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/

Neanderthal art pre-dates humans in Europe

Scientific analysis of cave paintings in Spain suggests that the artists must have been Neanderthals as they are dated prior to when ‘modern humans’ are thought to have arrived in Europe.

The researchers said their work suggested that Neanderthals were“cognitively indistinguishable” from early modern humans.

Reuters – Primitive art: Neanderthals were Europe’s first painters

A high-tech analysis of cave art at three Spanish sites, published on Thursday, dates the paintings to at least 64,800 years ago, or 20,000 years before modern humans arrived in Europe from Africa.

That makes the cave art much older than previously thought and provides the strongest evidence yet that Neanderthals had the cognitive capacity to understand symbolic representation, a central pillar of human culture.

“What we’ve got here is a smoking gun that really overturns the notion that Neanderthals were knuckle-dragging cavemen,” said Alistair Pike, professor of archaeological sciences at the University of Southampton, who co-led the study.

“Painting is something that has always been seen as a very human activity, so if Neanderthals are doing it they are being just like us,” he told Reuters.

While some archaeologists already viewed Neanderthals as more sophisticated than their commonplace caricature, the evidence until now has been inconclusive. With the data from the three Spanish cave sites described in the journal Science, Pike and colleagues believe they finally have rock-solid proof.

The early cave art at La Pasiega, Maltravieso and Ardales includes lines, dots, discs and hand stencils – and creating them would have involved specific skills, such as mixing pigments and selecting appropriate display locations.

Cave painting from Pasiega, Spain

My Neanderthal artist genes must not be dominant.

Scientists used a precise dating system based on the radioactive decay of uranium isotopes into thorium to assess the age of the paintings. This involved scraping a few milligrams of calcium carbonate deposit from the paintings for analysis.

A second related study published in Science Advances found that dyed and decorated marine shells from a different Spanish cave also dated back to pre-human times.

Joao Zilhao of the University of Barcelona said the new findings meant the search for the origins of human cognition needed to go back to the common ancestor of both Neanderthals and modern humans more than 500,000 years ago.

Neanderthals died out about 40,000 years ago, soon after direct ancestors arrived in Europe. It is unclear what killed them off, although theories include an inability to adapt to climate change and increased competition from modern humans.

According to the dates given here:

  • Paintings dated to at least 64,800 years ago
  • ‘Modern humans’ arrived in Europe about 20,000 years later ie about 45,000 years ago
  • Neanderthals ‘died out’ about 40,000 years ago

The genome connection between Neanderthals and modern humans was proved in 2013: The Mating Habits of Early Hominins

A high-quality genome sequence obtained from a female Neanderthal toe bone reveals that the individual’s parents were close relatives and that such inbreeding was prevalent among her recent ancestors, according to a paper published today (December 18) in Nature. But the sequence also reveals that interbreeding occurred between Neanderthals and other hominin groups, including early modern humans.

Despite the high degree of inbreeding that took place in the family of this particular Neanderthal—named the Altai Neanderthal—there was also evidence that Neanderthals in general interbred with other hominin groups. The team compared the genomes of the Altai Neanderthal, a Denisovan, a number of modern humans, and Neanderthals from Croatia and the Caucasus mountains, and confirmed earlier indications that modern humans contain both Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA.

They also showed that Denisovans contained both Neanderthal DNA sequences—most similar to that from the Altai Neanderthal—and sequences absent from Neanderthals and modern humans, which thus appear to have come from an unknown archaic hominin group.

This is very interesting, but there is something that puzzles me – humans are thought to have only arrived in Europe about 45,000 years ago, and interbred with Neanderthals, but:

In a 2011 genetic study by Ramussen et al., researchers took a DNA sample from an early 20th century lock of an Aboriginal person’s hair with low European admixture. They found that the ancestors of the Aboriginal population split off from the Eurasian population between 62,000 and 75,000 BP, whereas the European and Asian populations split only 25,000 to 38,000 years BP, indicating an extended period of Aboriginal genetic isolation.

The same genetic study of 2011 found evidence that Aboriginal peoples carry some of the genes associated with the Denisovan (a species of human related to but distinct from Neanderthals) peoples of Asia; the study suggests that there is an increase in allele sharing between the Denisovans and the Aboriginal Australians genome compared to other Eurasians and Africans.

The data suggest that modern and archaic humans interbred in Asia before the migration to Australia.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aboriginal_Australians

Before humans moved into Europe and interbred with Neanderthals.

Dating Aborigine art is difficult but:

“We don’t have the [dated] art itself, but we’ve found the tools that were used to make the art. For that reason, we rightfully assume that Australia has pigment art going back to when people first came here which is close to 50,000 years ago.”

http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2014/10/09/4102916.htm

That is before modern humans are thought to have arrived in Europe, which is much closer to Africa than Australia.

Barcelona van attack

Another attack by vehicle in Europe, this time in Barcelona, Spain.

Guardian: Full report: van hits crowd in city centre

Guardian live updates: Barcelona attack: multiple deaths reported after van hits Las Ramblas crowds – latest updates

Police confirm fatalities and say they are treating incident in Spanish city as terror attack, amid local reports that armed men have entered restaurant

Local media is reporting that one person has been arrested in relation to the attack.

Separate reports said the Guardia Civil have identified the suspect thought to have hired the white Fiat van used in the attack. According to those reports, he is understood to be from north Africa but to possess a NIE, the identity document issued to foreigners who are resident in Spain.

It is not clear whether the reports referred to the same person.

A second van linked to the attack – assumed to have been used as getaway car – has been found in the small town of Vic in Catalonia.

UPDATED summary  from the Guardian:

What we know so far about the Las Ramblas terror attack

UK & Europe

Topics about the UK, EU and Europe.

UK-EU


BBC: Russian arrested in Spain ‘over US election hacking’

Spanish police have arrested a Russian programmer for alleged involvement in “hacking” the US election, Spanish press reports have said.

Pyotr Levashov, arrested on 7 April in Barcelona, has now been remanded in custody.

A “legal source” also told the AFP news agency that Mr Levashov was the subject of an extradition request by the US.

El Confidencial, a Spanish news website, has said that Mr Levashov’s arrest warrant was issued by US authorities over suspected “hacking” that helped Donald Trump’s campaign.

Mr Levashov’s wife Maria also told Russian broadcaster RT that the arrest was made in connection with such allegations.

Several cybersecurity experts, including Brian Krebs, have also linked Mr Levashov to a Russian spam kingpin, who uses the alias Peter Severa.

 

New Zealand voted on to Security Council

New Zealand has just been voted on to the United Nations Security Council, topping both Spain and Turkey on the first ballot. A second ballot will decide who of the other two also get a seat for 2015 and 2016.

First ballot vote (a two third 129 votes from 193 members required):

  • New Zealand 145
  • Spain 121
  • Turkey 109

(Update: after two more ballots Spain got the second seat).

The Government, particularly through Foreign Minister Murray McCully have worked hard to secure this seat but have been helped by Labour’s David Shearer.

Having Helen Clark in the number 3 position at the UN (head of United Nations Development) will have continued to help, it was Clark who initiated the campaign for the seat ten years ago.

New Zealand and the other successful country will represent ‘Western European and others’. Angola, Malaysia and Venezuela stand uncontested for the seats in their regional groups.

There are 15 seats on the council, five held by the permanent members China, France, Russia, the UK and the US, plus 10 non-permanent members serving two-year terms.

Topping the ballot is an indication of the degree of respect given New Zealand internationally. New Zealand was last represented on the Security Council by Colin Keating in 1993/94. Last year Keating gave a speech supporting and explaining this bid:

The UN Security Council: What is in it for New Zealand?

by Colin Keating
Presentation to the United Nations Association of NZ 2013 National Conference, Wellington | 18 May 2013

As everyone in this audience is aware, New Zealand is a candidate for election to the UN Security Council. If elected, New Zealand will serve a two-year term as one of ten elected members of the council, and will also sit with the five Permanent Members of the Council, China, France, Russia, the UK and the USA.

The election will be held in October 2014. So it is just 17 months away. It is a closely fought contest. There are two vacant seats and three candidates, New Zealand, Spain and Turkey.

