Cluster Map

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Pollyanna post holiday season

Pollyanna too has survived the holiday season and is delighted to visit with you. She wishes all her Muslim friends and readers a Happy New Year AH 1436 which began on 1 Muharem or 25 October.

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. The overwhelming calamity in the world now is the Ebola pandemic in West Africa. Last week Titan ranted and raved about the incompetence being shown in handling the catastrophe. She endorses every word. She also follows Titan's choice and recommends MSF or Mercy Corps as the most effective way of helping in this huge crisis.
Fighting the Ebola outbreak

Nigeria has now been declared Ebola-free. This came about because of the brilliance and courage of Dr Stella Ameyo Adadevoh who raised a red flag when attending to a Liberian patient at the First Consultant Hospital in Nigeria's main city, Lagos, in July. She diagnosed Ebola in a Liberian patient Patrick Sawyer and prevented him leaving the hospital despite his protests and the pressure from the Liberian embassy. Eventually he died, but the virus did not hit Nigeria. The sad part of the story is that Dr. Adadevoh herself contracted Ebola from her patient and died.

A candlelight vigil for Dr Stella Ameyo Adadevoh  and other Ebola victims in Abuja, Nigeria on 26 August 2014
Many Nigerians are mourning the death of the doctor who treated him
The issue of containing Ebola is acute and the teams on the ground suffer from logistic inadequacies. Oxfam has called for a military intervention to stop the spread of the disease.

IN MEMORIAM Christopher Hogwood 1941-2014.

This famous conductor who is identified strongly with the performance of classical and earlier music on authentic instruments died last month. He was the founder of the Academy of Ancient Music and insisted on performance of works as they sounded when composed. We quote from an obituary by his colleague :"The death of Christopher Hogwood has deprived the world of the most successful exponent of early music there has ever been, or is ever likely to be. It has also reduced by one the
quartet of conductors who have been called ‘the Class of ’73’, a term coined by Nick Wilson in a recent study of the early-music revolution of the 1970s and 80s. It refers to four groups that were founded in that year that are held to have changed the face of modern concert-giving: Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music;Trevor Pinnock and his English Concert; Andrew Parrott’s Taverner Choir; and my own Tallis Scholars. Of these it was Hogwood who had the most immediate impact and commercial success. It is also fair to say that his recordings are the most numerous, but least played, of all the Class."
He founded the AAM in 1973 and it quickly became one of the most popular and influential organizations in the "authentic performance" movement. (Hogwood preferred the less confrontational term "historically informed performance" to "authentic.") We link you to an obituary in the Guardian and also give you a sample of his performance.

 CONGRATULATIONS TO RICHARD FLANAGAN, who on 14 October was announced as the winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize for Fiction for The Narrow Road to the Deep North, published by Chatto & Windus. Pollyanna extends felicitations. A review of the book is given in the Guardian.

Pollyanna salutes and admires the medical team that performed a near miracle. A paralyzed man has been enabled to walk after a pioneering therapy that involved transplanting cells from his nasal cavity into his spinal cord. Darek Fidyka, who was paralysed from the chest down in a knife attack in 2010, can now walk using a frame. It is hoped that independent walking will eventually be restored.The treatment, a world first, was carried out by surgeons in Poland in collaboration with scientists in London. Read more and watch the video.


In El Salvador, women and girls are expected to prioritize being a mother or wife above everything else. © Amnesty International
There is inequality everywhere, but Pollyanna wants to point out the glaring inequality that affects half of humanity and marginalizes and crushes women and girls. In honor of World Blog Day last week, Amnesty International put out a special blog to protest the treatment of women in general and in El Salvador in particular. There a woman goes to prison for having a normal miscarriage since she is accused of an abortion, which is totally illegal, with no exceptions for rape or incest.

Photo of Isaiah Berlin
Photo of Isaiah Berlin by Mats Lund,
taken 3 February 1997
A recent New York Review of Books contained two articles that give rise to thought. One was a valedictory, a message to our century, from Isaiah Berlin on the occasion of his receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of Toronto, just 20 years ago. He pushes his long-held view of the dangers of any ideology that tells people that it provides  the answer to the world's ills and the implementation of it justifies all means. His examples ranging from the French Revolution to Lenin and others are most convincing. Despite the evils of the 20th century, he believed the future to be bright and that liberal democracy would find its way even to China-"Great tyrannies are in ruins, or will be—even in China the day is not too distant." Of course this was expressed in the wave of optimism that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In the same issue there is an article China Strikes Back! by Orville Schell that shows how Berlin and countless others were wrong. China wants no part of liberal democracy, human rights or any other component of the value system of the West. The collapse of the Soviet Union generated fear amongst the Chinese leadership. By the time Xi Jinping became president and Party secretary in 2013, a virtual coup de grâce had been delivered to both Western and Chinese hopes for structural political reform. The Party’s new message was, in effect: “Because China emphatically rejects all Western forms of democratic governance as unworkable, Americans should forget their missionary-like dreams of bringing elections, human rights, and democracy to China. What you see now is what you’re going to get! Changes are not wanted.” We recall being told by a Chinese ambassador to Israel that people do not want democracy. Instead they want a strong leader who will relieve them of care and worry and take care of things for them. In the past Pollyanna and Titan have blogged about liberal democracy and its foes. In Israel, there are many such enemies and MK Ayelet Shaked is one of the most ferocious. In the wake of a High Court decision that the incarceration of asylum seekers is unconstitutional, she has initiated a bill that would enable the Knesset to overule the Court. As Haaretz points out in an editorial, this is a fatal blow aimed at human rights and democracy. Haaretz attributes to Ms Shaked a lack of understanding of how democracy works. Pollyanna is less charitable and thinks that she understands it well and opposes it.
In the meantime, the Milky revolution seems to have subsided (vid. Titan last week) and Air Berlin has come out with a burst of billboard ads in Israel. Pollyanna wonders what the connection might be. The public certainly has shown itself impotent in dealing with the way it is abused by the government. The people who are most vulnerable, the poor and marginal, are the most loyal supporters of the right wing corrupt government that crushes them. It even happens in Id.

Wizard of Id Cartoon for Oct/18/2014

Our Orthodox brothers have struck out again. Rabbi Barry Freundel in Washington, D.C. videotaped women in the Mikveh (ritual bath) of his Orthodox synagogue. We are not surprised.  In Israel, the Rabbi of the city of Holon told students that cheating and plagiarism are legitimate, sexual abuse has been covered up, you name it. Ramban aka Nachmanides ((1194 – 1270), a leading medieval Jewish scholar, Catalan Sephardic rabbi, philosopher, physician, kabbalist, and biblical commentator) coined the term “a scoundrel with Torah permission” to describe a problematic personality who meets all technical religious requirements while failing to lead a truly spiritual decent life. Indeed rabbis are human and have human failings, but standards must be maintained. Pollyanna salutes the Kesher Israel Board of Directors for not trying to cover up anything.

Apropos religious difficulties, Pollyanna is disappointed that Pope Francis failed to convince his synod that gay people are human and should not be excluded. It appears that the attitudes of the likes of Pat Robertson still prevail in religious circles.

Mike Luckovich Cartoon for Oct/23/2014


Deforestation in West Africa (AFP)
Deforestation in West Africa, here shown in Liberia, is believed to be contributing to the spread of Ebola. Photo by AFP
Ruth Shuster, writing in Haaretz, presents a somber picture of how climate change   enhances the spread of deadly diseases. It boils down to the irresponsibility of the human interaction with nature. The struggle to mitigate the effects of human activity on the environment is complicated by the powerful economic bodies that have an interest in denying climate change and its anthropomorphic source for the sake of large short-term profits. People need to stand up to this and push politicians to do the right thing. It is neither easy nor simple.

Shrinking Aral Sea
In the 1960s, the Soviet Union undertook a major water diversion project on the arid plains of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.
A prime example of human abuse of nature may be seen in the drying up of the Aral Sea. Excessive use of the water of its feeding rivers, in particular, the Amu Darya and and the Syr Darya, for irrigation by the Soviet Government, coupled with a decrease in rainfall has led to the catastrophe shown here. Pollyanna is most sad about this misuse of resources of nature.

Saturn's moon Mimas as observed by NASA's Cassini mission. The moon's prominent Herschel crater gives the tiny world the appearance of the Death Star, the science fiction superweapon from the Star Wars movies.
Mimas has always been regarded as one of the less interesting of the satellites of Saturn. Now it appears that it has a wobble in its orbit which is really unexpected. There are proposed explanations for the phenomenon. Read more and if you are really interested and have access, the work is described in Science.

There is no new What IF? this week, but Pollyanna with the aid of Randall can show you what happens when you are not careful with small objects.

  Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Oct/20/2014

Dilbert Cartoon for Oct/22/2014   

Dilbert Cartoon for Oct/23/2014

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