Tuesday Reads: Neanderthal Tools, Hillary on Voting Rights, Bulger Verdict, and NDE Research


Good Morning!!

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.

Neanderthal bone tools

Neanderthal bone tools

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.

Yesterday Hillary Clinton spoke out against the North Carolina law and other efforts to deny and suppress voting rights in a speech before the American Bar Association. HuffPo:

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.

Debbie Davis, left, with her mother Olga, right, was the girlfriend of Stephen Flemmi, Whitey Bugler's gangster partner. She vanished in 1981 and her body was found dismembered in 2000 (Daily Mail)

Debbie Davis, left, with her mother Olga, right, was the girlfriend of Stephen Flemmi, Whitey Bugler’s gangster partner. She vanished in 1981 and her body was found dismembered in 2000
(Daily Mail)

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.

Hit man John Martorano

Hit man John Martorano

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.”

I’ll wrap this post up with another interesting science story from BBC News about an experiment on rats that shows what happens at the moment of death.

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 research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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.

40 Comments on “Tuesday Reads: Neanderthal Tools, Hillary on Voting Rights, Bulger Verdict, and NDE Research”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Have a terrific Tuesday, everyone!!

    • RalphB says:

      You 2 BB! cool about the brain storm at the moment of death.

    • ANonOMouse says:

      Great post BB. Hope you feel much better soon.

      The story about the brain activity at death doesn’t surprise me. I had a NDE in 1968 after severe blood loss during delivery. I left my body and hovered over it as the medical staff worked to save my life. When their efforts looked to be futile I exited the room through a wall, past my terrified family in the hallway and entered a vortex that popped me out in front of massive interlocked doors (like the locked fingers of two clasped hands). The doors opened inward and as the doors opened I saw and was enveloped by a light that was the most loving, accepting and welcoming presence I’d ever experienced. When I saw it, I felt complete peace, happiness and contentment. As I stood before it every question I’d ever had about life & death was answered in an instant and I said out loud “that is so simple, why didn’t I ever see this before?”. No sooner had I uttered those words than I was waking up in the ICU trying to remember the truth the light had just imparted to me (never did remember it) and trying to tell the story of leaving my body and going to another place to anyone who would listen. In 1968 there weren’t many takers. Basically no one was interested in hearing it, I think they thought I had hallucinated, but I had no drugs in my system because I had a natural childbirth. I still remember that event like it was yesterday. I don’t usually share the story with folks I don’t know, but I’ve been called upon to share it many times in the past 48 years with dying family members. I know it gives them comfort because remembering it gives me comfort.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        Whoops….my bad math mind, incorrectly calculated. It’s been 45 years since my NDE.

      • RalphB says:

        Thanks Mouse, I love the story.

        • ANonOMouse says:

          you’re welcome ralph. I had a feisty old aunt who I thought feared nothing. She passed away in January and she asked a family member to call me on the day she died so that I could visit her in the hospital and recount the story. We had discussed the story a few months earlier but she wanted to hear it again. She was unconscious by the time I got to the hospital, but I told her the story anyway, because I felt certain she needed to hear it one more time. I don’t know what happened to me that day, I just know that it happened.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Wow, Mouse, that’s amazing. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Armed man gets 20 days for threatening pregnant smoker

    Women as property: After the guy yells at a pregnant woman and orders her to put out the cigarette, she refuses and he pulls a gun on her.

    Not that I approve of smoking while pregnant or smoking period, but WTF?

  3. bostonboomer says:

    Federal prosecutor begins program to teach teen rapists how to avoid jail


  4. RalphB says:

    Responsible gun ownership.

    Seattle Passenger Allegedly Shoots Bus Driver When Asked To Pay Fare

    SEATTLE (AP) — When a 64-year-old transit bus driver saw three people board at the rear of his bus during the Monday morning rush hour in downtown Seattle, he asked them to come up front to pay.

    Two did. The third passenger paced back and forth, then hit the driver and shot him twice before running away, acting Seattle Police Chief Jim Pugel said.

    • RalphB says:


      Ohio Man Accidentally Shot During Concealed Carry Course

      A man was shot in the arm by an instructor during a concealed carry course Saturday night in Lancaster, Ohio, the Lancaster Eagle Gazette reported.

      Michael Piemonte, 26, told the newspaper that he was attending his first ever concealed carry course when the instructor’s gun discharged while demonstrating where a person could keep his or her weapon. He said the bullet ricocheted off a desk before lodging in his right arm.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        Too bad it wasn’t a crotch shot. All it would take is one bullet near the penis and the concealed carry desire would evaporate.

    • dm says:

      At the risk of being accused of profiling, I have to say these 3 don’t really sound like anyone that could be described as responsible, which also kind of makes me think the guy wasn’t actually a “registered” gun owner either…could be wrong, but it certainly sounds suspect.

  5. Fannie says:

    You know what, if you have anything to say about the Missouri Rodeo, you ought to call this number, 515-782-5054. This woman believes that t.v. and radio, and internet are out their misleading the people of this country about this event, and that it is not racist. And that her God, the superintendent of the schools , Mark Fricken is a very good man and educator. And that the rodeo association she represents and the sponsors are very good people, and even let the disabled children into the fair for free to watch the events. That lady needs to lose her job, she does not need to represent the cowboys. I called Supt. School Mark Ficken (660-882-7474)
    and left a message with his secretary that he should be fired. She took the message, and was more helpful that this other nut in the cowboy association office.

    I got into a match with her, and I believe I would have punched her lights out if I had been in front of the rodeo witch, face to face. She denied every word I said. She claims they have used all presidents, even Clinton, and nothing was said then. I told her I didn’t care if she had 300 white presidents as a “bulldummy”……….this was racist, as little children are being taught to disrespect our current President, and especially the first black president………………..she reminded me that he and Michelle was part white…….I ended up screaming at her and told her to go fuck off………….

  6. RalphB says:

    Antitrust is a good thing.

    DOJ Sues To Block Merger Between Airline Giants US Airways And American Airlines

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department and a number of state attorneys general are challenging the proposed $11 billion merger between US Airways Group Inc. and American Airlines’ parent company, AMR Corp.

    The Justice Department says the merger would result in the creation of the world’s largest airline. The government says a combination of the two companies would reduce competition for commercial air travel in local markets and would result in passengers paying higher airfares and receive less service.

    A lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., seeks to prevent the companies from making the deal in order to preserve head-to-head competition.

  7. Beata says:

    The Neanderthal bone tool story is fascinating. Brings back some happy memories of anthropology courses in college.

    Also love the Hillary links. My belief that she will run in 2016 continues to grow and gives me hope for the future. I’m so glad she is speaking out against state voter ID laws which are definitely the 21st century means of voter suppression.

    Take it easy, BB. Lots of rest is probably the best thing for you right now. ((( HUGS )))

    • bostonboomer says:

      Thanks Beata! {{{Hugs}}} to you too.

      I’m very hopeful about Hillary running, just kind of nervous about all the misogyny it will bring up. I know she can handle it though.

    • ANonOMouse says:

      WE need to start the Hillary WAVE now because she’s going to need our support desperately. The right is going to throw everything, including the kitchen sink at her as demonstrated by Reince the Preibus

      • bostonboomer says:

        She’ll probably get a lot of sh%t from the “progressives” too.

        • ANonOMouse says:

          And don’t forget the ratfuckers (u know who I’m talking about) who will undoubtedly remind us that they were for her before they turned against her.

  8. Fannie says:

    Here’s a bit of a follow up………….the rodeo clown has been banned for life. The announcer who egged everybody on, Mark Ficken has resigned from Rodeo Cowboy Association………..and there is an investigation into his job as Supt. of Schools.

    • prolixous says:

      Mr. Ficken can always apply to the goat rodeo, but even that sounds too classy for him.

  9. dakinikat says:

    I lived Hilary’s comments about the greatest “hits” of voter suppression. Seems like the Republicans have declared war on every one but white men of the christofascist persuasion.

    • dakinikat says:

      How the left learned to love Hillary Clinton—and what it means for the future of the Democrats http://theatln.tc/17mHvYi

      And even erstwhile archenemy Hurowitz is on board with the former secretary of state, U.S. senator, and first lady. Now executive director of Catapult Campaigns, a D.C. consulting firm, he — like many of the left-leaning Democrats who opposed her last time around — now expects Clinton to be a more progressive president than Obama.

      “The difference between Hillary and Obama in retrospect is she may compromise at times, but for her compromise is always a necessary evil, whereas for Obama compromise has often seemed like a goal in and of itself,” he told me, voicing a common sentiment among the politicians, operatives, labor officials, and progressive movement leaders with whom I spoke.

      It’s telling that someone like Hurowitz is on the Clinton bandwagon. Her early strength seems to be the result of the party’s left wing having lost many of the key policy fights that animated Obama’s primary challenge. Yes, U.S. troops are out of Iraq and the Afghanistan war is winding down, but the modest scope of health-care and financial reform and the continued presence of Wall Street insiders at economic posts throughout the federal government stick out like a sore thumb.

  10. dakinikat says:

    FREEDOM “After Multiple Denials, CIA Admits to Snooping on Noam Chomsky.” http://atfp.co/13xo8tg

  11. dakinikat says:

    15-Year-Old Denied Heart Transplant http://thebea.st/18shQ1B

  12. dakinikat says:


    Charles hits another one out of the ballpark.

    You will hear, often, of the explosion in the United States prison populations “since 1980.” That date is not accidental. We elected a president that year who ran on an implicitly — and, occasionally explicitly — racist appeal to white voters by which he argued sub rosa that those white voters should be frightened of black criminals, and angry at black people who were “exploiting” the welfare system. This was the final triumph of the political calculation made when Harry Dent drew up the Southern Strategy for the Republicans when the Democratic party became identified with the triumphs of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s. It succeeded so well that it kicked off a decade of racial reaction. The accomplishments of the Civil Rights Movement began to be rolled back. (The Justice Department went to court to defend tax exemptions for segregated “Christian academies.”) This, of course, continues to this moment, with the assault on the Voting Rights Act.

    The entire fundmental basis for what became known as “cultural conservatism” was a fear of black crime and an anger at welfare “fraud.” It was an decade of archetypes. Welfare queens. Crack babies. Superpredators. And the national media went along for the ride, because the archetypes were scary enough — “IN YOUR TOWN!” — to move the ratings needle.

  13. peej says:

    Wonderful post, BB. The Neanderthal leather tool find is awesome. With all the good research happening in the field, it’s looking like Neanderthals weren’t dumb brutes after all.