Question It!

Very disturbing development in our post-Savile era which raises more questions than answers about rule of law and public accountability in a democracy – who watches the watchers?
“What is equally disturbing about this case is that despite the lack of clarity on what are very important issues going to motive, the CPS did not request a trial of fact to determine why Kelly downloaded the images in the first instance.”

Researching Reform

Welcome to another week.

A former police officer has been spared jail after 1,000 indecent images of children were found in his home – some of which he had made – because of his work exposing paedophiles. Lee Kelly was given a 10-month sentence, which has been suspended for two years.

The judge told Kelly that he felt it would be unjust to send him to prison immediately because of his previous good work during his career as a police officer. It is unclear whether any of the child abuse images were made or gathered during the time he served as a police officer, although media reports suggests this may have been the case. It is also not clear whether the police officer collected and produced images with a view to catching offending paedophiles or for his own use. There is some suggestion from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) that…

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Ray Jones: ‘If councils lose accountability for children’s services then families will lose the help they need’

NIROMP

Ray Jones, social work academic and former director of social services in Wiltshire, has been nothing short of vocal about his concerns surrounding the increasing involvement of private companies in the delivery of social work and social care. Many share his view – almost 72,000 people signed three petitions in 2014 opposing government proposals to […]

Read full piece at source:Ray Jones: ‘If councils lose accountability for children’s services then families will lose the help they need’

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The Rise of the Radical Fascist Idiot

“The problem with this kind of misinformation is that it becomes stuck in people’s minds as truth, and once something is generally believed as a ‘truth’ it is very difficult to dispel the lie, even with undeniable evidence.

The reasons why people will continue to believe misinformation are varied, but often include social compliance, the misinformation appeals to their own prejudices or view of the world, lack of analytical skills or capacity, laziness, elitism, personal financial or perceived social gain, and so on.”

“Once established, the method of operation of a radical group is much the same regardless of cause. They enter into campaigns where they attempt to supress any alternative or opposition to their viewpoint.

Common tactics include:

Look for anything that will support their claim regardless of relevance.
Cite highly dubious ‘evidence’.
Misrepresent real evidence.
Develop unsubstantiated theories based on flawed or manipulated evidence.
Present subjective opinion as fact.
Will not engage in genuine debate.
Will not answer directly challenging questions.
Will attempt to personally attack those with alternative or opposing viewpoints rather than attempting to disprove them.
Will attempt to prevent anyone with an alternative or opposing viewpoint from expressing themselves.
Will organise disruptive interventions against those with alternative or opposing views, or who question the validity of the group’s claims.
Will attempt to gain support through emotive tactics and the use of slogans or/and buzzwords such as the currently popular and vacuous use of ‘phobia’.
Will enforce ‘safe spaces’ – which are used to shy away from answering challenges to dubious viewpoints.
Will attempt to gain support from those they perceive as psychologically vulnerable and/or suggestable.
Will castigate any member of the group who questions the group objectives or ‘facts’.
Will claim victimship in an attempt to garner sympathy or support.
Attempts to criticise them will be called ‘hate speech’ or some kind of ‘violence’.
Although these tactics are specific to radical groups they are also used by individuals.

These tactics and general method of operation strike a resemblance to the core principles of fascism.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary has the following definition of fascism:

“a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control”

The basic principles of fascism are:

The state is everything to which every member must conform. The ‘state’ being the individuals in control at the core.
Everything outside the state is a threat and must be ‘conquered’ and forced to conform to the state.
No criticism of, questioning of, or opposition to the state is permitted.”

Order Of Truth

Wherever you consider yourself to be on the political spectrum, if you have been paying any attention to developments in western society over the past decade or so you will have noticed just how plainly stupid it is becoming.

The days when evidence, truth, logic, and common sense could be relied on to have some meaningful influence on the evolution of society are fading very fast.

Within any modern progressive society decisions have to be made for the common good, a balance of societal need and personal interests. Inevitably this results in some members or groups within society not having their personal interests met, even though their basic human needs are (or should be) catered for.

The basic needs of members of most western societies are legislated for through various human rights legislation that set a minimum entitlement or expectation for each human within the society.

As an example, the…

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#Gambia: #Truth First, #Reconciliation Later — Foreign Policy

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BANJUL, Gambia—Everyone in the room was patient. Many had waited two decades for a meeting like this. So they sat, quiet, even as monologues meandered and temperatures rose. The seven panelists stood, one after the other and spoke about the end of the old Gambia and the beginning of the new. For 22 years, this country had been in the clutches of a dictator as capricious as he was cruel. No longer, the justice minister said. Tall, dressed in an off-white robe, and with a bump on his forehead in the spot where it touches a prayer mat five times a day, he told the hundred-odd people gathered in August 2017 that each of them had a role to play in the building of their new nation. And that day, their role was to help build a truth and reconciliation commission.

The audience obliged. A man in a periwinkle robe stood. He operated the only Gambian mental health clinic and said the traumatized should receive counseling. One woman spoke of the need for reparations, lamenting that her friend, a torture victim, died destitute after his injuries left him unable to work.

These insights, offered by regular citizens, have been folded into Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), which held its first trial this week. For the next two years (a tenure the government can extend), the 11 commissioners—apolitical individuals, “of high moral character” from diverse backgrounds—will oversee the televised trials and establish an impartial narrative of what happened in the violent shadows of former President Yahya Jammeh’s regime. They’ll also, more tangibly, produce a report with recommendations on what the government should do on reparations, amnesty, and prosecution—including, potentially, the prosecution of Jammeh himself.

Prosecution tends to be the most important objective for victims. The government’s emphasis, meanwhile, is often on reconciliation. And this isn’t the only fault line—there is also the question of defining victimhood. So far, the word has been used liberally, even to describe those who suffered “pecuniary loss” at the hands of the former regime. But in a country whose poverty was deepened by Jammeh’s avarice, who hasn’t suffered financial loss by his hand? There’s also the challenge of what to do about the victims who, prior to their suffering, were themselves perpetrators.

After seizing the presidency in 1994, Jammeh and his allies consolidated their power through intimidation, disappearances, and torture. Finally, in December 2016, the unexpected happened: Jammeh lost re-election to a newly formed coalition and fled into exile. On the campaign trail, the coalition promised a truth commission, and it quickly got to work after taking office, going on a nationwide tour to get public input on the commission and drafting the bill that established the TRRC.

Historically, according to the Canadian author and politician Michael Ignatieff, commissions such as this strive to lay out two types of truth: factual truth (establishing what happened) and moral truth (establishing why those things happened and who did them). In places like Chile and Argentina, he argues, the commissions laid out the former while falling short on the latter.

One of the reasons is that, in the pursuit of stability, amnesties were granted widely. And this is a central question all commissions have to grapple with: How much accountability is appropriate? Too much, and it’s a witch hunt threatening the broader political transition that’s taking place; not enough, and there’s no substantive transition to speak of. In Latin America, some of this balance was achieved through reparations to victims. But in South Africa, where there was also broad amnesty, the reparations were disappointing, fostering lingering resentment and structural inequality.

Officials in Gambia have brought in international experts and met with the architects of other commissions, hoping to avoid mistakes made elsewhere. Still, there are tensions. For victims who are also perpetrators, there’s a need for justice, compassion, and deliberation on the question of reparations. More broadly, there’s a need for wariness when it comes to the role of politics in the process, especially as victims agitate for justice and officials set their sights on reconciliation.

On Thursday, April 14, 2016, eight months before Jammeh’s defeat, Fatoumatta Sandeng woke early to pray with her father. She then got ready for work, he to lead a protest. Before they parted, her father, Solo Sandeng, a leader within Gambia’s largest opposition party, urged her to keep the rest of the family safe. “The day of the protest, he knew something was going to happen to him,” Fatoumatta said as we sat in her living room. “I knew personally he was going to be arrested, but I didn’t expect he was going to be killed.” Sandeng was detained by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and, within a day, tortured to death.

“You can’t just kill my dad today, and then the next day, I see you passing,” she said. “It can prompt me to do something. … Because there is something that needs to be cooled, like there is some fire in you that needs to be cooled off. There needs to be justice. Let them face it.”

In fact, Sandeng’s killers are the first to face the prospect of justice for Jammeh-era abuses. They’ve been on trial for more than a year, and their case offers a glimpse into the future truth commission, highlighting the problems that arise when proceedings are politicized.

“The NIA case is more political. … It’s more of a vendetta,” said Fabakary Ceesay, a wiry, formerly exiled journalist. “Because it involved the death of a senior official of the biggest political party … there was much more anger.” But whether the state will be as supportive of prosecutions in other cases is far less clear, several victims said.

On one day of the trial last year, observers packed the courtroom. The gray-wigged prosecutors showed a key piece of evidence: a video of Sandeng’s interrogation. In it, Sandeng wheezes through answers to questions posed by an off-screen voice, holding up a swollen hand. A woman in the courtroom scurried to the exit, pulling her headscarf over her mouth to hide her sobs. All around the courtroom, people sucked their teeth and shook their heads at the pain that Sandeng had clearly endured—and at the pain that was yet to come.

Even with this seemingly ironclad evidence, the trial is complicated, especially as the justice system recalibrates itself for a post-autocratic era. In July, for example, one of the accused said he was tortured into confessing. This added to concerns that the case was rushed haphazardly, driven by the desire to score a quick political victory.

That came a few months after another major bungle in the case; one prosecutor had to recuse himself after tapes leaked showing he’d secretly met a defendant’s wife. To many Gambians, that was a signal that elites would prioritize one another over justice—a risk in the TRRC proceedings, too.

Such events have contributed to public mistrust of the campaign for justice. Fewer than half of Gambians said they trusted the TRRC “a lot” or “somewhat,” an Afrobarometer survey showed. Indeed, in early, private discussions, senior justice officials were “not really interested” in prosecution, one source close to those talks said, worried that it could be incendiary and conflict with their primary objective of reconciliation. Also at play was elites’ desire to protect their own. This is a big challenge in a country so small, where tiny elite circles are tightknit. This smallness also means many current officials also held power in the former regime and now float through morally gray spaces.

One young woman, introduced to me via a victims’ group, recounted over sobs the story of her father’s disappearance, speaking of her desire for justice and reparations on his behalf. Her father was the former head of the NIA, Daba Marenah.

“His hands are not clean,” Ceesay said of the former spy chief. “May he rest in peace, but … during his days, a lot of people were tortured, and a lot of people were killed.” He is implicated in the 2005 execution of 44 Ghanaians, who were accused of trying to overthrow Jammeh but were actually migrants in transit. Over the past several months, there have been growing calls to prosecute those connected to these killings.

There’s wide agreement that complex victims like Marenah—those wronged wrongdoers—deserve truth and that crimes committed against them should be adjudicated. Several arrest warrants have been issued in connection with his death, including for an ex-minister currently in Swiss custody. But there’s no consensus as to whether a victim like him should get reparations.

“For those people … tell them that the victimization that they’ve been through is the payment for what they did,” said John Njie, the head of a Gambian NGO association, who helped draft the TRRC bill. “Are you going to compensate somebody like that?”

Giving reparations to these complex victims has risks: It could foment resentment, and here, where many victims are elites, it could reinforce suspicions that the system panders to the powerful. Still, there’s a fundamental reason why it should be done: Justice should be equitable. There is room to be creative in how it happens—there could be specialized panels, for example, that have the ability to make innovative recommendations, such as rehabilitation as a form of reparation, as Luke Moffett of Queen’s University Belfast writes.

Any kind of reparation will be difficult to secure, however, if history holds any lessons. It certainly won’t be easy in a country with an annual GDP of less than $1 billion and an ex-president who helped himself to state funds for 22 years. So far, the government has helped some victims get medical care and psychological support, with more initiatives in the pipeline.

“Those who were victims, most of them were breadwinners and left kids behind,” said Awa Sanneh, the widow of a victim. Her husband, Omar Barrow, was a journalist and Red Cross volunteer, who was shot while providing medical assistance to protesters during student demonstrations in 2000. Their first child was 5 months old at the time. “It’s hard to be a single parent,” Sanneh said.

“There was a time when I thought, ‘How can I feed my kids?’” Sunkary Yabo recalled. Her husband, Lt. Basiru Barrow, helped Jammeh stage the bloodless coup that brought him to power but was accused of plotting a countercoup a few months later and executed alongside a dozen others. His killing, one of the Jammeh regime’s earliest crimes, will be among the first heard by the TRRC.

“The truth has to come out first,” said their son Abdul Aziz, too young to have any real memories of his father. “Justice definitely. And then, yes, reconciliation … maybe.”

via Truth First, Reconciliation Later — Foreign Policy

Kisimul ‘The Safe Haven’ sold to Roadchef for 200 million.Venture Capital’s bonanza on LA/NHS special needs education and care money.

“Three people have been arrested in connection with a safeguarding investigation at a home for children with special educational needs.

The home – on the site of the Kisimul School in Swinderby, Lincolnshire – was closed earlier this month over “serious safeguarding concerns”.

Lincolnshire Police said a man, aged 56 and two women, aged 52 and 57, were arrested.

All three, from Lincoln, have been bailed.

More news from Lincolnshire

The force said it would be making no further comment at this stage.

The children’s accommodation is on the site of – but registered separately from – the Kisimul School, which teaches children with autism, learning disabilities and challenging behaviour.

At its last inspection, the school was rated as outstanding by Ofsted and its children’s home rated as good.”
BBC News – Three arrests in Kisimul children’s home probe 30 November 2018: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lincolnshire-46396896

finolamoss

imageskismul

Whilst Thatcher sold our silver, successive governments have sold our gold, bankrupting our country, LA and NHS, by selling off public services and then paying public money to use them, one of the biggest money spinners includes the care and education of the deliberately created autism and LD industry, making billions for investors, banks, investment houses and advisors.

It appears the eventual aim is to allow monopoly global mulinationals owned by venture capital banks and their investors to provide services paid for by the public purse.

This allows neither competition between providers, nor any real accountability, asset stripping at will, and a massive conflict of interests, as these Companies’ overriding duty is to make ever more profit from their guaranteed increasing public income from their captive consumers.

Who could have thought that 4 Kisimul special needs boarding schools in Lincolnshire could be sold last year by a multibillion pound investment…

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The Need to Be Known and to Be Understood!

The Need to Be Known and to Be Understood | The Humble I | 10 January 2019

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Three core ingredients go into making up the religion of Islam. And they are expressed in three simple words: iman – the “faith” or “belief” one must have in God, His Prophets, as well as in the Afterlife; islam – outward “submission” to God in terms of such things like prayer, pilgrimage or moral uprightness; and ihsan – usually translated as “excellence”, which refers to internalising faith and outward submission, and bringing them to their peak and perfection. The Prophet, peace be upon him, described ihsan in these words: ‘It is to worship God as though seeing Him; and though you see Him not, know that He sees you.’ [Muslim, no.2]

Time and again, the Qur’an speaks of God, of Allah, as being al-Basir – “All-Seeing” and al-Khabir – “All-Aware”. We read in the Qur’an: Nothing in the earth or in the heavens is hidden from God. [Q.3:5] We are also told: He knows what is secret and what is even more hidden. [Q.20:7] And as Edwin Arnold versified in Pearls of Faith:

‘Al-Khabir! Thou Who art ‘aware’ of all,
By this name also for Thy grace we call.
Yes! pardon, Lord, since Thou dost know
Tomorrow, now, and long ago.’

So God sees us at every moment; and is aware of all things, at all times. But we need to tread very carefully here. For allowing hearts to nurture a healthy sense of fear of God, through awareness of Him being All-Seeing, All-Aware, is undeniably part of sound faith. But the notion that God is some sort of “Super-Spy”, eagerly waiting to catch us out and to gleefully punish us when we may slip, stumble, or harbour fleeting, shameful secret thoughts that we dare not acknowledge even to our own selves, is not what such Quranic verses are about. That God is lying in ambush to see us hopefully slip or sin, so as to then pounce on us with divine punishment – well that sort of idea of God as being some sort of mean-spirited, cosmic Tyrant is utterly alien to Islam!

