PM to face caucus without Rudd

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard is set to face a divided caucus but the centre of all the Labor leadership rumours, Kevin Rudd, won’t be there.

While another terrible poll likely sent shudders of anxiety among Labor MPs on Monday, Ms Gillard told reporters the leadership question had been settled four months ago when Simon Crean led a botched coup against her.

Mr Rudd kept a low profile on Monday, the third anniversary of Ms Gillard overthrowing him.

But a spokesman said Mr Rudd was standing by his statement earlier this year that under no circumstances would he challenge Ms Gillard. Nor will the former prime minister be at the caucus meeting on Tuesday.

It should be contentious for those MPs not heading to Sydney to attend a memorial service for the late Hazel Hawke.

Cabinet minister Greg Combet has called on Mr Rudd to decide what he is going to do, following a similar call from fellow minister Stephen Conroy on Sunday.

And Gillard supporter, Michael Danby, told Melbourne radio he expects some kind of leadership challenge later in the week.

Other Labor MPs are saying those comments are not helpful and the party should unite while they fight to win their seats as Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s lead as preferred prime minister in Newspoll stretches to 12 points.

Three years ago, when Ms Gillard seized the reins from Mr Rudd, she led Mr Abbott 53-29 per cent.

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Pretending democracy: Israel, an ethnocratic state

Editor: Na’eem Jeenah
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Afro-Middle East Centre; First edition
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0620540427

Book review by Ramona Wadi

Public space in the state of Israel remains a contentious issue. The purported Jewish and democratic nature of the state – a political bargaining tool in order to obtain the coveted legitimacy from other significant countries, entrenches the reality of a settler and ethnocentric state. Pretending democracy: Israel, an ethnocratic State (AMEC, 2012), a collection of academic papers examining the reality and consequences for Palestinians, exposes an ethnocracy which has sought to promote an illusion of democracy to conceal a ‘selective openness’ which facilitates marginalisation of the indigenous population.

The book is an invaluable treatise which delves into the importance of recognising Palestinian legitimacy in order to achieve ‘political and constitutional claim’. Deriving both similarities and contrasts from the apartheid in South Africa, it is observed that South Africa was more explicit in implementing apartheid. Israel continues to avail itself of democracy rhetoric in an attempt to distance itself from unofficial apartheid policy, despite ample proof with regard to dispossession, massacres, settler violence and deprivation of socio-economic rights. An overview of Israel’s 1992 Basic Law ascertains Israel’s ethnocratic nature, containing legal provisions allegedly safeguarding Israeli citizens, while enshrining the state’s values within the banner of ‘Jewish and democratic’, thus promoting a Jewish cultural hegemony.

Through a comprehensive discussion of various complications, including Israel’s distinction between citizenship and nationality, incongruous borders, the subjugation of ethnic groups, alleged biological historiography and the legitimate right to oppress, the authors reveal the foundations of a state based upon selective fragments of history which are manipulated in accordance with Zionist ideology. Shlomo Sand’s contribution discusses how Jewish acknowledgment of subjugation to greater powers shifted the dynamics of group solidarity to ethnic dominance. “Zionism from its inception was an ethnocentric nationalist movement that firmly enclosed the historical people of its own invention, and banned any voluntary civil entry into the nation its platform began to design.”

Through this chronological fragmentation, the absence of nationhood promoted the conquest of the ‘imaginary homeland’, marked by the Palestinian Nakba and the incessant onslaught of violations. Jewish self-determination could only be supported by European colonialism, hence the settler culture of European Jews in Palestinian territory. As Ze’ev Jabotisnsky had asserted, Israel’s expansionist programme was based upon ‘a permanent alliance with European colonies against all the Arabs in the Mediterranean’. The use of force became a necessary strategy to ensure a weakened resolve of Palestinian, also portraying Israel’s condescending attitude towards colonialism an apartheid, which it deems a ‘legitimate right’. Oren Yiftachel’s paper discusses the manner in which Israel, together with globalisation, have exacerbated inequality and the contradictions within Zionist discourse in stressing the need for ‘peace’ and agreements while implementing measures which further Israel’s expansion into Palestinian territory, thus justifying the occupying power’s rhetoric of security concerns. The geographical fragmentation of Palestinian villages, the deprivation of rights for Bedouin in the Negev, and the insistence of invoking militant rhetoric as proof of anti-Semitism are described as ‘calculated changes’ by Yiftachel, who elaborates further upon Israel’s self-portrayal of democracy as a means to legitimise ethnocracy. The extraction of the Jewish state from Palestinian history also distances the occupying power from geography – an approach taken by intellectuals sympathetic to Zionism which allows a negotiating space for overlooking the ramifications of colonialism. The allegedly ‘temporary’ characteristic of Israel’s occupation, reinforced by security concerns, has proven vital to retain a constant manipulation of international law.

Israel’s ‘settler democracy’, represented by the occupation and its allies as a ‘representative democracy’, thrives upon an artificial majority. The illegal hegemony clearly demonstrates a demographic reality. Recognising the right of return for Palestinians would propel the sustained Jewish majority into a minority group. Daryl Glaser argues that settlers have availed themselves of a rejectionist approach by enforcing a control system. Having ‘persuaded’ the West of democracy, Israeli narrative ensures colonial survival by expounding upon civil rights in the region, in turn shifting attention to the Jewish state’s internal and selective democracy. As Glaser states, “Another way to think about Israel’s ‘at least we’re democratic’ defence is that it implies that democratic rule over one’s self legitimates non-democratic rule over others. In effect, democracy legitimates dictatorship.”

The transformation wrought by a misrepresentation of democracy transforms the masses into ‘collective tyrants’. In the case of Israel, the reluctance to define territorial borders as well as Zionist adherents has ensured the improbability of stability, aided by imperial interests and guilt in manufacturing an acceptance of apartheid by playing upon the history of the Holocaust as justification for atrocities committed against Palestinians. The alleged vulnerability of Israel, warranting defence by extreme militarisation, has convinced a considerable percentage of the Jewish population that Zionism provides protection against a repetition of Holocaust crimes, according to Daniel Boyarin exhibiting their inability to survive without the reality of state violence in order to ensure continuity of their identity. This tendency is contrasted with the fact that migration from Israel surpasses the influx of new settlers, thus invalidating the argument of state protection as a necessity.

“A new Palestinian-Israeli nation cannot be imagined if it implies the legitimation of land theft as is the case in various parts of the West Bank and Israel, or of the deliberate disadvantaging and humiliation suffered by Palestinians for decades.” The Zionist ‘ownership’ of Judaism has resulted into a settler usurpation of land, a concept which frames the Hamas struggle against Zionist legitimacy. Expansion has encompassed Palestinian land, with adjustments being carried out in order to enforce isolation and possible displacement of the indigenous population. Reconciliation remains distant if Israel consolidates the historic denial of Palestinians, which hinders any possibility of constructing the ideology of a nation if the homeland of Palestine remains occupied within a physical and philosophical context.


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Achievements of graduates hailed in Gaza

The prime minister called on the graduates to be open to all human cultures. 'We want open minds wider than the boundaries of the university and beyond the country'...EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS

As yet another cohort of students has graduated in Gaza, their success and achievements have been hailed by local dignitaries and international visitors to the territory. Speaking at the 32nd Graduation Ceremony of the Islamic University of Gaza, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh praised the institution for its great efforts in serving the young people of Palestine.

The IUG cohort included the second group of students who have graduated from the university’s Faculty of Medicine. Mr Haniyeh was very appreciative that the university had branded this year’s graduates as Al-Quds Cohort. “This reminder is much-needed at this time,” he said, “as Jerusalem is being targeted by the Israelis.”

The prime minister called on the graduates to be open to all human cultures. “We want open minds wider than the boundaries of the university and beyond the country,” he stressed. “We want minds capable of building human culture.” Education, he concluded, is the foundation upon which nations are built.

Also attending the ceremony was Malaysia’s Education Minister Ahmed Abdul-Raziq. He told the assembled graduates: “You have a better chance than those who could not get higher education. You will make the future for your families, society and country.” He reminded the audience that countries like Singapore and North Korea invest heavily in education despite limited resources.

University College of Applied Sciences in the Gaza Strip also held its graduation ceremony, the institution’s 14th. More than 1,800 young men and women clutched their degree certificates at the event. UCAS is an affiliate institution of the Islamic University of Gaza.

MEMO Photographer: Mohammed Asad


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Yusra Ghannouchi talks to MEMO’s Amelia Smith about Tunisia

"There were all these campaigns from people who don't care about accuracy, or about Amina, Tunisia or feminism. Clearly her actions don't have any positive impact on women's rights in Tunisia..."EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

“We need to reach a level of tolerance where the right to equal citizenship has nothing to do with our religious, political or intellectual choices.”

Yusra Ghannouchi was twelve when she left Tunisia. Like many other political dissidents, her family were not given passports so her mother and five siblings crossed the border at night illegally into Algeria. But even here they could not escape pressure from the former regime and after two years they joined her father Rashid Ghannouchi – leader of the now ruling Al-Nahda party – in the UK, where he had already applied for political asylum.

Looking back, Yusra does not remember much; everything inside the house was bugged, everything from the outside was being watched. Nobody talked about their imminent departure. When they left Algeria in 1992, she took a change of clothes as though they were going out and cut off contact with relatives, for fear they would be harassed. They have no family photos from their childhood.

The Ghannouchi family lived in exile in London for twenty years before the revolution in 2011 saw the downfall of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and they were allowed to return home. Under Ben Ali’s rule her father had been an outspoken critic and was tortured and imprisoned. Though his downfall meant they were allowed to return, Yusra has decided to stay in London. We meet in Renoir, a French café in Kentish town, and chat against the backdrop of a colourful mural in the French painter’s style.

Wearing a purple kaftan, she explains that settling into the UK was hard. London doesn’t have many Tunisians, unlike Paris where there are thousands, and it took some time to adapt to a new school and a different language. But eventually she saw the positive sides of London, many of which were shocking at first: “Like freedom of expression, how people can criticise the Prime Minister. I couldn’t believe it” she says and laughs.

She points out that London is multi-cultural, so you meet people from everywhere, and that wouldn’t have happened in Tunisia. “That always teaches you new things about other cultures and it also makes you more tolerant. That’s definitely something that it will take some time for Tunisians to learn. We’re not used to difference because in the past no one had the right to choose. People are not used to this choice and they find it strange that you can be different and you can all be Tunisian.”

When Ben Ali was swept away, the Ghannouchi family had their passports reinstated, saw relatives they hadn’t seen for two decades and received a warm reception at Tunis airport. Yet things haven’t all been straightforward. The Al-Nahda party, which came to power following the October 2011 elections, has come under a lot of criticism both in the Western and the Tunisian press; something Yusra believes boils largely down to inaccurate coverage and simplification.

“Hit and run reporting does not really provide enlightenment” she says in reference to journalists who go to Tunisia for just two or three days, write their pieces from afar, speak to a few people and leave. “What are needed are people who know more about Tunisia’s history and Tunisia’s reality.” There are still very few academics and journalists focussing on and based in Tunisia. Many writings of its thinkers have not yet been translated.

But it’s not just the western press. “We are still very far from the standards of accuracy, balance and objectivity we’re used to here [London.]” And of course there is a language barrier; English is still not widely spoken in Tunisia, just Arabic and French. Then there’s the media, who are always more interested in Egypt she says, looking disappointed. “Tunisia was probably in the British news three times before the revolution, and one of those was for the world cup” she jokes. “I think that was the first time the British discovered a country called Tunisia.”

Yet despite its size, Tunisia was where the Arab Spring began, something the country is very proud of. Yusra believes everyone will agree that the main achievement of the revolution is freedom, though this is still a work in progress. “There is a pride and recognition that people are free now to make their own choices. There’s no fear any more. In the past no one could talk or form any associations, nothing political. Everything was under tight control.”

New to the region is the formation of the government, a coalition between an Islamist and secularist party. Significantly, this rejects stereotypes about the conflict between secularism and Islamism, “the prism through which everything in the region is seen” says Yusra. “It doesn’t mean those differences will disappear” she adds as an afterthought. “There are still seculars and there are still Islamists. But it doesn’t mean we’re inevitable enemies and that we can’t work together.”

Lately Tunisia has come under heavy fire for its constitution. Many argue it is clause friendly and does not support minority rights, or full equality between men and women. Yusra disagrees. “You have respectable journalists and human rights organisations saying incorrectly that the constitution does not guarantee equality of men and women and saying also incorrectly that the proposal describes women as complimentary to men.”

Based on this, the constitution was discussed and the offending proposal withdrawn, “though it’s still talked about with the same errors in reporting” she says. As for minorities, Yusra is adamant that the constitution guarantees equality of all citizens without any discrimination on any basis. “Still you have people who have said from the beginning that Islamists are associated with discrimination against women and against minorities. They already have this assumption and they don’t even wait to see what the constitution looks like.”

On the subject of women’s rights, I ask Yusra about Amina Tyler, a member of the feminist group Femen who faces two years in prison for being in possession of pepper spray. In March she generated a wave of controversy over topless photos of herself she uploaded online with the words “my body is my own” written across her. At first Yusra ignored it, believing it was just designed to attract media attention, without achieving anything constructive.

But the story grew, and soon it was in every newspaper around the world. “There were all these campaigns from people who don’t care about accuracy, or about Amina, Tunisia or feminism. Clearly her actions don’t have any positive impact on women’s rights in Tunisia. Their ideals are the way feminists are described by misogynists and anti-feminists. They think the best way is through provoking people.”

She draws my attention to a recent interview with the founder who declared the group’s aim was to eradicate Arab thinking in their society, placing prejudice against women as an Arab problem. Yet this phenomenon exists across the world, whether it’s in the form of violence, lack of representation, or views of women as inferior. “I agree with what motivates her, that there is discrimination against women, there is injustice. But I think the actions and discourse of Femen don’t help that cause in any way and I hope she realises that.”

“I still hope there won’t be a prison sentence for her” she continues “but that’s nothing to do with Al-Nahda or the government. The government should not say either way. Everyone keeps talking about independence of the judiciary and that should be left for the courts to decide.”

That women’s rights, or the lack of them, be presented as an Arab problem is nothing new. Tunisia has been heavily criticised for only having a handful of women on their constituent assembly list, though 30% are female and 50% of the lists are headed by women. “There are more than in the UK parliament and in the French parliament and the US senate. No one talks about that” she says.

Another common misinterpretation is that the assemblies are dominated by Islamists, when in fact only 40% are headed by Al-Nahda. Of those headed by Al-Nahda, they are the only ones to be headed by women. “No other parties, who talk day and night about women’s empowerment and their fears about women, have put forward a woman as a head of committee, except Al-Nahda. I’m sure you never heard this in the press.”

“Here at most briefings with western politicians I go to you don’t see women; many times I’m the only woman. They don’t notice that about themselves. It’s only the other that is questioned. It’s an issue everywhere around the world and once it’s recognised that way I think that will lead to more progress, instead of making it a cultural or religious issue.”

Another topic which has become synonymous with Tunisia’s problems is that of the Salafis. Typically branded violent extremists, Al-Nada have been criticised for dealing with them far too tolerantly. They are right wing, according to Yusra, but certainly not homogeneous. Whilst they have a more literal understanding of the sources, that’s their right, she says.

“That’s the whole Salafi trend, but within that you have those who are interested in scholarly interpretations of the sources, Salafi Alamiyya, textual scientific Salafis. Then you have people who are just Salafis in their own lifestyles, in the way they understand the sources and want to live by them. You have those who are more political and not violent.”

“You have those who preach violence and who practice violence” she continues. “So it’s a wide spectrum and to present them all as violent is wrong. That’s what Ben Ali used to do. Islamists are all enemies of democracy and women’s rights and they must all be eradicated. And it’s that policy that led to the emergence of radicalism.”

Often the government is linked to Salafis, and they are considered to be one and the same. But Al-Nahda believes in an interpretation of the sources that takes into consideration the evolution of society and the purposes of Sharia; rather than just the letter of the text, it takes the spirit. “The purpose of Sharia is justice, people’s interests. So that is to be taken into account when interpreting the Qur’an” explains Yusra.

“No one says that the presence of Salafis or extremists in France or the UK means that there is some relationship between the government and those groups. It’s a global phenomenon, parts of which are peaceful, and they should have their rights. Parts are violent, a minority, and they should be dealt with as criminal groups and the law should be applied. But it’s difficult” she adds. “How do you do that without criminalising whole communities and respecting human rights?”

Part of the problem, says Yusra, is that all the focus has been placed on the Arab Spring countries to distract people from other governments’ violations. “We should evaluate the work of governments regardless of ideologies. We need to reach a level of tolerance where the right to equal citizenship has nothing to do with our religious, political or intellectual choices. Everyone thinks they are the ones who decide who’s Tunisian, or represents Tunisian identity. We may disagree with them but we need to stop demonising a whole trend.”

