Pollyanna is back and wants to wish all her readers a Happy New Year. Let us hope that 2015 will be better for us, humanity in general and our planet.
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.
CHARITY CORNERThis week Pollyanna refers you to Project Education South Sudan aka PESS. During the first civil war, many boys fled and became known as the "Lost Boys" of South Sudan. One of them was Daniel Majook Gai who fled the civil war in Sudan, running miles by himself to safety and leaving his family behind.
|Daniel Majook Gai from South Sudan goes in and out of his war-torn country to help children there go to school.|
AIRLINE DISASTERPollyanna is sad about the tragic fate of the passengers and crew on the AirAsia flight whose plane crashed at sea. The aircraft apparently went down in bad weather, but there are certainly many questions to be asked. In general, 2014 was the deadliest year for aviation fatalities in a decade, according to figures compiled by the Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives.
|Graphic by Laura Santhanam/PBS NewsHour|
The BAAA data show that 1,326 people died this year in airliner accidents, the worst on record since 2005. That figure includes both Malaysia Airlines disasters — Flight MH370, which disappeared off the Vietnamese coastline and Flight MH17, which was shot down over Ukraine.
NEW YEAR CALAMITY
HOPE FOR JUSTICEPollyanna is glad to hear that the three Al Jazeera journalists, who were sentenced to long prison terms in Egypt in what was patently a politically motivated show trial, have been granted a retrial on appeal. The appeals court decision indicates some signs of an independent court system in a country ruled by a dictatorship. It is unfortunate that the three, the Australian Peter Griese, Mohammed Fahmy who holds Egyptian and Canadian citizenship and Baher Mohamed were not granted bail for the duration of the retrial.
RANTS AND RAVES
SCIENCE IN 2014Ruth Schuster writing in Haaretz has summed up the best science stories that appeared in the paper during 2014. They are all interesting although at times her comments are a bit patronizing towards basic science. The discovery that canine defecation direction is related to the magnetic field is interesting, not for the scatology, but because of the indication that dogs have magnetic sensors. This has long been known in birds and is the means of pigeon navigation. Humans have no such capability. We note that this must refer to freely roaming dogs and we shall observe Murphy when we are next with him on the dune or beach. While walking on the leash, he will simply poop in the direction opposite to our walking.
Another interesting and more important finding is the adverse affect of artificial sweeteners on the body. Using artificial sweeteners can increase the probability of developing diabetes and obesity, ironically the very conditions they're supposed to prevent, researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science announced. They discovered that while artificial sweeteners don't contain glucose, they do affect how our bodies process sugar: our bodies can lose the ability to handle sugar. Since our intestines don't even absorb these sweeteners, the scientists wondered what does and found that it is the bacteria in your guts. If you have certain types, eating the sweeteners has exactly the wrong effect on you.
|Diet drinks may have the exact opposite effect of what we want. Photo: Adi Dovrat-Meseritz.|
LEGION D'HONNEUR DECLINEDWe are informed that the French economist Thomas Piketty,
the author the best-selling book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, has declined an honor from the French government. His book, in which he pillories the causes of economic inequality, was one of the greater intellectual events of the year. We quote the Nobel Laureate economist Paul Krugman on Mr Piketty's "big idea" in the New York Review of Books: "We haven't just gone back to nineteenth-century levels of income inequality, we're also on a path back to "patrimonial capitalism," in which the commanding heights of the economy are controlled not by talented individuals but by family dynasties."
The book has naturally attracted much comment and no small amount of fierce criticism.
Mark Twain and the Era That Shaped His Masterpiece, by Andrew Levy, Hardcover, 342 pages, Simon & Schuster, List Price: $25
This book is reviewed in NPR blogs by Linda Holmes. We quote the opening of the review "Is there anything left to say about Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn?"
That is the question that animates big parts of the book, a richly researched, copiously annotated, fascinating argument that in all the debates over the book's treatment of race and despite its position as both a widely banned book and a widely assigned book, we tend to miss some of the most important things it teaches. Pollyanna recommends it to your consideration. Levy comes to grips with the complex issues of Twain, racism and children's literature.
SILLY TIMESince again there is no new What If?, we looked for something equally informative. This week we saw an unnamed Luddite enjoying her new smart phone and came to think a bit about our relationship with advances in technology. We find that Randall has addressed this question as well.
ALMOST DARWINYou are probably familiar with the Darwin Awards web site in which human stupidity is documented and people die deaths caused by their own idiocy, thus removing themselves from the gene pool. You might also enjoy the crop of idiot sightings at Authentic Forum. Pollyanna found several impressive cases there, such as "I was at the airport, checking in at the gate when an airport employee asked, "Has anyone put anything in your baggage without your knowledge?" To which I replied, "If it was without my knowledge, how would I know?" He smiled knowingly and nodded, "That's why we ask."
Happened in Birmingham , AL."
Pollyanna is amused by the chap in Australia who tried to blow up an ATM to steal the money inside. The security cameras caught the story. At least he survived and gave the police some amusement on Christmas Eve.
WUMO wind down the year with their own version of functioning of idiots. Pollyanna will risk being sued and show you the cartoon.
For those whose New Year's resolutions involve weight loss, she offers the pasta diet:
The Proven New Year's Pasta Diet
Take up this diet in 2015 and you are certain to lose weight!
1) You walka pasta da bakery.
2) You walka pasta da candy store.
3) You walka pasta da Ice Cream shop.
4) You walka pasta da table and fridge.
Cynthia starts off the year with the right attitude:
Of course, he would not have replaced her phone, discipline etc., but he will certainly replace his own. How many of us have raised a Cynthia or two?
Dilbert has decided to reduce the number of decisions in his life by inventing tube clothes, a la the grey tee shirts of Mark Zukerberg. He then invokes a dating service, poor chap...or poor ladies.
Id goes to war: