Friday, November 16, 2012

Titan mourns and nonetheless rants

Titan eclipsed behind Saturn, just his own weak glow

 Titan is back with you and now does not want to rant about the state of the world, occupation, human rights, all the things that usually occupy him. This time it is a very personal rant about a great personal loss.

MIRIAM SHLESINGER died this week at age 65.

She had been a longtime non-smoker but nonetheless succumbed to lung cancer after a long and valiant struggle. We saw her at her home about a week before she died and her spirits were up and her courage was showing all over, despite the mask and the oxygen tank. There will be countless obituaries written about her touching on her incredible professional achievements in her chosen field of translation and interpretation.  She wrote her Ph.D. dissertation on Effects of Presentation Rate on Working Memory in Simultaneous Interpreting and served for many years as a faculty member at Bar-Ilan University.  She received awards, an honorary doctorate and worldwide professional recognition. To her translation was not just interpreting for the foreign minister or a theatrical performance or political or professional conferences, although she did all these things. She saw the needs of the bottom layers of society who needed language aid to obtain medical services, education for their children and justice in the legal system and acted to fill all these needs. She touched immigrants, deaf people, defendants in trials, many others, too many to name. Through it all, the essence of Miriam was her priceless personality and warm caring that she gave to those who had the good fortune to know her.

We had the privilege to know and love Miriam for over two decades. Often, she and Moshe (who is blind), before his stroke, would have knock-down, drag-out games of Trivial Pursuit with Daphne and A. We always played in teams and she would read the cards to Moshe who would pull out an answer from the encyclopedia in his head. We went to Safed with them to meet her mother Edyth.  This trip was an experience unto itself. In more recent years, it was YandA and Miriam, fitting a dinner or an evening into her busy schedule, but she found time for us. Now she is gone and she leaves a yawning gap. OK, Titan is sulking in eclipse behind Saturn, so we cannot add to this We shall just sit quietly and mourn. Miriam of course would want Titan to shape up and get back to proper ranting. Please note the link to our Human Rights Action blog. We dedicate it to Miriam's memory. She was a tireless advocate of human rights and in the past chaired the Israel Section of Amnesty International. In fact, she got us into the human rights community although we claimed that we would never forgive her...she was not impressed.

The UN General Assembly has just elected a crew of serial human rights violators to the UN Human Rights Council. This year's crop includes the following lights of democracy- Ethiopia, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela. We share the disgust of Thor Halvorssen, the founder of the Human Rights Foundation at this development. Since its founding in 2006 the Council has served as a means of diverting attention from the human rights violations of many of its members. It is also a prime forum for Israel bashing. We do not say that Israel does not deserve a bash here and there, but with the Council it was always political and hypocritical in extreme. Kofi Anan when he was SG tried to clean it up, but to no avail. Thus is the state of our world.

You will recall how the UN peacekeepers betrayed the people of Srebrenica during the Yugoslav civil war. We are now learning how the UN failed to protect human lives in the final phases of the civil war in Sri Lanka that ended in 2009. It is estimated that 100,000 people lost their lives in that conflict. A leaked draft of a UN report has reached the BBC and its content is appalling and damning. Despite a "catastrophic" situation on the ground, this report bluntly points out that in the capital Colombo "many senior UN staff did not perceive the prevention of killing of civilians as their responsibility - and agency and department heads at UNHQ were not instructing them otherwise".  
Hundreds of thousands of Tamils ended up trapped in a tiny strip of land
It says there was "a sustained and institutionalized reluctance" among UN personnel in Sri Lanka "to stand up for the rights of people they were mandated to assist". Edward Mortimer, a former senior UN official who now chairs the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice, says UN staff left when the population needed them more than ever.  "I fear this report will show the UN has not lived up to the standards we expect of it and has not behaved as the moral conscience of the world," Mr Mortimer said.
This should be contrasted to the reaction to conflict in Libya. Perhaps Sir Lanka should have had some oil.

The victory of  President Obama last week has prompted several states of the US to consider seceding from the Union. This is all nonsense of course, but it indicates a certain state of mind. Look at the slide show of secession attempts in the link. In Canada, there is such talk every summer in the Western Provinces, but it is attributed to overexposure to sunlight. It has been suggested that Washington, Oregon, BC and Alberta secede from the US and Canada and form a new and enlightened country to be named Cascadia.
Proposed boundaries in respect to political territorial entities (British Columbia, Oregon, and Washington).

This initiative also has not taken off. One of our regular and favorite pundits on the Washington Post, Dana Milbank, points out that a red state secession would be a fiscal and political blessing for the blues. In fact, most of them take more from the Federal government than they pay in taxes, so off you go and do well on your own.

We are very disappointed to learn that California voters rejected a ballot initiative to abolish the death penalty. The vote was 53-47% which means that the battle will go on. The defeat came as a huge blow to capital punishment abolitionists who yearned for the most significant victory for a generation. Campaigners across the US hoped a yes vote for Proposition 34 on 6 November would provide a boost to their efforts and send a warning note to the other 32 states that still hand out the punishment.

California has the highest number of prisoners awaiting execution of any US state, with 724 death row
inmates. The next largest total is in Texas, where there are 407. A moratorium on executions has been in
place in California for nearly seven years. This result is disappointing, but the struggle must go on.

We want to do more than rant about the death of a woman in Ireland who was denied a medical abortion because "we are a Catholic country." Savita Halappanavar, who was 17 weeks pregnant, died of septicaemia a week after presenting with back pain on 21 October at University hospital in Galway, where she was found to be miscarrying.
Protestors outside Leinster House in Dublin on Wednesday against the death in October of Savita Halappanavar.
After the 31-year-old dentist was told that she was miscarrying, her husband reportedly said that she had asked for a medical termination a number of times over a three day period, during which she was in severe pain. But, he said, these requests were denied because a foetal heartbeat was still present and they were told at one point: "This is a Catholic country." Medical staff removed the dead foetus days later after the heartbeat stopped but Halappanavar died of septicaemia on 28 October.

We hope the medical professionals in Galway and in the rest of Ireland will get up in arms. In fact, decent people all over the world must protest this act of medical murder. The fetus would not have survived and the woman could have been saved, but the power of the Church was too strong. One might think that decades of getting away with child abuse would be enough to keep these monsters happy. Apparently they need to wield more power and control. The political establishment in Ireland needs to stand up and pass legislation that would legalize abortion and put the life of the mother as a priority before the life of the unborn fetus.

Last week Pollyanna reported on the drop in smoking-related diseases in a Minnesota county in the wake of implementation of strict smoking interdictions in the public arena. Now we have a meta-analysis that shows broader benefits. A new analysis conducted at the University of California, San Francisco has shown that laws preventing smoking at work and other public places, such as restaurants and bars, result in fewer hospitalizations for heart attacks, strokes, asthma, and other respiratory conditions. The researchers found that the laws also reduce health care costs and raise quality of life. Read more.

We are now in the bloody process of exchanging rockets and bombs with the Hamas in Gaza. Rockets have reached the Tel Aviv Metropolitan area and Gaza is being bombed heavily. One must ask why now and cui bono? The killing of Ahmed Jaabari by the Israel Air Force was designed to generate a fierce response and the government got what it was seeking two months before an election. As Gershon Baskin writes in the Daily Beast "The assassination of Jaabari was a pre-emptive strike against the possibility of a long term ceasefire. Netanyahu has acted with extreme irresponsibility. He has endangered the people of Israel and struck a real blow against the few important more pragmatic elements within Hamas. He has given another victory to those who seek our destruction, rather than strengthen those who are seeking to find a possibility to live side-by-side, not in peace, but in quiet." Baskin was in the process of cutting a deal for quiet with Hamas when the assassination of Jaabari took place. For the leadership of Israel, it is worth sacrificing the blood of soldiers and civilians alike in order to be reelected by a substantial majority. Unfortunately, they are right in that the brainwashed public will follow them like sheep to the slaughter. Netanyahu knows his constituency very well. He knows that the way to ensure his victory in the upcoming elections will be by diverting the public discourse from demands of social justice to existential threats imposed on Israel by the bogeyman- Hamas-and the cost of imperiling a third of Israel's population seems reasonable enough for him. When virtually no opposition can be seen for miles, Netanyahu has cemented his dreadful leadership for the next four years. It is not that Netanyahu faced a serious challenge in the Israeli political arena, as Lior Sternfeld writes in Informed Comment. There is little point in waiting for a Deus ex Machina in the form of Barack Obama to come and bail us out.
In recent weeks, there had been some hopeful signs that a renewal of negotiations with the Palestinians might be possible. Abbas gave an interview on Israeli television that hinted broadly at compromise on the refugee issue, but of course Natanayahu dismissed it. The author David Grossman published an appeal to sanity that fell on deaf ears. Indeed it is true that Abbas, as other Arab leaders, says one thing in English and the opposite in Arabic, but still the opportunity should have been seized. Hussein Ibish, who is a Senior Fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, provides an insightful analysis in the Daily Beast, basically pointing out that while leaders on both sides obfuscate, eventually compromises on refugees and Jerusalem will have to be swallowed by the public on both sides.

Barack Obama watches as Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas shake hands at a trilateral meeting in New York on September 22, 2009. (Pete Souza / White House)

A strong voice for rationality and peace in the Israel journalistic community is falling silent with the retirement of Akiva Elda after 35 years with Haaretz.  In his valedictory article, Eldar expressed a hope for "a peace that is within arm's reach, the border of a democratic, Jewish and moral state - a country in which it would be pleasant to live the rest of my life. I watch with trepidation, yes - but not with despair." God, whichever you choose to believe in or not, bless you Akiva and let us all hope that you are right not to despair.

What If? deals with a question "If a meteor made out of diamond and 100 feet in diameter was traveling at the speed of light and hit the earth, what would happen to it?”  —Aidan Smith, Age 8, via his father Jeff.

Then came the day that Einstein predicted.
Enjoy the images and weep.  Now we move on to information technology applied in the home

Dear Cynthia, Titan found 11,000,000 hits on igoogle for "google evil enterprise" but we can grant you the poetic license.

Think twice before you buy your grandpa an Ipad:

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