Israel-Hamas tensions hit world’s biggest book fair

Israel-Hamas tensions hit world’s biggest book fair
Demonstrators attend a protest in solidarity with Palestinians amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Frankfurt, Germany, October 14, 2023. (Reuters)
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Updated 17 October 2023
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Israel-Hamas tensions hit world’s biggest book fair

Israel-Hamas tensions hit world’s biggest book fair
  • There has also been anger at a decision to postpone an award ceremony for Palestinian author Adania Shibli

The world’s biggest book fair in Frankfurt lamented a “disaster” Tuesday after publishing groups withdrew in protest at organizers’ support for Israel.
Organizations that pulled out were also angered at a decision to postpone an award ceremony for a Palestinian author following the outbreak of the Israel-Gaza war.
The Frankfurt Book Fair official begins Wednesday against the backdrop of the Israel’s siege of Gaza and its evacuation order for the north of the enclave, that the United Nations human rights office said could amount to a forcible transfer of civilians and be in breach of international law.
Book fair organizers who denounced Hamas' assault on Israel, rushed to reorganize the schedule, pledging Israeli voices would feature prominently.
But, highlighting the bitter divisions unleashed by the conflict, the world’s biggest publishing trade event has since faced withdrawals by organizations.
Among them was the Indonesian Publishers Association, which said organizers’ decision to “take sides and give Israel a platform has undermined the ideals of dialogue and efforts to build mutual understanding.
“Siding with Israel while forgetting the suffering of the Palestinian people is like reading only one book to feel like you understand the whole world.”
The publishing association had been due to take part in activities promoting Indonesian culture at the fair.
The education ministry in Malaysia said it was pulling out, citing organizers “pro-Israel stance.”
The Sharjah Book Authority, in the United Arab Emirates, and the Emirates Publishers Association have also withdrawn, while the UAE-based National newspaper reported the Arab Publishers’ Association in Egypt had pulled out.
Asked about the withdrawals, fair director Juergen Boos told a press conference he was “very disappointed” some participants had chosen not to come “because of geopolitics.”
“That’s a complete for disaster for us, for myself. I want people to be here, to have a (frank) discourse, to have discussions even if it might be controversial.”

There has also been anger at a decision to postpone an award ceremony for Palestinian author Adania Shibli.
She was due to receive the LiBeraturpreis, a German award, for her book “A Minor Detail,” based on the real events of a 1949 rape and murder by Israeli soldiers.
It is organized by Litprom, which gives out the honor each year at the fair, but the group decided not to go ahead with the ceremony “due to the war started by Hamas.”
The group says it will hold the event later, and insisted that awarding the prize to Shibli was “never in question.”
However in an open letter released Monday, over 600 signatories including high-profile authors, publishers and literary agents, condemned the move.
Postponing the award amounted to “closing out the space for a Palestinian voice,” said the letter, whose signatories included Abdulrazak Gurnah and Olga Tokarczuk, both winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Other writers who signed included Pankaj Mishra, William Dalrymple, Colm Toibin and Naomi Klein.
Asked about the controversy Tuesday, a book fair spokesman said Litprom decided to delay the ceremony to a later date when it would be more possible to “have a more dignified exchange about literature.”
The book fair does not organize the award.
Elsewhere at the fair, one of the most anticipated authors featuring this year will be Salman Rushdie, who has appeared only rarely in public since a stabbing attack last year that nearly killed him.
Rushdie, who has faced death threats since his 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses” was declared blasphemous by Iran’s supreme leader, lost sight in one eye in the attack in the small American town of Chautauqua.
The Frankfurt Book Fair, in its 75th edition this year, runs from Wednesday to Sunday.


US police shoot and kill man holding a plastic fork

US police shoot and kill man holding a plastic fork
Updated 22 February 2024
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US police shoot and kill man holding a plastic fork

US police shoot and kill man holding a plastic fork

LOS ANGELES: Police in Los Angeles have released body-cam footage of an incident in which officers shot and killed a man holding a plastic fork.

One of the police involved in the February 3 shooting in a warehouse in downtown Los Angeles is under investigation to determine if the officer complied with rules on use of deadly force, authorities said Tuesday.
The man who was shot has been identified as Jason Lee Maccani, age 36.
The footage released Tuesday shows a man being confronted by half a dozen police officers in the corridor of a building.
They tell the man to approach them with his arms raised, and at first he seems to comply.
But he fails to stop moving and keeps walking with his hands clenched in fists, holding an object that the officers said they thought was a screwdriver.
Officers tried to subdue him but failed, police said in a statement.
In the video, the man is seen approaching the police when shots are heard.
“The suspect grabbed one of the officers and the Beanbag Shotgun she was holding, resulting in an Officer-Involved Shooting,” it said.
Police went to the building after someone called an emergency number to report an “assault with a deadly weapon” in a warehouse.
The caller said this person was under the influence of drugs or alcohol and threatening employers with a stick.
Maccani died in a nearby hospital.
None of the warehouse employees or police were hurt.
 


Private US spacecraft enters orbit around the moon ahead of landing attempt

Private US spacecraft enters orbit around the moon ahead of landing attempt
Updated 22 February 2024
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Private US spacecraft enters orbit around the moon ahead of landing attempt

Private US spacecraft enters orbit around the moon ahead of landing attempt
  • Intuitive Machines confirmed its lander, nicknamed Odysseus, was circling the moon with experiments from NASA and other clients
  • Controllers will lower the orbit from just under 92 km to 10 km on Thursday before aiming for a touchdown near the moon’s south pole

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: A private US lunar lander reached the moon and eased into a low orbit Wednesday, a day before it will attempt an even greater feat — landing on the gray, dusty surface.

A smooth touchdown would put the US back in business on the moon for the first time since NASA astronauts closed out the Apollo program in 1972. The company, if successful, also would become the first private outfit to ace a moon landing.
Launched last week, Intuitive Machines’ lander fired its engine on the back side of the moon while out of contact with Earth. Flight controllers at the company’s Houston headquarters had to wait until the spacecraft emerged to learn whether the lander was in orbit or hurtling aimlessly away.
Intuitive Machines confirmed its lander, nicknamed Odysseus, was circling the moon with experiments from NASA and other clients. The lander is part of a NASA program to kickstart the lunar economy; the space agency is paying $118 million to get its experiments on the moon on this mission.

On Thursday, controllers will lower the orbit from just under 60 miles (92 kilometers) to 6 miles (10 kilometers) — a crucial maneuver occurring again on the moon’s far side — before aiming for a touchdown near the moon’s south pole. It’s a dicey place to land with all the craters and cliffs, but deemed prime real estate for astronauts since the permanently shadowed craters are believed to hold frozen water.
The moon is littered with wreckage from failed landings. Some missions never even got that far. Another US company — Astrobotic Technology — tried to send a lander to the moon last month, but it didn’t get there because of a fuel leak. The crippled lander came crashing back through the atmosphere, burning up over the Pacific.

Flight controllers monitor the progress of the moon landing at Intuitive Machines’ headquarters in Houston, Texas, on Feb. 21, 2024. (X: @Int_Machines)

A rundown on the moon’s winners and losers:
First victories
The Soviet Union’s Luna 9 successfully touches down on the moon in 1966, after its predecessors crash or miss the moon altogether. The US follows four months later with Surveyor 1. Both countries achieve more robotic landings, as the race heats up to land men.
Apollo rules
NASA clinches the space race with the Soviets in 1969 with a moon landing by Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Twelve astronauts explore the surface over six missions, before the program ends with Apollo 17 in 1972. Still the only country to send humans to the moon, the US hopes to return crews to the surface by the end of 2026 or so, a year after a lunar fly-around by astronauts.
China emerges
China, in 2013, becomes the third country to successfully land on the moon, delivering a rover named Yutu, Chinese for jade rabbit. China follows with the Yutu-2 rover in 2019, this time touching down on the moon’s unexplored far side — an impressive first. A sample return mission on the moon’s near side in 2020 yields nearly 4 pounds (1.7 kilograms) of lunar rocks and dirt. Another sample return mission should be launching soon, but this time to the far side. Seen as NASA’s biggest moon rival, China aims to put its astronauts on the moon by 2030.
Russia stumbles
In 2023, Russia tries for its first mooc landing in nearly a half-century, but the Luna 25 spacecraft smashes into the moon. The country’s previous lander — 1976’s Luna 24 — not only landed, but returned moon rocks to Earth.
India triumphs on take 2
After its first lander slams into the moon in 2019, India regroups and launches Chandrayaan-3 (Hindi for moon craft) in 2023. The craft successfully touches down, making India the fourth country to score a lunar landing. The win comes just four days after Russia’s crash-landing.
Japan lands sideways
Japan becomes the fifth country to land successfully on the moon, with its spacecraft touching down in January. The craft lands on the wrong side, compromising its ability to generate solar power, but manages to crank out pictures and science before falling silent when the long lunar night sets in.
Private tries

A privately funded lander from Israel, named Beresheet, Hebrew for “in the beginning,” crashes into the moon in 2019. A Japanese entrepreneur’s company, ispace, launches a lunar lander in 2023, but it, too, wrecks. Astrobotic Technology, a Pittsburgh company, launches its lander in January, but a fuel leak prevents a landing and dooms the craft. Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines plan more moon deliveries.

 


Astronomers find what may be the universe’s brightest object with a black hole devouring a sun a day

Astronomers find what may be the universe’s brightest object with a black hole devouring a sun a day
Updated 21 February 2024
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Astronomers find what may be the universe’s brightest object with a black hole devouring a sun a day

Astronomers find what may be the universe’s brightest object with a black hole devouring a sun a day
  • The rotating disk around the quasar’s black hole — the luminous swirling gas and other matter from gobbled-up stars — is like a cosmic hurricane
  • “The exciting thing about this quasar is that it was hiding in plain sight and was misclassified as a star previously,” Yale University’s Priyamvada Natarajan, who was not involved in the study, said in an email

