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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.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Big brains not always better

At least in birds.

That's what Catalan researchers (in association with British and Canadian ones) have found among passeriformes: that migratory species have systematically smaller brains than resident ones. This seems to be caused because big brains with high exploratory behavior (pretty similar to our concept of intelligence) could be even dangerous for species that change space so often.

In the words of lead researcher, Daniel Sol:

For birds that travel a lot, exploring their surroundings produces more costs than benefits since the information which is useful in one place is not necessarily so in another. It also exposes them to more dangers. For these reasons we believe that for these species, their innate behaviour can be more useful than learned behaviour.
I find this association of brain size with what I'd call curiosity, intelligence, for what else is the ability to study your surroundings to exploit them optimally and maybe even creatively manipulate them, as do some birds such as crows.

More information at:

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Should Greece declare bankruptcy?

It may be a realistic option considering the alternatives promoted by the FMI-EU tandem. Anyhow, after the BB+ rating by S&P it will not make much difference.

BBC reproduces a demonstrator's opinion, a bank worker's one to be more specific:

We should opt for bankruptcy. Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, Wall Street, they lent us the money. (Far better) they lose their money and people don't lose their jobs.

But the case is: can small Greece, with only 10 million inhabitants and not so many natural resources other than sunny islands for turism survive alone? How?

I have little doubt that the Greek people have the organization to go in revolutionary spree. They may be the only ones in Europe in fact in such excellent revolutionary conditions. But, even if they succeed, what then?

A more realistic case may happen in Iberia, a far larger area and next on the list for catastrophic FMI-dictated austerity packages. Iberia does not have such a large well organized class struggle as of now but, in the case it would, it could indeed hold a very viable economically autonomous area (Spain alone is right now the 9th global economy by GNP, holding 2.5% of the World's GDP (nominal), almost half of Germany's). Even in the case of international ostracism it can find some economic space working with Latin America, largely a red zone already, for example. Geographically closer Arab countries such as Lybia and Syria are also potential partners for any ostracized Mediterranean power.

Of course, there are two problems:

One is the tight rope of the euro, which should be in fact the main problem to address at pan-European scale (from a liberal perspective), devaluating it significantly in order to boost exports, reduce imports and secure jobs and public services. The North European gang, lead by German Capital, is however getting too many benefits from this situation and unable to react fast enough to to protect the system they have created for their benefit. The fact that Germany exports mostly to EU countries says it all.

The other is military intervention. If anyone believes that the Empire is going to let countries leave without intervening, he/she is of course very wrong. The first line is indeed the local armies and police forces, normally with strong right wing, fascist-like tendencies. But they can succumb to popular pressure and nationalist feelings. They can indeed also be defeated by political ways or their intervention trigger organization of guerrillas and such. The second line is direct military intervention by NATO (with similar or even worse results).

Whatever the case, the foresight for the next years is drastic increase of class tensions and possibly revolutionary changes (or alternatively anachronistic, and hence doomed, fascist attempts) in Southern Europe (among other places: the oven is very hot everywhere).

This situation would be unthinkable just a couple of years ago but now it appears as almost unavoidable. Thank Goldman Sachs and the other global bankers for this.

Next the sight stops on other even more sizable countries: Italy, France, the UK... none of them too buoyant. A very bad scenario is also ripe for Eastern Europe (Latvia is the most outrageous case but the rest are not well off either) and even Northern Europe (Iceland could not scape the voragine either).

Sooner than later, Germany itself will have to face the consequences of this global disaster. Best would be to act at European level but the EU building is frail and patchy, undemocratic and controlled by the big corporations. It's not an instrument of change but of continuity.

However class organizations should coordinate and direct the fights at this level, as the state level is obviously too limited to produce results. So far workers in Greece, in Latvia, in the UK, in Italy... are fighting separate battles against the same enemy. This may help the collapse of EU but is not really an effective way of struggle. We should see masses of people striking at Madrid, Paris and Berlin in support of Greek workers... but it seems that this people's facet of Europe has yet to be created.

It will eventually because nowadays state governments are very much powerless and irrelevant, so the action has to be taken at pan-European levels, if not at global ones. But this stage has not yet arrived and hence it's easier to witness a collapse of EU than a pan-European revolution. Still I'd prefer the latter, strongly so, and I think it is the way to go.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Reward-driven people win more... except when there is a real reward

Just a psychological curiosity, I guess, but one that called my attention.

The so-called reward-driven individuals demonstrated at tests that they are more motivated to win in general and that they win more often than their "normal" peers. However a paradox was found: when there was a monetary prize, the "normal" players actually improved their performance, making the "winner" type win less and perform more like the rest.

Full story at Science Daily.

This suggests to me that "reward-driven" could be a misnomer and that in fact we are before a personality type that is more "success-driven", with or without reward. This may have its rewards (in form of unexpected or hidden prizes and in the open rewards they also get, even if at lower rate) but it may also be costly in terms of energy spent (both mental and physical and even economic resources maybe). I do hence suspect that both phenotypes are in dynamic equilibrium.

East Asian autosomal genetics, second round

I already commented on the
HUGO paper (paywall, but full PDF here) before as a "working note". Recent discussion at another blog has got me working again on it.

I ended up with this map reflecting as well as possible the geographical distribution of the various components:

Names (arbitrary but descriptive) are my creation, as are the arrows illustrating possible gene flows. Question marks indicate where there's lack of data. Continuous lines indicate "pure" areas, dotted lines indicate greater or thinner presence of each component.

I suspect that the blue component represents the Neolithic stock, spreading first autonomously and then also (but more limitedly) in admixture with other components. If so, the other major components may have receded before it or may have just absorbed each other in mutual interactions.


The expansion of the Peninsular component to Indonesia did not carry the Neolithic component. So either is pre-Neolithic of was made by non-mixed Austroasiatic peoples after getting the "neolithic package" from further north without getting the genes.

The expansion of the Neolithic component to sub-Hymalayan South Asia did not carry other Eastern components, so it happened before or, in any case, in a separate way to admixture with other East Asian groups.

The South Maritime (Austronesian) expansion happened also independently from any genetic input, other than admixture with native Austronesians and Melanesians (West and East of Wallace Line respectively)

North and South Maritime populations did not interact, not even in the mainland, excepting Han expansion. This is quite curious and might explain the physiognomic differences between northern and southern "Mongoloids" much better than old hypothesis of admixture with Negritos/Melanesians.

Several distinct aboriginal groups seem to have receded before Austroasiatic and Austronesian expansion without significantly penetrating the settlers' genetic pools. These are mostly Negritos (Malay and Filipino) but also the Proto-Malay and the Mentawai. The Hmong, even if a larger ethnicity, can be argued to have suffered a similar destiny, absorbing a lot of Neolithic component and impacting other groups only minimally. In this they are similar to Austroasiatics, though in ISEA, the overlaying component is Austronesian, not Continental (and they have been absorbed linguistically).

Reconstructing the past

A plausible reconstruction of pre-Neolithic/Early Neolithic distribution could be this map:

Colors as above. I ignored the Mlabri and Proto-Malay. Please don't be too nit-picky with the necessary/convenient simplifications, thanks.

I understand that some quite reasonable ethnic interpretations can be made:

Sino-Tibetan: Neolithic Blue with various mixtures. Northern Neolithic may soon have evolved into a Blue-Yellow mix speaking proto-Sinitic.

Tai-Kadai (Kradai): Neolithic Blue with South Maritime Green (Southern Neolithic genesis).

Austroasiatic: Red, often with Neolithic Blue. Must have existed in Sundaland prior to Austronesian expansion and prior or simultaneous to Neolithic (Blue) expansion. Did they arrive there as Neolithic settlers, Epipaleolithic maybe, or were there "all the time"?

Austronesian: Bright Green, often in admixture. Must be original from the Taiwan-Philippines-SE China area.

Hmong-Mien: Along with their ethnic component (Light Blue), they display Neolithic Blue with minor Bright Green, suggesting that they adopted Neolithic before Tai-Kadai genesis. They have absorbed some Tai-Kadai blood but their genesis seems older than that (peripheral South Neolithic genesis).

Melanesian, Filipino Negrito and Malaysian Negrito are three different stocks.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Ashes can dry up the sky

This is the conclusion of Israeli scientists studying storm formation in the Amazon basin. While some particulates (ashes, aerosols) do promote rain formation, a well known fact for several decades now, their excess actually does the opposite: preventing rain and restricting the formation of clouds.

This may affect the ongoing process of global warming in several ways: restricting rain in wildfire and highly polluted areas and reducing the overall cloud cover of Earth and hence its albedo, allowing for more solar radiation to reach the surface.

More details at Science Daily.

Ref. O. Almaratz et al., Lightning response to smoke from Amazonian fires. Geophysical Research Letters, 2010. Pay per view.

Nineteen: hemeretzi

Andalusian archaeology blog Pileta de Prehistoria has
a nice video archive on Spanish caves (in Spanish language what I've seen so far) that I have just began browsing (earlier I was suffering of some JavaScript bugs that did not let me enjoy all their features).

But it's not about this archive what I want to talk but about a detail of the main panel of the Peñaescrita shelter that I found there. I took this still:

In at least two of the figures I can see the number 19 following the method I read years ago on a book on Iberian archaeoastronomy (sorry but I can't remeber any better reference).

The method, apparently found in many drawings of the period (Chalcolithic) through southern Iberia as well as in the perforated plates of the VNSP-Zambujal civilization in Portugal consists essentially in drawings with the following patterns:

(a) |||||||||/

(b) \\\\\\\\\|/////////

In the second case (b), you count all the lines to 19 but they are distributed in a 9-1-9 pattern, in the former instead (a), the 19 is "hidden" in a 9-1 pattern that you have to read again backwards to form the 9-1-9 or 19 number.

Why 19? What does it mean? For what I recall it was a key number, together with 4, to follow the lunar cycles. They argued that they also produced larger numbers such as 223, which is the key to predict lunar ecclipses (as they happen every such period of lunations or natural months). For some reason that I don't grasp well enough, the number 19 was the most evident and maybe most common in these drawings, of which the above image has two examples (the horizontal bar with 10 other bars hanging from it (a) and the plant drawing to the right (b)).

And this discovery brought me to consider the origin of two Basque numeral names: hamaika (11) and hemeretzi (19). I noticed them because they are the only numbers betwen 10 and 20 that are not said 10-something (i.e. hamabi: 12 < hamar: 10 + bi: 2)

Hamaika or amaika (the 'h' is a mute modern standarization rule that does not exist in most dialects) means of course 'eleven' and is also used in figurative sense to mean 'lots', 'many', but it may equally mean 'finishing' or 'in the way of ending' (from amai(-tu): 'to end', 'to finish'). I hypothesize that in this Chalcolithic astronomical context the name would indicate something like "last count", "begin finishing here".

Hemeretzi also can be understood quite straightforwardly to be hemen etzin: 'here lay'.

I also speculated a bit on whether another number of long name, bederatzi (9), might mean something in this context (bider atzi: 'access the prominence'??) but it has too many possible interpretations so I can't tell with minimal certainty.

In any case, this is a reason why I think that Basque language might have its roots in an important language of the Megalithic area of that era: because these two numerals appear to make sense only in this esoteric context. Surely, back then, large numbers above 10 (some linguists speculate that Basque originally had only numbers up to five) would not be used too much by the commoners, instead priests, druids or witches working with these concepts to be able to make calendaric predictions, in particular eclipses, had to know them and used them often, at least in these esoteric cryptographic calendars.

It's well known that experts in the Megalithic cultural area had an ample and often surprisingly good understanding of astronomy, a key knowledge in an agricultural or mariner context. So the calendars should not raise too many eyebrows. What I'm sure will put some people in a defensive attitude is to relate this knowledge with Basque language with such a clear native etymology.

But that's what I see in any case.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Financial madness: how they rob us in daylight and how things will only get worse

There is an interesting spat of economic articles at
Global Research these days. Really too much for me to fully understand and analyze but indeed enough to get me on my toes because no one of them is the least hopeful.

The Goldman Sachs ripoff

Maybe the most visible to the usual media reader/watcher/listener is the new Goldman Sachs scandal, analyzed by Patrick O'Connor and Barry Grey at The Goldman Sachs Indictment. They blame the Zionist corporation of precipitating the collapse of the housing bubble in their benefit and they say that GS is going to get out of this one with just a fine, a drop on the ocean of what they robbed, largely because the Obama administration is largely made up with their men. Only one real person is indicted, a 31 years old junior trader, while the infamous GS CEO, Mr. Blankfein, nor their customer, Paulson Inc., are named in the cause.

Their actions—exhibiting an insatiable and manic drive for personal enrichment—have produced devastating consequences for tens of millions of ordinary people, not only in the United States, but around the world. Millions have lost their jobs, their homes and their life savings. Untold numbers of young people have lost their chance for a college education. Untold numbers of old people have been driven into poverty and an early death.
And Reagan, the prophet of late Capitalism, said that "greed is good"... What do you think? Good for whom?

This same story is also dealt with in another article by Robert Scheer. He begins with rough words:

The story of the financial debacle will end the way it began, with the super-hustlers from Goldman Sachs at the center of the action and profiting wildly. Never in U.S. history has one company wielded such destructive power over our political economy, irrespective of whether a Republican or a Democrat happened to be president.

At least the robber barons of old built railroads and steel mills, whereas Goldman Sachs makes its money placing bets on people losing their homes. On Tuesday, Goldman announced a 91 percent jump in profit to $3.46 billion for the quarter, while the dreams of millions of families continue to be foreclosed and unemployment hovers at 10 percent because of a crisis that that very company did much to cause.

And ends with even more discouraging words:

It is insulting to the spirit of populist revolt, which has been fundamental to the success of America’s grand experiment in democracy, that a fat-cat Republican-funded tea party revolt is now the vessel of popular anti-Wall Street discontent. That vessel ought to be our president, who campaigned as a champion of the common people.
Certainly Machiavelli himself would scold Obama badly. His ideal prince would cut the GS head quickly before more damage is made and also to score in popular support, which for Machiavelli is a critical asset for any leader worth that name (and who wants to stay as leader).


I borrowed this subtitle from Mafianomics by Michael Werbowski. You thought the GS ripoff is bad enough? Well, I'm really sad to inform you that it is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg: the system is rotten to the core.

But Werbowski is kind of soft and imprecise: he complains about how bad is today's capitalist speculation and how immoral is profit for the sake of it, regardless of the pain it causes to society. But for a Red like myself this sounds a bit like idealizing some sort of cavalier feudalism or benevolent slavery and complaining that reality never meets the ideal. Capitalism is that way: rotten scam and organized robbery from the beginning. You should know better.

More interesting and detailed is the article by Ellen Brown titled Computerized front-running and financial fraud. Here we are placed in front of the daily reality of the mafioso scam.

It was initially just a patented program to take on the role of the specialist (the specialized brokers that are the pillars of the stock market) and make it more efficient and faultless. But, after the crash, the patent had to be sold and ended up in the "wrong hands": a private investment corporation. The program was hence altered to do exactly the opposite of what it was supposed to do: to take advantage of stock market weaknesses. This would have been illegal in EU but seems to be legal in the USA. Also other 132 such "improvements" have been patented after the original one by Keiser.

So nowadays there is a whole array of broker companies taking advantage, thanks to supercomputers, of mere instants in data transmission and processing to make their own speculative bids and ripoff everybody else, who do not have such means.

The details are even more complex and I'd say interesting and, of course, Goldman Sachs is denounced as the ring leader of this mafia, but you better read the original article to get the whole picture.

The new financial bubble.

Another rather worrisome piece is the article by Washington's Blog titled Are interest rate derivatives a ticking time bomb? Here we can read about one of the methods of institutional ripoff by well organized financial mafias and what is seemingly another bubble that will soon blow out on our faces.

What are interest rate derivatives? I could not get a clear idea, sincerely. It is a complex financial instrument designed to hedge financial risks. But, as the article states clearly, people tend to overestimate their ability to understand complex financial instruments. So I won't be so arrogant when even the bosses of the credit default swap scandal had no idea what they were dealing with. I'll better admit my own ignorance.

But whatever they are it is important to understand that they are based on notional values (i.e. the money on which they are based never really changes hands: it's essentially an accountancy tool) and that's the only way the derivatives' market is ten times the size of the global GDP. In other words, while the real economy (more or less, as GDP has some flaws too) amounts to 60-70 trillion USD, the derivatives' market is estimated in 600 trillion.

If that's not a bubble you tell me what is it.

The authors admit that, in theory, these complex financial instruments are designed to keep the balance of the scales but they also warn that theory and practice may not go hand by hand. And when George Soros himself warns against them, then it really gets worrisome:

I must state at the outset that I am in fundamental disagreement with the prevailing wisdom. The generally accepted theory is that financial markets tend toward equilibrium and, on the whole, discount the future correctly. I operate using a different theory, according to which financial markets cannot possibly discount the future correctly because they do not merely discount the future; they help to shape it. In certain circumstances, financial markets can affect the so-called fundamentals which they are supposed to reflect. When that happens, markets enter into a state of dynamic disequilibrium and behave quite differently from what would be considered normal by the theory of efficient markets. Such boom/bust sequences do not arise very often, but when they do they can be very disruptive, exactly because they affect the fundamentals of the economy…

The trouble with derivative instruments is that those who issue them usually protect themselves against losses by engaging in so-called delta, or dynamic, hedging. Dynamic hedging means, in effect, that if the market moves against the issuer, the issuer is forced to move in the same direction as the market, and thereby amplify the initial price disturbance. As long as price changes are continuous, no great harm is done, except perhaps to create higher volatility, which in turn increases the demand for derivatives instruments. But if there is an overwhelming amount of dynamic hedging done in the same direction, price movements may become discontinuous. This raises the specter of financial dislocation. Those who need to engage in dynamic hedging, but cannot execute their orders, may suffer catastrophic losses.

This is what happened in the stock market crash of 1987. (...)

There is much more but you better read it yourself.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Petition to Obama to speak against the institutional murder of Mumia Abu-Jamal

Mumia Abu-Jamal is probably the most famous political prisoner of the USA, along with Leonard Peltier. He is a journalist and a political activist of leftist ideas. Today, Spanish bi-weekly Diagonal interviews his attorney, Robert Bryan, who claims he was declared guilty, 28 years ago, in a clear case of institutional racism, with the judge openly telling to a colleague: "I'm going to get the nigger fried" and banning eight black people from taking part in the jury.

The case is now at an appeal court with a very technical twist on whether the case is similar or different from another case. Bryan blames the situation to poor defense in past trials and would like them to be repeated ex novo. He argues that this is very typical: poor people cannot afford a good defense attorney, what favors the more experienced public accusation. Mumia's former attorney did not even present the racial composition of the original jury in a past revision in 1995, what could have changed the case completely.

This is an example of why death penalty is an error, not just in the case of Mumia but in thousands of other cases in the USA and across the world. People are executed not for comitting a crime but for not being properly represented, for not being able to pay for a good attorney. Death penalty is a privilege reserved for the poor.
He also says that Mumia is being persecuted essentially for being an active voice, for not shutting up, for denouncing all kind of injustice and abuses. So the authorities only see one way to achieve this goal: killing him. However so far they have only achieved to make him globally famous. Bryan says he's not going to stop writing.

He wants to live, he does not want to die. He does not wish to be executed. But he will not shup up, he will not go silent just to save his own life.
He also makes an appeal to sign the petition asking US President Barack Obama to speak, as moral authority, in favor of a moratorium of death penalty for Mumia and the 20,000 people that are sentenced to death in the USA. You can read and sign the petition (in many languages) HERE.

Here there is the trailer of the movie on Mumia's life,
In prison my whole life:

Further information:
Mumia Abu-Jamal Legal Defense.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Paris protest climbers denounce murderous police intervention

I mentioned
a few days ago that a group of Basque climbers made a protest action in Paris, hanging two banners in French and English from the landmark monument with the message: "PSOE-UMP what have you done with Jon Anza?"

PSOE and UMP are the acronyms of the ruling parties in Spain and France respectively. Jon Anza was an ETA militant who mysteriously disappeared a year ago in Toulouse only to reappear last month in the most obscure circumstances at the morgue of a local hospital, where his corpse had been all this time, in what seems to be another case of dirty war that splatters not only Spain but also in full the French government and legal system.

Yesterday the four climbers made a press conference at Baiona (Bayonne) to denounce the murderous attitude of the French police that almost killed one of the climbers.

They had designed the hanging system of the banners and the climbers in a way that made it difficult for the authorities to disentangle it without causing the fall of the climbers. This was done in order to ensure that the banners stayed for as long as possible.

As they explained in the conference, they had designed it so climbers acted as counterweight and that if any single climber was untied, the other would fall. This they expected to force the use of two cranes, which would significantly delay the removal of the banners. Naturally they explained this to the firefighters and police who arrived.

Soon one policeman was on top of the firefighters' crane and asked to one of the climbers: "are you going to collaborate?" to what the reply was "yes", explaining him the system used to install the banner and that if he untied either one, the other would fall. The policeman replied that he already knew that.

Regardless, he was untied and spoused, what caused the fall of the other climber. This other climber tried to save his own life by grabbing a repairs structure at the side of the monument but failed to hold. Miraculously, he managed to land on his feet, what saved his life in spite of the serious injuries (both ankles broken and head concussion).

"It was a miracle I did not die", he said.

Askatasuna (Freedom, prisoner rights watch organization, declared illegal in Spain) has therefore put a denounce against the police demanding responsabilities and have declared that they will keep on with their protests.

Source: Gara.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Honduras: the struggle continues

Thousands of people gathered yesterday at Tegucigalpa demonstrating in solidarity with the peasants of Aguán valley, demanding the retreat of the Army from this area, the liberation of the arrested citizens and the implementation of a radical agrarian reform in the country.

In Honduras 300,000 families have no land whatsoever while other 200,000 have just small plots of 1-3.5 hectares (an hectare is 2.47 acres or 100 x 100 meters). This is one of the main causes of poverty in the largely rural country of 7-8 million people (est.) Almost half of the population lives on less than half a dollar per day and 25% on less than 25 cents. Meanwhile the wealthiest 20% has almost 30 times the wealth of the poorest 20%, a very sharp divide.

After the usual IMF-imposed criminal reforms and the also usual dumping of subsidized crops by affluent countries like the USA, Honduras has gone from being the greatest grain producer of grain of Central America to not being able to feed its own people, being forced to import 1 million tons of maize, 20 thousand tons of legumes and 50 thousand tons of rice. Instead Honduras now is producing mostly oil palm for export, what does not benefit the people, suffering from genuine food instability, but only the landowner minority, which has appropriated the vast majority of the land, and multinational corporations.

Source: UITA (found via La Haine). For more photos see here.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The volcano that collapsed all

I don't normally write on news that are on the main pages of all media, but the unpredictable consequences of the infamous volcano Eyjafjallajokull really deserve at least a few lines.

First of all, I admit I am guilty of copy-pasting the name of the volcano. Really it will take me more than just a few days to learn to spell that Icelandic word and therefore I have decided to call it simply Eyja, which I hope doesn't offend it.

And anyhow, it was just a matter of time before it was nicknamed somehow, yes or yes?

Impressive image of Eyja borrowed from Al Jazeera

Anyhow, Eyja's polluting power is such that in just a few days of eruption, otherwise not too destructive, it has created such an unprecedented chaos in modern globalized Europe that wealthy men are begging in Warsaw for a ride back home and airlines are rumored to be preparing to fire personnel. Meanwhile the roses from Kenya or the kiwis from Chile can't reach their European markets and the ash cloud has already reached East Asia causing widespread disruption there as well.

But this is probably only the beginning. Vulcanologists can't predict the duration of the eruption but, in any case, so far has only got stronger and stronger. It could be just two days more... or it could be two years. Nobody knows.

The closest precedent is that of Laki volcano, also in Iceland, in 1783, which lasted for eight months and historians link to crop failure and being one of the triggers of the French Revolution.

There are indeed no precedents for such a widespread closure of air space. The closest case experts can think of is the brief closure of US air space after 9/11. But even that is not comparable: now there's no way to predict how will be the situation just a few days ahead... though the most likely is that it will remain the same or even worsen.

And it is affecting the economy: businessmen can't fly to meetings and fairs (even presidents and prime ministers had to suspend their journeys), some imported food will soon become scarce in your local supermarket and some of the most profitable sectors, such as pharmaceutics, rely on air transport heavily. According to The Guardian, even if only 1% of the volume of British foreign trade is done by airplane, it is nothing less than 30% of its exporting value!

Add up all the many disruptions and their cumulative chain effects in the context of an already very severe economic crisis... and let your imagination fly - because there are no precedents, really.

Of course Eyja could stop tomorrow... but that's not very likely to happen.

Video: linguists confront the linguists who claimed Veleia's texts were falsifications

If there's any reader with sufficient knowledge of Spanish and interested on the linguistic debate on the controversial Roman Age inscriptions (in Basque and Latin) from Iruña-Veleia, officially declared "false" a year ago by the provincial government and an academic panel essentially made up of philologists, not archaeologists, you can watch the conference by linguists Luis Silgo and Hector Iglesias organized by SOS-Veleia at En el Ángulo Oscuro or at Vimeo (a video hosting site), distributed in 7 videos [also at the SOS-Iruña-Veleia site].

There are many interesting points, as you can imagine but what most called my attention was when Hector Iglesias said that the grafitti also damage his own theory on Basque-Iberism (i.e. the identity of Basque and Iberian language) but that he still thinks that they are consistent and not any falsification. Furthermore he said, as did in a previous paper, that some of the texts require such erudition that make practically impossible that they are falsifications. These hyper-erudite words, like "Miscart" (a variant of the Phoenician god Melkart) or "Denos" (an ill-known Celtic name), were precisely the main arguments of their accuser linguists, who seem to only have demonstrated their ignorance and bad faith.

For further information on this controversy, which has destroyed the reputation of a whole archaeology company (LURMEN) and the career of the archaeologists in charge (Eliseo Gil and Idoia Filloy), mostly because the findings challenged the theories of some popes of Basque linguistics, you can check the various posts here at Leherensuge on the matter.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Spanish energy corporation behind Guatemala murders

Eight Guatemalan activists who opposed the abuses of Spanish energy corporation
Unión Fenosa have been murdered in the Guatemalan department of San Marcos, near the Mexican border, in the last months, according to Spanish bi-weekly newspaper Diagonal[es].

The first victim was Víctor Gálvez, who was shot 32 times when he left an office where he attended neighbors affected by the activities of DEOCSA, one of the two affiliated companies that Unión Fenosa has in the Central American country, on October 24 2009. Gálvez was member of the Front for the Defense of Natural Resources and the Rights of the Peoples (FRENA).

In December 22nd, the right-wing government decreed the state of prevention (a variant of the state of exception), suppressing in practice civil rights in the department and attempted to criminalize the FRENA. Since then other seven activists have been murdered.

On January 13th Evelinda Ramírez, another activist of the FRENA who had been meeting with guvernamental officers to attempt to clarify the murder of her comrade was shot and killed while driving back home.

