Friday, April 23, 2010

Facebook | David Cooper

Facebook | David Cooper

I now have a FB page in addition to my FB profile. What's the difference? When a complete (no previous acquaintance & no friends in common) stranger asks to friend me, rather than simply ignore the person I can refer hir to my page where (s)he can "like" me, and I am not obligated to reciprocate. Likewise I can include the link to my FB page on my bio on external websites that are mostly visited by strangers. My FB friends (and Live Journal friends, as well as Twitter  and Buzz followers, with FB accounts) also are more than welcome (and indeed encouraged) to visit and "like" my FB page

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Organizing for America | | Benefits of Reform

After decades of struggle and a year of debate, health reform is now law in America.

What does it mean for you? It means an end to the worst insurance company abuses, new rules that treat everyone fairly, and more choices and affordable health insurance for millions of Americans.

OFA put together this video showing how reform benefits you and your state.

To view the video click here

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NY Jewish couple film autobiographical romantic comedy for <$15K

Op-Ed Columnist - The Sandra Bullock Trade

Two things happened to Sandra Bullock this month. First, she won an Academy Award for best actress. Then came the news reports claiming that her husband is an adulterous jerk. So the philosophic question of the day is: Would you take that as a deal? Would you exchange a tremendous professional triumph for a severe personal blow?

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On the one hand, an Academy Award is nothing to sneeze at. Bullock has earned the admiration of her peers in a way very few experience. She’ll make more money for years to come. She may even live longer. Research by Donald A. Redelmeier and Sheldon M. Singh has found that, on average, Oscar winners live nearly four years longer than nominees that don’t win.

Nonetheless, if you had to take more than three seconds to think about this question, you are absolutely crazy. Marital happiness is far more important than anything else in determining personal well-being. If you have a successful marriage, it doesn’t matter how many professional setbacks you endure, you will be reasonably happy. If you have an unsuccessful marriage, it doesn’t matter how many career triumphs you record, you will remain significantly unfulfilled.

This isn’t just sermonizing. This is the age of research, so there’s data to back this up. Over the past few decades, teams of researchers have been studying happiness. Their work, which seemed flimsy at first, has developed an impressive rigor, and one of the key findings is that, just as the old sages predicted, worldly success has shallow roots while interpersonal bonds permeate through and through.

For example, the relationship between happiness and income is complicated, and after a point, tenuous. It is true that poor nations become happier as they become middle-class nations. But once the basic necessities have been achieved, future income is lightly connected to well-being. Growing countries are slightly less happy than countries with slower growth rates, according to Carol Graham of the Brookings Institution and Eduardo Lora. The United States is much richer than it was 50 years ago, but this has produced no measurable increase in overall happiness. On the other hand, it has become a much more unequal country, but this inequality doesn’t seem to have reduced national happiness.

On a personal scale, winning the lottery doesn’t seem to produce lasting gains in well-being. People aren’t happiest during the years when they are winning the most promotions. Instead, people are happy in their 20’s, dip in middle age and then, on average, hit peak happiness just after retirement at age 65.

People get slightly happier as they climb the income scale, but this depends on how they experience growth. Does wealth inflame unrealistic expectations? Does it destabilize settled relationships? Or does it flow from a virtuous cycle in which an interesting job produces hard work that in turn leads to more interesting opportunities?

If the relationship between money and well-being is complicated, the correspondence between personal relationships and happiness is not. The daily activities most associated with happiness are sex, socializing after work and having dinner with others. The daily activity most injurious to happiness is commuting. According to one study, joining a group that meets even just once a month produces the same happiness gain as doubling your income. According to another, being married produces a psychic gain equivalent to more than $100,000 a year.

If you want to find a good place to live, just ask people if they trust their neighbors. Levels of social trust vary enormously, but countries with high social trust have happier people, better health, more efficient government, more economic growth, and less fear of crime (regardless of whether actual crime rates are increasing or decreasing).

The overall impression from this research is that economic and professional success exists on the surface of life, and that they emerge out of interpersonal relationships, which are much deeper and more important.

The second impression is that most of us pay attention to the wrong things. Most people vastly overestimate the extent to which more money would improve our lives. Most schools and colleges spend too much time preparing students for careers and not enough preparing them to make social decisions. Most governments release a ton of data on economic trends but not enough on trust and other social conditions. In short, modern societies have developed vast institutions oriented around the things that are easy to count, not around the things that matter most. They have an affinity for material concerns and a primordial fear of moral and social ones.

This may be changing. There is a rash of compelling books — including “The Hidden Wealth of Nations” by David Halpern and “The Politics of Happiness” by Derek Bok — that argue that public institutions should pay attention to well-being and not just material growth narrowly conceived.

Governments keep initiating policies they think will produce prosperity, only to get sacked, time and again, from their spiritual blind side.

Next Article in Opinion (10 of 29) » A version of this article appeared in print on March 30, 2010, on page A25 of the New York edition.

Conjugal contentment is more likely to lead to happiness than professional or material success.

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Judaism 101: How to count the Omer contemplatively with Kabbalah

A New Tradition at the White House - the Seder

Child Receives Trachea Organ Transplant Created With Own Stem Cells | Singularity Hub

A 10 year old boy received a new trachea grown from his own stem cells attached to a colagen scaffold.

Doctors at the Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) along with colleagues at the University College London, the Royal Free Hospital, and Careggi University Hospital in Florence have successfully transplanted a trachea into a 10 year old boy using his own stem cells. A donor trachea was taken, stripped of its cells into a collagen-like scaffold, and then infused with the boy’s stem cells. The trachea was surgically placed into the boy and allowed to develop in place. Because his own cells were used, there was little to no risk of rejection. This was the first time a child had received such a stem cell augmented transplant and the first time that a complete trachea had been used. This also marks only the second time that an organ has been transplanted into a person while stem cells were still forming the new body part. Previous attempts required the donor organ to be infused with stem cells and incubated for weeks before transplantation. This surgery is an amazing step forward for regenerative medicine and organ transplants, and could be a sign of a new direction in these kinds of surgeries.

We reported earlier about the first person to ever receive a stem cell grown windpipe. Claudio Castillo was around 30 when her stem cells were used to grow a new bronchea on a donated trachea scaffold in 2008. That windpipe was incubated in a lab for weeks before she was operated upon. In 2009, Dr. Macchiarini (leader of the team responsible for the earlier procedure) operated on a 53 year old Italian woman, replacing a portion of her trachea with a scaffold covered in her stem cells. As with the recent 10 year old boy, this operation did not require weeks of incubation. In fact, the stem cells were applied just hours before the scaffold was placed inside the patient. In just two years time, then, Dr. Macchiarini (and his colleagues in the EU and UK) has gone from producing the first stem cell organ transplant, to streamlining that procedure so that the organ is mostly reformed while still in the body. That’s simply incredible. Following this trend forward several iterations, and it may be possible to completely renew an organ, or replace it, simply through the correct application of stem cells.

Compared to the newest non-stem cell surgical options, this procedure was considerably faster and less expensive. The unnamed 10 year old boy had Long Segment Tracheal Stenosis, a condition which narrows the trachea and makes the patient feel as if they are breathing through a straw. It is a potentially fatal condition. Typical treatments (which are still relatively new) involve a conventional transplant. The boy had received such a treatment but a metal stent used in that procedure damaged his aorta several years later. Rather than face the uncertainties of another transplant, with the risk of rejection, GOSH doctors requested Dr. Macchiarini’s help in transplanting a stem cell covered scaffold. Letting the trachea develop in the patient may eventually make this process cost just tens of thousands of pounds rather than hundreds of thousands.

The procedure can be seen in a simulation developed by Dr. Macchiarini. The video can be found on the UCL News site by clicking the photo below. There is no sound.

stem cell windpipe transplant video

To further the development of the stem cells on the trachea scaffold, Dr. Macchiarini used various cytokine drugs (shown as injections in the video). These drugs help signal to the stem cells where and how to develop. While not directly stated in the press releases or news segments about this procedure, I suspect that such drug augmentation may become a more integral part of stem cell therapies in the future. As multipotent cells are directed to replace a wide variety of different organs and tissues, proteins and other chemicals may be necessary to speed stem cell specialization and keep it focused on the type of cell that is desired.

When Claudio Castillo received her stem cell scaffold windpipe the procedure was basically just a lab test. It had never been tried before and was likely years from being developed to a point of clinical use. Now, with two more patients having undergone a new (and improved) version of the transplant, we can cautiously pronounce this a developing trend in treatment. Oh, we’re still years from seeing transplants of this kind from becoming commonplace, but every successful case is a step in the right direction. Also, with every new patient there are more doctors that gain experience in the procedure. I think that we are very likely to see more of these transplants (at the rare, lab-based level) in the near future. Hopefully we’re all a little closer to being able to use stem cells and scaffolds to grow new organs when we need them. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: medicine is cool.

stem cell windpipe transplant surgeons

The doctors and surgeons responsible for this miraculous trasnplant. From left to right: Dr. Martin Birchall (UCL), Dr. Mark Lowdell (RFH), Dr. Paolo Macchiarini (Careggi), Dr. Martin Elliott (GOSH).

[screen capture credit: Paolo Macchiarini]
[image credit: UCL News]
[source: UCL News, GOSH, BBC News]

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Judaism 101: A brief history of Pesach



1. Once reform is fully implemented, over 95% of Americans will have health insurance coverage, including 32 million who are currently uninsured.2

2. Health insurance companies will no longer be allowed to deny people coverage because of preexisting conditions—or to drop coverage when people become sick.3

3. Just like members of Congress, individuals and small businesses who can't afford to purchase insurance on their own will be able to pool together and choose from a variety of competing plans with lower premiums.4

4. Reform will cut the federal budget deficit by $138 billion over the next ten years, and a whopping $1.2 trillion in the following ten years.5

5. Health care will be more affordable for families and small businesses thanks to new tax credits, subsidies, and other assistance—paid for largely by taxing insurance companies, drug companies, and the very wealthiest Americans.6

6. Seniors on Medicare will pay less for their prescription drugs because the legislation closes the "donut hole" gap in existing coverage.7

7. By reducing health care costs for employers, reform will create or save more than 2.5 million jobs over the next decade.8

8. Medicaid will be expanded to offer health insurance coverage to an additional 16 million low-income people.9

9. Instead of losing coverage after they leave home or graduate from college, young adults will be able to remain on their families' insurance plans until age 26.10

10. Community health centers would receive an additional $11 billion, doubling the number of patients who can be treated regardless of their insurance or ability to pay.11

To share this list with your friends using Facebook or Twitter, visit:


1. Final vote results on motion to concur in Senate amendments to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, March 21, 2010

2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 11. "Affordable Health Care for America: Summary," House Energy and Commerce Committee, March 18, 2010

4. "Insurance Companies Prosper, Families Suffer: Our Broken Health Insurance System," U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Accessed March 22, 2010

5. "Affordable Health Care for America: Health Insurance Reform at a Glance: Revenue Provisions," House Energy and Commerce Committee, March 18, 2010

8. "New Jobs Through Better Health Care," Center for American Progress, January 8, 2010

9, 10. "Proposed Changes in the Final Health Care Bill," The New York Times, March 22, 2010

11. "Affordable Health Care for America: Health Insurance Reform at a Glance: Addressing Health and Health Care Disparities," House Energy and Commerce Committee, March 20, 2010

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Sunday: book launch and panel discussion

Late March NYC Jewish culture events (with much thanks to Ruth Kaufman)

Volunteering 101: How to become a Jewish community organizer and other volunteer opportunities

Ethiopian-Israeli kids in Gadera, Israel, where Yahel Social Change Program volunteers work with the Ethiopian community.

To read the entire article click here

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Palestinian Sees Lesson Translating an Israeli’s Work

Mr. Khoury was not only disconsolate, he was appalled. A prominent Jerusalem lawyer who often fights Israeli confiscations of land from Palestinians, he considered violence a toxin corroding his nation’s core.

So in memory of George, a charismatic law student and musician, Mr. Khoury did something that shocked many in his community. He paid for the translation into Arabic of the autobiography of Israel’s most prominent author and dove, Amos Oz.

The Arabic version of the book, “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” went on sale late last month in Beirut, Lebanon, where it has received positive commentary — notably by Abdo Wazen, cultural editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat — as well as some angry reaction. The book is due to be distributed more widely in the region in the coming weeks.

In explaining his decision, Mr. Khoury said that literature was an important bridge and that he had a specific goal in mind with this book, a point he includes in a preface to the translation.

“This book tells the history of the rebirth of the Jewish people,” he said as he sat in his law office. “We can learn from it how a people like the Jewish people emerged from the tragedy of the Holocaust and were able to reorganize themselves and build their country and become an independent people. If we can’t learn from that, we will not be able to do anything for our independence.”

Mr. Khoury is hardly a Zionist. His family’s land near Nazareth, about 750 acres, was seized by Israel “for security purposes,” he said, shortly after the creation of the state, bankrupting his family.

His father, Daoud, an educated man who fought the confiscation with every fiber of his being, was barred by the Shin Bet internal security force from holding even menial jobs for some 20 years. He ultimately did get work, as an accountant at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.

Shortly thereafter, in 1975, he was killed in a Palestinian terrorist attack in downtown Jerusalem when a bomb placed in a refrigerator killed 13 people. Elias Khoury was only feet away at the time.

Having lost his land to Israel and his father and son to Palestinians, Mr. Khoury is in a rare position to petition both sides to re-examine themselves. A Palestinian nationalist, fluent in Hebrew and English, Mr. Khoury said he believed that the Oz autobiography, with its account of Jewish refugee life here in the 1930s and ’40s, could be a vehicle to help Palestinians and other Arabs see the Jews in a different light.

The book is widely considered Mr. Oz’s masterpiece and one of the most important books in contemporary Hebrew. While not explicitly about coexistence, as some other of his nonfiction works are, it paints a deeply moving picture of Jewish refugees from Europe trying to find their way.

Mr. Wazen, the Beirut critic, called Mr. Oz’s writings beautiful and praised the “unique world” created in them, saying this “enemy” was certainly worth reading.

Sari Nusseibeh, a Palestinian philosopher who wrote his own powerful autobiography of growing up in Jerusalem in the same era, “Once Upon a Country,” said in that book’s opening that it was upon reading Mr. Oz’s volume that he was struck by the parallel existences of Jews and Palestinian Arabs of the time.

“Weren’t both sides of the conflict totally immersed in their own tragedies, each one oblivious to, or even antagonistic toward, the narrative of the other?” he wrote. “Isn’t this inability to imagine the lives of the ‘other’ at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?”

Mr. Khoury believes it is.

“If we don’t understand each other, there will always be suspicion and gaps that can’t be bridged,” he said.

Mr. Oz, who has come to know the Khoury family — Elias, his wife, Rima, and their two other children — through this project, said by telephone that their sponsorship of an Arabic translation of his book made him very emotional.

“This is the right book to travel into Arabic because it contains a nonheroic rendering of the birth of Israel and a description of Israel as a Jewish refugee camp,” he said. “Elias wants to build emotional bridges between our nations, and to do that you need to let each read the narrative of the other. Reading literature is like taking you into the bedroom of the other.”

Mr. Oz noted that in the book his father recalled how, as a youth in Europe, the walls were covered in graffiti saying “Jews, go to Palestine.” Then when he got here some years later, the walls carried the message “Jews, get out of Palestine.”

Mr. Oz added, “I am very eager for Arabs to read this to realize that Israel, just like Palestine, is a refugee camp.”

Hwaida Saad contributed reporting from Beirut, Lebanon.

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our macbook is back

I brought it in on Wednesday, it arrived and was repaired on Thursday, it shipped on Friday and was delivered today. Very nice turn-around time. It has a new motherboard, new 2 Gb ram, new battery, a new keyboard, and a new mouse touchpad and controller. I am so glad we bought the Applecare extended warranty. Extended warranties may be a rip-off for other products, but they are necessary for laptops. 

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The shortage of men and herpes infection rates

The Story Behind the Alarming Herpes Numbers

The shortage of men reflected in herpes rates: twice as many women as men, three times as many African-Americans as whites, and 48% of African-American women infected.

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