Spain's Moratinos optimistic about direct talks with Palestinians Publ

Spain’s Moratinos optimistic about direct talks with Palestinians

Published: 07.28.10, 17:47 / Israel News

Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs Miguel Angel Moratinos said during a meeting with President Shimon Peres that he is optimistic about the chances of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

“I met Abu Mazen (PA President Mahmoud Abbas) in Amman (on Tuesday) and I have reasons to be optimistic and believe it will soon be possible to move on to direct negotiations,” the Spanish minister said. “We encourage our Palestinian and Arab colleagues to move on to direct talks.” (Ronen Medzini),7340,L-3926482,00.html

PLO official says Obama sent warning to Abbas

PLO official says Obama sent warning to Abbas

By KARIN LAUB (AP) Ð 3 hours ago

RAMALLAH, West Bank – President Barack Obama warned Mahmoud Abbas in a letter that U.S.-Palestinian relations might suffer if the Palestinian leader refuses to resume direct peace talks with Israel, a senior PLO official said Saturday.

The White House had no comment Saturday. However, the Obama administration has been pushing Abbas hard in recent days to move quickly to face-to-face negotiations.

The PLO official said Obama sent the letter – the strongest U.S. warning to Abbas yet – on July 16.

Abbas insists he will only negotiate once Israel commits to the idea of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, with minor modifications. He also wants Israel to freeze all settlement construction in those areas.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refuses to be pinned down ahead of talks and has put in place only a 10-month freeze in housing starts in the West Bank that is due to expire in September.

Earlier this week, senior Palestine Liberation Organization members were briefed on the latest attempts to restart talks. During the meeting, an Abbas aide summarized the main points of Obama’s letter, said the PLO official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the letter has not been made public.

“In this letter, Obama asked Abu Mazen (Abbas) to go to direct negotiations and (wrote) that he can’t help the Palestinians unless they go to direct negotiations,” the official said. “Obama said he expects Abu Mazen to agree to this demand, and that not accepting it would affect the relations between the Palestinians and the Americans.”…

yeah yeah.. sure sure.. whatever….


70,000 Pilgrims To Attend Papal Beatification

70,000 Pilgrims To Attend Papal Beatification

6:29pm UK, Friday July 23, 2010

Johanna Kippo, Sky News Online

Up to 70,000 people from the UK and across the world are expected to attend a special Mass with Pope Benedict XVI in September.

The Pope will beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman at the Mass that he will celebrate in Cofton Park, Birmingham, on September 19, at the end of his four-day visit to Britain.

The beatification will be the first to be carried out by Pope Benedict.

It will mark his lifelong interest in and study of the 19th century clergyman and famous convert from the Church of England to Catholicism.

Also cardinals, bishops and more than 1,000 priests are expected to be present at the Mass.

The ceremony could pave the way for the revered clergyman, who died in 1890, to become the first non-martyred English saint since before the Reformation.

“It is a momentous occasion for this Pontificate, for the Pope to actually beatify anybody, and it is a tremendous honour for the Catholic Church in England and Wales”, Peter Jennings, press secretary to the Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most……..

Crowd on VIP alert at site of Clinton's NY wedding

Crowd on VIP alert at site of Clinton’s NY wedding

28 mins ago

RHINEBECK, N.Y. Ð Chelsea Clinton was poised to marry her longtime boyfriend at an exclusive estate along New York’s Hudson River after weeks of secrecy and buildup that had celebrity watchers flocking to the small village for the Saturday evening nuptials.

The crowd began forming midmorning after weeks of intrigue and secrecy about a ceremony with a VIP guest list said to include such luminaries as Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg. Actors Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen were walking hand-in-hand through the village, and fashion designer Vera Wang was spotted outside a restaurant.

The 30-year-old daughter of Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton was expected to wed her boyfriend, investment banker Marc Mezvinsky, at a ceremony with 400 to 500 guests. Details of the wedding were kept fanatically close to the vest, with shopkeepers, innkeepers, vendors and restaurateurs sworn to secrecy.

Officials restricted airspace over the estate, and the area will remain a no-fly zone until 3:30 a.m. Sunday. Roads were also blocked off, and inconvenienced neighbors were soothed with a complimentary bottle of wine.

Shortly before 5 p.m., dozens of men in black-tie attire and women in gowns boarded shuttle buses in the village for the short ride to the estate. About 30 minutes later a motorcade of three black SUVs and a sedan sped through the checkpoint on the road that leads to the historic estate.

In the early afternoon, Danson and Steenburgen strolled through Rhinebeck toward one of the hotels being used for the wedding. Both said they were excited about the upcoming ceremony.

“I knew her since she was a baby so this is a big moment,” said Steenburgen, who wed Danson in 1995. “She’s a lovely, lovely girl.”

Reporters, who had been searching for celebrities in vain for most of the day, quickly zeroed in on the couple, prompting Danson to ask, “Are we the only celebrities in town?”

Donna Vena drove 50 miles to Rhinebeck from her home of Mount Kisco, N.Y., in the hopes of spotting a celebrity.

“Why not?” she asked Saturday morning, a camera slung over her shoulder. “Big story. Maybe see Oprah.”

Nearby, two young women passed out slices of pizza with “I do” written in pepperoni.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the hotel where many of the guests are staying were rewarded Friday night when the Clintons exited a van arm-in-arm outside the Beekman Arms Hotel.

Obama Pushing Abbas Towards Talks

Obama Pushing Abbas Towards Talks

Reported: 05:47 AM – Aug/01/10

United States President Barack Obama has reportedly warned Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas that failure to resume direct negotiations with Israel could undermine American interests in the region.

A PA official told AFP on condition of anonymity that Obama delivered the warning in a letter to Abbas but also pledged to rally Arab, European and Russian support for the PA if direct negotiations for an Israeli surrender resume…….

Over 900 dead as floods sweep Asia

Over 900 dead as floods sweep Asia

Jul 31 02:18 PM US/Eastern

Floods sweeping Asia have killed more than 900 people, officials said Saturday, washing away thousands of homes and destroying infrastructure in some of the worst scenes in living memory.

Heavy monsoon rains exacted the heaviest toll in northwest Pakistan, with 800 confirmed dead and the regional capital Peshawar cut off, while the deluge killed another 65 people in mountainous areas across the border in Afghanistan.

Floods devastating northeast China have killed at least 37 people and destroyed 25,000 homes, with the authorities racing to intercept vessels that broke their moorings and retrieve barrels full of explosive chemicals headed for a dam.

The worst floods in living memory destroyed homes and swathes of farmland in northwest Pakistan and Pakistani Kashmir, with the main highway to China reportedly cut and the military deployed to help isolated communities.

The United Nations said almost a million people had been affected by the Pakistan flooding. Footage shot from helicopters showed people clinging to walls and rooftops as gushing waters rampaged through inundated villages.

Others walked barefoot through the water to seek safety, carrying their belongings and with children on their shoulders.

“This is the worst ever flood in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the country’s history,” provincial information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said.

“The death toll in floods and rain-related incidents has risen up to 800 across the province,” he said, with another 150 people missing.

Peshawar, the main city in the northwest, and the districts of Swat and Shangla were cut off from the rest of country as roads and highways were submerged, he said.

An AFP reporter saw hundreds of people arriving in Peshawar, many of them without any belongings.

Muqaddir Khan, 25, who arrived with nine other family members, told AFP that he had lost everything in the deluge.

“I laboured hard in Saudi Arabia for three years and set up a small shop which was swept away by flood in minutes. I have lost everything,” Khan said.

The European Commission said it had given Pakistan 30 million euros (39-million-dollar) in humanitarian aid to help the most needy, including those hit by flooding.

“Pakistan has been hit by terrible floods and more rain is forecast. Our thoughts are with those affected by them,” said Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva.

Pakistan’s weather bureau said an “unprecedented” 312 millimetres (12 inches) of rain had fallen in 36 hours in the northwest but predicted only scattered showers during coming days.

Rescue teams across the border in Afghanistan struggled to reach areas cut off by flooded roads and the threat of insurgent attacks, said Abdul Matin Edrok, head of the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority.

“Initial information sent by our provincial offices shows that nearly 70 people have been killed and tens injured. We estimate more than 1,000 families have been affected but these figures may rise,” he said.

Most of those affected were in northeast Kapisa province, where 31 people died, he said.

Edrok said food and medical aid was being distributed using some Afghan and NATO coalition helicopters, and that the rains causing the floods had now ended.

But authorities in northeastern China predicted more heavy rain for central and eastern parts of the hard-hit Jilin province, where at least 35 people are missing and more than 364,000 people have been evacuated.

Water, electricity and telecommunication services were cut in parts of the province, while train services in the town of Kouqian were suspended after the railway station was surrounded by flood waters, previous reports said.

More than 95,000 buildings have been damaged in the floods, with 25,000 destroyed, Xinhua news agency reported.

Elsewhere in Jilin, hundreds of soldiers and boats were mobilised to stop 12 vessels being swept down the Songhua River towards a major dam, Xinhua said.

The vessels, weighing up to 12 tonnes each, broke their moorings early Saturday and were heading towards the Fengman dam.

