Advertisements

Teens are still having sex, most use contraception

http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/22/health/teen-sex-contraception-study/index.html

 

(CNN) American teens’ sex habits and contraceptive use haven’t changed much over the past decade, according to a new report from the National Survey of Family Growth, which is administered by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Since 1988, the CDC has been tracking the sexual activities and behaviors of US teens age 15 to 19. The latest numbers from the report released Thursday involved information gathered in interviews with 4,134 teens from 2011 to 2015.
In that time period, 42% of female teens and 44% of male teens reported having had sex at least once, a 1% decrease for females and a 2% increase for males over the previous four years, spanning 2006 to 2010. These differences are not statistically significant.
However, there was a significant decrease in teens who reported having sex in 2011 through 2015 compared to those who reported doing so in 1988. Contraceptive use has also significantly increased over the years. Ninety percent of females now report using contraceptives, compared with 80% in 1988. Males also reported more contraceptive use, from 84% in 1988 to 95% from 2011 to 2015.
Compared with the 2006-2010 report, the latest survey found that reported contraceptive use increased from 86% to 90% in females and 93% to 95% in males, respectively. But these rate differences were also not statistically significant.
The report also found that condoms, withdrawal and the birth control pill were still the most commonly used forms of birth control, with percentages staying steady over the years.
Aligned with these results, the rates of teen pregnancy and births in the US have been steadily decreasing since the early 1990s. In 2015, a historic low of 22.3 births per 1,000 teens was recorded.
Joyce Abma, lead author of the report and a demographer at the CDC, said it’s important to understand these trends because teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections are public health issues.
“Teen sexual activity and contraceptive use are the direct mechanisms that lead to teen pregnancy” and sexually transmitted infections, Abma said. “So knowing how prevalent, how common, those behaviors are and how they differ according to different subgroups, demographically, helps policy makers and practitioners know where and how to apply intervention.”
The CDC survey is conducted annually and involves face-to-face interviews in participants’ homes. Teens’ responses are gathered in complete privacy. And the questions have not been changed since the survey first asked teens about their sexual activity and contraceptive use in 1988.
Nicole Cushman, executive director of Answer, a national organization that provides sex education training to teachers and resources to young adults, said the survey results are more good news for teens.
“This new data really confirms the continuation of trends that we’ve been seeing for many years now in teen sexual health,” she said. “My take-away message from these trends over the years is that young people are doing a great job at making responsible decisions about their sexual health. I think it really shows that when we equip young people with the knowledge and the skills to protect their sexual health, they’re capable of making decisions best for them.”
Join the conversation

See the latest news and share your comments with CNN Health on Facebook and Twitter.

But Cushman also thinks there may be room to expand the scope of questions on the annual surveys.
“Very often, when we look at reports like this, we get focused on the clinical details around pregnancy prevention and STD prevention. And those are certainly important topics,” she said. “But when we work with actual teens, what they often remind us of is that these behaviors take place in the context of relationships. And teens really are concerned with the emotional aspects of those relationships. So that’s something we need to consider when crafting our sex ed and public health programs.”
Advertisements

These few things may help stave off dementia, scientists say

Scientists think there may be a few things you can do to keep dementia at bay: train your brain, keep your blood pressure under control and stay active.

According to a report published Thursday by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM), there is promising evidence that cognitive training, managing your blood pressure if you have hypertension and increasing your physical activity may help prevent age-related cognitive decline and dementia.

The report’s findings line up with the Alzheimer’s Association’s findings from two years ago, said Keith N. Fargo, the association’s director of Scientific Programs and Outreach. In 2015, the organization published its own review and identified two things that could help minimize the risk of cognitive decline.

“They were increasing physical activity and improving cardiovascular health,” he said.

“The ideas were there before the report,” said Dan G. Blazer, a member of the NASEM committee that conducted the study and the J.P. Gibbons Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus at Duke University Medical Center. “What is good for the heart is good for the brain. Therefore, exercise and controlling high blood pressure are good for the brain.”

And cognitive training is getting a lot of attention now, said Blazer. Cognitive training refers to programs or exercises aimed at improving reasoning, problem-solving, memory and processing speed. Sometimes they can be computer-based.

