New blogs

Leherensuge was replaced in October 2010 by two new blogs: For what they were... we are and For what we are... they will be. Check them out.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Epipaleolithic bow and paddle found at Sweden

Archaeology in Europe
points me to this news story of central Sweden, where archaeologists have found particularly interesting artifacts belonging to the Epipaleolothic ("Mesolithic") period.

The artifacts, dating to 9000 BP (when early European Neolithic was still coalescing in Greece) include the wooden parts of a bow, a paddle and the shaft of an axe. These findings of wooden materials are very rare for this period but some similar ones (including parts of a logboat) were already known of in nearby Denmark (Maglemose culture).

These new discoveries were found at Motala, near Lake Vättern, where the paddle would have seen some use, I can imagine.

Bilin or Berlin

I was reading
this news item at TAANS and, still sleepy from my long nap, I was understanding

... separation barrier in Berlin...

One of the many useful properties of the twilight zone is to blur time and space and reveal unusual truths that way.

UK: Brown gets rid of honest drug advisor

The last highly questionable move by the erratic and rather arrogant British PM, John Brown, has been to re-classify cannabis from class A drug to class B, so the police can more easily persecute users and small traders.

This is of course a highly controversial move and his chief advisor on drugs was clearly against. Prof. D. Nutt actually even dared to criticize his boss, declaring openly that the psychotic risk derived from cannabis was virtually inexistent (same as I commented here) and questioning that alcohol and tobacco are treated separately from illegal drugs (both drugs are highly addictive and dangerous).

Well, he got fired right away.

For Prof. Nutt, this is "disappointing". And he warns of increasing conflict between politics and science. He argues that he was not prepared to mislead the public on behalf of the government.

And it seems that's what governments and corporations want scientists for these days: to lie in their behalf.

While the conservatives support the government, the liberal-democrats do not. "What is the point of having independent scientific advice if as soon as you get some advice that you don't like, you sack the person who has given it to you?" C. Huhne declared.

Meanwhile cannabis users in Britain will see their scarce rights even more restricted, risking as much as five years in prison for mere possession.

Source: BBC.

Update (Nov. 5): there is an interesting short article by David Nutt on the issue today at New Scientist: Governments should get real on drugs.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The perpetuation of poverty: analyzing Bangla Desh

Now and then seems wise to recall why poverty exists and is perpetuated in spite of the overproduction we have, including many countries that pay farmers to produce less, not more.

Vicenç Navarro picks one of the poorest countries in the world, Bangla Desh, as case study. Why is Bangla Desh poor? Does it not produce enough food? It does and even exports it because their inhabitants don't have enough money to pay for it. The crucial problem, like elsewhere, is that wealth is concentrated in very few hands: 16% of rural Bangladeshis own 75% of the land and this olygarchy rules the country (75% of parliament members own huge land swaths). These have absolutely no interest in redistributing even a fraction of that wealthin order to increase the internal demand: they are just interested in perpetuating their power and wealth.

So constitutionally land redistribution, what is just a self-evident need in order to create a "middle class" that can drive demand and serve as backbone of the country's sociology, is just illegal. No matter who wins in the polls (the usual clone-party pseudo-democratic regime, with the occasional military intervention), nothing can change. Only a violent revolution can in fact change things in such a country but the odds are against it and keeping people semi-illiterate and ignorant, and stranded in religious false promises, helps the olygarchy to perpetuate the status quo.

This is of course not just the case of Bangla Desh but of so many other countries through the world, in dire need of a revolution with some blood and specially some good wealth redistribution. And this applies, in my opinion, also to supposedly wealthy countries like the USA, that are in dire need of some wealth redistribution too. By the moment, all they got is further taxes to pay the bankers who suck their blood. Why not put them in jail, as they deserve?

Corrupt African dictators remain impune in France

A court case against the corrupt dictators of Equatorial Guinea, T. Obiang, Gabon, O. Bongo, and Congo, Republic, D. Sassou-Nguesso, who own many luxuries in France, has been halted on demand from the public attorneys on ground that the NGO that initiated the prosecution has no ability to do so.

Transparency International will appeal to the supreme court.

This seems just another move by the ultra-conservative French government to prevent the prosecution of their loyal puppet tyrants in Middle Africa. When people asks where is "neocolonialism", it's there: in undemocratic corrupt tyrants appointed and protected by the metropolis who suck the blood of their countries.

Source: Al Jazeera.

Proteins that control genes

An interesting breakthrough in how the human genome actually works: many proteins are in fact controlling what genes do.

Of course, these proteins are ultimately a encoded by some genes, so the DNA code would still be the ultimate arbiter, but now it seems that the key may not be in the gene alone but also in those proteins that control its behavior, which in turn are generated by other "master genes".

This complex interaction beyond the simple "DNA rules" axiom may explain how humans, allegedly much more complex that other organisms like plants, have not more genes than them.

Source: Science Daily.
The original paper seems to be this one (paywall).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Genes for bad driving, genes for drinking, genes for all...

Not sure how solid are these news items but today Science Daily publishes two articles on how genes make you this or that.

One quite common genetic variant (30% in USA) makes you apparently a worse driver, and a worse learner in general. However it is very advantageous to overcome neurodegenerative diseases. It is probably one of these cases of dynamic equilibrium in which two alleles offer different adaptative advantages, each one at a different cost.

Another of these allele variants has been found to increase the like for alcohol and make people drink more, however it is independent on the gene that predisposes to alcoholism (alcohol-addiction). This does not change that drinking frequently is the leading cause of alcoholism, of course, just mentions genes that predispose to drinking and to alcohol-dependence as distinct.

I just wonder what adaptative advantage does the gene for alcoholism has, sincerely. There must be something or would have gone extinct.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Research on most recent Neanderthal remains blocked by red tape

Flippant with the latest news from Mundo Neandertal: the Andalusian Government (Junta de Andalucía) is impeding the research of one of the most interesting sites for late Neanderthal research on no reason at all (source: Público).

In the 1950s a male Neanderthal skull was found at the site but was recently dated by palinology to as late as 21,500 BP, much later than the last Neanderthals are known to have lived. Such shocking datation requires further research but, while they have the money, they can get a mere administrative permit. And the worst is that no explanation at all is even given.

The situation anyhow seems widespread in the backwards semicolonial latifundist region, with local researchers being forced to migrate (to Gibraltar for instance) for lack of any archaological interest by the administration. This in spite of the archaeological wealth that Andalusia surely hides in its earthy folds. One wonders if is some sort of unspoken policy not to disturb the latifundia or maybe that they have been secretly storing nuclear waste in archaeological sites.

In any case, it is a scandal that a country that should be able to shed so much light on European prehistory, virtually no archaeological excavations are allowed as if it was some sort of taboo.

Where is Tartessos?!

Monday, October 26, 2009

New Anthropology Forum

I'm out of this project.

I got out of there only a couple of days after: among other things, someone had the great idea of appointing certain Zionist maniac, who I know is very bad person and can't moderate (and whom I personally hate to death, btw) , as mod and even to place him in the same forum that was assigned to me. See here and here for background.

This was a cruel joke, a manipulative trick that certainly says nothing good about the new space. Also it seems these issues can't be even discussed in the mods' room. I feel clearly scammed. and used.


Old post follows

Today is a day of change for my links. On one side today is the day that Yahoo! kills the free website service Geocities and hence I lose my old site (not that I paid it too much attention, admittedly, but was handy) .

On the other hand a new Anthropology Forum is born. Today Anthrocivitas begins its life, apparently after gathering the best people you might have found in old and ill-fated anthropology forums, whose names I prefer not to recall.

At the moment, with just a few hours of existence, the site is rather empty but I am sure that this won't be the case anymore in just a few days. My expectations for this new site are very high: hopefully the sad prevalence of racist trolls in such kind of forums will be addressed properly and the quality of discussion and information shared should be very good.

But of course it all depends on who participates, so here I want to invite all among my readers who have a genuine interest for anthropology, genetics, prehistory and history, to join the site and make it fructify.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

30 years of Western Basque "autonomy": empty celebrations and demands of self-determination

The statute of autonomy that grants to the Western Basque regions certain self-rule within Spain, is now 30 years old. After more than a decade of such "birthdays" not being celebrated at all, the new undemocratic government of López has resuscitated the day but getting nearly no audience.

The pro-Spanish parties, that rule without popular support, thanks to judicial manipulation of the electoral scenery, have been the only ones to join the official events. Even the "open doors" day at Ajuria Enea, the residence of the Lehendakari (President), has only raised the interest of a few hundred individuals.

The largest Basque political formation, the conservative Basque Nationalist Party, declined again to participate in the calculated choreographies of the unionists and has instead asked again for the fulfillment of the statute in its integrity, something they have been demanding since the 1980s. The extremely "moderate" (pro-Spanish) speaker of this party, I. Urkullu, called instead for "a pact built on a new model of relationship, as is defined by the New Political Statute [Ibarretxe Plan] approved by the [Western] Basque Parliament", law that included the right of self-determination for Basques and that was blocked at the Spanish parliament without any second thoughts.

The PM by Eusko Alkartasuna (Basque Solidarity, center-left), J.M. Larrazabal, stated that the statute is impossible to recycle, as it is such a "disfigurated and deteriorated" legal frame cannot be revived. He asked for a wholly new legal and political structure that includes the right to self-determination.

The so-called Gernika Statute was approved in 1978-79 and was only half-way to the huge self-rule that Basque provinces enjoyed before the Carlist Wars and id not acknowledge the right of Basques to self-determination. For these reasons, more than 40% of Western Basques chose abstention in the referendum of 1979. Additionally many of its capacities have never been fully implemented, as the Spanish government has made an issue of retaining such competences. In many cases the Basque Government had to act unilaterally in order to partially transfer such attributions.

Nowadays only the unionists support it, as even the most moderate of Basque nationalist formations is demanding to move over into a new more democratic frame, truly representative of Basque collective will. The more or less legal fraud in the latest elections, putting a unionist proconsul in Ajuria Enea, clearly against popular will, has only aggravated the "constituional crisis" that the Basque Country is going through.

Source: Gara.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Interview Ahmed Zakayev, exiled PM of Chechnya

Again I find
a most interesting interview at Gara newspaper, this time with the leader of the Chechen government in exile, A. Zakayev. I translate it here to English as I think it is quite interesting:

Gara: 20 years have passed since the Berlin Wall was demolished and 10 since the beginning of the Second Chechen War. Would have changed anything if Gorbachev would have managed to fully implement the Perestroika?

Zakayev: No doubt. The catastrophe of Chechnya began with the collapse of the USSR, Yeltsin recognized the republics that broke apart (Ukraine, Georgia, Uzbekistan...) but decreed that the Republic of Chechnya-Ingushetia would remain under control of Moscow. If Gorvachev would have managed to introduce all his reforms, both economical and political, today the USSR would be something like the European Union.

G: You were Minister of Culture in the government of Djokhar Dudayev until his death in 1996. What kind of leader was he?

Z: Many lies have been said of him. He has been called "bandit", "fanatic", "intransigent"... But in fact Dudayev was an intelligent and dialogant person, nothing like the image that Moscow has been trying to "sell". In November 1994 promised me that he would do everything possible to prevent the war and in December he received a telegram from the Kremlin calling for a negotiation round at Vladikavkaz (North Ossetia). Against the opinion of many in his cabinet, who were against any sort of negotiation, Dudayev confirmed his assistance. But Moscow canceled the meeting and the war began soon after that.

G: In any case, you won the First Chechen War (1994-96), and enjoyed then of som form of self-rule until the second war began. How was that period?

Z: I beleive that you should re-formulate your question. Who told you that we won the war? 80% of Grozny was destroyed but I never saw even a single broken window in Moscow. Those three years were some of the darkest ones in the history of Cechnya: more than 100,000 people died and as many were left homeless too. The Republic was completely ruined, people lived at the edge of desperation because mere survival was a huge challenge. In the peace agreement, the indemnizations to be paid by Moscow were determined, but none was ever fulfilled. We were the true victims of that war and even then it was said that we had won.

The Chechnyan government of that time, including myself, was guilty of excessive relaxation. In such situation it was easy for Moscow to manipulate its members. The situation reminded of how an adult in kindergarten manages the children at whim: conducting them, making them argue...

Sergei Primakov, the then Foreign Minister of Russia, anounced that they would break relations with anyone recognizing the independence of Chechnya. Nobody did, nor was there any European organization that would send a single ruble to Chechnya.

G: Can you describe in further detail that interference from Moscow?

Z: Since the very moment when the ceasefire was signed in September 1996, Russia began getting ready for the next war. It was not the end of a conflict but the beginning of the preparations for another one. The Russian secret services initiated a campaign to divide the Chechnyan people and prepare everything for the war to come.

They soon realized that the most effective way to split Chechnyan society was through religion. It was then when the Arabs began arriving to the country. All them brought money, money that never reached the leader of the Republic, who was then Masjadov, but that ended in the pockets of whoever was able to raise a combat unit. Most of them were opposed to the government.

A second area of intervention were the media. In the First Chechnyan War, journalists from all around the world had direct access to the country and said the truth about what happened there. Moscow wanted to prevent that at any cost, and the murders and kidnaps of journalists became common currency, in order to scare them. Then it came the turn of NGOs, beginning by the Red Cross itself.

Finally it was necessary for Russia to supress those who wanted to invest in Chechnya without passing through Moscow. I recall now those British Telecom engineers who arrived to the Republic to restore telephone lines: they were kidnapped and beheaded.

Our only achievement in that period was to prevent civil war among Chechnyans, something that Moscow wanted to provoke through the usual means.

G: You have denounced the alleged "close cooperation" between Arabs and Russians. Which are the grounds for that claim?

Z: In the USSR years there were many more foreigners from the Middle East than from anywhere else. Chechnyans are traditionally Sufi Muslims, while Wahabbism is a current only recently imported by Arabs and Russians, outside of genuine Islam. If all that money that came with the Arabs would have dropped directly from Moscow, Chechens would not have accepted it because it would mean treason. There were like 1500 Arabs in Chechnya and all of them had a visa stamp at Moscow. No one of them had entered the Republic illegally as it was claimed. The Kremlin knew perfectly who went to Chechnya and what for.

G: Do you still mantain that Putin killed Litvinenko?

Z: For Moscow there is people who just must be suppressed, regardless of whether these are Aslan Masjadov, Sergei Litvinenko or Anna Politovskaya. And Putin is so cynic that he doesn't even bother hiding that! They killed Politovskaya in October 7th, Putin's birthday. The press talked a lot about the "gift" for the Russian President. Putin was in a foreign country but did not took long for him to declare that, effectively, he did not like Politovskaya but that he had no connection with the murder.

G: When Litvinenko died you made another declaration in which you described him as "meaningless traitor" and when you said that there was no evidence that connected him with the FSB. Putin never thought that the British would find out that this death had been caused by polonium.

Z: Everybody knows who Putin is. We all know that he was the one who ordered the kids of Beslan killed, gas the crowds at Dubrovka Theater or blow up those apartment buildings that were the pretext for the Second Chechnyan War. What is most scary is that Putin is still a key piece of international politics, who is treated with respect by so many European leaders. Chechnya will be the first one, Georgia the second one and I can assure you that the third one will be Ukraine.

G: Last February, the president of pro-Russian Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov offered you to return to Grozny. In what stage are the negotiations at this moment?

Z: The press has speculated a lot about the negotiations on my suppossed return to Cechnya. I have been in fact in discrete but continuous contacts with representatives of the Russian Government since 2001. In the last two meetings in Oslo and London with Abdurajmanov (Kadyrov's delegate), I insisted in making public these meetings if what we want is in fact to find a peaceful solution to the conflict. On this day anyhow the conditions for my return to Chechnya do not exist. Returning to Chechnya now would be becoming accomplice of a regime whose decissions are made in Moscow.

G: Which is the current situation of insurgency, both in Chechnya and the rest of the Caucasus?

Z: Doku Umarov (self-proclaimed "Emir of North Caucasus") is just another victim of the provocations of the FSB but not for that reason can I agree with his ideology nor his view of the conflict. Suicide bombings are totally alien to Chechnyans. Dudayev and Masjadov said that in the past and we have been repeating the same for all these 20 years: at the beginning of the 1990s, Russia had a problem with Chechnya, 20 years later the problem is spread from the Caspian to the Black Sea. This is the result of trying to solve a political problem by force.

Friday, October 23, 2009

New megalithic find at Devon, Britain

Archaeology in Europe
points me to this brief press note where a new archaeological discovery of some significance in, Devon, SW England.

The site, found under an old reservoir in Dartmoor National Park, has produced so far, a 27 m. wide stone ring, burial mounds and remains of walled buildings dated to c. 4000 BP. The oldest findings are anyhow from the Epipaleolithic (Mesolithic) era.

Cannabis highly unlikely to cause schizophrenia

A new research paper by Matt Hickman and other researchers from several English universities, highlights that, if cannabis use could trigger schizophrenia, in order to prevent a single such case, ten thousand male cannabis users and thirty thousand female ones would be needed to be taken out of the consumption routine. The figures are half that for the stronger transgenic varieties of cannabis, every day more common, but still totally disproportionate and statistically irrelevant.

Matt Hickman et al., If cannabis caused schizophrenia—how many cannabis users may need to be prevented in order to prevent one case of schizophrenia? England and Wales calculations. Journal for the Study of Addiction, 2009. (paywall)

A divulgative article can be found at Science Daily.

Cannabis consumption may hence very very slightly favor the trigger of such mental problems but it is obviously not any major cause but rather a scapegoat. In my opinion, research should focus on anti-natural birth giving practices instead, which are very likely to cause traumas for all life and may hinder normal development, as well as on exposure to industrial toxins and electromagnetic fields.

Also these kind of studies do not seem to consider the cross influence of other drugs, like LSD,, MDMA, cocaine or alcohol, which also seem to have some psychosis dangers, probably more intense.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Interview with Manuel Zelaya

A whole month has passed since the return of the constitutional President Manuel Zelaya to Honduras, where he is still refuged in the Brazilian embassy. With this occasion, there is
an interview with Mel, as the president is popularly known in his country, in Basque newspaper Gara that I am translating here:

Gara: After a month since your return to Honduras, which is the current situation?

Zelaya: Honduras is living an unprecedented struggle. It is the first time that in our country an action of this nature is being carried on to revert a coup d'êtat. Today we are fighting to ammend, to rectify, the error they comitted. All this constitutes a challenge to us and the International Community.

G: In what stage are the negotiations now?

Z: They are paralyzed, suspended. They have been obstructed by Micheletti and the de facto regime. With this boycott and this obstruction to dialog, they have become a totalitarian regime that is challenging all Humankind. They are a clone of the regime that Idi Amin established in Uganda or that of Mobutu in Congo. That same thing is what they are applying in Central America these days.

G: Do you believe that the fact of blocking the negotiations could be a strategy by the coupists to gain time until elections?

Z: What they are doing is insulting the intelligence of the whole World, because it is not possible that all countries of planet Earth are wrong and they are right.

G: If the coupists do not present any other proposal, what decision will you make?

Z: We will continue in our determination of fighting for justice. In this we are being supported by all societies, all the governments and the Honduran people. We know that reason and truth accompany us, so we are spiritually calm.

G: Have you thought of any alternative to revert this situation?

Z: The struggle that is happening in Honduras has several fronts: national, international, political, social, economical, technological, juridical... At this moment we are working in all those fronts to try to produce an exit to this situation.

G: Do you think that the International Community has done all they could?

Z: I think that they have done up to where they could. Now there is still another stretch to be transited and I do hope that they will keep the support for the government of this country.

G: The USA condemned the coup but later qualified of "irresponsible" your decision of returning to Honduras and did not even raise this issue in the 64th Assembly of the United Nations. What do you think of their position?

Z: Those are isolated incidents of some officers that do not correlate with their official position of reverting the coup. I am in agreement with the stand of President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton.

G: Do you believe that the coup in Honduras can set up a precedent and favor that a similar situation could happen elsewhere in Latin America?

Z: Yes. Just with the coup having resisted more than 100 days, it is already causing serious weaknesses in the American democratic system. This happens precisely because of the impotence of international organizations like the OAS or United Nations when faced with an act of force that violates the state of rights, the Democratic Charter of the OAS, the United Nations' Charter and the International Declaration of Human Rights.

Faced with the impotence of international organizations, this coup is actually weakening the image of Latin American democracy. If this coup would be legitimized by means of the electoral fraud that is being prepared, with repression and media suppression, we would be at the doors of the death of Latin American democracy.

G: One of your delegates at the negotiation table, Víctor Meza, alerted that the failure of negotiations could lead to a "social conflict". Do you share this idea?

Z: If you review the social and economical indicators, and those related to social conflict, you will notice that there is already a social conflict. There is in fact a major and widespread social conflict because of the coup. All that is being suffered already by Honduras and all Central America.

G: Do you believe that the level of confrontation will grow if no agreement is reached?

Z: If there is no solution to the problem, it is clear that the level of unhappiness among the people towards the military regime that now appoints the presidents will grow more and more.

G: How do you evaluate the struggle kept by the people in these 116 of resistence?

Z: Extraordinary. It has always been a utopy for Hondurans that the people gets organized, that the people manifests itself and acquires a consciousness of its rights. Now we are living all that in our flesh.

G: Nicaraguan President, Daniel Ortega, said that the Honduran people is acquiring weapons for their struggle. What do you tell him?

Z: The resistence of the Honduran people is a peaceful resistence, and that has been demonstrated in all these more than one hundred days: there is not a single casualty among the military nor the policemen, no resister has been captured having weapons. It rather happens the opposite: more than 89 soldiers with plain clothes have been captured among civilians making violent actions.

The Honduran resistence is peaceful. If there is any expression out of these parameters, it will be particular individuals or groups but they are outside of the terms in which we are defining the struggle, peacefully and democratically through active nonviolence: public demonstrations, strikes... but not armed movements. We oppose radically armed movements and that is why we have not asked for blue helmets nor any military intervention in Honduras.

Our triumph will be to defeat the troops that disrupted the democratic process in a pacific manner. If we could not achieve this, we would keep struggling until achieving some day our main victory: to know that ethical and peaceful struggles can defeat armies and violence.

G: How many people has died at the hands of the police and the army?

Z: More than 100 people have been murdered in these days. We have the names and we have the evidence. But, besides, there are more than 3000 arrested and more than 600 have required hospitalization: people who have been beaten, and even tortured and raped.

G: This last Sunday the High Commissioner of the UN arrived to Tegucigalpa to investigate the human rights' violations since the coup. Have they already contacted you?

Z: We have kept occasional contact but we have not met yet. But of course that we will meet.

G: Do you expect that the investigation ends up with a strong enough report?

Z: Yes. All their declarations have been coherent with reality and have been strong in the condemnation of the regime. Because here they went from a coup to a dictatorial regime that decrees measures against the human rights of the people, that suppresses liberties and media.

G: After a month living in the Brazilian embassy, how do you feel?

Z: In spite of all the tension that we are living through, I have a strong spirit and keep my consciousness standing. I am peaceful, spiritually optimistic and a democrat. But also I have much faith in my formation and that is why I am in politics: because I believe that it is a path that creates strength and hope. We have to stand up through all that path until the societies from the various parts of the World make their rights to be respected.

Kenyan tool discovery could push Homo age back to two million years

Just a quick mention of these interesting findings. The tools found by Thomas Plummer's team in Kenya are the oldest Olduwayan style tools found in what used to be a savannah habitat (there are older ones but belong to jungle ecosystem). For this reason the researchers are quite confident that they do belong to members of the genus Homo. The oldest dates considered at the moment were of some 1.8 million years.

Thomas W. Plummer et al., Oldest Evidence of Toolmaking Hominins in a Grassland-Dominated Ecosystem. PLoS ONE, 2009 (free access like all PLoS materials).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ardipithecus, chimps, bonobos and christians

Martín Cagliari has uploaded
at his most interesting blog Mundo Neandertal, the full documentary of Discovery Channel on the Ardipithecus Ramidus. A must view (while the blog is in Spanish, the film is still only available in English).

I was watching it yesterday and is most educative, specially for the amateur with just a side interest in ancient hominins, as is my case. But, as always they have to outline a theory, a Christian-sounding one, of course.

So I was not too persuaded that the two most surprising features of aunt Ardi and her kin, the grasping but bipedal feet and the very short and blunt canines responded too well to the theory suggested at Discovery Channel. They argue that this means two things: bipedalism in forest area (this last ratified by botanical and zoological research of the sediments - excellent job with that too) and lack of the kind of male competition we see among chimps for group dominance and hence reproductive advantage (they talk about controlling females but it's in fact more as I describe it here, as chimps are polyamorous, even if in a hierarchical manner).

So far sounds good. But the hypothesis launched is that these new bipedal males with low aggresivity responded to a new kind of bond (couple) sort of reproductive economy, in which the males could go farther looking for "quality food" (whatever that means) and carry it on their backs sounded kind of implausible and too moralist to be real. I was not persuaded.

As it happens often checking with your pillow helps to clarify thoughts and when I woke up I came with fresh ideas: they had been all the time ignoring bonobos!

Bonobos have relatively large canines but are much more bipedal than chimps, ability that they use to carry things around or just to walk, either on ground or on branches (someone pointed out recently too that even gibbons, the most distant ape, are sort of arboreal bipedal animals, that arboreal bipedalism is not that rare among our kin). Bonobo males also do not compete for the females (so their canines may well be somewhat redundant) but that is not because they live in couples and males have any enhanced role looking for food in far away places but because they are even more polyamorous than chimpanzees but females tend to lead the groups up to a point.

And when you look at Ardi after considering the bonobos, she looks very much like one in fact, right? In fact it is then when she stops looking like some sort of ape-ish chimera and starts making sense. At least for me.

Bonobos are more closely related to chimpanzees than to us but they share with us some traits that chimpanzees do not: they have a clear sense of empathy and compassion and the females are sexually available all the time, not just when ovulating. This allows them to have much more cohesive and horizontal societies, where males do not need anymore to compete for females' favors.

As I said before, they are also more bipedal than regular chimpanzees. They look like a much better comparison than regular chimpanzees for our evolution, at least in many aspects.

So my hypothesis is that Ardi and her kin were to some extent like bonobos in the social aspect. What do you think?

Anti-feminist trials as example of the Spanish madness

The madness of "all is ETA", I mean, by which nearly anyone has been repressed one way or another in the last many years.

On March 8th 2008, International Women's Day, the then delegate of the government in Navarre, Vicente Ripa, after apparently much legal insecurity and doubts, decided in the last minute to forbid a feminist demonstration in Pamplona, called by more than 40 associations. The pretext was given by Spanish court that decided that, as feminist claims such as the right to abortion are not shared by all Spanish political parties, feminism is partisan and hence the demo could be forbidden.

The demonstration was then met by the force of the Spanish police at its arrival to Gazteluko Plaza, and protesters reacted mostly (some just run away) with nonviolent resistence, putting up with the "democratic" beatings.

Now 15 women are facing trial for misdeamanors, being asked to pay fines between 300 and 600 euros each. For that reason a demonstration has been called for tomorrow at the historical Basque capital.

Source: Gara.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Basque Nationalist Left debates new strategy

This seems to be a good deal of what was going on behind the scenes when the latest inquisitorial round up happened in Donostia a week ago: Batasuna is launching an internal debate with what seem to be quite novel proposals and the Spanish government is just stuck and content in its process of Turkish-style repression and undemocratic administration.

According to Gara this new proposal talks in terms of a new cycle headed to the resolution of the political conflict, process that should be democratic and centered in the decission of the Basque citizenship and that, importantly, should happen without any violence or external interference.

It is notable that the document makes a self-criticism of the previous failed peace process of 2005-07 in the sense that they used to follow the so-called "Argel parameters" (for the also failed negotiation of Argel in the 1980s): concession in the armed struggle issue in exchange for a democratic frame (self-determination). In other words: weapons for freedom. They argue that this happened because the political bloc had issues of cohesion during the truce, specially as it was quite obvious that the Spanish government was not making any concessions.

They also mention that while there are positive new elements, there are also negative ones, like social evolution itself. They warn that the speed of such changes is faster than that of the liberation process. The positive elements are said to be the international context (crash of globalization and speculative capitalism, advance of the Left in Latin America, acceptance of some independentist proposals like those of Greenland, Scotland or Quebec), as well as the local one (exhaustion of the autonomical frame, weakening of the political hegemony of the Basque Christian-Democrats or the unity of action acheieved in the North, as well as the increase of independentist initiatives in specially Catalonia but also in the Basque Country itself). The labor unions' support of the essentials of the Nationalist Left's goals and proposals is also percieved as a very important supportive element that should not be wasted.

The new proposed focus seems to be in the so-called democratic process, which is vaguely defined as the procedure to change the current "game rules" and to carry the confrontation to parameters in which the Nationalist Left will be stronger and more efficient. Emphasis is made in that such democratic process is not limited to negotiation and does not depend on it but that it follows its own dynamics that are described as gradual.

The pillars for such process would be accumulation of forces, change in force correlation and national construction. This is further detailed as four steps: rally the Nationalist Left, build an independentist bloc, create a popular wall against the attacks from the state and re-create negotiation.

The first of these pillars is described as urgent, and leaves a feeling of wanting to rebuild ties with the breakaway party Aralar, which has improved somewhat its electoral results (while not even remotely approaching the historical levels of the Nationalist Left before ilegalization). The emphasis in being legal as central goal around this pillar makes me think that they are feeling nostalgic of the time when they could still rule towns and be decissively influential in other elected bodies.

The overall tone of this proposal seems to be in leaving somehow the armed struggle out of the equation and in emphasizing political action. However, in my opinion, the democratic process seems to be lacking in any specific plan of action, such as switching to a strategy of nonviolent disobedience or mere wishful parliamentarism that will probably go nowhere?

It is my impression that this debate could cause some greater loss of cohesion within the Nationalist Left. After all, most followers are there because ETA has been and still is, sadly enough, the only one really facing the state, while the parliamentary action so far has been totally powerless and pissed at by Madrid, where the will of the Basque People has no legal currency (after all Basques are only some 6% of the Spanish population).

I suspect that while Spain does not offer a realistic alternative to ETA as expression of the Basque popular will for self-rule, it may not matter what debates are held, because there will always be an important sector that just finds making politics in such a restrictive frame as something meaningless and idiotic.

People punish for social acceptance

Interesting experimental sociology item that I found
at Science Daily. Sociologist Christine Horne, author of The Rewards of Punishment: A Relational Theory of Norm Enforcement, found experimentally that people is much more likely to scold a bad-spoken kid when they were in company of the right people, like a group of like-minded friends, than when among people who may not support that stance.

Apparently people do that not just because such like-minded allies would back them but specially because expressing such shared views will gain them the respect and admiration of those allies.

This is interesting because it offers an unusual insight on how traditional views hold sway in closely knit societies, like those of prehistory and even modern less impersonal ones, and how social consensus is created, kept and also eventually broken.

Monday, October 19, 2009

On Nobels and "Alternative Nobels"

While we are still digesting the absurdity of giving the Peace Nobel prize to Barack Obama, who has done nearly nothing to deserve it. I find in Rebelión a couple of articles that seem indicated to mention.

On one side, Mario Ramírez-Orozco analyzes the insides of the Peace Nobel committee, that by now are already quite public at least in Norway. This committe is no any council of wisemen or anything of the like but just a politically appointed board that includes veteran members of the Norwegian political scene. These politicians are of course like any other: not particularly wise and rather short-sighted, machiavellian and with their own agendas.

So it seems now that most members of the committee were rather quite against the candidature of Obama, logically, but that the president of the board, Thorbjörn Jagland, of the social-democrat party (Arbeiderparti) seems to have managed almost solo to force the choice of Obama as this year's Peace Nobel. Even if he was apparently able to make his party colleague, Sissel Marie Rönbeck, follow his lead, the article does not explain clearly how he managed to overcome the apparently tough opposition of the other three members.

Guess we will find out in due time.

Alternative Nobels

Meanwhile the "alternative Nobel prizes" or Right Livelihood Awards have gone almost unnoticed once again. Canal Solidario (mirrored at Rebelión) tells us of this year winners, who get 50,000 euros each (except the honorific prize):

René Ngongo of the D.R. Congo got the prize for his dedication to protect one of the largest natural ecosystems on Earth: the Congo rainforest. Ngongo created in 1994 OCEAN, an organization that promotes sustainable practices and reforestation.

Alyn Ware of New Zealand got another award for more than two decades promoting peace education and elimination of nuclear arsenals. He even was advisor to the Wellington government and the UN on these areas.

Catherine Hamlin, a gynecologist from Austria, was awarded as well for her work in Ethiopia creating health infrastructures, specially those oriented to women with obstetric fistula, a disease that breaks the lifes of many women through the world even if it can be easily operated because they just cannot afford it.

The honorary prize was given to someone maybe better known for the average reader: David Suzuki, for his work oriented to broaden the conscience on climate change.

The RLAs have no specific categories and anyone can in principle propose candidates for them.

Sincerely, my personal choice would have been for the campaigns to breach the Gaza blockade, that have shown the courage and determination to challenge one of the most inhuman and criminal abuses against a population of mostly powerless refugees by one of the most mischievous and influential regimes on Earth. Maybe the next year?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Acheulean spread from Africa to Eurasia

Important paper the one that David Beard mentions
at Archaeology in Europe:

Stephen J. Lycett, Understanding Ancient Hominin Dispersals Using Artefactual Data: A Phylogeographic Analysis of Acheulean Handaxes. PLoS ONE, 2009. (Open Access).

Lycett analyzes the structure of Acheulean handaxes of Africa and Eurasia and concludes that there is very strong support (>94% likelihood) for an out-of-Africa scenario.

In all maximum parsimony trees, Eurasian axes appear as derived from African ones, possibly indicating that a migration (H. erectus or H. ergaster, depending on your naming preferences) from Africa to Eurasia happened along that techno-cultural spread.

Acheulean was first developed in Africa, some 1.6 million years ago. The most ancient confirmed date for Eurasian Acheulean is that of 'Ubeidiya (Palestine), dated to c. 1.4 million years ago though often thought of as a penetration without further consquences, followed by European ones (southern Spain, c. 900,000 BP) and more recent ones (c. 780,000 BP) in Palestine and other European areas (c. 600,000 BP). South Asian Acheulean is less well dated but most findings seem to be older than 800,000 BP.

However in Lycett trees, South Asian handaxes' typology appears consistently as older than European one (but more recent than the African types). He does not seem to have analyzed the very old Iberian or Palestinian tools though.

Huge demo against repression

One of the largest demonstrations ever in the Basque Country was the one gathered yesterday in Donostia (San Sebastian) in protest for the recent Spanish repression against Basque politicians.

The demonstration, called by the important labor union LAB, whose secretary general, Rafa Díez, was arrested in the latest political roundup, and backed by virtually everyone but the unionists (even the right-wing Basque Nationalist Party, always flirting with the state, joined it) gathered some 37,000 people in the Gipuzkoan capital, embracing totally the bay.

The president of the Athletic football club, J. M. Arrate, who also joined the demo, declared:

I have come because, if this situation extends in time, we are going to end like when Franco. Before they bring the tanks in we have at least to say that we do not agree.

Josu Loroño, well known sports journalist for the public media EITB, said showing his outrage:

This has been an abuse. And they are laughing at us Basques, they are laughing! This has to stop by any means.

There were of course many other declarations and many other personalities there... and many chants too, including many in support of the Basque prisioners, whose memory has been so often attacked as of late.

Source: Gara. Video link.

The Spaniards nervous

The so-called Socialist Party (social-democrats with a very pro-Capitalist stance in fact) and the so-called Popular Party (elitist ultra-conservatives lead by extremist Catholics and recycled fascists) who part the cake of Spanish "democracy", where no alternative is ever possible (and if it is, it goes to jail), showed some clear restlessness at the massive reaction to their latest abuses.

Notably, the so-called Lehendakari (president of the Western Basque autonomous region), Patxi López, who is in charge only after a decade when democracy has been suspended in the southern Basque Country, what allows him a parliamentary majority without anything close to a popular majority, dared to insult our intelligence saying nothing less that those that went to that demonstration "question the very democratic system" (source).

Mr. López: you can get your fascist idea of "democracy", put it in whatever bodily hole you find room for it, and start looking for political assilum in such "democratic" countries as Saudi Arabia, Iran or Burma. Because that is the "democracy" that you are talking of.

Get lost, damn "Lehendakari by the grace of God" and the Spanish Army. We have one of the oldest democracies in Europe and the whole World and we are not going to let a buffoon like you teach us lessons about democracy.

Democracy is the will of the people, democracy is that towns are ruled by an elected mayor and council, not one appointed from some dark hall at the Spanish Inquisition's headquarters, democracy is that you are not our Lehendakari. No way! You are only a pathetic usurper with as much legitimity as that Mossad agent that is Abbas.

Get lost! Let the Basque People choose!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Bronze Age Greek city surveyed underwater

Just a heads up. The city of
Pavlopetri, now sunk off the coast of Laconia, southern Greece, has been surveyed by submarine archaeologists, revealing a long history dating to c. 2800 BCE, long before the Mycenaean period. It was probably a major trading hub and the analysis of the many discovered artifacts (pottery, etc.) is now being take care of.

The earliest dates may be the most interesting ones, in my opinion, because they correspond chronologically with the pre-Indoeuropean Cycladic and Minoan cultures, of which only so much is known. However we will have to wait until the archaeological work is finished.

More at Science Daily, including a video and a podcast.

Analyzing Principal Component Analysis (PCA)

Interesting new paper at PLoS Genetics by Gil McVean of the University of Oxford, UK:
A Genealogical Interpretation of Principal Component Analysis.

Author summary:

Genetic variation in natural populations typically demonstrates structure arising from diverse processes including geographical isolation, founder events, migration, and admixture. One technique commonly used to uncover such structure is principal components analysis, which identifies the primary axes of variation in data and projects the samples onto these axes in a graphically appealing and intuitive manner. However, as the method is non-parametric, it can be hard to relate PCA to underlying process. Here, I show that the underlying genealogical history of the samples can be related directly to the PC projection. The result is useful because it is straightforward to predict the effects of different demographic processes on the sample genealogy. However, the result also reveals the limitations of PCA, in that multiple processes can give the same projections, it is strongly influenced by uneven sampling, and it discards important information in the spatial structure of genetic variation along chromosomes.

The distortions introduced by unequal sampling are quite obvious in figure 3, where equidistant hypothetical samples in a lattice (A) are subsequently distorted by simply increasing some of the samples: when only one sample is increased, this one appears as more distinct (B), when several samples are increased in different ammounts, they artificially dominate the PCA graph, with smaller samples losing their distinct personality.

This influence of sampling choice I have already noticed previously, so I am glad to see it clearly explained and due warning issued.

... the results also demonstrate the way in which sampling schemes can influence PC projections and how similar projections can arise from very different demographic scenarios. Consequently, using these results to motivate inference from PCA about underlying demographic process may prove difficult.
There is more than just this. In fact the author makes an important effort to show how PCA can be used to infer admixture apportions when this admixture is a known fact, either when the source populations are known or when they are not as well.

Worth a read.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Nuclear utopy: a dirty hell in fact

The latest news in Europe are largely about how dirty the nuclear energy business is resulting to be. The big problem is, of course, residues.

In Italy the Mafia has been sinking ships full of nuclear residues in the sea for may years now, meanwhile France and Germany have been exporting their own to Russia, where they are awfully stored, abandoned, in open air spaces without any sort of pollution control at a Soviet era base near Tomsk (we can imagine the Russians do themselves the same with their own residues more or less).

If all that would not be dirty and scary enough, the closure of a French reactor has revealed that some weapon grade plutonium was stored with no registry in that very plant. Where they expected just a few kilos of the dangerous nuclear byproduct, they found 22, three times the registered amount. This same reactor was ordered closure in July after leaking uranium to the local water supply.

The image of European nuclear industry is right now that of a total chaos and inability to manage their own production safely or in any controlled way. The "nuclear utopy" that some wanted to recycle for the Global Warming era is falling apart into pieces. And this is only what trascends to the media: the situation in Spain, famous for its lack of transparency and some very old nuclear reactors, for example, could be also awful.

Anyhow, there is not enough uranium on Earth to generate enough power for nuclear energy to be a viable substitute of anything.
Once oil production peaks (and either has already done by now or is extremely close in the very near future), the only alternatives are dirty coal or more or less clean "alternative" energy sources like wind and solar power. We want it or not, we are bound to go ecological or kill ourselves.

Unless nuclear fussion happens to make a huge leap forward, something that doesn't seem likely in the next many many decades.


Would a Peace Nobel veto sanctions against criminal Israel?

Indeed if that one is Barack Obama.

And the Norwegian prize has covered itself in shame with this year's decision of giving it to the US President Obama only because he sells "hope" and "change" well, talks smoother and looks smarter than his extremist cowboy predecessor.

The first test of the validity of this wishful thinking Nobel prize is precisely now at the UN, as the Goldstone Report, denouncing some of the criminal brutality of the occupying power in Gaza Strip this past winter, brutality that continues every single day, as the nuclear residues cause mutations and the rebuilding aid is systematically blocked at the ghetto's checkpoints. As the report makes its way through the General Assembly, the US threatens with veto, showing again that justice and human rights don't matter in the agenda of the Empire but only what Israel and the Zionist Lobby wish.

By the way, some days ago Joachim Martillo wrote at Ethnic Ashkenazim Agains Zionism, explaining that the Lobby's GDP is the size of that of large power like the UK or France, more than 2 trillion USD, without the liabilities of running a state, what in his opinion makes the GDP effectively 10 times larger or more. For comparison the US GDP is of 14 trillion dollars, and a good deal of it belongs to the Lobby anyhow.

But there are some timid signs that the all-encompasing influence of Zionism in the West is weakening. Recently Sweden rejected to bow to Zionist pressure to persecute a newspaper that denounced Israeli crimes, and later they rejected the visit of the particularly extremist Zionist foreign minister Avigador Liebermann. Now Turkey has snubbed Israel, by swiftly discarding them from a NATO military exercise, what has brought the Zionists to ponder if they can count on their traditional Turkish allies anymore.

The Zionists still have the money and lots of power but some are feeling the potentially greater pressure of the public shame that comes from association with such overtly racist criminals. Or maybe is that even among politicians there are some who still have a bit of dignity.

But Obama is certainly not among those. He has fulfilled so far the more pessimistic analysis that I could read upon his ascenssion, betraying the people that supported him, not reverting or investigating the criminal policies of his predecessor for the most part, keeping the sanctions against Cuba and anyone who dares to trade with them, and also keeping the criminal association with the Zionist apartheid regime up to the point of vetoing a clearly objective and neutral report that happens to condemn Israel for some of its worst criminal practices, widely denounced worldwide. Practices that have in fact backfired in the public opinion arena much further than Zionists would ever have expected, clouted as they are in the extreme arrogance that too powerful people and gangs often fall into.

But practices that are still active for the most part, causing the slow death of Gazans and continuing with the daily ethnic cleansing of other parts of Palestine.

Criminal practices and criminal nature that we can't but denounce once and again until the apartheid regime itself falls.

We shall overcome.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

More political arrests in the Basque Country. Sastre's open letter

I have been reading but not yet commenting on the new spat of political arrests in the Basque Country decreed by super-judge Baltasar Garzón in what the Spanish Interior Minister justified by claiming that the arrested were trying to re-found the forbidden party Batasuna, one of the largest ones in the Basque Country quite obviously.

Some nine members of this party, including the secretary general of the second largest labour union, LAB, were arrested two days ago under the anti-terrorist law and the law of political parties. The charges are not yet officially known as the arrested are being kept incommunicated in police dependences under the special laws that rule in Spain since... well, since always. The only information comes from the Interior Minister, who stated that it was an action to abort the reorganization of Batasuna, within the context of the Spanish Law of Political Parties and the recent EU sentence acknowledging that this initiative of banning parties is legitimate.

Among the arrested, were historical leaders of the Basque Nationalist Left, like Arnaldo Otegi and Pernando Barrena, the secretary general of workers' union LAB, Rafa Díez, and the daughter of the leader of the breakup faction Aralar, Patxi Zabaleta.

One of the few advantages of being split between two states is the fact that the law that is imposed at one side of the internally dividing border, does not apply necessarily at the other side. Hence Batasuna is still perfectly legal in the French state and has issued a public declaration protesting the arrests from Bayonne.

Other political parties protested that this was an action oriented to abort any chance of Batasuna heading towards a political solution of violence. Though in my opinion it is just empty blah-blah of rather marginal politicians who aim to scratch some of the votes that cannot anymore be delivered to their legitimate destinataries. But who knows?

My biggest worry anyhow is that, as they have been arrested in the offices of LAB (Patriotic Workers' Union), including the secretary general of this class organization, I can only imagine that this is nothing but the prelude of the illegalization of LAB, in the hope that it will pave the way for a formal "majority" of the Spanish Nationalist unions UGT and CC.OO., that so far has proved highly elusive. This would be yet another step into the legal dismantling (that is never the same as real dismantling) of the Basque grassroots socio-political networks.

Source: Gara.

Open letter by Alfonso Sastre to the Spanish judges

Alfonso Sastre is the most prominent theatre author in Spanish language still alive and recently was candidate to the European Parliament by the list Iniciativa Internacionalista. He was probably elected by popular vote but the poll was massively rigged so he could not become legally a representative. What follows is his public reaction to the new spat of political arrests (my translation).

Faced with the ongoing policial roundup, the signatary, Alfonso Sastre Salvador, natural from Madrid, 83 years old, Basque citizen since several decades ago, requests from you that urgently do all what is possible in order to deactivate the ongoing roundup of Basque citizens, and that these get their freedom restored. Also in this letter, he wants to expose what follows:

1. That he finds unbelievable that there is not among you some who are in radical disagreement - starting from the exercise of your activity of jurists, professionals of the Law - with measures like this one and do not feel ashamed that, in the name of Justice, Justice itself is attacked by means of persecution of pacific people, whose only "crime" is being left-leaning patriots and attempting to express themselves in the fields of politics and labour unionism. No one among you keeps, at least in his inner self, such a thought? I just cannot believe it.

2. That the legal existence of an abertzale (Basque patriotic) left, which does not "condemn" publicly the violence of ETA does not just imply a support for this kind of struggle and the subsequent attempt to extend it in time but that, on the contrary, this left bloc is necessary for the solution of the political conflict and, with it, for the end of this type of struggle (which is a very painful tragedy) and the desired arrival of peace, being, as I say, the legal existence of this political force nothing less than a conditio sine qua non for such a happy outcome. Otherwise, Basque patriotism is a legitimate idea, even if nowadays, and here there is a key of the conflict, is not legal, fact on which is founded and explained the violence we suffer.

For me, those who are applauding - enthusiastically in many cases - these arrests are not supporters of peace but actually prefer the existence of armed violence.

At least some of you, magistrate gentlemen, do what is possible for, by the moment, suspend the violence of these arrests that are exerted on people of peace, and, certainly, very patient ones themselves.

Source: Gara.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Is the Higgs boson sabotaging the hadron colliders from the future?

Sounds silly, crazy, absurd... but that's what two respectable physicists, Holger B. Nielsen and Masao Ninomiya have proposed to test... using a huge card deck of 5 million cards.

Ok, this sounds even more crazy. And even more that Mr. Nielsen seems to be the person who is going to be in charge of the LHC of Geneva in no time... that is unless this paper gets him fired.

Holger Nielsen (from Wikipedia)

According to this hypothesis the Higgs boson, the ultra-elusive so-called "God particle" that is central to Quantum Mechanics, cannot be uncovered and hence all efforts to do so are doomed because the future conspires against them, causing to them such unusual bad luck that they fail even when they should not, like the Texas particle accelator that saw its funding cut when a fourth of it was already built. According to Nielsen, this is an anti-miracle, surely caused because God hates Higgs bosons and the physics related with them.

Sure: totally crazy. But the paper is out there in PDF format: Search for Effect of Influence from Future in Large Hadron Collider and blogs and scientific media are paying attention to it, though with a good deal of disbelief or looking for the funny side of the story, what is about the same.

Some say they have gone crackpot, others that it is a prank... and, apart of the more neutral but disbelieving attitude of the media, no one seems to give a dime for the hypothesis. I imagine that, if the rumor about Nielsen been set as next director of the LHC are correct (could not confirm them), the actual reason behind this theory, that he just wants to call the attention to funding issues at the LHC and is doing it in a provocative manner with his firend and colleague Ninomiya.

But modern physics are sometimes so extremely bizarre that one wonders if they could be in fact unto something. According to Wikipedia, that is always right except when it's wrong, the pair of scientists are famous for the "Nielsen-Ninomiya no-go theoreme for representing chiral fermions of the lattice". Sounds bizarre but the lattice is a real thing in physics and maths, though I won't pretend I have any idea about it. Nielsen's home page also shows that, among his interests, the lattice holds a prominent place: Lattice Quantum Gravity and Chaos in Yang-Mills Lattice.

So is it even remotely possible that, while it looks like a prank, Nielsen and Ninomiya have in fact hinted, while looking for the Higgs boson, at Destiny? Or in other words, is this a bizarre but realistic window into the frame of spacetime beyond the constrains of our human 3i-dimensional perception? Among Nielsen's interests also is something that I'm quite concerned about: why do we have three plus one dimensions? Or, rather what is hidden behind this apparently simple frame?

As the NYT article puts it:
“For those of us who believe in physics,” Einstein once wrote to a friend, “this separation between past, present and future is only an illusion.”
However, I have a real problem with the proposed experiment: it cannot be replicated. Each time anyone draws a card from the proposed 5 million cards stack, the odds are that the "death card", the only one that would prove the hypothesis correct, are immensely small so the odds of falsification are clearly very high. But what happens if the "death card" is drawn in experiment A and not in experiment B?

So guess it's just a prank.

Main references: New Scientist, New York Times.

Monday, October 12, 2009

R1b1b2 tree revisited

A few days ago a reader made me notice a meaningful error in
my previous version of the West Eurasian R1b structure. The tree was correct but I had an error in the DYS loci numbers that caused me some confusion when comparing with other data, like that at the valuable Ht35 project (FTDNA).

So I have been rethinking all the issue from scratch and have just finished producing a new version of the same tree, where haplogroup and haplotype structure are blended as far as my knowledge reaches.

Click to expand

As is mentioned in the picture, the haplotypes are taken from Alonso 2005, paper that may be somewhat limited in some aspects, like the restrictive choice of DYS markers but is anyhow the wider academic survey I know of R1b in West Eurasia. More specifically they are taken from his selection of the most common (above 2%) haplotypes, as shown in the distribution map (two were duplicated and hence irrelevant, and another one only frequent in Iceland has also been ignored for convenience). As R1b1b1 is only found in Central Asia, R1b* is extremely rare outside Africa (Egypt and south of the Sahara, where it surely makes up a distinct subhaplogroup, whose defining SNPs have not been found yet) and the minor haplogroups R1b1a and R1b1c are practically limited to Sardinia and Lebanon, not sampled by Alonso, this is in practical terms the same as talking of haplogroup R1b1b2.

In any case, I have been checking that the haplotypes correspond with haplogroup-described ones and I am quite sure that the above haplogroup sets (yellow boxes with orange legend) are very much correct. All haplotypes seem to correspond to only one of the R1b1b2 structural layers, excepting the modal (most common) 14-24-11-13-13, which in fact belongs to two of them: R1b1b2a1* and R1b1b2a1a. This and the haplotype tree structure imply that all SNPs at the root of R1b1b2a1a (only L11 is mentioned but there are three others known) happened within this haplotype, though there may be some differences in other loci, which I have not bothered researching yet. What is clear is that there are some mutations (haplogroup-defining SNPs at least) in this most common (modal) haplotype and hence I had to duplicate this haplotype to show it with and without the L11 (and the other three) SNP mutations that define haplogroup R1b1b2a1a (I did so anyhow with a colored line, so the difference is easy to spot).

The four most common haplotypes by local frequencies are shown in bold and larger type and with the same color as in Alonso's map, for easier identification. It is noticeable that all haplotypes have an either West Asian or European distribution (once we exclude the somewhat mixed Croatian pool and maybe minor erratics) excepting two: the "modal" 14-24-11-13-13 (in red) and what I call the "Anatolian modal" 14-24-11-13-12 (in cyan blue). However the latter is rare in Europe except maybe in Croatia and Italy and the former is much more common almost anywhere in Europe than in Asia. The dividing line between West Asia and Europe (mostly West Europe) is therefore around the R1b1b2a1 node.

Geographic structure

R1b1b2* - Its only major haplotype is found only in West Asia (rare) and among Berbers (more frequent).

R1b1b2a* - It is found almost only in West Asia, with some offshots into SE Europe and even at very low frequencies, Central Europe, Iberia and Ireland. Excepting Croatia all its presence in Europe seems to belong to the "Anatolian modal" clade. It is not found among Berbers though.

R1b1b2a1* - It is found almost exclusively in Europe. The only exception are some amounts of the modal haplotype, that is also found in West Asia and among Berbers, though I am not sure if this belongs to this haplogroup or the derived R1b1b2a1a. Apart of the modal haplotype (that is also the root), it has two branches, both rather widespread in their root haplotypes, however they seem more frequent towards Central/Northern Europe. The most common of the two (root at 14-23-11-13-13, color: purple) has highest frequencies in the Low Countries of all places, while the less important one seems to have its highest frequencies in Wales, with some Atlantic distribution if anything.

R1b1b2a1a - This is the most common R1b in Europe, being quite obviously rare elsewhere, except among Berbers. As such it shows a relatively wide array of more relevant (above 2% in Alonso's sample) haplotypes. Surely the most important haplotype is the "modal" one (I'd say from other data that about 80% or 90% of this haplotype belongs to this haplogroup), which is widely distributed. Besides, it has three branches, one of which is quite important too (root at 14-24-10-13-13, color: black) and is widely distributed as well, with a highest frequency in Scotland (though also common in other populations, including Berbers but not West Asians). The other two are less important and show certain Atlantic tendency maybe, with lower tier haplotypes being rather common among Berbers.

And this is what I can tell about this important haplogroup by the moment.

Pamplona rejects pathetic fascist disembark

Some two thousand people gathered in Pamplona's streets under the slogan "A thousand colors against fascism", in protest against a scheduled demonstration of the much hated but tiny Falange party, who managed to bring just some 50 people from Spain.

Extremist fascist discourse

The pitiful bunch of fascists, highly protected by the police, launched a message of hate and the most extremist Spanish nationalism. Miguel Valenciano, leader of the fascist students' union (and surely one of just few members) charged in his discourse against independentism, abortion, gays, reds and immigrants, claiming the old Francoist slogan of Spain as a "unit of destiny in the universe", whatever that means. He particularly attacked linguistic diversity, asking for the closure of all ikastolak (Basque language schools) and the imposition of a monlithic language system.

His colleague, Manuel Andrino, national leader of the hate group, asked for the death penalty for "terrorists" and prophetized vague visions of a day when the fascists will take back Navarre by force. He also made apology of terrorism, a crime, when he openly supported the "ghost group" Falange y Tradición, that has been involved in several acts of vandalism and death threats in the Basque Country in the last months.

Two women managed to infiltrate the fascist mob and perform acts of protest. One managed to grab the microphone and cry: "long live Freedom!", being then beaten by the fascists until police intervened and expelled her. Another woman managed to deploy a banner in support of Basque prisoners, being also expelled from the plaza.

Anti-fascist acts

The anti-fascist activities included a homage to the victims of fascist violence at Gazteluko Plaza, including floral offerings and a honor dance (aurresku). It is worth remembering here that fascism caused in the Spanish state one of the largest democides of the 20th century with more than a million victims, often forgotten.

After that act, a demonstration with some 2000 people walked along Sarasate Alley, under extreme police surveillance and some threats. Once this demonstration was finished, some people attempted to breach the police belt that protected the fascists, what got the police charging wildly. Some six people were arrested, including one who tried to protect a demonstrator who was being savagely beaten by the cops.


As the fascists packed to go back to the hole they came from, neighbours insulted them from balconies, with sentences like: "you are just thirty and have come here to fuck us precisely on Sunday, when we strive for a bit of peace and tranquillity".

In spite of the heavy police protection that they enjoyed, the fascist cars were hit by several rocks, causing some of them to jump out of the vehicles in search of fight. Police impeded that.

Member of the organization of Antifaxista Eguna (Anti-Fascist Day) showed their satisfaction for the outcome of the protest journey, even if, because of the rain, some of the activities had to be suspended. He thanked the participants who dared to stand up in spite of the massive police deployment. Patxi Belasko nevertheless denounced that these fascists are not the most dangerous ones but the covert ones who hold public offices.

Today there will be another demonstration, also in Pamplona, against aggressions and dirty war.

Protest against fascist vandalism in Lizarra

Yesterday too, there was a protest against the felling of a spawn of the Gernika Tree in the Navarrese city of Lizarra (Estella) by fascists of that "ghost group" mentioned before. They also denounced the beating of a neighbour of Zirauki at hands of a known fascist of the area.

However, while I acknowledge that public demonstrations are a good way of showing strength, I also think that against these individuals some more direct action is needed. Otherwise they will believe themselves impune and that's very dangerous.

Source: Gara.