Cluster Map

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Pollyanna gears up for elections

Pollyanna is with you again. Purim and Women's Day have passed and we are now waiting for spring to show up for real. In the meantime we gear up for an election which may or may not lead to a real change in policy and priorities. In this fractious country, no one has ever won a majority and coalitions of one type or the other have always governed, for good or for ill. It appears that the Herzog-Livni ticket is leading and Netanyahu is limping. We shall wait and see.
Haaretz Daily Cartoon - 12/03/15
Note Bibi limping and Sheldon Moneybags pushing

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.


Pollyanna refers you this week to Latet Tikva לתת תקווה or To Give Hope, the National Center for Children's Health Care in Israel. LatetTikva was established in 2002 as a nonprofet organization that aims at giving hope and assistance to children, the ill and the needy, and their families. The Web site shows you a large variety of their  projects and of course has a donation tab. It is a most worthy cause and has the appropriate financial transparency and responsibility.
Being happy at Schneider Children’s Hospital

Being happy at Schneider Children’s Hospital


Pollyanna refers you to a posting by Reporters without Borders. To mark International Women’s Day, Reporters Without Borders pays tribute to ten women journalists from the four corners of the globe, ten women with different backgrounds who have told us about their jobs, their commitment and the specific challenges and dangers they face in the course of their work. Pollyanna recommends strongly that you read this story of these brave women and join her in saluting them. You may click on each image to read the story of the woman shown.
  • Khadija
  • Brankica
  • HlaHla
  • Farida

  • Noushin
  • Solange
  • Mae

  • Marcela
  • Zaina

  • Fatima


France is in mourning and Pollyanna sympathizes deeply. Ten French nationals, including three Olympic stars, were killed in the collision of two helicopters at the site in Argentina where they had gone to film a reality show. Profiles of the sports figures are given in the link.
The most famous victims are:
Camille Muffat, 25
Camille Muffat with her gold medal from the London Games.
Camille Muffat with her gold medal from the swimming competition of the London Games.   Photograph: Niviere/Chamussy/Sipa/ Rex
Alexis Vastine, 28
Alexis Vastine, pictured in Paris.
Alexis Vastine, pictured in Paris.   Photograph: Reau Alexis/Sipa/Rex
Florence Arthaud, 57
Florence Arthaud
Florence Arthaud, known as the ‘fiancee of the Atlantic’. Photograph: Baltel/Sipa/Rex

Here is the actual collision as filmed on a phone camera:


 The famous British fantasy writer died this week at age 67 after a prolonged bout with Alzheimer disease. He is best known for his Discworld series, although we liked his Good Omens  novel best. An obituary is given in the Guardian.
Sir Terry Pratchett
Sir Terry Pratchett's Discworld series had a huge fan following

Randall mourns him with the rest of us:

Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett



Pollyanna is livid about the report that over 700 women have been killed in Tanzania because of allegations of  "witchcraft."  Many victims are elderly, vulnerable or marginalized -- or own property that greedy relatives seize after accusing of witchcraft. Often the targets are young widows since the husband's family wants to grab the property while young women who are seeking liberation are also in danger. We quote an observer “Rebellious, economically independent women who insist on their right to speak freely, to choose a spouse, to plan their pregnancy, to be active outside of the home, come and go without prior authorization etc., fall into this category of people accused of witchcraft. In short, women who suffer from social exclusion as a result of witchcraft allegations are usually women without support, who constitute a burden on the family, or women who refuse to comply with their socially-sanctioned roles and status."

But while some are killed, falsely accused of black magic, others are murdered by the "sorcerers" themselves: scores of people with albinism have been killed and their body parts cooked up for spells, that are used for good luck, even by politicians seeking election.

The issue is discussed in detail on the AWID website and it makes chilling reading. The government has been most ineffectual on cracking down on these practices. Pollyanna calls upon human rights organizations to take steps to apply pressure to African governments to be more proactive in this area. We note that a search for witchcraft allegations on the new tarted-up Web site of Amnesty International had no results. The UN High Commission for Refugees has published a detailed paper on the subject since many accused  "witches" flee and become refugees.


Chelsea Manning in an op-ed in the Guardian calls for accountability and prosecution for torture offenses committed by CIA and Defense Department people under the cover of high government officials.  As she writes "It is important to hold the officers, supervisors and, to a lesser extent, the politicians involved in creating and executing these programs, accountable. To let their horrific actions go unanswered would send an awful message to the world: it is wrong to torture and mistreat people, except when those doing it have the supposed blessing of the law and with the permission of high-ranking supervisors and politicians."

An actor demonstrates the "banana" method of torture.
An actor is seen demonstrating the "banana" method, one of several standard torture techniques reportedly used by the Shin Bet during interrogations of Palestinian prisoners. (file photo) Photo by AP
In view of recent disclosures of torture in Israel in Haaretz and the disclosure that a doctor participated in torture, the issue brought up by Ms Manning transcends the US context. Haaretz has protested the increase  in the use of torture in an editorial, which certainly will influence all ten readers of the newspaper.


As we all know the US is one of the few countries where maternity leave is not mandated by the central government. It fits in with executing people, not providing universal health services and union-busting as a norm. Now the Vodaphone company has announced a new maternity leave policy worldwide that is extremely enlightened. A mother gets 16 weeks paid maternity leave and then for the next six months works for 30 hours a week for full pay. The Washington Post approves strongly and so does Pollyanna.


In 1971 Eli Avivi and his spouse Rina
Eli Avivi in 2006
President Eli Avivi, photographed in Achzivland in 2006
decided to secede from Israel and to found a mini-state of their own called Achzivland. This is an idyllic place where people can just hang out and enjoy life. It occupies the space of an abandoned Arab village on the coast, near the Lebanese border.

 Map of Achzivland
Of course, the government gave them a hard time for many years, but now some level of accommodation has been reached. The BBC tells the story and it is something nice to read, a salute to the individual in this overly conformist world. The place has been known and mapped since ancient times. Here is a relatively modern example:
Akhziv on the map of Abraham ben Yaakov (ca. 1695)

Akhziv on the map of Abraham ben Yaakov (ca. 1695)



There has long been discussion about the existence of life outside of Earth, somewhere in the universe. In a recent discussion on Public Radio International (PRI) the idea is raised that it might be more profitable to seek life on the moons of planets in the habitable zone of a star than on the planet itself. If the planet is Jupiter-like, i.e. a gas giant, a moon might be a more hospitable environment. The article is based on a radio interview with astronomer Sarah Ballard, the NASA Carl Sagan Fellow at the University of Washington in Seattle and  others.  The interview itself is embedded in the article. Pollyanna recommends it to you.


The Dawn spacecraft entered orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres on Friday March 6. The NASA link tells you the whole exciting story.
 Facts about protoplanet Ceres.
Ceres may be regarded as a fossil remnant of the early Solar System and should have much to tell us about how all of our worlds came about. Pollyanna and Titan will continue to update you about the project. It was nice to read an interview with an old friend, Chris Russell from UCLA, about the Dawn mission of which he is the Principal Investigator.


Henry Kissinger, at age 90+, has come out with a new book on the World Order. (Penguin, 2014). He sums up a great deal of history and  explains the historic scope of the challenge to the political future of the world. It has been extensively reviewed and discussed and should certainly be of great interest. As Jessica T. Mathews writes in the New York Review of Books  the book " a learned, thoughtful, often fascinating global tour through the various clashing views of world order that are present today and go as far back as the fourth century BC. Its perspective throughout (even for events that occurred more than a millennium before the negotiators met) is the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years’ War. The book’s center of gravity is eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe. Its heroes are “great statesmen,” specifically Cardinal Richelieu, Klemens von Metternich, and Otto von Bismarck, about whom Kissinger has written admiringly for many years. "They deserve the highest accolade because they had to know where [their] strategy is leading and why…[and] act at the outer edge of the possible…. Because repetition of the familiar leads to stagnation, no little daring is required.""
FP/Getty Images Henry Kissinger meeting with Zhou Enlai during his secret trip to China, July 1971

Pollyanna also directs you to a review by Hilary Clinton in the Washington Post and by John in the NYTimes.


WHAT IF? asks:  I saw a sign at a hot springs tub saying "Caution: Water is hotter than average" with water at about 39°C. Although they were presumably trying to say "hotter than the average swimming pool," this got me wondering: What is the average temperature of all water on the Earth’s surface, and how does that temperature compare to 39°C?
—Graham Ward

Randall gives a nice answer except that we saw an error. He said that the air temperature is that determined by heating by sunlight. Not really exact, since as we know the atmosphere is transparent to the visible solar spectrum (which is why it is visible since we evolved to see through the atmosphere). What happens at the surface is that the ground absorbs the solar energy and then heats the lower atmosphere by conduction near the surface and then by turbulent transfer up to about 100 km altitude.  Indeed, the source of the energy is the Sun, but the heating is indirect. Above 100 km the atmosphere is heated directly by absorption of ultraviolet solar radiation (thank you ozone for shielding us). Otherwise his answer is fine.

Some have asked why we bother with a personal trainer at gym. WUMO have the answer.

Yes, Grandpa and Cynthia share our tastes:

Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Mar/10/2015

Why everyone loves Big Pharma:

Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Mar/09/2015

1 comment:

  1. This is a fractal like self similar blog: the whole thing is just like the little Terry Pratchett piece on all the interesting things there are in the world.