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How Did We Get to Be Human? @nytimes
When Science Times debuted 40 years ago, scientists knew far less
about how our ancestors branched off from other apes and evolved into
new species, known as hominins.
Back then, the oldest known hominin fossil was a diminutive,
small-brained female unearthed in Ethiopia named Lucy. Her species,
now known as Australopithecus afarensis, existed from about 3.85
million years ago to about 2.95 million years ago.
Lucy and her kin still had apelike features, like long arms and curved
hands. They could walk on the ground, but inefficiently. Running was
out of the question.
Hominin evolution appeared to have taken a relatively direct path from
her to modern humans. The earliest known members of our genus, Homo,
were taller and had long legs for walking and running, as well as much
larger brains. Eventually, early Homo gave rise to our own exceptional
species, Homo sapiens.
Now, it’s clear that Lucy’s species wasn’t the beginning of our
evolution; it was a branch that sprouted midway along the trunk of our
family tree. Researchers have found fossils of hominins dating back
over six million years. Those vestiges — a leg bone here, a crushed
skull there — hint at even more apelike ancestors.
All this mixing and experimentation produced as many as 30 different
sorts of hominins — that we know of. And one kind did not simply
succeed another through history: For millions of years, several sorts
of hominins coexisted.
Indeed, our own species shared this planet with near-relatives until
At that time, too, Homo erectus, one of the oldest members of our
genus, still clung to existence in what is now Indonesia. The species
did not go extinct until at least 143,000 years ago.
Homo erectus and Neanderthals are hardly new to paleoanthropologists.
Neanderthals came to light in 1851, and Homo erectus fossils were
discovered in the 1890s. But still other hominins, recent research has
shown, shared the planet with our own species.
In 2015, researchers unearthed 250,000-year-old fossils in a South
African cave. Known as Homo naledi, this new species had a Lucy-sized
brain, but it was also a complex structure in ways that resembled our
The wrist and other hand bones of Homo naledi were humanlike, while
its long, curved fingers seemed more like an ape’s.
While Homo naledi thrived in Africa, another mysterious species could
be found on an island now called Flores, in Indonesia. Known as Homo
floresiensis, these hominins stood only three feet high and had brains
even smaller than that of Homo naledi.
'Blindingly obvious' that Saudi crown prince ordered Khashoggi murder: Source @abcnews
Law & Politics
"The idea that it goes all the way to the top is blindingly obvious,"
said the State Department official, speaking on the condition of
"There's overwhelming consensus that the leadership is involved -- no
one is debating it within the government," the official said. While
saying no doubts are expressed in the report, the official
acknowledged that the words "probably" and "likely" are used when
attributing the death to the crown prince. The source noted that CIA
analysis reports rarely include explicit conclusions.
SAUDI CROWN PRINCE BOASTED THAT JARED KUSHNER WAS "IN HIS POCKET" @theintercept
Law & Politics
In late October, Jared Kushner made an unannounced trip to Riyadh,
catching some intelligence officials off guard. “The two princes are
said to have stayed up until nearly 4 a.m. several nights, swapping
stories and planning strategy,” the Washington Post’s David Ignatius
reported at the time.
One of the people MBS told about the discussion with Kushner was UAE
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, according to a source who talks
frequently to confidants of the Saudi and Emirati rulers. MBS bragged
to the Emirati crown prince and others that Kushner was “in his
pocket,” the source told The Intercept.
13-NOV-2017 :: Last week after being coached into the early hours by Ivanka Trump's husband, Jared Kushner, MBS launched his night of the long knives
Last week after being coached into the early hours by Ivanka Trump’s
husband, Jared Kushner, MBS launched his night of the long knives,
which, according to the veteran Journalist Robert Fisk, and I quote:
‘’When Saad Hariri’s jet touched down at Riyadh on the evening of 3
November, the first thing he saw was a group of Saudi policemen
surrounding the plane. When they came aboard, they confiscated his
mobile phone and those of his bodyguards. Thus was Lebanon’s prime
minister silenced’’ Hours later, MBS’s newly minted Anti-Corruption
commission detained 11 House of Saud princes, four current ministers
and dozens of former princes/cabinet secretaries – all charged with
corruption. Bank accounts were frozen [We could witness a massive $1
trillion dollar disgorge right here], private jets grounded. The
high-profile Princely crew is jailed at the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton and
the gates are now shut, the phone line is perpetually busy and you
can’t book a room until Feb. 1. Fisk concludes ‘’Put bluntly, he is
clawing down all his rivals.’’
Inside China's 'tantrum diplomacy' at APEC @washingtonpost
Law & Politics
For the first time in its 20-year history, the Asia-Pacific Economic
Cooperation summit ended in disarray Sunday when the 21 member
countries could not reach consensus on a joint statement because of
objections by one member — China. When the summit failed, to the
disgust of the other diplomats, Chinese officials broke out in
But that was only the final incident in a week during which China’s
official delegation staged a series of aggressive, bullying, paranoid
and weird stunts to try to exert dominance and pressure the host
nation and everyone else into succumbing to its demands.
“This is becoming a bit of a routine in China’s official relations:
tantrum diplomacy,” a senior U.S. official involved in the
negotiations told me. “Them walking around like they own the place and
trying to get what they want through bullying.”
Chinese tactics included being thuggish with the international media,
busting into government buildings uninvited, papering the capital city
of Port Moresby with pro-Beijing propaganda and possibly even using
cyberattacks to stifle the message of Vice President Pence, the U.S.
China’s attempted “charm offensive” was visible everywhere. The
Chinese delegation had filled the streets of Port Moresby with Chinese
flags for Xi’s state visit. The PNG government demanded that they be
taken down before the APEC summit, U.S. officials said. The Chinese
officials eventually complied, but then replaced them with solid red
flags — almost identical to the official Chinese flags, but without
the yellow stars.
A huge banner along a major thoroughfare touted China’s One Belt, One
Road economic initiative as “not only a road of cooperation and
win-win situation, but also a road of hope and peace!” In his speech
at APEC, Pence called it “a constricting belt” and “a one-way road.”
Things got worse from there. On Saturday, Xi and Pence were the final
two official speakers at the public part of the summit. They gave
their speeches on a cruise ship docked off the coast, while most
journalists were stationed on shore in the International Media Center.
But five minutes into Pence’s remarks, the Internet in the media
center crashed for most of the reporters there, meaning they couldn’t
hear or report on it in real time.
Just as Pence was finishing his speech, the media center’s Internet
mysteriously came back on. U.S. officials told me — although they
couldn’t be sure China was responsible — they were investigating what
“Was there any trouble with the Internet for the speaker before
Pence?” another senior U.S. official asked me. (No.) “And who was that
speaker again?” (Xi.)
The Chinese officials wouldn’t take no for an answer. They went to the
foreign ministry and physically barged into his office, demanding he
meet with them. He called the local police to get them out of the
building. Every diplomat I talked to in PNG was stunned by China’s
actions. But that’s not the end of it.
This is what the Chinese government is today: pushy, insecure, out of
control and with no desire to pretend anymore they will play by the
rules the international community has been operating under for
decades. How to deal with that reality is the debate the rest of the
world must now begin in earnest.
Lighthizer @realDonaldTrump's trade hawk prepares to swoop on Beijing @FT
Law & Politics
When Robert Lighthizer, America’s top trade official, took a recent
chance to engage with Donald Trump’s conservative base, the issue that
animated him most wasn’t the deal clinched just days before to revamp
North America’s trade rules. It was China.
Giving a rare interview to Laura Ingraham, a rightwing talk radio host
in October, the US trade representative said the country was the
“elephant in the room” that was “stealing our technology”. The tariffs
imposed by the Trump administration on more than $200bn of Chinese
imports the previous month were already producing “strong” results.
“If we can’t protect our innovation, we lose our edge,” the steely
71-year old Ohio native told listeners in his guttural voice.
As Mr Trump, the US president, prepares to meet Xi Jinping, his
Chinese counterpart, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina
at the end of November, Mr Lighthizer is the enigmatic and
indispensable senior official who could make or break the chances of a
deal between Beijing and Washington.
Mr Lighthizer seldom speaks in public and travels little, maintaining
a low profile for a USTR. But amid the confusion of economic
policymaking in the Trump administration, where it is never clear who
is closest to Mr Trump’s thinking, Mr Lighthizer appears to have the
president’s ear, which has given him a certain mystique in the
administration and beyond.
Lighthizer absolutely knows what he’s speaking about and really brings
substance to the president’s ideology. He’s the man who has the plan
Any agreement that produces a ceasefire in the trade war consuming the
US and China will have to pass muster with him — and he is likely to
set a high bar.
“He sees China as an existential threat along the lines of the way he
viewed Japan in the 1980s,” said one investor. “His focus is on trying
to disrupt China’s technological rise rather than on doing a deal
that’s best for the US economy.”
A senior business lobbyist closely following the talks added: “He’s
made it very clear that dialogue with China hasn’t worked over the
years. He’s going to be very sceptical of any commitments or future
promises he’s going to see. And if he’s not going to get a good deal
he’ll be content keeping the tariffs on.”
Mr Lighthizer hails from the protectionist, economic nationalist wing
of the Republican party that was crowded out by free-traders for most
of his career but is in the ascendant in the Trump era.
Over decades spent working in law and government, he became persuaded
that the US needed to be much more aggressive in trade negotiations.
In the early 1980s under President Ronald Reagan, when Japan was seen
as the greatest economic threat, he worked as deputy USTR to negotiate
an agreement by which Tokyo reined in its sales to the US through
voluntary export restraints.
He then plunged into a three-decade career in the Washington office of
Skadden Arps, the law firm, where as a Porsche-driving corporate
lawyer he represented US Steel, the Pittsburgh-based metal
manufacturing company, in a string of cases challenging unfair Chinese
trade practices. This experience forged his image of Beijing as a
ruthless, dangerous economic predator, observers say.
“[Mr Lighthizer] conjures up this idea of essential Chinese-ness that
is not going to change, ever,” said Quinn Slobodian, a historian at
Wellesley College outside Boston. In Mr Lighthizer’s mind there would
be “no hope for compliant China on the terms the US would want,
because ‘they are not like that’,” he said.
Despite Mr Lighthizer’s well-known hawkishness towards Beijing,
Chinese officials have learned they will have to deal with him if they
want to reach an accommodation with Mr Trump. So far, they have
Whereas Mr Lighthizer led the US talks with Canada and Mexico over
Nafta, the main negotiating channel between Washington and Beijing has
involved Steven Mnuchin, the US treasury secretary, and Liu He, a top
Chinese economic official — an axis that failed to produce an
agreement in May.
A diplomat close to the talks complained that Mr Lighthizer was
avoiding contact with the Chinese, while a US official retorted that
Beijing was perhaps trying to circumvent Mr Lighthizer because of his
What makes Mr Lighthizer different to other China trade hawks in the
White House, and especially Peter Navarro, the White House adviser on
trade and industrial policy, is that he is not as prone to public
outbursts that might throw a wrench into the talks — as was the case
this month when Mr Navarro lashed out at “globalist billionaires” who
were putting pressure on Mr Trump to reach deal.
Mr Lighthizer is also far better versed in the intricacies of trade
law and policy than other senior officials. In particular, he has
deployed tools such as section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act, which
allowed the US to investigate China for alleged unfair trade
practices, and overturned decades of US policy by aggressively
challenging the World Trade Organisation.
“He absolutely knows what he’s speaking about and really brings a lot
of substance to the president’s ideology. He’s the man who has the
plan and the thinking underpinning the vision,” said a foreign trade
negotiator who has faced him recently.
Mr Lighthizer seemed to relish his role, the negotiator added. “He’s
controlling the game he was playing all this time — he’s like a kid in
a candy store.”
To those who have questioned globalisation — including on the left of
the political spectrum — all this has given Mr Lighthizer totemic
status. “He’s well informed and he’s persistent,” said Leo Gerard,
international president of the United Steel Workers union. “If he’s
involved, he will be very thorough.”
Sherrod Brown, the Democratic senator from Ohio who is weighing a
presidential bid in 2020, said in a statement to the FT that he had
“worked closely” with Mr Lighthizer to “crack down on countries like
China that cheat the rules”, and seemed satisfied with the path taken
by the administration.
“Communities across Ohio that have seen steel mills shuttered and jobs
lost know that we’ve been under attack, and now we’re fighting back,”
Diplomats who have interacted face to face with Mr Lighthizer say he
can be a difficult interlocutor. “He can be quite strict and severe.
He has a charming side but it takes a while to appreciate it,” said
one. Mr Trump’s “out-of-the-box” positions on trade gave Mr Lighthizer
and his team “cover to aggressively ask for the most ludicrous
things”, he said.
Nevertheless, Mr Lighthizer has forged a working rapport with Cecilia
Malmstrom, the EU trade commissioner, and Toshimitsu Motegi, the
Japanese economy minister, particularly in a trilateral group designed
to find a common position on China. And after months of tense
negotiations over the future of Nafta, Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s
foreign minister, invited Mr Lighthizer to dinner at her home in
October as friction between Washington and Ottawa abated.
But there is little doubt Mr Lighthizer is deeply invested in and
loyal to Mr Trump’s aggressive stance on trade, despite the challenges
involved. “He wants to repatriate global supply chains and bring
manufacturing back to the US, is willing to make foreign investment
more risky and expensive — and he’s willing to take the heat from
business,” the business lobbyist said.
Derek Scissors, a China expert at the American Enterprise Institute, a
conservative think-tank, remembers a conversation with him on the
budding trade dispute back in August 2017 when the US launched its
investigation into unfair trade practices by Beijing.
“He said sincerely ‘we need to do this right’ and he was asking people
he had never met before, including me, to help him,” Mr Scissors said.
“When I said this was at least a three year project and it could be
longer and there’s gonna be some pain, he said ‘I know, I’m
02-JAN-2018 :: I am no longer bullish bitcoin, in fact, I am bearish
Law & Politics
Last year, I made bitcoin my number one choice and it rallied close to
20-fold before correcting and ending the year +1,300%. I am no longer
bullish bitcoin, in fact, I am bearish. The structure of bitcoin is,
however, one that lends it to being ‘’short-squeezed’’ and being
‘’short-squeezed’’ is not a pleasant sensation, let me assure you. For
2018, the portfolio will look to be short bitcoin on a tactical basis.
27-NOV-2017 :: Bitcoin "Wow! What a Ride!" @TheStarKenya
Bitcoin has been the top- performing currency every year since 2010,
except 2014, and this year at +900%, the return has been parabolic
(off the charts). The parabola was described thus by Thomas Pynchon
“But it is a curve each of them feels, unmistakably. It Is the
parabola. They must have guessed, once or twice -guessed and refused
to believe- that everything, always, collectively, had been moving
toward that purified shape latent in the sky, that shape of no
surprise, no second chance, no return.’’
If you spend your life deeply immersed in the markets, then it is
necessary to sniff out these parabolic moves. And it’s better to do
right than say right as Edwin Lefevre noted nearly a century ago.
Or as T.S Eliot said in The Hollow Men
Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom.
This, you will agree, is mind-boggling inflation. In my experience,
when I have found myself riding a tiger by its tail, the key issue is
the getting off and not trying to run the trade for every penny.
‘’One of the few men to get out in time before the Wall Street crash
of 1929 did so – legend has it – because he was offered a stock tip by
the boy who shined his shoes. He immediately sold all his holdings. If
the mania for gambling on the stock market had reached down to the
children on the streets, the bubble must have been due to pop at any
moment. The corresponding moment for the cryptocurrency bubble will
only be discernible in retrospect, but we have some pretty strong
candidates already. The endorsement of one project by the reality TV
star Paris Hilton has already happened.’’
There are many cryptocurrency schemes which are sold on the same
grounds as the greatest South Sea Bubble prospectus: “For carrying on
an undertaking of great advantage, but nobody to know what it is.”
My investment thesis at the start of the year was that Bitcoin was
going to get main-streamed in 2017. It has main-streamed beyond my
wildest dreams, therefore, I am now sidelined.
Let me leave you with Hunter S.Thompson, “Life should not be a journey
to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and
well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of
smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming
“Wow! What a Ride!”
26 MAR 18 :: Sell Facebook. @TheStarKenya
“We just put information into the bloodstream to the internet and then
watch it grow, give it a little push every now and again over time to
watch it take shape. And so this stuff infiltrates the online
community and expands but with no branding – so it’s unattributable,
“It’s no use fighting elections on the facts; it’s all about emotions.”
“So the candidate is the puppet?” the undercover reporter asked.
“Always,” replied Nix.
The fundamental challenge for Facebook is this: It has represented
itself as an ‘’Infomediary’’ An infomediary works as a personal agent
on behalf of consumers to help them take control over information
gathered about them. The concept of the infomediary was first
suggested by John Hagel III in the book Net Worth.
However, Facebook has been hawking this information as if it were an
intermediary. This is its ‘’trust gap’’. That gap is set to widen
further. Facebook is facing an existentialist crisis.
Back to the future for Zimbabwe: Mnangagwa's false start
So, in the meantime, it is back to the future, the persistence of only
the illusion that a military state can reform, politically and lead
the much-needed economic recovery and growth.
As appears more likely, only mass protests on a national scale might
rescue the situation and herald the beginnings of a new era; or, as
remains still remote, the emergence of an enlightened leadership
within the establishment itself, courageous enough to cure the coup
and return Zimbabwe to constitutional and democratic governance, push
for meaningful economic and social reform and re-engage the
international community to rescue Zimbabwe.
So far Mnangagwa has failed to measure up to such a task and
expectations; it is most unlikely that he will ever live up to that,
although he still has a window of opportunity to redeem himself and
save the nation.
Cashew traders scramble after Tanzanian government intervention @FT
Cashew prices have jumped after John Magufuli, Tanzania’s president,
ordered the army to buy the country’s entire 2018 cashew nut harvest.
The African nation is the seventh-largest producer of the nut, but a
stand-off between farmers and buyers has prompted the president to
His intervention has come at a critical time. Tanzania is one of the
few growers that harvests the crop between October and January — the
fallow months before the leading growers of Vietnam, India and Nigeri
start exporting in February and March.
Prices for processed kernels have jumped 10 per cent to $3.8 per pound
since the start of November amid concerns about Tanzanian exports,
according to Freeworld Trading, a UK nut trader.
“Inventories are very very tight,” said Michael Stevens at Freeworld Trading.
The bulk of the raw nuts which have yet to be shelled are shipped from
Tanzania and other African countries to be processed, mainly in
Vietnam and India. A falling price for processed kernels — after a
bumper west Africa crop — has meant that cashew nut buyers importing
for the processors have been reluctant to pay high prices.
Tanzanian exchange bureaus raided on suspicion of money laundering @ReutersAfrica
Tanzania’s central bank conducted a surprise inspection of foreign
exchange bureaus in a crackdown on black market currency trading and
money laundering, it said on Tuesday.
Soldiers and other security forces took part in Monday’s operation in
the northern town of Arusha, a tourism and gemstone trading hub, so
different bureaus could be inspected at once, a statement said.
“There has been an increase in illegal foreign exchange bureaus and
money laundering activities that have been conducted through foreign
exchange bureaus,” central bank Governor Forens Luoga said, adding
that it was a “vast and powerful network”.
Tanzania has 110 licensed foreign currency bureaus, the bank said.
Kenyan police say gunmen kidnap Italian volunteer, wound 5 in attack on coast @ReutersAfrica
Kenya said on Wednesday gunmen kidnapped an Italian volunteer in the
coastal region of Kilifi during an attack in which five people were
wounded, the first time a foreigner has been abducted in the East
African country in several years.
“The gang ... abducted an Italian lady aged 23 years who is a
volunteer of Africa Milele Onlus, an NGO operating in the area,” the
National Police Service said on Twitter.
The wounded, who were all under the age of 25, were taken to hospital
and officers were pursuing the attackers, police said.
The men, armed with AK-47 rifles, attacked the town of Chakama on
Tuesday evening, police said. The town is west of Malindi, a major
tourism destination on the coast.
There was no immediate comment from the Italian government.
Police did not say if the gunmen were suspect militants from al
Shabaab, an Islamist group based in neighbouring Somalia that has
launched deadly attacks in Kenya for years, including the 2013 attack
on a shopping mall in the capital, Nairobi, in which nearly 70 people
“Neither the reasons for the attack nor the identity of the attackers
have been established,” police said.
An unidentified witness told Kenyan TV channel KTN News: “The European
lady got out of her room, instead of lying on the ground, to enquire
what was going on. One of the attackers then slapped her.”
“Their aim was to get money but they took off with her to the river
and, before leaving the village, they started shooting in the air and
they shot one woman and four boys,” the witness said.
The al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab aims to topple Somalia’s foreign-backed
government and impose its own strict interpretation of Islam. They
have intensified attacks in Kenya since it sent troops into Somalia in
Suspected Shabaab militants have launched several attacks in recent
months in which Kenyan soldiers have been killed but those attacks
have all taken place in Lamu County, which is north of Kilifi and
borders Somalia. The group has beheaded people in more than one of
those attacks in Lamu County.
The town of Chakama in Kilifi County where the attack occurred is
nearly 300 km (185 miles) southwest of the Kenya-Somalia border.