Friday, November 1, 2013

Titan is trick or treating...

Titan is back with you again and would like to share a cosmic Halloween picture with you, courtesy of NASA.

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.
A Spectre in the Eastern Veil
Image Credit & Copyright: Alfonso Carreño (Observatorio Zonalunar)
 Explanation: Frightening forms and scary faces are a mark of the Halloween season. They also haunt this cosmic close-up of the eastern Veil Nebula. The Veil Nebula itself is a large supernova remnant, the expanding debris cloud from the death explosion of a massive star. While the Veil is roughly circular in shape covering nearly 3 degrees on the sky in the constellation Cygnus, this portion of the eastern Veil spans only 1/2 degree, about the apparent size of the Moon. That translates to 12 light-years at the Veil's reassuring estimated distance of 1,400 light-years from planet Earth. In the composite of image data recorded through narrow band filters, emission from hydrogen atoms in the remnant is shown in red with strong emission from oxygen atoms in blue-green hues. In the western part of the Veil lies another seasonal apparition, the Witch's Broom.

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Now that a full year has gone 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.

This week it is Titan's turn to promote a charity. His choice is Yeladim - Fair Chance for Children. This is a non-profit in Israel designed to help children in distress. We quote the mission statement:
 "Developing public and  governmental awareness of the needs of group homes and the children they house. To protect and guard the rights of children in distress living outside their homes. Enhancing the lives of these children in group homes and  foster care."

In Israel today, there are over 7500 children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect, or because they are orphans. They live in 80 residential group homes around the country.

Yeladim – Fair Chance for Children has undertaken to help overcome these children's deprivation and deficits by means of "quality time" programs. These programs offer the children something they did not receive in their original families. They focus on nurturing personal relationships between the children and significant adult figures, providing the children with equal opportunities in society and the community and defending their rights to the authorities. The organization serves all children who need it, with no weight given to ethnicity. You are welcome to donate at the above  link.

Uri is the greatest peace activist in the country. We went to an event held in his honor with a panel discussion on the question Will Israel exist in 90 years? Several pundits held forth and in general it was interesting. Some said yes, others said no and there even was the question of whether Israel should exist in the future. The pro and cons of the two-state solution were discussed. For the opinions you can google the participants, Meron Benvenisti, Shlomo Sand, Itzhak Livni, Talia Sasson and of course Uri Avnery. himself  For an interview with Uri, we give you the following from a few years ago. His positions have not changed.

OK, On with the rants. Titan has received complaints that his rants do not provide guidance for sources of blood pressure medications. Indeed, if your blood is boiling, you can vent some pressure by actually doing something about it, such as sending off blasting letters that tell the truth to power, by signing petitions, by going to demonstrations and in general getting off your butt. Miriam always said that human rights are not a matter of talk but of action.

The coffins of two Nepalese workers killed in Qatar, at Kathmandu airport before delivery to their families. Photograph: Peter Pattisson/
The World Cup football (soccer to you Yanks) tournament is to take place in Qatar in 2022. Stadia are under construction and the workers are being treated like slaves and dropping dead in the 50 degree heat. Call on FIFA to crack down.on this modern slavery.

Just to make matters  clear, Qatar is not the only offender in this regard. A recent report to the European Parliament indicates that slavery of various types is widespread in the EU. The data show that approximately 880,000 people are in slavery across the 27 nations that make up the European Union. This figure comes as part of a larger report on the role of organized crime in the EU, but it provides an important and chilling view of this aspect of the criminal world in Europe, where human trafficking generates  profits of around $33 billion (€25 billion) per year and almost a third of the total people in slavery are victims of sex trafficking.

All this is well documented. CNN has a Web site devoted to the fight against slavery. A UN document on human trafficking including refugee smuggling, the sex trade and slavery of various kinds provides shocking details.  According to the Report, at least 136 different nationalities were trafficked and detected in 118 different countries. Human trafficking happens throughout the world with millions of victims falling through the cracks of their own societies only to be exploited by traffickers. They can be found in the world’s restaurants, fisheries, brothels, farms and homes, among many other locations. The number of slaves in the world is estimated to be about 27 million.

One of the most worrying trends is the increase in child victims. During the period 2003—2006, 20%  of all detected victims were children. Between 2007 and 2010, the percentage of child victims rose to 27%,. Trafficking originating from East Asia also remains the most conspicuous globally. Based on the Report, East Asian victims were found in 64 countries in all regions, and were often detected in large numbers. If your blood has yet to boil, think of almost eight million children, often sold by their own parents.

A major component in this terrible phenomenon is the abuse of women and girls. Society has yet to evolve out of the patriarchal mind set that sees women and girls as property rather than as human beings. The recent bout of rape cases in the US involving sports players seems to indicate that the macho culture is still very much with us. The crimes at Steubenville and the alleged crimes at Maryville and Notre Dame University indicate that we have a long way to go before women and girls can feel safe in our society.
Lizzy who committed suicide after being raped by a football player

The NSA snooping scandal goes on. The chief snoop says that someone must stop the media from fingering the snoopers. This is supreme chutzpa, like the man who killed his parents and asked for clemency as an orphan.
NSA Director General Keith Alexander earlier this month. (photo: Evan Vucci/AP)
NSA Director General Keith Alexander earlier this month. (photo: Evan Vucci/AP)
Yet it is not as simple an issue as some of our radical friends on the left would make it out to be. There are bad guys out there who fly airplanes into skyscrapers if given the chance and think that blowing up a shopping center will advance some cause. A balance has to be found between the legitimate security needs of the public and the right of every person to privacy. The Right to Life is item number three in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
    Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
It is certainly clear that the NSA has overstepped by far the legitimate need for obtaining information on terrorist threats and has entered the realm of unacceptable societal and political surveillance. We are less concerned about the leaders of France and Germany whose protests ring hollow than we are about the totally unsuspected ordinary people. Governments spy on each other and the main crime is getting caught. It is, on the other hand, possible by data analysis to detect patterns of communication that would indicate legitimate political activity by an opposition group to which a government need not nor should not be privy. Obviously when Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971 he was serving the American people much more than their government was. Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning are either heroes or traitors-it depends on your weighting system with respect to democracy and the need for espionage. Let us quote Daniel Ellsberg, who was eventually backed up by the courts:
 "There are legitimate reasons for secrecy, and specifically for secrecy about communications intelligence. That’s why Bradley Mannning and I –both of whom had access to such intelligence with clearances higher than top-secret – chose not to disclose any information with that classification. And it is why Edward Snowden has committed himself to withhold publication of most of what he might have revealed."
In Israel we have the case of Anat Kamm, a soldier who discovered that the general for whom she was working was ordering his minions to commit crimes including murder of unarmed civilians. She leaked the information and is now in prison while her commander has moved up the military hierarchy. We regard the limits of loyalty as a major moral question and intend to take it up in a more widely read forum than this little blog. In the meantime, we can take comfort in the news that in future the NSA will not get caught.

In the 17th century and before women were hanged or burned as witches. One would like to think that in our modern world such actions would be unthinkable. Think again. Titan points you at a list of seven countries that persecute for witchcraft and sorcery.
 7 Countries That Still Kill “Witches”
 In three of them, Saudi Arabia, Tanzania and Gambia, it is government policy. In India, Nepal, Papua New Guinea and Uganda, the public believes and lynches and the governments try to stop it. There are other places on the planet where superstition has a very strong hold. This is not a Halloween joke, but a frightful truth. If, however, you think that vigilante law is confined to the Third World, you would do well to consider the case of Bijan Ebrahimi who was beaten and burned to death by his neighbors in Bristol, UK, on the base of a false belief that he was a pedophile.



The question of democracy in Israel has been raised in several contexts recently. The Israel Institute for Democracy has come out with a survey that should trouble anyone who cherishes the values of liberal democracy. There is strong Jewish ethnocentrism and nearly half the Jewish population believe that Jews should have privileged status in the country compared to others. We suggest you look at the report carefully. It is most disturbing.
Pulled in two directions: Finance Minister Yair Lapid says its hard to be both Jewish and democratic
Photo credit: Gideon Markowicz
Our Finance Minister, Yair Lapid, recently stated that Israel cannot be both Jewish and democratic. He made the statement at a conference in which he defended the bill his party is promoting to allow civil and same-sex marriage. For a change, he was honest in his statement of the insoluble problem of the incompatibility of Judaism and democracy.

Titan is fuming over the events in the village of Heletz in southern Israel. Two sets of parents who were displeased with a kindergarten teacher went berserk after the failure of their attempts to have her fired. The other parents were pleased with her work with their children. The result was the burning of the kindergarten and of the teacher's car.
The kindergarten in Heletz.                    

The kindergarten in Heletz. Photo by Eliyahu Hershkovitz
She left the position and with the backing of the Teachers' Union and the Ministry of Education will certainly find another. It is totally unacceptable that this type of behavior is tolerated and we hope that the police will succeed in finding evidence against the perpetrators. At the moment, no one is in custody.

Ravit Hecht tells us of a small crime committed by all of us at Ben Gurion Airport to an innocent woman in a wheelchair. who had the misfortune to be a Palestinian.

Jia Zhangke, Touch of Sin, Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Jia Zhangke, Touch of Sin, Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Titan thinks that Pollyanna has monopolized the cultural side of family blogging business for long enough. If she can rant, he can present a review of the recent New York Film Festival, courtesy of The Nation.


What If: Emily Dunham asks: When, if ever, will Facebook contain more profiles of dead people than of living ones? Randall comes up with an answer.  He also shows the strength of a certain irrational number.

Pi Equals

The Onion tells us that balloon rides to the edge of space are being offered at $75K per crack. Lots of Luck Charlie Brown. Enjoy while it lasts...

We are also pleased to pass on the good news that the dictator of North Korea Kim Jong Un has received an honorary doctorate from a Malaysian university Here are the results of opinion sampling by The Onion.

“The North Korean people must be so proud and hungry.”
Derrick Stoll –
Systems Analyst
“He has a doctorate? Wow, what a catch.”
Megan Alstadter –

"Congratulations," Manny Guinta –
Music Critic
What is amazing is that this is not a spoof. The university involved is taking flak.
kim jong un honorary doctorate
The Doctor Himself

Of course, you are not going to escape without our beloved Cynthia. This is dedicated to the fathers of smart-ass kids:

Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Oct/28/2013

When our Maya was three years old she asked her mother where God was before he created everything including space. The question has not gone away.

The Official Dilbert Website featuring Scott Adams Dilbert strips, animations and more
Thank you Galia for the History of English in Ten Minutes 

No comments:

Post a Comment