Saturday, October 18, 2014

Titan has seen the holiday season out

Hi says Titan
Titan is back with you again after a holiday season, during which we did our best to get the blogs out. Now that some semblance of normalcy has returned, you will be inflicted as usual.

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Nearly two years have gone by without Miriam and we continue to realize what we have lost. She got usinto 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.

Ebola information poster in Monrovia, Liberia - 16 October
Liberia has the greatest number of deaths
This week it is Titan's turn to promote a charity. His choice is dictated by the Ebola epidemic. A heavy rant on the incompetence of those who are supposed to be looking after our health and well being will appear below. The international NGO staffed by volunteers, Doctors without Borders, is bearing the main burden now since the governments and the UN have fouled up completely. Titan recommends MSF or Mercy Corps as the most effective way of helping in this huge crisis.

MSF is spread too thin and cannot deal with this on its own. Now, with the virus spreading beyond its control, the group is starting to buckle, according to Dr. Joanne Liu, a Canadian pediatrician and the international president of MSF. “It’s not possible for us to deploy more. This should not lie in the hands of a private NGO,” she says. “We used the words ‘unprecedented’ and ‘out of control’ in the spring. Nobody budged. If people had have been deployed right away, we would have prevented what is going on.”
Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images
Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images

What is going on is her idea of a worst-case scenario. Ebola is out of control in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone; official estimates say it has killed 4,447 and sickened 8,914 people. But the actual number of those infected is thought to be 2½ times higher, and it’s doubling every three to five weeks. Recent research puts the mortality rate at 70% To get it under control, about 70% of the sick need to be protected from contact with others. As of late last month, as few as 20% were being isolated in some areas. If the epidemic were to continue at the current rate, the World Health Organization (WHO) says there will be up to 10,000 new cases per week by December. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control predicts 1.4 million cases by early next year. Many others are dying of common ailments because hospitals are overwhelmed.. Please open a link, open your heart and open your wallet,

Titan is foaming at the mouth over the failure of the world to respond properly to the Ebola crisis. Now
evidence has emerged suggesting there are concerns inside the World Health Organization that it failed to respond adequately to the outbreak earlier this year.

The Associated Press news agency says it has obtained an internal draft document in which WHO officials acknowledge failing to appreciate the seriousness of the situation as the number of cases grew.

"Nearly everyone involved in the outbreak response failed to see some fairly plain writing on the wall," the document says, according to AP.

The memo blames a lack of information, and INCOMPETENT STAFF.

MSF warned last April that the spread of Ebola in West Africa was unprecedented and becoming uncontrollable - a position rejected at the time by the WHO.

The level of incompetence is in part a result of WHO’s appointment system in Africa. Heads of WHO country offices in Africa are “politically motivated appointments” made by the WHO regional director for Africa, Dr Luis Sambo, who does not answer to the agency’s chief in Geneva, Dr Margaret Chan, it said. As Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine told the Guardian last week: “What should be [the] WHO’s strongest regional office because of the enormity of the health challenges, is actually the weakest technically, and full of political appointees.”

The leaked document reveals that a teleconference in late April that included WHO, MSF and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention heard that some WHO experts were not bothering to send reports of Ebola cases to head office in Geneva.

WHO said it was “particularly alarming” that the head of its Guinea office refused to help get visas for an expert Ebola team to come in and $500,000 in aid was blocked by administrative hurdles.
In addition governments have severely cut WHO funding and the system is in real collapse. In the US, President Obama has appointed a Czar for the epidemic, possibly because of the failure of the Center for Disease Control to prepare properly and the incompetence shown in dealing with the case that surfaced in Texas.
 Mike Luckovich Cartoon for Oct/17/2014

On 8 August, the WHO director, Margaret Chan, finally declared Ebola an international public health emergency. There had been 1,711 cases and 932 deaths. “Countries affected to date simply do not have the capacity to manage an outbreak of this size and complexity on their own,” she said. She urged the international community to provide support.

Everybody now agrees this should have happened much earlier. As economic recession has impacted on wealthy countries, global spending rather than national has usually been cut – and public health has lost out to hospital treatment. The Ebola outbreak will eventually end but there will be another virus – whether flu, SARS or something we have not yet seen. Experts say that public health, and the WHO, need to be built up if we are to face down these regular threats to the entire planet.

It has come out that IS has enslaved members if the Yazidi sect whom it has captured. They even justify it
in their English language publication quoted in the Atlantic:

   " In the article, "The Revival of Slavery Before the Hour,"
    the magazine stated that "the enslaved Yazidi families are
    now sold by the Islamic State soldiers," adding that, "the
    Yazidi women and children were then divided according to
    the Shariah amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who
    participated in the Sinjar operations."

    Referring to the Yazidis as "pagans" and "infidels," the
    article said, "Their creed is so deviant from the truth
    that even cross-worshipping Christians for ages considered
    them devil worshippers and Satanists, as is recorded in
    accounts of Westerners and Orientalists who encountered
    them or studied them."

A Yazidi refugee camp in Dohuk, Iraq.
Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters
A detailed report on the actions of IS has been published by Human Rights Watch and makes hair-raising reading. The world must confront this movement quickly and decisively.

CONGRATULATIONS TO Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi for winning the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. It is noteworthy that she is Pakistani and he Indian, both heroes of the struggle for education and the rights of children. We quote the Nobel committee:

Showing great personal courage, Kailash Satyarthi, maintaining Gandhi’s tradition, has headed various forms of protests and demonstrations, all peaceful, focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain. He has  also contributed to the development of important international conventions on children’s rights.

Despite her youth, Malala Yousafzay has already fought for several years for the right of girls to education, and has shown by example that children and young people, too, can contribute to improving their own situations. This she has done under the most dangerous circumstances. Through her heroic struggle she has become a leading spokesperson for girls’ rights to education. 

The Nobel Committee regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism. Many other individuals and institutions in the international community have also contributed. It has been calculated that there are 168 million child labourers around the world today. In 2000 the figure was 78 million higher. The world has come closer to the
goal of eliminating child labour.

The struggle against suppression and for the rights of children and adolescents contributes to the realization of the “fraternity between nations” that Alfred Nobel mentions in his will as one of the criteria for the Nobel Peace Prize."

The Nigerian government has announced what it says is a truce with Boko Haram militants and a deal to free
more than 200 abducted schoolgirls. If this turns out to be true it will be some of the best news Nigerians have heard for decades and we shall all be glad for the Chibok girls and their families.

Titan is sad and dismayed at the news of the death of 39 people (and counting) on the the Annapurna
Circuit in Nepal, a key Nepali hiking route, after it was hit by major snowstorms and avalanches earlier this week.
Helicopters are helping rescuers high in the Himalayas as they search on for missing trekkers, with fears that more bodies lie beneath the snow. Nepal earns huge revenues from the tens of thousands of trekkers and climbers who flock to the Himalayas every year. It remains, however, a very poor country and the authorities
there have struggled to cope with the scale of this disaster.

Titan raises a toast to the Pope for his statement on homosexuality. Rabbis are trying to "cure" gay people. They could learn a lesson in humanity from Pope Francis.

Mike Luckovich Cartoon for Oct/16/2014

HOME SWEET HOME            
A detailed article in Haaretz tells us the sad story of the military and governmental incompetence, or rather idiocy, that lead to the debacle of the tunnels in the recent war in Gaza.
Hamas operatives inside an underground tunnel in Gaza on August 18, 2014. (Reuters)
The fact that no one has really investigated nor have any  heads  wearing brass hats rolled tells you all you need to know about our vaunted IDF. The poor grunts on the ground were sent in to destroy tunnels by their commanders without adequate training, equipment or intelligence briefings. We have a security cabinet that cannot find its way to the men's room without a GPS, a defense minister who lacks even half a brain and an officer class that represents decades of filtering in which any young person showing talent was effectively deterred from a military career by those to whom mediocrity is an ideal. We are cutting our education budget to buy new and expensive toys for these dolts, e.g. a $35 million aircraft for chasing stone throwers, while anything more complicated than arresting a nine year old or pillaging a Palestinian home is beyond their abilities.   The public who elect these people and adore the army are far more concerned with the price of a chocolate
pudding. Yes, people have the leaders that they deserve and want.

A Facebook post by an Israeli comparing the price of a chocolate pudding in Tel Aviv to its price in
Berlin went viral and generated a demo that more or less fizzled.
Milky (left), the pudding snack that has triggered a consumer protest.
Milky (left), the pudding snack that has triggered a consumer protest. Photo by Daniel Bar-On
Nonetheless, the cost of living in Israel is higher than it should be, mainly because of profiteering. In 2011 people took to the streets to protest social injustice, the government appointed a commission, a few young noisemakers became  members of the Knesset (parliament) and nothing changed. As far as blame for the prices in Israel is concerned, industry and marketers snipe at each other. It is not only in food. Titan needed a charger cable for his smartphone. Cellcom Israel charges NIS200 or $50. He bought it on Ebay from Hongkong for $6.95 including shipping. A car that sells for $20,000 abroad sells for more than double that in Israel and do not blame duty. When custom duties were dropped on US cars, the importers pocketed the difference and there was no advantage to the purchaser. Nonetheless, people are emigrating for more substantial reasons than the price of food. It has to do with the inequality of distribution of wealth and with the lies that the government feeds the people. Titan thinks that the people who insist on electing our leaders apparently want to be poor and to be ripped off by tycoons. To quote Nadav Eyal in Haaretz "Our leaders don’t understand that their empty slogans no longer work; that for Israel to remain the choice of Israelis, it needs to provide a return. But our leaders have no idea what that compensation should be." We might mention the costs of the Occupation, the settlements and as noted above the bloated military establishment. A country that has no political horizon can have no economic and social horizon. The hi-tech industry is innovative and lucrative, but every development is quickly sold off in a profitable exit and no mainstream employment is generated. Have another Milky.

