Jewish staff urge Google to support Palestinians

Jewish staff urge Google to support Palestinians
A ball of fire explodes above buildings in Gaza City as Israeli forces shell the Palestinian enclave, May 18, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 19 May 2021

Jewish staff urge Google to support Palestinians

Jewish staff urge Google to support Palestinians
  • Company must not give in to ‘one-sided pro-Israel perspective’
  • Letter urges ‘recognition of harm done to Palestinians by Israeli military, gang violence’

LONDON: Tech giant Google has received a letter from 250 Jewish employees urging it to do more to support the Palestinian people. 

The group, called Jewish Diaspora in Tech, asked CEO Sundar Pichai to match the financial assistance Google gives to Israeli humanitarian groups with aid for Palestinian ones.

This follows an escalation in Israeli airstrikes that has led to over 200 fatalities and thousands of injuries in the Gaza Strip.

Jewish Diaspora in Tech asked Google’s parent company Alphabet to review business relations with companies and institutions that the group claims facilitate the oppression of Palestinians.

It also urged Alphabet to publicly acknowledge that Palestinians have been disproportionately affected by clashes between Israeli forces and militant groups.

“We ask Google leadership to make a company-wide statement recognizing the violence in Palestine and Israel, which must include direct recognition of the harm done to Palestinians by Israeli military and gang violence,” the group wrote.

“Anti-Zionism is not antisemitism and this conflation harms the pursuit of justice for Palestinians and Jews alike by limiting freedom of expression and distracting from real acts of antisemitism.”

Jewish Diaspora in Tech said efforts had been made by members of an official group of Jewish Google employees, known as Jewglers, to have the company publicly “support the sovereign state of Israel,” which it claimed gave a “one-sided pro-Israel perspective” on the conflict, and had silenced the voices of Google’s Jewish anti-Zionists.

“We agree that a response from Google leadership is necessary, but we believe any response that recognizes violence against Israelis but fails to give the same recognition to violence against Palestinians is worse than no response at all,” Jewish Diaspora in Tech added.

A member of the group told US media outlet The Verge: “We were compelled to form our own space because of the fact that we were quite literally not allowed to express our viewpoints.”


Citing debris risk, NASA delays spacewalk to fix space station antenna

Citing debris risk, NASA delays spacewalk to fix space station antenna
Updated 7 sec ago

Citing debris risk, NASA delays spacewalk to fix space station antenna

Citing debris risk, NASA delays spacewalk to fix space station antenna
A spacewalk planned for Tuesday to repair a faulty antenna on the International Space Station was postponed indefinitely, NASA said, citing a “debris notification” it received for the orbiting research laboratory.
Two US astronauts had been scheduled to venture outside the space station at 7:10 a.m. Eastern time (1210 GMT) to begin their work, facing what NASA officials had called a slightly elevated risk posed by debris from a Russian anti-satellite missile test this month.
But about five hours before the outing was to have commenced, NASA said on Twitter that the spacewalk had been called off for the time being.
“NASA received a debris notification for the space station. Due to the lack of opportunity to properly assess the risk it could pose to the astronauts, teams have decided to delay the Nov. 30 spacewalk until more information is available,” the space agency tweeted.
It was not made clear how close debris had come to the space station, orbiting about 250 miles (402 km) above the Earth, or whether it was related to the Russian missile test.
NASA TV had planned to provide live coverage of the 6-1/2-hour “extravehicular activity,” or EVA, operation by astronauts Thomas Marshburn and Kayla Brown. The outing would be the fifth spacewalk for Marshburn, 61, a medical doctor and former flight surgeon with two previous trips to orbit, and the first for Barron, 34, a US Navy submarine officer and nuclear engineer on her debut spaceflight for NASA.
The objective is to remove a faulty S-band radio communications antenna assembly, now more than 20 years old, and replace it with a new spare stowed outside the space station.
According to plans, Marshburn was to have worked with Barron while positioned at the end of a robotic arm operated from inside the station by German astronaut Matthias Maurer of the European Space Agency, with help from NASA crewmate Raja Chari.
The four arrived at the space station Nov. 11 in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, joining two Russian cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut already aboard the orbiting outpost.
Four days later, an anti-satellite missile test conducted without warning by Russia generated a debris field in low-Earth orbit, and all seven crew members took shelter in their docked spaceships to allow for a quick getaway until the immediate danger passed, according to NASA.
The residual debris cloud from the blasted satellite has dispersed since then, according to Dana Weigel, NASA deputy manager of the International Space Station (ISS) program.
But NASA calculates that remaining fragments continued to pose a “slightly elevated” background risk to the space station as a whole, and a 7 percent higher risk of spacewalkers’ suits being punctured, as compared to before Russia’s missile test, Weigel told reporters on Monday.
Although NASA has yet to fully quantify additional hazards posed by more than 1,700 larger fragments it is tracking around the station’s orbit, the 7 percent higher risk to spacewalkers falls “well within” fluctuations previously seen in “the natural environment,” Weigel said.
Still, mission managers canceled several smaller maintenance tasks under consideration for Tuesday’s spacewalk, Weigel added.

Japan and Palestine confirm grant deal worth more than $9m

Japan and Palestine confirm grant deal worth more than $9m
Updated 28 min 9 sec ago

Japan and Palestine confirm grant deal worth more than $9m

Japan and Palestine confirm grant deal worth more than $9m

TOKYO: Japan signed an agreement to provide Palestine with 1 billion yen (approximately $9.17 million) based on an “economic and social development plan”, the foreign ministry in Tokyo said.

The agreement was reached on Nov. 28 and signed by Masayuki Magoshi, ambassador for Palestinian affairs and representative of Japan to Palestine, and Palestinian Minister of Finance Shukri Bishara, who also exchanged a letter regarding the grant.

“This cooperation is intended to contribute to the promotion of economic and social development efforts of the Palestinian Authority and will be used to procure fuel as a necessary material in the Palestinian Authority,” Magoshi said. 

“It is hoped that this will improve the severe financial situation of the Palestinian Authority and contribute to the promotion of efforts to stabilize economic activities and civil affairs,” Magoshi added.

In the Palestinian Autonomous Region, the Gaza Strip suffered widespread damage in May this year due to conflict and the socio-economic situation of Palestine continues to be severe. 

“Under these circumstances, it is indispensable to support the efforts of the Palestinian Authority for economic and social development and to stabilize and develop Palestinian civil society in order to foster the momentum for achieving peace in the Middle East,” Magoshi said.

This story was originally published in Japanese on Arab News Japan


Migrant crisis front and center in pope’s Greece-Cyprus trip

Migrant crisis front and center in pope’s Greece-Cyprus trip
Updated 34 min 13 sec ago

Migrant crisis front and center in pope’s Greece-Cyprus trip

Migrant crisis front and center in pope’s Greece-Cyprus trip
  • Francis will first stop in Cyprus, a country in the Mediterranean that is coping with a rise in refugees so significant that the government is seeking to stop processing asylum claims
  • Greece continues to host large numbers of asylum-seekers while failing to protect their rights

LESBOS, Greece: When Pope Francis visited the Greek island of Lesbos in 2016, he was so moved by the stories he heard from families fleeing war in Iraq and Syria that he wept and brought a dozen refugees home with him.
Speaking to reporters on the way home that day, he held up a drawing handed to him by a child from the island’s sprawling refugee camp.
“Look at this one,” he said, revealing a bird neatly decorated in colored pencil, the word “peace” scrolled in English underneath it. “That’s what children want: Peace.”
Francis is returning to Lesbos this week for the first time since that defining day of his papacy, making a repeat visit to the island where hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants have passed through on their journey to Europe.
But he will find attitudes toward migrants here have only hardened in the intervening five years, as they have elsewhere in Europe, with tensions flaring on the border between European Union country Poland and Belarus and more deadly crossings — most recently in the English Channel.
Francis will first stop in Cyprus, another predominantly Orthodox Christian country in the Mediterranean that is also coping with a rise in refugees so significant that the government is seeking to stop processing asylum claims. As he did in Lesbos five years ago, Francis has arranged for several would-be refugees in Cyprus to travel to Italy after his visit, Cypriot officials say.
“They are our brothers and sisters,” Francis said in a video message to Greek and Cypriot faithful before the trip. “How many have lost their lives at sea! Today our sea, the Mediterranean, is a great cemetery.”
The pontiff starts his five-day trip on Thursday in Cyprus before heading to Greece on Saturday. He returns home on Monday.
While Francis’ renewed messages of compassion and welcome for migrants isn’t quite resonating in European capitals, they are a welcome salvo for the migrants themselves.
“His presence here will strengthen us, spiritually, and give us hope, some comfort,” said Christian Tango Muyaka, a 30-year-old asylum-seeker from Congo who is due to participate in a Sunday service with the pope at a new migrant camp on Lesbos.
“It gives us faith, it strengthens our faith,” he said.
Muyaka was separated from his wife and youngest daughter a year ago on the Turkish coast when they scrambled to board a boat bound for Greece. He has had no news of what happened to them since.
The north coast of Lesbos, just 10 kilometers (six miles) from Turkey, served as the main landing point for boats crossing into Europe during the 2015-16 migration crisis.
Piles of discarded orange life vests covered beaches, local fishermen helped daily rescue operations, and island residents took pride in setting up campaigns to provide hundreds of refugees arriving daily with food and clothing.
Fast forward five years, and the welcome mat is gone.
Migrants reaching the eastern Greek islands are now being held in detention camps, newly built and funded by the EU. Coast guard patrols are instructed to intercept dinghies and boats heading west and send them back to Turkey.
The overcrowded camp on Lesbos that Francis was taken to in 2016 burnt to the ground last year during protests against pandemic restrictions.
And along Greece’s land border with Turkey, a new steel wall and hi-tech sensor network have been installed to stop illegal crossings.
Eva Cosse at Human Rights Watch said Francis’ visit will serve as an urgent reminder of the human nature of the crisis.
“At a time when people are suffering and their rights are threatened, having the pope standing up for them and expressing these concerns is more important than ever,” she told The Associated Press. “Since the pope’s last visit, Greece continues to host large numbers of asylum-seekers while failing to protect their rights.
“Thousands seeking refuge in Greece are violently pushed back to Turkey. Migrant children face homelessness and a lack of access to health care, education and food. And nongovernmental groups face legislative restrictions and criminal harassment by officials.”
Greek authorities deny allegations of summary deportations. They argue that tougher border policing is necessary to counter hostility by several EU neighbors accused of exploiting the crisis and to limit arrival numbers to manageable levels.
“(Francis’) message is that we are one world, that we don’t have borders, that everybody is a child of God. Look, this is the religious point of view,” said Dimitris Vafeas, the deputy director of Mavrovouni migrant camp on Lesbos where the pope will visit.
“In practical terms, I think Greece has delivered ... so I think (Francis) will see calm faces. I don’t dare say happy faces, but calm for sure.”


Mask mandates to tackle omicron come into force in England

Mask mandates to tackle omicron come into force in England
Updated 30 November 2021

Mask mandates to tackle omicron come into force in England

Mask mandates to tackle omicron come into force in England
  • From Tuesday morning, face masks are compulsory on transport and in shops, banks and hair salons
  • Boris Johnson has said the measures will be reviewed after three week

LONDON: New mask mandates and other measures aimed at curbing the spread of the omicron coronavirus variant came into force in England on Tuesday, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson eyes an expanded booster program to help increase protection against COVID-19.
From Tuesday morning, face masks are compulsory on transport and in shops, banks and hair salons.
All international travelers must take a PCR test by the end of the second day after they arrive, and self-isolate until they get their result. That is in addition to restrictions on arrivals from 10 southern African countries, who have to enter hotel quarantine.
Britain has reported 11 cases of the omicron variant so far, and while the government says this number will rise, it says it is important to slow its spread until more is known about the variant’s tranmissibility and impact on vaccines.
“The measures taking effect today are proportionate and responsible, and will buy us time in the face of this new variant,” Johnson said in a statement.
“Not only will today’s steps help us slow down the variant’s spread, but they will help us protect each other and the gains we have all worked so hard for.”
Johnson has said the measures will be reviewed after three weeks, but added that the country’s vaccine rollout leaves it in a better situation than this time last year, when restrictions were introduced shortly before Christmas.
On Monday vaccine advisers gave the go ahead to a booster program for all adults, and health minister Sajid Javid said there would be more details on how it would be implemented this week.
Booster shots are expected to help protect against severe disease even if omicron is able to reduce vaccine efficacy.
“Based on everything we know, our vaccines and boosters remain our best line of defense,” Johnson said.


Kabul roadside blast injures five, says TV station Ariana

Kabul roadside blast injures five, says TV station Ariana
Updated 30 November 2021

Kabul roadside blast injures five, says TV station Ariana

Kabul roadside blast injures five, says TV station Ariana

KABUL: A roadside bomb blast in the Afghan capital of Kabul caused at least five casualties, television station Ariana News said on Tuesday.
The target of the attack appeared to have been an open-backed vehicle like a Toyota Hilux, it added, but there were no further details and no official confirmation of the figures.