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Monday, June 30, 2008

Archaic skulls (just notes)

First series: longfaced skulls around the World that remind somewhat of Combe-Capelle (Aurignacian):

· Skhul types: very archaic, different among them
· Predmosti: very similar to Combe-Capelle but less dolicocephalic and more prognathous
· Roonka: a recent Australian skull that, while having some unique Australoid traits in the vault, also resembles a lot the archaic European types in the face, nose and jaw.

Second series: more robust skulls around the World that remind somewhat of Crô-Magnon 1 and Taforalt:

Notes: These are even more different among them - acknowledged.
· Crô-Magnon 1: actually he's more recent than 30,000 BP, as it's been reviewed as belonging to a Gravettian layer, not Aurignacian. Noticed after creating the image, sorry.
· Taforalt: much more refined and "modern" than Crô-Magnon 1. More longfaced and gracile.
· Keilor: the one that most resembles Crô-Magnon 1 in my opinion.
· UC-101: included mostly because of the robust jaw. It has a much higher face than the rest but it's dolicocephalous, unlike modern Mongoloids.
· Kennewick Man: reminds somewhat of Taforalt but he's brachicephalous (the only one in the series) and has a very sloped forehead.

Finally, just to complete the European UP series, Chancelade man (Magdalenian, c. 15,000 BP, Franco-Cantabrian Region):

Notes: modern mesocephalic European skull in all aspects, in my opinion. The very narrow jaw and total lack of prognathism is particularly remarkable. It is worth noticing that recently it was discovered that the first known impacted tooth belonged to another Magdalenian skull. The small size of the jaw (in comparison to archaic types) clearly explains why.

Credits for the images to:
· Modern Human Origins
· Peter Brown
· Other forgotten sites

Please, if you know of other skulls (with available image) worth adding to the list, let me know.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Morocco attacks Al Jazeera for reporting protests and deaths in Sidi Ifni

Nothing surprising I'd say, considering the poor record of Morocco in human rights and freedom of speech, the curious thing is that it has decided only to attack Al Jazeera and not the other media (both Moroccan and international) that reported on the same incidents and deaths.

Apparently four (or maybe up to eight) people from the impoverisehd southern coastal town were killed by the Moroccan police, while many others had to flee to the mountains for their lifes, after protests caused by extreme poverty.

Hassan Rachidi, Al Jazeera's Arabic bureau chief in Morocco is on trial accused of broadcasting false information.

More: 'Al Jazeera: No apology to Rabat'.

The referendum that won't be

The Basque autonomous Parliament has approved to call for a consultative referendum to Western Basque society (not Navarrese, not Northern Basques) with the following (rather tricky) questions:

1. Do you agree to support a process of dialogated end to violence if previously ETA declares unequivocally its intention to abandon violence forever?

2. Do you agree that the Basque political parties, without exclussions, begin a process of negotiation to reach a democratic agreement on the excercise of the right to decide of Basque people and that such agreement is submitted to referendum before the end of 2010?

Tricky certainly, they are so misleading that I'm tempted to vote against both. But worry not: the Spanish political and judicial institutions will curtail the right of Basques to vote on their own destiny before it happens. It has happened before and will happen again: Spanish politicians seem to need the Basque conflict exactly as Bush seems to need Al Qaeda.

In fact the Nationalist Left bloc has supported this law reluctantly (only one representative voted for it, the rest abstaining, so it would be approved by a single vote) on the certainty that Spain will simply forbid the referendum.

On the first question I have the following caveats: why would anyone renounce "definitively" to violence while the right of self-determination of the Basque People is not guaranteed, why isn't this demand posited to Spain and its armed forces?

On the second question I have even more doubts: I don't want the political parties to agree to anything, I want the right of self-determination to be acknowledged, full stop. Once it's acknowledged, then they will probably have to discuss and vote on how it's implemented. If Spain doesn't recognize the right of self-determination, our only realistic path is to begin with self-determination now and break apart unilaterally, like Kosova.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Anti-G8 activists preventively criminalized as possible "terrorists"

The next G8 summit will be in Japan and the people there are already getting ready to protest. But police is getting ready too and has distributed an incredible poster that associates mostly peaceful anti-globalization grassroots struggle with "terrorism":

(source: Gipfelsoli)

The G8 is a select club of some of the wealthiest and most powerful states in the world and their summits, as well as other related conferences, are percieved as a sort of elitist Global Government. The G8 members are: USA (1st power by GDP (PPP)), Japan (3rd), Germany (5th), United Kingdom (6th), Russia (7th), France (8th), Italy (10th) and Canada (13th). China (2nd global power by this standard), India (4th), Brazil (9th), Spain (11th), Mexico (12th) and South Korea (14th) are for historical reasons (read: Eurocentrism, neocolonialism, etc.) not included in the group. Japan is the only G8 member that does not have European culture and, together with Russia, the only one that does not belong to NATO.

More info on Japan police-induced paranoia, with rare collectable posters or 21st century parlamentary police-state can be found at Debito.

Schedule for your alternative holidays in Japan (anti-globalization protests and the like):

· 26-27 (Kyoto): Demonstration against the Foreign Ministers' meeting
· 28-29 (Tokyo): Deminstration against the G8

· 1 (Tokyo): International Forum against the G8
· 1-4 (Sapporo): Tematic activities

· 3 (Sapporo): Punks against the G8
· 3 (Sapporo): International Conference on antimilitarism and women
· 5 (Sapporo): International Action Day
· 5 (Chitose): Protest at the airport
· 7-9 (Lake Toya): Blockade of G8 meeting
· 6-8 (Sapporo): Alternative Summit
· 7-9 (Lake Toya): Anarchist Football Cup

(Source: La Haine)

Sites to watch:
· NO-G8 Action Japan
· Japan Indymedia

Larger samples better than larger databases in autosomal genetics

June 2008 PLOS Genetics is out and the article that caught my attention this time is:
Calibrating the Performance of SNP Arrays for Whole-Genome Association Studies by Ke Hao et al.