Titan would like to call your attention to three shady episodes from the past. They include the illegal incarceration and enslavement of Arabs after the War of Independence (under the supervision of Holocaust survivors who knew the techniques), the theft of babies from families of immigrants from Yemen in the early days of the state and the odious role of British intelligence officers in fomenting the 1948 war. The first two are described by Amira Haas in Haaretz. The role of the British in 1947-48 was exposed by French intelligence and relayed to the Israelis as part of the French struggle against Britain in the postwar Middle East. The article by Meir Zamir in  Haaretz makes fascinating reading and shows how poorly the British government controlled its agents in the MidEast and how a rogue agent could have a huge effect. The bottom line "Like Gen. Charles de Gaulle, who blamed Britain for conspiring to evict France from the Levant, Ben-Gurion accused it of trying to sabotage the establishment of a Jewish state and secretly provoking an armed invasion by Arab states. Syrian and Britisdocuments uncovered in French archives confirm de Gaulle’s accusations and reinforce Ben-Gurion’s charges. These documents and French intelligence reports reveal that the British-Arabist secret agents, who engineered France’s eviction from the Levant in 1945, took similar steps to prevent the formation of a Jewish state in 1947-48."

Dr. Eyal Reinich in Africa Photo by Pupane Kamara
Titan says cheers for the doctors from Israel who are helping to fight Ebola. There is no official or
military team going out, but there are individuals who are volunteering We can be proud of our humanitarian doctors. The fight is not only against the virus, but against the superstitions and customs of the local people.


What If asks If you stripped away all the rules of car racing and had a contest which was simply to get a human being around a track 200 times as fast as possible, what strategy would win? Let's say the racer has to survive.
Hunter Freyer
The answer is creative and amusing.


Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Oct/12/2014


Dilbert Cartoon for Oct/16/2014

Dilbert Cartoon for Oct/17/2014

Dilbert Cartoon for Oct/18/2014

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Titan for Yom Kippur and Eid ul Adha

Titan is back and would like to wish all his Jewish readers a Chatima Tova, a positive inscription in the Book of Life and his Muslim friends Eid ul Adha Mubarak. May we someday celebrate our holidays in peace.

Titan had a chance to think a bit in synagogue and decided there must be more to life than revolving around Saturn. He liked a blog post by Rabbi Fink of the little synagogue on Venice beach, in which he raises the question of why we fast on Yom Kippur and gives a cogent answer in terms of everyone's internal tug-of-war between our material and spiritual selves.
 billing rate tug of war
Rabbi Mira at our Reform synagogue in Natanya called it the conflict between the nefesh/material and the neshama/spiritual. Titan also came across a bit of Talmud (Sanhedrin, 4) that impinges in his opinion on the reason for the importance of human rights in society. A translation to English follows for the Hebrew-challenged.

לפיכך נברא אדם יחידי בעולם, ללמד שכל המאבד נפש אחת, מעלים עליו כאילו איבד עולם מלא; וכל המקיים נפש אחת, מעלים עליו כאילו קיים עולם מלאומפני שלום הברייות, שלא יאמר אדם לחברו, אבא גדול מאביך.  ושלא יאמרו המינים, רשייות הרבה בשמיים.  להגיד גדולתו של מלך מלכי המלכים, הקדוש ברוך הוא, שאדם טובע מאה מטבעות בחותם אחד, וכולן דומין זה לזה, מלך מלכי המלכים הקדוש ברוך הוא טובע את כל האדם בחותמו של אדם הראשון, ואין אחד מהם דומה לחברו.  לפיכך לכל אחד ואחד לומר, בשבילי נברא העולם
Therefore the man was created singly, to teach that he who destroys one soul of a human being, the Scripture considers him as if he should destroy a whole world, and him who saves one soul, the Scripture considers him as if he should save a whole world. And also because of peace among creatures, so that one should not say: My grandfather was greater than yours; and also that the heretic shall not say: There are many creators in heaven; and also to proclaim the glory of the Holy One, blessed be He. For a human being stamps many coins with one stamp, and all of them are alike; but the King of the kings of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, has stamped every man with the stamp of Adam the First, and nevertheless not one of them is like the other. Therefore every man may say: The world was created for my sake.

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over a year and a half has  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.

This week Titan is referring you to the Mercy Corps who are active for people all over the world who are in tough situations.
It starts with you
South Sudan as a case in poit

Click on the link, read about them and choose a project to support.either monthly or a one-time donation. Titan is pleased to note that Charity Navigator awards them four stars for their responsible stewardship of donor funds and that 88% of their resources are used for programs

mount ontake

Japanese soldiers search on Mount Ontake on Saturday. Photograph: Reuters
Titan, Pollyanna and YandA express their sadness and dismay in the wake of the eruption of Mount Ontake in Japan. They applaud the courage and resolution of the rescue crews, both civilian and military who are braving the toxic fumes to search for bodies and survivors.

Titan and his crew salute the brave protesters in Hong Kong who are standing up to repression and have the courage to demonstrate for their rights in the face of a regime to which democracy in anathema.

We are all aware of the nature of the regime in China and the use it makes of torture as a routine way of repressing the populace. Titan is further outraged at the fact that they have turned their torture "industry" into a profitable business.
A report by two human rights groups says that more than 130 Chinese companies are involved in producing and selling equipment like electric shock wands and spiked batons. Robin Ballantyne/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
 Over 130 Chinese companies are involved in the production and trade of potentially dangerous law enforcement equipment – compared to only 28 a decade ago.
  •     28 Chinese companies involved in the export trade were advertising inherently cruel electric stun batons.
  •     7 Chinese companies openly advertise inhumane spiked batons for export.
  •     28 Chinese companies export  abusive restraint devices including heavy weighted leg cuffs and rigid restraint chairs.

There are detailed descriptions of the trade in the NYTimes and a joint press release by Amnesty International and Omega. The press release contains a link to the full 43 page document. The
conclusions-"Amnesty International and Omega are urging the Chinese authorities and those of all other countries to:
  •  impose an immediate ban on the production and trade of inherently abusive equipment
  •  immediately suspend or deny trade licenses for the supply of other equipment to law enforcement agencies and forces where there is a substantial risk the equipment will be used to commit or facilitate serious human rights violations
  • establish export control regulations and practices for the control of security and police equipment that can have a legitimate use but is easy to abuse
  • end all torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment, as well as the use of arbitrary force, and investigate all allegations of such acts to bring the perpetrators to justice."

Titan is revolted.

Titan is also outraged over the life sentence given to the Uighur scholar Ilham Tohti. The action drew a torrent of international outrage this week. President Obama called for his release, the European Union condemned the sentence as “totally unjustified,” and rights advocates said they could not recall a similarly harsh penalty for a prominent intellectual whose main offense, it appeared, was criticizing government policies. It appears that the government is coming down heavily on ethnic minorities.

Titan is shocked at the latest self-immolation of a Tibetan. A student, Lhamo Tashi, 22, set himself on fire in front of a police station in the western province of Gansu on Wednesday. This is the first such event in five months and the Chinese government is trying to prevent it from being well known. The repressive rule in Tibet is of course unmoved by such incidents--they really care not at all for world opinion. No matter what happens, we will continue to buy the junk the Chinese make to sell us.


Amira Hass
Haaretz correspondent Amira Hass. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
The Israeli journalist Amira Haas who has long been known as a fervent critic of the occupation and a supporter of human rights and the rights of the Palestinian people, was expelled from a conference at Bir Zeit University. This is stupid and ridiculous and does nothing for the cause of an independent Palestine or anything else besides the egos of a few idiots. Matthew Kalman puts it well in perspective. The universities in the West Bank are not producing graduates who can compete and perform in the modern world. The Palestinians do not need Israel to put them down, they do a very good job on themselves.

On a recent El Al flight from New York to Tel Aviv, takeoff was delayed because ultra orthodox Jewish men refused to sit next to women who were not their wives, mothers or sisters. Most of them stood in the aisle for the duration of the flight which caused major discomfort for the other passengers. They offered money to people to swap seats, but couples traveling together would have none of it. One female passenger described her trip as: “an 11-hour-long nightmare”. The plane did arrive in time for the Rosh Hashana holiday. Titan thinks it was most improper of the airline to allow female passengers to be bullied by these thugs sent, presumably by God, to preserve morals. There is a petition to El Al calling on the airline to protect its female passengers. El Al is refusing to establish a policy in these matters. Titan advises people  simply to find another airline, that does not kowtow to male chauvinism, in any guise, nor hires war criminals from the Air Force to fly its aircraft.

This question has been bouncing around the punditsphere for quiet a while, especially since the
Gaza war. Jonathan Freedman writing in the NYRB and Anthony Lerman in the NYTimes believe that the day is approaching when liberal Zionists will have to choose between these two values. Others disagree, such as Carlos Strenger in Haaretz and Bernard Avishai in The New Yorker, while Uri Misgav asks how we can continue to live here and maintain a moral sense.
Israeli soldiers man a checkpoint in Hebron on June 15, 2014
Israeli soldiers man a checkpoint in Hebron on June 15, 2014, as Israel imposed a tight closure of the town. Photo by AFP
The option of emigrating does not exist for most Israeli Jews and can be regarded as a moral copout. In truth, if you look around the world, you can see that there is no country where democracy is not severely flawed. It is clear that the left has a heavy struggle before it.

The High Court of Israel ruled recently that the detention facility in Holot was unconstitutional and must be closed within 90 days. The government tried to ignore the decision, but was caught in the act by investigative reports of Haaretz and stopped sending people there. The issue of the treatment of asylum seekers, mostly refugees from war zones in Africa is a blot on our conscience. Aeyal Gross in Haaretz points to a ray of hope.

Medical team in Sierra Leone (Photo: AP)
Medical team in Sierra Leone (Photo: AP)
Israel was asked to send a medical team to West Africa to help with the Ebola crisis. The request, made in light of the success of such teams in Haiti, the Philippines and Japan, came from the US and the UN. The Foreign Ministry was in favor since it would help Israel's international image, but the Defense Minister Yaalon vetoed it on grounds of the danger of infection. We are a light unto the nations indeed.


What If? asks: What if everything was antimatter, EXCEPT Earth?

Sean Gallagher

The answer is not good news, but fortunately the universe is made up of matter.

Wumo show how it is possible to be vague on the concept. Link only as usual because they scare us with their warnings.

Titan feels empathy for our Cynthia. There are times when even Titan does not feel grumpy, especially when Cassini comes around to chat. His first real visitor Huygens appears to be in a coma of some kind, alas.
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Sep/29/2014


Friday, September 19, 2014

Titan winds down 5774

Titan is back and would like to wish a Happy New Year to his Jewish friends and readers. Pollyanna will try to get her blog out on Wednesday next week because we are all in synagogue either on a Titan lake or in Natanya during the holiday. Titan is also scratching his head about the mystery of the missing lithium in the universe. The abundance of element 7 is about one-third of what it should be according to calculations based on Big Bang abundances of elements. Recent results from the European Southern Observatory show that other galaxies share the deficit found in our Milky Way.
An image of globular cluster M54 taken by the Very Large Telescope Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in northern Chile. Credit: ESO
An image of globular cluster M54 taken by the Very Large Telescope Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory’s Paranal Observatory in northern Chile. Credit: ESO

Titan had thought that the problem had been solved years ago by Andreas Korn of Uppsala University in Sweden and colleagues in Denmark, France and Russia who concluded that the lithium diffuses over time into the stars' hot interiors, where it is then burnt up (Nature 442 657). Now it appears that the problem is more complicated. Either modifications of BBN (Big Bang nucleosynthesis) calculations, or a combination of atomic diffusion plus a suitably tuned additional mixing during the main sequence, need to be invoked to solve the discrepancy (MNRAS 2014Volume 444, Issue 2 Pp. 1812-1820).The diffusion is understood, but no plausible mixing mechanism has been proposed or found yet, which leaves the mystery in place.
In other science news, a landing place for  the Philae probe has been chosen on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Good luck friends!
Context image showing the location of the primary landing site for Rosetta’s lander Philae. Site J is located on the head of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. An inset showing a close up of the landing site is also shown. The inset image was taken by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on 20 August 2014 from a distance of about 67 km. The image scale is 1.2 metres/pixel. The background image was taken on 16 August from a distance of about 100 km. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA
Context image showing the location of the primary landing site for Rosetta’s lander Philae. Site J is located on the head of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. An inset showing a close up of the landing site is also shown. The inset image was taken by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on 20 August 2014 from a distance of about 67 km. The image scale is 1.2 metres/pixel. The background image was taken on 16 August from a distance of about 100 km. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over a year has 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.

IMC team in Sierra Leone
This week Titan is referring you to the International Medical Corps. They are top rated by Charity Watch and are active in fighting Ebola, disease in refugee camps around the world and many other areas. International Medical Corps was founded by Dr. Robert Simon, who, as a young emergency-room physician at UCLA Medical Center, was moved to take action after reading of the tragic plight of the Afghan people as a result of the 1979 Soviet invasion and subsequent occupation. All but 200 of the country’s 1,500 doctors had been executed, imprisoned, or exiled, and all relief agencies had been ordered out of the country, leaving ill and injured civilians, pregnant women and developing children with essentially nowhere to turn for basic health care. He found that no one was acting, so he founded a new group. Titan quotes from the mission statement:"Established in 1984 by volunteer doctors and nurses, International Medical Corps is a private, voluntary, nonpolitical, nonsectarian organization. Its mission is to improve the quality of life through health interventions and related activities that build local capacity in underserved communities worldwide. By offering training and health care to local populations and medical assistance to people at highest risk, and with the flexibility to respond rapidly to emergency situations, International Medical Corps rehabilitates devastated health care systems and helps bring them back to self-reliance." Please click on the donation tab and help out.

RANTS AND RAVES (with the aid of some cartoonists)
CLIMATE CHANGE AND HYPOCRISY Our planet is going to hell in a basket with our aid and abetting and we all are trying to look the other way. Naomi Klein writing in the Guardian points out what our collective denial and the hypocrisy of the capitalist moguls who walked the road to Damascus and then suddenly had second thoughts has brought about. She gives the phenomenon an appropriate name, "greenwashing" and lists for us Branson ($3bn promised in 2006, $230m spent), Gates and others.
Months After BP Oil Spill
Oil is deposited along dead marsh land near Bay Jimmy in Port Sulphur, Louisiana, in January 2011, 10 months after the spill. The clean-up is ongoing. Photograph: Getty Images
Titan gives you a quote from her long article (you must read it all):"The idea that only capitalism can save the world from a crisis it created is no longer an abstract theory; it's a hypothesis that has been tested in the real world. We can now take a hard look at the results: at the green products shunted to the back of the supermarket shelves at the first signs of recession; at the venture capitalists who were meant to bankroll a parade of innovation but have come up far short; at the fraud-infested, boom-and-bust carbon market that has failed to cut emissions. And, most of all, at the billionaires who were going to invent a new form of enlightened capitalism but decided, on second thoughts, that the old one was just too profitable to surrender." Something to think about. For some perspective, August was the hottest August on record.  
Paul Krugman in the NYTimes points out that fighting climate change can be both cheap and free.

While the West and its Arab vassals try to figure out how to deal with the Islamic State, some voices are being heard to the effect that a major ground action led by the US and NATO is probably just what the jihadis are trying to provoke. Steve Weissman, in Reader Supported News, makes the point that the blood-thirsty “fools of God” need to be seen defending their people against a Western invasion, which is precisely what Obama gives them. He argues that the US should learn the lessons of the past  folly of covertly using Islamic groups, whether to protect Big Oil, drive the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan, or fight the Croats and Serbs in Bosnia, where the CIA flew in al-Qaeda militants from Azerbaijan. In all these cases, the US created a monster it could not control. Cutting off your nose to get what you think is a good result is not always optimum as Mike Luckovich tells us so graphically.
Mike Luckovich Cartoon for Sep/14/2014

Indeed it is hard to understand the Obama strategy for dealing with the IS and maybe, as he told us a few weeks ago, he has none.Michael Ramirez Cartoon for Sep/04/2014
This tactic certainly will not work:Signe Wilkinson Cartoon for Sep/14/2014
Chelsea Manning writing in the Guardian from her prison in the US suggests on the basis of her experience as an analyst that the best thing the West could do would be to apply containment and then wait for the IS to fall on its own sword.In her opinion, without the impetus of fighting the West, the IS will disintegrate and be torn apart by internal tensions. Maybe. In the meantime, let us hope that the US does not tear itself apart, as noted by Luckovich...

