Friday, November 2, 2012

Titan with you again

Satellite image from Monday:  For scaling purposes, Sandy was the size of Europe
Titan is back with you to share the state of the world. It is not something that even sister Pollyanna would be glad about. For starters, as usual, we refer you to our Human Rights Action blog. Please open it and help the people, who are so much in need of support, in their trials and tribulations at the hands of oppressive regimes and corporations.

The Coptic Christian community in Egypt is on its way to select a new Pope to replace Pope Shenouda III, who died at the age of 88, on 17 March, reportedly after suffering from cancer. The process is interesting and unique.
A blindfolded child will pick the name of the next Pope from a shortlist of three on 4 November
 We wish the new Pope success in his difficult task of guiding a minority Christian community in Islamic Egypt.
As we write our friends, families and colleagues in the USA are in the aftermath of a massive freak hurricane, Sandy, that will go down in meteorological history. It is difficult to assign a one to one correspondence between global warming and a specific meteorological event. This question is addressed by scientists in an article by Stephanie Pappas. Nonetheless, it has long been predicted by atmospheric scientists that global warming means that there is more energy in the atmosphere and, as we all know, cyclones (a system rotating about a center of low pressure) of various types are one of the means by which the atmosphere dissipates this energy. We recall an instructor in forecasters' training who, in the process of explaining the systems of synoptic meteorology, used the phrase, "cyclones are the sewers of the atmosphere." The hurricane is one mechanism (another mechanism, radiation in the infra red, has been severely inhibited by greenhouse gases) by which nature releases the tremendous buildup of heat in the tropics. This heat, combined with tropical ocean moisture, is the hurricane's energy source. The fuel source for these storms comes from the evaporation of water from the warm seas. Our instructor was talking about the cold-core cyclones of the north that bring polar or arctic air masses southward where they encounter tropical air from, e.g. the Gulf of Mexico or the tropical Atlantic or even the Mediterranean. Tropical storms, on the other hand, are known as warm-core cyclones. In both cases, the moist air at the center rises and cools and water vapor condenses into the liquid phase. This releases 2257 kJ/kg  into the atmosphere and causes the air to rise more rapidly and to flow more vigorously, i.e. a positive feedback loop. The system moves across the Atlantic from east to west and dissipates when it makes landfall in the Western Hemisphere. This is what it looks like.
This night-view image of Hurricane Sandy was acquired by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite around 2:42 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (06:42 Universal Time) on October 28, 2012. In this case, the cloud tops were lit by the nearly full Moon (full occurs on October 29). Some city lights in Florida and Georgia are also visible amid the clouds.
CREDIT: NASA/Suomi NPP - VIIRS/Michael Carlowicz

 Once the warm ocean energy source is removed by landfall, the storm will decay. If, as in the case of Sandy, there is a cold storm on land that is bringing cold air at high altitude, the system becomes even more unstable and intensifies as the two systems merge. This is what happened with Sandy with the result that the central pressure of the system fell to 940 mb. Standard air pressure is 1013.2 mb. For more detail, if anyone is interested, see the illuminating site provided by Environment Canada.

We link you to a gallery of Sandy photographs from the Daily Beast as well as some examples of how a disaster can bring out the best in people.

Whether it’s the nurses and doctors evacuating hundreds, the Coast Guard rescuers helping boaters to safety, or power-company officials working around the clock to keep the lights on, Hurricane Sandy has no shortage of people doing their best to help others. We salute these heroes, whom you can see in the gallery.

It is nice to see that the government is doing it right this time, in contrast to the mess of Katrina.  Romney would cut FEMA?  I think he is not happy about being reminded of that foolish statement, one of many.

 Richard and Yosefa  (thank you) have called our attention to a law passed by the legislature in North Carolina that would prohibit use of sea level rise predictions based on global warming.
A house on North Carolina's Outer Banks -- a frequent target of tropical storms -- undercut by the storm surge from Hurricane Isabel in 2003. Credit: Mark Wolfe/FEMA
 The scientists, commissioned by the state, predict a one meter rise by the end of the century. The law prohibits using this number lest real estate developers lose money. The Colbert report puts it in perspective.

You may laugh and cry at the same time. James Hansen who is the greatest expert on the subject projects a five meter rise by 2100 although many doubt that it will be more than three to four meters.
The picture that emerges is a relatively slow manageable sea level rise in the first part of the century followed by increasingly catastrophic levels of change in the latter part of the century as the rapid breakdown of the ice sheets overwhelms everything else.
The developers say eight inches or about 20 centimeters. Take your choice.

On to rants about what people do:
We have long noted that the people who most vehemently oppose abortion rights are invariably in favor of capital punishment, support uncontrolled  possession of deadly weapons, declare that climate change is a liberal hoax and see no reason to protect wildlife and biological diversity. Yet, as pointed out so well by Thomas Friedman in the NYTimes, these people have laid claim to the title of being "Pro-Life."
Our daughter, Zohar, compared them to a sports fisherman who tosses a small fish back into the lake with the intention of catching it later when it has grown to legal size. The only way to describe this is the good Yiddish word "chutzpa" meaning infinite cheek. To some extent, we must admit that liberals have been at fault, as they always are, by being insufficiently aggressive in protecting humanistic principles. We think the time has long passed to take off the velvet gloves and start some real political activism in countries around the world. Occupy was a start and the cottage cheese demonstrations in Israel struck a nerve, but nothing really seems to change. We need massive voting, demonstrations, publications, media campaigns, the works.

This week two Vietnamese songwriters were sentenced to prison terms for writing songs critical of the government. As said by Amnesty International "This is a ludicrous way to treat people just for writing songs,’’ adding that "These men are prisoners of conscience, detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression through their songs and non-violent activities, and should be freed." In our Human Rights blog we have a call for action to aid bloggers who have been sentenced to prison for the same "offense." It is time for the Vietnamese government to realize that their people did not struggle for their freedom from Western imperialism in order to submit to a homegrown repressive regime.

The transition to democracy in Myanmar (Burma) is being sadly marred by the ongoing violence between Buddhists and Muslims. More than 22,000 people have been displaced by violence in Burma's Rakhine state, mostly members of  the Muslim Rohingya minority. These people have been living in Burma for generations, but are still regarded by the government as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The Bangladeshi government claims that it cannot accept additional refugees from Burma. The situation remains exceedingly grim for these people.
Many escaped from the violence by boat. One local official told Reuters that 47 had landed near the regional capital Sittwe in the past few days

It would be nice to have a blog in which human rights violations in China do not take a prominent place. This is a nice pipe dream. We refer you to our Human Rights blog for details of massive forced evictions and abuse of human rights defenders. There also have been seven self-immolations by Tibetans in the past week.
Buddhist nun Palden Choetso is engulfed in flames in a self-immolation protest against Chinese rule on a street in Tawu, Tibetan Ganzi prefecture, in China's Sichuan Province. (Students For A Free Tibet via AP video)

The good people who thought that letting China host the Olympics in 2008 would lead to more openness and democracy, as we were told by the Chair of the Israel Olympic Committee,  should look at themselves carefully in the mirror and ask themselves a few questions.  We in the human rights community had no doubt then where things were heading.

We note that the French government  opened an investigation last summer into the death and possible murder of Yasser Arafat. This is not  new  and we still have not had any results published about the possible use of Polonium 210, traces of which were found in his clothing .  Our late friend Baruch Kimmerling wrote a book entitled Politicide in which he documented the attempt of the Sharon government to destroy the political institutions of the Palestinian people.  Whether Sharon moved on from politicide to homicide is an open question.

Here in Israel the election campaign is getting into gear. Two right wing parties, Likud and Israel Beitenu, Natanyahu and Lieberman are merging and some of the inmates are rattling the cages. This apparent dissent  means very little in substantive terms for all of the right-wingers agree on the idea that the entire  country from the Jordan to the sea should belong to  Israel, Arabrein. We have little expectation that anything positive will come from Bieberman or from the dissidents in the Likud. The differences are trivial nuances. Ho Hum...Even Obama and Romney in their foreign policy debate had nothing to say about the occupation, so what can we expect from the Israeli establishment? Mairav Zonshein puts it in perspective very well.

The aftermath of the arrest and abuse of Anat Hoffman has generated hot reactions.
Members of the Women of the Wall organization pray at the Western Wall, July 12, 2010 Photo by AP
 We refer you to the discussion in Haaretz with its many links. We also refer you to a Web site where comments are coming in from around the world. Even Eric Joffe, former head of the Reform movement, who is usually an Israeli government toady, sounded off on the liberal side for once.

Eva Illouz  in Haaretz asks if something like the Dreyfus affair could happen in Israel.
Alfred Dreyfus being stripped of rank. Photo by Wikipedia Commons
She refers to the fact that many French intellectuals and other leaders, themselves no lovers of Jews, stood up in the name of justice to fight for Dreyfus, at great personal risk and real cost. Read her article and think sad thoughts. We might mention that a Circassian officer in the Israeli army, Izzat Nafsu, was convicted in 1981 of spying for a terrorist organization on totally trumped up evidence. He was exonerated and  released in 1987, but the security officer, Ginosar, who forged the evidence was pardoned by President Herzog. Ginosar and even tried to run for the Knesset a few years later.

OK, Titan has blathered at you enough. What if is really fun this week and deals with an interesting idea. BTW, there is serious consideration of the use of lasers to deflect dangerous asteroids.

Gene Weingarten gives us a bit of insight into the importance of correct use of language.
and of course Duane comes through with his linguistic prowess:

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