Blind man regains sight in breakthrough Israeli op that could help millions globally (& Trump orders Israel to be included in U.S. military command for the Middle East)

January 16, 2021

(I continue to be unwell – suffering from a variety of problems including a series of days-long migraines – and therefore there are less dispatches than usual at present. Below are five of the articles I have placed on Facebook in recent days. There are short extracts first. -- Tom Gross)

 

EXTRACTS

* Former British foreign secretary (minister) William Hague:

“Democracy is in far greater peril than the complacent West realizes… There is no certainty that free societies can survive the twin threats of China and the death of truth… Allegations about the dangers of vaccinations have led many millions of people in France to be unwilling to be vaccinated at all. In China, the foreign minister, Wang Yi, spoke last week of his country having “raced to report the epidemic first” and that “the pandemic is likely to have emerged in many places around the world”, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.

The combination of a loss of trust in elections in the world’s most powerful home of freedom, the cost-free snuffing out of democratic ideas by totalitarians and the steady erosion of the public’s grip on what is true or false add up to a gathering crisis for the future of free and open societies. In Moscow, Tehran and Beijing, there is much satisfaction at the chaos in Washington and at the state of the West: increasingly unsure of its own institutions, polarized within nations and suffering severely in a pandemic that hits free people particularly hard.”

 

* The Wall Street Journal: “President Trump has ordered that the major U.S. military command for the Middle East be expanded to include Israel, in a last-minute reorganization of the American defense structure that pro-Israel groups have long advocated, U.S. officials said Thursday… It is the latest in a series of Trump administration policy moves to shape the national security agenda President-elect Joe Biden will inherit….

Following the Abraham Accords that led to the normalization of Israel’s relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, pro-Israel groups had stepped up their push to have the Central Command take on responsibility for military operations and planning involving Israel to foster greater cooperation between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

Anthony Zinni, a retired Marine general and former head of the Central Command, said Thursday that “It will make security cooperation better.”

Martin Indyk, a former U.S. special envoy to the Middle East under Barack Obama, said “I think it is a good thing.”

Dennis Ross, a former U.S. peace negotiator and special advisor to Hillary Clinton, said that the change was overdue.”

 

* Israel Hayom: A 78-year-old man who has been blind in both eyes for 10 years has regained his sight after receiving the first implant of an artificial cornea developed by Israeli startup CorNeat. Pro implant is designed to replace deformed, scarred or opacified corneas, and it integrates with the eye wall with no reliance on donor tissue.

Professor Irit Bahar, head of the Ophthalmology Department at Rabin Medical Center (formerly Beilinson Hospital) in Petah Tikva, performed the procedure.

Once the bandages were removed, the patient was able to recognize family members and read text.

“The result exceeded all of our expectations. The moment we took off the bandages was emotional and significant. Moments like these are the fulfillment of our calling as doctors. We are proud of being at the forefront of this exciting and meaningful project which will undoubtedly impact the lives of millions,” Bahar said.

 

* Jerusalem Post: Israel will work to provide coronavirus vaccinations for Holocaust survivors globally, Israel’s Diaspora Affairs Ministry announced. The campaign will be conducted through vaccination centers in a number of different countries. Survivors who cannot leave their homes will have medical staff and volunteers come to them.

 

* Daily Telegraph: “UK-based IosBio has found a way to turn injected covid vaccines into tablets and signed a deal with California’s ImmunityBio…

Clinical trials in monkeys have shown the oral vaccine made using iosBio technology to be highly effective. The jab version, developed by ImmunityBio, is already in phase two/three trials.

The oral vaccine will begin clinical trials on Americans this month and ImmunityBio is applying for regulatory approval to run tests in Britain too.

Approval remains many months away if it happens at all, but a pill-based vaccine would be far easier to transport and administer than injections and could drastically speed up the race to immunise the world’s population.”


ARTICLES

BLIND MAN REGAINS SIGHT THANKS TO ISRAELI STARTUP’S SYNTHETIC CORNEA

Blind man regains sight thanks to Israeli startup’s synthetic cornea

Immediately after bandages were removed, 78-year-old patients was able to recognize family members and read text. Professor Irit Bahar: We are proud to be at the forefront of this project, which will impact millions of people’s lives.

Israel Hayom newspaper
January 12, 2021

https://www.israelhayom.com/2021/01/12/blind-man-sees-again-thanks-to-israeli-startups-artificial-cornea

A 78-year-old man who has been blind in both eyes for 10 years has regained his sight after receiving the first implant of an artificial cornea developed by Israeli startup CorNeat, the company announced Monday.

The CorNeat KPro implant is designed to replace deformed, scarred or opacified corneas, and it integrates with the eye wall with no reliance on donor tissue.

Professor Irit Bahar, head of the Ophthalmology Department at Rabin Medical Center (formerly Beilinson Hospital) in Petah Tikva, performed the procedure.

Once the bandages were removed, the patient was able to recognize family members and read text.

“The surgical procedure was straightforward and the result exceeded all of our expectations. The moment we took off the bandages was emotional and significant. Moments like these are the fulfillment of our calling as doctors. We are proud of being at the forefront of this exciting and meaningful project which will undoubtedly impact the lives of millions,” Bahar said.

CorNeat KPro inventor and company co-founder Dr. Gilad Litvin said, “Unveiling this first implanted eye and being in that room, in that moment, was surreal.”

“After years of hard work, seeing a colleague implant the CorNeat KPro with ease and witnessing a fellow human being regain his sight the following day was electrifying and emotionally moving, there were a lot of tears in the room.”

 

DEMOCRACY IS IN FAR GREATER PERIL THAN THE COMPLACENT WEST REALIZES

Democracy is in far greater peril than the complacent West realises
There is no certainty that free societies can survive the twin threats of China and the death of truth

By William Hague
Daily Telegraph (London)
January 12, 2021

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/01/11/democracy-far-greater-perilthan-complacent-west-realises/

For anyone who believes in democracy, the year 2021 has had a very bad start. The Capitol building in Washington DC, the great cathedral of “government of the people, by the people, for the people” was invaded and desecrated. Worse still, this happened at the hands of a mob incited and motivated by the president of the United States himself.

On the same day, in Hong Kong, 53 pro-democracy legislators and campaigners were arrested for “subverting state power”. Their offence was to have organised or taken part in primary voting to choose candidates for an entirely legal election. Such activity now amounts to “disrupting and undermining the Hong Kong government”. These arrests took place conveniently just after the EU had signed a new investment agreement with China, with European leaders played for fools.

Meanwhile, voters anywhere trying to make sense of events are battered by categoric assertions that have no basis in fact. Trump has continued to maintain that he won by a landslide an election that he lost by seven million votes, even though there isn’t a single scrap of evidence to support him. Allegations about the dangers of vaccinations have led many millions of people in France to be unwilling to be vaccinated at all. In China, the foreign minister, Wang Yi, spoke last week of his country having “raced to report the epidemic first” and that “the pandemic is likely to have emerged in many places around the world”, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.

The combination of a loss of trust in elections in the world’s most powerful home of freedom, the cost-free snuffing out of democratic ideas by totalitarians and the steady erosion of the public’s grip on what is true or false add up to a gathering crisis for the future of free and open societies. In Moscow, Tehran and Beijing, there is much satisfaction at the chaos in Washington and at the state of the West: increasingly unsure of its own institutions, polarised within nations and suffering severely in a pandemic that hits free people particularly hard.

Global surveys have demonstrated a growing loss of faith in democracy among young people. Even in countries with democratic traditions going back decades, the space for effective opposition to incumbent governments is being constrained. In Hungary, the media and judiciary have fallen under the control of ministers;

in India, the Modi government is showing autocratic tendencies; in Erdogan’s Turkey, some opposition politicians are in prison; in Sri Lanka the government is empowering the military and abandoning commitments to justice and human rights.

Complacency about democracy is too easy. We all believe the 20th century made the world safe for it and the Cold War proved its timeless superiority. And in the decades since, we have felt able to get on with our inward-looking disagreements without worrying about its future. We reassure ourselves that democracy has proved its resilience time and again. Isn’t it great that the courts in the US refused to entertain the baseless arguments of Trump’s legal team? Didn’t the Republicans do well to finally turn against him, rather than set aside the outcome of a presidential election? The system did indeed hold up. But we cannot be sure that it could withstand another president trying to stay in office whatever the cost, or another time that vast numbers of people believed an election was stolen.

We can no longer be sure that the faltering performance of many Western nations in the face of a pandemic, the growing gulf between populations and elites, the discontent over inequality, the loss of trust in public institutions and the disaffection among young people are just problems we can overcome eventually, with the system still intact at the end. Attention needs to be given to repairing, sustaining, justifying, strengthening and defending democratic values. The virtues of freedom, and the human dignity and fulfilment that come from allowing competing ideas in a tolerant framework within the rule of law need to be advocated and championed again.

Of course, this is a vast and complex task. Democracies like ours will have to forge a stronger common national purpose so that conflicting cultural identities don’t pull us apart. We will have to allow more decentralised decision-making. It will be vital to regulate social media so that varied views are heard instead of a stream of assertions that reinforce our prejudices. We will have to be better prepared for an unexpected crisis such as the pandemic. Such challenges will be the work of decades.

But we can at least begin, with a robust defence against external interference, a clear-eyed understanding of what is going on under authoritarian regimes, and a reinvigoration of the Western alliance with intensified cooperation on trade, technology and security. Joe Biden’s election is a rare opportunity to do so, since he is committed to at least trying to bring the world’s democracies together. Given that Twitter last year alone deleted more than 1,000 accounts promoting state-backed Russian propaganda and thousands spreading Chinese official opinion, it is fair to assume that a massive effort is still going on to ensure voters are misinformed and misled.

The world’s democratic leaders should agree to pool their efforts to disarm such attacks. They should speak frankly about the conditions in countries without the freedoms we take for granted. Tomorrow, the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission will publish a new report on China, detailing a wide range of abuses including torture, arbitrary arrest, forced confessions and the incarceration of huge numbers of people in Xinjiang.

Such findings should be taken seriously by leaders who still prefer to turn a blind eye to the nature of a ruthless one-party system. And with Trump’s go-it-alone attitude on the way out, Western nations should work towards finding solidarity on trade, so that Australia isn’t being penalised by the Chinese at the same time as Brussels pushes for a trade agreement with Beijing.

If Joe Biden can muster the clarity and create the unity that is needed, democracy could be in better shape by the end of this year. He needs support from those who love freedom, anywhere in the world.

 

TRUMP ORDERS MILITARY SHIFT TO SPUR ISRAELI-ARAB COOPERATION AGAINST IRAN

Trump Orders Military Shift to Spur Israeli-Arab Cooperation Against Iran
Defense policy move is latest step by administration to shape Middle East agenda for Biden
Wall Street Journal
January 15, 2021

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-orders-u-s-military-reorganization-favored-by-pro-israel-groups-11610670130

President Trump has ordered that the major U.S. military command for the Middle East be expanded to include Israel, in a last-minute reorganization of the American defense structure that pro-Israel groups have long advocated to encourage cooperation against Iran, U.S. officials said Thursday.

The move means that the U.S. Central Command would oversee American military policy involving both Israel and Arab nations, a departure from decades of U.S. military command structure put in place because of acrimony between Israel and some of the Pentagon’s Arab allies.

It is the latest in a series of Trump administration policy moves to shape the national security agenda President-elect Joe Biden will inherit. The change was recently ordered by Mr. Trump but hasn’t yet been made public. A Biden transition official declined to comment on the move.

U.S. military responsibility for Israel had long been allocated to its European command. That arrangement enabled U.S. generals in the Middle East to interact with Arab states without having a close association with Israel, which at the time was seen as an adversary in the Arab world.

Following the Abraham Accords that led to the normalization of Israel’s relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, pro-Israel groups have stepped up their push to have the Central Command take on responsibility for military operations and planning involving Israel to foster greater cooperation between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

“Now, Gen. Frank McKenzie can go to Saudi Arabia, Emirates and Israel and visit everyone in his newly enlarged parish,” a U.S. official said, referring to the four-star Marine general who heads the Central Command.

The Jewish Institute for National Security of America, a Washington-based group that supports close military cooperation between the U.S. and Israel, urged the shift in December as a way to encourage the emerging alignment between Israel and key Arab states against Iran.

Anthony Zinni, a retired Marine general and former head of the Central Command, said Thursday that “the timing could be right to do this.”

“We could see more Arab countries recognize Israel, so it makes sense to bring them all in under one unified American command,” Gen. Zinni added. “It will make security cooperation better. It would not have made sense in the past because there was too much mistrust. There was a fear then that if Israel was in the Central Command there would be U.S. intelligence sharing with Israel on its Arab neighbors.”

Another retired U.S. military officer agreed that the move that would reinforce U.S. efforts to normalize ties between Israel and Arab states. He cautioned, however, that it would add to the burden on a Central Command headquarters that already has responsibility for U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria and other hot spots in the Middle East.

Another potential complication for Central Command could come if the American effort to strengthen ties between Israel and Arab states falters and their relations sour. Such a development could put the U.S. military in the awkward position of working with allies suspicious of each other’s intentions.

While Israel has improved ties with Gulf states, the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians is deep and unresolved. Saudi Arabia, the most important Arab state in the Gulf region, also has yet to normalize relations with Israel.

By making the decision during his last days in office, Mr. Trump has left it to his successor to fully implement the decision and deal with the consequences, this former military officer added.

Spokesmen for the Central Command and the Israeli embassy in Washington declined to comment.

Martin Indyk, a former U.S. ambassador to Israeli who is now at the Council on Foreign Relations, said that some Israelis previously had seen some benefit in working with the European Command because it associated them with a headquarters that plays a central role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. But as Iran has become a growing worry for Israel and Gulf Arab states, working with the Central Command makes more sense for Israel, he added.

“I think it is a good thing,” Mr. Indyk said.

Dennis Ross, a former U.S. peace negotiator, said that the change was overdue. “I don’t think the Biden people will have a problem with it, and I think the Israelis will welcome it as a reflection of the new realities in the region,” Mr. Ross said.

 

PILLS COULD REPLACE COVID JABS WITH BRITISH BIOTECH BREAKTHROUGH

Pills could replace Covid jabs with British biotech breakthrough
Sussex-based IosBio has found a way to turn injected vaccines into tablets and signed a deal with California’s ImmunityBio

By Julia Bradshaw
Daily Telegraph (London)
January 13, 2021

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2021/01/13/pills-could-replace-covid-jabs-british-biotech-breakthrough/

A groundbreaking pill-based vaccine which could one day transform the fight against Covid is being developed by a Sussex biotech firm.

Burgess Hill-based IosBio has come up with a way to turn injected vaccines into orally administered tablets and is now working with Californian firm ImmunityBio to test the technology in clinical trials.

Clinical trials in monkeys have shown the oral vaccine made using iosBio technology to be highly effective. The jab version, developed by ImmunityBio, is already in phase two/three trials.

The oral vaccine will begin clinical trials on Americans this month and ImmunityBio is applying for regulatory approval to run tests in Britain too.

Approval remains many months away if it happens at all, but a pill-based vaccine would be far easier to transport and administer than injections and could drastically speed up the race to immunise the world’s population.

Wayne Channon, chief executive of iosBio, said: “With our capsule you wouldn’t need medical professionals to administer the vaccine, you could send this out on Amazon Prime and have everyone vaccinated by Saturday.”

IosBio’s technology is called OraPro. It engineers vaccines into pills that can withstand temperatures of up to 50C, allowing them to pass through the stomach and be directly absorbed into the mucous membranes.

Mr Channon said: “You catch Covid in your mucosal cells.

“But with jabs you get injected into the arm which goes into the muscles and blood cells. Our tablets go straight into mucosal cells to elicit mucosal immunity so we hit the virus where it is.

“When you catch this virus you breathe it in or swallow it, and 80pc of your immune system cells are mucosal so we are addressing that directly. I think this will be a new paradigm in vaccination.”

Under the terms of the licensing agreement, ImmunityBio has exclusive rights to OraPro. In return, IosBio will get royalties on global sales of the approved vaccine.

Mr Channon said: “The results from the non-human primate trial were outstanding for oral and I think oral is the right strategy.

“Patrick Soon-Shiong, the chief executive of ImmunityBio, called me and said he had woken up at 3am and thought, this should be an oral vaccine.”

ImmunityBio’s vaccine is a viral vector vaccine, and unlike other candidates it contains two different spike proteins, Mr Channon said.

He said: “When you use both the chance of both mutating on the virus to a point where it is unrecognisable to the body is vanishingly small and you get a much longer T-cell response memory.”

IosBio is a small private company owned by a handful of independent shareholders. Mr Channon, chief scientific officer Jeff Drew and James Hudleston, a financier and founder of Hurricane Energy, control more than half the company between them.

The other shareholders include friends, family, wealthy people and “not so wealthy people”, according to Mr Channon. The company has raised £20m since being founded in 2005.

The technology is the brainchild of Dr Drew. Mr Channon said: “It was one of his pet projects we worked on and he persuaded a few of us to fund it.

“When the company was founded it was almost impossible to get traction with big pharma - nobody seemed interested and nobody seemed to realise the problem with global distribution of frozen vaccines. It wasn’t until the pandemic that everyone understood the problem and needed the technology.

“So we changed our strategy a while ago to become a vaccine developer too, rather than just trying to license out the technology, mainly because we couldn’t get the big guys to change what they were doing.”

 

ISRAEL TO PROVIDE COVID VACCINES FOR HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS AROUND THE WORLD

Israel to provide COVID vaccines for Holocaust survivors around the world

“We have the privilege to provide them with protection against the coronavirus. This is the moral order that every Jew carries in his heart - to make sure that they never walk alone.”

Jerusalem Post
January 13, 2021

https://www.jpost.com/diaspora/israel-to-provide-covid-vaccines-for-holocaust-survivors-around-the-world-655140

Israel will work to provide coronavirus vaccinations for Holocaust survivors both in Israel and in the Diaspora, the Diaspora Affairs Ministry announced.

The complicated, international logistical operation is only in its beginning stages. Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevitch tasked the Shalom Corps organization with coordinating bureaucratic procedures.

The organization has approached several large medical shipping companies about the logistics of the project, and the Diaspora Affairs Ministry is working with the Health Ministry to coordinate with Pfizer and Moderna.

The campaign will be conducted through vaccination centers in a number of different countries. Survivors who cannot leave their homes will have medical staff and volunteers come to them.

The Ministry intends to recruit Jewish philanthropists to help fund the operation and intends to order additional vaccines for the survivors and not take from the quota allocated for the State of Israel.

“During this global crisis, we have an opportunity to support Holocaust survivors whose resilience continues to guide and inspire humanity today,” said Yankelevitch. “It is our collective obligation to safeguard this treasured yet vulnerable population in the spirit of mutual responsibility. Now is the time for all of us, Jewish institutions and leaders from across the world, to come together in this operation. Together, we can ensure that Holocaust survivors are efficiently vaccinated, wherever they live.”

 

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