December 8, 2013
Researchers have read strands of ancient DNA teased from the thigh bone of an early human that died 400,000 years ago in what is now northern Spain.
The genetic material was pieced together from a clutch of cells found in bone fragments – the oldest human remains ever to yield their genetic code.
The work deepens understanding of the genetics of human evolution by some 200,000 years, raising hopes that researchers can build a clearer picture of the earliest branches of the human family tree by studying the genetic make-up of fossilised remains dug up elsewhere.
“This is proof of principle that it can be done,” said Matthias Meyer at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. “We are now very eager to explore other sites of a similar age.”
@ RAW STORY
December 7, 2013
In the current historical moment, the line between fate and destiny is difficult to draw. Dominant power works relentlessly through its major cultural apparatuses to hide, mischaracterize or lampoon resistance, dissent and critically engaged social movements. This is done, in part, by sanitizing public memory and erasing critical knowledge and oppositional struggles from newspapers, radio, television, film and all those cultural institutions that engage in systemic forms of education and memory work. Historical consciousness has been transformed into uplifting narratives, box-office spectacles and lifestyle stories fit for the whitewashed world of the Disney musketeers. As Theodor W. Adorno puts it, “The murdered are [now] cheated out of the single remaining thing that our powerlessness can offer them: remembrance.”[i] The relentless activity of thoughtlessness – worship of celebrity culture, a cravenly mainstream media, instrumentalism, militarism or free-roaming individualism – undermines crucial social bonds and expands the alleged virtue of believing that thinking is a burden.
Civic engagement appears increasingly weakened, if not impotent, as a malignant form of casino capitalism exercises ruthless power over the commanding institutions of society and everyday existence, breathing new life into old clichés. Under casino capitalism, fantasy trumps logic, if not rationality. A sucker is still born every minute, and the house still wins. Looming dreams of riches and fame invariably descend into disappointment, defeat or addiction. Uncertainty and precariousness breed fear and insecurity instead of much-needed social reforms and a belief in a more just future. Austerity policies function as a form of trickle-down cruelty in which the poor are punished and the rich rewarded.[ii] Totalitarianism, once visible in its manifest evil, now hides in the shadow of a market logic that insists that each individual deserves his or her fate, regardless of the larger structural forces that shape it.
Henry A. Giroux @ TRUTHOUT
December 5, 2013
When 42-year-old hedge fund manager Mark Spitznagel wants to forget about his high-stakes business for a while, he heads to the goat farm he and his wife Amy purchased in the bucolic hills of Michigan. There, he produces cheese according to environmentally sustainable methods, because he views modern agriculture, with its large-scale pesticide use and automated factory farms, as degenerate. In fact, he says, factory farming is “an ideal metaphor” for the economy.
In Spitznagel’s view, the world’s financial and equities markets are also dysfunctional, and what happens there is unhealthy and anything but sustainable. As a money manager, he has also opted for an alternative business model of sorts: He’s betting on a crash.
For his customers, Spitznagel’s multi-billion-dollar fund acts as an insurance policy against the next meltdown in the financial system. When the market is doing well, they lose modest amounts of money. But they cash in as soon as prices take a nosedive, even when all other investments are going up in smoke.
The hedge fund manager has made a lot of money in the past with his prognoses, and he is convinced that substantial turbulence is on the cards for the near future. “The setup is there for it,” says Spitznagel.
December 4, 2013
Many Logo-land favorites!
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) meets in Washington, DC this week for its “States and Nation Policy Summit,” which is one of the ways ALEC crafts and pushes its legislative agenda for the coming year. U.S. Senator Ted Cruz — who helped push the country to the brink of financial default to thwart the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — headlines the conference on Thursday, December 5. Failed vice-presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and his Senator counterpart Ron Johnson (R-WI) will also address the crowd.
But what will happen behind closed doors during the meeting?
ALEC posted part of its legislative agendas for the meeting for the first time this month, while continuing to hide its funders and corporate authors of special interest legislation, as the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has reported. On ALEC’s agenda for 2014 are the following priorities and bills (which will become official ALEC “models” once passed by the task forces — with corporate lobbyists voting as equals alongside state legislators — and approved by the board of directors):
December 3, 2013
As climate change increases temperatures, parts of the American Southwest are likely to become increasingly arid.
LONDON, 2 December – It’s just one aspect of the future for just one city among hundreds: researchers have calculated that, for every extra notch on the temperature scale, Salt Lake City in the state of Utah, USA, will face a serious drop in the annual flow of fresh stream and river water to its people.
The fall in flow could be anything from 1.8 to 6.5%. The measure of temperature used by the Americans is Fahrenheit, and 1°F is the equivalent of five ninths of 1°C. But average temperatures in the region have risen 2°F in the last century and are expected to go on climbing.
By mid-century, according to Tim Bardsley from the University of Colorado at Boulder, some of the streams that feed the city will dry up several weeks earlier each summer and autumn. Climate scientists have predicted that the American Southwest could become steadily more arid as the planet warms through a build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. But city planners need more than general warnings: they need a clear idea of what might happen in this or that environment.
“Because our research team included hydrologists, climate scientists and water utility experts, we could dig into the issues that mattered most to the operators responsible for making sure clean water flows through taps and sprinklers without interruption,” said Bardsley.
December 2, 2013
Saudi Arabia was the world’s 10th-largest weapons importer in 2008-2012, and that is expected to change by 2017, where they will be in the top five if outstanding orders are completed. With this increase fire-power some commentators are nervously looking at Saudi Arabia’s influence in the Syrian civil war and also its strained relations with Iran.
Over the summer, Saudi Arabia began funneling guns into Jordan, as well as conducting military training, where there are being used by Saudi-led armed rebel groups who cross the border into southern Syria. Jordan’s role as a conduit for Saudi arms has had an adverse effect on its population. The increased amount of guns circulating in Jordan is contributing to more conflicts within Jordan’s refugee camps and regions.
Taking full advantage of the tension, Syria rebels are moving in to recruit. Syrian rebels forces are using the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan to recruit fighters. The rebel training camps have put the Jordanian and UN officials running the camp in a delicate position. Wary of further increasing tensions with the government in Syria, Jordan has sought to keep its support of rebels under the radar, officially denying that any training of anti-Assad fighters takes place on its soil, though both Jordanian and U.S. officials have acknowledged it.
The influence of Saudi Arabia in the Middle East political landscape is considerable. It has assisted in overthrowing Egyptian Prime Minister Morsi, and is currently providing training to the interim military government. With the world already nervous of the unknown outcome of both the Syrian and Egyptian conflicts, should the U.S really be finalizing a $10.8 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia?