Hundreds of House lawmakers sign letter to State Dept. demanding increased effort to secure Iran nuke concessions


Lawmakers from the House of Representatives on Thursday dispatched a letter to the Obama administration - signed by 354 members, comprising over 80 percent of the chamber - calling on Secretary of State John Kerry try harder in securing a deal with Iran that puts a nuclear bomb beyond Tehran's reach. Reuters reported on the call, noting that it came a few weeks after the United Nations' nuclear watchdog (IAEA) blasted the Iranians for not only stonewalling the organization on transparency issues, but for going further and actively destroying evidence of military atomic work. The IAEA had emphasized that the destruction "likely... further undermined the Agency’s ability to conduct effective verification" that Iran was not seeking to weaponize its nuclear program. The House letter for its part declared that "[t]he only reason Tehran is blocking international investigators is that Tehran has something to hide." The letter also came amid growing reports that Washington is currently seeking a "face-saving" deal that would allow the Iranians to disconnect "the plumbing" on some of their centrifuges each in exchange for broad sanctions relief, leaving the centrifuges fully intact. The arrangement would contradict explicit assurances, given to lawmakers and journalists last winter by a range of White House officials, that any comprehensive deal would require Iranian scientists to dismantle their nuclear infrastructure. It would also - per a range of U.S. analysts who immediately and repeatedly criticized the scenario - leave the Iranians on the threshold of constructing a nuclear weapon. An excerpt from physicist Jeremy Bernstein's just-published book Nuclear Iran, posted Thursday on Tablet, "unpack[ed] what we know about the centrifuges at Natanz to take an informed guess at how likely Iran is to have enough weapons-grade uranium to make a nuclear warhead." Bernstein concluded among other things that, short of significant rollbacks in Tehran's atomic infrastructure, "if the Iranians ever throw off the international constraints, they could produce in not many months enough fissile material to begin to manufacture nuclear weapons."


Up to 40 early-stage drug-development companies will be incubated over the next eight years at Israel’s latest biotechnology accelerator, FutuRx, an all-star enterprise backed by OrbiMed Israel Partners, Johnson & Johnson and Takeda Ventures with the Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS) in Israel’s Ministry of Economy. The 1,200-square-meter facility with fully equipped labs was opened earlier this year at the Weizmann Science Park in Ness Ziona, near the world-renowned Weizmann Institute of Science. The OCS has supported selected biotech startups since 1991, and has been finding new avenues for nurturing promising but high-risk projects that have trouble raising money in the private sector, says Yossi Smoller, head of the OCS Technology Incubator Program. Open competitions were held to launch FutuRx as well as Inspire Healthcare Innovations, a joint venture between Holland’s Philips Healthcare and Israel’s Teva Pharmaceuticals to advance medical innovations and technologies; and Food-Tech Hub, an initiative of The Strauss Group to develop new approaches in basic foodstuffs, agricultural techniques, production and packaging. The expectation is that after the incubator term, startups will be positioned to raise money from the private sector and operate on their own. So far, FutuRx has chosen two startups from among 200 proposals. One is developing a technology to treat a juvenile orphan disease of the central nervous system; the other is working on a cancer drug that blocks a specific protein. Up to six more projects are to be approved through the second quarter of 2015. (via Israel21c)

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