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.

18 July 2021

Affairs of the day

Apart from getting a puncture fixed in the morning, I spent the day mostly reading. In the afternoon I had to film two people for a short video that I will handle tomorrow. I also spent time fixing a CSS problem on one of the websites I handle.

This summer seems hotter than usual. Summer is usually the time I go to South India, where it is even hotter, and muggier, and I live without A/C. But I manage that mainly because I don't really do very much. Summers in Palestine are hot and dry; the evenings are a little more bearable. But lately, we have often been keeping the A/C on even at night.

The Life of Palestinians under the Citizenship Law

In the village today, we had an important evening highlighting the issue of thousands of stateless Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza who are married to Israeli citizens and live here without papers of basic rights. They are unable to drive, open a bank account, purchase health insurance, etc. The law - an emergency regulation that has to be periodically renewed - was recently the subject of a political crisis when the ruling coalition did not obtain enough votes to renew it. This presents something of a window of opportunity for many couples; but it might be shortlived.


I was reading about Automattic, the owner of WordPress, which, over the last couple of years, has been acquiring various other companies like Tumblr, and now a journaling App, Day One. The only ethical consolation I can get from using WordPress, is that it is a free open source product that doesn't need my support. They seem to be doing just fine.

Matt Mullenweg: Collaboration Is Key - FS

I believe all proprietary software to be an evolutionary dead end. Maybe it’ll take 50 or 100 years, but what happens, just like what happened fairly quickly with Encyclopedia Britannica and other encyclopedias and Wikipedia is that the thing which is open to all and gets everyone working together if it truly gets that humanity working together on the same shared resource, you get the opposite of the tragedy of the commons, versus the field being overrun, each person operating in their own self-interest kills the environment or kills the shared thing, and in digital world, we can do that because we have economics of abundancy versus economics of scarcity. That’s why open source will eventually win every market it’s in.
-- Matt Mullenweb (co-founder of WordPress)

The Guardian's scoop on NSO's Pegasus

A couple of days ago, there was the report about the notorious Israeli spyware company Candiru. This is all about it's bigger and better-known Israeli sister NSO and yet another despicable spyware product. The buyers of these products are mainly governments who are eager to spy on journalists, critics and dissidents.

Revealed: leak uncovers global abuse of cyber-surveillance weapon| The Guardian

Human rights activists, journalists and lawyers across the world have been targeted by authoritarian governments using hacking software sold by the Israeli surveillance company NSO Group, according to an investigation into a massive data leak.
The investigation by the Guardian and 16 other media organisations suggests widespread and continuing abuse of NSO’s hacking spyware, Pegasus, which the company insists is only intended for use against criminals and terrorists

FT editor among 180 journalists identified by clients of spyware firm - The Guardian

Other journalists who were selected as possible candidates for surveillance by NSO’s clients work for some of the world’s most prestigious media organisations. They include the Wall Street Journal, CNN, the New York Times, Al Jazeera, France 24, Radio Free Europe, Mediapart, El País, Associated Press, Le Monde, Bloomberg, Agence France-Presse, the Economist, Reuters and Voice of America.

This is creating a lot of interest in India, which, unlike many of the countries on the NSO's client list, is traditionally regarded to be a democratic country. The situation has been worsening under Modi.

List of Indian journalists, activists allegedly put on surveillance using Pegasus - The Print

Pegasus Project: How Phones of Journalists, Ministers, Activists May Have Been Used to Spy On Them The Wire

Meanwhile in America

Man Jailed for Traffic Ticket Dies in Cell After 17 Days of Torture. Officers Watched It HappenReason.com

David Stojcevski, a 32-year-old resident of Roseville, Michigan, was arrested for failing to pay a $772 fine stemming from careless driving. A court ordered him to spend a month in the Macomb County jail.

Denied clothing, denied treatment for his drug addiction, died in agony while under bright lights and surveillance cameras intended to prevent self-injury.

13 June 2021


We currently have an over-abundance of delicious fresh cherries. D ordered a crate, which we distributed among family members. Then on Saturday she joined Samah with the women of Naam* on a trip to the Golan Heights, where she picked another box of cherries. Their visit was to the Druse town of Majdal Shams, and included a tour that explained the unique situation of the Druse of the Golan Heights. (Since the Israeli annexation, they are Israel residents, but non-citizens, like Palestinian East Jerusalemites.)

*Naam, which is a Hebrew acronym of “Arab women at the center” (as well as the Arabic word for "yes)" tries to advance the rights of Arab women, both in Israeli society and in their local society, particularly in the town of Lydda/Lod/Lid, which was a flashpoint in the recent violence.


I've been experiencing momentary vertigo on one side for a few weeks now. I was reading up on it today, and see what I need to try is what is called the Epley maneuver - a simple one-time therapy that anyone can do at home, though it is recommended to do it with a physician. The idea is to dislodge free-floating particles from the semicircular canal of the ear. There are a bunch of videos on this on YouTube. Note: the recommended private way to watch YouTube videos is through Invidous. It's not a great idea to look up a medical condition on Google, or watch YouTube videos on something like that when logged in to Google servers.


Camilla Pang: 'You have to acknowledge the hilarity of what it is to be human' - The Guardian

Part of your achievement is to challenge myths about neurodivergence – for instance that autism involves a lack of empathy.

Yeah. Oh, completely. I’m not giving you hugs and kisses and expressions of empathy that are weird to me. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not working hard to make sure your needs are met. Empathy comes in many forms and languages, but it’s also an endeavour by one human to connect with another in a way that takes up a lot of their mind. So this book is a gesture of empathy. You can be warm and empathetic, which often go hand in hand, but basically empathy is nonjudgmental and quite simple. A lot of the time, I’m trying to figure out what people need, how I can make them happy, and I realised that this process in itself is a form of empathy.

Camilla Pang is the author of Neurodivergent and Explaining Humans: What Science Can Teach Us about Life, Love and Relationships.

Clamour for wealth tax grows after revelations about super-rich’s affairs - The Guardian

“The scandal here isn’t that they broke the rules – they didn’t. It’s that the rules are so bad,” said Advani, who has spent his career exploring the reasons behind why the richest people often pay the lowest tax, proportionally speaking. “It’s great that the data leak has exploded these details to the public and made regular people think about it, as it’s only with wide public support that politicians will act.”

“The only way to really get cash from these super-billionaires is to start taxing the ownership of wealth”

Elizabeth Warren, the US senator who has proposed a 2% tax on people with assets of more than $50m and 3% on those with more than $1bn, said: “Our tax system is rigged for billionaires who don’t make their fortunes through income, like working families do. The evidence is abundantly clear: it is time for a wealth tax in America to make the ultra-rich finally pay their fair share.”

Indian-origin journalist wins Pulitzer Prize for exposing China's vast infrastructure for detaining Muslims - The Hindu

“This is what the best investigative journalism can do and why it is so essential.” Ms. Rajagopalan's Xinjiang series won the Pulitzer Prize in the International Reporting category.

In 2017, not long after China began to detain thousands of Muslims in Xinjiang, Rajagopalan was the first to visit an internment camp — at a time when China denied that such places existed, BuzzFeed News said.

“In response, the government tried to silence her, revoking her visa and ejecting her from the country,” BuzzFeed News wrote in its entry for the prize.

“It would go on to cut off access to the entire region for most Westerners and stymie journalists. The release of basic facts about detainees slowed to a trickle.” Working from London, and refusing to be silenced, Rajagopalan partnered with two contributors, Alison Killing, a licensed architect who specialises in forensic analysis of architecture and satellite images of buildings, and Christo Buschek, a programmer who builds tools tailored for data journalists.

Online satellite imagery of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories

Recent articles in HaAretz and the BBC mentioned this analysis of satellite images, in connection with the current censorship of high resolution images of Israel and the OPT. This was particularly noticed during the recent bombardment of Gaza. The reasons go back to 1997, when, responding to Israeli concerns, the US introduced a law prohibiting the distribution of high resolution satellite imagery of Israel, and the law was applied also to the OPT. As a result, this is the only country on earth where such images are not available on any of the web's free mapping sites and applications such as Google Maps, Bing, Apple maps and even Yandex. However, this is now expected to change. The US is no longer the sole provider of satellite imagery and in 2020 the US abrogated its own law prohibiting the distribution of such imagery. High resolution satellite images are already available to purchase, but they have yet to reach the free mapping sites. Among other things, the change should make it easier to see Israeli colonization activities in the OPT.

Israel-Gaza: Why is the region blurry on Google Maps? - BBC News

8 June 2021

Eventually, it proved quite easy to install Microsoft Office on the office computers, under the company's donation plan for non-profits.  I just needed to ignore everything that it said about only being suitable for Windows 10 Pro computers.  While that would be true for their integrated online solutions, it isn't true for just the basics; all we are interested in at this point is their 10 free licenses for MS Office programs. Once I understood that I can simply enroll users and download the programs to their computer, my problem was solved.

I spent a bit of time yesterday evening setting up LibreWolf, a privacy-oriented re-packaging of Firefox. It works quite well, though I still don't feel like I have found my ideal browser.

My Thinkpad has been running hot lately; I might need to get it seen to.  In the meantime I've placed it on an old cooling pad that I had lying around.

Afternoon-walk thoughts

On my afternoon walk I thought a bit about principles; how we get attached to them, and how they are simply tied to our egoism.  We take a concept, a value, or an ideology and then decide to adhere to it.  Then it adheres to us.  We become attached to, identified with, and enslaved by it.  If someone insults our values, we take it as a slight to ourselves.   It is better not to become attached to values and ideas.  They anyway tend towards rigidity, and mimic the essential rather than express it. There is a verse in the Tao Te Ching: "When the Tao ceased to be observed, benevolence and righteousness came into vogue. Then appeared wisdom and shrewdness, and there ensued great hypocrisy."  The more that we become identified with values and principles, the further we wander from the wisdom expressed by Lao Tsu.  "The Sage has no decided opinions and feelings..."


Xi’s change of heart is too late to stop China’s collision with the west - The Guardian

All around China’s borders, from India and South Korea to Malaysia, the Philippines and Australia, a grim story of intimidation, impunity and aggression is unfolding, as opposed to the confected, made-in-Beijing narrative of neighbourly co-existence.

Don’t expect Netanyahu’s departure to alter the course of politics in Israel - The Guardian

The burning desire to depose Israel’s longest serving leader is certainly the driving force behind the disparate eight-party coalition that hopes to replace him. But another factor also unites them – by default, if not by design: the consensus that in determining the future of the Jewish state, the conflict with the Palestinians can be managed in perpetuity.

It’s time to ditch Chrome - WIRED UK

When you sync your Google accounts to Chrome, the data slurping doesn’t stop there. Information from other Google-owned products including its email service Gmail and Google search can be combined to form a scarily accurate picture. Chrome data can be added to your geolocation history from Google Maps, the metadata from your Gmail usage, your social graph – who you interact with, both on and offline – the apps you use on your Android phone, and the products you buy with Google Pay. “That creates a very clear picture of who you are and how you live your life,” Fielding says.

Uyghurs are being deported from Muslim countries, raising concerns about China's growing reach - CNN
Palestinians aren't alone in feeling let down by Arab nations. Muslim Ughyars are being routinely extradited from Egypt, the UAR and elsewhere in the Middle East as China's dominance in the region grows.



That’s good news. The same evening, on Israeli TV they interviewed many from southern Israeli towns who were all in favor of continuing the campaign, because otherwise, they said, there will only be a renewal of hostilities within a short time. The same lack of imagination is shared by most of the personalities on Israeli news programs. They rarely speak about bringing real change, ending the Occupation, stopping the blockade on Gaza, creating conditions in which peace based on equality and justice will be more attractive than the perpetual conflict.

As the situation is now, in Palestinian perception, the only way to get their issue back on the agenda, is to begin lobbing missiles at Israel. When nothing is happening, Israel does not use the period of quiet in order to bring about change, but continues with its colonization practices and curbs on Palestinian freedom. The periodical flare-ups only feed into increasingly right wing Israeli governments and enhances the popularity of Hamas on the Palestinian side.

The world community, meanwhile, who do not really want to spend time on the Palestinian – Israeli conflict, and would rather forget about Palestinians in general, falls asleep. It only wakes up when something happens that is impossible to ignore. Then we see see social media posts and news stories in left-wing publications shouting about genocide and war crimes, for a while. But the truth is, for the most part, Israel looks more attractive and easier to deal with, for the majority of Europeans and North Americans, than do Palestinians. The country is a success story; modern, smart, upbeat, and, except for the one thing that won’t go away, likable. Even with its lousy rightwing leadership, the country is effective – such as now when it beat every other country in getting its citizens vaccinated. There too, it missed an opportunity. It could have put vaccines into the hands also of Palestinians under Occupation. This was arguably its responsibility, under international conventions regarding the responsibility of the occupying power.

No one really expects anything to change. And that, itself, is a problem.

Source: https://hubzilla.vikshepa.com/item/ac7a3a13-098a-4be5-9a6c-e6196a05bfd1

17 May 2021


I have successfully installed WordPress on my home server. For now, I will use it in conjunction with Hubzilla. I keep discovering that I'm not much of a social-media person (more of a blogger). As a blogging platform, WordPress still beats Hubzilla, unfortunately. Some examples (the ones that interest me):

  • it's easy to get a list of one's posts, where I can make quick adjustments.
  • one can backdate posts (this is possible in Hubzilla, by making an adjustment somewhere in the settings - I did this previously but was unable to discover how it's done. Mike MacGirvin's post describing how that's done was deleted).
  • It's easy to import and export one's blog from WordPress to other platforms.
  • It's easier to make theme changes and adjustments in WP.

WordPress does not work very well with social media. The Indyweb people have done as well as they can but Hubzilla's WordPress plug-in (hubzilla_wp), which draws comments back from Hubzilla to WP works better. At least, it did previously; I'll see now if it still does.

RSS newsfeeds have come to be regarded as arcane. I don't want to post links to Twitter or Facebook, but do want to provide an opportunity to follow me on the Fediverse. That seems to be a minimum. So I will continue to cross-post to Hubzilla.

In the meantime, I've stopped following anyone who has not engaged with me on Hubzilla.

Links Blog

Israel’s doctrine: Humane bombing and benevolent occupation
Indeed, since its inception, Israel has projected a conflicting image of being powerful but insecure, superior but needy, bloody but humane, violent but vulnerable, and ultimately a merciful warrior and a vicious peacemaker.

Marwan Bishara's opinion piece in Al-Jazeera is probably among the best, as usual. Again, I find myself losing patience with everyone who suddenly wakes up again to what is happening here, only to fall asleep again between the periodical flare-ups of the conflict. What this means on the ground is that the Hamas strategy of using violence in order to provoke interest is the only thing that actually works. If Palestinians are quiet and peaceful, everyone forgets about them. Israel can continue expropriating land and colonizing. The world is only too happy to ignore it. Meanwhile, Arab states like the Emirates, which have always wanted Israel as a business partner, can feel free to establish relations, without too much criticism from their own people. No one wants ugly violence and warfare, except maybe the politicians who stand to gain from it, the army and militants who get to use their skills, and the military industry that can test-drive their latest weaponry.

While the conflict rages, ordinary people on both sides are living in fear. Israel has the tactical advantage (by far), but when missiles are falling, people are petrified, regardless of how effective those missiles happen to be. We want it to stop, heal our wounds, rebuild, and get on with our lives. But what the country needs is constant pressure from the world to end the occupation, halt its colonial practices, and start behaving like a responsible, humane country. Palestinians need a real prospect that their children will see better times. Neither Palestinians or Israelis are bad people, or any worse than the citizens of other countries. They do much better when they are working together than when they are locked in conflict.

13 May 2021

Violence all around

I sympathize with those posts in social media that call to boycott Israel, but the trouble is, the world only notices what's going on here when there are people getting killed. The violence is ongoing; the occupation and the closure are violence; the ongoing expropriation of Palestinians from their homes is violence, and it's been going on for a hundred years. When there's a sudden outbreak, there are accusations from both sides about who started it. Well, the Palestinians "started it" but staying quiet doesn't exactly help their cause, and doesn't mean that Israel will stop doing what it's doing or change its systematic policies of settlement and expropriation. It can only continue because the world turns a blind eye to all that or stays mum.

As for me, I can't boycott Israel, because I live here, as it happens, in a place that tries to work for equality and peaceful change. Right now I'm dismayed, not only by the possibility of a ground operation. That itself would be horrible. The last one, in 2014, killed around 1,500 Gazans, and turned whole neighborhoods into rubble But even worse is the upsurge of violence between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel itself. There have already been lynchings, pogroms, riots, and they are only getting started. More is planned for tonight. It is turning out worse than the year 2000, when 12 Palestinian and one Jewish citizen were killed in the internal violence. The damage then caused to the fabric of Jewish - Arab relations in the country took years to heal. I don't know who would want a situation where people on either side would feel endangered simply by entering the wrong neighborhood or town, but evidently there are those that love that prospect.

This country has everything it needs, in terms of land, resources and skills to be a paradise for Jews and Palestinians alike. They do much better when they are working together than when they are fighting one another. The only thing lacking is wise leaders. But every wrong that is perpetrated creates another bad memory and fuels feelings of hatred and revenge. The prospects of creating a just and peaceful society only recede.



hosh31.81782, 34.97896, 3 days ago   The sign says it all. The welcome isn't to the UK, but only to the bloody border.

EU citizens arriving in UK being locked up and expelled | Brexit | The Guardian

Hostile UK border regime traumatises visitors from EU | Brexit | The Guardian

Cory Doctorow's linkblog wrote the following post 4 days agoKim Stanley Robinson's 2020 novel "The Ministry for the Future," is a fierce imaginative work. Robinson doesn't just depict a future beyond the climate emergency and capitalism itself, he depicts the specific, wrenching transition that takes us there.

"As I wrote in my review, the (variously attributed) maxim "It is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism," isn't quite right."

Download, never "open in"

Update: the described behavior depends on the browser. I was using SeaMonkey. Chrome browsers don't seem to place the document in /tmp. Firefox makes the opened document "read only".

Here's something really stupid that once every few years catches me unawares:
I download a document from Google Drive in .odt format.
The dialogue box asks whether to "open the document" in LibreOffice, or to save it.
I click to open in LibreOffice.
I work on the document. Looks fine; it has a name and everything, and I carefully save it before closing.
I turn off the computer.
I open the computer the next day.
The document has vanished.
It went into /tmp/mozilla_ , a folder that is completely erased every time the browser is closed or the computer is shut down (I'm not sure, but the result is the same).

Of course, the solution is not to (not ever!) "open the document in LibreOffice" but to save it, then open it. But every so often I forget that. And then, like now, it can result in the loss of several hours work. There are no warnings against this behavior, either in the browser or in LibreOffice. It's something you just learn the hard way.

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

28 March, 2021


Website platforms

An intern we had once made a WordPress website for one of our friends associations, and we host it on the same server as our main site. A new person who volunteers for the association is saying he doesn't want to use WordPress to update the website, but would prefer to re-do the site under a proprietary Mac app called Sparkle. He says he finds WP to be cumbersome and that he already runs several websites under Sparkle. My response was:

From the point of view of maintaining the site, the advantages of WordPress are as follows:
1. It's easy to change the appearance of the site (by adjusting or changing the theme)
WordPress is a free open source program that anyone can work with from any computer anywhere.
2. It's easy to move a WordPress site to a new server, and many other platforms are able to convert from WordPress, both CMS systems and static site generators.
3. Many people know WordPress as about 40% of all websites run on it and 64% of all sites that use a CMS.
4. By contrast, Sparkle is a paid, proprietary, Apple Mac program. Someone who does not have a Mac, or who hasn't purchased Sparkle would not be able to use it. For example, I'm on Linux, and would not be able to do anything with it. Neither would a future web designer or maintainer who uses Microsoft Windows. That means that if you ever decide to stop, the website will need to be re-made from scratch.

He, or the association will need to decide what to do. They may just decide to continue sending me the materials and let me do the work, which is fine.

I can't argue with him on the nastiness of the WordPress interface. It's cumbersome indeed. It's not surprising that so many competitors have sprung up. In a way, I prefer that they are at least suggesting this Sparkle, and not something like Wix or Weebly, which I would really dislike.

Wix is a successful Israeli company (now foreign-owned, I think). Lots of Israeli young people come up with ingenious new ideas, find funding, create a startup, with the main aim of eventually selling at a high price to some American company. Fine; except that some of the applications they create are a bit sleazy, as in not being respectful of privacy, etc. NSO Group is the most extreme example. But there are many others. Such software seems to be a product of a culture based on wrong values.


Others on the fediverse were looking at the freedom house site and comparing countries. Israel appears there as a "free" country (though it's on the lower end of "free"), and the Palestinian territories that are occupied by Israel are, unsurprisingly, listed as non-free. India, I remember, recently had its ranking downgraded to "partially free" and this rankled the Indian government immeasurably. (Indian Kashmir is listed as non-free.).

Looking at the criteria the site uses, it seems pretty fair to me. Of course, the degree of freedom in a country is not the only criteria to look at. I might not want to live in a country that is free, but violent, xenophobic, dangerous, freezing cold, or starving.

In Israel, a place that absorbs many newcomers, I have often asked people why they chose to move to and live in a country with so many difficulties, dangers and injustices. They do not always have a clear response; often it's an emotional decision. Sometimes it is ideological. I asked Prof. David Shulman, an indologist from the Hebrew University and speaker of Sanskrit, Telugu, Hindi, Malayalam and Tamil, what he is doing here, when he would be eagerly accepted at so many universities overseas. He said that he sees himself as "a man of the Middle East", that this is his home. A little later, he wrote "Dark Hope", a personal journal of his activism and volunteering with Ta'ayush, which involved going to assist Palestinian villagers facing violence from settlers. I asked Deb Reich, an American writer and translator, who authored "No More Enemies". She said she lives here as a "dissident," a person who opposes the regime. She sees a value in that. When an American volunteer for the International Solidarity Movement was buried under an Israeli army bulldozer in Gaza, and her parents sued the government, Deb translated the extensive testimony and court proceedings . In the village, we once had a Christian Spanish volunteer who was certain, without any evidence, that her ancestors were Marranos - Jewish converts to Christianity following the inquisition, who often kept practicing their religion in secret. She decided to convert to Judaism and stay here permanently.

As for me, I'm often asked by Israel's airport security what I am doing here. Once I told them, "Well, we all make mistakes."

Voyage to Cythera

(Theo Angelopoulos)

"I often discover with horror and relief that I believe in nothing. Then I return to my body. It's the only thing that reminds me I'm alive."

Links blog

Joe Biden is giving left parties the world over a masterclass in how to use power
“He ran as a moderate but is governing as a transforming radical. That’s not a paradox – it’s a winning method”

More than 100 killed as Myanmar junta unleashes worst day of terror | Myanmar | The Guardian
"In the locked-down capital, Naypyidaw, senior generals gathered for a military parade, with representatives from their few staunch allies, including China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, Reuters reported."

The Anti-Capitalist Software License

To check out: "badreads" on FDroid.

24 March, 2021


The lizard is known as the rough-tailed rock agama and is very common in these parts. Apparently it changes colour throughout the day, according to the light. It eats insects, snails and plants, and is territorial. If in trouble, it can lose its tail as a decoy, like some other lizards. Maybe this one is a pregnant female as spring is their time of gestation.

Still not sure why Hubzilla or my server degrades my photos and makes them fuzzier.

Today was election day in Israel. I don't get to vote. In our village, the largest number voted for the Joint List (a mainly Arab block). A lesser number voted Meretz and Labour (parties on the left), with a few scattered votes for other parties. From the exit polls it looks like we'll be stuck with Netanyahu again, with the alternative being some other contemptible right-wing figure.


Polish writer charged for calling president a 'moron' | Poland | The Guardian
Amazing. I guess we don't have that issue here. Meanwhile, the Labour candidate was spat on and called a whore when she visited a market yesterday in Tel Aviv. She asked Netanyahu to rein in his thugs.

Trump will use 'his own platform’ to return to social media after Twitter ban | Donald Trump | The Guardian

Italians urged to boycott Amazon to support day of strikes | Italy | The Guardian

A migrant’s reflection on accents: I hear myself speak in an alien voice – but can’t stop myself
“To be a migrant is to forever exist in this duality between Us and Them, a schism of the soul reflected in the migrant’s speech. In speech we hear the migrant fly from his known world, adopt a new tongue and, at times, get caught in the act of travel.”

I could relate to what he is saying. Although I don't think I "put on" accents, I do find that that my accent changes according to the people I'm speaking to, and I've never quite understood why this happens. Having grown up in northern Britain and in the US, and then spent the majority of my time outside the English speaking world, people have a hard time placing my accent, even when they think they are good at that. Americans tend to think I sound vaguely British, whereas Brits guess that English is not my native language. Sometimes after spending time in India, my voice develops a slightly Indian pitch, but that's a known phenomenon. Indian accents are quite contagious.

‘Klara and the Sun’: Kazuo Ishiguro returns to old themes but adds technology-inspired twists
“The Nobel laureate’s latest novel plays out in a world struggling with mortality, change and technological intervention.”

I've enjoyed two of the the three books of his that I've read.

Top Saudi official issued death threat against UN's Khashoggi investigator | Jamal Khashoggi | The Guardian