— The Erimtan Angle —

Archive for September, 2011

The Missing Link??? Australopithecus sediba

A skeleton discovered by a nine-year-old boy near Johannesburg in South Africa is being hailed as one of the most important finds in human archaeology. It is argued the skeleton provides the possible missing link between ape men and the human family and is said by experts to be the most complete skeleton of a human being ever discovered. It has not ended the debate however on how the species evolved. Some scientists argue, “Homo erectus” may have evolved before the skeleton from South Africa’ (29 September 2011).

 

In TIME, Michael Lemonick says that “[e]volution skeptics [also known as Creationists] like to trot out the argument that if  Darwin had been right, scientists would have discovered transitional fossils by now — creatures with a mix of features from earlier and later species. Since they haven’t, the deniers say, evolution must not be true. The truth is that paleontologists have found transitional species by the score, from many different time periods. But none have materialized from as crucial a point in our evolutionary past as a pair of skeletons whose discovery was announced [on 10 April 2010] by the journal Science. The fossils, which have been determined to be of a new species, Australopithecus sediba, were found by Matthew Berger, the 9-year-old son of paleontologist Lee Berger, of South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand. (The elder Berger tried in vain to get the editors of Science to list Matthew as a co-author of the paper.) The bones belong to a preteenage boy and a woman estimated to have been in her late 20s or early 30s; the individuals died at about the same time, and before their remains had fully decomposed, they were entombed in an avalanche of sediment and were nearly perfectly preserved deep in the Malapa cave north of Johannesburg”.[1]

In Science, however, we can read that ‘[n]ewly exposed cave sediments at the Malapa site include a flowstone layer capping the sedimentary unit containing the Australopithecus sediba fossils. Uranium-lead dating of the flowstone, combined with paleomagnetic and stratigraphic analysis of the flowstone and underlying sediments, provides a tightly constrained date of  1.977 ± 0.002 million years ago (Ma) for these fossils. This refined dating suggests that Au. sediba from Malapa predates the earliest uncontested evidence for Homo in Africa’.[2]  And just to make sure nobody missed the point of the quote, here is the salient final sentence once again: the Australopithecus sediba remains “predate the earliest uncontested evidence for Homo in Africa”.

A team led by Professor Lee Berger, a renowned palaeoanthropologist, have described and named a new species of hominid, Australopithecus sediba, almost two million years old, which was discovered in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, 40 kilometres out of Johannesburg, South Africa. This video features introduction by the Vice Chancellor and Principal of the University of the Witwatersrand, Prof. Loyiso Nongxa.

 

 

 

 


[1] Michael D. Lemonick, “Found in South Africa: Key Link in Human Evolution?” TIME (08 April 2010). http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1978726,00.html.

[2] Robyn Pickering, Paul H. G. M. Dirks, Zubair Jinnah, Darryl J. de Ruiter, Steven E. Churchill, Andy I. R. Herries, Jon D. Woodhead, John C. Hellstrom, Lee R. Berger, “Australopithecus sediba at 1.977 Ma and Implications for the Origins of the Genus Homo” Science (08 September 2011). http://www.sciencemag.org/content/333/6048/1421.

Erdoğan in TIME Magazine: The United Nations and the Rest of the World

(28 September 2011)

In the above clip the Turkish Prime Minister criticizes the opposition in Turkey for remaining “spectators” while world history is being made in their surroundings. He also pronounced some choice words regarding the UN: he asked whether the world was nothing but a slave of the UN’s five permanent members . . .

The Time reporter Ishaan Tharoor, reporting an interview with the Turkish PM – ‘Erdogan sat down with TIME’s Jim Frederick, Bobby Ghosh, Tony Karon, Matt McAllester and Ishaan Tharoor on the sidelines of U.N. meetings in New York City’ – writes in his preamble that “Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the international statesman of the moment. Greeted as a rock star in Egypt and other countries transformed by the Arab Spring, the Turkish Premier looms like a colossus over the Middle East”.[1]

