‘Bye Mother’

Walking through a supermarket, a young man noticed an old lady following him around. He ignored her for a while, but when he got to the checkout line, she got in front of him.

“Pardon me,” she said. “I’m sorry if I’ve been staring, but you look just like my son who died recently.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” the young man replied. “Is there anything I can do for you?”

“Well, as I’m leaving, could you just say ‘Goodbye, mother!?’ It would make me feel so much better.” She gave him a sweet smile.

“Of course I can,” the young man promised.

As she gathered her bags and left, he called out “Goodbye, mother!” just as she had requested, feeling good about her smile.

Stepping up to the counter, he saw that his total was about $100 higher than it should be. “That amount is wrong,” he said. “I only have a few items!”

“Oh, your mother said that you’d pay for her.” explained the clerk.

New Year’s Wish: A Worthwhile Palestinian Partner for Peace

One wonders if or when the U.S. administration and the Europeans might ever be serious about promoting real peace and prosperity in the disputed Palestinian territories. Sadly, the White House, in pinning all its hopes on Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, has just been trying to hook its cart to someone not only with a shelf-life that officially expired years ago, but who is also too corrupt to be of any help to his people.

In backing Abbas, whose four-year term in office ended in 2009, both the White House and Europe have tragically undermined a productive future for the Palestinian people — in the same way that strengthening the Castros’ dictatorship in Cuba has dealt a death blow to a productive future for the people of Cuba. As with Iran, these are rulers that do not need to be need strengthened, they need to be removed.

Instead, at a White House meeting with Abbas in March 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama commended him as “somebody who has consistently renounced violence, has consistently sought a diplomatic and peaceful solution that allows for two states, side by side, in peace and security — a state that allows for the dignity and sovereignty of the Palestinian people and a state that allows for Israelis to feel secure and at peace with their neighbors.”


Britain Debates Donald Trump


According to the Wall Street Journal:

U.K. Lawmakers Hold Debate on Barring Donald Trump

Members of British Parliament discuss restricting the U.S. presidential hopeful from entering the country

LONDON—British lawmakers debated on Monday whether Donald Trump should be barred from the U.K., the latest international fallout to his call for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S.

The debate doesn’t compel the government to take any action, and the government has already signaled that Mr. Trump, a businessman with interests in the U.K., won’t be barred. But the unusual parliamentary session marks a rare intervention by British lawmakers into a U.S. presidential hopeful’s campaign.

Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said the government doesn’t comment on people who may be prevented from entering the country. But he added that the U.S. was the U.K.’s most important bilateral partner and it was in Britain’s interest to engage with all presidential hopefuls even if there was profound disagreement.


Dry Bones- Israel’s Political Comic Strip Since 1973

Morning Briefing – The Telegraph

Good morning.

David Cameron’s European renegotiation tour continues, with the Prime Minister slipping out of Davos’ World Economic Forum later today to visit the Czech Republic in a bid to chip away at central European opposition. His four-year benefits fan remains contentious, we report this morning, with the Czechs offering an “emergency brake” on migration as alternative. “The emergency brake simply responds to what we understand is the worry of the British that is too many people using public resources,” Czech Europe minister Boguslav Sobotka told us. Philip Hammond has signalled Britain’s keenness to compromise, recently declaring “there is no magic about four years”, so this could gain traction as negotiators seek to thrash out a deal.

How would this proposal work? Cameron’s team had pushed a version last year that would allow Britain to cap the number of European migrants coming, but dropped it amid German opposition. This model would see an outside referee – possibly a non-EU body like the OECD to please the UK government – decide when immigration is putting too much strain on social services. Such an idea will be pored over by negotiators as they try to reach an acceptable deal ahead of the European Council summit on February 18-19. Cameron sought to deflate expectations yesterday in his Davos speech, telling business leaders he was in no “hurry” and would rather “get this right… than rush it”. However, officials will want to make progress next month, and they have to agree a preliminary text for discussion by February 3 so that EU leaders have time to digest and comment before the summit.

Cameron’s team will be happy as long as he can return with something he can say – with a straight face – will help Britain get to grips with migration. He’ll have to work hard to persuade voters, with Michael Caine capturing the popular mood on the Today programme this morning by saying “unless there are some really significant changes, we should get out” as “you cannot be dictated to by faceless civil servants”. So how are diplomats hoping to impress him? They’re understood to be seriously considering a German proposal to “redefine” the status of EU workers to reduce the attraction of richer countries’ benefits systems, but Out campaigners are rubbishing it as a “fix” that falls short of the “fundamental” change Cameron once promised. This could have even less appeal if, as originally suggested, it would see British workers lose out. Eurosceptic cabinet ministers will be watching with particular interest. Theresa Villiers, one of the more Brexit-inclined members, toed the line on Question Time last night, but did concede that Britain could be a “success” outside of the EU.

The Prime Minister can at least console himself with the fact that business leaders have responded warmly to his invitation to speak up about the benefits of Britain staying in the EU. The issue of immigration will weigh in on voters’ minds, as Europe’s leaders are still battling to handle the refugee crisis. Germany has indicated that temporary border checks could be extended in a bid to regulate the flow of asylum seekers, while France’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls has warned: “If Europe is not capable of protecting its own borders, it’s the very idea of Europe that will be questioned”. So if business leaders can wade in to warn Britons of what life could be like outside of the EU, voters may feel less certain about the appeal of Brexit. But could his charm offensive backfire? “The Tories still need to be very careful about who they cosy up to and take great care to be seen as the challengers, not the defenders of a failed status quo,” Fraser Nelson warns in today’s paper. “This is, after all, the Conservative way.”

“I’m not in a hurry, I can hold my referendum at any time up until the end of 2017”

Corbyn’s Triple Whammy
Jeremy Corbyn has been told Labour will suffer a hat-trick of election blows next May by losing 200 council seats in England, its effective majority in the Welsh Assembly and all constituency seats in Scotland. The warnings came as infighting in the Labour leader’s officer forced one of his most senior aides to quit, raising fears “lunatics” on the hard-Left now “have the keys to the asylum” at the top of the party. This comes as Labour peer Lord Winston said the party was a “shambles” that had already lost the next election.

MPs Get A New Code Of Conduct
MPs are to get a new code of conduct in the wake of a recent spate of scandals about their behaviour and the punishments handed down. Kathryn Hudson, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, has launched the first review of how MPs’ conduct themselves in four years. It comes after the way MPs police themselves was criticised after over the way it has disciplined senior MPs who were accused of wrongdoing including Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Jack Straw and Maria Miller.

Litvinenko Fallout
David Cameron has condemned President Vladimir Putin for presiding over the “state sponsored murder” of the Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko. A public inquiry into the radioactive poisoning of the former KGB officer found that Mr Putin “probably” sanctioned the assassination by two Russian agents in London in 2006. Mr Cameron said the UK had frozen the suspects’ assets as punishment for the “absolutely appalling” crime, but critics described his response as “weak”.

The Red Button Corbyn Will Not Press
Locked within a non-descript safe on board HMS Vigilant is a trigger with a red pistol grip that if pulled would launch nuclear destruction on millions of people. The trigger, modelled on a Colt 45 Peacemaker pistol, would launch Britain’s Trident II D5 missiles, tipped with warheads carrying many times more destructive power than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. Ben Farmer has met the man who would fire the missiles.

MP’s War On Junk Food
Ministers must end cheap chocolate and junk food promotions in supermarkets as part of a dramatic plan to cut obesity in the UK, an influential Conservative MP has said. Sarah Wollaston called on the government to take action against cut-price deals on fatty and sugary foods or face letting down “the least advantaged in society”; after it emerged 40 per cent of purchases are promotions, often on unhealthy snacks.

Labour’s £140bn Bombshell
John McDonnell was accused of plotting a £140 billion tax and spend bombshell for families and businesses last night, after unveiling Labour plans to scrap spending cuts and tax relief. The shadow chancellor announced a Labour government would reverse all savings made by the Conservatives and look again at £110 billion of tax reliefs and allowances for businesses and charities. Treasury chief secretary Greg Hands said the plans amount to “a debt-fuelled spending spree and a huge tax bombshell on the businesses”.

London Rail Lines In TfL’s Hands
The government has backed plans to hand over the running of commuter rail services in the capital to Transport for London and the Mayor. It means train companies like South West Trains and Southeastern, which have been criticised for long delays and poor services, would lose control of the routes. Instead, a more frequent metro-style integrated system would operate across the city with plans to have services running every 15 minutes on popular routes.

Cameron Squares Up To Macri
David Cameron has told the new Argentinian President that it is “absolutely clear” that Falkland Islanders want to remain British in a stark new message in their first face-to-face meeting. The Prime Minister told Mauricio Macri that his stance on the Falklands “remained the same” and said any debate about its sovereignty had been settled by a recent referendum. The comments come with Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, calling for Number 10 to open up “dialogue” with the Argentinians over the state of the Islands.

Gerry’s Book Of Tweets
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams is publishing a book of his best tweets. The party’s website says that the tweets have been “selected by the man himself”, adding: “[They] range across the political and the personal, the serious and the humorous, often featuring rubber ducks and teddy bears!”

How Intersectionality Makes You Stupid

As I write this, ISIS is hunting gay men to toss from the rooftops of Raqaa, and nearly 80 countries proscribe homosexuality. Yet for a 36-hour period earlier this week, the National LGBTQ Task Force chose to ally itself not with the one country in the Middle East that guarantees and protects the human rights of LGBTQ people, but with those who hang them from construction cranes.

On Sunday, the Task Force announced that it had canceled a post-Shabbat service reception at its annual Creating Change conference organized by the San Francisco-based nonprofit A Wider Bridge, which builds connections between LGBT communities in North America and Israel. Headlining the evening were representatives from Jerusalem Open House, an LGBT community center that serves a diverse array of constituencies, Palestinians and Israeli Arabs among them. Caving to pressure from a handful of anti-Israel extremists, the Task Force withdrew its sponsorship and kicked A Wider Bridge off its program.

“We canceled the reception when it became clear to us it would be intensely divisive rather than the community-building, social atmosphere which is the norm for Friday night at the conference,” Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey said in an emailed statement. Tyler Gregory, Deputy Director of A Wider Bridge, told the Washington Blade that the Task Force “recommended we either cancel [the] event, or ensure that our event speakers condemn the Israeli government in their remarks,” though which aspects of Israel’s government the Task Force expected A Wider Bridge—which receives no Israeli government funding—to “condemn” were left vague. Refusing to comply with either demand, A Wider Bridge was forced to move its event to a different hotel.


Who to Believe Over North Korea H-Bomb Test

Beyond the Cusp

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un’s word is truth, at least in North Korea where even looking at him askance will put you before a firing squad within the hour providing Kim Jong-Un doesn’t just have you shot on the spot. Knowing this, the rest of the world cannot put any real weight behind any unverified claims coming from any sources in North Korea including any journalist, western or otherwise, reporting from Pyongyang. Still, any explosive tests which register as in excess of a five on the Richter scale had to come from a very impressive explosive test. I remember when the North Koreans first tested a nuclear bomb and the measurement showed a yield of between four and five kilotons where some Western experts suggested that the North Koreans had simply loaded four or five kilotons of high explosive in the test chamber and detonated the entirety of the charges…

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Palestinian Leaders Promise a New Year of Violence and Death

After failing to offer their people any hope for the future, Fatah and Hamas are now telling Palestinians that they should expect more violence and bloodshed during in 2016.

