Did climate change help modern humans emerge?



Did climate change help modern humans emerge?

Environment changes transformed early humans, who learned how to use lighter tools, hunt new kinds of animals and communicate with other groups

by Maggie Fox /  / Updated 

At this Olorgesailie Basin excavation site, the Smithsonian team discovered key artifacts and pigments. Fossil bones found at the site also showed that a significant change in the kinds of animals in this region occurred around the same time as the transitions in human behavior.Human Origins Program / Smithsonian

Half a million years ago, something big happened in east Africa.

It was a big enough change to transform the terrain, reshape the landscape and to alter the populations of animals living there.

And it completely transformed the early humans who lived there.

“What we are seeing is the demise of a way of life in early human ancestors that persisted for hundreds of thousands of years,” said paleoanthropologist Rick Potts, who heads the Smithsonian’s Human Origins Program.

Before the change, pre-humans such as Homo erectus had lived happily for millennia using crude, heavy stone axes. Afterwards, the early humans living in the area traded for sharp, strong obsidian and made delicate tools and spear heads. They learned to hunt new kinds of animals and they carried around a lot of raw materials for making black and red paint or ink.

 A photo of older, more archaic handaxes used by early humans in East Africa, before 320,000 years ago. Human Origins Program / Smithsonian

New studies from Potts and colleagues published Thursday paint a clear picture of a time of total disruption in what is now southwestern Kenya. Not only do they document periods of devastating earthquakes, but climate change that transformed the area from a rich, stable plain to an area ravaged by unpredictable floods, intense thunderstorms and then long droughts.

There’s not much evidence of anything between about 500,000 years ago, and 320,000 years ago. But the transformation is sweeping.

Giant ancestors of elephants, zebra and baboon-like apes disappeared, to be replaced by more modern-looking grazers such as antelope and oryx.

The humans who lived there changed — a lot. Big, clumsy stone axes known as Acheulean tools disappear and instead the archeologists found finer, lighter and more varied tools. They’re made from materials not found locally, such as obsidian and chert, which indicates they were carried and traded over distances.

 For hundreds of thousands of years, people living there made and used large stonecutting tools called handaxes (left). According to three new studies published in Science, early humans in East Africa had–by about 320,000 years ago–begun using color pigments and manufacturing more sophisticated tools (right) than those of the Early Stone Age handaxes. Human Origins Program / Smithsonian

“The large, clunky technology is gone and in its place is a smaller technology, more mobile,” said Potts. “What we are looking at is a real change from the hand ax times. Think of the same technology produced over and over again for hundreds of thousands of years. That’s not us. I can barely keep up with the latest version of Windows,” he said.

“The history of technology has been the same ever since, going from large and clunky to small and portable.”


It’s not clear which species of early humans is responsible for the artifacts. Homo erectus and Homo heidelbergensis both lived on the African continent. But Homo sapiens fossils from Morocco date back to 300,000 or so years ago.


“This represents a significant revision in African hominin behavior at or near the time of origin of Homo sapiens,” the teams of scientists wrote in one of the reports published in the journal Science on Thursday.

Whatever species they were, they had to adapt to the climate changes, the natural disasters and the disappearance of the foods they were used to eating; they had to learn how to communicate with other groups of hominids, how to trade information and trade tools and, possibly, food.

“All of these are fundamental aspects of our humanity that are right there at the beginning of our species,” Potts said.

“The history of technology has been the same ever since, going from large and clunky to small and portable.”

“The history of technology has been the same ever since, going from large and clunky to small and portable.”

The ancient people used dye.

The team found rocks with streaks of pigment, blocks of iron-rich minerals used to make ochre and other colors, and pretty colored stones carried from afar.

That shows people were thinking beyond the simple needs of survival.

“Color is the root of complex, symbolic behavior in humans,” said Potts. “We use it in clothing, uniforms, flags, tattoos — whatever ways we have of signaling that I am a member of this particular group.”


What were these early Africans doing with the lumps of coloring?

