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Thursday, March 31, 2011

U.S.-Israel Open Skies Agreement Enters Into Force

The US-Israel Open Skies Agreement has gone into effect.  This expands already strong trade and tourism links between the two countries and is beneficial to both American & Israeli businesses.
The U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Transportation announce that on March 29, the United States and Israel completed an exchange of diplomatic notes that brought into force the U.S.-Israel Open Skies Agreement ("the Agreement"), which was signed on December 1, 2010. The Agreement, which entered into force immediately, will liberalize our bilateral aviation relationship.

The Agreement strengthens and expands our already strong trade and tourism links with Israel and will benefit American and Israeli businesses and travelers. It will expand air service and encourage vigorous price competition by airlines, while safeguarding aviation safety and security.
Read more at US State Department

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Anti-Abortion Group Features President Obama on Chicago Billboards

The anti-abortion group Life Always has unveiled its newest controversial billboard campaign in Chicago, featuring a likeness of President Obama.
The organization behind controversial anti-abortion advertisements targeting African-Americans has unveiled its newest campaign, this time featuring an image of President Obama on billboards throughout his hometown of Chicago. 

Texas-based Life Always revealed the first of 30 planned billboards Tuesday, plastering three of the posters on a building in Chicago's South Side. "Every 21 minutes, our next possible leader is aborted," reads the text alongside the president's image. 
Read more at ABC News

The GOP's Plan to Fund Anti-Abortion Activists

While Congressional Republicans have proposed cutting funds going to support women's health and family planning and citing the need for fiscal reform, they have been introducing bills that will provide federal funding to crisis pregnancy centers whose main focus is to dissuade women from seeking an abortion, often in unregulated and uncertified offices that look like medical clinics.
Congressional Republicans have made a big deal about slashing funds for Planned Parenthood and other family planning programs, claiming that these cuts are necessary to address the federal deficit. But one of those lawmakers has been pushing his own measure to provide additional federal funds to so-called crisis pregnancy centers—unregulated and uncertified clinics that try to deter women from seeking abortions.

A bill that Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) introduced in January would provide federal funds for the purchase of sonogram machines at organizations that counsel women against having an abortion (the American Independent reported on this bill last week). These crisis pregnancy outfits, sometimes called "pregnancy resource centers," are often run by religious groups; many have been found to provide women with false and misleading information to dissuade them from having an abortion.
Read more at Mother Jones

Friday, March 25, 2011

Better Place unveils plans for 9 stations in Israel

Israel is making advances in electric cars - not only plug-in recharging stations and parking spaces, but now battery-swapping on the run!
Better Place announced yesterday details of its plan to open a series of electric-vehicle charging stations in Israel.
The company offers EV charging stations that, through a subscription service, give electric-vehicle owners the option of a quick battery swap instead of plugging in and waiting for their car's battery to charge over time. Most stations also offer fast-charging plug-in spots for nonmembers. It takes only a minute to make the swap. The depleted batteries are then recharged and used in other cars, according to Better Place.
The service may be seen by some as a substantial convenience considering it takes 15 to 30 minutes to recharge an EV battery pack to 80 percent capacity from a rapid-charging station depending on the vehicle, and even longer from a standard home outlet.
Better Place announced that it will have 40 of these commercial battery-switching stations in Israel by the end of 2011.

Read more at CDNet

Israelis, Palestinians play as one

With the recurrence of missile launches from Gaza into residential areas in Israel, the seizing of weapons meant for Gaza by the IDF on the ship Victoria, the bomb near the Jerusalem bus station, and the slaying of a family in the West Bank, this story gives us some hope and a reason to cheer.
Only week after Itamar massacre, championship game of American football league in Israel again brings together people from opposites sides of political spectrum - this time in celebration.

The cheers from the skullcapped settlers and armed soldiers filled the air. Jewish and Palestinian teammates worked in collaboration. And the Judean Rebels walked away as champions of Israel Bowl IV.

Only a week after five members of a Jewish West Bank settler family were killed in a knife attack, the championship game of the American football league in Israel again brought together people from opposites sides of the political spectrum.

This time in celebration.
 Read more at Ynet

9 Bills That Would Put Creationism in the Classroom

State governments are grappling with massive budget deficits, overburdened social programs, and mountains of deferred spending. But never mind all that. For some conservative lawmakers, it's the perfect time to legislate the promotion of creationism in the classroom. In the first three months of 2011, nine creationism-related bills have been introduced in seven states—that's more than in any year in recent memory:
Read more at Mother Jones

Wave of anti-abortion bills advance in the states

If it seems like there have been more bills introduced by state legislatures to limit or eliminate access to abortion, that's because there are.  And many of them have a strong likelihood of becoming law.
Dozens of bills are advancing through statehouses nationwide that would put an array of new obstacles—legal, financial and psychological—in the paths of women seeking abortions. 
The tactics vary: mandatory sonograms and anti-abortion counseling, sweeping limits on insurance coverage, bans on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. To abortion-rights activists, they add up to the biggest political threat since the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 that legalized abortion nationwide.

"It's just this total onslaught," said Elizabeth Nash, who tracks state legislation for the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive-health research organization that supports abortion rights.
Read more at San Jose Mercury News

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Israel answers Japan's call for aid

Along with medical supplies and a field hospital, Israel is sending needed supplies, including gloves, coats, blankets, and portable toilets to tsunami-hit areas in Japan.
On March 20, Israel sent a medical team to earthquake-damaged Japan along with a shipment of crucial emergency items -- portable toilets, blankets, winter coats and gloves - bound for an area of devastation near the Fukushima nuclear reactor site.

Two medical doctors and a Homefront Command officer from the Israel Defense Forces were dispatched by Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and seen off at Ben-Gurion International Airport by the Japanese ambassador to Israel, Haruhisa Takeuchi. It was a moving and emotional event, says Hagai Shagrir, director of the ministry's Northeast Asia Division, who coordinated the humanitarian relief.
Read more at Israel21c

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

GOP Bill Would Force IRS to Conduct Abortion Audits

HR 3 would not only extend the reach of the Hyde Amendment, it would have IRS agents asking women who have abortions if they were raped or victims of incest during an tax audit.  (Yes, it's the same HR3 that tried to redefine rape.)
Under a GOP-backed bill expected to sail through the House of Representatives, the Internal Revenue Service would be forced to police how Americans have paid for their abortions. To ensure that taxpayers complied with the law, IRS agents would have to investigate whether certain terminated pregnancies were the result of rape or incest. And one tax expert says that the measure could even lead to questions on tax forms: Have you had an abortion? Did you keep your receipt?

In testimony to a House taxation subcommittee on Wednesday, Thomas Barthold, the chief of staff of the nonpartisan Joint Tax Committee, confirmed that one consequence of the Republicans' "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" would be to turn IRS agents into abortion cops—that is, during an audit, they'd have to detemine, from evidence provided by the taxpayer, whether any tax benefit had been inappropriately used to pay for an abortion.
Read more at Mother Jones

Israel first to set up field hospital in Japan

The first field hospital to aid victims of Japan's earthquake and subsequent tsunami has been set up by Israel about 500 km north of Tokyo.
A field hospital Israel is establishing in Japan is the first to be set up by any of the nations offering outside assistance, Israel’s ambassador to Japan, Nissim Ben Shitrit, said Monday, adding that the Japanese were extremely appreciative.

Ben Shitrit said the hospital was being established at Minamisanriko, a fishing city some 500 km. north of Tokyo that was utterly overwhelmed by the quake and tsunami, and where some 10,000 people are dead or missing.
Read more at The Jerusalem Post

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Where Is The Outcry Against Arab Apartheid?

While Israel Apartheid Week goes on around the world, an 11-year-old Palestinian boy in Lebanon died at a hospital entrance in Lebanon because his family lacked the funds to pay for medical treatment.  Where is the cry of outrage about the treatment of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan?
Mohammed Nabil Taha, an 11-year-old Palestinian boy, died this week at the entrance to a Lebanese hospital after doctors refused to help him because his family could not afford to pay for medical treatment.
The tragic case of Taha highlights the plight of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who live in impoverished refugee camps in Lebanon and who are the victims of an Apartheid system that denies them access to work, education and medical care.
Ironically, the boy's death at the entrance to the hospital coincided with Israel Apartheid Week, a festival of hatred and incitement organized by anti-Israel activists on university campuses in the US, Canada and other countries.
Read more at Hudson New York

Friday, March 11, 2011

Obama taps Shapiro for U.S. envoy to Israel

President Obama has announced his nomination for US ambassador to Israel is Daniel Shapiro.
President Obama said he is nominating Daniel Shapiro to be the U.S. ambassador to Israel, signaling an intensification of American involvement in the region.

Obama made the announcement Wednesday; it had been rumored for weeks. Shapiro, currently the top National Security Council official handling Israel and the region, would succeed James Cunningham.

Shapiro, 41, is active in the Washington Jewish community and would be the first Jewish ambassador to Israel since Daniel Kurtzer, who served from 2001 to 2005.
Read more at JTA

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Rachel's Sabbath and the Far Right's Attack on Women

In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day, congregations across the country are designating the weekend of March 4-6 as Rachel Sabbath. In the Bible, Rachel is the matriarch who dies in childbirth.

The purpose of this day is to raise awareness of the crisis in reproductive health services and care around the world. Rachel Sabbath supports the United Nations goal of improving maternal health by doubling current global investments in family planning, reproductive and health services to women around the world. The effort could save $1.5 billion in long-term medical costs and it would save the lives of 400,000 women and 1.6 million infants each year.
Read more at RHReality

Giffords making more progress, singing ‘American Pie’

Singing "American Pie" and eating chicken soup, Representative Gabrielle Giffords is continuing her long road to recovery following the shooting in Tucson in January.
Gabrielle Giffords has been singing "American Pie," eating chicken soup and "is making the kind of progress that all of us would anticipate" after being shot in the head in January, according to a rabbi who has been visiting the congresswoman regularly.

Rabbi David Lyon, of Congregation Beth Israel in southwest Houston, has been visiting Giffords about three times a week as she recovers in the TIRR Memorial Hermann hospital, Houston TV station KHOU, a CBS affiliate, reported.
Read more at MSNBC.com