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Arafat Implies Israelis Bombed Tel Aviv


"We condemn this act as we always condemn these acts," PLO leader Yasir Arafat told reporters on Sunday, after the terrorist bombing in Tel Aviv, which killed a young woman. Arafat then said, "You know who is behind these acts. Europe knows it, the Americans know it, the Israelis know it." He went on to say that only Israel stands to gain from such attacks. In the past, Arafat has accused the Israeli secret service of carrying out such attacks as provocation. A branch of Fatah, Arafat's faction of the PLO, publicly claimed responsibility for the Tel Aviv blast.

Anti-Semitic Attacks Surge in France

By Lisa Bryant (VOA-Paris) &

Anti-Semitic attacks have surged in France in recent months, but an attack by six youths Friday on a 23-year-old woman on a Paris-area subway has particularly shaken the country. Critics argue most French people have not taken problems of racism and anti-Semitism seriously enough.

The youths were described as being of "North African origin." They used knives to cut her clothing and undergarments, and cut off her hair while turning over her baby carriage with her infant inside. They then proceeded to draw a number of swastikas on her body while passengers looked on.

According to reports, no one intervened to assist her and no one bothered to summon assistance. It was learned that the woman was not at all Jewish, but a non-Jew targeted by the attackers who presumed she was Jewish. French authorities expressed outrage and proclaimed the attackers would be brought to justice.

The attack has sparked sharp condemnation from Muslim and Jewish leaders, and from an array of top politicians. President Jacques Chirac called it shameful. Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said indifference to violence is evidence of, what he called, "something wrong" in French society.

A senior member of France's Jewish Council, Bernard Kanovich, agrees that anti-Semitism is not just a problem between the country's Muslims and Jews. Kanovich says anti-Semitism represents a danger for all of France, but he says ethnic and religious communities are mostly confronting each other, rather than finding ways to solve their differences.

Israeli Leaders Meet to Discuss National Unity Government

By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has formally opened talks with the opposition Labor Party leader, Shimon Peres, on forming a national unity government. Sharon wants Labor to join his shaky coalition in order to ensure the parliament approves his plan to withdraw from Gaza and parts of the West Bank. Sharon invited Labor to join the government during a meeting with Peres at the Prime Minister's official residence in Jerusalem.

The prime minister is seeking an alliance with Labor to boost his chances of implementing his plan to dismantle all Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and four in the West Bank by the end of 2005. Earlier this year, the prime minister received the approval of his Cabinet for the plan but some ministers from right-wing factions resigned in protest. As a result, Sharon lost his majority in the parliament.

Some members of Sharon's Likud Party are also openly opposed to the withdrawal plan and say they will do everything possible to ensure it is not implemented. Labor's Peres said he is interested in joining the government, but not unconditionally. He said that Labor wants the government to speed up the withdrawal from Gaza and expand the pullout from the West Bank.

Not everyone in the Labor Party is in favor of forming a government of national unity. Labor lawmaker Yuli Tamir said the party should vote for Sharon's withdrawal plan in the parliament, but rejected the idea of joining forces with the Likud. "There are many ways for us to support disengagement without entering the government. We have offered and we should sustain a very large [parliamentary] safety net on those issues."

There are also members within Sharon's Likud Party opposed to Labor joining the government, including Cabinet ministers who will have to give up key portfolios. Peres is widely expected to become the foreign minister in a grand coalition government.

Shrek 2 Temporarily Banned Until Pejorative Remark is Removed

By Ha'aretz

The Hebrew-dubbed version of Shrek 2 was banned Monday from the big screen in Israel until a reference to singer David Da'or was removed from the translation. Da'or's name was mentioned in a pejorative context, he claimed. Da'or, a singer known for his high-pitched voice, submitted his request Sunday for an injunction, after the translators rendered "let's bobbitt him" into "na'aseh lo ma'aseh David Da'or" - "let's David Da'or him."

"To bobbitt" is a new word in the English language, referring to amputation of the penis with a pair of scissors. His wife, Lorena Bobbitt in 1993, cut off John Bobbitt's male member.

Da'or, who represented Israel in the recent Eurovision Song Contest, claimed the reference links his name with emasculation. The Tel Aviv District Court approved the movie's withdrawal at Da'or's urgent behest, and the distributors of the movie changed the sentence on Monday to "let's take a sword and castrate him," after which the film returned to the screens.

Israeli Team Touts Stem Cell Breakthrough for Parkinson's Sufferers


The prospect of using stem cells to treat Parkinson's disease is one step closer after Israeli scientists announced that implanting human stem cells into the brains of rats has alleviated Parkinson's-like symptoms. According to Dr. Binyamin Reubinoff of the Hadassah Embryonic Stem Cell Research Center at Jerusalem's Hadassah Medical Center, the research represents the first demonstration that human stem cells can replace damaged neurons in an animal model.

The news will bring new hope to the more than one million Americans suffering from the degenerative brain disease that currently has no permanent cure. Reubinoff presented a summary of an abstract that describes his study last week at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Berlin, Germany.

Stem cells are the body's building blocks that can develop into any part of the body, from limbs to blood to brain tissue, and can be obtained from donated embryos, either left over after fertility treatment, or from embryos deliberately cloned for therapeutic purposes. The progressive decline associated with Parkinson's is caused by a loss of brain cells that produce a chemical called dopamine.

Reubinoff's team manipulated human stem cells in the laboratory so that the ubiquitous cells were poised to develop into the specialist neurons that become depleted as Parkinson's disease takes hold. These neurons were then transplanted into the brains of rats that had been engineered to show manifestations of the condition.

After the procedure, the rats' symptoms were significantly reduced, Reubinoff told delegates at the annual meeting in Berlin. "This study shows for the first time that human embryonic stem cell-developed neural precursors can induce partial functional recovery in an experimental model of Parkinson's disease," he explained. "We believe these observations are encouraging, and set the stage for future development that may eventually allow the use of embryonic stem cells for the treatment of Parkinson's disease."

Importantly, the study showed that the neural cells did not proliferate out of control. This concern was highlighted in a former clinical trial in the USA, which resulted in uncontrolled growth of stem cells that had been transplanted into the brains of volunteers with Parkinson's disease. Disastrously, too much dopamine was produced in the brains of 15% of the participants, resulting in severe side effects such as jerking of the limbs.

Reubinoff said further studies would be needed before the treatment could be given to humans because the safety of the treatment could not yet be assured. "So far we have shown that the transplants can improve although not correct the behavior deficit," he told ISRAEL21c. "We've accomplished only partial correction of behavior deficit of the rats. We would like to proceed to directing the development of the neuroprecursors toward generating the specific neurons that degenerate in Parkinson's patients."

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