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Israel denied pasta to Gaza

Sometimes it just seems like Israel is actively trying to destroy its own international image. Haaretz reports:

However, an incident occured last week at a crossing into the Gaza Strip that gave a very different impression to a senior observer. When Senator John Kerry visited the Strip, he learned that many trucks loaded with pasta were not permitted in. When the chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee inquired as to the reason for the delay, he was told by United Nations aid officials that "Israel does not define pasta as part of humanitarian aid - only rice shipments."

Kerry asked Barak about the logic behind this restriction, and only after the senior U.S. official's intervention did the defense minister allow the pasta into the Strip. The U.S. senator updated colleagues at the Senate and other senior officials in Washington of the details of his visit. 

Kerry wasn't the only U.S. official to complain about the pasta ban. Representatives Brian Baird and Keith Ellison also toured Gaza last week and criticized Israel's "idiosyncratic and arbitrary" food aid policies. "When have lentil bombs been going off lately? Is someone going to kill you with a piece of macaroni?" asked Baird. 

The IDF agreed to allow lentils and pasta into Gaza last weekend. Laird applauded the move but said it was only symbolic of a generally misguided sanctions system.

"You look stupid and petty and over-controlling when you do this."

(Hat tip: Passport reader Sierra Millman. Check out her reporting on the Middle East here.)

Correction: This post originally misspelled Rep. Baird's last name. 

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German pretzel bakers tied up in knots over EU rules

Don't worry Oktoberfest devotees, those Roquefort-munching geeks in Brussels are not trying to ban your pretzels. What's that you say? You didn't know the EU wanted to ban pretzels? Neither did the EU apparently.

At the heart of the issue are new rules on nutritional information to be placed on food products.

Bakers would be free to make no health claims for their bread. If however they specify that it is 'high in fibre' then they would also be obliged to tell consumers that it is also 'high in salt'.

The rule was adopted in 2006 but discussions are still under way -- with input from the food industry -- on how they are going to be introduced and what levels would constitute a product being deemed 'low' or 'high' in anything.

A bit of a nanny state annoyance perhaps, but the German media went a bit overboard after the Association of German bakers claimed that German pretzel culture would be "hemmed in" by the sodium labelling rules since "there is more salt in bread in Germany compared with elsewhere in the EU." 

"EU Wants to Spoil Our Pretzels!" screamed the tabloid Bild. An EU spokeswoman quickly reassured worried Germans that there was no intention of banning or regulating salty bread. 

To be fair, given the EU's infamous fatwa on bendy cucumbers, the bakers' concerns are somewhat understandable.

  JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images