Daily Archives: July 21, 2011

‘Hollywood producer was an Israeli nuclear agent’


Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Arnon Milchan at event of Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Photo by Lester Cohen – © WireImage.com – Image courtesy WireImage.com

According to a new biography, Arnon Milchan, close friend of Israeli prime ministers and Hollywood stars, was recruited by Shimon Peres to purchase equipment for Israel’s alleged nuclear program.

haaretz.com | Jul 18, 2011

By Yossi Melman Tags

Israeli businessman and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan was a longtime weapons dealer and Israeli intelligence agent who purchased equipment for Israel’s alleged nuclear program, a new biography claims.

The book, “Confidential: The Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon Arnon Milchan,” written by Meir Doron and Joseph Gelman, recounts Milchan’s life story, from his days as a boy in Rehovot through his friendships with Israeli prime ministers, U.S. presidents and Hollywood stars.

Milchan’s services to the Israeli security industry have been made public before, but he has always denied or refused to acknowledge them. This is the first time Milchan confirms these claims, albeit indirectly.

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Even though the authors claim to have written an unofficial biography, Milchan agreed to meet with them, answer their questions and correct their mistakes. One of the major sources for the book was Israeli President Shimon Peres, a close friend of Milchan.

“I am the one who recruited him,” Peres is quoted as saying.

This occurred in the 1960’s, when Peres was Deputy Minister of Defense. The relationship continued in the 1970’s, when Peres became Minister of Defense. He recruited Milchan as an agent for Lakam, an acronym for ‘Science Liaison Bureau.’ Lakam is the name of a secret unit in the defense ministry that was tasked with purchasing equipment, namely technological parts and materials for Israel’s alleged nuclear program.

Since its founding in the mid-1950’s, the agency was headed by Benjamin Blumberg. Blumberg was fired in 1978 by Defense Minister Ezer Weizman following the Likud’s party rise to power. Weizman claimed that Lakam was involved in illegal money transfers to different bodies, including the Labor Party.

Blumberg was Milchan’s friend, and used him (as well as other Israeli businessmen) to set up straw companies around the world, and to open secret bank accounts for financing the nuclear plant in Dimona and other Israeli security industries.

The basis for Milchan’s secret actions was the family firm Milchan Brothers, which represented foreign chemical companies in Israel since before independence.

Lakam was in effect an intelligence unit dealing with technological and scientific espionage, and served as a kind of “theft contractor” for the Israeli security industry. Besides using businessmen, Lakam also appointed scientific attaches in Israeli embassies around the world. After he was fired, Blumberg was replaced by Rafi Eytan, who continued to use his services.

For years, Milchan operated in secret, yet in the mid-1980’s U.S. customs uncovered an attempt to smuggle “switches” – equipment that can be used both for medical purposes and for nuclear weapons manufacture – by the California-based Milco company, owned by Milchan. The company’s CEO, Richard Kelly Smyth, was arrested and released on bail. He fled the country soon after.

Smyth was declared a fugitive, and according to some reports found refuge in Israel. In 2001 he was captured in Spain and was brought back to the U.S., where he stood trial and was incarcerated. The FBI began an investigation into Milchan’s affairs, yet he has never been charged.

According to the book, right after the “switches” fiasco Milchan called his friend Peres, then prime minister, and asked for his help in dealing with the Ronald Reagan administration. Milchan is quoted in the book as saying he never received money for his services, and that everything he did was for the state of Israel.

Human gelatin to be used for desserts and candies

New Method for Making Human-Based Gelatin

ScienceDaily | Jul 14, 2011

Scientists are reporting development of a new approach for producing large quantities of human-derived gelatin that could become a substitute for some of the 300,000 tons of animal-based gelatin produced annually for gelatin-type desserts, marshmallows, candy and innumerable other products.

Their study appears in American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry.

