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‘In Which Unidentified U.S. Officials’

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Israeli Leader Responds to Harsh US Criticism

Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks to parliament followed a report in The Atlantic this week in which unidentified U.S. officials lambasted the Israeli premier for his settlement policies and for undermining American peace efforts

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s prime minister said Wednesday that recent verbal attacks against him from the United States were merely because he was “defending Israel” and vowed to carry on with his policies despite the vitriolic Benjamin-Netanyahurhetoric.

“Our supreme interests, with security and the unity of Jerusalem first and foremost, are not among the top concerns of those anonymous elements that are attacking us and me personally.” 

Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks to parliament followed a report in The Atlantic this week in which unidentified U.S. officials lambasted the Israeli premier for his settlement policies and for undermining American peace efforts.

“The thing about Bibi is, he’s a chickenshit.”

 — this official said, referring to the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, by his nickname.

The officials derided Netanyahu as cowardly and recalcitrant, among other insults. The report reverberated throughout Israel, with some coming to the prime minister’s defense while others pointing to them as an indication of just how bad relations between the two close allies have gotten under Netanyahu’s watch.

Netanyahu responded that those who attack him do so only because he defends Israel, and stressed that he was “not prepared to make concessions that will endanger our state.”

“Our supreme interests, with security and the unity of Jerusalem first and foremost, are not among the top concerns of bibi-hotairthose anonymous elements that are attacking us and me personally,” he said.

“We think such comments are inappropriate and counter-productive. Despite the extremely close relationship between the U.S. and Israel, we do not agree on every issue.”

– National Security Council Spokesman Alistair Baskey

National Security Council Spokesman Alistair Baskey said the comments in The Atlantic do not reflect the views of the administration.

“We think such comments are inappropriate and counter-productive,” he said, before adding. “Despite the extremely close relationship between the U.S. and Israel, we do not agree on every issue.”

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There have been growing concerns of a new crisis in Israeli-U.S. relations after U.S. officials said the Obama administration last week refused Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon‘s requests to meet several top national security aides. The rejection followed negative comments Yaalon made about Secretary of State John Kerry. Read the rest of this entry »

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BREAKING: Unsubstantiated Report: ISIS Captures, Beheads Kurdish Female Fighter ‘Rehana’ in Kobane: War Propaganda?

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contributor-80x100-mchastainFor Brietbart.com writes: The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) reportedly beheaded a famous female Kurdish freedom fighter known only as “Rehana.” The Women Protection Units (YPG) soldier fought against the terrorist group in Kobane, a strategically important border town in Syria near Turkey.

[Also see - 'My Bravery Shames Them': Kurdish Women Fight on Front Lines Against Islamic State - punditfromanotherplanet.com]

A picture of Rehana making the V-sign became a widely-distributed image online, retweeted over 5,000 times. Reports claimed she killed over 100 Islamic State jihadists single-handedly. But now a picture of a militant holding her head is making the rounds on social media. The death is not confirmed.

Earlier this month the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors events in Syria, reported Isis militants beheaded nine Kurdish fighters, including three women  Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2809260/Poster-girl-Kurdish-freedom-fighters-Kobane-captured-beheaded-ISIS.html#ixzz3HTSPmJZo  Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Earlier this month the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors events in Syria, reported Isis militants beheaded nine Kurdish fighters, including three women

[Daily Mail - Poster girl for Kurdish freedom fighters in Kobane is 'captured and beheaded by ISIS killers' who posted gruesome pictures online]

Female fighters are essential to the Kurds. The Women Protection Units (YPG) in Kobane are led by Mayass Abdo, who goes by Narin Afrin. All of the female Pershmerga are volunteers and are honored to fight against the terrorists. One such soldier, Dilar Gencxemis, blew herself up outside of Kobane, killing dozens of militants. Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong: Democracy Vote Suspended

For WSJ, Isabella Steger reports: Four weeks after volleys of tear gas by police led thousands of protesters to seize control of streets across Hong Kong, the leaders of the pro-democracy movement are struggling to control its disparate groups as fatigue and frustration set in.

[Follow Pundit Planet's EXCLUSIVE coverage of the Hong Kong protests]

On Sunday, a split among the protest groups led to the abrupt cancellation of a two-day vote on the latest offer by city officials, just hours before it was set to begin. Some protesters criticized the vote saying the groups organizing it didn’t represent them.

‘“In this movement, I’m motivated by myself, not the leadership.”’

