Tuesday, August 30, 2011
For years, activists have claimed that police are discriminating against Jews on the Temple Mount, the holiest site on earth according to Jewish tradition. Now, one policecommander is arguing that police protocols regarding the Temple Mount are not discriminatory, but rather, do not exist at all.
The latest development began with a lawsuit filed by Rabbi Yehudah Glick, who heads the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation in Jerusalem. Glick appealed over a police order barring him from the Temple Mount, arguing that the order, which prevented him from continuing his work as a tour guide on the Mount, violated his right to freedom of occupation.
Police argued that Glick had been banned for good reason, after violating the rules for proper conduct in the area. However, when the judge asked to see the rules in question, police failed to produce them.
Superintendent Avi Biton of the Jerusalem Police then told the court that police would be unable to produce the rules because there are no official rules.
The court ordered police to produce the rules or see Glick get free access to the holy site. For now, Rabbi Glick is allowed to access the Temple Mount under a temporary court order.
Glick believes that police are arguing that they have no protocols in order to avoid a bigger embarrassment: having the protocols revealed as illegal. Senior police commanders know that their rules for Temple Mount access would not stand up in court due to their discriminatory nature, he explained.
“It's an outrage. The police are acting like the neighborhood bully, not the body responsible for public order,” he accused.
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The IDF has conducted detailed work to determine a “red line” for each settlement in the West Bank, which will determine when soldiers will be ordered to shoot at the feet of Palestinian protesters if the line is crossed. It is also planning to provide settlers with tear gas and stun grenades as part of the defense operation.
The IDF is currently in the process of finalizing its preparations for Operation Summer Seeds, whose purpose is to ready the army for September and the possibility of confrontations with Palestinians following the expected vote in favor of Palestinian statehood at the UN General Assembly.
According to a document acquired by Haaretz, the main working assumption of the defense establishment is that a Palestinian declaration of independence will cause a public uprising “which will mainly include mass disorder.”
The document states the disorder will include “marches toward main junctions, Israeli communities, and education centers; efforts at damaging symbols of [Israeli] government.
Also, there may be more extreme cases like shooting from within the demonstrations or even terrorist incidents. In all the scenarios, there is readiness to deal with incidents near the fences and the borders of the State of Israel.”
As part of its preparations, the IDF is investing a great deal of effort in preparing the settlers for the incidents, with the main concern being confrontations between Israeli settlers and the Palestinians.
Yesterday the army held training sessions for the chief security officers of settlements at a military installation near Shiloh. In recent weeks the IDF has been training the readiness squads of settlements at the Lachish base, which is used as a command training center ahead of September.
The main message the army is issuing is that the demonstrations will be controlled and that the army has sufficient forces in order to deal with every disturbance. In order to be sure, there is also a decision, in principle, to equip the chief security officers of settlements with the means for dispersing demonstrations. These would include tear gas and stun grenades, although that would create a logistical problem as there’s a shortage of means for firing that type of ammunition.
Moreover, as part of the preparations, staff work was performed in which the commander of the platoon responsible for defending each settlement patrolled the area with the chief security officer of the settlement, in order to identify weak points.
The army is establishing two virtual lines for each of the settlements that are near a Palestinian village. The first line, if crossed by Palestinian demonstrators, will be met with tear gas and other means for dispersing crowds.
The second line is a “red line,” and if this one is crossed, the soldiers will be allowed to open fire at the legs of the demonstrators, as is also standard practice if the northern border is crossed.
Each map was approved by the regional brigade commander, and the IDF force that is deployed to the area will be ready to respond on the basis of the lines determined.
As part of the preparations, GOC Central Command Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi is planning to issue a message to the settlers. The settlers are pressing for the message to include specific instructions on how they should behave if threatened, such as in cases where the roads are blocked or settlements are breached by demonstrators.
There is concern at the IDF, and especially from the Military Advocate General, that any such instructions will be interpreted as rules of engagement by the settlers.
Also, during the past week the National Emergency Management Authority at the Defense Ministry sent letters to the heads of settlements in which they wrote that “difficulties in supply of fuel and gas are expected, and the owners of stations should be ordered to have full loads of fuel. It is also recommended that the owners of grocery stores should ensure they have sufficient stores. Patrols around the electricity and water supply installations and communications lines should be increased.”
Moreover, the letters said that government offices will be on standby, starting on September 19.
At the Emergency Authority they warned the settlements that the stepped-up readiness will last at least several weeks.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is sending more inspectors to a Virginia nuclear power plant to further review what damage last week's 5.8 magnitude earthquake may have caused.
The NRC is sending the inspectors to the North Anna station near Louisa, Va., about 40 miles northwest from plant operator's Dominion's Richmond headquarters. The plant is less than six miles from the August 23 earthquake's epicenter in Mineral, Va.
The NRC stressed that the expanded investigation does not necessarily mean the plant is any less safe, but they have formed an Augmented Inspection Team to conduct the investigation.
According to the NRC, an AIT is formed by the NRC "to review more significant events or issues at NRC-licensed facilities." This is an additional investigation after the NRC initially sent a seismic expert and another structural expert, according to an NRC statement released Monday, to "assist the agency's resident inspectors on site."
The agency reported that "no significant damage to safety systems has been identified," but the plant's operator Dominion Power has reported to the NRC that "initial reviews determined the plant may have exceeded the ground motion for which it was designed."
The plant's two units were automatically shut down after the station lost offsite power following the earthquake and emergency diesel generators were used to cool the reactors until offsite power was brought back. In the release, the NRC said the investigation will "determine the precise level of shaking that was experienced at key locations within the North Anna facility."
The NRC requires that the plant not re-start "until it can demonstrate that no functional damage occurred to those features needed for continued safe operation."
Members of the surrounding communities should not worry and the plant remains in "cold shutdown," Roger Hannah, senior public affairs officer at the NRC, told ABC News.
"Based on all the information so far there doesn't appear to be any damage to major safety systems or systems that would prevent a radiological release," Hannah said. "What they are continuing to do is look at how severe the earthquake was and if it exceeded what the plant was designed for."
Hannah said that Dominion and NRC workers checked the safety of the plant "immediately after the earthquake" doing "a very careful walk down" where they found "no indication that any of the safety systems were damaged." A "walk down" is what members of the industry call the initial inspections.
JERUSALEM — The Israeli military says it has sent two more warships to the Red Sea border with Egypt following warnings that militants are planning another attack on southern Israel from Egyptian soil.
Earlier this week, Israel’s military ordered more troops to the border following intelligence reports of an impending attack.
Israel’s home front minister said Tuesday that militants from the Gaza-based Islamic Jihad are in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula waiting to attack.
Gunmen who infiltrated Israel through the porous Egyptian Sinai border killed eight Israelis earlier this month.
The attack sparked calls to increase security on both sides of the frontier and created new tensions between Israel and Egypt.
No changes in security alignments were observed on the Egyptian side of the border.
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(Reuters) - Hiring by small businesses slowed in August and employers reduced hours, an independent survey showed on Sunday, suggesting the recent stock market turmoil may have dampened job creation.
Intuit, a payrolls processing company, said small businesses added 35,000 jobs after increasing employment by 40,000 in July.
The survey is based on responses from about 66,000 employers at businesses with fewer than 20 employees that use the Intuit Online Payroll system and covered the period from July 24 to August 23.
"There was plenty of bad news this month and the Intuit small business employment figures show this," said Susan Woodward, the economist who helped to develop the survey. "From this month's numbers, we don't see a new recession, but we don't see a robust recovery either."
A sharp drop in share prices after Standard & Poor's stripping the nation of its top AAA credit rating knocked down consumer and business confidence. Sentiment also soured as the sovereign debt crisis in Europe spread.
There are fears the month's stock market rout could make businesses hesitant to hire new workers.
The government will release its employment report for August on Friday, which will be gleaned for clues on whether the economy is sliding back into recession.
According to a Reuters survey, nonfarm payrolls probably increased 80,000 this month after July's 117,000 gain.
Three of the 62 economists polled predicted a contraction in nonfarm employment this month, citing the erosion of business confidence and a strike by 45,000 Verizon Communications workers during the payrolls survey period.
They cautioned, however, that a drop in August employment should not be interpreted as a sign the economy was back in recession. The economy grew at a 1 percent annual rate in the second quarter after expanding only 0.4 percent in the January to March period.
The average work week for small business employees fell 0.3 percent to 24.9 hours, according to the Intuit survey, while the average monthly salary eased 0.08 percent to $2,649.
"With a soft labor market, employers no longer need to pay more to get help," said Woodward.
This is a worrying trend for consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity. Consumer spending grew at an anemic 0.4 percent annual rate in the second quarter, slowing sharply from 2.1 percent in the first three months of 2011.
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The economic news from the US was universally appalling on Thursday, and to add to everything else, there is now growing evidence of another credit crunch in the European banking system.
Some of the weaker European banks in peripheral eurozone economies are again struggling to secure market funding, particularly dollar denominated funding, and are therefore once more being forced to throw themselves back on central bank lender of last resort support.
A banking crisis which transmogrified into an economic and sovereign debt crisis now shows every sign of transforming itself back into another banking crisis. There's a terrible circularity about it all which policymakers seem powerless to break. The outlook grows steadily grimmer.
Still, no matter. Stocks are cheap, right, and on the buy-on-the-dips philosophy, isn't now the time to be wading back in? Yes indeed. On most conventional yardsticks, including price earnings ratios, dividend yield and book value, shares do indeed look good value.
What is more, the corporate sector has in some respects never looked more financially robust. Costs have been cut and cash hoarded. On the face of it, there's enough balance sheet strength there for dividends to survive even the severest of economic winters.
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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The FDIC and more than three dozen other investors on Monday lodged objections to Bank of America Corp's $8.5 billion settlement of claims over losses on mortgage-backed securities, joining a growing list of investors and regulators that are challenging the accord.
In its filing with the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, the FDIC said it is "the receiver of numerous banks and owner of many certificates" issued by many of the 530 mortgage pools of the former Countrywide Financial Corp that the settlement covers.
The FDIC, whose full name is the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, said it is intervening because it does not have enough information to evaluate the settlement.
Other investors that objected on Monday included a variety of banks, insurers and investment funds. Among them are Jeffrey Gundlach's money management firm Doubleline Capital LP, and the banking unit of Wayne, New Jersey's Valley National Bancorp.
Bank of New York Mellon Corp, the trustee handling the 530 trusts with $174 billion of unpaid principal balances, had negotiated the settlement with 22 institutional investors including the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, BlackRock Inc and Allianz SE's Pimco.
The June 29 accord was intended to resolve much of Bank of America's remaining legal liability tied to its 2008 purchase of Countrywide, once the nation's largest mortgage lender.
But dozens of investors who did not negotiate but would be bound by the accord have said the payout is too low, or that they lack enough information to know whether it is fair. Two state attorneys general, New York's Eric Schneiderman and Delaware's Beau Biden, also have expressed objections.
A New York state judge is scheduled to consider whether to approve the settlement on November 17, but some investors want the case handled in federal court.
Bank of America spokesman Lawrence Grayson said that bank believes the trustee acted reasonably, and that there are "compelling reasons" for the settlement to be approved. Bank of New York Mellon spokesman Kevin Heine did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.
Read more: http://www.foxbusiness.com/markets/2011/08/29/fdic-objects-to-bank-america-85-billion-mortgage-accord/#ixzz1WWh0EX1s
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JACKSON HOLE, Wyo.—After four years of fighting crises and pumping money into the financial system, the world's central bankers are concluding that the global economy is still in a precarious position and the policy apparatus is ill-equipped to help.
The mood here in the Grand Tetons, where central bankers and private economists from around the world gather each August, was distinctly gloomy.
The angst was underscored in a blunt speech by the International Monetary Fund's new managing director, Christine Lagarde. "We risk seeing the fragile recovery derailed," she said Saturday. Those risks have been aggravated, she said, by the public's sense that policy makers' response has been inadequate. "We are in a dangerous new phase," the former French finance minister said.
WSJ's Paul Vigna previews the day in markets activity, including how Asia reacted to Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke's comments about the health of both the U.S. and the world economies. AP Photo/Reed Saxon
What Ms. Lagarde said publicly, several central bankers expressed privately. The central bankers' problems are compounded by internal divisions and current realities. Several U.S. Federal Reserve officials have doubts about how much more they can do to resuscitate a U.S. recovery that is falling short of Fed expectations. Most European Central Bank officials believe the solutions to Europe's sovereign-debt, governance and banking woes lie with elected leaders, not the ECB.
Economists at JPMorgan, in their weekly reprise of economic developments, blamed the recent global stock selloff on "a sense of policy paralysis in the U.S. and Europe, which has driven home the point that there is no cavalry to ride to the rescue."
"Fiscal policy has turned restrictive and an additional sharp tightening lies just ahead in the U.S., while monetary authorities have exhausted much of their ammunition," they said.
Officials on both sides of the Atlantic who orchestrated the response to the global financial crisis insist the world economy would have been worse had they not acted as they did. But it's clear that the remedies didn't deliver the recovery for which they hoped.
Finland has proposed that Greek state assets be transferred to a Luxembourg-based holding company and held as security for new loans to Athens, according to an internal document obtained by Reuters.
The proposal, drafted in June, remains a central plank of Finnish demands for collateral in return for providing more aid to Greece.
Senior euro zone officials held another conference call on Monday to try to resolve the collateral issue.
If Finland does not get its way, it may pull out of the Greek bailout, unleashing renewed trouble in financial markets.
Although small at around 1.4 billion euros, Finland's share of the new support for Greece is important because its triple-A credit rating adds weight to the 109 billion euro rescue agreed on July 21, the second bailout package Athens has received.
Demands from Helsinki for collateral have sparked requests from countries including Austria, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Slovakia for similar treatment, and threaten to spoil the euro zone's attempt to save Athens from default.
In the document, Finnish officials set out how the Greek government and its privatization agency would authorize the transfer of assets to a holding company based in Luxembourg that would be used as security for states providing assistance. To see the document, click here.
The privatization agency would own all the shares in the asset holding company, although the shares would be held in custody by a third party.
Since the holding company would be based in Luxembourg, it would operate under Luxembourg law.Such a move would prove controversial in Greece, where the government has strongly rejected suggestions of offering land or company shares as collateral for future loans. It would in effect mean Greece, which plans to raise 50 billion euros from privatization by 2015, losing sovereignty over its assets.
"The Privatisation Agency is managing the AHC (Asset Holding Company) and can use AHC in a flexible way as one vehicle to securitise, manage, develop and privatise assets," reads the Finnish plan, dated June 23 and obtained exclusively by Reuters.
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