Friday, February 28, 2014

300 Anne Frank Books Vandalized in Japan

By Micah Halpern 

I’ve Been Thinking:

Anti-Semitism can be found anyplace … even places without Jews and without a history of Jews or Jew hatred … even in Japan.

308 copies of Anne Frank’s diary were vandalized and destroyed in Japan.  The vandals also destroyed entries on Anne Frank in reference books.  The damage was so pervasive, it was found in 11 of the 13 public libraries in the capital city Tokyo.

Israel has just donated 300 new copies of Anne’s book “Diary of a Young Girl”.  It is without a doubt the most famous book on the Holocaust ever published.  It chronicles the life of a young girl in hiding with her family in a tiny secret room in Amsterdam.

The journal was never completed - neighbors informed the Nazis about the family and they were taken away to the notorious concentration camp Bergen Belsen where Anne died.

Anne Frank’s thought and insights belie her young age and pre-War insulated upbringing.  She asks and ponders the role of good and evil.   She contemplates love and the importance of family.  More than anything, Anne yearns for freedom.

An investigation is going on in Japan.  It is very clear from the number of books destroyed that this was a carefully planned calculated attempt to rid Japan’s public libraries and information centers of one of the most important first hand testimonies of the Holocaust.

That is deeply disturbing.    

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Iran Exporting More Oil

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Iran has increased its oil export for the fourth month in a row.
According to sources monitoring the oil tankers, it is clear that

Iran has continued to increase its oil production and its exports. And increased exports are a tremendous injection of cash into the Iranian economy.

According to the sources, Iran will have exported 1.30 million barrels per day in the month of February. That is an increase of 100,000 barrels per day.

The main destination for these oil tankers appears to be Syria and South Korea. And it seems that sometimes the tankers unload at sea. They transfer their cargo ship to ship so no one really knows where the oil is from and where it is going. That happened twice this February in Indonesian waters.

It should be clear that Iran is taking full advantage of the situation presented it by the new international "let's trust Iran to do the right thing" attitude the world has adopted. That attitude has provided Iran with an entry visa back into the world oil market - even with the serious sanctions that are still out there. 

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

German Gov Ministers in Israel

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Over the past few days German government ministers - including the prime minister, the foreign minister and the education minister, were on a group visit to Israel.

It was a very important bonding experience for Israel.

Germany made the gesture to assure Israel that they are a true supporter and not merely a fair weather friend. As is the case with friends, several significant disagreements between Germany and Israel came to light during the visit.

The main difference of opinion is over the handling of Iran. Israel thinks that the only effective way to stop Iran's nuclear program is to insist on the dismantling of technology. Germany, an integral member of the P5+1, agrees with the rest of that group that it is possible and even preferable to negotiate with Iran and create a plan for slowing down and monitoring Iran's enrichment and nuclear development program.

Israel believes that the point of view of the six nations negotiating with Iran is nothing short of naive and that there is no real way to monitor and/or guarantee that Iran will keep up their end of the deal.

The friends agreed to disagree - but the debate is far from over. 

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Follow the Money

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

We have all heard the expression "follow the money."

I do it all the time. It is a tool I use to understand and predict who the influencers are and what their involvement is, in the Middle East. We need to follow where the money is being spent - who is supplying weapons and who is buying them and from whom.

It was always obvious from the money trail that Iran supported Hezbollah. But not now. Now Iran has stopped supporting Hamas.

We also know that Iran and Russia are pumping money into Assad's regime in Syria. They want to influence the outcome.

And then yesterday it became public that a Russian delegation of flagstaff air-force officers arrived in Egypt.
They came as the result of a $2 billion arms deal in which Egypt is buying air-force materials from Russia. The money trail led us right there.
Money in the Middle East is the key to influence and favoritism.

Even small money which led us to the discovery this week that Iran has signed an arms deal with Iraq to the tune of $165 million. The deal is small - but it is significant.

Follow the money and find out who is pulling whose strings. 