New Zealand is not a stranger to contested elections for the Security Council. New Zealand last served on the Council in 1993/94 – exactly twenty years ago. To win that seat New Zealand had to defeat Sweden. So we know what it takes to win against larger and richer countries.

Part of our appeal is that New Zealand is not greedy in seeking election too often. In this regard, when campaigning, we don’t need to rub in the fact that our competitors seek election much more often that we do. This is watched closely by the 109 small states that are members of the UN and who are our natural constituency. They know very well that Spain was last on the Council only 8 years ago – and Turkey only two years ago.

I believe that New Zealand is very well placed to win. We already have very strong support in all regions. And the New Zealand story resonates very well everywhere. But there is no denying the fact that this will be a very hard election. We are up against two significant competitors.

The Government has made it clear that New Zealand is not going to try, as some countries do, to buy votes. For New Zealand that would be silly. Once you start down that track small countries can easily be outbid.

Nor will New Zealand shift its policies or values to attract votes. Again, to do that would be silly. One of the things about New Zealand that really appeals around the world is its consistency and its honest, constructive and balanced positions. Tilting our positions to curry favour with this or that demandeur would actually undermine our strong value proposition.

It also needs to be acknowledged that this election campaign has to be managed in a very tight fiscal context. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is funding the campaign from within its existing budget. This of course requires some very careful reprioritisation of expenditure. The Ministry has had to limit some of its other activities accordingly. Again this is not a new experience. The last Security Council campaign in 1991/92 was similarly fought under very tight budget constraints. And the refocusing of effort that occurred at that time, in my view, actually strengthened and reenergised the Ministry in many ways.

But, given the real electoral challenge that we are facing and appreciating the time and effort that is required by Ministers Special Envoys and officials to campaign across 192 countries, I think it is very important to be able to set out exactly why this is a good idea and what is in it for New Zealand.

There will be some New Zealanders who wondering why we are doing this. Others may ask why don’t we spend the money on something at home or on promoting New Zealand business overseas. These are important questions and need to be answered.

The short answer is that the campaign is not taking money away from domestic priorities or from funding for overseas promotion. It is only using money that MFAT would have been spending anyway.

But this does not address the underlying question of why we would want this in the first place.

I want to set out for you my answer to that question. It is very much a personal opinion. It is based on my experience of the 1991/92 Security Council campaign, of my time in New York as the New Zealand Ambassador representing New Zealand on the Security Council in 1993/94 and also my recent experience in New York setting up and running for 7 years a brand new think tank called Security Council Report to monitor and make accessible to the public the work of the Security Council.

 I must stress that I am not speaking for the Government – although as many of you are aware I am helping the Government with the campaign as an independent adviser and as a Special Envoy of the Prime Minister.

The first point that I want to make is that, when you are campaigning for election to the Security Council, you never need to answer the question why are you running for election when speaking to other Governments. Election to the Security Council is the most highly coveted electoral prize for countries around the world. Almost all Governments would like to get it and they understand completely why it makes sense to go for it. Often they have slightly different reasons, but the bottom line is that everyone understands intuitively why it is a priority.

So what are the drivers for New Zealand? Why would New Zealanders be interested in this?

I believe, and this is based on a lot of years of hearing from New Zealanders on foreign policy issues, that there are probably three quite distinct reasons, which may make sense to three different groups of New Zealanders.

These three groups, in very general terms, might be called:

  • The peace and justice community
  • The business community
  • The security community

There is of course quite a lot of overlap in practice between these three groups, and all the more so when global crises may affect all three.

Let us start with the peace and justice community. There is a strong sense amongst many New Zealanders, often based in the Churches, the NGO groups, the academic world and the Unions that, as a country blessed with resources and being a safe distance from conflict situations, we have a moral and political obligation to show leadership in helping resolve conflicts and promoting peace and justice.

For this community being a member of the Security Council offers a unique opportunity for New Zealand. The Security Council is the only global institution with real power. Many media commentators focus on its coercive powers, its ability to sanction countries and individuals, its power to bring the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court to bear on individuals, its role as the only legitimate source of authority for intervention or even the use of force.

