I seem to have caught a little cold, nothing serious; but I’m a little slow this morning. Anyway, I have a few interesting stories for you, beginning with an amazing discovery that has stunned scientists and forced them to adjust their assumptions about human evolution. From the NYT: Baffling 400,000-Year-Old Clue to Human Origins.
In a paper in the journal Nature, scientists reported Wednesday that they had retrieved ancient human DNA from a fossil dating back about 400,000 years, shattering the previous record of 100,000 years.
The fossil, a thigh bone found in Spain, had previously seemed to many experts to belong to a forerunner of Neanderthals. But its DNA tells a very different story. It most closely resembles DNA from an enigmatic lineage of humans known as Denisovans. Until now, Denisovans were known only from DNA retrieved from 80,000-year-old remains in Siberia, 4,000 miles east of where the new DNA was found.
The mismatch between the anatomical and genetic evidence surprised the scientists, who are now rethinking human evolution over the past few hundred thousand years. It is possible, for example, that there are many extinct human populations that scientists have yet to discover. They might have interbred, swapping DNA. Scientists hope that further studies of extremely ancient human DNA will clarify the mystery.
Now the experts are going to have to find a way to incorporate these new discoveries into their understanding of human history. The story offers several different possibilities from different scientists.
Hints at new hidden complexities in the human story came from a 400,000-year-old femur found in a cave in Spain called Sima de los Huesos (“the pit of bones” in Spanish). The scientific team used new methods to extract the ancient DNA from the fossil….
Since the 1970s, Spanish scientists have brought out a wealth of fossils from the cave dating back hundreds of thousands of years. “The place is very special,” said Dr. Arsuaga, who has found 28 nearly complete skeletons of humans during three decades of excavations.
Based on the anatomy of the fossils, Dr. Arsuaga has argued that they belonged to ancestors of Neanderthals, which lived in western Asia and Europe from about 200,000 to 30,000 years ago.
But based on newly discovered methods for extracting DNA, researchers learned something very different. Read the rest of this fascination story at the NYT link above.
Yesterday the Washington Post published a new story by Barton Gellman, based on the data stolen from the NSA by Edward Snowden: NSA tracking cellphone locations worldwide, Snowden documents show. Except if you read the whole story you’ll learn that this is being done only to collect foreign intelligence; it’s not being done in the U.S. Data from Americans who are overseas could get caught up in the data collection, but the point is to track the locations of suspected terrorists.
The NSA does not target Americans’ location data by design, but the agency acquires a substantial amount of information on the whereabouts of domestic cellphones “incidentally,” a legal term that connotes a foreseeable but not deliberate result.
One senior collection manager, speaking on the condition of anonymity but with permission from the NSA, said “we are getting vast volumes” of location data from around the world by tapping into the cables that connect mobile networks globally and that serve U.S. cellphones as well as foreign ones. Additionally, data are often collected from the tens of millions of Americans who travel abroad with their cellphones every year.
In scale, scope and potential impact on privacy, the efforts to collect and analyze location data may be unsurpassed among the NSA surveillance programs that have been disclosed since June. Analysts can find cellphones anywhere in the world, retrace their movements and expose hidden relationships among the people using them.
Honestly, is anyone really surprised by this? I’m not saying it’s a wonderful thing, but, as I recall, tracing cell phone locations was the method used to catch Osama bin Laden. Not only that, but local police in the U.S. routinely use cell phone tracking to investigate crimes–and like the Feds, they have to get warrants to do so.
Anyone who didn’t know that you have no expectation of privacy when using a cell phone must have been living in a cave for a very long time. But if you really think the NSA is listening in on all of your personal phone calls and reading your text messages, you’re–quite frankly–nuts. The NSA would have to have millions of employees in order to sift through everyone’s data.
Robert Litt, general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the NSA, said “there is no element of the intelligence community that under any authority is intentionally collecting bulk cellphone location information about cellphones in the United States.”
The NSA has no reason to suspect that the movements of the overwhelming majority of cellphone users would be relevant to national security. Rather, it collects locations in bulk because its most powerful analytic tools — known collectively as CO-TRAVELER — allow it to look for unknown associates of known intelligence targets by tracking people whose movements intersect.
As noted in the article, data collected from Americans overseas isn’t protected by the Fourth Amendment; and the Supreme Court decided long ago that telephone call data is owned by the phone companies and that Americans have no expectation of privacy when talking on the phone. If we want to increase privacy protections, it will have to be done through legislation–not by whining about the NSA doing it’s job, which is to collect foreign intelligence. (A side note: a short time ago, former NSA analyst John Schindler offered some suggestions for “Reforming NSA from the Top.”) I wish journalists would devote as much energy to investigating why millions of Americans can’t get jobs and why so many of the ones who do have jobs can’t get paid a living wage as they do to telling us things we already knew or strongly suspected about NSA data collection.
Meanwhile, there are some troubling questions and revelations about some of the journalists who have been involved in releasing the Snowden files. As everyone knows by now, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras now have control of all of the data that Snowden stole. This data includes the names of all British and American intelligence agents. Greenwald and Poitras are currently working on developing a new news website, a project backed by libertarian Ebay billionaire Pierre Omidyar. Here’s an extensive profile of Omidyar by renegade investigative journalist MarkAmes.
Recently, Ames wrote another piece at Pando Daily questioning the ethics of Snowden’s cache of NSA data being controlled by two individuals who are beholden to one wealthy backer headlined Keeping Secrets: Pierre Omidyar, Glenn Greenwald and the privatization of Snowden’s leaks.
Who “owns” the NSA secrets leaked by Edward Snowden to reporters Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras?
Given that eBay founder Pierre Omidyar just invested a quarter of a billion dollars to
personally hire Greenwald and Poitras for his new for-profit media venture, it’s a question worth asking.
It’s especially worth asking since it became clear that Greenwald and Poitras are now the only two people with full access to the complete cache of NSA files, which are said to number anywhere from 50,000 to as many as 200,000 files. That’s right: Snowden doesn’t have the files any more, the Guardian doesn’t have them, the Washington Post doesn’t have them… just Glenn and Laura at the for-profit journalism company created by the founder of eBay.
Edward Snowden has popularly been compared to major whistleblowers such as Daniel Ellsberg,Chelsea Manning and Jeffrey Wigand. However, there is an important difference in the Snowden files that has so far gone largely unnoticed. Whistleblowing has traditionally served the public interest. In this case, it is about to serve the interests of a billionaire starting a for-profit media business venture. This is truly unprecedented. Never before has such a vast trove of public secrets been sold wholesale to a single billionaire as the foundation of a for-profit company.
I didn’t realize this until yesterday, but apparently Greenwald did not have the data on British intelligence originally; but he somehow forced the Guardian to turn it over to him before he resign from the newspaper. This may be the data that Greenwald’s husband David Miranda was caught with at Heathrow airport when he was detained there awhile back. The British Parliament is currently investigating the behavior of the Guardian and its editor Alan Rusberger. From the blog of BBC journalist Louise Mensch: Rusbridger admits shipping agents’ names – what now?
MPs today got Alan Rusbridger to admit a number of things he, and his paper had previously denied.
Firstly, that he shipped the names of GCHQ agents abroad to newspapers and bloggers. Mr. Rusbridger was reminded that this was a criminal offence, and said he had a public interest defence. He also, however, kept arguing that he hadn’t published any names, which rather blows up his public interest defence – it’s self-evident that you don’t need the names of intelligence agents to report on GCHQ spying, so why not redact them?
The fact is, Rusbridger did acknowledge that it put GCHQ agents at risk when he first shipped files to ProPublica. He redacted the names of GCHQ agents from those files, and he promised the government he had done so….
In Parliament today when asked why he didn’t redact the names he said there were 58,000 documents – essentially, he could be bothered to go through the <100 files he FedExed to ProPublica, but could not be bothered to go through the entire batch he sent to the NYT.
Really? He couldn’t take a week, and black out agents’ names? There were copies of the docs in the Guardian offices in New York, so time was not an issue for Rusbridger – instead, he exposed the names.
Perhaps worst of all, Rusbridger confirmed my very worst suspicions, which were that he hadn’t even read through the top secret files before shipping them. He redacted no names; he redacted no operational details; he didn’t even read them. And by “he” I mean any employee of the Guardian. Nobody at that paper read the 58,000 documents through, not even once, before sharing them in bulk.
