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Judi Lynn

Judi Lynn's Journal
Judi Lynn's Journal
March 29, 2018

Its Time the United States Accounts for Its History of Torture

MARCH 28, 2018


President Trump’s nomination of Gina Haspel to head the CIA has stirred objections from many quarters. After 9/11, Haspel ran an illegal black site in Thailand where a man was tortured, and she later wrote a memo calling for the destruction of proof of such “enhanced interrogations.” She has paid no price for these actions, nor has she been called to account for them.

As a native of Chile, I can attest to how difficult it is for a people to confront horrors committed in their name, how disturbing to acknowledge a monstrous past. But that hard work of reckoning is crucial.

In 1973, Salvador Allende, the democratically elected president of Chile, was overthrown by the military. During the 17-year dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet that followed, legions of Allende’s followers, accused of being terrorists and enemies of the state, were unspeakably brutalized in secret detention centers run by agents of Chile’s intelligence services. More than 3,000 prisoners were executed, and close to 40,000 were traumatized and scarred for life.

The majority of the perpetrators were men, but a large contingent were women. Some of those women worked in the bureaucracy that made possible the reign of terror, pushing paper or serving coffee and cookies. Some were directly involved in the kidnapping, torture and murder of the regime’s opponents. Just as cruel as their male counterparts, they proved especially efficacious in humiliating the detainees sexually and extracting information from them.


March 29, 2018

Much More Than a Struggle Over a Brand of Rum

MARCH 28, 2018
Much More Than a Struggle Over a Brand of Rum

The arguments that have been taking place for years between the French corporation Pernod Ricard and the U.S.-based Bacardi company since shortly after the triumph of the revolution in Cuba are rooted in political realities that far outstrip the apparent battle for the Bacardi and Havana Club rum brands that have lasted for more than half a century.

The controversy derives from the fact that the Cuban popular victory of 1959, which led to the revolution in power on the island, was followed by, among other popular demands, the inescapable commitments made by the rebels to the people. These included agrarian reform, the literacy campaign, the urban reform, the nationalization of public energy, water, and communications services, and the large industries. The government of the revolution set out to agree mutually satisfactory compensatory solutions with those affected and succeeded in almost all cases.

The then-owners of the Bacardi rum company skillfully managed to register the firm in Bermuda and prepared to resist nationalization. They took the documents and individuals of some of the company’s directors from Cuba. But they were unable to extract the talent and the century-old expertise and inventiveness of the humble teachers and other workers who have made the product of their efforts famous. Neither do the characteristics of water, climate, and other irreplaceable elements.

Then there followed an extensive period of legal disputes in which shipments of the original Bacardi rum from Cuba were systematically confiscated for claims that the counterfeiters were making progress, often through bribes and always supported by pressure from Washington.


March 24, 2018

Cuba's Cure Why is Cuba exporting its health care miracle to the world's poor?

Cuba's Cure
Why is Cuba exporting its health care miracle to the world's poor?


Sarah van Gelder posted May 11, 2007
Read this article in Spanish. Lea este artículo en español

Cubans say they offer health care to the world's poor because they have big hearts. But what do they get in return?

They live longer than almost anyone in Latin America. Far fewer babies die. Almost everyone has been vaccinated, and such scourges of the poor as parasites, TB, malaria, even HIV/AIDS are rare or non-existent. Anyone can see a doctor, at low cost, right in the neighborhood.

The Cuban health care system is producing a population that is as healthy as those of the world's wealthiest countries at a fraction of the cost. And now Cuba has begun exporting its system to under-served communities around the world—including the United States.

The story of Cuba's health care ambitions is largely hidden from the people of the United States, where politics left over from the Cold War maintain an embargo on information and understanding. But it is increasingly well-known in the poorest communities of Latin America, the Caribbean, and parts of Africa where Cuban and Cuban-trained doctors are practicing.

In the words of Dr. Paul Farmer, Cuba is showing that “you can introduce the notion of a right to health care and wipe out the diseases of poverty.”


~ ~ ~ ~

Cuba has for several years had a promising therapeutic vaccine against lung cancer. The 55-year trade embargo led by the US made sure that Cuba was mostly where it stayed. Until—maybe—now.

