Sunday, March 31, 2013

Israel To Become Energy Independent; Flow Of Natural Gas From Tamar Field Begins Today

Energy Independence

Tamar Gas Field: located 90 kilometers west of the city of Haifa, northern Israel.
Photo Credit: Associated Press; Albatross Aerial Perspective
Source: WashPost

An article, by Shoshanna Solomon and Gwen Ackermanin BusinessWeek says that Israel has started production of its Tamar gas field, located offshore in the Mediterranean Sea, which holds an estimated nine trillion cubic feet of natural gas, sufficient to supply Israel's domestic needs for decades. As the article states, "The gas was expected to reach Israel’s port city of Ashdod by afternoon today," the Energy and Water Ministry said.

This is the first of three large gas fields expected to come online in the next few years:
The field in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, estimated to hold 9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, is being developed by a group that includes Noble Energy Inc. (NBL), Delek Drilling-LP, Avner Oil Exploration LLP (AVNRL) and Isramco Negev 2 LP. (ISRAL) Along with Noble, Israeli energy exploration companies have discovered enough gas under the Mediterranean over the past three years to supply the country for 150 years.
“We are talking about billions of dollars coming to the state from tax revenues from Tamar gas over a 20-year period,” Gilad Alper, a senior analyst at Excellence Nessuah Brokerage Ltd. in Tel Aviv, said in a phone interview. “It will also reduce energy costs as we will replace expensive imports with a cheap domestic supply of natural gas. The start of the flow is a big positive for the economy.”
The Tamar and Dalit fields could supply Israel with gas for two decades. The larger Leviathan field is estimated to hold 18 trillion cubic feet of gas, Noble said in a statement March 6. “This is an important day for the Israeli economy,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today in an e-mailed statement. “We are taking an important step toward energy independence.”
The three fields provide Israel with reserves more than 14 times larger than Germany’s total proven gas reserves, which the BP Statistical Review of World Energy published in June 2012 lists at 2.2 trillion cubic feet. Russia holds the biggest gas reserves, followed by Iran, according to BP Plc. (BP/)
For Israel, this also means the opportunity to export its excess capacity, which will likely occur when the larger Leviathan gas field, which has an estimated 16 to 18 trillion cubic feet of gas, is expected to go online in 2016. Of course, Israel has to work out security and economic agreements with both its regional neighbours and keep an eye on Russia, which has a large stake in Europe's gas market. All in all this is good news for Israel.


You can read the rest of the article at [BusinessWeek]

Troubling Times for Women At Egypt's Tahrir Square


Women on the Run: The Guardian writes: "A woman marches on the Muslim Brotherhood's
HQ in Cairo to protest at plans to reduce the legal age of marriage to 13."
Photo Credit: Gary Calton for the Observer
Source: The Guardian

An article, by Tracy McVeigh, in The Guardian says that women, who were at the vanguard of the Arab Revolution against the rule of former leader Hosni Mubarak, are now being treated as second-class citizens under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood. The new rulers have legislated changes that have made Egypt more restrictive for women, including lowering the age of marriage from 18 to 13. Liberal women who have taken to the streets in protest have been met with physical and sexual assaults.
Dozens of manned police vans remained parked a kilometre away. The only sirens came from ambulances that drove through the crowds and past burning vehicles to take some 40 injured people to hospital. One angry woman with a bleeding mouth and eyes streaming from the tear gas pulled off her headscarf and stood yelling at the other side, the supporters of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood: "You are not Islam! You are not Egypt! Where is my freedom?"
So go most Fridays in Cairo over the past few weeks as liberal Egyptians have shown their virulent opposition to the president, Mohamed Morsi, as he has awarded himself new powers and pushed through a deeply contentious new constitution. Several buildings of the Muslim Brotherhood, the group behind Morsi, have been burned. In post-Arab spring Egypt the revolution continues. But it's women of all classes who have found themselves most alienated – written out of the jostling for power and subjected to a skyrocketing number of sex assaults, rapes and harassment.
Women who stood shoulder to shoulder with men during the 2011 Tahrir Square protests that brought down Hosni Mubarak found their position in society undermined almost immediately. The parliamentary quota for women was removed without debate and a promised female vice-president failed to materialise, amid what political commentator Moushira Khattab called "a radical anti-feminist sentiment". Morsi threatened but stopped short of decriminalising Egypt's practice of female genital mutilation, carried out on almost three-quarters of Egyptian girls, making it clear he would not tackle an issue he called "a family matter".
The new constitution has swept away recognition of women's rights and left the door open to the legalisation of perhaps Egypt's most crippling social issue–underage marriage. Draft legislation that would allow the legal age of marriage to be lowered from 18 to 13 has been drawn up while clerics within the Muslim Brotherhood have indicated that marriage at the age of nine for girls is acceptable. 
"They see women as, number one, objects of sex and, number two, to clean their floors. This is what the Egyptian 'brotherhood' is all about," said Fatma, 24, an engineering graduate marching with her friends, some in burqas, some in headscarves. The women keep close together, arms linked and eyes alert for the men flying down the side of the demonstration on motorcycles grabbing and screaming at females. "They want to marry us at nine years old. Are these really the kind of men we want to run our country? Paedophiles?"
Political progress has been slow, with parliamentary elections scheduled for April now postponed with no new date. Frustrations have built.
Such is not surprising. Democracy is not normative for Arab nations; there is no history of it, thus such restrictions of individual liberty and expression, whether under a secular authoritarian regime or a religious one, is often the expected outcome. And yet, the current regime is going further, repressing the rights of women gained under the previous government. As one women in the article said, rather poignantly, I might add:
Now we have never been so far apart, men and women. In such a short time, such a gulf. Now we are fighting just for the right to walk down the street without being assaulted. It is so hard, so shocking. To see the rights we had being ripped away and lost in the power struggle. To see us go backwards.
Such is a betrayal of sorts. The women who had stood side-by-side with the men at Tahrir Square are seeing their hopes and dreams for a better more democratic future quickly turning into a nightmare—and so quickly after President Morsi took power. If things were bad under the authoritarian but secular rule of Mubarak, they are now worse under Morsi's desire to implement strict Sharia law in a nation where a significant part of the people don't desire it.


