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Syria Rebel Group Receives Formal Recognition by the U.S.

President Barack Obama has announced that the U.S. will formally back Syria’s main rebel group to pursue a common goal of bringing an end to President Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship. The recognition puts the U.S. on the same page with its European allies who have already given their full support for the opposition.

In an interview with ABC News, President Obama said that the opposition coalition is representative enough of the Syrian people to the extent that they have earned the support of the U.S.

The Syrian National Coalition for revolutionary and Opposition Forces was formed in November and received immediate support from European nations. The U.S., however, was a little hesitant as it was concerned with Islamist rebels and extremists within the organization.

Western nations have also opened a window to engage in talks with Russia, which is one of Syria and Assad’s greatest allies. Obama has said that while it supports the opposition, it will also make sure to weed out those within the group who has ties to al Qaeda.

The Obama administration recently released intelligence reports that identify an opposition group as an affiliate of al Qaeda. The group is Jabhat al-Nusra, which has been linked to close to 600 terrorist attacks in Syria since November of last year. The U.S. has now barred all Americans from doing business with the organization. In addition, sanctions have also been imposed against two Jabhat al-Nusra members for their connection to al Qaeda in Iraq.

Plans for an international meeting will be held in Morocco where 80 nations from around the world will convene to discuss how it can further their collective support for the rebel groups. The conference is being dubbed as the “Friends of Syria” meeting. The conference will be held as the U.S. continues to monitor Assad’s government for signs of chemical weapons that it may deploy against its own people.

Israeli Aggression – Caricature 1956

Bashar Al-Assad Reportedly Seeking Asylum

Reports are emerging that Syrian President Assad may seek political asylum. – CNN

Palestinians Condemn Israel for Settlement Expansion Plans

Not long after gaining recognition of statehood by the United Nations, the Palestinians are now condemning Israel and saying that the nation must be held accountable for what they deem to be war crimes for trying to expand the settlement into East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The Palestinians sent a letter to the UN Security Council and UN Secretary General accusing Israel of violating international law. The complaint came after Israel announced plans to expand the land for an additional 3,000 homes for settlers; these are the same areas that Palestinians planned for a future state.

The news came just after the UN General Assembly raised the status of the Palestinians from “observer entity” to “non-member state.” With the upgrade in status, the Palestinians now have open access to the International Criminal Court, which oversees cases regarding violations of human rights, war crimes and genocide.

The Palestinians are now threatening to use the court to seek legal action against Israel should it proceed with its plans to build the settlements. Before the UN vote, a few Western nations made an unsuccessful attempt to get the Palestinians to agree to a pledge that they would not use the court against Israel.

The Palestinians, however, are not without support. Both Britain and France have threatened to recall their ambassadors and have also arranged for plans to meet with Israeli officials to persuade them to withdraw their settlement plans. William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary, has said that while economic sanctions are unlikely, it will consider all options on the table if Israel does not rescind its decision. Additional nations including Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland and Australia have also echoed the same sentiment in getting Israel to halt any settlement expansion plans.

The West Bank and East Jerusalem are currently home to about 2.5 million Palestinians as well as half a million Israelis.

Kate Middleton In The Hospital With Pregnancy Illness

The Duchess of Cambridge ,Kate Middleton, has been admitted to the hospital for Hyperemesis Gravidarum, a “very acute morning sickness, which requires supplementary hydration and nutrients,” according to the duke and duchess’ official website. – abc

Syria Condemns Turkey’s Request for NATO to Deploy Missiles

Syria condemns Turkey for requesting missile deployment by NATO. – AlJazeera

Shopping Local for Small Business Saturday

Black Friday is that crazy day of the year when bargain hunters camp outside a store in hopes of getting their hands on a killer deal, such as that laptop or Blu-ray player that has been advertised as half off. For those that are not keen on the idea of setting up a tent and roasting marshmallows outside a Wal-Mart or Target store, there is always Cyber Monday, in which most online stores offer their merchandise at discounted prices.

While Black Friday and Cyber Monday are widely ingrained into modern culture, there is another shopping day that is still mostly unknown. The day is known as Small Business Saturday and is a day created to promote local businesses.

Large retail chains like Wal-Mart are the real beneficiaries of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. They have the finances, national reputation and an online presence to promote discount sales. Traditional mom-and-pop shops and individually owned stores simply do not have the resources to compete.

This is where Small Business Saturday enters the picture. It is a fairly new concept that was created in 2010 by American Express and encourages shoppers to shop at small retail stores the Saturday following Black Friday. It is a way to keep small businesses a part of the community as these stores don’t have a means of competing with large franchises.

For this year’s Small Business Saturday, American Express is giving away 40,000 gift cards each worth 25 dollars via Facebook. The promotion is to help spread awareness that small businesses matter and are an integral part of the economy.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday follows right after Thanksgiving, so shoppers should not forget that the time of the year is about giving. Shopping at small businesses is a way to give by keeping local shop owners a part of the community.

Efforts Continue for an Israel-Hamas Cease-Fire Agreement

Israel and Hamas appear to be one step closer to a cease-fire agreement though the fighting continues to rage on from both sides. Israeli tanks and gunboats fired into Gaza while as many as 200 rockets were launched at Israel.

In the meantime, officials from both sides work to propose a deal to put the fighting to a halt. The U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton along with the U.N Chief and Egypt’s president has also got involved.

Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has publicly announced that the country hopes for a diplomatic solution to resolve the conflict though it will continue to take whatever steps are necessary to defend itself.

Clinton has expressed her desire for an outcome that involves comprehensive peace talks and expressed her sorrows for the casualties on both sides but also stated that the U.S. remains committed to Israel’s security.

According to a spokesperson, Clinton met with the Prime Minister to discuss efforts on de-escalating the situation. The Secretary of State also has plans to make stops in Cairo and Ramallah to meet with Egyptian officials.

The fighting began on Nov 14th when Israel launched a retaliatory attack in response to months of rocket launches directed at its border. The attack began with an airstrike that killed a Hamas military chief. This was followed by a series of additional strikes that targeted militants and weapons storage sites.

So far, 130 Palestinians have reportedly been killed by the strikes with dozens of civilians injured. The rockets launched by Hamas have so far killed five Israelis, which included a soldier and civilian.

U.N. Chief Ban Ki-Moon criticized the rocket attacks by the Palestinians but also urged Israel to restrain itself from exercising too much military force.

Israel is demanding that Hamas puts an end to the rocket fires from Gaza and to put an end to weapons smuggling that is taking place through underground tunnels between Egypt and Gaza. It is also calling for Hamas to pledge that it will not use Egypt’s Sinai region as a staging point for launching attacks at Israel.

We Love Death as Much as the Jews Like Life – Hamas

Again we are going for another round with Hamas. This time its “Pillar of Cloud”. It all started with the Hamas firing rockets for the last few weeks. Israel waited for the right time and started the operation with the killing of Ahmed Ja’abari, Hamas’s most senior military commander.

Since then 3 Israelis were killed when the top floor of a building in Qiryat Malachi was blown away. On the palestinian side, 39 Palestinians are dead. Hamas fired over 650 rockets into Israel, hitting cities in the south like Ashkelon, Sderot, Beear Sheva, Ashdod, Rishon LeZion, and the 40 KM strip around the southern border with Gaza. What is different this time is the rockets fired at Tel Aviv. There were two sirens so far followed by rockets that landed in open spaces (no damage).

The government received approval for a military reserve recruitment of 75,000 soldiers. The picture you see was published in facebook – it shows a 9 month pregnant woman saying goodbye to her husband who was just called up in this latest recruitment.

I said it before and I’ll say it again. This will never end. We will always have to keep them at bay. Every so often we will need to initiate a retaliation, or some sort of deterring move to stop them from thinking we are getting too soft. They don’t want us here. They will never make peace with us. They want us dead.

Someone told me about this video clip, and its worth a look. It explains the Middle East crisis in a very plain nutshell.

Israel Launches Warning Missile into Syrian Border

A missile was fired into Syria courtesy of Israel as a warning sign. The shot was delivered to send a clear message to Syria after one of its mortars hit an Israeli military post in the Golan Heights. No injuries, casualties or significant damages were reported.

This is not the first time the incident has occurred. There have been multiple instances where mortar rounds from Syria have found its way into the Golan Heights. Israel believes the incidents are unintentional though it still holds Syria accountable.

According to Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovich, a spokesperson for the Israeli Army, the missile shot was sent as a retaliatory warning simply to let Syria know that while they understand the mortars were accidental, they better be more careful from now on. In addition to the warning, Israel has also filed a formal complaint with the United Nations.

