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Iran Responds to US Threats
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 25, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Iran is responding to US threats.

Yesterday they threatened to close the Straits of Hormuz through which 20% - 30% of the world's oil travels every day.

They are also threatening Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Iran is saying you think you can replace us and promise Donald Trump that you will fill the supply gap - don't count on it.

According to Iran's President Rouhani: "You whose existence is in the shadow of the Islamic Republic of Iran, how can you tell Trump that if you bring Iran's oil exports to zero we will make up for it? ... Do you understand the consequences of this statement and that it means you are a definite enemy of the Iranian people?"

Rouhani went on to say that if the United States wants to negotiate, all sanctions need to be lifted and an apology must be issued, referring to a prisoner exchange. This is Rouhani's phraseology: "Negotiation is only possible if all the pressures are lifted, they apologize for their illegal actions and there is mutual respect."

The Grand Ayatollah Khamenei has also chimed in. The Supreme Leader of Iran said: "America's efforts in sanctioning the sale of Iranian oil won't get anywhere ... We can export as much of our oil as we need and want."

This is very serious. The world oil market will feel the effects of
this standoff. Oil is now at its highest price since November.

The battle of oil on the world market has begun and Iran is not forfeiting.

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Abbas Calling Trump's Bluff
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 24, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Jared Kushner, in conjunction with the the Trump White House, is starting a campaign to prop up and promote their deal of the century.

But at the same time Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, has embarked on his own campaign.

Abbas has called a meeting of the Palestinian Central Council to be held on May 15th in Ramallah.

The Council will discuss rescinding recognition of Israel and no longer engaging in security or any other interactions and exchanges with Israel.

They will discuss separating from Israel and the US and putting forth all requests to Europe. The most important appeal they will make will be for statehood and recognition.

Abbas is telling the US and Kushner and Trump we do not want your deal, we want a state. And Europe will recognize us. They are saying we the Palestinians do not need your support or your signing off on what we are getting form Russia the EU and even from Iran. Gone are the days that the United States can dictate to us.

We will soon know if the Palestinians emerge successful in their campaign and if they have outsmarted the United States.

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Trump Cracks Down on Iran
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday April 23, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

The pressure is mounting.

The United States has cancelled all 8 waivers that permitted certain countries to import oil from Iran.

Now, President Trump has announced that anyone importing anything -- especially oil - from Iran will be sanctioned by the US. President
Trump is giving allies a choice: do business with Iran or do business with the United States. It is a simple choice. You can't do both.

Iran is responding. Iranian leadership has announced that they will close the Straits of Hormuz if they are not permitted to export their oil.

This is a game of rhetoric and power.
Who knows what the next move will be.

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Iran's HomeMade Fighter Jet
By Micah Halpern

Friday April 19, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Iran flew its first totally, locally, manufactured fighter jet yesterday.

I watched the videos and it showed nothing exceptional.
The Jet is called the Kowsar or Thunderbolt. It is also the name of a section in the Koran.

The Kowsar is based on the US made Northrop F-5. Iran claims that their jet is 4th generation in its technology and that it is capable of jamming all electronic attacks.

It was said that Iran manufactured at least 5 Kowsar jets. They claim 7 but I saw a picture of 5 of them in the factory. Iran is now ready not simply to test, but also to sell them.

The question now is how well this Iranian-made jet stands up against the best US and Russian fighter jets and computer technology.

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What Happened in Bahrain
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 18, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

For the past three days I have been reading how the Israeli delegation to the Global Entrepreneurship Congress hosted in Bahrain cancelled their visit due to security concerns.

The story was posted all over the Hebrew and Israeli press.
Surprise! Then I discovered that the Israeli delegation went to the Congress, returned home from the Congress and called it a successful trip.

Okay, so there were protests and members of the Bahraini parliament shouted that Israelis have no place in Bahrain. But in Bahrain decisions are made by the Emir, not the members of parliament and the Emir wanted the Israelis at the Congress. In fact, they were under his protection.

The president and founder of the Global Entrepreneurship Network, Jonathan Ortmans, was the source for the story that, while the Israelis were welcome , they did not attend for security reasons.

In the end, both versions of the story are probably accurate. Here is what probably happened. The Israeli went to Bahrain and met with several officials, maybe even the Emir. They probably did not attend the Congress.

That is why we have conflicting stories.

