It’s flu, but not as we know it

April 26, 2009 - 1:52 PM by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Environment, General, Life, Medical Breakthroughs 

Well, a few years ago, it looked like avian flu was going to be the great pandemic that would lay waste to the world’s population. Experts debated it, newspapers wrote billions of words on it, and a whole generation of children stopped picking up feathers. As the pandemic failed to materialize, however, gradually the fear subsided.

Is that pig safe?

Is that pig safe?

Now a new flu has suddenly emerged, and it’s spreading fast. There have already been some 80 deaths in Mexico from swine flu, and cases in the US and New Zealand. Now there’s a suspected case in Israel, of an Israeli who has just returned from Mexico.

With the World Health Organization declaring the disease a “public health event of international concern”, with “pandemic potential”, flu is once more the hot disaster story of the season, making rather a nice change from Iran.

Anti-viral drug Tamiflu is being touted as an answer, but Israel also has a possible alternative – Sambucol. This herbal extract has been on the market for years, selling well in the US and in over 17 countries around the world as a remedy for flu.

The herbal remedy, made from elderberry, was developed by Dr. Madeleine Mumcuoglu, a world-renowned Israeli virologist, and is said to cut the duration and severity of flu by up to half.
In 2006, a British medical research institute ran cell culture tests (clinical trials were off the agenda for obvious reasons), and announced that it was 99% effective against the avian flu virus, H5N1.

A year earlier, another study showed that the remedy was not just effective against human and avian flu, but also swine flu as well. Of course at that time no one really cared about flu from pigs.

I interviewed Mumcuoglu after the 2006 tests, and she told me then that it didn’t really matter where the flu originated. “Our research has shown that the antiviral effect of Sambucol is not strain-specific. It was effective against all influenza viruses tested,” she said.

“If you stop the flu virus at the beginning then you stop it going to the lungs, or from creating the additional complications that are normally the cause of death,” she added.

Now we have still to see what actually happens with swine flu. Newspapers love to scare the public, and the public apparently loves to be scared.

In Mexico, the government is recommending that people stop going to public places, kissing friends, or shaking friends with colleagues. Though I’m clearly no expert, if swine flu one day reaches your community, maybe it’s not such a bad idea to also try taking Sambucol as well – just in case.

Fashion in a global world

April 23, 2009 - 2:06 PM by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Art, Business, design, Pop Culture 

I imagine for Israeli fashion designer Mirit Weinstock it must be a blast. In a new project on her internet site, she invited her customers worldwide to send in photographs of themselves wearing her clothes.

Fashion becomes real - Mirit Weinstock as worn by New Zealander Daryia Bing.

Fashion becomes real - Mirit Weinstock as worn by New Zealander Daryia Bing.

It’s probably the ultimate accolade for a designer. Rather like a journalist feels when they see some stranger out on the street not only reading one of their articles, but actually commenting on it.

It also actually makes for pretty compulsive viewing to anyone with a vague interest in fashion. Since the website was launched at the end of January, women from over 30 countries have sent in self-portraits of themselves wearing items from Mirit’s collections.

The nice thing about seeing the same clothes on different people from around the world is that they look SO different. In our global world, people often complain that we all wear the same clothes from the same chains, and that we are losing our individuality.

But as Weinstock’s site, Miss Mi, proves, when someone in Italy puts on a Mirit Weinstock jacket, they don’t look the same as the woman from Sweden, or Israel.

It’s a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed. In a recent interview, Weinstock said: “What interests me is the girl’s fantasy, or the way she views herself. Their interpretation of my fashion is fascinating to me. I take pleasure in seeing how each one is taking it to a place of her own. They often wear the garments in ways that I had not imagined when designing them, which is inspiring!”

Thirty-two-year-old year old Weinstock has been in the fashion business seven years. A Shenkar graduate, she interned at the Alexander McQueen fashion house in London and later joined Maison Lanvin, one of the leading fashion houses in Paris.

She returned to Israel in 2004 and set up her own label of ready to wear fashion, designing out a studio located in Jaffa’s flea market. She launched her first US collection in 2006 and now sells in stores across the US and Europe.

Weinstock came up with the idea for Miss Mi, when she was browsing Flickr one evening. She saw the pictures there and decided to find five women from all over the world to take pictures of themselves in her new spring collection.

She found the participants on Flickr and Facebook, sent them a package of five of her garments and asked them to do self-portraits, expressing their own personal take on the garments. She then used the pictures for her spring catalogue.

Since then, the idea has grown into Miss Mi. Weinstock says the project isn’t just about clothes, it’s about creating a community of women from all over the world, who share their pictures, thoughts, favorite web sites. Etc. etc.

It’ll be interesting to see if other fashion designers pick up on this new marketing tool.

It’s in your hands

March 30, 2009 - 10:42 AM by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: design, Environment, General, Movies, Pop Culture 

Well, if Rafael’s Bollywood advertisement made you give up hope that Israelis could ever do marketing, then hopefully this advert will make you think again.

Created free by the ad agency, Shalmor Avnon Amichay/Young & Rubican for EcoOcean, a non-profit organization dedicated to marine education, it’s a touching but simple advert that gets its environmental message – about saving Israel’s turtles – across cleanly and powerfully.

The Hebrew message at the end: “Life is in your hands.”

No baby turtles were hurt during the shooting of this video.

Israeli arms dealer goes Bollywood – uh oh

March 11, 2009 - 2:37 PM by · 11 Comments
Filed under: Blogging, Business, General, Movies 

Sometimes, just now and again, a YouTube video comes along that is so crummy, that it’s almost a masterpiece. Dubbed the worst marketing movie ever made by the blogosphere, an honor it undoubtedly deserves, this piece by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems has got to be one of the most ill advised advertisements an Israeli company has ever made.

Undoubtedly, if you’re a defense company it must be hard to keep coming up with new and interesting ways to sell your products. I mean how many ways can you sell a missile?

Rafael execs decided they had to do something different, and so for last month’s Aero India 2009 show, they took their weapons, sprinkled them liberally with a seasoning of Bollywood and voila! A Bollywood-style movie featuring a man (Israel), and four dancing girls (India) in full Bollywood costumes dancing between a range of Rafael’s phallic shaped missiles.

I guess most missiles are shaped like this, but it’s not usually something you think about until you see men and women skipping suggestively between them.

The women sings: “I need to feel safe and sheltered. Security and protection. Commitment and perfection. Defense and dedication.” And the man chimes in: “I promise to defend you, fulfill your expectations. Shield you and support you. Meet my obligations.”

And the unforgettable chorus to this meaningful exchange? “Dinga dinga dee…”

Oh dear, oh dear.

The truth is Israel’s defense relationship with India is pretty darn strong these days – Israel recently became the country’s main defense supplier. And the government-owned Rafael is in a particularly good position. Just last August Rafael and Israel’s IAI signed a joint $2.5 billion deal with the Indian Ministry of Defense.

After a period of circling one another tentatively, the two countries have realized they have much in common – particularly in the wake of the Mumbai terror attack last November.

But that still leaves us with a question. Whatever possessed Rafael to make this movie? It’s a question Saurabh Joshi of the Web site StratPost asked a company representative at the Rafael stall. He was told that the video was intended to “help build familiarity between India and Israel and Rafael.”

Not everyone sees it like that. On Wired’s Danger room blog, Noah Shachtman called it “the most atrocious defense video of all time.” While on the blog DEW line, Stephen Trimble, called it a “catastrophic collision of Bollywood and the arms industry, and dared his readers to watch the video “and, if you’re able, immediately erase the awful tune from your brain.”

It’s harder than you think. Dinga dinga dee.

Happy Purim to all

March 8, 2009 - 8:58 AM by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Holidays, Life 

It’s Purim tomorrow, and the mayhem has already begun. Kids across the country dressed up this morning ready to take to school in whatever outfits they had dreamed up – anything from male tooth fairies, to hippies, football stars, or dinosaurs.

After a wild weekend of raiding cupboards, empty toy shops, and friends’ homes, we were up at 6am, brushing wigs, combing out beards, and drawing wrinkles with my best eye liner on one child, and nuclear disarmament symbols on another. Ah, I love this holiday.

So in honor of Purim, here’s a video ISRAEL21c took last year, which gives you a flavor of what this whacky holiday is about.

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