Cluster Map

Friday, October 10, 2014

Pollyanna is enjoying the holiday season

Pollyanna is back and would like to wish all her Jewish readers and friends a Happy Succot holiday. This is holiday time, but we are still trying to keep the blogs coming. Why should you get a reprieve?

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Nearly two years have 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 Excellence on the Horizon. This is an Israeli program designed to help and support Children with Blindness or Visual Impairment. We quote the Web site "The demand for the program is huge and we need your support. Last school year we had 45 children in the program, and we would like to increase the number this year to 60 children. Help us to finance 10 children in the program during this school year! "
On the site there are various options for donating or investing in the program. Please help out. This program is administered by someone whom Pollyanna loves dearly, our own Yael.
Shlomo Lahat in 1972
Shlomo Lahat in 1972. (photo credit:PR)
 SHLOMO "CHICH" LAHAT 1927-2014 died October 1 of lung disease in Tel Aviv. He had a long and varied career including the army, but he was best known as the mayor of Tel Aviv who served the city for 19 years, 1974-1993, completely transforming a sleepy city into a vibrant metropolis. He built up the art and culture infrastructure of Tel Aviv, to a great extent through deficit financing and sheer chutzpa. As a result we have what he defined as the "non stop city." Rest in Peace Chich. A biography is at Jewish World and the JPost has a complete obituary and tribute.

Killing the Hydra
Pollyanna is guffawing at a publication from Russia in which Putin is compared to the mythical Hercules. We are given his 12 tasks each of which is compared to one of the 12 tasks of Hercules. What is really funny is that this is not a spoof. Who would dare to spoof the great man in Russia? This is a panegyric by some admirer of the President. Pollyanna thinks it is too funny for words and would like to share it with you. Thanks to Yosefa for calling it to her attention. 

The UN has adopted a document supporting the rights of indigenous peoples around the world. It was ratified at a special UN General Assembly meeting of more than 1,000 delegates and heads of state for the first-ever World Conference on Indigenous Peoples on Sept. 22 and 23. On day one, nations voted on the adoption of the document – the first vote of its kind after the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was introduced in 2007. Only one country in the world opposed, Canada. The US had opposed it in the past, but President Obama reversed that position. Shame, Canada. To quote the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on the issue “The well-being gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in Canada has not narrowed over the past several years; treaty and aboriginal claims remain persistently unresolved; indigenous women and girls remain vulnerable to abuse; and overall there appear to be high levels of distrust among indigenous peoples towards the government at both the federal and provincial levels.”



A huge tomb dating from the 4th century BCE, the time of Alexander the Great, has been found in the Greek city of Amphipolis. While it cannot be the tomb of Alexander himself, who is buried in Egypt, there are several candidates, including his mother and others close to him who were murdered after his death.
2014 1004 alex st
Detail of the Alexander Mosaic, c. 100 BC, originally from the House of the Faun in Pompeii, currently in Naples National Archaeological Museum. (Image: Museu Nacional Arqueológico de Nápoles)
 The find has aroused great interest. Read more..


Scientists were excited to discover clear skies on a relatively small planet, about the size of Neptune, using the combined power of NASA's Hubble, Spitzer and Kepler space telescopes.   Before now, all of the planets observed in this size range had been found to have high cloud layers that blocked the ability to detect molecules in the planet’s atmosphere. 
A plot of the transmission spectrum for exoplanet HAT-P-11b
A plot of the transmission spectrum for exoplanet HAT-P-11b, with data from NASA's Kepler, Hubble and Spitzer observatories combined. The results show a robust detection of water absorption in the Hubble data. Transmission spectra of selected atmospheric models are plotted for comparison.
Image Credit: 

The clear planet, called HAT-P-11b, is gaseous with a rocky core, much like our own Neptune. Its atmosphere may have clouds deeper down, but the new observations show that the upper region is cloud-free. This good visibility enabled scientists to detect water vapor molecules in the planet's atmosphere.


India has a spacecraft in orbit around Mars. It was done for only $74 million. It is small and has simple sensors, but its main purpose, to outdo China, was achieved. Cheers we say to our Indian friends. We hope their work enhances our knowledge of Mars.


Good for your body, great for your brain: A new Sweden study has suggested that engaging in regular exercise can help protect against depression.
Good for your body, great for your brain: A new Swedish study has suggested that engaging in regular exercise can help protect against depression. Credit Fotolia
Exercise not only feels good, it protects the brain from depression. A Swedish study has found that
exercise increases the production of a of a protein known as PGC-1(alpha)1. This protein helps to rid the body of a stress-induced amino acid called kynurenine that has been associated with mental illness. So put on your sneakers and head for the gym quickly. If not, WuMo give you a forecast of what awaits us. We give a link only because of dire copyright warnings.


Pollyanna is doing something a bit different, presenting a discussion of a book  written by the author of the book decades after publication. The dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale has been a major topic of interest since published in 1985. It describes a future world in which nearly all the women have become infertile, so the few who can still have babies have been rounded up, brainwashed, and assigned to powerful men in a twisted attempt to restore the human race. Read what the author, Margaret Atwood has to say of her creation.
The Handmaid's Tale, English National Opera
The book appeared in Canada in the fall of 1985 to baffled and sometimes anxious reviews' … the English National Opera production of The Handmaid's Tale, 2003. Photograph: Tristram Kenton


What If? asks:When I was about 8 years old, shoveling snow on a freezing day in Colorado, I wished that I could be instantly transported to the surface of the Sun, just for a nanosecond, then instantly transported back. I figured this would be long enough to warm me up but not long enough to harm me. What would actually happen?

AJ, Kansas City

Interesting question and answer--not bad for an 8 year old.


Pollyanna and Titan have always been sympathetic to persecuted minorities. One of their closest associates belongs to four of them in Israel:
  • He comes from an English-speaking country
  • He belongs to a Reform congregation
  • He is a human rights activist
  • He is a peace activist
As you can see, there are other persecuted minorities:
For example take wolves:
Wizard of Id Cartoon for Oct/09/2014 
or poor children:
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Oct/09/2014


The Sake of Argument


Wizard of Id Cartoon for Oct/08/2014

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Shana Tova from Pollyanna

Pollyanna is back and would like to wish all her Jewish readers and friends a Shana Tova, a Happy New Year. The blog is coming out a day earlier and is a bit shorter than usual since we shall all be in synagogue on Thursday and Friday. She also wishes to share an image of a swimming dinosaur with you.
A model of Spinosaurus, based on data published in Science today, gets rock star treatment at a National Geographic photo shoot. A feature story, including the image above, will appear in National Geographic's October issue. (Mike Hettwer/National Geographic)

This creature, larger than T. Rex, was adapted to preying on fish in water, which contradicts conventional wisdom that dinosaurs were all totally land creatures. Pollyanna is impressed.

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 Musicians Without Borders. This organization, established in 1999, is a global network organization using the power of music for healing and reconciliation in areas torn by war and conflict. Musicians without Borders develops projects in response to local needs and in cooperation with local musicians and civil society organizations. Successful projects are used to develop models, methodologies and trainings suitable for use in other regions. 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.

In her last blog Pollyanna saluted the editorial board of the Washington Post who decided to cease the use of the name Redskins to mark the NFL team of the city. She noted this week that Fox Sports continues to use the racist name.  We were all pleased to watch the defeat of the DC team at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles. It would be quite easy to change the name to something acceptable.

U.S. golfer Stacy Lewis after winning the women’s British Open at the Old Course in St Andrews.
Things do change in this world. The St. Andrews Golf Club in Scotland has finally decided to admit women as members. The members voted by mail to void the male only rule by a huge majority of 85%. Women had been allowed to play on the course, but could not enter the clubhouse nor influence anything. Pollyanna says cheers and it was about time.


Pollyanna has three this week.

    • The first relates to the treatment of LGBTI persons in Russia.  The homophobia is wide spread and encouraged by the government, media and church. Nonetheless, the LGBTI community in Russia is again holding its annual film festival QueerFest in St. Petersburg and Pollyanna joins all people of good will in hoping that it will succeed and not be marred by violence, as, alas, has happened in the past.
      Polina Andrianova and Anna Abramova of the Russian LGBTI organization “Coming Out”(« Выход ») in St Petersburg. © Amnesty International
    • The second is about the fierce punishment meted out to the young people in Teheran who danced the Happy song on YouTube. Iran happy video clipPollyanna agrees with Amnesty International that this action reveals the authorities’ contempt for freedom of expression. Six of those who appear in the video have been sentenced to six months’ imprisonment each and a seventh to one year, one of their lawyers said in a media interview. All seven have also been sentenced to 91 lashes. The sentences are suspended for three years.

    • The third is about climate change denial. Most recently, a scientist, Stephen Koonin, a former US Department of Energy Undersecretary of Science and more ominously a former BP employee, has published an article in the Wall Street Journal, in which, although  he admits that climate change is real and to some extent anthropogenic, his bottom line is a call for inaction. He misrepresents the results of climate modeling and makes totally inaccurate statements about the evaluation of uncertainty. It is no surprise that the Wall Street Journal would publish such an article, designed to muddy the waters. He is firmly and thoroughly rebutted by a post on Climate Science Watch accompanied by  strong replies by scientists Michael Mann, Michael MacCracken, and Howard Frumkin. Pollyanna calls pseudoscience by the likes of Koonin a dangerous example of music by Nero.

    Last Sunday 675,000 people marched all over the world to demand action against climate change. The march organized by AVAAZ was set up for the UN Conference on Climate Change taking place now. The crowd was 80 blocks long in New York City. Here are some pix from around the world.

    People's climate march in London, where thousands of people took to the streets

    People’s climate march in London, where thousands of people took to the streets. Credit: Laurence Topham/Guardian Photograph: Laurence Topham

    Emma Thompson says it best--deniers are f^*^*ing bonkers.


    Pollyanna congratulates the laureates of this year's Ig Nobel prizes. These are research projects that first make you laugh and then make you think. It is nice to know why banana skins are slippery and why some people see the face of Jesus in toast.
    Face of Jesus in toast.


    Again there is no new What If? this time because we are early this week, but we can make do with some Randall cartoons. We are told that Apple sold millions of its new phones in the first weekend.
    People should know that even these phones are not immortal.
    My Phone is Dying

    Wumo show how this works. We are giving you the link since they warn us not to reproduce their cartoons. They are just great.

    Dilbert Cartoon for Sep/19/2014

    Dilbert Cartoon for Sep/20/2014

     This cartoon reminds Pollyanna

    of an bad old  joke that caused her  to blush...

    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