Currently viewing the tag: "Epidemic"

Fakhruddin Ahmed starts out well in this op-ed, explaining the genesis of “Islamophobia” with a greater degree of honesty than most Muslim spokesmen in the U.S. have ever displayed. But he soon enough resorts to the familiar Islamic supremacist tactic of evading responsibility, pointing fingers at non-Muslims who dare to point out how Islamic jihadists use the texts and teachings of Islam to justify violence and supremacism and to make recruits among peaceful Muslims. By the end of the piece he has run off the rails entirely, flinging wild charges of racism and bigotry, and blaming Pamela Geller and me for the fact that non-Muslims in America are looking at Islam and Muslims with open eyes, instead of buying into the full-blown campaign of deception, disinformation, and soothing lies that the mainstream media continues to pursue. He never connects up the first half of his piece with the second — in other words, he never explains why Islamic jihad terrorism and Islamic supremacism are real, and yet any resistance to them constitutes racism and hatred.

Yeah, sure, Fakhruddin — as if Pamela Geller and I inspired Khalid Aldawsari, the would-be jihad mass murderer in Lubbock, Texas, or Muhammad Hussain, the would-be jihad bomber in Baltimore, or Mohamed Mohamud, the would-be jihad bomber in Portland, or Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood jihad mass-murderer, or Faisal Shahzad, the would-be Times Square jihad mass-murderer, or Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, the Arkansas military recruiting station jihad murderer, or Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the would-be Christmas airplane jihad bomber, or Muhammad Atta, Anjem Chaudary, Omar Bakri, Abu Hamza, Abu Bakar Bashir, Zawahiri, Zarqawi, bin Laden and all the rest.

The Times of Trenton should be ashamed to print such a farrago, but it isn’t really anything special — just another mainstream media outlet printing a deceptive, disingenuous piece claiming victim status for Muslims in order to deflect attention away from jihad terror and Islamic supremacism.

“Examining a painful history fraught with transgressions,” by Fakhruddin Ahmed in the Times of Trenton, March 12 (thanks to James):

There are cogent reasons why roughly half of Americans, according to polls, harbor an unfavorable opinion of Islam. Besides perpetrating the most horrendous crime on American soil on 9/11, Muslims have been responsible for some pretty ugly incidents lately.

The Ayatollah Khomeini challenged one of the West’s core values, freedom of speech, by issuing a “fatwa,” or religious decree, in 1989, for the murder of Salman Rushdie over his controversial book, “The Satanic Verses.”

The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were quickly followed by Muslim terror attacks in Bali, Indonesia (2002), Madrid (2004), London (2005) and Mumbai (2008). And when some Muslims went berserk, burning and boycotting in reaction to the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2006, the rest of the world held its collective breath in consternation.

Muslim terrorists’ attempts to blow up planes, airports, tunnels and subways in America were thwarted. And if Qur’ans had actually been burned by Pastor Terry Jones in Florida last fall, as he threatened to do, some Muslims would have reacted by creating mayhem. Clearly, there is a less-enlightened, fanatically violent underbelly at work in the name of Islam. Understandably, the Judeo-Christian polemic against Islam centers on terrorism.

Submerged in an all-encompassing anti-Muslim hysteria, when non-Muslim Americans see signs of increasing Muslim presence around them, they feel besieged by an intimidating culture. That America’s complexion is transforming from shades of white to brown is difficult for many Americans to stomach; when some of those brown faces belong to Muslims, the transformation becomes downright frightening.

With no prominent Muslim-American voice to assuage those apprehensions, fear begets fear, spawning more virulent anti-Muslim vitriol.

Are Muslims, their religion and their culture a mortal threat to America? Is this the vaunted “Clash of Civilizations” between the West and Islam, as Harvard’s Samuel Huntington had predicted in 1993?

Civilizational narratives are rarely one-dimensional. Western democracies, especially Britain and France, exploited and repressed most Muslim nations as colonial powers over the centuries, souring Muslim taste for democracy. Conceivably, America’s more recent interventions in the Islamic world are fueling Americaphobia. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, with the concomitant collateral death of thousands of civilians, have exacerbated Muslim-American relations, as have the al Qaeda-seeking drone attacks inside Pakistan that inadvertently kill civilians and whose legality stands on shaky grounds.

We may consider ourselves to be the “good guys” eliminating the “bad guys” before they attack us; but to the child of the civilian we kill in Afghanistan, we are the bad guys. He or she may vow to exact vengeance.

Quid pro quo is in vogue in international relations. America garnered the Muslim world’s gratitude when it rushed to bolster the Afghans after the Soviet invasion of 1979 (which led to Muslim participation in Gulf War I in 1991), and liberated the Bosnians (1995) and the Kosovars (1999) from the Serbs. Muslims were not thrilled, however, when America attacked Afghanistan in 2001 (and has occupied it since); the neoconservatives fabricated WMD “evidence” to facilitate President George W. Bush’s attack of Iraq in 2003; and America started waging an undeclared war inside Pakistan.

Excluded from the debate about them inside America, and reduced to passive observers, Muslim-Americans are chagrined at the spectacle unfolding right before their eyes. Right-wing Republicans see no downside to demonizing the Muslims. It energizes their base, carries no political penalty, and forces the Democrats to defend a progressively unpopular minority.

Democratic defense of Muslim-Americans has not been stellar either, perhaps because they, too, secretly covet the bigot vote. Deprecators realize that Muslim-Americans, who number only 7 million, cannot retaliate electorally, making Muslim-baiting a win-win proposition.

Sarah Palin tweeted last July, imploring “peaceful Muslims” to “refudiate” the proposed New York City mosque near Ground Zero. Other Republicans and some Democrats jumped on the bandwagon, attaching intellectual heft to an originally ignorant far-right-fringe viewpoint.

A “moderate” Muslim is being redefined as one who condemns on demand. Detractors are not interested in Muslim points of view; they want Muslim condemnation of Islam. For them, Islam-bashing is the new normal, the new acceptable form of racism. If any other ethnic or religious group was so maliciously mauled, the attackers would be branded incurable racists.

What astonishes Muslim-Americans is that those hurling imprecations at them on television, on the radio and in the blogosphere do not seem to care that Muslim-Americans are watching and listening. It’s as though Muslim-Americans are apparitions that do not really exist or have feelings. Muslims feel like screaming: “Hey, I am in the room. Stop backbiting!”

The virus incubated by right-wing bloggers Pam Geller and Robert Spencer has been spread so far and wide by Fox News that all of America is now infected with an anti-Muslim epidemic. It hurts Muslim-Americans to see their patriotism questioned, their faith defined, distorted and defiled beyond recognition by anti-Muslim bigots through blatant lies. It is un-American to attempt to sacrifice an entire America-loving community, already reeling under vicious attacks, at the altar of higher television ratings.

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Fakhruddin Ahmed starts out well in this op-ed, explaining the genesis of “Islamophobia” with a greater degree of honesty than most Muslim spokesmen in the U.S. have ever displayed. But he soon enough resorts to the familiar Islamic supremacist tactic of evading responsibility, pointing fingers at non-Muslims who dare to point out how Islamic jihadists use the texts and teachings of Islam to justify violence and supremacism and to make recruits among peaceful Muslims. By the end of the piece he has run off the rails entirely, flinging wild charges of racism and bigotry, and blaming Pamela Geller and me for the fact that non-Muslims in America are looking at Islam and Muslims with open eyes, instead of buying into the full-blown campaign of deception, disinformation, and soothing lies that the mainstream media continues to pursue. He never connects up the first half of his piece with the second — in other words, he never explains why Islamic jihad terrorism and Islamic supremacism are real, and yet any resistance to them constitutes racism and hatred.

Yeah, sure, Fakhruddin — as if Pamela Geller and I inspired Khalid Aldawsari, the would-be jihad mass murderer in Lubbock, Texas, or Muhammad Hussain, the would-be jihad bomber in Baltimore, or Mohamed Mohamud, the would-be jihad bomber in Portland, or Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood jihad mass-murderer, or Faisal Shahzad, the would-be Times Square jihad mass-murderer, or Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, the Arkansas military recruiting station jihad murderer, or Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the would-be Christmas airplane jihad bomber, or Muhammad Atta, Anjem Chaudary, Omar Bakri, Abu Hamza, Abu Bakar Bashir, Zawahiri, Zarqawi, bin Laden and all the rest.

The Times of Trenton should be ashamed to print such a farrago, but it isn’t really anything special — just another mainstream media outlet printing a deceptive, disingenuous piece claiming victim status for Muslims in order to deflect attention away from jihad terror and Islamic supremacism.

“Examining a painful history fraught with transgressions,” by Fakhruddin Ahmed in the Times of Trenton, March 12 (thanks to James):

There are cogent reasons why roughly half of Americans, according to polls, harbor an unfavorable opinion of Islam. Besides perpetrating the most horrendous crime on American soil on 9/11, Muslims have been responsible for some pretty ugly incidents lately.

The Ayatollah Khomeini challenged one of the West’s core values, freedom of speech, by issuing a “fatwa,” or religious decree, in 1989, for the murder of Salman Rushdie over his controversial book, “The Satanic Verses.”

The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were quickly followed by Muslim terror attacks in Bali, Indonesia (2002), Madrid (2004), London (2005) and Mumbai (2008). And when some Muslims went berserk, burning and boycotting in reaction to the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2006, the rest of the world held its collective breath in consternation.

Muslim terrorists’ attempts to blow up planes, airports, tunnels and subways in America were thwarted. And if Qur’ans had actually been burned by Pastor Terry Jones in Florida last fall, as he threatened to do, some Muslims would have reacted by creating mayhem. Clearly, there is a less-enlightened, fanatically violent underbelly at work in the name of Islam. Understandably, the Judeo-Christian polemic against Islam centers on terrorism.

Submerged in an all-encompassing anti-Muslim hysteria, when non-Muslim Americans see signs of increasing Muslim presence around them, they feel besieged by an intimidating culture. That America’s complexion is transforming from shades of white to brown is difficult for many Americans to stomach; when some of those brown faces belong to Muslims, the transformation becomes downright frightening.

With no prominent Muslim-American voice to assuage those apprehensions, fear begets fear, spawning more virulent anti-Muslim vitriol.

Are Muslims, their religion and their culture a mortal threat to America? Is this the vaunted “Clash of Civilizations” between the West and Islam, as Harvard’s Samuel Huntington had predicted in 1993?

Civilizational narratives are rarely one-dimensional. Western democracies, especially Britain and France, exploited and repressed most Muslim nations as colonial powers over the centuries, souring Muslim taste for democracy. Conceivably, America’s more recent interventions in the Islamic world are fueling Americaphobia. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, with the concomitant collateral death of thousands of civilians, have exacerbated Muslim-American relations, as have the al Qaeda-seeking drone attacks inside Pakistan that inadvertently kill civilians and whose legality stands on shaky grounds.

We may consider ourselves to be the “good guys” eliminating the “bad guys” before they attack us; but to the child of the civilian we kill in Afghanistan, we are the bad guys. He or she may vow to exact vengeance.

Quid pro quo is in vogue in international relations. America garnered the Muslim world’s gratitude when it rushed to bolster the Afghans after the Soviet invasion of 1979 (which led to Muslim participation in Gulf War I in 1991), and liberated the Bosnians (1995) and the Kosovars (1999) from the Serbs. Muslims were not thrilled, however, when America attacked Afghanistan in 2001 (and has occupied it since); the neoconservatives fabricated WMD “evidence” to facilitate President George W. Bush’s attack of Iraq in 2003; and America started waging an undeclared war inside Pakistan.

Excluded from the debate about them inside America, and reduced to passive observers, Muslim-Americans are chagrined at the spectacle unfolding right before their eyes. Right-wing Republicans see no downside to demonizing the Muslims. It energizes their base, carries no political penalty, and forces the Democrats to defend a progressively unpopular minority.

Democratic defense of Muslim-Americans has not been stellar either, perhaps because they, too, secretly covet the bigot vote. Deprecators realize that Muslim-Americans, who number only 7 million, cannot retaliate electorally, making Muslim-baiting a win-win proposition.

Sarah Palin tweeted last July, imploring “peaceful Muslims” to “refudiate” the proposed New York City mosque near Ground Zero. Other Republicans and some Democrats jumped on the bandwagon, attaching intellectual heft to an originally ignorant far-right-fringe viewpoint.

