Thursday, February 5, 2009

Aipac update February 4, 2009
U.S. 'Gravely Concerned' Over Iranian Satellite Launch

U.N.: Hamas Stole Aid from Needy Palestinians

Iran: World 'Talking Nonsense' About Ending Our Nuke Program

Hamas Rockets, Mortars Slam into Southern Israel

Senior Congressman Snubbed by Iran in Dialogue Bid

Israeli Entrepreneur Plans Free Online-Only Global University

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U.S. 'Gravely Concerned' Over Iranian Satellite LaunchIran launched its first satellite into orbit this week, marking a dangerous development in the Islamic Republic's efforts to build a nuclear weapon and the means to deliver it, The New York Times reported. In Washington, the State Department called the event worrisome. "Iran's development of a space launch vehicle establishes the technical basis from which Iran could develop long-range ballistic missile systems," said spokesman Robert A. Wood. In recent months, Tehran has unveiled plans for a number of long-range missiles based on Russian and North Korean designs, all with the capability of delivering a nuclear warhead. Iran already has missiles that can reach all of Israel, parts of Europe and U.S. troops in the Middle East. The satellite launch represents an important step toward eventually building a missile that can reach U.S. territory. U.N.: Hamas Stole Aid from Needy PalestiniansA U.N. official on Wednesday accused Hamas terrorists of seizing 3,500 blankets and more than 400 food parcels meant for Palestinian residents in the Gaza Strip, The Jerusalem Post reported. Christopher Gunness, spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), said Hamas fighters raided a U.N. warehouse in Gaza City late Tuesday, stealing the humanitarian aid. "UNRWA condemns in the strongest terms the confiscation of its aid supplies and has demanded that it is returned immediately," Gunness said in a statement. Hamas has routinely diverted humanitarian assistance meant for residents of Gaza, and has stolen medical supplies in order to treat its own fighters. Despite these developments, Israel continues to work closely with international aid groups to facilitate the transfer of humanitarian supplies to Palestinian civilians.
Iran: World 'Talking Nonsense' About Ending Our Nuke ProgramIran remained defiant over its illicit nuclear program on Monday as representatives of six major powers prepared to meet in Germany to look at ways of persuading the Islamic Republic to curb its nuclear ambitions, Agence France Presse reported. "If they [the United States and the international community] want Iran to give up the know-how it has regarding the nuclear program, they are talking nonsense," said parliament speaker Ali Larijani, Iran's former nuclear negotiator. Despite repeated calls from the United Nations to halt its atomic work, Iran has made rapid advancements in its ability to enrich uranium—a key step toward developing nuclear weapons. Click here to learn about Iran's quest for a nuclear weapons capability.
Hamas Rockets, Mortars Slam into Southern IsraelA long-range Hamas rocket slammed into the Israeli city of Ashkelon on Tuesday, just one day after three Israelis were wounded in a barrage of Hamas rockets and mortars on southern Israel, the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reported. The latest attacks were the heaviest in weeks and marked the first strike on Ashkelon—one of Israel's largest cities—since Israel withdrew its troops from Gaza after Operation Cast Lead. In recent weeks, Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups have launched sporadic attacks against Israeli civilians and killed one Israeli soldier in a roadside bomb attack along the Gaza-Israel border. Click here to learn about Hamas' terrorist activity in the Gaza Strip.
Senior Congressman Snubbed by Iran in Dialogue BidThe chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs tried to meet a top aide to Iran's supreme leader in Bahrain in mid-December, but was rebuffed at the last minute, The Wall Street Journal reported. Rep. Howard Berman's (D-CA)'s engagement with Ali Larijani, speaker of the Iranian parliament, would have marked one of the highest-level discussions between American and Iranian officials since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. The report comes days after Iranian officials said, in response to overtures by the Obama administration, that dialogue over the country's illicit nuclear program could not begin between the two nations until the United States removed its troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and met a series of other preconditions.
Israeli Entrepreneur Plans Free Online-Only Global UniversityAn Israeli entrepreneur with decades of experience in international education plans to start the first global, tuition-free Internet university, a nonprofit venture he has named the University of the People, The New York Times reported. "The idea is to take social networking and apply it to academia," said the entrepreneur, Shai Reshef. The University of the People would have online study communities, weekly discussion topics, homework assignments and exams. But in lieu of tuition, students would pay only nominal fees for enrollment and exams, with students from poorer countries paying less and those from richer countries paying more. "With these new social networks, where young people now like to spend their lives, we can bring college degrees to students all over the world, third-world students who would be unable to study otherwise. I haven't found even one person who says it's a bad idea."

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