The Washington Post

The fearless father who threw himself on a suicide bomber, saving ‘hundreds’ of lives in Beirut

 Ali and Malak, the children of Adel Termos, who was killed in a twin bombing attack that rocked a busy shopping street in the area of Burj al-Barajneh in Beirut’s southern suburb, carry a portrait of their father during his funeral in the village of Tallussa in the Nabatiyeh governorate, south of Lebanon, on Nov. 13, 2015. (Mahmoud Sayyat/AFP/Getty Images)

Ali and Malak, the children of Adel Termos, who was killed in a twin bombing attack that rocked a busy shopping street in the area of Burj al-Barajneh in Beirut’s southern suburb, carry a portrait of their father during his funeral in the village of Tallussa in the Nabatiyeh governorate, south of Lebanon, on Nov. 13, 2015. (Mahmoud Sayyat/AFP/Getty Images)

A father, with his young daughter watching, sacrificed himself to save others when terrorists struck Beirut last week.

The day before the horrific massacre in central Paris left the world reeling, two attacks during rush hour in Lebanon’s capital city killed 45 and wounded more than 200 others.

If not for the heroic actions of one man, the death toll would have been much higher. And now, days later, his heroism is being recognized.

Adel Termos was walking in an open-air market with his daughter, according to reports, when the first suicide bomber detonated his explosives. Amid the instant chaos, Termos spotted the second bomber preparing to blow himself up, and made the quick decision to tackle him to the ground. The bomb went off, killing Termos, but saving countless others, including his daughter’s.

Burma votes in first democratic election in years

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrives at a polling station to cast her vote during Burma's election. (Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrives at a polling station to cast her vote during Burma’s election. (Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)

RANGOON, Burma — Millions of residents voted Sunday in Burma’s first democratic election in years, a historic event that could mark a new era for the country and pave the way to power for the longtime opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Around the country, voters lined up before the polls opened at 6 a.m. and waited in the hot sun for hours to cast their ballots. Some polls were open after the 4 p.m. closing time because of demand. Afterward, many voters went on Facebook and posted photos of their ink-stained pinky fingers.

By nightfall, hundreds of supporters of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party had gathered on the street in front of the party headquarters, waving red balloons, dancing, chanting and watching local election results on big-screen TVs. They cheered every time a yellow ballot was unfurled with a stamp next to a golden peacock, the symbol for the NLD. Some preliminary results might be known Monday, but the final official results could take days.

“We have been suffering for 25 years. Today, we change the old system and bring in a new one,” Theingi, a homemaker and mother of two, said at the rally. She uses only one name.

Study: Israelis and Palestinians would be $173 billion richer with a Palestinian state

Photos of the town of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip. By btselem [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Photos of the town of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip.
By btselem [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

JERUSALEM — What could a new Palestinian state be worth in dollars? Answer: $173 billion over 10 years.

That is a bunch of zeros, with a lot of caveats. But a report released Monday by the number crunchers at the Rand Corp. suggests that one solution to the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict — based on “two states for two peoples” — is … a cash cow.

The Rand researchers performed a thought experiment to forecast the financial gain or loss of five possible future scenarios for the conflict, from a “two-state solution” to “violent uprising.” They warn: “We make no prediction about the likelihood of any of them becoming reality.” Good advice these days in the Middle East.

Rand concludes that a two-state solution, with a sovereign state of Palestine as a demilitarized next-door neighbor to Israel, based on previous U.S. proposals about following 1967 armistice lines with land-swapping to include most of the Jewish settlements, is the best financial option for both economies.

In the decade after such a deal, Rand says, the Israeli economy would gain about three times as much as the Palestinians’ in GDP — $123 billion vs. $50 billion. But the Palestinians would gain more proportionally, with their average per capita income increasing 36 percent over 10 years, compared with 5 percent for the average Israeli.

South Carolina police officer charged with murder after shooting man during traffic stop

Samuel Scott holds a photograph of Walter Scott (R), his cousin. (Christina Elmore/Post and Courier)

Samuel Scott holds a photograph of Walter Scott (R), his cousin. (Christina Elmore/Post and Courier)

A white police officer in North Charleston, S.C., was charged with murder Tuesday after shooting and killing a black man following a routine traffic stop over the weekend.

