Archive for the ‘world’ Category

Anthropologist Nicholas Conard (left) and filmmaker Werner Herzog examine artifacts from the Chauvet caves in southern France.
Anthropologist Nicholas Conard (left) and filmmaker Werner Herzog examine artifacts from the Chauvet caves in southern France.
April 20, 2011

In 1994, three French cave explorers discovered hundreds of prehistoric paintings and engravings on the walls of the Chauvet Cave in southern France.

Carbon dating has since shown that the depictions of rhinoceroses, lions, cave bears, horses, bison, mammoths and other animals are between 30,000 and 32,000 years old.

That doesn’t mean the ancient drawings are any less sophisticated than what artists create today, says filmmaker Werner Herzog.

“Art … as it bursts on the scene 32,000 years ago, is fully accomplished. It doesn’t start with ‘primitive scribblings’ and first attempts like children would make drawings,” Herzog says. “It’s absolutely and fully accomplished.”

The acclaimed German director, who has produced, written and directed more than 40 films, gained exclusive access to the Chauvet caves. He tells their story and the story of the world’s oldest cave paintings in The Cave of Forgotten Dreams, a 3-D documentary film.

“Since early adolescence, I have been fascinated by cave paintings,” Herzog tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “It actually was my personal intellectual awakening … and shook me to the core — seeing an image of a horse [from the] prehistoric Stone Age. I couldn’t believe it.”

Part of Herzog’s interest in the paintings, he says, is the knowledge that tens of thousands of years ago, humans had the instinct to make art in order to represent the world around them.

“It is strange and very significant that all of a sudden, we have the presence of what I would call ‘the modern human soul,’ ” he says. “Neanderthal man actually did not have all of this, and other civilizations did not have it. And earlier human beings did not represent the world in figurative means — paintings and sculptures and so on.”

Herzog was only permitted to enter the caves for one week of filming.

Filming Inside The Chauvet Caves

Making a documentary inside the Chauvet caves was a difficult endeavor — in part because the cave has so many restrictions. All visitors are required to obtain permission from the regional French government and wear protective body suits to prevent the spread of bacteria and biological growth within the cave. Herzog had to convince both government officials and scientists that he would film inside the cave for only one week.

“I was only allowed [in the cave] for four hours a day,” Herzog recalls. “I was only allowed three men with me. I was only allowed to carry along what we could in our hands. So we couldn’t move heavy equipment in there. [I could only bring] lights that would emit light without any temperature. And, of course, you never step off the metal walkway.”

The men who accompanied Herzog into the cave are frequently seen in the film’s final footage, mainly because they could never leave the metal walkway. But seeing the drawings inside the cave, Herzog says, made all of the restrictions worthwhile.

“[The first time I saw the drawings], it was just a moment of complete awe,” he says. “I was not prepared for the fact that the cave was so beautiful. It’s like crystal cathedrals and stalactites and stalagmites and just like a fairy tale universe down there, and I was not prepared. … Facing the paintings, it’s just sheer awe how beautiful and how accomplished they are.”

Interview Highlights

On what the cave smelled and felt like

“It’s slightly humid. … There is a plan to re-create the cave outside in some sort of what I called the Disneyland version. Since nobody’s going to be allowed in the cave, they will replicate the entire cave. They’ll replicate the paintings on the walls. And there was even a plan to re-create, in our imagination, the scent inside of the cave. Which means maybe some carrion of rotting cave bears, some fire, some … resins. I’ve found a master perfumer who fantasize[s] wildly about how the odor may have been 32,000 years ago. However, when you are entering there, it is slightly humid. There’s no significant traces of any smell of anything significant in there.”

On shooting in 3-D

“When I saw photos, it looked almost like flat walls — maybe slightly undulating or so. Thank God, I went in there without any camera a month before shooting. What you see in there is limestone, and you have these wildly undulating walls — you have bulges and niches and pendants of rock, and there’s a real incredible drama of information. The artists utilized it for their paintings. … So it was clear it was imperative to do this in 3-D, in particular, because we were the only ones ever allowed to film.”

