|Satellite image from Monday: For scaling purposes, Sandy was the size of Europe|
NEW POPE FOR COPTS
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|
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.
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.
CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE LAW
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.
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.
BLOODSHED IN MYANMAR
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.
WHO KILLED YASSER ARAFAT?
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.
HOME SWEET HOME
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.
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN ISRAEL
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
DREYFUS IN ISRAEL
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
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: