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Libyan interim PM meets Turkey’s leader to boost ties

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — The head of Libya’s new interim government, Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on Monday for talks aimed at boosting cooperation between their nations.

Libya’s interim government, which took power last month, is meant to bring together a country that has been torn apart by civil war for nearly a decade. It is also aims to steer through a general election on Dec. 24.

Turkey has been closely involved in Libya, backing the U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), based in the capital Tripoli that controlled the west, against the Libyan National Army (LNA), based in Benghazi that controlled the east. Turkey sent military supplies and fighters to Libya, helping to tilt the balance of power in favor of the Tripoli government.

Turkey also signed an agreement with the Tripoli-based government in 2019 to delineate the maritime boundaries between the two countries — a move that angered Greece and Cyprus. Both countries denounced the agreement which they said amounted to a serious breach of international law in disregard of the rights of other eastern Mediterranean countries.

Dbeibah, who is accompanied by a large delegation that includes 14 ministers, will jointly chair the first meeting of the so-called Turkey-Libya High Level Strategic Cooperation Council together with Erdogan.

Turkish media reports said the two countries will aim to increase cooperation in energy and health and will also the discuss the return of Turkish companies to complete stalled projects in the oil-rich North African nation.

Dbeibah has been trying to strike a balance between Turkey and Greece, following Athens’ concerns over the maritime deal with the Tripoli-based administration had struck with Turkey. Dbeibah has said his government is willing to establish a joint Libyan-Greek committee to resume negotiations to set the sea boundary between the two countries and demarcate an exclusive economic zone for oil and gas drilling rights.

Libya was plunged into chaos when a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled longtime ruler Moammar Gadhafi, who was later killed. The country was in recent years split between rival east- and west-based administrations, each backed by different armed groups and foreign governments.

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COPY OF Iran blames Israel for Natanz nuclear plant outage, vows revenge

By Parisa Hafezi 

  DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran on Monday accused arch-foe Israel of sabotaging its key Natanz nuclear site and vowed revenge for an attack that appeared to be latest episode in a long-running covert war. 

  Iran’s semi-official Nournews website said the person who caused an electricity outage in one of the production halls at the underground uranium enrichment plant had been identified. “Necessary measures are being taken to arrest this person,” the website reported, without giving details about the person. 

  The incident occurred amid diplomatic efforts by Iran and the United States to revive Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with major powers, an accord Israel fiercely opposed, after former U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned it three years ago. 

  Last week, Iran and the global powers held what they described as “constructive” talks to salvage the deal, which has unravelled as Iran has breached its limits on sensitive uranium enrichment since Trump reimposed harsh sanctions on Tehran. 

  Iranian authorities described the incident a day earlier as an act of “nuclear terrorism” and said Tehran reserved the right to take action against the perpetrators. 

  On Monday, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif explicitly blamed Israel. “The Zionists want to take revenge because of our progress in the way to lift sanctions… We will not fall into their trap…We will not allow this act of sabotage to affect the nuclear talks,” Zarif was quoted by state TV as saying. 

  “But we will take our revenge against the Zionists.” 

  Multiple Israeli media outlets have quoted unnamed intelligence sources as saying the country’s Mossad spy service carried out a successful sabotage operation at the underground Natanz complex, potentially setting back enrichment work there by months. Israel has not formally commented on the incident. 

  Iranian nuclear energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi said an emergency power system had been activated at Natanz to offset the outage. “Enrichment of uranium has not stopped in the site.” 


  The incident took place a day after Tehran, which has insisted it wants only peaceful nuclear energy not nuclear bombs from the enrichment process, launched new advanced centrifuge machines at Natanz. 

  “All of the centrifuges that went out of circuit at Natanz site were of the IR-1 type,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told a news conference, referring to Iran’s first generation of enrichment machines more vulnerable to outages. 

  “Our nuclear experts are assessing the damage but I can assure you that Iran will replace damaged uranium enrichment centrifuges in Natanz with advanced ones.” 

  Modernised centrifuges can refine uranium to higher fissile purity at a much faster rate, helping accumulate a stockpile that could shorten Iran’s route to a nuclear weapon, if it chose to develop them, than the IR-1 that still predominates in Natanz’s production halls. 

  The 2015 deal only allows Iran to enrich with up to 5,060 IR-1 machines, in a plant designed to house around 50,000, but it has begun enriching at Natanz with hundreds of advanced centrifuges including the IR-2m. 

  Despite strong Israeli opposition, U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is committed to rejoining the deal if the Islamic Republic returns to full compliance with restrictions on nuclear fuel production. 

