Friday, January 11, 2013

Titan opens the new blogging year

The blurring effects of Titan's aerosol are obvious in this image, where the orange moon peeks from behind two of Saturn's rings. Small, battered Epimetheus, another of Saturn's 62 moons, appears just above the rings. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
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Titan is writing his first blog of 2013 and smiles at you in this Cassini image.   There are many issues to rant about and we shall certainly do so as in the past. We would, however, like to start positively  by introducing you to a charity site from the US that gives every one of us an opportunity to change lives for the good. In particular, we would like to call your attention to the program Because I am a Girl which deals with human rights issues that affect primarily women and girls. We will go into the gender issue, especially sexual violence, later in this blog.

We call your attention to the weekly Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog.  Please click and act on behalf of the victims of human rights violations around the world.

How many gun-related deaths have happened in the US since the Newtown massacre?   We offer a link to a tally by Slate magazine that shows that the death rate is in the hundreds per week.  Can someone do something about it.?  The number is colossal and there seems to be no  real momentum towards changing these laws that enable psychopaths to obtain assault weapons. Friends in the US,  please bug your representatives in Congress to become active.

Titan would like you to understand how bad the situation is for girls and women in the developing world and  elsewhere as well.
The Delhi gang-rape has set 'India's civil and politic spheres alight with protest'. Photograph: Raveendran/AFP/Getty Images
Everyone is in high fury over the gang rape and murder in India. It has been followed by the Steubenville OH and Cleveland TX scandals in the US and more gang rapes in India. In the Because I am a Girl site we have the following list of what it means to be born a girl:

   One billion people live in extreme poverty—70% are women and girls.

    67 million children worldwide don’t go to school, over half are girls.

    One extra year of primary school can mean 10-20% higher wages for a girl.

    When a girl in the developing world stays in school for seven or more years,
    she’ll marry later and have fewer, healthier children.

    There are nearly 60 million child brides worldwide. Some as young as 12.
    Girls who give birth before the age of 15 are five times more likely to die in
    childbirth than women in their twenties.

    150 million girls are victims of sexual violence and exploitation.

    Nearly two-thirds of new HIV infections among youth 15 to 24 are in girls.

    In a survey for the 2011 Girl Report, 43% of boys agreed with the statement:
    "There are times when a woman deserves to be beaten."
    And in the same survey, 60% of children interviewed in India agreed that if
    resources are scarce, it’s better to educate a boy than a girl.

    $92 billion—that’s the estimated economic loss in countries that do not strive
    to educate girls to the same level as boys.

In the Far East where governments have made a major effort to reduce population growth, an unwanted result has been an imbalance between the number of girls born compared to the number of boys.    There is, therefore,  a severe shortage of females in the young adult population.We can see this in the following graphic that shows the imbalance of births by gender in various states of India.

The result has been the  creation of a girl-trapping and trafficking industry between the poorer south and the wealthier  north of the country.
Bilasi Singh's daughter Bisanti has been missing for two years
We should note that abuse of women and girls is not confined to the developing world. The reigning culture in the US is that boys will be boys and girls have to live with it. The fact that the communities in Steubenville OH and Cleveland TX are rallying around the boys on the football and basketball teams and that in the New York Times report there seemed to be more sympathy for  the perpetrators rather than for the hapless victim tells you much about the culture. In fact if it were not for the blogger/hacker group called Anonymous the Steubenville rape would have been swept under the rug despite the pious cries of the authorities. Note the links given above.

In the past, we have been called upon to participate in debates in  high school civics classes on the appropriateness of capital punishment for such sociopaths as murderers and serial rapists  Our position has been in line with that of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other human rights and legal organizations that the death penalty is wrong in all cases. It is always easier to argue for the human rights of the good guys, but  it is also essential to protect those of the bad. Criminologists assure us that capital punishment has no real deterrent value and we think that executing a killer is tantamount to adoption of his values. In fact, the abolition of capital punishment in Canada in 1975 was followed by a drop in the homicide rate. Our initial reaction to the Mumbai gang rape was instinctive, "hang the bastards," but on reflection we are coming to the conclusion that justice and revenge are not synonymous. Retributive justice, which is a common term in places like Texas, is in our mind an oxymoron.
After the gang-rape and murder of a student in New Delhi, many Indians want the death penalty to be introduced for rapists
Society needs to have the means of defending itself from those who would break the law and commit crimes, but the taking of life is not a legitimate component of that arsenal. The death penalty is not a solution to the rape problem.    


All this week we have been taking the brunt of a heavy storm. Temperatures are low and snow has fallen in the mountain regions including Jerusalem. Of course traffic was snarled up totally, schools were closed and in general the country became dysfunctional. Even the trains stopped running, but then we know that railroads have long been prone to difficulties.

We are not impressed by a few centimeters of snow, but we have been caught in heavy rain while walking Murphy the dog and it is not much fun. We are told that it will pass soon.

    Of course, one must pray no matter what.

Ram Cohen
Earlier this week Ram Cohen,  a Tel Aviv high school principal, co-authored an op-ed article in Haaretz calling upon voters to vote for the real left, Meretz or Hadash.  It was in response to an earlier article by Shlomo Avineri calling upon people to vote Labor as the only real alternative to the right wing forces. Now he is facing a hearing that could lead to his being fired as principal of his school.  We call upon all our Israeli readers to protest this McCarthy-like action and  to sign the linked petition

The abuse of women in the guise of religious piety is one of the more egregious modes of the blatant exercise of power by our Orthodox brethren. A young woman, Miri Bleicher, who was riding on a bus from Jerusalem to Arad, was subjected to verbal and physical abuse because of her refusal to sit at the back of the bus.
Miri Bleicher: "I was in tears throughout the ride"
The time has come for the public and the authorities to put a stop to this disgusting and arrogant behavior. These are the same people who evade military service, live on the public dole as "yeshiva students" and produce brigades of children for us working stiffs to support. Enough is enough. The denial of religious freedom to Jews of the Reform or Conservative persuasion is an example of how these obscurantist reactionaries manage to control our lives. We have ranted much about this in the past. Recently the PM appointed Natan Sharansky, the head of the Jewish Agency, to look into the matter and come up with a resolution of the issue of access of womn and other nonorthodox Jews to the Western Wall. We link you to a letter on this subject by Rabbi Bradley Shavit Ariston that puts the issue clearly in perspective.

Chuck Hagel the boogie man
Recently there has been a cacophony of  noise made by Israeli right wingers and their American followers about the nomination by President Obama of Hagel for the post of Secretary of Defense. He has apparently had the audacity to suggest that he puts the interests of the United States before those of Israel and that he is not intimidated (nor bought as congressmen are) by the Jewish lobby. Oi veh yidden! The sky has fallen!! He must be some kind of antisemite who celebrates Hitler's birthday. Roger Cohen writing in the New York Times does a good job of putting all this nonsense in its place. We hope that Secretary Hagel will put a stop to the kowtowing to the dictates of Israel and will push our intransigent government in the direction of a peace settlement with the Palestinians.
OK, enough pontificating even for a blowhard like Titan. Let us relax a bit.

We are grateful to Richard for passing on this link. We were unable to put the YouTube into the framework of this blog.  Google is our friend, yeah sure.

As you know, our household includes a dog named Murphy who is a cross between a Labrador retriever  and an Australian Cattle Dog or Blue Heeler.
We shall spare you the details of how this came about, although there is a dispute whether he is a mongrel or the descendant of two aristocratic lines.  He sometimes seems to think that he is really a seal, which raises questions about evolution.

We have found that SMBC has shown how the likes of Murphy fit into Darwinian evolution. Indeed the story is about a cat, but it is really not species specific.

WHAT IF from XKCD addresses an interesting question--what would happen if a person somewhere died every second in addition to the normal death rate.

 BARNEY AND CLYDE discuss wealth and the consumer economy.

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