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IDF Seeks Stand-Up Comedians


The IDF has decided to create a position for stand-up comedians in the Education Corp. The army has already enlisted young men and women as band members, actors, and magicians to provide entertainment for troops.

Only two soldiers will be accepted as comedians in the initial stage of the program. The two will need to have experience and to pass an audition. The first IDF stand-up show is reportedly scheduled for next summer.

Report: Israel's Syrian Bombing Hit Nuclear Bombs

By The Sunday Times

Israel's top-secret air raid on Syria in September destroyed a bomb factory assembling warheads fuelled by North Korean plutonium, a leading Israeli nuclear expert has told The Sunday Times.

Prof. Uzi Even of Tel Aviv University was one of the founders of the Israeli nuclear reactor at Dimona, the source of the Jewish state's undeclared nuclear arsenal.

"I suspect that it was a plant for processing plutonium, namely, a factory for assembling the bomb," he said. "I think the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] transferred to Syria weapons-grade plutonium in raw form; nuggets of easily transported metal in protective cans. I think the shaping and casting of the plutonium was supposed to be in Syria."

All governments concerned - even the regime in Damascus - have tried to maintain complete secrecy about the raid. They apparently fear that forcing a confrontation on the issue could spark a war between Israel and Syria, end the Middle East peace talks and wreck America's extremely complex negotiations to disarm North Korea of its nuclear weapons.

The political stakes could hardly be higher. Plutonium is the element that fuelled the American atomic bomb that destroyed the Japanese city of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.

Critics in the United States said proof that North Korea supplied such nuclear weapons material to Syria, a state technically at war with Israel, would shatter congressional confidence in the Bush administration's diplomatic policy.

From beneath the veil of military censorship, western commentators have formed a consensus that the target was a nuclear reactor under construction.

Even said that purely from scientific observation, he had reached a different conclusion - that it was a nuclear bomb factory, posing a more immediate danger to Israel. He said that satellite photos of the site, taken before the Israeli strike on September 6, showed no sign of the cooling towers and chimneys characteristic of nuclear reactors.

Syria's haste after the attack to bury the site under tons of soil suggested that hundreds of square yards were contaminated and there were fears of radiation, the professor added. Since then the Syrians have sealed up the location, leveled the site and diverted curious journalists to a place that had not been attacked by Israel.

The professor's theory fits with authoritative technical evidence about North Korea's nuclear weapons program. The North Koreans are able to produce weapons-grade plutonium, which is electro-refined, alloyed and cast into shapes ready to be machined to fit into a warhead, according to a team of distinguished American nuclear weapons scientists who visited the country's laboratories.

One of those scientists, Siegfried Hecker, was allowed to hold a sample and was told that it was "good bomb grade plutonium", because it had a very low content of plutonium 240, the isotope which reduces the overall quality of the material.

Assembly of a Nagasaki-type bomb involves mating a plutonium core with a uranium wrap and inserting a small quantity of polonium and beryllium to initiate the chain reaction.

"Plutonium is highly dangerous material," explained the Israeli professor. "It is easily oxidized in air unless protective measures are taken. The oxide is easily dispersed as dust in air when machining plutonium to create the `pit' [a hollow sphere in many nuclear weapons] and thus can be inhaled, causing a fatality in minute quantities.

"Plutonium pellets are handled and machined exclusively in a large array of `glove boxes', to protect the technicians and their environment. That is why you need a relatively large containment building and cannot assemble a nuclear weapon in your garage - unless you are suicidal of course."

The debris from a destructive raid on a weapons-building facility could therefore contain toxic radioactive waste. But the main danger for Syria would be the telltale exposure of the elements to surveillance and detection by America. This would explain the cover-up at the site. North Korea, for its part, has more than enough plutonium to sell some of its stock to Syria.

The same team of visiting US scientists estimated that by late 2006 the nation had made 40-50 kg (88-100lb) of the material. Between six and eight kilograms are needed for a weapon.

For the US and its allies the Syrian connection raises the deeply worrying possibility that North Korea has succeeded in building what the US scientists called "a sophisticated design with smaller dimensions and mass so as to fit onto a . . . medium-range missile".

That puzzle was complicated when North Korea announced that it had tested its first nuclear bomb on October 9 last year. The yield of the blast was small - less than a 20th of the Nagasaki bomb - suggesting to some scientists that the device was sophisticated and small while others believed the North Koreans had simply not made a very good bomb.

Even believes the North Koreans have not yet perfected small warheads. "The mechanical dimensioning at this stage is extremely demanding (less than 0.01mm). So is the casting of the explosives around the plutonium core and the initiation of the implosion," he said.

The question is under urgent study by nations who might one day be targets of a North Korean device sold to Syria or Iran. Iran is known to have financed missile and weapons deals between North Korea and Syria, causing concern to Israel and the US. One day after the Israeli attack, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, sent his nephew with a personal letter to Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian leader.

The professor's theory of a clear and present danger that Damascus would get the bomb may be the only credible explanation why Israel carried out a military strike against Syria and risked an all-out conflict.

Indeed on September 6 Israel was ready for war with Syria. Israeli sources said its military chiefs assumed Syria would launch a retaliatory attack, but no reprisal came.

Meanwhile, President Bush has authorized his chief negotiator, Christopher Hill, to go on talking to North Korea in the search for a peaceful solution. Hill will visit Pyongyang this week to pursue negotiations after international technicians got to work on disabling the reactor at Yongbyon, the source of North Korea's plutonium.

The North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il is supposed to make a full declaration of his nuclear program by December 31. The US says that must include information on his weapons deals with Syria and Iran.

Israel has not commented on the reported aerial attack. Reports of North Korean assistance to Syria conflict with the Bush administration's diplomatic policies to appease the country.

Israel Releases 429 Palestinian Prisoners

By Jim Teeple (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel has released 429 Palestinian prisoners, in a bid to boost support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, following the Annapolis Mideast peace conference last week. Palestinian officials said they would have liked to have seen more prisoners released.

Israeli prison officials said they sent 408 prisoners to the West Bank and 21 to Gaza, saying they have released 770 Palestinians from jails, since July.

Palestinian officials had requested that 2,000 prisoners be released. Ashraf Ajrami, the Palestinian minister for prisoner affairs told the Voice of Palestine Radio that Israel could have done more. He called the Israeli move a unilateral action that does not meet the needs of the Palestinians. He said more prisoners who have served long sentences should also have been released.

Israel holds about 10,000 Palestinians in its jails. Mark Regev a spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel wants to help Abbas, but many Palestinians in Israeli jails have been convicted of serious crimes.

"You know everyone who is sitting in an Israeli jail is there for a reason. And, we have a situation where too many people have been arrested and convicted for crimes against humanity, trying to kill innocent people and all sorts of heinous, terrorist acts," he said. The prisoner release is the first so-called confidence-building measure taken by Israel since last week's Annapolis Mideast peace conference.

Increased Cancer Awareness among Holocaust Survivors Recommended

By Newswise

The death rate from cancer among Holocaust survivors who live in Israel is higher than among their contemporaries who made aliyah before WWII. So asserts a new University of Haifa study, the first of its kind, which examined the incidence of cancer among Holocaust survivors in Israel.

The study was conducted by the University's School of Public Health. Survivors who were in their childhood during the Holocaust were found to be at a higher risk for cancer than those who were at an older age during the war. Additionally survival from cancer among Holocaust survivors was slightly lower than among cancer patients who did not go through the Holocaust.

The study, the most comprehensive of its kind that has been carried out in Israel, was conducted by Nani Vine Raviv under the guidance of Dr. Micah Brachne and Prof. Shai Linn from the School of Public Health at the University of Haifa and Irena Lifschitz of the Health Ministry's National Cancer Registry. Funded by the Israel Cancer Society, it was based on data on about two million Israelis of European origin.

The researchers compared the incidence of cancer among those born between 1920 and 1945 and who came to Israel after WWII (year of aliyah limited to before 1989) with those born between 1920 and 1939 and who came to Israel before the war (up to 1939). Data on cancer deaths came from the National Cancer Registry in the Department of Health.

The researchers found that the incidence of all cancers among male Holocaust survivors was 14 percent higher and 2.4 times more likely than among men who had immigrated to Israel before the war. Among women, in comparison, cancer was around 21percent more prevalent and 2.3 times more likely among Holocaust survivors.

Similar findings were found with respect to specific cancers. Cancer of the large intestine was 9 times more likely among men and 2.25 times more likely among women who remained in Europe during the war, compared to those who immigrated to Israel before WWII. Female Holocaust survivors were 1.5 more likely to have breast cancer than were women who came to Israel before WWII. The risk for women who were children during the war was twice as high compared to women who were adults during the war.

Dr. Micah Bracha, director of the National Cancer Registry in the Health Ministry and a senior lecturer at the School of Public Health at the University of Haifa: "As we know, life in the ghettos and the concentration camps in Europe during the time of the Holocaust was characterized mainly by serious crowding, general poverty, difficult surrounding environment, ongoing hunger, general malnutrition, a lack of different kinds of food, cold, fatigue and mental stress. The difficult conditions, and mostly the caloric limitations and lack of nutritional components, which the Holocaust survivors suffered from during the war years, are likely to be among the main causes of the findings."

The researchers also found that the percentage of survival from cancer among Holocaust survivors was lower (by 5 percent to 13 percent) in comparison to the survival rate among those of European origin who immigrated before the war.

New Tourist Bus Line Launched in Tel Aviv


The Dan bus company and the Tel Aviv Municipality have launched an introductory campaign for their new City Tour line – a bus line for tourists that recently began operating in the city.

As part of this campaign, the fare for a daily City Tour bus ticket will be reduced from NIS 45 to NIS 10 for the next three months (December 1 – February 29). A student or senior citizen ticket will cost only NIS 8.

The GPS-guided, open-top bus travels around the city, stops at various sites of interest and offers passengers recorded audio tour guides in eight different languages. The first bus leaves at 9 am, and then once an hour from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. The tour begins and ends at Reading Terminal in northern Tel Aviv.

The tour lasts for about two and-a-half hours, during which the bus stops at 30 stations, including Tel Aviv Port, Herbert Samuel promenade, Old Jaffa, Neve Tzedek, Nahalat Binyamin, Rothschild Boulevards, Dizengof Street, the Rabin memorial, Tel Aviv Museum, Azrieli Mall, Ramat Aviv and Tel Aviv University.

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