• A Student With an Olympic Dream

    During school hours, she may seem gentle, but after the bell rings, freshman Talia Lloyd’s toughness appears when she is training to become an Olympic weightlifter. Lloyd, a new student to the Golda Och Academy community, was born in Washington D.C., where she spent most of her childhood. Before she started weightlifting, as a young girl she took CrossFit Kids classes, which helped guide her to a possible future career. Lloyd is in her fifth year of weight training and has won many medals at national competitions... Read More>>

  • Skipping Class was the Goal, the Job was the Touchdown

    What exactly am I missing here? That, as I recall, was my initial reaction when my ninth-grade guidance counselor made me an offer. It was the mid-80s, and the newspaper at my high school in Indiana was in need of someone who could write about sports. If I were willing to fill this void and join the paper, I could get out of taking an English class. There had to be a catch... Read More>>

  • Super Computers & Super Mario: Computer Science at GOA

    Room 302 is no longer filled with posters memorializing the Dust Bowl, Beowulf or classic literature. Instead, it is adorned by artifacts of a different kind: a 1983 Apple 2, a System 6 Macintosh and a Super Nintendo Entertainment System. This change in decor is only one of several developments in GOA’s computer science program. While the curriculum is new, however, the introduction of computer science to GOA has been a goal for some time.... Read More>>

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  • Israel Misses World Cup Again

    On October 9, the Israeli national soccer team was knocked out of the World Cup qualifiers after suffering a 1-0 defeat to Spain. With the loss, Israel finished with 12 points in the group stages, coming up 11 points shy of the total needed to advance to the next stage. The elimination means the country’s World Cup drought will last for at least another four years... Read More>>

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  • Poll Finds That Most Students at Golda Och Academy are Not Worried About North Korean Threats

    Despite increasingly frightening rhetoric by President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, most Golda Och Academy students say they are not afraid of a North Korean threat to bomb the U.S. mainland. The majority of students at GOA disagree with President Trump's handling of the North Korean situation and most are not worried about North Korean threats to bomb the United States, a new poll finds... Read More>>

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December 5, 2017

Fighting Terrorism in a Democracy

Theo Deitz-Green '19, Nina Robins '19, Jacob Bier '19

Perhaps one of the greatest civic debates of the past few centuries has been over how a government can both preserve individual liberties and ensure the security of its citizens. In an era of expanding terrorism around the world, finding the balance between these two competing needs is both crucially important and deeply challenging.
In large part because of the rise of ISIS, the world has seen a major increase in terrorist attacks and in particular, of lone wolf attacks. Lone wolf attacks, or attacks involving one person acting alone with no support of a larger terrorist organization, present a uniquely difficult task: security forces must detect a potential threat based only on the actions of a single actor.
Therefore, in order to identify and prevent all possible lone wolf terrorist attacks, law enforcement agencies must monitor every person who poses any level of security threat, a task that is nearly impossible given the sheer number of people who fit into this category. Even if this could somehow be accomplished, there would still be the possibility that some people who have given law enforcement agencies no signs that they pose a threat might slip through the cracks.
Unsurprisingly, under such difficult circumstances, there have been failures in lone wolf attack prevention, seen in shootings and bombings across the world in devastatingly deadly and effective attacks.
In the eyes of many high level law enforcement and security specialists around the world, the biggest obstacle in the path to effectively protecting the public from these horrific attacks is the notion that democratic ideals cannot be compromised for the sake of safety.
This idea was seen in the battle to end the NSA wiretapping program, which provided the NSA with an effective means of monitoring the activity of suspected terrorists and stopping attacks before they could occur, but also seemed to strip people of the rights to privacy on phones. It is also seen in the debate over torture practices in the United States and around the world, which have the potential to acquire information crucial to the security of the public but are also deeply unethical and against the democratic ideal that there should be no “cruel and unusual punishment.”
To some, including Major-General Avshalom Peled, Commander of Israeli National Police Academy, and Colonel Richard Kemp, former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, the issue is deeper than just a basic divide between the ideals liberty and security; it is the question of whether or not a country fighting terrorism must hold itself to democratic principles while fighting terrorists that it holds itself to in running its own country. They believe that the difficult answer is no.
Kemp explained that there are currently believed to be 30,000 people suspected of being involved in Jihad living in the United Kingdom, including 3000 who are thought to pose an imminent threat. This number, Kemp argues, is so large that as the situation stands right now, it is not possible for the UK to prevent an attack indefinitely.   
Therefore, Kemp, based on the assumption that lone wolves have in common a connection to Islamic extremism fostered in the middle east, proposes that the UK stop allowing people coming from specific Middle Eastern areas into the country, deport non-citizens, and apprehend people in the UK suspected of being terrorists, even if there is no evidence to support any case against them.   
Putting aside the valid and crucially important questions about the accuracy of Kemp’s assumption about the fundamental connection between lone wolf terrorism and Islamic extremism, these proposals would clearly violate the ideals of due process and equal protection of law inherent to a democracy, not to mention that they would pose significant ethical questions. Kemp acknowledges as much.
In fact, he agrees that it is difficult to propose turning away refugees from the middle east in dire conditions and severe danger just for the protection of the people already living in the United Kingdom.
It is “hard to say that you [should] stop people who are in desperation [from entering the country].” However, Kemp believes that “the government's priority should be the security of its own people.”
Peled agrees with Kemp’s general assessment of the need to carry out certain undemocratic actions. He cites as an example of this an Israeli policy under which Israeli security officials are able to arrest and hold arabs/muslims who are considered to be lone wolf threats for up to six months in prison without providing any evidence at all.
This, an actual policy that has been enacted as opposed to Kemp’s theoretical ideas, serves as an actual example of a democracy stripping away due process and targeting specific groups of people based on generalizations about the group they belong to.
However, Peled, who also believes that Arabs/Muslims pose a more significant threat than people of other ethnicities and religions, at least right now in Israel, believes that the benefit this provides outweighs what the program sacrifices.
In fact, he believes that more such programs are needed.
“Democracy fights terrorism with one arm tied behind [its] back.”
If democracies hope to protect their citizens, they must level the playing field with extreme, but what Peled believes are necessary, measures like this one in order to be able to effectively fight terrorism.
Whether or not one agrees with these ideas, or even the beliefs that guide them, the ideas of Kemp, Peled, and other similar minded people will be extremely important in the continuation of the fight against terrorism and in the evolution of democracy. How these two seemingly irreconcilable ideals are balanced will determine much of the way life and liberty is viewed in the decades and centuries to come.