The Obama administration has, of course, been trying to normalize relations with the island nation. And last month, during New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's visit to Havana, Roswell Park Cancer Institute finalized an agreement with Cuba's Center for Molecular Immunology to develop a lung cancer vaccine and begin clinical trials in the US. Essentially, US researchers will bring the Cimavax vaccine stateside and get on track for approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

"The chance to evaluate a vaccine like this is a very exciting prospect," says Candace Johnson, CEO of Roswell Park. She's excited, most likely, because research on the vaccine so far shows that it has low toxicity, and it's relatively cheap to produce and store. The Center for Molecular Immunology will give Roswell Park all of the documentation (how it's produced, toxicity data, results from past trials) for an FDA drug application; Johnson says she hopes to get approval for testing Cimavax within six to eight months, and to start clinical trials in a year.

How did Cuba end up with a cutting edge immuno-oncology drug? Though the country is justly famous for cigars, rum, and baseball, it also has some of the best and most inventive biotech and medical research in the world. That's especially notable for a country where the average worker earns $20 a month. Cuba spends a fraction of the money the US does on healthcare per individual; yet the average Cuban has a life expectancy on par with the average American. "They've had to do more with less," says Johnson, "so they've had to be even more innovative with how they approach things. For over 40 years, they have had a preeminent immunology community."


~ ~ ~ ~

Cuba Develops Four Cancer Vaccines, Ignored by the Media
By Tony Seed
Global Research, July 07, 2014
Tony Seed's Weblog 5 July 2014

The fact that Cuba has already developed four cancer vaccines undoubtedly is big news for humanity if you bear in mind that according to the World Health Organization nearly 8 million people die from that disease every year. However, the monopoly media have completely ignored this reality.

In 2012, Cuba patented the first therapeutic vaccine in the world against advanced lung cancer, called CIMAVAX-EGF. In January 2013, the island announced the second cancer vaccine, known as Racotumomab.

Clinical tests, carried out in 86 nations, revealed that though these vaccines do not cure the disease, they do reduce the tumors thus improving the quality and expectancy of life of the patients.

Vaccines developed by Cuba’s Molecular Immunology Centre

The Havana-based Molecular Immunology Center is the creator of these vaccines. The center had already developed the Meningitis-B Vaccine in 1985, one of its kind in the world. Later there came other vaccines, such as the Hepatitis-B and the Dengue. Experts at the entity have been researching for years on a HIV-Aids vaccine as well.

The Cuban agenda against cancer is also joined by Labiofam pharmaceutical enterprise, which develops homeopathic medications against the disease, such as VIDATOX, made from the venom of blue scorpion, native of Cuba.

At present, Cuba exports these products to 26 countries and participates in joint ventures in China, Canada and Spain. This breaks the extended media silence about the advancements of Cuba and other South countries in the field, and the largely voiced stereotype that advanced pharmaceutics is only developed in the developed countries.


~ ~ ~ ~

Why Is Cuba’s Health Care System the Best Model for Poor Countries?
Posted Dec 07, 2012 by Don Fitz

Furious though it may be, the current debate over health care in the US is largely irrelevant to charting a path for poor countries of Africa, Latin America, Asia, and the Pacific Islands. That is because the US squanders perhaps 10 to 20 times what is needed for a good, affordable medical system. The waste is far more than 30% overhead by private insurance companies. It includes an enormous amount of over-treatment, creation of illnesses, exposure to contagion through over-hospitalization, disease-focused instead of prevention-focused research, and making the poor sicker by refusing them treatment.1

Poor countries simply cannot afford such a health system. Well over 100 countries are looking to the example of Cuba, which has the same 78-year life expectancy of the US while spending 4% per person annually of what the US does.2

The most revolutionary idea of the Cuban system is doctors living in the neighborhoods they serve. A doctor-nurse team are part of the community and know their patients well because they live at (or near) the consultorio (doctor’s office) where they work. Consultorios are backed up by policlínicos which provide services during off-hours and offer a wide variety of specialists. Policlínicos coordinate community health delivery and link nationally-designed health initiatives with their local implementation.

Cubans call their system medicina general integral (MGI, comprehensive general medicine). Its programs focus on preventing people from getting diseases and treating them as rapidly as possible.

This has made Cuba extremely effective in control of everyday health issues. Having doctors’ offices in every neighborhood has brought the Cuban infant mortality rate below that of the US and less than half that of US Blacks.3 Cuba has a record unmatched in dealing with chronic and infectious diseases with amazingly limited resources. These include (with date eradicated): polio (1962), malaria (1967), neonatal tetanus (1972), diphtheria (1979), congenital rubella syndrome (1989), post-mumps meningitis (1989), measles (1993), rubella (1995), and TB meningitis (1997).4


~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Cuban Revolutionary Doctor: The Ultimate Weapon of Solidarity
by Steve Brouwer
(Jan 01, 2009)

On August 19, 1960, Che Guevara gave a talk to the Cuban Militia “On Revolutionary Medicine”:

A few months ago, here in Havana, it happened that a group of newly graduated doctors did not want to go into the country’s rural areas and demanded remuneration before they would agree to go…

But what would have happened if instead of these boys, whose families generally were able to pay for their years of study, others of less fortunate means had just finished their schooling and were beginning the exercise of their profession? What would have occurred if two or three hundred campesinos had emerged, let us say by magic, from the university halls?

What would have happened, simply, is that the campesinos would have run, immediately and with unreserved enthusiasm, to help their brothers… What would have happened is what will happen in six or seven years, when the new students, children of workers and campesinos, receive professional degrees of all kinds…

If we medical workers—and permit me to use once again a title which I had forgotten some time ago—are successful, if we use this new weapon of solidarity…


~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Cuba’s extraordinary global medical record shames the US blockade
Seumas Milne
Wed 3 Dec 2014 15.07 EST

Four months into the internationally declared Ebola emergency that has devastated west Africa, Cuba leads the world in direct medical support to fight the epidemic. The US and Britain have sent thousands of troops and, along with other countries, promised aid – most of which has yet to materialise. But, as the World Health Organisation has insisted, what’s most urgently needed are health workers. The Caribbean island, with a population of just 11m and official per capita income of $6,000 (£3,824), answered that call before it was made. It was first on the Ebola frontline and has sent the largest contingent of doctors and nurses – 256 are already in the field, with another 200 volunteers on their way.

While western media interest has faded with the receding threat of global infection, hundreds of British health service workers have volunteered to join them. The first 30 arrived in Sierra Leone last week, while troops have been building clinics. But the Cuban doctors have been on the ground in force since October and are there for the long haul.

The need could not be greater. More than 6,000 people have already died. So shaming has the Cuban operation been that British and US politicians have felt obliged to offer congratulations. John Kerry described the contribution of the state the US has been trying to overthrow for half a century “impressive”. The first Cuban doctor to contract Ebola has been treated by British medics, and US officials promised they would “collaborate” with Cuba to fight Ebola.

But it’s not the first time that Cuba has provided the lion’s share of medical relief following a humanitarian disaster. Four years ago, after the devastating earthquake in impoverished Haiti, Cuba sent the largest medical contingent and cared for 40% of the victims. In the aftermath of the Kashmir earthquake of 2005, Cuba sent 2,400 medical workers to Pakistan and treated more than 70% of those affected; they also left behind 32 field hospitals and donated a thousand medical scholarships.
From Ebola to earthquakes, Havana’s doctors have saved millions. Obama must lift this embargo.

That tradition of emergency relief goes back to the first years of the Cuban revolution. But it is only one part of an extraordinary and mushrooming global medical internationalism. There are now 50,000 Cuban doctors and nurses working in 60 developing countries. As Canadian professor John Kirk puts it: “Cuban medical internationalism has saved millions of lives.” But this unparalleled solidarity has barely registered in the western media.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~

JULY 25, 2014
Socialist Cuba Exports Health Care, Gains Important Recognition

In Cuba recently press conferences and new reports celebrated the ten-year anniversary of Operation Miracle, known also as “Mision Miracle,” which occurred on July 8. This internationalized project aimed at restoring vision on a massive scale took shape within the context of ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America.

Cuba and Venezuela launched ALBA in late 2004. Latin American and Caribbean nations belonging to ALBA engage in mutually beneficial trade-offs of educational and medical services, scientific projects, even commodities. They are referred to as solidarity exchanges. ALBA exemplifies Cuba and Venezuela’s central role in promoting regional integration.

Under Operation Miracle, Cubans and Venezuelans benefit from surgical eye care, as do tens of thousands of foreign nationals who’ve traveled to Cuba for treatment. Cuban ophthalmologists serving in Venezuela took the lead in establishing 26 eye care centers throughout that national territory. Staff consisting of eye surgeons, nurses, technicians, and other physicians have served Venezuelans and also vision- impaired people from 17 Latin American countries plus Italy, Portugal, and Puerto Rico. More recently organizers established centers in 14 Latin American and Caribbean nations. Ten years after its start the project operates in 31 countries, some in Africa and Asia.