You can read the rest of the article at [The Guardian]

Saturday, March 30, 2013

China's Rampant Growth Leads To Excessive Environmental Damage; It Costs Its Economy $230 Billion In 2010

China's Environment

East Beijing: Construction workers demolish a house with smokestacks in the background emitting toxins into the air. China's unsustainable growth is costing the nation at least $230 billion a year, or 3.5% of its GDP. There is also the added cost of premature deaths and other illnessses linked to poor air quality, estimated at $100 billion a year.
Photo Credit: Sim Chi Yin; The New York Times
Source: NYT

An article, by Edward Wong, in the New York Times says that the cost to the environment of China's unregulated economic growth has cost the nation "$230 billion in 2010, or 3.5 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product." This figure says much: it is three times the cost reported in 2004, as China's leaders still continue to encourage economic growth at the cost of the health of its cities and the people who inhabit them.
Wong writes:
The rapidly eroding environment across the country has become an issue of paramount concern to many Chinese. In January, outrage boiled over as air pollution in north China reached record levels, well beyond what Western environmental agencies consider hazardous. The public fury forced propaganda officials to allow official Chinese news organizations to report more candidly on the pollution.
Chinese state-owned enterprises in the oil and power industries have consistently blocked efforts by pro-environment government officials to impose policies that would alleviate the pollution.
There have also been constant concerns over water and soil pollution. The discovery of at least 16,000 dead pigs in rivers that supply drinking water to Shanghai has ignited alarm there. This week, China Central Television reported that farmers in a village in Henan Province were using wastewater from a paper mill to grow wheat. But one farmer said they would not dare to eat the wheat themselves. It is sold outside the village, perhaps ending up in cities, while the farmers grow their own wheat with well water.
The Beijing government on Thursday released details of a three-year plan that is aimed at curbing various forms of pollution, according to a report on Friday in China Daily, an official English-language newspaper. The report quoted Wang Anshun, Beijing’s mayor, as saying that sewage treatment, garbage incineration and forestry development would cost at least $16 billion.
This is  a start, but it falls short of what China has to spend over the next few years. China has to invest far more in environmental controls and protection; this is a lesson that western-developed nations learned in the 1970s, as they grappled with rampant growth and increasing environmental problems. For one, healthcare costs will rise, says an article by Meena Thiruvengad in The Finacialist, as more of its citizens become sicker, due to air pollution:
The World Bank estimated that illnesses and premature deaths linked to China’s pollution cost it about $100 billion – the equivalent of 3 percent of the country’s annual gross domestic product – in 2009 alone. A separate study by Greenpeace and Peking University estimates particulate pollution cost four major cities more than $1 billion and caused more than 8,000 premature deaths last year. “China’s economy has skyrocketed, but at a price. Power plants, factories and heavy industries are all belching out black, dirty air, at the cost of our health and our environment,” Greenpeace said.
Economic growth is fine and laudable, and it is understandable why developing nations like China, India and Brazil want to increase their economic potential, but unsustained growth will eventually lead to the problems now very apparent in China, the world's second-largest economy.

You can read the rest of the article at [NYT]

A Belief In Monsters

Human Imagination & Fear

William Blake's Red Dragon: William Blake [1757-1827], the English poet, mystic and painter, made a series of paintings of the Great Red Dragon between 1805 and 1810, entirely based on the Christian Bible’s apocalyptic Book of Revelation (Rev. 12). This one is named “The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun;” it shows the dragon, identified with Satan, ready to devour the child, humanity’s redeemer, of a pregnant woman. The painting is currently housed at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City.
Credit: William Blake; painted between 1806-1809.
Source: The Telegraph

In a book review in The Telegraph of Robert Kaplan’s Science of Monsters, Peter Stanford writes that many people believe in monsters and other horrifying creatures, including Christians who view the devil as a monster wreaking havoc on the aspirations of humanity. Putting aside the religious arguments for now, Kaplan says that there are psychological reasons why individuals need to believe in their existence.

Stanford in his review writes:
What he has grasped is that, however much the rational and sane majority airily dismiss tales of fire-breathing dragons, strange creatures from outer space or beasts that inhabit the depths, there is still buried in most of us that reflex that can't help, on a dark night, walking along a lonely country lane, wondering, “What if there’s something out there?” And when we do, the collective cultural baggage of these tales of ghosts, ghouls and griffins is usually sufficient to make us put our hands over our eyes to block out what may just be lurking out there. But, then, we still peep.

It is that tension that makes the book such a lively and compelling read. It treads lightly through vast swathes of ancient history, literature, folklore and contemporary popular culture, pausing occasionally to pass what has been gathered up through the filter of science. So if you have ever wanted a clear account of the Minotaur, the Medusa, werewolves and even King Kong, this short, sharp book is a perfect starting point, linking the Ancient Greeks with Ridley Scott.

However, the overall balancing act between credulity and scepticism cannot ultimately be sustained to the end. However diligently Kaplan explores the real-life possible models for the mythical creatures that haunt our imagination – giant snakes for dragons, for example, or unearthed dinosaur skeletons fuelling blood-chilling tales of monstrosities hiding away in the depths of the forest – he cannot resist turning to psychology for the most plausible explanations.

In its simplest forms, we like to put a face and a form to things we don’t understand. So when ships disappeared, unaccountably, from calm seas, their loss used to be ascribed not to technical failure but to monsters who came up from the bottom of the ocean to drag the unsuspecting mariners ever downwards. Those who lived in areas prone to earth tremors and eruptions put them down to angry monsters rising up from the ground to wreak havoc.
Now, it's always true that if individuals can’t accept an explanation from science, they will turn to long-standing myths and fables to address their need for closure, and monster myths provide such a understanding. Now, I don't believe in monsters of the extra-terrestrial kind. But I do agree with what Primo Levi wrote regarding “monsters” of the human kind: “Monsters exist, but they are too few in numbers to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are…the functionaries ready to believe and act without asking questions” (Reawakening, 214). Blind obedience, often in the form of blind faith, whether religious or secular, is more monstrous to humanity than anything resembling giant winged creatures, ghosts and sea monsters.

You can read the rest of the review article in [The Telegraph]

Friday, March 29, 2013

Fibre Can Reduce Risk of Strokes; Total Intake Of Plant-Based Foods Should Be At Least 20 Grams A Day

Health News

An article, by Alan Mozes, in U.S. News and World report, says that an increase in dietary fibre can reduce the risk of strokes, which each year kills or debilitates millions of people worldwide. The study, done in Britain, concluded by saying that individual would do their bodies well by eating foods rich in dietary fibre; at least 20 grams a day is the recommended amount, the study's authors say:

Mozes writes:
For every 7-gram bump in daily fiber consumption, an individual's risk for experiencing an initial stroke appears to plummet 7 percent, the investigators concluded after analyzing 20-plus years of research."This is important because most people in the U.S. do not eat enough fiber-rich foods," said study co-author Victoria Burley, from the Center for Epidemiology & Biostatistics at the University of Leeds in England.
"Total dietary fiber intake should be 25 to 30 grams a day from food, but on average people in the U.S. are getting only half this amount," Burley said. Most people would have little trouble increasing overall fiber intake by 7 grams a day, the team concluded. A wide range of everyday foods—for example, a serving of whole-wheat pasta plus a piece of fruit and a standard serving of tomatoes—would enable people to reach this goal, the authors said.
The finding builds on prior evidence that has indicated consumption of plant-based dietary fiber — including fruits, nuts, vegetables and whole grains—may curb key factors that raise stroke risk, such as high blood pressure and elevated levels of so-called "bad" (LDL) cholesterol.
Strokes occur when a clot blocks a blood vessel to the brain or when a blood vessel bleeds into the brain. Stroke and other brain-based blood vessel diseases are collectively the world's second-leading killer, causing more than 6 million deaths annually and leaving large numbers of people with lasting disability.
As someone who has become more careful and aware of what he eats, I have increased the amount of fibre I consume daily. This includes a healthy amount of fruits and vegetables. This approach also has the added advantage of keeping me regular; there are also other studies that say that dietary fibre can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.


You can read the rest of the article at [U.S. News]

'Zero-Tolerance' Policies: Are They Effective?

Public Policy

Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil.
Thomas Mann, Death in Venice and Other Tales

Zero-Tolerance Over-Reactions:
Credit& Source:
One of the policies that often receives little scrutiny as to its effectiveness is the idea of "zero tolerance," a public policy that dates to the 1990s; the phrase itself ought to give pause for further consideration. In a sense, it implies an intolerance for something, usually a negative social action, which is understandable and acceptable. The question under consideration here is whether zero-tolerance policies have been given too broad of a definition, thus limiting reason, common sense and flexibility in its application.

Zero tolerance started out as a sound policy to combat racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, misogyny and other forms of social evils; in this regard the policy is sound and good for society. A policy that attacks evil is a good and necessary one. But it has morphed into something beyond its original intentions, chiefly, I suspect, because governments like to act, or at least appear they are acting in the best interest of society.

Schools, the cradle of learning, seemed like an appealing choice to institute zero-tolerance policies, particularly since some schools had a serious problem with violent students. Teachers should not have to endure such agressive blatant acts of violence, and it's reasonable and necessary that all such students should be removed from school. But what happens when the policy is applied not to clear acts of violence but to thoughts, ideas and normal activity? So, today, zero-tolerance has become a convenient catch-phrase to include anything that the state considers threatening in society, including colourful language, roughhousing among boys, playing games with toy weapons, and as the cartoon depicts, making imagery of weapons.

The religious taboo of making images of deities has now been transferred in secular society to the taboo of making images of weapons. This is risible in a nation, the United States, that has at least 250 million guns within its borders—the highest per capita rate in the world—and that has a political lobby that defends their necessity and use. I wonder if the irony is lost on legislators and policy makers. That the state has created the problem it now wants to solve, by other means, is also questionable, and would be funny if it were not so serious.

The consensus is that public safety is too important to ignore; yet the way that legislators have gone about its implementation defies common sense and good public policy. To a great degree, the state's need to create safe public spaces has led to unintended consequences where all individuals, including school-age boys, are viewed as suspicious when through no fault of their own they act as boys [see Allowing Boys To Be Boys]—all actions thought harmless and normative in a previous generation now undergo scrutiny by educational officials.

Nowhere is this greater than in American schools, which has had its incidents of school shootings. The greater question is whether such a zero-tolerance policy has actually made schools safer? Zero tolerance, by implication, suggests that to prevent unlawful acts of violence of any magnitude from being committed by school-age children, schools need to assiduously and continually monitor their students and all actions. This is a scary and costly proposition, and it also takes much-needed time from teachers whose ultimate purpose is : teach children.

In effect, schools in many ways are now approaching the model of prisons; they already use the language, including words like lockdown. (Perhaps teachers ought to dress in uniform, as well, giving them more authority and carry side arms, as some have suggested.) The normal mind ought to recoil that schools approach the look and feel of prisons, but not the policy-makers, it seems. Don't let the facts stand in the way of a good tough-sounding approach.

Yet, both the approach and arguments supporting it are tendentious if not absurd, since there are no peer-reviewed scientific studies that show, let alone prove, that such public policies actually work. And yet, such is the standard policy in schools today, not only in the United States, but in Canada and in many European states.

An article ("Are Zero Tolerance Policies Effective in the Schools?; 2008) published by the American Psychological Association's Zero Tolerance Task Force says the following:
Yet abundant controversy has been created in schools and communities throughout the nation in the actual implementation of zero tolerance policies and practices. For example, as reported in the St. Petersburg Times (“Educational Intolerance,” 2001), a 10-year-old girl found a small knife in her lunchbox placed there by the mother for cutting an apple. Although she immediately handed over the knife to her teacher, she was expelled from school for possessing a weapon. In another case, an adolescent was expelled for violating school rules by talking to his mother on a cellphone while at school—his mother was on deployment as a soldier in Iraq and he had not spoken with her in 30 days (Torpy, 2005). Such cases rankle students, their parents, and the public but are often rationalized as necessary sacrifices if zero tolerance policies are to be applied fairly and are to be effective in creating a deterrent effect.
One of the results of a zero-tolerance policy is that it has created an exclusive state, which might sound good to some people. It has lead to undue harsh punishments, a deviation from examining evidence on a case-by-case basis to a one-size-fits-all approach; it's too simplistic a model to apply for all cases. Of greater importance and consideration is that zero-tolerance policies will never solve the far greater socio-economic problems that exist—most notably in the U.S. but also evident in all western democracies—such as poverty, inequalities and injustices.

The APA task force concluded with the following sensible recommendations:
The accumulated evidence points to a clear need for change in how zero tolerance policies are applied and toward the need for a set of alternative practices. These alternatives rely upon a more flexible and commonsense application of school discipline and on a set of prevention practices that have been validated in over 10 years of school violence research. Although further research is necessary to understand how best to implement such alternatives, current evidence clearly suggests that research-based prevention practices hold a great deal more promise than zero tolerance for reaching our shared goals of safe schools and productive learning environments..
That was in 2008; needless to say, the state has only increased its vigilance and further broadened its use of zero-tolerance policies. Is it far-fetched to think that, with such policies considered good and normative, a policy of ferreting out thought crimes is not far behind?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The 1970s: Documenting Unfettered American Capitalism; Result—Pollution & Industrial Waste

American Industry

America Of The 1970s: The Economist writes: “Industrial smog blacks out homes adjacent to 
the North Birmingham pipe plant.” 
Photo Credit: Leroy Woodson, Birmingham, Alabama, July 1972.
Source: The Economist

An article in The Economist looks at a photographic project that documents how America in the 1970s was a land filled with pollution and industrial waste. The work, done by almost 70 photographers between 1970 and 72, were commissioned by the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA. Gifford Hampshire, a former photo editor, at National Geographic selected the photos looking at the nation’s environment.

The article (“The spoils of industry;” March 26, 2013) states:
With Arthur Rothstein, an FSA veteran, as his adviser, Hampshire sought to create not just a “visual baseline” from which future environmental improvements could be measured, but also a broader vision of the country as a whole. “Where you see people there’s an environmental element to which they are connected,” he told his photographers. “The great DOCUMERICA pictures will show the connection and what it means.” The result was a project of immense breadth and scale, producing almost 22,000 images over five years that spanned the continent, from kitsch New York suburbia to polluted Louisiana beaches; sprawling Texas motorways to chemical spills in Kentucky; sun-bleached farmers in Minnesota to black muslims in Chicago. This project has not been exhibited in public since its 1970s heyday.
A small but fascinating selection is now on show at the National Archives in Washington, DC. The exhibition shows how a photographic shorthand was being created for decades of ensuing environmental reportage—pools of toxic sludge, oil-covered birds, power stations belching out fumes. It also paints a clear picture of the trends, fashions and cultural shifts taking place in the 1970s, despite the obfuscating smog.
In contrast to the monochromatic images of the FSA, which seem to depict a world of basic subsistence drained of all comfort, the colour-saturated photographs of DOCUMERICA speak of a country overflowing with the deadly side-products of plenty. A boy is shown walking towards his clapboard house over which looms a smelter chimney belching out fumes into a cobalt blue sky. Rusting automobiles abandoned in a toxic pond look like ancient creatures oozing out of primordial sludge—a whole new type of traffic jam.
It does not make a pretty picture, but it’s not supposed to. It’s important is to document how things appeared in the early 1970s when environmental standards in the U.S. (and elsewhere, including Canada) were comparably more lax than they are today. Such photos ought to be viewed as a cautionary tale against allowing companies to freely go ahead, unfettered, with their plans of exploiting the earth without the need to plan for the future; such companies are not the best at environmental compliance unless tough regulations persuade them otherwise.

You can read the rest of the article and view the other photos at [The Economist]

The Rabbi At Buchenwald Shouts For Freedom

The Shoah

Rabbi Schacter leading a Shavuot service at Buchenwald, May 18, 1945, five weeks after American soldiers had liberated the camp
Wikpedia says: “American chaplain Rabbi Hershel Schaecter conducts the service of the first day of Shavuoth for Buchenwald survivors shortly after liberation. Pictured in the first row wearing shorts is Robert Buechler, while the youth sitting in front of the lecturn, looking back at the camera, is Stefan Jakubowicz. Israel Meir Lau is pictured sitting third from left, in the first row, between two American soldiers. Seated in the second row are Jakub Chojt (left side, wearing a white shirt) and brothers, Yosl Bekiermaszyn, now Baker, (middle of the row, wearing a black jacket) and Boruch Bekiermaszyn (two to the right of him). The Shavuot service commemorates the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. The previous month, Rabbi Schachter had also led a Second Passover service since the survivors did not have a chance to celebrate Passover on its actual date [Ed: March 29, 1945]. The day after this Shavuot service was held, a group of Jewish children were repatriated to their homes in Czechoslovakia.”
Photo Credit: National Archives and Records Administration, College Park
Source: Wikipedia
An article, by Margalit Fox, in The New York Times recounts the time Rabbi Herschel Schacter entered the concentration camp of Buchenwald, near Wiemar, Germany, one of the largest set up by the Nazis in 1937. It was a few weeks before the official end of the Second World War, and Buchenwald was the first camp the U.S. Army liberated:
It was April 11, 1945, and Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army had liberated the concentration camp scarcely an hour before. Rabbi Schacter, who was attached to the Third Army’s VIII Corps, was the first Jewish chaplain to enter in its wake. That morning, after learning that Patton’s forward tanks had arrived at the camp, Rabbi Schacter, who died in the Riverdale section of the Bronx on Thursday at 95 after a career as one of the most prominent Modern Orthodox rabbis in the United States, commandeered a jeep and driver. He left headquarters and sped toward Buchenwald.
By late afternoon, when the rabbi drove through the gates, Allied tanks had breached the camp. He remembered, he later said, the sting of smoke in his eyes, the smell of burning flesh and the hundreds of bodies strewn everywhere. He would remain at Buchenwald for months, tending to survivors, leading religious services in a former Nazi recreation hall and eventually helping to resettle thousands of Jews.
For his work, Rabbi Schacter was singled out by name on Friday by Yisrael Meir Lau, the former Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel, in a meeting with President Obama at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial. In Buchenwald that April day, Rabbi Schacter said afterward, it seemed as though there was no one left alive. In the camp, he encountered a young American lieutenant who knew his way around. 
“Are there any Jews alive here?” the rabbi asked him.
He was led to the Kleine Lager, or Little Camp, a smaller camp within the larger one. There, in filthy barracks, men lay on raw wooden planks stacked from floor to ceiling. They stared down at the rabbi, in his unfamiliar military uniform, with unmistakable fright.
Rabbi Schacter died on March 21, 2013; he was 95. Fox of the Times writes: "A resident of the Riverdale section of the Bronx, Rabbi Schacter is survived by his wife, the former Pnina Gewirtz, whom he married in 1948; a son, Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter, who confirmed his father’s death; a daughter, Miriam Schacter; four grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren." Rabbi Schacter's good deeds will always be remembered, notably by those he touched while at Buchenwald; his is an example for us to emulate.


You can read the rest of the article at [NYT]

Sex, Murder & The Meaning of Life

Book Review

We welcome back Gad Saad and his review of Douglas T. Kenrick’s recent trade book (which just came out in paperback) titled Sex, Murder, and the Meaning of Life: A Psychologist Investigates How Evolution, Cognition, and Complexity are Revolutionizing Our View of Human Nature. Prof Saad writes: "While I had briefly met Doug on one or two previous occasions, this was the first time that I had the opportunity to interact with him at length. Doug’s contributions to the field of evolutionary psychology (EP) are astronomical. He is one of the pioneers of the field having published many highly influential papers over the past two decades or so."