... according to our results a study employing N = 300 subjects and the Affy500K platform offers higher power than a study employs N = 250 subjects and the Ilmn650K platform. This 20% increase in sample size (N = 300 vs. N = 250) provides more power than the 90% increase in the number of SNPs genotyped (286K SNPs vs. 545K SNPs). In scenarios where funding becomes the constraining factor, our results suggest that genotyping larger sample size with cheaper SNP arrays might achieve better statistical power. On the other hand, if the constraining factor is the number of subjects, then it appears that SNP arrays offering the largest genetic coverage should be employed.

Martian soil "interacted with water"

The stream of news from Phoenix lander keeps arriving. Now it's
the preliminary results of the first wet-chemical analysis of soil other than Earth's.

"This soil appears to be a close analog to surface soils found in the upper dry valleys in Antarctica," Kouvanes [Tuft University researcher] said. "The alkalinity of the soil at this location is definitely striking. At this specific location, one-inch into the surface layer, the soil is very basic, with a pH of between eight and nine. We also found a variety of components of salts that we haven't had time to analyze and identify yet, but that include magnesium, sodium, potassium and chloride."

"This is more evidence for water because salts are there. We also found a reasonable number of nutrients, or chemicals needed by life as we know it."

University of Arizona's researcher, Tedd Byton says:

"At this point, we can say that the soil has clearly interacted with water in the past."

Still a lot to come.


Update: the BBC version of this news item, quotes Kouvanes pondering the excellent qualities of the Martian soil:

It is the type of soil you would probably have in your back yard - you know, alkaline. You might be able to grow asparagus in it really well.
So like in the Navarrese Erribera (Low Country, famous for its asparagus, among other crops). Is actually Mars like Bardeak?

Kind of, I guess.

But seriously, a former gardener advise: you may want a more acidic soil than pH 8 if you hope to keep a nice lawn. 6.5 (slightly acidic) is optimal. But maybe not for asparagus - I have to check.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mars is like Atacama

Like Atacama desert (Chile) or the dry valleys of Antarctica. Or so claim a study of Berkeley University that reanalyzes the Martian soil data of diferent expeditions. They think that while the red planet is too cold now to allow moist, this was not the case in the Hesperian era, some 3.5 billion years ago.

Read more at Science Daily.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Women's rights disaster in Iraq

Baathist Iraq was, at least largely, a secularist society. There were certainly the typical gender issues of all Muslim societies but the situation has worsened a lot since the 2003 US invasion of the country.

That is at least what knowledgeable women denounce in this article in Gara (in Spanish). The article begins talking about women suicide bombers but soon turns to the awful situation of Iraqi females in all the country. US citizen Farhana Ali says:

Iraqi women have been marginalized slowly but persistently. They were in the forefront of society with he former Iraqi government and we have deprived them from all opportunities. Those who have not run away have been victims of rape, torture, kidnappings... They are doubly victims.

Shameran Marugi, president of the Iraqi Women Comitee says:

The "right to live" is a slogan we have began promoting because the lifes of women in Iraq are threatened from all sides. Laws are not applied egalitarily and society despises women. Before the invasion a woman could live with normality if she followed - as happens everywhere else - to the laws of the state.

The new Iraqi constitution allows (art. 41) clerics to interpretate what is acceptable or not in the domain of rights and duties of the individual. This has formalized legally the factual harassment of women in all corners of society: at home they are victims of their fathers, husbands and even their own sons, while in the streets they are coerced to wear veil. The so-called "honor crimes", of which women are almost invariably the victims, have become widespread in all the country. A study details that 64% of Iraqi women have suffered mysogynistic agressions, while 74% claim that their daughters cannot go to school at all.

Guess this is the freedom that the invaders have brought. Meanwhile they continue doing business as usual with extremely machista fundamentalist regimes such as Saudi Arabia and many others, while progressive countries like Syria are marginalized. It makes no sense unless the goal is to get all the Middle East (in its widest sense) under the dark cloak of fundamentalist fascism.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The mtDNA spread maps 3: macro-haplogroup M

The last map of the series (it was hard to draw and I am still slightly confused about some minor M clades possibly):

Important notes:
· AI stands for Andaman Islands
· Sahul refers to Australia and New Guinea, but most clades are exclusively Melanesian. Only Q (marked in pink) is present in Australia too.
· Clades marked in blue are present in several regions:
  • M33 is shared by South and SE Asia
  • M9 (including subclade E) is shared by SE and East Asia
  • CZ (or just C, Z being a subclade) has a wide distribution across northern Eurasia, from Northern Europe to America, it's generally considered to be East Asian in origin
  • D has also a wide distribution from West Eurasia (Northern Europe and West Asia) to America, it's generally considered to be East Asian in origin too
· Clades marked in green are shared by East and Central Asia

See also:
· The mtDNA spread maps 1: macro-haplogroup N
· The mtDNA spread maps 2: macro-haplogroup R

Another note: the South Asian origin is putative, not definitive. One could well argue for SE Asian origin for this macro-haplogroup (not for the others though) but in my opinion it's a quite reasonable hypothesis. Of course, the ultimate origin is in Africa, where there is a lot more diversity within L3, from which both M and N are derived.

