Tel Aviv Diary: Israelis Torn on Trump’s Nuke Deal Decision




President Donald J. Trump, no doubt, felt he had to do something.

After describing the 2015 Nuclear agreement with Iran as “a terrible agreement,” his personal pride would not allow him once again to certify that Iran was in compliance with the agreement, as is required by law.

He, however, faced a dilemma.

His advisers all asserted it is in America’s interest to maintain the agreement. Moreover, by all accounts, Iran has been very careful to remain in compliance with the letter of the agreement.

The President used the clause in the 2015 Review Act that states continued suspension of sanctions is “in U.S. vital security interests” as a pretext, to decertify the agreement. He has, however, not called for the United States to exit the agreement immediately .

President Trump has called on Congress to take appropriate action, suggesting that Congress create a set of clear criteria that would automatically warrant reimposing sanctions in the future, but refrain from reimposing sanctions now.

Trump has passed the ball to Congress — asking them to make foreign policy, instead of performing their normal role providing advice and consent. With Congress currently handling a full plate, it is not at all clear what will happen. Trump stated in his speech that if Congress does not take action, he will act unilaterally to leave.

In Israel, Trump’s decision will be greeted with a great deal of head-scratching. For the past three weeks, during a very quiet period of Israeli politics (brought about by the Jewish holidays), the word has been that Trump planned to scrap the agreement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and some of the members of his current government might have been enthusiastic supporters of that course of action. However, most of the rest of the Israel’s security elite were afraid Trump would indeed take that step.

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish boys perform the 'Tashlich' ritual along the Mediterranean Sea in the Israeli city of Herzliya, near Tel Aviv, on September 28, 2017, during which 'sins are cast into the water to the fish'. The 'Tashlich' ritual is performed before the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur, the most important day in the Jewish calendar, which in 2017 starts at sunset on September 29. JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty

There is widespread recognition regarding the weakness of the Iranian agreement — especially its “sunset features”— but as the former head of Israel’s Mossad stated, just because the agreement partially expires in ten years is no reason to terminate it now.  

Amos Yadlin, former head of Israeli Intelligence and current head of the Institute for National Security Studies, wrote earlier this week in an article titled: Preparing an Alternative Strategy before Withdrawing from the Nuclear Agreement with Iran, “Now is not the time to withdraw from the agreement. Rather, suitable strategic conditions should be created for a future withdrawal, if necessary, and leverage built for a better option.”

Yadin argues that for the medium term, as long as it is kept by the Iranians, the current agreement greatly increases Israel’s security. According to Yadlin, 5-7 years from now, as some of the features of the agreement lapse, its benefit becomes more questionable.

But it is precisely during that timeframe that work should be undertaken to strengthen it — not now — while that agreement is working and is in its stage of maximum effectiveness.   

If implemented perfectly, the new Trump policy is intended to impact that period when the agreement will be less effective. What most Israeli policymakers are afraid to state out loud is the fear the current American administration lacks the skill or bandwidth to successfully renegotiate an agreement with Iran — especially at a time when American relations with so much of the rest of the world are frayed.

Some in Israel realize that the agreement is not a bilateral agreement between the US and Iran but a multilateral one that includes Russia, Germany, France, China, Britain and the EU. None of the other signatures on the agreement have shown any interest in reopening negotiations at this time, and the Trump administration’s leverage with all of these countries remains limited.

Much of President Trump’s announcement, and the fact sheet distributed by the White House  in advance, was devoted to the non-nuclear bad actor actions of the Iranian government, singling out the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. President Trump announced additional sanctions on the Revolutionary Guard.

Beyond these sanctions, it is not at all clear how these general principles will be translated into actual policy; especially after the Trump administration’s tepid support of Israel’s concerns about Iranian influence near its border in Syria. But Israelis will certainly agree with principles laid out in President Trump’s speech regarding Iran’s disruptive activities.

Today’s announcement of a new policy regarding Iran came after yesterday’s statement that the US was withdrawing from UNESCO, in part due to the organization’s once-sided anti-Israel decisions.

The US stopped paying dues to UNESCO in 2011, after UNESCO admitted “Palestine” as a state, something the US strongly opposed.

Until now, the US had been determined to fight a largely losing battle from within, as had Israel. Israel was caught by surprise by the American decision. Given that Israeli politicians across the spectrum from Avi Gabbay, head of the Labor Party, to Naftali Bennett, head of the National Religious Party, hailed the US decision,

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to announce that Israel would begin its own process of withdrawing from the organization. It is not at all clear that withdrawing from UNESCO is actually something Israel wants to do — as Israel’s most recent policy, despite some setbacks, has been to aggressively defend its positions at the UN and attempt to take on greater leaderships roles in the organization. Outside analysts fear that weakening the US in the UN, will weaken Israel.

All of this has been happening against the background of a signed reconciliation agreement  in Cairo between Hamas, who seized power in the Gaza Strip, and the Palestinian Authority who rules the majority of the West Bank.

The Israeli response regarding this latest rapprochement has been muted to date. Previous agreements have fallen apart quickly and the consensus at the moment it that this understanding may not last either.

The initial agreement leaves many questions open, foremost among them, what happens to the Hamas armaments? Until the remaining issues are resolved, it is not at all clear what the meaning of this agreement will be to Israel.  

Marc Schulman is a multimedia historian.

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What Will North Korea Do After Hydrogen Bomb Test? Prepare for New Missile Launch, South Korea Warns




South Korea has detected signs that North Korea is preparing to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), Seoul’s defense ministry told parliament on Monday.

"We have continued to see signs of possibly more ballistic missile launches. We also forecast North Korea could fire an intercontinental ballistic missile," Chang Kyung-soo, a defense ministry official, said at a parliamentary hearing, Reuters reported. 

The hearing had been called to discuss Pyongyang’s most recent nuclear test, its sixth and largest to date.

The South Korean intelligence agency confirmed the ministry's view in a closed session with lawmakers. "There is a possibility that the North could make additional provocations by firing an ICBM toward the North Pacific," Kim Byung-kee, a ruling party lawmaker, told local media after the session.

On Sunday, North Korea claimed a “perfect success” in testing a hydrogen bomb that could be attached to an intercontinental ballistic missile. While experts urged caution in believing the claim, the announcement caused global concern and condemnation.

The U.N. called for an emergency meeting on Monday, while U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned at a meeting at the White House that “any threat to the United States or its territories including Guam or our allies will be met with a massive military response.”

South Korean troops fire Hyunmoo Missile into the waters of the East Sea at a military exercise in South Korea September 4, 2017. Seoul believes North Korea is preparing for a ICBM launch. Defense Ministry/Yonhap/via Reuters

South Korea held live-fire drills simulating an attack on the H-bomb test site on Monday, the country’s Joint Chiefs of Staff announced in a statement, adding that they were preparing for new military exercises with the U.S.

South Korea also announced it will install four more THAAD missile defense launchers to "counter North Korea's advancing nuclear and missile threats," the Ministry of National Defense said in a statement on Monday, quoted in the country’s news agency Yonhap.

In reacting to the North Korean test, President Donald Trump appeared to rebuke his South Korean counterpart’s Moon Jae-in’s objection to military confrontation and desire for dialogue with the North, even though the two leaders agreed on Friday to revise missile guidelines to allow Seoul to develop bigger warheads.

Trump however recognized another target of North Korea’s nuclear test, China. “North Korea is a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success.”

North Korea’s nuclear test occurred in Punggye-ri, the same site where a nuclear test occurred in January 2016, about 50 miles away from the border with China. Tremors were felt in the Chinese border city of Yanji, home to about 400,000 people, Chinese media reported.  

On Monday, China’s ministry of Environmental Protection monitored radiation levels in the area but found that they were within the normal range. “The nuclear test has not imposed any impact on the environment and the general public in China,” the ministry said in a statement.

China is North Korea’s most powerful ally, a relationship enshrined in the 1961 Sino-North Korean Mutual Aid and Cooperation Friendship Treaty. But in recent years Beijing has taken a tougher stance against Pyongyang’s nuclear development program, voting along with the U.N. Security Council’s sanctions for over a decade.

