Sunday, March 10, 2013

Titan marks International Women's Day

Dawn at Saturn greets Venus, the speck just off the limb

Titan will devote his efforts this week to the War on Women in honor of International Women's Day that comes fell Friday, March 8. If, as it is said, women are from Venus and men from Mars, let us give you a peek at Venus as it appears to Titan. The Cassini cameras picked up the above  image of the "twin" of Earth.  Note the tiny speck in the fork of the "Y" created by the limb of the planet and the gossamer g ring. As Carolyn Porco of the Cassini Imaging team says "Along with Mercury, Earth, and Mars, Venus is one of the rocky "terrestrial" planets in the solar system that orbit relatively close to the sun. It has an atmosphere of carbon dioxide that reaches nearly 900 degrees Fahrenheit (500 degrees Celsius), a surface pressure 100 times that of Earth's, and is covered in thick, white sulfuric acid clouds, making it very bright. Despite a thoroughly hellish environment that would melt lead, Venus is considered a twin of our planet because of their similar sizes, masses, rocky compositions and close orbits. Think about Venus the next time you find yourself reveling in the thriving flora, balmy breezes, and temperate climate of a lovely day on Earth, and remember: you could be somewhere else!"

Yes, Carolyn and Titan, nice to gaze upon Venus from afar. Recall, however, that our friend and colleague, Pioneer Venus Orbiter, got a much closer look, as you can see:

In 1482, Lorenzo d' Medici wanted an even closer image and commissioned Sandro Botticelli to paint the Birth of Venus, rising from the sea.

Go to Florence as we did, go to the Uffizi museum and marvel. For an appreciation of the painting, see Jonathan Jones' blog in the Guardian.

 For starters, 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. Please act on behalf of people who are so much in need of support in their trials and tribulations at the hands of oppressive regimes and corporations.

VAN CLIBURN,pianist, born 12 July 1934, died 27 February 2013 in his Fort Worth mansion after fighting bone cancer.

He became a national hero after winning the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1958. His victory came at the height of the Cold War, and helped thaw relations between the United States and Soviet Union. Cliburn then became an internationally famous concert pianist, performing for every U.S. president since Harry Truman. We refer you to the obituary in the Guardian.

HUGO CHAVEZ, the controversial and flamboyant president of Venezuela, died this week at age 58 after a long struggle with cancer.
Venezuela Hugo Chavez Obit
In this July 21, 2006 file photo, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, left, gestures as Cuba's President Fidel Castro looks on during an event in Cordoba, Argentina. (Roberto Candia/AP, file)
He was in many ways the man who turned Venezuela into a real country and did many good things for the impoverished masses. His anti-USA stance was part of his modeling himself on Simon Bolivar who liberated Latin America from Spanish imperialism. He regarded it as his duty to fight the "empire." As  pointed out in the Daily Beast by Michael Moynihan, he chose his friends accordingly. We note that he buddied Mahmoud Ahmedinajad,(Senior Iranian clerics have criticized  Ahmadinejad for saying  Hugo Chavez will be resurrected alongside Jesus Christ and the hidden 12th  imam who Shi'ite Muslims believe will rise up to bring world peace.), believed that Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe was a freedom fighter and that Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko presided over a model of a social state. In his view, Saddam Hussein was a brother and Bashar al-Assad had the same political vision as the Bolivarian revolutionaries in Venezuela. He saw in the madness of Col. Gaddafi an often overlooked brilliance ("I ask God to protect the life of our brother Muammar Gaddafi"). The brutal terrorist Carlos the Jackal, who praised the 9/11 attacks from his French jail cell, was a good friend. He praised and supported FARC, the terrorist organization operating in neighboring Colombia. The list is endless. On the other hand,  he traded cheap oil for doctors with Castro and thus did improve the lot of many poor people in his country. We await the results of the forthcoming election. The anointed successor has already blamed the US for the cancer. Let us hope someone more rational will be elected. For a more balanced obituary, we refer you to the Guardian.

This week Titan will devote the rant blog to International Women's Day that falls on Friday March 8. For quite a long time both Titan and sister Pollyanna have been ranting about the ongoing War on Women that is happening around the world. Much of it is connected with religion or rather the abuse of religion, other aspects are political and it is all a function of a patriarchal male backlash against the advances in the status and rights of women attained by the feminist movement over recent decades. We can see that the war is far from over. Let us start with a discussion of the role of men in dealing with violence against women. Soyara Chemaly, blogging in the HuffPost, points our attention at White Ribbon Day, March 7. It is a day devoted to persuading men to get off the sidelines and take an active role in putting an end to the abuse and persecution of women. Actor Patrick Stewart, who grew up in a home riven by domestic violence and writes and speaks often on the topic, is headlining a new global initiative, Ring the Bell: One million men. One million promises, being launched this year by the pioneering social innovation movement Breakthrough. Their viral Bell Bajao movement (Bell Bajao means "ring the bell") engages men in preventing and eliminating violence against women. Stewart movingly explains why men's participation is so crucial: video in the link.
The White Ribbon Campaign: Men Working to end Men's Violence Against Women
Credit: NOWCastSA on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

There are things that men and boys can do to be real allies in this struggle for women.Women and girls  will never achieve gender justice and close the safety gap without boys and men standing beside them. There are four major things that all boys and men can do, regardless of where they live:

1) STOP Stop, especially those in media and government, saying and thinking the words "women's issue." There is nothing that isn't a "women's issue," which is to say that in this case, as in every other, everyone is affected.