If you find any error, please let me know. Thanks in advance.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Basque Catholics and Rome

The historically literate will know that Basques have been of many religions through history: Catholics certainly but also Muslims, Protestant and certainly Pagan and very prone to "witchery". But in the last centuries the dominant religion used to be Catholicism and even two major national uprisings were held in the name of "God" in the 19th century. The very roots of Basque Nationalism lay there and therefore the oldest nationalist party defines itself as "Christian-Democrat" and the Basque banner is full of crosses.

But the historically literate will also know that Rome never actively supported a separate Basque identity. Basque states were never militant crusader nor had the Roman Imperial cultural and ideological legacy as strongly marked as their neighbours. In the end the Church is with the winners and with those who provide the armies that could force the expansion of their ideological domain. As such imperialist states like Spain and France have been very much the favorites of the Popes through history.

Well, the case is that there is a long article in Gara today on the whereabouts of the Basque church: Roma prepara un golpe de timón en la iglesia vasca (Rome plots a U-turn in the Basque church). It's an abtruse topic for me, as I am not Christian and, in the line of what legends say of ancient lamiak, I never step inside a church. And I always say to dissident Catholics (most) to split from Rome and live their lives more happily. But for the sake of information I will try to synthetize what is going on.

The Basque church is devoid of priestly vocations: there are virtually no seminarists anymore and lay people have been getting in charge of the local churches and even officiating masses. Paradoxically it's maybe the only church of Spain that is not dependent on state subsidies (it's self-financed), so it's really an odd case. The local hierarchy, the bishops that were nominated in the 60s and 70s, under Fundamentalist Fascism, happened to be quite progressive ("liberal" in US terminology), always in the context of what Catholics are, and somewhat supportive of the Basque national claims (use of Basque language, support for working class demands, criticism against torture and state violence). This attitude was in line with the Vatican II Council but nowadays is not welcomed in Madrid nor in Rome anymore.

As time passes the old bishops die or retire and are being replaced by new ones, most of them foreigners and all very conservative. This what the article means by a "U-turn". The new bishops are educated in a spirit of obedience to authority that is pretty much against Vatican II and the prevailing feeling among Basque Catholics, but in agreement with the hierarchy of Madrid and Rome.

The problem is, as an unidentified insider mentions, that the new reactionary bishop will emphasize the contradictions inside a church that knows a lot of foral pass (traditional Basque legal practice towards foreign impositions: "acknowledged but not obeyed") and is not as easy to manipulate as some believe. The wisdom of our elders and common sense will prevail over disciplinary landings.

We'll see. Personally, would I be Christian, as many people I know (not a majority anymore certainly but still a significative minority), I would already have split from that fascist church. In fact I did when I was like 12 years old (how could they be against divorce?!) but later evolved towards atheism as the whole paradigm became more and more unbelievable, alien, meaningless. But for the believer it seems to me it would be the logical thing to do: break apart and reorganize in a grassroot fashion that is anything but alien to Basque culture and history. It's also probably the case in Latin America, where the Eurocentric, burgueoise and pro-Gringo hierarchy is nothing but a burden.

My two cents from the outside anyhow.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Why the uncontacted tribe air photos?

Al Jazeera has today an interview with Jose Carlos Mereilles, the man who located and pictured the uncontacted Amazonian tribe that made headlines some days ago:

"... the Peru side of the Amazon is a no man's land where everything is permitted.

"The Indians are being pushed into Brazil, which causes conflict with Indians already here, but if they stay in Peru they know they will die after contact with loggers".


"Alan Garcia [president of Peru] declared recently that the isolated Indians were a creation in the imagination of environmentalists and anthropologists - now we have the pictures. Now the pictures exist for the whole world".


He claims Brazil has 69 references to isolated tribes with little to no contact with the outside world – 22 of which have been confirmed, several by Meirelles himself.

Previously the government policy was to integrate isolated tribes into society after contact, but studies showed two-thirds died within months of the first contact.

"That is not contact, that is genocide," Meirelles said.

So he and some colleagues were instrumental in changing policy to "no contact".

"These people have lived on their own for 500 years and that is their choice," he said.

"They can decide when they want contact, not me or anyone else. The policy of FUNAI is protection, we do not want to contact them; to run experiments on them to know about who they are, how they live or what ethnic group they belong too."

"As long as they are there, they are fine."

Friday, June 20, 2008

Sharp warm spikes at the end of the Ice Age.

A University of Colorado team researching the Greenland ice sheet has found that two sudden warm epysodes happened just before the definitive end of the Ice Age some 10,000 years ago.

The first one was c. 14,700 BP and lasted till c. 12,900 BP. Then deep freeze conditions were back agains for some 1200 years until the second sudden warming (11,700 BP) that preluded the definitive end of the Ice Age.

But the most important finding is that the warming happened in such a brief period as 50 years, with the reorganization of atmospheric circulation being as quick as only one or two years!

We have analyzed the transition from the last glacial period until our present warm interglacial period, and the climate shifts are happening suddenly, as if someone had pushed a button.

The origin of the sudden changes seems to be in the tropical belt but it doesn't seem like the researchers can pinpoint the ultimate trigger of such a climatic change.

While these abrupt climate changes could really alter radically the life of Paleolithic hunter-gatherers, for the case of Europe, the first one seems to imply some continuity: Magdalenian was dominant in the SW and expanded to Central Europe about that date. The second one preludes the Paleolithic, with the gradual diversification of Magdalenian culture but it doesn't show lack of continuity either. Fully diversified Epipaleolithic cultures (Azilian, Sauveterrean, etc.) are only found since c. 10,000 BP, some time after the second peak, when the Ice Age had already become history.

(Via Science Daily)

Martian water? Quite likely.

Guess it's the image of the month, maybe of the year, at least for the scientifically inclined:

The hard white stuff seems to be water ice. While the chemical analysis is yet to be done, the behaviour of the exposed layer, vanishing in few days, is likely to be water ice that has vaporized after being exposed. Or so think the Phoenix team.

Read more at Science Daily.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Australia about to collapse

Economy?, nuclear war?, class struggle?, ethnic tensions?

Nope. Mere and simple imminent ecological disaster caused, probably, by global warming.

Timeline? A century or two ahead?, several decades?, an undefined future?

Nope. By October this year.

While the USA and China are succumbing to brutal massive floods, Australia is facing the worst of the worst drought ever. It's been nicknamed the Big Dry and it's been going on for many years now, since 2003, sending many farmers into bankrupticy and becoming one of the factors behind increased food prices worldwide (as Australia used to be one of the main food exporters of the World).

Drought affected croplands

Now an expert panel has warned that the most important river system of Australia, the Murray-Darling basin, the Australian breadbasket, will be beyond the point of recovery unless it gets enough water by October. In practical terms it means that the whole ecology of the single most important agricultural and economical region of Australia will take at least a decade to recover or will not recover at all in any foreseable future.

The Murray-Darling basin

The reaction of the government? Wait until November. Incredible but true. The report has been leaked to the press anyhow sparkling great concern and political scandal in the island-continent.

More unpopular EU measures.

My brother told me yesterday and I really could not believe it: the European Comission (the unelected government of this sui generis confederation) is pondering
to make people pay for recieving calls to their cell phones.

The only logic I could muster on first thought was that EU wanted to discourage having mobile phones and using them. Certainly it looks quite persuassive. But nope: their alleged logic is to promote competition between companies.

Jon Ariño of the Basque consumer's association EKE could not believe it either: Lately the news coming from Brussels leave me perplex (...) the measure will not bring any sort of cheaper prices. (...) The European Comission is not a government for the people but for the lobbies.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Algeria: another fundamentalist NATO ally

You have to dig a bit to find info on Algeria these days. Sure a bomb now and then but little more. And what's happening meanwhile? Emergency rule. And what's happening under emergency rule? Here there is an example:

A journalist of Le Figaro has been arrested an put on trial. Why? For terrorism? For writing too critically of Bouteflika's regime? Nope. For allegedly converting to Christianity. And I say allegedly because the evidence is circumstantial: ownership of two bibles. Journalists at the trial had their booknotes removed.

The case is not about Christianity and Islam as I see it but about civil rights. Do Algerians have civil rights? Or is it actually a fundamentalist state like Saudi Arabia or Egypt? It seems the second. All these regimes, from Morocco to Oman are actively supported with western money, be it from the USA, France, Israel or whoever. The only goal of these regimes seems to create a barrier of fanatic ignorance between Europe and the rest of the world. If a country decides to go laicist, like Iraq, it's quickly invaded and trown to the kind of Al Sadr. Certainly there is no more freedom for women to go unveiled in US-occupied Iraq than under Saddam, whichever his faults.

The Algerian president also made signs of this further fundamentalization of Algeria recently, when he declared before a fundamentalist demonstration that "the koran is the constitution of Algerian society".

Source: The Middle East Media Research Institute (via Marjou at North Africa Forum)

Spanish Neoinquisition: Andalusians are also "terrorists".

It seems the Spanish Neoinquisition (aka judicial system) has found that criminalizing everybody is good for their interests and those of the corporations and institutions behind them. Now the "terrorists" are some Andalusian squatters who had created a Social Occupied Center (CSO in Spanish acronym) at Granada. The members of the
CSO La Fábrica de Sueños (Dreams Manufactory) were (gratuitously) accused of collaboration with Basque urban guerrilla and ilegalized political parties as means of finding a justification to kick them out of their social center.

More information (in Spanish) at:
- La Fábrica de Sueños blog.
- La Haine: Un montaje policial quiere vincular la Fábrica de Sueños con la Kale Borroka y el entorno abertzale.

L'Académie opposes any mention to "regional languages" in the French constitution.

Source: Gara: DEBATE SOBRE LA REFORMA INSTITUCIONAL FRANCESA: La mera mención a las lenguas minorizadas indigna a la Academia.

Déclaration de l´Académie française

Depuis plus de cinq siècles, la langue française a forgé la France. Par un juste retour, notre Constitution a, dans son article 2, reconnu cette évidence : "La langue de la République est le français".

Or, le 22 mai dernier, les députés ont voté un texte dont les conséquences portent atteinte à l'identité nationale. Ils ont souhaité que soit ajoutée dans la Constitution, à l'article 1er, dont la première phrase commence par les mots : "La France est une République indivisible, laïque, démocratique et sociale", une phrase terminale : "Les langues régionales appartiennent à son patrimoine".

Les langues régionales appartiennent à notre patrimoine culturel et social. Qui en doute? Elles expriment des réalités et des sensibilités qui participent à la richesse de notre Nation. Mais pourquoi cette apparition soudaine dans la Constitution ?

Le droit ne décrit pas, il engage. Surtout lorsqu'il s'agit du droit des droits, la Constitution.

Au surplus, il nous paraît que placer les langues régionales de France avant la langue de la République est un défi à la simple logique, un déni de la République, une confusion du principe constitutif de la Nation et de l'objet d'une politique.

Les conséquences du texte voté par l'Assemblée sont graves. Elles mettent en cause, notamment, l'accès égal de tous à l'Administration et à la Justice. L'Académie française, qui a reçu le mandat de veiller à la langue française dans son usage et son rayonnement, en appelle à la Représentation nationale. Elle demande le retrait de ce texte dont les excellentes intentions peuvent et doivent s'exprimer ailleurs, mais qui n'a pas sa place dans la Constitution.

