Monday, August 30, 2010

An idle brain may be the self's workshop

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Until recently, scientists would have found little of interest in purposeless mind-wandering--they were just the brain idling between meaningful activity. But in the span of a few short years, they have instead come to view mental leisure as important, purposeful work — work that relies on a powerful and far-flung network of brain cells firing in unison...As neuroscientists study the idle brain, some believe they are exploring a central mystery in human psychology: where and how our concept of "self" is created, maintained, altered and renewed.

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Israel's sad slide from democracy | The Jewish Chronicle

Israelis rightly take pride in the existence of the Knesset but they now need to take action to restore its reputation

...The rules of democracy are crumbling.

The Knesset is passing more anti-democratic laws than ever before -- targeting the Arab minority; predicating basic civil rights on declarations of loyalty to Israel as a Jewish state; and limiting the ability of citizens to protest against government policies.

McCarthy-style parliamentary committee hearings on academic freedoms have led to panic-driven responses by Israeli universities. Harassment of human rights organisations is now a commonplace in the Knesset, where one black day for democracy seems to follow on the heels of another. The Israeli parliament is no longer an arena in which the struggle for human rights can be advanced; rather, it is a place where democracy itself has become a punch-bag, and defenders of human rights are fighting to hold the defensive line. The rot set in some time between Operation Cast Lead and the openly racist election campaign that followed.

...When the supposed stronghold of democracy abuses its role, this is not a matter to be confined within its own sphere. It is the business of all citizens. Israelis who despair as their elected officials pull the democratic rug from under their feet should fight to protect and strengthen the basis of democracy that still exists and to create a space for democracy where it is lacking.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Living In Allen Ginsberg's Old Apartment Is Sort of Like Sleeping With James Franco, Right?

Living In Allen Ginsberg's Old Apartment Is Sort of Like Sleeping With James Franco, Right?

Living In Allen Ginsberg's Old Apartment Is Sort of Like Sleeping With James Franco, Right?

Voice-of-a-generation Allen Ginsberg's former one bedroom E. 12th St. apartment can now be yours for $1700/month. Imagine watching Franco's Howl movie in there! The unit has been newly renovated, but the walls may still reverberate with all those howls. Sigh.

Living In Allen Ginsberg's Old Apartment Is Sort of Like Sleeping With James Franco, Right?

Living In Allen Ginsberg's Old Apartment Is Sort of Like Sleeping With James Franco, Right?

[EV Grieve, via Gothamist]

Send an email to Richard Lawson, the author of this post, at

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Ken Mehlman, Bush Campaign Manager, Comes Out as Gay - Political Hotsheet - CBS News

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Activist Mike Rogers responded to the news that Mehlman was coming out by awarding him a "Roy Cohn Award" for "managing the most anti-gay presidential campaigns in history."

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The New Leader folds after 86 years - New York NY

The New Leader, a liberal anti-communist little magazine that was the product of New York's Jewish intellectual milieu is folding after 86 years, Jewish Ideas Daily reports.

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When I was growing up my parents subscribed to The New Leader.

Hitler 'had Jewish and African roots', DNA tests show - Telegraph

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Saliva samples taken from 39 relatives of the Nazi leader show he may have had biological links to the “subhuman” races that he tried to exterminate during the Holocaust. Jean-Paul Mulders, a Belgian journalist, and Marc Vermeeren, a historian, tracked down the Fuhrer’s relatives, including an Austrian farmer who was his cousin, earlier this year. A chromosome called Haplogroup E1b1b1 which showed up in their samples is rare in Western Europe and is most commonly found in the Berbers of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, as well as among Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews. "One can from this postulate that Hitler was related to people whom he despised," Mr Mulders wrote in the Belgian magazine, Knack. Haplogroup E1b1b1, which accounts for approximately 18 to 20 per cent of Ashkenazi and 8.6 per cent to 30 per cent of Sephardic Y-chromosomes, appears to be one of the major founding lineages of the Jewish population. Knack, which published the findings, says the DNA was tested under stringent laboratory conditions.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

NewsDaily: Drugs protect monkeys from Ebola, U.S. study finds (tx, novapsyche)

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U.S. government researchers working to find ways to treat the highly deadly Ebola virus said on Sunday a new approach from AVI BioPharma Inc saved monkeys after they were infected.

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Economic forecaster: "Greatest Depression" coming | Raw Story

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"One of the good businesses to get in to may be guillotines," Celente quipped. "Because there's a real off-with-their-heads fever going on. People are really fed up."

Celente argued that the conditions needed for an economic recovery simply don't exist. "Let's go back to the 1990s. We're in a recession. What got us out of it? The Internet. It wasn't a government policy, and Al Gore didn't invent it."

But today, Celente argued, there are no new booming industries pushing towards economic expansion. And the US middle class may not have the right skills to take up the challenge.

"We went from a country that used to be merchants, craftspeople, manufacturers, to clerks and cashiers," Celente said. "We have to bring manufacturing back to America."

Celente agreed with his Tech Ticker interviewers that the green economy, which seeks to replace fossil fuels with alternative and renewable energy sources, is a good place to start on an economic recovery, but he said the Obama administration's handling of the issue was misguided.

Celente pointed out the US has committed $54 billion for nuclear power expansion, and has also committed to "clean coal" -- neither of which he sees as being large drivers of the green economy.

The government is "not putting money where it should go," he said.

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BBC News - Alien hunters should look for artificial intelligence

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A senior astronomer has said that the hunt for alien life should take into account alien "sentient machines". Seti, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, has until now sought radio signals from worlds like Earth. But Seti astronomer Seth Shostak argues that the time between aliens developing radio technology and artificial intelligence (AI) would be short. Writing in Acta Astronautica, he says that the odds favour detecting such alien AI rather than "biological" life...Dr Shostak says that artificially intelligent alien life would be likely to migrate to places where both matter and energy - the only things he says would be of interest to the machines - would be in plentiful supply. That means the Seti hunt may need to focus its attentions near hot, young stars or even near the centres of galaxies. "I think we could spend at least a few percent of our time... looking in the directions that are maybe not the most attractive in terms of biological intelligence but maybe where sentient machines are hanging out."

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Chris Rodda: U.S. Soldiers Punished for Not Attending Christian Concert

For the past several years, two U.S. Army posts in Virginia, Fort Eustis and Fort Lee, have been putting on a series of what are called Commanding General's Spiritual Fitness Concerts. As I've written in a number of other posts, "spiritual fitness" is just the military's new term for promoting religion, particularly evangelical Christianity. And this concert series is no different.

On May 13, 2010, about eighty soldiers, stationed at Fort Eustis while attending a training course, were punished for opting out of attending one of these Christian concerts. The headliner at this concert was a Christian rock band called BarlowGirl, a band that describes itself as taking "an aggressive, almost warrior-like stance when it comes to spreading the gospel and serving God."

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my "What German philosopher are you?" quiz result

Martin Heidegger
You are Heidegger: his main interests were in ontology, metaphysics, the history of Western philosophy, and technology. He is most known today for his writings on Phenomenology, Hermeneutics and Existentialism. He is criticized for joining the Nazi party during World War II, and modern philosophers don't agree about his intentions. Like Heidegger, you enjoy secluding yourself often to think about life and philosophy. You're passionate, and your relationships can sometimes be stormy.

21% of people get this result. View All
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Facebook User What German philosopher are you? 

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Brain Connections Break Down as We Age (tx, Novapsyche)

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However there is hope, and just because we inevitably age doesn't mean it's our fate to react more slowly. Seidler's group is working on developing and piloting motor training studies that might rebuild or maintain the corpus callosum to limit overflow between hemispheres, she said.

A previous study done by another group showed that doing aerobic training for three months helped to rebuild the corpus callosum, she said, which suggests that physical activity can help to counteract the effects of the age-related degeneration.

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Q&A with A Film Unfinished director Yael Hersonski at night screenings 8/19-21/10 - New York NY

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"A Film Unfinished first emerged out of my theoretical preoccupation with the notion of the 'archive', and the unique nature of the witnessing it bears." - Yael Hersonski

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

RIP Abbey Lincoln 1930-2010

Also listen to Terry Gross' interview with Abbey Lincoln

People Who Cannot Escape a System Are Likely to Defend the Status Quo - Association for Psychological Science (tx, novapsyche)

People Who Cannot Escape a System Are Likely to Defend the Status Quo - Association for Psychological Science

The freedom of emigration at will is internationally recognized as a human right. But, in practice, emigration is often restricted, whether by policy or by poverty. A new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, finds that people who are told that their right to emigrate will be restricted have what could be considered a strange reaction: they respond by defending their country’s system. 

The researchers suspected that people who are under an oppressive regime might try to see their situation in the best light possible. “When you’re stuck with something, one tendency is to make peace with it and try to see it in as much of a positive light as you can,” says Kristin Laurin, who cowrote the study with Steven Shepherd and Aaron C. Kay at the University of Waterloo. But it was also possible to have the opposite reaction: “Other times, when you’re told that you can’t have something, that makes you want it more.” 

In one experiment for the study, 28 Canadian women read a paragraph about freedom of emigration from Canada. Half read a paragraph saying that moving out of Canada would become easier in the next few years, and the other half read a paragraph saying that this would become more difficult. Then the women read another paragraph that described gender inequality in Canada—for example, that “men’s starting salaries are a full 20% higher than women’s starting salaries.” The women who read that emigration would become harder were less likely to attribute that gender inequality to a systemic problem with their country. The researchers interpret that to mean that people who feel trapped in their country are more likely to try to justify the country’s system and rationalize away its dissatisfactory elements. 

“We focused on policies, but there are a lot of other reasons that make it hard for people to leave. One of these is poverty,” says Laurin. “It’s a depressing thought that the poor, the very people who are put in the worst position by a particular system, might be the ones that are the most motivated to defend that system.”

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Chinese meditation technique boosts brain function: study - Yahoo! News

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"Imaging tests showed a greater number of connections in the anterior cingulate -- the part of the brain which regulates emotion and behavior -- among those who practiced meditation compared to subjects in the control group...Deficits in activation of the anterior cingulate cortex also have been associated with attention deficit disorder, dementia, depression, schizophrenia and many other disorders."

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Monday, August 16, 2010

North Fork/Shelter Island min-vacation Aug 2010 - a set on Flickr

Photos from our mini-vacation on Long Island's North Fork and Shelter Island where we saw our friends Yehudit Moch and Judith Ullman at the Dragonfly Festival and at their cottage in Southhold and celebrated my cousins Eric and Gail Shube's 25th anniversary on Shelter Island. We stayed in a cottage at the Silver Sands Motel (which has its own private beach) in Greenport, NY on the North Fork of Long Island. On Sunday we visited with the Shube mishpachah at Eric and Gail's summer home on Shelter Island, and Eric and his daughters Melissa and Julia treated us to a ride on their speed boat.

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Majdanek: 10,000 pairs of shoes burnt

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A fire broke out Monday night at the Majdanek concentration camp barracks in Poland and destroyed ten-thousand pairs of shoes belonging to former prisoners, according to Majdanek Museum Director Tomasz Kranz.

The fire, which seriously damaged two-thirds of the wooden structure, occurred at midnight and took six hours to put out, a spokesman from the Lublin fire brigade reportedly said.

On Tuesday, Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev expressed support and assistance to Kranz following reports of the fire.

Shalev conveyed deep sorrow that such a historic landmark and invaluable artifacts suffered such damage.

“The damage to these irreplaceable items is a loss to a site that has such historical value to Europe, Poland and the Jewish people,” Shalev told Kranz.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

FringeNYC's Jewish plays: Jew Wish, Abraham's Daughters, and Two Girls - New York NY

The New York International Fringe Festival (FringeNYC), the largest multi-arts festival in North America, with more than 200 companies from all over the world performing for 16 days in more than 20 venues, includes three plays with Jewish characters by Jewish women playwrights. Jew Wish, written and performed by Rachel Evans, opens tomorrow night; Abraham's Daughters, written and produced by Elissa Lerner, opens Sunday; and Two Girls, written and performed by Gabrielle Maisels, opens Thursday evening. Each play will have five performances .

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Above: Jew Wish playwright and performer Rachel Evans

Above: Gabrielle Maisels in Two Girls.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

At the Death Camps, Muslim Leaders Grapple With Jews’ Pain –

Prayers and Learning: Muslim delegates (above) chant their afternoon prayers before the main monument at Dachau, during a visit by North American Muslim leaders to Nazi concentration camps. Max Mannheimer, 90, who survived Auschwitz and Dachau, shows the delegates the number imprinted on his arm as he recounts his war- time experience.
Prayers and Learning: Muslim delegates (above) chant their afternoon prayers before the main monument at Dachau, during a visit by North American Muslim leaders to Nazi concentration camps. Max Mannheimer, 90, who survived Auschwitz and Dachau, shows the delegates the number imprinted on his arm as he recounts his war- time experience.

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Windsor Terace: a photographic tour of our neighborhood

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Our neighborhood, Windsor Terrace, is featured in the first section, but unfortunately Crossroads Cafe is not mentioned.

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Paul Shapiro’s Ribs & Brisket Revue: swing dance at BPL plaza Thursday evening

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A gift from one of Sasson's admirers

A few nights ago we heard a rustling sound by our living room window, and when we went to check it out we saw a teenage girl running away. She left a large stuffed animal perched on the iron fence below our window. We guess she's one of Sasson's many local admirers and left him a gift. Sasson was already on window sill checking it out, but because of NYC's bedbug epidemic we've left it outside.

Prospect Park's extinct predators warning signs

Someone in the Park's Department must have had fun creating these:


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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Anis Shivani: The 15 Most Overrated Contemporary American Writers (tx, Carol Novack)

I actually like some of these writers, but Shivani must have had fun compiling this list:

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Thanks to Carol Novack who posted this on her Facebook and wrote, "I think one can disagree with some of Anis Shivani's picks and still concur in his general assessment concerning the mediocrity and meaninglessness of many of our most lauded, best selling writers."

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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Stiglitz Says U.S. Faces `Anemic Recovery,' Needs More Stimulus - Bloomberg

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz, seen here, said the Obama administration took a "big gamble". Photographer: Jin Lee/Bloomberg

Aug. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Stephen P. Wood, chief market strategist at Russell Investments, talks with Bloomberg's Susan Li about his investment strategy. Speaking from New York, Wood also discusses the U.S. economy and job market. U.S. stocks slipped, pulling the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index down from an almost three-month high, as an unexpected increase in jobless claims fueled concern the economic recovery is slowing. (Source: Bloomberg)

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz said the U.S. economy faces an “anemic recovery” and the government will need to enact another round of “better designed” stimulus measures.

The Obama administration took “a big gamble and it doesn’t look like it’s paying off,” Stiglitz told Bloomberg TV in an interview in Sydney yesterday. “The recovery is so weak that it is not strong enough to generate new jobs for the new entrants in the labor force, let alone to find jobs for the 15 million Americans who would like a job and can’t get one.”

The ex-World Bank chief economist spoke as Mohamed A. El- Erian, chief executive officer at Pacific Investment Management Co., estimated the possibility of deflation and a double-dip recession in America at 25 percent. The U.S. lost 65,000 jobs last month, according to a median forecast of 81 economists in a Bloomberg News survey before the Labor Department report today. The unemployment rate climbed to 9.6 percent from 9.5 percent, the survey showed.

Labor Department data yesterday also showed more Americans than projected filed for unemployment insurance, indicating employers are still cutting staff. Initial jobless claims climbed by 19,000 to 479,000 in the week ended July 31, the most since April, according to the data.

“It’s absolutely clear that you need a second round of stimulus,” Stiglitz said. “It needs to be better designed. It needs to be focused more on returns on investment, education, infrastructure, technology. And if you do those kinds of high- powered investments, the long-term national debt will be actually lower and the growth in the future will be higher.”

U.S. Growth Slows

U.S. economic growth slowed to 2.4 percent in the second quarter from 3.7 percent in the first. It will average 2.8 percent in the last six months of the year, according to the median forecast of 52 economists in the most recent Bloomberg survey.

The Federal Reserve has kept its target for overnight bank lending in a range of zero to 0.25 percent since December 2008 to foster the economic expansion. General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. reported this week U.S. sales that trailed analysts’ estimates.

“This is an anemic recovery,” Stiglitz said, “and is likely to remain anemic.

“Unfortunately, with savings going up to 5, 6, 7 percent, aggregate demand is going to be weak,” he said. “The only thing to fill it is government.”

Consumer Spending

Data from the Commerce Department on Aug. 3 showed consumer spending and personal income were unchanged in June, further evidence the weak jobs recovery is hurting demand. Household purchases grew at a 1.6 percent rate in the second quarter. The savings rate for American households rose to 6.4 percent in June, the highest level in a year, the data showed.

Pimco’s El-Erian told reporters in Tokyo yesterday that as U.S. companies accumulate cash and individuals save, it is tougher to counter deflation, or a protracted drop in prices that hurts the economy. The cooling in private-sector spending makes government policies to stimulate growth less effective, he said.

“I do not think the deflation and double-dip is the baseline scenario, but I think it’s the risk scenario,” El- Erian said. U.S. unemployment will probably stay unusually high, he said.

Even so, Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke this week gave an upbeat assessment on the outlook for consumers, projecting spending would climb as wages rose.

While the U.S. has “a considerable way to go” for a full recovery, “the economy seems to have stabilized and is expanding again,” Bernanke said in a speech to lawmakers in Charleston, South Carolina.

To contact the reporters on this story: Michael Heath in Sydney at; Rishaad Salamat in Hong Kong at r

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Imam Behind the "Ground Zero Mosque" - Yahoo! News

Since 9/11, Western "experts" have said repeatedly that Muslim leaders who fit Rauf's description should be sought out and empowered to fight the rising tide of extremism. In truth, such figures abound in Muslim lands, even if their work goes unnoticed by armchair pundits elsewhere. Their cause is not helped when someone like Rauf finds himself being excoriated for some perceived reluctance to condemn Hamas and accused of being an extremist himself. If anything, this browbeating of a moderate Muslim empowers the narrative promoted by al-Qaeda: that the West loathes everything about Islam and will stop at nothing to destroy it.

  Rauf and Khan have said Park51 - envisaged as a 15-story structure, including a mosque, cultural center and auditorium - will promote greater interfaith dialogue. The furor over the project only underlines how desperately it is needed.

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I'm also really proud of our mayor:

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Here is the text of Mayor Bloomberg's speech

Dear Proposition 8 supporters: You lost because you lied -- SpeakEasy

Topic of Cancer | Culture | Vanity Fair

I have more than once in my time woken up feeling like death. But nothing prepared me for the early morning last June when I came to consciousness feeling as if I were actually shackled to my own corpse. The whole cave of my chest and thorax seemed to have been hollowed out and then refilled with slow-drying cement. I could faintly hear myself breathe but could not manage to inflate my lungs. My heart was beating either much too much or much too little. Any movement, however slight, required forethought and planning. It took strenuous effort for me to cross the room of my New York hotel and summon the emergency services. They arrived with great dispatch and behaved with immense courtesy and professionalism. I had the time to wonder why they needed so many boots and helmets and so much heavy backup equipment, but now that I view the scene in retrospect I see it as a very gentle and firm deportation, taking me from the country of the well across the stark frontier that marks off the land of malady. Within a few hours, having had to do quite a lot of emergency work on my heart and my lungs, the physicians at this sad border post had shown me a few other postcards from the interior and told me that my immediate next stop would have to be with an oncologist. Some kind of shadow was throwing itself across the negatives.

The previous evening, I had been launching my latest book at a successful event in New Haven. The night of the terrible morning, I was supposed to go on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and then appear at a sold-out event at the 92nd Street Y, on the Upper East Side, in conversation with Salman Rushdie. My very short-lived campaign of denial took this form: I would not cancel these appearances or let down my friends or miss the chance of selling a stack of books. I managed to pull off both gigs without anyone noticing anything amiss, though I did vomit two times, with an extraordinary combination of accuracy, neatness, violence, and profusion, just before each show. This is what citizens of the sick country do while they are still hopelessly clinging to their old domicile.

The new land is quite welcoming in its way. Everybody smiles encouragingly and there appears to be absolutely no racism. A generally egalitarian spirit prevails, and those who run the place have obviously got where they are on merit and hard work. As against that, the humor is a touch feeble and repetitive, there seems to be almost no talk of sex, and the cuisine is the worst of any destination I have ever visited. The country has a language of its own—a lingua franca that manages to be both dull and difficult and that contains names like ondansetron, for anti-nausea medication—as well as some unsettling gestures that require a bit of getting used to. For example, an official met for the first time may abruptly sink his fingers into your neck. That’s how I discovered that my cancer had spread to my lymph nodes, and that one of these deformed beauties—located on my right clavicle, or collarbone—was big enough to be seen and felt. It’s not at all good when your cancer is “palpable” from the outside. Especially when, as at this stage, they didn’t even know where the primary source was. Carcinoma works cunningly from the inside out. Detection and treatment often work more slowly and gropingly, from the outside in. Many needles were sunk into my clavicle area—“Tissue is the issue” being a hot slogan in the local Tumorville tongue—and I was told the biopsy results might take a week.

Working back from the cancer-ridden squamous cells that these first results disclosed, it took rather longer than that to discover the disagreeable truth. The word “metastasized” was the one in the report that first caught my eye, and ear. The alien had colonized a bit of my lung as well as quite a bit of my lymph node. And its original base of operations was located—had been located for quite some time—in my esophagus. My father had died, and very swiftly, too, of cancer of the esophagus. He was 79. I am 61. In whatever kind of a “race” life may be, I have very abruptly become a finalist.

In whatever kind of a “race” life may be, I have very abruptly become a finalist.

The notorious stage theory of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, whereby one progresses from denial to rage through bargaining to depression and the eventual bliss of “acceptance,” hasn’t so far had much application in my case. In one way, I suppose, I have been “in denial” for some time, knowingly burning the candle at both ends and finding that it often gives a lovely light. But for precisely that reason, I can’t see myself smiting my brow with shock or hear myself whining about how it’s all so unfair: I have been taunting the Reaper into taking a free scythe in my direction and have now succumbed to something so predictable and banal that it bores even me. Rage would be beside the point for the same reason. Instead, I am badly oppressed by a gnawing sense of waste. I had real plans for my next decade and felt I’d worked hard enough to earn it. Will I really not live to see my children married? To watch the World Trade Center rise again? To read—if not indeed write—the obituaries of elderly villains like Henry Kissinger and Joseph Ratzinger? But I understand this sort of non-thinking for what it is: sentimentality and self-pity. Of course my book hit the best-seller list on the day that I received the grimmest of news bulletins, and for that matter the last flight I took as a healthy-feeling person (to a fine, big audience at the Chicago Book Fair) was the one that made me a million-miler on United Airlines, with a lifetime of free upgrades to look forward to. But irony is my business and I just can’t see any ironies here: would it be less poignant to get cancer on the day that my memoirs were remaindered as a box-office turkey, or that I was bounced from a coach-class flight and left on the tarmac? To the dumb question “Why me?” the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply: Why not?

The bargaining stage, though. Maybe there’s a loophole here. The oncology bargain is that, in return for at least the chance of a few more useful years, you agree to submit to chemotherapy and then, if you are lucky with that, to radiation or even surgery. So here’s the wager: you stick around for a bit, but in return we are going to need some things from you. These things may include your taste buds, your ability to concentrate, your ability to digest, and the hair on your head. This certainly appears to be a reasonable trade. Unfortunately, it also involves confronting one of the most appealing clichés in our language. You’ve heard it all right. People don’t have cancer: they are reported to be battling cancer. No well-wisher omits the combative image: You can beat this. It’s even in obituaries for cancer losers, as if one might reasonably say of someone that they died after a long and brave struggle with mortality. You don’t hear it about long-term sufferers from heart disease or kidney failure.

Myself, I love the imagery of struggle. I sometimes wish I were suffering in a good cause, or risking my life for the good of others, instead of just being a gravely endangered patient. Allow me to inform you, though, that when you sit in a room with a set of other finalists, and kindly people bring a huge transparent bag of poison and plug it into your arm, and you either read or don’t read a book while the venom sack gradually empties itself into your system, the image of the ardent soldier or revolutionary is the very last one that will occur to you. You feel swamped with passivity and impotence: dissolving in powerlessness like a sugar lump in water.

It’s quite something, this chemo-poison. It has caused me to lose about 14 pounds, though without making me feel any lighter. It has cleared up a vicious rash on my shins that no doctor could ever name, let alone cure. (Some venom, to get rid of those furious red dots without a struggle.) Let it please be this mean and ruthless with the alien and its spreading dead-zone colonies. But as against that, the death-dealing stuff and life-preserving stuff have also made me strangely neuter. I was fairly reconciled to the loss of my hair, which began to come out in the shower in the first two weeks of treatment, and which I saved in a plastic bag so that it could help fill a floating dam in the Gulf of Mexico. But I wasn’t quite prepared for the way that my razorblade would suddenly go slipping pointlessly down my face, meeting no stubble. Or for the way that my newly smooth upper lip would begin to look as if it had undergone electrolysis, causing me to look a bit too much like somebody’s maiden auntie. (The chest hair that was once the toast of two continents hasn’t yet wilted, but so much of it was shaved off for various hospital incisions that it’s a rather patchy affair.) I feel upsettingly de-natured. If Penélope Cruz were one of my nurses, I wouldn’t even notice. In the war against Thanatos, if we must term it a war, the immediate loss of Eros is a huge initial sacrifice.

These are my first raw reactions to being stricken. I am quietly resolved to resist bodily as best I can, even if only passively, and to seek the most advanced advice. My heart and blood pressure and many other registers are now strong again: indeed, it occurs to me that if I didn’t have such a stout constitution I might have led a much healthier life thus far. Against me is the blind, emotionless alien, cheered on by some who have long wished me ill. But on the side of my continued life is a group of brilliant and selfless physicians plus an astonishing number of prayer groups. On both of these I hope to write next time if—as my father invariably said—I am spared.

Christopher Hitchens is a Vanity Fair contributing editor. Send comments on all Hitchens-related matters to

I count myself lucky that all I have to do is stick to a nearly vegan diet, consume lots of antioxidants, and monitor the minuscule bugger with periodic biopses and blood tests, but then I have fewer vices than Hitch.

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Putting stem cell therapy within reach of millions | health

An Israeli discovery allowing stem cells to be cultivated in quantities ample enough to meet the world's needs means that stem cell therapy could soon be within the reach of millions.

Photo courtesy of Yossi Zamir/Flash90.
Mass-market manufacture of stem cells is closer than ever after a breakthrough by researchers from Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem.

To read the article click here

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Sunday, August 1, 2010

Large winged insect

This large winged insect appeared on our window screen yesterday morning (our cat Sasson was just also fascinated by this visitor) . We don't know its species; do you?