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Iran Says It Is Running 7,000 Uranium Enrichment Centrifuges

By Reuters

Iran is now running 7,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges, a senior official said on Thursday, an announcement likely to increase Western concerns about the Islamic Republic's disputed nuclear plans.

Gholamreza Aghazadeh, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, also said it had obtained the technology to produce more "accurate" centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium.

Russia Offer Abbas Helicopters, Rifles for Emerging PA Army


Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has promised visiting Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas 5,000 sub-machine guns, 300 machine guns and 1,000 handguns, according to the Russian newspaper Kommersant.

Voice of Israel government radio added that Russia earlier this week also offered two helicopters for the emerging PA army. In addition, the United States is beefing up its training of PA soldiers, who are called "police officers" or "special forces" in order to meet the conditions of a previous agreement that the PA does not man an army.

The weapons cannot be transferred without Israeli approval, but the previous Olmert government agreement already agreed to allow the PA to receive 50 armored personnel carriers from Russia on condition that they be unarmed.

Moscow's influence in the Middle East continues to grow with the administration of President Barack Obama, who received a proposal from his Russian counterpart to visit Russia in July and participate in another international Middle East conference, according to Kommersant.

Medvedev, while offering new weapons to the PA, said he hopes that work on a "peaceful settlement" would continue. Talks between Israel and the PA have been few and far between since the Israeli government crisis last September and the escalation of terrorist attacks from Gaza that led to a three-week counterterrorist campaign dubbed Operation Cast Lead.

The U.S. has been supervising the training PA forces at an American-funded base in Jericho, but Ha'aretz reported this week that American officers also are training top security personnel in Ramallah, the headquarters of the PA.

On the diplomatic front, Obama is sending special envoy George Mitchell to Israel and the PA next week to try to resume talks. However, Abbas has not called to congratulate Binyamin Netanyahu on becoming Prime Minister last week.

Instead, Abbas told the media that he would not consider resuming talks unless Israel stops all construction in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and accepts the goal of establishing a new PA country in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

The Bush administration, as well as Israel, had rejected a Moscow venue for the continuation of the Annapolis, Maryland conference nearly 18 months ago. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman upset the international community as well as his predecessor and Kadima party Opposition leader Tzipi Livni by saying that the idea of Annapolis is a dead issue.

The conference called for the establishment of a PA country as soon as possible. Although castigated for his remarks. Lieberman was not the first person to observe that the Annapolis initiative as history. Marwan Barghouti, considered the leading PA figure and who is serving five life terms in prison for involvement in lethal terrorist attacks, made the same remark a year ago.

Did a Tsunami Part the Red Sea?

By Ha'aretz

Since Egyptian hieroglyphics were first deciphered, enormous numbers of ancient Egyptian writings have been translated into modern languages, contributing to a better understanding of the history of the land of the pharaohs. But in none of these texts has there been any mention of the dramatic events that appear in the biblical Book of Exodus.

For this reason scientists have been hard-pressed to point to solid historical evidence for the story of the Exodus, linking the biblical description to events mentioned in other historical sources. This does not mean the scientists have stopped trying.

A new book, "The Parting of the Sea," published by Princeton University Press, suggests an explanation for the Exodus story that is based on volcanic eruptions that occurred 3,600 years ago. The author, geologist Barbara J. Sivertsen, of the University of Chicago, maintains the biblical description blends two separate events into a single story.

Sivertsen argues that the "supernatural" events that occur in the biblical description can be explained by phenomena that follow volcanic eruptions.

In a telephone interview from Chicago the author said the first exodus from Egypt occurred after 1628 years BCE, the same year an enormous volcanic eruption nearly destroyed the island of Santorini in the Aegean. The effects of the eruption reached Egypt, causing dramatic, climatic phenomena. The eruption "raised an acidic ash cloud," said Sivertsen, making things "dark and there was thunder."

Sivertsen said she became frustrated in reading the description of the Exodus "because I realized these were clearly volcanic events. But I found no serious scientific explanation of this kind."

The plague of blood she explains as the growth of red weeds that multiplied as a result of the volcanic ash. Then came the frogs. "If you were a frog, you would come out, too, in such circumstances," she said.

The only plague that is not related to the volcanic eruption is that of the death of the first born. She suggests it was the result of massive food poisoning, which did not affect the Hebrews, because they kept to a different diet.

As for the parting of the Red Sea, Sivertsen says that was part of a different story, which occurred close to 1450 BCE, well after the Hebrews had reached the Promised Land.

Sivertsen says that at that time another eruption in the Aegean, of the island of Yali, caused a series of tsunamis that parted the sea and drowned the pursuing Egyptian army. As for those escaping, they were a group of Hebrew prisoners.

Over time, oral tradition combined these events into the Exodus narrative known today. "I agree you can not know for sure what really happened. But I'm convinced my hypothesis explains the events much better than others," she says.

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