Gaza ‘Arab Idol’ star becomes symbol of Palestinian unity

Updated 21 June 2013
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Gaza ‘Arab Idol’ star becomes symbol of Palestinian unity

GAZA: Palestinian fans and big business are rallying behind a 22-year-old singer from the Gaza Strip in a final push to vote him the next “Arab Idol” in a TV talent contest choosing a winner in Beirut tomorrow.
Mohammed Assaf is the first Palestinian to qualify for Arab Idol, the Middle East’s version of American Idol, in which contestants perform for judges and voting viewers.
His potent mix of good looks and emotional lyrics about ancestral Palestinian lands have helped to turn the young man from Gaza’s Khan Younes refugee camp into a star and symbol of unity for Palestinians plagued by deep internal divisions.
Voting in the pan-Arab competition is done through text messages. To encourage support for Assaf, one of three finalists, two Palestinian cellular telephone companies have cut their rates for ballots cast for him.
The Bank of Palestine is throwing money into the campaign, promising to match up to 350,000 texted votes — each one costs 1.50 shekels ($ .40) — for Assaf. It has placed billboards with his picture at major intersections in Gaza and the West Bank.
“Vote and the Bank of Palestine votes with you,” says a radio and television commercial broadcast in the Palestinian territories, where Assaf’s songs blare constantly from vehicles.
President Mahmoud Abbas has spoken to Assaf by phone and instructed Palestinian embassies abroad to urge expatriates to vote for him, calling the singer “the pride of the Palestinian and Arab nation.”
Egyptian Ahmed Jamal and a Syrian woman, Farah Youssef, are also finalists in the contest broadcast.
To keep the votes for Assaf coming, the Palestinian cellular operator Jawwal is offering cash prizes of up to $ 10,000 for customers who text in the highest number of ballots.
Some cafes in the West Bank city of Ramallah are offering to text a vote for every cup of coffee that customers order.
“By voting for Assaf, we are voting for Palestine, for us,” read a typical entry on his Facebook fan pages.
Huge celebrations are likely on the streets of the West Bank and Gaza if he wins.


Victims voice relief after arrest in serial killing case

Updated 15 min 43 sec ago
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Victims voice relief after arrest in serial killing case

SACRAMENTO, Calif: Jane Carson-Sandler’s morning in 1976 turned from innocence to terror when a masked man broke into her home and entered the bedroom where she lay snuggled with her 3-year-old son.
He confronted them with a butcher knife and shone a flashlight in her eyes before tying them up.
She said she was paralyzed by fear, afraid the man would kill them. When he untied her ankles, she knew he would rape her.
Before assaulting her, he moved her son from her side, but she doesn’t know where. After it was over, he put her son back in bed next to her.
Carson-Sandler voiced relief after police arrested Joseph James DeAngelo and identified him on Wednesday as the serial killer who committed a string of killings and rapes in the 1970s and ‘80s in California.
Carson-Sandler, now 72, wants to face her attacker in person and ask how long he had been watching her and what he did with her son during the attack.
“I just wonder when he first saw me, how long he had been stalking me,” said Carson-Sandler, who was in the Air Force reserves and studying to be a nurse at the time of the attack.
Carson-Sandler was one of dozens of women raped by a man dubbed the East Area Rapist and the Golden State Killer, who police say killed at least 12 people and raped at least 45 in the 1970s and 1980s.
She was attacked in her home in the Sacramento suburb of Citrus Heights.
She and Bruce Harrington, whose brother and sister-in-law were killed in 1980 in Orange County, said DeAngelo’s arrest will launch a healing process for victims that has been delayed for decades.
“It is time for the victims to begin to heal,” Harrington said at a news conference in Sacramento.
A DNA match led authorities to arrest DeAngelo in connection with four killings in Sacramento and Ventura counties, officials said.
“I feel like I’m in the middle of a dream and I’m going to wake up and it’s not going to be true,” Carson-Sandler said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It’s just so nice to have closure and to know he’s in jail.”
Carson-Sandler, now living near Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, said she didn’t know DeAngelo or recognize his name.
She wrote a book about her experience called “Frozen in Fear.” She has spoken with rapists in prison about how the attack affected her. She tells them to close their eyes and imagine she is their mother or sister or lover while she tells her story.
She says she hopes to make them understand the trauma they have caused so they won’t hurt more people.
Harrington’s brother, 24-year-old Keith Harrington and his wife, 27-year-old Patrice Harrington, were beaten to death in their home, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said.
Bruce Harrington applauded law enforcement’s pursuit of justice for them. DeAngelo’s arrest, he said, will “bring closure to the anguish that we all suffered for the last 40-odd years.”