On January 29th Pedro García, member of the local workers' union and activist for the nationalization of energy services, was also shot dead a few days after he denounced irregularities in his municipal council of Malacatán.

On February 17th Octavio Roblero, grassroots Catholic, activist of the FRENA and of the National Front of Struggle for the Defense of Public Services and Natural Resources (FNL) and one of the main leaders in the struggle for the nationalization of the energy sector, was murdered as well.

On March 21st three other activists, Carlos Noel Maldonado, Leandro Maldonado y Ana María Lorezo, who fought for the expulsion of Unión Fenosa from the country and the right of the communities to access edible water, were murdered with guns and machetes.

The next day, Santiago Gamboa was killed Army shooting after the citizens had held workers of Unión Fenosa who had arrived to disconnect the electrical supply to the community.

Context of the struggle: mafioso extortion.

The struggle has an old background, dating to the 1990s, when the energy sector was "privatized" under IMF pressure and given in effective monopoly to the Spanish multinational, which, in order to pretend "free market", split its subsidiary in two, one taking charge of the East and the other of the West of the country. A similar procedure took place in Nicaragua, then ruled by the conservatives.

In July 2008, after Unión Fenosa was acquired by Gas Natural, another Spanish corporation, partly owned by La Caixa (a public non-profit Catalan savings bank) and partly by oil giant Repsol YPF (also Spanish), the activist organizations sent an open letter to Spanish NGOs, worker uions and political parties denouncing the abuses by the corporation, among them: illegal charges on electric bills, poor service and collective punishments against the communities that protested by cutting electrict supply.

After a year of payment strike, in December 15th the company cut electric supply to many communities of the department. After a week, water supply was also cut.

This action sparked anger and the communities took to blockade the roads linking to Mexico, as well as organizing demonstrations and assemblies. It was in this context that the government decreed the state of prevention, which has been prorrogated several times and is still in effect.

According to Rigoberto Madriz, member of the political committee of the FLN, since then the hitmen of narcotraffic mafias comb the department impunely blackmailing the people: "pay or we will kill you". The very next day to the declaration of the state of prevention, Unión Fenosa opened a new office just side by side to the home of the main capo of the department, in a building well known to be his property.

After the second murder a new denounciation letter was sent to the Spanish premier Rodríguez Zapatero and the Guatemalan president Álvaro Colom, as well as the directors of Unión Fenosa-Gas Natural and its main shareholders: La Caixa and Repsol YPF.

The only effect so far has been to increase the state terrorism against the people, demonstrating that the Spanish state is again accomplice with corporative crimes and terrorirsm in Latin America.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Was Toba really so bad?

There's an interesting article
at New Scientist about what is possibly the most crucial issue of human prehistory: the Toba supervolcano explosion, which happened some 74,000 years ago.

There are two parallel debates: how catastrophic was Toba and were humans (H. sapiens) already in southern Asia then. They converge at the point on how could they survive the consequences of the supervolcano.

The debate seems to be quite hot and multifaceted: for some the catastrophe was really bad while for others only half that bad, for some humans were already in South Asia as evidenced by the toolkits so similar to African ones while others guided by the dubious molecular clock approaches prefer to consider a post-Toba out of Africa migration and yet others would push the dates of the migration back to c. 125,000 years ago, right at the Abbassia Pluvial, when there's abundant evidence also of H. sapiens in North Africa and Palestine.

A lot of information and synthesis of the various viewpoints can be found in the abstracts of the Oxford conference titled "The Toba Super-Eruption: A critical moment in human evolution?", which are freely downloadable as PDF.

Postcards: Basque rural sports: climbing in Paris

As you may know, mountaineering and climbing are among the most popular Basque sports. Sadly Paris is kinda flat, so the climbers had to choose this strange artificial structure, known as the Arch of Triumph:

The climbers protested for the death in obscure circumstances (stinking to state terrorism) of ETA militant Jon Anza, whose corpse was "found" 11 months after he went missing at the morgue of a hospital of Toulouse, having been there all the time.

One of the climbers fell and broke both ankles, as well as suffering cranial concussions, however his life is out of risk. Seven people were arrested.

Source: Gara.

Update (Apr 18): the person who fell down did so because a policeman, on top of a firefighters' crane, suddenly cut the rope he was hanging from. Luckily another of the climbers managed to grab the rope, getting his hands burned in the attempt, and probably that way saved the life of his comrade (source).

Thursday, April 15, 2010

10 Basque prisoner rights militants arrested. Three attorneys among them. Two hospitalized after detention.

Ten Basque citizens related with the movement of support to prisoners were arrested yesterday by the Guardia Civil (military police) in Biscay and Gipuzkoa. Among them there are three attorneys, who were captured in their workplaces, and a teacher who had been "warned" in a previous irregular arrest and was taken at gunpoint before her young pupils.

Two of the arrested, Erramun Landa and Saioa Agirre, were brought tonight to the Basurto Hospital at Bilbao, what makes the usual suspicions of tortures more than likely. Erramun Landa, professor at the University of the Basque Country, is said to have a serious chronic illness, reason why the family has presented a demand of habeas corpus.

List of the arrested:
  • Arantxa Zulueta, attorney. Arrested at her office in Bilbao.
  • Naia Zurrriarain, former prisoner and co-worker of Zulueta. Arrested in the same office.
  • Two attorneys (unknown identities yet) arrested at Hernani.
  • José Luis Gallastegi, in charge of the fishing section of workers' union LAB and also former prisoner. Arrested at his office in Lekeitio.
  • Erramun Landa, professor of Arts and famous painter. Arrested in Bilbao.
  • Saioa Agirre, teacher. Arrested at her classroom in Sopela before all her young pupils. She had been "warned" by the Spanish police in a previous irregular detention and interrogation in the mountains.
  • Juan Mari Jauregi. Arrested at his home in Donostia (San Sebastian).
  • Asier Etxabe. Arrested in Donostia as well (no further details known yet).
  • Joxe Domingo Aizpurua, former prisoner. Arrested in Usurbil. The police beat two of his nephews in the event.
In most of the cases, the police did not show any arrest order. Only the case of Agirre was exceptional in this sense because she resisted arrest until such order was shown.

The operation was ordered by the judge of the Spanish Inquisition (Audiencia Nacional) Fernando Grande-Marlaska. All prisoners are incommunicated. While the procedure is under secrecy, official sources had no problem filtering the contents of it to the press and even making public declarations. According to these the ten arrested are accused of "belonging" or "collaborating" with ETA.

However, considering the nature of the arrests, most political and social organizations in the Basque Country have denounced them as a political operation meant to damage the possible negotiation process demanded by Basque society and international actors.

Teachers and students protested at the University against the arrests

Several protests took place during searchs and in other contexts. Basque autonomous police charged violently against those concentrated in Lekeitio.

Source: Gara[es] (link 1, link 2, link 3, link 4).

Update (Apr 20): five of the arrested, plus another one later captured by French Police, have been left free, though in some cases the state attorney keeps the accusations. The people still arrested are the attorneys Jon Enparantza, Arantza Zulueta and Iker Sarriegi, along with Naia Zurriarain and Saioa Agirre.

Nothing is known yet of the declarations nor the state of the prisoners after five days in isolation in the infamous dungeons of the Spanish police.

The apparent lack of real substance of the accusation is underlined by the case of the only person arrested in French territory, David Plá, who was freed without charges after the French authorities saw no basis for the Spanish accusation. (Source).

Update (Apr 20): the arrested denounced threats of tortures, specifically the following techniques: "the bag" (axfisiation with a plastic bag), "the bathtube" (waterboarding), electrodes and beatings. The women among them also denounced sexual abuses. Gallastegi also denounced being forced to keep forced positions and make sit ups (source).

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Blog shut and author sentenced for exposing Zionists

Italian blogger Paolo Munzi saw his blog shut down by the authorities and brought to trial, where he was sentenced to 6 months of prison for "defamation" but acquitted from having violated privacy laws and inciting racial hatred, for publishing a list of 160 Italian professors deemed to belong to the Zionist Lobby.

One wonders if it was proven in court that those people did not belong to the Lobby or if he was just sentenced without performing such crucial proof.

I suspect the latter: that he was presumed guilty because he attacked the Zionists. Therefore I must declare my solidarity with the censored blogger and decry again the attempts of censorship on denouncing such a Nazi network as is the Zionist mafia.

Sources: EAAZI, The Truth will set you Free, JTA.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Zionist Final Solution one step further

A new military order, what means "law" for the West Bank and East Jerusalem, will allow the Israely Army to deport any person, particularly Palestinians, who do not carry "proper identification". Alternatively they could be jailed for seven years.

Read more at Al Jazeera.

This is an obvious attempt to push the genocide one step beyond expelling (to the Gaza Ghetto, I presume) all Palestinians they can in order to annex the West Bank.

All this withe the boot-licking complacency of Western powers, who, in spite of all insults by Israel, choose to submit to the Zionist diktats against all decency, dignity and common sense.

Update: full details of the new Nazi Israeli order at Sabbah Report.

Troops seize community in Honduras: fear of massacre

More than three thousand troops and policemen have taken over the peasant communities of Bajo Aguan in the department of Colón.

Civic organizations have issued an alert that a massacre may be imminent. In spite of the attempts by the organized peasants to negotiate with the fascist government, this has only replied with repression and murders.

The peasant communities achieved agreements (agrarian reform) with the democratic government of ousted president Manuel Zelaya that allowed them to labor the lands without paying feudal tributes to the landowners. The current fascist government, supported by the USA, is trying to revert this situation returning the lands to rich and seem to have no problem in going into a murder rampage if they deem necessary.

Source: Tercera Información[es].

Malalai Joya denounces occupation of Afghanistan

There is a very interesting interview
at Voltaire Net with this Afghan MP who was suspended for her progressive views and opposition to imperialist occupation and talibanization under it.

Some excerpts follow:

The aim of the war was never to create democracy and justice nor to uproot the terrorist groups. The war’s only purpose has been to perpetuate the occupation, install military bases and safeguard the takeover of a region that has substantial natural resources.


Look at the UN bombardments. In May 2009 in my own province more than 150 civilians were killed.


The base text [of the Afghan Constitution] might very well declare equality between men and women but the country is ruled by Sharia law. The so-called democracy of the official Constitution is systematically flouted. It’s only there as a token to attract international aid, which is then usually embezzled.

Today Afghanistan is a country where women – often girls as young as 14 or 15 years – fleeing their conjugal home to escape extreme violence, are considered criminal and are imprisoned. Yes, there’s an increase in the number of girls returning to school, but the records don’t take into account the girls who have to leave school again, due to threats to their safety and pressure from their families to get married.

Suicide has become the ultimate weapon of desperate young women, who are aware that there are alternatives but know that they will never have the right to them.


All of the troops must leave and the militia of the warlords must be dismantled. Democracy can’t be established by an occupying force that does nothing more than spread out and strengthen the Talibanization of my country.


Democratic parties and associations are more often than not fighting in secret. Let’s not forget that the Constitution bans the existence of all non-religious parties whose frame of reference does not include the Qur’an.


There are so many faceless heroes and heroines. Their battle is in their towns and villages. Why does no single western leader recognise the existence of a progressive movement that could emerge and play a role?

Again on Neolithic and European Y-DNA

Specially on why R1b1b2a1 (the bulk of Y-DNA R1b and the Western European specific subclade) cannot be Neolithic. It comes up in all discussions and I really feel the need to explain: to create a generic post that serves as reference.

For that purpose I created a simplified map of European Neolithic cultural flows (excluding mostly Eastern Europe that anyhow had its own distinct processes):

Click to expand

The Early Neolithic

As you probably know, European Neolithic (defined by the existence of farming and animal husbandry, and also often of pottery) began by all accounts in Thessaly, Greece (Sesklo Culture). It's characterized by a pottery painted using mostly the colors red and white and with those colors it spread through the Balcans.

More intriguing are the origins of the Cardium-Imprinted Pottery culture, specific of the Western Balcans, who did not use color in their pottery and instead decorated them with patterned impressions often made with the shell of a mollusk of the genus Cardium (hence the name). Some early pottery of this kind has been found at the Thessalian site of Otzaki, along with finer pottery of Sesklo style, however it is only known as distinct culture once it became dominant in the Western Balcans.

This Balcanic duality defines the general duality of early European Neolithic because Cardium Pottery Culture would spread by the Mediterranean shores, largely by boat, while the main Balcanic Neolithic would eventually give rise to the Central European one, often known as Danubian Neolithic.

The Cardium Pottery Culture spread with some colonization but mostly by acculturation of the indigenous peoples, as is evidenced in the toolkit continuity in most sites. They were specialized in fishing and sheep/goat herding but also carried the full package of cereals and at least one legume: lentils. They built villages but also inhabited in caves. After the initial coastal expansion local expansions took place as well already under the tag of Epicardial, most importantly along the Rhone and Ebro rivers.

Meanwhile in NE Hungary (curiously the easternmost reaches of Epi-Magdalenian culture) an ill explained cultural shift happened: the Balcanic pottery style was replaced by an engraved one. It is the Eastern Lineal Pottery Culture, which had a very limited expansion on its own (mostly to Transylvania).

However a derived culture arose then in Western Hungary, Moravia and Eastern Austria: it is the Western Lineal Pottery Culture, more commonly known as Danubian Neolithic. This one had a massive spread through Central Europe reaching into Belgium and Northern France (where it shared the territory with other minor local Neolithic cultures for some time) by the West and into Moldavia by the East, where a previous local Neolithic culture was assimilated as well. It even influenced the area of Vallachia-Bulgaria at a later time, generating which was maybe the first large European state: the Karanovo VI-Gumelnita culture, older than dynastic Egypt but short-lived.

Now it seems also clear that late Danubian peoples from Northern France brought agriculture to Britain, simultaneously to Megalithic peoples from Western France.

But I'm going too fast.

The Late Neolithic

A key an often ignored region in the second Neolithic phase is SW Iberia (mostly southern Portugal). Here there was also an important cultural shift: the custom of clannic (collective) burial in megalithic tombs known as dolmens or trilithons appeared just a few centuries after the arrival of the first Neolithic influences. Dolmenic Megalithism in this area is older than anywhere else by at least a thousand years.

Only much later, c. 3800 BCE, this custom appears in Brittany and other areas of Western France. In the following centuries it would spread through all Atlantic Europe and many parts of the Western Mediterranean, as well as penetrating in parts of the late Danubian cultural area.

It has been speculated that cod fishing may have been related to this expansion, however there must be more than just a mere economic activity: Megalithism had clearly a cultural, probably religious, element to it.

Many areas of Atlantic Europe only reached Neolithic with the arrival of Megalithism or a few centuries before it.

Another key region is more obscure: Denmark and neighboring areas. Here there was an important seagoing culture known as Ertebölle, which has been claimed to be Neolithic... only to see others rejecting that claim. This is a key issue that should be clarified in order to understand the Nordic Neolithic.

Related to this issue is that of Funnelbeaker Culture (often named by its German acronym of TRBK), which is clearly Neolithic in the North and West, where it is also Megalithic but is not in the East (Mecklenburg, Northern Poland). Some had theorized that Funnelbeaker began in Denmark, derived from Ertebölle after the arrival of Eastern influences related to Pitted Ware (another allegedly hunter-gatherer culture of Neolithic times, seemingly rooted in Eastern European Neolithic), but this is contested by others who think it's derived from some northern offshoots of Danubian Neolithic.

The issue is very murky so I prefer to leave it as it is: a mere anotation of unsolved complexity.

All this sums up pretty well the essence of Neolithic in Europe (excluding the East), I believe. In order to synthesize I had to ignore many local groups, often interesting but that add little to the global picture.

Can R1b1b2a1 be Neolithic?

Many people seem to believe that, in spite of this haplogroup being most concentrated in the westernmost reaches of Europe and decaying towards the East.

The most biased ones love to oversimplify and ignore R1b1b2a1 altogether, talking instead of R1b1b2. This was the case with the recent paper by Balaresque et al. which produced the following haplotype structure, which I have duly annotated to indicate what is not R1b1b2a1 and that way unveil the truth:

Other means West-Central-North Europe
Click to expand

It is obvious that the star-like expansion of R1b1b2 happened already at the level of R1b1b2a1 and happened already in Europe: either in Central or West Europe.

It is obvious that it does not show two distinct centers of expansion nor two different waves as should be the case would it have any relation with European Neolithic spread but instead shows one and only one general expansion affecting essentially to West and Central Europe without any kind of pattern, at least not one that we can easily spot (thank Balaresque for that lousiness).

It is obvious that the center of expansion is not in the Balcans either.

The R1b1b2a1 star-like structure has 15 basal branches, of which at least half show a clear strong presence in Iberia (sample that does not include Basques, as the only Basque sample used by Balaresque was from the North and hence included along all French in the Other category). This alone would suggest that the origin of the expansion should not have been too far from Iberia.

Oddly enough, this graph clearly supports the hypothesis of R1b1b2a1 having expanded with Magdalenian culture from the Franco-Cantabrian refuge in the late Upper Paleolithic.

However I do not bet all my money to this hypothesis because the limited haplotype diversity data I manage rather suggests slightly higher diversity in Central and even Northern Europe (this last only with small samples).

But I do bet all my money to the haplogroup having expanded before Neolithic. There is simply no way that the rapid expansion that star-like structure so clearly indicates could have been caused by Neolithic cultural flows. These can explain the scatter of other lineages like E1b1b1, J2b, G2a, T and even some subclades of I maybe. But that's about all.

[Note: what follows is an update, some 10 or 12 hours after the first publication]

What about Megalithism?

The only possibility for R1b1b2a1 to have expanded within Neolithic would be within the frame of Dolmenic Megalithism. This would fit reasonably well with the haplogroup's spread area, with some notable exceptions and would allow for Portugal to act as a transition zone between R1b1b2a* (that has high diversity in this country, comparable to that of Turkey or Italy) and R1b1b2a1a.

However this poses several problems:

First, while Megalithism may be associated to the origins of agriculture in some areas, it is certainly not the case in most. Second, Megalithism shows high cultural diversity and appears related to many different local cultures: it is not a monolithic phenomenon at all, what should be the case if it was essentially one of demic expansion. Third, some crucial areas do not fit well: East and Central Iberia were never Megalithic but are high in R1b1b2a1, instead North Africa was and shows very low levels of the haplogroup (these are just two examples: Central Germany, Austria and Italy also contradict the pattern). Fourth, Portugal has rather low levels of diversity for R1b1b2a1.

The mtDNA control

As mentioned, R1b1b2a1 has a marked star-like structure, meaning rapid expansion from a single center. Several European mtDNA lineages also have such structures. The most notable one is H, which is the second largest star-like structure in all the human mtDNA tree, after M, having 34 basal sublineages. Its descendant H1 also has a noticeable star-like structure with 15 basal sublineages. Less impressive but still meaningful are their ancestor HV (6 branches), their cousin V (9 branches), H3 (7 branches), H1b'f'g'k'q (5 branches), H2a (5 branches). In the U haplogroup there are also several with presence in Europe: K1a1 (9), K2a (6) and U5b3 (6). Other haplogroups important in Europe with some star-like structure are: T2 (7) and its descendant T2b (6), as well as I (5).

But only one group of those mtDNA star-like structures seems to be parallel in geography and dimensions to that of R1b1b2a1: H and its descendants.

In my opinion, H must have spread in Europe early on, probably with the colonization of the continent by our species in the early Upper Paleolithic. Only that can explain the the massive star-like structure, the high diversity in Central Europe and the known presence of this lineage in Paleolithic Portuguese and Moroccans. I also get those time frames using a control region mutation count. However there is one significant difference with R1b1b2a1: H is also found in Eastern Europe and Central Asia in large amounts, while R1b1b2a1 or R1b1b2 is not (and only R1b1b1 is in in Central Asia). This situation also happens in North Africa, where SW Europe-derived mtDNA H and V is very common (c. 25%) while Y-DNA R1b is very rare.

One possible explanation could be that there has been Y-DNA sweeps in those areas which did not affect so much to mtDNA. This could be because of Capsian Culture in North Africa (Epipaleolithic and Neolithic - Afroasiatic languages) and because of Kurgan migrations in Eastern Europe (Chalcolithic - Indoeuropean languages).

However it is still a weak point, admittedly.

So are there other options? I have flirted with the expansion of mtDNA K, which is a much recent expansion than that of H. But K only amounts to 6% of all Europeans, while R1b1b2a1 makes up more than 50% in all Western Europe. They are simply not comparable. Same for the other potential candidates mentioned above.

So at the moment I think that the expansion of R1b1b2a1 must have happened within that of mtDNA H, what implies a Paleolithic time frame.

Isn't a Paleolithic time frame too old for R1b1b2a1?

As you probably know, I strongly distrust molecular clock age estimates, favoring instead an holistic logic, inclusive of all genetic and archaeological data available.

The earliest Eurasian ancestors of R1b (F, IJK, K and MNOPS) must have been there in the time of the main Eurasian expansion. F, IJK and K surely coalesced in South Asia, while MNOPS did in SE Asia. Y-DNA P represents the only known back-migration to South Asia of this macro-haplogroup.

Y-DNA R and probably R1 as well surely coalesced in South Asia then but R1b already did in West Eurasia (either in West Asia or Italy). This R1->R1b migration must have happened within the colonization of West Eurasia by H. sapiens, which happened in the 50-40 Ka time frame by all accounts. So I presume that R1b is 50-40 Ka old.

Then R1b split into R1b1a and R1b1b, which must have existed in the Eastern Mediterranean arch (Italy-West Asia).

Then R1b1b split into a minor Central Asian haplogroup (R1b1b1) and the main West Eurasian one (R1b1b2). This one shows a clear origin in Anatolia-SW Caucasus, where it is most diverse, specially once excluded R1b1b2a1 (however notice that Italy and Portugal have similar diversity levels, what again makes me wonder about the exact role of Italy in particular on the spread of this lineage), and where the main R1b1b2a node seems to have coalesced on light of its non-R1b1b2a1 scatter.

And then R1b1b2a1 spread in a very quick expansion, not from Anatolia but from somewhere in West or Central Europe. This might have happened either in the early colonization of Europe (Aurignacian culture, c. 40 Ka ago), in the second wave of Gravettian culture (Cro-Magnon type, c. 30 Ka ago) or in the post-LGM recolonization from the Franco-Cantabrian refuge (Magdalenian culture, c. 15 Ka ago). It is really difficult to determine which wave but, if R1b1b2a1 has to correspond with mtDNA H, then the latter has to be discarded.

And that's what I can say on this matter. Really, without a time machine or accurate aDNA testing, we cannot say much more.

Monday, April 12, 2010

New materials should make solar energy a lot cheaper and more effective

That's what a Swiss-Quebequois team has discovered recently: that the costly, ineffective and corrosive electrolytes used to date could be replaced by a new transparent organic material. In turn the costly platinum cathodes can be replaced by a much cheaper one made of cobalt sulphide.

Read more at Science Daily.


Mingkui Wang et al., An organic redox electrolyte to rival triiodide/iodide in dye-sensitized solar cells. Nature 2010. Pay per view.

Mingui Wang et al., CoS Supersedes Pt as Efficient Electrocatalyst for Triiodide Reduction in Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2009. Pay per view.

Basque newspaper 'innocent' seven years after closure

Seven years after its closure and the arrest of its top staff members, who were tortured... the journalists who lead the first Basque language newspaper, Egunkaria, have been declared innocent.

The sentence declares that neither the accused nor the newspaper had the slightest connection to ETA.

The only "evidence" in the case for all these years were reports from the Spanish police which have been declared not to be evidence after all.

The sentence states that the closure of the newspaper was unconstitutional. The tribunal also admits that the denounces of tortures are plausible, though they decline to judge on them.

Basque political parties demanded swiftness in reparations and judging those who decided such abuse.

Source: Gara[es].

Egunkaria (The Newspaper or The Daily) was created by popular subscription and, after its closure, a new Basque-language daily was created by the same means in just few months: Berria (The News or also The New One). The popular reaction in this case and that of Egin showed that, while the Neoinquisition could slander and do much damage, the Basque people stood firmly with their non-corporative media.

Berria, of course, has a larger and retrospective report on the matter. It is in Basque language but you may want to browse the photo-gallery anyhow.

For instance: this shareholders' assembly back in 1995

Among other items, it denounces that the interview by Sarah Rainsford to Martxelo Otamendi, former director of Egunkaria and one of the victims of this judicial abuse, last month was never broadcasted. The word used is "missing" but it's obvious that it was censored on NATO ideological grounds.

In the Hemeroteka section you can also find articles in various languages: Spanish, Galizian (Portuguese), German, Catalan, English, French, etc.

BDNF gene confirmed crucial in stress-caused brain damage

I have mentioned before that environmental stress such as
pollution, parental violence, mother-child separation, etc. are in fact behind most mental disorders, from low intelligence to schizophrenia and even Alzheimer syndrome.

While the effect is environmental and hence not really genetic but epigenetic, there is a gene that seems specially associated, known as BDNF (in particular polymorphism Rs6265).

It was already known that:

When normal mice are exposed to chronic stress (simulated by confinement in a wire mesh restraint), there is a significant retraction in the projections, or dendrites, of some of the neurons in the hippocampus, which shrinks in overall volume as well.

Left: healthy neuron, right: stress-damaged one

Now researches from New York have found that genetically altered mice with only one copy of the gene were stress-resistant and had brains apparently healthy even after prolonged stress.

However the research only seems to confirm the crucial role of this gene in stress damage in brain but does not explain why the mice with only one copy of BDNF managed to overcome neuronal stress damage.

Source: Science Daily, SNPedia

Ref. A. Magariños et al., Effect of brain-derived neurotrophic factor haploinsufficiency on stress-induced remodeling of hippocampal neurons. Hippocampus 2010. Pay per view.

Some thoughts on allele distribution:

The best researched SNP in humans within this gene seems to be the already mentioned rs6265, whose likely ancestral variant GG is very dominant among people of recent African ancestry but less so among Eurasians.

Eurasians have greater frequencies of the AA allele (not detected in Africans) and the heterozygous AG allele (only at very low frequencies in Africa), which would seem to have been affected by a marked selective sweep early on in human/hominin history. The AA allele seems to be quite negative for motor learning and favors introversion, however it also seems to provide resistence to depression and to some neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson syndrome. This variant is most concentrated in East Asia.

However all Eurasians have some of it and much more commonly the heterozygous AG allele, which has similar influences but not the depression resistance benefit.

Distribution of the r6265 alleles AA, AG, GG (from SNPedia)
Click here for the population codes

As most of the effects of this genetic variant seem negative (at best we could consider it to be neutral possibly, according to the described effects), I am in principle inclined to blame a founder effect for it. However, if the A allele has similar protective effects as the lack of one copy of the gene in the mice of the experiment (as the depression and neurodegenerative resistance may suggest), it might have been favored by selection in stressful conditions of some sort. This however is not at the moment demonstrated in any way and I mention only as a hypothetical scenario B.