Further downstream, hundreds of workers continued to retrieve 3,000 barrels full of explosive chemicals that were washed by flood waters into the Songhua River.

The barrels are being swept down the river at a faster pace than before, after the Fengman dam floodgates were opened Friday afternoon, and experts are worried the barrels could explode if they hit a dam further downstream.

Gaza rocket strikes southern Israel for second time in 24 hours

A barrage of four Qassam rockets fired by

Hamas militants on January 6, 2009

Gaza rocket strikes southern Israel for second time in 24 hours

Israel Air Force jets attacked Gaza Friday night in response to rockets fired on Ashkelon earlier in the day; Hamas vows revenge over militant’s death in strike.

Latest update 22:25 31.07.10

A Qassam rocket fired from the Gaza strip Saturday landed on a public structure at Sha’ar Hanegev regional council, just hours after Israel Air force jets struck Gaza in response to rockets fired from the coastal enclave.

According the Israel Defense Forces spokesperson’s office, the qassam damaged the structure’s rooftop and destroyed most of the second floor of the building, which serves during the day as a daycare for people with disabilities.

No injuries were reported in the attack.

IDF patrol units are scanning the area for the rocket’s remains.

The IAF struck three targets in Gaza Friday night, which Palestinian sources described as the heaviest assault since Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s two-week assault on the Gaza Strip a year and a half ago. The attack came after a rocket fired from the Palestinian territory exploded in the city of Ashkelon earlier in the day.

A Hamas operative, a 40-year-old member of Hamas’ military wing, was killed in an explosion near the Nuseirat refugee camp south of Gaza City in the center of the Hamas-controlled strip. Another 13 Palestinians were hurt.

Hamas has vowed revenge for his death.

Obama warns US not to 'demagogue' immigration

Obama warns US not to ‘demagogue’ immigration

Published: 07.31.10, 23:38 / Israel News

President Barack Obama warned US leaders not to use the divisive issue of illegal immigration as a way to gain power and name recognition, in an interview with CBS television released Saturday.

Fresh from a court victory that blocked provisions of a tough Arizona immigration law that Obama opposed, the president warned politicians not to “demagogue” the topic and said his administration wanted to work with Arizona on the issue. (Reuters),7340,L-3927639,00.html

US boosts Israeli missile funding

US boosts Israeli missile funding

House c’tee pushes defense program money to highest level ever.

8/01/2010 01:16

WASHINGTON Ð US House appropriators have pushed funding for Israeli missile defense programs to its highest level ever, with $422.7 million now slated for 2011.

Last week, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense added $95.7m. to the original White House funding request for the long-range Arrow programs and medium-range David’s Sling, according to sources close to the panel. The lion’s share Ð $108.8m. Ð will go to the Arrow 3 system, which the US signed off on after some initial hesitation.

In addition, the monies include $205m. pledged this spring by US President Barack Obama to the short-range Iron Dome project.

The package is more than twice as much as last year’s total, and adds up to nearly $1 billion in aid to joint US-Israel missile defense programs in the past four years.

“Chairman [Norm] ****s, myself and all the members of the Defense Subcommittee understand how important it is to be at the cutting edge of anti-missile technology, both to safeguard our own citizens and troops, but also those citizens and troops of our allies and friends such as the people of the Jewish state of Israel,” Rep. Steve Rothman (D-New Jersey) told The Jerusalem Post on Friday.

Rothman has pushed for greater funding of joint US-Israel missile defense programs during his tenure on the committee.

“It would be political suicide for the Senate to come in with a lower number”

The funding will need to be voted on by the full House when it reconvenes in the fall, as well as approved by the Senate in its own defense appropriations bill.

That bill could be “marked up” next week but is more likely to be reviewed after the August recess. In the “mark-up session,” amendments may be offered to the bill, and the committee members would vote to accept or reject those changes.

“It would be political suicide for the Senate to come in with a lower number,” said one source close to the issue of his expectation that the Senate will agree to the totals set by the House last week. “There’s virtually zero chance that these [projects] don’t get funded at these levels.”

Barak: 'Difficult Decisions' Will Be Necessary

Barak: ‘Difficult Decisions’ Will Be Necessary

Last Update: 07/31/10, 9:44 PM

Defense Minister Ehud Barak met on Friday with UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon. The two discussed a number of issues, including the direct negotiations that are expected to take place between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

At the meeting, Barak said that Israel hoped those direct talks would begin in the near future, “so that we can make progress towards an arrangement based on two states for two peoples. The negotiations will not be easy, and will require courageous decisions from our side, and from the Palestinian side. I hope that everyone understands that both sides will have to make difficult decisions in order to establish a historic peace in our region. We will need the help of the United Nations in order to advance in the negotiations.”