WE ARE TOLD THERE WAS A MEETING OF SOME PEOPLE IN THE TRUMP TOWER
Prometheus from Chernobyl
PANDORA-Takes a Wonder Woman pose
Simone Veil, (1927-2017), an Auschwitz survivor who played a leading role in legalizing contraception and abortion in France, died on June 30 aged 89. Veil, an icon of French politics and the first president of the European parliament, died at home, her son Jean said.
In 1973, while serving as health minister, she pushed through laws to liberalize contraception, with the pill not only authorized but reimbursed by the social security system. A year later she led the charge in the national assembly for the legalization of abortion, where she braved a volley of insults, some of them likening terminations to the Nazis’ treatment of Jews.The legislation, the Loi Veil (Veil law), is considered a cornerstone of women’s rights and secularism in France.
A staunch pro-European, Veil was elected to the European parliament in 1979, becoming the first president of the assembly. After a second term as health minister under the Socialist president François Mitterrand, Veil last held major public office between 1998 and 2007, when she was a member of the constitutional council. President Emmanuel Macron eulogized her “ Her uncompromising humanism, wrought by the horror of the camps, made her the constant ally of the weakest, and the resolute enemy of any political compromise with the extreme right “
Liu Xiaobo, (1955 – 2017) Nobel laureate and political prisoner, has died at 61 in Chinese custody. He was China’s only Nobel Peace Prize laureate and catapulted to fame in 1989, when the Communist Party’s violent crackdown on protests in Tiananmen Square created an international uproar.
Now, nearly three decades later, Mr. Liu has died of cancer while in state custody, a bedridden and silenced example of Western governments’ inability, or reluctance, to push back against China’s resurgent authoritarians.
When pro-democracy protests broke out in Beijing in the spring of 1989, Liu was lecturing in New York but decided to return despite having previously shown little interest in politics. Liu flew back to Beijing and headed to Tiananmen Square, where he played a central role in the protests. He led a hunger strike shortly before the 4 June military crackdown in which hundreds, possibly thousands of lives were lost. He was jailed for almost two years for his role in what Beijing called “counter-revolutionary” riots. The experience served as a political awakening that transformed Liu into a lifelong activist and champion of democracy. He was one of the authors of Charter 08, a manifesto initially signed by over 350 Chinese intellectuals and human rights activists. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison for this activity and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. The Chinese reaction to this was to put his wife, the poet and artist Liu Xia, with whom he had fallen in love during the 1990s, under house arrest and she has spent recent years living in almost total isolation, under constant surveillance.
Liu Xiaobo had no illusions about the prospects for democracy in China. He realized that a leader against the autocracy was needed and he felt his own inadequacy deeply, as he wrote in a letter to a friend in 2000:
“Compared to others under the Communist black curtain, we cannot call ourselves real men. Through the great tragedies of all these years, we still don’t have a righteous giant like [Václav] Havel. In order for everyone to have the right to be selfish, there has to be a righteous giant who will sacrifice selflessly. In order to obtain “passive freedoms” (freedom from the arbitrary oppression by those in power), there has to be a will for active resistance. In history, nothing is fated. The appearance of a martyr will to completely change a nation’s soul and raise the spiritual quality of the people. But Gandhi was by chance, Havel was by chance; two thousand years ago, a peasant’s boy born in the manger was even more by chance. Human progress relies on the chance birth of these individuals. One cannot count on the collective conscience of the masses but only on the great individual conscience to consolidate the weak masses. In particular, our nation needs this righteous giant; the appeal of a role model is infinite; a symbol can rouse an abundance of moral resources. For example, Fang Lizhi’s ability to walk out of the U.S. Embassy, or Zhao Ziyang’s ability to actively resist after stepping down, or so-and-so refusing to go abroad. A very important reason for the silence and amnesia after June Fourth is that we did not have a righteous giant who stepped forward.”
Nicolas Kristof has expressed eloquently our admiration for his courage to step forward. An editorial in the NYTimes summed up his brave life and called for the release of his widow, Liu Xia, and permission for her to move to the country of her choice.
BORN IN JULY
3 July, 1962 Tom Cruise
Film Actor, Actor, Producer
Tom Cruise was born on July 3, 1962, in Syracuse, New York. After developing an interest in acting during high school, he rocketed to fame with his star turns in Risky Business and Top Gun. Cruise later earned acclaim for his work in the hit film Jerry Maguire and the Mission: Impossible franchise. He also was targeted by the tabloids for his marriages to actresses Nicole Kidman and Katie Holmes.
DIED IN JULY
It is an interesting coincidence that three US presidents died on July 4. The second and third presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, July 4 1826 and the fifth, James Monroe, on July 4 1831. Not unexpectedly, many interpreted this as some divine sign.
“People interpreted their deaths in a religious manner,” said Michael Meranze, a U.S. history professor at UCLA. “It was clearly taken symbolically as both the birth and growth of the early republic.” In 1826, for instance, Rep. Daniel Webster of Massachusetts
delivered a two-hour-long eulogy in Boston suggesting their deaths were a sign that God was protecting the nation.
“As their lives themselves were the gifts of Providence, who is not willing to recognize in their happy termination, as well as in their long continuance, proofs that our country and its benefactors are objects of His care?” Webster said.
20 July 1866 Bernhard Riemann famous German mathematician
His profound and novel approaches to the study of geometry laid the mathematical foundation for Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity. He also made important contributions to the theory of functions, complex analysis, and number theory.
27 July 1946 Gertrude Stein Art Collector, Publisher, Author, Poet, Journalist(1874–1946)
TRUMP ABANDONS THE ENVIRONMENT–FRANCE RESPONDS FOR ALL OF US
The president of France, Emmanuel Macron, responded to Trump for the whole world. The invitation to responsible environmental scientists to come to work in France should resonate everywhere. We are all required to take whatever steps we can to remedy the catastrophic situation that political sloth and corporate corruption have created for us.
In Guatemala environmental activists are under attack. Members of the Centre for Environmental, Social and Legal Action (CALAS) have been the target of a smear campaign after they challenged the license of the San Rafael mining company in court. On 5 July, the Supreme Court of Justice notified it would provisionally suspend the mining company’s license. CALAS members are at risk of further attacks. Every one of us can take action on their behalf and on behalf of the environment. ACT!!
HOW BAD WILL THE CATASTROPHE BE?
An article in New York magazine by David Wallace-Wells predicts a frightening scenario for our planet and our species. He paints a picture in which the planet becomes uninhabitable for human beings. The scientists whom he interviewed over the past several months — the most credentialed and tenured in the field, few of them inclined to alarmism and many advisers to the IPCC who nevertheless criticize its conservatism — have quietly reached an apocalyptic conclusion, too: No plausible program of emissions reductions alone can prevent climate disaster.
Wallace-Wells gives us a long list of catastrophes that are already with us or drawing near all caused by human blindness to reality. They include the end of food availability, plagues of various types, unbreathable air and perpetual warfare as people struggle for vanishing resources, permanent economic collapse and poisoned oceans.
James Hansen, who was one of the first scientists to blow the whistle on global warming, gave an interview in which he discussed some of the dire effects including the possibility that government of the planet will collapse. Michael Mann, a prominent climatologist, also took part in the discussion. What they have to say is worth your time and attention. Read Hansen’s final summation:
I think on the shorter term, the planet becomes much less habitable — low latitudes become less habitable, and if we lose coastal cities everything starts going backwards. The progress we’ve had over the last centuries, more people having a higher standard of living — that’s going to go in the other direction. So we really have to stabilize it at a level that allows ice sheets to remain on Greenland and Antarctica with sizes comparable to what they have now. And that requires that the warming be not more than a degree or so. But the business community really doesn’t understand that.
I remember when we wrote our first paper on this, in 1981, and the New York Times reported it on the front page. I remember saying to one of my co-authors, “This is going to be very interesting, sometime during our careers, we’re going to see these things beginning to happen.”
You probably thought you’d see the world responding.
Yeah! And it worked with the ozone.
Is that just because it was a smaller problem?
DuPont told Reagan it was okay, because they were working on alternative chemicals and could make just as much money at that. That’s what the whole fossil-fuel industry should be working on — alternative energies. But they chose instead to double down on fossil fuels.
Robinson Meyer, writing in The Atlantic recently, takes issue with Wallace-Wells and suggests that his doomsday prophecy may be overstated. He agrees that the situation is grave, but faults Wallace-Wells for ignoring positive things that are happening. Nonetheless, his conclusions are not optimistic:
Yet this (the reality of today) is worrisome by itself. Consider the world that climate scientists say is more realistic: a place where sea levels cause mass migration within and without the developed world; where the economy is never great but is not in shambles either; where voters fear for their livelihoods and superpowers poke at each others’ weaknesses.
Does that world sound like a safe and secure place to live? Does it sound like a workable status quo? And how many small wars need to start in that world before they all fuse together? Who needs planet-killing methane burps when nine different countries have 15,000 nuclear weapons between them? In short, there are plenty of doomsday scenarios to worry about. They don’t need to be catastrophic on their face to induce catastrophe.
The present era, dubbed the Anthropocene for the impact of humans on nature and the planet, is not fully defined. In a recent article in NYMagazine, Robert Sullivan presents various theories of when humanity doomed the planet and itself, ranging from the dawn of nuclear energy to various historical events that shaped society as we know it. One theory blames our friend Prometheus for the gift of fire.
DOOMSDAY IN SYRIA/IRAQ
As the Syrian conflict enters its seventh year, more than 465,000 Syrians have been killed in the fighting, more than a million injured and over 12 million Syrians – half the country’s prewar population – have been displaced from their homes.
The battles go on and the horror continues. The battle for the Iraqi city of Mosul seems to have ended with the Iraqi army having defeated ISIS. The main victims were the civilian population. An Amnesty International report accuses both sides of flagrant indifference to the lives and safety of civilians. The report documents how ISIS moved non-combatants from neighboring villages into the zones of the battle in west Mosul, trapped them in their homes and prevented them from escaping, using them as human shields. Meanwhile Iraqi and coalition forces failed to take adequate measures to protect civilians, instead subjecting them to a terrifying barrage of fire from weapons that should never be used in densely populated areas.
HOME SWEET HOME
CEASE FIRE IN SYRIA?
Cease fire in Syria–a problem for Israel. At first glance it would appear both unreasonable and immoral to oppose putting a stop to the bloodletting in Syria. Yet a deeper look shows why Israel cannot support the cease fire brokered by Russia and the USA. Shmuel Rosner, writing in the NYTimes points out the danger to the security interests of Israel if the cease fire enables Iran to reach the border region between the Golan Heights and Syria.
The Russian reaction was an attempt to reassure Israel. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday, that Russia and the United States would do all they could to address Israeli concerns about the creation of de-escalation zones in Syria.
He was responding to comments by Netanyahu who told reporters in Paris late on Sunday that the arrangement perpetuated Iran’s presence in Syria and that Israel was therefore “utterly opposed” to it.
Same-sex couples are not allowed, in practice, to adopt children in Israel. The court petition regarding adoption by same-sex and common-law couples was filed by the Association of Israeli Gay Fathers, with the Israel Religious Action Center of the Reform Movement, against the Welfare Ministry and the attorney general. The state has responded by informing the Court that it will not lift the discriminatory procedures for same-sex couples who want to adopt children in Israel.
The Social Affairs and Justice Ministries told the High Court of their position ahead of the hearing that will be held later this week. The position is “children should only be given for adoption to families that are not considered in Israeli society as irregular.”
read more: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.801808
read more: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.801629
The High Court of Justice has given the government two months to reconsider its opposition to allowing same-sex couples to adopt in the country. The facts are that since 2008, when single-sex couples and couples who have common-law marriages became legally able to adopt within Israel, 550 such couples have submitted petitions to adopt, Haaretz reported. While only three same-sex couples were successful, more than 1,000 straight couples have adopted in the same period.
Bradley Burston, writing in Haaretz, points to the behavior of the government as the death knell of Netanyahu’s political career. Prometheus and Pandora and their imaginary playmates sincerely hope that he is right.
Israel is engaged in purchasing submarines and other ships from Germany. The signing of a memorandum of understanding on the German sale of three submarines to Israel has been postponed, a National Security Council official said on Tuesday morning.
The official’s announcement came following a report in the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth that Germany postponed the signing of the memorandum in light of Israel’s investigation into possible corruption in the deal. According to the daily, the signing was meant to take place in Germany, but has been postponed indefinitely.
Several senior Israeli officials have been arrested and one of the main suspects is turning state witness, which could bring about a major crisis.
ISRAEL VS THE EU
Netanyahu went to Budapest to meet with the Eastern part of the EU and launched a blistering attack against them, analyzed by Chemi Shalev. The EU responded with a strong referral to humanitarian law and respect for human rights. The hubris (hutzpa in Hebrew and Yiddish) in this statement is amazing.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the European Union would not survive if it didn’t change its stance on Israel, the Guardian reported Tuesday.
“I think Europe has to decide if it wants to live and thrive or if it wants to shrivel and disappear,” reporters overheard Netanyahu saying at a meeting of Eastern European leaders in Budapest.
“The truth is the truth — both about Europe’s security and Europe’s economic future,” he added. “Both of these concerns mandate a different policy toward Israel.”
This entire episode really should be in our Silly Time corner.
A BIT FROM SCIENCE
A NEW PARTICLE IN OUR MIDST
A few weeks ago at the EPS Conference on High Energy Physics in Venice, the LHCb experiment at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider reported the observation of Ξcc++(Xicc++) a new particle containing two charm quarks and one up quark. The existence of this particle from the baryon family was predicted by current theories, but physicists have been looking for such baryons with two heavy quarks for many years. The mass of the newly identified particle is about 3621 MeV, which is almost four times heavier than the most familiar baryon, the proton, a property that arises from its doubly charmed quark content. It is the first time that such a particle has been unambiguously detected. The discovery was a major event in geekdom and should contribute to our understanding of the nature of matter.
Measuring the properties of the Ξcc++ will help to establish how a system of two heavy quarks and a light quark behaves. Important insights can be obtained by precisely measuring production and decay mechanisms, and the lifetime of this new particle.
Cheers say Prometheus and Pandora.
A CHILD PSYCHOPATH?
The question of juvenile psychopathy is discussed in detail in a recent issue of the Atlantic. Barbara Bradley Hagerty presents several cases and a summary of research and therapy methods. For some children, their environment—growing up in poverty, living with abusive parents, fending for themselves in dangerous neighborhoods—can turn them violent and coldhearted. These kids aren’t born callous and unemotional; many experts suggest that if they’re given a reprieve from their environment, they can be pulled back from psychopathy’s edge.
But other children display callous and unemotional traits even though they are raised by loving parents in safe neighborhoods. Large studies in the United Kingdom and elsewhere have found that this early-onset condition is highly hereditary, hardwired in the brain—and especially difficult to treat. “We’d like to think a mother and father’s love can turn everything around,” Raine says. “But there are times where parents are doing the very best they can, but the kid—even from the get-go—is just a bad kid.”
POWER CORRUPTS INDEED
Lord Acton told us “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”
What Lord Acton knew from intuition and observation of colleagues has now been found scientifically. Basically, having power for a long time causes a brain malfunction known as hubris syndrome. Dacher Keltner, a psychology professor at UC Berkeley, found that subjects under the influence of power, acted as if they had suffered a traumatic brain injury—becoming more impulsive, less risk-aware, and, crucially, less adept at seeing things from other people’s point of view.
Sukhvinder Obhi, a neuroscientist at McMaster University, in Ontario, recently described something similar. Unlike Keltner, who studies behaviors, Obhi studies brains. And when he put the heads of the powerful and the not-so-powerful under a transcranial-magnetic-stimulation machine, he found that power, in fact, impairs a specific neural process, “mirroring,” that may be a cornerstone of empathy. This finding gives a neurological basis to what Keltner has termed the “power paradox”: Once we have power, we lose some of the capacities we needed to gain it in the first place.
“Hubris syndrome,” as Lord David Owen and a co-author, Jonathan Davidson, defined it in a 2009 article published in Brain, “is a disorder of the possession of power, particularly power which has been associated with overwhelming success, held for a period of years and with minimal constraint on the leader.” Its 14 clinical features include: manifest contempt for others, loss of contact with reality, restless or reckless actions, and displays of incompetence.
Anyone who has served in an army is quite aware of this syndrome among commanders. Much has been written about military incompetence, e.g.:
What would happen if one tried to funnel Niagara Falls through a straw?
The answer is that certainly you could not, but it is still fun to think about it.
Imagine using a particle accelerator to push the water…
CONFESSIONS OF A PHYSICIST: XKCD WILL KEEP US HONEST
IS CYNTHIA QUALIFIED TO BE PRESIDENT?
GLUTEN MUST BE REALLY BAD STUFF…
ST. GEORGE IS A REPUBLICAN?