Monday, February 15, 2021

From Ian:

Israeli Study Finds 94% Drop in Symptomatic COVID-19 Cases With Pfizer Vaccine
Israel’s largest healthcare provider on Sunday reported a 94% drop in symptomatic COVID-19 infections among 600,000 people who received two doses of the Pfizer’s vaccine in the country’s biggest study to date.

Health maintenance organization (HMO) Clalit, which covers more than half of all Israelis, said the same group was also 92% less likely to develop severe illness from the virus.

The comparison was against a group of the same size, with matching medical histories, who had not received the vaccine.

“It shows unequivocally that Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine is extremely effective in the real world a week after the second dose, just as it was found to be in the clinical study,” said Ran Balicer, Clalit’s chief innovation officer.

He added that the data indicates the Pfizer vaccine, which was developed in partnership with Germany’s BioNTech, is even more effective two weeks or more after the second shot.

Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science, who have been tabulating national data, said on Sunday that a sharp decline in hospitalization and serious illness identified earlier among the first age group to be vaccinated — aged 60 or older — was seen for the first time in those aged 55 and older.
Sheba researcher: Antiparasitic drug reduces length of COVID-19 infection
An Israeli tropical-disease expert says he has new proof that a drug used to fight parasites in third-world countries could help reduce the length of infection for people who contract coronavirus.

Prof. Eli Schwartz, founder of the Center for Travel Medicine and Tropical Disease at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, last week completed a clinical trial of the US Food and Drug Administration-approved drug ivermectin, a broad-spectrum antiparasitic agent that has also been shown to fight viruses.

The double-blind, placebo-controlled study included 100 people with mild to moderate cases of the disease who were not hospitalized for the virus. It tested whether ivermectin could shorten the viral shedding period, allowing them to test negative for coronavirus and leave isolation in only a few days.

According to his still unpublished data, Schwartz said the drug was shown to help “cure” people of the virus within just six days. Moreover, the chances of testing negative for coronavirus were three times higher for the group who received ivermectin than the placebo, he told The Jerusalem Post.

“From a public-health point of view, the majority of patients with corona are mild cases, and 90% of these people are isolated outside of the hospital,” Schwartz said. “If you have any kind of drug that can shorten the duration of the infectiousness of these patients, that would be dramatic, as then they will not infect others.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci wins Israel’s prestigious $1m. Dan David Prize for 2021
Dr. Anthony Fauci has won the $1 million Dan David Prize for “defending science” and advocating for vaccines now being administered worldwide to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The Israel-based Dan David Foundation on Monday named President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser as the winner of one of three prizes. It said he had earned the recognition over a lifetime of leadership on HIV research and AIDS relief, as well as his advocacy for the vaccines against COVID-19.

In its statement, the private foundation did not mention former president Donald Trump, who undermined Fauci’s follow-the-science approach to the pandemic. But it credited Fauci with “courageously defending science in the face of uninformed opposition during the challenging COVID crisis.”

Fauci, 80, has served seven presidents and has been the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984.

Israel, Cyprus Announce ‘Green Passport’ Travel Agreement
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades announced at a joint press conference in Jerusalem on Sunday that the two countries had reached a “green passport” tourism agreement.

Under the agreement, which is set to go into effect on April 1, travelers who have received a full dose of one of the European-approved COVID-19 vaccines will not have to take two PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests before traveling from one of the countries to the other, and will not need to enter quarantine upon arrival.

The agreement between the two countries “opens up the possibility of restarting tourism in the near future,” he said, adding that while it wouldn’t happen immediately, it wasn’t far off. “Cypriot tourists in Israel. Israeli tourists in Cyprus,” said Netanyahu.

The Israeli prime minister praised the cooperation between the two countries in multiple fields, noting in particular their joint work on the EastMed gas pipeline project.

Anastasiades spoke about the “strategic depth” of the relationship between Cyprus and Israel, and expressed his desire to reaffirm the “excellent cooperation and synergies that have been established both bilaterally and multilaterally.”

The Cypriot president singled out Israel’s COVID-19 vaccination program, which he said had established Israel as a “world champion in this respect,” and also expressed particular interest in the development of a promising new Israeli COVID-19 treatment. The drug, EXO-CD24, also caught the attention of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis during his visit to Israel on Feb. 8 to discuss travel and energy cooperation between the two countries.

