Saturday, January 31, 2015

Suffocating Bone Cancer Cells

BioMedical Engineering Technology

Science Imitating Nature: “The inspiration for spinning a molecular cage around cells came from nature, says Rein V. Ulijn of the City University of New York’s Hunter College,” SciAmer says.
Credit: National Cancer Institute
Source: SciAmer

An article, by Erika Gebel Berg  in Scientific American says that chemists have designed a molecule that can trap bone cancer cells in a web made of nanofibres, essentially depriving them of nutrients and suffocating them.

Gebel Berg writes:
Chemists have designed a carbohydrate-based molecule that can surround and strangle bone cancer cells by self-assembling into a tangled web of nanofibers (J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2014, DOI: 10.1021/ ja5111893). The molecule spares healthy cells because its assembly is triggered by an enzyme that’s overexpressed on cancer cells.

The inspiration for spinning a molecular cage around cells came from nature, says Rein V. Ulijn of the City University of New York’s Hunter College. Many of the body’s cells are enmeshed in an extracellular matrix—a complex web of biomolecules that provides structure for tissues, facilitates intercellular communication, and traps nutrients. Scientists are developing molecules that spontaneously assemble into simpler versions of this matrix to provide a growth medium for cells, in particular for tissue engineering.

The field has focused mainly on self-assembling peptides. In a recent study, Bing Xu of Brandeis University and colleagues designed a nonnurturing peptide that aggregates and engulfs cancer cells only when its phosphate group is removed (Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2014, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201402216). The phosphate-free peptides have a hydrophilic end and a hydrophobic one, which allow them to assemble like lipids in a cell membrane. The negative charge on the phosphate groups creates electrostatic repulsion between the molecules and prevents this. This phosphate on-off switch is great for targeting cancer because some types of cancer cells overexpress alkaline phosphatase, an enzyme that cleaves phosphates.
Science imitating nature is what science often does, unraveling the mysteries of nature and then applying them to solving human problems, thus bettering the lives of many. While this result is promising, it requires further research and tinkering, since the dosage applied in this study is higher than what is typically used for chemo drugs. Some serious side effects might result. Thus, this is not yet ready for the marketplace, but the innovative idea nevertheless shows promise.

You can read more at [SciAmer].

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Elton John:Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me

Elton John and his back-up band perform “Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me” at New York City's Madison Square Garden in 2000. The song was released in 1974 on the album, Caribou. I always prefer bright sunny days to cloudiness and darkness; there is a sadness when the sun slips away for the evening.


Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me
by Elton John & Bernie Taupin

I can't light no more of your darkness
All my pictures seem to fade to black and white
I'm growing tired and time stands still before me
Frozen here on the ladder of my life

Too late to save myself from falling
I took a chance and changed your way of life
But you misread my meaning when I met you
Closed the door and left me blinded by the light

Don't let the sun go down on me
Although I search myself, it's always someone else I see
I'd just allow a fragment of your life to wander free
But losing everything is like the sun going down on me

I can't find, oh the right romantic line
But see me once and see the way I feel
Don't discard me just because you think I mean you harm
But these cuts I have they need love to help them heal

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Knowledge Is Never Enough; Action Is Required

The Holocaust

Auschwitz Death Wall: During 70th anniversary remembrances yesterday marking the death
camp’s liberation, a Holocaust survivor touches the wall, the spot,
in the former concentration
where the Nazis killed many.
Photo Credit: Odd Andersen; AFP
Source: The Telegraph

An article, by David Blair, in The Telegraph, commemorating the 70th anniversary on the liberation of Auschwitz, says what many today already know; that the Allied Forces fighting Nazism knew about the gas chambers and death camps, as early as August 1941, but decided to do nothing overtly about it. Would it have been too costly or immoral to bomb the railway lines leading to Auschwitz and the other death and concentration camps?

In “Holocaust Memorial Day: Telegraph revealed Nazi gas chambers three years before liberation of Auschwitz; January 27, 2015), Blair writes:
It was under the headline “Germans murder 700,000 Jews in Poland”, that this newspaper reported the “greatest massacre in the world’s history” on June 25, 1942.

In the pages of The Daily Telegraph, Zygielbojm succeeded in revealing the mass murder of Jews. But he was dismayed by the lack of public reaction.

As early as August 1941, Winston Churchill had denounced the atrocities against the Jews as a “crime without a name”. Yet Zygielbojm detected no wave of revulsion sufficient for the Allies to take special steps to obstruct the Holocaust.

The Telegraph chose to report the “greatest massacre in the world’s history” on page five of a six-page newspaper.

Zygielbojm’s informants were taking immense risks and their reports were meticulously accurate, yet he often encountered indifference, disbelief or even suspicion.When The Telegraph’s story appeared, Zygielbojm’s wife, Manya, and their son, Tuvia, were still living in occupied Poland as prisoners in the Warsaw Ghetto. Both died during the razing of the Ghetto in 1943.

Crushed by this tragedy - and by the weight of indifference towards the fate of the Jews - Zygielbojm took his own life on May 11, 1943.

“The responsibility for the crime of the murder of the whole Jewish nationality in Poland rests first of all on those who are carrying it out,” he wrote. “But indirectly it falls also upon the whole of humanity, on the peoples of the Allied nations and on their governments, who up to this day have not taken any real steps to halt this crime. By looking on passively upon this murder of defenceless millions tortured children, women and men they have become partners to the responsibility.”
The story was buried in the back pages, on “page five of a six-page newspaper” This speaks volumes, does it not?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Holocaust Memorial Day: 70 Years Later


Auschwitz Death Camp with the cruel slogan, in German, at its entrance of Arbeit Macht Frei (“Work will make you free”).  As for the sign’s history, The Telegraph writes: “The infamous sign, made by a prisoner, was erected by the Nazis after the Auschwitz barracks were converted into a labour camp to house Polish resistance fighters in 1940. Auschwitz was later expanded into a vast death camp
: The Telegraph

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day, celebrating the liberation of Auschwitz, one of the most notorious Nazi death camps located in Poland. There are deniers of the Holocaust, and as the event recedes from public memory, these deniers of truth and facts, scream loudest their delusions of hatred.