In separate messages to the Palestinians on New Year’s Eve, the two rival Palestinian parties pledged to pursue, and even step up, “resistance” attacks against Israel. Needless to say, the messages did not make any reference to peace, coexistence or tolerance.

Instead of wishing Palestinians a happy and prosperous New Year, both Fatah and Hamas are asking their people in the Gaza Strip and West Bank to prepare for increased violence and “resistance” attacks against Israel. The two parties have nothing to offer the Palestinians besides more bloodshed and despair.

Hamas, which has been in power in the Gaza Strip for almost 10 years, is even reported to be preparing for a new wave of suicide bombings against Israelis. The last time Hamas launched suicide attacks in Israel was during the second intifada, 2000-2005, which wrought havoc and destruction to Palestinians.


The Inside Track From Israel’s Gaza Border Defenders

Like it or not, the Iran nuclear deal is done. In much of the Middle East, defense officials in many states believe that a sizeable proportion of the soon-to-be released $100 billion Iranian windfall will be directed toward funding proxy armies of the Islamic Republic, for whom the Jewish state remains the prime target. Israel’s focus is now, more than ever, on defense and surveillance.

In the north, Hizballah, Iran’s proxy Lebanese army, remains a massive threat to regional stability, siding with Syria’s disgraced President Bashar Assad and his saviors from Russia. In Gaza, it is no secret that a previous rift between Iran and Hamas has been smoothed over to further mutual objectives and that another, and possibly more brutal round of hostilities between Israel and Hamas may not be far away.

“The sanctions relief and the nuclear deal with Iran represent a strategic shift that the IDF will have to tackle over the next decade,” Israel Defense Forces #IDF# Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot said Monday in a speech at the INSS conference in Tel Aviv. “We also see [Iran’s] attempt to influence Arab Israelis and those in the Gaza Strip, and the estimation is that as Iran’s economic situation improves, over the next one-to-two years, it will divert considerably more resources into opposing Israel, via the Iranian military industry.”


Rebel Virgins and Desert Mothers

It started with the virgins.

In the first two centuries of Christianity, many of the cultures in which it took hold had stubborn gender roles—but these roles weren’t as hardline as you might think. Women had long been the managers of their households, and since followers of the new movement met in private, in intimate “house churches,” women often became the natural leaders of the congregation. Christian women and men alike could become full-fledged ministers.

In the apostle Paul’s letter to the early congregation he founded in Corinth, he suggested that women should not teach or even speak aloud in church—but in that same document, he also name-checked 28 prominent leaders in the Roman Christian community, 10 of whom were women. (A woman, the minister Phoebe, was Paul’s entree into that community.) Eventually, in some areas, there were even female bishops. This was back when the church was still a social movement, not yet a political powerhouse, and women were drawn to the possibilities it cracked open for them—as preachers, prophets, and patrons.


Afghanistan: Muslim cuts off wife’s nose after argument over his taking six-year-old as second wife

KABUL, Afghanistan — A young woman has been hospitalized in northern Afghanistan and is hoping to travel to Turkey for reconstructive surgery after her husband cut off her nose, the police and the woman’s family said on Tuesday.

The woman, Reza Gul, 20, was attacked by her husband with a knife on Sunday in Shar-Shar, a village in an impoverished and Taliban-controlled part of Faryab Province. Reza Gul was in stable condition on Tuesday in a hospital in Maimana, the provincial capital, according to a spokesman for the Faryab police, Sayed Massoud Yaqubi.

Maroof Samar, a doctor who is the acting director of public health in Faryab, said Reza Gul had been in “very critical condition when she was brought in, she had lost much blood.”

Throughout the six years Reza Gul and her husband, Muhammad Khan, 25, had been married, he and his family members had regularly abused her, beating her and binding her in chains, said Reza Gul’s mother, Zarghona. Mr. Khan regularly went to Iran for work, returned for a few months during which he abused his wife, then left her with his family members, she said.