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
.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Titan has survived both Groundhog Day and the Super Bowl!




Titan congratulates the New England Patriots on their Super Bowl victory.
Brady with the trophy

It was a cliffhanger of a game and he sat up to see it live. Titan thanks the Cassini spacecraft for the interplanetary relay. The decision by the Seahawk coach, Pete Carrol,  to go with a pass with 20 seconds left on the 1 yard line has been criticized since he has the best running back in football.






Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll is being blamed for losing the Super Bowl because his team passed at the one-yard line instead of giving the ball to the star running back Marshawn Lynch in the final minute. The pass was intercepted. Credit Matt Rourke/Associated Press
An analysis of the situation in terms of game theory shows that the decision was not silly at all. We know some people who chose not to watch the Super Bowl and we know what happens to them:

Super Bowl

We also know why some of us are put on Earth:

Pearls Before Swine Cartoon for Feb/03/2015

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 refers you to Population Action International. This is a nonprofit whose mission is to help healthy families live in a healthy planet. We quote the mission statement; "Population Action International advocates for women and families to have access to contraception in order to improve their health, reduce poverty and protect their environment. Our research and advocacy strengthen U.S. and international assistance for family planning. We work with local and national leaders in developing countries to improve their reproductive health care programs and policies. PAI shows how these programs are critical to global concerns, such as preventing HIV, combating the effects of environmental degradation and climate change, and strengthening national security." Their efficiency rating is high with over 80% of budget going to program work. Please donate whatever you can.
piechart

You might find this blog comment on the annual Gates letter illuminating. Progress is indeed all about women

MVI_4523

GROUNDHOG DAY

Groundhog Day has come and gone.
 Punxsutawney Phil predicts the length of winter on Groundhog Day.
For those to whom this is a mystery or at most the name of an old film, there exists a belief that the groundhog comes out of hibernation each year and steps out of his nest. If he sees his shadow, i.e. there is sunshine, he becomes frightened and returns to his bed for another six weeks. This implies that there will be six more weeks of big time winter. If he does not see his shadow, an early spring is in the offing.
Each year in the town of Punxsutawney Pennsylvania, the so-called national groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil is taken out of his den for a time-honored ceremony. This year he saw his shadow. He did last year as well and there was a brutal winter in the US Northeast. A couple of geeks/wonks at the Washington Post  calculated the average daily temperatures during the six weeks after Groundhog Day for the past 30 years, comparing the temperatures in the years when Phil saw his shadow to those in the years he did not. By the analysis, weather records suggest that Phil was right more often than not in some cities, but the results basically come down to chance. Temperatures do not vary uniformly across the country, so Phil's predictions are bound to be right somewhere. There are other groundhogs who dispute Phil's special status. The New York version, known to his friends as Staten Island Chuck, disagreed with Phil this year. We shall wait and see and in the meantime raise a glass to the science of meteorology. Titan regrets that NASA/ESA did not send a groundhog with Cassini/Huygens.

OSCAR ROMERO MARTYR

Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez 1917-1980

 

 


The late  Archbishop of San Salvador was gunned down by right-wing death squads in 1980 while celebrating Mass. He had spoken out against repression by the Salvadoran army at the beginning of the country's 1980-1992 civil war between the right-wing government and leftist rebels. To the disgrace of the Church, his path to sainthood had been held up by the Vatican for years out of concern at his perceived association with liberation theology, the Latin American-inspired Catholic theology advocating for the poor. Now Pope Francis has declared him a martyr of the Church which puts him on the fast track to sainthood with the miracle requirement waived. The definition implies that he was killed because of hatred of the Church. In fact, he was killed because of his devotion to human rights, but even Pope Francis would not dare to say that out loud.  |An award in his name commemorates the martyrdom of Romero for his efforts to expose government corruption and to fight exploitation of the poor in El Salvador.  Initiated by the founder of the Rothko Chapel, Dominique de Menil, in 1986, the Oscar Romero Award is given to individuals or organizations in recognition of their unsung, heroic efforts in the area of  human rights. We note that this award  was given to our friend  and human rights activist colleague Ishai Menuchin.

THREE PARENT CHILD LAW PASSES IN UK 

The possibility of a child having DNA from three persons is about to become legal in Britain, pending only the approval of the House of Lords. It involves adding mitochrondial  DNA from a second woman and will help to prevent genetic diseases. The method, which was developed in Newcastle, should help women like Sharon Bernardi, from Sunderland, who lost all seven of her children to mitochondrial disease. Ms Bernadi said she was  "overwhelmed" by the decision.

Mitochondria are the tiny compartments inside nearly every cell of the body that convert food into useable energy. They have their own DNA, which does not affect characteristics such as appearance. Defective mitochondria are passed down only from the mother. They can lead to brain damage, muscle wasting, heart failure and blindness. The technique uses a modified version of IVF to combine the DNA of the two parents with the healthy mitochondria of a donor woman. It results in babies with 0.1% of their DNA from the second woman and is a permanent change that would be passed down through the generations.
Titan says cheers!

A NEW BOOK BY HARPER LEE 

In 1960 Harper Lee published a book, "To Kill a Mockingbird" that became one of the classic novels of the century. Since then, she has lived as a recluse and has published nothing. Now we are told that she is about to bring out a sequel to Mockingbird called "Go Set a Watchman." It was written before Mockingbird, but the manuscript was thought to have been lost. It has been found and will be published this summer. The book world is waiting for it impatiently.

RANTING ABOUT VACCINATION AGAIN 

It is becoming tiresome, but the vaccination debate does not seem to want to go away. Some idiot right wing politicians in the USA are lending support to the antivaxxers in total opposition to science. It is of course mainly pandering to the lunatic right, but it can cost lives, as we saw with the pertussis epidemic in Australia a few years ago.
Mike Luckovich Cartoon for Feb/04/2015

VIOLENCE HAS NO END

Titan is also fuming because of the endless violence that seems to have convulsed the Muslim world. The burning alive of a Jordanian pilot, the stabbing of French soldiers in Nice, the senseless killings by Boko Haram, the terror attacks in Iraq, Pakistan, wherever--there seems to be no end to it. This is despite the undisputed fact that prominent Islamic scholars worldwide have condemned terrorism as a heresy against Islam. The Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar University, the oldest seat of Islamic learning, Sheikh Muhammed Sayyed Tantawi, has repeatedly condemned terrorism. He said in the name of Islamic law, he rejected and condemned the aggression against innocent civilian people, regardless of whatever side, sect or country the aggression came from. Prominent scholars of Saudi Arabia, Shaykh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah bin Baz and Shaykh Uthaimeen, also condemned the terrorist attacks. Every other major scholar of Islam, has come out against the indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians. It is clear that these leaders have little or no control over the relatively small fraction of fundamentalist Muslims who are, by Islamic laws, guilty of the crime of hirabah (waging war against society). The execution of two convicted terrorists by the Jordanian government, as an act of retribution, does nothing to lessen the horror.

BOOK REVIEW

We have not had a book review for a while. Titan calls your attention to a new book about the Paris Commune.
Massacre: The Life and Death of the Paris Commune
by John Merriman
Basic Books, 327 pp., $29.99
What has become known as the Commune of Paris, the subject of John Merriman’s new book, Massacre, was the bloodiest urban revolution of the nineteenth century anywhere. Merriman likens it to the Saint Bartholemew’s Day massacre of Protestants in Paris in 1572 and to the Armenian massacre of 1915. During the Commune the working poor of Paris, instead of a religious or ethnic minority, were largely the victims.
paxton_1-021915.jpg
A barricade of the Communards at the corner of the Rue de Rivoli and the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville, Paris, April 1871 adoc-photos/Corbis

The book is reviewed in the Washington Post by Mary McAuliffe, the author of “Dawn of the Belle Epoque” and “Twilight of the Belle Epoque.”