“We don’t know what they were applying it to but they almost certainly applying it to something; perhaps their skin or hair,” Pott said. “That is a pretty human characteristic.”

In other words, the early humans who lived in this area were becoming more like modern humans. And it sure looks like the dramatic changes were forcing it.

“All this transition, this transformation of human behavior is occurring at a time of upheaval of the landscape,” Potts said.

 A bird’s eye view of the Olorgesailie Basin in southern Kenya, which holds an archeological record of early human life spanning more than a million years. This landscape shows a shift in the environment between 500,000 years ago, which marks the last known evidence of the handaxe toolmakers in the Olorgesailie Basin, and the more recent sediments dated 320,000 years and younger, which preserve the Middle Stone Age evidence. Human Origins Program / Smithsonian

It’s not news to anyone that human beings adapt and even evolve in the face of change. As the Ice Age glaciers receded, so did Neanderthals, to be replaced by modern Homo sapiens from the Near East and Africa.


But this change was happening 320,000 years ago. The indications are that trade was taking place 100,000 years earlier than anthropologists have believed.

What do the changes say about humans alive today in a time of climate change?


The findings in Kenya indicate people can likely survive. “I tend to be optimistic in that the adaptability of human beings tends to be pretty astonishing,” Potts said.

But he points to the profound transformation of the hominids of prehistoric Kenya.

“We certainly are running an experiment right now where humans are taking what is already a dynamic planet and messing with it,” Potts said.

“Often what people mean by survival in a modern context means whether their way of life will persist and thrive,” he added. “The moral of this story is that the status quo does not survive.”

Turkey’s President Shows Why I Learned To Spell His Name (Er-Dog’-an)



Turkish leader’s on-stage interaction with sobbing girl draws fire

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan kisses Amine Tiras, a young girl in military uniform as he speaks to his ruling party members, in Kahramanmaras, Turkey, Feb. 24, 2018.


ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has come under criticism for telling a small girl dressed in a military uniform that she would be honored if she were “martyred” for Turkey.

Erdogan spotted the weeping-and-saluting 6-year-old Amine Tiras while delivering a speech at his ruling party’s congress in the city of Kahramanmaras on Saturday, and had her brought on stage.

Turkey Girl Martyr

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan holds Amine Tiras, a young girl in military uniform as he speaks to his ruling party members, in Kahramanmaras, Turkey, Feb. 24, 2018.


After trying to comfort the girl by kissing her on both cheeks, Erdogan told the crowd: “She has the Turkish flag in her pocket. If she becomes a martyr, God willing, this flag will be draped on her.”

Some people were appalled and took to Twitter to criticize the president.

One user said it was the state’s duty to protect children, not to “kill” them. Another said: “you don’t wish death for a child, you never say: ‘God willing.'”

His action comes as nationalist sentiment is running high over a Turkish cross-border military offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters that are affiliated with Kurdish rebels fighting inside Turkey. In recent weeks, children dressed in commando uniforms or reciting nationalist poems have been making appearances in many events that he attends.

Yasar Okutan, a former government minister, accused Erdogan in a television interview of using them to increase votes in presidential and local elections in 2019 and questioned whether the president would say the same for his own granddaughter.

Ecuador grants nationality to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange



Ecuador grants nationality to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

Last Updated Jan 11, 2018 2:24 PM EST

QUITO, Ecuador – Ecuador has granted citizenship to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been living in asylum at the nation’s embassy in London for more than five years.

The nation’s foreign minister announced Thursday that officials had decided to permit Assange’s naturalization while they look for ways to resolve his situation.

Ecuador gave Assange political asylum after he sought refuge in the embassy in 2012 to avoid a Swedish extradition request on a case of alleged rape. While Sweden temporarily dropped that investigation, British officials say they’d still arrest him on charges of bail jumping. Assange also fears a possible U.S. extradition request stemming from the leaking of classified U.S. documents.

Britain’s Foreign Office said Thursday it had rejected Ecuador’s request to grant diplomatic status to Assange, who was born in Australia.

“The granting of Ecuadorean nationality does not in any way change Julian Assange’s legal status in the U.K.,” a government spokesman said. “The Government of Ecuador knows that the way to resolve the situation is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice. Nobody should pretend that granting him Ecuadorean citizenship is a route to solving this longstanding issue.”

Akubra girl “Dolly” killed herself due to bullying



Akubra girl “Dolly” killed herself due to bullying, company says

The post said the girl, Amy Jayne Everett, died January 3, and that “we need to make sure that anyone in crisis knows there is always someone to talk to.” It also urged people to act to stop bullying — a plea her father made Sunday.

“This week has been an example of how social media should be used, it has also been an example of how it shouldn’t be,” Tick Everett said in a Facebook post. “If we can help other precious lives from being lost and the suffering of so many, then Doll’s life will not be wasted.”

“…lets stop the bullies no matter where, but especially in our kids, as the old saying goes. You will never know what have untill it’s gone,” he said.

He added: “if by some chance the people who thought this was a joke and made themselves feel superior by the constant bullying and harassment see this post, please come to our service and witness the complete devastation you have created.”

The BBC reports the girl starred in a well-known Akubra ad campaign when she was eight years old. It also reports the family released a statement to media outlets on Wednesday saying the girl was “the kindest, caring, beautiful soul”.

“She was always caring for animals, small children, other children at boarding school who were less fortunate than herself.”

Twenty percent of children in Australia say they were bullied over the past year, according to the BBC.

The wide-brimmed Akubra hat is one of Australia’s most recognizable brands, the BBC reports.

The unbearable hypocrisy of Roy Moore’s Christian rhetoric



Rev. Dr. William Barber The unbearable hypocrisy of Roy Moore’s Christian rhetoric

This isn’t Christianity, it’s an extreme form of Republican religionism.

Image: Embattled GOP Senate Candidate Judge Roy Moore Attends Church Revival Service At Baptist Church In Jackson, Alabama Jonathan Bachman / Getty Images

A disturbing pattern has emerged since the Washington Post first reported that four women accused Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore of offenses ranging from the creepy to the criminal. People in Gadsden, Alabama, where Moore worked in the District Attorney’s office three decades ago, say it was “common knowledge” that Moore pursued teenagers when he was in his 30s. Locals told the New Yorker that they recall being told that the local mall banned Moore for the same reason.

Accusations of criminal assault are difficult to prove in court and the statute of limitations in these cases has since passed. But Republicans outside of Alabama have started to back away from Moore following the allegations; They have chosen to believe the accusers.

Moore’s base, on the other hand, continues to support him despite the evidence. For many of them, this is a matter of faith. Jerome Cox, the pastor of Greenwood Baptist Church in Prattville, Alabama, told NBC News he would be supporting Moore because “he’s done a lot of good for the state of Alabama… Everything else is for the Lord to sort out.”


This is not Christianity. Rather, it is an extreme Republican religionism that stands by the party and regressive policy no matter what. It’s not the gospel of Christ, but a gospel of greed. It is the religion of racism and lies, not the religion of redemption and love.

It is unlikely that any of Moore’s accusers can definitively prove that he sexually assaulted them 30 years ago (a point the defiant former judge knows well). But even before these allegations made national headlines, it was clear that Moore’s policy agenda endangered the children of Alabama and this nation. This man, who wants to be Alabama’s next Senator, wants to repeal Obamacare, making it health care inaccessible for millions, in Alabama and elsewhere. He has said Islam is a “false religion” homosexual conduct “should be illegal.” and curtail equal protection under the law for gay and transgender people. Moore supports a tax plan that would hurt the poor and working poor.

