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Monthly Archives: April 2019

2 Palestinian families get demolition notices – National

JERUSALEM – Israeli police on Thursday handed home demolition notices to families of two more attackers from east Jerusalem, a Palestinian official said, a day after security personnel destroyed a home there for the first time in five years.

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The destructions are a renewed tactic meant as a punitive measure for a wave of Palestinian attacks on Israelis, including a deadly assault on a Jerusalem synagogue this week. Although the tactic has caused much controversy and debate over its effectiveness, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stepped up the demolition orders in an effort to halt the violence.

Adnan Husseini, the Palestinian Authority minister for Jerusalem affairs, said the families of Ibrahim al-Akari and Moataz Hijazi received the notices on Thursday. An Israeli police spokesman said he was checking the report.

Al-Akari was shot dead by security forces after killing two Israelis earlier this month, when he rammed his car into a Jerusalem light rail station. Israeli police also killed Hijazi after he shot and seriously wounded an Israeli activist who has lobbied for greater Jewish access to a sensitive Jerusalem holy site in October.

Netanyahu has called for tough action amid a wave of attacks against Israelis. Eleven people have died in five separate incidents in recent weeks — most of them in Jerusalem, but also in Tel Aviv and the occupied West Bank. At least five Palestinians involved in the attacks were killed.

The attacks reached a new turning point on Tuesday when two Palestinian assailants burst into a crowded synagogue during morning prayers, killing four worshippers and a Druze Arab policeman with meat cleavers and gunfire. It was the deadliest attack in the city since 2008.

The violence has taken place against the background of roiling tensions over access to Jerusalem’s most holy site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. The Palestinians fear that Israel wants to allow Jews to pray there, breaking a status quo in effect since Israel captured the area in the 1967 Mideast War.

Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders have repeatedly denied the claim but nationalistic politicians have increasingly stirred tensions by visiting the site.

The tensions have spurred anti-Arab demonstrations by Israeli hardliners. On Wednesday, Mayor Itamar Shimoni of the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon suspended Israeli Arab labourers from work. They were renovating bomb shelters at local day-care centres.

The move drew widespread criticism on Thursday, including from Netanyahu who said “there is no place for discrimination against Israeli Arabs.” Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, who anchors the far right wing of Netanyahu’s coalition, insisted that “99 per cent of Israeli Arabs are completely loyal” to Israel.

Arab citizens make up about 20 per cent of Israel’s population of 8 million people. Tensions over the Jerusalem holy site have spilled into their community as well. Against this backdrop, Israeli police recently shot to death an Arab Israeli man who approached a police car wielding a knife.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military said Thursday that militants in the Gaza Strip test-fired rockets into the Mediterranean Sea, in an apparent attempt to show off their capabilities.

Four rockets were fired in the past 24 hours, the military said, without elaborating on the test or type of rockets fired. There was no immediate confirmation from Palestinian officials in Gaza.

Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers fought a 50-day war over the summer that claimed more than 2,100 Palestinian and 70 Israeli lives.

At the time, Israel said it launched the operation to halt Hamas’ rocket attacks from Gaza — rockets that now have the ability to reach Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other Israeli cities. And though the rocket fire continued throughout the war, it was largely neutralized by Israel’s “Iron Dome” aerial defence system.

©2014

‘The Graduate’ director Mike Nichols dies at 83 – National

WATCH: Mike Nichols had a gift for directing on film and stage. Through his vision, he helped shape the way we all see ourselves. Nichols. Eric Sorensen looks back at his career.

TORONTO — Director Mike Nichols, whose career included stage productions like Barefoot in the Park and Spamalot and films including The Graduate and Silkwood, died Wednesday evening, a little more than a week after his 83rd birthday.

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Nichols’ death, by cardiac arrest, was announced early Thursday by James Goldston, president of ABC News.

The director, writer, producer and actor was married to ABC News personality Diane Sawyer for 26 years.

“Mike had a sparkling wit and a brilliant mind,” Goldston wrote in a memo. “Beloved by so many in film, television and Broadway, there was no greater joy in his life than his family.”

Nichols is one of a small group of people who has won every major show business award — he earned an Oscar and Golden Globe as well as four Emmy Awards, nine Tony Awards, and a Grammy Award (for Best Comedy Album with Elaine May).

BELOW: Watch Mike Nichols performing with Elaine May.

Although he acted, Nichols’ passion was directing. He famously said that directing is like making love “because you never know if you’re doing it right or as well as the other guy.”

