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Offline Surly1

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Re: Surlynewz, Analysis and Outrageous Opinions / ancestors
« Reply #30 on: January 29, 2013, 09:11:39 AM »
Scientists identify ancestor of everyone in the the Far East and Native Americans

    DNA sequenced from leg bone found in cave near to Beijing
    Analysis showed common origin with modern Asians and Native Americans - but genetic divergence from Europeans

By Damien Gayle

PUBLISHED: 08:28 EST, 24 January 2013 | UPDATED: 07:01 EST, 25 January 2013

The leg of the early modern human from Tianyuan Cave that was used for the genetic analysis: DNA sequencing showed a genetic profile already distinct from that of the ancestors of Europeans


Humans living 40,000 years ago in the area around Beijing were already genetically distinct from the ancestors of modern Europeans, DNA analysis has found.

An international team of researchers sequenced DNA that had been extracted from the leg of an early modern human from Tianyuan Cave near to the Chinese capital.

Analyses showed that the Tianyuan human shared a common origin with the ancestors of many present-day Asians and Native Americans - but had already diverged genetically from ancient Europeans. The leg of the early modern human from Tianyuan Cave that was used for the genetic analysis: DNA sequencing showed a genetic profile already distinct from that of the ancestors of Europeans

The researchers also found that the proportion of Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA in the early modern human was no higher than in the present day population of this region.

Researchers with the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, took nuclear and mitochondrial DNA from a 40,000 year old leg bone unearthed at the Tianyuan Cave in 2003.
 

They used newly developed techniques to enable them to identify ancient genetic material from an archaeological find even when large quantities of DNA from soil bacteria are present.

The researchers then reconstructed a genetic profile of the leg's owner.

Study leader Svante Pääbo said: 'This individual lived during an important evolutionary transition when early modern humans, who shared certain features with earlier forms such as Neanderthals, were replacing Neanderthals and Denisovans.'

The genetic profile revealed that this early modern human was related to the ancestors of many present-day Asians and Native Americans but had already diverged genetically from the ancestors of present-day Europeans.

In addition, the Tianyuan individual did not carry a larger proportion of Neanderthal or Denisovan DNA than present-day people in the region.



Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2267586/Ancient-Chinese-genetically-distinct-Westerners-far-40-000-years-ago-DNA-analysis-shows.html#ixzz2JNwc14bc
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"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline RE

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Ride the Wild Surf
« Reply #31 on: January 29, 2013, 11:52:46 PM »
The breathtaking moment thrill-seeking surfer catches 'world's biggest wave' off the coast of Portugal

Ride, Ride, Ride the Wild Surf!
I saw this movie about a Dozen times on "Movie Night" at Club Ipica in Rio when I was around 7 years old.  They had a 16mm copy and ran it on Saturday Nights for around 6 months.

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/AIWqIBLzCeM" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/AIWqIBLzCeM</a>

In 1964, the Big Waves were 30' high at Waiamea.  Now they are 100' in PORTUGAL.

WAVE INFLATION!

RE
SAVE AS MANY AS YOU CAN

Offline Surly1

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Re: Surlynewz, Analysis and Outrageous Opinions
« Reply #32 on: January 30, 2013, 10:50:23 AM »
A remarkable story of actual survival for many years in the Siberian taiga.

For 40 Years, This Russian Family Was Cut Off From All Human Contact, Unaware of World War II
In 1978, Soviet geologists prospecting in the wilds of Siberia discovered a family of six, lost in the taiga

    By Mike Dash
    Smithsonian.com, January 29, 2013
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/For-40-Years-This-Russian-Family-Was-Cut-Off-From-Human-Contact-Unaware-of-World-War-II-188843001.html#ixzz2JUBKy8B8

 
The Siberian taiga in the Abakan district. Six members of the Lykov family lived in this remote wilderness for more than 40 years—utterly isolated and more than 150 miles from the nearest human settlement.
The Siberian taiga in the Abakan district. Six members of the Lykov family lived in this remote wilderness for more than 40 years—utterly isolated and more than 150 miles from the nearest human settlement. (Wiki Commons)

Siberian summers do not last long. The snows linger into May, and the cold weather returns again during September, freezing the taiga into a still life awesome in its desolation: endless miles of straggly pine and birch forests scattered with sleeping bears and hungry wolves; steep-sided mountains; white-water rivers that pour in torrents through the valleys; a hundred thousand icy bogs. This forest is the last and greatest of Earth's wildernesses. It stretches from the furthest tip of Russia's arctic regions as far south as Mongolia, and east from the Urals to the Pacific: five million square miles of nothingness, with a population, outside a handful of towns, that amounts to only a few thousand people.

When the warm days do arrive, though, the taiga blooms, and for a few short months it can seem almost welcoming. It is then that man can see most clearly into this hidden world—not on land, for the taiga can swallow whole armies of explorers, but from the air. Siberia is the source of most of Russia's oil and mineral resources, and, over the years, even its most distant parts have been overflown by oil prospectors and surveyors on their way to backwoods camps where the work of extracting wealth is carried on.


Karp Lykov and his daughter Agafia, wearing clothes donated by Soviet geologists not long after their family was  rediscovered.

Thus it was in the remote south of the forest in the summer of 1978. A helicopter sent to find a safe spot to land a party of geologists was skimming the treeline a hundred or so miles from the Mongolian border when it dropped into the thickly wooded valley of an unnamed tributary of the Abakan, a seething ribbon of water rushing through dangerous terrain. The valley walls were narrow, with sides that were close to vertical in places, and the skinny pine and birch trees swaying in the rotors' downdraft were so thickly clustered that there was no chance of finding a spot to set the aircraft down. But, peering intently through his windscreen in search of a landing place, the pilot saw something that should not have been there. It was a clearing, 6,000 feet up a mountainside, wedged between the pine and larch and scored with what looked like long, dark furrows. The baffled helicopter crew made several passes before reluctantly concluding that this was evidence of human habitation—a garden that, from the size and shape of the clearing, must have been there for a long time.

It was an astounding discovery. The mountain was more than 150 miles from the nearest settlement, in a spot that had never been explored. The Soviet authorities had no records of anyone living in the district.


The Lykovs lived in this hand-built log cabin, lit by a single window "the size of a backpack pocket" and warmed by a smoky wood-fired stove.

The four scientists sent into the district to prospect for iron ore were told about the pilots' sighting, and it perplexed and worried them. "It's less dangerous," the writer Vasily Peskov notes of this part of the taiga, "to run across a wild animal than a stranger," and rather than wait at their own temporary base, 10 miles away, the scientists decided to investigate. Led by a geologist named Galina Pismenskaya, they "chose a fine day and put gifts in our packs for our prospective friends"—though, just to be sure, she recalled, "I did check the pistol that hung at my side."

As the intruders scrambled up the mountain, heading for the spot pinpointed by their pilots, they began to come across signs of human activity: a rough path, a staff, a log laid across a stream, and finally a small shed filled with birch-bark containers of cut-up dried potatoes. Then, Pismenskaya said,

    beside a stream there was a dwelling. Blackened by time and rain, the hut was piled up on all sides with taiga rubbish—bark, poles, planks. If it hadn't been for a window the size of my backpack pocket, it would have been hard to believe that people lived there. But they did, no doubt about it.... Our arrival had been noticed, as we could see.

    The low door creaked, and the figure of a very old man emerged into the light of day, straight out of a fairy tale. Barefoot. Wearing a patched and repatched shirt made of sacking. He wore trousers of the same material, also in patches, and had an uncombed beard. His hair was disheveled. He looked frightened and was very attentive.... We had to say something, so I began: 'Greetings, grandfather! We've come to visit!'

    The old man did not reply immediately.... Finally, we heard a soft, uncertain voice: 'Well, since you have traveled this far, you might as well come in.'

The sight that greeted the geologists as they entered the cabin was like something from the middle ages. Jerry-built from whatever materials came to hand, the dwelling was not much more than a burrow—"a low, soot-blackened log kennel that was as cold as a cellar," with a floor consisting of potato peel and pine-nut shells. Looking around in the dim light, the visitors saw that it consisted of a single room. It was cramped, musty and indescribably filthy, propped up by sagging joists—and, astonishingly, home to a family of five:

    The silence was suddenly broken by sobs and lamentations. Only then did we see the silhouettes of two women. One was in hysterics, praying: 'This is for our sins, our sins.' The other, keeping behind a post... sank slowly to the floor. The light from the little window fell on her wide, terrified eyes, and we realized we had to get out of there as quickly as possible.


Agafia Lykova (left) with her sister, Natalia.

Led by Pismenskaya, the scientists backed hurriedly out of the hut and retreated to a spot a few yards away, where they took out some provisions and began to eat. After about half an hour, the door of the cabin creaked open, and the old man and his two daughters emerged—no longer hysterical and, though still obviously frightened, "frankly curious." Warily, the three strange figures approached and sat down with their visitors, rejecting everything that they were offered—jam, tea, bread—with a muttered, "We are not allowed that!" When Pismenskaya asked, "Have you ever eaten bread?" the old man answered: "I have. But they have not. They have never seen it." At least he was intelligible. The daughters spoke a language distorted by a lifetime of isolation. "When the sisters talked to each other, it sounded like a slow, blurred cooing."

Slowly, over several visits, the full story of the family emerged. The old man's name was Karp Lykov, and he was an Old Believer—a member of a fundamentalist Russian Orthodox sect, worshiping in a style unchanged since the 17th century. Old Believers had been persecuted since the days of Peter the Great, and Lykov talked about it as though it had happened only yesterday; for him, Peter was a personal enemy and "the anti-Christ in human form"—a point he insisted had been amply proved by Tsar's campaign to modernize Russia by forcibly "chopping off the beards of Christians." But these centuries-old hatreds were conflated with more recent grievances; Karp was prone to complain in the same breath about a merchant who had refused to make a gift of 26 poods [940 pounds] of potatoes to the Old Believers sometime around 1900.

Things had only got worse for the Lykov family when the atheist Bolsheviks took power. Under the Soviets, isolated Old Believer communities that had fled to Siberia to escape persecution began to retreat ever further from civilization. During the purges of the 1930s, with Christianity itself under assault, a Communist patrol had shot Lykov's brother on the outskirts of their village while Lykov knelt working beside him. He had responded by scooping up his family and bolting into forest.


Peter the Great's attempts to modernize the Russia of the early 18th century found a focal point in a campaign to end the wearing of beards. Facial hair was taxed and non-payers were compulsorily shaved—anathema to Karp Lykov and the Old Believers.


That was in 1936, and there were only four Lykovs then—Karp; his wife, Akulina; a son named Savin, 9 years old, and Natalia, a daughter who was only 2. Taking their possessions and some seeds, they had retreated ever deeper into the taiga, building themselves a succession of crude dwelling places, until at last they had fetched up in this desolate spot. Two more children had been born in the wild—Dmitry in 1940 and Agafia in 1943—and neither of the youngest Lykov children had ever seen a human being who was not a member of their family. All that Agafia and Dmitry knew of the outside world they learned entirely from their parents' stories. The family's principal entertainment, the Russian journalist Vasily Peskov noted, "was for everyone to recount their dreams."

The Lykov children knew there were places called cities where humans lived crammed together in tall buildings. They had heard there were countries other than Russia. But such concepts were no more than abstractions to them. Their only reading matter was prayer books and an ancient family Bible. Akulina had used the gospels to teach her children to read and write, using sharpened birch sticks dipped into honeysuckle juice as pen and ink. When Agafia was shown a picture of a horse, she recognized it from her mother's Bible stories. "Look, papa," she exclaimed. "A steed!"

But if the family's isolation was hard to grasp, the unmitigated harshness of their lives was not. Traveling to the Lykov homestead on foot was astonishingly arduous, even with the help of a boat along the Abakan. On his first visit to the Lykovs, Peskov—who would appoint himself the family's chief chronicler—noted that "we traversed 250 kilometres [155 miles] without seeing a single human dwelling!"

Isolation made survival in the wilderness close to impossible. Dependent solely on their own resources, the Lykovs struggled to replace the few things they had brought into the taiga with them. They fashioned birch-bark galoshes in place of shoes. Clothes were patched and repatched until they fell apart, then replaced with hemp cloth grown from seed.

The Lykovs' mountain home, seen from a Soviet helicopter.

The Lykovs had carried a crude spinning wheel and, incredibly, the components of a loom into the taiga with them—moving these from place to place as they gradually went further into the wilderness must have required many long and arduous journeys—but they had no technology for replacing metal. A couple of kettles served them well for many years, but when rust finally overcame them, the only replacements they could fashion came from birch bark. Since these could not be placed in a fire, it became far harder to cook. By the time the Lykovs were discovered, their staple diet was potato patties mixed with ground rye and hemp seeds.

In some respects, Peskov makes clear, the taiga did offer some abundance: "Beside the dwelling ran a clear, cold stream. Stands of larch, spruce, pine and birch yielded all that anyone could take.... Bilberries and raspberries were close to hand, firewood as well, and pine nuts fell right on the roof."

Yet the Lykovs lived permanently on the edge of famine. It was not until the late 1950s, when Dmitry reached manhood, that they first trapped animals for their meat and skins. Lacking guns and even bows, they could hunt only by digging traps or pursuing prey across the mountains until the animals collapsed from exhaustion. Dmitry built up astonishing endurance, and could hunt barefoot in winter, sometimes returning to the hut after several days, having slept in the open in 40 degrees of frost, a young elk across his shoulders. More often than not, though, there was no meat, and their diet gradually became more monotonous. Wild animals destroyed their crop of carrots, and Agafia recalled the late 1950s as "the hungry years." "We ate the rowanberry leaf," she said,

    roots, grass, mushrooms, potato tops, and bark, We were hungry all the time. Every year we held a council to decide whether to eat everything up or leave some for seed.

Famine was an ever-present danger in these circumstances, and in 1961 it snowed in June. The hard frost killed everything growing in their garden, and by spring the family had been reduced to eating shoes and bark. Akulina chose to see her children fed, and that year she died of starvation. The rest of the family were saved by what they regarded as a miracle: a single grain of rye sprouted in their pea patch. The Lykovs put up a fence around the shoot and guarded it zealously night and day to keep off mice and squirrels. At harvest time, the solitary spike yielded 18 grains, and from this they painstakingly rebuilt their rye crop.


Dmitry (left) and Savin in the Siberian summer.

As the Soviet geologists got to know the Lykov family, they realized that they had underestimated their abilities and intelligence. Each family member had a distinct personality; Old Karp was usually delighted by the latest innovations that the scientists brought up from their camp, and though he steadfastly refused to believe that man had set foot on the moon, he adapted swiftly to the idea of satellites. The Lykovs had noticed them as early as the 1950s, when "the stars began to go quickly across the sky," and Karp himself conceived a theory to explain this: "People have thought something up and are sending out fires that are very like stars."

"What amazed him most of all," Peskov recorded, "was a transparent cellophane package. 'Lord, what have they thought up—it is glass, but it crumples!'" And Karp held grimly to his status as head of the family, though he was well into his 80s. His eldest child, Savin, dealt with this by casting himself as the family's unbending arbiter in matters of religion. "He was strong of faith, but a harsh man," his own father said of him, and Karp seems to have worried about what would happen to his family after he died if Savin took control. Certainly the eldest son would have encountered little resistance from Natalia, who always struggled to replace her mother as cook, seamstress and nurse.

The two younger children, on the other hand, were more approachable and more open to change and innovation. "Fanaticism was not terribly marked in Agafia," Peskov said, and in time he came to realize that the youngest of the Lykovs had a sense of irony and could poke fun at herself. Agafia's unusual speech—she had a singsong voice and stretched simple words into polysyllables—convinced some of her visitors she was slow-witted; in fact she was markedly intelligent, and took charge of the difficult task, in a family that possessed no calendars, of keeping track of time.  She thought nothing of hard work, either, excavating a new cellar by hand late in the fall and working on by moonlight when the sun had set. Asked by an astonished Peskov whether she was not frightened to be out alone in the wilderness after dark, she replied: "What would there be out here to hurt me?"

A Russian press photo of Karp Lykov (second left) with Dmitry and Agafia, accompanied by a Soviet geologist.

Of all the Lykovs, though, the geologists' favorite was Dmitry, a consummate outdoorsman who knew all of the taiga's moods. He was the most curious and perhaps the most forward-looking member of the family. It was he who had built the family stove, and all the birch-bark buckets that they used to store food. It was also Dmitry who spent days hand-cutting and hand-planing each log that the Lykovs felled. Perhaps it was no surprise that he was also the most enraptured by the scientists' technology. Once relations had improved to the point that the Lykovs could be persuaded to visit the Soviets' camp, downstream, he spent many happy hours in its little sawmill, marveling at how easily a circular saw and lathes could finish wood. "It's not hard to figure," Peskov wrote. "The log that took Dmitry a day or two to plane was transformed into handsome, even boards before his eyes. Dmitry felt the boards with his palm and said: 'Fine!'"

Karp Lykov fought a long and losing battle with himself to keep all this modernity at bay. When they first got to know the geologists, the family would accept only a single gift—salt. (Living without it for four decades, Karp said, had been "true torture.") Over time, however, they began to take more. They welcomed the assistance of their special friend among the geologists—a driller named Yerofei Sedov, who spent much of his spare time helping them to plant and harvest crops. They took knives, forks, handles, grain and eventually even pen and paper and an electric torch. Most of these innovations were only grudgingly acknowledged, but the sin of television, which they encountered at the geologists' camp,

    proved irresistible for them.... On their rare appearances, they would invariably sit down and watch. Karp sat directly in front of the screen. Agafia watched poking her head from behind a door. She tried to pray away her transgression immediately—whispering, crossing herself.... The old man prayed afterward, diligently and in one fell swoop.


The Lykovs' homestead seen from a Soviet reconnaissance plane, 1980.

Perhaps the saddest aspect of the Lykovs' strange story was the rapidity with which the family went into decline after they re-established contact with the outside world. In the fall of 1981, three of the four children followed their mother to the grave within a few days of one another. According to Peskov, their deaths were not, as might have been expected, the result of exposure to diseases to which they had no immunity. Both Savin and Natalia suffered from kidney failure, most likely a result of their harsh diet. But Dmitry died of pneumonia, which might have begun as an infection he acquired from his new friends.

His death shook the geologists, who tried desperately to save him. They offered to call in a helicopter and have him evacuated to a hospital. But Dmitry, in extremis, would abandon neither his family nor the religion he had practiced all his life. "We are not allowed that," he whispered just before he died. "A man lives for howsoever God grants."


The Lykovs' graves. Today only Agafia survives of the family of six, living alone in the taiga.

When all three Lykovs had been buried, the geologists attempted to talk Karp and Agafia into leaving the forest and returning to be with relatives who had survived the persecutions of the purge years, and who still lived on in the same old villages. But neither of the survivors would hear of it. They rebuilt their old cabin, but stayed close to their old home.

Karp Lykov died in his sleep on February 16, 1988, 27 years to the day after his wife, Akulina. Agafia buried him on the mountain slopes with the help of the geologists, then turned and headed back to her home. The Lord would provide, and she would stay, she said—as indeed she has. A quarter of a century later, now in her seventies herself, this child of the taiga lives on alone, high above the Abakan.

She will not leave. But we must leave her, seen through the eyes of Yerofei on the day of her father's funeral:

    I looked back to wave at Agafia. She was standing by the river break like a statue. She wasn't crying. She nodded: 'Go on, go on.' We went another kilometer and I looked back. She was still standing there.


Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/For-40-Years-This-Russian-Family-Was-Cut-Off-From-Human-Contact-Unaware-of-World-War-II-188843001.html#ixzz2JUBKy8B8
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"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline WHD

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Re: Surlynewz, Analysis and Outrageous Opinions
« Reply #33 on: January 30, 2013, 12:58:35 PM »
Surly1,

That was the most encouraging thing I have read in a long time. Thank you.

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Offline WHD

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Re: Surlynewz, Analysis and Outrageous Opinions
« Reply #34 on: January 30, 2013, 01:12:31 PM »
Quote
The rest of the family were saved by what they regarded as a miracle: a single grain of rye sprouted in their pea patch. The Lykovs put up a fence around the shoot and guarded it zealously night and day to keep off mice and squirrels. At harvest time, the solitary spike yielded 18 grains, and from this they painstakingly rebuilt their rye crop.

Quote
The family's principal entertainment, the Russian journalist Vasily Peskov noted, "was for everyone to recount their dreams."

Quote
The two younger children, on the other hand, were more approachable and more open to change and innovation. "Fanaticism was not terribly marked in Agafia," Peskov said, and in time he came to realize that the youngest of the Lykovs had a sense of irony and could poke fun at herself. Agafia's unusual speech—she had a singsong voice and stretched simple words into polysyllables—convinced some of her visitors she was slow-witted; in fact she was markedly intelligent, and took charge of the difficult task, in a family that possessed no calendars, of keeping track of time.  She thought nothing of hard work, either, excavating a new cellar by hand late in the fall and working on by moonlight when the sun had set. Asked by an astonished Peskov whether she was not frightened to be out alone in the wilderness after dark, she replied: "What would there be out here to hurt me?"

Quote
Of all the Lykovs, though, the geologists' favorite was Dmitry, a consummate outdoorsman who knew all of the taiga's moods. He was the most curious and perhaps the most forward-looking member of the family. It was he who had built the family stove, and all the birch-bark buckets that they used to store food. It was also Dmitry who spent days hand-cutting and hand-planing each log that the Lykovs felled. Perhaps it was no surprise that he was also the most enraptured by the scientists' technology
Quote
Karp Lykov died in his sleep on February 16, 1988, 27 years to the day after his wife, Akulina. Agafia buried him on the mountain slopes with the help of the geologists, then turned and headed back to her home. The Lord would provide, and she would stay, she said—as indeed she has. A quarter of a century later, now in her seventies herself, this child of the taiga lives on alone, high above the Abakan.

So I guess the question for me is, how do I balance the spirit of Dimitry and Agafia and their connection to the earth, to place/with technology?

Offline Petty Tyrant

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Re: Surlynewz, Analysis and Outrageous Opinions
« Reply #35 on: January 30, 2013, 08:28:08 PM »
So I guess the question for me is, how do I balance the spirit of Dimitry and Agafia and their connection to the earth, to place/with technology?

Well you could pack an ipod in you BOB filled with orthodox hymns, put it in the space you wont be needing for gillette shavers, and use some high quality teflon coated cookware, since their experience teaches us cast iron eventually rusts out and aluminium is linked to early onset alzheimers. Im sure a lot of survivalists would like to seriously study their experience, because as far as i know so far the people claiming to be surviving alone in the wilderness are still recieving supplies and some level of support from civilization. also they havent been at it that long.

These people went for 40 years and could have gone longer. It raises some questions:

Did they rationalise and accept their privations by making it their religious belief that such things were spiruitually harmful and they were better off without them? I can easily see many people treating society at large that way and wanting to get away from it.

The only thing they accepted at first was salt, assuming because it is expressly stated as a good thing in the bible, which they were reading. In the tropics what would people do if they were too far inland to get salt from the sea after their supplies ran out and they were sweating like fire hydrants?




The first "luxury" they readily accepted was salt.

ELEVATE YOUR GAME

Offline Surly1

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Re: Surlynewz, Analysis and Outrageous Opinions
« Reply #36 on: February 01, 2013, 06:25:24 AM »
Its all about preemptive control over dwindling supplies of everything from uranium, to oil to gold. As the resource grab in Africa continues under the guise of fighting back the ever-present, ever-useful specter of "Al Qaeda," whoever he may be, the finest documentarian of the age, Adam Curtis, offers some thoughts.

Follow the link to find a treasure trove of videos, embedded ina Flash player which I can't display here.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/adamcurtis/posts/PARADIABOLICAL

The West is worried about the rise of Islamism in Africa. There are two big fears - one is that there is a new international terror network that will come and attack Europe and America. The other is that sneaky Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood will get themselves elected - and then promptly abolish democracy.

But behind these fears is an incredibly simplified - almost fictional - vision of the world. It possesses the minds of many western politicians, journalists and associated think tank "experts". And at its heart is a kind of filter that wipes away anything complex about power and the struggles for power in African countries - and replaces that with a simple picture of the world as divided between goodies (us in the west) and dangerous frightening baddies who are out to destroy us.

It's both blind and arrogant. And it's terribly dangerous.

To try and bring it into focus I want to go back twenty years and tell two dramatic stories. In them lie many of the roots of today's western fears - but also, in the details of both stories are keys to understanding two crucial things that we ignore today at our peril. One is the complex local power struggles that have helped the rise of Islamism in Africa, and the second is the way past western interventions have fuelled a hatred and distrust of Europe and America - that has in turn massively helped the Islamist cause.

One is the story of what happened in Somalia between 1990 and 1993 - the real events that led to Black Hawk Down or, to give it its proper name, "Operation Gothic Serpent". The second is the story of the weird and horrific events that happened in Algeria between 1992 and 1996 after the Islamist party called FIS was stopped from winning an election by an armed coup. A coup that had the implicit backing of the west.


There is an odd ghost that haunts not only Somalia's history, but has also lodged itself in the western imagination. He was called Mohammed Abdullah Hassan - and a hundred years ago he set out to try and unite all the Somali people in an Islamic state. The British called him The Mad Mullah and they battled against him for twenty years until they found a new way of getting rid of him. They bombed him from the air.

These are the forgotten ruins of the place that was going to be the capital of his Islamic state - he called it The Dervish state


For the next forty years the Somali people remained divided - ruled by the British and the Italians as part of their empires. Then, in 1960, Somalia was finally given its independence. But, like so many of the other former European colonies, all sorts of powerful remnants of colonial rule remained. Not just the arbitrary lines drawn on maps to make the new countries - but in the minds and imaginations of millions of newly liberated people.

Here is a film made in 1961 which captures this brilliantly. It's from a series called Africa Now, subtitled First Hand Reports from a Changing Continent and it is about life and politics and the new forces of power in independent Somalia.

The capital, Mogadishu, had been part of Italian Somaliland - and the film shows how strongly the Italian presence remains. Not just in the grand buildings that had been part of Mussolini's dream of a Second Roman Empire, but in the language. Not only is there no written Somali language - which means the Somalis use Italian - but they don't even have a word for "independence", so they use the Italian word - "indipendenza". I also really like the attempt to create a written Somali language. It was called "Osmania", and it wasn't a success.

The film also shows how Mogadishu has already become "the cockpit in the propaganda struggle in the Cold War". The film captures the ambassadors from all the different players - the Soviets, the Americans, the communist Chinese and the West Germans - going hither and thither in their gleaming cars in Mogadishu, all snuffling around trying to gain influence over the new President, Abdullah Osman Daar.

And the key to that influence is foreign aid. The film shows how the Soviets are offering to build a proper harbour, while fascinatingly the Chinese are already building a road system for Somalia. The Americans don't seem to be doing very well - but the West German ambassador is very keen, he spends his time walking around the desert looking for possible places for development projects.

But you can see who's going to win out. The Russian ambassador who is described as "a carefree agitator with boyish charm".

But in 1969 democracy in Somalia ended. There was a military coup led by Major-General Siad Barre who set up what he called The Somali Democratic Republic. But in reality it was a centralised communist state modelled on General Barre's interpretations of Marx and Lenin and Mao.

Siad Barre promised to wipe away the ghosts of the past that were holding Somalis back from being truly independent. And that meant not just the old colonial remains, but the crucial thing that was holding Somalia back, Barre said, was the clan structure.

Somali society was permeated by a complex clan structure. Somalis defined themselves and understood their relationship to each other in great part through this system of clans and sub-clans. Siad Barre said that it was the clans - or "clanism" - that had undermined democracy in the new Somalia - so he was going to wipe out this destructive and outmoded "tribalism" and replace it with a new, centralised society run by The Supreme Revolutionary Council.

In 1974 the Council published a book about the new society they were building. It has great images of revolutionary displays.


It also contained lovely colour pictures, like this one of modern Somalis dancing at the discotheque in the new Juba hotel in Mogadishu.


And it also summed up this glorious new revolutionary world and its beautiful future like this:


Algeria didn't get its independence quite as easily as Somalia. Between 1954 and 1962 revolutionary groups - the main one was called the FLN - fought a vicious terrorist war against the French who ruled Algeria. The FLN bombed French civilians in cafes and the streets, while they also killed many Algerians in the French controlled Algerian army. In response the French killed the guerrillas and also used widespread torture.

In 1962 the French gave up and Algeria became independent. Its first President was one of the leaders of the FLN - Ben Bella. But in 1965 he was deposed by a military coup led by one of his close friends from the revolutionary times - Houari Boumediene - who, of course, like Somalia, turned Algeria in the a copy of the Soviet Union.

It all worked fine for a while because Algeria had oil - and as oil prices rose the FLN used the money to subsidise their state socialism. But underneath everyone knew that power was really concentrated in a small elite group that came from the east of the country and excluded everyone else.

There was growing resentment, but no real coherent opposition. But then, in November 1982, there were a series of battles on the campus of the University of Algiers between a group of Marxist students and a group of Islamists who killed one of the Marxists. The Islamists were protesting about the fact that the Marxists, who all spoke French, would get all the best paid jobs. While anyone who just spoke Arabic would find it nearly impossible to get a professional career. This meant that they were excluded from power in Algerian society.

The protests were immediately repressed - the Islamists were all arrested. But it was an important moment because it was the first public demonstration by an Islamist opposition, breaking cover and coming into the open in a country where all opposition was banned. The protests were led by a teacher called Abbasi Madani who had once been in the FLN. He was put in prison for two years - but he will turn up later in this story playing a very important role.


They key thing in the protests was the fact that the Marxists spoke French - and that was the route to power. Again it was a powerful example of how the remnants of French colonial times still exercised a powerful grip on the destinies of those who were supposed to be free and independent of that past. And it was that frustration that was a powerful fuel for the growing Islamist movement.

The most dramatic example of how the French Empire still possessed the minds and behaviour of Africans was in the Central African Republic. It too had got independence from France in 1960 - but in 1965 there was, of course, a military coup and Colonel Jean Bedel Bokassa took power. In 1972 he made himself President for Life, but then, in 1977, he decided to crown himself Emperor of the Central African Empire.

It was a weird and grotesque demonstration of how the European mind set still controlled Africans in a distorted way. Because Bokassa was directly modelling himself on the French emperor Napoleon - and his coronation was supposed to be an exact copy of Napoleon's coronation as emperor in Paris in 1804.

Here is a great film made about Bokassa as he prepares for his coronation. It's a wonderful picture of what happens when a mad dictator decides to spend lots of money - clutches of European designers and planners and "facilitators" flock around all taking it very seriously. While Bokassa spends his time in his palace watching film of other royal coronations and the British Queen's Silver Jubilee in order to get inspiration.

Bokassa is also interviewed. He explains why he cuts peoples' ears off - he says it's a lot less barbarous than the death penalty, which France still had at that time. I suppose he has a point. And then he tries to explain why he is establishing an Empire when in fact he hasn't got an Empire. It's a very odd explanation - and it's very funny.

To the Islamists in Algeria, a figure like Bokassa was a dramatic example of what their fundamental theory predicted. Modern Islamist ideas said that European and Western ideas of democracy were always going to lead to corruption. However well-intentioned at the beginning, the system gave enormous power to individuals and that always corrupted them.

It was a very pessimistic theory because it saw human beings as always being fallible and corruptible. Bokassa was an extreme example, but the Islamists believed that the same thing had happened in Algeria. The idealistic Marxist revolutionaries had morphed into a corrupt and repressive clique. The only solution was to an impose a rigid, incorruptible system of moral and political guidance on the politicians which they had to follow. And that should be drawn from Islam.

The Algerian Islamists’ chance came in 1988. Two years before - in 1986 - oil prices had collapsed and the effect on Algeria had been catastrophic. Half of the country's budget was wiped out and the whole socialist "experiment" collapsed. Out of the disaster came widespread corruption and soaring prices.

On October the 4th 1988 the dam burst and the young, angry urban poor started to riot in Algiers. The centre of the rioting was in the shopping mall called Riad al Fath, the Victory Gardens. It symbolized the elite that ruled Algeria and the rioters smashed it up. In the next days the rioting spread spontaneously. And the only organisation ready and able to ride the wave of fury were the Islamists.

And on March 10th 1989 the Islamic Salvation Front FIS was formed - with the aim of bonding together the chaotic rebellion and using it to create an Islamist state. The founders of FIS had different approaches, but the two key ones were Abassi Madani and Ali Belhadj. Madani had led the protests back in 1982 and he believed that it would be possible to Islamize Algeria without changing the fabric of the state, while Belhadj was more radical - he believed in armed struggle to create a new kind of state.

Here are the first reports of the rioting in the "Days of October" - followed by the meeting that announced the founding of FIS.

Meanwhile in Somalia things were also going very badly for the "Victorious Leader" - Siad Barre.

His problems had begun back in 1977 when he had decided to try and create what he called Greater Somalia. Barre started by invading an area of neighbouring Ethiopia called the Ogaden. Millions of Somalis lived there - but back in the late 1940s the British, under US pressure, had decided it was part of Ethiopia. But now Siad Barre decided Somalia wanted it back.

To begin with the invasion went well. But then the Soviet Union, who had been backing Siad Barre, suddenly decided to switch sides and back Ethiopia. Almost overnight they pulled out their advisers and troops, along with a bunch of Cubans who had also been helping Somalia.

The reason the Soviets switched sides was because there was a new dictator running Ethiopia who was more Marxist-Leninist than Siad Barre - and even more ruthless. This made the Soviets feel that he was more worth backing and they poured weapons, money and men into Ethiopia to help defeat Siad Barre, their previous friend. This included airlifting thousands of Cuban troops into Ethiopia.

Here is Siad Barre saying everything is going swimmingly with the Russians - followed by news footage of the Soviet Advisers leaving Mogadishu a few days later.

And here is film of the weird, frightening world of Colonel Mengistu in Ethiopia that the Soviets went off to help. It was shot just after Mengistu had taken power in 1977. He had just started what he called The Red Terror. It was the mass execution of what Mengistu called "counterrevolutionary elements" - otherwise known as the Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Party who had already been running what was called The White Terror, which involved killing Mengistu's supporters - who were members of what was called the Derg Party

There is a very odd scene in a graveyard where there are hundreds of graves already dug for the future victims of the White Terror. There is a very good piece of deadpan dialogue from one of the gravediggers.

Q. What is the Red Terror?

The Red Terror is conducted by members of the revolution.

Q. And who are the victims of the Red Terror?

Those who conduct the White Terror

The solution for Siad Barre was simple. He switched sides too - and went to the Americans for help. The US started to pour arms and money into Somalia. But it came too late to help him in the war in the Ogaden. The Russians and the thousands of Cuban troops mounted a counterattack and smashed the Somalian army. The Ethiopians then displayed the arms they had captured along with captions saying where the arms came from.


and their ammunition


I particularly like - "Reactionary Pakistani Grenades"


The defeat in the Ogaden was a disaster for Somalia. Over one million people fled from the Ogaden into Somalia, a country that then had a population of about 4 million. Food prices soared, groups began to fight for access to precious water, and there was total disillusion with Siad Barre.

Over the 1980s the Americans poured all kinds of weapons along with hundreds of thousands of dollars into the country. And as the economy collapsed the country became increasingly dependent on American aid. But the aid then had a strange consequence - it brought the clan structure back to prominence and power. Siad Barre gave up any idea of ridding the country of "clanism" and started using the aid as a way of buying loyalty from different clans. Clans who supported him got the aid, those who didn't went without. This had a crucial effect because those who headed the Somali clans began to see aid as the route to power in Somalia.

And when the Cold War ended in 1990 the clans who had been excluded set out to overthrow Siad Barre. A war began and Barre was forced out. It didn't stop there though, "the liberators" split into sub-clans and then started to fight each other viciously. The ensuing civil war had terrible consequences because the terrible violence was the primary cause of a famine in the Bay area of the country that surrounded Mogadishu. The victims were hundreds of thousands of people who had been displaced by the fighting.

What then happened was one of the great scandals of the past twenty years. The United Nations promised to help - and then did nothing. A bureaucracy that had once promised to bring peace to the world had become corroded and corrupted by the politics of the Cold war - and it failed utterly. For over a year it did nothing - and thousands of Somalis died of starvation.

Then western television discovered Somalia. Crews began to pour in from Britain and America and sent back horrific pictures of dying children. There has been much criticism of TV journalists both from within the aid community, and from those who think that aid is a bad thing - they argue that television simplifies, emotionalises and thus distorts the reality on the ground.

Here is a film that I think is very important in this debate. It was made by the BBC journalist, Michael Buerk, at the time in Somalia, and it is about the difficulties of reporting such a complex situation. It's good because it shows how chaotic and incomprehensible things were - with different factions in the civil war trying to get control of the aid (because that was what they had learnt from the 1980s onwards). But it also shows how television was inexorably drawn to the two powerful images that were beginning to occupy a very big space in the western imagination.

The innocent, dying child.


And the evil frightening men on their "technicals"


Goodies and baddies.

In Algeria, in contrast, things seemed to be going very well. The riots had forced the ruling FLN leadership to give up on the one-party state - and bring in proper democracy. In February 1989 President Chadli announced a new constitution that would allow political parties to exist and compete in elections on both a local and national level. It was an extraordinary breakthrough - and everyone had great hopes of a future democratic Algeria.

But there was a lurking doubt in many peoples minds. The front-runners in any future elections were obviously FIS - the Islamist Salvation Front - because they already had a national organization. But the question was - did they really believe in democracy? Or would they simply use the elections to get into power and then create a new kind of Islamist state that abolished democracy? No-one knew.

But FIS had the high ground because they offered an alternative to the corrupt regime. For the first six months of 1990 they organized marches and meetings - and then on June 12, 1990 FIS won an astonishing victory in the local and municipal elections. It won control of the majority of the country's communes.

Here is the first report on the BBC of the shock result - and already you can feel the concern in the west beginning. The fear that this would be Khomeini Mk II, though this time it was Sunni not Shia. There is also a good interview with a Tunisian Islamist who tries to counter these fears. He says that western governments must not turn away from this new Islamism:

"otherwise they will be seen to be supporting the corrupt governments, and our people will make the link between the dictators in our countries and British and American and European governments"

The mystery about FIS was personified in the two men who led the Islamist movement. One was the urbane Abassi Madani who drove around in a Mercedes and spent his time reassuring the Algerian middle class establishment that everything was going to be OK.


 

The other was the charismatic Ali Belhadj who rode around on a small motorcycle and was an amazing public speaker. His followers were the young urban poor. They were called the "hittistes" - from the arab word for a wall - "hit". They were called this because millions of hittistes spent all day leaning up against the wall with nothing else to do.


There was euphoria in FIS after the local elections - but the effect was to deepen the mystery and the fears. Groups of young FIS followers started to try and impose bits of what they thought were sharia law. Women who worked for the local communes were forced to wear the veil, video stores and shops that sold alcohol were closed down. And the middle class who had supported FIS began to get worried.

It got worse. At the end of 1990 Ali Belhadj gave an interview where he zeroed in on how western culture - above all French culture - had poisoned the very minds of Algerians. This had to be wiped out. His intention, he said, was:

"to ban France from Algeria intellectually and ideologically, and be done, once and for all, with those whom France has nursed with her poisoned milk"

The Hittistes loved this - and groups of them started to go round trying to destroy the TV satellite dishes that were feeding the poisoned milk into the minds of the Algerians.


The Algerian middle classes really didn't like this. They felt they were becoming trapped in a regressive bubble - isolated from the world that they connected with via the French news that came in through their dishes. They also feared the growing thuggishness of groups of Hittistes who were going round beating up girls who didn't wear the veil.

Sensing this disenchantment, the FLN rulers started to play dirty. They designed the new electoral constituencies deliberately so they would weaken FIS's chances of winning. In return FIS got very angry and in June 1991 they called for a General Strike. Thousands of their supporters took over squares in the centre of Algiers and things got very Arab Spring.

At a press conference Ali Belhadj made a dramatic intrusion. He said that if the ruling elite tried to stop FIS then he would take up arms and fight them, just like his father had done when he had fought the French. It's a really powerful moment that shows how charismatic Belhadj was - and also why the middle classes were becoming frightened of FIS.

In response the Algerian government declared a state of emergency, sent in the troops and postponed the elections till December. Plus they arrested both Belhadj and Madani - and threw them in jail.

Algeria was gripped by a dramatic crisis. Here is just one moment captured on video that shows that intense mood. Ali Belhadj's young son addresses a mass rally of Islamists. The son has an amazing power and charisma - just like his father. The response from the crowd also show just what the Algerian government were unleashing through trying to trick FIS out of their election victory everyone knew was coming.

Here too are parts of a really good report shot during the crisis in June and the occupation of the squares. It captures the mood of the time - and also shows the growing fear among the middle classes about FIS and the suspicion about what the Islamists were really up to.

But just as FIS were trying to force the poison of France - and the West - out of the Algerian mind, the West - or more precisely America - came roaring back to invade and take over Somalia.

What happened in Somalia in the year between December 1992 and the end of 1993 was an extraordinary sequence of events - driven by a new idea. It was the belief that you could invade another country, not because it threatened you or because of any power politics - but because you were bursting with good intentions to save innocent people. And it all went wrong.

The UN's failure to save victims of the famine, combined with the TV images of starving children had cause outrage in America. In the face of that a powerful group of people at the top of some of the relief agencies proposed an alternative. This group have been called "the international humanitarians" and their solution, which would have been unthinkable only a few years before,was that you should go and occupy a country militarily on humanitarian grounds.

They were driven by the sincerest of motives - but it was also going to give them extraordinary power, especially as all sorts of other groups in Washington saw in their idea new opportunities for themselves now the Cold war was over. In December 1992 a wave of political pressure built up on the outgoing President Bush. It was led by the humanitarians - like Philip Johnston, the President of CARE-US who wrote letters to the press saying bluntly:

"the international community, backed by UN troops, should move in and run Somalia, because it has no government at all"

He was backed up by powerful newspaper columnists like Leslie Gelb of the New York Times who put it more bluntly - it should be a policy of "shoot to feed" he said. The US military also joined in because they were keen to prove that they could do OOTW - "Operations Other Than War". And there were powerful elements in the State Department who pushed for it, plus the UN who were feeling incredibly guilty and wanted to be seen to be doing good. UN officials told the press that 80% of food aid was being looted - which was completely untrue. The figure was more like 20% or less.

The writer and African expert Alex de Waal has written a fantastic book that details how this rush to intervention built up in the final weeks of the Bush administration - and how in the process it fatally simplified the country of Somalia. It's called Famine Crimes - and in it de Waal says:

"By the time the drumbeat for intervention reached it's crescendo, the vision of 'Somalia' in which the US marines were intervening was wholly different from the real Somalia experienced by Somalis."

And here is a fantastic, clear and thoughtful documentary about what happened next in Somalia. It was made during the first six months after the invasion by the British journalist Richard Dowden who knows the history of Africa well. He starts by going back to Victorian times to show how the British missionary David Livingston was the humanitarian interventionist of his time. Livingston was shocked by the Arab slave trade and persuaded the British government to intervene - but that inexorably led to the European takeover of Africa.

Dowden is convinced that the Somali intervention in 1992 - Operation Restore Hope - is going the same way and leading to what is in essence an imperial takeover of the country. He films fantastic detail - like the daily morning meeting of the humanitarian aid officials and the US military. It is in all but name the government of Somalia - but as Dowden shows, it completely ignores the Somalians.

And he shows all the other factors that are coming into play. The Pentagon who are desperate to keep their budgets, the ex-secretary of Defence - one Dick Cheney - who says that is not true, contrasted with the star of the show, a US marine interviewed on the street who puts it all so clearly:

"the place is filling up with American contractors all bidding to rebuild this joint. That's all the Defence Department is. We're bodyguards for American contractors ……………… You should know that - you've been to college."

Dowden's film was made in the first six months of 1992. What he missed was another factor that came into play with the new Clinton Administration in Washington which was going to give an extra twist to the story.

The Bush administration had been persuaded to invade - but they were fundamentally conservative in their outlook. Their aim was to protect the humanitarian groups who were feeding the starving Somalians. The only problem was that by the time the US Marines got there, the famine was almost over. Faced by this there was growing pressure to expand the mission - and with the Clinton administration came a new idea. Nation-building.

This meant trying to create a new peaceful state in Somalia. But that in turn meant taking on the warlords who were causing such havoc in the country. One of the most powerful of these was General Mohamed Farrah Aidid. He was the head of one of the groups who had overthrown Siad Barre and he and his militia now dominated Mogadishu.


 
General Aidid was far from being a simple gangster villain - which is how he was portrayed. He had served in Siad Barre's cabinet, he had been the ambassador to India, and had at one point been Barre's intelligence chief. The problem for the Americans in Mogadishu was that Aidid thought he was their friend. When they had first arrived they had turned to him to help protect the aid agencies, had told the press what a helpful person he was, and had even rented a house from him.

But now Aidid was an obstacle to nation building. This came to a head in June when a group of Pakistani UN soldiers under US control went to search some of Aidid's buildings - including Radio Mogadishu. Aidid's men ambushed them and 24 Pakistanis were killed. At that point General Aidid began to see the UN and their American sponsors in a different light. He realised that they were like a rival clan. And a vicious four-month war began.

In the war thousands of Somalis were killed. Alex de Waal has written a very powerful piece of journalism that says the US and other troops under its control were guilty of serious war crimes in Somalia. You can find it here - and it describes in detail how the months of bitter urban warfare allegedly involved the Americans firing rockets into a building where a group of Aidid's supporters were holding a meeting - killing 54 civilians, and knowingly firing missiles into a hospital full of innocent people because they though Aidid was hiding there.

This is part of a documentary made in 1994 that tells the story of this war - and how it ended with the events just outside the Olympic Hotel in October 1993. They are the real events later told in Black Hawk Down.

In Algeria a bloody terrorist war had also begun. But this was going to last for six years.

At the start of 1992 the Algerian Army stepped in and took power in a coup. They did this because FIS had won the first round of the postponed national elections - and the army argued that they had to cancel all elections "in order to defend democracy". FIS was dissolved and more than 40,000 people were arrested and sent to camps deep in the Sahara.

For a year things were relatively quiet. But then armed jihadist groups emerged out of the hardline remnants of FIS and other Islamists. The key figure who united a number of the groups into what was called the GIA - The Armed Islamic Group - was a car mechanic from Algiers called Abdelhaq Layada.

In an interview in March 1993 Layada spelled out his theory. He quoted Oswald Spengler on the decline of the West, and Bertrand Russell on how "the white man has had his day" - and said that a new Islamist society would arise instead. He then explained how those who stood in its way should be killed.

Layada justified this by using a theory which lay at the heart of modern Islamism but which was extremely dangerous because it was so imprecise. It said that those who had become involved with western style politics and power had entered into a state of barbarism or "Jahiliyyah" and that this meant they were no longer Muslims. That, in turn, could be interpreted as meaning that they were impious, or "takfir" - and that meant you could kill them.

The danger was that there was no objective way of defining who was impious or not. Layada said that it included not just politicians, but anyone having anything to do with the politicians. So, starting in March 1993, the Islamists began assassinating intellectuals, journalists, professionals - like doctors, and academics. Many had nothing to do with the regime, but in the eyes of the young Hittistes they were hated French speaking intellectuals, and that was enough.

Then Layada was arrested. The new GIA leader was called Djafar al-Afghani - because he had fought in Afghanistan - and he broadened the category of who could be killed even further. It was correct, he said, to kill godless foreigners as well as godless Algerians. The dangerous logic of Islamism's unthought-out theories was beginning to take hold of the movement.

Here is part of a film made about the Islamist terrorist movement in Algeria. It was shot in 1994 as the killing was broadening out. The programme went and filmed the Islamist fighters in a camp in the mountains, and it is very odd. They are all posing for the cameras, and it has the mood of a holiday camp. They all lie around watching TV, then get up to send death threats by fax, and settle down at the sewing machine to stitch leather bullet belts.

The weirdest bit is where "the bomb-maker" shows how he makes a giant bomb using a gas canister. It's like a grotesque cookery programme - even down to the seasoning he drops in at the end - horrible small bits of metal shrapnel to make it kill more people. Come die with me.

Then in September 1994 something very strange happened to the GIA. After two of it's leaders were killed, a new leader was appointed called Djamel Zitouni who was the son of a poultry merchant.