In short, Moore’s political agenda presents a credible threat to millions of vulnerable people in America. Yet Moore claims to be the moral and Christian candidate, using religion as U.S. slave masters did before him to justify actions which fly in the face of Christ’s teachings. Like segregationists, Moore imagines the struggle for equality in America as a story of loss. At a revival meeting earlier this week, Moore complained that he was being persecuted. He also lamented the fact that the courts took prayer out of schools in 1962 and made a cryptic and confusing reference to “new rights” created in 1965, the year the Voting Rights Act was signed. Some members of the congregation responded, “Amen!”


Let our news meet your inbox.


 Workers remove a monument of the Ten Commandments installed by Roy Moore in the Alabama Judicial Building in 2003. Tami Chappell / Reuters File

As one who survived abuse by a stranger in my own childhood, I feel deep empathy for the women who have come forward to name and confront their abuser. At the same time, my soul grieves as a Christian minister for people who are fed such a distorted view of Christianity and racism that they are willing to support Moore no matter what. I have heard the confessions of abusers: I know that people who are broken and hurting in their own souls hurt people and rally others to join them out of deep pain. But I am deeply troubled by Moore’s determination to wrap his own painful policies and pain-causing ways in the theological claim of being like Christ.

There is nothing Christian about the policies Moore has supported. They are as immoral as the terrible abuse he so vehemently denies. While he wants to compare his plight to the suffering of Jesus, there is no biblical basis for policies that hurt poor people and children.

As well as he knows his Bible, Roy Moore never quotes from the more than 2,000 verses that exhort us to care for the poor, the sick, and the stranger in our midst. He has apparently overlooked the prophet Isaiah, who said to men like Moore in his own day: “Doom to you who legislate evil, who make laws that make victims — laws that make misery for the poor, that rob the destitute of their dignity, exploiting defenseless widows, taking advantage of homeless children” (Is.10:1-4).

National Republican leaders who claim the moral high ground while renouncing Moore now are like the Republicans who spoke out against white supremacy after Charlottesville, condemning the “hate” but never repenting of white nationalist policy. Their moral outrage rings hollow because it renounces Moore based on his personal patterns but says nothing about the disturbing pattern of his policy agenda.

What is happening right now in Alabama matters for the soul of the nation. Anyone who has any influence must help blacks, progressive whites, and Latinos; gay and straight; Christians, Muslims, Jews, and all who want to move our country forward to get out and vote. This is no time to retreat or remain idle. We must stand up for truth in the public square and reclaim our political and faith traditions which have been hijacked.

Rev. William J. Barber, II is President of Repairers of the Breach and author of The Third Reconstruction. At the invitation of local clergy, he is in Alabama this weekend preparing for the “Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.”

Late-night legend David Letterman’s ugly personality no laughing matter, former colleagues say


Late-night legend David Letterman’s ugly personality no laughing matter, former colleagues say

Late-night funnyman David Letterman was hardly a barrel of laughs off the air.A new biography of the now-retired talk show host portrays Letterman as more self-loathing than self-critical — and an often miserable man who inflicted his pain on his staff.

“He was never truly comfortable unless he was seething with unhappiness at something,” one longtime writer told author Jason Zinoman in “Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night.”

In fact, few of the acerbic Letterman’s close colleagues sang his praises to Zinoman.

Deli sandwich named for Stephen Colbert ahead of ‘Late Show’

Letterman’s demeanor soured after July 1995, when his CBS front-running program dipped to second place behind “The Tonight Show” with former friend-turned-enemy Jay Leno.

Letterman infamously sucked on a strand of Jennifer Aniston's hair.

Letterman infamously sucked on a strand of Jennifer Aniston’s hair.


Viewers flipped to NBC when Leno landed an interview with actor Hugh Grant, fresh off his arrest for soliciting a hooker improbably named Divine Brown.

Many never returned, curdling Letterman’s on-air persona.

He became more openly caustic as his comedy took a sadistic turn. One night, after his “Late Show” was whipped in the ratings by both “The Tonight Show” and “Nightline,” his rage visibly surfaced.

What Stephen Colbert can do better on ‘Late Show’

A comedy bit called for a life-size Letterman doll to sit in the guest’s chair. Seemingly on the spur of the moment, Letterman punched the doll — to much audience laughter.

The laughs continued as he landed a few more blows. And then the 580-seat theater went silent when Letterman fell into a frenzy of punching and slapping his plastic alter ego.

Obviously, something was wrong with Dave.

“People don’t understand why you’re behaving the way you’re behaving,” said Rob Burnett, a trusted colleague and the head of Letterman’s Worldwide Pants production company, in a candid chat with his boss.

Stephen Colbert has to deal with ghosts on ‘Late Show’

Letterman’s anger wasn’t all directed inward, and he became upset with pretty much everyone on the show.

A retired Letterman sporting a fierce beard.

A retired Letterman sporting a fierce beard.


Burnett returned as executive producer, but things became strained. His unique ability to manage his boss’ dark moods ended with a “falling-out,” according to Burnett.

Their relationship eroded to the point where they were barely speaking. According to a veteran producer, “everything changed after that.”

A veteran staffer who served under Letterman through both his late-night shows observed that getting close to the boss was perilous: “There comes a moment when he turns on you.”

David Letterman donating ‘Late Show’ props to Ball State

The tale of Tim Long, one of several head writers hired during the show’s run, was typical. Unable to deal with the host’s constant rejections and dark moods, Long took to chewing Coke cans — and swallowing pieces of tin.

Not Released (NR)

Competitor Jay Leno leapt to fame after viewers flipped to watch his interview with actor Hugh Grant, fresh off a prostitution sting. Letterman lost a chunk of viewers to Leno and his more affable personality.


Even the famously mellow Paul Shaffer lashed out at Letterman one night when Todd Rundgren sat in with the band.

Letterman kept pushing and needling, trying to get Rundgren to do more than the one number done in rehearsal.

“The cat flies in to do us a favor and you just want what you want,” Shaffer yelled at his boss.

Richard Simmons’ wildest ‘David Letterman Show’ moments

It embarrassed Shaffer so much the moment was cut from the show before airing, even though Letterman said he was fine with it.

Not Released (NR)

Letterman chatted with racing icon Mario Andretti before the start of the 2007 Indy 500.


The irony: Letterman was miserable even when his ratings put the show at No. 1 in late-night viewers. In 1993, he walked away from NBC after the network chose Leno to succeed Johnny Carson, taking the 11:30 p.m. slot on rival CBS for his “Late Show With David Letterman.”

CBS offered Letterman a then-record deal with a $16 million annual salary. The payoff was immediate as Letterman seized the ratings lead against the once-invincible “Tonight.”

Yet Letterman remained miserable. “He always complained from the very beginning,” recalled one producer.

Top 10 Things David Letterman Looks Like

Things went downhill from there.

Not Released (NR)

Letterman appeared alongside girlfriend Merrill Markoe during a 1982 photo shoot.


“It got worse when he went to CBS,” recalled Shaffer. “Any flaw, minor flaw, he exaggerated. He was most uncomfortable at No. 1.”

Comic Rich Hall, a writer for Letterman’s NBC show, was floored by the host’s new, abrasive nature when he appeared as a guest. Hall followed actress Andie MacDowell, who had just flopped in her segment. Before the cameras came on, Letterman leaned over and snarled, “How’d you like to be married to that c—?”

What the author calls Letterman’s “ferocious fear of failure” was there from the first.

‘The David Letterman Show’ debuts on NBC in 1980

The feeling of foreboding was exacerbated by the 1980 cancellation of his NBC morning show, “The David Letterman Show,” within months of its debut.

Barbara Walters appeared on Letterman's "Late Show."

Barbara Walters appeared on Letterman’s “Late Show.”


His girlfriend at the time and for years to come, Merrill Markoe, was a brilliantly inventive comedy writer and instrumental in shaping the show.

Markoe, who rarely comments on Letterman publicly, told the author about the resulting fallout.