—Bonnie Kong, 30

“I admit the [leaders] have made a mistake,” said Alex Chow, secretary-general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students. “We look forward to having more discussions with protesters in the three protest sites.”

A pro-democracy protester sits on a barricade at a protest site in the Mongkok district of Hong Kong on October 26, 2014. Four weeks after tens of thousands of Hong Kongers took to the streets demanding free leadership elections for the semi-autonomous Chinese city, weary demonstrators remain encamped across several major roads.   AFP PHOTO / Philippe LopezPHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images

A pro-democracy protester sits on a barricade at a protest site in the Mongkok district of Hong Kong on October 26, 2014.   Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

He linked hands with other key figures from the three groups leading the protests and bowed in apology. Joshua Wong, the 18-year-old leader of one of the two student groups, asked for protesters’ forgiveness, and all admitted that the decision to hold the vote was hasty and lacked preparation.

“Without [a united front] the protest groups can’t consolidate power and there is no structure for discussions, let alone making decisions.”

– Leung Kwok-hung, chairman of the League of Social Democrats

Bonnie Kong, 30, who works in media sales, said she accepted the leaders’ apology but said they didn’t represent her. “We don’t follow the leadership,” she said. “In this movement, I’m motivated by myself, not the leadership.”

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The city’s government, which has refused to meet their demands, is hoping that public opinion turns against the students. Groups of opponents to the protesters, wearing blue ribbons in support of the police, carried out a petition drive and held rallies over the weekend.

“The most resilient aspect of this movement is the unity of the protesters. There is no ‘organizer’ in this movement. Each time the crowds swelled, was it because ‘organizers’ asked people to come out or was it because of something the government did?”

– Keita Lee, 28, a cook, who expects the occupation of Admiralty to last at least until the Lunar New Year in February

On Sunday evening, Carrie Lam, the government official who led the one meeting with students, called for more talks. “Our community expects the government and the student representatives to hold more dialogues in order to as soon as possible get out of the current impasse,” Ms. Lam said in a TV interview.

Pro-democracy leaders (L-R) Benny Tai, Joshua Wong and Alan Leong arrive. Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

Pro-democracy leaders (L-R) Benny Tai, Joshua Wong and Alan Leong arrive. Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

Besides tear gas and pepper spray, the protesters have endured attacks from opponents and efforts by police and others to clear the roads they occupy in three densely populated districts of Hong Kong, including the main protest site surrounding the city government headquarters. Those actions have galvanized the protesters, drawing out large crowds whenever the movement was under attack.

But time is starting to take its toll. Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong Readies for Protester Vote

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City Calm Ahead of a Vote Organized by Pro-Democracy Protest Leaders

Chester Yung, Fiona Law and Prudence Ho reporting: Hong Kong was calm Sunday ahead of a two-day vote organized by protest leaders—an attempt to seek popular legitimacy for a pro-democracy movement that for almost a month has clogged the city’s main arteries.
[Follow Pundit Planet's EXCLUSIVE coverage of the Hong Kong protests]

Crowds grew Saturday at the downtown protest site, as they have during other weekends, though there were no reports of clashes between demonstrators and police as on other recent evenings.

The student-led protesters want anyone to be able to stand for Hong Kong’s first ever public ballot for chief executive in 2017. China’s government in August ruled a selection committee largely loyal to Beijing will select those who can stand, sparking the protests.

People listened to talks between student leaders and senior government officials as they were broadcast live at a protest site in the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong, Oct. 21, 2014. PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

People listened to talks between student leaders and senior government officials as they were broadcast live at a protest site in the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong, PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Some local citizens—who have taken to wearing blue ribbons—are angry that students have shut down parts of the city over the issue. On Saturday night there were reports that some blue ribbon demonstrators had attacked journalists covering their counter protests in Kowloon.

“I agree with the students’ goal. Who doesn’t want a democratic society?” 

– Tung Chee-hwa

Radio Television Hong Kong and Television Broadcasts Ltd. issued statements complaining their journalists had been pushed and kicked by blue ribbon protesters. Police haven’t made any arrests.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying reiterated Saturday he won’t resign, saying the protesters’ demands aren’t in accordance with the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution. Read the rest of this entry »


Marin Katusa: Mysterious Death Of A Top Oil Executive In Moscow Raises Questions

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Marin Katusa writes: Last month, almost no one was talking about oil giant Total SA’s move to cut the U.S. dollar from its energy trade. Now its CEO is dead, and it looks very suspicious.

