaza Strip, raising the number of the troops killed in the 15-day Israeli offensive against the blockaded Palestinian sliver to 27.

The Israeli army confirmed the deaths in a statement issued on Tuesday, saying the troopers had been killed a day earlier.

The army added that three other soldiers were seriously injured over the course of the night. Reports said that the commander of the elite Egoz reconnaissance unit was among those injured on Monday.

However, Palestinians say the death toll is higher. Al-Qassam Brigades, which is the military wing of Palestinian resistance movement Hamas, said that its forces killed 15 Israeli forces in eastern Gaza City on Monday and over 40 of them since Tel Aviv started its offensive.

More than 100 Israeli soldiers have been confirmed wounded over the past few days.

Top Hamas leader in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh has said the besieged Gaza Strip will become “a graveyard for Israeli soldiers.”

Two Israeli civilians have also been killed by rocket fire so far.

Hamas has fired hundreds of retaliatory rockets into Israel. Warning sirens have sounded in Tel Aviv, Yavne, Gadara, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and many other places.
Israel Finds Hamas Are No Longer Amateur Fighters
Gaza fighters battle the Israeli Defense Forces.
By Ben Wedeman, CNN
10:00 PM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014

Deaths mount in Gaza and Israel

CNN's Ben Wedeman says Hamas is a stronger force this time
It has adopted commando-like tactics, he says
There was cheering at reports of an Israeli solider captured
U.S. has little to show for a year of trying to forge peace, he says

Gaza City (CNN) -- Israel's ground incursion into Gaza, which it says is intended to destroy Palestinian militants' tunnels and stop rocket fire into Gaza, has entered its fifth day with the death toll mounting on both sides and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arriving in Egypt. CNN's Ben Wedeman, a veteran Middle East correspondent, puts the incursion into perspective.

How does this incursion compare to previous ones by Israel into Gaza, in terms of military force?
Unlike 2008/09, this incursion seems to be focused on areas with high concentrations of people, initially focusing on the Gaza City neighborhood of Shaja'ia. In '08/09 the focus was on areas where rockets were being fired, which were typically away from highly populated communities.

And of course at this stage, it's unclear how many Palestinian casualties there have been in these locations. The people have been warned by the Israelis to leave these areas with phone messages, but while many have left, a significant proportion has stayed behind.

My impression is that Israel has mobilized a much larger military force than in 2008/09 and in 2012. This is part of the picture of the Israelis going into heavily populated areas -- which is a much more dangerous operation, as can be seen by the deaths of at least 13 Israeli soldiers on Sunday.
Is Israel likely to achieve its objective of destroying the tunnels, and stopping the rocket strikes?

So far, Israel hasn't been wildly successful in its stated mission. Since this started, Hamas has been using tunnels in an attempt to ambush and capture soldiers and continues to fire rockets at Israel, although the number fired has gone down. What we see is that as Israel's capabilities have changed, so have Hamas'. Whenever Israel comes up with new tactics, Hamas and other factions seem to find new ways to counter them, such as by using longer-range rockets to fire at Israel, for example.

What is significant now is that Hamas fighters appear to be better trained, with a new set of skills that I don't think Israel anticipated. One Israeli soldier who came out of Shaja'ia was quoted in an Israeli publication that Hamas is fighting like Hezbollah, which waged a successful guerrilla war against Israel's occupation in the 1980s and 1990s, and inflicted high casualties on Israeli forces during the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel in Lebanon.

The last serious street fighting I saw in Gaza was in early 2008, and it was almost like it was "amateur hour," with fighters in Gaza parading around with their weapons but not really able to stop the Israeli forces. Now it appears they've learned they must keep a much lower profile.

They've developed what could be called commando tactics, and are taking full advantage of their knowledge of their turf.

How long do you believe this incursion will last? How soon before it realistically is better described as a war?

This is now a war, in my modest opinion -- it's gone beyond a mere incursion. Hamas shows no sign of backing down, and didn't jump at Egypt's cease-fire proposal. They want to show that they're a military force to be reckoned with, and are in it for the long run.

Israel's defense minister said it would take two or three days to destroy the tunnels. If this crisis is to end soon, Israel will have to pull back and Hamas needs to stop firing rockets. In Hamas' opinion, they have achieved one of their objectives, which is to give Israel a bloody nose.

They claim to have captured an Israeli soldier -- as yet this is unconfirmed -- but if true, it would be a huge feather in their cap, in their own terms. When Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was captured by Hamas in a June 2006 raid near the Israel-Gaza border, it took five years before he was freed, in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners -- so, if true, this will be a huge bargaining chip for Hamas.

