Friday, December 28, 2012

Happy New Year from Titan-the world is still here

Titan  presents proof that the universe seems to be OK in the infrared.

Large scale structure (LSS) of the local universe as seen through the far-infrared COBE/IRAS foreground dust mask. The COBE/IRAS image comes from LAMBDA and is derived from the work of Schlegel et al. (1998); see below. The 2MASS image shows the background galaxies color coded by their redshift (blue are close, red are far galaxies). See below for more details. Click here for a quicktime movie version.
He joins sister Pollyanna and their imaginary playmates YandA in wishing everyone a very Happy New Year. Let us hope that 2013 will be a better year than its predecessor. Readers have called Titan a sourpuss, but in fact we are always optimistic. A friend who served years in the Gulag indeed says that we are foolishly optimistic, but we continue in our folly, and try to change the world. We think that the most important sentence in the Siddur (Jewish prayerbook) is in the concluding prayer of each service "to repair the world in the Kingdom of God." We really do not need the Kingdom of God to understand that the world requires repairing. We must continue in the New Year with our Sisyphean task, ranting at injustice, calling for action against human rights violations and in general setting ourselves up as butts for the cynical humor of the know-it-alls who tell us that nothing does any good. We are like Tom Lehrer's Folksong Army, maybe foolish, but true to ourselves.

In this mode, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. As the weeks and months go by without Miriam, we continue to realize what we have lost. She got us into the human rights struggle. We shall always miss her. 

On December 30, we mark the 40th yahrzeit (anniversary) of the
death of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972). He was
arguably the greatest moral and philosophical figure in 20th
century Judaism, with all due respect to Franz Rosenzweig and
Martin Buber among many other great people. He was closely
associated with Martin Luther King both in the civil rights
struggle and in the opposition to the war in Vietnam. He
marched with King in Selma and returned with the famous quote,
"My legs were praying."
Selma, Alabama 1965

 Rabbi Heschel, we so sadly need you today.

DECEMBER 25 has passed. It is the birthday of a man whose work and life changed all of ours. We refer of course to Sir IsaacNewton, born December 25, 1643, died March 31, 1727.
Sir Isaac Newton
 His work in physics and mathematics, built upon the empirical heritage of Galileo, gave us our first understanding of gravity and the differential calculus as well. His calculations drove the final nails into the coffin of the geocentric universe. We are glad to show an image from the telescope system most appropriately named for him located in Herstmonceux, United Kingdom.

This image of the Crescent Nebula or NGC 6888 was obtained using the Wide Field Camera on the Isaac Newton Telescope. It is a three-colour composite made from data collected using filters to isolate the light emitted by hydrogen alpha (H-alpha) and doubly ionised oxygen (OIII) atoms, and coded in the image as red, green (25% H-alpha and 75% OIII) and blue. Credit: D. López (IAC) [ JPEG | TIFF | PDF ].
We start with a call for the US government and in particular the President to get serious about gun control. One might hope that the shock of Newtown would have some effect, yet we see the deaths piling up. Slate Magazine and @GunDeaths have set up a site that tallies the deaths by gunshot in the US since Newtown.  As of December 27, there had been 242 such deaths.We invite you to  link to the site and track the carnage, then tell someone about it in the hope that the outrage will go viral and politicians will have to overcome their fear of the gun lobby and do something to protect human beings.
We want to register our protest along with the progressive community and Amnesty International over the execution of six people in Taiwan.
A Taiwanese activist stands in front of a billboard reading 'say no to the death penalty'
© AFP/Getty Images

 Zeng Si-ru, Hung Ming-tsung, Huang Hsien –cheng, Chen Chin-huo, Kuang Te-chiang and Tai Te-ying were executed earlier today at different locations across Taiwan. This makes a mockery of the talk of the Taiwanese government of steps towards abolition of capital punishment. Shame!!

We would like to call your attention to two interviews with Noam Chomsky
Author, historian and political commentator Noam Chomsky. (photo: Ben Rusk/flickr)
on the future of the welfare state and the state of the modern world. Chomsky has many distinctions, including being denied entry to Israel. What he has to say is worthy of your time.

THE DARK SIDE OF THE ARAB SPRING is still with us. Azza Hilal Ahmad Suleiman, 49, is fighting for justice after Egyptian army soldiers attacked her. The vicious attack left her with a fractured skull and she now suffers from memory problems. Please let President Morsi know that the world is aware of the aftermath of the events that brought him to power.

We are pleased to note that the uproar over the abuse of women at the Western Wall has spread to the world Jewish community and that the government has started to take notice. 
Members of Women of the Wall prayed this month while wearing tallits, fringed prayer shawls, and tefillin, leather prayer boxes, both of which Jewish men are told to wear.
 The alienation of the Reform and Conservative movements, who constitute the majority of Jews in North America is something that Israel can ill afford. Let us hope that something positive will come of this in terms of religious freedom. The Wall is not the private domain of the Orthodox, but is the property of all Jews everywhere and of both genders and all persuasions.


A left-wing protest in Tel Aviv last year. Photo by Tal Cohen
In Israel we watch an election campaign that seems irrelevant to those of us who aspire for a democracy living in peace with its neighbors. Long ago Dosh showed what our search for peace really is, as Srulik rides his hobby horse to nowhere.

Carlo Stenger has summed up in Haaretz the reason why we on the left, despite our political weakness, continue to inspire hatred by the right wing politicians and what our role is. We quote :

"I can assure Israel’s right-wing nationalists that we
Israeli progressives will continue to be a pain in the neck. We
will continue to uphold the values of truth, justice and
rationality out of the deep conviction that these values, while
universal, are also essential to our identity as modern Jews.
We may not have the political clout; but one of the most
important lessons of Jewish history is that, in the long run,
the pen and the word outlast brute power. "

Of course, we sometimes get an oddball at demonstrations...

Our French friends have always known that one should be optimistic and not take hard things that happen too much to heart. Mademe la Marquise certainly needed the encouragement she received.

Last week Pollyanna noted that Time magazine had, according to Andy Borowitz, nominated Mitt Romney as Man of the Year for 1912. In the same spirit, we note that the Onion has nominated a surprise Person of the Year and of course Jerry Sandusky as Sportsman of the Year.

We wind up with a comment by our sweet little Cynthia on corporate morality.

while Doonesbury laments the separation of church and state

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