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Israeli Researchers Find Gene to Help Treat AMD


Israeli researchers have identified a human gene that may be used in treating age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a disease that reduces and then destroys the ability to see. Researchers at Israeli company Quark Biotech Inc. spent eight years researching the disease before identifying gene RTP-801. According to Israel21c, Pfizer U.S. pharmaceutical company has licensed the gene and cut a deal with Quark that may be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Fatah, Hamas Prepare for War with Israel


Hamas has smuggled up to 1,300 tons of weapons from Egypt into Gaza and is preparing for the option of launching a large-scale conflict with Israel. So states a Fatah report quoted by WorldNetDaily.

The weapons, WND reports, include between several hundred and 1,300 tons of advanced rockets; anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles; rocket propelled grenades; raw explosives; rifles; ammunition; and other heavy weaponry.

Israel has long complained that the arrangements at the Egypt-Gaza border crossing are not satisfactory, and that the European monitors are ineffectual in stopping the smuggling. Then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon agreed to the deal last November, after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice arrived in the region and gave her stamp of approval.

WND's Aaron Klein quotes Abu Ahmed, leader of the northern Gaza chapter of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror group, as saying the terrorists are working towards, and succeeding in, turning Gaza into a Hizbullah-like threat against Israel.

"We learned from Hizbullah's victory that Israel can be defeated if we know how to hit them and if we are well prepared," Abu Ahmed said. "We are importing rockets and the knowledge to launch them and we are also making many plans for battle."

WND also quotes another terrorist leader - Abu Abdullah, reported to be a top member of the Izaddin Al-Kassam Brigades of Hamas - detailing the preparations for war against Israel.

"In the last 15 months," Abu Adullah said," though the fighters of Hamas kept the ceasefire, we did not stop making important advancements and professional training on the military level. In the future, after Hamas is obliged to stop the ceasefire, the world shall see our new military capabilities." He said that Hamas and Hizbullah, which has cells in Sinai, are cooperating in importing rockets and guerilla training.

Palestinian Fatah Faction Threatens to Kill Leaders of Hamas

By Robert Berger (VOA-Jerusalem) &

Tensions are running high in the Gaza Strip, where fighting between rival Palestinian factions has left 12 people dead since Sunday. It is part of an escalating power struggle between the ruling Islamic terrorist group Hamas and the more moderate Fatah terrorist faction.

Palestinian gunmen from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the armed wing of Fatah, have issued a leaflet threatening to kill the top leaders of Hamas. The hit list includes Khaled Mashaal, the top leader of Hamas based in Syria, and two senior interior ministry officials in Gaza.

The leaflet described these leaders as traitors and accused them of inciting a deadly wave of violence in Gaza.

A spokesman for the Damascus headquarters of Hamas terror chief Khaled Mashaal said Tuesday night he doubted reports that Fatah-linked terrorists had threatened to kill Hamas leaders.

Mohammed Nazzal told the Iranian news agency IRNI, "I believe these messages are fake. It is obvious that there are forces interested in injuring Palestinian unity and spurring civil war."

The State Department has designated Hamas and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade as terrorist organizations.

Clalit Health Services Lures Teens with Online Sex Site

By Ha'aretz

Clalit Health Services has found a new way to reach adolescents: an Internet sex site. The site, called "Clalit 20 plus," includes a forum with questions about sex, chats with a sexologist, a guide to sex toys and explanations about how to achieve female orgasm. A warning posted at the entrance to the site says that content is intended for surfers 16 and older.

The site is branded with the colors of the logo for Clalit Health Services, and the logo itself appears on many of the pages. The URL for this site has been transmitted virally among the e-mail accounts of many teenagers in the past few weeks. So far the HMO has refrained from advertising it in newspapers or on radio.

The term "viral advertising" refers to a marketing strategy in which an online message is created that is interesting and entertaining enough to prompt recipients to pass it on to others. In this manner, a brand - in this case Clalit Health Services - manages to spread awareness of its product or service across the Web like a virus, at low advertising cost.

By means of this new site, which deals with topics that usually come under censorship, Clalit can talk to teenagers in their own language without fear of of being censored by regulations that apply to advertisements on television and radio? Clalit stands to profit from roping in teenagers and making them members later on.

The viral advertising method by commercial enterprises that are looking to appeal to teens is more effective in certain areas (mostly related to humor or sex) than routine advertising, which usually hits cynical defensive walls of consumers sated with routine ads.

Israeli Company Brings Out the Celebrity in You

By Ha'aretz

An addictive new face recognition technology that twins you with your celebrity doppelganger is now taking the web by storm.

Developed by Israeli company, MyHeritage, the site enables users to send in a photograph of themselves, family or friends, and seconds later receive up to 10 pictures of their celebrity look-alikes.

The celebrities include anything from Hollywood A-list actors like Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt, to athletes, politicians, scientists and even long-forgotten historical figures.

MyHeritage has 2.38 million subscribers, a figure that its founder and CEO, Gilad Japhet estimates will be around 2.5 million as this article reaches the press. Around 100,000 photos are uploaded to the site every day, and MyHeritage has become the 19th most talked about company on Internet blogs, beating Internet giants like ICQ, which only appears in the 82nd slot.

So what is it about this free celebrity service that so appeals to the Internet community? "It hit a nerve," says Japhet who personally selected the 3,200 celebrities who appear on the site. "We live in a celebrity culture. People are obsessed with celebrity; it answers a basic human need. They also love to feel good about themselves, and this site allows them to do this."

In fact, the celebrity search is just one amusing feature on what is actually quite a serious site. MyHeritage was designed as a genealogy tool to help users research and build their own interactive family trees, and to create a new social network for families," he told ISRAEL21c.

"We are bringing back the missing social unit on the Internet - the family," says Japhet. "On the Internet today there are sites to help you keep in touch with friends, and sites to help you stay in touch with business colleagues, but keeping in touch with the family isn't done very well. We have pinpointed that niche and are building on it."

Interest in genealogy has leapt over the last 10 years as the Internet has made researching family history easier than ever before. MyHeritage hopes to build on this interest with three new products that were launched in beta in mid July.

The first of these, Family Tree Builder, allows users to build and synchronize their family trees. Users can post photographs on the free site, and add comments about the pictures. Unlike existing genealogy software, this is an interactive Internet-based program. Family members are invited to visit the site and add their own comments, or post their own photos.

"This has appealed to both professionals and amateurs," says Japhet. "It's alive and easy to share with your family."

Family Pages, the next in MyHeritage's product line, is a family-based social network that allows users to create a community site for their relatives. Individuals invite family members to join, and all members can share photos, comments, news, recipes, stories and family trees. "This is a place for the family to meet on the Internet," says Japhet. "It's a very rich experience."

The program also automatically lists birthdays and other anniversaries, and can send out reminders so that you don't forget important family occasions. "This bridges the gap that modern life has brought into the family," says Japhet. "Families once lived in villages and saw each other on a daily basis. Now they are dispersed and it's hard to keep in touch."

Since the technology is still only at beta stage, capacity is limited. Those who want to open a family site must currently request an invitation from MyHeritage to do so. There are currently about 3,000 users, and Japhet says feedback has been excellent. "The service is growing very nicely."

The company also plans additional features including a program that will allow family members to share their medical history. Users can find if they are at risk from any genetic disorders, or keep track of blood groups, in case anyone in the family needs a blood transfusion. "Proper sharing of information can save lives," says Japhet.

Family Pages is free, but if a family needs extra storage space or additional features, different versions can be purchased for anything from $30 to $150.

Both Family Tree Builder and Family Pages include face recognition technology. This has many benefits, and helps users identify which side of the family long lost relatives hail from, and can even identify who the newest baby in the family actually resembles - mom or dad, or maybe great aunt Doris.

The last in the company's product line is MyHeritage Research, a search engine that allows users to conduct genealogy searches simultaneously inside hundreds of databases on the Internet.

Combined results are received in real-time. This is a major time-saver, as anyone who has ever tried to find distant relatives on the Internet will know. Searching databases is not only highly complicated, but extremely time-consuming as well. Normal search engines simply cannot do it. The technology is similar to that used for shopping comparison sites, but was developed specifically for genealogy, handling specific genealogy traits like phonetic spelling variations. The service has already been used by tens of thousands of people.

Japhet came up with the idea of MyHeritage because of his own interest in genealogy. At the age of 13 he took part in a school project to build his family tree. He began talking to his grandparents and listening to their stories, and quickly became enamored. "I got the genealogy bug," he admits.

For the next 20-odd years it was nothing but a dormant hobby, but in 2000, Japhet a high-flyer in Israel's vibrant high tech industry, decided to give himself six months off to study his own family tree. Japhet, whose family comes originally from Eastern Europe, met family members and distant relations, keeping track of their stories and adding them to his family tree.

"I met relatives in their 80s and 90s. They were working treasures," he says. "They shared memories of a life that has now disappeared. It was a fascinating time. You learn a lot about humanity and about yourself by speaking to these people."

For his project he scanned thousands of old family photos, viewing scenes of Jewish life in Poland and Russia that disappeared many years ago. "It was during this time that I realized face recognition could be an awesome tool," says Japhet. "If enough people contributed their family trees and family albums to one system you could trace your own relatives through other people's family trees."

At 36, Japhet acknowledges that he is a strange bird in the genealogy world, where most people tend to be over the age of 55. It is this age difference that gives him an edge, he says. "There has been very little innovation in the genealogy world before now," he admits.

Japhet set up MyHeritage in 2003 and bootstrapped the company for the first two years. In 2005, he raised capital from two private Israeli investors, Yuval Rakavy - the seed investor in firewall leader Check Point Software; and Aviv Raz, the lead investor in Empire Online, a company that floated on AIM last year with a valuation of $1 billion.

Today MyHeritage employs 27 people. It plans to raise revenues through subscriptions and advertising. Additional revenues will come through value-added services like photo printing, old photo restoration, family tree printing, family tree DNA kits etc.

Japhet's goal is to continue adding new features that will keep the users coming. Celebrity search will be enlarged, and MyHeritage plans to introduce a new animated morph feature that will allow users to see their own face being transformed into that of their celebrity look-alike. In addition, the company plans celebrity look-alike competitions. For example, August can become Angelina Jolie month, then users can send in their own look-alike snaps, and users will vote on the top 50. "We don't underestimate the power of this service," says Japhet.

He also hopes that that the number of people using MyHeritage's genealogy services will continue to build steadily. "We want to build the world's largest family tree-based community," explains Japhet. "We envisage tens of millions of people participating and sharing with their families."

Aside from being good for business, this will also fulfill Japhet's own dream - to build a global community site with millions of well-researched and annotated family trees where he can trace his own relatives through MyHeritage's face recognition technology.

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