Tuesday, June 29, 2010

At least 15 of Newsweek's top 50 rabbis are New Yorkers

Critically injured bias attack victim about to lose health insurance

French prof was brutally beaten after a Gay Pride parade in Albany and spent the past two weeks in the ICU. His teaching contract expires this summer, and with it his health insurance. http://ht.ly/24QUm 

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8 Month Old Deaf Baby’s Reaction To Cochlear Implant Being Activated

Nerd Girl

Monday, June 28, 2010

Study: Abstinence-Only Lunch Programs Ineffective At Combating Teen Obesity (tx, Twanna)

WASHINGTON—According to the findings of a recent Department of Health and Human Services study, school lunch programs that teach children to avoid all contact with food may not be an effective method of reducing teen obesity rates.

Students at Culver Junior High are taught the dangers of eating even one tater tot.

Despite the popularity of abstinence-only meal programs in schools across the country, the study found that children who were provided with no food at lunch and cautioned against eating at an early age were no less likely to become overweight than those who were provided with a well-rounded nutritional education.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the findings could adversely affect federal funding for all programs that tell kids "lunch is worth waiting for."

"There's no evidence to suggest that instructing teens not to chew, swallow, or even think about food is actually going to stop them from eating," Sebelius told reporters. "Let's face it: Kids are already eating. And not only during lunchtime. They're eating after school, at the mall, in their parents' basements. Pretending like it's not happening isn't going to make it go away."

"After all, they're teenagers," Sebelius continued. "Eating is practically the only thing on their minds."

Researchers tracked a random sampling of students who received an abstinence-only education, like those in the popular "None for Me!" lunch program at Woodbridge High School in Chicago, which encourages children to abstain from eating until after graduation.

A pledge to sustenance abstinence.

"Although these students were repeatedly warned about the evils of eating and made to take fasting pledges, the abstinence-only program did little to curb their overall appetite for food," the report read in part. "In fact, students at Woodbridge were nearly three times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than children who were given a portion of meat, whole grains, and green vegetables, and then encouraged to skip dessert."

Perhaps more troubling, students who completed the abstinence-only program were reportedly unable to answer the simplest questions about their own digestive systems, and some as old as 17 still believed they could catch high blood pressure from their very first Snickers bar.

"Kids need to know the truth about food," said Sue Weber, a nutritionist. "It's irresponsible for these schools to fill their students with misinformation about the devil working through trans fats, instead of just saying to them, 'Look, I know eating that entire box of Cheez-Its might feel good now, but when you're older, you're going to wish you had gone for the salad.'"

Others argue that complete food abstinence sets an unrealistic standard for the nation's hungry teenagers.

"You can't just tell kids not to eat," said child psychologist Dr. Beth Garcia. "As children grow and their bodies begin to develop, they're going to have certain metabolic urges that are impossible to suppress. We should be giving our kids the tools they need to engage in safe, responsible eating. I'd hate for someone's first time to be with some greasy cheeseburger in the backseat of a car."

Garcia also urged parents to talk to their young children about food before it's too late.

Despite the study's findings, many parents continue to support abstinence-only lunch programs, claiming that it's their right to protect their children from knowing anything about calories for as long as possible.

"It's not the government's place to step in and tell my kids about food and how it's okay in moderation or whatever," said Woodbridge PTA member Steven Bray, a father of two students. "My son's going to learn how to eat the same way I did—by watching monkeys do it at the zoo."

Yesterday, President Obama called on the nation's public school system to work together with his administration to develop a more progressive lunch program that emphasizes healthy eating and discourages late-night snacking. But it remains unclear how students will adjust to the new, more honest nutritional approach.

"I'm never ever going to eat, because eating is wrong, and I'm worth more than a chicken sandwich with asparagus and rice pilaf," Woodbridge seventh-grader Tracey Holmes said. "I heard Jennifer Hines eats all the time, like 50 times a day. I heard she eats all her ice cream upside-down, though, so she doesn't get fat. That's how it works."

"It's really hard, though," Holmes added. "I get so hungry sometimes. Especially after hours and hours of unprotected sex."

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Findings - Discovering the Virtues of a Wandering Mind

In the past, daydreaming was often considered a failure of mental discipline, or worse. Freud labeled it infantile and neurotic. Psychology textbooks warned it could lead to psychosis. Neuroscientists complained that the rogue bursts of activity on brain scans kept interfering with their studies of more important mental functions.

But now that researchers have been analyzing those stray thoughts, they’ve found daydreaming to be remarkably common — and often quite useful. A wandering mind can protect you from immediate perils and keep you on course toward long-term goals. Sometimes daydreaming is counterproductive, but sometimes it fosters creativity and helps you solve problems.

Consider, for instance, these three words: eye, gown, basket. Can you think of another word that relates to all three? If not, don’t worry for now. By the time we get back to discussing the scientific significance of this puzzle, the answer might occur to you through the “incubation effect” as your mind wanders from the text of this article — and, yes, your mind is probably going to wander, no matter how brilliant the rest of this column is.

Mind wandering, as psychologists define it, is a subcategory of daydreaming, which is the broad term for all stray thoughts and fantasies, including those moments you deliberately set aside to imagine yourself winning the lottery or accepting the Nobel. But when you’re trying to accomplish one thing and lapse into “task-unrelated thoughts,” that’s mind wandering.

During waking hours, people’s minds seem to wander about 30 percent of the time, according to estimates by psychologists who have interrupted people throughout the day to ask what they’re thinking. If you’re driving down a straight, empty highway, your mind might be wandering three-quarters of the time, according to two of the leading researchers, Jonathan Schooler and Jonathan Smallwood of the University of California, Santa Barbara.

“People assume mind wandering is a bad thing, but if we couldn’t do it during a boring task, life would be horrible,” Dr. Smallwood says. “Imagine if you couldn’t escape mentally from a traffic jam.”