Mensch updated that post with more information yesterday: HAS Rusbridger exposed thousands of GCHQ personnel? A commenter on the original post explained that in revealing the names of intelligence personnel to multiple people, Rusberger and the Guardian essentially destroyed their careers and seriously damaged British intelligence efforts. Here’s the comment:
A comment was left on that last blog that I have to reproduce. It shows that every agent exposed by Rusbridger has had their career ruined for the duration of it; none of them can ever work in the field again. Furthermore, the writer makes the compelling case that the NSA-GCHQ wiki, which the New York Times published extracts from, and the directories of staff interests like gay and lesbian clubs, ghost hunting clubs etc, mean that Rusbridger has actually sent abroad not just a handful of names, as he claimed to Parliament “there were names on power points” but actually thousands of GCHQ names.
Read the whole explanation at the link. I apologize for writing this before I nail down every detail, but I think this is important and it’s highly unlikely the corporate media will look into it since they could also culpable.
I’m afraid I rambled on too long on the NSA story, so I’ll just add a few more links that you might like to check out.
AP via Business Insider: A Period Of Bitterly Cold Temperatures Not Seen In A Decade Is About To Hit Parts Of The US
JM Ashby at The Daily Banter: Their Kind of Individual Mandate
Now it’s your turn. What stories are you focusing on this morning? Please share your links in the comment thread.
I’ve been somewhat out of the loop for the past few days because I’ve had some kind of weird virus that has made it difficult for me to think. If it weren’t August, I’d wonder if it’s the flu. Everything ached. For a couple of days it felt like my skin actually hurt. Anyway I’ve been vegetating in front of the TV watching Criminal Minds reruns and Lifetime movies. I’m feeling better now, although I’m still sleepy all the time.
I’ve been surfing around this morning, and there is quite a bit of interesting news out there. I’ll begin with a fascinating archaeological find. According to a new study reported in Nature, Neanderthals invented tools made of bone that are still used today for leather-working.
Excavations of Neanderthal sites more than 40,000 years old have uncovered a kind of tool that leather workers still use to make hides more lustrous and water resistant. The bone tools, known as lissoirs, had previously been associated only with modern humans. The latest finds indicate that Neanderthals and modern humans might have invented the tools independently.
The first of the lissoir fragments surfaced a decade ago at a rock shelter called Pech-de-l’Azé in the Dordogne region of southwest France. Archaeologist Marie Soressi of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, knew the tool at once, says her colleague Shannon McPherron.
The tools are also known as slickers and burnishers, says McPherron. Soressi contacted luxury-goods manufacturer Hermès in Paris, and found that their high-end leather workers use just such a tool. “She showed them a picture, and they recognized it instantly,” says McPherron. The company’s line includes the wildly popular Birkin handbag, which sells for around US$10,000 and upwards.
McPherron says that a single artefact, however, was not enough for the researchers to draw broad conclusions. “You find one, and there’s always some doubt. You’re worried that it’s not a pattern — that it’s anecdotal behaviour.” But subsequent digs at Pech-de-l’Azé and nearby Abri Peyrony turned up further lissoir fragments, leading the researchers to conclude that Neanderthals made the tools routinely.
The researchers say it’s not clear if these kinds of tools were first invented by Neanderthals or modern humans. It’s even possible that modern humans could have learned how to make and use the bone tools from Neantherthals, although most archaeologists believe that Neanderthals learned the skills from humans. From Live Science:
Neanderthals created artifacts similar to ones made at about the same time by modern humans arriving in Europe, such as body ornaments and small blades. Scientists hotly debated whether such behavior developed before or after contact with modern humans.
“There is a huge debate about how different Neanderthals were from modern humans,” said Shannon McPherron, an archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.
Now, McPherron and his colleagues have discovered that Neanderthals created a specialized kind of bone tool previously only seen in modern humans. These tools are about 51,000 years old, making them the oldest known examples of such tools in Europe and predating the known arrival of modern humans.
Yesterday North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed a new
voter suppression voter ID law and the ACLU, NAACP, and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice immediately filed suit against it. USA Today:
Republicans who backed the legislation said it was meant to prevent voter fraud, which they claim is both rampant and undetected in North Carolina. Independent voting rights groups joined Democrats and libertarians in suggesting the true goal was to suppress voter turnout, especially among blacks, the young, the elderly and the poor.
“It is a trampling on the blood, sweat and tears of the martyrs — black and white — who fought for voting rights in this country,” said the Rev. William Barber, president of the state chapter of the NAACP. “It puts McCrory on the wrong side of history.” [....]