In one randomized control trial of 2,832 participants that the committee reviewed called the Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE) trial, those who had received cognitive training in reasoning and speed-of-processing showed less decline in those areas than those who didn’t — after ten years.

“(Cognitive training) is an area worthy of looking forward,” said Blazer.

The evidence is encouraging, but not enough to embark on a public health campaign, said Alan I. Leshner, the chair of the NASEM committee and CEO Emeritus of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In the report, the findings were described as “encouraging, but inconclusive” evidence.

Further research needs to be done, the report added.

Even so, Fargo of the Alzheimer’s Association said the public should understand one thing.

“There are things that you can do to reduce your risk,” he said.

“You can take your own cognitive health and brain health in your hands,” he said. “You can affect it in a positive way.”

Follow Sarah Toy on Twitter: @sarahtoy17

Planet 10? Another Earth-Size World May Lurk in the Outer Solar System

 

Planet 10? Another Earth-Size World May Lurk in the Outer Solar System

A planetary-mass object the size of Mars may be lurking in the outer solar system.

Credit: Heather Roper/LPL

A planet-size object may be orbiting the sun in the icy reaches of the solar system beyond Pluto.

Scientists at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL) have determined that an unseen object with a mass somewhere between that of Earth and Mars could be lurking in the Kuiper Belt, a region beyond Neptune filled with thousands of icy asteroids, comets and dwarf planets.

In In January 2016, a separate group of scientists predicted the existence of a Neptune-size planet orbiting the sun far, far beyond Pluto  about 25 times farther from the sun than Pluto is. This hypothetical planet was dubbed “Planet Nine,” so if both predictions are correct, one of these putative objects could be the solar system’s 10th planet.

The so-called “planetary-mass object” described by the scientists from LPL appears to affect the orbits of a population of icy space rocks in the Kuiper Belt. Distant Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) have tilted orbits around the sun. The tilted orbital planes of most KBOs average out to something called the invariable plane of the solar system.

But the orbits of the most distant KBOs tilt away from the invariable plane by an average of 8 degrees, which signals the presence of a more massive object that warps its surroundings with its gravitational field, researchers said in a study due to be published in The Astronomical Journal.

“The most likely explanation for our results is that there is some unseen mass,” Kat Volk, a postdoctoral fellow at LPL and the lead author of the study, said in a statement. “According to our calculations, something as massive as Mars would be needed to cause the warp that we measured.”

These KBOs act a lot like spinning tops, Renu Malhotra, a professor of planetary sciences at LPL and co-author of the new study, said in the statement.

“Imagine you have lots and lots of fast-spinning tops, and you give each one a slight nudge … If you then take a snapshot of them, you will find that their spin axes will be at different orientations, but on average, they will be pointing to the local gravitational field of Earth,” she said. “We expect each of the KBOs’ orbital tilt angle to be at a different orientation, but on average, they will be pointing perpendicular to the plane determined by the sun and the big planets.”

An artist's impression of the undiscovered, planet-size object in the Kuiper Belt
An artist’s impression of the undiscovered, planet-size object in the Kuiper Belt

Credit: Heather Roper/LPL

It may sound a lot like the mysterious Planet Nine, but the researchers say the so-called planetary-mass object is too small, and too close, to be the same thing. Planet Nine lies 500 to 700 astronomical units (AU) from Earth, and its mass is about 10 times that of Earth. (One AU is the average distance at which Earth orbits the sun — 93 million miles, or 150 million kilometers. Pluto orbits the sun at a maximum distance of just less than 50 AU.)

“That is too far away to influence these KBOs,” Volk said. “It certainly has to be much closer than 100 AU to substantially affect the KBOs in that range.”

Though no planet-size objects have been spotted in the Kuiper Belt so far, the researchers are optimistic that the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), which is currently under construction in Chile, will help find these hidden worlds. “We expect LSST to bring the number of observed KBOs from currently about 2,000 to 40,000,” Malhotra said.

“There are a lot more KBOs out there — we just have not seen them yet,” Malhotra added. “Some of them are too far and dim even for LSST to spot, but because the telescope will cover the sky much more comprehensively than current surveys, it should be able to detect this object, if it’s out there.”

Email Hanneke Weitering at hweitering@space.com or follow her @hannekescience. Follow us @SpacedotcomFacebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.

What LG needs to do to make the V30 a success

It’s been just two and a half months since the last flagship phone from LG, the G6, went on sale in the US. Unfortunately, it looks like the phone got caught up in the wake of Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and S8 Pluslaunch just a couple weeks later. We have seen prices for the G6 go down quite a bit in the brief time it has been on sale. The unlocked version can now be bought for less than $500 on eBay, well below its original launch price.

Even US carriers are selling the G6 below its launch cost. That includes T-Mobile, which has cut the price down to $500, both with monthly payments and even if you pay for it in full. Sprint is selling it for $14.75 a month for 24 months, which means you can snap it up for just $354 over two years. Add all of this activity up, and it seems clear that retailers and carriers want to get rid of their G6 inventory quickly.

LG V20 review: a premium phone that will delight audiophiles

October 31, 2016

Of course, this puts a ton of pressure on LG to make sure its next flagship phone is more of a success. Rumors and image leaks about that device, the V30, have started to pop up more frequently in the last few weeks. The latest rumor claims LG will officially announce the V30 at a press event on August 30, one day before the official start of the IFA trade show in Berlin, Germany. The phone is expected to face the most competition from the rumored launch of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, which is expected to be officially revealed just a few days beforehand at a separate press event in New York City on August 26.

So what can LG do to make the V30 a success, in order to avoid what happened to the G6? We have a few suggestions for the company on that very subject!

Don’t skimp on the specs

For consumers, one of the LG G6’s biggest issues was the fact that it came with the slightly older Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor. If the phone launched in January 2017, that wouldn’t be an issue. But because the G6 launched so closely to the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus (which are both powered by the faster Snapdragon 835), many users felt that the G6 was instantly less capable when it came to market.

Recent V30 rumors have indicated that the phone will indeed sport the new 835 chip, which is indeed good news for folks who want the latest-and-greatest specs powering their smartphones.

Use a larger version of the G6’s 18:9 display

While the LG G6 may not be selling all that well, reviews for the phone have praised its 5.7-inch screen with its unusual 18:9 display ratio. We would love to see a larger version of this same kind of display on the V30, and it would certainly be a good contrast to the rumored curved Infinity Display that is expected to be part of the Galaxy Note 8. We have heard rumors that the V30 may have a curved display as well, but we think it would be better if it kept the flat screen like the G6 did.

Price the LG V30 competitively with the Galaxy Note 8

If LG really wants to cut into Samsung’s vast customer base, it also needs to make sure its phones are priced to compete immediately. LG could cut the price of the V30 so it’s $100 to $150 lower than the price of the Galaxy Note 8 right from the start. If LG can launch the V30 with both a lower price and hardware that can match or exceed the Note 8’s, it will likely have a much bigger success than the G6 did when it went up against the Galaxy S8.

Offer the new two-year warranty that was just added to the G6

Last week, LG announced that new and current owners of the G6 in the US will be able to take advantage of the company’s newly revealed Second Year Promise Program. It extends the free limited warranty for the phone from one year to two years.

LG’s extended warranty is a good first step towards restoring trust

3 days ago

Offering that same Second Year Promise Program for the V30, and making it available worldwide instead of just the US, could be a huge selling phone for the upcoming phone as well. Adding an extra blanket of consumer security is a win-win in our book.

Launch the V30 worldwide at around the same time

One of the big problems with the release of the G6 was that LG decided to stagger its launch. The phone first became available in South Korea in early March, followed by a release in North America in early April, and a European launch later in that same month. If LG can get its shipping infrastructure together so that the V30 can launch worldwide on or around the same timeframe,  that would certainly help its overall sales.

 

Texas pastors reject LGBT (FAGGOTS) school curriculum: ‘This is Houston, not San Francisco’

Christian leaders in Houston are pushing back against a recommendation from Houston Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Richard Carranza to add LGBTQ studies to the system’s U.S. history curriculum.

Carranza, speaking during a meeting hosted by the Houston Defender, a publication focused on the area’s black community, said this week that integrating LGBTQ and ethnic studies into the district’s history curriculum would give students a more well-rounded picture of America’s past, the Houston Chronicle reported.

“The LGBTQ movement in the U.S. has a history, and in many cases, many people would call it a civil rights history in terms of acceptance and in terms of who have been leaders of the movement,” he said. “I think it’s part of the American history. To include that as part of what kids study is just a bigger picture of who we are as America.”

But Houston-area pastors were not too keen on the idea of teaching LGBTQ history to students, which at this point is just a recommendation.

The Rev. Dave Welch, executive director of the Houston Area Pastor Council, which has in the past led local operations to defeat pro-LGBTQ legislation, said Carranza and those who support adding LGBTQ history to the district’s history program are trying to use the classroom “as a social experiment of a radical political agenda.”

Before moving to Houston, Carranza served as the deputy superintendent and then the superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District from 2009 until last year. While he was in California, Carranza oversaw some schools that added an LGBTQ curriculum.

In 2016, the California State Board of Education unanimously voted to add LGBTQ studies to schools’ required history curriculum. The program includes “a study of the role of contributions” of minority groups, including “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

As a result, LGBTQ content will be integrated into elementary, middle, and high school classrooms. For example, starting in fourth grade, young students will learn about “the emergence of the nation’s first gay rights organizations in the 1950s” and the struggles LGBTQ people have faced over the years, including the fight to legalize same-sex marriage.

Welch wants to make sure Carranza isn’t successful in his effort to bring San Francisco policy to Houston.

“Carranza is an import from San Francisco, where this kind of propaganda that attempts to equate sexual lifestyles, gender confusion, and hostility toward the traditional family has become the norm,” Welch said in a statement. “The HISD Board of Trustees needs to remind Dr. Carranza that this is Texas, where the people of all ethnicities still believe that our children are to be protected, nurtured, and educated, not used as a social experiment of a radical political agenda.

“Dr. Carranza, not in our city and not our children,” he continued. “The former mayor of Houston attempted to turn Houston into San Francisco with this same philosophy. Again, this is Houston, Texas, not San Francisco, California.”

Carranza made clear during the Houston Defender meeting that the conversation about integrating LGBTQ studies into the district’s curriculum is just beginning. He said no changes have been made yet, adding that it would take months or even years to fully implement a new curriculum.

The LGBTQ proposal comes as state legislators are poised to debate which restrooms transgender students and teachers should be permitted to use on public school campuses.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, has called lawmakers back to the Capitol for a 30-day special session beginning July 18. He is reconvening the Legislature, in part, for lawmakers to reconsider a so-called “bathroom bill” that would require transgender people to use the restroom that correlates with the sex listed on their birth certificates.

Despite the fact that Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, also a Republican, were outspoken advocates for the law, the bill failed during the Legislature’s regular session earlier this year because moderate Republicans rejected it.

Shifting Dollars From Poor to Rich Is a Key Part of the Senate Health Bill

The Affordable Care Act gave health insurance to millions of Americans by shifting resources from the wealthy to the poor and by moving oversight from states to the federal government. The Senate bill introduced Thursday pushes back forcefully on both dimensions.

The bill is aligned with long-held Republican values, advancing states’ rights and paring back growing entitlement programs, while freeing individuals from requirements that they have insurance and emphasizing personal responsibility. Obamacare raised taxes on high earners and the health care industry, and essentially redistributed that income — in the form of health insurance or insurance subsidies — to many of the groups that have fared poorly over the last few decades.

The draft Senate bill, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act, would jettison those taxes while reducing federal funding for the care of low-income Americans. The bill’s largest benefits go to the wealthiest Americans, who have the most comfortable health care arrangements, and its biggest losses fall to poorer Americans who rely on government support. The bill preserves many of the structures of Obamacare, but rejects several of its central goals.

Like a House version of the legislation, the bill would fundamentally change the structure of Medicaid, which provides health insurance to 74 million disabled or poor Americans, including nearly 40 percent of all children. Instead of open-ended payments, the federal government would give states a maximum payment for nearly every individual enrolled in the program. The Senate version of the bill would increase that allotment every year by a formula that is expected to grow substantially more slowly than the average increase in medical costs.

 

Avik Roy, the president of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, and a conservative health care analyst, cheered the bill on Twitter, saying, “If it passes, it’ll be the greatest policy achievement by a G.O.P. Congress in my lifetime.” The bill, he explained in an email, provides a mechanism for poor Americans to move from Medicaid coverage into the private market, a goal he has long championed as a way of equalizing insurance coverage across income groups.
States would continue to receive extra funding for Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid to more poor adults, but only temporarily. After several years, states wishing to cover that population would be expected to pay a much greater share of the bill, even as they adjust to leaner federal funding for other Medicaid beneficiaries — disabled children, nursing home residents — who are more vulnerable.
High-income earners would get substantial tax cuts on payroll and investment income. Subsidies for those low-income Americans who buy their own insurance would decline compared with current law. Low-income Americans who currently buy their own insurance would also lose federal help in paying their deductibles and co-payments.

The bill does offer insurance subsidies to poor Americans who live in states that don’t offer them Medicaid coverage, a group without good insurance options under Obamacare. But the high-deductible plans that would become the norm might continue to leave care out of their financial reach even if they do buy insurance.

The battle over resources played into the public debate. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, said the bill was needed to “bring help to the families who have been struggling with Obamacare.” In a Facebook post, President Barack Obama, without mentioning the taxes that made his program possible, condemned the Senate bill as “a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America.”

In another expression of Republican principles, the bill would make it much easier for states to set their own rules for insurance regulation, a return to the norm before Obamacare.

Where Senators Stand on the Health Care Bill
Senate Republican leaders unveiled their health care bill on Thursday.

Under the bill, states would be able to apply for waivers that would let them eliminate consumer protection regulations, like rules that require all health plans to cover a basic package of benefits or that prevent insurance plans from limiting how much care they will cover in a given year.

States could get rid of the online marketplaces that help consumers compare similar health plans, and make a variety of other changes to the health insurance system. The standards for approval are quite permissive. Not every state would choose to eliminate such rules, of course. But several might.

“You can eliminate all those financial protections,” said Nicholas Bagley, a law professor at the University of Michigan. “That would be huge.”

Americans with pre-existing conditions would continue to enjoy protection from discrimination: In contrast with the House health bill, insurers would not be allowed to charge higher prices to customers with a history of illness, even in states that wish to loosen insurance regulations.

But patients with serious illnesses may still face skimpier, less useful coverage. States may waive benefit requirements and allow insurers to charge customers more. Someone seriously ill who buys a plan that does not cover prescription drugs, for example, may not find it very valuable.
There are features that would tend to drive down the sticker price of insurance, a crucial concern of many Republican lawmakers, who have criticized high prices under Obamacare. Plans that cover fewer benefits and come with higher deductibles would cost less than more comprehensive coverage.

But because federal subsidies would also decline, only a fraction of people buying their own insurance would enjoy the benefits of lower prices. Many middle-income Americans would be expected to pay a larger share of their income to purchase health insurance that covers a smaller share of their care.

The bill also includes substantial funds to help protect insurers from losses caused by unusually expensive patients, a measure designed to lure into the market those insurance carriers that have grown skittish by losses in the early years of Obamacare. But it removes a policy dear to the insurance industry — if no one else. Without an individual mandate with penalties for Americans who remain uninsured, healthier customers may choose to opt out of the market until they need medical care, increasing costs for those who stay in.

The reforms are unlikely to drive down out-of-pocket spending, another perennial complaint of the bill’s authors, and a central critique by President Trump of the current system. He often likes to say that Obamacare plans come with deductibles so high that they are unusable. Subsidies under the bill would help middle-income consumers buy insurance that pays 58 percent of the average patient’s medical costs, down from 70 percent under Obamacare; it would also remove a different type of subsidy designed to lower deductibles further for Americans earning less than around $30,000 a year.
Out-of-pocket spending is the top concern of most voters. The insurance they would buy under the bill might seem cheap at first, but it wouldn’t be if they ended up paying more in deductibles.

Mr. McConnell was constrained by political considerations and the peculiar rules of the legislative mechanism that he chose to avoid a Democratic filibuster. Despite those limits, he managed to produce a bill that reflects some bedrock conservative values. But the bill also shows some jagged seams. It may not fix many of Obamacare’s problems — high premiums, high deductibles, declining competition — that he has railed against in promoting the new bill’s passage.

