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.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

The ongoing debate on the molecular clock in human mtDNA

You may already know that I am highly critical of the often too generalized assumption that molecular clock based age estimates have any strong validity. Way too many people just assume that if geneticists say that certain lineage has this or that age, that is almost the equivalent of C14 datations, which are quite accurate and repeatedly proven. That is not just not true at all. Molecular clock theory is only very weakly proven and critical variables such as the exact mutation rates, the effective population sizes involved, the influence of factors such as weak selection and the validity of the mathematic constructs used to evaluate these ages are all too poorly understood in fact.

So I want to raise your attention on the recent spat of research papers on this matter, with contradictory results but all interesting to read in any case. They are:

Each of them has as co-author one or several "big names" on the field of human population genetics. Soares' paper is the oldest by some months and hence cited by the others, albeit critically, and is backed by Oppenheimer, McAulay and Richards. Loogväli's paper has Thomas Kivisild as co-author, while Endicott's research is co-signed by Mait Metspalu.

As said before, they each reach to different conclusions though they are complex enough that I'd shy a bit of analyzing them in depth myself here. Suffice to say, as illustrative example, that Soares concludes that mtDNA N is older than M (and that South Asian M is more recent than East Asian M - an artifact of their method in my opinion), while Loogväli concludes exactly the opposite, assigning to M an estimate age of c. 77,000 years and to N of 68,000 years. Meanwhile Endicott is much more cautious and makes instead a critical review of the most important literature on the matter, along with the archaeological data in a very comprehensive manner. However he seems persuaded that, contrary to Oppenheimer's catastrophist hypothesis, the deep origin of Eurasians is in South Asia.

In fact, while finding interesting the other papers too, more Loogväli's than Soares' (who seems to fall in too much in the errors generated by statistical artifacts and relies heavily on similarly controversial Pan-Homo divergence estimates), I am surely more in agreement with Endicott's caution in this highly complex and controversial matter. Hence I will reproduce here his concluding remarks (adding my emphasis in bold type), demanding greater rigor:

Further research is needed to improve our confidence in molecular estimates of human evolutionary timescales. First, the most reliable calibrations within the human tree need to be identified. For mitochondrial DNA, this depends on finding well-defined haplogroups that can be precisely associated with dated palaeoanthropological evidence [17]. Second, the variation in observed rates across different timescales needs to be accurately quantified [16–18]. Third, these patterns of rate variation need to be investigated for nuclear data, including the Y-chromosome and short tandem repeats.

The chief recommendation arising from the current state of knowledge in the field is for a movement away from reliance on the human-chimpanzee calibration; instead, calibrations within the human tree are preferred (but see [14]). There are several recent examples of estimates made using archaeological calibrations [15–17,35], extending the efforts of earlier authors [3,60]. Considering recent advances in phylogenetic methodology, there is now a compelling motivation to employ statistical models that take into account rate heterogeneity among sites and among lineages, that correct for multiple substitutions (saturation), and that incorporate directly the uncertainty in the ages of calibrations used. Some methods also allow the statistical evaluation of competing demographic models, which can have an important influence on estimates of rates and timescales [17,23].

Important update (Jan-1-2010):

I just realized I had missed what seems to be a very important paper on the debate on the molecular clock applied specifically to human mtDNA also published in 2009:

Brenna M. Henn et al., Characterizing the Time Dependency of Human Mitochondrial DNA Mutation Rate Estimates. Oxford Journals - Molecular Biology and Evolution, 2009 (open access).

I am still finishing it but it seems a most crucial and balanced analysis on the debate (within the molecular clock hypothesis) between the phylogenetic and pedigree mutation rates' camps.

As far as I can tell, Henn and colleagues largely respond (several months in advance) to some of the recommendations made by Endicott in his paper, using in fact archaeological calibrations to estimate the reality of the mutation rates. They conclude that while pedigree rates (decreased by 33% to fit with the realistic generation span of 30 years) are almost identical to reality for the last 5000 years, they are totally unrelated with the actual behaviour of lineages before c. 15,000 BP, when the phylogenetic rates become the only reliable ones. The lapse between these two dates behaves anomalously (rather sudden but irregular change from one model to the other) leaving a gray transitional zone, difficult to work with.

Notably (as some of the hottest debates are about the age of mtDNA haplogroup H), they conclude that H3 probably has an age of c. 18,000 BP, while H1 could be even quite older. This is totally consistent with the fact that North African H (including specially these two subclades) appears derived from Iberian mtDNA and with this haplogroup having been found in aboundance in ancient pre-Neolithic DNA in both Morocco and Portugal.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Scientifically tested: power makes hypocrites

I always suspected that it was the other way around, that hypocrites were just good at climbing to power positions because they were deceitful and particularly ambitious (power-hungry). But seems that even the most ethical of persons when placed in a position of power will tend to become a hypocrite, hardening their stand on the ethics of others and loosening it on themselves.

Inversely powerless people and those who think their own power is undeserved tend to be hypercritical with themselves.

Read more at Science Daily.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Zionists arrest Mordechai Vanunu

Famous Israeli peace activist
Mordechai Vanunu, who in 1986 revealed the nuclear weapons program of the Jewish Theocracy has been arrested in East Jerusalem. He is accused of talking to foreigners, what shows the fascism that really exists in Israel, where dissidents are not allowed to leave nor speak freely.

Mordechai Vanunu gave an interview to Basque journalists, published in Gara in February 2009, interview that I partly translated back to English in this blog.

Source: BBC.

DNA testing shows fraud in 20% of food in USA

The decreased costs of DNA testing have allowed two students of the Trinity School of New York, Brenda Tann and Matt Cost, 17 and 18 years old respectively, to make some interesting discoveries.

On one side they have found much more diversity in urban fauna than expected, including a new cockroach species.

On the other side they have found that 11 out of 66 supermarket foods tested do not contain what they say. All cases imply fraud intent, as they include products that are significatively cheaper than what they claim. For example a rather expensive goat cheese was found to be made with cow milk, while certain sturgeon caviar was found to be made out of the eggs of some Mississipi river fish, while elite dog food presumably made of venison is made of veal instead.

In the past this type of DNA research on food also put on evidence a good deal of sushi restaurants, whose expensive dishes were made of much cheaper fish than they claimed.

Source: Gara.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Rare Celtic and Phoenician names add credibility to the Iruña-Veleia findings

Some years ago a locally important discovery hit the news: the oldest texts (other than patronymics) in Basque language had been found at the Roman Age site of
Iruña-Veleia, Araba, at the historical border between the tribes of Caristii and Autrigones. There was more: a calvarium (one of the earliest of its kind) and even Egyptian hieroglyphs but what seemed more important of all was the finding of disposed ostrakas (pottery fragments used to write short texts) with texts in Basque language, a confirmation, it seemed, that the Basque language had been spoken among the ill-known tribes of the Western Basque Country in Roman times.

This issue had always been controversial, as the evidence was virtually nil, and the Spanish nationalist school prefered to consider them Celts, while the Basque nationalist school thought of them as likely Basques. Similar debates existed and still exist around the identity of the ancient Cantabri who fought against Caesar twice, once allied with "their relatives" the confirmed Basque-speakers Aquitani.

Location of Iruña-Veleia in Roman Age tribal context and modern Basque Country

The discovery was soon contested by philologists who argued that such constructions were "too modern" for Basque language. Of course, nothing is known of how was Basque spoken before at least the 11th century, when the first rare texts appear, because all the evidence is patronymic and toponymic but linguists always have some theories and these findings didn't seem to fit in them well enough.

Furthermore the chief archaeologist, Eliseo Gil, seems to have done many unusual things, never publishing a proper paper, admittedly falsifying one ostraka as a joke and maybe some other odd stuff. I am not really sure of the details because the issue is very complex, full of crossed accusations and confusing information. Gil was sued for scam and acquitted, though he may have some other trials pending and his reputation has probably been irreversibly damaged.

But, as I say, the matter is far from clear and multiple articles have appeared in the press and Internet defending either position. My impression is that the archaeologists were rather informal and suddenly they found themselves thrown into an inquisitorial process of multiple dimensions (academic, judicial and mediatic) that was just too much. But I may be wrong.

Whatever the case a new neutral voice from the field of linguistics (key in the academic discussion, as the main "evidence" against the findings is a linguistic criticism) has now arisen in favor of the veracity of the findings: Héctor Iglesias, from the University of Bordeaux, argued at Tribuna de Álava (in Spanish, found via En el ángulo oscuro), that there are some clear indications that the findings cannot be mere falsifications:

  • The inscription DENOS can only be for him a Celtic name, known just to a handful of specialists.
  • The inscription MISCAR or MISCART can only be the name of the Phoenician version of the god Mercury/Hermes, better known to laymen as Melkart, but known with this ortography again only to very few experts.
  • The inscription RIAMO DALIA DEIDRE can only refer to the also Celtic name Deirdre, still in use in Irish and considered plausible by expert Celticists to have existed in antiquity.

He argues that these, only a few examples from his thick study on the matter (still unpublished because of huge political pressure), are evidence that there is no such falsification: it would be almost impossible that falsifcator would know all that.

If so, we would be confronted with a true academic scandal of huge proportions and multiple political ramifications, not anymore because certain archaeologist has (allegedly) created the Basque "Piltdown man" out of nothing, destroying his own career in the attempt, but because the Academy and other powerful institutions including surely politicians and judges, may have caused huge damage to scientific research (and of course to the implicated scientists) for political and other murky reasons. This would not be new at all when it comes to research associated to ethnic minorities that the states want to neutralize but I have never heard before any such brutal scandal in Basque studies, what makes necessary that the issue is openly debated as it must be: in scientific terms and publically.

Note: lots of documentation on the Iruña-Veleia controversy can be found here (in Spanish).

Update: the paper of Héctor Iglesias is in fact published in French and Heraus has been so kind of providing a link: H. Iglesias LES INSCRIPTIONS DE VELEIA-IRUÑA (PDF).

Important update (Dec 30): you can sign a petition (already with almost 2000 signatures) asking the authorities to do things properly to clarify the matter. The petition is available in Basque, Spanish and English languages.

Origin of Spanish language around Valpuesta "confirmed"

Terra Antiquae (in Spanish).

A new study by the Institute of the Language of Castile-Leon (ILCYL by its Spanish acronym) seems to confirm that the cartulario (book gathering diverse texts from different hands) of the monastery of Valpuesta (today in nothern Burgos province) dated to the 9th century CE represents the oldest document in an archaic Castilian language (now best known as Spanish).

In turn the texts of San Millán de la Cogolla (La Rioja, 11th century), intertwined with texts in Basque, are now generall understood not to be Castilian but Navarrese Romance.

I find the date particularly interesting and intriguing because the 9th century (800-900 CE) is a time of change in the area. While the exact political borders are not well known it is likely that until the 8th century the area belonged to the Duchy of Vasconia and since the 10th century to the Kingdom of Pamplona, later known as Navarre. But little is known of the situation in the 9th century precisely, the date of the various Roncevaux Battles, with Basques, Franks and Moors fighting a tripartite struggle for hegemony (the latter two) or survival (the former). It is also the time of the birth of the Kingdom of Asturias (later Leon), again with very limited and information, often semi-mythical. Castile itself was created as county (in fact the eastern marche) in the middle of this century (c. 850) but its extension is also ill-known before the 11th century, when it was in personal union with Pamplona. At this time it did not include Valpuesta nor any of the other lands of NW Castile, which were only conquered in the 11th century.

Political situation c. 1000 CE
(red=Pamplona, orange=in personal union with Pamplona, pink=under the influence of Pamplona)

So one wonders how tightly associated was this Romance dialect, clearly influenced by Basque, as happens with Gascon and Aragonese, with the original County of Castile and how it became eventually the official language of the would-be Kingdom.

Epigenetics affect specific genetic segments and is personalized

This is quite interesting: A. Feinberg and R. Irizarry, from John Hopkins University (Maryland, USA), have been researching epigenetics in mice and found some curious implications, not known before.

Rapid adaptation to changing environmental conditions (new disease variants, for example) can hardly be achieved by mere genetic change, which is just too slow. Similarly, genes that cause certain diseases (like schizophrenia or diabetes) are also proving virtually impossible to find (as natural selection would wipe them out).

Epigenetics offers potentially alternative explanations to such crucial problems in the field of genetics. However it is a very new field and it is unclear how inheritable are such modifications.

Feinberg and Irizarry have found with their research that epigenetic modifications (methylation, etc.) affect certain specific batches of genes, more open to such environmental modification, but not the rest (these regions were also found to be the same in humans). They also found that mice with the same upbringing had different individual methylation patterns in some regions, specifically regions that are responsible for anatomy in early development (goodbye anthropometry?)

The Maryland scientists also modelled in a computer simulation a hypothetical variable Y component within an equally hypothetical population. When the environment was stable, this variable Y factor was detrimental to survivality but, when it changed periodically (as happens in reality), it favored the survivality by creating indivduals with a wider range of characteristics.

This variability, biologically implemented by epigenetic mechanisms, seems able to explain a good deal of the otherwise unexplained variability in humans and other animals, both for good and bad.

