15,600-year old footprint discovered in southern Chile

Reuters: Oldest human footprint found in the Americas confirmed in Chile

A 15,600-year old footprint discovered in southern Chile is believed to be the oldest ever found in the Americas, according to researchers.

The footprint was first discovered in 2010 by a student at the Universidad Austral of Chile. Scientists then worked for years to rule out the possibility that the print may have belonged to some other species of animal, and to determine the fossil’s estimated age.

Karen Moreno, a paleontologist with the Universidad Austral who has overseen the studies, said researchers had also found bones of animals near the site, including those of primitive elephants, but determined that the footprint was evidence of human presence.

Moreno said this was the first evidence of humans in the Americas older than 12,000 years.

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0213572

Fifteen thousand years is a long time to have been in the Americas, and as I think it is believed people migrated there via Asia (and Alaska) it makes sense that the Americas were the last continent to be inhabited by humans. And they would have migrated southward, so would have arrived in Alaska well before they got to Chile.

But it is curious that such a large part of the world took so long to be inhabited by humans.

This compares to Human occupation of northern Australia by 65,000 years ago

 

 

The Antipodes, and having the feet opposite

I sort of find this interesting but it’s not really relevant to anything. A bit of geographical and language trivia.

New Zealand (and Australia) have been referred to as The Antipodes, because we are roughly on the opposite side of the world to Britain. The word antipodes actually means ‘direct opposite’. Origin (Oxford):

Late Middle English: via French or late Latin from Greek antipodes ‘having the feet opposite’, from anti ‘against, opposite’ + pous, pod- ‘foot’. The term originally denoted the inhabitants of opposite sides of the earth

No part of New Zealand nor Australia are directly opposite Britain.

Ten years ago I wrote:

If you sail out into Biscay Bay
And anchor on the edge
Drill like crazy finding maybe
Biscay Bay Antipodes

The Bay of Biscay is to the north of Spain, and some point there happens to be the opposite side of the planet to Dunedin. The antipodes of most of New Zealand lies across Spain. None of Australia lines up with an opposite land mass.

What I find most interesting about this is how little of the Earth’s land mass lies opposite to land. Not that this means a lot in the whole scheme of things.

If you dug a hole straight down and ended up in China you would have to be in the southern half of South America, in Argentina or Chile, which seems odd as they all border the Pacific Ocean. But the Pacific covers about a third of Earth’s surface, is nearly a half (46%) of the total sea area and is larger than the whole of the planet’s land mass

General details here: https://www.antipodesmap.com/

CPTPP to be signed (and protested) today

The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement will be signed by the eleven participating countries in Chile today, and a (futile) protest has been organised outside parliament in Wellington.

Newshub:  NZ to sign CPTPP today in Chile

Trade Minister David Parker will join his counterparts from 10 Pacific countries for the signing ceremony in Chile on Thursday.

The deal will eliminate 98 percent of tariffs in a marketplace worth close to $14 trillion.

Mr Parker said the deal would give Kiwi businesses preferential access to Japan – the third biggest economy in the world – Canada, Mexico and Peru for the first time.

The deal had also “increased in importance because of growing threats to the effective operation of the World Trade Organisation”, he said.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s estimates, the deal is expected to give a $1.2 billion to $4b boost to New Zealand’s real gross domestic product.

This included almost $86 million in expected tariff savings for the dairy industry, while the country’s exporters would save about $200m in reduced tariffs to Japan alone.

The TPP 11 includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

In New Zealand protests against the TPP continue, but on a much smaller scale than in February 2016 when the agreement was first confirmed.

A petition has just 5236 signatures.

We request the House of Representatives to urge the Government to reject the revised Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, now known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on Trans-Pacific Partnership, and that the House revise the Standing Orders of the Parliament to ensure the process for negotiating and signing trade and investment agreements is more democratic, independently informed, and regularly feeds information back to the Parliament and the people.

There is a protest in Wellington today but I can’t find details.

Meanwhile in the US, who was withdrawn from the TPP as soon as Donald Trump took over the presidency, is lurching towards protectionism with promises of steel tariffs resulting in widespread opposition and the resignation of Trumps chief financial adviser, Gary Cohn.

Labour support trans-Pacific trade alliance

The Government is reported to be close to signing up for a trade deal with countries across the other side of the Pacific. And the Labour Party is supportive.

NZ Herald:  Labour says it will support a trade deal with Pacific Alliance

New Zealand is on the cusp of signing a significant free trade deal with Latin American and South American countries.

The Pacific Alliance, which is made up of Chile, Mexico, Colombia and Peru is expected to announce tomorrow morning whether it will enter formal negotiations on a new deal with New Zealand.

New Zealand would be the first country to secure a free trade agreement with the trading bloc, which is currently worth $1.1 billion in two-way trade.

Trade Minister Todd McClay is in Cali, Colombia, speaking to his counterparts from the four countries in a bid to get the negotiations underway.

Mexico and Chile were in the Trans-Pacific Partnership that has stalled now the US has withdrawn.

Unlike the TPP Labour are supporting this one:

The Labour Party said today it would support a Pacific Alliance agreement, which means any deal is likely to survive if the Government changes in September.

Foreign affairs spokesman David Parker said that like New Zealand, these four countries were looking towards Asia for trade.

“They are doing good things through that alliance to reduce trade barriers, which also affect New Zealand. So we are supportive of that.”

His party’s main concern was about any provisions which allowed investors from the alliance countries to buy land and houses in New Zealand.

Labour was also concerned about any investor-state dispute settlement provisions, which McClay confirmed would be a part of an FTA with the alliance.

Parker said Labour’s main focus if in power would be to advance a trade deal with the EU.

But a deal with the EU is likely to take quite a while.

An interesting stance by Labour – is it because the US is not a part of it?

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters was more sceptical about an FTA with the Latin American and South American countries, saying that growth in those regions had been stagnant for 30 years and that New Zealand should be dealing with bigger economies in the Americas like Brazil.

He did not necessarily oppose a deal with Pacific Alliance grouping, but said he would first want to be certain that the deal was not simply “hype and presentation” and that it was in New Zealand’s interests.

Very vague.

Todd McClay has been very busy since he took over Trade from Tim Groser at the end of 2015.

Cannabis progress in North & South America

 

While the New Zealand government continues to do virtually nothing about addressing cannabis law (apart from allowing limited use of medicinal cannabis extracts) the rest of the world moves on with reforms.

CNBC: Canada to legalize Cannabis from next year: report

Canadians will be free to smoke and grow their own cannabis from next July under new laws which legalize the possession of marijuana for personal consumption, according to reports from Canadian national broadcaster CBC News.

The new freedoms, which were presented to the Liberal government over the weekend by MP Bill Blair, will be announced during the week of April 10 before being written into law in time for Canada Day on July 1, 2018, according to reports from Canadian national broadcaster CBC News.

Under the new law, the Federal government in Ottawa will set a minimum purchasing age of 18 and will be in charge of licensing producers, however, provincial government will have the authority to manage distribution and pricing. It will also be entitled to raise the minimum purchase age. Canadians will also be free to grow up to four marijuana plants per household.

And (ODT): Argentina approves medicinal cannabis

Argentina has given final legislative approval to a bill legalising cannabis oil for medicinal use and permitting the federal government to grow marijuana for research and therapeutic purposes.

The measure will become law once it is signed by President Mauricio Macri, whose Cambiemos party sponsored the bill.

“Thirty percent of epileptics do not respond to traditional medicine,” medical doctor Ana María García Nicora, who heads the Medical Cannabis Argentina group, told local television after the Senate’s final vote on the measure.

“My daughter has had epilepsy for 24 years and this is an option for her,” she said.

And not just in Argentina:

Chile and Colombia have adopted similar laws and neighboring Uruguay has gone as far as to legalize smoking marijuana, seeking to wrest the business from criminals in the small South American nation.

A bill approving the use of cannabis oil is pending in Peru’s Congress.

In January, healthcare regulators in Brazil issued the country’s first license for sale of an oral spray derived from marijuana used to treat multiple sclerosis.

There has also been a lot of changes to cannabis laws in many states in the US.

Meantime here in New Zealand we continue to suffer the consequences of outdated and ineffective drug laws.

TPPA signing in NZ next month?

It’s being reported that the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement will be signed by the 12 countries involved in New Zealand in early February, but the Government says this has not yet been confirmed.

Radio NZ reports Govt denies Chilean claim about TPPA signing.

Duty minister Simon Bridges said despite an official statement by the Chilean government that the controversial trade deal will be signed on 4 February in New Zealand, arrangements are not yet confirmed.

The statement, issued by Chile’s General Directorate of International Economic Relations head Andrés Rebolledo Smitmans, said the agreement would be signed by ministers from the 12 countries that negotiated the deal.

Not surprisingly this initiated criticism from opponents of the agreement.

The announcement sparked criticism from opponents of the deal, who said the fact the public only learned about the signing from overseas reports showed the government was still trying to limit the chance for New Zealanders to make their opposition heard.

Labour Party leader Andrew Little said it would be insulting to New Zealanders if the Trans Pacific Trade Agreement was signed in this country two days before Waitangi Day.

He said having a signing ceremony for an agreement that eroded national sovereignty two days before New Zealand marked its own day of sovereignty would be arrogant and provocative.

A prominent critic of the controversial trade deal, Auckland University law professor Jane Kelsey said the lack of any formal announcement by the New Zealand government before now was consistent with its “obsessive secrecy” throughout the negotiations.

“It seems quite reckless to sign a deal on the fourth of February when everyone knows that US politics will determine the final content. So there’s a lot of water to go under the bridge here.”

But perhaps Kelsey is premature.

However, Simon Bridges said a number of countries were still working through the domestic approval processes required before signature.

He said arrangements for the TPPA’s signing had not yet been confirmed and further details would be announced when and if they were confirmed.

It appears that Kelsey ‘broke’ this story yesterday in a post at The Daily Blog – BREAKING: Offshore confirmation: Ministers to sign TPPA in NZ on 4 February 2016

In that post Kelsey claimed:

Polls have shown the government doesn’t have popular support for the deal.

Technically that may be correct but it’s misleading. While a recent NZH/Digipoll showed only 22.9% supported the TPPA there was also only 33.1 opposed, with 45% “I don’t know enough to form any view”.

In comments at The Daily Blog Kelsey ‘clarifies’:

There is a difference between signing and ratification. Obama can sign on 4 Feb, after giving 90 days notice to Congress that he intended to do so. The approval of US Congress is needed for the implementing legislation that must be passed before the TPPA can come into force in the US and there are lots of other ways that US politics will make its presence felt. See my process paper at  https://tppascratchspace.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/jk-on-treaty-process.pdf 

She didn’t say this in her post. So the unconfirmed signing is not the final step. The TPPA still needs to be ratified.

It could be useful to try to build support for a series of protest meetings planned for later this month:

A series of high profile public meetings has been planned for the main cities at the end of January, starting with Auckland Town Hall on the evening of 26th January, followed by Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.

 

 

Tsunami blip here

There’s been minor signs of tsunami from the Chilean earthquake, nothing to worry about here but worth being cautious about.

It’s amazing that we get any sign of an earthquake from the far side of the Pacific Ocean, over 9,000 kilometres away.

Fortunately there seem to have been relatively low casualties in Chile (currently reported at 10 deaths) from the massive 8.3 earthquake, although a million people were evacuated to higher ground. As reports come out there appears to have been significant damage.

It always takes a day or two for a realistic picture of an earthquake like this to emerge.

Stuff has video and image coverage: Clean-up begins in Chile as earthquake death toll rises

This shows how seismically active our planet is (>4.5 over the last 7 days):

Earthquakes17Sep15is:

Smith in custody in Brazil

It’s reported that Fugitive Phillip Smith taken into custody in Brazil…

Fugitive Phillip Smith has been taken into custody in Brazil.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush made the announcement just after 4.30am, saying Brazil Federal Police had Smith in their custody.

The New Zealand police liaison officer in Brazil visited Mr Smith and confirmed his identity.

In one way this is good news. He shouldn’t get away with breeching his temporary release and sentence.

In another way it’s not so good, there were many feelings of “good riddance”.

What now? How easy will it be to get Smith back to NZ?

Police Minister Michael Woodhouse said New Zealand did not have a formal extradition treaty with Brazil, which prompted concerns that returning Smith to this country could be a lengthy, complex process.

But he said Smith could be liable for deportation, which would be a simpler process than extradition.

Smith was not travelling on a valid travel document and he had failed to disclose his convictions when entering Chile and Brazil, meaning he was in the latter country illegally and could possibly be deported.

University of Auckland international law expert Bill Hodge believed if Smith was caught, he could be deported from Brazil based on problems with his visa.

“Then [they would] simply send him to the airport to deport to a place where an airline will carry him, and that will be in the first instance, Santiago, Chile – where they will deport him further out of transit back to New Zealand.”

So he could end up back in custody in New Zealand soon.

And then the issue of parole and release will come up again sometime.

Smith had committed many offences. Murder was the worst, and it was particularly nasty, as described on Campbell Live last night:

The victim was molested by Smith between the ages of 10 and 13 and was forced to watch as Smith stabbed his father to death, while out on parole in a violent home invasion in 1995.

When Smith was finally locked up, he continued to stalk and taunt the victim and his family from behind bars.

“He had a hit list to kill the whole family,” he says.

The victim described Smith’s predatory behaviour toward him and his family while on bail, saying Smith would stalk the family house for weeks before violently entering, despite conditions expressly prohibiting him from contact with the family. It was on bail that Smith stabbed the victim’s father to death in front of his eyes.

He says he has had trouble coping with the situation. Ever since Smith fled to South America, he has been sleeping with a knife under his bed, afraid the man who killed his father will come after him too.

“I’ve got mixed emotions – anger, fear. It’s not the first time they have let me down, and my family down.”

He is worried for the future and wants to see Smith put “back to where he belongs”.

While fleeing has brought this all up again Smith may have done some good, inadvertently, by fleeing.

He is obviously still high risk. Surely this justifies keeping him locked up, with no temporary release. This may not be indefinite but it should be for a long time at least.