Weekly Round Up: Imperial woes for Putin,hijabs

Russia’s waning influence Even after the fall of the USSR, Russia held a strong influence in that belt of republics which stretches all the way from Moldova to Tadjikstan. But as happens to many imperial powers an overconcentration of resources to one point (Ukraine) means other subjects see their chance to start kicking over the traces. You should have thought things through more, Vlad! We thank Mr Peter Seymour for this story


Why you shouldn’t read this blog Earlier this week we commented on Iran’s drastic persecution of women who refuse to wear the Hijab. But now Balsam Mustafa, writing in the Conversation, tells the whole tale much more fully: there’s plenty of good links here too if you want to go further


Throw away that telescope We possess an astronomical telescope which we keep in the summer house for use on fine evenings, accompanied by a few cold beers and cubes of fine cheese of course. Yet despite the assurances of the man who sold it to us, the images it produces are small, indistinct and of negligible scientific value. That is compared to the marvellous new James Webb telescope, whose accomplishments already stun and delight. This piece from Nature Briefings shows distant Neptune and its moons; but expect much more, and soon.

This image of Neptune’s spectacular rings (tell them to click on the link-edwas taken with the James Webb Space Telescope’s Near Infrared Camera. The camera captures infrared light, which has been mapped into the visible spectrum in this image. The bright spots in and near the rings are some of Neptune’s moons, including Galatea, Despina, Larissa and Proteus.Scientific American | 5 min read

Buzz Stops for bees Everyone should be doing more for bees, those benign but deeply threatened guardians of the ecosphere. We always have plenty of lavender and wild mixes. Now the Guardian reports a charming idea- if every bus stop roof were turned into a bee garden, how many of the creatures might thrive? And how many other creatures might no longer flutter by?


#putin #russia #central asia #iran #hijab #rights for women #neptune #astronomy #conservation #bees

Friday Night Cocktails for the Super Rich

British readers, we can save most of you a great deal of time today. Because our little blog is all about cocktail advice to the very, very rich. And, as a result of today’s financial reforms by our Chancellor Mr Kwasi Kwarteng, the chances are very high that you won’t be able to afford any of today’s cocktails. For example, if you earn £20 000 a year his tax cuts will afford you a meagre £157.00 a year in our declining currency. Not a great deal to go out and splurge with, is it? So stop reading now.

But…if you are one of those few readers who earns £1000 000 a year, read on. For the same chancellor’s fiscal generosity means you will trouser an extra £55 220 a year. Which means you will want to go out and celebrate, and we have just the list here to do it with; The World’s Ten Most Expensive Cocktails. It’s courtesy of the web site The Richest and their author Sammy Said. [1] Be advised-We admit that Sam’s post is from 2013 and his prices are in dollars. So, what with the pound falling and all that, UK readers will have to make adjustments; rather drastic ones in the months ahead we fear!

Anyway, we’ve picked out five from Sam’s list of ten; to find out more we strongly advise that you go click on his full list. So why not sit back, get a poor person to mix one for you, and muse on this question for Mr Kwarteng “Why is it that to make the rich work harder, you have to give them more money, but to make the poor work harder, you have to give them less money?” Odd indeed.

CocktailPrice $ 2013Where Mixed
Kentucky Derby Mint Julep$1000Churchill Downs Kentucky
Mcallan Single Malt$4000Bur Al Arab Dubai
Diamond Cocktail$ 4350Sheraton Park Hotel London
Martini on the Rock$10 000Algonquin Hotel NY
Diamonds are Forever$22 500Ritz Carlton Tokyo


statistics: The resolution foundation

#inequalittyb #social justice # wealth creation #economic growth #crash

Iranian Women show what courage really means

You can say many things about totalitarian and autocratic regimes. Brutal. Stupid. Selfish. Corrupt. Obdurate. The Iranian regime is all of these things, but it stands out in a class of its own for one particular vice. Spitefulness. Real, playground- level childish viciousness in its treatment of women. And in particular the rigid enforcement of the Hijab, that piece of cloth which must cover the whole of the head and face, regardless of whether they believe in the tenets of Islam or not.

Now it seems that the women of Iran are starting to fight back. According to the BBC [1], there have now been five successive days of unrest. The cost is enormous; it always is when armed(male) police confront and repress unarmed(female) protestors. It’s not as if these brave girls want to ban the hijab. All they ask is to make the same choice about their dress as grown-up women do anywhere. We say: if Hijabs are so good, why don’t the police wear them? The answer “because they’re men” won’t wash, because real men don’t go round beating up women and shooting them.

