Thursday, July 16, 2015

Titan and Pollyanna mourn their beloved Claudia

Titan and Pollyanna are returning briefly from their retirement to mourn Claudia who left us this week so prematurely
ClaudiaAlexander
Claudia Alexander

IN MEMORIAM 

CLAUDIA ALEXANDER 1959-2015 

This week we lost a beloved friend and colleague, Claudia. We met her in the mid 1980's at JPL during the heady days of the Giotto spacecraft at Comet P/Halley. We even take a bit of credit for persuading her that her talents were being wasted in the job she then had at JPL and that she should go for a Ph.D., which she did at the University of Michigan under the supervision of Tamas Gombosi. Over the years we have watched her career soar to positions of great responsibility. The last was the task of Project Scientist for the Rosetta mission to Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Google her name and you will find a raft of very personal obituaries from people whose lives she touched. Claudia worked hard, played hard and enjoyed many facets of life.
Image result for claudia alexander 

She stood out as an African American woman in a field dominated by white males. The Los Angeles Times talked to her about that position.

"I'm used to walking between two different cultures," she said. "For me, this is among the purposes of my life — to take us from states of ignorance to states of understanding with bold exploration that you can't do every day."
The Times also asked Alexander if she was a risk taker.

"I'm definitely not someone who enjoys physical risk. I don't want to leap out of an airplane. I don't want to go rock climbing, but I have taken on a lot of sociological risk in my life," she said. "I took on a career that nobody wanted me to do, not my family, not my friends. So I took a risk in not following the fold, let's put it that way."

Although she rose to a position of prominence, she never forgot her roots. She co-authored books on science for children, went to schools in depressed districts of Los Angeles to pitch science to kids from disadvantaged backgrounds and taught an astronomy course at Santa Monica College that was swamped with students. She was active in the Windows to the Universe project as well.

In an effort to ensure Claudia will live on in her discoveries, family members have launched a memorial STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) scholarship fund and are raising money through the website gofundme.com. Please go there and donate in her memory.

Claudia was many things to many people. To us she was first and foremost a dear friend. We miss her.

 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Titan marks the vernal equinox.
March equinox illustration
The Earth during the equinox. (Not to scale)
Titan, along with the rest of us,  has gone through an election campaign. For those of us on the left-progressive side of the political spectrum, the results are an unmitigated catastrophe. The reelection of Netanyahu means that the public has turned its back on both the prospects of peace and any hope of social reform. To say that we are devastated is to put it mildly, but as Stav Shafir tells us (Hebrew, Facebook) , now is the time to dig in our heels and struggle. Amos Oz told us clearly before the election what would  happen if there is no Palestinian state:  there will also be no Jewish state and eventually there will be an Arab state here. The breakdown of the results by towns tells us that the people who are the main victims of our "swinish capitalism" are its biggest supporters. They also support having a mini-war every few years as long as it is the neighbor's son who gets killed. Maybe the US and the EU will get their act together and start applying some pressure, such as through the UNSC. What is clear is that relations with the US or at least with this administration are damaged beyond repair. Gideon Levy thinks that the nation has gone mad--there is a statement attributed, dubiously, to  the Roman philosopher Cicero, that one should not blame bad leaders, but the people who chose them. The spurious claim that in reality Israel has shifted to the left is, in Titan's humble opinion, nonsense. The mainstream consensus in Israel is against peace, against the Arab minority and an acceptance of the premises of the settlers and the lunatic right. The fact that now Netanyahu is trying to retract his campaign promise of "no Palestinian state" is worse than ludicrous. He is certainly exulting in his triumph, but he should have anticipated that the attack on the Arab voters would would hit a raw nerve in the US, especially with Obama,  and the dove of peace will not be devoured easily.
Mike Luckovich Cartoon for Mar/19/2015

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over two years have gone by without Miriam and we continue to realize what we have lost. She got us into the human rights struggle. Please act on behalf of people who are so much in need of support in their trials and tribulations at the hands of oppressive regimes and corporations.


CHARITY CORNER 

This week Titan calls upon you to lend a hand to the people of the archipelago country of Vanuatu in the Pacific that was struck  badly by tropical cyclone  storm Pam.  There are many dead and the infrastructure of the islands has been hit very heavily.
A local resident kneels near debris on a street near damaged homes in Port Vila.
A local resident kneels near debris on a street near damaged homes in Port Vila. Photograph: Reuters

Titan recommends Mercy Corps as the most effective way of getting help to the victims of the disaster. He has sent in his donation by interplanetary courier and expects you Earthlings to step up to help.

RANTS AND RAVES


GOVERNMENT CRITICS BEHIND BARS IN AZERBAIJAN 

The first rant is about the dire situation of human rights in Azerbaijan. Titan calls for all to take action here. President Ilham Aliyev claims that “all the fundamental freedoms are provided” in his country. In reality, scores of people who dared to criticize the government are in prison. Leyla and Arif Yunus, Rasul Jafarov (human rights defenders), Khadija Ismayilova (journalist), Intigam Aliyev (lawyer) and Ilgar Mammadov (political opponent) are behind bars, only for lawfully exercising their freedom of expression, association or peaceful assembly. They are jailed on trumped-up and politically motivated charges. New restrictive laws are used to make this easy.
This summer Azerbaijan is host to the first European Games. The country will be in the spotlight, and the government is keen on making a good impression. To silence critics, repression is only increasing. That is why you need to stand up now.

Call for the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience in Azerbaijan!
Amnesty International has published a detailed document on the persecution of dissidents in that country  that is worthy of your perusal.


SPOUSAL ABUSE OK? 

 Hanna Barczyk for NPR
It is shocking that a large fraction of women in countries around the world think that in some circumstances spousal abuse is legitimate. In 29 countries around the world, one-third or more of men say it can be acceptable for a husband to "beat his wife." Perhaps more surprising: In 19 countries, one-third or more of women agree that a husband who beats his wife may be within his rights, at least some of the time.
The data come from polling performed from 2010 through 2014 for the World Values Survey — an extensive study of attitudes in almost 100 countries, conducted on an ongoing basis since 1981. The study is led by an international network of researchers based in Stockholm.

Blaming the victim is terrible, self-blaming by the victim is worse. Titan says that more effort has to be expended on consciousness raising, not only in the Third World, but in developed nations as well.

TERROR IN TUNIS 

We had always regarded Tunisia as a bright light in the darkness of the Arab world. This week we had a rude awakening with the attack on the tourists at the museum in Tunis. Indeed,  the government has acted quickly and suspects have been detained, but the fact that so many young Tunisians are choosing  radical Islam and are going off to fight for the ISIS is depressing. ISIS has taken responsibility for the attacks which were aimed at foreigners from "Crusader countries" who are turning Tunisia into a "hotbed of debauchery."

RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE IN MYANMAR 

It appears that religious intolerance and fanaticism are not confined to the Muslim world. Amnesty International decries a jail sentence against the owner and managers of a bar who posted an image of Buddha wearing headphones as a promotion for the bar. Tun Thurein and Htut Ko KoLwin from Myanmar and Philip Blackwood from New Zealand were today imprisoned for “insulting religion”. The charges stem back to December 2014 when the Buddha image was used to promote their Yangon bar online. Amnesty described the court action as "ludicrous" and called for their immediate release. In Myanmar, religious intolerance is aimed at non-Buddhists and Muslims in particular, which is in some sense ironic.


SOMETHING POSITIVE: CONGRATULATIONS 

Titan congratulates the winners of the Intel  Science Talent Search. Over $1 million have been awarded by the Intel Corporation in the most prestigious pre-college competition carried out in the USA by the Society for Science and the Public.
Titan salutes all the winners and in particular the top three who won  awards of $150,000 each in the categories of Basic Research, Innovation, and Global Good.
Intel Science Talent Search winners
Noah Golowich, Michael Hofman Winer and Andrew Jin have earned the distinction of being top winners at the 2015 Intel Science Talent Search, besting over 1,800 other geniuses from high schools around the United States.
(Photo : Chris Ayers/Intel)


BELOW THE BELTWAY 

We have not checked in on Gene the writer for a while, so let us look at  his take on the Nature vs. Nurture debate. He presents a dear friend of his who is a unique type of urban planner. Titan himself just whips around Saturn and is pleased that his pal Cassini shows up on time, as scheduled. Of course, Cassini really comes around for an orbit shift, but Titan likes him anyhow.

HOME SWEET HOME

The main rant about Israel is given above, but there are other things to note, not necessarily negative.

COMBATANTS FOR PEACE IN ROTTERDAM

We call your attention to a Webinar conducted jointly by Combatants for Peace and the Formaast Theater of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. It will take place on Sunday March 29 and will be livestreamed. Titan recommends watching it.


TOOLS USED VERY EARLY FOR DISMEMBERING ANIMAL CARCASSES


 Ruth Schuster writing in Haaretz reports on analysis of stone tools carried out by Prof. Ran  Barkai of Tel Aviv University. The tools were found at Revadim, a site in Southern Israel and are the oldest tools showing residue of animal fat. They date from about half a million years ago. It is also reported that elephants were part of the menu for homo erectus in the Negev. Titan is impressed.
Biface hand-axe found at Revadim showing signs of use - and residue of animal fat.
The biface (hand-axe) bearing signs of usage (small red dots) and residue of animal fat (blue dots). Photo by Ran Barkai


SILLY TIME

What If?  asks:So, you're falling from a height above the tallest building in your town, and you don't have a parachute. But wait! Partway down the side of that skyscraper there's a flagpole sticking out, sans flag! You angle your descent and grab the pole just long enough to swing around so that when you let go you're now heading back up toward the sky. As gravity slows you and brings you to a halt, you reach the top of the skyscraper, where you reach out and pull yourself to safety. What's the likelihood this could happen?

Rex Ungericht


The answer is no way, but the calculations are interesting.

GRANDPA IS AN ANGLOPHOBE?

Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Mar/15/2015


THE SHORT, BUT HAPPY, CAREER OF WALLY THE VICE-PRESIDENT

Dilbert Cartoon for Mar/17/2015
Dilbert Cartoon for Mar/18/2015
Dilbert Cartoon for Mar/19/2015 
Dilbert Cartoon for Mar/20/2015

Friday, March 6, 2015

Titan says Happy Purim to all his friends



Titan wishes a Happy PURIM to all who celebrate it.

Image result for purim
The holiday celebrates a victory of the good guys (us) over the bad guys (them) in ancient Persia. The story tells of a bad guy Haman who wanted to kill all the Jews in the kingdom, a good guy Mordechai who foiled him and a heroic Jewish woman Esther who just happened to be the Queen of Persia whose sangfroid and brains turned things around, so that the Jews took a heavy toll of their enemies and Haman and his ten sons were hanged. Kids dress up as characters in the story or whatever, we are commanded to get drunk for the occasion and a good time is had by all. The Book of Esther is read in the synagogue and the children are supposed to make a loud noise to boo Haman whenever his name is mentioned. Special triangular cakes are baked usually with poppy seed. They are known in Israel as Haman's ears and in the Ashkenazi Diaspora as Hamantaschen, i.e. pockets.
 
Cheers for the good guys. Michael Kagan, blogging in the Times of Israel, gives us a more serious view of the story in the context of long term history.

Titan also notes that March 8 is International Women's Day. The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is the clarion call of UN Women’s Beijing+20 campaign “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!” -


There have been many achievements since Beijing 1995, but many gaps remain.


For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over two years have gone by without Miriam and we continue to realize what we have lost. She got us into the human rights struggle. Please act on behalf of people who are so much in need of support in their trials and tribulations at the hands of oppressive regimes and corporations.

CHARITY CORNER 

This week Titan refers you again to the Malala Fund for the providing of educational opportunities to girls worldwide.  We salute Malala who survived a gunshot attack and has gone on to be an icon for girls throughout the Third World.

IN MEMORIAM 

We have three deaths to mark, one natural, one by accident and one by murder

Boris Nemtsov 1959-2015

Image result for boris nemtsov
Nemtsov was a leader of the opposition movement in Russia. He was murdered on a bridge in Moscow very near the Kremlin. Suspicion falls on Putin and his government. Thousands attended his funeral.
Boris Nemtsov march


People march in memory of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in Moscow Photograph: Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images

While few in the Russian elite came to Nemtsov’s funeral, some European politicians who traveled to Russia to attend were banned from entering the country, apparently as part of reciprocal sanctions imposed in response to western bans on Russian officials over the Kremlin’s actions in Ukraine. The speaker of the Polish senate, Bogdan Borusewicz , was refused entry, as was Latvian MEP Sandra Kalniete , the country’s former foreign minister. Kalniete said she spent the night in the transit zone at Moscow’s Sheremetevo airport. She was sent back to Brussels early on Tuesday morning.

Russia’s foreign ministry confirmed the politician was banned, for her “anti-Russian activities”. A spokesman for the ministry said Latvian authorities had been warned of the ban, so her visit was a “provocation”.

Martin Schulz, president of the European parliament, said the bans were “being applied without the slightest element of reasoning or any forewarning” and were a “high affront” to Europe.

We may never know who was behind the murder. In such cases it is useful to ask cui bono? An obituary and evaluation may be found in the Guardian.

Bob Simon 1941-2015 

Bob Simon, the veteran CBS 60 Minutes correspondent, has been killed in a New York car accident.
Bob Simon, the veteran CBS 60 Minutes correspondent, was killed in a New York car accident. Photograph: Andy Kropa/Invision/AP

 The famous CBS news correspondent was killed in a traffic accident in New York. He had an illustrious career,  including being  a fixture on 60 Minutes, and served in many parts of the world, including Israel and the Occupied Territories.  He was captured by the Iraqis in the first Gulf war and held by them along with his team for over a month.

In Iraq

  An obituary is to be found in the NYTimes.


Leonard Nimoy 1932-2015

The famous actor,who made TV history as Mr. Spock, the half-Vulcan on Star Trek, died of  chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a condition he attributed to a smoking habit he had given up approximately 30 years earlier.
Image result for nimoy leonard
Nimoy's greatest prominence came from his Spock role . It is considered one of the most popular alien characters ever portrayed on television. Biographer Dennis Fischer notes that television viewers admired Spock's "coolness, his intelligence," and his ability to take on successfully any task. As a result, he adds, Nimoy's character "took the public by storm," nearly eclipsing the star of the show, William Shatner's Captain Kirk. Nimoy and Shatner, who portrayed his commanding officer, became close friends during the years the show was on television, and were "like brothers," said Shatner. Star Trek was broadcast from 1966 to 1969. Nimoy earned three Emmy Award nominations for his work on the program.

While he was best known for his portrayal of the green-tinted Spock, Nimoy more recently made his mark with art photography, focusing on plus-sized nude women in a volume called "The Full Body Project" and on nude women juxtaposed with Old Testament tales and quotes from Jewish thinkers in "Shekhina." 
From Shekhina

He also directed films, wrote poetry and acted on the stage. An obituary can  be found in the Los Angeles Times.

DOWN THE GENERATIONS 

Titan would like to share with you the story of a young black German woman, Jennifer Teege. She is coming to Israel soon for the   launch of the Hebrew translation of her book about her grandfather Amon Goeth, a notorious Nazi war criminal, who was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Jews when he served as commander of a concentration camp at  Plaszow in Poland,

Jennifer Teege / Amon Goeth    

Jennifer Teege-Amon Goeth
The story is complex and fascinating. Titan will not spoil it for you with any more details.

 RANTS AND RAVES

There are, as usual, countless things to rant and rave about. This week, however, Titan will take up only two issues. The first is the publication of the Annual Report on Human Rights  in the World from Amnesty International. This document contains a detailed report, country by country, of the devastating effects of conflict, oppression and prejudice. We quote Salil Shetty, the Secretary-General of Amnesty International: "We must hope that, looking backward to 2014 in the years to come, what we lived through will be seen as an ultimate low point from which we rose up and created a better future."
The other issue is the document, linked above,  put out by the UN in honor of International Women's Day in which the failure of all of us to provide equal human rights to women is made clear, along with some positive comments on progress. In this context, Titan, in contrast to his usual conduct, is asking you to sign a petition calling on the governments who have not done so to criminalize marital rape.

