Israeli move to add Jewish housing makes the hard job of restarting peace talks harder for US

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WASHINGTON – The Obama administration is getting little help from its ally Israel nor anybody else as it pleads for a fresh start in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that could avert a veto showdown over the Palestinians’ unilateral bid at the United Nations for statehood recognition.

Already disappointed by Palestinian distaste for the new U.S.-backed proposal to resume long-stalled negotiations, the administration was taken aback anew on Tuesday when Israel announced plans to construct new Jewish housing units in east Jerusalem.

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The Israeli move made a hard job even harder for the United States, which is trying to protect Israel from a U.N. vote on Palestinian statehood that Israel bitterly opposes. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called the housing announcement “counterproductive” to new peace talks, the only path to Palestinian statehood the U.S. and Israel say they will accept.

Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, and the expansion of Israeli-built housing there is among the most explosive issues keeping the two sides from making a deal.

The Palestinians, who have been demanding a freeze in settlement activity to return to the table, said the announcement of 1,100 new Jewish housing units prove Israel is not interested in talks.

The Israeli announcement met with swift criticism from the U.S. and the European Union, which along with the United Nations and Russia, form the international “Quartet” of Mideast mediators. The Quartet proposed a new formula for talks last week after the Palestinians submitted at the U.N. Security Council their bid for recognition and U.N. membership.

“This morning’s announcement by the government of Israel,” Clinton said, “is counterproductive to our efforts to resume negotiations between the parties. We have long urged both sides to avoid any kind of action which could undermine trust, including and perhaps most particularly in Jerusalem, any action that could be viewed as provocative by either side.”

Expressing some frustration, Clinton told reporters at the State Department that “we have been here before, over many years.”

She was referring to similar Israeli announcements that have goaded the Americans and further hardened the Palestinian position. But she added that the difficulties in making progress on a two-state agreement “only reinforces (that) our focus must remain working to convince the parties to return to direct negotiations.”

The White House added that it was “deeply disappointed” by the Israeli announcement, which came less than a week after the Quartet proposed renewed talks with firm deadlines for progress.

“Each side in the dispute between the Palestinians and Israelis should take steps that bring them closer to direct negotiations to resolve the issues that stand in the way of Palestinian statehood and a secure Jewish state of Israel,” spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One. “When either side takes unilateral action that makes it harder to achieve that, we make our views known.”

Israel’s Interior Ministry said the homes would be built in Gilo, a sprawling Jewish enclave in southeast Jerusalem, and construction could begin in two months. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ruled out any new freeze in settlement construction, a key Palestinian demand, raising tensions and further challenging the U.S. and its Quartet partners.

Standing alongside Clinton, Portuguese Foreign Minister Paulo Portas acknowledged that Israel’s move Tuesday amounted to a setback.

“When you have a real chance (for) negotiations, you avoid hostile measures to negotiations,” Portas told reporters at the State Department. “The settlement decision is not a good one.”

Portugal, one of 15 U.N. Security Council members, supports talks based on the Quartet’s parameters but also would “consider an upgrade of the Palestinian position in the United Nations as a sign of goodwill to negotiate,” he said.

The Quartet had hoped that new talks aimed at creating a Palestinian state would persuade the Palestinians to put their separate bid for U.N. recognition on hold. The proposal envisions the Israelis and Palestinians agreeing on an agenda and parameters for peace talks within a month and producing comprehensive proposals on territory and security within three months. The Quartet said it then expected the parties to “have made substantial progress” within six months. The goal would be to have a peace deal by the end of 2012.

By endorsing the Quartet proposal, the Obama administration may have managed to buy a little time, but it may also have manoeuvred itself into a corner. Committing to those detailed deadlines raises potentially unrealistic hopes for success and locks the administration into a process that will play out as President Barack Obama fights for re-election next year.

Even worse would be rejection of the proposal by the Israelis and Palestinians, which is what appears to be happening.

For the U.S. the Quartet statement was a small victory after weeks of disappointment and days of intense negotiations that failed to stop Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas from formally seeking statehood recognition for Palestine.

The U.N. route to statehood is vehemently opposed by Israel, which wants a say in how and where the future state is created. The United States, as Israel’s strongest ally and chief defender at the U.N., has acted as a bulwark. That put the Obama administration at odds with the Abbas government it supports and on the wrong side of public opinion among Arab and Muslim publics Obama has courted.

The Quartet statement took note of Abbas’ submission to the U.N. Security Council but did not mention it further. The U.S. has vowed to veto the move in the Security Council, which is expected to take up the matter again on Wednesday.

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Associated Press writer Jim Kuhnhenn contributed to this report.


Stunning book on preserving local harvest is a guide for all seasons

Just because the harvest season for locally grown fruits and vegetables is waning is no reason not to keep on canning and freezing what is on hand.

In fact, following the seasons and “putting down” the bounty of local produce can be a year-round activity for anyone who has decided to catch the trend and make it their own, says Pat Crocker, home economist, herbalist and an award-winning author of eight cookbooks.

Her latest endeavour is “Preserving: The Canning and Freezing Guide for All Seasons” (HarperCollins, $29.95, paperback).

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“What if you froze a lot of last summer’s strawberry harvest and want to make it into jam for Christmas gifts?” she asks. Well, it is really a no-brainer and it frees up the freezer for other items.

Most of all, Crocker wants to catch the wave of newly minted fans of getting back to basics, especially those who are interested in preserving foods for year-round consumption.

“I am discovering people like my niece who in her 30s is raising children and is really interested in local food and preserving but was afraid because she didn’t grow up with that dynamic,” she says.

“This book demystifies the whole process.”

The guide is practical and focuses on simple but effective concepts. While following the seasons, Crocker provides easy-to-follow, accurate and thorough information on preserving everything from asparagus to winter squashes.

She covers the spectrum of canning, making jams, jellies and freezing from hot-packed fruit recipes to sensational internationally flavoured chutneys and relishes.

As a Canadian home economist who decries the lack of school studies to help students develop culinary skills, Crocker is one of many of this country’s food writers who have tried to teach the basics to a new generation of cooks.

“I find that people are canning because they want to express themselves,” she says, “or having access to farmers markets and wonderful supermarket produce they want to be creative in canning and preserving.

“They want to be able to use those preserves in other dishes as well.”

All the stunning images in the book are Crocker’s, who is also a professional photographer.

Her recipe for garlic scape pesto is the result of learning about these herbs 20 years ago. The long thin flat stalks appear through the earth long before the garlic bulbs mature.

Here is her recipe for the bountiful crop that appears in late May to mid-June. They can be found in farmers markets or in your own backyard if your grow garlic.

To preserve the scape harvest, clean them and then freeze in 250-ml (1-cup) to 500-ml (2-cup) amounts to use in soups, stews or salads during the winter months.

Garlic Scape Pesto

1 l (4 cups) roughly chopped garlic scapes

3 to 5 cloves garlic (optional)

75 ml (1/3 cup) pine nuts or sunflower seeds

75 ml (1/3 cup) shaved Parmesan cheese

250 ml (1 cup) olive oil

Sea salt, to taste

In a food processor, combine scapes, garlic, if using, and nuts and process for 30 seconds.

Add Parmesan and process for 10 seconds to blend. With the motor running, add olive oil in a steady stream through the opening in the lid until pesto reaches desired consistency. Add salt.

Scrape into a clean jar with a lid and refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze in measured amounts for up to 6 months.

Online:

For more information on the author, visit 杭州桑拿按摩论坛杭州夜生活riversongherbals杭州夜网.


Facebook co-founder Hughes says even he needs a break from social media

MONTREAL – He may have helped create the world’s most ubiquitous networking tool, but even Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes admits that he needs a break from social media.

Hughes told business leaders in Montreal on Tuesday that while he cherishes the power of sites like Facebook and Twitter, they can’t replace old-fashioned human contact.

“I want to continue to live in a world where people can sit through a meal without looking at a phone,” the 28-year-old said.

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“I want to have days when I only spend a little bit of time in front of a screen.”

Hughes was among the small group of Harvard undergraduates who helped Mark Zuckerberg found Facebook in 2004.

Facebook’s early success led to a position with Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, where Hughes served as head of online organizing.

These two achievements alone are likely to secure him a key spot in the modern history of the Internet, never mind an estimated net worth of $700 million.

But Hughes readily described the limits of the social media technology, noting the inherent tension between connectivity and privacy.

“Most of the time I don’t want all of my friends knowing exactly where I am at every moment and exactly what I’m doing,” he said.

That may come as a surprise to privacy advocates who have attacked Facebook for how it handles the personal information of its users.

Recently critics have accused Facebook of continuing to track people’s browsing habits after they have logged out of the site.

Facebook has said its data-collection practises are necessary to protect the security of its users.

Hughes did not address Facebook’s privacy policies directly in his speech; he is no longer involved in the company except as a shareholder. He did, however, argue against those who offer unreserved praise of social media.

“We as individuals have to make sure that just because we use the words ‘connect,’ ‘share,’ ‘faster,’ ‘easier,’ it doesn’t always equal, ‘better,’” he said.

“A lot of these ideas scare me, and they scare a lot of people, of my age, older, younger – particularly when they’re treated as incontestable values.”

“My point is, as individuals, I just want us to stay in control,” he added.

As populations become increasingly connected, Hughes said, it will no longer be a question of who is on Facebook or Twitter, but what they are doing with it.

“More and more of our activity online will be part of these online networks,” Hughes said. “I think the key thing to watch for is deepening engagement.”

Social media platforms notably played a central role in mobilizing the street demonstrations that led to the overthrow of authoritarian regimes in Egypt and Tunisia.

They were also used by rioters in London this August; at least two people have been found guilty of trying to incite disturbances through Facebook posts.

But Hughes’ vision for the future of social media includes less distinctly political uses.

During a brief question-and-answer session, Hughes took issue with the portrayal of Facebook as a Big Brother-type institution dictating people’s tastes.

He said Facebook offers a variant of word-of-mouth advertising, drafting its users to promote products.

“Facebook’s approach to advertising is, rather than bombarding people with things like banner ads, to actually make it easier for brands, for marketers to tell their stories and enable supporters to become promoters themselves,” Hughes said.

He described it as a new form of advertising that consumers find less offensive and advertisers find more effective.

“Your advertising becomes part of the conversation, rather than something that is invading your space,” he said.


Woman who inspired celeb chef Emeril Lagasse dies after day spent cooking at home

FALL RIVER, Mass. – Ines De Costa, a hometown family friend who inspired celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, has died, her daughter said.

De Costa died overnight in her sleep at her Fall River home after spending Friday cooking in a city athletic club kitchen, her daughter, Ines Bates, said Tuesday. De Costa was 79.

De Costa had been suffering from heart problems for several years, her daughter said.

“She was a magnificent woman who thought food could fix anything,” Bates said. “God was so good to her.”

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Lagasse did not immediately issue a statement Tuesday.

When Lagasse was a boy of about nine or 10, he used to sit and watch De Costa in the kitchen of a restaurant she owned at the time in nearby Swansea when he visited with his family, Bates said.

Lagasse included many of De Costa’s recipes in his cookbooks, although she was never afraid to scold him for fiddling with her ingredients.

“He put a recipe for her St. John’s kale soup in one book, but she said he put in too much salt, and called to yell at him,” Bates said. “Mom was a surprise guest on his TV show once, and she came out on stage and started yelling at him for messing up her recipes.”

Lagasse maintained a loving lifelong relationship with the woman he called his second mother. He always checked in on her whenever he visited his home town, and she was a frequent guest at his New Orleans restaurant.

De Costa, known throughout Fall River as “Vo” – a Portuguese word for grandmother – ran the kitchen at St. John’s Athletic Club for 33 years after retiring from the restaurant business.

De Costa was born in the Azores and moved to the U.S. in 1952.

In addition to her daughter, she is survived by two sons. Her husband, Manuel, died 22 years ago.