Cluster Map

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Pollyanna says Happy New Year of the Horse to her Chinese friends

Pollyanna is back with you and wishes a happy new Year of the Horse to all her Chinese readers. Titan and YandA join in the good wishes and let us all have a happier year. Our granddaughter Shira and our grandson Maayan were both born in the last Year of the Horse, 2002. Here is a description of  their fortunes from Chinese astrology.
Shira knows something of horses:
Are we sure we want to do this?

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.
Pollyanna is pointing you this week to the Hot Line for Refugees and Migrants in Israel. It is a non-profit organization , dedicated to (a) promoting the rights of migrant workers and refugees and (b) eliminating trafficking of persons in Israel. We quote the mission statement :"We use a three pronged approach in assisting our target groups: Crisis Intervention, providing information and solutions to those detained and exploited. Volunteers have assisted more than 47,000 migrant workers, refugees and trafficking survivors through our telephone hotline, direct consultation and visits to detention centers."
Amuta Photos
Pollyanna notes that the victims of trafficking are women and women and girls make up a sizable portion of the refugee and migrant population. Please pitch in to help.

 Shulamit Aloni
This week the universally acknowledged queen of the left-liberal community in Israel left us at age 85. A detailed obituary is in Haaretz. She set the standard for integrity, principled actions and courage to speak truth to power, however powerful. She would sacrifice her own political or personal advantage for the public good as she did in the Rabin cabinet of 1992, stepping down as Minister of Education to enable the Oslo accords to become attainable. She did this voluntarily and was not demoted by Rabin in response to Orthodox complaints as stated in the otherwise fair and comprehensive obituary in the New York Times. Her former colleague Yossi Sarid wrote an impassioned farewell as did Gideon Levy. Amit Schejter describes working for her and with her. For those of us old enough to have shared the full extent of her career she was always the leader who marched before the camp, if we may use a Biblical idiom. The voice of the younger leftists who followed her example is well stated by Noam Sheizaf in +972:
"For my generation of leftist Israelis born the in the seventies, Aloni was probably the central figure in our political development – the person you listened to in order to know where you stand on a certain issue. She was the standard bearer of an entire political community. Not Rabin, and certainly not Peres. Shula, as she was referred to, was the voice of our political conscience.

One cannot over emphasize her influence. The woman who almost single-handedly challenged all the powers of the Israeli establishment, from the generals to the rabbis, in the same fearless manner. Her statements often became the center of national controversies. Her own personal history – she was part of the generation that founded the state, and was a former member of the Palmach underground organization – or the fact that she possessed the biblical knowledge of a Yeshiva student, allowed her to stand her own ground against any politician or institution. She just couldn’t be bullied; since her departure from politics, the left always seemed a little more scared and apologetic."

We had the privilege of meeting her on several occasions in the framework of our human rights activity. Rest in Peace, beloved Shula, we shall strive to be worthy of your legacy.


Pete Seeger the iconic folk singer whom we have loved and admired through the greatest part of our life as sentient human beings is no longer with us. He stood up for all the causes that we hold dear and in common with Shula Aloni had the courage to speak truth to power. He paid a much higher price than she for he was a victim of the McCarthy era in the United States and was blacklisted by the media for 17 years. We forgive him for his one egregious lapse when he, as a loyal Communist at the time, followed the party line on WWII from 1939 until the invasion of Russia when he, along with the rest of the comrades, reversed his position totally. Variety provides an excellent biography and obituary. We will share "Where have all the flowers gone?" with you.


For the lyrics and chords we invite those inclined to play and sing it to go here.

This song has a history. Pete Seeger wrote it in 1956. We quote from Spadecaller who uploaded the above video.

"On July 26, 1956, the House of Representatives voted 373 to 9 to
cite Pete Seeger and seven others (including playwright Arthur
Miller) for contempt, as they failed to cooperate with House
Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in their attempts to
investigate alleged subversives and communists. Pete Seeger
testified before the HUAC in 1955. In one of Pete's darkest
moments, when his personal freedom, his career, and his safety were
in jeopardy, a flash of inspiration ignited this song. The song was
stirred by a passage from Mikhail Sholokhov's novel "And Quiet
Flows the Don". Around the world the song traveled and in 1962 at a
UNICEF concert in Germany, Marlene Dietrich, Academy
Award-nominated German-born American actress, first performed the
song in French, as "Qui peut dire ou vont les fleurs?" Shortly
after she sang it in German. The song's impact in Germany just
after WWII was shattering. It's universal message, "let there be
peace in the world" did not get lost in its translation. To the
contrary, the combination of the language, the setting, and the
great lyrics has had a profound effect on people all around the
world. May it have the same effect today and bring renewed
awareness to all that hear it."

Pollyanna, Titan and YandA say Amen and let us part from Pete with “To My Old Brown Earth,” a song he wrote in 1958.


Anat Kamm who went to prison for revealing corruption in the army
was released after two years of a 3.5 year sentence.
Anat Kamm is released from prison on January 26, 2014, after serving more than two years.
Anat Kamm is released from prison on January 26, 2014, after serving more than two years. Photo by Nir Keidar
We think she belongs in the pantheon of great whistle blowers, such as DanielEllsberg, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. She is suing the newspaper and journalist who betrayed her. Her "crime" was to  expose the fact  that her commanding officer was violating court orders and ordering assassinations of Palestinians. She went to jail and he was promoted. Vive the most moral army in the world!

The object flies the colors of the day
Pollyanna and her entire crew extend congratulations to Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy fame on the naming of an asteroid after him. It is indeed an honor and we believe it to be well deserved. Happy orbits Phil!

This week Pollyanna has decided to focus on the issue of economic discrimination against women, the so-called feminization of poverty. For a source, she went to the P.a.p. blog of Filip Spagnoli where she found a detailed statistical analysis of the wage gap and other forms of economic gender inequality. The post is long and detailed and most illuminating. It shows that the discrimination against women in the work place is real and is not decreasing despite all efforts to bring this about. It is also notable that the World Economic Forum finds that Japan, a G8 country, ranks 101st out of 135 countries in female economic rights. It ranks behind Azerbaijan, Indonesia and China. Not a single Nikkei 225 company is run by a woman. Female participation in politics is negligible, and the male-female wage gap is double the average in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries. The Forum goes on to describe the status of women around the world:

"70 percent of the two billion poor are women; two thirds of illiterate adults are women; employment rates for women are declining after increasing (yes, of course, the world wars are nowover). At the same time many women are forced into veils and burqas, burnt for merely looking at men, stoned to death or buried alive for adultery, forced into sex, pregnancy and delivering HIV-infected children because they were raped, but if they were to report it, they would either be raped again, executed, exiled from their village or town or family."

The situation is, in Pollyanna's opinion, nothing to be glad about and needs to be addressed by the nations of the world. She applauds the efforts of women's action organizations such as AWID and says thumbs up to Dr. Spagnoli for his blog. She also would like to give you a reading assignment, a speech by Chris Hedges on the Myth of Progress and the Collapse of Complex  Societies. It is long but interesting. He takes the Melville novel Moby Dick as a metaphor for industrialized civilization hell-bent for destruction just as Captain Ahab and the crew of the  Pequod were in their obsessive hunt for the white whale.

Last time Pollyanna bashed her for writing mawkish nonsense about Israel. Now, we are told in the Respectful Insolence blog on Science blogs, that she is into much more pernicious nonsense. She has provided cover and support for the quacks involved in the Holistic Moms Network including spokespersons for the anti-vaccination network (AVN) and much more. Indeed she holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience and if she chose to stick with acting instead, that is her right, and we are all the beneficiaries of her role as a comic foil to the physicist megalomania of Sheldon. What bothers us and the blogger Orac is her support of pseudoscience or what he calls woo. (Yes we had to look it up). Supporting the antivaccination movement in our mind borders on the criminal. Phil Plait our astronomy guru is one of the leaders of the stop AVN movement and has blogged heavily on the subject. Let us quote him:
"And if you wonder why Ifeel so strongly about this, then I suggest you steel yourself —seriously — and read this account written by the parents of Dana McCaffery, who lost her life to pertussis when she was four weeks old. She was too young to be vaccinated. Because vaccine rates were so low in her area, pertussis had a place to grow. She was infected, and she died."
Please work together to protect our most vulnerable
You want to know why I feel so strongly? This is why. She is why. Think Dr. Bialik, please. You claim to be a scientist and have a credential. There is, therefore, no excuse for ignorance and superstition. Let me remind you of the first great martyr of science, Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake in Rome in 1600 for promoting the Copernicus model of the solar system. He wrote:  ``Ignorance is the most delightful science in the world, because it is acquired without effort and keeps the mind from melancholy.''

Artist's impression VICTOR HABBICK VISIONS/SPL/Getty
The defining characteristic of a black hole may have to give, if the two pillars of modern physics — general relativity and quantum theory — are both correct.

The world of cosmology was shaken up this week by Stephen Hawking's statement that there is no event horizon that traps forever information in a black hole. He replaces it with what Nature News calls " a much more benign “apparent horizon”, which only temporarily holds matter and energy prisoner before eventually releasing them, albeit in a more garbled form." We suggest you read the entire interview. It means that the debate among scientists about what really happens at a black hole will become even more complex. It involves, as many such issues do, the apparent incompatibility of general relativity and quantum mechanics. Hawkings' model elegantly preserves both of them at the expense of introducing an equally radical concept, escape from a black hole. The satirist Andy Borowitz in The New Yorker was quick to leap on the bandwagon and attributes refusal to listen to scientists by Michelle Bachman and others of her ilk to their belief that if there are no real black holes, then all of science is bunk. Andy's faux quotes would be funnier if they were not so similar to what right wingers actually think and say.


Yosefa called this interesting piece from the NYTimes to our attention. Thank you. When discovered in 1891 it was considered weird. Today, scientists know the X chromosome much better. It is part of the system that determines whether we become male or female. If an egg inherits an X chromosome from both parents, it becomes female. If it gets an X from its mother and a Y from its father, it becomes male.
But the X chromosome remains mysterious. For one thing, females shut down an X chromosome in every cell, leaving only one active. That is a drastic step to take, given that the X chromosome has more than 1,000 genes.
There is much research going on about the X chromosome and it may lead to advances in medicine in the future. Stay tuned.
Pollyanna, Titan and their imaginary playmates,YandA,  as fed up as other rational people with the deniers of climate change and those who would like to deny human involvement. One more try, thanks to Randall.


What If? asks "
Is there any way to fire a gun so that the bullet flies through the air and can then be safely caught by hand? e.g. shooter is at sea level and catcher is up a mountain at the extreme range of the gun?"
Ed Hui, London The answer is yes, but...
You all should be familiar with the webcomic Ph.D. that documents a group of science graduate students who are wasting their precious youth under the supervision (aka exploitation) of a cynical professor in the hope of a career someday. One of them, beloved Cecilia, the ultimate female geek, has an existential crisis for five minutes every day.
 Click on the title below to read the comic
This obviously has had some impact on Pollyanna and we are not sure how to deal with it.

WUMO is hilarious as usual. Only link because of copyright warnings.

How politics works:
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Jan/28/2014

How CEO's handle ethical decisions:
Dilbert Cartoon for Jan/28/2014

Dilbert Cartoon for Jan/29/2014

Friday, January 17, 2014

Pollyanna is glad to be with you again

Pollyanna is back with you and will try to be her usual glad self except in matters where no one has a right to be glad as you will soon see.

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 has a few comments before pointing you at a worthy charity. In donating, it makes sense to take a close look at the charity. A body called CharityWatch evaluates charities in the US and rates them.

Of the approximately six hundred charities currently rated by CharityWatch, only a select number qualify for their listing of Top-Rated charities based on rigorous analysis. Groups included on the Top-Rated list generally spend 75% or more of their budgets on programs, spend $25 or less to raise $100 in public support, do not hold excessive assets in reserve, and receive "open-book" status for disclosure of basic financial information and documents to CharityWatch. Please see the Criteria section of the website for more information on the rating criteria and methodology that CharityWatch adheres to. In Israel the organization Israel Gives provides a similar service including a transparency rating on a scale of 1 to 5. The NYTimes published an article recently on giving wisely and Pollyanna recommends that you read it.
This week Pollyanna is pointing you at the Global Fund for Women which has a high rating and is especially relevant this week in the light of what Pollyanna is about to tell you in her weekly rant about violence against women and girls.

This week a new low was attained in the abuse of children, in this case a nine year old girl from Afghanistan.
Her father and brother (a Taliban member) put a suicide vest on her and sent her to blow up a government check point. The BBC interviewed her and we all shared in the shock that anyone could descend to such a level of depravity. Suicide bombing by motivated and consenting adults is in itself a crime against humanity when directed at civilians. Tricking innocent children into becoming walking bombs is doubly criminal. As Spozhai said, quoting her brother: "If you operate this on the people at the checkpoint, they will die - you will not die." But I knew it was a suicide vest and I would die too. Then he went back home -the checkpoint is just near our house." If this is what religion engenders, we want no part of it.

The founder of psychoanalysis who died in London in 1939 at age 83 was cremated and his ashes stored in an ancient Grecian urn (300BC) from his collection. His wife's ashes were there as well.
 Urn containing Sigmund Freud's ashes
Thieves broke into the Golders Green crematorium and apparently tried to steal the urn. In the process it was broken. Naturally the family are upset, to say nothing of the curators, since the urn is irreplaceable. Avarice apparently knows no bounds. We recall that during the runup to the 2008 Olympics, China was buying scrap metal all over the world and the price skyrocketed. In Israel, thieves stole the metal off of war memorials, both public and personal, as well as the wheels of the historic railway cars kept in musea. Pollyanna says shame!

Last week brother Titan ranted about refugees and the way they are treated around the world. Here in Israel we have little to be proud of in that area from the standpoint of
officialdom, but there are NGO's and individuals who are doing what they can to help these unfortunate people who are fleeing conflict and death in Africa. Pollyanna would like to highlight a person who is doing what he can to help.

Elliott Vaisrub Glassenberg is an immigrant to Israel from the US who is volunteering to teach Hebrew to African refugees and asylum seekers. Pollyanna says thumbs up to you Elliott!

Pollyanna, Titan (relay from NASA via Cassini) and YandA are confirmed fans of the Big Bang Theory sitcom. We almost feel as if the characters, caricatures as they are, belong to our family. We were therefore interested in seeing Mayim Bialik's (aka Amy Farrah Fowler) take on Israel. We did not expect her to be really political, but we expected a bit more insight from someone who is both a successful scientist and an excellent actor. Her posts on her blog describing her family in the kibbutz and Jerusalem were disappointing. She spewed out mawkish sentimentality that could have been composed  by an AIPAC hack writer: no mention of the Occupation, of the dispossession of the Bedouin population in the Negev, of the abuse of refugees, nothing but blue skies and sunshine. She appears to be as clueless as her character Amy. OK, it is her business, but she is famous and an opinion shaper and should bear that in mind.


This seems like a morbid question and out of Pollyanna's purview, but it is something we should consider since everyone eventually dies. We have living wills in which we ask that heroic measures not be taken to extend our life for an hour or a day, but who knows if the doctors, here in Israel,  will honor them. In Ireland it is said that the purpose of nails on coffins is to keep the doctors out. Yosefa sent along a NYTimes Opinion piece on how people should be allowed to spend their last days and hours. We recall when a friend of ours was dying with his family around him in Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, nurses and a technician came around with a device. The son asked point blank if this was going to save his Dad and was brutally thrown out along with his mother and siblings. When they complained the hospital management said that they were taking advantage of an opportunity to test the device. Of course no informed consent was asked nor given. In the NYTimes article praise is given to a a protocol called the Liverpool Care Pathway for the Dying Patient, which was conceived in the 90s at a Liverpool cancer facility as a more humane alternative to the frantic end-of-life assault of desperate measures. The issue is confounded now by the fact that the Liverpool care pathway is to be abolished in Britain following a government-commissioned review which heard that hospital staff wrongly interpreted its guidance for care of the dying, leading to stories of patients who were drugged and deprived of fluids in their last weeks of life. The Guardian quotes the head of the commission Lady Neuberger "What we have also exposed in this review is a range of far wider, fundamental problems with care for the dying – a lack of care and compassion, unavailability of suitably trained staff, no access to proper palliative care advice outside of 9-5, Monday to Friday."

When our mother chose to quit at age 86, she simply stopped eating and drinking. The doctors at the nursing home came running with the tubes etc. but our social worker sister persuaded them to let her die in peace and dignity. We all would prefer to die comfortably and peacefully. Our Daphne died under sedation with a crew of doctors giving electric
shocks to her heart in the hope of bringing her back probably with severe brain damage from not having breathed for who knows how long.

We would like to link you to an author, whom we have read and admired,Khaled Hosseini. His novels take place in Afghanistan where he was born and raised and can make hard reading.  In the BBC link there is a video interview with him in which he discussed identity and family as major components of his work. His first novel, The Kite Runner spent a hundred weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and has sold in the millions ever since.


TRIPLE THREAT  A pulsar (left) is orbited by two white dwarfs — one close in, one farther away — in this illustration of the system PSR J0337+1715. The curved blue lines show the pulsar’s magnetic field and the blue cones show the radiation the star sends into space. Astronomers measuring this radiation will try to test general relativity, the leading theory of gravity, to unprecedented precision.
A test of general relativity is being provided by a triad of stars tightly bound together. Our galaxy is full of stellar couples and trios, But the formations and motions of the stars in PSR J0337+1715 make the system unique among those found by astronomers. The triad consists of an extremely dense, fast-rotating stellar corpse called a pulsar and two less massive dying stars known as white dwarfs. Measuring the gravitational attraction between them to high accuracy will test Einstein's Theory of General Relativity. The theory has done well over the last century and it is expected to hold up in this case as well. Good luck folks!

We have long known that quantum physics at the microscopic level is counter-intuitive in many ways. Things such as entanglement, reverse causality and dead/alive cats are not really understood and many people find this disturbing. A new school of thought called Quantum Bayesianism, or QBism for short attempts to address these issues.. It’s an approach long championed by quantum physicist Christopher Fuchs, developed with collaborators Rüdiger Schack and Carlton Caves.

We were taught as physics students that the probabilities calculated by quantum mechanics are real physical facts. But it is  not so obvious to some physicists that probabilities indeed are physical facts. After all, probabilities are just numbers, calculated from a mathematical expression called the wave function, a formula describing the “quantum state” of things like electrons or photons. There has been much philosophical discourse about whether the quantum state is something real or merely mathematical.

The issue is complex but Tom Siegfried writing in Science News does a good job of clarifying matters and we recommend his article for your perusal. Our ginger cat Schroedinger seems to take a deterministic approach to cat food and sex. He was named because he appeared in our yard on the day that Pollyanna marked Erwin Schroedinger's birthday. August 16, 2013. Google marked it as well.

WHAT IF? What if we were to dump all the tea in the world into the Great Lakes? How strong, compared to a regular cup of tea, would the lake tea be? Alex Burman The answer is what you would expect it to be.



WUMO is a hilarious comic that we fear to reproduce here because of the stern copyright warnings. We offer you the link, so go and laugh.

You must all recall these great contests in elementary school. We would usually come in first or second and always have the final round with the same Winifred who carried a dictionary in her head.  It can carry on into later life: (for the record Webster approves of both spellings)
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Jan/17/2014

Friday, January 3, 2014

Pollyanna opens the new bloggoyear

 Pollyanna is glad to open the 2014 bloggo year. Let us all hope for a better year coming up.  She would like to call your attention to a list of some of the good things that happened in 2013. We are sure you can think of many more. She invites your comments on what good things happened last year and what you can add to the list.

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 it is Pollyanna's turn to promote a charity. Her choice is a local charity in Israel to which we donate every month. It is called Ezer Mi'Zion or help from Zion. It devotes its efforts to helping the sick and needy, in particular, those who fall through the cracks in the government or establishment aid system. The organization also maintains a bone marrow matching bank.  It serves the general population regardless of religion and race, free of charge.

Pollyanna would like to call your attention to the issue of
drug availability in Third World countries. We are all aware of
the contribution of President Bill Clinton who persuaded Big
Pharma to make AIDS drugs available to African countries at
cost. Now the NYTimes describes the problem of breast cancer
chemotherapy drugs in India and the voiding of patents by the
Indian government.
Lynsey Addario for The New York Times
Fighting Breast Cancer in India: The skirmishing over Herceptin and other cancer medicines is part of a long-running struggle to make drugs affordable to the world’s poorest people.

The big corporations holding the patents, in  this case Roche, have decided not to fight the case in the courts. The issue seems clear cut, but the question of what drives Big Pharma to invest in drug development must be considered. It is true that for diseases that affect only a small portion of the population you will not find industry working hard for small profits. That is where government laboratories have to pick up the slack. It would be nice if we could depend on Big Pharma but CEO's and boards answer to stockholders and not to Pollyanna. Still there is hope.

Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Dec/30/2013

Pollyanna protests the abuse of Kyrgyz women in Russia by men of the Kyrgyz migrant community. Videos showing assaults on women as "punishment" for associating with non-Kyrgyz men have appeared on line At least five online videos documenting vicious assaults against what appear to be Kyrgyz women in Russia have emerged since March, sowing fear among Kyrgyz migrants and sparking an outcry in the small Central Asian nation. A few brave women have come forward to protest this "patriotic" activity and investigations have begun in Russia and Kyrgyzia. This abuse is totally unacceptable and the perpetrators must be brought to justice.

This world famous artist has been denied permission to travel outside China for the last three years.  This is what happens to dissidents in an oppressive regime. He has chosen an interesting mode of protest. Every morning he puts fresh flowers into a bicycle basket outside his home in Beijing.
 View image on Twitter

He continues to communicate abroad and to exhibit. As usual, the authorities are making fools of themselves. This is  true not only in China.


Before we get into the fun tidbits from science, Pollyanna wants to share with you a tale of a great scientific
breakthrough, great philanthropy and the dark side behind it. It should give us all food for thought about the morality of Big Pharma.

We start with the breakthrough. As we all know medical tests carried out on animals often have little or no relevance to human applications. Scientists at the Wyss Institute of Harvard have found a means of testing human cells on a chip They often involve cruelty to the animals. . Instead of writing a complex story about it, Pollyanna gives you a TED lecture by Geraldine Hamilton that does it much better than we could.


As she says    " So we need better tools. We need human cells,
but we need to find a way to keep them happy outside the body.

Our bodies are dynamic environments. We're in constant motion. Our cells experience that. They're in dynamic environments in our body. They're under constant mechanical forces. So if we want to make cells happy outside our bodies, we need to become cell architects. We need to design, build and engineer a home away from home for the cells. And at the Wyss Institute, we've done just that. We call it an organ-on-a-chip". 

So far beautiful and we encourage you to get out your Google and read more about this wonderful new technique and its applications. Human Organs-on-Chips are composed of a clear,
Harvard's Wyss Institute and AstraZeneca announce collaboration on Organs-on-Chips for drug safety
The Wyss Institute and Astrazeneca will apply the Institute's advances in the development and validation of human organs-on-chips (such as the one shown here) to develop new animal versions. Credit: Alison Reggio/Wyss Institute

flexible polymer about the size of a computer memory stick, and contain hollow microfluidic channels lined by living human cells—allowing researchers to recreate the physiological and mechanical functions of the organ, and to observe what happens in real time. The goal is to provide more predictive and useful measures of the efficacy and safety of potential new drugs in humans—which could represent an important step in reducing the need for traditional animal testing.The Wyss Institute is the beneficiary of a grant of $125 million, the largest grant ever given to Harvard. It came from a multibillionaire, Hansjo"rgWyss. Last year he doubled the grant to $250 million. He also donates heavily to land conservation and other wonderful causes.

You might wonder what we mean by mentioning a dark side. A new investigative report in Fortune magazine tells the chilling and tragic tale that unfolded when a medical device company, Syntes, owned by Wyss, decided to make an end run around federal regulators and market its product directly to orthopedic surgeons for an unapproved (off-label) use.
A colored CT scan of a single vertebra (as seen from above) during a vertebroplasty. The term refers to a procedure, used to treat compression fractures, in which a surgeon injects bone cement (the white material coming out of the needle) into the spine to reinforce the bone and prevent future damage.
A colored CT scan of a single vertebra (as seen from above) during a vertebroplasty. The term refers to a procedure, used to treat compression fractures, in which a surgeon injects bone cement (the white material coming out of the needle) into the spine to reinforce the bone and prevent future damage.

 Five patients died because of this unapproved use of an untested product and there are indications that Wyss was the driving force behind the evasion and violation of FDA rules. Four of his executives served short prison terms, but he was left untouched. We recommend you read the full Fortune report or at least the summary in MinnPost. As someone commented there

Five dead = $23 million fine for the company and the "unusual" sentence of "up to" nine months in prison for four executives.

Of course, the chief executive got off scot-free... the four were scapegoats, probably about to deposit a bonus from the chief executive for taking the heat.

Just as a captain goes down with his ship, chief executives should earn their multi-million salaries by being personally liable for the actions of their companies; all of their assets should be at risk when they risk other people's lives for the sake of company profit.

Pollyanna agrees-a quarter of a billion for medical advances does not add up to five human lives squandered for greed.


Pollyanna invites you to share what Stephanie Pappas, writing in LiveScience, considers the top science events of last year. What do you think?

Cassini Image of Titan's Northern Seas and Lakes
This colorized mosaic from NASA's Cassini mission shows the most complete view yet of Titan's northern land of lakes and seas. Saturn's moon Titan is the only world in our solar system other than Earth that has stable liquid on its surface. The liquid in Titan's lakes and seas is mostly methane and ethane.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/USGS
As you all know our brother Titan has methane and ethane
lakes and seas on his surface. It has now been calculated that
the trapped hydrocarbons, mostly in the north polar zone,
amount to about 9,000 cubic km contained in area of 1.6 square
km, i.e. about the size of Alaska. Only Earth and Titan in the
entire Solar System have stable liquids on their surfaces, in
our case mostly water, for Titan hydrocarbons.

Last year was a good year for planet hunting. Pollyanna presents you with a list of the most exciting finds. Of course, when the exofolks show up to take over, things might get a bit difficult, as predicted by SMBC.


Maria asks What If? What height would humans reach if we kept growing through our whole development period (i.e. till late teens/early twenties) at the same pace as we do during our first month?

The answer is that it is not a good idea.

Recently we received an email, forwarded by God-fearing Jews that had the following tales to tell:

1.  Joseph Kennedy who was US ambassador to Great Britain in the 1940's is said to have refused visas to the US to the passengers on the ill-fated ship St. Louis. He was cursed by a rabbi and two of his sons webre assassinated and one was killed in the war. Of course, he would not have had the authority to issue hundreds of visas against immigration policy.

2. A Japanese consul in Poland issued many visas to persecuted Jews and thus saved them from the Nazis. God rewarded him after the war; he started a small business that grew into a huge corporation. His name was Mitsubishi. The fact that the Mitsubishi Zero was the main fighter aircraft for the Japanese navy during the war, that the corporation was founded in 1832 and that the name describes the logo 'three stars' is irrelevant to true believers.

3. In 1648 hundreds of Jews were massacred in the Ukraine by Chmelnitzki and other leaders of the rebellion against Polish rule. God exacted a punishment for this by the explosion of a nuclear reactor in Chernobyl in 1986. Assess this piece of idiocy for yourselves.

SMBC comes to our aid with his definition of a dumbpiphany

We have often wondered what Yosefa hears and sees at these medical symposia she attends in Tel Aviv. Now we know what the drug companies show them there. Imagine spending a day discussing this disease or that, but that is what they like to do.
 Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Jan/01/2014

and now the news, although this item should really belong to Titan:

Dilbert Cartoon for Jan/01/2014