If we are talking about books, Titan is pleased to note that Hilary Mantel, a writer whose work he greatly appreciates, is becoming a Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. It is a well deserved honor, although there is little love lost between Dame Hilary and the Royal Family, as described in the Daily Mail. Titan loved the first two volumes of her Thomas Cromwell historical novel and eagerly awaits the third, which will end, as we know with Thomas on the scaffold. Her comment on the Duchess of Cambridge, that she had been forced by palace officials to present herself as a ‘shop-window mannequin’ without personality whose main purpose was to breed, certainly did nothing to endear her to the royals. Congratulations Hilary and please get on with the Cromwell book you promised us.
 
Wolf Hall author Hilary Mantel, 62, is due to receive her damehood at Buckingham Palace tomorrow
Wolf Hall author Hilary Mantel, 62, is due to receive her damehood at Buckingham Palace tomorrow (Feb. 6)

HOME SWEET HOME

In Israel, we muddle on from scandal to scandal as the election draws nigh. We now have our seventh senior police officer under investigation for sexual harassment of women officers under his command and other forms of corruption. Six of them  have already stepped down and one might gain the impression that our men in blue have something on their so-called minds other than protecting us tax-paying citizens from the evil of wrongdoers. Shocking indeed. The rot goes quite high. Last week, reports said the police were looking into whether Deputy Police Commissioner Nissim Mor assaulted and harassed a woman who'd joined the police force only a few months earlier. The Justice Ministry says that the party is over.
Deputy Police Commissioner Nissim Mor (L) and Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino.
Deputy Police Commissioner Nissim Mor (L) and Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi


If coplibidogate were not enough, we also have bottlegate.
Wine bottles marked for recycling.
Wine bottles marked for recycling. Photo by Bloomberg
Sarah Netanyahu, the ever-loving spouse of our PM, has been accused of pocketing the refunds of bottle deposits from the official residence. The amount of money involved is trivial, but the question of integrity arises. We put out our deposit bottles for the local Thai or Chinese farm laborers to pick up, but our power behind the PM is more thrifty.  It now has come up that,  after she was called up for this practice and refunded the NIS 4000 involved, she continued to keep the deposit funds with or without the connivance of her driver. Stay tuned for the heavy dirt!

A much more serious matter is the use of government employees to monitor the statements and activities of opposition politicians. The prime minister’s bureau has for the past six years been using employees of the National Public Diplomacy Directorate’s information and communications technology department to monitor media reports about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political rivals, according to internal emails and conversations with current and past employees of the department. This is manifestly illegal and should and will be a subject of investigation by the Attorney General and other relevant authorities.

The election campaign is heating up. There is much discussion of the PM's invitation to address the US Congress without coordination with the White House. It has to some extent exploded in Netanyahu's face and certainly will not contribute to good US-Israel relations if, heaven forbid, Netanyahu is reelected. Clinton, when dealing with Netanyahu, once said "who is the f*#^ing superpower here?" Indeed, with the US Congress bought and paid for by the money of a few Jewish billionaires in the US, it is a good question.  Peter Beinart analyzes it very lucidly while Mike Luckovich has a good take on it.

Mike Luckovich Cartoon for Jan/25/2015


SILLY TIME

There is no new What If? for whatever reason. Instead we shall show you an old one that we cannot remember from the past.
What would the world be like if the land masses were spread out the same way as now - only rotated by an angle of 90 degrees?

—Socke
The answer is most interesting especially for Punxsutawney Phil and other meteorologists.

We shall also share some insight on the hubris of engineers and the price they pay to Murphy for it.

Engineering Hubris

When you go shopping there are sometimes bits of misunderstanding...

Dustin Cartoon for Feb/04/2015

especially about telephones:

Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Feb/04/2015

Friday, January 23, 2015

Titan rants and raves as usual

Mountains and Valleys on Titan with methane snow -180C Cassini image
Titan is back and is marching into the terrestrial northern hemisphere winter with a smile. His surface temperatures in winter or summer are in a totally different league.