As I noted just weeks ago:

Patrick de la Chevardière, CFO of Total SA (which is France’s largest energy company), has publicly announced that Total is looking to finance its share in the $27-billion Yamal LNG project using euros, yuan, Russian rubles, and any other currency but US dollars.

The effect of US sanctions was that Yamal LNG [in Russia's far North] will be prevented from raising any dollar financings,” Patrick de la Chevardière stated in London at a news briefing.

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Patrick de la Chevardière’s boss — the CEO of Total SA and presumably the man who made that decision — was Christophe de Margerie. De Margerie is now dead, along with three crew members aboard his private jet when it collided with a 51cLQpgqUQL._SL250_snowplow just after midnight at Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport. The plow’s driver was drunk, according to Russian investigators, and was seemingly unhurt.

[Check out Marin Katusa's book "The Colder War: How the Global Energy Trade Slipped from America's Grasp" at Amazon]

You have more of a chance of being struck by lightning than hitting a plow or any other ground support vehicle.

So… is it a coincidence that the one CEO who prominently broke with the petrodollar is now dead?

In my new book The Colder War, there is a whole section on “suspicious deaths” that have occurred during the current conflict between Vladimir Putin and the West. You don’t want to be on the wrong side of this political stare down, and it doesn’t much matter whether you’re against Putin or against the West. Many have fallen on both sides.

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De Margerie could now be one of them. We may never know for sure.

What we are sure of is that he was outspoken in his support for Putin’s agenda, and believed Russia was a good partner for Europe. He wasn’t afraid to take on the U.S. and its primary support mechanism, the petrodollar. Read the rest of this entry »


A Belgian Chocolate Company Called ISIS Has Decided to Change Its Name

Originally posted on TIME:

Customers have gone from sweet to sour on a Belgian chocolatier because it has the same name as an Islamist militant group.

The Belgian chocolate maker’s name ISIS is supposed to stand for Italy and Switzerland, where the founder learned how to make chocolate, Reuters reports. Its website—URL “www.isischocolates.be”—says, “Ever since 1923, we at ISIS have been making premium Belgian chocolate with the utmost dedication” and talks about how the company’s chocolates create “unforgettable moments.”

But customers have been calling to say they don’t want to buy the chocolates anymore because the brand, which dates back to 1923, now makes them think of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), the chocolatier’s marketing manager Desiree Libeert told Reuters. “We chose ISIS as that was the brand name of our pralines and tablets,” Libeert said. “Had we known there was a terrorist organization with the same name…

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[VIDEO Added] Photo of the Day: Standing Ovation for Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers

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Standing ovation for Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers as Canadian Parliament meets after attack – (read more) BBC International


Ottawa Sun Cover: ‘PM Harper’s Vow After Heart of Canadian Democracy Attacked’

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Kenny G Loves China, Deletes Photo Taken at Hong Kong Protests


Mayor, Wife Tied to Disappearance of 43 Students in Mexico

Originally posted on TIME:

The police chief and mayor of a Mexican town where 43 students went missing in September has been served with an arrest warrant, in connection to the disappearance.

Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo said Wednesday that Iguala Mayor Jose Luis Abarca and wife Maria de los Angeles Pineda are accused of targeting the group of student teachers, who went head-to-head with authorities during a political event on Sept. 26 and have not been seen since. A warrant was also issued for police chief Felipe Flores Velazquez, Reuters reports, and Murillo has pegged all three as “probable masterminds” in the disappearances.

At least six students and bystanders were killed during the Sept. 26 clash, the New York Timesreports. Others were held by police before being released to a notorious gang called Guerreros Unidos. Murillo says he believes the students were mistaken for members of a rival gang known…

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Tiananmen Protest ‘Black Hand’ Chen Ziming Dies in Beijing

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Josh Chin reports: One of the two activists identified as the “black hands” behind China’s 1989 democracy protests died of cancer on Tuesday, in a reminder of how little the Communist Party has budged in its tolerance of political dissent over the past quarter century.

Chen Ziming, 62 years old, died from pancreatic cancer Tuesday afternoon in Beijing, according to close friends.

“He was incredibly influential, in the academic world as well as in government and public circles.”

– Chen Min, a liberal writer and political commentator better known by his penname, Xiao Shu

“Famous Chinese dissident, so-called June 4th black hand and my mentor Chen Ziming finally succumbed to cancer,” Wang Dan, one of the leaders of the 1989 student-led Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests, wrote on his Facebook page. “His death is a massive loss for the Chinese opposition movement, and for the country.”

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Mr. Chen and fellow activist Wang Juntao were accused by the government of being the masterminds behind the 1989 protests. In 1991, both were sentenced to 13 years in prison, in a trial authorities used to bolster the official line that the protests had been the work of a handful of conspirators rather than a movement with mass appeal. Read the rest of this entry »


Europe’s Teen ISIS Girls, What Do They Want?

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Why the Teenage Girls of Europe Are Joining ISIS

Because They Want the Same Things Teenage Boys Want: A Strong Sense of Meaning and Purpose

For Tablet MagazineLee Smith writes: Teenage girls are the West’s center of gravity: Virtually all of Western pop culture, the key to our soft power, is tailored to the tastes of teenage girls. Through the wonders of information technology, the mobile phone mass-produced the mores and habits of phone-mad teenage girls locked in their bedrooms. Indeed, Western civilization is a success largely insofar as it has made the world a safe place for teenage girls—to go to school, get a job, and decide who and when to marry, or if they want to marry. When teenage girls turn away from One Direction and embrace ISIS, it means the West is losing.51TVFjKStQL._SL250_

[Order Lee Smith's "The Consequences of Syria (The Great Unraveling: The Remaking of the Middle East)"]

“The idea of a caliphate, ripped from the pages of Muslim history, resonates with a kind of existential authenticity missing from the vast and drab European suburbs warehousing Muslim youth.”

A Washington Institute poll last week showed that the Islamic State has more support in Europe than it does in the Middle East. The poll reported that only 3 percent of Egyptians, 5 percent of Saudis, and under 1 percent of Lebanese “expressed a positive opinion of the IS.” On the other hand, 7 percent of U.K. respondents had a favorable view of the group, as did 16 percent of French polled—with 27 percent of French citizens between 18-24 responding favorably.

“So, why given a choice between a comfortable, if somewhat boring, life as a pharmacist in Hamburg, or fighting and dying in the desert, are thousands of Western Muslims opting for the latter?”

The numbers should hardly come as a surprise. Thousands of young European Muslims have already left the continent for the Middle East to help the organization’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, build an authentic Islamic caliphate. Doubtless thousands more are on their way, to kill and die for an idea they believe in.

“Because, for all the awesome social services and consumer goods it can offer, Europe has become incapable of endowing the lives of its citizens, Muslim or not, with meaning. “

It is a striking fact that ISIS appeals not only to young men, but also young European women, many hundreds of whom have gone to Syria and Iraq to marryIslamic State fighters. Sure, some of them, like the 15-year-old French Jewish girlNora el-Bathy, may have come to regret their decision. But that hardly alters the essential point: The girls sought out IS fighters because the West seems weak and unmanly and they pine for real men who are willing to kill and die for what they believe in. Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong Media Mogul Jimmy Lai Has Spent More than 3 Weeks with Protesters

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A Hong Kong Media Mogul and His Protest Tent

Fiona Law reports: Jimmy Lai has spent time at a protest encampment next to the government complex in Hong Kong’s Admiralty district for 25 days now.

“The momentum of this movement is tremendous. People just won’t go away if there’s no solution from the government.”

“I just feel that it’s my responsibility to be part of it,” said the media mogul on Wednesday in his blue tent, where he has gone every day since the start of pro-democracy protests that are now in their fourth week.

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Mr. Lai, the founder of Next Media Ltd., which owns publications in Hong Kong and Taiwan including the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, said he believed the protesters will stay on in the streets.

“I was born in China and spent my childhood in China seeing how life was like under the authoritarian Chinese regime…This was like heaven, the other side like hell.”

– Jimmy Lai

“The momentum of this movement is tremendous,” he said. “People just won’t go away if there’s no solution from the government.”

Mr. Lai said he is prepared to stay at the tent, which he shares with some pro-democracy politicians and volunteers, for a long time. Unlike some students who sleep at the protest sites, Mr. Lai only spends time in the tent during the day and goes back home for work and sleep. Read the rest of this entry »


Sacré Bleu! Terrifying Teen Bozo Convicted as Armed Clowns Spread Panic in French towns

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Contagious Coulrophobia Epidemic in Pas-de-Calais

Béthune, France (AFP) – The party is over for a fake clown who received a six-month suspended jail term Monday for threatening passers-by while in full circus garb, a disturbing trend terrifying towns in northern France.APPROVED-non-stop-panic

“They take their inspiration from American horror movies.”

Whether brandishing a rubber chicken at a children’s party or starring as the evil protagonist in a horror film, clowns have long had both the ability to entertain and terrify.

“It is absolutely unacceptable that children are held hostage by such acts.”

This fear of clowns, dubbed coulrophobia, has swept small towns in Pas-de-Calais in northern France where police report a wave of complaints over people dressed up as the tricksters and threatening passers-by.

A 19-year-old young man was arrested on Friday after waving a stick resembling a long knife while chasing a group of teenagers, who had to seek refuge in a chip stand. Read the rest of this entry »


Chinese Christians passionately support Hong Kong protesters

Originally posted on Vancouver Sun:

A vigorous debate between Chinese Christians in Canada has been taking place on this blog, The Search, in the last couple of weeks over whether to fully support the Hong Kong protests.

In this installment more than two dozen Chinese Christians with roots in Vancouver passionately stand up for the pro-democracy protesters, who are in the third week of a stand-offwith troops and politicians over their dogged push for free elections in Hong Kong.

Their critical aim is focussed on Jonathan Chan, executive director of the Company of Canadians, an ethnically diverse B.C.-based Christian ministry that counts some of the city’s 100,000 Chinese Christiansamong its members.

(For the record, Chan has never claimed to me to represent the views of all or most Chinese Christians in Vancouver. But, since the writers of the public letter below have made that question a centre of their argument, I will leave…

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Hong Kong has too many poor people to allow direct elections, leader says

Originally posted on Quartz:

HONG KONG—Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement protesters have been demanding that the city’s top official, CY Leung, step down for weeks now. They may soon be joined by many more of the city’s 7 million residents, after a controversial interview last night in which Leung suggested that election reforms sought by the protestors would invite undue influence from the city’s poor.

Speaking at his official residence, a colonial-era mansion set above the city—it’s furnished with crystal chandeliers and guarded by massive stone lions—Leung addressed three foreign newspapers that target Hong Kong’s wealthy international community. Allowing the entire voting population of Hong Kong, some 5 million people, to directly nominate candidates for the city’s top official position would be a mistake, Leung said:

“If it’s entirely a numbers game—numeric representation—then obviously you’d be talking to half the people in Hong Kong [that] earn less than US$1,800 a month. You would end…

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American Dream: Expelled Nazis Collected Millions in U.S. Social Security Benefits

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OSIJEK, Croatia (AP) — Former Auschwitz guard Jakob Denzinger lived the American dream.

His plastics company in the Rust Belt town of Akron, Ohio, thrived. By the late 1980s, he had acquired the trappings of success: a Cadillac DeVille and a Lincoln Town Car, a lakefront home, investments in oil and real estate.

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Akron viaduct, Ohio

Then the Nazi hunters showed up.

In 1989, as the U.S. government prepared to strip him of his citizenship, Denzinger packed a pair of suitcases and fled to Germany. Denzinger later settled in this pleasant town on the Drava River, where he lives comfortably, courtesy of U.S. taxpayers.

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Drava River

He collects a Social Security payment of about $1,500 each month, nearly twice the take-home pay of an average Croatian worker.

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Osijek, Croatia

Denzinger, 90, is among dozens of suspected Nazi war criminals and SS guards who collected millions of dollars in Social Security payments after being forced out of the United States, an Associated Press investigation found.

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The payments flowed through a legal loophole that has given the U.S. Justice Department leverage to persuade Nazi suspects to leave. If they agreed to go, or simply fled before deportation, they could keep their Social Security, according to interviews and internal government records.

Like Denzinger, many lied about their Nazi pasts to get into the U.S. following World War II, and eventually became American citizens.

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Among those who benefited:

—armed SS troops who guarded the Nazi network of camps where millions of Jews perished.

—an SS guard who took part in the brutal liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto in Nazi-occupied Poland that killed as many as 13,000 Jews.

—a Nazi collaborator who engineered the arrest and execution of thousands of Jews in Poland.

—a German rocket scientist accused of using slave labor to build the V-2 rocket that pummeled London. He later won NASA’s highest honor for helping to put a man on the moon.

Social Security Ad

The AP’s findings are the result of more than two years of interviews, research and analysis of records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and other sources.

The Justice Department denied using Social Security payments as a tool for removing Nazi suspects. But records show the U.S. State Department and the Social Security Administration voiced grave concerns over the methods used by the Justice Department’s Nazi-hunting unit, the Office of Special Investigations.

