In Common Occurrence, Iranian Boats Veer Close to U.S. Warship Top U.S. general in region voices concern about how quickly such an encounter could turn lethal By Gordon Lubold

ABOARD THE USS NEW ORLEANS—Boats from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps maneuvered dangerously close to a U.S. military vessel in the Strait of Hormuz on Monday, part of a pattern that the top American general in the region—who was on the ship at the time—said risked grave miscalculation.

“What concerns me is our people don’t always have a lot of time to deal with those interactions,” said Gen. Joe Votel, head of U.S. Central Command, as he stood on the bridge of the amphibious ship later in the day. “It’s measured in minutes to really have the opportunity to make the right decision.”

The five Iranian boats included four small patrol craft and a larger boat called a Houdong fast-attack craft. At least one of the patrol boats was equipped with a .50 caliber machine gun and what is known as a multiple rail rocket launcher. They came within several hundred yards of the American ship.

The series of encounters on Monday took place as the New Orleans sailed in international waters through the strait. Gen. Votel, on a swing through the Middle East this week, voiced concern about how quickly such an encounter could turn lethal for the ship, which was carrying about 700 Marines.

In the case of Monday’s incident, U.S. officials didn’t consider the Iranian ships to be technically harassing the American warship, but said they came unacceptably close to doing so. Iran officials couldn’t immediately be reached to comment.

The encounters might have been considered more dramatic if they weren’t so common. American Navy ships reported about 300 incidents with Iranian vessels during 2015, according to data provided by the Navy’s Fifth Fleet. Most of those “interactions,” as the Navy calls them, are considered safe or don’t rise to the level of harassment, according to Navy officials.

Navy officials essentially grade Iranian naval behavior on a curve. They said that the way the Iranians behave typically, even when they don’t actually harass American warships, is still not the way most professional navies behave at sea.

About 10% of all incidents are of greater concern, Navy officials said. These may entail Iranian craft crossing the bow of an American warship, approaching at a high rate of speed, or training weaponry on a U.S. vessel.

The IRGC’s routine actions in the region force American warships to have to determine just what their intent is, said one officer here.

“It’s very common for them to come up to within 300, 500 yards of us, and then they’ll turn, or parallel us and stop,” said Lt. Forrest Griggs, the New Orleans’s operations officer. “We try not to become accustomed to that because we don’t want to become complacent.”

Navy officials maintain they always navigate through the international waters of the strait—through which a third of all seaborne oil and other energy products are shipped—and Gen. Votel said the U.S. isn’t trying to provoke Iran with such operations.

Tensions at sea have been high since an incident in January in which two U.S. Navy riverine boats slipped mistakenly into Iranian territorial waters and became stranded before IRGC forces surrounded and boarded them and detained 10 American sailors at gunpoint.CONTINUE AT SITE

Trump and the Delegates A court ruling gives an impetus to unbinding GOP convention-goers. Joe Rago…please see note

This is not a “conscience vote”….It is a petulant vote that disrupts democracy and causes chaos and hands Hillary the election…..even the article acknowledges:
“Then again, denying Mr. Trump the nomination could also be futile at this stage. Defeating him would inflame party divisions, and no Republican can win without the support of Mr. Trump’s core voters. This is why even a conscience vote is opposed by the Republican National Committee.” rsk

A federal judge on Monday issued a permanent injunction that overturns a Virginia law requiring that delegates to this month’s party conventions vote based on the results of the primaries. The thunderclap ruling is right on the legal and constitutional merits, but the larger political question is whether Republicans should adopt a conscience rule to unbind the delegates in Cleveland next week.

The case was brought by Beau Correll, a Ted Cruz supporter who doesn’t want to vote for Donald Trump as Virginia law says he must. Federal Judge Robert Payne’s opinion makes a persuasive case that the Virginia law—and by implication any state’s law—that binds delegates violates First Amendment rights of free speech and association. Political parties are private institutions that exist to advance their common beliefs and to nominate candidates without state interference, and delegates must be unconstrained in their choices.

