Thursday, February 26, 2009

Barack Obama and Bobby Jindal

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Barack Obama has spoken in prime time before, but not in a State of the Union-esq setting in front of Congress. With the stimulus package still under immense scrutiny, and the economic news still unsettling, Obama's speech to Congress was under a big radar. Under just as much attention was the reaction speech on behalf of Republicans by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who has become the leading voice against the stimulus. Obama's speech to Congress, and Jindal's response, both delivered what their base likely expected.
President Obama has had to stand up and applaud every few seconds in the last few State of the Union addresses by President Bush. Last night, Obama was on the other end of the endless Congressional applause, getting 61 brief standing ovations in his speech to Congress.
For weeks, Obama offered downbeat messages about the economy, betraying the "Yes we can" type of speeches that got him the Presidency. Last night, his speech to Congress returned Obama to his optimistic, campaign form. Urging that America would recover, while also urging that the recovery would take time, Obama blended his pre and post-campaign speech tones into one whole.
For all of the economic worry and the slowness of recovery, Obama has still largely remained above criticism thus far. The speech to Congress continued that trend, as between 68-80% were very positive on the speech in polls from CNN and CBS.
The harder sell had to come from Bobby Jindal, as he leads the Republican opposition against Obama and the stimulus. Chosen to give the opposition speech at the end of the night, Jindal had the difficult task of trying to promise to work with Obama, while opposing everything from massive government spending to tax hikes.
Naturally, while Obama received raves, Jindal was panned by the likes of Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow and the Politico website. Kate Couric called the debate an example of the "ideological fault line" between Democrats and Republicans, which is likely reflected on the party-line reactions to both speeches. Obama shored up his base by going back to vast, idealistic promises for the future, despite warning of bleak times ahead. Jindal shored up his base by promoting traditional Republican policies as a way to counter the Democrat's proposals.
Since the stimulus has already been signed into law, the effects of it are going to take a long time to judge. Until then, there seems to be little to do but for the likes of Obama and Jindal to keep debating on it in respective speeches, unless any new economic ideas come along.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


If you think solar power relies on rooftop panels alone, think again: a whole new crop of innovative gadgets promises to deliver sun-generated energy in all sorts of ways ... even in the dark. Following are seven potential sources for next-generation solar power: Hot roads and parking lots. All those roadways and parking lots shimmering with heat on sunny days could do more than turn your car into a sauna, according to researchers at the Massachusetts-based Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Areas paved with asphalt could heat up water in buried  pipes, providing a ready source of power across the landscape, researchers say. The hot water could be used to heat buildings or could be run through a thermoelectric generator to produce electricity. Such systems could even offer a few advantages over traditional rooftop arrays, the researchers say. One, the pipes would be under roads or parking lots, so they'd be invisible to the public. Two, they'd reduce the "heat island" effect that can make paved urban areas so uncomfortable on hot summer days. And three, they could continue generating energy even after sunset, thanks to asphalt's heat-absorbing powers. Our preliminary results provide a promising proof of concept for what could be a very important future source of renewable, pollution-free energy for our nation," said Rajib Mallick, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. "And it has been there all along, right under our feet. Infrared-gathering nanoantennas. Researchers are eyeing plastic sheets embedded with billions of super-microscopic "nanoantennas" as a way to harness the power of the sun and more. The nanoantennas collect infrared radiation -- better known to us as heat -- rather than visible sunlight, which means they could generate energy around the clock, sopping up both ambient heat and waste heat from buildings and electronic devices. The concept is still a long way from becoming a mass-market reality, but it's an idea with huge potential. Every process in our industrial world creates waste heat," said Steven Novack, a physicist with the US Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory. And right now, he added, "It's energy that we just throw away. Water-powered dryers. Among the innovations being tested by students and faculty at the University of Cinncinati's (UC) solar house is a solar-heated dryer closet. Clothes hung in the enclosed closet are dried by hot air rising from pipes at the bottom, which carry water heated by the sun. Even more promising: an adaptor that could enable homeowners to use the heat from water to power a conventional clothes dryer. Use of this adapter would represent a significant cost and energy savings annually and over the life of the dryer," said Anton Harfmann, an associate dean at UC's College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning. ;One day, we'd love it if conventional dryers could be sold with our idea as a simple modification Solar-powered bicycle kiosks.Freewheelin, a new national bike-sharing program, lets users check out free bicycles using solar-powered kiosks. The program, developed by Humana Inc. and the cycling group Bikes Belong, is getting a major debut at this summer's Democratic and Republican national conventions in Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul. Light-generating tree "leaves." What a neat concept is this: lighting nighttime pathways with solar-powered, leaf-shaped lights wound around street-side tree branches? Created by South Korean designer Jongoh Lee, the "Invisible Streetlights" are actually solar-powered LED lamps shaped like leaves and easily attached to trees in any quantity.
Solar-charged fuel cells. Tapping the sun's power today carries several disadvantages: you can't do it in the dark, and it's hard (and expensive) to efficiently store solar-generated energy for use when the sun isn't shining. But researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) believe they might have found a solution to those drawbacks. Building on the concept of photosynthesis that plants use to tap the sun's power, MIT researchers have developed a way to use solar energy to split water into its components, hydrogen and oxygen. When those two gases are recombined in a fuel cell, they release energy that can be used to generate clean electricity, day or night. This is the nirvana of what we've been talking about for years," said MIT researcher Daniel Nocera. "Solar power has always been a limited, far-off solution. Now we can seriously think about solar power as unlimited and soon. Window power. Rather than relying on large and very noticeable solar panels on their roofs, homeowners could one day invisibly tap the sun's power through their windows. Another development by researchers at MIT, window-based solar power would use dye-based solar concentrators on the glass to focus the sun's energy onto photovoltaic cells at the window's edges. Better still, researchers say, the system is simple enough that it could become widely manufactured and available within three years or so.
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Oscar Dress up

Fashion is something that a lot of men steer relatively clear of, allowing the women in their lives to dominate that portion of their lives - if they allow fashion into their lives at all. But everybody seems to have an opinion about what people wear at the Oscars. Who is the best dressed. Who is the worst dressed. Women, men, children all seem to have their likes and dislikes about what looks good or bad on who... So the day after the Academy Awards finds the media saturated with snippets and shorts, stories and articles, exposes and exclusives about the best dressed and the worst dressed, the fashion bombs and the fashion winners, photos, pictures, and videos. You can't turn on an electronic device without Whoopi Goldberg pouncing on you with her leopard-print horror or Sarah Jessica Parker's mannish face emerging above a beautiful gown (and good for her; it distracted from what was above the neck). The Best And Worst Dressed Men At The Academy Awards For the gentlemen who come to the Oscars, a simple black tuxedo usually suffices. But you know that some of the guys have to be creative, so they can't even get that one simple fashion rule down. Take Philip Seymour Hoffman, for example. Great actor. He was dressed all in black, including something that look tike a beret or a tam on his large noggin. The effect? A big guy rolled up in a sofa cover. With a head covering. Atrocious. Oh, and he looked like he slept in it, whatever it was. Esquire agrees. Hoffman was the worst dressed at the Academy Awards. If you are going to go all black, Oscar-nominated Sean Penn ("Milk") had the right look. Graceful cut to his tuxedo. Black shirt. Probably gay approved as well (as it should be, the man looked good enough to win an Oscar). You want to know how it is done, just take a look at Hugh Jackman. Simple traditional black tuxedo. That's the look, guys. Study. Take notes. Actually, take a note. Simple traditional black tuxedo. Got it? Good. Leave it alone. Who else? Dev Patel, the teen star of "Slumdog Millionaire," which took home eight Academy Awards at the 2009 Oscars, including Best Picture. Looking good is important if the camera is going to be on you all night, win or lose.
On the flip side of the same coin, the director of "Slumdog Millionaire," Danny Boyle, looked as if he just rushed over to the Oscars after putting in 12 hours at the office. Open collar, long tie. No.  And ... no. Among the best dressed, according to Esquire, Oscar-nominated Brad Pitt ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"), Twilight's Robert Pattinson, Oscar-nominated Frank Langella ("Frost/Nixon"), Zac Efron, Oscar-nominated Robert Downey, Jr. ("Tropic Thunder") and Ryan Seacrest. Esquire also mention the above-mentioned Jackman and Patel, plus a risqué Mickey Rourke, a stylish Daniel Craig, and Sean Penn.
The worst? Oscar-nominated Ron Howard (director, "Frost/Nixon"), who needed a shave. Esquire said that John Legend had over-accessorized with a tie clasp. They might not have been so hard on him had they known he wasn't singing his own song at the Oscars (he sang Peter Gabriel's tune from "Wall-E").

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It was just a tie clasp, guys. The Best And Worst Dressed Women At The Academy Awards Women are an entirely different subject when it comes to fashion. There are so many different things that can go wrong with a woman's look that it isn't even funny. It's a mix-and-match nightmare. Get the perfect dress and ruin the look with ugly shoes. Perfect shoes and hair, terrible dress. Perfect clothes, slightly off accessories or hair. That's why women spend so much time choosing and getting into their formal clothes. They're looking for the perfect look. And sometimes they find it. Or think they found it. Although the dress Whoopi Goldberg wore looked terrible on her, she still was not the worst dressed. That dubious honor has to go to Tilda Swinton, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for "Michael Clayton." Her two-toned dress ensemble was an eye-wrenching abomination - with a bunched-up shoulder effect that just looked as if the polyester tightened up. And then there was that ridiculous Snuggie-gone-wild monstrosity that Jessica Biel had on. Huge swathes of cream cloth billowing from a cream dress... Prada? Was that a joke? Perhaps leftovers from the designer's straight-jacket? Who knows? Miley Cyrus looked like she was dressing for a 4-year-old's princess-themed party in her godawful get-up. Walking the red carpet with her pageant wave bordered on the extremely gauche. As for the best dressed, Angelina Jolie was stunning in black. Penelope Cruz was beautiful in her 1950's-style off-white gown. Natalie Portman was beautiful in her tight... what color was that dress, exactly? E! Online reported put "Slumdog Millionaire" beauty Freida Pinto in the worst dressed. And they were right. But some put Kate Winslet's terrible retro-dress in their best-of as well, but the charcoal effect with the severe pulled-back hair just did not work. One expected her to start doing a Gloria Swanson impression when she accepted her Best Actress Award ("The Reader"). Beyonce's gold-and-black attack made her look as if someone had someone had crumpled up black and gold wrapped paper and placed her inside. E! Online agreed, stating that they had had enough of the mermaid dresses. E! Online trashed Amy Adams gown (said it was part of the carpet she was walking on) as well, but loved her necklace. The dress wasn't terrible, but it did nothing for the girl. However, that hideous distraction around her neck made one forget how forgettable the dress actually was. But, really, when it comes right down to it, the women at the Oscars have it a lot rougher than the men. The men are safe as long as they play conservative, go traditional, get a shave and a nice hair trim. For the women, it all depends on the eye of the beholder.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

"Bailout Bill"

The term "Bailout Bill" conjures up the political maneuvering happening on Capitol Hill as our nation's senators attempt to wrestle a nearly trillion dollar stimulus package into a neat package that the American public will support. However, in Manhattan's Times Square, the folks there have a different notion of what a Bailout Bill is. There, Bailout Bill is listening to the stories of down on their luck New Yorkers and dispensing a little stimulus of his own - anywhere from $50 to $5,000. According to the BBC, hundreds have waited in line for hours just to tell Bailout Bill their hard luck story and receive a bit of cash for sharing their money woes with him.

Bailout Bill to take his Bailout Booth on the road

According to the BBC, Bailout Bill will be spreading his wealth in cities other than the Big Apple. In the near future, those down on their luck Americans in the Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. areas should look for Bailout Bill and his Bailout Booth to make an appearance. Do you live too far away to pay Bailout Bill a visit in his Bailout Booth? Stop by and leave your hard luck story and perhaps you, too, can get some of his bailout cash.

