Category: History

Paleoindians in the American Southwest and Northern Mexico

El Fin del Mundo
El Fin del MundoHenry Wallace

Paleoindian research encompasses a number of broad questions of far-reaching significance. Who were the first peoples to reach the Americas? When did they arrive? What was the relationship between the makers of Clovis spear points and the extinction of megafauna, such as the horse, mammoth, dire wolf, and other animals? Although these issues have long been debated, no consensus has been achieved. Big questions can persist because of in- sufficient evidence or because re- searchers have not adequately or fully interpreted the available infor- mation. A few researchers have pro- posed dramatically new ideas— such as the possibility of a comet col- liding with the earth (page 18)— and others, like Joe Cramer, have decided that these questions will be resolved only by supporting many more researchers who will generate new data. Both approaches are ex- amined in this issue of Archaeology Southwest…

“The end of the last Ice Age in North America was a time of enormous change: mile-thick glaciers were retreating rapidly, the sea level was rising, and large mammals, such as mammoths, ground sloths, camels and dire wolves would soon disappear.” Although a convergence of climate change and Paleo-Indian hunters may be a cause of the great extinction, “researchers still do not know exactly what happened.”

My own vulgate opinion is not much better informed than the average American science buff – excepting the portion of that opinion formed during the comparatively brief time I lived in the Navajo Nation plus day-to-day experience working construction trades in northern New Mexico, sometimes within one or another Rio Grande or Northern Pueblo.

I agree with that school of thought that presumes Paleoindian hunters to be the primary cause of the great extinction of large mammals from North America. Not unusual when and where human beings are part of the equation. Regardless – RTFA. It is a lovely, in-depth examination of many of the questions of the Paleoindian period in North American history.

Serbia arrests seven men over 1995 Srebrenica massacre — finally

srebrenica-massacre
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Serbia is to mount its first trial over one of Europe’s worst atrocities: the massacre of some 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men by Serbian forces in Srebrenica in the summer of 1995.

Following a war crimes investigation, police arrested seven suspects in Serbia on Wednesday in the first such domestic operation in almost 20 years after the massacre, which was declared under international law to have been an act of genocide – the sole such act during the wars in the former Yugoslavia…

The seven men arrested at various locations in Serbia on Wednesday are suspected of having taken part in the mass murder of around 1,000 men at a warehouse in Kravica outside Srebrenica, a small hilltown in eastern Bosnia where Bosnian Muslims were held in a UN “safe haven” and besieged by Mladic’s forces for three years until the denouement in July 1995 resulted in the worst single atrocity of the war and the biggest massacre in Europe since the Nazis.

RTFA. It would be too kind to simply say this is overdue. I’ll leave the double-speak to the politicians.

American Presbyterians vote to recognize same-sex marriage

The largest presbyterian group in the US has voted to recognize same-sex marriage, the latest sweeping move by the church to acknowledge it as Christian.

Presbyterian Church USA voted on Tuesday to amend its constitution to extend marriage rights from “a man and a woman” to “two people, traditionally a man and a woman”.

A majority of the church’s 171 governing bodies ruled in favor of the change, which will affect the church’s more than 1.7 million members, including those strongly opposed to marriage equality.

Individual pastors who oppose same-sex marriages can still opt out of performing same-sex marriage ceremonies or allowing them to be held in their church.

The group’s general assembly approved the constitutional amendment in 2014, but the “two people” measure needed to be ratified before the constitution could officially be changed. On Tuesday night, 87 had voted in favor, and 41 had voted against…

In recent years, the church has adopted more inclusive policies: in 2011, it undid an anti-same-sex marriage amendment by allowing LGBT pastors in the church, and last year ministers began performing same-sex marriages in states where it is legal…

Paul Detterman, national director of the Fellowship Community, a conservative group that opposes the decision, told the New York Times he expects the decision to drive practitioners out of the church. He said, however, that the vote might also compel people to stay in order to defend their stance…

The Covenant Network of Presbyterians, which pushes for LGBT inclusion in the church, praised the amendment. “We rejoice that all couples can now see those relationships solemnized before God and the Christian community in marriage, at the discretion of ministers and sessions,” the group said in a statement.

I like the libertarian sense of the amendment. It allows those church members whose brain and heart are trapped in the Dark Ages to remain there. Of their own free will.

France, Germany and Italy add to UK joining AIIB – refusing Obama’s demands

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“If they don’t pay attention, we break both legs next time”

A senior US diplomat said it was up to individual countries to decide on joining a new China-led lending body, as media reports said France, Germany and Italy have agreed to follow Britain’s lead and join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Accommodation seems to be all that’s left to Obama since threats didn’t work.

A growing number of close allies were ignoring Washington’s pressure to stay out of the institution, the Financial Times reported, in a setback for US foreign policy.

In China the state-owned Xinhua news agency said South Korea, Switzerland and Luxembourg were also considering joining.

The Financial Times, quoting European officials, said the decision by the four countries to become members of the AIIB was a blow for Washington…

The bank is also seen as contributing to the spread of China’s “soft power” in the region, possibly at the expense of the United States.

The AIIB was launched by Beijing in 2014 to spur investment in Asia in transportation, energy, telecommunications and other infrastructure. It is touted as a potential rival to the western-dominated World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

China said earlier in 2015 that a total of 26 countries had been included as founder members, mostly from Asia and the Middle East. It plans to finalise the articles of agreement by the end of the year…

Obama, the State Department, Congressional clown show members who fancy their foreign policy cred – all joined in to try to prevent this new international funding source from acceptance by our allies. At least those who acquired the title by generally obeying White House orders.

Didn’t work. Didn’t happen.

The bank will be welcome throughout the developing world, throughout the 3rd World. Like Chinese foreign policy it doesn’t come with social strings. The intent is to aid in the building of infrastructure – which means we probably should apply from poor states like New Mexico as a matter of need. We ain’t getting anything from Congress. That’s for sure.

The rap on both the World Bank and the IMF is that they have to answer to conservative voices in the United States and the European Union. Conservative voices not so focussed on the funds as social welfare – which they consider to be at least a mortal sin. Money is doled out through an eyedropper. Proof of reduction in socially productive programs required on a daily basis.

The chuckle is – for a lot of reason including holding a place in line for future exchanges dealing RMB, the Chinese currency, EU nations often the most conservative when criticizing other nation’s social practices – still want to be seen as caring and participating and maybe even profiting from a more open and less-political form of moneylending.

The United States OTOH is “above all that”. So to speak.

Senate committee rubber-stamps another surveillance bill

The Senate intelligence committee advanced a priority bill for the National Security Agency on Thursday afternoon, approving long-stalled cybersecurity legislation that civil libertarians consider the latest pathway for surveillance abuse.

The vote on the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, 14 to 1, occurred in a secret session inside the Hart Senate office building. Democrat Ron Wyden was the dissenter, calling the measure “a surveillance bill by another name”.

Senator Richard Burr, the committee chairman, said the bill would create avenues for private-to-private, private-to-government and government-to-private information sharing.

The bill’s bipartisan advocates consider it a prophylactic measure against catastrophic data theft, particularly in light of recent large-scale hacking of Sony, Target, Home Depot and other companies.

Private companies could share customer data “in a voluntary capacity” with the government, Burr said, “so that we bring the full strength of the federal government to identifying and recommending what anybody else in the United States should adopt”…

The bill faces strong opposition inside and outside Congress. Beyond expanding government’s reach into private data outside warrant requirements, it mandates real-time access to that data for intelligence agencies and the military.

Privacy advocates consider the bill to provide a new avenue for the NSA to access consumer and financial data, once laundered through the Department of Homeland Security, the initial public repository for the desired private-sector information. Campaigners consider the emphasis placed by the bill’s backers on DHS’s role to be a misleading way of downplaying NSA access to win congressional support…

But Burr admitted the bill would still allow companies to share directly with the NSA, and…While the NSA has labored to convince the public to move on from international condemnation of its digital dragnets – though Congress has passed no legislation to curtail them – acrimony within the tech sector at the surveillance giant persists.

Wyden declined to comment to reporters, saying as he left the meeting: “You guys know I like talking about this stuff but I can’t say anything.”

He later articulated his dissent in a statement: “The most effective way to protect cybersecurity is by ensuring network owners take responsibility for security. Strong cybersecurity legislation should make clear that government agencies cannot order US hardware and software companies to build weaker products, as senior FBI officials have proposed.”

As long as I have been a political and social activist, I have had to confront the gamut of ethically-challenged creeps on the payroll of one or another bureaucracy supposedly chartered to provide security for Americans. They are backed up by Congressional fools who slaver over their trite slogans like a hound for a lamb chop. They have never done a damned thing that bettered the lives of ordinary working families. Mostly, they only exist to threaten those who stand up against domestic and international bullies, bigots and apologists for thievery.

American coppers have had some kind of Red Squad since before the name became popular. Their solution to what they call sedition usually is a club or a bullet. Today’s national and international coppers are somewhat more sophisticated; though, Cheney and Bush reminded us that torture is still the first choice of the completely demented and drunk with power.

It might be nice – once in a while – if our elected officials considered legislating on our behalf instead of contriving lies to secure their patriarchal wet dreams.

Brits will join China-backed Asian Infrastructure Bank

The White House has issued a pointed statement declaring it hopes and expects the UK will use its influence to ensure that high standards of governance are upheld in a new Chinese-led investment bank that Britain is to join.

In a rare public breach in the special relationship, the White House signalled its unease at Britain’s decision to become a founder member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) by raising concerns about whether the new body would meet the standards of the World Bank.

Obama is so pissed off you can see his face turn red from here.

The $50 billion bank, which is designed to provide infrastructure funds to the Asia-Pacific region, is viewed with great suspicion by Washington officials, who see it as a rival to the World Bank. They believe Beijing will use the bank to extend its soft power in the region…

George Osborne – who has discussed the decision to become a founder member of the investment bank with his US counterpart, Jack Lew – has been the driving force behind developing closer economic ties between Britain and China. The chancellor has led the way in encouraging Chinese investment in the next generation of civil nuclear power plants in the UK and he ensured that the City of London would become the base for the first clearing house for the yuan outside Asia.

The US administration made clear in no uncertain terms its displeasure about Osborne’s decision to join the AIIB. A US official told the Financial Times: “We are wary about a trend toward constant accommodation of China, which is not the best way to engage a rising power…”

“…I think [the US] should have been more willing to engage in discussion with China and others about the institution. There’s a big infrastructure gap in Asia, existing institutions are not filling it and China has the wherewithal to contribute on the right terms,” said Matthew Goodman, senior adviser for Asian economics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Some surmised that the US was responsible when Australia backed away from signing up to the bank at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing last autumn, after widespread speculation a deal was on the cards.

“The US did reach out to Australia, Koreans and others to consult about questions and concerns, and that’s been interpreted as leaning on allies not to join the bank,” said Goodman.

Uncle Sugar expected obedience and got it.

If you’ve spent time studying the interrelationship between the World Bank, the IMF, any number of subsidiary forms dedicated to “keeping folks in their place” – you know this is a real slap in the face to the policied of Imperial America. It’s directly counter to Obama’s version of the stock American policy of negotiating by shoving large chunks of military in your face, threatening to cut you off from access to foreign exchange and liquidity.

China now invests more abroad than foreign money invests inside China. For all the blather – well, lies – about the United States seeking commercial engagement with state or private investors from China, the White House blocks as many deals for phony reasons as do numbnut Congressional Republicans. Companies and jobs grown in the US through Chinese investment are policy only for election-speak. China ends up with three-quarters of their overseas investment going into Europe because they simply aren’t jerked around the way they are when trying to invest in the United States.

The United States talks about carrots and sticks but only relies on varying sizes of sticks. China has lots of carrots.

Obama’s channeling Ronald Reagan — says Venezuela national security threat

The White House took a new step toward the theater of the absurd by “declaring a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Venezuela,” as President Barack Obama put it in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner.

It remains to be seen whether anyone in the White House press corps will have the courage to ask what in the world the nation’s chief executive could mean by that. Is Venezuela financing a coming terrorist attack on U.S. territory? Planning an invasion? Building a nuclear weapon?

Who do they think they are kidding? Some may say that the language is just there because it is necessary under U.S. law in order to impose the latest round of sanctions on Venezuela. That is not much of a defense, telling the whole world the rule of law in the United States is something the president can use lies to get around whenever he finds it inconvenient.

That was the approach of President Ronald Reagan in 1985 when he made a similar declaration in order to impose sanctions — including an economic embargo — on Nicaragua. Like the White House today, he was trying to topple an elected government that Washington didn’t like. He was able to use paramilitary and terrorist violence as well as an embargo in a successful effort to destroy the Nicaraguan economy and ultimately overturn its government. (The Sandinistas eventually returned to power in 2007 and are the governing party today.)

The world has moved forward, even though Washington has not. Venezuela today has very strong backing from its neighbors against what almost every government in the region sees as an attempt to destabilize the country.

“The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) reiterates its strong repudiation of the application of unilateral coercive measures that are contrary to international law,” read a statement from every country in the hemisphere except for the U.S. and Canada on Feb. 11. They were responding to the U.S. sanctions against Venezuela that Obama signed into law in December.

Didn’t read any of this in the English-language media? Well, you probably also didn’t see the immediate reaction to yesterday’s White House blunder from the head of the Union of South American Nations, which read, “UNASUR rejects any external or internal attempt at interference that seeks to disrupt the democratic process in Venezuela.”

RTFA for a history lesson if nothing else. The era of the United States overthrowing Latin American governments and putting little obedient puppets in place ran out of staying power in VietNam. Even if we spent the last decade or so playing at regime change in the Middle East. We all know how well that’s worked out – under a Republican president and under a Democrat.

Along with the mantle of sole superpower on Earth at the end of the World War 2, we acquired the imperial arrogance that comes with the job. During the Cold War years – and nowadays – our government still plays God or at least the chief cop of the world. Pretty much all the inhabitants of the White House over the last seventy years have had no qualms about murdering hundreds of thousands of furriners in the name of American democracy.

The first two examples of imperial gangsterism after the war were overthrowing a democratically-elected government in Guatemala – then doing the same to the first democratically-elected government in the whole of the Middle East – Iran. No one in Latin America or the Middle east needs reminding. Though it seems that Mr. Obama is as poor at recalling the results as George W. Bush.

And politicians that don’t learn anything from history are always doomed to repeat it. Which means sending Americans to kill other folks – who then keep on killing those Americans until we leave their country.

Republicans never read a civics book — and, now, they want to run foreign policy!

Asked about the open letter of 47 US Senators to Iranian leaders, the Iranian Foreign Minister, Dr. Javad Zarif, responded that “in our view, this letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy. It is very interesting that while negotiations are still in progress and while no agreement has been reached, some political pressure groups are so afraid even of the prospect of an agreement that they resort to unconventional methods, unprecedented in diplomatic history. This indicates that like Netanyahu, who considers peace as an existential threat, some are opposed to any agreement, regardless of its content.

Zarif expressed astonishment that some members of US Congress find it appropriate to write to leaders of another country against their own President and administration. He pointed out that from reading the open letter, it seems that the authors not only do not understand international law, but are not fully cognizant of the nuances of their own Constitution when it comes to presidential powers in the conduct of foreign policy.

Foreign Minister Zarif added that “I should bring one important point to the attention of the authors and that is, the world is not the United States, and the conduct of inter-state relations is governed by international law, and not by US domestic law. The authors may not fully understand that in international law, governments represent the entirety of their respective states, are responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs, are required to fulfil the obligations they undertake with other states and may not invoke their internal law as justification for failure to perform their international obligations.

The Iranian Foreign Minister added that “Change of administration does not in any way relieve the next administration from international obligations undertaken by its predecessor in a possible agreement about Iran`s peaceful nuclear program.” He continued “I wish to enlighten the authors that if the next administration revokes any agreement with the stroke of a pen, as they boast, it will have simply committed a blatant violation of international law…

The Foreign Minister also informed the authors that majority of US international agreements in recent decades are in fact what the signatories describe as “mere executive agreements” and not treaties ratified by the Senate.

The death spiral of Congressional Republicans continues apace. The silliness of midterm elections aside – I still think they reflect as much stupidity as ignorance – domestic policies that confront interference from idjits and ignoranuses proceed as well as can be expected. American foreign policy remains trapped within the confines of a declining imperial power.

The response of Democrats in general is to maintain the obedience characteristic of our two-party hypocrisy. As long as they accept that we are the cops of the world – and that benefits corporate wealth first and foremost – policies based on military might prevail.

This latest comic opera by Congressional Republicans is worthy of a Charlie Chaplin movie. Ted Cruz is obviously set for the role of the Italian Fascist, Benito Mussolini. Either of the Koch Brothers is a shoo-in for Adolf Hitler. There are damned few Democrats capable of getting the support and laughter deserved by this clown show. Elizabeth Warren and the very independent Bernie Sanders come to mind.

Nope. We’re stuck with blivets in the Congressional Right who need the foreign minister of a Middle Eastern theocracy to explain not only international convention; but, U.S. law to them.

Second day out, Solar Impulse 2 breaks own world distance record


Click to enlargeSetting forth from Muscat to Ahmedabad

The Solar Impulse 2 solar-powered airplane may have only just begun its attempt at a round-the-world flight, but it’s already broken a world record. By traveling from Muscat, Oman to Ahmedabad, India, it broke the Solar Impulse team’s previous record for longest solar-powered straight distance flight between predeclared waypoints.

The 1,468-km Muscat to Ahmedabad flight was the second leg of the planned 5-month journey, which began this Monday in Abu Dhabi. Pilot Bertrand Piccard took the aircraft to an altitude of 8,534 meters and maintained a ground speed of about 185 km/h, landing in Ahmedabad this Tuesday at 11:25pm. He was in the air for a total of 13 hours and 20 minutes.

This latest record-breaking flight also reportedly marks the first time that a solar-powered aircraft has flown in Asia…

The team plans to spend the next four days in Ahmedabad before heading for Varanasi, India.

Bravo! It’s like early days in flight all over again. Including the bit about breaking your own records.

Pic of the Weekend

APTOPIX Selma 50th
Click to enlargeAP Photo/Butch Dill

In this aerial view, crowds of people move in a symbolic walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Sunday, March 8, 2015, in Selma, Ala. This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,’ a civil rights march in which protestors were beaten, trampled and tear-gassed by police at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, in Selma.

All power to the people!