Monday, 12 August 2013

AN EVENTUAL CURE FOR DOWN SYNDROME?

Ken Berwitz

With all the bad news swirling around us, I think I will start the week with what potentially is amazingly good news.

According to JoNel Aleccia's article at NBC News, a group of scientists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School has found a way to "silence" the chromosome which causes trisomy 21 - the existence of a third instance of chromosome 21 (normally there are two),  more commonly known as Down syndrome. 

Their findings should, at the very least, create new treatments for the condition.  But the big news is that if the extra chromosome can be "silenced" it may eventually enable them to eliminate the condition altogether.

I assume you join me in fervently hoping that these scientists are not just blowing smoke, but have the goods on trisomy 21.  And if they do, and it leads to a cure for the condition, what a great, great advance it will be!!

More on this as I hear about it.


WHY IS ISRAEL BUILDING HOUSING IN EAST JERUSALEM AND SETTLEMENTS ON THE WEST BANK?

Ken Berwitz

Let's start with the following excerpt from Isabel Kershner's article in today's New York Times:

 Israel announced early Monday the names of 26 Palestinian prisoners to be released as part of a deal for the resumption of peace talks here this week, but there were few initial signs that the move had inspired much enthusiasm for the negotiations.

Israeli newspapers highlighted the crimes committed by the prisoners, most of whom have served 20 years or more in prison for deadly attacks against Israelis. The list of prisoners, which was released after midnight, included one of the killers of Isaac Rotenberg, a Holocaust survivor who was 67 at the time of his death in 1994, and the man who killed an 84-year-old Israeli, Avraham Kinstler, with blows from an ax.

The prisoners are scheduled to be released late Tuesday or in the early hours of Wednesday, the day the talks are scheduled to begin.

For the Palestinian leaders, the achievement of a promised prisoner release was overshadowed by Israels announcement on Sunday that it planned to construct more housing in settlements, an issue that prompted the Palestinians to walk out of the most recent talks in 2010.

If Israel is serious about negotiating with Palestinian Arabs, why does it announce the construction of new Jewish housing in the eastern part of Jerusalem (which Palestinian Arabs expect to be their capital) and new settlements in Judea and Samaria (also known as the west bank)? 

That is a very good question, and, as befits a very good question, there is a very good answer.

Let's start with a quick history - one that has been cited numbers of times in this blog, but in so few mainstream venues that most people still don't have a clue about it:

-Israel won the west bank, and Gaza, in 1967, during a defensive war it neither started nor wanted.

-Israel did not win these lands from "Palestinians".  Israel won Gaza from Egypt, and the west bank from Jordan.  "Palestinians" - a people which did not exist until the mid-1960's, when it was invented by yasir arafat and his pals (I'll remind people about the specifics of how "Palestinians" came into existence in a subsequent blog) - did not rule any of that land.  Not one square inch. 

This leads to the interesting question of how it is possible for Israel to "occupy Palestinian land" when "Palestinians" never held it in the first place.  I'll leave it to you to figure that one out, and lots of luck trying.

-Since then, "Palestinians" have demanded that the land Israel won from Egypt and Jordan be returned - not to Egypt and Jordan, but to them.  Again, I'll leave you to figure out why this land is owed, in its entirety, to Palestinian Arabs.

-Also since the 1967 war, there have been on-again off-again "peace negotiations" between Israel and "Palestinians". 

-During that time Israel has made enormous concessions to "Palestinians", including handing over all of Gaza - Israeli improvements to the land included - and most of the west bank.   This, to my knowledge, is the one and only time in the history of the world that a militarily superior country voluntarily handed contiguous land to its sworn enemy in an effort to find peace.  If you know another such example please let me in on it. 

-In addition, Israel has made numerous peace proposals to "Palestinians".

-The result of these concessions and peace proposals?  "Palestinians" have offered no concessions of their own, have rejected every peace proposal Israel has made, and have offered no alternative peace proposal other than that Israel give them everything they're asking for....which is not a proposal at all, it is a surrender.

Now, to answer that question. 

