Friday, September 19, 2014

Titan winds down 5774

Titan is back and would like to wish a Happy New Year to his Jewish friends and readers. Pollyanna will try to get her blog out on Wednesday next week because we are all in synagogue either on a Titan lake or in Natanya during the holiday. Titan is also scratching his head about the mystery of the missing lithium in the universe. The abundance of element 7 is about one-third of what it should be according to calculations based on Big Bang abundances of elements. Recent results from the European Southern Observatory show that other galaxies share the deficit found in our Milky Way.
An image of globular cluster M54 taken by the Very Large Telescope Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in northern Chile. Credit: ESO
An image of globular cluster M54 taken by the Very Large Telescope Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory’s Paranal Observatory in northern Chile. Credit: ESO

Titan had thought that the problem had been solved years ago by Andreas Korn of Uppsala University in Sweden and colleagues in Denmark, France and Russia who concluded that the lithium diffuses over time into the stars' hot interiors, where it is then burnt up (Nature 442 657). Now it appears that the problem is more complicated. Either modifications of BBN (Big Bang nucleosynthesis) calculations, or a combination of atomic diffusion plus a suitably tuned additional mixing during the main sequence, need to be invoked to solve the discrepancy (MNRAS 2014Volume 444, Issue 2 Pp. 1812-1820).The diffusion is understood, but no plausible mixing mechanism has been proposed or found yet, which leaves the mystery in place.
In other science news, a landing place for  the Philae probe has been chosen on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Good luck friends!
Context image showing the location of the primary landing site for Rosetta’s lander Philae. Site J is located on the head of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. An inset showing a close up of the landing site is also shown. The inset image was taken by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on 20 August 2014 from a distance of about 67 km. The image scale is 1.2 metres/pixel. The background image was taken on 16 August from a distance of about 100 km. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA
Context image showing the location of the primary landing site for Rosetta’s lander Philae. Site J is located on the head of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. An inset showing a close up of the landing site is also shown. The inset image was taken by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on 20 August 2014 from a distance of about 67 km. The image scale is 1.2 metres/pixel. The background image was taken on 16 August from a distance of about 100 km. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

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.

IMC team in Sierra Leone
This week Titan is referring you to the International Medical Corps. They are top rated by Charity Watch and are active in fighting Ebola, disease in refugee camps around the world and many other areas. International Medical Corps was founded by Dr. Robert Simon, who, as a young emergency-room physician at UCLA Medical Center, was moved to take action after reading of the tragic plight of the Afghan people as a result of the 1979 Soviet invasion and subsequent occupation. All but 200 of the country’s 1,500 doctors had been executed, imprisoned, or exiled, and all relief agencies had been ordered out of the country, leaving ill and injured civilians, pregnant women and developing children with essentially nowhere to turn for basic health care. He found that no one was acting, so he founded a new group. Titan quotes from the mission statement:"Established in 1984 by volunteer doctors and nurses, International Medical Corps is a private, voluntary, nonpolitical, nonsectarian organization. Its mission is to improve the quality of life through health interventions and related activities that build local capacity in underserved communities worldwide. By offering training and health care to local populations and medical assistance to people at highest risk, and with the flexibility to respond rapidly to emergency situations, International Medical Corps rehabilitates devastated health care systems and helps bring them back to self-reliance." Please click on the donation tab and help out.

RANTS AND RAVES (with the aid of some cartoonists)
CLIMATE CHANGE AND HYPOCRISY Our planet is going to hell in a basket with our aid and abetting and we all are trying to look the other way. Naomi Klein writing in the Guardian points out what our collective denial and the hypocrisy of the capitalist moguls who walked the road to Damascus and then suddenly had second thoughts has brought about. She gives the phenomenon an appropriate name, "greenwashing" and lists for us Branson ($3bn promised in 2006, $230m spent), Gates and others.
Months After BP Oil Spill
Oil is deposited along dead marsh land near Bay Jimmy in Port Sulphur, Louisiana, in January 2011, 10 months after the spill. The clean-up is ongoing. Photograph: Getty Images
Titan gives you a quote from her long article (you must read it all):"The idea that only capitalism can save the world from a crisis it created is no longer an abstract theory; it's a hypothesis that has been tested in the real world. We can now take a hard look at the results: at the green products shunted to the back of the supermarket shelves at the first signs of recession; at the venture capitalists who were meant to bankroll a parade of innovation but have come up far short; at the fraud-infested, boom-and-bust carbon market that has failed to cut emissions. And, most of all, at the billionaires who were going to invent a new form of enlightened capitalism but decided, on second thoughts, that the old one was just too profitable to surrender." Something to think about. For some perspective, August was the hottest August on record.  
Paul Krugman in the NYTimes points out that fighting climate change can be both cheap and free.

While the West and its Arab vassals try to figure out how to deal with the Islamic State, some voices are being heard to the effect that a major ground action led by the US and NATO is probably just what the jihadis are trying to provoke. Steve Weissman, in Reader Supported News, makes the point that the blood-thirsty “fools of God” need to be seen defending their people against a Western invasion, which is precisely what Obama gives them. He argues that the US should learn the lessons of the past  folly of covertly using Islamic groups, whether to protect Big Oil, drive the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan, or fight the Croats and Serbs in Bosnia, where the CIA flew in al-Qaeda militants from Azerbaijan. In all these cases, the US created a monster it could not control. Cutting off your nose to get what you think is a good result is not always optimum as Mike Luckovich tells us so graphically.
Mike Luckovich Cartoon for Sep/14/2014

Indeed it is hard to understand the Obama strategy for dealing with the IS and maybe, as he told us a few weeks ago, he has none.Michael Ramirez Cartoon for Sep/04/2014
This tactic certainly will not work:Signe Wilkinson Cartoon for Sep/14/2014
Chelsea Manning writing in the Guardian from her prison in the US suggests on the basis of her experience as an analyst that the best thing the West could do would be to apply containment and then wait for the IS to fall on its own sword.In her opinion, without the impetus of fighting the West, the IS will disintegrate and be torn apart by internal tensions. Maybe. In the meantime, let us hope that the US does not tear itself apart, as noted by Luckovich...

Mike Luckovich Cartoon for Aug/28/2014              
It appears that  the Scots have decided not to tear the UK apart.  The good news is that single malt scotch will still be available. This is not a joke.  Whisky is Scotland's second-largest export behind oil and gas and is worth £4.3bn a year to the local economy. Stephen Colbert was for independence for Scotland:


No means No! Rush Limbaugh made the following outrageous statement this week:: “[According to Ohio State policy,] consent must be freely given, can be withdrawn anytime, and the absence of "no" does not mean "yes." How many guys, in your own experience with women, have learned that no means yes if you know how to spot it?... Are these [policies] not lawsuits waiting to happen? ” -- Rush Limbaugh. This is advocacy of a culture of rape. Over 40 years ago an Israeli song writer Dan Almagor innocently wrote a song about flirting that by implication pushed the same idea, that no can mean yes. He has since retracted and apologized and we believe that he was not consciously advocating rape, although the song is certainly not acceptable by today's standards and should not have been written then. (BTW, he wrote a song about Venezuela that claimed that the Orinoco flowed into the Amazon,which is pure rot. A whole class screwed up a high school geography final exam because of him. Imagine a young Israeli backpacker, lost on the Orinoco looking for the Amazon...) If you live in the US, click and call for sponsors to drop Limbaugh.

The man who invented the pop-up ad,
the most hated thing on the Web, is apologizing. You might find the story interesting. There is also a link to his essay and some ideas about how the Web could be different and our privacy better protected.

There is a misguided belief that homosexuality is a medical or psychological condition that can be
removed by various means. We all know of the scandalous "rape therapy" used in South Africa and other places to "cure" lesbian women. Now that the last gay therapy place in the US, Exodus International has closed its doors, with its leaders offering apologies for their actions, it is worthy to recall what atrocities were committed in the name of such "therapy" such as electroshock to genitals etc. Orthodox Jewish organizations in the US are protesting the laws outlawing such "therapy" but they will get nowhere. In Israel, over the past few years the religious population in Israel also started  publicly to cope with the existence of gays and lesbians in their midst and with the appropriate ways to deal with it. Two organizations are famously known for dealing with conversion therapy in Israel: “HOD” (stands for ‘Homoim Datiyim”- religious gays), is an organization founded five years ago by Rabbi Ron Yosef, 38 and gay himself, in order to fight “Atzat Nefesh” (‘Soul Advice’), an organization established in 2001, which presents itself online as the "center for assistance and training for sexuality, identity and addiction. ” Ex-gay women are totally absent from the Israeli debate on the subject, and according to “Bat Kol”, a religious lesbians organization, only a few have experienced such treatment. - Read more . Those who have tried this therapy have had generally negative results and the Israel Psychological Society has taken a firm stand against it.

Noam Sheizaf has come out with a provocative and important post on +972 in which he proposes that
the progressive community in Israel stop beating its head against the wall for the two-state solution that is for the moment unattainable and refocus its energies on civil rights for the Palestinians. His proposed solution is to replace the diplomatic process with a civil rights struggle, to break the occupation into pieces, and deal with each one of them:
  • The fact that Palestinians do not enjoy freedom of movement. 
  • The fact that they have been tried in military courts for almost half a century. 
  • The limits on their freedom of speech and their right to freely assemble.
  • The lack of proper detainee rights (including minors). 
  • The disrespect for their property rights, and, of course, their lack of political rights.
It is an innovative idea and worthy of consideration. Certainly there is no political will in the power structure of Israel to move towards peace and a diplomatic settlement nor is there any real interest in peace on the part of the public.

IDF Unit 8200
Graduates of Unit 8200, the IDF's technological spearhead. Photo by Moti Milrod
In the Israeli army there is a unit called 8200 which is the main intelligence gathering entity of the system. It is an elite unit and its soldiers and officers are chosen for their ability and intelligence, to say nothing of their loyalty. It was, therefore, a severe shock to the system when forty three reservists including officers sent an open letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and top military officials, saying they would refuse to do reserve service because of Israel's `political persecution' of the Palestinians.

"We, veterans of Unit 8200, reserve soldiers both past and present, declare that we refuse to take part in actions against Palestinians and refuse to continue serving as tools in deepening the military control over the Occupied Territories." the soldiers said in the letter, which was also addressed to IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, the head of the Military Intelligence Directorate.

The 43 unit members who signed the letter, some of whom serve in the reserves, say that the information that is gathered and stored in the army’s systems “...harms innocent people. It is used for political persecution and to create divisions within Palestinian society by recruiting collaborators and driving parts of Palestinian society against itself.” The unit spies on the personal lives, sexual activities and relationships of Palestinians in order to blackmail them into becoming collaborators with the Occupation. It should also be a matter of concern to people in the US that the NSA passed on raw surveillance data on US citizens to 8200.

Titan salutes these people who are very brave and will pay a price. The difference between them and Anat Kamm who served prison time in Israel for exposing war crimes and people like Assange, Snowden and Manning (who is serving a 35 year sentence) is that the actions against the US actually resonated and caused changes. In Israel, which in some ways is very similar to North Korea, the Army is a sacred cow wallowing in corruption and evil and no one has the courage to slaughter it. The docile press that eats out of the hand of the  army was quick to condemn the mutiny, with the exception of Haaretz and a surprising article on YNET.  Gideon Levy compares 8200 to the Stasi with full justification. Avraham Burg writing in Haaretz also praises the rebels and shames those of us in the progressive camp who throw up their hands as the bad guys keep winning.
"We must never, but never, give up. One may not surrender even when the forces of evil seem like they are gathering strength and power, and the forces of good are in shamed retreat. Enormous, herculean strength is not always required to defeat the well-oiled, powerful machine. Sometimes all it takes is the courage of a few individuals – like the alumni of Unit 8200. Discussion about their letter ought to go far beyond the act itself. It touches two very sensitive places in Israel: the place of the army, and that of conscience, in our lives. The bottom line, as of now, is that the army takes up a place in our lives that is too large, even total, while almost no room is left here for conscience. That is why the disobedience of the intelligence and surveillance troops contributes something toward a different balance in the equation of Israelis’ lives: less militarism and more conscience." 
Titan could not agree with you more, Dr. Burg. As Martin Luther King said, the three evils that destroy a society are racism, militarism and materialism. We are well supplied with all three.

The High Court of Israel has just rejected a petition against a law that allows communities to filter the people who come to live in them by criteria set up by the community itself. The law was passed, as we all know, to perpetuate housing segregation against Arabs. The petitioners argued that the law would allow these communities to reject homosexuals, people with disabilities, Arabs or anyone else who differed from the community’s social norm. Since both Israeli and international law prohibit discriminating against someone just because he differs from the dominant social group, they said, that makes the law unconstitutional. Since the Chief Justice himself lives in a West Bank settlement and is, therefore, a de facto war criminal, one should not be surprised by such racism at the highest judicial levels. We can recall times when certain neighborhoods in cities in North America were off-limits for Jews, Orientals, blacks, Hispanics etc. Civil rights legislation eliminated all that, but in Israel Jim Crow is alive and well. The Onion has published a practical guide to racism that our justices might have read or written.
Click here to view larger image

We had an obituary for Joan Rivers when she died. We would like to share the lovely way the New Yorker said farewell to her along with a memorial post by Mike Luckovich:
Mike Luckovich Cartoon for Sep/05/2014  


What If? asks My 12-year-old daughter is proposing an interesting project. She is planning to attach a number of helium balloons to a chair, which in turn would be tethered by means of a rope to a Ferrari. Her 13-year-old friend would then drive the Ferrari around, while she sits in the chair enjoying uninterrupted views of the countryside. Leaving aside the legal and insurance difficulties, my daughter is keen to know the maximum speed that she could expect to attain, and how many helium balloons would be required.

Phil Rodgers, Cambridge, UK

Randall starts with: "Note to police: If you've recently taken into custody two unidentified underage drivers, a stolen Ferrari, and a bunch of helium balloons, the person you're looking for is Phil Rodgers in Cambridge, UK."  The answer is not encouraging to the young lady, but Randall offers an alternative.

We once had a colleague who could not find the any key nor turn off
his MAC. They are among us.
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Sep/18/2014

Any of you who have memories of being bullied in school or elsewhere will appreciate this bit from SMBC:

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