Category Archives: Prometheus

Prometheus and Pandora XXVI

Our featured image shows Nero fiddling while Rome burns, the analogy to Israel of today is obvious

IN MEMORIAM

John Robert Lewis, February 21, 1940-July 17, 2020

John R. Lewis was an American civil rights leader and politician best known for his chairmanship of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and for leading the march that was halted by police violence on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, in 1965, a landmark event in the history of the civil rights movement that became known as “Bloody Sunday.”

He was born to sharecroppers in Alabama who did not encourage his involvement in the civil rights struggle as he grew up. Nonetheless, already in his twenties he took a leading role alongside Martin Luther King in the struggle. He soon became one of the civil rights movement’s “Big Six” leaders, along with King, James Farmer, A. Phillip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, and Whitney Young. In 1964 Lewis headed the SNCC’s efforts to register African American voters and organize communities in Mississippi during the Freedom Summer project. In 1963, on the day of the March on Washington, he participated in a meeting with President Kennedy at the White House.

John Lewis among black leaders with JFK

In 1987 he began to serve in the House of Representatives for Georgia’s 5th congressional district until his recent death from pancreatic cancer. He was known as the “Conscience of Congress.” As one of his eulogists wrote: “A man of integrity, John Lewis was a bridge to our better selves. He examined his spirit for what mattered most and then found the courage, energy, and moral fortitude to stand for that.” He himself encouraged people to get into “good trouble” for a worthy cause.

Detailed obituaries can be found in major newspapers including the NYTimes.

RABBI ADIN STEINSALZ July 11, 1937-August 7, 2020

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, a prolific Jewish scholar who spent 45 years
compiling a monumental and ground-breaking translation of the
Talmud, has died. He was 83. Steinsaltz, an educator who
established a network of schools in Israel and the former Soviet
Union, wrote more than 60 books on subjects ranging from zoology to
theology. But the Talmud, the central text in mainstream Judaism,
was his greatest passion.

The masterwork for which he is best-known is his massive
translation of and commentary on the entire Babylonian Talmud which
he worked on for this huge project for45 years – completing the
44-volume Hebrew edition in 2010.

He was devoted to the accessibility of Jewish texts to the broad
population–he coined the slogan “let my people know.” Four years
ago Steinsaltz finished his commentary on the entire Bible, in
English and in Hebrew, and was working in his last days on a
commentary on the Mishna, which will be published posthumously.

President Reuven Rivlin eulogized him on Twitter: “Our hearts mourn
the passing of Rabbi Adin Even Israel Steinsaltz … He was a man of
great spiritual courage, deep knowledge and profound thought who
brought the Talmud to the people of Israel in clear and accessible
Hebrew and English. May his memory be a blessing.
” A detailed
obituary is available in the NYTimes.

PROFESSOR RUTH GAVISON March 28, 1945, Jerusalem – August 15, 2020

Israel Prize laureate and one of the country’s greatest legal
thinkers, Prof. Ruth Gavi
son, died on August 15 at the age of 75.
She was a highly influent
ial and important figure in the field of
law and dedicated most of her life to civil rights and democracy.
Gavison worked tirelessly to bridge the divide between secular and
observant Jews and to retain Israel’s character as both a
democratic and Jewish state.

She was a leader and co-founder of the Association for Civil
Rights Israel (ACRI) which among other actions successfully
appealed to the Supreme Court on behalf of the right to due process
of 415 Hamas activists who were expelled from Israel. (1992) She
regarded human rights as a essential component of societal
structure. The achievements of the organization reflect her commitment.

On the other hand she strongly opposed judicial activism and thus
clashed vehemently with then Chief Justice Aharon Barak who went so
far as to block her appointment to the Supreme Court. In her later
years, she moved significantly to the right of the political
spectrum which caused dismay among many of her followers.

Detailed obituaries and appreciations may be found in the Jerusalem Post and
Forward.

JULIAN BREAM 15 July 1933 – 14 August 2020

Classical guitarist and lute player Julian Bream has died at home aged 87.

Julian Bream helped turn the guitar into a serious recital instrument and broadened its repertory through numerous commissions.Credit…Michael Ochs Archives, via Getty Images

The musician’s representatives, James Brown Management, confirmed the news in a statement on their website.

It said: ‘We are very sad to report that Julian Bream CBE (b. 1933), English classical guitarist and lutenist, died peacefully at home today, 14 August 2020.’

Bream was among the most distinguished classical guitarists of the 20th century and worked with some of the period’s best-known musicians and composers.

His recordings, many for RCA Victor and EMI Classics, won him four Grammy Awards.

Bream was born in Battersea, London, but raised in Hampton, and his father was a commercial artist who enjoyed playing the piano and guitar.

The work of Romani-French jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt impressed him as a child and he would later name his dog Django.

Bream made his professional debut playing the guitar at the age of 13 and entered the Royal College of Music in 1948, aged 15, as a pianist and composer.

He is credited with restoring the lute to prominence in the modern world. In 1961 he organized the Julian Bream Consort, one of the first groups to specialize in early ensemble music. The Consort is composed of violin, alto flute, bass viol, pandora, cittern, and lute. Composers who wrote music for Bream include Benjamin Britten, William Walton, and Malcolm Arnold.

awards and honors

Detailed obituaries can be found in the Guardian and the NYTimes inter alia.

RUTH BADER GINSBURG March 15, 1933-September 18, 2020

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an American jurist who served as an
associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from
1993 until her death in 2020. She was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1980 and to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993. She was generally viewed as belonging to the liberal wing of the Court. Ginsburg was the second woman to serve on the U.S.Supreme Court, after Sandra Day O’Connor. During her tenure Ginsburg wrote notable majority opinions, including United States
v. Virginia (1996), Olmstead v. L.C. (1999), and Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Environmental Services, Inc. (2000). Between O’Connor’s retirement in 2006 and appointment of Sonia Sotomayor in 2009, she was the only female justice on the Supreme Court. During that time, Ginsburg became more forceful with her dissents.

She graduated from Columbia Law School, going on to become a
staunch courtroom advocate for the fair treatment of women and
working with the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project.

Detailed obituaries can be found in the NYTimes and elsewhere.

RANT ABOUT ANTI MASKERS/VAXXERS

There exist types of people who focus solely on themselves, who
care nothing for the safety and well being of others, i.e. they
exclude themselves from the fundamental social compact that makes
it possible for us to live together. Anti maskers and anti vaxxers
share a callous attitude towards others that has levied a cost in
human lives in countless situations.

Let us consider the city of Melbourne, the second largest city in
Australia with a population of over five million residents. It is the the capital of the state of Victoria and is in the throes of a lockdown that began July 8 at 2359.

Victoria was placed back into lockdown on 8 July after the coronavirus escaped from hotel quarantine in late May and spread rapidly. Some 700 cases were recorded in one day on 5 August and more than 700 people have died, mostly in aged care.

Under Premier Andrews’ road map out of restrictions, Melbourne will remain locked down until weekly average cases drop below five, which is not expected until October 26.

That would mean Melbourne’s lockdown will have lasted 15 weeks, a month longer than the shutdown of Wuhan.

The restrictions have reduced the rate of infection significantly, but there are lunatic anti-masker people who are making idiotic arguments against masks, some on “civil rights “grounds and others based on pseudo science claims. We show you a
few examples:

The antivaxxer movement was pushed by fake science. In 1998,
the British journal The Lancet published research by Dr. Andrew
Wakefield that purported to show that the measles, mumps, and
rubella (MMR) vaccines caused autism in some children. The study
was widely reported and the information spread like wildfire among
parents, especially those with autistic children.

The problem with Wakefield’s study, however, was that it relied on
faulty data. Later investigations have shown that Wakefield was set
to benefit from lawsuits based on his research. The study was
retracted after numerous other scientists could not replicate his
findings.

One of the loudest broadcasters of this supposed link between
vaccines and autism is actress Jenny McCarthy, who has campaigned
in support of Wakefield’s findings as recently as 2011.

Nonetheless, the pernicious effect of this fake study
continue to reverberate and far too many people refrain from
vaccinating their children with often catastrophic results for
others. Many US states exempt children from vaccination on
religious or philosophical grounds and an entire classroom can be
infected. In Europe, the rate of vaccination is lower than in the
US and vaccination skepticism is widespread, with France the main
focus.. Prometheus and Pandora are beginning to agree with
Talleyrand, Napoleon’s finance minister, who declared that stupid is
worse than criminal.

HOW DID THE VIRUS WIN IN SO MANY COUNTRIES?

Around the world there are countries that have used quick, clever
strategies to beat the virus and hav
e been able to go back to
living relatively normal lives. Their success stories are worth
reading and conclusions can be drawn. Their methods varied, some
enforcing mask use, others not, some tested extensively, others
not, some had science-minded leaders, others had leaders who called
on scientists and kept their fingers out of the pie. All had
intelligent leaders who truly cared about their people and had an
health infrastructure in place that could be enhanced to confront
the foe.

THE COLOSSAL FAILURE

Ed Yong published an article in the August Atlantic which is
available for free to all. He describes how a virus brought the
strongest nation on the planet to its knees. America has failed to
protect its people, leaving them with illness and financial ruin.
It has lost its status as a global leader. It has careened between
inaction and ineptitude. The breadth and magnitude of its errors
are difficult, at the moment, to fathom truly.The details of the
failure as given by Yong show that behind the facade of a great
nation there is major rot and corruption. The lack of a true
national health insurance system, the link of health insurance to
employment and the systematic defunding of the public health system
and its institutions led to a complete collapse of the protection
of the people from the virus.To all these one must add the egotism
and lack of caring for the other
that characterizes American
society.

“The U.S. fundamentally failed in ways that were worse than I ever
could have imagined,”
Julia Marcus, an infectious-disease
epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School, told Yong.

SARS-CoV-2 is neither as lethal as some other coronaviruses, such
as SARS and MERS, nor as contagious as measles. Deadlier pathogens
almost certainly exist. Wild animals harbor an estimated 40,000
unknown viruses, a quarter of which could potentially jump into
humans. How will the U.S. fare when “we can’t even deal with a
starter pandemic?,”
Zeynep Tufekci,a sociologist at the University
of North Carolina and an Atlantic contributing writer, asked Yong.

Yong strongly indicts Trump as being central to the American
debacle, but there is plenty of blame to go around. The role of
racism, endemic in American society is also of great significance.
African-Americans and Native Americans suffer a highly
disproportionate rate of infection and death and have far less
access to health care resources. The article is long, but everyone
and not only Americans should read it. The lesson is practically
universal.

WHY ISRAEL FAILED

One might have expected that Israel with a universal health system,
vast sources of expertise in the fields relevant to confronting the
warnings that a coronavirus attack was looming and a
sophisticated public would have mobilized its medical, scientific
and high tech resources to create an independent task force that
would take the correct and necessary steps to minimize the impact
of the virus. In fact, nothing of the kind happened.

Anshel Pfeffer writing in Haaretz describes how Israel was brought
down by hubris, complacency, a mythological story of the start up
nation and the egomaniac struggle of an indicted prime minister to
stay out of court and jail. He is tearing at the fabric of society,
attacking the law enforcement community and turning the nation into
warring camps. In the lack of social cohesiveness there is no
chance to overcome the virus.

A demonstration against Netanyahu’s corruption and mishandling of the Covid 19 crisis

With the fall Jewish holiday season . the country has been plunged into a long lockdown which is unlikely to lead to a major reduction of infection. In general, one
might say that as of now on a worldwide scale, the smart money is on the virus.

A PROPHETIC WORD

As they view the erosion of democracy and human rights across the world, Prometheus and Pandora have little to add to the analysis and prediction of Frank Snowden in his book, Epidemics and Society, published shortly before the advent of the Corona virus and reviewed in the previous blog. He was writing about the medieval black plague,but it describes our world today:

BOOK REVIEW

Our Final Warning: Six Degrees of Climate Emergency

by Mark Lynas London: 4th Estate, 372 pp., $27.99T

This frightening book lays down in detail our steps to doom as the
temperature of our planet rises. Bill McKibbin, himself a noted
climate expert
, reviews the book in the August 20 NYRB. While it
describes warming, it is a chilling read and should be read,
especially by political leaders and heads of the economy whose
collective failure has brought us to where we are. We should also
note the Swedish teenager, Greta Thurburg who has crisscrossed the
world delivering her message of warming and destruction.

