My Conversation with Rabbi Leonard Beerman

Shalom Rav

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This past Sunday I had the great pleasure and honor to participate in a open conversation with Rabbi Leonard Beerman in “Progressive Politics from the Pulpit,” a program sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace – Los Angeles. As Rabbi Beerman has been one of my true rabbinical heroes for so many years, it was truly a thrill for me to share a podium with him as we shared our thoughts on the challenges facing congregational rabbis who engage in progressive social justice activism.

As a Los Angeles native myself, I’ve long known of Rabbi Beerman’s inspired work during the years he served as the Senior Rabbi of LA’s Leo Baeck Temple. He was the founding rabbi of Leo Baeck in 1949 and stayed there for the next 37 years until his retirement in 1986. During that time, he challenged his congregants – and the Jewish community at large –…

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Loves Us Some Nicotine!

I want to talk about… about… um… (vape) Oh yeah, how nicotine can improve memory and cognitive function! I can guess what you’re thinking: nicotine “Noooooo!” But calm down. Nicotine (named for Jean Nicot) the French ambassador to Portugal who brought the tobacco plant back to Paris) Nicotine is a classic example of guilt by association.

But nicotine may be the best friend of aging brains. If you’re like me, and I know I am, you worry about aging and Alzheimer’s disease the first sign if which is what neurologist call MCI or Mild Cognitive Impairment. In 2012 neurologist Paul Newhouse slapped patches on 67 subjects. 33 contained a placebos and 34 delivered 15 milligrams per day nicotine. After 6 months of double blind study the nicotine group showed improvement in primary and secondary cognitive measures of attention, memory, and mental processing. It concluded that there was evidence for nicotine-induced cognitive improvement in subjects with MCI.

But the nicotine news gets better! A 1991 study in the Netherlands found that smokers had a lower incidence and later onset of and that the risk of Alzheimer’s disease decreased with increasing daily number of cigarettes smoked. Truth be told, the neuroprotective effects of nicotine have been experimentally documented for years.

Cigarette smoking harms almost every organ in your body. Smokers risk cancer, emphysema birth defects and probably acne. But nicotine delivery by other means, not so much. As far as I can tell the biggest risk of nicotine is becoming addicted to something that protects your brain.

But what do I know? Thank goodness I’m not a doctor and have no qualifications, pretentions or interest in giving anybody medical advice. Anybody who’d take medical advice from a comedian may already have mild cognitive impairment. But there is good data out there by grownup neuroscientists providing reasons to take another look at our old buddy… um… niee… ni – (vape) oh yeah nicotine!

UN Report on North Korea could be about the United States or South Korea

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By Stephen Gowans

Surely one could be forgiven for thinking that when the Washington Post’s Chico Harlan (February 17) described the conclusions reached by the UN Human Rights Commission’s investigation into North Korea that he was really describing his own country, the United States. Harlan wrote, “The report makes for devastating reading, laying out the way North Korea conducts surveillance on its citizens (see Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA’s spying on US citizens…and everyone else), bans them from travel (anyone up for a visit to Cuba?), discriminates against them based on supposed ideological impurities (has the United States ever been kind to Marxist-Leninists?), tortures them (water boarding and Abu Ghraib) and sometimes banishes them to isolated prison camps, where they are held incommunicado” (recently Guantanamo and other CIA torture camps around the world to which opponents of the US regime have been rendered, more distantly, the incarceration of German-…

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