Friday Morning ReadsPosted: June 15, 2012
BB sent me this wonderful link last night to something that’s always fascinated me. I’ve had an enduring interest in the beautiful cave art of prehistoric peoples in Europe. New dating evidence has given us some new takes on these very first expressions of humanity in early people.
Stone Age artists were painting red disks, handprints, clublike symbols and geometric patterns on European cave walls long before previously thought, in some cases more than 40,000 years ago, scientists reported on Thursday, after completing more reliable dating tests that raised a possibility that Neanderthals were the artists.
Hand stencils at the El Castillo Cave in Spain have been dated to have been created earlier than 37,300 years ago, making them the oldest cave paintings in Europe.
A more likely situation, the researchers said, is that the art — 50 samples from 11 caves in northwestern Spain — was created by anatomically modern humans fairly soon after their arrival in Europe.
The findings seem to put an exclamation point to a run of recent discoveries: direct evidence from fossils that Homo sapiens populations were living in England 41,500 to 44,200 years ago and in Italy 43,000 to 45,000 years ago, and that they were making flutes in German caves about 42,000 years ago. Then there is the new genetic evidence of modern human-Neanderthal interbreeding, suggesting a closer relationship than had been generally thought.
The successful application of a newly refined uranium-thorium dating technique is also expected to send other scientists to other caves to see if they can reclaim prehistoric bragging rights.
In the new research, an international team led by Alistair W. G. Pike of the University of Bristol in England determined that the red disk in the cave known as El Castillo was part of the earliest known wall decorations, at a minimum of 40,800 years old. That makes it the earliest cave art found so far in Europe, perhaps 4,000 years older than the paintings at Grotte Chauvet in France.
Obama gave a speech on the economy yesterday in swing state Ohio. Here’s the transcript of the speech from WAPO if you’re interested.
This has to be our north star, an economy that’s built not from the top down but from a growing middle class; that provides ladders of opportunities for folks who aren’t yet in the middle class.
You see, we’ll never be able to compete with some countries when it comes to paying workers lower wages or letting companies do more polluting. That’s a race to the bottom that we should not want to win, because those countries don’t have a strong middle class, they don’t have our standard of living.
The race I want us to win — a race I know we can win — is a race to the top. I see an America with the best-educated, best- trained workers in the world; an America with a commitment to research and development that is second to none, especially when it comes to new sources of energy and high-tech manufacturing.
I see a country that offers businesses the fastest, most reliable transportation and communications systems of anywhere on Earth.
I see a future where we pay down our deficit in a way that is balanced — not by placing the entire burden on the middle class and the poor, but by cutting out programs we can’t afford and asking the wealthiest Americans to contribute their fair share.
That’s my vision for America: education, energy, innovation, infrastructure, and a tax code focused on American job creation and balanced deficit reduction.
This is the vision behind the jobs plan I sent Congress back in September, a bill filled with bipartisan ideas that, according to independent economists, would create up to 1 million additional jobs if passed today.
This is the vision behind the deficit plan I sent to Congress back in September, a detailed proposal that would reduce our deficit by $4 trillion through shared sacrifice and shared responsibility.
This is the vision I intend to pursue in my second term as president because I believe..
… because — because I believe if we do these things — if we do these things more companies will start here and stay here and hire here, and more Americans will be able to find jobs that support a middle class lifestyle.
You can fact check the Obama and Romney economics speeches here. Here’s two of Romney’s more obvious honkers.
“How about Obamacare? The president said the other day that he didn’t know that Obamacare was hard for small business. Oh, really? The Chamber of Commerce carried out a survey, some 1,500 businesses across America. Seventy-five percent of those people surveyed said Obamacare made it less likely for them to hire people.”
Oh my. The governor clearly had not read Thursday’s Fact Checker column showing that (a) Obama did not really say that and (b) he was answering a misinformed question. However, with the phrase “those people surveyed,” Romney did properly characterize the Chamber of Commerce survey, which because of its design cannot be used to draw conclusions about all small businesses — only the ones that were surveyed.
“The president said that if we let him borrow $787 billion for a stimulus, he’d keep unemployment below 8 percent nationally. We’ve now gone 40 straight months with unemployment above 8 percent.”
