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Gaza, West Bank prepare to Welcome Prisoners – Palestine Sings for Joy

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Shahinaz, a sister of Palestinian female prisoner Fotnah Abo Aleish, holds a photo of Fotnah
as she celebrates the prisoner swap deal between Hamas and Israel, in her home
at the Askar refugee camp near the West Bank city of Nablus
Reuters Photo By Abed Omar Qusini

By Nidal al-Mughrabi
Ma’an News Agency

GAZA CITY — The last time Asma al-Kurd saw her father, she was 18 months old. That was 20 years ago, before he was sentenced to eight terms of life imprisonment for attacks that killed Israelis.

Baseem al-Kurd, now 43, is slated to be one of 477 Palestinians due to be exchanged on Tuesday for captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in a deal with Hamas, an Islamist group dedicated to Israel’s destruction.

“We have imagined many things we were deprived of doing and we will do with him when he is freed,” said the Hamas member’s 21-year-old daughter, dressed in traditional Islamic garb, her face covered by a veil.

Workers were putting the finishing touches to repairs of Kurd’s home, damaged in a recent Israeli air strike on a sports center belonging to the Islamic Jihad group after it fired rockets into Israel.

In Israel, the deal taking in dozens of Palestinians convicted of deadly attacks has been met with mixed emotions — joy at the end of Shalit’s five years of captivity and angst over the price paid for his release.

Kurd’s mother, Dalal, 65, watched as new lamps were installed in her son’s home in the Gaza Strip and its walls covered with a fresh coat of paint.

“We are preparing his house for him. We hope we can compensate him for all the deprivation he suffered,” she said.

“Prisoner and son”

Outside the dwelling, activists from Hamas’ Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades painted slogans welcoming home its “prisoner and son”. Other graffiti praising Hamas sprouted on Gaza’s streets.

“Hamas had promised and it fulfilled its promise,” said one slogan near the site where a public rally is planned for the 295 prisoners due to be released to the Gaza Strip.

Hamas and Palestinian flags flutter from electrical poles.

Exile tempers celebrations

Happiness over news of the imminent mass release has been tempered in some families by news that their relatives were being sent into exile as part of the deal, and would not be allowed an emotional homecoming.

That means some of the West Bank detainees will be sent either to another Middle East country or to the Gaza Strip, a small Palestinian coastal enclave that is sealed off by Israeli forces and very hard to visit for outsiders.

Mousa Waswas, 29, who was sentenced to eight life terms for his part in the killing of eight Israelis, is one such Palestinian facing deportation.

His family comes from the West Bank city of Hebron and they have decorated the exterior walls of their home to celebrate his freedom, even if he won’t see them with his own eyes.

“If he goes to Turkey, Gaza or Egypt I will crawl to see him,” his mother, Khawla Waswas, told Reuters Television.

In a second stage of the Egyptian- and German-brokered swap, Israel is to free another 550 jailed Palestinians. No date has been announced for their release.

Shalit was captured in June 2006 by Palestinian militants who had tunneled into Israel from the Gaza Strip. He has been held in the Hamas -ruled territory ever since.

PALESTINE SINGS FOR JOY

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See Related: San Francisco gathers to witness the release and homecoming of Gilad Shalit October 19 8:00 AM

See Related: Coundown to Gilad Shalit Release – Operation Beit HaShoevash begins Tuesday Morning – Complete Day’s Schedule

See Related: Gilad Shalit Agreement Archive


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Coundown to Gilad Shalit Release – Operation Beit HaShoevash begins Tuesday Morning – Complete Day’s Schedule

Countdown to IDF officials will make initial contact with Gilad Shalit, and give green light for the immediate release of hundreds of prisoners.
Surrounding vicinity to be declared closed military area.

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By Yoav Zitun
YNetNews.com

The IDF, Prison Service and police are completing last minute preparations ahead of the prisoner exchange deal that will see the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit in return for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners.

According to the plan, Gilad’s first encounter with Israeli officials will take place in the Sinai Peninsula, after the kidnapped soldier will be transferred there from the Gaza Strip.

Operation Beit HaShoevah, named after the special celebration held during the intermediate days of Sukkot, will begin immediately after IDF officials make initial contact with Shalit in Sinai.

At that moment, Prison Service employees will release hundreds of prisoners, which will be divided in two main groups – some 100 prisoners will leave on Red Cross buses toward Ramallah, while a second, larger group, will be transferred to Gaza or deported abroad.

According to the plan, Shalit will be transferred from Sinai to a military base in the south, where he will undergo initial medical examinations. From there, an Air Force helicopter will take him to Tel Nof airbase in central Israel, where he will first reunite with his family.

In fact, the most critical moments of the operation are expected during the transfer of Shalit from Sinai to Israel via land. Only after his medical condition is verified, the IDF will make an official announcement regarding Shalit’s return to Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hold short reception

Following a short reception attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, the family will deliver a statement to the press at a media tent erected at the entrance to the base.

From there Shalit will be flown to his home in Mitzpe Hila, where he will continue to be accompanied by military professionals.

The IDF Spokesperson’s office will take the first footage of Shalit in Tel Nof base and will hand it to media outlets in an orderly fashion. The IDF however is not ruling out the possibility that Shalit will be photographed by Hamas prior to his release on Tuesday morning.

During the operation, the surrounding vicinities will be declared a closed military area, and will be closed to the public. The operation will be commanded by Head of the IDF Operations Division Brigadier-General Kobi Barak, under the supervision of Chief of Staff Benny Gantz.

FULL SCHEDULE
Haaretz

Phase 1: Shalit is released and met either by a representative of the International Red Cross or an Egyptian official on Tuesday morning.

Phase 2: Israel frees 27 Arab female prisoners on confirmation of Shalit’s release.

Phase 3: Hamas transfers Shalit to Egypt via the Rafah crossing. Shalit will spend a very short period of time in Egypt, possibly under 15 minutes, before overland transfer to Israel.

Phase 4: Israel releases the first wave of Palestinian prisoners to Gaza and the West Bank upon confirmation of the transfer.

Phase 5: Shalit is transferred to an Israel Defense Forces near Israel’s borders with Egypt and Gaza. He will be given his old cell phone in order to telephone his mother.

Phase 6: Shalit is expected to undergo initial medical check-ups conducted by IDF Chief Medical Officer Brigadier – General Itzik Kreis.

Phase 7: Shalit is transferred to Israel Air Force base at Tel Nof.

Phase 8: Shalit undergoes further medical examination on arrival at Tel Nof.

Phase 9: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz meet Shalit at Tel Nof.

Phase 10: Shalit is accompanied by Netanyahu, Barak and Gantz to be reunited with his family.

Phase 11: If Shalit is well and healthy, the IDF flies Shalit and his family to their home Mitzpe Hila in north Israel by helicopter.

The entire transfer is expected to be completed by Tuesday afternoon.

WELCOME BACK, ANGEL

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See Related: San Francisco gathers to witness the release and homecoming of Gilad Shalit October 19 8:00 AM

See Related: Gaza, West Bank prepare to Welcome Prisoners – Palestine Sings for Joy

See Related: Gilad Shalit Agreement Archive


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Tens of Thousands emerge for dedication of Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

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File Photo

ABCNews.com

Thousands of people spanning all ages and races honored the legacy of the nation’s foremost civil rights leader during Sunday’s formal dedication of the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington.

Aretha Franklin, poet Nikki Giovanni and President Barack Obama were among those who attended the more than four-hour ceremony. King’s children and other leaders spoke before the president, invoking his “I Have a Dream” speech and calling upon a new generation to help fully realize that dream.

Some in the crowd arrived as early as 5 a.m., and the crowd eventually overflowed beyond the park gates. Some women wore large Sunday hats for the occasion.

The president arrived late morning with his wife and two daughters, which drew loud cheers from those watching his entrance on large screens.

Cherry Hawkins traveled from Houston with her cousins and arrived at 6 a.m. to be part of the dedication. They postponed earlier plans to attend the August dedication, which was postponed because of Hurricane Irene.

“I wanted to do this for my kids and grandkids,” Hawkins said. She expects the memorial will be in their history books someday. “They can say, ‘Oh, my granny did that.’”

Hawkins, her cousin DeAndrea Cooper and Cooper’s daughter Brittani Jones, 23, visited the King Memorial on Saturday after joining a march with the Rev. Al Sharpton to urge Congress to pass a jobs bill.

“You see his face in the memorial, and it’s kind of an emotional moment,” Cooper said. “It’s beautiful. They did a wonderful job.”

A stage for speakers and thousands of folding chairs were set up on a field near the memorial along with large TV screens. Most of the 10,000 chairs set out appeared to be full. Many other people were standing.

The August ceremony had been expected to draw 250,000, though organizers anticipated about 50,000 for Sunday’s event.

Actress Cicely Tyson said her contemporaries are passing the torch to a new generation and passed the microphone to 12-year-old Amandla Stenberg. The girl recalled learning about the civil rights movement in school and named four young girls killed in a 1963 church bombing in Birmingham, Ala.

“As Dr. King said at their funeral, ‘They didn’t live long lives, but they lived meaningful lives,’” Amandla said. “I plan to live a meaningful life, too.”

About 1.5 million people are estimated to have visited the 30-foot-tall statue of King and the granite walls where 14 of his quotations are carved in stone. The memorial is the first on the National Mall honoring a black leader.

The sculpture of King with his arms crossed appears to emerge from a stone extracted from a mountain. It was carved by Chinese artist Lei Yixin. The design was inspired by a line from the famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963: “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”

King’s “Dream” speech during the March on Washington galvanized the civil rights movement.

King’s older sister, Christine King Farris, said she witnessed a baby become “a great hero to humanity.” She said the memorial will ensure her brother’s legacy will provide a source of inspiration worldwide for generations.

To young people in the crowd, she said King’s message is that “Great dreams can come true and America is the place where you can make it happen.”

Bernice King and her brother Martin Luther King III said their father’s dream is not yet realized. Martin Luther King III said the nation has “lost its soul” when it tolerates vast economic disparities, teen bullying, and having more people of color in prison than in college.

He said the memorial should serve as a catalyst to renew his father’s fight for social and economic justice.

“The problem is the American dream of 50 years ago … has turned into a nightmare for millions of people” who have lost their jobs and homes, King said.

The choir from King’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta was scheduled to sing.

The nation’s first black president, who was just 6 years old when King was assassinated in April 1968 in Memphis, Tenn., will speak about the man he has said “gave his life serving others.”

Giovanni read her poem “In the Spirit of Martin,” and Franklin was to sing.

Early in the ceremony, during a rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the crowd cheered when images on screen showed Obama on the night he won the 2008 presidential election.

Obama, who credits King with paving his way to the White House, left a copy of his inaugural speech in a time capsule at the monument site. He said King was a man who “stirred our conscience” and made the Union “more perfect.”

But the Rev. Al Sharpton said the dedication was not about Obama but the ongoing fight for justice. He called for people from around the world to walk through the stone of hope and emerge to see “the face that brought us from the back of the bus to the White House.”

See Related: Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial joins an evolving National Mall

See Related: My meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr. an inspiration for LGBT Jews


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Hamas Official Osama Hamadan: Prisoner swap is a remarkable deal – Release of East Jerusalem residents and Israeli Arabs

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Most prisoners due for release will return to their homes in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip
Reuters Photo

Haaretz

Palestinian terrorists due to be deported overseas as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap deal will no doubt find their way back to Palestinian land, a top Hamas official said in an interview on Sunday.

In details released concerning a Israel-Hamas prisoner exchange agreement that would secure the release of the abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier, about half of prisoners released in the first stage of the deal, 203, will not be allowed to return to their homes. 40 will be deported abroad, with the rest transferred to the Gaza Strip.

An Egyptian official linked to talks geared at securing the release of the abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier told Haaretz that “Israel in fact agreed to release 40 of the 70 prisoners that it had adamantly refused to let go, after Hamas submitted an extensive list of heavyweight prisoners from which Israel would choose. And Hamas, for its part, agreed that those prisoners would be deported.”

However, speaking with Sir David Frost on Al-Jazeera later Sunday, top Hamas official and member of the group’s politburo Osama Hamdan indicated that those deported would not necessarily stay away from the region for ever.

Asked by Frost where the deported inmates would go, Hamdan said: “It’s their choice, and what had happened was, with the complete contact with them, I think they will live for a while outside Palestine, but that does not mean that they will not be in contact with their families, with their people.”

“We have to realize that hundreds of Palestinians were deported during the last four decades and at the end of the story was that every time they were back home,” the Hamas official said.

Hamdan also commented on the Shalit deal, which he considered to a Hamas achievement, saying: “It is a remarkable deal.”

“Part of that [are] the numbers,” the Hamas official said, adding that there were other “important points. There were people from Jerusalem who were released, which was not accepted by the Israelis for decades. There were [Israeli] Arabs who were released, which is something Israel tried prevent that; there were people you committed militant operations against the Israelis directly and they were also released.”

Hamdan was also asked about the possible changes Hamas had to make in its stance toward Israel, saying: “The Israelis must change, not the Palestinians.”

“The struggle for six decades [is] to implement Palestinian rights, to take back Palestinian land from the occupiers, which does not appear clear to the Israelis yet,” Hamdan said.

The comments by the Hamas strongman came after Hamas rejected the Palestinian Authority’s accusations earlier on Sunday that the deal to free Gilad Shalit in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners is insufficient since it does not include the release of many Fatah members.

Top Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar told Army Radio on Sunday that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “negotiated with Israel for a million years and hasn’t achieved a deal like this one.”

Earlier on Sunday, Zahar told Al-Hayat newspaper that “throughout the negotiations, the Palestinian President offered that we release Shalit only in return for lifting the siege on Gaza and without releasing any [Palestinian] prisoners.” According to Zahar, Hamas vehemently objected to this idea, “and so the Palestinian Authority has no right to voice criticism about who is released and how.”

See Related: Gilad Shalit Agreement Archive


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Join Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today in phone banking for Chris Cunnie

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SAN FRANCISCO – Today California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris will call San Francisco voters to urge them to vote for her choice for San Francisco Sheriff – Chris Cunnie.

The Attorney General will join other Cunnie volunteers today from 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. at 4308 Geary Street.

Pease join her and all our dedicated volunteers by signing up for a shift today to phone bank! People are already voting so it’s urgent that we let every voter know why Chris is the best candidate. Bring your friends and family with you!

SIGN UP: To sign up, contact Zach Chiapellone at zach@chriscunnie.com or (415) 306-6841

DATE: Today, Sunday, 10/16

TIMES:

11:00AM – 2:00PM
2:00PM – 5:00PM
5:00PM – 8:00PM

With Election Day just three weeks away, volunteers for Chris Cunnie have been working the phones all weekend to reach out to San Francisco voters to tell them why the office of sheriff matters and why Chris Cunnie is the best candidate. Many San Franciscans are already voting through absentee ballots.

Attorney General Harris said:

“Chris Cunnie is the former undersheriff of San Francisco. He is the only candidate with extensive experience in both law enforcement AND treatment and education programs that help keep people out of the criminal justice system.

“Cunnie was a San Francisco police officer twice decorated for valor, president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, Chief of investigations in the DA’s office and chairman of Walden House, one of the nation’s best treatment centers. Cunnie will bring all these experiences together to keep San Francisco safe.”

The weekend’s robust phone banking operations build upon the momentum of the Cunnie campaign. He has recently received the sole endorsement of the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner and Sing Tao Daily.

To learn more about Chris Cunnie and view a complete list of supporters, please visit ChrisCunnie.com.


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Is a winter of discontent on the way? – Banks protests go global, Middle East unrest stirs again

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A demonstrator holds a banner during a protest
at the Portuguese parliament as part of the
United for Global Change movement in Lisbon
October 15, 2011
Reuters Photo By Rafael Marchante

By Peter Apps
Political Risk Correspondent
Reuters

LONDON – With the “Occupy Wall Street” movement going global and Middle East unrest stirring again, an autumn and winter of discontent looks increasingly likely.

In the corridors of Whitehall, Washington, think tanks and even investment banks, there are dark murmurs that the events of the year so far may only be the beginning.

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Occupy Boston protestors join an anti-war march
through Boston, Massachusetts October 15, 2011
Reuters Photo By Brian Snyder

Some fear the world faces a systemic rise in anger, protest and political volatility that could last years or even decades.

In many countries, a young social media-connected generation is losing faith in traditional structures of government and business, arguing it has been betrayed and denied opportunity.

In the developed world, the wider middle class fears its prosperity has evaporated, demanding someone be held accountable and the global elite find a way of delivering growth once more.

“This could be with us for a long time,” said Jack Goldstone, professor of public policy at George Mason University in Washington D.C. and an expert in demographics.

“You have a generation who are fed up being told what to do by rich western countries or rich western people. In Egypt, they took down one government but they may not like what replaces it and they may take that down too. It’s going to be a difficult period.”

In the Western world, the crisis initially produced rather less physical protest than many expected. But it now seems on the rise. Greece, Spain, Italy and Britain have all seen some of their worst unrest in decades.

On Saturday, the U.S. protests against the global financial system that began in a New York Park in mid-September spilled overseas to dozens of countries as sometimes hundreds, sometimes tens of thousands took to the streets.

Many were peaceful, but in Rome cars were torched and police fought running battles with “black bloc” activists. In London and several other cities, protesters in tents stayed on.

NUMBERS TO SWELL?

“Even a small number of protesters to start with can inspire many more to come along and join in,” said Tim Hardy, founder of left-wing blog “Beyond Clicktivism” and a regular attendee at London protests. “If they manage to establish a base camp, I expect numbers will swell.”

On Friday the Milan office of U.S. bank Goldman Sachs was attacked by an angry mob. Most protest has been peaceful, but is likely ramp up political pressure on the financial industry. Already, policymakers talk of tighter regulation and targeted tax rises and media attention is increasingly turning to the activities of tax havens and secretive banks.

“One word: accountability,” said Hayat Alvi, a professor teaching Middle Eastern and national security studies at the United States Naval War College.

“This is the season of demanding accountability and the application of the rule of law, especially targeting the ruling political elites and the economic elites as well.”

Britain’s August riots showed post-crisis unrest might not always be overtly political, with tough inner-city youths using social media platforms to co-ordinate looting and arson. With so much of the world in flux, some expect that kind of nihilistic violence to also rise.

As the summer heat eases in the Middle East, the region seems braced for more trouble.

Egyptian protesters who ousted Hosni Mubarak in February increasingly complain the military still rules, is effectively rigging coming elections and that little has genuinely changed.

Last week saw the worst clashes since Mubarak’s fall, primarily between the military and Coptic Christians. Many in Tunisia, the first state to oust its leader, make similar complaints.

Conflict and confrontation in Syria look to be worsening, with sporadic reports of defecting troops and others taking up arms against Bashar al-Assad. In Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other countries, analysts see a risk of new protests in coming months.

DEMOGRAPHIC STRAINS

A host of other dissident movements are showing increasing confidence. In Israel, India, Chile, China and elsewhere, online or street protesters have often managed to win concessions.

Some believe the current anger against autocrats, bankers and elites is a symptom of fundamental shifts in the structure of global populations.

In the Middle East and North Africa, one of the key drivers has been a large bulge in the youthful population struggling to find work. An educated, westernized group using social media tools to coordinate got protests started, quickly joined by broader masses angry at rising food prices.

In western states, there are strains caused by an aging population that is driving up government costs, reducing growth and blocking jobs from younger people.

At worst, some experts warn that could produce an economic malaise that lasts for decades.

“It is these demographic issues that are driving much of what we are seeing at the moment,” said George Mason University’s Goldstone.

“It makes politics very unpredictable. You can get paralysis, but you can also see dramatic shifts in policy to left or right. You can see the rise of ideologues as we saw in the 1930s. We are very much at the beginning of this.”

See Related: American Distrust of Banks Archive


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Israel begins prisoner transfer as part of deal to free Gilad Shalit

Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners including militants serving multiple life sentences moved to two jails in first phase
of exchange for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit

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By Harriet Sherwood
The Guardian

Israel began to transfer hundreds of Palestinian prisoners to two jails on Sunday before their release in the coming days as part of the deal struck with Hamas in exchange for the freeing of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

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Palestinian prisoners transferred
ahead of the Gilad Shalit swap deal,
Oct. 16, 2011
Photo By Alon Ron

The names of 450 male prisoners and 27 female prisoners scheduled for release were published by the Israeli prison service on Saturday night. Among them are militants serving multiple life sentences for attacks in which Israeli civilians were killed and maimed. The oldest prisoner, Mohamed Hemad, was arrested 35 years ago.

Israelis who want to challenge the release of individuals have until the end of Monday to lodge objections at the high court of justice. However, the court is not expected to intervene following the approval of the deal by a large majority in the cabinet and its widespread public support.

Shalit was captured in June 2006 by Palestinian militants who tunnelled into Israel from the Gaza Strip. He has been held in the Hamas-ruled territory ever since. His family’s tireless campaign to get him released has turned him into a national cause celebre.

Although there was jubilation in Israel at the news of the deal, that has been tempered by some people warning that the price of Shalit’s release is too high.

The first phase of the prisoner swap involves 450 men and 27 women. Another 550 will be released in about two months, according to officials familiar with the Egyptian-mediated deal. Some prisoners originally from the West Bank will be sent to the Gaza Strip and other prisoners will be exiled abroad.

One Israeli group opposed to the deal, the Almagor Terror Victims’ Association, said the release would lead to further violence and abduction attempts and robbed victims of the right to live in peace.

Among the more prominent names on the list is Ahlam Tamimi, who worked as a reporter with a local television station before joining the Hamas armed wing. She received 16 life sentences for helping choose places for suicide attacks and was accused of taking bombers to some of the locations, including a Jerusalem pizzeria in 2001, where 15 people were killed.

Also to be released is Mohammed Al-Sharatha, a leader of the Hamas special elite fighting unit “101″ which kidnapped two Israeli soldiers in 1989. The two soldiers were killed. Sharatha was arrested in 1989 and sentenced to three life terms and a separate 30-year-term.

Absent from the list is Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences for murder. A popular, respected and influential figure in the Fatah political faction, there has long been speculation that he could succeed Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas if he was released from prison.

Shalit’s parents, Noam and Aviva, returned to their home in Mitzpe Hila in the Galilee region last week to prepare for their son’s return. They are expected to be reunited with him at a military base in central Israel on Tuesday, where the soldier will also be greeted by prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Shalit will undergo intensive medical examinations, both physiological and psychological, on his release. He is also likely to face a long period of debriefing by intelligence officers.

See Related: Gilad Shalit Agreement Archive


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A very San Francisco protester – OccupySF

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OccupySF protest outside San Francisco City Hall, October 15 2011

See Related: American Distrust of Banks Archive


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The grim reality of life under Alabama’s brutal immigration law

Fear of detention, families torn apart – Hispanics in Alabama are trapped in a unique half-life under punishing new immigrant laws

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Alabama immigration law: anyone failing to carry immigraton papers
is now deemed to be committing a criminal act
Photo By Gary Tramontina

By Ed Pilkington
The Guardian

Isobel Gomez’s apartment on the outskirts of Birmingham, Alabama, has the hunkered-down quality of a wartime bunker. There are boxes of bottled water, rice, beans and tortillas stacked against the living room wall – sufficient to last her family of five several days. The curtains are drawn and the lights on, even though it is early afternoon.

For the past two weeks, this small space has been Gomez’s prison cell. She has been cooped up here, shut off from natural light and almost all contact with the outside world since 28 September, the day a judge upheld the new law that has given Alabama the distinction of having the most draconian immigration powers in America.

Gomez (the name is not her real one, at her request) used to be a gregarious person, taking her daughters to school, visiting her mother nearby, shopping every day. Now she leaves the apartment only once a week, to stock up on those boxes of essentials at the local Walmart.

The day after the new law was upheld, Gomez saw three police cars driving around her housing complex, which is almost entirely Hispanic in occupancy. Word went around that the police asked men standing on the street to go inside their homes or face arrest.

She took the mandate literally, and from that moment has barely set foot outside. She no longer drives, her car sitting unused by the kerbside. Under the new law, police have to check the immigration papers of anyone “suspicious” they stop for a routine traffic violation – a missing brake light, perhaps, or parking on the wrong spot.

“If they see me they will think I’m suspicious and then they will detain me indefinitely,” Gomez says.

Why would the police think she was suspicious? “They will see the colour of my skin.”

Gomez’s is one of thousands of Hispanic families in Alabama trapped in a sort of half-life while they wait to see what will happen in the courts to the new law, HB56. Both the US department of justice and a coalition of local groups are challenging the clampdown at the 11th circuit appeals court in Atlanta, Georgia. The court must decide whether to allow the new law to stand or to block it pending higher judgment by the US supreme court; its ruling is expected by the end of this week.

Tough provisions

While the judges deliberate, Alabama’s uniquely tough new provisions remain in effect. In addition to the police check of “suspicious” people, anyone failing to carry immigration papers is now deemed to be committing a criminal act.

Undocumented immigrants are also forbidden from entering into a transaction with the state, which has already led some town halls to demand residents produce their papers or risk losing water supply. Schools have been instructed to check the immigration status of new pupils as young as four.

Even families legally entitled to be in the country are being caught. Cineo Gonzalez was shocked a few weeks ago when his six-year-old daughter came home from school carrying a printout. It gave details of HB56 and its implications, under the heading: “Frequent questions about the immigration law.”

Gonzalez is a US permanent resident, having come from Mexico more than 20 years ago. His daughter is an American citizen, having been born in Alabama. Both are entirely legal. Yet she was one of only two children in her class – both Hispanic in appearance – who were given the printout.

Why was she singled out, Gonzalez asked the deputy head teacher. “Because we gave the printout to children we thought were not from here,” came the reply.

Gonzalez is a taxi driver. Soon after the law came into effect, he began getting calls from Hispanic families. “People started asking me for prices. How much would it cost to go to Indiana? How much to New York? Or Atlanta, or Texas, or Ohio, or North Carolina?”

At about 2am one night, he was woken up by a woman who asked him to come and pick her and her family up immediately and drive them to North Carolina.

He went drove to their apartment where he found the two parents, three children and a small number of bags waiting for him. “Can you hurry up, we’re very scared,” the woman said. “The police followed my husband on his way back from work and that’s why we’re leaving.”

It took eight hours to get to North Carolina. The children slept the whole journey; the father sat in silence; the mother cried all the way.

“That was devastating,” Gonzalez says. “I knew things were bad, but this really showed me something was happening. Families are being destroyed.”

‘They see us as servants’

Outside the offices of the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, HICA, about 30 people – including several small children – are sitting waiting for legal advice. An overflow room has been set up at the back of the building to accommodate families who arrive throughout the day.

In a consulting room, a case manager is drawing up a power of attorney letter for a couple who fear they could be rounded up and deported at any time. The legal document – one of hundreds taken out by parents in the state – sets out what should happen to their eight-year-old daughter should they both suddenly disappear.

In this case, it gives one of the couple’s friends, a US citizen, the power to make decisions for the girl on anything from medical procedures to schooling. “This is very cruel, very extreme,” the mother says, asking to remain anonymous. “We have never done harm to anyone. We’ve only worked hard. Now they’re trying to split us from our child.”

Why does she think they – the Alabama authorities – are doing this? “We ask ourselves that too. Why are they doing this? They say it’s because we are taking jobs from local people, but I don’t think it can be about that. It’s about racism.”

Her husband chimes in: “They see us as servants. As people they can keep at the bottom. Not as people who want a better future for ourselves and for our children.”

Most of the 100 or so families who are now coming to HICA for help every day are doing so to have powers of attorney drawn up for their kids. Others want advice about what to do when teachers enquire about their children’s status. Increasingly, people are coming in having been fired by their employers for lack of immigration papers.

‘We do the jobs nobody wants to do’

Efren Cruz has lived in Alabama for 23 years having come here when he was 14 from Mexico. He speaks fluent English with a rich southern drawl. Since HB56 came into effect he has been sacked by four different steel and paper mills where he has worked on and off for years. Now he’s jobless.

But he’s not taking it supinely. He laughs at the suggestion that the new law is designed to stop illegal Mexicans taking jobs away from worthy and needy local Alabamans. “We aren’t taking anybody’s jobs because, let’s face it, they don’t want to work. We do the jobs that nobody else wants to do.”

Despite the fact that he is undocumented, and thus liable to be detained under the new law, he is among a small group of protesters outside the federal court in Birmingham. His fellow demonstrators include a seven-year-old boy carrying a placard that says: “I just look illegal”, and Cruz’s niece Angela, a US citizen aged two, whose sign says: “They can’t deport us ALL”.

Cruz had hoped that many more people would have joined the protest. Over the past week they have been petitioning members of their local church to attend, and about 400 promised to come along. Only about 25 turned up. “That’s how scared people are,” Cruz says.

Other sporadic and tentative protests are cropping up across the state. A nearby Mexican restaurant, Gordos Market (which translates as “Fat people’s market”), is closed for three days. A sign on the front door explains that it is shuttered out of “Apoya por una buena causa” – support for a good cause.

Across the state this week, poultry and meat processing plants, including the giant Tyson, have been closed or put on limited production schedules because of an unofficial walkout by Hispanic workers. In the north of the state, the pungent smell of rotting tomatoes hangs in the air across huge tranches of land that has been virtually abandoned by workers who, through fear or anger, are no longer turning up to gather the harvest.

Just how long this standoff will continue, and what happens to the thousands of families caught in limbo, will depend largely on what the 11th circuit appeals court rules, and ultimately on the final say of the US supreme court.

In the meantime, though, Isobel Gomez remains trapped inside her prison cell apartment. The only thing keeping her here, she says, is her daughters, who want to stay and make a life for themselves in America as countless millions of immigrant Americans have done before them.

“Every day I ask myself the question: how much longer can I survive this? How much longer can I bear sitting at home, unable to leave the house? How much longer can I stand the humiliation of knowing that I’m seen by others as a bad person, as a criminal? If it were down to me, I’d have had enough already.”

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California Medical Association calls for legalization of marijuana

The doctor group questions the medical value of pot and acknowledges some health risk from its use but urges it be regulated like alcohol.
A law enforcement official harshly criticizes the new stance.

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An employee sorts merchandise at a Southern California medical marijuana dispensary

By Anthony York
The Los Angeles Times

SACRAMENTO — The state’s largest doctor group is calling for legalization of marijuana, even as it pronounces cannabis to be of questionable medical value.

Trustees of the California Medical Assn., which represents more than 35,000 physicians statewide, adopted the position at their annual meeting in Anaheim late Friday. It is the first major medical association in the nation to urge legalization of the drug, according to a group spokeswoman, who said the larger membership was notified Saturday.

Dr. Donald Lyman, the Sacramento physician who wrote the group’s new policy, attributed the shift to growing frustration over California’s medical marijuana law, which permits cannabis use with a doctor’s recommendation. That, he said, has created an untenable situation for physicians: deciding whether to give patients a substance that is illegal under federal law.

“It’s an uncomfortable position for doctors,” he said. “It is an open question whether cannabis is useful or not. That question can only be answered once it is legalized and more research is done. Then, and only then, can we know what it is useful for.”

The CMA’s new stance appears to have as much to do with politics as science. The group has rejected one of the main arguments of medical marijuana advocates, declaring that the substance has few proven health benefits and comparing it to a “folk remedy.”

The group acknowledges some health risk associated with marijuana use and proposes that it be regulated along the lines of alcohol and tobacco. But it says the consequences of criminalization outweigh the hazards.

Lyman says current laws have “proven to be a failed public health policy.” He cited increased prison costs, the effect on families when marijuana users are imprisoned and racial inequalities in drug-sentencing cases.

The organization’s announcement provoked some angry response.

“I wonder what they’re smoking,” said John Lovell, spokesman for the California Police Chiefs Assn. “Given everything that we know about the physiological impacts of marijuana — how it affects young brains, the number of accidents associated with driving under the influence — it’s just an unbelievably irresponsible position.”

The CMA’s view is also controversial in the medical community.

Dr. Robert DuPont, an M.D. and professor of psychiatry at Georgetown Medical School, said the association’s call for legalization showed “a reckless disregard of the public health. I think it’s going to lead to more use, and that, to me, is a public health concern. I’m not sure they’ve thought through what the implications of legalization would be.”

Dr. Igor Grant, head of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis at UC San Diego, defended the drug’s therapeutic use.

“There’s good evidence that it has medicinal value,” he said. “Can you say it’s 100% bulletproof? No. But the research we’ve done at the center shows it’s helpful with certain types of pain.”

The federal government views cannabis as a substance with no medical use, on a par with heroin and LSD. The CMA wants the Obama administration to reclassify it to help promote further research on its medical potential.

But Washington appears to be moving in the other direction. As recently as July, the federal government turned down a request to reclassify marijuana. That decision is being appealed in federal court by legalization advocates.

In recent weeks, the Obama administration has begun cracking down on California’s medical marijuana industry, threatening to prosecute landlords who rent buildings to pot dispensaries.

California’s marijuana laws have eased over the last 15 years. State voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996, decriminalizing it for medicinal purposes. Federal law still prohibits the sale or possession of the drug for any reason.

The CMA opposed Proposition 215, and it argues that doctors have been placed unwillingly in the center of the feud over the drug.

“When the proposition passed, we as an organized medical community got thrown into the middle of this issue, because the posture of the proposition and its proponents found that cannabis is a medicinal product that is useful for a long list of specific ailments,” Lyman said.

The state has since softened its laws on even recreational use of the drug. In 2010, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill that reclassified possession of less than an ounce from a misdemeanor to an infraction.

At the same time, the number of marijuana dispensaries was skyrocketing, to between 1,000 and 2,000 statewide, according to estimates by law enforcement officials. In January, the Los Angeles City Council set strict limits on pot outlets, ordering the closure of hundreds of them.

Opinion polls show that state voters continue to be in favor of medical marijuana but are divided on the question of total legalization. A recent survey by the Public Policy Institute of California found 51% opposed to complete legalization and 46% in favor.

Last November, California voters rejected Proposition 19, which would have legalized the possession and cultivation of limited amounts of cannabis and permitted local governments to regulate it and tax sales. The CMA took no public position on the measure, its leaders said.

Across the country, physicians have called for more cannabis-related research. The CMA’s parent organization, the American Medical Assn., has said the federal government should consider easing research restrictions.

Meanwhile, Lyman said, “there is considerable harm being done.”

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Social media give banks protests a global reach

By Jennifer Preston
The New York Times

With cell phones and social media tools, protesters provided live updates, photos and videos from the dozens of demonstrations held around the world on Saturday as part of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

From capturing Julian Assange’s remarks to protesters in London, to the violence that broke out during a large rally in Rome, people participating in the demonstrations shared in real time what was happening in their cities for all the world to see.

Posting links on Twitter and Facebook, they uploaded photos and videos to YouTube and image sharing sites like Bambuser and yFrog, where these photos of the demonstration in Madrid were posted by Ricardo Cana and linked to his Twitter account, @rcana..

In Spain, they also uploaded live video from Madrid on Ustream, a video sharing site.

Organizers in New York City also used their Global Revolution channel on Livestream to deliver live video feeds of the protests in New York. A stream of comments about the global protests from users around the world could be found on this channel, along with links to videos and livestreams of protests.

The online conversation about the Occupied Wall Street movement has been steadily growing on social media platforms in recent weeks and increased among global users in the last week as the planned day for demonstrations around the world approached on Saturday.

According to Trendrr, a social media analytics firm, the number of posts about Occupy Wall Street on Twitter outside the United States grew to more than 25 percent on Friday, up from 15 percent during the same time period a week before.

On Facebook, the overall audience has grown to more than 1.2 million in the last two weeks as hundreds of Facebook pages have been created around the country and now around the world. There are dozens of global Facebook pages now, including Occupy Brazil, Occupy Berlin, Occupy Sidney and Occupy Tokyo.

Users also turned to Meetup.com and FourSquare, a geolocation service, to help find each other and organize protests.

The Occupy the London Stock Exchange Facebook page has more than 16,000 likes and became a platform on Saturday for people attending the demonstration in London to share real-time updates, photos and videos from the march.

One person complained about the delayed police response during the riots in the United Kingdom last August but pointed out that police were equipped with riot gear at the protest on Saturday.

On the Facebook page, Occupy Together, which now has more than 117,000 people who belong to it, an update about the global planned demonstrations, prompted almost 500 people to share it and more than 200 people to comment from around the world.

“South Africa stands in Unity with all the people on this planet who have said: “Enough is Enough,” wrote Lendyll Naicker, who lives in Cape Town “We have woken up in our masses and realized that we are being controlled by corruption and greed, and that something is wrong with this picture. The 1% of people who own and control everything and who are trying to keep the masses enslaved and asleep will now know that we see through their game. The Global Revolution begins NOW!”

On Twitter, the protesters used hashtags, like #OccupyLondon, #OccupyTokyo, #OccupySidney, to help organize the overwhelming stream of posts on Twitter coming from around the world. Links to photos and cell phone videos flowed into the night, but some users found themselves with one of the problems that technology has not yet solved: the dying battery.

“Dusk over London now. Crowds still outside St Pauls, but getting chilly. They’re wrapped up warm though. #occupylsx #OccupyLondon, ” Prad Patel posted on Twitter, from London.

Then a few postings later, he wrote this.

See Related: American Distrust of Banks Archive


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Occupation at the corner of Wall Street and Rothschild

As in the Israeli demand for “social justice”
the Occupy Wall Street movement appears to be hitting a very raw nerve in American society,
one that some politicians appear to be keenly unaware

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Israel Social Justice Protest
File Photo

By Chemi Shalev
Haaretz

Anarchists. Socialists. Crackheads. Sex Fiends. This is just a small sampling of choice terms that have been used in recent days by ideological opponents to describe the ringleaders of the “Occupy Wall Street” group.

And they are almost a carbon copy of the labels that were attached to the organizers of this summer’s social protest in Israel, when they first started out, before they turned their little tent-city sleep-in in Tel Aviv into a mass movement, the likes of which Israel had never seen.

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So, even though the very attempt to compare the social and economic situations in Israel and America may seem ludicrous at first, some of the parallel story lines developing in lower Manhattan’s Financial District, where the OWS is encamped, and around Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard, where Israel’s J14 movement was born, are as eerily similar as to beggar belief.

The anti-capitalist movement has no clear-cut leaders or goals? Neither did Israel’s social agitators, at least in their early days, until they got their act together and had concentration thrust upon them.

George Soros is funding Occupy Wall Street, as Rush Limbaugh asserts? In Israel, Soros was also mentioned, along with Slim-Fast billionaire and peace activist Danny Abraham, and inevitably, the “sinister” New Israel Fund.

The “Tea Party” is miffed that someone else is taking center stage? So too were the Jewish settlers, perplexed by those hitherto-lethargic secularists who were suddenly shouting up Saturday nights in Tel Aviv.

The Occupy Wall Street leaders are anti-Semites, as some conservative pundits claim? In Israel they were the closest current equivalent –leftists, dear god – or even worse, anti-Zionists. The evidence? A flag here, a quote there, an article published long ago.

And – it almost goes without saying – in both cases the “liberal media” were exaggerating the extent of the protests in an effort to undermine the country and reinstate Trotskyite socialism, as is their wont.

Of course, it may very well be that some of the people who have been sleeping in tents for days on end are indeed anarchic addicts of debauchery – and a cursory glance at some of the residents of Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park on Saturday definitely yielded some likely contenders – but that’s not really the point, is it?. As in the Israeli demand for “social justice”, the Occupy Wall Street movement appears to be hitting a very raw nerve in American society, one that some politicians appear to be keenly unaware of. As a poll in this week’s Time Magazine revealed, most Americans view the OWS movement favorably, and, more importantly, an overwhelming majority agree with its stated aims.

In both countries, the über-free market – dubbed in Israel “swinish capitalism” – appears to many people to have run amok. In both countries, the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and the middle classes are getting crushed in between. In Israel, four or five tycoons along with ten or twenty rich and powerful families control the entire economy, while in America, so the protestors claim, the rich get bailed out while the majority gets sold out.

In Israel, much of the protest was directed against the government in general and against Prime Minister Netanyahu in particular, for his role – much lauded at the time – in freeing the country from stifling regulation. It was also Netanyahu who was able to deftly defuse the protest movement by appointing respected professor Manuel Trajtenberg to head a committee proposing reform.

But in America the political and the financial situations are much more complex, of course. Nonetheless, it has been the “opposition” Republican Party and its supporters in the media that have been the most vocally vehement in their denunciation of the protestors (“mobs”, as Jewish Congressman Eric Cantor dubbed them), while the Administration has been keeping its distance, awaiting more information on the direction of the wind.

Because beyond the natural ideological aversion to such “anti-capitalist” agitation, the Republicans might also fear a more immediate danger lurking ahead: should the OWS protests truly catch fire and sweep the despondent American middle class, the current deep dissatisfaction with the Obama Administration might suddenly be tunneled towards the party that continues to describe any proposal to tax even the hideously rich as “class warfare” and “socialism in disguise”. At the start of the home stretch of an election year, that’s the last thing the Republicans need.

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See Related: Occupy protests grip 82 cities – Violence in Rome injures 30 protesters and 40 police officers

See Related: Israel Housing Crisis Archive


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Governor Brown declares October 16 Steve Jobs Day

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SACRAMENTO – Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today issued a proclamation declaring October 16, 2011, as Steve Jobs Day in the State of California.

The text of the proclamation is below:

In his life and work, Steve Jobs embodied the California dream. To call him influential would be an understatement. His innovations transformed an industry, and the products he conceived and shepherded to market have changed the way the entire world communicates. Most importantly, his vision helped put powerful technologies, once the exclusive domain of big business and government, in the hands of ordinary consumers. We have only just begun to see the outpouring of creativity and invention that this democratization of technology has made possible.

It is fitting that we mark this day to honor his life and achievements as a uniquely Californian visionary. He epitomized the spirit of a state that an eager world watches to see what will come next.

See Related: Steve Jobs talks about death – Stanford address 2005

See Related: The Jewish View: Remembering Steve Jobs

See Related: Steve Jobs passes at 56


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Israel divided over price of freedom for Gilad Shalit

More than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners are to be released in exchange for one serviceman

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Noam Shalit stands near cardboard cut-outs of his son Gilad in Jerusalem
Reuters Photo By Ronen Zvulun

By Phoebe Greenwood
The Guardian

Fresh lilies are regularly laid at a monument by the Tel Aviv Dolphinarium bearing witness to an evening in 2001 when 21 Israeli teenagers were killed while queuing outside a nightclub. Another 132 were injured in the attack by Saeed Hotari, a young Palestinian suicide bomber affiliated with Hamas.

But last week flowers arrived more in protest than in sorrow. Husam Badran, the former head of Hamas’s military wing in the West Bank and instigator of the Dolphinarium attack, is expected to be among 477 Palestinian prisoners released on Tuesday in a deal to free Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. A further 550 will be freed within two months.

“It’s surreal. It’s beyond belief,” said one young mother angrily as she looked at the monument. “I may be the only one against it, but no good deal sees the release of 1,000 killers. People say Netanyahu showed courage in agreeing to set them free, but I say he has given in to terrorism.”

Over the past five years, the parents of captive soldier Gilad Shalit have won the Israeli public with their tireless campaign to free their son, demanding the Israeli government do whatever it takes to rescue him from his captors in the Gaza Strip. Israel celebrated last week when they finally succeeded. But the nation’s joy is tempered with grave misgivings.

To Palestinians, the 1,027 prisoners exchanged for Shalit are freedom fighters. To Israelis, they are terrorists responsible for some of the country’s bloodiest atrocities. Israel wants Shalit free but is struggling to stomach the cost of his freedom.

Gustav Specht, 47, who runs a restaurant close to the Dolphinarium on Tel Aviv Beach, shares the broad public reaction as described in the Israeli media: “I think it’s the least bad result. Everyone I know is happy Gilad will be free.”

But his colleague Alon Reuvney, 28, thinks differently. His friend lost his father in a suicide attack in Jerusalem several years ago: “He heard about the release of his father’s killer on the news. No one thought to tell his family. He is very angry.”

The official list of prisoners agreed for release has not been published, but several leaked versions have appeared on Arabic news websites. Israelis recognised some of the region’s most notorious terrorists. There was Muhammad Duglas, implicated in a suicide bombing at the Sbarro pizza restaurant in Jerusalem in which 15 people were killed. Abdel Hadi Ghanem of Islamic Jihad, responsible for the 1989 attack on a public bus in which 16 Israelis died. And hundreds more like them. Others were convicted of lesser offences.

Few doubt that securing Shalit’s return has boosted prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s popularity but Jerusalem Post columnist Jonathan Spyer warns he has taken a gamble for public affection. “Within six months time, we will see terrorist attacks linked to these men who are being released. And at that point Bibi [Netanyahu] will pay a very serious price,” Spyer said. “In all of this, the Shalit family and Hamas are the winners; the Israeli public will be the loser.” Israeli terror expert Boaz Ganor agrees the release of these political prisoners has provided Hamas with legitimacy but predicts they will not pose an immediate threat to Israeli security.

Hamas, listed by the US and the UK as a terror organisation, has proved itself a pragmatic negotiating partner. By insisting on the release of prisoners from all factions, it has regained popular support across Gaza and the West Bank, undermining the Palestinian Authority midway through its UN bid for statehood. It would not serve Hamas’s interests, Ganor says, to let the situation deteriorate by allowing released prisoners to wage a campaign of terror. “But I’m not ruling out further kidnappings. This has proved so strategically effective in the past, I believe they [Hamas] would try to kidnap more Israeli soldiers and civilians to gather more power in their hands.” Boaz also said it was the prisoner swap negotiated in 1985 by Shimon Peres — 1,150 Palestinian prisoners for three Israeli soldiers captured in the Lebanon war — that ignited the first intifada.

Despite a history of militants freed in swaps killing again, Israel has always negotiated to free its soldiers. Nimrod Kahn, 33, who runs a cookery school in Tel Aviv, says, however unpalatable the deal, Israelis expect their state to make this compromise. It is a guarantee for every high-school graduate expected to devote three years to military service.

“I don’t object to the releasing of these prisoners in principle; they would be released in a peace deal sooner or later. I object to this deal because it opens the gate for blackmail,” Kahn said. “But it’s expected our state will take responsibility for its soldiers. In Israel, the soldier is the holy cow – it cannot be slaughtered under any circumstances.”

See Related: Gilad Shalit Agreement Archive


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Israeli president begins pardoning Palestinian prisoners

CBSNews.com

JERUSALEM — Israel’s president on Saturday began the process of formally pardoning hundreds of Palestinian prisoners who are to be exchanged for an Israeli soldier held by Gaza militants for five years.

A spokeswoman for President Shimon Peres said he received the files of hundreds of prisoners set for release in the first phase of the deal and has 48 hours to sign the pardons. The swap will likely happen Tuesday.

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Under the deal, 1,027 Palestinians — include some behind attacks on Israelis — will released in two stages in return for Sgt. Gilad Schalit, who was captured by Hamas-backed militants in a 2006 cross-border raid.

Israel has agreed to uneven prisoner exchange deals for decades. This swap, however, is the most lopsided to date. Critics say it encourages more abductions, is unjust to families of those killed and also poses the risk that freed militants will return to violence.

The list of prisoners included in the deal is to be released publicly, and in a mostly symbolic gesture, Israelis will be able to raise appeals.

Among the Palestinian prisoners to be freed are many involved in plotting suicide bombings inside cafes and buses as well as shooting attacks that killed hundreds of Israelis and injured many more.

Israeli TV Channel 2 aired a prison interview with female prisoner, Ahlam Tamimi, who is expected to be released. In 2001, she transported a suicide bomber to a Sbarro restaurant in downtown Jerusalem, where he killed 15 people. Asked if she felt remorse, Tamimi said, “No, why should I?”

Little is known of the captured Israeli soldier’s condition. Hamas banned the Red Cross from visiting him and only released a short audio and video statement not long after his capture, confirming that he was alive.

In the West Bank and Gaza, families waited in anticipation for the return of their loved ones. The prisoners are highly regarded in Palestinian society.

Hamas officials were in talks with Egyptian intelligence officers in Cairo to work out the intricate mechanics of how to safely transfer Schalit.

Hamas is eager to keep secret the location in Gaza where they have held Schalit, no easy feat in a tiny sliver of territory crammed with 1.6 million people.

Some militants involved in hiding Schalit also said they feared Israeli forces might seize the soldier if they knew of his location before he was spirited out, a senior Hamas official said. They were also on guard for the slim possibility that other militants along the transfer route might try to harm the soldier.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters. He would not say what strategy was agreed on, only that “different scenarios” were under consideration.

The general plan is to transfer Schalit from Hamas custody to Egypt. Cairo would then hand the soldier over to Israel.

The official would not say when Schalit would be transferred to Egyptian custody or from where. He said the Israeli would not be handed over to Egyptian officials at Rafah, the only border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.

The spokesman for a smaller Palestinian militant faction also involved in Schalit’s capture said the handover would involve several steps.

First, the identities of released Palestinian prisoners would be checked, said Mohammed al-Barem of the Popular Resistance Committees. Once confirmed, they would be transferred in buses to the Egyptian Sinai desert.

Once they reach the Sinai, the procedures to release Schalit would begin, he said.

“They will hand over the captive soldier simultaneously, without announcement and in secret, with strong security procedures by the factions holding (Schalit),” al-Barem said.

Once that is accomplished, the Palestinian prisoners meant to be released into Gaza would be taken to the Rafah crossing.

From there, Palestinian officials will escort them to Gaza City for a huge celebration.

Israel is expected to release around 450 Palestinian prisoners on the same day that Schalit is freed and about 550 more two months later.

Prisoners headed to the West Bank are typically left at Israeli checkpoints scattered throughout the territory. Waiting Palestinian buses ferry them back home.

Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, and Diaa Hadid in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

See Related: Gilad Shalit Agreement Archive


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Last minute Hamas demands could imperil Gilad Shalit deal

Terror entity discovers 8 more female terrorist prisoners it wants freed, demands bodies of Shalit abductors

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By Gil Ronen
IsraelNationalNews.com

Hamas has made additional last minute demands of Israel in return for freeing abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. Analysts say the demands could imperil the deal or postpone its implementation.

While Hamas kingpin Khaled Mashaal has boasted that all Palestinian Authority (PA) female terrorist prisoners will be freed, his organization appears to have discovered at week’s end that there are more such prisoners that it thought. The number of female PA terrorists in Israel’s jails is 35, not 27 as Hamas apparently believed until now.

Jacqueline Alfaraja, a lawyer for the PA’s Prisoners’ Club, told the PA based Ma’an news agency that there are 35 female prisoners in Israel’s jails. While 27 have been sentenced, five are in remand awaiting sentencing and three are under administrative detention.
Hamas now says that the “mistake” must be “rectified” and claims that Israel agreed to release all female prisoners without determining their exact number.