On how Fred Astaire footage wound up in the documentary

“Arguably, or for me, the greatest single sequence in all of film history [is] Fred Astaire dancing with his own shadows, and all of a sudden he stops and the shadows become independent and dance without him and he has to catch up with them. It’s so quintessential movie. It can’t get more beautiful. It’s actually from Swing Time [1938]. And when you look at the cave and certain panels, there’s evidence of some fires on the ground. They’re not for cooking. They were used for illumination. You have to step in front of these fires to look at the images, and when you move, you must see your own shadow. And immediately, Fred Astaire comes to mind — who did something 32,000 years later which is essentially what we can imagine for early Paleolithic people.”

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Posted: March 9, 2011 in Ciber, world

Barefoot Economics

Posted: March 9, 2011 in Adbusters, world

It’s time for economists to start getting dirty.

From an interview with Manfred Max-Neef on Democracy Now!. Manfred Max-Neef is an acclaimed Chilean economist and a recipient of the Right Livelihood Award. He is the author of From the Outside Looking in: Experiences in Barefoot Economics and the upcoming Economics Unmasked: From Power and Greed to Compassion and the Common Good.



I worked for about ten years in areas of extreme poverty in the Sierras, in the jungle and urban areas of Latin America. And one day at the beginning of that period I found myself in an Indian village in the Sierra in Peru. It was an ugly day. It had been raining all day. And I was standing in the slum. And across from me, a guy was standing in the mud – not in the slum, in the mud. He was a short guy … thin, hungry, jobless, five kids, a wife and a grandmother. And I was the fine economist from Berkeley. As we looked at each other, I suddenly realized that I had nothing coherent to say to that man in those circumstances, that my whole language as an economist was absolutely useless. Should I tell him that he should be happy because the GDP had grown five percent or something? Everything felt absurd. Economists study and analyze poverty in their nice offices, they have all the statistics, they make all the models and are convinced they know everything. But they don’t understand poverty.

I live in the south of Chile in the deep south. And that area is known for its milk production. Top technologically, and in every way the best there is. A few months ago I was in a hotel there for breakfast, and there were these little butter things. I looked at one. It was butter from New Zealand. And I thought, isn’t that crazy? Why? The answer is because economists don’t know how to calculate true costs. To bring butter from 10,000 kilometers to a place where you already make the best butter, under the argument that it is cheaper, is a colossal stupidity. They don’t take into consideration the environmental impact of 10,000 kilometers of transport. And part of the reason it’s cheaper is because it’s subsidized. So it’s clearly a case in which the prices do not tell the truth. It’s all tricks. And those tricks do colossal harm. If you bring consumption closer to production, you will eat better, you will have better food, you will know where it comes from and you may even know the person who produces it. You will humanize consumption. But the way economics is practiced today is totally dehumanized.

We need cultured economists, economists who know the history, where the ideas come from, how the ideas originated, who did what; an economics that understands itself very clearly as a subsystem of the larger system of the biosphere. Today’s economists know nothing about ecosystems, nothing about thermodynamics, nothing about biodiversity – they are totally ignorant in those respects. And I don’t see what harm it would do to an economist to know that if the beasts and nature disappear, he would disappear as well because there wouldn’t be food to eat. But today’s economists don’t know that we depend absolutely on nature. For them, nature is a subsystem of our economy. It’s absolutely crazy!

Sen. John McCain walks with Lt. Gen. William Caldwell at Camp Eggers in Kabul, Afghanistan on January 6, 2009.

Senior Airman Brian Ybarbo/U.S. Air Force (Homepage image: AP)
By Michael Hastings

February 23, 2011 11:55 PM ET

The U.S. Army illegally ordered a team of soldiers specializing in “psychological operations” to manipulate visiting American senators into providing more troops and funding for the war, Rolling Stone has learned – and when an officer tried to stop the operation, he was railroaded by military investigators.

The Runaway General: The Rolling Stone Profile of Stanley McChrystal That Changed History

The orders came from the command of Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, a three-star general in charge of training Afghan troops – the linchpin of U.S. strategy in the war. Over a four-month period last year, a military cell devoted to what is known as “information operations” at Camp Eggers in Kabul was repeatedly pressured to target visiting senators and other VIPs who met with Caldwell. When the unit resisted the order, arguing that it violated U.S. laws prohibiting the use of propaganda against American citizens, it was subjected to a campaign of retaliation.