Is Bailout Bill's generosity just unique website promotion? is a website that offers a video service that costs just under $10 per month per service. Tying a business model to YouTube-like videos designed to help land a job or a hot date, the website bills itself as "classified advertising for a new generation". Will site visitors come to the site only because they seek free money? Or will they flock to the site to upload a video of the car they are attempting to sell? Is catching the wave of a new advertising medium as yet largely untapped? Giving away loads of money sure would generate a fair amount of PR buzz about the site.

Fredericksburg, Virginia-area Church has done something similar to Bailout Bill and his Bailout Booth with reverse tithing
The Free-Lance Star reported last weekend that the pastor of Life Point Church in Spots ylvania, Virginia surprised his congregation by giving $12,000 back to church members. After the weekly collection, a second basket was passed. Church members each took a sealed envelope out of the collection basket and were directed to not give the money back to the church, but to bless someone else with the money and to tell the story of how they impacted another's life with the money. Envelopes could contain as little as $10 or as much as $1,000. To help the congregation with the storytelling aspect of the pastor's request, a blog was set up so that church members could easily share their gift giving stories. A glimpse at the blog postings that appear on the newly minted blog speak of pooling money to help out a single mom, helping a struggling college student, helping a poor child afford a coat and so much more.

Stimulus package and potential 7 new hot Careers

(Since this article was written, the stimulus bill has been passed--- 64% spending, 36% tax cuts.So, happily, only 36% of it is verifiably worthless.)

In opposing the pending stimulus package, Michael Steele declared recently that "government—federal, state or local—has never created one job." This will come as a jolt to the 15 percent of America's labor force that is currently employed by one or another of these three levels of government. (1)

Speaking of jobs, Steele recently became chairman of the Republican National Committee, which must make him feel like the captain of the Hindenburg. The kindest interpretation of Steele's seemingly off-the-wall remark is that he doubts the permanence of some of the jobs that the economic stimulus bill can be expected to create. Steele concedes that the government can create jobs "for a short term, yes. It's a construction job." (2)

In the first place, short-term jobs—in construction or anything else—are still jobs, and a temporary job is better than no job at all. As John Schoen notes at, 597,000 jobs were cut in November, another 577,000 in December, and 598,000 in January, "the most since the end of 1974, pushing the U.S. unemployment rate up to 7.6 percent." (3) Under the circumstances, many of these hapless workers would, no doubt, be more than willing to settle for a short-term job, for now.

Moreover, the work done in, for example, construction jobs—Steele brought them up, not me—may well pave the way, as it were, for future jobs. Rebuilding infrastructure or even erecting an office building facilitates the performance of work, which requires workers, who will be paid for their work, and will subsequently be able to spend money, helping to rejuvenate the economy. Perhaps it makes too much sense for some people.

But suppose, just for now, that the final stimulus bill consists mostly of tax cuts, with little in the way of spending (although, as the president has emphasized, spending is the key to any stimulus). Tax cuts, we know empirically, will not stimulate the economy. They are merely a sop to various benighted constituencies (and, of course, to big business). But if the final bill consists mainly of tax cuts, the jobs situation will not improve. In that case the 7 Hot Careers of the next few years may well be the following:

1. DRIFTER. With the economy in the dumpster, Drifters will be in demand by companies because they usually don't command high wages and if they do, they won't be around long anyway. Usually employed in jobs involving brooms.

2. SCREW-OFF. Like Drifters, Screw-offs do not usually command high wages (although there are exceptions). The truly dedicated Screw-off works harder at getting out of work than if he had simply done his job. Though most companies will be basically unproductive, they will still need someone to sweep and dust occasionally.

3. SNITCH. Needed to keep an eye on the Screw-offs so they will get something done at least sometimes. Though technically used to inform on co-workers who violate company policy, Snitches are also valued for keeping things interesting in the workplace by lying about co-workers, as when a waiter or waitress falsely accuses a colleague of stealing tips.

4. DITTOHEAD. Because management realizes that ignorant employees are the most malleable ones, Dittoheads are in great demand. They continuously spout right-wing drivel in the workplace, and frequently have a radio at their desk (at sufficient volume to make a captive audience of everyone working nearby) tuned to the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, or Gordon Liddy—ideally, all three of them, consecutively. Sometimes the Dittohead will also tune in to intolerant, redneck preachers who know as much about Jesus as Paris Hilton knows about carburetors.

