Israeli forces on Sunday evening closed the Container checkpoint east of Bethlehem from both sides, causing major traffic jams for thousands of Palestinian commuters in the central West Bank.

A Ma’an reporter said that the closure resulted in a major traffic jam in the adjacent area, leaving hundreds of cars stranded on both sides of the checkpoint.

The Container checkpoint, located northeast of Bethlehem near the Wadi Nar canyon east of al-Sawahira al-Sharqiya village, is on the only major road open to Palestinians that connects the southern West Bank regions of Hebron and Bethlehem to the central and northern West Bank.

Although there are numerous other roads available to Jewish settlers to move between the two regions, for Palestinians the road is a crucial north-south link, and checkpoint closures can cause delays of many hours for commuters.


Authorities in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba have recently converted an historic mosque into an Islamic museum despite the fact that 10,000 local Muslims still have nowhere to pray, locals said.

Locals told Ma’an that an exhibit showcasing a collection of Muslim prayer rugs was recently opened in the building that was formerly the Great Mosque of Beersheba, which was once used regularly as a mosque before the 1948 expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from what became Israel.

The exhibit, which locals say has no Arab or Muslim member on the technical supervisory team, will continue until June 2015.

The move comes after decades of protest from the area’s 10,000-strong Muslim Palestinian community, composed primarily of local Bedouins whose ancestors survived the Israeli expulsions as well as Palestinian citizens of Israel who have moved to the city from other parts of the country.

Representatives of the community have long petitioned Israeli authorities to allow them to open the mosque for daily prayers or at least once a week for Friday prayers.

However, the demands have been repeatedly rejected, and in 2011 the Israeli Supreme Court rejected a request for it to open as well, allowing the building to be transformed into a museum focusing on Islam.

The irony is not lost on local Palestinian Muslims, who have long complained that Israeli authorities neglect Palestinian heritage and frequently appropriate Palestinian symbols and architecture.

The Great Mosque of Beersheba was built in 1906 during the Ottoman era through donations collected from the Bedouin residents of the Negev.

It remained an active mosque until the Israelis occupied the city in 1948 and turned it into a detention center and headquarters for a magistrate court, following the expulsion of Beersheba’s approximately 6,000 Palestinian residents, mostly to Gaza.

Thousands of Jewish immigrants were subsequently brought in to populate the city, while the Palestinian refugees were never allowed to return, despite mostly living only kilometers away.

In 1953, the Israeli authorities turned a portion of the mosque into a museum, which was recognized in 1987 by the Israeli department of archeology as the Negev Museum.

However, in 1992, the museum was shut down because the building had become vulnerable. It has been retrofitted recently, however, paving the way for its reuse.

Egyptian authorities on Saturday released 51 Palestinians who had been detained in the North Sinai city of El-Arish after they attempted to travel to Europe by taking boats from the Egyptian coast.

Chief of the Palestinian community in the North Sinai region Kamal al-Khatib told Ma’an that the group had managed to “finish the needed procedures to release the prisoners held in the central prison.”

Al-Khatib said that fines were paid on behalf of the 24 prisoners, all of whom had tried to embarking on marine vessels and travel through Egyptian territorial waters to unspecified points in southern Europe.

Al-Khatib said the group was awaiting deportation orders so they could travel to the Rafah crossing into Gaza.

19 other Palestinians detained for the same charge were released from a police station in El-Arish and nine more from a police station in Beer al-Abed village near El-Arish, he said.

This year has seen a surge in the numbers of migrants attempting to make the hazardous crossing from North Africa and the Middle East to Europe.

The UN’s refugee agency UNHCR said in mid-December that 384,000 people had tried the crossing since the beginning of the year, of whom more than 4,000 died while attempting the journey.

The surge is the result of political instability and a lack of economic prospects across the southern Mediterranean and Africa, and the number includes many Palestinians who have fled Syria as well as Gaza via boat from Egypt.

Thousands of Gazans are thought to have escaped via tunnels to Egypt in order to flee the nearly two-month Israeli offensive that left more than 2,000 dead and 110,000 homeless in the tiny coastal enclave.

Egyptian authorities have in recent months promised to crack down on the flow and have arrested record numbers of Palestinians fleeing Gaza.

But the devastation wreaked by the Israeli bombardment and the continued siege have dimmed Gaza’s economic prospects for the near future, and even as Egypt continues to crack down on movement of goods and people through tunnels, the tide is likely to continue.

Will Google Glass catch on? With a backlash in full swing, there may be one thing that threatens the technology’s adoption more than anything else, argues Chris Baraniuk. And in the video above, BBC Click’s Spencer Kelly takes a look at how one airline is embracing the technology while some other businesses would rather ban it.