Let us quote McKibbin:

Consider what we’ve seen so far as a baseline: we’re definitely not
going to get any cooler. But now consider the real problem, the
news that scientists have been trying to get across for many years
but that has not really sunk in with the public or with political
leaders. As Lynas puts it: If we stay on the current
business-as-usual trajectory, we could see two degrees as soon as
the early 2030s, three degrees around mid-century, and four degrees
by 2075 or so. If we’re unlucky with positive feedbacks…from
thawing permafrost in the Arctic or collapsing tropical
rainforests, then we could be in for five or even six degrees by
century’s end”

Greta is featured on the cover of Rolling Stone:

NEWS FROM SCIENCE

A STRANGE GAS ON VENUS

Recent observations indicate that our neighbor planet Venus, a hell hole in the Solar System is harboring in its atmosphere the gas Phosphine PH3, which on Earth is made only by biological mechanisms. This has given rise to speculations that the planet my contain some form of life. The finding is still unproven since more signatures of Phosphine need to be found at other frequencies and the observers are being properly conservative. Covid 19 has stalled the research, but it will be most interesting to see how this pans out. Some of the press releases indulge in wild speculation and should be viewed suspiciously.

Phosphine signature in Venus’s spectrum

SILLY TIME

WHAT IF?

A discussion of scientific semantics in a tough situation.

`Too much like politicians

Our times indeed…

PROMETHEUS AND PANDORA XXV

Our featured image shows Cassandra. a priestess of Troy who was given the ability to issue true prophecy by Apollo, but was believed by no one. This curse was placed on her when she failed to deliver her part of the deal, guess what!

FOLLY OR EVIL

Throughout human history foolish decisions by power holders have caused calamitous results for nations and peoples. The late American historian Barbara Tuchman defines folly as “Pursuit of Policy Contrary to Self-Interest.” In her book THE MARCH OF FOLLY, Tuchman examines 4 conflicts: The Trojan Horse, The Protestant Secession, The American Revolution, and The American War in Vietnam. In all four cases, a wiser choice was available. As Tuchman writes,”The power to command frequently causes failure to think.”

The Trojan War was a great military adventure of ancient times, undertaken by the kings of ancient Greece against the city of Troy. It lasted for ten years and cost many lives, but also produced many heroes.

We see this now in the handling of the corona virus crisis. Heads of state in various countries either tried to deny the pandemic and some, as in Latin America continue to do so or come up with idiotic ideas such as the recent recommendation by Donald Trump that injection of detergents or UV light inside the body might be cures for covid-19! Alas, his idiotic advice was taken by too many people.

Randy Rainbow puts this in perspective and drives home the point that what is really lacking is intelligent leadership in the USA and elsewhere. There are places,

Randy Rainbow puts this in perspective and drives home the point that what is really lacking is intelligent leadership in the USA and elsewhere. There are places, such as Finland and New Zealand, where the pandemic is being confronted by intelligent leadership with better results. Nonetheless there is still no cure or vaccine available.

This graphic shows the spread of the virus around the world.

The state of the US with regard to the pandemic continues to deteriorate with over 100,000 deaths at the this writing (20/6).
This graphic illustrates what is happening.

Steve Almond writing in PBS WBUR Cognoscenti provides a cogent
analysis of what went wrong and why the USA, in contrast to other
countries, has no real chance of stopping the pandemic. He points
out the role that right wing ideology a la Goldwater and Reagan has
had in leading the US down this path of destruction. It is sad to
think of the great Republican Abraham Lincoln and what he might
think of what has happened to his party. His concept of government
was that government should do for people what they cannot do for
themselves. As Almond concludes and Prometheus and Pandora agree,

“This is the America foretold by Goldwater and Reagan, one in which
“government” is a cynical joke told among white people. The
punchline used to be decaying schools, a decimated middle class, a
diseased health care system and a dying planet. It is now a plague
that is killing thousands of people. If we continue down this path,
the death toll will be in the millions. And it will include
American democracy itself.”

It is not obvious to Prometheus and Pandora that this is a matter of folly and not malevolence. Leaders such as Trump in the US, Netanyahu in Israel, Bolsonaro in Brazil and others, too many to list, care nothing of the well being of their people. Their role in office is to enrich the plutocracy that supports them, to deregulate business, which involves endangering the public, and to appoint reactionary judges. It is encouraging to note that Netanyahu has gone on trial for several charges of corruption, bribery and other types of malfeasance.

PURE EVIL

Pandora and Prometheus have no doubts about the source of the police brutality that has had a huge upsurge around the world. The killing of George Floyd by a policeman in Minneapolis MN who strangled him by kneeling on his neck and of Eyad Hallaq in Jerusalem, an autistic special needs person who was gunned down by border police although he posed no threat to them or anybody, are two blatant examples of police going rogue. Police brutality or police violence is legally defined as a civil rights violation where officers exercise undue or excessive force against a subject. This includes, but is not limited to, physical or verbal harassment, physical or mental injury, property damage, and death.

Most recently police brutality in the USA has been in the spotlight since the killing of George Floyd . The result has been an upsurge in protests against the abuse of authority by police officers and the coverup tactics of their commanders. On the worldwide scale we see that police brutality is a nigh universal phenomenon, appearing in various degrees in all countries, some of which are more enlightened and actually impose accountability and others in which impunity is almost total. The #sayhername movement points our the violence directed against black women everywhere and how their suffering is little noticed while male victims such as George Floyd make the headlines.

Pandora and Prometheus wish to draw your attention to the unholy parallelism between police brutality and the scandal of sexual abuse by members of the clergy of the Catholic Church. The issues share the following:

  1. Abuse of power
  2. Betrayal of trust
  3. Attack on most vulnerable
  4. Coverup by commanders or bishops

The major difference between the two sets of crimes is the existence of a central source of overriding authority in the Church, namely the Pope and the Holy See. This authority was able to call the various components of the Church to account. One must, however, recall that this happened only after a widespread outcry by the members of the Church, the media, lawsuits and complaints to the police and to political authorities. The case of the police is far more diffuse and calls for concerted efforts in every community. It must involve the political leadership, civil society,the various media both electronic and print, religious leaders and first and foremost a refusal of the public to tolerate the entire culture of brutality, racism, misogyny (vid. #sayhername) and impunity which has been dominant for far too long. It has been said :

“There is sometimes a fine line between a cop and a criminal. What drives their personality may be the same, and they have simply chosen different roles and professions to call their own.”

Dr. ML Rapier PhD, Clinical Psychologist.”

It, alas happens everywhere.

We see the violence and the anger and yes, even the looting, but we (whites) fail to understand what Kareem Abdul Jabbar points out to us, that when people are pushed to the edge, an explosion is inevitable. When a regime tainted with fascism confronts the people’s legitimate demands for freedom and justice, the explosion becomes lethal and full of societal dynamite.

NEWS FROM SCIENCE

PUREST AIR ON THE PLANET

The Southern Ocean is a huge body of wat stretching around the Earth with far fewer landmasses than its Northern counterpart. It is very cloudy and our lack of understanding of the composition and characteristic of the clouds over this remote region consistently cause weather models of the planet to fail to reproduce the observed weather and to be in contradiction to satellite observations. The lack of data is a result of the remoteness of the region in question.

A team of atmospheric scientists was based in Hobart, Tasmania for six weeks to collect cloud, aerosol and precipitation data over the Southern Ocean during a research project called the Southern Ocean Clouds, Radiation, Aerosol Transport Experimental Study (SOCRATES). The Southern Ocean is the stormiest place on Earth, churned by winds and waves that circle the ice of Antarctica. This remote and usually pristine environment is typically removed from human-caused and naturally produced continental airborne particles. For this reason, the region is a unique laboratory for studying the interactions between clouds and particles naturally produced by the ocean, such as sea salt and biogenic particles. Prometheus and Pandora invite you to read the report on the mission written by a trio of scientists from the University of Colorado.

METALLIC HYDROGEN?

Metallic hydrogen is found in nature only in the interior of a giant planet. Creating the metallic phase in the laboratory has been a target of much research. A team at Cornell University has issued a claim to have achieved this goal. The paper is available on line, but has not undergone peer review. In the description in Science News, we find others expressing reservation about the result. Stay tuned. If correct, we may be moving towards a room temperature super conductor, a Holy Grail of materials science.

BOOK REVIEW

Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present (Open Yale Courses) 1st Edition

by Frank M. Snowden (Author)

In his new book, “Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present,” Frank M. Snowden, a professor emeritus of history and the history of medicine at Yale, examines the ways in which disease outbreaks have shaped politics, crushed revolutions, and entrenched racial and economic discrimination.

The book is published by Yale University Press who provide the following description:

This sweeping exploration of the impact of epidemic diseases looks at how mass infectious outbreaks have shaped society, from the Black Death to today. In a clear and accessible style, Frank M. Snowden reveals the ways that diseases have not only influenced medical science and public health, but also transformed the arts, religion, intellectual history, and warfare.”

A multidisciplinary and comparative investigation of the medical and social history of the major epidemics, this volume touches on themes such as the evolution of medical therapy, plague literature, poverty, the environment, and mass hysteria. In addition to providing historical perspective on diseases such as smallpox, cholera, and tuberculosis, Snowden examines the fallout from recent epidemics such as HIV/AIDS, SARS, and Ebola and the question of the world’s preparedness for the next generation of diseases.

https://media.newyorker.com/photos/5e5eac5d242fe900086bd215/master/w_2560%2Cc_limit/Chotiner-Epidemics-1.jpg
Epidemics like the coronavirus outbreak are a mirror for humanity, reflecting the moral relationships that people have toward one other, the historian Frank M. Snowden says.Source Photograph from National Institutes of Health / NYT / Redux

In The New Yorker there is an interview of Snowden by Isaac Chotiner which provides interesting and sobering insights of our response to pandemic. If you lack the time or the energy to read the huge tome, you should at least read the interview.

CAN THIS BE TRUE?

We are calling attention to Yuri Alexandrovich Bezmenov, a former KGB agent who defected to Canada in 1970. In 1984 he gave an interview to G. Edward Griffin from which much can be learned today. His most chilling point was that there’s a long-term plan put in play by Russia to defeat America through psychological warfare and “demoralization”. It is a long game that takes decades to achieve but it may already be bearing fruit. It sounds like science fiction and it may indeed be someone’s fantasy, but if we look at the US today we see that some of the predictions are becoming real. The lack of perception of objective reality is a most troubling phenomenon, which finds its harmful expression in the public lack of understanding of the depth of the corona crisis. We see this everywhere and it is hard to explain this world wide outburst of folly. The near riot that hit the British beach of Bournemouth last weekend is an indication of the lack of responsibility of the broad public.

https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/69621d2b0bb792f3be75b03d7bd615d50bbc1b37/0_173_4735_2840/master/4735.jpg?width=1140&quality=45&auto=format&fit=max&dpr=2&s=829b49abf2f2575109b7743dde069bb5
People were aghast

On the other hand, the New Yorker tells us how Iceland beat the virus by keeping the politicians out and letting the real professionals deal with it intelligently.

Diners in downtown Reykjavik. Since the onset of the pandemic, only a few types of businesses—night clubs and hair salons, for example—were ever ordered closed.Photograph by Valdimar Thorlacius for The New Yorker

SILLY TIME–ENOUGH DYSTOPIA

WHAT IF? Earth-Moon Fire Pole

My son (5y) asked me today: If there were a kind of a fireman’s pole from the Moon down to the Earth, how long would it take to slide all the way from the Moon to the Earth?

Ramon Schönborn, Germany

The answer as usual is interesting.

Wisdom of the street
Our dog Murphy is equally helpful to his octogenarian owners…
True not only of kings…

Prometheus and Pandora XXIII

Pandora and Prometheus are back to rant at you or preferably with you about a variety of issues. In the featured image they become a bit nostalgic about their first date set up by Mercury.