  Khatibzadeh said nuclear talks would resume on Wednesday in Vienna. Diplomatic headway has been made, delegates said on Friday. Iran insists all U.S. sanctions crippling its oil-based economy must be lifted first before it stops accelerating enrichment and restores caps on the process. 

  At a ceremony on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made no direct reference to Natanz, though said: “The fight against Iran’s nuclearisation…is a massive task.” 

  There have been sporadic episodes of sabotage and outages at Iranian nuclear installations for over a decade, for which Tehran has blamed Israel, which regards the Iranian uranium enrichment drive as a menace to its existence. 

  In 2010, the Stuxnet computer virus, widely believed to have been developed by the United States and Israel, was discovered after it was used to attack Natanz, causing damaging breakdowns of centrifuge cascades that refine uranium. 

  In July last year, a fire broke out at Natanz that Iran said was an attempt by Israel to sabotage its enrichment activity. 

  Iran also accused Israel of responsibility for last November’s ambush killing outside Tehran of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was regarded by Western intelligence services as the mastermind of a covert Iranian nuclear weapons programme. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied involvement. 

  (Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem, Francois Murphy in Vienna; Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Mark Heinrich) 

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Lebanon extends area claimed in border dispute with Israel

The Daily Beast

White Evangelicals’ Unchristian Attacks on Raphael Warnock Attacks Say It All

Elijah Nouvelage/GettyIt would be charitable to call the white religious right’s continuous attacks on Rev. Raphael Warnock, beginning from the moment he launched his successful bid to become the first Black U.S. senator from Georgia, merely un-Christian.Most recently, Georgia Baptist minister and Donald Trump loyalist Doug Collins, who once claimed Warnock’s stance as a “pro-choice pastor” is an oxymoronic “lie from the bed of hell,” blamed the senator’s condemnation of Georgia’s new voting restrictions—but not the racist law itself—for MLB’s decision to relocate its All-Star Game from the state, crying that “woke” Warnock “spread lies” about the legislation. Just a week ago, a now-deleted tweet from Warnock’s account—which stated that the “meaning of Easter is more transcendent than the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Whether you are Christian or not, through a commitment to helping others we are able to save ourselves”—so enraged very-online white evangelicals that they spent the holiest day in the Christian calendar casting judgment, labeling Warnock a “heretic,” a “narcissistic heretic,” and an “actual heretic.” Leading the charge was Jenna Ellis, an attorney for Trump’s failed coup d’état and proponent of the racist Kamala Harris birther lie. Beyond branding Warnock a “heretic,” Ellis voiced the real ideological truth underlying the attacks on the Georgia senator.“He should delete Reverend in front of his name,” Ellis tweeted about Warnock, a doctoral graduate of Columbia University’s theological seminary. “People who don’t know Jesus pretend he was a soft-spoken philanthropist… If Warnock’s church were truly biblical and Christian, he would not be a pastor. His theology and practice is inconsistent with the Bible.” She was backed up by gun enthusiast and Christian podcaster Allie Beth Stuckey, who compared the senator’s faith to a kind of “social justice moralism” in which “Jesus is not a savior but a ‘liberator’—and not from sin, but from “systems”… Jesus/Christianity is a means to their political and social activist ends, which they like to categorize as ‘helping others’ (what they typically mean is government programs).”The GOP Hopes This Issue Will Tarnish Warnock’s Pastor ImageWarnock’s church, which Ellis dismisses as insufficiently godly, is Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist, one of the oldest Black churches in the country and the former pulpit of Martin Luther King Jr. It is perhaps too on-the-nose that white Republican evangelicals who publicly assert that delegitimizing Black votes is doing God’s work and believe “All Lives Matter” is a Christly rebuff against assertions of Black humanity—and who, of course, selectively cite the de-radicalized MLK of white comfort and apathy—attack not only MLK’s pastoral heir, but the Black church writ large and the theology that springs from it.Those attacks are at their core about the fundamental conflict between white evangelical Christianity in America, which is both steeped in and deeply protective of the white supremacist capitalist status quo, and the traditional Black Christian church, a site of transformative racial justice.In his book White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity, Robert P. Jones traces the development of white American Christianity, demonstrating the foundational centrality of white supremacy to the early white Christian church. He highlights the split between both Northern and Southern Methodists and Baptists in 1845 over the issue of Black enslavement, the Catholic Church’s tradition of brutal global colonialism “justified by the conviction that white Christians were God’s chosen means of “civilizing” the world,” and the Native genocide of this country’s white settler colonizers. Across denominations, those churches in America—including those that argued against slavery—espoused a gospel of white supremacy and Black subordination.”As the dominant cultural power in America,” Jones writes, the white Christian church has “been responsible for constructing and sustaining a project to protect White supremacy and resist Black equality. This project has framed the entire American story. American Christianity’s theological core has been thoroughly structured by an interest in protecting white supremacy… not only among Evangelicals in the South but also along mainline Protestants in the Midwest and Catholics in the Northeast.”“White evangelicals are the political quasi-religious heirs of the antebellum church,” I was told by Joseph Darby, senior pastor of Nichols Chapel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and president of the city’s NAACP chapter. “The antebellum Southern church said that slavery was moral because they were teaching Black people about Jesus and giving them an industrious life. You had people who called themselves Christian who owned human beings. How do you justify that? Well, you justify it by saying, “They’re not really people like us. They are a different kind of people, and you need to be careful with them because they can be a dangerous kind of people.” So there’s been a cultivated racism that still drives white evangelical Christianity in large measure.”White enslavers not only imposed Christianity on those they held in bondage, but held up the Bible as documentary evidence that Black enslavement was divinely ordained. The counter to this white Christian theology of Black debasement was the Black church, which arose to become what Henry Louis Gates describes as a “redemptive force to shine a line on the hypocrisy at the heart of their bondage.”Enslaved Black folks, both surreptitiously and by remodeling the warped gospel they had been given, forged a Christianity that offered “human dignity, earthly and heavenly freedom, and sisterly and brotherly love (as) the Black Church and the religion practiced within its embrace acted as the engine driving social transformation in America, from the antebellum abolitionist movement through the various phases of the fight against Jim Crow, and now, in our current century, to Black Lives Matter,” as Gates writes.How the Black Church Embraces Tragic History and the Fervor of FaithAnd as Warnock writes in his book The Divided Mind of the Black Church, “The black church was born fighting for freedom, and freedom is indeed its only reason for being.”“The whole ethos of the Black church is different. Most Black churches came into being as a way for there to be Black excellence, Black identity, a place for Black folks to worship freely, to work freely and to build on the way that some plantation preachers preached,” Rev. Darby told me. “Even though folks wanted them to preach that they’d be blessed in “the great by and by,” they went to Exodus, and the story of Moses, and that laid the basis of what James Cone called “Liberation Theology”—that God stands most closely with the oppressed, and that God actively works to free the oppressed. If we love God, then we have to do the same thing. So that’s woven into the Black church. There’s a rejection of rugged individualism, and a sense that we have to make sure that everybody’s OK. And if that means fighting for justice and fairness and equity, you have to do that. It ain’t about ‘the sweet by and by,’ it’s about what you’re going to do while you’re here.”Warnock was a mentee of Cone’s, and he has described Black theology as “a new and self-conscious form of God-talk, a sophisticated apologia for a faith formed in slavery and in defense of a Black liberationist trajectory that continues to bear witness against the sins of a nation that is at once putatively Christian and profoundly racist.”Indeed, white Christianity retains the attitudes of its founders. A 2018 study by the Public Religion Research Institute found most white Christians across the board—53 percent of white evangelicals, 52 percent of white Catholics and 51 percent of white mainline Protestants—believe “socioeconomic disparities between black and white Americans are due to lack of effort by black Americans.” Those groups were also most likely to support Muslim travel bans and to believe that “recent killings of black men are isolated incidents.” White evangelical Protestants were the only group that said the U.S. “becoming a majority-nonwhite nation in the future will be mostly negative.”This is the core of the difference between Warnock’s faith and that of the white evangelicals who criticize and question the religious validity of the Black theology he espouses. They embrace a religious ideology that is fundamentally selfish, one which actively works against political change to ensure the maintenance of white power even as it pretends to be apolitical. It casts a Christianity that demands economic, racial and social equality as religiously un-American, perhaps not consciously recognizing that they are confirming the continuing anti-Black and capitalist devices that motivate their own faith.When they attempt to malign the Jesus of the Black church as “a soft-spoken philanthropist” and a “liberator,” they prove Jones’ thesis that “for nearly all of American history the Jesus conjured up by most white congregations was not merely indifferent to the status quo racial inequality; he demanded its defense and preservation as part of the natural, divinely ordained order of things.”As the MLK they refuse to cite wrote in his 1963 Letter from a Birmingham Jail, “I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities” while they inflict harm on the most vulnerable and promote a version of Christianity that not only abides, but justifies that harm.“One of my seminary professors said something way back that made perfect sense,” Darby told me. “He said the church fathers who shaped our concept of sin tend to put more emphasis on sins of the flesh than sins of the spirit because they were all old men who could no longer partake in sins of the flesh. So those became the worst sins, but they were less invested in the morality of how we treat other people.”“That’s how you can get caught up in opposing abortion, fighting against transgender restrooms or transgender sports teams, because there’s this warped morality,” Darby added. “How about that part about loving your neighbor as yourself? Where can I find the part that says, ‘Thou shalt own an AR-15 so that thou can smite, if need be’? It’s a kind of self-centered religion that’s wrapped up in politics, that God and guns thing. That they have to be the ones who are politically right, and they’re the arbiters of who is right politically. That’s how you can have questions about Barack Obama’s faith but you can make Donald Trump almost your Messiah. That’s evangelical Christianity.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

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Check Point Software’s Mobile Security Report 2021 Shows Almost Every Organization Globally Experienced a Mobile Malware Attack during the Past Year

New report uncovers the latest threats to enterprise mobile devices, from malicious apps to ransomware attacks, and for the first time, attacks exploiting corporate Mobile Device Management

  • 97% of organizations in 2020 faced mobile threats that used multiple attack vectors

  • 46% of organizations had at least one employee download a malicious mobile application

  • At least 40% of the world’s mobile devices are inherently vulnerable to cyberattacks

SAN CARLOS, Calif., April 12, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Check Point® Software Technologies Ltd. (NASDAQ: CHKP), a leading provider of cybersecurity solutions globally, has published its 2021 Mobile Security Report. The report examines the latest emerging threats targeting enterprise mobile devices, and gives a comprehensive overview of the major trends in mobile malware, device vulnerabilities, and in nation-state cyber-attacks. It also shows how organizations can protect themselves against today’s and tomorrow’s complex mobile threats and how these threats are likely to be evolving.

The move to mass remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic saw the mobile attack surface expand dramatically, resulting in 97% of organizations facing mobile threats from several attack vectors. With 60% of workers forecast to be mobile by 2024, mobile security needs to be a priority for all organizations. Highlights of the Check Point Research Mobile Security Report 2021include:

  • All enterprises at risk from mobile attacks: Almost every organization experienced at least one mobile malware attack in 2020. Ninety three percent of these attacks originated in a device network, which attempts to trick users into installing a malicious payload via infected websites or URLs, or to steal users’ credentials.

  • Nearly half of organizations impacted by malicious mobile apps: Forty six percent of organizations had at least one employee download a malicious mobile application that threatened their organization’s networks and data in 2020.

  • Four in ten mobiles globally are vulnerable: Check Point’s Achilles research showed that at least 40% of the world’s mobile devices are inherently vulnerable to cyberattacks due to flaws in their chipsets, and need urgent patching.

  • Mobile malware on the rise: In 2020, Check Point found a 15% increase in banking Trojan activity, where users’ mobile banking credentials are at risk of being stolen. Threat actors have been spreading mobile malware, including Mobile Remote Access Trojans (MRATs), banking trojans, and premium dialers, often hiding the malware in apps that claim to offer COVID-19 related information.

  • APT groups target mobile devices: Individuals’ mobiles are a very attractive target for various APT groups, such as Iran’s Rampant Kitten, which has conducted elaborate and sophisticated targeted attacks to spy on users and steal sensitive data

“As we have seen in 2020, the mobile threat landscape has continued to expand with almost every organization now having experienced an attack,” said Neatsun Ziv, VP Threat Prevention at Check Point Software. “And there are more complex threats on the horizon. Cybercriminals are continuing to evolve and adapt their techniques to exploit our growing reliance on mobiles. Enterprises need to adopt mobile security solutions which seamlessly protect devices from today’s advanced cyber threats, and users should be careful to use only apps from official app stores to minimize their risk.”

During 2020, Check Point discovered a new and highly significant attack, in which threat actors used a large international corporation’s Mobile Device Management (MDM) system to distribute malware to more than 75% of its managed mobile devices – exploiting the solution, which is intended to control how mobiles are used within the enterprise.

Check Point’s 2021 Mobile Security Report is based on data that was collected from January 1st, 2020 through December 31st, 2020, from 1,800 organizations that use Check Point Harmony Mobile, Check Point’s mobile threat defense solution. It also draws on data from Check Point’s ThreatCloud intelligence, the largest collaborative network for fighting cybercrime, which delivers threat data and attack trends from a global network of threat sensors; from Check Point Research’s (CPR) investigations over the last 12 months and on recent survey reports from external organizations.

For more details, download the full report

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About Check Point Software Technologies Ltd.
Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. ( is a leading provider of cyber security solutions to governments and corporate enterprises globally. Its solutions protect customers from 5th generation cyber-attacks with an industry leading catch rate of malware, ransomware and other types of attacks. Check Point offers its multilevel security architecture, Infinity Total Protection with Gen V advanced threat prevention, which defends enterprises’ cloud, network and mobile device held information. Check Point provides the most comprehensive and intuitive one point of control security management system. Check Point protects over 100,000 organizations of all sizes.

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From Moscow to Pacific, Russia glorifies Gagarin

The Conversation

How could we build an invisibility cloak to hide Earth from an alien civilization?

A laser could hide – or broadcast – our existence. European Southern Observatory, CC BYWhat would it take to hide an entire planet? It sounds more like a question posed in an episode of “Star Trek” than in academic discourse, but sometimes the bleeding edge of science blurs with themes found in science fiction. Of course we’ve been leaking our own position to distant stars via radio and television signals for six decades now, largely ignorant of the cosmic implications. But several notable scientists, such as Stephen Hawking, have publicly voiced concerns about revealing our presence to other civilizations. These concerns largely draw from the darker chapters of our own history, when a more advanced civilization would subjugate and displace a less advanced one. It might be too late for us to withdraw back into invisibility, but maybe not for other intelligent alien civilizations out there. A far-off planet’s inhabitants might prefer to hide from the likes of us. In 2016, my graduate student Alex Teachey and I published a paper that proposes a way to cloak planets, as well as a way to broadcast a civilization’s existence. Even if we’re not manipulating our own signal in this way, it doesn’t mean other planets out there aren’t. It’s possible what we see as we scan the universe for other habitable planets has been engineered to disguise or highlight the existence of other civilizations. When a planet passes between us and its star, the star’s light seems to dim. NASA Ames, CC BY Tracking transits to find other planets Before we talk about how to hide a planet from distant voyeurs, consider the best way we’ve figured out to find one. Humanity’s most successful technique for detecting other planets is the transit method. A transit occurs when a planet appears to pass in front of its parent sun, blocking out some of its starlight for a few hours. So if we have our telescopes trained at one part of the universe and a star seems to fade out for part of a day, that tells us that a planet has temporarily come between us as it goes about its orbit. The Kepler Mission identified 4,696 planet candidates by July 2015. NASA Ames/W. Stenzel, CC BY Using this technique, NASA’s Kepler Mission has discovered several thousand planets. It seems likely that any advanced civilization would be aware of this simple method. Each time a planet transits its star, its existence is essentially being advertised to all points lying along the same plane as the planet and star. An advanced civilization might be okay having its planet’s location, size and even atmospheric chemistry advertised across the cosmos. Or it might wish to conceal its presence. If the latter, it might choose to build a cloak. A planetary invisibility cloak It turns out that hiding planets from the transit method would be surprisingly easy, so easy that we earthlings could do it right now, if we chose. Since transits appear as a brightness decrease of a distant star, our hypothetical cloak simply produces the opposite brightness increase. Lasers provide an efficient means of countering that dip in brightness. All a laser’s power is contained in a relatively narrow beam, as opposed to spreading out in all directions like starlight does. Due to the way light spreads as it travels – called diffraction – the laser beam would spread to encompass entire solar systems after journeying many light years across space, bathing that distant planetary system within the cloaking beam. No dip in brightness makes it look like there’s no planet there at all. A laser cloak capable of hiding the Earth from an alien version of NASA’s Kepler Mission would require 30 megawatts of power at peak intensity, approximately equivalent to 10 wind turbines worth of power output. Alex Teachey describes how a cloaking system would work. While Kepler sees light in only one color, advanced civilizations might use more sophisticated detectors capable of collecting light at all wavelengths. Here too, our current technology could cloak us using modern tunable lasers, for a cost of about 10 times more power overall. More advanced civilizations might be able to detect other fine details of the light’s properties, betraying the cloak. But here too there’s no reason why with a little bit of work we couldn’t engineer solutions, leading to a near perfect cloak which could be targeted at distant stars where we suspect someone might be home. Why choose to hide So yes, it sounds like science fiction, but even current technology could do a fine job of cloaking the Earth’s transit signature. Forget the Earth though; we never really thought of this as something humanity should or should not do. Instead, we posit that if our rudimentary human technology can build such an effective transit cloak at relatively little economic cost, then more advanced civilizations may be able to hide from us with respect to all detection techniques. The universe might not be all that it seems. Why might a civilization choose to wrap itself in invisibility? It could be a sort of insurance policy: find the nearby planets with potential for supporting life and turn on a targeted cloak – just in case a civilization ever emerges. Such a policy effectively buys them time to reveal their presence when they see fit. Given how cheap such a cloak would be, an insurance policy for your home planet is perhaps not as strange as it seems. It’s certainly not implausible a civilization might want to bide its time – surveilling the neighbors for a while before rolling out the intergalactic welcome mat. But there’s a flip side to this technology that could turn it from an invisibility cloak into more of a we-are-here spotlight. We think we know what it means when we see certain transit signals…. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, CC BY The reverse: flick on the beacon Perhaps not all civilizations are xenophobic – some might want to talk. If you wanted to reveal your presence to other civilizations as cheaply and unambiguously as possible, how might you do it? Imagine looking at some data of a distant planet – which has become a somewhat normal enterprise for astronomers – and noticing something weird. The signature of the planet has a strange shape – in fact, none of your models are able to explain it. It looks like someone has imprinted a series of spikes into the data, following the prime number series. Nothing in nature can do this – you have just detected another civilization’s beacon. Alternative use of the cloaking system’s laser could be to make a planet’s signal look highly artificial, instead of hidden. Now they don’t care about building the perfect cloak; they want to be found! Could such signals be lurking in our existing measurements? Perhaps so. No one has ever looked, and we hope our work sparks efforts on that front. It may be a long shot, since to even get to this point we need to try to imagine how aliens might think – but given the scientific prize on offer it’s also worth it. If we identify a strange transit, it may well contain information encoded via laser light pulses. Huge volumes of information could be hidden within the transit signatures of other planets. For us, this was an exercise in intellectual curiosity. We simply calculated how much energy it would take to either cloak or broadcast a planet’s existence. Whether we should seriously consider wrapping Earth in a protective cloak of invisibility – or conversely, getting serious about trumpeting our existence – via laser manipulations is something we should all decide together.This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. Read more:How do you build a mirror for one of the world’s biggest telescopes?Intelligent life in the universe? Phone home, dammit!Eying exomoons in the search for E.T. David Kipping does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Iran blames Israel for sabotage at Natanz nuclear site