His stage credits include Annie in 1977, an unsuccessful Broadway production of the Canadian musical Billy Bishop Goes to War in 1980 and Death of a Salesman in 2012. His last show was 2013’s Betrayal.

Nichols’ first film was 1966’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, which was nominated for 13 Oscars and won five. He won Best Director at the Academy Awards for his second film, The Graduate.

Nichols followed with acclaimed movies including Silkwood, Working Girl, Postcards from the Edge, The Birdcage and Charlie Wilson’s War. He also directed the TV mini-series Angels in America.

He recently worked on an adaptation of Master Class, Terrence McNally’s play about opera star Maria Callas, for HBO.

Mike Nichols with Diane Sawyer, pictured in 2011.

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In the early ’60s, Nichols was immersed in the theatre scene in Vancouver, B.C. He co-starred with Susan Kohner in a Vancouver International Festival production of Saint Joan and directed a production of The Importance of Being Earnest.

In the acting community, Nichols was beloved and respected.

At an American Film Institute tribute to Nichols, Streep called him “one of our era’s essential artists.”

She added: “No explanation of our world could be complete and no account or image of it so rich if we didn’t have you. You have made yourself unmistakable. You have created a quality, an essence, that’s composed of wit, grace, outrage, delight, skepticism and true love.”

Annette Bening added: “If you’re lucky enough to work with Mike, you’ll probably give the best performance that you’re capable of giving.”

“You’re more than a great director,” gushed Dustin Hoffman. “You’re a real artist down to your toes because you’re insanely courageous.”

Natalie Portman, who starred in his 2004 movie Closer, once said: “He has an eye and an ear and a heart for the truth. He’ll tell you something that suddenly seems obvious but that you’d never have come up with yourself, which is probably the definition of genius.”

Born Mikhail Peschkowsky in Germany, he was sent to the U.S. as a child to escape Nazi persecution. His family settled in New York City and Nichols became a citizen in 1944.

Nichols is survived by Sawyer as well as children Daisy, Max and Jenny (from previous marriages) and four grandchildren.

The family will hold a private service this week but a memorial will be held at a later date.

©2014

Pope wants just distribution of world’s bounty for poor and hungry – National

ROME – Pope Francis demanded a more just distribution of the world’s bounty for the poor and hungry Thursday, telling a U.N. conference on nutrition that access to food is a basic human right that shouldn’t be subject to market speculation and quests for profit.

“We ask for dignity, not for charity,” Francis told the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

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His speech came a day after more than 170 countries at the conference adopted new voluntary guidelines to prevent malnutrition, promote healthy diets and reduce levels of obesity around the globe.

Currently, one-third of the world’s population suffers from nutritional deficiencies of the sort that caused 45 per cent of all child deaths in 2013, according to U.N. data. At the same time, 42 million children under age 5 are overweight and some 500 million adults were obese in 2010.

Francis recalled that when St. John Paul II addressed the first U.N. conference on nutrition in 1992, he warned against the risk of the “‘paradox of plenty,’ in which there is food for everyone, but not everyone can eat, while waste, excessive consumption and the use of food for other purposes is visible before our very eyes.”

Francis said unfortunately, that paradox remains today.

Francis has frequently spoken about the plight of the poor and hungry, denouncing the “scourge of hunger” during his Easter address this year and lamenting that the world’s needy could be fed with all the food that is wasted.

The U.N. estimates that a third of all the food that is produced is lost to waste and spoilage.

“It is also painful to see that the struggle against hunger and malnutrition is hindered by ‘market priorities,’ the ‘primacy of profit,’ which have reduced foodstuffs to a commodity like any other, subject to speculation, also of a financial nature,” Francis said.

Turkey not to blame for higher price of Thanksgiving dinner this year – National

Giving thanks will be a little costlier this year, but – and here’s something you can be truly thankful for – it probably won’t empty your wallet.

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The price for putting Thanksgiving dinner on the table for 10 people is expected to rise slightly this year, clocking in at $49.41. That’s 37 cents higher than in 2013. For that, you can blame dairy products, coffee and that all-important marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole, according to the annual informal survey of consumer grocery prices performed by the American Farm Bureau Federation.

The group found that the price of dairy – as in milk for the mashed potatoes and whipped cream for the pies – collectively jumped 25 cents over last year. Miscellaneous ingredients, such as coffee, sugar and eggs, account for another 28 cents, while 3 pounds of sweet potatoes jumped 20 cents.

The good news is that a drop in fuel prices won’t just make it cheaper to drive to Grandma’s house for the big meal, it also helped keep down the cost of some ingredients. Flour-based foods, such as stuffing mix, pie shells and dinner rolls, will run about 21 cents less than last year, likely due to energy cost savings by the processors, says John Anderson, the Farm Bureau’s deputy chief economist.

The group estimates the cost of Thanksgiving dinner by averaging non-sale food prices around the country based on feeding 10 people a meal of turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk. And yes, their estimates account for needing leftovers.

And here’s something to consider: Though this year’s cost is up, it’s still 7 cents lower than in 2012.

News earlier this week that turkey production is at its lowest level in nearly three decades and wholesale prices are at an all-time high briefly spooked some folks. But most consumers won’t see that reflected on their grocery bills. Retailers aren’t likely to pass on to consumer much if any price hike that they are paying for the big birds, and the Farm Bureau actually expects the cost of a 16-pound turkey to drop by 11 cents this year.

Of course, there are plenty of ways to spend more this Thanksgiving. Upgrade that 16-pound conventional bird to an organic, free-range model and suddenly the Farm Bureau’s $21.65 estimate can jump to $100 or more at specialty online retailers. Not into baking? Instead of spending about $3 on a homemade pie, you can spend $25 or more on high-end mail order versions.

Or maybe you don’t want to cook at all. A complete and fully cooked Thanksgiving dinner for 12 people from Whole Foods Market will cost around $170.

Then again, maybe you want to spend less. Shop smart at a bargain retailer and you could shave more than a third off the Farm Bureau’s total. Using the same menu for 10 people, Wal-Mart estimates that shopping for Thanksgiving dinner at one of its stores will cost just $32.64.

But maybe you got off the hook this year and aren’t hosting Thanksgiving. If instead of cooking you’ll be travelling by car, you’ll see savings at the pump. Gasoline is running about 33 cents less per gallon than it was a year ago, with a national average of $2.88, according to travel tracker AAA. And it doesn’t matter where you’re driving. Gas can be found for less than $3 a gallon in every state in the continental U.S.

Don’t want to drive? If you’re travelling by train, you’ll pay a bit more. Amtrak says its ticket prices have increased an average of 2 per cent over last year. Same goes for flying. The average price of an airline ticket for travel this Thanksgiving is $307.52, not including an average $51 in taxes and fees, according to the Airlines Reporting Corp., which processes ticket transactions for airlines and travel agencies. That’s up 1.1 per cent from last year.

AP Travel Editor Beth J. Harpaz and AP Airlines Reporter Scott Mayerowitz contributed to this report.

Report: Global obesity costs hits $2 trillion – National

LONDON – The global cost of obesity has risen to $2 trillion annually — nearly as much as smoking or the combined impact of armed violence, war and terrorism, according to a new report released Thursday.

The McKinsey Global Institute consulting firm’s report focused on the economics of obesity, putting it among the top three social programs generated by human beings. It puts its impact at 2.8 per cent of global gross domestic product.

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“Obesity isn’t just a health issue,” one of the report’s authors, Richard Dobbs, said in a podcast. “But it’s a major economic and business challenge.”

READ MORE: This anti-obesity ad may scare parents into stashing the junk food away

The company says 2.1 billion people — about 30 per cent of the global population— are overweight or obese and that about 15 per cent of health care costs in developed economies are driven by it.

In emerging markets, as countries get richer, the rate of obesity rises to the same level as that found in more developed countries. The report offers the stark prediction that nearly half the world’s adult population will be overweight or obese by 2030 should present trends continue.

“We are on an unfortunate trajectory,” Dobbs told The Associated Press. “We have to act.”

READ MORE: Your child’s weight in kindergarten could predict obesity later on

The report’s authors argue that efforts to deal with obesity have been piecemeal until now, and that a systemic response is needed.

McKinsey says there’s no single or simple solution to the problem, but global disagreement on how to move forward is hurting progress. The analysis is meant to offer a starting point on the elements of a possible strategy.

READ MORE: Parents’ feeding habits may be increasing childhood obesity

“We see our work on a potential program to address obesity as the equivalent of the maps used by 16th-century navigators,” McKinsey said in its report. “Some islands were missing and some continents misshapen in these maps, but they were still helpful to the sailors of that era.”