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Pope, Roman Chief Rabbi in Bible Marathon

By Israel Faxx News Services

Pope Benedict VI and the chief rabbi of Rome will take part in a marathon live televised reading of the Bible. The pope will kick off the weeklong, round-the-clock "Bible Day and Night" event Oct. 5, reading in Italian the beginning of Genesis, Italy's state-owned broadcaster RAI reported. Roman Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni will follow, reading the same passage in Hebrew. Protestant and Orthodox Christian leaders also will read.

In all, about 1,200 people from all walks of life will continue reading all 73 books of the Catholic edition of the Old and New Testaments. Most of the marathon reading will be broadcast on RAI's educational satellite channel.


Israel Moves Lebanese Prisoners Ahead of Swap

By VOA News & IsraelNationalNews.com

Israel said it has moved four Lebanese detainees to a new facility to prepare for a prisoner swap with the Shi'ite terrorist group Hezbollah on Wednesday.

A prison spokesman says the four men will join another Lebanese man, Samir Kantar, at the Hadarim prison. Kantar was jailed for life for killing three Israelis in a cross-border attack in 1979.

All five men are scheduled to be released on Wednesday in exchange for two Israeli soldiers. Hezbollah captured the soldiers in a cross-border raid in 2006, sparking a month-long war. Israeli officials believe the soldiers are dead.

The Israeli government approved the deal last month. In return for the prisoners, Hezbollah has also given Israel a report about missing Israeli airman Ron Arad, whose plane went down in Lebanon in 1986. In the report, Hezbollah says it believes Arad is dead. But Israel says the document does not give a clear answer about the pilot's fate.

However, the IDF is preparing for a possible attack by Hizbullah terrorists, once the prisoner swap for kidnapped IDF reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev is completed and arch-terrorist Samir Kuntar is safely returned to Lebanon.

According to the Associated Press, the military is beefing up its forces along the northern border, a fact not widely publicized until now. Officials quoted by the news agency on condition of anonymity said that Israel is on alert for a retaliatory strike in revenge for the assassination of the terrorist organization's second-in-command, Imad Mughniyeh, in February.

Hizbullah still blames Israel for the killing, despite various theories that other Arab entities may have been responsible for the strike.


Assad: Israel to Pay 'Heavy Price' if Iran Attacked

By IsraelNationalNews.com

Syrian strongman Bashar Assad warned Monday that a military attack on Iran would have dire results for Israel. Speaking on France's InterRadio, Assad said: "Iran has already noted that Israel will pay a direct price for such an attack. The problem," he explained, "is that when one side initiates such an operation in the Middle East, it will not be possible to control the repercussions which could influence the region for many years afterwards."

Regarding the United States, Assad said that while reason dictated that the Americans should not strike Iran, "Bush's administration seeks war. It does not act in accordance with our logic and with that of most European states and the nations of the world."

Western intelligence agencies estimate that if Iran is attacked it will set off a chain of terror attacks in the West, according to a story published in Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera, Sunday. The report said that agents of Iranian intelligence are posing as tourists and journalists and collecting information about "diplomatic and military sites" in the West, and that several potential attack sites have been located in Italy, England, South America and Canada.

In order to carry out the surveillance missions, Western intelligence sources told the newspaper, Iran recruited people with residence permits in the countries being considered for attack. These can be Iranian citizens, Lebanese, or Shiites from the Gulf States and other Arab countries. "They are equipped with videocams and cameras, pose as tourists or journalists, but instead of taking photos of historic sites they prefer to take pictures of diplomatic consulates, bases and military installations."

They transmit the information they collect directly to Iranian intelligence. Sources in Dubai called the Iranian contingency plan "Plan Hell."

An Iranian source told Ma'ariv-NRG that a senior representative of the Iranian intelligence services arrived in Italy in June, along with Iran's president. The purpose of the spymaster's visit was to better organize the Iranian citizens in Rome and Milano who were working for the Iranians.


Website Exposes Israeli 'Nuke Secrets'

By YnetNews.com

Are Israel's nuke secrets available online? The Armageddon website claims to sport vast amounts of information about Israel's nuclear program and its manufacturing and storage facilities, as published by various foreign sources.

The site is the brainchild of a large group of Israeli intellectuals, journalists and philosophers affiliated with an Israeli group advocating a Middle East free of atomic, biological, and chemical weapons; the organization says Knesset Member Dov Khenin (Hadash) is among its supporters.

According to the website's owners, the site is registered on an Israeli domain and is hosted on Australian-based servers. Armageddon's owners claim to be the proprietors of a second domain – armagedonz.org – which they can use in case the Military Censor tries to take it of the air. The details of the second domain's owner are kept confidential – unlike those of the Israeli domain owner.

The group behind the website, backed by several organizations that oppose the distribution of weapons of mass destruction, decided that the topic of WMDs is not given its appropriate place in public debate and that it's increasingly growing urgency in the Middle East calls for something to be done.

According to the website, the venture is sponsored by British group CND – the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and found its Australian host with the assistance of Enzyme – a New-Zealand group that supports various progressive groups.

Gideon Spiro, a journalist and one of the site's contributing editors, told Ynet that "none of the information on the site is confidential, so we're not breaking the law. We simply think that when it comes to the nuclear program, the public was brainwashed by the government and doesn't have any credible information."

Knesset member Dov Khenin, rumored to be one of the site's supporters, denied ever being approached by the site's editors: "I don't know the site so I can't relate to it… I'm an outspoken advocate for holding a debate on the nuclear (program) in both the political and public arenas. I believe that the longer these things get put off, the more difficult situation Israel may find itself in. I welcome any debate on the subject."

Israel, he added, has an honest interest in disarming the Middle East of any nuclear weapons. "One of our main needs is to demilitarize the region, Iran included… I think this should be one of the pivotal points in Israel's defense and foreign policy."

Spiro, on the other hand, is adamant about the fact the Khenin was indeed approached: "I spoke with him and got his consent to put his name on the site. Ideologically speaking, he opposes nuclear weapons, as does any environmentalist. The Hadash platform has a clause objecting to Israel having nuclear weapons. He must be committed to the idea."

Armageddon is not the only website detailing information about Israel's supposed nuclear capabilities: Surfing the internet for such information results in numerous websites that offer information about top secret units, tactical weapons and strategic measures held by Israel. The majority of information, however, is not available in Hebrew.

The IDF Spokesperson's Unit offered the following response: "The Military Censor is familiar with the website and is in the process of studying its content; it will make its decision in due time, regardless of the authenticity of the material posted on the website."


Obama Campaign: New Yorker Cartoon Goes Too Far

By CBC News

The New Yorker magazine has stirred up controversy in the U.S. for a satirical cover that shows Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama dressed as a Muslim and his wife as a terrorist. Both the Obama campaign and the campaign for the Republican candidate, John McCain, have objected to the cover art for the magazine's July 21 edition.

The illustration by artist Barry Blitt depicts Obama wearing traditional Muslim garb and his wife, Michelle — dressed in camouflage, combat boots and an assault rifle strapped over her shoulder — standing in the Oval Office. An American flag is burning in the fireplace and over the mantle hangs a portrait of Osama bin Laden.

In a statement, the magazine said the cover "combines a number of fantastical images about the Obamas and shows them for the obvious distortions they are." The New Yorker said it is satirizing rumors about Obama — including rumors that he's Muslim and anti-American. It defended its choice, saying its readership is sophisticated enough to get the joke.

Inside the magazine is a serious critique of Obama's political skills by writer Ryan Lizza.

The Obama campaign issued a statement condemning the cartoon. "The New Yorker may think, as one of their staff explained to us, that their cover is a satirical lampoon of the caricature Senator Obama's right-wing critics have tried to create. But most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive. And we agree," Obama spokesman Bill Burton said in the statement. McCain's campaign also issued a statement saying the cartoon is "tasteless and offensive."

The U.S. media are divided on whether the cartoon will provide fuel for right-wing critics of Obama's candidacy. The Washington Post has termed the image "incendiary" and said the magazine has succeeded in gaining attention. Sean Gardner of the Huffington Post said the magazine fails to provide an explanation for the satire. Other columnists throughout the U.S. agreed it has gone too far.

But Pulitzer Prize winner Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune said the image is "just lampooning all the crazy ignorance out there."

Behind the controversy is an e-mail campaign that purports to show Obama in Muslim clothing and repeatedly questions his patriotism, political author Jeffrey Feldman said in an interview with CBC News. "The idea [is] that somehow Barack Obama is an urban terrorist with a secret agenda that is aligned with al-Qaeda and the second he gets in the White House, he's going to launch some covert plan in order to bring down the United States," Feldman said.

"It's such a ridiculous claim, but no matter how many times people fight back against it — including on the Obama website [where] they have an entire section dedicated to just fighting these smears…it still seems to be gaining ground. There's almost exhaustion, a frustration that this type of smear campaign is working to spread these ideas."

Rachel Sklar, media editor at the Huffington Post, said she believed the image may be used by Obama opponents. "This is so clearly a send-up and I understood that when I saw the image, but what I also understood was that it so perfectly encapsulated all the most vitriolic smears about the Obamas, that it could well be used as genuine irony-free propaganda," she told CBC News.

The fear among supporters of Obama is that he will be forced to talk about the cartoon, rather than substantive policy issues. Obama has not yet commented directly on the cartoon.


WUJS Closes Arad Center, Moves to Tel Aviv

By Ha'aretz

After 40 years of operation, the World Union of Jewish Students Institute in Arad will be closed and its activity transferred from the small Negev town to the country's center, said a spokeswoman for Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, which operates WUJS.

"When we learned the Jewish Agency was closing the building which houses the Arad institution, we concentrated our efforts on finding another venue," said Barbara Sofer, Hadassah's Israel Director of Public Relations.

The Jewish Agency owns the building in Arad, while Hadassah took over the Arad institution from the Jewish Agency in 2006. The Institute, which was established in 1968, offered Ulpan (intensive Hebrew) programs and courses about Israel and Jewish learning. It also held weekly tours and social activities. According to Sofer, the WUJS institute in Arad had taught thousands of students, with 25 percent staying on in Israel as new immigrants.

"Although the facility in Arad has been closed down, the Arad program has in fact been expanded," Sofer said. "The Arad center ran four programs for teenagers, which included activities in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Each program was five months long. Starting September 1, those programs will be run from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and they will go on for six months and will include additional activities."

Hadassah National President Nancy Falchuk decided on the move last week, according to Sofer. "We had 50 teenagers who were supposed to attend at Arad," Sofer said. "We contacted them to let them know we couldn't have the program there. None of them canceled."

A spokesman for the Jewish Agency, Michael Jankelowitz, told Ha'aretz that the Arad building used to be an absorption center, but its function was changed last year because of lack of demand on the part of new immigrants. "The WUJS institute profited from the boarding house services at the absorption center," Jankelowitz said. "They moved after they learned those services would no longer be available."


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