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Monday, February 24, 2014

The Prob w Spains Invite to Jews

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
Spain and Portugal are offering citizenship to the descendents of the families that they expelled in 1492 and 1493.

At first glance, you would assume this to be a magnanimous gesture. Think again.

The expulsion from Spain forced hundreds of thousands of Jews to run to Portugal. Eight months later when Portugal expelled them, they escaped to North Africa. Those who stayed were forced to convert to Christianity. The Inquisition was established to investigate those who converted and make certain that they were truly practicing Christianity, not secretly remaining Jewish. Those caught as still practicing Jews were torture and even burned at the stake.

There are three interesting elements missing from this citizenship invitation.
There was and still is no apology.
There was and still is no attempt to pay compensation
The deal is not being offered to the Muslims who were expelled in 1609.

Neither Spain nor Portugal has yet to see the wrong that was done and the horrors that were perpetrated in the name of keeping their countries Christian.

Today, with their warped and biased perceptions of Jews, they are trying to entice Jews to come to Spain and Portugal to help energize their terrible fledgling economies.

There is no attempt at contrition. There is no attempt at justice. And there is no desire to allow Muslims into their countries. 

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Israel - Now A Gas Exporter

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Israel is now an energy exporter. Israel is now exporting natural gas and will soon become one of the largest natural gas suppliers in the world.

Last week Israel signed a deal with Jordan to provide them with $500 million worth of natural gas over the next 15 years.

Jordan is in great need of gas. They were hit terribly by the breakdown of the pipeline from Egypt after it was repeatedly sabotaged by rebels. Now the Jordanians will have a dependable source of natural gas.

This gas comes from Tamar, a gas field deep below the Mediterranean Sea. It is the smaller of two gas discoveries that have been tapped recently. The larger is called Leviathan. Interestingly, Israel signed a gas deal with the Palestinian Authority to provide them natural gas from Leviathan.

It seems that Israel is a more reasonable and more dependable gas resource than neighboring Arab suppliers. 

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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Iran Executing Even More People

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

The West is full of preconceived ideas about the Middle East. Many people who were upset with Iran's human rights record under Ahmadinejad were relieved when Rouhani came into office. They saw real hope and were intoxicated by his use of language.

It was a farce. And the United Nations has seen a part of the duplicity.

The hope was that few people would be executed and that Iran would scale down - especially because under Rouhani, as a public gesture, some prisoners have been released. Then exactly the opposite happened. In the first seven weeks of 2014 as many as 95 people have been executed.

UN Human Rights Spokeswoman Ravina Shamdassani said in a press conference yesterday that: "There were some encouraging signs last year where the political prisoners were released… But it appears at least in the past seven weeks that in fact executions have been scaled up."

What astounds me is that people we are supposed to trust for their analytical skills were duped by the Iranians in the first place. How could the human rights people all over the United Nations not have expected this?

I saw it coming! Why didn't they? 

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Iran Opens Embassy in London

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

The Iranian flag was raised over the newly reopened Iranian embassy in London yesterday.

The embassy was closed two years ago after tensions between the United Kingdom and the Islamic Republic of Iran came to a head.

This past December England sent a charge d'affairs to Teheran and now Iran is ready and willing to re-open their embassy in London.

As of now the embassy is being staffed by locals and Iran does not yet have a diplomatic presence in England. However, Iran can and will begin to engage in bureaucratic activities.
It will not be long before a series of high level Iranian diplomats are dispatched to London.

As I first wrote several months ago when England sent their diplomat to Iran, the walls of Iranian isolation are tumbling down. It does not matter what emerges out of the dialogue with Iran, the very fact that there is a dialogue has greased the diplomatic wheels.

The winner in this entire game is definitely - Iran. 

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Iran Has Become a Cyber Hacker

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Two years ago the world cyber powers were but three. The United States, Israel and China. They were the only real cyber players.

Today there is a fourth. Iran. Iran is now a serious cyber contender in terms of hacking, attacks and defense.
As recently as early in 2012 Iran was barely involved in cyber warfare. And then, in March of 2012, the Grand Ayatollah created a national council for cyberspace. Like wildfire Iran dedicated monies, hired recruiters and groomed their best and brightest for the cyber war.

Now Iran is both perpetrating attacks on others and protecting itself from attack by others. The Iranians are probably responsible for attacking the Saudi oil company named Saudi Aramco - the energy company that supplies about 10% of the world's oil. The attack erased data from 30,000 computers.

The Grand Ayatollah recently called on students to be their country's "cyber agents." He told them that they should get ready for a war. And Iranian Chief of Staff General Hassan Firousabadi told students that a "decisive battle" was on the horizon. "If any war is launched against Iran, we won't give any ground to the enemy and they themselves know this very well."

The general was speaking of cyber war. Iran is more prepared now than they have ever been. In less than two years, from March of 2012 until today, Iran has become a real player on the world's cyber warfare stage. 

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Iran Told the Truth

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

The Nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 resumed yesterday.

They began with the Iranian representative firmly proclaiming that Iran has no intention of shutting down a single nuclear facility.

This was a surprise to many observers - but not to me.

Since November the West has been maintaining that Iran will close certain facilities. The United States even took it upon itself to promise Israel that certain nuclear centers would be shut down.

But when you listened to the Iranians who were party to the agreement they repeatedly said that closing sites was nowhere in the agreement.

Of course, the West believed the West.

I realized that Iran would not have been so insistent if they did not have a real leg to stand on. And so it goes. Diplomats and Western leaders lied. Iran was speaking the truth. Iran does not and will not shut down their nuclear facilities.

Where does that leave us? In deep trouble. 

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Kerry To Meet w Abbas

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

From all sources I have culled it appears clear that US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas this week. I just do not know where the meeting will take place.

According to AFP a member of the Palestinian leader's inner circle said the meeting will take place in Paris. But a Chinese release has said that the meeting will take place in Amman, Jordan.

It really does not matter where the meeting takes place. What matters is that there will there be a meeting of the minds. Not necessary like-thinking minds, but certainly serious minds. My inclination is that there will be some agreement and much disagreement. At the conclusion of the meeting they will both tout the agreements.

Given the 6 demands that the Palestinians have already laid out, Kerry has his work cut out for him. The US secretary of state will be pushing hard for Abbas to accept Israel as a Jewish State. His argument is procedural.

Once that happens, Israel will almost immediately deliver on all other demands. 

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Hamas Will Not Honor An Agreement

I've Been Thinking:

In a speech at a rally in Gaza City on Saturday, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh made it very clear: If a deal is signed between the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority, it is not binding on Hamas.
Just in case we were unaware or unsure of how Hamas felt, now we know for sure.

He said: "The so-called American framework is not binding for us."
He explained that an agreement between Israel and the PA: "is unfair and imposes the Zionist violation of the Palestinian land."

There is no relationship between Gaza and the West Bank. The West Bank is controlled by the PA which is run by Mahmoud Abbas. Gaza is run by Hamas and led by Ismail Haniyeh.

There was a terrible rift between the two groups and they have separated. They have signed reconciliation agreements not once but twice, and neither agreement has been put in place.

As recently as this past week when a delegation from the PA went to Gaza they did not discuss reconciliation - they spoke primarily about border security. 

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Egypt Clamps Down on Gaza

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
Egypt has begun to clamp down hard on Gaza. Some analysts are anticipating a mini invasion into Gaza by Egypt to wipe up Muslim Brotherhood groups operating from and headquartered in the area.

Over the weekend Egypt destroyed 10 smuggling tunnels and blew up the houses that hid the tunnels. They are clearing out all the homes and all the sites that could be used as starting and ending points for the tunnels. In addition, Egypt created a 600 yard buffer zone from their border into Gaza. In unpopulated areas the buffer zone is 350 yards.

According to Egyptian sources, Egypt has destroyed 800 tunnels from January through October 2013. That is an impressive number.

Egypt is expending all this energy in an effort to keep extremists out of Egypt and, ultimately, to starve the Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian army is actively pursuing all terror cells - but mostly from the Muslim Brotherhood. They are destroying the infrastructure of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Sinai and trying to strangle any access the Brotherhood might have to outside support, especially from Hamas in Gaza. 

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SodaStream - Bobbles or Blood

By Micah Halpern
Saturday February 15, 2014
I've Been Thinking:
The recent controversy about SodaStream, the one that centered on the Super Bowl ad with Scarlett Johansson, has led to some very interesting debates.

SodaStream is manufactured outside Jerusalem over the now famous pre 1967 border known as the Green Line. The factory employs hundreds of people including many Palestinians who live over the Green Line. These Palestinians earn more than the Israeli minimum wage - which is more than three times the minimum wage in the Palestinian Authority.

The great selling point for SodaStream is not sexy Scarlett Johansson. The selling point is that when you use SodaStream you save plastic. SodaStream is "green" and great from the environment.

Detractors, however, claim that SodaStream is not about green issues or about the eco system and making less waste. They say "it is not about bubbles it is about blood." They argue that it is about Israelis spilling the blood of Palestinians in the form of their occupation.

This is a very emotional issue. It is charged with accusations and counter accusations. I do not foresee a simple resolution to this issue and I do not see any resolution in the near future. 

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Friday, February 14, 2014

6 Palestinian Demands

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Palestinian demands before there can be peace with Israel have now been made public. There are more demands and more problematic demands than I had originally expected.

The demands became public in the form of an interview given by one of Abbas' aides to Al Ayyam, a Palestinian paper published in Ramallah.

The Six Palestinian demands are:
# 1: End of the conflict based on the Arab peace plan and relevant UN resolutions
# 2: Borders based on 1967
# 3: Israel must gradually withdraw from all Palestinian areas within 3 to 4 years
# 4: East Jerusalem is the Palestinian capital
# 5: Resolve the Palestinian refugee issue with Arab peace plan international legitimacy and UN Resolution 194
# 6: All Palestinian prisoners must be freed with the total withdrawal of Israel from Palestinian land

These are very problematic demands.

Let's just focus on #5 and UN Resolution 194. The resolution was passed on December 11, 1948. At the time there were 58 members of the United Nations. Six of them were Arab countries and every single one voted against it. The vote was 35 - 15 and 8 abstentions.

There are 15 clauses in the resolution and some are totally irrelevant. The first 6 clauses deal with recognizing Count Bernadotte and a reconciliation committee.

It is the 11th clause that most interests the Palestinians - it is the clause that deals with the refugee issue. It is a small paragraph of about 120 words and included in those words amorphous and vague terms like "should be permitted," "earliest practical date" and "wishing to live at peace with their neighbors." Also included are the words "compensation should be paid" for damages and property.

This will not be an easy issue to resolve. Palestinians and their supporters read this resolution very differently than the way Israel reads it. 

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Bibi To White House March 3

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

The White House issued a statement confirming that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will visit and meet with US President Barack Obama on March 3rd.

"The president looks forward to discussing with the prime minister progress in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, developments in Iran, and other regional priorities."

"Prime Minister Netanyahu's visit is a demonstration of the deep and enduring bonds between the United States and Israel, and our close consultations on a range of security issues."

Three essential topics will be discussed:
Iran and the nuclear issue
Israeli Palestinian peace talks
Regional stability in light of events in Syria and Egypt and the influx of al Qaeda

There is a strong possibility of tension between the two leaders on the first two topics. While Israel and the United States share a conceptual agreement on Iran and the peace process, they disagree on the details.

As they say, "the devil is in the details." 

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Apollo Found in Gaza

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

They live in Gaza and they went out fishing. For the fishermen of Gaza it has been a very slow season. That is, for fish.

Youdat Ghrab claims to have hooked an 1100 pound bronze statue of Apollo - in perfect condition. Ghrab says that he and his relatives spent 4 hours reeling in the find. Then they put it in a wagon and brought it home. It is a very special find.

Most statues are made of stone, finer statues are carved out of marble. Finding a complete life size sculpture in bronze is very rare. The pictures that have been released of the statue show the Greek god lying on a sheet - with Smurf designs all over it.

The statue was placed on ebay for a short time and then taken down. The asking price was $500,000. Hamas police came and took the statue. No one knows where it is now.

And the statue is no longer intact. Ghrab cut off a finger and brought it to a jeweler to test to see if it was gold. His brother did the same and the jeweler melted the finger.

Jean-Michel de Tarragon, a historian with the French Biblical and Archaeological School of Jerusalem, has made it very clear that the sculpture was discovered on land and not in the Mediterranean Sea just north of Egypt as is being claimed. Tarragon said that the true location of where it was found went unmentioned to avoid arguments over ownership.

Ynet quoted Tarragon saying "This wasn't found on the seashore or in the sea ... it is very clean. No, it was (found) inland and dry." He added that there were no tell-tale signs of metal disfigurement and no barnacles that one would normally sees on items plucked from water.

The sculpture is at least 2000 years old and something like it would never stand alone. It was in a temple or a palace. That is why the true location is so critical.

The truth will emerge. There were too many people involved in this escapade and at least one of them will be unable to keep the secret. 

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Terrorists Blow Themselves Up

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

It happens much more often than one would expect. Terrorists blow themselves and their colleague up while assembling and learning about bombs.

When you actually think about it, it makes sense.

Terrorists begin their careers as inexperienced ideologues playing with highly combustible material. Many of the explosive components they use are unstable - which means that just about anything can ignite them. Some components that are stable become dangerously unstable when mixed.

Yesterday, outside Baghdad, a bomb instructor teaching terrorists how to make a car bomb accidentally blew himself up and killed twenty-one other terrorist wannabes. The explosion alerted authorities to the terrorist training camp. The army came and arrested 24 mostly wounded terrorists.

Sometimes, this is the best way. Terrorists kill themselves in a work accident, far away from innocent people. 

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Monday, February 10, 2014

Iran Airs Simulation Striking Israel

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Over the weekend Iranian TV ran a documentary entitled "The Night of the Vultures." The film was a created by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and was a simulation of an Iranian counter attack against Israel and against the US fleet in the region.

The computer graphics were very realistic showing Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV's) known as drones, flying over Israel and shooting missiles at strategic targets. The graphics showed the drones hitting huge business centers in Tel Aviv and Haifa, hitting military targets and hitting the Israeli nuclear facility located in Dimona.

The Iranian message is clear. Iran wants everyone to know that they will respond to an Israeli strike and they will strike at the very heart of Israel as well as at United States ships stationed nearby.

This is not the first time such a movie has been aired. A similar documentary was broadcast in September.
Moviemaking, even documentary moviemaking, is not the same as real life. But there have been Iranian drones that successfully infiltrated Israeli airspace. The most worrisome element of this documentary is in the details and in the images of Israeli targets.

That is what Iran really wants Israel to understand. 

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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Israel Plays Man-on-Man with Hamas

By Micah Halpern
I've Been thinking:

The Israeli Air Force stuck and hit Abdullah Harti this morning in Gaza.

Harti was riding a motorcycle and the missile that hit him was probably shot from an unmanned drone.
According to IDF and Shin Bet sources, Harti was a major leader in Global Jihad and is the person responsible for the increased rocket fire from Gaza into Israel these past few weeks.

Sources also say that Harti was instrumental in the deadly August 18, 2011 terror attack near Eilat. The attack killed six people and injured another twenty five. It was perpetrated by twelve terrorists who divided into four groups. The terrorists came from Egypt and then returned there.

Until his death this morning, Abdullah Harti was still a major force sending weapons and terrorists into the Sinai desert.

This type of targeted strike by Israel is a move towards man-on-man defense. As opposed to targeting weapons launchers, weapons labs and weapons depots the Israelis are focused on targeting the leaders responsible for the weapons, attacks and acts of terror.

