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Archive for September 1st, 2011

Earliest Signs of Advanced Tools Found in Kenya

Posted by Administrator on September 1, 2011

A study dates human tools like this ax to 1.76 million years ago.

A study dates human tools like this ax to 1.76 million years ago.

One hallmark of Homo erectus, a forerunner of modern humans, was his stone tools, an advanced technology reflecting a good deal of forethought and dexterity. Up to now, however, scientists have been unable to pin a firm date on the earliest known evidence of his stone tool-making.

A new geological study, being reported Thursday in the journal Nature, showed that tools from a site near Lake Turkana in Kenya were made about 1.76 million years ago, the earliest of their ilk found so far. Previous dates were estimates ranging from 1.4 million to 1.6 million years ago.

Although no erectus fossils were found with the Turkana tools, a skull of that species was excavated last year in the same sediment level across the lake. This suggests that Homo erectus was responsible for these particular tools, which were made with what scientists refer to as Acheulean technology. The term connotes the type of oval and pear-shaped hand axes and other implements that were a specialty of early humans.

American researchers at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, part of Columbia University, established the age of the Turkana tools by dating the surrounding mudstone with a paleomagnetic technique. When layers of silt and clay hardened into stone, this preserved the orientation of Earth’s magnetic field at the time, and an analysis of the periodic polarity reversals and other records yielded the age of the site known as Kokiselei.

“I was taken aback when I realized that the geological data indicated it was the oldest Acheulean site in the world,” said the lead author of the report, Christopher J. Lepre, a researcher at Lamont-Doherty who also teaches geology at Rutgers University.

The assemblage of hand axes, picks and other cutting tools was collected, mostly in the 1990s, by French archaeologists led by Hélène Roche of the National Center for Scientific Research in France. Dr. Roche, a co-author of the paper, was steered to the site by Richard Leakey, the Kenyan fossil hunter who had discovered, just six miles away, the Turkana Boy, a young Homo erectus who lived about 1.5 million years ago and is the most complete early hominid skeleton found so far.

In the journal article, Dr. Lepre’s group said that artifacts from an earlier and simpler technology, Oldowan, were found alongside the more advanced Acheulean tools. The Oldowan tools were mainly sharp stone flakes and roughly worked rock cores, while the more sophisticated tools displayed signs of symmetry, uniformity and planning.

The presence of both Oldowan and Acheulean artifacts at the site indicates that “the two technologies are not mutually exclusive” components of an evolving cultural lineage, the scientists said. It was possible that the Acheulean technology was imported from a place yet to be identified, or originated from Oldowan toolmakers in the area.

In either case, the scientists wrote, “the Acheulean did not accompany the first human dispersal from Africa, despite being available at the time.”

Hominids thought to be Homo erectus — or possibly Homo habilis, an earlier group — were then living in what is now the country of Georgia. Their tools were Oldowan. So the archaeologists and geologists concluded that there may have been multiple groups of hominids “distinguished by separate stone-tool-making behaviors and dispersal strategies” co-existing in Africa 1.76 million years ago.

Ian Tattersall, a paleoanthropologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York who was not involved in the research, said rumors of much earlier Acheulean finds had been circulating for a long time, “and now we have it, and the evidence is well documented.”

The new find “is bound to open up the debate about the relationship between the appearance of the Acheulean and that of early African Homo erectus, the earliest hominid known to have basically modern human body proportions,” Dr. Tattersall said. It is thought that erectus evolved about two million years ago.

Although the authors suggested the possibility that more than one kind of hominid was making tools at the site, Dr. Tattersall said it was also conceivable that the Acheulean culture was born within the Oldowan. “After all, any cultural innovation has to be invented within some existing tradition,” he noted. “And it was typically the case that old Paleolithic technologies survived for long periods alongside the new.”

Dr. Tattersall said he found it odd that “the Acheulean evidently didn’t catch on widely for several hundred thousand years after it was invented, possibly for the same reasons — whatever they are — that it took a really long time to be adopted at all widely in Eurasia, even as African groups were evidently migrating out.”

Eric Delson, a paleoanthropologist at Lehman College of the City University of New York, said he was disappointed in the few pictures of the stone tools that were published with the report, describing them as “rather rough.” He said the tools “in some ways appeared to be intermediate between Oldowan and Acheulean tools, which might be expected for the first Acheulean artifacts.”

Nonetheless, Dr. Delson said, the new date for the earliest known Acheulean “moves it back closer to the earliest Homo erectus and supports — but does not prove — the widespread view that erectus made the Acheulean, at least at the beginning.”

But as he reviewed the research’s implications for the role of Homo erectus in the spread of early humans, Dr. Delson sounded the familiar lament of paleoanthropology: “Each new find raises about as many questions as it helps to resolve.”

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/01/science/01tools.html

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Obama’s uncle set to fight deportation

Posted by Administrator on September 1, 2011

LEFT KENYA AS A YOUNG MAN: Lawyer Scott Bratton says the case of 67-year-old Onyango Obama (left) has "compelling humanitarian factors."

LEFT KENYA AS A YOUNG MAN: Lawyer Scott Bratton says the case of 67-year-old Onyango Obama (left) has "compelling humanitarian factors."

President Obama’s uncle will fight deportation to his native Kenya, one of his lawyers said yesterday,  because he has lived in the United States for nearly 50 years and now considers it his home.

Onyango Obama, 67,   a half-brother of the president’s father, has turned to the same law firm that helped his younger sister, Zeituni Onyango, overturn a deportation order and win asylum in Boston last year.

Obama was last ordered deported in 1992, but he remained in the United States until Framingham police arrested him last week on drunken-driving and other charges.

“He does want to stay,’’ said Scott Bratton, who with lawyer Margaret Wong in Cleveland have taken on Obama’s case. “He’s just been here for such a long period of time. He hasn’t been to Kenya in forever. He was young when he came to the United States.’’

Bratton said the legal team is still piecing together the details of Obama’s case, and he did not know why the federal immigration courts ordered Obama to leave the country in 1992 – nor why he never left.

The details of Obama’s life that emerged this week trace his path from a fresh-faced young soccer star who charmed classmates at a Cambridge preparatory school in the 1960s to a high school dropout who would disappear into his own networks in Massachusetts. Obama then became a grown man who ran afoul of the Internal Revenue Service, federal immigration authorities, and finally, Framingham police.

With the help of his older brother, Barack Obama Sr. – the father of the future president – Obama arrived in the United States in 1963 to study at Browne & Nichols in Cambridge, according to a new book, “The Other Barack: The Bold and Reckless Life of President Obama’s Father,’’ by Globe reporter Sally H. Jacobs.

He dazzled classmates with his soccer skills, jovial demeanor, and tales of roaming the bush, but for reasons that are still unclear, he dropped out only two years later and enrolled in the Newton public schools.

By then, however, his older brother had returned to Kenya, and Obama was largely on his own, according to the book. He dropped out of school again and changed his name to O. Onyango Obama.

He appeared to lead a quiet life in Massachusetts until he ran afoul of the IRS beginning in the 1980s.

Obama owed the IRS a total of $3,876.52 for the tax years 1987 and 1988, according to a lien filed in the Middlesex South District Registry of Deeds in 1990. Later, the agency filed another lien targeting Obama under the name of Obama O. Onyango, saying he owed them $971.35 in taxes for the 1990 tax year. The registry has no record showing that Obama paid the bills.

Around the same time, Obama was grappling with immigration court.

A federal official  said an immigration judge ordered Obama to leave the country in 1989, granting him voluntary departure, which allowed him to leave on his own instead of being deported. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about the case.

But Obama never left and instead appealed his case to the Board of Immigration Appeals  losing in 1992.

Bratton said Obama’s case has “compelling humanitarian factors,’’ including that he has not been to Kenya since he was a young man, and said the lawyers would try to help him remain in the United States.

“We’ll certainly work as hard as we can,’’ Bratton said.

Last year, the same firm helped his sister, Zeituni , overturn a deportation order and win asylum, which will allow her to one day apply for US citizenship. She had been living quietly in public housing in South Boston, in violation of a deportation order, until her immigration status was leaked to the media days before her nephew’s historic election victory in 2008.

The president’s late father and his Kenyan family were rarely in his life, though he had met many of his relatives, including his aunt, and wrote about them in his memoir, “Dreams from My Father.’’

The White House had no comment this week on Obama’s arrest.

Despite the deportation order, Obama continued to live, work, and drive in the United States. For the past five years, he worked at Conti Liquors in Framingham, where the owner praised his work ethic, though he noted that Obama inverted his names, calling himself Obama Onyango instead.

It is unclear when Obama obtained his Social Security number. The Social Security Administration has said it is possible for legal immigrants to obtain such numbers but did not respond to questions yesterday about what happens after someone is ordered deported.

Obama’s arrest stunned his former classmates at Browne & Nichols, who exchanged e-mails this week, wondering what had happened to their old friend, whom they knew as Omar Okech Obama.

He was the only African student at the small, rigorous school, where boys wore blazers and trim haircuts. He cut a striking figure on the soccer field, dazzling spectators with his fancy footwork, said Stephen D. Burgard, a former classmate of Obama’s at the school.

At the 45th reunion this year, many in the class of 1966 wondered what had become of Obama. In recent days, they were chagrined to find out, after police released the mug shot of his blank gaze and lined face.

“Most of us are asking ourselves on our e-mail group about this and are puzzled by what happened to him,’’ Burgard said.

Obama is being held on an immigration detainer in the Plymouth County House of Correction.

He has pleaded not guilty in Framingham District Court to charges of drunk driving, negligent operation, and failing to yield.

Source: http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2011/09/01/obamas_uncle_set_to_fight_deportation/?page=1

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