Saturday, December 31, 2011

Titan wishes all a Happy New Year

Titan too came back from California all full of nice experiences and tons of jet lag.  For this blog he decided to pose with little Dione on the background of the Kronian rings


Wispy Star Moon

Saturn's moon Dione
Saturn's moon Dione
A distant view of Dione showcases the "wispy terrain" first observed by Voyager. A close Cassini flyby proved that the wisps were the bright walls of fractures on Dione's surface. Credit: NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute
Size: 1,120 kilometers - 4th largest moon of Saturn
Orbital radius: 377,400 kilometers - 6.26 Saturn radii - within the E ring
Orbital period: 2.737 days - about 1/6 of Titan's
Discovery: 1684 by Giovanni Domenico Cassini

For the record, Dione in Greek mythology  was among other things the mother of Aphrodite, the love goddess, as the result of an affair with Zeus.  Here we see her on a coin, sharing billing with Zeus.
Pyrrhus Tetradrachm, Zeus Dodonaios, Dione with a stephanos on a throne, Basileos Pyrrou Greek Text produced probably in Italy
As some of you may recall our dog Chilik vanished a few months ago and presumably has gone to her reward.  After a decent period of mourning, we decided that we needed a dog.  Titan, Pollyanna and YandA are happy to introduce you to Murphy whom we adopted a few days ago.  He came from the kennel where we leave dogs when going abroad.  His mother is an Australian Cattle Dog who was supposed to whelp pedigreed puppies.  In fact, a lustful Labrador of dubious antecedents  broke through a fence and, alas, miscegenation took place.   The puppies were given away to good homes for which designation we qualified.  Please meet Murphy:
Murphy, photo Yosefa

It is holiday time and human rights organizations are also taking some time off, but there are still some things to rant about this week.  Let us start with China, the usual culprit  in major human rights abuses.  The latest is a nine year sentence handed down to activist Chen Wei and ten years to Chen Xi.
Chen-Wei was one of more than 130 activists detained during the "Jasmine crackdown" in February.
© Chinese Human Rights Defenders
for writing critical articles about the Communist Party which to Titan and Amnesty is unacceptable..  He was convicted of "incitement" but the Chinese government uses this vague charge of over and over to silence its critics and suppress discussion of human rights and political change.  If we look back at the human rights year in China we see, as listed by Amnesty, the following outrageous actions toward human rights defenders, all of whom "subverted state power" which is of course nonsense.

 "Netizen" Liang Haiyi,

was reportedly taken away by police on 19 February in the northern city of Harbin for sharing videos and information about the "Jasmine Revolution" on the Internet. Liang Haiyi, perhaps the first person to be arrested as part of the Jasmine crackdown, is reportedly being held on suspicion of "inciting subversion" and could be tried at any time.

Veteran activist Chen Youcai, also known as Chen Xi  was detained 29 November for being a member of the Guizhou Human Rights Forum, which authorities declared was an illegal organization. Chen Xi  was given a ten year sentence.

Human rights lawyer, Gao Zhisheng

was sent back to prison last week after “violating” his probation, according to reports in China’s  state media. Authorities charged him with “inciting subversion” in December 2006 and sentenced him to a three–year suspended prison sentence. He was initially held under house arrest and then subjected to enforced disappearance repeatedly over nearly three years.

 Nobel Peace Prize Winner Liu Xiaobo, who was awarded the prize in absentia on 10 December 2010,    was sentenced in 2009 to 11 years in prison for his role in drafting Charter 08, and other writings which called for democratic reforms. His wife, artist Liu Xia, is under illegal house arrest. She has not been charged with any crime and Amnesty International has called for authorities to immediately restore her freedom.

Sichuan-based activist Liu Xianbin,
Portrait of Liu Xianbin and his wife, Suining City, Sichuan Province, 1994. Photo courtesy of the family.
 was sentenced in March to 10 years in prison for his role in promoting democratic reform, including his support of the Charter 08 petition movement.

Beijing-based activist Hu Jia , who was released from prison in June after serving three and a half years for "inciting subversion" but now lives in conditions equivalent to house arrest along with his wife, Zeng Jinyan, and young daughter.
DESPITE IT ALL,  as we look back at 2011, we see many hopeful developments such as the Arab Spring, despite sputtering here and there, the demise of Bin Laden, social justice protests around the world, including Israel and the fall of incompetent leaders in Italy and Greece.  On the other hand we see the economic downturn, the outbursts of terrorism in various places and a general crisis atmosphere.  An  editorial in Haaretz sums up the situation very well.  In particular, we are very  disappointed with the youth protest movement in Israel, which evaded all real issues that effect the country and concentrated solely on economic matters, while the conflict with the Palestinians seems more and more hopeless.   Titan is also appalled by the lack of political will to confront the climate change  issue.   The short sighted policies of major governments that  represent the greatest polluters in the world are a major source of concern and frustration..

א"ר יוחנן מיום שחרב בית המקדש ניטלה נבואה מן הנביאים וניתנה לשוטים ולתינוקות
בבא בתרא י"ב,ב  
Although the Talmud tells us that, since the destruction of the Temple, the gift of prophesy has been given only to children and fools, we would like to call upon the pundits of the BBC to give us their predictions for 2012.
As scientists we all are painfully aware of our finite wisdom and common fallibility.  Of course, sometimes, far too often, scientific "results" appear based on fraudulent studies or no studies at all.  Usually the only victim is the reputation of the perpetrator, but sometimes severe damage can be caused such as the anti-vaccination movement that derives its ideology from cooked up data and scientific fraud.  By and large, scientific goofs are the result of honest error.  Here is a list of the ten most famous scientific recantations of 2011.  We also would like  to call your attention to a summary of the science of 2011 as presented by Science News.  On each of the sublinks here you can find a resume of 2011 in the various areas covered by this great little magazine.  For example:
Boom, then zoom Telescopes capture a white dwarf star going supernova just 21 million light-years away
LIFE IN ISRAEL has not been going very  well.  The latest internal flap involves the rise of religious extremism in the so-called Haredi, ultra-orthodox community.  Women in particular are being targeted, sent to sit in the back of the bus, being cursed and spat upon.  Women soldiers are being told that they should not sing at military ceremonies, although to be fair we must say that the high command has not adopted this as policy. The treatment of women reached a new height when a young woman soldier was called a slut for refusing to move to the back of a public bus.  The issue has attracted attention around the world, vid. this story in a newspaper in New Zealand..  Last week 10,000 people demonstrated in the town of Bet Shemesh where an eight year old girl was spat upon and cursed for presumably dressing "immodestly", whatever that may mean. 

Not all the components of the Haredi community support these actions. A haredi rabbi in Los Angeles, Rabbi Eliyahu Fink, from the synagogue on the beach,

has issued a condemnation that goes far beyond what the rabbis in Israel have produced.  Thanks to Hadass for passing this post on to us.   It has been pointed out that this rise of extremism is a function of a struggle within the haredi community against the increasing trend amongst them towards higher education, work, integration and enlightenment.  The rabbis are fighting this tooth and nail.  For a long but certainly interesting  analysis of the haredi minority in Israel, we refer you to Tzvia Greenfield who writes about The Haredi Minority between Reciprocity and Rights.

During the past year, the Keren Kayemet aka the Jewish National Fund has been getting some spotlight space because of its actions in driving Bedouin citizens of Israel out of their villages, presumably to plant forests, including a forest funded by evangelical Christians in the USA.  We suppose this will buy them an exemption from burning when the Rapture Day comes and the good guys ascend to heaven and Jesus burns the Jews.  In any case, Uri Blau, the investigative reporter who got Anat Kamm a long jail term for publishing things that the Army wanted kept quiet, has written an expose of the JNF  that everyone, especially people who donate to it or whose children go to Jewish schools where the JNF is touted as a good guy, should read.

We could not let you off without a dose of Gene Weingarten  and the joys of having your house painted, room by room with creative colors chosen by your spouse.

No comments:

Post a Comment