Monday, October 04, 2010

At Risk From The Womb!


A UOJ Public Service Post - I've added a few thoughts of my own in italics:

Op-Ed Columnist - The New York Times
At Risk From the Womb
Published: October 2, 2010

Some people think we’re shaped primarily by genes. Others (like me - UOJ), believe that the environment we grow up in is most important. But now evidence is mounting that a third factor is also critical: our uterine environment before we’re even born.

Researchers are finding indications that obesity, diabetes and mental illness among adults are all related in part to what happened in the womb decades earlier.

One of the first careful studies in this field found that birth weight (a proxy for nutrition in the womb) helped predict whether an adult would suffer from heart disease half a century later. Scrawny babies were much more likely to suffer heart problems in middle age.

That study, published in 1989, provoked skepticism at first. But now an array of research confirms that the fetal period is a crucial stage of development that affects physiology decades later.

Perhaps the most striking finding is that a stressful uterine environment may be a mechanism that allows poverty to replicate itself generation after generation. Pregnant women in low-income (kollel) areas tend to be more exposed to anxiety, depression, chemicals and toxins from car exhaust to pesticides, and they’re more likely to drink or smoke and less likely to take vitamin supplements, eat healthy food and get meticulous pre-natal care. (Lakewood, New Jersey comes to mind)

The result is children who start life at a disadvantage — for kids facing stresses before birth appear to have lower educational attainment, lower incomes and worse health throughout their lives. If that’s true, then even early childhood education may be a bit late as a way to break the cycles of poverty.

“Given the odds stacked against poor women and their fetuses, the most effective antipoverty program might be one that starts before birth,” writes Annie Murphy Paul in a terrific and important new book called “Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives.”

Another groundbreaking and provocative book this year makes the same case: “More than Genes,” by Dan Agin, a neuroscientist at the University of Chicago. Both offer a new window into the unexpected forces that shape us.

One study in this field, by a Columbia University economist, Douglas Almond, looked at children who were born after the great flu pandemic of 1918. The pandemic lasted only about five months and infected about a third of pregnant women in America, so Mr. Almond compared those who had been exposed to it while inside their mothers with others born just before or after.

Ms. Paul quotes Mr. Almond as concluding, “People who were in utero during the pandemic did worse, on average, on just about every socioeconomic outcome recorded.” They were 15 percent less likely to graduate from high school, 15 percent more likely to be poor, and 20 percent more likely to have heart disease in old age.

Stress in mothers seems to have particularly strong effects on their offspring, perhaps through release of cortisol, a hormone released when a person is anxious. Studies show that children who were in utero during the Arab-Israeli Six-Day War of 1967 were more likely to have schizophrenia diagnosed as adults (That explains why so many Israeli 40-somethings have schizoid-type personalities, now I need to find an excuse for the rest of the population). And The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that Chinese born during the terrible famine from 1959 to 1961 were twice as likely to develop schizophrenia as those born at other times.

As for obesity, Ms. Paul describes several British scientists who fed pregnant (could have been Jewish) rats junk food: doughnuts, marshmallows, potato chips and chocolate chip muffins - (OU Kosher). The offspring of those rats turned out to have a sweet tooth as well: they were more likely to choose junk food when it was offered and ended up 25 percent fatter than rats whose mothers were fed regular rodent chow.

This field of “fetal origins” is still in its infancy, but one implication is that we should be much more careful about exposing pregnant women to toxins, and much quicker to regulate chemicals that are now widely used even though they’ve never even been tested for safety. Professor Agin is particularly eloquent about the potential perils of lead, dioxins, PCBs, radiation and pesticides (He forgot kollel checks).

One study looked at Swedish children who were fetuses during the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident. The radiation exposure was very slight and did not seem to affect their physical health. But their cognitive abilities, especially in math, seemed affected, and they were one-third more likely to fail middle school.

The uncertainty in this field is enormous, but we have learned that a uterus is not a diving bell that insulates its occupant from the world’s perils. Chemicals like thalidomide and DES proved tragic for those exposed to them while in their mothers’ wombs.

And it’s now high time to take a closer look at unregulated chemicals that envelop us — and may be shaping our progeny for decades to come.


Rafi Golb said...


Will this lead to charges against Engelmayer & Torrossian for criminal impersonations on behalf of their former client Sholom Rubashkin?

Michlalah said...


Rabbi At Michlalah Sued For Sexually Harassing Student, Michlalah Covers Up Alleged Abuse

Successful Messiah said...

Shmarya is playing armchair general again, lecturing Jewish Federations that they are all failures who have the wrong strategy to help Jews in need.

Perhaps Shmarya should get off his rear end and try gainful employment so he can donate to the needy himself.

Chicago said...

This could change if there's anything in it for the local Agudah fressers.


Jewish voters don't reflexively back Rahm Emanuel for Chicago mayor

Anonymous said...

WASHINGTON -- CBS Radio News correspondent Howard Arenstein has been arrested on marijuana charges in Washington.

D.C. police spokesman Lt. Nicholas Breul said Arenstein and his wife were arrested early Saturday and charged with possession with intent to distribute marijuana.

Breul says vice units had received a complaint of marijuana growing in the couple's backyard. Police then obtained a search warrant for the home in northwest D.C.

Breul says officers found large, mature cannabis plants, standing more than 8 feet high. In addition, they found packaged marijuana inside the home.

According to the CBS News website, Arenstein serves as radio bureau manager for CBS News, Washington.

A CBS News spokeswoman declined to comment.

Ahavah Gayle said...

Well, "successful" messiah, as someone who actually works at a Federation Office, I can tell you that Schmary's article is absolutely correct that most Federations, including mine, do little or nothing to actually help Jewish people who lose their jobs or have their hours/pay reduced, get divorced, face foreclosure, have medical expenses, etc. People who need direct assistance are simply referred to govt agencies or to xian charities.

The Federation of today is not like the Jewish "societies" of yesteryear - they don't even have taking care of our own as a goal, much less be anywhere near reaching it. And so the xians step in and do it for us - and then they all act surprised when people stop giving to the Federation (I'm not suggesting that's the ONLY reason, of course, but I think it's a big one).

Worse, not only do the Federations not help, but as you saw above, friends and family don't help, either. As I have written extensively, Jewish culture has been heavily contaminate with Western culture - even in the most observant communities - and people are suffering from a narcissistic mentality and there seems to be nothing that will shake that "I, Me, Mine" attitude. The social contract is broken, and I fear it will take a serious catastrophe for people to get their priorities straight again.

I notice your response to this article was hardly to announce a large donation to a Jewish homeless shelter. Instead you decided to ridicule the messenger - a diversionary tactic, no doubt. Guilt avoidance. How many homeless and struggling friends and relatives or Jewish foster kids have you taken in lately? None, I'll bet.

Pinny Shitlips said...

You guys must have loved the Yated interview with Malcolm Ho Ho Hoenlein where he talks about his rebbe in Philly yeshiva, Moishe Eisenmann, without mentioning why Eisenmann was banished to Baltimore.

Successful Messiah said...

I am not disputing Shmarya's assessment of Jewish Federations, or at least not most of it.

He is however the wrong guy for the job of pointing out the shortcomings of others.

Since my true identity is concealed I suppose I could have bragged that I have given a hefty sum to support a convert in need. Or that I previously found an excuse to "employ" a fellow with a very large family when I didn't really need his help.

Successful Messiah said...

Howard Arenstein is not the only reporter in trouble. CNN has fired Rick Sanchez after he had an outburst that sounded a lot like Shmarya. It was anti-Semitic and to the effect that Blacks & Hispanics are the only ones discriminated against, not Jews.

Not Paysach Krohn said...

Can UOJ shed any light on the metzitzah bapeh controversy which is being discussed at Yudel's?

Which ausgehaltenna poskim say not to do metzitza bapeh altz sakona? Honestly, I don't understand how anyone can be MATIR bapeh when there is risk of danger to a newborn. Isn't there a limit to when we say ain shluchei mitzva nizakin? Has anyone written a sefer presenting both sides of the argument?

Anonymous said...


Stuxnet virus attack on Iranian nuclear programme

Iran’s nuclear programme has been threatened by a powerful virus distributed through the internet. Richard Spencer reports on a new age of cyber warfare.

By Richard Spencer
04 Oct 2010

What scores of analysts like O Murchu, who works for the anti-virus firm Symantec, have found is that it targets the industrial infrastructure that underlies our everyday lives. They have also found that the country worst affected is Iran, which by last week had reported around three in every five infections worldwide.

In the past week, attention has focused on O Murchu’s discovery of a trace of a keyword in Stuxnet’s instructions: Myrtus. Myrtus, or Myrtle, in Hebrew becomes Hadassah, and Hadassah was the birth-name of Esther, the Jewish biblical heroine married to a king of Persia. Esther discovered that a courtier was plotting the murder of all of Persia’s Jews, and persuaded her husband to allow them to rise up pre-emptively to slaughter their assailants.

When Stuxnet does triumph, it leaves a number imprinted on its new host: 19790509. That number, Mr O Murchu says, seems to be a date – May 9, 1979.

Many things could have happened on May 9, 1979: it may just be someone’s birthday. But newspaper archives also tell us it was the day Habib Elghanian died. Who was Mr Elghanian? He was the first Iranian Jew to be hanged for spying by the new Islamic Republic. And as we all know, revenge is a dish best served cold.

"UOJ" - "The Un-Orthodox Jew" said...

Not Krohn:

Shluchei mitzva aino nezakein is not a metzius, it's a gedank and a "call to mitzvos".

Not only is it permitted to to perform a bris without metzizah, it is ASSUR GAMUR to perform, or permit to be performed on any child, metzizah b'peh.

Privately, many poskim, will matir non-metzizah, but they're scared of the Belsky Mafia to go public!

The STD virus in a mohel's mouth takes years to incubate in a child; I firmly believe that the great number of mental illnesses seen today in especially the Jewish charedi circles are attributed DIRECTLY to the infected mohel's mouth!


"UOJ" - "The Un-Orthodox Jew" said...

UOJ Gets Results, Finally:-)

Jeannine Aversa, AP Economics Writer, On Monday October 4, 2010, 7:46 pm EDT

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- The economy could be hurt if Congress and the White House fail to come up with a plan to curb the nation's huge budget deficits in the coming years, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned Monday.

Bernanke, in a speech prepared for delivery, reiterated his belief that the government shouldn't raise taxes or slash spending now because the economic recovery is still too fragile.

But failing to bring the deficits under control could endanger the economy later on, he said. Exploding budget deficits can lead to higher interest rates for people buying homes and cars, and for businesses buying equipment or expanding operations. That could crimp Americans' spending and slow economic growth.

"The threat to our economy is real and growing," Bernanke said. "The sooner a plan is established, the longer affected individuals will have to prepare for the necessary changes."

The federal government is on track to produce its second-highest deficit ever -- $1.3 trillion -- for the budget year that ended Sept. 30. That would be slightly below last year's record $1.4 trillion in red ink.

President Barack Obama assembled a commission to tackle the soaring deficit. Its goal: come up with a plan to cut the deficit so that it is no bigger $550 billion by 2015, an amount equal to about 3 percent of the total U.S. economy.

The options for slicing the deficit -- cutting spending on popular entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare and raising taxes -- will be difficult for the White House and Congress to sell to the American public.

Bernanke steered clear of making recommendations on the best way to reduce the deficits, saying those tough decisions are best left to the nation's elected officials.

Rapidly rising health-care costs and the aging of the U.S. population are among the major forces putting pressure on the deficits in the years ahead, Bernanke said.

"We should not underestimate these fiscal challenges; failing to respond to them would endanger our economic future," Bernanke said in remarks to the annual meeting of the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council.

At another event earlier in the day, Bernanke defended the government's decision in 2008 to bail out banks, even though the action was unpopular with the American public.

"For what it's worth, it's worked," Bernanke said in a town-hall style meeting with college students in Rhode Island. "It's stabilized the system. The financial system is now much healthier than it was. It's no longer in crisis, and moreover, the money that went into these financial firms is coming back to the taxpayers with interest. So it turns out to have been not only a successful program, but for the most part, a pretty good investment for taxpayers."

