The University Of California Berkeley: Will Not Tolerate ‘Free Speech’ If You Don’t Agree With Their Views?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

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Ann Coulter in February. After the cancellation was announced on Wednesday, Ms. Coulter posted a Twitter message that “no school accepting public funds can ban free speech.” CreditChip Somodevilla/Getty Images

SAN FRANCISCO — The University of California, Berkeley, on Wednesday canceled a scheduled speech by the conservative author Ann Coulter, in the latest blow to the institution’s legacy and reputation as a promoter and bastion of free speech.

University administrators said in a statement that they could not allow Ms. Coulter to speak because of active security threats. In a letter to the Berkeley College Republicans, which was sponsoring the speech, two university vice chancellors said the university had been “unable to find a safe and suitable venue for your planned April 27 event featuring Ann Coulter.”

The letter, written by Scott Biddy, the vice chancellor, and Stephen Sutton, the vice chancellor for student affairs, said it was “not possible to assure that the event could be held successfully — or that the safety of Ms. Coulter, the event sponsors, audience and bystanders could be adequately protected.”

After the cancellation was announced on Wednesday, Ms. Coulter posted on Twitter that “no school accepting public funds can ban free speech.”

With its reputation as one of the country’s most liberal universities, the campus and surrounding areas have become a target for small, militant and shadowy right-wing groups who in recent months have clashed with equally militant and shadowy anarchist groups based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

On Saturday, at the latest of these violent encounters, the police arrested more than 20 people. One video that went viral on social media showed a man identified as a member of a white supremacist group sucker-punching a woman who identified herself as an anarchist. These fight-club-type episodes, which have occurred both on campus and in the city of Berkeley, have escalated since the election of President Trump.

In February, a speech by the incendiary right-wing writer Milo Yiannopoulos, also sponsored by the College Republicans, was canceled after masked protesters smashed windows, set fires and pelted the police with rocks.

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Trump supporters clashed with protesters at a free speech rally in Berkeley, Calif., on Saturday.CreditElijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

Dan Mogulof, a spokesman for the university, said the college regretted that it had become a magnet for militant groups. “It’s become an O.K. Corral of sorts for activists across the political spectrum,” Mr. Mogulof said.

The university, he said, was committed to having a diversity of voices on campus and was working with the police to reschedule Ms. Coulter’s appearance. “We are going to do whatever we can to make that happen at a time and a place when police can provide safety and security,” he said.

At a time of heightened polarization, Berkeley is not the only university struggling to balance free speech and security concerns. The police clashed with protesters on Tuesday outside an auditorium at Auburn University where the white nationalist leader Richard Spencer was speaking. The university had canceled the event on the grounds that it could turn violent, but a federal judge in Mongtomery, Ala., ruled that the speech should proceed because there was no evidence that Mr. Spencer advocated violence.

The episodes have become fodder for conservative critics. In February, after the cancellation of the event with Mr. Yiannopoulos, Mr. Trump posted on Twitter: “If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view — NO FEDERAL FUNDS?”

Both Ms. Coulter and the Young America’s Foundation, which books her college speeches, said they expected the event to proceed as planned. Spencer Brown, a spokesman for the Young America’s Foundation, which promotes conservative ideals, said in an email that Ms. Coulter’s lecture would proceed next week “whether Berkeley likes it or not.”

The violent clashes in Berkeley have presented a dilemma for the police, who say intervening has its own risks. Anarchist groups have for years appeared at protests in neighboring Oakland, punctuating peaceful demonstrations by smashing shop windows and attacking public buildings.

The Oakland police came under heavy criticism in 2011 after a protester, a former Army Ranger, was severely injured during a demonstration. The protester, Kayvan Sabeghi, said the police beat him with batons. He sued, and the City of Oakland agreed to pay $645,000 as part of a settlement.

The Berkeley campus gained national attention in 1964 as the center of a movement to expand political expression, which became known as the Free Speech Movement.

If The Haggadah Has Got It Correct Then Western Education Has It All Wrong

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CHABAD.ORG)

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What’s So Wise About the Wise Child?

They say the Haggadah never ends. That makes sense, because the Haggadah is the classic Jewish guide to education, and education never ends.

So now that we’ve done our Seder for the 3,329th year, and while it’s still Passover, I’d like to open a discussion on how we educate our kids. And I’d like to start by listening to what the Haggadah is telling us.

It seems it’s telling us we’re doing it all wrong.

Here’s evidence: How do we test, monitor and measure the success of our students? By asking questions, right? (Like I just did.)

And indeed, the average middle-grade teacher asks around 400 questions a day. That’s about two per minute. After 15 years, a teacher has asked at least one million questions. The student has asked if he can go to the bathroom.After 14 and a half years, that’s a million questions. The average student, however, generally only asks two or three questions a week—most commonly, “Can I go to the bathroom?” In high school, not much better, with about ten questions a day. Compare that to preschool kids, who ask an average of 100 questions a day.

Some will tell you that’s the Socratic method. We’re attempting to elicit intelligence from students by battering them with questions they never thought of asking.

But the Haggadah does the opposite. Rather than evaluating children by their ability to answer, it identifies them in four categories by their ability to ask.

Questions Are Rich

That turns everything around.

For one thing, from a child’s correct answers, you often know very little. Maybe he simply has a good memory. Maybe he’s good at guessing what you want to hear. At very best, a child’s answers only tell us what that child knows.

But theA child’s answers tells us what he knows. A child’s questions tell us who he is. child’s questions provide a window into the child’s mind and soul. A child’s questions tell us who that child is.

Every child is on a critical mission to make sense of things, to find the meaning behind everything, to put the pieces together. But each child sees a different world, through different eyes. So each child discovers that meaning in his or her particular way.

So that only once we know what this child is looking for, and how he is looking for it, only then we can assist him to find it. And that is education—assisting the child on his or her particular journey of discovering meaning.

Ask! Please Ask!

Let’s start from the beginning: The Haggadah is designed to incite questions.The Haggadah is designed to incite questions. How does it do that? By breaking the routine.

Generally, a festive Jewish meal begins with a blessing on the wine. We then all proceed to wash our hands, return to the table, and say a blessing on the bread.

On the Seder night, we also start with the wine. And then the hand-washing. And we return to the table. And then we take small vegetable and dip it in some sort of liquid, and eat it.

Why the change?

You’ll hear all sorts of reasons, but there’s one definitive answer cited in the Code of Jewish Law: We do it so that someone will ask a question.

And if they ask, what do we answer? We answer that they got it right. They asked a question.

Which means that the question is of prime value, even when there is no answer. As the ancient rabbis said, “Even though we have no answer for this question, once the child is asking, he will ask more questions.”

And why is that important? Because, to those ancient rabbis, it’s obvious that you can’t teach a child a thing until the child has a question.

Passing by a ninth grade classroom in a yeshiva, I hear the teacher lecturing: “Okay, so the ultimate reason for the creation of all things is…”

The diligent students take notes. The rest stare into empty space. The teacher may as well be speaking about the average rainfall in Indonesia.

You can’t teach a thing until you have first awakened a question.

A question creates a vacuum, a space in the brain to fit new knowledge. Just like a car is useless if you live in a big city where there’s no place to park it, and a meal goes in the trash if there’s no one to eat it, so the most satisfying answer in the world is meaningless to the child who never had the question. He has no place in his skull to store it. It’s just a distraction and confusion for his mind from its true quest—to find meaning.

Yes, in case the child has no questions, we provide some, in the form of the Ma Nishtana—”Why is this night different from all other nights?”

But that’s Plan B. Plan A is that the children will ask questions of their own. And you, the parent, will wrack your brains finding answers for them.

Answering the Children

That brings us to another vital lesson from the Haggadah: We don’t answer the question.Don’t answer the question. Answer the child. We answer the child.

“The wise child—what does he say?” Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitchwould point out that in Hebrew, with just a slight change in punctuation, those words can read quite differently: “The wise child—what is he? He says…”

Through the question, we see the child. And that is who we answer.

The wise child articulates his question. He’s obviously thought it through well and knows exactly what he’s looking for.

If he’s wise, why does he ask? Why doesn’t he just have faith, like a good religious boy, and accept all his parents and teachers tell him?

He asks because he has faith. Like a scientist who believes that there will always be an explanation if we will just dig a little further, he believes that there will always be meaning, and deeper meaning, and yet deeper. His mind is not fettered by faith, but driven by it. And his faith, in turn, is enriched by his questions.

Something neat Rabbi Avraham Altein just pointed out: If there are no children to ask, no guests, nobody, the halacha is that you have to ask the question to yourself. According to Maimonides, even if the children have asked the questions, the parents must also ask.

Get that? You know the answer, but you have to ask again. Really ask. Revisit the darkness of “I don’t know”—as though you never knew. Because last year’s answer no longer satisfies you. That’s how you get to a new light. And that’s what it means to be wise.

All the Children

Which all explains why the Wise Child often ends up getting all the attention, while the others are left out.

But no, there are three more children in the room.There are three more children in the room. They are also our children. They are also our children.

Like the Wicked Child. He’s next in line in expertise at asking questions. After all, he has identified exactly what it is that is bothering him. Problem is, he’s not interested in an answer.

But he’s still number two, because something bothers him. The whole Seder bothers him. Which means he’s alive and kicking. Which means there’s something there to work with.

The Simple Child asks, but he’s not sure what he’s asking. He’s the one that is too often ignored. Since you don’t really get his question (because neither does he), he never gets an answer. In the times we live in, that’s a precarious situation. Because that may one day mean to him that there is no answer. And if so, he will have a different question: “Why am I doing all this if there is no answer?”

So the Haggadah instructs you to tell him stories of wonders and miracles. That is his world, that is what he sees. He is in wonderment. Go with it—take that wonderment and nurture it, all the way. Don’t give him any less than the Wise Child, or the Wicked One. And don’t demand that he become the Wise Child—lest you push him towards his cynical brother.

As for The Child Who Doesn’t Know How To Ask—In illustrated Haggadahs, he’s always a baby with a pacifier in his mouth. But that’s nonsense.The Inquisitively Challenged Child got 100% on his Haggadah test. I’ll bet he got 100/100 on his Passover Haggadah finals.

You know why I think that? Look at the answer we give him: “For the sake of this, G‑d did what He did for me when I left Egypt.” That’s a deep answer to an intelligent person.

So what does it mean that “he doesn’t know how to ask”?

Many of the ideas I’m writing here were sparked years ago by a conversation with an Israeli researcher, a student of renowned educational psychologist, Benjamin Bloom, who visited our school along with many high schools across North America. At each school, the researcher would ask the principal, “Give me your best students, one by one, in a private room.”

When the student would enter, she would just sit there for a minute or two. Then she would ask, “Do you have any questions?”

Silence.

Then: “I’m visiting from Israel.”

More silence.

“I’m doing research.”

You get the gist of it.

But then, she would ask the principal to bring in the troublemakers, one-by-one. They would enter, and immediately break into, “Why am I here? Who are you? What is this all about? Israel? What’s that like?”

Open For This Child

So this child #4, a bright child who excels in school, why does this child not ask? Why is he not in search of understanding and meaning? What went wrong?

My guess? He went to school. There he was rewarded for answering questions just the way the teacher likes. But he was never rewarded for asking the really good ones that might disrupt the class, or the questions that the teacher might not have the answers to.

So Teach him, by example, that it’s even ok to question the most basic assumptions.for this child, “You must open for him.” Open his mouth. Teach him to ask. Teach him that it’s ok to ask. Teach him that it’s even ok to question the most basic assumptions. How? By example. By showing him how you yourself question assumptions.

That could explain another one of those Seder tidbits that should spark a thousand questions—or at least some annoyance. Immediately after the episode of the four children, a heavy chunk of Talmudic exegesis plops down upon us, seemingly telling us nothing of the Exodus narrative or the people sitting here.

Here’s the classic translation:

One may think that [the discussion of the exodus] must be from the first of the month. The Torah therefore says, “On that day.” “On that day,” however, could mean while it is yet daytime; the Torah therefore says, “It is because of this.” The expression “because of this” can only be said when matzah and maror are placed before you.

But Rabbi Don Yitzchak Abravanel (15th century) tells us it’s actually as relevant as you can get. It’s a response to that Inquisitively Challenged Child. It’s about opening his mind with a question that challenges the most unquestioned assumption of the entire ritual: Who says it’s Passover tonight?

Try reading it like this:

You: Hold on, maybe we were supposed to do this Seder on Rosh Chodesh—15 days ago on the first day of the month!

Child: Umm. Why then?

You: Because that’s when God told Moses about the mitzvah of Pesach.

Child: Okay, so we messed up.

You: Nope, it says on that day.

Child: Okay, so let’s get on. What do we say next?

You: Not so simple. Because then we should be doing it during the day. Now it’s night already.

Child: So it’s over. Let’s eat.

You: Not so fast. You see, it says, for the sake of this stuff. Meaning this matzah and bitter herbs that we eat on the night of Pesach. So we have to wait until we’re supposed to eat that stuff—and that’s tonight.

Child: Why on earth do we have to tell a story to food?

See? It worked!


So here’s what I’m taking from my Seder into the coming year:

Torah comes to us in a beautiful package, wrapped and tied. The only way to untie those knots and open up its treasures is by asking the right questions whenever and wherever they come to mind, and asking them without fear or shame.

How do we get ourselves,How can we teach the faith and courage it takes not to fear a good question? our children, other Jews, and everyone else who can benefit, to ask? How can we teach the faith and courage it takes not to fear a good question?

If we can find answers to those questions, we will have half of education nailed.

What’s So Wise About the Wise Child?

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman’s writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many Chabad.org pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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The Stock Market And Local Politicians Are The Financial Death Of The Working Class?

 

I was born into a poor mostly all white hard-working, low-income, sweatshop factories class of people. Most are very good people who were just trying to survive at more than a week to week clip. Most of those parents back in those days did at least a fair job raising their kids. Now almost all of their children are in their 30’s or 40’s and they are in a financial life pushed upon them by others. I’m just sitting down to have a powwow with you, if you care to read my thoughts. Most articles I write I do so with the intent of getting my readers to expand their own thoughts. Some do not like what I write, I do not ever expect everyone to agree with me and my thoughts. But if I can once in a while bring a better light to a subject, that’s all I am trying to do.

 

Here I am going to speak with you about how it is America’s local politicians who are ruining the financial lives of the very people who voted them into office. I guess it is global human issue, Politicians always need more money to pay their bills each month than what they have in the bank. Each year they increase the value all of the local properties 3,4,5,10,20%–basically, whatever the City Council thinks it can get away with. Even when the Politicians work together and use those tax revenues for the soul good of the tax payers in projects like road upkeep, new sewage lines and consistent trash pickup. Yet it is the property owners who are taking a financial hit. Now all people who rent any property have to pay more each month, each year, for a property that in most cases didn’t change any from the year before. Now people and the Government have more money to borrow and to spend, which keeps raising the prices of everything, not just land. But then again it is now a reality that there are many millions of people who have been priced out of the ‘Housing Market’. If you buy a house to be a rental income house and your payment on your loan is $1,000.00 per month what would a monthly rental payment have to be to make that investment worth the owner’s time? I’m guessing the local economy dictates what the logical price will be. Now let’s say you bought the property and you are going to ask $1,300.00 rent. Trouble is, in most economies here in America housing cost which is triggered by local politicians greed/need for more revenue has become beyond the reach of millions within the working class. Shouldn’t any given city, county, state be required to have minimum wage laws that matched up with what the cost level is of the ‘poverty line’. It should not be legal anywhere for a person to work a 40 hour week and not make enough money to get ‘up to’ the Poverty Line. The Poverty Line should be the minimum wage…I’m just saying, I think that is fair.

 

The Stock Market, there is so much I could say about this world-wide scam. Think about these facts for a moment, then you will see why I am not a fan of this system of things.There is always speculation which of course feeds the fires of higher profits. When two companies merge the value of their stock tends to go up because you know that pretty soon they will downsize their staff and fewer employees to have to pay wages and benefits to equals more profits to the stockholders. When a company that is on the stock market closes its factory in Tennessee and moves it to Mexico for the cheaper ‘costs per unit’, the value of the company/stock value goes way up, even though all of those hundreds of families in America lost their income. When companies do this it is all about profits, period! When a company closes up its factories in the U.S. to move it to China or Vietnam is there ever a case when these new toys now made in China cost so much less for the consumer back here in America? NO, you keep the same high prices and the profits go to the stockholders and the bonuses to the B.O.D.. Who loses out? The American worker. By no means are these problems singular to the U.S., these issues exist everywhere there are politicians with too much power, and a Stock Market. Yes the few can get very wealthy, but the vast majority stay broke, just think of the addicted gambler, living in Vegas! A few for a while see the bright sunshine, but almost all will spend almost all of their time, just trying to survive.

To Be Holy: God’s Grace First, Then Our Choice

 

HOLY MAN/OR WOMAN BOTH CHOICE AND GRACE

Like it or not we all are what we are

We can choose our path, to the light or the dark

If we choose to walk in darkness, that is our choice

The light still shines even then, if we choose to see

We choose to walk in and stay in the light or darkness

Not by accident, it is a choice that each of us make

I am what I am because

I love the Son of God,

More than the toys of man

We all sin daily

For like you, I am just a man

If I forgive, and hold not against you

Will you in like kindness, give, as I give to you

Being a Man of God is an honor given

Not from our own righteousness, but grace

For such kindness is given, only from above

It is difficult to have the heart of a hawk

And the spirit of a dove

Being a Man of God, is something I long prayed for

To have a soul full of God’s love and Grace

Always willing to speak what you now know is the truth

The world will rage at the words that you speak

Being kind, decent, and loving is no life for the meek!

Arnold Schwarzenegger Mocks President Trump’s Approval Ratings

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS)

Arnold Schwarzenegger Mocks President Trump’s Approval Ratings and Challenges Him to a Middle-School Visit

8:42 AM ET

Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday mocked President Donald Trump’s low approval ratings and challenged him to go to a Washington D.C. middle school to see after-school programs in action, after they were placed on the chopping block in the President’s proposed budget.

“Oh, Donald, the ratings are in, and you got swamped,” Schwarzenegger said in a video Tuesday. “Wow. Now you’re in the thirties?”

“But what do you expect?” he added. “I mean, when you take away after-school programs from children and Meals on Wheels from the poor people, that’s not what you call ‘making America great again.'”

Hey, @realDonaldTrump, I have some advice. See you at Hart Middle School? Here’s more info about : http://www.afterschoolallstars.org/programs/national-outcomes/ 

 The video is the latest addition to an ongoing feud between the two men. Trump regularly criticized the ratings of The New Celebrity Apprentice after Schwarzenegger took over as host earlier this year. The actor and former governor of California recently stepped down from the show after one season, prompting Trump to taunt him for “pathetic” ratings.

Freak accident at Ghana waterfall kills at least 18

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Freak accident at Ghana waterfall kills at least 18

Rescuers search for survivors trapped underwater after a tree fell at Kintampo waterfall in Ghana on March 19, 2017.

(CNN)A freak accident at a popular waterfall in Ghana has killed at least 18 people, according to local authorities.

A huge tree appears to have fallen amid a brutal storm trapping swimmers at the base of Kintampo waterfalls in the country’s Brong Ahafo region on Sunday afternoon, Kintampo District Police commander chief Desmond Owusu Boampong told CNN.
14 students from Wenchi Methodist Senior High School in Ghana are among the 18 people killed, Boampong added. The students were on an excursion to the popular spot at the time of the incident, another police spokesperson said.
Authorities said a further 22 individuals are currently being treated at a local hospital for injuries sustained in the accident.
Emergency teams — comprised of both local Ghana police and the Ghana National Fire Service — responded to the scene shortly after to rescue the trapped victims and aid the injured.
Eyewitnesses told local police that the incident happened around 4 p.m. (12 p.m. ET) during a severe rainstorm which caused three large trees to fall to the ground.
Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo has offered his condolences on Twitter.
“I have learned with great sadness, the unfortunate incident that occurred at Kintampo Waterfalls yesterday. (1/2)”
Following up with a second post, he added: “My deepest condolences to the families of all those affected by this unfortunate and tragic incident. (2/2)”
Kintampo waterfalls — one of the highest in the country — is located in Ghana’s Brong Ahafo region, around 400 kilometers (almost 250 miles) north of the capital, Accra. Situated on the Pumpum River, it is one of the most visited tourist sites in the country.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Shows Her Hypocrisy And Ignorance After Visiting A Public School

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Newly minted Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had a hard time getting inside the District’s Jefferson Middle School Academy last week when protesters briefly blocked her from entering. But at the end of her visit — her first to a public school since taking office — she stood on Jefferson’s front steps and pronounced it “awesome.”

A few days later, she seemed less enamored. The teachers at Jefferson were sincere, genuine and dedicated, she said, they seemed to be in “receive mode.”

“They’re waiting to be told what they have to do, and that’s not going to bring success to an individual child,” DeVos told a columnist for the conservative online publication Townhall. “You have to have teachers who are empowered to facilitate great teaching.”

DeVos, who has no professional experience in public education, is an avowed proponent of voucher schools, charter schools, online schools and other alternatives to traditional public schools. Teachers across the country have been galled by what they see as her lack of faith in — and understanding of — the public schools that educate nearly nine in 10 of the nation’s children.

Jefferson educators found her comments about their work hard to take: On Friday evening, the school responded to DeVos via its Twitter account, taking exception to the education secretary’s characterization of Jefferson teachers.

“We’re about to take her to school,” the first of 11 rapid-fire tweets said.

The tweetstorm singled out teachers like Jessica Harris, who built Jefferson’s band program “from the ground up,” and Ashley Shepherd and Britany Locher, who not only teach students ranging from a first- to eighth-grade reading level, but also “maintain a positive classroom environment focused on rigorous content, humor, and love. They aren’t waiting to be told what to do.”

“JA teachers are not in a ‘receive mode,’” the tweets concluded. “Unless you mean we ‘receive’ students at a 2nd grade level and move them to an 8th grade level.”

An Education Department spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson, who accompanied DeVos on her visit to Jefferson, offered praise after the visit for the “dynamic classroom instruction” they both witnessed there.

Asked Saturday to respond to DeVos’s comments about Jefferson teachers, Wilson provided a statement:

I’ve worked in schools for my entire professional life — as a teacher, principal, and superintendent. I have learned from much experience what it takes to prepare students for college success. The teaching and learning at Jefferson will put our students on a path to college, successful careers, and beyond. I see that. Our teachers see that. Our students see that. And our parents see that. Defying expectations takes experience and a lifelong dedication to all students. DCPS is rich with educators who have this experience.

 

“I find it very interesting that the chancellor saw teachers that were pushing rigorous learning, students asking each other high-level questions and cultivating high-level responses, and teachers who take initiative and give their lives to the education of these children,” said Jefferson teacher Caroline Hunt. “DeVos saw something so different. … Maybe if DeVos knew more about education she would realize just how amazing the students, teachers and staff are.”

Jefferson is five years into a turnaround effort and is one of the fastest-improving schools in the city’s public school system. While fewer than half of students are meeting or approaching grade-level expectations, according to new Common Core tests, the school’s growth has won it classification as a “rising” D.C. school.

Do The Skulls Of Monkeys And Neanderthals Look More Human Than Our Human Ones Do?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

“It looks like a monkey,” exclaims an excitable young boy, looking at a replica of a skull.

We are standing in a busy gallery at the Natural History Museum in London, UK. Here, a selection of skulls that once belonged to our prehistoric ancestors have been cast in metal and put on display. Children run their hands over the skulls’ heavy brows and protruding jaws.

These reconstructed faces look impassive, but a range of emotions are painted onto the visitors’ faces. One small girl looks shy as she peeks around the legs of an adult. Joy covers the faces of three boys running wildly past, anger flickers onto the face of the teacher who scolds them, and tears flood from another child who was pushed over in their haste.

The children are all living, breathing examples of how extraordinarily expressive our faces are. Human faces convey a huge range of emotion and information through subtle shifts in the muscles around our eyes and mouth. No other animal has such an expressive face.

What’s more, each of us can instantly recognise another member of our species with a glance at their face. No other species shares our flat face, high forehead, small jaw and jutting chin – not even the many human-like species that went before us.

The question is, when did humans start to look like we do today? New scientific techniques and discoveries are starting to provide answers. But they are also revealing that our distinctive facial features may be far older than many anthropologists originally believed.

Our hominin relatives all lived within the last 10 million years (Credit: Richard Gray)

Our hominin relatives all lived within the last 10 million years (Credit: Richard Gray)

“As the last surviving species of humans on the planet, it is tempting to assume our modern faces sit at the tip of our evolutionary branch,” says Chris Stringer, an anthropologist at the Natural History Museum in London, as he joins me in the gallery.

The Neanderthal face was huge, with an enormous nose

“And for a long time, that has been what the fossils seemed to indicate,” he continues. “Around 500,000 years ago, there was a fairly widespread form of Homo heidelbergensis that has a face somewhat intermediate between that of a modern human and Neanderthals. For a long time, I argued this was our common ancestor with Neanderthals.”

Stringer shows me the cast of a real H. heidelbergensis cranium that was found at Broken Hill in Zambia in the 1920s, and which is now kept safely in the museum’s fossil collection. It is the same skull that the little boy stood in front of earlier.

With a bit of guidance, it is easy to see why this species could be the common ancestor of modern humans and our extinct cousins the Neanderthals, who died out around 40,000 years ago.

The skull of a Homo heidelbergensis (Credit: Javier Trueba/MSF/Science Photo Library)

The skull of a Homo heidelbergensis (Credit: Javier Trueba/MSF/Science Photo Library)

Modern humans have small noses and our jaws sit beneath the rest of our skull. Our cheek bones are angled and each cheek has a distinctive hollow beneath the eye socket, known as the canine fossa.

In a sinkhole in the mountains, fragments of a small, flat-faced skull were unearthed

By comparison the Neanderthal face was huge, with an enormous nose and the front of the face pulled forward. Around the cheeks the skull curved outwards, rather than being hollowed out. To our eyes, this would have given them a puffy appearance. They also had a far flatter forehead than we do, while above their eyes was a pronounced double arch of the brow-ridge that hung over the rest of their face.

H. heidelbergensis had a slightly flatter face than the Neanderthal and a smaller nose, but no canine fossa. They also had an even more pronounced brow-ridge than that seen in Neanderthals.

For decades, most anthropologists agreed that Neanderthals had retained many of these features from H. heidelbergensis as they evolved and developed a more protruding jaw, while our own species went in a different direction. That was until the 1990s, when a puzzling discovery was unearthed in the Sierra de Atapuerca region of northern Spain.

Excavations at the Atapuerca site (Credit: Javier Trueba/MSF/Science Photo Library)

Excavations at the Atapuerca site (Credit: Javier Trueba/MSF/Science Photo Library)

In a sinkhole in the mountains, fragments of a small, flat-faced skull were unearthed, alongside several other bones. The remains were identified as belonging to a previously unknown species of hominin. It was called Homo antecessor.

It was assumed that it would fill out and grow into something resembling heidelbergensis

The face of this new species of human ancestor appeared to be far more like our own, and even had the distinctive hollowing of the canine fossa. Yet it lived 850,000 years ago, well before H. heidelbergensis.

At first, this apparent contradiction was hand-waved away. The Atapuerca skull belonged to a child, aged around 10 to 12 years old. It is difficult to predict what this youngster’s face would have looked like in adulthood, because as humans age their skulls grow and change shape. “It was assumed that it would fill out and grow into something resembling heidelbergensis,” says Stringer.

However, later discoveries suggest this is not the case. “We now have four fragments from antecessor adult and sub-adult skulls,” says Stringer. “It looks like they maintain the morphology we see in the child’s skull.”

Homo antecessor remains from Atapuerca (Credit: Javier Trueba/MSF/Science Photo Library)

Homo antecessor remains from Atapuerca (Credit: Javier Trueba/MSF/Science Photo Library)

It is still difficult to make direct comparisons between hominin skulls. For one thing, many are incomplete. But even setting that aside, a phenomenon known as allometry means that changes in size also lead to changes in shape, because different body parts grow at different rates.

It seems the Neanderthals are more evolved in their own direction than modern humans

To get around this problem, Jean-Jacques Hublin of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and his colleagues have created computer models that let them “grow” skulls virtually.

“When we do this, we can explain the variation in shape between Neanderthals,” says Hublin. “But if we grow a modern human skull to the size of a Neanderthal, we don’t have something that looks like a Neanderthal. You get something different.”

Hublin thinks that modern humans have retained a lot of primitive features from our distant ancestors. “It seems the Neanderthals are more evolved in their own direction than modern humans,” he says. “They would have looked very peculiar to our eyes.”

In other words, the faces of modern humans may not be all that modern at all.

Many hominin species came before us (Credit: Richard Gray)

Many hominin species came before us (Credit: Richard Gray)

“The term ‘modern’ is somewhat misleading,” says Hublin. “When you say ‘modern’, people assume you mean ‘more evolved’, but in fact in our case it may mean ‘more primitive’.”

Our bones are continually renewed and remodelled

Hublin and his team can also use their software to mature the skulls of children, giving an idea of what they would have looked like when they became adults

When they applied it to the skull fragments of H. antecessor, they got something that looked both primitive and modern at the same time.

“The face has more prominence than modern humans,” says Hublin. “But it doesn’t have the derived features we see in the Neanderthal.”

Something even more surprising emerged when the fossilised skulls of H. antecessor were placed under a microscope.

A reconstruction of a Homo antecessor child (Credit: Richard Gray)

A reconstruction of a Homo antecessor child (Credit: Richard Gray)

Throughout life, our bones are continually renewed and remodelled. This leaves distinct patterns on the bone, which can reveal how it grew and formed. In particular, cells that deposit bone, known as osteoblasts, create a smooth surface – whereas those that absorb bone, called osteoclasts, leave it pitted with microscopic craters.

In modern humans, the area beneath the nose and around the upper jaw – known as the maxilla – is rich in cells that absorb bone. But in Neanderthals, H. heidelbergensisand other early hominins like Australopithecus, this area had lots of cells that deposit bone, causing the face to protrude forwards.

We last shared a common ancestor with Neanderthals around 700,000 years ago

“Modern humans show widespread areas of resorption all over the maxilla,” says Rodrigo Lacruz of the New York University College of Dentistry, who has led much of this work with his colleague Timothy Bromage.

“It is this resorption that helps maintain the human face where it is under the cranium, rather than protruding far forward.”

Similar patterns of bone resorption can be seen around the canine fossa in modern humans, whereas Neanderthal skulls show widespread bone deposition.

So when Lacruz, Bromage and their colleagues popped the skull fragments from H. antecessor under the microscope, they were staggered to find that the maxilla and canine fossa were heavily pitted. Not only that, but the pattern of bone reabsorption they noticed was similar to that seen in modern humans.

These similarities suggest that one of the key developmental changes responsible for the characteristic face of modern humans can be traced back to H. antecessor,” says Lacruz. “This is important, because antecessor not only showed this human-like growth pattern, but also shows some human-like morphology around 800,000 years ago.”

The skull of a Homo antecessor (Credit: Richard Gray)

The skull of a Homo antecessor (Credit: Richard Gray)

That date is significant, because the most recent studies of the human family tree suggest that we last shared a common ancestor with Neanderthals around 700,000 years ago – not long after H. antecessor‘s time.

Faced with all these findings, Stringer and many of his colleagues are now reassessing their ideas about the evolution of the human face.

Speaking at a conference in Madrid in September 2016, Stringer and several other leading experts argued that H. antecessor, or a close relative yet to be discovered, may be a better fit as the common ancestor of our species and Neanderthals than H. heidelbergensis.

The skull of a Homo heidelbergensis (Credit: Richard Gray)

The skull of a Homo heidelbergensis (Credit: Richard Gray)

H. antecessor is thought to have appeared at around the time of the first exodus of hominins from Africa, between 1.8 and 0.8 million years ago.

This would mean that our face is actually quite primitive compared to H. heidelbergensis and Neanderthals

Some of the oldest footprints to be found in Europe – discovered at Happisburgh in the UK in 2013 – are thought to have been left by H. antecessor.

Some Spanish remains also initially attributed to H. antecessor – a molar and part of a mandible – have been dated to 1.2 million years ago, although the team that discovered them has since become more cautious about their identity.

Under the new evolutionary tree that is being proposed, our species evolved from H. antecessor. Meanwhile, H, heidelbergensis diverged around 500,000 years ago and evolved independently, leading to Neanderthals.

“This would mean that our face is actually quite primitive compared to H. heidelbergensis and Neanderthals,” says Stringer.

If that is true, it would help to explain many of the differences we see between us and our evolutionary cousins.

The skull of a Neanderthal (Credit: E. R. Degginger/Science Photo Library)

The skull of a Neanderthal (Credit: E. R. Degginger/Science Photo Library)

While modern humans and Neanderthals both evolved big brains, made tools, hunted, used fire, created jewellery and developed culture, our bodies evolved in different ways. Even our brains were different shapes.

Something in those archaic hominins required them to have a large nose

Paul O’Higgins of the University of York, with Ricardo Godinho and Penny Spikins, has tried to unravel why these differences appeared. Using engineering principles, they have analysed the fossilised remains of prehistoric hominins, and modern humans, using 3D computer models.

The team was surprised to find that, despite their big jaws, H. heidelbergensis were much less efficient at biting than modern humans with our smaller, flatter faces. The shape of the H. heidelbergensis skull and the position of its muscles means they cannot physically generate intense bite forces, even though their bones are capable of withstanding them. Similar work has shown the same pattern in Neanderthals.

“The bone in modern humans fractures much earlier,” says O’Higgins. “It suggests efficient biting we get from our flat faces was not the result of natural selection, but something else.”

It now seems that our powerful bites are related to the size of our noses.

Neanderthal (left) and human (right) (Credit: Pascal Goetgheluck/Science Photo Library)

The skulls of a Neanderthal (left) and modern human (right) (Credit: Pascal Goetgheluck/Science Photo Library)

“Something in those archaic hominins required them to have a large nose, which requires a large face,” says O’Higgins. “Whether that was energetic demands or climate we are not entirely sure. But when you lose the need for a large nose, we found the face begins to tuck under the brain, and bite force increases incidentally.”

H. heidelbergensis and Neanderthals had gigantic brow ridges

The popular explanation for Neanderthals’ big noses is that they were an adaptation for the cold climates of the Pleistocene ice ages. The large nasal cavity would have warmed the cold air before it reached their lungs.

However, in a 2010 paper Stringer showed that Neanderthal sinuses did not lie outside the size range found in modern European humans. Instead, it appears the large noses seen in H. heidelbergensis and later Neanderthals may have appeared “by accident” through genetic drift, after they split from their common ancestor with modern humans.

Another prominent difference between modern humans and our ancestors may have vanished from our lineage for a different reason.

A reconstruction of a Neanderthal face, with a large brow ridge (Credit: Richard Gray)

A reconstruction of a Neanderthal face, with a large brow ridge (Credit: Richard Gray)

H. heidelbergensis and Neanderthals had gigantic brow ridges,” says O’Higgins. “It was like having a peaked cap on the top of the forehead.”

With big brow ridges, the movement of the eyebrows is limited

In research presented at the Madrid conference, he and his colleagues used their computer models to shave away the brow ridges, then looked at how this affected the structure of the face and skull. They found that the brow ridges did not provide any structural advantage. Instead, they believe these prominent arches of bone above the eyes may have served to signal dominance to other members of the species, much like the huge antlers of modern male moose.

Stringer has also suggested this, comparing ancestral hominins to olive baboons. These monkeys raise their eyebrows as part of their dominance displays. Similarly, mandrills also use bright colours on their eyebrows and snouts to indicate their rank in their group.

At the 2016 meeting, O’Higgins and his colleagues presented preliminary findings suggesting that, when our ancestors lost these aggressive-looking brow ridges, they gained a subtler form of communication.

Olive baboons (Papio anubis) (Credit: Frans Lanting, Mint Images/Science Photo Library)

Olive baboons (Papio anubis) also have large brow ridges (Credit: Frans Lanting, Mint Images/Science Photo Library)

“With big brow ridges, the movement of the eyebrows is limited,” says O’Higgins. But that changes when the ridges disappear. “When you have a flat face, you have a vertical forehead and suddenly you can move your eyebrows up and down. This means you introduce much more nuanced social communication. You can tell if someone is cross, happy or angry.”

Our faces are among our most valuable tools

If that is true, it implies that it was our status as a social, cooperative species that led us to keep our primitive faces.

Our facial expressions form a key part of our social interactions, helping us instinctively work out what someone is feeling or thinking. O’Higgins’s research suggests that we would not be able to do that if we had evolved faces like those of the Neanderthals.

Ultimately, research like this could tell us which of our hominin ancestors were able to smile, frown or show disgust with their faces as we do.

It is also a reminder that our faces are among our most valuable tools. If they were different, we could not communicate with each other as effortlessly as we do.

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India, Mob Attacks Police With Bows And Arrows

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

Mob attacks cops with bow and arrow, block road in Burdwan

INDIA Updated: Jan 28, 2017 01:00 IST

PTI

Highlight Story

TMC activists show black flag and try to attack the car of Union Minister of State Babul Supriyo in Asansol in Burdwan district of West Bengal on Monday. (PTI Photo)

A mob on Friday attacked the police with bow and arrow and blocked the arterial Ausgram-Guskara Road in protest against detention of three school teachers and alleged manhandling of them at Guskara in Burdwan district.A police officer said some of the policemen were injured when a mob, accompanying some teachers of a local high school and it’s managing committee members, suddenly attacked the cops during altercation at the Guskara police station.

As police dispersed the mob and detained three of the teachers on charge of instigating the mob and preventing a public servant from discharging duty, it moved to nearby Guskara-Ausgram Road and blocked the road.

A section of the crowd also attacked the policemen with bows and arrows as a force tried to lift the blockade, the officer said.

The blockade, which went on for several hours, was lifted after police released the three teachers and promised to look into charges of high-handednes against the IC of Guskara police station.

Locals alleged 15 teacherz and 20 students were injured in police lathicharge during the agitation but the police denied there was any lathicharge.

Superintendent of Police Kunal Agarwal said police were looking into the allegations of highhandedness and action would be taken if anyone was found guilty.

The teachers and locals alleged police did not take action to stop unathorised construction near the school gate.

Why the Supreme Court special education case about a boy with autism is so sickening

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF  THE WASHINGTON POST)

Why the Supreme Court special education case about a boy with autism is so sickening

January 12 at 3:42 PM

There is something sickening about a case the Supreme Court just heard about a boy with autism and what level of public education he — and other students with disabilities — deserve.

Here’s some background: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is a federal law requiring public schools to provide children with disabilities a “free appropriate public education.” Students in special education get “individualized education programs, or IEPs, or blueprints that spell out supports and goals for each child. The Supreme Court ruled decades ago that IEPs must lay out plans that provide some educational benefit, but it didn’t set a benefit standard, and lower courts have been divided over what it should be. Some have required a substantial — or “meaningful” educational benefit — while others require only a de minimis — or anywhere above trivial — educational benefit.

Now the Supreme Court — which held a hearing in the case Wednesday — is being asked to decide on a standard, which is essentially the same as deciding whether the United States really cares about providing all students a free and appropriate public education, and whether it is wholly committed to helping families that have children with disabilities.

These are the facts of the court case, which could affect millions of children with disabilities and the public schools they attend:

A boy named Drew was diagnosed with autism at age 2, affecting his cognitive functioning, language and reading skills, and his social and adaptive abilities. From preschool through fourth grade, he received special education services in schools in Colorado’s Douglas County district.

By fourth grade, his parents saw his behavior get increasingly worse. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which got involved in this case, said fourth grade was “especially rocky.”

Drew exhibited multiple behaviors that inhibited his ability to access learning in the classroom. In the past, he has climbed over furniture and other students, hit things, screamed, ran away from school, and twice removed his clothing and gone to the bathroom on the floor of the classroom.

Drew’s parents said that although they saw some progress in Drew, it was minimal, so they pulled him from the public school system and placed him in a private school that used interventions that experts consider effective for many children with autism. Reports about his progress under an intervention called ABA were very positive, with “great” behavioral gains that led to an ability to pay more attention in class, complete math and verbal skills work  and interact with peers and teachers.

Under the federal law called the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), parents can seek tuition reimbursement from the school district and can win if several conditions are met. One of them is that their son wasn’t getting enough “educational benefit” from the public schools. Drew’s parents applied for reimbursement — arguing that the public district had not provided him with a free and appropriate public education. They were denied by the school system. That started a trek through the courts, leading to the Supreme Court, which is reviewing a 2015 decision by the 10th Circuit, which upheld the school system’s decision, using a very low standard for educational progress.

What is enough educational benefit? That’s what the Supreme Court is being asked to consider, and that, when you think about it, is where this case gets ugly.

Remember that we are talking about young people with disabilities — some of them so severe that a child might, for example, have the intellectual capacity of a 6-month-old, or have frequent disruptive seizures  — and their families, some of whom have daily burdens that others can’t begin to imagine.

So is minimal educational benefit enough? You may not know exactly what “minimal” is, buy by definition, you wouldn’t want that to be the standard for your child. Is “some” benefit — which courts have said means progress that is barely above trivial — enough for your child — or somebody else’s? Or do students with disabilities deserve a standard requiring “meaningful” benefit and if so, what does “meaningful” mean? Should the standard be “appropriate”? During the Wednesday hearing, nine different standards were mentioned in the proceedings within a half-hour period.

Should children with any disability be at the mercy of a standard that depends on the federal appellate jurisdiction in which his school district is located?

The Supreme Court justices on Wednesday seemed to be dissatisfied with the 10th Circuit’s ruling that public schools can meet IDEA requirements by providing an education to students with disabilities that is more than trivial, but there was no seeming direction indicated about what standard they do think makes sense.

It is understandable that school districts have a difficult time trying to appropriately implement IDEA, not only because of the nebulous standards but also because it has never been fully funded. According to the New America Foundation’s EdCentral (footnotes removed):

In the IDEA legislation, Congress set a maximum target for the federal contribution to special education spending equal to 40 percent of the estimated excess cost of educating children with disabilities. Thus, if the program were “fully funded,” the states would receive their maximum grants, calculated at 40 percent of the national average per pupil expenditure (APPE) times the number of children with disabilities served in the school year 2004-2005, adjusted for population changes. Under the act, the count of children with disabilities cannot exceed 12 percent of the state’s total school population.

For FY 2014, IDEA federal funding covered 16 percent of the estimated excess cost of educating children with disabilities, less than in FY 2008 when federal funding covered 17 percent of the cost and well below FY 2009 when additional funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act covered 33 percent of the cost. IDEA Part B “full funding” for FY 2014 would have amounted to approximately $28.65 billion, or roughly $17.17 billion more than was actually appropriated. The shortfall in IDEA funding has been assumed by the states and local school districts.

Yet there is something chilling about some of the debate about this issue. The debate is being played out in legalese — there’s  lots of talk about “procedure” — in the world of words rather than people. As Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said in Wednesday’s hearing: “What is frustrating about this case and this statute is we have a blizzard of words.”

A blizzard of words that seem to fly right over the actual people being affected. As Gary Mayerson, a civil rights lawyer and board member of Autism Speaks, an advocacy organization, said in this article by my colleague Emma Brown: “I can’t even believe that this is really a question for the court to wrestle with.”

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