Republicans want $680 million added to Israel’s military budget


Israeli soldiers attack demonstration against land theft
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

The United States would spend an additional $680 million through 2015 to strengthen Israel’s short-range rocket shield under a plan crafted by House of Representatives’ Republicans…

The figure could put election-year pressure on President Barack Obama’s administration to spell out what it deems suitable support for the “Iron Dome,” which has played an increasingly important role in Israeli security…

There was no immediate official comment from the Obama administration on Republican plans to seek $680 million starting in the current fiscal year through fiscal 2015. It is not clear how the administration will view the proposal…

A Republican congressional aide said the proposed additional $680 million would provide the batteries and interceptors needed to defend Israel based on the current coverage and the arsenal available to Hamas and Hezbollah Islamist militants…

“We are deeply concerned that at a time of rising threats to our strongest ally in the Middle East, the administration is requesting record-low support for this vital defense cooperation program,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard McKeon, wrote in a February 14 letter to Obama…Get your Wellies on!

Congressional Republicans may hope their strong support for “Iron Dome” will help “crack the normal two-to-one advantage Democrats usually enjoy with Jewish voters,” said Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

That 2 to 1 advantage relies more on members of the Jewish community who often provide leadership in efforts for communal and political peace. Anyone who’s spent time working in the civil rights movement or fighting to turn this nation away from the joys of Caesar – is aware of the participation in progressive movements by Jewish-Americans.

There’s an equally sound reason why Republicans only think of Jews and Israel as an aid to imperial behavior. They’ve never taken part in any serious opposition to injustice – foreign or domestic. Their whole perception relies on right-wing Israeli governments clawing away land from Palestinians for lebensraum.

Republican “mommy wars” avoid any real issues for women

The “mommy wars” that have cropped up repeatedly this campaign season are a figment of political pundits’ imagination. The most recent example, of course, was the political and media tempest that followed Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen’s comment that Ann Romney, Mitt Romney’s wife and a mother of five, had not “worked a day in her life…”

The truth is most women aren’t fighting about this. They know that work is involved to make everyday life happen: the feeding, and clothing and caring for oneself and one’s family, whether earning the money to buy the clothes and food, or being at home, washing those clothes or cooking dinner. All mothers work, nearly all of the time. And so do many fathers.

But there is a serious issue hidden in the silliness of the alleged mommy wars, and it is the contradictory, conflicting beliefs we have about the value of taking time to care for other people. Who should take care of young people and their grandparents, and how should they be rewarded? We claim to value families, but we don’t really value what it takes to care for them…

Everyone seems to agree that America supports “family values.” But research published in this month’s American Sociological Review shows that women who breast-feed for six months or more pay a mommy penalty in wages for the rest of their lives because of the lack of work policies that protect employed women’s right to breast-feed on the job…

Everyone seems to agree that when women married to men of means choose to be stay-at-home moms, they are doing so for the good of their children. But when poor women, without access to first-rate child care, choose to stay home with their babies, we tend to call them lazy welfare mothers. Our social policy of providing only very “temporary assistance to needy families” comes with the built-in insistence that they take personal responsibility for their children, meaning they should get themselves a low-wage job, often with no choice but to leave their children in less than optimal child care…

Sociologist Mirra Komarovsky pointed out these contradictions back in 1953. She argued back then that if society truly believed caretaking was an important and difficult job, nursery school teachers would rate a salary at least equal to the beginning salary of a street cleaner. Not much has changed since then…

Barbara Risman asks “Why all these contradictions?” and cites a number of solutions. RTFA for details. Nothing there that isn’t going to seem familiar – or reasonable – to anyone who’s confronted these questions in their own lives.

I submit the contradictions are artificial, representative of the gamut of phony issues relied upon by mainstream politicians of both flavors – but, mostly the conservative crowd who have finally realized their backwardness, their refusal to fight for real change in peoples’ lives is recognized by the whole body politic. So, they have come to rely on fabrications. Virtual barriers to replace the answers devised and put into successful practice in most Western industrial nations.

Cowardice compounded by profit derived from corporate interests equally committed to blocking progress and equal opportunity.

Live like the wealthiest families — you don’t need a home country


Louis Vuitton Island Maison store at the Marina Bay Sands

These days, the Italian Spinola clan and other ultra-affluent families are moving assets to Singapore by setting up family offices — private companies that manage the trusts and investments of rich households — in the city-state sometimes referred to as the Switzerland of Asia…

“Because Asia has been a place where we’ve been investing very heavily — more than 50 percent of our assets are in Asia for the last 15 years — we feel a need to come closer,” Federico Spinola, son of the family patriarch, said in an interview from New Caledonia, a Pacific archipelago.

Campden Wealth, which provides research and data on family offices, said that up to 10 European family offices had moved to Singapore since the financial crisis in 2008, bringing $5 billion to $10 billion worth of assets with them.

Singapore, a global banking and investment center in the heart of Southeast Asia, is an attractive base because of its efficient registration process, relatively benign regulations, smooth movement of money, financial infrastructure and low tax rates.

The island, which is clean and safe, also offers high-end shopping, fine dining, casinos, luxury hotels, golf courses and marinas filled with superyachts to help the wealthy spend and unwind

Big financial institutions, feeling the pinch of a tougher investment banking climate and higher capital requirements, are taking note.

UBS, the Swiss bank, has set up a family office team that is seeking to cater to two dozen clients in Asia who have assets of $200 million or more. Other global players, like Credit Suisse, HSBC and RBC Wealth, are also courting family offices, along with DBS Group, which is based in Singapore…

“We are trying to move away from hot money, high-frequency trading and things that have price discovery that we just cannot control,” said Ms. Davies, Parly Singapore’s managing director. “If we are able to target single-digit returns of 6 to 7 percent annualized in today’s market, we would think of ourselves as very lucky.”

It must be nice to have an empire that retains portability as a feature, eh?

Biodegradable fast food containers made from waste straw

Not only are polystyrene fast food containers usually not recyclable, but they also take eons to break down in a landfill, can emit harmful compounds, and require petroleum to create. Using paper is one alternative, but Hong Kong-based company Innovasians is now offering another – 100% biodegradable containers made from waste straw left over after wheat harvesting.

The straw used in the process comes from China, and would otherwise be burnt. The technology itself is Canadian. Although the production process is confidential, the finished containers are composed of 60% straw, and 40% … well, something else. Not only are they biodegradable, but they are also reportedly non-toxic, microwavable, dishwasher-safe (and thus reusable), and stable at temperatures from -40 to 260ºC. No petroleum-based materials are used in their production, nor are any toxins released into the environment.

The containers are currently in use by three Asian clients, although additional buyers are being sought. There’s no word on how the cost of the straw-based containers compares to that of other materials.

Tell us the cost, folks. Though the economies of scale are easily realizable in products which only need to start production cycles with a small number of shapes.

And the color is grotty.