Iran Nears Nuke
IRAN’S NUCLEAR BREAKOUT TIME IS NOW ‘UNACCEPTABLY SHORT’: The United States estimates the amount of time Iran needs to churn out enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb is now “very short,” a Biden administration official said Friday, December 17.
The official, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity, did not specify the exact length of time Iran needs to produce enough material for a nuclear weapon. Estimates have put the breakout time at several months. “But it’s really short. It is unacceptably short,” the official was quoted as saying. The official also called the new assessment of the Islamic Republic’s breakout time “alarming.” The remarks came as Western powers reported some progress in talks to save the landmark Iran nuclear deal, but European diplomats warned that they were “rapidly reaching the end of the road.” In a blow to European mediators, Iran requested a new pause in the talks in Vienna, which aim to bring the United States back into the 2015 agreement and roll back nuclear activities. The Islamic Republic publicly stepped up its nuclear projects after the US withdrawal from the deal. Donald Trump and fellow Republicans were responsible for the withdrawal. The talks had just resumed in late November after a five-month break following the election of a new hardline government in Iran. Underlying Western concerns are fears that Iran will soon have made enough progress that the 2015 accord — under which it was promised economic relief in return for drastic curbs on its nuclear work — will be obsolete. Enrique Mora, the EU official chairing the talks, called for a “sense of urgency” and for talks to resume before the end of the year. “We are not talking anymore about months, we are talking about weeks,” Mora said. Former US president Donald Trump pulled out of the deal in 2018 and imposed sweeping sanctions including a unilateral US ban on Iran’s oil sales, vowing to bring the US adversary to its knees. US President Joe Biden supports a return to the agreement negotiated by predecessor Barack Obama, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, but has been frustrated by the pace of resurrection efforts. “It’s not going well in the sense that we do not yet have a pathway back into the JCPOA,” Biden’s national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, said of the talks. “We are paying the wages of the disastrous decision to leave the deal back in 2018,” he said. (TOI / VFI News)
HAMAS AND ISLAMIC JIHAD IMPROVING PREPARATIONS FOR WAR: A meeting was held over the weekend between the commanders of Hamas’ military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, and the Islamic Jihad’s military wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, on strengthening the organizations’ military strength and raising the level of coordination between them.
The Palestinian Arab Safa news agency reported that the participants stressed the paramount importance of the development of military force in the Gaza Strip and the activity of a joint war room in conducting the military campaign against Israel and readiness for a military confrontation in the face of “Zionist threats.” The commanders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad also praised the escalation of terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem “in response to settler terrorism and the crimes of the occupation soldiers,” stressing that the continuation of Israel’s “aggressive” policy will lead to a strong response from the Palestinian resistance organizations. They expressed support for the establishment of popular resistance committees which will act against the “settlers” and IDF soldiers. Senior Hamas figures recently threatened to escalate the armed resistance against Israel in response to difficulties in the Egyptian-mediated negotiations on an exchange deal in which more than 1,000 terrorist prisoners will be released by Israel in exchange for the bodies of IDF soldiers being held by Hamas. (INN / VFI News)
TEHRAN TIMES REVEALS IRAN’S TARGETS IN ISRAEL: An Iranian newspaper published a map on Wednesday, December 15, threatening Israel with missile attacks. The map shows pins representing rocket alerts for dozens of potential targets, including Lebanese territory and Palestinian cities in the West Bank.
The map, published on the front page of the Tehran Times, was part of an article headlined “Just one wrong move!” “An intensification of the Israeli military threats against Iran seems to suggest that the Zionist regime has forgotten that Iran is more than capable of hitting them from anywhere,” wrote the paper, adding it “doesn’t need to remind the illegitimate regime of Israel of Iran’s defense capabilities.” The article ended with a 2013 quote by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, warning that Iran would “destroy Tel Aviv and Haifa” if Israel “makes a mistake” and conducts a military strike. The threat comes as Israel and the US advance preparations for a military option should negotiations in Vienna to return to the JCPOA nuclear deal fail. A massive IDF drill mimicking a strike on Iran is reportedly planned for next year. Despite the threat being directed toward Israel, the map shows potential targets over the border with Lebanon and on what appears to be Jenin and Nablus. Ramallah and Hebron also seem to be on Iran’s list of retaliatory targets should Israel conduct a strike against the Islamic Republic. Iran, it is suggested, would also fire missiles toward a slew of empty areas in the Negev Desert, although it is unclear why they would do so. The map does avoid the Gaza Strip, however, focusing red pins along the borders of the coastal enclave. If Iran were to fire on Palestinian cities, it would not be the first time the so-called Axis of Resistance (a name used by Iran and its proxies for their alliance) has hit Palestinian towns and cities in the West Bank. (JPost / VFI News)
PROTEST AT BENNETT’S HOUSE SAYS ‘NO TO GREEN PASS, NO TO COERCION’: A large protest against Green Pass regulations took place Saturday night, December 18, in Ra’anana in front of Prime Minister Bennett’s house.