Jinchun Chen and colleagues explain that animal-based gelatin, which is made most often from the bones and skin of cows and pigs, may carry a risk of infectious diseases such as “Mad Cow” disease and could provoke immune system responses in some people. Animal-based gelatin has other draw-backs, with variability from batch to batch, for instance, creating difficulties for manufacturers. Scientists thus have sought alternatives, including development of a human-recombinant gelatin for potential use in drug capsules and other medical applications.

To get around these difficulties, the scientists developed and demonstrated a method where human gelatin genes are inserted into a strain of yeast, which can produce gelatin with controllable features. The researchers are still testing the human-yeast gelatin to see how well it compares to other gelatins in terms of its viscosity and other attributes. Chen and colleagues suggest that their method could be scaled up to produce large amounts of gelatin for commercial use.

Rupert Murdoch, papal knight


Rupert Murdoch, left, and Cardinal Edward Egan at the Alfred E Smith fundraising dinner in New York

christiancentury.org | Jul 19, 2011

by John Dart

As British authorities look into the cellphone hacking scandal surrounding the global media empire of Rupert Murdoch, questions have reappeared about the 1998 award of a papal knighthood to Murdoch–and how his family may have used its riches to appear in a favorable light with the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

Murdoch’s selection for the honorary knighthood–the highest honor the pope can bestow on laypeople–upset many people at the time. Murdoch’s News Corp. was long known for sensationalist tabloid newspapers and titillating programs on the Fox Network.

The ceremony was celebrated by Cardinal Roger Mahony in a suburban Los Angeles parish, and I covered it for the Los Angeles Times. Later reports said that Murdoch contributed $10 million toward building the Los Angeles archdiocese’s large downtown cathedral, dubbed Taj Mahony by many.

Those given the title of Knight Commander of St. Gregory the Great ranged from generous donors to tireless volunteers. Honorees were to be people of “unblemished character” who contributed to society and/or Catholic institutions. “You are examples of good peer pressure, positive influences on society and culture,” said Mahony to some 60 inductees.

Murdoch attended, sitting in a section of the pews well-distanced from reporters. His then-wife Anna, a Catholic, was one of a dozen women named Dames of St. Gregory. She told me her husband grew up in the Anglican Church in Australia but would occasionally attend mass with her at a Beverly Hills parish.

Two other non-Catholic honorees stayed away from the hoopla: comedian Bob Hope and entertainment executive Roy Disney. But veteran actor Ricardo Montalban was sitting in a front pew. He frequently appeared at Catholic charitable affairs during his long film and television career. Four years before, Montalban underwent a spinal cord operation. Using a walker, he still betrayed the pain of sitting down and rising in the church.

But he was all smiles to everyone who greeted him. “This is probably my greatest honor,” he said of the unanticipated award. “It’s a wonderful gift, medicine from God.”

Charice says she’s not part of Illuminati


abs-cbnNEWS.com | Jul 20, 2011

MANILA, Philippines – International singing sensation Charice finally addressed the issue saying she is now a member of Illuminati, a group believed to be the brains behind events that will lead to the establishment of a New World Order.

In her official Twitter account, Charice answered a question from a netizen if she’s indeed an “Illuminati.”

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“@crstinaponce ano ga yan.. bakit naman ako magiging member? porket kanta ko po’y Pyramid, member na? hehehe. pero ayon.. hindi po,” Charice tweeted.

Still from YouTube sparked rumors of Charice's association with the Illuminati. Credit: YouTube

Rumors began circulating that she joined the secret group after the video of her hit song “Pyramid” was released, where she had to do the pyramid sign.

Illuminati’s sign is The All-Seeing Eye, a pyramid with an eye on top.

Charice was not the first one to have been rumored to join the Illuminati. International stars like Lady Gaga and the late Michael Jackson were also haunted by the said issue.

Meanwhile, Charice announced that she will do some songs for Pop Star Princess Sarah Geronimo.

Charice’s statement stemmed from a netizen’s question if she’s willing to work with Geronimo.

