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Archive: 2012 May
Introducing Virgin Pure

Virgin Pure

Introducing Virgin Pure, improving life with Strauss Water!

Richard Branson and Ofra Strauss, Chairperson of Strauss Group, today revealed plans to transform the way Britain drinks water at home, with the new drinking water solution: Virgin Pure, improving life with Strauss Water.

Virgin Strauss Water will offer a range of counter-top purified water solutions that will change the way many families drink water at home. Currently 20% of UK households choose bottled water as their primary source of drinking water and another 20% use filter jugs. This represents 10 million British households who already drink bottled or treated water over standard tap water.

With this market potential of over 10 million British households, the new partnership offers the best solution for people who are looking for a convenient hot and cold water solution. Plumbed directly into the water mains, the T6 and T7 products filter and purify tap water, dispensing pure, great tasting chilled or boiling water at the touch of a button. The stylish, sleek, counter-top units eliminate the need for bottled water, filter jugs and even the traditional kettle.

Richard Branson commented: “I love businesses that help to improve our way of life and Virgin Pure’s T7 does just that by encouraging people to drink more water in an efficient way.

“Pure, chilled and boiling drinking water at the touch of a button means no more lugging bottles home, waiting for filter jugs to trickle through or kettles to boil for that great cup of tea.”

Ofra Strauss added “Strauss Group is committed to improving people’s lives. Our new partnership with Virgin bears exceptional strategic significance as Strauss Water’s knowledge, expertise and technology partner well with Virgin’s excellent understanding and response to consumers’ needs. This connection will result in the establishment of a company that specializes in providing pure, safe and tasty drinking water to consumers in the UK and additional countries.”

Virgin Pure units are available from www.virgin-pure.com from today.

By Greg Rose. Senior Content & Marketing Executive, Virgin Group Digital. Tweets @greglrose

::Virgin

Scientists learn how to turn skin cells into heart muscle

For the first time scientists have succeeded in taking skin cells from heart failure patients and transforming them into healthy, beating heart tissue.

The research opens up the possibility of one day being able to use skin to grow the kinds of cells that could repair their own damaged organs.

This latest research was published in the European Heart Journal and comes from researchers based in Haifa, Israel.

The team from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology took skin cells from two men in their 50′s and 60′s who had heart failure. They then transformed the skin cells into what are called “human induced pluripotent stem cells” (hiPSCs), by adding three genes and a molecule called valproic acid.

The researchers were then able to guide the resulting stem cells to become heart muscle cells, called cardiomyocytes.

Next, they grew the cells in a laboratory dish together with existing cardiac tissue and were able to turn those cells into actual beating heart muscle tissue.

In the final step, the researchers took the new tissue and transplanted it into healthy rat hearts and watched it start to establish connections with the cells in the rats’ heart tissue.

Dr. Peter Zandstra, a leading stem cell scientist with the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine, who was not involved in this research, says this study is exciting for a number of reasons.

Firstly, Zandstra says he’s excited by the idea of creating heart cells from one’s own skin cells.

“The reason it’s important is because for the first time, we have the potential of having heart cells that are genetically matched to the patients that need them,” he told CTV’s Canada AM Wednesday.

That aspect offers the potential to bypass the issues of immune reactions and organ rejection, he said.

Next, he says this is the first study to show that healthy hiPSCs can be obtained from elderly and diseased patients. Previous studies have typically focused only on young and healthy people.

The third aspect that is exciting is that the “cocktail” that was added to the skin cells to turn them into hiPSCs did not include a problematic gene called c-Myc. That gene has been shown to help create stem cells but can also cause the resulting cells to form tumours

“One of the things they’ve done in this study – and it is similar to what is going on at the McEwen Centre here in Toronto – is they’ve figured out how to induce these cells without using the genes or factors that change the cells and make them dangerous,” Zandstra said.

He notes that stem cell researchers are getting “very good” at learning how to control stem cells so that they don’t create cells that become cancerous.

“What this group has done is… to learn how to guide the differentiation of these cells into heart cells so that they can no longer form into other cell types,” he said.

As exciting as the research is, there are still a number of challenges that need to be overcome before it can be tested in humans.

Firstly, researchers will have to learn how to grow the large number of heart cells that would be needed for any heart disease therapy. They also have to learn how to ensure the cells become precisely the right kinds that are appropriate for the heart. And the third hurdle that needs to be crossed is learning how to compel the heart cells to integrate with diseased hearts, in order to repair them.

“We’re still five to 10 years from this particular cell transplant therapy being used in patients. But there are a lot of exciting things that are happening along the way,” Zandstra said.

