Cluster Map

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