NEW FERTILITY TREATMENT 

Along with sperm, the in vitro procedure adds fresh mitochondria extracted from less mature cells in the same woman's ovaries. The hope is to revitalize older eggs with these extra "batteries." But the FDA still wants proof that the technique works and is safe.
Along with sperm, the in vitro procedure adds fresh mitochondria extracted from less mature cells in the same woman's ovaries. The hope is to revitalize older eggs with these extra "batteries." But the FDA still wants proof that the technique works and is safe.
Chris Nickels for NPR
About a month ago, Titan told you about the 3-parent baby technique just legalized in Britain. Mitochondria from a healthy woman are transplanted to the egg of a woman whose defective mitochondria prevent her from conceiving. Now a Canadian clinic is offering a new technique in which mitochondria from the same woman are transplanted to her ovum which is then fertilized in vitro. The idea is that younger ova have better mitochondria than a mature ovum. It is likened to replacing batteries in a flashlight. In the linked site, the pros and cons are discussed in detail. The FDA has not yet approved it for the USA and it is quite expensive. It is, as you may conclude from reading the post from NPR, quite controversial and there certainly are ethical considerations involved.

BOOK REVIEW 

For those who loved the fantasy world of Tolkien, the new novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, The Buried Giant, will be a delight. Ishiguro won the Mann Booker prize in 1989 for The Remains of the Day. His latest, his first novel in ten years, ventures into a shadowy realm of the gap in the historical record, argued over by archaeologists and historians, about what happened in Britain after the Roman occupation.
Illustration by Jonathan Edwards
Illustration by Jonathan Edwards

The book appears tantalizing and Titan will read it when next an interplanetary postal service gets to his neighborhood. Terrans might do better. The book is reviewed in the Guardian by Tom Holland. An interview and profile of the author are given by Alex Clark, also in the Guardian.

HOME SWEET HOME

We in Israel have survived the Netanyahu speech in the US Congress and for the moment we are still here. Titan will spare you the speech, but will share the Jon Stewart dismantling of it with you:

 Mike Lukovich does a good job as well, with a reference to an
American soap opera:


Mike Luckovich Cartoon for Mar/05/2015

In an editorial Haaretz points out how much the attention given to Iran, personal rivalries etc., are distracting attention from the real existential threat to Israel, the Occupation and all that it entails.

WOMEN IN ISRAEL

As Women's Day approaches, we take a look at a few instances showing the treatment of women in Israel.

Leaders of women's organizations who are setting up a conference on polygamy have received threats but vow to go on with the event, which focuses on the Bedouin in the south.
Bedouin women (illustrative).
Bedouin women (illustrative). Photo by Itzik Ben-Malchi

The conference is scheduled for early next week at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Be’er Sheva. Because of the run-up to the election, it has become a sensitive issue. The organizers do not deny that the timing is linked to the fact that two men on the Arab community’s Joint List ticket are in polygamous marriages in violation of the law. Titan wishes the ladies luck and a safe conference.

A woman soldier reported having been raped in Tel Aviv.   She did not return to her base when her sick leave concluded, claiming she was in distress, and was AWOL for five days. For this she was tried and sentenced to 10 days in military prison. The incident was reported on TV and once there was some negative publicity out about the "most moral army in the world," the girl was released at once. Now there are calls from high places and the media to put her commanders on trial for their behavior. Do not hold your breath, the human garbage who chose military careers have gotten away with murder. This is small change.

SILLY TIME

What If?  asks: I have had a particular problem for as long as I can remember. Any time I attempt to heat left over Chinese food in a microwave, it fails to heat completely through somewhere. Usually the center but not always and usually rice, but often it will be a small section of meat. It's baffling and has made me automatically adjust heating times to over 2 minutes. In most cases this tends to heat the bowl or plate more than the food. So I suppose the question is what is the optimal time to heat left over Chinese food in the microwave, how about an 800 watt microwave?

—James
The answer is interesting--

If any of you still believe in homeopathy, Randall has some advice:
Dilution



We feel a strong identification with beloved Grandpa and he is usually right:

Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Mar/02/2015

WUMO present an interesting logistical problem. We give you the link only because of copyright threats.

We love our high-tech phones.

Dustin Cartoon for Mar/03/2015

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Titan says Happy New Year to Asia

Titan wishes a Happy Lunar New Year to those all across Asia who are celebrating it this week. Farewell Year of the Horse and welcome Year of the Ram. Of course, there are those who consider it the Year of the Sheep or of the Goat, but we, who were born in this year, think the Ram to be the most dignified.

It is the time of year when Chinese people return to their ancestral homes to be with their extended families. The result is a huge migration with hundreds of millions of people traveling. According to state media in China about three billion passenger trips will be made by plane, train and car over the 40-day period.
 A Chinese traveller sleeps as others read and relax as they wait to leave for the Spring Festival at a local railway station on 17 February 2015 in Beijing, China.
China's transport ministry has predicted that the travel rush will see 295 million railway trips

We have nice memories from celebrating the New Year in San Francisco with our ethnic Chinese friends. In particular, we recall a meal hosted by our old friend the late Bob Lin of UC Berkeley.

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over two years have gone by without Miriam and we continue to realize what we have lost. She got us into the human rights struggle. Please act on behalf of people who are so much in need of support in their trials and tribulations at the hands of oppressive regimes and corporations.


CHARITY CORNER 

This week Titan refers you to the Cure Alzheimer's Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to funding research with the highest probability of preventing, slowing or reversing Alzheimer's disease through venture-based philanthropy.  All donated funds go to research since the overhead is met by the founders (Henry McCance, Phyllis Rappaport and Jacqui and Jeff Morby),  who were  frustrated by the slow progress of the study of the disease. They used their economic and business experience   to build a new venture-based   fund designed to accelerate research dramatically, make bold bets and focus exclusively on finding a cure. 

ALESSANDRO VOLTA 





Born February 18 1745-died March 3, 1827. He invented the electric battery in 1799 and is honored by a birthday doodle from Google.
Google doodle for Alessandro Volta
His life and work make a fascinating story, which is given to us in detail by Charlotte Connelly writing in the Guardian. Mark Holmes made the doodle and also gave us a portrait version. Thank you says Titan.

RANTS AND RAVES

Titan continues to be outraged by the wave of terror sweeping over the world. The shootings in Copenhagen and the slaughter of Copts in Libya are just the latest manifestations. There are some conclusions to be drawn from these events. President Obama convened a conference on extremist terrorism, but did not point a finger explicitly at Islamic extremism. He mentioned that the West also has a few skeletons in its closet such as the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery and more. This aroused a firestorm of criticism which, in Titan's humble opinion, is somewhat justified. As pointed out by Deborah Lipstadt in the Forward, the vast majority of terrorist attacks are driven by a strain of Islamic ideology that despises democracy, freedom, pluralism and all the other values that we in the West hold dear. Freedom of expression includes the right to satirize, ridicule and even blaspheme. If you are offended, go to court, but do not pick up your Kalashnikov.

We must, however, beware of tarring all Muslims with the terrorist brush.  We note that 800 Norwegian Muslims have signed up to form a "Ring of Friendship" around the Oslo synagogue after Shabbat services. Titan's big rant is at the "yes, but..." people who justify murder in the name of the honor of the Prophet or the Israeli Occupation or the failure of European countries to integrate their Muslim immigrant populations or whatever. There is, Mr. President, a difference between Sandy Hook and on the one hand and Boko Haram, Charley Hebdo and the Copenhagen synagogue on the other. Adam Lanza was a  crazed gunman, but his  target was not Western democracy.  Breivik who murdered in Oslo and on Utoya Island is an Islamophobe, the flip side of Islamic terror, but never does an atrocity justify another atrocity. The "yes, but..." people have to learn to understand this axiom. We do not see as much anti-terror actions from the leaders of the Muslim world, as should be forthcoming,  possibly because there is a lack of enlightenment among their religious leaders.  For example, a leading Saudi cleric does not believe that the Earth rotates around its axis nor revolves around the Sun, issues that were resolved in the 17th century. It is sad, because when Europe was going through its Dark Ages, the Arabs led the world in science. We note that the motivation for suicide bombing may be misplaced:


ARGENTINA

Titan is upset about the twenty years of coverup in Argentina of the culprits in the 1995 bombing of the Buenos Aires Jewish Center in which 85 people were killed. The prosecutor who was accusing the government of evading confrontation with Iran was found dead in suspicious circumstances last month. This week there was a silent march of tens of thousands in Buenos Aires calling for justice for Alfredo Nisman, the victim.



Argentines demonstrated in Buenos Aires in honor of Alberto Nisman, who died last month. Credit Rodrigo Abd/Associated Press
The affair has embarrassed the President and the government. Titan hopes that the truth will eventually come out and those responsible for the atrocity will face the bar of justice and those who engineered  the coverup will pay their price as well.




 

 

ABUSE ON THE WEB 

Four years ago, intimate photographs of Danish journalist Emma Holten were posted on the web. Thousands viewed them and she still receives online harassment. The issues of revenge porn and hacked photos are part of a larger problem with our relationship to consent, she argues. So Holten decided to pose for and release a new set of pictures of her body. Here she explains why.
WARNING: THIS VIDEO CONTAINS NUDITY


Here is the video and we salute Emma:


AN ALIEN INVASION  

Our solar system was recently invaded by a star that went through the Oort cloud. It may have scattered a few comets out of their orbits, but otherwise did no real damage. It happened only 70,000 years ago and was not noted at the time, for some reason.
Artist's impression of Schulz's Star (Image: Michael Osadciw/University of Rochester)
Artist's impression of Schulz's Star (Image: Michael Osadciw/University of Rochester)
HOME SWEET HOME

Titan will spare you our election campaign in order to preserve his own sanity. It is, to quote Wordsworth on England in 1802, "a fen of stagnant waters" and worse. Here is an editorial from Haaretz describing the level of the right wing campaign. Yuck says Titan.

REFUGEES 


The treatment of refugees and asylum seekers in Israel is abysmal and immoral. Of a total of over 5,000 requests for refugee status, only four have been granted. The Israeli government has responded to just 1.42 percent of the requests for asylum submitted by Sudanese nationals living in the country, and has not granted refugee status to a single one. Israel has granted refugee status to just four of the 5,573 asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea combined, or 0.07 percent. Internationally, 84 percent of Eritreans and 56 percent of Sudanese asylum seekers either received refugee status or were granted extended protection in the first half of 2014, according to the United Nations refugee agency, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

African asylum seekers at the Holot detention facility protest their comrades' expulsion from Israel
African asylum seekers at the Holot detention facility protest the expulsion from Israel of others, February 17, 2014. Photo by Eliyahu Hershkovitz
The High Court is now hearing a petition by human rights organizations against a new amendment to the law that enables the government to incarcerate asylum seekers. The situation is intolerable and the state has been castigated by an editorial in Haaretz.

NEW CHIEF OF STAFF 


We now have a new Chief of Staff of the Army. Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot has taken over from Benny Ganz. He is already shaking up the higher echelons with new appointments. Titan has no expectations that he will be in any different from his predecessor since they are all products of the military establishment.
From left: Defense Minster Moshe Ya'alon, Gadi Eisenkot, Yair Golan and Benny Gantz
From left: Defense Minster Moshe Ya'alon, incoming Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, incoming Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Golan and outgoing Chief of Staff Benny Gantz. Photo by IDF Spokesperson


Gideon Levy points out that the charming gentleman Ganz will someday end up before a war crimes court for the atrocities for which he is accountable. Titan agrees since, as Levy has shown us, the Army and the Shin Bet (security services) may accuse one another of this and that failing and crime, but both are a moral cesspool where falsehood and evil are the norms. What is worse is that every year a new cohort of 18 year olds is conscripted and subjected to years of brainwashing by these monsters. Some are strong enough to  resist it and maintain their fundamental decency, but far too many are seduced to carry out acts of bestiality. Of course, they have full impunity. Consider the soldier who was ordered by his commander to shoot a handcuffed and blindfolded prisoner. He carried out the manifestly illegal order and neither of them was punished. The corruption and rot emanating from this source pollutes our entire society.

SNOW  


We are getting snow galore this week, even in the southern mountain areas and at altitudes that seldom experience it. We have a deep depression in the Eastern Mediterranean and cold air above. It is not much compared to what is happening in more northern climes, but the breaking of the polar vortex and the excess energy available in the atmosphere are changing things around the world. Here is a description (Titan laughs at mere water snow, try methane snow for a change) and here is a photo:

Snow covers the Garden of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem February 20, 2015. Photo by Reuters


SILLY TIME

What If? has a very relevant question this week: I've long thought about putting a flamethrower on the front of a car to melt snow and ice before you drive across it. Now I've realized that a flamethrower is impractical, but what about a high-powered microwave emitter?

—Matt Van Opens
The answer might surprise you.

For our older readers, here is a walk down memory lane:

Pearls Before Swine Cartoon for Feb/15/2015

and a comment on climate change:
Arctic Circle Cartoon for Feb/17/2015
.