“My job in psy-ops is to play with people’s heads, to get the enemy to behave the way we want them to behave,” says Lt. Colonel Michael Holmes, the leader of the IO unit, who received an official reprimand after bucking orders. “I’m prohibited from doing that to our own people. When you ask me to try to use these skills on senators and congressman, you’re crossing a line.”

King David’s War: How Gen. Petraeus Is Doubling Down on a Failed Strategy

The list of targeted visitors was long, according to interviews with members of the IO team and internal documents obtained by Rolling Stone. Those singled out in the campaign included senators John McCain, Joe Lieberman, Jack Reed, Al Franken and Carl Levin; Rep. Steve Israel of the House Appropriations Committee; Adm. Mike Mullen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; the Czech ambassador to Afghanistan; the German interior minister, and a host of influential think-tank analysts.

The incident offers an indication of just how desperate the U.S. command in Afghanistan is to spin American civilian leaders into supporting an increasingly unpopular war. According to the Defense Department’s own definition, psy-ops – the use of propaganda and psychological tactics to influence emotions and behaviors – are supposed to be used exclusively on “hostile foreign groups.” Federal law forbids the military from practicing psy-ops on Americans, and each defense authorization bill comes with a “propaganda rider” that also prohibits such manipulation. “Everyone in the psy-ops, intel, and IO community knows you’re not supposed to target Americans,” says a veteran member of another psy-ops team who has run operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. “It’s what you learn on day one.”

The Insurgent’s Tale: A Soldier Reconsiders Jihad

When Holmes and his four-man team arrived in Afghanistan in November 2009, their mission was to assess the effects of U.S. propaganda on the Taliban and the local Afghan population. But the following month, Holmes began receiving orders from Caldwell’s staff to direct his expertise on a new target: visiting Americans. At first, the orders were administered verbally. According to Holmes, who attended at least a dozen meetings with Caldwell to discuss the operation, the general wanted the IO unit to do the kind of seemingly innocuous work usually delegated to the two dozen members of his public affairs staff: compiling detailed profiles of the VIPs, including their voting records, their likes and dislikes, and their “hot-button issues.” In one email to Holmes, Caldwell’s staff also wanted to know how to shape the general’s presentations to the visiting dignitaries, and how best to “refine our messaging.”

Congressional delegations – known in military jargon as CODELs – are no strangers to spin. U.S. lawmakers routinely take trips to the frontlines in Iraq and Afghanistan, where they receive carefully orchestrated briefings and visit local markets before posing for souvenir photos in helmets and flak jackets. Informally, the trips are a way for generals to lobby congressmen and provide first-hand updates on the war. But what Caldwell was looking for was more than the usual background briefings on senators. According to Holmes, the general wanted the IO team to provide a “deeper analysis of pressure points we could use to leverage the delegation for more funds.” The general’s chief of staff also asked Holmes how Caldwell could secretly manipulate the U.S. lawmakers without their knowledge. “How do we get these guys to give us more people?” he demanded. “What do I have to plant inside their heads?”

Page 2 of 3
Sen. John McCain walks with Lt. Gen. William Caldwell at Camp Eggers in Kabul, Afghanistan on January 6, 2009.
Senior Airman Brian Ybarbo/U.S. Air Force (Homepage image: AP)
By Michael Hastings

February 23, 2011 11:55 PM ET

According to experts on intelligence policy, asking a psy-ops team to direct its expertise against visiting dignitaries would be like the president asking the CIA to put together background dossiers on congressional opponents. Holmes was even expected to sit in on Caldwell’s meetings with the senators and take notes, without divulging his background. “Putting your propaganda people in a room with senators doesn’t look good,” says John Pike, a leading military analyst. “It doesn’t pass the smell test. Any decent propaganda operator would tell you that.”

At a minimum, the use of the IO team against U.S. senators was a misue of vital resources designed to combat the enemy; it cost American taxpayers roughly $6 million to deploy Holmes and his team in Afghanistan for a year. But Caldwell seemed more eager to advance his own career than to defeat the Taliban. “We called it Operation Fourth Star,” says Holmes. “Caldwell seemed far more focused on the Americans and the funding stream than he was on the Afghans. We were there to teach and train the Afghans. But for the first four months it was all about the U.S. Later he even started talking about targeting the NATO populations.” At one point, according to Holmes, Caldwell wanted to break up the IO team and give each general on his staff their own personal spokesperson with psy-ops training.

It wasn’t the first time that Caldwell had tried to tear down the wall that has historically separated public affairs and psy-ops – the distinction the military is supposed to maintain between “informing” and “influencing.” After a stint as the top U.S. spokesperson in Iraq, the general pushed aggressively to expand the military’s use of information operations. During his time as a commander at Ft. Leavenworth, Caldwell argued for exploiting new technologies like blogging and Wikipedia – a move that would widen the military’s ability to influence the public, both foreign and domestic. According to sources close to the general, he also tried to rewrite the official doctrine on information operations, though that effort ultimately failed. (In recent months, the Pentagon has quietly dropped the nefarious-sounding moniker “psy-ops” in favor of the more neutral “MISO” – short for Military Information Support Operations.)

Under duress, Holmes and his team provided Caldwell with background assessments on the visiting senators, and helped prep the general for his high-profile encounters. But according to members of his unit, Holmes did his best to resist the orders. Holmes believed that using his team to target American civilians violated the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, which was passed by Congress to prevent the State Department from using Soviet-style propaganda techniques on U.S. citizens. But when Holmes brought his concerns to Col. Gregory Breazile, the spokesperson for the Afghan training mission run by Caldwell, the discussion ended in a screaming match. “It’s not illegal if I say it isn’t!” Holmes recalls Breazile shouting.

In March 2010, Breazile issued a written order that “directly tasked” Holmes to conduct an IO campaign against “all DV visits” – short for “distinguished visitor.” The team was also instructed to “prepare the context and develop the prep package for each visit.” In case the order wasn’t clear enough, Breazile added that the new instructions were to “take priority over all other duties.” Instead of fighting the Taliban, Holmes and his team were now responsible for using their training to win the hearts and minds of John McCain and Al Franken.

On March 23rd, Holmes emailed the JAG lawyer who handled information operations, saying that the order made him “nervous.” The lawyer, Capt. John Scott, agreed with Holmes. “The short answer is that IO doesn’t do that,” Scott replied in an email. “[Public affairs] works on the hearts and minds of our own citizens and IO works on the hearts and minds of the citizens of other nations. While the twain do occasionally intersect, such intersections, like violent contact during a soccer game, should be unintentional.”

In another email, Scott advised Holmes to seek his own defense counsel. “Using IO to influence our own folks is a bad idea,” the lawyer wrote, “and contrary to IO policy.”

In a statement to Rolling Stone, a spokesman for Caldwell “categorically denies the assertion that the command used an Information Operations Cell to influence Distinguished Visitors.” But after Scott offered his legal opinion, the order was rewritten to stipulate that the IO unit should only use publicly available records to create profiles of U.S. visitors. Based on the narrower definition of the order, Holmes and his team believed the incident was behind them.

Page 3 of 3
Sen. John McCain walks with Lt. Gen. William Caldwell at Camp Eggers in Kabul, Afghanistan on January 6, 2009.
Senior Airman Brian Ybarbo/U.S. Air Force (Homepage image: AP)
By Michael Hastings

February 23, 2011 11:55 PM ET

Three weeks after the exchange, however, Holmes learned that he was the subject of an investigation, called an AR 15-6. The investigation had been ordered by Col. Joe Buche, Caldwell’s chief of staff. The 22-page report, obtained by Rolling Stone, reads like something put together by Kenneth Starr. The investigator accuses Holmes of going off base in civilian clothes without permission, improperly using his position to start a private business, consuming alcohol, using Facebook too much, and having an “inappropriate” relationship with one of his subordinates, Maj. Laural Levine. The investigator also noted a joking comment that Holmes made on his Facebook wall, in response to a jibe about Afghan men wanting to hold his hand. “Hey! I’ve been here almost five months now!” Holmes wrote. “Gimmee a break a man has needs you know.”

