Saturday, October 31, 2015

Killing Cancer

Human Diseases

An article, by Vincent DeVita and Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn, in Aeon gives an excellent overview on why the “war on cancer” has not achieved the level of success it could. There have been many successes, as I have written about here, but there can be more according to this article. As is the case with all battles, it is not so much about money (although it is necessary), but about the allocation of resources and how to effectively harness collected human knowledge.

It is also about putting aside the need for personal aggrandizement, always a difficult if not impossible task for smart people. In short, some human desires, such as protecting turf. employing outdated ideas, and fearing change defeat the over-all intentions of winning the war.  While this article reflects on the system in the United States, it likely has resonance elsewhere.

When someone writes an article like this, it is important to know who they are and why they are doing so. For one, Vicent DeVita is a former director of the National Cancer Institute and the Amy and Joseph Perella Professor of Medicine at Yale Cancer Center and Yale School of Medicine; Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn is is a journalist and author who writes about science, medicine and psychology. They have co-authored a book, The Death of Cancer (2015). One of them had a personal encounter with cancer, as many of us have recently had. When this happens, your perspective changes.

In “Death of Cancer,” (October 23, 2015), the article starts with a confession:
Six years ago, I (Vincent) was diagnosed with life-threatening prostate cancer that would have killed most men. I survived because I was able to call on colleagues to deliver aggressive surgery outside the standard of care (hormone therapy) for my type of disease. Without a doubt, the operation saved my life.
What happened in my case should be how things happen as a matter of course, but it’s not. That more people than necessary continue to die from cancer has nothing to do with ‘the failed war on cancer’ – a familiar refrain in the press – or a lack of scientific tools, which have begun to accumulate at a breathtaking pace. Rather, obstacles take the form of not using the tools we already have to cure more; a reluctance to drop outdated beliefs; bureaucratic battles among physicians and medical groups; and outdated regulation by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) whose policies hinder the innovations wrought by cancer drug‑development in recent years.
These issues are well‑known to doctors and researchers, but many are reluctant to talk about them overtly for fear that they could damage their colleagues or their chances of getting a grant or drug application approved.
This can be boiled down to the ideas of conformity, notably to a system that is no longer relevant today; this includes the protocol to testing new or experimental drugs and therapies, which in the U.S. falls under the control and protection of the F.D.A. Such protocols are rigid, lengthy and costly, all the enemies of eradicating cancer. The article says:
Recently, at a dinner for the FDA Commissioner, I sat next to an outstanding clinical investigator who works with the exciting new drugs recently available for advanced melanoma. For the first time in my long career, we are seeing remissions that are likely cures of this ferocious disease. I asked my dinner companion how he was affected by all the regulations that have been piled on the FDA and the NCI. He said: “Vince, if they would leave me alone, I could cure so many more patients.”
This is the end game; truly, nothing else matters. The human desires, so to speak, have to catch up to the technology. Individual achievement, no matter it being the trope of movies and fiction books, will not bring about breakthroughs. Neither will regulation. I have never heard of regulation winning the Nobel Prize in medicine.

For more, go to [Aeon]

Friday, October 30, 2015

Processed Meats Carcinogenic To Humans, WHO Says

Human Digestion

Unhealthy Bacon: The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) says: “Processed meat was classified as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1), based on sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer.”
Photo Credit: Joe Raedle; Getty Images
Source: NYT

In a WHO research finding that has already proven controversial, an article, by Peter Whoriskey, in The Washington Post and many other media sites worldwide says that foods like hot dogs, bacon and other processed meats are classified as carcinogenic and thus increase the risk of colorectal cancer; and, moreover, that the consumption of red meat might cause cancer. Not surprising, beef and pork producers do not agree with the findings of the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. [see monograph here.]

In “Hot dogs, bacon and other processed meats cause cancer, World Health Organization declares,” (October 26, 2015), Whoriskey writes:
In reaching its conclusion, the panel sought to quantify the risks. It cited studies suggesting that an additional 3.5 ounces of red meat per day raises the risk of colorectal cancer by 17 percent; eating an additional 1.8 ounces of processed meat daily raises the risk by 18 percent, according to the research cited. It also quoted figures suggesting that 34,000 cancer deaths a year worldwide were attributable to diets high in processed meats.
“For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed,” says Kurt Straif, an official with the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer, which produced the report. “In view of the large number of people who consume processed meat, the global impact on cancer incidence is of public health importance.”

The research into a possible link between eating red meat and cancer has been the subject of scientific debate for decades, with colorectal cancer being a long-standing area of concern. But by concluding that processed meat causes cancer, and that red meat "probably" causes cancer, the WHO findings go well beyond the tentative associations that some other groups have reported.
This is an important announcement from the world health body, which involved an international panel of 22 experts in the field, who conducted a meta-analysis of 800 studies looking at cancer on humans in the last 20 years. And while it was not unanimous, there was sufficient agreement to raise sufficient concern on the consumption of processed foods and of red meat. This news ought to give people information on how to make healthy food choices, just as knowledge about cigarette smoking has done.

I am delighted by this report, not only because, about a year ago, I made a decision to give up the consumption of processed foods and red meat, but that it confirms my reasons for doing so. I did so primarily for health reasons, having made such a decision (after reading similar scientific-medical reports) and after going through chemotherapy for colorectal cancer. Although I initially thought it would be difficult to give up hamburgers, steaks and smoked meat, it actually was fairly easy.

I feel better for it and am much healthier. Now that is good news, indeed..

For more, go to [WashPost]

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Jews Of Poland

War Stories

A book review article, by David Mikics, in Tablet reports on how Poland viewed the Jews before the Second World and coming to terms with it decades later. It seems that although many things have improved in Jewish-Christians relations in that country, some have not. Even so, the Poland of today is thankfully not the Poland of yesterday. (My father was born in Poland, and came to Canada after the Second World War.)

In “The Day We Burned Our Neighbors,” (October 20, 2015) Mikics writes about what took place in the Polish town of Jedwabne, in northeast Poland, more than 70 years ago, on July 10, 1941. This was a few weeks after the German invasion and occupation of eastern Poland, which until then had been under the control of the Soviet Union:
“I can’t sleep at night. I see it as if it were yesterday. … That terrifying scream that probably didn’t last for more than two minutes, it’s still inside me.” The woman speaking these words was 10 years old on July 10, 1941, when she saw her fellow Poles driving their Jewish neighbors into the barn. Schoolboys jeered at their Jewish classmates, hounding them toward death. Mothers wrapped their babies tight as they tried to shield them against the blows. Within minutes nearly all the town’s Jews—hundreds of them, from infants to old people—would be burned alive. The 10-year-old girl at the window watched the townspeople of Jedwabne pour gasoline at the barn’s four corners and set it alight. Then came the scream.
This account comes from Anna Bikont’s book The Crime and the Silence, which appeared in 2004 in Polish and six years later in French (it won the European Book Prize in 2011) but has just now been translated into English by Alissa Valles. In her work as a reporter for the Gazeta Wyborcza, the liberal Polish newspaper, Bikont has done obsessive, heroic work, interviewing witnesses, perpetrators, and survivors of the Jedwabne massacre and similar mass killings of Jews in the nearby towns of Radzilow and Wasosz. She has discovered a bizarre psychological phenomenon: The townspeople of Jedwabne still insist that they are the victims of Jewish slander. The massacre, they say, was perpetrated either by a few thugs, probably people from out of town, or by the Germans.
Bikont uses the townspeople’s own words to demolish their claim to innocence. She shows that virtually all of Jedwabne knows who the leading murderers were, who stayed home that day in July 1941 and who joined the bloodthirsty mob. These truths were passed down for decades in hints and whispers at kitchen tables and over rounds of vodka. What happened in 1941 was, as Polish President Krasniewski bravely called it, not a pogrom but a genocide, Jedwabne’s wholehearted effort to shatter every trace of Jewish life. Minutes after the killings the town went on a massive looting spree, robbing Jewish homes of silverware, furs, and furniture. These were their neighbors, people they had known for years.
How could an atrocity like Jedwabne happen? Looking for an answer, Bikont confronts the troubled depths of the unequal relationship between Poles and Jews. The trouble stems from Poland’s sense of itself as a perpetual victim nation, crushed over and over by greater powers like Russia and Germany. Until the news about Jedwabne spread, 60 years after the killings happened, it was hard for Poles to think of themselves as the doers, rather than the sufferers, of historical evil.
This is understandable to some degree, given Poland’s history of being conquered. Jews have resided in Poland since the 10th century, and for the first 500 or so years of their residency in Poland it was among the most tolerant nations in Europe, a nation where Judaism and Jewish thought flourished. Poland was the undisputed centre of Jewish religious life. symbolized by the golden age of Jagiellonian Poland. But this did not last. The many partitions of Poland in the late 18th century, notably when it fell under the control of Russia, changed the nation in ways it then could not foresee. As did the hardships of the Polish-Ukrainian War, the Polish-Soviet War and the First World War during the early decades of the 20th century.

It must also be remembered that Poland was the first nation that Germany invaded (on September 1, 1939), setting off the Second World War; and that Poland was also invaded by the Soviet Union 16 days later (on September 17, 1939). Eastern Poland was occupied by the Soviets; western Poland by the Nazis. This was the case until the summer of 1941, when the invading German army conquered the eastern half of Poland, as well, part of  its Operation Barbarossa (that began on June 22, 1941). Such is the background to the massacre.

Yet, how Poland confronts its past, including discussions on its declining and deteriorating relationships with its Jewish history, most notably and recently after the First World War, and admits its responsibility in what took place in Jedwabne, a small village 85 miles northeast of Warsaw will reveal how Poland will be able to honesty progress beyond it.  Dialogue with its Jewish community is necessary and good.

This story was suppressed, ignored and swept under the carpet of history for 60 years. until, as The Forward says, “Jan Gross exposed the atrocity in his seminal book, “Neighbors,” published in 2000.” Now that the painful truth has seen the light of day, it does not mean that it is easily accepted. For example, there is the Catholic Church in Poland, which not only is in denial about its culpability in the massacre at Jedwabne, but remains anti-Semitic, the article notes.
The Church is the black hole,” said Bikont when I talked to her on the phone a few weeks ago. She told me that the Polish Church is “still anti-Semitic, and those who disagree with its anti-Semitism are ostracized.” In her book Bikont highlights the courageous exceptions. She quotes Catholic priests and bishops who speak honestly about Jedwabne and similar massacres and who pray for the Jews murdered in the land of their ancestors by Poles. Father Stanislaw Musial says about the Jedwabne killings, “It’s hard to find a more despicable or cruel crime in human history,” and he marvels at the fact that the Polish Church busies itself trying to find extenuating circumstances for the massacre. But men and women like Musial go against the Church’s message. It’s the Jewish Communists who are guilty, the Church insists; and the leaders of Chicago’s Polish community repeat the same anti-Jewish charges, according to Bikont. Such are the distortions that extreme nationalism requires, all the more disturbing when they don the cloak of religion.
Assuredly so. There are some positive signs, however, emanating from the Catholic Church in Poland, reports an article in The Jerusalem Post:
The Polish Episcopate has declared Anti-Semitism is a sin just ahead of the 50th anniversary of the issuance of a Papal proclamation that revolutionized Catholic- Jewish relations.
According to Radio Poland, the local branch of the Church issued a pastoral letter asserting that “anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism are sins against the love of thy neighbor” and that “Christian-Jewish dialogue must never be treated as ‘the religious hobby,’” but rather “should increasingly become part of the mainstream of pastoral work.”
I find it heartening and noteworthy that the letter says that both “anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism are sins against the love of thy neighbor.“ I could not agree more.

For more, go to [Tablet]

For another personal perspective, see Prof. George Jochnowitz’s essay, “My Trip To Poland.”

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Good Must Associate

Heaven & Humanity

“When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”
Edmund Burke
Thoughts on the Cause
of the Present Discontents
Volume i, page 526

“As it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. ’ ”
—Paul’s Epistle
to the Romans 3:10-12

The New Testament says that no one, no human, is good. Thus, this suggests, on first reading, that the default human position is to not seek righteousness, and by implication no human goodness exists in the world—a thought that leaves the world without any hope for humanity. The point of such a polemic is that Christians ought to first place their faith not in humanity, but in heaven, which is the source of all goodness. Yet, this is only part of the story, since a faith is bereft of good for humanity if it does not lead to righteous actions.  A faith without knowledge is blind, indeed.

Is it not possible to believe in the merits of heaven while also believing in the merits of humanity? Does the former annul the latter? I do not think so. One can have a faith in heavenly ideas as the inspiration for human justice and apply these accordingly, rightly and with knowledge. Edmund Burke, the eighteenth century philosopher, said that good people do make a difference, and their absence in confronting evil leads to failure. That is, inaction in the face of evil naturally leads to its continuance.  This is never good. For Burke, a conservative Christian, Wikipedia says, “religion is the foundation of civil society.”

In many cases, humans desire to do good, especially when it seems in short supply, when the world seems overrun by evil men with their evil plans. This is the case in many parts of the world, the places on which the news media focus, sometimes unintentionally (or unwittingly) aiding the very evil they are supposed to stop by not discouraging (and thus emboldening) the evil-doers. What is evil, but the absence of good. Evil flourishes when good is not present, when good is asleep.

This brings to mind Israel and the failure of most of the world’s media and western nations, led by the United States and western Europe. This is a failure in getting the story right, portraying Israel’s attempts to protect its citizens from Palestinian terrorists as wrong and “disproportionate.” Is it wrong to stop men and women with evil intentions, with murder on their minds and hearts. Or is it wrong only for Israel, the world’s only Jewish nation, to protect its citizens? Some things beg for simplicity; such is one case.

If you substitute America or Britain or France or Germany for Israel and read the same news reports, would you have the same response? Somehow, I doubt it. One nation is viewed more harshly than others; one nation has a majority Jewish population; one nation has been given rules of engagement to ensure its failure.

How does someone from the outside, residing safely a long distance away from the scenes of incitement and terror, decide how much force another nation must use to protect its citizens from violent and dangerous attacks? There is no calculation or equation to determine this, as far as I know. The response of the international community in regards to Israel and its Jewish People is remarkable, not only for its failure to understand the situation “on the ground,” but equally important, for its failure to support a long-standing and faithful ally.

There is a lack of desire to get the facts, a lack of desire to separate fact from fiction and a lack of desire to support good. There is a belief, a faith, if you will, in the Palestinian narrative, no matter how much it deviates from reality and historical evidence. One can almost come to the conclusion that this is not so much support for the Palestinians as it is animus for Israel and for its Jewish citizens. Recently, hundreds of British academics decided to boycott Israel. Such describes a blind faith, a failure in knowledge.“The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out” (Proverbs 18: 15).

This is a requirement to do good, to ensure that evil does not continue unabated. And, until good men unite and associate themselves with what is right, the evil in the Middle East will continue. It is in the interest of those “Christian nations” to do what is good and right. It is time for those Christians who say they “love Israel and the Jewish People” to come out of the closet and declare publicly what they say privately.

Perhaps some think this is asking too much, but moral choices have to be made, which means taking sides. Neutrality is not an option in the face of evil; in such cases neutrality is a sign of consent. Otherwise Christianity, as a religion of love, of compassion and of tolerance, will fail once again to pass the test of goodness.

Or, then again, Christians could emulate the righteous example of the French village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon during during the Second World War, notes the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:
From December 1940 to September 1944, the inhabitants of the French village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon (population 5,000) and the villages on the surrounding plateau (population 24,000) provided refuge for an estimated 5,000 people. This number included an estimated 3,000–3,500 Jews who were fleeing from the Vichy authorities and the Germans.
Led by Pastor André Trocmé of the Reformed Church of France, his wife Magda, and his assistant, Pastor Edouard Theis, the residents of these villages offered shelter in private homes, in hotels, on farms, and in schools. They forged identification and ration cards for the refugees, and in some cases guided them across the border to neutral Switzerland. These actions of rescue were unusual during the period of the Holocaust insofar as they involved the majority of the population of an entire region.
The State of Israel recognized the collective actions of the village, and in particular the pastor and his wife, deeming the citizens of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon as“Righteous Among the Nations.” The citizens of the village downplayed their actions as heroic, only deeming them as necessary, Yad Vashem says, “as having empathy for Jews as the people of the Old Testament,” summing up their convictions as follows “Things had to be done and we happened to be there to do them. It was the most natural thing in the world to help these people.”

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Israel Dance Theater In Poland (2013)

Israel Dance Theater of Ramat Gan (Tel Aviv) are here performing in Suwalki, Poland, at Podlasie Octave of Cultures—The International Festival of Music, Art and Folklore on July 26, 2013. Suwalki is a town in northeastern Poland, about 30 km from Lithuania. During the summer festival, events take place simultaneously in Białystok and 20 other towns of the district, like Łomża, Hajnówka, Bielsk Podlaski, Drohiczyn, Tykocin and Suwałki.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Paul Of Tarsus: Father Of Anti-Judaism

Jewish Thought

Last week’s post was on why “The New Testament is Not a Jewish Book;” this week, we look at the man chiefly responsible for shaping the book’s arguments in particular and Christianity in general.

“The conception of a new faith, half pagan and half Jewish, such as Paul preached, and susceptibility to its influences, were altogether foreign to the nature of Jewish life and thought. For Judaism, religion is the hallowing of this life by the fulfilment of its manifold duties (see Judaism): Paul shrank from life as the domain of Satan and all his hosts of evil; he longed for redemption by the deadening of all desires for life, and strove for another world which he saw in his ecstatic visions.”

Kaufmann Kohler, “SAUL OF TARSUS (known as Paul, the Apostle of the Heathen)” 
Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906

Jesus of Nazareth might be the central figure in Christianity, but it was Paul of Tarsus who took a small Jewish sect and transformed it to a new religion open to non-Jews. That religion eventually became known as Christianity, whose doctrines to a large degree have been informed by Paul’s epistles contained in the New Testament—so much so that many refer to Christianity as Pauline Christianity or Paulinism.

Paul, who was born with the Jewish name of Saul, made a decision that would define Jewish-Christian relations for centuries. It was Paul who decided to turn this Jewish sect away from Judaism, chiefly as a means to attract followers who were not Jewish. He made a decision to render the fundamental laws that defined Judaism as unnecessary for the new followers of Christianity. These included circumcision, or brit milah, the dietary laws of kashrut, the laws of Shabbat, the celebration of the thee pilgrimage festivals of Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot (Shalosh Regalim), and the Mosaic laws in general.

That one man felt that he had the power to do so says much about him. His decisions affected the small Jewish sect: he removed from its practices all that then defined Judaism. Small wonder that many claim that it was Paul who invented Christianity, enlarging its numbers by engendering anti-Judaism sentiments in his many letters (e.g., see chapter 2 in the Book Of Romans, where Paul minimizes and negates Judaism’s history and accomplishments).

In many ways, Paul follows the line of thinking found in the Gospel of Luke and in the Acts of the Apostles, both attributed to the same author, Luke the physician. In such cases, Christianity is often presented as a victim of Jewish persecution (playing up to the Romans, who genuinely held power), both as rhetorical weapon against critics and as method to differentiate it from Judaism as being more loving, more peaceful.

Moreover, Paul made it his mission to stand in opposition to Judaism, considering this as a necessary strategy to ensure Christianity’s survival. He achieved this by writing that this new sect had a greater spirituality, had established a new covenant and had a greater closeness to G-d than Judaism; that this was the heavenly plan all along, that the original chosen people were no longer chosen, having failed in their task; Paul refers to them (the Jews), bound by the laws of Judaism, as the “old man” There is, for Paul, only the “new man,” a spiritual being not defined or bounded by any earthly or religious distinctions; he is by all accounts incorruptible, righteous and holy (Ephesians 4:22-24). Echoes of this idea are found in Marxism's “New Soviet Man.”

Both Hellenism and Gnosticism factored into his writings, as do the mystery religions. Given this, it is not surprising that Paul’s letters are often dismissive and derogatory of Judaism; and in many cases, Paul inveighs against the Jews. His views would today be considered on the extreme side, perhaps even delusional or filled with paranoia. His desire to make this new sect large, successful and universal meant that in his view the old established religion of Judaism (and its Jews) were his enemy.

Here is one of many examples, in Paul’s Epistle to the Thesolonians, written around 52 CE, and considered the first of his letters:
For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea,which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews 15 who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone 16 in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last. (2:14-16)
Such a message of condemnation would not and could not endear him to the Jewish People. Given his lack of success with the Jews, Paul quickly turned to the non-Jews, to whom he devoted himself with a fierce passion, and with a zealousness that worked to keep his mission in focus. Such describes Paul, an apostle to the Gentiles (גויים or goyim, Hebrew for “the nations”).

The only requirement in the apostle’s view was faith, and in particular “a faith in Jesus,” who is both human and divine, which describes one of the characteristics of a mystery religion. The Epistle to the Romans (written in the mid-50s), considered by Christians to be his magnum opus, is an attack on the law in particular and on Judaism in general. In it, Paul argues forcefully that faith is more important than the Mosaic Law, and goes to great lengths and much rhetorical contortions to “prove” such a point. I found his arguments here both confusing and irrational.

It is true that there are many verses in the New Testament arguing faith’s sufficiency, and he does so tireless and tediously, so at least he remains consistent in his efforts. But this is neither a Jewish argument nor ever a part of normative or mainstream Judaism.

The result was that non-Jews—ignorant of Jewish practices, Jewish ritual and Jewish history—found it more acceptable and were more willing and eager to join the new sect, finding its promises of eternal life appealing. After all, most were pagans and had no knowledge of any monotheistic religions like Judaism. Thus, there is a good reason that Church fathers considered Paul an “apostle to the gentiles.” His knowledge of the Torah and of Judaism was as thin as his connection and affiliation to the Jewish People. Not surprising, his relationship to the established Jewish community was unfriendly and often hostile; this is to put it mildly.

