Cluster Map

Friday, January 16, 2015

Pollyanna in Winter, trying to be glad

 Wizard of Id Cartoon for Jan/15/2015

Pollyanna is back, winter weather and all, and would really like to live up to her reputation and talk about glad things. Unfortunately, this world of ours does not support gladness, but she will do her best this week. She shares the feelings of all civilized people in the wake of last week's massacre in Paris and was thrilled to see the French people turning out in their millions to support the principle of free speech and the principle of not allowing terrorists to dominate our lives or to trample on our rights. Below she will get into a more nuanced discussion of free speech and its limits.

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over 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 refers you to Books for Africa which is rated very highly by Charity Navigator and is serving a vital need for the advancement of the emerging nations of Africa. We note that it has a high transparency rating and an administrative layout of 0.3% which is certainly admirable.
Books arriving in South Sudan


The horrible attack on Charlie Hebdo and the Kosher Supermarket in Paris last week still resonates in our minds and hearts. Yet Pollyanna wonders why millions are not  marching to stop the ongoing terrible slaughter in Nigeria by Boko Haram killers who go from town to town, killing indiscriminately.
Illustration by Amos Biderman
The Guardian has a section on these harrowing events that you should read--‘I walked through five villages and each one was empty except for dead bodies’ The Nigerian army is unable or unwilling to do much about it. Soldiers drop their weapons and flee with the townspeople. The US tried to help after the  abduction of the schoolgirls last spring, but was unable to do much in collaboration with the corrupt and ineffective Nigerian security forces. Something should be done, but no one seems to have an idea or to really care all that much. Is it because the French victims are from our tribe? Is it because Africa is remote  and black-skinned and Paris is near and our color? We all shout that we must protect free speech and what is wrong with Muslims that keeps them from having a sense of humor? Tom Lehrer, the American Jewish satirist, wrote a song in 1964 in the wake of Vatican II, that ridiculed the Catholic Church, its rituals and  beliefs, and no one batted an eyelash.
Joe Sacco, himself a cartoonist raises the question bluntly:

As Titan noted last week, religion can be toxic. He dealt with alienation of children from their parents by Jewish "missionaries." There are also the irritants such as the idiots who refuse to sit hear women on planes or buses and indeed people are petitioning and making noise about these things. It becomes really poisonous when blood is spilled in the name of the Prophet. It is certainly wrong to surrender to them, either by flight (e.g. French Jews) or by self-censorship. One can fault France for allowing the blight to fester in the notorious banlieues just outside Paris that are home largely to second- and third-generation immigrants from former French colonies in North and West Africa. These places are fertile soil for Muslim extremism, either recruitment for the IS in Syria/Iraq or for terror at home. Not that terror and mass killing are a Muslim monopoly--the massacre in Norway was carried out by Anders_Behring Breivik, the slaughter of children at Sandy Hook school in Newtown CT  by  Adam Lanza and  the Columbine killings by students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. None of these were in any way connected to Islam or to religion of any kind.
Mike Luckovich Cartoon for Jan/13/2015
Nonetheless, the majority of the events that account for the rise of terrorism in the world in recent years are associated with Islamic entities, be they the Taliban, Boko Haram, El Qaeda or the IS. Certainly, no one implies that terror is mainstream in the Muslim world, but obviously something needs to be done and it must be done by Muslim religious leadership.

Finally Pollyanna wishes to express her agreement with the sentiments expressed by the Pope. His Holiness agrees that freedom of expression is a fundamental right, but it has limits. Certainly shouting Fire! in a crowded theater, hate speech and incitement  and child pornography cannot be said to come under the umbrella of  protected free speech. Ridiculing someone's religion, ethnicity or beliefs is certainly poor taste, vulgarity and inappropriate behavior, but, as the Pope says, are by no means a justification for violence and murder. Abuse of the right of free speech should be dealt with in the framework of the rule of law. Someone who is the victim of slander can have recourse to the courts and obtain damages. Satire, if it is to be worthy of the name, must be biting and strong, such as Andy Borowitz who can portray the Speaker of the House as a drunken sod and Congresswoman Michelle Bachman as an idiot, with no fear of reprisal. Scurrilous reporting, such as the Swedish tabloid that claimed that the Israeli Army was killing Palestinians in order to sell their organs, should be a matter for the professional associations of journalists to deal with and sanction. The fact that Israel reacted by protesting to the Swedish government that it was not doing its job of controlling the press is just a sign of stupidity. At least no one was killed. We also note that Charlie Hebdo was even-handed in dealing with religions:
They all agree that Charlie Hebdo must be veiled...

Pollyanna wishes to reiterate that transgressing the bounds of free speech, which Charlie Hebdo may well have done, should be responded to by nonviolent and legal means. The honor and respect for the Prophet is not enhanced by killing in his name.
Mike Luckovich Cartoon for Jan/11/2015


Pollyanna would like to share some nice things with you. One is the hope that translation by computer will actually work. We have all seen computer translations and have guffawed at them. Now it appears  that real progress is being made and we will be able to communicate in real time conversations with people with whom we do not have a common language. Cheers.


Pelagic thresher shark reportedly giving birth. (Courtesy of Attila E Kaszo)
For the first time ever, the birth of a baby shark has been caught on camera.  The picture was taken by Attila Kaszo during a 2013 research dive in the Philippines and now has been published in  Coral Reef, the official journal of International Society for Coral Reef Studies. Is this an infringement of privacy? She has not yet complained. The story of how the event was found in the data is itself of interest.


Carolyn Porco reminds us of the day ten years ago when the Huygens probe landed successfully on the surface of Titan. It was the first time a man-made object has been placed on a moon of another planet and the results were of course fantastic.

Share the memory with Carolyn.


We have a penchant for walking around in sports gear, including shorts, in all kinds of weather. For years we have been getting the reaction, especially from women,  "it makes me cold to look at you" and have always ascribed it to the Jewish mother latent in every female (no, that is not a sexist remark). Now according to new research from Sussex University, the effect is real and being cold is contagious. Empathy is something that seems to have evolutionary value according to the researcher, "Humans are profoundly social creatures and much of humans' success results from our ability to work together in complex communities -- this would be hard to do if we were not able to rapidly empathize with each other and predict one another's thoughts, feelings and motivations."


The tool in question was uncovered in June 2014 during the annual digs at the Grotte du Bison at Arcy-sur-Cure in Burgundy, France. Extremely ...
Credit: University of Montreal - Luc Doyon

New evidence has surfaced that indicates that Neanderthals made bone tools, something that has always been thought to be a Homo Sapiens innovation. The tool was discovered in France and dates from about 55,000 years ago. It implies that the technical and cognitive gap between H. Sapiens and Neanderthals is less marked than had been thought. Interesting indeed, says Pollyanna


The evolution of resistance to antibiotics has long plagued modern medicine and has rendered many compounds useless. Now a search for a magic bullet antibiotic that will not generate resistance seems to have hit pay dirt--a finding that challenges conventional wisdom and has made headlines everywhere. It was just published in Nature. This can be a huge step forward in the fight against disease. Hooray says Pollyanna.


What If? asks What if there was a lake on the Moon? What would it be like to swim in it? Presuming that it is sheltered in a regular atmosphere, in some giant dome or something.

Kim Holder
The answer is fun.


Woe to the website that tries to violate the Heisenberg Uncertainly Principle by trickery--cheers to our lady
Location Sharing

Dilbert Cartoon for Jan/09/2015

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