You’d be stuck contemplating the mass of idling cars, a mental exercise that is much less pleasant than dreaming about a beach and much less useful than mulling what to do once you get off the road. There’s an evolutionary advantage to the brain’s system of mind wandering, says Eric Klinger, a psychologist at the University of Minnesota and one of the pioneers of the field.

“While a person is occupied with one task, this system keeps the individual’s larger agenda fresher in mind,” Dr. Klinger writes in the “Handbook of Imagination and Mental Stimulation.. “It thus serves as a kind of reminder mechanism, thereby increasing the likelihood that the other goal pursuits will remain intact and not get lost in the shuffle of pursuing many goals.”

Of course, it’s often hard to know which agenda is most evolutionarily adaptive at any moment. If, during a professor’s lecture, students start checking out peers of the opposite sex sitting nearby, are their brains missing out on vital knowledge or working on the more important agenda of finding a mate? Depends on the lecture.

But mind wandering clearly seems to be a dubious strategy, if, for example, you’re tailgating a driver who suddenly brakes. Or, to cite activities that have actually been studied in the laboratory, when you’re sitting by yourself reading “War and Peace” or “Sense and Sensibility.”

If your mind is elsewhere while your eyes are scanning Tolstoy’s or Austen’s words, you’re wasting your own time. You’d be better off putting down the book and doing something more enjoyable or productive than “mindless reading,” as researchers call it.

Yet when people sit down in a laboratory with nothing on the agenda except to read a novel and report whenever their mind wanders, in the course of a half hour they typically report one to three episodes. And those are just the lapses they themselves notice, thanks to their wandering brains being in a state of “meta-awareness,” as it’s called by Dr. Schooler,

He, and other researchers have also studied the many other occasions when readers aren’t aware of their own wandering minds, a condition known in the psychological literature as “zoning out.” (For once, a good bit of technical jargon.) When experimenters sporadically interrupted people reading to ask if their minds were on the text at that moment, about 10 percent of the time people replied that their thoughts were elsewhere — but they hadn’t been aware of the wandering until being asked about it.

“It’s daunting to think that we’re slipping in and out so frequently and we never notice that we were gone,” Dr. Schooler says. “We have this intuition that the one thing we should know is what’s going on in our minds: I think, therefore I am. It’s the last bastion of what we know, and yet we don’t even know that so well.”

The frequency of zoning out more than doubled in reading experiments involving smokers who craved a cigarette and in people who were given a vodka cocktail before taking on “War and Peace.” Besides increasing the amount of mind wandering, the people made alcohol less likely to notice when their minds wandered from Tolstoy’s text. In another reading experiment, researchers mangled a series of consecutive sentences by switching the position of two of nouns in each one — the way that “alcohol” and “people” were switched in the last sentence of the previous paragraph. In the laboratory experiment, even though the readers were told to look for sections of gibberish somewhere in the story, only half of them spotted it right away. The rest typically read right through the first mangled sentence and kept going through several more before noticing anything amiss.

To measure mind wandering more directly, Dr. Schooler and two psychologists at the University of Pittsburgh, Erik D. Reichle and Andrew Reineberg, used a machine that tracked the movements of people’s eyes while reading “Sense and Sensibility” on a computer screen. It’s probably just as well that Jane Austen is not around to see the experiment’s results, which are to appear in a forthcoming issue of Psychological Science.

By comparing the eye movements with the prose on the screen, the experimenters could tell if someone was slowing to understand complex phrases or simply scanning without comprehension. They found that when people’s mind wandered, the episode could last as long as two minutes.

Where exactly does the mind go during those moments? By observing people at rest during brain scans, neuroscientists have identified a “default network” that is active when people’s minds are especially free to wander. When people do take up a task, the brain’s executive network lights up to issue commands, and the default network is often suppressed.

But during some episodes of mind wandering, both networks are firing simultaneously, according to a study led by Kalina Christoff of the University of British Columbia. Why both networks are active is up for debate. One school theorizes that the executive network is working to control the stray thoughts and put the mind back on task.

Another school of psychologists, which includes the Santa Barbara researchers, theorizes that both networks are working on agendas beyond the immediate task. That theory could help explain why studies have found that people prone to mind wandering also score higher on tests of creativity, like the word-association puzzle mentioned earlier. Perhaps, by putting both of the brain networks to work simultaneously, these people are more likely to realize that the word that relates to eye, gown and basket is ball, as in eyeball, ball gown and basketball.

To encourage this creative process, Dr. Schooler says, it may help if you go jogging, take a walk, do some knitting or just sit around doodling, because relatively undemanding tasks seem to free your mind to wander productively. But you also want to be able to catch yourself at the Eureka moment.

“For creativity you need your mind to wander,” Dr. Schooler says, “but you also need to be able to notice that you’re mind wandering and catch the idea when you have it. If Archimedes had come up with a solution in the bathtub but didn’t notice he’d had the idea, what good would it have done him?”

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new york journal of books: In a Dark Wood by Marcel Möring, Translated by Shaun Whiteside

(Harper Collins, February 16, 2010)

Marcel Möring’s In a Dark Wood is a highly literary, imaginative, and experimental novel that explores large themes—including Jewish identity after the Holocaust and the search for meaning amid the emptiness and rewards of middle-class existence—in inventive ways.

Möring is a fine prose stylist, and much of the book is compelling, but it is also uneven. Despite the formal variation which helps keep the reader alert there are places where the narrative meanders—and so too did this reviewer’s attention. Another small quibble is that the British diction will remind American readers that this is a foreign work in translation, and in at least one section the excessive use of the past perfect tense was annoying.

Möring’s formal devices include various stylistic, graphic, and typographic experiments. These include: pages preceding chapters with increasing numbers of concentric circles (representing Dante’s circles of Hell); spacing text on the page in the manner of open form poetry; a page of nouns that are arrayed on the page like stars in constellations; typing three or four words as one word without spaces to denote emphatic declamation; representing a masturbatory ejaculation with the word “splat” in a much larger comic strip style font; the first paragraph of the book which begins and ends with ellipses between which is a long and powerfully descriptive run-on sentence; a 12-page chapter comprising a single paragraph that itself is a single run-on sentence with minimal punctuation; and an eight-page graphic chapter (graphic as in the form of a comic strip). Some readers may consider these devices mere gimmicks, but they can also be viewed as evidence of Möring’s boundless creativity.

We meet the novel’s main character, Jacob Noah, in May 1945 as he crawls, covered in mud and soil, out of the hole in which he was hiding from the Nazis for the past three years on a farm outside his hometown of Assen, in northeast Holland. He indignantly reclaims his family’s cobbler shop/shoe store from the Dutch Nazi who had turned it into an Aryan bookstore, eventually confirming that his deported parents and younger brother were murdered in the Holocaust.

Noah marries the daughter of the farmer who saved him and has three daughters, Aphra, Bracha, and the mathematically gifted Chaja (in Dutch the letter J is pronounced as a Y). Then he divorces his wife and turns his daughters against her because he doesn’t want to be the only Jew in a family of gentiles. In the public sphere he is admitted to the business association that had excluded his parents, expanding his business into a department store and eventually getting out of retail to become a local real-estate tycoon—all within the first 60 pages.

To the “money can’t buy happiness” motif is added the Holocaust survivor’s feelings of loss and sense of guilt. Noah has numerous affairs, but his material success leaves him emotionally empty; the only women he ever loved were his mother and his daughters. On page 69 Noah dies in a car crash at age 60, but like the deceased characters in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, he continues living; here the story turns to fantasy.

Möring has said he intended this novel to be an homage to early twentieth century modernist fiction, a kind of Modernism 2.0. One of the characteristic features of modernist literature is the use of mythology as a kind of palimpsest upon which a new work is fashioned. Möring’s templates include Dante’s Divine Comedy (from which the title of the novel is derived), Joyce’s Ulysses, and Joyce’s template The Odyssey. The forest that surrounds Assen becomes for Noah the forest through which Dante entered Hell, and his Virgil is an early twentieth century peddler called the “Jew of Assen.” Though their paths cross only briefly, his Stephen Dedalus is Marcus Kolpa, an emotionally repressed and insecure, introspective Jewish writer and intellectual who has not realized his vocational potential and who once dated and still pines for Chaja. Möring’s portrayal of Kolpa’s interior life keenly captures the thought processes of a brainy introvert. Noah’s Bloomsday is June 27, 1980. On the last Saturday of every June, Assen’s population increases fivefold as it hosts a famous motorcycle race. Bikers, their girlfriends and groupies, and thrill seekers from all over Europe gather for a weekend of drinking, fighting, and promiscuous sex. This bloated, degenerate Assen is Noah’s Inferno and his Dublin.

In addition to Noah and Kolpa’s narratives and backstories, we are introduced to the latter and Chaja’s circle of friends including the photographer who is Kolpa’s interlocutor in the graphic/comic book chapter, and an assortment of unrelated characters, such as the Italian owner of a strip club, and the town undertaker to whom an entire chapter is devoted—perhaps to show that gentiles also experience middle-class malaise and existential despair albeit without the backdrop of communal catastrophe. Such chapters may seem like a digression, or they may remind American readers of Sherwood Anderson’s stories in Winesburg, Ohio. Möring, who grew up Jewish in Assen, captures the town’s provinciality and bourgeois conformity. He also shows the predicament of a minority that lacks sufficient numbers to sustain itself as a community.

In a Dark Wood is a flawed but nonetheless important work that cannot be adequately appreciated after a single reading. To gain the utmost enjoyment from this work, a solid command of the western literary canon is advised.

Reviewer David Cooper is the author of two poetry ebooks, Glued to the Sky and JFK: Lines of Fire (PulpBits, 2003), and the translator of Little Promises by Rachel Eshed (Mayapple Press, 2006). He also covers the New York Jewish culture beat for examiner.com.

My latest book review on New York Journal of Books

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

South African doctor invents female condoms with 'teeth' to fight rape

City secrets: Shacharit Yoga Series, Jewish yoga on the way to work or school

To read the article click here
Readers of this column are aware that Jewish yoga and/or meditation are offered at several venues in New York, usually in the evening (see one of tonight's events in my previous article). Now The Jewish Meditation Center of Brooklyn is offering an opportunity to do Jewish yoga in the morning on the way to work or school.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Spat or not, Turkey still using Israeli tech in attacks on Kurdish PKK rebels - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

The rhetoric from Turkey's prime minister and reports from Turkey on a freeze of deals with Israeli defense contractors have not kept the Turkish army from using Israeli technology against the Kurdish PKK rebels inside Iraq.

According to Turkish sources, the Turkish army has been using Israeli-made drones to locate members of the PKK, an organization on Ankara's list of terrorist groups.

Turkey reported late last week that during operations in May, its forces killed some 130 Kurdish militants in Iraqi territory; it described this as an impressive achievement against terrorism.

But yesterday it turned out that Turkey's gains have been limited, as 10 Turkish soldiers were killed in attacks by the PKK over the weekend. Eight were killed in an attack near a Turkish border town with Iraq and two by a roadside bomb detonated as they patrolled the border.

Israeli drone

An Israeli-made drone

Photo by: Archive

Since March, when PKK attacks resumed, 43 Turkish soldiers have lost their lives in the fighting. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said "foreign elements" are behind the Kurdish attacks on the Turkish army, but has not given details. He says the PKK has become a subcontractor for foreign interests.

