Enter your email address

TFI Daily News

World News for World Changers

Aug 29

Headlines

Iceland Volcano Alert at Red After Small Eruption, No Ash Detected
(Reuters) Iceland raised its alert warning level to maximum on Friday after what it called a small eruption in the Bardarbunga volcano system but said there was no sign of ash that could affect air travel in Europe.

Hong Kong Media Mogul Unbowed by Raid as Democracy Battle Boils
(Reuters) Hong Kong’s most powerful critic of Beijing, a brash media tycoon whose home was raided by anti-corruption officers, said on Friday he won’t be cowed by efforts to silence him ahead of a crunch decision this weekend on the city’s political future.

Death Toll in Ukraine Fighting Hits 2,593
(Reuters) A total of 2,593 people, including civilians as well as Ukrainian and separatist combatants, have been killed in fighting in eastern Ukraine since it erupted in mid-April, a senior U.N. human rights official said on Friday.

Scotland’s Pro-Independence Campaign Gains on Final TV Debate: Poll
(Reuters) Support for Scottish independence has risen by 4 percent after the final TV debate before a breakaway referendum in less than three weeks’ time, one opinion poll showed on Friday, halving the anti-independence campaign’s lead.

Earthquake Strikes Southern Greece, Felt in Athens
(Reuters) A strong earthquake shook southern Greece on Friday and was felt as far as Athens but there were no immediate reports of casualties or serious damage.

U.N. Says 43 Golan Peacekeepers Seized by Syria Militants, 81 Trapped
(Reuters) Militants fighting the Syrian army have detained 43 U.N. peacekeepers in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and trapped another 81 in the region, and the world body is working to secure their release, the United Nations said on Thursday.

Syrian Refugees Top 3 Million, Half of All Syrians Displaced: U.N.
(Reuters) Three million Syrian refugees will have registered in neighboring countries as of Friday, an exodus that began in March 2011 and shows no sign of abating, the United Nations said.

U.S., China Plan Followup to Sunnylands Summit in November
(Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping, at odds over China’s increasing assertiveness in Asia and issues such as cyberspying, plan a followup to their informal summit in California last year after November’s APEC summit in Beijing.

U.S. Openly Accuses Russia of Sending Combat Troops to Ukraine
(Reuters) The United States openly accused Russia on Thursday of sending combat forces into Ukraine and threatened to tighten economic sanctions, but Washington stopped short of calling Moscow’s intensified support for separatist forces an invasion.

Russia’s Putin urges release of Ukrainian soldiers
MOSCOW (AP)—Russia’s President Vladimir Putin on Friday called on pro-Russian separatists to release Ukrainian soldiers who have been surrounded by the rebels in eastern Ukraine.


Thought of the Day

“Difficulties in life are intended to make us better, not bitter.”—Dan Reeves


7 Heart-Healthy Perks of Dark Chocolate

By Jennifer J. Brown, PhD, Everyday Health, Aug 27, 2014

Evidence is building that products of the cacao plant, especially dark chocolate, are good for your heart. Medical studies show that people who eat dark chocolate have healthier cardiovascular systems, boasting better blood circulation and lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Cardiologist and Everyday Health columnist T. Jared Bunch, MD, recommends chocolate as part of your strategy to keep the world’s No. 1 killer disease at bay. “Dark chocolate should be included in a life plan that includes exercise, eating healthy foods that are largely plant-based, getting adequate sleep, stress reduction, and maintenance of weight,” says Dr. Bunch. Here, we explore the science behind dark chocolate’s benefits for the heart.

Cacao to Prevent Heart Diseases. Early signs that cacao is a heart-healthy food came from the unusually healthy elders of the island population of Kuna Indians in Panama. They drank large amounts of unprocessed cacao—about four cups each day—and were free of heart diseases, according to a study in the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology. When they moved to cities, adopted Western ways, and gave up traditional cacao drinks, the Kuna developed high blood pressure in old age like the rest of us. Many studies, including 20 on blood pressure effects alone, show links between chocolate and markers of good heart health. Caution with cacao is advisable if you are prone to migraine headaches, because chocolate may be a migraine trigger.

Powers Heart and Blood Vessel Cells. Seeds of the Theobroma cacao plant, the source of dark chocolate, are rich in active compounds known as antioxidants. Dark chocolate is in the top 10 dietary sources of antioxidants, along with seasonings like cloves, mint, anise, cacao powder, and berries like black chokeberry and black elderberry, according to the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Dark chocolate is also rich in bioactive flavanols and theobromine. These have good effects on the cells of our hearts and blood vessels, found researchers at the University of Mississippi. A caveat if you are watching your fat intake: One ounce of dark chocolate, though low in cholesterol at only 2 mg, has about 9 gm of fat. “In general, the health benefits outweigh the risk of the additional calories,” says Bunch. “When you consume dark chocolate that is more than 70 to 80 percent pure, the calories are relatively low,” he adds. In less concentrated forms of chocolate—such as white or milk chocolate—other ingredients add lots of calories, and there are no documented heart benefits.

Boosts Blood Circulation. More evidence for the antioxidant benefits of dark chocolate comes from a July 2014 study carried out in Rome and published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. The research showed that eating dark chocolate helped people who have peripheral artery disease, PAD, walk farther and longer. PAD decreases blood flow to the arms and legs. Because of this, patients often have painful cramping and difficulty with exercise, even with walking. In the study, people with PAD who ate 40 gm (1.5 oz.) of dark chocolate a day were able to walk 11 percent farther and for 15 percent longer than people who ate the same amount of milk chocolate. The dark chocolate used in the study contained more than 85 percent cacao and was rich in active compounds known as polyphenols. Researchers looked at markers of oxidative stress in the blood, and found improvement for those who had the dark chocolate.

Calms Blood Pressure. Good news if your blood pressure has continued to climb over the years—eating dark chocolate is linked to significantly lower blood pressure. This is according to an extensive analysis of 20 randomized controlled trials, published as a Cochrane Review. Most of the studies were short-term. But even one 18-week trial showed a significant drop in blood pressure. In that study, people ate about 6 grams (only 1/4 of an ounce) of dark chocolate daily. Researchers compared them with others who ate the same amount of white chocolate. Dark chocolate was the clear winner. Systolic blood pressure (the top number) for people who ate dark chocolate went down by three points. Diastolic (the bottom number) blood pressure went down by two points. If you’re tracking yours, keep in mind that the normal blood pressure to aim for is less than 120/80, according to the American Heart Association.

Lowers Stroke Risk. New data shows eating chocolate comes with a lower risk of stroke, according to researchers in Finland. Stroke is a major health concern for many, especially people with atrial fibrillation. Their stroke risk is five times that of people who don’t have afib, according to the National Stroke Association. When a blood clot forms in the brain, or a blood vessel bursts, the result is stroke—a leading cause of disability in the United States. In the Finnish study, researchers followed a group of more than 37,000 men for 10 years and counted instances of stroke. The numbers showed that those who ate about 63 grams (2 oz.) of chocolate per week had a lower risk of stroke, compared with those who ate no chocolate. And five additional studies also showed lower stroke risk—on average by about 20 percent for chocolate eaters. “Dark chocolate helps reduce blood pressure and may have a role in coronary artery disease stability and diabetes,” says Bunch. “So dark chocolate may help lower stroke risk.”

Helps You Meet Cholesterol Goals. If you’re struggling to get your cholesterol under control, studies on blood cholesterol levels and chocolate are heartening. In one trial, people with high blood pressure ate 100 grams (about 3 1/2 ounces) of either dark chocolate or white chocolate. Those who had the dark chocolate saw an average drop of 12 percent in their LDL cholesterol, which is known as “bad cholesterol” and linked to higher risks of heart disease. In a Dutch trial, people who ate dark chocolate had a significant increase in HDL, or “good cholesterol.” Researchers credited these healthy changes to theobromine, a compound found in cacao.

An often overlooked, but very real, risk factor for heart disease is stress. You’ll be happy to know that the solace provided by dark chocolate is not limited to its good taste. A June 2014 study found that eating dark chocolate helped people cope with stressful situations. Blunting the effects of stress on the body is yet another way dark chocolate can protect heart health—good news even for people with a heart condition. “Dark chocolate has been shown to favorably impact some of the risk factors for atrial fibrillation, such as high blood pressure, body inflammation, and the response of the body to stress,” says Bunch.


The decline of the American hobo

By Tim Gaynor, Al Jazeera, August 24, 2014

BRITT, Iowa—Veteran hobo Gerard “Frog” Fortin hopped his first freight train in 1970 in Florida, riding an open-topped gondola car through the night to New Orleans. It was the beginning of a lifelong love affair.

“I remember that entire night. I didn’t fall asleep because I was just so mesmerized by the wide-open skies and the stars shining in on me. I was just so thrilled. I just felt that exhilarated. That wanderlust in me was finally filled,” he recalled, beaming at the memory. “It was total and absolute freedom.”

After 31 years traveling the United States and working as an itinerant laborer, cook and sometime oil rig worker in the Gulf of Mexico, Fortin, 64, joined a growing number of aging hobos who have retired and settled down.

Twice elected Hobo King at the National Hobo Convention in this small Iowa town, he now lives full time in Montana. Today the Hobo King’s role—and that of the annual festival, held in the town since 1900—is largely curatorial: keeping the history and traditions of the fabled American hobo alive while honoring the old-time riders who have “caught the westbound” to the town’s cemetery.

Between the Civil War and the Great Depression, there were as many as half a million hobos hopping box cars, gondolas and grain wagons to roam the United States in search of casual work and adventure, meeting a demand for migrant labor and carving themselves a niche in the American psyche as enduring symbols of freedom.

But now with faster trains, more containerized freight and an increasingly secure rail network after the Sept. 11 attacks, the number wandering the 140,000-mile U.S. freight network has plunged to just a few hundred mostly younger riders, railroad officials said, with some travelers hopping trains only in the warmer months of the year.

The annual convention, which is held the second weekend of August, came to Britt a few years after hobos banded together to form Tourist Union #63 in a move that sought to prevent police from prosecuting them for vagrancy.

This year, graying hobos, their families and visitors gathered at the Hobo Jungle Park south of the Soo Line Railroad tracks in Britt to light a ceremonial fire, which was followed by spirited performances of hobo poetry and song.

Other events at the four-day bash included a parade, craft show, the Hobo King and Queen coronation ceremony in City Park and a feast of traditional mulligan stew. Striking a somber note, festivalgoers also gathered for a remembrance service at the town’s Evergreen Cemetery, where this year the ashes of Bo Grump, Milwaukee Mike and Fran Minstrel were buried with military honors.

Some, like Fortin, who now uses a wheelchair for mobility, looked to a reduced group of younger riders, who arrived at the festival in ones and twos, to carry their torch into the future.

Ben, a 25-year-old welder from California, said he opted for a life on the rails—surviving on casual yard work and panhandling—because he felt out of step with his peers and their more settled values. “Most people are content with their lifestyles, like settling down, going to college, paying debt and having a mortgage and … being happy with that … but I feel like a real big disconnect from that as a person,” he said.

In Fortin’s time, hobos frequently hopped trains in freight yards. But new riders said that, ever since the 9/11 attacks, rail yards are increasingly patrolled and inspected by railroad police known as bulls and watched over by state-of-the-art surveillance systems.

“I’ve seen yards that have heat scanners, motion sensors [and] surveillance cameras,” said 21-year-old John, a Colorado native, of the increased vigilance. Now “you catch it as it’s leaving the yard … Throw your gear on, get yourself on, stay down and hide.”

Freight riding has always been dangerous, and in 2012, 463 people were killed on the rails, according to the United States Department of Transportation. Young riders at Britt swapped tales of accidents—among them an ankle broken running to hop a train and a narrow escape from freezing to death on a long winter ride. Then there are the fights in the trackside hobo jungles and the perils of a culture of heavy drinking and drug use.

“Seriously, it takes its toll on you,” said rail rider Tommy as he celebrated his 37th birthday somewhat morosely at the festival, chugging back beer after beer from a Styrofoam cup.

“I have had a stroke. I only have one lung, I’ve been stabbed a bunch. I’ve been shot—only a ricochet bullet. Alcoholism. I’ve hardly got a liver,” he said. “So there’s a lot of downsides to it.”

There are currently nine major North American freight railroads. Operators point out that hopping freight is illegal and extremely dangerous and hope that the slide in hobo numbers in recent decades will continue.

For 25-year-old Adam Blumenthal, who resigned from a job with the Transportation Security Administration in Boston six years ago to ride the rails, only an “epiphany” could make him stop.

“You’ve been given the key to the country. You can go anywhere you want, anytime you want,” he said, sounding very much like Fortin. “Who would give up pure freedom?”


How the Internet Could Protect Your Memory

By Anna North, NY Times, August 25, 2014

The Internet is frequently blamed for messing with our minds, making us superficial, distracted and even deluded. But a new study suggests that for some people, using it could actually be healthy.

For a study published in The Journals of Gerontology, André J. Xavier and his co-authors analyzed data on 6,442 people between ages 50 and 89. Several times over the course of eight years, the participants were asked if they used the Internet or email, and were given a word-recall test that measured their memory.

Those who said they didn’t use the Internet or email did worse on the test over time, while those who did actually improved—the effect remained after the researchers took into account age and socioeconomic status. Even those subjects who had relatively low cognitive function at the beginning of the study—meaning they might already be experiencing age-related problems—performed better on the recall tests if they used the Internet than if they didn’t. The authors write that it is “the first major study to show that being digitally literate can improve memory” and that countries that promote digital literacy “may expect lower incidence rates for dementia over the coming decades.”

Mr. Xavier said that using the Internet and email might be beneficial because “our brains need to learn new things and interact with other brains.”

The news that the Internet might actually make people better at something may come as a surprise, since so many have warned of its dangers. One of the most famous warnings is Nicholas Carr’s 2008 Atlantic cover story “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” In it, he notes a change in his own mental habits:

“My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”

He also worried that the Internet might alter not just our thought processes and reading habits but our very selves. “As we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence.”

Mr. Carr also wrote that “for all that’s been written about the Net, there’s been little consideration of how, exactly, it’s reprogramming us.” This is no longer true—examinations of the effect of Internet use on our mental faculties are now commonplace. In The Washington Post, Michael S. Rosenwald reports on recent research into Internet use and reading:

“With so much information, hyperlinked text, videos alongside words and interactivity everywhere, our brains form shortcuts to deal with it all—scanning, searching for key words, scrolling up and down quickly. This is nonlinear reading, and it has been documented in academic studies. Some researchers believe that for many people, this style of reading is beginning to invade when dealing with other mediums as well.”

The neuroscientist and reading researcher Maryanne Wolf tells him she’s seen the effects herself after a day of heavy Internet use:

“I couldn’t force myself to slow down so that I wasn’t skimming, picking out key words, organizing my eye movements to generate the most information at the highest speed. I was so disgusted with myself.”

