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Sep. 19th, 2008

Golden Star of David

A year since my last post, and a great editorial.

A role model for the Mideast

The Ottawa Citizen

   This has been an exhilarating time for women in politics, from the strong campaign of Hillary Clinton to the emergence of Sarah Palin, not to mention the decision here in Canada to include -- finally -- Elizabeth May in the leaders' debates.

   But perhaps the most dramatic political achievement for a woman this fall belongs to Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister who on Wednesday was elected by her Kadima party to succeed Ehud Olmert. This means she is well positioned to become Israel's prime minister.

   The ascension of Ms. Livni is a reminder of how Israel is geographically part of the Middle East but, culturally and politically, not of the Middle East. In many countries surrounding Israel, women are lucky to be allowed to drive.

   As a liberal democracy, Israel affords women the same opportunities they enjoy in the West. Ms. Livni, 50, is both a lawyer and former Mossad agent, and currently serves as Israel's chief negotiator with the Palestinians. It's worth noting that Kadima party rank-and-file chose her over cabinet colleague Shaul Mofaz, a former paratrooper commander who served as Israel's top military official.

   Strong women don't scare Israelis. In the 1970s the country had as prime minister Golda Meir, who supposedly authorized the Mossad to hunt down, one-by-one, the terrorists who murdered Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. It wasn't for nothing that colleagues referred to Meir as "the only man in the Israeli cabinet."

   Ms. Livni's story -- her personal and political development -- resonates with Israelis.

   She grew up in a traditional Zionist family, to parents who fought for Israeli independence in 1948 with a hope to building a Jewish state that would encompass land on both sides of the Jordan River. Eventually, however, this dream of a Greater Israel faded as young Zionists like Tzipi Livni realized that indigenous Muslims had legitimate claims of their own. The land would have to be shared, a Jewish state of Israel next to an Arab-Muslim state of Palestine.

   It wasn't easy for Israelis to accept that their Palestinian enemy had his own narrative of dispossession and ancestral longings, but accept it they did. "It is painful, maybe in terms that outsiders cannot understand, that it is necessary to give up some of the land that Jews have [claimed] for thousands of years," Ms. Livni told the Los Angeles Times last year.

   Her evolution into a supporter of a two-state solution mirrors a collective conversation that took place in Israel over the past 40 years. Ms. Livni is a public example of a second-generation Zionist coming to believe, as most Israelis have, that peace and security are worth more than real estate like Gaza City or Jenin.

   Unfortunately, the Muslim-Arab world has refused to engage in any similar introspection that would lead it to recognize the legitimacy of Jewish claims. The world still awaits a Palestinian Tzipi Livni.

   In this regard, perhaps Ms. Livni can serve a useful role in the Middle East as a model of political pragmatism. If she becomes prime minister, maybe her example will spark the emergence of Arab counterparts who also prefer peace over conflict and, to paraphrase a famous formulation of Golda Meir, love their children more than they hate Israel.

Sep. 18th, 2007

Golden Star of David

We're not all marking Ramadan

I happen to think it's important to remember that people are not this huge monolithic entity- "the West" really oversimplifies things, as does "Arabs" or "Muslims".

"We're not all marking Ramadan" is an article written by, Ray Hanania, a Christian Arab now living in the U.S.

Sep. 17th, 2007

Golden Star of David


 Tipping. It may not seem like a political issue, but I think is.

Way back when, I went to go work in the U.S., at a summer camp of all places. A substantial part of my salary was considered "guaranteed tips". Tips were considered part of my salary: if for some reason I didn't get the "required" amount, the employer would make up the difference, but tips were considered salary.

This is unconscionable to me. Tips are tips: they should be an extra, for exceptional service, not part of your salary. Expecting your customers to provide tips to subsidize your labour costs is akin to an extra tax in my mind.

Now, given that this is obviously the political/economic context we're working in, should you tip people who are just doing their jobs?

I recently took this quiz: Tipping Etiquette Quiz. Questions include how much I think I should pay my personal trainer when i reach a fitness goal, or how much I should tip my wedding florist or interior designer.

Are they kidding? My itnerior designer is just that: an interior designer. It is her job to design my interior (heh heh)! I'm paying her (or him, in some cases) royally for that, why should she/he get a tip on top of that? Same thing for a personal trainer: it's their job to push me to achieve my fitness goal. Why should I tip $60-100 on top of their fees? (Oops, I guess I gave away the answer)

What's next, tipping your professors for an A?

Sep. 16th, 2007

Golden Star of David

Thermobaric Weapons

The CBC recently did an article on the rise of thermobaric weapons. Essentially, thermobaric weapons are weapons that "disperses a fine cloud of particles of a solid or an explosive liquid, then detonates the cloud with a charge. The result is an explosion of heat and pressure, essentially a fiery shockwave."

My favorite part of the article?

Why are thermobaric weapons gaining cachet with U.S. and Russian military forces?

The two countries say such bombs are capable of massive destruction yet do not harm the environment as nuclear weapons do. They are also useful for attacking underground and hidden targets because the explosive blast can spread through tunnels. While a deeply buried target may be immune to traditional bombs, a thermobaric weapon can penetrate through a tunnel system and damage any equipment or systems, thus effectively neutralizing — if not actually destroying — the target.

We obviously have our priorities straight.

Sep. 2nd, 2007

Golden Star of David

(no subject)

Aug. 20th, 2007

Golden Star of David

(no subject)

I must apologize (ONCE AGAIN) for being a wee bit sparse with the updates. Life itnervened.

Anyways, all the discussion we seem to have about Israel seems to centre around the conflict. I thought that, for once, I'd post a neat Israeli scientific project that's currently in development:

The Cup&Up internal bra!

Aug. 2nd, 2007

Golden Star of David

HPV vaccination plan should be halted, reviewed: researcher

I must apologize for having been so delinquent about posting. I have a backlog of issues to post about!

I'm glad this Public Health researcher is raising many of the same concerns I have. Now if only those at the top would listen to the evidence... *snigger*


The federal government's plan for a $300-million immunization campaign to prevent HPV, a virus that causes cervical cancer, should be halted until further study can be done, says a Canadian researcher.

"What's the rush? Why can't we get the information that we need first?" Abby Lippman, a professor in the department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health at McGill University in Montreal, told CBC News.

"There's a potential for unexpected effects, so why don't we get this information to make sure that we have a system in place that will really protect and promote women's health?"

Though she conceded "we will never have all of the answers," Lippman wants a thorough governmental review of the vaccine's safety, cost and uses before a large-scale immunization program is initiated.

And she suggested certain programs, such an immunization registry, be established to track patients, should the first round of vaccinations prove ineffective and follow-up immunizations be warranted.

"Let's take the time and do this right," says Lippman.

Lippman's report, titled "Human papillomavirus, vaccines and women's health: questions and cautions," was published Wednesday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Lippman said she's not sure why the government is pushing ahead with a costly vaccination program when scientific evidence of the vaccine's efficiency and safety is lacking. 

'Why can't we get the information that we need first?'— Abby Lippman, McGill professor

She says only 1,200 girls aged 9 to 15 were enrolled in clinical trials of Merck Frosst Canada Ltd.'s Gardasil, the vaccine selected by the federal government. The youngest were only tracked for 18 months.

"Clearly, this is a thin information base on which to construct a policy of mass vaccination for all girls aged 9 to 13," states the report.

As well, the vaccine is expensive, selling for $404 for the three required doses, said Lippman, and cost-effectiveness analyses of proposed vaccination programs needed to evaluate the expense are missing.

So why is the federal government paying for such a vaccination program?

"Some people are going to profit by this," said Lippman.

As well, she noted that a new vaccine produced by GlaxoSmithKline, Cervarix, will be entering the market next year.

"Maybe that will be better for Canada. We don't know that," she said.

Cervical cancer not an epidemic

Lippman said women should be reminded that cervical cancer is "not an epidemic," leading to the deaths of approximately 400 women a year — a number that is declining, according to the report.

It also notes that cervical cancer is the 11th-most frequent cancer affecting Canadian women and 13th-most common cause of cancer-related deaths.

As well, she said, HPV does not necessarily lead to cancer.

"Most HPV infections are cleared spontaneously, within one year for about 70 per cent of women and within two years for 90 per cent. Cervical cancer will not develop in most women who are infected with even a high-risk strain of HPV," said the report.

The article stated that women will also still have to use safe-sex practices, and get annual Pap smears that detect abnormal cervical cells that could signal cancer.

"The vaccine is not a magic bullet," said Lippman.

Last Updated: Wednesday, August 1, 2007 | 4:59 PM ET

CBC News


May. 22nd, 2007

Golden Star of David

(no subject)

Fundamentalsim- fun·da·men·tal·ism (fŭn'də-měn'tl-ĭz'əm), noun.


A usually religious movement or point of view characterized by a return to fundamental principles, by rigid adherence to those principles, and often by intolerance of other views and opposition to secularism (American Heritage Dictionary)


We talk a lot about Islamic fundamentalism. It’s sort of hard to avoid when it seems to involve a lot of burning and bombing. But every religion has their fundamentalists, and I’m seriously wondering if the more low-key, every day types of religious fundamentalism aren’t just as dangerous as the burning and bombing kind.


It was Christian fundamentalism that has brought us attempts to re-criminalize abortion. It was and is Christian fundamentalism that continues to challenge same-sex marriage. Screw equal rights, the Bible takes precedence. Jewish fundamentalism sends settlers out into the West Bank and until recently, the Gaza Strip, only inflaming a bad situation in the Middle East.


This is a serious concern of mine as I consider converting to Judaism, especially since I’m seriously considering converting under Orthodox auspices. It’s not the keeping of the commandments that’s my biggest concern, it’s what I see as fundamentalism at best, and sheer intolerance at worst.


I remember a conversation that occurred at the Orthodox Pesach dinner I attended this year. One of the guys was telling a story about a man who was seen going into a non-kosher restaurant, the gossiping set in, and he was shunned in the community. Turns out he was diabetic and was about to go into shock so he went in to get some juice. The moral of the story was apparently that “we shouldn’t gossip, we don’t know the whole story”. Sure, great message, but shouldn’t the moral be that we shouldn’t be shunning people for their restaurant choice?


 Now I’m hoping that my setting aside my own (possible prejudiced) ideas about Orthodoxy going in, I can at least say I gave it my best shot. Heck, I did it with the IDF and that turned out pretty well.


But I’m still deeply concerned about this fundamentalism. I don’t keep kosher because G-d supposedly told me to, I keep kosher because it’s my several-times-daily reminder that I am not alone and that there is something bigger than me. I think it’s really easy to get caught up in thinking you’re the centre of the universe, going about your day complaining about how the printer doesn’t work, or all the chores you have to get done, and it’s a healthy reminder that you are but a small part of the universe.


On the other hand, I refuse to force my partner to embrace Judaism. He doesn’t want to, and it is not my place to force him into anything. I have made my choice, and I fully support him making his own. Judaism is supposed to pride itself on not forcing people into it, isn’t it?


Naturally, this means compromises. He has his side of the fridge, I have mine. If we eat out, he has what he wants and I have what I want (there are no kosher restaurants in my area) We don't eat out much anyways because we can never agree on what to eat just based on different tastes in food. If he eats treif then he knows he has to wash out his mouth with Listerine before there's any kissing (the idea of "pork tongue", as I call it, grosses me out anyways) We’re still figuring out Shabbat.


To me, this is completely reasonable. How can I expect somebody to respect and acknowledge my beliefs if I won’t respect and acknowledge theirs?


But according to some people, many of whom I would consider to be fundamentalists, this makes me a bad wannabe Jew, someone who is unworthy of conversion.


If to be a good Jew, I have to be a bad person, then I might as well give up my conversion now. I refuse to be that intolerant. If it means I don’t get my Jew papers, so be it. It won’t have been worth it. Somehow, in finding religion, I will have lost my soul.

May. 8th, 2007

Golden Star of David

"I accept that Israeli oppression is a factor, but I doubt that every case fits into that category."

Here is a very itneresting article I found in Time today: Palestinian Mothers Who Become Suicide Bombers.

It wasn`t a huge focus of the article, but one part of it really caught my eye: that at least one of the recent women suicide bombers was caught having an affair, and was given the option of death (fairly common in strict Islamic socieites) or martyrdom.

I`m not going to get into just how distasteful that is from a feminist or even pseudo-feminist point of view. There would be far too much to work with.

But as we`re seeing the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Gaza- for instance, the recent attack on a UN-run school for allowing boys and girls to play together, the firebombings of Internet cafes, etc. I suspect we`re going to see a lot more of this sort of thing, and that`s terrifying.

Golden Star of David

Some dark humour for the day...

From Scott Feschuk`s blog (hosted by Maclean's):

"Elizabeth May is still pretty new to politics, so perhaps it is worth reiterating on her behalf a couple of the basic guidelines that govern the practice of political rhetoric in this country.

First: no matter how bad your rival is, do not compare that person to Hitler. There is a reason for this: the reason is that Hitler was much worse. I don’t care if your rival is deflowering defenceless virgins while dining on roast baby and praising the intellectual heft of Bruce Willis, he is not as bad as Hitler. In fact, just to be safe, don’t compare anything or anyone to Hitler in any way. Trust me on this.

Second, there are times when you can attempt to make a point while referencing Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of the Nazis. But you have to exercise caution. Why do you have to exercise caution? Because they were Nazis. One was named Hitler. It didn’t end well.

Let me give you an example of what not to do. You definitely do not want to go out and say, just as a for instance, that Stephen Harper’s stand on climate change is “a grievance worse than Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of the Nazis.”

Pardon me? You did just actually say that?

Wow, you really are fresh out of the package, aren’t you?

Permit me attempt to illustrate just some of things that are wrong with your accusation:

• It sounds really stupid and hysterical.

It is really stupid and hysterical.

The Nazis were a brutally evil regime set on territorial expansion, global domination and the annihilation of the Jews.

Climate change makes things slightly warmer.

Unless Stephen Harper has become president of Earth, I would say his strategic position in confronting the menace at hand is somewhat weaker than was Chamberlain’s.

Finally, did you actually say “worse” than appeasing Nazis? You did? Because – and I think I’ve mentioned this – the Nazis were pretty bad.

A revision to the rule seems to be in order: henceforth, there are times when you can attempt to make a point while referencing Chamberlain’s appeasement of the Nazis – if, in fact, your point is not really stupid and hysterical."

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