Trump/Kushner want Palestinians to meet “standards” never enforced on any Arab nation


President Donald Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner told CNN that if Palestinians can’t meet certain conditions under the administration’s Middle East plan, then he doesn’t believe Israel should take “the risk to recognize them as a state.”…

Fareed Zakaria pointed out that “no Arab country” currently meets the criteria Palestinians are being asked to achieve in the next four years — including ensuring free press, free elections, guarantees of religious freedom and an independent judiciary and financial institutions that are as transparent as they are in the West.

“Isn’t this just a way of telling the Palestinians you’re never actually going to get a state,” Zakaria asked, “because … if no Arab countries today in a position that you are demanding of the Palestinians before they can be made a state, effectively, it’s a killer amendment.”

Anyone surprised at this crappola from Trump and Kushner? RTFA for beaucoup depth and analysis.

Vatican officially recognizes the State of Palestine

Pope Francis with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Bethlehem

The Vatican has officially recognized Palestine in a new treaty that switches the Holy See’s diplomatic relations from the Palestine Liberation Organization to the state of Palestine…

“During Pope Francis’ visit last year to the Holy Land, the official Vatican program referred to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as president of the state of Palestine. And, in its latest yearbook, the Palestinian ambassador to the Holy See is listed as representing the state of Palestine.”

Abbas is scheduled to meet the pope on Saturday — the day before two new saints from the Holy Land are to be canonized.

The National Catholic Reporter says the text of today’s agreement will not be released until it receives approval at the highest levels…

The Crux, the Boston Globe’s website that covers the Catholic Church, provides some context about the Vatican’s position on the Palestinian issue:

“Diplomatically, the Vatican has long supported a two-state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, providing security assurances for Israel and sovereignty for the Palestinians.

“Rome also backs an internationally guaranteed special status for Jerusalem, including protection for holy sites sacred to Judaism, Islam and Christianity.”

Israel continues to trudge down the path it helped construct for South Africa when that nation was ruled by apartheid and racism. Israel served as their front-man during the worldwide boycott of apartheid. Perhaps they will voluntarily recognize the futility of continuing their imperial occupation of Palestine.

I doubt it.

Sweden recognizes the state of Palestine

Sweden has officially recognised the state of Palestine, Stockholm’s foreign minister has said, less than a month after the government announced its intention to make the unprecedented move.

The Palestinians cheered Thursday’s move, while Israel recalled its ambassador to Sweden for consultations…

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said in a statement that the recognition was “an important step that confirms the Palestinians’ right to self-determination”.

We hope that this will show the way for others,” she said in remarks published in the Dagens Nyheter daily.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas hailed the “brave and historic” move to officially recognise the state of Palestine, his spokesman told the AFP news agency.

Sweden is the first EU member state in Western Europe to recognise the Palestinian state.

Seven EU members in eastern European and the Mediterranean have already recognised a Palestinian state – Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta, Poland, and Romania.

Non-EU member Iceland is the only other western European nation to have done so…

The United States expressed dismay – from their usual position next Israel in bed. Nothing new. They only know one position.

Our government’s willingness to ignore historic professions of support for national liberation, anti-colonialism, opposition to oil-based imperialism reaches new depths of hypocrisy.

IRS to recognize all gay marriages

All legally married same-sex couples will be recognized for federal tax purposes, regardless of whether the state where they live recognizes the marriage, the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service said Thursday.

The federal rules change is one of many stemming from the landmark Supreme Court decision in June that struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. That ruling found that same-sex couples were entitled to federal benefits, but left open the question of how the federal government would actually administer those benefits.

As of the 2013 tax year, same-sex spouses cannot file federal tax returns as if they were single. Instead, they will have to opt for filing as “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately.” The location of their marriage — as long as it is legal — or residence does not matter: a same-sex couple who marry in Albany and move to Alabama will be treated the same as a same-sex couple who marry and live in Massachusetts.

“Today’s ruling provides certainty and clear, coherent tax-filing guidance for all legally married same-sex couples nationwide,” Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said in a statement. “This ruling also assures legally married same-sex couples that they can move freely throughout the country knowing that their federal filing status will not change.”

The important part about mundane is the government finally starting to treat same-sex couples like anyone else. They won’t stick out in the crowd of ordinary people assuming too much of our nation’s tax burden, anyway.

The ruling applies to all legal marriages made in the United States or foreign countries – it does not extend to civil unions, registered domestic partnerships or other legal relationships. So, that’s the copout handed to right-wing dorks who can’t stand civil rights being fully extended to a class of people their grandfather wouldn’t have approved of.

Gay couple seeks spousal privilege protection in Kentucky

A same-sex couple in Kentucky have asked a judge to grant them the same protections given to heterosexual couples after a woman has been subpoenaed to testify against her wife.

