Johann David Schubert: Prometheus und Pandora, c. 1800 Ink drawing, 1,7 x 7,5 cm
GREET THE VERNAL EQUINOX OF 2017
Spring technically begins twice – once on the meteorological calendar (always March 1) and again on the astronomical calendar.
While the meteorological calendar is perfect for the statisticians, the astronomical calendar often gives a better gauge of weather conditions as it takes into account the equinoxes and solstices.
Here is everything you need to know.
March Equinox in Tel Aviv, Israel is on
Monday, March 20, 2017 at 12:29 IST (Change city)
March Equinox in Universal Coordinated Time is on
Monday, March 20, 2017 at 10:29 UTC
The Charity Corner has found a home on the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights Action site. Prometheus and Pandora hope that you will visit there, take the actions and make the donations.
In their last blog Prometheus and Pandora took several well deserved shots at Health Minister Litzman who apparently is owned by the tobacco lobby. They did overreach when they tarred the entire ultra religious community with the Litzman brush.Prometheus and Pandora wish to retract that statement and apologize to the mass of honest decent people who belong to that community. It is true that the haredi community is riddled with corrupt leaders in politics and elsewhere (e.g. encouraging academic cheating), but that does not imply that the community as a whole is corrupt. Indeed there are secular leaders who are no less corrupt and it appears that for some politicians, the statement of Lord Acton “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” holds, alas.
Born in March
March 3, 1847- Alexander Graham Bell, invented the telephone
March 6, 1475- Michelangelo, Renaissance artist
March 14, 1879- Albert Einstein, physicist
March 21, 1685- Johann Sebastian Bach, musical composer
March 26, 1874- Robert Frost, poet
March 26, 1911- Tennessee Williams, playwright
Died in March
March 3, 1703, Robert Hooke, English physicist
March 5, 1953, Joseph Stalin, Soviet dictator
March 7, 1999, Stanley Kubrick, Screenwriter, Director, Producer
March 10, 1948, Jan Masaryk, Czech statesman
March 12, 1507, Caesare Borgia, Italian politician
March 15, 44BC, Julius Caesar, Roman leader
RANT AND RAVE A LA P&P
Prometheus and Pandora are well aware that entering the rant and rave field in the wake of big Titan out there in his huge orbit is a major task. Pandora, herself, will make no attempt to be glad about everything as Pollyanna was. Nonetheless, the years of ranting have yielded little progress, so P&P will try to move things on.
MANILA SWIMS IN BLOOD
On July 1, Rodrigo Duterte’s first day in office, his newly appointed police chief ordered all police units to conduct “massive and simultaneous” anti-drug operations throughout the country. Nearly 600 suspected drug users and dealers were killed without trial in Duterte’s first month as president. More than 7,000 people have been killed in his anti-drug campaign. What is it like in Manila? The horrendous answer may be found in some recent publications.
The emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, Peter Bouckaert, has made two trips to the capital, Manila, to document this unprecedented mass wave of killings. Stephanie Hancock asked him how Human Rights Watch was able to track the police killing squads.The report is available in an HRW release.
Eloisa Lopez Onlookers at a crime scene under investigation by the SOCO (scene of crime operatives), Tondo, Manila, September 2016
James Fenton writing in the NYRB provides another closeup description of what is happening. The police are targeting both pushers and users. The most common drug used by the poor of Manila to help make life tolerable is called shabu, a form of crystal meth. The claim is: The users of the drug in question, very soon forfeit their claims to humanity. They lose their souls. The only thing to do with them is kill them.
Fenton: This is the horror topos. I heard it, without asking for it, on my first day here in the Philippines. “The shabu user, deluded and inhuman, looks at his family and what he sees coming at him is a pack of wild beasts. He becomes frantic. It’s him or them, do or die. Don’t talk to us about the human rights of this kind of violent zombie. Get real. Kill him before he kills you.”
Sheila Coronel, writing in the Atlantic attached herself to a group of Filipino reporters, photographers, and cameramen who have been at the frontline of the war on drugs. They are a different type of war correspondent, and the drug war, a different type of war. The correspondents work what they call the “night shift,” the unholy hours between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., when the dead bodies are found. They wait at Manila’s main police station and rush from there to the site of the most recent kill. They keep count of the corpses, talk to witnesses and families, interview the police, attend wakes and funerals. Much of what we know of this atrocity comes from them.
Protesters stage a “die-in” to dramatize the rising number of extra judicial killings related to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s “War on Drugs” .
The reaction worldwide has been one of horror and the International Criminal Court can become involved. The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued a warning to the Philippine government over alleged extrajudicial killings, saying officials’ incitement of mass killings could be prosecuted before the court in The Hague. Let us all demand that something be done to stop the killing. The fact that Duterte is planning to visit Israel is revolting. Cheers to Haaretz for an editorial branding him as an unwelcome guest.
Amnesty International has issued a set of demands to the Philippine government and has also issued the following call to the ICC:
TO THE PROSECUTOR OF THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT
• Unless key steps recommended here are promptly taken, initiate a preliminary examination into unlawful killings in the Philippines’s violent anti-drug campaign and related crimes under the Rome Statute, including the involvement of government officials, irrespective of rank and status. Key steps include ordering the end of extrajudicial executions, ending incitement to such killings and opening prompt, impartial and efficient investigations into all suspected unlawful killings associated with anti- drug operations since at least July 2016.
TO INTERNATIONAL DONORS
• Ensure that no financial or other support for the Philippine government is being used to fund human rights violations in the “war on drugs,” whether related to police operations, killings by unknown armed persons with police involvement or drug rehabilitation centres. For example, the United States should examine the $32 million annual aid to Philippine law enforcement, and Japan, in considering the provision of assistance for building or maintaining rehabilitation facilities, should ensure these facilities are not confinement centres.
• Increase material and technical assistance to the Commission on Human Rights and to civil society organizations and coalitions involved in documenting human rights violations and promoting access to justice for cases of unlawful killings.
• Provide material and technical assistance to help strengthen the Commission on Human Rights’ witness protection programme.
HOME SWEET HOME
THE BDS LAW
BDS = Boycott, Disinvest, Sanction is a movement designed to put pressure on Israel to end the occupation. The new law would prevent anyone supporting this movement from entering Israel. Prometheus and Pandora think that it is fascist. antidemocratic and totally idiotic. We have always opposed BDS, mainly because it does not differentiate between Israel and the Occupied Territories and because it harms academic freedom. We have always tried to boycott the settlements by not buying their products and not supporting them in any way. Mira Sucharov writing in Haaretz raises the point that our arguments against BDS may have been voided by this law. We agree with Peter Beinart that boycotting the settlements is a form of Zionist BDS which is legitimate.
The worst part of all this is the attack on freedom of expression, which was also part of the law forbidding us to call for boycotting the settlements. In general, the present government in Israel is heading down a slippery slope of anti-democracy which will eventually have terrible results for Israel itself.
There is already a backlash among Jewish academics who will avoid Israel. If dissent by foreigners is forbidden, it is only a question of time before Israeli citizens will be punished for expressing opinions that the state establishment, basically a puppet of the settlement population, does not like. Cornell West, the American philosopher and BDS supporter, feels that the continuation of the occupation is destroying the democratic soul of Israel. He puts it very well:“Is the occupation now devouring the very democratic soul of Israel itself? That is the kind of question that Albert Einstein would raise, that Rabbi Heschel would raise, that Gertrude Stein would raise, that Susan Sontag would raise, these are questions inside the context of Jewish life.”
Pandora and Prometheus agree.
Now that Pandora and Prometheus have had their rants out, they would like to take a look at some pleasant and interesting things, such as art, literature, science, philosophy and whatever. They will also try to tickle your funny bone with some insights from the world of humor.
DADA AT 100
A discussion by Alfred Brendel in NYRB
The writer is a pianist and the author of several books of essays and poetry, most recently
Music, Sense and Nonsense: Collected Essays and Lectures. (October 2016)
Dada was an artistic and literary movement that began in Zürich, Switzerland. It arose as a reaction to World War I and the nationalism that many thought had led to the war. Influenced by other avant-garde movements – Cubism, Futurism, Constructivism, and
Expressionism – its output was wildly diverse, ranging from performance art to poetry, photography, sculpture, painting, and collage. Dada’s aesthetic, marked by its mockery of materialistic and nationalistic attitudes, proved a powerful influence on artists in many cities, including Berlin, Hanover, Paris, New York, and Cologne, all of which generated their own groups. The movement dissipated with the establishment of Surrealism, but the ideas it gave rise to have become the cornerstones of various categories of modern and contemporary art.
With the arrival of the centennial of the DaDa movement, a large number of exhibitions were held at musea around the world. Alfred Brendel reviews them in the New York Review of Books and in the process gives us an excellent tutorial into the history of DaDa and its ideology or lack of same.
Exhibitions and Catalogs Discussed in This Article
Museum of Modern Art/ Kunsthaus Zürich, 368 pp., $75.00
Galerie Gmurzynska, 174 pp., CHF60.00
Museum Rietberg Zürich/Berlinische Galerie/Scheidegger and Spiess, 243 pp., $40.00 (distributed in the US by University of Chicago Press)
Scheidegger and Spiess, 247 pp., $45.00 (distributed in the US by University of Chicago Press)
Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris/© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris Francis Picabia: The Lovers (After the Rain), 1925
A TROVE OF EXOPLANETS DISCOVERED
In a press release on February 22, 2017, NASA announced the discovery of the most Earth-sized planets found in the habitable zone of a single star, called TRAPPIST-1. This system of seven rocky worlds–all of them with the potential for water on their surface–is an exciting discovery in the search for life on other worlds. At about 40 light-years (235 trillion miles) from Earth, the system of planets is relatively close to us, in the constellation Aquarius. There is the possibility that future study of this unique planetary system could reveal conditions suitable for life.
The exoplanet system is called TRAPPIST-1, named for the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile. In May 2016, researchers using TRAPPIST announced they had discovered three planets in the system. Assisted by several other ground-based telescopes, including the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, Spitzer confirmed the existence of two of these planets and discovered five additional ones, increasing the number of known planets in the system to seven.
Pandora and Prometheus are both very impressed with this finding. The scientific report of the discovery was published recently in the journal Nature.
CONSCIOUSNESS CONSIDERED: PROMETHEUS AND PANDORA WOULD LIKE TO CALL YOUR ATTENTION TO A REALLY TOUGH SCIENTIFIC ISSUE–HERE ARE TWO DISCUSSIONS
The nature of consciousness or even its existence has been considered the Hard Problem of science and philosophy for centuries. The problem was swept under many rugs until a philosopher named David Chalmers got up at a conference in 1994 to give a talk on consciousness, by which he meant the feeling of being inside your head, looking out – or, to use the kind of language that might give a neuroscientist an aneurysm, of having a soul.
THE CHALLENGE OF CONSCIOUSNESS FROM THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS
A SERIES OF CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN RICCARDO MANZOTTI AND TIM PARKS
Is it possible to put some order into our thoughts about consciousness, memory, perception, and the like? Hardly a day goes by without some in-depth article wondering whether computers can be conscious, whether our universe is some kind of simulation, whether mind is a unique quality of human beings or spread out across the universe like butter on bread. Many of us are not even sure what we believe in this department, or whether what we believe would bear much scrutiny from philosophers or neuroscientists.
For a number of years I have been talking about these matters almost daily with Riccardo Manzotti, the philosopher, psychologist, and robotics engineer. I have now suggested to him that we condense our conversations into a series of focused dialogues to set out the standard positions on consciousness, and suggest some alternatives. For my own part I’d like to add some reflections on the social implications of the various theories for what we think about consciousness, which is as much as to say what we think about who and what we are, inevitably has consequences for how we relate to one another, and to the world. But our first problem will be one of definition.
The Challenge of Consciousness
The Color of Consciousness
A. Abbas/Magnum Photos Julián López Escobar, Seville, Spain, 2002
Does Information Smell?
The Trustees of the British Museum/Art Resource John Constable’s drawing of a mouse with a piece of cheese, inscribed “Jack,” 1824
The Ice Cream Problem
Phoenix Art Museum/VAGA, New York Wayne Thiebaud: Four Ice Cream Cones, 1964
Am I the Apple?
C. Herscovici/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/Art Resource René Magritte: La carte postale (The Postcard), 1960
Prometheus and Pandora would like to have your reaction to these two books, which impact the subject discussed above.
The Enigma of Reason Hugo Mercier Dan Sperber, reviewed briefly by Harvard University Press. You might also find some interest in a New Yorker article by Elizabeth Kolbert on why facts do not change our mind. Illustration by Gérard DuBoisPublication: April 2017
The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone
Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach. Riverhead, $28 (304p) ISBN
978-0-399-18435-2 This book is reviewed in Publishers’ Weekly.
What If: Electrofishing for Whales
I used to work on a fisheries crew where we would use an
electro-fisher backpack to momentarily stun small fish (30 – 100 mm
length) so we could scoop them up with nets to identify and measure
them. The larger fish tended to be stunned for slightly longer
because of their larger surface area but I don’t imagine this
relationship would be maintained for very large animals. Could you
electrofish for a blue whale? At what voltage would you have have
to set the e-fisher?
The answer, as usual, is interesting, although we
would not recommend doing this at home.
Randall provides us with some perception criteria re color and
taste that might be of interest to our discussants of
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