IN MEMORIAM

Toni Morrison February 18, 1931 – August 5, 2019

Chloe Anthony Wofford “Toni” Morrison (born Chloe Ardelia Wofford; was an American novelist, essayist,editor, teacher, and professor emeritus at Princeton University. Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, was published in 1970. The critically acclaimed Song of Solomon (1977) brought her national attention and won the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 1988, she won the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award for Beloved (1987). Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. In 1996, the National Endowment for the Humanities selected her for the Jefferson Lecture, the U.S. federal government’s highest honor for achievement in the humanities. Also that year, she was honored with the National Book Foundation’s Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. On May 29, 2012, President Barack Obama presented Morrison with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2016, she received the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction. A detailed appreciation by Margalit Fox can be found in the NYTimes.

Toni Morrison 1993

THE RANT ON THE MISOGYNY IN OUR CULTURE

A FREE PASS TO THE MALE–TOTALLY WRONG

In previous postings Prometheus and Pandora have ranted loud and clear about the attack on abortion rights launched by the right wing in the US. Now we would like to address the sad fact that after the romantic interlude under starry skies or in the back seat, any pregnancy that ensues is suddenly HER problem exclusively, while the young man full of testosterone gets a free pass. One might think that the woman or girl became pregnant on her own or through some supernatural or spiritual agency. We know of only one such event in all human history which is documented in the New Testament. Mythology tells us of Athena emerging from the forehead of Zeus or of Venus rising from the sea.

Birth of Venus Sandro Botticelli 1480

For us ordinary mortals the means of impregnation are well known and there is a basic wrong perpetrated when only one of the partners must suffer the burden, risks and stigma. The author Elizabeth Hardwick, writing in the Morning Call in 1996 suggests satirically to the Republican convention of that year to add a Celibacy Amendment to the Constitution mandating celibacy for single young men and required marriage for any pregnancy caused by violation.

As she writes:
“Unmarried women have inflicted terrible tortures on their own bodies, hoping to undo or to conceal. When that failed, as it usually did, society often gave them abandonment, disgrace and, in some cultures, death.”


Elizabeth Hartwick by David Levine

Her daughter Harriet Lowell writing in the New York Review in the present invokes her mother’s article as being highly relevant to the reality of the present.

CAN A WOMAN DEFEAT TRUMP?

On a closely related issue Pandora and Prometheus call your attention to an article by Peter Beinart in the Atlantic about the prevalence of subjugation of women in our culture. He notes that this is the common denominator of modern dictatorship which enables the enemies of democracy to win democratic elections. As Beinart puts it

“But besides their hostility to liberal democracy, the right-wing autocrats taking power across the world share one big thing, which often goes unrecognized in the U.S.: They all want to subordinate women.”

Of course Trump claims to be reaching out to women, as interpreted well by Mike Lukavich.


The suppression of women goes back to ancient times, as may be noted in Isaiah III and in the Book of Esther I. Here we have the speech of Memuchan to the king which states the principle of subjugation of women most explicitly:


Then Memuchan replied in the presence of the king and the nobles:

“Queen Vashti has done wrong, not only against the king but also against all the nobles and the peoples of all the provinces of King Xerxes. For the queen’s conduct will become known to all the women, and so they will despise their husbands and say, ‘King Xerxes commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, but she would not come.

This very day the Persian and Median women of the nobility who have heard about the queen’s conduct will respond to all the king’s nobles in the same way. There will be no end of disrespect and discord. Therefore, if it pleases the king, let him issue a royal decree and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media, which cannot be repealed, that Vashti is never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes. Also let the king give her royal position to someone else who is better than she. Then when the king’s edict is proclaimed throughout all his vast realm, all the women will respect their husbands, from the least to the greatest.”

The king and his nobles were pleased with this advice, so the king did as Memuchan proposed. He sent dispatches to all parts of the kingdom, to each province in its own script and to each people in their own language,proclaiming that every man should be ruler over his own household, using his native tongue.

This consideration leads us to some difficult questions about the forthcoming elections in the US. As Beinart concluded a real change in the public and political domain requires a change in domestic attitudes. We would love to nominate Elizabeth Warren to run against Trump. She is certainly much better qualified for the task than Trump and many of her Democrat contenders in the primary. Yet, we wonder if she indeed has a real chance of overcoming the deep misogyny in society both in US and in the rest of the world. She certainly believes that she can and we shall support her if and when she is nominated.

A CENTURY OF SUFFRAGE

This year we mark the centenary of the 19th amendment of the US Constitution that granted the right to vote to women. It is interesting and somewhat sad to view the arguments against suffrage that have not wholly vanished today. Men then believed that women shouldn’t vote because they were, quite literally, not made for it. According to the leading theory, mental exertion could jeopardize reproductive health. And if the science of the day asserted that women could become infertile if they did too much thinking, no man would want to send his daughter, sister, or wife to college or the office—and certainly not to the ballot box.


The idea that menstruation required rest and certainly an avoidance of cognitive activity was debunked by the 19th century American physician Mary Putnam Jacobi.Real power only came when women were elected to positions of power.

In our time we saw how Trump attributed an attack on him by a female TV journalist to her period. Some idiotic ideas die hard.

NEVER AGAIN MEANS NEVER AGAIN

It is indeed most appropriate and worthy of commendation that American Jews are leading a protest against the policies and actions of the ICE towards immigrants. Jews know only too well what it means to be a refugee and to flee death and destruction to whatever haven can be found. Children are being separated from their families at the border and imprisoned in concentration camps. ICE raids are increasing in frequency and severity, instilling fear and terror into immigrant communities. People are dying at the border as they flee for their safety. The Never Again Action Network calls for Jews to block ICE centers and detention facilities. In Wisconsin the movement stood up, blocked ICE and made it clear that

“Never Again is Now!”

The slogan and hashmark #neveragain also represents a movement that strives for general human rights etc. Certainly there is no contradiction. The general movement defines itself thus:

Causes We Support

Genocide Awareness:

Now more than ever, the world needs to remember the atrocities of the past to prevent genocides of the future. The world is still at risk of revisiting the horrors of the past. Most frighteningly, the world is at risk of forgetting the past.

Human Rights Around the globe:

There are places where basic human rights are not respected. We support organizations
dedicated to upholding and enforcing international laws on human rights and holding those who violate those rights accountable. .

Gun Control

We support the Never Again movement started by the survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. Never again should children in our schools die in their classrooms. It is time to take action on gun control.

BOOK REVIEW: ALSO A RANT ON CLIMATE CHANGE

Two new books on climate change are reviewed in the New York Review of Books by Alan Weisman

The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming
by David Wallace-Wells
Tim Duggan, 310 pp., $27.00

Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?
by Bill McKibben
Henry Holt, 291 pp., $28.00

These two books present the horrible truth about climate change and the list of errors and malfeasance on the part of the economic and political leaders of humanity. The review opens with an indictment that cannot be denied.


“Climate scientists’ worst-case scenarios back in 2007, the first year the Northwest Passage became navigable without an icebreaker (today, you can book a cruise through it), have all been overtaken by the unforeseen acceleration of events. No one imagined that twelve years later the United Nations would report that we have just twelve years left to avert global catastrophe, which would involve cutting fossil-fuel use nearly by half. Since 2007, the UN now says, we’ve done everything wrong. New coal plants built since the 2015 Paris climate agreement have already doubled the equivalent coal-energy output of Russia and Japan, and 260 more are underway.”


The great problem is to convince millions of people that their life style is not sustainable and that major changes must be made very soon if we are not to face apocalypse. We think that everyone should think seriously about how to deal with these issues since for politicians it is an article of faith that continued, albeit lethal, economic growth is essential for getting reelected. As Wallace-Wells writes:

The entire history of swift economic growth, which began somewhat suddenly in the eighteenth century, is not the result of innovation or trade or the dynamics of free trade, but simply our discovery of fossil fuels and all their raw power. “

Richard Misrach: Untitled, 2007

Our addiction to fossil fuels despite hurricane winds and burning forests is so total that one wonders if anything can sway us to wise up and do the right thing.

TIDBITS FROM SCIENCE

A HOT EXOPLANET OF A NEW TYPE

Nine-hundred light-years from Earth, there’s a football-shaped planet so hot that heavy metals boil through its atmosphere, venting into space. It was discovered by the Hubble Space telescope and analyzed in detail in an article in The Astronomical Journal. Hot Jupiter’s are well known, but this one appears to be special. Much interest in geekdom…

SCHRÖDINGER’S CAT WITH 20 QUBITS

The famous quantum cat

Dead or alive, left-spinning or right-spinning — in the quantum world particles such as the famous analogy of Schrödinger’s cat can be all these things at the same time. An international team, together with experts from Forschungszentrum Jülich, have now succeeded in transforming 20 entangled quantum bits into such a state of superposition. The generation of such atomic Schrödinger cat states is regarded as an important step in the development of quantum computers.

PRIMORDIAL DARK MATTER FROM BEFORE THE BIG BANG

Big Bang illustration (stock image).
Credit: © Andrea Danti / Adobe Stock

Dark matter, which researchers believe make up about 80% of the universe’s mass, is one of the most elusive mysteries in modern physics. What exactly it is and how it came to be is a mystery, but a new study now suggests that dark matter may have existed before the Big Bang.

SILLY TIME

For WhatIF we present a thermal and technological history of the Earth and its inhabitants.

As we prepare our kiddies to go back to school (really grandkiddies):

Politics as usual…

Prometheus and Pandora XXII

Our featured image expresses what Prometheus and Pandora think of the war on reproduction rights taking place in the US and elsewhere.

IN MEMORIAM

MIRA ZAKAI 21 September 1942-20 May 2019

Mira Zakai

Prometheus and Pandora and their friends mourn the loss of a great singer, musician and teacher. She died while in recovery from a stroke that she had experienced a year ago.Mira Zakai performed with most of the world’s top conductors and orchestras. Norman Lebrecht has written a beautiful appreciation of her. Since retiring from the concert stage, Mira Zakai became Head of Lied and Oratorio at the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music of Tel Aviv University. We all are grateful for the pleasure she gave us. May she rest in peace.

Sir Yehudi Menuhin chose her to be the only soloist in a special concert for Pope John Paul II – an event which took place at Castel Gandolfo – to sing Bach’s aria “Have mercy oh God” [Erbarme dich mein Gott] with him playing the violin obbligato part. This concert was telecast world-wide. She had previously appeared at Menuhin’s festival as a soloist in Bach’s Mass in B minor. Her 1982 recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 with Georg Solti won the Grammy for Best Overall Classical Recording at the 1982 awards. An acclaimed recitalist – Miss Zakai performed in the leading European and American cities as well as in her own country

Murray Gell-Mann September 15, 1929 – May 24, 2019

He was an American physicist who received the 1969 Nobel Prize in Physics for his
work on the theory of elementary particles. He was the Robert Andrews Millikan Professor of Theoretical Physics Emeritus at the California Institute of Technology, a distinguished fellow and one of the co-founders of the Santa Fe Institute, a professor of physics at the University of New Mexico, and the Presidential Professor of Physics and Medicine at the University of Southern California.

Gell-Mann spent several periods at CERN, a nuclear research facility in Switzerland,  as a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellow in 1972.

Gell-Mann was known for his ability to bring order into confusing sets of phenomena. He introduced the concept of “strangeness,” a quantum property that accounted for previously puzzling decay patterns of certain mesons. As defined by Gell-Mann, strangeness is conserved when any subatomic particle interacts via the strong force i.e., the force that binds the components of the atomic nucleus.

As his former colleague Sean Caroll writes in an appreciation in the NYTimes “There are many ways to become an influential theoretical physicist. Some produce creative new ideas, while others are masters of intricate calculations. Some are best at speculating about the unknown, while others bring clarity and insight to established lore. Part of what made Dr. Gell-Mann special was his mastery of all these modes. His work with Francis Low on the “renormalization group” taught physicists how phenomena at high energies and short distances could be elegantly related to what happens at low energies and long distances. This philosophy remains the central organizing principle of much of modern physics.”
He played a major role in developing the Standard Model of Physics that keeps particles in order. He had countless other achievements, too many to list here. A detailed obituary can be found in the NYTimes.

Dr. Gell-Mann at the California Institute of Technology in an undated photo. He collaborated with the renowned physicist Richard Feynman at Caltech.CreditCaltech

Continue reading

Prometheus and Pandora XXI

Our featured image shows a schema of the interior of a proton

IN MEMORIAM

AMOS OZ


Born: May 4, 1939, Jerusalem
Died: December 28, 2018, Tel Aviv
Spouse: Nilly Zuckerman (m. 1960–2018)
Movies: A Tale of Love and Darkness, The Little Traitor, Tsahal, My Michael

Amos Oz was an Israeli writer, novelist, journalist, and intellectual. He was also a professor of Hebrew literature at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. From 1967 onward, Oz was a prominent advocate of a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.

In Israel we have an additional component, the Messianic drive, that guides the politics of the settlers block, Gush Emunim. Prof. Talmon summed up this irrational mind-set well “Claims such as those of Gush Emunim sound to the international community much like that biblical passage— “Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon, and thou, Moon, in the Valley of Ayalon “would sound in an astronomers’ debate.” Amos Oz addressed this issue. His article on the meaning of secular Judaism was republished in Haaretz on the occasion of his death.

Amos Oz leaves behind a legacy of literature and and moral and philosophical leadership. He was a moral leader of the progressive left and strongly espoused the cause of human rights, in particular for the Palestinians suffering under the occupation. There is a detailed obituary in the Jewish Virtual Library as well as a beautiful elegy written by his daughter, Fanya Oz-Salzburger.


CAROL CHANNING

January 31, 1921 – January 15, 2019

Carol Channing, the Broadway star best known for her enduring portrayal of the meddlesome matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi in the musical “Hello, Dolly!,” has died. She was 97. She won three Tony Awards, including one for lifetime achievement.

Dolly was actually the second of two roles that made Channing’s reputation. The first was Lorelei Lee, the gold-digging dingbat in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” which opened on Broadway in 1949. The show’s popular song, “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” was often played as Channing’s entrance music until the title song from “Hello Dolly!” trumped it.

“Carol Channing had only two major roles to her credit,” Miles Kreuger, president of the Los Angeles-based Institute of the American Musical, said in a 2006 interview with the Los Angeles Times. “But she is regarded as one of the great stars of American theater. That in itself is a phenomenon.”


The caricaturist Al Hirschfeld drew Carol Channing as the matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi in “Hello, Dolly!” in 1964. The critic Walter Kerr called her “maybe the only creature extant who can live up to a Hirschfeld.” Credit Al Hirschfeld Foundation

Obituaries can be found in the Washington Post and the NYTimes.

ANDRE PREVIN

April 26, 1929-February 28, 2019


André Previn in 1965. He conducted, composed, played jazz piano and scored movies in a musical life that spurned categories.Credit Erich Auerbach/Getty Images

André Previn, who blurred the boundaries between jazz, pop and classical music — and between composing, conducting and performing — in an extraordinarily eclectic, award-filled career, died on February 28 at his home in Manhattan. Previn modeled himself on Leonard Bernstein who showed that a musician can cross lines and appear in several genres. He received a number of awards and honors for his outstanding musical accomplishments, including both the Austrian and German Cross of Merit, and the Glenn Gould Prize. He is the recipient of Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Kennedy Center,the London Symphony Orchestra, Gramophone Classic FM, and in 2010 was honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award from The Recording Academy. For his 80th birthday celebrations in 2009, Carnegie Hall presented four concerts which showcased the diversity of his career.
A full and detailed obituary can be found in the New York Times. Gail Eichenthal wrote an appreciation of Previn’s career in the KUSC blog.

THE RANT


In the last few blogs Prometheus and Pandora have held forth at length about the difference between liberal democracy and the totalitarian version. They have referenced Jacob Talmon and others. Now they would like to discuss the question of the evolution of liberal thought and the failure of the expected turn to liberal democracy in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union. In the New York Review of Books, David Bell reviews three studies that deal with the history of liberalism and its rise and fall.

Can Democracy Work?: A Short History of a Radical Idea, from Ancient Athens to Our World
by James Miller
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 306 pp., $27.00

The Lost History of Liberalism: From Ancient Rome to the Twenty-First Century
by Helena Rosenblatt
Princeton University Press, 348 pp., $35.00

On the Spirit of Rights
by Dan Edelstein
University of Chicago Press, 325 pp., $40.00
Musée du Louvre, Paris
Eugène Delacroix: Liberty Leading the People, 1830

We would like to quote the optimistic conclusion to the review by Bell:

“Anyone reading these three books, particularly in the current grim political moment, will come away convinced of the fragile nature of the ideas underlying rights-based liberal democracy. They will grasp more clearly than ever that this liberal ideal, which seemed to triumph in the late twentieth century, had a tortuous history, with its successes dependent on a host of contingent factors. Readers will also be left in no doubt about some of the less savory things that often accompanied it. Miller pays due attention to the “carnival of atrocities” during the French Revolutionary Terror, even as France undertook its first grand experiment with democracy. Rosenblatt emphasizes the elitist,exclusionary tendencies inherent in the history of liberalism. Edelstein notes that, thanks to the concern with property of both the French Physiocrats and English common lawyers, the ideal of rights that triumphed in the eighteenth century can be seen as “the intellectual forefather of free-market fundamentalism.”

Yet at the same time readers will come away with the realization that the liberal ideal has a much richer, deeper, more varied past than they might imagine from accounts that stress only the supposed Anglo-American path to “classical” liberalism. Perhaps forms of liberal democracy built upon narrowly individualist notions of rights and liberty, and that deny most citizens the chance for meaningful political participation, are indeed too fragile to offer sufficient protection against unfettered capitalism and the rising inequalities we see today around the world, as well as against surges of angry populism. But there are other ways to think about liberal democracy, inspired by constitutional models that strive to maximize democratic participation, by forms of liberal thought that emphasize moral action and the common good, and by a vision of human rights that extends broadly and fully across the globe. The French Revolution, for all its radical excesses, offered one such vision, and a particularly powerful one. Despite its well-documented flaws, its ideals may still be able to inspire those seeking to bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice.”

The most pessimistic of the three is Miller who recognizes that today, profound social transformations have left the democratic ideal more imperiled than ever. Increasing inequality makes it more difficult for people to have their voices heard; government secrecy deprives them of the information necessary for political participation; and in an age of globalization many of the most pressing problems, such as climate change, require global, not local, solutions. America’s current plight spurs Miller (drawing on F. Scott Fitzgerald) to some passionate and anguished prose:

“This is what democracy in America often seems like: an elusive fantasy, forever out of reach, forever unrealized, even as its most eloquent bards, trapped in their own prejudices, are “borne back ceaselessly into the past.””

But he still holds out hope that some version of the Condorcetian ideal of local democratic restraints on national governance might yet continue to inspire contemporary democratic movements.

Prometheus and Pandora look upon the plethora of books and academic studies that have come out since the election of Trump and the rise of authoritarian regimes imposed upon people by their own voting as an expected but irrelevant reaction to what is happening. Our academic friends prefer to sit comfortably in their ivory towers and write books about how the world is going to hell in a basket. It would be more to the point if they would use their prestige and position to persuade the public that it is in its interest to preserve the frail institutions of democracy. In 2015 Andy Borowitz, writing in the New Yorker, claimed that millions of people are fed up with arguing with idiots. In particular he noted the difficulty of getting people to understand that climate change is real and dangerous and that gun control is a prime societal need. Indeed, these things are a tough sell, but turning our backs is not a viable option.

TIDBITS FROM SCIENCE

NO SNAKES IN IRELAND

https://www.irishcentral.com/uploads/article/112231/cropped_MI-new-St-Patrick-Snakes-Getty.jpg?t=1520586746

Since St. Patrick’s Day falls this month, Prometheus and Pandora decided to take a look at the beloved folk legend that in addition to bringing Christianity to the Emerald Isle, the fifth century saint also banished the snakes from Ireland. In fact, the reason for the absence of snakes in Ireland is much more complicated. In truth, there never were any snakes in Ireland for the good reason that geology was against them. The full story is told by Sara Fechts writing in Popular Science and it is more interesting than a saint waving a staff.

OPPORTUNITY ROVER DECLARED DEAD

Opportunity working hard on Mars

The Mars rover Opportunity has finally been declared dead after eight months of failed attempts to contact it. The rover, along with its twin Spirit that operated on the other side of the planet, was set up to run for 90 days. In reality, it operated for nearly 15 years. Both rovers were dropped onto the planet in 2004. Spirit failed after getting stuck in a sand drift in 2010, but Opportunity continued to operate until a major dust storm blocked its solar cells from recharging. The mission is now over, leaving a treasure trove of new data. The Mars Exploration Rovers tell us of an ancient time when Mars was awash in water, with good conditions for supporting microbial life. Here is a link to one of the rovers’ most significant discoveries about the red planet.

INSIDE THE PROTON

A new study published in Phys. Rev. Letters provides a detailed description of what goes on inside a proton. At the center of a proton, the pressure is greater than that found inside a neutron star. Calculations were carried out over a year, using a theory called Quantum Chromodynamics with supercomputers. The results show that the pressure inside a proton is about 10**35 pascals or about 2.6*10**22 times the pressure at the center of the Earth.

Phiala Shanahan and William Detmold, both at MIT, find that the simple picture of a proton as three quarks held together by a bunch of gluons is incomplete. Their work is described in Live Science and is of major scientific importance, albeit esoteric to most of us. Their model of the proton is shown above as our featured image.

BOOK REVIEW


Two Sisters: A Father, His Daughters, and Their Journey into the Syrian Jihad by Åsne Seierstad, translated from the Norwegian by Seán Kinsella
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 418 pp., $28.00; $16.00 (paper)

The book is reviewed in a forthcoming issue of the New York Review of Books, published online, by Christopher de Bellaigue for those with access, It is also reviewed in the NYTimes by Suzy Hansen. Asne Seierstad established herself as a writer with her 2003 book The Bookseller of Kabul which was an international best seller. She went on to write two books of reportage, the first about Baghdad in the run-up to the 2003 invasion, the second about Chechnya following the brutal war there. She then wrote about the killer Breivik and now has moved on to the Norwegian jihad. The book chronicles the attempt of Sadiq Juma, a Somali immigrant to Norway to retrieve his two daughters who have run off to Syria to join ISIS.

The Interpol notice issued in October 2013 after the Juma sisters left Norway for Syria

The story is harrowing, but it tries to provide an answer to the question of the failure of Western liberal society to integrate these young Muslim women.

SILLY TIME


What If? What if the Earth stopped rotating? -Andrew Brown

In the Bible (Josh X, 12) we hear the request
“Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon, and thou, Moon, in the Valley of Ayalon “

Randall has an answer and it is not a cheerful one. Of course a slight slowing of the rotation might help true love.

https://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/s--SkaFOV4E--/c_scale,dpr_2.0,f_auto,fl_progressive,q_80,w_800/fufbqhqclf0pi2ehnyon.jpg
We have blogged for human rights, but Barney gives perspective
What more need be said?
Spring is coming…
Our oncologist claims that all men talk nonsense including her husband…


Prometheus and Pandora XX

In our featured image Murphy wishes all a Happy New Year in the name of Prometheus, Pandora and the amanuenses YandA.

As we all know,  Prometheus and Pandora orbit Saturn and keep the f-ring in place. Their old friend Titan orbits much farther out, but they may visit him in the Google blogger if this Gutenburg editor foisted upon us by WordPress continues to drive us nuts.

The Charity Corner has found a home on the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights Action site. Promethus and Pandora hope that you will visit there, take the actions and make the donations.

IN MEMORIAM LYUDMILA ALEXEYEVA 1927-2018

Lyudmila M. Alexeyeva, a leader of the Russian human rights movement in the Soviet Union and in the era of President Vladimir V. Putin, died on on December 8in a Moscow hospital. She was 91.


Ms. Alexeyeva arriving at a New Year’s Eve anti-Kremlin protest in downtown Moscow in 2009.CreditIvan Sekretarev/Associated Press

Ms. Alexeyeva had been Russia’s most prominent surviving Soviet-era dissident, harking from the same generation as the physicist Andrei Sakharov and the novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Though frail, she took part in street protests until about eight years ago.

She spent about 50 years in the Russian opposition, starting as a typist for a samizdat journal in the 1960s and continuing as an observer of politicized court hearings against street protesters under Mr. Putin. She was considered the grandmother  of the Russian human rights movement Even President Putin came to visit her on her 90th birthday. Detailed obituaries can be found in the Economist and the NYTimes.



President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia visiting Ms. Alexeyeva on her 90th birthday at her Moscow home last year.CreditPool photo by Alexei Nikolsky


ON THE DEMISE OF LIBERAL DEMOCRACY

 We have been ranting a great deal about the erosion of liberal democracy around the world, especially in the US and Israel. Now we would like to look a bit at  the theory around it. The late Professor J.L. Talmon of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, devoted much effort to clarifying the difference between liberal democracy and totalitarian democracy.

Jacob Talmon (1916-1980)

Talmon was a leader of the Cold War liberals and at the same time a Zionist., i.e. a Jewish nationalist. The apparent contradiction between liberalism and nationalism created a tension in his philosophy. As pointed out by M.H. Hacohen in a detailed essay in the History of European Ideas, Talmon lived in two worlds. Hacohen argues that that Talmon’s nationalism (Zionism included)—historicist, romantic, visionary—lived in permanent tension with his liberalism—empiricist, pluralist, pragmatic. 

Talmon himself regarded his mission as  “an attempt to show that concurrently with the liberal type of democracy there emerged from the same premises in the eighteenth century a trend toward what we propose to call the totalitarian type of democracy”

Professor Talmon finds the ground for the antagonism between the two types of democracy in a radical difference of attitude toward politics, which grows out of a radical difference of philosophy. Liberal democracy assumes that politics is largely a matter of trial and error, and it regards political systems as mainly “pragmatic contrivances of human ingenuity and spontaneity.” Totalitarian democracy on the other hand is “based upon the assumption of a sole and exclusive truth in politics” and it “postulates a preordained, harmonious and perfect scheme of things” toward which history inevitably tends and toward which recalcitrant human nature must, if necessary, be driven.

This theoretical framework is very relevant to what is happening in the world today. A recent issue of The Atlantic (October 2018) devotes a large section to articles about the demise of democracy. The examples are mostly from the US scene such as the article about losing the habits of democracy by Yoni Applebaum, but a description of the loss of democracy in Poland by Anne Applebaum provides an enlightening view of the process. The stages are:

  • Polarization.
  • Conspiracy theories.
  • Attacks on the free press
  • An obsession with loyalty

Recent events in the United States follow a pattern Europeans know all too well. We see it happening in Israel as well. The concepts of Professor Talmon are alas an accurate description. Anne Applebaum, in the article cited above, refers to the Romanian writer Mihail Sebastian who chronicled an even more extreme shift in his own country in the 1930’s. He described how, one by one, his friends were drawn to fascist ideology, like a flock of moths to an inescapable flame. He recounted the arrogance and confidence they acquired as they moved away from identifying themselves as Europeans—admirers of Proust, travelers to Paris—and instead began to call themselves blood-and-soil Romanians.
In the light of the above, it is easy to understand the obsession of the far right with George Soros. This Hungarian born American billionaire has donated huge sums to support liberal democracy in the former Soviet bloc countries. As a result he is the bogyman target that these regimes need to deflect the dissatisfaction of their people. Soros-bashing has already spread to the US and is a harbinger of what lies ahead for the Western world of Trump and Brexit.

Whereas in Israel the defining “truth” to which we are supposed to subscribe is the idea of establishing a state for the Jews of the
world (vid. Talmon’s tension above), in other countries it is nativism, for example, Trump’s white Christians or Marine La Pen’s “France for the French” nationalism. For young American Jews who grew up with the defining values of American Jewish political culture: a belief in open debate, a skepticism about military force, a commitment to human rights inter alia it does not make sense to push these values aside when considering Israel. It puts them off to see the PM of Israel consorting with the autocrats of Europe such as Orban of Hungary and other proponents of “illiberal Christian democracy” which will put an end to the era of multiculturalism. The violence of Israel’s rule over the Palestinians is indeed driving American Jews to protest.


Demonstrators march towards Trump Hotel in Washington to protest against the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images


In Israel we have an additional component, the Messianic drive, that guides the politics of the settlers block, Gush Emunim. Prof. Talmon summed up this irrational mind set well “Claims such as those of Gush Emunim sound to the international community much like that biblical passage— Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon, and thou, Moon, in the Valley of Ayalon “would sound in an astronomers’ debate.”Of course a lack of connection to reality is not unique to Israel…

FILM REVIEW: ROMA

Roma is a 2018 drama film written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón. Cuarón also produced, co-edited and photographed the film. It stars Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Marco Graf, Daniela Demesa, Enoc Leaño and Daniel Valtierra. Set in the early 1970s, the film is a semi-autobiographical take on Cuarón’s upbringing in Mexico City, and follows the life of a live-in housekeeper to a middle-class family. The title refers to the Colonia Roma, a neighborhood in Mexico City.

The film has won universal critical acclaim, as well as many awards, starting with the Golden Lion when it had its world premiere at the 75th Venice International Film Festival. The review in Rolling Stone by Peter Travers begins “If a thing of beauty is a joy forever, as John Keats famously said, then the surpassing loveliness and bracing brilliance of Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma will never pass into nothingness. …”
Other reviews are in the same style, such as the Guardian (Peter Bradshaw): “Alfonso Cuarón’s new film Roma is thrilling, engrossing, moving – and just entirely amazing, an adjectival pileup of wonder. He has reached back into his own childhood to create an intensely personal story, and this is the second time I have seen it since the premiere at this year’s Venice film festival, hoping to get a clearer view of those later images that on first viewing were made wobbly by tears. Same problem, though. Those coming to see this film had better prepare themselves to be emotionally wrung out.”

This is a film definitely worth your time to see.

A WORD FROM SCIENCE

December 26, 2018

All About Ultima: New Horizons Flyby Target is Unlike Anything Explored in Space

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is set to fly by a distant “worldlet” 4 billion miles (6.4 billion kilometers) from the Sun in just a few days, on New Year’s Day 2019. The target, officially designated 2014 MU69, was nicknamed “Ultima Thule,” (pronounced “ultima toolee”) a Latin phrase meaning “a place beyond the known world,” after a public call for name recommendations. No spacecraft has ever explored such a distant world.


This is the first detection of Ultima Thule using the highest resolution mode of the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard the New Horizons spacecraft. Three separate images, each with an exposure time of 0.5 seconds, were combined to produce the image. All three images were taken on Dec. 24, when Ultima was 4 billion miles (6.5 billion kilometers) from the Sun and 6.3 million miles (10 million kilometers) from the New Horizons spacecraft.
Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Ultima, as the flyby target is affectionately called by the New Horizons team, is orbiting in the heart of our solar system’s Kuiper Belt, far beyond Neptune. The Kuiper Belt is a collection of icy bodies ranging in size from dwarf planets like Pluto to smaller planetesimals like Ultima Thule and even smaller bodies like comets — which are believed to be the building blocks of planets.

This is indeed exciting news in geekdom and you are all invited to share the fun on New Year’s Day.

SILLY TIME

What If?

Pile of Viruses

What if every virus in the world were collected into one area? How much volume would they take up and what would they look like?

Dave

The answer is interesting and quite creative.

Some of our older readers might appreciate:


Prometheus and Pandora XIX

Our featured image shows our protagonists as Pokemons.

The Charity Corner has found a home on the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights Action site. Prometheus and Pandora hope that you will visit the site, take the actions and make the donations.

IN MEMORIAM Montserrat Caballé, April 12, 1933-October 6, 2018

mons

Montserrat Caballé on stage in Santander, northern Spain, in 2006. Photograph: Victor Fraile/Reuters

The great diva who conquered the opera world with her magnificent voice and commanding presence has died at age 85. She had a colossal career spanning decades. Few opera singers rocketed to fame more swiftly than she. When Caballé substituted for Marilyn Horne in the title role in a concert performance of Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia at Carnegie Hall on April 20, 1965, she was virtually unknown beyond a few provincial European opera houses. After the performance—and a twenty-five-minute ovation—all that would change. Record companies stormed the backstage while the applause was still going on. RCA won.

Pandora and Prometheus are fortunate enough to have in their collection an operatic event that took place outdoors and was preserved on video—Norma at the Orange Festival in 1974, opposite tenor Jon Vickers, a white-hot performance  and one that Caballé herself regarded as a major highlight of her career.

Detailed obituaries can be found in the Guardian and in Opera News. We can all be glad that she did not heed what she was told at her first auditions in Italy. The Italian maestros who heard her in Milan and Florence advised the already buxom young soprano to return to Spain, get married and raise a family.

Her collaboration with a rock singer was a unique phenomenon. In 1987, the mayor of Barcelona invited her to provide a theme song for the Olympic Games to be held in the city in 1992, giving the BBC the music for its television coverage. For this, she collaborated on the album Barcelona (1988) with the lead singer of Queen, Freddie Mercury, whom she knew to be a keen opera lover and who called her voice “the best in the world”.
We would like to share with you her performance of the Puccini aria Mia bambino caro

 

RANT AND RAVE

RANT ABOUT THE PITTSBURGH MASSACRE

We cannot ignore the horrible event of the shooting of innocent people by a criminal in Congregation Etz Hayim in Pittsburgh. We honor the memory of the martyrs, the holy ones who were killed only for the “crime” of being Jewish. We lower our heads in shame at the totally inappropriate reaction of the Israeli government to the massacres.

IN MEMORIAM

Joyce Fienberg, 75
Richard Gottfried, 65
Rose Mallinger, 97
Jerry Rabinowitz, 66
Brothers Cecil Rosenthal, 59 and David Rosenthal, 54
Husband and wife Sylvan Simon, 86 and Bernice Simon, 84
Daniel Stein, 71
Melvin Wax, 88
Irving Younger, 69

Read the obituaries.

A Pittsburgh newspaper put the opening words of the Kaddish on its from  page.

 

We salute the members of the Pittsburgh community, Muslims, Christians, whatever, who have rallied around the Jewish community. Wasi Mohamed, executive director of the Pittsburgh Islamic Center, says the Muslim community has raised more than $70,000 for the victims of the synagogue attack and their families. Mohamed said: ‘We just want to know what you need … If it’s people outside your next service protecting you, let us know. We’ll be there.’

Nothing, not even the massacres coming one after the other seems able to get the US body politic to enact civilized gun control legislation.

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Of course there are compelling political reasons for this:

RANT ON SEXUAL HARASSMENT

This section of our rants  will focus on sexual harassment by men in power and the culture of impunity that has always protected them. The recent exposures in Hollywood and New York of sexual corruption in the entertainment industry have given rise to a unity of protest and disclosure as exemplified by the #meToo movement. An online data base called Rotten Apples enables one to see if anyone involved in a show, film or series has been accused of sexual harassment.

Pandora tells us that this goes back a long way, to the gods of ancient Greece, such as the pursuit of the nymph Daphne by the amorous Apollo. Her father turned her into a tree to save her.

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Apollo and Daphne
By John William Waterhouse

Today, alas, no such miraculous means are available and powerful men have used their positions with impunity to pressure and harass female employees and colleagues. On the other hand mass media and the internet have played a great role in exposing and shaming them. We shall focus on a few cases in Israel and in the entertainment business in the US.

ALEX GILADY

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Gilady, who founded the Israeli television broadcaster Keshet, served as a senior executive of NBC in the United States in the ’80s and ’90s, rising to the post of senior vice president. He also sits on the International Olympics Committee. He has been forced to step down from his position at Keshet  in the wake of accusations of serious sexual misconduct. The claims are by Neri Livneh, a columnist with Haaretz, and Oshrat Kotler, a journalist on Channel 10 television. Livneh wrote a column that appeared on Haaretz’s Hebrew website in which she said she was contacted by Gilady’s secretary in 1999, who said that Gilady, then a top TV executive, wished to meet with her on the premise that he
had an interesting offer for her. She eventually found herself at his home where Gilady exposed his penis to her, saying “Talk to it.” Livneh alleged that many people were aware of sexual misconduct of this kind committed by Gilady but preferred not to make it public. She described the incident on a women’s program in 1999 but had been asked not to mention Gilady’s name for legal reasons, Livneh says.

Kotler alleged that Gilady, then CEO of Keshet, made an “indecent proposition” when she met with him for a job interview. When she told him that she was married, he responded: “What has that got to do with it? Don’t you know how they get ahead in television in Hollywood?”