Mike Luckovich Cartoon for Aug/28/2014              
It appears that  the Scots have decided not to tear the UK apart.  The good news is that single malt scotch will still be available. This is not a joke.  Whisky is Scotland's second-largest export behind oil and gas and is worth £4.3bn a year to the local economy. Stephen Colbert was for independence for Scotland:


No means No! Rush Limbaugh made the following outrageous statement this week:: “[According to Ohio State policy,] consent must be freely given, can be withdrawn anytime, and the absence of "no" does not mean "yes." How many guys, in your own experience with women, have learned that no means yes if you know how to spot it?... Are these [policies] not lawsuits waiting to happen? ” -- Rush Limbaugh. This is advocacy of a culture of rape. Over 40 years ago an Israeli song writer Dan Almagor innocently wrote a song about flirting that by implication pushed the same idea, that no can mean yes. He has since retracted and apologized and we believe that he was not consciously advocating rape, although the song is certainly not acceptable by today's standards and should not have been written then. (BTW, he wrote a song about Venezuela that claimed that the Orinoco flowed into the Amazon,which is pure rot. A whole class screwed up a high school geography final exam because of him. Imagine a young Israeli backpacker, lost on the Orinoco looking for the Amazon...) If you live in the US, click and call for sponsors to drop Limbaugh.

The man who invented the pop-up ad,
the most hated thing on the Web, is apologizing. You might find the story interesting. There is also a link to his essay and some ideas about how the Web could be different and our privacy better protected.

There is a misguided belief that homosexuality is a medical or psychological condition that can be
removed by various means. We all know of the scandalous "rape therapy" used in South Africa and other places to "cure" lesbian women. Now that the last gay therapy place in the US, Exodus International has closed its doors, with its leaders offering apologies for their actions, it is worthy to recall what atrocities were committed in the name of such "therapy" such as electroshock to genitals etc. Orthodox Jewish organizations in the US are protesting the laws outlawing such "therapy" but they will get nowhere. In Israel, over the past few years the religious population in Israel also started  publicly to cope with the existence of gays and lesbians in their midst and with the appropriate ways to deal with it. Two organizations are famously known for dealing with conversion therapy in Israel: “HOD” (stands for ‘Homoim Datiyim”- religious gays), is an organization founded five years ago by Rabbi Ron Yosef, 38 and gay himself, in order to fight “Atzat Nefesh” (‘Soul Advice’), an organization established in 2001, which presents itself online as the "center for assistance and training for sexuality, identity and addiction. ” Ex-gay women are totally absent from the Israeli debate on the subject, and according to “Bat Kol”, a religious lesbians organization, only a few have experienced such treatment. - Read more . Those who have tried this therapy have had generally negative results and the Israel Psychological Society has taken a firm stand against it.

Noam Sheizaf has come out with a provocative and important post on +972 in which he proposes that
the progressive community in Israel stop beating its head against the wall for the two-state solution that is for the moment unattainable and refocus its energies on civil rights for the Palestinians. His proposed solution is to replace the diplomatic process with a civil rights struggle, to break the occupation into pieces, and deal with each one of them:
  • The fact that Palestinians do not enjoy freedom of movement. 
  • The fact that they have been tried in military courts for almost half a century. 
  • The limits on their freedom of speech and their right to freely assemble.
  • The lack of proper detainee rights (including minors). 
  • The disrespect for their property rights, and, of course, their lack of political rights.
It is an innovative idea and worthy of consideration. Certainly there is no political will in the power structure of Israel to move towards peace and a diplomatic settlement nor is there any real interest in peace on the part of the public.

IDF Unit 8200
Graduates of Unit 8200, the IDF's technological spearhead. Photo by Moti Milrod
In the Israeli army there is a unit called 8200 which is the main intelligence gathering entity of the system. It is an elite unit and its soldiers and officers are chosen for their ability and intelligence, to say nothing of their loyalty. It was, therefore, a severe shock to the system when forty three reservists including officers sent an open letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and top military officials, saying they would refuse to do reserve service because of Israel's `political persecution' of the Palestinians.

"We, veterans of Unit 8200, reserve soldiers both past and present, declare that we refuse to take part in actions against Palestinians and refuse to continue serving as tools in deepening the military control over the Occupied Territories." the soldiers said in the letter, which was also addressed to IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, the head of the Military Intelligence Directorate.

The 43 unit members who signed the letter, some of whom serve in the reserves, say that the information that is gathered and stored in the army’s systems “...harms innocent people. It is used for political persecution and to create divisions within Palestinian society by recruiting collaborators and driving parts of Palestinian society against itself.” The unit spies on the personal lives, sexual activities and relationships of Palestinians in order to blackmail them into becoming collaborators with the Occupation. It should also be a matter of concern to people in the US that the NSA passed on raw surveillance data on US citizens to 8200.

Titan salutes these people who are very brave and will pay a price. The difference between them and Anat Kamm who served prison time in Israel for exposing war crimes and people like Assange, Snowden and Manning (who is serving a 35 year sentence) is that the actions against the US actually resonated and caused changes. In Israel, which in some ways is very similar to North Korea, the Army is a sacred cow wallowing in corruption and evil and no one has the courage to slaughter it. The docile press that eats out of the hand of the  army was quick to condemn the mutiny, with the exception of Haaretz and a surprising article on YNET.  Gideon Levy compares 8200 to the Stasi with full justification. Avraham Burg writing in Haaretz also praises the rebels and shames those of us in the progressive camp who throw up their hands as the bad guys keep winning.
"We must never, but never, give up. One may not surrender even when the forces of evil seem like they are gathering strength and power, and the forces of good are in shamed retreat. Enormous, herculean strength is not always required to defeat the well-oiled, powerful machine. Sometimes all it takes is the courage of a few individuals – like the alumni of Unit 8200. Discussion about their letter ought to go far beyond the act itself. It touches two very sensitive places in Israel: the place of the army, and that of conscience, in our lives. The bottom line, as of now, is that the army takes up a place in our lives that is too large, even total, while almost no room is left here for conscience. That is why the disobedience of the intelligence and surveillance troops contributes something toward a different balance in the equation of Israelis’ lives: less militarism and more conscience." 
Titan could not agree with you more, Dr. Burg. As Martin Luther King said, the three evils that destroy a society are racism, militarism and materialism. We are well supplied with all three.

The High Court of Israel has just rejected a petition against a law that allows communities to filter the people who come to live in them by criteria set up by the community itself. The law was passed, as we all know, to perpetuate housing segregation against Arabs. The petitioners argued that the law would allow these communities to reject homosexuals, people with disabilities, Arabs or anyone else who differed from the community’s social norm. Since both Israeli and international law prohibit discriminating against someone just because he differs from the dominant social group, they said, that makes the law unconstitutional. Since the Chief Justice himself lives in a West Bank settlement and is, therefore, a de facto war criminal, one should not be surprised by such racism at the highest judicial levels. We can recall times when certain neighborhoods in cities in North America were off-limits for Jews, Orientals, blacks, Hispanics etc. Civil rights legislation eliminated all that, but in Israel Jim Crow is alive and well. The Onion has published a practical guide to racism that our justices might have read or written.
Click here to view larger image

We had an obituary for Joan Rivers when she died. We would like to share the lovely way the New Yorker said farewell to her along with a memorial post by Mike Luckovich:
Mike Luckovich Cartoon for Sep/05/2014  


What If? asks My 12-year-old daughter is proposing an interesting project. She is planning to attach a number of helium balloons to a chair, which in turn would be tethered by means of a rope to a Ferrari. Her 13-year-old friend would then drive the Ferrari around, while she sits in the chair enjoying uninterrupted views of the countryside. Leaving aside the legal and insurance difficulties, my daughter is keen to know the maximum speed that she could expect to attain, and how many helium balloons would be required.

Phil Rodgers, Cambridge, UK

Randall starts with: "Note to police: If you've recently taken into custody two unidentified underage drivers, a stolen Ferrari, and a bunch of helium balloons, the person you're looking for is Phil Rodgers in Cambridge, UK."  The answer is not encouraging to the young lady, but Randall offers an alternative.

We once had a colleague who could not find the any key nor turn off
his MAC. They are among us.
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Sep/18/2014

Any of you who have memories of being bullied in school or elsewhere will appreciate this bit from SMBC:

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Titan is ranting again

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.
Airglow, Gegenschein, and Milky Way
Image Credit & Copyright: Yuri Beletsky (Las Campanas Observatory, Carnegie Institution)
Explanation: As far as the eye could see, it was a dark night at Las Campanas Observatory in the southern Atacama desert of Chile. But near local midnight on April 11, this mosaic of 3 minute long exposures revealed a green, unusually intense, atmospheric airglow stretching over thin clouds. Unlike aurorae powered by collisions with energetic charged particles and seen at high latitudes, the airglow is due to chemiluminescence, the production of light in a chemical reaction, and found around the globe. The chemical energy is provided by the Sun's extreme ultraviolet radiation. Like aurorae, the greenish hue of this airglow originates at altitudes of 100 kilometers or so dominated by emission from excited oxygen atoms. The gegenschein, sunlight reflected by dust along the solar system's ecliptic plane was still visible on that night, a faint bluish cloud just right of picture center. At the far right, the Milky Way seems to rise from the mountain top perch of the Magellan telescopes. Left are the OGLE project and du Pont telescope domes.
Titan is back and wants to share a view of air glow, gegenschein and the Milky Way.   Usually air glow is subvisible, so it is nice to have a chance to see it.

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over a year and a half 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.

