Saturday, November 28, 2009

Vital Evidence of Horse Domestication

Domestication of the horse is one of the ten pivotal events in human history, which had an enormous impact on how people lived, worked and ate. This article is a good summary of the development of research closing in on the time period and at least one possible location for horse domestication. From Yahoo News Researchers Find the First Horse Whisperers Sandra Olsen Carnegie Museum of Natural Sandra Olsen carnegie Museum Of Natural – Sat Nov 28, 9:31 am ET This Behind the Scenes article was provided to LiveScience in partnership with the National Science Foundation. Paleolithic hunters in Europe and Asia began exploiting horses for meat thousands of years ago when the last continental glaciers disappeared, yet the origin of horse domestication long has eluded archaeologists - for some captivating reasons. One of the biggest reasons is that for many centuries, horse skeletons did not significantly differ in size or physical structure from those of their wild ancestors, making early taming and use of the animal more difficult to identify. But as part of an international team of archaeologists, my colleagues and I may be getting closer to the beginnings as we look for clues in Kazakhstan. Our team conducted extensive research at three sites belonging to the Botai culture in the northern part of the country, at locations dated to the Copper Age around 3,500 B.C. Rest of article.

2009 World Cup

Judit Polgar tied her R 3 match with Boris Gelfand so tomorrow they go to play-offs. Good luck JP! Meanwhile, young phenom Wesley So knocked out America's last hope by drawing with GM Gata Kamsky (winner of the 2007 World Cup) today in game 2, thus moving on to R 4 with a score of 1.5/0.5 against Kamsky. WOW! So is 16; Carlsen is 18; Ray Robson, a very promising young American player, is 14. Robson will be playing in the 2010 Corus "C" Group - a great invitation and opportunity for Robson to once again shine on the international stage. What he needs is sustained financial sponsorship so he can afford coaches and not have to worry about money for travelling to overseas tournaments. I just don't get that an American company cannot see what a marketing opportunity he represents! He's a teenager, nice looking (the teenyboppers would like him, I think), he's not geeky, and he's a chess prodigy. What's not to like marketing wise? There are a lot of products he could represent - Pepsi, Coke, how about Gatorade switching up and doing a series of commercials on the "sports of the intellect?" How about this for a commercial - screen shot of hundreds of screaming girls (like in the old days with the Beatles), panning out and the crowd expands to thousands! They all chanting something - the mike moves in - they're chanting go Ray go, go Ray go! A police motorcade pulls up before a huge stadium, also packed with screaming fans! A limo pulls out to mid-field. A hush falls upon the massive crowd. And then, the door opens and out steps Ray Robson! The crowd goes wild as Ray coolly walks to the playing platform, climbs the stairs, and takes his place. Sitting there waiting impatient, legs crossed and jiggling in his seat, is none other than [here insert current pop star icon]. Ray sits down, adjusts his cuffs and stares calmly across the chess board. "Your move" he says. Hey, maybe I missed my calling :)

Friday, November 27, 2009

World Cup

GM Judit Polgar is the only female player left. Check out this interview with JP at Chessdom. Meanwhile, GM Gata Kamsky is the only American player left in the field. In Round 3, he will be facing GM Wesley So, who knocked GM Vassily Ivanchuk out in Round 2. Ivanchuk was so upset by his play that he announced his retirement from professional chess. Let us hope he reconsiders once he calms down. Ivanchuk is 100% emotionally invested in chess, I cannot imagine him no longer playing in the top events when he still holds his own and can even dominate in the "super" tournaments. Hmmmm, I just read at Susan Polgar's blog that So, playing black, just defeated Kamsky in Game 1 of R3! Oh oh! Ah - I just checked at Chessdom - they have live coverage of the game, gameboard you can play through and written analysis.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Mural reveals ancient connection to Uzbekistan

Fascinating! As a side note, it was at Afrasiab that several firgural ivory pieces were excavated that were positively identifed as pieces belonging to a chess set, dating to c. 761CE. From JoongAng Daily The painting is significant because it could prove Korea sent envoys to Uzbekistan in the 7th century. November 27, 2009 In most cases, replicas of ancient treasures or great works of art are treated with contempt. But with relics that are at risk of aging or disintegration, replicas can play an integral role in our understanding of the original works and the time in which they were made. In 1965, a mural was discovered in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, when local authorities decided to build a road in the middle of the Afrasiab tepe. A tepe is a mound marking an ancient site, in this case pre-Mongol Samarkand. When it was found, the mural was weathered and its images obscured. But those who discovered it had the foresight to make a drawing of it, from which replicas have been made. A replica of this mural is now being shown as part of the exhibit “The Crossroads of Civilizations: The Asian Culture of Uzbekistan” until September of next year at the National Museum of Korea’s Asian Arts Gallery. The relics in the exhibition show the historical connection between ancient Korea and Uzbekistan through the Silk Road. Considering the distance and the travel routes in place at the time, the history of the relationship that developed between the two countries is indeed remarkable. The mural is significant because it could prove that Korea sent envoys to Uzbekistan via the Silk Road as early as the 7th century. In the 7th century, the mural covered all four walls of a room in Afrasiab Palace in Samarkand, with each wall depicting a different scene. The western wall depicts what are believed to be two Korean men from the Goguryeo Dynasty (37 B.C.-668) having an audience with the king. “The faces of the delegates are difficult to see, but the painting features a clear image of a jougwan,” the press release said. A jougwan is a hat that was worn by the men of Goguryeo and is decorated with a bird’s feather. The actual nationality of the two men in the painting was long debated by specialists, with some saying that their clothing shows they are from the Silla (57 B.C.-935) or Balhae (698-926) eras. With the revelation of the jougwan, however, many have concluded that the men are from the Goguryeo era. The exhibition also displays 150 other relics from the prehistoric age to the 8th century in Uzbekistan, ranging from a Buddha with western features to a machine used by followers of Zoroastrianism, the first monotheistic religion, used to cremate the dead. The museum is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and until 9 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays. It is closed on Mondays. Admission is free. For more information, visit

Illegitimate Iranian Regime Seizes Nobel Peace Medal

An AP report from Yahoo News Iran seizes rights lawyer's Nobel Peace medal By NASSER KARIMI and IAN MacDOUGALL, Associated Press Writers Nasser Karimi And Ian Macdougall, Associated Press Writers – 48 mins ago TEHRAN, Iran – Iranian authorities confiscated Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi's medal, the human rights lawyer said Thursday, in a sign of the increasingly drastic steps Tehran is taking against any dissent. In Norway, where the peace prize is awarded, the government said the confiscation of the gold medal was a shocking first in the history of the 108-year-old prize. Ebadi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her efforts in promoting democracy. She has long faced harassment from Iranian authorities for her activities — including threats against her relatives and a raid on her office last year in which files were confiscated. The seizure of her prize is an expression of the Iranian government's harsh approach to anyone it considers an opponent — particularly since the massive street protests triggered by hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed June 12 re-election. Acting on orders from Tehran's Revolutionary Court, authorities took the peace prize medal about three weeks ago from a safe-deposit box in Iran, Ebadi said in a phone interview from London. They also seized her Legion of Honor and a ring awarded to her by a German association of journalists, she said. Authorities froze the bank accounts of her and her husband and demanded $410,000 in taxes that they claimed were owed on the $1.3 million she was awarded. Ebadi said, however, that such prizes are exempt from tax under Iranian law. She said the government also appears intent on trying to confiscate her home. Ebadi, the first Muslim woman to be awarded the peace prize and the first female judge in Iran, said she would not be intimidated and that her absence from the country since June did not mean she felt exiled. "Nobody is able to send me to exile from my home country," she said. "I have received many threatening messages. ... They said they would detain me if I returned, or that they would make the environment unsafe for me wherever I am. "But my activities are legal and nobody can ban me from my legal activities." Ebadi has criticized the Iranian government's crackdown on demonstrations by those claiming the June vote was stolen from a pro-reform candidate through massive fraud. Ebadi left the country a day before the vote to attend a conference in Spain and has not returned since. In the days after the vote, she urged the international community to reject the outcome and called for a new election monitored by the United Nations. During the past months, hundreds of pro-reform activists have been arrested, and a mass trial has sentenced dozens to prison terms. Authorities also went after Ebadi's human rights center in Iran. "After the election all my colleagues in the center were either detained or banned from traveling abroad," Ebadi said. Calls to Iranian judiciary officials were not returned Thursday. Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere called the move "shocking" and said it was "the first time a Nobel Peace Prize has been confiscated by national authorities." The Norwegian Foreign Ministry summoned Iran's charge d'affaires in Norway Wednesday to protest the confiscation, spokeswoman Ragnhild Imerslund said. The Foreign Ministry also "expressed grave concern" about Ebadi's husband, who it said was arrested in Tehran and "severely beaten" earlier this fall, after which his pension and bank account were frozen. Ebadi said her husband, Javad Tavassolian, and her brother and sister have been threatened many times by authorities pushing them to persuade her to end her human rights campaigning. Ebadi has represented opponents of Iran's regime before but not in the mass trial that started in August of more than 100 prominent pro-reform figures and activists. They are accused of plotting to overthrow the cleric-led regime during the postelection turmoil. The Iranian Embassy in Norway refrained from giving a comment. The Norwegian Nobel Committee's permanent secretary, Geir Lundestad, said the move was "unheard of" and "unacceptable." He told The Associated Press that the committee was planning to send a letter of protest to Iranian authorities before the end of the week. Ebadi said she planned to return to Iran when the time is right. "I will return whenever it is useful for my country," she said. "Right now I am busy with my activities against violations of human rights in Iran and my international jobs." ___ MacDougall reported from Oslo, Norway.

Diana Durham and Educational Chess

I received a very nice email recently from Diana Durham who read about my experiences as a volunteer for Shira Evans' Computer Labs for Kids' program at the SOS Childrens Village in Chicago. Diana was an active player in the 1990s and had a peak rating of 2114. Diana is the owner of Educational Chess: We have our own method of teaching chess that includes other school subjects, such as math, English, and languages- the Diana Durham chess teaching method.We focus on the quality of learning, not on the quantity of students. Anyone can teach the basics, but only Educational Chess helps students understand things at a much deeper level. We reached thousands of children since 1990, about 150-200 children per year. We have taught in dozens of schools, and helped educate parents about the game of chess. In addition to the Educational Chess website, Diana has a blog. She sent me links to two cool chess education tools that are fun to use: Chess Hangman Chess Crossword Puzzle

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Packers come on at noon, they're playing the annual Shriners Game in Detroit against the Lions. I'll be having dinner at 3 p.m. with some of the family at one of my sister's. She's a great cook and I stuff myself unrepentantly and always bring home leftovers! Yum! The office is closed tomorrow, so I have a 4-day weekend, yippee! Kevin the incredible handyman whom my friend Ann told me about, is wrapping up various projects around the house and will be back on the job tomorrow morning. Right now I am battling drywall dust (he's doing replacement/patching of the drywall on the basement stairwell and patching settlement cracks and the hole in the living room ceiling left by the plumber's March visit to fix a leaking toilet). I will be glad when THAT is finished - I'm tired of cleaning every single day and I don't know if I'll ever get rid of all the dust - I hate dusting! I discovered I need an industrial strength shop vac. Maybe I can talk my sister into going shopping tomorrow after all... Normally I don't pay much attention to those emails one always gets that are circulated to 50,000 other people, but these Turkey-day cartoons made me laugh out loud, something we could all use more of in these dark days. Happy Thanksgiving to you!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Computer Labs for Kids: Update on SOS Childrens Village

Prior posts! The children who participated in the program, all residents of the SOS Childrens Village, ages five through eight, were so well-behaved - it was just remarkable to me. I don't have the words to describe what I felt as I watched them participating in the first part of the program on Common Sense Values. One would expect children of these ages to get a little antsy after awhile, but these kids didn't. They were so intent! This was the largest project yet that Shira and Computer Labs for Kids has undertaken (prepared for 28 children, all of the residents of SOS Children's Village between the ages of five and eight). Having an individual "buddy" for each participant was a stroke of genius and probably one of the keys to the program's success. Each child was able to proceed at his or her own pace with the buddy, a volunteer who went through special training. But, in addition to preparing the program for this many children, Shira had to line up volunteers and get them trained! At the conclusion of the Awards Program (where each child received a Certificate for successfully completing the Values portion of the program), a 15 minute break was well received by everyone! Whew! Many of the children rushed to the bathrooms but then they rushed right back into the class room to their work table. Some shared a snack with their buddy; some went through their workbooks once again with their buddies, but I saw many children going through their completed workbooks by themselves! I don't know what time it was; the day that had started out mild and partly sunny had turned darker and cloudy, and I wondered if the kids would make it all the way to 5 p.m., when it would be almost full dark. It seemed we still had a long way to go. And then, Shira was calling everyone to attention. The room was suddenly abuzz with anticipation! The Dell notebook computers were being handed out to the buddies! The expressions on the childrens' faces as their buddies came back to the work tables with those trademark green Dell notebooks - priceless! Shira had worked very hard to customize the programs downloaded to each notebook, and she made sure that each notebook would be "fail safe." As I understand it, each notebook has special settings that will restore it to the way it was before a disaster occurs - such as a child deleting all of its programs or the computer contracting some nasty virus. I'm not a techy, but I think that is what she meant! Unfortunately, I can't remember the name of this special program that makes this happen (and I'm probably not describing it corrrectly, either). The second part of the program was designed to go through the basics of operating the notebook with the children, with a 30 minute period after graduation to allow each child to work with his or her buddy to answer individual questions and explore all of the programs further. This was accomplished by video images of the notebook on the wall that walked each child through the essentials (how to turn the notebook on and off; how to tell if your notebook is on or off; how to open a program; how to close a program; exploring the features of the programs; how to properly shut down the notebook and close it for future use; etc.) To successfully conclude the second part of the program, each child had to complete a workbook with his or her buddy (as they did in part one). A sticker placed after each assignment signified successful completion! Before I knew it, more than an hour had passed and everyone had completed their workbooks. The children once again lined up to receive their Certificate for completing the second part of the program. I took my place as Holder of the Sacred Certificates and called out the name of eac child as I handed the certificate to Shira who, in turn, presented it to the child. And then, each child's buddy stepped forward and presented the child with the notebook computer they had worked on during the program. Photo: The buxom beauty on the left with the certificate in hand is me; the lean, winsome beauty bending down to present a certificate to one of the students is Shira. Greg is standing to the right, looking on. In the background are some of the buddies with notebook computers in hand, waiting to present them to their students. Somehow, we had managed to finish ahead of schedule! The kids had plenty of time to work with their buddies on the notebooks before 5:00 p.m., when their foster parents would arrive to take them home. They were eager to do this! All of the children spent the rest of the time with their buddies learning how to use the programs on their notebooks. Some of them reviewed the Common Sense Values program that we had worked through in the first part of the program. Photo: one of the children working through "The Road to Happiness" program installed on each of the Dell notebooks. The program teaches common sense values without preaching any particular religious creed. Respect for others, their property and their dignity as human beings, and tolerance of others who are different than you, are core concepts presented in this part of the program presented by Greg Molinaro. The presentation was tweaked to teach the children how to care for their notebook computers, how to protect them, keep them clean, keep them safe, and how to respect to notebooks and property of others. During this last portion of the program, Erin, Shira, Greg, Lynn and I had to deconstruct our set-up! Whew! It had taken us hours to get everything right, and now we were tearing it all back down! It was work, but it seemed to go much faster than setting up did. Finally, it was almost over! The children packed up their notebooks, workbooks and certificates. They were led downstairs to wait for the arrival of their foster-parents. Although tired, I couldn't stop smiling. It seemed that no one else could stop smiling either :)) Finally, everything was packed up and Erin, Shira and I lugged it down to Shira's car. The guys (presenter Greg and Lynn, who videotaped during the entire program) were in the parking lot packing up their own car, and they asked us out to dinner - how sweet! We were all ready to kick back and relax a bit, and relish a successfully completed program! The guys picked a special place in Bucktown. None of us knew what Bucktown meant but it sounded interesting and Lynn said the restaurant was the best. I had visions of cowboys and a Bronco Billy setting... Our destination was Club Lucky on Wabansia Avenue. We piled into the car and we were off, trailing behind the guys in our Smart Car (Go Car?) It took awhile to decide how to spell "Wabansia" but fortunately, I did remember the address number. Shira punched it in to the GPS thingy in the car and voila! We knew which way to go -- just as we lost sight of the guys' car... We hit slow spots on the expressway at times where traffic came to a standstill or crawled along at 3 mph. The guys' car was lost to sight, which in the old days (like - 20 years ago) before cell phones and GPS thingys, would have been cause for mucho panic! But that GPS thingy got us to where we needed to go, and even before we got there thanks to some very chic driving by Shira, she caught us right back up to the guys and were tailgating them for a bit, just for a little bit of razz. Club Lucky is a great authentic Italian restaurant in a now "gentrifying" area of Chicago. Founded in 1990, it has recently come into vogue and "chic" people visit along with the occasional celebrity. Of course I count myself among them, even though I was wearing an ABC alphabet sweater and baggy blue jeans to match the bags under my eyes. Lynn acted as our host for the evening. It seemed he knew everyone and he knew the menu and what to order. Photo: Book shot of Club Lucky main dining room. We had a delicious and leisurely meal. The company was even better. I got to know a little bit about Greg, Lynn, Erin and Shira's backgrounds. Wow! These are some awesome people. I would glady work with this crew again. In fact, it was hard to say goodbye. The world today seems determined to beat us down, but knowing that people like this are out there in the world, doing good every single day - it is inspiring, and encouraging. All too soon, we ladies had to say fond goodbyes to the gentlemen, because Shira (who was driving) had to get me to Union Station so I could catch the 8:00 p.m. train back to Milwaukee. Query: How do three women navigate in a car equipped with GPS that says YOU ARE HERE, YOU ARE HERE (in what sounded to me like increasingly hysterical tones), upon arrival at our destination? Answer: We keep driving around in circles looking at each other saying WHERE? WHERE? WHERE IS IT? because Jan doesn't recognize anything! (Darlings - cut me some slack - it was DARK OUTSIDE! And where were the street signs, I might ask the City of Chicago, hey? I didn't see a sign saying Adams Street or Jackson Street. Do they take them down for the winter?) We'd left Club Lucky with plenty of time to get to the station but - the minutes ticked by and it was now 7:40 p.m. I'm thinking to myself "Self, you are going to have to stay overnight because you are going to miss the last train to Clarksville, er, Milwaukee). Just then, it was Erin who spotted the words UNION STATION many feet above our heads, atop a vast expanse of Corinthian pillars that grace the front facade of that mighty ediface! An ediface, I add, with which I'm not familiar since I now realize I have always managed to leave the Amtrak station and enter it via the Adams Street exit right on the Chicago River (which, I now understand, is actually an entrance to the Metra but also hooks up to Union Station somewhere underground, or something like that) --well, it was a comedy of minor errors, and all is well that ends well. It turns out we navigated to Clinton Street based on the address that Lynn had given us (the correct address), but it was not Canal Street, which I was looking for. Now, looking at a street map of the area around Union Station, I see that Canal Street is one street east (I think) of Clinton Street. Well! No wonder I didn't recognize anything! Map makers have no conception of how women actually navigate. They need to put landmarks on the maps as well as street names. With the target building now firmly in my sight, I said hasty goodbyes to Shira and Erin, jumped out of the Go Car (or Smart Car, or whatever it is) and did a lively step around the crosswalk (waiting respectfully for each light to turn to WALK even though there was no traffic) to get to the building; a brisk walk uphill and a left hand turn to the main entrance that looked vaguely familiar -- I think I walked past this facade in 2006. I glanced at my watch and my heart skipped a beat - 7:45 p.m.! I tried the first massively imposing brass mounted door I came to, wondering what the heck would I do if it was locked? It opened! Marble everywhere! I got down endless steps into the grand waiting room/hall as fast as I could go - gravity is my friend in this case! Then I am walking very fast (because I no longer run, not only because I would jiggle unforgivably, my weak ankles would never allow such activity as running), following the overhead signs toward the train platforms. In less than five minutes, I am in a part of the station that looks comfortably familiar. Ah! There is the Adams Street exit! I know where I am! Ahhhh, nothing to worry about after all, I got to Waiting Room B for Hiawatha with 10 minutes to spare (I even had time to double-check at a desk that actually had live person behind it giving information. I was out of breath but trying to look cool. Yeah, right Jan, as I discreetly attempt to wipe the sweat pouring from my brow. Then I settled back and watched the show as people poured into Waiting Area B after me, all of themn panting and thankful to have made it on time, right up to the time we started to board! As per usual (because I've taken that particular train enough times to know), the waiting room was packed with people travelling back to Milwaukee. I maneuvered as best I could to get a spot near the gate's entrance to the track. It seemed much longer, but actually it was probably only five minutes when one of the assistant conducts called the train and people hustled to line up and crowded toward the gate. Not at ALL like orderly Milwaukee, where people give respect to "first in line!" and lined up behind each other. NOOOOOOO - in Chicago, hoards of strangers press in all around you, trying to squeeze through a five foot wide doorway, and they will knock you out of the way if you don't claim your space with glowering face and pointed elbows! I'm very good at the glowering face, BTW. The matronly double chin helps tremendously... All the while I'm thinking "Darlings - chill! We ALL have to walk the same half-mile walk on stinky, wet underground concrete platforms to get to the few places where the conductors have placed the step-ladders to actually get up in to the train cars. Relax. There's enough seats for everyone!" Of course there is - I haven't yet seen a standing room only Hiawatha on a Sunday evening back to MKE. I estimate there were some 300 people taking that train back to MKE. I took a measured but determined pace and scored a seat all to myself, facing "backwards" once again. It didn't matter to me. I relaxed with eyes closed against the seat most of the ride north, and was vastly entertained by three lovely ladies in the seats in front of me (behind me?) who talked non-stop about their shopping expedition, their husbands, and fascinating details of their soap-opera drama worthy personal lives, until they got off at the Sturtevant stop! It's not that I wanted to eavesdrop, but in the close confines I really had no choice, since I didn't have ear plugs. As we slowed down to the Sturtevant station, I made sure I was up with eyes wide open, and I spotted the three ladies exiting to the platform, greeting their waiting husbands with big smooches. We arrived at the Milwaukee Intermodal Station on time and without incident. The "Intermodal Station" is a fancy name for a combined Amtrak and overland bus station, which used to be housed in separate locations a couple of blocks away from each other. The Intermodal is much prettier, especially at night, all lit up, now that it has emerged from a multi-million dollar makeover (photo right) but it sure isn't Union Station in Chicago! One of the advantages of not being Union Station is that I had a very short walk to the exit where taxis were waiting for passengers disembarking from the Chicago train (the drivers know the Hiawatha schedules much better than I do), and I lined up with other passengers for a very short wait for a cab. Zoom zoom zoom! I'm the next in line - cab pulls up. A hair-raising 18 minute ride later, I'm $31.50 lighter in the pocket book (not including tip), but I was home before 10:00 p.m. Ahhhhhhhh. The exorbitant cab fare was worth it! Goddess! What a long day. It started at 5:00 a.m. (and a crappy night's sleep beforehand). After I refrigerated my "doggy bag" from Club Lucky (I'd ordered Fettucini Alfredo and got about three days' worth of food that, frugle Milwaukeean that I am, I was not about to leave to the garbage), I scrubbed up for the night, determined to go to bed at a civilized hour because I had to return to the office the next day. Dream on... I sat up until 1:00 a.m. typing out the first blast of my experiences as a volunteer. Oy! Shira has since finished her work assignment in Chicago, and is on to a new assignment. I am hoping - I pray - that the lives of everyone we met with and interacted with on November 15, 2009 at the SOS Childrens Village Chicago, will spread out like the waves in a pond when a pebble has been tossed into its center. I can personally attest that I will never be the same after my experiences as a volunteer for this project. I'd do it again in a heart-beat.

