Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Ahead of draft, ultra-Orthodox soldiers under fire

JERUSALEM (AP) ? The Israeli soldier was walking home on a busy Jerusalem street when suddenly a car stopped next to him, and men inside spat upon him and hurled insults, trash and water bottles. When the assailants stepped out, he was fearful enough to call the police who swiftly arrived to rescue him.

The assailants were members of his own community ? ultra-Orthodox Jews, outraged that he chose to serve in the military. Ultra-Orthodox males have long avoided military service, but with the government ending a contentious 65-year-old system of draft exemptions, a small number of them who do serve in the army are being branded as collaborators and increasingly face harassment and assaults by extremists.

"I'm afraid of wearing my uniform. Even with a weapon, I am helpless. There is nothing I can do," said the soldier in last Thursday's incident, who only identified himself by his first name, Israel, for fear of further retaliation from extremists. "This is the beginning of a phenomenon that we don't know how it will end."

The issue of army service is at the core of a cultural war over the place of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israeli society. The ultra-Orthodox, who make up about 8 percent of Israel's 8 million citizens, have largely been allowed to skip compulsory military service to pursue their religious studies. Older men often avoid the workforce and collect welfare stipends while continuing to study full time.

The system, which is the result of religious parties' historically disproportionate political power in parliament, has caused widespread resentment among Israel's secular majority. The issue figured prominently in January elections and propelled the secular Yesh Atid Party into the government.

Last week, Israel's Cabinet approved a Yesh Atid plan to gradually end the automatic draft exemptions to ultra-Orthodox seminary students and require all to register for service. Yaakov Peri, the minister who headed the drive, called the proposed legislation historic, telling The Associated Press that it takes into consideration "the importance of learning the Torah and the obligation to serve in the army."

Ultra-Orthodox rabbis vehemently oppose the plan, saying the military and immersion in mainstream society will expose their youth to secularism and undermine a pious way of life that has kept the Jewish people alive through centuries of persecution. They insist their young men serve the nation through prayer and study, thus preserving Jewish learning and heritage.

Leaders of the community, who in Hebrew are known as "Haredim," or "those who fear" God, say their followers would rather sit in jail than join the military. They charge their ancient brand of Judaism is under siege and warn of an uprising if parliament approves the draft plan.

"The main problem here is that we are those being blamed instead of those blaming," ultra-Orthodox lawmaker Israel Eichler told Channel 2 TV. "If the law passes, it will be a declaration of war."

Some 3,000 Haredim soldiers, who volunteered to join, are already serving, according to the military. Thousands more are expected to be drafted in the coming months if the legislation passes.

Among ultra-Orthodox extremists, the war has already begun with a violent campaign against those in service. A handful of Haredi soldiers have been accosted the past two weeks. Activists have posted banners denouncing them and have even set up a phone hotline so people can snitch on those they know are serving or they have seen in uniform.

The atmosphere has become so charged that ultra-Orthodox soldiers say they shed their uniforms before heading home.

In Jerusalem's hardcore bastions of ultra-Orthodox Jewry, there appears to be room for only one type of uniform ? the traditional black-and-white garb donned by the hard-line observers.

In the neighborhood of Mea Shearim, a large cartoon poster depicts Haredi soldiers rolling through the streets atop tanks trying to lure young boys onto their vehicles. The ad denounces the soldiers as Zionist "ambassadors" and "missionaries." Soldiers in sidecurls have been coined the insulting nickname "Hardak" ? a combination of Haredi and insect.

"They disgust me," said Shimon Gutfarb, a 25-year-old father of three. "The army is a melting pot. The fear is that our youth will go rotten ... They (the soldiers) abandoned their traditions. They represent the opposite of our lifestyle."

Many ultra-Orthodox sects are anti-Zionist, refusing to recognize Israel since they say there cannot be a Jewish state until the coming of the Messiah.

The battle over the draft law is part of a larger cultural war gaining steam in recent years. Due to its high birthrate and the relatively low participation in the workforce, the Haredi community suffers from high unemployment and poverty.

Voices have begun to emerge criticizing the ultra-Orthodox education system, which teaches students about Judaism but very little math, English or science. More than a quarter of all Israeli first-graders are ultra-Orthodox and government statistics project that if these trends continue, the ultra-Orthodox could make up 15 percent of the country's population by 2025.

But the tide has begun to turn. The new education minister from Yesh Atid has already taken moves to force them to adopt a core curriculum or lose government funding.