Will the death toll already suffered by Israel have a serious impact on public opinion in Israel?
Israelis are used to this sort of death toll from Hezbollah, but not from Hamas. I was on the streets of Gaza on Sunday night, when Palestinians celebrated the claims that an Israeli soldier had been captured.

Shortly afterwards, the guns on Israeli navy boats opened up. The immediate conclusion of everyone in the street was that this was Israel's response to the capture of one of its soldiers.
How much effect will the pressure/condemnation from the United Nations (and in the off-mic remarks from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry) have?

I believe the U.N. remarks will have no effect in Gaza. There is a perception there that the U.N. "talks but doesn't walk" -- it's toothless in other words. Hamas realizes it has few friends in the outside world.

The remarks of the White House last week though will not go down well in Israel, I believe. And the comments of John Kerry on Sunday -- which left some wondering whether he was criticizing Israeli assurances that its ground offensive in Gaza would be limited -- indicate American patience may be wearing thin. After one of his deputies mentioned the latest number of Palestinian casualties, Kerry was heard to say, "It's a hell of a pinpoint operation."

It is estimated that 70% of the more than 500 Palestinians killed in Israel's assault have been civilians. Washington has tied itself to Israel, and that country's right to self-defense, therefore the U.S. is going to feel some responsibility. Americans support Israel rhetorically, but this high Palestinian death toll is very problematic for the U.S. This is why Kerry may be feeling uncomfortable -- he spent almost a year trying to forge a Mideast peace deal, and what's he got to show for it now?
Kenya: More Than 3,000 Kenyan Soldiers Have Died in Somalia, Kenya Losing the War
Kenyan soldiers in Kismayo, Somalia.
21 JULY 2014

In a shocking report that has yet to be released but which we have seen, we have learnt that more than 3,000 soldiers have died in Somalia and Kenya is fighting a losing war.

Last week Raila demanded that the Uhuru government furnish reports on how many soldiers have died in Somalia but he was quickly shut down by Uhuru's cronies who questioned why he wanted this valuable information.

Well, the truth is now out. Kenyans refuse to face the fact that ‪#‎Operation_Linda_Nchi‬ is costing tax payers over 100 MILLION a day to run this farce of a war.

Good men and women are dying over there for no justified reason. Soldiers get shot at EVERYDAY, Day in Day out for an ineffective government that can't safeguard security within our borders.

Do we even have PROFESSIONAL ARMIES? Well, our soldiers don't operate based on the concept of duty any more... KDF soldiers now see EVERYTHING as a JOB. That's why they pay over 300K to get in the army.

To get PAID a certain SALARY Every month and they have certain jobs to do. And dying for Your country in Not one of the jobs.

We interviewed a soldier who said that the word duty and esprit corps are not even mentioned... .instead everything is reffered as a job which is the reason(joblessness) most people join anyway.

How many soldiers have died in Somalia? And for fairness, how many Somalis have died so far, civilian or insurgents?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Injury to Hage is Injury to All – Namibia Governor
Hardap Gov. Katina Hanse-Himarwa of SWAPO in Namibia.
Hardap Governor Katrina Hanse-Himarwa has called on the country’s opposition to rally behind Swapo presidential candidate, Dr Hage Geingob

By Hoandi !Gaeb
New Era

MARIENTAL- “If you touch Swapo, then you touch us. If you touch Hage Geingob, you touch us. An injury to Swapo, is an injury to us. An injury to Hage Geingob, is an injury to us.”

Met with applause, these were the words of Swapo Politiburo member and Governor of the Hardap Region, Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, during the ruling party’s regional consultative and strategic conference at Mariental on Saturday.

Hanse-Himarwa made the remarks in reference to views by some party members that opposition parties who have thrown their support behind Prime Minister Hage Geingob’s presidential candidacy must also extend their support to Swapo and not only its candidate.

Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) spokesperson Job Amupanda last week described as “opportunist” that some opposition parties, mostly the Republican Party and the United Democratic Front (UDF), have urged their members to vote for Geingob, but not Swapo, in the upcoming presidential and National Assembly elections.

On Saturday, Hanse-Himarwa also used the same occasion to urge all opposition parties in the country to follow the example of the RP and UDF in supporting Geingob during the elections.

Hanse-Himarwa noted that Swapo members must thank the opposition parties that expressed their support for Geingob. It is a vote of confidence in the qualities of Geingob as – in all likelihood – the next president of Namibia, she said.

Hanse-Himarwa said it is imperative that the Swapo Party remains united and work hard to continue to lead the country and the nation.

“Only if we are genuinely united, will the goals and objectives set out in the party’s manifesto be achieved.”

The conference also elected former governor of the Hardap Region, Karl Kisting, and Caroline Pieters as their representatives at the upcoming Swapo electoral college.

Kisting garnered 33 out of 41 votes while Willem Moller from Rehoboth only won eight votes. Pieters was automatically endorsed as she was the sole female candidate.

Hanse-Himarwa also lashed out at some members of the party who are allegedly working against the party’s principles. “Do not come to my house to spy on me. Be my comrades. Protect me as your leader so that I can continue to deliver the goods for you,” the governor said.

She urged those Swapo members who have not yet registered to do so during the supplementary registration process which will be held in September. “We are trendsetters in the Hardap Region, let us register and vote for Swapo fully.”

The chairman of the committee of assigned leaders to the Hardap Region, Fisheries and Marine Resources Minister, Bernhard Esau, also called on delegates to the conference to organise themselves properly for the elections.

“As we are moving towards elections as Namibians we need to organise ourselves to vote for Swapo. However, in order to vote, all Swapo supporters must be registered. After the supplementary registration process in September, all of you must be registered,” Esau said.

“We as Swapo members must go from house to house to mobilise our people to vote for the ruling party. Hage Geingob is ours and we must vote for him.”

The conference was inter alia attended by the Deputy Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, Priscilla Beukes, Member of Parliament Eveline !Nowases-Kayele and Swapo Party Regional Coordinator in the //Karas Region, Matheus Mumbala. 
Palestinian Envoy Slams UN Security Council Inaction
Palestinian representative to the United Nations Riyad Mansour.
Mon Jul 21, 2014 6:4AM GMT

Palestinian envoy to the United Nations Riyad Mansour has criticized the UN Security Council for its inaction in the face of Israel’s ongoing invasion of the Gaza Strip.

Mansour made the remarks late on Sunday as the Security Council held an emergency meeting to discuss two weeks of the Israeli offensive in Gaza.

“This is the third time that we come to the Security Council since this aggression (began) and our people are extremely frustrated and fed up with the Security Council and the international community because they are not doing what they should be doing in order to stop this aggression against our people,” he told reporters.

The Palestinian UN envoy stressed that if the Security Council, which is supposed to be responsible for international peace and security, does not stop the Israeli assault, “where should we go in order to seek justice and stopping this aggression against our people?”

“We will not give up and come back again and again to the Security Council. We hope that the Security Council rises up to the level of shouldering its responsibility to stop this carnage,” he added.

Israel began its airstrikes on the besieged enclave on July 8. Last Thursday, thousands of Israeli soldiers launched a ground invasion into the densely-populated strip as well.

At least 505 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli attacks over the past 14 days, while more than 3,000 others were injured. More than 100 people were killed across Gaza on Sunday. Over 70 of them, mostly children, were residents of the Shejaiya district in eastern Gaza.
Israel Drops White Phosphorus Bombs on Gazans
Israeli Air Force drops white phosphorous bombs on Gaza.
Mon Jul 21, 2014 12:15PM GMT

Latest reports say Israeli aerial and ground forces are using white phosphorus bombs to pound several residential areas across the besieged Gaza Strip.

The lethal bombs violate all international conventions and are considered as banned weapons in civilian areas.

This comes as a Norwegian doctor in the besieged coastal enclave has recently criticized Israel for using cancer-inducing bombs against Palestinian civilians.

Medics says some Palestinians in the besieged enclave have been wounded by a new type of weapon that even doctors with previous experience in war zones do not recognize.

Israel also used depleted-uranium and white phosphorus shells in the besieged region during their previous assaults.

The latest revelation comes as Israeli tanks and warplanes keep pounding the besieged enclave. Sources say at 39 Palestinians were killed on Monday alone.

Sunday has been the bloodiest day of the two-week conflict. More than 100 Palestinians were killed in the Shejaiya neighborhood near Gaza City on Sunday. The majority of the victims were civilians including children, women and the elderly.

The latest casualties bring the Palestinian death toll to 510 from 14 days of Israeli attacks. Over 3000 Palestinians have also been injured in the onslaught.

Medical workers are now raising the alarm over a humanitarian crisis in Gaza where hospitals are running low on basic medical supplies.

The UN Security Council has expressed serious concern over the growing number of casualties in the Gaza Strip, calling for an immediate ceasefire between the conflicting parties. 
Over 500 Palestinians Killed in Israeli Siege of Gaza
Gaza industrial area bombed by the IDF.
By William Booth, Sudarsan Raghavan and Ruth Eglash
Washington Post
July 21 at 7:22 AM
GAZA CITY — The Palestinian death toll rose to more than 500 on Monday as Israel announced that it had prevented two more attempts by Hamas militants to infiltrate the nation via tunnels from the Gaza Strip.

As international concern mounted over the growing casualties on both sides in the conflict, now in its 14th day, yet another diplomatic push was underway to bring about a cease-fire. U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon were both expected in Cairo later Monday in hopes of finding a diplomatic resolution that has so far proved elusive.

Israeli airstrikes continued to bombard Gaza on Monday — more than 50 Hamas targets were attacked, including two weapons manufacturing sites, six underground rocket launchers and five tunnels, Israel’s military said.

Over the past few hours, Israel reported intense rocket fire across its southern communities, reaching up to Tel Aviv, its second-largest city, where two rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile-defense shield midmorning Monday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who held a security briefing in the south Monday morning with Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon and Benny Gantz, the military’s chief of the general staff, said in a statement afterward that while the army had achieved some of its main goals, the “operation would be expanded in order to restore quiet to Israeli citizens.”

Seventy Palestinians were killed Sunday in a heavy bombardment of a Gaza neighborhood and 13 Israeli soldiers were slain in clashes in the most intense day of fighting in Israel’s ongoing offensive against Hamas fighters, officials said.

July 20, 2014 Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers deploy from a staging area, very close to the Gaza Strip border, in southern Israel. Jim Hollander/European Pressphoto Agency
The Israeli military said in a statement that its troops also detected “two terror squads” trying to enter Israel through two tunnels from northern Gaza. An airstrike struck one group of militants, and soldiers engaged in a battle with the other group, killing 10 fighters, the military said. Israeli news reports said that a number of Israeli soldiers were also killed, but the military did not immediately confirm it.

The Gaza Health Ministry said Monday that the death toll in Gaza has risen to 511 since the conflict began on June 8. The casualties included 20 bodies found in Khan Younis in southern Gaza, killed in an apparent Israeli airstrike, according to the Associated Press.

The number of Palestinians seeking refuge with the United Nations also rose overnight, growing to at least 85,000 people now living in 67 shelters, mostly at schools, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency said Monday. In all, U.N. agencies report that more than 100,000 Gazans have been displaced from their homes.

The United Nations also said a preliminary review in Gaza found that more than 72 percent of those killed were civilians, not militants, and include large numbers of women and children. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs said the high numbers of children and noncombatants raises “concern about respect for the principle of distinction and proportionality under international humanitarian law.”

The assault on the Shijaiyah district on the eastern outskirts of Gaza City, the new front line, continued Monday morning, though the intensity appeared to be lower than Sunday’s battles and barrages. Two bodies of those killed on Sunday — the bloodiest day of the conflict so far — were recovered in the eastern Gaza district on Monday.

More than 100 Palestinians were killed in heavy bombardment and street battles in Gaza on Sunday and 13 Israeli soldiers were slain in the most intense day of fighting in Israel’s current offensive against Hamas, officials said.

Two of the Israeli soldiers killed were American citizens who had come to Israel, like many Jewish Americans, to volunteer in Israel’s army. One, Max Steinberg, was from Woodland Hills, Calif., while the other, Nissim Sean Carmeli, was from South Padre Island, Tex., said Israel’s military.

The State Department late Sunday confirmed the deaths. “Out of respect for those affected by this, we have nothing further at this time,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

Israel said it pummeled a neighborhood in east Gaza because the warren of shops and concrete-block homes was the site of frequent rocket launches and that it concealed a network of tunnels dug by Hamas fighters and allied militant factions.

When Israeli troops went in, they were surprised by the tenacity, training and weaponry of their opponents, Israeli military officers said. They said Israeli soldiers were repeatedly hit by Gaza militants firing from windows, employing land mines and setting booby traps.

“It was a very hard battle there,” a senior Israeli military official said. “I have to admit that we were facing good fighters from the other side.”

The seven-hour attack by Israeli artillery and tank shells, followed by small-arms gun battles in the streets, left the district in ruins. There were bodies in the streets and gray-faced Palestinians being dug out of the rubble and stacked into ambulances. Thousands of residents had fled in the middle of the night, many barefoot.

The Gaza Health Ministry said 70 Palestinians were killed in the fighting in the Shijaiyah district.

Hamas health officials, in keeping with their practice, did not say whether the dead were civilians or fighters.

Sami Abu Zohri, a Hamas spokesman, called the Israeli offensive in Shijaiyah “a massacre” and “a war crime.”

The Hamas military also asserted that its fighters had captured an Israeli soldier. Abu Obaida, a spokesman for Hamas’s armed wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, appeared on Hamas TV to make the claim. Minutes later, there were fireworks on the streets and shouts of “God is great!” from loudspeakers in mosques.

An Israeli military spokesman said the army was investigating and did not confirm the abduction. “There's no kidnapped Israeli soldier, and those rumors are untrue,” Ron Prosor, Israel’s U.N. ambassador, told reporters in New York.

Raghavan reported from Tel Aviv. Eglash reported from Kfar Aza, Israel.