To my mind an even greater power of the Council is its capacity, in practice, to take decisions that result in the collective appropriation of money so that all 193 members share in the cost of peace operations. This is a hugely important tool in bringing resources to the field to help bring peace and justice.

There are currently 13 peacekeeping missions and 34 special political missions being overseen by the Security Council. The budget for these missions is almost US$8 billion. How these operations are working and how well they are delivering for affected populations are things that the Churches, the NGOs and the advocacy groups follow very closely. In New York, the delegations of civil society lobbying the Security Council are probably better informed and better resourced than many of the elected Security Council members.

The value of being on the Security Council and having a capacity to make a difference in conflict situations is therefore well understood by most in the peace and justice community. And the good experience from NZs term on the Council in 1993/94 gives encouragement that NZ can make a difference.

Turning to the business community, it is important to understand that for a country like New Zealand the competitive edge for our exporters is absolutely critical to our economy, to jobs and ultimately the quality of our society. But for small or new exporters making deals in foreign markets is very difficult. You need networks you need access to decision makers. You need national visibility and – when things go wrong – as they often do – you need political access with real impact.

One thing is clear from our term on the Council in 1993/94 – when you are on the Security Council – especially if you are taking a high profile role – you do get visibility in all of the major markets around the world. You are seen sitting at the top table. The influence that that carries can be very significant when exporters need help. When you want to raise something bilaterally you get taken much more seriously. You get unparalleled political access. And even more importantly we found in the 1990s that if you are effective on the Council and pull real weight, the benefits are not limited to the two-year term. They can continue for a decade or more.

This lifting of the NZ profile, this enhanced visibility and the access opportunities that go with it can be leveraged very effectively to assist wider NZ interests. And this can only be of assistance to the business community.

Next I would like to talk about the benefits of a Security Council term for the security community. In doing so I not only include the NZDF and the families of our military personnel and our veterans, but also in a wider sense all New Zealanders.

We are all affected when risks are taken and NZ forces are deployed into combat situations overseas. Losses, when they occur, are felt by everybody. The evidence of this is clear from the huge support around the country in recent years for ANZAC Day events including by young people. And the same is true for New Zealanders overseas, who flock to ANZAC Day events in large numbers.

If you visit the Army Museum in Waiouru, you will see the compelling displays and the graphic reminders that across the whole history of our country every 20 years or so, on average, young New Zealanders have been sent into situations of combat or armed violence.

Another thing you will learn at the Army Museum is the determination to learn from the experiences in the First World War, and some also in the Second World War, where New Zealand suffered unreasonable casualties because of bad command decisions by commanders from other countries.

Recently, although the numbers of New Zealand personnel deployed overseas have been lower than in the past, the frequency has been much higher. Think of where we have been since the end of the Cold War – Somalia, Angola, Mozambique, Bosnia, Bougainville, Timor, the Solomons and Afghanistan – to name just the most prominent. 

In the light of this trend, the security community, all of us, have a very strong interest in maximising the New Zealand voice at decision-making tables. This means not only in the Security Council, where very important decisions are sometimes taken, but also in terms of influence and leverage by other decision makers whose decisions may be the difference between life and death for our military personnel.

A strong and effective New Zealand term on the Security Council every now and then gives us the credibility, the mana and the political access to be taken seriously on these matters. And our military personnel and their families and the New Zealand public at large have every reason to expect the Government and our diplomats will seize such an important opportunity as a term on the Security Council to reinforce that sort of credibility, mana and access.

And finally, although our geography means that we live in about as safe a part of the world as you could imagine, it is clear that in the 21st century security is threatened increasingly by unconventional risks, be they terrorism, narcotics and people smugglers cyber attacks and criminal networks. And, for our pacific island neighbours, the unconventional security risk presented by climate change is becoming increasingly real. All these issues can only be addressed by multilateral collective responses and they are already on the agenda of the Security Council.

I believe that in a country like New Zealand there is a real convergence of interest between the peace and justice community, the business community and the security community, and that it makes real sense for all of them to be strongly behind our determined race to win a seat on the Security Council.