07 Feb

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective



Ukraine crisis will not be solved by military means, says Angela Merkel

German chancellor admits, however, that she is unsure whether the current diplomatic push to end the conflict in the east of the country will succeed

Angela Merkel has said the crisis in Ukraine will not be solved by military means, and that the peace agreement struck last September needs to be implemented.

Speaking at the Munich security conference on Saturday, the German chancellor said she wanted to secure peace in Europe with Russia and not against it.

Germany has opposed aiding Ukrainian troops for fear of worsening the conflict, which has already cost more than 5,000 lives, but the idea has many supporters in Washington.

“I cannot imagine any situation in which improved equipment for the Ukrainian army leads to President Putin being so impressed that he believes he will lose militarily,” Merkel said. “I have to put it that bluntly.”

Disagreement has emerged between Europe and the US about how best to confront Putin as Moscow-backed rebels make gains in eastern Ukraine. Barack Obama is under pressure from some in Congress to sent weapons to Kiev………………


Isis supporters claim US hostage killed in Jordanian air strike in Syria

American hostage named as 26-year-old Kayla Mueller killed in a US-backed air strike, supporters of Islamic State claim on social media

Supporters of Islamic State have claimed that an American aid worker held hostage by the militant group has been killed in a Jordanian air strike intended to avenge the burning to death of a captured Jordanian pilot.

A statement posted on a website sometimes used by Isis fighters and their supporters said that Kayla Mueller, 26, had been killed by a missile strike during a bombing raid by Jordanian planes on the Syrian city of Raqqa early on Friday.

Mueller was said to have been killed when rockets partially destroyed the building in which she was being held, the statement said, adding that no Isis fighters were killed in the attack…………

Mueller, originally from Prescott, Arizona, was seized by Isis fighters in August 2013 as she left a hospital run by the Spanish branch of Medecins San Frontières in Aleppo.

The aid worker had traveled to the Turkish-Syrian border in December 2012 to work with groups providing support to Syrian refugees, a family spokesperson said in a statement.

She had spent the previous four years working for various aid groups in northern India, Israel and the Palestinian territories…………………


gazebo Kankakee High School

Jaremy Hernandez, a junior at Kankakee High School in Kankakee, Illinois, carries a large piece of a gazebo from a park after students dismantled the structure. Photograph: Mike Voss/AP

‘Worst’ place to live students to send Letterman off with a rocking chair

As TV host nears retirement, high school students in Illinois are dismantling gazebos, gifted more than 15 years ago, and plotting lighthearted revenge

High school students in a city that David Letterman lampooned as an awful place to live are plotting some tongue-in-cheek revenge, more than 15 years later.

The late night TV talk show host piled on in 1999 after Places Rated Almanac called Kankakee and its surrounding area in northern Illinois the worst metropolitan area to live in the US and Canada. One of his famous Top 10 lists suggested area slogans, including “We put the ‘Ill’ in Illinois,” and “You’ll come for our payphone — you’ll stay because your car’s been stolen.”

To spruce things up, Letterman sent Kankakee two gazebos, which the students plan to turn into a rocking chair to commemorate Letterman’s upcoming retirement.

“I think we know that Dave likes a good joke,” Barbara Wells, the area’s board of education president, told the (Kankakee) Daily Journal. “So, I thought he’d like this. And I like seeing the kids get so involved. This will be one class they tell their kids and grandchildren about.”

A spokeswoman for CBS’s Late Show with David Letterman said crews plan to film the project next month and to air the footage on the show……………….


syr girl

An injured Syrian girl is treated at a makeshift clinic following air strikes by regime forces in the rebel-held area of Douma, north-east of the capital Damascus Photograph: Abd Doumany/AFP/Getty

The 20 photographs of the week



Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara

‘Even if Israelis dislike Netanyahu and despise his wife, they don’t fear that he will be a freier in negotiations with the Palestinians.’ Photograph: Nir Elias/Reuters

Israelis have a chance to dump Netanyahu. I fear they won’t seize it

Bibi has lost allies abroad and alienated the electorate at home. But unless his opponents raise their game, he’s likely to win the election next month

One of the few things most world leaders, and doubtless much of world opinion, can agree on is that they’d like to see the back of Binyamin Netanyahu. The iciness of the relationship between Israel’s prime minister and Barack Obama turned to permafrost long ago, but even Bibi’s fellow rightists find him unbearable. Note the unguarded remarks of Nicolas Sarkozy picked up by an open mic in 2011: “I cannot stand him. He’s a liar,” the then French president confided to his US counterpart. “You’re fed up with him?” said Obama. “I have to deal with him every day.”

There was nothing much either of them could do about Netanyahu. Only one group of people – Israeli voters – can get rid of him, and on 17 March they’ll have their chance. No doubt those outside Israel, given a vote, would find the decision straightforward: ejecting Netanyahu as punishment for last summer’s Gaza bombardment, which cost more than 2,100 Palestinian lives, or for his continuing building of settlements in the occupied West Bank. But Israelis have a host of additional reasons to prise Bibi from the prime ministerial chair he’s been glued to for nine of the past 19 years.

A series of conversations I had in Israel this week made clear that close to the top of that list is his catastrophic handling of Washington, a relationship regarded as the bedrock of Israel’s security. Netanyahu has alienated Obama personally – not least by hosting what was all but a campaign rally for his opponent Mitt Romney in 2012 – but has now infuriated the Democratic party too, by accepting a Republican invitation to address Congress in March, an initiative in which the White House played no part. Until now, US support for Israel has always been bipartisan. But Netanyahu’s insistence on behaving like an honorary Republican has put that in peril. Likud leaders have wrecked US-Israeli relations before – famously Yitzhak Shamir in 1992 – and the voters booted him out as a result.

But it goes further. Many Israelis, especially those who travel in, or do business with, the wider world are aware that their country is on course to becoming what one Israeli journalist described to me as “an isolated, pariah state”. They know that Israel has to change course – to end the occupation and pursue an accommodation with the Palestinians – if it is not to be pushed further out into the cold. European parliaments voting to recognise Palestinian statehood, irritable Democrats in Washington: the signs are already there………………



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