Barber called the Republican-backed measure one of the worst attempts in the nation at voting reform and said the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People considered the package an all-out attack on existing laws long seen as a model of voter participation….
The legislation signed by McCrory and approved last month by state lawmakers requires voters to present government-issued photo IDs at the polls and shortens early voting by a week, from 17 days to 10. It also ends same-day registration, requiring voters to register, update their address or make any other needed changes at least 25 days ahead of an election. A high school civics program that registers tens of thousands of students to vote each year in advance of their 18th birthdays has been eliminated.
On the same day that North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed a restrictive voter ID bill into law, Clinton criticized the Supreme Court decision that she believes “stripped out the pre-clearance formula that made [the Voting Rights Act] so effective.”
She noted that Texas, Florida and North Carolina are states whose recent voter legislation has shifted the burden, slamming the North Carolina bill as one that “reads like the greatest hits of voter suppression.”
“In the weeks since the ruling, we’ve seen an unseemly rush by previously covered jurisdictions to enact or enforce laws that will make it harder for millions of our fellow Americans to vote,” Clinton said.
Clinton also went after several provisions of the North Carolina bill that she believes place a greater burden on citizens facing discrimination, including limited voting hours, stricter ID requirements and restricted early voting.
CNN reports that Hillary also plans to discuss national security and transparency in an upcoming speech.
Clinton said her appearance at the annual meeting of the American Bar Association marked the beginning of a speaking series she’ll embark upon that will also include an address on the United States’ national security policies next month in Philadelphia.
Clinton said the September address would focus of issues of “transparency and balance.” The former top diplomat had not yet publicaly addressed the classified National Security Agency surveillance programs that were revealed through leaks at the beginning of the summer.
The move into the political realm marks a new phase in Clinton’s post-State Department life, which was previously occupied by speeches to global women’s organizations and a schedule of paid appearances. She is also writing a diplomacy-focused memoir for release in 2014.
The speeches will likely fuel speculation that Clinton is planning to jump into the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, where she is considered an early favorite.
Well there’s some exciting news! It’s becoming more an more clear that Hillary plans to run for president in 2016.
I’m sure you’ve already heard that James “Whitey” Bulger has been found guilty of murder and racketeering, among other charges. It was always a foregone conclusion. The only surprise is that the jury was only able to find him guilty of 11 murders out of the 19 he was charged with. The New York Times:
BOSTON — James (Whitey) Bulger, the mobster who terrorized South Boston in the 1970s and ‘80s, holding the city in his thrall even after he disappeared, was convicted Monday of a sweeping array of gangland crimes, including 11 murders. He faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison.
The verdict delivers long-delayed justice to Mr. Bulger, 83, who disappeared in the mid-1990s after a corrupt agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation told him he was about to be indicted. He left behind a city that wondered if he would ever be caught — and even if the F.B.I., which had been complicit in many of his crimes and had relied on him as an informer, was really looking for him.
“This was the worst case of corruption in the history of the F.B.I.,” said Michael D. Kendall, a former federal prosecutor who investigated Mr. Bulger’s associates. “It was a multigenerational, systematic alliance with organized crime, where the F.B.I. was actively participating in the murders of government witnesses, or at least allowing them to occur.”
Of course there won’t be any punishment for the FBI except for embarrassment, if that troubles them. And there was only minor punishment for the parade of hit men and other criminals who were given generous deals in exchange for their testimony.
The families of the victims of the 7 murders Bulger was not convicted of were disappointed and angry.
As a clerk read the verdicts in the lengthy and complicated list of charges, Mr. Bulger looked away from the jury and showed no reaction. He was found guilty of 31 of 32 counts of his indictment, the one exception involving an extortion charge. While the jury of eight men and four women convicted him of 11 murders, they found the government had not proved its case against him in seven others, and in one murder case it made no finding, leading to gasps inside the courtroom by relatives of those murder victims and explosive scenes outside the court.
“My father just got murdered again 40 years later in that courtroom,” said the son of William O’Brien, who is also named William….
Perhaps one glimmer of gratification for Mr. Bulger was that the jury reached “no finding” in the death of Debra Davis, one of two women he was accused of strangling. He has long maintained that his personal code of honor did not allow for the killing of women, although the jury did determine that he had killed the other woman, Deborah Hussey. Ms. Davis was the longtime girlfriend of Stephen Flemmi, Mr. Bulger’s former partner in crime who testified against him. Ms. Hussey was the daughter of another of Mr. Flemmi’s longtime girlfriends.
One of the jurors has already talked to local Boston media about how stressful the experience was.
One of the jurors who voted to convict Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger for a string of gangland crimes described how the more than 32 hours of deliberations were “stressful” and involved “all kinds of dissension.”
“Slamming doors,” Scott Hotyckey told CBS station WBZ-TV. “People leaving. Peolpe wanting to get off the jury.” [....]
Hotyckey, juror number 5, said the evidence was overwhelming.
“If you could believe the testimony, and believe what you heard,” Hotyckey said. “I don’t see how you couldn’t find the person guilty.”
But Hotyckey says not all of the jurors believed the testimony they heard – especially from John Martorano, a former hit man who got a plea deal from prosecutors to testify against Bulger.
“There was one juror that constantly said that his testimony was not believable,” Hotyckey recalled. “(He said) over and over again that you couldn’t believe anything (Martorano) said because of the government.”
A study on rats shows that the brain experiences a huge surge of electricity during the moment of death, suggesting that they are experiencing a higher state of consciousness.
It could explain why people claim to see white light or “life flash before their eyes” during near-death experiences.
Dr Jason Braithwaite from the University of Birmingham says that since this surge is happening in rats, it could also happen in humans.
Watch an interview with Braithwaite at the BBC link. More detail on the study:
A study carried out on dying rats found high levels of brainwaves at the point of the animals’ demise.
US researchers said that in humans this could give rise to a heightened state of consciousness.
The lead author of the study, Dr Jimo Borjigin, of the University of Michigan, said: “A lot of people thought that the brain after clinical death was inactive or hypoactive, with less activity than the waking state, and we show that is definitely not the case.
“If anything, it is much more active during the dying process than even the waking state.”
Much more at the link.
Now it’s your turn. What stories have caught your fancy today? Please share your links in the comment thread.
Many of you may have already seen a transcript of Obama’s inaugural address. If you haven’t, I have a bunch of links for you to check out…It is various thoughts from different people and you may find it interesting. (I realize there was an earlier post on the speech, but these are different links.)
Another shooting, this one could have been even worse, if the killer was not talked out of carrying out his plan.
Meanwhile, on the red planet… Study: Mars could have held watery underground oases for life
This image of Mars’ McLaughlin Crater shows evidence of layers of clay and carbonate, signs of the presence of water. (University of Arizona/JPL / January 21, 2013)
They’re usually thought of as a brutish, primitive species.
So what woman would want to give birth to a Neanderthal baby?
Yet this incredible scenario is the plan of one of the world’s leading geneticists, who is seeking a volunteer to help bring man’s long-extinct close relative back to life.
Professor George Church of Harvard Medical School believes he can reconstruct Neanderthal DNA and resurrect the species which became extinct 33,000 years ago.
His scheme is reminiscent of Jurassic Park but, while in the film dinosaurs were created in a laboratory, Professor Church’s ambitious plan requires a human volunteer.
He said his analysis of Neanderthal genetic code using samples from bones is complete enough to reconstruct their DNA.
He said: ‘Now I need an adventurous female human.
‘It depends on a hell of a lot of things, but I think it can be done.’
Fall is definitely in the air! This has to be the nicest September in New Orleans that I’ve ever experienced. I’m told that a lot of this has to do with with the absence of both La Nina and El Nino. I just know I’m seeing weather I usually can expect in October and I like it!
I’m going to start the morning reads off with Paul Krugman and his NYT blog thread “Hysteresis Begins”. I continue to see signs of recession and it worries me greatly. Our economy is certainly not on the mend in any sense of the word. Krugman continues to put into words exactly what I’ve been feeling.
The slump in the United States and other advanced economies is the result of a failure of demand — period, end of story. All attempts to claim that it is somehow structural, or maybe the result of reduced incentives to produce, have collapsed at first contact with the evidence.
But there is a real concern that if the slump goes on long enough, it can turn into a supply-side problem, because investment will be depressed, reducing future capacity, and because workers who have been unemployed for a long time become unemployable. This is the issue of
And if you look at manufacturing capacity, in particular, you can already see that starting to happen.
I have no idea why this meme has taken hold that it’s lack of confidence because of Obama, lottsa obscure regulations, or high taxes that are causing the current slump. It is definitely none of the above. Businesses do not have customers. Customers do not have incomes or jobs or job security. It’s a demand thing! What on earth do economists have to do to get policy maker’s attention these days? I suppose I could answer that. We’d all have to become corporations, hire lobbyists, and donate to some one’s political campaign.
Rep Emmanuel Cleaver gets it. The black caucus sees the incredible unemployment in the community and understands. Yet, they feel hamstrung to try to do anything about it. That’s a damned shame in my book.
Unhappy members of the Congressional Black Caucus “probably would be marching on the White House” if Obama were not president, according to CBC Chairman Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.).
“If [former President] Bill Clinton had been in the White House and had failed to address this problem, we probably would be marching on the White House,” Cleaver told “The Miami Herald” in comments published Sunday. “There is a less-volatile reaction in the CBC because nobody wants to do anything that would empower the people who hate the president.”
CBC members have expressed concern in recent months as the unemployment rate has continued to rise amongst African-Americans, pushing for Obama to do more to address the needs of vulnerable communities.
“We’re supportive of the president, but we getting tired, y’all,” Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) said in August. “We want to give [Obama] every opportunity, but our people are hurting. The unemployment is unconscionable. We don’t know what the strategy is.”
The biggest problem is that no one but a few advisers seem to be able to get these points across to the White House. They seem intent on pandering to independents who–as yet–appear unmoved. They’re losing the base and the center. Why can’t they just do the right thing? Just to reinforce the it’s a demand problem idea, here’s the same thought from the chairman of Google who is pushing for more stimulus.
Google Chairman Eric Schmidt called on Washington to think big about solutions for the nation’s struggling economy calling the current emphasis on cutting spending instead of new stimulus “ludicrous.”
The economy would need “not just something like the jobs bill, but also significant government stimulation in terms of buying power and investment,” said Schmidt on ABC”s “This Week” on Sunday.
“Otherwise, we are set up for years of extraordinarily low growth in the economy and no real solution to the jobless problem,” he warned.
“The current strategy is ludicrous. You have a situation where the private sector sees essentially no growth in demand. The classic solution is to have the government step in and, with short-term initiatives, help stimulate that demand. If they do it right, they’ll invest in income and growth producing things like highways and bridges and schools, new opportunities for the private sector to go then build businesses,” proposed Schmidt.
So, I’m getting really disgusted at state of US policy these days; especially the continued attack on women’s rights. I’m going to focus on some good news about women around the world. Have you ever heard of breast ironing? This is a practice in Cameroon and here are some ‘aunties’ that are educating some mothers in the country. The practice is actually done when mothers are concerned their daughters are maturing sexually too early which could subject them to becoming child brides.
Aside from causing burns and permanent deformity this practice also leaves deep psychological scars.
“After (I) have it done, apart from the pain, I felt very, very ashamed. I was ashamed of myself,” said Forghab. “I thought, if my parents are ironing my breasts at that age it means that I am not supposed to have them.”
Despite a daughters’ tears and pleas to stop, mothers continue to perform this practice on their daughters assuring. “It is for their own good,” many mothers say.
But what good? What could possibly be worth justifying such a harmful intervention? Breast ironing is a traditional practice that currently affects about 25 percent of all girls in Cameroon.
More commonly performed in the rural areas than in cities, “breast ironing has existed as long as Cameroon,” says Dr. Sinou Tchana, a Cameroon gynecologist and vice-president of the Cameroonian Association of Female Doctors.
It can seem shocking that mothers, the same mothers who are supposed to love and care for their children, are also the ones hurting them the most by burning their body. But many mothers who still practice breast ironing are hoping to prevent their daughters from getting pregnant at a ‘too-early’ age. What starts as an attempt to protect often leaves girls injured and confused.
“While the minimum legal age for a woman to marry is 15, many families facilitated the marriage of young girls by the age of 12. Early marriage was prevalent in the northern regions of Adamaoua, North, and particularly the remote
Far North, where many girls as young as nine faced severe health risks from pregnancies,” says the U.S. Department of State in a new report on Cameroon.
