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White House Denies Letter to Netanyahu


The White House denied on Thursday that President Barack Obama had sent Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu a letter outlining commitments to Israel in exchange for a one-time, two-month extension of the building freeze in Judea and Samaria.

It had been reported that the letter pledged the United States would provide Israel with sophisticated security equipment ahead of an agreement with the PA and would veto any Arab initiative on a PA state in the UN Security Council a year.

New York Times Links Iran Worm to Bible


Computer specialists charged with examining the Stuxnet computer virus, which has reportedly infected Iranian nuclear infrastructure, have found that one of its files was named 'Myrtus,' a moniker used to refer to Esther in the biblical book by her name.

A New York Times report published Thursday says another biblical clue found in the virus's code was the word 'guava,' a fruit belonging to the Myrtus family. The report names as its source Ralph Langner, a German computer security consultant and the first to devise that the worm was a pointed cyber attack.

The word 'Myrtus' is most simply used as a name for a family of fruit, also used for religious purposes during the Sukkot holiday, but some computer analysts see it as a biblical clue linking Israel to the attempt at breaking into Iran's nuclear technology.

However other analysts see the clue as a red herring intended at focusing suspicion on Israel and thus removing it from other possible culprits. So far both Israel and the US, both immediate suspects in any attack on Tehran's nuclear program, have kept silent on the matter, and experts say the mystery may never be solved.

"The Iranians are already paranoid about the fact that some of their scientists have defected and several of their secret nuclear sites have been revealed," the Times quoted a former intelligence official as saying. "Whatever the origin and purpose of Stuxnet, it ramps up the psychological pressure."

Though the virus has also infected China, India, and Indonesia, experts believe Iran was the main target. But the question of whether the file name is a sly play on words, a false clue, or simply a random selection of letters remains.

Obama Pressed to Weigh an Iran Strike


President Barack Obama is under pressure to consider a military strike on Iran, according to the Financial Times.

Both Senator Joe Lieberman and Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, have urged the president to consider setting a time limit of just a few months on the effectiveness of the most recent sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic for its nuclear advances.

"Our goal here is to convince Iran to stop its nuclear weapons development program by economic and diplomatic means if we can but (to make clear) that we are prepared to use military means if we must," Lieberman told the Financial Times.

The senator added that the Obama Administration must reevaluate its policy at the end of the year and adopt a tougher stance if necessary. He called the sanctions "biting," but said he doubted they would cause Iran to negotiate its nuclear program with the West.

Berman told the publication that the administration had "months, not years" to make sanctions work and that a military operation was preferable to a nuclear Iran.

Being Gay in Iran


Recently, quietly, under the nose of the ayatollah regime, a group of Iranian homosexuals decided to celebrate the national LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) day. Naturally, however, they were unable to march through the streets of Tehran waving the rainbow Pride flags as they passed the house of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"It was a small event, less than 12 people," says Faruh, an Iranian homosexual and member of an organization that assists homosexuals who have fled the Islamic Republic. "They had a ceremony at home and then went out for a drive."

One reason the event encountered no difficulties and without arrests, he says, was that the participants didn't spend much time organizing it and didn't say a word about it. "They said they waved Pride flags but it was probably not for long," he adds. "It was probably inside the car where nobody saw."

In Ahmadinejad's Iran, young people with different sexual mores are not welcome. Recently, police burst into a party in Shiraz and arrested 17 gays who police said were caught with drugs and alcohol. Rights organizations say 11 homosexuals face the death sentence just for their sexual preferences. (

Though the authorities refuse to recognize them, homosexuals still find ways of meeting. "In every big city there are recognized places where the community meets," an activist in the Tehran community, who asks not to be identified, told Ynet. "There are cafes which dedicate an evening to homosexuals, and once in a while the meeting place changes."

The activist, who writes a blog on homosexuality and distributes information to people who have no internet access, is not afraid. "I grew up in fear, and I'm used to it," he says. "After a while, the fear becomes a part of life and you stop being afraid."

Iranian gays also meet over the internet on sites such as, which has thousands of members. "It happens on the net, and it's quite dangerous," said Arsham Parsi, head of Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees.

Faruh added, "Intelligence agents fix meetings with homosexuals over the net and set a trap." Faruh worked together with the organization Human Rights Watch and sent a message to every Iranian who visited the site, to warn them.

Faruh's personal story is an example of the hardships facing homosexuals in Iran, especially activists in the community. Faruh, 27 years old, fled to Turkey after being raped by the Basij militia of the Revolutionary Guard. He is currently waiting for an interview with the UN Refugee Agency in the hope of obtaining asylum in a western state.

"They did things I don't want to remember," he said. "Even today I still have three broken teeth." This is not the first time that the Iranian opposition has leveled charges of rape against the security forces, including sodomy by inanimate objects in order to humiliate the prisoner.

"For a month they interrogated me, sending me home each time then summoning me again," Faruh said. When an ex-boyfriend of his partner exposed him as the editor of the "Pink" magazine, he was forced to flee to Turkey in fear of his life.

When he recalls what he went through, he describes it as if it was a nightmare. "At that moment when they blindfold you, even though you expect terrible things to happen, you still don't believe it," he says. "I simply cried. When they beat you it's like a dream, you think you'll wake up at any moment." He almost can't recall the rape, because he fainted almost immediately and woke up to find himself naked and lone in the room.

According to Iranian law, he continued, the only illegal aspect is the act itself of sexual intercourse between men, but in order to be charged, someone needs to witness the act.

"Things are not getting better in Iran," he says. "But more and more people are showing less fear of the Islamic regime, and it's not only in the LGBT community, it's all the activists."

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