Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Grieving Nation Asks: Why?

A picture is worth a thousand words. This is what's left of the school talked about in the article.

From The New York Times
Chinese Are Left to Ask Why Schools Crumbled in Quake

Published: May 25, 2008
This story was reported by Jim Yardley, Jake Hooker and Andrew C. Revkin, and was written by Mr. Yardley.

DUJIANGYAN, China — The earthquake’s destruction of Xinjian Primary School was swift and complete. Hundreds of children were crushed as the floors collapsed in a deluge of falling bricks and concrete. Days later, as curiosity seekers came with video cameras and as parents came to grieve, the four-story school was no more than rubble.

In contrast, none of the nearby buildings were badly damaged. A separate kindergarten less than 20 feet away survived with barely a crack. An adjacent 10-story hotel stood largely undisturbed. And another local primary school, Beijie, catering to children of the elite, was in such good condition that local officials were using it as a refugee center.

“This is not a natural disaster,” said Ren Yongchang, whose 9-year-old son died inside the destroyed school. His hands were covered in plaster dust as he stood beside the rubble, shouting and weeping as he grabbed the exposed steel rebar of a broken concrete column. “This is not good steel. It doesn’t meet standards. They stole our children.”

There is no official figure on how many children died at Xinjian Primary School, nor on how many died at scores of other schools that collapsed in the powerful May 12 earthquake in Sichuan Province. But the number of student deaths seems likely to exceed 10,000, and possibly go much higher, a staggering figure that has become a simmering controversy in China as grieving parents say their children might have lived had the schools been better built.

The Chinese government has enjoyed broad public support for its handling of the earthquake, and in Sichuan on Saturday, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations praised the government’s response.

But as parents at different schools begin to speak out, the question of whether official negligence, and possibly corruption, contributed to the student deaths could turn public opinion. The government has launched an investigation, but censors, wary of the public mood, are trying to suppress the issue in state-run media and online.

An examination of the collapse of Xinjian Primary School offers a disturbing picture of a calamity that might have been avoided. Many parents say they were told the school was unsafe. Xinjian was poorly built when it opened its doors in 1992, they say, and never got its share of government funds for reconstruction because of its low ranking in the local education bureaucracy and the low social status of its students.

A decade ago, a detached wing of the school was torn down and rebuilt because of safety concerns. But the main building remained unimproved. Engineers and earthquake experts who examined photographs of its wreckage concluded that the structure had many failings and one critical flaw: inadequate iron reinforcing rods running up the school’s vertical columns. One expert described the unstable concrete floor panels as “time bombs.”

Rest of article.

Goddess Kanyakumari

Undated article/editorial. This isn't a rant on Tibet. I only copied out the part dealing with this interesting Goddess, Kanyakumari. Notice the last part of her name - MARI. That is the same as the Latin root for sea - "mare" - and obviously, Kanyakumari is a Goddess looking out to the sea, and the same word "kanyakumari" also means "land's end." The Latin word "mare" comes from an older Indo-European language that gave rise to Latin as well as many other languages. As I understand it, Sanskrit is the oldest and most pure form of language that can be directly linked to the original Indo-European language. Editorial Road To Liberation Laxmi Bahadur Vaidya Both for the Hindus and the Buddhist, India is very popular, prominent and famous tourist destination all over the world. It possesses several sacred pilgrimage places. Kanyakumari, the land’s end, is a charming, popular and unique religious as well as recreational tourist centre at the confluence of the three seas-the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal. A large number of tourists are attracted by the serene beauty of this place and the spectacles of sunrise and sunset. The sunset and the moonrise can be seen almost simultaneously on full-moon days from the same spot. The temple of the virgin goddess Kanyakumari, which is overlooking the sea, is situated at the tip of the land. Posture The goddess stands above the pedestal in a lovely pose. She has a crown on her head in which valuable gems and diamonds are embedded. She also is adorned with gold ornaments containing various gems and jewels including brilliant earrings on her ears. The goddess is holding a rosary in her right hand and touches the garland by her left hand. A sparkling nose jewel too sheds lustrous radiance. The image, made of blue stone, is believed to have been installed by sage Parasurama. According to folktales and mythological stories, the goddess Parasakti in her reincarnation came down to earth as a virgin to annihilate Banasura (king of demons) who has harassed the Gods and tortured the saints, sages and hermits causing them endless misery.

Chess News Update

Hola darlings! I'm just about to go out and tackle the dreaded mess in the back yard. I've updated Chess Femme News, May 24, 2008. I've begun work on my June Chessville column, as the end of the month is coming up fast and the editor will be knocking on my email door soon politely asking where it's at! But first - to the raking!

Friday, May 23, 2008

An Interview with WIM Padmini Rout

Orissa chess champion Padmini Rout aims to become a Grand Master KalingaTimes Correspondent Bhubaneswar, May 23: Chess prodigy Padmini Rout needs no introduction. After becoming the youngest player from Orissa to earn the WIM title she has been nominated for the coveted Biju Patnaik Sports Award which would be presented to her later this year. At 14 she has earned name, fame and money, practically everything that children her age can dream of. She spoke to in an exclusive interview: KT: What it feels to be the youngest WIM of Orissa? Padmini: It's a great feeling indeed. More so because very few from Orissa have earned the IM title. Being the youngest makes it all the more special. KT: You have been nominated for the Biju Patnaik Sports Award this year. How do you feel? Padmini: Receiving the highest sports award of the state will certainly be a matter of pride and great satisfaction. Awards act as morale booster and I'm sure this will encourage me to perform better and better in my chosen field. KT: Who have been your toughest competitors? Padmini: I have played against many but I think in my category I am quite strong. As it is, I treat all my opponents as rivals. KT: Which was your first international title? Padmini: It was the Asian championship in 2005 at New Delhi . KT: Do you think chess players of Orissa are getting the right kind of atmosphere and facilities here? Padmini: We don't have the state-of-the-art facilities compared to other states. For the beginners they may be alright but when it comes to professional coaching, Orissa lags behind as we do not have any Grand Masters here. A lot depends on self practice. I depend on my own computer and books for the practice. KT: Is sponsorship a big problem here? Padmini: Sponsorship is a great problem. It is difficult to find a sponsor in Orissa whereas in other states you get sponsorships rather easily. Getting a good sponsor in our state is difficult even after one performs well and wins major titles. KT: Who are the players you idolize? Padmini: My ideal player is Mikhail Tal. I also like Garry Kasprov. Among Indians I like Viswanathan Anand and Sasikaran. KT: Does chess affect your studies? Ho do you balance studies and chess? Padmini: No it hardly affects my studies. I study hard at the time of exams. My school also supports me very much. KT: What are your next big championships? Padmini: National Women's B at Calicut in June and Asian championship in July. KT: When can we expect Padmini Rout to become a Grand Master? Padmini: Within three years, hopefully.

Silent Survivors of Afghanistan’s 4,000 Tumultuous Years

Prior post.

From The New York Times
Published: May 23, 2008

WASHINGTON — Art objects inspire many reactions, perhaps most crucially acts of preservation or destruction. From 1979 to late 2001, destruction had the upper hand in Afghanistan. The Soviet-Afghan war, the ensuing civil war and finally the pernicious rule of the Taliban inflicted incalculable losses on active archaeological sites and ancient monuments and artworks.

In March 2001 the world watched helplessly as the Taliban blew up the two giant Buddhas carved from existing rock that had faced each other across the Bamiyan Valley for 1,500 years. The progressive destruction of the National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul was less blatant but equally tragic. Its collection of 100,000 artworks and artifacts — one of the finest in Asia — spanned several millenniums of Afghanistan’s rich, multicultural history.

