Saturday, February 25, 2012

Titan is full of rants--so what else is new?

Titan is back and in the name of gender equality wishes to introduce you to Titania (no relation), Oberon's oft estranged spouse and fellow satellite of Uranus.
Diameter: 1,577.8 kilometers
Orbital distance: 436,300 kilometers from Uranus
Orbital period: 8.71 days
Discovery: 1787 by William Herschel
Titania is the largest of Uranus’ moons, though Oberon is very close to it in size.  Titania’s surface is somewhat similar to, though apparently a little older than, the surface of Ariel (next in line).  It has many small, but few large, craters, as well as networks of interconnected valleys.  There is one multi-ringed basin of about 300 kilometers in diameter, named Gertrude, near the moon’s equator.

A "super-res" color view of Titania from Voyager 2. The giant crater Gertrude peeks over the terminator at upper left. Credit: NASA/JPL/Ted Stryk 

Titania is, of course, in legend Queen of the Fairies and plays a major role in Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, although when you entrust a love potion to an irresponsible sprite, you get a result that is not very auspicious.
Envy Bottom?
For once Titan has a positive comment and praise, this time for the government of Peru and its agency in charge of protection of indigenous, uncontacted people.  Peru has raided an illegal logging site in the Manú National Park, just days after the world caught its first detailed glimpse of the uncontacted Mashco-Piro tribe.
Illegal logging threatens Peru's uncontacted Mashco-Piro.
© D.Cortijo/ released 8 February
 The discovery followed  Survival's release of close-up pictures of the tribe to raise awareness of the threats illegal logging poses to their survival.  In an operation led by SERNANP, Peru’s Department for Protected Areas, park guards and police uncovered more than 3,000 feet of illegally harvested timber. Kudos to SERNAMP and to Survival International for taking these steps.  Please sign the petition.
 Renato Dulbecco, who won a Nobel Prize for virus research, died this week at 97.  He was a major pioneer in the study of how a virus functions inside a cell and how it can bring about cancer.  Dr. Dulbecco shared the 1975 Nobel Prize with biologist David Baltimore, then of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and cancer researcher Howard M. Temin of the University of Wisconsin for what the Nobel committee termed “their discoveries concerning the interaction between tumor viruses and the genetic material of the cell.”   We append an obituary from the Washington Post.
(Courtesy of The Salk Institute for Biological Studies) - Renato Dulbecco’s work advanced the understanding of how viruses work within cells.

In our last blog, Titan brought up the issue of slave-grown chocolate.  Since then we have emailed the customer service departments of two major chocolate manufacturers in Israel, Strauss-Elite(also own Max Brenner) and Unilever who own the trade mark Vered Hagalil. Ordering from abroad is not an option because chocolate does not travel well and online merchants hesitate to ship to us.  It  appeared that we might have to give up our beloved addiction to the dark goodie.  The argument that dark chocolate can be classified as a cardiac medication is a bit specious when we think of child laborers in Africa.
We received a reply from Unilever who assured us that they are pure as the driven snow and referred us to the company's Supplier Code which appears quite reassuring.  On the other hand, the Corporate Watch web site has a major indictment of Unilever's corporate crimes including a most exploitative relationship with Third World suppliers.
We also received a reply from Strauss-Elite who referred us to the Web site of UTZ.  In the wake of the Unilever fairy tale, we are a bit suspicious and have written to Corporate Watch to inquire about UTZ.  The jury is still out.
We were told by Avi Levi of the Green Action movement that ethical chocolate was available at all branches of Teva Castel and Organic.    We are advised to look for this logo:

The four of us, Titan, Pollyanna and YandA visited our local Teva Castel and were greatly disappointed.  None of the workers there had ever heard of the Fair Trade concept, although they could assure us that everything was kosher.  We finally found an organic supermarket of the Eden Teva chain that among its dozens of brands of chocolate had one with the Fair Trade logo on it.  Success!!  The market in the south Industrial Zone of Natanya is most impressive and we will begin to shop there.
Dominique Kahn-Strauss is again up to his ears in a sex scandal.  He has been released from a French police station after two days of questioning over a suspected hotel prostitution ring.
Police can hold Dominique Strauss-Kahn for up to 96 hours for questioning.
 There is a suspicion that the money to fund the fun and games at the Carlton Hotel in Lille may have had a corporate source which would put everyone involved in deep trouble.  In any case, we think that some prize should be given to his lawyer for a beautiful statement that will ring down the ages, “He could easily not have known, because as you can imagine, at these kinds of parties you're not always dressed, and I challenge you to distinguish a naked prostitute from any other naked woman.”

