Cluster Map

Friday, January 2, 2015

Pollyanna wishes you a Happy New Year

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.


This 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.
Daniel Majook Gai from South Sudan goes in and out of his war-torn country to help children there go to school.
 He eventually got to the US, obtained an education and is now trying to get kids, especially girls, into school in South Sudan. He works for PESS which builds schools throughout the country and helps break down barriers for girls. In the area of South Sudan where Daniel has been working, 3,000 boys and girls have been out of class for a year now.  Please help out.


Pollyanna 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
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.


Two men place candles in the shape of a heart at the site of a New Year's Eve stampede at The Bund in Shanghai on January 1, 2015. AFP PHOTO / Greg BAKER
Two men place candles in the shape of a heart at the site of a New Year's Eve stampede at The Bund in Shanghai on January 1, 2015. AFP PHOTO / Greg BAKER
Pollyanna is also upset by the sad events in Shanghai where New Year's Eve celebrations were marred by a stampede that claimed the lives of 36 people with over 50 more injured. The cause is still unclear although there was a report that some people had thrown fake money from a balcony. The police do not confirm this claim. It is tragic that an event designed for enjoyment turns into tragedy.


Pollyanna 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.


Rachel Daniel, sitting with her son, Bukar, held a picture of her daughter, Rose, who was among nearly 300 Nigerian teenage girls kidnapped in April by the militant group Boko Haram. Credit Joe Penney/Reuters
Usually Titan produces the rants and raves, but Pollyanna cannot remain silent in the face of the incompetence and indifference shown by the government and army of Nigeria in the matter of the hundreds of girls kidnapped by the Boko Haram. The NYTimes reports on the failure of the Nigerians to take advantage of the aid provided to them by the United States.  The Nigerian army is not only incompetent, it has a dismal record of human rights violations. (It should be a matter of shame to us that Israel nearly sold military helicopters to Nigeria. Fortunately, the US blocked the sale, which it had the power to do because the aircraft were of US manufacture.) There is great fear that the girls have been sold to Boko Haram fighters, who in the past six months have seized hundreds more civilians, including children, planted bombs in Nigerian cities and captured entire towns.


Ruth 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.


We 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.


Since 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.
Simple Answers


You 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.
Wumo Cartoon for Dec/31/2014

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:

Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Jan/01/2015
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.
Dilbert Cartoon for Dec/31/2014

Dilbert Cartoon for Jan/01/2015

Dilbert Cartoon for Jan/02/2015

Id goes to war:
Wizard of Id Cartoon for Dec/27/2014

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