Following Israel's raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla, Turkish analysts close to the regime have blamed Israel for encouraging the Kurds to attack the Turkish army as revenge for Ankara's support for the flotilla's organizers.

No decision on freezing deals

Meanwhile, official Turkish sources say no decision has been made to formally freeze deals with Israel.

They say a government committee that discussed the issue last week has decided to leave the matter to the Turkish defense industry to decide. Many of these companies are either government-owned or co-owned with private firms.

Turkish sources say there is a dispute between the Turkish Foreign Ministry, which does not want steps to be taken against Israel, and people in the governing Justice and Development Party who want such pressure.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu says it is still too early to discuss sanctions. He has, however, backed calls for an international inquiry into the flotilla incident.

He also wants an Israeli apology for the killing of Turkish citizens, compensation for their families and a lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip. All these would be preconditions for restoring full ties with Israel.

Davutoglu is aware of the pressure that congressmen, with the encouragement of the Jewish lobby, are putting on the Obama administration to cool relations with Ankara, as well as comments in the European Union that Turkey appears to have "abandoned the West."

"Turkey does not want to lose what it gained on the international front from the flotilla incident," a source at the Turkish Foreign Ministry told Haaretz. "But it is important to remember that the prime minister is operating on the basis of internal political considerations, not only a cool analysis of Turkish interests on the international level."

Wondering whether the flotillas' organizers will set a "freedom flotilla for Kurdish separatists"

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Musicians rehearse recreation of Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew" at Prospect Park Bandshell, 6/19/2010

Friday, June 18, 2010

Judge hears closing arguments in Proposition 8 case – Oakland North -- North Oakland News, Food, Art and Events.

Judge hears closing arguments in Proposition 8 case

Co-lead plaintiff attorney, David Boies.

By: Dara Kerr | June 17, 2010 – 1:12 pm | Filed Under: Front, Politics | Tagged: , , , ,

As Theodore Olson, the attorney for the same-sex couples who sued the state of California for the right to marry, concluded his final remarks in the historic trial, people watching in the San Francisco courthouse’s overflow room stood up and cheered. Wednesday was the last day in the Perry v. Schwarzenegger case, and Olson used his final moments before Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker to argue that Proposition 8, the 2008 California ballot initiative that prohibited same-sex marriage, was discriminatory.

The California Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in May 2008, and in the six months that followed 18,000 same-sex couples got married in California. That November, voters approved Proposition 8, which added a new provision to the California State Constitution reading “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” The following day, once this provision was added to the constitution, a ban against gay marriage went into effect.

Campaign poster from the November 2008 ballot initiative.

Campaign poster from the November 2008 ballot initiative.

Shortly after the election, two same-sex couples filed Perry v. Schwarzenegger arguing that Proposition 8 violates their rights to equal protection under the state constitution. Proposition 8’s supporters, specifically the group Protect Marriage, argue that marriage should be exclusively defined as a union between a woman and a man.

Wednesday’s closing arguments have been long awaited, especially in the Bay Area, which has one of the largest populations of gay and lesbian residents in the United States. Heavily covered by the media and closely watched by gay rights groups and supporters of traditionally defined marriage, this trial is considered groundbreaking because it could set precedent in deciding how gay men and lesbians are treated under the law.

The trial began in January in the U.S. District Court and lasted twelve days. During the trial, lawyers for each side laid out a case as to why or why not Proposition 8 was a legal amendment to California’s constitution. The plaintiffs argued that Proposition 8 was not valid under the constitution because it was discriminatory, while the defense emphasized its belief that allowing gays and lesbians to marry would harm the institution of marriage. Judge Walker then gave a list of questions to the attorneys from both sides to answer in preparation for the closing arguments.

On Wednesday, as the closing arguments began, the entrance of the court building was empty. The crowds of protesters that had thronged outside the court during the trial were gone and just a few press members with cameras were set up. But inside the courtroom it was packed. Not only was the main courtroom full, but the overflow room as well. By noon, the court had set up a second overflow room.

“Well, this is an impressive array of legal talent,” said Judge Walker as he welcomed the attorneys to the court. “I was hoping that we could get this case in before the present. But it may be appropriate that the case is coming to closing argument now—June is, after all, the month for weddings.”

Olson, a tall man with thick sandy-colored hair, was the first to take the stand, and in a resolute one and a half hour speech argued that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional because it discriminates against a class of people.  “The fundamental constitutional right to marry has been taken away from the plaintiffs and tens of thousands of similarly situated Californians,” Olson began. “Their state has rewritten its constitution in order to place them in a special disfavored category where their most intimate personal relationships are not valid, not recognized and second-rate. The state has stigmatized them as unworthy of marriage, different and less respected.”

He asked permission to play video clips of January’s trial testimony, saying that he could not make a more compelling argument than showing what the plaintiffs and their witnesses had said. One clip showed one of the four plaintiffs, Jeffrey Zarrillo, speaking about his partner while choking back tears. “I love him more than I love myself. I would do anything for him. I want nothing more than to marry him,” Zarrillo said.

Olson also played the testimony of a few academic witnesses who testified during the trial. One witness, Nancy Cott, an American history scholar, described the history of marriage and spoke about how important marriage has been to humans over time, saying, “When slaves were emancipated, they flocked to get married. And this was not trivial to them, by any means.”

Proposition 8 supporter. Photo by santacruztacean via Flickr Creative Commons.

When defense attorney Charles Cooper, a slender man with a slight southern accent and white hair parted down the middle, next took the stand, he immediately focused on the belief that marriage should be defined as a union between a man and a woman. “The marital relationship is fundamental to the existence and survival of the race,” he said. Same sex marriage “represents a threat to society’s interest,” he said, and asserted that ultimately marriage should be about procreation—and, inherently, same-sex couples cannot procreate.