On the UN, Tayyip had this to say: “First and foremost, what is required is for the U.N. Security Council to say yes to the legitimate demands of the people in Palestine. If anything else should be discussed at this moment, it should be between two states. And there’s another fact we need to consider, primarily the borders of 1967. Israel first seems to have accepted going back to the borders of 1967, but somehow seemed to have got distanced from this ideal. They need to get closer back to it. Palestine is in a form of a maze right now. Through TIME, I’d like to make a call out to humanity: [The Palestinians] are there to exist. They are not there to be condemned to struggle in an open-air penitentiary. Israel’s cruelty in that regard cannot be continued any longer. And, of course, the legitimate demands for Palestine to be a recognized state should be catered to and considered both in the U.N. Security Council and General Assembly. Those who approach these demands negatively will never be able to settle their accounts with history”, going on talk about Turkey’s relationship with the Jewish state: “Our mutual relations with Israel would have been reinforced even further only if Israel hadn’t victimized the positive relations of two countries with [its 2010 raid] on the Mavi Marmara, which was navigating in international waters. The flotillas in question were bearing nothing but humanitarian aid, including toys, food and other sorts of materials. They were holding over 450 citizens from 32 countries. One of the casualties is an American citizen of Turkish descent. And right now the Israeli Prime Minister still alleges that the flotillas were actually loaded with weapons. Had they possessed the weapons that were alleged, why didn’t they fire back? There are reports issued by both the U.N. Security Council and U.N. agencies in Geneva about this incident, and you never see the slightest trace that the flotillas were carrying guns. The Israeli government is not being honest at all. Right now, as long as they refuse to apologize for the nine people of Turkish descent who lost their lives on the flotilla, so long as they refuse to pay compensation to the families, and of course as long as the embargo on Gaza has not been lifted, the relations between the two countries will never become normalized”.[2]

As for his trip of the Arab Awakening in Turkey’s hinterland, the PM declared: “Unlike others, I didn’t just go there to see a few people on the streets. I intentionally wanted to talk to the candidate presidents, the new political parties there, and I had the opportunity to get together with lots of people in order to grasp the situation. At my meetings, I said, all right, Turkey is a model of democracy, a secular state, a social state with the rule of law upheld. We are not intentionally trying to export a regime — we couldn’t care less. But if they want our help, we’ll provide any assistance they need. But we do not have a mentality of exporting our system”, switching to the special relationship between Turkey and America: “In the last nine years, relations between the U.S.  and Turkey have never recessed, never gone back, but they have not improved as much as we’d like. The relationship especially between Obama and us has always been very positive. Whenever we speak to each other, we talk about negotiations of certain processes whether in the region or more globally — we always talk about matters quite frankly. But of course what we want to see is relations getting reinforced at the upmost extent possible, particularly in the realms of the economy and commerce. Because Turkey has great potential to take advantage of.  We’re really willing to see more and more U.S. entrepreneurs conducting investments in Turkey. I’m optimistic for the future. I should tell you honestly, there are no tensions between us”, ending with a quasi-realistic appraisal of Turkey’s road to Brussels: “When [former French President Jacques] Chirac or [former German Chancellor Gerhard] Schroder were there, Turkey would be involved in all of the European leaders’ summits. But when [current Chancellor Angela] Merkel or [French President Nicolas] Sarkozy took over their offices, the ambience changed dramatically. Despite their attitudes, we were determined to continue this path toward E.U. membership. But unfortunately the trust among my people in E.U. membership started to shake and turn. We’re still determined, because no leader in the E.U. will be there forever. They’ll be replaced one day. We might be replaced one day. But Turkey is getting stronger as time goes by, and the situation of
many European states is quite obvious”.[3]


[1] Ishaan Tharoor, “Exclusive: TIME Meets Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan” TIME (September 2011). http://globalspin.blogs.time.com/2011/09/26/exclusive-time-meets-turkish-prime-minister-recep-tayyip-erdogan/.

[2] Ishaan Tharoor, “Exclusive: TIME Meets Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan”.

[3] Ishaan Tharoor, “Exclusive: TIME Meets Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan”.

