Obama Vs. Putin/Racism in Australia/pestilences and more = sign of the times


Obama ‘frustrated’ by Russia’s decision to grant Snowden asylum


President Obama told The Tonight Show’s Jay Leno that he was frustrated by Russia’s decision to grant Edward Snowden asylum but said the two countries must work together.

“I was disappointed,” he said of Russia’s decision. “Even though we don’t have an extradition treaty with them, traditionally we have tried to respect if there’s a law breaker or alleged law breaker in their country, we evaluate it, and we try to work with them.”

Despite this, Obama confirmed he would attend the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg in September.

“There are times when they slip back into Cold War thinking and Cold War mentality,” Obama said on air Tuesday evening. “What I continually say to them and to President Putin, that’s the past.”

Obama last saw Putin at the G-8 summit earlier this summer in northern Ireland. The two leaders held a joint press conference, an experience that resulted in Putin “not looking too excited.” said Obama.

Obama was interviewed by Leno during a stop in Los Angeles after the president attended a housing event in Phoenix Tuesday. He is set to travel to Camp Pendleton for a speech to troops Wednesday before returning to Washington.continue




Man saves dog from sinking ship, then goes back for wife


When you hear about a man saving his dog from a sinking ship, it’s hard to not be moved by the tale of an animal lover’s heroism. But the story becomes slightly less heroic when you learn that the man saved his dog before his own wife.

But that’s apparently what happened when Graham Anley and his wife, Cheryl, found their yacht sinking after it hit a reef while on a voyage from East London to Madagascar.continue


Pram set on fire and fruit thrown at Iranian couple in racist attack


RACIST attacks have shocked authorities and left a couple in fear after a pram was set on fire outside their home and they were pelted with fruit and vegetables.

Shocking photos obtained by the Herald Sun show the charred pram at their door.

Iranian asylum seekers Soudabeh Hemat and Farhad Nafar have moved house after reporting a litany of abuse to police and refugee settlement agencies.

Speaking through a translator, they told the Herald Sun a neighbour had bombarded them with racist insults and stolen a box of fruit, vegetables and meat from their balcony before throwing the contents at them from a higher level. continue

Russia US relations hit new low as Obama cancels meeting with Putin


US president Barack Obama’s move to cancel talks with Russian president Vladimir Putin has taken US Russia relations to a new low following Russia’s decision to grant asylum to fugitive intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The White House cited delays in progress with key issues including arms control, trade, and human rights, but also said Snowden’s case played a factor in assessing the current state of the bi-lateral relationship.

The US is seeking the extradition of the former government contractor who leaked details of the massive US domestic spying program.




China reports first case of H7N9 human-to-human transmission

August 7, 2013 – CHINA – The case of a father and daughter in China who both became infected with H7N9bird flu provides the strongest evidence yet that the virus can transmit from person to person, experts say. The father, a 60-year-old living in the Jiangsu province of eastern China, fell ill about five to six days after he visited a live poultry market in March, according to a new report that details the case today (Aug. 6) in the British Medical Journal. The man’s 32-year-old daughter, who became ill about two weeks later, did not visit poultry markets, but did spend several days caring for her sick father before he was admitted to the hospital. Both patients became severely ill, developing fevers and pneumonia, and later died from the disease. Genetic testing revealed that the patients were infected with nearly identical strains of H7N9. The most likely explanation for these cases is that the father became infected with H7N9 from a poultry market (or the poultry he purchased there), and then he passed the virus directly to his daughter, according to the researchers, at the Jiangsu Province Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
This is the first detailed report of probable human-to-human transmission of H7N9, the researchers said. Cases of H7N9 first appeared in China in March, and so far 133 people have become ill, including 43 who have died. The majority of cases appear to be unconnected to each other. The new report does not mean that H7N9 is getting closer to causing a pandemic in people, James Rudge and Richard Coke, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in Bangkok, Thailand, wrote in an editorial accompanying the report in the journal. Limited human transmission of bird flu viruses has been seen in the past, and is not surprising, Rudge and Coke said. Some animal studies also suggested that H7N9 can spread between mammals. But so far, the virus does not appear to spread efficiently — there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission with H7N9, Rudge and Coke said. In the case of the father and daughter, the daughter was deeply involved in caring for her father — she cleaned up his mucus, and she cleaned his teeth without using protective equipment, according to the report. Of the 43 people who came into contact with the father and daughter before and during the time they were ill, none became infected with H7N9, the report said. Still, H7N9 is concerning. The virus does not cause symptoms in birds, so it can spread undetected within poultry populations, Rudge and Coke said. The report provides “a timely reminder of the need to remain extremely vigilant,” Rudge and Coke said. “The threat posed by H7N9 has by no means passed.” – Yahoo News



Mideast-Talks-Kerry_Horo-e1375114041218-635x357The US envoy to peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians will arrive in the country on Sunday for a round of meetings with top Israeli officials.  Sources in Jerusalem told The Times of Israel on Wednesday that Martin Indyk, who was hand-picked by US President Barack Obama to be Washington’s point man at the talks, is scheduled to meet with officials from the Prime Minister’s Office, the Foreign Ministry, and members of Justice Minister Tzipi Livni’s negotiating team.  The PMO would not confirm the reports and it wasn’t clear if Indyk, a veteran diplomat who twice served as US ambassador to Israel, would meet in person with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Livni. Meanwhile, with peace talks progressing, a ministerial committee tasked with overseeing the release of 104 Palestinian prisoners — a confidence-building gesture by Israel to ease the talks — will meet for the first time on Sunday.  The five members of the panel will decide on the identity of the 25 prisoners to be released in the first of four phased releases, all of whom have been imprisoned since before the 1993 Oslo peace accords. The committee that will handle the prisoner release process is composed of Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Livni, Science Minister Yaakov Peri and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch. It will decide which prisoners on the list of 104 will go free at what stage, determine whether they will be allowed to return to their homes or be sent abroad, and oversee the implementation. Last month the cabinet approved the prisoner releases, which were a Palestinian precondition for peace talks, and while the decision was widely pilloried by politicians on the right and the Israeli public, Netanyahu said it was for the “good of the country.” Peri, a dovish former Shin Bet security agency head from the Yesh Atid party, was a last-minute addition meant to ensure Netanyahu a majority in the small panel in the event that Ya’alon and the more hardline Aharonovitch decided to torpedo aspects of the deal. Earlier this week, the Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, declared that the first batch of prisoners would be released by mid-August. Livni said that another round of peace talks would be held in Israel by the second week of August after negotiations were restarted in Washington at the end of last month. Livni noted that some prisoners would already have been released by the time the second round of talks commenced.  Meanwhile, all Palestinian factions belonging to the PLO with the exception of Fatah have refused to take part in a committee to oversee negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian due to their principled rejection of negotiations, London-based daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat reported on Wednesday. One week ahead of the resumption of negotiations in Jerusalem, no Palestinian oversight committee is yet in place, senior Palestinian sources told the daily. “This committee was meant to be headed by President Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] and include the secretary generals of the factions as well as a few members of the [PLO] Executive Committee. But all the factions in the PLO refused; the Democratic Front, the Popular Front, the People’s Party, and others,” a source was quoted as saying. Peace negotiations are set to resume in Jerusalem’s King David Hotel on August 14 in complete secrecy following a three-year hiatus, with meetings taking place in Jerusalem and Jericho intermittently. Even before the first meeting between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Washington July 30, most Palestinian factions had reportedly rejected them. The Palestinian oversight committee is meant to advise the negotiating team throughout the talks, and will likely be formed at any event and include Abbas’s close circle of officials and negotiators. “[The committee] will be a formality, because it will only representing those conducting the negotiations,” the source said. In an interview with Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya on July 31, PLO secretary Yasser Abed Rabbo, one of only two Palestinian officials appointed to comment on negotiations, said the prospects of their success are quite low. “I would not advise anyone to be optimistic about the success of negotiations,” Abed Rabbo told the channel. “We understand that there are tremendous difficulties facing us, especially considering the right-wing Israeli government and the growing power of the settlers, in addition to the unrest in the Arab world.” Hamas has long blasted Fatah for resuming “pointless” talks with Israel, with deputy political bureau chief Moussa Abu Marzouq calling them “a miscalculated adventure.” Hamas accused Fatah of succumbing to American pressure to negotiate, thereby destroying reconciliation talks with the Islamic faction.The Times Of Israel




As New York City wrestles with rising pension and health care costs, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has warned that the city runs a real risk of bankruptcy like Detroit. Detroit’s bankruptcy and the problems facing its pension funds have concerned many states and cities across America with Mayor Bloomberg becoming the latest official to warn that his city may go the way of Detroit.  Detroit in the state of Michigan has become the largest US city to file for bankruptcy over its more than $18 billion debt. Half of the city’s debt comes from pension and retiree health care costs. Bloomberg called on New York City and its next mayor to address the rising burdens of pensions and healthcare to protect the city from insolvency.  ”The next mayor will have an unprecedented opportunity to win pension and health care changes from the City’s labor unions,” he said during a speech Tuesday.  In 2002, pension costs in the city were $1.4 billion, today they are $8 billion a year.  ”So clearly, our increase in annual pension costs, which today total more than eight billion US dollars per year, was the result of a benefit structure that promises retirees too much too soon, and requires them to contribute too little to pay for it,” the mayor said. Bloomberg further warned that manufacturing sector was weakening in New York City which was once one of the manufacturing centers in the United States. Chicago, the third-largest city in the United States and hometown of President Barack Obama, is also facing a public pension crisis that threatens to upend its finances.  Presstv




All eyes on the sky that can do so will be pointing toward Comet ISON soon, as a massive international observing campaign gets underway to watch what could become the “comet of the century,” scientists say. Comet ISON was discovered in September 2012, and is due to swoop in close to the sun in November. When it does, it may become as bright as the full moon, visible to the naked eye even in daylight. Or, it may not. What will happen to Comet ISON is an open question to scientists, who hope to learn more about what causes certain comets to flare brightlyand others to fizzle out and evaporate under the sun’s radiation. [Photos of Comet ISON: A Potentially Great Comet]



An Irish politician has caused outrage by urging Arabs to “rise up” against Israel in another “Intifada.” European Union parliamentarian Paul Murphy said he does not believe that Israel is serious about the newly renewed diplomatic talks with the PA, and that what the PA needs is “a mass struggle from below.” “There are many positive examples from the first intifada of mass protests, strikes and marches and checkpoints that I think would be ideal tactics to redevelop now,” he explained in an interview with Russia Today. In the days since his comments, a number of MEPs (Members of European Parliament) have come out strongly against his comments. Fellow Irish  MEP Sean Kelly said, “In a region already beset by conflict, it is abhorrent to call for violence as a tool to achieve collective goals.” The first “Intifada” wave of attacks on Israel included stone-throwing attacks,firebombings and other murderous attacks targeting Israeli Jewish civilians. However, the primary victims of Arab violence were Arabs, nearly 1,000 of whom were murdered as terrorist groups fought for power. The second “Intifada” caused yet more Israeli civilian deaths as terrorists carried out a relentless wave of suicide bombingsshootings and other attacks targeting Israeli citizens of all ages. The Zionist Federation condemned Murphy’s remarks. Chairman Paul Charney said, ““Mr Murphy’s remarks glorifying the Intifada and justifying it as an alternative to peace talks is disgraceful and highly irresponsible. “It dangerously incites the masses to violence, at a time in the Middle East where war and terror is all too common. I call on the Irish Socialist Party to deal swiftly with this issue by publicly confirming that they support peace and further condemn Mr Murphy by stating that his comments are unacceptable”. However, Murphy defended his call for an “Intifada” against claims that he was promoting violence – and accused his critics of ignorance. “The MEPs who have condemned my call for a mass movement along the lines of the first intifada as a call for violence and terror are either deliberately misconstruing my words or are entirely ignorant about the history of the Palestinian struggle,” he said in a press statement. “Intifada is simply the Arabic word for ‘uprising’, something that is entirely justified and clearly necessary when you look at the ongoing oppression.” The PA should not use terrorism, he said – because it does not work. “I have a history of opposing the futile and counter-productive tactics of terror,” he explained. At the same time, Murphy clarified that the Intifada he proposes would involve armed fighting. He told Al Jazeera that he thinks PA Arabs have the right to “armed defense against soldiers” to counter what he termed Israeli state violence. Israel National News









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