The museum suffered looting, bombing, fire; the Taliban ordered destruction of all depictions of the human figure. By the time they were driven from power in November 2001, the Kabul museum had lost two-thirds of its collection. (Since then the museum has been safe, although looting continues outside Kabul.)

But isolated acts of preservation and some lucky circumstances also prevailed. In 1988 a small group of the Kabul museum’s staff hid crates packed with about 600 of its most precious artworks in the vault of the presidential palace. No one was sure how these crates had fared until 2004, when they were retrieved with their contents intact.

Around 200 of these works are in “Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures From the National Museum, Kabul,” at the National Gallery of Art here. At once revelatory and heart-rending, this show, making a four-city American tour, has much to tell about Afghanistan, past and present.

The objects in the exhibition date from 2200 B.C. to around the second century A.D., that is, from the Bronze Age to the height of the Kushan Empire, which reached nearly across Asia and deep into the Indian subcontinent. Included are Indian ivories, Roman-Egyptian glass vessels, Greek and Greco-Bactrian bronzes and carved stone, as well as a trove known as the golden hoard of Bactria, an ancient empire in northern Afghanistan.

The combination offers a picture of Afghan cosmopolitanism, which was fed by the trade routes of the Silk Road, and the ethnic diversity resulting from invasions and peaceful migrations alike. Structured to focus on four important excavation sites, this show is the latest phase in a close working relationship between the National Geographic Society and the Kabul museum. It has been organized by the society in collaboration with the National Gallery and overseen by Fredrik Hiebert, a National Geographic Society fellow.

It begins and ends with gold objects separated by more than two millenniums. The first group consists of three rare Bronze Age gold bowls, one intact and fragments of two others. They were found in 1972 at a single site, Tepe Fullol, in northeastern Afghanistan, but their very different styles reflect influences from across Asia. The designs on the intact bowl are abstract, a square divided by an X; each quadrant contains a stepped square found on artifacts from Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. One bowl fragment is strictly local, with motifs of a wild boar, trees and mountains. The other fragment features a majestic bearded bull, an image common to Mesopotamia, 1,200 miles to the west.

Subsequent displays contain objects from the Greco-Bactrian city of Ai Khanum, founded in 300 B.C. by a follower of Alexander the Great and excavated by French archaeologists from 1964 to 1978. (Destined for Kabul’s Institute of Archaeology, which was completely destroyed, these finds survived, unnoticed, in crates that never got farther than the Ministry of Information and Culture in Kabul.) This gallery contains two leafy Corinthian capitals; lidded, partitioned bowls (for unguents and perfumes); and a full-length statue of a man named Stratos who grasps the folds of his robe in one hand, a gesture that might have influenced centuries of statues of Buddhist sculptures.

The showstopper in this section is a large ceremonial plaque in silver and gold from the third century B.C. that might have been part of Alexander’s entourage (image at beginning of article). It represents Cybele, the Greek goddess of nature, riding in a chariot driven by the winged goddess Nike, seen in profile. Their high, lion-drawn chariot seems Syrian, but the naturalism of the figures is largely Greek. This naturalism is at its best in the priest who walks behind the chariot, carrying a large parasol. He leans back with his head tilted up — making sure the deities are properly shaded — in a pose that has the alert springiness of a circus juggler. Also marvelous: the gold rocks and incised flowers underfoot.

Rest of article.

Friday Night Miscellany

Is summer ever going to come? It's cold here! Today it didn't get above 53 degrees, there was a strong constant wind off the lake out of the east and I wore a winter coat and gloves. Here's a story that made me go "what?" It's absolutely silly - the Manchester Museum covered it's mummies after someone complained about a partially naked mummy. Hmmm, as if it still looked like anything after 2000 plus years??? Zahi Hawass (I can think of lots of other things to call him, all unflattered takes on his name) chimed in about "respect" for the dead. Yeah, right. That's why ALL of the mummies in the Cairo Museum are naked. Har! Note to Self: Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT end up in this hospital - the buggers have obviously faulty equipment and totally incompetent staff people and doctors. Woman brain dead for 17 hours suddenly, miraculously, comes back to life? Oh, please. If that story isn't enough, here's another one. Gold-dusted burgers. I foresee a new industry....panning poop for gold dust... Evil America's plot to overthrow the communist system in Cuba - send cell phones! Dreamed up by no less than the astounding brainpower of our dearly soon to be departed Prez, George W. Bush. Could the people at Goddesschess possibly be considered potential enemies of the State? (cue spooky music from "One Step Beyond...) Well, think about this: we advocate a decidedly goddess point of view that is totally subversive to the established patriarchal order; we poke fun of everyone, demonstrating an irreverence for THOSE IN POWER (although I understand Bushy did like my comments some months ago about Chavez and the "waaaa, waaaa" photograph); we have lots and lots of pages filled with subversive, goddess-tainted information at our website - and here, too! On occasion, we (not including, of course, Mr. Don), wear PINK! And - here's the clincher, a few years back we actually discovered in our stats program the trail of a rather clumsy spy front agency that had suddenly developed a passion for all things Goddesschess - I seem to recall the business was selling the equivalent of modern-day "murphy beds" - darlings, I'm not making this up! Sooooo, if a "national emergency" should arise, we might be jacked up and hauled off to Guantanamo. But you know what, if they do that, they'll be sorry. I'll try and convert each and every one of 'em to a Christian Witness of Jehovah...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

2008 U.S. Women's Chess Championship

What a kerfluffle last night! I didn't dream it - Anna Zatonskih DID win the Women's Championship after two games of rapid chess, two blitz, and one final "Armageddon" game - what did she and Krush get on their clocks, 30 seconds each??? Congratulations to AZ and to IK for a thrill-filled evening even though I'm really dragging today - 5:30 came REALLY fast this morning when I didn't hit the sack until after 1 a.m. Here are the final standings for the women: 1 Zatonskih, Anna IM 2490 USA 7.5 2 Krush, Irina IM 2515 USA 7.5 3-4 Abrahamyan, Tatev WFM 2280 USA 6.0 3-4 Rohonyan, Katerine WGM 2318 USA 6.0 5 Tuvshintugs, Batchimeg WIM 2289 USA 5.5 6 Battsetseg, Tsagaan WIM 2251 USA 4.5 7 Zenyuk, Iryna WFM 2205 USA 3.5 8-9 Epstein, Esther WM 2194 USA 2.0 8-9 Airapetian, Chouchanik WFM 2143 USA 2.0 10 Jamison, Courtney 2064 USA 0.5 What an exciting championship! My impression is that all of the women had a real fighting spirit this year and were going all out for wins. There were very few draws. I'll have to sit down tonight and figure out the relative percentage versus the men's draws. As noted last night, Tatev Abrahamyan had an excellent tournament, 6.0/9 and won the Goddesschess Fighting Chess prize of $500. I am not a good enough player to be able to assess the quality of play but from what I read elsewhere, the games were well-played. Of course there were goof-ups in the play-off games last night, that's to be expected given the exhaustion, overdose rushes of adrenalin during those last grueling minutes and the circumstances of the play-offs themselves. And Krush and Zatonskih experienced that too, har! I can't wait for the next big event! Will the US be fielding a women's Olympiad team this year? Shouldn't the USCF be getting that together quickly now, given that the women will need time to train and organize and USCF will need to raise some money to send them to Germany? Will FIDE ever organize another Women's World Chess Championship? What happened to the invitation from the government of Turkey to host the WCC there? Will I ever stop sounding like a soap opera? Stay tuned for AS THE PAWN TURNS...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Winner of 2008 U.S. Women's Chess Championship