If Israel has spent 47 years giving things to "Palestinians" in an effort to secure peace, and it has received absolutely nothing in return, why would Israel not build settlements on the west bank and housing units in eastern Jerusalem? 

Suppose Israel curtailed both.  What would it mean?  It would mean Israel has made still another enormous concession without any concomitant action on the part of "Palestinians".  How many times is Israel supposed to do this?  Hasn't Israel done it too many times already?

Moreover, to end further extension of the settlements (which I again remind you are not on "Palestinian lands", but on non-sovereign land that never was ruled by "Palestinians"), and to stop building housing for Jews in any part of Jerusalem (which I remind you is Israel's capital city and has been for decades), then why would "Palestinians" negotiate anything at all?  They will be getting the benefits of a successful negotiation before negotiations take place - just as they have continuously gotten such benefits for almost a half century.

No, the only way for Israel to proceed at this point is to base its actions on no negotiations taking place:  exactly what it finally, at long last, seems to be doing. 

If "Palestinians" see that Israel is not handing them concessions for free any more, and that the longer they stall, the less will be on the table, maybe it will induce them to finally start negotiating in good faith -- the first part of which would be renunciation of the hamas charter, with its demand for taking possession of Israel in its entirety, the death of all Jews, and the rejection of all negotiations of any kind.  Without that renunciation, no peace is at all possible.

There's your answer.  Make of it what you will.


DAVE ROBERTSON'S REMARKABLE STREAK

Ken Berwitz

Apropos of nothing political....

...I just watched the Yankees win a nail-biter, 2-1, over the California Angels.  In the ninth inning, Yankee relief pitcher Dave Robertson, having loaded the bases with just one out, struck out two batters to seal the win.

Yankee announcer Michael Kaye then informed viewers that Robertson has retired the last 25 men he faced with bases loaded - a streak which goes back to 2011.

You want to talk about money pitching?  That is money pitching.

Ok, back to politics (but it will have to wait until tomorrow.  I'm hitting the sack).


THE QUOTE OF THE DAY

Ken Berwitz

Today's quote is not political at all.  It concerns Ms. Eydie Gorme, who died this weekend at the age of 84, after a long, remarkably successful singing career, both solo and with her husband of 55 years, Steve Lawrence, who survives her.

Here is what William Katz - a very, very interesting man in his own right - had to say about her passing:

"Eydie Gorme's career reminds us that we once had truly great popular music in America, sung by singers who actually could sing, and who could engage the audience.  We had real composers and lyricists.  Our music entertained, but didn't degrade.  I have to believe there's still an audience for that music.  And I know there are young people who still love it.  I've met them."

I think Mr. Katz is right.  At least I hope he is.

In either event, that sentiment gets him Quote Of The Day Honors.  And if you disagree, all I can say is Blame It On The Bossa Nova.


THE QUOTE OF THE DAY

Ken Berwitz

Today's quote is not political at all.  It concerns Ms. Eydie Gorme, who died this weekend at the age of 84, after a long, remarkably successful singing career, both solo and with her husband of 55 years, Steve Lawrence, who survives her.

Here is what William Katz - a very, very interesting man in his own right - had to say about her passing:

"Eydie Gorme's career reminds us that we once had truly great popular music in America, sung by singers who actually could sing, and who could engage the audience.  We had real composers and lyricists.  Our music entertained, but didn't degrade.  I have to believe there's still an audience for that music.  And I know there are young people who still love it.  I've met them."

I think Mr. Katz is right.  At least I hope he is.

In either event, that sentiment gets him Quote Of The Day Honors.  And if you disagree, all I can say is Blame It On The Bossa Nova.


AN EVENTUAL CURE FOR DOWN SYNDROME?

Ken Berwitz

With all the bad news swirling around us, I think I will start the week with what potentially is amazingly good news.

According to JoNel Aleccia's article at NBC News, a group of scientists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School has found a way to "silence" the chromosome which causes trisomy 21 - the existence of a third instance of chromosome 21 (normally there are two),  more commonly known as Down syndrome. 

Their findings should, at the very least, create new treatments for the condition.  But the big news is that if the extra chromosome can be "silenced" it may eventually enable them to eliminate the condition altogether.

I assume you join me in fervently hoping that these scientists are not just blowing smoke, but have the goods on trisomy 21.  And if they do, and it leads to a cure for the condition, what a great, great advance it will be!!

More on this as I hear about it.


REAL RACISM (CONT.)

Ken Berwitz

As you may have heard, during a weekend rodeo event at the Missouri state fair, one of the clowns came out wearing an Obama mask.  While another clown played with the mask's lips, the announcers exhorted the crowd to tell them if they wanted a bull to run Obama down.  The "Obama" clown then ducked and weaved to avoid being trampled.

This was supposed to be funny.

I suppose an argument can be made that what I described is not racist, just a display of incredibly poor taste aimed at a President, regardless of his color.  But don't try selling it to me, because I'm not buying.

Thick lips is a common physical trait of many Black people - and the "punch line" of countless racial jokes.  By conspicuously calling attention to the lips on that mask, these fools made their intent 100% clear.

It is bad enough that the caricature of a President was introduced into a non-political event at all.  Far worse that it was mocked in the most tasteless way imaginable, and a crowd was encouraged to cheer at the prospect of that President suffering physical harm.  But adding in the overtly racist element sent it so far beyond the pale that everyone who had a thing to do with this ugly, sick "idea" should be canned immediately.  And if this has not already happened, I hope as many people as possible will be demanding that someone in charge explain why.

Real racism.  It comes in all forms, from all sources.  No group is immune to it, or from it.  Certainly not two "clowns" who think it's funny to insult and degrade the President of the United States this way.  Next time I suggest they don't wear their clown suits.  They don't need them to be what they are.

===================================================

UPDATE:  It is now being reported that the "clown", whose name has not been announced,  is banned from the fair. 

Good.  Now how about the others who joined in?


NORTH CAROLINA AND VOTING LAW: A NEW DAY

Ken Berwitz

We have dear friends who moved from New Jersey to North Carolina a good many years ago.  They were then, and remain now, committed (meaning dedicated, not certifiable) liberal Democrats.

They're not going to like this.

Excerpted from Aaron Blake's article in the Washington Post:

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) on Monday signed into law one of the nation's most wide-ranging Voter ID laws.

The measure requires voters to present government-issued photo identification at the polls and shortens the early voting period from 17 to 10 days. It will also end pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-old voters who will be 18 on Election Day and eliminates same-day voter registration.

Democrats and minority groups have been fighting against the changes, arguing that they represent an effort to suppress the minority vote and the youth vote, along with reducing Democrats' advantage in early voting. They point out that there is little documented evidence of voter fraud.

Republicans say that the efforts are necessary to combat such fraud and that shortening the window for early voting will save the state money. They also note that, while the North Carolina law makes many changes to how the state conducts its elections, most of its major proposals - specifically, Voter ID and ending same-day registration - bring it in line with many other states. More than three-fifths of states currently have some kind of Voter ID law, and even more have no same-day registration. Not all states allow in-person early voting.

Do we really have to go over this again?

Let's start with the racism.  And it certainly is there, but not the way critics of the voter ID law make it out to be.

Think about what people who argue that a voter ID requirement suppresses minority votes are actually saying.  They are saying, in so many words, that minorities are less capable of getting and showing a voter ID than Whites. 

Is that racist?  You bet it is.  But the racists are them.

And regarding the lack of documented voter fraud?  of course there is little documentation of voter fraud.  If you don't require that voters demonstrate they are who they say they are before voting, how exactly would you ever detect it? 

My congratulations to Governor McCrory for signing a series of common sense laws that should streamline voting and minimize instances of voter fraud - which, as I suspect most people know, certainly exists.  

To my dear friends:  I'm sorry if you're disappointed, but - obviously - don't expect me to share that disappointment.

And to whichever legal North Carolina voters don't like having to identify themselves before casting their ballots?  I suggest a cold shower, or a crying towel.

Finally, to the people who cannot vote legally and are unhappy that these laws will prevent them from casting ballots?  Try to imagine how little I care.


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