“@ASH1heart4SAM1 I would love to. Will start to write songs for her prolly (probably) next week. But It depends if she still wants to work with me,” Charice tweeted.

Allende’s Death Was a Suicide, Autopsy Concludes

For years, left-wing conspiracy theorists, including Allende’s old friend and comrade Fidel Castro, have maintained that he was murdered by bloodthirsty revolutionaries.

After 37 years, post-mortem proves Allende killed himself

Report on Allende’s death was part of inquiry into hundreds of murders committed by Pinochet regime in Chile

nytimes.com | Jul 21, 2011

By Guy Adams

Salvador Allende, the Chilean president who was widely considered to be the world’s first democratically elected Marxist, committed suicide 37 years ago, and was not murdered by right-wing revolutionaries, according to the results of a post-mortem unveiled yesterday.

A forensic team in Santiago, which has been examining Allende’s exhumed body for the past two months, concluded that he died from injuries consistent with having turned an AK47 assault rifle on himself. They found no evidence to support theories that a third party was involved.

The detailed report was welcomed by Allende’s family, who have always maintained that the 65-year-old politician took his own life as troops stormed La Mondea, the country’s Presidential Palace, during a US-backed coup on 11 September 1973.

“The conclusions are consistent with what we already believed,” his daughter, Senator Isabel Allende, told reporters. “When faced with extreme circumstances, he made the decision of taking his own life, instead of being humiliated or having to go through with some other situation.”

On the day of the coup, Allende, who had voiced hostility to the US and formed diplomatic alliances with Cuba and Russia, is reported to have promised supporters that he would not be taken alive, even as La Mondea was bombed by fighter jets and filled with smoke and tear gas.

Yet for years, left-wing conspiracy theorists, including Allende’s old friend and comrade Fidel Castro, have maintained that he was murdered by bloodthirsty revolutionaries. They claimed his corpse, which was never shown to his family, was riddled with bullets, and argued that an “official” autopsy carried out on the night of the coup was rigged.

Adding to the sense of mystery about the death was the fact that neither the weapon (which had been a gift to Allende from Castro) nor one of the two fatal bullets, were ever recovered. The incoming administration never carried out a criminal investigation, and for years the Allende family had refused to sanction another autopsy.

In May, however, a team of coroners and forensic experts were finally authorised by Isabel to examine the former president’s corpse. They were unable to uncover any evidence to support murder allegations, and said his injuries were consistent with a self-inflicted wound from a rifle held between his legs.

“There were two bullets fired at the scene; two shells were recovered, but only one bullet,” said David Pryor, a former Scotland Yard expert in forensic ballistics who worked as a consultant on the case. “The gun, an AKA rifle, was on automatic. There was one wound in his skull, caused by two bullets.”

The 20-page report on Allende’s death was commissioned by a judge investigating hundreds of murders and other human rights abuses committed by the regime of General Augusto Pinochet, whose right-wing military dictatorship presided over the country for almost two decades after the 1973 coup.

Pinochet, who seized power with the tacit support of the US, and held onto it with the backing of Lady Thatcher’s Conservative administration, is accused of being responsible for the murder or “disappearance” of more than three thousand political opponents.

Phone hacking scandal: Rebekah Brooks claims she was repeatedly told phone allegations were untrue


Rebekah Brooks appears before MPs investigating the phone-hacking scandal at News International

Former editor denied she had gone riding with David Cameron or spoken to him about the appointment of Andy Coulson

independent.co.uk | Jul 20, 2011

By Martin Hickman and Cahal Milmo

Rebekah Brooks said yesterday that she was a friend of the Prime Minister but denied that she had influenced his appointment of Andy Coulson as his party’s director of communications.

“The truth is that he is a neighbour and a friend but I deem the relationship to be wholly appropriate,” she said.

The newly resigned chief executive of News International denied press reports that she had gone riding with David Cameron or spoken to him about the appointment of Mr Coulson – or that NI had augmented Mr Coulson’s salary while he worked at Conservative central office.

Asked whether she had ever spoken to Mr Cameron about Mr Coulson prior to his appointment, Ms Brooks replied: “That is not true. Never was true.”

Appearing before the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s investigation into phone hacking, the former tabloid editor said that the News of the World had repeatedly assured her that allegations the newspaper used the practice were untrue.

“They consistently denied any of these allegations in various internal investigations,” she said.

“It was only when we saw the Sienna Miller documentation that we realised the severity of the situation.”

When asked whether she had been lied to by senior employees, she declined to answer because of the criminal investigation. The former editor of the News of the World and The Sun said: “Unfortunately, because of the criminal procedure, I’m not sure that it’s possible to infer guilt until those criminal procedures have taken place.”

She agreed that the NOTW used private detectives. She said: “The use of private detectives in the late Nineties and 2000 was the practice of Fleet Street and after Operation Motorman and What Price Privacy? Fleet Street actually reviewed this practice and in the main the use of private detectives was stopped.”

Pressed by Labour MP Tom Watson, she added: “I was aware that the News of the World used private detectives, as every paper in Fleet Street did. The payments… would have gone through the managing editor’s office.”

However, Ms Brooks denied she had met ever Glenn Mulcaire, the private detective exclusively contracted to the NOTW, who was jailed in 2007 for hacking into the Royal household.

“I didn’t know particularly that Glenn Mulcaire was one of the detectives that was used by the News of the World,” she said.

“In fact, I first heard Glenn Mulcaire’s name in 2006.”

Asked about her links with private investigator Jonathan Rees, a convicted criminal, she replied: “He wasn’t a name familiar with me, I am told that he rejoined the News of the World in 2005, 2006, and he worked for the News of the World and many other newspapers in the late 1990s.”

Asked whether she found it “peculiar” that Rees had been rehired after serving a sentence for a very serious offence, she replied: “It does seem extraordinary.”

She struggled to name other private detectives who had worked with the News of the World. “It isn’t that I can’t remember, it’s that you have the same information that I have, which is from Operation Motorman,” she said.

Asked whether she had any regrets, she said: “Of course I have regrets.

“The idea that Milly Dowler’s phone was accessed by someone being paid by the News of the World, or even worse authorised by someone at the News of the World, is as abhorrent to me as it is to everyone in this room.

“And it is an ultimate regret that the speed in which we have tried to find out the bottom of these investigations has been too slow.”

Referring to her comments in 2003 that payments had been made to the police, she said: “I can say that I have never paid a policeman myself. I have never sanctioned, knowingly sanctioned, a payment to a police officer,” she told the cross-party committee.

“In my experience of dealing with the police, the information they give to newspapers comes free of charge.”

She admitted that “things went badly wrong” at the News of the World, but added that News International was a responsible news group. “You will have seen that, out of all the media groups in this country, News International has been the one to openly welcome the Prime Minister’s public inquiry into, I think, all Fleet Street practices.”

Asked whether she had any regrets over headlines now she had experienced the media “spotlight” herself, she said there had been “mistakes”.

She added: “And yes, it hasn’t been particularly pleasant. It was one of the main reasons that I wanted to leave because I felt I was detracting from the amazing journalists and media executives and all the people that work in News International. I felt I was detracting from their incredibly good work.”

Murdochs Deny That They Knew of Illegal Acts


Rupert Murdoch and his son James appeared before a parliamentary committee on Tuesday.

His humility did not extend to declaring that he was at fault.

nytimes.com | Jul 19, 2011

By SARAH LYALL

LONDON — It was riveting theater, a newly emboldened parliamentary committee facing off against the 80-year-old Rupert Murdoch, the world’s most powerful media mogul, in a series of exchanges designed to get to the bottom of the phone hacking scandal that has engulfed not just Mr. Murdoch’s News Corporation, but also Britain’s political and law-enforcement elite.