Israel employed this style of targeting several years ago and it proved to be a very effective defensive tool. 

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Saturday, February 8, 2014

Iranian Ships On Way to US Atlantic Coast

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Iran has sent several naval war ships in the direction of the United States. The Iranians intend on patrolling the Atlantic. They are sending a message to the United States just like the message the United States sends to Iran by having US fleets patrolling near Iran.

Admiral Afshin Rezayee Haddad, commander of Iran's Northern fleet, said in the official IRNA news agency report that the Iranian ships are on their way to the Atlantic Ocean via waters near South Africa.
"The Iranian Army's naval fleets have already started their voyage towards the Atlantic Ocean via the waters near South Africa," Haddad announced on Saturday.

In Fars, another official Iranian media outlet, the admiral said that "Iran's military fleet is approaching the United States' maritime borders, and this move has a message."

Ynet, an Israeli internet news site, reported that: "The fleet, consisting of a destroyer and a helicopter-carrying supply ship, began its voyage last month from the southern Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas. The ships, carrying some 30 navy academy cadets for training along with their regular crews, are on a three-month mission."

I have been writing about this for some time. It is just a matter of time before the Iranians break through this glass ceiling. 

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Friday, February 7, 2014

Turkey Squashes the Web

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
I have been watching Turkey very carefully over the past 36 months.

And I have been following more than one frightening move on the part of the Turkish government vis a vis civil rights and individual rights.

In short, over the past year and a half in Turkey, there have been major challenges to democratic values and individual rights.

Yesterday another such incident occurred, only this time, it was bigger and more egregious than almost every other violation.

The Turkish Parliament approved a law that permits the Communications Authority to block websites for whatever reason they deem necessary. In addition, it requires the web and service providers to track and record data about online users.

The kicker is that the information must be turned over to the government upon request. This is a major step back in terms of media and freedom of information.

Now I will watch and see if anyone gets upset about this huge and unprecedented violation of privacy. 

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

NYT Finally Sees True Syria

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Finally, The New York Times has printed clear coverage of events in Syria.

Granted, a few months ago the paper covered the fact that the rebels were not all nice and that they too, like Assad, were perpetrating horrific atrocities. And they did run stories about how many of the rebels were al Qaeda or al Qaeda affiliates.

But by and large the coverage of Syria in The New York Times has shown the evils of Assad and the merits of ousting him in favor of the rebels.

And then yesterday, at long last, the NYT ran an entire page covering the story in more depth and with greater understanding than they have since the civil war began nearly three years ago.

They ran a story explaining that the US now sees that Assad is getting stronger. They also ran a story reporting that the UN says that both sides in Syria have been brutal and have perpetrated, awful, brutal acts that are in violation of the international rules of war.

The NYT had fallen victim to an unfortunate US bias. The inclination of the United States is to oust evil dictators. They hope that their wishes will come true - the reality is that they usually do not.

Media outlets, like The New York Times, proclaim their objectives and wish the results into reality. In this case they did not get their wish. 

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

French Comic Banned in UK

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

England has banned the French comedian Dieudonne from entering the country. The reason given for preventing entry of the entertainer into England is public safety.

Dieudonne has been convicted, on multiple occasions, of hate speech and anti-Semitism. He is the mastermind behind and the creator of the quenelle - the reverse Nazi salute. He was coming to England to perform a show and to show support for his friend Anelka, a former Frenchman professional soccer player who performed the quenelle after scoring a goal in December. Anelka was disciplined for the act.

An official government spokesperson said, "The home secretary (Theresa May) will seek to exclude an individual from the UK if she considers that there are public policy or public security reasons to do so."
Dieudonne was performing in Switzerland when he received the news. His response was to shout the Queen's name and give her the quenelle.

The obvious issues of free speech arise. And yet, both France and England are satisfied that there is a greater risk to public safety- than freedom of speech. 

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Iran to Launch More Satellites

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

Iran is prepping to launch another handful of satellites into space. The satellites are all domestically produced.

IRNA, an official Iranian news agency, reported that Iran will launch the satellites into space before the end of the Persian year which ends on March 21st.

The head of the Iranian space agency, Hamid Faveli, was the main source cited in the article. Faveli explained that one on the satellites will be a communication satellite which will improve secure wireless connections throughout the country and the region.

Another satellite will be a photographic satellite that can take pictures with 100 meter resolution.

In December Iran claimed to have successfully launched a monkey into space and that the monkey returned to earth healthy. This was their second attempt - the first attempt, a year earlier, resulted in the death of the space monkey.

There are numerous reasons for these announcements.

Most importantly is to show that Iran is racing ahead in high technology. And, make no mistake about it, that technology includes weapons.

The second is to show that just like we spy on Iran, Iran can spy on us. They are using similar, yet independently developed, technology.

Iran is not some backward state. Iran is a highly sophisticated, cultured and educated society. It would behoove us to understand that. 

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Monday, February 3, 2014

US & Iran Meet Face to Face

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

US Secretary of State John Kerry met face to face with Iranian Foreign Minister Javed Zarif in Munich on Sunday. It was a very rare moment.

Both men were in Zurich for a security conference and took time out to speak about the future of the nuclear talks with Iran.

Up until now there has been a major bone of contention about what is expected from Iran. The supposed 30 page agreement has been kept secret, so we do not know who is telling the truth.

Talks are scheduled to resume in Vienna on February 18.

As of now Iran is very hopeful. Iranians are saying that they do not need to break down any nuclear technology, just limit their enrichment. The United States is saying that Iran must reduce their nuclear infrastructure.

What I would have given to be a fly on the wall and listen to that conversation.

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Sunday, February 2, 2014

Terrorists Returning From Syria

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:

The Washington Post just ran a story about an issue that has been troubling many of us for the past three years. What will happen in Europe after the foreign fighters in Syria return home?

A growing number of rebel fighters in Syria, men fighting against Bashar Assad, are from Europe. They are members of al Qaeda. Not only are these fighter receiving important operational fighting experience, they are also becoming more and more virulent in their ideology.

Many fighters have been killed in the Syrian civil war and many more will die. France estimates that 700 Frenchmen are currently fighting for al Qaeda against Assad in Syria. Many of them will come home.

Great Britain arrested 14 Brits entering England last month upon their return from Syria. They estimate that there are 50 former rebel al Qaeda fighters already back home in England.
Country by country the list goes, all of them trained terrorists.

All of them deeply committed to their extremist cause. And all with easy access to roam free in their homelands. They know the language and its nuances, it is their language. They know the community - they are from the community.

They are a ticking bomb. It is just a matter of time before they unleash their extremist, ideological, acts of violence and terror against their hosts, their homes, their country. 

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Israel's Emergency Gas

By Micah Halpern
I've Been Thinking:
Israel is always in a state of emergency. That is a reality. Most of the time, we think Israel's emergencies concern safety and security. Truth is, the state of Israel's energy is another, large, all consuming concern.

Does Israel have enough electricity?

Israel's electricity is generated by natural gas. The gas powers the turbines that generate the electricity that lights up the country and keeps it functioning.

In order to avoid crisis, Israel has positioned a permanent liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker off the coast. When the need arises, it dumps the liquid into an underwater pipeline that feeds directly into the country's electric resources.

The tanker holds 138,000 cubic meters of LNG. After it is converted to gas and sent to the turbines, the tanker can produce 3000 megawatt hours of electricity --- which is enough to power 20% of Israel's total energy needs for one week.

The tanker and the buoy it is connected to when it delivers the gas is a way of keeping Israel safe. The tanker is always there and it is always filled. During the recent snowstorm that crippled the country the tanker deposited its gas and Israelis did not even feel that they were in a state of energy crisis.
The tanker costs $100 million and each load costs about $50 million. It is a small price to pay considering what would happen if the country went without electricity for even a fraction of an hour. 

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