Another Fossil “Human Ancestor” Claimed

first_imgMeet Australopithecus sediba – or is it Homo something?  Scientists are arguing over how to classify new fossils found in a cave at Malapa, South Africa.  Announced today in Science,1 the fossils, alleged to be just under 2 million years old, are producing a strange mixture of hopeful headlines and cautionary counsels from experts.    As could be expected, headlines in the popular press tease their readers with tantalizing titillations: “Fossil Skeletons May Be Human Ancestor” wrote Charles Q. Choi for Live Science.  Ker Than wrote “‘Key’ Human Ancestor Found: Fossils Link Apes, First Humans?” for National Geographic.  And Jeff Hecht wrote “Almost human: closest australopithicine [sic] primate found” for New Scientist.  And anything that might please Darwin has to include the shedding-light motif: Science Daily’s long headline proclaimed, “New Hominid Shares Traits With Homo Species: Fossil Find Sheds Light on the Transition to Homo Genus from Earlier Hominids.”  True to tradition, PhysOrg dutifully paraded the iconic image of the march of progress from ape to man, complete with racist skin colors and sexist depictions of naked males only, their right legs or arms artfully concealing their private parts.  It’s not quite clear why most of these charts leave the highest man beardless, unless the chart is Lamarckian, in which case a spare tire should also be evident.    Yet a closer look at the articles reveals a great deal of doubt about many aspects of the story.Taxonomy: Experts disagreed strongly on whether these specimens should be classified within Australopithecus or Homo.  If it had been classified within Homo, it would have represented a dead-end lineage of no consequence to human evolution.  There appears to have been a strong controversy between the discoverers and other experts about which taxon to use.Traits: The skeletons appear to have a mosaic of traits: long limbs and small brain capacity, but indications of upright posture and human-like teeth.Provenance: Experts disagreed whether the bones were buried together, or fell through to other levels after burial.Dating: The dating depends on the provenance, yet was measured with U-Pb dating of materials below the bones.  Assigning a date is critical to how evolutionists perceive the specimen’s relationship to human ancestry.Hope: No one is claiming these fossils clarify a human evolution story.  Hopes that it might are put in future tense: “This new Australopithecus sediba species might eventually clear up that debate, and help to reveal our direct human ancestors.”Credibility: Lee Berger, the lead author of the paper, has been involved in sharp controversies with other paleoanthropologists about which hominids represent human ancestors.  Michael Balter wrote for Science,2 “Some of Berger’s other past claims have sparked strong criticism, including a highly publicized 2008 report of small-bodied humans on Palau, which Berger thought might shed light on the tiny hobbits of Indonesia.  But other researchers say the Palau bones belong to a normal-sized modern human population.”  Berger gave this new fossil a suggestive name: sediba is local lingo for “wellspring” – as if his discovery can garner significance merely by naming it that way.Candidacy: Michael Balter’s headline in Science accompanying the paper is more guarded than the popular press: “Candidate Human Ancestor From South Africa Sparks Praise and Debate.”Dispute: Balter quoted Tim White’s opinion: “Given its late age and Australopithecus-grade anatomy, it contributes little to the understanding of the origin of genus Homo.”Burial: The authors’ hypothesis about how the bones were buried contains many ad-hoc elements (see below).Sequence: Balter considered the opinion of Chris Stringer of the London Natural History Museum: in summary, “At no earlier than 2 million years old, A. sediba is younger than Homo-looking fossils elsewhere in Africa, such as an upper jaw from Ethiopia and a lower jaw from Malawi, both dated to about 2.3 million years ago.”Deflation: Even Lee Berger, the discoverer, made this admission: “Berger and his co-workers agree that the Malapa fossils themselves cannot be Homo ancestors but suggest that A. sediba could have arisen somewhat earlier, with the Malapa hominins being late-surviving members of the species.”Meaning: All Balter could say in conclusion is confusion: “However they are classified, the Malapa finds ’are important specimens in the conversation’ about the origins of our genus, says [Susan] Ant�n [New York U], and ‘will have to be considered in the solution.’”  The statement implies that the conversations do not include solutions – only questions.A second paper accompanying the discovery announcement considered the geological context of the fossils.3  It defends a hypothesis that the skeletons were buried in a debris flow into the cave before scavengers could harm them.  