“First Amendment rights for parties and their adherents are particularly strong in the context of the nomination and selection of the President and Vice President,” Judge Payne writes in Correll v. Herring.

The ruling applies only to Virginia’s delegates to both party conventions, but it may give an impetus to Republicans in other states who are pushing for a “conscience clause” that would unbind all delegates. That question will be put this week before the Republican National Convention’s 112-member rules committee. Merely one-quarter of the rules committee, or 28 members, can send a minority report to the floor for a debate that would be followed by an up-or-down vote by the full convention.

How a vote to unbind would shake out is anyone’s guess, but there is nothing illegitimate about it. Republicans should respect the preferences of primary voters, though not automatically. Political parties exist to win elections—in other words, nominating the candidate with the best chance in November. If the delegates are unbound to exercise their judgment, and a majority concludes that is someone other than Mr. Trump, the GOP has the right to do so.
Mr. Trump carried 36 states and secured about 1,450 pledged delegates, more than the 1,237 who make a majority under current GOP rules. By the time all the ballots were cast, he received 44% of the popular vote. CONTINUE AT SITE


‘ISIS-inspired’ Plan to Blow Up Jewish, American Institutions in South Africa Revealed

Twin brothers, 24, intended ‘to cause and spread terror’ in South Africa’s Jewish community in what a Johannesburg court calls an attempted act of terrorism.

Twin brothers have been charged with conspiring to blow up various Jewish institutions and a U.S. mission in South Africa, a police spokesman said Monday, in what a Johannesburg court has called an attempted act of terrorism.

Spokesman Hangwane Mulaudzi said that Brandon-Lee Thulsie and Tony-Lee Thulsie, 24, and two other people, identified as siblings Fatima and Ibrahim Mohammed Patel, who are yet to be charged were arrested in Johannesburg on Saturday. The brothers are accused of intending “to cause and spread feelings of terror,” particularly in South Africa’s “Jewish sector,” the court’s provisional charge sheet said, News24 reported.

The Patel siblings appeared in a separate court Monday after a stun grenade and live ammunition were confiscated during a raid on their home outside Johannesburg on Saturday night, said Phindi Louw, a spokeswoman for the National Prosecuting Authority.

The Thulsie brothers’ planned attack may have been “to further the … motives and objectives” of ISIS, according to the court. The four were arrested before boarding a flight to Syria and had been under surveillance for nearly a year. “The allegation is that after the training, they would come back to South Africa,” Malaudzi said.

Why We Must Use the Label, ‘Radical Islam’ Taking the president up on his conversation starter. Adam Turner

“What exactly would using this label (i.e. radical Islam) accomplish? What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIS less committed to trying to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this? The answer is none of the above. Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away. This is a political distraction.”

President Obama, June 14, 2016

The President and Administration personnel are unwilling to name the enemy before them, the enemy that killed 49 Americans and injured another 53 more in Orlando: Radical Islam (or related terms such as Islamism, political Islam, jihadists, radical Muslims, etc.).

Contrary to the President’s likely intention, which is to silence criticism of his political correctness, I am going to take him up on his conversation starter.

“What exactly would using this label (i.e. radical Islam) accomplish? What exactly would it change?”

A lot, actually. It is useful to know that these radicals practice a form of the Islamic faith, regardless of whether this version is distorted or not, since this knowledge itself provides actionable intelligence. For example, if the intelligence community, law enforcement, and the general public understand that the terrorists in question are radical Muslims, then they will know that certain places and groups are more likely to be targeted – e.g., a gay night club or a kosher supermarket – and certain times of the year are more likely to see violence – e.g., Ramadan. It means that authorities should be especially alert on Friday night, as this is after Muslims, both radical and non-radical, say their weekly prayers in congregation. It might even tell you specific dates when a terror bombing from radical Muslims might be coming. The attacks on 9/11 by al-Qaeda were apparently meant to respond to the Muslim defeat on September 11, 1683 at the gates of Vienna.

Of course, the President may argue that just because he refuses to articulate that the terrorists are followers of radical Islam, this does not mean that he and his strategists don’t understand that the terrorists are motivated by a radical form of Islam. Unfortunately, however, there is a lot of evidence that this politically correct campaign has left Administration and homeland security officials ignorant of basic facts about radical Muslims. Presumably, this is because, in 2011, John Brennan, then deputy national security adviser for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, and now CIA Director, ordered a purge of all federal law-enforcement “training materials that contain cultural or religious content, including information related to Islam or Muslims.”


Nigel Farage is Ukip – whether he leads the party or not is irrelevant

Nigel Farage didn’t set up Ukip, but he reshaped it in his image when he became the party’s leader. Mr Farage’s successor will be in place by September, bringing to an end his nine years at the helm. After clearing away the pint glasses and cigar smoke, how will they manage to fill the Farage-shaped void?

A “void” isn’t strictly speaking an accurate description, as the next Ukip leader will likely find that the man they replace is still keen to be involved. Mr Farage insists he is off because he wants his life back, but he has had some trouble letting go in the past. He tried resigning last year, declaring that he “never felt happier” after stepping down and that an “enormous weight” had been lifted from his shoulders. But he was back three days later, explaining why he was going to carry that weight on for a while longer. He stepped down for a bit longer ahead of the 2010 general election, but came back swiftly after it became clear that Lord Pearson was struggling as his interim replacement.

Mr Farage may have been “chief spokesman” at the time, but party insiders admit to me that he was seen as the “power behind the throne”, so his return to the Ukip helm was regraded as a mere formality.

If next Ukip leader wants to sketch out a different path to Mr Farage, they’ll have to be ready to face their predecessor down when he comes calling. I understand he took pains to make clear to MEPs last week that he may be resigning, but he would still be engaged. That’s hardly a surprise – as Ukip has been a project Mr Farage has spent over 20 years of his life working on. He took what Alan Sked originally launched as the Anti-Federalist League and replaced its academic dustiness with electorally potent blend of populism and charisma. The results speak for themselves: 4 million votes at the last general election and a national vote secured for Brexit. Ukip as it stands is Mr Farage’s baby, so it’s little surprise that he has a vested interest in making sure his successor doesn’t reverse the work he has done.

Not that he’d admit so publicly, as the outgoing Ukip leader was nonchalance itself on the issue of his party’s future over the weekend. Speaking on LBC, he insisted that his successor should take it in a “completely different direction”. But in truth it’ll be only on his terms.

The challenge facing the next Ukip leader is how to follow such a big character. One leading contender, Steven Woolfe, likes to compare this question to “what would happen after Ferguson left Man United”, asking: “Do you want to be Louis Van Gaal or David Moyes?”



Good progress on dry-AMD treatment trials. (TY Karen) Human trials of OpRegen from Israeli biotech Cell Cure (see here) at Hadassah Medical Center are proceeding well. This unique stem cell therapy aims to stop progression of the dry form of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) that leads to blindness.

Oral insulin to replace injections. Israeli TV news about the innovative treatment from Israel’s Oramed that will make life better for many of the 400 million people with diabetes.

When you cannot eat. Many sufferers from cancer, stroke, cerebral palsy and Parkinson’s cannot take food orally. Israel’s Fidmi Medical is developing an innovative enteral feeding device that is secure, reliable, painless and discreet. It is extremely unlikely to get clogged up or be dislodged by (potentially fatal) accident.

Studying cancer in space. (TY SDM) Israeli startup SpacePharma is working with Bioscience engineering faculty and students at SUNY Polytechnic Institute in a $1.75 million research project that will use research in space to find new cancer cures. They will launch a “lab-on-a-chip” with cancer cells inside in a micro satellite that will orbit the earth, studying how cancer cells behave in zero gravity and micro gravity environments.

UK fellowship award for Israeli CF Professor. (TY Karen) The UK’s Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health has awarded an Honorary Fellowship to Professor. Eitan Kerem, head of the Division of Pediatrics at the Hadassah Medical Center and cystic fibrosis specialist. He was praised especially for his work training Palestinian Arab pediatricians in his cystic fibrosis clinic, and treating Palestinian Arab children.

From Hezbollah to Hamas. The PSC rally at Downing Street : David Collier

After the events of last weekend, when the Hezbollah flag was raised in London, spending an evening at a rally with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) seemed positively benign. How wrong I was.

08 July 2016. Richmond Terrace, London SW1A. An area directly opposite Downing Street that is used for demonstrations. It is two years since the 2014 Israel–Hamas conflict, and today the PSC dusted off their ‘stop the attack’ banners, and came out to protest.

But it isn’t 2014 anymore. It was staged to be a big event. It was an anniversary, it was advertised heavily by the PSC minions, their ‘interim head honcho’ Sarah Apps was there, as were their other ‘chiefs’. By half time I heard conversations amongst the organisers making excuses for the low turnout. Scores of banners were left by the sidewalk, with not enough hands to raise them all aloft

A fact about the state of pro-Palestinian activism is this: More people turned out for the Hezbollah Flag than for this PSC anniversary. There were 170, maybe 200. The Facebook event page suggests 557. It seems lots of those that did attend have multiple accounts on Facebook.

I did learn that I need to take my disguise up to another level. I was wearing a hat and a large Keffiyeh, but was ‘clocked’ as soon as I entered. The PSC and I have history, I am passive, I am an ‘investigative journalist’ and they don’t like what I write. A ‘persona non grata’ they can do little about.

The pro-Israelis were taken to one side by the police. Unmasked now, I saw one of them was Joseph and realised this was an Israel Advocacy Movement (IAM) action. Andrew was there, Ben, Chloé, Micha and perhaps a couple of others.
The Israeli flags

The police formed a line between the two groups and the IAM crowd took out their Israeli flags. On the one side a mob of angry anti-Israeli activists, on the other 5 people with the courage to face them.

The distance between the two groups was negligible. A woman by my side ducked and lunged towards the Israeli group, but was stopped and pushed back. Lighter in hand, it seemed she had wanted to burn an Israeli flag. Looking back over the footage, I saw that the lighter had been placed in her hand only during the confrontation. She never made it through the line of stewards.

There was verbal abuse and a stand-off. More distance was placed between the two sides and the organisers tried to bring people back to the rally. There were still people talking on the stage, microphone in hand, but almost nobody was listening. The mob was where the action was. Hating a Jew clearly far more enticing than listening to the same old rhetoric.

It Is The Duty of Muslims to Speak Out by Majid Rafizadeh

Islam can provide a powerful language and tool to commit the worst crimes, while at the same time the perpetrators of those attacks feel blessed, privileged, rewarded and on the winning side.

This indoctrination evolves into a deep-seated fear of even questioning, let alone leaving, the rules of Allah and Islam. Once you become the slave of Islam, it kills your courage to leave it.

Unless we gain a better understanding of the nature of Islam — its reliance on Qur’anic verses, as well as its values, principles and ideology, we will not be capable of addressing this threat.

Simply stating that Islam does not have to do anything with these violent acts is not a constructive; it is just a way to avoid tackling the problem. As Muslims, we need to accept the fact that there exist some parts in the religion of Islam that gives social, political, religious, and cultural legitimacy to violence. Otherwise these Islamist groups would not have flourished.

It is sometimes important to talk about things that are tempting to be silent about. It is important to shed light on the intricacies, complexities, and nuances of the religion of Islam as well as the contemporary social, political and economic traditions linked to this faith and the uncontrolled rise of extremism.

I used to be a devout follower of Islam: one of the few who actually read the Qur’an word for word and tried to follow the rules in detail.

The penalty for renouncing Islam, it is also crucial to note, is death. It is legally administered in Islamic societies by governments, Islamic courts, and even individual Muslims who desire to fulfill their duty prescribed by Allah, the Qur’an and Muhammad.

These Islamic laws, of course, create fear about telling the true story.

A Muslim, you see, believes that the Qur’an contains the exact words of Allah. The Qu’ran does not tell stories about God, as does the Bible; it is viewed as the very word of God, similar to the Ten Commandments. They therefore must be implemented without reservation, regardless of time and place.

According to some Islamic teachings, the reward for killing an unbeliever or apostate — someone who leaves Islam and renounces Allah and Muhammad — will receive the best place in heaven.

If you have been indoctrinated by Islam from your earliest childhood and all your life have been a follower of Islam, abandoning or criticizing it is not going to be easy. This indoctrination evolves into a deep-seated fear of even questioning, let alone leaving, the rules of Allah and Islam. Once you become the slave of Islam, it kills your courage to leave it.

Deciding to be free and independent — liberating yourself from being the slave of the rules of Allah and the chains of Islam — becomes inconceivable, out of question.

Islam can provide a powerful language and tool to commit the worst crimes, while at the same time the perpetrators of those attacks feel blessed, privileged, rewarded and on the winning side.

Unless we gain a better understanding of the nature of Islam — its reliance on Qur’anic verses, as well as its values, principles and ideology, we will not be capable of addressing this threat. The challenge before us is no longer just a Muslim issue belonging solely to the citizens of Muslim countries. The threads of fear and cruelty in Islam infest every country. It is a challenge that needs to be dealt with by everyone, the whole world. Otherwise, Islam will only continue to spread in various forms: al Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Jubhat Al Nusra, Hamas, Hizb ut-Tahrir, Islamic Jihad, individual terrorists, and many others.

ISIS Comes to Gaza by Khaled Abu Toameh

Recent reports leave no doubt as to cooperation between Hamas and ISIS groups in Sinai. These reports, the Egyptians and Palestinian Authority argue, provide further evidence that the Gaza Strip remains a major base for various jihadi terror groups that pose a real threat.

The report said that terrorists wanted by the Egyptian authorities were admitted to the Gaza Strip hospital in return for weapons given to Hamas by the Islamic State in the Sinai.

Mahmoud Abbas and the leaders of the Palestinian Authority (PA) can continue to talk all they want about a Palestinian state that would be established in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem. But when ISIS-inspired groups are active in Gaza and there are no signs that the Hamas regime is weakening, it is rather difficult to imagine a Palestinian state.

The jihadi groups clearly seek to create an Islamic emirate combining the Gaza Strip and Sinai. Abbas might thank Israel for its presence in the West Bank — a presence that allows him and his government to be something other than infidel cannon fodder for the jihadis.

Hamas denies it up and down. Nonetheless, there are growing signs that the Islamist movement, which is based in the Gaza Strip, is continuing to cooperate with other jihadi terror groups that are affiliated with Islamic State (ISIS), especially those that have been operating in the Egyptian peninsula of Sinai in recent years.

This cooperation, according to Palestinian Authority security sources, is the main reason behind the ongoing tensions between the Egyptian authorities and Hamas. These tensions have prompted the Egyptians to keep the Rafah border crossing mostly closed since 2013, trapping tens of thousands of Palestinians inside the Gaza Strip.

In 2015, the Egyptians opened the Rafah terminal for a total of twenty-one days to allow humanitarian cases and those holding foreign nationalities to leave or enter the Gaza Strip.

This year so far, Rafah has been open for a total of twenty-eight days. Sources in the Gaza Strip say there are about 30,000 humanitarian cases that need to leave immediately. They include dozens of university students who haven’t been able to go back to their universities abroad and some 4,000 patients in need of urgent medical treatment.

Surprisingly, last week the Egyptians opened the Rafah terminal for five days in a row, allowing more than 4,500 Palestinians to leave and enter the Gaza Strip. The unusual gesture came on the eve of the Muslim feast of Eid al-Fitr. However, the terminal was closed again at the beginning of the feast on July 6.

The renewed closure of the Rafah terminal coincided with reports that efforts to end the tensions between Hamas and Egypt hit a snag. According to the reports, the Egyptian authorities decided to cancel a planned visit to Cairo by senior Hamas officials. The decision to cancel the visit, the reports said, came in the wake of the dissatisfaction of the Egyptians with the way Hamas has been handling security along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. The closure of the border crossing came as a blow to Hamas’s efforts to patch up its differences with Egypt and pave the way for easing severe travel restrictions imposed by Cairo on the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.