Those receiving diagnosis and treatment through Operation Miracle had gone without eye care because of poverty and/or geographic inaccessibility. The most common cause of reduced vision the teams deal with is cataract. They provide treatment also for glaucoma, strabismus, retina problems, and abnormal ocular growths. Corrective lenses are provided. Services are available for patients at no personal cost, as are transportation and accommodations.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Why Does Health Care in Cuba Cost 96% Less than in the US?
January 6, 2011 Don Fitz

When Americans spend $100 on health care, is it possible that only $4 goes to keeping them well and $96 goes somewhere else? Single payer health care advocates compare American health care to that in Western Europe or Canada and come up with figures of 20–30% waste in the US.

When Americans spend $100 on health care, is it possible that only $4 goes to keeping them well and $96 goes somewhere else? Single payer health care advocates compare American health care to that in Western Europe or Canada and come up with figures of 20–30% waste in the US.

But there is one country with very low level of economic activity yet with a level of health care equal to the West: Cuba.

Life expectancy of about 78 years of age in Cuba is equivalent to the US. Yet, in 2005, Cuba was spending $193 per person on health care, only 4% of the $4540 being spent in the US. Where could the other 96% of US health care dollars be going?

1. A fragmented system

Explaining why health care is 16% of the US gross domestic product while it is less than half that in the UK, a 2008 article in Dollars and Sense pointed out that…the US has the most bureaucratic health care system in the world, including over 1500 different companies, each offering multiple plans, each with its own marketing program and enrollment procedures, its own paperwork and policies, its CEO salaries, sales commissions, and other non-clinical costs—and, of course, if it is a for-profit company, its profits.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~

03/15/2016 02:36 pm ET
Cuba Has Made At Least 3 Major Medical Innovations That We Need
The trade embargo is holding up research in some crucial areas.

By Anna Almendrala

By most measures, the United States’ business-friendly environment has proven to be fertile for medical innovation. Compared to other countries, America has filed the most patents in the life sciences, is conducting most of the world’s clinical trials and has published the most biomedical research.

That’s what makes the medical prominence of Cuba all the more surprising to those who view a free market as an essential driver of scientific discovery. Cuba is very poor, and yet the country has some of the healthiest, most long-lived residents in the world — as well as a medical invention or two that could run circles around U.S. therapies, thanks to government investment in scientific research and a preventive public health approach that views medical care as a birthright.

The island nation, hemmed in by a 54-year trade embargo with the U.S., can’t exchange goods with one of the world’s largest economies and the largest medical market. Still, the country is an unlikely global leader in public health and scientific investment.

“If people knew about these cutting-edge treatments coming out of Cuba, people would want to have them,” said Pierre LaRamée, executive director of the Oakland-based Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba, which advocates for Cuban medical inventions in the U.S. and publishes an international, peer-reviewed journal focusing on Cuban health and medicine.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~

08/08/2014 09:46 am ET Updated Oct 08, 2014
Cuba’s Health Care System: a Model for the World

By Salim Lamrani
This post first appeared in Opera Mundi

According to the UN’s World Health Organization, Cuba’s health care system is an example for all countries of the world.

The Cuban health system is recognized worldwide for its excellence and its efficiency. Despite extremely limited resources and the dramatic impact caused by the economic sanctions imposed by the United States for more than half a century, Cuba has managed to guarantee access to care for all segments of the population and obtain results similar to those of the most developed nations.

During her recent visit to Havana in July of 2014, Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), impressed by the country’s achievements in this field, praised the Cuban health care system: “Cuba is the only country that has a health care system closely linked to research and development. This is the way to go, because human health can only improve through innovation,” She also praised “the efforts of the country’s leadership for having made health an essential pillar of development” [1].

Cuba’s health care system is based on preventive medicine and the results achieved are outstanding. According to Margaret Chan, the world should follow the example of the island in this arena and replace the curative model, inefficient and more expensive, with a prevention-based system. “We sincerely hope that all of the world’s inhabitants will have access to quality medical services, as they do in Cuba,” she said. [2]

WHO notes that the lack of access to care in the world is by no means a foregone conclusion arising from a lack of resources. It reflects, instead, a lack of political will on the part of leaders to protect their most vulnerable populations. The organization cites the case of the Caribbean island as the perfect counter-example [3]. Moreover, in May 2014, in recognition of the excellence of its health care system, Cuba chaired the 67th World Health Assembly [4].

With an infant mortality rate of 4.2 per thousand births, the Caribbean island is the best performer on the continent and in the Third World generally. This is also demonstrated by the quality of its health care system and the impact it has on the well-being of children and pregnant women. The infant mortality rate in Cuba is lower than it is in the United States and is among the lowest in the world. [5]


~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I could continue to post excellent articles from both my files and from the internet all evening, but I really don't want to, no good reason for it. They are available to anyone who looks for them. If anyone searches, he/she will find a profound difference in the quality and number of articles which praise the Cuban system and the alternative, written by ideologues.

I maintain the credibility of the original article I posted by former Senator Bill Frist speaks for itself. He has always been a total right-winger, a hard Republican, and he feels he needs to publish the article I posted at the top of this thread. It's not easy to persuade a Republican winger to speak well of their adversaries, or well-balanced, emotionally healthy people, as you know.
March 24, 2018

An important win for the world's largest tropical wetland

Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay commit to protect the Pantanal


March 22, 2018

The world’s largest tropical wetland notched an important win today with new commitments that require sustainable development of the Pantanal, a 42-million-acre wetland that touches three countries. It ensures that all future development of this essential landscape is balanced with the needs of wildlife and people.

Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay signed the landmark declaration that calls for sustainable development of the Pantanal. The decision follows years of collaboration among the governments that are securing a prosperous future for one of the most biologically rich ecosystems on the planet. WWF has assisted this effort and applauds this landmark move.

The Pantanal is a surprisingly well-kept secret in comparison to the Amazon, despite its massive size and the more than 4,700 animal and plant species that live within it.

Millions of people living downstream rely on its crucial natural resources and benefits, including natural flood control, groundwater recharge, river flow for boats to navigate, and absorption of carbon. A study conducted by Brazil's Agricultural Research Corporation concluded that these natural benefits are valued at $112 billion a year.



Many more images:

March 24, 2018

Why the lost kingdom of Patagonia is a live issue for Chile's Mapuche people

The Kingdom of Araucania and Patagonia was dismissed as the 19th century folly of a quixotic Frenchman but it left a powerful legacy of indigenous sovereignty

Mat Youkee
Wed 21 Mar 2018 03.30 EDT Last modified on Wed 21 Mar 2018 18.00 EDT

On the walls of Tourtoirac Abbey in southern France hangs a map that portrays a very different vision of Latin American history. A reproduction of a 19th century original, it shows a huge swath of southern Chile and Argentina as the Kingdom of Araucania and Patagonia.

For a brief period in the early 1860s the Mapuche tribes of southern Chile were united under a French king in what was – to their minds at least – an independent and sovereign state.

On Thursday, the Kingdom of Araucania and Patagonia’s enduring government-in-exile will choose a new king with a mandate to raise international awareness of the Mapuche people’s continuing conflict with the Chilean state.

The election comes at a time when Mapuche historians are reconsidering the legacy of the kingdom’s first monarch.

March 24, 2018

Forbes: Cuba's Most Valuable Export: Its Healthcare Expertise

JUN 8, 2015 @ 04:34 PM
Cuba's Most Valuable Export: Its Healthcare Expertise

When you think of Cuban exports, you might think of sugar, or perhaps its famously sought-after cigars. But one of the nation’s most profitable exports is actually its own healthcare professionals.

The Cuban government reportedly earns $8 billion a year in revenues from professional services carried out by its doctors and nurses, with some 37,000 Cuban nationals currently working in 77 countries. The socialist regime allows the government to collect a portion of the incomes earned by Cuban workers abroad.

For example, in 2013 Cuba inked a deal with the Brazilian Health Ministry to send 4,000 Cuban doctors to underserved regions of Brazil by the end of the year – worth as much as $270 million a year to the Castro government. By the end of 2014, Brazil’s Mais Medicos program, meaning “More Doctors,” had brought in 14,462 health professionals – 11,429 of which came from Cuba.

Over the past 50 years, Cuba consistently used the export of its doctors as a powerful and far-reaching tool of health diplomacy. The island nation has built good will and improved its global standing with emerging countries around the world during its years of isolation. It sent its first doctors overseas as far back as 1963, and to date has sent physicians to over 100 countries.

In my travels doing medical mission work to underserved regions in over a dozen African nations, the most common nonindigenous health personnel I run across are doctors and nurses from Cuba offering frontline primary and emergency care. They serve and cure, building trust in Cuba's name globally.


