Daily Archives: July 18, 2019

Harvard astronomers reflect on Apollo 11 moon landing

Published on Jul 18, 2019
Fifty years ago, Apollo 11 Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to land on the moon, setting the stage for Armstrong’s historic “giant leap for mankind.” Harvard Astronomers Irwin Shapiro, Dimitar Sasselov, and Alyssa Goodman reflect on the landing, its place in history, and impact on society and themselves.

The Heat: US competes with China in Africa

Published on Jul 18, 2019
Over the last two decades, the levels of trade and investment between China and Africa have increased significantly. According to Chinese government figures, China’s total import and export volume with Africa exceeded $204 billion last year. China is also engaged in major investment and infrastructure projects on the African continent. And, last September, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced another $60 billion in support. For a more in depth discussion, tonight’s panel includes David Shinn, a former US Ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso; Ken Gichinga, managing director and chief economist at Mentoria Economics; Sanusha Naidu, a foreign policy analyst at the Institute for Global Dialogue and Victor Gao, vice president at the Center for China and Globalization.

Can Ebola be wiped out?

Al Jazeera English

Published on Jul 18, 2019

Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo is declared an international public health emergency.

It’s the largest-ever outbreak of ebola, after the 2014 epidemic in West Africa.
And the spread of the virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo has reached a critical point.
The World Health Organization has now declared this latest flare-up a public health emergency of international concern.
That rare move could boost global attention and encourage more aid.
Almost one year into the crisis, more than 2,500 people have been infected in the region and at least 1,600 have died
The first confirmed case is in the city of Goma. It’s a major regional hub on the border with Rwanda and that’s raising concerns the virus may be spreading beyond the DRC’s borders.
So given the resurgence of the disease, has enough been done to stop it?

Presenter: Imran Khan

Mercedes Tatay, international medical secretary at Doctors without Borders
Derek Gatherer, virologist and a lecturer at Lancaster University
Ghislain Muhiwa, community organiser

Creating Just Local, Organic Food Systems

Beyond Pesticides
Published on Jul 18, 2019

Michelle Cashen, farmer and project manager, Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm, Brooklyn, NY
Maria Martins, urban farmer and youth educator, Bronx, NY
Jess Turner, herbalist, urban grower, and educator, Harlem, NY
Christina Chan, urban farmer and educator, Randall’s Island, New York, NY
Gabriella Rodriguez, outreach and communications coordinator, Harlem Grown, Harlem, NY
Melinda Hemmelgarn, RD, moderator, investigative dietitian/host, Food Sleuth,
Columbia, MO; board member, Beyond Pesticides


Africa Aims to Avoid Becoming Collateral Damage in U.S.-China Trade War

The China Africa Project
Published on Jul 18, 2019

Africa’s commodity-dependent economies are extremely vulnerable to the current uncertainties roiling global markets, specifically the heightening trade tensions between the U.S. and China. With the tariffs taking their toll on China’s slowing economy and the U.S. becoming even more assertive with other countries, African policymakers have good reason to be worried.

This week, Cobus and Eric are joined by Cheng Cheng, Chief Economist of the Made in Africa Initiative and a prominent Chinese economics commentator on China’s Belt and Road agenda. Cheng, like a number of economists, believes that the ongoing Sino-U.S. trade dispute could have severe ramifications in emerging markets, particularly in places like Africa, if it’s not soon resolved.


How do you think Africa is faring so far amid the ongoing dispute? Do you think African countries should, or will need to pick sides in this conflict or is better for them to just keep their heads down and hope things get resolved? Let us know what you think.nk.

Review: Eating Tomorrow | FoodAnthropology

Wise, Tim (2019) Eating Tomorrow. Agribusiness, Family Farmers, and the Battle for the Future of Food. New York: The New Press. ISBN 9781620974223

Ellen Messer, Ph.D.
(Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy, Boston, MA)

This is a must read for economists, anthropologists, and consumers interested in the future of food, nutrition, and smaller-scale farming. Its distinctive focus is smaller-scale farmers, and their struggle to survive on their farms and to produce diverse, nourishing and affordable foodstuffs over and against Big-Ag and Big-Food in collusion with national governments. It represents the most recent entry in the “Food First!” themed books, which formulate the chief causes of world hunger to be “who controls the food system,” what crops are produced by what methods, and how available food is distributed. All center on questions of food access, not absolute shortage.

The individual case studies, covering Mozambique, Malawi, and Zambia in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA); Iowa in the US; Mexico in Latin America, and India in South Asia, respectively address hot-button issues like destructive impacts of foreign direct investment (AKA land-grabs, especially in SSA), and environmental pollution of water, soils, air, plant and animal species and communities, that singly and together wreck farmers’ lives and livelihoods in rural communities across the US and globalizing world. A related theme is erosion of traditional land races of crops, especially maize, by introduction of genetically engineered, corporate controlled seeds in the US, Mexico, and SSA. These corporate invasions discourage or prevent farmers from saving and planting their own locally adapted, open-pollinated seed or locally produced and traded hybrids, and from adopting regenerative farming methods that lower requirements to purchase inorganic chemical fertilizers and pesticides, thus reducing farm costs and raising farmer livelihoods.

The entire volume, and the Indian chapter in particular, voice a demand for change that will advance everyone’s human right to food over and against profits for a few. The related terms,“food sovereignty,” call for an end to dependency for farmers, farm communities, and nations and their governments, who should be attending more to “food security” and not subservient to corporate demands in setting food policies that demonstrably disadvantage small (and sometimes large) farmers and usually lower rather than raise production and income. Yet this is no mere political-economic diatribe savaging industrial, capitalist agriculture and showing the inevitable associated ills of globalized food systems. Instead, the ten chapters are based on four years of repeated research visits to the focal countries, where Wise interviewed and here effectively channels the voices of local food and farm activists seeking solutions to under-production and remedies to reduce corporate controls. These voices don’t always agree with each other, particularly around issues of organic practices and labeling, or the requirement for open-pollinated versus locally adapted and controlled hybrid seeds. But they share the common characteristic that they oppose world capitalist dominance of their seed selections and soil maintenance practices, which speaks to the overarching issue: who controls the food system? They oppose conventional high-input, business-as-usual agriculture or more advanced molecular breeding techniques because these approaches are dominated by mostly outsider, agribusiness interests that collude with governments to dominate food policy and constrain more self-reliant, resilient ways to farm and eat. These locally and nationally grounded researcher, producer, and consumer associations, in short, put people and democracy first, as they seek new ways to deliver new life to farming and farmers, and in the process, help their communities and nations regenerate healthier foodstuffs, diets, and livelihoods.

The book is superbly written; throughout it shows the influence of Frances Moore Lappe and politically progressive colleagues at the Small Planet Institute, a spin-off of Food First—Institute for Social and Development Policy, which contributed physical, intellectual, and spiritual space in the forms of dedicated research assistance and a constructive writing environment where Wise shaped his arguments. The results are ten carefully organized and well-documented chapters sewn into a unified whole that seamlessly adopts Food First’s World Hunger: Ten (Twelve) Myths format, without articulating the formal structural repetition of this myth-demolition rhetoric. Like Lappe and her team, Wise, a well-seasoned, food and development policy journalist, artfully practices the craft of activist research and advocacy. The text flows, enlivened by the individual interviewees’ voices, juxtaposed with clear, common-sense explanations of scientific-technological procedures like hybrid plant breeding and use of cover crops to nurture soil regeneration. As he illuminates Big Ag industry domination of state-run agricultural research and extension institutions in country after country, he renders these multi-disciplinary analyses and understandings easily accessible to the non-expert reader or consumer.

…(read more).


Eric Cline – The Collapse of Cities and Civilizations at the End of the Late Bronze Age

Published on Dec 5, 2016

For more than three hundred years during the Late Bronze Age, from about 1500 BC until just after 1200 BC, the Mediterranean region played host to a complex international world in which Egyptians, Mycenaeans, Minoans, Hittites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Cypriots, Trojans, and Canaanites all interacted. They created a cosmopolitan world-system, with flourishing cities such as Mycenae, Hazor, Troy, Ugarit, Hattusa, Babylon, and Thebes, such as has only rarely been seen before the current day. It may have been this very internationalism that contributed to the apocalyptic disaster that ended the Bronze Age. When the end came just after 1200 BC, as it did after centuries of cultural and technological evolution, the civilized and international world of the Mediterranean regions came to a dramatic halt in a vast area stretching from Greece and Italy in the west to Egypt, Canaan, and Mesopotamia in the east. Cities and towns, large empires and small kingdoms, that had taken centuries to evolve, all collapsed rapidly. With their end came the world’s first recorded Dark Ages.

It was not until centuries later that a new cultural renaissance emerged in Greece and the other affected areas, setting the stage for the evolution of Western society as we know it today. Dr. Eric H. Cline is Professor of Classics and Anthropology, former Chair of the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, and current Director of the Capitol Archaeological Institute at The George Washington University, in Washington DC. A Fulbright scholar, National Geographic Explorer, and NEH Public Scholar, Dr. Cline holds degrees in Classical Archaeology, Near Eastern Archaeology, and Ancient History, from Dartmouth, Yale, and the University of Pennsylvania. An active field archaeologist who is the former co-director at Megiddo (biblical Armageddon) and the current co-director at Tel Kabri, he has more than 30 seasons of excavation and survey experience in Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Cyprus, Greece, Crete, and the United States.

Dr. Cline has written (authored, co-authored, or edited) a total of sixteen books, which have been published by prestigious presses including Princeton, Oxford, Cambridge, Michigan, and National Geographic. He is a three-time winner of the Biblical Archaeology Society’s “Best Popular Book on Archaeology” award (2001, 2009, and 2011). He also received the 2014 “Best Popular Book” award from the American Schools of Oriental Research for his book 1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed, which is an international best-seller and was also considered for a 2015 Pulitzer Prize. In addition, he has also authored or co-authored nearly 100 academic articles, which have been published in peer-reviewed journals, festschriften, and conference volumes. At GW, Dr. Cline has won both the Trachtenberg Prize for Teaching Excellence and the Trachtenberg Prize for Faculty Scholarship, the two highest honors at the University; he is the first faculty member to have won both awards. He has also won the Archaeological Institute of America’s “Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching” Award and been nominated three times for the CASE US Professor of the Year. He has also appeared in more than twenty television programs and documentaries, ranging from ABC (including Nightline and Good Morning America) to the BBC and the National Geographic, History, and Discovery Channels. For more information, please visit: http://pier.macmillan.yale.edu/summer…

Why the West Rules–for Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future: Ian Morris

Sometime around 1750, English entrepreneurs unleashed the astounding energies of steam and coal, and the world was forever changed. The emergence of factories, railroads, and gunboats propelled the West’s rise to power in the nineteenth century, and the development of computers and nuclear weapons in the twentieth century secured its global supremacy. Now, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, many worry that the emerging economic power of China and India spells the end of the West as a superpower. In order to understand this possibility, we need to look back in time. Why has the West dominated the globe for the past two hundred years, and will its power last?

Describing the patterns of human history, the archaeologist and historian Ian Morris offers surprising new answers to both questions. It is not, he reveals, differences of race or culture, or even the strivings of great individuals, that explain Western dominance. It is the effects of geography on the everyday efforts of ordinary people as they deal with crises of resources, disease, migration, and climate. As geography and human ingenuity continue to interact, the world will change in astonishing ways, transforming Western rule in the process.

Deeply researched and brilliantly argued, Why the West Rules―for Now spans fifty thousand years of history and offers fresh insights on nearly every page. The book brings together the latest findings across disciplines―from ancient history to neuroscience―not only to explain why the West came to rule the world but also to predict what the future will bring in the next hundred years.


Ian Morris | Why the West Rules — For Now

Oriental Institute
Published on Oct 15, 2013

Ian Morris, Professor of History at Stanford University, lecture Why the West Rules — For Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future at the Oriental Institute on October 2.

For a “geographic” explanation of the dominance of the “West” listen particularly to this excerpt, encapsulating Morris’s geographic theory of Western dominance.

Is Dr. Morris correct about the primacy of “geography?”

What other “explanations” are equally or perhaps even more convincing?

What about a “biological/ecological” explanation?  What about the global impact of the history of disease?

What about a “religious” or broadly “ideological” explanation which might choose to contrast the world-views and different values systems represented since the late 15th century with the rise in Europe of “protestantism” on the one hand and the roughly contemporaneous resurgence of Confucian philosophy in China after the return (and official rejection) of Admiral Zheng He’s “Star Fleet?”

New Younger Dryas Cosmic Impact Paper – reviewed in detail! UnchartedX Podcast #2

Published on Mar 28, 2019

I review the recently released peer-reviewed scientific paper that investigates the Younger Dryas cosmic impact effect in South America.
This is UnchartedX Podcast #2 – set to imagery and video here on youtube, or you can find the mp3 on my website.

*please note that I had to alter some of the music in the video after the fact. I had thought that the intro/exit song was CC by, I was mistaken. Apologies for the abrupt audio transitions, but I didn’t want the claim to affect the video, as the music is purely background, I don’t think it has anything to do with the content of the video itself.

Link to paper: https://www.nature.com/articles/s4159
My marked up copy of the paper is here: http://www.unchartedx.com/2019/03/28/

Full transcript is also available on my website.