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: Astronomers have discovered what may be the brightest object in the universe, a quasar with a black hole at its heart growing so fast that it swallows the equivalent of a sun a day.
The record-breaking quasar shines 500 trillion times brighter than our sun. The black hole powering this distant quasar is more than 17 billion times more immense than our sun, an Australian-led team reported Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy.
While the quasar resembles a mere dot in images, scientists envision a ferocious place.
The rotating disk around the quasar’s black hole — the luminous swirling gas and other matter from gobbled-up stars — is like a cosmic hurricane.
“This quasar is the most violent place that we know in the universe,” lead author Christian Wolf of Australian National University said in an email.
The European Southern Observatory spotted the object, J0529-4351, during a 1980 sky survey, but it was thought to be a star. It was not identified as a quasar — the extremely active and luminous core of a galaxy — until last year. Observations by telescopes in Australia and Chile’s Atacama Desert clinched it.
“The exciting thing about this quasar is that it was hiding in plain sight and was misclassified as a star previously,” Yale University’s Priyamvada Natarajan, who was not involved in the study, said in an email.
These later observations and computer modeling have determined that the quasar is gobbling up the equivalent of 370 suns a year — roughly one a day. Further analysis shows the mass of the black hole to be 17 to 19 billion times that of our sun, according to the team. More observations are needed to understand its growth rate.
The quasar is 12 billion light-years away and has been around since the early days of the universe. A light-year is 5.8 trillion miles.
 

 


Kuwaiti ‘death ship’ carrying cattle causes stench in Cape Town

Kuwaiti ‘death ship’ carrying cattle causes stench in Cape Town
Updated 21 February 2024
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Kuwaiti ‘death ship’ carrying cattle causes stench in Cape Town

Kuwaiti ‘death ship’ carrying cattle causes stench in Cape Town
  • The ship, en route from Brazil and carrying an estimated 19,000 cattle, docked in Cape Town on Sunday

CAPE TOWN: A “death ship” carrying thousands of cattle whose foul smell caused a stink in top tourist city Cape Town is expected to continue its voyage to Iraq later on Tuesday, port officials said.
The ship, en route from Brazil and carrying an estimated 19,000 cattle, docked in Cape Town on Sunday, bringing with it a nauseating odour that permeated the city center. Some residents thought a large nearby sewerage works had conked out or their nostrils were being assailed by domestic plumbing problems, a Reuters witness said.
A local city councillor, however, confirmed on Monday that the smell was indeed from the “Al Kuwait” vessel, which was immediately boarded by inspectors from the National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) on Sunday evening.
“According to the latest update from the vessel agent and the terminal operator, the estimated departure of the vessel remains 20 February 2024,” port operator Transnet said in a statement on Tuesday.
Transnet said the vessel docked for animal feed, vessel stores, bunkers and medical assessments on the bovines.
The NSPCA, which campaigns against the live transport of animals, dubbed the vessel a “Kuwaiti death ship” and attributed the smell to the awful conditions animals endured, having spent two and a half weeks on board, with a build-up of faeces and ammonia.
“The faeces that the cattle were standing is already basically up to the top of their hooves in some pens,” Grace le Grange, a senior inspector who boarded the vessel, told Reuters.
“In general the cattle themselves were not in a physically bad condition in terms of weight-wise, but our concern is what happens when they get back onto the ocean,” she said.
Le Grange said several animals had to be euthanized due to injuries.


Indiana freelance reporter charged after threatening to kill pro-Israel US officials

Police officers stand guard in Dayton, Ohio. (AFP file photo)
Police officers stand guard in Dayton, Ohio. (AFP file photo)
Updated 20 February 2024
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Indiana freelance reporter charged after threatening to kill pro-Israel US officials

Police officers stand guard in Dayton, Ohio. (AFP file photo)
  • Stevens is also alleged to have posted that he will “make sure that every CIA member who is pro-Israel is eliminated”
  • Israel has killed more than 29,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, according to the Health Ministry

FORT WAYNE, Indiana: A freelance reporter based in Fort Wayne, Indiana is facing up to five years in federal prison after allegedly threatening to “kill every Jew” in the city and “shoot every pro-Israel US government official,” according to a federal affidavit filed in court last week.
Jeffrey Stevens, 41, is charged with posting threats using interstate communications, which carries a maximum of five years in federal prison. He was first reported to the FBI after “multiple concerning Facebook posts” following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, according to the affidavit.
In an interview with the FBI on Feb. 2, Stevens admitted to posting on the CIA’s website that he was going to shoot pro-Israel US government officials, according to the affidavit. He also admitted to sending the Fort Wayne Police Department a message on Facebook saying he would “kill every Jew.”
He said during the interview that he was drunk when he posted the messages, the affidavit says.
Stevens is also alleged to have posted that he will “make sure that every CIA member who is pro-Israel is eliminated.”
The Detroit News first reported the affidavit Monday.
The affidavit was filed on Feb. 12 in US District Court for the Northern District of Indiana.
Stevens was arrested last week and will remain in custody, according to an Feb. 16 order from a federal judge.
Stevens’ attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A survey released Tuesday by the American Jewish Committee found one quarter of American Jews said they have been the target of antisemitism in the past year. The national survey found that nearly two-thirds of American Jews feel less secure in the US than they did a year ago.