Israeli army admits to covert influence campaign in Gaza war

Israeli army admits to covert influence campaign in Gaza war

JERUSALEM (AP) — Days into Israel’s devastating war with Gaza militants in 2021, the Israeli army began deploying keyboard warriors…

JERUSALEM (AP) — Days into Israel’s devastating war with Gaza militants in 2021, the Israeli army began deploying keyboard warriors to a second front: a covert social media operation to praise the military’s bombing campaign in the coastal enclave.

The Israeli military acknowledged Wednesday that it made a “mistake” in launching the secretive influence campaign on social media in an effort to improve the Israeli public’s view of Israel’s performance in the conflict.

The online campaign, which failed to gain traction, was one of several contentious steps taken by the Israeli military in the bloody 11-day war. The fighting killed over 260 Palestinians and 13 Israelis as the military bombed the Hamas-ruled territory and Palestinian militants launched rockets at Israel.

Israel’s Haaretz daily first exposed the social media operation on Wednesday, reporting that the army employed fake accounts to conceal the campaign’s origin and engage audiences on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.

Experts say that although the Israeli military has frequently employed inauthentic social media accounts to gather intelligence on Arab states and on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, this marks the first known time that a military influence campaign has targeted Israeli citizens.

Uri Kol, a digital campaign expert, said the revelation could hint that the army has employed the tactic secretively against Israelis before.

“With the military’s tight censorship laws, the army always has the last word in what gets published and what doesn’t,” he said. “What we see here is a tiny facet of an online manipulation campaign that we haven’t ever seen before.”

The accounts posted and amplified footage and images of destruction in Gaza with the Hebrew hashtag “Gaza Regrets” — boasting about the strength of Israel’s military in a bid to counter viral images showing salvos of Palestinian rockets bombarding Tel Aviv.

The accounts targeted right-wing Israelis, tagging popular conservative TV hosts and politicians like current National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, and posting in groups of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s supporters with the aim of spreading the message to sympathetic audiences. Popular posts with the Gaza Regrets hashtag drew bellicose comments from Israelis, like “Why are buildings still standing in Gaza?”

“It shows the army’s frame of mind that it wants to reassure young people and get them pumped up for war,” Kol said.

The Israeli military conceded that it also coordinated the campaign with real social media influencers, providing them with images and hashtags to talk up the military’s achievements and showcase the damage it inflicted on Gaza.

But all the army’s efforts came to naught. The hashtag failed to leverage audiences, garnering few if any likes and shares, Haaretz reported. Successful online influence campaigns using false identities take years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to gain followers’ trust, experts say.

In a statement, the Israeli military admitted that it used “a limited number” of fake accounts over the course of a day “in order to increase exposure.”

“In retrospect, it was found that the use of these accounts was a mistake,” the military said, saying it has not employed the tactic since the war. It claimed it approached social media influencers who joined the operation in an official capacity as the military’s spokesperson’s unit.

The Israeli military “is committed to the truth and adheres to reliable and accurate reports as much as possible,” it added.

The army spokesman’s office has long played a key role in defending Israel’s military actions in the international court of opinion.

But its relationship with the media has been strained at times, and its tactics have come under criticism, including during the 2021 war, when it was accused of circulating misleading reports among foreign journalists. Those reports suggested that a ground invasion was under way in an attempt to lure Hamas militants into a deadly trap. Some reporters were told outright an invasion had begun. The military blamed the incident on “internal miscommunication.”

Israel’s conduct in the war further inflamed tensions and angered international media when an Israeli airstrike leveled a high-rise building that housed The Associated Press and Al Jazeera offices in Gaza after giving those inside an hour to evacuate. The military claimed the building housed Hamas militant infrastructure but has provided no evidence.

Israel’s handling of the shooting death last year of a veteran Al Jazeera journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, became the latest flash point in relations between the military and reporters.

After initially suggesting she might have been killed by a Palestinian gunman, the Israeli military later admitted an Israeli soldier likely shot her and absolved itself of responsibility.

The military portrayed the shooting as a mistake during a firefight with Palestinian militants, without offering evidence.

The equivocal conclusion drew sharp condemnation from Palestinians and press freedom groups, who noted that Abu Akleh was clearly identified as a reporter and the area appeared to be quiet at the time.

© 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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Bald Eagle Family Welcomes 3rd Eaglet at Dulles Greenway

Bald Eagle Family Welcomes 3rd Eaglet at Dulles Greenway

Bald eagles Rosa and Martin greeted their third eaglet over the weekend at the Dulles Greenway Wetlands in Leesburg. (Photo courtesy Dulles Greenway)

The eagle hasn’t exactly landed, but it has hatched. Dulles Greenway bald eagle couple Rosa and Martin welcomed their third eaglet to their feathered family over the weekend.

Baby bald eagle number three was the last one mom and dad were waiting for in Leesburg. Rosa laid three eggs at their wetlands nest in February.

The first hatched March 14.

“We are excited to bring the awe and wonder of these eagles into people’s homes again this year,” Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy Director Michael Myers said in a news release at the time.

Photo courtesy Twitter/Dulles Greenway

“Last year viewers were captivated by Rosa, Martin and their eaglet Orion, and we can’t wait to watch this pair raise their young this year,” Myers said.

The National Eagle Center said bald eagles typically lay one to three eggs a year. Those then hatch after incubating for around 35 days.

Now comes rearing the eaglets and getting them ready to fly.

You can watch the eagles’ progress on the Dulles Greenway eagle cam live.

Featured photo courtesy Dulles Greenway

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Understanding sugar-free sweeteners

Understanding sugar-free sweeteners

Featured article

From saccharin to sucralose, what’s the difference?

Author: Charlotte Kuchinsky
August 3 2010

artificial sweetener packets

Anyone who is dieting, or at least trying to watch what they eat, is familiar with the wide variety of sugar substitutes available in the marketplace today. However, most people remain mystified regarding the origin and safety issues attached to all these sugar substitutes. Worse yet, they have no idea which one to choose or if one is even better than another. Let’s try to take away some of that mystery and pull back the veil to uncover the many options available.

The purpose of a sugar substitute is to sweeten like a sugar without delivering too much food energy, which can result in mild to severe insulin spike. With diabetes at epidemic proportions, cutting sugar intake has become a necessity in today’s world.

The sugar substitutes with which people are most familiar are synthetic or “artificial” in nature. However, there are some that are natural, coming from Mother Nature, very much like sugar itself. Many of these sweeteners are concentrated and require less of the product to achieve the desired sweetness level. A few can be used across the board either to sweeten food or drink as well as for cooking. Others are tricky and vary greatly according to the type of sweetener. Some lose their composition or sweetness when heated and are therefore not recommended for use in baking.

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There are roughly six sugar substitutes that have been widely accepted for use. They are acesulfame potassium, aspartame, neotame, saccharin, stevia and sucralose. There are several other sweeteners currently going through the approval process in some countries. These include, but are not necessarily limited to, alitame, cyclamate and glycyrrhizin.

Acesulfame potassium

Acesulfame potassium is an intense artificial sweetening agent that is usually marketed as Sunett or Sweet One. Acesulfame potassium is roughly 200 times sweeter than standard sugar. Sometimes called acesulfame K, it is roughly as sweet as aspartame. Unfortunately, like many artificial sweeteners, acesulfame potassium has an unpleasant aftertaste. It is that taste that makes it less mainstream than some of the other options available today.

On the flip side, since this sugar substitute holds up well under heat, it can be used for baking. That is particularly true when it is blended with other substitutes like aspartame or sucralose. For that reason, this option is rarely used alone for sweetening candies, gums, or sodas. It is used regularly in medications that require a sweetened taste in order to mask unpleasant chemicals and other ingredients.


Probably the most controversial of all artificial sweeteners, a great deal has been discovered and discussed about aspartame since it became a mainstream sugar substitute in the 80s. Actually discovered in the mid-60s, it took this artificial alternative about 15 years to receive approval for wide distribution. It has been marketed under the brand names of Equal, Equal Measure, NutraSweet and Spoonful. Nearly 200 times sweeter than regular sugar, aspartame gained fame quickly and became used for everything from diet drinks to yogurt.

However, almost from the outset, the sweetener came under fire. Many labeled it carcinogenic in nature. Additional studies suggested it could also have a significant negative impact on the brain, sometimes leading to brain tumors. Now, some believe they have traced the use of this sweetener to other serious neurological conditions including multiple sclerosis, lupus, epilepsy and migraine or cluster headaches. Research continues while more and more people attempt to steer clear of this notorious sugar substitute.


Very little is really known about neotame, a cousin of aspartame other than the fact that it is perhaps the sweetest of the sugar substitutes available today. It is believed to be around 10,000 times sweeter than regular sugar. However, unlike aspartame, neotame seems to be reasonably heat stable. Because of that, more and more food manufacturers are beginning to look at this artificial sweetener as the wave of the future.

Another great factor of neotame is that it appears to metabolize well within the human body. So little of it is required for sweetening purposes that it is easily dispersed. It simply does not accumulate like many of the other sugar substitutes. But like many other artificial sweeteners it does suffer from that bitter aftertaste that turns off many consumers. Finally, its relationship – albeit distant – to aspartame may color, or at least slow, its worldwide acceptance.


People have had a love/hate relationship with saccharin for decades. Primarily marketed under the names Sweet ‘N Low and Sweet Twin, saccharin is the oldest of the recognizable artificial sweeteners marketed today. Dating back to the early 1900’s studies of this sugar substitute have always been mixed. Many scientists early on proclaimed it safe for consumption. However, in the 1970’s other studies caused concern that it could result in cancer. For nearly 30 years warnings were issued on each saccharin product proclaiming such dangers. However, by the turn of the century those warnings disappeared when earlier studies proved unfounded.

While saccharin can be used for sweetening some things, it has no heat tolerance and has proven a poor choice for cooking and baking. Additionally, its metallic taste, that lingers long after the sweetener is consumed, has caused this alternative to lose supporters in favor of some of the newer sugar substitutes.


Stevia is a plant based sugar substitute sometimes referred to as sweet leaf. The plant’s leaves provide a natural sweetener that is roughly 300 times sweeter than regular sugar. Stevia has, over the course of a decade, gained wide attention in the food industry. It is becoming widely used in low-carb and low-sugar foods.

That has proven helpful for patients with obesity and high blood pressure issues since research indicates that this sweet plant might actually have a positive effect in treating these issues. Unlike many other sugar substitutes, stevia does not spike blood sugar or cause a glucose increase.

Unfortunately, the availability of stevia is somewhat limited. While it has been widely accepted, grown and used in Japan for decades, other countries are only now accepting it. A few, like the United States, have banned its usage for a time because of the lack of research conducted concerning the plant’s safety. However, each year more and more countries are jumping aboard the stevia wagon, finding it to be the greatest hope available today when it comes to an artificial sugar that operates like the real thing.


Sucralose is 600 times sweeter than regular table sugar and is more than three times sweeter than aspartame. Unlike many of the sugar substitutes on the market, Sucralose remains stable when heated. It also keeps it compositional structure intact under a lot of varying pH conditions. Because of that, it is widely accepted as one of the best sugar substitutes for cooking and baking.

Used with other bulk ingredients like dextrose and maltodextrin, it generally takes a very small amount of sucralose to sweeten food and drink. Additionally, because it looks a lot like sugar, it has a great deal of commercial appeal. Some of the brand names under which sucralose is packaged include Nevella, Splenda and SucraPlus.


Alitame, marketed as Aclame, is one of the newer sugar substitutes available. It is an aspartic acid much like aspartame. However, it is more than 10 times sweeter than its cousin and more than 2000 times sweeter than standard sugar. Countries like Australia, New Zealand and China are using Alitame, but it is not approved for use in the USA or Great Britain at this time.


