Tuesday, October 17, 2017

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Deciphering hieroglyphics (2)

The monosyllabic word He (meaning "window") was originally the image of a man in front with raised arms calling to prayer. The Greeks transformed it into epsilon and the Romans into E.
With the other letters a similar process occurred. The final evolutionary result was the Greco-Latin system (which includes as a derivative the Cyrillic script that is currently used in Russia and Ukraine).                                   
Other northeastern African languages ​​also created analogous systems. The ge'ez, traditional and religious language of Ethiopia is written using its own script based on signs that represent consonants. As in Arabic, these are modified to indicate the associated vowels. Other languages ​​commonly used in the Ethiopian region, such as Amharic, Tigrinya, Bin and Me'en, also use the Ge'ez alphabet,
The Chinese writing system follows rules analogous to the Egyptian system. It is based on mainly syllabic logogram-like symbols that express contents and sounds at the same time.
Chinese logograms allow the writing of several Asian languages, in particular Chinese (Hanzi) and Japanese (Kanji), as well as Korean, Vietnamese and other Eastern languages.
The dictionary of Chinese logograms Kangxi includes approximately 47,000 logograms, although the commonly used ones are many less. With 3,000 or 4,000 logos a person can be perfectly functional in understanding and writing the language.
The Chinese system is generally composed of monosyllabic characters where each represents a basic meaning. Mandarin Chinese may require more than one character and there are numerous polysyllabic logograms. Its meaning is different to the characters that compose it although there is usually some relationship between the meaning of both types.  
Tables containing the record of "oracle bones" where the logograms are incisions in bones) with transcription in Latin alphabet and modern logograms with representation in Latin letters.

From: "Chronicles of Human Peripecies", D.Anton, Piriguazu Ediciones

A little geography: Egypt and its insoluble problems

Danilo Antón

Egypt is a paradoxical country. It is extremely arid, but of great fertility in its main river valley. It is overpopulated, with more than 95 million inhabitants in just 45,000 km2 of productive land has one of the largest population densities of the planet in its agricultural and urban areas. At the same time it possesses some of the most desolate and hot deserts of the world that extend for 950,000 km2.
The existence of this enormous human population is possible for only one reason: a river that is emissary of the humid African tropics and contributes its imposing flow of water and sediments to the arid Saharan lands of the North. That is why more than 95% of the Egyptians live in the Nile Valley.
The rest of the country is sparsely populated. There are few population centers in the coastal strips of the Mediterranean and Red Sea with some fishing and tourist populations, and a few oases associated with saline depressions.
In Cairo, the capital of the country, with 25 million inhabitants in the metropolitan area rains just over 25 mm per year. In Luxor, to the south of the country, which has 500,000 inhabitants, it rains less than 1 mm of rain per year, so that for all practical purposes it can be said that it never rains.
The Nile Valley proper houses 90 million inhabitants, 95% of the country's total. This means 2000 inhabitants per km2, one of the highest densities in the world.
The practically unique characteristics of the Nile River allowed the emergence of the first civilizations. They were numerous and close communities that required cooperation to use the water resources of the river to develop their irrigated crops.
At present, however, the agricultural production of the exploitable lands of the country is not enough to supply and provide labor for the large population, giving rise to multitudes of unemployed young people who are unable to enter the labor market.
This social instability is manifested at the political level. Islamic radicalism, expressed by the Muslim Brotherhood and some more extremist groups, contrasts with the conservative and authoritarian political elite based on the armed forces.
Income that compensates for productive deficits in some way comes from tourism (which is hampered by insecurity in Egyptian cities), the repatriation of funds from Egyptian emigrants (several million economic emigrants) who work in oil countries of the Gulf, the contributions and investments of some countries of the latter region (for example, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates), and US military support.
But these contributions are not enough. In the first place, because the prevailing corruption prevents resources from being distributed among the population in general, secondly because ethnic-religious conflicts (between Muslims and Coptic Christians, between Sunnis and Shiites, etc.) discourage investment and tourism, and thirdly because environmental degradation (including degradation of agricultural soils) reduces productivity.
In the near future, the situation is not likely to improve, emigrant contributions and contributions from Gulf states are affected by low oil prices, tourism and agricultural production decline, and population growth continues.
In short, the country's social, environmental and political situation is unsustainable. This will result in greater instability, radicalization of religious extremism, greater violence, insecurity and increased poverty of large urban and rural majorities.
The incorporation of Egypt into the Saudi-Emirate alliance in the Yemen war and the blockade of Qatar will not help to resolve the situation, rather it will create new problems.
In the next few years the 100 million Egyptians will enter a difficult and uncertain future of inequality, poverty and social, ethnic and religious conflicts.
From "Lands of few rains and lots of blood" by Danilo Antón, Piriguazú Ediciones.

Monday, October 16, 2017

History and language of Garifona people

There are more than 50,000 Garifona people inhabiting the coast of Honduras, Guatemala and Belice.
Theu speak a very special language called "Garifuna" or "Karif" which is widely spoken in villages of the western part of the northern coast of Central America.
It is a member of the Arawakan languages but an atypical one since it is spoken outside of the Arawakan language area, which is otherwise confined to the northern parts of South America, and because it contains an unusually high number of loanwords from both Carib languages and a number of European languages because of an extremely tumultuous past involving warfare, migration and colonization.
The language was once confined to the Antillean islands of St Vincent and Dominicam but its speakers, the Garifuna people, were deported en masse by the British in 1797 to the north coast of Honduras where the language and Garifuna people have since spread along the coast south to Nicaragua and north to Guatemala and Belize.
Parts of Garifuna vocabulary are split between men's speech and women's speech, and some concepts have two words to express them, one for women and one for men. Moreover, the terms used by men are generally loanwords from Carib while those used by women are Arawak,
The Garifuna language was declared a Masterpiece of the Oral and intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2008 along with Garifuna music and dance.

The Emergence of Unrecognized States in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus
S. Markedonov
 The emergence of unrecognized entities resulting from the collapse of the Soviet Union paralleled ethno-political confrontations. In 1992, a ceasefire was enforced in the Georgian-Ossetian and Moldovan-Transnistrian regions. In 1994, cease-fires were also successfully enforced in Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and in Chechnya (with a second deal coming in 1996). The cease-fire agreements established a new status quo and the termination of large-scale military confrontation; although violations of ceasefires and continued individual actions took place, they were not the result of overt political decisions. Conflicts, as well as the status of unrecognized entities, became “frozen.” In some cases, the military-political balance of forces determined these conditions (e.g., Nagorno-Karabakh), in other situations socio-psychological and legal reasoning complemented the political-military factors (e.g., Chechnya, with its “delayed status” for five years until 2001).
However, the “freeze” could not last, since the “losers” in these situations were interested in changing the existing balance of forces. They sought to accumulate enough resources to change the status quo, with varying degrees of success (Georgia is in the worst situation in this context while Azerbaijan is in a better position). Periodically, Russia attempted to change the situation on the ground, particularly in Chechnya from 1999 to 2000. Georgia did similar things in Abkhazia from 1998 to 2001, and in South Ossetia from 2004 to 2008. Azerbaijan’s leaders, in contrast, focused on changing the format for achieving a diplomatic resolution, making good progress by excluding Stepanakert from negotiations between Yerevan and Baku. Meanwhile, over the last two decades, according to Russian political analyst Dmitri Trenin, “unrecognized republics actually received all the trappings of statehood—constitutions and governments as well as police and military forces.”1 Now any fruitful expert discussion about secession and territorial integrity is impossible without referring to the issue of unrecognized states. By recognizing the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 1 Dmitry Trenin. 2002. “Predisloviye k Russkomu izdaniyu” [The Foreword to the Russian edition] in Bruno Coppieters, Federalizm i conflict na Kavkaze [Federalism and conflict in the Caucasus]. Moscow: Moscow Carnegie Endowment: 4. The Unrecognized States of Eurasia 191 August 2008, Russia created a precedent for redefining Soviet-era interrepublic borders and establishing new interstate boundaries. Thus, the process of ethnic self-determination accompanying the Soviet collapse is not finished. This stage in history will not be complete until there is successful conflict resolution and all new entities are recognized as legitimate. Meanwhile, without the completion of this process, it is impossible to speak about the sustainability of post-Soviet countries, their real independence, and the transition to democracy.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Stromatolites, fossilized cyanobacteria

Stromatolites, formed by the "algal" blooms of cyanobacteria, are one of the oldest biological expressions of planetary evolution.
Stromatolites are rocks that originate from the activity of microorganisms, usually cyanobacteria (also known as cyanophyte or blue-green algae).
At present they are mainly responsible for the so-called "algal blooms" in ponds and water courses during warm days. Their growth is greater when the waters contain abundant nutrients (phosphorus, nitrogen, etc). However, their ubiquity makes them thrive in almost all aquatic environments when certain conditions of temperature and calm waters occur.
These microorganisms induce the crystallization of calcium carbonate during photosynthesis and at the same time trap particles transported by water, producing the formation of thin layers of carbonate that acts as cement. Currently, most stromatolites form in lakes and seabed. The oldest known fossil stromatolites are about 3.5 billion years old, and represent the first evidence of life on Earth.
Some stromatolites may be formed by other biochemical processes,
There are stromatolites formed by oxides of manganese (black), and not by calcium carbonate as usual. These stromatolites can be formed in dark environments.
In such cases the manganese dissolved in the water of underground rivers is used by microorganisms specialized in oxidizing manganese. These bacteria, from the group of "extremophiles", are adapted to live in extremely hostile environments, in this case by the total absence of light and the lack of nutrients. They are "chemosynthetic" organisms because to synthesize their organic matter they use a chemical reaction (the oxidation of manganese), instead of using light as do photosynthetic organisms. It is probable that in some planets of the Solar System also exist microorganisms adapted to this type of underground environment.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Iran wary of Trump’s plans in Iraqi Kurdistan

