Friday, January 21st, 2011
Israelis are Warned to Prepare for Earthquake
by Hillel Fendel
Given that Israel has not had a major earthquake in nearly 84 years, the Ministry of National Infrastructures is waging a campaign for earthquake preparedness. Films of bookshelves crashing down atop baby cribs and detailed instructions are part of it.
In July 1927, the northern Dead Sea area – Israel’s major earthquake-prone area – suffered a major quake that left nearly 300 people dead. Prior to that, the city of Tzfat, in the Galilee, was largely wiped out in 1837 when an earthquake rocked the area; 5,000 people were killed there, and another several hundred in Tiberias.
Earthquake researchers say that statistically, another big quake should be feared in Israel within the coming years – including now. In recent years, the northern Dead Sea region was hit by a 4.4 quake in November 2007, and a 5.3 rocker in February 2004. In terms of statistics and probabilities, however, a larger one is still expected.
The Infrastructures Ministry information campaign is currently running on the internet and other media. “Don’t let an earthquake catch you unready,” it warns threateningly. “Home is not always a safe place. A strong earthquake in Israel is just a question of time, and it is liable to cause the destruction of many homes in Israel. Make sure today that your home meets earthquake readiness standards, and that all family members know how to behave when one hits.”
The Ministry’s website explains that though earthquakes cannot be forecast in advance, “there are a number of ways in which we can prepare for them, prevent loss of life and to significantly reduce property damage.” One way is to make sure that one’s house or apartment building meets earthquake construction standards. In general, buildings built before 1980 do not – and these include, of course, a large number of buildings in many cities and towns throughout Israel. These can be strengthened and fortified, “and the responsibility for such is primarily upon us, the citizens.”
In Judea and Samaria, where most homes have been built since 1980, this particular problem is not acute.
In addition, precautions should be taken to ensure that even homes that do not collapse are earthquake-safe. The Ministry’s website states that one should not have shelves or heavy objects above beds; bookcases, air conditioners and the like should be properly fastened to walls, heavy objects should not be stored high up, and the like. “It is also advisable to have on hand a supply of food and water for emergencies, a first-aid kit, a radio, emergency lighting and baby equipment, as well as copies of essential documents.”
The Ministry also has ideas for family earthquake-drills: “Decide in advance, together with all immediate family members… where your ‘safe place’ during an earthquake is going to be. In an apartment building a safe place could be the Protected Space ("Mamad") or the staircase, and in a one-story home it could be outdoors. Agree on a specific place outdoors where the family should gather after the quake. Make sure that all family members know where the main switches are for electricity, gas and water so that they can turn them off after an earthquake.”
Blair's ex aide: Netanyahu an 'armour-plated bullshitter'
By JPOST.COM STAFF
Alistair Campbell, in diary excerpts from 1998 released to Guardian, quoted as saying that former UK prime minister did not trust Israel.
Britain believed that then Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was an "armour-plated bullshitter", former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's communications chief Alistair Campbell was quoted as writing in 1998, The Guardian reported Thursday.
The UK newspaper quoted Campbell as saying in a recently published diary "We had a meeting with Barak, who was OK but not everything he had been cracked up to be. He said he was pessimistic because Bibi was a total bullshitter."
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"Tony Blair thought the Israelis bugged him during his first visit to the country," Campbell went on to write in the in the second volume of his diaries.
"The three of us traveled back together, doing his little finger-whirl to indicate the assumption the car was bugged so we did the usual how well it had all gone blah," Campbell wrote, according to The Guardian.
Campbell also commented on former Blair fundraiser and Mideast envoy Lord Michael Levy, saying, according to the quotes in The Guardian regarding the same 1998 Israel visit, that Levy was "hiding behind Plumbly [Middle East and North Africa director, FCO] and saying he was deliberately hiding."
"Lord Levy, Labour's former fundraiser and Blair's envoy to the Middle East, had an irritating habit of popping up in pictures," Blairs former aide was quoted as saying.
Protesters demand Jordan's government step down
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Spurred on by the example of the popular uprising in Tunisia, Jordanians have staged growing protests in the past week.
AMMAN — Thousands of Jordanians calling for their government to step down marched in several cities Friday in an outpouring of anger over economic hardship and a lack of democratic reforms in the constitutional monarchy.
Spurred on by the example of the popular uprising in Tunisia, Jordanians have staged growing protests in the past week. The opposition movements that organized Friday's demonstrations vowed to keep up the pressure until Prime Minister Samir Rifai and his government resign.
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Anti-government protests gather steam in Jordan
Wary of the outcry, particularly over rising prices, Jordan's government has taken some steps to try to defuse the situation, including by announcing $125 million in subsidies on basic goods and fuel. The prime minister also announced a surprise pay increase for civil servants.
Protesters scoffed at the measures.
"They lie to the people. They reduce some things and increase others more," said Muslim Brotherhood demonstrator Suhair Asaaf, an electrical mechanic.
He was among more than 5,000 people demonstrating Friday in the capital, Amman, its suburb Zarqa and in the northern town of Irbid. The organizers of what was dubbed a "Day of Rage" represented a broad swath of Jordan's opposition, including the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, left-wing groups and trade unions.
Crowds chanted: "The Jordanian people are on fire. The government is cutting its people like a saw. Down, down Rifai."
The opposition groups are calling for reforms to allow Jordanians to elect their prime minister and the rest of the Cabinet rather than having them appointed by King Abdullah II.
Elections are held for Jordan's lower house of parliament as well as municipal councils and mayors.
Abdullah, a key US ally, ascended to the throne in 1999 vowing to transform his desert Arab kingdom into a model democracy in the Muslim world. But his reforms have been slow, as Jordan tries to limit Islamist influence.
Hamza Mansour, the head of the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, Jordan's largest opposition group, urged the king to make all branches of power independent.
"The king should be the guide, not the executor of the country's daily affairs," he said during the march.
Leftist Mohannad Safi called the government's limited reforms "window-dressing" to try to calm the people.
"This whole system of government must change. And we'll continue the protests until that happens," he said.
Member of French FM's entourage injured in Gaza
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Alliot-Marie's assistant hit in head as convoy attacked in Gaza by dozens of Palestinian protesters angry at her stance on Schalit prisoner deal.
Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon said Friday that a member of the French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie's entourage was hit in the head by Palestinian protesters during a visit to the Gaza Strip.
Her identity was not immediately available. The office of hospital spokeswoman Lea Malul sayid the delegate is being examined at the hospital.
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The protesters pelted her motorcade with eggs and narrowly missed her with a lobbed shoe.
The protesters, relatives of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons, were angry about comments Michele Alliot-Marie reportedly made the day before in support of kipnapped soldier Gilad Schalit.
Protesters were waiting for Alliot-Marie as she crossed from Israel into Gaza through the Erez Crossing, lying on the road and jumping on her vehicle. Hamas police eventually dispersed those protesters, but more gathered outside a United Nations office in Gaza City that was her first stop in the Palestinian territory, and later followed her to a nearby hospital, pelting her motorcade with eggs. AP Television footage showed Alliot-Marie narrowly dodging a shoe thrown by a protester as she climbed into a jeep under heavy guard.
Schalit, is an Israeli-French dual national and France has repeatedly called for his release.
Alliot-Marie made no public statement Thursday after meeting with Schalit's parents in Jerusalem, but the soldier's father, Noam Schalit, said afterward that the minister had called on Hamas to allow the Red Cross to visit his son for the first time. He referred to his son's capture as a "war crime."
The Palestinians linked the comments to Alliot-Marie, although she did not say anything publicly before or after the meeting.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the statements reflected a "total bias toward Israel" and ignored the thousands of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons. "They are the true prisoners of war," he said.
Hamas is demanding that Israel release hundreds of Hamas prisoners, including militants behind deadly attacks against Israelis, in return for Schalit. Talks facilitated by a German mediator have produced no result. Schalit has been seen by no one but his captors since 2006. A videotape released in 2009 showed him talking and reading a newspaper.
In keeping with the policy of the European Union, which considers Hamas a terror organization, Alliot-Marie did not meet with Hamas officials during her half-day visit.
Speaking at a French cultural center in Gaza, Alliot-Marie called for the establishment of a Palestinian state and security for Israel. She also called on Israel to fully lift all restrictions on goods and people coming and out of Gaza.
Obama warns Chinese president over North Korea
By JPOST.COM STAFF AND AP
Obama tells Jintao that if China doesn't increase pressure on N Korea the US will redeploy forces in Asia, the 'New York Times' reports.
US President Barak Obama warned Chinese President Hu Jintao that if China did not increase its pressure on North Korea the United States would be forced to redeploy its forces in Asia, the New York Times reported a senior administration official as saying on Friday.
According to the report Obama first issued the warning to the Chinese president over a phone call last month and repeated his stance over a private dinner at the White House on Tuesday.
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The official said the warning persuaded China to take a harder line in its policies towards North Korea, leading to the resumption of dialogue between the North and South, according to the report.
“It was not meant to suggest pre-emption, but we were projecting that a North Korea that becomes a national security threat is going to get a response,” said the official to the New York Times, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. “That was attention-getting for the Chinese.”
On Wednesday following the private dinner, President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao, stressed the importance of an early resumption of six-nation negotiations on North Korea's nuclear programs.
On Thursday, South Korea officially accepted a North Korean proposal to hold high-level defense talks following months of soaring tensions, a breakthrough announced after the urging of the United States and China.
Any talks could prove significant if Seoul and Pyongyang can put aside military and political animosity and lay the groundwork for a resumption of long-stalled international negotiations on ending North Korea's nuclear programs. Lower-level defense talks last year foundered over the issue of the sinking of a South Korean naval ship in disputed waters.
The agenda this time should include North Korean assurances that it will take "responsible measures" over the ship sinking and the shelling of a South Korean island and not provoke further conflict, said Chun Hae-sung, a spokesman for South Korea's Unification Ministry, which is in charge of inter-Korean affairs.
The Obama-Hu talks were closely watched in South Korea, which has a decades-long security alliance with Washington, while China is North Korea's only major ally. Next week, the United States is sending a senior diplomat, Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, to Seoul, Tokyo and Beijing for talks on the Korean standoff.
Talkback: So What...
Author: Alan Country: USA 01/21/2011
....did the Chinese leader say after he stopped LAUGHING? Obama telling the Chinese anything is a JOKE. Was that before or after he BOWED at their feet? The first day Obama is OUT of office, will be America's BEST