The Mystery Of The Missing Apes Who Came Before Humans

06-29-2024 ~ The fossil record of our ape ancestors in Africa is almost nonexistent for a period of about 8 or 9 million years.

The fossil record of our ape ancestors in Africa is almost nonexistent for a period of about 8 or 9 million years. This long gap lasted from about 16.5 million to 7 to 9 million years ago, during the Miocene geological epoch.

Yet fossil remains in Europe and Asia show an abundance of ape species flourishing and evolving new traits during that gap period for African apes.

The unanswered question is: How did the current ape species found in Africa evolve? The ape species now living in Africa are the closest living evolutionary relatives that humans have. For this reason, it is important to know where they came from. Are they the descendants of those apes that migrated to Eurasia during the Miocene and then returned to Africa? Or is the lack of African fossil remains from that period simply a result of local conditions, such as wet acidic soils, that might have destroyed them?

Paleoanthropologists have approached the puzzle from different angles. One hypothesis for the missing ape fossil record in Africa is that apes originated in Africa and then migrated to Eurasia in the mid-Miocene, where they evolved the preconditions for evolving into humans. In this scenario, the better-adapted ape species that weathered the late Miocene climate change, then returned to Africa where the human lineage then evolved.

Reconstructing Ape Lineages
Another approach is to infer the missing ape evolution that might have occurred in Africa, but without leaving any fossil remains, by using genomic evidence from living ape species to reconstruct the missing lineages. University of Cambridge paleontologists Robert A. Foley and Marta Mirazón Lahr proposed a model of what this possible ape evolution might look like in a January 2024 article in Trends in Ecology & Evolution.

Foley and Mirazón Lahr refer to the inferred evolutionary tree of extinct apes as “ghost lineages.” “Ghost lineages are species or groups of species that have not been observed directly, either in fossils or living species, but which have been inferred from gene sequences,” the authors said in an interview.

Tracing these ghosts is made possible by modern genomics, especially DNA analysis.

“We know about these ghosts by building phylogenetic or evolutionary trees of known species––such as apes, humans, Neanderthals, and so on––and looking for points in the trees that can only be explained if there were other, unknown species involved,” they said. “These are the hypothetical ghost lineages. Research has shown ghost lineages in hominin, chimpanzee, and gorilla lineages, as well as in many other taxa.” (Taxa is the technical term for divisions of species.)

“In hominin evolution they are ‘ghosts’ in the sense that we think they must have existed and been part of our history, leaving only traces in our DNA.” (Hominins is the term for humans and our fossil relatives.)

African Ape Ghosts
Foley and Mirazón Lahr discuss two plausible ghost models for extinct African apes based on the existing genomic evidence: a low-divergence and a high-extinction model. Read more

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Ahead Of The Debates, What Are The Myths And Realities Of Biden’s Economy?

Robert Pollin ~ Photo: UMass Amherst

06-27-2024 ~ Progressive economist Robert Pollin weighs in on “Bidenomics” and the economic policies of Trump’s administration.

The economy is a top issue for many voters ahead of the 2024 presidential election. In a lengthy interview ahead of the first presidential debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, world-renowned progressive economist Robert Pollin offers a detailed and thorough assessment of the actual state of the U.S. economy and the effects of Biden’s economic policies. Pollin is a distinguished university professor of economics and co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His books include The Living Wage: Building a Fair Economy; Contours of Descent: U.S. Economic Fractures and the Landscape of Global Austerity; and Back to Full Employment. He has been a consultant to, among other organizations, National Nurses United, the American Postal Workers Union, the Washington State Labor Council, Labor Network for Sustainability and the BlueGreen Alliance.

C. J. Polychroniou: The economy will be one of the key issues in the 2024 U.S. election and may very well determine whether it will be Joe Biden who will be reelected as president or whether we will see Donald Trump return to the White House. As one would reasonably expect, of course, the two primary candidates for the 2024 presidential election have radically different takes on the state of the U.S. economy. Biden recently told NBC’s “TODAY” that “America has the best economy in the world,” while Trump claims that the economy is collapsing. Let’s start by talking about “Bidenomics,” the nickname for Biden’s economics policies and plans. Is Bidenomics a real economic philosophy? If so, what does it encompass?

Robert Pollin: Bidenomics does certainly encompass an overarching framework for dealing with many of the most basic economic problems under U.S. capitalism today, while still, obviously, operating well within the boundaries of the existing capitalist social order.

The starting point for Biden’s economic program is the aggressively pro-Big Business, pro-Wall Street and pro-rich neoliberal variant of capitalism that has dominated U.S. policy making for the past 45 years, under both Democratic as well as Republican administrations. Biden has been pushing out of this neoliberal straightjacket through initiatives that support working people, unions, a viable climate stabilization project and public sector-led economic development initiatives more generally. Of course, Biden himself has never been a leftist of any variety. He is a rather career politician and centrist Democrat. But he has allowed his administration to be moved leftward by the Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren presidential campaigns and allied progressive labor unions and social movements throughout the country. These union and progressive groups deserve major credit for this accomplishment.

More specifically, what does it mean that Biden has been pushing out of the neoliberal straightjacket?

We can begin with Biden’s first major economic policy initiative. This was the March 2021 American Rescue Plan. Its purpose was to prevent the onset of a full-scale economic collapse on the order of the 1930s Great Depression in the face of the global COVID lockdown. The Biden rescue plan entailed a massive injection of government spending, at $1.9 trillion (or about 9 percent of overall U.S. economic activity, i.e. GDP) at that time. This boosted overall spending in the economy, which, in turn, counteracted the sharp rise in unemployment and spending cuts by both households and businesses that resulted from the COVID lockdown.

It is true that two previous stimulus measures to counteract the COVID lockdown were enacted while Trump was still in office, in March and again in December 2020. (The December 2020 measure was passed after Trump had lost the 2020 election.) In combination, these two initiatives under Trump were actually larger than the Biden stimulus. But the composition of government stimulus spending was much more egalitarian under Biden. Biden’s American Rescue Plan focused on direct stimulus checks to households, providing funds for state and local governments to sustain their public health, education and public safety programs, the expansion of unemployment benefits, the protection of workers’ pension plans, and expanding the tax credit program for low-income families with children. By contrast, the stimulus measures under Trump were heavily skewed to supporting businesses. Big corporations and Wall Street firms were at the front of Trump’s handout line.

The Biden rescue plan, in combination with the prior Trump measures, did indeed prevent a 1930s-level economic collapse in 2021. Unemployment in the U.S. could well have risen to perhaps 15-20 percent in 2021. Who knows how severely the global economy could have unraveled from there? But this achievement by the Biden administration has gone mostly uncredited, given that it succeeded in preventing a calamity that did not happen, as opposed to advancing a positive economic breakthrough of some sort. Read more

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Air Pollution Is Killing Millions And Rising Exponentially—A Shift In Agriculture Can Solve It

Jimmy Videle ~ Source: YouTube

06-27-2024 ~ We must find a better way to prevent land use from changing.

In 1958, geochemist Charles David Keeling set up the Mauna Loa Global Monitoring Laboratory in Hawaii, which measured carbon dioxide (CO2). Keeling believed that CO2 levels were rising and wanted to prove it. Mauna Loa was a perfect location to obtain precise readings since it was located at an elevation of more than 13,000 feet in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. By 1959, the level of CO2 was 316 parts per million volume (ppmV). Since then, the curve has seen an exponential rise. As of May 2024, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere had risen to more than 426 ppmV.

It has been more than 4 million years since CO2 levels were as high as today. “[The] CO2 levels are now comparable to the Pliocene Climatic Optimum, between 4.1 and 4.5 million years ago, when they were close to, or above 400 ppm. During that time, sea levels were between 5 and 25 meters higher than today, high enough to drown many of the world’s largest modern cities,” stated a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

These pollution levels are undoubtedly human-caused and have primarily resulted from burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and land-use change by industrial agriculture. In designing our society from an anthropocentric point of view (prioritizing humans above all other species), we have not only neglected but also harmed the Earth’s natural systems. To maintain a sustainable environment, we must adopt an eco-centric point of view that prioritizes the intrinsic value of all living things and preserves the ecological balance.

The Perfect Balance
Carbon dioxide gives our planet life. All living plants need it, converting it into an energy source. They assimilate carbon and expel the oxygen that all faunal beings require. When humans and animals breathe in oxygen, they exhale carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas (GHG) that traps heat. Other gases that heat the atmosphere include methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O).

If we were to look back 1 million years when humans were among the least populous species, and wild fauna was grazing, stomping, and climbing in grasslands and forests, the CO2 from the plant decomposition and respiration of animals, the CH4 from the belching, flatulating, and manure composition of ungulates, and N2O would cycle naturally. The CO2 levels were between 200 and 280 ppm “during the more recent ice ages”—perhaps the perfect amount to support abundant life. This ideal balance was in place for around 800,000 years.

As humans began to dominate the planet—killing large animals, cutting down forests, farming grasslands, and paving the natural world for our benefit—CO2 levels began to climb at a torrid pace from 1950 onward.

Through our actions, we are producing so much extra CO2, CH4, and N2O that all the natural mechanisms for carbon sequestration are being compromised. Instead of carbon cycling, it bounces back into the atmosphere and creates a gaseous ceiling (the “greenhouse effect”). The sun’s rays pass through, but the heat is trapped and filters through more slowly. The more these heavy gases remain in the atmosphere, the more heat is trapped, causing the Earth to warm.

“Human activities, principally through emissions of greenhouse gases, have unequivocally caused global warming, with global surface temperature reaching 1.1 degrees Celsius above 1850-1900 in 2011-2020,” according to scientists who worked on the International Panel on Climate Change’s Synthesis Report 2023. “Global greenhouse gas emissions have continued to increase, with unequal historical and ongoing contributions arising from unsustainable energy use, land use and land-use change, lifestyles and patterns of consumption and production across regions, between and within countries, and among individuals.”

“The Arctic has warmed nearly four times faster than the globe since 1979,” stated a 2022 article in the journal Nature. This is alarming and could help explain why scientists believe sea levels will rise. When the ice melts, more fresh water enters the ocean. Read more

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New World, New Hope: The Struggle For A Free Western Sahara Continues

Western Sahara
Map: en.wikipedia.org

06-27-2024 ~ The Sahrawi freedom movement Polisario continues the armed struggle against Morocco, which uses Israeli spyware and lures the West with trade opportunities to turn a blind eye to the occupation of Western Sahara. Many Sahrawis see new hope in a new multipolar world order that is not dominated by the United States and the West.

Life under occupation is a constant struggle. This is continually expressed at the international media conference in a refugee camp in Western Sahara. The conference takes place from May 1–5 and is organized by the Sahrawi Union of Journalists and Writers (UPES).

Western Sahara is occupied by Morocco, a country where King Muhammad VI has full control over Morocco’s armed forces, judiciary, and all foreign policy.

In Western Sahara, the Moroccan monarchy violates the human rights of the Sahrawi people. Children suffer from malnutrition, journalists are thrown in prison, and international observers are denied access to the occupied territories.

Morocco’s colonization of Western Sahara has been going on since 1975; however, the occupation receives little attention from the international community. Through the occupation, Morocco offers trade opportunities to Western companies while the Moroccan intelligence service uses Israeli spyware to monitor the Sahrawis.

But the revolutionary Sahrawi freedom movement—Polisario Front—is not giving up: In 2020, Polisario resumed its armed struggle against Morocco. The Sahrawis hope that a new world order, not dominated by the West, will open up new possibilities in the fight for a free and independent Western Sahara.

Occupied Land
The media conference takes place in Wilayah of Bojador, one of five Sahrawi refugee camps located in Algeria on the border with Western Sahara. Algeria has given the area to Polisario, which administers the refugee camps.

Thus, you could say that Western Sahara is divided into three areas. There are the occupied territories of Western Sahara, where Morocco is in power. There are the liberated areas of Western Sahara, where Polisario is in power. And then there are the refugee camps in Algeria, where Polisario is also in power.

People may have traveled from all over the world to attend the media conference. However, it is the participants from the occupied territories of Western Sahara who receive the most acclaim at the opening of the various debates. This is due to the harsh living conditions in the occupied territories.

“Today, many children suffer from malnutrition due to the occupation,” says Buhubeini Yahya, head of the non-governmental organization (NGO) Sahrawi Red Crescent (SRC), which operates in the occupied territories.

Problems with malnutrition are partly due to the fact that Morocco currently blocks Polisario’s access to the occupied territories, making the freedom movement unable to deliver humanitarian assistance to the local population.

Journalists and Activists
Sahrawi journalists—who want to cover malnutrition among children in the occupied territories, for example—are doing a job that can cost them dearly.

Bhakha*, who works as a journalist in the territories, knows this.
“My colleagues and I are trying to expose Morocco’s crimes. But several have been arrested, some have received 27 years in prison,” Bhakha says from the stage.
“Moroccan police kidnap journalists and confiscate our phones and cameras. Media people are having their bank accounts blocked and our websites are being cyberattacked,” he continues.

Bhakha says that in the occupied territories, Morocco is cracking down on activists who organize demonstrations and speak out against the occupation. According to him, activists have been “thrown off tall buildings” as punishment for protesting.

“The Moroccan authorities have intensified their spate of violations against pro-independence Sahrawi activists through ill-treatment, arrests, detentions, and harassment in an attempt to silence or punish them,” the NGO Amnesty International wrote in 2021.

In eight months, Amnesty had recorded “seven cases of torture or other ill-treatment, three house raids, two de facto house arrests and nine cases of arrests, detentions and harassment of individuals in relation to their peaceful exercise of their freedom of expression and assembly.” Read more

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Trix van Bennekom ~ Halte Hausdorff

06-24-2024 ~ Het leven van David Hausdorff. Jood, huisarts en Rotterdammer.

‘Sint-Petersburg, zondagmiddag 13 maart 1881’. Dat Trix van Bennekom de biografie van David Hausdorff begint met deze regel, illustreert haar aanpak. Een aanpak die we kennen van haar boek Abraham. Kroniek van een politieke dynastie (2018). De combinatie van een persoonlijke geschiedenis en de grote geschiedenis levert ook nu weer een bijzonder boek op.

Op die dertiende maart in 1881 kwam tsaar Alexander II bij een aanslag om het leven. Al kwamen de daders uit een revolutionaire groepering, de Nihilisten, de Joodse gemeenschap in Rusland kreeg de schuld. Drie jaar lang werden Russische Joden door volksmassa’s mishandeld en vermoord. De eerste grote pogroms in de moderne tijd.

Vanuit Rusland en aangrenzende gebieden kwam een grote stroom vluchtelingen op gang. De meeste vluchtelingen wilden naar Amerika.
Rotterdam kreeg de bijnaam ‘Warschau aan de Maas’, zo veel mensen kwamen vanuit het Oosten in de hoop in te kunnen schepen naar het Gouden Land.
Tussen 1818 en 1914 verhuisden 2,5 miljoen Joden uit Oost-Europa naar de Verenigde Staten.

Ook een deel van de familie Hausdorff, woonachtig in Polen, dicht bij de Russische grens, besloot naar het Westen te gaan. Het geweld kwam steeds dichterbij.
Na eerst in Duitsland gewoond te hebben, gingen twee zonen Hausdorff in 1883 naar Rotterdam. Daar wordt op 2 november 1901 David Hausdorff geboren.

Het is verleidelijk om maar te blijven vertellen over geschiedenis die de achtergrond vormt voor het verhaal over deze huisarts. En dan moet je nog beginnen aan de verhalen over de Joodse gemeenschap in Rotterdam voor de oorlog, over de oorlogsjaren, over de onderduik van het gezin Hausdorff vanaf 1943, over de wederopbouw van diezelfde Joodse gemeenschap na de oorlog.

Wil je aan de hand van een citaat laten zien hoe Van Bennekom in één alinea de stemming in de Joodse gemeenschap vlak na de oorlog weet samen te vatten:
‘De Duitse bezetter had in Nederland niet alleen meer dan 100.000 Joden de dood ingejaagd, ook het eeuwenoude Joodse leven was weggevaagd. Synagogen, ziekenhuizen, scholen, weeshuizen, bejaardenhuizen, bedrijven, woonhuizen, winkels; alles was in beslaggenomen en geplunderd, religieuze, sociale en culturele organisaties waren opgeheven. Waar te beginnen? En had het nog wel zin de Joodse gemeenschap opnieuw op te bouwen? De anti-Joodse stemming die in de eerste maanden na de bevrijding in Nederland heerste, deed het ergste vrezen voor de toekomst: zouden Joden niet altijd tweederangsburgers blijven?’

Maar verstandiger is het om nu maar gewoon te stoppen en te zeggen: lezen!

Studio Rashkov, Rotterdam, 2024
ISBN 9789083320434

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Modern (Mis)interpretations Of Clean Slates

Michael Hudson

06-19-2024 ~ Today’s creditor-oriented ideology depicts the archaic past as much like our own world, as if civilization was developed by individuals thinking in terms of modern orthodoxy.

Why were Clean Slates so important to Bronze Age societies? From the third millennium in Mesopotamia, people were aware that debt pressures, if left to accumulate unchecked, would distort normal fiscal and landholding patterns to the detriment of the community. They perceived that debts grow autonomously under their own dynamic by the exponential curves of compound interest rather than adjusting themselves to reflect the ability of debtors to pay. This idea never has been accepted by modern economic doctrine, which assumes that disturbances are cured by automatically self-correcting market mechanisms. That assumption blocks discussion of what governments can do to prevent the debt overhead from destabilizing economies.

The Cosmological Dimension of Clean Slates
Mesopotamia’s concept of divine kingship was key to the practice of declaring Clean Slates. The prefatory passages of Babylonian edicts cited the ruler’s commitment to serve his city-god by promoting equity in the land. Myth and ritual were integrated with economic relations and were viewed as forming the natural order that rulers were charged with overseeing; in this context, canceling debts helped fulfill their sacred obligation to their city-gods. Commemorated by their year-names and often by foundation deposits in temples, these amnesties appear to have been proclaimed at a major festival, replete with rituals such as Babylon’s ruler raising a sacred torch to signal the renewal of the social cosmos in good order—what the Romanian historian Mircea Eliade called “the eternal return,” the idea of circular time that formed the context in which rulers restored an idealized status quo ante. By integrating debt annulments with social cosmology, the image of rulers restoring economic order was central to the archaic idea of justice and equity.

(Mis)Interpreting the Meaning of ‘Freedom’
The Hebrew word used for the Jubilee Year in Leviticus 25 is dêror, but not until cuneiform texts could be read was it recognized as cognate to Akkadian andurarum. Before the early meaning was clarified, the King James Version translated the relevant phrase as: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land, and to all the inhabitants thereof.” But the root meaning of andurarum is to move freely, as running water—or (for humans) as bondservants liberated to rejoin their families of origin.

The wide variety of modern interpretations of such key terms as Sumerianamargi, Akkadian andurarum and misharum, and Hurrian shudutu serve as an ideological Rorschach test reflecting the translator’s own beliefs. The earliest reading was by Francois Thureau-Dangin[1], who related the Sumerian term amargi to Akkadian andurarum and saw it as a debt cancellation. Ten years later Schorr (1915) related these acts to Solon’s seisachtheia, the “shedding of burdens” that annulled the debts of rural Athens in 594 BC. The Canadian scholar George Barton[2] translated Urukagina’s and Gudea’s use of the term amargi as “release,” although the Jesuit Anton Deimel[3] rendered it rather obscurely as “security.” Read more

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