Thursday, November 26, 2009

Medical Imaging via Cell Phone

With thanks to Israel 21C there is a report of yet another great innovation that I am sure will become standard equipment in the future.

In the Western world, we take for granted high-tech tools for physicians and hospitals such as the handheld ultrasound wand that displays the heartbeat of a fetus or detects a tumor. But how would you use that same device in a remote village in Africa where there isn’t even any electricity?

Boris Rubinsky, a professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, has come up with a novel concept: blend the wand with a cell phone. The phone powers the medical imaging device, then transmits the resulting data to a central processing facility – perhaps even in Israel - where it’s turned into an image which can then be messaged back to the village physician’s phone.

The entire process is not unlike the trend in medicine in recent years where X-rays taken in the US are sent overseas for review and then returned via the Internet – saving money and time (for example when it’s daytime in Israel, it’s still night in the US when radiologists may not be so readily available).

Rubinsky’s life saving gadget is still just in the prototype stage but it has a promising future (and Rubinsky has the patents to back it up). Next in line: Rubinsky is working on a gadget that will extract small amounts of electricity from potatoes – just enough to charge a cell phone in those same far flung third world villages.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Lod Joins List of World Heritage Sites

The Lod Community Foundation has successfully included the city in the World Monuments Fund’s list of World Heritage Sites. Following this announcement, and for the purpose of returning the city’s rightful image as a capital of multiculturalism, the Foundation has decided to host a festive event for the development of Lod.

The Lod Foundation’s aim is to promote a strategic agenda, which is agreed upon by the representatives of the various communities living in Lod. This agenda includes the launching of several revolutionary projects which will change the life and image of the city and represents a unique attempt, by both Arab and Jewish inhabitants of the city, to take their destiny, and that of their children, into their own hands and to develop a new model of Jewish-Arab partnership.

The launching event, on Wednesday, November 28, 2009, will take place in the presence of the mayor of Lod, and philanthropists from Israel and abroad, leading businesspeople, religious leaders, members of the diplomatic corps, ministers in the Israeli government and representatives of the Jewish and Arab communities in Lod are all invited to participate.

During the event, members of the different communities in the city will open their homes to guests, who will be able to “taste”, “smell” and “touch” the every-day life of the city. Moreover, they may enjoy the ethnic food festival, orchestrated by Jewish and Arab chefs, listen to a musical performance and view the photography exhibition of “Lod: Past and Present”.

This is the real Israel

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Israel's Clean Coast Program Cited in UN Report

Israel has been cited for its Clean Coast Program in a comprehensive report on the status of marine litter in seas and coasts, published by the United Nations Environment Programme's Regional Seas Programme and the Ocean Conservancy earlier this year.

Certainly in our regular walks on the local beach it is rare to see any litter. What we do see in the mornings, is a team checking the beach and tidying up anything left over from the previous night.

In the Mediterranean chapter of the publication, Israel's Clean Coast Program, which has been operated by the Ministry of Environmental Protection for the past four years, with the active participation of local authorities and the general public is specifically mentioned.

The publication notes that quantifiable results "showed a significant improvement in coastal cleanliness" and that this was achieved "in cooperation with inspectors of the Marine and Coastal Environment Division, wide-scale media coverage and long term educational plans and cooperation with organizations."

The Israeli Clean Coast Program is dedicated to improving the cleanliness level on the country's beaches through assistance to local authorities, education and information and increased enforcement.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Water Technology

As a new desalination plant comes on stream with a potential of 125 mill cu.m of water, Israel now has more desalination capacity than the water taken from the Sea of Galilee. Three more plants are planned in the next 3 years to counter the long term drought we have been experiencing.

This coming week, twenty-five ministerial delegations and 150 company directors and business people are expected to visit the 5th International Water Technologies and Environmental Control Exhibition – WATEC Israel 2009 – on November 17-19 at the Trade Fairs and Conventions Center in Tel Aviv.

Simultaneously, an international conference will examine the need for a sustainable economy to reduce environmental damage, for the benefit of future generations. The conference will address the problems and challenges facing different countries – more efficient water consumption, limiting environmental pollution and the increasing use of alternative energy sources globally.

Some of the conference sessions will be run using a unique model focusing on continents. Guests from the particular countries will present their challenges, and commercial and research institute representatives will offer possible technological solutions to these problems.

All the sessions – moderated by commercial attach├ęs from the Israeli Ministry of Trade and Industry – will focus on innovative developments over the last two years. One example is the Israeli-Jordanian Project for Production of Bio-Diesel from Agricultural Waste. The Project, which enables production of alternative energy without harming the production of food, is initiated by Israeli and Jordanian companies and will be presented for the first time at the conference.

Once again Israel is in the forefront with water technologies

Monday, November 9, 2009

Global Recession and Its Affect on Women - an International Conference in Haifa

I was privileged to be able to attend the official opening of the 26th Bi-Annual International Conference for Women Leaders and Experts who met here in Haifa this week to discuss the “Global financial crisis and its implications for women”.

This conference was held under the auspices of Mashav, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation and UN-OSAGI, the office of the special advisor to the Secretary General on gender issues and the advancement of women.

The gathering included Ambassadors, political leaders and many guests from countries plus representatives from a number of UN organizations such as UNISEF, UNIDOR and others.

From Africa - Ghana, Benin, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal, Liberia,
South Africa, Uganda.

From Europe - Latvia, Ireland, Afghanistan, France, Luxemburg, Holland.

From Central and South America – Mexico, Panama, Peru, Chile, Costa Rica, Argentina, Equador, Guatemala, Jamaica.

From Asia - The Philippines, India, Malaysia.

From North America – USA and Canada

From Middle East – Turkey, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and of course Israel amongst whom were representatives from the Bahai, the Arab sector and Rotary.

Following the welcoming speech by the director of Mashav, Gila Gamliel of the Israeli Knesset and who is the first Deputy Minister to be appointed with responsibility for Women’s Affairs in the government spoke about the laws being enacted and those proposed to enhance the status of women in Israel.

She pointed out the advancements made in Israel with a significantly high percentage at work and in senior positions but that more work needed to be done. For example while 51% of the student population are women, only 11% are in senior positions in industry.

Ambassador Haim Navon, the head of Mashav welcomed the guests on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He related something of the history of Mashav from its inception. He told of the desire of the State of Israel to help underdeveloped countries just as Israel had been helped during its early founding years.

A further introductory speech was given by Rachel Mayanja of Uganda, the new Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, to be followed by the keynote speech by Prof. Jomo Kwame Sundaram of Malaysia, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development in the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).

He opened by pointing out two special characteristics of the event. One, being the 26th conference, it became the longest runniing such event. No other UN event had reached a history of 52 years. The second feature, quite unique was that there were for the first time at such a conference 2 assistant Director Generals for the UN at the same event.

In the main part of the presentation, Prof Sundaram spoke about the rapid increase in the numbers worldwide who had slipped into poverty. From last year’s 900 million, it had increased to 1.4 billion of which 70% were women. It is expected that a further 200 million will be added to the figure before the end of the year. Unemployment is expected to rise by an additional 51 million by the end of the year.

One feature of this crisis, Sundaram continued, is the status of emigrant workers. They traditionally remit their salaries to their families but in this crisis many have been the first to lose their jobs and consequently their country of origin has suffered in double measure.

In general, government spending on social issues has been reduced by 11% creating more problems. Additionally, in attempts to stop the downturn $20 trillion had been injected into the economies of the G20 countries compared with barely $20 million for the underdeveloped countries.

In the previous recessions, recovery in the job market took between 2-4 years, however, there is great uncertainty in the length of job recovery from this recession.

Turning to income levels of women, Prof Sundaram pointed out that women’s salaries in the USA and UK were approx 60-63% of men’s salaries whereas in the Midddle East and Africa (not including Israel) it was barely 35%.

Women have been the hardest hit in this economic downturn and it is to be hoped that the working sessions over the course of the next 4 days can come up with ideas for solving some if not all of these problems.

Palestinian Human Rights

The Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) throughout the Palestinian-controlled Territory have issued their report for October 2009, see for the full report.


Based on ongoing monitoring and documentation of encroachments on human rights and public freedoms during the month of October 2009, ICHR has the following conclusions:

1. Several cases of death occurred for various reasons including family disputes and manslaughter.

2. Death cases occurred due to negligence and failure to undertake public safety precautions.

3. Torture of detainees persists in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, as indicated by detainees' claims and complaints filed to ICHR

4. ICHR representatives are still denied the right to visit detention centers administered by the Internal Security and police forces in the Gaza Strip.

5. Detention of individuals prevails in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank without regard to due process and stipulations of the Basic Law and the Code of Criminal Procedures.

6. The Ministry of Interior in Ramallah continues to deny the De facto Authority in Gaza of the supply of passport books.

7. The non-enforcement of courts’ decisions and rulings continue in the West Bank.

Below is a list of the subjects in the report:

1. Violations to the Right to life and Physical Safety

ICHR documented 19 cases of death in the Palestinian-controlled Territory during October 2009 including 9 deaths in the Gaza Strip and 10 deaths in the West Bank.

2. Torture during Detention: Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment

ICHR recorded its deepest concerns about the persistence of practices by security agencies that constitute infringements on the rights and safety of detainees in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In ICHR's opinion, these practices should be prohibited, criminalized and punishable by law.

3. Violations of the Right to Proper Legal Process and Just Procedures-

4. Attacks on Media, Academic and Personal Freedoms

5. Attacks on Public institutions and Public and Private Property

In the month of October, ICHR documented the several cases of attacks on public institutions and private properties for example - on 25/10/2009, unknown individuals set fire to a cafeteria at Deir al-Balah Service Club. According to ICHR information, all the Cafeteria’s contents were burnt down or damaged before the flames were extinguished by the Civil Defense.

6. Delayed Execution and Procrastination in the Enforcement of Palestinian Courts' Judgments

7. Violations to the Right to Travel and Movement

8. Dismissal from Civil Service (dismissed male and female teachers who were appointed in the era of the Hamas Government in 2006)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

UN Focuses on Israel While Rome Burns

Again this week, the UN is spending its time discussing Israel and the Goldstone report. It is ironic and sad that the UN is mandated with the moral authority to adjudicate on matters of international concern, yet an alarming number of its agencies are headed by countries whose human rights records range from questionable to appalling, including Libya, Zimbabwe, Algeria, Sudan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Burma. The Human Rights Council has studiously avoided condemning the brutalities in Darfur, war in Congo , Chechnya and Sri Lanka, but has directed 26 out of 32 resolutions condemning human rights violations against Israel.

Israel, with a population of 7.4 million, is home to at least 80 human rights organizations, a vibrant free press, a democratically elected government, a judiciary that frequently rules against the government, a politically active academia, multiple political parties and, judging by the amount of news coverage, probably more journalists per capita than any other country in the world — many of whom are there expressly to cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Meanwhile, the Arab and Iranian regimes rule over some 350 million people, and most remain brutal, closed and autocratic, permitting little or no internal dissent. The plight of their citizens who would most benefit from the kind of attention a large and well-financed international human rights organization can provide is being ignored as Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division prepares report after report on Israel.

The Palestinians objective of pressuring the UN to bring the matter before the International Criminal Court totally ignores the fact that judicial investigations are being carried out as a matter of normal procedure.

As of 5 November 2009, the status of investigations into allegations arising from the Gaza Operation is as follows:

1. A total of 128 incidents have been/are being examined. These include incidents identified as being of concern by the IDF itself, or brought to its attention by individuals or by human rights reports.

