ISRAEL – Military Finishes Most of Fence on Sinai Border


A general view of the border security fence along the Israel-Egypt border.

TEL AVIV | Israel completed the main section of a $416 million fence along the Egyptian border on Wednesday [Jan. 2], a project that became more urgent after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak nearly two years ago.

The 144-mile section of the 16-foot-high fence includes barbed wire, surveillance cameras and radar, stretching from the Gaza Strip to just north of Eilat.

Israeli officials said the fence had already stopped the illegal entry of thousands of African migrants and lowered the risk of militant infiltration from the chaotic Sinai Peninsula. An eight-mile section through harder-to-infiltrate mountainous terrain is to be completed this year, a defense official said.

Before construction began 2½ years ago, a few lines of barbed wire on rickety poles protected the border. The porous desert frontier became a threat for Israel after Mr. Mubarak’s fall weakened the security presence on the Egyptian side.

The plan to seal the border was accelerated after a deadly cross-border attack by militants on an Israeli passenger bus and jeep patrol in August 2011.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended a ceremony with senior army and defense officials on Wednesday to mark the completion of the main part of the project.

…Mr. Netanyahu said the fence was a sign of improved Israeli security. He has called the fence evidence of his efforts to insulate Israel from the turmoil of the Arab Spring revolutions and the influx of mostly Eritrean and Sudanese migrants, which [are seen] as a national-security threat. …

Some 2,153 African migrants entered Israel illegally in January 2012, according to government data. In December, only 35 entered, according to the data.

“There hasn’t been one infiltrator who has reached an Israeli city in seven months,” Mr. Netanyahu said on the border Wednesday, at a ceremony marking the fence construction.

Israeli security officials say Sinai has increasingly become a haven for militants from the Gaza Strip, local Bedouin tribes and global jihadist groups. Israel is also building a fence on the border with Syria, the prime minister’s office said. …

IRAN – Government launches own ‘YouTube’ website

image576TEHRAN | The Iranian government has launched its own video-sharing website to compete against Google’s popular YouTube whose content is deemed inappropriate by the Islamic regime, [Iran’s] state television reported on Sunday.

The website ( called ‘Mehr,’ meaning affection in Farsi, aims to attract Persian-speaking users and also promote Iranian culture, according to its “About Us” page. …

A Facebook page dedicated to Mehr is providing links to some of its content, including music clips produced in Iran.

Iran has consistently censored YouTube since mid-2009, in the wake of the disputed elections that returned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power.

It has also been trying to stop its population accessing a number of foreign websites authorities see as undermining the Islamic regime, including popular social networking sites Facebook and Twitter, as well as the online pages of many Western media outlets, blogs, [etc.].

The United States accuses Iran of seeking to implement an “electronic curtain” to cut its citizens off from the world. It has imposed sanctions on the regime involved in the censorship.

The announcement came amid first steps by the Islamic republic to establish a walled-off national intranet separate from the worldwide Internet.

Iran is working on rolling out its national intranet that it says will be clean of un-Islamic content. Authorities claim the “National Internet” would not cut access to the Internet.

Many web users in Iran — half of whose 75-million strong population is connected — are used to getting around the censorship through the use of software known as a Virtual Private Network (VPN), whose sale is illegal in Iran. The United States accuses Iran of maintaining an “electronic curtain” to cut its citizens off from the world.

SOUTH AFRICA – President says owning a dog ‘is not African’


Mr Zuma is a Zulu who adheres to traditional practices, including polygamy.

South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma, has declared that having a pet dog is not African, and that black South Africans who buy a dog, take it for walks and to the veterinarian are copying white culture.

Mr. Zuma, 70, was speaking at a traditional event in KwaZulu-Natal province, his first public appearance since being re-elected president of the African National Congress [in December].

He described people who love dogs more than humans as “having a lack of humanity,” Durban newspaper The Mercury reported.

Black South Africans should stop adopting the habits of other cultures, Mr. Zuma told an audience of thousands on Wednesday: “Even if you [try to] straighten your hair you will never be white.”

President Zuma, a proud Zulu who adheres to traditional practices such as polygamy [having multiple wives], said in an August interview that it was “not right” for women to be single, and that having children is “extra training for a woman.”

In November, he endorsed traditional courts in South Africa, saying that problems should be resolved “the African way, not the white man’s way.”

On Twitter, some black South Africans responded to Mr. Zuma’s latest comments by posting photos of themselves being “un-African” by walking their dogs.

Zwelinzima Vavi, leader of ANC alliance partner Cosatu, a trade union federation, posted a photograph of himself holding his Jack Russell named Maradona, while standing next to his Boerboel named Superhero. …

A spokeswoman for South Africa’s national SPCA said care given to animals also benefited people: “We cannot have compassion for animals if we do not have compassion for children and the elderly.”

Mr. Zuma’s office said the message of the speech “was the need to decolonize the African mind post-liberation [from Great Britain].”  “This is not to say that animals should not be loved or cared for. The message merely emphasized the need not to elevate our love for our animals above our love for other human beings,” a statement said.

(The news briefs above are from wire reports and staff reports posted at the The Wall Street Journal on Jan. 2, Agence France-Presse [AFP] on Dec. 9 and London’s Daily Telegraph on Dec. 27.)


1. For each of the 3 countries, give the following information:
a) location/the countries that share its borders
b) the religious breakdown of the population
c) the type of government
d) the chief of state (and head of government if different) [If monarch or dictator, since what date has he/she ruled? – include name of heir apparent for monarch]e) the population

[Find the answers at the CIA World FactBook website. For each country, answers can be found under the “Geography” “People” and “Government” headings.  Go to for a list of continents.]

2. For ISRAEL:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) Why did completion of the fence become urgent after Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak was ousted?

3. For IRAN:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) In addition to wanting to block opponents of the regime from making their voices heard, and block Western ideas of freedom etc. from being accessible to Iranians, one of the other reasons Iran’s Islamic regime has blocked youtube is because it says the content is inappropriate.  Many school districts in the U.S. (and some parents) have blocked youtube, declaring the content inappropriate.  Do you agree with this assertion about youtube?  Explain your answer.

a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) President Zuma issued a statement saying “This is not to say that animals should not be loved or cared for. The message merely emphasized the need not to elevate our love for our animals above our love for other human beings.”  Do you think President Zuma meant what he said, or do you think his comments were misinterpreted as explained by his statement?  Explain your answer.


















IRAN:  Read a Jan. 6 AFP follow-up article: “Iran designing software for controlled social media access”


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