Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Berlin’s Jewish Hospital has suspended circumcisions in the wake of a court ruling that the procedure is a crime punishable by law.
Approximately 100 religious circumcisions were performed at the hospital last year, in addition to another 200 that were performed for medical reasons.
The court ruling set off an uproar inthe Jewish community, where the Jewish law requiring circumcision of boys dates back the forefather Avraham and is considered one of the most sacred Jewish customs.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on Twitter Friday, "The ruling on circumcision has provoked annoyance internationally. We have to be clear: religious traditions are protected in Germany.”
Westerwelle is a member of the FDP party, a member of the government coalition and which said it will support a law to make sure that circumcision will continue to be legal.
The European Jewish Press, quoting AFP, said that Jewish Hospital Dr. Kristof Graf stated, “We are suspending circumcisions until the legal position is clear."
“We regularly performed circumcisions before this ruling, but we don't have the legal freedom to do so any more.”
The ruling against circumcision was handed down by a Cologne court, which ruled it causes bodily harm. The case involved a doctor who circumcised a four-year-old boy whose parents later took him to a hospital because of excessive bleeding.
Circumcision is widely observed by Muslims, whose clerics have been joined by some Christians to fight the anti-circumcision ruling.
A senior Muslim cleric said that the Central Council of Muslims in Germany may appeal the ruling to the country’s highest court.
Central Council of Jews in Germany director Dieter Graumann told Focus magazine on Saturday, "Circumcision is absolutely fundamental for the Jewish faith and non-negotiable.”
Israel National News
TEHRAN, IRAN (AP) — Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards test fired several ballistic missiles on Tuesday, including a long-range variety meant to dissuade Israel and the U.S. from attacking theIslamic Republic, local media reported.
The Guards' acting commander told state TV that the tests, aimed at mock enemy bases in a war game exercise, were a response to Israel's and Washington's refusal to rule out military strikes to stop Iran'snuclear program.
"It is a response to the political impoliteness of those who talk about all options being on the table," Gen. Hossein Salami said.
The official IRNA news agency said the surface-to-surface missiles successfully hit their targets, while semi-official Fars said the salvos included the so-called Shahab-3 missile. It quoted a leading officer as saying the missiles travelled distances of up to 1,300 kilometers, or 800 miles.
Iran has tested a variety of missiles in previous war games, including a Shahab-3 variant with a range of 2,000 kilometers that can reach Israel and southern Europe. The launched missiles are also capable of hitting U.S. bases in the region.
Iranian state TV showed footage of several missiles being launched.
"So far, we have launched missiles from 300 to 1,300 kilometers in the maneuver," said Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, who heads the Guards' aerospace division. He hinted that some missiles had an even longer range.
Israel is about 1,000 kilometers away from Iran's western borders, while the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain, some 200 kilometers from Iranian shores in the Persian Gulf.
The Iranian commander quoted by Fars said Iran used both unmanned and manned bombers in the war games, and was firing a variety of other missiles. Tehran says the drills aim to assess the accuracy and effectiveness of its warheads and weapons systems.
On Sunday, a European Union oil embargo meant to pressure Iran over its nuclear program came into effect.
The West suspects the Islamic Republic wants to build nuclear weapons, and Israel has hinted at an attack if diplomatic efforts and sanctions fail to eliminate what it sees as a direct threat.
Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, such as power generation and cancer treatment.
Syrian President Bashar Assad is sorry that his forces downed a Turkish plane but added, "I might have been happy if this had been an Israeli plane.”
His comment was made in aninterview with the Turkish newspaperCumhuriyet Tuesday. After two weeksof silence, Assad said that the June 22 incident was a result of a mistake.
"We learned that it (the plane) belonged to Turkey after shooting it down. I say 100 percent 'if only we had not shot it down,’” he added.
"The plane was using a corridor which Israeli planes have used three times before. Soldiers shot it down because we did not see it on our radar and because information was not given,” Assad claimed.
The downing of the aircraft sparked outrage in Turkey, which until recently had allied itself closely with Assad. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered tanks to be deployed along with border with Syria. On Monday, Turkish planes scrambled near the border in the north.
Syria said at the time that it brought down the plane in self-defense and that it was downed in Syrian territory. Turkey said the jet accidently entered Syrian air space but was brought down in international air space.
Israel National News
A large earthquake has been felt across the North and South Islands tonight.
The 7.0 magnitude quake was centred 60 km south-west of Opunake at a depth of 230 kilometres, GNS Science said.
The earthquake was felt across the North Island from Taranaki to Bay of Plenty, down to Wellington and as far south as Canterbury.
The earthquake was heavily felt in Wellington city where many residents took to social media sites to report of a long, rumbling quake.
The Wellington Region Emergency Management Office has said there is no tsunami threat from tonight's earthquake.
A Fire Service spokesman said there had been no reports of significant damage yet.
"It is at a depth of 257 kms [the initial depth given by GNS], which means we are pretty lucky at the moment."
A small aftershock of magnitude 3.8 struck 15 km east of Christchurch just after 11pm.
- NZ Herald
Gaining access to your gym or office building could soon be as simple as waving a hand at the front door. A Hunsville, Ala.-based company called IDair is developing a system that can scan and identify a fingerprint from nearly 20 feet away. Coupled with other biometrics, it could soon allow security systems to grant or deny access from a distance, without requiring users to stop and scan a fingerprint, swipe an ID card, or otherwise lose a moment dealing with technology.
Currently IDair’s primary customer is the military, but the startup wants to open up commercially to any business or enterprise that wants to put a layer of security between its facilities and the larger world. A gym chain is already beta testing the system (no more using your roommate’s gym ID to get in a free workout), and IDair’s founder says that at some point his technology could enable purchases to be made biometrically, using fingerprints and irises as unique identifiers rather than credit card numbers and data embedded in magnetic strips or RFID chips.
The technology works much in the same way satellites process terrain imagery, using a lot of edge detection and image sharpening to turn a fingerprint captured at a distance into a usable and identifiable image. Since users don’t have to touch a fingerprint scanner, there’s no problem with the imaging surface becoming fouled. And of course, additional layers of security like facial recognition can be piled on to make up a more robust, complete biometric profile of a person that provides that individual with access without the need for a key or passcode, either of which can be lost, stolen, or shared without authorization.
Naturally, all this recording of biometric data raises privacy concerns (our shared, technology-heavy, data-centric future seems to be riddled with those). But it also raises the prospect of better, more robust security systems as well as a certain ease of use that is appealing. As long as we’re going to have billboards that tailor ads to you by mining your biometric profile (or your wallet) for clues about your demographic profile, we might as well get some extra security out of the deal. And IDair’s system is fairly affordable: a basic one-fingerprint scanner starts at less than $2,000.
WASHINGTON -- U.S. manufacturing shrank in June for the first time in nearly three years, adding to signs that economic growth is weakening.
Production and exports declined, and the number of new orders plunged, according to a monthly report released Monday by the Institute for Supply Management.
The slowdown comes as U.S. employers have scaled back hiring, consumers have turned more cautious, Europe faces a recession and manufacturing has slowed in big countries like China.
"This is not good," said Dan Greenhaus, chief economic strategist at BTIG, an institutional brokerage. Though the report "does not mean recession for the broader economy, it is still a terribly weak number."
The trade group of purchasing managers said its index of manufacturing activity fell to 49.7. That's down from 53.5 in May. And it's the lowest reading since July 2009, a month after the Great Recession officially ended. Readings below 50 indicate contraction.
Economists said the manufacturing figures were consistent with growth at an annual rate of 1.5 percent or less. That would be down from the January-March quarter's already tepid annual pace of 1.9 percent.
"Our forecast that the U.S. will grow by around 2 percent this year is now looking a bit optimistic," said Paul Dales, an economist at Capital Economics.
Stocks fell sharply after the report was released at 10 a.m. But investors appeared to shake off the bad manufacturing news by the end of the day. The Dow Jones industrial average recovered most of its early losses to close down just 8.7 points at 12,871. And broader indexes ended the day up.