Bobbie Jo Clary, 37, is accused of murdering a man in Louisville in October 2011 and could face the death penalty if convicted. The prosecution subpoenaed her partner, Geneva Case, 49, to testify against her.

The defense filed a motion to block the subpoena, citing spousal privilege, which protects married couples from having to testify against each other in most US jurisdictions. Clary and Case were joined in a civil union in Vermont in 2004, five years before the state legalised same-sex marriages.

The prosecution said it wants Case to testify because she allegedly heard Clary admit to the slaying and has other valuable information as a witness. Clary has admitted she was with the victim, George Murphy, 64, on the night of his death and says she used a hammer to defend herself after he sexually assaulted her.

Kentucky, a famously conservative state, though currently helmed by a Democratic governor, exempts spouses from testifying against each other in court. However, the state does not permit same-sex marriage and affirmed its opposition to the practice by amending the constitution in 2004 to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

“If they were a heterosexual married couple, there would be no question that Kentucky would acknowledge the privilege and not even have issued the subpoena,” said Case’s attorney Bryan Gatewood.

A ruling on the spousal privilege is expected by the end of the month. The murder trial is set to begin 30 August.

Dark Ages dwellers in Kentucky may or may not decide to act like folks who believe in democratic rights in this case. I don’t expect so. Most Americans who cling to bigotry and discrimination as holy writ tend to continue such practices as if the Constitution and Bill of Rights never existed.

Fortunately, this will make another sound case to bring before the Supreme Court that should bring one or another of the overtly Republican justices in line with American legal traditions.

Pentagon says women should be allowed to serve in combat

A Pentagon commission on diversity is recommending the U.S. military end its ban on women serving in direct combat roles — a restriction the group says is discriminatory and out of touch with the demands of modern warfare.

In its draft report, the Military Leadership Diversity Commission said the military should gradually eliminate the ban in order to create a “level playing field for all qualified service members…”

The draft report said the military’s “combat exclusion policies” do not reflect the realities of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and create institutional barriers to women, who are prevented from getting key assignments that could lead to career advancement.

“Service policies that bar women from gaining entry to certain combat-related career fields, specialties, units, and assignments are based on standards of conventional warfare, with well-defined, linear battlefields,” the report said. “However, the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have been anything but conventional.”

More than 200,000 women have served in the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since those wars began, 132 female service members have been killed, and 721 have been wounded.

Proponents of the commission’s recommendations agree that technology and circumstance have drastically altered modern warfare. They say it is difficult to distinguish between combat and non-combat roles on the front lines of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Fourth and fifth-generation warfare long ago stepped aside from the conventions stuck in muddy brains trying to fight the battles of WW1 and WW2 all over again. Especially from the safe seats in Congress and the fantasy world of punditry.

As women played significant roles in every war for national liberation from Algeria to VietNam, the most backwards elements in Western political thought maintained a tin soldier response to a new world order that never fit 19th Century imperialism.

Why should the United States be among the last to learn from history – and changing times?

How Google’s ear hears you

If you own an iPhone, you can now be part of one of the most ambitious speech-recognition experiments ever launched. Google has added voice search to its iPhone mobile application, allowing people to speak search terms into their phones and view the results on the screen…

Fortunately, Google also has a huge amount of data on how people use search, and it was able to use that to train its algorithms. If the system has trouble interpreting one word in a query, for instance, it can fall back on data about which terms are frequently grouped together…

But the data that Google used to build the system pales in comparison to the data that it now has the chance to collect. “The nice thing about this application is that Google will collect all this speech data,” says Jim Glass, a principal research scientist at MIT. “And by getting all this data, they will improve their recognizer even more.”

Speech-recognition systems, however, remain far from perfect. And people’s frustration skyrockets when they can’t find their way out of a voice-menu maze. But Google’s implementation of speech recognition deftly sidesteps some of the technology’s shortcomings, says Glass.

The beauty of search engines is that they don’t have to be exactly right,” he says. When a user submits a spoken query, he says, Google’s algorithms “just take it and stick it in a search engine, which puts the onus on the user to select the right result or try again.” Because people are already used to refining their queries as they conduct Web searches, Glass says, they’re more tolerant of imperfect results.

The chuckle is that for years, geek like me and pundits like JCD have easiy accepted Microsoft’s dedication to – and leadership in – developing systems for speech recognition. They bought Dragonspeak and, let’s face it, it always was something special that Bill Gates was personally focused on.

Here comes Google from a different direction – and a fraction of time in the game – and they’re suddenly out in front of the pack. Is it because they represent a fresh start or simply weren’t stuck in the ruts of what looked like it was going to work – ten years ago? Or both?