Saturday, December 31, 2016

Titan winds up the year for all of us





The Charity Corner has found a home on the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights Action site. Titan and Pollyanna hope that you will visit there, take the actions and make the donations.



Marion Pritchard with Erica Polak, a Jewish baby she was hiding, in 1944. Credit Marion Pritchard, via United States Holocaust Memorial
Marion Pritchard, was a Dutch-American social worker and psychoanalyst, who distinguished herself as a savior of Jews in the Netherlands during the Second World War.  She was a gentile whose shock at watching Nazi soldiers storm a home for Jewish children in Amsterdam and load them into a truck for deportation inspired her to enter a clandestine world of rescuing Jews, died on Dec. 11 at her home in Washington. She was 96.

CARRIE FISHER 1956-2016 

The Star Wars actor, who became an acclaimed writer, died in Los Angeles four days after reportedly
suffering a heart attack on flight from London. She was the daughter of the singer Eddie Fisher and the actress Debby Reynolds. Carrie Fisher  grew up in the world of Hollywood and started her career very young. She is famous for having played the role of Princess Leila in the Star Wars series and was the author of several books. Obituaries can be found in the NYTimes and the Guardian inter alia.



Hollywood legend Debbie Reynolds has died aged 84, just one day after the death of her daughter, famed actor and author Carrie Fisher. Her death was confirmed by her son, Todd Fisher. 

“The last thing she said this morning was that she was very, very sad about losing Carrie and that she would like to be with her again,” Fisher said. “Fifteen minutes later she suffered a severe stroke.” Obituaries of the two of them can be found in the NYTimes, the Guardian and many other sources.


VERA RUBIN 1928-2016 

The astronomer whose pioneer work led to the understanding that there must be dark matter in the universe died this week at age 88. Vera Rubin found that galaxies do not quite rotate the way they were predicted, and that lent support to the theory that some other force was at work, namely dark matter.

Vera Rubin in the 1970s, when she mapped the distribution of mass in spiral galaxies by measuring how fast they rotated. Credit Carnegie Institution of Washington, via Associated Press

Dark matter, which has not been directly observed, makes up 27% of the universe – as opposed to 5% of the universe being normal observable matter. Scientists better understand what dark matter is not rather than what it is.

The situation in physics is no less than a crisis, which is good, because crisis and paradox drive discovery. In cosmology it has gotten worse or better. A wide range of astrophysical and cosmological measurements have subsequently arrived at an intimidating composition of the cosmos: 5 percent atoms, 27 percent dark matterand 68 percent the even more mysterious dark energy that seems to be speeding up the expansion of the universe — all of which subverts any illusion that astronomers might actually know what is going on.

In an interview in 2000 posted on the Natural History Museumwebsite, Dr. Rubin said: “In a spiral galaxy, the ratio of dark-to-light matter is about a factor of 10. That’s probably a good number for the ratio of our ignorance to knowledge. We’re out of kindergarten, but only in about third grade.”


Rubin’s scientific achievements earned her numerous honors, including becoming the second female astronomer to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences. She also received the National Medal of Science from President Bill Clinton in 1993 “for her pioneering research programs in observational cosmology”. She suffered as do most women scientists from lack of serious consideration and other forms of discrimination.


China has announced a ban in trade in ivory effective one year from now. It is not clear to Titan why
it will take a year to implement the ban. Retraining of people whose jobs depend on ivory should be faster and it is to be feared that during the year of grace, poachers will make more vicious attacks on the already decimated herds.



Kaos, 23, a member of the Black Disciples whose given name is Ron. “If we’re sitting here bored, getting high and we got guns around, it ain’t nothing else to do,” he said of the relentless cycle of violence. Credit Ruddy Roye for The New York Times
At least 61 people were shot, eleven fatally, in a 48-hour period in Chicago over Christmas weekend, according to the Chicago Police Department. It was the latest bloody chapter in a city besieged by gun violence. We react in despair to wholesale murders in Syria and at the same time are helpless to stop gun violence in a major US city. The analysis by the Jon Eligon in the NYTimes outlines clearly the hopelessness of the situation of young men trapped in an environment of violence with no way out.


Turkey and Russia have agreed on a countrywide ceasefire plan for Syria, except for areas where government forces are battling armed groups declared terrorist organizations by the United Nations.
Almost 11 million Syrians have been displaced by the conflict [Khalil Ashawi/Reuters]

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Wednesday that a ceasefire plan had been submitted to Syria's rival parties and could come into force quickly. Citing a source who requested anonymity, Anadolu said "terrorist organizations" would be excluded from the deal. Titan hopes sincerely that the ceasefire will hold and lead to an end of this terrible war. The UN has come out strongly in favor of the ceasefire.


The Obama administration on Thursday announced its retaliation for Russian efforts to interfere with the US presidential election, ordering sweeping new sanctions that included the expulsion of 35 Russians. US intelligence services believe Russia ordered cyber-attacks on the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Hillary Clinton’s campaign and other political organizations, in an attempt to influence the election in favor of the Republican candidate, Donald Trump.

Whether this determined the result of the election is speculative at best, but interference with the democratic process in another country cannot be tolerated. In any case, Mike Luckovich tells us what to expect in a Trump-driven world.



Titan is a bit bemused by the Israeli reaction to the UN vote. United Nations Security Council 2334, which passed Dec. 23 by a vote of 14-0 with the U.S. abstaining, describes Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as illegal and an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians. It was the first time U.S. President Barack Obama declined to block a Security Council resolution that Israel considered hostile, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused him of staging a “shameless ambush” against his country. Netanyahu warned countries that backed the measure they would pay a diplomatic and economic price. Titan and his friends agree with the sense of the resolution and point out that the abstention speech by the US delegate put things into perspective quite well. Of course, we cannot predict the result of our war with New Zealand.

Haaretz cartoon


The outgoing US Secretary of State delivered a speech in which he presented a viable model for
a future in which the two states, Israel and Palestine will live side by side in peace. Open the link and read the speech. As Barak Ravid points out in Haaretz, "Kerry’s address was a superbly Zionist and pro-Israel speech." Anyone who truly supports the two-state solution and a Jewish and democratic Israel should welcome his remarks and support them. It's a binary incidence, with no middle ground. It’s no surprise that those who hastened to condemn Kerry even before he spoke and even more so afterward were Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennett and the heads of the settler lobby. Kerry noted in his speech that it is this minority that is leading the Israeli government and the indifferent majority toward a one-state solution.  It is most unfortunate that Kerry delivered this talk too late. In truth, neither Netanyahu nor Abbass is willing to pay the price of peace and Titan sees a very gloomy future for Israel . There is a ray of hope in that a dyed in the wool Likudnik can say this to high school students "If the IDF loses its basic values, it could wind up looking like ISIS," former Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said on Wednesday regarding the trial of an Israeli soldier who shot and killed a Palestinian assailant in Hebron after he had been subdued.


In Israel, the education system has become a tool of indoctrination for a one-dimensional ideology
based on extreme religious Zionism. The Minister, Naftali Bennett and his colleagues are making every effort to keep the NGO Breaking the Silence, which reports crimes of Israeli soldiers, out of the schools. For this purpose they have come up with an initiative to amend the National Education Law from 1953 – the law that replaced the system of different “streams” in Israeli education and is considered one of the most fundamental in Israeli education in the pre-nationalist period. Such a toxic brew of arrogance and ethno-centrism has not been seen here since the passing of the bill to legalize illegal outposts and the UN Security Council resolution that came in its wake. Or Kashti, writing in Haaretz, indicts Bennett and the government for their obscurantist postures.

Let us leave all the above garbage behind and look at some good things.


Danny Kahnman whom we knew long ago when we were all young in Jerusalem is a Nobel Laureate for his work work on the pitfalls of our intuition and use of statistics. The Undoing Project.

He worked with the late Amos Tversky for many years. Their work fueled an engine of disruption, laying groundwork for the field of behavioral economics and driving new approaches to the practice of sports management, health care, government, presidential campaigns and education. (That is just a random sample of domains in which their work has been influential; there are many, many more.) We refer you to a review of a book by Michael Lewis in which he tells the tender, probing story of their lives and work together in his new book, The Undoing Project. The book is reviewed in Slate by Daniel Engber. It appears fascinating. One might also read Kahnemann's book Thinking, Fast and Slow.

