Tag Archives: Middle

Vice-President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden Visit the Middle East

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Jordan King Tells Biden Israeli Settlements Threaten Peace

Vice President Joe Biden (3rd L), meets with Jordan's King Abdullah II (3rd R) at the Royal Palace on March 11, 2010 in Amman, Jordan. Biden's currently on tour of the middle east which has so far seen him meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli President Shimon Peres. (Photo by Salah Malkawi/Getty Images Europe)

AFP~ Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Thursday told visiting US Vice President Joe Biden that Israel’s new settlements plans threaten peace efforts and could lead to more regional violence.

The king renewed Jordan’s condemnation of Israel’s decision to build new settlements in east Jerusalem,” a palace statement quoted the king as telling Biden at a meeting.

He said “such unilateral actions, which are internationally rejected, threaten the peace process and put the entire region at risk of getting into a new cycle of conflict,” according to the statement.

Achieving peace in the Middle East requires a leading US role. The entire world is paying the price for the troubled peace process,” said the king, whose country, a key US ally, signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994.

Israel said on Tuesday it would build 1,600 new homes for Jewish settlers in mainly Arab east Jerusalem, and the announcement coincided with a visit by Biden to the disputed holy city.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly apologized to the vice president on Thursday in a bid to defuse the row over settlements, which prompted a Palestinian boycott of indirect peace talks.

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Filed under Dr. Jill Biden, Israel, Middle East, Peace Talks, Uncategorized, Vice-President Joe Biden

President Obama’s Call to the International Space Station

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President Barack Obama, along with Congressional leaders and middle school children, congratulate astronauts aboard the International Space Station and the Space Shuttle Endeavour during a call from the Roosevelt Room of the White House, February 17, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The President congratulates astronauts on the International Space Station and the Space Shuttle Endeavour on their successful ongoing mission. He is joined by Congressional leaders and middle school students from Michigan, Florida, and Nebraska.

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Vice President Biden’s Meets with U.N. Secretary General’s Special Representative for Iraq

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Vice President Joe Biden meets with U.N Special Representative for Iraq, second from left, Ad Melkert, in the Roosevelt Room, January 5, 2010

The Vice President met with the U.N. Secretary General’s Special Representative for Iraq Ad Melkert, to discuss developments in Iraq. The Vice President offered continued U.S. government support for the indispensable role of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq and thanked Mr. Melkert for his leadership, highlighting his recent support for Iraqi efforts to approve an election law. They discussed preparations for the upcoming national elections and pledged to help the Iraqis resolve outstanding national unity issues.

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Filed under Barack Obama, Government, Iraq, Media and Entertainment, Middle East, Military, News, Obama Administration, Peace Talks, Politics, Pres. Barack Obama, Presidents, Terrorism, United Nations, United States, Vice-President Joe Biden, War, Washington, DC

Vice President Biden Leads Discussion on Middle Class Families in D.C.

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bidenjoemiddleclassWhiteHouse.gov—On Thursday at the Center for American Progress in Washington D.C., Vice President Biden moderated an in-depth discussion focusing on the long-term, structural challenges facing middle class families in today’s economy. Joined by a panel of policy experts, the group focused on broader issues such as the overall labor market in recent decades; shifting gender roles and the need for work-life balance in today’s economy; economic inequality and mobility; the increased gap between productivity and wages, and much more.

Going forward, the Middle Class Task Force will continue working with these panelists, among other outside experts, developing policy ideas to help lift the living standards of working families. As the Vice President put it Thursday: “That dynamic—where the economy’s moving forward as middle class families fall back—that just doesn’t work for the president, for me, and, certainly, for millions of families who are finding the system to be working against them, not for them.”

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Hillary’s Moment: Clinton Faces the World

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Time/Joe Klein—It was Halloween night in Jerusalem, and Benjamin Netanyahu came dressed as a peacemaker.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

We’re prepared to start peace talks immediately,” the notoriously reluctant Israeli Prime Minister proclaimed, with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton standing at his side, poker-faced. “I think we should … get on it and get with it.”

It was a ploy, of course. The Palestinians were tangled up in themselves, yet again. They had elections looming, and their leader, Mahmoud Abbas, had to hang tough: he was demanding a total freeze to Israeli settlement-building on the West Bank — which was precisely what the Obama Administration had previously said it favored. Netanyahu was offering a partial freeze, not including new settlements in East Jerusalem, the desired capital of a future Palestinian state. This was a nonstarter for the Palestinians, but it had the holographic glow of a step forward. It was an “unprecedented” offer, Netanyahu trumpeted, with the joy of a chess master springing a trap.