Procreation and the value of raising children in a home with both a mother and father were the central themes of Cooper’s argument. “To whatever extent children are born into the world without this stable, enduring marital union, raised and responsibility taken for the offspring by both of the parents that brought them into the world,” he said, “then a host of very important and very negative social implications arise and potential social consequences arise.”

This confused the judge, who asked, “But the state doesn’t withhold marriage from people who cannot make children of their own. Are you suggesting it should?” Cooper said that he was not suggesting this notion, but also didn’t give a definitive answer as to why same-sex couples should be treated differently.

Once Cooper had finished his two-hour and fifteen-minute closing argument, Olson was given 45 minutes for a rebuttal. During this time, Olson brought up the trial testimony of one of Cooper’s January witnesses, David Blankenhorn, the president of the Institute for American Values, an organization that studies marriage and family life. Olson pointed out that during the trial, in a strange twist, Blankenhorn agreed with some of the facts Olson presented under cross-examination, including the idea that heterosexual couples can harm the institution of marriage.

“I meant to say, for our purposes, heterosexuals did the deinstitutionalizing,” Blankenhorn had said during the January trial, referring to the fact that straight couples have already undermined marriage as an institution by divorcing or having children out of wedlock. “Deinstitutionalization didn’t just crop up when we started talking about giving same sex couples marriage rights. It started long before that.”

To a standing ovation in the overflow room, on Wednesday Olson finished his rebuttal by quoting Blankenhorn, concluding that taking away the constitutional right to privacy and freedom to marry “is not acceptable under our Constitution. And Mr. Blankenhorn is absolutely right—the day that we end that, we will be more American.”

Judge Walker’s ruling on the constitutionality of Proposition 8 is expected within the next month. Attorneys on both sides have said that if they lose, they will appeal to the next court, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, and will fight this case to the U.S. Supreme Court if need be.

Filed Under: Front, Politics

This entry was written by Dara Kerr, posted on at 1:12 pm, filed under Front, Politics and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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Female orgasms and a 'rule of thumb'

Female orgasms and a 'rule of thumb'

'C-V distance' may be a factor in how easily a woman has an orgasm.

  • By Regina Nuzzo Special to The Times

    February 11, 2008

    During intercourse, the female orgasm can be elusive. What frustrated woman hasn't wondered: Am I simply, um, put together differently than other women?

    Kim Wallen, professor of psychology and behavioral neuroendocrinology at Emory University, is busy doing the math to find out. And, yes, he says, simple physiology may have a lot to do with orgasm ease -- specifically, how far a woman's clitoris lies from her vagina.

    That number might predict how easily a woman can experience orgasms from penile stimulation alone -- without help from fingers, toys or tongue -- during sexual intercourse.

    In fact, there's even an easy "rule of thumb," Wallen says: Clitoris-vagina distances less than 2.5 cm -- that's roughly from the tip of your thumb to your first knuckle -- tend to yield reliable orgasms during sex. More than a thumb's length? Regular intercourse alone typically might not do the trick.

    Wallen is not the first to check into this "C-V distance." In the 1920s, Princess Marie Bonaparte, a French psychoanalyst and close friend of Sigmund Freud, grew fed up with her own lack of orgasmic response. In her professional practice, she saw plenty of patients with the same complaint ("frigidity," in the parlance of the day).

    She blamed physiology, not psyche.

    Bonaparte collected C-V and orgasm data from her patients and in 1924 delicately published her observations under a pseudonym. (She also persuaded an Austrian surgeon to experiment on her, by cutting around her clitoris and stretching it closer to her vagina -- with disappointing results.)

    Recently, Wallen dug up Bonaparte's measurements and analyzed them with modern statistical techniques. Sure enough, he found a striking correlation. Now he is hoping to do his own measurement study.

    Preliminary work has revealed that only about 7% of women always have orgasms with sex alone, he says, while 27% say they never do. The current research hold-up: developing a reliable, at-home technique for measuring C-V distance, especially one that can deal with stretchy skin.

    Women with a large C-V distance should not be discouraged, Wallen says. "Personally, I don't think the inability to experience no-hands, penis-only intercourse with orgasm says anything about a happy sex life," he says. "Maybe it could allow couples to be a bit more inventive in how they have sex."

    He acknowledges that the measure might become one more standard women feel they need to live up to, like breast size. "People would ask, 'Is your distance really small?' "

    Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times

    This finding confirms what I observed three decades ago in my 20s with a smaller research sample.

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    Wednesday, June 16, 2010

    How Jewish New Yorkers can spend 3-6 days in the CT Berkshires for $60+2 hours chores/day

    Here's a way for Jewish New Yorkers on a budget (not all of us are affluent) to get out of the city and spend a few days in the countryside. At Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center's Soil, Soul & Service program you can enjoy all its programs and facilities (boating, fishing, swimming--both pool and lake, gym and hot tub, tennis, arts & crafts, yoga and meditation classes, guided hikes, farm and green tours on its 300-acre wooded land) including room and board for a three to six-night stay any time between June 28 - July 25, 2010 for a voluntary contribution of $60 per night and a few hours of volunteer work each day (helping out in one of the gardens, pulling weeds or harvesting veggies on the farm, working in the dining room or housekeeping).

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    EU chief warns 'democracy could disappear' in Greece, Spain and Portugal | Mail Online

    Will the debt crisis lead Greece, Spain and Portugal to return to military dictatorships?

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    Monday, June 14, 2010

    Admiral Ayalon critiques current Israeli government

    In my June 2nd article I reported that Retired IDF Navy Chief, Security Service Director, Knesset member and cabinet minister Ami Ayalon would speak at a J Street event in Manhattan. That appearance was one of several Admiral Ayalon made on a tour of US cities. To view his remarks in their entirety see the video below of his 87 minute talk at a suburban Chicago synagogue. J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami summarizes Admiral Ayalon's main points as follows:...To read the rest of the article click here

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    Issendai's Superhero Training Journal - How to keep someone with you forever (tx, )

    Previous Entry | Next Entry

    How to keep someone with you forever

    • Jun. 9th, 2010 at 9:39 AM
    satyr, drool you bastards, bosom

    So you want to keep your lover or your employee close. Bound to you, even. You have a few options. You could be the best lover they've ever had, kind, charming, thoughtful, competent, witty, and a tiger in bed. You could be the best workplace they've ever had, with challenging work, rewards for talent, initiative, and professional development, an excellent work/life balance, and good pay. But both of those options demand a lot from you. Besides, your lover (or employee) will stay only as long as she wants to under those systems, and you want to keep her even when she doesn't want to stay. How do you pin her to your side, irrevocably, permanently, and perfectly legally?

    You create a sick system.

    A sick system has four basic rules:

    Rule 1: Keep them too busy to think. Thinking is dangerous. If people can stop and think about their situation logically, they might realize how crazy things are.

    Rule 2: Keep them tired. This is a corollary to keeping them too busy to think. Of course you can't turn off anyone's thought processes completely—but you can keep them too tired to do any original thinking. The decision center in the brain tires out just like a muscle, and when it's exhausted, people start making certain predictable types of logic mistakes. Found a system based on those mistakes, and you're golden.

    Exhaustion is also the perfect defense against any good thinking that might slip through. Fixing the system requires change, and change requires effort, and effort requires energy that just isn't there. No energy, and your lover's dangerous epiphany is converted into nothing but a couple of boring fights.

    Rule 3: Keep them emotionally involved. Make them love you if you can, or if you're a company, foster a company culture of extreme loyalty. Otherwise, tie their success to yours, so if you do well, they do well, and if you fail, they fail. If you're working in an industry where failure isn't a possibility (the government, utilities), establish a status system where workers do better or worse based on seniority. (This also works in bad relationships if you're polyamorous.)

    Also note that if you set up a system in which personal loyalty and devotion are proof of your lover's worthiness as a person, you can make people love you. Or at least think they love you. In fact, any combination of intermittent rewards plus too much exhaustion to consider other alternatives will induce people to think they love you, even if they hate you as well.

    Rule 4: Reward intermittently. Intermittent gratification is the most addictive kind there is. If you know the lever will always produce a pellet, you'll push it only as often as you need a pellet. If you know it never produces a pellet, you'll stop pushing. But if the lever sometimes produces a pellet and sometimes doesn't, you'll keep pushing forever, even if you have more than enough pellets (because what if there's a dry run and you have no pellets at all?). It's the motivation behind gambling, collectible cards, most video games, the Internet itself, and relationships with crazy people.

    How do you do all this? It's incredibly easy:

    Keep the crises rolling.

    To read the rest of the post click here


    Posted via web from davidfcooper's posterous

    Pride Parade celebrated in Tel Aviv - Israel News, Ynetnews

    Pride Parade celebrated in Tel Aviv

    Gay community's main event in Israel held under heavy concerns of political clash over flotilla raid. Politicians take part. Mother of Nir Katz, slain in attack on gay youth center, says 'his murder helped many come out of closet'

    Yoav Zitun

    Published: 06.11.10, 14:24 / Israel News

    Posted via web from davidfcooper's posterous

    Friday, June 11, 2010

    Iceland passes gay marriage law in unanimous vote | Reuters

    Iceland passes gay marriage law in unanimous vote

    Fri Jun 11, 2010 11:04am EDT

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    Iceland's Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir answers questions at a news conference with foreign news media in Reykjavik, April 25, 2009. REUTERS/Bob Strong

    Iceland's Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir answers questions at a news conference with foreign news media in Reykjavik, April 25, 2009.

    Credit: Reuters/Bob Strong

    REYKJAVIK (Reuters) - Iceland, the only country in the world to have an openly gay head of state, passed a law on Friday allowing same-sex partners to get married in a vote which met with no political resistance.


    The Althingi parliament voted 49 to zero to change the wording of marriage legislation to include matrimony between "man and man, woman and woman," in addition to unions between men and women.

    Iceland, a socially tolerant island nation of about 320,000 people, became the first country to elect an openly gay head of state in 2009 when Social Democrat Johanna Sigurdardottir became prime minister after being nominated by her party.

    "The attitude in Iceland is fairly pragmatic," said Gunnar Helgi Kristinsson, a political scientist at the University of Iceland. "It (gay marriage) has not been a big issue in national politics -- it's not been controversial."

    The prime minister's sexual orientation garnered far more interest among foreign media than in Iceland, where the attitude toward homosexuality has grown increasingly relaxed in the past two or three decades, Kristinsson added.

    Iceland's protestant church has yet to decide whether to allow same-sex marriages in church, although the law says "ministers will always be free to perform (gay) marriage ceremonies, but never obliged to."

    The largely protestant countries of northern Europe, including Sweden, Norway and Denmark, have all endorsed some form of civil union between same-sex couples, but the issue creates more controversy in Mediterranean Catholic nations.

    In the United States, gay marriage remains a frought political issue, with laws varying widely from state to state. Vermont was the first state to allow same-sex civil unions in 1999, followed by Massachusetts and Connecticut and others.

    (Reporting Birna Bjornsdottir and Nicholas Vinocur; editing by Noah Barkin)

    Posted via web from davidfcooper's posterous

    Thursday, June 10, 2010

    The Jewish-American Marriage Oral History Project: interview: Mindi Wernick and Malkie Grozalsky

    To read the interview click here

    In Monday's article I introduced the The Jewish-American Marriage Oral History Project. In honor of Brooklyn Pride's 14th Annual Pride Celebration this week the first Jewish-American couple whose interview will appear in this column is a Brooklyn lesbian couple, Mindi Wernick and Malkie Grozalsky, whom I interviewed in their Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn apartment two years and ten months ago. To make the interview read like a dialogue I have edited out my questions; for clarity the interview subjects sometimes rephrase a question as a statement, and where this occurs it indicates a change of subject. I began the interview by asking how they met.