Most economists aren't yet predicting another recession. Though the ISM report suggests manufacturing is contracting, it typically takes a sustained reading below 43 to signal the economy isn't growing.
Still, U.S. manufacturing, which has helped drive growth since the recession ended, is faltering at a precarious time.
Americans have pulled back on spending, which drives roughly 70 percent of growth. Europe's economy is likely in recession, which has hurt U.S. exports.
And China's manufacturing sector grew in June at its slowest pace in seven months, according to a survey released Sunday by the state-affiliated China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing.
Manufacturing will likely stay weak for the next few months. The ISM's gauge of new orders, a measure of future activity, plunged from 60.1 to 47.8. That's the first time it has fallen below 50 since April 2009, when the economy was still in recession.
Fewer new orders reflect growing concerns of businesses. In addition to slower global growth and less spending by U.S. consumers, many companies worry that U.S. lawmakers won't extend a package of tax cuts at the end of the year.
Bricklin Dwyer, an economist at BNP Paribas, said the uncertainty "has left businesses unwilling to invest."
A gauge of production in the ISM's survey fell to its lowest level in more than three years.
U.S. factories are also reporting less overseas demand. A measure of exports dropped to 47.5, its lowest level since April 2009.
A gauge of employment edged down but remained at a healthy level of 56.6. That suggests factories may still be adding jobs. Manufacturers have reported job gains for eight straight months.
Overall hiring has slowed sharply this spring. Employers added an average of only 73,000 jobs per month in April and May. That's much lower than the average of 226,000 added in the first three months of this year. The unemployment rate rose in May to 8.2 percent from 8.1 percent, the first increase in a year.
Worries about slowing job growth are outweighing the benefits of lower gas prices. A measure of consumer confidence fell in June for the fourth straight month.
Slower job growth and falling confidence are weighing on consumers' willingness to spend. Americans cut back on purchases of autos and other long-lasting factory goods in May, the government said Friday.
The sharp drop in U.S. factory activity overshadowed more positive news on housing.
Construction spending rose 0.9 percent in May from April, the Commerce Department said in a separate report Monday. It was the second straight monthly increase, even though the level of spending still isn't healthy.
The increase was driven by a surge in residential construction. Home sales are up from the same month last year. Mortgage rates are at the lowest levels in history. And prices have begun to stabilize in most markets.
The economy could also get a boost this summer from lower gas prices, which have tumbled more than 60 cents per gallon since peaking in April. The result is that consumers have more money to spend on other goods, from autos and furniture to electronics and vacations, that fuel economic growth.
The £27million Olympics opening ceremony will feature smoke stacks, pits and steam power as it showcases Britain's industrial past, new aerial photographs suggest.
Danny Boyle is expected present a grim picture of Britain's satanic mills with a towering factory chimney the centrepiece of a scene showing off the country's coal-powered past.
The organisers have already revealed how they will show off cricket on the village green, dancing happily around the maypoles and singing for joy in the background. But they are expected to show a darker side to our past in the second scene.
The river snaking through the centre of London seems to resemble the aerial image of London in the EastEnders credits. But sprouting from the landscape are a selection of iconic images from the industrial past.
There appears to be a coalmine in the image, as well as a water wheel, a cauldron and a cotton loom in the ceremony.
A giant figure is positioned in the middle of the field which was still covered in tarpaulin when the picture was taken. The 80ft structure appears to be holding a staff or wand.
In front of the figure is the enormous factory chimney while behind it is is a huge metal cog, upon which are laid wooden sleepers, perhaps a reference to the steam age.
The ceremony, which is expected to be viewed by a global TV audience of more than a billion, will use more than 13,000 props while a million-watt amplifier will provide the sound.
Among the more unusual items on show are three enormous iron-framed beds, one of which has a pirate's hat and a hook lying on it which might indicate the use of the Captain Hook character from JM Barrie's Peter Pan. Among the 10,000 volunteers involved in the performance are a group of NHS nurses.