Read more at Science Daily. Not sure if the paper might be this one or is still in preparation.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Are "colonies" becoming more demanding?

I came through two different articles in a row... in two different media, on two different countries and continents, with very different situations... but what they say is more or less the same: more and more "third world" countries are demanding from foreign investors that they do not just sign a check but that they contribute to local development sharing their know-how.

They use the imperfect multipolarity of modern world as leverage to achieve their purposes.

That is what Kazakhstan has achieved from China, which has largely replaced the USA influence that way, and that is what Venezuela is demanding now to foreign car-makers with the same kind of threat: or you share or we will find out others who do.

It seems an interesting development, isn't it? Particularly because it is in immaterial forms the way that postmodern Capital is accumulated specially.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Is US economic model obsolete, like was that of the USSR

I have more than once argued myself that the USSR disciplinary model of economy and society belonged to a long gone period, the one described in Marxist theory as that of "formal
subsumption" of Work into Capital, also known as Fordism. However I have instead assumed that the Western economies and in particular that of the USA had managed to make it into the next phase foreseen by Marx in an long unpublished chapter of Capital and confirmed by modern authors like Toni Negri as beginning c. 1968: the "real subsumption" of Work into Capital, also known as Toyotism, change also defined by the vanishing of the "mass worker" that fed the totalitarian states of the early and middle 20th century and the construction of the "social worker", the renewed revolutionary subject (in theory at least). Negri suggests 1968 as the defining transition event because it was in that year, the year I was born, when the clash of paradigms became more evident, both in the West as in the East, with the people radically questioning massively the old notions of authority and hierarchy.

However I might have been somewhat naive at the assumption that the West truly adopted the change demanded by the social and economic circumstances. It might well have been just a makeup, a partial imperfect adaptation... at least that is what John Kozy argues at Global Research: that the implementation of Toyotism by the US economy was faulty, that the paradigm of excellence in production and worker feedback, among others, were never assumed by the US entrepreneurial oligarchy, that they only responded with top-to-bottom designed "reforms" and with a total focus in the maths of lowering costs only.

This process of cost reduction culminated in the total sell-off of the national economy to those countries where the production was outsourced to, notably China. Logically China has found now its way into producing and exporting these products on its own, even to the USA itself. That's, Kozy argues, the root of the current economic crisis, which is much deeper than the final bubble and the current generalized depression.

So I wonder if I have oversighted the fact, every day more obvious, that the Reaganomics' boom was just a bluff and that the apparent success was just from the very beginning just short-term profit all the time. If the system failed to adapt in the USA (and this should be a warning to China, that has adopted also the maximum benefit model) to the real challenges of the phase transformation. The high dependency of the US economy on the Military-Industrial Complex all the time makes me suspect it is the case.

If so, we are witnessing a second chapter of the decomposition of the USSR in the 80s, just that now it is happening at this side of the former iron curtain.

Also, like in the apogee and decline of the Spanish Empire, we see the emperor fighting in way too many fronts against way too many and elusive enemies, indebted well beyond its possibilities and sunk in a major inflationary nightmare even at the bottom of an economic pit.

It's perfectly possible that the system has totally collapsed in fact but that we don't really realize yet. Such things happen: I'm quite sure that ancient Romans were not really aware of their decadence until it was too late, and the same happened with the Spaniards who fought war after war in vane attempts to reverse it (without ever addressing the causes with any seriousness). However in our age things happen always much faster than in old history: it's not any bug, it's a feature of Capitalism and globalization. Even in a quite modern moment, the French Revolution, a courier would take 7 days to cross the country between Paris and Marseilles, now any message arrives almost instantly to anywhere on Earth. Things must change fast with such huge communicative powers. Even in the pre-Internet age, the USSR collapsed in a matter of few years, almost "months". It was totally unexpected, except maybe for a few experts.

Is the Obama reign our "Gorbachev era"? With timid reforms that fail to address the real problems. Problems that I reckon are very difficult to address properly (they would need a true innovative leadership and, specially, popular movement - this kind of stuff can't really be done only through leaders, no matter how good they are).

We'll see.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy solstice, by the way

Almost forgot that yesterday was the winter's solstice, the beginning of the new year, the longest night and shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere. I recalled because astronomer Mike Brown posted very beautifully on it
at his blog.

So I want to wish a happy new year (natural year) to all my readers and, in general, the World. Even in troubled times like these there can be better or worse outcomes and, naturally, I hope for the first ones.

It must be nice weather now in New Zealand, right? What about tropical Venezuela or India? In Europe and North America has been Ice Age freezing or almost, with communications cut in many cases and many death, particularly in Poland and Ukraine. But you probably know that yourself from experience or, if you live somewhere else, from the news, always so Atlanto-centric.

At least in my area we have avoided the worst. And temperatures have been improving gradually but, well, it was damn freezing just a couple of days ago.

Leherensuge growing

Solstices are relevant dates for this blog anyhow. It was in the Summer solstice of 2008 when I adopted the ClustrMap feature that allows me to get an idea of who reads Leherensuge. So it's a good time to make balance on such matters.

To my surprise, the number of readers (actually singular reading episodes - I think each session counts as one visit) in the last 6 months has been as large as it was the previous year in total. From June 22 to December 23 this site got more than 9,000 visits, that was also the figure I got in June for the whole previous year. This some 50 visits per day (and I swear I never visit myself more than 10 times any day!), which is, I believe pretty nice for a "personal" blog like this one. The number of openly following readers has also increased recently (today they were 14, while a few months ago there were only 7).

Naturally I feel happy and proud of this little success and want to thank all readers for being there. I also want to bid a warm welcome to those that arrived recently and encourage everybody to comment when they feel they have something to add or criticise. I know I have a hot temper and am somewhat opinionated at times but, don't worry, you're safe at your home, surely many many kilometers away from where I am.

More than a third of all readers (reading sessions) are from the USA, with Canada making up for almost 50% from North America (yah, it includes Mexico, etc. but these countries don't have so many hits); probably another third is from Europe (UK, Spain and France with more than 500 visits each). Out of the North Atlantic area, India, Australia and New Zealand have over 100 visits each, Morocco, Brazil and Turkey are above 75, and then there is a huge diversity. Oddly enough, Kepler, Venezuela only shows 14 hits.

Well, whatever the case, enjoy the new year.

The Zionist Power in th USA

James Petras, the man who first denounced Obama as "the First Jewish President" (meaning he's totally sold to the Zionists) has another article online on this crucial issue affecting global politics and very specially regional politics of the Middle East and domestic politics in the USA.

James Petras, Bended Knees: Zionist Power in American Politics.

(Shouldn't be "bent knees"? Some native English-speaker please clarify this to me).