Flyers advertising the event emphasized the backing of “medical teams” and read, “No to the Green Pass, no to coercion.” Reports on social media cited thousands in attendance amid a harsh police force. Senior Israeli doctor Yoav Yehezkeli, who was present, praised the turnout by medical professionals. “I was last night at a demonstration by medical teams against discrimination and vaccine coercion in the form of the Green Pass. The awakening among medical professionals, who understand that the narrative of the epidemic being marketed to them is mistaken, is heartwarming,” he wrote on his Facebook page. He noted the protest also saw the attendance of “a diverse general audience” comprising “an intelligent public, parents, teachers not opposed to vaccines, who demonstrated for principles and for the benefit of the public and not out of selfish interest, seeking the freedom of the individual and the people.” “Will every variant that arrives (and it will arrive! This is the nature of a virus) entail an unnecessary aggravation of restrictions and another booster for a vaccine that does not prevent infection well?” “One has to go back to a realistic risk assessment to understand that we are not facing disaster. Even if there is a fifth wave, even if there is an omicron variant: the sickness from the infectious variant is milder, and the health system (again) will not collapse. “In fact, it is time to declare coronavirus over as an epidemic and return to relative routine: Children are naturally protected from coronavirus and there is no justification for vaccinating them. We know how to deal with fever, runny nose, and sore throat.” “Last night at the demonstration I was filled with pride and hope,” he added. “Professionals and the general public in Israel and around the world are waking up to understand that the existing restrictions do not contribute to public health, and the damage is enormous.” “If we desire life, the time has come for the government to wake up and change direction too: abolish the Green Pass, open the skies, focus on the sick, vaccinate the at-risk groups, stop the vaccination of children, stop the unnecessary testing and isolations,” he concluded. (INN/VFI News)
US HOLDING OFF ON REOPENING JERUSALEM CONSULATE AMID STRONG PUSHBACK FROM ISRAEL: It’s been seven months since US Secretary of State Antony Blinken notified Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of the Biden administration’s plan to reopen the US Consulate in Jerusalem, but Washington has yet to even produce a timeline for when it plans to see the move through.
A US diplomat, a former senior US official, and another source familiar with the matter told The Times of Israel this week that the Biden administration has effectively shelved its effort to resurrect the de facto mission to the Palestinians shuttered by former president Donald Trump in 2019. No final decision has been made, and the official State Department line remains that the Biden administration “will move forward with the process of reopening the consulate in Jerusalem,” but the three sources confirmed that no such process has begun. Moreover, even the administration’s more ardent advocates of reopening the consulate have shifted their focus to policies more likely to impact day-to-day life for Palestinians, the former senior US official said. (TOI / VFI News)
NEW ISRAELI LIQUID BIOPSY DETECTS LOCAL IMMUNE ACTIVITY AND HELPS DIAGNOSE A VARIETY OF DISEASES: Patients who have undergone biopsies to determine whether they suffer from infectious or autoimmune diseases or growths know that they are very unpleasant and painful.
Our immune systems work hard to keep us healthy and to protect us against bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, and cancerous cells. When a patient’s immune system is weakened, he is at risk for diseases and dangerous infections; when they’re overactive, he is at risk for inflammation and autoimmune diseases – so accurate monitoring of immune systems’ activity is vital to health. At present, the main way to test our immune system’s health is a blood test that counts immune (white blood) cells in the body. If the number comes out higher than normal, it may mean there’s an infection in the body that the immune system is fighting off. But these blood tests often fail to catch immune system activity in the body’s remote tissues, such as those found in bone marrow, lymph nodes, and other organs. In those cases, patients must follow up with invasive measures, such as biopsies and expensive and even potentially harmful imaging devices such as PET/CT scans and MRIs. And even then, such advanced testing doesn’t always detect the problem. Now, scientists led by Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJI) MD/Ph.D. student Ilana Fox-Fisher and Prof. Yuval Dor at the Institute for Medical Research-Israel Canada (IMRIC) have developed a novel method to monitor remote immune processes within those remote tissues and organs. The work, just published in the journal eLife under the title “Remote immune processes revealed by immune-derived circulating cell-free DNA” relies on two basic biological principles. First, dying cells release fragments of DNA into the bloodstream. Second, the DNA of each cell type contains a unique chemical pattern called methylation. This term refers to a biochemical process involved in a wide range of bodily functions that is vital to our overall well-being. When it is out of balance, it could lead to many different health problems, but certain vitamins can help to support this process to function well. In biological systems, methylation is catalyzed by enzymes; such methylation can be involved in the modification of heavy metals, regulation of gene expression, regulation of protein function, and RNA processing. When methylation is going well, the process helps repair the DNA, regulates hormones, produces energy, protects against cancer, supports detoxification, keeps the immune system healthy, supports the protective coating along your nerves, strengthens the nervous system, and more. Based on these principles, scientists can identify from which tissue the circulating fragments of DNA originated and determine the state of disease. For example, if a patient is battling breast cancer, there will be an elevation of DNA fragments deposited into the bloodstream after a cell dies that originate in breast cells and carry the methylation hallmarks of breast cells. The same is in effect for cardiac DNA fragments during heart attacks. (I365 / VFI News)
TRANSFORMERS TOYS INVENTOR HENRY ORENSTEIN, A HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR, DIES AT 98: Henry Orenstein, a Holocaust survivor who went on to invent the Transformers toys and became a major donor to Jewish and Israeli causes, died Tuesday, December 14, at the age of 98.
Orenstein became a best-selling toymaker with his Transformers line, which he first created in the early 1980s. He followed up on that success with numerous other inventions and over 100 patents before eventually becoming a star poker player and being inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2008. Born in Poland to a Jewish family in 1923, Orenstein managed to survive the war due to a gamble he made in 1944, the first of several that would shape his life. In 1983, he got the idea for the Transformers — action figures that turn from cars into robots. He brought the idea to Hasbro, which first produced the toys in 1984. The toys would become one of the most successful action figures in history, spawning TV shows, movies, and merchandise worth billions of dollars. (TOI / VFI News)
ISRAELI TECH EXITS JUMP 520% TO WHOPPING $82.4B IN 2021: Israel’s tech firms saw exits jump an astonishing 520% in 2021 to an unprecedented $81.2 billion in value, shattering all previous funding records and up from $15.4 billion in 2020, according to an annual tech exits report published Wednesday, December 15, by consultants PwC Israel. Exits are defined as merger and acquisition deals or initial public offerings (IPO) of shares.
The number of tech exits has grown in 2021 so far to 171 deals, compared to 60 last year, including 99 acquisitions totaling $11.5 billion in value, and 72 IPOs (including SPAC — special purpose acquisition companies — mergers), 45 of which were done on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. The PwC report recorded transactions between January and mid-December 2021. A separate report released earlier this week by Start-Up Nation Central detailed a record year for funding for Israeli tech firms, with an unprecedented $25 billion in investments from January through November, and 33 companies entering the unicorn club of private firms valued at over $1 billion. The numbers “are tremendous,” said Yaron Weizenbluth, partner and head of the high-tech cluster at PwC Israel. “Last year was the end of the previous decade and it was the best year on record [for the tech sector]. It was the year of COVID-19, and we started seeing this upward trend in the later quarters of 2020 [that pointed to a strong 2021]. We were optimistic, but to be honest, we couldn’t have expected 2021 to be so unbelievable.” There were strong signs of the rapid adaptability and resilience of the local technology sector by mid-2020, a year in which the world was facing unprecedented economic and social struggles, Weizenbluth told The Times of Israel, but the “degree of success” was not predictable. (TOI / VFI News)
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Blessings from Jerusalem,
Barry Segal with the Editorial Staff