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EpiPen — Inventor’s Correct and Godly Attitude

August 30th, 2016

By Kevin Smetana, Times Staff Writer
This obituary appeared in the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday, September 24, 2009

He led a normal, middle-class lifestyle. With a home in the suburbs and two modest cars in the garage, it’s not what you might expect from a man who had a hand in inventing a product bought by millions.

For Sheldon Kaplan, that was just fine.

Mr. Kaplan was one of the inventors of the EpiPen, an autoinjector that contains epinephrine, which is used to treat anaphylaxis. Basically, it’s a handheld device that saves people who are prone to fatal allergens.

Millions of EpiPen prescriptions have been filled over the years, according to the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. As an employee of the company that originally manufactured it, Mr. Kaplan never received royalties and few people connected the dots between him and the device.

“He was not famous; he was not wealthy,” said his son, Michael Kaplan, 35. “And I don’t think he would’ve liked to be. I don’t think he expected that.”

Experts praise the EpiPen, calling it a life-saving invention. It’s used in emergency situations and owned by those who are allergic to certain foods, like peanuts and eggs, or to bees and wasps.

The possibility of inadvertently coming into contact with an allergen is a dangerous reality for those at risk. Carrying an EpiPen makes some feel at ease, said Dr. Richard Lockey, an allergist and professor of medicine at the University of South Florida.

“They feel much more secure going out into the world and doing normal things as long as they have their epinephrine with them,” he said. “It improves the quality of life immensely for these patients.”

• • •

Mr. Kaplan landed a job as an engineer at NASA after graduating from Northeastern University in 1962. A few years later, he started working at Survival Technology in Bethesda, Md., where he would revolutionize the autoinjector.

He invented the ComboPen, a device that treated nerve-agent poisonings and was used in the military, his family said. He later manipulated the contraption to hold epinephrine, and the EpiPen was born.

Although the EpiPen went on to become a household name after its creation in the mid-1970s, Mr. Kaplan did not. His family says he was the lead engineer and inventor on the project. His name, along with three others, is on the patent. But he never owned it.

He was simply an employee who made a salary and followed orders.

“I don’t think that diminished the fact that he felt he had a legacy, that he made a difference,” Michael Kaplan said. “My dad was an extremely talented engineer, an analytical guy who delighted in solving technical issues.”

Just before the EpiPen hit the market, Mr. Kaplan left the company and moved on as a biomechanical engineer, developing medical equipment. He didn’t follow closely the EpiPen’s success.

“My husband was always looking for a new challenge, and he tended not to look backward,” said his wife, Sheila Kaplan, 64.

• • •

Last month [August 2009], Mr. Kaplan found out he had Hepatocellular carcinoma, a cancer of the liver. Not knowing it would be his last trip to see his dad, Michael Kaplan traveled from Iowa to visit his father in Clearwater, Florida, where the senior Mr. Kaplan lived since 2000.

Sheldon Kaplan’s illness quickly worsened, and on Monday [Sept. 21, 2009], he died at his home. He was 70. Before Sheldon Kaplan passed away, his son shared a story with him. The EpiPen had saved a close friend’s life, Michael told his father. And in the 1980s, it did the same for his mother-in-law, the son explained.

From the start of his career, Sheldon’s wife of 39 years said, he sought to help mankind.

“He achieved his life goal,” Sheila Kaplan said. “I don’t think many of us can say that, and I’m extremely proud of him.”

From Kaplan’s 2009 obituary
Sheldon Kaplan
Born: June 6, 1939.

Died: Sept. 21, 2009.

Survivors: Wife, Sheila (Potts) Kaplan; son, Michael Kaplan and wife, Bethany; sister, Phyllis Goldenberg; nieces and nephews.

Women’s struggle at the Western Wall continues

August 12th, 2016

By Joshua Mitnick /

A member of Women of the Wall wears phylacteries and a traditional prayer shawl as she holds a Torah scroll at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. (Gali Tibbon / AFP/Getty Images)

A member of Women of the Wall wears phylacteries and a traditional prayer shawl as she holds a Torah scroll at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. (Gali Tibbon / AFP/Getty Images)

Clutching smuggled Torah scrolls, dozens of feminist activists approached the Western Wall, wrapping themselves in colorful prayer shawls and chanting passages from the Jewish Bible.

Their display of piety was met by ultra-religious hecklers who denounced them as heretics and prostitutes. “You can’t change the Torah!” one shouted. “Get out of here!” Another ripped up a prayer book used by the feminist group, Women of the Wall.

Last month’s prayer confrontation was part of a long-running struggle over worship at Judaism’s most important pilgrimage site that pits Israel’s Orthodox religious establishment, which wants to uphold a traditionalist ban on women leading prayer services, against the Women of the Wall and liberal Jewish denominations that want the site opened up to egalitarian and pluralist prayer.

“It’s my right to decide how I pray in my country,’’ said Tammy Gottlieb, 32, a Women of the Wall board member, as she rode in a van full of activists to the holy site in Jerusalem’s Old City.

In recent months, tensions over women’s prayer have been escalating, and a compromise aimed at ending the dispute has stalled. Under the deal approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Cabinet in January, Women of the Wall and liberal Jewish denominations would be given a new prayer space at a nearby spot along the Western Wall. However, the government hasn’t started implementing the compromise and ultra-Orthodox parties oppose it.

“It’s like if a Muslim came to the Al Aqsa Mosque and wanted to enter without taking their shoes off. Would they let him?” asked Haim Rabinowitz, an aide to Rabbi Yisrael Eichler, a legislator from the ultra-religious United Torah Judaism party, referring to the Islamic holy site above the Western Wall. “There are rules, and there’s religious law. In Judaism, there’s no such thing as renewal or reform. There are no compromises.”

An Orthodox Jewish man yells at an woman advocating egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City. (Gali Tibbon / AFP/Getty Images)

An Orthodox Jewish man yells at an woman advocating egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City. (Gali Tibbon / AFP/Getty Images)

That is not the position taken by the Reform and Conservative wings of Judaism, which are much stronger in the United States than in Israel. As a result, the turf battle at the Western Wall is undermining the longstanding alliance between Israel’s government and wide swaths of North American Jewry.

The dispute over women’s prayer at the Western Wall, known in Hebrew as The Kotel, has roiled relations between Netanyahu — who relies on ultra-Orthodox religious parties to stabilize his coalition — and religiously liberal Diaspora Jews who complain that Israel’s conservative government is impeding religious freedom at Judaism’s most revered prayer site.

“In North America, there’s a whole generation of women who have been ordained as rabbis,” said Steven Wernick, chief executive of the organization representing Conservative congregations, as the women’s singing echoed throughout the plaza. “They come here and there’s no place in the Jewish homeland for us to worship at our holiest site according to the customs that we’ve developed.’’

The Jewish Agency, a nonprofit group promoting Jewish immigration to Israel, which helped broker the Western Wall compromise after three years of negotiations, warned in a statement that failure to provide a space for pluralist prayer at The Wall would have “far-reaching implications” for Israel-Diaspora ties.

Women Wall quote

Tensions over religion and state in Israel stretch back to the country’s founding, when Israel’s secular founders promised to defer to Orthodox Jewish leaders on public Jewish ritual, marriage, and Sabbath observance in order to secure their support for the new state.

The dispute over the Western Wall is one of several tinderboxes for Israel’s Orthodox establishment and the more liberal denominations. The Israeli parliament passed legislation to ban non-Orthodox from performing conversion ceremonies in state-run ritual bathhouses.

The Wall, with its giant stone blocks, is the last remnant of the Jewish Temple complex built two millennia ago and has attracted Jewish pilgrims for centuries. After Israel conquered East Jerusalem in 1967, it cleared out a sprawling plaza that was partitioned off for gender-segregated worship, and the government handed over management of the site to Israel’s ultra-Orthodox religious authorities, who run the plaza as if it were a synagogue.

The female activists, who have been holding services at The Wall on a monthly basis since 1988, have pursued several court petitions challenging the ultra-Orthodox control the site.

In their gatherings, women lead prayers, wrap themselves with black phylacteries, and chant passages from the Torah scrolls — roles reserved for men under strict readings of Jewish religious law. They are often met by rowdy crowds of ultra-religious students and teams of police who have tried to block or shout down the prayer service.

“Women of the Wall is simply reminding us that The Wall doesn’t belong to any one segment of the Jewish people,” said Yossi Klein Halevi, an American-Israeli author and a fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. “This is a battle for Zionism: Is the State going to be an expression of Zionism, with its ideology of Jewish peoplehood, or is it going to be run under ultra-Orthodox blackmail and allow a minority of world Jewry to exclude a majority.”

In June, the executive director of Women of the Wall, Lesley Sachs, was detained by police for hours for bringing a Torah scroll into the Western Wall plaza.

“That was an escalation,” said Shira Pruce, a spokeswoman for the organization. “People are up in arms: They can’t believe that in Israel of all places, a woman is being arrested for holding a Torah. If the interim plan is arresting women at The Kotel, this issue is going to get much hotter.”

One day last month, Women of the Wall activists were checked by security guards to see if they were trying to sneak banned ritual objects into the women’s section of the plaza. Wearing stickers reading “equal” and “love thy neighbor as thyself,’’ the women held a bat mitzvah ceremony for 13-year-old Milwaukee native Frannie Turner using a smuggled Torah scroll and a ritual canopy.

The service passed relatively quietly, with no direct confrontations between the women and ultra-Orthodox demonstrators, and no one detained by police.

“The chance to join Women of the Wall and protest against archaic thinking is an honor,” wrote Claire Turner, Frannie’s mother, in an email after the ceremony. “It was joyous, supportive, and also very spiritual.”

But Shulamit Tsolani, a 59-year-old nursery school teacher from Jerusalem, surveyed the prayer service in disgust.

“When we used to come here, we felt the holiness of the place. They are ruining it,” she said. “A woman is not allowed to carry a Torah scroll. They don’t believe what we believe in.”

French ‘burkini’ party is canceled — called ‘gender prison’

August 11th, 2016

By Kim Willsher /

burkini fashion
Officials in the south of France forced a Muslim women’s organization to cancel a pool party after protests over Islamic clothing rules.

Michel Amiel, the center-left mayor of the Provencal town of Les Pennes-Mirabeau, persuaded the swimming park to annul the reservation for the private event, which he described as a “provocation”.

The controversy broke out after the group Smile 13, which describes itself as a “social, cultural, sporting and professional” association for women and children, privately booked the SpeedWater Park at the town of Pennes-Mirabeau, near Marseille, for September.

Its poster advertising the event stated it would be open only to women and children, including boys under 10, and requested that attendees wear clothing that covered “from the chest to the knees”.

It added that “exceptional” authorization had been obtained for women to wear burkinis and pool jilbab — swimsuits and poolside garments that cover most of the body — both of which are normally banned in public baths in France.

“We are counting on you to respect the AWRA (Islamic rule requiring parts of the human body to be covered) and not come in a two-piece (chest to knees must be covered). The minimum is a one-piece swimming costume with pareo or shorts,” the poster read.

sharia swim attire

sharia swim attire

On Smile 13’s Facebook page, which has since been taken down, the organization explained the clothing request was necessary because the pool has “mixed” staff.

The wearing of veils and anything covering the face is banned in public places in France under a 2010 law that was upheld by the European Court of Human Rights. All visible religious signs are banned from schools and colleges and among public-sector staff, and there are strict rules on swimwear in public pools. Because this was a private event, the group was within its rights to demand a dress code, but local politicians saw it as contrary to France’s institutional secularism.

“This is communitarianism, pure and simple,” Amiel, a center-left senator from the Democratic and Social European Group, told Le Parisien newspaper last week, adding that he was “shocked and angry” when he learned of the dress code and was planning to have the event banned as a “threat to public order”.

Before the cancellation, Valérie Boyer, the local member of Parliament for Les Republicains, the center-right opposition party, feared the event would be divisive.

“It is not an anodyne issue. The battle of the ‘veil’ is a visible sign of fundamentalists wanting to mark their territory and subjugate women,” Boyer said in a statement.

“Burka, chador, abaya, niqab, hijab … it doesn’t matter what you call them, they are a gender prison, a negation of the individual, an obstacle to equality, an obstacle to fraternity.”

France’s far-right Front National said in a statement that the event was further evidence of the “infiltration of Islamism into civil society,” which it claimed was “aimed at spreading an ideology that is fundamentally against the values of the republic.”

In the end, town hall officials persuaded the SpeedWater Park to cancel Smile 13’s reservation.

“Neither SpeedWater Park, nor the town of Pennes-Mirabeau wish to be the theater for public order troubles caused by factors outside of their role and influence,” said the park and the town hall in a joint statement.

The association said it had received bullets in the mail following the controversy, and that it had complained to the French Collective against Islamophobia.

On Saturday, when its Facebook page was still up, Smile 13 published a statement saying it regretted that there had been such a backlash and that it had provoked death threats to its organizers.

“We are sad and concerned by the massive wave of racist hate, crude insults and threats we have been subjected to not just as an association but also as individuals,” it read.

It added it was “stunned and saddened” by the level of controversy the planned event had provoked.

