Friday, February 6, 2015

Titan has survived both Groundhog Day and the Super Bowl!

Titan congratulates the New England Patriots on their Super Bowl victory.
Brady with the trophy

It was a cliffhanger of a game and he sat up to see it live. Titan thanks the Cassini spacecraft for the interplanetary relay. The decision by the Seahawk coach, Pete Carrol,  to go with a pass with 20 seconds left on the 1 yard line has been criticized since he has the best running back in football.

Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll is being blamed for losing the Super Bowl because his team passed at the one-yard line instead of giving the ball to the star running back Marshawn Lynch in the final minute. The pass was intercepted. Credit Matt Rourke/Associated Press
An analysis of the situation in terms of game theory shows that the decision was not silly at all. We know some people who chose not to watch the Super Bowl and we know what happens to them:

Super Bowl

We also know why some of us are put on Earth:

Pearls Before Swine Cartoon for Feb/03/2015

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over two years have 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 refers you to Population Action International. This is a nonprofit whose mission is to help healthy families live in a healthy planet. We quote the mission statement; "Population Action International advocates for women and families to have access to contraception in order to improve their health, reduce poverty and protect their environment. Our research and advocacy strengthen U.S. and international assistance for family planning. We work with local and national leaders in developing countries to improve their reproductive health care programs and policies. PAI shows how these programs are critical to global concerns, such as preventing HIV, combating the effects of environmental degradation and climate change, and strengthening national security." Their efficiency rating is high with over 80% of budget going to program work. Please donate whatever you can.

You might find this blog comment on the annual Gates letter illuminating. Progress is indeed all about women



Groundhog Day has come and gone.
 Punxsutawney Phil predicts the length of winter on Groundhog Day.
For those to whom this is a mystery or at most the name of an old film, there exists a belief that the groundhog comes out of hibernation each year and steps out of his nest. If he sees his shadow, i.e. there is sunshine, he becomes frightened and returns to his bed for another six weeks. This implies that there will be six more weeks of big time winter. If he does not see his shadow, an early spring is in the offing.
Each year in the town of Punxsutawney Pennsylvania, the so-called national groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil is taken out of his den for a time-honored ceremony. This year he saw his shadow. He did last year as well and there was a brutal winter in the US Northeast. A couple of geeks/wonks at the Washington Post  calculated the average daily temperatures during the six weeks after Groundhog Day for the past 30 years, comparing the temperatures in the years when Phil saw his shadow to those in the years he did not. By the analysis, weather records suggest that Phil was right more often than not in some cities, but the results basically come down to chance. Temperatures do not vary uniformly across the country, so Phil's predictions are bound to be right somewhere. There are other groundhogs who dispute Phil's special status. The New York version, known to his friends as Staten Island Chuck, disagreed with Phil this year. We shall wait and see and in the meantime raise a glass to the science of meteorology. Titan regrets that NASA/ESA did not send a groundhog with Cassini/Huygens.


Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez 1917-1980



The late  Archbishop of San Salvador was gunned down by right-wing death squads in 1980 while celebrating Mass. He had spoken out against repression by the Salvadoran army at the beginning of the country's 1980-1992 civil war between the right-wing government and leftist rebels. To the disgrace of the Church, his path to sainthood had been held up by the Vatican for years out of concern at his perceived association with liberation theology, the Latin American-inspired Catholic theology advocating for the poor. Now Pope Francis has declared him a martyr of the Church which puts him on the fast track to sainthood with the miracle requirement waived. The definition implies that he was killed because of hatred of the Church. In fact, he was killed because of his devotion to human rights, but even Pope Francis would not dare to say that out loud.  |An award in his name commemorates the martyrdom of Romero for his efforts to expose government corruption and to fight exploitation of the poor in El Salvador.  Initiated by the founder of the Rothko Chapel, Dominique de Menil, in 1986, the Oscar Romero Award is given to individuals or organizations in recognition of their unsung, heroic efforts in the area of  human rights. We note that this award  was given to our friend  and human rights activist colleague Ishai Menuchin.


The possibility of a child having DNA from three persons is about to become legal in Britain, pending only the approval of the House of Lords. It involves adding mitochrondial  DNA from a second woman and will help to prevent genetic diseases. The method, which was developed in Newcastle, should help women like Sharon Bernardi, from Sunderland, who lost all seven of her children to mitochondrial disease. Ms Bernadi said she was  "overwhelmed" by the decision.

Mitochondria are the tiny compartments inside nearly every cell of the body that convert food into useable energy. They have their own DNA, which does not affect characteristics such as appearance. Defective mitochondria are passed down only from the mother. They can lead to brain damage, muscle wasting, heart failure and blindness. The technique uses a modified version of IVF to combine the DNA of the two parents with the healthy mitochondria of a donor woman. It results in babies with 0.1% of their DNA from the second woman and is a permanent change that would be passed down through the generations.
Titan says cheers!


In 1960 Harper Lee published a book, "To Kill a Mockingbird" that became one of the classic novels of the century. Since then, she has lived as a recluse and has published nothing. Now we are told that she is about to bring out a sequel to Mockingbird called "Go Set a Watchman." It was written before Mockingbird, but the manuscript was thought to have been lost. It has been found and will be published this summer. The book world is waiting for it impatiently.


It is becoming tiresome, but the vaccination debate does not seem to want to go away. Some idiot right wing politicians in the USA are lending support to the antivaxxers in total opposition to science. It is of course mainly pandering to the lunatic right, but it can cost lives, as we saw with the pertussis epidemic in Australia a few years ago.
Mike Luckovich Cartoon for Feb/04/2015


Titan is also fuming because of the endless violence that seems to have convulsed the Muslim world. The burning alive of a Jordanian pilot, the stabbing of French soldiers in Nice, the senseless killings by Boko Haram, the terror attacks in Iraq, Pakistan, wherever--there seems to be no end to it. This is despite the undisputed fact that prominent Islamic scholars worldwide have condemned terrorism as a heresy against Islam. The Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar University, the oldest seat of Islamic learning, Sheikh Muhammed Sayyed Tantawi, has repeatedly condemned terrorism. He said in the name of Islamic law, he rejected and condemned the aggression against innocent civilian people, regardless of whatever side, sect or country the aggression came from. Prominent scholars of Saudi Arabia, Shaykh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah bin Baz and Shaykh Uthaimeen, also condemned the terrorist attacks. Every other major scholar of Islam, has come out against the indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians. It is clear that these leaders have little or no control over the relatively small fraction of fundamentalist Muslims who are, by Islamic laws, guilty of the crime of hirabah (waging war against society). The execution of two convicted terrorists by the Jordanian government, as an act of retribution, does nothing to lessen the horror.


We have not had a book review for a while. Titan calls your attention to a new book about the Paris Commune.
Massacre: The Life and Death of the Paris Commune
by John Merriman
Basic Books, 327 pp., $29.99
What has become known as the Commune of Paris, the subject of John Merriman’s new book, Massacre, was the bloodiest urban revolution of the nineteenth century anywhere. Merriman likens it to the Saint Bartholemew’s Day massacre of Protestants in Paris in 1572 and to the Armenian massacre of 1915. During the Commune the working poor of Paris, instead of a religious or ethnic minority, were largely the victims.
A barricade of the Communards at the corner of the Rue de Rivoli and the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville, Paris, April 1871 adoc-photos/Corbis

The book is reviewed in the Washington Post by Mary McAuliffe, the author of “Dawn of the Belle Epoque” and “Twilight of the Belle Epoque.”

If we are talking about books, Titan is pleased to note that Hilary Mantel, a writer whose work he greatly appreciates, is becoming a Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. It is a well deserved honor, although there is little love lost between Dame Hilary and the Royal Family, as described in the Daily Mail. Titan loved the first two volumes of her Thomas Cromwell historical novel and eagerly awaits the third, which will end, as we know with Thomas on the scaffold. Her comment on the Duchess of Cambridge, that she had been forced by palace officials to present herself as a ‘shop-window mannequin’ without personality whose main purpose was to breed, certainly did nothing to endear her to the royals. Congratulations Hilary and please get on with the Cromwell book you promised us.
Wolf Hall author Hilary Mantel, 62, is due to receive her damehood at Buckingham Palace tomorrow
Wolf Hall author Hilary Mantel, 62, is due to receive her damehood at Buckingham Palace tomorrow (Feb. 6)


In Israel, we muddle on from scandal to scandal as the election draws nigh. We now have our seventh senior police officer under investigation for sexual harassment of women officers under his command and other forms of corruption. Six of them  have already stepped down and one might gain the impression that our men in blue have something on their so-called minds other than protecting us tax-paying citizens from the evil of wrongdoers. Shocking indeed. The rot goes quite high. Last week, reports said the police were looking into whether Deputy Police Commissioner Nissim Mor assaulted and harassed a woman who'd joined the police force only a few months earlier. The Justice Ministry says that the party is over.
Deputy Police Commissioner Nissim Mor (L) and Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino.
Deputy Police Commissioner Nissim Mor (L) and Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi

If coplibidogate were not enough, we also have bottlegate.
Wine bottles marked for recycling.
Wine bottles marked for recycling. Photo by Bloomberg
Sarah Netanyahu, the ever-loving spouse of our PM, has been accused of pocketing the refunds of bottle deposits from the official residence. The amount of money involved is trivial, but the question of integrity arises. We put out our deposit bottles for the local Thai or Chinese farm laborers to pick up, but our power behind the PM is more thrifty.  It now has come up that,  after she was called up for this practice and refunded the NIS 4000 involved, she continued to keep the deposit funds with or without the connivance of her driver. Stay tuned for the heavy dirt!

A much more serious matter is the use of government employees to monitor the statements and activities of opposition politicians. The prime minister’s bureau has for the past six years been using employees of the National Public Diplomacy Directorate’s information and communications technology department to monitor media reports about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political rivals, according to internal emails and conversations with current and past employees of the department. This is manifestly illegal and should and will be a subject of investigation by the Attorney General and other relevant authorities.

The election campaign is heating up. There is much discussion of the PM's invitation to address the US Congress without coordination with the White House. It has to some extent exploded in Netanyahu's face and certainly will not contribute to good US-Israel relations if, heaven forbid, Netanyahu is reelected. Clinton, when dealing with Netanyahu, once said "who is the f*#^ing superpower here?" Indeed, with the US Congress bought and paid for by the money of a few Jewish billionaires in the US, it is a good question.  Peter Beinart analyzes it very lucidly while Mike Luckovich has a good take on it.

Mike Luckovich Cartoon for Jan/25/2015


There is no new What If? for whatever reason. Instead we shall show you an old one that we cannot remember from the past.
What would the world be like if the land masses were spread out the same way as now - only rotated by an angle of 90 degrees?

The answer is most interesting especially for Punxsutawney Phil and other meteorologists.

We shall also share some insight on the hubris of engineers and the price they pay to Murphy for it.

Engineering Hubris

When you go shopping there are sometimes bits of misunderstanding...

Dustin Cartoon for Feb/04/2015

especially about telephones:

Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Feb/04/2015

No comments:

Post a Comment