Israel Belsky SHLITA said...

My tayerra chaverim Yudi Kolko, Lipa Brenner & Ephraim Bryks have convinced me of the merits of metzitza bapeh. I know UOJ thinks he knows everything but he's outnumbered here.

Paysach Krohn said...


It's a good thing that this was a Chabadnik in Israel or Yudel Shain would have blamed me for botching these 100s of bris milos.

Agudah Fresser said...


I hope it's not true that the caterer at the Agudah convention plans on leaving out big communal vats of ketchup like this. When everyone starts shtupping by the shmorg it will get really messy.

itchiemayer said...

Moshe "Eisemann" and not "Eisenmann". I'm sure there is a pulpit Rabbi in Passaic that cringes every time that mistake is made.

You heard it first on UOJ said...

Bris mila induced STDs causing mental illness?

Tertiary syphilis usually occurs 1–10 years after the initial infection, however in some cases it can take up to 50 years.

Neurological complications at this stage can be diverse. In some patients manifestations include generalized paresis of the insane, which results in personality changes, changes in emotional affect, hyperactive reflexes and Argyll-Robertson pupil. This is a diagnostic sign in which the small and irregular pupils constrict in response to focusing the eyes, but not to light. Tabes dorsalis, also known as locomotor ataxia, a disorder of the spinal cord, often results in a characteristic shuffling gait.

Neurosyphilis refers to a site of infection involving the central nervous system (CNS). Neurosyphilis may occur at any stage of syphilis. Commonly called Brain Syphilis, Neurosyphilis dementia is also a psychiatric diagnosis wherein a multitude of atypical anti-psychotic medications are used to help control the patient's irrational behaviors, with limited success.

Meningovascular syphilis occurs a few months to 10 years (average, 7 years) after the primary syphilis infection. Meningovascular syphilis can be associated with prodromal symptoms lasting weeks to months before focal deficits are identifiable. Prodromal symptoms include ... insomnia, and psychiatric abnormalities such as personality changes.

Lakewood said...

cRc Chicago's Rav Schwartz is misinterpreting the halachos of dealing with this Lakewood rabbi who is still behind a West Coast based kashrus symbol. The Rishonim say the abuser can never have another shteller.


October 26, 1996

Three years ago, two women who had studied closely with a prominent Orthodox rabbi in a large Northwestern city claimed he had courted them and had sex with them several years earlier. One of the women had studied with the rabbi in order to convert to Judaism, and the other to become observant.

"My soul had been raped," says one of the women, who asked that her name not be used.

"The community got rid of the rabbi and hushed up what it was about," says another Orthodox rabbi in the same city who is familiar with the case.

The accused rabbi, a member of the Rabbinical Council of America and the married father of four, agreed to step down from his pulpit but wanted to remain in the community. One of his victims threatened to go public if he stayed in the city so he relocated to an ultrareligious community on the East Coast.

The synagogue board paid out his contract, and the rabbi left with more than $30,000, one of his victims and the other rabbi say in interviews.

At no point did either of the women who came forward approach the RCA with charges. But they did appeal to some leading Orthodox authorities for guidance about taking the rabbi to a beit din, or religious court, says the woman who was interviewed.

"They said that halachically they don't recognize clergy [sexual] abuse," she says, referring to Jewish law.

"Ironically, despite all of the authority that the religion heaps on the rabbi, they halachically insist that he's just another adulterer and we were of consensual age," she adds.

According to Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz, a leading Orthodox halachic authority, Jewish law's view of a rabbi's sexual exploitation of a congregant "would be no different than anyone else" having an adulterous affair.

Anonymous said...

There is a chassidisha rov in NY who has been pushing metzitza bapeh on his mostly non-chassidisha congregants. I asked him if Rav Elyashev says it is a must. He hesitated and stammered before answering "avadda". I really don't know if he has heard anything from Rav Elyashev on this and suspect he may just be making stuff up to further his agenda. When there is a bris in his shul he micromanages the whole affair and invites the original mohel from the NY State herpes scandal to stay in his house. Is this aiding & abetting a crime? I thought that mohel was banned from ever being a mohel again.