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

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