Friday, February 17, 2012

Genetic architecture of diet-induced obesity in the mouse

***********HIGHLY RECOMMENDED*******************

Jake Lusis, UCLA,
Genetic architecture of diet-induced obesity in the mouse

Tuesday, February 21st 

10:30 - 12:00pm
ISB, 401 Terry Ave, first floor

Everyone is invited!!
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Sunday, February 27, 2011

In liberal Jewish synagogues across the country, women have achieved feminist success. They wear ritual garments. They read from the Torah. They are rabbis. But when you enter an Orthodox Jewish synagogue, you enter a gender time warp. Here, women do not count in a prayer quorum. They are not permitted near the Torah. In many cases, you would be hard-pressed even to figure out where the women are located, since they may be seated behind a curtain or wall, or upstairs in a gallery, far from the action. As Tevye the milkman would say, "Sounds crazy, no?"

In many synagogues, women cannot even hold a position of any meaningful leadership: The National Council of Young Israel forbids its 140-member Orthodox synagogues to elect a female president.
If a female synagogue president can be prohibited, imagine the Orthodox Jewish reaction to a female rabbi -- a woman with religious authority. Two years ago, a prominent Orthodox rabbi in New York, Avi Weiss of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, in consultation with Blu Greenberg, founder of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, bravely broke with conventional Orthodox tradition and ordained Sara Hurwitz. Since the mid-1990s, at least three other Orthodox rabbis had followed their conscience and quietly ordained individual women. But Weiss was the first to ordain a woman publicly.
Weiss never actually called Hurwitz "rabbi." Instead, Weiss coined a term, "maharat," an acronym of four Hebrew words -- manhigah, hilhatit, ruhanit and toranit -- which means a "female leader in Jewish religious law, spiritual matters and Torah." The word is cumbersome; it requires detailed explanation. Everyone with a passing familiarity of Judaism has at least some notion of the concept of "rabbi." But no one, not even those steeped in Orthodox Jewish culture and tradition, not even those of us immersed in the feminist world, can easily explain the definition or derivation of "maharat." When asked about the term, I typically reel off the Hebrew words that are its building blocks, then I translate them into English. I inevitably forget one of the terms, get confused and start again. The process is exhausting, confusing and off-putting.
More troubling, "maharat" connotes a secondary status. For this reason, I opposed the title the instant I heard it. Created for women alone, and designed to differentiate women rabbis from "real" rabbis, the title evokes the bridesmaid who is never the bride.
Last year, Weiss announced that Hurwitz had a new title: "rabba" (ra-BAH). This term, he said, would clarify that Hurtwitz is a full member of the rabbinic staff. A feminized version of the title "rabbi" made sense; Hurwitz has the same credentials as a male rabbi. She completed the same course of study required of male rabbis and works in the same capacity, with the same pastoral obligations.
True, Hurwitz was not being called "rabbi," which Orthodox feminists prefer, because the term conveys the same authority and respect that men enjoy. But in the Orthodox Jewish world, change comes slowly. "Rabba" was close enough -- and the implications obvious enough -- to make those of us active in Orthodox feminism feel triumphant. Moreover, Weiss announced that Hurwitz would head a new seminary for women, Yeshivat Maharat, educating a future pool of women for the rabbinate, so that she would not be the one and only "rabba."
So here you have a woman rabbi who cedes the status of rabbi to respect right-wing members of the Orthodox world. How did that wing react? By denouncing those with the audacity even to imagine that women could approach religious leadership. A March 2010 statement from Agudath Israel, an ultra-Orthodox organization of rabbis, threatened to expel Hurwitz's synagogue from Orthodoxy. The Rabbinical Council of America, one of the world's largest and oldest organizations of Orthodox rabbis, likewise pressured Weiss.
After several weeks, Weiss retreated -- somewhat. He agreed not to ordain women as rabbis at Yeshivat Maharat and not to confer the title "rabba" upon the graduates. Turns out that Hurwitz is indeed the one and only "rabba."
Last month, the most liberal Orthodox rabbinic group in the United States, the International Rabbinic Fellowship, which was founded three years ago by Weiss, together with Rabbi Marc Angel, voted down its first proposal to accept women as members of the organization. But at least the issue is on the agenda.
The current state of affairs is immoral and shameful. There is no halakhic (Jewish legal) prohibition against female rabbis. A "rabbi" is simply a teacher and master of Jewish texts and law. Therefore, some of us are taking matters into our own hands. We don't have the religious authority to ordain anyone. But we recognize the rabbinic status of the handful of women who have been ordained by Orthodox authorities.
We are also involved in independent prayer groups in which women and men lead together, even though they do not sit together. These groups are not egalitarian: women may not lead every part of the service. But women are encouraged to lead all parts for which there is no halakhic prohibition. In the independent prayer group I attend on the upper east side of Manhattan, Yavneh, women recite Hallel, one of the most beautiful songs of praise in the liturgy; women hold the Torah; women read from the Torah; women recite the blessing over the wine.
Like Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof, we struggle with the concept that sacred tradition is fixed yet flexible. Everyone involved in religion -- any religion, in any level of observance -- knows that the key is to find the balance between tradition and modernity.
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Friday, February 25, 2011

Jews still struggle to feel at home in Malmö

An anti-Semitic poster outside the Malmö synagogue; Fredrik Sieradzki

Jews still struggle to feel at home in Malmö

Published: 16 Feb 11

A year after claims about an exodus of Jews from Malmö made global headlines, many Jewish residents still don't feel safe in southern Sweden, The Local's Karen Holst discovers.
The past couple of years have been turbulent for Malmö's Jewish community. A spike in anti-Semitic attacks in 2009 prompted a number of Jews to leave the city altogether, concluding they would never feel accepted there.

Controversial comments by the town's long-serving Social Democratic mayor Ilmar Reepalu also put Malmö in the spotlight, drawing criticism from within his own party, as well as from influential Jewish organisations aboard.

And in December 2010, the US-based Simon Wiesenthal Center issued a warning urging Jews to exercise "extreme caution" when traveling in southern Sweden.

While current statistics show a significant decline in anti-Semitic attacks in 2010 when compared to 2009, the nearly 3,000-member Jewish community in Skåne continues to shrink.

“People wonder if there will even be a Jewish community here in 10 years,” Fredrik Sieradzki, spokesperson for the Jewish Community of Malmö (Judiska Församlingen i Malmö), tells The Local.

Despite the decrease in reported attacks, as well as community efforts to ease racist rancor, many of south Sweden’s Jewish residents continue to feel dangerously threatened.

According to Sieradzki, many young Jewish families are relocating because they feel Skåne is not a safe area to raise their children. Coupled with an aging baby-boomer generation, there are few willing or present to take vacated leadership positions within many of the area's Jewish organisations.

“Some of us feel there is no hope and we are losing people because of anti-Semitism,” he adds.

Police reports show the number of anti-Semitic incidents nearly doubled in 2009 but have declined in 2010 by more than half.

“We believe the number of attacks increased in 2009 due to the Davies Cup and two big demonstrations against Israel. Now the statistics show hate-crime against Jews going down dramatically in 2010,” explains Susanne Gosenius, a hate crime coordinator for Skåne police.

Sieradzki argues, however, that the numbers may not reflect reality as many Jewish residents choose not to report every incident, such as intimidating slurs and other verbal attacks.

“Maybe the numbers are lower or maybe not. It doesn’t matter because the feeling is the same – many of us cannot and do not feel at home here,” says Sieradzki.

He points out that the severity of attacks is also intensifying.

Last October a group of about 20 teenagers attacked the Jewish community’s residential education centre during a youth retreat.

“The first night they shouted vicious, nasty slurs. The next night it escalated and they broke down the fence and were banging on windows and doors,” Sieradzki explains.

“It was quite frightening.”

Sieradzki, who applauded the nearby municipality of Vellinge for its swift response to the incident, also points out that the teenagers in the attacking group were not Muslim as many are quick to assume.

“These boys were not Arabs. They were all Swedish. And I assure you the Jewish people are not attacking anybody.”

Despite the year’s decline in reported attacks, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the largest international organization for Jewish human rights, nevertheless went ahead with its decision to issue a travel warning for Jews visiting southern Sweden.