Author's credentials:

Bill Frist
I cover global and domestic health care and health care reform. FULL BIO

I am a nationally-acclaimed heart and lung transplant surgeon, former U. S. Senate Majority Leader, and chairman of the Executive Board of the health service private equity firm Cressey & Company. I now serve as chairman of the Hope Through Healing Hands foundation, a global health organization which focuses on maternal and child health and SCORE, a collaborative K12 education reform organization that has helped propel Tennessee to prominence as a reform state. I am also an adjunct professor of Cardiac Surgery at Vanderbilt University and clinical professor of Surgery at Meharry Medical College. I currently serve on the boards of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Harvard Medical School Board of Fellows, First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Partnership for a Healthier America” campaign to fight childhood obesity, and the Nashville Health Care Council.


As you should know, Bill Frist is a very conservative Republican.

March 22, 2018

Germany Repatriates Olmec Artifacts to Mexico

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

MUNICH, GERMANY—According to a Deutsche Welle report, German officials handed over two 3,000-year-old Olmec busts to Mexico in a ceremony held earlier this week. German authorities seized the two wooden sculptures, and about 1,000 other artifacts, from an antiquities dealer in 2008. The sculptures were then stored in the Bavarian State Archaeological Collection. The repatriated sculptures are thought to have been looted in the 1980s from El Manati, an archaeological site in eastern Mexico, where they are believed to have been buried along with 13 other artifacts that were excavated from the site by archaeologists. These items included axes and stone knives. “The recovery is very significant, since Olmec culture represents one of the first civilizations in ancient Mexico and only 13 pieces exist with the same characteristics,” said Maria Villarreal of Mexico’s National Institute of History and Anthropology. The Olmec busts will eventually be exhibited in Mexico’s National Museum of Anthropology. To read in-depth about the Olmec, go to “Kings of Cooperation.”


~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Olmec city of Tres Zapotes may have owed its longevity to a new form of government

Monday, March 13, 2017

On a sweltering day in 1862 at the foot of the Tuxtla Mountains in the Mexican state of Veracruz, a farmworker was clearing a cornfield when he hit something hard and smooth lodged in the earth. He thought it was the rounded base of an iron cauldron buried upside down, and, it being the 1860s, he reported the find to the owner of the hacienda where he worked. The farmworker’s boss told him to dig up the cauldron immediately and bring it to him. As the farmworker labored to uncover the object, he realized he had found not a large iron bowl, but a gargantuan stone sculpture with a pair of glaring eyes, a broad nose, and a downturned mouth. What had appeared to be the base of a cauldron was actually the top of a helmet worn by the glowering figure. What the farmworker had unearthed was a colossal Olmec head, one of the first clues to the existence of that ancient culture.

Over the next century and a half, archaeologists would uncover many more of these heads along the Mexican Gulf Coast and discover the ancient cities where they were carved. The site of that first fateful discovery became known as Tres Zapotes, after a type of fruit tree common in the area. Along with the sites of San Lorenzo and La Venta, Tres Zapotes was one of the great capitals of the Olmec culture, which emerged by 1200 B.C. as one of the first societies in Mesoamerica organized into a complex social and political hierarchy.

The key to the Olmecs’ rise appears to have been a strong, centralized monarchy. The colossal heads, each one depicting a particular individual, are likely portraits of the Olmec kings who ruled from ornate palaces at San Lorenzo and La Venta. Even though Tres Zapotes yielded the earliest evidence for Olmec kingship, 20 years of survey and excavations there suggest that, at its height, the city adopted a very different form of government, one in which power was shared among multiple factions. Further, while other Olmec capitals lasted between 300 and 500 years, Tres Zapotes managed to survive for nearly two millennia. The city, therefore, may have weathered intense cultural and political shifts not by doubling down on traditional Olmec monarchy, but by distributing power among several groups that learned to work together. According to University of Kentucky archaeologist Christopher Pool, who has spent his career excavating the city, that cooperative rule may have helped Tres Zapotes endure for centuries after the rest of Olmec society collapsed.

When Pool arrived at Tres Zapotes in 1996, he was the first archaeologist in over 40 years to take a serious interest in the site. Tres Zapotes had been recognized as an important Olmec center since shortly after the discovery of the colossal head, and in the decades to follow it had yielded a plethora of intricate figurines and stone monuments, including another colossal head. But important details of the site’s history remained unknown, including its size and how long it had been occupied. Pool set out to map the full extent of the ancient city, survey the ceramics he found scattered across the ground, and excavate the most compelling areas.

When Pool arrived at Tres Zapotes in 1996, he was the first archaeologist in over 40 years to take a serious interest in the site. Tres Zapotes had been recognized as an important Olmec center since shortly after the discovery of the colossal head, and in the decades to follow it had yielded a plethora of intricate figurines and stone monuments, including another colossal head. But important details of the site’s history remained unknown, including its size and how long it had been occupied. Pool set out to map the full extent of the ancient city, survey the ceramics he found scattered across the ground, and excavate the most compelling areas.


March 21, 2018

10 things threatening the peace in Colombia

REPORT from Norwegian Refugee Council Published on 21 Mar 2018

. . .

2018 will be a pivotal year for the country, and in May, a new president will be elected. Here are ten things threatening the peace in Colombia:

1. A fight for natural resources and drug routes

In many areas previously controlled by FARC, armed conflict is still ongoing. In some areas, the fighting has increased since FARC laid down their weapons, as armed groups are attempting to take control over strategic areas, natural resources and important drug routes. In many places, paramilitary groups have moved in, causing increased fear among the population. Violence has increased throughout the country, as has the number of local leaders being murdered.

2. The government is not doing enough

The government is still not able to guarantee the safety of the civilian population and has been criticised for not making this a bigger priority. The government says it lacks the resources and capacity.

March 21, 2018

12 Incredible New Images of Galaxies and Nebulae from the Hubble Telescope

Ryan F. Mandelbaum
Today 2:25 pm Filed to: HUBBLE

- click for image -


Image: NASA, ESA, STScI, and V. Rubin (Carnegie Institution of Washington), D. Maoz (Tel Aviv University/Wise Observatory) and D. Fisher (University of Maryland) (NASA)

Look up to the sky with the unaided eye and you’ll see lots of specks and globs that look mostly like stars. On closer inspection, though, some of those dots refuse to resolve, smeared out on the night sky.

Famed astronomer Charles Messier noticed these objects while studying comets—indeed, they looked like comments standing still in the sky, according to NASA. He therefore called these imposters “objects to avoid,” and catalogued them in his list of 103 “Messier Objects.” That list has since been expanded to 110.

It’s a good thing scientists didn’t avoid the imposters, though. It turned out to contain some incredibly important astronomical objects, smeared out because they consisted of not one, but many stars. The first comet-looking thing, M1, was the now often-studied Crab Nebula. His catalogue also included the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), the pinwheel galaxy often used as a Milky Way lookalike (M101) and the Whirlpool galaxy (M51a). You, too, can spot many of these objects with an amateur telescope.

The Hubble Telescope has made spotting these objects simple, and has creating some breathtaking images along the way. That includes the Eagle Nebula, also called the Pillars of Creation or M16, perhaps the most famous nebula ever observed.


March 21, 2018

Soil and Satellites Are Telling a New Story About Ancient Civilizations in the Amazon

With new technologies, scientists are looking for clues in manmade “terra preta.”

The Amazon may not be as pristine as it looks. Rainforest in Manú National Park, Peru. KATARINA ZIMMER

WHEN FRANCISCO DE ORELLANA, A Spanish conquistador, paddled through the Amazon in 1541, he did not find El Dorado, the fabled kingdom of gold he had been looking for. But he did report to have found civilization: large villages and farms sprawled along the rivers, and even massive cities in the distance.

However, when later explorers and missionaries returned to the same spots centuries later, they found nothing but wild tangles of vegetation. Orellana’s reports were dismissed as bogus when scientists chimed in. Large settlements, in the Amazon rainforest? That would be impossible, they said, for the same reason that it’s still impossible to occupy the Amazon today. Although the forests have rich, wild plant life, the soils alone are too poor in nutrients to support long-term cultivation of agricultural crops.

“But what archaeologists have been seeing in the last 30 years is that, quite the contrary—the Amazon has been densely occupied in the past,” says Eduardo Neves, a Brazilian archaeologist.

One surprise has been the discovery of something that is, in some ways, much more valuable than the gold the Spanish had originally been looking for: terra preta de índio, “dark earth of the Indian,” a blend of charcoal and very nutrient-rich earth that is dark in color, and extraordinarily fertile—in stark contrast to the surrounding orange-yellowish, unproductive earth.


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