Israel’s Response to Lone Wolf Terrorism

Sam Lurie '19, Sophie Goldman '19, Gidi Fox '19

October 31 saw New York City’s deadliest terrorist attack since 9/11.  Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, inspired by Islamic State (IS), drove a rented pickup truck into a bike path in Lower Manhattan, killing 8 and injuring 11.  The attack is a new entry in the continuing lone wolf terror attack crisis.  More and more often, especially in Europe,  terrorists acting individually, known as lone wolves, are radicalized by IS and commit heinous acts acts of violence and murder.  
Lone wolf terrorist attacks are spontaneous and very difficult to detect.  In a press conference with the Flame, Major-General Avshalom Peled, Commander of Israeli National Police Academy, noted that it is very difficult detect lone wolves.  He said that when an entire group of terrorists plot an attack, the intelligence community can monitor that group.  However, lone wolves are single people, often radicalized by terrorist organizations through the internet.  Therefore, it is almost completely unknown who to monitor as a potential lone wolf.  
Nevertheless, there are patterns in lone wolf terrorism.  Colonel Richard Kemp, former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, said that lone wolves all get similar directions from Islamic terrorists online, “Get a knife, get a car, kill infidels.”  Peled noted that by driving his vehicle through a crowd, “[Saipov] did what all lone wolves all over the world do today.”
Kemp said with thanks that more attacks are stopped than actually take place; many are in fact stopped because of intel provided by Israel.  “Many people in NY and Europe would be dead today if not for intel provided by the Israelis.”
Still, the big question is how to prevent these types of attacks.  Both Peled and Kemp outlined their own detailed plans.  Peled emphasized the importance of reacting quickly and efficiently after each attack in order to keep the most people safe and obtain the most intelligence possible to enhance Israel’s existing method of counterterrorism, what he calls the “six layers of security.”
The first layer is the use of operational and tactical methods to reinforce the law enforcement forces on the streets after an attack and to deploy specialty anti-terror forces to protect locations of interest from additional attacks.
 The second layer is to call together a responsive joint command where commanders and representatives from all security agencies in the country meet in a joint command center so that quick decisions can be made and to ensure that all agencies are joining their forces.  
The third layer is intelligence.  “You cannot win a war without intelligence, “ Peled added.  Immediately after an attack, Peled stresses the need of shared intelligence between agencies.  Additionally, meticulous intelligence must be obtained about the attacker and method of attack so that the counter-terrorism community can learn from each attack and develop new ways to prevent them.  
The fourth layer is dialogue with neighbors.  After an attack in Israel, Israeli agencies keep channels of communication open with leaders in Arab towns and the West Bank.  In America, this principle can be applied to channels of communication between states, or even with Mexico and Canada after an attack.  Additionally, Peled expressed the importance of speaking to Muslim religious and public figures to order their followers to turn away from terrorism.  
The fifth layer is training all law enforcement and military agencies in counter-terrorism as well as the implementation of new counter-lone wolf training.
The sixth and final layer is the public.  Peled explained, “The public is paramount.  We see them as our eyes and ears - alerting us about a suspicious object, person or [about a potential] danger.
In the continuing fight against lone wolf terrorism, Israel’s counter terrorism methods can serve as a blueprint for countries around the world follow in the effort to secure the public and prevent the devastation that just one person acting alone can bring.


November 10, 2017

Super Computers & Super Mario: Computer Science at GOA

Nina Robins ‘19

Room 302 is no longer filled with posters memorializing the Dust Bowl, Beowulf or classic literature. Instead, it is adorned by artifacts of a different kind: a 1983 Apple 2, a System 6 Macintosh and a Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
This change in decor is only one of several developments in GOA’s computer science program. While the curriculum is new, however, the introduction of computer science to GOA has been a goal for some time.
“Computer science has been something that’s been on the school’s mind,” Principal Mrs. Stodolski said. “We’re happy to have some computer programming to support the STEM and engineering work that goes on.”
Stodolski also emphasized the benefits of integrating computer science into GOA beyond gaining programming knowledge.  
“Skills like logic and reasoning, attention to detail, collaboration and working with other people, accuracy, those are all things that are very important for students to be able to do when they leave the school,” she said. “Computer programming seems like a great opportunity for them to work on it skillwise.”
All aspects of computer science have proven to be critical in today’s increasingly digital age.
“I have the sense that it’s going to be a core subject that every high school student is going to come across and be required to study in the near future,” Dr. Shira Kelmanovich said. “If Golda Och wants to keep up, we have to have a budding computer science program.”
Mr. Adam Michlin, the spearhead of GOA computer science, is keenly aware of the importance and utility of computer science in our society, namely in the form of computer security.
“You can’t open a newspaper without seeing one group or another getting hacked,” he said. “There is an industry right now that is begging and pleading for people who can help with that.
“So I do teach students how to break into computers, but what I’m really doing is teaching them how eventually work with our government to help protect people and infrastructure.”
The new computer science program provides many opportunities for students of all skill levels to explore their computer science potential. GOA has introduced several new coding clubs for both middle and high schoolers.
“Coding club is great because we generally don’t have time during the week to have in-depth discussions on computer science and programming,” junior Sophie Goldman said. “Being able to spend two hours a week doing that is something that was never possible before.”
In addition, the existing Girls Who Code club has undergone massive improvements. “I’m really excited that we’re branching out more in Girls Who Code this year,” Goldman said. “Right now, we’re learning to create websites with HTML.
“We're also going to have speakers from universities and tech fields visit to talk about women in computer science... I’m looking forward to seeing different possibilities for computer science careers.”
It is incredibly important to GOA that many students be inspired to pursue computer science. STEM students in particular, according to Dr. Kelmanovich, would benefit greatly from coding enrichment.
“We do have a little bit of computer coding in the STEM program, but just a little bit, and they do a little bit in robotics,” she said. “I think in order to enhance those experiences, though, you need a core computer science curriculum.
“STEM and computer science complement each other. They have different focuses, but being able to use both really rounds out a student.”
Michlin has employed his dated consoles – “part history lessons, part recruiting tools” – in order to encourage other students to learn computer science. He describes using classic video games with simple programming as a mechanism by which to teach computer science and other mathematical concepts.
“You have a student taking trigonometry in math class and they don’t want to do another problem. You take the same student and put them in a computer science class and tell them to make a video game,” he said.
“They’ll want to move their sprite in a circle and then proceed to spend the next three days mastering the trigonometry they need to perform that function.”
As expansive as computer science at GOA may be, Michlin’s goal is not to provide it as a standalone resource. While students marvel at the Room 302 consoles and toil over 2D programming, the academic benefits subconsciously reach far greater.

“The hope is that computer science will be permeating the curriculum, and not just be a curriculum unto itself.”

President Trump Wants to Have His Iranian Cake and Eat It Too

Nina Robins ‘19

Friday, October 13 certainly lived up to its inauspicious expectations. Early in the afternoon, the world came one step closer to witnessing a nuclear Iran.
This change was initiated by President Donald Trump’s decision to decertify the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action after a quarterly evaluation. More commonly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal, JCPOA was negotiated by the Obama Administration and six other countries, including Iran, in 2015. The bulk of the deal calls for Iran to temporarily halt its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
Trump called the agreement “one of the most incompetently drawn deals I've ever seen” in part because of its failure to clearly outline its “benefits” to the United States. He believes that pledging $150 billion to Iran, whose government funds multiple terrorist groups, is foolish.
Despite Iran’s concerning alliances and threatening behavior, it is important to value its cooperation with the United States in any capacity. JCPOA was monumental, in part, because it was a step toward the recovery of American-Iranian relations following the disastrous Iranian Revolution in 1979. Given the shattered state of diplomacy between these two nations, JCPOA was a crucial leap forward, but on Friday the 13, we took an undeniable jump backward.
Although Trump’s decertification of JCPOA does not technically guarantee that the United States will withdraw from the deal entirely, the prospects of negotiations with Iran seem slim for a number of reasons, the most obvious being a press conference in which Trump voiced blistering criticism of the Iranian regime
Moreover, President Obama originally negotiated JCPOA as a strictly nuclear deal. Even the agreeable Obama and John Kerry, his secretary of state, could not manage to negotiate a deal with Iran that was free of loopholes and could guarantee nuclear-free Iran forever. How, then, could an aggressive Trump be able to convince an obstinate Iran to accept further nuclear concessions as well as other, non-nuclear demands, such as the call to cease funding to terrorist groups.
Obviously, no sane person wants to gift billions of dollars to an anti-western, terror supporting dictatorship. However, I would much rather negotiate with a somewhat cooperative country without nuclear weapons than with a hostile one that could potentially be receiving nuclear arms from another hostile source. In addition, if the United States could have continued civil relations with Iran, perhaps the regime would have been more likely to stop funding terrorism in the future.
Trump should not kid himself into believing that Iran will readily acquiesce to American desires. The scars from the past are still prevalent, and the United States is in no position to demand concessions from Iran without expecting severe rebuttal.
Trump’s decision has not only garnered opposition from the Iranian government and the President’s political rivals in the U.S., but it has also been criticized by American allied nations as well as some of the President’s political allies. Regardless, Trump has insisted on following his own advice and harshly attacked Iran’s leadership and the deal.
Trump’s dismissing the advice of his cabinet and other experienced diplomats should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with his first year in office, but it is no less disturbing. Trump himself selected his cabinet members and should have trusted their expertise when they said that toying with the deal would only lead to dangerous repercussions.
The European diplomats who criticized Trump’s brash actions were just as qualified as his cabinet to offer guidance. European leaders have a much more tangible grasp on the Iranian nuclear crisis than American leaders because of their geographical proximity to Iran and the rest of the volatile Middle East. While a nuclear Iran is far more than an ocean away from the United States, Europe has a cushion of just hours.
European leaders recognize that Iran is unstable and disagreeable, but if they insist on retaining the deal for the sake of their own safety, the United States should follow suit. Instead, Trump has recklessly followed his own path of “America first” policy, which may result in severe damage to longstanding American diplomatic relationships.
Trump’s claim that the United States does not see any immediate benefits from JCPOA is severely misguided. Although America has not received any revenue from Iran as a result of the deal, one major benefit jumps to mind: Iran’s nuclear program has been suspended, or, even if Iran is continuing nuclear operations covertly, the international community is now paying attention and holding Iran accountable.
By choosing to decertify JCPOA, Trump alluded to a clean break from the deal in the future. If this were to occur, Iran would most likely place their nuclear agenda in high gear and directly target the United States and our allies. In a worst-case scenario, a break in diplomatic efforts with the United States could even prompt Iran to seek an alliance with North Korea.
Concerns regarding JCPOA’s “sunset clauses” – loopholes in the deal that would allow for Iran to accumulate massive stores of weaponry at the deal’s conclusion – exist in conservative circles. However, if the United States and Iran hypothetically follow through on the deal to its end, it is more likely that Iran will be willing to abide by the deal’s terms that permanently prevent Iran’s accumulation of nuclear weaponry. Even if Iran does not obey, reinstituting crippling sanctions (at this point with the support of the greater international community) would be an effective strategy.
An optimal solution to JCPOA’s flaws would not have been to bulk up the deal and make it harsher toward Iran. Rather, Trump could have instead kept the nuclear deal as-is and addressed the sunset clauses and support of terrorist groups as separate issues. In this way, the United States could have kept the other JCPOA signatories, most importantly Iran, on the negotiating table and further limited the prospect of an active nuclear Iran.
Ultimately, Trump decided to follow through on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s advice to “fix [the deal] or nix it.” However, his failure to wholly address the benefits of a flawed but existing compromise may ultimately lead the United States or its closest allies to become nixed by a nuclear Iran.

Why Kneeling is Good for the NFL and Roger Goodell

Aryeh Lande ‘18

This was supposed to be it: the year fans, players and owners came together to fight decades of oppression and silencing at the hands of an overbearing force. No, I am not talking about kneeling for the national anthem or raising a fist before kickoff, but rather I am referring to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. Before the 2017 football season started, an alarming study published by Dr. Ann McKee confirmed all suspicions about the link between football and head trauma, revealing that 99 percent of players surveyed had the crippling condition.
Initially, this study sent ripples through the average American’s world, but within NFL communities, this study was entirely unsurprising. Since a widely publicized settlement of $765 million between the NFL and 18,000 retired players in 2013, research has uncovered the true extent of CTE. It is now a fact that playing football is directly linked to symptoms such as memory-loss and depression. In a PBS documentary, “League of Denial,” released the same year as the lawsuit, the NFL admits to the existence of a connection between CTE and football.
It would be bad enough for any sports league if it came out that it was directly linked to a deadly disease. To make matters worse for the NFL, however, evidence has come out that league commissioner, Roger Goodell, has even attempted to silence and influence the outcomes of surveys on head injuries with bribes. This revelation, along with the 2017 study, should have been appalling enough to put the final nail in the coffin of the NFL’s dominance and certainly Goodell’s tenure. Still, a few months later, the NFL is still the highest-earning sports league in the world, profiting $13 billion annually and Goodell still sits atop his throne, garnering a hefty contract keeping him through 2024.
But why?
Goodell’s power stems from three sources: the players, fans and owners. This triumvirate keeps the NFL in check and, historically, if two of the three components are overwhelmingly unhappy, change will occur. For the past few years, Goodell has managed to keep owners happy, supporting stadium expansions and team relocations rather freely. Goodell, however, has been losing support from the fans ever since the league began to, rather brazenly, hand out hefty suspensions to popular players, most notably Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. To remain comfortably in power, therefore, Goodell needed the support of the players.
From the outside, one would be led to believe that the players would be the most upset with the new findings, demanding the league address the issue so they could enjoy their stardom and salaries far into the future without fear of chronic illness.
Nevertheless, answering the prayers of Goodell, President Donald Trump decided to revisit the forgotten topic of kneeling for anthems. An issue that had limited coverage on SportsCenter the day before suddenly became a topic on which everyone felt they were entitled to have an opinion. Sportscasters were arguing with each other, players were confronting prominent leaders and worse, players were arguing with fans.
When an external force in the form of the President’s Twitter account entered the equation, Goodell no longer had to convince his players they would be safe, but rather he found a common enemy. This distraction has been miraculous for the league, as no players are kneeling for their health, no players are boycotting games for their brains and no players are locking arms for their futures.
In essence, this season will go down as a victory for Goodell and his board, who only care about the money coming in and not about the fate of the people their league spits out. This season will never have a movie made about it, nor will it gain a reputation as a defining season in history, but rather it will be seen as the time when politics sadly seeped its way on to the field.
A perfect microcosm of this could be seen Thursday, September 29 on live television. Green Bay Packers fans locked arms prior to kickoff, giving people at home something to argue about. Meanwhile, a hit to the head sent Packers wide receiver Davante Adams to the hospital. Instead of equal outrage, it was celebrated by the Chicago Bears defense and fans alike. This dichotomy cannot continue to exist if the league wishes to survive 20 years into the future. Either it must confront the issues head on or fall apart trying, as politics cannot serve as a distraction forever.

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