Cluster Map

Friday, March 14, 2014

Happy Purim from Pollyanna

Pollyanna is back with you and wishes all her Jewish readers a very happy Purim festival which is coming up. It commemorates the events described in the Biblical Book of Esther. The book will be read in synagogues around the world on Saturday night (Sunday in Jerusalem) and the day will be marked by celebrations, masquerades, children putting on the story as a play and an order from the rabbis to get as drunk as a lord.

At some indeterminate time during the heyday of the Persian Empire a scheming bad guy named Haman conspired to kill all the Jews in the kingdom. His plot was foiled by the wisdom of Mordechai and the courage and resourcefulness of Esther who just happened to be the Queen of Persia at time. Have fun everyone!

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 going to discuss an issue that might be regarded as less than refined by some of our readers. She refers to the problem of keeping girls in school in the Third World and in particular to the problem of absenteeism from school by teen age girls because of menstruation. Linda Scott blogging as DoubleXEconomy discusses the issues in depth. She points out that the present situation in which girls in both sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia use cloth or worse in place of sanitary pads is unacceptable. She writes in part "They use whatever they can find, often cutting up old clothes, but sometimes taking “found” cloth, even from the public rubbish. We have heard horror stories of girls using animal skin and leaves, but all the direct reports we have heard have been of cloth usage, if sanitary pads (or sometimes toilet paper) are not in use." There are also issues of privacy. When a girl reaches puberty, she becomes an object of sexual predation which in turn can lead to  unwanted pregnancies and ostracism by families. Keeping girls in school and protecting them from exploitation and abuse are important matters both  for the girls themselves  and for the future of their societies.

In India, the invention of a cheap machine  for the production of sanitary pads by Arunachalam Muruganantham has revolutionized female health. The machine enables women to make their own sanitary pads out of cellulose.The whole process can be learned in an hour.We can only hope that it spreads.
Muruganantham stands next to his invention in a still from the documentary Menstrual Man
The inventor and his device
In the meantime, Pollyanna recommends The Kasiisi Project Girls Support Program, which functions in Uganda and has three main initiatives: keeping  girls a) in school, b) informed about their sexual health and c) economically independent. The Kasiisi Project Girls Support Program has developed initiatives to assist girls in successfully completing their education. These programs include:
Supplying sanitary pads to girls who are menstruating; 

Constructing private 'girls only' latrines; 
Providing accurate health information and mentorship through a female health worker.
Please donate.

Pollyanna is ranting this week about the legislative initiative in Mozambique that would grant impunity to a rapist who married his victim. In the Miriam blog (see above) there is a link to a protest site and Pollyanna hopes that all of you will raise your voices in a fierce outcry against this atrocity. It is clear that this law allows rapists to commit crimes with impunity, in violation of women's and girls' rights not to be subjected to torture and ill-treatment; this law is also a retrogression of the rights of women and girls in the country and places survivors of sexual abuse at risk of being deprived of justice, as well as being subjected to a profoundly abusive situation where they will be subjected to further acts of rape, under the obscene guise of a so-called "marriage." Less than a week ago we marked International Women's Day, yet we see that women are still fair game for exploiters and predators.

Pollyanna is also up in arms against the antivaxxers. The propaganda caused by totally spurious "research" data linking MMR vaccines to autism has created an atmosphere in which many people refuse to vaccinate their children. We have bashed them in the past, especially Mayim Bialik aka Amy Farrah Fowler for this. Now we see the results with the resurgence of a disease thought to have been eliminated, measles. We think that unvaccinated children should be excluded from schools, kindergartens and nursery schools.

In Afghanistan we have a very sad story of two lovers who wish to marry, but are in a Romeo and Juliet situation. Mohammed Ali and Zakia
Two star-crossed Afghans cling to love, even at risk of death
Zakia, 18, whose life is being threatened by family members after publicly declaring love for a man of a different sect, in Bamian, Afghanistan, Feb. 17, 2014. (Mauricio Lima/The New York Times)
would like to marry, but their families will not hear of it and as a result their lives, in particular hers, are in danger. Mohammad Ali is a Hazara, who are mostly Shia Muslims. Zakia is a Tajik, a Sunni ethnic group. (As with many Afghans, neither has a surname.) The rule of tradition still can trump modernity in many parts of the world.


Disintegrating asteroid P/2013 R3 as viewed by Hubble on 29 October 2013
Pieces of the asteroid formerly known as P/2013 R3 move apart, flung off by quantum effects writ large.
Phil Plait, blogging in Slate, calls our attention to the disintegration in full view of observers of the asteroid P/2013 R3, discovered in September 2013. This is apparently a terminal phase of the YORP effect by which the emission of infrared radiation by an object can accelerate its rotation and, if the object is sufficiently fluffy, impair its structural integrity.

Pollyanna is not only glad, she is delighted to tell of new therapies for the treatment of cancers. A potential revolution in cancer treatment that involves harnessing the body’s own immune defenses to eliminate tumors has been voted breakthrough of the year by the Washington-based journal Science. Two different techniques show signs of helping some patients. One  involves antibodies that release a brake on T cells, giving them the power to tackle tumors. Another involves genetically modifying  an individual's T cells outside the body to make them better able  to target cancer, and then reinfusing them so they can do just  that. Experts stress that these techniques have been tested in only small trials, and they don't always work. But the results have raised hope that immunotherapy may give doctors new options for treatment in the future.

Pollyanna cheers!

As you all know our owner Murphy has a strong case of species prejudice against all cats and deplores our feeding the creatures to bribe them to keep our yard free of mice and snakes. We have never subscribed to his belief that cats are evil, but we are sure he is pleased with the new novel by Lynne Truss. We of course know her as the gura of the language with her panda book Eats, Shoots and Leaves. Now she has tried her hand with a horror novel that has a bit of tongue in cheek. Viv Groskop reviews it in the Telegraph. Meow!

The Israel Museum in Jerusalem is putting on an exhibit of 9,000 year old  stone masks.
World’s oldest masks
These Neolithic objects show human artistry at its dawning. It should be an interesting exhibition and is certainly appropriate for the Purim season.


A controversy and a lawsuit have broken out in Britain over the appropriate place to bury the remains of Richard III that were discovered in Leicester. The descendants of the Plantagenet family want him buried in York but the authorities have decided to inter him in Leicester. Stay tuned.


What If? raises some interesting questions of law enforcement.

I've occasionally seen "radar enforced" on speed limit signs, and I can't help but ask: How intense would radio waves have to be to stop a car from going over the speed limit, and what would happen if this were attempted?

Those of us who wear hearing aids will appreciate the consideration Wally shows:

Todays Comic

Welcome to the modern world:Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Mar/12/2014

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