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran on Monday blamed Israel for a sabotage attack on its underground Natanz nuclear facility that damaged the centrifuges it uses to enrich uranium there, warning that it would take revenge for the assault.

The comments by Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh represent the first official accusation leveled against Israel for the incident Sunday that cut power across the facility.

Israel has not directly claimed responsibility for the attack. However, suspicion fell immediately on it as Israeli media widely reported that a devastating cyberattack orchestrated by Israel caused the blackout.

If Israel was responsible, it would further heighten tensions between the two nations, already engaged in a shadow conflict across the wider Middle East. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who met Sunday with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, has vowed to do everything in his power to stop the nuclear deal.

Details remained scarce about what happened early Sunday at the facility. The event was initially described as a blackout caused by the electrical grid feeding its above-ground workshops and underground enrichment halls.

“The answer for Natanz is to take revenge against Israel,” Khatibzadeh said. “Israel will receive its answer through its own path.” He did not elaborate.

Khatibzadeh acknowledged that IR-1 centrifuges, the first-generation workhorse of Iran’s uranium enrichment, had been damaged in the attack, but did not elaborate. State television has yet to show images from the facility.

A former chief of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard said the attack had also set off a fire at the site and called for improvements in security at Natanz. In a tweet, Gen. Mohsen Rezaei said that a second fire at Natanz in a year signaled “the seriousness of the infiltration phenomenon.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif separately warned Natanz would be reconstructed with more advanced machines, something that could imperil ongoing talks in Vienna with world powers about saving Tehran’s tattered atomic accord.

“The Zionists wanted to take revenge against the Iranian people for their success on the path of lifting sanctions,” Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency quoted Zairf as saying. “But we do not allow (it) and we will take revenge for this action against the Zionists.”

The IAEA, the United Nations body that monitors Tehran’s atomic program, earlier said it was aware of media reports about the incident at Natanz and had spoken with Iranian officials about it. The agency did not elaborate.

Natanz has been targeted by sabotage in the past. The Stuxnet computer virus, discovered in 2010 and widely believed to be a joint U.S.-Israeli creation, once disrupted and destroyed Iranian centrifuges at Natanz during an earlier period of Western fears about Tehran’s program.

In July, Natanz suffered a mysterious explosion at its advanced centrifuge assembly plant that authorities later described as sabotage. Iran now is rebuilding that facility deep inside a nearby mountain. Iran also blamed Israel for the November killing of a scientist who began the country’s military nuclear program decades earlier.

Multiple Israeli media outlets reported Sunday that an Israeli cyberattack caused the blackout in Natanz. Public broadcaster Kan said the Mossad was behind the attack. Channel 12 TV cited “experts” as estimating the attack shut down entire sections of the facility.

While the reports offered no sourcing for their information, Israeli media maintains a close relationship with the country’s military and intelligence agencies.

“It’s hard for me to believe it’s a coincidence,” Yoel Guzansky, a senior fellow at Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies, said of the blackout. “If it’s not a coincidence, and that’s a big if, someone is trying to send a message that ‘we can limit Iran’s advance and we have red lines.’”