Petras mentions that maybe more than 50% US Jews are not active Zionists, many being even harshly critical of Israel and the Lobby. However the remainder are fanatic militants of a well organized network that has extended control over US economy and media, and is highly structured, both sectorially and geographically (and not just in the USA, of course) with their goal being not their country's but those of a foreign power: Israel.

Too long to excerpt here but a must read.

9/11: Pentagon attack plane "could not have been hijacked"

According to Pilots for Truth, the cockpit door of AA-77 was never opened, what means that no hypothetical hijacker could ever have entered in that room:

Newly decoded data provided by an independent researcher and computer programmer from Australia exposes alarming evidence that the reported hijacking aboard American Airlines Flight 77 was impossible to have existed. A data parameter labeled "FLT DECK DOOR", cross checks with previously decoded data obtained by Pilots For 9/11 Truth from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) through the Freedom Of Information Act.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 77 departed Dulles International Airport bound for Los Angeles at 8:20 am Eastern Time. According to reports and data, a hijacking took place between 08:50:54 and 08:54:11[1] in which the hijackers allegedly crashed the aircraft into the Pentagon at 09:37:45. Reported by CNN, according to Ted Olson, wife Barbara Olson had called him from the reported flight stating, "...all passengers and flight personnel, including the pilots, were herded to the back of the plane by armed hijackers..."[2]. However, according to Flight Data provided by the NTSB, the Flight Deck Door was never opened in flight. How were the hijackers able to gain access to the cockpit, remove the pilots, and navigate the aircraft to the Pentagon if the Flight Deck Door remained closed?[3]

According to Voltaire Network, the pilot was a top level special operations professional:

Former U.S. Navy F-4 Phantom jet pilot, Charles F. Burlingame also served as Pentagon spokesman during Operation Desert Storm. He was in charge of an attack simulation exercise, helping to craft response plans in the event of a commercial airliner hitting the Pentagon. (...) His sister Debra Burlingame co-chairs with Liz Cheney (former Vice-President Cheney’s daughter) the Keep America Safe association (one of those fascist scaremonger NGOs).
Extremely suspicious, right? There has been a lot of people who have reported that not only was impossible for a commercial plane to make such a low flight attack maneuver but that nobody ever saw such plane, directly or in any record, and that the impact onto the Pentagon lacks a clear signature of a large plane: no signs of where the wings hit.

For further detail of the many incognites and secrets surrounding 9/11 attacks, check the many articles collected through the years at Voltaire Network on this issue.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Israel admits organ theft from Palestinian corpses

After the clownish actuation of the pathetic neonazi Zionist minister of foreign affairs, Russian-born Avigador Liebermann, Israel had finally to admit that the Swedish newspapers who
denounced organ theft to victims of political murders by the Israeli Army is for real.

Read more at Al Jazeera (again NATO propaganda media, aka "free press", like BBC seem to silence the matter).

Political terror rules Russia

Interesting interview today
in Gara newspaper (in Spanish) to Svetlana Gannushkina, speaker of the human rights NGO Memorial, honored with a Sajarov price, on the terrible situation in Chechnya and Russia in general. Some excerpts:

Political murders are the norm, not the exception.

We are witnessing a Chechenization of all Russia.

Svetlana Gannushkina (Memorial)

On Chechnya:

[Razman Kadirov] and his men do whatever they want. There is no law. And fear has become part of the Chechnyan mentality. It is what happened in the times of Stalin, of Hitler, of Mussolini: people begin to love their oppressors and fear each other, just like in the old times.

In Chechnya we can't even speak of corruption as such. The term "corruption" means a collaboration between the political power and criminal organizations. In Chechnya there is no difference at all between the political and the criminal power: they are the same thing.

On the murder of Natalia Estemirova:

They went then to ask the neighbors and a woman said that at 9am they had brought Natalia into a car by force, while she cried she was being kidnapped. See how is fear that this woman, who knew Natalia and her work, did not dare to call anybody, not even Natalia's daughter, whom she also knew personally.

At the Kremlin:

Recently several representatives of human rights organizations were received by President Medvedev. We told him about the murders and he compared them to common crime. We don't say that the life one person is more valuable than other's, but political murders reveal the situation of society. The difference is huge because these reveal that power is allied with the criminals. And not just murders: the fact that they create false evidence like weapons or drugs in order to inculpate you, something that doesn't just happen in Chechnya but in all Russia, shows that something is very much rotten. It destroys all institutions and the legal system.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Multitudes support Egunkaria

Freezing temperatures did not stop Basques from pouring to the streets in support of the language and freedom of speech. An image is worth a thousand words:

Top representatives from nearly all sectors of Basque society were there:
  • former Lehendakariak (presidents of the Basque autonomous region): Carlos Garaikoetxea and J.A. Ardanza
  • Basque Nationalist Party, president of the Central Basque Committee: I. Urkullu,
  • Nationalist Left: Jone Goirizelaia and Rufi Etxeberria
  • Minor parties: Eusko Alkartasuna's secretary general Pello Urizar, United Left's coordinator Mikel Arana, Aralar's vice-coordinator Jon Abril
  • Workers' unions: ELA's secretary general A. Muñoz, LAB's secretary general Ainhoa Etxaide (other unions, like the pro-Spanish Comisiones Obreras, the teachers' union EILAS, farmer's union EHNE and transport workers' union HIRU, etc. also supported the demo)
  • Representatives of the Basque culture: Kontseilua's secretary general Xabier Mendiguren, Basque School's Confederation's president Koldo Tellitu, Basque Bertsolari Union's president Iñaki Murua, well-known writers Kirmen Uribe and Angel Lertxundi - among others
Basque language newspaper Egunkaria was clausurated in 2003 on made-up accusations of collaborating with ETA, in spite of the government having dropped the case out of shame, the trial began a few days ago after the the judge in charge admitted the private accusation of two fascist organizations, showing who does in fact rule Spain: Franco's ghost.

Source: Gara.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Aminatu won! She's back in West Sahara.

Sahrawi human rights activist Aminatu Haidar, who has fought a brave nonviolent struggle for 33 days, with the only weapon of hunger strike, is reported to have arrived to her home in El Aaiun (West Sahara).

She has arrived accompanied by her sister Leila and the doctor who attended her at Canary Islands. Supporters were waiting for her at the ariport and the Moroccan occupation authorities returned her passport after arrival.

Her return has caused demonstrations of happiness and support in the Sahrawi capital, where people went to the streets chanting Long live the Sahrawi People, out with Morocco. Occupation police forces attacked them and cut access to the Haidar home. The Committee for the Defense of the Right of Self-Determination of the West Saharan People (CODAPSO by its Spanish acronym) denounced Moroccan police for arbitrary arrests and violence against demonstrators.