Israel and Syria have been bitter enemies who have fought against one another in several wars in the past. However, they do share a border and the two countries have mostly stayed out of the other’s affairs. Israel has expressed concerns that Syria’s civil war could spread into their territory. There is also concern that Islamist extremists could take over the region in the event that Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, and his government are overthrown.

It is currently believed that Syria has a stockpile of chemical weapons, which Israel fears could end up in the hands of Hezbollah if Assad is ousted. There are also worries that Syria is very close to turning into a lawless region and can be exploited by Islamist insurgents as a focal point for delivering rocket launches against Israel.

Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has publicly announced that the government is monitoring the situation and will be ready to act on any late breaking developments.

Iranian President Ahmadinejad to be Grilled by the Parliament Over the Country’s Currency

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been under fire from leaders around the world for his refusal to put a halt to his uranium enrichment program. Now, it appears that he is being under attack by officials from his own country over sentiments that he and his administration made poor decisions that lead to the poor state of the economy.

The Iran parliament is ordering the president to answer questions regarding his mishandling of the currency. Ahmadinejad has been embroiled in controversy over his failure to regulate the currency market. He now has one month to answer a summons and explain before the parliament the missteps he and his administration are being accused of.

The rial, Iran’s form of currency, has drastically dipped in value over the last year. Iranian politicians partly attribute the drop in value to the heavy sanctions imposed by the U.S. but also to the gross mismanagement by Ahmadinejad and his government.

The summon of the president was ordered after Mahmoud Bahmani, the governor of Central Bank, refused to answer questions regarding the state of the market.

Among other things, the president is accused of using a trading system to allow for the importation of over 15,700 cars; the system is reserved and only to be used for the importing of rations and medicine. In addition, Ahmadinejad is also being accused of importing 2.5 billion dollars of wheat from abroad rather than just buying them domestically.

This is not the first time the Iranian president has clashed with officials in his own country. In March, he was heavily grilled after some claimed he made decisions that run completely counter to those recommended by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The situation regarded the firing of an intelligence minister by Ahmadinejad, though the minister was later reinstated at the request of Khamenei.

The Switcharoo – New Party in the Making Threatens Biberman Union

Photo: Eyal Yitzhar Reuters

Yep, there is no rest for the wicked in Israeli politics. A little while ago Bibi was on top of the world. He annexed Kadima into a unity government lead by Shaul Mofaz by giving him the Vice Prime Minister “position”, a step that created the largest coalition in government in Israeli politics history (April 2012).

October 12, 2012 Moshe Kahlon a widely supported member of the Likud party and rising star, (as well as Minister of Communications and Minister of Welfare & Social Services), suddenly announced his retirement from politics. He was walked out with much fanfare, hugs kisses and warm wishes from Bibi who was actually, for his own agenda, sorry to see him go. What Bibi was worried about was the ever lurking, Moshe Feiglin. The pesky Manhigut Yehudit leading hardliner, ran against Bibi for the 2012 Likud leadership election in January 31 and received 23% of the vote.

October 25, 2012 Bibi, the Wiley Coyote that he is, announced the now infamous Biberman union (Bibi+Lieberman) of the Likud party and Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu – merging to a single party Halikud Beiteinu that will premier in the coming elections Jan. 22, 2013.

“A joining of forces will give us the strength to defend Israel from military threats, and the strength to spearhead social and economic changes in the country,” he said.

The polls showed that the union would form a strong base of at least 30 electoral votes with the other parties, Kadima, Labour, Shas (religious), Yesh Atid (Lapid’s new gig) holding smaller less threatening portions.

BUT THEN, the switcharoo. Moshe Kahlon who earlier announced his political hiatus for the sake of making some of the mighty green (he got a job from one of the local tycoons) had a change of heart. Why? Maybe the Biberman move was too much for him, maybe he realized that leaving the political scene would mean that when he got back he would need to contend with Lieberman. But in any case, today the news is that he is running some polls. The Polls are good. They show that if he runs with Tzipi Livni’s Kadima (what’s left of it) they would get 27 electorals opposed with the 30 electorals the Biberman union would get (Halikud Beiteinu). Or alternatively, if he ran with Shelly Yachimovich and her Labour Party the total would be the same as Bibi and that is an interesting place to be.