::CTV
Facebook rumored to buy Face.com for $80-100mln

PanARMENIAN.Net – Israeli business publication Calcalist reports (in Hebrew) that the social networking giant Facebook is eyeing a purchase of face recognition technology company Face.com.

According to the Next Web, which cites Newsgeek’s data, the deal size could be between $80 million and $100 million.

In fact, Face.com has long been rumored to be an acquisition target for Facebook, even way before there was talk about the social networking company going public.

From what we heard, negotiations between the two companies have been held a number of times over the years, but Face.com has so far rebuffed offers because of the ‘low’ price Facebook was willing to pay.

Founded in 2007, the startup offers accurate facial recognition software that could help Facebook users identify people in photos faster, both on desktop and mobile.

The Israeli startup built a popular Facebook application itself called Photo Tagger, which lets people scan their (or their friends’) photo albums for known faces, and just recently launched a mobile facial recognition app for iOS called KLIK.

The startup also operates a platform of its own by offering a public API.

Facebook, meanwhile, just launched a camera app for the iPhone of its own, acquired Instagram and may very well end up building not only a proprietary mobile operating system but even its own phone, and it is rumored to be interested in acquiring Opera Software to gain cross-platform browser products and expertise.

Face.com has raised $5.3 million in funding from Yandex and Rhodium to date.

::Panarmenian

Israel’s Cellint to Launch Traffic Information Service in Canada with Rogers

Cellint Traffic Solutions (www.cellint.com), a leading provider of realtime road traffic information based on cellular data, announced today that it has signed an exclusiveagreement with Rogers Communications (www.rogers.com) to launch a country-wide traffic information service in Canada later this year.

The service will be delivered to car manufacturers, navigation providers, mobile users, mapping portals and government agencies. The first customer signed is a major public transit provider in Western Canada and service will begin later this year

“We are excited to work with Rogers and we already see great interest from major industry players and key customers”, said Ofer Avni, Cellint’s CEO, “The combination of Rogers and Cellint is about to provide a higher standard of traffic information service in Canada than ever seen before, enabling Canadian drivers to make the most informed decisions related to their driving plans in real time.”

Cellint’s high resolution traffic information provides detection of ALL relevant slowdowns in real-time, similar to road sensors, as well as the most accurate travel time. It has been validated by Road Agencies and DOTs to match road sensors’ data quality.

“Rogers is thrilled to be working with Cellint to deliver accurate and timely traffic information to players across Canada, helping businesses more efficiently manage assets that are on the move and to better the commuting experience for Canadians,” said Mansell Nelson, Vice-President of Machineto-Machine, Rogers Communications.

Cellint’s TrafficSense provides traffic information based on analyzing anonymous signaling data of mobile phones operating on Rogers 2G and 3G networks in vehicles. Cellint’s proprietary technology is based on generating a unique cellular signature for each road. All active phones then provideanonymous travel time samples by matching their signaling data with the road signature database. The traffic flow data is automatically analyzed and is disseminated via text messages, voice messages, mapping information, TMC reports and other tools.

About Cellint Traffic Solutions
Cellint is a global provider of road traffic information solutions for mobile operators, traffic integratorsand other strategic customers. Based on its unique, patented technology, Cellint is able bring road traffic information from mobile networks to a higher league than ever reported before. In the race of man-kind for good traffic information in real time, Cellint was able to jump ahead by several steps and provide traffic information service which is orders of magnitude better than any system in the market today. With services in North America, Europe and Asia, Cellint is positioned to become the world leader in this field during the next few years.

About Rogers Communications
Rogers Communications is a diversified Canadian communications and media company. We are Canada’s largest provider of wireless voice and data communications services and one of Canada’s leading providers of cable television, high speed internet and telephony services. Through Rogers Media we are engaged in radio and television broadcasting, televised shopping, sports entertainment, magazines and trade publications, and digital media. We are publicly traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX: RCI.A and RCI.B) and on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: RCI).

::The Embassy of Israel

Madonna draws 4,000 tourists to Israel for MDNA concert premier

Fans pay up to NIS 5,000 for VIP ticket and accommodation package to attend Tel Aviv show; Conan O’Brian arrives especially to cover event.

This Thursday, tens of thousands of audience members will have the honor of being the first in the world to attend the latest concert tour by pop queen Madonna. The opening show of “MDNA” comes three years after the singer finished her last worldwide concert tour, “Sticky & Sweet”, with two performances in Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Park. Sticky & Sweet drew revenues of $408 million, breaking records for a solo artist. The current concert tour is Madonna’s ninth and also her longest. She will visit 32 countries, including the United Arab Emirates, the Ukraine, and Colombia.