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 United against Genocide. In the wake of what is happening around the world, Titan thinks that this charity, which has a high rating from Charity Watch, is most worthy of your support. It started out as Save Darfur, but since has expanded worldwide. We quote its mission statement:
"United to End Genocide is dedicated to preventing and ending genocide and mass atrocities worldwide by building a powerful, lasting movement of community activists, faith leaders, students, artists, investors and genocide survivors, and all those who believe we must fulfill the promise the world made following the Holocaust: “Never Again!”"  Please help out.
Act Now for Peace, Security and Accountability in Sudan
Refugee camp in Darfur


We, of course, always do our charity donations for the right reasons..
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Jan/14/2015

CARTOONISTS RESPOND TO THE PARIS ATTACKS


The attack on Charlie Hebdo sent shock waves everywhere, not least to the community of cartoonists around the world. A satirical cartoonist has to take risks and his satire has to bite and indeed offend if it is to convey a message. Even if Charlie Hebdo crossed the line of good taste, it had every right to do so and any individual offended could go to the courts for redress. Certainly a Kalachnikov is not the proper means of response. Titan also takes issue with the Pope. There is no reason to give religion and religious institutions a free pass. Yes, we can regard satire about religion as vulgar and tasteless, but it is worth tolerating it in order to avoid the slippery slope of censorship. which can start with protection of religion and end up with full repression of freedom of speech. As the Jewish Forward puts it in an editorial, even if the content of Charlie Hebdo is "Awful. Offensive. Unfair. Even, perhaps, dangerous. And all we can and should do is swallow hard and accept that this is the steep but worthy price of allowing free speech in an open society." Indeed Fox News falsely maligned the city of Paris and the mayor threatens to sue. She will have little chance of prevailing since municipalities in the US cannot sue even if the allegations are false. The US Supreme Court ruled thus in 1964 in the  case, New York Times v. Sullivan. Justice William Brennan Jr. wrote that the court had to protect “uninhibited, robust, and wide-open” public discussion, even if some of what was said was demonstrably wrong. “Erroneous statement is inevitable in free debate,” Justice Brennan suggested, and so “must be protected if the freedoms of expression are to have the breathing space that they need to survive.”
Titan agrees since the slope of censorship is indeed slippery. In Israel there is a draconian law, fortunately seldom enforced, criminalizing the act of "insulting a public servant," which is or course most antidemocratic. Now a social activist is being prosecuted under this law for unloading on a police officer on Facebook. Yes, better to allow tasteless, vulgar and even false discourse than to open the door to censorship by thin-skinned politicians and other functionaries with power.At the moment a satire series is running on state television in Israel in which the events and characters described in the Bible along with other events from Jewish history are parodied and ridiculed mercilessly. So far no one has been lynched. Those who know Hebrew are invited to see some of the episodes on youtube, where they are kept for 30 days after broadcast. The hilarious question and answer session that Moses conducted when he brought down the tablets with the Ten Commandments is as irreverent as can be. We also recall a comedy film The Pope Must Die in which the corruption in the Vatican is portrayed with gusto. It would be nice if Muslims and North Koreans would develop a sense of humor and some humility. Signe Wildenson uses a cartoon to get the point across.


Signe Wilkinson Cartoon for Jan/18/2015

TITAN RANTS ABOUT TIBET AND ARGENTINA 

In the final week of the year, three Tibetans burned themselves alive to protest China’s 56-year-long occupation of Tibet. This was the most concentrated burst of self-immolations in almost two years The brutality of the Chinese occupation and the total frustration of the younger generation of Tibetans, who no longer believe that the restraint policy of the Dalai Lama can do anything for them, have led to these acts of desperation.  It is alleged by the Tibetan Government in Exile that as many as 1.2 million Tibetans have died from Chinese actions. While this figure may be disputed, the truth is that Chinese rule has caused great distress to the Tibetan people and the influx of Han Chinese has made them a minority in their own country. To add further insult, Facebook refuses to allow graphic data on immolations to appear on its sites. We show you such an event (warning shocking graphic)


While Facebook claims to "be Charlie" its hypocrisy is apparent in its cozy relationship with the censors of China.

Something is indeed rotten in the state of Argentina and has been so for over two decades. In 1994, a suicide car bomber blew up the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires and killed 85 people. The perpetrators, Hezbollah with Iranian backing, have never been brought to justice and the Argentinean government has been colluding with Iran to maintain a coverup. The investigation was starting finally to move under the leadership of prosecutor Alberto Nisman. Now he is dead, found shot with a pistol alongside his body. He had filed a criminal complaint that that top Argentine officials, including President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, had conspired with Iran to cover up responsibility for the bombing as part of a deal that would supply Iranian oil to Argentina. He died one day before he was scheduled to testify and it is broadly believed that the government had something to do with his death. The Argentinean Jewish community is up in arms and rightly so.
 
Titan strongly suspects that powerful interests will prevent the original crime from ever being elucidated.

OPEN LETTER TO THE LEADERS OF THE WORLD 

Two critical United Nations summits will take place this year. The first will be in September, when  the world must agree on new goals to eradicate extreme poverty, tackle inequality and ensure a more sustainable planet. The second is the climate summit in December where we must ensure that the well being of people today does not come at the expense of our children's futures.
Malala Yousafzai. (photo: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA)
Malala Yousafzai. (photo: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA)
A large group of celebrity activists, such as Malala Yousafzai, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and many others have written an open letter to the world leadership with copies to all of us. Titan hopes that someone will listen.

KING, HESCHEL AND A MOVIE 

This month we are marking the Yahrzeit (death anniversary) of Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1973) and the birthday of Martin Luther King (1928-1968). Their lives were linked by their common commitment to human rights and human values. They marched together at Selma AL in 1965.

Heschel, second from right, King, fourth from right
Now a film has been made of the struggle of King for civil rights during that period. The film entitled "Selma" did not, for whatever reasons, get an Academy Award nomination and allegations of racism have been made. We hope to see the film when it is released for us. We link you to a review in Variety.


Mike Luckovich Cartoon for Jan/16/2015

THE POPE AGAIN MAKES SENSE 

Pope Francis has come out clearly on the side of responsible reproduction, while still supporting the traditional position on contraception. He says that people should be responsible in their family life and that "Catholics do not have to breed like rabbits."  Now we are told that he has clarified the comment on rabbits, presumably to avoid giving offense. 

A CRIMINAL GOES TO FACE JUSTICE 

Warrant for his arrest issued in 2005
Top Ugandan rebel commander Dominic Ongwen is being flown to The Hague to stand trial on war crimes charges.  We are all for it. We hope his boss Kony is found soon. We also note that both Uganda and the US, both of which are not supportive of the ICC, arranged this transfer.

PYRAMUS AND THISBE IN THE SAFARI PARK 

In the Safari Park in Ramat Gan, Israel there is a female porcupine, known to her friends as Dorit, who was orphaned as a young cub and adopted by the park. She has lived quietly with her friends the owls in an enclosure for the last eight years.
Heartthrob Dorit, the Ramat Gan Safari zoo's porcupine, who is still in her enclosure with her friends the owls. Photo by Tibor Jaeger
Now, Ruth Schuster, in Haaretz, tells us that Dorit has a suitor who comes at night and was discovered by his feces left behind (Thanks to Richard for calling this to our attention). The story contains a video of this Pyramus longing outside the fence, while Phisbe/Dorit languishes within. BTW, in Florida there is a law against having sex with a porcupine and a few Russian tourists found out the reason for the law the hard way. Poor souls, although it is hard to be sympathetic to idiots.

HOME SWEET HOME


TERROR ON A BUS 

A 22 year old Palestinian boarded a bus in Tel Aviv during the morning rush hour, armed with a knife, and began to attack the passengers, starting with the driver. The driver bravely resisted, but despite his efforts 13 people were injured, four of them seriously.

The attacker was apprehended by security people who happened to be nearby, as described in the linked article. This senseless act of terror and cruelty will do nothing to advance the cause of the people of Palestine nor will it do anything in Israel except possibly strengthen the arguments of those who claim that peace is not attainable and that only an iron hand over the Palestinian population can give us any hope of security. The celebration of the attack by Hamas (expected) and Fatah (who should know better) along with the silence of Abbas plays further into the hands of the right. Zahava Gal-on of Meretz, while strongly condemning the act,  says correctly that the way to deal with terror is to address the causes of the desperation that drives the terrorist. This is true both in Tel Aviv and in Paris.

ELECTIONS AND DRONE STRIKES

There  was a drone strike on Sunday in Syria that hit a convoy carrying Jihad Mugniyeh and commander Mohamad Issa, known as Abu Issa, in the province of Quneitra, near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, killing six Hezbollah members in all, a Hezbollah statement said. Iranian Revolutionary Guard Commander Mohammed Allahdadi was also killed. UN observers report that the drones came from Israel. It is not really clear to anyone what purpose  was achieved by raising tensions on the northern border. Haaretz strongly suspects that this is related to the poor state of the government parties in the forthcoming elections. There is no way to prove this, but Titan shares the suspicion, since military actions before elections are a time-honored or dishonored ploy of Israeli governments down through the years.

CORRUPTION SCANDALS 


The press has been ringing during the past few weeks with the revelations of the depth of corruption in the government and public institutions. Last month a scandal hit the Israel Beiteinu party of our Foreign Minister Lieberman who certainly has PM ambitions. The focus was on corrupt cronyism that worked via appointing people from the party to positions that entailed control over large sums of money that came from the government but were essentially undocumented. The person at the center of all this is Ms Faina Kirschenbaum, the Deputy Minister of the Interior. Titan discussed this in general terms in his last blog. Now much more has come out.
(Photo: Erez Biton, Aviel Uzi)
Photo: Erez Biton, Aviel Uzi)
The latest blast is the raids on the Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organization that has been channeling public funds into West Bank settlements and various associations connected with them. The budget of this body has magically grown by 600% in the past year and all efforts by parliamentarians to make the financial picture transparent have come to naught. Ms Stav Shaffir of the Labor Party, the youngest member of the Knesset has made valiant attempts to dig out the details of the shady transactions and has encountered stone walls.
She  gave an interview to Newsweek recently that tells the story in English. Frankly, many of us who approve of her struggle against corruption would be happier if she also gave some attention to the evils of the occupation. She must understand that social justice and proper governance cannot stop at the border and are not attainable as long as the occupation is in place. For the Hebrew speakers, we present a three minute speech by MK Shaffir in which she responds fiercely to the accusations of the religious right who claim that the left are not really Zionists.  Well done, lady.


HERO IGNORED IN ISRAEL, HONORED IN FRANCE

Lassana Bathily
Lassana Bathily holds his French Passport following a ceremony at which was awarded French nationality in Paris on January 20, 2015. Photo by AFP
During the attack on the Kosher Supermarket in Paris, six people were saved from death by the actions of Lassana Bathily, a young immigrant from Mali, who hid them in a freezer and then turned it off. The French government honored him by granting him French citizenship for which he had applied in the past. We in Israel, on the other hand, have ignored him. Kobi Niv, writing in Haaretz, attributes this to our innate racism. Had he been a white Christian, he would have been feted at the Knesset and given a vacation in Israel. Being Muslim and black, put him on the Israeli list of unworthy and untouchable. People. Forty years ago the UN General Assembly passed a resolution stating that Zionism equals racism. They later retracted it, but the statement, alas, in nonetheless true. Let us hang our collective head in shame.

SILLY TIME
What If? asks You are in a boat directly over the Mariana Trench. If you drop a 7kg bowling ball over the side, how long would it take to hit the bottom?

Doug Carter The answer is, as usual, interesting.

The Wizard does not understand that the issue is poverty and the poor girl cannot afford a dress with more cloth than the one she is wearing:


Wizard of Id Cartoon for Jan/21/2015

How Murphy was really brought up by his previous owners:
Non Sequitur Cartoon for Jan/14/2015