With Israel’s skies closed, 600 athletes arrive for judo contest, drawing rebuke
While entrance to Israel for citizens and non-citizens alike is severely restricted save for limited, exceptional cases, the country is this week allowing in more than 600 athletes from all over the world to participate in an international judo tournament, sparking criticism from health officials, travelers and others.

A top doctor on the frontline of the Jewish state’s battle against the coronavirus pandemic on Monday slammed the Tel Aviv event as an unnecessary risk that could bring new mutations of the COVID-19 into the country.

The Tel Aviv Grand Slam participants include Iranian dissident Saeid Mollaei, who fled his home country after being forced to lose a match on purpose to avoid facing Israel’s Sagi Muki in 2019.

Now representing Mongolia, he arrived in the country Sunday night and said he was “very happy” to be in Israel.

However, as the athletes arrive — subject to a recent negative COVID-19 test — thousands of Israelis are not being allowed back into the country due to the strict limitations on flights in and out of the country, imposed last month in an effort to prevent virus infections and new strains arriving from abroad as part of national lockdown.

“I am really against it. I think it is a mistake,” Dror Mevorach, head of Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital’s coronavirus department, told Radio 103FM.
Exiled Iranian judo champion lands in Israel for Tel Aviv tourney
A former world judo champion who fled Iran in 2019 in a dispute over competing against Israelis arrived in the Jewish state late Sunday to compete in a Judo Grand Slam competition being held this week in Tel Aviv.

After landing he was taken to a hotel to quarantine ahead of the competition.

Saeid Mollaei’s change of nationality to Mongolia from refugee status was approved last year by the International Olympic Committee.

The 2018 world champion went into hiding in Germany after defying Iranian team orders to lose intentionally during the defense of his title. Mollaei claimed he was ordered to avoid facing Sagi Muki, a high-ranking opponent from Israel.

The International Judo Federation said at the time that Mollaei had been pressured to lose by Iranian Deputy Sports Minister Davar Zani. He was also reportedly pressured to bow out by Iranian Olympic Committee President Reza Salehi Amiri, who told him minutes before his semifinal match that Iranian security services were at his parents’ house in Tehran.

Mollaei, who was on track to face Muki in the finals of the 2019 men’s under-81 kilogram class, told the IJF that he bowed to the pressure and deliberately lost to Belgium’s Matthias Casse in the semifinals to avoid having to face the Israeli athlete, who ended up winning gold.

Now the two may face off in the Tel Aviv contest. Muki said he would be happy to compete against Mollaei, who has become a personal friend.
Vaccination champ Israel hopes to host major European soccer matches
With Israel far ahead of Europe in its coronavirus vaccination campaign, Israeli officials are hoping the Jewish state could host some decisive UEFA Champions League and Euro 2020 matches this summer, including possibly the finals.

The Israel Football Association reached out to UEFA last week with an offer to host some games, Channel 12 reported on Sunday.

UEFA said it would positively consider the offer, particularly if the continent’s thus-far lackluster efforts to inoculate its population continue to lag, the network said.

Israel’s coronavirus morbidity rates continue to be high, but its vaccination drive is leading globally, with over 3.8 million of its 9 million citizens receiving at least the first vaccine dose. Europe, by contrast, has seen a slow rollout of the immunizations.

Last year’s European Championship was postponed for a year because of the coronavirus outbreak. The tournament is now scheduled to be played from June 11 to July 11.

The championship’s final typically attracts a broadcast audience of 300 million worldwide. It made UEFA a profit of 830 million euros ($912 million) four years ago.
Poland’s ‘legislation’ of Holocaust history vs. Netherlands’ open-access archive
When historians seek to research what Dutch citizens did during Nazi Germany’s occupation of the Netherlands, they have access to a stack of files that’s taller than the National Mall in Washington, DC.

Twenty years ago, those files of the “Central Archive of Special Jurisdiction” were deposited at the Dutch National Archives in The Hague. Suddenly, 300,000 case files on Dutch citizens suspected of having collaborated with Nazis were made available to everyone.

“There are family members who want to see the file of their father or mother, but also historians and other academics,” said Bas Kortholt, a Dutch historian and delegate to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

The climate in the Netherlands differs sharply from an allegedly “research-muzzling” atmosphere in Poland. On February 9, a district court ordered prominent Holocaust historians Jan Grabowski and Barbara Engelking to apologize to a woman who claimed the scholars slandered her deceased uncle.

At issue in the case was the authors’ book, the 1,600-page-long, “Night Without End: The Fate of Jews in Selected Counties of Occupied Poland.” The volume documents ways in which Poles collaborated with the German occupiers to persecute Jews, including the role of 20,000 so-called “Polish blue police.”

In Poland, research into the Holocaust has become a lightning rod since the Law and Justice party was elected in 2015. Simultaneously, the digitization of the Netherlands’ “special jurisdiction” archive has helped researchers piece together a diverse mosaic of Dutch citizens’ wartime behavior.
Survivor of Copenhagen Terror Attack Remembers Security Guard Dan Uzan: ‘We Live Because of Him’
Six years after a security guard was murdered in an attack on a Copenhagen synagogue, remembrances came in from Jewish groups and a survivor of the attack.

“It’s been six years since the murder of Dan Uzan in February 2015,” the World Jewish Congress tweeted. “He was standing guard outside the synagogue in Copenhagen when he was shot and killed by a terrorist. May his memory be a blessing.”

Uzan was guarding the city’s Great Synagogue while a bat mitzvah was in progress when he was shot and killed by a radical Islamist, who just a few hours earlier had attacked a cultural event marking the Charlie Hebdo massacre, killing one. The terrorist was shot to death by police the next morning.

Mette Bentow, whose daughter’s bat mitzvah was interrupted by the attack, spoke to The Algemeiner Sunday about what the anniversary has come to mean.

“You learn a lot in six years,” she said. “You look differently at events over time and the long-term consequences might not be what you thought they would be.”

“The scars, and subsequent consequences of the experience, are still very much present in our everyday lives as a constant reminder. But even though this experience is a part of our life story, it is not who or what we are. It does not define who we are,” Bentow said.

“Our family will always bear Dan Uzan with us in our hearts and will always remember him — not just in this day, but every day, all the year, because we know that we live because of him,” she continued. “Dan, his values and way of living, should define us all much more than his death.”
Bristol University Professor Goes Full Zionist Conspiracy
Professor David Miller of Bristol University went full on global conspiracy theory over the weekend at a meeting of the Labour Against the Witch Hunt group.

Declaring that “the point of all this is to end Zionism as a functioning ideology” and attacking the Union of Jewish Students for having the temerity to complain about his antisemitic comments Miller claimed that there is a worldwide attack on the left by Israel to force the world to do its bidding.

Bristol University have been protecting Miller from complaints made against him for years, while he consistently makes them look ridiculous for doing so.

‘Shaun on P13’: Ordinary Norwegians Expose the Anti-Semite in Their Midst
If Shaun Henrik Matheson was an American radio presenter rather than a Norwegian one, it’s highly unlikely that he’d still have a job this week.

Matheson is the presenter of a morning show on the P13 channel, a component part of the expansive state-owned Norwegian media network NRK. As Matheson’s editor explained it in an appearance before Norway’s Broadcasting Council last week, the show is meant to tune the listener into the personal universe of a congenial host who plays a selection of music, and shares his opinions and insights, in an entertaining, conversational manner without straying into overt comedy. It sounds like a million other morning shows around the world, but in Norway — once again, according to Matheson’s editor — “Shaun on P13” apparently represents a “subjective genre” that is “unusual for NRK, which otherwise strives for objectivity and balance.”

The reason that Matheson’s editor was explaining all this to the Broadcasting Council (and apologizing profusely, too) was that his charge had launched into a quite astonishing antisemitic monologue the previous week while live on air. As listeners were getting themselves ready for the Tuesday morning ahead of them, Matheson twisted a news item about the success of COVID-19 vaccinations in Israel into a one-way debate over whether this should be considered “good news.”
Arizona’s 75-year-old Jewish Post to cease operations amid pandemic
The Arizona Jewish Post, a 75-year-old community publication covering the Jewish population of Tucson and southern Arizona, announced it would cease operations effective March 1.

The Jewish Community Federation of Southern Arizona, which owns and operates the Post, announced the closure in an email to subscribers this week. The letter cited declines in ad revenue and readership, loss of philanthropic support and the COVID-19 pandemic as factors that contributed to the Post’s “unsustainable position.”

The letter was signed by the federation’s CEO, Graham Hoffman, and COO, Lindsey Baker, who noted that “our community’s communications,” including “local stories, lifecycle events, and obituaries,” would “be delivered via alternative vehicles.”

Maya Horowitz, the federation’s director of marketing, communications and events, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the alternative vehicles would likely include social media posts, print materials and community emails “that are not under the auspices of the AJP.” The paper’s records will be preserved in an archive, Horowitz said.

“The Arizona Jewish Post is a beloved and important publication that has played a meaningful role in the history of news in our Southern Arizona community,” Baker told JTA in an email. “In recent years, it has faced many of the same budgetary pressures that newspapers around the country and world have related to the shifting journalistic landscape, which were heightened by the global pandemic.
BBC clarifies inaccurate 'Dateline London' claim about Oslo Accords and Palestinian healthcare
Mr Stephen Franklin made a complaint to the BBC on that issue and received a response which includes the following:
Thank you for contacting us about Dateline London broadcast on 16 January.

The purpose of this discussion was to highlight Israel’s world leading performance in vaccination. Shaun Ley spoke to Hugh Pym, the BBC’s Health Editor, and Jonathan Sacerdoti about the strategy of the rollout, the benefit of digitised patient records, the value of ‘real-time’ data and the wider political situation.

We agree we should have said the Oslo Accords give the Palestinian Authority oversight of public health under the principles of self determination, although there is a wider dispute between the two sides over the issue.

We have published a clarification on the following page, explaining the above:

That February 9th clarification reads as follows:

Notwithstanding the publication of that clarification indicating that the BBC is well aware of the responsibility of the PA for the healthcare of Palestinians, just one day after its appearance audiences once again heard an inadequate portrayal of the Oslo Accords on BBC World Service radio.
Mother of Convicted British Neo-Nazi: ‘I Want Other Parents to Realize This Could Happen to Their Children Too’
The mother of a young British man who was convicted of being a member of an outlawed neo-Nazi group warned, “I want other parents to realize this could happen to their children too.”

Speaking to the UK newspaper the Daily Mirror, the woman named only as Katherine painted a picture of an intelligent and sensitive young man who, after a series of personal traumas, embraced extremism.

She said her son was an excellent student considering a career in computers or engineering when his life began to spiral in 2015 after his parents divorced, his girlfriend left him, and he was robbed.

These experiences, especially the robbery, sent him on a search for an outlet to vent his frustrations.

“He couldn’t understand why the robber wasn’t arrested and began looking at websites talking about patriotism and immigration,” Katherine told the newspaper.

While at first intrigued by more mainstream right-wing movements like UK Independence Party, her son came to feel they “weren’t achieving anything through official channels.”
Israeli film shortlisted for Oscar in Best Live-Action Short category
An Israeli film has been shortlisted by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences for the Best Live-Action Short category at the 93rd Academy Awards.

"White Eye," director Tomer Shushan's 20-minute debut, was one of 10 short films selected out of 174 contenders.

The film, which won the Grand Jury Award at the 2020 SXSW Film Festival, tells the story of an Israeli who accuses an African migrant of stealing his bicycle in Tel Aviv – all in one take.

"I really want to be a nominee," Shushan told The Times of Israel, "but I'm thrilled to have made it this far."

Earlier in February, Israeli startup Amimon won an Oscar for film technology for developing technology that allows video shots of very high quality from several cameras to be transmitted in real-time to monitors, allowing the director and crew full control of all shooting angles simultaneously.
Marvel at Israel from above with these 9 breathtaking pics
One of the best things about landing in Israel has to be the sight of the Tel Aviv coastline unfolding before you as the plane descends toward the airport. But with a global pandemic standing in the way of air travel, marveling at Israel from a plane window is not really an option – which is why these images by photographer Eyal Asaf are even more special right now. “I’ve been photographing from a very young age. My family has a photography business, so from a very young age I’ve really connected to this field,” Asaf says. “From second grade, during vacations, I’d help out at the store and take photos at events.” “Nowadays I photograph our country. I photograph only in Israel to show it to the world in the most beautiful way,” he says. The father of two resides in central Israel but travels up and down the country to capture his images. His favorite area is the north because of its abundant greenery and water.

Israel rolls out the red carpet… of flowers


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