This morning's key headlines from
- Israel in political crisis over ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arab draftee exemptions
- Russian backlash blocks military draftees from the North Caucasus
- Anti-Chinese protesters in Vietnam chant 'Paracels-Vietnam, Spratlys-Vietnam'
- China 'annexes' North Korea and claims 'ownership'
- Greece to announce privatizations and asset sales
- Kofi Annan says his Syria peace plans have failed
- World is not ending on December 21, 2012, despite Mayan calendar
Israel in political crisis over ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arab draftee exemptions
Ultra-orthodox Jews demand demand continued exemption from the draft
At Israel's founding in 1948, about 400 exemplary seminary students
were exempted from military service to pursue full-time, subsidized
biblical studies. Today that number has grown to about 100,000
full-time Torah learners of draft age, making up about 10% of Israel's
eligible draftees in what many people are calling a welfare program.
Ultra-orthodox Jews defend their exemptions by claiming that their
prayers are necessary for the survival of Israel. Arab Israelis have
also been exempted, and they defend their exemptions by claiming that
they are treated as second-class citizens in Israel. But now a
political crisis has been triggered when Israel's High Court struck
down the so-called Tal Law, which provides for national service
exemptions for ultra-0rthodox Jews and Arab Israelis. The government
has appointed a committee to draft a new law, but it will to deal with
competing demands from secularists and nationalists who want everyone
drafted, and ultra-Orthodox and Arab activists who want to keep their
Russian backlash blocks military draftees from the North Caucasus
Several attempts by Russian military officials to include military
conscripts from Russia's mostly Muslim southern (North Caucasus)
provinces have been prevented by mutual xenophobia between ethnic
Russians and North Caucasians. Conscripts from Chechnya have been
drafted for military units in Chechnya itself, but plans to draft
Chechens into the main Russian military have been blocked by scandals
and a backlash by ethnic Russians, including mothers concerned about
the possible persecution of their children by Russian officers who had
fought in Chechnya. Some indigenous North Caucasian groups are still
being drafted, but that's expected to end as well. Russia is having
serious problems keeping its army staffed because Russia’s demographic
growth faces rapid decline. On the other hand, since indigenous
Caucasians are not being drafted, the manpower pool for the insurgents
Anti-Chinese protesters in Vietnam chant 'Paracels-Vietnam, Spratlys-Vietnam'
Relations between China and Vietnam continue to deteriorate quickly
over competing claims to the South China Sea. China has been building
up its military pursuant to its claim to have full sovereignty over
the entire South China Sea, including areas historically belonging to
other countries. Vietnamese government officials permitted hundreds
of protesters to march through the center of Hanoi on Sunday, waving
banners and changing "Paracels-Vietnam, Spratlys-Vietnam," referring
the two major island groups in the South China Sea, referred to as
Xisha and Nansha, respectively, by the Chinese.
China 'annexes' North Korea and claims 'ownership'
A report indicates that China has told South Korea that it will not
allow the unification of North and South Korea under a democratic
government. North Korea will remain under Chinese "influence." If
necessary China will send in troops to set up a North Korean
government that will faithfully follow orders from China. In an effort
to dampen some of the anger in South Korea, the United States, and
Japan, China would maintain North Korea as a separate entity, and not
a new province of China. China wants no misunderstanding about who
"owns" North Korea.
Greece to announce privatizations and asset sales
In an attempt to get eurozone agreement on postponing painful new
austerity measures, Greece's new government, led by Antonis Samaras,
will announce as many as 28 privatizations to a Eurogroup meeting of
eurozone finance ministers on Monday. The expected proposed
privatizations include the state natural gas, water and betting
companies, as well as regional airports and ports, valued at tens of
billions of euros. However, Alexis Tsipras, head of the left-wing
opposition party Syriza, criticized the privatization agenda, saying,
"The prime minister’s policy statement was nothing more than a ‘for
sale sign’ put on Greece. The government will have to account for its
actions, the looting of public goods."
Kofi Annan says his Syria peace plans have failed
Kofi Annan has admitted something that's been obvious almost from day
one -- that his six-point "peace plan" for Syria has failed. Indeed,
as we've said repeatedly, the plan may actually have increased the
violence, as it never did anything more than provide a fig leaf behind
which Syria's president Bashar al-Assad could stand while continuing
full-scale slaughter of innocent Sunni Arabs, with the enthusiastic
support of Russia and Iran. Annan visited Damascus on Sunday to talk
with Assad, for whatever reason.
Day Press News (Syria)
World is not ending on December 21, 2012, despite Mayan calendar
There have been numerous stories that the world would end on December
21, 2012, based on predictions by the Maya civilization centuries ago.
However, a recent analysis of the Mayan calendar shows that those who
infer a prediction of the end of the world later this year have
confused the calendars of two different civilizations -- the Aztecs
and the Mayans. The conclusion is that the world will NOT end on
December 21 of this year, after all.