Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Titan is back with you

Titan is back and invites you to a tour of his lakes:

The Charity Corner has found a home on the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights Action site. Titan and Pollyanna hope that you will visit there, take the actions and make the donations.

We mourn the death of Prof. Noa Noy who died last week at age 63.

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Her memorial service:

We send our heartfelt condolences to Danny and Tali and wish them the best. Beside being one of our family, she was also a distinguished biophysicist and cancer researcher. "Work in her laboratory aims to obtain molecular-level understanding of the factors that regulate the action of nuclear hormone receptors, and to elucidate the consequences of the activities of these proteins for cell function in health and in disease. Of special interest to us are the roles of transcriptionally active metabolites of vitamin A in cancer development, in adipose tissue biology, and in regulation of insulin responses." She believed strongly in the importance of clinical applicability of fundamental research. Danny and Zohar's description on Facebook is just right--Brilliant, beautiful, funny,loved and missed beyond words.


The Nobel prizewinning playwright and actor Dario Fo, famous for his cutting political satire in plays  has died aged 90. He was a great playwright of the years of unrest and rebellion in the 1960s and '70s. His plays such as Accidental Death of an Anarchist and Can't Pay? Won't Pay! were hilariously cutting critiques of life under capitalism as it went into crisis. His style of theater was like a Brecht play performed by the Marx Brothers in the age of TV. They even became long running hits in London's West End.

Brian Mulligan, a teacher, writer and performer who was part of the "alternative comedy" scene of the 1980-90s, said:

"I saw Accidental Death of An Anarchist in London in 1980 - it only changed my life."

Fo won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1997. An obituary can be found in Portside.


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Tom Hayden, a social activist and politician,a stalwart of America's New Left, has died aged 76 in
Santa Monica, California.

He served 18 years in California's state legislature.  He was married for many years to the actress Jane Fonda.

"A political giant and dear friend has passed," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti wrote on Twitter. "Tom Hayden fought harder for what he believed than just about anyone I have known."
Hayden, who forged his political activism as a founding member of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), which stood at the core of the 1960s anti-war and civil rights movements, was principal author of the group's revolutionary manifesto, the Port Huron Statement.

To his dying day, Tom Hayden furthered the ideals of the left. He was castigated from both right and extreme left, the latter for supposedly having sold out to the establishment and the former for the usual reasons. One should not take such complaints too seriously--he served the ideals of the left far better than most of his critics. A detailed obituary can be found in the Los Angeles Times.


The crimes against humanity committed by Australia in its treatment of asylum seekers and refugees

We refer you to the publications of Amnesty International on the appalling conditions under which these unfortunate people are forced to live.The refugee confinement facilities are in effect modern day concentration camps run by one of the world's great democracies.
Over 400 asylum seekers and refugees remain in cramped tents in Australia’s Refugee Processing Center on Nauru

The Guardian has published details and Amnesty has added to them. The current policy of the Australian Government is that no person who arrives in the country by boat seeking asylum can ever settle in Australia. Instead, anyone who arrives by boat is forcibly taken to offshore “Refugee Processing Centers”, one of which is on the remote Pacific island of Nauru. The tiny island cannot accommodate them and the human suffering engendered by this policy is horrible. The government claims that the policy protects people who might otherwise undertake the hazardous boat crossing to Australia. Since its inception, however, offshore processing has been designed to be punitive and has been widely promoted by a succession of Australian governments as a deterrent and as a demonstration of Australia securing its borders.

The policy has been castigated in the NYTimes and elsewhere. It amounts to torture, no matter how you twist language. Merely a year and a half ago a United Nations special rapporteur found systematic violations of the Convention Against Torture. None of this registers because as long as boats carrying asylum seekers are not making it to Australia, all is justified

People are fleeing war, pestilence and death and there is no compassion in the hearts of those who are living safely. Obviously this is not a sustainable situation and it is morally despicable. The thought that it is spreading to Europe as the "Australian model" is intolerable. Titan wonders what happened to shame.


 Titan and Pollyanna have always considered the extreme right militia movement to be a great danger. IN rural Oregon, the danger of violent rebellion is truly real. We report on the activities of the organization fighting back, the Rural Organizing Project, a not-for-profit group that sets out to confront the right wing insurgency that has been bubbling away in parts of rural Oregon and throughout the west. The director, Jessica Campbell has had her car’s fuel line cut and its wheel nuts loosened. Late last year, she had a GPS tracker surreptitiously attached to her vehicle.

She is now accustomed to being tailed by unfamiliar vehicles on Interstate 5 near her home in Cottage Grove, just outside Eugene, Oregon. Strangers have regularly come uninvited onto her property; someone even stripped the barbed wire on her fence “just to send a message”. Online, she has repeatedly been threatened with rape and death and has even had gunfire aimed at her car.

All this can be traced to the Trump candidacy, although the election of Obama also brought a large number of creatures crawling out from under the rocks and out of  the woodwork. The phenomenon of the people left behind, the Brexit and Trump voters, who feel their world collapsing in the wake of rapid changes in society, cannot be safely ignored. Leaders must give thought and action to the frustrated component of their constituency,

In Israel, there is no room for complacency. Chemi Shalev points out the similarities between Trump and Netanyahu and Titan notes that the constituencies are the same: poor, uneducated and full of hatred for the middle class, while voting for the plutocrats who are crushing them. As Shalev writes, "If you’ve listened to Netanyahu over the past few years, you know that Obama is more or less Haman the Evil One, the Persian king’s aide-de-camp from the Book of Esther, who plotted to kill the Jews but was ultimately thwarted. Israeli leftists, on the other hand, small, depleted and despondent as they may be, are Netanyahu’s equivalent of Mexican rapists and murderers, who, when they are not ravaging American women, are probably killing people in the streets. "

In the mean time, all sorts of idiotic things are happening with the US election. We will let Mike Lukovich speak for us:


An Orthodox Brooklyn yeshiva has agreed to pay two of its former students $2.1 million as damages for  alleged sexual molestation they suffered at age six from a senior rabbi on the school’s faculty—the first known case of such a settlement by a Jewish day school. We only hope that this will be a breakthrough in breaching the wall of silence that has shrouded sexual misconduct in the orthodox community.


This should be on Silly Time, but it is real and Titan does not know whether to laugh or vomit. Christoph Bartneck, associate professor at the University of Canterbury (New Zealand), was invited to submit a paper to the International Conference on Atomic and Nuclear Physics, taking place in the US in November.

But, as he says on his blog post, he has "practically no knowledge of nuclear physics". So he decided to let iOS autocomplete do the paper for him...

    I started a sentence with “Atomic” or “Nuclear” and then
    randomly hit the auto-complete suggestions. The text really
    does not make any sense. After adding the first illustration on
    nuclear physics from Wikipedia, some references and creating a
    fake identity (Iris Pear, aka Siri Apple) I submitted the
    paper, which was accepted only three hours later. I know that
    iOS is a pretty good software, but reaching tenure has never
    been this close.


The fact that the paper was accepted tells you something about how conferences operate...of course, this  cannot but bring to mind the postmodern philosophers pilloried beautifully by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont in their book Fashionable Nonsense, which is  reviewed in detail by Richard Dawkins in Nature.



Syrian tanks destroyed in the Yom Kippur War in 1973.Roman Frister
Our brave men and women in uniform are, it appears, commanded by a bunch of scoundrels. Of
course, Titan is not referring to the grunts who do the real work of keeping the state secure, on land, on sea and in the air. They are our children and grandchildren, drafted to do a job under the command of officers who range in competence over an entire spectrum.What is terrible is the lack of any kind of integrity at the top levels.

Let us start with something simple like truth. In the wake of the Yom Kippur war of 1973, a tank battalion commander, Zvika Greengold was credited with the single handed destruction of 60 Syrian tanks. Greengold was one of the few fighters who received a medal for valor for his battlefield achievements. Now we are getting a totally different story. Haaretz reports-"A senior Israeli army officer who fought in the Yom Kippur War says he made up one of the most famous tales of Israeli heroism in that war, in an effort to boost morale."

In a report broadcast Friday night on Channel 2, Israel Defense Forces Brig. Gen. (res.) Yair Nafshi said he concocted the story about how IDF tank commander Lt. Zvika Greengold single-handedly destroyed dozens of Syrian tanks in the Golan Heights in October 1973, holding off the Syrian advance.

Nafshi, a battalion commander in the 188th Brigade in which Greengold also served, said he created the story in order to improve morale in the unit, which had lost a large number of troops in the war.

We had to rebuild [the unit] from nothing. What did you want? We needed some kind of story,” said Nafshi. The narrative continues with other officers providing similar versions. Even if we accept the idea that the myth was needed at the time to rebuild the armored brigade, the truth could and should have come out in the over four decades since the events described.

On the other hand, Greengold himself rejected claims that the story about his heroism during the Yom Kippur War was fabricated and called them a “blood libel without even a shred of trut,” .
We give him credit for disowning the exaggerations of the army press and reserve judgement. None of us were there and certainly the tank battles against the Syrians entailed great courage on the part of
the participants. Why his colleagues dispute his heroism may be, as Greengold himself says “Apparently it’s a mixture of jealousy, evil and psychological problems. ... There’s not a shred of truth in [their claim]. I don’t understand why they gave a platform to [people] like that. I live my life quietly and don’t intend to get into this media game.”

“During the Yom Kippur War, 1,200 Syrian tanks invaded Israeli territory,” he added. “Learn the history.”

Whether or not battlefield myths are made up ,we know that the army is not above making up financial stories in the military budget. We have just learned that the military brass have by trickery and chicanery managed to line their pockets via their pension funds to the tune of about 30 million! shekels per year. Over the years  something like 3 billion of the taxpayer's shekels have gone astray.The financial regulators have just found out about the smoke screen. In a letter, Accountant General Michal Abadi-Boiangiu told State Comptroller Joseph Shapira that she learned in his report that for years the IDF has deliberately submitted information to mislead the treasury on the scope of pension outlays. Shapira, with remarkable understatement, writes that the military provided “partial information” and that he considers “this improper behavior” by the General Staff’s personnel branch grave.  What we have here is a gang of thieves in uniform with tons of brass on their shoulders and our hard earned money in their bank accounts. As Israelis love to shout--"kol hakavod l'zahal" i.e. all honor to our glorious military. As Amos Harel writes "So the next time IDF officers shed a tear about the starvation wages of some of the noncoms in the career army, they should be asked whether the top
brass could be less generous with the pension supplements for retiring officers."Titan finds this disgusting beyond words.


The recent spat about the UNESCO statement about the connection between Jews and the Temple Mount has exposed a new burst of hypocrisy and gall on the part of Israel. B. Michael lays the fact squarely on the line in Haaretz. Israel has built on Moslem cemeteries, destroyed countless mosques and has trampled on the holy places of all except those involving Jews. Of course, one need not be  Jewish to be  an idiot as demonstrated by the statement by deputy minister Ayub Kara (a Druze)  at the Vatican that the earthquake in Italy is retribution for the UNESCO resolution. This would be funny if it were not so pathetic--correction, pathetic or not, it is still hilarious. Cheers deputy minister Kara!


The Habima Theater, which is called ournational theater, has decided to give in to government pressure and to perform in the cultural center of Kiryat Arba, in the West Bank This should generate a strong backlash in the artistic community and throughout the left wing of society. To be honest, Titan thinks that the settlers are welcome to this theater and its low quality of productions, but, as stated in an editorial in Haaretz, "the Habima management’s provocative consent to this is a moral stain worthy of condemnation.
For Shame!!


Crowding in the Galaxy

The universe suddenly looks a lot more crowded, thanks to a deep-sky census assembled from surveys taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and other observatories. Astronomers came to the surprising conclusion that there are at least 10 times more galaxies in the observable universe than previously thought. Move over Andromeda, we need the space.


Humans split from our closest African ape relatives in the genus Pan around six to seven million years ago. We have features that clearly link us with African apes, but we also have features that appear more primitive. This combination calls into question whether the Homo-Pan last common ancestor looked more like modern day chimpanzees and gorillas or an ancient ape unlike any living group. A new study, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that the simplest explanation – that the ancestor looked a lot like a chimpanzee or gorilla – is the right one, at least in the shoulder.


The Selected Letters of John Cage    edited by Laura Kuhn 

Wesleyan University Press, 651 pp., $40.00 reviewed in the New

York Review of Books 27.10.16 by Tim Page 

There are certain creative figures whose mature works are almost tangential to their enduring artistic influence. Marcel Duchamp falls into this group, as does Andy Warhol. And so, certainly, does John Cage (1912–1992). He opened doors—floodgates, really—and dissolved definitions; if most of his own compositions now seem less interesting than the ramifications of his ideas, there can be little doubt that his oceanic spirit changed the topography.

What If? Since Death Valley is below sea level could we dig a hole to the ocean and fill it up with water?
—Nick Traeden We can and we should not. People have proposed digging a canal from the Red Sea at Elat in Israel to the Dead Sea. It is an equally stupid idea and Titan hopes it is never realized.

Ms Foxx hits the nail on the head:



YandA have been making coffee in a French press since they moved to their new home. Titan sent them the vampire version...and is chuckling all the way around Saturn.   Pollyanna thinks it is a bit not PC...

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