State officials derogatorily called the practice “Nazi dumping” and claimed the OSI was bargaining with suspects so they would leave voluntarily. Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong Protest and Social Media: Man Arrested Over Online Messages

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HONG KONG — Gillian Wong reports: A man was arrested on suspicion of posting messages online that urged people to gather and agitate at a protest site, police said Sunday.

“The arrest marks a relatively new tactic in Hong Kong police’s attempts to curb the demonstrations that have paralyzed key sections of the city for weeks.”

The move—one of the first such arrests during three weeks of d”emonstrations here—could potentially chill the protesters’ use of the Internet and social media to mobilize large crowds.

[Follow Pundit Planet's EXCLUSIVE coverage of the Hong Kong Protests]

The Hong Kong Police Force said in a statement on its website that a 23-year-old man had been arrested Saturday on suspicion of “accessing a computer with illegal or dishonest intentions” and illegal assembly.

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A preliminary police investigation revealed the man had posted messages on online discussion boards urging others to go to Mong Kok—one of three main protest sites—to “join an illegal assembly, attack police and paralyze subway lines,” the statement said. The man, who has been released on bail, is separately accused of illegal assembly in Mong Kok, the statement said.

The police declined to give further information about the man or say whether he has retained a lawyer. Attempts by The Wall Street Journal to contact the man have been unsuccessful. Read the rest of this entry »


HK: Dueling Definitions of Democracy

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Rhetoric aside, China has always retained the final say on how the city’s leaders would be chosen. That power was enshrined in Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, by giving Beijing the right to final interpretations, including on elections.

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Martin Lee, a leading democratic activist and former legislator who sat on the law’s drafting committee.

“There was no doubt in our minds that Beijing was quite prepared to give us democracy or universal suffrage as everybody would understand it to be.”

– Martin Lee

When China and the U.K. began negotiating the transfer of Hong Kong in the early 1980s, both sides spoke optimistically about elections. Promises for future balloting were embedded in documents signed at the time to guide Hong Kong after its return to Chinese control in 1997.

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For WSJ Ned Levin, Charles Hutzler and Jenny Gross: In recent months, arguments over the meaning of those promises have helped to propel increasingly confrontational protests over how the city will choose its next leader in 2017. Beijing says that it has honored its commitment to provide universal suffrage; pro-democracy activists say that China has trampled those promises by insisting that candidates be approved by a committee whose members are largely pro-business and pro-Beijing.

“No one told Hong Kongers when they were assured of universal suffrage that it would not mean being able to choose for whom they could vote.”

Rhetoric aside, China has always retained the final say on how the city’s leaders would be chosen. That power was enshrined in Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, by giving Beijing the right to final interpretations, including on elections.

“They can interpret white as black, yellow, green or red. And tomorrow, they can interpret back to white,” said Martin Lee, a leading democratic activist and former legislator who sat on the law’s drafting committee. He resigned after China’s bloody 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square.

The agreement to return Hong Kong to China was signed by U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang in 1984. During a tense 1982 trip to China, Mrs. Thatcher tripped and stumbled on the steps of the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square. Read the rest of this entry »


Sacré Bleu! Saboteurs Deflate Sex-Toy Artwork, Paris Installation Reduced to a Flaccid Heap

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A giant inflatable sculpture that caused outrage in Paris for its resemblance to a sex toy will not be reinstalled after being reduced to a flaccid heap by vandals, its creator said Saturday.

American artist Paul McCarthy, 69, was slapped three times in the face by an outraged passer as “The Tree” was put up on the city’s ritzy Place Vendome on Thursday next to a column topped by a statue of Napoleon.

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And on Saturday vandals cut a support cable to leave the 24-metre high work — which provoked a storm of mirth on social media for its resemblance to a “butt plug” — slumped on the pavement.

The FIAC contemporary art fair, which organised for the sculpture to be put up close to the Ritz Hotel, said in a statement that “the artist was worried about potential trouble if the work was put back up”.

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“Instead of a profound reflection about objects as a mode of expression with multiple meanings, we have witnessed violent reactions.”

– Artist Paul McCarthy, pretending to be unhappy about the notoriety he’s enjoying as a result of his infantile ass-toy stunt

“Individuals waited until the security guard’s attention was elsewhere and cut the cable that kept the sculpture in place,” a police source told AFP on condition of anonymity. Read the rest of this entry »


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