Archaeologists decide deep sea fishing began 42,000 years ago


A complete shell fish hook from the Pleistocene

Tuna has been on the menu for a lot longer than we thought. Even 42,000 years ago, the deep-sea dweller wasn’t safe from fishing tackle according to new finds in southeast Asia.

We know that open water was no barrier to travel in the Pleistocene – humans must have crossed hundreds of kilometres of ocean to reach Australia by 50,000 years ago. But while humans had already been pulling shellfish out of the shallows for 100,000 years by that point, the first good evidence of fishing with hooks or spears comes much later – around 12,000 years ago.

The new finds blow that record out of the water. Sue O’Connor at the Australian National University in Canberra and colleagues dug through deposits at the Jerimalai shelter in East Timor. They discovered 38,000 fish bones from 23 different taxa, including tuna and parrotfish that are found only in deep water. Radiocarbon dating revealed the earliest bones were 42,000 years old.

Amidst the fishy debris was a broken fish hook fashioned from shell, which the team dated to between 16,000 and 23,000 years. “This is the earliest known example of a fish hook,” says O’Connor. Another hook, made around 11,000 years ago, was also found…

“There is nothing like this anywhere else in the world,” says Ian McNiven of Monash University in Melbourne, who was not a member of O’Connor’s team. “Maybe this is the crucible for fishing.”

East Timor hosts few large land animals, so early occupants would have needed highly developed fishing skills to survive. “Necessity is the mother of invention,” says O’Connor. “Apart from bats and rats, there’s nothing to eat here…”

Broader patterns of human migration suggest that more evidence of fishing would be found through examining those submerged sites. After leaving Africa around 70,000 years ago, it took modern humans only 20,000 years to skirt around Asia and reach Australia. The journey over land into Europe, although much shorter, took 30,000 years. “Humans appeared to move quite quickly along the coasts,” says McNiven. “Developed fishing skills could have kept them moving.”

Fishing has always seemed the most reliable of protein sources to me. Which is why I would expect humankind to have stuck to shorelines as we advanced into new territory. Expanding inland would have been guided by herd animals – and their migrations. Sustained over seasons in temperate climates by techniques of smoking and drying learned originally from preserving fish.

U.S. fails to block accord against cluster bombs


The dangerous task of removing cluster bombs dropped by Israel on Lebanon

A U.S.-led push to regulate, rather than ban, cluster munitions failed Friday after 50 countries objected, following humanitarian campaigners’ claims that anything less than a outright ban would be an unprecedented reversal of human rights law.

While the United States, China and Russia want rules about the manufacture and use of cluster bombs, activists say such regulations would legitimize the munitions, backtracking from the Oslo Convention, an international treaty that seeks a worldwide ban.

“Against all odds it looks like we’re going to have success this evening,” Steve Goose, head of the arms division at Human Rights Watch, told a press conference in Geneva. “How often do you see the U.S., Russia, China, India, Israel and Belarus push for something, and they don’t get it? That has happened largely because of one powerful alliance driving the Oslo partnership.”

Cluster bombs, dropped by air or fired by artillery, scatter hundreds of bomblets across a wide area and can kill and maim civilians long after conflicts end…

Those lining up against the U.S. plan included the International Committee of the Red Cross and the top U.N. officials for human rights, emergency relief and development.

The U.N. agency chiefs said cluster bombs were a particular threat to children, who were attracted by their unusual, toy-like shapes and colors. They said they were extremely concerned at plans to do anything less than ban them…

Activists said the opposition to the U.S. proposal was led by Norway, Mexico and Austria, while 12 signatories to the 2008 Oslo Convention, including Japan, France and Germany, said they were in favor of regulation of cluster bombs under the CCW.

China and Russia, which like the United States are major producers of cluster munitions, were strongly supportive of the U.S. measure.

No surprises in any aspect of the politics on display here. Whether the question is one of allowing torture – or carrying on with the manufacture, deployment and distribution of anti-personnel weapons generally used by the most reactionary regimes on Earth – the United States has supported continuing use.

Questions of use and abuse of weapons using phosphorus, napalm – questions regarding carpet bombing, land mines and cluster bombs – and most recently the revival of torture as acceptable, the United States has lagged the rest of civilization. Whichever domestic decisions have been made by American voters, foreign policy enforced by military means and guided by allegiance to Pentagon protocols and Congressional fiat has relied on death and destruction applied with equal weight to military and civilian targets.

We accepted all the premises from the Axis we fought against in World War 2. And invented new rationales, more lies for the Cold War and beyond.

Yoga and Harry Potter are evil, says Pope’s champion exorcist

For most people it is a way of toning the limbs and soothing the stresses of everyday life, but the Catholic Church’s best-known exorcist says yoga is evil.

Father Gabriele Amorth, who for years was the Vatican’s chief exorcist and claims to have cleansed hundreds of people of evil spirits, said yoga is Satanic because it leads to a worship of Hinduism and “all eastern religions are based on a false belief in reincarnation”.

Reading JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books is no less dangerous, said the 86-year-old priest, who is the honorary president for life of the International Association of Exorcists, which he founded in 1990, and whose favourite film is the 1973 horror classic, The Exorcist…

“Practising yoga is Satanic, it leads to evil just like reading Harry Potter,” he told a film festival in Umbria this week, where he was invited to introduce The Rite, a film about exorcism starring Sir Anthony Hopkins as a Jesuit priest.