There are also extreme secularists, which is a kind of non-tolerance in its own way. Al-Nahda offices have been attacked, outbreaks of violence have occurred on both secular and non-secular reporters, though the latter is often not reported. “Violence is a problem, it doesn’t matter who does it. But we don’t want to let go of the stereotype of Islam, violence and oppression of women.”

One of the problems regularly linked to Islamists coming to power, or the existence of Salafis, is Tunisia’s tourism industry, or lack of it since the revolution. To describe tourism as dead is “another simplistic reduction” according to Yusra. Of course, the numbers are lower than before the revolution, but not by a huge amount. Whilst in the first year of the uprising tourism was halved from 7 million to 3.5 million, since Al-Nahda has come to power it has restored 80% of its 2010 capacity.

The same can be said of unemployment statistics, regularly cited at 13% before the revolution and 19% afterwards. These figures are largely considered the responsibility of the government, and unresolvable; both of which are “false” says Yusra. “No one talks about unemployment under Ben Ali,” she continues indignantly, “as though it were an economic miracle and a paradise. If it was then why would there have been a revolution?” Instead, Tunisia’s economy must be evaluated in line with the global recession, the uprising and decades of mismanagement.

As for the future of the country, Yusra assures me that things are going to get better. “Tunisia’s seen so much oppression and injustice and it will take time to change that, but it’s definitely moving away from this. Many people are discovering that being in government is much harder than being in the opposition. Unlike here, in Tunisia and similar countries, that entails repression, imprisonment and harassment. But still it’s not the same feeling as really feeling the responsibility of Tunisia’s future.”


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Mark Creech compares homosexuals to people who think they are squirrels

Mark Creech of the Christian Action League mourned the collapse of the ex-gay group Exodus International today in the Christian Post, arguing that Christians should not believe that sexual orientation exists and that it is merely “a broad term developed in modern times to provide credence for the growing number of sexual perversions.”

Creech went on to urge people to dismiss claims from gay people who believe that their orientation was shaped by biological factors, just as they would refuse to affirm a person who thinks he is really a squirrel.

I kid you not.

“It’s interesting that the concept of ‘sexual orientation’ is based strongly upon one’s feelings,” he wrote. “How does one know that one is gay? Conventional wisdom says because of the way one feels. Numerous are the individuals who have said, ‘I’ve felt that I was gay since I was a child.’ But if one felt that he or she was a squirrel, would that qualify as proof that one was justified in risking life and limb by climbing trees and eating only nuts?”

Maybe not, but it wouldn’t be illegal either.

We do, in fact, have people in the United States who think they are squirrels. They’re called furries.

And while no account has ever been given of one choosing to model his or her entire lifestyle after their animal persona, it would be well within their right to do so.

So even if you did buy into Creech’s argument that gays are no different from animal imitators, it would still be a really stupid argument to make.

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30 basic items to include in a baby first-aid kit

Baby care is a science in itself, for which first-time parents may not be fully equipped. What essential first-aid items should a baby first-aid kit contain?


Consider these 30 basic first-aid supplies for infant or toddler care.

These items belong in every new parent’s first-aid kit or medicine cabinet for routine baby care and in case of a medical emergency.

  1. Acetaminophen – Sold as Tylenol and other brands, this non-aspirin liquid anti-inflammatory will be useful to reduce pain from teething and other causes. Be sure to select the infant formulation. (The bottle cap is a measuring dropper for easy feeding.) Check with a pediatrician for specific instructions, based on the baby’s weight.
  2. Adhesive bandages – Band-Aids or other disposable adhesive strip bandages in various sizes and shapes are baby first-aid kit necessities.
  3. Adhesive tape – An assortment of widths will be helpful for various uses. Select the breathable, flexible type, not the shiny stiff ones (which can cause rashes).
  4. Antibacterial cream or ointment – Neosporin or other anti-infection products are helpful for cuts and scrapes.
  5. Anti-itch cream – Aveeno, calamine, or hydrocortisone cream can soothe itches, bug bites, and rashes.
  6. Antiseptic skin cleanser – Use Physoderm or another antiseptic to clean scrapes and cuts. (Hydrogen peroxide is not appropriate for babies, as it can harm delicate tissues.)
  7. Bug repellant – Child-safe insect repellant lotions and creams are widely available. Avoid aerosol spray products, which can get into children’s eyes or lungs.
  8. Cotton balls – Keep these in the original packaging, or store them in an airtight tub or zippered plastic bag.
  9. Cotton swabs – These are helpful for cleaning skin folds and other delicate areas. (Do not stick a cotton swab into a child’s ear, as the ear drum can easily be ruptured.)
  10. Decongestant – Liquid decongestants specifically formulated for children are the best choice. (Check with your pediatrician before giving medicine to your baby.)
  11. Emergency phone list – Include parents’ cell phones, neighbors’, physicians, and other key emergency contacts.
  12. First-aid book or chart – Post this somewhere prominent, where parents and babysitters can find it easily.
  13. Flashlight – This is helpful for reading thermometers in the dark, or for checking a child’s ears, nose, throat, and more.
  14. Gauze wrap and pads – Keep these in their original packaging, if possible, to retain sterility.
  15. Hot water bottle – This can provide comfort during a cold or flu, or sooth a muscle ache. (Do not microwave this, and be sure to check heat carefully, so as not to burn an infant!)
  16. Ibuprofen – Sold as Advil, Motrin, or other brands, this non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine is excellent for reducing fever. Choose the infant formulation, and follow dosage instructions carefully. (Check with a pediatrician for specific instructions, based on the baby’s weight.)
  17. Ice pack – Comfortable, flexible varieties can now be purchased economically. Wrap the ice pack in a soft cloth or blanket before placing on a child’s skin. (Terrycloth Boo-Boo animals can be found in stores. These are sized to hold an ice cube for soothing a sore spot.)
  18. Medication list – Keep a journal of each child’s medicines, including dosage times and amounts.
  19. Medicine spoon – Most pharmacies offer tube-like spoons specifically, designed for young children.
  20. Nasal aspirator bulb – These are sold in baby departments of discount and drug stores. Use this to clear mucus from a baby’s nose. Clean thoroughly with soap and hot water after each use.
  21. Oral syringe – Complete with measuring marks, this is ideal for administering medicines to infants who cannot yet sip from spoons. Boil or wash it in hot, soapy water after each use. (These can also be placed in dishwasher baskets, along with nipples and bottle caps.)
  22. Petroleum jelly – Use this to soothe dry skin, ease chapping, and lubricate rectal thermometer before using.
  23. Rubbing alcohol – Use this to clean thermometers, tweezers, scissors, and other tools before and after each use.
  24. Scissors – Keep these handy for cutting stuck diapers, first-aid tapes, and more. (Rounded ends are safer, as they will not poke a young child.)
  25. Soap – Choose a mild liquid soap, such as Ivory. Antibacterial, perfumed, and deodorant soaps may irritate babies’ skin.
  26. Special health needs list – Keep a roster of each child’s allergies, medication sensitivities, and other individual health issues.
  27. Sunscreen – Baby sun protection lotions are PABA-free, non-stinging, gentle, and generally safest.
  28. Thermometer – Traditionally, a rectal thermometer has been used for babies. Now, flexible digital and even ear thermometers are also available. A well-stocked first-aid kit will have all three.
  29. Tongue depressors – These smooth wooden sticks are used to check a child’s throat. They can also be used as finger-splints, if needed.
  30. Tweezers – These will help to remove ticks, slivers, and foreign objects.

A first-aid kit makes a super baby shower or new baby gift.

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Kim Kardashian’s baby details: North West’s tiny birth weight revealed (Video)

Sources say the tiny baby looks like her famous mom. “She’s tiny and perfect. She looks just like Kim — with her dark hair and some of her features,” the tabloid quotes an insider as saying. Due to her premature birth, Nori spent a few extra days at the hospital before being released last Friday with her first time mom.

Kim Kardashian is reportedly breastfeeding and the family of three is currently living at an top secret location while renovations are done to their LA pad.

Kim nor Kanye have spoken publicly about their daughter’s dramatic entrance into the world. However, Kanye West calls Kim Kardashian his “true love” in a new interview – which was done before the birth of North West.

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Southern Outer Banks of North Carolina a popular and affordable destination

First of all, you have to like anyplace that’s called the “Crystal Coast.” When it’s the Southern Outer Banks of North Carolina, you like it even better.


So with that in mind, the Crystal Coast Tourism Authority is offering a “Getting Away
Together” experience in the towns of Emerald Isle, Atlantic Beach, Morehead City, Beaufort and Cape Lookout present experiential, as well as affordable attractions, events and accommodation (

The Islands are strung together with 85 miles of silken coastline along the southern Outer Banks, 56 miles of which are in the protected Cape Lookout National Seashore.

From exploring wild Spanish mustangs on Shackleford Banks to climbing the diamond lady lighthouse at Cape Lookout and strolling the streets of Beaufort, recently named “America’s Coolest Small Town,” as well as discovering hundreds of species at the Aquarium and taking a glimpse back into historic maritime history, the Crystal Coast remains one of North Carolina’s more popular destinations and best values.


-Fort Macon State Park FREE
-Beaufort Maritime Museum FREE
-Core Sound Waterfowl Museum Adults $5/ Children FREE
-Cape Lookout Ferry Adults $8/Children $4
-Beaufort Double Decker Tour Bus Adults $8/Children $4
-North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores Adults $8/Children $6
-Old Burying Grounds Adults $8/Children $4

Recreation, sightseeing and cultural possibilities through July 31 include:

-3rd Annual Kayak and Paddle Board Race – June 1
-Big Rock Blue Marlin Fishing Tournament – June 10-18
-Emerald Isle Summer V2 Volleyball Tournament Series – June 22
-Great 4th of July Underwater Bike Race – July 4
-Beaufort Independence Day Parade – July 4
-Crystal Coast Music Festival – July 13
-Historic Beaufort Road Race – July 16

A sampling of accommodation starting rates include:

-Cape Lookout camping FREE/cabins $54/night
-Inlet Inn from $130/night
-Atlantis Lodge from $180/night
-Hampton Inn Morehead City from $169/night
-Emerald Isle Realty starting at $250/night

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Grand Canyon wire walk video: Nik Wallenda thanks Jesus and Lord 102 times

Grand Canyon wire walk video: Nik Wallenda thanks Jesus 63 times, the Lord, 39 times


Tons of people tuned in Sunday night to watch Nik Wallenda’s death defying walk across the Grand Canyon with no safety wires, cables or anything. This Christian TV reporter didn’t know Wallenda was a Christina, but I know it now from watching the TMZ video below, one that shows Wallenda thanking Christ Jesus over and over again.

In fact, TMZ counted that Wallenda thanked Jesus 63 times, and thanked our Christ Lord 39 times. In the video you can hear him saying things like “Thank You, Jesus” and “Oh, I praise You Jesus” and “Thank You Lord” as he took each step.

Sunday night’s monumental TV moment had Twitter abuzz about Nik Wallenda walking on a wire across the Grand Canyon, but I didn’t know he was thanking Jesus the whole way. I had the sound turned down on my iPad and would only occasionally blink over to the Grand Canyon walk, especially during those times where he would bent down on his knees or the balance bar would wiggle too much.

Wallenda asked God to help the winds calm down; you could see his shirt blowing in the wind.

It was a little too nerve-wracking for me, and it seemed to take forever. I did see Pastor Joel Osteen at the start of the event, probably offering up prayer.

Thank our Lord for listening to the prayers and for the safe crossing.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

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Berlusconi gets seven years in jail

On Monday, an Italian court in Milan handed Berlusconi the prison term and a lifetime ban from holding public positions, after convicting him of inappropriate relations with an under-age girl and then using his influence in an attempt to cover it up.

“The judges even went beyond the prosecutors’ request (for a six-year prison sentence),” said Niccolo Ghedini, one of the lawyers representing Berlusconi.

However, according to Italian law, the 76-year-old media tycoon’s sentence would become final only after two levels of court appeals, which could take many years until fruition.

Berlusconi’s lawyers announced that they would start an appeal against a verdict that they said was “beyond reality” and “completely illogical.”

The three-time former prime minister was found guilty of engaging in illegal relations with Karima El Mahroug, known as “Ruby,” while she was underage, during parties at his villa at Arcore near Milan, in 2010.

Berlusconi was also found guilty of abusing power while in office to release El Mahroug from police custody where she was being held on theft charges.

The former Italian premier has been tried some 30 times and convicted three times in a court of law for unrelated incidents.

Last October, a lower court convicted Berlusconi of artificially inflating prices of film distribution rights bought by Mediaset to avoid taxes.

Berlusconi’s previous charges included Mafia collusion, false accounting, tax fraud, corruption and bribing police officers and judges.

Berlusconi, who served as the country’s prime minister from 1994 to 2011, resigned last November after coming under immense pressure to step down for mishandling the Italian economy.


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