The good news is that women are taking it on themselves to go around the country to teach women their are other ways to protect their young girls. Please read the article it’s very interesting and I think you’ll love the Women’s News site where I found it! Also, here’s some information on the Self-Employed Women’s Association in India. SEWA has been registered as a trade union since 1972 and works for the right of poor, self-employed women. It’s doing wonderful things over there and I thought you may want to check it out.
Some of the most exciting recent initiatives for SEWA have been the promotion of green livelihoods. SEWA earned an award from the Sierra Club for its work. Here’s some information on what they have done to promote women and environmental sustainability.
More than 60% of SEWA’s membership comes from the rural areas and are poorest of the poor from the most disaster prone areas. Thses women consume less oil and coal based energy, recycle many many items in their daily life, productively reuse solid waste when possible and are eager to use, produce, and manage green technology such on solar lamps.
The many benefits of combining new, green technologies with traditional farming techniques are evident in the success of SEWA’s campaign. Through green Energy and Green livelihood initiative 139,665 members earn average annual total income of Rs.1,175 million. Further SEWA’s effort in this area has not only lead towards green livelihoods but have also worked towards mitigating the effects of climate change. “While the rest of the world talks and negotiates, we the poor women of India cut down carbon emission,” said Reema. “We have learned this power of small concrete act by many from Gandhiji,” she added.
To this end, SEWA has trained 3685 barefoot technician women in water conservation, construction, repairs and deepening of water structure, nursery raising, solid waste recycle, fodder growing, vermicompost production, building eco-friendly rural infrastructures, solar lamp production, developing eco-friendly energy sources, garment production with eco-friendly fabrics and natural dyes, green livelihoods focusing on food security and other environmentally friendly and economically beneficial activities. Demand for such training is ten fold.
Biomass, which was earlier burnt, is now being used as a source of organic manure. More than 13 lakh farmer families have been benefited from these eco-friendly campaigns, 26 Lakh hectares of land are brought under organic cultivation and 2018924 trees have been successfully planted and maintained.
Through these Green Energy and Livelihood Initiatives, SEWA has been at the forefront in promoting green energy and generating green livelihoods in villages.
“If poor and women can take leaps towards green and clean economy the others have excuse to be inactive. May we invite all Indians, and also all Americans, today to catch up?” Reema requested.
Beverly Gage–a history professor at Yale University–wrote an interesting piece in the NYT this weekend called “The Unacknowledged Victories of the American Left” in a book review of Michael Kazin’s “American Dreamers. There’s really not much of a left wing left in the US today, but what is left does have a proud history.
“American Dreamers” is Kazin’s bid to reclaim the left’s utopian spirit for an age of diminished expectations. An editor at Dissent magazine and one of the left’s most eloquent spokesmen, Kazin presents his book as an unapologetic attempt to give the left a history it can celebrate. For more than two centuries, he writes, American radicals have sounded the alarm about crucial injustices — slavery, industrial exploitation, women’s oppression — that the rest of society refused to see. It is time for the left to stand up and take credit for these efforts.
Who is — or was — “the left”? Today, many Americans use the word interchangeably with “liberal.” As Kazin points out, this would have been anathema to earlier generations, when leftists and liberals often viewed each other as ideological foes. For most of the 20th century, liberalism meant tinkering, finding a kinder and gentler way to preserve the status quo. Leftists, by contrast, put their faith in structural change. Kazin’s left includes all those who fought for a “radically egalitarian transformation of society,” from abolitionists to Communists to the modern feminist and gay rights movements.
By far the most important of the early movements was abolition, and abolitionists linger throughout the book as Kazin’s archetypal leftists, prophets and dreamers who saw an injustice and fought to correct it despite the blindness and hostility of the larger society. The best among them practiced what they preached, forming interracial cooperatives and marrying across color lines. They also suffered for their ideals, enduring violence, social ostracism and, in some cases, death. In the end, they were vindicated by history, the ideals that they championed finally inscribed as the nation’s conventional wisdom.
There’s also a fascinating article up at Spiegel On line on the work German scientists are doing on computers studying differences between Neanderthals and modern humans that is worth a look. Here’s more information on ongoing work to determine what was going on back during the time when Neanderthals still walked the earth.
Last year’s decoding of the Neanderthal’s genetic makeup provided strong evidence in support of this thesis. Researchers working under Svante Pääbo, the director of the Department of Genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, found that modern Eurasians inherited a small portion of their DNA sequence from Neanderthals . This suggests that the two species of man must have had sexual intercourse.
