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  • TV cameras in front of the ‘Grand Hotel Vienna’ where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, Sunday, June 20, 2021. (photo: AP, Florian Schroetter)

    Washington on Wednesday responded skeptically after Iran’s chief negotiator announced that Tehran was ready to return to nuclear negotiations in Vienna by the end of next month.

    Ali Bagheri, Iran’s deputy foreign minister and chief negotiator for the talks, in a Twitter posting said Iran has agreed to restart negotiations by the end of November and a date for a resumption of talks “would be announced in the course of the next week.”

    White House press secretary Jen Psaki said administration officials were aware of Bagheri’s comments but were waiting for European officials to confirm that Iran is indeed ready to resume talks.

  • Dana Zzyym poses for a photo, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021, in Fort Collins, Colo. Zzyym, who prefers a gender-neutral pronoun, told the Associated Press that their passport is the first U.S. passport to be issued with an "X" gender designation, marking a milestone in the recognition of the rights of people who do not identify as male or female. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

    DENVER (AP) — The United States has issued its first passport with an “X” gender designation, marking a milestone in the recognition of the rights of people who do not identify as male or female, and expects to be able to offer the option more broadly next year, the State Department said Wednesday.

    The department did not identify the passport recipient, but Dana Zzyym, an intersex activist from Fort Collins, Colorado, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that they received it. Since 2015, Zzyym, who prefers a gender-neutral pronoun, has been in a legal battle with the State Department to obtain a passport that did not require Zzyym to lie about gender by picking either male or female.

    Zzyym (pronounced Zimm) picked up the UPS package with the passport after getting an early morning text and phone call from their lawyer, Paul Castillo of Lambda Legal, that it had arrived. Zzyym had stayed up late celebrating Intersex Awareness Day with two visiting activists.

  • Construction work for new housing in the West Bank settlement of Modi'in Illit, on January 11, 2021. (Flash90)

    The Defense Ministry’s higher planning council, which authorizes West Bank construction, approves plans for some 3,000 new settler homes.

    The approval of the new housing units comes amid protests against the construction plans by the Biden administration, EU and others.

    The anti-settlement group Peace Now denounces the government over the approvals.

  • Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks as he meets with US President Joe Biden in the Oval Office of the White House, on Friday, August 27, 2021, in Washington, DC. (GPO)

    The Biden administration has protested to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office against Israeli plans to build new homes in West Bank settlements, the Walla news site reports.

    Citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, the report says the US Embassy’s charge d’affaires, Michael Ratney, phoned Bennett’s diplomatic adviser Shimrit Meir last week to say the administration views Israel’s advancement of new settlement units severely.

    Ratney reportedly said the US was particularly concerned that many of the homes due to be approved are located outside the so-called settlement blocs.

  • Israeli F-35 fighter jets fly in formation during the military's Blue Flag exercise in October 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

    The Israeli Air Force will begin practicing for a strike on Iran’s nuclear program beginning next year, having set aside funding and updated its training schedule for the mission, The Times of Israel has learned.

    In light of growing uncertainty regarding a return by Iran to the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, amid long-stalled negotiations with the United States, the Israel Defense Forces in recent months has ramped up its efforts to prepare a credible military threat against Tehran’s nuclear facilities.

    Following the signing of the JCPOA in 2015, Israel put the issue of a military strike on the Iranian nuclear program on the back burner, allowing the IDF to invest its resources into other areas. But following the US abrogation of the nuclear deal in 2018 and Iran’s subsequent violations of the agreement since then — which picked up considerably ahead of and during the stalled talks — the matter has taken on renewed importance to Israel, which sees an Iranian nuclear bomb as a near existential threat.

  • Israel Air Force drills with foreign forces in the "Blue Drill" exercise in October 2021. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

    The fifth bi-annual Blue Flag exercise entered its second week, with thousands of troops and dozens of aircraft from around the world taking part in the most advanced aerial drill ever held in the Jewish state.

    An estimated 1,500 technical and administrative personnel from different air forces are taking part in the drill at the Ovda Air Force base in the Negev north of Eilat.

    Along with the dozens of Israeli aircraft taking part, some 40 aircraft from Germany (six Eurofighters), Italy (five F-35 jets and five G550 planes), Britain (six Eurofighters), France (four Raphael jets), India (five Mirage jets), Greece (four F-16 jets), and the US (six F-16 CJ jets) are taking part.

  • Illustrative: Explosions are seen in the Syrian town of Salamiyah on June 24 after an airstrike. (video screenshot: via Times of Israel)

    An Israeli aircraft fired two missiles at Syrian forces based near Israel’s border on the Golan Heights early Monday, Arabic reports said.

    According to the reports, including from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-Syrian opposition organization, the missiles targeted a regime force and their allies on the outskirts of the town of al-Baath in southern Syria.

    The war monitor said the strike caused “material damage,” but there was no immediate word on casualties.

  • A landslide blocks a road in Plumas County, California. (photo: Weather.com/AP)

    Evacuations were ordered, roads were closed and hundreds of thousands of people were without electricity Sunday night as a powerful storm roared across parts of California and the Pacific Northwest.

    The weather brought the threat of potentially deadly landslides and flooding.

    The risk is particularly high in terrain left barren by wildfires, which is vulnerable to flooding and an especially dangerous and fast-moving type of landslide that scientists call "debris flows."

    Nearly 400,000 power outages were reported across three states, according to poweroutage.us.

  • A group of naval vessels from Russia and China conduct a joint maritime military patrol in the waters of the Pacific Ocean, in this still image taken from video released on October 23, 2021. (photo: Russian Defence Ministry Handout via Reuters)

    Russian and Chinese warships held their first joint patrols in the western Pacific Ocean over the past week, Russia's defence ministry said on Saturday, a move Japan said it was monitoring.

    Moscow and Beijing, which staged naval cooperation drills in the Sea of Japan earlier in October, have cultivated closer military and diplomatic ties in recent years at a time when their relations with the West have soured.

    The naval manoeuvres, which Russia said ran from Sunday through Saturday, have been closely watched by Japan, which said earlier in the week that a group of 10 vessels from China and Russia sailed through the Tsugaru Strait separating Japan's main island and its northern island of Hokkaido.

  • View of the Jewish settlement of Efrat and the surrounding fields, in Gush Etzion, West Bank, on December 1, 2020. (credit: GERSHON ELINSON/FLASH90)

    The US is “concerned” by the IDF’s intention to advance plans for 3,000 settler West Bank homes, including for the legalization of two outposts.

    It is the first such large-scale advancement of settler housing plans by the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria since US President Joe Biden was sworn into office.

    The announcement comes amid media reports that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is under extra US pressure to freeze such plans. Cabinet ministers and officials close to Bennett have denied those reports.

    US State Department spokesman Ned Price was queried about the announcement at Friday’s news briefing.

    “We are concerned about the announcement of a meeting next week to advance settlement units deep in the West Bank, and believe it is critical for Israel and the Palestinian Authority to refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tension and undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution,” said Price. “This certainly includes settlement activity, as well as retroactive legalization of settlement outposts.”

  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (right) gestures to Defense Minister Benny Gantz, on June 3, 2021, at the State Department in Washington, DC. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

    An Israeli defense official on Saturday disputed American claims that the United States was not informed of a highly contentious decision by Jerusalem to label six Palestinian rights organizations as terror groups, insisting Washington had been told in advance.

    “Officials in the American administration were updated in advance of the intention to make this declaration and they received intelligence information about the matter,” the defense official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

    On Friday afternoon, Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced that half a dozen Palestinian civil society groups — including highly prominent ones with significant backing and oversight from the European Union and other international bodies — were being designated as terror organizations, asserting that they worked on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terror group.

  • A very strong area of low pressure, deemed a "bomb cyclone" will approach the Pacific Northwest this weekend, bringing an "atmospheric river" of moisture to California.

    This system is forecast to rapidly strengthen on approach to the Pacific Northwest, becoming a "bomb cyclone" over the next 24 to 48 hours. This system could be one of the lowest pressure storms to ever develop across the northeastern Pacific Ocean, with a forecast pressure comparable to major hurricanes in the Atlantic.

    "I don't think a lot of people realize that these cyclones in the northern Pacific can be equivalent to a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic," Carly Kovacik, a lead meteorologist for the National Weather Service office in Seattle, told CNN. "A lot of these storms produce very strong winds and high seas, but since they are mid-latitude storms, we just don't call them hurricanes even though the impacts can be very similar."

  • Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (C) speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) while accompanied by Housing Minister Ze’ev Elkin who acted as a translator at Putin's residence in Sochi, Russia on October 22, 2021 (Kobi Gidon/GPO)

    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s first meeting as premier with Russian President Vladimir Putin went on for some five hours Friday, forcing the Israeli leader to extend his visit to Sochi until after Shabbat, his office said.

    “The meeting was warm and positive and dealt with a series of issues of importance to the two nations,” said a statement from Bennett’s office after the two leaders met at the Black Sea resort town for their first face-to-face talks since Bennett took office earlier this year.

    The statement said the official meeting at Putin’s residence lasted some five hours after which the two leaders “went outside to speak on the balcony of the residence and then walked through the paths of the grounds toward the sea.”

  • Fox News Photo

    FIRST ON FOX: Arizona’s attorney general on Friday filed a request for a temporary restraining order to stop the Biden administration implementing a controversial vaccine requirement as a lawsuit filed last month moves forward.

    "Once a vaccine has been administered, it can never be undone," Attorney General Mark Brnovich said in a statement announcing the move. "The COVID-19 vaccine mandate is one of the greatest infringements upon individual liberty, federalism, and the separation of powers by any administration in our country’s history."

  • Personnel work on air defense missiles during an exercise, in Iran, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021. (photo: AP/Iranian Army)

    Iran on Thursday kicked off an annual air force drill across the country, a week after holding another massive exercise in air defense, state TV reported.

    The report said bombers, jet fighters, and attack and surveillance drones will participate in the drill, using heavy weapons including laser-guided missiles.

    Footage broadcast showed jet fighters and bombers in flight and at takeoff, including U.S-made F4s and F5s, as well as the Iranian-made Saegheh. Iran bought the American fighters before Washington banned such sales following the 1979 Islamic Revolution. It also has Russian fighters in service.

  • Illustrative: An Israeli Air Force Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker and F-16 fighter jets perform during an air show over Tel Aviv on May 9, 2019, as Israel marks its 71st Independence Day. (photo: AFP, Jack Guez)

    The Israeli Air Force has resumed training for a possible strike on Iranian nuclear facilities, Israeli television reported Thursday.

    According to Channel 12 news, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi ordered that budgetary funds be set aside for drilling such a scenario, after a two-year hiatus.

    The network said Kohavi had also ordered that the air force train “intensely” in simulating a strike on Iran’s nuclear program.

  • TRAVELERS WALK through Ben-Gurion Airport earlier this year. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)

    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and the Health and Tourism ministries approved a plan on Thursday to allow vaccinated and recovered tourists into the country beginning Nov. 1, despite a revelation that at least a handful of cases of the new AY4.2 variant have entered Israel in the last few days.

    According to the plan, which still must be ratified by the full government, tourists who have been vaccinated with the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson and Johnson, Sinovac or Sinopharm vaccines within the last six months will be able to enter the country.

    Furthermore, recovered individuals who can show that they tested positive at least 11 days prior to entering Israel and no more than 180 are also eligible to enter. If more than six months have passed and these individuals receive a booster, they can also enter the country.

    All travelers will be required to take a PCR test within 72 hours of boarding the plane and on arrival. They will also be required to stay in isolation until the results of the test come back negative.

  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accompanied by Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, left, and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyanin, right, appear at a joint news conference at the State Department in Washington, October 13, 2021. (photo: AP/Pool, Andrew Harnik)

    The US and Israel are reportedly planning to form a joint team tasked with resolving a growing dispute over the Biden administration’s plan to reopen the US consulate in Jerusalem, against the wishes of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s new government.

    The joint panel will be led by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Foreign Minister Lapid, along with one or two senior aides from both sides, according to a Wednesday Axios report.

    Blinken proposed the idea during a meeting with Lapid in Washington last week, when Biden’s plan to reopen what historically served as the de facto representative mission to the Palestinians was raised. The consulate was shuttered by former US president Trump in 2019 and its staff were folded into the US embassy, moved to the city a year earlier, in what the Palestinians view as a de facto downgrading of their ties with the US.

  • The first "Blue Flag" exercise took place in November 2013 and has been held on a biennial basis since then. (file photo: Israel Hayom, Yehuda Ben Itach)

    The Israeli Air Force is currently hosting a multinational military aviation exercise described as "Israel's largest and most advanced aerial exercise ever."

    The "Blue Flag' aerial exercise took off on Sunday at Uvda Air Force Base in southern Israel and is scheduled to last for two weeks until October 28.

    Seven air forces from around the world are participating: Germany, Italy, Britain, France, India, Greece and the United States.

  • From left: SpaceIL chairman Morris Kahn, Sarah bint Yousef Al Amiri, Emirati Minister of State for Advanced Technology and Chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency, and SpaceIL CEO Shimon Sarid. (photo: Courtesy)

    Israel and the United Arab Emirates finalized an agreement on Wednesday to collaborate on a number of space projects, including a joint launch of the “Beresheet 2” space mission to the moon, Israel’s second upcoming attempt to land an unmanned spacecraft on the lunar surface by 2024 when the countries expect to plant their flags alongside each other.

    The United Arab Emirates Space Agency (UAESA) also signed a deal with the Israel Space Agency to enhance cooperation in scientific research, space exploration, and knowledge transfer.

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Provocative Commentary

“The men who have done the most for God in this world have been early on their knees. He who fritters away the early morning, its opportunity and freshness, in other pursuits than seeking God will make poor headway seeking Him the rest of the day. If God is not first in our thoughts and efforts in the morning, He will be in the last place the remainder of the day.” 
― E.M. Bounds