The grandiose show, which is being produced by Shuki Weiss together with Live Nation, is estimated to cost more than NIS 15 million. Setting up the stage at Ramat Gan Stadium, which will hold some 35,000 people, has taken two weeks so far. A special 800-meter stage was built in Belgium. It includes hidden stages and its design will change for each song. A special section called the “Diamond” was built to protrude from the stage into the audience. In addition, a tent city was built, including bedrooms, a game area for the singer’s children and a lounge in which she can host the American television host, Conan O’Brian, who is visiting Israel especially to cover the show.

Some 600 staff will make up the production team, of which 350 came to Israel with the singer from the U.S. Some 100 performers will appear on stage, not including the pop queen, who landed in Israel earlier this week, rented out 70 rooms in the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv, and, for herself, the presidential suite.

Tickets to the MDNA concert around the world range between $45 and $600 for a VIP package. In Israel, tickets range from NIS 240 ( $62) for a seat in the stands and NIS 2,400 ($620) for VIP package that includes an upholstered seat in the VIP area, on-site parking, a hot meal and a private party. Madonna herself responded to the criticism over high ticket prices in an interview with Newsweek in February, saying “Start saving now. People spend $300 on a handbag all the time. Work all year, save money and come to my concert.”

Madonna has already announced that she has sold $240 million of tickets, and the Huffington Post has estimated that the concert tour will rake in at least $300 million. The MDNA concert will also contribute to tourism in Israel. The fact that the Israeli show will be the tour premier caused 4,000 fans to arrive in Tel Aviv this week especially to attend. Those fans were also the first to purchase tickets to the show, after Madonna announced the opening of the tour on her Facebook page on February 7 and only allowed members of her fan clubs to purchase tickets for the first 48 hours.

The company, Eventim, sold thousands of tourism packages including accommodation and entry to the show. Like the tickets to the show, packages were offered at various levels, with the highest one costing NIS 5,000 for seating in the VIP area and accommodation in a fancy hotel. In addition, dozens of journalists from all over the world are coming to Israel to cover the event.

Diet Coca Cola, the main sponsor for the Israeli show, offered some special deals on Facebook, the winners of which are given the opportunity to upgrade their tickets to seats within the Diamond area, which actually inside the stage.

Sources in the U.S. entertainment industry estimate that Madonna will draw in additional revenues of $75 million in merchandise sales and a further $10 million for broadcasting rights and DVDs of the show.

::Haaretz

Israeli swimmer wins European gold

Jonathan Koplev becomes first Israeli to hold European championship title in men’s 50m backstroke; Guy Barnea takes meet’s bronze

Swimmer Jonathan Koplev became the first Israeli to hold the European championship title Thursday, after setting a new personal best of 24.73 seconds in the men’s 50-meter backstroke and winning the gold medal.

Swimmer Guy Barnea joined Koplev on the winners’ podium, taking the meet’s bronze medal, after setting a time of 25.15 seconds.

Italy’s Mirco Di Tora won the silver medal.
יהונתן קופלב חוגג, רגע לאחר הניצחון בגמר (צילום: רויטרס)

Koplev after finishing the race (Photo: AP)

Koplev and Barnea’s double win, joined by swimmer Yakov Toumarkin’s winning the bronze medal at the men’s 100-meter backstroke on Wednesday, improved the Israeli team’s ranking in the championship, placing them third.

“This is unbelievably exciting. I knew he could do it – he lived up to all of our expectations and more,” Koplev’s trainer Hanan Sterling said.

He added he hoped Koplev would represent Israel in the 4×100 relay race at the Olympic qualifications.

::YNet

Boycott Israeli products? Not in the PA

South Africa has announced its boycott plans, Denmark and Ireland may follow, but in Bethlehem Israeli products are flying off the shelves

The storm surrounding South Africa’s decision to boycott Israeli products manufactured in the West Bank is the result of a successful Palestinian campaign. Yet a Ynet probe reveals that the Palestinian Authority continues to market Israeli products, with locals seeing no reason why they should stop purchasing the products.

The boycott, which was recently announced in South Africa, is set to spread to Denmark and Ireland has also announced that it is considering a boycott. As mentioned, the Palestinian Authority has been pushing a campaign through the Palestinian National Initiative led by Mustafa Barghouti which has been gathering momentum.

For example, in November 2011, Barghouti had reporters take pictures of him spilling an Israeli orange drink into the street together with other Palestinian activists.

Israeli chocolate spread in Bethlehem store (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Israeli chocolate spread in Bethlehem store (Photo: Gil Yohanan)

Barghouti and other senior Palestinian officials welcomed the South African government’s decision yet it would seem that the wind of change has not yet reached the Palestinian Authority.

Brand names like Strauss, Tnuva, Osem, Elite, and other smaller Israeli brands are displayed in Hebrew and Arabic side by side in stores in Bethlehem. The names are even featured on the store signs and in the stores themselves.

“People love and buy Israeli products,” says one Bethlehem minimarket owner. And while there are local dairies that sell their products in the Palestinian Authority, he says “lots of people prefer to buy Tnuva products simply because there is tighter supervision and they want to feel safe in what they buy.

“It has nothing to do with politics. When we buy a product from you (Israelis) we know it is under supervision and only made with fresh ingredients.”

Israeli flour (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Israeli flour (Photo: Gil Yohanan)

The Israeli goods are not only found at the local food markets in the PA. Imad Naama, who owns a cleaning and hygiene product warehouse, explains that there is no comparison between the quality of Israeli products and other brands.

“If my clients see that the product has Hebrew letters on it or if it says the product is from Israel, they are sure that it is better,” he notes.

Naama said that during the period before the Second Intifada and before the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, products produced in Palestinian factories were marked in Hebrew and people were sure that was their place of origin.

After the Intifada broke out, manufacturers changed the inscription and removed the Hebrew so people refused to buy it, even though it was the exact same product. “They said they weren’t willing to purchase it because it’s what you call ‘Arabic work’,” he joked.

Faiz Hamadan and Khaled Saleima, stall owners at the market in Bethlehem said they had no political issue with selling Israeli made produce so long as it did not originate in the settlements.

“The Palestinian Authority patrols the stores and examines the country of origin of the inventory, no one here would sell anything that comes from settlement manufactories,” they say.

“As long as the products come that come from Israel are inscribed in Arabic – it’s fine and people will buy it.”

The calls to boycott Israeli products have mainly permeated at the slogan level. On the ground there is no sweeping implementation of the boycott.

“We don’t really have much of a choice as the Palestinian industry is not developed enough to compete with Israeli merchandise. There are things you can’t buy unless they come from Israel since they aren’t produced here, minimarket owners admit.”

For his part, Naama said that he has heard of the boycott campaign but says it will never work, as long as there is no alternative. “I have no problem with people trying to encourage the use of Palestinian products. That’s fine, but you need to have Palestinian alternatives to the products,” he stated.

::YNet

 

Sherut.net builds a social network for customer service

Dov Moran, who created the disk on key and nearly revolutionized the cellphone business, is back with a project he believes will tackle a bane of many people’s existence

With customer service commonly thought to be one of the worst nightmares of modern life, the Sherut.net website and apps aim to solve the problem with a social platform that lets users help each other compare prices and features.

The local version of Sherut.net provides contacts for dozens of companies in 16 categories, including communications (phone, satellite, cable providers), insurance companies, car rental firms, municipalities (for paying fees, getting in touch with schools or municipal departments), supermarkets and other chains, utilities, and more. Users can click on the number they want, and, on the website, can record the conversation.

Underlying that is a platform that allows users to read and write recommendations and criticisms and share information on the site.

“We’ve built a platform that allows customers of these products and services to effectively communicate, saving each other time and money,” Dov Moran, the developer of Sherut.net, said at a press conference introducing the site.

“Customer service has for a long time seemed like torture. You have to wait on the phone a long time, and when you are finished talking to the customer service rep you aren’t even sure anymore what they promised you,” Moran said. “We want to help customers and society by fostering cooperation and sharing of information on experiences, and how good or bad it was.”

Apps exist for iPhone and Android; an app for Windows phones is on the way as are versions for other countries, including the US.

Sherut.net is Moran’s second start-up this year. Several months ago he started a company called Comigo, which develops Android-based set top boxes for smart TVs. Modu, which had developed modular cellphones that promised to greatly expand the capabilities of the devices, has officially closed down, with Google purchasing its patents.

Moran was founder and chairman of m-systems and invented the DiskOnKey, the DiskOnChip and other similar devices. At the end of 2006 the company was sold to SanDisk for $1.6 billion.

::The Times of Israel

Israeli researchers score success in lung cancer treatmentIsraeli researchers score success in lung cancer treatment

The researchers find that introduction of BKT140 leads to the death of cancerous lung tumor cells and a reduction in the size of the growths.

Israeli researchers have identified a material that could help remedy lung cancer. In tests conducted by researchers at Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Kerem on cell samples and laboratory mice, the material shrank tumors by about 50 percent, and when it was used in conjunction with radiation therapy and chemotherapy, the pace of cancerous cell growth was reduced by about 90 percent.

The study was conducted by Dr. Ori Wald, a physician-researcher at Hadassah’s Cardiothoracic Surgery Department; with department head Prof. Oz Shapira; Dr. Uzi Izhar, director of the thoracic surgery unit; and Prof. Amnon Peled of the hospital’s gene therapy unit.

The researchers examined the impact of two components, a receptor called CXCR4 and a protein that cleaves to it called CXCL12, which has been identified in many studies as present in cancer patients.

In studies that they did on lung cancer tissue removed from patients, the researchers found that the cancerous cells contained both the receptor and the protein in concentrations that increased as the cancer became more advanced and aggressive. They later discovered that adding the protein CXCL12 to cancerous lung tumor cells made the growths more virulent.

The researchers then found that a material known as BKT140 succeeded in preventing the protein and receptor from connecting to each other, which led to the death of cancerous lung tumor cells and a reduction in the size of the growths.

The blocker was developed by Biokine Therapeutics of Rehovot for a totally different purpose – as a drug to be given to bone marrow donors to streamline and hasten the production of bone marrow cells before the donation.

Injecting the blocker into lab-grown lung tumor cells and later into mice significantly retarded the tumors’ growth and reduced their volume by about 50 percent.

“We injected the blocker into the mice, and it found its way to the site where the tumor was developing in the lung, where it helped reduce the volume of the tumor,” said Shapira.

In searching for a way to improve the efficiency of the blocker, they found that using it together with traditional cancer therapies reduced the tumors’ rates of growth by about 90 percent, in tests conducted so far only on lab samples.

In addition to radiation and chemotherapy, both of which have side effects, some cancers are being fought with new methods. These include focused biological treatments that use antibodies to block enzymes that encourage tumor growth; antibodies that damage the blood vessels that sustain the tumor; drugs that damage the casing of the tumor, thus preventing its growth; and treatments that boost the patient’s own immune system’s ability to fight the tumor.

“This blocker constitutes a new method for dealing with a tumor, by delaying the encounter between the receptor and the protein, although we don’t yet understand all the mechanisms at work,” said Wald.

The findings were presented earlier this month at the American Association for Thoracic Surgery conference in San Francisco, and the researchers are planning to submit requests to approve clinical trials on people.

Wald expects no problems with obtaining the approval, noting: “The material was already developed as a remedy and has already proven to have a high safety profile with few side effects.”

The researchers are working on another study aimed at identifying exactly how the blocker works to reduce the size of tumors.

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women, and is also one of the deadliest cancers in the Western world, with survival rates of only 20 percent after five years.

According to a Health Ministry report issued in October 2010, lung cancer causes 21.5 percent of all men’s cancer deaths in Israel, and 9.9 percent of women’s deaths from cancer.

::Haaretz

Israeli doctor develops anti-radiation bracelet

Professor Moshe Sternfeld says device able to protect our bodies, reduce dangers of cell phone radiation

BioMed X

Are you concerned about radiation emitted from cellular phones? While many studies have discussed the possible consequences of using the communications devices, a new device invented by a doctor from Israel claims to protect our bodies and reduce the dangers of radiation.

The invention, a bracelet, contains a substance that is supposed to protect the body from radiation. The bracelet was developed in the research lab of Moshe Sternfeld, a professor of internal medicine who worked at the Kaplan Medical Center for 22 years, after which he began to specialize in alternative medicine.

“I developed the substance, called SR18, 10 years ago,” Sternfeld told Ynet. “It’s a completely natural substance, which I have already registered for a patent. The substance prevents radiation damages.”

Sternfeld sold the patent to Biomed Technologies, a conglomerate from Hong Kong that develops and produces technological products. In turn, the company launched Bioguard X, a bracelet that contains the substance developed by the Israeli professor.

The company promises that anyone wearing the bracelet will be providing his or her body with protection from the radiation that surrounds us in our daily lives.

When asked about the fact that the Health Ministry warns against such bracelets due to possible uranium content, Sternfeld said that his bracelet was made out of silicone rather than rubber, which was the problematic substance. He noted that his bracelet had undergone all the needed testing and had the European CE safety seal.

While the bracelets have yet to be tested by independent organizations, Sternfeld says they have all the paperwork with test results that prove the bracelet’s effectiveness.

And does Sternfeld wear his innovation? “I’ve been wearing the bracelet for eight years, not one as nice looking as the new product but it contains the protective substance and that’s what’s important.”

::YNet