Magnitude-7.5 quake strikes Papua New Guinea



Magnitude-7.5 quake strikes Papua New Guinea


(CNN)Authorities in Papua New Guinea are assessing the damage after a magnitude-7.5 earthquake struck the Pacific country early Monday.

The US Geological Survey said the quake hit at 3:45 a.m. local time (12:45 p.m. ET Sunday) near Porgera, northwest of the capital Port Moresby. It was 35 kilometers deep.
“The National Government has dispatched disaster assessment teams to parts of Southern Highlands Province and Hela Province following an earthquake in the early hours of this morning,” Chief Secretary to Government Isaac Lupari said in a statement.
“The National Disaster Centre is working with provincial authorities to assess any damage and impacts on service delivery in the area. The Papua New Guinea Defence Force has also been mobilized to assist with the assessment and the delivery of assistance to affected people as well as the restoration of services and infrastructure,” the statement said.
Lupari warned residents to be aware of potential aftershocks: “It is advisable to stay out of multistory buildings, to be aware of the potential of landslides, and to be prepared to move to open ground in the event that an aftershock is felt.”
According to the USGS’s assessment, “significant casualties and damage are likely and the disaster is potentially widespread.”
It estimated that the quake could have been felt by more than a million residents, with approximately 40,000 exposed to “violent” shaking.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said that a destructive Pacific-wide tsunami was not expected.
“Our thoughts are with the people of Papua New Guinea, especially in Southern Highlands and Hela Provinces, affected by this morning’s earthquake and aftershocks. Australia stands ready to assist in assessing the damage and meeting the needs of affected communities,” Australian High Commissioner Bruce Davis said on Twitter.
Radio New Zealand International reported that three deaths had been confirmed.

American Jobs Wal-Mart And China

American Jobs Wal-Mart And China

As you probably know that here in America in the media you’re hearing advertisements more and more about made in America products where companies and people are pushing the made in the USA slogan. Yet still do you remember that the uniforms for our Olympic athletes were originally made in China instead of America? Eventually the fuss was made loud enough that new uniforms were made for them, here in America. There are companies here in America starving for orders (work) yet many American corporations that are global conglomerates will analyze everything down to the penny. If these companies can literally save a few pennies on an order by having it made in China, or else where, these companies will not use the American workers, they instead buy products that are of no quality at all from somewhere else, usually in China or Indonesia. By now do we Americans not know the level of trash for quality we get when we buy products made in China? Yet the big box stores (corporations) seem to only carry these garbage products at maximum prices. I know that a lot of people are just like me, we go into a store, like your local Wal-Mart and it seems that if you are going to buy anything there, you are going to buy foreign-made products, not made in America products. I am a partly disabled Army vet who a couple of times a year goes to the VA hospital in Johnson City TN. Even there it is common if you are going to buy something in their store like a shirt or a hat if you check the tag to see where it was made the answer is usually China. It is frustrating to pick up a hat for example that says something like US Army veteran and have the tag say made in China. Our government is in my opinion traitors to the American workforce in other areas also, even ones that are of the utmost importance of having quality like on American fighter jets. Just a few weeks ago on the news the American Secretary of Defense was defending his decision to order parts for Americas new F-34 fighter jet from China because they could get them cheaper there. These were unimportant parts I guess, they were only for the instrument panels and the landing gear.

Okay, now I am going to get more in focus on the title of this article, American jobs. I spent most of my adult life setting behind the wheel of a semi truck kriss crossing our country hundred of times. One of the things you notice when you are out there is how small town America is dying. Now I am not going to put all the blame on the huge corporations, we the people have some fault in our country’s demise, that is because if we refused to buy products unless they are made in America the corporations would have to buy from America. Every once in a while you will see billboards telling their population to buy from the local companies first because this is what stimulates their local workforce creating local jobs. This basic truth is the same on a national level, if we want to have jobs in this country, then buy only the products that are made here in the states first. A couple of months ago I wrote an article here on this blog titled (Wal-Mart grew through deceit, fraud, and lies) if you have a little time please check it out. If you are old enough you may remember how Wal-Mart used to always advertise how they only bought made in the USA products, that used to even be on the back door of the trailers for everyone to see out on America’s highways. Problem is, they were lying to all of us for the purpose of getting us to shop there and thus help the American workforce. I know very well that I was not the only driver who hauled loads from the shipping docks that we took to the Wal-Mart distribution centers around the country. It was a very common thing to be backed up to a loading dock to pick up a load going to them and the load would be staged there on the dock ready to go, but there was one hold up, we would end up having to wait for several hours while the dock workers changed all of the labeling from wherever it came from to tags saying made in the USA. Friends, to me that is lying, fraud and deceit, what do you think it should be called if not that?