    Posted via web from davidfcooper's posterous

    Jerry Nadler on BP's use of toxic chemical dispersants...

    J Street : An Open Letter by Michael Omer-Man (thanks, Shawn Landres)

    After the Gaza Flotilla tragedy, American-Israeli Michael Omer-Man wrote the following letter to a friend in the U.S. who expressed concern about publicly criticizing Israeli policy.

    I have not lived in The States for a handful of years now, so I'm no longer  completely confident in my ability to gauge the direction of American or American-Jewish political leanings.  I can, however, give an Israeli perspective.

    In the past few years, I have seen a slow - but very significant - shift to the right in the Israeli public's political inclinations.  Before I get into the implications of that, I find it necessary to explain a thing or two about the Israeli right that most Americans fail to grasp.  The Right in Israel is much further right than most American Jews are able to comprehend.  They outright reject the two-state paradigm for peace and see no need to come to an agreement with the Palestinians at all.  The idea of human rights doesn't apply to non-Jews for them.  I cannot tell you how disturbed I was to be invited to join several facebook groups in the past week, some of which were calling to kick out all of the Arab members of Knesset, another calling for the assassination of Arab members of Knesset.  One of the largest political parties in the last election had two main propositions in their platform, one of which was to require loyalty oaths from 20% of Israel's citizens.  A law making it illegal to mention/commemorate the "Nakba" came scarily close to being passed earlier this year, and it is still a threat to freedom of speech.

    All of those points are almost anecdotal, but to me, they reflect the denial that American Jews live in regarding Israel.  In my (self-discredited) opinion of American Jewry, I think most believe that regardless of the day's current events, most Israelis (and more importantly their government) are aiming towards peace at some level or another.  I can no longer say that this is the case.  It may be that this is a result of the disappointment from nearly two decades of failed peace processes - of which a great deal of the blame lays on the shoulders of Arafat and the Palestinians.  However, today - the day that matters most - I do not see an Israeli government that is working towards, let alone is interested in, attaining peace.  The "peace process" is always there because it is necessary to keep the world on our side.  But the existence of a peace process is not necessarily indicative of official efforts to make/attain peace.

    Yitzhak Rabin, Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni all came to the realization - at different times - that the perpetuation of the occupation will lead to either an apartheid state or a bi-national state.  Both of these situations take away one half of the "Jewish-Democratic" nature of Israel, something that is vital for the idea of Zionism that I understand and believe in.  I fear that the current government does not see the urgency in dealing with these issues, or even worse, is not bothered by the outcomes.

    The constantly expanding settlement enterprise is one of the policies that most devastatingly damages the prospect of Israel remaining both democratic and Jewish.  They are not just putting Jews in Palestinian areas, they are making Palestinian areas Jewish; this is a huge demographic problem in the context of a Jewish democracy.  The current government - a great portion of their constituents are from the settler movement - has promised that they will go back to building at full speed once the almost laughable 10-month moratorium is over.  In other words, they are serious about expanding settlements, not about controlling or reigning them in.  While this may seem like a small issue from the outside, it is in all actuality, one of the biggest hurdles in the way of a two-state solution.  I don't intend to go issue-by-issue to explain why I dislike Israel's current government, but I want to make the point that Bibi's government is not just a nudnik, they are working against peace and they're doing it well.

    The messages that are broadcast in English and the messages that are broadcast in Hebrew are very different.  There has been this idea growing lately in Israel that the source of all of its problems are its bad "Hasbara" (PR/making the case for Israel).  To this I say: it's not the message, it's the policies.  That the occupation of the Palestinians has gone on for 43 years now is too much to be able to fix with better spokespeople.  The flotilla incident is merely a symptom of this larger issue.  While those activists may have been protesting the blockade of Gaza in this instance, for them it is all in the context of the ongoing occupation and military control over the Palestinians.


    It is my opinion that American Jews are so obsessed with defending Israel's right to exist (which is important, necessary and legitimate) that they are all too willing to overlook what Israel has become.  I am in no way advocating that American Jews stop defending Israel's right to exist.  However, I think that liberal American Jews need to make the extremely difficult decision to realize that the country they are constantly defending is slowly becoming (I hope that it's still repairable) a state which their conscious wouldn't allow them to support were it not Jewish.

    I believe that because of the direction Israel has been moving in in recent years (both the public and the governments it has elected), the only way for positive change to come about is through outside pressure.  This is uncomfortable for any Jew, even those furthest on the left; we all fear the fine line between criticizing Israel and anti-Semitism.  However, the reality is that if most people personally saw the effects of the occupation, they would be appalled.  This is not the Israel that most American Jews support, and they are in the strongest position to affect change.  It is extremely uncomfortable, but I believe it is the reality.

    You mention that you believe Meretz is in the best position to provide leadership to bring change for the better to Israel.  You say that you wish they had better leadership.  Unfortunately, their leadership is only a very small part of the problem.  Israeli society has moved to the right in a much more extreme way than most people are willing or able to understand.  I just came back from a Peace Now rally, where the loudest and most prominent chant was, "Ohevim et HaMedina, Mitbayshim b'Memshala" ("We love our country, but we're embarrassed by our government").  A police force of thousands was required to protect the participants, not from terror attacks, but from other Israelis.  In the middle of the rally, a military-grade smoke grenade was thrown into the middle of the crowd.  I was called a traitor for wearing a shirt that said only, "Shalom Achshav" ("Peace Now").  I was scared - not for my personal safety, but for the state of Israeli society.

    I feel the need to insert the obligatory, "but the Palestinians are crazy too" statement; it is a true statement.  I don't think that there can be peace without fundamental change within the Palestinians, but we are dealing with the most palatable Palestinian governing body that the world has ever seen.  American Jews need to recognize that the Israelis need to be pushed to honestly work towards peace because time is running out.  American Jews are in the best position to make this clear; I believe that J Street is attempting to play this role.  I completely understand and share your fear of such movements being hijacked by radical pro-Palestinian elements that deny Israel's right to exist, but those voices will always exist - just as those Jewish voices that deny the necessity of peace will always exist.  I don't think that ongoing public demonstrations are the answer, but something has to change.

    The point of all this is that the status quo is not acceptable and it is not sustainable.  If American Jews truly care for the Jewish state, they need to realize this and work towards affecting change.

    Posted via web from davidfcooper's posterous

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010

    A Narrowing of Heart and Mind: The American Jewish Response to the Flotilla | Flotilla Crisis | Jewish Journal

    What has happened to American Jewry that engagement with Israel has become a binary choice: Israel always right or Israel always wrong? I refuse to choose. The most powerful way for us to show our love of Israel is to push beyond the talking points and re-engage the dream that has animated our people for centuries — the dream of a democratic, pluralistic and diverse nation, one in which the Jewish past is honored and its future built, a country in which Jewish culture and language flourish and the spirit receives sustenance, and one that honors the dignity and equality of all its inhabitants. But that will require moving beyond sound bites and rallying cries, and instead embracing openhearted reflection and courageous action.

    Posted via web from davidfcooper's posterous

    S.O.S. | The New Republic

    Tel Aviv, Israel — There once was a very successful campaign in Israel for road safety. Its slogan was, “On the road, don’t be right, be smart." The day after the flotilla raid last week, more than one pundit in the Israeli press brought up the slogan. We’re right, they said, but why can’t we also be smart?

    The raid was by no means smart. Israel blindly stepped into a p.r. campaign orchestrated by Turkey and Hamas, doing enormous damage to its own international image and credibility. But the raid was not an isolated incident. Rather, it is only the latest example of how Benjamin Netanyahu’s prime ministership is steadily eroding Israel’s legitimacy.

    Why do Israelis believe they’re right on the flotilla specifically and Gaza more generally? Because Israel evacuated Gaza to the last inch, and Hamas, which controls Gaza, kept shooting rockets at Israel’s civilians. Because Hamas is not only calling for the murder of every single Jew—its covenant is by no means ambiguous on that—but also arming as best it can for this holy cause. Under these conditions, and despite Hamas’s refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist, Israel still actively sustains Gaza. Israel’s hospitals accept tens of thousands of Gazans for medical treatment; it lets food and medicine daily through its checkpoints on Gaza’s boarders; and it supplies Gaza with electricity and gas. No other country in the world sustains a government bent on its destruction in such a way. (Egypt, with which Gaza shares a border, takes no such responsibility.) Given all this, as Israel sees it, stopping a Turkish attempt to open an arms importation route to Gaza was right.

    But this does not make the raid smart. The “humanitarian mission” carried on the flotilla was not a move in a military game, nor was it a court case in which complicated judicial arguments count. It was a gambit in the game of p.r., played in front of a worldwide, hardly informed TV audience, and mediated, more often than not, by hostile media. It is easy to see how Israel could have handled the situation: It should've just let the flotilla pass. The whole hot-air balloon would have been deflated. The world audience, if it had noticed the affair at all, would have been left with a few snippets of the “peace activists” chanting anti-Semitic slogans to the wind, then hugging Hamas officials. That’s it. (There was a similar attempt to pull off a p.r. stunt under Ehud Olmert's administration. Olmert let the “peace mission” through. No one remembers it now.)

    This is not hindsight wisdom. In the days before the incident, many commentators (myself included) kept saying Israel should just let the flotilla sail to Gaza. But Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak thought they knew better. After all, both served in elite army units, and commando raids are their expertise. But, apparently, statesmanship is not.

    In large part, this is why the flotilla's shockwaves in Israel are so enormous. Israelis have been plagued of late by a creeping fear that their leadership is incompetent—that Netanyahu and Barak just don’t understand the basic parameters of the political map. For a country that’s so small, in the midst of a huge and hostile region, this is no niggling fear. Now, the flotilla incident has confirmed that, under its current leadership, Israel indeed faces a deep crisis of power and perception. The problem isn't just that Netanyahu and Barak failed to see the meaning of a Turkey and Hamas p.r. stunt; it is that they have failed to see the larger picture.

    The article continues here

    Posted via web from davidfcooper's posterous

    Yuri Foreman wants a rematch (after knee surgery)

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010

    More early June NYC Jewish culture events

    To read the article click here
    These listings, which supplement those in Friday's article, include a gay Jewish film festival, an author talk, a pro-Israel rally, an Israeli rock band's performance, and an exhibit of work by Latino-Jewish visual artists.

    Unemployment Falls, U.S. Jobs Rose in May - ABC News

    The Labor Department today reported that the U.S. economy gained 431,000 jobs in May and that the jobless rate dropped to 9.7 percent from 9.9 percent in April.

    "Regular unemployment is what happens in a normal recession, when companies lay off workers for a short period of time and then hire them back when the economy recovers," says Edward Stuart, an economics professor at Northeastern Illinois University.

    This time, however, tight credit markets and weak consumer spending have dried up company finances, making it very difficult for them to add new workers.

    In addition, the recession has hit some industries -- such as construction and manufacturing -- especially hard, which means that workers in those areas might find it almost impossible to land another job in their sector.

    Our friend Dale Rosenberg was interviewed for this article. She's been looking for work for 10 months without success.

    Posted via web from davidfcooper's posterous

    The Jewish-American Marriage Oral History Project