Saturday, May 3, 2014

Titan is back from his travels with fresh rants

Titan is back with you again and has much to share with you, most of it rants, but also some positive things. Here is a shot of the planet Uranus as seen from Cassini at Saturn.

 Uranus as seen by Cassini on July 19, 2013 (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)
Uranus is a pale blue dot  in this natural color image because its visible atmosphere contains methane gas and few aerosols or clouds. Methane on Uranus - and its sapphire-colored sibling, Neptune - absorbs red wavelengths of incoming sunlight, but allows blue wavelengths to escape back into space, resulting in the predominantly bluish color seen here. Cassini imaging scientists combined red, green and blue spectral filter images to create a final image that represents what human eyes might see from the vantage point of the spacecraft.

Titan, Pollyanna and their imaginary playmates YandA took a few weeks off over the Pesach holiday and went to visit Hadass and her family in Winnipeg.  Signs of spring are definitely in the air.
View from front porch April 25, credit Yosefa

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over a year has gone by without Miriam and 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.

The charity for this week will be AVAAZ.This is an important and very effective lobbying charity that supports causes in which we all believe. It has 35 million members in 194 countries and in contrast to many other organizations AVAAZ gets things done. We quote a recent email:..."Most of the money donated goes to Avaaz campaigns. But a lot of it, we just give away -- over $8 million so far to humanitarian causes and partner organizations who are doing great work that is unlikely to be funded by corporations and foundations. Organizations like the The Equality Effect for whom our community raised $300,000 last year. The head of The EqualityEffect said "we are enormously grateful to Avaaz members for supporting us in ensuring laws in Kenya and Malawi protect girls who are vulnerable to some of the most appalling violence in the world." ...Some people criticize activism as useless or feel-good, and they're sometimes right. But Avaaz has been given awards for our effectiveness, and our community's ability not just to speak out powerfully, but to put our money where our mouths are, is a massive part of why we're a force that is changing the world. And we're just getting started :)." So please click on the site and pitch in to help the world.

IN MEMORIAM Gabriel García Márquez 1927-2014.

The great Colombian novelist who received the Nobel Prize in 1982 is best known for his novels, such as One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), The Autumn of the Patriarch (1975) and Love in the Time of Cholera (1985). He also founded a school of journalism and believed that journalism, done properly, is the only hope of saving the world. He died on April 26 in Mexico City where he had lived for many years. We greatly admire his writings and regard him as one of the most significant writers of the 20th century. We are not alone in this, despite his friendship with Fidel Castro, which we find  troubling and  causes us to be in two minds about his politics. We refer you to obituaries and appreciations in the Guardian and in the Independent.
Garcia Marquez with Fidel Castro
García Márquez with Fidel Castro. Photograph: Jose Goitia/AP

We have long been categorically opposed to capital punishment. It is a crime against human rights and  it is exacerbated when performed in such a way as to torture the victim. Indeed people used to be burned at the stake (for the glory of God) or quartered and disemboweled. Now the great state of Oklahoma USA botched a lethal injection execution to the point that they had to stop it. Shortly afterwards. the victim died of a heart attack. Clayton Lockett was left writhing and clenching his teeth on the gurney after three shots of poison. It shows that there is no way an execution can be carried out humanely. There is, of course, no hope for a constitutional amendment in the US outlawing the death penalty, but one by one states are abolishing it.


Peter Bauer/Daytona Beach News-Journal, via AP
The legislature of the American state of Tennessee has just passed a law that would make a women liable to criminal prosecution if she is drug addicted and inflicts drugs on her fetus. The legislation is just the latest in a series of efforts in Tennessee to deal with a rise in infants born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), which is a group of problems akin to the effects of withdrawal. The bill is a travesty of justice and is flawed on medical grounds as well since there exist good treatments for NAS. It exempts women in rehab programs but poor, rural, minority women have little access to such programs. We can only hope that the governor will veto it.

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling attends a game against the Los Angeles Lakers
Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling attends a game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California in this January 10, 2014 image. Photo by Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers in the NBA has been banned from the team and the league for life. He had a conversation with his girlfriend in which he made racist remarks and asked her not to be photographed with black people (e.g. Magic Johnson) and not to bring them to games. You can listen to the conversation here. Rabbi Eliyahu Fink in his blog relates to the Sterling statement that "blacks are treated like dogs in Israel" and points out that this is not far from the truth, alas. Indeed what Sterling had to say was revolting, but as Kareem Abdul Jabbar points out correctly none of the shocked people were around and shouting when he was discriminating in housing. He was sued by the government on this issue. Sterling allegedly refused to rent apartments he owned to African Americans, Latinos and people with children  and, though he denied the charges, agreed to pay  a settlement of $2.765 million in 2009. A separate housing discrimination lawsuit dates back to 2003. Titan says yuck.

Preventable diseases that spread because of resistance to vaccination or ineffective vaccines are a major source of Titanic ranting by Titan and his family. One such disease is whooping cough. Pertussis or whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory disease. It is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis.

Pertussis is known for uncontrollable, violent coughing which often makes it hard to breathe. After fits of many coughs, someone with pertussis often needs to take deep breaths which result in a "whooping" sound. Pertussis most commonly affects infants and young children and can be fatal, especially in babies less than 1 year of age.

The best way to protect against pertussis is immunization. With the introduction of an effective vaccine in the mid 20th century, incidence, at least in the industrialized world decreased, but it is now having a resurgence in many countries. In the following graphic we show how it peaked in  the US in 2012.
PERTUSSIS REDUX  Whooping cough, a disease nearly vanquished in the United States in the 1970s, has made a comeback that coincides with a change in vaccines.
Whole-cell pertussis vaccines are inactivated bacteria with many antigens, including endotoxins, which trigger broad immunity. The acellular vaccines use only a few antigens, including a weakened pertussis toxin, to limit side effects. (Click image to enlarge)

In Israel, the new acellular pertussis vaccine was introduced into the routine immunization schedule in 2002 in order to increase public acceptance of an apparently safer vaccine. The change in vaccine caused a waning of the protection over time. Since the disease can be lethal to infants and can be carried by hospital staff who are not immunized, the recommendation of the Ministry of Health in Israel is a second booster dose of pertussis vaccine for schoolchildren to minimize disease risk in adolescents and adults and to interrupt the spread of pertussis from older children and young adults to small babies. Immunization of pregnant women in the latter stages of gestation is also strongly recommended.

Titan's main rant here is about the exaggerated claims put out by antivaxxers and others linking the whole cell vaccine to encephalopathy. The result was the unfortunate change to acellular vaccine and we see the results. To make things worse, a drug resistant form of the bacterium has surfaced in France in an 18 day old infant. We need aggressive public health action supported by a well informed public. Has anyone seen the Messiah recently?

Women march in Abuja on Wednesday to demand action on the missing students. (Philip Ojisua/AFP/Getty Images)
Women march in Abuja on Wednesday to demand action on the missing students. (Philip Ojisua/AFP/Getty Images)
The wave of terror in the country is continuing to intensify. BOKO HARAM (Western education is sinful) is running wild. The most recent attack, a car bomb on a busy street in Abuja on Thursday killed 19 people and 75 were killed near the same spot on April 14. The saga of the missing girls continues and the reported number of victims continues to rise. According to police over 300 girls were abducted on April 14 but the uncertainly arises from the fact that many girls from other schools had come to Chibok for exams. President Goodluck Jonathan has finally issued a statement: " The recent atrocities by terrorists, particularly the Nyanya Motor park bombing of mainly working class citizens, as well as the cruel abduction of some innocent girls, our future mothers and leaders, in a very horrific and despicable situation in Borno State, is quite regrettable. The government is constantly reviewing and upgrading mechanisms to curb this mindless act and together, with the cooperation of the citizenry, we shall triumph."

Indeed President Jonathan, let us see some effective action on your part to put a stop to this outrage. Titan is foaming at the mouth over this.

There is much to rant about in Israel as usual. This is the season of the national holidays, first the Holocaust Day charade which starts the national frenzy of death culture, followed by Memorial Day that switches instantaneously into Independence Day. All this is tainted with blatant militarism on which Titan will focus this year. Before that, however, we need to follow up on something that Titan raised in his last blog before we went abroad. As you may recall, Rabbi Avraham Yosef, the rabbi of the city of Holon, gave his blessing to cheating and plagiarism in the preparation of university team papers. At the time we wondered whether he is a crook or just an idiot. Now, with the police recommendation that he and his brother, also an Orthodox rabbi, be indicted for extortion, we think that the answer is clear. Of course, this does not preclude the possibility that he is both, but that is a separate question.

Martin Luther King once said " When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” It is shocking that the most popular public figure in Israel,according to the popularity survey conducted every spring for Haaretz, is the Chief of Staff of the army. Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz. During the past year he has catapulted to the top of the list on the poll. His popularity rating is nothing short of fantastic: 78 percent, with only 7 percent dissatisfied with his performance as the country’s No. 1 soldier. That means that among the Jewish population, anyone who has an opinion about him is very pleased with our CoS. As Yossi Sarid points out in Haaretz, this is an indication of the pathetic nature of our society. When compared to the Cabinet ministers, the Chief Rabbis or the rest of our leadership, even someone as unimpressive as Gantz can look good.

The fact that the Army has a sad record of military incompetence, that its intelligence capability provides new "surprises" every day and that it is corrupt up to its eyeballs does not prevent it from blackmailing the government into increasing its already bloated budget. If that were not enough, our greedy generals appeal to the public and to Jews abroad for more money. They have a network of nonprofit organizations that raise millions at home and abroad. Dozens of nonprofit groups, most of them small volunteer operations, work to raise funds for specific units. Almost every combat unit has a nonprofit working on its behalf, most of them established by parents whose sons were killed while serving in the unit or by individuals who once served in it.

The triplet mentioned by King is very much alive and well in Israel and the corruption in the army is only one aspect of it, but a very important one. The fact that they can get away with it and still be loved by the populace is an indication of how weak and cowardly a nation we truly are. We are easily manipulated by the fear mongers who profit from our collective neurosis. In this the combined civilian and military leadership collaborate to frighten us with one bogeyman after the other, be it Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, the antisemitism of all goyim everywhere, anything is legitimate as long as it keeps the politicians in power,the settlers and the generals happy and their buddy tycoons wallowing in our money. The collapse of the Kerry mission elicited comments from politicians such as "the threat of peace has been averted." The fact that these people continue to be elected shows how right the Roman philosopher Cicero was when he said over 2000 years ago that one should not blame Caesar, but rather the people dancing in the streets as he deprives them of their liberty. It is actually quite a universal phenomenon. We see women in the US voting for Republicans or in Israel for Shas and poor people voting for oligarchic parties. It undermines faith in democracy, but as Churchill said, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." Have a nice day everyone.


What If? "My daughter—age 4.5—maintains she wants a billion-story building. It turns out not only is that hard to help her appreciate this size, I am not at all able to explain all of the other difficulties you'd have to overcome."

Keira, via Steve Brodovicz, Media, PA. Randall does his best to explain to Keira that a billion-story building is not a good idea.

Elk and photographer

 We love our Wally. 
The Official Dilbert Website featuring Scott Adams Dilbert strips, animations and more

Then we got the news from Cynthia, bless her little buttons. 
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Apr/24/2014
For all of us who have had to download software updates:
Wizard of Id Cartoon for Apr/24/2014

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