As the murders continue, so the brave women of Iran will need help. Fortunately, there are several western based centres of resistance which can keep the flame of freedom alive, safe from Khamenei’s secret police. One such we are linking to here is called my stealthy freedom [2] We’ll quote their mission statement here

  MY Stealthy Freedom is an independent campaign by Iranian women. Through acts of peaceful civil disobedience, the campaign highlights and pushes back against discriminatory gender laws within Iran.

Using cross-cultural dialogue to strengthen the voices of Iranian women, My Stealthy Freedom Organization is an independent nonprofit public foundation, with no political affiliation, dedicated to promoting the actions of women struggling for their rights in Iran.

We hope you’ll take time out to visit their website. Because there you will learn what both courage and progress are.

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-62967381

[2] https://www.mystealthyfreedom.org/

#hijab #islam #mystealthyfreedom #ayatollah khamenei #womens rights #freedom #choice

Nostalgia and its discontents

We’ll say it controversially, but we think that nostalgia-that unquenchable longing for a former Golden Age-can be a drug as dangerous as heroin or alcohol. We have sat with grown men, once successful businessmen in their day, who pined: “if only we could get back to…….” To what exactly? Their own former self, now lost in a sea of beer and responsibilities? Or the State of the Nation then, before all these bloody people arrived, and they built a housing estate next to the Dog and Duck?

Just as pornography is in error for obviating the human relationships that surround sex, so nostalgia ignores an obvious truth. Whether History is made by economic forces or Great Men, these forces are multiple, confluent and in flux. Sometimes a particular coincidence at one place, at one time, may allow us some security and welfare for a while. The error is to mistake that moment for permanence, a Golden Age. If things at that time were so good, they would have surely lasted. They didn’t-so somewhere must have been foundations of sand.

Nostalgia is dangerous for individuals and nations. Charles Dickens gave us Miss Havisham in Great Expectations, endlessly mourning her lost wedding day. The Russian nation, or many of them, long for the lost dominion of the Soviet Empire. They forget the price in blood and hunger and terror that was paid to construct it. But other peoples remembered. They are teaching their former masters that lesson in price now.

Gently but inexorably, it will be necessary to prise nostalgics from their addiction, much as we do with smokers or gamblers. For us one of the most hopeful campaigns was Clinton‘s of 1992 with its campaign song, Fleetwood Mac‘s Don’t stop thinking about Tomorrow.[1] Even if the past was better, it’s gone, and the future is real and here, it said. Or are we now being nostalgic in turn?

[1] https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=fleetwood+mac

#ussr #russia #ukraine #queen elizabeth 11 #great expectations #nostalgia #empire

Weekly Round-up: Hats off to India, AI Proteins, Translating Mince Pies and- things can only get better?

stories that caught our notice

AI designs proteins Progress in biochemistry means progress in so many fields-medicine, agriculture, forensic science……now mix it with progress in computing sciences, and you’ve got a quantum leap. So we had to lead with this story from Nature: AI dreams up revolutionary new proteins and leave the explanations to them. The accompanying graphics are well worth a click on their own.

Huge advances in artificial intelligence (AI) mean that researchers can design completely original proteins in seconds instead of months. “The methods are already really powerful. They’re going to get more powerful,” says biochemist David Baker, who led the team that developed the process. “The question is what problems are you going to solve with them.” One application could be speeding up the creation of treatments made from these novel proteins. The first such medicine, a COVID-19 vaccine, was authorized in South Korea in June — but it took years to perfect. Nature | 8 min read

Lost in translation One of the greatest headaches for translators is when they have to convey something incredibly specific (like Yorkshire Pudding)* for the benefit of readers who have no idea at all what it might be. Here’s a wry piece from the Conversation which tells of the difficulties of translating nineteenth century English author Jane Austen for the benefit of a 20th century Chinese readership.

*we saw a translator try this once in a Spanish version of “Crete” by Anthony Beevor


Things can only get better-or can they? Any exposure to modern media, or even a scan of this very blog, will convince most reasonable people that, not only are things very bad indeed, but they could get very much worse! Well, we don’t want you all to become complacent. Time for a contrary view, and who better than one Derek Thompson whose sunny views were carried recently by The Atlantic.


Mr Peter Seymour has provided us with this link via Apple News

No more levelling up Alright it’s a bit Anglocentric. But some writers explain things so clearly that their words are a model of prose. Here Larry Elliott of the Guardian explains how the new Truss government has made London and its banking sector the centre of our national hope once more. Which reverses the ideas of Boris Johnson and his levelling up agenda, which was designed to spread wealth “up north.” Plus ca change as President Macron would say:


Hats off to India Just as the new nation finally overtakes its former Imperial masters, their cultural pride may be fully augmented by this heartwarming story from the BBC. Eight cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) have arrived from Africa ready for release into Gwalior National Park. Yes, the fast cats were once native to this land. History buffs will recall how Indian monarchs would train them as hunting animals, but they had declined to extinction by 1952. Now they’re back, faster than ever and ready to earn their keep with any number of tourist dollars, euros and yen of all sorts. Maybe not so many pounds sterling though!


#AI #protein #folding #bill gates ##cheetah #linguistics #britain #india

Friday Night Cocktails: Some autumn Recipes

One of the worst memories of being young is of going back to school in the autumn. The sadness made all the more acute by the recollection of the recent golden hours of summer liberty- so close, and now so cruelly snatched! A mass of unwanted homework, fellow pupils and teachers descended on one, and the long hours of drudgery began again. Mathematics. French. Physics. Grammar. English. Which of course included poetry, which the more sadistic teachers would use as a gleeful token of one’s subjection by choosing ones with autumnal themes and tropes. As if autumn (“fall” if you’re reading this in America) wasn’t bad enough already without the likes of Keats, Shakespeare, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Robert Frost and a whole host of others expounding at length on falling leaves, mists, life’s passing, forests, and anything else that caught their eye as they gazed vacantly from their bedroom windows in West Hampstead, West Bromwich, East LA, or wherever.

Fortunately, childhood is something you grow out of, and you are free again to spend your leisure time as you choose. By going down the pub for example. Or in our case, gentle readers, the Cocktail Bar. And suddenly autumn can be a pleasure again. Especially if you choose from the rather extensive list of really juicy cocktails which our researchers (give ’em another dollar-ed) have lined up for you.

For they have unearthed a rather delightful site called She Keeps a Lovely Home, where a lady named Genevieve waxes lyrical about such delights as the Constant Comment Hot Toddy, The white Pumpkin, The Morticia Adams and lots more. So, as the nights draw in and the frost starts to sparkle on your lawn and car windows, why not let these expert mixologists guide you to a Friday night of autumnal delight, and forget the miseries of a wasted youth?


#autumn #fall #cocktails

Earth System Boundaries-a budget by any other name

One thing we’ve learned in the last hundred years is that the Planet Earth isn’t all that big really. Especially with all these people now living on it, all of them wanting new homes, cars, fridges and clothes. Which means its resources of things like water, clean air, minerals and all the other things which those people need are truly, terrifyingly finite. It’s time to make a serious, rational estimate of how much there is left, and how long it will last.

Nature explains how a multidisciplinary team called the Earth Commission are doing just that.[1] Who they are and how they’re doing it you will find by clicking our link below. Their own summary is pretty good though

Researchers must help to define science-based targets for water, nutrients, carbon emissions and more to avoid cascading effects and stave off tipping points in Earth’s systems.

About time too, we say. Wise parents send teenagers off to their first summer camp with a limited budget; they soon learn how long money lasts. We have to do the same with things like fish stocks. river systems and forests. (Could someone quickly send Bolsonaro on a summer camp, please?) What these scientists are really saying is that we need planetary budgets: not monetary, but rather based on resources. Which in turn raises an intriguing thought: would not a world budget work better if there were a world government to run it?

PS- Do click on the link- the picture for the article is truly nauseating

[1] https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-02894-3?utm_source=Nature+Briefing&utm_campaign=55a5a1c7f7-briefi

#resources #environment #ecology #earth #bolsonaro # finite #conservation

Alexander Lukashenko: facing a big decision

Recent advances by Ukrainian forces on the Kharkiv front spell one barrowful of trouble for Vladimir Vladimirovitch Putin. [1] [2]. Trouble; but not yet terminal, as he still has cards to play. These could be economic, or nuclear. But there is one remaining conventional military option, sitting right on Ukraine’s border, which could still be deployed. It is Belarus and its lifelong dictator Alexander Lukashenko.

On the face of it, this option must look tempting to Putin and his advisers. Lukashenko owes them his position, and thereby a favour. Both share a common hatred of freedom and democracy. Ukrainian forces, heavily committed towards Kherson and the Eastern fronts would be incredibly vulnerable to a stab in the back. Belarussian forces could sweep across the lightly defended plains to be in Kiev in a week. War over.

But think again from the point of view of Lukashenko’s self-interest. Firstly: if he gave the order, how much of his army would obey? He’s not the most popular of men. Secondly: how many Belarussians would risk their lives for Vladimir Putin? And if Putin triumphs, what then? Lukashenko becomes one more provincial governor, just another subordinate in Putin’s power structure. And we all know what happens to them when they displease the Boss, or some more favoured member of the Court takes a fancy to their little fief. The current fashion is to fall out of a window, or a mysterious poisoning (often extended to wives and children). But as Putin treads ever more faithfully in the footsteps of Josef Stalin, how long before it’s a long slow death in Siberia, or a short, agonising one in the Lubyanka?

A victory for Ukraine would leave Belarus largely untouched, ready to integrate at its own pace into structures such as the EU and NATO, if it chose to do so. It would certainly take a generation or so. Meanwhile a general rising tide of prosperity which that victory would bring, will guarantee rising living standards and political stability to all nations in that region. Lukashenko must be an intelligent man, or he could not have lasted so long. Time for him to consider the old maxim:” “be careful what you wish for.”


[2] https://www.nationalreview.com/2022/09/putin-plays-the-escalation-game/

#lukashenko #putin #belarus #ukraine #russia #war #stalin

Weekly round-up: nuclear fusion, clever people, discovering America, cat apps

some things we noticed this week which may be significant

Fusion, fusion We’ve said it before here, but one sure way out of our current energy problems will be the ability to harness the power of nuclear fusion; that bringing together of hydrogen atoms to make them into helium, thus replicating the processes of the Sun. Progress has been indifferent for many decades but two recent developments suggest that things may be looking up

First Anthony Cuthbertson for the Irish Independent showcases a South Korean team who have achieved 30 seconds’ run time at temperatures far hotter than the Sun. No one’s quite got this far before.


In research, trying to do things a bit differently sometimes helps. Up to now much fusion research has centred on tokamaks. Now team at Germany’s prestigious Max Planck Institute is trying out something called a “stellarator.” It’s early days yet, but this Insitute’s track record on anything is truly formidable. One to watch:

We thank Mr Gary Herbert for this lead


More wrangling over genes We are at LSS are always suspicious about a single genetic explanation for anything, from homosexuality to the disappearance of Neanderthal Persons in the late Paleolithic. Yet genes must do something, or why else would we have them? Which is why it’s worth a good look at this one from Nature, which puts down our own (self-proclaimed) superiority to a gene called TKTL-1

Researchers have pinpointed a fateful genetic mutation that might have contributed to a cognitive advantage for modern humans over Neanderthals. Tests in the laboratory suggest that a single change in the gene TKTL1 ultimately causes the brain to develop more neurons. The Neanderthal version of TKTL1 still exists in some modern humans, although it’s very rare and it’s unknown whether it causes any disease or cognitive differences.Nature | 4 min read
Reference: Science paper

Looking for America Given that the two American continents are so very big, it always seemed odd to us that everybody missed them before Colombus. Turns out they didn’t-at least seven other lots got there before the intrepid Italian. None of it could have been plain sailing, but we are in particular awe of the Polynesians who crossed the truly vast Pacific in tiny canoes. Nicolas Longrich expounds for the Conversation:


Time for a cat app Everyone thinks they know how to communicate with a feline friend. But can IT help clarify the conversations? Claire Cohen checks out the pros and cons of the latest apps which may help humans and cats understand each other more clearly. We don’t think there’s much to know beyond “I WANT MY DINNER” and “LET ME IN/OUT.”


May you and all your pets of whatever species have a good weekend

#nuclear fusion #max planck institute #tktl-1 #neanderthal #settlement of America #cats

No Friday Cocktails

Out of respect to our British readers, there will be no Friday Night Cocktails this week due to the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on Wednesday.

We would like to thank readers in all countries for the condolences which your leaders have sent to our Government and Nation.

LSS will resume tomorrow with Weekly Round Up.