Israel on the 17th of Tammuz: Confronting the Enemy Within

Aaron Freeman:

Rabbi Rosen is a great reminder that Jews are a diverse community and have almost as many differences of opinion about Zionism as humans do.

Originally posted on Shalom Rav:

Cross-posted with Tikkun Daily:

Yesterday the Jewish world observed the fast day known as Shiv’ah Asar Be’Tammuz, (the 17th of Tammuz), a communal day of quasi-mourning that commemorates among other things, the breaching of Jerusalem’s walls by the Roman army in 70 CE, prior to the destruction of the Second Temple.

Interestingly enough, the 17th of Tammuz – as well as the upcoming fast day of Tisha B’Av – is not so much a day of anger directed toward our enemies, as much as an occasion for soul searching over the ways our own behavior too often leads to our downfall. According to the Talmud (Yoma 9b), for instance, the fall of the First Temple was due to the idolatry while the destruction of the Second Temple was caused by sinat chinam – the “baseless hatred” of Jew against Jew.

I would submit that this year, the 17th…

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Rat Neuroscience and Chicago Politics

Professor Peggy Mason is experimenting with rats and thinking about politics [insert punchline here] Mason has shown that rats will overcome their most basic fears to free an imprisoned comrade. Or would it be “com-rat”.

Rats for example, hate light and they hate being in the middle of a room. But a rat will put her primal rodental fears behind her plus learn new, foreign behaviors to open a cage for the sake of a sister rat’s liberty.

You could call rats racist. A rat from a white family will not instinctively go through all those behavioral changes for the sake of a brown one. But it turns out that like governor George Wallace of Alabama rat racists can be redeemed. A rat will come to the rescue of any rat that reminds her of a rat with whom she’s had a positive social experience. When she sees a speckled rat in the trap, somewhere in her little ratty hippocampus he’ll think, “My college roommate was speckled” And will race to its rat rescue.

Maybe exposure-based prosociality is the neurological explanation of why like parks and beaches make life better. Chicago’s master planner Daniel Burnham insisted on abundant public spaces for us. He believed they foster community. If you spend a whole Cubs’ season, with all the trauma that entails, sitting next to a guy from Sri Lanka chances are you will, thereafter cop a better attitude toward all Sri Lankans – depending on how rat-like you are. But on Saturday nights you’re not just cruising bars hitting on everything in sight. You are expanding your dendritic arbor. It ain’t just horny, it’s neuroscience. Decades of positive interracial experiences seem to have rat-ified our national politics all the way to the White House. We’re pretty rat-like about gays and lesbians too. When I was in high school “homosexual” meant “target” now it mostly means “target audience”.

And so it proceeds, as we are positively interact with more varied populations our definitions of “normal” expand beyond imagination. If professor Mason is right who knows? Years from now when discussing political news someone will say, “I smell a rat here” the response may well be, “I sure hope so.”

Carol Rossetti – WOMEN

Originally posted on Project Naked:

This is one of the reasons I love facebook and can’t quite give it up because I come across amazing things like this from the various pages I follow. This is the amazing work by Carol Rossetti, so simple yet so powerful! I wanted to share on the blog because I felt it so fitting and something a lot of woman will relate to. Also the illustrations are just too KICK ASS not to share.












Posted with permission. Please go to http:// to see more of her amazing work!

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The most heart-warming economic chart you’ll see today

Aaron Freeman:

My heart really IS warmed!

Originally posted on Quartz:



Economic charts don’t usually tug on the heartstrings. But every once in a while, one comes along that reminds you that these meandering squiggles aren’t just abstractions. They’re a way of keeping track of human behavior. (After all, that’s what an economy is, millions of people making decisions to save or spend, buy or sell, work or retire.)

One of those charts is above. It tracks worker remittances to Mexico, which is the world’s fourth-largest receiver of cash flows from workers abroad, after India, China and the Philippines. And you can see that the remittances are extremely seasonal. They peak in May almost every year.

Why? Mother’s Day, which prompts a flood of gifts home each year. Isn’t that thoughtful?

For the record, it was a pretty good year for Mexico’s mothers, with remittances rising 4.4%, compared to the prior year. (They had declined 12.4% in May 2013, as some…

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Are you an addict too?

Started a new Coursera class today, “The Addicted Brain”.  The instructor, prof Michael Kuhar, defines “addiction”  as “repeated behavior that results in distress or has a negative impact.” Among the “addictive” substances we’ll explore is caffeine (aka, “Starbucks!) .  Does caffeine cause distress or have a negative impact in your life?