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Egyptian Soldiers Murder Sudanese Refugees


According to a group of IDF soldiers, Egyptian soldiers opened fire on a group of Sudanese refugees as they tried to cross the border into Israel, killing four.

The soldiers told their story on Thursday night in a report for Channel 10 news. The soldiers said that they attempted to rescue a Sudanese man who had managed to escape the Egyptian soldiers. However, they said, the Egyptian soldiers managed to overtake the man and began beating him with clubs. The man died from the beating, they said.

Rice Calls for Deeper Israeli-Palestinian Talks

By Jim Teeple (VOA News-Ramallah)

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Palestinian leaders Thursday on the final day of her Middle East tour aimed at gaining support for a U.S.-sponsored Middle East peace conference later this year.

Meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his newly appointed prime minister, Salaam Fayyad, Rice announced the U.S. would provide Abbas' Palestinian Authority with $80 million to boost and reform its security forces. U.S. officials traveling with Rice said for now the Palestinians would receive about $10 million of that money. Disbursing the rest they said would require the approval of Congress.

At a news conference with Abbas, Rice said President Bush wants the upcoming peace conference to support bilateral talks between Israelis and Palestinians aimed at eventually achieving a Palestinian state. She says Bush is serious about advancing the idea of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"The president of the United States has no desire to call people together for a photo opportunity," she said. "This is to call people together so that we can really advance Palestinian statehood. Now we have a lot to do between now and the fall, but I am here to consult and have discussions about the meeting, but also to see what we can do advance the bilateral track [between Israelis and Palestinians]."

Rice said she would probably return to the region before a peace conference takes place. The time and venue for any such conference has yet to be set. She also said she has received assurances from Israeli leaders that they would discuss substantive issues at the conference.

Israeli leaders said while they support holding the conference, "final status issues," such as the return of Palestinian refugees, permanent borders with the Palestinians and the status of Jerusalem should not be part of the agenda. Saudi Arabian officials have said they would consider attending the conference, but only if it deals with such substantive issues, including the dismantling of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

For his part, Abbas said on Thursday Palestinians would be flexible when it comes to the conference agenda, adding that he would like to see the so-called "road-map peace plan" that calls for an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and an end to Palestinian violence, serve as a guideline for the upcoming conference. He said specific steps to achieve a Palestinian state could be negotiated at a later date. Abbas also rejected any move to reconcile his Fatah movement with Hamas.

Hamas leaders criticized Rice's visit to Ramallah, saying it was designed to divide Palestinians. In June, Hamas soundly defeated Fatah forces loyal to Abbas in the Gaza Strip, taking over the territory and dividing the Palestinian territories in two. Abbas called the Hamas takeover a great crime that could not be forgiven unless Hamas leaders gave up power in Gaza and apologized for their actions.

Karaites Hold First Conversion in 500 Years

By Israel Faxx News Services

A fringe Jewish sect that rejects the authority of post-biblical rabbinic law performed its first conversion in 500 years. The Karaite Jews of America, a sect with 1,000 members, gathered in a northern California synagogue Tuesday for the ceremony, according to a report in a Northern California Jewish news weekly.

After a year of study, 10 adults and four minors -- from locations as far afield as the Czech Republic, Australia and Canada -- swore fealty to Karaite Judaism.

The Karaites trace their origins to eighth century Persia and are estimated to number 35,000 worldwide. Their rejection of rabbinic interpretation of the Bible has led to some odd and seemingly un-Jewish customs, such as prostrate prayer and removal of footwear in the synagogue. Karaites permit the mixing of milk and poultry, but they refuse the use of any lights on the Sabbath.

Turning Point: Israeli Air Attack Flips Global Press Coverage of Hizbullah-Israel War

By Newswise

This week marks the one-year commemoration of the Israeli air strike on the Lebanese village of Qana, the pivotal moment of last summer's Hizbullah-Israel war. The Qana attack left 27 civilians dead and changed world opinion on the conflict. It also flipped global press coverage of Hizbullah and Israel, according to a new study from the University of Maryland.

The study found that the Qana attack on July 30 was the pivotal event in shifting media coverage of the conflict. "Following the Israeli attack on the Lebanese town, the press became less critical of Hizbullah and more neutral over all. This was the `Qana-effect' on news," noted the study's project director Jad Melki, a visiting journalism professor at Towson State University and the research director of the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda (ICMPA) at the University of Maryland, which conducted the study.

Despite Hizbullah's killing of 12 Israeli reservists in Kfar Giladi following Israel's attack on Qana, coverage of Hizbullah remained more favorable. "That's not to say, however, that the press viewed Hizbullah more favorably than it did Israel.," noted Prof. Susan Moeller, the study's supervisor and the director of ICMPA.

"Hizbullah rarely received any directly sympathetic coverage—and while Israel's sympathetic coverage fluctuated throughout the war, it never dipped below Hizbullah's. But at the start of the conflict, Israel received much more positive coverage than Hizbullah and by the end of the war the level of criticism was almost at the same level."

Three other events registered as significant in the coverage: August 12, the day the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1701; July 20, a day of unprecedented violence and bloodshed on both sides; and July 25, the day following an Israeli air strike that killed three UN peacekeepers in south Lebanon. Four out of the five events impacted the coverage in a way that worked against Israel and in Lebanon's and Hizbullah's favor. "By the end of the war in mid-August, the press declared Hizbullah the winner of the war," Melki said.