Other women have come out with allegations against Gilady and his reaction has been to file a defamation lawsuit, although in the case of Livneh he has publicly admitted the facts described. We shall wait and see how this case works out.

DAN MARGALIT

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Dan Margalit is an Israeli journalist who has announced that he will cease all journalistic work after eight women accused him of sexual assault and harassment. At age 80 he is currently an op-ed columnist for Haaretz. His career has included stints as a senior reporter and columnist at many papers; he was also a popular host of several television shows. He is considered one of the country’s most influential journalists, with close ties to many senior politicians.
Orly Azoulay, a journalist for the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper,in October became the eighth woman to speak out and accuse Margalit of sexual assault and harassment.  Azoulay, 65, accused Margalit of sexually assaulting her in 1992 in the studio of the “Popolitika” television political talk show, which Margalit hosted and where she was a panel member.
Before Azoulay, seven women had come out with accusations of sexual harassment. Haaretz reported that five women had accused him over the course of his long career, and two more spoke out later.
Margalit is now accused of being a serial sexual harasser of young female journalists. It is regrettable that a distinguished career should be marred at the end by such disclosures from the past, but the victims have borne the pain for all these years and he does not deserve impunity.

HARVEY WEINSTEIN

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He was a extremely powerful Hollywood producer and a serial sexual predator who was brought down by Pulitzer prize winning articles in the New Yorker and in the NYTimes. The New Yorker articles by Ronan Farrow, a contributing writer, exposed the decades-long sexual predation by Weinstein and the complex system of private investigators, lawyers, and nondisclosure agreements that he used to cover it up. Two reporters at the Times, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, first reported on Weinstein’s sexual-harassment settlements, on October 5, 2017. Farrow’s first article, a seven-thousand-word investigation published five days later, disclosed the first accusations of rape and sexual assault against Weinstein. Farrow’s subsequent articles exposed additional rape and harassment allegations.

Weinstein is now facing sexual-assault charges in a court in New York. According to law-enforcement officials, the charges against him are based on the allegations of several women although the prosecution seems to have encountered difficulties relating to the functioning of the DA’s office.

LESLIE  MOONVES

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Moonves was until recently the CEO of the CBS Corporation. He too has been brought down by the writings and actions of Ronan Farrow. Farrow reported in the New Yorker:

“Six women who had professional dealings with him told me that, between the nineteen-eighties and the late aughts, Moonves sexually harassed them. Four described forcible touching or kissing during business meetings, in what they said appeared to be a practiced routine. Two told me that Moonves physically intimidated them or threatened to derail their careers. All said that he became cold or hostile after they rejected his advances, and that they believed their careers suffered as a result. “What happened to me was a sexual assault, and then I was fired for not participating,” the actress and writer Illeana Douglas told me.”
All the women said they still feared that speaking out would lead to retaliation from Moonves, who is known in the industry for his ability to make or break careers. “He has gotten away with it for decades,” the writer Janet Jones, who alleges that she had to shove Moonves off her after he forcibly kissed her at a work meeting, told me. “And it’s just not O.K.””

CNN reported that Moonves would step down from his position at CBS. Later the same day, CBS announced that Moonves had left the company and would not receive any of his exit compensation, pending the results of the independent investigation into the allegations. The company named six new members of its board of directors and said it would donate twenty million dollars to organizations that support the #MeToo movement and workplace equality for women. The donation will be deducted from any severance payments that may be due to Moonves.

Let us hope that the public shaming of these powerful and exploitative men contributes to the creation of a work culture and a social atmosphere in which women are respected and treated fairly

BOOK REVIEW/CLIMATE CHANGE

No Immediate Danger: Volume One of Carbon Ideologies by William T. Vollman Viking
No Good Alternative: Volume Two of Carbon Ideologies by William T. Vollmann Viking

The Most Honest Book About Climate Change Yet

William T. Vollmann’s latest opus is brilliant, but it offers no comfort to its readers.

This dystopian novel describes the world as it will be. He addresses a reader who lives in the future, under radically different circumstances—inhabiting a “hotter, more dangerous and biologically diminished planet.” He envisions her turning the pages of his climate-change opus within the darkened recesses of an underground cave in which she has sought shelter from the unendurable heat; the plagues, droughts, and floods; the methane fireballs racing across boiling oceans. Because the soil is radioactive, she subsists on insects and recycled urine, and regards with implacable contempt her ancestors, who, as Vollmann tells her, “enjoyed the world we possessed, and deserved the world we left you.”
In contrast to other writers about climate change, Vollmann holds out no hope and regards our attempts to mitigate as futile exercises. The two components of the book are reviewed together in the Atlantic by Nathaniel Rich. In a similar vein albeit in a different context, Gerta Keller, a Princeton geologist who rejects the asteroid impact hypothesis of dinosaur extinction, and attributes the mass die-off of 65 million years ago to colossal volcanism, compares what we are doing to our planet to the lethal effects of a series of colossal volcanic eruptions in a part of western India known as the Deccan Traps. The story of the huge controversy between the impacters and the volcano camp appears in the same issue of the Atlantic.

A WORD FROM SCIENCE

A most exciting discovery has come from the Kepler and Hubble space telescopes. A moon orbiting a planet that itself is in orbit around a star other than the sun, i.e. an exoplanet has been discovered. In a paper published Oct. 3 in the journal Science Advances, Alex Teachey and David Kipping, both from Colombia University, report
that the detection of a candidate exomoon — that is, moons orbiting planets in other star systems — is unusual because of its large size, comparable to the diameter of Neptune. Such gargantuan moons do not exist in our own solar system, where nearly 200
natural satellites have been cataloged.  Stay tuned, more will certainly be coming on this subject.

WHY SCIENCE, IN PARTICULAR BIOLOGY?

SMBC has the answer.

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SILLY TIME

What IF?

I understand that the New Horizons craft used gravity assist from Jupiter to increase its speed on the way to Pluto. I also understand that by doing this, Jupiter slowed down very slightly. How many flyby runs would it take to stop Jupiter completely?

—Dillon

More than we can afford. The answer puts things into perspective.

WE GRANDPARENTS DO OUR BEST

WUMO has a special for dog owners… Because of strict copyright rules, we only give you the link.

WHAT PRICE MASS EDUCATION?

Prometheus and Pandora XVIII

Our featured image shows Athena and Hephaistos, who had been ordered by Zeus  to create a woman, Pandora, admiring their handiwork.

The Charity Corner has found a home on the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights Action site. Prometheus and Pandora hope that you will visit the site, take the actions and make the donations.

 

IN MEMORIAM

NEIL SIMON July 4, 1927-August 26, 2018

'THE ODD COUPLE' PLAY OPENING NIGHT POST PARTY, NEW YORK, AMERICA - 27 OCT 2005

Neil Simon, one of the rare late-20th century playwrights who was a brand name for plays such as “The Odd Couple” and “Barefoot in the Park,” died on August 26. He was 91. A statement from his reps said, “Neil Simon, the Pulitzer Prize-winning American playwright, died on August at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. The cause was complications from pneumonia. His wife, Elaine Joyce Simon, was at his bedside along with Mr. Simon’s daughters, Ellen Simon and Nancy Simon.” In addition to his four Oscar nominations and 17 Tony nominations, Simon’s works brought an unsurpassed 50 Tony nominations for their actors. His competitive Tony wins came for “The Odd Couple” (best playwright) and for best play for “Lost in Yonkers” and “Biloxi Blues.”

Detailed obituaries can be found in the NYtimes and Variety.

 

John T. “Jack” Gosling 10 July 1938-10 May 2018

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John T. “Jack” Gosling died 10 May 2018, in Louisville, Colo., after a battle with cancer. With his passing, the field of space physics has lost one of its most insightful, productive, and influential scientists, and many of us have lost a dear and treasured friend. A detailed obituary and account of his great scientific achievements has been written by his colleagues at Los Alamos National Laboratory. and published in EOS. the journal of the American Geophysical Union. Rest in peace, dear friend.

UNRANT

For once we want to be a bit positive. We have found a fascinating site called Brainpickings, run by a lady named Maria Popova. Prometheus and Pandora recommend that you take a look at it and maybe cough up a donation to keep it running.

Pandora and Prometheus would like to link you to a review of a beautiful book by the great Shel Silverstein, The Missing Piece. Enjoy!

RANT OF THE MONTH

Prometheus and Pandora have been ranting for quite a while about the erosion of democracy in Israel and elsewhere. At the risk of being redundant we will link you to a hard-hitting article by Chemi Shalev in Haaretz in which he analyzes the spooky symbiosis between Trump and Netanyahu and draws a parallel between the pogrom of Charlottesville a year ago and the Nation State law in Israel. Both support white/Jewish supremacy and as Shalev writes-“We’re all Jews, Netanyahu is signaling, we know why we’re here, and nothing else matters:.”

Of course much else does matter, especially the rights of minority communities, Arabs, Druze and others. The problem is in many ways the assertion that the Jewish nature of the state trumps human rights. If the rightist interpretation of Judaism is adopted, Israel will find itself disconnected from the largest Jewish community in the world, that in the USA, most of whose members are liberal.  Shuki Friedman writing in Haaretz makes the point that the definition of Judaism is the critical point in the struggle for the soul of the nation. If the closed parochial version continues to be dominant then democracy has no chance. We shall also lose our connection to the liberal nations still left in the EU.  Eva Illiuz, also in Haaretz, points out the catastrophic effect for the Jews of the world of Israel’s alignment with the populist, often anti-Semitic countries around the world. Hungary and Poland are strong examples of this trend.

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An illustration depicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shaking hands with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in Auschwitz. Credit Eran Wolkowski

Despite the hostile environment, there are people, including human rights lawyers and other activists, who are struggling in Israel to protect minority rights. David Shulman writing in the NYRB extols their courage and persistence . He reviews two books, one on the connection of Jews to human rights in the 20th century and the struggle for human rights in  Israel seen  through the eyes of a human rights lawyer.

A RANT IN A PICTURE

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARGY!

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In a few weeks our dear friend and colleague Margy Kivelson, professor emerita at UCLA, will celebrate her 90th birthday. Over the decades we have shared  several spacecraft missions and have greatly enjoyed both working with her and hanging out in her delightful company. She has had a remarkable career and is still going strong in science and in everything else. We had an email from her a few weeks ago that warmed our hearts. For a description of her life and career we refer you to the NYTimes who do it much better than we could.

TIDBITS FROM SCIENCE

GALILEO LETTER DISCOVERED

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The original letter in which Galileo argued against the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church has been rediscovered in London. Credit: The Royal Society

The original letter of 1613 — long thought lost — in which Galileo Galilei first set down his arguments against the church’s doctrine that the Sun orbits the Earth has been discovered in a misdated library catalogue in London. The letter was used in the process against him by the Inquisition. It appears that he modified the letter to soften his claims against Scripture as science, but the version that was used in court was the strong one. The new discovery resolves the question of how the softening was done. It appears that Galileo himself did the editing and lied about the first version.

LANDING ON AN ASTEROID

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This spectacular photo shows the view from asteroid Ryugu of the Minerva-II1A rover during a hop after it successfully landed on Sept. 21, 2018. The probe is one of two that landed on Ryugu from the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft. It’s the first time two mobile rovers landed on an asteroid.
Credit: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

Two tiny hopping robots have successfully landed on an asteroid called Ryugu–part of a sample return mission of the mother spacecraft Hayabusa2. The  robots now have a companion on the surface of   Ryugu. A shoebox-sized lander called the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) deployed from its mothership, Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft, as planned at 9:57 p.m. EDT Tuesday (Oct. 2; 0157 GMT on Oct. 3) and came to rest on Ryugu shortly thereafter.

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The German-French Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) lander captured this photo of asteroid Ryugu during landing operations on Oct. 3, 2018. The lander’s shadow is visible at upper right.
Credit: German Aerospace Center (DLR)

SILLY TIME

WhatIf

What would the world be like if the land masses were spread out the same way as now – only rotated by an angle of 90 degrees?

—Socke

The answer from Randal is very interesting. You will enjoy reading it.

SPELLING IS IMPORTANT

HERE IS A LINK TO A WUMO

Prometheus and Pandora do not wish to run afoul of WUMO’s copyright.

WE HEAR MUCH ABOUT AI…

 

 

Prometheus and Pandora XVII

Our featured image shows Mercury presenting Pandora to Prometheus by Richard Westmacott

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 MEMORIAM

URI AVNERY September 10, 1923-August 20, 2018

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Uri Avnery in July, 2014. credit אורן זיו

Uri Avnery was an icon and a great man who provided us in the peace movement the leadership that we need. We shall miss him sorely and can only hope that someone will rise to take on the mantle and try to fill these huge shoes. He was the first to put forward the idea of two states, Israeli and Palestinian living in peace, side by side. From the early 1950s, long before any talk of a Palestinian state by Israel’s side became fashionable, even among the left, Avnery supported a two-state solution. On a deeper level, he was the first Israeli public figure, in a generation when the Palestinians were perceived as indistinguishable from the wider Arab nation, to call upon other Israelis to see the Palestinians as a distinct nation, living beside them. The highlights of his career are shown in this graphic.

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While Uri was a skilled politician and leader, he, and many in his circle, admitted he had some difficulties when it came to people skills. A friend once said:
“Avnery is disabled like Trumpeldor was. Trumpeldor lacked an arm;
Avnery lacks feeling.”  Uri wrote in his memoir: “There’s something wrong with my emotional relations with people. And the worst thing about it is, I don’t really care.”

We recall meeting him at a demonstration opposite the Defense Ministry that had been poorly scheduled and conflicted with a human rights demonstration before an embassy  by Amnesty International. When he was reproached for this, his response was “shut up and pick up a sign.” While he could be thorny at times, he earned respect by showing up in his late 80’s to demonstrate in hard conditions including blows and tear gas, such as at Bil’in, where he provided a physical example to followers who could easily have been his grandchildren. His devoted wife Rachel was by his side until her death in 2011. We were even  helped by Rachel with an onion when the tear gas became dense.

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Uri was one of the people, along with the late Baruch Kimmerling, who led the way in dissent from the Zionist party line (more or less the same for all the parties). He left a huge legacy of clear rational thinking about our future with the Palestinians, something sorely lacking in our present leadership.

Here are six must reads written by Avnery for Haaretz, plus an interview marking his 90th birthday. We note that President Rivlin, who is far on the political spectrum from Uri and his group, had praise for him.

Rivlin said on Monday that Uri Avnery was “the eternal opposition figure” whose fight for freedom of expression “paved the way of Israel as a young country.”

 “We had strong differences, but they paled in contrast to the aspiration to build a free and strong society here,” Rivlin said.

 Detailed obituaries can be found in Haaretz, in the Guardian , in Forward and in the NYTimes.

Aretha Franklin March 25, 1942 August 16, 2018

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Regarded as one of the greatest singers of all time, Aretha Franklin has died of advanced pancreatic cancer at age 76. Aretha Franklin was one of the most iconic voices in music history and a brilliant artist. Over the course of her decades-long career, she inspired countless musicians and fans, and created a legacy that paved the way for a long line of strong female artists.


Known as “the queen of soul”, Franklin sold more than 75 million records in her lifetime and won 18 Grammy awards. She had 77 entries in the US Billboard Hot 100 and 20 No 1 singles on the R&B chart. Her last album was A Brand New Me, released in November 2017, which paired archival vocal recordings for Atlantic Records with new orchestral arrangements by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Her last original recording was Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics in 2014, which included her take on Adele’s Rolling in the Deep.

“American history wells up when Aretha sings,” former US president Barack Obama said of her performance of (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors. “Nobody embodies more fully the connection between the African-American spiritual, the blues, R&B, rock’n’roll – the way that hardship and sorrow were transformed into something full of beauty and vitality and hope.”
In the wake of her death, some of America’s most prominent figures have paid their respects. Barack and Michelle Obama put out a joint statement, reading, in part:

“Every time she sang, we were all graced with a glimpse of the divine. Through her compositions and unmatched musicianship, Aretha helped define the American experience. In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade—our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect. She helped us feel more connected to each other, more hopeful, more human. And sometimes she helped us just forget about everything else and dance.”
Franklin performed at Obama’s 2009 inauguration, singing My Country, ‘Tis of Thee. Her final live performance was at a gala event for Elton John’s AIDS foundation, in November 2017. John posted a tribute on Instagram, saying: “The loss of Aretha Franklin is a blow for everybody who loves real music: Music from the heart, the soul and the Church. Her voice was unique, her piano playing underrated – she was one of my favorite pianists.”

JOHN MCCAIN August 29, 1936, August 25, 2018

Sen. John McCain has died from complications of aggressive brain cancer. He was just four days shy of his 82nd birthday.

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A Navy officer for 22 years, a tortured prisoner of war in Hanoi for more than five, a congressman for six, a U.S. senator for 31, and the Republican presidential candidate in 2008, McCain became one of the nation’s most prominent politicians. While he had vociferous critics for some of his views and many of his votes, he gained wide respect on both sides of the Senate aisle.

Former president Obama posted a moving tribute to John McCain:

“John McCain and I were members of different generations, came from completely different backgrounds, and competed at the highest level of politics.   But we shared, for all our differences, a fidelity to something higher — the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched, and sacrificed.
 We saw our political battles, even, as a privilege, something noble, an opportunity to serve as stewards of those high ideals at home, and to advance them around the world. We saw this country as a place where anything is possible — and citizenship as our patriotic obligation to ensure it forever remains that way.”
 .
“Few of us have been tested the way John once was, or required to show the kind of courage that he did. But all of us can aspire to the courage to put the greater good above our own. At John’s best, he showed us what that means. And for that, we are all in his debt. Michelle and I send our most heartfelt condolences to Cindy and their family.”
The tweet by Trump, totally void of any real feeling is not worth quoting. John McCain left instructions that Trump should not speak at his funeral.

 

RANT ABOUT FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

The Israeli government is using its security service, Shin Bet, to harass leftists and Arabs and in general anyone who dares to criticize the government and the occupation, in particular the latter. This has been going on for a long time, but has become worse recently. The interrogation of Peter Beinart at the airport indicates that no one, no matter how highly placed and famous, is immune to the attack of the “opinion police.” The reasoning behind this systematic harassment of so-called leftists has been analyzed by Carlo Strenger writing in Haaretz. While the Netanyahu government strives to perpetuate the image of democratic Israel, in substance it is doing all in its power to destroy liberal democracy, which includes judicial oversight, press freedom and freedom of expression. Mordechai Kremnitzer also in Haaretz deals with the politicization of the Shin Bet which makes it play a role in delegitimization by the government of the opponents of the occupation.
Bradley Burston in Haaretz tells us flat out that the Israel we knew and loved has gone, destroyed by the actions of our antidemocratic government. Burston uses the Hebrew expression “sinat hinam”-gratuitous hatred, hatred without just cause, hatred which does nothing but take a place of conflict, despair, bigotry, violence, and make it worse. He gives several examples of which we quote one:
“… security services at Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport’s departures area took aside and interrogated at length and with pronounced incredulity a prominent Jewish-American philanthropist who chairs Brandeis University’s Board of Trustees, is Orthodox, and has close family in the settlement city of Maaleh Adumim. The reason? His suitcase had been searched, and guards had found a pro- Palestinian pamphlet in his luggage, left over from coexistence meetings the philanthropist had attended between Jewish-American community leaders and Palestinians.”

Chemi Shalev in Haaretz makes it clear, the state of Israel is rotting away, falling into the hands of the likes of Ayelet Shaked and her colleagues in the illiberal government that cozies up to the likes of ethnocentric Hungary. As Shalev concludes “An Israel that stoops so low as to detain someone like Beinart, and implicitly threatens to brand him persona non-grata, is not my Israel. It is not the country I grew up in, and it is not a country that I would want my children to live in either.”
Prometheus and Pandora are waiting for the Israeli Jews who believe in the values of liberal democracy to stand up and struggle for the soul of the country we all love.

The erosion of democracy is not unique to Israel. We see it happening all over the world where populist demagogues  lead people to follow them blindly and cheerfully give up their rights and freedoms. Marcus Tullius Cicero is said to have reacted to the takeover of Rome and the subversion of the republic by Julius Caesar  with the comment–“blame not Caesar, blame the mindless people who dance for him in the streets as he deprives them of their freedoms”. More recently, Paul Krugman, writing in the NYTimes, explains how vulnerable US democracy is to the same demise that has happened in Eastern Europe and it is not because of economic stress.  He puts it bluntly-“The point is that we’re suffering from the same disease — white nationalism run wild — that has already effectively killed democracy in some other Western nations. And we’re very, very close to the point of no return.” The threat by Trump of violence if the Republicans lose in the forthcoming midterm elections cannot be dismissed. In Israel, blind hatred of Arabs and racism towards African refugees play the same role.

RANT ABOUT GENOCIDE IN MYANMAR

A UN report has said top military figures in Myanmar must be investigated for genocide in Rakhine state and crimes against humanity in other areas.

The report, based on hundreds of interviews, is the strongest condemnation from the UN so far of violence against Rohingya Muslims. It says the army’s tactics are “grossly disproportionate to actual security threats”. Myanmar rejected the report.

At least 700,000 Rohingya have fled violence in the country in the past 12 months. Prometheus and Pandora are very disappointed in Myanmar’s de facto leader, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, for failing to intervene to stop attacks. The Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu called her out last year in an open letter:

My dear Aung San Su Kyi

I am now elderly, decrepit and formally retired, but breaking my vow to remain silent on public affairs out of profound sadness about the plight of the Muslim minority in your country, the Rohingya.

In my heart you are a dearly beloved younger sister. For years I had a photograph of you on my desk to remind me of the injustice and sacrifice you endured out of your love and commitment for Myanmar’s people. You symbolised righteousness. In 2010 we rejoiced at your freedom from house arrest, and in 2012 we celebrated your election as leader of the opposition.

Your emergence into public life allayed our concerns about violence being perpetrated against members of the Rohingya. But what some have called ‘ethnic cleansing’ and others ‘a slow genocide’ has persisted – and recently accelerated. The images we are seeing of the suffering of the Rohingya fill us with pain and dread.

We know that you know that human beings may look and worship differently – and some may have greater firepower than others – but none are superior and none inferior; that when you scratch the surface we are all the same, members of one family, the human family; that there are no natural differences between Buddhists and Muslims; and that whether we are Jews or Hindus, Christians or atheists, we are born to love, without prejudice. Discrimination doesn’t come naturally; it is taught.

Aung San Su Kyi File picture: Edgar Su/AP

My dear sister: If the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep. A country that is not at peace with itself, that fails to acknowledge and protect the dignity and worth of all its people, is not a free country.

It is incongruous for a symbol of righteousness to lead such a country; it is adding to our pain.

As we witness the unfolding horror we pray for you to be courageous and resilient again. We pray for you to speak out for justice, human rights and the unity of your people. We pray for you to intervene in the escalating crisis and guide your people back towards the path of righteousness again.

God bless you.

Love

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

Hermanus, South Africa

 

We can add nothing to this call.

 

RANT ABOUT SEA LEVEL RISE

A recent study by a group of scientists led by Stéphane Hallegatte of the World Bank has estimated the dangers threatening   coastal cities around the world. They assess economic average annual losses (AAL) in 136 coastal port cities, using a method developed for assessing city-level flood risk and a new database of urban coastal protection. The results are horrific and we, as homo sapiens, have only ourselves to blame. Prometheus is again wondering if giving fire to humans was a good idea. Here is a view of flooding in Mumbai, India.

 

Read the article carefully and especially note the tables, which   unfortunately we cannot reproduce here.

EXCITING NEWS FROM SCIENCE

Higgs boson observed to decay to two bottom quarks

hbb-event-20aug-2-2

An ATLAS candidate event for the Higgs boson (H) decaying to two bottom quarks (b), in association with a W boson decaying to a muon (μ) and a neutrino (ν). (Image: ATLAS/CERN)

CERN has announced that the Higgs boson that was discovered six years ago has been found to decay into two bottom quarks. The finding,  by the ATLAS and CMS collaborations at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), is consistent with the hypothesis that the all-pervading quantum field behind the Higgs boson also gives mass to the bottom quark. Both teams have submitted their results for publication. The result gives support to the Standard Model. Cheers all over geekdom.

BOOK REVIEWS

J. M. Coetzee, the Netherlands, 2005

J. M. Coetzee, the Netherlands, 2005

 

 

THE CHILDHOOD OF JESUS

By J.M. Coetzee
Published 2013-09-03
Viking Adult

THE SCHOOLDAYS OF JESUS

By J.M. Coetzee
260 pp. Viking. $27.

This week we consider a pair of novels by the Nobel Laureate J.M. Coetzee, The Childhood of Jesus (2013) and the Schooldays of Jesus (2017). The former was reviewed in the Guardian by Theo Tait and the latter in the NYTimes by Jack Miles. The Schooldays of Jesus also has a review in the NYRB by Colm Tóibín. The novels deal with a man Simon and a boy David who come to a new and unknown land. They have moved across Lethean waters to a new land, a place called Novilla, in order to start a new life. It may or may not be the afterlife; the boy and the man have been “washed clean” of all their memories, given these new names, and taught the rudiments of Spanish, the land’s language, at a refugee camp.
Coetzee has brought his characters to an island.  Simón tells Davíd:

“You arrived on a boat, just as I did, just as the people around us did, the ones who didn’t have the luck to be born here…. When you travel across the ocean on a boat, all your memories are washed away and you start a completely new life…. There is no before. There is no history. The boat docks at the harbor and we climb down the gangplank and we are plunged into the here and now. Time begins. The clock starts running.”
The novels are enigmatic as Coetzee uses the utopian setting to expound his philosophical ideas. In analogy to Robinson Crusoe, his two Jesus books play with the idea of how life on a desert island can become more intense, almost more true, as does his own version of Defoe’s story, Foe (1986). The life away from the noise of the world offers a zone where more searching questions can be asked,  in which the social space of the novel can be replaced by parable and commentary on what we deem important and how stories come to us.

Critics have said that these two books are not as great as Diary of a Bad Year or Waiting for the Barbarians, which among others led to his 2003 Nobel Prize.  Pandora and Prometheus will leave that question to you.

SILLY TIME

What if–answers to absurd questions.

What would happen if I dug straight down, at a speed of 1 foot per second? What would kill me first?

Jack Kaunis

Enjoy the answer.

WE HAVE LONG HELD WITH THE PRINCIPLE “ESCHEW OBFUSCATION”

ABOUT KETTLES AND POTS…

Cheap flights have a long history as told by WUMO. Now you can fly for 50p.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prometheus and Pandora XVI

Our feature image: A blood moon rises over Marseille, southern France, Friday, July 27, 2018. Curiosity and awe have greeted a complete lunar eclipse, the longest one of this century. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)

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.

RANTS AND RAVES

This month there is so much to rant and rave about, both at home and worldwide, that Prometheus and Pandora have no idea where to start. Let us start with the closest and the possibly worst.

RANT ON A FASCIST LAW

The Knesset overnight, 17-18/7, passed into law the contentious nation-state bill that for the first time enshrines Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people, ” in its quasi-constitutional Basic Laws. The law also declares that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, sets the Hebrew calendar as the official calendar of the state, and recognizes Independence Day, days of remembrance and Jewish holidays. One clause of the bill downgrades the Arabic language from official to “special” standing, but also cryptically stipulates that “this clause does not harm the status given to the Arabic language before this law came into effect.” Read the full text of the law here.
This law is another lethal blow against democracy in Israel. In an unusual public critique of proposed legislation, President Reuven Rivlin sent a letter Tuesday morning to Knesset members urging them to amend the controversial bill aimed at enshrining Israel’s Jewish character in law, saying that the measure “could harm the Jewish people, Jews throughout the world and the State of Israel.”
Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man puts it well in +972, ” You can look at the Jewish Nation-State law from two perspectives. There is the message it was intended to send to Jews: a positive affirmation of Israel as the Jewish nation-state; as the Jewish homeland; as the state of the Jews; a reassuring and nationalist message that says ‘this country is yours and yours alone.”

The other message, the inverse, meant for Palestinians, is: “this is not your land; this country does not belong to you, irrespective of whether you are an Israeli citizen living in the home of your great-grandparents or a refugee yearning to return to the land of your grandparents; your culture, language, and history are at best tolerated — this is not their home, this is not your homeland.”

The Jewish Nation-State Law states, implicitly and explicitly, that Israel belongs not to all of its citizens, over 20 percent of whom are not Jewish. Instead, it declares that Israel belongs to the Jewish people, some half of whom are not Israeli citizens.

It tells all of us that we are well on the way to becoming an apartheid fascist state. As stated by Adalah attorney Fady Khoury in an interview with +972,
“Apartheid in South Africa was a process. It was a system that took years to develop and was built on the work of academics and theologians who had to create justifications for white supremacy. It was a system of hierarchy, in which there is one group with all the power and another without any power.”

First Phase Digital

Apartheid in the Republic of South Africa. A beach for Whites only near the integrated fishing village of Kalk Bay, not far from Capetown. January 1, 1970. (UN Photo/KM)

There appears to be little that liberal Israeli citizens can do to halt this process. It would seem that liberal Zionism has been crushed by the combination of the right wing in Israel and the policy of the Trump administration, as pointed out by Michelle Goldberg in the NYTimes several months ago. In general the difficulty that liberal Zionists, such as Prometheus and Pandora, have in reconciling their humanist beliefs with support for Israel is nothing new. Four years ago Anthony Lerman writing in the NYTimes outlined the dilemma of liberal Zionists–“They’re convinced that Israel can be both Jewish and democratic, but they fail to explain how to reconcile God’s supreme authority with the sovereign power of the people. Meanwhile, the self-appointed arbiters of what’s Jewish in the Jewish state — the extreme religious Zionists and the strictly Orthodox, aided and abetted by Jewish racists in the Knesset like Ayelet Shaked, a Jewish Home Party member and Minister of Justice, who recently called for the mothers of Palestinian “snakes” to be killed — are trashing democracy more and more each day. “

 

RANT ON UNWORTHY FRIENDS

Here in Israel we have been “honored” by visits of people who are the dregs of world politics.

Viktor Orban the Prime Minister of Hungary, who is known as one of the world’s greatest enemies of democracy, was here for a few days visiting his dear buddy, Netanyahu. Under Netanyahu’s leadership, ties with Orban have warmed, prompting criticism from the local Jewish community over the Hungarian prime minister’s attacks on Jewish billionaire George Soros, which critics say toy with anti-Semitic stereotypes. They also object to his past praise for a former Nazi ally. He has praised Horthy who ruled occupied Hungary during the war and under whose aegis over half a million Jews were deported to Auschwitz during the Holocaust.

orbanbibi_no

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (L) hold a Rubik’s Cube at the Hungary-Israel Business Forum in Budapest, Hungary, on July 19, 2017. (Haim Zach/GPO/Flash90)

While Orban has vilified George Soros,the Hungarian-born Jewish billionaire, who has been promoting democracy in Hungary and Eastern Europe in general ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, Israel has lobbied the United States to “open doors” to Orban’s government. The US government  has traditionally  kept Orban at arm’s length in view of  Hungary’s  ultra-nationalist stance and the prime minister’s embracing of what he has termed an “illiberal democracy.”

Orban was received with open arms, visited Yad Vashem according to protocol, met the President, the works. All that Pandora and Prometheus, as well as their friends, can do is to blush with shame. Daniel Barenboim the great musician puts it best.  

There were some signs of   protest.

orban_no

Israeli protesters hold signs by as people block the road for the convoy of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on July 19, 2018 at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem (AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON)

In the meantime, Israel and Myanmar have signed an agreement to coordinate what is written about each country in the school textbooks of the other. In a somewhat controversial move, the agreement allows the parties to “through their competent authorities, endeavor to mutually verify school textbooks, particularly concerning the passages referring to the history of the other state and, where needed, introduce corrections to these textbooks.” A joint committee will be established to implement the agreement and will meet every three years. Noa Landau in Haaretz gives the details. We wonder what our children will learn about the genocide of the Rohingya. We are told that Israel has ceased selling weaponry to Myanmar, but the cozy relationship continues. We should all be ashamed including President Rivlin.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin meeting Senior General Min Aung Hlaing during the Myanmar general’s visit in 2015. (Photo: Min Aung Hlaing's Facebook page)

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin meeting Senior General Min Aung Hlaing during the Myanmar general’s visit in 2015. (Photo: Min Aung Hlaing’s Facebook page)

CRIME AGAINST CHILDREN

The Trump separation of children from their parents is beyond words. Let Mike Luckovich put it best.

GOODIES FROM SCIENCE

WATER FOUND ON MARS

tThe planet Mars

The Holy Grail of planetary science, liquid water on Mars, has been found.  The Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS) instrument on the Mars Express spacecraft collected radar measurements over the SPLD (South Pole Layered Deposit) .The research team led by R. Orosei of Istituto di Radioastronomia, Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica in Bologna, Italy identified a distinct 20-km-wide bright reflector on multiple profiles collected over 3 years. They rule out a number of possible explanations for this bright reflector, leaving the existence of liquid water, either as a distinct water layer or as saturated sediments, as the only explanation. The finding is described in detail in news media such as BBC while the scientific paper has come out in Science.

BLOOD MARKER FOR MELANOMA

Melanoma is an aggressive form of skin cancer and early detection is of the greatest importance. A blood test marker has long been sought by researchers and it now appears to have been found. An Australian team has published in the journal Oncotarget a description of research that has found a marker in the blood that can serve as an indicator of early stage melanoma. Pandora and Prometheus are very excited about this breakthrough and hope the test finds its way into clinical use very soon.

BOOK REVIEWS

This week we look at the NYRB reviews of two books on English religious music. Prometheus and Pandora hope you find them interesting.
God’s Own Music
Ian Bostridge
February 22, 2018 Issue
O Sing unto the Lord: A History of English Church Music
by Andrew Gant
University of Chicago Press, 454 pp., $35.00
Messiah: The Composition and Afterlife of Handel’s Masterpiece
by Jonathan Keates
Basic Books, 165 pp., $25.00

Ian Bostridge gives us a very personal review of these two books. The history book by Gant provides a detailed synopsis and melds the history of English music with developments in English history. Bostridge himself was a choir boy at a church in London that had seen better days in its past, but nonetheless had a charismatic organist and choir master who inspired the boys to reach heights of song. In particular they performed and loved the great hymns of the the English Reformation and its immediate aftermath—Thomas Tallis, William Byrd, the exotically named Orlando Gibbons, John Blow, Henry Purcell—and the music that was created in an attempt to recreate that beauty of holiness: the Victorian and Edwardian anthem tradition of Hubert Parry, Charles Villiers Stanford, Herbert Howells, and many others.

Thomas Webster: <i></dt><dd class=

Thomas Webster: A Village Choir, 1847

 

The oratorio The Messiah by Handel is indeed worthy of a study on its own. In writing it Handel deviated from his usual style of stories of Old Testament heroes and it is devoted to the prediction of the coming of Christ. Handel was disappointed that people saw it as entertainment rather than a call to Godliness. It is customary for the audience to stand during the Hallelujah Chorus, although the source of the custom is not clear. When the piece was performed in Tel Aviv a few years ago, a few people, including your humble servant, stood, most did not.

A QUESTION ABOUT MUSIC

Classical music is one of the few domains in which women continue to  play a very minor and subservient role. Last week’s Donne – Women in Music report expressed this in stark statistics. Across Europe, 97.6% of classical and contemporary classical music performed in the last three seasons was written by men, leaving a paltry 2.3% written by women. Why is this so? In a BBC documentary that aired this summer, the question is addressed by Danielle de Niese who writes about it in the Guardian.

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‘As a soprano, where is my voice, where is the female perspective?’ … Danielle de Niese Photograph: BBC

SILLY TIME

WHAT IF?

Lake Tea

What if we were to dump all the tea in the world into the Great Lakes? How strong, compared to a regular cup of tea, would the lake tea be?

Alex Burman

The answer should be of great interest to the tea drinkers among us.

We are planning a trip abroad and have consulted the Id folks on travel:

WUMO

Here is the link.

Anyone who has traveled with children will have empathy.