Saturday, October 4, 2014

Titan for Yom Kippur and Eid ul Adha

Titan is back and would like to wish all his Jewish readers a Chatima Tova, a positive inscription in the Book of Life and his Muslim friends Eid ul Adha Mubarak. May we someday celebrate our holidays in peace.

Titan had a chance to think a bit in synagogue and decided there must be more to life than revolving around Saturn. He liked a blog post by Rabbi Fink of the little synagogue on Venice beach, in which he raises the question of why we fast on Yom Kippur and gives a cogent answer in terms of everyone's internal tug-of-war between our material and spiritual selves.
 billing rate tug of war
Rabbi Mira at our Reform synagogue in Natanya called it the conflict between the nefesh/material and the neshama/spiritual. Titan also came across a bit of Talmud (Sanhedrin, 4) that impinges in his opinion on the reason for the importance of human rights in society. A translation to English follows for the Hebrew-challenged.

לפיכך נברא אדם יחידי בעולם, ללמד שכל המאבד נפש אחת, מעלים עליו כאילו איבד עולם מלא; וכל המקיים נפש אחת, מעלים עליו כאילו קיים עולם מלאומפני שלום הברייות, שלא יאמר אדם לחברו, אבא גדול מאביך.  ושלא יאמרו המינים, רשייות הרבה בשמיים.  להגיד גדולתו של מלך מלכי המלכים, הקדוש ברוך הוא, שאדם טובע מאה מטבעות בחותם אחד, וכולן דומין זה לזה, מלך מלכי המלכים הקדוש ברוך הוא טובע את כל האדם בחותמו של אדם הראשון, ואין אחד מהם דומה לחברו.  לפיכך לכל אחד ואחד לומר, בשבילי נברא העולם
Therefore the man was created singly, to teach that he who destroys one soul of a human being, the Scripture considers him as if he should destroy a whole world, and him who saves one soul, the Scripture considers him as if he should save a whole world. And also because of peace among creatures, so that one should not say: My grandfather was greater than yours; and also that the heretic shall not say: There are many creators in heaven; and also to proclaim the glory of the Holy One, blessed be He. For a human being stamps many coins with one stamp, and all of them are alike; but the King of the kings of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, has stamped every man with the stamp of Adam the First, and nevertheless not one of them is like the other. Therefore every man may say: The world was created for my sake.

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over a year and a half 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.

This week Titan is referring you to the Mercy Corps who are active for people all over the world who are in tough situations.
It starts with you
South Sudan as a case in poit

Click on the link, read about them and choose a project to support.either monthly or a one-time donation. Titan is pleased to note that Charity Navigator awards them four stars for their responsible stewardship of donor funds and that 88% of their resources are used for programs

mount ontake

Japanese soldiers search on Mount Ontake on Saturday. Photograph: Reuters
Titan, Pollyanna and YandA express their sadness and dismay in the wake of the eruption of Mount Ontake in Japan. They applaud the courage and resolution of the rescue crews, both civilian and military who are braving the toxic fumes to search for bodies and survivors.

Titan and his crew salute the brave protesters in Hong Kong who are standing up to repression and have the courage to demonstrate for their rights in the face of a regime to which democracy in anathema.

We are all aware of the nature of the regime in China and the use it makes of torture as a routine way of repressing the populace. Titan is further outraged at the fact that they have turned their torture "industry" into a profitable business.
A report by two human rights groups says that more than 130 Chinese companies are involved in producing and selling equipment like electric shock wands and spiked batons. Robin Ballantyne/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
 Over 130 Chinese companies are involved in the production and trade of potentially dangerous law enforcement equipment – compared to only 28 a decade ago.
  •     28 Chinese companies involved in the export trade were advertising inherently cruel electric stun batons.
  •     7 Chinese companies openly advertise inhumane spiked batons for export.
  •     28 Chinese companies export  abusive restraint devices including heavy weighted leg cuffs and rigid restraint chairs.

There are detailed descriptions of the trade in the NYTimes and a joint press release by Amnesty International and Omega. The press release contains a link to the full 43 page document. The
conclusions-"Amnesty International and Omega are urging the Chinese authorities and those of all other countries to:
  •  impose an immediate ban on the production and trade of inherently abusive equipment
  •  immediately suspend or deny trade licenses for the supply of other equipment to law enforcement agencies and forces where there is a substantial risk the equipment will be used to commit or facilitate serious human rights violations
  • establish export control regulations and practices for the control of security and police equipment that can have a legitimate use but is easy to abuse
  • end all torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment, as well as the use of arbitrary force, and investigate all allegations of such acts to bring the perpetrators to justice."

Titan is revolted.

Titan is also outraged over the life sentence given to the Uighur scholar Ilham Tohti. The action drew a torrent of international outrage this week. President Obama called for his release, the European Union condemned the sentence as “totally unjustified,” and rights advocates said they could not recall a similarly harsh penalty for a prominent intellectual whose main offense, it appeared, was criticizing government policies. It appears that the government is coming down heavily on ethnic minorities.

Titan is shocked at the latest self-immolation of a Tibetan. A student, Lhamo Tashi, 22, set himself on fire in front of a police station in the western province of Gansu on Wednesday. This is the first such event in five months and the Chinese government is trying to prevent it from being well known. The repressive rule in Tibet is of course unmoved by such incidents--they really care not at all for world opinion. No matter what happens, we will continue to buy the junk the Chinese make to sell us.


Amira Hass
Haaretz correspondent Amira Hass. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
The Israeli journalist Amira Haas who has long been known as a fervent critic of the occupation and a supporter of human rights and the rights of the Palestinian people, was expelled from a conference at Bir Zeit University. This is stupid and ridiculous and does nothing for the cause of an independent Palestine or anything else besides the egos of a few idiots. Matthew Kalman puts it well in perspective. The universities in the West Bank are not producing graduates who can compete and perform in the modern world. The Palestinians do not need Israel to put them down, they do a very good job on themselves.

On a recent El Al flight from New York to Tel Aviv, takeoff was delayed because ultra orthodox Jewish men refused to sit next to women who were not their wives, mothers or sisters. Most of them stood in the aisle for the duration of the flight which caused major discomfort for the other passengers. They offered money to people to swap seats, but couples traveling together would have none of it. One female passenger described her trip as: “an 11-hour-long nightmare”. The plane did arrive in time for the Rosh Hashana holiday. Titan thinks it was most improper of the airline to allow female passengers to be bullied by these thugs sent, presumably by God, to preserve morals. There is a petition to El Al calling on the airline to protect its female passengers. El Al is refusing to establish a policy in these matters. Titan advises people  simply to find another airline, that does not kowtow to male chauvinism, in any guise, nor hires war criminals from the Air Force to fly its aircraft.

This question has been bouncing around the punditsphere for quiet a while, especially since the
Gaza war. Jonathan Freedman writing in the NYRB and Anthony Lerman in the NYTimes believe that the day is approaching when liberal Zionists will have to choose between these two values. Others disagree, such as Carlos Strenger in Haaretz and Bernard Avishai in The New Yorker, while Uri Misgav asks how we can continue to live here and maintain a moral sense.
Israeli soldiers man a checkpoint in Hebron on June 15, 2014
Israeli soldiers man a checkpoint in Hebron on June 15, 2014, as Israel imposed a tight closure of the town. Photo by AFP
The option of emigrating does not exist for most Israeli Jews and can be regarded as a moral copout. In truth, if you look around the world, you can see that there is no country where democracy is not severely flawed. It is clear that the left has a heavy struggle before it.

The High Court of Israel ruled recently that the detention facility in Holot was unconstitutional and must be closed within 90 days. The government tried to ignore the decision, but was caught in the act by investigative reports of Haaretz and stopped sending people there. The issue of the treatment of asylum seekers, mostly refugees from war zones in Africa is a blot on our conscience. Aeyal Gross in Haaretz points to a ray of hope.

Medical team in Sierra Leone (Photo: AP)
Medical team in Sierra Leone (Photo: AP)
Israel was asked to send a medical team to West Africa to help with the Ebola crisis. The request, made in light of the success of such teams in Haiti, the Philippines and Japan, came from the US and the UN. The Foreign Ministry was in favor since it would help Israel's international image, but the Defense Minister Yaalon vetoed it on grounds of the danger of infection. We are a light unto the nations indeed.


What If? asks: What if everything was antimatter, EXCEPT Earth?

Sean Gallagher

The answer is not good news, but fortunately the universe is made up of matter.

Wumo show how it is possible to be vague on the concept. Link only as usual because they scare us with their warnings.

Titan feels empathy for our Cynthia. There are times when even Titan does not feel grumpy, especially when Cassini comes around to chat. His first real visitor Huygens appears to be in a coma of some kind, alas.
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Sep/29/2014


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