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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Israeli Government Approves More West Bank Settlements

On the eve of landmark Israel-Palestine peace talks, the Israeli government approved yet another settlement expansion in the contested West Bank. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called these 1,200 housing developments “illegitimate”, but stressed to reporters that the announcement of the settlements would not impede peace talks. However, Haaretz reports that privately, Kerry told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the announcement of the new settlements violates July’s “return to talking” agreement.

Experts such as Yossi Alpher, former Israeli adviser on peace talks, believe that the settlement announcement is a symbolic gesture to assuage Netanyahu’s pro-settlement base. “It’s a familiar playbook. Kerry and the Palestinians knew this kind of announcement was coming. So they have to protest. None of this will affect the opening of talks because it was all choreographed.”

Meanwhile, the Israeli government began its planned release of Palestinian prisoners, starting with the first batch of 26 prisoners. The release of these prisoners, imprisoned for crimes ranging from rock-throwing to killing civilians in bombings, was one of the terms on which Israeli and Palestinian negotiators agreed prior to Wednesday’s peace talks. While some family members of the prisoners’ victims filed appeals, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected the petition on Tuesday.

U.S. Justice Department Attempts to Block Airline Merger

The U.S. Department of Justice filed an antitrust suit to block the merger of U.S. Airways and American Airlines, claiming that the merger would stifle competition in the airline industry. “Today’s action proves our determination to fight for the best interests of consumers by ensuring robust competition in the marketplace,” said Eric Holder on the lawsuit.

The Justice Department cited the already-high concentration of domestic airline routes, claiming that a merger would result in four airlines controlling more than 80% of air routes. It also questioned the large amount of control the newly-merged company would have at Reagan National Airport, whose takeoff and landing slots (along with those of John F. Kennedy International, Newark Liberty International, and LaGuardia) are controlled by U.S. regulators.

This antitrust suit could spell bad news for American Airlines, which filed for bankruptcy protection in 2011, as this merger would have allowed the company to exit court protection.

Egyptian Revolutionaries Protest New Governors

Egyptian rebels protested the interim president’s appointment of new governors, ostensibly because the appointments included twelve military and police officers in 27 of Egypt’s provinces. The new governors will replace the Morsi-appointed governors, leading many in the Muslim Brotherhood to write off the idea of participating in the government.

Citizens took to the streets to protest the appointments, throwing stones and bottles at Morsi supporters. One protester said, “There’s no going forward with negotiations, the only way is back. Mursi must be reinstated.”

Friends of Alleged Boston Bomber Plea Not Guilty

Two friends of Dzokhar Tsarnaev, the alleged Boston bomber, pled not guilty to federal obstruction of justice charges under allegations that they attempted to destroy evidence to protect their friend. One of the young mens’ attorneys said that his client cooperated with the FBI investigation and never destroyed any evidence. The federal grand jury’s indictment claims that Tsarnaev texted them, “If yu [sic] want yu [sic] can go to my room and take what’s there.”

The two friends face up to 25 years in prison on obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice charges for throwing away Tsarnaev’s fireworks-filled backpack in what the indictment claims was an effort to protect their friend.

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