Daniel Kahneman.
Nobel-winner Daniel Kahneman, author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, at the Digital Life Design conference in Munich, Germany


The Guardian has listed what it considers the 12 most important events in science in 2016. Another list is provided by PBS science correspondent Miles O’Brien who sat down with William Brangham to discuss some of the more remarkable discoveries, innovations and setbacks this year, including the confirmation of one of Einstein's major predictions, the global outbreak of Zika, a breakthrough in gene editing, self-driving cars and more. Science Magazine contains a summary of
The carbon-copy signals seen by the LIGO detector in Washington state (shown) and its Louisiana twin.

its breakthroughs of the year.

Make your own choices. Titan votes for gravitational waves as the discovery of greatest importance.


Ruth Schuster gives us a summary of archaeology and its finds in the past year.





Monday, December 5, 2016

Titan is back with you again

Titan is back and as usual has something interesting to tell you about himself. A bit of egomania can last for 4.6 billion years:
Mysterious Changing feature on Titan
Image Credit: Cassini Radar Mapper, Cornell, JPL, ESA, NASA
Explanation: What is that changing object in a cold hydrocarbon sea of Titan? Radar images from the robotic Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn have been recording the surface of the cloud-engulfed moon Titan for years. When imaging the flat -- and hence radar dark -- surface of the methane and ethane lake called Ligeia Mare, an object appeared in 2013 just was not there in 2007. Subsequent observations in 2014 found the object remained -- but had changed! The featured image shows how the 20-km long object has appeared and evolved. Current origin speculative explanations include bubbling foam and floating solids, but no one is sure. Future observations may either resolve the enigma or open up more speculation.

The Charity Corner has found a home on the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights Action site. Titan and Pollyanna hope that you will visit there, take the actions and make the donations.

Pollyanna, Titan and Yanda note passing of the Thanksgiving holiday in the US and hope all their friends enjoyed it. The winter holiday season is now with us with Christmas, Hannuka and Kwanzaa awaiting to give us joy.


Fidel Castro, the fiery apostle of revolution who brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere in
1959 and then defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba’s maximum leader, bedeviling 11 American presidents and briefly pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war, died on
Friday. He was 90. He did many good things for the Cuban people, increased literacy, improved health services and helped the economy. He also deprived them of their rights and ruled with an iron hand. History will judge him. The NYTimes has an obituary as does the Guardian.



This month Titan wishes to express his outrage  at the wanton killing of Rohingya Muslim civilians by the Myanmar army and Buddhist militias. The Rohingya are fleeing a policy of collective punishment in Myanmar’s Northern Rakhine state, where security forces are mounting indiscriminate reprisal attacks in response to a 9 October assault on three border posts that killed nine members of the border police.
Rohingya Muslim children stand in U Shey Kya village outside Maungdaw in Rakhine state.
Rohingya Muslim children stand in U Shey Kya village outside Maungdaw in Rakhine state.

On Myanmar’s coast the villages of the persecuted Rohingya Muslims keep going up in flames, displacing 30,000.
A satellite image from Nov. 10 shows a Rohingya Muslim village burned down in an arson spree by Myanmar’s army. According to Human Rights Watch, 400 buildings have been destroyed. Recent reports indicate 130 people have been killed.
The army has shut out aid workers and independent observers, and plans to arm a local Buddhist militia,composed of ethnic Arakanese, a “recipe for disaster,” according to the International Commission of Jurists. But the Arakan National Party (ANP), which hailed Donald Trump’s election and favors “inhuman acts” to cleanse Myanmar of Muslims, endorsed it. Those who have fled to Bangladesh are being abused badly and pushed back. The situation is intolerable and must be dealt with at an international level. Please join the call to the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, to go to Myanmar at once. The voice of Aung San Suu Kyi has fallen silent on this vital human rights issue. Why?


Al Capone predicted that the US would have a woman president when the Cubs won the World Series. He got as far as the candidacy, but flunked the election. H.K. Mencken in 1920 hit the nail on the head perfectly.


Mike Luckovich has it right
Titan and his friends are very concerned about the election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States. We only hope that he does not deliver on his outrageous promises, such as building walls, deporting immigrants and enhancing torture. We understand that he cannot revive coal mining or really bring back jobs from China. The experience in Scotland might serve as a warning. We link you to a discussion between Bernie Sanders and Spike Lee that shows where hope might lie.
Senator Bernie Sanders and Spike Lee. (photo: Christopher Lane/Guardian UK)
Senator Bernie Sanders and Spike Lee. (photo: Christopher Lane/Guardian UK)

We also link you to an article on Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren who point the way the Democratic party must go to renew itself. Warren laid out the principles she believes should govern Democrats during the Trump era: Standing up to bigotry, pushing for economic equality and combating the influence of Wall Street. Titan thinks that the way forward will begin with the election of Keith Ellison as DNC chair despite the negative reaction of some Jewish groups.. It is also important to confront the extreme right movements who raised their hands in a Nazi salute to Trump.


Titan, Pollyanna and YandA salute the 2,000 veterans of military service who are showing up to be a human shield at Standing Rock. They are there to protect the activists who are supporting the local Sioux Tribe in their battle against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Water protectors on horseback at the Oceti Sakowin camp.
We have great empathy for we have human shield experience, standing between Israeli police on horseback and young Palestinian activists outside Orient House in Jerusalem. We also feel for the young activist who is still in danger of losing an arm after being struck with by what witnesses described as a concussion grenade thrown directly at her by police in riot gear. We had a concussion grenade thrown at us in Bil'in by an officer of the "most moral army in the world" who laughed with glee as he threw it at a 78 year old unarmed civilian.



Start with a German corporation that builds submarines, but has a marketing problem. Add an Israeli lawyer who is the private attorney of the Prime Minister and also represents the German corporation. You find Israel about to buy submarines from Germany that the Navy neither needs nor wants. An email from a Defense Ministry official purportedly shows that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attorney David Shimron personally intervened on behalf of a German shipyard concerning a sale of missile boats to the Israel Navy. The email was divulged Tuesday night by Channel 10. The affair of the acquisitions by the Israel Navy – which has already caused problems for the prime minister’s attorney David Shimron and led to the opening of a police investigation that is liable to involve Benjamin Netanyahu himself – is divided into two parts: the controversy surrounding the purchase of three new submarines for the navy and the story of the tender for supplying four new Saar 6 ships. In both cases, the manufacturer that won the tenders is the German company ThyssenKrupp whose Israeli mediator, Michael Ganor, is represented by Shimron.

Benjamin Netanyahu climbs out after a visit inside the Rahav, the fifth submarine in the fleet, after it arrived in Haifa port January 12, 2016 REUTERS/Baz Ratner
read more:

According to the TV report, the legal adviser to the Defense Ministry, Ahaz Ben-Ari, said in a 2014 email to the ministry’s director general, Dan Harel, that Shimron had contacted him and asked that he act for the benefit of the shipyard, ThyssenKrupp, as per Netanyahu’s request. Shimron denies Ben-Ari’s account.   As a result the attorney-general had no option but to open an inquiry Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit made the required decision on Wednesday to open a police inquiry into Israel’s acquisition of submarines and gunboats. This development comes after new material was uncovered while investigating former deputy National Security Council head Avriel Bar Yosef on suspicion of taking bribes. The information was handed to the head of the investigations and intelligence department Maj. Gen. Meni Yitzhaki on Wednesday afternoon, and he immediately updated the attorney general.  Nice to know that our security is in the hands of corrupt idiots. We do not salute our revolting army and its disgusting commanders. The chief of staff just appointed a Chief Rabbi who is on record as saying that it is permitted to rape the enemy's women. Cheers!!!


A few weeks ago we had a spate of forest fires which drove 60,000 people from their homes. We had fires six years ago in which 44 people died, in the wake of which we were told that Israel is prepared for future fires. All that went up in smoke. Yossi Verter writing in Haaretz tells the sad tale of how Netanyahu blew it again. Of course, they can blame terrorism, but in fact the police discount that claim. 
What is certain is that future fires will be worse as global warming progresses.  Amira Haas in Haaretz raises the political side of the behavior of the government during the fire crisis.
Israel fires: Fires burn in the horizon as firefighters battle to control a fire that broke out in Nataf, west of Abu Ghosh, along the border with the West Bank on November 25, 2016.Ahmad Gharabli / AFP
read more:


The Supreme Court has ruled that the illegal settlement of Amona was built on privately owned
Palestinian land that was simply stolen by the settlers. For a few years the government has tried to find a way to circumvent this decision without actually violating the laws since the settlers have powerful connections in the governing coalition. The brilliant legal minds came up with something called the Regulation Law that would have legalized the land theft. Again we refer you to Yossi Verter for the details.
 Illustration: Bennett in the role of the dj making a club full of politicians dance to his tune.