Others, however, are not so sure: “Geochemist Henry Schwarcz of McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, notes that the team suggests that the hominin bodies might have been moved by river flows after they fell into the cave from holes in the earth above,” explained Michael Balter.  “If so, the fossils may not be tightly associated with the dated deposits below and above them.”  Dirks et al dispute that, calling attention to the fact that “the bones were partly articulated with each other, implying that they were buried soon after death.”  A lot of interpretation depends, however, on the dating of the sediments above and below the bones.  The paper’s hypothesis includes many ad-hoc elements: carnivores were attracted to vertical shafts where prey animals had fallen to their deaths: “These factors could have operated to accumulate a diverse assemblage of carcasses in the chamber below, away from carnivore activity,” the authors speculated.  “The sediments imply that subsequent high-volume water inflow, perhaps the result of a large storm, caused a debris flow that carried the still partially articulated bodies deeper into the cave, to deposit them along a subterranean stream.”  It would seem this complex sequence of happenstance occurrences would obfuscate any conclusions about dating.Update 04/09/2010: True to tradition, the counter-claims quickly ensued.  “Please, please, not again,” moaned Carl Zimmer in Slate, recalling the hype about Ida last year (05/19/2009, 03/03/2010).  Zimmer accepts evolution but denies (with Berger) that the term “missing link” have any validity.  As for this fossil, “None of the experts I spoke to this week were ready to accept Berger’s hypothesis about A. sediba’s special place in the hominin tree,” he said.  “It might actually belong to a different branch of hominin evolution.  It may have evolved its Homo-like traits independently of our own ancestors.”  It would seem its ability to illuminate much of anything about human history is dubious.  Zimmer quoted Daniel Lieberman of Harvard admitting, “The origins of the genus Homo remain as murky as ever.”    Meanwhile, Nature News weighed in on the significance (or lack of it) of this fossil.  “Claim over ‘human ancestor’ sparks furore,” headlined Michael Cherry: “the researchers’ suggestion that the fossils represent a transitional species in human evolution, sitting between Australopithecus and Homo species, has been criticized by other researchers as overstated.”  Quotes from Tim White (UC Berkeley) were especially harsh.  He said the Berger team’s claim that these skeletons had anything to do with the rise of Homo is “fossil-free speculation” adding with Ida overtones, “the obsession with Homo in their title and text is difficult to understand outside of a media context.”  Another said the bones could represent nothing more than variation within other known species.  Another noted that the earliest Homo skeleton predates this find by half a million years.  Berger countered that the earlier fossils are less complete.  A supporter of Berger’s classification may have taken more than he gave when he said, “The Malapa specimens will rekindle the debate about the validity of the taxon Homo habilis, and will make us look more carefully at the variability of Australopithecus africanus and her sister species.”  (For info on Homo habilis, see 08/09/2007, 05/27/2009, and 09/21/2009).  Cherry ended his article with doubt: “the latest finds raise important questions about the ancestry of humans.”  That statement raises the possibility that Berger’s fossil is a step backwards in understanding.  For difficulties with the Homo classification, see the 05/27/2009 entry.1.  Berger et al, “Australopithecus sediba: A New Species of Homo-Like Australopith from South Africa,” Science, 9 April 2010: Vol. 328. no. 5975, pp. 195-204, DOI: 10.1126/science.1184944.2.  Michael Balter, “Candidate Human Ancestor From South Africa Sparks Praise and Debate,” Science, 9 April 2010: Vol. 328. no. 5975, pp. 154-155, DOI: 10.1126/science.328.5975.154.3.  Dirks et al, “Geological Setting and Age of Australopithecus sediba from Southern Africa,” Science, 9 April 2010: Vol. 328. no. 5975, pp. 205-208, DOI: 10.1126/science.1184950.If the storytellers cannot agree on their own story, why should the audience judge the performance a history class rather than a comedy?  The bones are real; the interpretations are highly questionable and fallible.  Most likely this is another extinct ape out of many extinct apes that lived not so long ago.  Wishful-thinking Darwinian paleoanthropologists are eager to divine human attributes in whatever bones they find.  They fight and squabble over where the bones fit into their mental picture of how philosophers emerged from screeching monkeys in the trees.  Pay them no mind; we’ve seen this comedy show so many times before, and we know the eventual outcome.  Someone else will appear on stage with a new bone and announce, “Everything you know is wrong.” (02/23/2001, 02/19/2004).(Visited 35 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more