In addition, Hamas demands that Israel hand over the bodies of terrorists including those who participated in the abduction of Shalit. The demands have been delivered to Egyptian authorities, which have reportedly promised to “take care of them.”

See Related: Gilad Shalit Agreement Archive


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Israelis join Occupy protests

Protests take place across world on global ‘day of rage’; rioters in Rome set fire to cars, smash windows of stores and banks and trash offices of the defense ministry

By Asaf Shtull-Trauring
Haaretz

Hundreds of Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and Kiryat Shmona on Saturday, in solidarity with economic demonstrations being held around the world.

The events in Israel included discussion circles and activities for children.

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Protesters face police in Rome,
Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011

“We saw what is going on around the world, we saw the October 15th events, and we decided to initiate local events to connect Israel with the world,” said Dor Nahman, the spokesman for October 15th events in Israel.

Demonstrators rallied on Saturday across the world to accuse bankers and politicians of wrecking economies, but only in Rome did the global “day of rage” erupt into violence.

Galvanized by the Occupy Wall Street movement, the protests began in New Zealand, rippled east to Europe and were expected to return to their starting point in New York. Demonstrations touched most European capitals and other cities.

They coincided with the Group of 20 meeting in Paris, where finance ministers and central bankers from the major economies were holding crisis talks.

While most rallies were small and barely held up traffic, the Rome event drew tens of thousands of people and snaked through the city center for kilometers.

Some protesters in masks and helmets set fire to cars, smashed the windows of stores and banks and trashed offices of the defense ministry. Police fired water cannon at demonstrators who were hurling rocks, bottles and fireworks.

Smoke bombs set off by the protesters cast a pall over a sea of red flags and banners bearing slogans attacking economic policies the protesters say are hurting the poor most. The violence sent many demonstrators running into hotels for safety.

Peaceful rallies

In contrast, small and peaceful rallies got the ball rolling across the Asia-Pacific region on Saturday. In Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city, 3,000 people chanted and banged drums, denouncing corporate greed.

About 200 gathered in the capital Wellington and 50 in a park in the earthquake-hit southern city of Christchurch.

In Sydney, about 2,000 people, including representatives of Aboriginal groups, communists and trade unionists, protested outside the central Reserve Bank of Australia.

Hundreds marched in Tokyo, including anti-nuclear protesters. In Manila a few dozen marched on the U.S. embassy waving banners reading: “Down with U.S. imperialism” and “Philippines not for sale”.

More than 100 people gathered at the Taipei stock exchange, chanting “we are Taiwan’s 99 percent”, and saying economic growth had only benefited companies while middle-class salaries barely covered soaring housing, education and health care costs.

They found support from a top businessman, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp (TSMC) Chairman Morris Chang.

“I’ve been against the gap between rich and poor,” Chang said in the northern city of Hsinchu. “The wealth of the top one percent has increased very fast in the past 20 or 30 years. ‘Occupy Wall Street’ is a reaction to that.”

In Paris protests coincided with the G20 finance chiefs’ meeting there. In the working class neighbourhood of Belleville, drummers, trumpeters and a tuba revved up a crowd of a few
hundred that began to march to the city hall.

“This is potentially the start of a strong movement,” said Olivier Milleron, a doctor whose group of trumpeters played the classic American folk song “This land is your land”.

Waitress Tiodhilde Fernagu, 26, took a day off work to attend. “For the first time in France there is a uniquely citizens’ movement” outside party politics, she said.

“The indignant ones”

The Rome protesters, who called themselves “the indignant ones”, included unemployed, students and pensioners.

“I am here to show support for those don’t have enough money to make it to the next paycheque while the ECB (European Central Bank) keeps feeding the banks and killing workers and families,” said Danila Cucunia, a 43-year-old teacher from northern Italy.

“At the global level, we can’t carry on any more with public debt that wasn’t created by us but by thieving governments, corrupt banks and speculators who don’t give a damn about us,” said Nicla Crippa, 49.

“They caused this international crisis and are still profiting from it. They should pay for it.”

In imitation of the occupation of Zuccotti Park near Wall Street in Manhattan, protesters have been camped out across the street from the headquarters of the Bank of Italy for days.

The worldwide protests were a response in part to calls by the New York demonstrators for more people to join them. Their example has prompted calls for similar occupations in dozens of U.S. cities from Saturday.

In Madrid, seven marches were planned to merge in Cibeles square at 1600 GMT and then head to the central Puerta de Sol.

In Germany, where sympathy for southern Europe’s debt troubles is not widespread, thousands gathered in Berlin, Hamburg, Leipzig and outside the ECB in Frankfurt, called by the Real Democracy Now movement.

Demonstrators gathered peacefully in Paradeplatz, the main square in the Swiss financial center of Zurich.

In London, several hundred people assembled outside London’s St Paul’s Cathedral for a protest dubbed “Occupy the London Stock Exchange”. Several hundred people protested in Vienna, Sweden and Helsinki.

Greek protesters called an anti-austerity rally for Saturday in Athens’ Syntagma Square.

“What is happening (debt-driven financial meltdown) in Greece now is the nightmare awaiting other countries in the future. Solidarity is the people’s weapon,” the Real Democracy group said.

See Related: Occupy protests grip 82 cities – Violence in Rome

See Related: American Distrust of Banks Archive


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Occupy protests grip 82 cities – Violence in Rome injures 30 protesters and 40 police officers

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Demonstrators attempt to break through the entrance of a bank branch
during a demonstration in Rome on Saturday

By David Willey

BBC.com

Clashes erupted at the biggest rally, in Rome, when riot police intervened after a small group of masked militants attacked property.

Police used tear gas, water cannon and baton-charges, making several arrests. Officials confirmed 70 people were injured, 40 of them police officers.

No arrest numbers were available late Saturday.

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A car is set on fire as protesters clash with police in Rome, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011

Inspired by the Occupy Wall St movement and Spain’s “Indignants”, demonstrators turned out from Asia to Europe, but numbers were generally small.

Organisers expect rallies in 82 countries, with the protests due to come full circle when they reach New York.

Organisers said on their website that the aim was to “initiate the global change we want”.

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A protester carrying a banner reading “Unhappy slave” takes part in “Occupy Bucharest” protests
in the Romanian capital

“United in one voice, we will let politicians, and the financial elites they serve, know it is up to us, the people, to decide our future,” it said.

Masked militants

Tens of thousands of people had turned out to demonstrate peacefully in Rome, the BBC’s David Willey reports.

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The “Occupy Central” rally in Stockholm, Sweden, as protesters worldwide demonstrated against bankers
and politicians they accuse of ruining global economies through greed

Television pictures from the city showed streets packed with protesters waving banners, close to the Colosseum.

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Participants during demonstration at Brandenburg Gate to support the Occupy Wall Street
in Berlin, Germany

However militants dressed in black infiltrated the crowd and began attacking property. Offices belonging to the Italian defence ministry were set on fire, three cars were burnt and there were attacks on cash dispensers and bank and shop windows.

Police moved in after bottles were reportedly thrown at them.

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Protesters with banners gather in front of the Euro sculpture at the European Central Bank headquarters
in Frankfurt, Germany, during demonstration to support Occupy Wall Street and rail against corruption
and austerity measures

The militants were also challenged by other protesters, our correspondent says. “No to violence!” they shouted and tried to restrain them.

At least one person was injured during the protests.

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Men with placards walk behind police as protesters gather in front of the Reserve Bank
of Australia in Sydney, Australia

There was a message of support for the global day of protest from the chief of the Bank of Italy, Mario Draghi, who is set to take over as head of the European Central Bank (ECB) next month.

“Young people are right to be indignant,” he was quoted by Italian media as saying in informal comments at the G20 summit in Paris.

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Protesters display streamers en route to the US embassy in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street
in Manila, Philippines

“They’re angry against the world of finance. I understand them… We adults are angry about the crisis. Can you imagine people who are in their twenties or thirties?”

Outside the ECB itself in Frankfurt, Germany, thousands of people gathered to protest on Saturday.

A 27-year-old schoolteacher who gave his name only as Tobias told AFP news agency: “I see the global capitalist system as a time bomb for humans but also for the planet.

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A protester with fake US bank notes stuck on his mask takes part in an “Occupy Hong Kong” rally
outside the Hong Kong Exchange Square

“Our well-being is financed to the detriment of other countries, [and] the ECB represents this unjust and murderous system.”

Evening rally

At least 1,000 people demonstrated in London’s financial district but were prevented by police from reaching the Stock Exchange.

In Dublin, about 400 people marched to a hotel where an EU/IMF/ECB delegation involved in the country’s ongoing financial bailout is staying, the Irish Times reports.

Crowds have started to gather in central Madrid, waiting for eight separate columns to converge from all over the city, the BBC’s Sarah Rainsford reports from the Spanish capital.

People of all ages, from pensioners to children, and many of the young unemployed, have gathered for the evening rally on Puerta del Sol Square, where the “Indignant” movement was launched in May.

Most of Saturday’s other rallies have been small, with traffic barely disrupted.

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South Koreans wearing Guy Fawkes and “Scream” masks hold up banners during the “Occupy Seoul” rally as part
of worldwide protest inspired by Occupy Wall Street – called for in 951 cities and 82 countries

Hundreds of people marched in New Zealand cities while in Sydney, Australia, some 2,000 people – including representatives of Aboriginal groups, communists and trade unionists – rallied outside the central Reserve Bank of Australia.

“Occupy” protests were also been held in South Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

It remains to be seen if any of the demonstrations turn into protest camps, such as Occupy Wall Street, which began with a small group of activists in New York’s financial district a couple of months ago and has now grown to include several thousand people at times, from many walks of life.

Observers say that, while the original protesters in Spain had concrete demands such as seeking a cut in working hours to tackle unemployment, many “Occupy” protesters are vague in their demands.

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See Related: American Distrust of Banks Archive


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Banks protests move to London

Thousands join online group as demonstrators vow to ‘Occupy the London Stock Exchange’ today

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By Kevin Rawlinson
The Independent

Police will take “any steps necessary” to keep order in the City today as demonstrators planning to occupy London’s financial district vowed to hold out for as long as they could in a protest against corporate greed.

More than 13,700 people had last night expressed their support on Facebook for the the protest, called Occupy the London Stock Exchange. It is inspired by similar demonstrations in New York.

The Occupy LSX website claimed that 5,000 people had confirmed they would attend the event. But one leading member said yesterday they could not be sure how many would turn out and were hoping for about 1,000.

The demonstration is supported and partly organised by UK Uncut, which protested against Arcadia boss Philip Green’s businesses, the Fortnum & Mason store in Picadilly and health reforms on Westminster Bridge last Sunday. “We are prepared for the police, arrests will not deter us, but rather will galvanise us,” one protester said. He said he hoped the numbers could be boosted by spreading the word on social-networking sites. The action was planned “in support of other occupations” going on across the world, he said. Organisers described it as a “global movement for real democracy”.

One protester planning to attend said the demonstrators were trying to keep their tactics under wraps but were likely to protest “outside selected corporations’ headquarters as well as demonstrating in front of shops; everything is on the table”.

Singer Billy Bragg showed his support yesterday, posting a message on Twitter saying: “The time has come… Occupy the London Stock Exchange… I’ll be there.”

Occupy LSX issued a statement: “After huge bailouts and in the face of unemployment, privatisation and austerity, we still see profits for the rich on the increase.” The group called for “equality and justice for all” and added: “We will occupy the Stock Exchange, reclaiming space in the face of the financial system and using it to voice ideas for how we can work towards a better future. A future free from austerity, growing inequality, unemployment, tax injustice and a political élite who ignores its citizens.”

A Met police spokesman said there was a “flexible plan in place to police the event” and added that none of its tactics were being ruled out – including the controversial kettling of protesters, when officers encircle and detain groups of people they believe are involved in, or are about to be involved in, violent disorder.

But he insisted the police response would be “proportionate”. He said: “We will be looking at a range of options and will fit our approach to the situation on the ground.”

The protest is due to begin at midday when demonstrators gather at St Paul’s Cathedral and prepare to march east into the Square Mile. Organisers asked those planning to attend to “bring plenty of food and water, wrap up warm. Tents, sleeping bags and torches are also a good idea”.

See Related: American Distrust of Banks Archive


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Report: Shalit Transferred to Egypt

Egyptian officials tell daily Gilad Shalit has been transferred to Egypt by Hamas pursuant to his exchange for 1,027 terrorists

By Gavriel Queenann
IsraelNationalNews.com

Egyptian daily Al-Masri Al-Youm reported late Wednesday that Hamas moved captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit into Egypt pursuant to the deal brokered with Israel for his release.

Egyptian officials reportedly told the newspaper Shalit was transferred to Egypt through the Rafiah crossing.

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According to eyewitnesses, Shalit was driven through the Rafah crossing in a black car that has not undergone any inspection – a common procedure used when moving senior Hamas officials.

Shalit, who was kidnapped by Hamas six years ago, has been held in captivity as a bargaining chip for the release of terrorists from Israeli jails. He expected to be handed over to Israel as soon as the prisoner exchange begins on Teusday.

His alleged transfer comes on the heels of the government of Binyamin Netanyahu agreeing to release 1,027 prisoners – including some 450 terrorists – from Israeli prisons. Among those to be released are terrorists with soldiers’ blood on their hands and the Sbarro murderess.

Hamas has hailed the deal as a victory over Israel and proof kidnapping is a working tactic for the organization – promising more kidnappings and that the freed terrorists would return to haunt Israel in the future.

While Shalit’s release has been met with jubilant celebrations from his family and the mainstream Israeli media, the terms have drawn sharp criticism from a broad spectrum including the families of terror victims, soldiers involved in counter-terror operations, nationalist politicians, and security officials who predict the move will result in spilled Israeli blood.

Earlier this week Shin Bet Security chief Yoram Cohen described the deal as “tough and difficult,” noting 28 confirmed murderers were among the terrorists being released.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Yaalon – one of only three ministers to vote against the deal – said the deal was a “capitulation to terror” which would result in “tens if not hundreds” of murdered Israelis in the years to come.

Hamas proudly summarized the deal saying Israel had promised peace, while they had promised terrorism.

See Related: Gilad Shalit Agreement Archive


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“THE BAD SEED” – Patty McCormack On-Stage Saturday Night at the Castro Theatre

Producer Marc Huestis lets the lightning strike on one of the most popular camp films of all time

sean-martinfield-18-august-2011
Sean Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

the-bad-seed-1
— THE BAD SEED, 1956 —
“Claude was dead. He wouldn’t know if he had the medal pinned on him or not.”
Patty McCormack as “Rhoda” and Nancy Kelly as “Christine”

There’ll be baskets of kisses as Marc Huestis presents THE BAD SEED with Patty McCormack Live!, Saturday, October 15th, 7:30 pm at the legendary Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street in San Francisco. Oscar nominated star Patty McCormack as “Rhoda Penmark” tap, tap, taps her way onto the Castro stage to revile us with true tales of her life in shoe-bizness and the making of the all-time perverse thriller. This event comes hot on the heels of the recent release of The Bad Seed in Blu Ray format.

Click on the most perfect daughter to order on-line:
the-bad-seed-blu-ray

This magnificently dated camp classic asks the perennial question -“Is evil nurture or nature?” This spellbinder garnered four Academy Award nominations in 1956, including Best Supporting Actress for McCormack as little Rhoda, the eight year old girl that just wants to have fun and one of the most evil child characters ever to grace the screen. Also nominated – Nancy Kelly for Best Actress as Rhoda’s tortured mother “Christine Penmark”, Best Supporting Actress Eileen Heckart as the lush Mrs. Daigle, and Hal Rosson for Best Cinematography

The gala evening of “bad” taste features:

Live Interview with Oscar nominated star Patty McCormack
Performances by Arturo Galster as “Christine Penmark”
Matthew Martin as “Hortense Daigle”
With Marilynn Fowler & Ste Fishell as evil “Rhoda Penmark”
“Miss Bad Seed” contest judged by Kathy Garver (“Cissy” from FAMILY AFFAIR),
A truly twisted stage processional: “The Baddest, Seediest Brats of Hollywood” featuring Kegel Kater, L. Ron Hubby, Johnny Kat, Moses and others
David Hegarty on the Mighty Wurlitzer
Screening of the magnificently dated camp classic THE BAD SEED
Autograph signing with Patty McCormack and Kathy Garver

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“Aunt Monica wants to take me up to the roof.”
Patty McCormack as “Rhoda”

Click here to order tickets on-line to: THE BAD SEED [Type in "Shoes" for a special discount!]

PLUS – Special matinee screening of THE BAD SEED at noon.
Patty McCormack will make a guest appearance after the screening.
Tix – $12.50 Adult, Children under 12 free!

bad-seed-poster



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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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German mediator explains intelligence agency’s role in Gilad Shalit deal

Speaking to reporters, top German intelligences officials laud prisoner exchange deal, warning, however, that the situation was still fragile

shalit-oct-14-1

Haaretz

While explaining their role in the prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas that would see IDF soldier Gilad Shalit free, top German intelligence officials said on Friday that the situation will continue to be fragile until Shalit arrives in Israel.

The comments were made by the German mediator to the Shalit talks Gerhard Conrad and the head of German intelligence Ernst Uhrlau, who had aided Israel in talks geared at retrieving former IDF officer Elhanan Tannenbaum from Hezbollah captivity in 2004.

Speaking to reporters in the Berlin headquarters of German intelligence (Bundesnachrichtendienst, or BND), the officials expressed their satisfaction with the completed deal, and from their contribution to its completion, adding, however, that the situation was still fragile until the terms of the deal take place on the ground.

The German officials were asked about the role of Iran and Syria in the process, but they denied any involvement by the two countries.

The intelligence officials told reporters they had been optimistic as to the chances of striking a deal by the end of last year, saying, however, that talks fell through, a fact which they attributed to turmoil in the Arab world, and especially in Egypt.

It should be noted that Israeli sources estimated that one of the reasons a deal was not achieved six months ago was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s unwillingness to make the required concessions, to which he agreed in the deal signed recently. That refusal also brought on the retirement of Shalit talks envoy Haggai Hadas, who was replaced by David Meidan.

Even though Conrad and Uhrlau did not indicate so directly, the impression they gave was that the Arab Spring and the Egyptian crisis severely damaged German intelligence ties with the old Egyptian regime, especially with the head of Egyptian intelligence, the General Omar Suleiman.

In this context, they half admitted that lines of communication were disrupted, a fact which scaled down their part in Shalit negotiations, leaving the stage for Egypt to supervise the prisoner swap talks.

Conrad, a man in his mid-50s, is a veteran intelligence officer, with a rank equivalent to that of a colonel, and represents the Middle East wing of the BND.

However, as far as Shalit negotiations were concerned, he was considered a “freelancer” of sorts, working in behalf of the BND, in order to prevent a direct link between his official role in German intelligence and his job as mediator. That’s mainly because Germany does not officially recognize Hamas.

He has been working in the Mideast for the last five years, following 2006′s Second Lebanon War, and mediated talks between Israel and Hezbollah which led to the 2008 swap deal that brought Israel back the bodies of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser.

Conrad was not involved at the time in Shalit talks, while they were run by then-Israeli envoy Ofer Dekel, but was brought in to those negotiations once Dekel was replaced by former Mossad man Haggai Hadas.

See Related: Gilad Shalit Agreement Archive


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Palestinian Authority cuts ties with pro-Palestinian U.S. lobby over criticism of UN statehood bid

By Natasha Mozgovaya
Haaretz

The American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) had been a key link between the Palestinian leadership and the U.S. administration in recent years, especially due to the lobby’s moderate political stance, and as a result of the friendship between the lobby’s head, Dr. Ziad J. Asali, and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

However, the sound relationship between the PA and the ATFP began fraying over efforts by the head of the Palestinian delegation to the U.S., Ma’an Erekat, to distance the pro-Palestinian lobby.

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Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad

Those tensions increased dramatically, additionally, over the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN late last month, a move Asali openly criticized for its potential to mire relations with U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration.

While the ATFP’s official stance was neutral, the lobby’s head published an article critical of the Palestinian move in the UN; ATFP director general Ghaith al-Omri, speaking to Haaretz at the time, said the statehood bid could lead to violent riots in the West Bank, adding that it was up to the PA to manage the expectations they raised among Palestinians.

The ATFP was severely criticized by Palestinian activists for their view on the PA move, with some saying that the lobby lost its reason for existence.

Referring to the growing rift with the U.S. lobby, Palestinian journalist Daud Kutab wrote that the Palestinian diaspora had become both a blessing and a curse for the Palestinian cause, adding that, in some places, some members of the disapora were “hostages of local politics,” acting as “representatives of their local governments and not of the Palestinians.”

On Thursday, the Politico website revealed that uneasy relations between the PA and the ATFP reached a new low, after Ma’an Erekat informed the pro-Palestinian lobby that the Palestinian leadership was severing ties with the group over what he called their lack of support for the Palestinian bid at the UN.

According to some Palestinian sources, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is the one who asked the PLO representative to sever ties with ATFP.

However, as the dust settles over this latest crisis, it seems that the person in the most uncomfortable position is Fayyad, who had already approved his participation in the ATFP’s annual gala evening, expected to take place in Washington next week.

The event is usually attended by prominent members of the Palestinian immigrant community, Arab diplomats, U.S. officials, as well as several prominent members of the Jewish community. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the keynote speaker in last year’s event.

See Related: Palestinian Statehood Bid Archive


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Opposite sides of banks protests come together – Friday police cleanup called off

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Wall Street meets occupier: Edward T. Hall III, left, and Jimmy Vivona in a cafe near Zuccotti Park.
Photo By Robert Stolarik

By Corey Kilgagannon
The New York Times

The two men at Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan on Thursday afternoon could hardly look more different.

One, Edward T. Hall III, 25, was barefoot and dressed in loud, multicolored tights. He wore native American clothes and New Age jewelry, with a baseball cap pulled sideways over his long hair.

The other, Jimmy Vivona, 40, wore a smart blue pinstripe suit, a conservative blue-and-white striped tie and good shoes. He had neatly coiffed hair and a close shave. He has caught glimpses of the protesters on walks during his lunch break.

In a way, they could be poster boys for a divide that has come into stark relief, as the fourth week of the Occupy Wall Street protests in downtown Manhattan wind down.

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Mr. Hall is a well-educated young man with a privileged upbringing who says he is following a greater calling than getting a job and making money. He sees the current protest as a “global movement” to help fight poverty and economic inequality. He has spent the past month sleeping in the park and is one of the organizers of the protest.

Mr. Vivona grew up in a working-class family on Staten Island and now lives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, with his wife and two young children. He has been a stockbroker for 17 years, works “13 or 14 hour days” and has done well for himself on Wall Street.

“Not tens of millions of dollars, but I do O.K.,” was as specific as he would get.

City Room had arranged the meeting between the two men and invited them for a one-on-one discussion about the issues raised by the protesters. Trying to find someone to represent the views of the financial industry proved challenging and several workers declined. After running into Mr. Vivona outside Zuccotti Park, he agreed.

At a nearby cafe, this unlikely duo sat across from each other. Mr. Vivona, who works in an office building two blocks from the park, had a Snapple. Mr. Hall, who when told the meeting would be indoors ended up covering his bare feet with a pair of women’s rubber boots, went for a cappuccino.

The two men made cordial small talk at first. Mr. Hall said he played squash. Mr. Vivano said he played ice hockey. Then Mr. Hall began explaining some issues central to the protest, including concerns about a growing disparity in wealth between the rich and poor in America.

Mr. Vivona reminded Mr. Hall that America was a democracy and that many of these issues should be resolved at the ballot box. He said that he respected the protesters’ right to demonstrate and that this, in fact, was a testament to freedom of expression in America.

“We don’t begrudge you the opportunity to protest,” he said, adding that the right to free expression “makes us the best country in the world.”

Mr. Hall said he too was patriotic and that a goal of the protest was to help strengthen the United States by trying to help the unemployment problem and lift wages for the working class that have been “crushed by banks.”

Mr. Vivona said that he felt the protest was a bit unfocused in its message and that some of the signs made points that were “all over the place.”

Mr. Hall acknowledged that “a lot of our message is easily distorted as well as very hard to handle” and that “we’ve used, sort of, a sledgehammer” when a “tiny” hammer would have sufficed.

Mr. Hall said that he grew up in New Mexico and that both his parents were politically active lawyers who were thrilled that he was pursuing a socially conscious life and was involved in the Occupy Wall Street protest. Mr. Hall said he attended Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and then transferred to Bard College in upstate New York because of its reputation as a socially conscious school.

He had been renting in Washington Heights for the past two years while attending doctoral classes at Columbia University as a nonmatriculated student. He said that he supported his modest lifestyle on savings he earned working as a teenager and that he also had “a small trust fund” from his grandfather that he had not drawn from yet. For the past four weeks, he has eaten free meals and has slept in the park.

Mr. Vivano, a freelance broker for Empire Asset Management, a brokerage firm of about 30 brokers, said his prosperity depended on the economy. At best, he might be able to retire at age 50, but with a tougher economy would have to work into his 60s.

Perhaps his main message to Mr. Hall was that many Wall Street finance workers were not “fat cats,” but rather hard-working strivers who have simply “done well for themselves” without becoming exorbitantly rich.

“They’re guys like me, who work hard every day,” he said. “Every nickel I make, I work hard for.”

When Mr. Hall questioned why top executives making such big bonuses. Mr. Vivona countered with a sports analogy: of course Wayne Gretzky is going to earn much more than a much lesser hockey player.

When Mr. Hall mentioned capping high salaries, Mr. Vivona said, “But isn’t that a brand of socialism in a way?”

The discussion between the two men occurred before news broke that the planned cleanup of Zuccotti Park on Friday morning had been called off.

Reached by phone, Mr. Vivona said he hoped that was not a sign that the protesters would be staying much longer.

“I’d like to see things get back to some normalcy down here,” he said.

That was much the same point he made to Mr. Hall on Thursday.

“At some point, you have to be satisfied with the message you came to convey,” he said.

Mr. Hall sees no immediate end to the protest.

“We have to be patient with each other,” he said.

After the conversation, the two men exchanged phone numbers. Mr. Vivano straightened his tie and went back to his brokerage firm. Mr. Hall kicked off the boots and cheerfully walked barefoot back to the park to continue strategizing.

See Related: American Distrust of Banks Archive


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Gay man and rabbi forge unlikely bond in winsome ‘Sweet Like Sugar’

By Rebecca Spence
Correspondent
JWeekly.com

Like Benji Steiner, the protagonist in his touching new novel “Sweet Like Sugar,” Wayne Hoffman is gay and Jewish.

But unlike Benji, a 26-year-old graphic designer prone to dating pretty boys and church-going Christians, Hoffman has not spent countless hours with an elderly Orthodox rabbi who would have a heart attack if he knew what the author did in the bedroom.

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Wayne Hoffman
Photo By Frank Mullaney

Such is the premise of “Sweet Like Sugar,” Hoffman’s follow-up to “Hard,” his racy first novel that chronicled gay life in New York at a turning point in the AIDS crisis. This latest book, as the G-rated title suggests, describes the unexpected and at times awkward friendship between Benji and an ailing octogenarian rabbi, Jacob Zuckerman, whose Jewish bookstore abuts Benji’s office in a suburban shopping center outside Washington, D.C.

Hoffman, a former managing editor of the Forward newspaper, grew up in Silver Spring, Md. and, like Benji, became a bar mitzvah at a Conservative synagogue. He found the inspiration for “Sweet” at his own version of the shopping mall: a midtown Manhattan office building that housed the English and the Yiddish editions of the Forward.

Hoffman had an inviting couch in his office overlooking 33rd Street — I know, because he was my boss when I was a reporter there. One afternoon in 2006, a black-clad, white-bearded man who worked at the Yiddish Forward, or Forverts, located on the other side of the floor (though culturally, it may as well have been on the other side of the planet) showed up in Hoffman’s office looking ill. The editor who escorted him asked if the old man could rest on Hoffman’s couch, and thus was born the opening scene of “Sweet Like Sugar.”

“Here we are, sharing an intimate moment. He’s sick on my couch, 5 feet from me, I don’t know his name, we haven’t spoken a word, and I realize I don’t even know if he speaks English,” recalls Hoffman, now deputy editor of Nextbook Press, which helps to promote Jewish literature.

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“What if he woke up? What would we say? If he rolled over and I said, ‘Hi, I’m Wayne, I’m a gay, atheist leftist,’ that could be a lot to handle.”

That conversation never occurred, but the “what-if” gave rise to a lively, if predictable, novel about one young gay man’s search for Jewish identity.

Laden with pop-cultural references and flashbacks to the humiliations of an American Jewish childhood, including sexual harassment at a Jewish summer camp and trips to Florida to visit Grandma — not to mention dates who whisper to Benji, “I want you to be my bagel boy” — “Sweet Like Sugar” opens up a conversation about the intersections between gay and Jewish identity, and how Jews on opposite sides of the political spectrum can come to terms with differences when confronted with another’s humanity.

After the fictitious Rabbi Zuckerman, a recent widower who works too hard, falls asleep on Benji’s couch, Benji offers him a ride home and a tender friendship ensues. As Benji navigates a bad-luck streak with men and wonders if he’ll ever find his bashert, or destiny, the rabbi opens up to him about his beloved wife, reigniting Benji’s lapsed interest in Judaism.

By the end of the book, Benji has come out to the rabbi — briefly compromising their friendship — and discovered that despite the rabbi’s pious appearance, he, too, has not always followed the letter of Jewish law. What doesn’t happen is a big hug fest, with the rabbi realizing that he’s been interpreting Leviticus all wrong, and deciding that two men making love is actually kosher.

“The rabbi never changes his mind,” says Hoffman. “The rabbi doesn’t suddenly march in the Gay Pride Parade. What the rabbi does is realize that in all sorts of ways, he’s already open to the fact that not all Jews believe exactly what he does, but they’re still Jews.”

And this, Hoffman says, is what he hopes people will take from the book.

“What I’m trying to do is reach people who may or may not agree with everything my characters say but are at least willing to listen. It’s not about being in denial and pretending things are fine, it’s about how to be in the community together with other people who do not share all of your values.”

Wayne Hoffman will read from “Sweet Like Sugar” at 7:30 Tuesday, Oct. 18 at Books Inc., 2275 Market St., S.F. and 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19 at Magnet, 4122 18th St., S.F.

“Sweet Like Sugar” by Wayne Hoffman (352 pages, Kensington, $15)

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