Intact shipwreck from ~400 B.C. found in the Black Sea

❝ Kevin Rawlinson at The Guardian reports that the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project (MAP) has discovered an Greek merchant vessel on the floor of the sea dating back to about 400 B.C., the oldest known intact shipwreck ever discovered.

The MAP team discovered the ship 50 miles off the coast of Bulgaria. Because the water in the lower reaches of the Black Sea is anoxic, or lacks oxygen, the wooden cargo vessel has not deteriorated much since it sunk to the bottom of the ocean all those centuries ago. Its mast, rudders, the cargo in its hold and even the benches where rowers sat are still well-preserved.

❝ There are no plans to salvage the Greek ship since it is extremely fragile, and the team has not released its exact location to preserve it from looters.

Acquiring other people’s property by hook or crook hasn’t changed, has it?

Crimea parliament votes to join Russia – referendum to follow

The Crimean parliament has voted to join Russia, with the Ukraine region’s deputy prime minister saying the decree was effective immediately and that Russian soldiers are the only legitimate forces in Crimea.

The parliament unanimously adopted a motion on Thursday for the strategic peninsula to join the Russian Federation…

The Crimea parliament also said a referendum on the region’s status was being brought forward to from March 30 to March 16. Temirgaliev said there would be two questions on the ballot.

“The first: Are you in favor of Crimea becoming a constituent territory of the Russian Federation. The second: Are you in favor of restoring Crimea’s 1992 constitution.” According to the 1992 constitution, Crimea is part of Ukraine but has relations with Kiev.

However, Al Jazeera’s Hoda Hamid, reporting from Sevastopol, said there were serious questions about the legitimacy of the parliament and prime minister.

“The prime minister came to power arguably at gunpoint when the parliament was taken over,” she said. “Then there is a question of legitimacy in the constitution, which says parliament cannot take such a decision…”

As opposed to the democratic thumbs up or thumbs down of insurgents occupying Independence Square in Kiev which validated the current Ukrainian Parliament, eh?

The Crimea parliament, which is afforded some autonomy under current Ukrainian law, voted 78 – 0 with eight abstentions in favour of holding the referendum.

The US president, Barack Obama, meanwhile issued an executive order on Thursday saying that Russia’s involvement in Crimea constituted “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States”.

While Putin has about the same level of moral authority in global politics as, say, Dick Cheney, he foretold occurrences like the Crimean move to regain independence from Ukraine when the UN and the US recognized Kosovo. For, regardless of the historic circumstances leading to the move for independence, the context is much the same, e.g., a single ethnicity being the majority of a region and then taking that region into secession.

Nations, even states, which prate about democracy find themselves with their nickers bunched over this question time and again. The LDS Church, American Mormons, were forced to resettle from state-to-state until they picked up and moved to faraway Utah to live their own lives. The US Constitution was ignored by their Midwestern Christian neighbors who said they had a moral imperative to keep Mormons from voting. Still, the LDS hierarchy had to revise their ideology to join the union of the United States of America. And they had no Mormon next-door neighbor to acquire their new state. Kosovo, for example, has Albania – should they so choose. Crimea has Russia.

Again and again, the motivations for secession are often grounded either in hopes for profit – so many of my nationalist friends in Scotland; freedom from ethnic suppression – La Raza in the American Southwest or the Quebecois in Canada; or truly reactionary hatred – today’s Tea Party Confederates mostly in the American South but anywhere else that harbors militia-level paranoia.

Only the egregious deny the likelihood of Crimea voting to claim full independence from Ukraine, tried previously in 1992, and rejoin Russia. Crimea returned over 70% vote for Janukovych in the last election. Their joining to Ukraine was a welfare check to Kiev, payment from the Soviet Black Sea navy. Uncle Sugar will make up that welfare check and more until – and unless – some future election involving all of Ukraine displeases Washington. When Catholic western Ukraine decides it really is Poland…and Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine prefers independence from the west.

Then, we can play the same game all over again.

In many of these nations, from Scotland to Ukraine, I have old friends and relatives on both sides of the individual questions. Depending a lot on their influence on this old brain, my own position may fluctuate. I try to stick to whatever fits within my understanding of political economy. For a more detailed relation of the history of the Balkans and everything east of the Danube, I’d suggest wandering through Ina Vukic’ blog.

Mediterranean wasp spiders spreading to northern Europe

Temperature tolerance is key to the spread of wasp spiders into northern Europe, according to scientists.

Since the 1930s the distinctive spiders have expanded their range from the Mediterranean coast to Norway…Researchers in Germany traced the population boom to breeding between the native European spiders and an isolated colony living near the Black Sea.

Molecular Ecology reports the genetic mixing resulted in generations rapidly adapting to living in colder climates.

Wasp spiders (Argiope bruennichi) are commonly named for their bright, striped abdomens and were recently recorded by the Woodland Trust in Usk, south Wales for the first time.

The first official records of this conspicuous species in the UK were made in the 1920s.

Henrik Krehenwinkel from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Germany, analysed the DNA of spiders caught across their current range, and museum specimens to understand more about their evolutionary history.

Piecing together the genetic puzzle, he found that the spiders diverged after the last ice age: part of the population stayed on the Mediterranean while a colony headed east to Central Asia.

While these eastern populations adapted to live in climates as diverse as the tropical south of Japan and cold south-eastern Siberia, the spiders in the Mediterranean remained limited to warm areas.

But, according to the research, rising temperatures across the continent in the last century allowed the Mediterranean spiders to join up and breed with a previously isolated Black Sea population

Balloon spiders

He theorised that the novel combination of genes resulted in new physical characteristics that helped spiders to survive in different environments.

Mr Krehenwinkel described the hatchlings as “highly dispersive”, commenting that they can cover huge distances via a method known as “ballooning”: riding the breeze on a special parachute made of gossamer silk threads.

“By aerial dispersal, little spiders can cover distances of several hundred kilometres,” he told BBC Nature.

Cripes. One of my favorite signs of spring really making it to our tough dry terrain and altitude is the silk from balloon spiders being captured by our East-facing fence. Generally blown there by a warming West wind.

I wonder if our balloon spiders are distant kin of the wasp spider?

Turkish rescue divers save inflatable sex doll from the Black Sea


Actually not so unusual – here’s a photo from a similar event in China 🙂

Turkish rescue workers retrieved an inflatable sex doll from the Black Sea after police were notified by panicked residents who mistook it for a woman’s body floating offshore…

Police cordoned off a wide stretch of beach in northern Samsun province and sent a team of divers into the water to rescue what appeared to be a drowning woman..

The team quickly discovered it was in fact a blow-up doll, which they deflated before throwing in the garbage…

It was not clear where the blow-up doll had came from. The Black Sea is a key tourism destination for Turks and also sees busy international maritime shipping traffic.

Was there a delegation visiting Turkey from the United States Congress?