December 8, 2023

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03/31 Links Pt1: ‘Science will conquer this’: Inside the race for a coronavirus treatment; Bus driver who was Israel’s first serious virus patient makes full recovery

From Ian:

‘Science will conquer this’: Inside the race for a coronavirus treatment
In a small lab on the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Professor Shy Arkin and his team of three are “throwing chemicals” at some of the proteins that constitute the coronavirus, hoping that one or more of them will stick.

Or at least that’s the kind of non-scientific language Arkin helpfully uses to describe the frantic research that is taking place in his and thousands of other labs around the world, in the battle to counter the pandemic that has gradually brought much of human endeavor and interaction to a near-halt.

In whichever constrained environment this article finds you, therefore, you’ll be pleased to hear that he’s optimistic. The virus, Arkin acknowledges, is particularly devastating among the elderly and other high-risk groups. But social distancing is at least a partially effective interim measure, buying time for the scientific community to come up with a real solution. And that solution, he is confident, will be found.

Arkin is among the scientists who feel they have something of a head start in the race to stop the pandemic, having spent close to two decades studying the components of influenza and SARS 1, the current COVID-19’s “remarkably similar predecessor,” which killed 774 people in 2002-3. And he says that at least some of COVID-19’s two dozen or so components are proteins that are known to be “drug-able” — that scientists have been able to inhibit.

The particular race in which his and all those thousands of other labs are frantically engaged is to test some 6,000 chemicals — drugs that are already approved as non-toxic to humans — against the virus’s constituent compounds: “You throw chemicals at it… If one of the chemicals inhibits a component, and that component is crucial to the virus, the chemical is immediately a potential antivirus drug.”

Sounds simple? Well, yes and no, as this interview attempts to make clear.

It was conducted on Sunday, first in Arkin’s office and then, briefly, in his small lab — one of the very few places on the university campus still working. We kept the obligatory two meters apart as we spoke — a task that became slightly more difficult when we entered the lab, and two members of his team showed me some of the testing process.

The Times of Israel: So, how goes the search for a coronavirus treatment?

Prof. Shy Arkin: We’re working in frantic mode. We’re a small team, and we are serving chemicals against a component of the virus that we identified many years ago.

British-Israeli Project Aims to Identify Anti-Covid-19 Drug

Teams at the Weizmann Institute for Science in Israel and the Diamond Light Source laboratory in Oxfordshire outlined their current findings and research plans in a discussion hosted by Weizmann UK on Thursday. Weizmann Vice President for Public Affairs and Resource Development Roee Ozir said, “We have probably somewhere between 20 and 30 initiatives of talented and creative scientists who are trying to push their research very quickly and look for remedies as soon as possible.”

Dr. Nir London, who is leading the team at Weizmann that is searching for a drug candidate, said they are seeking to develop an anti-viral drug which will target protease, one of the 30 proteins that are essential for the activity of the virus. The Weizmann Institute and its international partners are seeking to conduct multiple stages of its research concurrently and thereby shorten the research cycle.

Weizmann has pioneered a form of research that is “completely open and shared in real time with the entire scientific community.” To find the compounds that are able to inhibit protease, “instead of following up on only a few tens of compounds, we aim to follow up on 500 to a 1,000 compounds in parallel and so drastically shorten the timescale,” London said.

The team published the data that they had gathered online and issued a “call to arms to medical chemists around the world” inviting them to submit proposals for which compounds might be best placed to bind to the coronavirus. “Within a few days, we got hundreds of proposals from medicinal chemists all around the world….Our premise is that if there is a safe compound which shows efficacy against the virus, humanity needs to know about this fast.”

World Health Organization insists coronavirus not an airborne disease as experts raise possibility

The World Health Organization doubled down on its claim that the COVID-19 virus is not transmittable by air even as some experts suggest it is possible and as Western officials recommend that doctors and nurses take precautions.

“FACT: #COVID19 is NOT airborne,” WHO declared in a Saturday fact-check tweet. “The #coronavirus is mainly transmitted through droplets generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks.”

But a study in the United States suggests otherwise. Carried out by more than a dozen health experts working with the National Institute for Health’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories, the study released this month found “aerosol … transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is plausible, since the virus can remain viable and infectious in aerosols for hours.”

One of the authors of the study that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Jamie Lloyd-Smith, a UCLA professor and infectious disease researcher, told the Los Angeles Times that singing may have spread virus through the air at a church in Washington state, where a choir rehearsal in early March was deemed the cause of a fatal coronavirus outbreak.

Polly Dubbel, a county communicable disease manager, told the Los Angeles Times that airborne transmission at the Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church was “all we can think of right now.”

She told the Washington Examiner: “It was a group of approximately 60 people just singing in close proximity to each other for over an hour — they weren’t eating, they weren’t shaking hands, they weren’t engaging in any other high-risk activities — and that’s all we know.”

One early March study in Singapore also suggested “that small virus-laden droplets may be displaced by airflows and deposited on equipment such as vents.” A non-peer-reviewed study out of China stated that the intensive care unit, the cardiac/coronary care unit, and general patient rooms in one Wuhan hospital and the patient hall inside another “had undetectable or low airborne SARS-CoV-2 concentration.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent disinfection guidelines state “based on what is currently known about the virus … spread from person-to-person happens most frequently among close contacts (within about 6 feet).” The guidance adds that “this type of transmission occurs via respiratory droplets, but disease transmission via infectious aerosols is currently uncertain.

Bus driver who was Israel’s first serious virus patient makes full recovery

A bus driver from East Jerusalem who was hospitalized on March 5, and attached to a respirator after he contracted the coronavirus, on Monday was released from hospital, after recovering.

“It’s been a very difficult month, the hardest month of my life,” the man, who has been identified only as Johnny said on his discharge from the Baruch Padeh Medical Center in Tiberias. “Initially, I was connected to oxygen. I couldn’t even get out of bed.” Johnny was the first patient in Israel to be designated in serious condition with the virus. Sixteen Israelis have since died.

At one stage during the driver’s treatment, the hospital said Johnny was treated with Remdesivir, which was originally developed for Ebola and is made by US biotech company Gilead Sciences. It is considered to be one of the most promising of treatments for coronavirus. No further details have been given regarding other therapies used in the man’s treatment.

Johnny, 38, headed home Monday evening, to be reunited with his wife and three children, aged 10, 2, and 7 months.

“I haven’t seen baby Alex in over a month, it’s so difficult,” he said. “The first thing I want to do now is to go home to see my kids. I really miss the family — they are now also in isolation, and are not leaving the house.”

Johnny was hospitalized after he late last month chauffeured a group of 23 Greek tourists, who were later confirmed to be infected. At least one of the tourists subsequently died from the virus.

Death toll rises to 19 as man in his 70s dies after contracting virus

A man in his 70s has died after becoming sick with COVID-19, Assuta hospital in Ashdod says.

The death raises Israel’s tally to 19.

The man suffered from pre-existing conditions, according to the hospital.

U.S.: Israeli-Palestinian Coordination on Corona Shows Way to Peace

U.S. Amb. Cherith Norman Chalet, Acting Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, told the Security Council on Monday:

– “In recent days, we have seen close coordination between Israeli and Palestinian authorities as they seek to prevent widespread harm from the presence of Covid-19 among their peoples.”

– “Both the Israeli and Palestinian ministries of health have been coordinating regularly to mitigate the spread and impact of the coronavirus. They have been meeting regularly for conversations about recent developments. And they have been sharing best practices with one another to help those in their care stay safe and healthy.”

– “This kind of dialogue, though just one example, is a model of collaboration and cooperation. It is a tangible demonstration of the good that comes – and the human lives that can literally be saved – when leaders come to the table just to talk with one another – to recognize one another’s dignity, and to do the hard work of laying out a path to a safer, healthier, more prosperous future.”

– “So, when this disease passes…each member of this Council will be able to point to the cooperation we’re seeing now and say that dialogue between the Israelis and Palestinians is possible. We will be able to say that achieving mutually beneficial solutions is possible.”

– “I want everyone to take note of what we’ve seen in recent days, and to remember it. Because when Covid-19 has passed, the need for dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians will be just as great as it was before.”

– “The Council will have an important role to play in reminding both sides that in a time of trial, it was dialogue that saw them through to the other side. We continue to believe that a comprehensive and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians is in reach.”

Danon: UN must condemn Palestinian charge that IDF is spreading COVID-19

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh is making false charges that soldiers are spreading coronavirus in the West Bank, and the United Nations must condemn this incitement, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said Monday.

“At this time, despite Israel’s aid to the Palestinian Authority, we hear inciting comments coming from the Palestinian prime minister, who accuses IDF soldiers of spreading coronavirus to the PA,” he said. “There is no place for such senseless statements by the leadership of the PA. The UN must condemn these remarks.”

Danon issued a statement on the matter to the media after the UN Security Council held its meeting on the Middle East peace process by video conference.

At the meeting, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov spoke out against both Palestinian and Israeli incitement but did not mention Shtayyeh.

“Palestinian leaders continued to make inciteful and provocative statements,” he said. “Fatah’s official social-media pages glorified perpetrators of previous terror attacks against Israelis and displayed content encouraging children to carry out violence against Jews.”

“PA officials also delivered speeches praising perpetrators of attacks, denying Israel’s existence and denying the Jewish historic connection to Jerusalem,” Mladenov said. “Hamas officials encouraged attacks against Israelis in the West Bank and the launching of explosive devices using balloons from Gaza.”

UN Watch on BBC’s Outside Source

Quoting UN Watch on the U.N. Human Rights Council’s failure to act in defense of protesters killed in Sudan. BBC ‘Outside Source’, June 5, 2019, 21:05 GMT.

Obama, Kerry Urge Negotiations with COVID-19 (satire)

Insisting that the coronavirus is not violent but simply misunderstood, former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State John Kerry are calling for a negotiated settlement to the COVID-19 crisis.

“For months, our refusal to treat this virus as a legitimate and equal party has allowed it to spread unchecked,” said Kerry. “Only by entering negotiations and making a series of significant concessions can we control the further spread of COVID-19.

Kerry volunteered to lead the negotiations, and by Monday morning the former diplomat said he had reached a tentative deal. The US would end all efforts to contain the virus including social distancing, and in exchange the virus promised not to kill the popular comedic actor David Spade until May at the earliest. COVID-19 will also be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.

The deal was met with bipartisan opposition, as lawmakers in both parties felt the concessions made were too steep and that the US got too little in return. Obama, however, came to Kerry’s defense, arguing that those criticizing the deal were making common cause with the virus.

“Either you support this deal,” Obama said. “Or you support the virus.”

Netanyahu Unveils Israel’s $22.4 Billion Coronavirus Stimulus Package

We’ll do everything we can to bring our economy back to growth”, Israel’s caretaker Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday, unveiling the billions-worth plan on bolstering the Israeli economy in the face of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Half of the money will come in cash, the other — in loans with lax conditions, the PM said during a joint presser with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, stressing the cost of the plan amounted to some six percent of the Israeli GDP.

The three-month plan, worth some 80 billion shekels — or over $22.4 billion — has been in the making for the past few days.

“We will do our best to stabilize the economy,” Kahlon said, hinting that more resources could be deployed if necessary. He said he expected a gradual reopening of the economy in mid-April, following the Passover holidays.

IDF Tank Assembly Line Converted to Making Medical Equipment

The Defense Ministry’s Rehabilitation and Maintenance Center outside Tel Aviv produces Merkava tanks, builds command and control centers, and upgrades vehicles and communications systems for the army.

In recent days, however, the center’s assembly lines have been converted to help fight the war against the coronavirus.

The center’s commander, Col. Udi Amira, said the assembly line for manufacturing tank seats was repurposed to make protective goggles for medical crews and is now producing 1,400 protective goggles per day.

At an IDF vehicle factory in Haifa, one assembly line is refitting ambulances to protect their crews against the virus.

One of the factories is gearing up to manufacture ventilators made from medical equipment.

Former Advisor to Pres. Trump Jason Greenblatt Discusses the COVID-19 Crisis

Workers in Hazmat Suits Collect Prayers From ‘God’s Mailbox’ in Jerusalem

Twice a year, cleaning teams using long sticks gouge out tens of thousands of written prayers that visitors traditionally cram into the crevices of Judaism’s Western Wall in Jerusalem.

It was spring cleaning again at the wall on Tuesday. But this time, the rite was held with precautions against coronavirus infection in place.

Workers in hazmat suits and gas masks sprayed sanitizer on the wall’s ancient stones while others held onto their sticks with gloves as they extracted the paper notes left in “God’s mailbox.”

Religious authorities also operate a service in which people can email their prayers for placement between the stones.

One would-be worshiper, who stepped up to the wall and kissed it, was removed by police, a day after Israel tightened public prayer restrictions.

The rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinowitz, who oversees the collection of the notes to ensure there’s always room for more, offered a prayer for salvation “from this difficult virus that has attacked the world.”

Israeli-created movement harnesses tech brains worldwide to fight coronavirus

An Israeli-created worldwide movement that harnesses technology and innovation to design affordable solutions for the disadvantaged is turning its hand to help hospitals, treatment centers and households obtain products that can help fight COVID-19.

Tikkun Olam Makers (tikkun olam means “healing the world” in Hebrew), or TOM, has created a platform called Rapid Response Makers (RRM) where engineers, designers, medical professionals and developers all over the world can be “on call” to design and build health and medical infrastructure, products, and software to help fight the pandemic.

The organization is seeking to provide a global database and forum to spread and share ideas that can be useful in the battle against the virus at different locales.

On the forum are prototypes and products for fighting coronavirus (not necessarily designed specifically for TOM) including face masks and shields, ventilators and personal hygiene products.
A member of the Tikkun Olam Movement works on parts for protective gear against coronavirus. (Courtesy TOM – TOM – Tikkun Olam Makers)

Some TOM communities are readying 3D printers to be able to print once a product design is finalized, others are working on testing and improving current designs, and still more are forming support networks for their communities’ high risk populations.

Tikkun Olam Makers, established by Israeli entrepreneur Gideon Grinstein in 2014, is made up of local communities all over the world. Each community brings together “makers” — engineers, designers, developers, and “need-knowers” — individuals with a personal understanding of a neglected challenge for which there is no government solution and an affordable market is unlikely.

By voice or location, Israeli apps can determine your risk of coronavirus

One app tells you if you’ve been in the vicinity of a coronavirus carrier and another aims to assess whether you have COVID-19 based on the sound of your voice.

In Israel, sometimes dubbed the “startup nation” with nearly 10 percent of workers employed in high-tech, the coronavirus pandemic has seen a flurry of new technologies designed to contain transmission.

The not-for-profit Start-Up Nation Central has compiled a directory of some 70 Israeli technology companies developing responses to the new virus, which has infected more than 4,000 people in the country.

One app that stands out is Hamagen, Hebrew for “the shield,” launched earlier this month by the Health Ministry. It is available for Android phones on Google Play, and iPhone at the App Store.

Using geolocation technology, the app informs users about any points of contact with known COVID-19 cases.

Available in five languages, Hamagen has been downloaded by more than a million users.

The fortunate ones receive messages saying “no points of intersection have been found with coronavirus patients.”

“We’ll let you know if there is anything new,” it adds.

“The application is a technological means intended to give each and every one of us the ability to accurately and immediately know if we were in contact with a person who was infected with the coronavirus,” the Health Ministry said in a statement when the app was released, explaining that it was intended to streamline what was previously a cumbersome and inefficient process.

Daily Freier’s Top Ten Corona Fears (satire)

1. What if we run out of Biltong?
2. Are they going to close Trump Yeshiva?
3. Do you think someone is Quarantined with Ariel Gold?
4. If everyone’s in Lockdown, who gets to pee in Kikar Atarim?
5. Will this delay next months Elections?
6. What if Kerem House turns all of this into some kind of weird-ass online event?
7. The people still lost in Dizengoff Center: are they maintaining 2 meters distance from one another?
8. Will the Corona Crisis distract Health Minister Litzman from the important work of blocking the extradition of an accused sex offender to Australia?
9. What if Sarah Tuttle-Singer is using this time to write another book?
10. Has anyone told the American Oleh trapped in Ulpan Gordon for 7 years?

Attorney sues Cuomo over NY ban on large gatherings, says it hurts Jewish faith

A Brooklyn attorney has filed a lawsuit accusing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of violating his right to free speech and ability to observe his Jewish faith because of the state’s ban on large gatherings due to the coronavirus.

Lee Nigen also alleges that telling state residents to limit travel, Cuomo has violated his right to meet with clients, friends, family and “like-minded people,” the New York Post reported.

Cuomo signed an executive order requiring an indefinite ban on large gatherings on March 23. He has yet to impose a travel ban.

The suit filed Friday in Brooklyn federal court named Cuomo and the state government.