An article in The Telegraph says:
More than one million people were killed at Auschwitz in Poland during World War Two. The majority were Jews and the former extermination camp is the world's biggest Jewish cemetery.
The site was also the death place for many people who did not fit into the Nazis' view of their world. Poles, lesbians, homosexuals and the disabled were amongst those also killed here.

Many of the concentration camps set up by the Nazis in World War Two were razed to the ground, but Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated before it was completely destroyed. Now it’s a museum.

Survivors will lay wreaths and light candles at the so-called Death Wall at Block 11 on January 27th to mark 70 years since the camp’s liberation, and remember those who never left.
Auschwitz was liberated by the Soviets, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) says on its site.
The Soviets liberated Auschwitz, the largest killing center and concentration camp, in January [27], 1945. The Nazis had forced the majority of Auschwitz prisoners to march westward (in what would become known as "death marches"), and Soviet soldiers found only several thousand emaciated prisoners alive when they entered the camp. There was abundant evidence of mass murder in Auschwitz. The retreating Germans had destroyed most of the warehouses in the camp, but in the remaining ones the Soviets found personal belongings of the victims. They discovered, for example, hundreds of thousands of men's suits, more than 800,000 women's outfits, and more than 14,000 pounds of human hair.
The Liberation of Auschwitz: January 27, 1945

On January 27, 1945, 2,819 Auschwitz inmates were liberated, 180 children, with 52 of them under eight years of age. These children survived, because they were twins, the USHMM site points out:
They managed to survive because they were wanted for medical research instead of mice and rabbits. But the German murderers with medical degrees were only keen on a particular kind of children: they wanted to experiment on twins. Twins were a special research material of Doctor Mengele and Doctor Schmidt's. Children who did not belong to that category were simply murdered. The infants were known by the numbers on their little hands.
This is cruelty beyond human comprehension. Today, as we remember this day, and what lead to it, we are confronted with the reality that anti-Semitism has never really gone away. It lay dormant for a while, and has returned as hatred against Israel. Do not mistake legitimate criticism of a nation and its policies for what this truly is: a vile and gross attempt to delegitimize a nation that has as the majority of its citizens people who self-identify as Jews. Now is time for all the free nations of the world to confront and defeat—once and for all—this enemy of humanity.

I end with this quote from Primo Levi (Interview with Daniel Toaff, Sorgenti di Vita; 25 March 1983; Trans. Mirto Stone): “Those who deny Auschwitz would be ready to remake it.”

Monday, January 26, 2015

'Remembering The Holocaust Protects Us All': Bernard-Henri Lévy


Fighting the Beast of Anti-Semitism: “Let us imagine a UN General Assembly that, faithful to its founding agreement, made itself the diligent guardian of the memory of the worst genocide conceived since man began to walk the Earth—imagine that 2015 was the year when, under your high authority and with the help of the world’s most eminent scientists and scholars, the most complete, exhaustive, and definitive conference ever conceived on the attempt to destroy the Jews was convened.”
Photo Credit: Jacques Baudrier
Source: BHL

On January 22, 2015, Bernard-Henri Lévy, a French philosopher and writer known as BHL, spoke at a special plenary session of the United Nations General Assembly. The topic was rising anti-Semitic violence worldwide. You can watch the full 26-minute speech on UN Web TV here; and read the official French transcript here.  Below is the transcript of his speech, translated into English, as reported in the Huffington Post:
Not often is a philosopher called upon to speak in this forum. 
This is one of the first times (Elie Wiesel and Jiddu Krishnamurti came before me) that a writer has stood at this dais from which so many great voices have rung out and where the cause of peace and brotherhood among peoples has achieved some of its most important and noble advances. 

It is therefore with great emotion and with a deep sense of honor that I address you today.
* * *
But you invited me, this morning, not to hear me hold forth on the honor and nobility of humanity but rather to lament the renewed advance of the radical inhumanity, the total baseness, that is anti-Semitism.

In Brussels, just a few months ago, the memory of the Jews and the keepers of that memory were attacked.

In Paris, just a few days ago, we heard once again the infamous cry of "Death to the Jews!"--and cartoonists were killed for cartooning, police for policing, and Jews just for shopping and being Jews.

And in other capitals, many others, in Europe and elsewhere, faulting the Jews is once again becoming the rallying cry of a new order of assassins--unless it is the same order, cloaked in new habits.

The United Nations was founded to fight this plague.
This assembly was given the sacred task of preventing those terrible spirits from reawakening. But they have returned--and that is why we are here.
* * *
On the subject of this curse, on the subject of its causes and of the means by which to resist it, I would like to begin by refuting a number of current analyses that I fear serve only to keep us from looking this evil squarely in the face. 

It is not true, for example, that anti-Semitism is just a form of racism. Both must be fought, of course, with equal determination. But one cannot fight what one does not understand. And it must be understood that, if the racist hates in the Other his visible and conspicuous Otherness, the anti-Semite hates his invisible and indefinable difference--and on that awareness the nature of the strategies that one will have to deploy is going to depend.

Nor is it true that the new anti-Semitism has, as one hears constantly, especially in the United States, its taproot in the Arab-Islamic world. In my country, for example, it has a double source that acts as a sort of double bind. There are, it is true, the many lost souls of a radical Islam that has become the most toxic opium invading the lost territories of our Republic. But there is also that old French monster that, since the Dreyfus Affair and Vichy, has slept with one eye open and, in the end, is not incompatible with the Islamofascist beast.

And, finally, it is not accurate to say that the policy of a particular state--I am referring, obviously, to the state of Israel--generates anti-Semitism in the way clouds produce a storm. I have seen European capitals in which the destruction of the Jews was nearly total, yet where anti-Semitism still thrives. I have seen others, farther away, where no Jews have ever lived--yet where the word "Jew" is a synonym for the devil. And I say here that even if Israel's conduct were exemplary, even if Israel were a nation of angels, even if the Palestinians were granted the state that is their right, even then, alas, this old, enigmatic hatred would not dissipate one iota. 
Terribly true, which explains the nature of this beast, the enormity of what humanity has been facing, and is currently facing. If you think that a world without Jews would be a benefit to humanity, as some loudly say and a few more (secretly) think, then think again, says BHL:
A world without Jews indeed would not be a world. A world in which the Jews once again became the scapegoats for all people's fears and frustrations would be a world in which free people could not breathe easy and the enslaved would be even more enslaved
For more about Bernard  Bernard-Henri Lévy and his views, you ought to visit his official website, which is edited by Professor Liliane Lazar of Hofstra University in Long Island, New York.

For more of the speech, go to [HuffPost]

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Colorectal Cancer Increasing In Young Adults

Health & Wellness

Inflatable Colon: Physical models like this internal view of the colon can encourage individuals  to book colonoscopies with their doctors. Now, one of the best cancer-screening methods promises even better results with 360-degree Google-like views of the colon; it will be like taking a walk inside.
Photo Credit: Tim Fraser
Source: NatPost

An article, by Nicholas Bakalar, in the New York Times (November 5, 2014) says that in the United States colorectal cancer rates are increasing in young adults, and so is the severity of the disease. This is taking place while the rates are decreasing for those 50 and older.

Bakalar writes:
The study, published in JAMA Surgery, used a national database of 400,000 patients with colon or rectal cancer. Incidences decreased by about 1 percent a year over all but rose among people 20 to 34, with the largest increase — 1.8 percent a year — in disease that had already progressed to other organs.

Incidence rates today, per 100,000 people, are 3 for ages 20 to 34; 17 for ages 35 to 49; and 300 for people over 50. But by 2030, the researchers estimate, one in 10 colon cancers and one in four rectal cancers will be in people under 50, and rates among those over 50 will be 175 per 100,000.

The study draws no conclusions about whether screening should begin at a younger age. “There are always risks and unintended consequences of screening tests,” said the senior author, Dr. George J. Chang, an associate professor of surgery and health services research at the University of Texas.
Of course, screening costs money. Setting a policy to initiate screening at a younger age (like 20) will require not only agreement among physicians, but also more government funds, not always an easy task. Yet, it might become necessary and normative in a decade or so, since screenings is still less costly than cancer treatment. Early detection not only saves lives, it also reduces substantially the cost of treatment.

While this study was U.S..-based, one wonders if it similar in other nations, notably western nations. The chief unanswered question is what is the root cause of younger people being diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Is it better screenings? Is it lifestyle? Is it genetic? Or is a combination of all such factors, including higher incidences of obesity, poor diet and inactivity. Does alcohol also play a factor in the higher rates for young people? How about the use of laptops, tablets and other electronics?

I am sure that all these questions will eventually be answered. The paper, published in JAMA (November 5, 2014), concludes as follows: “There has been a significant increase in the incidence of CRC diagnosed in young adults, with a decline in older patients. Further studies are needed to determine the cause for these trends and identify potential preventive and early detection strategies.”

For more, go to [NYT]

Friday, January 23, 2015

Iran, Argentina, and Rafsanjani

The Iran File

The views expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily those of this blog.

 by George Jochnowitz
Negotiating with Iran makes no sense.

In 2001, Iran’s President Rafsanjani, who is generally described as a moderate, called the existence of Israel an ugly, colonialist phenomenon and said that nuclear war could destroy everything on the ground in Israel but would merely damage the world of Islam.

Rafsanjani’s statement seems to be part of a policy that is not merely anti-Israel but also anti-Semitic. In1994, a suicide bomber drove into the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, killing 85 people. Most of the victims were Jewish but not Israeli. Iran and its ally, Hezbollah, are believed to have organized the attack. In 2007, Argentine authorities secured Interpol arrest warrants for five Iranians and a Lebanese over the bombing.

Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who has accused President Cristina Fernandez of covering up Iran’s role in this terror attack, was found dead on January 18 under mysterious circumstances. Could Iran have played a role? As of the moment, we don’t know.

Rafsanjani’s statement was an indirect appeal to turn Iran into a suicide bomb against Israel. Ever since then, Iran has been devoting itself to building nuclear facilities, with the aid of North Korea, a country that actually sent its planes to fight against Israel in 1973.

Iran has never modified its absolutely pointless struggle against Israel. Iran is threatened by Sunni radicalism—the force that inspires Hamas. Iran fought an extremely bloody war against an Arab country, Iraq, for eight years.

It would make perfect sense for Iran to ally itself with Israel, which in fact was the case before Ayatollah Khomeini seized power in 1979. Nevertheless, Iran pursued its nuclear ambitions. Nothing can explain this except for Iran’s desire to destroy Israel, no matter what the cost, as Rafsanjani suggested. That is why Iran has tempted the world to impose sanctions against it.

The United States should not assume that Iran is acting rationally. Iran was irrational when it continued its war against Iraq for eight years; it was irrational when it blew up the Jewish center in Argentina, and it is irrational today. The only reason that Iran is paying a very high price to build a nuclear facility is its desire to destroy Israel—a country with which it has no dispute whatsoever. Irrational hatreds are always the most dangerous.

Negotiating with Iran makes no sense.

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 ©2015. George Jochnowitz. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Joy Of Eating Together (2015)

Food Tastes

Afghan women share a meal of flatbread, goat, lamb, and fruit in the Women's Garden, a refuge for conversation and confidences outside the city of Bamian. The garden and surrounding park were created to promote leisure activities for women and families­. For this group it includes the chance to bond over food.
: Lynsey Addario, Getty Images
: NatGeo

Is eating more enjoyable when it is is done in the company of others? Is the telling and sharing of stories as important as the consumption of food. It has been said that food tastes better when in the company of friends, notably good friends. Trusting friends. Old friends. It might be so. A pictorial essay in National Geographic shows the joy of eating together; Victoria Pope writes:
Food is more than survival. With it we make friends, court lovers, and count our blessings. The sharing of food has always been part of the human story. From Qesem Cave near Tel Aviv comes evidence of ancient meals prepared at a 300,000-year-old hearth, the oldest ever found, where diners gathered to eat together. Retrieved from the ashes of Vesuvius: a circular loaf of bread with scoring marks, baked to be divided. “To break bread together,” a phrase as old as the Bible, captures the power of a meal to forge relationships, bury anger, provoke laughter. Children make mud pies, have tea parties, trade snacks to make friends, and mimic the rituals of adults. They celebrate with sweets from the time of their first birthday, and the association of food with love will continue throughout life—and in some belief systems, into the afterlife. Consider the cultures that leave delicacies graveside to let the departed know they are not forgotten. And even when times are tough, the urge to celebrate endures. In the Antarctic in 1902, during Robert Falcon Scott’s Discovery expedition, the men prepared a fancy meal for Midwinter Day, the shortest day and longest night of the year. Hefty provisions had been brought on board. Forty-five live sheep were slaughtered and hung from the rigging, frozen by the elements until it was time to feast. The cold, the darkness, and the isolation were forgotten for a while. “With such a dinner,” Scott wrote, “we agreed that life in the Antarctic Regions was worth living.”
Humans are social animals; and eating alone, which has now become the norm in many places and societies, goes against the idea of sociability. Sure, there are times, especially in business and when traveling for business, that one has to eat alone. But it is a sad affair; or at least I have always considered it as such when I ate alone in a foreign and strange city. Jean Baudrillard, the French philosopher said: "Sadder than destitution, sadder than a beggar is the man who eats alone in public. Nothing more contradicts the laws of man or beast, for animals always do each other the honor of sharing or disputing each other's food."

For more images, go to [NatGeo].

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The End Of Cancer Deaths By 2050

Human Health

T-Cells: Our bodies natural defenses can be given a boost through immunotherapy, one of the many weapons in the arsenal to combat and defeat cancer.
Source & Credit: NatPost & Fotolia

An article, by Ben Schiller, in FastCompany says cancer deaths could virtually be eliminated by 2050; in making this prediction, Schiller is citing a report from University College’s School of Pharmacy in  London. At the heart of the prediction—both optimistic and exciting—is that medical knowledge and social awareness will lead to a better understanding of cancer and its mechanisms.

It will, within a few short decades, lead to its defeat. The beginning of the end of cancer is near. Schiller writes:
A report from University College London says "it is realistic to expect that by 2050 nearly all cancer related deaths in children and adults aged up to (say) 80 years will have become preventable through lifestyle changes and because of the availability of protective technologies and better pharmaceutical and other therapies."

Currently, 14 million people are diagnosed with cancer each year, with 8 million dying because of it. The report forecasts the burden to almost double by 2030, to 26 million diagnoses and 17 million deaths. However, a lot of those deaths are expected to occur in China, which has a relatively old population for an emerging country. Deaths among people under-80 are predicted to decline as a percentage of population, particularly in richer countries. For example, the U.K. will see a 40% reduction in deaths by 2030 compared to 1990 numbers.

"In future decades combinations of innovative medicines coupled with enhanced radiological and surgical interventions will, provided research investment levels are maintained, mean that many more individuals with advanced cancers will be cured, or enabled to live with them in a fulfilling manner," the report says.

Aside from advances in genomics and the discovery of personalized drugs, the report points to the importance of "effective psychosocial and practical support for lifestyle changes." Greater awareness of cancer and its environmental causes can make people more responsible for their health, encourage people to report tell-tale signs of cancer at an earlier stage (which is crucial for successful treatment), and spread "know-how" to less advantaged communities. Declines in tobacco use should also help reduce the incidence of cancer.
As I have written a number of times before, this shows more and more that we have entered the golden age of cancer research and cancer treatment. If we are having success in beating cancer, a disease that is heartless and callous as it is non-discriminatory and democratic, it must be remembered that all research, including important medical advances such as we are witnessing today is the fruit of both the European Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution that followed.

This point cannot be over-emphasized enough.

Any and all advances, including the technologies that follow, come about through the dedication and hard work of scientists and researchers who use rational thought processes that lead to the solving of nature's mysteries.

You can read the full report at [UniversityCollege]; and the rest of the article at [FastCompany].

Friday, January 16, 2015

Gladys Knight & The Pips: Midnight Train To Georgia (1974)

Gladys Knight & The Pips perform “Midnight Train To Georgia,” on Burt Sugarman’s Midnight Special, in 1974; the song was released a year earlier. The song speaks about failed dreams and of romantic love having an ameliorating effect on such failures. I post the song today, just because sometimes this how I feel; but more important, it reflects a desire to go back to a time when things were simpler, less complicated, for me. Perhaps others feel the same, hence its universal appeal.

Wikipedia notes:
 “Midnight Train to Georgia” is a 1973 number-one hit single by Gladys Knight & the Pips, their second release after departing Motown Records for Buddah Records. Written by Jim Weatherly, and included on the Pips' 1973 LP Imagination, "Midnight Train to Georgia" won the 1974 Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance By A Duo, Group Or Chorus and has become Knight's signature song.
In 1999, this song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame; It is ranked no. 32 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra: West Side Story

The Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra, under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel. perform Leonard Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. This is an exciting and passionate performance under the leadership of one of the world’s greatest conductors.

In the aftermath of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, in 1963, Bernstein spoke before the United Jewish Appeal of Greater New York the following words:
We musicians, like everyone else, are numb with sorrow at this murder, and with rage at the senselessness of the crime. But this sorrow and rage will not inflame us to seek retribution; rather they will inflame our art. Our music will never again be quite the same. This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before. And with each note we will honor the spirit of John Kennedy, commemorate his courage, and reaffirm his faith in the Triumph of the Mind.
 And so it is today, in the aftermath of the Paris attacks on freedom of expression and western democracy. You can read the full text, “An Artist’s Response to Violence,”  here.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Making Money By Doing Good

Minding Your Business

The Cancer Warrior: Battling against cancer in the midst of my chemo treatments (April 2013). I have been there and won. I want to help others win, too, by passing on my knowledge and experience to others.
Photo Credit: Sheldon Levy, 2013

When I was young, I had an entrepreneurial spirit.I wanted to be a millionaire long before a TV show made popular such an expression of desire. I wanted to become a millionaire by the time I was 30. I never achieved it; I stopped trying when I was 23, shortly after my father died of colon cancer. My views on money changed, I giving it less importance than it deserved.

This was an error in my thinking, which I have only recently realized, and made an effort to correct. It is not that money is everything; it is not, but it is something. (For a humourous take on money, see Andrew Klaven on the culture: Facts of Life for Liberals.)  Something tangible and important. A healthy respect for money is what informs my views today. There is nothing more satisfying than making money in the pursuit of something good. Of something that is not only respectable, but that helps others in real ways.

It is said that we are currently living in the Information Age, part of the Knowledge Economy, where knowledge is power. No where is this more important than when the knowledge gained increases one’s life expectancy and betters one's health, which is the case when one is battling against cancer. This was me two years ago, and continues to be me today. (see My Cancer Journey).

I am now working on a plan to provide such knowledge to cancer patients and their families who are undertaking such a cancer journey. I would like to conduct small half-day seminars on how to navigate the health-care system, what questions to ask and how and where to focus one’s energies. Being informed that you have cancer can temporarily short-circuit the decision-making apparatuses; a cancer diagnosis is often accompanied by reams of information that physicians, oncologists and radiologists provide—much of it important.

The seminars that I would like to conduct would help make this process easier, helping cancer patients and their families worry about one less thing.

These would be paid seminars, since money confers value in the minds of people. It will also provide me a means of earning an income, and doing so in a way that helps me and others—the so-called win-win situation that many businesses talk about. In this case, it is closer to the truth. At least I believe so. It would be held in an intimate setting, with seating for about 50 people. It’s old school, that is, a traditional way of making money, by providing a needed service in exchange for remuneration.

I have, and always have had, an earnest desire to help others, but I expect to be fairly compensated for my knowledge and experience. This is a normal and healthy view of money.  I'll keep you posted on how this project progresses.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Physical Activity Reduces Risks Of Cancer

Healthy Lifestyle

Have you made physical activity a more important part of your life? If you haven’t, you might want to start now.

During chemo my physical activity consisted only of walking at least a few times of week. Now, I am doing more, as my strength, endurance and ability to exercise has increased. Both my oncologist and family physician said exercise would be good for me and my over-all health. I was always a very active person, and used to be a competitive tennis player. I hope to play at least a few sets this summer.

Exercise is good for both physical health and mental health; during exercise, the human body releases endorphins, which acts as a natural analgesic. Equally important, exercise has also been shown to counter depression, as this article, from WebMD, shows:
These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine. For example, the feeling that follows a run or workout is often described as "euphoric." That feeling, known as a "runner's high," can be accompanied by a positive and energizing outlook on life.
Another thought: In terms of things that we all can do to improve our well-being, there are the Big Three: healthy eating (diet), exercise and positive support from family, friends and community.

Then there is reducing the cancer risk. A National Cancer Institute report suggests rather strongly that physical activity reduces the risk of cancer. Here are the key take-away points:
  • Physical activity is a critical component of energy balance, the term researchers use to describe how weight, diet, and physical activity influence health.
  • There is strong evidence that physical activity is associated with reduced risk of cancers of the colon and breast.
  • Several studies have also reported links between physical activity and reduced risk of endometrial (lining of the uterus), lung, and prostate cancers.
  • Current National Cancer Institute-funded studies are exploring the role of physical activity in cancer survivorship and quality of life, cancer risk, and the needs of populations at increased risk.
So, it’s important to get moving, even when it’s cold outside, as is the case five to six months of the year here in Canada, the Great White North. While this is an obstacle, it should not be a deterrent. There are now ways around it. For example, there are indoor gyms and all sorts of indoor gym equipment that are suitable for homes and apartments. In my residential complex, there is a small gym that hardly anyone uses. 
It’s time that I take advantage of it and get my heart pumping more oxygenated blood to the muscles, and get my brain releasing those wonderful endorphins.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Putting People First Is Good For Business

Consumer Matters

An article, by Greg Satell, in Forbes says that the best and most-successful businesses put employees and customers first, considering this as a good business strategy.

Satell writes:
In the go-go eighties, “Chainsaw” Al Dunlap’s enthusiasm for aggressive cost cutting and massive layoffs made him a corporate superhero. Later on, his indictment and conviction on fraud charges caused people to question his character, but not necessarily his methods.

Poor Al would never survive as a CEO today. Social media would eat him for breakfast. Today’s corporate executives need to mind their P’s and Q’s, because any stray word can instantly go viral, damage the stock price and diminish shareholder value.

These days, most corporate executives pay lip service to the idea that people come first, but beyond nice sounding platitudes, relatively little has changed. Boardroom discussions mostly focus on financial data and the need to be “practical” about people decisions Yet smart firms value their people not out of altruism or fear of a backlash, but because it’s good business.
It's too bad that most firms pay only “lip service” to this idea. Anyone who has been in business in some way know that this idea is undoubtedly true. It creates an energetic work environment that infuses the work-place with good will. The opposite, a ruthless pursuit for profits, creates a distrusting negative workplace. I have been an employee in both kinds of work environments; the latter left me drained of energy and tired at the end of the day. This is short-term gain, and it benefits only the senior management.

Thankfully, business is changing as a new generation of managers are climbing the corporate ladder; and on the other end, customers are demanding more from companies. Satell writes: “The best companies see people as more than a mere means to an end, but an end in themselves.” This business maxim increases service and keeps companies more honest. This is a classic win-win situation.

You can read more at [Forbes]

Friday, January 9, 2015

Gerald Finzi: An English Composer

Musical Names

Linguists and other non-professionals interested in languages can often trace a person’s ancestry by his or her name. At times, names get changed, reflecting the local spelling and culture, the original name getting lost in translation so to speak. At other names, the name remains the same, but individuals willingly forget its heritage or ancestry and adopt all of the local customs and traditions. This was the case with Gerald Finzi, the 20th-century English composer. Prof. George Jochnowitz writes: “If we concluded from Finzi’s surname that he was Jewish, Finzi would no doubt have felt we were wrong. If we concluded that he was Jewish because his mother and father were Jewish, Finzi would still have felt we were wrong. Finzi considered himself simply English—by culture and citizenship. He had no religion.”

by George Jochnowitz

Gerald Finzi: An English Composer
by Stephen Banfield. London and Boston: Faber and Faber,
xiv + 571 pp., $25.

Finzi is an Italian Jewish surname. Those of us who don’t live in Italy probably did not learn that fact until 1971, when Vittorio De Sica’s Oscar-winning film The Garden of the Finzi-Continis appeared. The book was based on the novel by Giorgio Bassani (another Jewish surname), which was first published in 1964 in the original Italian and entitled Il giardino dei Finzi-Contini.

Gerald Finzi (1901–56) lived and died in England long before the movie and the book existed. His contemporaries, outside of his own family, didn’t recognize Finzi as a Jewish name, and Gerald Finzi didn’t tell them.

What’s in a name? The composer Gustav Holst, born Gustavus Theodore von Holst, was English; his mother and maternal grandmother were English. His father’s family had migrated to England in 1807 from Baltic Russia (probably Latvia or Estonia) and was of Swedish ancestry.1 If we concluded from his name that he was German, we would be wrong.

If we concluded from Finzi’s surname that he was Jewish, Finzi would no doubt have felt we were wrong. If we concluded that he was Jewish because his mother and father were Jewish, Finzi would still have felt we were wrong. Finzi considered himself simply English—by culture and citizenship. He had no religion.

Finzi's parents were English Jews, his father’s family from Italy and his mother’s from Germany. Finzi never mentioned his ancestry, not even to his lifelong friend, the composer Howard Ferguson. In 1938, Finzi carried on an epistolary debate with composer William Busch about Hitler’s policies.

Finzi argued well and passionately about how wrong Hitler was to segregate Jews from German life but never spoke about his own connection to the issue. “There is no Jewish race & no Jewish type, except where environment has made it,” he wrote. (p. 268) He wrote those words because he believed them, and he said nothing about himself because he was terrified that Hitler might win the war and that his ancestry might be discovered. Already in 1938, he seemed to know what was going to happen to the Jews of Europe. He spent three days in his mother’s house destroying her papers. (p. 259)

Finzi understood the magnitude of the danger that faced the Jews of the world. The New York Times, on the other hand, as late as July 2, 1944, did not quite take understand the enormity of what was happening. It buried on page 12 the news “that 400,000 Hungarian Jews had been deported to their deaths so far and 350,000 more were to be killed in the next three weeks.”2

Although Finzi was frightened and perhaps embarrassed about being Jewish, he never converted to Christianity. Composer Gustav Mahler, on the other hand, had to convert to Catholicism in order to become the director of the Vienna Court Opera and was baptized in 1897.3

A composer’s work is part of his life. Stephen Banfield has combined two books into one: a biography of Gerald Finzi and a musical analysis of his compositions. Finzi devoted his life to his wife, Joy, and his sons, Christopher and Nigel; to his passion for pomology, especially the preservation of different varieties of apples; to editing and publishing the works of other British composers; but most of all, to his music.

Finzi is best known for his vocal music, for example, Intimations of Immortality, a setting of the poetry of Wordsworth, and his music for winds, especially his Clarinet Concerto. A major part of Banfield’s book is a description and critical evaluation of the melodies and harmonies of Finzi's pieces, including numerous musical illustrations from Finzi’s scores, which will no doubt be of greater interest to the professional musician and the Finzi lover than to the general reader.

My only complaint about the book is a technical one: the index is very hard to use. When I was listening to a CD of a Finzi composition and looked up the title in the index in order to follow an excerpt from the score, what I found was the page listing for every time the work was mentioned in the text. Tracking down the illustration was quite a job.

Banfield’s book about Finzi is detailed and technical but always interesting. The story of Finzi’s life makes us eager to hear his music; hearing his music makes us curious about his life.
1. Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians (3rd edition, 1935), Vol. 2, p. 657.
2. David Wyman, The Abandonment of the Jews. New York: New Press, 1998, p. 321, note.
3. The Encyclopedia Judaica, Vol. 11, p. 726.


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 ©2015. George Jochnowitz. All Rights Reserved. This essay originally appeared in the January 2001 issue of Midstream. It is republished here with the author's permission.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Evgeny Kissin: Chopin Piano Concerto No. 2.

Evgeny Kissin performs Chopin Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, opus 21, accompanied by the Verbier Festival Orchestra, at the Verbier Festival, Charles Dutoit conducting, on July 26, 2009. The concerts take place in the heart of the Swiss Alps.

 The Verbier Festival Orchestra, the site says
is one of the world's leading training ensembles and it has been universally recognised for its dynamism and its passionate performances. It gives its members - all aged between 18 and 29 - the unique opportunity to learn and to develop and to network in a professional environment. Each year, around 1,000 candidates from all over world apply to become members of the orchestra. Those musicians who are selected receive intensive orchestral coaching from principals of the MET Opera Orchestra, New York. At the end of this period of coaching, the Verbier Festival Orchestra performs six concerts under the baton of its Music Director Charles Dutoit as well as other distinguished and sought-after conductors. Members of the Verbier Festival Orchestra also offer daily late evening chamber music concerts during the Festival. The orchestra, which was created in 2000, was the brainchild of Martin Engstroem and the Swiss bank UBS; James Levine was its original Music Director and is now its Conductor Laureate.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Vladimir Horowitz: Chopin Ballade No. 1

Vladimir Horowitz performs Chopin Ballade No. 1 in G Minor, opus 23. This is a clip from his 1968 television performance from Carnegie Hall in New York City. Vladimir Horowitz: A Television Concert at Carnegie Hall, which CBS televised on September 22, 1968. This was Horowitz’s first televised concert; he was then aged 64.The full 50-minute concert can be found here.  

Selections include more Chopin (Nocturne, opus 55 no. 1; Polonaise, op.44), two sonatas by Scarlatti (K380 and K55), two by Schumann (Arabesque and Traumerei), and  Scriabin’s well known D sharp minor Etude. An excellent and most enjoyable performance all-around, showing Horowoitz at the height of his powers.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Should We Stop Trying To Cure Cancer?

Human Health

Dr. Richard Smith:
“So death from cancer is the best, the closest to the death that Buñuel wanted and had. You can say goodbye, reflect on your life, leave last messages, perhaps visit special places for a last time, listen to favourite pieces of music, read loved poems, and prepare, according to your beliefs, to meet your maker or enjoy eternal oblivion.”
Photo Credit & Source: BMJ

In a blog post (“Richard Smith: Dying of cancer is the best death”; December 31, 2014) in the British Medical Journal,  Dr. Richard Smith writes that not only is dying of cancer “the best death,” but that we should stop wasting money trying to find a cure; Smith, the former editor of BMJ (whose catchphrase is Helping doctors make better decisions), writes:
This is, I recognise, a romantic view of dying, but it is achievable with love, morphine, and whisky. But stay away from overambitious oncologists, and let’s stop wasting billions trying to cure cancer, potentially leaving us to die a much more horrible death.
Dr. Smith, I say to you that you cannot be more wrong, and I address this post to you. Thankfully, there are millions of rational, intelligent and sagacious individuals who disagree with this romantic claptrap, including medical researchers, oncologists and the cancer centres that diligently work to make the lives of patients better. Thankfully, the many medical-research centres worldwide continue their research, ignoring your advice. Medical research, after all, is at the heart of western science and medicine, and in the progress of humanity. “Love, morphine and whiskey,” as you suggest, is no modern method of treatment.

Thankfully, the many excellent cancer centres worldwide, including the one here in Toronto whose care I was under, continue to help individuals diagnosed with cancer, thus improving their lives and alleviating many of the possibility of a horrible death. Bravo to over-ambitious oncologists, ones with passion and compassion and dedication to patient care.

Your views are in direct opposition to what oncologists believe and do, in particular; and to what doctors ought to do in general.

Given your romanticism and nihlism and your predilection for broad sweeping statements, I would recommend that you immediately step down as a medical doctor and turn your “romantic” interests to poetry or music or painting or some other pursuit that does not involve human interactions of the medical kind. Or for that matter of the human kind. Take my advice in the manner it was directed.

Given your state of mind, I would never, under any circumstances, seek you out as a physician, and I pity anyone who falls into your cold hands. But, perhaps, you were just joking, that this is a poor and clumsy attempt at satire, and that your sentiments emanated from the influence of morphine and whiskey. Well, that explains much.

To read the full post, go to [BMJ]

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Entering The Golden Age Of Cancer Research & Therapy—Part Of The Paradigm Of Personalized Medicine

 Health & Wellness
The Cancer Atlas: One of the best preventative measures is to avoid smoking, it says:
“Tobacco contains a wide range of harmful substances as well as a powerfully addictive drug, nicotine. Smoking tobacco significantly increases the risks of numerous cancers, including lung, esophagus,
oral cavity, pharynx, and larynx. Smoking is also associated with many diseases other than cancer.
By 2030, tobacco is projected to kill 8 million people annually.”

Source: Canceratlas
Credit: American Cancer Society, the International Agency for Research on Cancer,
and the Union for International Cancer Control, 2014

There is some good news for Americans. The number of people dying from cancer has diminished in the U.S. since 1991, the peak year. Yet more preventative work and research is required, since cancer remains the leading cause of death worldwide. There is a correlation between incidences of cancer and lifestyle choices, such as smoking, obesity and inactivity, but of course genetics also determines who gets cancer as much as anything else.

Yet, not as much as previously thought; lifestyle choices now predominates the thinking among cancer experts. And the onus today is on prevention. There were 14.1 million new cases of cancer in 2012 (all statistics relate to 2012) and 8.2 million individuals died from cancer. Lung cancer is responsible for one in five cancer deaths worldwide, and it remains a threat: 1.8 million persons were diagnosed with lung cancer. In most cases these deaths were both premature and preventable. Such is the thinking among cancer specialists.

There are other causes, including the fact that infectious agents are a leading cause of cancer. The cancer atlas says the following:
Worldwide, infectious agents are responsible for an estimated 2 million new cancer cases annually (16.1% of all cancers). The burden of these infection-related cancers is much higher in less-developed regions (22.9% overall and 32.7% in sub-Saharan Africa) versus more-developed regions (7.4%). The four main cancer-causing infectious agents — Helicobacter pylori, human papillomavirus, and hepatitis B and C viruses — are responsible for most infection-related cancers globally (mainly gastric, cervical and liver cancers, respectively).
All the more reason to get prophylactic vaccinations, to eat well, to exercise, to avoid smoking and to visit a doctor regularly for screening and for annual physicals—advice that has been given to us for decades. This might not prevent cancer, but it makes the odds of early detection all the more greater. 

We every reason to be optimistic and hopeful. We are entering the “golden age of cancer research and treatment,” which includes personalized genomics, immunotherapy and cancer nanotherapy—all leading to the idea of personalized medicine.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gives a succinct definition of what personalized medicine will mean for us:
The term "personalized medicine" is often described as providing "the right patient with the right drug at the right dose at the right time." More broadly, "personalized medicine" may be thought of as the tailoring of medical treatment to the individual characteristics, needs, and preferences of a patient during all stages of care, including prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up.
The future might be closer than some might think; I suggest that this will become the norm in industrialized nations within the next ten years. And humanity will be better and healthier as a result.

For more, go to [CancerAtlas]

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Societal Costs Of Loneliness

The Human Condition

An article, by John Cacioppo and Stephanie Cacioppo, in New Scientist says that loneliness has reached epidemic levels; there might be much truth in this statement. I too have observed and written that alienation might be the biggest human problem besetting western society. It informs many harmful actions and behaviours.

John Cacioppo and Stephanie Cacioppo, both professors at University of Chicago, write:
The perception of isolation from others – of being on the social perimeter – is not only a cause of unhappiness, it also signals danger. Fish have evolved to swim to the middle of their group when predators approach, mice housed in social isolation show sleep disruptions and reduced slow-wave sleep and prairie voles isolated from their partners then placed in an open field explore their surroundings less and concentrate on predator evasion.

These behaviours reflect an increased emphasis on self-preservation when on the social perimeter. For instance, fish on the edge of a school are more likely to be attacked by predators because they are easier to isolate and prey upon. Such observations reflect a more general principle, that perceived social isolation in social animals activates neural, neuroendocrine and behavioural responses that promote short-term self-preservation. However, these responses bring a cost for long-term health and well-being.

The range of harmful neural and behavioural effects of perceived isolation documented in adults include increased anxiety, hostility and social withdrawal; fragmented sleep and daytime fatigue; increased vascular resistance and altered gene expression and immunity; decreased impulse control; increased negativity and depressive symptoms; and increased age-related cognitive decline and risk of dementia.
Part of any solution is to talk about about the problem; John Cacioppo and Stephanie Cacioppo have now raised the issue. Societal alienation and the perception of loneliness is one of those problems that we are all aware of, but feel helpless to do anything about. There used to be a commercial on TV from a long-distance telephone company that that ran in the late Seventies and early Eighties that said, "Reach Out and Touch Someone" (AT&T; 1979) When individuals feel part of something and are connected to a community, they are less inclined to feel lonely and isolated. Communities, when all is said and done, are built on individual human relationships.

What about social media? Social media does connect people, but it does not substitute for immediacy and proximity, that is, it is not the same as close face-to-face human interactions. Social media is excellent at exchanging ideas and information, but it is not well-suited to sharing deep-felt emotions and feelings in the same way that close proximity does. Its limitations are becoming better known.

Building a sense of community might not solve all cases of loneliness, but it is worth discussing and doing.

For more of the article, go to [NewScientist]

Friday, January 2, 2015

Will Cuba Ever Recognize Israel?

The Cold War

Sometimes enemies become friends, or at least no longer enemies. It has been astutely said that nations do not become friends, but form alliances. It can also be said that much depends on the relationship between leaders of nations; there is a greater chance of enemies becoming non-enemies if the leaders themselves are not hostile to the idea. Now that the United States and Cuba have decided to recognize each other diplomatically, Prof. George Jochnowitz raises the question of whether Cuba can do the same with Israel: “The country that might benefit the most if Cuba recognized Israel would be the United States. Among the reasons that so many leftists hate America is that they consider it a tool of Israel. If an admired leftist country like Cuba changed its policies and accepted Israel’s existence, the United States would be less isolated when it comes to supporting Israel.”

by George Jochnowitz

Cuba and the United States have been enemies for a long time. Now they have recognized each other. Contractor Alan Gross has been freed. The Cold War is pretty much over, although North Korea remains America’s foe, as we are learning from the reaction to a film that SONY was planning to release.

In 1956, during the height of the Cold War, the United States and the USSR joined forces to undo the victory that Israel, with the aid of Great Britain and France, achieved along the Suez Canal. Things began to change when John Kennedy became president, and things improved further under Lyndon Johnson. During the Six-Day War in 1967, America was on Israel’s side. The Communist bloc had pretty much joined the world of Islam at the time of the Bandung Conference, which took place in Indonesia in 1955.

The USSR recognized Israel officially in 1991, shortly before the fall of the Soviet Union. China did so in 1992. On the other hand, Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea remain totally opposed to Israel’s existence.

In September 2010, Fidel Castro made a remarkable statement in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic.Castro said that Israel had the right to exist as a Jewish state. Despite the fact that Fidel Castro had ceded power to his brother Raul, he remained, and remains, one of the most honored leftist leaders in the world. Mysteriously, the interview never gained much attention. Cuba officially remained Israel’s enemy.

If the Cold War between Cuba and the U.S. has ended, isn’t it time for Cuba to recognize Israel? One would especially think this should be the case in light of the 2010 interview in The Atlantic. If Cuba did so, Venezuela might reconsider its hostility to Israel. Under Hugo Chavez, Venezuela was actively anti-Israel. Chavez and former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited each other frequently. Chavez expressed support for Iran’s nuclear program. Chavez’s successor, Nicolas Maduro, has not changed Venezuela’s policies concerning Iran, but has sounded less strident. What would happen if he recognized Israel?

The country that might benefit the most if Cuba recognized Israel would be the United States. Among the reasons that so many leftists hate America is that they consider it a tool of Israel. If an admired leftist country like Cuba changed its policies and accepted Israel’s existence, the United States would be less isolated when it comes to supporting Israel.

Would Iran change its policies? That is something of a possibility. President Rouhani is less strident than Ahmadinejad, his predecessor – though the true power lies in the hands of the Ayatollah. Iran has been suffering from sanctions that have been imposed because of its nuclear efforts. Maybe Rouhani could follow Cuba’s lead. Maybe.

The world would become a safer place if Cuba recognized Israel. Will it happen? I’m not holding my breath.


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 ©2015. George Jochnowitz. All Rights Reserved. This essay originally appeared in Arutz Sheva (December 19, 2014) and the algemeiner (December 25, 2014). It is republished here with the author's permission.