Many years ago I hauled loads from the upper Midwest that were the guts of factories. These were cases where companies were closing up shop in places like Minnesota and Iowa and were moving their operations to places like southern Texas. The reasons were simple, cheaper labor cost. This was a way to eliminate the unions by moving to so-called Right To Work states. This term, in these states, in my opinion should be called the Right To Work Your Ass Off For As Little Pay And No Benefits As Possible Under The Law States. Then came the NAFTA agreement under Bill Clinton’s watch. What it really did was to create jobs south of our border. Companies quit stopping at the Rio Grande River, they simply crossed it to a land with hardly any environmental laws and to countries with no minimum wage factors or unions. I guess that for a lot of the huge companies that wasn’t enough of savings when they found out that in China and other countries in Southeast Asia you can get slave labor and child labor for wages like a dollar a day. There is one thing now that I want to bring to your attention, have you noticed that a company can close its factory in America because they say they can’t compete on the global market and they move their operations to a place like China so that their costs are lower. But have you noticed that the price of their products never go down any with their new savings? Companies want you to buy their new no quality products but don’t seem to notice that unemployed people have very small budgets.


The reason I am picking on Wal-Mart here in this article is mainly because they’re the biggest offender of this, what I call treason, toward the American people. Wal-Mart has had three large ships made recently, and I do mean large. The three ships are each larger than an American Aircraft Carrier, they each can carry a payload of thousands of semi trailer size containers. The three ships cost Wal-Mart almost five hundred million dollars. You read that correctly, almost half a billion dollars. This is a savvy move for them though, now they are able to save a lot of money on every trip from China to the west coast of America. Why did I word it that way, here is the simple answer, all three of these ships are too huge to be able to get through either the Suez or the Panama Canals. This makes it plain, they are meant for the purpose of hauling the cheapest possible Chinese products to their American stores. Just think about this issue for a moment please. On just one load on one ship, if those products were made here in the States, how many American jobs were lost on just one load? The Walton kids who own the company are all multi billionaires, yet do you see how little they give a damn about the people in this country that they want to sell this cheaply made no quality junk to?


If we the people want to have jobs then we as a people MUST avoid buying non made in America products. If our country had a real two or three percent unemployment rate my attitude would be different. By no means am I anti Chinese people, their government like our own seems to be extremely corrupt, I against all realistic hope, wish all people and governments were kind, honest, loving and fair, but I know that is just a fantasy, not reality. A person might think that I do not care about the working class people in places like China, but that is not the truth. I care a lot about their people, I wish them no harm. It is their government that needs the most changing I think, they have about 1.2 Billion people in their country. Their government should care about their own population first. There are many millions of people in their country who are living in hand to mouth squalor. If their country would turn inward first and build factories and create jobs and products for their goods it would help bring hundreds of millions of people into a more middle class urban level of living. This in turn brings in more tax revenue from within for their country so that they would not have to focus so much on obtaining foreign currency. Once they do this then their own people will demand better quality products to be made. This would then help increase the quality of the products that they export so then people would quit calling their products garbage. I appreciate you taking of your time to read this post, thank you.

N. Korea’s Olympics delegation to be led by a wanted mass murderer



North Korea’s new Olympics delegation to be led by man blamed for deadly ship attack

Pyeongchang, South Korea (CNN)North Korea is sending another high-level delegation to South Korea for the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony this Sunday, led by a man widely believed to have masterminded the sinking of a South Korean navy ship that killed 46 sailors.

Kim Yong Chol, Vice Chairman of the Party Central Committee, will lead the delegation that’s due to arrive by land on the Gyeongui rail line hours before the ceremony starts, according to a statement Thursday from the South’s Ministry of Unification.

A giant floating crane lifts the stern of the 1,200-tonne sunken Cheonan to place it on a barge, before returning it to South Korea, April 15, 2010.

Kim is the former chief of the North’s Reconnaissance Bureau, a top military intelligence body blamed by Seoul for a torpedo attack that sunk the South Korean warship Cheonan, in 2010.
The choice of Kim to lead the delegation is likely to be interpreted as an intentional provocation. Kim is named on the list of individuals sanctioned by both the US and South Korea. The US sanctions include provisions intended to restrict movement, though it is not clear whether Kim’s trip to the South is in breach of travel-specific sanctions.
The announcement poses a renewed diplomatic challenge for hosts South Korea, who in addition to navigating issues relating to sanctions, will again need to accommodate both the North Korean and US delegations, without offending either party.

Pence, Kim Jong Un's sister ignore each other

The Opening Ceremony saw US Vice President Mike Pence positioned just a few seats away from members of the North’s high-level delegation, including Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The US delegation during Sunday’s Closing Ceremony will be led by Ivanka Trump, the first daughter and senior adviser to US President Donald Trump, raising the prospect of a chance encounter between a member of the Trump family and members of the North’s delegation.
A more formalized meeting between the two sides appears unlikely, however, following comments from the South Korean government ruling out their involvement in such a possibility.
“The Blue House will not facilitate a meeting between Ivanka and North Korea’s high-level delegation,” said a government spokesman, referring to the official name of the executive office of the South Korean president.
When asked whether both Trump and North Korean delegates would be invited to a VIP reception before the Closing Ceremony, the spokesman declined to comment, saying he doesn’t yet know how it will pan out.

Full delegation

Other members of the North’s delegation include Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the “Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the country” and six support staff.
Ri was among the delegation sent to South Korea in January for talks which led to North Korea’s participation in the Winter Olympics.
“We expect the high-level delegation’s participation in the closing ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics to help advance the process of settling peace on the Korean Peninsula including the improvement of inter-Korean relations and denuclearization,” the South Korean statement said.
It added that practical matters, including the delegation’s itinerary, would be discussed through an exchange of documents at Panmunjeom, known as the “truce village,” in the Joint Security Area between North and South Korea.

South Korean sailors salute images of their fallen comrades during a Cheonan memorial service in Seoul, April 25, 2010.

Cheonan Memorial

A total of 104 personnel were aboard the Cheonan when it sunk while conducting a normal mission in the vicinity of Baengnyeong Island in the Yellow Sea, in March 2010. Though rescue efforts continued for several days and involved more than 20 vessels, only 58 men were rescued from the ship.
According to an official South Korean report, based on an investigation conducted by South Korean, US, Swedish, British and Australian officials, the ship was attacked by a North Korean torpedo, fired from a small submarine.
North Korea has never claimed responsibility and refuses to accept the findings of the official report.
During his recent trip to South Korea, Vice President Pence visited the Cheonan Memorial which honors the 46 South Korean sailors killed in the attack.
Pence toured a museum featuring the sailors’ stories and examined remains of the Korean warship.
Speaking outside the memorial, Pence said the objective of the visit was to show that the US “stand(s) with our allies.”

Cyclone Gita could be most powerful to ever hit Tonga



Tropical Cyclone Gita could be most powerful to ever hit Tonga

(CNN)A storm barreling toward the Pacific island nation of Tonga could be the most powerful to ever hit the country.

Tropical Cyclone Gita is expected to hit Nuku’alofa, Tonga’s capital, with heavy winds up to 215 kilometers per hour (134 miles per hour) and upwards of 250 millimeters (10 inches) of rainfall Monday. Flooding and storm surges are expected to be another concern over the next 24 hours.
The Tongan Red Cross has warned the community that it could be in for a direct hit, and Tongan Police Commissioner Stephen Caldwell said Gita “could be the most powerful in the country’s history.”
“We are urging people to seek refuge from this severe cyclone,” Caldwell said.
Gita will strengthen to the equivalent of a weak Category 4 Atlantic Hurricane Monday, according to CNN meteorologist Michael Guy.
“Gita could be the strongest tropical cyclone to hit this close to the Tongan capital in the past 28 years,” said Guy.
Tonga is made up of 171 islands, only 45 of which are inhabited. The country’s total population is around 106,000 people.
Last week, Gita brought heavy rainfall to both Samoa and American Samoa, hitting those areas as a tropical depression.
Tonga’s acting Prime Minister, Semisi Sika, has declared a month-long state of emergency ahead of the storm.
As part of the emergency declaration, a curfew has been issued in the central business district Nuku’alofa, the Tongan Ministry of Information and Communication said in a news release. Those who live inside the district are being advised to stay indoors or move to an evacuation center.

After the storm hits Tonga, it’s expected to pass south of Fiji and New Caledonia.

Macau’s Cyber-security Law: More About Surveillance (And Censorship)



Macau’s Cybersecurity Law: Less About Security, More About Surveillance (And Censorship)

Graffiti art of surveillance camera. Published and labeled for reuse on Pixabay.

The following article is based on a translation of a post that appeared first in Chinese on Hong Kong citizen media outlet

Macau, a former Portuguese colony and a special administrative region on the south coast of China, has begun public consultations on a proposed Cybersecurity Law.

The Macau government is proposing the legislation in an effort to ensure the “security of network communications.” The law would establish a local cybersecurity standing committee and a cybersecurity center which would monitor online information flows in binary code to keep track of and investigate future cyber attacks. The center would coordinate with government departments to supervise and implement protection procedures for companies in 11 crucial sectors, including internet operators, media organizations, water and energy suppliers, financial and banking companies, gambling companies and medical institutions, among others.

The law would also obligate telecommunication operators and internet service providers (ISPs) to implement a real-name registration system, in which all users would be required to be fully identified in all their online activities. The law would require ISPs to keep users’ online activity logs for at least one year.

Various critics say the proposed law will provide a legal framework for mass surveillance, much more so than improve network security.

To look into the rationality behind the legislation, the Chinese Q&A news team interviewed a senior information security analyst who works in one of the 11 crucial sectors listed in the consultation document, to get an insider’s perspective.

Q: Have any hacking incidents taken place in Macau in the past few years? Does the information security sector find it necessary to set up a mechanism for monitoring data flows?

A: There haven’t been any major hacking incidents [affecting public security] in Macau in recent years, neither the public nor the public sector has been attacked by hackers. (The WannaCry kind of ransomware is not target specific attack.)

[Editor’s note: according to media report, apart from the WannaCry ransomware, a Macau ISP operator was hacked in January 2013, but only 34 clients’ information were stolen. This, however, was not considered a serious security breach.]

There is no need to set up a mechanism for monitoring data flows. If we have to monitor data flows, we have to record and analyze all of the data, much like immigration officers unpacking travelers’ baggage. Moreover, this type of monitoring system cannot prevent a cyber attack.

To take it a bit further, here are the two most common forms of cyber attack:

1. Distributed Denial of Service Attack (DDOS): A massive DDoS would produce a tremendous amount of data. Recording the data flow would require a huge storage space and a good deal of manpower. In other words, you can’t possibly monitor data flows in a DDoS attack.

2. Hacking of website and private network: In the case of targeted hacking attack, the incident response team of the cybersecurity center would have to get evidence from the server under attack. Of course, evidence can be obtained from a network facility. However, recording and unpacketing all the data packet on the network is a very ineffective way of gathering evidence in the investigation of a cyber attack.

On the other hand, the data flow monitoring mechanism is effective for keyword filtering. For example, when the data packet contains keyword like “Vindication of June 4”, the monitoring system can send out an alert. But this is not a network security measure — it looks much more internet censorship, in the style of mainland China.

Q: The proposed Cybersecurity Law will affect the 11 crucial sectors the most. Has the commercial sector submitted any opinion so far?

A: Commercial sector representatives are still in the process of understanding the content of the proposal. For example, the proposal mentioned that operators of the 11 crucial sectors have to hand in a network security report, but it did not mention what should be included in the report. It also said that operators should conduct a qualification and professional background check when appointing key positions. But what do they mean by “qualification”? Should the employees obtain a license from China’s Ministry of Industry and Information? And what is the meaning of “background check”? Do they need to prove that they love China and Macau? These are major concerns from the information security sector.

Q: Has there been any consultation on the listing of 11 businesses as crucial sectors?

A: There was no consultation among the business sector. The proposal was released on 8 December 2017 without prior notification and we had just one week to prepare for the consultation, which made it a very rushed process.

Q: For the IT sector, what kind of mechanism is more reasonable?

A: As a cybersecurity worker, I don’t think the proposed cybersecurity management framework is capable of maintaining what the draft proposes, which is a “three-level monitoring system that involves top [government authorities] and bottom [business operators] who will integrate strategy and implementation in an organic manner”. To the contrary, the framework will obstruct cybersecurity work.

From the cybersecurity sector’s viewpoint, policy makers and executive personnel should be familiar enough with the technology in order to integrate strategy and implementation in an organic manner.

In the so-called three-level cybersecurity management framework, the business operators would be supervised by government administrative bodies.

Would the government authorities have the ability [i.e. technical know-how] to supervise and protect network safety or assist the business operators to defend against cyber attacks? Why not set up an independent department with professional knowledge to manage the cybersecurity work?

Q: Would the proposed law, such as the policy of SIM card real name registration, affect the economic interest of the business sectors, in particular the gambling, media and ISP sectors?

A: First, regarding real-name registration of SIM cards, the policy would have little effect on the gambling and ISP sectors. Currently when applying for service, users have to provide their identity card or passport for registration. As for media, this is rather sensitive. Reporters’ communication is subjected to wiretapping. If all SIM cards have to be registered with real name, there will be certain negative impact.

Second, regarding operators’ cybersecurity reports, the content of the reports may involve some business secrets and of course the business sector doesn’t want any third party (including the government) to get hold of their secrets. Would the government allow the operators to submit a security report that hides sensitive and important information?

Third, regarding the duty of cooperators, the proposal mentioned that operators have to allow representatives of the cybersecurity center to enter its facilities and offices and assist their work by providing information and cooperation as requested. For those who cannot fulfill their duties, they would be seen as violating the administrative regulation and subjected to a MOP$50,000-150,000 fine for a minor offense and a MOP$150,000-5,000,000 fine for a serious offense.

However, if a business is subjected to cyber attack, the first thing that they do is try to recover the system. In the case of gambling businesses, the security incident would be handled by internal security staff as well as cybersecurity subcontractors who have the most advanced tools and knowledge. Moreover, they have signed an agreement of confidentiality. However, according to the government proposal, the police and the director of Postal and Telecommunication services would be responsible for cybersecurity alerts and prevention measures. For the business sector, of course they would seek help from a professional security team rather than the government authorities. Yet, by doing so, will the business be fined? If the government demands that investigation should come before system recovery, who would cover the loss?

Q: Would the proposed law infringe citizens’ privacy and freedom?

A: It would create a chilling effect for the public. Real-name registration will assist the monitoring of data and people will be worried about the security of private communication. Moreover, currently, ISPs already have the power to monitor our online activities or even intercept the data in the network. With this legislation, such power would be in the hands of the police and people would not know if their communication is being intercepted.

State of emergency declared in Maldives



State of emergency declared in Maldives

Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, center, addressed his supporters Saturday.

(CNN)Political unrest in the Republic of Maldives prompted the Asian nation’s president on Monday to declare a state of emergency for 15 days.

The move, which gives President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom power to arrest and detain people, reflects a power struggle between the island nation’s Supreme Court and its government.
“During this time, though certain rights will be restricted, general movements, services and businesses will not be affected,” said a statement from the office of the President.
The court last week ordered the release of political prisoners and the reinstatement of elected members of Parliament that would give the opposition majority power. But President Yameen has rejected adhering to the court order.
The Maldives attorney general on Sunday advised law enforcement to uphold the constitution and warned that the Supreme Court may “issue a ruling to impeach the President,” according to a press release from the Foreign Ministry.
Opposition supporters have staged street protests lobbying the government to obey the court order and have urged the international community to do what it can to persuade the government to obey the ruling.

Maldivian opposition supporters take to the streets Sunday to urge the government to obey the Supreme Court.

During the emergency period, the Maldives President said, “the safety of all Maldivians and foreigners living in and visiting the Maldives will be ensured.”
The US State Department said in a press release that it supports the Supreme Court’s decision and “it is imperative that the Maldivian President, government, and security services uphold the constitution and rule of law and implement the court’s ruling in full.”
China, the United Kingdom and India have issued travel warnings to Maldives.
“Security forces have been deployed in the capital Malé in response to political developments. If you’re in Malé, you should exercise caution and avoid any protests or rallies,” said the UK in their advisory.
A July 2017 population estimate in the CIA World Factbook said more than 392,000 live on the Indian Ocean archipelago, a popular tourist destination.

Is Black History Month Simply Racists?



I hope that you noticed that I posed this title as a question and not as a statement. I am going to be posing this article in questioning form, I am trying to get all of us to think, to look inside ourselves to discover, what do we think about these questions. First let us start with Black History Month, is its whole concept derived off of racism? Are the politicians, mostly the Democrats simply bowing down to a group of people who normally vote about 90% for Democrats? Why is there only one non-politician (Doctor Martin Luther King Jr.) who has their birthday as a Federal Holiday? Is it because he was a Black man? In all of U.S. history is Doctor King the only person who really stands out as a special human being deserving of having a Federal Holiday in honor of them? Personally I am in favor of Doctor King being honored in this way, I feel that the man deserves it, but aren’t there others, is he the only one?


I have seen in the past when a business celebrates a certain ethnic day, where the company lets a certain group of their employees get the day off or throw a special lunching for just one ethnic group, it causes a lot of friction within the rank and file of their employees. To me, if we are going to do such things as a Nation then we need to vastly expand it, or end it all together. Just as there are institutions within the Black community where we have organizations like the NAACP, the Negro College Fund, Black Colleges, Black Miss America, shouldn’t we also have things like this for all of the other nationalities? Doesn’t it have to be all or none? What would be wrong with the National Association For The Advancement of Oriental People, Hispanic People or European People? Would that be racists? If we had the National White College Fund or the White Miss America Pageant, or Miss Oriental Miss America Pageant or how about the Hispanic College Fund, are these ideas racists? Is the concept of Nation Indian American Pageant or Indian College Fund racists?


When it is only one group which is based on skin color, to me it sure looks like the pure definition of racism. What makes it worse is when you have so-called Leaders of that Nationality group who do things like deny that the Holocaust ever happened because they want to say that they, their group, their ethnicity, is the only group that has ever been treated horribly, folks, that is racism. Should we as a Nation honor the other Nationalities? Should March be National Arab Month? Should April be National Persian Month? May National Hispanic Month? The list could go on and on, should we as a Nation do this? Should the same things be evaluated concerning the Colleges and College funds? The Miss America Pageant, should we have one for every race, for every mixed race? As I said, this article today is posed as a question to you, to get us all to think, what is okay, what is racist, what should we as a Nation say yes or no to? If you would, please leave me your thoughts in the comment section, I always do my best to answer all comments within 24 hours when ever possible. Thank you for the kindness of your time, I appreciate you stopping in.



Very Old Tools Found In India: Question Is, Who Made Them



Very old, very sophisticated tools found in India. The question is: Who made them?

 February 1 at 9:40 AM 

Artifacts uncovered in the excavation at Attirampakkam. (Sharma Center for Heritage Education)

Humanity’s origin story has gotten increasingly tangled in recent years: New discoveries suggest that Homo sapiens interacted and interbred with other species and ventured out of Africa in more than one wave. Researchers have compared the ancient world to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth — but instead of hobbits, dwarves and elves, our planet had modern humans in Africa, Neanderthals in Europe, Homo erectus in Asia.

Now, a treasure trove of ancient stone tools suggests that humans’ circuitous path to modernity also wound through India.

In a paper published Wednesday in the journal Nature, researchers described thousands of stone implements uncovered at Attirampakkam, an archaeological site in southern India. The tools span about a million years of history, they say, and illustrate the evolution of big, blunt hand axes into finely sculpted stone points. Starting about 385,000 years ago — long before modern humans are thought to have arrived in India — it appears that an advanced toolmaking culture was developing there.

How did these techniques reach India so early? “That’s the multimillion-dollar question,” said archaeologist Shanti Pappu, founder of the Sharma Center for Heritage Education and a co-author of the report.

No remains were found alongside the Indian tools, meaning it’s impossible to determine whether the tools were produced by modern humans or one of our hominin cousins. If they were produced by members of our species, it would significantly shift the timeline of human evolution. But that’s a big “if,” Pappu acknowledged.

At the very least, she said, the discovery suggests “complex interactions” between the mystery hominins in India and their relatives around the world.

“It shows that simple linear narratives of dispersal only at certain time periods is incorrect,” Pappu said.

Modern humans evolved in Africa, and the oldest known bones that could feasibly belong to our species were found in a Moroccan cave and dated to 300,000 years ago. The recent discovery of human fossils in an Israeli cave suggests that we may have ventured into other continents as early as 194,000 years ago.

Early humans coexisted with human-like species 300,000 years ago in Africa

Scientists in South Africa unveil the first evidence that early humans co-existed with a small-brained human-like species thought to have been extinct in Africa at the time. 

Upon leaving Africa, Homo sapiens would have encountered an array of distant relatives. Paleoanthropologists believe the first hominins left Africa about 1.7 million years ago, although there’s some dispute about what species those early migrants belonged to.

With so few fossils available, reconstructing the story of human evolution and migration is a bit like trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle when you have just a handful of middle pieces and no edges or corners. Often, scientists must trace the movements of our ancestors through the stone tools we created.

The first hominins to leave Africa — whoever they were — carried with them oval- and pear-shaped hand axes used to pound and scrape food — a technology called Acheulean. The oldest tools found at Attirampakkam, which are more than 1 million years old, were crafted in this tradition.

But in a second batch of implements uncovered from a rock layer that spans 385,000 to 172,000 years ago (plus or minus about 50,000 years on either end), those heavy hand axes give way to smaller, more sophisticated points. One of the points even appears to have a groove that would allow it to be affixed to some kind of projectile, like a spear.

This kind of technology has long been associated with Neanderthals and Homo sapiens in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and it wasn’t thought to have arrived in India until humans reached south Asia about 100,000 years ago. Known as Levallois, this technique is associated with significant advances in human cognition, because such tools can’t be crafted without the ability to think abstractly and plan ahead.

Alison Brooks, a paleoanthropologist at George Washington University, said she’s not convinced that the smaller tools described by Pappu and her colleagues are true Levallois points.

“It’s still basically a single point in a giant continent,” she added — more discoveries are required to give context to this find.

That’s what Pappu hopes for, too. She noted that relatively few paleontology resources have been invested in India. The tools collected at Attirampakkam are among the first discoveries from India for which scientists even have a date.

“We hope this will be a jumping-off point for a new look at regions like India,” she said. “They also have a story to tell.”

Read more:

Oldest Homo sapiens fossils discovered in Morocco

Scientists discover the oldest human fossils outside Africa

Archaeology shocker: Study claims humans reached the Americas 130,000 years ago

With China: You Had Better Look The Gift Horse In The Mouth; Or Die



The Guardian view on China’s spreading influence: look in the gift horse’s mouth

There is growing concern about Beijing’s attempts to shape the thinking of politicians and the public overseas
Donald Trump meets the Chinese president, Xi Jinping in Florida in April last year

The arrest of a former CIA agent this week is the stuff of a classic murky spy tale. Though he is charged with unlawfully retaining national defence information, the US reportedly suspects that he leaked the names of informants. An earlier report alleged that China imprisoned or killed multiple US sources between 2010 and 2012. Both countries have plans for tackling espionage. But analysts, intelligence agencies and politicians are now debating how to handle the subtler challenge of Chinese influence activities: a “magic weapon” neither cloak-and-dagger nor transparent.

China says it does not interfere in other countries’ domestic affairs. Yet all nations seek to sway foreign governments and citizens towards their own priorities, interests and perspectives. The question is how they do so, and how far they go. (No one should pretend that western nations always act above board.)

China’s influence work is strategic and multifaceted. Some of it is distinctive mainly for lavish resourcing. The National Endowment for Democracy recently described other aspects as “sharp power”: the effort by authoritarian states not just to attract support but to determine and control attitudes abroad. It seeks to “guide” the diaspora and enlist it for political activity. It embraces foreigners, appointing those with political influence to high-profile roles in Chinese companies. Chinese-language media overseas have been bought by entrepreneurs with ties to Beijing. Partnerships with universities shape research and limit debate.

Last month, Australia’s prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, introduced a bill banning foreign donations as he warned of “unprecedented and increasingly sophisticated” attempts to influence politics. It follows a senator’s resignation after allegations that he tipped off a Chinese donor that his phone was probably tapped by security agencies; the case has reportedly prompted the Trump administration to open an investigation into Beijing’s covert influence operations in the US. In New Zealand, a Chinese-born MP denied being a spy after it emerged that he had spent years at top Chinese military colleges. A leading scholar on China has alleged that its “covert, corrupting and coercive political influence activities in New Zealand are now at a critical level”.

Chinese state media has complained of “hysterical paranoia” with racist undertones in Australia. In an era of populism, there is good reason to worry that members of the diaspora, in particular, could face unfair suspicion. Citizens have the right to listen to the views of a foreign government, be persuaded and share them. But to speak for them, on their order, is different. Is someone acting spontaneously, or have they been prodded, coerced or bought? What links or leverage does Beijing enjoy? Establishing the answers is hard – and proving self-censorship even tougher. But it is essential to at least attempt to distinguish between legitimate, improper and illegal activities.

Casting light on the issue is by far the most important step. Democracies must delve into areas that may prove embarrassing. They need the capability to do so – starting with language skills. Working together would help. In places, laws may need to be tightened, though with care: banning foreign political donations is a basic step. For this issue says as much about the west as China. Beijing’s keenness to control speech is manifest, while influential figures and institutions in democracies proclaim lofty ideals – then fall prey to gullibility or greed. China’s influence would not go very far without the western hunger for its cash.

Burmese military admits soldiers killed Rohingya found in mass grave



In a first, Burmese military admits that soldiers killed Rohingya found in mass grave

 January 10 at 4:23 PM

Burmese troops and villagers were behind the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslims whose bodies were found in a mass grave in Rakhine state’s Inn Din village, the military’s commander in chief, Min Aung Hlaing, said Wednesday in a statement on Facebook.

The admission marks the first time that Burma’s powerful military has acknowledged wrongdoing in the violence that gripped Rakhine last year. In just a few months, more than 650,000 members of the Rohingya minority fled across the border into Bangladesh. The crisis was labeled a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” by the United Nations’ top human rights official.

The military statement may also offer further hints to help address one of the most urgent questions in a crisis that is thought to have left thousands dead: Where are the bodies? Late last year, the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders estimated that at least 6,700 Rohingya had died violently during the exodus last year, mostly from gunshot wounds. The government of Burma, which is also known as Myanmar, has blocked numerous attempts by outside groups to investigate on the ground.

“It’s not as though there are human remains lying around everywhere,” said John Sifton, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “We have reason to suspect that authorities have disposed of human remains, whether maliciously to hide evidence or for other reasons.”

With access to the area limited, proof of killings has been hard to establish. U.N. human rights investigators and others have been denied access to the areas hit hardest by violence, while two Reuters journalists who were reported to be investigating evidence of a mass grave at Inn Din are on trial in Rangoon. Prosecutors are seeking charges that could impose a maximum prison sentence of 14 years, according to the reporters’ attorney.

Matthew Smith, chief executive officer of the human rights group Fortify Rights, said it was noteworthy that the grave referenced on Wednesday was the same being investigated by the Reuters journalists. “The authorities appear to have arrested them in order to halt the investigation while also sending a chilling message to other journalists and would-be truth tellers,” Smith wrote in an email.

After numerous accounts of massacres emerged from survivors, human rights groups resorted to using commercial satellite imagery to look for evidence of violence. Matt Wells, senior crisis adviser at Amnesty International, said that although it was difficult to find mass graves using that technique, images seen by Amnesty had made it clear that Rohingya homes in the Inn Din area were burned down in what appeared to be a coordinated campaign.

“It is one of the most striking examples of how targeted the burning has been in the military’s campaign,” Wells said in a phone call. “The Rohingya portion of the village has been completely burned to the ground, whereas non-Rohingya buildings very nearby have been completely untouched.”

In Wednesday’s military statement, the office of the Burmese military’s commander in chief said that villagers and security forces had acknowledged that they killed “10 Bengali terrorists” — a reference to the Rohingya whose bodies were found in Inn Din last year. The statement went on to claim that the soldiers involved were responding to provocations but added that they would be dealt with.

“The army will take charge of those who are responsible for the killings and who broke the rules of engagement,” the statement continued, according to an Associated Press translation. “This incident happened because ethnic Buddhist villagers were threatened and provoked by the terrorists.”

The Rohingya have been established in Burma for generations, but the government refuses to recognize members of the minority community as citizens and refers to them as Bengalis, implying that they are immigrants from Bangladesh who live in Burma illegally.

Though limited in scope, Wednesday’s message appears to contradict previous denials of a Burmese military involvement in violence against the Rohingya. In a report released in November, the military exonerated itself of accusations involving several atrocities, including rape and killings.

The government has strongly denied suggestions of “ethnic cleansing” in Rakhine. It has estimated that 400 Rohingya died last year but said that 376 of them were terrorists involved in an armed insurgency. Last year, a group of foreign journalists was flown into the country to see a mass grave in northern Rakhine that authorities said contained the bodies of Hindu villagers who had been killed by Rohingya insurgents.

Rights groups said that Wednesday’s acknowledgment of involvement showed the need for Burma to allow outside investigators into Rakhine.

“This grisly admission is a sharp departure from the army’s policy of blanket denial of any wrongdoing,” James Gomez, Amnesty International’s regional director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said in a statement. “However, it is only the tip of the iceberg and warrants serious independent investigation into what other atrocities were committed amid the ethnic cleansing campaign.”

Human Rights Watch’s Sifton said of the Burmese military: “This is not an institution that has any credibility. That is precisely why you need international observers and investigators involved now.”

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