“Mr. Cuomo’s threat that his directives will be enforced by law enforcement cause Mr. Nigen to fear arrest if he attempts to travel for any other purpose other than getting medical attention or obtaining groceries, thus impermissibly chilling his exercise of his constitutional rights to travel,” the suit says, according to the Post.

Nigen has been strongly criticized on his Facebook page.

“Your rights stop when the purpose is to protect the greater good,” read one comment. “During a horrific time for the country, you feel the need to file a lawsuit? As a Jew, I’m ashamed you use our religion for this nonsense. And then you wonder why people hate us? Go ahead- ignore the warnings, spread the virus in your community and let’s see how many Jews are dead thereafter you schmuck.”

Khaled Abu Toameh: Palestinians: Despite Coronavirus, Jihad Against Israel Continues

The rocket attacks against Israel appear aimed at distracting attention from the failure of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) to provide their hospitals with medical equipment and medicines to curb the spread of the disease. In the past decade, the two groups have invested millions of dollars in amassing weapons and building tunnels to infiltrate Israel and kill or kidnap Jews.

These leaders [of Hamas and PIJ] would rather see Palestinians die of the disease than join forces with Israel — which has doing its utmost to help the Palestinians by providing them with tests kits, protective gear and training sessions for medical professionals….

The good news is that a majority of Palestinians disagrees with PIJ. A public opinion poll published last week by a Palestinian center found that 68% of respondents support the medical cooperation with Israel.

A statement issued by Hamas on March 30 said that “the only way to liberate the land is through resistance.” The only “resistance” Hamas knows is the one that includes launching rockets and missiles at Israel or carrying out suicide bombings against Israelis.

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are again paying the price of failed leaders who care more about fighting Israel than saving the lives of patients and medical teams.

PA intelligence secures 10,000 virus testing kits from China

Palestinian Authority General Intelligence Services has brought 10,000 kits to test for coronavirus to the PA Health Ministry, a Palestinian official said on Monday.

The intelligence apparatus led by Majed Faraj, a close confidante of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, arranged for the kits to arrive from China, the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.

“Before these test kits arrived, we only had hundreds left,” the official told The Times of Israel. “Now, we have a significant amount.”

As of Sunday, Palestinian health authorities have only carried out 5,869 tests on Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, according to the PA Health Ministry.

As of Monday, 115 people in the West Bank and Gaza have tested positive for COVID-19, including 18 who recovered and one who died, Palestinian officials said.

Since the outbreak of the virus around the globe, demand for test kits has skyrocketed as countries make efforts to contain the spread of the contagion in their territories.

Health authorities in some parts of Europe reported late last week that test kits received from China by their respective countries were faulty.

PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said Sunday that China would imminently deliver test kits and several respirators to the Palestinians, without elaborating on quantities.

PMW: PA Libel: Israel causing Corona “holocaust” in prisons – op-ed in official PA daily

The above cartoon is yet another example of the PA’s demonization of Israel by comparing it to the Coronavirus, as Palestinian Media Watch has documented:
Text on cartoon: “The Palestinian prisoners”
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 23, 2020]

The cartoon shows an Israeli jailor wearing a uniform and helmet covered in protrusions resembling the peplomers on the Coronavirus viral envelope. The jailor is holding an assault rifle and leading a Palestinian prisoner on a rope.

This cartoon follows repeated false accusations by the PA that Israel is putting prisoners at risk of being infected by the Coronavirus. Therefore, the PA has demanded Israel free all Palestinian terrorists.

In fact, Israel has been taking measures to prevent the virus from reaching all Israeli prisons and to date there are no known Coronavirus infections there.

Ignoring the facts, an op-ed in the official PA daily went as far as accusing Israel of putting the prisoners at risk so that they are “on the brink of a holocaust,” alleging that the prisons have not taken the necessary steps to stop the virus from spreading within the prisons:
“[The spread of coronavirus in Israel] has caused the Palestinian prisoners in the occupation’s detention camps to protest and return the food portions, because the occupation authorities have not taken the necessary steps to prevent the spread of the virus, and added insult to injury when they withheld disinfectant and cleaning materials from the prisoners – as if we are on the brink of a holocaust against the Palestinian prisoners, but not through ovens but rather through an invisible virus that still has no cure!”
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 25, 2020]

JCPA: How Hizbullah Is Dealing with the Coronavirus

The coronavirus in Lebanon has put Hizbullah in a complex and sensitive position. Immediately after the first infected individuals were identified, Hizbullah was accused of conveying the disease to the country from Iran. Air traffic from Tehran to Beirut had continued without letup as Lebanese students and their families fled the universities in Iran, particularly the madrasas of Qom where thousands of Lebanese students learn, and returned to Lebanon without being checked or put in quarantine, thereby spreading the disease from Iran to Lebanon.

These accusations sparked fear as well as intense anger at Hizbullah, which claimed that the virus had broken out in the Jesuit monasteries of Beirut and Bikfaya in Lebanon. Hizbullah thereby sought to place the blame at the heart of the Maronite Christian community.

Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, who has given several speeches over the last few weeks, stated unequivocally that the responsibility for handling the virus in Lebanon belongs to the Lebanese state and the Lebanese government. That means all residents of Lebanon, including Hizbullah members and their families, must comply with the decisions of the Lebanese Health Ministry, which is headed by a Hizbullah-affiliated minister.

Meanwhile Hizbullah declared a state of emergency in its ranks and came up with an emergency plan to assist the Lebanese government that includes:

How an Iranian Airline Tied to Terrorism Likely Spread the Virus (and Lied About It)

There are many reasons why Iran has become the Middle East’s flaming epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. They include the government trying to hide the outbreak; insufficient testing capacity; refusal to cordon off cities and Shiite shrines; superstition, politicization, and propaganda blaming Iran’s usual enemies; and the lack of seriousness in dealing with the crisis.

All these factors undoubtedly play a role, but there is another, far less public suspect for bringing the disease to Iran and worsening its spread among the population: a private Iranian airline tied to the regime’s ideological army and sanctioned by the United States, which continued uninterrupted flights to and from China, including Wuhan, many weeks after the epidemic had already broken out. Bahram Parsaei, a member of Iran’s parliament, recently singled out Mahan Air and Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization as the prime suspects behind the country’s devastating outbreak.

What has made the suspicions worse are contradictory statements and misinformation coming from officials and airline executives. On Jan. 31, the Iranian government announced the suspension of all flights to and from China. But arrival and departure information furnished by Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport, as well as by Chinese airports, showed that flights by Mahan Air between both countries continued for another full week—including one direct evacuation flight from Wuhan, ground zero for the virus. Other data showed flights continuing into March.

The airline, while privately owned, has links to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its Quds Force, an intelligence and special operations unit that has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States and other governments. Mahan Air has been sanctioned by Washington for helping the IRGC ferry arms and personnel in support of Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria’s brutal civil war. In a tweet on Feb. 2, China’s ambassador to Iran, Chang Hua, noted that Mahan Air CEO Hamid Arabnejad said he wished to continue cooperating with China. Two days later, the semiofficial Iranian Students’ News Agency criticized these ongoing flights and not for the first time. In a press release, Mahan Air claimed it ended all emergency repatriation flights from Wuhan and elsewhere by Feb. 5.

Yet even after this date, Mahan Air continued to ply the routes between Tehran and four major Chinese cities—Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen—at least 55 times by Feb. 23, according to a tally by the U.S.-sponsored Radio Farda based on Flightradar24 data. Even on March 4, two weeks after the government announced Iran’s first two official deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, Mahan Air was still flying to Beijing and Shanghai and had just resumed direct flights to Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

Amid Coronavirus, Mullahs Speeding Up Nuclear Activities

The Iranian regime now has enough enriched uranium to refine and build a nuclear bomb if it desires to do so. Approximately 1000 kg of uranium enriched at just 5% can be refined to create one nuclear bomb…. Moreover, “the agency identified a number of questions related to possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities at three locations in Iran,” according to a recently published second report by the IAEA.

It is important to point out that the three undeclared nuclear locations to which the IAEA is referring are in addition to another, fourth, clandestine nuclear site in Iran that was first revealed by Israel.

The Director General of the IAEA, Rafael Grossi, admitted , as reported on March 3, 2020, “The fact that we found traces (of uranium) is very important. That means there is the possibility of nuclear activities and material that are not under international supervision and about which we know not the origin or the intent. That worries me.” … Iran is also breaching several UN resolutions by not allowing the IAEA to inspect its nuclear sites.

If the Iranian government is advancing its nuclear program for peaceful purposes, why has Tehran repeatedly failed to report its nuclear facilities, including those at Natanz and Arak, to the IAEA? Also, why does the Iranian government keep refusing to answer the IAEA’s questions regarding its secret nuclear facilities?

The United Nations needs to break its silence and, before it is too late, take seriously Iran’s latest rapid nuclear escalation.

Iran Says Natgas Exports to Turkey Halted After Attack by ‘Terrorists’

Iran said on Tuesday its natural gas exports to Turkey have stopped after an attack on a pipeline inside the neighboring country, an Iranian official told state TV.

“This morning, terrorists attacked a natural gas pipeline inside Turkey near Iran’s Bazargan border with Turkey …Flow of gas has been halted,” said Mehdi Jamshidi-Dana, director of National Iranian Gas Co.

“The pipeline has exploded several times in the past. It is also likely that the PKK group has carried out the blast,” he told Iran’s state news agency IRNA, referring to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party.

Turkey’s state broadcaster TRT Haber said the cause of the explosion was unknown.

“The gas flow on the natural gas pipeline was cut and the fire that had started was extinguished by fire squads. Security forces are investigating the cause for the incident that caused damage on the pipeline,” TYRT Haber reported.

The pipeline, which carries around 10 billion cubic meters of Iranian gas to Turkey annually, frequently came under attack by Kurdish militants during the 1990s and up until 2013, when a ceasefire was established.

MEMRI: Visions Of The Post-Coronavirus World – Editor Of AKP Mouthpiece: West’s Political, Economic, Security Systems Have Collapsed; Turkey ‘Is One Of The World’s New Superpowers,’ Will Rise In Post-Coronavirus Era

In his March 27, 2020 column, titled “Time Has Stopped, History Is Being Reset… West’s Political System, Financial System, Security Theories Have All Collapsed. New Political Orders Will Be Established. New Superpowers Will Emerge. Nations Controlling The World May Collapse. East May Become West, West May Become East. New Nations May Take To The Stage. We’re Starting Everything From Scratch…” in Turkey’s Yeni Safak daily, which is a mouthpiece of Turkey’s ruling AKP,[1] the paper’s editor-in-chief Ibrahim Karagül described what he saw as the collapse of the West and the rise of countries, including Turkey, after the global spread of the Coronavirus.

On the West, Karagül wrote: “It seems that everything produced and imposed to the world by the West in the form of a global discourse and order is coming to an end. The West has already lost its ‘central’ power… The West’s financial system is collapsing. Its political system and discourse are collapsing. Its security theories are collapsing. Its social theories are collapsing. Humanity no longer has any expectation of them.” Regarding the rise of Turkey, he wrote: “Turkey is one of the world’s new superpowers… If there are going to be any countries to rise post-corona – and there will be – Turkey is going to be one of them.”

Following are excerpts from Yeni Safak’s translation of Karagül’s column. To facilitate readability, the excerpts are not in the order in which they originally appeared:

“Time Has Stopped, History Has Been Reset – We Are Going To Start Everything From Scratch”

“We are going to look toward the future. We are going to establish the future. We are going to start over.

“Of course, we are going to learn from the past, from human history, but we are going to look toward the future. We are going to walk towards the future. We are going to predict societies, state perception, production and consumption models, needs, beliefs and values, life models, personal tendencies and interests of the future. We are going to prepare accordingly and build the future.

“Those who do this, those who emerge stronger following the breaking point, those who open the doors of the future are going to take to the stage as superpowers. The others will be left out in the cold. Yes, time has stopped, history has been reset. We are going to start everything from scratch…”

“Turkey Is One Of The World’s New Superpowers… If There Are Going To Be Any Countries To Rise Post-Corona – And There Will Be – Turkey Is Going To Be One Of Them”

“Turkey is one of the world’s new superpowers.

“We must note that as of now, Turkey is conducting more successful coordination, a more effective fight than most of the world’s central powers. The state, central power, leadership, institutions, public formations, and citizens are handling matters in great harmony. If there are going to be any countries to rise post-corona – and there will be – Turkey is going to be one of them.

“The coronavirus epidemic will be overcome. Even if new epidemics follow, they too will be overcome. However, the establishment of a new world cannot be postponed…”

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