The Geologic Origin of Mima Mounds: A New Hypothesis

Naturalist John Muir (By Francis M. Fritz [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
Mima mounds, geologic structures found at the southern termini of ancient continental glaciers in North America, represent the erosional remnants of frost polygons in ancient permafrost zones. As the Earth’s climate warmed and glacial ice sheets retreated at the start of the current interglacial period, the Holocene, the disappearance of the permafrost ice wedges defining the boundaries of frost polygons produced the drainage and subsequent erosional patterns that resulted in the geologic phenomena that are now termed “mima mounds.” That these structures in North America are specifically associated with the Puget Sound and Great Lakes basins, regions understood to have been areas of continental glacial maxima during the last glacial event, is major corroborative evidence of this hypothesis.

© 2013 by Paul Kennedy

Wine Cellar, Well Aged, Is Revealed in Israel

A storage room unearthed from the ruins of a 1700 B.C. Canaanite palace in northern Israel held the remains of 40 ceramic jars.

Digging this summer at the ruins of a 1700 B.C. Canaanite palace in northern Israel, archaeologists struck wine.

Near the banquet hall where rulers of a Middle Bronze Age city-state and their guests feasted, a team of American and Israeli researchers broke through to a storage room holding the remains of 40 large ceramic jars. The vessels were broken, their liquid contents long since vanished — but not without a trace.

A chemical analysis of residues left in the three-foot-tall jars detected organic traces of acids that are common components of all wine, as well as ingredients popular in ancient winemaking. These included honey, mint, cinnamon bark, juniper berries and resins used as a preservative. The recipe was similar to medicinal wines used for 2,000 years in ancient Egypt and probably tasted something like retsina or other resinous Greek wines today.

So the archaeologists who have been exploring the Canaanite site, known as Tel Kabri, announced on Friday that they had found one of civilization’s oldest and largest wine cellars. The storage room held the equivalent of about 3,000 bottles of red and white wines, they said — and they suspected that this was not the palace’s only wine cellar.

“This is a hugely significant discovery,” said Eric H. Cline, a co-director of the Tel Kabri excavations, in a statement issued by George Washington University, where he is chairman of the department of classical and Near Eastern languages and civilizations. “It’s a wine cellar that, to our knowledge, is largely unmatched in its age and size.”

Dr. Cline and the other co-director, Assaf Yasur-Landau of the University of Haifa in Israel, described their findings Friday in Baltimore at the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research. Another member of the team, Andrew Koh of Brandeis University, reported the results of the organic residue analysis, emphasizing the quantity of the samples and thoroughness of the testing. The researchers had to work fast to examine the residues before they became contaminated on exposure outside the storage room.

The archaeologists said that much of the palace, including the banquet hall and the wine storage room, was destroyed 3,600 years ago in some violent event, perhaps an earthquake. The wine cellar was covered with thick debris of mud bricks and plaster. That and the fact that no subsequent buildings were erected on top of the site have made Tel Kabri an inviting place for archaeological studies.

24,000-Year-Old Body Shows Kinship to Europeans and American Indians

Scientists studied the genome of a boy buried near Lake Baikal in Siberia and were amazed to find partly European ancestry.

The genome of a young boy buried at Mal’ta near Lake Baikal in eastern Siberia some 24,000 years ago has turned out to hold two surprises for anthropologists.

The first is that the boy’s DNA matches that of Western Europeans, showing that during the last Ice Age people from Europe had reached farther east across Eurasia than previously supposed. Though none of the Mal’ta boy’s skin or hair survives, his genes suggest he would have had brown hair, brown eyes and freckled skin.

The second surprise is that his DNA also matches a large proportion — about 25 percent — of the DNA of living Native Americans. The first people to arrive in the Americas have long been assumed to have descended from Siberian populations related to East Asians. It now seems that they may be a mixture between the Western Europeans who had reached Siberia and an East Asian population.

Read more at The New York Times

Turkish Discontent: Gezi Protests Spawn New Party

In late May 2013, a larger protest was sparked after police violently broke up a sit-in in Gezi Park. Protesters were demonstrating against plans to raze the park, one of the last green spaces in the center of the European part of Istanbul, and replace it with a shopping center.

The protests that erupted in Turkey in May 2013 saw a local environmental protest bloom into a nationwide pro-democracy movement. A new political party has formed to channel this dissatisfaction into political power, but the hurdles to success are high.

Gezi stands for democracy. For freedom. For having a political say and personal responsibility. For parks and trees. And for daring to say “no” to those in power. And for being able to believe in, hope for and love whatever you wish, exactly as you please. That’s what makes it a bit of a miracle that suddenly all sorts of different people were uniting behind a common goal.

But Gezi has run out of steam. The protests that were sparked when Turkey’s government announced plans to raze Gezi Park, one of the last green spaces in the center of the European part of Istanbul, and replace it with a shopping center, have now subsided. In June, thousands took to the streets, first in Istanbul, and then throughout the entire country. Now, the demonstrations are few and far between.

“That’s exactly why we’ve decided that we have to take it a step further and found a party,” says Cem Köksal. The 37-year-old with shoulder-length brown hair is greeted by young people on the streets here in the Kadiköy district of Istanbul. Köksal is a rock musician and guitarist who also writes and produces music. He and his comrades-in-arms want to challenge Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Their plan is to grow a political force from the seeds of a pro-democracy movement.

“Erdogan said to us demonstrators that we shouldn’t protest on the street, but instead stand for election if we want to change something,” says Teoman Kumbaracibasi, 42. “That’s us!” Known as “Teo,” he is also widely known as an actor on a TV series.

‘Our Goal Is Not the Opposition, but the Government’

In October, Kumbaracibasi and Köksal founded the Gezi Party (GZP) with 26 others. The party is a colorful mix of young and old, left-wing and conservative, blue-collar worker and university student. What unites them is a shared dissatisfaction with Erdogan and his authoritarian government. On Saturday, the GZP will open itself to new members. “There are hundreds who want to join us even though they have no idea exactly what we want,” says Kumbaracibasi. “Thousands,” Köksal corrects him. Just a month after launching, he adds, the party has already attracted 31,000 fans on its Facebook page.

Indeed, Facebook is where all these people found each other. “A few months back, we didn’t know each other at all. Now we are constantly working with each other, like each other, love each other,” says Nursun Gürbüz, who works for an export company. Together, they want to achieve something big. This ambition is broadcast by their party logo: a man whose legs are taking root in the ground like tree trunks and whose arms are holding a green ball. The message here is: We embrace Gezi, we embrace the entire world. The group wants to field candidates for the 2015 parliamentary elections. “And our goal is not the opposition, but the government,” Köksal says.

Read more at Der Spiegel

Mexico’s tomato-farm workers toil in ‘circle of poverty’

Landowners make big money on tomatoes, but the hard work falls to armies of workers from Mexico’s poorest states, who labor for paltry wages.

Farmworker Ramiro Castillo stands in front of his living quarters near Villa Juarez in Mexico’s Sinaloa state. Half the tomatoes eaten in the U.S. this time of year come from Sinaloa. (Javier Valdez / For The Times / November 9, 2013)

VILLA JUAREZ, Mexico — They sure do have tomatoes here in the Mexican state of Sinaloa.

Elongated red ones. Round green ones. Cherry tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, grape tomatoes.

Vast fields of tomatoes, lining the roads out of the Sinaloa capital of Culiacan, miles and miles of mesh tenting shielding the plants from the sun.

Last year, Sinaloa exported 950,000 tons of vegetables, mostly tomatoes and mostly to California and other parts of the United States, worth nearly $1 billion. Half the tomatoes eaten in the United States this time of year are from Sinaloa. The tomato is the symbol on the Sinaloa license plate.

But while a short list of landowners make millions, the planting, weeding, pruning and picking of the vegetables fall to armies of workers from Mexico’s poorest states — Oaxaca, Guerrero, Chiapas — who have little opportunity for schooling or other forms of legal employment.

So they are here in these fields, recruited by enganchadores — or “hooks” — who round them up in their home villages, and working in conditions that vary from producer to producer but that many critics say amount to indentured servitude.

Felipa Reyes, 40, from the violent state of Veracruz, has been toiling in the fields of Sinaloa for seven years. “You have to do the work they want, or you don’t earn anything,” she said. Complain? “And I’d end up with nothing.”

Carmen Hernandez Ramos is 52 and looks 80. She has been sticking tiny tomato plants into the earth, then harvesting the fruit months later, for 15 years, but still earns the same daily wage as Reyes: $10. Originally from a small village in Oaxaca, the mother of six works back-wrenching nine-hour days. “If we work, we have security,” she said, waving her thick-knuckled hands. “If we don’t, we have nothing.”

The two women live in tin-roofed adobe shacks set behind chain-link fences.

Conditions, the women said, have changed little over the years. They have electricity but no running water; some floors are tiled, others are dirt.

Read more at the Los Angeles Times

A People Without a Story

A Tamil man sweeping at a mass cemetery of Tamil Tigers.

FOUR years ago this week, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam announced that their struggle for an independent homeland in northern Sri Lanka had “reached its bitter end.” The group had been fighting on behalf of the Tamil people for more than a quarter-century, and its defeat was absolute.

Today, great sections of Tamil country are still a scene of devastation. The houses are either destroyed or brand-new; the land is uncultivated and overgrown; there are forests of decapitated Palmyra palms, damaged by heavy shelling. And then there are the relics of war — graveyards of L.T.T.E. vehicles rotting in the open air; the remains of a ship, its superstructure blown to pieces and in whose rusting starboard a gaping hole gives on to blue sea.

When I first arrived there last March, I saw the loss in primarily military terms. But the feeling of defeat among the Tamils of Sri Lanka goes far deeper than the material defeat of the rebels. It is a moral and psychological defeat.

In that forested country of red earth and lagoons, it is possible to visit the bunker of the leader of the Tigers, a torture chamber of a place that sinks three levels into the ground. There, in the fetid air, infused with the smell of urine and bat excrement, one senses the full futility and wretchedness of what the rebel movement became in the end.

For the truth is that the Tamil defeat has less to do with the vanquishing of the L.T.T.E. by the Sri Lankan Army and much more to do with the self-wounding (“suicidal” would not be too strong a word) character of the movement itself. The Tigers were for so long the custodians of the Tamil people’s hope of self-realization. But theirs was a deeply flawed organization. Under the leadership of Velupillai Prabhakaran, the Tigers pioneered and perfected the use of the suicide bomber. This was not simply a mode of warfare, but almost a symbol, an expression of a self-annihilating spirit. And it was to self-annihilation that Mr. Prabhakaran committed the Tamils. He was a man who, like a modern-day Coriolanus, seemed to lack the imagination for peace. He took the Tamils on a journey of war without end, where no offer of compromise was ever enough, and where all forms of moderation were seen as betrayal.

Read more at The New York Times

In contrast to Stephen Harper, Britain’s PM David Cameron goes to Sri Lanka to ‘shine light’ on abuses

Warhol ‘Silver Car Crash’ fetches $105m

New York auction of post-war and contemporary art gives Sotheby’s its biggest take yet

Andy Warhol’s artwork ‘Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster)’ is displayed while being auctioned at Sotheby’s. Photograph: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Art collectors dug deep into their pockets on Wednesday and smashed records for a second straight night as Sotheby’s held the biggest auction in its history, led by a record-setting $105 million (€78 million) work by Andy Warhol.

The auction of postwar and contemporary art totalled $380.6 million (€283 million) and set new auction records for major artists Cy Twombly and Brice Marden.

Of the 61 lots on offer only seven failed to sell. The total was just shy of the $394 million high pre-sale estimate and marked the auction house’s second solid success in a row after it scored with a $290 million sale of Impressionist and modern art a week ago.

The sale’s expected highlight far exceeded expectations. Warhol’s Silver Car Crash (Doubled Disaster), from his seminal death and disaster series, soared to $105,445,000 including commission, 50 per cent higher than the late pop artist’s previous auction record of $71.7 million.

Sotheby’s did not disclose the buyer, who was bidding by telephone. It had estimated the nearly 2.7m by 4.2m work from 1963 to sell for “in excess of $60 million” but that figure turned out to be the opening bid.

Read more at The Irish Times

George W. Bush to Raise Money for Group That Converts Jews to Bring About Second Coming of Christ

Update (11/8/13): After this story published, the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute removed references to George W. Bush’s scheduled appearance from its website. But Freddy Ford, a spokesman for the former president, told Mother Jones on Friday afternoon that Bush’s plans “haven’t changed,” and he will appear at the event.

Update (11/8/13): After this story published, the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute removed references to George W. Bush’s scheduled appearance from its website. But Freddy Ford, a spokesman for the former president, told Mother Jones on Friday afternoon that Bush’s plans “haven’t changed,” and he will appear at the event.

Next week, former President George W. Bush is scheduled to keynote a fundraiser in Irving, Texas, for the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute, a group that trains people in the United States, Israel, and around the world to convince Jews to accept Jesus as the Messiah. The organization’s goal: to “restore” Israel and the Jews and bring about about the second coming of Christ.

Messianic Jews have long been controversial for Jews of all major denominations, who object to their proselytizing efforts and their message that salvation by Jesus is consistent with Jewish theology. Last year, Abraham Foxman, president of the Anti-Defamation League, told Politico that former Sen. Rick Santorum’s appearance at an event hosted by another Messianic Jewish organization, the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America, was “insensitive and offensive.” And Commentary magazine, which bills itself as a “conservative American journal of politics, Judaism, social and cultural issues,” noted, “it must be understood that the visceral distaste that the overwhelming majority of Jews have for the Messianics is not to be taken lightly.” Many Messianic Jews are Christians who have adopted aspects of Jewish ritual observance; others are Jews who share the Christian belief that Jesus is the Messiah.

Read more at Mother Jones

GOP Food Stamp Cuts Would Kick 170,000 Vets Out of the Program

Republicans will salute America’s veterans Monday, while simultaneously trying to deny them benefits. In addition to reducing housing aid, and denying health care to vets, the GOP is also trying to remove thousands of vets from the food stamp program, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

At least 900,000 veterans rely on SNAP. The House Republican version of the farm bill, the five-year piece of legislation that funds nutrition and agriculture provisions, would slash funding for the food stamps program by nearly $40 billion and boot 2.8 million people off the program next year. That includes 170,000 veterans, who would be removed through a provision in the bill that would eliminate food stamps eligibility for non-elderly jobless adults who can’t find work or an opening in a job training program.

Read more at Mother Jones