“In Harry Potter the Devil acts in a crafty and covert manner, under the guise of extraordinary powers, magic spells and curses,” said the priest, who in 1986 was appointed the chief exorcist for the Diocese of Rome…

Father Amorth has previously said that people who are possessed by Satan vomit shards of glass and pieces of iron and have such superhuman strength that even children have to be held down by up to four people.

He has also claimed that the sex abuse scandals which have engulfed the Catholic Church in the US, Ireland, Germany and other countries was proof that the Anti-Christ is waging a war against the Holy See.

Being caught at criminal behavior apparently is just a result of the anti-christ plot. Uh-huh.

RTFA for more superstitious silliness.

Brits lead the world in silly nanny-state “protection” for children

Don’t blame Father Christmas if he doesn’t allow your child to sit on his knee at a school event — teachers may have banned him from coming into contact with youngsters.

While those playing Father Christmas are no longer required to pass a Criminal Records Bureau check, many schools have decided to “err on the side of caution” and impose rules on grotto behaviour. Parents who have offered to don the red suit have been told they must not allow youngsters to sit on their laps and cannot be left alone with them.

Because CRB checks are required only for volunteers who have regular contact with children, Father Christmases are exempt. However, government guidance states: “Under no circumstances must a volunteer who has not obtained a CRB disclosure … be left unsupervised with children.”

Russell Hobby, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said this meant many of its members had decided it was better if Father Christmases avoided all physical contact with children

A spokesman for the Department for Education said children could still sit on Father Christmas’s knee as long as parents were consulted and were “completely comfortable” with the situation. “Santas in schools should be treated in the same way that other visitors to the school are managed. Our guidance recommends that for such visitors a member of staff is present,” added the spokesman.

Idiots. It’s more than conceivable, you know, that a modicum of care and oversight can be maintained without turning holiday festivities into rituals requiring approval by censors and bluenoses.

Vertical Food Gardens by The Windowfarms Project

Windowfarms let you grow fresh vegetables at home by taking advantage of natural light and climate control indoors. The roots are bathed in nutrients from the sea, preventing food plants from getting root bound (as they do in traditional soil filled containers). You get healthier roots, and fresher, more nutritious vegetables without dirt in small spaces.

By bringing edible gardens into living rooms and kitchens, you learn about where your food comes from while eating the freshest produce available…

This is a Kickstarter project and special offer.

The new Windowfarms systems are made from environmentally friendly plastic and wire. The new design allows us to offer Windowfarms at a greatly reduced price…It just snaps together, decreasing the assembly time from a full day to about ten minutes.

We are so excited about this simplified and lower cost option because it will allow us to include people in the windowfarms movement who just want to focus on the growing part. We believe in the power of our community to change the way that people grow and eat food.

If you order before November 30, you’ll receive your Windowfarm in March 2012.

Our new Windowfarms will not be ready to ship by the holidays, however, if you are pre-ordering as a gift, we will send a personalized welcome-to-the community card to your loved one before December 24. The card will include a link to a personalized webpage for his/her windowfarm. Your giftee will be able to begin customizing the page and learning about his/her window’s microclimate, going through Windowfarms 101, selecting plants, and meeting other windowfarmers. It’s like the Facebook game, Farmville, but tastier! By the time the windowfarm arrives, your loved one will be ready to grow for real!!

My mom built systems like this in our kitchen when I was a kid back in a New England factory town. It gave us a certain amount of fresh greens all winter long. Kept our meals healthy and a bit mellower till we got back to normal growing season for our Victory Garden.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Republicans commit to straight-out lies about Barack Obama


Two leading members of the lyin’ bastards club

Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Perry have been accused of telling TV viewers blatant untruths about Barack Obama.

The candidates deny their TV commercials are deceitful and dishonest but both ads selectively quote the president to make it appear he is saying one thing when he is saying another.

The advertisements have been widely scorned for crossing a line from a longstanding practice of political campaigns pushing the truth to its limits, over to misrepresentation. One ad appears to show Obama admitting he will lose next year’s election if he talks about the economy. The other has him calling American workers lazy.

Romney’s campaign ad is airing on TV stations in New Hampshire, which holds its primary in January. It shows the president saying: “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.” But Obama’s words were from his 2008 campaign, and he was quoting a statement by a strategist for his Republican opponent, John McCain, who was the one on the back foot over the economy.

Perry’s ad shows a short soundbite of Obama saying: “We’ve been a little bit lazy I think over the last couple of decades.”

The ad switches to Perry saying: “Can you believe that? That’s what our president thinks is wrong with America – that Americans are lazy. That’s pathetic.”

But a viewing of Obama’s full statement shows that he was saying the US government had been lazy in attracting foreign investment.

Darrell West, director of governance studies at the nonpartisan Brookings Institution in Washington, said that Romney and Perry had gone further than previous campaigns in misrepresenting the truth.

Those ads are blatant misrepresentations,” he said. “They are much more egregious than what we’ve seen in the past. Typically candidates have tried to be close to the truth because they know journalists are paying attention, but with all the problems of the news industry politicians have concluded they can get away with murder…”

But West acknowledged that politicians are less concerned about being exposed by reporters. “Politicians think that the news media have completely collapsed, based on the financial crisis, and so they are acting as if there’s no accountability and they can say whatever they want,” he said.

West makes a great point about American journalists having as little integrity as Republican candidates. Since their employers are either corporations controlled by Republicans or clown who consider news as entertainment – or both – there’s little encouragement for any of them to point out any of the lies or liars.