It also sends a message that Iran’s most sensitive nuclear site is penetrable, he added.

Netanyahu late Sunday toasted his security chiefs, with the head of the Mossad, Yossi Cohen, at his side on the eve of his country’s Independence Day.

“It is very difficult to explain what we have accomplished,” Netanyahu said of Israel’s history, saying the country had been transformed from a position of weakness into a “world power.”

Israel typically doesn’t discuss operations carried out by its Mossad intelligence agency or specialized military units. In recent weeks, Netanyahu repeatedly has described Iran as the major threat to his country as he struggles to hold onto power after multiple elections and while facing corruption charges.


Associated Press writer Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report.

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Muslims navigate restrictions in the second pandemic Ramadan

CAIRO (AP) — For Ramadan this year, Magdy Hafez has been longing to reclaim a cherished ritual: performing the nighttime group prayers called taraweeh at the mosque once again.

Last year, the coronavirus upended the 68-year-old Egyptian’s routine of going to the mosque to perform those prayers, traditional during Islam’s holiest month. The pandemic had disrupted Islamic worship the world over, including in Egypt where mosques were closed to worshippers last Ramadan.

“I have been going to the mosque for 40 years so it was definitely a very, very, difficult thing,” he said. “But our religion orders us to protect one another.”

Still, “It’s a whole other feeling, and the spirituality in Ramadan is like nothing else.”

Egypt has since allowed most mosques to reopen for Friday communal prayers and for this Ramadan it will let them hold taraweeh, also with precautions, including shortening its duration.

Ramadan, which begins this week, comes as much of the world has been hit by an intense new coronavirus wave. For many Muslims navigating restrictions, that means hopes of a better Ramadan than last year have been dashed with the surge in infection rates though regulations vary in different countries.

A time for fasting, worship and charity, Ramadan is also when people typically congregate for prayers, gather around festive meals to break their daylong fast, throng cafes and exchange visits.

Once again, some countries are imposing new restrictions. But concern is high that the month’s communal rituals could stoke a further surge.

“The lack of adherence that happened last Ramadan, hasty lifting of the curfew imposed at the time and re-opening of places of congregations … led to grave consequences that lasted for months,” said Ahmed Al-Mandhari, the World Health Organization’s regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean.

“We have a lot of worries of a repeat of what had happened last Ramadan, especially since Ramadan coincides with another important holiday, which is Easter,” he said by email. Orthodox Christians mark Easter on May 2.

In Pakistan, new case numbers grew from fewer than 800 a day at the start of the month last year to more than 6,000 a day a few weeks after Ramadan ended. Officials largely attributed the increase to Pakistanis flouting restrictions. After a dip, the country is back up to more than 5,000 new cases a day.

Iran on Saturday began a 10-day lockdown amid a severe surge in infections that followed a two-week public holiday for Nowruz, the Persian New Year.

Economic hardship also looms over the month for many. In war-torn Syria, Abed al-Yassin was concerned about what his iftar — the meal at sunset breaking the fast— will look like this year.

“It will be difficult to even have fattoush,” al-Yassin said, referring to a salad that is a staple of the holy month in his country.

He’s spending his second Ramadan in a tent settlement near the Turkish border after he was driven from his hometown last year during a Russian-backed government offensive that displaced hundreds of thousands.

“Our main wish is to return to our homes,” said al-Yassin, who lives with his wife, three sons and daughter in a tent. He relies mostly on food aid, he said. Camp residents have recently received bags of lentils, pasta and bulgur and receive bread on daily basis.

Lebanon is being squeezed by the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history, exacerbated by the pandemic and a massive deadly explosion in Beirut in August.

“We are going through a period when some people are fasting whether during Ramadan or not,” said Natalie Najm, an insurance broker. Even with her job, she can barely cover food costs, she said. “What about others who lost their jobs?”

To prevent large gatherings in Ramadan, Saudi Arabia has forbidden mosques from serving iftar and suhoor, a meal just before the fast’s start at sunrise.

Many Muslim religious leaders, including in Saudi Arabia, have tried to dispel concerns about getting the coronavirus vaccine in Ramadan, saying that doing so does not constitute breaking the fast.

With new infections exceeding earlier peaks in India, Muslim scholars there have appealed to their communities to strictly follow restrictions and refrain from large gatherings, while asking volunteers and elders to look after the needy.

Last year’s Ramadan in India was marred by rising Islamophobia following accusations that an initial surge in infections was tied to a three-day meeting of an Islamic missionary group, the Tablighi Jamaat, in New Delhi.

In Pakistan, authorities are allowing mosques to remain open during Ramadan with rules in place that include barring worshippers over 50 years old and requiring masks.

But given how rules were widely ignored last year there, doctors have been asking the government to close mosques.

“We are very concerned about the gatherings,” Dr. Qaiser Sajjad, secretary general of the Pakistan Medical Association, said Sunday. He urged the government and Pakistan’s clerics to put together a better plan during Ramadan to stop the spread of the virus.

“We must learn from the previous year,” he said. Sajjad is calling for a complete lockdown of the eastern city of Lahore.

Afghanistan is leaving it up to worshippers to watch out for each other, keep their distance and stay away from the mosques if they are feeling ill.

“Saving a human life is an obligation … you can’t put the life of a human in danger or at risk at all,” said Sayed Mohammad Sherzadi, head of Hajj and religious affairs department for Kabul province.

Malaysia has some movement restrictions in place and has declared a coronavirus emergency that suspended Parliament until August following spikes in infections. But it has lifted last year’s ban on taraweeh prayers and Ramadan bazaars, which sell food, drink and clothes, though strict measures will be in place.

Back in Egypt, Nouh Elesawy, undersecretary for mosque affairs at the country’s Ministry of Endowments, had a message to the faithful ahead of the start of the month: “If you want the houses of God to remain open, adhere to the precautionary procedures and regulations.”

Ramadan also typically has a distinct cultural and social flavor for many.

In Egypt, giant billboards bearing the faces of celebrities advertise Ramadan television series, a favorite pastime for many. In bustling markets around Cairo’s Al-Sayeda Zainab Mosque, shoppers browsed stalls stacked with decorative Ramadan lanterns in vibrant colors, inspected the offerings and bargained for a deal.

In another Cairo neighborhood, people posed with a giant Ramadan lantern towering over one street and snapped photos.

One Ramadan tradition in Egypt that remains a casualty of the virus for the second year is the “Tables of the Compassionate,” communal charity iftars where strangers would break bread together at free meals served on long tables on the street.

The tables may be gone, but not the month’s spirit of giving.

Neveen Hussein, 48, said colleagues brought her “Ramadan bags” filled with rice, oil, sugar and other staples to distribute to needy families. It’s an annual tradition, she said, rendered more urgent by a pandemic that has hurt the livelihoods of many of those already struggling.

“This is a month of mercy,” she said. “God is generous, and this is a month of generosity.”


Gannon reported from Islamabad, and Mroue from Beirut. Associated Press reporters around the world contributed to this report.


Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through The Conversation U.S. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

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Officer accused of force in stop of Black Army officer fired

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — One of two police officers accused of pepper-spraying and pointing their guns at a Black Army officer during a traffic stop has since been fired, a Virginia town announced late Sunday, hours after the governor called for an independent investigation into the case.

The town of Windsor said in a statement that it joined calls from election officials, including Gov. Ralph Northam, in requesting an investigation by Virginia State Police into the December 2020 encounter in which two Windsor officers were accused of drawing their guns, pointing them at U.S. Army second lieutenant Caron Nazario and using a slang term to suggest he was facing execution.

Nazario, who is Black and Latino, was also pepper-sprayed and knocked to the ground by the officers, Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker, according to the lawsuit he filed earlier this month against them.

The two sides in the case dispute what happened, but Crocker wrote in a report that he believed Nazario was “eluding police” and he considered it a “high-risk traffic stop.” Attorney Jonathan Arthur told The Associated Press that Nazario wasn’t trying to elude the officer, but was trying to stop in a well-lit area.

In the statement Sunday, Windsor officials said an internal investigation opened at the time into the use of force determined that department policy wasn’t followed. Officials said disciplinary action was taken and Gutierrez has since been fired.

Officials added that departmentwide requirements for additional training were also implemented beginning in January.

“The Town of Windsor prides itself in its small-town charm and the community-wide respect of its Police Department,” the statement said. “Due to this, we are saddened for events like this to cast our community in a negative light. Rather than deflect criticism, we have addressed these matters with our personnel administratively, we are reaching out to community stakeholders to engage in dialogue, and commit ourselves to additional discussions in the future.”

Northam called the December 2020 encounter “disturbing” in a tweet Sunday, adding that he directed State Police to review what happened.

“Our Commonwealth has done important work on police reform, but we must keep working to ensure Virginians are safe during interactions with police, the enforcement of laws is fair and equitable, and people are held accountable,” Northam said in his statement calling for a review of the actions.

The Windsor police chief didn’t respond to messages sent through the police department’s Facebook page over the weekend.

Windsor is about 70 miles (112 kilometers) southeast of Richmond.