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Pope Should Never Speak off the Cuff
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday April 25, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

There is a reason why the Pope does NOT traditionally speak off the cuff. But Pope Francis is different - he often speaks off the cuff and speaks from his heart --- and sometimes he mis-speaks. That can be a problem.

Most Popes in the recent past spoke only by reading prepared, vetted notes. They do not repeat themselves for fear that there may be a difference between the messages that can cause confusion.

An example of what can happen - did happen, when the Pope said that refugees today are living in concentration camps.

His exact words were: "I don't know if he managed to leave that concentration camp, because refugee camps, many of them, are of concentration because of the great number of people left there inside them."

The parallel is absurd. Nazis created work camps and death camps. They created murder camps where technology was created specifically in order to murder Jews.

Illegal immigrants and refugees cannot be portrayed as Jews in murder camps.

The Vatican is simply saying that the Pope spoke off the cuff. That is not an apology. That remark requires a real mea culpa. The Pope's comments must be explained in a proper moral and historical context.

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Iran's New Misssile
By Micah Halpern

Monday April 24, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

Iran is now outfitted with a cruise missile designed to strike ships. The new missile is called the Nassir.

The Iranian Defense Ministry tested the missile in February and the Nassir is now being sent to both ship and land batteries to augment defense against naval attacks.

What makes the Nassir unique and gives it value is neither range nor speed - it is the pride Iranian generals are feeling in their new weapon. The Nassir has counter jamming capabilities that will render it impervious to the counter defenses of the US fifth fleet.

When a missile is shot at a sophisticated target like an air craft carrier or a destroyer US counter measures are usually deployed, causing the smart bomb to miss its target and go off course or self destruct.

In the case of the Nassir - there is a counter to the counter -- and so the missile continues towards its target.

Until now it was just a question of how to better protect or hack the computer of the enemy. This missile re-codes after being hacked. It adjusts to the hack and overrides the override.

The technology of warfare has changed.

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Iranian Election
By Micah Halpern

Friday April 21, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

Six candidates will be pitted against each other in the Iranian presidential election scheduled for May 19th.

The biggest news so far is that former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been barred from running for the presidency by the Council of Elders, the committee that vets - and then either approves or disapproves, each potential candidate.

The leading candidate in the race is now the incumbent, 68 year old Hassan Rouhani, the liberal leader who brought Iran out of the international doghouse.

Rouhani's biggest competition is Ibrahim Raisi who is 56 years old and a personal friend of the Grand Ayatollah. Raisi is a member of the Assembly of Experts which is the body that will select the next Grand Ayatollah.

Rounding out the list are are two reform candidates and two more conservative candidates.

But remember - this is Iran. Reform and conservative Iranians are a far cry from reform and conservative candidates of the Western world.

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Trump May Visit Saudi Arabia
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 20, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

There is talk that President Trump will visit Saudi Arabia at the end of May.

With so many world leaders coming to visit President Trump in Washington, DC, this stop in Saudi Arabia will signify a very important step in cementing a partnership capable of taking on and confronting Iran, ISIS and al Qaeda.

The visit to Saudi Arabia will be an added stop in Trump's first international trip.

First stop will be Brussels for the NATO Summit on May 25th. May 26th through May 28th the president will be in Sicily for the Group of Seven Conference.

Because this is his first international diplomatic trip, Trump will be especially motivated to solve big international issues - like the diplomatic and security dilemmas he is now confronting.

Syria, Russia, Iran, ISIS and al Qaeda will be the essential questions. Trump will be sizing up his colleagues and deciding who to partner with in order to confront the huge issues that will define his presidency.

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Iran's Parade of the S-300
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 19, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

Iranian leadership just staged a huge military parade.

A highlight of the parade was a display of Iran’s new weapons - including their new S-300 Russian made anti-aircraft missile system.

The S-300 is a very capable weapon. It is a vast improvement over the Russian S-200 system that Iran has, up until now, relied on.

One of the purposes of the parade, in addition to reviving national pride, was to send out a message to Israel. The message was that Islam, and Iran in particular, intends to destroy Israel. There were floats that had pictures of Israeli flags being hit and destroyed by Muslim fists.

Israelis don't seem too concerned about the S-300s. That tells me that they already have a defense against the S-300 in place and ready to go.

That is a good sign.

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Iranian Pres Elections on May 19
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 13, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has submitted his name to run as a candidate in the Iranian presidential election scheduled to take place May 19.

There is a five day period during which candidates submit themselves and are vetted.

Submitting his name is a major power play on the part of Ahmadinejad. The Supreme Leader, the Grand Ayatollah Khamenei, has already publicly forbidden Ahmadinejad from running for the position.

Ahmadinehad is staging a significant challenge to the supreme leader.

The polls put Ahmadinejad ahead of all the other potential candidates. The question is whether the vetting committee will permit him to run. The committee will need to decide if they should follow the Ayatollah or move to the even more conservative candidate Ahmadinejad.

This kind of challenge has never happened in Iran. It is pitting the extremely conservative against the even more conservative. Until now it was just assumed that the president will always be tapped by the Grand Ayatollah.

Things are changing in Iran. In a short while we will know just how much they are changing.



IDF Destroys Monument to Terrorist
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday April 11, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

The IDF destroyed has destroyed a monument erected in memory of the sixteen year old female terrorist named Bian Asila.

Asila was killed by the border patrol soldier whom she had stabbed but failed to murder at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron in October 2015.

The teenager was turned into a folk hero locally and throughout Palestinian culture. Asila became a symbol of defiance. Asila represented a girl who could make a difference.

And so some people, we don't know exactly who, erected a monument to her memory.

Inscribed on the monument is a quote from the Koran that reads: "In the name of the merciful Allah, do not think that those who were killed for the sake of Allah die, but live in the midst of Allah."

This quote is one of the most important verses in the Koran. It is the Koranic line that justifies suicide terror attacks. Theses terrorists see themselves as being martyred in the name of Allah. They see their deaths not as suicide - which is forbidden in Islam, but instead as a way to elevate Allah.

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Sisi Declares State of Emergency to Defend Christians
By Micah Halpern

Monday April 10, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

After a horrific day of terror in Egypt, a day in which two Christian churches were attacked and over forty-four Christians were murdered by ISIS, Egypt has declared a state of emergency for the next three months.

President al Sisi understands just how important it is to clamp down on ISIS as they continue on their murderous rage against the Christians of Egypt. A significant change has taken place over the past month and Egypt is officially and actively working to stem the tide of violence and the murder of Christians.

In the eyes of ISIS they are perpetrating these attacks against Christians in order to galvanize Muslim support for their cause. Al Sisi realizes that he needs to step up his efforts against al Qaeda, too, in order to save Egypt from ISIS.

This is a very difficult move,

Most Muslims in the Arab world recognize the importance and the history of Christians in the Middle East. But there is also a resentment of Christians that has built up and festered over the years.

It has taken this horrific spate of mass murderous attacks against Christians in Egypt for al Sisi to begin the fight to destroy ISIS.

Hopefully, with the right effort and a lot of determination, al Sisi will, over these next three months, effectively destroy ISIS in Egypt.

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Reaction to US Strike
By Micah Halpern

Sunday April 9, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

One of Newton's famous laws of gravity goes like this: For every action there is an opposite and reaction.

Apply that law to the sphere of international affairs and the equation changes a bit: For very action there is an opposite, though not always equal, reaction.

I'm referring, of course, to the US strike on Syria. We can certainly expect not one, but several responses.

Russia will pull back on cooperation with the United States - that should be clear.

The air-forces of 13 countries fly over Syrian air space. Russia is a powerful force in that air space as is the United States. It is inevitable that planes brush shoulders or even bump against another. Usually, it happens inadvertently. But then again, mid-air bumps are one certain way of reducing cooperation.

Rebel forces will be bombed by Syrian forces and by Russia forces.
Syria and Russia will use rockets and jets in order to prove to the world that the US strike did not impact the strength and power of their air force and weapons. Syria will aggressively attack their enemies and Russia will help.

They need to stem any momentum that rebel forcess may have picked up from the US strike.

This is not just tit-for tat. It is more like tit-for-tat-for-tat-for tat.

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Risks of Striking Syria
By Micah Halpern

Friday April 7, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

We all know why President Trump sent about 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles to strike the airbase in Syria from which Assad sent the chemical weapons that caused such death and carnage.

In US politics both sides of the aisle have come out in favor of the action.

The US action is supposed to be a message to Assad that the US will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons against innocent civilians. This is truly a red line.

The biggest question is whether this strike will, in turn, stimulate a response that will then spiral out of control.

At this point it was a risk worth taking. The United States is isolating Syria and Iran and Hezbollah.

Other Arab states are in favor of boxing Assad in and making certain that Syria not use chemical weapons ever again.

Russian military on the ground must have known that this was going to happen. They made certain to get their advisers out of harm's way if any were present at the Syrian airbase. There is no reason to think that Russia will respond if none of their people and none of their weapons were injured in the strike.

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High Warning on Cyber Security in UK
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 6, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

England's nuclear facilities and airports have been put on high cyber security alert.

Along with other public transport networks they have been told to bolster their cyber defenses because of immediate threats.

The Telegraph media website asserted that these facilities need to improve their computer defenses because, if they don't - the entire nation will be endangered.

The obvious danger should be clear to the reader. Weaknesses in their computer systems could compromise the running of the nuclear systems. If computer security is lax in the airports and in the other transport systems, thousands of people are put at risk should there be a hack.

There is no reason for computers in these agencies to be susceptible. Too many lives are at risk. Excuses just don't cut it.

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Theresa May Didn't Cover Head in Saudi Arabia
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 5, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May visited Saudi Arabia on an official visit. The agenda of the talks has not driven the news cycle in Great Britain - a sidebar item has captured the country's attention instead.

The focus of the attention centers on May's decided not to cover her hair while on the visit. Saudi Arabia has very specific diplomatic protocols for women. Modest dress and head covering is par for the course.

May was taking a stand but she was not the first woman to abstain from covering her hair.

In 2015, First Lady Michelle Obama visited Saudi Arabia with her husband the president. Not only was her head uncovered, she also shook hands with Saudi leadership. The shaking of hands is a real no-no in Islamic protocol. Men and women do not touch in public.

In 2012 Hillary Clinton was US secretary of state and her head was not covered. Condi Rice the Bush secretary of state did the same.

In 2007 first lady Barbara Bush was in Saudi Arabia and her head was uncovered during the first part of the trip. Later, she did cover her hair.

Finally, when Angela Merkel of Germany visited Saudi Arabia in 2010, she, too, did not cover her hair.

My suggestion is that British press spend time on the talks between their prime minister and the Saudi leadership. Some very important progress is happening on trade - and most importantly, on the fight against ISIS and other Muslim terrorist groups.

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Father of Kid who called Bomb Threats Says Sorry
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday April 4, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

The father of the Israeli-American who called in many of the bomb threats that terrorized American - and parts of world - Jewry, apologized for his son's actions. His son called in bomb threats to US, Canadian, Australian and even New Zealand schools and Jewish community centers.

The father said that his son did not mean to hurt or harm anyone or make anyone afraid. The father said the son had no idea of the impact his calls were having. He, like his wife, the boy's mother, blamed the behavior on their son's brain tumor and his autism.

We know the name of the young man - it is Michael Kedar, but Israeli police has put a gag order on publishing his name.

Israeli police has also forbidden publishing an image of his face, so for now all the coverage only mentions him as M and his face is shaded. The decision by the censor is only good until the details are published by an international agency. The moment after that happens, the Israeli press should be free to use both his name and face.


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Passover Threats Against Israel
By Micah Halpern

Monday April 3, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's office of cyber security has announced that a cyber attack against Israel is expected and will coincide with Passover.

The attack will strike both websites and people affiliated with Israel. The name of the attack is Op-Israel.

There is a Facebook page that is informing people of various plans for the attack. In addition, a more secure Telegram group was created with 12,000 hackers connecting and sharing encrypted messages.

Obviously the hacker group Anonymous is involved in this attack. Also coordinating the hacking operation are groups called AnonGhost and Red Hack.

ISIS has also threatened to launch rockets and attack Israel during the same period.

In light of all the potential threat from ISIS, the Israeli counter-terrorism bureau has issued a travel warning against traveling in Sinai over Passover.

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Imam Apologizes to Rabbi
By Micah Halpern

Sunday April 2, 2017

I've Been Thinking:

This is a first in Islamic Jewish relations. Earlier this morning in Singapore, Imam Nalla Mohamed Abdul Malik entered the Maghain Aboth Synangoue to meet with Rabbi Mordechai Abergel.

The imam presented the rabbi with a formal letter of apology. Even before the meeting was held, the apology was made public and read at various times and places.

The story begins with a series of sermons the imam gave in January and February. In the sermons, the imam referenced a scathing attack against the Jews and Christians which he took from an old Arabic text which originated in his village in India.

The text read: "Allah help us against the Jews and the Christians."

It should be noted that this is not a verse from the Koran.
Rabbi Abergel accepted the letter and the apology.

Imam Abdul Malik proffered the same apology to the Bishop of Singapore on Friday, two days before he met with the rabbi.

The imam also apologized to all Singaporeans for behaving in a way that is unacceptable and that generates hatred and anger.

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