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The Berlin Wall: 20 Years Later

The Legacy of 1989 Is Still Up for Debate

BERLIN-WALL-hugeNew York Times/Steven Erlanger—The historical legacy of 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell and the cold war thawed, is as political as the upheavals of that decisive year.

The events of 1989 spurred a striking transformation of Europe, which is now whole and free, and a reunified Germany, milestones that are being observed with celebrations all over the continent, including a French-German extravaganza Monday evening on the Place de la Concorde.

But 1989 also created new divisions and fierce nationalisms that hobble the European Union today, between East and West, France and Germany, Europe and Russia.

From left, Mikhail Gorbachev, Henry Kissinger and former German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher next to a piece of the Berlin Wall.

From left, Mikhail Gorbachev, Henry Kissinger and former German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher next to a piece of the Berlin Wall.

Some of the intensity of those divisions is evident in the tug of war, in both Europe and the United States, over the achievements of 1989 — whether they owe more to the resolute anti-Communism of Ronald Reagan or its inverse, the white-glove embrace of the East by many in Western Europe.

And while many in the West saw the wheel of history spinning inevitably, causing the rise of democracy and banishing serious rivals to American power, China forestalled its own revolution in 1989 and catapulted itself to prominence through an authoritarian capitalism that the leaders of Russia are now studying.

The Chinese ended up with a Leninist capitalism, which none of us imagined in 1989, and which is now the main ideological competitor to Western liberal democracy,” said Timothy Garton Ash, a chronicler of 1989 in his book “The Magic Lantern.”

It is a tribute to 1989, not unlike the French Revolution 200 years before it, that its meaning is hotly contested. Different groups in different countries see the anniversary differently, usually from their own ideological points of view.

A group of Russian tourists gathered in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on Friday.

A group of Russian tourists gathered in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on Friday.

In general, said James M. Goldgeier of George Washington University, a historian of the period, “the big question out there for 20 years is who gets the credit.”

For many in the United States, he said, most of the credit now goes to President Ronald Reagan and his aggressive military spending and antagonism toward Communism. That view has largely eclipsed another American perspective, which was that globalization and democratization were so powerful that a Mikhail Gorbachev was inevitable, and that the cold war ended through “soft power” — propaganda, diplomacy and the Helsinki accords.

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Justice Served: Joyner Wins Great Uncles Posthumous Pardons

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Tom Joyner’s Falsely Executed Relatives Cleared – 94 Years Later

Syndicated Radio Host Tom Joyner

Syndicated Radio Host Tom Joyner

BlackAmericaWeb.com/Jackie Jones—The South Carolina Parole and Pardons Board has unanimously granted Tom Joyner a posthumous pardon for his great-uncles, Thomas and Meeks Griffin, who were executed in 1915 for a crime they didn’t commit.

Officials believe the men are the first in the state to be posthumously pardoned in a capital murder case.

Joyner, his brother, Albert, and two sons, Thomas and Oscar, were joined by Harvard scholar Henry Louis “Skip” Gates and his legal team in presenting their case. The host of “The Tom Joyner Morning Show” called in to the program right after the decision came down shortly after 9:30 a.m. to inform co-hosts Sybil Wilkes and J. Anthony Brown, along with his nationwide listening audience, who’d been texting their well-wishes for the family all morning.

Tom Joyner and Henry Louis Gates (at left) embrace after being granted posthumous pardons for Joyner's great-uncles.

Tom Joyner and Henry Louis Gates (at left) embrace after being granted posthumous pardons for Joyner's great-uncles.

They did give my uncles a posthumous pardon,” Joyner said. “We’re getting ready to go now for the signing of the pardon letter.”

Joyner had been on a quest to clear his uncles’ names after learning of their story when Gates announced the results of genealogy research conducted on Joyner’s family as part of the 2008 PBS special, “African American Lives II.”

Joyner, with help from Gates and South Carolina attorney Stephen K. Benjamin, put together the case petitioning the state to exonerate his maternal great-uncles.

Joyner holds up the signed pardon

Joyner holds up the signed pardon

The brothers were executed with two other black men for the April 1913 shooting death of John Lewis, 73, a wealthy Confederate veteran living in a town 40 miles north of Columbia.

The Griffin brothers were indicted in July 1913 and given just two days to prepare the case. The family was forced to sell 130 acres of land to finance the defense. Their lawyer sought a delay but the request was denied, leaving just one day to get ready. Later, the state Supreme Court said the denial was insignificant to the outcome of the case.

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African-American Lives 2 – Tom Joyner

africanamericanlivesIIdvdThe video clip below is poignant moment from the documentary where Dr. Gates stuns Joyner by telling him that his great-uncles were electrocuted by the State of South Carolina, for a murder they didn’t commit. Historically, of the 47 people who were put to death in South Carolina between 1912 and 1920, 44 were Black.

Albany Law School professor Dr. Paul Finkelman, who helped with the research on the case, says he’s never seen a case in which so many white public officials and sentences came forward to try to help black men who had been convicted.

The Griffin brothers stand for the thousands of people who are unjustly accused, unjustly convicted,“ he said after the pardon was granted. “It’s not just Tom Joyner’s family. This is a much bigger story and there are other stories that need to be told.”

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Put Tom Joyner’s life and ancestry in historical context with the PBS Interactive Historical Timeline

Tom Joyner’s Falsely Executed Relatives Cleared – 94 Years Too Late

SC Board Pardons 2 Black Men Executed 94 Years Ago

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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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