Before leaving for Sahara, Aminatu Haidar declared that this is a victory for International Law, for Human Rights, for international justice and for the Sahrawi cause.

Aminatu Haidar when leaving the hospital for the airplane that would bring her back home

24 hours before leaving Lanzarote, she had willingly gone to hospital, as her health was already very poor and was suffering of stomach pains and dehydration.

Source: Gara (link 1, link 2).

People ate processed sorghum 100,000 years ago in Mozambique

Fascinating, extremely fascinating, breaking news today:
Middle Stone Age sites of Mozambique, dated up to 105,000 years ago, has been found that tools retained abundant remains of sorghum, which was harvested and processed into palatable food (bread, porridge or maybe just beer).

Julio Mercader. Mozambican Grass Seed Consumption During the Middle Stone Age. Science, 2009. (Paywall but the supplementary material is freely accessible and an important read for those who speculate on possible contamination, which seems to have been very carefully ruled out).

News articles on the discovery can be found at Yahoo News, and at Science Daily. According to the latter, besides sorghum, other relevant plant remains have been identified: wine palm, false banana, pigeon peas and the "African potato", a medicinal plant.

However this does not imply farming but it's a clear precursor that was until now believed to have evolved only much later, in the Mesolithic.

I found this highly significative news at a discussion at Music 000001, thanks to Glen.


Update (Mar 9 2013): the paper is available at Julio Mercader's profile in Academia.eduDIRECT LINK. He also has some other very interesting materials on that area near Lake Malawi and in general on African Prehistory.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Two Kurds killed in protests

The ban of the Democratic Society Party (DTP) has only brought more confrontation in Turkey: Kurds, who are 15-20% of Turkish citizens but whose homeland is in the southwest, crossing also into Syria, Iraq and Iran, have reacted angrily at this decision, taking to the streets.

The protests ended in violent repression at Bulanik, where two people were killed apparently by a shopkeeper with an AK-47, reports Al Jazeera.

As Zeina Khodr reports at The Europe Blog of Al Jazeera, the banishment of the DTP has only caused further legitimacy for the Communist Party of Kurdistan (PKK), which has led armed struggle against Turkey for decades now:

I met a group of old men drinking tea at one of Diyarbakir's cafes. They seemed to have the answer to that question.

"Now that they banned the DTP … our real representative is the PKK. The PKK is our party and our leader is Abdullah Ocalan. He was the person who woke up Kurds to their rights," Hajj Moustapha Alay told me.

See also my previous entry on the latest developments at Kurdistan.

Update (Dec 19): a reader has corrected me, mentioning that the two victims in this particular case appear to have been shot by a civilian, a shopkeeper armed with battlefield weapons. I have corrected the corresponding sentences - and my apologies for the confusion.

Political trial against Basque-language newspaper

, the first and then only newspaper in Basque language was created by popular subscription in 1990 and abruptly closed in 2003 by the Spanish Neoinquisition (Audiencia Nacional: political tribunal inherited from the fascist regime). The accusations? The same as for so many other political attacks: all that has a Basque identity is ETA.

Immediately after its closure a new popular subscription managed to create a new Basque-language daily out of the blue in few months: Berria.

After much social and international upheaval against what was perceived as the most blatantly political persecution against press and linguistic freedom of all the Neoinquisition abuses, some months ago the state accusation finally dropped the case. But two fascist organizations: the Association of Victims of Terrorism (AVT) and Dignidad y Justicia (Dignity and Justice) have acted as private prosecution and, against all precedent (never before an AN judge had taken a case dropped by the state), the judge in charge, Javier Gómez Bermúdez, accepted the case.

Yesterday, the trial as such has finally begun. Five journalists (Iñaki Uria, Xabier Oleaga, Joan Mari Torrealdai, Martxelo Otamendi and Txema Azurmendi) are being tried for collaboration with ETA. In fact they are being processed for being proud Basques.

Right to left: Joan Mari Torrealdai, Martxelo Otamendi, Iñaki Uria, Txema Auzmendi and Xabier Oleaga just before entering the political tribunal at Madrid

In the first day, the five political victims rejected to reply to the private accusation's questions and, in the defense turn, they denied any relation at all with ETA and denounced again the brutal tortures they were subjected to upon their detention, so they would sign self-inculpatory declarations. The journalists defended the independence and plurality of Egunkaria.

Torrealdai reported that, after being arrested by the Guardia Civil (military police corps), he had to get psychological treatment for a whole year, Otamendi reported the sexual abuses he was subject to while in detention, in addition to be forced to do physical exercise to the point of extenuation, Uria how he was applied "the bag" torture method ("controlled" asphyxia causing near death experiences once and again) and that he was threatened with a gun, including a simulated shot, that he was pointed with infrarred weapons and beaten with a telephone book (doesn't leave marks).

Uria declared that he has a long trajectory of working in Basque-language media (Argia, Egunkaria, Hamaika Telebista) and that he has never belonged to any political organization. He also recalled the birth of Egunkaria, when the platform Egunkaria Sortzen (creating the newspaper) was formed as a plural entity of some 70 people.

One of the accusations is that ETA appointed in fact the executive positions. Uria rejected that that was the case at all but that it was the late Joxemi Zumalabe who proposed him for vicedirector (later, in 1993, he became member of the administration council). He also reported that it was this council who elected Martxelo Otamendi as director of the newspaper.

He declared that in all the time he was in the decission-making structures of the newspaper he never heard of any sort of interference y ETA and that, would have been the case, he would have opposed it.

Oleaga reported that what the Spanish police wanted to get from the tortures he was subject to was that he signed that he was working in Egunkaria in 1993 and that it was Uria who proposed him. The reason for this was known to him later, because all the prosecution is based on some documents taken from ETA and dated to March 1993. However it was made evident from his social security records that he only began working at Egunkaria in 1995.

Otamendi's declaration focused on why Egunkaria has published interviews with ETA, as well as communications and excerpts from ETA's internal bulletin, Zutabe. He defended that such journalistic practices respond to a public interest and are well established in the Spanish and international jurispurdence and that journalists enjoy professional secret, so they can't be forced to reveal their sources.

The trial is due to cotinue today and in the following days. The solidarity with the persecuted journalists, both in and out of the Basque Country is overwhelming, naturally.

Source: Gara.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

DNA in sediments: a system for accurate DNA dating?

While the emphasis of this news item is that mammoths seem to have survived in some areas further than the fossil record suggests, up to at least 10,500 years ago, the true interest of this research for me is that they seem to have developed a novel technique to find ancient DNA in sediments, potentially freeing science from having to rely only on fossils for that purpose. Also the method allows for accurate archaeological datation of such DNA remains.