The latest test occurred as China hosted the leaders of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries for their annual summit. China “strongly condemned” North Korea’s provocation and a draft communique from the BRICS summit quoted in Chinese state media “strongly deplored” North Korea's nuclear test but called for a peaceful solution to the crisis.


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Transfer News: From Manchester United’s Surprise to Arsenal Success, in the Weekly Window Recap




With no competitive football on our screens for at least another month, the transfer window has had to provide the drama this summer. And it has delivered.

The great entertainer, Manchester United, has been the lead protagonist this week, as it looks to have pulled off the most surprising of deals. Chelsea and Antonio Conte have had a week to forget, one that has put a strain on the relationship between the two and could make for a tricky seven weeks of the transfer window.

Across London, Arsenal has had much more success, breaking its transfer record this week while Liverpool is believed to be on the verge of smashing through its own record as well. But that hasn’t happened quite yet. All that and more in Newsweek’s recap of the week:

Monday

We got the first real signs that Alexandre Lacazette could be moving to Arsenal after the Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas said the deal was likely to happen in the next few days. Arsenal was also said to be on the verge of signing Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez, but that deal is yet to be completed. Elsewhere, Chelsea’s pursuit of Juventus left-back Alex Sandro trundled on, but Conte’s team was reportedly going to miss out on fellow Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci and Roma’s Antonio Rudiger. We also got the first signs that Michael Keane was going to head to Everton, while Jurgen Klopp demanded Liverpool up its work in getting midfielder Naby Keita to Anfield from RB Leipzig.

Tuesday

Keane’s move to Goodison Park was complete, equalling the club’s transfer record at £30 million, while Everton was also reported to be set to sign Wayne Rooney from Manchester United. At Old Trafford, Jose Mourinho was growing frustrated with the slow process of transfer deals, as he wanted Nemanja Matic and Alvaro Morata before the squad left for its pre-season tour on Sunday. There was progress for Klopp as Keita reportedly told Leipzig he wanted the move to Liverpool, while former United striker Javier Hernandez was possibly on his way to West Ham.

Wednesday

Arsenal completed the signing of Lacazette for a club record fee of £45 million, which opened the door for Olivier Giroud to leave the Emirates Stadium. Everton was said to be in for the French striker. But there was also bad news for Arsene Wenger after Hector Bellerin asked for a transfer back to Barcelona, which was refused. Tottenham was looking to do its first transfer business of the summer as Mauricio Pochettino’s team looked at defenders Alfie Mawson, of Swansea, and Ben Gibson from Middlesbrough.

Thursday

Cue the fireworks. Thursday was the day that Manchester United rocked the Premier League and Stamford Bridge as it agreed a deal with Everton to sign Romelu Lukaku for £75 million, snatching the Belgian striker from the hands of Chelsea. In doing so, United cooled its interest in Morata. Despite having a transfer ban until January 2018, Atletico Madrid was preparing a £22 million bid to take Diego Costa away from Chelsea after Conte told the Spanish striker he wasn’t in his plans for the following season. Liverpool had some bad news as Paris Saint Germain was said to be preparing a £70 million offer for the team’s star player Philippe Coutinho.

Friday

Lukaku’s move to United was yet to be confirmed, but reports suggested he would be having a medical in Los Angeles. The Belgian was training with would-be United teammate Paul Pogba. Chelsea was trying to stay in the race for Lukaku but was also turning to Swansea striker Fernando Llorente. Everton faced rivalry from Marseille for the signing of Arsenal striker Giroud, but the club was also preparing a £30 million bid for Swansea midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson.

… And breathe. See you on Monday.


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Can 'The Opposition With Jordan Klepper' Succeed as a 'Colbert Report' for Alternative Media?




When a new late-night show is about to debut, its network will often hold a promotional breakfast for the media. Lured by the promise of a slightly above average spread of pastries and fruit, members of the press gather to hear the host plug their new venture and answer questions. Despite the early hours, these events are very energetic, as they represent the "first look" at a show that has been in the works for months, and on which the fate of dozens of careers hang.