2) SHARE Share culture, real power and full rights. This is a hard one. First, it requires acknowledging sexism and misogyny exist and, second, that boys and men benefit, in intersecting ways, from patriarchal structures. We all know that 99 percent of men are not running around feeling privileged, powerful and entitled, in terms of how most of us think of those words. But, here is a simple test: how many boys do you know who would willingly and gleefully trade genders or want to grow up to be like a woman? How many ways, in how many languages, is it acceptable to insult a person by calling them some variation of "girl" or "woman"? Gender-based inequality and violence are about power and men, by virtue of birthright, have power, including the power to stop violence and change systems.

3) SPEAK Bystander intervention is something every boy and man can engage in. When men, especially those with visibility, status and respect speak up, people listen. When they don skirts to protest rape and wear heels to "walk in a mile in her shoes," it is significant. When they take a role in using violence prevention apps like Circle of Six or they ridicule "Man Cards" issued by gun companies, it changes cultures. We need people to stop asking for rape jokes. To stop thinking revenge porn is okay and about free speech. We need men to create affirming fraternities, based on respecting women and girls instead of shaming, humiliating and hurting them.  It is essential to build public spaces and cultures that aren't designed to intimidate females and make life difficult, but are open to them as equals. We chose our legacies.

4) SIGN UP Breakthrough's Bell Bajao is an excellent example of a successful global initiative introducing programs in the U.S. Bell Bajao, which means "Ring the Bell," is a innovative social change effort that teaches boys and men to intervene when they encounter violence. Launched in 2008, the initiative's award-winning series of PSAs, have been viewed by over 130 million people. This year  Breakthrough is launching Ring the Bell: One million men. One million promises(link above), a campaign calling on people and institutions to make specific promises to bring about change. (@breakthrough is tweeting using the hashtag #ringthebell and they are live-streaming events.) We need to stand up to men who who claim that women enjoy abusive relationships or deny that rape is rampant on university campuses in the US and elsewhere. The suggestion to arm women is hardly the answer. The truth is that the US Centers for Disease Control estimate that as many as 1 in 4 women in college have reported being the target of an attempted or completed rape while in school; Violence Policy Center research showed that in 1998, the year they studied, "for every time a woman used a handgun to kill an intimate acquaintance in self-defense, 101 women were murdered by an intimate acquaintance with a handgun." More relevant stats here.

In Israel, there are at least 140,000 known cases of battered women, some of whom are being helped by organizations such as Meir Panim,; women are marginalized by religious zealots, sent to sit in the back of the bus, told how to dress, excluded from public space etc.
It reads, "Women are asked not to loiter in front of the synagogue."

The recent resignation of the Pope and the outcry over the participation in the Conclave of Cardinal Mahoney of Los Angeles, both of whom covered up child abuse and protected perpetrators, leads us to the issue of the veil of secrecy that is drawn over these matters. Larry Cohen blogs about this in the HuffPost and points out that it is not only the Church, but the institutions of sport, the military, colleges--all more interested in protecting the institution than in the well being of child victims--that create this atmosphere of secrecy and shaming the victim. In Israel, an 11 year old girl whose family lived on an Air Force base was sexually  abused by soldiers and when it blew up, the Air Force tried first to protect the commander of the base. Only a threat of court action got him to be removed and one may safely assume that his fellow mafiosi found him a cushy job. The Air Force spokeswoman was not ashamed to say that there had been a conspiracy of silence that kept the commander from knowing what was happening. If that is the loyalty of his officers to him, he should not be the commander of anything. As Larry Cohen writes, "Institutions need codes of conduct, where responsibility for prevention of violence and protection of children is primary, and not something that can be shuttled aside. We're not saying that any particular person is guilty, that is a matter for the courts to decide; but we are saying there is a responsibility to report, whether we are talking about individual reporting, or organizations setting up environments that protect children." Amen.

Titan will not let you get away without an action item on behalf of women. Take a look at the abuse of female workers in the banana plantations of Honduras.
Honduran packhouse

Women were fired for being union activists and organizers. Please act on their behalf.

What If? has an amusing discussion.

Despite all the above, we know that women and girls like to be courted by men (or other women). Unfortunately some guys are shy and inept at this such as our friend Rajesh in the Big Bang Series, so it is very helpful that there are men of the world, such as Duane, to give useful advice to geeks.

Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Mar/05/2013

This is analogous to the episode in which Amy gets the hots for a hunk of a guy. After she and Sheldon analyze the symptoms (we shall spare you the details), she approaches her target in a bar and asks him to have coitus with her. You can imagine his response.

Our granddaughter Maya was great at good questions.  She asked why the sky was red after the Pinatubo eruption. 
Sky Color

The kid has a good question. Part of the answer lies in the fact that atmospheric absorption takes out more of the even shorter wavelengths, but that is not the whole story since we get tanned or burnt at the beach by ultraviolet that gets through. The main reason is the spectrum of sensitivity of our eyes and how we detect color.

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