ICMPA's study looked at 14 major English-language newspapers from around the world: The Daily Star (Lebanon), Financial Times (UK), Herald Sun (Australia), Irish Times, Jerusalem Post (Israel), Los Angeles Times, Press Trust (India), South China Morning Press, The Guardian (UK), New York Times, The Independent (UK), The Nation (Pakistan), Turkish Daily and the Washington Post

The study tracked their coverage over time, and additionally ranked them according to authority, depth, source balance, frame balance and empathy. Overall, the coverage was surprisingly even-handed: one-fifth of the articles analyzed were reported from Lebanon, and another one-fifth were reported from Israel; 46 percent of the articles were critical of Israel, and 51 percent were critical of Hizbullah.

Which were the best? The Washington Post, The Guardian and the Irish Times.

Which were the worst? Perhaps no surprise, The Daily Star (Lebanon), the Jerusalem Post (Israel) and the Turkish Daily—all from the region, and all limited either literally or politically on their ability to station correspondents on both sides of the conflict.

The Washington Post, the Financial Times and the Nation (Pakistan) received the highest scores for balance. The Financial Times scored best on authority (was the coverage first-hand and from the front lines?), and the New York Times had the greatest depth of coverage. The study is available online at

Haredim Visiting Majdanek Vandalize Death Camp


Israel has denounced before the inappropriate behavior of visitors to former Nazi concentration and extermination camps, but when a group of Israeli citizens cut loose inside a camp, the shame is immeasurable.

On Tuesday evening, a group of 35 strictly Orthodox young men arrived at the Majdanek death camp near the city of Lublin in eastern Poland. The camp museum site closes at 6 p.m. and the barracks preserved inside it close an hour earlier.

The group arrived to the camp some 15 minutes before it was due to close and though no reason has been given to explain the urgency that propelled the men to enter the camp at that late hour, it was evidently strong enough for them to rip the entrance gate from its hinges and walk inside.

In a letter sent to Israel's ambassador to Poland, David Peleg, the Lublin police chief wrote that the camp security guards found the group inside Barrack 14 as they surveyed the grounds before locking up for the night.

Museum administrators alerted the local police department and contacted the embassy. Peleg managed to convince the group to sign a letter of confession and pay for the damaged property. In return, the museum agreed not to press charges so that the group would be spared questioning by the police.

The Polish media reported extensively on the incident. Following the embarrassing publicity the embassy received requests from the offices of the Polish president and foreign affairs minister, seeking more information regarding the event.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time camps in Poland have been subjugated to inappropriate behavior from Israeli visitors. On July 23rd the Auschwitz museum director sent a complaint to the embassy claiming that a group of 60 Israeli college students arrived at the gates of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp at 11 pm and demanded to be let inside.

The guards, preferring to avoid a confrontation with the group, allowed them to remain inside the camp grounds despite the fact that the site was closed. The group only left at around 5 a.m.

Peleg said he viewed both incidents with the utmost severity since they damaged Israel's reputation. In a report to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem he wrote: "I think that the message must get across to groups visiting Poland that this is a sovereign nation, and the most basic rule must be to respect the country and its rules, and that includes Auschwitz and Majdanek.

"This incident illustrates the enormous sensitivity with which these group visits are handled. The vast majority of visits are conducted without any problems (some 30,000 Israeli youths visit Poland every year) and contribute greatly to cooperation between the two countries and two peoples, it's a terrible shame that these isolated incidents stain the rest."

Rabbis Issue Edict Banning Mixed Shows


Rabbis in Israel issued an edict Wednesday barring men and women from attending mixed theaters even though most facilities have segregated entrances and seating. The edict took effect as early as Thursday when a concert in honor of 82-year-old cantor Ben-Zion Shenker at the Wohl Center in Ramat Gan was canceled. Shenker is one of the leading composers of Chassidic music.

Organizer David Zaira told Ynet that he had planned to sell over 200 tickets for religious women for whom a separate section was designated. The edict drove Zaira, after consultations with rabbis and other organizers, to cancel the show for fear that making it a men-only event would insult religious women.

Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amr backed the edict, saying that although men and women were seated separately, there was a danger that they mixed outside theaters. "Since evenings like these allowed for easy debaucheries if not inside then outside theaters, confusion is easy. Therefore music shows, although segregated, are strictly forbidden," he said.

Jesuits May God's Word to Second Life

By Reuters

Catholic missionaries have always trekked to dangerous parts of the Earth to spread the word of God -- now they are being encouraged to go into the virtual realm of Second Life to save virtual souls.

In an article in Rome-based Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica, academic Antonio Spadaro urged fellow Catholics not to be scared of entering the virtual world which may be fertile ground for new converts wishing to better themselves. "It's not possible to close our eyes to this phenomenon or rush to judge it," Spadaro said. "Instead it needs to be understood ... the best way to understand it is to enter it."

Second Life is a simulation game where players can create a virtual version of themselves -- an avatar -- and interact with other people in the three-dimensional world.

According to its Web site, it has a population of more than 8 million residents and millions of dollars change hands there every month. "Is there (cyber) space for God?" Spadaro aaka in his article which says there are already virtual churches and temples serving countless religions. He quotes a Swedish Muslim who says his avatar prays regularly as he prays in real life.

Spadaro warns the uninitiated that "the erotic dimension is very present" in Second Life, that people can buy genitalia for their avatars in a world that is "open to any form of erotic stimulation from prostitution to pedophilia."

While the virtual world might be a refuge for some people seeking to flee the real one, it is also full of people seeking something more from life, including, possibly, religious enlightenment, he said.

"Deep down, the digital world can be considered, in its way, mission territory," he said. "Second Life is somewhere where the opportunity to meet people and to grow should not be missed, therefore, any initiative that can inspire the residents in a positive way should be considered opportune."

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