“LTC Holmes’ comments about his sexual needs,” the report concluded, “are even more distasteful in light of his status as a married man.”

Both Holmes and Levine maintain that there was nothing inappropriate about their relationship, and said they were waiting until after they left Afghanistan to start their own business. They and other members of the team also say that they had been given permission to go off post in civilian clothes. As for Facebook, Caldwell’s command had aggressively encouraged its officers to the use the site as part of a social-networking initiative – and Holmes ranked only 15th among the biggest users.

Nor was Holmes the only one who wrote silly things online. Col. Breazile’s Facebook page, for example, is spotted with similar kinds of nonsense, including multiple references to drinking alcohol, and a photo of a warning inside a Port-o-John mocking Afghans – “In case any of you forgot that you are supposed to sit on the toilet and not stand on it and squat. It’s a safety issue. We don’t want you to fall in or miss your target.” Breazile now serves at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where he works in the office dedicated to waging a global information war for the Pentagon.

Following the investigation, both Holmes and Levine were formally reprimanded. Holmes, believing that he was being targeted for questioning the legality of waging an IO campaign against U.S. visitors, complained to the Defense Department’s inspector general. Three months later, he was informed that he was not entitled to protection as a whistleblower, because the JAG lawyer he consulted was not “designated to receive such communications.”

Levine, who has a spotless record and 19 service awards after 16 years in the military, including a tour of duty in Kuwait and Iraq, fears that she has become “the collateral damage” in the military’s effort to retaliate against Holmes. “It will probably end my career,” she says. “My father was an officer, and I believed officers would never act like this. I was devastated. I’ve lost my faith in the military, and I couldn’t in good conscience recommend anyone joining right now.”

After being reprimanded, Holmes and his team were essentially ignored for the rest of their tours in Afghanistan. But on June 15th, the entire Afghan training mission received a surprising memo from Col. Buche, Caldwell’s chief of staff. “Effective immediately,” the memo read, “the engagement in information operations by personnel assigned to the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan and Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan is strictly prohibited.” From now on, the memo added, the “information operation cell” would be referred to as the “Information Engagement cell.” The IE’s mission? “This cell will engage in activities for the sole purpose of informing and educating U.S., Afghan and international audiences….” The memo declared, in short, that those who had trained in psy-ops and other forms of propaganda would now officially be working as public relations experts – targeting a worldwide audience.

As for the operation targeting U.S. senators, there is no way to tell what, if any, influence it had on American policy. What is clear is that in January 2011, Caldwell’s command asked the Obama administration for another $2 billion to train an additional 70,000 Afghan troops – an initiative that will already cost U.S. taxpayers more than $11 billion this year. Among the biggest boosters in Washington to give Caldwell the additional money? Sen. Carl Levin, one of the senators whom Holmes had been ordered to target.

Human Planet is an awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping, heart-stopping landmark series that marvels at mankind’s incredible relationship with nature in the world today.
Uniquely in the animal kingdom, humans have managed to adapt and thrive in every environment on Earth. Each episode takes you to the extremes of our planet: the arctic, mountains, oceans, jungles, grasslands, deserts, rivers and even the urban jungle. Here you will meet people who survive by building complex, exciting and often mutually beneficial relationships with their animal neighbours and the hostile elements of the natural world.
Human Planet crews have filmed in around 80 locations, bringing you many stories that have never been told on television before. The team has trekked with HD cameras and state of the art gear to film from the air, from the ground and underwater. The result: a “cinematic experience” created by world-class natural history and documentary camera crews and programme makers.

zeitgeist moving forward

Posted: February 19, 2011 in 2012, Ciber, Cool stuff, world


By Katie Leslie

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Move over, WikiLeaks. A nationally syndicated public radio show claims to have released one of America’s most closely guarded secrets — an original recipe for Coca-Cola — and it’s causing an international frenzy.


“This American Life” found the list of ingredients deep within the archives of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in a 1979 column by Charles Salter. The radio segment aired on various public radio stations over the weekend.

By Tuesday, story had gone viral on the Internet and on Twitter; the radio show’s website buckled for the first time ever under the weight of unprecedented traffic; the story had appeared in languages ranging from Portuguese to Arabic; and reporters and executives for “This American Life” and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution were getting media requests from around the world.

“I think other people are having the same reaction to this when I had when I first saw this article in the AJC. This supposedly secret recipe has been hiding in plain sight for 30 years,”This American Life” host Ira Glass said Tuesday. “I think we all know Coca-Cola. We all have heard about the incredible secrecy. But no no, it’s not a secret. It’s been sitting out there for years.”

Indeed, the Coca-Cola Company has for decades cultivated a mystique surrounding its trademark formula, even calling it by the cloak-and-dagger name “Merchandise 7x.” The actual recipe is claimed to be kept under lock and key in a bank vault accessible by only two Coca-Colaemployees.

Beverage industry analyst John Sicher wasn’t surprised by the buzz surrounding the story. He says anyone can replicate Coca-Cola, but not its brand.

“Today, anybody with access to a sophisticated chemistry laboratory could analyze the formula of Coke, but no one can call a product called Coke other than the Coca-Cola Company,” said Sicher, editor and publisher of “Beverage Digest.” “The so-called ‘secret formula’ is a wonderful story of lore and mystery, but in reality, the value today is the brand, not the formula.”

The urban myth-busing website classifies much of the lore as no more than clever marketing. Coca-Cola has used tales of Cold War-worthy secrecy measures, says, “to enhance consumer perception of Coca-Cola’s specialness … the belief that anything so closely guarded must be special indeed.”

Glass stumbled upon the recipe while reviewing Salter’s “Georgia Rambler” columns. The ingredients include coca — of course — as well as coriander, caramel, neroli oil and cinnamon. (The list also includes alcohol, a component that Coca-Cola says has long been absent from the mix.)

Salter, who is related to a “This American Life” producer, retired in 1998 but remains in Atlanta. He said he got the recipe from former fishing buddy, pharmacist Everett Beal, in 1979.  Beal had found the recipe years earlier, written in a more than century-old hand-written ledger, Salter said.

“Everett said very casually, ‘Charles, I think I have something that might interest you,” he said. “As a columnist, I could hear the bells ringing. I thought holy mackerel, this is going to be a good column whether it’s the right formula or not.”

Salter took the recipe, which he photographed from Beal’s ledger, to Coca-Cola‘s public relations team. The company laughed off the possibility that he had struck gold.

“He said ‘I can just about assure you this is not what you think it is,’ ” Salter said. “He said a very, very small number of people know the formula. It’s locked in the vault.”

Coca-Cola‘s public relations strategy hasn’t changed much in the 32 years since.

Spokeswoman Kerry Tressler denies that “This American Life” cracked the code. Coca-Cola‘s archivist, Phil Mooney, participated in the broadcast and tasted a batch brewed according to the recipe. He said it didn’t quite replicate the soda.

” ‘This American Life,’ along with many other third parties, have tried over time to crack our secret formula,” Tressler said. “At the end of the day, there is only one ‘real thing.’ ”

Salter said Beal, who died last year, believed to the end that he had an original recipe and was even working on a book about his findings. But neither man received the kind of attention generated by the radio story.

“It does show the changing times of the instant transmission of news,” he said. “As a retired newspaper man, I can tell you I am gratified that something I wrote in 1979 has still attracted attention and interest.”

Glass, for his part, said he believes Salter and Beal did indeed find an original recipe. Glass’s team consulted historian Mark Pendergrast, author of “For God, Country and Coca-Cola,” and compared the recipe to another believed to have been used by the creator of the Coca-Colasyrup, John Pemberton.

“I believe that Pemberton himself made this recipe, either as his first version of Coca-Cola or as one of the versions early on in trying to make this stuff,” Glass said.

In any case, he said that in the course of doing his research, he rediscovered his love for Coke. Before this story, Glass said, he hadn’t  consumed one in at least two decades.

Now, he said, he’s become addicted to the beverage. “I feel like Coke has had its revenge on me, because I’ve become a customer.”