12 juin 2008

(Cette déclaration a été votée à l'unanimité par les membres de l'Académie française dans sa séance du 12 juin 2008).

Aren't Basque, Gascon, Occitan, Breton, Flemish, Catalan, Corse or Alsatian German worth even a petty mention in the French constitution? Guess not and that's just another reason to split France, that gothic monster of the imperialist past in smaller pieces. It's time for the decolonization of Western Europe, it's time for the states born in the 15th century at the expense of the peoples to cease to exist.

Palestinian early farmers and green jewelry.

Another PNAS study
found in the news. The authors have discovered that while beads of other colors (black, red, brown or yellow) were used commonly before, the new fashion of green colors in the area that spread between 11,600 and 8,200 BP meant that the beads or its materials had to be imported from afar (Syria, Cyprus, Arabia). The authors seem to argue about an amulet meaning for these beads therefore. Certainly in many cultures green is considered the color of hope, a meaning that probably comes from the Neolithic period. Sympathic magic (attributing magic powers via similarity) is also widespread.

Homosexual brains "inverted". How are bisexual ones?

Or so says a Swedish study published in PNAS and by now
widely mentioned throughout the press. No surprise here, at least for some cases: it had already been reported in gay rams, for instance.

My question is: what happens to all that wide sector of bisexual and ambiguous tendencies? How are their brains? Intermediate? Have it all? They certainly have not been scanned here: only homo and hetero.

Update: Razib comments on another (also Swedish) study, this one on twins, that notices that the impact of genetic factors is higher in gay men (34-39%) than in lesbians (18-19%). The why of the other study was placed mostly in the womb (epigenetics) instead.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Che on his 80th birthday

Very few people have like Che Guevara personified the dreams of the late 20th century but the social perception of his figure is mostly split between the idealization of his figure as active revolutionary and its trivialization as mere merchandise.
Néstor Kohen at La Haine, reividicates the Argentinan revolutionary leader as much more than a man of action, military leader and popular icon. The hidden face of el Che is that of a deep, well formed and visionary political thinker.

Something I did not know and that will probably surprise most readers was that, in 1965, he predicted the return of the Soviet Union to capitalism. It is his extense book Apuntes Críticos de Economía Política (Critical Notes on Political Economy).

Another advanced idea of Che was that workers needed something more than their salaries to become ethusiastic about their jobs. Similar ideas developed in Japan years later were to create what has become the paradigm of the third stage of Capitalism (toyotism, or in Marx' terms: the total subsumption of work into capital) .

Che's writings are very extensive and largely unknown (except his diaries maybe). A selection of Guevara's texts in English can be found at and (in Spanish) at His books have been mostly published by Ocean Press and can be found here at pretty reasonable prices (some works in English, others in Spanish).

Happy birthday comandante

EU brings Europe back to 1870

The EU agreement to allow up to 65 work hours pushes back Europe to the dark ages of the 19th century. The 48 hours week was an achievement of the Working Class struggle in the early 20th century, later it was pushed down to 40 hours with the incorporation of the "English weekend" of two days, recently in France and some German states it was reduced to 35 hours. In fact none of these limits are really enforced strictly, extra hours are way too common, but at least provide some legal protection for the people.

Now the EU has agreed to allow up to 65 hours per week, what is an average of 10 hours and 20 minutes per day from monday to saturday, or 13 hours per day from monday to friday.

Are you surprised that Europeans are increasingly against this EU?

Poster demanding the 35 hours limit in the Basque Country:
"Nobody is in excess. Unemployement can be solved".

Friday, June 13, 2008

Europeans vote NO again to this EU

This time are the Irish. The count is not finished when I write this but
the government is admitting defeat.

Admittedly this Treaty of Lisbon is the same as the European Constitution by another name. It has been submitted to referendum in five states so far, four when it was "the Constitution" and this last time, in Ireland, as mere treaty. Of the five, three have voted against (France, Netherlands and Ireland) and two in favor (Spain and Luxemburg).

All the other approvals (European Council, Comission and Parliament, state parliaments) have been not any exersise of direct democracy and certainly there are many doubts they do represent the will of the people.

As for those who voted in favor I only know one person in my enviroment, my conservative brother, who admitted he was against but thought it was not good for Spain to say no to EU. Typical of him: think A and do B out of calculation.

I voted against, of course.

My reasons for doing so can't be said to be anti-Europeist. I am rather Europeist actually. I think they are in line with the important leftist fraction that voted NO and would do the same again if consulted.

Basically I read the Constitution and thought: no declaration of rights, what the heck? Additionally it did not make the decision making process more democratic, it just provided for a qualified majority of states to take decissions more easily. Basically it pretends to persist in the Europe of states (decission making) and corporations (no social rights, wild free market), while advancing nothing or nearly so towards greater democracy.

Certainly there is another conservative faction that is against this EU, mostly because they are natonalists of the dominant nations (constituent states) and fear Brussels red tape.

The possitions of both opposition camps are very different: one is at least mildly Europeist but wants another more social and democratic EU, the other is just anti-Europeist. The Yes camp, pseudo-pragmatic, compromised with what EU already is, is not able instead to muster sufficient consensus beyond the political corridors, among the European people.

Which is the solution? The actual solution will be more talks and a compromise in the same line. As Barroso put it, there is no plan B. Europeans must choose between accepting the plan A or accepting the plan A anyhow. Not very democractic, really, nor smart probably either.

The ideal solution would be to call elections for a constituent European Parliament, with the specific mandate of writing that constitution, after years of debate. The resulting agreement should be put to referendum in every single state and there should be a plan B for every state that prefers to remain apart, assuming it's approved overall.

