Welcome to Sunday, November 19, 2023, and National Macchiato Day (it’s a little bit of steamed milk in an espresso). Here’s one I had in Jerusalem on Sept. 21, not knowing that all hell would break loose a bit more than two weeks later:
It’s also National Blow Bagpipes Day (blow ’em if you got ’em), Play Monopoly Day, Equal Opportunity Day (the Gettysburg Address was delivered on this day in 1863 noting that “all men are created equal”), International Men’s Day, Women’s Entrepreneurship Day and World Toilet Day, a UN day to help those who don’t have proper “facilities”. Here’s its symbol from Wikipedia, showing a man in the act:
Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the November 19 Wikipedia page.
*War news from the NYT: Things at al-Shifa Hospital are reported to be dire, and there’s no sign of the hostage (I believe a hostage swap is in the works, but don’t quote me)
Nearly four days after the Israeli military stormed the biggest hospital in the Gaza Strip, the World Health Organization described the complex as a “death zone” where several patients had died because medical services had been shut down.
There were 291 patients, including 32 babies in extremely critical condition, remaining at Al-Shifa Hospital, the U.N. agency said in a statement late Saturday, after Israeli forces allowed a U.N. team to tour the facility for an hour. Earlier in the day, hundreds of patients and civilians sheltering at the hospital had fled south.
The W.H.O. said that that movement came after an evacuation order from the Israeli military. But Israeli officials said that they had agreed to a request from the hospital authorities to allow safe passage for people who wanted to leave Al-Shifa, and that they had brought food and water into the complex.
. . .Israel has yet to provide conclusive proof of a subterranean military base at the hospital. The United States has backed the assertion about the tunnels but has also said that Israel must do more to protect civilians as the death toll rises after six weeks of war.
The NYT should have some patience here; they’re almost gleeful that no “conclusive proof” has been found, despite the discovery of weapons in the hospital and a tunnel entrance that has yet to be explored. As for the “common knowledge” among reporters of various nationalities that Al-Shifa has long been a Hamas headquarters, see this article nine years ago from YNet.
The NYT continues:
Israeli forces are continuing operations at Al-Shifa, Adm. Daniel Hagari, a military spokesman, said in a statement. Their top priority, he said, was uncovering information about the hostages taken by Hamas on Oct. 7.
Six weeks after that assault, the fate of the more than 200 people identified by Israel as abducted by Hamas and other groups remains uncertain. The United States has been trying to broker an agreement to free some hostages, but a deal remains elusive.
Israel is beginning to strike southern Gaza, though allowing a safe corridor for refugees from the north (who aver that it isn’t really “safe”):
As the fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas engulfs northern Gaza, about 10,000 more people evacuated from the territory’s north to its south on Saturday using a route designated by the Israeli military, according to United Nations estimates.
The Israeli military has been opening the route for several hours each day, promising safe passage for civilians to escape the fighting. But evacuees have described the route as a risky journey with an uncertain outcome. Along the way, they brave what they have said is incoming fire and the physical strain of a long trek. Once they reach the south, they have found overcrowded shelters and scarcities of food and water. Israeli airstrikes have pounded southern Gaza, too.
*In a separate news analysis, the NYT concludes that Israel’s miliary strategy to eradicate Hamas isn’t working. I have to say that I’m quite worried about that too. How far has Hamas been eradicated? What’s the endgame: who is going to rule Gaza after the guns fall silent? And how will displaced civilians return home when they have no homes left? From the piece:
The Israeli military’s seizure of Al-Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest medical complex, is central to the military strategy at the heart of the ground invasion: Eradicate Hamas and free roughly 240 hostages taken during the Oct. 7 surprise attack.
That strategy has unfolded over the past three weeks as more than 40,000 Israeli soldiers encircled Gaza City, where Israeli officials say Hamas commanders were concentrated. The soldiers then attacked fighters and bunkers, all while targeting a vast tunnel network that Israeli officials say enables Hamas forces to hide and carry out operations. Israeli officials also assessed that striking so deeply in the heart of Gaza City would pressure Hamas to reach a deal on hostage releases.
So far it is not clear that the Israeli strategy is working.
U.S. military officials said their Israeli counterparts tell them to expect more weeks of clearing operations in the north before Israel prepares a separate initiative in southern Gaza, widening the offensive.
The Israeli military’s chief spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said late Friday that its troops would continue their offensive “in every place that Hamas is, and it is in the south of the strip.”
And although the Israeli defense minister, Yoav Gallant, said in a video statement on Monday that Israel had “accelerated our activities against the tunnels” and that Hamas militants had lost control in the north and were fleeing south, military analysts said Mr. Gallant’s statements raised many questions.