A presumably naked man laughs open-mouthed as water trickles from his bright red face, soaking the Google Glass headset he is wearing in the shower. This infamous image, posted online by tech futurist Robert Scoble just over 12 months ago, encapsulated the excitement among early adopters of this technology. Glass, a voice-controlled wearable headset connected to the internet, promised a transformation of the way we interact with computers, and each other.

A year on and it’s Scoble’s enthusiasm that has been dampened. “I’m wearing it right now,” he says. “It’s really useless. I can’t store more than 20 contacts, and I can’t take photos and put them on Instagram or Facebook. Getting apps on here is a pain.”

Scoble, who works for US IT firm Rackspace, still uses the device, however he cites a long list of concerns: the battery life is too short; it is a little too heavy for some wearers; and the interface which allows apps to access Glass’s various features still needs work.

Google’s engineers are no doubt hard at work on these issues ahead of its public launch, expected later this year. However, technical problems may not be the biggest barrier to Glass catching on. A backlash against Glass has been rapidly gathering pace for entirely different reasons in recent months. “It’s the most controversial product of my lifetime,” says Scoble.

(Robert Scoble/

Robert Scoble gained notoriety for his enthusiastic photo wearing Google Glass in the shower – now he’s not so sure about the device (Robert Scoble/

The hype and the controversy surrounding Google Glass began in April 2012, when the company released a much talked about concept video, revealing the capabilities of Glass – responding to voice commands and recording video through the eyes of the wearer, for instance. Then last year, a beta version was made available to a limited number of “explorers” at a cost of $1,500 plus taxes.

It didn’t take long for critics to emerge. Writer Ed Champion catalogued ‘35 arguments against Google Glass’, from anxiety over ever greater personal data collection by Google to the potential for distraction during conversations. Meanwhile, the privacy advocacy group Stop the Cyborgs, based in London, warned that the device’s video camera could be used for intrusive surveillance. “Authorities, corporations and lawyers will be able to access everyone’s footage under the relevant electronic communication act,” the group wrote on its blog.

Recently, Glass has also triggered animosity of another kind in Google’s own backyard. In February social media consultant Sarah Slocum was accosted in a San Francisco bar while wearing the device. “You’re killing the city!” said one woman as she tried to snatch Glass from Slocum’s head. Some now view the device as an objectionable symbol of a wealthy Silicon Valley elite – an elite they say is pricing poorer residents out of the city.

Yet for many, one of the most significant concerns is that Glass allows users to record photos and videos of others without their consent. Unease about covert image capture has caused Glass to be barred from a string of bars, restaurants and other locations. This hostility has even led to the coining of a new pejorative, “glasshole”, to describe users who don’t respect the personal space of others.

In other words, perhaps the greatest obstacle Google faces if it wants us all to adopt Glass is its potential to disrupt existing social norms and aggravate our interactions with one another. Unlike the personal devices in our pockets, it sits right there on one’s face, perpetually demanding a reaction from others.

Laura Freberg, a psychologist at California Polytechnic State University and Google Glass owner, believes society will develop a new etiquette for using head-mounted technology in social situations, but it will take time. People will need to work out where and when the use of such devices is acceptable to others.

“I walked into the restroom and was like, ‘oh my gosh… I’m going to make people really uncomfortable’,” she says. “It’s a learning process for the person who is wearing it as much as it is for the people around you. I think developing good manners will help us work through a lot of these problems.”

A small study carried out by Freberg’s students, for example, found that someone who started using Glass during conversation was seen as more distracted or rude than someone who began using a mobile phone. She adds that, to be successful, the device should be as physically unobtrusive as possible because humans, who learn to read faces for emotional information at a very early age, may be instinctively distrustful of anyone whose eyes or eyebrows are unusually obscured. More subtle editions of Glass which use traditional glasses as a frame have indeed been recently announced by Google.

Bill Buxton, a principal researcher at Microsoft Research, also believes it will take time for society to evolve the social norms around wearable computing technologies, in a similar process to the establishment of mobile phone etiquette. He also notes that with more and more gadgets like smart watches and intelligent wrist bands under development, tech companies are under growing pressure to engage in debates regarding privacy and other social issues related to such technology.

“We dismiss too quickly concerns about privacy, intrusion and other repercussions amongst our peers, in our enthusiasm for adopting the latest and greatest, newest technology,” he says.

Google Glass (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

You can’t miss somebody wearing Google Glass, and some think that’s a problem (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Google was apparently compelled to respond to the use of the word glasshole, dropping it into a list of do’s and don’ts for those wearing Glass in public. And more recently the company attempted to dismiss common concerns about the device in a blog post addressing the “Top Ten Google Glass Myths”.

