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 on: Today at 11:09 AM 
Started by Romana - Last post by Romana
Thank you, Rad! I'm getting some intuitive inkling of what this is about with the Moon/Saturn phrasal relationship. That's really helpful.

 on: Today at 08:18 AM 
Started by Romana - Last post by Rad
Hi Skywalker,

"Is there a way to see in the chart how recent it was, if the switch was one or two or three lives ago? I was thinking about this recently actually. Using the example of Pluto in the Fourth House, if Pluto would be very close to the IC, would it indicate the switch would of been quite recent and further away from the IC it would mean it would be less recent?"


Yes, that is possible but there are other possible indicators of this that are linked with the planetary rulers of the 4th and 10th Houses, aspects to them, the planetary phase between them, the phasal relationship between Saturn and the Moon, Saturn and the Moon's relationship to the Nodal Axis, and so on. For example JWG, in his early years, volunteered his time working for what was called the 'sexual minority center' that was a place for transgender Soul's to seek counseling and support. He wanted to understand this as deeply as he could, and make the astrological correlations based on his observations and interactions with those Souls. One of the correlations he found in those Soul's that actually wanted to surgically change into the opposite gender of birth was a Moon/Saturn balsamic phasal relationship in about 90% of these Souls. It was, relatively speaking, a very small sample of such Souls so any hard conclusions about that as 'the' indicator of this were never taught by him. He mentioned it in his teachings as to keep an eye out for when dealing and working with such Souls.

God Bless, Rad

 on: Today at 08:04 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

Obamacare Goes to the Supreme Court


On Wednesday morning, the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments in King v. Burwell, the case that could decide the fate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the landmark “Obamacare” legislation passed by Congress in 2010. Emily Bazelon, a staff writer for the magazine, and Adam Liptak, The Times’s Supreme Court correspondent, have been exchanging emails about what’s at stake in the case and how the court might approach its decision.

Hi, Adam,

Here we are, nearly three years after the Supreme Court refrained from killing Obamacare, wondering if the court will save the law from a second legal challenge. The case is King v. Burwell. For those who have not been following its progress as obsessively as we have, the case is about whether the Affordable Care Act provides subsidies to everyone in the country who qualifies for them on the basis of income level, whether they get their insurance through a state-run exchange or an exchange run by the federal government.

After the Affordable Care Act was passed into law in 2010, 34 states opted for federally-run exchanges, instead of setting up their own. They did this for a variety of reasons: cost, flexibility, political opposition to the law. More than nine million people in these states now receive subsidies, to the tune of about $3,000 per person, according to a study by the Urban Institute. If the plaintiffs prevail, the federal government will not be able to provide subsidies to anyone buying health insurance through a federally-run exchange. Many of those nine million people would presumably pull out of the exchanges, driving up the prices for whomever is left, and the exchanges could collapse. That’s what is concretely at stake in this case.

Also at stake: how the Supreme Court reads statutes. No one here is invoking the Constitution or any other lofty document or principle. Instead, the fight is over the humble, everyday practice of statutory interpretation, by which courts figure out the meaning of a law written by a legislature. The challengers in King say that four words in the Affordable Care Act’s hundreds of pages — “established by the state” — mean that subsidies are available only through state-established exchanges. In other words, those four words mean what they say. Easy case.

Or here’s another way to read those words: in broad context. Viewed as a whole, the Obama administration argues, the Affordable Care Act makes clear throughout its text that subsidies are available in every state, to every citizen who qualifies for them, regardless of whether states set up their own exchanges or relied on the federal government to do that for them.

As Linda Greenhouse has pointed out in The Times, just about every justice is on the record in support of reading the words in a statute in “the broader context of the law as a whole,” as Justice Clarence Thomas put it in 1997. Read as a whole, the act provided for subsidies everywhere, as the Congressional Budget Office assumed in estimating the cost of the law. That is what the Internal Revenue Service assumed in passing its rule about who can get a subsidy, in the form of a tax credit. As you, Adam, show in a great article about the origins of this lawsuit, it wasn’t until December 2010, nine months after the Affordable Care Act was passed, that the law’s critics first noticed the “established by the state” phrasing and seized on its potential to wreck Obamacare.

Again, easy case.

My opening question: What matters for choosing between these two conflicting outcomes and methods of statutory interpretation? Should the court read “established by the state” literally, because that’s what judges are supposed to do? Or should they read that phrase in relation to the rest of this doorstop of a law, whose survival clearly relies on the availability of subsidies in every exchange in every state?



There is a third choice.

As you say, the challengers start with a plain-language argument that will appeal to the conservative side of the court. Those justices might think that it’s one thing to read a provision in the context of a sprawling law to try to discern its meaning and another to interpret it to mean the opposite of what it seems to say. The government’s best response to the narrow textual argument was to call the phrase a “term of art.” The challengers have some fun with this in their reply brief: “It would certainly be convenient, for an agency seeking to rewrite a statute, if an English phrase can become a term of art on the government’s mere say-so.”

You may be right, too, that the government has the better of the arguments once you consider the phrase in the broader context of the law’s other provisions, structure and goals. But the truth is that the Affordable Care Act is riddled with anomalies that are a testament to its rushed passage, and there is a disingenuous quality to both sides’ insistence that it is a harmonious whole that rivals a Swiss watch in its fine calibration.

That brings us to the third choice, one that gets surprisingly little play in the briefs. The Supreme Court has a solution for dealing with an ambiguous law: It defers to the interpretation of the government agency charged with enforcing it. Lawyers call this “Chevron deference,” after a foundational 1984 decision. Here, as you said, the relevant interpretation is that of the I.R.S. — and the I.R.S. interpreted the law to allow the subsidies nationwide.

This was the ground on which the government won in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. That court refused to choose between your two alternatives. “Simply put,” it said, “the statute is ambiguous and subject to at least two different interpretations.”

But the appeals court let the I.R.S. be the tiebreaker, saying the agency had “crafted a rule ensuring the credits’ broad availability and furthering the goals of the law.” That was a permissible interpretation of an ambiguous law, the court said, and it was entitled to deference.

— Adam


Yes, score one for Chevron, the “most cited administrative-law case in history”! (I used King as an excuse to go on at length about it here.) Chevron tells courts to defer to agency readings of an ambiguous statute — as long as the agency is being reasonable — because agencies know more than the courts and are more accountable to voters. “Judges are not experts in the field and are not part of either political branch of the government,” Justice John Paul Stevens explained in his majority opinion in the case.

Let’s talk about another political part of government: the states. Two of the most interesting and important friend-of-the-court briefs filed in this case come from dueling groups of states. Six states, led by Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma, say that it “came as no surprise” to them that Congress made subsidies available only through state-run exchanges. Congress was trying to “entice” the states to set up their own exchanges, and this “conditioning of tax credits was the primary means of doing so.” The six states point out that in November 2012, two months before the deadline for establishing state exchanges, Pruitt challenged in court the I.R.S. rule granting subsidies through federally run exchanges. The other states on Oklahoma’s side are Alabama, Georgia, Nebraska, South Carolina and West Virginia. Indiana filed a separate brief that takes a similar position.

On the other side are 22 states yelling “Yikes!” They have federally run exchanges, and they say they never thought that going this route would make their residents ineligible for subsidies. They have many statements from state officials to prove that they were taken unawares. Former Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia said he knew of no “clear benefits of a state-run exchange to our citizens.” Former Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois said residents of his state “deserve all the benefits afforded to them” by the law. The Washington State Health Care Authority said that tax credits would “accrue to every state regardless of how the state implements an exchange.”

“On the key issues,” former Gov. Dave Heineman of North Dakota said in November 2012, “there is no real operational difference between a federal exchange and state exchange.” Even the advisory committee for a health insurance exchange in Georgia, a state that signed Oklahoma’s opposing brief, reported to the governor that “Georgians will be eligible for these subsidies whether [an exchange] in Georgia is established by the state or federal government.”

In the first case the Supreme Court decided about the legality of the A.C.A., in 2012, 26 states asked the justices to find the law unconstitutional. The long list included Iowa, Maine, Mississippi, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Washington. This time, the numbers are on the other side. The 22 states asking the Supreme Court to let their residents keep their subsidies include these six, and nine of the 22 states have Republican governors. Which leads to the question I’ll leave you with: How much do you think the states’ views, on both sides, will influence the justices?