Cyclamate is only 40 time more sweet than sucrose (standard sugar), giving it the least appeal as a stand-alone sugar substitute. It works better when mixed with other artificial sweeteners such as acesulfame potassium or saccharin. On the other hand, cyclamate is inexpensive and may eventually find it has a commercial appeal to those who cannot afford the more expensive brands.


Glycyrrhizin comes from liquorice root. It is roughly 40 times sweeter than standard sugar. The taste of glycyrrhizin is significantly different than sugar as well. The sweetness is not apparent at first bite but, once there, lingers longer on the palate than many of the other substitutes available today. It is also stable when heated, making it a good option for use in cooking and baking.

Glycyrrhizin is recognized in some countries, like the U.S. and Great Britain, as an acceptable agent for flavoring in candies and medicines. However, it is not well accepted at this time as a sweetener.

Sugar substitutes derived from alcohol, like mannitol and sorbitol, are often used to flavor foods and drinks because they convert well to fructose and do not cause an insulin spike. On the flip side, unfortunately, they linger in the intestines often causing gas or acting like a laxative if absorbed in large quantities.

While no one is 100 percent certain that artificial sweeteners are safe for consumption, most agree they must be measured against the negative effects of too much sugar intake. Used in small quantities, many believe these substitutes are acceptable. But as ever, too much of a good thing is rarely advisable.

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Skin care products that don't work

Skin care products that don't work

Featured article

A review of the ones to avoid!

Author: Charlotte Kuchinsky
April 6 2010

unhappy-looking woman

I have a major pet peeve – retail products that are falsely advertised. One major category where I have found rampant abuse is in the cosmetic and skin care industry. A few inexpensive cosmetic purchases that turn bad may be acceptable, but I for one strongly resent expensive skin care products that don’t even come close to living up to their claims.  Misrepresentation is one thing – out and out lies is something else altogether.

Of course not every skin care product can be expected to work for everyone. Some work for certain skin textures, others are geared for a specific type of skin (oily, dry, combination, etc). Still others are more successful on skin that hasn’t already begun to age. But even given these caveats, some products fail to meet the hype in spectacular fashion, and we’ll have a look at a few of these now.

Note: all these products have been tested by me personally and by members of my family, and I have cross-referenced our results with multiple reviews from all over the net that express the same opinion.

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The worst offenders seem to be anti-aging products, in particular serums that either do more harm than good, or simply do nothing at all. Some actually contain caustic chemicals that cause damage to delicate skin. Case in point: Origin’s Plantidote Mega Mushroom Eye Serum. This so-called wonder product with its expensive $45 price tag has irritated as many eyes as it has helped. One expects to cry over those pesky age lines but not over their supposed cure.

Another huge failure is Serious Skin Care’s FirmAFace. While the product does deliver a temporary lift when you first put it on, the effects disappear as soon as you rinse away the excess as instructed. The company promises that skin will re-tighten as soon as it dries, but no one I know has seen any evidence of that. That makes this product’s expensive $50 cost really hard to take.

Clarin’s Double Serum Generation 6 treatment seems to be causing as many, or more, problems than it solves for those who tried it so far. Some customers report breaking out in acne for the first time in their lives, others say they developed little white bumps that took months to clear up. With its rather hefty $95 price tag, such responses are inexcusable.

Victoria Principal’s EyeMazing Eye Serum has proved to be a dud for many, who claim it actually made their bothersome puffiness worse, and some say it added years rather than taking them away. Others were quick to point out that $25 worth lasted no time at all, making it a very expensive product to use.

Many of those trying Cosmedicin’s MegaDose Skin Fortifying Serum couldn’t get around the product’s offensive smell. Many admit the product works but wouldn’t use it because of the odor. Even those who stuck it out and actually used the serum weren’t overly pleased. They claimed there was little, if any, difference in the end, which isn’t acceptable after paying a huge $80 figure.

Another skin care disappointment is Signature Club A’s Nature’s Flower Intense Dual Lift. While some customers say they like the texture of the product, many ask, “where’s the lift?”. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be one. Even at $29.95 that is too much to pay for a product that simply doesn’t work.