In March, France’s women’s rights minister Laurence Rossignol sparked a public war of words when she criticized fashion labels including H&M, Uniqlo and Dolce & Gabbana for including “Islamic” clothing in their latest collections.

She described the fashion as “irresponsible” and accused the labels of “promoting the imprisoning of the female body.” Talking to RMC radio, she compared Muslim women who bought clothing linked to their religion to “American blacks who were in favor of slavery.”

Corruption at World Vision in Gaza

August 8th, 2016

By Daniella Cheslow

A sign shows the direction to the World Vision offices in Jerusalem.

A sign shows the direction to the World Vision offices in Jerusalem.

JERUSALEM (AP) — The international charity World Vision said on Monday (August 8, 2016) that Israel has accused the charity’s Gaza Strip director of funneling what appears to be an impossible sum of money to Hamas.

Israel’s Shin Bet security agency said Mohammed el-Halabi siphoned about $7.2 million a year to the Islamic militant group over a period of five years. The security agency said this is roughly 60 percent of World Vision’s total Gaza budget.

World Vision Germany spokeswoman Silvia Holten said the charity’s budget in Gaza in the last decade totaled $22.5 million. She said World Vision has stopped its Gaza operations while investigations continue. Germany and Australia suspended donations to World Vision in Gaza amid the allegations.

“There is a huge gap in these numbers the Israeli government is telling and what we know,” Holten said.

Israel indicted el-Halabi last Thursday.

According to the Shin Bet, el-Halabi crafted an elaborate scheme to funnel funds, food, medical supplies and agricultural equipment to Hamas. He fraudulently listed the children of Hamas operatives as wounded, created straw organizations, and inflated project costs to divert cash, the agency said. Building supplies intended to support farming projects were transferred to Hamas for constructing tunnels and military installations, according to the Shin Bet.

The allegations, if proven correct, would bolster Israel’s arguments for maintaining its blockade of Gaza, imposed after Hamas seized power in the coastal strip in 2007. Israel says the closure is vital to preventing Hamas from importing weapons and materials used to attack Israel.

Robert Piper, the U.N. coordinator for aid in the Palestinian territories, said Monday that the allegations against el-Halabi “raise serious concerns” for aid groups in Gaza, and that, if proven true, “deserve unreserved condemnation.” He called for a fair and transparent trial.

Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, president of Israeli legal advocacy group Shurat Hadin, said her organization warned World Vision four years ago its funding was being diverted to armed militant groups in Gaza. She said she discovered this while her group researched a lawsuit against the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which in the past was involved in attacking Israelis. She said the PFLP used front organizations that appeared as beneficiaries on the World Vision website. Darshan-Leitner said she is exploring suing World Vision in the United States for aiding and abetting terrorism.

“Foreign NGOs want to give money to Gaza,” Darshan-Leitner said, even as they “ignore all the signs that their money is diverted to terrorism.”

World Vision did not immediately respond to the charge.

The U.S. also funded humanitarian projects run by World Vision through 2011, which overlaps with el-Halabi’s time as Gaza director. The U.S. State Department said in a statement that it is closely following the Israeli investigation. If confirmed, Hamas’s embezzlement of aid funds would be “reprehensible,” according to the statement.

Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon speculated that World Vision’s budget does not include in-kind donations like food.

“They are trying to belittle their role and to show they are much smaller than they really are,” Nahshon said of World Vision. He did not provide proof of his claim, but said el-Halabi’s legal team will have access to the evidence. He added that el-Halabi confessed to his crimes, but el-Halabi’s lawyer Mohammed Mahmoud said his client did not confess.

Holten said the World Vision budget includes all in-kind donations, but she did not provide a detailed report of the organization’s spending in Gaza in recent years. She said World Vision performs stringent internal audits and commissions external audits from outside companies as well.

El-Halabi’s father has denied he is a member of Hamas. A spokesman for Hamas in Gaza, Hazem Qasem, has called the allegations “lies.”

Video Threatens Jews in Israel

August 6th, 2016
Smoke rises as Iraqi security forces backed by allied Shiite Popular Mobilization forces and Sunni tribal fighters attack Islamic State positions at Khalidiya Island in Anbar province, Iraq, Saturday, July, 30, 2016. Tuesday, the IS affiliate in Egypt released a video threatening Israel. (Rwa Faisal / AP)

Smoke rises as Iraqi security forces backed by allied Shiite Popular Mobilization forces and Sunni tribal fighters attack Islamic State positions at Khalidiya Island in Anbar province, Iraq, Saturday, July, 30, 2016. Tuesday, the IS affiliate in Egypt released a video threatening Israel. (Rwa Faisal / AP)

CAIRO (AP) — A video purportedly by Egypt’s Islamic State affiliate has delivered a rare direct threat to Israel, saying the Jewish state will soon “pay a high price.”

Egypt’s branch of the Islamic State group is spearheading an insurgency in northern Sinai that had simmered for years but grew stronger and deadlier after the military’s 2013 ouster of Mohammed Morsi, an Islamist president whose one year in office proved divisive.

The narrator of the 35-minute video released this week threatens Israel’s Jewish population, saying “your account with us has become weighty and you will soon pay a high price.” The authenticity of the footage could not immediately be verified, though its contents and production style mirrored previous IS propaganda material.

The Islamic State, which controls large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria, seldom mentions Israel in its propaganda material. When it has done so it has often been in the wake of battlefield setbacks, apparently to boost the morale of its fighters and supporters.

The Islamic State has over the past year lost a string of cities it had captured in Iraq and is now bracing for an assault by U.S.-backed government troops and allied militiamen on Mosul, the country’s second largest city, which has been under IS control since 2014. In neighboring Syria, the extremist group is coming under growing pressure, and is fighting on multiple fronts against the Russian-backed Syrian army and its allies, as well as U.S.-backed Kurdish troops.

The video also included footage depicting the killing with a single bullet to the head of two Egyptian policemen in Sinai.

Military officials with firsthand knowledge of the fighting in Sinai said the latest IS video was a little more than a compilation of old footage depicting attacks on the Egyptian army and police in Sinai. However, the video, which shows roadside bomb attacks, gun battles, and sniper fire, offers a glimpse of the scale of fighting there.

Egyptian authorities have all but banned media access to northern Sinai, with the local press relying almost entirely on statements put out by the army and police, briefly reporting on their casualties. Meanwhile, an anti-terrorism law passed last year places severe restrictions on media coverage of anti-government activity, with heavy fines and up to five years imprisonment prescribed for publishing news that contradicts official statements or the perceived promotion of terrorists’ causes.

The latest IS video, entitled “Flames of the Desert,” shows the faces of IS fighters killed by Egyptian troops. The military officials say the militant group edited out the fierce counter-attacks launched by the military following militant attacks.

One example, they said, was the part of the footage showing militants firing at an Apache gunship while triumphantly screaming “Allahu Akbar”, or god is great. The aircraft was not hit, and later gunned down and killed most of the militants, added the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

The video showed militants riding a tank they purportedly captured from army troops, some of them wearing ski masks, camouflage fatigues, and armed with machine guns mounted on pickup trucks, mortars, and what appeared to be Russian-made, anti-tank Kornet missiles.

Chinese Christian sent to prison

August 5th, 2016

By Javier C. Hernández /

BEIJING — An advocate for democracy and religious freedom in China was sentenced to more than seven years in prison on Wednesday (August 3, 2016), the state news media reported, as the government continued its prosecution of a group of rights activists accused of subverting state power.

Hu Shigen, in court in Tianjin, China, on Wednesday, has long been an outspoken advocate of religious freedom. Credit CCTV, via Associated Press

Hu Shigen, in court in Tianjin, China, on Wednesday, has long been an outspoken advocate of religious freedom. Credit CCTV, via Associated Press

The advocate, Hu Shigen, 61, has been a fierce and fiery defender of free expression and the right to protest. He has already served a 16-year prison term for helping publicize the government’s assault on student protesters near Tiananmen Square in 1989. As a Christian, he has also led several underground churches.

On Wednesday, the authorities made clear that Mr. Hu’s religious activities and support for Western ideals had contributed to his harsh sentence.

Xinhua, the state-run news agency, reported that Mr. Hu had used “illegal” religious groups to “spread subversive thoughts and ideas.” Prosecutors accused him of trying to manipulate public opinion to overthrow the government.

Mr. Hu pleaded guilty, according to Xinhua, although his friends said his admission was probably coerced.

Mr. Hu was the second activist to be sentenced this week in Tianjin, a city about 80 miles southeast of Beijing, as part of a series of trials that the government has used to publicize its crackdown on China’s “rights defense” movement. On Tuesday, it sentenced Zhai Yanmin, another activist, to a suspended three-year prison term for organizing protests critical of the government. [Among the evidence presented in Zhai’s trial on Tuesday was a photo of him being baptized at a meeting of an underground church run by Hu.]