People are concerned with the Biberman union. It smells bad, here is a little parody just on that (Hebrew)

U.S. and Iran in Denial Over Rumors of One-on-one Negotiations

After all the threats of sanctions against Iran and possible military force by the U.S. and Israel, it appears that Iran may finally be ready to sit down for a talk. At least this was what was rumored though there are now fervent denials from both sides refuting that such an agreement ever took place.

The White House has said that there are no plans set in place for President Obama to sit down with Iranian President Ahmadinejad for talks over the latter’s nuclear program though it did say that it would be open for such a meeting to take place.

The Republican GOP is now chiming in and says that if rumors for such talks are true, then Iran’s motives must be seriously questioned. According to South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, the talks are nothing but a ploy by the Iranians to buy themselves time to build up their nuclear capability and to drive a wedge between the international coalitions.

According to Time Magazine, it was an unidentified senior official from the Obama Administration that reported that the U.S. had a secret meeting with Iran and agreed to a one-on-one negotiation. If the report pans out as true, then this would be the first diplomatic relation between the two nations since the Iran Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran’s foreign minister, has also denied that such talks will be taking place though he did speculate that a round of talks will be scheduled with members of the United Nations Security Council in November.

Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has also weighed in on the matter and said that he was not aware whether the U.S. has agreed to such talks with Iran. Netanyahu also shared the same sentiments with Republican Senator Graham that negotiations are a mere setup by Iran to “drag its feet” to further its nuclear agenda.

Video Campaign for Kabbalah Bracelet Line Goes Live

MIZZE has also recently launched a funny (some say corky) online video campaign for their line of bracelets. The Israeli company has been making their own brand of Kabbalah inspired jewelry for 3 years.

The campaign was prompted by the just released line of new Kabbalah bracelets. MIZZE is a small jewelry studio in Israel that has its own line of unique Kabbalah jewelry. Their line includes necklaces, bracelets, rings and earrings. Their newest addition includes what they call “Red String Inside” bracelets – Kabbalah bracelets with an authentic Rachel’s tomb red string inter-woven into the bracelets. Rachel was a matriarch in biblical times and is revered in Christianity and Judaism.

The bracelet is intricately woven into a cotton thread with a seal of King Solomon amulet included as a charm. In ancient legend, the seal was said to give King Solomon mystic powers. Every bracelet includes a different seal that has special divine properties (Love, Positive Changes, Health and so on..) and holds some spiritual or emotional significance for the bearer.

Even though the jewelry is inspired by Kabbalah, it is also perfectly suitable for fashion wear. Those who are not drawn by its spiritual origins will at least find its design appealing enough for regular wear and use. For Jews, Christians and some new agers, the item has a deeper meaning and reflects an esoteric belief and practice that is such an integral part of the person’s life.

All jewelry available at MIZZE is crafted from quality organic materials and 925 Sterling Silver, so they make great gift options for those looking for a present with some sentimental value. The new Kabbalah bracelets at MIZZE come in up to 10 different colors for the band and a different Solomon Seal made from sterling silver for each one.

Romney Leads Obama Following First Televised Debate

The upcoming election to decide the next U.S. commander-in-chief is going to be a tight race. Most polls show a slight lead for President Obama, which is practically a tie with the margin of error. The tide, however, appears to be shifting after the two met for their first televised debate.

Romney brought his A-game and was clear and concise in explaining exactly what he would do to fix the economy and get Americans back to work. The president on the other hand, fumbled his words and looked absolutely unprepared. This came as somewhat of a surprise as Obama is normally known as being a great orator. Polls of likely voters following the debate show that it is now Romney who holds a slight lead with 46 percent over Obama’s 45 percent.

Due to poll numbers being so close, the outcome of the race will depend on independent voters who currently favor Romney by a percentage of 44 to 32.

The president and governor both have opposing views over how they will handle the economy and lower the unemployment rate. They also disagree on foreign affairs. The president wishes to cut spending on military defense and has also been very vague over his stance with Iran. He has consistently been criticized by Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu for not taking a tougher position over Iran’s nuclear program.

When it comes to the Jewish vote, however, Jews have traditionally voted democrat. AJC, a non-partisan Jewish advocacy group, shows that Jewish voters favor Obama by a percentage of 65 to 24.

The debate has certainly won Romney some favorable views among the public with 52 percent saying they have a positive view of him, as opposed to 48 percent prior to the debate. This is the first time the governor accumulated a favorable view rating of over 50 percent and also the first time he leads Obama.

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