Keith interviews ‘Orwell’s Daughter’
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Bill proposed by Democratic state senator passes chamber, if signed into law will prohibit New York universities and colleges from paying dues to ASA and other academic organizations that boycott Israel
New York State Senate passed a bill on Tuesday that directly addressed the controversy surrounding the American Studies Association’s boycott of Israeli universities.
The bill, to become law if signed by the governor, would prohibit the state’s massive higher education system from funding organizations that “have undertaken an official action boycotting certain countries or their higher education institutions” according to the language of the legislation.
The bill was sponsored by Democratic Senator Jeff Klein, and it passed with a wide margin of 56-4.
The senator’s office released a statement: “This legislation sends a very simple message, which is that we should never ask taxpayers to support religious, ethnic, or racial discrimination.”
The statement stressed the New York legislator’s relationship with the Jewish State: “I will not allow the enemies of Israel or the Jewish people to gain an inch in New York.”
The new legislation would prevent New York higher-ed institutions from paying membership fees to academic groups that boycott Israel and will no longer reimburse students or scholars for their travel expenses to conventions of groups that have voted to boycott the Jewish State.
Violators of the new bill would be cut off from state aid for the academic years in which the violation occurred.
The president-elect of the ASA, Lisa Duggan, told Al Jazeera that the New York Senate legislation is intended to cover Israel’s “ongoing violations of international law and human rights.”
In an emailed statement to Al Jazeera, Duggan said: “This law’s supporters claim to oppose discriminatory boycotts, but they have designed their legislation to let Israel off the hook for restricting the academic and other freedoms of Palestinians, while punishing those who protest those injustices.”
Yuval Steinitz advocates PR counteroffensive, but Avigdor Lieberman says this would play into activists’ hands.
Government ministries are sharply divided on how to handle the increasing threat of international boycotts and sanctions against Israel over the West Bank occupation and settlements. The Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Ministry, headed by Yuval Steinitz, advocates a public relations counter-offensive, but the Foreign Ministry, led by Avigdor Lieberman, argues that this would play into the hands of boycott activists.
Meanwhile, Norway’s Ministry of Finance announced yesterday that it will exclude Israeli firms Africa Israel Investments and Danya Cebus from its Government Pension Fund – Global, a vast fund that invests the country’s oil and gas wealth in foreign stocks and bonds.
According to the announcement, the Norwegian ministry received a recommendation on November 1 from the nation’s Council of Ethics to exclude the two companies from the fund “due to contribution to serious violations of individual rights in war or conflict through the construction of settlements in East Jerusalem.”
A discussion on how to deal with the boycott challenge had been scheduled for Wednesday in the Prime Minister’s Office. But due to the crisis between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, it was put off to next week. The discussion is also meant to set anti-boycott strategy and policy for the government as a whole.
However, senior officials said the ministries are divided over how to handle the threat and even about its severity. Other obstacles to setting strategy are the lack of coordination within the cabinet, turf wars, insufficient information about the boycott organizers and a shortage of funds.
On June 23 of last year, Netanyahu said at the weekly cabinet session that he had put the Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Ministry in charge of dealing with the boycott threat, including “the coordination of efforts with the organizations in Israel and the world to deal with the phenomenon directed against Israel and the Jewish people.”
Netanyahu had said the ministry would get all the authority and means required for the campaign.
But that meant transferring authority from Lieberman’s office to Steinitz’s, and at the time there was no full-time foreign minister as Lieberman was still embroiled in the criminal proceedings against him, of which he was ultimately acquitted.
A senior Foreign Ministry official said Netanyahu’s decision at the time grew out of a scheme by Steinitz, his ministry’s director-general Yossi Kuperwasser and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who had appointed Kuperwasser during his, Ya’alon’s, term as strategic affairs minister in the previous government.
Steinitz and Kuperwasser contend that what they call Israel’s “delegitimization” is a grave, widespread trend, and they are in favor of an aggressive public campaign against the boycott organizers. The two maintain that the campaign requires considerable resources.
In recent weeks Steinitz and Kuperwasser have drafted a plan for the campaign, which they intend to submit for approval at the discussion Netanyahu plans to hold next week.
Steinitz is demanding 100 million shekels (about $28.5 million) to implement the plan, which consists mainly of public diplomacy as well as legal measures against the groups encouraging the boycotts.
Steinitz’s aides said that in keeping with the prime minister’s instructions, “the minister is putting together an overall plan to fight the delegitimization. He has no intention of commenting on the figures since the plan is still being drafted.”
Diplomats in the Foreign Ministry, however, have a completely different approach. They believe Steinitz and Kuperwasser have overblown the threat and branded as “delegitimization” the legitimate criticism from foreign governments and NGOs of Israel’s policy in the territories, especially settlement construction.
Regarding the Norwegian decision, the government’s pension fund had excluded the Israeli companies from August 2010 to August 2013 for settlement-related similar reasons. “The Ministry of Finance has decided to follow the Council’s recommendation,” the ministry stated.
The pension fund holds more than 1 percent of all global stocks. It owned shares worth 7.2 million Norwegian kroner ($1.16 million) in Africa Israel Investments as of the end of 2009.
Netanyahu told Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg during a meeting with her in Davos last week that the Oslo government had become more balanced in its relations with Israel since the latest election.
Last month The Netherlands’ largest pension fund management company decided to withdraw all its investments from Israel’s five largest banks because they have branches in the West Bank, or are involved in financing construction in the settlements.
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ed note–no, this is NOT a spoof story from a joke site such as The Onion.
For the better part of two days, the city of Atlanta has been in the grips of chaos and catastrophe. School buses stranded for more than 12 hours and abandoned vehicles by the thousands on numerous roadsides throughout the city. It’s clear that the city was not equipped to handle the reality of Winter Storm Leon. The icy conditions and poor response have been analyzed and criticized by numerous personalities and media commentators. But in the wake of the mayhem, an interesting side story has developed.
There are many people beginning to speculate that the snow is fake.
No, not that the snow didn’t happen–but that the white, frosty stuff on the ground is, in fact, not snow.
Several YouTube videos have been posted documenting “proof” that the snow in Atlanta is some sort of synthetic substance; additionally, these conspiracy theorists claim that this fake snow and the devastating affects it has had on the city of Atlanta are all part of a government plot. The conspiracy theorists say that this non-snow is the latest evidence of “chemtrails,” a long-standing conspiracy theory that postulates that the government hides chemicals in airplanes and douses unknowing citizens and locations with said chemicals. Theorists claim that this is all intended to serve as “testing” for when the powers-that-be unleash the full force of several man-made “natural” disasters, in the hopes of instituting martial law amidst the ensuing disarray.
Here is the basic rundown: The YouTube conspiracy theorists state that if you go outside and grab a handful of snow, then attempt to melt it with a lighter, it does not melt like “real snow.” No, this conspiracy snow only turns black and emits a pungent odor. That bizarre occurrence is proof enough that there is something amiss about this so-called “snow” in Georgia.
Of course, there isn’t much to this theory, once you examine it a bit.
In all of the clips, snow is being held to a lighter of some kind. Most lighters use butane, which is “dirty,” meaning it doesn’t burn clean. That dirty fuel is why the snow turns a little black. That’s also why it smells funny. If you take the snow to a flame that isn’t produced by butane–i.e. a campfire or a natural gas-burning stove, etc.–the snow begins to melt. It actually even melts when exposed to a butane flame, albeit slowly.
However, it’s a fun conspiracy theory that will likely have tons of people making snowballs and burning them with Bics over the next couple of days. Enjoy yourselves but please be careful–and be mindful.