Yet Paul persisted, believing his mission was ordained in the heavens; at times (see Romans 11). he displayed some tribal allegiance but this was attenuated by the broader message that Judaism was in need of change, if not outright replacement with a more universal and inclusive religion. Such largely explains many of the verses in the New Testament where Paul both vilifies the Jews and yet desires they would accompany him on his journey to a new religion. The vast majority rejected him and his claims; and rightly and understandably so. Jesus’claims as messiah were not met; and Paul’s transformation of Jesus into a god-man and Paul’s denial of Judaism and its Mosaic laws made his message unwelcome and unholy to the Jewish People. His message was far too foreign (and far outside the boundaries of Judaism) for Jews to ever consider as valid and accept.

Later, the Church Fathers with their anti-Judaic emphasis of the New Testament, would close the door to the possibility of any great Jewish influence on Christianity. The result is that Paul won the battle and got what he desired: a New Testament, apart from (some of) the teachings of Jesus, bereft not only of Jewish religious ritual, but also of Jewish religious thought.

The small Jewish sect that started with the teachings of Jesus was no more. In its place was an aggressive, evangelizing and expansionary Pauline Christianity—one that for most of its history viewed Jews and Judaism with suspicion and hostility. Much credit goes to Paul. There are attempts today among some Christian writers and scholars to rehabilitate Paul, to cast him in a less harsher light. I understand their reasons, but can’t agree with them. This effort will not find much sympathy among the Jewish People, who view Paul as the “Father of Anti-Judaism,” a reputation he worked hard to earn.

Next week: “Jesus Of Nazareth Was Not A Christian.”

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The World Of Richard Feynman (1973)

“The scientist has a lot of experience with ignorance and doubt and uncertainty, and this experience is of very great importance, I think. When a scientist doesn’t know the answer to a problem, he is ignorant. When he has a hunch as to what the result is, he is uncertain. And when he is pretty darn sure of what the result is going to be, he is still in some doubt. We have found it of paramount importance that in order to progress we must recognize our ignorance and leave room for doubt. Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty — some most unsure, some nearly sure, but none absolutely certain.”

—Richard Feynman, The Value of Science, 
Public address at the National Academy of Sciences (Autumn 1955)

This is a Yorkshire Television interview with Richard Feynman [1918-1988], the Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist (1965) from the New York City borough of Queens, which was shown in Great Britain in 1973. Called “Take the World From Another Point of View,” it was also shown on PBS-TV’s Nova.
The famous American physicist Richard Feynman used to take holidays in England. His third wife, Gweneth Howarth, was a native of West Yorkshire, so every year the Feynman family would visit her hometown of Ripponden or the nearby hamlet of Mill Bank.
In 1973 Yorkshire public television made a short film of the Nobel laureate while he was there. The resulting film, Take the World From Another Point of View, was broadcast in America as part of the PBS Nova series. The documentary features a fascinating interview, but what sets it apart from other films on Feynman is the inclusion of a lively conversation he had with the eminent British astrophysicist Fred Hoyle.
A native Yorkshireman, Hoyle did groundbreaking theoretical work on the synthesis of elements in stars and was a leading proponent of the Steady State theory of cosmology. In the film, the British astrophysicist and the American particle physicist walk down to the local pub, Ripponden’s historic Old Bridge Inn, for a lively conversation on physics and the nature of scientific discovery. You can read along with a transcript of the film at the Caltech Web site.
Before the term, “thinking outside the box” became familiar and famous, Feynman was already doing this for years; this has its benefits in problem solving. If anything, Feymann had the ability to explain complicated material in a way that an educated non-physicist could comprehend; he was a story teller.

His curiosity, described as insatiable, was among his best qualities as a human being; he was also known as an avid bongo player and a picker of locks—both for amusement and challenge. After a few years at Cornell (1945–1950), Feynman spent most of his professional life at the California Institute of Technology, or Caltech, in Pasadena, preferring the mild weather of California over the harsh winters of  Ithaca in central New York.

Feynman died of a rare form of cancer on February 15, 1988; he was 69.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Pediatric Cancer: Science Is Making Headway

Childhood Diseases

More Work: Ossola writes:“Researchers test samples as part of the St. Jude Pediatric Cancer Genome Project.”
Photo CreditSt. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee

An article, by Alexandra Ossolain Popular Science has given me a good reason to (re)think my views on childhood cancer, which I have long considered as a dreaded disease that robs young children of life, and unfairly so. And while I still view cancer as unfair, particularly when it affects children, there is some good news mixed in with the bad: pediatric cancer has a higher five-year survival rate than adult cancer: 80 per cent.

In “Learning From The Children,” Ossola begins by writing about the story of Maggie, who about 20 years ago was diagnosed at age four-and-a-half with with stage 3 nephroblastoma, a kidney cancer diagnosed in just 500 kids per year. After many rounds of chemo, at age six she was officially in remission, with no evidence of disease (NED)—the best news a person (or the parent of a young child) with cancer can hear.
Maggie is one of thousands of children who develop cancer and, through rigorous treatment and holistic care by doctors and families, beat the disease. Treatment for cancer has increased dramatically since the 1950s, and nowhere is that more evident than in pediatric oncology; of the thousands of children treated in the U.S. for cancer every year, 80 percent of them will go into remission and go on to live productive lives—significantly higher than the five-year survival numbers for general oncology, which are 63 percent chance of survival for female patients and 66 percent for men.
This disparity exists in part because of biology—the types of cancers that kids get, the strength of their immune systems—and because pediatric oncologists treat patients very differently than do general oncologists. The field isn’t perfect; some of the kids who survive have health issues later in life, and curing the remaining 20 percent of patients won’t be easy. But general oncologists can learn a few things about how pediatricians achieved this remarkable cure rate, and may be able to collaborate with them to discover new, less toxic treatments to benefit patients of any age.
“Childhood cancer is a different animal. Even though it has a similar end point [as adult cancers], the body in which it occurs is quite different than that of an adult,” says Alan Gamis, a pediatric oncologist at Children’s Mercy Hospital.
This article is nicely written and researched; my only quibble is that when it comes to a disease like cancer, the word “cure” is incorrect, in that cure implies that there is no possibility of the disease returning, that it has been eradicated. It is true that once a person has reached five years without any evidence of cancer, that its likelihood of returning is diminished.

Other than this, the article explains well why children generally fare better than adults. One reason is that the cancer is different in children than in adults; another is that children are generally more resilient and can take more chemo drugs than adults. Such is important, but the greatest difference might lie in the protocols revolving around pediatric cancers; Ossola writes:
From the start, pediatric oncologists created a unique culture of collaboration that exists in few other places in medicine. Childhood cancers are rare diseases, affecting around 16,000 children and adolescents per year but making up only 2 percent of all cancer cases. Over the past three decades, this collaboration has coalesced most clearly in clinical trials. About 60 percent of all kids with cancer participate in clinical trials, and have done so for decades.
Work has to continue on reducing the use of chemo drugs, which have long-term deleterious effects on the human body. Medical science has to continue looking at newer and better treatment options like immunotherapy, which aids and allows the human body’s immune system to take on cancer.

For more, go to [PopularScience]

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Robert Palmer: Bad Case Of Loving You (1979)

Robert Palmer performs “Bad Case Of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)” in this 1979 video; the song is the first track on his album, Secrets, released by the British label, Island Records, in June 1979. The song was written by Moon Martin.