Activist Zhai Yanmin was found guilty of subverting state powers and handed a suspended three-year sentence

Activist Zhai Yanmin was found guilty of subverting state powers and handed a suspended three-year sentence

Over the past year, the authorities have detained hundreds of lawyers and activists, accusing many of them of plotting against the party. At least 15 people remain in detention and have not been given trials, according to Amnesty International.

“The message is clear: The government wants to show that it does not tolerate any dissent,” said Patrick Poon, a China researcher for Amnesty International based in Hong Kong.

Mr. Hu was a leader of several churches that operated without the government’s approval. President Xi Jinping has tightened oversight of such churches in recent years, concerned that Christianity might be used to spread Western ideals and open the door to what he has called “overseas infiltration by religious means.”

The trials this week have been notable for their repeated attacks on foreigners, which have dovetailed with a broader effort by the government to increase oversight of foreign entities operating in China. A propaganda video that surfaced on social media this week warned that Western forces, led by the United States, were seeking to incite social conflict abroad and subvert foreign governments.

At the trial on Wednesday, prosecutors highlighted Mr. Hu’s ties to foreign groups. In a statement before the court, Mr. Hu said he had “long been influenced by bourgeois liberalism,” according to Xinhua.

Friends of Mr. Hu said they doubted that his confession was genuine. Zhu Hong, an activist who served as a leader of an underground church alongside Mr. Hu several years ago, compared him to Nelson Mandela.

“He is a true believer who fights and sacrifices for his convictions,” said Mr. Zhu, who now lives in California. “Making a confession is just a strategy, not his will.”

Mr. Hu was imprisoned from 1992 to 2008 for his role in spreading information about the government’s attack on protesters near Tiananmen Square. He had helped devise a plan to drop pro-democracy fliers on the square on the third anniversary of the crackdown, but he was caught and sentenced to two decades in prison for leading a “counterrevolutionary ring.”

While in prison, Mr. Hu endured frequent beatings and abuse, he later told friends. But every year on June 4, the anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown, he made a point of fasting, he said, to remember the dead.

In a statement earlier this week, the families and supporters called the trials “ridiculous and evil”, calling for them to be given international attention.

Families and supporters of those on trial called it "ridiculous and evil"

Families and supporters of those on trial called it “ridiculous and evil”

Israel Gearing Up For Worst-Case Scenarios With ISIS, Hezbollah

August 2nd, 2016

isis jerusalem aug2016


Israel is gearing up for the “day after” an agreement is reached in Syria between the Assad regime and rebel forces, by preparing for worst-case scenarios, the Hebrew news site Walla reported on Sunday.

According to the report, attempts by Russian President Vladimir Putin to broker such a deal are on the verge of bearing fruit, something that Israel is planning for both politically and militarily.

Where the latter is concerned, the IDF is taking into account that after the two warring sides in Syria achieve understandings, jihadists will turn their attention to and aim their fire at the Israeli border.

This possibility was behind a series of drills conducted by the IDF’s Golani Brigade along the Syrian and Lebanese borders last week, to train for combat against ISIS terrorists.

Though, as Walla reported, the IDF defines the Syrian border as “stable” – despite a number of incidents of stray fire and mortar-landings over the past few weeks – the Northern Command is bracing itself for a new reality.

Northern Command chief Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi thus ordered drills to prepare for potential cross-border attacks and infiltrations. In such events, he said, the IDF would retaliate with force.

The IDF was satisfied with the ability of the troops participating in the drill to meet the challenge. One aspect of the exercise was based on the assessment that most of the civilians on the other side of the borders are not terrorists, with only a small number of jihadis operating in their midst.

An entire battalion was deployed in the exercise to pose as Syrian civilians, whom the soldiers in the field were to keep isolated from fire on either side.

One way this was done was through announcements shouted by Arabic-speaking officers into megaphones, to warn Syrian civilians of imminent IDF attacks against rebels. This was one move aimed at fostering a good relationship with the villagers living near the border fence — many of whom are already predisposed to Israel, after being treated in Israeli hospitals for wounds sustained in the crossfire of the war.

Meanwhile, assessments in the IDF are that an inter-Syrian agreement will lead not only to fighting against rebel jihadis, but with Iran’s proxy, the Lebanon-based terrorist organization Hezbollah, which supports the Assad regime.

In such an event, the IDF believes, the need to maneuver deeper in Lebanon will be significantly greater than it was during Israel’s war against Hezbollah 10 years ago.

As The Algemeiner reported on Thursday, two major joint exercises, conducted by the US Marine Corps and the IDF, were undertaken recently. One called CAYA Green (for “come as you are when you get the green light”) simulated a raid on enemy shores. The other, Noble Shirley 2016, held in southern Israel, practiced counter-terrorism techniques against ISIS.

Earlier this month, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said they had agreed on “concrete steps” to achieve a truce in Syria – following the complete breakdown of the partial ceasefire they brokered in February.

The bloody civil war in Syria has been going on since 2011. Putin backs the Assad regime. Washington is aiming to receive greater cooperation with Moscow in fighting the terrorist rebel groups, in exchange for Putin’s promise to rein in Assad.

Would Israeli-type security measures fly at U.S. airports?

July 20th, 2016
An Israeli airport security guard patrols with a dog in Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, Israel. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

An Israeli airport security guard patrols with a dog in Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, Israel. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

By Hugo Martin /
July 18, 2016

In the the wake of two grisly attacks on European airports, one name has been on the lips of U.S. lawmakers and airport executives: Ben Gurion International Airport.

The airport near Tel Aviv, named for Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, has a reputation as one of the world’s most secure airports, where layers of security measures have kept the facility free of hijackings and terrorist attacks since the 1970s.

U.S. airport executives and lawmakers have increasingly debated whether the security measures used at Ben Gurion could prevent the kind of bloodshed that took place in the Brussels and Istanbul airports this year. Those measures include widely accepted passenger profiling based on appearance and behavior, multiple security screenings in the terminal and checkpoints in the general vicinity of the airport.

Ben Gurion hosted a conference last month attended by airport officials from more than 40 countries to learn about the airport’s security tactics, and former Ben Gurion security officials have testified several times at U.S. congressional hearings over the last few years.

“A lot of what the Israelis are doing has informed what we’re doing,” Peter Neffenger, administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, said during a senate committee hearing on airport security last month.

But to adopt most or all of Ben Gurion’s security measures at a facility like Los Angeles International Airport likely would mean higher ticket prices to pay for extra screening measures and longer wait times for more intense questioning by security agents, aviation experts say.

airport security 1

airport security 2
airport security 3

At Ben Gurion, travelers are told to arrive at least three hours before any flight, while U.S. officials recommend fliers arrive two hours before a domestic flight.

As it is, even a two-hour wait for security screening raises protests among U.S. travelers.

“In Israel, they have a security mentality,” said John Halinski, a security consultant and former deputy administrator at the TSA. “They are willing to accept a lot of things that American travelers are not willing to accept.”

Several polls, including the annual JD Power airline satisfaction survey, show that passenger satisfaction levels drop significantly if travelers must wait 15 minutes or longer for a boarding pass.

“It would be ideal to adopt the Israeli process for security, but it’s about risk versus return on investment,” said Johnathan Tal, a former anti-terrorism security specialist for the Israeli government and president and chief executive of Tal Global, a San Jose-based security firm.

Another problem is sheer size: LAX served 74 million passengers last year, while 16 million travelers passed through Ben Gurion.

Still, huge passenger numbers are not a barrier to adopting sound security measures, said Rafi Ron, president of New Age Security Solutions and former director of security at Ben Gurion airport.

“That is one of the typical excuses that people use when they don’t want to go into greater investment or adopt a more far-reaching approach to security,” he said. “It’s not a valid excuse.”

Oversight of airport security measures also differ.

In the U.S., the responsibility for airport security is shared by local airport police and the TSA.

At Ben Gurion, the responsibility for security falls under the airport manager and the airport’s security director, eliminating bureaucratic red tape when changes are needed and finger-pointing when problems arise.

“Everything goes under that umbrella,” Ron said.

Travelers also are questioned more often, starting more than a mile outside of the Israeli airport, where all incoming vehicles are stopped and inspected for car bombs and other weapons. The drivers and passengers also are questioned.

At LAX, police sometimes operate a vehicle checkpoint on the ramp leading into the airport but the dates, times, and duration of the checkpoint operation are determined randomly by a computer program to ensure terrorists don’t know when to expect the checkpoint.

At Ben Gurion, armed security agents patrol the airport property and terminals with the authority to stop and question any passenger and demand to see identification and other documents. The security agents are typically former members of the Israeli military who have been known to ask travelers to show hotel receipts or even open their email accounts to prove they are who they say they are.

Since 2007, the TSA has operated a similar program staffed by “behavior detection officers,” specially trained TSA agents who question passengers acting suspicious or looking nervous.