We note that Benny Begin a member of the Likud has called the bill the "plunder bill" and has said that he will vote against it. Netanyahu has expressed fears that the bill will bring him to the dock in the ICC in the Hague, but still supports it. The vote has been postponed, but our Education Minister says there is no moral problem involved. Yuck!!


Let us leave all the above garbage behind and look at some good things.


Weight from massive deposits of frozen nitrogen, methane and carbon monoxide, built up billions of years ago, could have carved out the left half of the dwarf planet’s heart-shaped landscape, researchers report online November 30 in Nature. Researchers have generally assumed that the heart's left "lobe" — a 600-mile-wide (1,000 kilometers) plain called Sputnik Planitia (formerly Sputnik Planum) — is an enormous impact crater that subsequently filled with frozen nitrogen and other exotic ices. A new study, however, suggests that the ice buildup came first and the accumulated material eventually pushed the underlying landscape down, much as Greenland's enormous ice sheet has done here on

The left "lobe" of Pluto's heart-shaped feature is a 600-mile-wide (1,000 kilometers) ice plain known as Sputnik Planitia.
Earth. We refer you to an interview with an old colleague and friend Doug Hamilton, a professor at our Ph.D. alma mater, the University of Maryland. Cheers to Doug and team!


Normally a vacuum is thought of as completely empty, and light can travel through it without being
changed. But in quantum electrodynamics (QED), the quantum theory describing the interaction between photons and charged particles such as electrons, space is full of virtual particles that appear
and vanish all the time. Very strong magnetic fields can modify this space so that it affects the polarization of light passing through it. This effect was predicted 80 years ago but was observed only recently in the visible light emitted by a neutron star. It was detected by a team of astronomers who used used ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile to observe the neutron star RX J1856.5-3754, about 400 light-years from Earth.
This artist's illustration shows how light coming from the surface of a strongly magnetic neutron star (left) becomes linearly polarised as it travels through the vacuum of space close to the star on its way to the observer on Earth (right). This phenomenon suggests that the empty space around the neutron star is subject to a quantum effect known as vacuum birefringence, which was first predicted in 1930s but never observed.

This artist's illustration shows how light coming from the surface of a strongly magnetic neutron star (left) becomes linearly polarised as it travels through the vacuum of space close to the star on its way to the observer on Earth (right). This phenomenon suggests that the empty space around the neutron star is subject to a quantum effect known as vacuum birefringence, which was first predicted in 1930s but never observed.
Credit: ESO/L. Calçada

Despite being amongst the closest neutron stars, its extreme dimness meant the astronomers could only observe the star with visible light using the FORS2 instrument on the VLT, at the limits of current telescope technology. As the head of the team, Roberto Mignani explains: “According to QED, a highly magnetized vacuum behaves as a prism for the propagation of light, an effect known as vacuum birefringence.”

This may sound esoteric to some, but it is big news in geekdom and we expect exciting new discoveries as telescope technology improves.


The Tribe of Dan, one of the 12 "Israelite tribes," may have started as no such thing. New archaeological evidence suggests that the Danites originated with mercenaries hired from the Aegean and Syria by the Egyptian overlords of Canaan to keep order. Recent excavations have uncovered a large neighborhood from the 12-11th century B.C.E. that shows compelling Aegean influences in  their city in the north of the country.

Cypriot-style pithoi found at Dan Nelson
read more:



What percentage of the Sun's heat (per day) does the population of Earth eat in calories per year? What changes could be made to our diets for the amount of calories to equal the energy of the Sun?

—James Mitchell
The answer 0.000000000065%. The details are indeed interesting. 



Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Titan is back with you

Titan is back and invites you to a tour of his lakes:

The Charity Corner has found a home on the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights Action site. Titan and Pollyanna hope that you will visit there, take the actions and make the donations.

We mourn the death of Prof. Noa Noy who died last week at age 63.

Image result for noa noy
Her memorial service:

We send our heartfelt condolences to Danny and Tali and wish them the best. Beside being one of our family, she was also a distinguished biophysicist and cancer researcher. "Work in her laboratory aims to obtain molecular-level understanding of the factors that regulate the action of nuclear hormone receptors, and to elucidate the consequences of the activities of these proteins for cell function in health and in disease. Of special interest to us are the roles of transcriptionally active metabolites of vitamin A in cancer development, in adipose tissue biology, and in regulation of insulin responses." She believed strongly in the importance of clinical applicability of fundamental research. Danny and Zohar's description on Facebook is just right--Brilliant, beautiful, funny,loved and missed beyond words.


The Nobel prizewinning playwright and actor Dario Fo, famous for his cutting political satire in plays  has died aged 90. He was a great playwright of the years of unrest and rebellion in the 1960s and '70s. His plays such as Accidental Death of an Anarchist and Can't Pay? Won't Pay! were hilariously cutting critiques of life under capitalism as it went into crisis. His style of theater was like a Brecht play performed by the Marx Brothers in the age of TV. They even became long running hits in London's West End.

Brian Mulligan, a teacher, writer and performer who was part of the "alternative comedy" scene of the 1980-90s, said:

"I saw Accidental Death of An Anarchist in London in 1980 - it only changed my life."

Fo won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1997. An obituary can be found in Portside.


Image result for tom hayden

Tom Hayden, a social activist and politician,a stalwart of America's New Left, has died aged 76 in
Santa Monica, California.

He served 18 years in California's state legislature.  He was married for many years to the actress Jane Fonda.

"A political giant and dear friend has passed," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti wrote on Twitter. "Tom Hayden fought harder for what he believed than just about anyone I have known."
Hayden, who forged his political activism as a founding member of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), which stood at the core of the 1960s anti-war and civil rights movements, was principal author of the group's revolutionary manifesto, the Port Huron Statement.

To his dying day, Tom Hayden furthered the ideals of the left. He was castigated from both right and extreme left, the latter for supposedly having sold out to the establishment and the former for the usual reasons. One should not take such complaints too seriously--he served the ideals of the left far better than most of his critics. A detailed obituary can be found in the Los Angeles Times.


The crimes against humanity committed by Australia in its treatment of asylum seekers and refugees

We refer you to the publications of Amnesty International on the appalling conditions under which these unfortunate people are forced to live.The refugee confinement facilities are in effect modern day concentration camps run by one of the world's great democracies.
Over 400 asylum seekers and refugees remain in cramped tents in Australia’s Refugee Processing Center on Nauru

The Guardian has published details and Amnesty has added to them. The current policy of the Australian Government is that no person who arrives in the country by boat seeking asylum can ever settle in Australia. Instead, anyone who arrives by boat is forcibly taken to offshore “Refugee Processing Centers”, one of which is on the remote Pacific island of Nauru. The tiny island cannot accommodate them and the human suffering engendered by this policy is horrible. The government claims that the policy protects people who might otherwise undertake the hazardous boat crossing to Australia. Since its inception, however, offshore processing has been designed to be punitive and has been widely promoted by a succession of Australian governments as a deterrent and as a demonstration of Australia securing its borders.

The policy has been castigated in the NYTimes and elsewhere. It amounts to torture, no matter how you twist language. Merely a year and a half ago a United Nations special rapporteur found systematic violations of the Convention Against Torture. None of this registers because as long as boats carrying asylum seekers are not making it to Australia, all is justified

People are fleeing war, pestilence and death and there is no compassion in the hearts of those who are living safely. Obviously this is not a sustainable situation and it is morally despicable. The thought that it is spreading to Europe as the "Australian model" is intolerable. Titan wonders what happened to shame.


 Titan and Pollyanna have always considered the extreme right militia movement to be a great danger. IN rural Oregon, the danger of violent rebellion is truly real. We report on the activities of the organization fighting back, the Rural Organizing Project, a not-for-profit group that sets out to confront the right wing insurgency that has been bubbling away in parts of rural Oregon and throughout the west. The director, Jessica Campbell has had her car’s fuel line cut and its wheel nuts loosened. Late last year, she had a GPS tracker surreptitiously attached to her vehicle.

She is now accustomed to being tailed by unfamiliar vehicles on Interstate 5 near her home in Cottage Grove, just outside Eugene, Oregon. Strangers have regularly come uninvited onto her property; someone even stripped the barbed wire on her fence “just to send a message”. Online, she has repeatedly been threatened with rape and death and has even had gunfire aimed at her car.