SA, Tunisia forge closer ties

first_img18 October 2004President Thabo Mbeki wrapped up a two-day visit to Tunisia last week with the signing of three cooperation agreements on jobs, culture and health.The signing of the agreements was witnessed by Mbeki and Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.The agreements include a memorandum of understanding on employment, on cultural co-operation between 2004 and 2007, and on co-operation in the field of public health and medical benefits.Mbeki was accompanied by a high-level delegation of politicians and businessmen, and three separate agreements were signed during a meeting between representatives of employers’ organisations and the chambers of commerce of the two countries.These seek to boost trade by giving the private sector a bigger role, including the possibility of establishing a direct air link between the two countries.According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, the two presidents also discussed details of a technical project to recruit South African medical and paramedical staff to Tunisia, and a joint venture in the pharmaceutical industry.During a binational commission in July, the two countries agreed to abolish visa requirements for the holders of official passports. They also agreed to cooperate in the field of sport, and signed an agreement on technical cooperation between the Tunisia’s Institute of Normalisation and Industrial Property of Tunisia and the South African Bureau of Standards.According to the department, relations between the two countries have steadily progressed since 1993, and a number of important commercial exchanges have taken place since the first binational commission in 1996.Tunisian industrial group Poulina has confirmed its intention to invest in the South African tourism sector, while South African furniture and household retailer Profurn is in the process of acquiring equity in Tunisian firm Batam.“Benefiting from the geographic location of Tunisia and its excellent infrastructure, Profurn is using Tunisia as a base for penetrating the increasingly lucrative North African market”, the department said.“Subsequently, the two companies have established a presence in Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt, with plans to eventually expand to Algeria and Libya.”Source: Department of Foreign Affairslast_img read more


South African expats open to idea of returning home

first_img10 March 2016Almost 400 Africans living in the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe turned up for a meet and greet at London’s Park Plaza Victoria to learn more about how Africans living and working abroad were able to return home.The road leads us home. #HeartAfrica #home #beach pic.twitter.com/j1I5euDjpv— HomecomingRevolution (@HomecomingRev) March 9, 2016Homecoming Revolution, a recruitment firm for global Africans, together with its various partners including Brand South Africa, hosted the event on 4 and 5 March. It clarified the details and logistics of how Africans living and working abroad were able to return home, including information on careers, property trends, relocation services, education and immigration advice.“People flew in from Belgium and France especially for the Brand South Africa Cocktail & Pam Golding Lunch, highlighting the level of interest among Africans in Europe in opportunities back home,” said Homecoming Revolution chief executive Angel Jones.Employment, property and educationAttendees met representatives from top pan-African employers, including Agco, Bryanston Consulting, Guaranty Trust Bank, Ipreo, Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital, Mace, MultiChoice and Africa Health Placements, to discuss career opportunities back home.A presentation by Pam Golding Properties unpacked the intricacies and requirements of the current African property market. Advice and logistical details on repatriation and shipping were also presented by the White & Company international moving firm.Delegates at #HRLondon16 get advice on removals, storage & shipping from @WhitenCompany pic.twitter.com/n9qA4RmL7R— HomecomingRevolution (@HomecomingRev) March 8, 2016Schools such as Roedean School (SA), Kingsmead College, Hilton College, and St John’s College also exhibited, offering advice and information on schooling and education.Homecoming success [email protected] @nikrabinowitz & @pumelasalela have a dance following an incredible #HRLondon16 #heartAfrica @Brand_SA pic.twitter.com/7y04J2jdSd— HomecomingRevolution (@HomecomingRev) March 9, 2016In addition to a performance by South Africa’s only isiXhosa-speaking Jewish comedian, Nik Rabinowitz, who updated the expat audience – in his own unique, light satirical touch – on the challenges of living in Africa, the event also offered some enlightening homecoming testimonials and other expert insights into the continent.Keynote speakers included Pumela Salela, Brand South Africa’s UK country head; Bankole Cardoso, Nigerian “homecomer” and entrepreneur; and Eddie Mandhry, the director for Africa of the Yale Office on International Affairs. Salela called the event “exceptional”, saying it was evidence of expats’ “greater emotional connection to Africa”.Thanks to @Makro_SA, everyone at #HRLondon16 was left full of their favourite #SouthAfrica snacks. pic.twitter.com/SLx8Qq6TPR— HomecomingRevolution (@HomecomingRev) March 9, 2016Each attendee also received a Taste of Africa gift pack of uniquely African snacks and drinks, sponsored by Makro and AVI Brands.Key trendsHomecoming CEO @angel1jones with @Brand_SA‘s @pumelasalela at #HRLondon16 @glosaf pic.twitter.com/ArRb0xarOL— HomecomingRevolution (@HomecomingRev) March 8, 2016In her address, Jones told attendees that throughout the Homecoming Revolution’s research and interaction with Africa expats, four specific trends emerged regarding the desire for those living abroad to return to their home countries.4 key trends emerge from #HRLondon16 https://t.co/MJQAy3uSFG pic.twitter.com/S3YbQV5P1H— HomecomingRevolution (@HomecomingRev) March 9, 2016More young peopleJones explained that over the past couple of years there had been a marked increase in the number of young people expressing a desire to return home, adding that “70% of attendees at our London event were aged below 45. mainly young singles, newly married couples and families with small children”.Africa is surprising, but so are its peopleLike the saying went, “Africa is not for sissies”, the continent was full of surprises – some good, some bad – but, as Jones explained, its people were also determined to deal with those surprises.“You can’t put Africa into a box. (its) unpredictability makes for a tenacious person. Risks are big (in Africa), but the rewards are even bigger.Critical skill requirements are growing“As industries across the continent evolve and diversify,” Jones said, “the need for skilled African diaspora professionals becomes ever more apparent. This was our most diverse employee event ever. While the event is usually top heavy in the financial services space, industries it covered now included consulting, construction, agriculture, health care, media, research and financial data.”Johannesburg is a desired destinationWhile Cape Town and Durban have usually been the cities of choice for homecoming expats, according to Jones “more and more people are beginning to view Johannesburg as a preferred destination. In recent years, the city has shed its black sheep image in favour of becoming the continent’s career hub as well as a hip and buzzing urban centre.”Eager to come homeSpeed networking at #HRLondon16. Such an incredible buzz! #heartAfrica pic.twitter.com/uJqJf7K0gg— HomecomingRevolution (@HomecomingRev) March 9, 2016Attendees were vocal about their desire to return to their countries of origin, and while they were realistic about the logistics of fulfilling that desire, they welcomed the assistance of Homecoming Revolution and its partners in making their desires easier to achieve.“It was so inspiring,” said Danielle Lefebvre. “It gave me goose bumps and definitely. hope of returning in the future.”The inspirational @pumelasalela had the crowd on their feet at our London event!A true ambassador for SA! @Brand_SA pic.twitter.com/kpevJx5sZd— HomecomingRevolution (@HomecomingRev) March 8, 2016Juanique Ferreira, who works in London, said the event helped her confirm what she had thought all along, that moving back home was the right thing to do. “I need to make it happen. Homecoming Revolution’s event has given me so much hope.”Other attendees, including Nana Ocran, praised Homecoming Revolution’s dedication to bringing the message to expats, both the good and the bad of returning home. Jones’s passion, motivation and inspiring message from the continent made the concept of homecoming a positive, fun prospect. “Inspiring, thought-provoking and I feel absolutely energised,” said Ocran, adding that she was excited about. returning back home.”Source: Homecoming Revolution South Africalast_img read more


OEFFA annual conference registration open

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest Registration is now open for the largest sustainable agriculture conference in Ohio, which is relocating in 2017 to a larger venue in order to offer an expanded program and more networking opportunities for farmers, backyard gardeners, consumers, businesses, and others interested in sustainable and organic agriculture.The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 38th annual conference, Growing Today, Transforming Tomorrow, will run Thursday, Feb. 9 through Saturday, Feb. 11 at the Dayton Convention Center.“We are thrilled with this new location, and excited about this year’s line up,” said OEFFA Program Director Renee Hunt. “There certainly is something for everyone interested in food and farming.”Online registration is now open at www.oeffa.org/conference2017. As a special “Move With Us” incentive, OEFFA is offering a reduced registration rate for members who register by Dec. 15. A limited number of beginning farmer scholarships and reduced volunteer spaces are also available. Online registration will be open until Jan. 23.The state’s largest sustainable food and farm conference will feature keynote speakers: • Friday keynote speaker Jim Riddle has been an organic farmer, inspector, educator, policy analyst, and activist for more than 30 years. From 2001 to 2006, Riddle served on the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Standards Board, chairing the board from 2004 to 2005. He is founding chair of the International Organic Inspectors Association and owns Blue Fruit Farm in Minnesota. • A former financial and food industry analyst, Saturday keynote speaker Robyn O’Brien, presented by Horizon Organic, has been called “food’s Erin Brockovich.” O’Brien analyzed the impact that our food system has on the health of our families, companies, and our economy in her bestselling book, The Unhealthy Truth, and became recognized around the world after her TEDx talk in 2011, which has been viewed by millions. In addition there will be intensive Workshops for Farmers, by Farmers. Four full-day Thursday pre-conference intensive workshop options are designed to help farmers grow their businesses and hone their farm skills:Farming smarter, not harder: Tune up your farm business and increase your net profit, with Richard Wiswall of Cate Farm and author of The Organic Farmer’s Business HandbookRespect your elderberries: Growing and selling niche fruit crops from aronia to service berries, with Jim Riddle of Blue Fruit FarmGrowing bionutrient rich food: Applying the principles of ecological systems, with Dan Kittredge of the Bionutrient Food AssociationBuilding a profitable pastured broiler business, with Mike and Christie Badger of Badger’s Millside Farm and the American Pastured Poultry Producers AssociationWorkshops, Networking, and MoreNearly 80 workshops on topics including sustainable farming, gardening, cooking, livestock, business management, and policy, with workshop tracks dedicated to beginning farmers; urban agriculture, presented by Central State University Cooperative Extension; and other topics;A three-day trade show featuring dozens of businesses, non-profits, and government agencies offering an array of food, books, products, and services;The Contrary Farmers’ Social on Thursday, February 9 at 2nd Street Market featuring food, drinks, and a remembrance of Ohio’s Contrary Farmer, Gene Logsdon, led by David Kline of Farming Magazine;The Cream of the Crop Banquet on Friday, February 10 featuring a dinner celebrating Ohio’s farming community;A Farm Land of Opportunity reception, Old MacGyver Had a Farm discussion and reception, and an OEFFA oral history discussion on Thursday, February 9;A kids’ conference for children ages 6-12; a playroom for young children, and a teen conference for teenagers ages 12-15; andLocally-sourced, from-scratch lunches; raffle; book table; morning yoga and ta chi; book signings, and much more.For more information about the conference, or to register, go to www.oeffa.org/conference2017.last_img read more


Have To or Want To

first_imgYou produce your best work when you “want to” do the work that produces those results, not from when you “have to” do that work.When you fill your work with purpose and meaning, when it’s about your vision and mission, you’re not working because you “have to,” you’re doing it because you want to. “Want to” is what pulls you forward. “Want to” is what makes you passionate about your work.How you approach sales and marketing matters a great deal to your success and to the success of your business. If you “have to” do the work of building a pipeline of opportunities and mixing it up competing for new business, you won’t produce the results you want. You won’t bring your best self to that work, and it’s more likely you’ll avoid the work completely (for as long as that is sustainable, which isn’t going to be very long).When you want to do the sales and marketing work you need to do to build your business, the work sings. Your passion pours out of you into the work and you produce the results you want.You might “have to” have a difficult conversation with a client, a coworker, or your boss. The “have to” makes a difficult conversation more difficult because of your mental state. You won’t be in your most resourceful state, and you won’t produce the very best outcome in that state.If you “want to” have that conversation because it is going to allow you to make a difference in the relationship, make a difference in some result at work, or make a difference in some part of your career, the “want to” is what gets you that result.Turning Have To into Want ToTo transform something you have to do into something you want to do requires that you tie that “have to” back to your purpose, the thing that gives your life meaning. The more you align the things you have to do with your higher purpose, the more passion you bring to those tasks. That’s true for you now, isn’t it? You have no trouble doing the things you want to do, the things you are passionate about.What is it that you “have to” do that you should be turning into a “want to?”How do the things you have to do help you reach your compelling future?Why do you resist doing the things you need to do? What would happen if you brought your best self, your passion to these things?What would your results look like now if you “wanted to” do the things you need to do to produce the results you want?last_img read more


Gov’t to Provide 70 Housing Lots Under Infill Programme

first_imgThe Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing will be providing some 70 housing and commercial lots across the island this fiscal year at a cost of $129.4 million.The provision comes under the Infill Programme, which involves the development of residual plots of land within existing housing schemes for housing solutions.Minister without Portfolio with responsibility for Housing, Hon. Dr. Morais Guy made the announcement on Tuesday, May 21, during his contribution to the 2013/14 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives.The undertaking includes five projects at a cost of $83 million, two of which will provide 19 housing solutions, and three will provide 17 commercial lots. The project areas are Gazeland near Junction, St. Elizabeth; Llandilo, Westmoreland; and Old Braeton in St. Catherine.Additionally, 34 serviced lots will be delivered at a cost of $46.4 million in Fairy Hill in Portland, and Chippenham, St. Ann.In total, these projects will involve the utilisation of more than 17.8 hectares (44 acres) of land.To date, 63 serviced lots on 6.2 hectares (15.3 acres) of land have been completed under the Infill Programme at a cost of $37.8 million. The sites are located in: Manningsville near Junction, St. Elizabeth; Hague in Trelawny; and Llandilo Phase 3, Westmoreland.During this financial year, the Ministry will also assess the implementation of two other projects under the Infill Programme.These include providing a further 69 serviced lots and seven housing units in Lee Park near Frome in Westmoreland; and Albion Heights in St. James.Contact: Alphea Saunderslast_img read more