He escalated the violence - first of all he started a terrorist campaign in France. Then he followed the logic of who could be killed to include a new category. Zitouni declared that all the other Islamist factions that didn't agree with him were also godless - and so they should all be killed as well.

It didn't stop there. Throughout 1995 there were purges within the GIA itself - which seemed to mean that Zitouni had decided even those around him were impious too. His rivals in the GIA, and a number of journalists, were convinced though that what was really happening was that the Algerian intelligence agencies were manipulating him. That the intelligence agents were cleverly twisting the mad logic of Islamism so that it would end up destroying itself.

Or maybe not. Because it got even weirder and more horrific. In July 1996 Zitouni was shot and Antar Zouabri took over.


The GIA then began to kill hundreds of ordinary Algerians in a series of horrific massacres - culminating in terrible bloodbaths in August and September. The GIA put out a communique taking responsibility for the killing and saying it was justified because everyone in Algeria who didn't join the GIA was now impious and thus should be killed. As the historian of Islamism, Gilles Kepel, put it - the GIA had decided on the excommunication of the whole society. Except for themselves, everyone else must be killed.

It was mad, and the Islamist movement in Algeria fell apart.

Here are some extracts from a report on the horror that was being created both by the terrorists and by the government. It begins with a woman called Zora who is a very perky PR for the military rulers. What follows shows the reality.

At the heart of both these stories - in Somalia and in Algeria - is is a simple question. Could the chaos and the horror have been avoided? Was it inevitable?

In both cases there are fascinating clues.

In Somalia the evidence lies in a place that, as far as the rest of the world is concerned, doesn't exist. It is the independent Republic of Somaliland - which is the large northern part of Somalia that in 1991 seceded and set up as an independent self-governing state. Since then the people of Somaliland have built - from the bottom up - a safe, successful and democratic state without any foreign aid or outside intervention.

It is a fascinating story that has gone almost completely unnoticed and unreported. After 1991 thousands of Somalis who had fled abroad came back and began to set up in the new state all sorts of individual business initiatives that gradually rebuilt the state without any centralised guidance. They became known as "The Somaliland Pioneers". Then out of that emerged a new idea of how to take the existing Somali clan system and integrate it with the idea of multi-party democracy. This idea itself was developed democratically out of a series of grassroots meetings - not imposed by western 'nation-builders'.

The journalist Mary Harper is the BBC World Service African Editor and she has written an absolutely brilliant book about Somalia and its recent history. Anyone who wants to understand what has really gone on in that country should read it. It's called Getting Somalia Wrong and in it she is absolutely clear about what the story of Somaliland means:

"Because Western models of peacemaking and state-building have not been imposed from the outside, Somaliland has in many ways saved itself from the fate of Somalia. The example of Somaliland has demonstrated that, when left to themselves, Somalis can form a viable nation state.

After breaking away from Somalia in 1991 the people of Somaliland looked deep into their own traditions, building a system, which was initially based on clan politics, but over time incorporated more modern political institutions and processes. A hybrid system of government was designed, whereby Western-style institutions were fused with more traditional forms of social and political organisation.

And it was rooted in a popular consciousness rather than imposed from above."

This is the government of Somaliland - a country that is unrecognised by every other nation in the world


There are also practically no BBC television reports about what has happened in Somaliland - except for a film made by the intrepid reporter Simon Reeve in 2005. He went to look for this place that everyone in authority said didn't exist. It's a great film full of great facts. At one point he visits an airport that was originally built by the Soviet Union - which has the longest runway in Africa. The Americans then later used it for the most unexpected reason.

In Algeria the clue as to what might have happened lies buried in the chaos of 1991 when the Islamist Party FIS was heading for power.

In the first round of the national elections in December 1991 FIS lost nearly a million votes compared to the local elections the year before. FIS still won comfortably - but the big drop in support showed that the Islamists had begun to frighten and alienate large sections of the Algerian middle classes. The historian of Islamism, Gilles Kepel, has argued that this meant that FIS had passed its peak as a political force.

No one can know if that was true - but if FIS had been left alone they would have had to face the fact they were alienating a very powerful section of the urban middle classes in Algeria. Then they might have had to come to terms with the realities of power in complex modern societies.

Instead they were forced out into the barren wilderness - both literally, and in their imaginations. This led to violent illusions. A simplified vision of Algerian society took hold of the Islamists' minds - divided between good Hittistes and the bad westernised elites who had been poisoned by democracy. And that led them to believe they could use violence to force the kind of society they wanted into existence.


But maybe the same thing happened to the West in Somalia with the humanitarian intervention?

In 1992 a loose group of humanitarian internationalists, policy wonks, politicians and TV journalists invented a simplified vision of Somalia. It was a country full of innocent dying children and evil warlords riding around on their technicals. This was a picture almost completely detached from the complex questions of power that were causing such chaos in Somalia.

Then, when things didn't go as simply as the humanitarian vision predicted - and the westerners got inevitably caught up in the local struggles - they turned to violence to try and enforce a simplified vision of democracy and nation-building on the country.


And we still haven't learnt.

For ten years after 1994 Somalia descended into chaos. It wasn't caused by the failed western intervention - the Somalis bear a great responsibility. But then, in 2005 an Islamist movement emerged called the Islamic Courts Union which began to impose a new kind of order and stability in areas of the country using sharia courts. Mary Harper, and other journalists who know Somalia, have argued that the Islamic Courts were a local grassroots attempt to create order and essential services - similar to what had happened in Somaliland to the north. It's important not to romanticise them, but they were a fragmented and essentially local version of political Islam - with the violent extremists very much in the minority.

America's response was to immediately label the ICU as yet another part of a global jihad network linked to "Al Qaeda". Within six months Somalia was invaded by Ethiopia - backed by America and supported by giant US gunships and a naval fleet. The ICU fled - but then the Islamist movement re-emerged in a much more violent form in the shape of a group called Al Shabaab. Mary Harper says that America's intervention in Somalia had created the very thing it feared.

And the same thing is happening now all across the northern part of Africa. In Mali, in northern Nigeria with Boko Haram, and in Algeria with the remnants of the GIA. In every case what are local struggles for power are being simplified by Western politicians and commentators into part of a global battle against "Al Qaeda".

It is true that there are extreme Islamists involved who proudly announce that they are joined together into a global movement. But the reality is that that kind of extreme Islamism has failed everywhere. Ever since Algeria in the early 1990s none of the extremist salafist-jihad groups have managed to take power and create the kind of society they yearn for. The reason for their failure is simple - the growing urban middle classes throughout the Arab world don't want it. You only have to look at the battles now tearing Egypt apart to see that happening.

Instead our politicians and allied terror experts fall for the Islamists' attempts to aggrandise themselves - and in the process become the Islamists' PR agents. It means the western elites are helping to promote a failed revolutionary movement while ignoring the signs of what might be the future for Africa - the new systems of multi-party democracy being built from the grassroots in places like Somaliland. Without aid, and without the west imposing centralised forms of control.

Meanwhile most western aid agencies working in Africa have a very firm policy. They do not talk to the press or TV any longer. They keep what they are doing completely secret. Given what happened in places like Somalia it is a very sensible policy. But it leaves us and our leaders ever more lost in the wood looking for the baddies hidden behind the trees.
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline Surly1

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Re: Surlynewz/Violence flares in Cairo as thousands protest Morsi regime
« Reply #37 on: February 01, 2013, 08:40:29 AM »
This bears watching.

Violence flares in Cairo as thousands protest Morsi regime throughout Egypt

http://rt.com/news/egypt-clashes-return-friday-254/



Protests turn violent in key Egyptian cities again on Friday, as thousands take to the streets to demand the end of Morsi’s government.

Protesters threw petrol bombs and stones at the British Embassy in Cairo, Al-Arabiya reported.

Several thousand people have gathered in Tahrir square, RT’s Bel Trew said.

Al-Arabiya said there were sporadic clashes with the police in Cairo earlier, and several protesters were injured by rubber bullets.

Protesters dressed in black marched through the streets of Port Said, Alexandria and Ismailia chanting anti-Morsi slogans and proclaiming their anger over the nearly 60 victims of the recent civil unrest.

The Suez Canal city of Port Said saw crowds of protesters shouting, shaking their fists and carrying portraits of those shot in fierce clashes with police last weekend.

“We will die like they did, to get justice!” the protesters chanted according to Reuters. Recent unrest in the Suez Canal area has prompted the Egyptian government to deploy the army and impose a curfew, as the head of the armed forces warned the state was on the verge of “collapse.”

In Alexandria hundreds of marching protesters blocked a major traffic intersection, Reuters said.


Egyptian members of the Black Bloc group, who present themselves as the defenders of protesters opposed to President Mohamed Morsi's rule, attend a march to the presidential palace in Cairo on February 1, 2013, as thousands of Egyptians flooded the streets in a show of opposition to the Islamist President and his Muslim Brotherhood (AFP Photo / Khaled Desouki)


Egyptian members of the Black Bloc group (bottom), who present themselves as the defenders of protesters opposed to President Mohamed Morsi's rule, attend a march to the presidential palace in Cairo on February 1, 2013, as thousands of Egyptians flooded the streets in a show of opposition to the Islamist President and his Muslim Brotherhood (AFP Photo / Khaled Desouki)





"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline Bot Blogger

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Re: Surlynewz, Analysis and Outrageous Opinions
« Reply #38 on: February 01, 2013, 11:07:38 AM »
Thanks for posting this incredible piece by Adam Curtis and the by-the-minute up-date of politics in Egypt. Wow!!! Related much?

This piece is insightful and thorough in describing the on the ground realities of world politics, especially given that Islamic Jihadism is the new enemy of the west (replacing the red menace). It's good to hear the messy realities of the real story without the simplified jargon-ism of good guys and and bad guys. Thank you.

On that note, I also want to comment on the posting from ZH by Brandon Smith of Alt-Market blog. Though I can see that there would be an incident to 'trigger' the end, I'm not sure I see what the point is. So what? Are we to get excited about a 'new' term: 'lynch pin'




In the article socialism, totalitarianism, corporatism, technocracy, elitism, fascism and communism get used interchangeably, so I'm not sure what the point is of using these words at all. In the end the mixed use terminology does nothing to help define either the terms or what is actually happening on the ground. Perhaps he is teabagologist and that is his specialty...

People with money invest in corporations and they invest in politicians. That's about all you need to know.

I find that one of the key concepts of corporate propaganda is the idea of protecting the rights of the individual. First, people in modern society are so far from being individuals it's a joke that so many claim that they are protecting that right.

Promoting the concept of us all being individuals is simply the oldest political tactic used. Divide and conquer. Really you can't divide any lower than the individual. And if everyone thinks they are protecting themselves there is no loyalty to any larger group. Convenient no?

Corporations are not socialism. The corp is a military hierarchical structure ruled for the top by the top. It uses individuals all the way down. It wants no other interests represented at the table.
 
On the other hand, people have worked in groups forever. We are social beings. No man is an island. Even teabaggers in their sandbagged fortresses are going to have to figure that out. For example: who is next on watch in the towers. Someone or some body will have to govern. Actually the whole concept seems kinda communist, living all together in a commune that... ironic.

The reference to the popular tv show Castle is interesting but I'd highlight the increasing feature of telling the stories of serial killers: Dexter, The Following, Criminal Minds, the CSI franchise and the celebritization of these people in the media:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/newsmaker-of-the-year-poll-triggers-storm-of-social-media-debate/article6697432/

This is the natural extension of the fantasy of individualism. Psychopathic killers who see people as objects for their own use.

I like the Islamic critique from the Adam Curtis that addressed this issue:
Quote
Modern Islamist ideas said that European and Western ideas of democracy were always going to lead to corruption. However well-intentioned at the beginning, the system gave enormous power to individuals and that always corrupted them.

But this is corporatism and materialism not democracy.


Offline Surly1

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Re: Surlynewz, Analysis and Outrageous Opinions
« Reply #39 on: February 01, 2013, 11:50:23 AM »
Thanks, Bot. Glad you appreciated the Adam Curtis. I find his docs spellbinding. And the timeliness of the Cairo stuff was just irresistible.

Regarding linchpin-- It just struck me as postworthy early in the AM, mostly for casting light in dark corners. So many of us are huddled together here, sharing information about what we see, reasonably sure what is coming and trying to determine by which vector it will arrive. Seemed interesting in that light. Your mileage may vary...
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline Surly1

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Re: Surlynewz, Analysis and Outrageous Opinions/Losses and Liars
« Reply #40 on: February 01, 2013, 11:51:39 AM »
Discuss the latest overheated screed, "Losses and Liars," here.

http://www.doomsteaddiner.net/blog/2013/02/01/losses-and-liars/
« Last Edit: February 01, 2013, 02:03:40 PM by WHD »
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline WHD

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Re: Surlynewz, Analysis and Outrageous Opinions
« Reply #41 on: February 01, 2013, 02:01:19 PM »
Quote
If you averaged $30K per year over your working life, that’s close to $180,000 invested in Social Security. If you calculate the future value of your monthly investment in social security, $375/month, including both you and your employer contributions  at a meager 1% rate compounded monthly , after 40 years of working  you’d  have more than $1.3+ million dollars saved. This is your personal investment.

Upon retirement, if you took out only 3% per year you’d receive $39, 318 per year, or $3,277 per month.  That’s almost three times more than today’s average social security benefit of $1,230 per month according to the social security administration (Google it – it’s a fact). And your retirement fund would last more than 33 years(until you’re 98 if you retire at age 65)!

Surly1,

Social Security and Medicare as entitlements, but big bankers, money changers, financiers, hedge fund managers, executive et al are what then, gods?

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Re: Surlynewz, Analysis and Outrageous Opinions
« Reply #42 on: February 01, 2013, 02:06:25 PM »


Thanks Surly,

spent much of the afternoon on that piece. Thanks again.

Offline RE

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Losses and Liars
« Reply #43 on: February 02, 2013, 12:28:41 AM »
A new Surly Article! At LAST! I moved it into the Feature Article spot on the Diner Blog.

"Framing" issues aside, what SS amounts to is a Nationalized Pension System.

Industrialization required some kind of Pensioning system, since in the early years Older Workers were simply DUMPED after they got too Old to be adequately Productive in the Mines and Factories, and they never were paid enough to really save enough on their own for their declining years.  Lots of Aging, Poor Beggars on the street makes for an unpleasant social order.

"Private" Pension systems have been tried, they are generally Failures.  Even if you did get one of those Union Jobs with a Pension, mostly they are going Belly Up and absorbed into the Federal Pension Guarantee Corporation, picking up the Bill for various now BK companies that made Promises they never intended to keep.

Fact is though, for most of the last 50 years, few low end jobs the Poor fill ever offerred a Pension, and these folks didn't make enough money to contribute to a 401K either.

So, SS covered the vast majority of the working poor here since the Great Depression.  Issue is, like the rest of the Ponzi, it depends on perpetual Growth, impossible in a Finite World.

As the general economy collapses, more people are heading for that OTHER aspect of SS, Disability Insurance.  This of course just makes the whole system still more insolvent.

Over in Greece and Spain, the Austerity Banksters are busying themselves cutting Goobermint Pensions, which ends up Backfiring because the Pensioners were the only ones with some Money to keep the economy rolling. 50% Youth Unemployment doesn't leave this group with much disposable income.

Right now I don't see Da Goobermint of the FSoA trying to cut SS in the same way they are doing in Eurotrashland.  I think they will try to Print to Cover until the currency blows up.  How long that takes is an open question.

RE
SAVE AS MANY AS YOU CAN

Offline Surly1

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Re: Surlynewz, Analysis and Outrageous Opinions
« Reply #44 on: February 02, 2013, 04:27:19 AM »
RE sez
Quote
Right now I don't see Da Goobermint of the FSoA trying to cut SS in the same way they are doing in Eurotrashland.  I think they will try to Print to Cover until the currency blows up.  How long that takes is an open question.

And in doing so will inflate away much of the burden of their obligations, as granny (and in about ten minutes, me) will have to choose between meds and cat food on crackers.

Am surprised that the herald of The Orkin Man hasn't jumped upon my "modest proposal" to invade the Caymans, the better to retrieve our purloined trillions. Must be terrorists there somewhere.

Most of them behind computer terminals...
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

 

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