Monthly Archives: February 2019

Macron declares that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism

Why Evolution Is True

Criticism of Israel, its leadership and its politics, whether misguided or not, is not generally anti-Semitic. Hatred of Jews (beyond criticism of their religion) is anti-Semitic, and so, I maintain, is anti-Zionism, which I take to be denial of the right of Israel to exist. Whatever you think about the UN vote in 1947 to establish Israel, it’s here and is a recognized country. To single it out, among all countries of the world, as a country that should disappear, is palpable anti-Semitism. And that is the goal of the BDS movement, as well as those “one-staters” like Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, who know full well what would happen if they try to amalgamate Palestine and Israel. If you think that Palestinians can live in harmony with the Jews they despise in a single state, you’re delusional. That’s why I and many others favor a two-state solution, distant as that now…

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One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1962)

Books & Boots

Sleep apart, the only time a prisoner lives for himself is ten minutes in the morning at breakfast, five minutes over dinner and five at supper. (p.17)

It is the start of 1951 (p.36), some prisoners are discussing what will happen now that China has joined the Korean War, will there be a world war? (p.124) and Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, 40 years old (p.39) is prisoner S 854 in the 104th work team at an unnamed forced labour camp somewhere in Siberia, where the daytime temperature is -27 degrees C.

Daily life is about survival, decent boots, making the most of the pitiful thin fish soup and magara porridge, served for breakfast, lunch and dinner, trying to wangle your way out of the physically most draining labour and into something cushy like cleaning the floor of the guards’ room (nice and warm), trying to wangle a puff of someone’s cigarette…

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Human Phylogeography

Why Evolution Is True

by Greg Mayer

For the spring semester, my colleague Dave Rogers and I are teaching a seminar class entitled “Human Phylogeography.” Phylogeography is the study of the history of the genetic variation, and of genetic lineages, within a species (or closely related group of species), and in the seminar we are looking at the phylogeography of human populations. DNA sequencing now allows a fine scale mapping of the distribution of genetic variation within and among populations, and, remarkably, the ability to sequence ancient DNA from fossil remains (including Neanderthals). The seminar is based primarily on a close reading of David Reich’s (2018) Who We Are and How We Got Here (published by OUP in the UK).

A Krapina, Croatia, Neanderthal woman, photo by Jerry.

Although rarely under that rubric, human phylogeography has been a frequent topic of discussion here at WEIT, by Jerry, Matthew, and myself, including…

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Gulag: A History by Anne Applebaum (2003)

Books & Boots

I went back to my apartment from which no policeman could evict me now. There was no one home, and finally I was able to weep freely. To weep for my husband, who perished in the cellars of the Lubyanka, when he was thirty-seven years old, at the height of his powers and talent; for my children, who grew up orphans, stigmatised as the children of enemies of the people; for my parents, who died of grief; for Nikolai, who was tortured in the camps; and for all of my friends who never lived to be rehabilitated but lie beneath the frozen earth of Kolyma.
(Olga Adamova-Sliozberg, labour economist, arrested in 1936, released in 1954, describing her formal exoneration in 1956, quoted on page 461)

Applebaum is not just a leading researcher and scholar of 20th century Russian history, she is also a senior journalist, having worked for The Economist

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THAT’S a bee!

Why Evolution Is True

JAC: In lieu of Reader’s Wildlife Photos today, I’ll take a break and importune you to keep sending me photos (I have a reasonable backlog, but I get nervous. . . .). In its place Greg has contributed a short piece about an enormous bee just rediscovered after several decades.

by Greg Mayer

There are many rare species, especially among invertebrates, that would not be encountered very often, even if they were not in decline. It is thus hard to know some species’ conservation status. Wallace’s Giant Bee (Megachile pluto) has not been seen since 1981, but the New York Times reported on Thursday that it has been rediscovered on one of the islands in its Northern Moluccas range. [Be sure to click on the photo, to get the full effect.]

Wallace’s Giant bee, with a honeybee for scale. Photo by Clay Bolt from The New York Times.

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10 questions for Philip Morris International on their “transformation”

Simon Chapman AO

Like salivating foxes outside a henhouse, Big Tobacco companies like Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco are deep in global charm offensives, trying to convince the public, the corporate world, governments and public health leaders that they have changed. They want to be embraced as health promoters!

Overnight, Moira Gilchrist, Vice President at Philip Morris International, tweeted this

Screen Shot 2019-02-21 at 7.40.33 am

Here’s some news for you Moira, we’re doing very, very well in helping  smokers “who would otherwise continue smoking” to stop doing just that. It’s been going on for decades, despite your industry’s best efforts to thwart what we’ve been doing. And look at the harm we’re been able to reduce, in spite of your industry’s opposition.

Australia mortality drops v Canada 1970-2015

Despite decades of abject failures in producing reduced harm products, they are still at it, this time with ecigarettes and heat-not-burn nicotine delivery systems.

The development of cigarette filters from the 1930s was…

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ANC Fisheries Delegation

by Tim Harding

In the early 1990s, I was put in charge of developing a new Fisheries Act for my state of Victoria, Australia. This work had major policy implications, as well as legal reforms. So when a delegation from South Africa’s new ANC Government came to Victoria, I was allocated the task of meeting and talking to them.

In my private life, I had long been opposed to apartheid, and I had attended protests against the visiting Springboks’ racially-selected rugby team. But as a public servant I had to be non-political. Nevertheless, I was smart enough to understand that I when I walked into the room to meet the South African Government delegation, I needed to first greet and shake hands with the black ANC politicians rather than the South African public servants (who were all white). I shudder to think what would have happened if I or one of my colleagues had not done this. During the meeting, I of course always deferred to the black politicians, even though their white public servants obviously knew more about fisheries policy and legislation.

After the meeting, we all went to the pub for lunch and got along fine, buying drinks etc. I think the ANC politicians were pleasantly surprised to find that they experienced no discrimination whatsoever in an ordinary Australian pub, whose staff would have no idea who they were. I’m glad I had this experience, and I hope that my fisheries policy advice was of some help to the new ANC Government.

 

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New Hindu nationalism erodes science in India

Why Evolution Is True

When I was lecturing in India a bit more than a year ago, I heard repeated complaints from scientists (in five cities) about how the Modi government and its Hindu-centric BJP Party was destroying Indian science. As was reported by the BBC in January (and in the article below from Science), some Indian scientists are beginning to claim that ancient Indians had stem-cell technology, airplanes, the internet, and so on (this is reminiscent of the “Afrocentrism” rife a while back, which claimed the same thing about ancient Africans).

The BBC reports that some Indian scientists attacked Einstein’s work at India’s most important science conference:

Hindu mythology and religion-based theories have increasingly become part of the Indian Science Congress agenda.

But experts said remarks at this year’s summit were especially ludicrous.

The 106th Indian Science Congress, which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, runs from 3-7 January.

The head…

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“If we stopped selling cigarettes tomorrow, someone else would take our place”.

Simon Chapman AO

Late last month, Philip Morris International tweeted one of its daily attempts to convince the world that it is now a health promotion company, firmly aligned with global public health to try and reduce the disease and death caused by tobacco use. Its mainstay, cigarettes, kill two out of every three long term users.

The company is aggressively marketing its heat-not-burn product IQOS (see footnote below) in several markets and its parent company Altria, recently invested $US12.8 billion in the tearaway e-cigarette market leader, Juul. PMI has bankrolled the establishment of the fully “independent” Foundation for a Smokefree World with a grant of $US960 million dollars over 12 years in a classic exercise in astroturfing its messages to also come from a third party.

The Foundation has attracted incendiary criticism since it was first announced. See here, here, here, here, here and here, as just…

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The Crest-tailed mulgara is alive!!

Why Evolution Is True

Yes, today we have a species long thought to be extinct, that, like Lazarus, has returned from the dead. It’s the Crest-tailed Mulgara (Dasycercus cristicauda), a small carnivorous marsupial that was thought for more than a century to be extinct, and whose existence was based on bone fragments. As Roaring Earth and the University of New South Wales report, recently one female was found in the desert of central Australia. And where there’s one, there’s more:

From the UNSW report:

A crest-tailed mulgara — thought to be extinct for more than 100 years — was recently found burrowing through the sand dunes of New South Wales.

Known previously only through fossilized remnants, the animal is one of two species of mulgara found throughout Central Australia. These marsupials have crested bushy tails, measure up to a foot in length, and boast sandy-blonde fur.

. . . A team from the…

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