How will Hamas be eliminated if its fighters blend into the rest of the population as they head south? How long can Israel, which lost about 1,200 people in the Oct. 7 atrocities, sustain growing international pressure for a cease-fire as civilian casualties in Gaza mount? Most immediately, was Al-Shifa an important enough military target to raid?
. . .Israel blames the civilian deaths — 11,000, according to the Gaza health ministry — in part on Hamas’s decision to hide its military fortifications and command centers in residential neighborhoods and hospitals like Al-Shifa.
But U.S. officials said Israel’s rapid decision to launch ground operations in the enclave left Israeli commanders little time for extensive planning to mitigate risks to civilians and all but guaranteed a high civilian death toll.
Of course this is Monday-morning quarterbacking, and what other conclusion would you expect the NYT to come to? But then again, what else was Israel to do? Not respond to Hamas? Sit there quietly and allow its civilians to be butchered. Or, to placate the world’s call for “proportionality”, kill about 1200 Gazans?
I asked Malgorzata’s opinion about this article, and this is what she said (quoted with permission, of course):
There is something very jarring and unpleasant in this article. I know nothing about how to conduct the war but I know that already in the beginning, before Israel started with the land invasion, the leaders said that it would be a very long operation, maybe lasting a year. Hamas had 16 years to build their fortress and these journalists want Israel to dismantle it in weeks! Information about Hamas’ headquarters under Al-Shifa hospital has been confirmed by Gazans and Western journalists—at least since 2014. Information about the 11,000 civilians killed has been repeated for at least two weeks and somehow it doesn’t grow in spite of constant bombardment by Israel. And how do these three authors know how many of the killed are terrorists, how many were killed by terrorists’ rockets that “fell short”, and how many were killed by Hamas when they wanted to escape? Are those “500” killed in a hospital (parking lot) bombed by the PIJ [Palestine Islamic Jihad] malfunctioning rocket included?
*As you saw yesterday morning, the SpaceX Starship test had mixed results. Yes, both the booster and capsule experienced “rapid disassembly” (SpaceX’s euphemism for “blew up”), but they at least got the capsule up and separated at the right time. But then what happened? We won’t know for a while but the WaPo has some information (see also a longer story at the Wall Street Journal).
SpaceX’s Starship rocket successfully lifted off. All 33 of its Raptor engines ignited and continued to fire. That was a significant improvement over the first test flight when three engines failed at liftoff and three more went out during the ascent.
The Super Heavy booster and Starship spacecraft made it through what’s known as Max Q, the moment when the aerodynamic forces are greatest, and reached space.
The booster and the ship separated successfully, which did not happen during the previous test. But after SpaceX performed a tricky separation event called “hot-staging” where the second stage ignites its engines while still attached to the booster, the booster was lost.
The six engines on the ship’ second stage ignited successfully, SpaceX said. But something caused the vehicle’s onboard flight termination system to destroy the craft.
“What we do believe right now is that the automated flight termination system on second stage appears to have triggered very late in the burn as we were headed downrange out over the Gulf of Mexico,” SpaceX’s John Insprucker said during SpaceX’s broadcast.
The launch site, which was destroyed during the first test, appears to be in much better shape this time, according to preliminary reports.
Speaking on the broadcast, SpaceX commentators said that the company will have learned a lot from the flight and will incorporate the necessary changes ahead of the next attempt.
Remember, these are test flights for a reason, but they’re becoming very expensive tests! Good thing Musk has a lot of dosh!
Reader Jon pointed out that SpaceX posted, during the countdown, several size comparisons of the Starship with various objects, including the Statue of Liberty (much smaller than the rocket) as well as an animated Godzilla walking across the screen! Here’s a screenshot (Godzilla was 345 feet tall).
*Speaking of Musk, I don’t much follow his doings, though some people seem obsessed with him. But it’s hard to miss the latest accusations that he’s an antisemite. (I have no dog in this fight and haven’t seen the inflammatory tweets.) Here’s how the WSJ reported on them:
Elon Musk insists he isn’t an antisemite.
But this past week, the billionaire entrepreneur left many wondering. At the very least, a string of inflammatory tweets he sent Wednesday showed how gratuitous Musk can be and how easily tweets on his own social-media platform can be misleading and trigger him.
His tweets called an antisemitic post “the actual truth” and renewed his pointed criticisms against the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish advocacy group that he has described as pushing a “woke mind virus” hurting free speech and, in turn, his business, Twitter-turned-X.
It was an unexpected provocation six weeks after Musk and the ADL appeared to reach a detente after an earlier escalation. And once again his self-generated drama is hindering his pursuits.
This is about the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which fights defamation of Jews:
“Fake corporate new media is making up stuff again,” began a post by an account called Wall Street Silver, run by Jim Lewis and Ivan Bayoukhi and followed by more than one million users, including Musk.
Wall Street Silver, which has its roots in a Reddit forum dealing with metals, included a screenshot of an MSNBC broadcast about the rise of hate speech at Twitter under Musk that cited data from the ADL. “Not exactly legitimate objective sources,” it concluded.Musk responded. “They really should just drop the ‘A’ and go with Defamation League,” he wrote. “Way more accurate.”
In the roughly two hours that followed, the billionaire’s rhetoric grew hotter as he continued to name check the ADL. One could almost see anger building in real time as what Musk’s biographer has dubbed his Demon Mode exploded online for all to see.
At one point, Musk tweeted support for a random X user’s post espousing the same sort of vile conspiracy theory about Jews replacing whites that was spewed by a killer who shot up a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018. That reply by Musk—“You have said the actual truth”—ignited the firestorm against him.
He kept going.
“The ADL unjustly attacks the majority of the West, despite the majority of the West supporting the Jewish people and Israel,” Musk tweeted. “This is because they cannot, by their own tenets, criticize the minority groups who are their primary threat. It is not right and needs to stop.”
When a user pushed back that it wasn’t fair to generalize against the Jewish community at large, Musk mostly agreed: “You right that this does not extend to all Jewish communities, but it is also not just limited to ADL.”
Well, from what I’ve seen of the the guy, he seems a bit “off” to me, perhaps a bit autistic, and maybe that, or a fit of rage, explains his behavior. Certainly he should take more care with what he tweets, and he doesn’t look like a good friend of the Jews, but I can’t yet call him an antisemite.
*A group of 120 Harvard faculty have signed a pro-Palestinian letter to President Gay, “Harvard faculty statement in support of academic freedom.” It is, I suppose, not just a response to the President’s several denunciations of antisemitism and Hamas’s attack, but also to the “Open letter to the Harvard Community” of October 8, signed by 350 faculty, which I also posted and discussed. That statement decried the attacks by Hamas of the previous day, and also attacked the off-the-rails student organizations that held Israel responsible for Hamas’s attacks. (You’ll remember that when some of the signers of the student letter were doxxed, they quickly withdrew their endorsements. From the first “open letter”, in which Steve Pinker played a large role:
The leaders of the major democratic countries united in saying that “the terrorist actions of Hamas have no justification, no legitimacy, and must be universally condemned” and that Israel should be supported “in its efforts to defend itself and its people against such atrocities.“ In contrast, while terrorists were still killing Israelis in their homes, 35 Harvard student organizations wrote that they hold “the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence,” with not a single word denouncing the horrific acts by Hamas. In the context of the unfolding events, this statement can be seen as nothing less than condoning the mass murder of civilians based only on their nationality. We’ve heard reports of even worse instances, with Harvard students celebrating the “victory” or “resistance” on social media.
And the new one, which is pro-Palestinian, shows the signers to be really ticked off that President Gay created an initiative to combat antisemitism in light of statements like the one by the student organizations. I’ll give excerpts. First, the Professors pull a Tlaib about the “river to the sea” chant. This shows how totally clueless—or disingenuous—a bunch of faculty at America’s most elite university can be.
. . . . the phrase “from the river to the sea, Palestine must be free” has a long and complicated history. Its interpretation deserves, and is receiving, sustained and ongoing inquiry and debate. Singling it out as necessarily implying removalism or even eliminationism – when over a million Palestinians have been forced from their homes and over ten thousand civilians, including four thousand children, have been slain in Gaza, actions which the Holocaust historian Omer Bartov suggests in the New York Times may amount to a “crime against humanity” being executed with “genocidal intent” – is imprudent as a matter of university policy and badly misjudged as an act of moral leadership.
Yes, what we need is context! The quote about “genocidal intent” is just as clueless, for it is Hamas, not Israel, that has a genocidal intent. Trying to wipe out Hamas, a terrorist group, is not “genocide”. Trying to wipe out the Jews is. And then the clueless faculty tender their inevitable demands:
We call on you to present a balanced commitment to the support of intellectual freedom at Harvard by taking the following steps:
- Resisting calls to suspend and/or decertify the Palestine Solidarity Committee in retaliation for its public statements and advocacy, and resisting calls to set aside the University’s normal disciplinary procedures to prematurely sanction students and employees because of concerns raised about their political activity absent specific allegations of wrongdoing (and those already thusly sanctioned must be reinstated pending a procedurally sound investigation);
- Directing the President’s Advisory Group on Antisemitism to explain its definition of antisemitism to the University community, as requested at the FAS faculty meeting of November 7, before recommending any policies touching upon the freedom of thought and expression on our campus;
- Explicitly and specifically affirming the University’s commitment to the freedom of thought, inquiry, and expression in light of the extraordinary pressure being brought to bear upon critics of the State of Israel and advocates of the Palestinian people, and indicating that there can be no tolerance for a “Palestine exception” to free speech;
- Creating an advisory group on Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab racism (as suggested at the FAS faculty meeting of November 7).
Remember that last week a group of Harvard students violated university regulations by holding a sit-in at University Hall, the most famous of the buildings in Harvard Yard. That’s what #1 is about. I presume the students got of scot-free. They, too had demands, but their demands were rejected by Harvard. At any rate, I haven’t heard of any incidents of “Islamophobia” at Harvard since the Hamas attack, but the professors above can’t stand all the attention given to antisemitism, of which there were several instances including that odious student letter.
*Horses loose on a plane! According to the AP, a horse in a stall got loose in the hold of a plane crossing the Atlantic. All hell broke loose:
A cargo jet headed to Belgium from New York had to turn around mid-flight after a horse escaped its stall and got loose in the hold, according to air traffic control audio.
The Boeing 747 operated by Air Atlanta Icelandic had just started its flight across the Atlantic Ocean on Nov. 9 when the pilot radioed air traffic control in Boston and said that a horse on board had escaped its stall.
“We don’t have a problem as of flying-wise but we need to return, return back to New York. We cannot get the horse back secured,” the pilot said on air traffic control recordings made by the site LiveATC.net and compiled by the site You Can See ATC.
The controller cleared the aircraft to return to John F. Kennedy International Airport.
The pilot said that due to the plane’s weight, he had to dump 20 tons of fuel before going back to New York.
The controller gave the OK and alerted nearby pilots about a “fuel dumping in progress approximately 10 miles west of Martha’s Vineyard.”
The 747 pilot had one more request. “I do believe we need a vet — veterinarian, I guess you call it, for the horse upon landing,” he said. “Is that something you can speak to New York about?”
The controller said he would pass it on.
Can you imagine being a passenger on that plane and having to go back to New York because of a loose horse? Did they even tell the passengers why they were returning? Fortunately, the horse got loose soon after takeoff so the return to Boston was short. Imagine if this had happened halfway across the Atlantic.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili’s hopes extend only so far:
Hili: I’m praying for peace.A: For mice as well?Hili: Don’t go to extremes.
Hili: Modlę się o pokój.Ja: Dla myszy też?Hili: Bez przesady.
From Phun.org. I used to have a similar list in the lab, where we’d all push flies while listening to the radio. #1 on my list was NO REM, since my student Allen Orr used to like their music but I didn’t:
From Masih; more Iranian students rebel against their oppressive regime.
Fearlessly defying threats and arrests, Sharif University students celebrated their graduation without hijabs, standing up against compulsory hijab. As the Minister of Education issues threats and faculty leaders resign, our resolve strengthens. Iranian women won’t step back.… pic.twitter.com/4IkwXjlMU8
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) November 18, 2023
From Jez; if you have a tablet, get this app for your cats! It’s a game!
Tablet app for cats. This is Catch the Mouse
— Massimo (@Rainmaker1973) November 18, 2023
From Barry. Flaco the escaped Eurasian Eagle-Owl, after slumming around the Lower East Side of Manhattan, has returned to Central Park and his favorite tree. As Barry said:
I suspected he eventually would. I guess it took him a while to realize that hanging around cement buildings and alighting on air conditioners was no way to live. Look at this proud and dignified creature:
Joy in Central Park today as Flaco the Eurasian Eagle-Owl has returned to reclaim his favorite oak tree, standing his ground despite visits from a hawk and some crows. 🦉 ♥️ 🌳 pic.twitter.com/nEgQkP1XSS
— Manhattan Bird Alert (@BirdCentralPark) November 17, 2023
I do worry about Flaco when the winter comes in force, though.
From my own “home” feed. What a way to sleep! But notice the baby sloth on her belly.
Sloths live almost exclusively in trees, leading to amazing situations like this. pic.twitter.com/E77hYWUldh
— Fascinating (@fasc1nate) November 17, 2023
Sweeping up (and lining up) kittens:
The way they line up at the end 😭 pic.twitter.com/lq6GpRsres
— Why you should have a cat (@ShouldHaveCat) November 17, 2023
From the Auschwitz Memorial, a 12 year old French boy gassed to death upon arriving at the camp:
19 November 1929 | A French Jewish boy, Charles Kaplon, was born in Montreuil.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) November 19, 2023
Two—count them, two—tweets from Professor Cobb. First, a story in alphabetical order, though “xtreme” isn’t a word!
ADAM AND CHARLES’S ALPHABETICAL FOOD HYGENE STORY
— Ian McMillan (@IMcMillan) November 18, 2023
Happy birthday to a 39 year old macaroni penguin!
Help us wish Mickey, a macaroni penguin, a very happy hatchday. 🎉She is 39 and the oldest penguin in our Aquarium. We celebrated with a special ice cake! pic.twitter.com/mF0OSBFnik
— Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium (@PghZoo) November 17, 2023