In two hours of intense questioning broken only by a bizarre incident in which Mr. Murdoch was accosted with what appeared to be a foil pie plate filled with shaving cream, both he and his son James declared repeatedly that they had been shocked to discover something that has become increasingly apparent: that phone hacking and other illegal behavior were endemic at their News of the World tabloid, which is now defunct.

Even so, the Murdochs and Rebekah Brooks, a former editor at the paper who resigned from the News Corporation on Friday, only to be arrested on Sunday on suspicion of phone hacking and bribing the police, apologized again and again for the failures at their company.

“I would just like to say one sentence,” Rupert Murdoch said, breaking at one point into a long answer by his son, the News Corporation’s deputy chief operating officer. “This is the most humble day of my life.”

But his humility did not extend to declaring that he was at fault or that he should step down from his company.

“I feel that people I trusted — I don’t know who, on what level — have let me down, and I think they have behaved disgracefully, and it’s for them to pay,” he said. “And I think, frankly, that I’m the best person to see it through.”

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While the elder Mr. Murdoch has long had the reputation of being a hands-on manager, pressing for and savoring the scoops scored by the newspapers he had always felt were the soul of his media empire, he said in his testimony that in the case of The News of the World, he had no knowledge of the specifics of what was going on.

He did not know, for example, that his company had paid confidential out-of-court settlements of £600,000 and £1 million to two victims of phone hacking. Nor, he said, did he know that the company was paying the legal fees of Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator under contract to The News of the World who was convicted in 2007 of hacking into the phones of staff members of the royal family.

James Murdoch said he had not known about paying Mr. Mulcaire’s legal fees either, and was “as surprised as you are that some of these arrangements had been made.”

The Murdochs shut down the tabloid last week in a futile effort to contain a crisis that has also claimed the careers of two high-ranking police officers and two top News Corporation officials, caused the company to withdraw a much-wanted $12 billion takeover bid of a broadcasting company, and led to the arrests of 10 former News of the World editors and reporters.

The hearings (Ms. Brooks appeared separately) provided a gripping spectacle of executives who once commanded unassailable political power enduring sustained questioning from lawmakers enjoying a newfound confidence.

There was Rupert Murdoch, looking every bit his age, appearing at times to lose his concentration and sometimes taking so long to answer questions that he seemed not to have heard them at all. There was James Murdoch, his 38-year-old heir apparent, sharp, engaged and seeming alarmed at the prospect that his father would lose his way, quick to leap in when the elder Mr. Murdoch wavered or appeared uncertain.

Mr. Murdoch’s glamorous wife, Wendi Murdoch, 42, sat directly behind her husband in the visitors’ section of the hearing room. At one point, a man suddenly rose from his seat and advanced on Rupert Murdoch, striking him with what appeared to be a pie tin filled with shaving cream, or possibly custard. That caused Mrs. Murdoch to rise from her chair and slug the attacker with a swift right swing.

The committee chairman, John Whittingdale, a Consevative member of Parliament, hastily declared a short recess.

The attacker was later identified in British news reports as Jonathan May-Bowles, a stand-up comedian. According to The Guardian, he was sending Twitter messages about the incident. “It is a far better thing that I do now than I have ever done before #splat,” the attacker apparently wrote, in a homage to “A Tale of Two Cities,” just before unleashing the foam.

He was escorted from the building in handcuffs.

Members of the committee tried their best to get the Murdochs to explain why the company had repeatedly claimed that phone hacking was limited to a single “rogue” reporter. The answer, James Murdoch said, was that he had received bad advice — from his own executives, from the police, from his lawyers, even from the Press Complaints Commission. All had told him, he said, that “there was no illegality,” and he said he had no reason to doubt their word.

It was a matter of “deep frustration” and “real regret” that the facts had not emerged sooner, he said.

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