So could Glass flop when it launches to the public? It’s possible, but even sceptics like Scoble believe wearable computers of some kind will become viable by the end of the decade. “Microsoft produced a lot of tablet PCs and they weren’t doing very well, but then Apple came along with the iPad and boom, the whole product category took off,” he says.

The emergence of new and disruptive technologies has always been accompanied by clashes between those enthusiastic to embrace their benefits and those more concerned about their potential downsides. The introduction of the telephone in the late 19th Century saw some emphasising that it could make societies more democratic, open up job opportunities, reduce loneliness and foster world peace. Others complained it would increase crime, undermine the art of writing and threaten privacy by facilitating wiretapping and unwanted marketing calls.

Although all of those things have occurred in some measure, society eventually evolved ways of amplifying the positive and limiting the negative impacts of the telephone. We all now recognise appropriatetelephone etiquette, for example. So what we’re really seeing with the Glass backlash, then, is a society seeking to define the boundaries of acceptable use, a society preparing itself for this provocative technology’s inevitable arrival.

Nurseit Zhylkyshybay and his wolf
Mr Zhylkyshybay says he takes his wolf, Kurtka, for walks through the village

Villagers in Kazakhstan are increasingly turning to an unusual animal to guard their land – wolves, it’s been reported.

“You can buy a wolf cub for just $500 (£320), they say, and hunters are adamant that if treated well the wild animal can be tamed,” the KTK television channel reports. Nurseit Zhylkyshybay, from the south-eastern Almaty region, tells the channel he bought a wolf cub, Kurtka, from hunters three years ago, and the animal is perfectly happy wandering the yard of his house. “He’s never muzzled, I rarely put him on a chain and do take him for regular walks around the village. Our family and neighbours aren’t scared of him at all,” Mr Zhylkyshybay insists. “If the wolf is well fed and cared for, he won’t attack you, although he does eat a lot more than a dog.”

But wolf expert Almas Zhaparov says the animals are “far too dangerous” to keep at home. “A wolf is like a ticking bomb, it can go off at any moment,” he tells KTK. “If nothing is done, the fashion could spread to wealthy Kazakhs,” who might try to keep wolves in the grounds of their houses, with possibly deadly consequences, he warns. Social media users are overwhelmingly apprehensive about the trend, although a few accuse the government of failing to cull wolves in the first place. “You can’t blame villagers for using wolves to fend off wolves,” says one person on the Nur news portal. Another user engages in a little black humour: “The sheep are in the pen, and the wolves have full bellies – but no one can find the shepherd.”

The wolf
Wolves might be playful, but one expert warns keeping them at home is potentially disastrous
Boy using asthma inhaler

Patients with asthma and severe allergies are often not taught how to use their medical devices properly, charities have warned.

Asthma UK said in some cases poor technique led to people being put on stronger inhalers than they actually needed.

And studies by Allergy UK suggest people struggle with instructions on auto-injectors in allergy emergencies.

The charities are calling for better training for patients and NHS staff.

The warning comes after a separate US study revealed only 16% of those prescribed adrenalin auto-injectors in case of a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction used them properly.

Common errors included not holding the device in place for at least 10 seconds and not pushing down forcefully enough with the needle to allow the adrenalin in.

In the same study, only 7% of asthma sufferers were found to use asthma inhalers in the right way, researchers reported in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.


Study leader Dr Rana Bonds from the University of Texas Medical Branch said the results suggested people weren’t properly trained in using the devices in the first place or “forgot the instructions over time”.

Picture of an adrenalin auto-penAdrenaline can help reduce swelling during severe allergic reactions and make it easier to breathe

Maureen Jenkins, clinical director of Allergy UK, said she was not at all surprised by the findings.

She said because there were different designs of inhalers and auto-injectors, people needed to get specific advice for the exact ones they had, which often did not happen.

“We have just finished a leaflet on allergic asthma which talks about proper use of these devices.”

Yearly checks

She added that pharmacists were ideally placed to talk patients through using the devices when they picked them up from the chemist.

Dr Samantha Walker, director of research and policy at Asthma UK, said even though in theory everyone with an inhaler should have their technique checked annually, figures showed a third of people with asthma make mistakes with their inhalers.

And many of these mistakes are significant enough to reduce the effectiveness of their treatments.

“This is also hugely wasteful – asthma-prescribing is one of the most expensive areas of cost for the NHS, costing almost £1bn annually.

“You wouldn’t give someone a new car without them having driving lessons first, so if you are going to invest in prescribing a lifetime of asthma medicines, it’s crucial that healthcare professionals ensure that their patients know how to use them.”