I am not voting in favor of any constitutional proposal that does not include a good bill of rights in any case, nor for anything that leaves the decision making process in the hands of states and Brussels bureaucracy. No. That is the EU people is voting against. The question is not more or less integration (that may be an issue for the conservative camp) but more or less democracy. If it's not substantially more democratic than what we have now, we are going to vote against. We don't want a EU that is just about free game for thebig corporations, police coordination and costly buraucracies. We want a EU that is about Europeans, about the people, about our rights, about our jobs, about our enviroment, about our homes. We want to know that, after voting yes, our opinions will matter more, not less.

They can play all the game again: Reach a "new" old agreement out of pathetic laziness (that's all they seem able to do with our many taxes) . But they can't change the sociological reality: this EU is not valid anymore, we need something dramatically more democratic, where the bureaucrats, including those more than dubious European Bank managers are directly or almost directly accountable to the people. If they keep going through the path of elite obscurantism and corporative economy, we are going to have a broken EU that will break apart easily. It's not a viable path. It's a path of self-defeat.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Mammoth mtDNA wholly sequenced from hair

Science Daily: Woolly Mammoth Gene Study Changes Extinction Theory.

The study, published in PNAS, has several interesting findings:

Mammoths were not one but two species, that had diverged one million years ago, one of which became extinct c. 45,000 BP, some time before modern humans arrived to their habitats.

Both mammoth species had low genetic diversity, what is curious for an animal that ranged from Europe to North America.

The mtDNA of mammoths was a lot more complex than their elephant relatives, either African or Asian.

They managed to generate and compare 18 complete mitochondrial DNA sequences, a unique feat in the field of aDNA studies. They could make it because they worked with hair, not with bone, what evidences that hair preserves aDNA much better than any bone tissue.

The daily reality of Palestine

You know: beatings, humilliations, injustice, land robbery, military murder, slow murder via checkpoints or red tape... These words describe very poorly the real thing.

A good in detail day after day testimony is given, not by any Palestinian site, but by an Israeli one: B'tselem, self-defined as the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. Since recently it also includes videos, as B'tselem has been distributing cameras to Palestinians, so they can report more effectively the abuses.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Iraq: plunder and deceit

A couple of quite interesting Iraq-related stories today at BBC:

One is a former National Guard who deserted after being sent to Iraq and realizing that it wasn't what he had signed for: to defend his country in case of foreign invasion.


In 2002, I joined the Indiana National Guard. When I joined, I was told I would only be in combat if there were troops occupying the United States.

I signed up to defend people and do humanitarian work filling sandbags if there was a hurricane. I had no conception I would be deployed to fight on foreign shores.

But in 2005, I was deployed with my unit to Camp Anaconda near Balad, Iraq. My job in Iraq was in military intelligence.

Through this job I had access to a lot of information about what was happening on the ground in Iraq. I realised innocent people were being killed unjustly and I tried to quit the military while in Iraq. My commander told me I was stressed out and needed R&R, because I was doing a job I was not trained to do.

I went home on leave and said I was not coming back. I was told desertion is punishable by death. I was Absent Without Leave (AWOL) in America for eight months.

I searched the internet and found out about US war resisters in Canada. I arrived in Toronto two weeks later.


The other is about a number of private contractors who got the money and run. And how Bush and gang are covering them up.

A BBC investigation estimates that around $23bn (£11.75bn) may have been lost, stolen or just not properly accounted for in Iraq.

For the first time, the extent to which some private contractors have profited from the conflict and rebuilding has been researched by the BBC's Panorama using US and Iraqi government sources.

A US gagging order is preventing discussion of the allegations.

The order applies to 70 court cases against some of the top US companies.

While George Bush remains in the White House, it is unlikely the gagging orders will be lifted.

To date, no major US contractor faces trial for fraud or mismanagement in Iraq.

The president's Democrat opponents are keeping up the pressure over war profiteering in Iraq.

Henry Waxman who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said: "The money that's gone into waste, fraud and abuse under these contracts is just so outrageous, its egregious.

"It may well turn out to be the largest war profiteering in history."

In the run-up to the invasion one of the most senior officials in charge of procurement in the Pentagon objected to a contract potentially worth seven billion that was given to Halliburton, a Texan company, which used to be run by Dick Cheney before he became vice-president.

Unusually only Halliburton got to bid - and won.

The search for the missing billions also led the programme to a house in Acton in West London where Hazem Shalaan lived until he was appointed to the new Iraqi government as minister of defence in 2004.

He and his associates siphoned an estimated $1.2 billion out of the ministry.

They bought old military equipment from Poland but claimed for top class weapons.

Meanwhile they diverted money into their own accounts.

Judge Radhi al-Radhi of Iraq's Commission for Public Integrity investigated.

He said: "I believe these people are criminals.

"They failed to rebuild the Ministry of Defence , and as a result the violence and the bloodshed went on and on - the murder of Iraqis and foreigners continues and they bear responsibility."

Mr Shalaan was sentenced to two jail terms but he fled the country.

He said he was innocent and that it was all a plot against him by pro-Iranian MPs in the government.

There is an Interpol arrest out for him but he is on the run - using a private jet to move around the globe.

He stills owns commercial properties in the Marble Arch area of London.

Notice that this story is probably illegal in the territory of the USA. So if you are there or have a US passport, please hand yourself to the police after reading this, as you are probably guilty of "aiding terrorists" just by knowing about this abuse. Enjoy your tropical vacations in Guantanamo.

Monday, June 9, 2008

More quakes at dangerous Basque dam

The Itoitz Platform, that has for decades fought the construction of the now finished controversial dam of the same name, has informed the public of 15 new earth tremors in the dam or around in the last week.

Four of these recent tremors had their epicenters inside the reservoir itself, while 87% of the rest happened less than 5 km from it.

Besides the enviromental and social damage that the Itoitz dam has arguably caused, the biggest criticisms are because it's foundations lay not on solid rock but on a pseudo-rock that is nothing but consolidated clay. The fear is that, once the reservoir is full (and now it is) part of the surrounding hills, after water filters in them, softening the clay, may unexpectedly fall upon it, causing a nightmarish surprise flood that would reach as far downstream as Zaragoza.

Since the dam was finished, there have been 2215 tremors in or around it. The Itoitz Platform once again has demanded the Spanish government to proceed to "safely and definitively" empty the reservoir.

The dam was built against large popular opposition at the site of the small village of Itoitz (also Itoiz), where the rivers Irati and Erro, tributaries of the Ebro, join their waters, a few kilometers north of Agoitz (Aoiz), in the Pyrenean piedmont of NE Navarre.

Source: Gara newspaper (in Spanish).

The Y-DNA spread map (Eurasia)

As the previous map sparked some discussion on Y-DNA spread, here there is a map I already had about it:

Macro-haplogroups are color coded:
- Red: F, magenta: K
- Yellow: C
- Cyan blue: D
- White: root clades CT and CF

The electric blue thick line approaches the max. extent of ice cover (in Eurasia only)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The mtDNA spread maps 2: macro-haplogroup R

Same as in
previous post - see for macro-haplogroup N(xR) and root of R itself.

  • · R5 and R31 are also South Asian and the node joining them with F and Melanesian R* could well have been in South Asia too. I just run out of space in the map.
  • · B is the only R-derived clade found in Native America (not shown).
  • · U has some offshots in South Asia (notably U2, also U7 but shared with West Eurasia) but it's mostly a West Eurasian clade anyhow. Haplogroup K is a subclade of U8 (in turn a subclade of U) and therefore it's not shown either.
  • · R0 is also known as pre-HV.

The mtDNA spread maps 1: macro-haplogroup N

Schematic representation of mtDNA N subclades spread from a possible Southern Asian urheimat. The subdivisions of macro-haplogroup R are not represented. Dots indicate unnamed shared upstream nodes between two or more clades. Only macro-regional (South, West, East Eurasia and Australia) distribution is shown (American and European offshots are disregarded here for the sake of simplicty).

Based on Ian Logan's mtDNA page.

Notes: Haplogroup I is a subclade of N1. The only N(xR) clades found in Native America are A and (at low levels) X.

European Upper Paleolithic

I was just re-reading
J.P. Bocquet-Appel's work on UP European demography and used his maps to make some anotations that you may find interesting:

I think it's pretty clear but just in case some notes:

1. The origin of Aurignacian and Gravettian is not fully solved. Both cultures appear in their finished form first in Central Europe and expand westward from there. Gravettian also expanded eastward from Central Europe (not shown) and, in the Epipaleolthic (epi-Gravettian) to the Zagros Mountains area as well.

2. Solutrean is likely original from Dordogne (in the Franco-Cantabrian region) but the Mediterranean Iberian site of Les Mallaetes has also very old dates, so it's impossible to tell from sure. In any case, the Mediterranean Iberian region soon after experienced a process of intense gravetizattion leading to a very unusual Solutrean facies, if the name epi-Gravettian is not more adequate. Hungary and nearby areas also had some form of Solutrean, of later dates than the Western one in any case.

3. Magdalenian is certainly a Franco-Cantabrian developement and it spawned a number of Epipaleolithic cultures in all Western and Northern Europe.

Compare the last map with the distribution of the main European mtDNA clades:

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Growing prices and growing tensions

I know it's going on for a while but some mornings when reading the news you can't but help thinking we're heading to a catastrphe rapidly.

It's not just that oil prices have risen 10 bucks in one single day, dragging Wall Street with them, that Israel is threatening to nuke Iran and that the dump and the corruption nightmare of Campania's dump has begun affecting Germany. It's that all that seems to describe our damn impossible reality in too clear and crude terms.

Or maybe it's business as usual and I'm just having a bad day?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Ainu finally recognized as indigenous people by Japan

After centuries of disrespect, land robbery and forced assimilation the descendants of the ancient
Jomon people (the first known to work pottery anywhere, in spite of being hunter-gatherers) will be finally been acknowledged a status as indigenous group today by the Japanese Parliament.

The Ainu, descendants of the epipaleolithic Jomon culture dwelt once in all or nearly all Japan but were displaced by the agriculturalist Yayoi invaders beginning c. 500 BCE, who migrated probably from coastal China (Jiangsu province). In the following centuries they were displaced further and further northwards until the rather unhospitable island of Honsu became their last refuge.

An Ainu elder from the times of B&W photography

Japan has a centralist nationalist tradition and had so far declined to accept the existence of the Ainu as a separate ethnicity. They even called them "former aborigines", suggesting that assimilaton was the only way to go. Japan has also another ethnic minority in the south: the Ryukyuans, whose language is akin to Japanese (Japonic family) but different.

The new legal recognition comes as response of growing Ainu activism and ethnic pride in the last decades. It is so far only of symbolic value but should be the basic legal frame that may allow the administration to develope further measures in the future. Time will say but is at least a step forward.

Boycott to Israel

Basque internationalist organization Askapena (Basque for Freedom) has joined the Palestianian and calls for a boycott to Israel focused in cultural areas, together with other internationalist groups. Some of the organizations asked to be actively boycotted by the platform IsraeliBoikot are:

- The Israeli sport teams, notably Maccabi Tel Aviv, whose presence is normally accompanied by massive police deployements, including Israeli agents, are in the focus of this campaign. Israel is not, in any case, any European country and should not play in European competitions. In fact it should be boycotted from all international sport competitions due to its racist policies.
- Dance groups such as Mayumana, which are accused of being propaganda tools of the Zioist occupation regime to give a false image of normality around the World.

In this they join a wider campaign promoted by Palestinian themselves who have asked for cultural and academic boycott to Israel. The reasons are obvious: it is a colonial occupation regime, that is excuting a long term planned genocide against the Palestinian natives. Israel is a racist state only for Jews, the vast majority of which have arrived from foreign lands as colonists in the last 60 years, taking the lands and country of the natives. These policies have not changed a bit in the recent past and Israel is still the most racist state all around the world, a colonial aberration that cannot be accepted as "normal", the same that Apartheid South Africa wasn't.

- (in Basque and Spanish)
- Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott to Israel (in English and Arabic)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Battle of Talheim, 5000 BCE

By the moment I just have read
a press release but it seems there is a paper published somewhere (in fact: here, pay per view/subscription) with more details. The media hype is obvious: the Rape of the Sabine Women in prehistoric version. But is that real or a fantastic recreation? And more important: who exactly were the victims?

Let me explain: the press release talks of 34 skeletons, apparently killed in a violent encounter, all but one being men and children. The researchers (or rather their news agent) says that the conclusion is obvious: that the goal of the raid was to capture the women. Maybe.

The article also says that the remains can be divided in three groups: locals, cattle-herders and a "family" of a man, woman and two children. But who exactly were these three groups? Which culture did they belong to? Why the "family" is placed apart? What does "locals" mean?

Circa 7,000 years ago, that area of he Upper Rhin was the frontier of the advance of the agriculturalists of the Linear Pottery culture, more commonly known as Danubian Neolithic (contextual map). The ones losing the land were the post-Magdalenian hunter-gatherers. The Rhin facies of Danubian Neolithic is known for being the only one of including weapons in the burials (they also were growing opium, by the way) and, in later phases, I have the feeling they were quite disruptive and squabbling, eventually facilitating the Indo-European advance.

But that I knew before. What I'd like to know is how these remains and the likely battle they come from fit in the big picture. Who were the victims and who the raiders who got the women? Tell me if you know, please.

The remains as shown in BBC news.

And thanks to Shiny for posting at Archaeo Forums.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Small earth-like planet found

MOA-2007-BLG-192Lb is 3.3 times our Earth and orbist what seems to be a brown dwarf at a distance of 0.6 AU (like Venus from our Sun). The star seems too weak to directly allow life (at least as we know it) so far away but scientists suspect the planet may have a thick enough atmosphere to warm the planet via greenhouse effect.

Source: BBC: Tiniest extra-solar planet found.

artist's impression of the new planet and its dim sun

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Out of Africa but when?

I had been driven by my own amateurish excercises on haploid genetic timing to begin pondering that the OOA epysode may need to be significatively older than the usual 70-60 milennia BP if we are to account for the the old ages that well studied Y-DNA clades like R1b or
O3 are yielding in MRCA estimates.

But I just found some scholarly support and precisely for about the same ages I was pondering:

A Bokyo et al, Assessing the Evolutionary Impact of Amino Acid Mutations in the Human Genome. PLOS Genetics, 2008.

The paper is wider in scope, as it tries to find out how much of autosomal SNP diversity is adaptative and how much is neutral, an important issue on its own. But the part that most got my attention is the section of the Discussion about Inference of Demography. The best fit demographic models (table S1) for Africans and Europeans suggest that the former have been expanding since some 170,000 years BP (6800 generations x 25 years) and that Europeans probably had two expansions with a bottleneck (in between?). The first expansion was c. 130,000 BP and the second c. 14,500 BP. The duration of the bottleneck was of only some 2100 years (84 generations).

There are other two models that are theoretically somewhat fit for Europeans but both are simpler and not as well fit as the one above. They are:

One states that there was just one expansion (no previous bottlenecks) since c. 6500 BP (I'm sure creationists would love this one! - but it can't account for much older Africans, so forget it). From a rationalist viewpoint anyhow it makes not much sense as 6500 BP would be post-Neolithic, suggesting a total replacement of farmers by what? Indo-European hordes? Sumerian erratics? Megalith builders? Hard to make sense of. The corrsponding 4500 BCE date actually doesn't relate with any exapansion: it's rather the end of Neolithic expansion in Europe, save for some marginal areas, that were still hunting and gathering.

The other one suggests a single expansion since c. 22,000 BP (just before the LGM) and a brutal bottleneck of c. 193,000 years. So with this model Europeans would have been in the hiding since the very beginning of Humankind and would have only began expanding precisely in the coldest period of the Ice Age. Again hard to make sense of.

But the complex model makes some sense: expansion since after the LGM, as most agree with and a bottleneck that would not be too long: about half the LGM span. The problem comes with the other expansion date: c. 130,000 BP. It should be an OOA or post OOA expansion, I understand but normally the OOA age is dated to about half that age.

Yet I already mentioned that such an old OOA event is not imposible at all: not just there is presence of modern humans in West Asia and Northern Africa since about that age but also Indian paleolithic shows continuity before and after the Toba event and MP artifacts might be work of H. sapiens in the subcontinent since before 100,000 BP.

The OOA migration could certainly be older and I was already thinking on several grounds of dates that approach that one of c. 130,000 BP (more like 100-110,000 BP?).

Note: thanks to Razib for suggesting that this paper might be important, what got me to read it with some more attention.