Saturday, March 26, 2011

Titan is Back

It would be nice to be this kind of demonstrator and maybe there is such a place on the planet.


In 1938 a very wealthy American decided to retire and enjoy peace and quiet in the South Pacific.  He set up a lovely retirement estate on an island named  Guadalcanal.    For myself, when the cabinet in New Zealand resigned because the All Blacks had lost in the World Cup rugby semi-finals, I thought it might be a place for relaxation and tranquility  I forgot about the Pacific Ring of Fire.  Obviously, there are no really safe or quiet places on our planet and we just have to deal with things as they are where we are.

Last week the normally optimistic Pollyanna blog had to deal with the real world and she had very little to be glad about. This week we are back to the nasty Titan blog and it has plenty to be nasty about. It is hard to decide where to start. For the Libyan war, the best I can do is to refer you to the excellent coverage by the  BBC and their continuously updated live news site. Ghaddafi continues to harangue his people and promise eventual victory, which is amazing.

I can only hope that the coalition of forces confronting Ghaddafi can hold together until he is eliminated from power one way or the other. There is no guarantee that all or any of the revolutions sweeping the Arab world, in fact the world in general, if we look at China and other places ready to blow up, will indeed lead to the type of liberal democracy that we hold dear as a sacred value. One can never predict how such events will evolve, when they will explode and what will trigger them. We do well to expect the unexpected as Rebecca Solnit points out in this interesting essay.   In the meantime, it appears that the help from the air is not enough to enable the rebels to win since their forces are poorly trained and inadequate.

I apologize to anyone who was frustrated last week in trying to open the report from Japan by my colleague Nick Schneider. It has been published on the Planetary Society blog whose link is on the right of this text and you can get it there. I also circulated it on Facebook and Twitter and sent it to my regular readers. In the meantime, the nuclear reactors are still a cause for grave concern. The water in Tokyo is unfit for babies and the danger of real calamity still exists. The question of  nuclear safety is a major issue and if you have politicians sitting in the pockets of the nuclear utility industry, as was true during the Bush (both) years, you have a recipe for disaster.

As Japan struggles to to recover from its disaster , another earthquake, smaller at 6.8, struck near the Thai-Burma border.

More than seventy  people are dead and the toll may yet rise. I fear that in Israel we are ill prepared for an earthquake despite our proximity to a major fault.

Four days after the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, a local newspaper in Sendai - the city closest to the quake's epicenter - reported there had been 40 incidents of theft and looting since the disaster.  When you think of the tsunami-devastated conditions, that number is pretty low. Many shops were left unattended. There was an almost total blackout, but there was hardly any crime reported. I recall visiting the Miami area after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and there  great looting was reported.  It tells you something about their society. To be fair, it is also true that there was almost no looting in Iowa when the Mississippi flooded in 1993 nor in Winnipeg when the Red River overflowed its banks in 1997. I think this is indicative of societal cohesion 

There has been much talk about radiation dangers including putting tap water  off limits for Tokyo infants. I would like to post a link to a radiation danger chart posted on the xkcd site. It is for information only, but it is illuminating and helpful.

I am calling your attention to the mpending execution of a mentally impaired person in Arizona. Daniel Cook is due to be executed on April 5 after 23 years on death row. The lead prosecutor from the 1988 trial has said that he would not have sought the death penalty if he had known about Daniel Cook’s background of severe
childhood abuse and mental disorders. Please urge Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to grant clemency in this case. It only takes a few clicks and you may save a life

It is always especially discouraging to see evidence of racism and  discrimination  in EU countries that claim to bear the banner of human rights for all of us. I am calling your attention to the question of access to clean water by the Roma population of Slovenia. We hear much about the water problems in Africa and indeed they are severe, but it certainly should not be happening in Europe. Amnesty International is starting  a campaign on housing and water access in Slovenia.

The paranoid fear of revolution that drives the Chinese leadership is causing them to crack down even more strongly on all forms of dissent. Human rights defenders are being persecuted and the government appears impervious to any outside influences.and the status of human rights continues to deteriorate.

Here in Israel it is hard to know where to start. We have long range rockets falling on cities in the South, a bomb attack in Jerusalem that took a life and wounded many, our ex-president has just been sentenced to seven years in prison for rape and other sex crimes.and fascist anti-democratic laws are being passed.

Of course, we start with the bomb attack. One woman was killed and at least three dozen people were injured when a bomb exploded in central Jerusalem.When we couple this with the murderous attack at Itamar that we reported on last week in the Pollyanna blog and the  escalation of fire and rocket exchanges in the South, we see that there is a concerted effort being made by someone to torpedo any chance of getting serious negotiations under way between us and the Palestinians. One must ask cui bono? Certainly not Israel and if indeed the start was the Itamar murder spree. it is most probable that Hamas and its attendant bodies such as Jihad are behind it. Sources in Islamic Jihad claim that Palestinian security forces in the West Bank have  arrested two of its members in Jenin.   The two, Khaled Jaradat and Tarek Kaadan, were arrested in the wake of Israel's claims that the organization is responsible for the terror attack in Jerusalem. This indicates that the Fatah was not behind the attack and is interested in cooling down the violence.  In the meantime, the army in its search for the Itamar culprits victimized the village of Awarta during a five day curfew.

Then we have our beloved ex-president who was sentenced this week. The stiff punishment contrasts with very mild actions of the courts in such cases in the past and sends a signal that women are not fair game for any oversexed bigwig. General Yitzhak Mordechai, who also had served as Defense Minister, was convicted on  sexual offense charges several years ago and got off very lightly. In March 2001, the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court convicted Mordechai of indecent acts .and let him  off with an 18-month suspended sentence. I regard the sentencing of Katzav as a major step forward for society at large and women in particular, especially at this time when gender segregation  is applied in public transportation, albeit illegally. Indeed the Supreme Court has ruled that segregation cannot be enforced except "voluntarily" but Orthodox women are vulnerable to pressure. So kudos to the Tel Aviv District Court.

The Knesset has just passed  two laws that are designed to strike a mortal blow at our democracy. One allows small communities to screen prospective new residents and the other outlaws the marking of the Nakhba, the memory of the catastrophe that hit the Arab community with the establishment of the State of Israel. It has also passed or is considering other laws that would put an end to our democracy altogether. It is just a question of time before all dissent is quashed and the true face of our establishment will be disclosed to the world. The fear of delegitimazation comes from people who lack confidence in the legitimacy of Israel and they are the danger. The dissidents, such as   Women in Black to which my daughter   Zohar belongs, show that democracy still exists. This film in Hebrew shows what I mean.

Dissidents have no need to apologize.

Let us wind up with something about what makes us tick as scientists.  Click on the strip to enlarge it.

No comments:

Post a Comment