Actress Fran Drescher’s new Fran Brand Eye Gel appears to be another dud. Customers claim that it is too drying, actually causing wrinkles rather than releasing them. Still more say the texture is more like glue than a cream; hardly the kind of thing one wants to feel along delicate eye tissue. It may be relatively inexpensive at just $24, but if it doesn’t work, what’s the point?

Another actress, soap diva Susan Lucci, has failed with her Youthful Essence Bright Fix Radiant Pen at $16. The end result, it seems, is less than stellar; neither highlighting or eliminated pigmentation problems. With lots of similar and less expensive products available, there is no room for one that falters so miserably.

While these products hardly represent all of the bad ones available on store shelves today, they are representative of a serious problem. Maybe it is time that consumer protection agencies actually do their jobs and nip false advertising in the bud.  It would certainly save consumers some valuable shopping dollars and pounds.

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George leaves with injury as Clippers lose to Thunder

George leaves with injury as Clippers lose to Thunder

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles Clippers star Paul George got hurt in the fourth quarter of Tuesday night’s 101-100…

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles Clippers star Paul George got hurt in the fourth quarter of Tuesday night’s 101-100 loss to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

George went down under the Thunder’s basket with 4:38 remaining. He lay on his back for several minutes before being helped to his feet. Supported by staff on either side, George headed to the locker room, appearing to barely be able to put any weight on his right leg.

George had 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists. His potential loss could prove costly to a team harboring hopes of winning its first NBA championship.

Gilgeous-Alexander scored 31 points against his former team. Jalen Williams added 20 points for the Thunder.

George had a highlight dunk in the third, rotating 360 degrees before slamming the ball in the hoop as the crowd cheered.

Leonard and George stepped up in the second half after shooting a combined 5 of 16 in the first half, but it wasn’t enough.

The game was tied 91-all when George went down. Leonard scored before the Thunder ran off six points in a row to take a 97-93 lead.

Nicolas Batum hit a jumper to pull the Clippers to 101-100. The Clippers lost a coach’s challenge of an out-of-bounds call with 30 seconds left. The Thunder inbounded, but missed a shot and Leonard grabbed the rebound.

Leonard dribbled down the final seconds but was hounded by Thunder defenders and his potential game-winning shot missed.

The teams kept it close throughout the third. Gilgeous-Alexander scored the Thunder’s final 10 points and they trailed 81-80 going into the final period.

The Clippers blew a 14-point lead to start the game. They opened on an 18-4 run, but the Thunder tied it up minutes later.


Thunder: Improved to 14-21 on the road against the West. … Won five of six overall.

Clippers: Leonard received a technical and Terance Mann got hit with two technicals at 4:24 of the second period. Mann was ejected.


The teams play again Thursday night in Los Angeles.


AP NBA: and

© 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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Blondes, brunettes, and redheads: who really has more fun?

Blondes, brunettes, and redheads: who really has more fun?

Featured article

Changing your hair color? Which way should you go?

Author: Charlotte Kuchinsky
July 13 2007

brunette with blonde and redhead wigs

Most of us women experiment with hair color at one time or another, and this is not a new phenomenon; women have been changing hair color for centuries. Ancient Egyptians dyed their hair with henna because they believed it made them more glamorous and seductive. European women wore colored and powdered wigs to express their moods as well as their stations in life.

Why do we do it? For many of us changing our hair color – something that we can control – signals that we want to change our lives – which we often cannot. And we know that, for good or for bad, a first impression happens within mere seconds, and often such decisions begin with physical attributes like size, eye and hair color.

In making these first impressions we tend to fall back on long-held stereotypes. We categorize blondes as ditzy, dumb or sexy. We equate brunettes with sophistication and intelligence. We assume redheads are hot tempered or complex. But where did those stereotypes come from and how true are they?

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Hollywood must take some blame for the “dumb blonde” stereotype. In the 40’s a lot of starlets trying to get noticed bleached their hair blonde. The technique often worked, garnering them the attention they sought from casting directors. The problem was that many of them were cast in bit parts, typically either a “sex siren” or the “comic relief.” Even when their roles eventually expanded, one thing remained the same – a kind of naive innocence which somehow got translated into “dumb.” Hence the concept “dumb blonde.”

Ironically, going blonde was a smart move for many of these actresses! Marilyn Monroe parlayed her blonde ambition into a monumental career, and remains a inspiring icon for actresses like Pamela Anderson. Goldie Hawn started her career playing the ditzy blonde but quickly proved that there was an incredibly sharp brain behind that funny exterior. Her daughter, Kate Hudson, appears to be every bit as sharp as mom, making careful choices that move her career forward and do not pigeonhole her as a one-note wonder. Nor is there anything “dumb” about their blonde sisters like Nicole Kidman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Rene Zellwegger, Scarlett Johannsen, and Madonna.

If the “blondes are dumb” stereotype has no scientific support, the same cannot be said of that other cliché, “blondes have more fun.” In my own scientific research for this article, I polled the men in my family, my friends, and the neighborhood. I talked with in excess of 50 men, and 55% stated that they were more attracted to blondes. Of that percentage, more than 80% also stated that they preferred blue eyes. Evolutionary theory would explain this by pointing out that both blonde hair and blue eyes are correlated with youth, and men are attracted to the fertility associated with youth. Whatever the reasons, blondes certainly seem in line for a lot of fun!


So if blondes are dumb, are brunettes any smarter? Although on an individual level there is no correlation of intelligence and hair color, there are a lot more smart brunettes in the world than smart blondes, for the simple reason of volume – there are many more brunettes than there are blondes. This is because the blonde gene is recessive, and some claim it will eventually become extinct. That is, of course, excludes blondes that that come out of a bottle!

Brunettes are experiencing a surge in popularity at the moment. Many of Hollywood’s hottest blondes have taken a darker turn: Charlize Theron, Cameron Diaz, Jessica Simpson, and Sienna Miller. Some initially changed their hair color for a specific role, but some have seemed to buy into the new persona they created, believing it would get them more substantial film roles. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Jessica Alba was definitely taken more seriously in her critically-acclaimed role as the dark haired beauty she played on television’s Dark Angel. In contrast, her blonde Invisible Girl in the recent Fantastic Four sequel was panned. On the other hand Drew Barrymore seems to do well no matter what color of hair she sports.

Going back to my poll of male preferences, 40% of my sample prefer brunettes to blondes or red heads. They were split on eye color, though. Brown edged out blue slightly, but green and hazel also made good showings.


Most people equate redheads to hot tempers. However, the most famous redhead of all time, Lucille Ball, was actually well known for her even-tempered disposition. Even Hollywood’s famous redheads Julianne Moore, Rene Russo, Debra Messing, Nicole Kidman, and Julia Roberts have much less of a diva reputation than many of their blonde and brunette sisters.

Being a redhead myself, I have to say we have the best of both worlds. We benefit from the same kind of “sexy” image that blondes boast, while still being thought of as intelligent, like our brunette counterparts. Additionally, we have the benefit of being in the minority, which makes us a little more sought after and gives us a certain aura of mystique. Men often find that alluring, which gives us a decided advantage.

While only 5% of the men I polled stated a preference for redheads, I didn’t take offense, particularly since many of them (in my view, wrongly) categorized the strawberry blonde as a blonde, and not (as she should be) on the red side of the fence. I wasn’t surprised that the men who like redheads also wanted green or hazel eyes, as they seem to go together in the minds of a lot of people.


So who has more fun: blondes, brunettes, or redheads? The truth doesn’t really lie in the hair color. It lies within the woman. If dying your hair brunette makes you “feel” more sophisticated or intelligent, then that is the persona you are going to take on. If bleaching your hair blonde makes you feel sexier, wilder, or heaven forbid dumber, then that is the persona you will embrace. The truth of how much fun you have in life lies deep within you, and how you bring that “fun” girl out to play!

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