I’m not sure how much statements from state officials about what they thought or understood will count with the court. The justices usually have no use for after-the-fact statements from legislators about what they intended when they drafted or voted for statutes, and the state officials’ statements may strike a similar chord. But the court is quite interested in “cooperative federalism,” which is what the two sets of states are arguing about.

The challengers say the point of the subsidies was to entice — or perhaps coerce — states into establishing their own exchanges. Such incentives are not unusual in federal statutes aimed at making states do things they cannot be forced to do.

No one disputes that the health-care law contained one such set of incentives, concerning the expansion of Medicaid. (In the 2012 health-care case, the Supreme Court, by a 7-to-2 vote, said the law had gone too far by threatening to withhold all Medicaid money, old and new, unless states complied.)

Were the tax subsidies at issue in the new case meant to accomplish something similar? There are reasons to wonder. The threat that the subsidies were at risk was awfully well hidden, and secret threats are not usually effective. The threat was directed, moreover, not at the states themselves but at their residents. And the threats, if that is what they were, failed spectacularly, with more than two-thirds of the states opting out of creating an exchange.

The challengers’ reply brief argues that it was the I.R.S. rule that emboldened the states not to establish exchanges. “Had the I.R.S. from the start made clear that subsidies were limited to state exchanges,” the brief said, “states would not have overwhelmingly refused to establish them.”

This is where supporters of the law started to lose their minds. Rob Weiner said on the blog of the American Constitution Society that he could not fathom “the bizarre assertion that the I.R.S. rule preventing insurance death-spirals in state markets is responsible for the death-spirals the absence of the rule will produce.”

The justices will, I suspect, try to adjudicate this dispute about cooperative federalism. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, in particular, cares about the balance of state and federal power, and his assessment of the competing arguments will help determine his vote.

But we haven’t talked about the most crucial vote: Where do you think the chief justice is heading?



Ah, the chief justice: man of Obamacare mystery, who reportedly swooped in at the final hour in 2012 to snatch the law from the jaws of the court’s other four conservatives. The cynic in me wonders if Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. got political cover to kill Obamacare when the court decided to hear a same-sex marriage case later this term. By pairing the axing of health-insurance subsides with a ringing civil-rights victory for gay couples, the court would appear more moderate than it would if it ended the term just killing Obamacare. Plus Roberts could write an opinion pointing out that if Congress wanted the residents of every state to get subsides, it could fix the statute to say so. That’s the rhetorical approach the chief justice took in dismantling a core part of the Voting Rights Act two years ago.

On the other hand, the end of subsidies for millions of people would be a thunderclap that the court couldn’t muffle (as a few Republicans in Congress are beginning to acknowledge). The political climate was a lot more receptive to killing the Affordable Care Act the first time the court’s conservatives had the chance; at the time, 26 states were urging them to do so. Now only seven are. Judges don’t vote by the polls, but that doesn’t mean they are walled off from real-world implications.

One more point about the states: You’re right, of course, that the court doesn’t usually care what legislators say about the meaning of statutes after they’ve drafted them. But the states aren’t the drafters here. They are Congress’s partners — whether they like it or not — in the Affordable Care Act. Conservatives are usually the ones who worry about the states’ end of the cooperative-federalism bargain. If Congress wanted the states to set up their own exchanges or else, Congress should have used italics, if not capital letters in bold. Laws aren’t supposed to play tricks, especially on the people who have to implement them.



Solicitor General Will Try, Again, to Keep Health Care Law Alive

MARCH 4, 2015

WASHINGTON — Three years ago this month, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. stood before the Supreme Court to defend President Obama’s health care law against a constitutional challenge that threatened to destroy its central provision. His oral argument drew harsh reviews, but in the end he managed to persuade five justices to accept his backup argument, saving the law.

Mr. Verrilli will return to the lectern on Wednesday morning to defend the law once again, and he has reason to be nervous. In 2012, four members of the court — Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. – were ready to strike down the entire law, as they made clear in a bitter joint dissent.

It is certainly possible that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. will again desert his usual allies to vote to save the law. But that is hardly a certainty.

Mr. Verrilli will again face Michael A. Carvin, who represented the plaintiffs last time. Mr. Carvin will argue that the law forbids the federal government from providing tax subsidies to help people buy insurance in the three dozen states that have refused to establish their own insurance marketplaces, known as exchanges.

The federal government runs the exchanges in those states. If subsidies are not available in them, more than six million Americans could lose health care coverage and insurance markets could collapse, imperiling the health care law itself.

Mr. Carvin’s argument is built on a phrase in the law that seems to say the subsidies are only available to people living where an exchange had been “established by the state.” The purpose of the provision, he told the justices in his briefs, was to encourage states to set up exchanges.

In issuing a regulation allowing subsidies nationwide, Mr. Carvin wrote, the Internal Revenue Service violated the plain, unambiguous text of the law.

In response, Mr. Verrilli wrote that other provisions in the law, along with its structure and purpose, made clear that subsidies were meant to be available in all 50 states. He said the states could not very well have been encouraged to set up exchanges by means of a provision hidden deep in the sprawling law.

Mr. Verrilli added that a tie goes to the government. If a statute is ambiguous, he wrote, citing a foundational 1984 Supreme Court decision, courts must defer to the interpretation of the government agency charged with enforcing it. Here that means deferring to the I.R.S.’s interpretation, he wrote.

That is the ground on which the administration won last July in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va.

Judge Roger L. Gregory, writing for a three-judge panel of the court, said the law was “ambiguous and subject to multiple interpretations.” That meant, he said, that the I.R.S.’s interpretation was entitled to deference.

The same day, a divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled the other way, agreeing with the challengers that only people in states that run their own exchanges are eligible for subsidies.

“We reach this conclusion, frankly, with reluctance,” Judge Thomas B. Griffith wrote for the majority. “Our ruling will likely have significant consequences both for the millions of individuals receiving tax credits through federal exchanges and for health insurance markets more broadly. But, high as those stakes are, the principle of legislative supremacy that guides us is higher still.”

In dissent, Judge Harry T. Edwards said the case was a “not-so-veiled attempt to gut” the health care law.

The Supreme Court often steps in when federal appeals courts have disagreed. But the split between the two courts was wiped out last September when the full District of Columbia Circuit vacated the July ruling.

Mr. Carvin urged the Supreme Court to intercede anyway, saying that the sums involved were huge and that individuals, employers, insurers and states need a prompt and definitive resolution.

His petition was widely viewed as a long shot, and the court’s decision to grant it was a surprise. It was bad news for the administration, which had urged the court to deny review.

The court’s decision will probably arrive in late June, three years to the month after the last health care decision. Mr. Verrilli is hoping for another victory, and Mr. Carvin is doing what he can to deny it to him.


Obama and Democrats Crush Boehner As House Passes Clean Homeland Security Bill

By: Jason Easley
Tuesday, March, 3rd, 2015, 3:15 pm      

John Boehner was handed a devastating defeat by being forced by Democrats to give President Obama exactly what he wanted. The House passed a clean bill to fund Homeland Security for the rest of the year.

The final vote was 257-167. Seventy-four Republicans voted for the motion, and no Democrats voted against it.

Before the vote, Boehner tried to put a happy face on his crushing defeat. According to Politico, Boehner said, “I am as outraged and frustrated as you at the lawless and unconstitutional actions of this President. I believe this decision – considering where we are – is the right one for this team and the right one for this country. The good news is that the president’s executive action has been stopped, for now. This matter will continue to be litigated in the courts, where we have our best chance of winning this fight.”

Those who follow politics have seen this script play out many times before. House Republicans took the country to the brink of crisis. Boehner and company promise that they won’t yield, but in the end, the Speaker ends up giving President Obama and the Democrats exactly what they wanted.

If Speaker Boehner was trying to bury his latest cave underneath Netanyahu’s speech to Congress today, it didn’t work. House Republicans are the perpetual dogs who are always chasing their tails. The pointless wheel spinning in the House is why the so little legislation gets passed that has the potential to become law. Boehner’s House is so busy pandering and making ideological statements through symbolic votes that they are left with no time to and little interest in governing.

Voters, in mostly red states, gave Republicans control of Congress. What they have seen is the continuation of the same behavior that the Republicans blamed on Harry Reid when Democrats controlled the Senate. It has become painfully obvious even to those in the mainstream press who shy away from criticizing Republicans that the new GOP congressional majority is a dysfunctional embarrassment.

President Obama and the Democrats got exactly what they wanted. Homeland Security has been funded for the rest of the year, and the president’s immigration executive orders remain legislatively untouched.

Democrats are a strong and united party, and it is clear that it is President Obama and liberal Democrats who are firmly setting the agenda for the floundering Republican majority that is being haplessly led by Mitch McConnell and John Boehner.


Bernie Sanders Slams Netanyahu’s Warmongering Speech To Congress

By: Jason Easley
Tuesday, March, 3rd, 2015, 5:36 pm   

Sen. Bernie Sanders stood firmly behind the diplomacy of President Obama today while shredding the warmongering speech that Netanyahu delivered to Congress.

In a statement, Sen. Sanders reacted to Netanyahu’s speech:

More than a decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost us thousands of lives and trillions in treasure and made a difficult situation even worse. Those experiences should reinforce our resolve to make every diplomatic effort to avoid another rush to war.

It goes without saying that Iran must not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon. It goes without saying that the United States will stand by our long-standing friendship and support for the nation of Israel. Unfortunately, Prime Minister Netanyahu did not offer any serious alternatives to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

At this point, harsher sanctions won’t stop Iran’s nuclear program. Neither would a dangerous resort to military action. The sanctions currently in place have brought Iran to the bargaining table and current negotiations resulted in Iran freezing its nuclear program. And for the past year, Iran has been subject to heightened international inspections. All of those things have made us safer.

I commend President Obama for his continued cooperation with the United Kingdom, France, China, Germany and Russia to reach a final agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Sen. Sanders (I-VT) saw right through Netanyahu’s language of seeking a better deal. Netanyahu was trying to push for a better deal. Netanyahu compared Iran to ISIS and North Korea. That is not a comparison that gets made if a leader believes in diplomacy.

Besides boosting his reelection chances back home, Netanyahu was trying to provoke military action against Iran. The Democrats who skipped the speech did not miss anything. Netanyahu’s remarks could have been delivered by Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, or any number of a variety of Republican neocons. There was nothing in his speech that the American people didn’t hear thousands of times during the Bush administration.

Netanyahu tried to argue for war, and Bernie Sanders called him out on it.


Americans Rally Around The President As Obama Approval Jumps 5 Points Thanks To Netanyahu

By: Jason Easley
Tuesday, March, 3rd, 2015, 8:00 pm   

Since Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu arrived in the U.S., President Obama’s approval rating has increased by 5 points in the Gallup poll.

From February 26-28, President Obama’s approval rating was 44% in the Gallup Daily Tracking Poll. The president’s disapproval rating was 51%. Once Netanyahu’s arrived in the United States, President Obama’s approval rating jumped to 49%, and his disapproval rating fell to 47%.

There were signs that the Republican handling of the Netanyahu invitation was not playing well with many Americans. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released yesterday found that by a margin of 48%-30%, registered voters said that John Boehner should have talked to President Obama before inviting Netanyahu.

A February 17, CNN poll found overwhelming opposition to the way that Speaker Boehner handled the invitation. Sixty-three percent of respondents felt that it was a bad move for Boehner to invite Netanyahu without giving Obama a head’s up, and only 52% of Republicans supported Boehner not notifying Obama first before inviting Netanyahu.

The Netanyahu speech has not worked out the way that Republicans had hoped it would. Speaker Boehner invited Netanyahu as a power play that was designed to get congressional Republicans back on track after a disastrous first few months in the majority. It appears that the speech has done the exact opposite.

Instead of making Obama look weak, the Republican behavior has helped to solidify some support behind the president. Bringing in the leader of a foreign country, even one with such broad support as Israel, to attack the President Of The United States doesn’t appear to sit well with many Americans.

The intensity of the Republican dislike of this president will always hold down his poll numbers, but the last thing that Republicans expected when they invited Netanyahu to speak is that his presence in the U.S. would boost the president’s popularity.

The Netanyahu speech is quickly becoming another Republican attempt to humiliate this president that is blowing up in their faces.

 on: Today at 07:50 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Dawn nears Ceres – Approach images, movies and animations

March 3, 2015

NASA’s Dawn mission will arrive at Ceres on March 6, 2015, and will be the first spacecraft to explore a dwarf planet. Ceres is the largest body in the main asteroid belt. At the time of its discovery in 1801 it was considered a planet and later demoted.

Click to watch:

And here:

 on: Today at 07:49 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

Dawn nears Ceres – Approach images, movies and animations

March 3, 2015

NASA’s Dawn mission will arrive at Ceres on March 6, 2015, and will be the first spacecraft to explore a dwarf planet. Ceres is the largest body in the main asteroid belt. At the time of its discovery in 1801 it was considered a planet and later demoted.

Click to watch:

And here:

 on: Today at 07:45 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Was this the childhood home of Jesus?

March 3, 2015
Chuck Bednar for – @BednarChuck

Archaeologists have discovered what may have been the childhood home of Jesus – a house in Nazareth that dates back to the first century and is located underneath an Israeli convent.

According to Gizmodo, the house was excavated by University of Reading archaeologist Dr. Ken Dark and his colleagues and was built into the limestone face of a hillside, beneath a convent that itself was built atop a Byzantine church believed to be approximately 1,500 years old.

Sparse, yet intriguing evidence

Nazareth was controlled by the Byzantines until the seventh century, the website explained, and the civilization likely placed a church atop the house because local Christians have long believed that it was where Jesus had spend his infancy. While it is impossible to verify that Jesus himself had ever lived there, the researchers state that it reveals much about life during that era.

[STORY: Controversial book claims to have evidence Jesus was married]

“What was Nazareth like when Jesus lived there? The evidence is sparse but intriguing,” Dark wrote in a recent edition of the Biblical Archaeology Review. “Surprising as it may seem, very little archaeological work has been done in Nazareth itself. However, a site within the Sisters of Nazareth Convent, across the street from the Church of the Annunciation, may contain some of the best evidence of the small town that existed here in Jesus’ time.”

The house itself had stone walls and a courtyard, as well as several rooms with chalk floors. In addition, Dark and his colleagues found the remains of a stairway, and limestone dishware was found among the other regular household items. Dark said that the presence of this dishware is evidence that the home belonged to a Jewish family, as Jews of that era believed that limestone could not become impure and was ideal for holding food, Gizmodo explained.

Abandoned but still used

The archaeologists believe that the home was abandoned at some point during the first century, according to LiveScience. It was later used as a burial ground, and two now-empty tombs were build beside the abandoned structure, with the forecourt of one cutting through the home itself. The Byzantine Church of the Nutrition would have been built centuries later, and after it was no longer used, it was rebuilt by Crusaders in the 12th century and burned down in the 13th.

[STORY: Newly discovered Gospel used for divination, fortune-telling]

“Great efforts had been made to encompass the remains of this building within the vaulted cellars of both the Byzantine and Crusader churches, so that it was thereafter protected,” Dark wrote, according to LiveScience. “Both the tombs and the house were decorated with mosaics in the Byzantine period, suggesting that they were of special importance, and possibly venerated.”

“The tomb cutting through the house is today commonly called ‘the Tomb of St. Joseph,’ and it was certainly venerated in the Crusader period, so perhaps they thought it was the tomb of St. Joseph,” he told the website. “However, it is unlikely to be the actual tomb of St. Joseph, given that it dates to after the disuse of the house and localized quarrying in the first century.”

A great insight into life during Jesus’ time

Whether or not it was the actual home of Jesus, the house reveals much about what life would have been like during his lifetime, the archaeologists explained. Despite the growing influence of Rome during the first century BC, Dark’s team reportedly found evidence suggesting that people living in and around Nazareth rejected that empire’s culture.

[STORY: Scientists may have discovered oldest section of Gospels ever]

A survey conducted at the nearby valley of Nahal Zippori found that people who lived on the northern end of that valley (closer to the Roman town of Sepphoris) were more likely to embrace Roman culture than those living to the south (closer to Nazareth), Dark said. The “strength” of the “anti-Roman sentiment” and the “Jewish identity” in Nazareth was “unusual,” he added.

“We will never know if this is the home where a Jewish rebel named Jesus grew up, before challenging the Roman government and founding one of the most popular religions in the west. But we can be certain that the home dates to the time when Jesus is said to have been born,” Gizmodo said. “It offers us a window on the past, and a glimpse of what Jewish villages were like under the Roman Empire.”

 on: Today at 07:41 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Argentine Ex-President Menem Tried for Corruption

by Naharnet Newsdesk 03 March 2015, 18:43

Argentina's former president Carlos Menem is back on trial for corruption charges, two years after he was convicted of arms trafficking.

Menem, who served from 1989 to 1999, went on trial Monday alongside his former economy minister Domingo Cavallo and eight other former cabinet members, charged with using state funds to bribe high-ranking officials during their decade in power.

Menem was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2013 for trafficking arms to Croatia and Ecuador, the first time a democratically elected former president was convicted of a crime in Argentina.

But he never did prison time because he remains protected by legislative immunity as a senator.

The defendants face prison terms of two to 10 years if convicted on the latest charges.

Menem, 84, was once wildly popular, leading Argentina through a period of rapid economic growth in the 1990s and titillating Argentines with his fondness for fast cars and women half his age.

But his popularity plummeted as his key economic policies unraveled after his tenure, culminating in a devastating 2001 crisis that triggered riots in the streets.

Menem is due back in court in June to face trial in another case, on charges of obstructing the investigation into the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people, the deadliest such attack in Argentine history.

That case is back in the spotlight since the mysterious death in January of prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who had sought to bring similar charges against current President Cristina Kirchner.

Menem is also accused of fraud in the 1997 sale of telecommunications licenses to the Argentine subsidiary of French electronics and defense group Thales.

Source: Agence France Presse

 on: Today at 07:39 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Saudi Executions Set 'Unprecedented' Pace

by Naharnet Newsdesk 04 March 2015, 11:58

Saudi Arabia has beheaded dozens of convicts, including foreign drug traffickers, since the start of the year in what Amnesty International calls an unprecedented pace of executions in the kingdom.

Those put to the sword have included five Pakistanis, an Indian, two Jordanians, two Syrians and a Yemeni, with few foreign governments willing to publicly appeal for clemency from the wealthy Gulf state.

Three beheadings in a single day on Tuesday -- one for rape and two for murder -- took the total so far this year to 38, according to an Agence France Presse tally.

That is about three times the number over the same period in 2014, but observers disagree about the reasons.

There was also a surge in the latter months of last year. towards the end of King Abdullah's reign. He died on January 23 and was succeeded by King Salman.

"It began before Salman," a diplomatic source said.

"The Saudi authorities want to show everyone they are strong, people can rely on them to keep the security and the safety in the kingdom," said the source, who did not want to be further identified.

The aim is to deter all forms of violence but the policy is linked to the kingdom's fight against the Islamic State group, the source said.

In September, Saudi Arabia began air strikes against the IS in Syria as part of the U.S.-led coalition, raising concerns about possible retaliation inside the kingdom.

Security officers arrested three Saudis who allegedly acted "in support of" IS when they shot and wounded a Dane in November. Authorities also blamed IS-linked suspects for the killing of seven members of the minority Shiite community.

In January three Saudi border guards died in a clash with Saudi "terrorists" trying to sneak in from Iraq.

"They certainly don't want to seem soft," Toby Matthiesen, a research fellow in Islamic and Middle Eastern studies at the University of Cambridge, said of the Saudi authorities.

But he did not see a connection with the fight against IS.

"I don't think it's going to frighten Daesh" by executing a few more criminals, Matthiesen said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

London-based Amnesty said there is no evidence the current "alarming spike" in Saudi executions is connected with the battle against IS or "terrorism".

- Allegations of torture -

"It would... be a stretch to say that this is an attempt to deter violence," because almost half of this year's executions were for drug-related non-violent crimes, Amnesty's Saudi Arabia researcher Sevag Kechichian told AFP.

"It is impossible to tell what exactly is driving these numbers", Kechichian said.

Amnesty recorded 11 executions from January 1-26 last year, 17 for that period in 2013, and nine in 2012.

The end-of-year figures turned out to be all about the same, "despite the vast differences in pace and distribution of executions throughout the year," Kechichian added.

"The current rate, however, has been truly unprecedented."

After 27 executions in 2010, the number jumped to around 80 annually, with 87 last year by AFP's tally. The figures have been among the world's highest.

An interior ministry spokesman declined to comment.

In statements carried by the official Saudi Press Agency, the ministry has cited deterrence as a reason for carrying out the punishment. It has also talked of "the physical and social harm" caused by drugs, and said the death penalty for murderers aims "to maintain security and realise justice".

Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Saudi Arabia's version of Islamic sharia law.

Human rights groups have expressed concern about the dangers of the innocent being sentenced to death.

Christof Heyns, the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said in September that trials "are by all accounts grossly unfair" and defendants are often not allowed a lawyer.

He said confessions were obtained under torture.

Similar statements have not come from Western governments, Amnesty said, accusing the West of "double standards" towards Saudi Arabia.

Other countries disagree with the kingdom's use of the death penalty, the diplomatic source said, but he asked if that means they should stop talking with Saudi Arabia about "terrorism", climate change or economic issues on which they cooperate.

"We need to work together," the source said.

Source: Agence France Presse

 on: Today at 07:37 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
South Sudan: Sanctions Threat an Obstacle to Peace

by Naharnet Newsdesk 04 March 2015, 09:16

United Nations sanctions aimed at bringing an end to South Sudan's civil war would be counterproductive if imposed, the country's foreign minister said on Wednesday.

On Tuesday the U.N. Security Council unanimously passed a U.S.-drafted resolution outlining a sanctions regime that will allow for worldwide travel bans and asset freezes for "spoilers" of the peace process and a possible arms embargo. However, no sanctions have actually been imposed.

"Any sanctions imposed on South Sudan, will not only hinder the peace process but will inherently be felt by our countrymen and women down to the very basic level," Barnaba Marial Benjamin said in a statement.

"We need to remove obstacles obstructing peace not create new ones," he said.

South Sudan's conflict began in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of planning a coup.

Fighting quickly spread from the capital Juba. Tens of thousands have been killed, one in six have been forced from their homes and millions more have been pushed to the edge of starvation.

Peace talks, brokered by regional bloc IGAD, got underway within weeks of the outbreak of conflict but have only resulted in a series of broken ceasefires and empty promises. IGAD sanctions have been threatened but not imposed.

Kiir and Machar are in the Ethiopian capital this week for the latest round of talks. IGAD has set March 5 as the latest deadline for a final peace agreement.

Despite the lack of progress in peace talks, the continued fighting, suffering and destruction Benjamin struck an optimistic tone in his call for sanctions not to be imposed.

"Our struggle for growth and prosperity is only just beginning," he insisted. "We've fought long and hard to get where we are."

Source: Agence France Presse

 on: Today at 07:36 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Congolese Warlord Lubanga Liable for Reparations, Says ICC

by Naharnet Newsdesk 03 March 2015, 17:40

The International Criminal Court ruled Tuesday that convicted Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga should "personally" be liable for reparations to his victims, including paying to help reintegrate child soldiers who served in his rebel army.

Handing out a ruling at its Hague-based headquarters, the first of its kind, ICC appeals judges said the court's trial chamber "erred in not making Lubanga personally liable for collective reparations".

Trial judges in March 2012 convicted Lubanga of war crimes, specifically for using minors in the conflict that wracked the volatile eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and sentenced him to 14 years in jail.

Lubanga was found guilty of abducting children as young as 11 from their homes, schools or football fields and forcing them to fight and commit atrocities.

Victims' lawyers appealed the trial judges' verdict as it did not say whether Lubanga himself was liable, with trial judges adding he had no funds.

But the ICC's appeals judges said the world's only permanent war crimes court judged accused on their individual criminal liability in cases.

"This context strongly suggests that reparation orders are intrinsically linked to the individual whose criminal liability is established in a conviction and whose culpability for those criminal acts are determined in a sentence," the judges said.

They told officials of the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) to draft a plan for collective reparations to Lubanga's victims within six months.

The TFV is funded by voluntary contributions from ICC member states, international organizations and other donors.

Judges said those who suffered sexual abuse in the northeast Ituri province should also be compensated, even though Lubanga was never accused or convicted of crimes involving sexual violence.

The money should collectively include the possibility of medical services and psychological support as well as "general rehabilitation, housing, education and training" for victims.

It also should include measures to "reintegrate former child soldiers."

The TFV will make the "resources" available to the victims, the judges said.

But they added: "it (the TFV) it will be able to claim the advanced resources from Mr. Lubanga at a later date."

The verdict against Lubanga marked the first-ever conviction at the ICC, sentencing Lubanga, now 54, for his part in a war in the gold-rich northeastern Ituri region where rights groups say some 60,000 civilians were killed between 1999 and 2006.

Source: Agence France Presse

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