The Holy Qur’an wishes us to understand that God’s all-seeing presence isn’t suffocating. Rather the believer finds God’s all-knowing presence reassuring and comforting. In their deepest need to be known, the believer is aware that God fully knows them: and that is surely reassuring. And in their deepest need to be understood, the believer realises that God truly understands them: and that is comforting. The sense of loneliness which haunts so many people in our age, cries out for love; for friendship; for companionship. It cries out to be known and to be understood. What a relief, then, to discover that – in the only way it truly matters – we are fully understood, because we are truly known. For He who created us and fashioned us is in the best position to truly know us, meaningfully heal us, and ultimately forgive us.

But while the divine Mercy cannot wait to forgive us our sins and stupidities, it’s a two-way street. Whilst the Holy Qur’an insists that God’s mercy embraces all things [Q.7:156], it also states: Your Lord has prescribed mercy for Himself, that whoever of you does evil and afterwards repents, and does right, [for them] God is assuredly Forgiving, Compassionate. [Q.6:54] Repentance, or tawbah, doesn’t mean self-pitying guilt. It means turning back to God when we had turned away from Him, admitting the simple truth of our predicament: that we have fallen short of what could reasonably be expected of us.

But if our theology doesn’t help stoke the fire of intimacy with, or yearning for, God, then we are likely going about religion in the wrong way. Does our theology reassure us that we have a God who we can bring our sadness, our sorrows, our loneliness, our fear, our hurt, our shame and sins to, or is it just a case of knowing what Islam has to say about those moments and for us to then mechanically carry out the external processes? When it’s the latter, we’ll always tend to stop there and not voice such feelings to God, thereby denying ourselves the whole point of God’s essential nature: When My servants ask you about Me, I am near, I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he prays to Me. [Q.2:186]

That God is All-Seeing, All-Aware is, therefore to be known and, even more importantly, to be understood. And behind His awareness is the beautiful and comforting religious reality of a God who says: ‘O My servants who have wronged their own souls. Despair not of God’s mercy! For God forgives all sins; He is indeed Forgiving, Compassionate.’ [Q.39:53]

May knowledge of this truth lead to knowing Him more, and being known by Him. May it lead to deepening our awareness of Him, and being understood and healed by Him.

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Article 8 and the “outside world”: privacy, reputation and employment – Hugh Tomlinson QC

“Two final points should be noted in relation to the Article 8 right to reputation.

Firstly, as it relies on reputation being as aspect of “private life” an individual cannot complain of an interference with the right to reputation if the negative effects on private life are foreseeable consequences of their own misconduct. This is very similar to the approach adopted by the High Court of this Jurisdiction in NT1 v Google and in Ireland in Townsend v Google under the pre-GDPR data protection legislation. As Warby J concluded in NT1: “A person who deliberately conducts himself in a criminal fashion runs the risk of apprehension, prosecution, trial, conviction, and sentence. Publicity for what happens at a trial is the ordinary consequence of the open justice principle.” The doctrine would also presumably operate in a similar method to the defence of truth to libel claims, although its precise nature and limits are unclear.

Secondly, the “threshold of severity” has an interesting overlap with section 1 of the Defamation Act 2013. According to the Grand Chamber, an individual must allege and prove with “convincing evidence” serious interference with their private life – “concrete” repercussions – before the “right to reputation is engaged”. This may be understood as requiring proof of damage, which would be a stricter test than that laid down by the Court of Appeal in the Lachaux case (see the Inforrm post on that decision). In addition (and in contrast to the section 1 approach) it seems to be necessary to consider both the seriousness of the allegation and the effect on the individual. It will be interesting to see whether any light is cast on this apparent divergence of approach by the Supreme Court in Lachaux. Strasbourg and domestic law appear to be travelling in the same direction but not at the same speed.”

Inforrm's Blog

The Article 8 right to respect for private life has many facets and has often seemed in danger of uncontrolled expansion.  The Court of Human Rights has often noted that private life is “not susceptible to exhaustive definition”, embracing “multiple aspects of the person’s physical and social identity”. 

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Why talking about ‘disinformation’ misses the point when considering radical right ‘alternative’ media – Julia Rone

!Why is all this important? Because what we are witnessing is the rise of the radical right and its media as an organized transnational political movement. Numerous people in different European countries are dissatisfied with high income inequality, concentration of wealth in the hands of the few and stagnating life chances, while at the same time their cultural fears have been stirred up.

Attempts by official institutions to explain these grievances using “disinformation” alone are not only resented by radical right media audiences, but also prevent us from understanding the essence of the phenomenon at hand. The appeal of radical right media is political and can be more adequately addressed by thinking of political and economic alternatives, and not by only focusing on increasing “media literacy” and taking down “fake news” from platforms, crucial though these measures are.”

Inforrm's Blog

In light of the upcoming European Parliament elections, the European Commission published its Action Plan against Disinformation last month, aimed at protecting EU’s “democratic systems and public debates”.

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#Space: ‘Fossil’ Cloud of Pure #Hydrogen Gas Could Be a Time Capsule from #BigBang!

This ‘Fossil’ Cloud of Pure Hydrogen Gas Could Be a Time Capsule of the Big BangBrandon Specktor | LIVE SCIENCE | 4 

 

Blue gas swirls around orange galaxies in this simulation of galaxy formation. Within the blue lines lurk pockets of pristine hydrogen gas, unsullied by the heavy elements released by billions of years of exploding stars. Scientists working at the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii may have just discovered one of these gassy “fossils” of the Big Bang.

Credit: TNG Collaboration

Scientists expect to encounter a lot of strange things in the dark trenches of the universe: Hurricanes of dark matterscreaming skull nebulas and cannibal galaxies slowly devouring each other are all par for the course in our bizarre cosmos.

One thing that stargazers typically don’t expect to find, however, is undeveloped real estate.

Recently, for just the third time ever, astronomers working at the W.M. Keck Observatory on Hawaii’s dormant Mauna Kea volcano think they’ve pinpointed a massive, interstellar gas cloud that seems to have remained untouched throughout billions of years of the universe’s development. According to a forthcoming study in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, the cloud — labeled LLS1723 — shows no visible traces of any elements heavier than hydrogen, the lightest known element and the first one believed to permeate the universe just moments after the Big Bang. [Big Bang to Civilization: 10 Amazing Origin Events]

“Everywhere we look, the gas in the universe is polluted by waste heavy elements from exploding stars,” lead study author Fred Robert, a Ph.D. student at Swinburne University of Technology in Australia, said in a statement. “But this particular cloud seems pristine, unpolluted by stars even 1.5 billion years after the Big Bang.”

The universe’s first stars were formed from hydrogen and helium alone; Every other element on the periodic table comes from fusion reactions inside stars, and scatters into space when those stars explode as supernovae. Why a single, gassy cloud should appear unburdened by heavier elements seen almost everywhere else in the universe remains a mystery. But for Robert and his colleagues, the “most compelling” explanation is that the cloud is a rare time capsule of the universe’s earliest minutes, preserved from a time before ancient hydrogen and helium atoms forged the universe’s first stars and, later, the rest of the elements in the periodic table we know today.

The team’s discovery marks only the third cloud of cosmic gas believed to be totally unsullied by star stuff, (that is, every element heavier than helium).

The first two of these gassy mysteries were detected in 2011 by astronomer Michele Fumagalli and colleagues, also using the Keck Observatory’s mountaintop telescope. According to that team’s subsequent paper (published 2011 in the journal Science), the two clouds may have been the result of the strange and inconsistent ways that metal flows through interstellar space, and “could just be the tip of the iceberg” of a much larger population of unsullied space between the galaxies.

Robert and his colleagues were intrigued by the finds and soon embarked on a mission to systematically probe the universe for signs of more pristine hydrogen clouds. Using the Keck Observatory’s optical telescope (said to be one of the most powerful in the world), the team targeted quasars — intensely bright objects that form when dust and gas particles are sucked into supermassive black holes at nearly light speed. The team picked 10 known quasars that had been previously shown to lurk behind low-metal dust clouds, like those that Fumagalli and his colleagues had identified in 2011.

Using these quasars as cosmic backlights to illuminate the gassy shadows in front of them, the researchers studied the precise wavelengths of light emitted through each target cloud. They found that only one cloud (our friend, LLS1723) showed no apparent traces of any elements besides hydrogen.