It was a tough moment for Clinton, playing second fiddle at the Bibi-does-Gandhi show. President Barack Obama had softened his language on the settlements a few weeks earlier: instead of a total freeze, he had talked about Israeli “restraint” in settlement-building. And now Clinton seemed to cement the Administration’s retreat, agreeing that Netanyahu’s proposal was, indeed, “unprecedented,” even though the U.S. still favored a total freeze. The most important thing, she added, was for the parties to get to the table as quickly as possible. The onus was back on the Palestinians — and the Palestinians quickly expressed outrage at the Obama Administration’s retreat. Their Arab neighbors soon joined in, causing Clinton to backtrack two days later, telling reporters the Israeli plan “falls far short” of U.S. expectations, although she still insisted on calling it “unprecedented,” which was neither diplomatic nor wise.

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PBS’ Frontline To Premiere ‘Obama’s War’ About Afghanistan War

Warning: This video contains graphic language and imagery and NSFW

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Ardi, The Oldest “Human” Skeleton Revealed — Along With New Discoveries About Food And Sex!

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Ancient Skeleton May Rewrite Earliest Chapter of Human Evolution

October Issue

October Issue

Science magazine presents 11 papers, by a multinational team of 47 researchers, describing an early hominid species, Ardipithecus ramidus. These 4.4 million year old hominid fossils sit within a critical early part of human evolution, and cast new and sometimes surprising light on the evolution of human limbs and locomotion, the habitats occupied by early hominids, and the nature of our last common ancestor with chimps.
An artist's rendition of Ardipithecus ramidus

An artist's rendition of Ardipithecus ramidus


UK Daily Mail—She lived at the dawn of a new era, when chimps and people began walking (or climbing) along their own evolutionary trails. This is Ardi – the oldest member of the human family tree we’ve found so far.

Short, hairy and with long arms, she roamed the forests of Africa 4.4million years ago.

Her discovery, reported in detail for the first time today, sheds light on a crucial period when we were just leaving the trees. Some scientists said she could provide evidence that our ancestors first started walking upright in the pursuit of sex.

Conventional wisdom says our earliest ancestors first stood up on two legs when they moved out of the forest and into the open savannas. But this does not explain why Ardi’s species was bipedal (able to walk on two legs) while still living partly in the trees.

Owen Lovejoy from Kent State University said the answer could be as simple as food and sex.

He pointed out that throughout evolution males have fought with other males for the right to mate with fertile females. Therefore you would expect dominant males with big fierce canines to pass their genes down the generations.

But say a lesser male, with small stubby teeth realized he could entice a fertile female into mating by bringing her some food? Males would be far more successful food-providers if they had their hands free to carry home items like fruit and roots if they walked on two legs.

Mr Lovejoy said this could explain why males from Ardi’s species had small canines and stood upright – it was all in the pursuit of sex.

He added that it could also suggest that monogamous relationships may be far older than was first thought.

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The Middle Awash study area, where the Ardipithecus bones were found

The Middle Awash study area, where the Ardipithecus bones were found


New York Times/John Noble Wilford—The Ardipithecus specimen, an adult female, probably stood four feet tall and weighed about 110 pounds, almost a foot taller and twice the weight of Lucy. Its brain was no larger than a modern chimp’s. It retained an agility for tree-climbing but already walked upright on two legs, a transforming innovation in hominids, though not as efficiently as Lucy’s kin.

Ardi’s feet had yet to develop the arch-like structure that came later with Lucy and on to humans. The hands were more like those of extinct apes. And its very long arms and short legs resembled the proportions of extinct apes, or even monkeys.

Tim D. White of the University of California, Berkeley, a leader of the team, said in an interview this week that the genus Ardipithecus appeared to resolve many uncertainties about “the initial stage of evolutionary adaptation” after the hominid lineage split from that of the chimpanzees. No fossil trace of the last common ancestor, which lived some time before six million years ago, according to genetic studies, has yet come to light.

The other two significant stages occurred with the rise of Australopithecus, which lived from about four million to one million years ago, and then the emergence of Homo, our own genus, before two million years ago. The ancestral relationship of Ardipithecus to Australopithecus has not been determined, but Lucy’s australopithecine kin are generally recognized as the ancestral group from which Homo evolved.

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A fairly complete skeleton of Ardipithecus ramidus

A fairly complete skeleton of Ardipithecus ramidus

Science—Until now, the oldest known skeleton of a human ancestor was Lucy, who proved in one stroke that our ancestors walked upright before they evolved big brains. But at 3.2 million years old, she was too recent and already too much like a human to reveal much about her primitive origins. As a result, researchers have wondered since her discovery in 1974, what came before her–what did the early members of the human family look like?

Now, that question is being answered in detail for the first time. A multinational team discovered the first parts of the Ar. ramidus skeleton in 1994 in Aramis, Ethiopia. At 4.4 million years old, Ardi is not the oldest fossil proposed as an early hominin, or member of the human family, but it is by far the most complete–including most of the skull and jaw bones, as well as the extremely rare pelvis, hands, and feet. These parts reveal that Ardi had an intermediate form of upright walking, a hallmark of hominins, according to the authors of 11 papers that describe Ardi and at least 35 other individuals of her species. But Ardi still must have spent a lot of time in the trees, the team reports, because she had an opposable big toe. That means she was probably grasping branches and climbing carefully to reach food, to sleep in nests, and to escape predators.

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The reduced size of canine teeth is an indication of a shift in social behavior away from male-male aggression, and is one of the hallmarks of the human lineage.

The reduced size of canine teeth is an indication of a shift in social behavior away from male-male aggression, and is one of the hallmarks of the human lineage.

Reuters—Genetics suggest that humans and our closest living relatives, the chimpanzees, diverged 6 million to 7 million years ago, although some research suggests this may have happened 4 million years ago.

Ardi” is clearly a human ancestor and her descendants did not grow up to be chimpanzees or other apes, the researchers report in Science.

She had an ape-like head and opposable toes that allowed her to climb trees easily, but her hands, wrists and pelvis show she strode like a modern human and did not knuckle-walk like a chimp or a gorilla.

People have sort of assumed that modern chimpanzees haven’t evolved very much, that the last common ancestor was more or less like a chimpanzee and that it’s been … the human lineage … that’s done all the evolving,” White said.

But “Ardi” is “even more primitive than a chimpanzee,” White said.

So chimps and gorillas do not knuckle-walk because they are more primitive than humans — they have evolved this characteristic that helps them live in their forest homes.

White, Berhane Asfaw of Rift Valley Research Service in Addis Ababa and a large team analyzed all the bones of Ardi and found she might have been more peace-loving than modern chimpanzees. She does not have the long, sharp canines that chimps use to fight, for instance.

And males and females have similar-sized teeth, suggesting more equality than seen among modern apes.

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An introduction to Ardi by the Associated Press

A wonderfully informative video by Science magazine

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‘Ardi’ Slideshow

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Fossil hunters in Ethiopia are excavating a mandible, or lower jaw, of Ardipithecus ramidus. A fairly complete skeleton of this individual, nicknamed Ardi, is 4.4-million-years-old. It lived well before and was much more primitive than the 3.2-million-year-old Lucy skeleton, of the species Australopithecus afarensis. Unveiling the Ardi remains this week, scientists said this was the earliest known skeleton of a potential human ancestor. (Photo: Tim White and David L. Brill)

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Ardi was discovered in the arid badlands along the middle stretch of the Awash River, near the village of Aramis in Ethiopia. Arid now, it was a cooler, humid woodland in the time of the early hominids Ardipithecus ramidus. (Photo: David L. Brill)



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For the past 17 years, scientists collected fragments, some tiny pieces of bone, that represented more than 110 specimens from a minimum of 36 different individuals of the Ardipthecus species, including Ardi. (Photo: David L. Brill)



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The few modern Homo sapiens living near the discovery site at Aramis include this Ethiopian goat herder. (Photo: David L. Brill)



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Since the first tooth of the new species was picked up in 1992, members of the Middle Awash research project returned year after year to explore the remote site. Here they are on the dusty trail, driving to camp from a survey trip. (Photo: David L. Brill)



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The excavation team sits down to breakfast before heading off on another day of fossil hunting in the Middle Awash region of Ethiopia. (Photo: David L. Brill)



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An Ethiopian herder, one of the Afar people, moves his stock from the Awash River toward Yardi Lake. (Photo: David L. Brill)



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Berhane Asfaw, an Ethiopian paleoanthropologist, works with the local Afars who occupy the lands of the area of the Ardipithecus discoveries. (Photo: David L. Brill)



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At the discovery site, Tim D. White, left, a leader of the project, and Yohannes Haile-Selassie crawl over the parched surface looking for the tiniest fossil fragments.(Photo: David L. Brill)



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A collection of the fossilized bones that were assembled into the partial skeleton of Ardi. (Photo: David L. Brill)





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This is the site, known as Yonas Arm, that yielded fossil evidence of Ardipithecus ramidus. (Photo: David L. Brill)




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Scientists have identified both primitive and evolved characteristics of the 4.4-million-year-old Ardi hominid. Here, the hand bones were more like those of earlier apes. (Photo: David L. Brill)



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The Ardipithecus specimen, an adult female, probably stood four feet tall and weighed about 120 pounds, almost a foot taller and twice the weight of Lucy. The paleoanthropologists wrote in one of the articles that Ardipithecus was “so rife with anatomical surprises that no one could have imagined it without direct fossil evidence.” (Photo: Tim White 2008, from the Oct. 2 issue of Science)

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