Ancient Sacrificial Tradition Continues Despite Protests

Story from The Times of India Indians throng Nepal's Gadhimai fair for animal sacrifice Sudeshna Sarkar, TNN 24 November 2009, 06:05pm IST KATHMANDU: Thousands of Indians from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and other states bordering Nepal swarmed to the Himalayan republic’s southern plains Tuesday to attend a notorious Hindu fair there and sacrifice animals and birds in the hope their wishes would be fulfilled. While a debate began to grow in Nepal about the Gadhimai Fair in Bara district and the wanton cruelty it inflicted on animals, the festival drew its strength from zealous Indian attendees who have been flocking to it every five years in a bid to circumvent the ban imposed on animal sacrifices in their own states. The name on everyone’s lips on Tuesday, when the slaughter of buffaloes started, was that of Raman Thakur, a farmer from Sitamarhi in Bihar who sacrificed 105 buffaloes to show his gratitude. The goddess, Thakur said, had answered the prayer he had made five years ago by granting him a son. Men, women and children poured in from Bihar, most of them carrying kid goats and roosters, many of which had been smuggled across the porous Indo-Nepal border, bypassing the few Nepali quarantine posts. “My son Vishnu has been ill for years and can’t walk,” said Kalaiya Devi, pointing to a severely malnourished child in her arms whose legs looked like matchsticks. “I am going to sacrifice a pigeon now and come back with a buffalo at the next fair if the goddess gives him the strength to walk.” People who believe in witchcraft and supernatural powers and were hardened to suffering due to the suffering they themselves have undergone for generations are the people who keep the Gadhimai Fair in Nepal alive while the locals regard it more as an occasion to do brisk business when their hotels and restaurants remain full. Ram Mahato, 37, who also came from Sitamarhi, planned to watch the execution of the animals, visit the circus and drink his fill of local liquor that has also been doing brisk sale underground despite an official ban on it. He had not heard of Maneka Gandhi, let alone her plea to the Nepal government to ban the quinquennial slaughter at Gadhimai. Neither had he heard that six people, including one from Motihari, had died after consuming adulterated hooch. “Gandhi?” he asked, scratching his head. “Is she related to Indira Gandhi? But then, they have everything, unlike us. They can afford not to seek the blessings of the goddess.” The local Maoist MP, Shiv Chandra Kushwaha, said he had decided to skip attending parliament – which his party had agreed to allow to convene for three critical days to pass the budget – to attend the fair since it was for a bigger cause. “About 75 percent of the people who come to fair to offer sacrifices are Indians. We can’t stop them because it is a religious sentiment. Why blame us? It is not us who are making the sacrifices.” The Maoist MP estimates about 15,000 buffaloes will be killed Tuesday. On Wednesday, he says, the number of slaughtered goats, roosters and pigeons will run into hundreds of thousands. The temple authorities have built a new slaughter house at a cost of nearly NRS 5 million while a huge pit has been dug to bury the heads of the butchered animals. The animal skins are being bought by tannery owners in India and Nepal. [What happens to the rest of the animals? Are they eaten?] Nepal’s government refused to ban the massacre despite warnings by animal lovers and livestock experts that it could cause an outbreak of animal-borne diseases like goat plague, swine flu and bird flu. Though celebrities like Maneka Gandhi and yesteryear’s sex symbol French actress Brigitte Bardot raised their voices against the killings, the root of the problem perhaps is that these voices are not as potent in the drinking water and electricity-less villages of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh as the voices of imagined gods and demons.

Radical Islamists Destroying Ancient Pakistani Artefacts

Story from The Himalyan Times Taliban destroying Gandhara heritage in Pakistan Last Updated : 2009-11-22 12:22 PM Agence France Presse TAXILA: Archaeologists warn that the Taliban are destroying Pakistan’s ancient Gandhara heritage and rich Buddhist legacy as pilgrimage and foreign research dries up in the country’s northwest. “Militants are the enemies of culture,” said Abdul Nasir Khan, curator of Taxila Museum, one of the premier archeological collections in Pakistan. “It is very clear that if the situation carries on like this, it will destroy our culture and will destroy our cultural heritage,” he told AFP. Taxila, a small town around 20 kilometres south of Islamabad, is one of Pakistan’s foremost archeological attractions given its history as a centre of Buddhist learning from the 5th century BC to the 2nd century. Violence is on the rise in Pakistan as Taliban bombers and gunmen strike with increasing frequency and intensity in the cities of North West Frontier Province and around the capital Islamabad. “Even in Taxila we don’t feel safe. The local administration has warned us about a possible attack on this museum. We have taken some extra security precautions but they aren’t sufficient and we lack funds,” said Khan. “For weeks we don’t get even a single foreign visitor. If visitors don’t come, if sites are not preserved and protected, if research stops, what do you think will be the future of archaeology?” he said. In March 2001, Taliban militants in neighbouring Afghanistan blew up two 1,500-year-old Bamiyan Buddha statues in defiance of international appeals. The Islamist militia has since spread into Pakistan. Their opposition to music, art, dance, girls’ education and idolatry makes archaeologists fear that Pakistani Buddhist relics are in the eye of the storm. Italian archaeologists were active in Pakistan’s northwest Swat valley from 1956 until they reluctantly discontinued work in 2007 after Taliban fighters led by radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah rose up demanding sharia law. “It is not planned to carry on any research activity,” said Luca Olivieri, co-director the Italian archeological mission in Pakistan. After 17 years as curator in Swat, Khan took no risks. With the Taliban killing and bombing their way through the valley, the museum closed in 2008 and he evacuated the most priceless antiquities. That September, the Taliban twice tried to blow up 7th century Buddhist relics -- damaging a rock engraved with images of Buddha that for centuries had been a pilgrimage site.This year, the rebels marched to within 100 kilometres (60 miles) of Islamabad, precipitating a major military operation in the northwest district and followed up with a current offensive in South Waziristan.“ This is the worst time for archaeology. Militancy has affected it very badly. There were 15-20 foreign missions working in this field, now this research has completely stopped,” said Khan. He says the army has requisitioned the museum building in Swat’s main town of Mingora. Despite the summer offensive, which appears to have flushed out Taliban havens in Swat for now, he doubts life will soon return to normal. “I don’t see any chance in the near future of re-opening the Swat museum. The situation is still not suitable. “The museum building was badly damaged in a bomb blast. The display cases are broken and the building needs complete renovation,” he said. “There is still fear in people’s minds but I hope that the army will succeed in bringing back normalcy,” he added. The situation is not much better further south. Peshawar, the troubled capital of northwest Pakistan known for its Buddhist heritage and archaeology, used to attract thousands of tourists but security fears and bomb attacks make it a no-go area for foreigners. Its museum is open, but one gate has been sealed and cement barricades outside the second allow only pedestrians to enter.

Parthian Grave/Artifacts Found In Iraq

Unfortunately, no much of a description of the magnificent finds was given! What are they? Parthian grave with astounding artifacts found in Iraq By Mohened Ali Azzaman, November 19, 2009 An Iraqi excavation team has uncovered a grave with magnificent finds dating to the Parthian period. The grave’s artifacts have astonished scientists for their beauty and magnificence. “The discovery includes 216 artifacts all belonging to the Parthian Period,” said Antiquities Department spokesman Abdulzahara al-Talaqani. Talaqani said the finds are at least about 2000 years old and the new grave is the largest to be excavated from the same period in Iraq. The Parthians were a Persian dynasty and their name is probably drawn from the Persian dialect they spoke, historically known as Parthava. They established an extensive empire which included Iran, Mesopotamia and other regions. They ruled Iraq for more than three centuries while their empire survived from 247 BC to 224 AD. Talaqani said the grave occupies 306 sq. meters and consists of several floors connected by special staircases. He said Iraqi excavators also came across “pottery pieces of glass all in good condition and that digging is continuing.” The team working on the Parthian grave is one of nine other teams currently excavating Iraq’s ancient treasures. The acting head of the Antiquities Department Qais Hassan said: “The grave exhibits important architectural features. The dead were buried in it with their belongings such as gold, precious stone and pottery.” Hassan declined to give details about the location of the grave for security reasons. “It is not the first time the pick-axes of foreign and Iraq scientists strike Parthian treasures. But this time Iraqi pick-axes have brought to light the largest and the finest Parthian grave which has astonished and surprised us,” Hassan said He said the great care taken “of the architecture, decoration and building of the grave is a sign that the grave does not belong to ordinary people but to the royalty.”

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Chess Femme News

Some chess news for Sunday evening. Susan Polgar's column at Polgar: Checkmate in 60 seconds: Is traditional or rapid chess better? Lubbock Avalanche-Journal Sunday, November 22, 2009Story last updated at 11/22/2009 - 2:20 am Deysi Cori wins Girls' U-16 World Youth Chess Championship title, and her brother, Jorge Cori, wins the Boys' U-14 World Youth Chess Championship title. What a dynamic duo! It is a mistake to neglect the old masters By Errol Tiwari November 22, 2009 GM Alexandra Kosteniuk talks a little about her performance at the World Blitz Chess Championship, from which she and a number of other players travelled directly to the location of the 2009 World Cup. Kosteniuk defeated Magnus Carlsen in one of her blitz games :)) [Event "World Blitz Championship"] [Site "Moscow RUS"] [Date "2009.11.16"] [EventDate "2009.11.16"] [Round "4"] [Result "0-1"] [White "M Carlsen"] [Black "A Kosteniuk"] [ECO "C43"] [WhiteElo "2801"] [BlackElo "2517"] [PlyCount "86"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. d4 Nxe4 4. Bd3 d5 5. dxe5 Nc5 6. Be2 Be7 7. O-O O-O 8. Be3 Nc6 9. Nc3 Be6 10. Bb5 Nd7 11. Bf4 a6 12. Bxc6 bxc6 13. Nd4 Nb8 14. Qd3 Qd7 15. Qg3 Re8 16. Bh6 Bf8 17. Na4 Kh8 18. Be3 Qe7 19. f4 Bc8 20. Nb3 Nd7 21. Nac5 a5 22. a4 Ba6 23. Rfe1 Bc4 24. Nxd7 Qxd7 25. Nc5 Qf5 26. b3 Ba6 27. Qf2 Bc8 28. Bd4 h6 29. h3 Qg6 30. Kh2 Bf5 31. g4 Bxc5 32. Bxc5 Be4 33. f5 Qg5 34. Be3 Qe7 35. Bf4 Qb4 36. Re3 Qc5 37. Rc1 Rab8 38. h4 Rb4 39. f6 g6 40. c4 Reb8 41. Bxh6 Rxb3 42. Rce1 Rb2 43. R3e2 0-1 From The Week in Chess: The Russian Cup took place in St Peterburg 3rd-12th November 2009. The event was a 32 player knockout for men and 18 players for the women.Time control: 90 minutes + 30 seconds for all moves. ... The women's event was won by Tatiana Stepovaia who beat Irina Turova after a final blitz game. Official site: The official site does not feature an English translation and I don't have time to attempt a translation either by hand or by using Babelfish. Congratulations to Stepovaia.

Deysi Cori Wins World U-16 Title

Sports 22 November, 2009 [ 00:03 ] Peru's Daisy Cori wins U-16 World Chess Championship Isabel Guerra The young chess player Daysi Cori confirmed that she is the best in her category worldwide after winning the U-16 World Chess Championship, currently taking place in the town of Kemer, Turkey. Daysi beat Georgian Mariam Danelia and added 9.5 points in the table, taking a lead of 1.5 points to its closest competitor (Meri Arabidze) and took the title. "I'm very, very happy, very happy. In the last world championships I have not had the opportunity to reach the top. I only would see how the Europeans won and sang their national anthems. Now I'll be amongst them," she said in a telephone conversation with El Comercio. Daysi still has an scheduled game for tomorrow against Nazi Paikidze (Georgia) but even is she loses the game she will still be the champion. However she wants to stay undefeated: "Anyway I'll go to win my last game," he said.

2009 Chess World Cup

Round 1 of the World Cup has been completed. Here are the results for the players I am following: GM Alexandra Kosteniuk (RUS 2517) - didn't make it into the next round. She lost both of her games playing GM Shakriyar Mamedyarov (AZE 2719). GM Hou Yifan (CHN 2588) and GM Arkadij Naiditsch (GER 2689) are going to play-off after drawing both Round 1 games. I understand that GM Judit Polgar's match didn't take place because the player did not make it (for whatever reason - I haven't checked to see what the latest news is on that). So JP goes through automatically to Round 2. American players: Tomashevsky, Evgeny (RUS 2708) 1.5 / Ivanov, Alexander (USA 2539) 0.5 Friedel, Joshua E (USA 2551) 0.0 / Wang, Hao (CHN 2708) 2.0 Jobava, Baadur (GEO 2696) 1.5 / Robson, Ray (USA 2567) 0.5 Hess, Robert L (USA 2572) 0.5 /Motylev, Alexander (RUS 2695) 1.5 Kamsky, Gata (USA 2695) 1.5 / Antonio, Rogelio Jr (PHI 2574) 0.5 Onischuk, Alexander (USA 2672) 1.5 / Flores, Diego (ARG 2602) 0.5 - Onischuk to R2 Smirin, Ilia (ISR 2662) 1.5 / Ehlvest, Jaan (USA 2606) 0.5 Shabalov, Alexander (USA 2606) 1.0 /Baklan, Vladimir (UKR 2655) 1.0 - going to play-off Savchenko, Boris (RUS 2644) 1.0 /Shulman, Yuri (USA 2623) 1.0 - going to play-off Akobian, Varuzhan (USA 2624) 1.0 /Tregubov, Pavel V. (RUS 2642) 1.0 - going to play-off
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