Thursday, July 25, 2013

Titan is looking at YOU!

The Day the Earth Smiled: Sneak Preview (NASA Cassini Saturn Mission Image)
We are on the blue dot that Titan is gazing at
Titan is back and before he starts to rant he would like to share something nice with you. Last Friday night between 2127 and 2142 UT (Greenwich)we were all on camera from Saturn. The Cassini spacecraft was positioned to take a scan of Saturn and its entire ring system during a total eclipse of the Sun. Earth  showed up in the background. Morgan Freeman encouraged people to go out and smile at the camera. We waved at Cassini and of course at Titan, who is not in the picture, but really is glad that you can see how we look to him, way out there in the outer Solar System. The pictures will look better if you go to the NASA link.

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 andtribulations at the hands of oppressive regimes and corporations

Titan and his entourage would like to congratulate Chris Froome and the Sky team on winning the Tour de France. This is the second consecutive victory by a Brit.
 If we couple this with the victory of Andy Murray at Wimbledon and the birth of a new little prince George  Alexander Louis (mazal tov), one might say that things are looking up for Britain

This week it is Titan's turn to promote a charity. His choice is Physicians for Human Rights, an Israeli organization of doctors and other health professionals who provide on a volunteer basis medical services to underserved components of the population, including refugees and asylum seekers, residents in Palestinian villages (let us not ask where the funding for medical services went in the PA), Bedouins in unrecognized villages and more. You may donate through the Hebrew and English pages of the Web site linked above. They are most worthy of our support. Proper disclosure, Titan's imaginary playmate, the Y in YandA, is an activist and volunteer physician in PHR. We are very proud of our Yosefa and her humanitarian work.

For once Titan is going to sound like Archie Bunker sounding off with strong criticism of specific aspects of Islamic culture. This is not to be interpreted as Islamophobia. Blaming the victim for any crime is totally unacceptable, but punishing a rape victim is really beyond the pale. That happened in Dubai where a Norwegian woman was raped, reported it to the police and was prosecuted for having sex outside of marriage. This ignited a worldwide outcry, the Sultan issued a pardon and she is now free to leave the country. This does not offset the fact that the ridiculous and evil actions on the part of the Dubai police and judiciary show that these people, with all their oil money and sponsorship of tennis tournaments, are still living in the Middle Ages. Yes, we are aware of the coverup of sexual abuse in both the Catholic Church and among Orthodox Jews, but in these cases, no one has ever jailed the victim. This sort of reaction is consistent with a religious culture in which a soldier will eat the heart of a slain enemy, a gunman will shoot a girl for the crime of wanting to to to school and benighted masses riot around the world because of a silly cartoon in a newspaper or a stupid amateur film that makes fun of their Prophet. We are all fed up on this nonsense. True, they can get away with this puerile behavior because there are economic interests that depend on their oil, but if they want to join the modern world, they need to shape up and understand that satire about anything is legitimate. Tom Lehrer performed a hilarious song called Vatican Rag in the wake of Vatican II,

and Zach Weiner ridicules Jesus in many of his SMBC cartoons, for example


We are not aware that the Pope has ordered an auto-de-fe for these blaspheming Jews. That went out with Isabella and Torquemada. The blasphemy laws in Pakistan are another abomination as are the regimes in Saudi Arabia and Sudan to name a few. Dubai, in particular, which is not floating on oil, should understand that the very important tourist industry will not prosper when things like this happen.

There is so much more to rant about that Titan hardly knows where to start. We will open with the issue of female genital mutilation (FGM). This is a barbaric custom,common in Muslim countries, but certainly not mandated by Islam, in which the genitals of girls are cut, presumably to keep them virginal until marriage and  faithful thereafter, since the joy of sex is lost. The dangers of FGM include severe bleeding, problems urinating, infections, infertility and increased risk of newborn deaths in childbirth. According to UNICEF, over 30 million girls are at risk. A worldwide outcry is needed. In the past Amnesty International campaigned against the practice and was accused of cultural imperialism. If protection of basic human rights is imperialism, then we are proud to be imperialists.

We continue with the topic of abuse of children by bringing up the painful issue of child abuse by rabbis in the Orthodox Jewish community. This is analogous to the Catholic priest child abuse scandal in that it involves betrayal of trust on one hand and a coverup of the crimes by the religious hierarchy on the other. We have the case of Rabbi Hershel Schachter (not to be confused with the late Rabbi Herschel Schachter, the first rabbi to enter Buchenwald), who called for screening of abuse complaints before calling in the police (in violation of the law) lest the Jew be put in a cell with a "schwartzer." When a Satmar Hasid was sentenced to prison, the head Rabbi of Satmar called the victim a whore. Frank Bruni writing in the NYTimes lays the issues squarely on the line. It is also shameful that the secular authorities, be it the Brooklyn DA or the police in Israel, are afraid to take these people on. Eventually public outcry did its job in Brooklyn; in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak, the show goes on.

In India the government provides free lunches at schools for over 120 million children each day. We are all appalled at the death of 23 children in the state of Bihar who ate food tainted with pesticide.
Sick school children recuperate in a Patna hospital ward in India
Photo: Sick children recuperate in a Patna hospital ward after the poisoning (AFP)

There have long been warnings about the hygienic conditions under which the food was stored and prepared, but nothing was done. We quote:  "You only come and do checks when you get complaints or when there are serious cases," said Rudranarayan Ram, the local education administrator for the village of Gandaman in Bihar state, where the children died. "This was the first time."
The poisoning, which police suspect was caused by storing cooking oil in a used pesticide container, killed the children so quickly that some died in their parents' arms while being taken to hospital. The headmistress of the school has fled, but will be indicted for murder. We are now told that she is in custody. There are no words that Titan can use to rant about this atrocity. When you send your child to school, you expect him/her to be perfectly safe there. Parents in Gandaman and Newtown know how false that expectation can be.

A child received a polio vaccine in a volatile neighborhood on the outskirts of Karachi, Pakistan. More Photos »
The vaccination program against polio in Pakistan received a body blow when the CIA was stupid enough to use a doctor to help locate Bin Laden. The result has been a strengthening of the anti-vaccination propaganda of the Taliban. Vaccinators function at the risk of their lives but now more police and security people are involved in the vaccination program and we can only wish them all success. National pride comes in as well since India has eradicated polio and Pakistan refuses to be outdone.

The Fukushima nuclear power plant is leaking radioactive water into the ocean and steam is coming out of places that are supposed to be cold. The company is apologizing as its lies come out to public scrutiny. We heard on BBC news last night that the number of Tepco employees affected by cancer-causing -level radiation is near 2000 whereas the company had released the number 175 some time ago. We hope the Japanese government can overcome this crisis.

Titan is as outraged as anyone else by the acquittal of George Zimmermann for the killing of Travyon Martin. It shows that racial prejudice is alive and well in America. We note that polls show a deep divide on racial lines in the perception of the case by the American public. The unusually personal statements by President Obama are telling. Obviously something is very definitely wrong in the legal system in Florida and elsewhere.

The spokeswoman of the Btselem human rights organization, Sarit Michaeli, was shot at close range by a Border Policeman (really a soldier, the BP is a fiction) while standing off to the side during a demonstration at Nabi Salah.
B'Tselem Spokeswoman Sarit Michaeli.
B'Tselem Spokeswoman Sarit Michaeli. Photo by Oren Ziv

 She was not a threat nor an obstacle to the soldiers, but she was shot, apparently because she was video taping what was happening. We know how quickly these terrorists in uniform can react when the urge comes upon them. We were attacked by an officer with a stun grenade who apparently felt threatened by an unarmed octogenarian. The truth is that the soldiers who choose to serve in these units, and not only in them, are usually thugs who are looking for a chance to bully people with impunity. We have written about them in the past, vid. our piece on the rotten cherries, aka Sayeret Duvdevan, in our last blog. They like to beat up young girls. The army arrests small children and then claims it was a unique case. The General in Command says it was a mistake to arrest a five year old child--the mistake was getting caught by a Btselem camera. To quote Irma la Douce-"don't get caught 'cause that's a crime."
After years of no activity on the peace front, suddenly negotiations are about to start. First we thank the Commission of the European Union for coming up with a package of economic sanctions aimed at the West Bank settlements. This caused the government to sit up and take notice and when John Kerry came around selling negotiations, he suddenly had buyers. Whether anything can or will come of these negotiations is an open question. We will link you to an optimistic view and to a pessimistic take. You may read them both and form your own opinion.

Many people like to express skepticism, which we have found to be a device by which Israelis, usually males, can achieve the dual goal of masquerading as wise men and avoiding any effort or involvement in attempts to implement changes in the system. In any case, maybe all those who laughed at Kerry as naive (in general it is chic to say that Americans are naive) will find that he and the silly optimists such as us will have the last laugh. Ginger Rogers puts it well in her song They All Laughed:

New chief rabbis have been elected, two for the price of one. We have an Ashkenazi and a Sephardi rabbi, the duality a relic of the Ottoman Empire perpetuated by the British and retained by us, for no obvious reason.  Two jerks were elected, Lau and Yosef, both sons of former chief rabbis, all nepotism and corruption such as we have come to expect from rabbis of the Orthodox breed. Ho hum, who really cares? In fact, as Anshel  Pfeffer writes in Haaretz--
"With Yosef and Lau, the Chief Rabbinate will remain nepotistic, superfluous, gray, corrupt and irrelevant to Israeli society, free to bully the people who need its services.
Until the people rise up and demand that it be abolished, this is the rabbinate we deserve. "

This is true, as it is true that we have the government that we deserve, the economy that we deserve,  the works. As long as we continue to elect the politicians who run and ruin our affairs, we will continue to get what we deserve. Maybe Eva Illouz is right when she says that the soul-crushing experience of the army left us incapable of rising up and denying our consent to our incompetent and corrupt rulers.

What If analyzes the probability that if you dial a random number and say "bless you" the person answering the phone would have just sneezed. We present with the aid of the New Yorker another aspect of this question that is relevant in these days of exposure of government snooping.

In these days of gay pride, we are pleased to see that our beloved little Cynthia sees things at a national level, bless her buttons:
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Jul/25/2013

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