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PA Makes it Official: Marwan Barghouti on List


Palestinian Authority Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti officially announced Monday that his government is demanding Israel release arch-terrorist Marwan Barghouti in exchange for kidnapped IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit.

Barghouti was convicted in a civilian court in 2004 on five counts of murder and one count of attempted murder stemming from four separate terrorist attacks in Israel, but was acquitted on 21 counts of murder in 33 other attacks. He is serving five consecutive life terms for the murders.

The PA is also demanding the release of hundreds of other terrorists in return for Shalit's freedom. There has been no concrete sign of life from Shalit and no information about his whereabouts.

Iranian President Keeps Word on Uranium Enrichment


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Monday at the Natanz nuclear facility that his country is now producing nuclear fuel on an industrial scale. Speaking at a ceremony to mark Iran's "National Nuclear Day", Ahmadinejad announced, "With great honor, I declare that as of today our dear country has joined the nuclear club of nations and can produce nuclear fuel on an industrial scale.

The Islamic Republic of Iran has installed 3,000 centrifuges and begun feeding them with uranium hexafluoride gas," Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani announced after Ahmadinejad's speech.

The announcement was seen as a brazen slap at the United Nations Security Council, which for the past year has become increasingly concerned as the Islamic Republic ignored all resolutions to force it to end the uranium enrichment program.

The most recent move to pressure Iran was a unanimous vote by the Security Council on March 24th to impose new sanctions against Iran. Foreign accounts belonging to 13 companies and 15 individuals involved in nuclear and other military projects are frozen under the resolution, which includes visa restrictions and a ban on purchasing arms from Iran. Additional sanctions were also threatened if Iran does not return to the negotiating table over its nuclear development activities within 60 days.

Larijani was firm on Iran's intent to continue the program regardless of international reactions. "We are ready for talks with the West to reach an agreement that guarantees the opposite side in the talks a civilian focus to the Iranian nuclear program…but during the negotiations, we are not going to give up our rights."

The Iranian announcement was met with grim reactions by world leaders. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that Iran's announcement constitutes further defiance of the international mandate against its nuclear development activities.

McCormack said bluntly that the Security Council as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency doesn't "believe Iran's assurances that their (nuclear development) program is peaceful in nature." He added that Ahmadinejad and other officials in the country are behaving in a manner that justifies the sanctions imposed against the Islamic Republic.

The European Union was quick to echo the United States. Germany, which holds the presidency of the EU at present, issued a statement saying that Iran is "definitively going in the wrong direction."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon advised Iran to "engage in dialogue," after hearing the announcement. Ban told reporters in New York, "It is very important for any member country to fully comply with Security Council resolutions. I urge the Iranian government to do so."

The news of Iran's nuclear milestone achievement came as no surprise to those who have monitored its nuclear development activities and Ahmadinejad's bluster over the past year. Iran resumed uranium enrichment in January 2006 after voluntarily suspending the Natanz program nine months earlier, when inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency visited the complex on a regular basis.

In April 2006, President George W. Bush cited a report by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency warning that Iran was refusing the heed the U.N. Security Council's demands to stop uranium enrichment.

Bush said, "that the world is united and concerned about [Iran's] desire to have not only a nuclear weapon, but the capacity to make a nuclear weapon or the knowledge to make a nuclear weapon; all of which we're working hard to convince them not to try to achieve."

Ahmadinejad flaunted the Islamic Republic's progress in its nuclear development programs, adamantly refusing to suspend its uranium enrichment program. Various incentives and threats offered by the international community were met with contempt, including an ultimatum by the Security Council to end the program by August 31 or face sanctions by the world body.

The deadline came, the deadline went; Iran continued to enrich uranium and upgrade its facilities while the five member nations of the Security Council debated whether, when and how to impose the sanctions it had threatened against Iran.

After the Islamic Republic ignored a second deadline, limited sanctions on the transfer of nuclear technology and personnel to Iran were imposed in December 2006. That same month, Larijani told the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency that Iran was intent on materializing all its nuclear research and development projects, including the installation of 3,000 centrifuges by the end of the Islamic year, which fell on March 19th.

While Larijani was sketching out Iran's plans for future nuclear development, Ahmadinejad was warning Western nations that the Islamic Republic was only one step away from achieving industrial-level nuclear fuel production. "Our path to reach the nuclear summit is in the final phase," he said. "Iran possesses the nuclear fuel cycle completely and by God's will it will undertake necessary measures to produce nuclear fuel for all of its nuclear power stations."

"Iran has demonstrated a capability possessed by only about 10 countries," wrote David Albright and Corey Hinderstein in a 2003 paper for the Institute for Science and International Security. The two writers noted that the IAEA had classified the Natanz centrifuges "as sophisticated and the culmination of a large, expensive effort." Gas centrifuges, they added, "could be used for the production of low enriched uranium for civil purposes or highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons, depending on the decision of the Iranian government."

