Israeli Covid Drug: Discharge in 5 Days
90% OF COVID PATIENTS TREATED WITH NEW ISRAELI DRUG DISCHARGED IN 5 DAYS: Some 93% of 90 coronavirus serious patients treated in several Greek hospitals with a new drug developed by a team at Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center as part of the Phase II trial of the treatment were discharged in five days or fewer.
The Phase II trial confirmed the results of Phase I, which was conducted in Israel last winter and saw 29 out of 30 patients in moderate to serious condition recover within days.“The main goal of this study was to verify that the drug is safe,” Prof. Nadir Arber said. “To this day we have not registered any significant side effect in any patient from both groups.” The trial was conducted in Athens because Israel did not have enough relevant patients. The principal investigator was Greece’s coronavirus commissioner, Prof. Sotiris Tsiodras. Arber and his team, including Dr. Shiran Shapira, developed the drug based on a molecule that the professor has been studying for 25 years called CD24, which is naturally present in the body. “It is important to remember that 19 out of 20 COVID-19 patients do not need any therapy,” Arber said. “After a window of five to 12 days, some 5% of the patients start to deteriorate.” The main cause of the clinical deterioration is an over activation of the immune system, also known as a cytokine storm. In the case of COVID-19 patients, the system starts attacking healthy cells in the lungs. “This is exactly the problem that our drug targets,” he said. (JPost / VFI News)
IRAN INCREASES URANIUM ENRICHMENT TO 60 PERCENT, UN WATCHDOG CONFIRMS: Iran has established a process to accelerate production of highly enriched uranium, the UN nuclear watchdog said Tuesday, with talks to save the 2015 nuclear deal at a standstill.
International Atomic Energy Agency director Rafael Grossi informed IAEA member states that Tehran was boosting such capacity at its Natanz enrichment plant. The agency verified on Saturday that “Iran had configured a new operational mode for the production of UF6 enriched up to 60 percent U-235,” Grossi said in a statement. The move takes Iran closer to the 90 percent purity level needed for use in a nuclear weapon. The Islamic Republic has gradually rolled back its nuclear commitments since 2018 when former US President Donald Trump withdrew from a multilateral nuclear deal and began imposing sanctions. The 2015 deal known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, gave Iran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program. Under the accord, Iran had committed to keeping enrichment to 3.67 percent, though it had stepped this up to 20 percent in January. Trump’s successor Joe Biden said he hopes to revive the nuclear deal and indirect talks in Vienna, through European intermediaries, started in the Austrian capital in April. Unfortunately, the talks broke up on June 20 without any discernible progress. The EU said earlier this month that Iran is ready to resume talks under new president Ebrahim Raisi, and meetings could take place in Vienna from early September. Meanwhile, the United States on Monday, August 16, urged Iran to return to the negotiations, voicing alarm over Iranian production of uranium metal reported by the UN nuclear watchdog. (TOI / VFI News)
CIA HEAD VISITED ISRAEL TO DISCUSS HOW US WILL TACKLE IRAN: CIA Director Bill Burns visited Israel amid reports that the US is considering alternative ways to get Iran to stop advancing its nuclear program as negotiations to return to the 2015 Iran deal stall.
The US is weighing limited sanctions relief in exchange for Iran freezing its uranium enrichment. However, the US is still officially calling for a return to the nuclear agreement, with follow-on negotiations to make it “longer and stronger.” In recent months, Iran began to enrich uranium to 60%, develop uranium metal and block International Atomic Energy Agency access to nuclear sites. US and European officials are concerned that Iran’s violations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement will become so advanced that it will make the JCPOA deal irrelevant. Israel has long argued that Iran has already reached that point. Last week, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said the Islamic Republic was potentially 10 weeks from a bomb. In six rounds of indirect talks between the US and Iran to rejoin the JCPOA, US President Joe Biden’s administration was unable to leverage the “maximum pressure” sanctions his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, imposed on Iran to bring about concessions. Iran has said it would only return to the JCPOA if the US removes all sanctions and includes a guarantee, which Biden cannot give, that future presidents will not leave the agreement. Those talks have been on hold for two months. Iranian negotiators declined to return to the table after its new president, Ebrahim Raisi, was elected, saying they must wait until a new government is in place. Raisi’s deadline to present a new government to Iran’s parliament is at the end of this week. Raisi, who oversaw the executions of as many as 30,000 dissidents in 1988 and has been sanctioned by the US for human rights violations, has been a major critic of engagement with the West broadly and the JCPOA specifically. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has similarly made statements in recent weeks that the West cannot be trusted. (JPost / VFI News)
JERUSALEM AREA FIRE MOSTLY CONTAINED, INT’L AID REQUEST CANCELLED: On the dawn of the third day of efforts, firefighters had the Jerusalem area wildfire mostly contained on Tuesday morning, with Fire Chief Insp.-Gen. Dedi Simchi telling Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev that international aid was no longer needed.
