Saturday, April 12, 2008

JAPFA Chess Festival

Irene Kharisma Sukandar in hot pursuit of 1st GM at JAPFA April 13, 2008 From Sports News After a narrow failure in Ukraine, Indonesia's leading women's chess player Irene Kharisma Sukandar will be given another chance to win her first grandmaster (GM) norm at the upcoming JAPFA Chess Festival in Jakarta next week. The chess festival will bring together 700 players from across the country to play in several categories with cash prizes totaling US$10,700, at the National Sports Council (KONI) headquarters in Central Jakarta from April 15 to 20. A competition in which foreigners contend will be a highlight of the festival. 16-year-old Irene will compete against five other female players from overseas. Another highlight will be Indonesia's new star Susanto Megaranto taking on Wesley So of the Philippines, another young chess prodigy. Irene will need to score at least 6.5 to win the round-robin tournament against Women's Grandmaster (WGM) Jana Krivec of Slovenia, WGM Regina Pokorna of Slovakia, WGM Li Roufan of Singapore, Women's FIDE Master (WFM) Thandar Aye Win of Myanmar and Perena Catherine of the Philippines. "It will be hard to get the points but I am optimistic about my chances," Irene said, adding that she had met all of the players before. Irene missed out on earning her first norm at the Cup of Rector international tournament in Ukraine last month when she only scored six points, well below the required point score. The Indonesian Chess Association (Percasi) has been relying on Irene in its efforts to produce the first women's grandmaster in the country. Percasi has taken its campaign seriously, with Irene undergoing intensive training under the supervision of Hungarian Tibor Karolyi. Karolyi said he held seven-hour training sessions every day to prepare her for future tournaments. "Right now, her lexical knowledge is still behind European chess. But I think she shows promise to place in the world's top 20 in two years to come," he said during a media conference on Friday. Percasi's executive director Eka Putra Wirya said the matches would be tight with world ratings at stake. Meanwhile, Susanto, in his match against the world's youngest grand master Wesley So, will seek a redemption for his three losses in a six-round match against 15-year-old Wesley, whose rating is 2,540. Susanto's rating is 2,561. "He (Wesley) is very good at opening, so I will concentrate on that part," Susanto said. In last year's festival, Susanto was tied 3-3 against GM Zhang Zhong of China while Irene was beaten 1-5 by WGM Li Ruofan, who is also Zhang's wife. (ind)

Mozah Al Mansouri, a Chess Champion

Mozah, a chess champion By Yasir Abbasher, Senior Reporter Published: April 12, 2008, 00:39 Abu Dhabi February 27, 2000. The father paced up and down the waiting hall at the maternity ward - praying silently for a boy. His wife was in labour and he waited impatiently for her to deliver. It was strange how he, like his ancestors in the Arabian Peninsula for centuries, opted for sons. He already had two sons and as many daughters, but his wish was not granted as the nurse came out smiling: he was just blessed with another daughter. " Yes, I wanted a son, but believe me, I was as pleased when the nurse told me it was a girl. It was a blessing," Sarhan Al Mansouri reminisced, sitting near a chessboard facing his eight-year-old daughter Mozah at the Al Ain Chess and Culture Club (ACCC). Last year had been an extraordinary one for Mozah, making her an instant celebrity in the capital's chess circles. Shy but at the same time conscious of her appearance like any other young girl, Mozah was reluctant to remove her baseball cap for the photographer as she believed that her hair was not properly combed. Strong determination The innocence of childhood soon was replaced by the determination and deep thought when she sat down at the chessboard to play some moves against her father. Mozah, who took to the game at home when she was only two-and-a-half years old, has already won local and regional acknowledgement despite the fact that she started receiving proper coaching only one year ago. "I am a chess player. In my university days, I used to play with my teachers at the Emirates University in Al Ain, as there were no chess clubs in the early 1980s. "I was hence keen also to teach my children the basics of the game. Mozah got jealous when she saw me playing with her other sisters and brothers and used to bring the chessboard to me. "In order to make her happy, I tried to teach her the first few steps. She imitated all my moves and used to spend a lot of time alone at the board," Sarhan recalled. "It was strange - while other children of her age were busy playing with dolls or TV games, she was trying to learn more about the game. "She started to play against her elder sisters and brothers and even started winning some matches against them. "Last year, she joined the ACCC after she was discovered by her present coach at a school tournament," Sarhan added. "I organised a competition for about 20 girls under eight years and when I saw them playing, I circled three names in red because they interested me. Mozah was the first one. "That tournament was held on February 26 last year, a day before her seventh birthday," Huda Al Najjar, the ACCC coach for women, told Gulf News. "Nobody can create a chess champion by coaching only. It is important that the player has the talent. Mozah has it in plenty and I predict a glorious future for her if she continues to take part in tournaments and gains more experience from higher rated players," Al Najjar said. Mozah then took part in the UAE School Chess championship last March 16, in which she won all but one of her matches in the under-eight category, collecting eight points out of nine. On June 26, 2007, Mozah won the UAE girls singles title for under-eight years in what was her first official tournament. Only a month later, she took part in the Arab Juniors chess championship in Syria and won 4.5 points as she was frightened by the fact that all the other competitors were older than her. Still a child "At only seven years old and with the duty to represent her country, Mozah was accompanied by her mother, aunt and uncle to Syria. She is still a child," her father said. Barely another month passed and Mozah found herself taking part in the Asian juniors chess championship in Al Ain in August 2007. She won five points in nine matches and was hailed as one of the best future prospects. Her best was yet to be as Mozah found herself and her father in Turkey to take part in the World Youth Championship in November 2007. She defeated the champion of Turkey in the first match and came under the spotlight of the world media as she could move to play on top of the table. The media hype and the camera flashes put her under tremendous pressure - so much so that she lost her second match against the champion of India. "She recovered and went on to beat champions from Poland, Australia, Canada and Hungary, although her best result was beating the champion of Russia in an exciting encounter. "I was so moved by her victory that I cried for the first time in years. I was so overjoyed that I gave her a big cash reward but believe me, I was even more pleased when she donated the money to the housekeeping staff of the hotel where we stayed." Sarhan said. While being only a seven-year-old, Mozah became one of the rated players by FIDE ( International Chess Federation). with an elo rating of 1,590. She was the youngest female player to be ranked in the World Youth Championship. "After beating the Russian player, I began thinking of her potential as a future world champion. Why not, as with more training, participation in strong tournaments and a bit of luck, that can be achieved," Sarhan hoped. The high point of Mozah's short career came when Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, received her with the officials of the ACCC, headed by Shaikh Sultan Bin Khalifa Bin Shakhboot Al Nahyan, President of the Asian Chess Federation. FACTFILE Promises to keep--Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, received her along with officials of the Al Ain Chess and Culture Club recently. - On June 26, 2007, Mozah won the UAE girls singles title in the under-8 age group. - In July the same year, she took part in the Arab juniors chess championship in Syria. --Last November, Mozah took part in the World Youth Championship in Turkey.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Chess News Update

Chess Femme News has been updated, April 11, 2008. Enjoy - I'm experimenting with a new format and CFN may be offline a day or two.
Prior post. From The Discovery Channel Bejeweled Anglo-Saxon Burial Suggests Cult Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News April 11, 2008 -- In seventh century England, a woman's jewelry-draped body was laid out on a specially constructed bed and buried in a grave that formed the center of an Anglo-Saxon cemetery, according to British archaeologists who recently excavated the site in Yorkshire. Her jewelry, which included a large shield-shaped pendant, the layout and location of the cemetery as well as excavated weaponry, such as knives and a fine langseax (a single-edged Anglo-Saxon sword), lead the scientists to believe she might have been a member of royalty who led a pagan cult at a time when Christianity was just starting to take root in the region. "I believe it is a cult because of the arrangement of graves, the short period of the cemetery's use and the bed burial and burial mound that is almost in the center of the very regular cemetery," archaeologist Stephen Sherlock, who directed the project, told Discovery News. "The whole focus of the cemetery is based upon the bed burial -- it is our view that this was erected first and the other graves were dug around it," added Sherlock, who worked with the Teesside Archaeological Society, which recently published a report on the research. A summary of the finds also appears in the latest issue of British Archaeology. The cemetery, named Street House, consists of 109 graves, most of which were dug in a square around the bed burial. "This square formation is unparalleled in Anglo-Saxon England," Sherlock said. Remains of a sunken-floored building, possibly used as a mortuary chapel where the body might have been laid to rest prior to her funeral, exist near the cemetery's entrance. A roundhouse and the burial mound also stand within the square. The bed burial itself consists of a wooden bed held together, and decorated with, iron. Artifacts within the grave included two gemstone pendants, gold and glass beads, a jet pin or hairpiece, and the shield pendant that was unique for the time, according to Sherlock and colleague Mark Simmons. Mounted by a central blue gemstone, the piece has scalloped-shaped carving with 11 separate lobes and a scalloped lower edge. Small red gems resting on gold foil, which would have reflected light when the piece was worn, surround the central stone. Although the site's acidic soil eroded the woman's remains, the age of the cemetery and its location provide clues to her identity. Sherlock believes "likely suspects" include Ethelburga, the wife of King Edwin of Northumbria, who converted to Christianity and was made a saint. Other possibilities are Eanflaed, the wife of King Oswiu, or Oswiu's daughter, Aelflaed. Next to the bed burial is a grave that also contained valuable jewelry, such as a unique gold pendant, a silver brooch and glass beads. The woman buried there might have been a relative or lady-in-waiting, while the researchers believe the other graves could have contained retainers or followers. Iron age coins, pierced to hang as if they were crucifixes, were found in one of the perimeter graves, suggesting that at least one member of the group was interested in Christianity. Archaeologist Mike Pitts, who is the editor of British Archaeology and was the former curator of the Alexander Keiller Museum at Avebury, told Discovery News, "This cemetery dates from that very interesting period in European history when a variety of religions and beliefs were circulating, out of which Christianity eventually rose to be completely dominant in religious thought, society and politics." In 657, at around the time the cemetery was established, an abbey was erected nearby, marking a "turning point in the history of Christianity in Britain," Pitts said. "So the Street House cemetery is particularly interesting," he added. "It seems to revolve, quite literally, around a woman… Her bed burial is stridently pagan, a sort of rare, female equivalent of ship burials, as she is laid out on a vehicle to deliver her to the afterworld." Sherlock and his team plan to further investigate the Yorkshire site later this year. They hope to find an Anglo-Saxon settlement linked to the cemetery.

A Roman Soldier's Gift Altar to Two Goddesses

Roman soldier's gift found
David Ottewell 10/ 4/2008

HE was many miles from home - a Roman soldier posted to Manchester, perhaps feeling cold and lonely, longing for loved ones left behind.

He was called Aelius Victor. And now after 2,000 years an altar he built to keep a promise to the goddesses he prayed to has been unearthed in the middle of the city.

The altar - described by experts as being in 'fantastic' condition - was discovered during an archaeological dig at a site on Greater Jackson Street earmarked for development.

Aelius Victor had dedicated it to two minor goddesses. A Latin inscription on the altar says: "To the mother goddesses Hananeftis and Ollototis, Aelius Victor willingly and deservedly fulfils a vow.

"The find marks the first time in nearly 400 years that archaeologists have been able to put a name to a Mancunian Roman solider. In 1612 another altar was found by the River Medlock, dedicated by Lucius Seniacianius Martius, a centurion - an officer - with the 20th Legion from York.

It is believed that Aelius Victor may have been a centurion commander posted from Germany - where worship of Hananeftis and Ollototis originates.

Norman Redhead, Greater Manchester's county archaeologist, said: "This is the first Roman stone inscription we have found for 150 years. It is a very, very valuable find and it is in fantastic condition, considering it has been in the ground for 2,000 years."

The altar was discovered during a pre-development dig at the site at the junction of Great Jackson Street and Chester Road.

Evidence suggests it may have been constructed in the latter part of the first century AD and later discarded, as it was found on top of an ancient rubbish pit.

The existence of a number of pits and ditches in the area suggest it was cleared for farming use.

The site is only hundreds of yards from a known fort and civilian settlement of Roman Manchester, dropping down to a ford across the River Medlock.

Mr Redhead said that, traditionally, that was the kind of area where places of worship were located. The altar will go on display at Manchester Museum.

General Julius Agricola (40-93AD), the commander of the invading legions, first founded a Roman settlement at the meeting point of the Rivers Irwell and Medlock. He called the place Mamuciam - meaning 'breast-shaped hill' because of the shape of the outcrop.
Hananeftis and Ollototis, were worshipped in Germany. Hananeftis sounds like a variation on the theme of Anna/Hannah/Inanna - a mother goddess/grandmother goddess. I am not familiar with Ollototis, but according to this information, she is another mother goddess.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Tale of Two Females in India

From ritu sejwal, 10 April 2008, Thursday Scene one: People worshipping goddess Lakshmi. Scene two: A woman brutally tortured by her in-laws for dowry! What a contrast! And you can witness both in India. One female is revered and the other is burnt! Why? RIYA (NAME changed) – a girl with a dream to be like her idol Barkha Dutt. A dream to have her individual identity, and to prove the allegations wrong that ‘women are made for kitchen’. Riya belongs to Chappra district of Bihar. She has an aim to do something new that has never been tried by anyone from her district. Riya, with big dreams but with fewer options, came to Delhi to crack an all India journalism entrance exam – a first step towards her dream. Being from a middle class joint family, she never got the due attention she deserved. She always received halfhearted support from her family. “I always wanted to perform well in my exams but due to my family restraints, I was not able to give proper attention to my studies, and did not score up to my expectations,” she said in a disappointing tone. In Delhi, she manages her studies, along with household work that includes cleaning, cooking, filling water, to name a few. “My aunty, who lives with me in Delhi, is unwell and never tries to understand my problems.” She always sacrificed her feelings and her desires for the good of the family. “I am aware that I will be competing for an all India level entrance, I need to give time to my studies and for that, one should be mentally satisfied and do roti pet mein honi chahiye (stomach should be full), only then one can study properly,” she said with a helpless tone. Full of frustration and a will to achieve her dreams, she is a true fighter! After an interaction with her, my problems looked so small! India is a country where goddesses are worshiped. Girls are associated with ’Durga’, ’Lakshmi’, and as powerful as Rani Lakshmi Bai. But, still women die within the ‘four walls’ of the house, serving the family without complaining. Number of schemes are introduced for empowerment of women, but how many of those benefit hundreds of girls like Riya, who are made to sacrifice at every point, from their childhood till their marriage and by in-laws after marriage?

Girls in Gangs - Victims and Victimizers

From The New York Times Abuse Trails Central American Girls Into Gangs By MARC LACEY Published: April 11, 2008 GUATEMALA CITY — To join one of Central America’s fierce street gangs, Benky, a tiny young woman with heavy mascara and tattoos running up and down her arms, had to have sex with a dozen or so of her homeboys one night. She recalls sobbing uncontrollably when the last young man climbed off her and everyone gathered around to congratulate her on becoming a full-fledged member of the Mara Salvatrucha. The gang leader ordered Benky, then 14, to rob buses, grab chains off people’s necks and even kill a girl from a rival gang. She always complied, although Benky said she was not completely sure if her rival had lived or died from the bullet she fired into her back. “I thought it would be like my family,” Benky said of her reason for joining the gang, asking that her full name not be used. “I thought I’d get the love I was missing. But they’d hit me. They ordered me around. They told me I had to rob someone or kill someone, and I did it.” When she tried to leave the gang five years later, her fellow gang members shot her six times. The scars still visible on her body vouch for her story, as do social workers who visited her during the nine months she spent in a hospital. Horrible as it is, Benky’s story is not unusual. Her lament is one heard from young women in gangs across the region, and in interviews many told similar tales of sexual initiation, beatings and being made to rob and kill to earn their place. New evidence suggests that girls like Benky, most 18 or younger, may make up a larger share of Central America’s street gangs’ ranks than previously suspected, many of them straddling the line between victims and victimizers. “There are a lot more women and girls than anyone imagined,” said Ewa Werner-Dahlin, the Swedish ambassador to Guatemala. “It’s a surprise to the experts and it shows that authorities have been reacting to gangs without really understanding them.” Rest of article.

Trouble with a Capital T in Iran

Gee - couldn't happen to a nicer guy, LOL! Cabinet Shakeup in Iran By NAZILA FATHI Published: April 11, 2008 TEHRAN — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has decided to dismiss his economics and interior ministers, a government spokesman said in Iranian newspaper accounts published Thursday. No reason for the shake-up was given by the spokesman, Gholamhossein Elham, but the dismissal of the economics minister in particular comes as Iran faces growing economic problems despite a revenue windfall from high oil prices. An increasing number of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s domestic critics are angry about the country’s pervasive inflation, which by the Central Bank’s calculation has reached an annual rate of 18 percent. Iran’s economy has also suffered because of trade sanctions and other restrictions imposed by the United Nations in response to the Iranian refusal to stop uranium enrichment. Only a week ago, Mr. Elham dismissed rumors about a cabinet shake-up as an April Fools’ Day joke. [Har!] It was not immediately clear from Mr. Elham’s published announcement who would replace the economics minister, Davoud Danesh Jaffari, or the interior minister, Mostafa Pourmohammadi. Nor was it clear when the dismissals were to take effect. Both ministers, however, are among a group of cabinet ministers who were said to be favored by the country’s supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, when Mr. Ahmadinejad took office in 2005. The interior minister, Mr. Pourmohammadi, is a midranking cleric known to be close to the ayatollah. With the latest dismissals, Mr. Ahmadinejad has removed 8 of the original 21 members of his cabinet, including the country’s veteran nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, who was also close to Ayatollah Khamenei. The daily newspaper Etemad Melli, in a harshly critical editorial on Mr. Ahmadinejad’s performance, called his cabinet shake-ups a “management catastrophe,” and said no ministers could make long-term plans because they feared dismissal at any time. The daily newspaper Kargozaran published a critical commentary by a reformist politician, Hossein Marashi, who wrote that the president should at least explain the dismissals. “People should know that Mr. Danesh Jaffari is being sacked because of the skyrocketing inflation or because of his opposition to the president’s economic policies,” he wrote. Mr. Ahmadinejad has defended his right to choose cabinet ministers on his personal blog, which he updates periodically. In an entry this week, without identifying any minister by name, he wrote that his cabinet choices reflected his policies for progress and development of the country. ******************************************************************************** Hey - Mr. Madjob - can you read the proverbial handwriting on the wall? Oh - what's that you say? You only speak and write Arabic. Well, let me spell it out for you then, darling. As the story goes, one night at a great party given by the King of Babylon a disembodied hand (cue spooky music) suddenly appeared out of the air and, in front of everyone's shocked eyes, wrote upon a wall in large letters (no doubt dripping in blood, but I digress) the following words: MENE MENE TEKEL PARSIN None of the King's wisemen could interpret the handwriting on the wall; it was left to his Queen to save the day - by recommending that the King ask the captive Hebrew Daniel to interpret the handwriting. Daniel was brought before the King, and he read the handwriting on the wall: "This is the interpretation of the word MENE: God has numbered [the days of] your kingdom and has finished it. "TEKEL, you have been weighed in the balances and have been found deficient. "PERES, your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and the Persians." Later that very night, according to the biblical account, Darius the Mede conquered the city of Babylon and the Chaldean king was killed. See Daniel Chapter 5, Bible. So, Mr. Madjob, you can fire all the ministers you have - it won't do you any good. I believe that great finger of God has once again written on the wall MENE MENE TEKEL PARSIN. PARSIN was also a play on words for "Persian." The great Persian people will rise up again and blot you and the Arab interlopers and your false religion from the face of Iran like the smut you are. It's just a matter of time, darling. I'll be sitting back in my rocking chair, enjoying every minute...

The Haunting Spectre

This is a frightening article. The implications are staggering. Price of rice continues record surge Philippines to crack down on hoarding Glenys Sim and Danielle Rossingh, Bloomberg News Published: Wednesday, April 09, 2008 Rice climbed to a record price for a fourth day as the Philippines, the biggest importer, announced plans to buy one million tons and some of the world's largest exporters cut sales to ensure they could feed their own people. Rice, the staple food for half the world, rose as much as 2.9 per cent to $21.60 per 100 pounds in Chicago, double the price from a year ago. Philippine President Gloria Arroyo announced two rice tenders yesterday and pledged to crack down on hoarding. Anyone found guilty of "stealing rice from the people" will be jailed, she said. "We're in for a tough time," Roland Jansen, chief executive officer of Pfaffikon, Switzerland-based Mother Earth Investments AG, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television from Zurich. Unless prices decline, "you will have huge problems of daily nutrition for half the planet." Mother Earth holds about four per cent of its $100 million funds in the grain. China, Egypt, Vietnam and India, accounting for more than one-third of global rice exports, curbed sales this year to protect domestic stockpiles. The World Bank in Washington says 33 nations from Mexico to Yemen may face "social unrest" after food and energy costs increased for six consecutive years. The Philippines, which imports about 15 per cent of its rice, is tightening controls over domestic sales and buying more overseas. The government's rice tenders are in April and May. "I am leading the charge" against any officials and businessmen who divert supplies or distort the price of the staple food, Ms. Arroyo said in a televised speech yesterday. Rice seeding in the United States is behind last year's pace because of flooding in growing regions, the Department of Agriculture says. Farmers in six states have planted 11 per cent of their crop versus 21 per cent a year earlier. "The need to avert social tensions from high food prices" has made "food sufficiency even more urgent," Abah Ofon, a soft-commodities analyst with Standard Chartered Plc, said in a report. Food importers may not be able to meet their needs because of the export limits, said Mr. Ofon, who is based in Dubai. Stockpiles are at their lowest since the 1980s and demand for the grain has gained 40 per cent in the past two decades, he said. © The Ottawa Citizen 2008

Chess News Update

Chess Femme News has been updated, April 10, 2008! Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Nazi Origins of Olympic Torch

Whoa! First The Wall Street Journal publishes a story today about the Chinese storm troopers guarding the Olympic torch (Lord Coe called them "thugs") - and now there's this from The Lede at The New York Times: April 9, 2008, 2:21 pm The Beleaguered Torch, Now With Nazi Origins By Mike Nizza For the Olympic torch relay, every day just seems to bring bad news. What began last Tuesday in Beijing as a “Journey of Harmony” had by Sunday become a “public relations nightmare” in London, and worse on Monday in Paris, when the torch was extinguished several times. On Tuesday, international Olympics officials mulled the prospect of canceling the rest of the relay. Jacques Rogge, chief of the International Olympic Committee, later dismissed the possibility, clearing one negative piece of torch news from the register. But others soon filled the void, as the torch landed in its next city of protesters, San Francisco. In the past 24 hours, two major news agencies decided to add a historic touch toward the bottom of their torch-relay articles, the kind that is easy to ignore in happier Olympic times. Here’s The Associated Press version: The Olympic flame wasn’t part of the ancient games, and the torch relay didn’t become a fixture in the modern Olympics until the 1936 Berlin Games, when it was part of the Nazi pageantry that promoted Hitler’s beliefs of Aryan supremacy in the world of sports. And from Reuters: The Olympics first held a torch relay in 1936, the year dictator Adolf Hitler made the Berlin games a showcase of Nazi propaganda. That torch run is captured in one of the most famous — and infamous — Olympic movies ever made, Leni Riefenstahl’s “Olympia.” . . . Cauldrons and parabolic mirrors aside, another question remains: Should the torch’s Nazi-linked past affect its future? Absolutely, says Mary Beard, a columnist for The Times of London (via Clive Davis): I don’t quite understand how we have forgotten that the “Olympic Torch” ceremony was invented by Hitler and his chums. If ever there was an “invented tradition” well worth stamping out, it is this ridiculous, Fascist-inspired waste of money. She was writing on Friday, days before the relay plunged into chaos for completely different reasons. ****************************************************************************************** The Chinese government is fit to be tied about all of this adverse publicity! And the Chinese public - spoon fed censored news by the Communists that isn't giving all sides of the story - is indignant at the fact that in the west, we have the right to free assembly and can - and do - protest anything we want, including the Chinese government's treatment of the native Tibetians. This is my advice to the Chinese government, for what it's worth. Darlings, if you want to play in the big leagues, you have to act big league. If you can dish it out, you have to be able to take it back with equinamity. If you cannot do this - then you're not ready for the big leagues.

Follow-up: Viking Coin Hoard

Prior post. From National Geographic News April 8, 2008 Huge Viking Hoard Discovered in Sweden James Owen Hundreds of ancient coins unearthed last week close to Sweden's main international airport suggests the Vikings were bringing home foreign currency earlier than previously thought, archaeologists say. Buried some 1,150 years ago, the treasure trove is made up mainly of Arabic coins and represents the largest early Viking hoard ever discovered in Sweden. Archaeologists from the Swedish National Heritage Board unexpectedly found the stash of 472 silver coins while excavating a Bronze Age tomb near Stockholm's Arlanda airport. Kenneth Jonsson, a professor of coin studies at the University of Stockholm, has independently dated the hoard to about A.D. 850. "That date is very early, because coin imports [by the Vikings] only start in about [A.D.] 800," Jonsson said. The discovery contains more coins than Sweden's only other known large Viking hoard from the period, which was discovered in 1827, Jonsson added. "That coins were so important to the Vikings at such an early date is very interesting" and suggests they may have engaged in intensive overseas trade earlier than previously believed, he said. Viking Treasure The newfound hoard consists only of eastern coins, which is unsurprising, since early Viking hoards are typically dominated by coins from the Middle East. Most of the coins were minted in Arab locations such as Baghdad in modern-day Iraq and Damascus in Syria. The youngest coin dates to the A.D. 840s. But the oldest coins came from Persia, said dig team member Karin Beckman-Thoor. These Persian coins must have been in circulation for centuries before being buried and "were very high quality," she said. Rest of article.

An Archaeological Find in Michigan

Artifact may be ancient ax blade
Published: April 09, 2008 09:50 am

ESCANABA (AP) -- Ryan Bernard of Escanaba has found a lot of interesting things with his metal detector: an 1837 Quebec bank token, an 1861 penny, a 1916 buffalo nickel.

When he found a hunk of metal buried 2 feet beneath his Lakeshore Drive backyard last summer, he almost threw it in the trash. Upon further examination, it may be an artifact from a prehistoric culture.

"I was about to throw it in the garbage, and I held it up and I saw the honed edge on it," he said.

Ray Reser, director of the Central Wisconsin Archaeology Center at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, described the object as a copper "celt," a type of ax blade with no perforations or grooves. He said the celt was probably a functioning tool. The piece probably dates from 3,000 to 5,000 years ago.

"We were just out there looking for weed pennies and what not," Bernard said. "To end up digging something like that up is really shocking."

When his detector went off, he wasn't expecting much. "A lot of times when you get a signal that good and it's buried that deep, it's just a big chunk of iron," he said.

He said he dug down, found nothing, got frustrated and recovered the hole. When his father gave him some ribbing for not finding anything, he tried again, a little deeper, and there it was.

Similar findings have been made throughout the Upper Midwest, most notably in Oconto, Wis., where a site unearthed in 1952 now known as Copper Culture State Park yielded several burial plots and artifacts.

Thomas Pleger, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Baraboo/Sauk County, wrote his doctoral dissertation on the Old Copper Complex. He described these prehistoric societies as seasonally-mobile people whose temporary homes were based on abundance of particular resources.

Hunting, fishing and trade were the basis of their lives. The Old Copper Complex is one of the oldest metal-working societies in the world. Many sites have been found near major waterways. Pleger said though the shoreline is not likely where it was then, what made land valuable for settlement then still holds true today.

"Where do you see campgrounds today," he said. "Public campgrounds tend to be on high, well-drained land in close proximity to water."

The copper likely started out in the Keweenaw Peninsula. Bernard believes it could have been "float" copper, that is, deposited by retreating glaciers. Pleger said it was more likely acquired via trade.

Keweenaw copper from this era is easily identifiable because of its exceptional 99 percent purity, making it suitable for forming right out of the ground. Reser said Keweenaw copper artifacts have been found in Mexico, the Rockies and the East Coast.

"This stuff was highly coveted. It was intensively traded up and down the Mississippi River valley," he said.

For the first thousands of years, most copper artifacts from this culture were used as tools. By 1000 B.C., Pleger said more pristine items, such as jewelry, can be found.

Bernard wants to find out more about the artifact and the people who may have left it in what would become his backyard. He said the search for its origins has been frustrating, especially since he is not an archaeologist.

"I've learned definitely, first of all, you have to present yourself professionally, even if you're not a professional, so to speak," he said.

Still, he has observed consensus on what he's found.

"All of the people that have actually seen it, when they see it, they recognize what it is," he said.

Pleger said because those people were fairly mobile, and due to the perishable nature of their materials, archaeologists have yet to excavate well-preserved habitation sites connected to the Old Copper Complex, but the nature of their finds does retain some clues.

"One of the other nice things about copper artifacts is that it tends to preserve organic material that it comes into contact with," he said. The oxide created in the copper over time retards bacterial growth.

Most field work on these sites in this region was done in the 1950s and '60s, but Pleger said scholars are starting to re-examine the conclusions made then.

Metal detecting technology has resulted in many similar finds, but not all people have taken as much care with what they found. "Collectors find these things and will often clean them up, destroying the evidence we can use to date them," Pleger said.

Pleger said there are many unknown elements of the Old Copper Complex, but archaeologists, both professional and impromptu, must be smart with what they find.

"It's important to understand that the archaeological resources of Michigan, Wisconsin, Canada are non-renewable," he said.

Bernard said he's awestruck to be able to hold something that might have been from thousands of years ago. "That's an awesome piece of Escanaba history, I think," he said.

An Important Agreement

Plan brokered by UCLA, USC archaeologists would remove roadblock to Mideast peace April 8, 2008 Negotiations lead to first agreement on region's archaeological riches Israelis and Palestinians may not be able to agree right now on their present or future, but, if a pair of Los Angeles archaeologists have their way, they soon will see eye to eye on their past. Working tirelessly for the past five years, Ran Boytner, a University of California, Los Angeles archaeologist and Lynn Swartz Dodd, an archaeologist at the University of Southern California, have guided a team of prominent Israeli and Palestinian archaeologists to arrive at the first-ever agreement on the disposition of the region's archaeological treasures following the establishment of a future Palestinian state. "Israelis and Palestinians never previously had sat down to achieve a structured, balanced agreement to govern the region's archaeological heritage," said Dodd, a lecturer in religion and curator of USC's Archaeological Research Collection. "Our group got together with the vision of a future when people wouldn't be at each other's throats and archaeology would need to be protected, irrespective of which side of the border it falls on." With dozens of high-ranking Israeli, Palestinian, U.S. and international statesmen and Palestinian archaeologists already aware of the Israeli-Palestinian Archaeology Working Group Agreement, the 39-point document now faces its toughest audience: Israeli archaeologists whose country would cede control over tens of thousands of artifacts and hundreds of sites. "We're talking about putting your precious archaeological heritage — things you believe your ancestors created — in the hands of what you now consider to be your enemy," Dodd said. "We're asking enemies to become partners."

Chess News Update

Chess Femme News has been updated, April 9, 2008!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

2008 U.S. Women's Chess Championship

Chess Life Online reports the following "confirmed" line-up for the 2008 Women's Championship: 1. IM Irina KRUSH 2515 Current Champion 2. IM Anna ZATONSKIH 2490 Rating 3. WGM Rusudan GOLETIANI 2384 Rating 4. WGM Katerine ROHONYAN 2318 Rating 5. WIM Batchimeg TUVSHINTUGS 2289 Rating 6. WFM Tatev ABRAHAMYAN 2280 Rating 7. WIM Tsagaan BATTSETSEG 2251 Rating 8. WFM Iryna ZENYUK 2205 Qualifier 9. WFM Chouchanik AIRAPETIAN 2143 Wild Card 10. Courtney JAMISON 2064 Wild Card The alternate on the rating list for the women is Alisa Melekhina, who will receive an invitation in case any of the above players must withdraw from the event. Just for the record, here are the top ranked U.S. chess femmes from the April, 2008 USCF ratings list: 1. Zatonskih, Anna (12873912) NY USA 2432 (Rating) 2. Rohonyan, Katerine (12973020) MD USA 2322 (Rating) 3. Krush, Irina (12543137) NY USA 2285 (Current Champion) 4. Abrahamyan, Tatev (12851435) CA USA 2242 (Rating) 5. Baginskaite, Camilla (12716466) CA USA 2233 (Rating) 6. Battsetseg, Tsagaan (12719650) MD USA 2147 (Rating) 7. Tuvshintugs, Batchimeg (12925481) CA USA 2103 (Rating) 8. Bianchi, Andrea (13887154) CA USA 2032 9. Sagalchik, Olga (12565069) NY USA 2028 10. Melekhina, Alisa (12726115) PA USA 1980 11. Root, Alexey W (10374651) TX USA 1969 12. Zitserman, Tatyana N (12654535) MN USA 1957 13. Zenyuk, Iryna (12846035) NY USA 1949 (Qualifier) 14. Jamison, Courtney (12746751) TX USA 1948 (Wild card) 15. Marshall, Abby (12784803) VA USA 1946 16. Vicary, Elizabeth (12477355) NY USA 1941 17. Vayserberg, Tatiana (12864285) WI USA 1937 18. Thompson, Tracey C (12750249) NJ USA 1922 19. Airapetian, Chouchanik (12629918) WA USA 1913 (Wild card) 20. Mateer, Amanda Rae (12752032) AZ USA 1906 I thought according to the official rules the participants were supposed to be chosen from the USCF April, 2008 Ratings List (with the exception of Irina Krush, who is the current U.S. Women's Champion, one qualifier, and two wild cards). Where did those different ELOs come from listed for the participants? Those numbers do not match with the USCF ratings. I do not believe those numbers are on the FIDE ratings list either. Irina Krush's FIDE rating is 2479, not 2515. Where did 2515 come from? WGM Goletiani does not even appear on the April, 2008 USCF ratings list. Why does she appear on the list of championship participants with a rating of 2384? By the way, according to FIDE, her current rating is 2383. Was the selection criteria changed? If that is the case, why was there no announcement that the qualifications for selecting particpants had been changed? Can someone please explain this to me?

Chess News Update

Chess Femme News has been updated, April 8, 2008! Enjoy!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Hannah, Bride of the Lord of Death

Notice the mention of the Goddess Inaras and her particular use of the temple tower - rather "chessly" wouldn't you say? Consider also the geometry of the five-pointed star (pentacle) and how it is played out on the chess board. From Barbara Walker's "A Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets." Related to the entry about Jupiter, below. Hannah Biblical version of the Anatolian Grandmother-goddess Hannahanna, or Anna. Hittites called her Hwanhwanar, the Nether Upsurge, married to a sacred king at the Puruli festival, shortly before he was sent down into her Abyss to become the new Lord of Death.(1) Hannah's biblical son bore the same name as the Lord of Death, Sama-El, Sammael or Samuel, from Samana, a Hindu title of the death-god Yama as Conductor of Souls.(2) In Old Iranian, a clan matriarch was the hana, "grandmother." Similarly, the Mother of the virgin mother was worshipped through the Middle East under such names as Hannah, Anna, Nana, In-anna, or "Queen Nana, the Creatress."(3) In Christian tradition she was Anna, the Grandmother of God.(4) Mother of the Virgin Mary was Anna or Hannah, just as Anatolian Hannahanna was the mother of the virgin Mari. Sometimes her virgin aspect was named Inaras, who was also a death-goddess. She annually imprisoned the sacred king in a temple tower, mated with him, then killed him.(5) See Anne, Saint.) Notes: (1) Gaster, 7. (2) Larousse, 346. (3) Stone, 219. (4) Graves, W.G., 410. (5) Hooke, M.E.M., 98-99. Anna-Nin Sumerian prototype of the many forms of the Great Goddess named Anna, Ana, or Hannah throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean lands. The name meant Lady of Heaven. See Anne, Saint. Anne, Saint Mythical mother of the virgin Mary, from the Middle-Eastern Goddess Anna, or Hannah, or Di-Ana, mother of Mari. From Sumeria to pre-Roman Latium she was known as Anna, the Grandmother-Goddess; Anatha in Syria, Anat in Canaan, Ana or Anah in several Old Testament transformations. Long before the Bible was written, the Goddess Anna wa already known as the Grandmother of God. Hence, the choice of her name for the mother of God's Mother is hardly surprising.(1) Syriac versions of the Book of James said God's Grandmother was not Anna but Dinah, actually the same name, a Semitic Di-Ana or "Goddess Ana." Dinah was the ancestress of Dinaite tribes who settled in Sumeria (Ezra 4:9). As Anatha, she was the consort of Yahweh at Elephantine.(2) As Anna Perenna she was Grandmother Time to the Romans, mother of the Aeons. As Ana or Anu she ruled Celtic tribes. As Nanna, she was an incarnation of Freya in the mother-bride of Balder. In Phrygia too, she was Nana, mother of the Savior. She was really as old as the oldest civilization. A Sumerian prayer declared: "Hear O ye regions, the praise of Queen Nana; magnify the Creatress, exalt the dignified, exalt the Glorious One, draw nigh unto the Mighty Lady."(3) Romans worshipped the Goddess as Anna Perenna, "Eternal Anna," mother of the Aeons. She stood at the change of years, a two-headed Goddess of Time with two facesnamed Prorsa and Postverta, looking forward and backward from her heavenly gate among the stars, where one celestial cycle merged into the next. So she stood for both Alpha and Omega, beginning and end. Under the name of Carmenta she invented all the letters in between.(4) She was also Jana, or Juno, mother of the January New Year. [My birth name Janet is a derivative.] Classical myths masculinized her as the two-faced Janus, god of gateways. Christians may have confused icons labeled IANA with the mother of the Virgin; for Jana-Juno was the virgin mother of the savior-god Mars. [The Chief, Ricardo Calvo, didn't call me "Patton" for nothing... .] Ovid said Anna was the same as the Moon-goddess Minerva. Sappho named her "the Queen."(5) To the Celts, she was the same as their Ana, first of the female trinity of the Morrigan, associated with the Cauldron of Regeneration. Her moon-teple used to stand at Cnoc Aine in Limerick, now a shrine of "St. Anne."(6) To Irish pagans, Ana means "mother." It also came to mean wealth, plenty, treasure.(7) As Grandmother-goddess, Ana could be a destroying Crone. Some myths called her Morg-ana, "Invincible Queen Death." Medieval Christians called her Anna of the Angles, or Black Annis, or Angurboda, the Hag of the Iron Wood, mother of Hel.(8) The magic pentacle was the sign of Morg-ana.(9) A similar five-pointed star stood for the underworld in Egyptian hieroglyphics(1) This same star was the official sigil of St. Anne.(11) In her Christianized form, Anne had three husbands, gave birth to many saints, and became the patron of midwives and miners. [The miners are a connection to her mate Dis-Pater/Dyaus Pitar/Jupiter - see posts below.] Neumann says "All this bears witness to her original fertility aspect as Earth Mother."(12) St. Anne was of crucial importance in the dogma of the virgin Mary's immaculate conception, adopted as an article of faith in 1854, after seven centuries of controversy.(13) [No offense against true believing Catholics, but this really cracks me up - finally declaring the virgin birth in 1854, ha ha ha! Perhaps in honor of her Majesty Queen Victoria? Ha ha ha!] In the official Catholic view, original sin was transmitted by sexual acts. Therefore, so Mary could be born without taint of original sin [har!], St. Anne herself had to be innocent of sexuality. Accordingly, Johannes Trithemius proclaimed that Anne "was chosen by God for her appointed services before the foundation of the world. She conceived 'without the action of man' and was as pure as her daughter."(14) At first the church accepted this doctrine, because it seemed to solve the problem of Mary's sinlessness. Later it was rejected. Two virgin births made one too many. In the end, St. Anne was said to have conceived Mary in the normal way but the child was freed in the womb of original sin. Though these intimate matters are supposed to be known in minute detail, churchmen incongruously admit that "nothing whatever is known about the parents of the Virgin Mary."(15) The leaders of the Roman Catholic Church are the same people who point their fingers at the so-called Pagans and say their myths are full of baloney! Ha! Notes: (1) Graves, W.G., 411. (2) Hays, 89. (3) Stone, 219. (4) Larousse, 210. (5) Graves, W.G., 408. (6) Loomis, 387. (7) Joyce, I., 261. (8) Sturluson, 56. (9) Loomis, 342. (10) Budge, E.L., 75. (11) Brewster, 343. (12) Neumann, A.C.U., 57. (13) Young, 203. (14) Neumann, A.C.U., 59. (15) Attwater, 186.

Dis Pater/Dyaus Pitar/Jupiter

From Barbara Walker's "A Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets:" Dis Pater "Father Dis," a Roman name of the Lord of Death inherited from Etruscan times. On occasion he wore the wolf head of the Etruscan god of the dead. Like underground Pluto he was called "the rich one," because he knew everything about mines, deposits of gem stones, and buried treasurer.(1) Gallic Celts worshipped Dis above every other male deity, claiming he was the "father" of their race - in the old way of the dying god who became "father" by shedding his blood (see Kingship). In Britain, Dis was regarded as a universal deity very like Jehovah, whoe later adherents, however, transformed Dis into an alternative name for the devil.(2) Notes: (1) Larousse, 211. (2) Graves,W.G., 45. See also Walker's entry on Jupiter: Roman Heavenly Father, from Sanskrit Dyaus pitar [Sanskrit is probably closest, in terms of minimal corruption from outside influences, to the original language spoken by the Indo-Europeans], the basic Father Heaven mated to Mother Earth. Zeus Pater the Greek Heavenly Father, was another incarnation of the same Aryan deity, whose worship spread westward with migrations and invasions of Indo-European patriarchal tribes. Like his counterparts in other nations, Jupiter was primarily a rain god; his function was to fertilize the soil with seminal moisture. Thus he was connected also with thunder and lightning - his voice and his weapon. He was commonly known as Jupiter Pluvius, "the Heavenly-Father-Who-Rains." Jupiter was added to the originally female Capitoline Triad by outsing the Virgin form of the Goddess, Jeventas, leaving Juno and Minerva as Jupiter's two female partners.(1) Juno was said to be his wife, though like Hera she was much older than her spouse. Notes: (1) Rose, 116.

Chess News Update

Chess Femme News has been updated, April 7, 2008!

The Art in Chess

When we visited New York in 2005, delion and I spent two full days exploring the Metropolitan Museum of Art - and didn't see the half of it! We will go back some day.

Here's a beautiful set from the Met.
Chess set, late 18th century
Walrus ivory
Pfeiffer Fund, 1960 (60.146a-pp)
Three of the pieces are modern replacements

Chess was avidly played in Russia by czars, princes, and merchants. The design of this chess set reflects the Indian influence in the introduction of the game to Russia, probably during the eighth or ninth century. Initially, the moves were a bit different from the European version of the game.

Although the two sides of this set—Russian Christians versus Muslims—are not differentiated by color, it is easy to distinguish them and the type was a standard Russian design. As in Indian sets, there are ships for rooks and elephants for bishops. The king is seated on a throne. Also as in Indian sets, next to the king is his vizier, here represented as a Roman officer. The pawns are Roman and Muslim soldiers. The elephants of the Christian side have mahouts but there are none on the Muslim side. The pierced, ajouré bases of these pieces are attached with ivory pins. They are carved with Neoclassical acanthus-leaf tips, which helps to date this set.

The town of Kholmogory, roughly fifty miles up the river from Archangel, was famous for its carvers, who used bone and walrus tusk for their productions. The sea mammal was landed in Archangel and every part of the walrus—the meat, skin, feet, and ivory tusks—was valued, for food and other products.

Animal Sacrifice at Indian Temple

India - such an intriguing, confusing, frustrating mix of old world and new world. ORISSA 800 goats sacrificed at Rakhyakali temple Monday April 7 2008 12:35 IST BHADRAK: Despite efforts of district administration to stop animal sacrifice, as many as 800 goats were slaughtered at Rakhyakali temple in Rameshwar village here late last night to appease the Goddess. Till Sunday afternoon, an additional 64 goats were sacrificed by the devotees. "And all this was done in the presence of police," according to a local, Santosh Pati. Animal sacrifice in this temple is a decade-old ritual practised by devotees despite stringent opposition by animal lovers and the district administration. "Devotees who sacrifice goats, register their names with the temple management committee a month prior to the event and deposit mahasul (money for the sacrifice)," informed Parikshit Barik, a member of the committee. Barik added that the devotees take the meat of the animal home and consume it as ‘prasad’. Earlier, the practice was observed once in five years and then it became an annual affair. Dhamnagar police station OIC Sriballav Das said, "Villagers did not allow us to enter the sacrifice spot. So far, I have reports of 200 goats being sacrificed."

Chessville Column

JanXena's Echecs des Femmes for April, 2008 is up and running at Chessville. Everyone visit and click on the link multiple times so the guys think I'm real popular :)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

2008 U.S. Chess Championship

Article by McClain at The New York Times: Chess Many Top Players to Sit Out Championship Over Money By DYLAN LOEB McCLAIN Published: April 6, 2008 A qualifying tournament for the United States Championship was held last weekend in Tulsa, Okla. Seven players earned spots, and five qualified based on their national rankings after five of the country’s best players declined invitations. Top players are passing up this year’s event, to be held in May in Tulsa, because they are unhappy about its prize fund and location. Hikaru Nakamura, Larry Christiansen and Joel Benjamin, all past champions, are not playing. Ildar Ibragimov, ranked No. 10 in the country, has declined. Gata Kamsky, the No. 1 player and a past champion, did not respond to his invitation. The prizes range from $8,000 for first place to $1,000 for the last five in the 24-player event. Nakamura said he did not have fond memories of last year’s tournament, held in Stillwater, Okla., where he finished in a tie for 10th. The “prestige has gone down,” he said, blaming the United States Chess Federation. Christiansen said: “A lot of professional players will sit it out for 8,000 bucks. It is lot of work. The equivalent of one of these top-level games is like taking the bar exam.” Despite the holdouts, the competition will be formidable. Alexander Shabalov, last year’s champion, will be one of 12 grandmasters in the field, as will Alexander Onischuk, the 2006 winner. Among the players who qualified was John Fedorowicz, a grandmaster from New York, who secured his berth with a last-round win against Salvijus Bercys, an international master. ... ****************************************************************************************** I have a few comments. It has been many years since the top rated chess players in most countries have played in their national championships. Michael Adams hasn't played in a British Chess Championship for the past six years or more, has he? Did Kasparov play in the Russian Chess Championship in his later years? Has Kramnik? Does Topolov compete in the Bulgarian Chess Championship? Does Judit Polgar play in the Hungarian Chess Championship? Does Anand compete in the Indian Chess Championship? So Kamsky didn't respond - so what? Kamsky has other fish to fry these days - like going for a world championship. As for Joel Benjamin and Larry Christiansen, most chessplayers in the USA have no idea who the heck they are. Perhaps these grandmasters have already committed to playing in other tournaments elsewhere, and so refused their invitations to play in the U.S. Championship - or perhaps not. I sure don't see their names showing up much these days in "final standings" lists in tournament from around the world. I mean no offense to these players who were greats in the USA back in the day, but there it is, they were great "back then," not now. So, who really cares if they play in the U.S. Championship now? Some "been there, done that" former champions complaining about the prize fund. They don't like it - but what have they done to try and improve the situation? Have they attempted to use their cachet as former U.S. Chess Champions to promote chess in the United States? Have they approached potential corporate sponsors and asked for funding? Have they joined together with other chess professionals and promoters to assemble a comprehensive long-term marketing strategy for professional chess in the USA? Nakamura's comments sound like sound REAL sour grapes to me. He didn't do well last year in Stillwater - he played like crap - and now he's copping out. Well, that is his perogative. He passed up an invitation to play in Corus "B" this year - where he might have made a decent reputation if he had played well AND earned a place in the 2009 Corus "A" Event, where he could have competed against some of the TOP players from around the world - and instead he went for the money at Gibraltar. Nothing wrong with going for the money - but tell the truth. Don't say it's because the US Championships have lost prestige. It's because Nakamura didn't cut it with the competition who did "bother to show up" at last year's Championship. It's not just about money. It's about reputation, too. Maybe being the U.S. Chess Champion for $8,000 means nothing to Benjamin, Christiansen and Nakamura, but it still means something to the average Joe on the street to be introduced to someone who is the current U.S. Chess Champion, because even if the average Joe don't know a thing about chess, the average Joe does know it takes brains to play chess and lots of skill and hard work to get to the top, just like it takes those same qualities to get to the top of any other profession. And the average Joe respects that. And so, if Benjamin, Christiansen and Nakamura can spit on $8,000, all the more power to you, darlings. Just be sure you don't spit into the wind.

"Madonna of the Goldfinch" Restoration Completed

Ten years of delicate, painstaking work has paid off, finally, in the restoration of Raphael's glorious painting to its true colors. Gorgeous!

From the
Raphael's Madonna shines forth beneath grime
By Nick Pisa in Rome
Last Updated: 1:45am BST 01/04/2008

A Raphael painting has been revealed in its true colours after centuries of neglect.

The Madonna del Cardellino, or Madonna of the Goldfinch, was in a poor condition after successive restorations left it with fading colours and splits in the wood panel on which it was painted.

But following a repair and cleaning lasting 10 years, it now boasts the bright blue sky and brilliant red drapery which the artist intended.

The Madonna was a wedding gift from Raphael to his friend Lorenzo Nasi in 1506. In 1548, the panel broke into 17 pieces when Nasi's house was destroyed by an earthquake.

Marco Ciatti, who was in charge of the restoration, said yesterday: "When we unwrapped the painting and I saw it horizontal for the first time instead of on a wall I was actually filled with doubt.

"It was a wood sandwich: full of nails, glue and various layers of paint from other restorations carried out during the centuries.

"The beautiful blue sky of the background had turned a dull grey. The problem was that after it was damaged it was badly restored with nails and oil paint."

As part of the process, the panel was X-rayed from several different angles to distinguish Raphael's brushwork from that of later artists who tried to cover up the damaged surface.

Mr. Ciatti said: "There were also other materials that had ruined the splendid colours of the original painting."

Special thinning agents were used to clean away the grime of 500 years so as not to damage Raphael's original paintwork.

By removing the grime they managed to uncover details such as countryside scenes in the background that had been hidden for years.

The colours on the painting were restored using as closely as possible oils that Raphael himself would have used.

Raphael arranged the three figures - Mary, Christ and the young John the Baptist - in a triangular composition favoured by Renaissance artists.

The Virgin is holding a book, which identifies her as Sedes Sapientiae ("Seat of Wisdom"). The goldfinch is a symbol of Christ's future death on the cross. St John offers the goldfinch to Christ as a warning of his fate.

Mr. Ciatti blamed one of the painting's past owners, Cardinal Giovan Carlo of the Medici family, for much of the damage. He said: "The decision to use those nails and glue was dramatic because it hid the colours of the painting.

"But we have managed after 10 years of hard, painstaking and careful work to bring the painting back to its original glory."

The painting is due to go on display in Rome in December before returning to the Uffizi gallery in Florence.

The Red Snake

At the time when the Western Roman Empire is collapsing and even the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire under great external pressure, the Sasanian Persian Empire musters the manpower to build and garrison a monument of greater scale than anything comparable in the west. The Persians seem to match, or more than match, their Late Roman rivals in army strength, organisational skills, engineering and water management. Archaeology is beginning to paint a clearer picture of an ancient super power at its apogee. What a pity that the current Islamic regime ruling Iran is so intent on destroying all things pre-Islamic. And they call us in the US barbarians! Hah! Here's the first part of a fascinating article about uncovering the secrets of the 195 kilometers long Red Snake, from is longer than Hadrian's Wall and the Antonine Wall taken together. It is over a thousand years older than the Great Wall of China as we know it today. It is of more solid construction than its ancient Chinese counterparts. It is the greatest monument of its kind between central Europe and China and it may be the longest brick, or stone, wall ever built in the ancient world. This wall is known as ‘The Great Wall of Gorgan’ or ‘the Red Snake’. An international team of archaeologists has been at work on the snakelike monument and here they report on their findings. The ‘Red Snake’ in northern Iran, which owes its name to the red colour of its bricks, is at least 195km long. A canal, 5m deep or more, conducted water along most of the Wall. Its continuous gradient, designed to ensure regular water flow, bears witness to the skills of the land-surveyors responsible for marking out the Wall's route. Over 30 forts are lined up along this massive structure. Their combined size is about three times that of those on Hadrian's Wall. Yet these forts are small in comparison with contemporary fortifications in the hinterland, some of which are around ten times larger than the largest Wall forts. The 'Red Snake' is unmatched in so many respects and an enigma in yet more. Who built this defensive barrier of awesome scale and sophistication, when, and for what reason? Even its length is unclear: its western terminal was flooded by the rising waters of the Caspian Sea, while to the east it runs into the unexplored mountainous landscape of the Elburz Mountains. An Iranian team, under the direction of Jebrael Nokandeh, has been exploring this Great Wall since 1999. In 2005 it became a joint Iranian and British project. Our aim: to answer the fundamental questions of when, who, and why. Rest of article.

"Temporary" Marriage: Hand-Fasting and Mu'tah

This article is fascinating itself - Iranian Blogosphere Tests Government’s Limits (from The New York Times) - but it's this paragraph from the article that caught my eye: What gets filtered out is not entirely predictable either. Even some religious topics are deemed unacceptable. The government blocked the site of a blogger advocating the Shiite Muslim custom of temporary marriage, which is legal and considered a way for the young to relieve their sexual frustration without breaking religious laws. Whoa! What's this - temporary marriage? A concept still existing today - among the Muslims, no less? Interesting, verrrrryyyy interesting. Through my reading over the years, I became a little acquainted with an old Scottish custom called "hand-fast" - which was a form of temporary marriage. If the couple decided at the end of the period that they would not permanently marry, no shame was attached to either for walking away from the relationship, although after a year of living together it was more than likely the woman was no longer a "virgin" (patriarchal society at the time placed much value upon an intact hymen). Here's an interesting note from Wikipedia: One historical example of handfastings as trial marriages is that of "Telltown marriages" - named for the year and a day trial marriages contracted at the yearly festival held in Telltown, Ireland. The festival took place every year at Lughnasadh (August 1), and the trial marriage would last until the next Lughnasadh festival. At that time, they were free to leave or continue the union as they desired. Telltown was evidently named after the god Lugh's "step-mother:" Tailtiu. More from Wikipedia: In Celtic mythology, the Lughnasadh festival is said to have been begun by the god Lugh, as a funeral feast and games commemorating his foster-mother, Tailtiu, who died of exhaustion after clearing the plains of Ireland for agriculture. The first location of the Áenach Tailteann was at the site of modern Teltown, located between Navan and Kells. Historically, the Áenach Tailteann gathering was a time for contests of strength and skill, and a favored time for contracting marriages and winter lodgings. A peace was declared at the festival, and religious celebrations were also held. A similar Lughnasadh festival was held at Carmun (whose exact location is under dispute). Carmun is also believed to have been a goddess of the Celts, perhaps one with a similar story as Tailtiu. From Barbara Walker's "A Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets:" Lug (var. Lugd, Lud) Celtic god, son or reincarnation of the Dagda, eponymous founder of the cities of Lyons and London - formerly Lugdunum, the stronghold of Lug. His temple stood on Ludgate Hill.(1) "Lud's Gate" was a great stone called Crom Cruaich, the Bloddy Crescent, apparently a symbol of the menstruating Moon-goddess to whom Lug was married in suggestively Tantric style.(2) Lug was Christianized as several saints: St. Lugad, St. Luan, St. Eluan, and St. Lugidus, depending on local dialects. Irish legendary history called him a King Lugadius martyred by a lance-thrust from a druidic priest - a story taken quite directly from ancient cults of the sacred-king/dying-god. Lug perished after marrying the Great Goddess called "the Sovereignty of Erin until the day of doom."(3) Lug's special festival was Lammas Eve, formerly Lugnasad, "the Games of Lug." The pagan rites of Lugnasad were kept to a very late date at Taillten in Ireland, where the Goddess had been worshipped as a local Earth-mother, Tailltiu. At the annual Taillten Fair, men bought bridges in a custom reminiscent of the Goddess's ancient rites of sacred promiscuity and defloration. The hill where payments were collected was known as the Hill of the Buying.(4) Taillten was so notorious for promiscuity that any casual sexual affair came to be known as a Taillten marriage.(5) Taillten marriages were actually legal up to the 13th century. They were supposed to last the period specified by the old lunar calendars, a year and a day.(6) Lug's curious name may have come in some remote past time from Mesopotamia, where the title of a sacred king, the Goddess' spouse, was lugal.(7) Notes: (1) Squire, 254. (2) Briffault 3, 75. (3) Spence, 66, 102. (4) Joyce, 439. (5) Spence, 101. (6) Pepper & Wilcock, 273. (7) Campbell, Or.M., 107. Part of the old hand-fasting ceremony was the tying together of the couple's hands with a rope in a knot. The knot is suggestive of Isis' "knot" and also of the intercrossing of arms of a man and a woman ending in clasped hands in Tantric tradition (forming a "figure 8", the symbol of the goddess and today a symbol, still, of "infinity" - which is the "figure 8" laying on its side). "Temporary marriage," "trial marriage" etc. is a concept found all around the world from the most ancient societies up to today. Fascinating - a way for a woman to achieve sexual independence and not be bound forever to a man. It was the universality of the practice that was most enlightening to me! From the most restrictive patriarchal societies (Christian and Islamic) to the so-called "pagan" cultures. But - getting back to the subject of the Shiite form of trial marriage: Marriages entered into for a fixed period are found ... the ancient Arabs too, according to Ammianus Marcellinus, marriages were often contracted for a term of definite length, after which the wife might withdraw if she pleased. Somewhat of the same character is a temporary form of marriage which still exists in certain parts of Arabia. The Shi'ah Moslems recognise as legal marriages contracted for a certain limited period—a day, a month, a year, or any other specified term. Such a temporary contract of marriage, which is called ntut`ah, creates no right of inheritance in either party, although the children born of the union are legitimate and inherit from their parents like the issue of a permanent contract. The wife is not entitled to any maintenance unless it is expressly stipulated; the husband is entitled to refuse procreation, which he cannot do in ordinary marriages; and there is also this difference between a permanent and a temporary marriage, that in the case of the latter the husband has no power to divorce his wife, although the marriage may be dissolved by the mutual consent of the parties before the fixed period has expired. This temporary form of marriage exists in Persia to the present day, but is held to be unlawful by the Sunnis. Unfortunately, the article from which I quoted the material above did not provide an author's name or source. All I can tell you is that it is from an article purportedly published in 1936 and republished, without proper attribution, at Antiques Digest (a/k/a It did, though, give me this term: ntut`ah (mu'tah, mutah, muta) - to do further research. A website listing a number of article that are against mu'tah, see "The Revealing of Truth - the Marriage of Mu'tah" (scroll down for list). A website providing many links and information on Mu'tah "How Do I Do Mutah?" I wouldn't be surprised if the roots of this practice go all the way back to the ancient "goddess marriage" practices of ancient Mesopotamia. Just like the warrior woman tradition, which was particularly prevalent in ancient Persia, and the Arab tradition of the Lady of Victory, they are echoes of ancient times and practices (see prior posts for further information on the Lady of Victory, warrior women, and the Hind of Hinds:;;;;;;

China to Single Mothers: Your Children Do Not Officially Exist

The Chinese government has long maintained that the Communist Party liberated women in 1949 along with the rest of the country. But in an era of rapid modernization, China has lacked anything like a broad current of thought about women’s rights. “When we argue that a woman owns the uterus, and it’s her right to decide whether to deliver the baby or not, people won’t buy it,” said Yuan Xin, director of psychology at the Consulting Center of Nankai University. “If you are a woman, your personal choice is monitored and supervised by a lot of others, and they expect you to do what everyone else does.” Welcome to the Collective - may as well be a Borg! From The New York Times Single Mothers in China Forge a Difficult Path By HOWARD W. FRENCH Published: April 6, 2008 BEIJING — As a young migrant worker, Lei Gailing sought her fortune in China’s fast-industrializing and freewheeling south. She found a steady factory job and a less stable boyfriend, then became pregnant. The routine course for most women would have been to marry the man or to arrange an abortion. Ms. Lei, who was by then 33 and fiercely independent, did neither. Refusing to marry the man but afraid she might never have a child, she chose to become a single mother. That decision carried implications that Ms. Lei never fully anticipated, marking her as something of a social outcast in a country that still strictly controls population growth and makes few concessions to women like her. Today, at 41, Ms. Lei says she has no regrets, even after facing a life of bitter twists and turns: pretending to be divorced at one point to avoid bringing shame on her son and ultimately marrying a much older man in an effort to obtain the basic identification her boy needed to go to school or receive other social services. For all this, Ms. Lei, who now lives with the older man in Beijing in what she describes as an abusive relationship, said she would do it all over again for her son. “I look at him today, and know it was worthwhile,” she said, tears forming in her eyes. “He is so lovely, I cannot regret it.” In a society where until quite recently premarital sex was often punished, the issue of single motherhood has been slow to enter the public arena. But now, a new awareness of the issue is raising questions about the status of women in China, as well as other rights issues like the hukou, or residency permit, a central tool of population control passed down from the Maoist era that restricts movement by linking people to the towns of their birth. . . . Official statistics on the number of single mothers are unavailable in China. But with premarital sex now commonplace and women’s earning power growing, particularly in the wealthy cities of the east, experts believe their numbers are rising fast, albeit from a small base. “This is of great significance,” said Li Ling, a professor of arts and sciences at Beijing Language and Culture University. “It’s hard for me to judge other people’s choices, good or bad, but it means a lot that women are making such decisions on their own, as a matter of choice. In Chinese tradition, women don’t have such rights. We are only the bearers of offspring for our husbands’ families.” In many ways, Xie Jing, 33, a newspaper reporter in Shanghai, is typical of an emerging generation of single mothers who are professionals and whose choices on child-rearing are eased by their financial security. Ms. Xie said that she became pregnant while she was engaged, but that her fiancé’s ambivalence over the unexpected news prompted her to set her own course. When her former fiancé asked her, “What is the point of having a child if we are no longer together?” she had a ready answer: raising the child alone. “My quality of life isn’t so bad, so I don’t want to lower myself to staying with another person just for the sake of being together,” Ms. Xie said. “If that means I have to sacrifice a lot, so be it. But I am in a good situation now with my baby, and I’m not willing to lose it.” Her son was born two years ago in a partly foreign-owned hospital, where registration of the pregnancy with a neighborhood committee — standard in most of China — was not required. Ms. Xie lives with her parents, who are retired and help take care of her boy. To all but her closest friends, she explains that the father is overseas on a three-year assignment. Her son bears Ms. Xie’s family name, and the father was told that if he did not accept legal responsibility as a parent, he would be kept at bay until the boy turned 18. Asserting herself in this way was made easier by virtue of Ms. Xie’s residence in Shanghai, a wealthy city by China’s standards with relatively liberal provisions for awarding residency permits. “I checked out Shanghai’s Public Security Bureau’s Web site, and discovered an item indicating children born outside of marriage could apply for hukou,” Ms. Xie said. “The staff was mean to me when I applied, but there were written rules guaranteeing the rights of my child, so there was nothing they could do to prevent me.” Every province and major city has some leeway in how it applies those rules. But for peasants and working-class mothers without much education, money or standing, choices can seem limited. Zhong Yu, 23, a music teacher in Chongqing, one of China’s largest cities, said she considered getting an abortion when she recently discovered that she was pregnant. Abortion is legal, widespread and freely available in China, but she could not afford the hospital fees. She hid her situation from her family, and by the time she had saved enough money, she was five months pregnant — too late, she believed, to end the pregnancy safely. Today Ms. Zhong calls the father, who has no fixed job, a “vagrant” and says she was silly to have become involved with him. “But when I saw my child, I thought no matter how hard my life will be, I will bring him up,” she added. Ms. Lei, the mother in Beijing, also had few resources and, partly because of that, a difficult path. After returning to her village to give birth, she went to Beijing to look for work and a husband, leaving her son behind with her mother. But fearing he would be taunted as a bastard in the village, she brought him with her to Beijing when he reached school age. In the capital, Ms. Lei faced new problems. Without a father she could not establish a hukou, or residency permit. In 2006, Ms. Lei described her plight on the Internet, drawing the interest of a Chinese journalist, who wrote about her. Soon afterward, men began contacting her with marriage inquiries. She agreed to meet one of them one day under a highway overpass. He had described himself as 60, but looked at least 10 years older, she said. The man, a retired and widowed engineer with a mentally disabled son, said he needed an heir to continue his family line, and she needed the help of a man to register her son so he could attend school. Out of their mutual needs came a marriage of convenience. “He needed a kid and I needed a home,” Ms. Lei said. “My kid needed to go to school, so we pooled together a family. There was no contract of any kind.” They married, but their hasty pact quickly unraveled. The man balked at registering the boy in his name out of fear he could be breaking the law. Now, Ms. Lei said, he is cold toward her child and mean to her. For now, the boy, Jirong, 7, attends a neighborhood school that has looked the other way over his lack of a residency permit. “Most people in this situation would have given away their child to others for adoption,” Ms. Lei said. “Almost no one would choose to bring up the child on her own.”

Death by Blogging

From The New York Times In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop By MATT RICHTEL Published: April 6, 2008 SAN FRANCISCO — They work long hours, often to exhaustion. Many are paid by the piece — not garments, but blog posts. This is the digital-era sweatshop. You may know it by a different name: home. A growing work force of home-office laborers and entrepreneurs, armed with computers and smartphones and wired to the hilt, are toiling under great physical and emotional stress created by the around-the-clock Internet economy that demands a constant stream of news and comment. Of course, the bloggers can work elsewhere, and they profess a love of the nonstop action and perhaps the chance to create a global media outlet without a major up-front investment. At the same time, some are starting to wonder if something has gone very wrong. In the last few months, two among their ranks have died suddenly. Two weeks ago in North Lauderdale, Fla., funeral services were held for Russell Shaw, a prolific blogger on technology subjects who died at 60 of a heart attack. In December, another tech blogger, Marc Orchant, died at 50 of a massive coronary. A third, Om Malik, 41, survived a heart attack in December. Other bloggers complain of weight loss or gain, sleep disorders, exhaustion and other maladies born of the nonstop strain of producing for a news and information cycle that is as always-on as the Internet. To be sure, there is no official diagnosis of death by blogging, and the premature demise of two people obviously does not qualify as an epidemic. There is also no certainty that the stress of the work contributed to their deaths. But friends and family of the deceased, and fellow information workers, say those deaths have them thinking about the dangers of their work style. The pressure even gets to those who work for themselves — and are being well-compensated for it. “I haven’t died yet,” said Michael Arrington, the founder and co-editor of TechCrunch, a popular technology blog. The site has brought in millions in advertising revenue, but there has been a hefty cost. Mr. Arrington says he has gained 30 pounds in the last three years, developed a severe sleeping disorder and turned his home into an office for him and four employees. “At some point, I’ll have a nervous breakdown and be admitted to the hospital, or something else will happen.” Rest of article.
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