2. Of this total number, 25 incidents were examined in the course of five General Staff command investigations, which were opened following the operation. The results of the examination of these incidents are currently being examined by the Military Advocate General to decide whether additional examination or further proceedings, including military police investigations, are warranted. The decision of the Military Advocate General on these issues will also be presented to Israel's civilian Attorney General for his review and examination. Both the decision of the Military Advocate General and the Attorney General are subject to review by Israel's Supreme Court which can be petitioned by Israeli and Palestinians alike.

3. Of the remaining 103 incidents, in relation to 48, after examination it was found that there was no basis for suspecting any violation of the law and accordingly these cases were closed.

4. Of the remaining 55 incidents, 28 are currently under process of examination.

5. In relation to the remaining 27 incidents, criminal investigations have been opened (14 almost immediately upon the close of the operation - one of which has already led to prosecution and conviction - and 13 opened at a later stage.) In addition to investigating the soldiers and officers involved, these criminal investigations include the taking of evidence from Palestinian complainants and witnesses. To date seventy Palestinian witnesses and complainants have given evidence to the investigating authorities.
Status of specific incidents referred to in the Goldstone Report:

The Goldstone Report states that it examined 36 incidents, however it is hard to determine precisely how this number is arrived at in relation to the events described. Nonetheless, all the incidents cited in the Report have been or are being examined (12 incidents had not been reported to Israel prior to publication of the Report, and upon hearing of them, investigations were initiated by the IDF). According to Israel's best understanding of the breakdown of incidents in the Report, the current status of these incidents is as follows:
5 incidents were addressed in the framework of the General Staff Command investigations and are currently being examined by the Military Attorney General (ref. 2 above).

5 incidents were examined and found not to present any basis for suspecting that laws had been violated (ref. 3 above).

16 incidents are currently under process of examination (ref. 4 above).

10 are the subject of criminal investigations (ref.5 above).

Monday, November 2, 2009

Good News for the Palestinian Authority

As the security situation improves in Judea and Samaria with better policing by the Palestinian Authority, so the number of checkpoints come down. At this moment in time there are now only 14 permanent checkpoints. Others maybe set up on a temporary basis if there is intelligence information that there are plans to attack the Israeli citizens.

The end result of this improved situation is that according to a Bloomberg report, the GDP of the Palestinian economy in Judea and Samaria will go up by 7% this year, a figure many countries would die to achieve, according to reports from the International Monetary Fund..

Nablus Soap & Detergents Co. says its revenue has grown as much as 20 percent since Israel removed three major roadblocks in his area, making it easier for merchants from other parts of the West Bank to visit.

“We now have the possibility of finding more customers and sales have improved,” said Mojtaba Tubeileh, 41, general manager of Nablus Soap, which had 2008 revenue of about 1 million shekels ($267,000). “We are waiting for more improvement.”

The Israeli government is focusing efforts on boosting the West Bank economy and will continue easing movement restrictions. Palestinian investors say a political process must be launched to bring in the foreign investment needed to turn around an economy that, according to the World Bank, has contracted 13 percent in the eight years between 2000 and 2008.

Senior government spokesmen have stated categorically that Israel is “committed to economic peace and to focus on ways to ease the lives of Palestinians. Palestinian security forces are working better against extremists and this makes it possible to cancel more roadblocks in the future."

Israel has removed 11 checkpoints this year, including the three around Nablus in the past six months. Some 250 roads that had been completely closed have been reopened since 2007, including 100 in the last six weeks, confirmed a military spokesman. This decision to dismantle roadblocks and eliminate “a lot of bureaucratic hurdles to daily life aids economic activity in the Palestinian Authority’s areas,”

The Palestinian Prime Minister said in Ramallah on Oct. 14 that "economic growth has been led by the $1.7 billion in international donor money granted to the Palestinian Authority last year and the $1 billion donated so far this year. "

Unemployment in the area fell to 16 percent in the second quarter from 20 percent in the previous three months