4 August 2021

The Virus

What I see, when I look at the John Hopkins site, is that this Delta variant causes a big rise in infections, in the countries where it becomes prominent, and then there is either stabilization or a fall-off. That's true even in countries like India, where the majority of the population remains unvaccinated. I expect that will happen here in Israel too. But I think we are going to be living with this virus for a long time; and there may even be worse variants. But, of course, if a disease kills too many people, it also hurts its own ability to propagate.

White grub beetles

Last night I woke up and decided to make myself a cup of tea, in which I discovered one of those pesky brown bugs of the season. Every summer we have a spate of these, which are called locally "khomeinim". I had no idea of the formal name, so I spent a considerable time trying to find out who and what they are.

It turns out that the formal name is Maladera insabalis. They were first observed and classified by entomologists in northern India, in 1894. They reached Israel in 1983, probably coming with the import of pistachio nuts originating in Iran. They quickly spread here as they have no natural enemies. As grubs, they feed on the roots of plants like sweet potatoes. As beetles, they eat foliage of citrus and other fruit trees, so they are regarded as a dangerous agricultural pest. But for those of us who are not farmers, they are a bothersome insect, as they tend to come by the thousand, and are attracted to house lights. They get inside homes through the smallest aperture and generally make a nuisance of themselves, once they are in. They don't bite and are quite harmless unless they happen to crawl inside one's ears. They are known to produce a bad odor when stepped upon. The bad smell is also present when they are vacuumed up. When they first emerged in Israel, someone thought they were a new species, so he gave them the name Maladera matrida. "Matrida" is a Hebrew word meaning bothersome. But it later emerged that they had been discovered almost a century earlier.

They are a cousin of the Japanese beetle, the colorful pest that I recall from the US (they defoliate vegetables and garden plants). But, as far as I remember, the latter are less annoying than these brown bugs and less likely to get inside.


Talks 'constructive', India & China say remaining issues to be resolved in expeditious manner - The Print

But I just read that India is sending warships into the South China Sea. That doesn't sound like the thing to do if they want those talks to go well.

Why is China smashing its tech industry? - Noahpinion


Belarus exile group leader Vitaly Shishov found dead in Kyiv, police say - The Guardian

Shishov’s disappearance came as the Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya said she was forced to withdraw from the Tokyo Olympics and threatened with forced repatriation for criticising her athletics federation on social media.

‘Emergency meeting’: Israeli cyberarms firms scramble after NSO scandal - Haaretz.com

The hacking of Indian democracy - The Hindu

an inquiry at the highest level under the supervision of the judiciary is a constitutional necessity. If this does not take place, India will cease to call itself a democracy.

Pegasus: Why Americans should be alarmed by the spyware controversy in India - Scroll

The destruction of Indian democratic institutions under Narendra Modi since he came to power in 2014 is well documented. If these new allegations are left unaddressed, which is the most likely outcome, their chilling effect on society will ensure India’s swift decline into a sham democracy like Russia.

Pegasus spyware found on journalists’ phones, French intelligence confirms - The Guardian

UN health agency wants Israel, others to stop COVID booster shot campaign - Haaretz.com

WHO officials say the science is unproven about whether giving booster shots to people who have already received two vaccine doses is effective in preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

“We call on everyone with influence – Olympic athletes, investors, business leaders, faith leaders and every individual in their own family and community – to support our call for a moratorium on booster shots until at least the end of September,” Tedros said.

23 July 2021

Yesterday we went to a musical retrospective, "Broken Prayer" on Leonard Cohen, held outdoors in the nearby town of Nataf. The atmosphere, under an almost-full moon, was wonderful, and the musicians (Avraham Cohen, Bat Hen Edri are the names that I remember) were good. They offered some interpretations and original compositions of their own, besides the well-known songs. Their rendition of the latter was sometimes flawed, notwithstanding, and there were some technical problems, but this did not affect our enjoyment. Their topic was Cohen's "continual dialogue with the Creator." They managed to bring to the forefront, some of Cohen's roots in traditional Jewish liturgical songs, etc.

Who cannot love Leonard Cohen and his peculiar mix of existential questioning and sensuality? But the audience were mostly older people of around our age; younger people are often completely unaware of him, which is a pity, because he brought something unique, precious and magical to his music.

Links and reflections

Covid-19 antibodies detected in 67% of India’s population - The Guardian

The US, the other day, removed India from its red list of countries, whereas Israel has kept it there. Although I had been thinking that it is either "political" or quite arbitrary that Israel has kept India on its red list, while placing the UK, for example, on its orange list, in light of these statistics, the Israelis probably have understood the situation better.

Parliament proceedings | No deaths reported due to lack of oxygen, Health Ministry tells Rajya Sabha - The Hindu

According to various reports in Indian media, no one believes him.

In 2019, IT House panel unsuccessfully tried to probe Pegasus breach - The Hindu

This is also true today.:

Centre Rejects Demand for Probe Into Snooping Allegations, IT Minister Calls Reports 'Over the Top' - The Wire

The BJP has been trying to use senior leaders including multiple party chief minister to try and change the narrative. As The Wire has reported, these leaders made wild claims about how these revelations are some sort of “international conspiracy” to “defame India”. However, none of them have categorically denied that the Indian government paid for Pegasus spyware.

Instead, they are saying:

Ban Amnesty over Pegasus leaks role... - The Guardian

Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister of West Bengal who recently defeated the BJP in state elections, urged the opposition parties of India to unite to challenge the “surveillance state” of the Modi government, and called Pegasus “dangerous” and “ferocious”.

“Three things make democracy: media, judiciary and the Election Commission – and Pegasus has captured all three,” said Banerjee, whose own nephew’s phone number was on the leaked data list.

India tax authorities raid media companies critical of Modi gov’t - Al Jazeera

Modi’s government has long been accused of attempting to stifle critical reporting in the world’s biggest democracy, something it denies. On Reporters Without Borders’ 2021 Press Freedom Index, India ranks 142nd out of 180 countries

Why India's Process for Authorising Surveillance on Citizens Is Deeply Flawed - The Wire

The alleged use Pegasus is only the latest example of how government has trampled on the individual rights of citizens using the excuse of fighting terrorism.

What this Wire story points out is that although the BJP has been more more brazen, earlier ruling parties have used the same tactics, and similarly surveilled their adversaries.

Likewise, Indian sensitivity towards outside criticism has a long history. India is not exceptional in that. Many countries bristle at criticism and “interference” from outside. Israel is a very good example - for example the current furor over Ben & Jerry's decision not to allow sales of its products in Israeli West Bank settlements.

The grain of truth in such sensitivity is that outsiders really do have a hard time understanding the complexities of any country's internal processes and needs. We can see how our outsider assumptions worked for us in the case of Burma. Aung San Suu Ki is probably the same person, the same politician, when she is at the mercy of the generals or at the head of the government. But at one time she is the world's darling and in the next moment maligned as a cruel oppressor of minorities (although she has been locked up for a second time, the world's reaction has been more muted this time).

When our outsider dreams for a given country come true, we are often disappointed that the long hoped-for happy end eludes us, and other problems that we didn't anticipate or had zero knowledge of, rear their ugly heads.

While staying true to our values, we also need to take time to understand complexity, and always maintain an attitude of humility, with relation to our comprehension of the situation in other countries. The knowledge and experience that we bring from our own home environment is not necessarily relevant to other places.

Telegram founder listed in leaked Pegasus project data - The Guardian

In his blog, on Telegram itself, Durov says a couple of interesting things:
He claims that Pegasus takes advantage of the same, or similar backdoors that Apple and Google deliberately built in their system, based on demands of the US government:

According to the Snowden revelations (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_surveillance_disclosures_(2013%E2%80%93present)) from 2013, both Apple and Google are part of the global surveillance program that implies that these companies have to, among other things, implement backdoors into their mobile operating systems. These backdoors, usually disguised as security bugs, allow US agencies to access information on any smartphone in the world.

The problem with such backdoors is that they are never exclusive to just one party. Anybody can exploit them. So if a US security agency can hack an iOS or Android phone, any other organization that uncovers these backdoors can do the same. Unsurprisingly, this is exactly what has been taking place: an Israeli company called NSO Group (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jul/18/revealed-leak-uncovers-global-abuse-of-cyber-surveillance-weapon-nso-group-pegasus) has been selling access to the spying tools that allowed third parties to hack tens of thousands of phones.

That's why I have been calling upon the governments of the world to start acting against the Apple-Google duopoly in the smartphone market and to force them to open their closed ecosystems and allow for more competition.

Regardless of the so-called security of his messaging system, phones can never be trusted. He himself doesn't trust his phone:

Since at least 2018, I have been aware that one of my phone numbers was included in a list of potential targets of such surveillance tools (although a source from the NSO Group denies it). Personally, I wasn't worried: since 2011, when I was still living in Russia, I’ve got used to assuming that all my phones were compromised.

That kind of makes comparisons of the relative security of Telegram, Signal and WhatsApp, a bit redundant.

Israel launches commission to probe Pegasus spyware: Legislator - Al Jazeera

Israel's cyber-security industry is a lucrative cash cow, and much bigger and more important than any single company. When Israel takes action on such things, it is more likely to be motivated by public relations concerns than by a genuine wish to rectify the situation.

15 June 2021


This country has almost entered a "post-Corona" situation. Today, the rule that requires the wearing of masks in most indoor areas was cancelled too. The necessity to show "green passes" or vaccination certificates, limitations on congregation and on wearing of masks outdoors were cancelled some time ago. Yesterday, out of 21,000 tests there were only four positives, and the number of hospital patients in serious condition is down to around 30. But "post-corona", like "post-colonial" has its own meaning, and carries the outcomes, repercussions and trauma forward into the future.

Personal property

My aspiration is to have a dwindling amount of personal property - I would prefer not to have any, but to have enough income to cover my living expenses. Whenever I go to India, I don't have more than fits in a small rug sack, usually, and that feels like more than enough. I can live like that for months on end, doing my laundry each day so that I don't need more clothes than I wear; having just a phone and a computer for my technology needs, etc. As I grow older I want to feel completely independent and free, which means for me living without debt or financial commitments. Yesterday Cory Doctorow had interesting things to say with regard to home ownership and rent:
The Rent’s Too Damned High. A human right, commodified and rendered… | by Cory Doctorow | Jun, 2021 | GEN.

Why do homes increase in value? Because they grow more valuable over time. But that value isn’t intrinsic: the roof doesn’t get better at keeping out the rain, sleep doesn’t come more easily in the bedrooms. Rather, homes get more valuable because not owning a home gets worse...

The very existence of the rental market is key to home appreciation: one reason someone might pay you more for your house than you paid for it is because they expect to be able to rent to someone who can’t afford to buy. The more lucrative it is to be a landlord, the more every rentable home is worth, because every sale potentially includes bidders whose maximum price includes their expected returns from rental income.

This means that the more rights tenants have, the less your house is worth, even if you never rent your house out. Or, contrariwise, when tenants are worse off, homeowners are better off.

We are lucky enough to own a home, and the family owns additional property; but I actually don't think of myself as owner of any of any of this; let it be in my wife's name or the family's name.

MS Windows, computers

I spent some time yesterday updating one of the office computers from Windows 7 to Windows 10.1. It took forever but worked without a hitch. Samah has at least 3 computers. I can't understand why people who are much worse at managing computers than I am feel the need for so many of them. I never want to use more than one of them - keeping a single computer well maintained is enough of a challenge for me. It is true that I also use three, but one is an old laptop for my home server, and the other is our media PC, which runs on Ubuntu. And lately I brought home another old laptop from the office, in case I need to do anything fancy with Office 365, as my everyday computer runs on MX.

Email subscriptions

I have signed up to the blogs of Cory Doctorow and Dave Winer, as mentioned earlier. I quite enjoy receiving these in my inbox each day. Winer's usually arrives first thing on a morning, like a newspaper. Seeing it in the mail has the advantage of not having to look at the racist mug of Winston Churchill, which currently adorns his blog header. Doctorow's comes in via Mailman a bit later in the day. I also signed up for my own blog to see how well Feedrabbit handles it: they are an Australian company that converts an RSS feed for despatch by email. In a case situation where there is just one blog post per day, this works well, and the result looks good.


Plastic rafting: the invasive species hitching a ride on ocean litter - The Guardian

Ocean plastic has become a route for invasive species that threaten native animals with extinction, with Japan’s tsunami sending nearly 300 species ‘rafting’ across the Pacific

NSA whistleblower Reality Winner released from prison | Reality Winner - The Guardian

28 April 2021


Helichrysum sanguineum These flower in late spring in our area. It's common all over the Levant. The Jews call it "Dam HaMaccabim ("Blood of the Maccabees") and Arabs, according to Wikipedia, call it "Dam al-Massiah" - Blood of the Messiah. It's a protected plant in Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Links blog

‘Insanely cheap energy’: how solar power continues to shock the world | Energy | The Guardian

Twitter India blocks posts critical of Modi's Covid-19 response - CNN

In recent weeks, criticism against the Modi government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been intensifying on social media, as users post images of bodies lying in morgues and burning in outdoor crematoriums.

Vaccine hoarding is all the more disturbing as a Covid disaster unfolds in India | Gaby Hinsliff | The Guardian

as long as others are experiencing horrors on the scale of India, consciences everywhere will be troubled.

India missed the opportunity to reign in COVID, lulled by a false sense of security. Modi originally promised to vaccinate 100 million Indians by summer*, and could have done so - though maybe it's because they were busy exporting the vaccine to other countries. In general, as the world knew that vaccines were on the horizon, which was something like a year ago, there should have been a huge effort to build factories and an efficient supply chain. That would have been cheaper than all the economic stimulus packages and all the rest.
* Fact check: in January India promised to vaccinate 300 million by summer. By April 29, it had administered at least 138 million doses.

Sundar Pichai and Satya Nadella, Google and Microsoft's CEOs pledge support as India battles coronavirus crisis - CNN
They are sending a few million dollars, out of their billions.

India is churning out billion-dollar startups. Now they need to start making money - CNN

The mood a year later is very different, despite a brutal surge in coronavirus cases that is threatening the economic recovery. India's startup community has found itself in an unprecedented funding bonanza.

Israel is committing the crime of apartheid, rights watchdog says | Israel | The Guardian

a “present-day reality of a single authority, the Israeli government … methodologically privileging Jewish Israelis while repressing Palestinians, most severely in the occupied territory.

And it's much worse than what South Africans called “apartheid”, as Desmond Tutu and others have said. But Israel's increasingly right wing government is always going to deny that. Israelis have become conditioned to regard their situation as an existential struggle. The agenda of expropriation and replacement of Palestinians is long-term, persistent and ongoing, and it doesn't matter whether Palestinians are quiescent or violent. International pressure only manages to slow the process, but never to actually change anything.

'One system, one policy': Why Human Rights Watch is charging Israel with apartheid

What makes this report significant for HRW is that it “connects the dots” between Israel’s varying policies to show that they are driven by “one system, one policy, and one intent” to secure the permanent rule of one group over another.

Israel uses ‘apartheid’ to subjugate Palestinians: HRW | Human Rights News | Al Jazeera

“Policymakers must now shift their focus away from securing a political solution that might herald peace, and instead fight back against a trajectory of expanding Israeli territorial consolidation and Palestinian dispossession in the entirety of the land,” he said.

EXCLUSIVE White House backs 2030 milestone on path to net zero grid | Reuters

A 2030 target would be a milestone on the way to achieving President Joe Biden’s stated ambition of net zero carbon emissions in the grid by 2035. It could also potentially be passed without Republican support through a process called budget reconciliation.

Repair or replace? An expert guide to fixing or ditching eight essential household items | Life and style | The Guardian

18 March, 2021


Barbed wire, left behind from one of the wars. (There are also trenches, bullets and other detritus.)


I gave in and restored the legs to my desk, the other day. I don't mind sitting and working on the floor, but getting up and down is a pain, and I do think I should stand up or change my position every twenty minutes or so. One thing I've never much needed is a chair back; when I'm typing or doing any work, I almost never use back support.


My laptop screen suddenly started fluttering today. After restarting the computer, the phenomenon continued and I realized I might have to get the laptop fixed. But later it stopped again, so the jury is out. I think what happened is that sometimes when connecting the two external monitors, or detaching them, there are several seconds of screen chaos; this might have shocked the laptop screen; may even have damaged it. I will have to be more careful and turn the computer off when making these changes.


I like how, if one opens a secondary window in Vivaldi, this creates a different icon, so it is possible to differentiate between the real application and the new window.


I've never liked flags for designating keyboard input languages. In fact I've never liked flags at all. As a child I was appalled when I saw flags hanging in churches. I couldn't convince my elders that this was highly inappropriate. On XFCE it took me quite a while learning how and where to replace those stupid flags with letters. Languages do not correspond closely to nations or their flags.


I had to make these specially.


Israel's high court has overthrown the government's travel restrictions on the basis that preventing them from traveling or returning to the country contravenes their civil rights. It says that what is needed is better enforcement of regulations governing isolation on their return to the country. Among the measures that are already being taken is the attachment of electronic tracking bracelets.


The ICC and Israel’s Charge of Anti-Semitism - CounterPunch.org

"We are at a critical historical juncture in which it is becoming increasingly difficult to criticize Israel without being branded an anti-Semite. You are an anti-Semite if you support the International Criminal Court’s recent ruling that it has jurisdiction to open a war crimes investigation against Israel. But you are also likely to be called an anti-Semite if you reject the logic informing the court’s decision."

Israel’s upcoming election: Where did the occupation go? | Middle East News | Al Jazeera
“who wins Israel’s upcoming election, and forms its next government, is of little consequence in regards to the most fundamental questions facing not only the Israeli society, but also the Palestinian people who have been living under occupation for almost 54 years. For peace and democracy lovers, after March 23, with or without Netanyahu, it will be business as usual.”

The Necessity of Dismantling the U.S.—A conversation with Ajamu Baraka - CounterPunch.org
"The whole logic and rationale of capitalist society has to be looked at in a new way. There are a number of movements that are in fact doing that. That make an argument that we’ve got to completely reorganize every aspect of society if we’re going to be able to survive, because one of the obvious contradictions and consequences of the industrial processes we have is that we’re basically destroying the ability of human beings to sustain themselves on this planet."

He talks a lot about euro-centrism and how we have become accustomed to regarding contemporary European (and North American) society as the pinnacle of civilization. I think we all consciously or unconsciously do, and shudder at the illiberal others who denigrate the freedoms and privilegeswe have come to take for granted. At the same time, we realize that this same supposedly advanced civilization is despoiling the planet, wiping out the species, and endangering our future existence.

Anyone who departs from the consensus, talks about decolonizing our minds, dismantling nations and finding a different way deserves to be listened to; they may be on to something.

Tanzania's Covid-denying president, John Magufuli, dies aged 61 | Tanzania | The Guardian

"Magufuli had repeatedly denied that Covid-19 was spreading in the east African country and claimed without evidence that vaccines are dangerous, suggesting instead that people pray and inhale herbal-infused steam."

‘The best cops’: Indian state recruits its first transgender police officers | Global development | The Guardian
'“They are sensitive, have a high emotional quotient and know not just how the other half lives but what it’s like being on the other side of the law,” said Awasthi.'

Plummeting sperm counts, shrinking penises: toxic chemicals threaten humanity | Environment | The Guardian
'The chemicals to blame for our reproductive crisis are found everywhere and in everything.'
Sperm counts have dropped by 60% in the past 50 years. If it continues at this rate, the human race will be over before climate change can finish us.

The Guardian view on new work from Proust: more lessons from lockdown | Marcel Proust | The Guardian
"Rediscovered early texts offer fresh insights from an author who created his masterpiece in self-isolation"

Google Antitrust Suit Takes Aim At Chrome's Privacy Sandbox - Slashdot
"Google's new scheme is, in essence, to wall off the entire portion of the internet that consumers access through Google's Chrome browser," the complaint reads. "Google is trying to hide its true intentions behind a pretext of privacy," the suit continues. With Privacy Sandbox, "Google does not actually put a stop to user profiling or targeted advertising -- it puts Google's Chrome browser at the center of tracking and targeting."

4 February, 2021

Spring flowers and confused figs


(anemones growing wild on the hillside)


(they're a bit early)

Links blog

✭Panel discussion with actor/filmmaker Muhammad Bakri following recent court (...) - Wahat al-Salam - Neve Shalom
My post on the evening for the WASNS website
#israel #film

2 Israeli hospitals announce promising separate "cures" for COVID-19:

✭14 of 16 severe COVID patients in trial recover with experimental Israeli drug | The Times of Israel
2 cases remain in critical condition 28 days after receiving Enlivex Therapeutics’ Allocetra therapy in Phase II trials, marking 0% mortality rate in both studies of treatment

✭Israeli hospital claims may have found cure for COVID-19
"Preliminary testing shows that 29 out of 30 virus patients in serious condition that were administered the drug, dubbed EXO-CD24, once a day made a full recovery within five days; similar treatment announced by Hadassah Medical Center"

✭At last, the regime that enabled Amazon's monopoly power is crumbling | Amazon | The Guardian
"At last, the regime that enabled Amazon's monopoly power is crumbling"

✭Brian Eno: Artists like me are being censored in Germany – because we support Palestinian rights | Germany | The Guardian
"...now, in an unprecedented move, representatives of 32 of Germany’s leading cultural institutions, including the Goethe-Institut, have spoken out together, expressing alarm about the repression of critical and minority voices in Germany as a result of the parliament’s anti-BDS resolution.

Their joint statement says: “By invoking this resolution, accusations of antisemitism are being misused to push aside important voices and to distort critical positions.” A few days later, more than 1,000 artists and academics signed an open letter supporting the protest by cultural institutions."
#BDS #israel #palestine

✭For Palestinian filmmakers in Israel, it’s loyalty or silence
Mohammad Bakri’s story is the story of all Palestinian artists and filmmakers living in Israel who are trying as best they can to tell our story, and who are standing strong in the face of the Israeli establishment’s immensely powerful forces that try to turn us into a fig leaf. If we succeed in bankrolling our own films, we end up silenced.
#israel #palestine

✭Court indicts Palestinian terrorist for murder of Israeli woman
Indictment says Muhammad Mruh Kabha, who murdered Esther Horgen in December, smashed the mother of six on the head with a rock until she stopped moving in an attack he planned for over a month

✭Palestinians receive 10,000 doses of Russian COVID-19 vaccine
"Palestinians receive 10,000 doses of Russian COVID-19 vaccine"
(Donation from Russia).

#COVID-19 #palestine

✭Off-road, off-grid: the modern nomads wandering America's back country | Life and style | The Guardian
Across US public lands thousands of people are taking to van life, as featured in the Oscar-tipped film Nomadland

✭Over 300 million Indians may have COVID-19 - source citing government study | Reuters
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - About one in four of India’s 1.35 billion people may have been infected with the coronavirus, said a source with direct knowledge of a government serological survey, suggesting the country’s real caseload was many times higher than reported.
#india #COVID-19

✭Intercepted: Inside China’s Police State Tactics Against Muslims
A new report from The Intercept provides a raw glimpse into the persecution and sweeping internment of Muslims in northwest China’s Xinjiang region.

✭In the Cold and Rain, India’s Farmers Press Their Stand Against Modi - The New York Times
“They sold everything else. Only the farmers are left,” said 18-year old Ajay Veer Singh, who has been at the protest with his 67-year-old grandfather since it began in November. “Now they want to sell the farmers to their corporate friends too.”

✭Rihanna angers Indian government with tweet about farmers’ protests | India | The Guardian
The Indian government appeared to be angered by the celebrity attention on the protests, and in an unusual step it issued a statement that did not directly mention Rihanna or Thunberg but criticised foreign individuals for “rushing to comment on such matters” without a “proper understanding of the issues”.
2021.02.03 21:34:15 edit delete
✭Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny jailed for two years and eight months | Alexei Navalny | The Guardian
“Someone did not want me to take a single step on my country’s territory as a free man. And we know who and we know why – the hatred and fear of one man, living in a bunker, whom I offended by surviving when he tried to have me killed,” he said of Putin.

20 January, 2021


The COVID outbreak has, from the beginning, stoked my natural, unhealthy interest in watching charts and graphs. But doing so also helps to temper some of the subservience we have to media reports, which often tend to be alarmist in some cases and negligent in others. For example, much of the news lately has been about new variants in Brazil, the UK and S. Africa, which have boosted the number of cases to an alarming degree. But if you looks at the charts, you can actually see that the number of cases in those countries has been declining in the last few days. And, when they speak of a new outbreak in China, you can see the number barely causes a bump in the graphs. While in Israel the numbers have been soaring (despite a severe lockdown and vaccinations), in the West Bank and Gaza the number of new infections has been declining rapidly since mid-December.

Blogging. journaling

I might at one point take a break from this blog, or stop completely, in favour of my handwritten journal. The purpose of all blogging or journaling is to reflect on life, current events, either personal or collective. Some of that can be done publicly, and sometimes it's best done privately. In any event, for some of us, reflection is useful in processing and helping to gell information, and the act of writing is helpful for reflection. This is the rationale behind blogging and journaling. The public (or half-public) dimension imposes a little discipline sometimes, though this is not always desirable or helpful (i.e. constraint imposed by the fact that one's writings may be read by others is not always helpful, while at other times it is.)

14 January, 2021


Just as we approach the end of this crisis, it seems to be growing nastier. Infections are running really high here and taking their toll. Today, the mother of a second-year girl in our primary school was killed by the virus. They say she began feeling a bit sick, and died just a few hours later. Of course, the school is in shock. It's been closed since the tightening of the third lockdown, a week or two ago. In any case, the Arab children had been on holiday, just before, so it wouldn't have been the school children that brought the virus home to her.

Then today, D learned that one of the people in her yoga class, at the retirement home where she teaches, had tested positive. So we went together for testing in the evening. Due to the late hour, the nearest place was Givaat Ze'ev, a settlement town near Jerusalem. The tests were being efficiently run by the "pikud ha-oref" - the Home Front Command of the army; usually the answers arrive the next day. On Sunday, we are due for our second vaccination.

Both of us have had bad colds all week; but probably not the virus, since there has been no accompanying high temperature.

Links blog

✭ Alexei Navalny ordered to be detained on return to Russia, say officials | Alexei Navalny | The Guardian
"Russia’s prison service says it has orders to detain Alexei Navalny, a statement made days before the opposition politician is due to return to Russia after recuperating abroad from a suspected FSB poisoning."

✭Pongal is comfort food for south India’s harvest season – plus the recipe | Food and drink | The Guardian
Pongal is both a harvest festival, which starts today, and the rice and dal breakfast dish eaten to mark its arrival

✭World's oldest known cave painting found in Indonesia | Archaeology | The Guardian
"Picture of wild pig made at least 45,500 years ago provides earliest evidence of human settlement"

There are also handprints, like in other cave art ot that era around the world.

✭Israel’s vaccination drive likely to be briefly halted next week | The Times of Israel
campaign altering due to a lack of vaccines
#israel #COVID-19

✭ Yellow mealworm safe for humans to eat, says EU food safety agency | Food safety | The Guardian
"Move paves way for high-protein maggot-like insect to be approved for consumption across Europe."

Bon appetit, meat eaters.
2021.01.13 16:59:20 edit delete
✭China in darkest period for human rights since Tiananmen, says rights group | China | The Guardian
Human Rights Watch lists persecutions in Xinjiang, Mongolia, Tibet and Hong Kong but notes new willingness to condemn Beijing

✭Top scientists warn of 'ghastly future of mass extinction' and climate disruption | Environment | The Guardian
Dealing with the enormity of the problem requires far-reaching changes to global capitalism, education and equality, the paper says. These include abolishing the idea of perpetual economic growth, properly pricing environmental externalities, stopping the use of fossil fuels, reining in corporate lobbying, and empowering women, the researchers argue.

✭ Signal : tout comprendre à l’application de messagerie sécurisée à très fort succès
Disponible sur Android comme sur iOS, l’application est prisée pour être particulièrement bien sécurisée, et n’avoir aucun lien avec Facebook, propriétaire de WhatsApp.

The pluses and minuses. Doesn't mention that Signal uses the Amazon server, which is a deal-breaker as far as I'm concerned. By comparison, Durov says Telegram uses its own servers, which are distributed around the world.

✭Pompeo scraps Europe trip after EU leader calls Trump 'political pyromaniac' | US foreign policy | The Guardian
Reuters and Fox News both quoted diplomatic sources as saying it was Luxembourg that had called off the meeting, a devastating snub from a tiny country for a secretary of state that continually claims to have restored “swagger” to the state department.

January 13, 2021

Phone camera software

I have lately been annoyed that every time I open my camera app, Samsung suggests that I will save photos to One Drive (their cloud platform). There should at least be an option that says "Never ask me again", but all I can choose is "Not Now". I am not signed in to Samsung (or Google) on my Samsung A10. and don't plan to use a cloud platform. So I looked in FDroid for an alternative Camera App and found Open Camera. I am not sure it has all the features of the Samsung camera app, but it has quite a lot. One small thing I like is that it can show a cropping grid for my favourite aspect ratio, which is 3:2. For now I have made Open Camera my default camera app, and placed it on the home screen of my BaldPhone launcher.


Despite the initial high numbers, Israel's vaccination drive has been faltering due to a shortage of vaccines, though new supplies are supposed to arrive during the week. About 1.9 million have been vaccinated so far. Second shots are not expected to be affected.


EFF Conference

The EFF have a conference in a couple of days on privacy concerns regarding mandated COVID-19 applications.
They are holding it on their channel on Twitch, which I would not agree to use as it's an Amazon subsidiary. It's being live-streamed also to Facebook (which I use only for my office) and YouTube, which, well... Anyway, YouTube doesn't require a login. Are there still no viable alternatives to these surveillance capitalist companies for holding big events?

Being not quite equal

The Mohammad Bakri verdict illustrates what it means to be a not-quite-equal minority in Israel. Theoretically, you can make films, run for the Knesset, speak freely. If you play nicely, you will enjoy a modicum of tolerance and respect. If you speak out against the majority view, you will be cornered by a hostile establishment and regarded as a dangerous member of a fifth column. In the previous suit against him, Bakri apparently won on a technicality. The latest suit, according to the TV news, he lost because the plaintiffs, a soldier or group of soldiers, could claim that their good name had been injured by the film: the Jenin residents interviewed in it had accused the army of committing a massacre. Bakri, in his defence, said that he was just a film-maker, not an investigative journalist, and had no ability to check the validity of the narrators' stories. "This was their narrative", he said. But the court did not agree. The judges said that he had a responsibility also to air the other side of the story, i.e. the army's version of what happened. As if every lie put out by the military spokesperson were to be balanced by the version of the Palestinian victims - the media just swallow whatever the army says. But, to its credit, the TV channel at least used footage (without commentary) of destroyed houses, and women standing among the ruins, as the backdrop to their voice-over. It created a jarring contrast to the former soldiers elation that justice had been served and their name had been finally cleared.

In the world's eye, they will always remain war criminals, even if international human rights agencies eventually decided that this was not a massacre. In the eyes of Israelis, the battle of Jenin was a just response to a town that had sent more than two dozen suicide bombers to kill innocent people in Israeli cities. In the eyes of the Palestinian residents, hundreds of whom found themselves homeless, this was the latest and greatest in a long stream of injustices. "Arna's Children" shows very well the background story of how children in the town grew up to be fighters. "Paradise Now" shows well how young men become suicide bombers. In the Middle East, it is not truth that wins out, but always the narrative, the story that has been told to you and which you tell to your children. Perhaps it's the same everywhere.

10 January, 2021


Came down with a bad cold; it's been creeping up on my for several days. In the daytime I dismantled my desk. I'm going to try sitting on the floor again, or using a seiza bench. I'm convinced that chairs are unhealthy and turn us into invalids. Anyway, the desk was set too high, so if the experiment doesn't work, I will at least lower it.

In the evening, started to read King Lear for some reason. It's been about a week since I opened a novel or watched a movie. I woke up in the night and have been listening to a couple of talks on YouTube; Zizek, Peterson.

Links Blog

✭ Covid-19 : après leur hospitalisation, trois patients sur quatre présenteraient des symptômes durables, selon une étude chinoise
Six mois après l’apparition des symptômes, 76 % des patients sortis de l’hôpital ont déclaré présenter encore au moins un symptôme"

Ce travail a aussi porté sur 94 patients dont les taux d’anticorps sanguins ont été enregistrés au plus fort de l’infection. Six mois après, ce niveau d’anticorps neutralisants contre le virus avait chuté de plus de la moitié.

I guess it really isn't predictable whether the vaccination will give long-term immunity either; it's not something they have had enough time to test.

✭ The forest-builders of India’s Shivaliks | Human Rights News | Al Jazeera
Treated like encroachers, a community in India fights for rights to the forest they built.

Regarding the struggle of "Tongia" villages ( a system set up during the time of the British to get people to do re-forestation in return for agricultural and dwelling rights. The system worked very well. Since the setting up of nature and forestry reserves, they have faced difficulties.

✭ Google suspends Parler social network app over incitement to violence | US Capitol breach | The Guardian
"Google has suspended the Parler social networking app from its Play Store until the platform popular with many supporters of Donald Trump adds “robust” content moderation."

"Apple follows by warning the platform popular with supporters of Donald Trump that it must have a better moderation system"

No idea, what's right or wrong. I just hope we all don't end up like China. When we were all talking about the Arab Spring, the social media platforms were praised as enablers of change. I guess the American Civil Rights movement and the overthrow of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe somehow managed without social media, or, probably, any mainstream media in their countries. When there are grievances, the pressure is somehow going to boil up, to be channeled either by right-wing demagogues or legitimate social reformers.


UPDATE: Cory Doctorow has it.
✭ Pluralistic: 09 Jan 2021 – Pluralistic: Daily links from Cory Doctorow
As Parler disappears from the Android and Ios app stores and faces being kicked off of Amazon's (and other) clouds, people who worry about monopolized corporate control over speech are divided over What It Means.
#freedom-of-speech #social-networking