In another item from France, we learn that the Monsanto Corporation has been found guilty by a French court of chemically poisoning a grain grower, Paul Francois,  who says he developed neurological problems such as memory loss and headaches after being exposed to Monsanto’s Lasso weedkiller back in 2004. The monumental case paves the way for legal action against Monsanto’s Roundup and other harmful herbicides and pesticides made by other manufacturers.  It is about time that Monsanto be called to account for the results of its deadly concoctions.

NOAM CHOMSKY provides us with an interesting, albeit depressing, analysis of US foreign policy and the steady decline of the influence of the United States around the world.  In this context we might note that President Obama has commented that the 21st century is not the century of America, i.e. he understands what is happening, whereas Romney and the rest of the Republican stable of candidates responded to this with bluster.  Food for thought.  We shall  return to this when we discuss Israel's Iran policy or lack of such.

The latest well-known victims are journalists covering the conflict.  On   Wednesday, the shelling in Syria centered on a house that was a makeshift media center where journalists were working and staying. From initial accounts they ran from the house and tried to escape but at least two were killed by either explosions or shrapnel.  Dead are Remi Ochlik, a French photographer in his late 20s, and Marie Colvin, an American reporter for The Sunday Times of Britain who was in her 50s.

Marie Colvin, left, an American reporter working for The Sunday Times of London, and Rémi Ochlik, a French photographer, were killed in Syria on Wednesday. Left, Sunday Times; right, Julien De Rosa

Others are injured but reports of who they are or the severity of their wounds or how they will be treated are murky at best.
Jonathan Littel describes graphically what is happening in Homs.
A doctor treats a wounded man in Homs. Photograph: AP
 Somehow, the world must take action, despite UN paralysis, as it did in Kosovo and Darfur.
Human Rights Watch has published its annual report.  Their section on China highlights enforced disappearances and is worthy of your attention  In February 2011, unnerved by the pro-democracy Arab Spring movements and a scheduled Chinese leadership transition in October 2012, the government launched the largest crackdown on human rights lawyers, activists, and critics in a decade. The authorities also strengthened internet and press censorship, put the activities of many dissidents and critics under surveillance, restricted their activities, and took the unprecedented step of rounding up over 30 of the most outspoken critics and “disappearing” them for weeks.  We recommend that you take the time to read this detailed report on human rights violations.

Now for rants about our home turf.  We can start with something positive, a victory of sorts for nonviolent protest over the arbitrary power of the Israeli occupation and security forces.  After 66 days of a hunger strike, the "administrative detainee" Khader Adnan is to be released on April 17 and the Israeli authorities have promised not to ask for an extension.

It is impossible not to wonder why he was detained (and abused) in the first place and whether the "secret evidence" used against him in his hearing really exists.  It also confirms what we have always suspected that the judges who view this "evidence" are corrupt lackeys of the security services and the purpose of the detentions (about 300 at the moment) is intimidation.   The agreement to end the hunger strike and the detention came just minutes before the start of a hearing in the Supreme Court.  Let us hope that this will serve as an example for the Palestinians to focus on nonviolent protest, as proposed by Mustafa Barghouti and suggested to them by people of note such as Archbishop Tutu and the Dalai Lama.
The blather of a possible Israeli attack on Iran goes on.  It is of course all rank nonsense and it is refreshing to read a realistic analysis by Yoel Marcus who tells Barak to come off the Rambo gig and confront the real world.  Let us all hope that cooler heads will prevail and that we will eventually learn to live with a nuclear Iran.  Certainly we need to have a deterrent and a strong second strike capability, but launching a war that will tear up the Middle East and cause thousands of casualties here and elsewhere would be the height of irresponsibility.  Nonetheless, the possibility exists as noted in a detailed analysis by Eli Lake , the senior national-security correspondent for Newsweek and the Daily Beast.
To our great shame, Israel has long been a world center for human trafficking and the international sex industry.  In the past it has been threatened with a cutoff of US aid and indeed some steps forward have been taken, mostly because of push by human rights and women's organizations.  Please take a look at this web site and click on the petition to the government.
About 2700 years ago a man named Isaiah ben Amotz made a speech in Jerusalem that could be reproduced in a newspaper today and be fully relevant.  (Is. Chap. 1.)  Let me quote a sentence with respect to something that happened a few years ago, but is still making waves.
 ט לולי יהוה צבאות, הותיר לנו שריד כמעט--כסדום היינו, לעמורה דמינו.  {פ} י שמעו דבר-יהוה, קציני סדום; האזינו תורת. אלוהינו, עם עמורה
"Unless the LORD Almighty had left us some survivors, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah.Hear the word of the LORD, You rulers of Sodom; Give ear to the instruction of our God, You people of Gomorrah."
In 2008 the  body of a young man was found besides a road.  He was barefoot and clad in a thin hospital gown from the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer.  It was only a few days later - after the man’s family was located in the Gaza Strip and brought to Israel for DNA testing - that his identity was clarified. The dead man was Omar Abu Jariban, 35, present illegally  in Israel.  He had been injured in an accident in a stolen car.
Omar Abu Jariban
Three days before his corpse was found he had been released from the hospital and taken to the Rehovot police station. At the station he seemed confused, unable to fathom what was going on around him, non-communicative and barely ambulatory. Instead of readmitting him to hospital, senior police officers at the station decided to “return him to the territories” - a code phrase meaning dumping him at a road junction in the middle of the night. Three policemen were sent to take the man and leave him at an entrance to the West Bank, but after failing to do so, they dumped him by the side of the road.  He died there of dehydration.
For the full details read the story of the negligence by Chaim Levinson along with the follow up exposing the lies of the police officers who were involved.  David Grossman, the author, wrote an op-ed piece for Haaretz that was placed on the front page.   Unfortunately, it is not yet available in English.  We promise to post it when it appears.  In the meantime, here is the link to the Hebrew original.
We wonder why no one at the higher levels is being prosecuted.  Two cops at the bottom of the food chain are presumably indicted for manslaughter by negligence.   We also wonder how the doctor who released him feels today.  David Grossman seems to think that there might be some stirrings of conscience in the minds of the people involved.  We doubt it--what the hell?  Just an Arab, hardly worth consideration.  Maybe some world wide publicity will have an impact. Isaiah ben Amotz, where are you when we need you?
We have always had our doubts about the morality and effectiveness of a general BDS of Israel, although we personally avoid purchasing goods made in the made by companies that profit from or engage in economic activity  in the settlements.  It would appear however, that our government is busy boycotting the peace camp, us and all our supporters of Israel who disagree with the policies of the government.  For a good description of this policy and its results, we refer you to a Bradley Burston posting.   In the meantime, Israel Apartheid Week in the US, with all its mirroring of the hypocrisy of the Israeli right wing, took a beating from one of its long time supporters, Norman Finkelstein.
Listen to what he has to say:

You should also read what Bradley Burston has to say both about Finkelstein's comments and the state of affairs in Israel today.    His comparison of Israel at 64 and the US at 64, i.e. 1840 with slavery and genocide against the Native Americans is interesting.  Yes, in the 19th century much was wrong in the US and they fixed it, albeit with a bloody civil war and much pain over a long time.   What is happening today in the US will also require a lot of painful fixing and we too will have to struggle to create the kind of Israel that we want to have, but it will be doable, if the people who care about democratic values stick to their guns.

IN A LIGHTER VEIN, let us enjoy bit of Fry and Laurie, courtesy of Yosefa:


This is an effect of the rotation of the Earth that causes an object to deviate from its path in the rotating coordinate system.  The Coriolis force  figures prominently in studies of the dynamics of the atmosphere, in which it affects prevailing winds and the rotation of storms, and in the hydrosphere, in which it affects the rotation of the oceanic currents.  It reverses its sign at the equator.  One might be surprised to learn from Barney and Clyde that it also has biological significance in animal behavior.
A trip to South Africa with Murphy is in the preliminary planning stages.  In the meantime, we are observing his behavior closely and are building a computer model.

 In the Northern Hemisphere winter, the night sky is dominated by the constellation Orion, which contains the Orion Nebula , with Betelgeuse and Sirius in attendance along with thousands of others.

Orion is supposed to me a mythological hunter, bearing a sword.

Orion as depicted in Urania’s Mirror, a set of constellation cards published in London c. 1825.
 Our friend at XKCD has a slightly different take on it and would like to persuade the IAU...

No comments:

Post a Comment