According to official Israeli figures, the number of ultra-Orthodox men and women who now work has begun to creep up in recent years. Haredi employees are increasingly finding work in the country's booming high-tech industry. This trend shows the community is far from the homogenous mass viewed by outsiders.

Shlomo Trachtman, a 25-year-old Haredi who calls himself "an Israeli patriot," says those who don't study scripture full-time should serve in the military.

"There is a culture war going on," he said, and he referred to his own neighborhood of Mea Shearim as "the height of extremism."

"I've seen soldiers called Nazis here. It's hard to join the army in such an environment."

Avi Lotan, who witnessed an assault on a soldier on Sunday, said it's best for Haredim in the army to lie low. "Whoever attacks them is insane," the 25-year-old said. "But in the meantime I recommend they stay away."

Peri, of Yesh Atid, who serves as science minister in the government, said he has met with dozens of religious leaders and though they are obliged to say publicly they are against the plan, they know a majority of their followers wants to serve.

"It is in the interest of both communities, the secular one and the Orthodox one, to reach a kind of balance in which everybody will serve," he said.

Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said "we must not allow violent thugs to threaten the safely of young Haredim who chose to join the army."

Changing the ways of the ultra-Orthodox will not be easy.

Leaders insist that study in religious seminaries is no less important than military strength in protecting the country from modern threats in a hostile region. Meanwhile, secular Israelis who voted Yesh Atid into power are growing impatient and demanding results. A clash seems all but inevitable.

"The Haredi community is in crisis regardless of the draft issue," Yoaz Hendel, a former top aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, wrote in a column for the Yediot Ahronot daily. "Over time, you cannot maintain a community that is (financially) supported by everyone else. There is no religious justification for it and there is no precedent for it in the history of the Jewish people."


Follow Heller at http://www.twitter.com/aronhellerap

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/ahead-draft-ultra-orthodox-soldiers-under-fire-070250477.html

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Chinese state paper slams multinationals over bribery, high prices

BEIJING (Reuters) - China must crack down on commercial bribery by multinational firms, the country's top state paper said on Wednesday, two days after police accused British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline of the widespread bribery of Chinese officials and doctors.

In a commentary, the People's Daily newspaper accused some multinationals of using their market dominance to exploit gaps in regulatory systems in developing countries.

The article suggests Chinese authorities are not about to step back from a spate of investigations launched in recent months into how foreign companies do business in China, from the setting of prices to quality controls.

"A crackdown on commercial bribery by multinationals is deeply significant to safeguarding the order of the market economy and protecting an environment of fair competition," said the commentary in the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party.

Chinese police on Monday accused GlaxoSmithKline of bribing officials and doctors to boost sales and raise the price of its medicines in China. Police said GSK transferred up to 3 billion yuan ($489 million) to 700 travel agencies and consultancies over six years to facilitate the bribes.

In response, GSK said it was deeply concerned by the developments, which it called "shameful".

A second commentary in the People's Daily said China must "lift a sharp sword to pierce the improper, even illegal, costs behind rising drug prices" for which multinationals, such as GSK, were responsible.

The first article said the GSK case was an illustration of "the commercial anti-corruption struggle" in China. Project bidding and tax systems for multinationals were also problematic, the commentary said, without giving details.

"In recent years, some multinationals have utilized strong market and technological advantages, operated through intermediary agents, and taken advantage of the imperfect regulatory system in developing countries to drill loopholes," the commentary said.


Some experts have suggested China may be expanding an anti-corruption drive beyond government ranks and domestic companies including state-run entities, focusing now on foreign firms.

China has targeted foreign firms on multiple fronts in the past few months, although the probe into GSK is the only high-profile, publicly known investigation focused on bribery.

European food companies Nestle and Danone said early this month they would cut infant milk formula prices in China after Beijing launched an investigation into the industry.

Chinese media has been giving the GSK story plenty of attention.

On Tuesday night, state broadcaster CCTV night aired an interview with one of four detained Chinese executives from GSK.

Liang Hong, vice president and operations manager of GSK (China) Investment Co Ltd, offered details on how he funneled money through travel agencies by arranging conferences, some of which were never held.

"To have contact with some government departments you need money that you cannot normally expense to the company," Liang said during the broadcast.

Liang said he paid bribes to officials from the powerful planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, which are among those required to get medicines approved or prices set.

It is rare for state TV to carry such interviews, although state news agency Xinhua had earlier been given access to Liang. (Reporting By Megha Rajagopalan and Michael Martina. Editing by Dean Yates)

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/chinese-state-paper-slams-multinationals-over-bribery-high-044621045.html

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Watching 275,000 Dominos Fall Is Mesmerizingly Addictive

It starts with one domino. It branches off into different lines. It ends with 272,297 dominos being toppled over. It sounds like a cross between a snake hissing and an annoying morning alarm. It's mesmerizing. It's hypnotic. It's 10 minutes long. It's worth watching over and over. It's world record breaking for dominos toppled in a spiral. It's made by Sinners Domino Entertainment in Germany. It's insane. [Sinners Domino Entertainment via The Awesomer]


Source: http://gizmodo.com/watching-275-000-dominos-fall-is-mesmerizingly-addictiv-807025673

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Manziel pleads guilty to misdemeanor charge

(AP) ? Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge stemming from his arrest last year for fighting outside a bar near campus.

The Heisman Trophy winner made a brief appearance in court Monday and admitted he failed to identify himself to police following the altercation in June 2012. As part of a plea deal, other charges against the 20-year-old, including disorderly conduct, were dismissed.

Brazos County Attorney Rod Anderson says Manziel was ordered to pay a $2,000 fine, about $230 in court costs and was credited with the overnight jail time he served following his arrest.

His court appearance comes after Manziel departed a day early from the prestigious Manning football camp held in Louisiana. Manziel said an illness caused him to miss practice sessions.

Associated Press

Source: http://hosted2.ap.org/APDEFAULT/347875155d53465d95cec892aeb06419/Article_2013-07-15-FBC-Manziel-Guilty-Plea/id-cdd7b70c468a45be91ccd4eba6d6a9ef

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John Kennedys daughter tipped as next U.S. ambassador to Japan

  • South Korea News.Net - Sunday 14th July, 2013

    Daughter of late U.S. President John F. Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy, will become ambassador to Japan. Kennedy, an attorney and strong backer of President Barack Obama, will take up the post as Washington is grappling with trade issues with its top Asian ally.Sources said that the 55-year-old will become the first woman to assume the high-profile post, if the U.S. Senate approves her...

  • 4 officials to share duties over ten Ashes games following workload concerns

    South Korea News.Net - Sunday 14th July, 2013

    Four match officials will reportedly share duties over ten Ashes matches after concerns were raised over umpires' workloads by both England and Australia following the controversies surrounding the decisions regarding England's Jonathan Trott and Stuart Broad. The two Ashes rivals have raised their concerns with the International Cricket Council (ICC) about the six-month workload faced by...

  • Toll in China landslide rises to 43

    South Korea News.Net - Saturday 13th July, 2013

    The death toll in a landslide that occurred earlier this week in southwest China's Sichuan province has risen to 43, authorities said. The landslide occurred Wednesday in Sanxi village, Xinhua reported. Officials said 10 bodies have been identified, while 118 people were still missing. Most of them were tourists. "So far, no sign of life has been detected at the scene," said Ma Kun, head of...

  • Typhoon Soulik kills two in Taiwan

    South Korea News.Net - Saturday 13th July, 2013

    Typhoon Soulik has left two people dead, one missing and 104 others injured since it hit the northern part of Taiwan Saturday, authorities said. The island's disaster emergency centre said one victim was a police officer who was hit on the head by a falling brick and died after hospital treatment failed, Xinhua reported. The other was a 54-year-old woman who fell from the top floor of a...

  • Ashes England close to a famous win

    South Korea News.Net - Saturday 13th July, 2013

    England are set to draw first blood in the Ashes with Australia struggling at 174 for six going into the fifth day of the Trentbridge Test, needing another 137 for victory. Ian Bell scored a gritty 109 and along with Stuart Broad (65) stretched England's second innings to 375, gaining a healthy 311 lead on a tricky wicket. Australia began their chase well before losing the advantage by the end...

  • Sacked Arthur plans to sue Cricket Australia

    South Korea News.Net - Saturday 13th July, 2013

    Sacked Australia coach Mickey Arthur has hired legal counsel and is planning to sue Cricket Australia (CA) for his dismissal three weeks ago. Arthur, who was sacked just 16 days before the start of the Ashes, was replaced by former Australian player Darren Lehman. The Weekend Australian newspaper reported Saturday that Arthur had been offered a cash settlement by CA and that he received no...

  • UAE enter Asian Beach Soccer Cup final

    South Korea News.Net - Saturday 13th July, 2013

    The United Arab Emirates entered the Asian Beach Soccer Cup final with a 3-0 win over Australia here on Saturday. The UAE dominated the game with sharp passing and individual skills. The first two periods witnessed 0-0. In the third, Abbas scored on defenders' mistakes. Three minutes later, goals from Haitham and Kamal sealed the win, Xinhua reports. The UAE will take on the winner between...

  • China beat Thailand in Asian Beach Soccer

    South Korea News.Net - Saturday 13th July, 2013

    Hosts China beat Thailand 4-3 with a goal in the last minute in the ongoing Asian Beach Soccer Cup. Sun Guanrong scored the opener for the host team in the sixth minute on Friday night, and Liu Yisi scored with a penalty four minutes later. In the last minute, Chinese goalkeeper Wen Tingyuan sent a long shot home, sealing the win for China. China coach Ross Ongaro said: "I'm very proud of the...

  • Now rubber lips to make facial wrinkles history

    South Korea News.Net - Saturday 13th July, 2013

    A lips-shaped mouthpiece from Japan may be the secret to looking younger without plastic surgery. The makers of the Face Slimmer, which is available at the online Japan Trend Shop, guarantee that the product will give sagging facial skin and muscles that much-needed daily lift, the New York Daily News reported. All the user has to do is put the silicone rubber mold in their mouth and spend...

  • Over 300000 evacuated as typhoon hits China

    South Korea News.Net - Saturday 13th July, 2013

    Over 300,000 people have been evacuated from east China's Fujian province, as Typhoon Soulik impacted the province Saturday, authorities said. The National Meteorological Center (NMC) said Soulik, the seventh typhoon in this year, made landfall on the Huangqi Peninsula in Fujian at 4 p.m. Saturday, reported Xinhua. Wind speeds at the typhoon's center reached a top speed of 118 km per hour when...

  • China scraps n-fuel project plan

    South Korea News.Net - Saturday 13th July, 2013

    A plan to build a nuclear fuel processing plant in south China's Guangdong province has been cancelled following opposition from locals, authorities said Saturday. The planned Longwan Industrial Park project, located in Zhishan township in the city of Heshan, has been cancelled, reported Xinhua citing the municipal government of Jiangmen, which administers Heshan, and sources from the China...

  • Protests prompt China to scrap USD6b uranium plant

    MENAFN - Sunday 14th July, 2013

    (MENAFN) China has scrapped plans to build a uranium processing plant in a southern Chinese city, after hundreds of protesters took to the streets demanding the project to be stopped, Reuters reported citing the South China Morning Post.A one-line statement published on the Heshan city government's website said that "to respect people's desire, the Heshan government will not...

  • Typhoon Soulik moves inland after lashing SW China

    Global Times - Sunday 14th July, 2013

    Typhoon Soulik moved further inland to east China's Jiangxi Province on Sunday after lashing southeast China's Fujian Province on Saturday, bringing downpours and strong gales to the region.The seventh typhoon to hit Chinese mainland this year, Soulik entered Jiangxi around 4 am, bringing precipitation as high as 200 mm within five hours and winds of 64.8 km per hour, local...

  • China dispatches relief teams to rainstorm-battered regions

    Global Times - Sunday 14th July, 2013

    Central authorities have dispatched disaster survey and relief teams to rainstorm-hit regions in north China's Shanxi Province and northwest China's Shaanxi Province,...

  • Scenery of Xilingol Chinas best preserved grassland

    Global Times - Sunday 14th July, 2013

    Photo taken on July 12, 2013 shows the view of local pasture in West Ujimqin Banner, north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The pasture is part of the Xilingol, China's best preserved grassland which covers an area of 202,580 square kilometers. (Xinhua/Ren...

  • Asiana crash survivors return to China

    China Daily - Sunday 14th July, 2013

    Beijing Capital International Airport from San Francisco, on July 13, 2013. The?31 crash survivors, all from Jiangshan Middle School?in East...

  • Nuclear plant scrapped after public outcry in South China

    Asia News Network - Sunday 14th July, 2013

    A planned facility to process nuclear fuel in Jiangmen of South China's Guangdong province has been canceled, following opposition by a majority of residents, the local government said on Saturday.The 229-hectare Longwan Industrial Park project, which had been scheduled in Heshan, a county-level city in Jiangmen of the Pearl River Delta region, would have featured facilities for uranium...

  • Japan faces increasing threats from China N Korea Defence white paper

    SINA - Sunday 14th July, 2013

    (Photo:Agencies) Japan "faces increasingly serious threats" to its security from China and North Korea, a defence ministry report said on Tuesday, as ruling politicians call for the military to beef up its ability to respond to such threats.The report, the first since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office vowing to boost Japan's defences, was likely to prompt a sharp response...

  • Boeing 777 turns back to Tokyo with hydraulic system leak

    SINA - Sunday 14th July, 2013

    A San Francisco-bound Boeing Co 777 operated by Japan Airlines Co turned back to Tokyo on Monday after its crew detected a leak in the hydraulic system that controls its flaps, the carrier said.The incident came three days after an Asiana Airlines 777 crashed in San Francisco after approaching at dangerously low speed, killing two people.The JAL jetliner, carrying 236 passengers, returned to...

  • Medical student abducted raped in India

    SINA - Sunday 14th July, 2013

    There was shock and outrage through out the education hub of Manipal on Friday after the abduction and alleged rape of an MBBS student by three men while she was on her way to her hostel room, just a kilometre away from the library complex on Thursday night, Indian media reported.The 22-year-old student from Thiruvananthapuram was dragged into an autorickshaw by three men on a road near the...

  • S Korean President Park delivers friendship address at Tsinghua University

    SINA - Sunday 14th July, 2013

    South Korean President Park Geun-hye delivered a friendship address at the alma mater of Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday.Park began the 20-minute speech before students and faculty members at Tsinghua University in Beijing with about five minutes of greetings and opening remarks in the Chinese language, including an ancient Chinese maxim about the importance of education.Officials...

  • Japan Self-Defense Forces spot crossing of 20 Russian Chinese warships through La Perouse Strait

    Itar Tass - Sunday 14th July, 2013

    TOKYO, July 14 (Itar-Tass) - A convoy of over 20 Russian and Chinese warships sailed to the Sea of Okhotsk through the La Perouse Strait, between Sakhalin and the Japanese island Hokkaido, on Sunday morning. The warships did not enter the Japanese territorial waters, the Japanese Defence Ministry...

  • Source: http://www.southkoreanews.net/index.php/sid/215816235/scat/4a8b544d0e80ba53

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    Monday, July 15, 2013

    California Army National Guard participates in Exercise Rapid Trident 2013

    YAVORIV, Ukraine -- Members of the California National Guard are participating in Exercise Rapid Trident 2013 because of the 20-year relationship they have built with the Ukrainian army through the National Guard State Partnership Program.

    The SPP was originally planned for Reserve component Soldiers and Airmen until the National Guard Bureau proposed matching each U.S. state with former-Soviet nations in Eastern Europe, according to the National Guard's website. California and Ukraine became partners in 1993 when the program started. Today, 50 U.S. states, two territories and the District of Columbia are partnered with more than 60 countries around the world.

    "I have been coming here since 2002 and I have seen the country grow since we first started," said Master Sgt. Christopher Lopez, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the Guard's contingent.

    While Rapid Trident 2013 is not an official-SPP mission, the California National Guard's participation in support of the exercise strengthens their relationship with Ukraine, according to Lopez.

    This year the Guardsmen are acting as observers for the multinational battalion consisting of a mostly-Ukrainian staff, advising the unit on best practices.

    "On one hand we are supporting the exercise, but the SPP is part of another broader program that supports military-to-military relationships," said Lt. Col. Stanley Zezotarski, the senior officer in the Guard's contingent.

    Rapid Trident 2013 is a U.S. Army Europe-led, multinational field training and command post exercise occurring at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center in Yavoriv July 8-19 that involves approximately 1,300 troops from 17 nations. The exercise is designed to enhance interoperability between forces and promote regional stability and security.

    Partnerships have been built through an exchange program that brings citizens from Ukraine to California and vice versa. Ukrainians travel to California to observe economic programs, local and state government and the U.S. border system according to Zezotarski.

    Experts have advised California farmers on best methods for crop production. Teachers from California have traveled to Ukraine to teach in schools.

    Zezotarski says that California is lucky to be partnered with Ukraine because of there are many similarities, including having a diverse economy, especially in agriculture.

    The program has also built strong military to military relationships.

    "Since I have started I have seen some of the same people over and over again," Lopez said. "I have even gotten emails on our holidays wishing happy holidays from some of the senior officers here. It's always a pleasure when I see them in the airport and they shake my hand and give me a hug."

    The program has helped resolve formerly-adversarial Cold War sentiments.

    "One of the things I remember the most from being here was a toast between the Ukrainian generals and the National Guard generals," Zezotarski said. "The Ukrainian toast was 'it is better that we look at each other through the bottom of our wine glasses then through the sights of our rifles.'"

    The California Army National Guard will also participate in a humanitarian-assistance project along with visiting Army Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets to renovate a pre-school building in the nearby town of Starychi.

    Source: http://www.army.mil/article/107394/California_Army_National_Guard_participates_in_Exercise_Rapid_Trident_2013/

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