Sheldon Adelson (Kike) to give $20 million for West Bank university’s expansion

WASHINGTON (JTA) — American billionaire Sheldon Adelson will provide about $20 million for the major expansion of a West Bank university.

Ariel University, located in the settlement of that name, plans to double in size within the next five years, according to a plan promoted by Education Minister Naftali Bennett.

Part of the project, which includes an additional 10 to 12 facilities, is to build a four-year medical school to be named after Adelson, who owns the Israel Hayom newspaper, and his physician wife, Miriam. It would be the sixth medical school in Israel.

The estimated cost for the entire project is approximately $113 million.

According to Haaretz, though the plan has the support of the finance subcommittee of the Council of Higher Education, it “still needs the approval of the full council” before new faculties can open.

The university, which is expected to go from about 56,000 square yards to about 125,000 square yards, has already begun construction on some of the buildings.

Since the university shifted from a college to a university in 2012, it has been granted extra funding by the state of about $4 million. With the expansion, the state would have to further increase its funding, Haaretz reported.

The expansion will include buildings will be dedicated to natural sciences, social sciences and community health, as well as a faculty of Jewish heritage.

State Dept.’s anti-Semitism monitoring office to be unstaffed as of July 1

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. State Department’s office to monitor and combat anti-Semitism will be unstaffed as of July 1.

A source familiar with the office’s workings told JTA that its remaining two staffers, each working half-time or less, would be reassigned as of that date.

The Trump administration, which has yet to name an envoy to head the office, would not comment on the staffing change. At full staffing, the office employs a full-time envoy and the equivalent of three full-time staffers.

The State Department told JTA in a statement that it remained committed to combating anti-Semitism – and cited as evidence the tools, including the department’s annual reports on human rights and religious freedom, that existed before Congress mandated the creation of the envoy office in 2004.

“We want to ensure the Department is addressing anti-Semitism in the most effective and efficient method possible and will continue to endeavor to do so,” the statement said.

“The Department of State condemns attacks on Jewish communities and individuals. We consistently urge governments around the world to address and condemn anti-Semitism and work with vulnerable Jewish communities to assess and provide appropriate levels of security.

“The Department, our Embassies, and our Consulates support extensive bilateral, multilateral, and civil society outreach to Jewish communities,” the statement continued. “Additionally, the State Department continues to devote resources towards programs combating anti-Semitism online and off, as well as building NGO coalitions in Europe. We also closely monitor global anti-Semitism and report on it in our Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and International Religious Freedom Report, which document global anti-Semitism in 199 countries.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Congress in testimony earlier this month that he believed special envoys were counterproductive because they provided an excuse to the rest of the department to ignore the specific issue addressed by the envoy.

Congressional lawmakers from both parties have pressed the Trump administration, in letters and proposed bills, to name an envoy and to enhance the office’s status. They have noted that unlike other envoys, whose positions were created by Trump’s predecessors, the office of the envoy on anti-Semitism is a statute and requires filling.

“As the author of the amendment that created the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, I remain hopeful that these critical positions will be filled,” Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who authorized the 2004 law, said in a statement to JTA.

Jewish groups have lobbied President Donald Trump to name an envoy, saying that despite Tillerson’s testimony, the position has been key to encouraging diplomats and officials throughout the department to focus on anti-Semitism. Hannah Rosenthal, a special envoy on anti-Semitism in the Obama administration, instituted department-wide training on identifying anti-Semitism.

“The idea of having a dedicated envoy who can travel around the world to raise awareness on this issue is critical,” the Anti-Defamation League CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, told JTA in an interview.

“That doesn’t mean there isn’t value for all ambassadors and every embassy in addressing issues of anti-Semitism and bigotry in countries they operate,” he said. “But if the administration is truly committed” to combating anti-Semitism, “maintaining the special envoy for anti-Semitism seems like a no-brainer.”

The ADL, coincidentally, launched an online petition Thursday to the White House to fill the position.

Officials of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which has enjoyed a good relationship with the Trump administration, said that if the unstaffing was coming ahead of a reorganization of the office, that was understandable. But positions remain unfilled in all of the major federal departments and agencies since Trump took office.

“However, we are almost in July and there is still no one of proper rank at the State Department whom the Wiesenthal Center and others can work with to re-activate US leadership in the struggle against anti-Semitism at a time when global anti-Semitism is rising,” said an email from Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the center, and Mark Weitzman, its director of government affairs.

Jason Isaacson, the American Jewish Committee’s director of government and international affairs, said the position was essential.

“It’s not as though the need for a special envoy has diminished,” he told JTA in an interview. “If anything it has increased.”

Reform Jewish Movement decries Senate Republicans’ health care bill

Mitch McConnell

(JTA) — The Reform movement sharply criticized a Republican bill in the Senate that would repeal and replace major parts of the Affordable Care Act and make severe cuts to Medicaid.

On Thursday, Senate Republicans revealed a draft of a measure that would get rid of the legal requirement that most Americans have health coverage and offer federal tax credits to aid Americans in paying for health insurance.

The Reform movement called the proposed measure “deeply harmful.”

“The Senate bill revealed this morning is a major undermining of American health care that will hurt Americans most in need: the elderly, the poor, children and people with disabilities,” Barbara Weinstein, director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, said in a statement on behalf of the Reform movement. “Jewish tradition’s emphasis on caring for the sick and lifting up those in need inspires us to call on Senators to reject the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.”

Weinstein alluded to the Jewish prayer for healing in her statement.

“In the Jewish ‘Mi Sheberach’ prayer for the ill, we ask for the Holy One to be filled with compassion for the sick and to swiftly provide a complete renewal of body and spirit. As we pray for all those in need of healing, let us also act with compassion and wisdom,” she said. “We call on Senators to reject this deeply harmful legislation and work instead to expand access to affordable health care for all.”

Bend the Arc: Jewish Action also decried the measure.

“We must call the Senate’s ACA repeal bill exactly what it is: a moral travesty — a tax cut for the rich financed on the backs of the most vulnerable members of our society,”  the group’s CEO, Stosh Cotler, said in a statement. “This legislation will result in millions of Americans losing their health care.”

In May, the House of Representatives passed a similar bill backed by Republicans and President Donald Trump. Jewish groups, including the Reform movement, the Jewish Federations of North America, B’nai B’rith International, the National Jewish Democratic Council, the National Council of Jewish Women and Jewish Women International denounced that measure, while the Republican Jewish Coalition praised it.

CHRISTIANS, MUSLIMS, JEWS BREAK BREAD IN INTERFAITH MOROCCO INITIATIVE

 

When Moroccan students got together to explore the rich cultural legacy the Jewish community contributed to the North African country, they named their association Mimouna, the name of a Moroccan Jewish tradition which marks the end of Passover with inviting Muslim neighbors for shared meals.

They never guessed they’d end up creating such meals themselves.

 

Together with the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) and Jeunesse Chabad Maroc the students provided 1,500 needy Muslim families with meals in Marrakesh to help them celebrate Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan. The collaboration also included a festive interfaith dinner at the Slat al Azama synagogue in the Jewish quarter of Marrakech.

IFCJ Vice president Yael Eckstein was present at the event and stated that, since WWII, Morocco had set an example among North African societies for its treatment of Jews. She said she is honored to stand with the people of Morocco.

“We can overcome divisions and intolerance”, said Eckstein, “by building bridges of empathy.”

This is not the only example of the children of Abraham coming together around the dinner table this time of year.

In Cairo, Copts, who comprise the largest Christian minority in the Middle East, had set up tables outside their homes and invited Christians and Muslims alike to enjoy a meal as the sun sets and fasting Muslims are able to eat and drink.

Dawoud Riyad, who is Coptic, set up the tables near his Cairo home and invited Tarek Ali, a local resident, to celebrate together.

“They invited me and my kinds, and I was surprised”, said Ali, “with no difference between sheikhs, Christians, or Muslims.”

“We’re all brothers and friends”, said Riyad and pointed to another neighbor, “I’ve raised this man’s son (alongside my own son) and he’s Muslim.”

The spirit of sharing and providing for one another can also be found in Israel, where IFCJ provides food and clothing vouchers to Muslim Arab families for Ramadan, all part of the fellowship’s $5.6 million yearly aid program.

%d bloggers like this: