Cluster Map

Friday, September 12, 2014

Pollyanna is with you again.

Pollyanna is back and shares with all the memory of what happened 13 years ago.

She also welcomes the visitor from space who flew by this week. A small asteroid, designated 2014 RC, safely passed very close to the Earth on Sunday, 7 September 2014. It was not related to the explosion reported from Nicaragua.
 Position of Asteroid 2014 RC and any possible associated debris at time of the Nicaragua explosion.
This small asteroid was initially discovered on the night of 31 August by the Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson AZ, and independently detected the next night by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope, located on the summit of Haleakala on Maui, Hawaii. Both reported their observations to the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, MA. Additional follow-up observations by the Catalina Sky Survey and the University of Hawaii 88-inch on Mauna Kea confirmed the orbit of 2014 RC. From its brightness, astronomers estimate that the asteroid is about 20 meters (60 feet) in size. Read more here. We should be aware of these things and humanity must be ready to deal with any object that threatens to collide with Earth. Much more than dinosaurs is at stake now.

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over a year has gone by without Miriam and we continue to realize what we have lost. She got us into the human rights struggle. Please act on behalf of people who are so much in need of support in their trials and tribulations at the hands of oppressive regimes and corporations.

This week Pollyanna is referring you to Physicians for Human Rights. This is an organization of Israeli doctors (including our Yosefa) who both go out to Palestinian villages on weekends to provide medical services and maintain a free clinic for refugees and asylum seekers in Yaffo. They do wonderful work and need all the support they can get. Please put your hand into your pocket or onto the mouse and donate via their site.

The US drug store giant chain announced early this year that it would terminate sales of tobacco products in all its stores on October 1. It now has done so a month earlier. Pollyanna applauds and hopes that other pharmacy chains will follow suit.
CVS employees removed tobacco products from stores  ahead of schedule (CVS Health photo)
CVS employees removed tobacco products from stores ahead of schedule (CVS Health photo)

As usual, Pollyanna is livid instead of "glad" about spousal abuse. The case that came up just now of Ray Rice, the NFL football player, who was seen on camera beating his fiance (now his wife) Janay raised a major outcry. The team fired him, the league suspended him and the courts sent him to counseling. We have been treated to much pious clucking of tongues by sports analysts at half time. The hash tags #whyshestayed and #whyshe left have gone viral. Pollyanna would like to share an essay on domestic violence written 20 years later. Janay Palmer is not ready to share her story yet, and she may never be. But she has inspired other women to do so, like this writer, who suffered at the hands of an ex 20 years ago.  Pollyanna  also recommends looking at the tweets at these hash tags. In particular, she is outraged that people are blaming the victim and Janay Palmer seems to need to apologize for being abused.

Pollyanna is also outraged at the rape and murder of octogenarian nuns in Burundi.  Their names are Lucia Pulici, aged 75, Olga Raschietti, aged 82, and Bernadetta Boggian, aged 79. They had all been serving for decades in Africa and the crime is horrendous. The police say they have two suspects in custody.
Undated handout picture of Olga Raschietti
Olga Raschietti had spent many years working in central Africa

Nursing mothers certainly have a right to nurse their babies wherever and whenever required. This Mom has an answer for those who object to the sight of an infant at a breast.

Cheers lady!

Pollyanna is pleased to pass on the news that a previously unknown life form has been found that does not fit into any existing phylum so that a new genus had to be created. The organisms, which are mushroom shaped, are multicellular and nonsymmetrical. They live 400 to 1000 meters below the surface of the ocean. The new genus will be called Dendrogramma. The organisms will be called D. enigmatica and D. discoides. For more details, see PLOS.
Figure 1. Dendrogramma gen. nov., all 15 paratypes of D. enigmatica and (with *) D. discoides.

Meet the largest land animal ever, Dreadnoughtus scrani, discovered in fossils in Patagonia. This giant juvenile herbivore weighed in at 65 tons and was 26 meters in length. Slink away little T. Rex.

An international group of researchers is reporting that they have  successfully transmitted information in a brain-to-brain link between two humans. It is done via a computer link between brain scanning devices. It could have great applications in many areas including communication with comatose patients etc.
Brain-to-brain communication
Information successfully sent from one person's brain to another's over thousands of miles, researchers report. Feat is first non-invasive brain-to-brain link, they say.
(Photo : PLOS ONE

Niccolo Machiavelli by Santi di Tito
Desperate remedies … Niccolò Machiavelli, painted by Santi di Tito. Photograph: Archivo Iconografico, S.A./CORBIS
We have not referred you to a book review for a while.  We offer you  The Garments of Court and Palace: Machiavelli and the world that he made by Philip Bobbitt. It is reviewed in the New York Review of Books by Quentin Skinner and in the Guardian by Colin Burrow. Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) has been known through the centuries as the author of   The Prince (1532). The main theme of this short book is that all means may be resorted to for the establishment and preservation of authority -- the end justifies the means -- and that the worst and most treacherous acts of the ruler are justified by the wickedness and treachery of the governed.  Bobbitt provides a deep analysis of the political thought of Machiavelli, who was driven from power in 1512 when the Florentine republic was demolished by the Medicis. You may have difficulty in opening the NYRB review, but the Guardian version is available.

What If? In the absence of a new WhatIf? this week, we recycle an old one from 2012. How much of the Earth's currently-existing water has ever been turned into a soft drink at some point in its history?

Brian Roelofs

Not much.

Our friends with back problems should know how much Big Pharma loves them.
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Sep/11/2014

The good people of Id have it right about polls:
Wizard of Id Cartoon for Sep/10/2014

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Pollyanna cheers the end of the fighting

Pollyanna is back and would like to share a view of a monster storm on Saturn
with you
Two Looks at the Turbulent Saturn Storm
This set of images from NASA's Cassini mission shows the turbulent power of a monster Saturn storm. The visible-light image in the back, obtained on Feb. 25, 2011, by Cassini's imaging camera, shows the turbulent clouds churning across the face of Saturn. The inset infrared image, obtained a day earlier, by Cassini's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer, shows the dredging up of water and ammonia ices from deep in Saturn's atmosphere. This was the first time water ice was detected in Saturn's atmosphere. The storm, first detected by Cassini's radio and plasma wave subsystem in December 2011, churned around the planet in a band around 33 degrees north. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Univ. of Arizona/Univ. of Wisconsin
For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over a year has gone by without Miriam and we continue to realize what we have lost. She got us into the human rights struggle. Please act on behalf of people who are so much in need of support in their trials and tribulations at the hands of oppressive regimes and corporations.

This week Pollyanna gets to choose a charity. Her choice is Reporters Without Borders, who fight to protect freedom of expression and freedom of the press everywhere. You are invited to donate via their Web site and while you are there, get an idea of the scope of their work and activity. They have opened a tribute page for their colleague James Foley who was so brutally murdered last week by the jihadis in Iraq.

IN MEMORIAM Yehezkel Braun 1922-2014

The famous Israeli composer died on Wednesday at age 92. He composed in a great variety of genres and was widely performed. He wrote symphonies, chamber music, choral compositions and solo  pieces. A Hebrew obituary is in Haaretz.  He was much loved and admired by the music community and by the public.  A special concert was held for his 85th birthday.  Then Haaretz wrote "Yehezkel Braun, who as he himself says, "always refused to compose contemporary music," considers himself better suited to have been born in the 18th century. His melodies and harmonies, the superlative vocality that dominates his compositions, the colors of the sound and the formal program - all of this draws inspiration from the classical styles. It forever relies on tradition and heritage, looking back at the past. Even when he tried to adopt avant-garde composition techniques, he once said about himself, the result was classical. After that, he stopped trying. " May he rest in peace and we shall continue to love and enjoy his music.


Pollyanna salutes the editorial board of the Washington  Post who have decided to cease the use of the name Redskins to mark the NFL  team of the city. We note however that this has not yet percolated to the sports pages of the journal. Let this piece of racism be relegated to the  dustbin of history.

In India where rape and sexual abuse of women are rampant, many incidents go unreported because of shame and the cavalier way the police, mostly men, treat the victims. A new system, a la ATM, is being introduced for the submission of such complaints. Pollyanna applauds.
Manju Mitra uses the ICLIK machine to file a police complaint in New Delhi. (photo: Amrit Dhillon/The Star)
Manju Mitra uses the ICLIK machine to file a police complaint in New Delhi. (photo: Amrit Dhillon/The Star)
She also cheers the brave women in Spain who are standing up to the machismo of the police and  León de la Riva, the mayor of Valladolid. He is not the only sexist in the country and the uprising aka "the bra revolution" is gaining pace.
Residents of Valladolid tie a chain of bras around the entrance to the town hall
More than 500 protesters have tied a chain of bras across the entrance of a town hall in the Spanish city of Valladolid.
The hashtag #NoEstasSola, which translates as "You are not alone", has been used more than 40,000 times since Wednesday, and 5,500 times in the last 24 hours.  It is meant as a message of support for the woman who made the initial accusations. 

The Gaza war seems to be on hold and since no one can be called a victor, it is obvious that both sides lost, whatever spin the respective  sets of leaders choose to put on it. The degree of wanton cruelty shown by both sides will leave scars for a long time to come. Gideon Levy comments on the reaction to the killing of an Israeli child"Suddenly the death of a little  boy has meaning, suddenly it is shocking. It is human, understandable and moving. It is also human that the killing of an Israeli boy, a child of ours, would arouse greater identification than the death of some other child. What  is incomprehensible is the Israeli response to the killing of their children." When three Israeli yeshiva boys were killed by vile Hamas terrorists, we were all up in arms. When an Arab teenager was burnt alive by vile Jewish terrorists, most of us shrugged shoulders and the police arrested and beat up members of the victim's family. 