Wikipedia writes:
The main difference between Moon’s version and the cover by Robert Palmer is that Palmer’s version is in major key while Moon’s in minor, making the song sound more ominous. It was remixed with heavier guitars and drums for Palmer’s greatest hits collection Addictions: Volume 1. The song was nominated for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance at the 22nd Annual Grammy Awards.[1]
Palmer was born in England (1949), but grew up up in Malta, where his father, a naval intelligence officer, was stationed. While there, Palmer listening to the American Forces Network, in particular, Billie Holliday, Peggy Lee and Nat King Cole. The influences are apparent.

He is known for his smooth soulful voice, and the first to make a flashy but tasteful music video, “Addicted to Love,” in 1986, featuring high fashion models. This became his signature song.

Palmer died of a heart attack in 2003 at the age of 54.

Bad Case Of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)
by Moon Martin

A hot summer night fell like a net
I've gotta find my baby yet
I need you to soothe my head
Turn my blue heart to red

Doctor Doctor, gimme the news I got a
Bad case of lovin' you
No pill's gonna cure my ill I've got a
Bad case of lovin' you

A pretty face don't make no pretty heart
I learned that buddy from the start
You think I'm cute, a little bit shy
Mama, I ain't that kind of guy

Doctor Doctor, gimme the news I got a
Bad case of lovin' you
No pill's gonna cure my ill I got a
Bad case of lovin' you

I know you like it, you like it on top
Tell me mama, are you gonna stop?

You had me down twenty-one to zip
Smile of Judas on your lip
Shake my fist, knock on wood
I've got it bad, and I got it good

Doctor Doctor, gimme the news I've got a
Bad case of lovin' you
No pill's gonna cure my ill I got a
Bad case of lovin' you

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Cantor Helfgot & Itzhak Perlman: A Yiddishe Mame

This is a video clip from the PBS-TV’s Great Performances: Rejoice with Itzhak Perlman and Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot, which was broadcast from New York City on August 28, 2014It is introduced on the PBS site as follows, spelling Yiddishe with only one “d.”:
Songwriter and pianist Neil Sedaka introduces the song “A Yidishe Mame” (A Jewish Mother), a popular Yiddish classic with Vaudeville roots. Violinist Itzhak Perlman and Cantor Helfgot perform it, backed by The Klezmer Conservatory Band and The Rejoice Chamber Orchestra.
While Perlman is internationally known and acclaimed, and requires no introduction, Cantor Helfgot is equal to the musical task at hand. He currently serves as Chief Cantor of the historic Park East Synagogue in New York City, which was founded in 1888 under its original name, Congregation Zichron EphraimIt is modern OrthodoxAs a comparison, you can compare this rendition to that of Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt [1882-1933], who was called the Jewish Caruso.

The full musical program consisted of the following:

Yism’chu (They Shall Rejoice)
Romanian Doyne
Shoyfer Shel Moshiakh (Ram’s Horn of the Messiah)
A Dudele (A Song to You)
Sheyibone Bays Hamikdosh (May the Holy Temple Be Rebuilt)
A Yiddishe Momme (A Yiddish Mother)
Adir Hu/Moyshe Emes (Mighty Is He/Moses is True)
Yism’chu (closer)

Monday, October 19, 2015

The New Testament Is Not A Jewish Book

Jewish Thought

Today begins a weekly series on the New Testament, Christianity and Paul of Tarsus as viewed from a Jewish perspective.


The Jews did not believe in Moses, our teacher, because of the miracles he performed. Whenever anyone’s belief is based on seeing miracles, he has lingering doubts, because it is possible the miracles were performed through magic or sorcery. All of the miracles performed by Moses in the desert were because they were necessary, and not as proof of his prophecy.

What then was the basis of [Jewish] belief? The Revelation at Mount Sinai, which we saw with our own eyes and heard with our own ears, not dependent on the testimony of others... as it says, “Face to face, God spoke with you...” The Torah also states: “God did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us – who are all here alive today.” (Deut. 5:3)

—Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (Maimonides),
Foundations of Torah, ch. 8:1

The Tanakh and The Chumash are two of the most common books found in Jewish homes. The Tanakh (תַּנַ"ךְ )is the complete Hebrew Bible, 24 books in total; the Chumash (חומש‎) is the Torah in book form, the Five Books of Moses. There are various editions that have been published over the years; this is the Stone Edition, Artscroll Series.
Photo Credit & Source: Perry J. Greenbaum, 2015

Among the adherents of Christianity, which claims two billion Christians, half of whom are Roman Catholic, there exists a small minority of persons self-identified as Jews, numbering around 350,000 persons worldwide. These individuals are Jews by birth, but Christians by religious practice.

Such individuals have gone by various names throughout history, including Judaizers, Judeo Christians, Jewish-Christians, Hebrew-Christians and now, most recently, Messianic Jews, The Jewish community generally refers to such persons as “Jews for Jesus,” which in fact is the name of one of the organizations that represents their interests. One of their interests is to bring a Jewish understanding of Christianity to a wider audience; another is to make Messianic Judaism more acceptable to mainstream Judaism.

Both are nevertheless difficult tasks, a result of the evolution of Christianity from a small Jewish sect to a large dominant religion that has views and rituals that are foreign to Judaism. Yet, this desire for acceptance explains why when Messianic Jews address a Jewish audience, they point out that the New Testament is a Jewish book, supporting this view by asserting that its authors were all Jewish with the possible exception of Luke.

This statement is made with such a sincerity that one wants to believe it, and accept it at face value as proof of its Jewish origins and thoughts. Yet, a close reading of the complete New Testament reveals that even if such authorship claims are indeed valid, this by no means validates it as a Jewish book. Moreover, the argument here is that this book is highly hostile both to Jews and to Judaism, that Church history has increased and multiplied the differences, and that such differences are not reconcilable.

It starts with Paul of Tarsus (a port city in Turkey under the Roman Empire), who was born with the Jewish name, Saul; he became a follower of the new sect after his “Road to Damascus” experience. But he did not merely become a follower; he became its prime mover of change, its intellectual force of anti-Judaism. Paul wrote 13 of the 27 books in the New Testament. While Jesus might be the person Christians worship, it is Paul who shaped most of the important arguments that the New Testament contains. His influence is so great that many refer to Christianity as Pauline Christianity.

Thus, the New Testament is many things. It is the “good book” of billions of its Christian followers; it contains the words of Jesus and the writings of Paul; it is an instruction manual of life for those who believe; and its opposite for those who do not believe. The last statement, the Jewish rejection of the New Testament and its claims, a historical reality, has led to numerous attacks and atrocities directed at Jews for most of Church history. [see writings of Church Fathers.]

Words do matter. By dint of using the word “new” there is a suggestion that it is better, superior to what it has replaced, the “old.” The Old Testament (the Tanakh) records the everlasting covenant that G-d made with the Jewish People, first mentioned in the Book Of Genesis (Bereishit), Chapter 17 when G-d speaks to Abraham:
And I will establish My covenant between Me and thee and thy seed after thee throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a G-d unto thee and to thy seed after thee. (v. 7)
This is referred to as the Abrahamic Covenant. G-d affirms this covenant with the Jewish People many times in the Torah, including with Isaac, with Jacob, with Moses and with King David. The New Testament bluntly says that this original Abrahamic covenant and the others that follow are no longer valid, conferring a different meaning on the word “everlasting.” Since its early beginnings, Christianity has done everything in its power to discourage the Jews from keeping the only covenant they know, the only covenant they revere and the only covenant they cherish.

For Jews, there is no new covenant, no new testament, no better deal. In Judaism, the ancient and original covenants, affirmed time and time again, remain in force. This unwavering obstinate belief by the Jewish People, marked by their steadfast faith in G-d for millennia, has been a sore point with Christianity.

After all, what would be better to validate Christianity’s assertions as emanating from (and also superseding) Judaism than widespread Jewish acceptance of the claims of the Pauline Church. This has never happened, and never will; it cannot. Christianity is too much of a foreign belief system for any mildly educated Jew to accept its claims. The New Testament’s arguments were and continue to be insufficient to convince Jews of their merits. Thus explaining Christianity’s history of violence and forced conversions, notably in Europe during the Dark and Middle Ages, to add to its numbers. What couldn’t be achieved by discourse was achieved by force.

Yet, force does not make a sound and reasonable argument. The stumbling block has been and remains the New Testament itself; it is not a Jewish book. Other than three of the four gospels (referred to as the Synoptic Gospels), the book is primarily a Pauline document addressed to a non-Jewish audience. Unlike Jesus of Nazareth, who considered himself a Jewish messiah, and thus only addressed his coreligionists, Paul broadened the message to include non-Jews, which only further excluded the Jews. This ensured that Jews would never be part of this new sect. (As an aside, Jews can have some sympathy for Jesus, but not for Paul.)

Consider the epistles, which Paul wrote to address a host of problems common to a young sect, including how to worship, what is permissible and what to eat. Paul got rid of the laws of kashrut (from Hebrew כַּשְרוּת, meaning “fit” or “proper”), the Jewish dietary laws that G-d instituted and gave to Moses on Mount Sinai (as part of the Sinaitic covenant). These laws were transmitted directly to the complete nation in what is called “The Revelation at Mount Sinai” as the basis of a national covenant. The whole nation was present, the Bible says (see Deuteronomy 5:1-4). Of the many thousands of religions, it is the only known religion where a national covenant was made.

And so it has been said; and so it has been written. These laws are found in the Torah, primarily in the Books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, and form a fundamental part of Judaism. The written and oral Torah derive from the Mosaic laws. Paul also got rid of male circumcision or brit milah (from Hebrew בְּרִית מִילָה‎, meaning “covenant of circumcision”), another fundamental law of Judaism that dates to Abraham and the Book of Genesis (17:10-14), and to the original covenant that G-d made with the Jewish People.

Such abrogations of fundamental Jewish law would be sufficient to place the new sect outside of Judaism. But Paul went further. Through his forceful arguments, most notably at the Council of Jerusalem, in 50 CE, the small Jewish sect put aside most of the Jewish laws of the original covenant (the Mosaic Laws) handed down on Mount Sinai—including the laws pertaining to the Sabbath or Shabbat (from Hebrew שַׁבָּת, meaning “to cease;” “to rest”), the most important ritual observance in Judaism—rendering them invalid and unnecessary. Once that decision was made— to not observe Jewish practices—it ceased to be a Jewish sect. Jews naturally lost interest, pushed out by anti-Jewish practices, and it became something else altogether, what we now know as Christianity.

The history of its compilation and codification, including the arguments made to distance itself from Judaism, starting with Paul and continuing with the Church Fathers during the first three hundred years of the Common Era, has ensured that it will forever remain solely in the canon of Christianity. The gulf between the two religions is too wide to bridge. Jews and Judaism can never willingly and sincerely accept its claims; to do so would undermine the very foundations of the carefully built superstructure that has characterized and supported the Jewish People for thousands of years.

Christians have every right to practice their religion; they have no right to expect Jews to accept and follow such beliefs, particularly given their foreign nature. They are alien to Jewish history, to Jewish practices and to Jewish thought. Christians ought to accord the Jews the same rights they accord themselves: freedom to practice a religion without harm or interference (e,g., stop proselytizing). Jews do not require Christian validation or acceptance of their practices, but do desire to live in peace with their non-Jewish neighbours: Loz unz lebn arayn ruik. 

After all, the Jewish People have been successfully practicing their religion for almost 4,000 years, dating to the time of Abraham, the Father of Monotheism and one of Judaism’s patriarchs.

As for Messianic Jews, if they are halachically Jewish, they are always welcome to return to authentic Judaism and follow the Jewish religious tradition. They can go to a synagogue (or shul) for a Shabbat service, and get a taste of Yiddishkeit. Much like the Jewish Prodigal, they will be accepted and welcomed back—as is the case with all assimilated Jews—with tears of joy.

There is no time like the present.

Next week: “Paul Of Tarsus: Father of Anti-Judaism”

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Nature’s Palate Of Autumnal Colour (Oct 2015)

Urban Nature

Here are a few photos taken in the last couple of weeks; they are all of the park near our residence, and all are taken from our sixth-floor apartment:

October 7 at 7:30 a.m. around sunrise. The haze is a result of an early morning fog. The temperature was 12°C (54°F)

October 12 at 7:50 a.m. around sunrise. Thanksgiving day in Canada. The temperature was 14°C (57°F). Clear skies ahead. Fiery oranges are appearing, both in the foreground and background.

October 13 at 2:50 p.m. More reds are in view intermixed with the oranges, yellows and light greens of the deciduous trees. The dark greens are the evergreen pines, spruce and oaks. The temperature was 15°C (59°F) and as is evident here, the skies were cloudy.

October 15 at 3:50 p.m. The temperature was 17°C (62°F) with overcast leaden skies.

October 16 at 11;15 a.m. The temperature was 11°C (51°F); and the skies partly overcast, with patches of blue exposed.

All Photos: ©Perry J. Greenbaum, 2015

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Solar Neutrino Problem & The Standard Model

Particle Physics

Sudbury Neutrino Observatory is 2,100 metres (approx 6.800 feet) below the earth’s surface,
where the solar neutrino problem was solved.
ate Allen of The Toronto Star writes: “To solve this problem, McDonald and his
colleagues dreamt up SNO. Deep in an INCO mine (now owned by Vale), protected
from cosmic radiation constantly bombarding the earth’s surface, the scientists installed
a 12-metre-wide acrylic vessel filled with 1,000 tonnes of ultra-pure heavy water.
The vessel, surrounded by a geodesic sphere equipped with 9,456 light sensors.
The scientific facility measures 5,000 square metres (approx 54,000 square feet).
Photo Credit: SNOLAB
Source: Women In Science & Engineering, Sudbury

The co-winners of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics are not only deserving of the award, but also are increasing our understanding of our Sun. The prize was awarded to Takaaki Kajita for the SuperKamiokamde experiment in Japan and Arthur McDonald for the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO), in Canada, the Nobel Prize release says, “for the discovery of neutrino oscillations, which shows that neutrinos have mass.”

In particular, both research groups, working independently, solved the solar neutrino problem. The problem, simply stated, was that less solar neutrinos were detected than calculations suggested or predictions. When this happens, scientists look for reasons why the two differ. What they found is that the Standard Model of particle physics, which states neutrinos have no mass, is no longer true.

During their  journey from the Sun to Earth, neutrinos can change identity (in what are called neutrino oscillation), and come in three “flavours”— electron, tau and muon. In “Canadian physicist wins Nobel Prize for work on neutrinos,” (October 6, 2015), Kate Allen writes in The Toronto Star:
Canadian physicist Arthur B. McDonald has won the Nobel Prize for discoveries about the behaviour of a mysterious solar particle, teased from an experiment buried two kilometres below Sudbury.

The Queen’s University professor emeritus was honoured for co-discovering that elusive particles known as neutrinos can change their identity — or “oscillate” — as they travel from the sun. It proved that neutrinos must have mass, a finding that upset the Standard Model of particle physics and opened new avenues for research into the fundamental properties of the universe.

McDonald, 72, shares the prize with Takaaki Kajita, whose Japanese collaboration made the same discovery with slightly different methods.

To measure solar neutrinos, McDonald and a 130-person international team built a massive detector in an operational copper mine southwest of Sudbury. The location allowed the experiment to be highly sensitive but created enormous logistical challenges. Construction on the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory — SNO — began in 1990. The experiment collected its first data nine years later.

“I think we all knew that if we could manage to do it, it would be a very significant measurement. And that’s the way it turned out,” McDonald said Tuesday, 10 “crazy” hours after he was awakened by a telephone call from Sweden telling him he had won the prize in physics.
These experimented were confirmed at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory in 2001. A bit about the observatory. Sudbury is a known mining city in northern Ontario, about 340 km (about 200 miles) northwest of Toronto; the SNO detector is situated deep in the ground of an INCO copper mine in Copper Cliff, which is a few miles outside Sudbury.

Now known as the SNOLAB, the facility used a geodesic sphere—it surrounds an acrylic container of 1,000 litres of heavy water (deuterium oxide) supplied by AECL—that contains almost 9,500 light sensors to detect neutrinos created by fusion reactions in the sun. When neutrinos hit the heavy water, an event that took place about 10 times a day, a flash of light resulted.

Here is an added note about the mass of neutrinos from the American Physical Society (Physics) news site in an article (“Neutrino Oscillations Nab Nobel Prize;” October 6, 2015), by Emily Conover:
The exact values of the neutrino masses are still unknown, but physicists do know that neutrino masses are oddly tiny — a millions times smaller than the electron mass. Some physicists believe there may be different physics underlying the masses of the neutrinos than of other particles. Massive neutrinos could also be a key to understanding the source of the matter-antimatter imbalance in our universe. And there may be other types of lurking, undetected neutrinos, known as "sterile" neutrinos.
So, the search for understanding neutrinos, and thus more about our universe, continues. For now, this ranks as one of the most important experiments of the 20th century. More tp follow.

For more, go to [TorontoStar]

Friday, October 16, 2015

Eating Fruits & Veggies Can Encourage Weight Loss

Heath & Wellness

Boxes of Berries: Our family enjoys picking all kinds of berries, as we did last summer. Raspberries not only are easy on the eyes and taste delicious, but also are healthy and help to maintain one’s weight. Counting calories might not be as important as the kind of calories one consumes.
Harvard School of Public Health writes: “The good news is that many of the foods that help prevent disease also seem to help with weight control—foods like whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. And many of the foods that increase disease risk—chief among them, refined grains and sugary drinks—are also factors in weight gain. Conventional wisdom says that since a calorie is a calorie, regardless of its source, the best advice for weight control is simply to eat less and exercise more. Yet emerging research suggests that some foods and eating patterns may make it easier to keep calories in check, while others may make people more likely to overeat.”
Photo Credit & Source: ©Perry J. Greenbaum, 2015

I read two articles this week in Medical News Today that are related to health, in particular to what we eat: the first article, by Honor Whiteman, reports on the serious concerns raised by the World Obesity Federation of a worldwide obesity epidemic; and the second article, by Yvette Brazier, which says that certain fruits and vegetables can not only help individuals maintain a healthy weight but also aid in weight loss.

About 13 per cent of the world’s people are considered obese, and the obese federation predicts that this rate will rise a further 4 per cent by 2025 if no government action is taken. In “Obesity rates will soar by 2025 if governments fail to take action, says report,” (October 11, 2015), Whiteman writes:
What is more, the report - released in line with the first World Obesity Day— reveals that 177 million adults across the globe will be severely obese and in need of treatment in the next 10 years unless more is done to combat the problem.
Overweight and obesity can raise the risk for a number of health problems, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer. A recent study reported on by Medical News Today also links overweight and obesity to earlier onset of Alzheimer's disease.
Since 1980, the prevalence of obesity has more than doubled worldwide. This increase has been largely attributed to a rise in consumption of foods high in fat, an increase in sugary drink intake and lack of physical activity.
Fast food advertising, a rise in sedentary working environments and increased numbers of people residing in urban environments have also been cited as contributors to the obesity epidemic.
What is also true is that genetics alone can’t account for the the doubling the amount of individuals classified as obese, since the gene pool has remained relatively steady during this period. Humans are not destined to become obese or overweight. Fast foods, processed foods, fried foods, sugary drinks and and other junk foods coupled with inactivity are a sure recipe for weight gain.

The key point is that not all foods are equal and it is not just about counting calories, says an article in Harvard School of Public Health discussing the latest research. If left unchecked for years or even decades, the result is obesity. All of these are known contributing factors to obesity, defined as a BMI of 30 or higher; overweight is defined as a BMI between 25 and 30.

I have always been on the slim side, but I have gained weight as I have aged: my BMI is currently 23.3, within the normal range. (You can calculate your BMI by using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention BMI Calculator.) The World Obesity Federation, based in London, England, says on its site that it “represents professional members of the scientific, medical and research communities from over 50 regional and national obesity associations.”

As for what governments can do, I have noticed in the last few years here in Canada (both in Quebec and in Ontario), schools teaching more about making healthy food choices (my older son, who’s in Grade 8, often finds these lectures “boring, advising students of the importance of steering away from empty calories; moreover, my younger son’s elementary school (he is in Grade 2) has instituted a healthy snack program.

The schools physical-education programs do encourage physical activity. I am not sure what more governments can do other than to continue to encourage and educate its citizens, particularly when they are young. Being healthy is not at all boring, and its benefits are numerous. For example, there is a correlation between being healthy as a child and having good health as an adult. This is especially important when one considers what a recent article (“When Should Parents Worry About Their Child’s Weight Gain?” October 14, 2015), by Dr. Marc Michalsky, in U.S. News and World Report says: “Current estimates are that about 17 percent of American children and adolescents–or 13 million, ages 2 to 19 years–are considered to be obese.”

Advertising, culture and peer pressure all have a strong pull on people. Perhaps, there needs to be more ads showing the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, but I think this has been done in the past. Parents also to need to keep at it, by providing healthy and nutritious meals and reducing going out to fast-food places.

The second article has some hopeful news, despite the fact that more than 66 per cent of Americans are classified as either overweight or obese, The CDC further reports that more than one-third (34.9 per cent), or 78.6 million of U.S. adults, are classified as obese. The rise in obesity correlates with the rise in type 2 diabetes; and now medical researchers understand  what is taking place at the molecular level.

A change in diet can contribute to weight loss and also reduce the health risks associated with the body carrying extra fat, not only in your midsection or hips, but also in your organs. Any loss in weight can prove beneficial to one’s health, but it will require what nutritionists refer to as “lifestyle changes,” which includes being physically active and eating more healthy foods.

In “Fruits and vegetables that can aid weight loss revealed,” (September 24, 2015), Brazier writes:
Fruits were categorized into citrus, melon, and berries, and vegetables into cruciferous, green leafy, and legumes based on similar nutritional content.Only whole fruits were included, as fruit juice tends to contain added sugar. Unprocessed potatoes were counted as vegetables (baked, mashed and so on), but not fried.
The researchers examined data on weight and diet changes and the association between change in intake of specific fruits and vegetables and change in weight.
Adjustments were made for lifestyle variables, including smoking status, physical activity level, hours of sitting or watching TV and hours of sleep, as well as change in intake of other foods and nutrients such as fried potatoes, juice, whole grains, sweets and alcohol.
Starchy vegetables led to weight gain
The researchers found that overall, eating an extra portion of fruit a day led to a weight loss of 0.24 kg, while eating an extra daily portion of vegetables brought a weight loss of 0.11 kg. Greater weight loss was linked to higher-fiber, lower-glycemic vegetables, especially cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.
Fruits overall, particularly berries, apples and pears, contributed to greater weight loss, compared with vegetables
Perhaps an apple a day can keep the doctor away.

For more, go to [MedNews1 & MedNews2]

Thursday, October 15, 2015

J. Geils Band: Freeze Frame (1981)

The J. Geils Band perform “Freeze Frame,” the title track of the 1981 album, also called Freeze Frame. The song, written by Seth Justman and Peter Wolf, plays on the cinematic and photographic terms related to time and motion and relates these to erotic love, or desire in this fast-paced song.

Technically speaking, a freeze-frame shot is, Wikipedia says, “used when one shot is printed in a single frame several times, in order to make an interesting illusion of a still photograph.” The effect is used often in TV and in film to draw in the viewer’s attention. It is also often done in black-and-white to act as a contrast to current events occurring on the screen.

This was a popular song. reaching No. 1 in both Canada and the United States. The members of the band are as follows: J. Geils, Magic Dick Salwitz , Danny Klein, Peter Wolf, Stephen Jo Bladd and Seth Justman. The band formed in 1967, with its core members hailing from Worcester, Massachusetts

Freeze Frame
by Seth Justman & Peter Wolf

I could see it was a rough-cut Tuesday
Slow-motion weekdays stare me down
Her lipstick reflex got me wound
There were no defects to be found
Snapshot image froze without a sound

Thursday morning was a hot flash-factor
Her face still focused in my mind
Test-strip proof-sheet love is hard to find
Friday night we'll dance the spotlight grind
Stop-time heart for me if she's not mine

Freeze-frame! (Freeze-frame!) [Repeat x2]
Freeze-frame! Now Freeze!

Now I'm lookin’ at a flashback Sunday
Zoom lens feelings just won’t disappear
Close-up darkroom sweet-talk in my ear
Her hot-spot love for me is strong
This freeze-frame moment can’t be wrong

Freeze frame

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Guilt, The Voice Of Conscience

Human Behaviour

“Guilt is a personal phenomenon. It has nothing to do with what others might say if they knew what we have done, and everything to do with what we say to ourselves. Guilt is the voice of conscience, and it is inescapable. You may be able to avoid shame by hiding or not being found out, but you cannot avoid guilt. Guilt is self-knowledge.”
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
“The Scapegoat: Shame and Guilt (Acharei Mot – Kedoshim 5775),”
April 20, 2015

Wheel of Conscience: Joanna Smith of The Toronto Star writes: “Steve Markus and his wife, Marta, look for family names on a sculpture called the Wheel of Conscience at Pier 21 in Halifax. The monument commemorates Canada’s decision to turn away a ship carrying Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany in 1939.” But the public does not today have access to the memorial piece, which was designed by Daniel Libeskind, himself a child of Holocaust survivors,. The same article says that after being sent out for repairs, the monument has been sitting in a warehouse in Toronto.
Photo Credit: Andrew Vaughan: CP
Source: Toronto Star

Guilt is unpleasant. It has often been deemed counter-productive and a label of religious judgment, an old idea that has no proper place in the modern world. So, the complex human emotion that has often led to positive change in human behaviour is no longer deemed acceptable in some quarters. Everyone and everything, with few exceptions, now in some way, and by some use of internal logic, is justified; and self-doubt and lack of self-assurance is considered counterproductive to achievements of success.

Yet, was it not Freud who said that guilt can be a moderating influence on social behaviour; and that feelings of guilt can lead to regret and self-reflection?  One reason that people want to deny guilt’s place in society, other than the obvious reason of inconvenient truths, is that  guilt is often mixed up with shame, another powerful human emotion, which has no positive benefits.

In an article (“Guilt can do good;” November 2005) on the site of the American Psychological Association, J. Daw Holloday makes a good distinction between the two powerful and similar emotions:
The difference between the two emotions is best described as public and private, according to June Tangney, PhD, a George Mason University psychology professor and author of several books on moral emotions.
“You feel shame when others know what you’ve done; you feel guilt when only you know,” she said in an invited address at APA’s 2005 Annual Convention. “When people feel shame, they focus on the self--they often feel powerless, worthless or exposed,” she explained. “When people feel guilt, they tend to focus on behavior. Guilt is more proactive.”
In her research, Tangney has found that guilt goes with empathy, and shame goes with anger. “Shame-prone people are more prone to anger and don’t manage their anger constructively,” she noted. Shame, she added, is associated with virtually every DSM disorder.
Does the long-term holding in of unexpressed, unrepentant guilt also lead to mental problems? I think so. How about self-justification of unethical, illegal or immoral behaviour? I also think so. For an excellent peer-reviewed article on moral emotions and moral behaviour, including the difference between guilt and shame, see here. (“Moral Emotions and Moral Behavior,” by June Price Tangney; U.S. Library of Medicine)

Judaism, like many moral religions, views guilt as a necessary emotional corrective on human behaviour. Guilt is good, but one should not wallow in it. As one site ( puts it: “Guilt is good! Lingering guilt is not. Guilt is to the soul what pain is to the body.” No normal person likes pain, but pain is a message that something is wrong with our bodies, our minds, our souls. Guilt acts as the friend that does the hard job of telling undesirable but necessary truths. Not happily welcome, but welcome, nevertheless.

Yet, children, including teenagers, are today given excessive protection from such value judgments, lest their developing psyche (or minds or brains) become scarred, or damaged beyond repair. Or so, says much of parenting magazines and sites. Does it not start with child rearing? Is anti-social behaviour the products of bad parenting? Unlikely, but parents who spare children from such lessons might be sparing them from something that they will have to learn as adults.

It is also true that genetics has a different story to tell, giving some reasons why some children turn out as anti-social adults, why some become sociopaths and psychopaths. Some persons, for reasons that are not completely known and understood, have greater resiliency to bad events, to hard knocks and to failures that beset humans. Long-term anger might be the result of failing to admit wrong or of deep feelings of shame. Anger is also a complex human emotion, and an unpleasant one, too. The key is to understand the roots of such anger.

It is true that some people have an overactive conscience and are weighed down by guilt, feeling guilty for the collective sins of others. While others have none, shut off from any self-doubt, seen as a form of weakness and a denial of their desires for power. This does necessarily equate with sound mental health; it could actually show an inability to admit wrong-doing, the opposite of good mental health.  This also might reflect a society that punishes such revelations of wrong-doing, even if the infractions are deemed minor. A society that punishes candor (to the point of shame) ensures that such admissions of guilt become rare. The harsher the punishment, the less possibility of candor.

So, given such cultural norms or rules, it is not surprising that such “open” and self-aware people are rarely seen at the pinnacles of power; such self-correcting behaviour, such periods of self-doubt would likely work against achieving such positions of power. Ideally, admissions of guilt would be followed by actions of forgiveness.

It is important to discuss openly the difference between guilt and shame, the latter destructive and the former a necessary self-corrective to societal improvement. Guilt is the quiet friend of sympathy and empathy. A society that allows open, sincere and genuine admissions of guilt—and its corollary, forgiveness— is much more healthier than one than does not.