Thursday, September 30, 2021

Dr. Michael Osterholm on boosters


I think Michael Osterholm is caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand he cannot disagree too much with the FDA and CDC on boosters, but his experience  and the data on boosters  from Israel tells him otherwise.  (Note: The official transcript comes out on Mondays. This is my on the fly version) 


21:27 - But I believe that time will show that this is a three-dose prime vaccine. I know that there are some of you out there who are my friends who will disagree strongly with me on this, but I think it is. And I think that there were two elements about what happened with these vaccines over the course of recent months. One was Delta, of course, the second one is the fact of just the time period from when someone was vaccinated and the potential waning of immunity. As I have said before on this podcast, there are two different kinds of buckets. One for safety and one on how best to use this vaccine. We’ve answered the safety bucket, that is not the question. The issue is how best to use these vaccines in terms of dose and dose pacing and what does it do in terms of the human immune response, and I think one day it will be shown that this is going to be a three- dose prime vaccine, and you know, maybe there will be an annual booster, I hope not, but maybe the data will show that too.

And so, I think the challenge we have was we don’t really have compelling data showing from many, many people that in fact over time this waning immunity would resolve in not just mild illness but potentially an increase of severe illness, and some would say let’s wait and get that date first. And I am saying well, you know, that means other people are gonna get sick and some people will die, and if we basically are in a position of doing something now, why would we let that happen? And the appropriate response is, well you don’t know it is going to happen. I don’t. I don’t.  Nor does anybody. We have data from Israel which supports basically that might be the case. So, I think the right answer is right now, that number one, we want to prevent severe illness, but you know I categorically reject this sense that we’ve always said that the vaccine just prevents severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths. I don’t know where anybody wrote that down and said that a year ago. We want to prevent all infections and when we got that first data on mRNA vaccines that’s  what people believed this vaccine would do! That was the accepted position. And so, I think it is still a very important measure to vaccinate people even against mild or breakthrough illnesses, if for example it is resulting in major shortage of health care workers, because they are now out with this infection, people who are essential workers. I think it is fair to keep them out.

Now the flip side of that is, of course, that we do not have the vaccine for the rest of the world. Well, I understand that, and I do believe this is a critical issue and I have been a strongest supporter of global vaccine access. Our country continues to lead the way, we have donated more vaccines to other countries all the other countries than every other country in the world combined. We are a bit hard on ourselves that way and I believe that one day this vaccine will be a three prime dose vaccine for the entire world.     


Monday, September 27, 2021

Full text of Bennett’s UN speech: Iran’s nuclear program at a ‘watershed moment’


The official text of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s speech to the UN General Assembly in New York, September 27, 2021. (Note delivered text differed slightly):

Thank you Mr. President.

Distinguished delegates,

Israel is a lighthouse in a stormy sea.

A beacon of democracy, diverse by design, innovative by nature and eager to contribute to the world — despite being in the toughest neighborhood on earth.

We are an ancient nation, returned to our ancient homeland, revived our ancient language, restored our ancient sovereignty.

Israel is a miracle of Jewish revival. Am Yisrael Chai — the nation of Israel is alive, and the State of Israel is its beating heart.

For way too long, Israel was defined by wars with our neighbors. But this is not what Israel is about. This is not what the people of Israel are about.

Israelis don’t wake up in the morning thinking about the conflict. Israelis want to lead a good life, take care of our families, and build a better world for our children.

Which means that from time to time, we might need to leave our jobs, say goodbye to our families, and rush to the battlefield to defend our country — just like my friends and I have had to do ourselves. They should not be judged for it.

Israelis remember the dark horrors of our past, but remain determined to look ahead, to build a brighter future.

Distinguished delegates,

There are two plagues that are challenging the very fabric of society at this moment: One is the coronavirus, which has killed over 5 million people around the globe; the other has also shaken the world as we know it — it’s the disease of political polarization.

Both coronavirus and polarization can erode public trust in our institutions, both can paralyze nations. If left unchecked, their effects on society can be devastating.

In Israel, we faced both, and rather than accept them as a force of nature, we stood up, took action, and we can already see the horizon.

In a polarized world, where algorithms fuel our anger, people on the right and on the left operate in two separate realities, each in their own social media bubble, they hear only the voices that confirm what they already believe in.

People end up hating each other. Societies get torn apart. Countries broken from within, go nowhere.

In Israel, after four elections in two years, with a fifth looming, the people yearned for an antidote: Calm. Stability. An honest attempt for political normalcy.

Inertia is always the easiest choice. But there are moments in time where leaders have to take the wheel a moment before the cliff, face the heat, and drive the country to safety.

About a hundred days ago, my partners and I formed a new government in Israel, the most diverse government in our history. What started as a political accident, can now turn into a purpose. And that purpose is unity.

Today we sit together, around one table.

We speak to each other with respect, we act with decency, and we carry a message: Things can be different.

It’s okay to disagree, it’s okay — in fact vital — that different people think differently, it’s even okay to argue.

For healthy debate is a basic tenet of the Jewish tradition and one of the secrets to the success of the start-up nation. What we have proven, is that even in the age of social media, we can debate, without hate.

The second great disease we’re all facing is the coronavirus, sweeping the world. To overcome, we going to need to make new discoveries, gain new insights, and achieve new breakthroughs.

It all begins with the pursuit of knowledge.

The State of Israel is on the front lines of the search for this vital knowledge. We developed a model, which fuses the wisdom of science with the power of policymaking.

The Israeli model has three guiding principles:

One, the country must stay open.

We all paid a huge price, an economic price, a physical price and an emotional price, for bringing life to a standstill in 2020.

To bring economies back to growth, children back to school, and parents back to work, lockdowns, restrictions, quarantines — cannot work in the long run.

Our model, rather than locking people down in passive sleep-mode, recruits them to the effort. For example, we asked Israeli families to carry out home-testing of their children so we can keep schools open — and indeed schools stayed open.

The second rule: vaccinate early.

Right from the start, Israelis were quick to get vaccinated. We are in a race against a deadly virus and we must try to be ahead of it.

In July, we were the first to learn that the vaccines were waning — which is what brought a surge in Delta cases. It was then when my government decided to administer a third dose of vaccine — the booster — to the Israeli public.

It was a tough decision, given that at the time the FDA hadn’t yet approved it. We faced a choice to either drag Israel into yet another set of lockdowns, further harm our economy and society, or to double-down on vaccines.

We chose the latter. We pioneered the booster shot.

Two months in, I can report that it works: With a third dose, you’re 7 times more protected than with two doses, and 40 times more protected than without any vaccine.

As a result, Israel is on course to escape the fourth wave without a lockdown, without further harm to our economy. Israel’s economy is growing, and unemployment is down.

I’m glad that our actions have inspired other countries to follow with the booster.

The third rule: Adapt and move quickly.

We formed a national task force that meets everyday, to bypass slow governmental bureaucracy, make quick decisions and act on them right away.

Trial and error is key. Every day is a new day, with new data and new decisions. When something works, we keep it. When it doesn’t, we ditch it.

Running a country during a pandemic is not only about health. It’s about carefully balancing all aspects of life that are affected by corona, especially jobs and education.

The only person that has a good vantage point of all of this is the national leader of any given country. Above all, we’re doing everything in our power to provide people with the tools needed to protect their lives.

The ancient Jewish text, the Talmud, says that “whoever saves one life, is as if he saved an entire world,” and that’s what we aspire to do.

Distinguished delegates,

While Israel strives to do good, we cannot lose sight for one moment of what’s happening in our neighborhood.

Israel is, quite literally, surrounded by Hezbollah, Shia militias, Islamic Jihad, and Hamas. On our borders.

These terror groups seek to dominate the Middle East and spread radical Islam across the world.

What do they all have in common?

They all want to destroy my country. And they’re all backed by Iran. They get their funding from Iran, they get their training from Iran, and they get their weapons from Iran.

Iran’s great goal is crystal clear to anybody who cares to open their eyes: Iran seeks to dominate the region — and seeks to do so under a nuclear umbrella.

For the past three decades Iran has spread its carnage and destruction around the Middle East, country after country: Lebanon. Iraq. Syria. Yemen. And Gaza.

What do all these places have in common?

They are all falling apart. Their citizens — hungry and suffering. Their economies — collapsing.

Like the Midas touch, Iran’s regime has the “Mullah-touch.” Every place Iran touches, fails.

If you think Iranian terror is confined to the Israel — you’re wrong. Just this year, Iran made operational a new deadly terror unit — swarms of killer UAVs armed with lethal weapons that can attack any place any time.

They plan to blanket the skies of the Middle East with this lethal force.

Iran has already used these deadly UAVs — called Shahed 136 — to attack Saudi Arabia, US targets in Iraq and civilian ships at sea, killing a Brit and a Romanian.

Iran plans to arm its proxies in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon with hundreds, and then thousands of these deadly drones.

Experience tells us that what starts in the Middle East, doesn’t stop there.


Distinguished delegates,

In 1988, Iran set up a “death commission” that ordered the mass murder of 5,000 political activists.

They were hanged from cranes.

This “death commission” was made up of four people. Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s new president, was one of them.

Raisi’s also oversaw the murder of Iranian children. His nickname is “the butcher of Tehran,” because that’s exactly what he did — butchered his own people.

One of the witnesses of this massacre stated in her testimony, that when Raisi would finish a round of murder, he’d throw a party, pocketing the money of those he just executed, and then would sit down to eat cream cakes.

He celebrated the murder of his own people, by devouring cream cakes. And now Raisi is Iran’s new president.

This is who we’re dealing with.

Over the past few years, Iran has made a major leap forward, in its nuclear R&D, in its production-capacity, and in its enrichment.

Iran’s nuclear weapon program is at a critical point. All red lines have been crossed.

Inspections — ignored. All wishful-thinking — proven false.

Iran is violating the IAEAs safeguard agreements — and it’s getting away with it. They harass inspectors and sabotage their investigations — and they’re getting away with it.

They enrich Uranium to the level of 60 percent, which is one step short of weapons-grade material — and they’re getting away with it.

Evidence which clearly proves Iran’s intentions for nuclear weapons in secret sites in Turquzabad, Teheran & Marivan — is ignored.

Iran’s nuclear program has hit a watershed moment. And so has our tolerance.

Words do not stop centrifuges from spinning.

There are those in the world who seem to view Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons as an inevitable reality, or they’ve just become tired of hearing about it.

Israel doesn’t have that privilege. We will not tire. We will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.

I want to tell you something: Iran is much weaker, much more vulnerable than it seems.

Its economy is sinking, its regime is rotten and divorced from the younger generation, its corrupt government fails to even bring water to large parts of the country.

The weaker they are, the more extreme they go.

If we put our heads to it, if we’re serious about stopping it, if we use all our resourcefulness, we can prevail.

And that’s what we’re going to do.


But not everything is dark in the Middle East. Alongside worrying trends, there are also rays of light.

First and foremost, the growing ties Israel is forging with Arab and Muslim countries.

Ties that began 42 years ago with Israel’s historic peace agreement with Egypt, continued 27 years ago with Israel’s peace agreement with Jordan, and even more recently with the “Abraham Accords” — that normalized our relations with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco.

More is to come.

At a ripe young age of 73, more and more nations are understanding Israel’s value and unique place in the world.

Some friends have stood with us since our founding. The United States of America is a long time, trusted friend of Israel, as we saw, yet again — just a few days ago in congress.

Alongside our old friends, we are gaining new friends — in the Middle East and beyond. Last week, this manifested itself with the defeat of the racist, anti-Semitic Durban conference.

This conference was originally meant to be against racism, but over the years turned into a conference of racism — against Israel and the Jewish people.

And the world’s had enough of this.

I thank the 38 countries (38!) who chose truth over lies, and skipped the conference.

And to those countries who chose to participate in this farce, I say: Attacking Israel doesn’t make you morally superior. Fighting the only democracy in the Middle East doesn’t make you “woke.” Adopting clichés about Israel without bothering to learn the basic facts, well, that’s just plain lazy.

Every member state in this building has a choice. It’s not a political choice, but a moral one. It’s a choice between darkness and light.

Darkness that persecutes political prisoners, murders the innocent, abuses women and minorities, and seeks to end the modern world as we know it.

Or light — that pursues freedom, prosperity and opportunity.

Over the past 73 years, the State of Israel — the people of Israel — have achieved so much in the face of so much.

And yet, I can say with full confidence: Our best days are ahead of us.

Israel is a nation of great hope, a nation that has brought the heritage of the Torah to life in modern-day Israel, a nation of an unbreakable spirit.

A bit of light dispels much darkness.

The lighthouse among the stormy seas — stands tall, stands strong. And her light shines brighter than ever.

Thank you.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Iran will have enough uranium for nuclear weapon in one month - report

The Jerusalem Post

Iran has reportedly not been this close to nuclear capability since before the nuclear accord in 2015. 


Iran is on track to obtaining enough enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb within one month, according to a report published on Monday by the Institute for Science and International Security, a US-based think tank.

The institute estimated, in a worst-case scenario, that in as little as a month Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one nuclear weapon. In three months it could produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a second weapon and in five months a third. 

Iran already has 200 grams of enriched uranium metal, which is an integral element for the production of nuclear weapons. 

The late Tuesday report by ISIS – also known as the “good ISIS” – would not mean the Islamic Republic could fire a nuclear weapon, as this requires additional tasks relating to detonation and delivery, but if correct, it would mean Tehran is at a new nuclear threshold where all that is needed is the political decision.

This dire prediction by the think tank came with criticism of the IAEA’S latest deal with Iran on Sunday in which a new dialogue was opened with Iran’s new government over nuclear issues, but without Tehran stopping its 60% enrichment violation of the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal.

Since April, the Islamic Republic jumped its enrichment from 5% and 20% to the 60% level, which is considered only one level down from the 90% weaponized level.

At lower levels, Iran has in fact had sufficient quantity for multiple nuclear bombs for several months.

However, what was most significant about the report was that it was laid out in quantitative scientific terms based on IAEA reports itself, as opposed to the sometimes more vague statements by Israeli or other politicians.

Critics will note that the think tank’s founder David Albright is a hawk on Iran issues, but the report is based on IAEA data.

The report concluded that all Iranian moves are designed to pressure the US into concessions in the nuclear negotiations which broke down between May-June and have been totally frozen since new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was elected.

The current and former Israeli governments both oppose a return to the JCPOA without massive changes to fill holes whereas the Biden administration has moved aggressively to return to the deal.

To date, Biden administration officials have vaguely threatened that their patience for Iran to return to the negotiating table was not limitless, but have avoided any actual deadline.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz stated back in August that Iran was two months away from acquiring a nuclear weapon. 

My comment:

So now what? Does Bennett fully understand the magnitude of the Iranian threat? Since nobody in the world is going to lift a finger, it is up to Israel. This is one of those crucial moments in history like May 28, 1940 when Churchill decided not to negotiate with Hitler or June 5, 1967 when the IAF destroyed the Egyptian air force.

Looks like my blog will soon become redundant.  

Friday, September 3, 2021

Goodwill gestures

 Jerusalem Post, Letters to the Editor, August 31, 2021

“Israel will make a series of goodwill gestures to the Palestinian Authority, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Monday after a rare meeting with PA President Mahmoud Abbas the night before in Ramallah.”

Goodwill gestures? Historian Benny Morris in his lecture “Jihad and Antisemitism in the 1948 War” said, “On the basis of the research I did for book 1948, which came out in 2008, I pointed out that the war was also a religious war, certainly from the Arab side, a jihad, they were waging jihad against the Jewish Zionists who were seen as infidels and were fighting over what they regarded as sacred territory.”

Goodwill gestures is not exactly something that worked at all throughout history during the Islamic conquest of Jerusalem, Persia, Anatolia, the Balkans, North Africa, Sindt, India and Andalusia.

Is it not time that our political leadership started reading history? To quote Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s remark made regarding the US debacle in Afghanistan, but which is fully applicable to the Palestinians as well: “What makes you think they will act differently and how many times do you want that to happen before you wake up and realize that it is just not true? Take the world as it is not as you fantasize it to be.”