A “moderate” Muslim is being redefined as one who condemns on demand. Detractors are not interested in Muslim points of view; they want Muslim condemnation of Islam. For them, Islam-bashing is the new normal, the new acceptable form of racism. If any other ethnic or religious group was so maliciously mauled, the attackers would be branded incurable racists.

What astonishes Muslim-Americans is that those hurling imprecations at them on television, on the radio and in the blogosphere do not seem to care that Muslim-Americans are watching and listening. It’s as though Muslim-Americans are apparitions that do not really exist or have feelings. Muslims feel like screaming: “Hey, I am in the room. Stop backbiting!”

The virus incubated by right-wing bloggers Pam Geller and Robert Spencer has been spread so far and wide by Fox News that all of America is now infected with an anti-Muslim epidemic. It hurts Muslim-Americans to see their patriotism questioned, their faith defined, distorted and defiled beyond recognition by anti-Muslim bigots through blatant lies. It is un-American to attempt to sacrifice an entire America-loving community, already reeling under vicious attacks, at the altar of higher television ratings.

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Who could possibly tell a woman such a thing? Muhammad:

“If a husband calls his wife to his bed [i.e. to have sexual relation] and she refuses and causes him to sleep in anger, the angels will curse her till morning” (Sahih Bukhari 4.54.460).”

And there is more: “By him in Whose Hand lies my life, a woman can not carry out the right of her Lord, till she carries out the right of her husband. And if he asks her to surrender herself [to him for sexual intercourse] she should not refuse him even if she is on a camel’s saddle” (Ibn Majah 1854).”

And of course, Qur’an 4:34′s instruction to beat disobedient women sets the precedent for answering supposed “disobedience” with violence. Women in the Muslim world continue to suffer the consequences of these instructions from their prophet. “Silence on spousal sexual assault jarring: Doctors,” by Saleha Rauf for the International Herald Tribune, March 10 (thanks to MK):

LAHORE: Gynecologists at several city hospitals have expressed their concerns over the growing number of married female patients who are forced into intercourse.

An outwardly pious, and inwardly sick, broken society:

“The number of marital rape cases keeps going up but no one even acknowledges that the problem exists. We see dozens of patients coming in but they never acknowledge they have been raped; only that they were doing their duty,” says Ganga Ram Hospital consultant gynecologist Dr Shamsa Humayun. Dr Humayun said that she recently treated a mother-of-four, who had lost her pulse, consciousness and lots of blood pressure following a result of her third abortion. “I had warned her not to get pregnant because she had severe diabetes. I told her that her life was at risk but she chose abortion over contraception. Now she is dead,” Dr Humayun said.

Alviah Noor*, who is working on her PhD research paper and recently got married, said that she had severe vaginal infection for the last six months and was heavily medicated to treat an infection caused by her intra-uterine system (IUS or coil). “The coil ruined my health but it was the only contraception I could use without my husband finding out,” she said, adding that doctors had prohibited her from intercourse but her husband refused to listen to her. “I have no choice in the matter. I have to do whatever he tells me,” she said.

Nilofer Raja* complained that her husband had several extra marital affairs and that she had contracted an STD after he forced himself on her. “He abuses me but I cannot refuse him. My family told me that it was my religious duty to do as he demanded and that if I refuse the angels will curse me all night,” she told doctors.

Shirkat Gah representative Fauzia Vikar said “the concept of marital rape does not exist in our society. She is thought to have signed a contract for sex. Even in US, the first marital rape case was reported in 1978. Most reports from battered women reflect that they do not think their spouses are guilty of a crime.” “Most women I have spoken to on the issue simply think that marital rape is natural. We need to educate and economically empower women so that they realise it is not their duty to tolerate abuse,” she said. According to Vikar, most women consider it shameful and a sin to oppose non-consensual sex. “There is almost no local literature available on the subject and not a single reported case to my knowledge,” she said.

Dr Ambreen Ahmad, a clinical psychologist who teaches at Lahore School of Economics said “We need to introduce couples counseling, especially before marriage because women need to know their rights. Many women consider it their ‘religious duty’ to undergo this when there is nothing in religion that condones such assault.”

Non-consensual sex is the logical conclusion of the ahadith quoted above, which, as one victim made clear, are part of the decision-making process.

According to Dr Rabia Ameen of General Hospital said “There is no sex education before marriage. This often leads to women contracting horrible diseases from unprotected sex. I feel terrible when I see young girls dying of reproductory problems because of irrational social expectations.”

Dr Ameen said “On average we deal with five cases of spousal rape every week and 90 percent of these cases occur within the first two weeks of marriage. Young brides aren’t aware that they have the right to put a stop to intercourse and we often see severe tearing and heavy bleeding in young women.” “I have lost count of the number of times I have simply stitched a vaginal tear and prohibited the couple from having intercourse for six weeks. The women almost always come back with the same problem because their spouses refuse to listen,” she said, adding “I now recommend that the woman stay at her parents’ house to be safe.” Dr Ameen said that women seldom know that it is even possible to be raped by their husband. “They think that it is their duty to go along with whatever their husband wants and all we can do is recommend a course of treatment,” she said, adding that doctors often knew that their patients would not be allowed to rest.

Dr Shamsa Humayun, a gynecologist said that patients don’t complain of sexual abuse from their spouses even when the evidence is overwhelming. “I have examined women with severe vaginal tearing, enough that they needed stitches, but they still never admitted they were assaulted,” she said.

According to a gynecologist Dr Asmah Mehmood “Very few women in Pakistan actually have a healthy sexual relationship with their spouses. Abuse is common and so is violence.”

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It's enough to make you weep:

Israeli officials on Tuesday canceled a ceremony planned to honor the Palestinian firemen who assisted in battling the Carmel fire last week, after a number of crew members were refused permits to cross the border. Palestinian Fire Services Commander Ahmed Rizik said that he and his staff were surprised to learn when they arrived at the checkpoint that only seven out of the 10 fireman would be granted entry into Israel, although all of them had been allowed in at the time of the disaster.

A snafu because of a security bureaucracy that, for a brief moment, was not supposed to treat Palestinians like … Palestinians.





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The Israeli far right goes there:

The Lehava organization issued a notice Sunday evening, inviting the public to call a voicemail service and record the names of Jewish Israelis renting apartments to Arabs. Lehava, identified with supporters of Meir Kahane, thus adds its weight to the recent call by 50 prominent rabbis to avoid renting to Arabs which, the organization says, amounts to no less than assimilation. According to the notice, the information given anonymously will be verified, after which the names will be published as a mark of disgrace "so the public can decide what to do with them."





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In Israel, a disturbing new sign of radicalization:

A number of leading rabbis who signed on to a religious ruling to forbid renting homes to gentiles – a move particularly aimed against Arabs – defended their decision on Tuesday with the declaration that the land of Israel belongs to the Jews. Dozens of Israel's municipal chief rabbis signed on to the ruling, which comes just months after the chief rabbi of Safed initiated a call urging Jews to refrain from renting or selling apartments to non-Jews.

There is, mercifully, plenty of blowback from the Israeli left and center, including Netanyahu. But the logic of fundamentalism is as powerful within Judaism as it is within Christianity and Islam. And it's taking over in a way that makes politics and diplomacy impossible and religious war a theological necessity.





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Shalom Goldman picks apart the "loyalty oath" debate going on in Israel today. What it says about the emerging worldview of Israelis in this century:

According to Yaron London, among the questions that might be asked by that elusive figure, ‘the average Jew,’ is one very pointed one:

“Our Arab citizens demand that Israel act toward them in line with the noblest human criteria, while at the same time they barely criticize the injustices prevalent in the Arab world. These Arab citizens have nothing to say about the attitude to the Coptic minority in Egypt, or about the attitude to the Shiites in Sunni Gulf states, or about the Alawite tyranny in Syria.”

One of the most cutting remarks came from a retired member of the High Court of Justice, Israel’s Supreme Court. Abd-el Rahman Zuabi, the first Arab to serve on the court, said that if the proposed amendment passes “then there will be two countries in the world that in my opinion are racist: Iran, which is an Islamic state, and Israel, which is the Jewish state.”

How then did this frightening swing to the Right come about? In a recently published book, Israeli Identities, sociologist Yair Oron analyzes the results of twenty years of research—including interviews and opinion polls conducted among people in Israel—both Jews and Arabs. He found that for Jews of all political and religious affiliations, Holocaust memory was the dominant element in their sense of identity, and that the Holocaust serves as the Jewish common denominator, an Israeli civil religion.

In a survey Oron conducted in Israel in 1990, he found that there were then two aspects to Holocaust memory, one more universal—which warned against the possibility of genocide anywhere in the world, and one more particularistic, that feared another genocide directed against Jews. In a subsequent 2008 survey, Oron found that the particularistic view had triumphed; very few of his respondents articulated a universalistic worldview…





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The community-organizing group ACORN has “absolutely” re-emerged since it was disbanded in the spring and there could be an “epidemic” of voter fraud problems this year to change the outcome of the midterm elections, David Norcross, the chairman of the Republican National Lawyers Association, told Newsmax.

Newsmax, a conservative website, compared ACORN to “the mythological hydra that grew two heads for every one cut off.”

Norcross — whose group hosted a panel on ACORN at the Conservative Political Action Conference entitled “Saving Freedom From Vote Fraud” — lamented that Democrats were using the anti-voter fraud initiatives launched by conservatives to rally their base.

“One of the very unfortunate things about this whole topic is that the left uses this as an excuse to gin up voter participation and to attack people who are interested in keeping good clean ballots and voting,” Norcross says in the video [emphasis ours].

As TPMMuckraker has reported, the RNLA — like many conservative groups — has been ramping up allegations of massive voter fraud ahead of the 2010 midterm elections.

“Some of the old ACORN groups are back at it again,” Norcross told Newsmax. “They use quotas for registration. That encourages people to go out and sign up anybody, or nobody — just sign up addresses and things like that.”

The RNLA has been training lawyers in Illinois , where GOP Senate candidate Mark Kirk got into hot water over his announcement that the campaign planned to deploy voter integrity squads in predominately minority neighborhoods throughout the state.

Norcross said the RNLA is watching Illinois very carefully. He also said the RNLA has “had a team in Nevada for about two weeks” that includes co-chair Cleta Mitchell.

Voter fraud is “an epidemic,” Norcross said. “It’s laughable that the left calls voter fraud nonexistent. It’s very much existent. The shame is that both parties ought to be engaged in trying to stop this. The left is busy using it as a way to manufacture turnout, magnify turnout.”

Tova Andrea Wang, Senior Democracy Fellow at the Demos, said the type of language used by Norcross is a perfect example of groups exaggerating the threat of voter fraud for political gain.

“It’s exactly the kind of inflammatory language that is less than useful at this time in the election cycle. It’s the kind of language that is meant to gin up all sorts of unfounded conspiracy theories to steal the election which simply don’t go on,” Tova Wang told TPMMuckraker Monday.

Norcross also told Newsmax that he agreed with FreedomWorks CEO Dick Armey, who alleged that Democrats were committing voter fraud because they were ahead in early voting.

Dave Weigel of Slate thinks these anti-voter fraud campaigns, even if they fail to find anything wrong, are a net gain for the Republicans.

“Let’s say that no actual election fraud is captured, and no voters are scared away by aggressive Tea Partiers. The benefit of this sort of election-watching is enormous anyway, because it was exactly this — a videoblogger for the little-known Election Journal — that produced 23 months of scandal over two idiots from the New Black Panther Party skulking outside of a Philadelphia polling booth,” Weigel writes. “Expect numerous stories of “union thugs” or otherwise scary activists defrauding the vote on November 2; expect a new Republican Congress to investigate them.”

The Newsmax video interview with David Norcross embedded below.









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On the one hand, this stuff gets covered in the Israeli press. On the other hand, it happens:





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RUFFIE, LUNA AND YOUR FAITHFUL CORRESPONDENT

It’s not hard to see why golden retrievers are among the most popular breeds in the U.S. year in and year out. They’re cuddly cute as puppies and beautiful as adults. They’re great around kids, energetic, intelligent, intensely loyal and easy to train. In fact, they often train their owners.

But American Golden Retrievers are also ticking time bombs. An extraordinary six of every 10 Goldens succumb to cancer before living to the once typical 12- to 16-year life expectancy. The mortality rate for other dog breeds, as well as for humans, is three in 10.

While any dog that has lived beyond its normal reproductive years is at increased risk for cancer and Goldens are not alone compared to other dog breeds in this regard, anecdotal evidence suggests that an inordinate number of Goldens are dying before they reach middle age.

The outlines of the golden epidemic have been clear for over 10 years, but organizations like the Golden Retriever Club of America (GRCA), while on the one hand funding studies on and supporting research into the cancers, have done little or nothing to rein in greedy member breeders who play God in knowingly selling interbred, cancer-prone puppies to unsuspecting buyers who end up heartbroken.

Their rationale, in so many words, is that it’s not their job.

The GRCA has gone so far as to recommend that owners give their Goldens a regular regimen of a drug that has been shown to inhibit cancers, which is not unlike a car manufacturer recommending that drivers wear crash helmets when using vehicles that it knows cause an inordinate number of fatal accidents.

Meanwhile, it would seem to stand to reason that if breeders only bred Goldens whose parents were long-lived, progress could be made against the epidemic.

Alas, many breeders seem to be in the business only for the money and have little interest in improving the breed. No surprise there. Purebred Golden pups can fetch upwards of $ 2,500 and the alternative to selling dogs with shortened life expectancies is to stop selling them. Period.

And while the canine genome has been successfully sequenced, the fine print of the genetics of Goldens and their cancers is still not understood well enough to hold out hope for Goldens less vulnerable to cancer in the foreseeable future.

* * * * *

I know of the Golden Retriever cancer epidemic all too well. I have lived with and been acquainted with a dozen or so goldens over the years. I have midwifed their births, taken them to the vets, helped breed them and cradled them in my arms as they drew their last breaths.

It’s hard to name favorites, but Ruffie (Medford Ben’s Ruffles was the snooty name on her pedigree papers) would have to be at the top of my list.

Ruffie was special from the time she opened her tiny eyes. While she played with her litter mates, there was an unpuppy-like serenity about her which grew deeper as she matured. She in turn seemed to impart a Zen-like quality on her own offspring, who included Cody, the companion of a good friend, and a sweetheart by the name of Luna.

But despite careful attention to their diets, plenty of exercise, regular visits to an terrific vet and the love and devotion of their owners, Ruffie departed this world well before her time, a victim of lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system) at age five, while Luna died at age three, also of lymphoma. Cody, meanwhile, lived to the relatively ripe old age of 11 before succumbing to hemangiosarcoma (cancer of the blood).

While hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma are the leading killers of Goldens, the breed also is at increased risk for osteosarcoma (cancer of the bones) and immune system diseases — primarily allergies and hypothyroidism — that can comprise their ability to destroy abnormal cells before they can cause cancer.

In fact, it may be that the first litter of founder dog Goldens — a cross between a registered Tweed Water Spaniel and unregistered yellow flat-coated retriever bred in 1865 by a Scottish land baron who was seeking a superior sporting dog — carried genes that have led to widespread immune system dysfunction in the breed.

All purebred dogs are technically interbred, but as Rhonda Hovan, an Ohio breeder and health and genetics writer puts it, Goldens may have a very similar inherited “germ line” that put them at greater risk.

“One gets cancer, another becomes hypothyroid, another gets lots of hot spots, and another has food allergies — but the underlying genes that put them at risk for cancer and which are passed on to the next generation, may be very similar,” Hovan explains.

This situation is further complicated because cancers usually don’t appear until after a Golden is no longer bred but has passed on its genes to multiple puppies.

* * * * *

There is little that Golden owners can do to detect cancers in their dogs and they often are too advanced to treat when discovered, although there have been strides in treating the cancers with Palladia, the first FDA-approved drug for dogs, as well as some of the same chemotherapy drugs used in humans.

Such treatments can be quite expensive, $ 26,000 in the instance of one owner who managed to prolong her Golden’s life by only a few months, while some pet health insurance policies have cancer riders that do not cover hereditary conditions.

There are some early warning signs. These include lumps or masses on or under the skin, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, difficulty in breathing and changes in eating habits, but many Goldens seem fine one minute and are deathly ill or dead the next.

Hovan had a Golden who had hiked 8,000 miles by her side and died of hemangiosarcoma.

“As experienced as I am,” Hovan said, “I didn’t know until 12 hours before she passed away.”

As with humans, lifestyle can make a difference. Studies show that dogs that are lean and fit have a lower risk of cancer, as well as other health problems, but there is no evidence that exotic diets make a difference.

Not much of a defense in the face of an unrelenting epidemic without end.

SOURCES FOR THIS STORY

“Pedigree Dogs Exposed,” a BBC One documentary first aired on August 19, 2008; “When Cancer Comes With a Pedigree” by Melinda Beck, The Wall Street Journal (May 4, 2010); Winning Cancer Fight: No Longer Automatic Death Verdict Thanks To Advances” by Amy Sacks, New York Daily News (November 14, 2009); “Understanding Cancer In Golden Retrievers” by Rhonda Hovan; Email interview by the author with Hovan.


The Moderate Voice

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rand-paul2Last week, Kentucky Senate candidate and Tea Party darling Rand Paul (R) told the AP of his desire to cut federal funding for undercover drug investigations and drug treatment programs that are “badly needed” in his state. While recognizing drugs as a “scourge,” Paul didn’t think Kentucky’s high-profile drug problem was “a real pressing issue.” His Democratic opponent and Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway blasted Paul for being widely “out of touch with drug abuse woes” in the state, warning that “his policies would actually hurt the people of of Kentucky.” The AP suggested that he may lose votes over his stance.

In the face of the uproar, Paul is walking back his dismissal of the problem. In a local WYMT-TV interview yesterday, Paul insisted that, as “a physician and a father,” he is “very concerned” and thinks “we need to everything we can to stop drugs.” But, as the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent notes, “it’s unclear whether his clarification will help much.” Because Paul, in feeling that the government solution is “still failing,” went on to offer his own answer to drug problem - help rich people:

“I personally think we’ve been trying the government solution, and maybe there are some good aspects to it. But we’re still failing, and we’re not getting rid of the drug problem,” Paul said.

Paul says reinvesting money in the local economy will help ease the unemployment, which he says leads to more drug use.

You want rich people because that’s what creates jobs. If you punish people, they won’t expand or create jobs,” Paul said.

While Paul touts the magical remedies provided by the rich, it is the poor Appalachian residents in eastern Kentucky that are facing a tough reality where a “higher proportion of people abuse prescription pain killers that in the rest of the nation.” In fact, while trafficking in pain killers is the “largest drug problem” facing the region, Kentucky is also a prominent hotbed for marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamine, according to the latest DEA study. This year, local officials reported 114 overdose deaths in the region within the first two months alone.

And, rather than failing, government run programs are producing unprecedented success. Conway’s inter-governmental task force to cut prescription pill trafficking busted over 500 people in an interstate drug pipeline and was part of the “largest prescription pill bust in Kentucky history.” Kentucky law enforcement recognize the need for similar federal programs. State Fraternal Order of Police President Michael “Spike” Jones said he “would not be able to keep up with drug crime” without federal assistance to “pay overtime logged by tracking down drug dealers.” “It would be impossible to stop” drug traffickers “without federal assistance, because of the dire straits” state economies are in, said another Appalachian drug enforcement official.

But Paul seems deaf to their needs. In offering further clarification to Sargent, Paul now says that while prevention and enforcement are important, aiding the rich to ensure healthy employment is still a better cure. His insistence in remaining out of touch with his state’s epidemic even leaves members of his own party perplexed. “‘Apparently (Paul) just doesn’t know, or he wouldn’t make that statement’ about drugs not being a pressing issue” said former County Judge-Executive Tommy Slone (R). “It’ll hurt him if he says that because there’s a lot of people up here that’s been affected by these drugs.”

Think Progress

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Firas Press reports that there has been a rash of thefts of shoes from mosques in Ramallah.

Muslims remove their shoes in an outer room and then pray inside. While they are in prayer, others have been going in and taking their shoes.

Some worshippers have resorted to splitting up their shoes, placing each one in a different corner of the room, so that the thieves would more likely be caught as they try to find the matching shoe.

When the worshippers return and find their shoes missing, they are forced to walk barefoot to a nearby store to buy some more shoes.

Which makes one wonder if perhaps the shoe store owners are involved….



Elder of Ziyon

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