Saturday, April 28, 2007

Autism: Hollywood's Cause De Jour

From the New York Times:

Autism has become to disorders what Africa is to social issues, the celebrity cause du jour. “Oprah,” “Larry King,” “The View” and MTV all devoted full hours to the subject in recent weeks, sometimes with appearances by the singer Toni Braxton (the mother of a boy with autism); the disorder is the focus of documentaries now making the festival circuit, like “Autism: The Musical.” Most intriguingly, it has turned up in a spate of dramas that take autism beyond “Rain Man.”
Read the entire article.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Democrats' First Debate

The first debate among Democratic presidential hopefuls started at 2 am Israel time last night. Despite the late hour, I watched the whole thing. I didn't see anything revolutionary. Most of what was said there could have been anticipated in advance, on issues such as Iraq, Iran and the war on terror. Nevertheless, the debate gave me some new perspective on some of the candidates.

I've been leaning towards Hillary Clinton, but I don't know if she is electable. Even though she did a good job last night, now I'm not as sure that I will vote for her, not so much because of her performance, but rather the performance of her rivals. Barack Obama was very impressive. John Edwards, who in 2004 and until now seemed to be an inexperienced pretty boy, also seemed intelligent and knowledgeable and has interesting ideas.

Christopher Dodd is a new face to me. I've heard of him before, but this is the first time I've heard him speak. He made a good impression as well.

Even Dennis Kucinich did a good job. I don't support his views (other than the impeachment of Vice President Cheney, which would be a blessing to the world), but he had some good arguments last night.

Former Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska was last night's entertainment. He's a grumpy old man who should join the cast of the Daily Show, filling in for Lewis Black when Black is not available.

The two people who I thought didn't do so well were Sen. Joe Biden and Gov. Bill Richardson. I never considered Biden as someone I'd vote for, but I did think of Richardson as a serious possibility. I am now much less likely to vote for Richardson. I didn't like the fact that it took Richardson time to call for the attorney general's resignation just because he is Hispanic. Most of his policy answers weren't very convincing, either.

I think I'll stay up next week to watch the Republican debate, even though I won't be voting in the Republican primaries. I like this kind of stuff.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Judeophobe Watch

Take a look at this new blog from Beacon Eating Atheist Jew, which "gives normal human beings a chance to debunk, refute, chastise, and debate anti-semitic postings from various Judeophobic web sites".

Great idea, BEAJ!

Happy Independence Day!

Happy 59th birthday Israel!

I attended a party last night, where I barely knew anyone, though I met a few people I haven't seen since high school, so it was fun. Today my family had a bbq and that was fun too.

This country may be far from perfect, but I sure am happy it exists.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Autism Among the Amish

Kevin Leitch has an interesting post about the claim that there are no cases of autism among the Amish because they don't vaccinate their kids. Turns out that they do vaccinate their kids (only 4% don't, according to a survey), and though there may be no autism diagnoses among the Amish, it doesn't mean there's no autism, because they don't go to modern doctors to get diagnosed.

Read Kevin's post for more details.

The Israeli Government and Liviu Librescu's Funeral

The Israeli media has been critical of the lack of official government representation at the funeral of slain Virginia Tech Prof. Liviu Librescu. I really don't understand why the media expected the prime minister or his ministers to attend. Though Prof. Librescu died heroically while saving his students, he didn't do it as an Israeli or on behalf of the State of Israel. He hasn't even lived in Israel for more than 20 years. The massacre in Virginia is an American tragedy, and though Israelis sympathize with America's loss, it is not an Israeli tragedy.

So no, there was no reason for Israeli cabinet ministers to attend Librescu's funeral. In fact, had any of them done so, it would have been a cynical exploitation of the Librescu family's personal tragedy.

Autistic Children's Siblings More Likely to Have Developmental Disorders

There's an interesting article in today's Haaretz (sorry, couldn't find an English version) about the results of a new study conducted by researchers at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and UCLA. According to the study, siblings of autistic children are more likely to have delays in their motor, cognitive and verbal development than children who do not have autistic siblings. These delays usually start at around 4 months of age, but most children catch up by the time they are four and a half years old. Some children may have learning disabilities at an older age.

The explanation for this is that these children share some genes that cause autism, and thus share some traits that autistics have, though fewer and less severe.

The study was published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

Haaretz Editorial: Israeli Help For Darfur

I totally agree with today's Haaretz editorial (click here for the Hebrew version):

More than 250,000 people have been killed in Darfur since 2004 and nearly 2.5 million Sudanese have fled their homes; the situation in the region could now spiral completely out of control.

The widening of the conflict to include Chad and the Central African Republic has already caused more suffering and killing in the region. International efforts are focusing on pressuring Sudan to agree to the deployment of a large multi-national force in Darfur. One can see almost everything in the approximately 12 camps that are strung along the border with Sudan, under deteriorating humanitarian conditions: children who have lost their parents, refugees who have lost all their possessions, murder and other forms of violence. The acts of violence that have spread to Chad in recent months have caused hundreds of thousands of local people to flee their homes, undermining living conditions and what little security there still was in the region. It is not rare for babies to die from hunger and disease, for women to be raped and for people to be murdered. International assistance to about a quarter of a million displaced persons is declining.

Under such conditions, Israel should not be missing from the list of countries providing life-saving help to the region's inhabitants. Nearly 20 non-governmental agencies are operating in eastern Chad - Italians, French, British, Dutch, Spanish, American and international groups that have made assistance to the victims of violence in Darfur the focus of their work.

The Jewish-American Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), which provides psychological and welfare assistance to the victims, is alone in representing Jewish values, which consider assistance to refugees paramount. Some of its funding comes from contributions by IsraAID, an umbrella organization for humanitarian assistance, which also sent a few Israeli volunteers. This is not enough of a presence.

Israel should extend immediate assistance, whether funded by non-governmental agencies or directly, to refugees and displaced persons who have found shelter in Chad. The absence of diplomatic ties between the two countries should not be an obstacle. Israeli assistance to the victims of the tsunami in Indonesia, with which Israel also does not yet have full diplomatic ties, is an important example in this regard - despite the differences in the nature of relations between the countries.

In the past Israel has shown that it can provide much-needed aid to disaster areas throughout the world, demonstrating the Jewish values on which its establishment was based. Assistance to Muslim victims can illustrate much better than any international public relations campaign that the principles by which Israel was established are universal and do not discriminate between humans based on religion or race.

Israel, which came into being after the Holocaust cannot stand idly by in the face of the suffering of Darfur's refugees.

Friday, April 20, 2007

New York Magazine's Party Town of Choice

Here's some good news ahead of Independence Day. New York Magazine recommends Tel-Aviv as a 4-day trip for partying (it also recommends Tokyo, Japan for the food, Mont Tremblant, Quebec, Canada and Annapolis, Md. for families). Tel-Aviv is definitely a great city for party-goers and clubbers (which I am not). Other than that, I don't really like the city. I prefer other cities and towns in Israel over it, cities that are much more beautiful (most of Tel Aviv is butt ugly) and where the residents are much nicer (many people from Tel Aviv tend to think their city is the center of the world and act accordingly).

I hope I'm not discouraging anyone from listening to New York Magazine. Come see Tel Aviv. Just be sure to visit the rest of Israel too.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Palestinians Giving Up Right of Return?

According to a post on Eye On The World, many Palestinian refugees are disavowing the right of return, while their leaders keep using the issue for political gain and as leverage in negotiations with Israel. The Palestinians interviewed are those who live in Lebanon or outside the Arab world. I wish I could believe the majority of Palestinians aren't really interested in the right of return, but unfortunately, that isn't the case.

While most Palestinians living in western countries may be happy where they are, most Palestinians who are unable to emigrate to Europe and North America and still live in Arab countries that grant them no rights, as well as Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, still demand a right of return. This would not just be a return to a future Palestinian state (something to which I don't object), but a return to the State of Israel itself, to Haifa, Jaffa, Beersheba and elsewhere. This kind of return is unacceptable to Israelis, regardless of who is responsible for the creation of the refugee problem.

Refugees should be compensated or given the right to return to the future State of Palestine, in accordance with the country's capacity to absorb new immigrants, so as to not cause a collapse of the new state. Return to Israel itself is never going to happen. The million dollar question is whether the Palestinians and Arab states will ever accept this.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Holocaust and a Rat

I've had a crappy few days. For one thing, Holocaust Remembrance Day was depressing. I attended two alternative memorial events on two consecutive nights. These were discussions rather than ceremonies. We discussed what we can learn from the Holocaust (that we need a strong Israel so a Jewish holocaust will never again occur, that we should know that every person is capable of horrible things, or that maybe we have a responsibility to protect other victims of genocide, etc.) and what the Holocaust means to us.

Then yesterday my sister complained that she and I are not independent enough, and she thinks it is because of the Holocaust. My mother is very overprotective of us, as her parents were very overprotective of her. They fled Poland after the Germans entered it and lost almost all their family members. So as my mother grew up, they followed her around all the time, even here in Israel. Somehow, she managed to become independent, though. Then she became an overprotective mother, but we aren't independent enough. Don't get me wrong, she's an excellent mother, though imperfect. So, anyway, realizing even my own life has been shaped by the Holocaust is pretty depressing.

To top that off, there was a rat in our kitchen. We caught it and drowned it (not very humane, but releasing it into the wild would just mean it would return to another house). That was disgusting and surprisingly depressing.

At least one good thing came out of this. My father told my nephew about the rat and my nephew was upset. He didn't like the idea of killing the rat at all. He thought we should have released it far away. Just a few years ago he wouldn't care about an animal's death. On the other hand, he wants to get rid of the family of street cats that has settled in our garden. But then again, so do I (neither of us wants to kill them, just to relocate Momma Cat and her kittens somewhere else).

By the way, the whole Virginia Tech massacre didn't help my mood either.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A Taxing Puzzle

I usually don't solve the New York Times' daily crossword puzzles, but I love their "Editorial Puzzles", those special puzzles they publish once in a while. Today, in honor of Tax Day in the USA, they have a set of puzzles that will give you the answer to this question: What’s the best way to show a tax auditor how concerned you are?

Saturday, April 14, 2007

A Loony Paranormal Explanation For Autism

Here's something all sides of the mercury/neurodiversity debate can agree on - that the following theory about autism is absolutely crazy:

"The Crystal Children began to appear on the planet from about 2000, although some date them slightly earlier. These are extremely powerful children, whose main purpose is to take us to the next level in our evolution, and reveal to us our inner power and divinity. They function as a group consciousness rather than as individuals, and they live by the" Law of One" or Unity Consciousness. They are a powerful force for love and peace on the planet.


[The Crystal Children] are incredibly telepathic. Many of the Crystal Children have delayed speech patterns, and its not uncommon for them to wait until they're 3 or 4 years old to begin speaking. But parents tell me they have no trouble communicating with their silent children. Far from it! The parents engage in mind-to-mind communication with their Crystal Children. And the Crystals use a combination of telepathy, self-fashioned sign language, and sounds (including song) to get their point across.

The trouble comes about when the Crystals are judged by medical and educational personnel as having "abnormal" speaking patterns. It's no coincidence that as the number of Crystals are born, that the number of diagnoses for autism is at a record high."

That's a quote from this website, which I learned about through a post about Jenny McCarthy's autistic son Evan. She thinks Evan is a Crystal Child and she herself is an Indigo, one evolutionary step before the Crystals.

The odd thing is that she talks about "healing autism" and calls it a serious health issue. Doesn't that contradict the view that it is just a misdiagnosis of humanity's next evolutionary step? Oh, well, maybe I'm expecting too much logical thinking from a woman whose claim to fame is being a Playboy Playmate and host of stupid MTV shows.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Daily Show Reveals: The Jews Run Israel

Here's a funny clip from the Daily Show: Senior Diplomatic/British/Middle East/Anything Correspondent John Oliver interviews Danny Gillerman, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations.

Two Peoples, Two Narratives

The Wise Bard: A different model of coexistence

This is interesting: a project where one textbook contains the historical narratives of Israelis and Palestinians side by side. The narratives often conflict with each other. This is a positive project. Both sides should know the other side's version of events, and think critically about both versions. Knowing what the other is saying and not taking your own side's story as is does not mean necessarily that you stop believing in your people's general narrative.

Kudos to Prof. Dan Bar-On of Ben-Gurion University is Israel and Prof. Sami Adwan of Bethlehem University in the Palestinian Authority for coming up with this idea at PRIME (Peace Research Institute of the Middle East). Now let's hope the Israeli and Palestinian education departments will start using this book soon. I wouldn't hold my breath.

Monday, April 09, 2007

My Own Evolution

I recently went through all my previous posts in preparation for an upcoming project (the nature of which I cannot disclose at this time). It is interesting to see how my blog evolved. At first, it was a very personal blog, writing about girl trouble and frequently writing about my nephew. As time went by, I stopped writing about girl trouble, somewhat reduced the number of posts about my nephew, and political commentary became the dominant feature of this blog.

As I look at my earlier posts about my nephew and autism, I see the evolution of my own vocabulary and terminology regarding this condition. Other than the fact that I wrote "high-performance" instead of "high-functioning" in my very first post about him in June 2003, I also used various loaded terms about autism which I would not use now. I no longer see autism as a disease or an illness, for example.

My thoughts about treating or curing autism were inconsistent. Sometimes I thought my nephew can be cured, sometimes I thought he'll always be autistic (as I do now, and I doubt that I'll ever think otherwise again). I was always fairly consistent in my views regarding the causes of autism. I never thought thimerosal can be the sole cause, but I've never ruled out that some kids may be effected by it.

Regarding politics, I must point out that I was right all along about at least two things: the disengagement being a bad move, and that the Second Lebanon War was a justified war that was carried out badly (I didn't even remember that I questioned the wisdom of our leaders as early as July 14, the 3rd day of the war).

Politically Incorrect Passover Joke

The following joke amused me, even though it is a hawkish right-wingers' kind of joke:

A few days before Passover, the Israeli Ambassador got up to
speak at the U.N. "Ladies, and gentlemen," he said. "I have
much to say. But before I begin, let me tell you an old
Passover story, as the holiday is almost upon us".

"When Moses was leading the Jews out of Egypt, he had to
cross the near endless Sinai desert. The Israelites were so
thirsty they could hardly go on. So Moses struck the side of
a mountain with his staff and a pond appeared with crystal
clean water. Now the people rejoiced and drank to their
hearts content.

"But Moses wished to cleanse his entire body. So he went
over the other side of the pond, took off his clothes and
dove in. Only when he came out did he discover his clothes
had been stolen. And I have good reason to believe that
the Palestinians stole Moses' clothes."

At this point, the Palestinian delegate jumped out of his
chair and screamed, "You lying fool! Everyone knows
there were no Palestinians at that time"!

"Exactly," said the Israeli Ambassador. "And with that,
let me begin my speech".