One result of the situation is the conclusion  that liberal Zionism is dead  and buried. As Antony Lerman writes in the NYTimes:"The only Zionism of any consequence today is xenophobic and exclusionary, a Jewish ethno-nationalism inspired by religious messianism. It is carrying out an open-ended project of national self-realization to be achieved through colonization and  purification of the tribe."  We indeed realize that the reign of the Rabbi Kings is just around the corner, but in good conscience we cannot give up the fight. Of course, it has been said that liberal Zionism is a romantic oxymoron.  As Asher Schechter puts it, "... all along, “liberal Zionism” was nothing more than a silly romantic notion. But the Middle East has never been a good place for romantics. The last one who tried to get romantic around here ended up getting crucified." Yet we silly romantic liberals will support Meretz, go to futile demonstrations, write letters to the editor that are not published and watch the best and the brightest of the younger generation vote with their feet.  We note that no right-wing journalist needs bodyguards as does Gideon Levy, no left wing group has ever disrupted a right wing demonstration, no Reform Jews have ever desecrated an Orthodox synagogue--the evil violence and hatred are the property of the right and the Orthodox. It should give food for thought.

In the early hours of 7 August 2012 Claudia Medina woke to the  frightening sound of marines breaking into her home in Veracruz City, Mexico. With her hands bound and a blindfold covering her eyes, the mother of three,  who makes a living as a natural medicine salesperson, was taken to a local naval base.

Over the next few days, Claudia suffered terrible torture at the hands of government forces, including electric shocks and sexual abuse, being wrapped in plastic, beaten and kicked. Her torturers even forced chili sauce up her nose with a syringe.  Join the global movement to get justice for Claudia. Claudia reported her torture, prompting a federal judge to request an  investigation. But almost two years later the investigation is yet to happen.

vitamin K

Vitamin K is a critical compound in our bodies that allows blood to coagulate. Infants are naturally low in it and are at risk for terrible problems that can be otherwise prevented with a simple shot.
Photo by Shutterstock/Natalia Karpova
The latest nutty twist on anti-vaxxing is the refusal of parents of newborns to give their babies vitamin K injections. As Phil Plait tells us ... Babies across the U.S. are suffering from horrific injuries—including hemorrhages, brain damage, and even strokes (yes, strokes, in babies)—because of parents refusing a vitamin K shot. This vitamin is needed to coagulate blood, and without it internal bleeding can result.

Vitamin K deficiency is rare in adults, but it doesn’t cross the placental barrier except in limited amounts, so newborn babies are generally low in it.  That is why it’s been a routine injection for infants for more than 50  years—while vitamin K deficiency is not as big a risk as other problems, the  shot is essentially 100 percent effective, and is quite safe.

Pollyanna is the opposite of glad, she is distressed. It couples in with the  antivax, "natural mothering" and all the other crap that people who should know better are promulgating.

Pollyanna is outraged over the report that a 9-year old girl  who was being trained to use an Uzi submachine gun killed her instructor by accident. She agrees that there is nothing wrong with teaching kids about firearms, but they should be older and the weapons single-shot to avoid a  burst of automatic fire from a child who cannot control the recoil. Nuts and  irresponsible all around.

ISIS aka ISIL is continuing to rampage while the world dithers. Obama frankly  admits to having no strategy to deal with them and the slaughter goes on. The fate of women in their hands is another frightful atrocity. Sale as cheap wives or rape and murder are the order of the day. Yes, Mr. President, the main task should devolve to the local powers, but you and Europe must put on much more pressure. It is only a question of time before this terror spreads to Europe and the United States.

We live in a bubble. Our whole solar system appears to do so, say space scientists, who published work last month corroborating its existence. And, oh, what a bubble it is: About 300 light years long (about 1,764,000,000,000,000 miles), and its walls are made of hot gas. How hot? About a million degrees.


What If? asks: Could a person walk the entire city of NY in their lifetime?
(including inside apartments)

Asaf Shamir: It works out quite nicely, thank you.

Randall also offers an astronomy lesson for those who have problems with the
google app on their handhelds:
Abusive Astronomy
WUMO  shows what herbal diets can cause. We hope they will forgive us this copyright violation:
Wumo Cartoon for Aug/26/2014

Welcome to Hollywood, yes they are all the same more or less:
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Aug/27/2014

Finally it came to be:

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Pollyanna greets you

Pollyanna is back and while she assures you that she is not in the least  superstitious (touch wood) and certainly does not believe in zombies, she  would like to share one with you. This particular zombie is cosmic in nature and is certainly of interest. If you are afraid of zombies, relax. This one is 110 million light years away. Using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, a team of  astronomers has spotted a star system that could have left behind a “zombie star” after an unusually weak supernova explosion.

Supernova 2012Z
The two inset images show before-and-after images captured by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope of Supernova 2012Z in the spiral galaxy NGC 1309. The white X at the top of the main image marks the location of the supernova in the galaxy.
Image Credit: 
A supernova typically  obliterates the exploding white dwarf, or dying star. On this occasion, scientists believe this faint supernova may have left behind a surviving  portion of the dwarf star -- a sort of zombie star.

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action  blog. Over a year has gone by without Miriam and we continue to realize what  we have lost. She got us into the human rights struggle. Please act on behalf  of people who are so much in need of support in their trials and tribulations  at the hands of oppressive regimes and corporations.

This week Pollyanna gets to choose a charity. Her choice is  Doctors Without Borders, who deliver medical aid wherever it is needed.

They are on the scene in Africa, in Syria, in Gaza, the list goes on. You can  donate to them either directly on their Web site or via GlobalGiving who list  many projects that they run. Please put your hand into your pocket for this  most worthy organization.
Pollyanna takes the liberty this week of  proposing two charities. We have until Sunday to raise enough money to buy 5000 tons of surplus potatoes and ship them to Gaza. So far a miniscule fraction of the required sum has been raised. Please click and help out.

IN MEMORIAM  Robin Williams 1951-2014

The great actor was found dead at his  home north of San Francisco, apparently a suicide. He was a Juilliard-trained  actor and an uncontainably exhibitionist comic who became one of the most dazzling all-around talents in show business. He won an Oscar for best  supporting actor in Good Will Hunting and in Pollyanna's considered opinion  should have won best actor for his role in Good Morning Vietnam.  He played  a space alien in the TV series Mork and Mindy and starred as an inspired prep school teacher in The Dead Poets' Society.

Depression and addiction are terrible things. He was said to joke about his cocaine habit. He was an admitted abuser of cocaine — which he also referred to as “Peruvian marching powder” and “the devil’s dandruff” — in the 1970s and ‘80s, and addressed his drug habit in his comedy act. “What a wonderful drug,” he said in a sardonic routine from “Live at the Met.” “Anything that makes you paranoid and impotent, give me more of that.” He was also a great one-line, impromptu satirist, who managed not to offend the great and powerful at whom his arrows were aimed.
He was also a supporter of human  rights. Amnesty International mourns the loss of a great friend and supporter  of humanistic causes. His colleagues grieve deeply. A full obituary is in the Guardian as well as the Washington Post.

Here is a video of him from 1987 

IN MEMORIAM Lauren Bacall, 1924-2014, 
She was the sultry presence who first hit movie screens in 1944 and then went on to play a series of sophisticated, tough-as-nails roles for the next six decades – even in real life – has died.
She played several roles opposite her husband Humphrey Bogart and also had major success on her own including 1957′s “Designing Woman” and 1974′s “Murder on the Orient Express.”. She was, as was Robin Williams,  well known for sharp ad-lib quotes. Her colleagues remember her with love and admiration. The Guardian gives an obituary and also some insight into how she escaped being a studio product. We saw her on stage in London in the 1970's in Tennessee Williams' Sweet Bird of Youth and her stage presence was unforgettable.

Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall, you enriched the lives of all of us. May you Rest in Peace.

Pollyanna is glad to inform you that one of China’s most famous dissident lawyers, Gao Zhisheng, was released from prison on Thursday. We have campaigned for him over the years since his arrest and wish him the best. We hope he can be united with his family in the USA very soon.
Gao Zhisheng in 2010. Gemunu Amarasinghe/Associated Press

Explorer Vasco da Gama kneels before the Portuguese monarch before his departure to India
The explorer Vasco da Gama is seen kneeling before the Portuguese monarch before his departure to seek out India. Abraham Zacuto is depicted on right – with his head against a sail. Photo by Wikimedia Commons
August 12, 1452, is the birth date of the Spanish-Jewish astronomer and historian Abraham Zacuto, who advised the court of Portuguese King John (or Juan) II, and whose state-of-the-art navigation innovations were used by both Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Gama. He was one of the great Jewish scholars of Spain until the expulsion of the Jews in 1492. He moved on to Portugal and then to North Africa and the Ottoman Empire. His life and contribution to science are most interesting, says Pollyanna.

Since 1988 the Discovery Channel has featured an annual week devoted to sometimes factual reporting about these denizens of the deep. You may want to watch some of them. There has also been criticism of the programs, mainly for their distortion of facts and the propagation of myths. The shark science community is distancing itself from them. We will return to Shark Week in the proper venue, The Kingdom of Id, below.

Before getting on to the rants and raves Pollyanna would like to express her disgust at the fact that one of the convicted rapists in Steubenville is back to playing football for the local high school. Apparently shame has vanished from the Earth. She is also revolted by an antisemitic cartoon in an Australian newspaper.  
We hope that Australia has laws about hate propaganda and that the local Jewish community continues to raise its voice.
This cutting piece of satire by Amir Oren assumes that the reader is  familiar with the novel Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. For the younger set and  the non-literati we refer you to the link. The catch was article 22 in the  military rule book: anyone who is insane is exempt from flying bombing  missions over Germany. The catch is that not wanting to fly these dangerous  missions is taken by the Air Force to be a certain indication of sanity. Our hero Yossarian is everyone's soldier, bless him. Heller takes apart the military in a thorough manner, reminiscent of Hasek and his The Good Soldier  Svejk. BTW, we once had a discussion with some young Israeli officers about Svejk. They totally missed the point of the satire and thought that Svejk was the butt and not the army and the command structure. It has been said with some authority that thinking in Hebrew diminishes IQ. A militaristic  brainwashing from kindergarten on certainly has that effect. 


Such people are beyond the pale. We can understand the  Koch brothers who need a few billion more to be happy and the future of humanity be damned. What revolts us is the phenomenon of people who deny anthropogenic climate change for no reason other than a contrary nature coupled with abysmal stupidity. We could name a few.  Phil Plait, bless him, tells us of a ray of hope, a campaign to name and shame politicians who lick the hands and feet of the oil industry and deny climate change. Go for it guys and gals!

This is a set of commands in the IDF under which a soldier who is about to be taken prisoner and cannot be  rescued is killed to avoid his being used as a bargaining chip. It involves massive fire power to isolate the region and prevent the prisoner from being removed. The procedure was  recently used in Rafa when 1st Lieut. Hadar Goldin was thought to have been  captured. It turned out that he was dead, but the massive fire was used nonetheless with huge loss of innocent life.  Uri Misgav wrote a strong critique (Hebrew) of the action in Haaretz which the newspaper chose not to translate for its English edition. Fortunately, Richard Silverstein provides us with at least a partial  translation.

We are constantly told that Hamas uses the Gazan people as a human shield and stores weapons in hospitals, schools, mosques etc.  Norwegian doctors who served in Gaza in both the previous war and this one repudiate this statement. Uri Misgav delivers a strong blast at the public in Israel that loves to wallow in hate and puts an Iron Dome over its conscience. He notes the great solidarity--in an affluent neighborhood of Tel Aviv  the tenants of a luxury high-rise refused to let the residents of the nearby Givat Amal neighborhood into their shelters when they knocked on their locked doors with their children during an alert. Let us hope that this horror ends soon. We shall all have to live with the lasting consequences, primarily the erosion of democracy and the schism in the community. In truth, the tail wags the dog here and as usual a well organized minority can control an incoherent
majority, alas.


Again there is no new What If? but we can make do with some Randall cartoons.
TED Talk



Wizard of Id Cartoon for Aug/10/2014

Wizard of Id Cartoon for Aug/11/2014

Wizard of Id Cartoon for Aug/12/2014

Wizard of Id Cartoon for Aug/13/2014

Wizard of Id Cartoon for Aug/14/2014

Friday, August 1, 2014

Pollyanna is back with you

Pollyanna would like to share with you something from the Syrian children in the refugee camps. While she shares the general distress over what is happening, here and around the world, she would like to find a ray of hope in the basic optimism that these children show.

“It’s a very small drawing but it has a big meaning. This tree represents me. The wind, the lines to the right of the tree, represent the things that keep me from who I want to become in life. While this wind can blow the leaves from my branches, you see them here falling to the ground, it cannot knock me over. The soil and the roots of the tree keep me from being knocked over.”

Pollyanna is back and hopes that all our Muslim friends had an Eid Mubarak despite the dreadful times. She  is extremely distressed by the ongoing war.  The Hamas are firing rockets from sites near and in civilian facilities and homes   and we are forced to respond by bombing and shelling. The Hamas are also infiltrating through a system of tunnels which our army failed to deal with over the years.
IDF soldier in Gaza tunnel, July 25, 2014
An Israeli army officer gives journalists a tour, Friday, July 25, 2014, of a tunnel allegedly used by Palestinian militants for cross-border attacks, at the Israel-Gaza Border. Photo by AP

 The result is a ferocious spilling of blood on both sides of the border and a firming of the attitudes that will diminish any hope for a peaceful settlement. In addition, there is in Israel a wave of suppression of dissent.
Left wing protest in Tel Aviv against the military operation in Gaza (Photo: Motti Kimchi)
Left wing protest in Tel Aviv against the military operation in Gaza (Photo: Motti Kimchi)

 Joe McCarthy is alive and well in Israel. A professor who expressed humanistic sentiments in a message to students was reprimanded. In the wake of a recent demonstration in Tel Aviv in which left/liberal people called for a cessation of hostilities, participants were set upon in the street by right wing thugs. Indeed it is becoming difficult to be a liberal Zionist and it has become more difficult in the wake of the war.   Nonetheless, we have no choice but to stand up for the ideals in which we believe and which we regard as essential for Israel to have a positive future.   As Gideon Levy says so well, we are on our way to a society that sings in unison, a Red Army choir of a public.  We seem to think that we are able  "to conquer Gaza, bomb Iran, piss on international law, throw out the Arab members of Knesset, all the Arabs of Israel, all the left-wingers. " Indeed, as long as the big money from Jewish  casino  operators and worse is available to bribe the members of the US Congress, it might even be true.  Have a nice day everyone. Gideon himself is not going back to Ashkelon soon.

Pollyanna points you at something that we can do. She refers you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over a year has gone by without Miriam and we continue to realize what we have lost. She got us into the human rights struggle. Please act on behalf of people who are so much in need of support in their trials and tribulations at the hands of oppressive regimes and corporations.

This week it is Pollyanna's turn to choose a charity. Her choice is the Ebola relief fund set up by GlobalGiving.
 Ebola Epidemic Relief Fund
There is no cure and little treatment for the deadly virus, which has killed at least 660 people in several African countries. Please open the link and open your heart to the suffering people of West Africa. The virus is spreading and will wreak havoc if not stopped.

In many places in the world the killing of women is regarded as a norm in patriarchal societies. In Mexico the sheriff of Juarez, when reproached about the lack of prosecutions for murder of women, replied that there is no reason to punish a man for destroying his own property. This week Pollyanna asks you to join the outcry of women in Turkey who are calling on their parliament to address the impunity granted to femicide by the government and male-dominated society. AWID calls upon all to support the demands of Turkish women.  We quote from the petition:"Women are killed by men every day as they attempt to make decisions regarding their own lives. The persistence of these killings is evidence of the patriarchal nature of the state, as the latter fails to take the necessary precautions to prevent them. Meanwhile, the existing legal system legitimizes and in fact encourages these acts of femicide. While the male violence we are subjected to goes unpunished, and new policies condemn us to remain increasingly at the mercy of the institution of the family, we women are being killed each and every day. If six men had been killed by women within the span of two days, the state would have sprung into action, meeting expectations that it take emergency measures.Yet women are being killed in Turkey every single day." Please support these women, it is only a single instance of what is happening in too many places around the world.


More than one million Syrian children have been forced to flee their war-torn country. Of these young refugees, one in every three is between the ages of 12 and 18. This is the generation that will be tasked with rebuilding Syria. And yet, they are consistently missing out on critical life milestones like building social skills, developing confidence and getting an education.

In order to develop effective support strategies for this vulnerable group, the Mercy Corps conducted a research study in host communities in Jordan and Lebanon. The new report of the findings, Advancing Adolescence, describes the obstacles facing Syrian refugee youth and ways to prevent their becoming a lost generation. The art of these children and youths show in the post speaks for itself.
“I wish I could go back to my house and the place I lived in, so I drew a mountain, trees and a house.”
Pollyanna calls your attention to a petition to the Spanish government against oil drilling near the Canary Islands and for the establishment of a cetacean sanctuary in the region. Please join the call.


New evidence has been discovered that shows that the asteroid impact that knocked out the dinosaurs, thus creating a viable niche for mammals (here we are), just happened to arrive at a time when the creatures were particularly vulnerable to extinction because of a fall in biodiversity. If the impact had taken place a few million years earlier or later they might well have survived. In that case, we would not be and maybe the planet would have been better off.

A few years ago, July 23, 2012, the Sun emitted a huge Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) that fortunately missed the Earth.

A less threatening solar storm on the Sun
A less threatening storm on the Sun. Photograph: Nasa/AP
If it had hit, it would have caused huge damage to our society and  civilization. It was detected and observed in detail by the two Stereo spacecraft that monitor the Sun and the solar wind environment. Here is a short film from NASA that gives you an idea of what happened and what might have happened.

Again we were lucky. An event of even greater magnitude in 1859 caused some damage, but nothing compared to our present degree of vulnerability.

Science is full of ups and downs and what seems like an exciting discovery can evaporate when further observations are made. Such is the case for the two planets around the star Gliese 581. One of them was thought to be in the so-called Goldilocks zone where water can exist in liquid form. New observation indicate that the fluctuations that were originally interpreted as evidence of two planets are intrinsic to the star itself and the planets do not exist. C'est la vie. Astronomers will continue to search for possible abodes of life as we know it.

We have not presented a book review in a while. Pollyanna calls your attention to a study by Mary Beard of humor in ancient Rome.
Laughter in Ancient Rome: On Joking, Tickling, and Cracking Up (Sather Classical Lectures) Hardcover – University of California Press, 319 pp., $29.95 June 25, 2014
by Mary Beard. 
It is reviewed in the New York Review of Books by Gregory Hays. If the NYRB does not open for you, there is an equally good review in the New Statesman. Humor was a serious business back then.
Illustration by John Leech from The Comic History of Rome, 1852

What If? asks What’s the fastest way to get a hand-written letter from my place in Chicago to my mother in New Jersey? —Tim. The answer is fun.

Snake Facts


Dilbert Cartoon for Jul/29/2014


Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Jul/27/2014

Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Jul/29/2014

Wizard of Id Cartoon for Jul/25/2014

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Pollyanna is very sad

Pollyanna mourns the death of the three teenagers who were killed  by terrorists and whose bodies were found this week. All of us here extend condolences to the families of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naphtali Fraenkel.

Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naphtali Fraenkel

We also extend condolences to the family  of the 16-year-old boy, Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir, whose body was found this week in a forest in Jerusalem with indications that it may have been a revenge killing by right wing Jews.
Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir

We hope that their respective religious faiths will give them strength to bear the unbearable burden that evil men  have laid upon them. We also hope that the arm of justice will find all these base killers and that they will pay for their foul deeds. The Reform Movement in Israel and its Rabbis have composed the following prayer and our apologies for those who lack Hebrew.

כִּי עָלָה מָוֶת בְּחַלּוֹנֵינוּ בָּא בְּאַרְמְנוֹתֵינוּ לְהַכְרִית עוֹלָל מִחוּץ בַּחוּרִים מֵרְחֹבוֹת" (ירמיהו ט, כ (

בלב שותת ואבל, המומים ודואבים, אנו ניצבים אל מול הידיעה המרה על הירצחם של נפתלי פרנקל, איל יפרח וגיל-עד שאער ז"ל. גדול האבל, עצום חרון האף, רבה הכמיהה לנקם ושילם.

יהי זכר ההרוגים לברכה לכל בני משפחותיהם ואוהביהם. יהי רצון שינוחמו מן השמים וימצאו כוחות רוח ונפש להתמודד עם אבלם. תהי האהבה והשותפות המורעפת עליהם מנת חלקם גם בימי המבחן המצפים להם.

יהי רצון, שברגעי מסה אלה נֵדע לזכור ולהזכיר שאנו מצוּוים להרבות חיים, לרדוף שלום וצדק, להביא מרפא, לתקן עולם במלכות שדי.

יהי רצון, שהעושה שלום במרומיו יעניק לנו ולשכנינו כוח אמונה ותבונת לב להיעשות אגודה אחת לעשות רצונו בלבב שלם. יהי רצון שישובו שמחה לארצנו וששון לעירנו, למען תקפוץ העוולה פיה ויעבור זדון מן הארץ (על יסוד תפילת העמידה לעשרת ימי תשובה) ונאמר אמן

הרב פרופ' יהוידע עמיר, יו"ר מועצת הרבנים המתקדמים בישראל  

We also append an anonymous prayer from Beliefnet for the victims of war  and terror:

Prayer for Victims of Terrorism
Loving God, Welcome into your arms the victims of violence and terrorism. Comfort their families and all who grieve for them. Help us in our fear and uncertainty, And bless us with the knowledge that we are secure in your love. Strengthen all those who work for peace, And may the peace, the world cannot give, reign in our hearts.

We hope that the memory of the fallen will not be further desecrated by more acts of vengeance against innocent people. No matter the degree of outrage, we must strive for justice. We quote Knesset Member Zahava Gal-On:
“Kidnapping and murdering teens is a war crime that must be punished to the full extent of the law. At the same time, in these moments we must differentiate between those who are responsible for the criminal act and the Palestinians who rejected it, like Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas...We must take diplomatic action that will strengthen the moderates.”

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over a year has gone by without Miriam and we continue to realize what we have lost. She got us into the human rights struggle. Please act on behalf of people who are so much in need of support in their trials and tribulations at the hands of oppressive regimes and corporations.

This week Pollyanna is choosing her charity in the light of the tragic death of the boys. She could not find any local charity in Israel that both helps terror victims and accepts online donations, both abroad and in Israel. She is, therefore, referring you to the OneFamily Fund, which is devoted to the support and help of terror victims in Israel. Please go to their home page and donate.

Pollyanna joins Bradley Burston in Haaretz in protesting the cynicism of extremists on right and left who would use the tragic killing of these three boys as grist for their political mills. On one side you have people whose hatred of Israel causes them to blame the bereaved parents for the loss of their sons and to use the killing of Palestinians as a justification for callousness towards the grief of us all. On the other you have the extreme right shouting for revenge and collective punishment against the entire Palestinian community. To both Pollyanna suggests going to a poem by Bialik written after the 1903 Kishinev pogrom, On The Slaughter, in Hebrew or in English. To Pollyanna the operative lines are "And cursed be the man who says: Avenge! No such revenge - revenge for the blood of a little child - has yet been devised by Satan." As Bradley Burston writes "There's a name for blaming all members of a group for the actions of a few. Whatever the target group, and no matter how religious or ideologically drive the person who preaches collective guilt and advocates collective punishment, it comes out the same: racism." The report of the murder of a Palestinian boy  possibly by revenge-seeking Jews shows us how futile our struggle for human values can become. We have an incompetent government that has no idea what to do and how to proceed and allows the settler lunatics to lead it by the nose.

Pollyanna is certainly unable to be glad this time around. Let us all look at ourselves, our world, our leaders and weep for the future of our children.

Pollyanna is not putting this under Goodies from Science because this is bad stuff from science. We are screwing up our planet and while the technical means of coping with , albeit not stopping, climate change exist, the will to do anything about it seems to be lacking. We run across people, some even close to us, who know less about atmospheric science than we know about medicine or Icelandic literature, who will hold forth in denial of everything that the data and the models are telling us. Bill McKibben writing in the New York Review of Books tells it as it is in terms of the end game of our confrontation with Nature. Pollyanna recommends his article to all of you who still want to think about the future of humanity.
John Weller/Rizzoli 2013 An Adélie penguin on an iceberg in the Ross Sea; photograph by John Weller from his book The Last Ocean: Antarctica’s Ross Sea Project, Saving the Most Pristine Ecosystem on Earth. It includes a foreword by Carl Safina and is published by Rizzoli.

We belong to a reform synagogue in Natanya and were naturally appalled at the hostility of our President-elect Mr. Rivlin to our movement. OTOH, it was nice to read that Uzi Baram of the old Labor establishment is considering joining us and regards us as the path to the future. A few more people chip in on this discussion. The public is becoming more friendly to us.
Rehearsals for a Reform Bat Mitzvah, May 8, 2003.
Rehearsals for a Reform Bat Mitzvah, May 8, 2003. Photo by Lior Mizrahi / BauBau

FIFA has granted 50,000 free tickets to the workers who participated in the building of the venues for the World Cup. Of course, they could have consulted the unions on the distribution, but let us not quibble.

A Chilean army engineers wearing protective gear uses a magnetic detector in a minefield on 26 May 2014
To date 161 states have joined the Ottawa Convention but the US, China and Russia are not among them

The US is inching towards joining the Ottawa convention against land mines. As of now, 161 states are on board, not including the US, Russia, China or Israel. We hope things move a bit more quickly.

Our friend and collaborator Ray has written an interesting piece for his local techie magazine about the Rosetta mission to Comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko. It has been a long ride and we hope for interesting results. Cheers for Ray and the Rosetta team.
photo of author Ray Goldstein, Ph.D.
Dr. Raymond Goldstein, a staff scientist in the Space Science and Engineering Division, has an extensive background in the design, testing and data analysis of laboratory as well as space instrumentation. He led the preliminary design of an ion mass spectrometer that flew by comet Halley on the European Giotto spacecraft and has been co-investigator for instruments aboard NASA and European Space Agency missions, including DS-1, Rosetta and Bepi Columbo.
This mission could confirm  a recent finding that indicates that the essential building blocks of Titan formed under similar conditions as ancient comets in the Oort cloud rather than in the warm disk that surrounded Saturn when the planet was young,

man-made contemporary prehistoric hand-axes by ami drach and dov ganchrow
Man-made contemporary prehistoric hand-axes by Ami Drach and Dov Ganchrow
For more than a million years, the simple stone hand axe was one of our most important tools, but in the age of smartphones and virtual reality it can be hard to understand how revolutionary it really was. In their design series  "Man Made," Tel Aviv designers,  Dov Ganchrow and Ami Drach, use 3D printing to make the tool's importance a little more clear. With the help of paleontologists they made some nice stone axes. Cool says  Pollyanna.

Our beloved spacecraft Cassini entered orbit around Saturn on June 30, 2004. Since then it has been in flawless orbit. It delivered the Huygens lander to Titan and has gone on and on, alas with our CAPS experiment turned off since 2011 because of an electrical malfunction. As we write it is moving out to Apoapsis Rev 169 period = 24.0 days, inclination = 21.2°, r = 48.049 Saturn radii, phase = 76°. Let Carolyn Porco of the CICLOPS team express what we are all feeling.

The big guy that wiped out the dinosaurs and gave us mammals a chance also caused a rain of BB-sized(4.5mm) mineral droplets, called spherules.
Asteroid Impact Fueled Global Rain of BBs
A spherule that has been sliced and polished. The dark areas are clay minerals and the bright, reflective grains are spinels.
Credit: Frank Kyte

They did not kill the dinosaurs, but the information contained in them can tell us something about the direction of the incoming asteroid, as well as possible extinction scenarios, according to new research. The falling spherules might have heated the atmosphere enough to start a global fire, as one example. Cool and interesting says Pollyanna

white dwarfs

The future of the binary white dwarf system WD 0931 +444 includes a merger millions of years from now. Until then, they may prove useful in testing one of Einstein's predictions.
Drawing by David A. Aguilar (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)
The flap about BICEP2 continues and we should have some answers in the fall. For
details see Pollyanna of June 7, 2014 and the links there. Now Bill Plait points us at another object, a white dwarf binary that could provide an observation of gravitational waves. It will be a few decades before the spacecraft is up for this, but you young folks can wait patiently.


What If? asks:What would happen if all the bodies of water on Earth
magically disappeared?

—Joanna Xu

Scary question and answer.

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     BC for 7/4/2014

Pearls Before Swine Cartoon for Jul/03/2014