We earlier had dinged Romney with Two Pinocchios for this statement, because the president never said this; this was a staff estimate before he took the oath of office.
The most outrageous example of the Republican war on women happened yesterday in the Michigan legislature. Two Democratic Women members were banned from speaking on the floor because they dared stand up for women’s rights to abortion services. Yesterday, we heard the ban was for using the word vagina. Today, we’re being told it’s for being ‘disruptive’. You can watch their speeches at this link at TP.
A male Republican House leader in Michigan silenced two female Democratic state legislators on Thursday after the pair tried to advance a measure that would have reduced access to vasectomies.
While discussing a bill that would erode the availability of abortion, Reps. Barb Byrum and Lisa Brown introduced an amendment to apply the same regulations to vasectomies that GOP lawmakers wanted to add to abortion services. The debate grew heated, as Republicans sought to gravel down the women. Byrum was not permitted to speak in favor of the measure and Brown was repeatedly interrupted. “I’m flattered that you want to get in my vagina, but no means no,” she said. The next day both were silenced.
The Federal Reservereleased new numbers on Monday. Unsurprisingly, wealth distribution is even more skewed than income distribution. In 2010, the median family had assets (including their house but subtracting their mortgage) of $77,300. The top 10 percent had almost $1.2 million, or more than 15 times as much.
But the headlines — and rightly so — went to the dismal fact that household wealth has been sinking for all categories of Americans. As I said, the net worth of the median family in 2010 was $77,300. In 2007, the net worth of the median family was $126,400. That’s a drop of almost 40 percent in just three years. (All these numbers are corrected for inflation.)
Characteristically taking the longer view, the New York Times led with the fact that household savings were back to where they had been in the early 1990s, “erasing almost two decades of accumulated prosperity.”
Most of the lost household net worth of recent years is due to the drop in housing prices. This is comforting, in a way, because the price of land and things built on land — and what, ultimately, is not? — are different from the price of other goods and services.
Here’s a great story at The Nation that shows how fear of sharia law taking root in the US is just good old fashioned bigotry and based on nothing but fear and loathing.
The true story of Sharia in American courts is not one of a plot for imminent takeover but rather another part of the tale of globalization. Marriages, divorces, corporations and commercial transactions are global, meaning that US courts must regularly interpret and apply foreign law. Islamic law has been considered by American courts in everything from the recognition of foreign divorces and custody decrees to the validity of marriages, the enforcement of money judgments, and the awarding of damages in commercial disputes and negligence matters.
As an attorney, consultant or expert witness, I have handled more than 100 cases involving components of Sharia. In a case I tried in 2002, Odatalla v. Odatalla, a New Jersey couple had signed an Islamic marriage contract consistent with their cultural traditions. When the wife filed for divorce, she asked the court to enforce the mahr, or dowry provision, in her contract, which called for the husband’s payment of $10,000 upon the dissolution of their marriage. Superior Court Judge John Selser found the marriage contract valid under New Jersey law, concluding, “Clearly, this court can enforce a contract which is not in contravention of established law or public policy.”
In a 2003 case involving Exxon Mobil and a Saudi oil company, the parties had agreed as part of a commercial transaction that Saudi law would govern any potential disputes. After the Saudi company sued its former business partner, Exxon Mobil, the Delaware Superior Court heard testimony on Saudi law, which applies traditional Sharia, and the judge instructed the jury to base its decision accordingly. The jury returned a $400 million–plus verdict in favor of Exxon Mobil and against the Saudi firm.
Finally, in a more recent case I was involved in, a state judge declined to recognize a Syrian court order that would have transferred the custody of a child to her father because of the mother’s remarriage. The judge reasoned that remarriage alone is not sufficient to transfer custody. Far from deferring to judgments from foreign countries, US courts regularly refuse to recognize such orders due to the constitutional and due-process implications.
Had an anti-Sharia ban been in place in these courts, Exxon could not have won its verdict, nor would the wife in Odatalla have been able to enforce her marriage contract. The ban would have stripped those judges of their ability to fully and fairly consider the cases. For litigants in states where such a ban exists, these statutes are an unconstitutional infringement of the people’s freedom of contract, free exercise of religion and right to equal protection.
So, that’s a few things to get you started this morning. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?