Row Erupts Over Auschwitz Exhibit

By Reuters

A dispute has broken out between Poland and Russia over a memorial at the Auschwitz death camp to Russian victims of World War II and the Nazi Holocaust, rekindling old resentments between the two countries.

An exhibition at the camp museum dedicated to Russians who died in the war with Nazi Germany has been closed for three years and its opening has been delayed by a disagreement over the nationalities of the victims, officials said.

Russian historians say almost half the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust were citizens of the Soviet Union. But the Auschwitz museum disputes this, saying almost 1 million of these Jews were citizens of Poland, Romania and the Baltics, who were only in the Soviet Union as a result of a deal in 1939 between Hitler and Stalin to annex central Europe.

Koolanoo: A MySpace-Style Jewish Space


Koolanoo has been growing under the noses of the dating-website industry, aimed at linking Jewish people from around the world

A good-looking girl in a bikini, wearing a gold Magen David around her neck, dives into a swimming pool and, oops, loses her bikini top. This has become a standard formula in advertisements, but in this case, it has an original ending. (To view the spot, go to

When she comes back up, a young man who is also wearing a Magen David chain covers her breasts. All of the guys sitting by the pool, who were ogling her just moments before, turn away in an "oy vey" gesture. Not quite the type of humor expected from a site created for Jews all over the world.

There are countless Israeli and international social networks on the web, MySpace being the most prominent one. However, Koolanoo (All of Us), launched in September, is the first Jewish network in the world.

For those who do not understand what we are talking about, a social network allows web surfers to open up a personal profile page and connect with friends, write a blog, paste audio or video clips, etc.

This makes it possible for others to learn quite a bit about the member and to map his/her relationships. This is inspired by Milgram's six-degrees-of-separation theory, whereby any two people on earth are linked through no more than five other people.

Like any other social network, Koolanoo affords its members the option of managing lists of friends, looking for (kosher) dates, chatting, finding social events and writing a blog. A new feature also enables surfers to hear Psalms while they surf.

Unlike dating websites, this is all provided for free. A standard member profile page will include the member's name, picture, marital status (most important), profession (even more important), whether the person smokes or drinks and more specific info such as ethnic background (Sephardic or Ashkenazi), religious affiliation and whether the member keeps kosher.

The directors of the site have future plans for development that will also enable people to find other connections based on places of work (like in the network LinkedIN), to post classified ads and even to broadcast live events such as a kabalat Shabbat at the Kotel.

"It is no secret that we marry and also do business within our community. That is what the Jewish people are like," Oded Kobo, who created the site together with his childhood friend Guy Greenberg, told Ynet.

Kobo, who speaks a mixture of Hebrew and English during the interview, did not grow up in Israel. "I've been connected to and with the internet since 1996 and couldn't find an online place to meet Jews from all over the world."

Kobo has initiated online raffles and in the past also sold domains. When the high-tech-bubble burst, he left the field in favor of real estate in New York and London and importing and exporting products from the Far East. Three years ago he returned to the internet together with Greenberg.

The Koolanoo launch was not accompanied by marketing activities and its existence spread by word of mouth until the video clips were released. These video clips are a new internet marketing strategy targeting mostly young public.

In another one of the Koolanoo clips, a hit-woman finds time for a date during a job. The message: you CAN mix business and pleasure. (

Kobo is not worried about the bold advertisements insulting the target audience and says that "Koolanoo is not a religious site....It is insane how popular these ads are. People love them and think they are funny," he said, adding that he received the blessing of Rabanim plural of rabbi) on the site. "They told me thank you for what you are doing for the Jewish world."

Kobo thinks that the paid-dating-site industry is going downhill. He explains that these sites generate tens of millions of dollars a year but they end up losing money because their expenses per member are higher than the fee he pays. Unlike dating sites, a social network "connects people and allows them to get to know each other for purposes other than romantic ones. Koolanoo also has married members," stated Kobo.

Thirty-five thousand members, mostly between the ages of 18-35, have registered since the launch of the site in September. Sixty-five percent of them are men. Kobo stated that any given moment, there are approximately 15,000 users online.

There's no way of checking that everybody who joins the community is Jewish. However, Kobo believes that lack of anonymity on these sites will uncover impersonators rather quickly.

"On a dating site, you can never know if someone presents himself misleadingly, but in a social network you can 'judge' a person by his friends or the people he 'hangs out with.' If your brother is going out with a girl from Italy, and you have a Jewish friend in Germany who has a friend who knows her, you can find out much more about her."

All the services on the site are free and there are no bothersome ads. "Koolanoo is not my main business. I'm not in it for the money and development costs are not very high," said Kobo. He promised that all the service will continue to be free in the future too.

MySpace was sold to media conglomerate News Corp. for $580 million. It is now one of the most popular online meeting places in the world among youngsters. Kobo says that he does not believe Koolanoo will ever get such a hefty offer. "Anyway," he says, "Koolanoo is not for sale."

(An additional clip can be seen at

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