This week Titan is referring you to Oxfam Unwrapped. It is a way of giving gifts to your friends and family who have everything. How it works: You choose one of the exciting gifts from the Oxfam Unwrapped catalog. A personalized card goes to you or your friend or loved one – it shows how your gift is making a real difference. Your donation turns into a gift for those who need it most. From water jugs to school books to goats, all Oxfam Unwrapped gifts benefit those living in poverty.
Selina, the benificiary of a goat from Oxfam Unwrapped
When we bought Maya a goat in Botswana for her 18th birthday, her father, who is not an animal fan, heard her telling her friend on the phone "...Grandpa bought me a goat." He was not amused by the idea until explanations were made.

IN MEMORIAM  Joan Rivers, 1933-2014.
Comedian Joan Rivers poses next to her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame,July 26, 1989.
Comedienne Joan Rivers poses next to her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame,July 26, 1989. Photo by AP
The great comedy star has just died in New York. She broke into comedy when women were still very much marginalized  and paved the way for the generation that followed her. Her mastery of the acid one-liner never wavered in a career that spanned five decades. We always enjoyed her style and quick wit. Full obituaries are in the NYTimes and the Guardian.

We are enraged by the report of the beheading of another American journalist

 and by the reported beheading of a Kurdish man.

In the meantime, the world's leaders dither in Wales. HARRY TRUMAN, WHERE ARE YOU WHEN WE NEED YOU? The lessons of the Rhineland and of Munich seem to have been forgotten. A dictator like Putin or the self-styled Caliph of Iraq and Syria Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a.k.a. Caliph Ibrahim
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.(Reuters / Social Media Website)
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.(Reuters / Social Media Website)
 or the leader of the the Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau
The leader of the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has praised militants in Iraq

 --any one of them can apparently test the resolve of the West and win. The silly media are busy with the suit that Obama wore to his press conference or the hacking of a few nude photos of some movie stars. A few sounds of potential action are starting to be heard, but do not hold your breath.

Since the Fukushima meltdown over three years ago, the situation there has been getting worse. Now we are told that a similar danger exists in California. A large reactor is sitting on a recently discovered major fault at Diablo Canyon, near Avila Beach in San Luis Obispo County, California.
Diablo Canyon

The government is doing very little and the public is not being made aware of the danger. Read more and shudder. Fukushima itself is not being managed properly in the aftermath of the disaster and another significant earthquake in Japan could devastate North America and eliminate Japan as a habitable place.

The guns have fallen silent, but nothing is happening to indicate that anything is being done to prevent a replay of this story in two years or so. The most recent blow to the prospects of peace is  the land grab that was called a "proper Zionist reaction" to the killing of the three boys. Never mind that this is a collective punishment of the Palestinians which is forbidden by the Geneva Convention. It is designed to put to rest forever any hope of a territorial compromise or reasonable borders for a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel. We are also cutting ourselves off from the world and even from Jewish communities that are getting fed up. Of course, we do have our knee-jerk supporters who think that the word of God comes from Natanyahu's press office, such as Rabbi Block who dropped the NYTimes because it was not pro-Israel enough.

In truth, as said long ago by Cicero, one should not blame the political leaders, but the stupid masses who elect them. Yossi Sarid has it right, the masses are asses. Of course, while democracy is indeed a bad way to run things, all others that have been tried are worse. In the meantime, we slide down our moral slope to hell, as well put by Bradley Burston, Mordechai Kremnitzer and Asher Schechter.   The human rights organization B'tselem tried to broadcast a list of names of Gazan children killed and was denied. The Supreme Court held up the denial. It seems that universal humanity is not an Israeli value  and cannot be tolerated. The future is bleak.
Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, July 15, 2014.
FILE PHOTO: Palestinians inspect the rubble of a destroyed building after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, July 15, 2014. Photo by AP

There will be no intervention from outside because the Europeans have their own problems and the US Congress has been properly bribed. We march on to the  apartheid state that our right wing and religious leaders wish to impose on us. Have a nice week.

A woman, Avital Rokach, complained to the police that her ex-husband was threatening her. He was arrested and released by court order with restrictions. A few days later, Rokah's son called police to warned them of fears that the ex-husband might attack his mother. Officers were deployed to the house and advised her to go to a shelter for battered women, Israel Police said. She declined and her body was found last Thursday with stab wounds in all parts of her body in an entrance to a residential building in Jerusalem. We quote her son Laor: "We went to the police station; we asked how it is possible that he is being released. Last Thursday I tried to talk to the police. I called several call centers. I kept on being transferred. No one was answering, no one was talking. I was treated with indifference and we could not understand whether the discussion would take place or not".

"On Saturday evening, after we arrived at the police station and were told that he had been released, the police station chief said that it was the judge's decision and that his hands were tied"
, the son added, wondering: "How could it be that a judge releases a man like that who bought an ax and knives and who threatened to murder? He has a criminal record and he had a restraining warrant against him before, which he violated".

Titan thinks that both the judge and the police have blood on their hands.


What If? asks: People sometimes say "If I had all the money in the world ..." in order to discuss what they would do if they had no financial constraints. I'm curious, though, what would happen if one person had all of the world's money?

Daniel Pino

Rather discouraging reply--Titan would settle for 1 billionth of it and in large notes please.

We feel empathy for Grandpa
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Sep/04/2014

The search for intelligent life in the universe goes on. It would be nice if we could find it on Earth.
The Search