5. ILLEGAL ALIEN. Always in great demand, Illegal Aliens are expected to be an even hotter commodity as the economy continues to decline. Most of them work dirt cheap in menial jobs and don't much care how they are treated. All they care about is booze and drugs and selling them to others.

6. WEATHERPEOPLE. Most of them work for relatively low pay, and they are not required to have any particular insight into what the weather might do on any given day. Moreover, they get to go by the snazzy title of Meteorologist.

7. SEXPOT. All big businesses and many small ones like to employ red hot Sexpots. The only disadvantage to this job is that men need not apply. One of the attractive aspects of this position is its flexibility. For one thing, Sexpots are not rigidly relegated to any particular height or build; good looks and curves are the only prerequisites—and sometimes curves alone suffice. For another, they can get away with bloody murder. They are generally good for morale in the workplace, though they can be distracting at times—but that's just a risk the company will have to take.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Religion and Politics

There is an unspoken rule in America that there are two subjects that should be avoided in conversations among friends: religion and politics. But why is this so? Everyone seems to have an opinion on both subjects, and it seems reasonable to say that we could all benefit from a healthy dose of civil discourse. Unfortunately, civil discourse is not easy to come by, and tempers usually flare when interlocutors discover that there are irreconcilable differences in their respective worldviews. Even more volatile conversations take place when both religion and politics are mentioned in the same breath.Needless to say, in a pluralistic society, there are many different opinions on the role of religion in politics. For purposes of discussion however, we will focus mainly on two polar extremes. On one end of the argument, there are those who say America was founded on the Christian religion, and that the very identity of our nation rests on this fact. To them, religion and politics are are inseparable.
Others say that the founding fathers were wary not only of the effect religion would have on politics, but also of the effect that politics would have on religion. To them, separation of church and state is an integral part of our form of government, and is vitally necessary in a country with a people of all different cultures and creeds.Those that subscribe to the "Christian nation argument" see Christianity as the driving force of our collective morality, and a necessary aspect of American cultural literacy. They point to quotes fro m the founding fathers which seem to imply that they agreed with the concept of a Christian nation. For example, George Washington said that "It is impossible to govern... without God and the Bible". Recently, this argument has come to prominence due to the advocacy of such high-profile figures as Jerry Falwell . Proponents of this view also worry that the Christian religion has essentially come under attack by secularists on the other side of the aisle. They point to incidents where organizations like the ACLU have lobbied to remove the words "under god" from the Pledge of Allegiance. Under this view, religion is being endangered by secular politicians, and religion and politics are need of closer coordination.
On the other side of the aisle, there are those who emphasize the importance of the separation of church and state. To them, not only does religion have a damaging effect on politics, but politics also poisons religion. Organizations like the Secular Coalition for America lobby for an increase in the separation of church and state. They point to cases where they feel that the Christian religion has been imposed on people of other creeds and non-believers alike. The Boy Scouts of America, for example, is an organization that has come under fire by those who believe it should not receive public funding due to its official adherence to Christianity. Some even go so far as to argue that we should remove all allusions to the Christian religion from our public currency, pledges, and public property. They cite the establishment clause of the Constitution to support their assertion that America is not, in fact, a Christian nation, and that religion and politics should have a clear wall of separation.
There are those who take a more pragmatic stance on the issue. President-elect Barack Obama, for example, has argued that while religion is a necessary and unavoidable factor in the political decision making process, we should respect the views of those with all different belief systems. Public issues should be framed and argued based not on dogma and scripture, even if these might be influential factors to the individual making the argument, but they should be cast in secular terms in the public discourse. Many also take a practical stance on issues like "under god" in the Pledge of Allegiance and "in god we trust" on our currency, holding that these phrases are part of our national history, and shouldn't be removed on the basis of a secular ideology. In this view, religion and politics cannot possibly be separated entirely, but government must be cautious not to impose any particular religion.
No matter what your personal view on what the coordination of religion and politics should be, it is evident that this is a debate with enormous implications. If America is, in fact, a Christian nation, what follows from this realization? Conversely, if separation of church and state should be absolute, how do we reconcile this with the views of the religious right, and what do we do about the references to Christianity on public property and in the American tradition? This is a debate that will undoubtedly be contested for years to come, and one on which it is worth developing an informed opinion.

Monday, February 2, 2009

"G" Ad

The new "G" ad campaign featuring rapper Lil' Wayne as the narrator have taken over the hearts and minds of many, as they are so vague that just about nobody knows what they are at first view. What are they, and what product do they represent?
What do the "G" TV Commercials with Lil' Wayne Mean?
With popular athletes like Dwyane Wade, Serena Williams, Bill Russell, and Muhammad Ali featured in the commercial, a major tip-off can be seen for the "G" product commercial.
The commercial actually represents a bold new advertising campaign for Gatorade sports drink and it is a branch off of the G2 drink that was marketed in a more sophisticated way on TV commercials as a lower-calorie alternative to Gatorade.
"G" TV Commercials and Gatorade.
The new Gatorade logo is expected to feature a bold "G" logo from the commercial with Lil' Wayne and a smaller, accented lightning bolt logo on top to complete the sleek new look.
It appears as if Gatorade is trying to use these commercials along with G2 to promote itself to a new segment of the population as not just a sports drink but a casual drink that anyone can enjoy at any time. As comedian Mitch Hedberg once said, "You do not have to be sweaty and holding a basketball to enjoy Gatorade. You could just a be a thirsty dude."
The new "G" commercials are all about trying to make that vision a reality.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Iran and US

As part of President Obama's pledge to meet with terrorist nations like Iran in negotiations, the State De partment is working on a draft of a letter to be sent to the Iranian government that will promise that the US will not seek to overthrow it.

Instead, the Obama administration will entreat the Iranian government to change its behavior. That behavior includes support for terrorist organizations such as Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iraqi Shiite militias, the latter of which was engaged in a terrorist campaign against the Iraqi government and American troops that are deployed in Iraq. Iran is also engaged in a program to develop a nuclear bomb capable of not only wiping out the state of Israel but Iran's Arab neighbors.

The proposed letter is seen as an attempt to unfreeze US-Iranian relations in advance of the Iranian Presidential elections that will pit the current, hard line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against the more moderate former President Mohammad Khatami and former Parliament Speaker Mehdi Karoubi as well as hard liner current Tehran mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf. c has the backing of Iran's supreme spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iran's armed forces chief General Hassan Firouz Abadi.

The United States would prefer that a more moderate Iranian politician became Iran's President, so it is possible that the proposed letter is seen as a means to influence things in that direction. Moderation, in Iranian politics, is a matter of degree. No one in public office in Iran is publicly in favor of moderating Iran's theocracy, which dictates strict Islamic law on its citizens.

The diplomatic approach being adopted by the Obama administration represents a departure from Bush administration efforts to covertly disrupt Iran's nuclear bomb program and destabilize the control of the Iranian government. Ahmadinejad has already preemptively responded to the Obama letter by suggesting that among the preconditions for face to face talks includes an official apology for "crimes against the Iranian people" and a withdraw of American forces from around the world.
The proposed letter to Iran runs to risk of becoming an attempt at appeasement of the Iranian government, much in the way Neville Chamberlain tried to appease Nazi Germany before World War II. By pledging that the United States will not try to overthrow the Iranian government, the United States would seem to throw away a means of leverage against Iran to force it to moderate its behavior. The pledge could also be seen as an abandonment of the Iranian people, including student groups and ethnic minorities, who have been resisting the theocratic rule of the Iranian government.

The letter might well have the opposite effect intended, of emboldening the Iranian government by showing weak resolve. The Obama administration has also signaled Russia that it is dialing back on efforts to build a missile defense system in Eastern Europe designed to defend against Iranian nuclear tipped missiles. That in turn tends to undercut European governments which have supported the missile defense system. The Obama administration may well find itself facing a nuclear armed Iran without the means to counter it aside from making diplomatic entreties. That in turn would spark a nuclear arms race in the Middle East or even a war between Israel, the primary target for Iranian nukes, and Iran.