Fazel Hawramy
From Al-Monitor
October 12, 2017

More than two weeks after the Sept. 25 independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan, Iran has yet to take any meaningful action against the Kurdish region despite its rhetoric, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s labeling of the plebiscite as treason and a threat to the region in his meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Oct. 4. “The perspective of the American and European states is completely different from the Turkish and Iranian perspective,” Khamenei told his guest, emphasizing that Israel and the United States are the main beneficiaries of an independent Kurdistan. “America is interested in having a pressure card at its disposal against Iran and Turkey; therefore, there can be no trust in the Americans and Europeans and their positions.”
While Iranian officials, including Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, have not hidden their anger and frustration at the way the Iraqi Kurdish leadership handled the referendum, they appear to be wary of a possible US plan to change the borders of the region in favor of the Kurds. Indeed, the line that Washington has a secret plan for the Middle East has been echoed by various former and also the current head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). “We believe that the creation of … a new state in the region is the wish of the system of domination headed by the Americans and the Zionists,” said former IRGC commander Yabya Rahim Sahim on Oct. 4. Safavi, who now serves as a senior military adviser to Ayatollah Khamenei — the commander in chief of the Islamic Republic — believes that the United States wants constant tension around Iran’s borders with Iraq and Turkey, and also Syria, as an excuse to keep a foothold in the vicinity. “Changes in the region’s geopolitical borders mean constant tension and a drawn-out war between the four countries with the supposed future [Kurdish] state that is intended to be established, and this insecurity and tension is what the Zionist regime and Americans want in order to have a permanent presence in the region.”
Despite these claims by Iranian officials, Washington has been clear about its policy of preferring a united, federal and democratic Iraq. But the situation is rendered further complex by the Donald Trump administration’s expected designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organization. Tehran is furious about this, with some IRGC officials going as far as calling for the targeting of the US military across the region and the world. “If the news about the foolishness of the American state in designating the Sepah [IRGC] as a terrorist group is true, Sepah will also consider the American aims across the world and in particular in the Middle East as equal to Daesh [Islamic State, or IS],” said IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari, referring to the terrorist group that the IRGC is fighting both in Iraq and Syria.
Such a scenario would further complicate the situation for Iraqi Kurdistan given the large presence of US forces within the region, with some as close as 60 kilometers (37 miles) to the Iranian border. While the official task of these forces is to fight IS, some in Tehran are concerned that Washington is there for the long haul tol keep a close eye on Iran.
In this vein, it should be noted that a new American military base is being constructed 50 kilometers (31 miles) northwest of Mosul, in an area controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) peshmerga forces. The base is also 50 kilometers from the Syrian border, which is controlled by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a strong US ally currently fighting IS in Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria. The United States is additionally building a sprawling consulate in Erbil that will cost sp,e 3600 millio. Meanwhile, Washington appears to have taken charge of the Haru base, also known as Bashur Airfield, 65 kilometers (40 miles) west of the Haji Omran border crossing with Iran. The US government used the base for the first time in March 2003 as part of its invasion of Iraq.
But some top Iranian officials believe that Tehran should tread carefully and see Trump as a dangerous president who should not be provoked. “The fact that we should not provoke Trump is an accurate statement,” former IRGC commander Mohsen Rezaei said April 27 in response to a question about whether Trump is after war with Iran, adding, “But we also cannot give him space to come and play in our court either.” Rezaei, who now serves as secretary of the powerful Expediency Council, believes that the solution lies in the art of successful diplomacy and that Iran should avoid confrontation with the United States.
The task of diplomacy falls on the shoulders of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who addressed Iranian parliament members in a closed door meeting Oct. 11 to discuss three main issues: Trump’s policy toward the IRGC and the nuclear deal, the Syrian conflict and the referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan. The message that came out of the meeting for the Kurds was that Iran is the “closest friend” of Iraqi Kurds and that they should work together.
As such, it appears that while Iran may not be happy with the way the Kurds decided to go ahead with the referendum, it has come around to living with the result so long as the Kurds do not take further steps toward independence. Iran wants to maintain its historical ties with Iraqi Kurds, and its current nonhostile approach — despite the bellicose rhetoric before the referendum — suggests that officials in Tehran have taken into account what are seen as Trump’s intentions in Iraqi Kurdistan be they real or imagined.
Thus, it is difficult to know how Iran might have reacted to the Kurdistan referendum had the Americans not returned to Iraq in the aftermath of the June 2014 IS blitzkrieg across northern Iraq. However, in the past — both in Iraq and Afghanistan — Iran has done everything possible to avoid a direct confrontation with the American forces. In the words Zarif, “No party or country need fear our missiles, or indeed any Iranian military capability, unless it intends to attack our territory or foment trouble through terrorist attacks on our soil.” 

Ref. http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/10/iran-concern-trump-washington-plans-iraqi-kurdistan-region.html