What’s more, the genetic researchers were also able to narrow down the timeframe of this momentous genetic intermingling. According to their findings, the intercourse took place between 65,000 and 90,000 years after modern man set foot on the Eurasian landmass, presumably on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean.
Scientists are now trying to determine the exact relationship the inhabitants of these Israeli caves had with the forefathers of modern-day Eurasians. In particular, they are examining the fossil remains to see if there are traces of the interaction between the two species.
Okay, so I tried to throw in a little interesting news along with the general economic and political malaise items. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Well, actually it’s X-Woman but Lady X made a better title. The science of genetics is exciting and has turned up so much important information recently that it’s made the Theory of Evolution ironclad. This discovery of a new species of old humans is just about the most interesting read I’ve seen in a long time. I took a lot of anthropology courses at university and was terrifically fascinated by Neanderthals. This appears to be a species with some ties to them. Yes, I still read The National Geographic and have read it since my grandparents bought me a subscription in the early 60s. I was a ardent fan of Louis and Mary Leaky.
A previously unknown kind of human—the Denisovans—likely roamed Asia for thousands of years, probably interbreeding occasionally with humans like you and me, according to a new genetic study.
In fact, living Pacific islanders in Papua New Guinea may be distant descendants of these prehistoric pairings, according to new analysis of DNA from a girl’s 40,000-year-old pinkie bone, found in Siberian Russia‘s Denisova cave.
This “new twist” in human evolution adds substantial new evidence that different types of humans—so-called modern humans and Neanderthals, modern humans and Denisovans, and perhaps even Denisovans and Neanderthals—mated and bore offspring, experts say.
The article also links to an even more interesting topic area: “Interspecies Sex: Evolution’s Hidden Secret?”.
There appears to be some evidence that Denisovans, Neanderthals, and Homo Sapiens did some species mixing. This is also a new item because it was previously thought that Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens kept to themselves. Well, I guess that was true for awhile if you were a scientist and not a reader of The Clan of the Cavebear series.
The centerpiece of the DNA study is a Denisovan fossil finger bone discovered in 2008. The fossil is thought to be from a young girl—dubbed X-woman—who was between 5 and 7 years old when she died.
For a previous Nature study, released in March 2010, the team had collected and sequenced mitochondrial DNA, or mtDNA, from X-woman’s finger. But mtDNA—inherited only from mothers—contains far less information about a person’s genetic makeup than DNA found in the nucleus of a cell, or nuclear DNA (see a quick genetics overview).
In the new study the team reports successfully extracting and sequencing nuclear DNA from the bone.
Then, using DNA-comparison techniques, the scientists were able to determine that Denisovans were distinct from both modern humans and Neanderthals, yet closely related to the latter.
The team estimates Denisovans split from the parent group of Neanderthals about 350,000 years ago.
One of the interesting things will be seeing if scientists can piece together the Denisovan move from places around eastern Europe to New Guinea.
“We don’t think the Denisovans went to Papua New Guinea,” located at the northwestern edge of the Pacific region called Melanesia, explained study co-author Bence Viola, an anthropologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.
“We think the Denisovan population inhabited most of eastern Eurasia in the same way that Neanderthals inhabited most of western Eurasia,” Viola said. “Our idea is that the ancestors of Melanesians met the Denisovans in Southeast Asia and interbred, and the ancestors of Melanesians then moved on to Papua New Guinea.”
The study of Melanesia is another thing that has expanded recently. The DNA findings of X-Woman was reported by WaPo in March of this year.
A team of European researchers has identified a new lineage of proto-human that left Africa about a million years ago, traveling as far as Siberia and then dying out — a discovery that raises new questions about early human history.
The existence of the new lineage was discovered by analyzing DNA extracted from a single bone fragment, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature. What the beings looked like, how they lived and what happened to them are a mystery. All that’s known is that they existed as recently as 40,000 years ago, which is the approximate age of the bone.
“Whoever carried this DNA out of Africa is some new creature that hasn’t been on our radar screen so far,” said Johannes Krause, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, who helped lead the research team.
It seems that are now closer to calling little Lady X a member of a new species. This means we seem to have a new set of cousins to add to our family tree! This is really exciting!!