Irina Krush! She won the third play-off game behind the black pieces in a rapid-chess game (5 minutes on the clock for each player) Here's the final game in PGN: [Event "2008 Frank K. Berry U.S. Chess Championship"] [Site "Tulsa"] [Date "2008.05.21"] [Round "12Playoff"] [White "Zatonskih, Anna"] [Black "Krush, Irina"][Result "0-1"] [WhiteELO "2490"][WhiteTitle "IM"] [BlackELO "2515"][BlackTitle "IM"] [Source "MonRoi"] 1.e4 c5 2.g3 d5 3.exd5 Qxd5 4.Nf3 Bg4 5.Bg2 Qe6 6.Kf1 Nc6 7.h3 Bh5 8.d3 Qd7 9.Be3 e6 10.Nbd2 Nf6 11.Nb3 Nd5 12.Bxc5 Bxc5 13.Nxc5 Qe7 14.Nb3 O-O 15.Kg1 f5 16.d4 Rad8 17.Qe2 Nf6 18.c3 Ne4 19.Re1 e5 20.Qe3 exd4 21.Nfxd4 Ne5 22.Nxf5 Rxf5 23.Qxe4 Bg6 24.f4 Qc7 25.Qxb7 Qc4 26.fxe5 Qd3 27.Kh2 Rf2 28.Rhf1 Rxb2 29.e6 h6 30.e7 Re8 31.Qd5 0-1 Thanks to Susan Polgar's blog for providing updating posts on the play-0ff games and the denouement. I'm exhausted - it's way past my bed-time and I haven't eaten supper yet, time for this chess femme to call it a night! STOP THE PRESSES! UPDATED 12:10 A.M. NOT SO FAST! I tried to go to bed before midnight and this is what I get - Irina Krush did NOT win - ANNA ZATONSKIH IS THE WINNER OF THE 2008 U.S. WOMEN'S CHESS CHAMPIONSHIP!!!!!! At least - I think so - that's what I read at both Monroi just a few seconds ago and at Susan Polgar's blog, so it MUST be true. I thought game 3, which Krush won (?) was the end - but I guess not. Oh, I'll try and figure it all out tomorrow, or else leave it up to the people who really know about this stuff. Darlings, I just follow along as best I can, which obviously sometimes is not very good! Okay, now I really must scrub off my crusted on make-up and hit the sack - the alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m....

I Can't Stand the Suspense!

Irina Krush won the second rapid-chess play-off game behind the white pieces against Anna Zatonskih, and so now - what? Another play-off game at even faster time controls? Help!


GM Susan Polgar, who graciously agreed to decide who the winner of this year's Goddesschess prize fund would be, has declared to winner at her blog this evening: TATEV ABRAHAMYAN! Congratulations to Tatev - she wins the $500 prize for her great performance this year. Thank you again from Goddesschess to GM Susan Polgar for agreeing to select the winner of this year's prize fund, and for going above and beyond the call of duty in personally delivering the prize money to Mr. Berry in Tulsa. The Goddesschess folks are already planning how to make the special prize bigger and better next year... Thanks to all our friends and supporters - and - geez! The Championship isn't over yet! SP reported at her blog that Zatonskih won the first play-off game. As I'm typing this the second game is in progress. I need to hire a GM to sit beside me and explain how all of this works to me, darlings, besides feeding me insightful information on moves and blow-by-blow analysis!

2008 U.S. Women's Chess Championship

Krush and Rohonyan just drew, leaving Krush with 7.5 and Rohonyan with 6.0. I can't believe Rohonyan gave up! Who's the winner??? Krush and Zatonskih both end up with 7.5 - but someone has to take the title. Is the prize money for first and second added together and split? Here's the game in PGN: [Event "2008 Frank K. Berry U.S. Chess Championship"][Site "Tulsa"][Date "2008.05.21"][Round "9"][White "Krush, Irina"][Black "Rohonyan, Katerine"][Result "1/2-1/2"][WhiteELO "2515"][WhiteTitle "IM"][BlackELO "2318"][BlackTitle "WGM"][Source "MonRoi"]1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6 g6 6.Nc3 Bxa6 7.g3 d6 8.Bg2 Bg7 9.Nf3 Nbd7 10.Rb1 O-O 11.O-O Qa5 12.Bd2 Bb7 13.Qc2 Qa6 14.e4 Ng4 15.Bg5 h6 16.Bc1 Qa5 17.Rd1 Ba6 18.Bd2 Nge5 19.Nxe5 Nxe5 20.Be1 Rfb8 21.b3 Qa3 22.h3 c4 23.Ne2 cxb3 24.axb3 Bxe2 25.Qxe2 Rxb3 26.f4 Rxb1 27.Rxb1 Nd3 28.Bd2 Bd4 29.Kh2 Nc5 30.e5 Qa2 31.Re1 Qc2 32.Be3 Qc3 33.Bxd4 Qxd4 34.Qe3 Qxe3 35.Rxe3 Kf8 36.g4 Ra4 37.Kg3 g5 38.fxg5 hxg5 39.h4 gxh4 40.Kxh4 Nd7 41.exd6 exd6 42.Re4 Ra2 43.Kg3 Ne5 44.Rb4 Ke7 45.g5 Rd2 46.Rb7 Kd8 47.Rb4 Kc7 48.Be4 Rd1 49.Bg2 Rg1 50.Kh2 Ra1 51.Kg3 Ra8 52.Be4 Rh8 53.Rb2 Rh5 54.Kf4 Rh4 55.Kf5 Ng6 56.Rf2 Ne7 57.Kf6 Rxe4 58.Kxf7 Nxd5 59.g6 Kd7 60.g7 Ne7 61.Kf8 Ra4 62.Kf7 Rg4 63.Kf8 Kd8 64.Kf7 Kd7 65.Kf8 Ra4 66.Kf7 d5 67.Rf1 Ra3 68.Rf4 Ra2 69.Rf1 Ra3 70.Rf4 Rg3 71.Rf1 Rg2 72.Rf4 Rg5 73.Kf6 Rg1 74.Kf7 Ra1 75.Rf2 Ra8 76.Rf4 Rd8 77.Rf2 Rc8 78.Rf4 Rc5 79.Kf6 Rc4 80.Rf1 Ke8 81.Ke5 Rg4 82.Rf8 Kd7 83.g8Q Nxg8 84.Kxd5 Ne7 85.Kc5 Rg5 86.Kc4 Kd6 87.Rf6 Ke5 88.Rf1 Nf5 89.Re1 Kf4 90.Kd3 Ng3 91.Re8 Rd5 92.Kc4 Rd7 93.Rf8 Nf5 94.Kc3 Ke4 95.Re8 Ne7 96.Ra8 Rc7 97.Kd2 Nc6 98.Ra3 Rd7 99.Ke2 Nd4 100.Kf2 Rb7 101.Re3 Kf4 102.Re8 Rb2 103.Ke1 Kf3 104.Kd1 Ne2 105.Rf8 Ke3 106.Re8 Kd3 107.Ke1 Nd4 108.Kf1 1/2-1/2 Added 9:20 p.m.: Whoa! According to the official U.S. Championships website hosted by Monroi this year, there's to be a play-off between Krush and Zatonskih -- and from the looks of it - it's happening right now. Ohmygoddess! Krush just played a game over 100 moves. How is this fair?