The decision to charge the officer, Michael Thomas Slager, came after graphic video footage emerged depicting Slager firing a volley of bullets into the back of Walter Scott, who was running away.

Officers rarely face criminal charges after shooting people, a fact that has played into nationwide protests over the past year over how the police use deadly force. Yet this case took a swift, unusual turn after a video shot by a bystander provided authorities with a decisive narrative that differed from Slager’s account.

“It wasn’t just based on the officers’ word anymore,” said Chris Stewart, an attorney for Scott’s family. “People were believing this story.”

Hezbollah confirms member spied for Israel

 Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah confirmed on Jan. 15 that a spy for Israel had infiltrated the group. (Hussein Malla/AP)

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah confirmed on Jan. 15 that a spy for Israel had infiltrated the group. (Hussein Malla/AP)

BEIRUT — The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, Hassan Nasrallah, confirmed Thursday that a spy for Israel infiltrated the group, but he sought to play down recent media reports that described the incident as an unprecedented security breach.

In an interview with a local television station, he said an official who held a “sensitive” position in the powerful Shiite organization was arrested five months ago for working with Israel’s Mossad spy agency. “He was responsible for one department inside one of the security units of Hezbollah,” Nasrallah said.

A flurry of media reports citing unidentified security sources said a senior member of Hezbollah was apprehended recently on suspicion of leaking troves of sensitive details on attack plans to Israel. The reports said the mole, identified by local media as Mohammad Shawraba, worked as the head of Hezbollah’s external-operations arm as well as the head of security for Nasrallah.

The Eric Garner case’s sickening outcome – Eugene Robinson

 Pallbearers carry the casket of Eric Garner at Bethel Baptist Church following his funeral service, Wednesday, July 23, 2014, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (John Minchillo/AP)

Pallbearers carry the casket of Eric Garner at Bethel Baptist Church following his funeral service, Wednesday, July 23, 2014, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (John Minchillo/AP)

I can’t breathe.

Those were Eric Garner’s last words, and today they apply to me. The decision by a Staten Island grand jury to not indict the police officer who killed him takes my breath away.

In the depressing reality series that should be called “No Country for Black Men,” this sick plot twist was shocking beyond belief. There should have been an indictment in the Ferguson case, in my view, but at least the events that led to Michael Brown’s killing were in dispute. Garner’s homicide was captured on video. We saw him being choked, heard him plead of his distress, watched as no attempt was made to revive him and his life slipped away.

This time, there were literally millions of eyewitnesses. Somebody tell me, just theoretically, how many does it take? Is there any number that would suffice? Or is this whole “equal justice before the law” thing just a cruel joke?

African American men are being taught a lesson about how this society values, or devalues, our lives. I’ve always said the notion that racism is a thing of the past was absurd — and that those who espoused the “post-racial” myth were either naive or disingenuous. Now, tragically, you see why.

Garner, 43, was an African American man. On July 17, he allegedly committed the heinous crime of selling individual cigarettes on the street. A group of New York City police officers approached and surrounded him. As seen in cellphone video footage recorded by an onlooker, Garner was puzzled that the officers seemed to be taking him into custody for such a piddling offense. He was a big man, but at no point did he strike out at the officers or show them disrespect.

The physical evidence in the Michael Brown case supported the officer [updated with DNA evidence]

Image via The Washington Post

Image via The Washington Post

In the wake of the Michael Brown grand jury decision, several blog posts (including one by me Wednesday) have dissected Officer Darren Wilson’s testimony. Read by itself, different people can draw differing conclusions about whether it is accurate or not. But what hasn’t been widely discussed is whether the physical evidence confirms or contradicts his story.

Perhaps the reason for this disinterest in the ballistics report, autopsies and other similar information is that for at least some of Brown’s supporters the facts are, apparently, largely irrelevant because Brown is a metaphorical “symbol” of injustice regardless of what actually happened. A related reason may be that working through this information is time-consuming — and thus beyond the capacity of many commentators. In contrast, the grand jury painstakingly heard sworn testimony from more than 60 witnesses, which is now collected in several thousand pages of transcripts. Reviewing these transcripts reveals some important and essentially indisputable facts. And those facts confirm many critical aspects of Wilson’s account.