But the program has been under attack by civil rights groups and members of Congress who question whether the tactics are effective and whether the officers target minorities. TSA officials defend the program, saying it does not profile travelers based on race or ethnicity.

In the face of such criticism, the TSA reduced the number of behavior detection officers to 2,660 from 3,130 in the last year and cut the number of airports where they serve to 87 from 122. The program is still in place at LAX.

But in Ben Gurion, security experts say race and ethnicity are among several factors used to determine who should undergo extra questioning.

“It is absolutely true that you are profiling on risk factors, and appearances are one of those factors,” Tal said.

After questioning travelers at Ben Gurion, security agents affix a yellow sticker on each traveler’s passport, showing 10 numbers, with the first digit ranging from 1 to a 6. A “1” represents a low-risk traveler, and “6” represents an extreme threat. The higher the number, the greater scrutiny a passenger can expect, according to several travelers who have flown through Ben Gurion.

Tal declined to comment on the 10-digit number system.

Ben Gurion also puts luggage through extra screening. Passenger luggage at Ben Gurion is screened when travelers enter the terminal, even before getting a boarding pass, and again after travelers get their boarding passes and go through the security checkpoints.

At LAX, luggage is screened only once, after passengers get their boarding passes.

Adopting the Israeli-style security measures would increase the time it takes passengers to clear security screening in the U.S. unless airport fees are raised to pay for extra screening agents to perform the added measures, aviation experts say.

Instead, the TSA has cut back on screeners in the last year, which explains why the wait times at airports surged at the start of the busy summer travel season, said J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents TSA agents.

The TSA now employs about 42,000 screeners, down from 47,000 in 2013. Meanwhile, the number of passengers flying through U.S. airports has jumped 15%, to 740 million a year from 643 million, in that same period. Congress has approved funding to speed up the hiring of 600 new TSA agents and convert hundreds more officers from part-time to full-time employees.

“If you increase the security, you are going to have to increase the staff,” Cox said. “It goes hand in hand.”

The UNRWA Road to Terror: Palestinian Classroom Incitement

July 20th, 2016

Posted by David Bedein on May 29, 2016
The Center for Near East Policy Research engaged a team of senior journalists who produced this short film on the incitement taking place in UNRWA facilities in Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

We flew over a top U.S. film director to direct the film. We engaged a team of experts to translate new PA school books used in the UNRWA schools after the U.S. issued yet another falsified report that the PA school system had been reformed.

Background: UNRWA began operations on 1 May 1950.

In 2002, at the request of the United States Congress, the NGO Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI) reviewed the Palestinian Authority’s textbooks. Its report was completed in March 2003. Its executive summary states: “The overall orientation of the curriculum is peaceful despite the harsh and violent realities on the ground. It does not openly incite against Israel and the Jews. It does not openly incite hatred and violence. Religious and political tolerance is emphasized in a good number of textbooks and in multiple contexts.” All in all, there seems to be broad agreement that there is continual improvement in the textbooks used by UNRWA – but very strong disagreement about whether the improvement is sufficient.

James G. Lindsay, a former UNRWA general-counsel and researcher for Washington Institute for Near East Policy, reported to WINEP in 2009 that UNRWA is not ousting terrorists from its ranks or monitoring staff’s off-time behavior to ensure compliance with the organization’s anti-terror rules.

In 2011, the United States contributed over $239 million; the European Union gave $175 million.
In 2013, the U.S. contributed $294 million of the total $1.1 billion the UNRWA received.
In 2015, the U.S. again led the nations, giving $380.5 million, followed by the EU with $136.7 million, and the UK with $99.6 million.

Iran: We will Destroy Israel with ‘100,000 Missiles’

July 11th, 2016

Iran last week reiterated that it is putting the pieces in place for its own version of the “final solution” to the problem of Israel and Jewish sovereignty.

“If the Zionists make a wrong move, all the occupied territories will come under attack from dedicated fighters and, Allah willing, the territories will be liberated,” declared Gen. Hossein Salami, deputy chief of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

To achieve this grisly goal, Salami noted that Iran and its ally, Hezbollah, have deployed “100,000 missiles that are ready to hit Israel.” Those missiles are in southern Lebanon, where the UN promised to prevent another buildup to conflict following the last Lebanon war in 2006.

Salami made his remarks during anti-Israel rallies that featured the familiar chants of “Death to Israel” and “Death to America.”

Back in May, Ahmad Karimpour, an advisor to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, told reporters that the Islamic Republic and its allies were ready to “raze the Zionist regime in less than eight minutes” should the order be given.

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