The move put Skåne to the same plane as countries that have experienced heinous, even fatal attacks and bombings on Jewish people, such as Turkey, Greece and Belgium.

“We made a very serious statement by putting Malmö on our advisory list,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the Center, tells The Local.

“It’s a serious move and we hope to take serious measures to rectify it.”

But the warning rankled some members of Malmö's Jewish community, who claim they weren't informed about the move ahead of time, and surprised local authorities as statistics showed that attacks were on the decline.

“I can understand that Jewish people feel threatened in Malmö,” hate crimes specialist Gosenius explains.

“We have a huge population from the Middle East, West Bank and Gaza and most (Jewish) victims describe their perpetrators as young Muslim men.

“But I’m not sure the warning for Malmö fits. It’s a very drastic act.”

Sieradzki has mixed emotions about the Wiesenthal Center's "surprise" advisory.

While he understands the Center’s point, he argues the move may have been too severe and feels the Jewish leaders in Skåne could have helped moderate the message had they known about it.

“They should have talked to us first,” argues Sieradzki.

“We are trying to create an atmosphere in Malmö where we co-exist and I’m not sure that this travel warning is good.”

Rabbi Cooper rejects the idea that the Center's warning came as a surprise, pointing to a meeting in Stockholm prior to the advisory where prominent members of south Sweden’s Jewish community were in attendance.

“The analysis comes from the ground up,” says Cooper.

“Experiences from Jewish members in Malmö and a previous colleague there led to what we did.”

He stated that families should be able to go to any house of worship, whether it’s Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays, without fear of intimidation, violence or something worse.

“People of faith, or no faith, should be able to walk on the street and feel equally protected. There is a climate of intimidation in Malmö and we need to take steps to address it,” says Cooper.

In response to 2009’s hike in attacks, Malmö city officials created the Dialogue Forum to ease hostilities between Jews, Muslims, the Roma, and other victimized minorities.

As the Forum's one-year anniversary approaches, the Jewish community believes the dialogue has had little effect.

“It’s sad we have to have a group, and we do hope something good comes of it but there hasn’t been anything yet,” says Sieradzki, adding that the 6,000-member Islamic Centre, of their own initiative, recently invited members of the Jewish community to their mosque.

Mayor Reepalu, who was also singled out by the Wiesenthal Center last year for comments about the city's Jewish community in which he "blamed the situation on the Jews themselves as the community did not 'distance itself from Israel,'" according to the Center.

While Reepalu refused to be interviewed for this article, he has undertaken efforts in the last year to make amends and further understand the hostilities Jewish people encounter in Malmö through meetings with Sieradzki and other Jewish community leaders.

Since then the 15-year mayor has invited members from the Simon Wiesenthal Center to Malmö, although an exact date for the visit has not yet been set.

“I can confirm we are coming to Sweden and we are coming next month,” says Rabbi Cooper.

While the agenda for the meeting is still being hammered out, the focus will likely be on improving the situation in southern Sweden.

The meeting will be also accompanied by a seminar on anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

"It’s good that something is happening," says Sieradzki.

"There are Jews is Malmö. We live here, we are here to stay and we won’t gain anything by attacking each other."

Karen Holst ( 656 6518)
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Monday, February 21, 2011


Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.
Former Arkansas Gov. and former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee looks on a section of the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site in Jerusalem's Old City, Monday, Feb. 1, 2010. | AP Photo
Mike Huckabee saw Orthodox Jews for the first time at Jerusalem's Western Wall. | AP Photo Close
A parade of Republican presidential hopefuls is making its way to Israel, signaling the candidates’ seriousness about foreign policy and national security and their hawkish approach to terrorism. As POLITICO recently reported, “A stop in the Jewish state is becoming as critical as an early trip to Iowa or New Hampshire.”
But while Mitt Romney and Haley Barbour check the Israel box and move on, Mike Huckabee lingers. This month, the former Arkansas governor spent two weeks in Israel on his 15th trip to the Jewish state, during which his suggestion that the Palestinians go find their own state in some Arab country prompted a settler leader, Dani Dayan, to announce that he is praying Huckabee will be elected president.

Read more:
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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Who I am ...

Last Xmas, the genome company, 23andMe had a sale! $100 for a genome. My wife and I ordered our done and the results are in!

I am a VERY weird bird!

Paternal side: Locations of haplogroup R1b1b2 circa 500 years ago, before the era of intercontinental travel. R1b1b2 is the most common haplogroup in western Europe, where its branches are clustered in various national populations. R1b1 was confined to Iberia and southern France during the Ice Age. R1b1b2a1a2b is characteristic of the Basque, while R1b1b2a1a2f2 reaches its peak in Ireland and R1b1b2a1a1 is most commonly found on the fringes of the North Sea.[/caption]

Lets start with the paternal side. Paternal Haplogroup:R1b1b2a1a2d. By family stories, I knew we were from Andalus, that is pre 1492 Spain. . That story is confirmed here.

What is surprising is that we "begin" .. that is start  ... from a few ancestors only 17,000 years ago .. the time of the last ice age. We have origins from the North Sea. Sounds like some Viking got to some ancestor and passed on his genome. The other fun idea is that we may be related to the Cro Magnons, the first modern people in Europe and believed by some to be the direct ancestors of the Basque!
The Maternal Haplogroup, U1b, is part of Haplogroup R. R  arose in southwest Asia not long after humans first expanded beyond Africa. It eventually spread throughout Eurasia, giving rise to most of the major haplogroups of Europe as well as one – haplogroup B – that was involved in the migration of people from Siberia into the Americas.[/caption]
Mom's genome is VERY different. We appear to be related to the first folks who left Africa, 60,000 years ago!

Of course this raises an intriguing question. If my genome is half Viking and half African, if some of my closest relatives are indigenous to South America, South African, and my paternal family name is Negri, am I now legally a Hispanic or an African-Australian-American?

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Sunday, February 06, 2011

Egtypt: SuperBowl Sunday

Egypt on THE-Ave.US
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we are seeing the dawn of the first Arab democracy?

There is an historic irony here. Islam's explosion out of Arabia under Umar, was more than a military conquest. The Byzantine empire was a rotten relic of Rome. It fell to a more rational, more "modern" system inspired by the Prophet's time as the chief magistrate of Medina. From the beginning of the conquest, the forces of Islam, brought the rule of a law and a sense of classlessness quite alien to the Bishops and Bureaucrats of Roman Christendom. Islam offered a system based on equality and opportunity, at least for those willing to accept the Prophet's new religion.

For many Muslims, including Malcom X, that sense of community, that sense of fairness is Islam itself. As flawed as Iran is, Khomeini's vision was to build a modern democratic state on the principles of Medina. Is al Qaeda's reticence the result of their fear of true democracy arising in Egypt?

I have never been to Egypt and am sure that the Egyptians I have met represent a very special sample of the population. Still, there is something Jeffersonian about what is happening in Egypt.
by Bruce Riedel at Daily Beast
There is a famous Arab saying that the dog barks but the caravan moves on. In Egypt, the caravan of change has moved fast this winter, but one of the dogs most expected to bark has been silent so far. Al Qaeda’s number two, Ayman Zawahiri, who has spent his life fighting Hosni Mubarak and calling for a revolution in his homeland, has yet to comment in public on the momentous events in his native land. His silence is probably temporary. But it shows al Qaeda’s top leadership is under significant pressure in Pakistan today from the American counter-terrorism offensive ordered by President Obama two years ago.

read more
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SuperBowl Sunday: Egypt

CAIRO — Sunday's meeting was the broadest representation of Egypt's fragmented opposition to meet with the new vice president since the protests demanding the immediate ouster of longtime President Hosni Mubarak began on Jan. 25. The regime  agreed not to hamper freedom of press and not to interfere with text messaging and Internet. The opposition groups represented included the youthful supporters of leading democracy advocate Mohamed ElBaradei, who are one of the main forces behind the protests.
The outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest opposition group, and a number of smaller leftist, liberal groups also attended the meeting, according to footage shown on state television.
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Monday, January 24, 2011

Miracle of the Fried Host

(Paolo Uccello, The Miracle of the Desecrated Host, 1465-69, panel 2. A Jewish pawnbroker has bought a consecrated host from a venal priest and is frying (i.e. torturing) it in a pan. Transubstantiated blood from the host is dripping from the pan and seeping under the door.)

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