Last week, Comedy Central hosted such an event for The Opposition With Jordan Klepper, which premiered Monday after the Daily Show. They held a similar event two years ago for The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore, the last traditional late-night show to fill the time slot held for so long by Stephen Colbert. Wilmore trotted out in an impeccable suit, gave us a tour of the set, built in the same studio vacated by Colbert and dutifully answered our questions. A little over a year later, the show was canceled. 

Like Wilmore before him, a suited Klepper last week trotted onto his new set, which Comedy Central constructed not on the possibly haunted grounds of The Colbert Report, but in the Hotel Pennsylvania, on Manhattan's west side. Klepper is very white, and very slick, his hair coiffed to add an unneccssary two extra inches to his 6'4" frame. He was enthusiastic, bubbly and annoyingly well-spoken as he broke down what to expect from The Opposition, which would be premiering in a few days. It was about 9:30 a.m. I felt like punching him.

Related: Alex Jones says Nazis in Charlottesville were Jewish actors

Klepper's punchable face appeared behind his own show's desk for the first time Monday night. Outside of an interview with author Kurt Andersen (Klepper has said the show will opt for authors and politicians as guests rather than pop culture figures), the inaugural episode served mostly as an introduction to the show's conceit, which is essentially to make fun of conspiracy theory-driven alternative media.

The easiest way to think of The Opposition is that it will be to sites like InfoWars and Breitbart what The Colbert Report was to Fox News. Like Colbert, Klepper plays a satirical character whose over-the-top indulgence in right-wing (or, in Klepper's case, no-wing) ideology indirectly—and hilariously—exposes its absurdity.

“[The mainstream media] smuggles their dangerous ideas across the open borders of your mind," Klepper said Monday night. "I want to shut down those borders. I want to close your mind. It’s called mental nationalism, and it’s an idea whose time has come. That’s why here at The Opposition we believe in our own golden rule: may you only hear from others what you’ve already been telling yourself.”

But unlike Colbert, Klepper has a team of correspondents that will report from the field. So, too, on occassion, will Klepper, who formulated the idea for The Opposition while attending Trump rallies as a correspondent for The Daily Show

"I did a lot of Trump rallies during the election," Klepper told Newsweek before the premiere. "I kind of started noticing pretty quickly that a lot of the people we were talking to were referencing InfoWars and Breitbart and other outside-the-box news sources. A lot of people out there don't ascribe themselves to any particularly ideology. They often lean right, but they mostly lean against. It's anti-mainstream. It's so much easier and quicker to be against something. Let me be angry at that thing and fill in my own reality beyond that. That's where we're living with this thing."

During the press breakfast, Klepper spoke of how The Opposition will be a great opportunity to "show the bullshit that is out there, rather than just yelling at that bullshit." It turns out that showing the bullshit in how outlets like InfoWars, The Blaze and whatever network Tomi Lahren is on operate is not only pretty damn easy, it's incredibly fun. On Monday night, Klepper played a clip of Alex Jones's response to the news that Comedy Central was debuting a show meant to lampoon him. Jones described The Opposiition as "branding" for the type of "mentally retarded" people that have been "induced into comas" by the mainstream media.

Because Jones said he knows Klepper's "plan," Klepper provided Jones with a website laying it out: www.IfYouAreAlexJonesClickThisIfNotDont.com. The site details Klepper's "plan," which looks suspiciously familiar to that of a certain InfoWars host.

1. Find out what people are scared of.2. Make people even more scared of those things.3. Develop products that protect people against those things.4. Sell those products to the people who are scared.5. Get rich as hell.6. Figure out the rest. (Maybe a boat or a movie deal or something?)

Jones, it is clear, will serve as a kind of "Papa Bear" to Klepper the way Bill O'Reilly did to Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report. Because Jones is a little more irsacible than O'Reilly (or anyone), the relationship between him and Klepper has the potential to turn into a feud that plays out on a nightly basis, which means Klepper could find himself starring at more material than he knows what to do with, which is a good thing.

Monday night also saw the introduction of The Opposition's cast of "citizen journalists," each of which, like Klepper, will play the role of someone you might find in the alternative media universe. There's Josh Sharp and Aaron Jackson, who play Milo Yiannopoulos-style provacateurs; Laura Gray, who on Monday night took exception with NFL players protesting during the national anthem; "resident expert" Kobi Libii, who wondered why the mainstream media hasn't connected the dots between Maxine Waters and the hurricanes; Nicole Thurman, an African-American Trump supporter who loves the Affordable Care Act but thinks Obamacare is bullshit; and Tim Baltz, a kind of sidekick to Klepper with a tendency to take things a little too far, like suggesting that neither candidate in Alabama's GOP primary are conservative enough.

"[The mainstream media] smuggles their dangerous ideas across the open borders of your mind," Klepper explained. "I want to shut down those borders. I want to close your mind." Comedy Central

All of these characters played well, as did their ring leader, Klepper, whose punchable face actually works to his advantage while playing a character caught up in the white male-centric alt-media landscape. The fact that Klepper is an extremely midwestern white man occupying a late-night spot vacated by Larry Wilmore has drawn criticism from those wishing for more diversity in the late-night landscape. Here's how Klepper addressed it at the breakfast.

"There are a lot of white guys in late night, and I'm very much aware of that. I think in creating the show that was something we were aware of. So what function can I serve to point that out and play with that? I think it is a privilege to be able to be able to do a show like this, and I understand the privilege I've had to be able to get to there. I think the conversations we've had around that are about the people who don't understand that privilege. That is the guy you're going to see onstage. So that is the way I can approach those issues. I am going to be a white man who sits behind that desk. I think what is most interesting for me and for all of us is to be that guy who has that blind spot that we're already mad at. Let me be your punching bag."

If Klepper is going to be another white guy hosting a late-night show, at least the people he has surrounded himself with are diverse—his supporting cast includes two women, two African-Americans and two queer people. It also helps that his whiteness serves some utility in his schtick as a conspiracy theorist. It appears he will aim to use it to show the enormous blind spot most alt-right Republicans have when it comes to their own priviledge.

Will The Opposition be successful where The Nightly Show failed? It seems like it could be, at least. Klepper is a charasmatic host, the jokes are funny and the show revolves around an absurd alternative media landscape that will never stop providing material. It will need to have some sort of next-day life on the internet, which is hard to predict and something The Nightly Show sorely lacked.

At the very least, The Opposition will provide a handy distillation of what is happening in the alt-media world, which otherwise would be an overwhelming and depressing world to venture into without some comedic relief to confirm that yes, Jones claming that the Clintons practice voodoo or that Michelle Obama is a man is as insane as you think it is.

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Back to School Special: Spotify and Hulu Announce $4.99 Bundle for College Students




If college students weren't already distracted enough, Spotify and Hulu are teaming up to offer their premium services to U.S. students as a bundled $4.99 package. Dubbed Spotify Premium for Students, now with Hulu, the deal is available starting Thursday, just in time for back-to-school season.

Related: What to stream in September 2017

Spotify has offered its premium service to students for $4.99 since 2014, so Hulu will be a nice little add-on. Though the package gives students access to Hulu's stremaing library, they will still have to endure commercials, which are presented in intervals, similar to television and unlike most streaming services. For non-students, a subcription to Spotify Premium costs $9.99 month and a base subscription to Hulu costs $7.99 per month, so the student bundle would cost less than a third of the market value of each separate subscription. Not bad.

“In bringing Spotify and Hulu together, we’re now able to offer students—both the millions already on Spotify Premium, and those who are new to Spotify—access to the world’s best music, TV and movie content in the simplest possible way,” said chief Spotify Premium business officer Alex Norstrom in a statement. “We’re very excited to be partnering with Hulu—a like-minded company which is as focused as we are on delivering the very best in high quality streaming content.”

“We are proud to announce Spotify as our newest strategic partner—they’re an iconic brand in music streaming and a proven leader in reaching and engaging young consumers,” added Tim Connolly, Hulu's SVP in charge of distribution and partnerships. “By bundling our enormous catalogues of content together in a single, highly compelling offer, we’re making it easier for people to enjoy all of the TV and music they love, whenever and wherever they want.”

Judging by their executives' ability to issue bland public statements, this partnership looks like a match made in streaming heaven. It also appears as if it will ultimately extend beyond college campuses. The bundle is at some point likely to be made available to all users, albeit with a higher price tag than what is being offered to students. "This is the first step the companies are taking to bundle their services together, with offerings targeted at the broader market to follow," reads the press release announcing the partnership.

Spotify has long been attempting to break into the streaming video market, even at one point planning a dozen original video series, but the intiative has failed to generate traction. As the old media streaming adage goes, if you can't beat 'em, bundle with 'em.

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LHC: Charming Particle Xi-cc++ Discovered at Cern Fits with Standard Model and Opens New Window on the Universe




A new type of particle has been discovered by scientists at CERN using data from last year’s run of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The particle opens the door to a “new frontier” of physics, providing researchers with a new way to investigate the fundamental forces of the universe that make up the Standard Model of particle physics.

Xi-cc++ is a “doubly charmed baryon,” a family of heavy quark particles predicted by the Standard Model, but evidence of which has never before been found. The Standard Model, at present, is the primary theory for explaining how the basic building blocks of matter interact as per the four fundamental forces—gravity, electromagnetism, weak interaction and strong interaction.

But the Standard Model is incomplete. While it explains much of what we see in the universe, it only incorporates three of the four forces, leaving out gravity. It also does not answer fundamental questions, like what dark matter is and what happened to antimatter after the Big Bang.

The new particle goes helps support the Standard Model and will allow scientists to carry out new experiments to better understand how the universe works.

Giovanni Passaleva, spokesperson of the LHCb collaboration, said: “Finding a new heavy-quark baryon is of great interest as it will provide a unique tool to further probe quantum chromodynamics, the theory that describes the strong interaction, one of the four fundamental forces. Such particles will thus help us improve the predictive power of our theories.”

What is the new particle?

The vast majority of matter that surrounds us is made of baryons which are composed of three quarks. The most common types of baryon are protons and neutrons, which are made up of light up and down quarks.

There are six types of quarks and scientists predict there are many different combinations that can make up baryons. Until now the only baryons observed contain two light quarks and one heavy quark.

While physicists predict (as per the Standard Model) there should be baryons with two heavy “charm” quarks, until now their existence had never been confirmed. The discovery of Xi-cc++ shows “doubly charmed baryons” do indeed exist.

Researchers at CERN used data from the LHC beauty (LHCb) experiment, which looks to work out what happened just after the Big Bang that allowed matter to survive and become the universe we see today.

The LHCb data was collected in 2016 during the last run of the LHC. In it they found over 300 of the new Xi-cc++ particles, vastly more than the last time scientists believed they had found hints of doubly charmed baryons.

Fermilab SELEX experiments appeared to have found a new particle Xi-cc+ over a decade ago, but follow-up experiments failed to find it. It also caused problems for physicists studying it. “The properties measured by SELEX of the state that they observed were inconsistent with those predicted by theoretical calculations, and so the claim by SELEX has remained controversial and awaiting confirmation by another experiment,” Patrick Spradlin, one of the scientists who led the LHCb experiments, tells Newsweek.

Unlike this particle, Xi-cc++ does not deviate from the Standard Model, and researchers found far more of them. “SELEX’s claim was based on a very small number of observed interactions, approximately 16, that only just cleared the threshold for a statistically significant observation,” he says. “We have seen 313 interactions in data collected in 2016 and 113 interactions in data collected in 2012.  Our observation has a [high] statistical significance...and is unambiguously real.”

Scientists found Xi-cc++ by looking at the trail of particles it would normally decay to, then tracing that back. The high collision energy of the 2016 dataset meant the team was able to find traces of Xi-cc++ far more easily. They were able to find over 300 Xi-cc++ particles and researchers showed they behaved just as the Standard Model predicts they should. The new particle is heavy, with a mass around 3.5 times heavier than protons and neutrons, and has double the electric charge of a proton.

Paul Soler, Professor in Experimental Particle Physics at the University of Glasgow, said in a statement: “This is the first time that a baryon has been conclusively observed containing two heavy charm quarks and is a new frontier in understanding the strong force that binds quarks together.”   

 

 

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