Libyans Debate Who Will Benefit from their Oil

While the world’s leaders were talking about a humanitarian intervention to protect Libyan citizens as being the reasoning behind NATO’s aerial assault on Gadhafi’s forces in the deserts of Libya, ‘[t]he [real] reason behind NATO’s military intervention seems plain to see: Libya’s supplies of sweet oil destined for European and other markets’, as I wrote some time ago, and continuing that an ‘eminent scholar and Mid-East specialist like Professor Juan Cole can publicly pronounce that to think that “[t]his was a war for Libya’s oil . . . is daft. Libya was already integrated into the international oil markets, and had done billions of deals with BP, ENI, etc., etc. None of those companies would have wanted to endanger their contracts by getting rid of the ruler who had signed them”. Still, Libya’s underground wealth is there to see for anybody who cares to look. According to the Global Trade Atlas, published by International Energy Agency (IEA), in calendar year 2010, 28% of Libya’s oil exports went to Italy, 15% to France, and 10% to Spain and Germany each. The U.S. only received 3% of Libya’s exports. Following the successful conquest of Tripoli, the Transitional National Council (TNC), now renamed NTC, was quick to point out that existing contracts would be honoured. It should not come as a surprise that Italy is able to carry off the lion share of Libya’s oil exports – Libya briefly was an Italian colony after all (1911-47). But in the current climate of a possible undeclared “new Cold War” erupting between the U.S. and its newly emerging rivals, China and Russia cannot be discounted. The just-quoted Global Trade Atlas also indicates that China received 11% of Libya’s exported oil last year. As for Russia’s share, Kevin Hall of McClatchy Newspapers points out that a confidential cable released by WikiLeaks reveals that the U.S. pressurised Silvio Berlusconi to eradicate a deal between Italy’s partly state-owned ENI and Russia’s Gazprom that would have given Vladimir Putin access to Libyan oil and an even greater share of the European market. Falling short of directly linking NATO’s air war in Libya with the U.S. desire to curtail the Gazprom nation that is Russia, Hall nevertheless asserts that there is a certain “correlation” between these two factors. Other players also have a stake in Libya’s future’.[1]  On the Real News, ‘Reed Lindsay reports Oil Minister denies secret French deal as Libyans question NTC and NATO interest’ (25 September 2011).

 


[1] C. Erimtan, “Libya: The End of Gadhafi and the Economic Aftermath” IRCNL. http://tiny.cc/0guhu.

Piri Reis Çalışmalarına Başladı

Petrol sondajının yapılabilmesi için gerekli sismik araştırmaları yapacak ”K. Piri Reis” Gemisi, Doğu Akdeniz’de petrol, doğalgaz araştırması yapmaya başladı. Dokuz Eylül Üniversitesi (DEÜ) Deniz Bilimleri ve Teknolojisi Enstitüsü Müdürü Prof. Dr. Hüseyin Avni Benli, AA muhabirine yaptığı açıklamada, geminin 10’u akademisyen olmak üzere 21 kişilik ekibiyle 23 Eylül’de Urla Limanı’ndan yola çıktığını anımsatarak, 2 günlük yolculuğun ardından Doğu Akdeniz’e ulaşıldığını söyledi. Ekibin saat 16.30 civarında çalışmalara başladığını bildiren Prof. Dr. Benli, şu bilgileri verdi: ”Telefonlar çekmediği için gemi ekibiyle uydu aracığıyla haberleşebiliyoruz. Hiçbir sıkıntılarının olmadığını bana bildirdiler. Ekibin keyfi yerinde, şevkle çalışmalarını yürütüyor. Zaten Türk savaş uçakları ve firkateynleri geminin çalışmalarını yakından takip ediyor. Verilen görevin öneminin farkında olan ekibimiz çalışmalarını aralıksız sürdürecek”.

 

And Finally, the New Cold War: Missile Shield Rivalry

U.S. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have done their best to vilify Iran, and to frighten the world into thinking that the Tehran leadership is planning to build up some kind of nuclear capability to threaten Israel and the West. All the while, Iran’s leaders have been reassuring the world their nuclear designs are for peaceful purposes only, referring to the position laid out by Khomeini . . . As long ago as 2005, the eminent Middle East specialist and Iran expert Juan Cole explained: “When Khomeini came to power in 1979, he actually closed down the nuclear energy program. Khomeini as a Shi’ite Muslim theologian felt that nuclear power was evil and certainly nuclear bombs were evil. It’s forbidden in Islam to murder innocents, and it’s certainly forbidden in Islam to kill large numbers of civilians in the course of warfare. In medieval Muslim ethical thought about the “just war” you have to be chivalrous, you have to tell the enemy you’re coming three days before you arrive, you have to give them an opportunity to back down, or if they’re not Muslims, to convert to Islam. When you fight them, you may not kill women and children who are noncombatants, and so forth. So, from a Muslim point of view, from the point of view of Muslim jurisprudence, dropping bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima was clearly evil, and Khomeini said so. And so, he tried to close down the nuclear program”.[1]  Still, U.S. foreign policy has convinced the world that a missile shield to ward off potential nuclear attacks by rogue states is the only way to negotiate with Tehran . . . Even Turkey has been made part of this scheme, in spite of its current pseudo-Ottoman stance and insistence upon good neighbourly relations. At the NATO summit in Portugal the decision was made to omit Iran from the final wording, so as to allow Turkey to offer its territory for potential sites in the harebrained scheme.

Even though Iran seems to be at the forefront of Washington’s strategic thinking, as I pointed out some time ago, the real contest behind the scenes really revolves around the up and coming new superpowers – China and Russia. As I asked last June: “Is the Arab Awakening turning into the beginning of a New Cold War between the U.S. and Russia? . . . Will these conflicts turn into proxy-wars fought between America and Russia, possibly aided by China?”.[2]  Turns out now that China and Russia have already started a new arms’ race, and that they will use their ally Iran in this new scheme, as reported by the Tehran Times the other day.

The Tehran Times now reports that “the other side” has decided to strike back: ‘Unofficial sources have announced that Iran, Russia, and China are currently holding talks on a proposal to establish a joint missile defense shield as a counterweight to a NATO defense shield, according to a recent report. The report, which was published in the Iranian daily newspaper Kayhan on Sunday [25 September], said that the sources cited two reasons why serious consultations have been held on the initiative. First, all three states have come to the conclusion that U.S. officials’ assertion that their concern over the alleged missile and nuclear capabilities of Iran and North Korea is the reason for the decision to establish a NATO missile defense shield is just a pretext and the true objective of the shield is to threaten Russia and China. In addition, now that the proposal to establish an early warning radar system in southeast Turkey, which is one component of the NATO missile defense shield, appears to be a done deal, the U.S. is now planning to establish other components of the new system in South Korea and Taiwan, which clearly shows that Washington is using the alleged threat from Iran and North Korea as a pretext to target China and Russia. An informed expert believes China, which has not taken any action on the issue so far, is beginning to comprehend the level of danger posed by the new system. Russia’s analysis of the situation is similar to Iran’s view, which was expressed during Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev’s recent visit to Tehran. Therefore, it seems the three countries have realized that the time has come to seriously start discussions on the plan. Some sources say Dmitry Rogozin, the Russian envoy to NATO, who is scheduled to travel to Iran before the end of September, will probably hold operational discussions on the plan with Iranian officials. According to RIA Novosti, Rogozin is going to discuss “strategic issues” in Tehran. Military experts are of the opinion that since Iran, Russia, and China have made great progress in designing anti-aircraft defense systems, the construction of such a missile shield system will not be a difficult task for them’.[3]

 


[1] “Page 5 of 7. Iran and Nuclear Technology” Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley .(2005). http://globetrotter.berkeley.edu/people5/Cole/cole-con5.html.

[2] C. Erimtan, “The Arab Awakening and the never-ending Cold War” Hürriyet Daily News (22 June 2011). http://t.co/mdyly4E.

[3] “‘Iran, Russia, China mulling joint missile shield’” Tehran Times (25/26 September 2011). http://www.tehrantimes.com/index.php/politics/2888-iran-russia-china-mulling-joint-missile-shield-.

Dead Sea Scrolls Online

Two thousand years after they were written, the world famous Dead Sea Scrolls are now available online. The Israel Museum and web giant Google initiated the project which were uploaded onto the Internet on Monday, 26 September 2011. The scrolls  digitalized so far include the Great Isaiah Scroll, the Community Rule Scroll, the Commentary on Habakkuk Scroll, the Temple Scroll and the War Scroll. All five scrolls can be magnified so users can examine the texts and details invisible to the naked eye are made visible through ultra-high resolution. The Great Isaiah Scroll can be searched by column, chapter and verse and is accompanied by an English translation tool and an option for users to submit translations of verses in their own languages. “The Dead Sea Scrolls Project with the Israel Museum enriches and preserves an important part of world heritage by making it accessible to all on the internet,” said Professor Yossi Matias, Managing Director of Google’s R&D Center in Israel  (http://dss.collections.imj.org.il/project).

The news agency Agence France-Presse reports that ‘[F]ive of the main Dead Sea scrolls, containing some of the oldest-known surviving biblical texts, were on Monday [, 26 September 2011] put online as part of a joint project between the Israel Museum and Google. The project gives the public access to ultra high-resolution images of the ancient scrolls in a format which is easily searchable, with the magnified text revealing details previously invisible to the naked eye, a museum statement said. So far, five of the scrolls have been digitised as part of the $3.5-million project which uses space-age technology to produce the clearest renderings yet of the ancient texts’.[1]  This latest stunt from Google is very exciting, as the scrolls offer insights into the development of Judaism and how it relates to Christianity. A Jewish sect known as the Essenes were responsible for the texts written on the scrolls accidentally discovered by a passing shepherd in an abandoned cave.

In order to understand the importance of the Dead Sea scrolls and how they relate to our understanding of Judaism and Christianity, I would here like to reproduce a lecture given in 2008: ‘The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has revolutionized our picture of the early history of Judaism and of the Jewish background of early Christianity. With the completion of the publication of the entire scrolls collection, it is now possible to draw significant conclusions from this treasure trove of ancient documents. This illustrated lecture by Professor Lawrence Schiffman will discuss the discovery of the scrolls, the archaeology of Qumran where the scrolls were unearthed, the nature of the library, and its significance for the study of Judaism, Christianity and their common destiny’.

 

 


[1] “Dead Sea scrolls go online” AFP (September 2011). http://www.mnn.com/green-tech/computers/stories/dead-sea-scrolls-go-online.

The End of the World, as Predicted on the BBC: Looming Stock Market Crash???

The Economic Voice’s Jeff Taylor put it like this: “Speaking on the BBC news [on Monday] morning, stock market trader Alessio Rastani left the studio open mouthed as he laid out his version of the world’s current economic crisis to the watching public. A view that many would wholeheartedly agree with”.[1]

Is Mister Rastani right and does “Goldman Sachs rule the world”???  Never shy to speak out on his own behalf, he presents himself as follows on the interwebz: “I am an experienced stock market and forex trader and professional speaker. I have had the privilege of learning from some of the world’s greatest traders. I have a strong foundation in US and UK stocks, using precision timing and tools for entering and exiting the markets. My belief is that anyone who wants to improve their income and achieve success in life, cannot afford to ignore learning how to trade. The problem is that most people are under the illusion that they can do it themselves – often without any proper knowledge of how the markets work and taking measures to minimise the risks involved. To be successful in trading or investing, firstly you need to employ a written trading plan based on a PROVEN STRATEGY. A proven strategy need not be complicated, but actually very simple. But the strategy must tell you when to enter and exit the markets. Secondly, you need to have the discipline and mindset to be able to carry out your trading plan consistently”.[2]  Is he a person to be trusted or just a ruthless shyster???  Will there be another stock market crash in 12 months’ time???  Will a few people get very rich and the majority of us plunge into abject poverty???

 


[1] Jeff Taylor, “Alessio Rastani gives the BBC more than they bargained for” The Economic Voice (26 September 2011). http://www.economicvoice.com/alessio-rastani-gives-the-bbc-more-than-they-bargained-for/50024060#axzz1Z8HqDZlB.

[2] “About Alessio Rastani:” Leading Trader. http://www.leadingtrader.com/about/.