And Michael Harris, in an excerpt from his book “The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection,” published at Wired, writes that “a slower, less harried way of thinking may be on the verge of extinction” and that “young brains may be more equipped to deal with digital reality than with the decidedly less flashy reality that makes up our dirty, sometimes boring, material world.” His warning:

“We may be on our way to becoming servants to the evolution of our own technologies. The power shifts very quickly from the spark of human intention to the absorption of human will by a technology that seems to have intentions of its own.”

But some people see the Internet as a mixed blessing rather than as a curse. In a November article in Scientific American, the psychologists Daniel M. Wegner and Adrian F. Ward write that in one study performed by their team, people who had access to a computer to save facts were worse at remembering them, even if they were asked to.

In another, those who were allowed to use the Internet to help them answer trivia questions felt smarter than those who had to answer them on their own. Mr. Wegner and Mr. Ward write that “using Google gives people the sense that the Internet has become part of their own cognitive tool set” and that “the advent of the ‘information age’ seems to have created a generation of people who feel they know more than ever before—when their reliance on the Internet means that they may know ever less about the world around them.”

Ms. Wolf also believes Internet use could have benefits. She tells Mr. Rosenwald, “We should be simultaneously reading to children from books, giving them print, helping them learn this slower mode, and at the same time steadily increasing their immersion into the technological, digital age. It’s both.”

Research into the Internet’s effects on our mental faculties will no doubt continue for a long time to come, but Mr. Xavier and his team offer one clue that these effects may not be all bad. Per Mr. Wegner and Mr. Ward, the Internet may not be destroying us—rather, it may change us, sometimes for the better.


Why The Obama Administration Wants This Journalist In Jail

By Brett LoGiurato, Business Insider, Aug. 27, 2014

President Barack Obama came into office in 2009 promising a new era of unprecedented transparency in his administration. But when he leaves office, reporters may remember him for an effort that has largely turned out to be the opposite—and for being what one affected reporter has called the “greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation.”

At a time when journalists’ roles in covering different, critical conflict zones have been under the microscope, renewed attention has come to the case involving James Risen. He is the New York Times journalist who has been fighting efforts by two different Departments of Justice—under Presidents Obama and George W. Bush—to compel him to identify sources from a 2006 book that reveals a secret CIA plan to sabotage Iran’s budding nuclear program.

For the past five years, he has battled the Obama administration’s Justice Department, which in 2009 took a rather unprecedented step of renewing a subpoena scheduled to expire that year. From his case and others the Obama administration has pursued, Risen told The Times’ Maureen Dowd recently that Obama represented a fundamental obstacle for press freedom.

“It’s hypocritical,” Risen said. “A lot of people still think this is some kind of game or signal or spin. They don’t want to believe that Obama wants to crack down on the press and whistleblowers. But he does. He’s the greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation.”

There’s a perception, many observers of Risen’s case say, that Obama is viewed by the public as different and as overtly friendly with the press. They think that perception is wrong.

They point to the Obama administration’s use of the Espionage Act to prosecute government employees more than any other administration in history, saying it is borne out of a necessity to viciously control the flow of information. In 2009, when Risen’s subpoena first expired, the Obama administration took the unusual step of renewing it and continuing to pursue the case.

“He promised to be a different kind of president,” said Jerry Kammer, a former Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who now works at the Center for Immigration Studies. “But he has only suppressed efforts to disclose the government’s misdeeds. His administration has been untransparent at so many levels.”

Kammer was one of 14 Pulitzer Prize winners, spanning 1982 to 2014, who issued statements earlier this month in support of Risen. The group that put together the statements, Roots Action, also delivered a petition with more than 100,000 signatures to the Justice Department’s Washington headquarters.

Earlier this summer, Risen failed in an attempt to have the Supreme Court review an order compelling him to testify about the sources in a book he published in 2006. He has vowed to fight on, but he has exhausted all legal options to halt the Justice Department’s pursuit of him. He has vowed he is ready to go to jail, even telling his paper he has the books he will take with him already picked out.

“The government likes to keep its house in order and likes to go after every possible leaker it can find,” said Gregg Leslie, the legal defense director at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “They really just don’t believe in whistleblowers or leakers.”

In 2006, Risen published “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration.” One chapter in the book detailed a secret CIA plan—started under the administration of then-President Bill Clinton and supported by the Bush administration—to sabotage Iran’s then-budding nuclear program.

It was an embarrassment for the CIA and for the government. The CIA chose a Russian defector to give deliberately flawed nuclear blueprints to Iranian officials. The flaws, however, were easily detectable, and the Russian defector tipped off the Iranians to maintain his credibility and not draw suspicion as a source, according to the book. In the end, “Operation Merlin,” as it was codenamed, may have aided Iran in its plans to develop a nuclear weapon.

“This espionage disaster, of course, was not reported. It left the CIA virtually blind in Iran, unable to provide any significant intelligence on one of the most critical issues facing the US—whether Tehran was about to go nuclear,” Risen wrote.

In late 2010, the federal government indicted Jeffrey A. Sterling, a former CIA operative, with leaking the classified information to Risen. The government wants to compel Risen to reveal his source independently.

Observers of the case view it as pure retaliation. There is a compelling interest to know when the government screws up, Leslie said. And if Risen is compelled to reveal his sources, it could have a “chilling effect” on other government whistleblowers who would be willing to share that information with journalists.

“This is what the American people need to know,” Leslie said.

“If we’re talking constantly about how evil the Iranian government is and how dangerous it is that they’re getting weapons-grade nuclear materials—and we had a role in getting that to them. Whether accidentally or stupidly or however, the American people need to know that.”

Some reporters and observers of the Risen case say it is especially important in light of recent world events. In Ferguson, Missouri, where racially charged protests raged for more than a week after the killing of an unarmed black teenager, multiple journalists were arrested.

In one high-profile incident emerging from the Ferguson protests, reporters from The Washington Post and The Huffington Post were arrested in a local McDonald’s. The outrage that ensued prompted a personal response from the president.

“ Here, in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs and report to the American people on what they see on the ground,” Obama said in a statement from Martha’s Vineyard the next day.

But that is exactly what many people think he’s doing in the case of prosecuting Risen and others. Under Obama, the Justice Department has broadly increased leak investigations.

“There’s far more ramifications for journalists from this case,” Kammer said, “than anything that happened in a McDonald’s restaurant in Ferguson.”

Weeks after the case involving Risen was reported last year, the Associated Press revealed that federal investigators obtained nearly two years of phone records from its reporters in another leak case.


UN: Ebola cases could eventually reach 20,000

By John Heilprin And Krista Larson, AP, Aug 28, 2014

GENEVA (AP)—The Ebola outbreak in West Africa eventually could exceed 20,000 cases, more than six times as many as doctors know about now, the World Health Organization said Thursday.

A new plan to stop Ebola by the U.N. health agency also assumes that in many hard-hit areas, the actual number of cases may be two to four times higher than is currently reported.

The agency published new figures saying that 1,552 people have died from the killer virus from among the 3,069 cases reported so far in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria. At least 40 percent of the cases have been in just the last three weeks, the U.N. health agency said, adding that “the outbreak continues to accelerate.”

In Geneva, the agency also released a new plan for handling the Ebola crisis that aims to stop Ebola transmission in affected countries within six to nine months and prevent it from spreading internationally.

Dr. Bruce Aylward, WHO’s assistant director-general, told reporters the plan would cost $489 million over the next nine months and require the assistance of 750 international workers and 12,000 national workers.

The 20,000 figure, he added, “is a scale that I think has not ever been anticipated in terms of an Ebola outbreak.”

“That’s not saying we expect 20,000,” he added. “But we have got to have a system in place that we can deal with robust numbers.”

Aylward said the far-higher caseload is believed to come from cities.

“It’s really just some urban areas that have outstripped the reporting capacity,” he said.

Aylward also said the agency is urging airlines to lift most of their restrictions about flying to Ebola-hit nations because a predictable “air link” is needed to help deal with the crisis.


Proposing New Capital Is Old Idea in Argentina

By Simon Romero, NY Times, Aug. 27, 2014

RIO DE JANEIRO—Belmopan, Belize. Astana, Kazakhstan. Brasília, Brazil. Naypyidaw, Myanmar. Abuja, Nigeria. And now, Santiago del Estero, Argentina?

When Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, said this week that the country should start discussing moving the capital from Buenos Aires, she pointed to Santiago del Estero as a potential choice, making that provincial city in northern Argentina a contender to join a long list of other places in the global hinterlands chosen to be national capitals.

“Sometimes we should start thinking of a new territorial design, because the world has changed,” Mrs. Kirchner said Tuesday while visiting Santiago del Estero.

Few Argentines expect the idea, recently floated by Julián Domínguez, the leader of Argentina’s lower house of Congress, to advance very far. Still, the proposal reflects longstanding tension between Buenos Aires, with its European-style architecture and elegant boulevards, and Argentina’s provinces, where most of the country’s agricultural and mineral wealth is generated. Many Argentines feel that Buenos Aires commands too much influence over the rest of the country.

Mr. Domínguez, reported to be considering a presidential run in 2015, says that moving the capital to Santiago del Estero, a city of about 250,000 people in the province of the same name, would rebalance political power in Argentina and unleash the potential of a neglected region strategically located between the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans.

Santiago del Estero is known for its intense heat in the summer. While the culture of taking a siesta remains common in some parts of Argentina’s provinces, few cities in Argentina have hewed to the custom as strongly as Santiago del Estero, according to local news reports.

Countries around the world have shifted their capitals for centuries, forging new cities like Washington and Canberra, Australia. While the proposal in Argentina remains somewhat vague, it seems less about building a new capital from scratch, as Brazil did with Brasília, than about transferring the capital to an existing city, as Kazakhstan did with Astana.

Mrs. Kirchner’s critics quickly denounced the idea, coming at a time when the economy has slid into recession and officials are dealing with a debt default after a long battle with vulture funds. “So, there’s no money to avoid the default, but there is for a Pharaonic transfer of the capital,” José Luis Espert, an economist and political commentator, said on Twitter.

Others believe that Mrs. Kirchner has little intention of seeing the idea materialize. Carlos Germano, a political analyst in Buenos Aires, described it as a maneuver by Mr. Domínguez to establish himself among the candidates who want the presidential nomination for the Front for Victory, Mrs. Kirchner’s party, in elections next year.

“It was a symbolic declaration,” Mr. Germano said of Mrs. Kirchner’s comments about shifting the capital. “Nothing more.”

Proposing to transfer the capital from Buenos Aires has long been a fixture of Argentine politics. Mr. Domínguez says doing so would fulfill the dream of José de San Martín, a leader in the independence struggle against Spain.

In the 1850s, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, the Argentine writer and statesman, suggested moving the capital to Martín García, an island in the Río de la Plata, the river that forms part of the border with Uruguay. Other suggestions included the cities of Rosario and Córdoba; as recently as the 1980s, Raul Alfonsín, then the president, proposed transferring the capital to the small city of Viedma in Patagonia.


NATO Plans More Visible Presence in Eastern Europe

By Alan Cowell, NY Times, Aug. 27, 2014

LONDON—Caught off guard by the crisis in Ukraine, NATO plans to create a “spearhead” rapid deployment force and a “more visible” presence in Eastern Europe to assuage concerns about Russian intentions, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the alliance’s secretary general, was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

The United States, Germany and other key alliance members have signaled that they have no plans for any substantial new NATO military presence in the region and have been careful to avoid escalating military tensions with Moscow. But with NATO leaders scheduled to meet next week in Cardiff, Wales, the alliance appears eager to show a united front and to demonstrate the ability to respond quickly at a time when Russia stands accused of menacing Ukraine.

The plans described by Mr. Rasmussen seemed an attempt to balance those pressures.

In an interview with correspondents from six European newspapers, he said that while the proposal anticipated the prepositioning of supplies and equipment at new bases, it would not infringe on the alliance’s agreements with Russia, which have prevented substantial NATO buildups in the lands that joined the alliance after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

NATO’s strategy in response to Russian pressure on Ukraine has been to conduct more exercises, aircraft patrols and the like. Mr. Rasmussen suggested that the alliance now plans to augment those measures by increasing its preparedness to send more troops to Eastern European bases if necessary.

Asked whether NATO would permanently deploy forces under its flag in Eastern Europe, Mr. Rasmussen was quoted as saying: “The brief answer is yes. To prevent misunderstanding I use the phrase ‘for as long as necessary.’ Our eastern allies will be satisfied when they see what is actually in the readiness action plan.”


Ukraine accuses Russia of sending in tanks, armor

By Dalton Bennett, Jim Heintz and Raf Casert, AP, Aug 28, 2014

NOVOAZOVSK, Ukraine (AP)—Ukraine accused Russia on Thursday of entering its territory with tanks, artillery and troops, and Western powers said Moscow had “outright lied” about its role and dangerously escalated the conflict.

Russia dismissed the allegations, describing the fighters there as “Russian volunteers.” The Kremlin has repeatedly denied arming and supporting the separatists who have been fighting Ukrainian troops for four months in the gravest crisis between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War.

NATO said at least 1,000 Russian troops are in Ukraine and later released what it said were satellite photos of Russian self-propelled artillery units moving last week.

Two columns of tanks and other equipment entered southeastern Ukraine at midday, following heavy shelling of the area from Russia that forced overmatched Ukrainian border guards to flee, said Col. Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine’s national security council.

“Russian forces have entered Ukraine,” President Petro Poroshenko said in Kiev, canceling a foreign trip and calling an emergency meeting of his security council.

U.S. President Barack Obama spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and both leaders agreed Russia must face consequences for its actions.

“We agree—if there was ever any doubt—that Russia is responsible for the violence in eastern Ukraine,” Obama said. “The violence is encouraged by Russia. The separatists are trained by Russia, they are armed by Russia, they are funded by Russia.”

He added that Russia “has deliberately and repeatedly violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and the new images of Russian forces inside Ukraine make that plain for the world to see.”

But Obama ruled out a military confrontation between the U.S. and Russia. He said Russia’s activity in Ukraine would incur “more costs and consequences,” though these seemed to be limited to economic pressure that will be discussed when Obama meets with European leaders at a NATO summit in Wales next week.

At an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council, Western representatives expressed outrage.

“Now we see irrefutable evidence of regular Russian forces operating inside Ukraine,” said British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant.

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said Russia “has manipulated. It has obfuscated. It has outright lied.”

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin offered a spirited defense, saying Kiev “is waging war against its own people.”

He did deny not the Russian presence, saying “there are Russian volunteers in eastern parts of Ukraine. No one is hiding that.”

But Power countered: “A Russian soldier who chooses to fight in Ukraine on summer break is still a Russian soldier.”

Churkin questioned the presence of Western advisers and asked where Ukrainian troops were getting weapons. He said he wanted to “send a message to Washington: Stop interfering in the internal affairs of sovereign states.”

Russian stock markets fell as Switzerland joined the European Union in imposing restrictions on Russian state banks and fears grew that the U.S. and EU could impose more sanctions on Russian businesses and individuals in response to the military escalation.

The strategic southeastern town of Novoazovsk, which has come under shelling for three days, appeared to be in the control of separatists, creating a new, third front in the war. That raised fears they want to create a land link between Russia and the Crimea Peninsula, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in March. The town lies along a road connecting the peninsula to Russia.

A senior NATO official said the estimate of 1,000 Russian troops in Ukraine was a conservative one, adding that another 20,000 Russian troops were right over the border. The troops who entered Ukraine had sophisticated equipment, he said.

“The hand from behind is becoming more and more overt now,” Brig. Gen. Nico Tak said at NATO’s military headquarters.

Russia’s ultimate aim was to stave off defeat for the separatists and turn eastern Ukraine into a “frozen conflict” that would destabilize the country indefinitely, he said.

Russia’s ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, told the BBC that “NATO has never produced a single piece of evidence” of Russian troops operating in Ukraine. He said the only active duty Russian soldiers in Ukraine were the 10 captured this week, who Moscow insists had mistakenly wandered across the border.

If separatists create a land corridor from Russia to Crimea, it could give them or Russia control over the entire Sea of Azov and the gas and mineral riches that energy experts believe it contains. Ukraine already lost roughly half its coastline, several major ports and significant Black Sea mineral rights in Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

The leader of the insurgency, Alexander Zakharchenko, said in an interview on Russian state TV that up to 4,000 Russians have fought on the separatist side since the armed conflict began in April.


Pakistan faces a major political crisis: 6 things to know

By Taha Siddiqui, CS Monitor, August 27, 2014

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN—Pakistan’s capital city has been paralyzed for the last two weeks by tens of thousands of protesters led by cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan and outspoken cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, who are demanding the resignation of the prime minister and his government.

Police estimate 40,000-50,000 protesters are camped in the city’s “red zone,” which houses parliament, the prime minister’s house, and the Supreme Court. The federal government has deployed the military to ensure law and order, but the situation remains tense. Mr. Khan and Mr. Qadri have made repeated threats of violence against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his ministers.

The government is calling for dialogue with both leaders of the protests. As of yet, there has been no headway. In his first address to parliament since the protests in Islamabad began, Mr. Sharif today vowed not to resign. “Those who will try to derail democracy and constitution will be held accountable,” he said.

Who is Imran Khan and what does he want? Khan and Qadri lead two separate protest movements, which are descending on Islamabad at the same time and with similar goals. Khan is demanding Sharif’s resignation on the basis of alleged vote rigging of the May 2013 election. Qadri is calling for the dissolution of the government and all provincial assemblies.

Khan became a national hero after leading Pakistan’s cricket team to its first World Cup victory in 1992. His Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice) political party rose to prominence in 2013 elections, when it captured a large urban and youth vote, and became the third largest party in parliament. His party also won in majority in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Province next to the Afghanistan border, where he currently runs the provincial government.

Khan alleges that Sharif rigged the May 2013 election—the first democratic transition of power in this nuclear-armed country of 180 million. Most independent observers called the election clean.

On Pakistan’s Independence Day, Aug. 14, Khan launched what he called a “million man march” from Lahore to Islamabad in a bid to pressure the government to cede to his demands. About ten thousand people joined the march. Since then, all of the members of parliament from his party resigned from the National Assembly in protest. He continues to run the provincial government in KP.

The government is willing to negotiate with Khan on all his demands except for the resignation of the prime minister. The administration has offered to set up a judicial commission run by the Supreme Court to investigate the rigging allegations against Sharif, but Khan insists that negotiations cannot move forward until the prime minister resigns.

Who is Tahir-ul-Qadri and what does he want? Qadri is a Canadian-Pakistani cleric who was close to Sharif in the late 1980s when he was a cleric at a mosques in Sharif’s Lahore neighborhood. Sharif helped Qadri setup a network of modern religious schools across Pakistan, which has expanded to North America and the United Kingdom, and is now his main source of income. He is seen as a moderate Sufi preacher.

Political differences caused Qadri to break ties with Sharif in the 1990s.

Qadri heads a political party called Pakistani Awami Tehreek (PAT), the Movement of the Pakistani Public, and has tried to reenter politics since the restoration of democratic elections in 2008. Qadri’s latest protest was launched on the same day as Khan’s. He views the entire political system as corrupt and demands that the government step down and all assemblies be dissolved.

Qadri won public sympathy in early June when at least 14 of his workers were killed in the city of Lahore by the Pakistani police, who opened fire at them after clashes broke out at a local protest. A judicial inquiry by the Lahore High Court into the incident called for a full investigation into Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif, who is currently chief minister in Punjab Province, where the incident took place.

Although Khan and Qadri portray themselves as working independently from each other, “there is definitely coordination between them, especially at party worker and middle-tier leadership levels,” says Hassan Belal Zaidi, an editor at Pakistan’s largest English daily newspaper, Dawn. Mr. Zaidi says the two leaders have coordinated their media appearances.

Is it likely Mr. Sharif will resign? Sharif has the backing of parliament, including all opposition parties except for Khan’s, making it highly unlikely that he will resign. However, he has been cornered.

“Although it is hard to predict what will happen, it is safe to say he will at least survive this,” says Zaidi. “However the power of his mandate has been crushed to a large extent.”

What’s really at stake here? Like much of Paksitani politics, the current crisis boils down to civil military relations. Pakistan has been ruled by military generals for half of its existence.

The military is used to having control over national security and foreign policy decisions. Sharif has been pushing hard for greater civilian control over areas typically under military purview, observers say, and has antagonized the Army by his willingness to draw closer to India; negotiating with the Pakistani Taliban; and insisting on putting former President Pervez Musharraf on trial for treason.

The Pakistani press reports that Khan and Qadri may be getting support for their protests from the Army, in order to send a signal to Sharif that they are still powerful and need to be included in key decisions.

“Most Pakistanis believe the generals have given a wink and a nod to Messrs. Khan and Qadri in hopes that their televised demonstrations and threats of violence will sap the civilian government’s energies,” wrote Husain Haqqani, former Pakistan ambassador to the US, in a recent Wall Street Journal commentary.

“Pakistani politics is all about patronage politics, where you develop a clientele which then is committed to you as opposed to your opponent,” says Islamabad defense analyst Ayesha Siddiqui. “The military as an institution has always had this influence in politics, through clients in the political parties, in the civil society, and in the media…But Nawaz [Sharif] is challenging that.”

What does the protest scene look like? The protest seems more like a big carnival. Music blares from speakers when the leaders are not making speeches, and men and women are seen dancing.

Organizers have provided no facilities to ensure that participants eat or sleep in comfort, so Constitution Avenue, the street where most protesters are gathered, is littered with trash and protesters sleeping on the roads or sidewalks. During the day, attendance normally drops down to a few hundred. It picks up again in the evening when the weather is cooler. Many stall-owners and daily wage earners have headed to the area to sell street food and posters, or do face-painting with the colors of Khan’s party flag.

The scene has also been tense, especially when parliamentarians try to enter and exit the parliament building. One evening Qadri urged his protestors to block the politicians from leaving, but the situation defused after the intervention of the military stationed on site.

What should we watch for next? Political analysts predict instability will persist, even after the protests fizzle out. Sharif will have to focus on surviving his remaining 3-1/2 years in office if he makes it out of this crisis unscathed.

“If Nawaz survives this crisis, which I feel he will, [he] will leave as a weak, vulnerable, and a dented prime minister. Ever since he came to power, he has been on a shopping spree—and what he has been buying are problems,” says Muneeb Farooq, a political talk show host for Pakistan’s largest news network Geo News.

“It is ironic that the prime minister of Pakistan, who won with a two-third majority, has been cut to size and is functioning like the mayor of Islamabad at most,” Mr. Farooq says.


New Delhi traffic is nuts. Here’s what happened when it briefly banned cars.

By Rama Lakshmi, Washington Post, August 28, 2014

NEW DELHI—For residents of this traffic-clogged capital, jogging, cycling and even crossing the road can be a death-defying feat. In fact, in recent days, several homeless people sleeping on the pavement were run over by New Delhi’s unruly drunken drivers.

But people are taking back the streets. Literally. They call the initiative Raahgiri, Hindi slang for being the “boss of the road.” It’s a unique new campaign that bans automobiles in the heart of the city for a few hours every Sunday.

In the past few weeks, thousands of residents have poured into the circular British-era colonnaded district called Connaught Place to walk, jog, dance, skip, cycle, roller-skate, lift weights and do yoga and aerobics outdoors. They play cricket, badminton and volleyball; tell jokes, sing and enact street plays. Women are given self-defense tips.

Starved of open spaces and playgrounds and bursting with vehicles, the city also lacks sidewalks, which are often crumbling.

“Here, we don’t worry about rash traffic or about keeping an eye on our son every minute when he plays, “said Kanupreiya Gupta, 33, a participant in the event.

A sign nearby said: “Breath in. Break Out.”

A yoga instructor spoke to her group: “For acidity, do this—as you inhale, raise your legs, point toe upward.”

More than 130,000 people died in road traffic accidents in India last year, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. About half of those killed were cyclists and pedestrians.

“Instead of pleading for the rights of pedestrians and cyclists, we are laying claim to the streets in a rebellious way,” said Amit Bhatt, an urban transport expert at Embarq India, an initiative of the Washington-based World Resources Institute, and a partner in managing the Raahgiri program.

Raahgiri began in November in the affluent suburb of Gurgaon. A survey by Embarq showed that 28 percent of those who attended Raahgiri in Gurgaon later bought bicycles to use, instead of their cars, for short grocery runs.

“Many said they are less aggressive when they drive now and mindful of cyclists and walkers,” Bhatt said.

Over the next year, Raahgiri is set to expand to other cities.

“Claustrophobia and chaos now define our urban spaces,” said Rahul Kansal, executive president at the Times Of India newspaper, another Raahgiri partner. “These are streets that people are afraid to even cross because it is all such a mad shove and push in our cities, and now they occupy and dominate them.”

What has Raahgiri replaced on Sunday mornings?

“Lethargy, over­sleeping, TV, high-calorie brunch,” laughed Gupta.


As Truce Holds, Dazed Gazans Get to Work

By Jodi Rudoren And Fares Akram, NY Times, Aug. 27, 2014

JERUSALEM—Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Ismail Haniya, the Gaza-based political leader of Hamas, both declared a decisive victory on Wednesday as residents on both sides of the border grappled with the death and destruction wrought in a 50-day battle that ended in a limited cease-fire agreement the night before.

Mr. Netanyahu asserted at a Tel Aviv news conference that “there is a great military accomplishment and a great diplomatic achievement” for Israel while Hamas, the Islamist Palestinian faction that dominates Gaza, had surrendered without winning “even one of the conditions it demanded.” Mr. Haniya, appearing in public for the first time since the operation began July 8, told a crowd of some 10,000 flag-waving supporters in a Gaza City square that his armed wing’s successes this summer were “multiple, multiple” times those of previous violent rounds with Israel in 2012 and 2008-9.

Yet in Israel, politicians and analysts greeted the cease-fire with skepticism and harshly criticized Mr. Netanyahu’s prosecution of the campaign, while many families who evacuated the communities near Gaza battered by rocket and mortar fire remained wary of returning.

The damage to Gaza’s infrastructure from the current conflict is already more severe than the destruction caused by either of the last two Gaza wars.

“As far as the rocket threat’s concerned, we’re still in the same place,” Ronit Minaker, spokesman for a larger border region, said on Israel Radio. “Exactly in the same place. The only difference between before the fighting and now is that now residents have a very great feeling of distrust.”

In Gaza, banks reopened, markets were crowded, bulldozers began to remove rubble blocking roads and fishermen ventured out to sea, seizing on the cease-fire deal’s return of the zone permitted by Israel to six nautical miles, as agreed in 2012, from three nautical miles since June. Brown-uniformed security forces spread out to the border areas to make sure that no rogue rockets would threaten the fragile calm.

Life did not exactly return to normal, but thousands of residents did return to their homes. Those sheltering in United Nations schools dropped from nearly 300,000 to 54,261 by Wednesday afternoon, though more were expected to spend the night after visiting their homes and finding them uninhabitable.

“We are happy that the cease-fire is on, and killing is over,” said Mohammed Abu Ouda, 31, as he surveyed the wreckage in Beit Hanoun, the northern border town largely leveled during Israel’s ground invasion. “We don’t know what we will do next. We will stay in the school until a solution is brought to us.”

What happens next was the crucial question being asked in Gaza, Israel and around the world after the announcement on Tuesday of a limited agreement to halt the hostilities and ease, but not eliminate, Israeli-imposed restrictions on fishing, travel and trade. The agreement, brokered by Egypt, calls for Israel to allow humanitarian aid and building materials through the border crossings it controls into Gaza. But it remained unclear who would oversee the reconstruction effort and monitor imported cement and concrete to allay Israeli concerns that it be used only for civilian purposes.

Discussion of the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict, along with demands by Hamas, the Islamist faction that dominates Gaza, for a seaport and airport in Gaza—and by Israel for the demilitarization of the territory—were put off for up to a month.

Overall, more than 2,100 Palestinians died in the conflict, most of them civilians, according to human rights groups. On the Israeli side, 64 soldiers and six others died.

The Israeli military said Wednesday it had struck 5,263 targets in Gaza, many with multiple bombs, missiles and shells. Palestinians estimate 10,800 buildings were demolished and more than 50,000 others damaged, including 277 schools, 270 mosques and 10 hospitals.

Hamas and other militant groups fired 4,564 rockets and mortars, the Israeli military said, 3,641 of which exploded in its territory, while 735 were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.


Israel’s War Business

By Markus Becker in Tel Aviv, Israel, Der Spiegel, Aug. 27, 2014

There’s not much left of the high-tech car. In a warehouse about the size of an aircraft hangar, its remains look tiny. There are no wheels, no chassis, just the angular body of the car. And it’s not in good shape at all. There’s a gaping hole in its side with edges of lacerated metal. “Rocket-propelled grenade,” says Yoav Hirsh, smiling. Had a person been inside, he or she would likely not have survived the blast. But there was no one behind the wheel: The Guardium is a fully automated vehicle.

Pride radiates from Hirsh—who has a mix of gray and white hair, an athletic frame and a determined look on his face—when he talks about his cars. He’s the CEO of G-Nius, one of first companies in the world able to produce an army of robot fighters. The Guardium has been used since 2007 in patrols along the border of the Gaza Strip. It can be guided by remote control or can steer itself through a pre-selected route as its cameras and sensors capture data about the surroundings.

“Guardium already has 60,000 hours of operations behind it,” Hirsh says. “And it has saved many lives.” He says the aim is to complete “missions without any risk to the soldiers.” But in addition to saving lives, G-Nius vehicles can also destroy them, using remote-control weapons systems mounted on top of the unmanned vehicles. Hirsh notes that, although the weapons-equipped vehicles haven’t yet been used, they are deployable. In another warehouse, a standard Ford F350 pick-up truck is parked, one equipped with its own weapons station. The cameras and sensors are real but the machine gun is a dummy. “We’re a civilian firm, after all,” Hirsh says.

G-Nius is a textbook example of the way technology is created in Israel. The company’s headquarters are located in the High-Tech Park development in the city of Yokneam in northeastern Israel, surrounded by numerous other technology firms. It’s a joint venture of the space and electronics firm Elbit Systems and the state-owed aviation and defense company Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). It also has excellent ties with the military.

Israel has been in a perpetual state of conflict with its neighbors since the country’s founding. It feels threatened from all sides; it is small and doesn’t possess a massive army. “Innovative military technologies, rather than a massive army, have been viewed as strategically crucial for Israel given its relatively small size,” says Dan Peled, a business professor at the University of Haifa. Over the decades, this has led to a close interlinking of the army with the civilian science, industrial and political sectors. And to a lucrative business with war—the most recent of which claimed the lives of over 2,100 Palestinians and 70 Israelis before what is hoped to be a lasting cease-fire went into effect on Tuesday.

British military trade publication Jane’s ranks Israel as the world’s sixth largest exporter of weapons. In 2012, it exported $2.4 billion in military equipment. But with a per capita value of around $300 in exports for each resident, Israel is at the top of the list. Even the United States, by far the world’s largest arms exporter, only has per capita weapons sales of $90. Israel’s exports are growing rapidly, too. Data from the Stockholm peace research institute SIPRI shows that Israeli weapons exports more than doubled between 2001 and 2012.

The decades-long conflict between Israel and its neighbors has certainly contributed to the defense sector’s success, a fact that people in the industry and the military are surprisingly open about. “‘Proven combat performance’ is still one of Israel’s strongest military technology sales promotions,” says business professor Peled. The label “combat proven” translates directly into healthy global sales of firearms, drones and rockets “Made in Israel.”

Gil Wainman doesn’t have to look far for a weapon. The marketing director for Israel Weapon Industries, Wainman is standing in the company’s conference room, but it looks more like an arms depot. The conference table and video screen are flanked by shelves filled with pistols, assault rifles, machine guns and grenade launchers.

IWI supplies the Israeli army with Uzi machine guns, Tavor assault rifles and Negev machine guns. Its portfolio also includes the Desert Eagle pistol, which is so big that it is more often seen in action films than it is in the hands of military or security personnel.

IWI has had enormous success with its products. When the company was privatized in 2005, it had 70 employees. “Now we are more than 500,” says Wainman. “We are growing exponentially.” Today, he says, every square foot of the company’s office in Ramat Hasharon north of Tel Aviv is full. Wainman declines to say how many assault rifles, pistols, machine guns and mortars IWI sells. “We are talking about tens of thousands every year,” he says with a smile. Indeed, IWI is among the world’s top five firearms manufacturers.

The Israeli army is one of its biggest customers. When a new weapon is developed, Wainman explains, it is given to the military just as soon as the internal testing phase is complete so that it can be tried out on the battlefield. Soldiers then report back to IWI’s technicians in order to help them improve the weapons.

His pride in the company’s achievements becomes palpable during a tour of IWI’s assembly plant. “I love the smell of oil and the sound of the machinery,” he says. At first sight, the plant resembles a car parts manufacturer. There are lathes and CNC cutting tables, bulletin boards covered in design drawings and large cases filled with metal parts.

Shiny steel rods are lined up in rows at the center of the plant. Later, they will be bored through and rifled so that their projectiles spin, allowing them to fly straighter as they speed towards their target. In the vast majority of cases, that target is a human being, whose bones and organs are shattered by the bullet.

When asked if that knowledge has any influence on daily work at the plant, Wainman understands it to be a purely technical question. “Our workers are screened by the authorities,” he says. “Besides, for our workers, working with IWI is first of all a passion, and secondly work.”

Such casual attitudes towards everything related to the military are in no way seen as being problematic in Israel. Some have been critical of the tight ties between military and industry, like Israeli journalist and film maker Yotam Feldman. His film “The Lab” generated some controversy last year with its provocative theories that Gaza and the West Bank serve as Israel’s weapons laboratory, that the Palestinians are guinea pigs and that war has mutated from a burden into a highly profitable business.

Still, the vast majority of Israelis view the development of new weapons as a simple necessity in order to ensure their safety and their country’s very existence. Defense industry officials even go so far as to present their superior technologies as promoting peace. They argue that precise weaponry can prevent collateral damage, that the Iron Dome rocket defense system makes milder responses to missile attacks from the Gaza Strip possible. Viewed in the context of the current conflict, though, the term “mild” seems highly inappropriate. The majority of the over 2,100 Palestinians who have perished in Israeli attacks since the beginning of July have been civilians. The United Nations has spoken of war crimes and even the US has distanced itself from Israel.

“We send our sons and daughters to the Israeli Defense Forces,” says IWI spokesman Wainmann. “We want to make sure they get the best of the best.” However, it’s not just Israel’s sons and daughters who are getting the best of the best. Exports have grown to the point that supplying Israel’s army only makes up a small part of the country’s defense industry. Wainman says that IWI exports about 90 percent of the products it produces. The situation is similar for other Israeli defense companies, with an export ratio of 75 percent or more being standard.

In addition to firearms, complex weapons systems like drones are also being exported. Although the US may have the reputation of being the world leader in these flying reconnaissance and killing machines, Jane’s reported that Israel sold more unmanned flying systems than the US in 2013. It is estimated that it will export twice as many as the US in 2014.

The assembly shop at defense concern IAI looks a little bit like the building site for oversized model airplanes. Harop drones can be seen all over the place at different levels of completion. Some are opened and only have some of their electronic components installed while others are ready for shipment in their launch cannisters. In a side room, the still empty airframes of Harop drones hang like bats from the ceiling.

The remote controlled Harop can carry 23 kilograms (50 pounds) of explosives in its tip. Once the pilot has identified a target, the drone dives toward it at a speed of up to “400 kilometers per hour,” says an IAI employee. The Israeli army has deployed the Harop for years now, India is considering buying some and Germany’s military also expressed temporary interest.

The majority of Israeli drone exports go to Asia, with India viewed as the largest growth market for Israel’s defense goods. The Israeli defense sector also would also like to increase sales to China, but the US government has often stood in the way of deals that include technologies that could potentially be used for military purposes. Sweden’s SIPRI says that Israeli defense firms are active in the African market.

There are reasons behind Israel’s advances and the quality of the military technology it manufactures. “Surprisingly, given its modest resources, Israel’s defense R&D community succeeds in developing state-of-the-art weapon systems, often the first of their kind in the world,” a study conducted by the University of South Wales in Australia concluded. Israel doesn’t shy away from investing in risky research projects and, by doing so, develops “radically innovative defense capabilities,” it added.

The enormous role played by the military in society also plays a role. “The links between scientists, engineers and technology developers and the security situation in Israel is even more intertwined,” says business professor Peled. And even those who haven’t been a part of the system themselves by serving in the army or the reserves are still familiar with it through close friends and family members. “This almost first-hand familiarity between what the defense needs are and what science and technology can deliver are unparalleled in other countries.”

And Israel has a lot to offer when it comes to research and technology. Israel has topped the list of the world’s most innovative countries in the World Competitiveness Yearbook produced by Swiss business school International Institute for Management Development (IMD) for years now. The country invests 4.4 percent of its gross domestic product in research and development, the highest percentage anywhere in the world. IMD also ranks Israel in first place in terms of total expenditures on education, scientific research, the development and application of technology, cyber security and information technology skills.

At the same time, the country is also in first place in a less praiseworthy ranking: the Bonn International Center for Conversion’s (BICC) Global Militarization Index. That ranking is also reflected in Israel’s research priorities. Michael Brzoska, director of the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg estimated in a paper written in 2007 that 30 percent of all research and development in Israel has a military focus. By comparison, only 2 percent of German R&D is of a military nature.


How Gaza’s Christians View the Hamas-Israeli Conflict

Interview by Timothy C. Morgan and Deann Alford, Christianity Today, August 22, 2014

The summer of violence in Gaza and Israel on Tuesday entered its fifth week after rockets, fired from inside Gaza, broke the latest ceasefire.

The Christian minority inside Gaza has not been spared fatalities. But it has also offered shelter, food, education, and medical care to hundreds of Gazans. Hanna Massad, former pastor of the Gaza Baptist Church, has been coordinating Christian aid efforts from his current pastorate in Amman, Jordan. Massad is a graduate of Bethlehem Bible College and earned a doctorate in theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. There have been Christians in Gaza since the third century.

Timothy C. Morgan, senior editor, global journalism, and journalist Deann Alford interviewed Massad recently by phone and email as the conflict continued.

What are Christians inside Gaza telling you?

I was happy to hear about the ceasefire. This morning the news was that, unfortunately, the fighting has continued. Several times daily I communicate with Gaza by phone or Skype. Water supplies are very low in Gaza. There’s little or no electricity. I’ve spoken with my Muslim neighbors and Christians. All are waiting and anxious about what will happen next.

Are Gazans being sheltered in churches?

Gaza Baptist Church hasn’t been damaged, but it’s next door to Gaza’s main police station, which is a target. The bombs have made it too dangerous for Baptist church members to meet. But thousands of Muslims have found refuge in other churches that have opened their doors to refugees. My neighbor called to ask if he and his family could move into my family home in Gaza. Now there’s almost 100 people living in my house. People throughout Gaza are taking care of each other.

Eastern Gaza is very dangerous. Most of north Gaza borders Israel. Through the Christian Mission to Gaza that I founded in 1999 and in partnership with Bethlehem Bible Society and Gaza Baptist Church, we’ve supplied food relief to hundreds of Muslim and Christians. Our goal is to help 1,000 families.

How many Christians remain in Gaza?

Four hundred families. Two months ago there were 1,333 individuals—mostly Greek Orthodox, Catholics, and Baptists.

How should Christians understand this conflict?

A Jew killing a Palestinian or Palestinian killing a Jew are symptoms of the problem. The root of the problem is the Israeli occupation of Gaza. As Christians we know there won’t be any peace in peoples’ lives without the Prince of Peace. But as long as this occupation continues, there will not really be a solution.

Even before the war, Gaza suffered more than 40 percent unemployment, while 80 percent of Gazans have been going to charities for food. We as Christians provide relief to both Christians and Muslims through the Christian Mission to Gaza, which reflects God’s love in a practical way. I teach in the Bethlehem Bible College extension campus in Gaza. We hope and pray that through these ministries we reflect Christ’s love in Gaza.

Does Israel have a right to exist, and should Palestinians say so?

Absolutely, yes, and Palestinian leaders need to say so.

What do you say to American Christians who support Israel?

As Christians in Palestine, we love the Jewish people. When the Lord changed our hearts, he gave us love for all people. I hope my brothers and sisters in the West also have enough room in their hearts not just for Israel but also for the Palestinians.

See the other side of the coin. In 1948, the state of Israel was founded, and more than 700,000 Palestinians became refugees, and 50,000 to 55,000 of them were Christian. They scattered around the world, some to Gaza and the West Bank. They went to Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria. Many still live in very difficult circumstances.

Sometimes my brothers in the West say, “This land is promised to the Jewish people; get over it.” But I would say, what would you do for the people who lost their homes and land in 1948? We have official documents to prove our ownership of the 17 acres my father’s family lost. If we talk about a God of justice and love, how to explain this to the Palestinians who lost their homes and land to Israel?

Amos 5:24 says, “But let justice roll down like river and righteousness like a never-failing stream.” And Micah 6:8: “He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord required of you to act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”

How should you extend this love to these Palestinians Muslims and Christians who lost their land? You cannot just say that God gave the land to the Jewish people. To love the Palestinians, you must understand their struggle. I see people go too far to support the Jewish people; others go too far to support the Palestinians. Extend love not just to one side, but to both.

What I say to the church in West is this: There are churches and believers on both sides. Let us focus on the Kingdom of God among the Palestinians and the Kingdom of God among Jewish believers. All of us Christians in the East and the West belong to one body: the body of Christ. Bless the body of Christ in this region.

We can be a blessing to each other and learn from each other and enrich each other’s lives. May we have enough space in our hearts for the Palestinians, the Christians, and the Jewish people. For the bigger circle, we do what we can to help people stop killing each other and to live side-by-side with love and respect.

What should Christians be calling for?

Usually, war and military might will not solve problems. The best way is to sit and find a balanced solution. But as a Palestinian Christian, I go to Gaza and see the siege that Gazans live under from the sky, land, and sea.

I have never been in prison, but I lived in one when I was in Gaza. Gaza has become a huge prison. Life there has been very difficult. Fishermen can go only three miles into the water. Unemployment is oppressive. Gaza is 30 miles long, 7 miles wide, with 1.8 million people. People die because they can’t get the medical treatment they need because of the siege and they’re not able to leave. They also have been affected by the problems between Egypt and Hamas. The people of Gaza need the borders to be opened.

Unless we deal with the conflict, this problem will continue for a long, long time. Continuing this siege contributes to raising young people who will use violence because they have little to lose. They’ve already lost almost everything.

For example, here’s how many people in Gaza view their experience:

We’re not able to live our lives, so what will we lose if we continue this fight? So let us continue this fight until we’re able to improve our lives.

At least, let’s open the borders so Gazans have freedom to walk in and out. The siege must be lifted.

Of the more than 1,900 Gazans killed in this war, according to the United Nations, 72 percent are civilians, and many are children.

Some Christians inside Israel have influence. How should they speak out?

I would ask my brothers, the Jews, when you see how many people are killed, do you think it’s worth it? Couldn’t you find another way to solve this horrible conflict?

The power on each side is not equal. For us as Christians, for me, one person killed is too many, either Palestinian or Jew, because each of us is created in the image of God. We can see God in each other.

How we can respect and protect the dignity of humanity regardless of ethnicity is really important. I hope my Jewish brothers will able to look at it from this point of view. And again, for all of us to be honest with ourselves and try to dig even deeper to address the root of this conflict.

How far back in history we should go to try to solve this conflict? I mean, do you want to go to the time of Abraham where he had Isaac and Ishmael?

We have problems we need to solve.

To paraphrase Father Elias Chacour, we need to stand with the weak, with the victim, with the oppressed, without demonizing the oppressor and still love the oppressor. Of course, the weak here is the Palestinian. Palestinians and Jews alike hurt one another. Nobody is winning.

If we unconditionally support Israel, if we don’t speak out when there’s injustice, it’s not very good for the Jewish people. That’s because in the long run, if Israel continues with this, in the long run it will destroy its people for generations to come and create more and more enemies who in the future will stand against them.


Page 1 of 1760