We probably just saw one of the lowest-turnout elections in American history

Source: US Election

Source: US Election Project

Turnout was low last week. Not “midterm low,” or “unusually low,” but “historically low.” As we noted on Monday, it was probably the lowest since World War II. But it was possibly also one of the four lowest-turnout elections since the election of Thomas Jefferson. You know, before there was such a thing as “Alabama.”

The U.S. Election Project, run by Michael McDonald of the University of Florida, compiles data on voter turnout over time. It’s tricky to estimate voter turnout in the 1700s and 1800s, and McDonald explains on his site how the numbers are calculated. So comparing 2014 to 1804 (the Jefferson example) should be considered a rough comparison at best.

NATO says Russian jets, bombers circle Europe in unusual incidents

 MiG-31 fighter jets are not commonly seen close to Europe but some were intercepted along with other aircraft above the Baltic Sea in two separate incidents on Tuesday and Wednesday. (Ilya Naymushin/Reuters)

MiG-31 fighter jets are not commonly seen close to Europe but some were intercepted along with other aircraft above the Baltic Sea in two separate incidents on Tuesday and Wednesday. (Ilya Naymushin/Reuters)

MOSCOW — NATO said Wednesday that it had intercepted a large number of Russian aircraft flying close to European airspace in the past two days, in an “unusual” series of incidents that brought Russian bombers as far afield as Portugal.

The aircraft — at least 19 in all — offered reminders of Russian air power at a time of the worst relations between the West and Russia since the Cold War. Russian military aircraft have significantly increased their activity in Europe since the conflict in Ukraine began earlier this year, with NATO scrambling to intercept aircraft more than 100 times in 2014. But a NATO official said the scale of the latest incidents was the most provocative this year.

Over the Atlantic Ocean and the North, Black and Baltic seas, Russian bombers, fighter jets and tanker aircraft were detected flying in international airspace, NATO said. There were no incursions into national airspace, a violation of sovereignty that would have significantly amplified the seriousness of the four incidents, three of which took place on Wednesday.

White House: Israel faces estrangement from allies if settlement building proceeds

 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu listens as President Barack Obama speaks during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu listens as President Barack Obama speaks during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

The Obama administration sharply criticized Israel on Wednesday, just hours after President Obama met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, warning that it will face international condemnation “from even its closest allies” if it proceeds with a massive new housing project in East Jerusalem.

News of the construction effectively overshadowed the Oval Office meeting, the first between the two leaders since this summer’s Gaza war and the start of the multinational military offensive against the Islamic State.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States is “deeply concerned” about the proposal to build more than 2,600 housing units in Givat Hamatos, or Airplane Hill, in East Jerusalem. The settlement would be built in an area the Palestinians envision as part of their future state, making it more difficult to realize Palestinian aspirations of East Jerusalem as their capital.

The housing development has been in planning for years but was on hold until last week, when the government ran a public notice that allows it to accept tenders and begin construction. The notice drew no attention, however, until the Israeli advocacy group Peace Now released a statement about it shortly before Obama and Netanyahu met.

A ‘gay-friendly’ mosque just opened in South Africa


A woman listens inside the Open Mosque, as she and other woman share the same area with men in Cape Town, South Africa. (Schalk van Zuydam/AP)

On Friday in a suburb in Cape Town, South Africa, Muslim worshipers convened for the first time at a new prayer hall. Outside, a few protesters gathered against them. Inside, they were outnumbered by the news media crews sent to watch them.

The “Open Mosque” is intended a space of worship for all, irrespective of sect, gender or sexual orientation. It is the creation of Taj Hargey, a Cape Town-born academic and cleric based at Oxford University who has long agitated against fundamentalist interpretations of Islam. This new prayer space, open to all, was a direct challenge to the extremists he opposes.

Hargey delivered the sermon, inveighing against the unnecessary divisions between Christians and Muslims, according to Agence France Presse. He blamed “contaminated Saudi money” for promoting “toxic and intolerant manifestations of Islam.”

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