All this can be traced to the Trump candidacy, although the election of Obama also brought a large number of creatures crawling out from under the rocks and out of  the woodwork. The phenomenon of the people left behind, the Brexit and Trump voters, who feel their world collapsing in the wake of rapid changes in society, cannot be safely ignored. Leaders must give thought and action to the frustrated component of their constituency,

In Israel, there is no room for complacency. Chemi Shalev points out the similarities between Trump and Netanyahu and Titan notes that the constituencies are the same: poor, uneducated and full of hatred for the middle class, while voting for the plutocrats who are crushing them. As Shalev writes, "If you’ve listened to Netanyahu over the past few years, you know that Obama is more or less Haman the Evil One, the Persian king’s aide-de-camp from the Book of Esther, who plotted to kill the Jews but was ultimately thwarted. Israeli leftists, on the other hand, small, depleted and despondent as they may be, are Netanyahu’s equivalent of Mexican rapists and murderers, who, when they are not ravaging American women, are probably killing people in the streets. "

In the mean time, all sorts of idiotic things are happening with the US election. We will let Mike Lukovich speak for us:


An Orthodox Brooklyn yeshiva has agreed to pay two of its former students $2.1 million as damages for  alleged sexual molestation they suffered at age six from a senior rabbi on the school’s faculty—the first known case of such a settlement by a Jewish day school. We only hope that this will be a breakthrough in breaching the wall of silence that has shrouded sexual misconduct in the orthodox community.


This should be on Silly Time, but it is real and Titan does not know whether to laugh or vomit. Christoph Bartneck, associate professor at the University of Canterbury (New Zealand), was invited to submit a paper to the International Conference on Atomic and Nuclear Physics, taking place in the US in November.

But, as he says on his blog post, he has "practically no knowledge of nuclear physics". So he decided to let iOS autocomplete do the paper for him...

    I started a sentence with “Atomic” or “Nuclear” and then
    randomly hit the auto-complete suggestions. The text really
    does not make any sense. After adding the first illustration on
    nuclear physics from Wikipedia, some references and creating a
    fake identity (Iris Pear, aka Siri Apple) I submitted the
    paper, which was accepted only three hours later. I know that
    iOS is a pretty good software, but reaching tenure has never
    been this close.


The fact that the paper was accepted tells you something about how conferences operate...of course, this  cannot but bring to mind the postmodern philosophers pilloried beautifully by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont in their book Fashionable Nonsense, which is  reviewed in detail by Richard Dawkins in Nature.



Syrian tanks destroyed in the Yom Kippur War in 1973.Roman Frister
Our brave men and women in uniform are, it appears, commanded by a bunch of scoundrels. Of
course, Titan is not referring to the grunts who do the real work of keeping the state secure, on land, on sea and in the air. They are our children and grandchildren, drafted to do a job under the command of officers who range in competence over an entire spectrum.What is terrible is the lack of any kind of integrity at the top levels.

Let us start with something simple like truth. In the wake of the Yom Kippur war of 1973, a tank battalion commander, Zvika Greengold was credited with the single handed destruction of 60 Syrian tanks. Greengold was one of the few fighters who received a medal for valor for his battlefield achievements. Now we are getting a totally different story. Haaretz reports-"A senior Israeli army officer who fought in the Yom Kippur War says he made up one of the most famous tales of Israeli heroism in that war, in an effort to boost morale."

In a report broadcast Friday night on Channel 2, Israel Defense Forces Brig. Gen. (res.) Yair Nafshi said he concocted the story about how IDF tank commander Lt. Zvika Greengold single-handedly destroyed dozens of Syrian tanks in the Golan Heights in October 1973, holding off the Syrian advance.

Nafshi, a battalion commander in the 188th Brigade in which Greengold also served, said he created the story in order to improve morale in the unit, which had lost a large number of troops in the war.

We had to rebuild [the unit] from nothing. What did you want? We needed some kind of story,” said Nafshi. The narrative continues with other officers providing similar versions. Even if we accept the idea that the myth was needed at the time to rebuild the armored brigade, the truth could and should have come out in the over four decades since the events described.

On the other hand, Greengold himself rejected claims that the story about his heroism during the Yom Kippur War was fabricated and called them a “blood libel without even a shred of trut,” .
We give him credit for disowning the exaggerations of the army press and reserve judgement. None of us were there and certainly the tank battles against the Syrians entailed great courage on the part of
the participants. Why his colleagues dispute his heroism may be, as Greengold himself says “Apparently it’s a mixture of jealousy, evil and psychological problems. ... There’s not a shred of truth in [their claim]. I don’t understand why they gave a platform to [people] like that. I live my life quietly and don’t intend to get into this media game.”

“During the Yom Kippur War, 1,200 Syrian tanks invaded Israeli territory,” he added. “Learn the history.”

Whether or not battlefield myths are made up ,we know that the army is not above making up financial stories in the military budget. We have just learned that the military brass have by trickery and chicanery managed to line their pockets via their pension funds to the tune of about 30 million! shekels per year. Over the years  something like 3 billion of the taxpayer's shekels have gone astray.The financial regulators have just found out about the smoke screen. In a letter, Accountant General Michal Abadi-Boiangiu told State Comptroller Joseph Shapira that she learned in his report that for years the IDF has deliberately submitted information to mislead the treasury on the scope of pension outlays. Shapira, with remarkable understatement, writes that the military provided “partial information” and that he considers “this improper behavior” by the General Staff’s personnel branch grave.  What we have here is a gang of thieves in uniform with tons of brass on their shoulders and our hard earned money in their bank accounts. As Israelis love to shout--"kol hakavod l'zahal" i.e. all honor to our glorious military. As Amos Harel writes "So the next time IDF officers shed a tear about the starvation wages of some of the noncoms in the career army, they should be asked whether the top
brass could be less generous with the pension supplements for retiring officers."Titan finds this disgusting beyond words.


The recent spat about the UNESCO statement about the connection between Jews and the Temple Mount has exposed a new burst of hypocrisy and gall on the part of Israel. B. Michael lays the fact squarely on the line in Haaretz. Israel has built on Moslem cemeteries, destroyed countless mosques and has trampled on the holy places of all except those involving Jews. Of course, one need not be  Jewish to be  an idiot as demonstrated by the statement by deputy minister Ayub Kara (a Druze)  at the Vatican that the earthquake in Italy is retribution for the UNESCO resolution. This would be funny if it were not so pathetic--correction, pathetic or not, it is still hilarious. Cheers deputy minister Kara!


The Habima Theater, which is called ournational theater, has decided to give in to government pressure and to perform in the cultural center of Kiryat Arba, in the West Bank This should generate a strong backlash in the artistic community and throughout the left wing of society. To be honest, Titan thinks that the settlers are welcome to this theater and its low quality of productions, but, as stated in an editorial in Haaretz, "the Habima management’s provocative consent to this is a moral stain worthy of condemnation.
For Shame!!


Crowding in the Galaxy

The universe suddenly looks a lot more crowded, thanks to a deep-sky census assembled from surveys taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and other observatories. Astronomers came to the surprising conclusion that there are at least 10 times more galaxies in the observable universe than previously thought. Move over Andromeda, we need the space.


Humans split from our closest African ape relatives in the genus Pan around six to seven million years ago. We have features that clearly link us with African apes, but we also have features that appear more primitive. This combination calls into question whether the Homo-Pan last common ancestor looked more like modern day chimpanzees and gorillas or an ancient ape unlike any living group. A new study, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that the simplest explanation – that the ancestor looked a lot like a chimpanzee or gorilla – is the right one, at least in the shoulder.


The Selected Letters of John Cage    edited by Laura Kuhn 

Wesleyan University Press, 651 pp., $40.00 reviewed in the New

York Review of Books 27.10.16 by Tim Page 

There are certain creative figures whose mature works are almost tangential to their enduring artistic influence. Marcel Duchamp falls into this group, as does Andy Warhol. And so, certainly, does John Cage (1912–1992). He opened doors—floodgates, really—and dissolved definitions; if most of his own compositions now seem less interesting than the ramifications of his ideas, there can be little doubt that his oceanic spirit changed the topography.

What If? Since Death Valley is below sea level could we dig a hole to the ocean and fill it up with water?
—Nick Traeden We can and we should not. People have proposed digging a canal from the Red Sea at Elat in Israel to the Dead Sea. It is an equally stupid idea and Titan hopes it is never realized.

Ms Foxx hits the nail on the head:


YandA have been making coffee in a French press since they moved to their new home. Titan sent them the vampire version...and is chuckling all the way around Saturn.   Pollyanna thinks it is a bit not PC...