“If it weren’t for you and your crazy ideas,” Letterman shouted at her on the street, “I’d still have a talk show like John Davidson!”

David Letterman is hypochondriac, new book claims

It’s a comment funny only in retrospect.

Letterman bandleader Paul Shaffer.

Letterman bandleader Paul Shaffer.


Markoe became head writer on NBC’s “Late Night With David Letterman” from the first show in 1982 — and suffered for that, too.

Every night after the show, an agonized Letterman would lock himself in his office with Markoe.

“The last 10 months have included a nightly discussion about what a failure we are,” she once noted.

David Letterman debuts bearded retirement look in St. Barts

In those days, the acid-tongued Letterman would hang out, trading barbs with the writers. His targets learned not to return in kind, as the hurt would show on Letterman’s face.


Letterman shakes hands with late-night predecessor Johnny Carson.


“He was very sensitive,” says Barbara Gaines, a producer who remained with Letterman until his 2015 retirement.

By the end of the ’80s, Letterman was the king of hip and cool. He now smoked cigars and assumed “a statelier air.” Notably, he no longer made a show of despising celebrities, as he had for a decade.

When Barbara Walters booked him as a guest interview on one of her specials, he walked around the office openly expressing his admiration for her.

David Letterman takes on President Trump, late night show hosts

“What happened, Dave?” asked head writer Steven O’Donnell.


Letterman at a 1982 NBC reception honoring the announcement of his show.


“They are like my peers now,” the host told him.

It was during that era that Letterman started abruptly turning on longtime, trusted colleagues. Barry Sand, a producer and ally since the morning show, suddenly could do nothing right.

After a guest canceled at the last minute, Sand scrambled and was able to book Mel Gibson — then at the height of his fame. Letterman turned on the producer and snarled, “Who the hell wants Mel Gibson? I don’t want Mel Gibson.”

Letterman: ‘I was wrong,’ Trump is racist

He opted instead for Kamarr the Discount Magician. Sand was soon gone.

Letterman in a 1984 promotional photo.

Letterman in a 1984 promotional photo.


In the rush of his success, the formerly prudish Letterman switched up his persona, booking “leggy supermodels” as frequent and welcome guests.

The phrase “leggy supermodels” was funny, but Letterman’s leers came off as sincere and appreciative.

Boorish advances became his signature. Sitting next to Jerry Hall, whose breasts exploded from her dress, he openly enjoyed the view.

David Letterman returning to TV on climate change series

“I get the awful feeling I may have overinflated my tires,” quipped Letterman.

Letterman announced his new CBS contract in a 1993 press conference.

Letterman announced his new CBS contract in a 1993 press conference.


On one cringeworthy show, he sucked on a strand of Jennifer Aniston’s hair.

Zinoman writes that after a time, the satire faded away to show the bits for what they were — a rich and famous man indulging his fantasies.

“As he got older, Letterman increasingly played the horny creep,” he writes.

David Letterman ‘would have gone right after Donald Trump’

By the time he was an eminence grise on CBS, he became “crudely sexual” in his interviews. The camera would slowly pan over the legs of Aniston or Gwen Stefani as he delivered lascivious comments.

Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night

Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night

“He seemed like a pervy old man at times,” says one of his head writers, Eric Stangel.

Even before the 2009 scandal when an affair with an assistant exposed Letterman to an extortion try, the host interacted infrequently with most of the show staff.

The only trusted colleagues were those who had worked with Letterman for decades — at least, those left standing.

David Letterman thinks a woman should’ve been ‘Late Show’ host

Letterman just couldn’t bring himself to talk to people.

It seems, though, that after a year and a half in retirement, Letterman is now eager to chat.

In an interview with New York magazine, Letterman claims his son, Harry, 13, doesn’t like being in public with him.

Not because of his snow-white mountain man beard, but because he talks too much to everyone.

Letterman says he’ll fake his death if Rahal doesn’t win Indy 500

Letterman might have been kidding. Or not.


Send a Letter to the Editor