This is potentially revolutionary in the field of historical genetics (and others):

Dirt DNA has lots of exciting potential to contribute to extinction debates in other parts of the world too, as well as a range of archaeological questions," said Willerslev, who also points out that the approach is not restricted to looking back at the past. "We can also use it to make a list of modern species living in any particular location," he said.

Source: Science Daily. While the research is said to be published at PNAS, I can't find it - so I guess it's not still in print.

Australia to follow the steps of China: will filter Internet

On the pretext of fight against crime, Australia will now implement a guvernamental filter. Obviously, human rights watchdogs are very concerned, as they strongly suspect it will serve to much more than block illegal sites, but to implement censorship on the Internet.

Read more at BBC.

I mentioned recently how the EU is also implementing such institutional filters, in this case with the even more pathetic pretext of enforcing corporative copyrights.

UN trying to find a solution for Haidar

The Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, has met the Moroccan foreign minister in an attempt to solve the situation of Sahrawi human rights activist
Aminatu Haidar, illegally expelled to Spain in November and since then in hunger strike in demand of her right to return to West Sahara, largely occupied by Morocco since 1975.

Ban Ki-Moon also talked by phone with the Spanish foreign minister. The responsability of this Kafkian situation lays on both the shoulders of Morocco, who could not legally expel her or deprive her of the Moroccan nationality, and on those of Spain, who could not accept her, being an illegal immigrant who has not asked for any sort of polytical assylum.

Source: Swissinfo (found via Hala Bedi Irratia).

Al Jazeera also has a report and video on the situation of Haidar, who is holding her hunger strike at the Tenerife Airport bus station, needing already help and a wheelchair for something as basic as going to the toilet.

Novel mtDNA M sublineage found in Madagascar

A new mtDNA M lineage has been detected among a Malagasy fisherman ethnicity: the
Vezo (4/101 = 4%). It's been named M16 and appears to hang directly from the M node. Three other individuals with this lineage have been found among African Americans (though it has not yet been detected in mainland Africa). M16 has also been found in one citizen of Dubai (UAE) and one (1/127 = 0.8%) among the Mikea hunter-gatherers/horticulturalists of SW Madagascar, believed to be a remnant of pre-Austronesian colonization of the island.

Haplogroup M16 is characterized by 11 coding region mutations and 8 control region ones. M16 has two subclades: M16a (found only in one Vezo individual) and M16b (including all other carriers). They estimate (following the new refined method of Soares et al. - but notice that they give a very recent age to the relevant Pan-Homo split: only 6.5 Mya, when it can well be of 8 and even 10 Mya for what I know) that the MRCA of this lineage lived some 9500 years ago (CI: 1.9-17 Kya), with that of M16b having lived 1700-3900 years ago (CI: 0-8.2 Kya).

Both Mikea and Vezo also show other ineages that are absent among the central Merina ethnicity (arguably a more direct descendant of Austronesian colonists), namely: M*, M7c3 and F3b.

Francois-X Ricaut et al., A new deep branch of eurasian mtDNA macrohaplogroup M reveals additional complexity regarding the settlement of Madagascar. BMC Genomics, 2009. Open access.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Scientifically proven: big earners are nothing but parasites

A study by the
New Economics Foundation (NEF) finds out that the best paid professions destroy many times more wealth than their incomes, while low paid professions instead generate much more social wealth than their salaries and expectations would suggest.

For example, the so-much-hated bank managers earn from 500,000 British pounds up (yearly). Even the "worst" paid earn in 10 days what you or me may make in a whole year. Some make quite more than 5 million pounds. But they destroy 7 pounds of wealth by each pound they may create with their work.

But these are not the worst. Even if less well-paid (in a context of stratospheric salaries), advertising executives and tax accountants are even more destructive. The typical adverstising executive destroys 11 pounds per each one generated, but tax accountants create so little value that they have destroyed 46 pounds each time they create one.

In the really productive sector, the professions researched are all very lowly paid and have poor social status and virtually zero opportunities of promotion: child minders, waste recycling workers and hostpital cleaners all produce much more than they are paid. Hospital cleaners generate 10 pounds by each pound they get paid, child minders are close with 9.50 pounds generated per one paid and waste workers are the most productive of all, generating 11 pounds per each one paid.

The authors reconsider the concept of value, pondering its social dimension, which I find very much appropriate. They also chew on how the very rich manage to keep sucking the blood from the public without any logic other than their monopoly of certain structures or how in spite of chronic lack of certain worker classes (like nurses) their salaries get no rise.

Paper (PDF): A Bit Rich: Calculating the real value to society of different professions. Originally found via BBC.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Increase in repression of Kurds leads to street fighting

After commenting on Catalonia and Greece (I did not mention Greek financial troubles though, but it is the next "Dubai" or "Iceland" quite obviously), and in what seems to be the aggravation of the existing class and ethnic conflicts in Europe, it's indeed obliged to mention also the difficult situation that Kurds under Turkish occupation are going through again.

Never mind that sectors of the PKK have actively expressed their will for a peaceful solution, even turning themselves to Turkish authorities as a sign of such a determination. Turkey is a hyper-nationalist country with a weak identity that only seems to be able to exist as opposition to some "enemy", preferably weak and within its borders, just like its Western counterpart: Spain.

It seems that instead of looking for a solution, the Turkish Republic is again attacking its own citizens, just because they reject to be forced into the uniform corset of Turkishness. They have banned a major Kurdish party, the Democratic Society Party (DTP).

It is the 10th major Kurdish party to be banned by the Constitutional Court, what strongly suggests that it is the high tribunal and the restrictive constitution the ones that needs to be banned instead.

The announcement has caused the 21 MPs of this formation to abandon all parliamentary activity without renouncing to their seats. It has also caused major protests and clashes in North Kurdistan.

Kurds make up between 20% and 25% of the population of the Turkish Republic but their language and culture have been essentially forbidden, though with some shy tolerance measures in the last decades, mostly makeup to show up at Brussels. Kurds demand recognition of their culture and identity and the eshtabilishment of a Kurdish autonomous regions where they are majority. Historically Turkey, based on an extreme version of the French Jacobine model of nation-state, instead has rejected any compromise with the minorities, causing the genocide of Armenians and the ethnic cleansing of Greeks. The approach to Kurds, mostly Sunni Muslims like Turks, were to call them "mountain Turks" and get their language and identity banned. This "solution" did not last for long and eventually Kurds took up arms against the invader state.

The conflict looks far from being solved because that won't happen while the Turkish state keeps its arrogant imperialist attitude.

Al Qaeda's academy is US prision in Iraq

If anyone still had any doubts that Al Qaeda is nothing but the "Islamic" office of the CIA-Mossad complex, with the mission of stirring up the "Greter Middle East" and bringing the region to their knees, they must read/watch this.

Al Jazeera: US Iraq jail an "al-Qaeda school".

Witness Adel Jasim Mohammed, former prisoner at Camp Bucca:

In 2005, an extremist was sent to our camp. At first, Sunnis and Shias rejected his teachings. But we were told that he was imposed by the prison authority.

He stayed for a week and recruited 25 of the 34 detainees - they became extremists like him.

Greek Anarchists warn of the return of the Junta

While I think this is naively ignoring that the same fascist trend is way too apparent in all Europe (just ponder
the violent repression at "Hopenhagen" against peaceful environmentalists as example), it's still very worth mentioning, none the less because there seems to be already missing people, which is one of the most worrisome indications of Pinochetism.

The last days have witnessed unbelievable orgies of the Greek Military Junta.


1) Officials with fire weapons in demonstrations

2) Police agents in motorbikes making raids against demonstrators

3) Police deployed behind peaceful demonstrators, indiscriminate and wild arrests

4) Made-up accusations, as the supposed murder attempt against the president of the Pritanea

5) Lots of vague accusations in order to dissuade youths and adults

6) Closure of schools with the pretext of swine flu and beatings of students who tried to arrive to them

7) Masked secret police kidnapping demonstrators

8) Increased level of collaboration between the Golden Dawn neonazis and police

9) Secret meetings between Chrysohoides [minister of "citizen protection"] and directors of TV channels and journalists to determine how to show the information in the media

10) Secret cameras, helicopters flying all the time

11) Zero tolerance: a rotten orange or a stone on a bank have become a serious crime and a pretext for a police attack

12) Prohibition of demonstrations and meetings in the most dynamic areas, with major police intimidation and scandalous investigation lines

13) Hacker attacks against Indymedia, squatter pages and TVXS (television without borders), suppression of comments.

14) Invasion and preventive arrests in many self-managed spaces

15) In an Orwellian style, anarchists and rebels are called "fascists and nazis"

16) Suppression of the academic asylum, as in the military dictatorship

And much more.

Some of these things only happened before in rare cases, while others happened during the military junta (1967-74), while yet others had never happened before, only now. Never before all this had happened together in such a short space of time!

It seems that the confrontation happening here, that they try to hide, the Indomitable December, has the power to activate a new emergency decree, a new "Plaster Model" [the pronouncement of the Junta in 1967].

These moments are more than historical. We are witnessing for the first time an attempt to impose a coup by the fascist Police. If they are able to commit all these crimes in a "parliamentary democracy", this Junta is not different and we all have to realize that. The Anarchist slogans on the streets are beginning to say that without twists: "Down with the Junta!"

There is complicity of attorneys, deans, upper classes, bourgeois media and the police, and we yet do not know what other local and foreign forces have been enlisted. We are beginning to hear of missing people, the climate is as tough as under the Junta.

This is not the time to remain silent! This is not the moment to relax!

Everybody to the streets! Sittings everywhere!

Please, help to bring down the Greek Military Junta!

The regime goes straight back to 1967!

Wake up!


Informal referendum for independence in Catalonia

After the new statute has been challenged by the tories (fascists) at the Constitutional Court, Catalans are thinking that they are probably best on their own. An informal referendum is set up for today in 170 Catalan towns, including 700,000 voting citizens (Catalunya as a whole has more than 6 million inhabitants, many concentrated around Barcelona).

From BBC:

"More and more people think we have no room in the Spanish house, so we need a house of our own," organiser Alfons Lopez Tema says.

"[The Spanish] don't want us, they don't love us, they don't give us what we want. So the best thing is to vote and decide."

Joan Canela ponders at Rebelión:

If the Republic was formed after municipal elections, who knows what can bring independece.

The fact that this referendum acknowledges the right to vote to immigrants has brought their organizations to support Catalan independence. Diego Arcos, president of the Argentine House, says:

Catalonia acknowledges our citizenship while Spain does not.

Immigrants have already organized a political platform in favor of Catalan self-determination.

Anna Arqué, speaker of the organizing platform, hopes that the effect of these co-ordinated municipal referendums will be that the Catalan Parliament will call an official poll on the matter at national level.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

East Asians originated in SE Asia.

Just found at Dienekes what seems to be the definitive evidence for a south to north colonization of East Asia. This was quite obvious to me but will be hard to swallow for those who are used to other classical (but seemingly erroneous) interpretation.

The press release emphasizes this fact:

The scientists also reported a clear increase in genetic diversity from northern to southern latitudes. Their findings also suggest that there was one major inflow of human migration into Asia arising from Southeast Asia, rather than multiple inflows from both southern and northern routes as previously proposed. This indicates that Southeast Asia was the major geographic source of East Asian and North Asian populations.

The HUGO Pan-Asian SNP Consortium, Mapping Human Genetic Diversity in Asia. Science, 2009. (Paywall but supplementary material is free).

From the supplemental material I picked this max. likelihood tree, where the Eastern Eurasian divergence node seems quite apparent:

click to expand

Notice that the Papuan sample is negligible: only 5 individuals!

Also discussed
at BBC.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Intriguing ring structures being researched in Portugal

There seems to be several of these structures in SW Iberia but many are under urbanized areas. However the one at Perdigoes (Reguengos de Monsaraz) is not and is hence being researched by the University of Malaga.

They are made up of concentric ditches that, for what has been discovered so far, were created sequentially, with the ones at the interior being filled when the exterior ones were dug. The different texture of the fillings, which retain water better, allows for these to be seen in air photographs after rains (photo below).

In Perdigoes, the interior (oldest) rings seem to be dated to the second half of the fourth milennium (c. 3500-3000 BCE), while the most recent are from well into the third milennium. They have found varied stuff in them, including human and animal remains.

We believe that these were spaces that hosted scattered groups for ceremonial purposes such as marriages or funerals. When these ceremonies were over, they made the enclosure to disappear, throwing everything into the ditches.

Source: Terra Antiquae (in Spanish). It also includes a link to a PDF (also in Spanish) on the maybe related mysterious and ubiquitous Chalcolithic silos/wells of this area, which are argued to be local manifestations of more widespread practices of the Megalithic area. See also this news item (ADN, in Spanish too).

Thursday, December 10, 2009

More walls against Palestine

The Autocracy of Egypt, in collaboration with the USA, who have designed (and probably financed) it, is building a new "impenetrable" wall along the border with Gaza. The new ghetto wall, whose construction was so secret that nobody knew until now, is said to be made up of such a "super-strong" steel that it's not just bomb-proof, but can't be melted or cut either (though I presume this is an exaggeration and they are talking of regular
manganese steel, which is used to build armored vehicles - nothing is totally indestructible).

The new Egyptian wall of shame is meant to be finished in just 18 months and will add insult to injury among Arabs while not really being able to impede the drilling of tunnels so much necessary for the battered Gazan economy.

Source: BBC.

Snapshots of The Crisis

And I mean much more than the "financial crisis", but also the global ecological, social and paradigm crisis.

On one side we have this almost unbelievable (but cheered up) news from London: the United Kingdom has introduced a 50% tax on bank bonuses. The super-executives of the banking sector, widely blamed of the current financial and economic crisis, can still be paid enormous bonuses but their banks would have to pay also an enormous tax on them, so they may think twice before such a waste. Some warn that this will cause a "brain leak" of most demanded experts to other countries but the fact is that anyone who wants to earn so much money (maybe a thousand times what you earn) should be in prison or a psychiatric institution, not managing anything. So it will not be a loss if they go elsewhere and maybe it is a gain. For once, applause for the UK government for daring to confront, even if shyly, the substance of the problem: the rich have and earn way too much.

But even this is just a social-democrat patch, nothing else. Global economic criminals like the executives of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers got out of the mess they had created with neat benefits of several hundred million dollars. They should be in jail like Madoff but they are enjoying freely the succulent benefits of their legal crimes against Humankind.

In this context, these patches are far from what is needed. I can understand that a qualified (and effective in the long run) manager or expert may a greater reward than an unspecialized worker who cleans around... but how much greater? Twice, five times, ten times maybe? But more than a thousand times, earning the salaries of a thousand regular workers for doing nothing good in the end? That is totally disparaging and extremely unjust!

I would hence suggest that salaries are capped to 10 times the minimal salary, which would still allow these supposed experts to have a luxurious way of life, being able to spend as much as ten normal workers, which is much more than the so-called middle class can normally.

Another snapshot comes from China, where a good deal of the country is being devoured by the sands due to global warming and general ecological mismanagement (China's autocracy largely shuns environmental protection and has formed an alliance with the USA to prevent diplomatic solutions to global warming).

I say I am optimistic in regards to the good will of people but, damnit, I am really pessimistic when it comes to Humankind solving its urgent, colossal and unprecedented problems in any effective manner, at least before global revolution takes place (and that's not tomorrow for sure). With the shortsighted and corporativist leadership that we find today in most of the World, we are going nowhere but to a massive disaster.

I wish it was different, really.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Severe criticism of Bayesian phylogenetics

Bryan Kolaczkowski & Joseph W. Thornton, Long-Branch Attraction Bias and Inconsistency in Bayesian Phylogenetics. PLoS ONE, 2009. Open access.


Bayesian inference (BI) of phylogenetic relationships uses the same probabilistic models of evolution as its precursor maximum likelihood (ML), so BI has generally been assumed to share ML's desirable statistical properties, such as largely unbiased inference of topology given an accurate model and increasingly reliable inferences as the amount of data increases. Here we show that BI, unlike ML, is biased in favor of topologies that group long branches together, even when the true model and prior distributions of evolutionary parameters over a group of phylogenies are known. Using experimental simulation studies and numerical and mathematical analyses, we show that this bias becomes more severe as more data are analyzed, causing BI to infer an incorrect tree as the maximum a posteriori phylogeny with asymptotically high support as sequence length approaches infinity. BI's long branch attraction bias is relatively weak when the true model is simple but becomes pronounced when sequence sites evolve heterogeneously, even when this complexity is incorporated in the model. This bias—which is apparent under both controlled simulation conditions and in analyses of empirical sequence data—also makes BI less efficient and less robust to the use of an incorrect evolutionary model than ML. Surprisingly, BI's bias is caused by one of the method's stated advantages—that it incorporates uncertainty about branch lengths by integrating over a distribution of possible values instead of estimating them from the data, as ML does. Our findings suggest that trees inferred using BI should be interpreted with caution and that ML may be a more reliable framework for modern phylogenetic analysis.

Bold type is mine. I think that the paper needs no further comment, at least I can't think of anything right now.

POLISARIO Front warns that if Aminatu Haidar dies, the truce is over

Aminatu Haidar is a Sahrawi citizen and human rights activist who was expelled from the territory occupied by Morocco to Canary Islands (Spain) after she wrote down in her police file that her country of residence is Sahara (meaning West Sahara or the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, as is officially recognized by many countries).

Since then she has mantained a hunger strike for more than 20 days and her life now is at increased risk. However she refuses to be hospitalized on fear of Spanish manipulations or forced feeding. She has also rejected the offer of political assylum by Spain and demands to be returned to Moroccan-administered territory.

I have several times thought of covering the matter but, with so many things going on, I have failed to do it until now.

Aminatu Haidar is known as the Sahrawi Gandhi

Anyhow, the case is that the POLISARIO Front (acronym of Frente POpular para la LIberación de SAguía el Hamra y RÍO de Oro, names of the former Spanish provinces in West Sahara) has declared that if Aminatu Haidar dies, they will abandon their long standing UN-sponsored truce, that has given no results besides diplomatic blah-blah, and return to armed struggle. It was none less that Taleb Omar, leader of the Front and Prime Minister of the disputed Republic who made this warning to the Spanish state news station RNE, so it is something that must be taken very very seriously.

Oddly enough, Taleb Omar demands that the Law of Foreigners is strictly applied in this case, which would result in Haidar being expelled to Morocco immediatly (and Morocco would have to accept her because of the bilateral treaties on this matter). He had very rough words for Spain, which is accused again of being accomplice of the Moroccan tyranny (also a privileged ally of the USA and France) and compared disfavorably the role of Spain in the Sahrawi case with that of Portugal in the similar case of East Timor, where the former metropolis had a proactive commitment to the independence of its ex-colony.

Source: Rebelión.

Agriculture spread through cultural diffussion in SW USA

This should not be really surprising to those who have read for instance George Catlin's diary, who reports seasonal use of green maize as complement to an otherwise hunter diet among the Mandan (a people from further north anyhow). Some peoples in the early stages of transition to agriculture may have adopted only certain, more profitable aspects of the new technology, making a slow transition.

William R. Merrill et al., The diffusion of maize to the southwestern United States and its impact. PNAS 2009. Not open access yet, news article at Science Daily anyhow.

The authors conclude that the American staple crop was passed from forager group to forager group through the Southwest of the USA (Texas, etc.) and has no relation with the spread of Uto-Aztecan languages, which in fact pre-dates agriculture and was a north to south migration. SW peoples also show a gradual independent transition to making pottery.