Curtain Raiser

Back to the Drawing Board, Colltalers

After 34 guilty pleas, of President Trump’s top advisers, Russian spies and hackers, ex-FBI director Robert Mueller delivered his much anticipated, but disappointing report. It had an upside, though: for most of Saturday, the president’s twitter feed was silent.
Americans are unsure about what’s next, but four million signatures, and a million people rally, showed that Brits are not: they want a new referendum on the U.K.’s E.U. exit plan, which ironically may kick Brexit, and PM Teresa May, to history’s dustbin.
Before getting to those two headline-grabbing issues, let’s quickly recap a rather depressing meeting between two world leaders of a combined half a billion population. On Sunday, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro finally met his maker, er, mentor, in his first U.S. visit. For arguably the majority of those people, it’s was hard to see them two exchanging niceties, let alone hear them.
For in just over three months, Bolsonaro and his three loose-canon politician sons, have found themselves at the center of a whirlpool of humiliating scandals that all but paralyzed the country. Worse: in at least one case, there are strong indications of their involvement with an unsolved murder, that of Rio councilwoman and LGBT activist, Marielle Franco, shot dead a year ago.
While support among the so-called ‘bull, bullet and bible’ caucus in congress – a coalition of big landowners, gun advocates, and wealthy Evangelicals -, remains steady, but not free of frictions, he’s shown surprising poor judgement in sorting out conflicts his kids have sowed with cabinet members. Now, Globo, the country’s biggest media company, has cynically joined his opposition.
In fact, one of the biggest reasons he’s now the president was the campaign, led by the same company, to depose President Dilma Rousseff on bogus arguments, halfway through her second term, in 2016. And the imprisonment of charismatic two-term president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who was leading all polls just a few months before the November presidential election.
The comparison with the American president, and his unpredictable kids, is inevitable, but while Trump is a world Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Trouble Forges Better Leaders, Colltalers

A society led by children is not attainable. But kids won’t wait for permission to lead: no action on climate, no life on the planet, they say. Seemingly, we don’t vote on gender or race. Yet, it’s women, people of color, and the young, who’re speaking the truth.
‘Our gun laws will change.’ New Zealand P.M. Jacinda Ardern’s response to the massacre of 50 Muslims by a white supremacist, was most appropriate; Parliament’s should quickly approve her plan. When will Americans see such resolve from their leaders?
It was supposed to be a beautiful Friday, with kids all over the world striking against climate change. They’re showing the kind of determination, which is what this juncture requires, that most adults in positions of power haven’t. Which makes one wonder, that they are either missing crucial brain cells, or have a financial stake invested by ignoring the public clamor. And also lack neurons.
But what makes the biggest difference, both from the part of the kids, and adults with a still functioning brain, is accountability.
Whereas the young is taking upon themselves to act as grownups, and defend a dwindling future they, more than anyone else, are likely to be around to live through, those in charge must be held accountable for sticking their heads in the sand rather than lead.
This is the second major issue, related to survival and assuring a future to everyone, that American kids are taking the initiative. The other is gun control. But despite spending 2018 rallying for change, officials and politicians remain oblivious to the public clamor.
The massacre at the Christchurch town mosque somehow merged the two issues and made it painfully clear who’s on the wrong side of history. Surprise, they’re the same. Those not ashamed of expressing racist views, and resorting to violence to back it up, are also defenders of the status quo, unwittingly supporting a privileged, and unrealistic, order of which they’re actually outcasts.
Neighbor Australia had proved that legislation does indeed stop mass killings, and it’d at least, cut drastically the inconceivable daily reality of gun shootings in the U.S., for instance. Since Continue reading

Pregnant Times

A Pi for Einstein
& Marielle Franco

Three important dates are marked today: Albert Einstein’s birth, he of the theory of relativity, in 1879; the Number Pi, the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, since 1988; and the murder of Rio councilwoman, and race and LGBT activist, Marielle Franco, a year ago.
Such events have little connection among them, but understanding each for its relevance help us get to know better the world we live in. Or rather, beyond champagne and cake, today could be suitable for a bit of soul searching as for why we are in the state we are in.
Number coincidences, to be sure, are mainly illusions our brains create for forming connections otherwise hard to notice by busybodies like us. Most times, the law of probabilities and statistics debunk claims of supernatural occurrences based on figures or even random events.
That being said, we’re consumed by possibilities they suggest to our overstimulated, and easily bored, existences. It’s enough to see, say, the same number appearing in a seemingly casual succession, for us to lose it, read it as a divine sign, or simply go buy a lottery ticket.
Gamblers blame their obsession to their automatic response to digits, and dare not to imply that luck, usually bad for everyone, has nothing to do with numeric values. Because, well, some of them, do strike rich every once in a while. People are just nuts for numbers.

Einstein, born 140 years ago in the then German Empire, had a peripatetic life. He renounced his country of birth, and spent five years as a stateless scientist. In 1933, while visiting the U.S. already as a Swiss citizen, he saw Hitler‘s ascent to power and decided to stay.
It’s also ironic that, while his research opened the door for the atomic era, which he personally urged Americans to join, later in life he co-signed the 1955 Einstein-Russell Manifesto, along philosopher Bertrand Russell, to this day, a monument to pacifism and an alert about nukes.
For science, Relativity was his biggest legacy, with implications in practically all fields of knowledge. To us, though, he is the benign-looking white-haired man with his tongue stuck out, in the famous pic by UPI photographer Arthur Sasse, taken 68 years ago today.
Millions of teenagers had that photo on their wall in the 1960s, together with Make Love, Not War signs, the Beatles, and other heroes of the era. Just like now, few could define Relativity, but most knew what Einstein stood for til the end: the dignity of the human experience.
He’s one of the 20th century’s figures that made his the world we all live in now. His sway over science and the culture seems boundless, and will certainly last. Less certain is whether his influence is still strong enough to convince mankind to opt for peace.

It’s understandable that Egyptians made the first calculations about the circle’s diameter so early on in our recorded history. And that Greek mathematician Archimedes of Syracuse perfected that figure to what we now know to be 3.141592653589793238 (and counting).
After all, it was already known that heavenly bodies were round – even as the concept of nationality was still very fluid – and the circle is considered the most primitive of human inventions. ‘Don’t disturb my circles,‘ though, Archimedes‘ alleged last words, not so much.
William Jones is credited to picking the Greek letter P to name the diameter, in 1706. But only in 1988, the American scientific (more)
Read Also:
* Albert’s Pie
* In a Relative Way
* American Pi

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Curtain Raiser

Bolsonaro’s Porn Tweet & Brexit, Colltalers

Tomorrow, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May faces another crucial Parliamentary vote on Brexit, the country’s planned exist from the European Union. Chances are, though, she’ll lose again, no deal will be reached, and Britons will enter a bleak two-year limbo.
Thursday it’ll be a year since the still unsolved murder of Rio councilwoman Marielle Franco. She’s likely the most distinguished among the staggering four thousand-plus women killed in Brazil in 2018. But President Bolsonaro is not too concerned about that.
The week starts grim in the aftermath of another fatal crash of a 747 Max 8 Boeing, this time in Ethiopia, and the second downing of such plane in the last six months. And it’ll probably have at least one new scandal involving the U.S. president, just as he files yet another multi-billion request to Congress to build his racist wall. Meanwhile, no resolution is expected to Venezuela’s crisis.
Bolsonaro, whose three-month presidency has been plagued by scandals and charges of corruption and nepotism, has become the first Brazilian president who not just dislikes Carnival, his country’s biggest party and arguably the biggest in the world, but also who tweets a pornographic video – supposedly to show his disgust about the LGBT community. It’s obviously backfired big time.
It’s not unusual for a right wing populist to become a national joke. Some simply can’t take it, unleashing their wrath on the backs of their already oppressed people. But the sense of incompetence surrounding Bolsonaro’s conduction of Brazil’s affairs so far, has all but paralyzed him, and he showed no hint that he understands his blunder (now blamed on one of his sons). Not unusual either.
What has caused anxiety to both his constituency and political allies alike, though, is that he’s been incapable Continue reading

Women Matter

10 (Randomly Picked)
Extraordinary Women

Suddenly, feminism is no longer a cursed word. As the world man built faces total collapse, the ‘Second Sex’ is being enlisted to save it. Even as women are used to pick up pieces from male obsessions, this time they’re coming to grab the helm. Should we be so lucky?
John Lennon may’ve been a flawed man, and when he sang ‘Woman is the nigger of the world,’ many didn’t like his appropriation of a black experience word. But in essence, he was absolutely right. On this Women’s Day, the ‘slaves of the slaves’ will rise. Are you with us?
After two years of the Trump administration, is not a political party, or a cast, that has the best ideas on how to kick His Incompetence out. It’s women, now the most diversified, articulated, and stoic force vying to take the lead for change in America. Don’t miss this bus.
Is not for the record number of candidates aiming at becoming the first U.S. mother president, or the tsunami of fresh leadership that got elected to Congress. In fact, we’re seeing an explosion of female voices of protest all over the world. They came a long way and won’t quit now.
Here’s a series of quotes by outstanding women, living and passed, that could’ve been spoken, or written, the other week. Time has not changed the truth they’ve once spoken and fought for. Many are still among us. Today, as we join them, we’re all women of all genders.

*’I am too intelligent, too demanding, and too resourceful for anyone to take charge of me entirely. No one knows me or loves me completely. I have only myself.’ Simone de Beauvoir



                                                                                                                             *’If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament. Women may be the one group that grows more radical with age.’ Gloria Steinem




*’Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.’ Margaret Atwood


*’I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.’ Maya Angelou




*’Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul.’ Coretta Scott King





*’Let’s talk about liberating minds as well as liberating society. If they come for me in the morning, they will come for you in the night.’ Angela Davis




*’Another killing of a young person possibly committed by the Military Police. Matheus was leaving church. How many more must die for this war to end?’ Marielle Franco




*’I was born in a place where your ZIP code determines your destiny. Women like me aren’t supposed to run for office.’ Alexandria Ocasio-Cortéz




*’I raise up my voice — not so I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard… We cannot succeed when half of us are held back.’ Malala Yousafzai




*’You have ignored us in the past, and you will ignore us again. You say you love your children, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.’ Greta Thunberg

Read Also:
* Beautiful Bandit
* First Ladies
* The Other Half of the Sky

Curtain Raiser

No-Deal Maker Loses Again, Colltalers

So the master of the deal has failed again. Another historical summit with North Korean Kim Jong-un got wasted because the U.S. president showed up ill prepared, flanked by two war mongers, and with no clue on how to set in course a safe path for peace.
Right on cue, India and Pakistan, nuke-ready nations, resumed hostilities. The failure was a blow to 70 million Koreans, plus more around the world, but Trump’s most likely focus, and concerns, was on his longtime personal lawyer spilling the beans to Congress.
The best thing about this week then may be a reminder: on Women’s Day this Friday, at least a record seven female candidates will be vowing to unseat the president next year. Maybe the time to have a mother in the White House is now, not as many expected, and still mourn, in Nov. 2016. But even if candidate ‘anyone-but-Trump’ wins, there’ll be a huge bag of broken deals to be fixed.
The thing is, a president doesn’t have to be a diplomat. Trump, specially, could’ve avoided to play such a bull in the china shop, if he’d considered years of talks with North Korea, the role of South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in, China’s influence, trust and all other factors that take time and effort to build into a common accord. Instead, he put Max Pompeo and John Bolton in charge.
Both the Sec. of State and the National Security Adviser follow the ideology that places the U.S. atop the world, with all the perks and full autonomy to intervene, invade, bomb, or otherwise threaten any country or organization that they may perceived as an enemy of American financial, military, and business interests. But neither would accept such rights for others, outside their terms.
Such a role, though, only exists in their war-forged, privileged-imbued, self-preserving, and deranged, minds. The world wants the U.S, to lead it to peace and prosperity, not to be its dictator. If these hawks want to pursue their delusions, they should put some skin in the game. As much as they’d love to send Americans to their grave, though, neither would allow their own kin to enlist.
Again, no one needs to wear combat fatigues to know about the potential carnage a U.S. intervention would cause in Venezuela, for instance, or even worse, Iran. Since being named Continue reading

The Bug Report

A New Unicorn Praying Mantis
& the Rediscovered Queen Bee

Without fuss, our relationship with insects has been wildly changing lately. First, we considered eating them in case of an apocalyptic scenario. Then came the worldwide alert: bugs are disappearing – led by a bee catastrophic fallout. Whatever happened to our lunch?
Then again, the same science that predicts climate change may cause the extinction of critters and humans alike, keeps finding new species to amaze us all. The latest: a stunning praying mantis, and the reappearance of the giant Wallace bee, not seen since 1981.
Bugs’ otherworldly beauty and, based on what we now know, crucial role in the food chain, reassigns our appreciation of these creatures. So utterly distinct from us, and yet, so essential to life. The poignant note about it all is that we may not get to discover them in time.
It was surprising, for instance, to find out that spiders eat in a year the weight of the entire mankind. Or that beetles, with over 380,000 species, are the most biodiverse, making up to 40% of all insects on Earth. Some would say, no wonder The Beatles are still so dominant.
But even before the troubling notion that we’d need to start eating them – ‘for the protein, they said’ -, they began to vanish. It’s still unclear how they’re being affected by the changing climate, but one thing is for sure: if they go, we all go right after.

Brazil’s Mata Atlântica, near Rio, is one of the world’s most diverse forests. Older than the Amazon, only 10% is now left from its original size. In this doomed place, however, life thrives, and it’s where a magical creature was discovered, among half a dozen new species.
Science has no place for praying, except for the praying mantis (pardon the poor pun). Their alien appearance is not very popular, though, even when looking like a dead leaf, or an orchid. And then, there’s that business of having their heads eaten while copulating.
Maybe that’s how evolution treated such a mortal threat: by developing horns. The hand-sized Zoolea praying mantis has one, along a pair of imposing metallic-red limbs. Thus, next time you see one, before running, check for the unicorn. And make a wish or something.

Over a decade ago, what became known as Colony Collapse Disorder was so serious that scientists feared for our food crops, without bees to pollinate them. Luckily, it wasn’t to be, not because of that, anyway. But bee populations are still declining, and now, other insects too.
That’s why the rediscovery of the Wallace‘s giant bee (Megachile Pluto) in Indonesia is so auspicious. Four times as big as a honeybee, it does not produce honey or live in hives. Also, confirming a trend (more)
Read Also:
* Racy Meals
* Heat Riders
* Honey, We’ve Shrunk the Bees

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