Douglas T. Kenricks' Book: Sex, Murder, and the Meaning of Life: A Psychologist Investigates How Evolution, Cognition, and Complexity are Revolutionizing Our View of Human Nature.
Photo Credit & Source:
by Gad Saad
I am writing these words while on a flight returning home from my visit to Arizona State University (ASU) where I gave talks in the Psychology and Marketing departments. This was a truly wonderful visit in which I met an endless number of brilliant colleagues and doctoral students, many of whom I had intellectually stimulating conversations about our respective works. I wish to thank the ASU folks for having extended me their warm hospitality.

In today’s post, I briefly review Douglas T. Kenrick’s recent trade book (which just came out in paperback) titled Sex, Murder, and the Meaning of Life: A Psychologist Investigates How Evolution, Cognition, and Complexity are Revolutionizing Our View of Human Nature. Doug is a Professor of Psychology at ASU and a highly popular Psychology Today blogger. While I had briefly met Doug on one or two previous occasions, this was the first time that I had the opportunity to interact with him at length. Doug’s contributions to the field of evolutionary psychology (EP) are astronomical. He is one of the pioneers of the field having published many highly influential papers over the past two decades or so. As a side note, I prefer to refer to EP as a meta-theory rather than as a field, as ultimately all of psychology if not all of the behavioral sciences should be consistent with if not informed by evolutionary Scientific prominence does not always translate into an ability to communicate with a non-specialist audience but Doug’s trade book highlights this exact rare skill.

He has an uncanny ability to make complex evolutionary ideas come to life via his entertaining prose laced with gripping personal anecdotes. It takes a generosity of spirit to share one’s deeply personal accounts with the public at large. Some of these were profoundly painful (e.g., the accidental loss of Doug’s brother) while others were risqué (e.g., the three-way kiss with two beautiful young women). All of his autobiographical prose though served as a brilliant rhetorical device to bring evolutionary psychology to life (well to his life).

Why do we notice an angry face when expressed by a man more so than by a woman? Are there differences between the sexes when it comes to regret-inducing realities in romantic relationships? How do key fundamental Darwinian motives shape the manner by which we navigate our daily realities (e.g., searching for a mate, ascending the social hierarchy, avoiding environmental dangers)? In my own books, The Evolutionary Bases of Consumption and The Consuming Instinct: What Juicy Burgers, Ferraris, Pornography, and Gift Giving Reveal About Human Nature, I argue that many consumption acts could be mapped onto four key Darwinian meta-drives: Survival, Reproduction, Kin Selection, and Reciprocal Altruism. As such, Doug and I agree that there are basal Darwinian computational modules that guide our behaviors albeit we might slightly disagree as to their appropriate granularity (e.g., my reproductive module is further broken down by Doug into mate acquisition and mate retention).

In order to explain the domain-specific view of the human mind (known as the massive modularity hypothesis), Doug utilizes some clever labels to identify the specific evolutionarily important challenges that most people face in their daily lives: The team player, the go-getter, the night watchman, the compulsive, the swinging single, the good spouse, and the parent. Another example of Doug’s poignant prose is his use of the “mind as a coloring book” metaphor when critiquing the blank slate view of the human mind (see my recent article on the blank slate premise here). Individuals might make use of different colors for a given drawing but these must take place within the fixed confines of the borders. Doug’s metaphor reminds me of E.O. Wilson’s famous quote: “The genes hold culture on a leash. The leash is very long, but inevitably values will be constrained in accordance with their effects on the human gene pool.”

Bottom line: These questions and countless other fascinating issues are tackled by Kenrick in an illuminating and yet highly entertaining manner. I strongly recommend Doug’s book to anyone who wishes to have a better understanding of the evolution of the human mind.

Please consider following me on Twitter (@GadSaad).

Dr. Gad Saad is Professor of Marketing, holder of the Concordia University Research Chair in Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences and Darwinian Consumption, and advisory fellow at the Center for Inquiry. He has published 65+ scientific articles in numerous disciplines including in marketing, consumer behavior, advertising, medicine, economics, and bibliometrics. He has authored two books, The Evolutionary Bases of Consumption (Lawrence Erlbaum, 2007), and The Consuming Instinct: What Juicy Burgers, Ferraris, Pornography, and Gift Giving Reveal About Human Nature (Prometheus Books, 2011), as well as edited a third book,Evolutionary Psychology in the Business Sciences (Springer, 2011). His Psychology Today blog, Homo Consumericus, has thus far garnered 1.9-million+ total views. 
Copyright ©2013. Gad Saad. All Rights Reserved. This post was originally published in Psychology Today on January 28, 2013. It is republished here with the author's permission.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Brain Scans Can Predict Criminality Before It Occurs; Yet, Ethical & Legal Issues Need To Be First Addressed

Criminal Behaviour

An article, by Regina Nuzzo, in Nature News says that neuroscientists can predict which criminals are likely to re-offend, that is, commit another crime, based on brain scans.
Kent Kiehl, a neuroscientist at the non-profit Mind Research Network in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and his collaborators studied a group of 96 male prisoners just before their release. The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the prisoners’ brains during computer tasks in which subjects had to make quick decisions and inhibit impulsive reactions.
The scans focused on activity in a section of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a small region in the front of the brain involved in motor control and executive functioning. The researchers then followed the ex-convicts for four years to see how they fared.
Among the subjects of the study, men who had lower ACC activity during the quick-decision tasks were more likely to be arrested again after getting out of prison, even after the researchers accounted for other risk factors such as age, drug and alcohol abuse and psychopathic traits. Men who were in the lower half of the ACC activity ranking had a 2.6-fold higher rate of rearrest for all crimes and a 4.3-fold higher rate for nonviolent crimes. The results are published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences1.
There is growing interest in using neuroimaging to predict specific behaviour, says Tor Wager, a neuroscientist at the University of Colorado in Boulder. He says that studies such as this one, which tie brain imaging to concrete clinical outcomes, “provide a new and so far very promising way” to find patterns of brain activity that have broader implications for society.
To be sure, one of the traits shared by many criminals is a lack of inhibition and impulsive behaviour; but not all impulsive individuals turn to crime or illegal activity; and not all criminals are impulsive. There are cold-blooded criminals who are calculating, a list that is notable for its psychopaths and sociopaths.

There are a number of questions that need addressing. I for one would like to know how accurate such predictive scans are. As well, this raises both ethical and legals issues, common to dystopian fiction, where the use of such brain-imaging technology can decide which individuals are likely to commit a crime, before they actually commit it. In such fictional narratives, the state then locks up the individual, for the safety of society, for an indefinite period, or until re-conditioning or re-education proves successful, and the "criminal" is statistically likely to not commit any more crimes against the state. The authors of the study agree that such questions are important, Nuzzo writes:
Perhaps the most appropriate use for neurobiological markers would be for helping to make low-stakes decisions, such as which rehabilitation treatment to assign a prisoner, rather than high-stakes ones such as sentencing or releasing on parole. "A treatment of [these clinical neuroimaging studies] that is either too glibly enthusiastic or over-critical,” Wager says, “will be damaging for this emerging science in the long run.”


You can read the rest of the article at [Nature]

An Act of Mercy In A Merciless World

Israel's Operation Solomon

When Yityish Aynaw ("Titi") won an Israeli beauty pageant, it became a victory for all Ethiopian Jews, who like all immigrants everywhere struggled with the difficulties of a new language and culture. When Miss Yityish Aynaw was added to the guest list of  Barack Obama's gala dinner when the U.S. president visited the country last week, it became a symbolic victory for all Israeli society, and completed the narrative, so to speak, of an amazing, some would say miraculous, rescue. As George Jochnowitz writes: "Operation Solomon, which took place over six years later, on May 24 and 25, 1991, flew 14,310 Ethiopian Jews to Israel in 34 hours and 4 minutes. In addition to being an act of mercy, it was an act of courage in a dangerous world, an act of generosity in a selfish world, and an act of diplomacy in a belligerent world."

by George Jochnowitz

Operation Solomon: The Daring Rescue of the Ethiopian Jews
by Stephen Spector. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press,
2005, xv + 279 pp, $28

“To the Promised Land — in Stages” was the title of a film review written by my friend Leonard Quart and me. It appeared in the June/July 1985 issue of Midstream. We wrote about Operation Moses, an airlift of almost 8,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel between November 18, 1984, and January 5, 1985. We described it as “an act of mercy in a merciless world.” Operation Solomon, which took place over six years later, on May 24 and 25, 1991, flew 14,310 Ethiopian Jews to Israel in 34 hours and 4 minutes. In addition to being an act of mercy, it was an act of courage in a dangerous world, an act of generosity in a selfish world, and an act of diplomacy in a belligerent world.

The term “Ethiopian Jews” was invented by Americans working to help the Beta Israel and adopted in the 1970s by the Beta Israel themselves. (p. 6) “Beta Israel” means “House of Israel” in Amharic, a Semitic language that is the most widely spoken language in Ethiopia. Non-Jews in Ethiopia called the Beta Israel “Falashas,” Amharic for “landless people” or “strangers.” Ethiopian Jews, as we now call them, were tenant farmers in northern Ethiopia. The men were often smiths; the women, often potters. There were some Ethiopian Christians who believed that “the smiths were the direct descendants of the Jews who forged the nails used to crucify Jesus.” (p. 5) People who work with fire, as smiths and potters do, are viewed as having supernatural powers by some Ethiopians. In Ethiopia, as in so many other parts of the world, Jews were seen as mysteriously powerful and therefore dangerous.

Mengistu Haile-Mariam, who ruled Ethiopia from 1974 to 1991, viewed the Jews — or at least, Israel — as powerful. In fact, he tried to use the Ethiopian Jews as a tool to get military aid from Israel. His up-and-down relationship with the Israeli government is part of the extremely complicated story of the rescue of the Beta Israel. His dictatorial policies are a different part of the story. He introduced a policy called “villagization,” which involved the resettlement of 800,000 farmers to remote areas of the country. There had already been drought and famine in the country, and Mengistu’s actions made things a great deal worse. Mengistu reminds us of Chairman Mao, whose actions during the Great Leap Forward caused the greatest famine in human history. There was a rebellion in the north, where the Jews lived, and starvation everywhere. The misery caused by Mengistu, together with his need to negotiate with Israel, at first for arms and later for assistance in escaping from his country when his government fell, form part of the story of Operation Solomon.

An American woman named Susan Pollack was serving as the resident director for the AAEJ (American Association for Ethiopian Jews). In February 1989 she reported to the AAEJ that the Jews were in a desperate situation, suffering from “polio, tuberculosis, malaria, skin fungi, goiters, skin ulcers, and infected wounds.” (p. 29) She persuaded the AAEJ to finance the transportation of the Ethiopian Jews to the capital, Addis Ababa, where they would wait to be flown to Israel. Stephen Spector, in the epilogue to this book, is not quite sure that Pollack did the right thing. By moving thousands of Jews from danger and hardship in the north, Susan Pollack and the AAEJ “exposed them to the degradation and perils of existence in Addis Ababa.” (p. 194)

The Jews were delighted to leave their villages and set out for Addis Ababa, the first step on the way to Jerusalem. In May 1990, hundreds of Jews arrived each week. Then they waited, in some cases as long as a year, while the governments of Israel, Ethiopia, and the world wrangled over whether they would be allowed to leave. Villagers who had lived in a primitive, repressive society and had never seen a city were thrust into a new and awful situation. Spector writes, “Fathers who had always supported their families were reduced to dependency on monthly stipends. Most had never managed cash before, and many spent the money on liquor and prostitutes.” (p.74) Some of the prostitutes carried the HIV virus, and AIDS began to spread through the community. By March 1991, “2 percent of the Ethiopian Jews who had reached Israel were HIV-positive.” (p. 95) Israel could have tested them for HIV before they left and kept out those who tested positive, but the Israelis decided not to do so. It is very much to Israel’s credit that the threat of AIDS did not in any way interfere with Israel’s commitment to save the Jewish refugees who were stranded in Addis Ababa.

Mengistu and his government were in trouble. The revolutionaries were advancing, and the Soviet Union was no longer interested in helping him. His representative, Kassa Kebede, bargained with the Israelis for arms.and money. Kassa knew how to bargain, and the Israelis were willing to pay. But the world is a complicated place. The United States was worried that Israel would deliver cluster bombs to Mengistu (p. 71) Ethiopia stopped the emigration of Jews in March 1991 in order to pressure Israel. Kassa, who was not Jewish, saw the end of the Mengistu regime coming and applied for Israeli visas for his wife and daughter. When the end of the Mengistu regime came, Kassa himself was flown to Israel. He eventually moved to Maryland.

Former United States Senator Rudy Boschwitz was appointed as the envoy of President George H. W. Bush to help arrange the exodus of the Beta Israel. After visiting Ethiopia, Boschwitz went to Khartoum and met with Meles Zenawi, the leader of a revolutionary force fighting against Mengistu. Meles wanted to have good relations with the United States and agreed to cooperate with the exodus of the Jews. (p. 119) Israel agreed to pay $35 million into a bank account as compensation to the Ethiopian government for the money it wouldn’t earn from the air fares of the Jews to Israel, since Israel would be in charge of the airlift. Mengistu would be allowed to escape to Zimbabwe, which he did on May 20, 1991.

The airlift itself, Operation Solomon, faced problem after problem. There were countless questions about account numbers for the deposit of the $35 million. There were threats that the airlift would be canceled. There was the danger that if the Jews weren’t gone when the rebels came into Addis Ababa, there would be a massacre. The money was eventually deposited successfully. There are still questions about who got it. Meles, the new leader of Ethiopia, said he would not use it because it was blood money, but his government drew on the funds over time (pp. 186-88)

I have only one reservation about this book: the two chapters devoted to a woman named Chomanesh. In his preface, Spector tells us, “To protect the witnesses’ identities and to offer a fuller sense of many Ethiopians’ experiences in these events, these characters are composites.” (p. xv) In an exciting, moving, and well-documented history, there is no need to add novelistic chapters. Chomanesh should have been left out since she wasn’t needed to make the story more interesting. Operation Solomon is a remarkably informative book about a tense and very complicated rescue. It is evidence of Israel’s enormous diplomatic and financial efforts to help people in need — evidence of Israel’s goodness and greatness. Reading it is both an educational and an emotional experience.

George Jochnowitz was born in New York City, in 1937.  He became aware of different regional pronunciations when he was six, and he could consciously switch accents as a child. He got his Ph.D. in linguistics from Columbia University and taught linguistics at the College of Staten Island, CUNY.  His area of specialization was Jewish languages, in particular, Judeo-Italian dialects.  As part of a faculty-exchange agreement with Hebei University in Baoding, China, he was in China during the Tiananmen Massacre. He can be reached at

Copyright ©2013. George Jochnowitz. All Rights Reserved. This essay originally appeared in the September/October 2005 issue of Midstream This post can be found on George Jochnowitz. It is republished here with the permission of the author.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Your Mouthwash Might Fight Cancer

Medical Science

An article, by  Ashutosh Jogalekar, in Scientific American looks at a study that says everyday mouthwash might be an effective agent in fighting cancer. Chlorhexidinethe anti-bacterial and plaque-fighting ingredient, common to mouthwashes, suppresses the growth of cancer in the mouth by blocking an interaction between proteins.

Jogalekar writes:
Apoptosis or programmed cell death is one of the great truths of cellular life, an essential process that’s not only required to make way for new cells but to prevent old cells from going haywire. When cells circumvent this great truth they start dividing uncontrollably and contribute to cancer. Our knowledge of cancer over the last three decades has confirmed the central role that a breakdown in the usual mechanisms of apoptosis plays in pushing a cell across the tipping point into a cancerous state. Of the many strategies to fight cancer, one consists of trying to find drugs that force cells to regain their normal balance of apoptosis. Now this effort may have found an unlikely ally.
Chlorhexidine is an antibacterial and plaque-fighting compound that is a common component of mouthwash, usually present as a 0.1% or 0.2% solution. In a paper published in the journal Angewandte Chemie, scientists in Germany report an unexpected effect of chlorhexidine and its related cousin alexidine: they inhibit cancer cells in the mouth by blocking an important protein-protein interaction. This research opens up new directions in investigating this class of compounds as anticancer agents and also sheds light on the value of finding novel potential uses for everyday chemical compounds. One of the great advantages in this endeavor is that the “repurposed” compounds have already run the gauntlet of safety tests required by the FDA, potentially shortening the period of approval for their new uses.
Again, good news coming out of scientific study. This shows that everyday products might have other uses, or as Jogalekar puts it. "Nature is much more interesting than we think and molecules often lead double lives." It would seem that scientific investigation will take a number of tracks in the future, including seeing how everyday products and chemical compounds can be re-purpsed for medical uses in humanity's battle against diseases.


You can read the rest of the article at [ScientAmer]

The Immigrant Life Is Often A Hard, Sad & Lonely One

Culture Shock

My father was an immigrant who literally walked across Europe to get out of Russia. He fought in World War I. He was wounded in action. My father was a great success even though he never had money. He was a very determined man, a great role model. 
Arlen Specter [1930-2012],
U.S Senator, Pennsylvania

Arriving at Ellis Island in New York City (early 20th century)Physicians examine a group of Jewish immigrants who are gathered in a small room, two with their shirts off. Note the eye chart with Hebrew letters that hangs on the wall.  
Photo CreditUnderwood & Underwood; 1907
Source: U.S. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Div.
I am not an immigrant to Canada, my land of birth; yet, I am deeply and emotionally familiar with the immigrant experience, from my upbringing, my choice of friends, and through my marriage. My father was an immigrant from war-torn Poland, arriving first in Toronto in 1951 and then settling in Montreal; he married my mother, a child of immigrants from the Transylvania region of Romania, a year later in 1952. My wife is an immigrant from Russia, by way of Israel and the United States; she became a Canadian citizen in 2012. Many of the friends and persons with whom I attended high school, college and universitiy were sons and daughters of immigrants.

It's hard for someone who's not an immigrant to understand the immigrant life. But I will make an attempt, however feeble it might be. I have also read many stories about immigrants, including those of well-known artists, writers, and photographers who left Europe for America, leaving behind what was known and familiar and finding what was unknown and new. In some cases, it was exciting; in many cases, it was not. Frustration. Despair. Sadness. All these emotions were shared by many immigrants trying to both retain a sense of their old identity while forging a new one in their adopted land. Think about such a difficulty, if you will; I have.

Immigrants often move, not only for themselves, but to forge a better life for their children. And it's a truism that children of immigrants tend to work harder than non-immigrants. "I'm very inspired by him—it was my father who taught us that an immigrant must work twice as hard as anybody else, that he must never give up," says Zinedine Zidane, an European football player whose parents immigrated to France from Algeria.

One of the complaints that long-time residents of a nation often make, usually out of ignorance, is that immigrants tend to stick together and fail to integrate well in their adopted land. There is some degree of truth in that statement, but it's a truth that has some omissions in facts that begs for addition, if only to add some clarity.

Language is often the chief barrier to entering a nation's culture. This explains why immigrants in their adopted nation often congregate with individuals from their land of birth; it's a matter of comfort and familiarity, having at least an ability to communicate—until they learn the native language sufficiently well—in a language they now understand. My wife once remarked that immigrants often make friends with individuals in their new country who they, typically, would not be friends with in their country of birth. Newcomers often willingly live together in dedicated geographical areas, so-called ghettos. The reasons are simple enough to explain. The commonality of language and a shared history is often enough to united people, different in many other areas, to bind them in friendship, even if of a temporary or convenient nature.

Now, some people have an ability learning languages, others don't. It has nothing to do with effort or intelligence or willingness to learn. These are false ideas and ought to be put to rest. Many immigrants learn the language, have an excellent vocabulary, but speak with a  noticeable "thick accent." Again, that has nothing to do with intelligence. Yet, it can act as a barrier of acceptance for some immigrants, who become somewhat fearful to speak their adopted language. Too much judgment is made, by the listener, of the speaker's abilities, based on accepted accent and general speech patters—to wit, language abilities. On the face of it, it sounds absurd, yet it's very real.

I remember one of my friends remarking about my father's accent when I was a high-school student; I felt embarrassed for him, which of course was wrong, but understandable for a kid who wanted to fit in with his friends. This story will be familiar to many.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Jewish Humour: Drinking

Monday Humor

Much of the Jewish humour on this site can be found in this wonderful book: The Encyclopedia of Jewish Humor, compiled and edited by Henry D. Spalding.


This week's humour is focused on Drinking:

Ben Cohen had been drinking at a pub all night. The bartender finally said that the bar was closing. So Ben stood up to leave and fell flat on his face. He tried to stand one more time; same result. Ben figured he'll crawl outside and get some fresh air and maybe that would sober him up. 

Once outside, Ben stood up but fell flat on his face again. So he decided to crawl the 4 blocks to his home. When he arrived at the door, Ben stood up and again fell flat on his face. He crawled through the door and into his bedroom. When he reached his bed Ben tried one more time to stand up. This time he managed to pull himself upright, but he quickly fell right into bed and fell sound asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. He was awakened the next morning to his wife, Yente, standing over him, shouting, "So, you've been out drinking again!" "What makes you say that?" Ben asked, putting on an innocent look. 

Yente replied "The pub called—you left your wheelchair there again."

This guy goes into the bar every night and orders three beers. In fact every night he goes into the bar and orders three beers and drinks them all by himself. Three beers...every night. Not two. Never 4. Always 3.

Well, the bartender can't figure this out. Without fail this guy comes in. The bartender finally says to the guy "Every night you come in here and have three beers. There must be a story to this. You never order two beers, or four beers; always three."

The guy says "Yes, there is a story." You see, me and my two buddies always went out for a beer at night when we were in Vietnam. One night while we were drinking we decided that we could continue doing this when we return to the States. We also decided if one of us didn't make it, the other two would drink the third one's beer. And if two didn't make it, the third guy would drink the other two beers. The other two didn't make it back so I'm drinking

The bartender felt bad.

Well, the next night the guy came back into the bar as usual but only ordered two beers. The bartender couldn't believe it. Night after night this guy now orders only two beers. This went on for some time and the bartender was sopuzzled he just had to ask the guy about it.

The bartender says to him, "I noticed you have only been ordering two beers for the last few weeks. There has to be a story here."

The guy says, "Yes indeed there is a story. You see I joined the Mormon Church and I can't drink beer any more."

You must have heard about the Jew from Soviet Georgia who came to Israel to live. Well every night or so he would get together with his Gruzzini friends and eat and drink into the night. Then one night when he and his friends were eating together, they started to open a bottle of wine to make a lechaim as is traditional at these nightly meals. "No, sorry." The man refused his friends' offer of a little wine, "I was at the doctor's office today and the doctor told me that I can't drink wine or spirits any more; it's bad for my health," he apologized.

"What do you mean?" they queried. "We always get together, eat and make lachaims. Are you really not going to drink with us?" they asked.

"Sorry, but what can I do? That's the doctor's orders!"

The next evening they all got together again and began to eat and drink. "Let's make a lechaim!" They started to pour themselves each a large glass of wine.

"NO, no! Sorry, I can't drink. Doctor's orders, bad for my health," the man explained again.

"What, again you are not going to drink with us?" his friends complained.

"What can I do? Doctor's orders," the man explained.

And again the scene was repeated the next night also. "What, are you serious?" his friends complained. "Are you going to spend the rest of your life with out drinking? You'll ruin your life!"

"What can I do? Doctor's orders," the man sadly explained.

The next night when they got together to eat and drink. They began to pour each other a lachaim. However this time the man stuck out his glass "here, fill up my glass with some of that wine!"

Astounded, his friends stared at him in amazement. "What happened? We thought that it was forbidden for you to drink wine? Doctor's orders and all?"

"Well," the man began to explain, "I went to the doctor and asked him if it was still bad for my health to drink and he said yes. So I took out fifty dollars and slipped it to him under the table. So he changed his mind and said it would be OK to drink!"

2 Giant Pandas From China To Arrive In Canada; Will Spend Ten Years At Zoos In Toronto & Calgary

Foreign Relations

Female Panda, Er Shun: "Female giant pandas are only capable of reproducing once every other year from age 4 to age 20," the NatPost says.
Photo CreditAdrian Wyld/The Canadian Press
Source: NatPost

An article, by Canadian Press, in The National Post says China has loaned two giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca, lit. black and white cat-foot), which are bears, to Canada for ten years; they will spend their time equally at zoos in Toronto and Calgary. The pandas, from southwestern China, are named Er Shun and Da Mao.
A pair of giant pandas born and raised in China are about to receive a Canadian welcome worthy of their name. The Toronto Zoo will begin playing host to a male and female bear on Monday, just over a year after the cuddly creatures were officially loaned to Canada by the Chinese government.
Five-year-old Er Shun and her prospective mating partner, four-year-old Da Mao, will call Toronto home for five years before being relocated to the Calgary Zoo for the same length of time. Canadian and Chinese officials have voiced hopes the pair will add to the species’ sparse population during their sojourn. The animals are arriving in Canada in the sort of style not often experienced by even two-legged diplomats.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who personally announced the loan deal during a trip to China last year, will be on hand to greet the new arrivals as they disembark from a highly customized plane trip. A FedEx Express Canada MD11 aircraft branded with an image of a panda was to leave China on Sunday afternoon. The plane is to arrive in Toronto on Monday morning.
FedEx Express Canada President Lisa Lisson said the process of preparing the bears for travel began days before the flight. “We created very special customized enclosures for the two pandas and we actually sent them over there,” Lisson said. “They’re in the panda’s environment so they can go up to them and look at them and touch them . . . so when they go inside the enclosures they’ll be familiar with them.
Who could resist the giant pandas? Pandas spend most of their day eating and sleeping; up to 16 hours a day is devoted to eating, where an adult panda can go through 20 kilograms of the fibre; the rest of the time is devoted to sleeping and posing for visitors. And perhaps mating to produce offspring. Yet, the Toronto Zoo has said the public will have to wait, however, until May to view the pandas, Er Shun, a female, and Da Mao, a male.

You can read the rest of the article at [NatPost]