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Saudis Raise Their Price of Gas
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday April 16, 2019

I've Been Thinking:


Saudi Arabia is raising its price of gasoline. The price of 95 Octane gas was originally .50 cents a liter and 91 Octane gas was .37 cent per liter. The new price is .56 cents and .38 cents.

There are 3.78 liters per liquid gallon -- that means the price per gallon in Saudi Arabia is $2.11 for 95 Octane and $1.43 for 91 Octane.

The Saudis say that the price of oil is determined by world market price of oil per barrel. Since the cost of oil has hit $70 per barrel they claim that the internal price of oil had to reflect that increase.

There has always been a myth that the price of gasoline in Saudi Arabia was nearly free -- almost like the price of water. That is simply incorrect. The Saudis are the largest producer of oil in the world and the 3rd largest exporter.

All this is true but gasoline still costs money.

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White House Keeps a Secret
By Micah Halpern

Monday April 15, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

This White House is all about tweeting and telling the most ridiculous and minute details of the happenings in the Oval Office.

The Trump White House leaks and tweets about almost everything.
Everything that is, except their Middle East peace plan.

The one thing that the White House has kept completely secret is the peace plan. We hear learned a few details, but nothing that has been confirmed. Supposedly the plan is tens of pages long. And we are told that it stops way shy of Palestinian statehood.

It stuns me that the White House has been able to keep the plan a secret. And it stuns me even more that so many people in the media are so ready to comment about a plan they have never read and a plan they know so little about.


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IMF Downgrades Middle East
By Micah Halpern

Friday April 12, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

The International Monetary Fund, the IMF has revised their estimates for growth in the Middle East. They cut the predictions in half from 2.5% to 1.3% growth.

That is a major failure for the Middle East economy and the a statement
of lack of faith by the investor countries.

It all has to do with 2 factors oil and stability.

As for oil ... It seems that their forecast expected much more oil and sadly that is not the case. On the issue of security ... it has not been a calm period in the Middle East.

Investors were very hopeful for the Middle East but there has been no sense that success is around the corner.

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Biggest Winners in Israel
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 11, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

The big winners in the Israeli elections were the religious parties.

The United Torah party increased their seats to 7. In addition, Shas the religious party, known as the party of the sefardim, of the Israelis who have roots in Arab North Africa also gained seats and now they have 8 in the upcoming Knesset.

Also the Right Wing Union party also received 5 seats.

The biggest losers are Labor with 6 and Meretz with 4. The second big loser was the Arabs. The Arab voter turnout was low. There are 2 Arab parties and both together they yielded 10 votes.

If you were to read Haaretz you would think that it is the end of democracy.

But hands down the biggest loser was the New Right Party. After the final counting of the ballots the New Right has failed to reach the threshold and make it in to the Knesset. They broke away from their party counting on right of center votes and they failed.

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Israel's Election
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 10, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Yes, there was an election in Israel yesterday.

And yes Bibi Netanyahu, will, without a doubt form the next government.

Israel is a rich and vital democracy - but it is not a democracy like the United States. Israel is a parliamentary democracy like Canada and the United Kingdom.

In Israel no candidate runs for prime minister and no Israeli casts their vote for a candidate.

Israelis vote for parties and the leader of the party with the most realistic chance of forming a coalition (of over half of the 120 seats in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament) is asked to form a government and then, that party leader becomes prime minister.

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Election Roll May be Hacked
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday April 9, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

A hacker posted lists of Israeli voters on Saturday. The hacker claimed to have hacked 6,000,000 people and their details from what they claimed are current voter rolls.

The hacker was part of a larger, annual, mass hack attack against Israel called OpIsrael. It takes place ever year on April 7th and has been an annual event since 2011. Just coincidentally, tis is an election year and the election is today.

The name of the hacker is DarkCoder.

The timing of the hack is telling.

DarkCoder tweeted about the attack on Saturday, just days before Israelis go to the polls. Included in the tweet was a screenshot of a list of many, many names and ID numbers.

But really, it is doubtful that the system was hacked. More likely the list was copied from a previous hack. That information is on line and accessible.

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Flooding in Iran
By Micah Halpern

Monday April 8, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

70 Iranians have died in floods over these past few weeks. The devastation has caused thousands of people to be relocated.

The numbers say everything.

1900 cites have been flooded. 140 rivers have burst their banks. 409 landslides. 78 roads destroyed. 84 bridges failed.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement: "These floods once again show the level of Iranian regime mismanagement in urban planning and in emergency preparedness. The regime blames outside entities when, in fact, it is their mismanagement that has led to this disaster ... The United States stands ready to assist and contribute to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which would then direct the money through the Iranian Red Crescent for relief."

Pompeo is correct. Iranians are suffering and their leadership is standing idly by and letting it happen.

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China & Russia Selling Arms in MidEast
By Micah Halpern

Sunday April 7, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

China and Russia are moving to encroach on the US in the arms market in the Middle East.

The United States has always dominated the Middle East arms market and now that is changing. Both Russia and China and pitching to Saudi Arabia, The United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

To get a sense of just how lucrative and enormous this market it, in 2018 Saudi Arabia bought $7.7 billion of weapons from the US.

The US is losing market share in the Middle East. Russia and China are all too aware of that fact. The US is no longer the most influential force in the region. China and Russia are laughing, as the saying goes, all the way to the bank.

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Story Behind Baumel's Return
By Micah Halpern

Friday April 5, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Details of how Zachariah Baumel's remains were finally returned to his family and buried after 37 years are just now coming out.

The remains of a total of 20 bodies ended up in Israel's Abu Karbi forensic lab in Jaffa. Only one of them matched the remains of a missing Israeli soldiers. That was Baumel.

The entire operation of retrieving the bodies took 2 years and was managed by Russia. There were of course some snags along the way as tensions between Israel and Russia increased and decreased. The entire operation was put on hold after the Russia military transport was shot down by the Syrians and Russia blamed Israel.

The remains were found in the Yarmuq refugee camp which until recently was controlled by ISIS. After ISIS was removed Russia could go in.

Then the bodies were transferred to Israel.

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Superbugs Taking Over the MidEast
By Micah Halpern

Thursday April 4, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Superbugs are endangering the Middle East.

A Superbug is type of bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics. Superbugs are the result of overuse of antibiotics in a society.

Iraq and Egypt seem to have the worst case of Superbugs. They are popping up elsewhere in almost every part of the Middle East.

As far as we can see these areas have not controlled their use of antibiotics. Some have said that antibiotics are distributed like candy. And what is worse is that these societies also give them freely to their livestock.

Because of overexposure and over use of the medicine the antibiotics are simply not effective against these Superbugs. The medicine is simply not stopping the bacteria.

This problem has endangered the public health of the entire region. Unfortunately, there is nothing for them to do to change the situation. Stronger antibiotics would work but only if their use was limited and only prescribed in extreme situations.

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Bibi to Moscow
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday April 3, 2019
I've Been Thinking:

Netanyahu is flying off to Moscow on Thursday to meet face to face with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It must be very important for the Israeli PM to take a day and make this trip especially because it is 5 days prior to an Israeli national election where he is not necessarily a shoe in winner.

What is so important? Only one thing ... Security!!!!

The announcement came on Tuesday and the trip is Thursday so the subject is time sensitive and cannot wait until after the elections.

It must have to do either with Syria or Iran or both.

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Most Expensive Painting Missing
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday April 2, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

The most expensive painting ever sold was auctioned by Christies in November of 2017. It was a painting by DaVinci named Salvator Mundi.

The record breaking painting was sold for $450.3 million and was purchased by Saudi Crown Prince Mohamud bin Salman.

The painting was supposed to go on display in September of 2018 in the Abu Dhabi branch of the Louvre. But that never happened. It seems that the painting has disappeared.

No one is answering questions about the whereabouts of the famous painting.


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Arabs Are Not Voting in Israel
By Micah Halpern

Monday April 1, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

Israel's upcoming April 9 election is raising some important questions.
One very interesting factoid is that a recent study shows that large percentage of Arabs who are citizens of Israel not planning on voting.

The joint Arab List is the third largest party in this outgoing Knesset. They currently hold 13 seats. It is worth pondering that important point.

The study shows that 19% fewer Arabs will go out and vote in the next election. That means a drop from their already dropping number. In the most recent Israeli election only 63% of the Arab citizens of Israel voted.

Ironically the motto of the joint Arab List is "flocking to the polls."
This is actually a play on the Netanyahu's fear mongering during the last vote when he said that the "Arabs are rushing to the polls."

Arab citizens of Israel really are not rushing out to vote.

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