Despite the containment of the fire, emergency services expressed concerns on Tuesday morning that strong winds could cause the fires to spread again in the afternoon. The fire has burned nearly 2,000 hectares (4,940 acres) of land so far, with Simchi saying on Monday evening that the fire is on the scale of the Carmel Fire, which burned large swaths of land in northern Israel in 2010, killing 44 people. Hundreds of firefighters worked overnight at a number of hot spots to extinguish the fires. On Tuesday morning, eight firefighting aircraft and helicopters began operating to fight the flames, with firefighters aiming to make as much progress as possible while winds were low and humidity was high in order to prevent the spread of the fire. Firefighters are also focusing efforts to ensure that the fire is kept away from Hadassah-University Medical Center, Ein Kerem, with Army Radio reporting that officials are concerned that they would be unable to safely evacuate the entire hospital. The Communications Ministry announced on Tuesday that the fire had caused damage to a cellular service site, affecting Cellcom and Pelephone service, and Bezek infrastructure, affecting internet and telephone service in some locations. A Bezek broadcast site in Eitanim was repaired after it was damaged yesterday. (TOI / VFI News)
JORDAN AND ISRAEL SIGN AGRICULTURE AGREEMENT FOR SHMITA YEAR: Jordan and Israel signed an agricultural cooperation agreement ahead of the shmita year, in a meeting between Agriculture Minister Oded Forer and his Jordanian counterpart, Rasan al-Majali, on the border between the countries on Tuesday.
“Shmita” is the biblical commandment for the Land of Israel to lie fallow every seven years, and Jewish farmers in most of modern Israel must observe it for their produce to be certified kosher. One solution Israel has found is to purchase produce from neighboring Arab populations; other solutions, which are preferred by many religious Zionists, include symbolically selling their land to a gentile or moving their farms from private to collectively owned for the shmita year. Forer and Majali met on the Allenby Bridge, along with the ambassadors of the two countries. They agreed for Israel to import Jordanian produce in the coming years. The Agriculture Ministry said it would diversify the sources of fruits and vegetables for those who keep kosher and take advantage of benefits in the trade agreement between the countries. (JPost / VFI News)
ISRAEL LIFTS UK, SOUTH AFRICA TRAVEL BANS AND TURNS OTHERS ORANGE: Great Britain, South Africa, Russia, and several other countries have been taken off the list of nations considered at the highest risk for coronavirus infection from August 16, after the coronavirus cabinet met on the issue late last weekend. The meeting did not affect last week’s decision that inbound travelers from the US, France, Greece, and many more will be required to fully isolate themselves upon their return starting from Wednesday.
Israelis are not allowed to travel to high-risk countries – also referred to as “red” – without special permission from a devoted government commission. Those who return have to isolate for a minimum of seven days even if they are vaccinated or recovered. At the moment the list includes Argentina, Belarus, Brazil, Cyprus, Georgia, Great Britain, India, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Russia, Spain, South Africa, Turkey, and Uzbekistan. The new list of banned countries is set to feature only Bulgaria, Brazil, Georgia, Mexico, Spain, and Turkey. At the same time, from next Monday all countries in the world except a selected group will be placed under severe travel warning – or turn orange. Contrary to what happens with red countries, Israelis are free to travel to such nations, but they are required to enter isolation when they return regardless of their immunization status. From August 15, only Hong Kong, Hungary, Taiwan, Moldova, New Zealand, China, Singapore, and the Czech Republic will be considered “yellow countries,” which do not require full quarantine. (JPost / VFI News)
ISRAELI TECH LEADERS APPLAUD INITIATIVE TO BRING WORKERS FROM ABROAD: A plan proposed by Science, Innovation, and Technology Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen to bring in more foreign workers for the hi-tech industry is being met with approval by tech leaders.
Earlier this week, Farkash-Hacohen asked the Tax Authority to develop a plan that would allow non-Israeli tech workers to get quick and easy authorizations to work in the country. The mandate would encourage more Jews to immigrate and also provide entry for many who are not qualified for citizenship under the Law of Return. The hi-tech industry, which is a central pillar of the country’s economy, is growing rapidly, and companies say they cannot find enough people to hire to facilitate their growth. The government is pursuing a number of avenues to increase technical training options for lower-skilled workers, but executives say they need the additional manpower now, not years into the future. “The program promoted by Farkash-Hacohen confirms the claim that hi-tech companies have been shouting for a long time, that there is currently an unprecedented manpower crisis in the industry,” she said. “This crisis is reflected in a real shortage of tens of thousands of skilled and trained workers. If the crisis continues over time, the trend could harm the Israeli economy, lead to a loss of revenue to the state, and the relocation of companies outside Israel,” she continued. (JPost / VFI News)
BUILDING PROJECT UNEARTHS ANCIENT HISTORY IN TEL AVIV SUBURB: Archaeological finds at a construction site indicate there was residential and industrial activity at the location of a Tel Aviv suburb some 1,500 years ago, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Wednesday.
The modern city of Ramat Hasharon, where the excavation was carried out, was established in 1923 as an agricultural community by Jewish immigrants from Poland. Among the items uncovered at the site of a new residential neighborhood were a mosaic-floored wine press, a chandelier chain, and a gold coin that appeared to have been hand-signed by its owner. The coin was minted in 638 or 639 CE by the Byzantine emperor Heraclius, the IAA said. One side shows the emperor with his two sons and the other the hill of Golgotha in Jerusalem, which Christian tradition identifies as the site for the crucifixion of Jesus. Scratched out on the coin in Greek, and possibly also Arabic is an inscription that experts assess is likely the name of its owner, according to Robert Kool, head of the IAA’s Numismatics Department. “The coin encapsulates fascinating data on the decline of Byzantine rule in the country and contemporary historical events, such as the Persian invasion and the emergence of Islam, and provides information on Christian and pagan symbolism and the local population who lived here,” Kool said in a statement. (TOI/ VFI News)
The suggestions, opinions and scripture references made by VFI writers and editors are based on the best information received.
Blessings from Jerusalem,
Barry Segal with the Editorial Staff