Middle East Hot Topics and Hospital for Joint Diseases Gala

By Masha Leon

Published October 05, 2012, issue of October 12, 2012.
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Jack Jacobs and Colin Kahl Dish Reality at The Common Good “Middle East Hot Topics” Lunch at The Friars Club

There were no funny punch lines in the Milton Berle Room at the Friars Club, where 70 guests gathered on September 20 for a lunch featuring retired Army colonel Jack Jacobs, recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, and former deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East Colin Kahl. The event, hosted by the not-for-profit civil dialogue group The Common Good, was on “Middle East Hot Topics,” mainly, Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Common Good founder Patricia Duff introduced Kahl, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. “I traveled to Iraq 16 times, to Israel 13 times,” he said. “My last day on the job was December 15 last year.” At breakneck speed, Kahl dove into Iran’s “nuclear hedging strategy.” “At some point,” he said, “the supreme leader of Iran can make a decision as to whether they will fire a nuclear weapon or not.” Not a clink of knife or fork was heard as Kahl set forth Iran’s timeline for “producing a functioning missile.”

“What it means,” Kahl said, “is that if Iran made a decision today to dash for a nuclear weapon, it would take them about four months to enrich the material… about a year total to fashion a crude device… several years to put together a sophisticated device…. So, right now, you’re like, ‘Holy crap! That’s really close!’ The good news is, none of those timelines actually start until the supreme leader of Iran say, ‘Go!’ It means Iran could have a nuclear weapon a year from the decision to make one. “I’m not an objective observer. I was a member of the [Obama] administration. My personal view is that by the end of 2013, beginning 2014, the Iranians are going to start to hit certain nuclear milestones. They are going to make it very difficult for the United States to say there’s still time… and whoever the president is — Obama again or [Mitt] Romney — they’re going to come to a decision… about whether time has run out for diplomacy. Which means, let’s try to get a deal…. Whoever the new administration is, I think has 12 to 18 months to try to resolve this peacefully.”

Jacobs, a military analyst for NBC/MSNBC, seemed to disagree about the imminence of an attack: “I’ve got an opinion on everything — not just Israel,” he said. “Why it’s unlikely there is going to be an attack anytime soon is that the large majority of the high-ranking people in the Israeli military establishment are opposed to it…. Unilateral action is always easiest when it’s early in the exercise… and at some point it becomes impossible. As the Russians say, ‘Bad news is like herring in the moonlight: It shines and it stinks. The older it gets the worse it gets, the more it smells.’ Perhaps you have to do what Colin was suggesting — pass it off to the United States, which is fully capable of conducting an attack.”

Hospital for Joint Diseases Gala Honors Its Medical Director, Michael Belmont

No bones about it: With skeletons of two gargantuan dinosaurs dominating its lobby, New York’s Museum of Natural History was the inspired setting for the September 24 Hospital for Joint Diseases and Center for Musculoskeletal Care gala, which raised $1.4 million. Addressing the 600 guests seated below a replica of a gigantic blue whale, Michael Belmont, chief medical officer and recipient of HJD’s Frauenthal Award, said: “How fortunate I am in my professional life. In 1979 I wanted to focus on patients with auto-immune diseases, including lupus, which typically affects women of childbearing age.”

Deborah Brand, a patient of his, paid a moving tribute to Belmont. “Under his care, suffering from lupus,” she said, “he made me feel he was on my side. He gave me hope. He gave me his e-mail. He gave me his phone number. He is the apple of my eye.”

Robert Grossman, CEO of NYU Langone Medical Center, which merged with HJD in 2006, reported that HJD was No. 6 in the 2012–2013 U.S. News & World Report list of the top 10 best hospitals in the United States, and the only hospital in New York to receive a top ranking. The evening’s participants included gala chair Gary Cohn, president and chief operations officer of The Goldman Sachs Group Inc.; Joseph Zuckerman, who is chairman of Department of Orthopedic Surgery and offered welcoming remarks; honoree James “Jes” Staley, chairman of JPMorgan Chase & Co.; Steven Abramson, director of the rheumatology division, and Kenneth Langone, chair of the board of trustees of NYU Langone Medical Center.

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