“Apparently metal-free clouds like LLS1723 may be completely pristine, intergalactic gas — surviving vestiges of the early universe that have never… [been] polluted by stellar debris,” the authors concluded in their study.

The team’s success provides further evidence that the cosmos might be full of pockets of metal-free space echoing the universe’s earliest moments — and now, future researchers have a proven system for hunting and identifying them.

That search might well be worth it. According to Robert and his colleagues, understanding how clouds like LLS1723 may have been able to survive unsullied by heavy metals for so long is a question that will require further study of the cloud’s nearby cosmic neighborhood. Finding and studying other pure-hydrogen parcels of space might also reveal new information about how the universe’s very first stars formed from metal-free surroundings. Paradoxically, this is one story that scientists can only complete by finding a whole lot of nothing.

Originally published on Live Science.

 

Rebecca Solnit’s Lovely Letter to Children About How Books Solace, Empower, and Transform Us!

Rebecca Solnit’s Lovely Letter to Children About How Books Solace, Empower, and Transform Us | MARIA POPOVA | Brain Pickings | 6 Januar 2019

“Some books are toolkits you take up to fix things, from the most practical to the most mysterious, from your house to your heart, or to make things, from cakes to ships. Some books are wings… Some books are medicine, bitter but clarifying.”

 

Galileo considered reading our sole means of having superhuman powers. For Kafka, a book was “the axe for the frozen sea inside us”; for Anaïs Nin, the alarm to awaken us from the slumber of almost-living; for Gwendolyn Brooks, “meat and medicine and flame and flight and flower.”

Since the invention of the printing press, books have fed the human animal’s irrepressible hunger for truth and meaning, and some of the most celebrated exemplars of our species have extolled reading as a pillar of our very humanity. Among them is Rebecca Solnit — one of the most lyrical and insightful writers of our time.

In her beautiful memoiristic essay about how books saved her life, Solnit observed that “the object we call a book is not the real book, but its potential, like a musical score or seed.” In childhood, when life itself is pure potential, a book becomes potential squared. Solnit speaks to this exquisitely in her contribution to A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader (public library) — a labor of love eight years in the making, comprising 121 illustrated letters to children about why we read and how books transform us from some of the most inspiring humans in our world: artists, writers, scientists, philosophers, entrepreneurs, musicians, and adventurers whose character has been shaped by a life of reading.

Art by Liniers for Rebecca Solnit’s letter from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader, edited by Maria Popov and Claudia Zoe Bedrick.

Solnit writes:

Dear Readers,

Nearly every book has the same architecture — cover, spine, pages — but you open them onto worlds and gifts far beyond what paper and ink are, and on the inside they are every shape and power. Some books are toolkits you take up to fix things, from the most practical to the most mysterious, from your house to your heart, or to make things, from cakes to ships. Some books are wings. Some are horses that run away with you. Some are parties to which you are invited, full of friends who are there even when you have no friends. In some books you meet one remarkable person; in others a whole group or even a culture. Some books are medicine, bitter but clarifying. Some books are puzzles, mazes, tangles, jungles. Some long books are journeys, and at the end you are not the same person you were at the beginning. Some are handheld lights you can shine on almost anything.

The books of my childhood were bricks, not for throwing but for building. I piled the books around me for protection and withdrew inside their battlements, building a tower in which I escaped my unhappy circumstances. There I lived for many years, in love with books, taking refuge in books, learning from books a strange data-rich out-of-date version of what it means to be human. Books gave me refuge. Or I built refuge out of them, out of these books that were both bricks and magical spells, protective spells I spun around myself. They can be doorways and ships and fortresses for anyone who loves them.

And I grew up to write books, as I’d hoped, so I know that each of them is a gift a writer made for strangers, a gift I’ve given a few times and received so many times, every day since I was six.

Rebecca Solnit

For more loveliness from A Velocity of Being, all proceeds from which benefit the New York public library system, peek inside the book and savor one of the most moving letters from it — a 100-year-old Holocaust survivor’s true story of how a book saved actual lives — then revisit Solnit on rewriting the world’s broken storiesour mightiest force of resistance, and what it means to live with lucid hope in hard times.