Spider News Digest: 12/8/2017


  • Scores injured, one dead as Palestinians hold ‘Day of Rage’ over Jerusalem (Reuters):

Thousands of Palestinians demonstrated, scores were hurt and at least one killed in clashes with Israeli troops on a “day of rage” on Friday against U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Across the Arab and Muslim worlds, thousands more demonstrators took to the streets on Friday, the Muslim holy day, expressing solidarity with the Palestinians and outrage at Trump’s reversal of decades of U.S. policy.

Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian man near the Gaza border, the first confirmed death in two days of unrest.

The Israeli army said hundreds of Palestinians were rolling burning tyres and throwing rocks at soldiers across the border.

“During the riots IDF soldiers fired selectively towards two main instigators and hits were confirmed,” it said.

More than 80 Palestinians were wounded in the occupied West Bank and Gaza by Israeli live fire and rubber bullets, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance service. Dozens more suffered from tear gas inhalation. Thirty-one were wounded on Thursday.

As Friday prayers ended at the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, worshippers made their way towards the walled Old City gates, chanting “Jerusalem is ours, Jerusalem is our capital,” and “We don’t need empty words, we need stones and Kalashnikovs”. Some scuffles broke out between protesters and police.

In Hebron, Bethlehem and Nablus, dozens of Palestinians threw stones at Israeli soldiers who fired back with tear gas.

In Gaza, controlled by the Islamist group Hamas, calls for worshippers to protest sounded over mosque loudspeakers. Hamas has called for a new Palestinian uprising like the “intifadas” of 1987-1993 and 2000-2005 that together saw thousands of Palestinians and more than 1,000 Israelis killed.

“Whoever moves his embassy to occupied Jerusalem will become an enemy of the Palestinians and a target of Palestinian factions,” said Hamas leader Fathy Hammad as protesters in Gaza burnt posters of Trump. “We declare an intifada until the liberation of Jerusalem and all of Palestine.”

Trump’s announcement on Wednesday has infuriated the Arab world and upset Western allies. The status of Jerusalem has been one of the biggest obstacles to a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians for generations.

Israel considers all of Jerusalem to be its capital. Palestinians want the eastern part of the city as the capital of a future independent state of their own. Most countries consider East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed after capturing it in the 1967 Middle East War, to be occupied territory, including the Old City, home to sites considered holy to Muslims, Jews and Christians alike.

For decades, Washington, like most of the rest of the international community, held back from recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, saying its status should be determined as part of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. No other country has its embassy there.

The Trump administration argues that the peace process has become moribund, and outdated policies need to be jettisoned for the sides in the conflict to make progress. Administration officials say all serious peace plans call for Israel to have its capital in Jerusalem, whatever the outcome of other issues.

Trump has also noted that Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton all promised as candidates to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital: “I fulfilled my campaign promise – others didn‘t!” Trump tweeted on Friday with a video montage of campaign speeches on the issue by the three predecessors.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Friday it would still be up to the Israelis and Palestinians to hammer out all other issues surrounding the city in future talks.

“With respect to the rest of Jerusalem, the president … did not indicate any final status for Jerusalem. He was very clear that the final status, including the borders, would be left to the two parties to negotiate and decide.”

Still, some Muslim countries view the Trump administration’s motives with particular suspicion. As a candidate he proposed banning all Muslims from entering the United States, and in office he has tried to block entry by citizens of several Muslim-majority states. Last week he tweeted anti-Muslim videos by a British far-right group.

In Ramallah, the seat of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority, the leader’s religious affairs adviser said Trump’s stance was an affront to Islam and Christianity alike.

“America has chosen to elect a President that has put it in enmity with all Muslims and Christians,” said the advisor, Mahmoud al-Habbash.

In Iran, which has never recognised Israel and supports anti-Israel militants, demonstrators burned pictures of Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while chanting “Death to the Devil”. Opposition to the U.S. move has united Iran’s pragmatist faction, which supports greater openness to the outside world, behind hardliners that oppose it.

In Cairo, capital of Egypt, a U.S. ally which has a peace treaty with Israel, hundreds of protesters who had gathered in Al-Azhar mosque and outside in its courtyard chanted “Jerusalem is Arab! O Trump, you madman, the Arab people are everywhere!”

The imam leading Friday prayer at Al-Azhar said the U.S. plan to move its embassy to Jerusalem was a “terrorist decision” that would add another settlement to those of Israel.

Large demonstrations also took place in Jordan, Tunisia, Somalia, Yemen, Malaysia and Indonesia.

  • Eating cheese every day might actually be healthy (NY Daily News): 

A nib of cheese a day keeps the heart disease away.

A recent analysis of more than 200,000 people showed that those who ate a little bit of cheese every day were less likely to develop heart disease compared to those who rarely or never ate it at all. The researchers from China and the Netherlands examined data compiled from 15 previous studies where most of the participants were tracked for at least 10 years.

Overall, those who ate more cheese had a 14% lower risk of developing heart disease and were 10% less likely to have a stroke than their cheese-averse peers. But experts warn that the findings were not linear — meaning the study does not advocate eating enormous quantities of cheese. People who seemed to have health benefits from cheese ate about 40 grams a day or, a square the size of a matchbook.

“This is not the same as eating a big slice of cheesy pizza every day,” director of aortic surgery at Ichan School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center, Dr. Allan Stewart, who was not involved in the study, told Time. “(But the findings were) certainly different from what people might expect.”

The dairy product contains healthful ingredients like calcium, protein and probiotics, said the authors of a new study, published in the European Journal of Nutrition. But cheese, like other milk-based products, contains high levels of saturated fat — which can cause high cholesterol and an increased risk of heart disease.

In the study, cheese was only found to have an association with lowered health risks, not a direct cause and effect. The link might be because people who eat cheese daily are already healthier or because they have disposable income, the researchers said. But the good might outweigh the bad with cheese.

“Cheese can be high in probiotics, which tend to put you in less of an inflammatory state,” Stewart said. “There is some evidence that cheese — as a substitute for milk, for example — may actually have a protective effect on the heart. No one’s saying you should definitely go out and eat 40 grams of cheese a day. But on the upside, a bit of cheese on a cracker doesn’t sound unreasonable.”

  • Facebook tops list of best places to work — again (Cnet): 

If you work at Facebook, count yourself pretty lucky.

And not just for the free meals, on-site health care or new-parent benefits.

But those things probably factor into the social-networking giant being named the best place to work in 2018 by jobs site Glassdoor. And it’s probably been a good experience for a while, seeing how this is the third year in a row Facebook has been atop Glassdoor’s list of 100 best places to work.

If you don’t work at Facebook, there might still be hope for you. Glassdoor said there were 40 newcomers on this year’s list, including video game maker Blizzard Entertainment (at No. 28 on the list) and wireless carrier T-Mobile (No. 79). There are also three veterans that have made the list every year since it was introduced 10 years ago, including management-consulting firm Bain & Company (No. 2), search giant Google (No. 5) and Apple (No. 84).

Certainly companies work hard to make their workplaces as appealing as possible to retain talented employees, but there is something mouthwateringly tantalizing in thinking about how In-N-Out Burger came in at No. 4 on the list.

Here’s the top 20:

1. Facebook

2. Bain & Company

3. Boston Consulting Group

4. In-N-Out Burger

5. Google

6. lululemon

7. HubSpot

8. World Wide Technology

9. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

10. Ultimate Software

11. SAP

12. McKinsey & Company

13. Keller Williams

14. E. & J. Gallo Winery

15. Salesforce

16. Power Home Remodeling

17. Delta Air Lines

18. Academy Mortgage

19. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

20. H E B

  • Super Earth K2-18b: Exoplanet That Could Harbour Extraterrestrial Life Has a Neighbor Hiding Behind It (Newsweek): 

Astronomers have identified a distant exoplanet as a “super-Earth” that has the potential to harbor alien life. On top of this, the team also discovered that this planet—K2-18b—has another, similar world hiding behind it.

A super-Earth is a planet with a mass higher than Earth but smaller than larger bodies like Uranus and Neptune.

The two new super-Earths orbit a red-dwarf star around 111 light years away. K2-18b, scientists say, could be in an excellent location for alien life to emerge—having perfect conditions for surface water, a fundamental ingredient for life, to exist.

Hunting planets

Scientists combed the skies with the European Southern Observatory’s planet-hunting HARPS device in Chile. They found the planets circling the red dwarf star K2-18, which is part of the constellation, Leo.

The discovery of the first planet, K2-18b, took place in 2015. Sitting within the habitable zone of the star, astronomers have been investigating whether or not it could support life. This meant finding out if K2-18b was a hunk of rock, like Earth, or a dense body of gas, like Jupiter.

Using the fiber-optic HARPS technology, the astronomers watched the changing position and speed of stars. This kind of movement can indicate that a star is being pulled by the gravitational force of orbiting planets. By collecting so-called “radial velocity” data on K2-18, the scientists were able to estimate the size of K2-18b.

“If you can get the mass and radius, you can measure the bulk density of the planet and that can tell you what the bulk of the planet is made of,” lead author Ryan Cloutier said in a statement.

Using sophisticated machine-learning techniques, the team figured out the planet could well be an Earth-like planet made mostly of rock and with a gaseous atmosphere. Alternatively, the planet could be made up of water encased in a thick crust of ice. Thier findings have been submitted to the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
Second super-earth discovery

As well as taking one giant leap closer to finding a potentially habitable exoplanet, the team also uncovered a second Earth-like planet orbiting K2-18. This super-Earth—K2-18c—unfortunately, is a much poorer candidate for life. Sitting too close to its star, meaning the surface is probably too hot to support life.

The identification of two new super-Earths, however, is still a significant advance for astrophysics. According to study authors, the discovery sheds important light on the prevalence of multi-planet systems around dwarf stars like K2-18.

“Being able to measure the mass and density of K2-18b was tremendous, but to discover a new exoplanet was lucky and equally exciting,” said Cloutier.

Researchers will have to wait until 2019 to confirm the atmospheric conditions of K2-18b, when NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is set to launch. “There’s a lot of demand to use this telescope, so you have to be meticulous in choosing which exoplanets to look at,” said study co-author René Doyon. “K2-18b is now one of the best targets for atmospheric study, it’s going to the near top of the list.”

  • 27 Animal Names Parents Are Giving Their Babies (Huff Post): 

The wild kingdom is roaming through America’s cribs as parents choose animal-inspired names for their newborns.

These animal names have varying degrees of popularity in the U.S. ― from fairly common options like Robin and Raven to the more unusual Wolf, Finch and Starling. And of course there’s the classic nickname Cat.

Many celebrities have picked such names for their children. Kate Winslet and Alicia Silverstone both named their sons Bear. Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ son is called Wolf. Nicole Richie and Joel Madden have a daughter named Sparrow, and Busy Philipps’ two girls are Cricket and Birdie.

But celebrities aren’t the only parents opting for these monikers. Here are 27 animal-related names that, according to Social Security Administration data, were given to newborns in 2016:

Wolf (67 boys)

Bear (186 boys)

Sparrow (nine boys, 64 girls)

Lion (18 boys)

Falcon (21 boys, seven girls)

Tiger (27 boys)

Raven (39 boys, 626 girls)

Fox (323 boys, 12 girls)

Wren (87 boys, 589 girls)

Fawn (20 girls)

Coyote (nine boys)

Lynx (12 boys)

Dove (20 girls)

Birdie (80 girls)

Hawk (52 boys)

Lark (seven boys, 40 girls)

Finch (eight boys)

Buck (37 boys)

Cricket (11 girls)

Colt (1,023 boys)

Heron (eight boys)

Pike (nine boys)

Robin (169 boys, 237 girls)

Newt (12 boys)

Kitty (seven girls)

Starling (five girls)

Jay (800 boys, six girls)

As we noted last week, hotels in Central and Eastern Europe led profit growth in the region, according to the latest results for October from HotStats.

Investors have taken note, signing a number of hotel deals in the region. At the same time, supply in leading locations such as Germany has become harder to come by.
Rising Profits

At HotStats, the company said that hotels in Europe recorded a 7.2-percent increase in GOPPAR to reach €75.58. This was equivalent to a profit conversion of 39.2 percent of total revenue.

“According to the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, the benefits of structural reform implemented in the wake of the global financial crisis are finally coming to fruition,” Pablo Alonso, CEO, HotStats, said. “Europe’s economy is now booming, fueling business and leisure tourism across the region and this is great news for hoteliers.

“Whilst Juncker has cited the EU’s newfound unity after Britain’s vote to leave as being a catalyst for the economic recovery, it is more likely due to the standout performance of countries in the CEE, which is reflected in the health of their hotel industry.”

The report came as Union Invest reported in its latest Investment Barometer that, with the supply of primary locations in Germany “thin on the ground,” the question arose as to whether investors would focus more on secondary and tertiary locations. The majority (52 percent) stated in the survey that they were convinced that secondary locations were already absorbing the spill over from premium locations. Only 15 percent saw a shift from secondary locations to tertiary locations.
Recent Deals

Fabian Hellbusch, head of real estate, marketing, communications, Union Invest, told HOTEL MANAGEMENT that, while the group was “still looking for hotel investments in Germany,” it had entered the hotel market in Poland in 2014 and was planning to expand the portfolio there. “Our hotel portfolio in Poland comprises four properties—two in Warsaw, one in Krakow, one in Wroclaw—totaling some €250 million.”

Union Invest was joined last week by Starwood Capital Group, which agreed a €75 million sale and management deal for the Sofitel Budapest Chain Bridge Hotel with Orbis Hotel Group, the leading hotel operator in Eastern Europe. The hotel will undergo an extensive restoration and renovation under the Sofitel brand.

At a meeting of GRI Club members in Budapest, participants came to that consensus that 2017 would close “as an excellent year with total investment volumes expected at 30 percent higher than last year; although some asset classes are experiencing yield compression, the upward trend of investment is not expected to change.”

In neighboring Bucharest, Elbit Imaging expects to sign on the sale of the Radisson Blu and Park Inn hotels in Bucharest by the end of the month. The group said that the buyer was two international investment funds. After accounting for loans and expenses, the deal will return Elbit €81 million.

As Europe heads towards a transactional peak, the waves of profit on the edge are being caught by investors.


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