2008 U.S. Women's Chess Championship

Krush and Rohonyan are still playing! Zatonskih won her game behind the black pieces against Battsetseg to finish with 7.5, securing at least second place for herself and $4,000 in prize money - and a shot at the Goddesschess Fighting Chess Award of $500; Tuvshintugs knocked off Abrahamyan. Tuvshintugs finishes with 5.5 and Abrahamyan finishes with 6.0. She had an excellent tournament, winning six games in a row, but I expect she's disappointed in her finish. The heat is on Krush - she's obviously battling for a win and clear first place. I'll have full results and final standings later. I hope Susan Polgar reports on whether any of the women scored WIM or WGM norms. Added 7:07 p.m.: Krush has 6:53 on her clock, Rohonyan has 17:02. Krush has a rook, bishop and 2 pawns plus her king to Rohonyan's rook, knight, 2 pawns and king. Added 7:49 p.m.: Zenyuk (W) caved to Airapetian! Zenyuk stays at 3.5 and Airapetian ends up with 2.0. Krush-Rohonyan still going on...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Female Graves Might be Elamite Royalty

From Ramhormoz graves may be Elamite royal burials: experts TEHRAN, May 20 (MNA) -- A team of archaeologists studying two graves discovered in the city of Ramhormoz in southern Iran said that they bear their remains of a girl and a woman who were most likely members of an Elamite royal family. The team led by Arman Shishegar was assigned to carry out a series of rescue excavations in the Jubji region of the city in Khuzestan Province in May 2007 after the Khuzestan Water and Waste Water Company stumbled on two U-shaped coffins containing skeletons of a girl and a woman along with a great number of artifacts during a grading operation. The girl was about 17 years old and the woman was between 30 and 35 years old at the time of death, Shishegar told the Persian service of CHN on Tuesday. The girl was discovered wearing a golden bracelet embellished with pieces of agate on her wrist. The bracelet bears the female name Ani-Numa. During the rescue excavations, the archaeologists found five rings of power among the coffins’ artifacts, which were usually used by royals in Mesopotamia. One of the rings, which bears the name of King Shutruk-Nahhunte of Elam (c. 1185–c. 1155 BC) in a cuneiform inscription was previously surmised to belong to the king, but Farzan Foruzanfar, an anthropologist of the Cultural Heritage, Tourism, and Handicrafts Organization (CHTHO), rejected the theory during his latest studies, Shishegar said. Due to the large quantity of valuable artifacts found in the coffins, the archaeologists believe that the girl and the woman had most likely been Shutruk-Nahhunte’s relatives or family members, he added. Another of the five rings, which bears a cuneiform inscription, was handed over to two ancient languages experts but their studies led to different results. One of them deciphered the inscription as a female name but the other said it was the name of a local official. According to Shishegar, the divergence of opinions is a result of the deformed shape of the ring. Since the grading operation was continued even after the extraordinary discovery, the graves’ site has been almost completely bulldozed. A golden armlet with floral motifs, two golden bracelets bearing deer-head patterns at each end, some ornamental stones with floral decorations, 155 golden buttons of various sizes, several statuettes of goddesses, a golden necklace, golden plaques with floral motifs, 99 golden necklace beads, 23 golden necklace pendants of various sizes, three marble stone dishes, earthenware and bronze dishes, several bronze bracelets, a fish-shaped goddess ornament, and a number of other artifacts have been discovered at the site. [I wonder how much was stolen that the archaeologists never saw?] All the relics were transferred to Tehran to be stored at the National Museum of Iran. Shishegar said the items are currently in danger, but the report did not provide any explanation of his statement. ************************************************************************************ The current regime in control of Iran are barbarians. Notice this quote from the article: the grading operation was continued even after the extraordinary discovery, the graves’ site has been almost completely bulldozed. Such continued, deliberate destruction could only be sanctioned by the highest levels of government, wiping out evidence of Iran's pre-Islamic past (and perhaps prior evidence of looting) and any chance for future archaeologists to piece together the history of the site in its original context. Arman Shishegar is a very brave man. Will the Revolutionary Guard make him pay for that last statement in the article about the artifacts recovered being in danger? You betcha. But we won't ever hear about it.

Did Humans Colonize the World by Boat?

Well, this is what I call a "duh" article. Of course they did. There are parts of the world that could not have ever been colonized otherwise. DUH! But I present it here, for what it's worth, as it ties into the ongoing controversy among archaeologists, etc. about how mankind spread where and when. From Discover Magazine Online Research suggests our ancestors traveled the oceans 70,000 years Heather Pringle May 20, 2008 Jon Erlandson shakes out what appears to be a miniature evergreen from a clear ziplock bag and holds it out for me to examine. As one of the world’s leading authorities on ancient seafaring, he has devoted much of his career to hunting down hard evidence of ancient human migrations, searching for something most archaeologists long thought a figment: Ice Age mariners. On this drizzly late-fall afternoon in a lab at the University of Oregon in Eugene, the 53-year-old Erlandson looks as pleased as the father of a newborn—and perhaps just as anxious —as he shows me one of his latest prize finds. The little “tree” in my hand is a dart head fashioned from creamy-brown chert and bristling with tiny barbs designed to lodge in the flesh of marine prey. Erlandson recently collected dozens of these little stemmed points from San Miguel Island, a scrap of land 27 miles off the coast of California. Radiocarbon dating of marine shells and burned twigs at the site shows that humans first landed on San Miguel at least 12,000 years ago, and the dart head in my hand holds clues to the ancestry of those seafarers. Archaeologists have recovered similar items scattered along the rim of the North Pacific, and some have even been found in coastal Peru and Chile. The oldest appeared 15,600 years ago in coastal Japan. To Erlandson, these miniature trees look like a trail left by mariners who voyaged along the stormy northern coasts of the Pacific Ocean from Japan to the Americas during the last Ice Age. “We haven’t published the evidence for this hypothesis yet, and I’m kind of nervous about it,” he says. “But we are getting very close.” Until recently most researchers would have dismissed such talk of Ice Age mariners and coastal migrations. Nobody, after all, has ever unearthed an Ice Age boat or happened upon a single clear depiction of an Ice Age dugout or canoe. Nor have archaeologists found many coastal campsites dating back more than 15,000 years. So most scientists believed that Homo sapiens evolved as terrestrial hunters and gatherers and stubbornly remained so, trekking out of their African homeland by foot and spreading around the world by now-vanished land bridges. Only when the Ice Age ended 12,000 to 13,000 years ago and mammoths and other large prey vanished, archaeologists theorized, did humans systematically take up seashore living—eating shellfish, devising fishing gear, and venturing offshore in small boats. But that picture, Erlandson and others say, is badly flawed, due to something researchers once rarely considered: the changes in sea level over time. Some 20,000 years ago, for example, ice sheets locked up much of the world’s water, lowering the oceans and laying bare vast coastal plains—attractive hunting grounds and harbors for maritime people. Today these plains lie beneath almost 400 feet of water, out of reach of all but a handful of underwater archaeologists. “So this shines a spotlight on a huge area of ignorance: what people were doing when sea level was lower than at present,” says Geoff Bailey, a coastal archaeologist at the University of York in England. “And that is especially problematic, given that sea level was low for most of prehistory.” Rest of article.

2008 U.S. Women's Chess Championship

Round 8 Results: Airapetian - Battsetseg 0 - 1 Jamison - Zenyuk 0 - 1 Rohonyan - Tuvshintugs 1 - 0 Abrahamyan - Epstein 1 - 0 Zatonskih - Krush 1/2 - 1/2 Tentative standings after Round 8 (based on my calculations): Krush - 7.0 Zatonskih - 6.5 Abrahamyan- 6.0 Rohonyan - 5.5 Tuvshintugs - 4.5 Battsetseg - 4.5 Zenyuk - 3.5 Epstein - 1.5 Airapetian - 1.0 Jamison - 0 The stage is set for the final game tomorrow. Is an upset in the making? Abrahamyan has now quietly won six games in a row. Here are the match-ups for Round 9: Player Draw (pairing numbers) (key match-ups in bold) 5. Esther Epstein v. 10. Courtney Jamison 6. Chimi Tuvshintugs v. 4. Tatev Abrahamyan 7. Irina Krush v. 3. Katerine Rohonyan 8. Tsagaan Battsetseg v. 2. Anna Zatonskih 9. Iryna Zenyuk v. 1. Chouchanik Airapetian (edited on 5/21/08 to correct typo)

2008 U.S. Women's Chess Championship

I've updated Chess Femme News through Round 7. Today is the big game between Anna Zatonskih (W) and Irina Krush (B). Susan Polgar is following the live action at ICC and posting on her blog. When I checked a few minutes ago, it appeared that Anna was losing or had lost the initiative. I'll be updating Chess Femme News more tonight, but right now I'm anxiously awaiting the results of Zatonskih-Krush! Updated 8:43 p.m. CST Zatonskih-Krush drew. Here is the game in PGN: [Event "2008 Frank K. Berry U.S. Chess Championship"][Site "Tulsa"][Date "2008.05.20"][Round "8"][White "Zatonskih, Anna"][Black "Krush, Irina"][Result "1/2-1/2"][WhiteELO "2490"][WhiteTitle "IM"][BlackELO "2515"][BlackTitle "IM"][Source "MonRoi"]1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.g3 O-O 5.Bg2 d6 6.O-O c6 7.Nc3 Qa5 8.e4 e5 9.h3 Nbd7 10.Re1 Re8 11.a3 Qc7 12.Be3 exd4 13.Nxd4 Nc5 14.Qc2 a5 15.b3 h5 16.Rad1 Nfd7 17.Rd2 Ne5 18.Red1 a4 19.b4 Nxc4 20.bxc5 Nxe3 21.fxe3 dxc5 22.Nde2 b5 23.e5 Bf5 24.Qc1 Bxe5 25.Ne4 c4 26.Nd6 Bxd6 27.Rxd6 Be4 28.Qd2 Bxg2 29.Kxg2 Qe7 30.Kf2 h4 31.Qd4 c5 32.Qxc5 Rac8 33.Qd4 c3 34.Nxc3 hxg3 35.Kg2 Qxe3 36.Qxe3 Rxe3 37.Nxb5 Rb3 38.Rd8 Rxd8 39.Rxd8 Kg7 40.Nd4 Rxa3 41.Nf3 Ra1 42.Kxg3 a3 43.Ra8 a2 44.Kf2 g5 45.Ne1 Kg6 46.Nc2 Rh1 47.Kg2 Rd1 48.Rxa2 Rd2 49.Kf3 Kh5 50.Ke3 Rh2 51.Kd3 f5 52.Ra8 Rxh3 53.Ne3 g4 54.Rf8 Rf3 55.Ke2 Kg5 56.Rf7 Kg6 57.Ra7 Kg5 58.Ra5 Rf4 59.Ra8 Rf3 60.Rf8 Kg6 61.Rb8 Kg5 62.Rb5 Rf4 63.Rb8 1/2-1/2

2008 U.S. Women's Chess Championship

Round 7 has come and gone - Krush won to go from 5.5 to 6.5; Zatonskih lost to stay at 6.0. Today they face each other in a game that may decide who is the 2008 Champion. Susan Polgar comments. This is a critical game - but the other women aren't coasting to the finish line. There's an intense battle for third place right now. Standings after 7: 1 Krush, Irina IM 2515 USA 6.5 2 Zatonskih, Anna IM 2490 USA 6.0 3 Abrahamyan, Tatev WFM 2280 USA 5.0 4-5 Tuvshintugs, Batchimeg WIM 2289 USA 4.5 4-5 Rohonyan, Katerine WGM 2318 USA 4.5 6 Battsetseg, Tsagaan WIM 2251 USA 3.5 7 Zenyuk, Iryna WFM 2205 USA 2.5 8 Epstein, Esther WM 2194 USA 1.5 9 Airapetian, Chouchanik WFM 2143 USA 1.0 10 Jamison, Courtney 2064 USA 0.0 Very exciting!

Monday, May 19, 2008

III International Chess Festival “President’s Cup”

May 9 – 21, 2008 180 players, 9 rounds, First Place is $7,000, first woman finisher is $600 Standings after 8 Rounds: 28 24 GM Stefanova Antoaneta 2538 BUL 5,5 31 38 IM Paehtz Elisabeth 2449 GER 5,5 40 52 WGM Khotenashvili Bela 2333 GEO 5,0 42 59 WIM Batsiashvili Nino 2304 GEO 5,0 45 54 IM Zozulia Anna 2332 BEL 5,0 50 56 WGM Mamedjarova Zeinab 2322 AZE 5,0 63 111 Kazimova Narmin 2072 AZE 4,5 69 83 WFM Mammadova Gulnar 2188 AZE 4,5 70 128 Abdulla Khayala 1982 AZE 4,5 84 63 WGM Mamedjarova Turkan 2271 AZE 4,0 89 98 Huseynova Sahar 2106 AZE 4,0 94 99 Khudaverdieva Afag 2104 AZE 4,0 97 80 WIM Gavasheli Ana 2191 GEO 4,0 102 119 Guliyeva Sabina 2020 AZE 4,0 104 94 Ismailova Aytaj 2129 AZE 4,0 109 74 WIM Umudova Nargiz 2222 AZE 3,5 111 79 Isgandarova Khayala 2193 AZE 3,5 118 131 Mammadova Aysel Alishiraz qizi 1962 AZE 3,5 120 124 Agayeva Aytan 1989 AZE 3,5 122 121 WCM Fataliyeva Ulviyya 2003 AZE 3,5 125 95 WFM Ni Viktorija 2120 LAT 3,5 127 140 Hasanova Turkan 1897 AZE 3,0 128 172 Kazimova Firuza Bakhlul qizi 1700 AZE 3,0 168 156 Khalafova Narmin Ilgar qizi 1954 AZE 2,0 180 171 Karimova Nazrin Faiq qizi 1700 AZE 1,0 Narmin Kazimova is a young player who caught my eye by her performance at the recently-concluded European Individual Women's Chess Championship.

Mayor's Cup International Open (India)

Koneru Humpy stages a come back and finishes the tournament with 9.0/11, tied with leader Krasenkow (who lost his final game) and several other players. Krasenkow wins on tie-breaks and is declared the Champion. From Kransenkow triumphs Express News Service Posted online: Tuesday , May 20, 2008 at 04:40:08 Updated: Tuesday , May 20, 2008 at 04:40:08 Koneru finished in second place, and Bangladeshi GM Ziaur Rahman clinched third place. From The Daily Star, May 20, 2008.

Looking for Truth in Beringia

A fascinating article about a mammoth bone discovered in a cave nearly 20 years ago and the controversy it set off about just how early ancient man was in the Americas. The saga continues... Beringia: humans were here It was an extraordinary ancient land filled with fantastic creatures and intrepid people. ALEX ROSLIN, Special to The Montreal Gazette Published: Saturday, May 17 Beringia is thought by a handful of renegade scientists to be a prehistoric homeland for aboriginal people who later spread across the Americas and the key to one of archeology's greatest Holy Grails - figuring out how humans first got to this continent. This July, Jacques Cinq-Mars, a renowned archeologist living in Longueuil, is heading to Beringia - a vast territory that once spanned the Yukon, Alaska and Siberia - in hopes of resolving a controversy he unleashed nearly 20 years ago when he chanced upon a curious-looking cave in the Yukon's Keele Mountain Range, perched on a ridge high above the Bluefish River. Here, at a site known as the Bluefish Caves, Cinq-Mars's team discovered something that would turn archeology on its ear and has fuelled debate ever since - a chipped mammoth bone that appeared to have been fashioned into a small harpoon point. Radiocarbon dating showed the bone to be 28,000 years old. The find stunned archeologists who had long presumed the first people to enter the Americas did so 13,000 years ago via a land bridge from Siberia after the end of the last Ice Age. Until that point, routes from Alaska down into the Americas were blocked off by glaciers up to four kilometres thick, which would have cut off any possibility of migration for thousands of years. But scientists have unearthed a growing number of ancient human sites across the continent that date back much more than 13,000 years. How did those people get here? No one knows for sure. Cinq-Mars, a retired former curator at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, believes the answers lie in the lost land of Beringia. Rest of article.

2008 U.S. Women's Chess Championship

I've updated Chess Femme News for Round 6, and will be updating more later tonight for other events. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Egyptian Antiquities To Go On Display At Athens Museum

From Athens museum to show its priceless Egyptian collection © AP 2008-05-13 19:09:00 - ATHENS, Greece (AP) - A priceless ancient Egyptian collection opens to the public Wednesday, featuring a wooden body tag for a mummy, a stunning bronze statue of a princess, and a 3,000-year-old loaf of bread with a bite-sized chunk missing. The National Archaeological Museum in Athens is putting more than 1,100 pieces from the collection on permanent exhibition, as more of its halls open to the public following years of renovation. The previous Egyptian display, shelved six years ago, included just 350 artifacts. Most of the current collection, which museum officials say is one of the best in the world, has never been shown to the public before due to lack of space. A further 6,000 Egyptian artifacts remain in underground storage. One piece that made it into the display is the round, brown loaf of bread, which is missing a bite-sized chunk. Baked during the New Kingdom, between 1550-1075 B.C., it was placed in a tomb for the occupant's use in the afterlife. Museum officials are unsure what happened to the missing bit. [Well obviously, darlings, it was the Ka of the deceased enjoying a bit to eat after the grand ceremonies...] Archaeologist Lena Papazoglou, curator of the museum's prehistoric, Egyptian and eastern collections, said Egypt's dry, hot climate helped preserve organic materials - food, wood and leather - for thousands of years. "The exhibition includes intact birds' eggs," she said Tuesday. "If you shake them gently you can hear the yolks rattling inside." The exhibition centerpiece is a bronze statue of the princess-priestess Takushit, dating to around 670 B.C. Standing 70 centimeters (27 inches) high and wearing a gown covered in hieroglyphs, the statue was found south of Alexandria in 1880. "This kind of bronze statue is very rare," said archaeologist Eleni Tourna. At the other end of the sculptural scale is a thumb-sized bronze figurine of an African boy at a street market. "He has his wares spread in front of him and has dozed off in the heat, his pet monkey perched on his shoulder," Tourna said. The miniature was made in the 3rd century B.C. in Alexandria, the Greek-Egyptian port city founded by Alexander of Macedon that grew into a major intellectual and administrative center. "Alexandria was the center of the then-known world," Tourna said, "Like the New York of antiquity." The exhibition includes products from what Tourna calls Egypt's "death industry," such as pierced wooden tags from embalmers' workshops. They were inscribed with the name and designated grave of the corpse, to avoid embarrassing mix-ups. The core of the museum's Egyptian collection was donated more than 100 years ago by two rich merchants from Alexandria's then-thriving Greek community. "They had access to the art market and were able to buy top-quality pieces," Papazoglou said. Other pieces were donated by the Egyptian government in the late 19th century, while some were excavated in Greece. The relationship between Greece and Egypt, two of the ancient world's major powers, peaked in the Hellenistic era, between 304 and 30 B.C. But interaction began some 4,000 years ago, during the Minoan period in Greece. Mycenaean pottery has been found in large quantities in Egypt, while Egyptian artifacts were excavated in the royal tombs and citadel of Mycenae, in southern Greece. Another display due to reopen Wednesday at the National Archaeological Museum is the Stathatos collection, which focuses on ancient jewelry. In the future, museum officials plan to display important groups of glass, terra-cotta and ivory artifacts. [I'll bet there are some ancient game pieces in that collection that have yet to be identified as such!] Built in 1866-89, the museum hosts some 20,000 exhibits from prehistoric to late Roman times. On the Net:

The Eye Goddess Memorialized

Thank goddess for The New York Times, else I would never find out about such exhibits as this one:

From Around the Globe, a Mustering of the Tribes
Published: May 16, 2008

All art fairs are messy, but the New York International Tribal & Textile Arts Show is messier than most. It assembles a ridiculously broad range of tribal art from Africa, Oceania, Asia and North and South America. It is a forceful, entrancing ensemble nonetheless.

This year’s fair has relocated to smaller quarters in the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue, at 26th Street, far south of its former home in the Park Avenue Armory. There is a tighter floor plan downtown — where the fair actually began 14 years ago, under a different name — but it looks and feels pretty good, with 76 participating galleries from 10 countries.


The New York International Tribal & Textile Arts Show runs through Sunday at the 69th Regiment Armory, Lexington Avenue at 26th Street; (212) 532-1516,
Ach! Too bad the show finishes today. I highly recommend checking out the slide show at The New York Times article, which contains a short sampling of some of the art and artifacts at the show, absolutely stunning, wonderful pieces.

The "rug" image I included here is from the slide show. If that isn't a representation of an Eye Goddess, I'll eat my wool beret. Yes, she's from the 19th century - but she's from eastern Anatolia, an ancient hotbed of goddess worship (and I'll bet she's still worshipped there today, despite Islam).

Take and look and see what I see: She's got a sort of diamond-shaped head with two eyes (classic eye goddess iconography), a tree of life in the upper third of her body, and what look to be "chakra" points down the remaining two-thirds of her body. She's also outlined with - for lack of a better term on my part - an "energy mantra" that reminds me very much of the ancient serpent figures we see enclosing/ guarding the Sun God Re/Ra in ancient Egyptian iconography -- the serpents were representations of Mehen, the ancient serpent goddess/protector of Pharaoh as manifestation of the Sun God, as well as the serpent-had fringed cloak worn by archaic Athena. Altogether, She's an excellent example of ancient religious symbolism melding into certain iconic displays over the millenia.

I very much doubt this "rug" was ever meant to be walked upon as we trod upon our rugs today. For one thing, notice the much wider designed border at the "top" of the rug (above the Goddess' head) than at the bottom. I believe it was designed this way to facilitate hanging. The white "zig-zag" pattern across the top (an ancient pattern that is familiar on many goddess icons, I call it "M/V" for the wave-like pattern it forms, or "chevron") forms eight each "triangles" whose bottom edges are formed or closed by two miniature "eyes," also picked out in white threads. Extremely clever design on the part of the female weaver, because these "triangles" in and of themselves each represent a miniature "eye goddess" - diamond shaped head with two eyes!

Notice, too, the use of EIGHT - and the multiple of TWO TIMES EIGHT - or SIXTEEN. Hmmmm, where have we seen those numbers crop up before??? Hint: In chess.

The History of the Horse

Every chess player knows the role that the horse plays in the board game, even if he or she doesn't know the history behind the creation and evolution of the pieces. The "horse" - the knight piece in modern western chess - was a staple in the earliest Persian and Indian incarnations of the game (calvary), and has always had it's distinctive "L"-shaped move. (Image: Sassanid king Khosrau II (591-628 CE) mounted on his favorite charger, Shabdiz. Both horse and rider are arrayed in full battle armor. From Taq-e Bostan, Wikipedia) In today's game the rook is also known as a castle. But, delving back into the history of chess, the rook was originally a horse-drawn battle chariot (in Persia, it was called a ruhkh after the King's champion) and was the most powerful piece on the board, before the modernization of the game in the late 1400's (probably in Spain) gave rise to sweeping new moves by the Queen and the Bishop. The rook's wide-ranging vertical and horizontal movement has remained unchanged throughout history. Now, an exhibit at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry (I love visiting there and have done so ever since I was a kid) delves into the history of the horse and its relationship with man - a fascinating study. Reported on at The New York Times: Man's Best Friend - Hoofed Department. One thing I noted with interest: if the horse was hunted to extinction in the Americas by 10,000 BCE, that means that man here had not learned to tame the horse and use it for pulling loads and riding (if man here had used the horse in these ways, it would not make sense that he would hunt the animal to extinction, it would prove too costly to his existence). This provides indirect support, perhaps, for theories supporting the immigration of mankind into the Americas, then, before the taming of the horse in the Old World, which I believe earliest evidence now places some 15,000 to 16,000 years ago in the Eurasian steppes.

The Key-Holders: Guarding Priceless Cultural Treasures with Their Lives

From The Chicago Tribune: To guard Afghan treasure, silence golden By Bay Fang Washington Bureau 11:48 PM CDT, May 13, 2008 WASHINGTON—For years they kept the secret. A dozen men, the "key-holders" of a fabulous treasure, told no one about the gold they'd buried deep in a palace vault, hidden from the ravages of war, looting and a regime bent on destroying Afghanistan's cultural heritage. Now, some 20 years later, that collection thought lost forever is being exhibited for the world to see. Opening in the U.S. with a show in Washington on May 25, it spans the beginning of the Silk Road trade through a country most Americans associate with violence and destruction. "The story of the hidden treasures is like the story of Afghanistan," noted Said Tayeb Jawad, Afghanistan's ambassador to the U.S. "It is about precious culture and traditions covered by the ashes of war and neglect. You don't know what remains under the ashes, and when you see the glitter of gold, you almost can't believe it." The exhibition is filled with artifacts of almost unbelievable artistry—collapsible gold crowns that belonged to nomad princesses, a chubby Aphrodite figurine with wings and a forehead mark in the Indian tradition, a golden tree hung with pearls for fruit. Accompanying the collection as it travels to Washington, San Francisco, Houston and New York are some of the key-holders, the men who protected the collection from the violence of mujahedeen and Taliban. "In Afghanistan there's a different curatorial system—these men are bonded by law to their collections, and they bear personal responsibility for them," said Fredrik Hiebert, curator of the U.S. exhibition. Sitting beside him on a couch in the National Gallery of Art, looking somewhat ill at ease, Abdullah Hakim Zada, one of the key-holders, said that when he and his comrades packed away the treasures, they could not have foreseen that there would be a civil war followed by the reign of the Taliban. "At times during the years, we worried that we hadn't put the right materials in the boxes for them to be stored so long," he said. Throughout his career as an Asian archeologist, Hiebert said everyone in the field thought the famous Afghan collection lived on only in legend. Rumors abounded: that it had been taken to Moscow after the Soviet invasion, that it had been looted or stolen, that the gold had been melted down. Afghanistan's National Museum had been shelled and set on fire, and its storerooms looted. The so-called Bactrian Hoard, one of the greatest archeological finds of the 20th Century, is the heart of the trove, discovered accidentally in 1978 by Russian archeologist Viktor Sarianidi, Hiebert's mentor. Six 2,000-year-old nomadic tombs, from an area in northern Afghanistan that was once an important crossroads on the Silk Road, contained more than 20,000 beautifully crafted pieces. Before Sarianidi could study the items, the Soviets invaded, and he rushed the pieces to Kabul, where they went to the National Museum. That was the last he saw of them. Unbeknownst to him, 10 years later, as the communist government weakened and rockets rained on the city, a group of museum workers packed the most important artifacts into boxes, sealed them with their signatures and brought them to the presidential palace, where they were stored in a vault. "Only 13 to 20 people knew about the treasures, and as fighting between the different groups got worse we decided not to tell anyone about them," said Omara Khan Masoudi, now director of the National Museum in Kabul. It was not until 2003 that a new government under President Hamid Karzai entered the palace and discovered — in a massive Austrian-made vault, alongside the government's gold bullion — piles of sealed boxes. Hiebert heard about these and traveled to Kabul that October with his colleague Thomas Barfield, now chairman of the anthropology department at Boston University. They met with then-Minister of Finance Ashraf Ghani. "The question then was, did it really exist?" said Barfield. The archeologists remained skeptical – until, two hours before their plane was supposed to leave, Ghani took them to the palace basement. " 'Well, boys,' [Ghani] said, 'I can't show you the gold, but I can show you the silver.' And he opened his hand and showed us this two-headed ancient Greek coin, almost as big as his palm, that we had also thought were completely gone. That was when we thought, if this stuff exists, there's no reason to doubt the Bactrian gold was there too." Ghani told Hiebert that if he agreed to do a scientific inventory on the items, they would open the boxes thought to contain the gold. A group of ministers and scholars, including Sarianidi, gathered around to open the sealed boxes with a power saw, sparks flying. "We literally didn't know what we would find," Ghani said in a telephone interview. "When we saw that it was actually what we hoped, it was the feeling of regaining a part of your being, of connecting our generation to those who lived thousands of years before us and for millennia to come." Still, further squabbles erupted before the collection left the country for the exhibit. Some feared letting it out at all. Others thought Afghanistan should negotiate for more money. "I pushed the idea that no matter where it goes, it should be touring for the next 10 years," said Tim Moore, cultural attache at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. In the end, this is the story of the hidden treasure, and the fact that it survived. "It was our job," key-holder Masoudi said. "Even if we just saved one piece or 100 pieces, we cannot be too proud, because it is just our job. Archeological pieces belong not to one person, but to the world." **************************************************************************************** See The History Blog for further information on the Bactrian hoard's visit to the U.S. Info page on the exhibit from the National Gallery of Art.

A Study in Extreme Courage

A book review from The New York Times: IDA: A SWORD AMONG LIONS Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching. By Paula J. Giddings. Illustrated. 800 pp. Amistad/HarperCollins Publishers. $35. By RICHARD LINGEMAN Published: May 18, 2008 If slavery is America’s original sin, lynching is its capital crime. The historical memory dies hard: only last year, three nooses were hung from a schoolyard tree contested by white and black students in Jena, La. The wave of mob killings of blacks in the South — by hanging, burning, shooting and torture — started after the end of Reconstruction. These public murders were carried out with the real purpose of keeping blacks in their place, economically and socially. The practice was supported by leading citizens and became a popular public spectacle, a carnival of cruelty that drew excited crowds. According to “Rope and Faggot,” the 1928 study by the N.A.A.C.P. general secretary Walter White, between 1882 and 1927 there were 4,951 lynchings in the United States. About a third of them were aimed at whites, mainly in the West; 92 of the victims were women. Ida B. Wells-Barnett was one of the first African-Americans to raise an informed protest against this outrage. Paula Giddings’s devoted and scrupulous biography is not the first study of this pioneering woman, but it is a comprehensive work that attempts to portray her as part of the progressive movement that emerged among the black bourgeoisie in post-bellum America. Wells-Barnett dedicated her life to bringing lynchings to the attention of America and the world. Determined, outspoken and fearless, an incendiary pamphleteer, she was politically astute, anticipating the tactics of the civil rights movement. Giddings, a professor of African-American studies at Smith College and author of “Where and When I Enter,” a history of black women activists, brushes in the historical context of Wells-Barnett’s campaign ably, if in occasionally numbing detail. Excavating scattered letters, fragmented diaries and second-hand references to her writings for short-lived African-American weeklies, Giddings aims, she writes, to uncover the achievements of a bold woman whose militancy and “dominating style” sometimes cost her allies in her own day and proper credit in the eyes of history. Ida Bell Wells was born to slave parents in 1862 in Holly Springs, Miss. Her father, a skilled carpenter, and mother, a housekeeper, were struck down by yellow fever when Ida was 16. Giddings writes of this turning point: “Throughout the remainder of her life, she struggled to turn the negative emotions of abandonment into a righteous determination to reform herself and the society that had forsaken her race.” A precociously mature, bright and pretty teenager, standing barely five feet, Wells took charge of the upbringing of her younger siblings with help from relatives. She got some higher education, became a voracious reader with a love of Shakespeare and showed a talent for writing. She turned to teaching school to support her family, eventually moving in 1880 to Memphis. There she siphoned off some of her energy into journalism, turning out a column for a local African-American paper that regularly challenged the racist libels of the white press. Yet she remained very much the Victorian young lady who admired “noble true womanhood and perfect ladyship” and vowed to curb her “unfeminine” anger. Her craving for “perfect ladyship” toughened into a demand for respect. Black women at the time were often demeaned as dusky temptresses, which presumably explained their illicit sexual attraction to so many white men. Wells lashed out against the “wholesale contemptuous defamation of black women” and the “refusal to believe there are among us mothers, wives and maidens who have attained a true, noble and refining womanhood.” Her determination to be treated as a lady provoked her first clash with white supremacy, in 1883, when she violently resisted being ejected from the whites-only “ladies car.” She sued the railroad, but the Tennessee Supreme Court, in a preview of Plessy v. Ferguson, ruled she was no lady, merely a “mulatto passenger,” separable and unequal, whose intention wasn’t to ride comfortably but to “harrass” and litigate. Rest of review.

Spanish Drought Reveals Medieval Ruins

I wonder - is this drought due to climate change caused by global warming? Sort of sounds like it at the end of the article. A fascinating story:

From BBC News Online, May 13, 2008
Ships bring water to parched Barcelona

Climb down the stony banks of the massive Sau reservoir in the mountains above Barcelona and you get a real sense of why this famous city is so short of water that it's resorted to bringing in emergency supplies - by ship.

Nestling in a deep valley of stunning cliffs and forests, this vital source of water has sunk so low it's exposed the eerie sight of a medieval village that was flooded when the reservoir was opened in the 1960s.

The huddle of ancient stone buildings, including a church with its spire, has now re-emerged into the light and stands as a potent symbol of the severity of this water crisis.

In a year that so far ranks as Spain's driest since records began 60 years ago, the reservoir is currently holding as little as 18% of its capacity - at a time of year when winter rains would usually have provided an essential boost by now.

Rainfall figures show a consistent series of shortfalls in recent years - just as Barcelona's population has expanded to more than five million and the region's booming agribusinesses demand ever more irrigation.

For residents here, the arrival of water by ship is a profound shock - normally it's the drier areas further South that are notoriously parched.

Already they are living with restrictions on the use of hosepipes and the filling of swimming pools.

Now the Barcelona authorities are having to take the unprecedented step for any major European city of topping up supplies by the highly visible means of giant tankers arriving in relays, each bringing 28 million litres, up to a dozen ships coming over the next month.

The shipments won't be enough to restore the reservoirs - or make the ancient village vanish again. But they may buy time for a highly controversial pipeline to be completed by the end of the year. That should bring more reliable supplies from a neighbouring region but at a high political cost.

And it may also remind people of the forecasts from climate scientists of still drier conditions to come in the approaching decades.

Mayor's Cup International Open (India)

Round 9 action reported on at As I read it, Koneru Humpy is currently in 9th place with 7.0/9, with 2 more rounds ago. Shame shame on Krasenkow for an 11 move draw. His prize money should be cut in half for such a sorry display! Kransenkow stays ahead DNA Correspondent Sunday, May 18, 2008 03:36 IST MUMBAI: Overnight leader and top-seeded Polish GM Michael Kransenkow maintained his slender half a point lead over rest of the field as the players on the top boards played safe and agreed for draws to retain their championship chances at the end of round 9 of the LIC — Mumbai Mayor’s International Chess Tournament. On the top board GM Abhijit Kunte and Kransenkow agreed for a draw just after 11 moves while Al-Rakib drew with his colleague, Ziaur Rahman in 10 moves. The fight on the third board between GM-norm holder MS Thejkumar and 3rd seeded Macieje proved to be exciting as the Indian player, who is rated much below Macieja, invited complications in the opening by sacrificing a pawn on move 9. The players agreed for a draw after some interesting exchanges. Second seeded GM Koneru Humpy, renowned for her fighting qualities, tried to quell the challenge of IM Arun Prasad. But eventually, Humpy agreed to a draw after 65 moves. Meanwhile, Uzbek GM, Anton Fillipov quelled the challenge of IM Venkatesh and Bangladeshi GM Reefat Sattar and Georgian GM Merab Gagunashvili defeated their opponents, Deep Sengupta and B.S. Shivananda respectively. IM Anup Deshmukh of LIC, who defeated GM Elizabar Ubilava, notched up a notable victory. With two rounds remaining in this 11-round tourney, a group of 6 players, Al-Rakib, Thejkumar, Kunte, Ziaur Rahman and Fillipov are trailing Kransenkow by half-a-point while a big pack of 12-players lead by Humpy are occupying the 3rd spot with 7 points. Results: GM Kunte Abhijit (7.5) drew GM Kransenkow Michal (8); GM Abdulla Al-Rakib(7.5) drew GM Rahman Zia (7.5); Thejkumar MS (7.5) drew GM Macieja Bartlomiej (7); GM Koneru Humpy (7) drew IM Arun Prasad S (7); GM Filippov Anton (7.5) beat Venkatesh MR (6.5); IM Laxman R R (7) drew Das Arghyadip (7); GM Reefat Bin-Sattar (BAN, 7.5) beat IM Sengupta Deep (6.5); GM Gagunashvili Merab (GEO, 7) beat Shivananda B S(6); FM Priyadharshan K (6) lost to GM Iuldachev Saidali UZB (7); IM Singh D P (6.5) drew GM Safin Shukhrat (UZB, 6.5); FM Vidit Gujrathi (6.5) drew GM Ramesh R B (6.5); GM Bakre Tejas (7) beat Arun Karthik R (6); Ram S Krishnan (7) beat IM Adhiban B (6); WGM Ramaswamy Aarthie (6) lost to IM Satyapragyan S (7); Bartakke Amardeep (6) lost to IM Saptarshi Roy (7); FM Akshat Khamparia (6.5) drew IM Konguvel P (6.5); GM Ubilava Elizbar (ESP, 5.5) lost to IM Deshmukh Anup (7)

2008 U.S. Women's Chess Championship

Coverage through Round 5 has been updated at Chess Femme News. Krush and Zatonskih are perfect through 5 rounds with 5.0. Here are the match-ups for Round 6, later today: Round 6 Match-ups (Sunday May 18): Player Draw (pairing numbers) 10. Courtney Jamison v. 8.Tsagaan Battsetseg 9. Iryna Zenyuk v. 7. Irina Krush 1. Chouchanik Airapetian v. 6. Chimi Tuvshintugs 2. Anna Zatonskih v. 5. Esther Epstein 3. Katerine Rohonyan v. 4. Tatev Abrahamyan So far, there have been no upsets like last year, when Liz Vicary knocked off Camillie Baginskaite, a performance which earned her the $300 Goddesschess Brilliancy Prize. Who will win the Fighting Chess Award this year - $500, $350 from Goddesschess and $150 from the Susan Polgar Foundation?
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