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  • Did a Fall From a Tree Kill Lucy, Our Famous Ancestor?

    New analysis suggests that Lucy—one of the most complete hominin fossils ever found—met a tragic end three million years ago.

    Lucy, our renowned hominin relative, died some 3.18 million years ago after plummeting from a tree, according to researchers from the University of Texas at Austin. A new analysis of the fossil—conducted more than 40 years after its discovery in what is now Hadar, Ethiopia—has revealed a pattern of distinctive fractures that, the scientists claim, points to a fall from great heights.

    “I have taught this fossil since I was a grad student in the 1980s,” saysJohn Kappelman, a professor of anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin and lead author of the study, which was published Monday inNature. “I knew these fractures were there, I just never thought to ask what had caused them. No one, as far as I know, has ever put out a theory of how she died.”

    This theory, however, is already provoking controversy. Some researchers remain unconvinced, arguing that the cracks in Lucy’s bones formed long after her death.

    “The kind of breakage that we are looking at on these bones is consistent with the kind of bone damage on almost all of the other fossils at Hadar—elephant fossils, rhino fossils, monkey fossils,” says Donald Johanson, a paleoanthropologist at Arizona State University who is credited with discovering and naming Lucy. “And they are undoubtedly the result of geological forces acting on the bones after they are buried during the process of fossilization.”

    Breaking Bad

    Lucy, a member of the species Australopithecus afarensis, was discovered in 1974. About 40 percent of the skeleton had been preserved, making her one of the most complete hominin fossils ever found.


    At the time of discovery, the researchers noted a considerable amount of damage to the bones—which they attributed to weathering and other fossilization processes—but they had inadequate evidence to speculate on the cause of death.

    “There is one small tooth mark on Lucy’s pelvis that was obvious from the beginning,” says Johanson, “but there were no carnivore marks on the rest of the skeleton.”

    But in 2008, Kappelman and his team were able to get their hands on the rock star fossil while she was on tour at museums in the United States. They conducted CT scans of each of the bones, and, in a protracted process that lasted the next eight years, his team meticulously analyzed the 35,000 digital slices the scans generated.

    “It was looking at those scans and the way that her skeleton was built that these unusual fractures came to light,” says Kappelman.

    According to Kappelman, while bones break naturally over time postmortem, they usually fracture across the bone—analogous to a dry stick being snapped in half. A closer examination of Lucy, however, revealed fractures that he claims are far more common in living bone.

    For example, the researchers observed hinge, or greenstick, fractures, in which one side of the bone breaks while the other remains intact; similar to what happens when you try to snap a small healthy tree branch.

    The scientists also noticed that tiny bone fragments that splintered during the fracture remained lodged in the bone cracks.

    This finding, Kappelman argues, provides additional evidence that the fractures took place in living tissue, since breaks in dried bone likely would have dispersed these tiny fragments on the ground nearby.

    And because these fractures showed no signs of healing, the team concluded that Lucy sustained these injuries in a fatal traumatic event.

    Up On High

    Additional evidence points to a scenario of a terrifying fall.

    Notably, her right shoulder has distinctive compression fractures that are characteristic of someone extending their arms as they plummet to the ground.

    “I showed the evidence to an orthopedic surgeon, who immediately said it is a fracture caused by a fall from considerable height—there was no question at all,” says Kappelman. “I have now had nine surgeons look at this who all agree.”

    Kappelman and his team then scrupulously examined fractures in the rest of Lucy’s skeleton, creating 3-D models to digitally dissect or recreate certain components. Their analysis revealed a cohesive pattern in her ankle, knee, shoulders, and wrist that they are convinced points to a fall from a significant height that would provide the force necessary to break her bones.

    Based on studies of fossilized mammals and pollen, as well as geology in Lucy’s environs, the researchers knew that the area probably had been grass-covered woodland on a flat floodplain with plenty of large trees capable of facilitating the fateful accident.

    Kappelman and his colleagues speculated that small hominins like Lucy, who stood a mere one meter (three and a half feet) tall and weighed around 27 kilograms (60 pounds), likely nested in the trees at night to protect themselves from potential predators.

    By analyzing previous studies of chimpanzee nesting patterns, the team showed that Lucy would probably have climbed around 14 meters (45 feet) out of harm’s way—which, for us, would be equivalent to ascending a four to five story building. According to their calculations, a fall from this height could result in speeds exceeding 37 miles (60 kilometers) an hour, which, when combined with Lucy’s weight, would produce a force sufficient enough to be fatal.

    The researchers have “come up with what strikes me as the most plausible explanation for the breakage—mainly a fall from considerable height onto a very solid surface,” says David Pilbeam, a paleoanthropologist at Harvard University who advised Kappelman on his dissertation 30 years ago.

    Not everyone, however, is convinced that the evidence points to this scenario. In particular, some scientists fault Kappelman for failing to consider other possible explanations.

    “These authors make no effort to test the alternative hypothesis that these cracks and other breaks were made during the processes of fossilization and erosion,” says Timothy White, a paleoanthropologist and professor of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. “In fact, the authors appear to have focused only on the cracks that they could attribute to an imagined fall, ignoring the additional abundant cracks on Lucy and other fossils.”

    Johanson is likewise skeptical. “My reticence about the [study] is that in some ways it is a narrative, a just-so story,” he says. “Something that you can’t verify and you can’t falsify and is therefore unprovable.”

    Ape and Human Features

    If Kappelman’s research were to become widely accepted, the findings could help settle a long-standing debate: Were hominins like Lucy tree climbers?

    Australopithecus afarensis displays both ape and human features, leading some paleoanthropologists to believe that Lucy probably spent time both in the trees and on the ground.

    For example, her curved fingers and long arms are specialized for tree climbing while her shoulder blades are oriented for overhead movement of the arms that are reminiscent of apes. Yet she also displays several features seen in early humans, including an anatomy clearly suited for upright walking, leading other researchers to conclude that she spent all of her time on the ground.

    Lucy’s theoretical fall could indicate that her species wasn’t suited to climb trees or that she was, at least, semiarboreal.

    “It doesn’t strike me as particularly surprising that Australopithecus was using trees even if they weren’t optimally designed to do so, nor is it very surprising that they occasionally fell out of them,” says Pilbeam. “Chimps fall out of trees, gibbons fall out of trees. The notion that apes and monkeys are perfectly adapted to life in the trees is not correct.”

    “I think that there is some evolutionary baggage left over from arboreal life and that we are catching a species in transition,” says Johanson. “I wouldn’t think it’s impossible that they went into the trees to collect fruit or maybe even to build nests to sleep at night, but in terms of their primary mode of locomotion, these guys were essentially terrestrial.”

    For his part, Kappelman will continue to analyze other aspects of Lucy’s skeleton and may even look for her fracture pattern in different fossils found in the area. In the meantime, he says, the research has made him see Lucy in a new way.

    “At one point, I had all these bones out and this idea just finally crystalized—I could see the fall, the position of her body when she hit, the impact,” says Kappelman. “For the very first time, I saw her as an individual and this wave of empathy hit me. For the first time she was not just an isolated box of broken bones. I could actually picture how she died.”






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  • Don't Buy Software: Do Everything for Free

    Buying software is a sucker bet.

    It's the old adage: Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? When it comes to software, there's almost always a free alternative to, er, whatever is the app equivalent of a cow.

    Take image editing. If you want to fine-tune your photos, the go-to option has long been Photoshop -- or at the very least, Adobe Photoshop Elements. But those programs cost money, which is okay if you want bleeding-edge features and the benefits of technical support.

    But Photoshop is also overkill for many of us, especially when there are so many free alternatives. Let's take a look at some of the no-price options for some common software needs.

    Image editing

    As noted above, Photoshop is far from your only choice when it comes to image editing. If you're looking for that level of photo-manipulation power, with filters and special effects and the like, you have two pretty impressive options: GIMP and Paint.net. The former comes closest to matching Photoshop's capabilities, while the latter feels closer to Microsoft's own Paint program -- on steroids and wearing a fancy new suit.

    If you'd rather not monkey around with software at all, there are several good image-editing tools that reside right in your Web browser -- no installation required. Autodesk Pixlr, for example, lets you create images from scratch or upload them from your PC, then crop, rotate, smudge, and so on. PicMonkey also supplies a broad range of editing tools, though the basic (read: free) version is somewhat limited. If you want advanced touch-tools, more fonts and effects, and other extras, there's a nominal monthly fee ($2.75).


    Video editing

    Free video editors aren't nearly as abundant as, say, free office suites. That's in part because video editing can be very complex, involving advanced features as well as compatibility with lots of file formats and standards. Many, if not most, of the freebie editors out there are just stripped-down versions of their commercial counterparts, and not very useful overall.

    Microsoft's Windows Movie Maker is free but limited, while Apple's iMovie delivers a somewhat more robust set of tools to Mac users. But if the video you shot is located on your phone or tablet, why not edit it right there? Why go to all the hassle of transferring it to a desktop, especially if it's just going to end up back online (Facebook, YouTube, etc.) anyway?



    - http://www.ehow.com/how_12343318_dont-buy-software-everything.html



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    The congressionally mandated Diversity Immigrant Visa Program is administered annually by the Department of State. Section 203(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides for a class of immigrants known as “diversity immigrants” from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. For Fiscal Year 2017, 50,000 Diversity Visas (DVs) will be available. There is no cost to register for the DV program.

    Applicants who are selected in the program (“selectees”) must meet simple, but strict, eligibility requirements in order to qualify for a diversity visa. Selectees are chosen through a randomized computer drawing. Diversity visas are distributed among six geographic regions and no single country may receive more than seven percent of the available DVs in any one year.

    For DV-2017, natives of the following countries are not eligible to apply, because more than 50,000 natives of these countries immigrated to the United States in the previous five years: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam. Persons born in Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, and Taiwan are eligible.

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  • How to Use Instagram

    Instagram is a popular social network application that allows you to upload, edit, and caption your own photos. This simple guide shows you how to manage your account, take pictures and use Instagram.

    1. Download the Instagram app. Go to the app store on your device, click on the search button, and type in "Instagram". Scroll until you find the app, select it, and click ‘Install’.

    • If you download the app from iTunes you will have to sync it to your iOS device before you are able to use it.


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  • I am Ethiopian, as truly and wonderfully as that is

    “I am Ethiopian, as truly and wonderfully as that is, and no one has the right to define, reduce, or otherwise dismiss my identity”; 
    Dr. Eleni Zaude Gabre-Madhin Ze-Biher Bulga

    Much has recently been made of my ethnic identity although this is a matter of no relevance whatsoever to a reasoned discourse on the existence of the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange. However, when the unnecessary gets in the way of the important, however unpleasant it may be, it must be faced. I am Ethiopian, as truly and wonderfully as that is, and no one has the right to define, reduce, or otherwise dismiss my identity. I do not apologize for or defend who I am, as each one of us, whoever we are, has a God-given set of circumstances that uniquely defines us.

    My reality is that, born in Addis Ababa, I first left Ethiopia with my family at the age of four to live in New York city, accompanying my father, Zaude Gabre-Madhin, who was a senior United Nations official, prior to which he served in the Imperial government. Upon returning a few years later, my family then left Ethiopia again, escaping the chaos of the new Dergue regime, this time to Rwanda and later Togo, Malawi, and Kenya. I thus grew up in six different countries, going to school in French as well as English, and learning Swahili along the way. Throughout this time, my parents, to whom I owe everything, instilled in me and my sisters the deepest love and pride for our country Ethiopia. As I grew up in different cultures, grappling to understand my adolescent identity, I drew on the stories my parents told me of my heritage and of those who came before me. My mother, Bizuwork Bekele, who never missed a chance to boast about her beloved Harar, shared stories of my incredible great-grandmother, Imahoy Saba Yifat, from Menz and Gondar by origin, who lived in rural Hararghe as a widow after the Italian invasion and was one of the few women fighters of her time standing up to the invaders to defend the land and her six children. I heard about her son, my grandfather, Ato Bekele Haile, a respected magistrate serving as a judge in Harar town, himself of Gurage and Amhara ancestry, and of my mother’s birth in the historical site today known as the House of Rimbaud. As a young child, I loved to sit for hours with my maternal grandmother, Imahoy Beletshachew Habte-Giorgis, a witty, intelligent,and extremely strong-willed woman who would often exclaim in Afan Oromo which she and her children, including my mother, spoke fluently, as she laughed recalling how she managed her coffee farms in the areas around Jijiga, Fedis, and Deder, where many of my relatives still live today.

    My father, for his part, mostly to amuse his daughters, named the water tank in our UN provided house in Kigali, Rwanda, “Bulga Springs” to recall his father’s birthplace in northern Shewa. He would proudly speak of my grandfather, Fitawrari Gebremedhin, a noble and highly disciplined official in Emperor Menelik’s time, who later settled in Wolaita Soddo in the late nineteenth century, marrying my grandmother, Woizero Ayalech Alaye, niece of the great Wolaita King Tona. At the age of seven, I remember visiting Soddo where my father was born and where many of my relatives still live, to spend time in his last years with my grandfather who was then nearly a century old. A tall, dignified, and handsome man, deeply religious, my grandfather showed me and my sister his coffee farm and I remember him speaking of my much loved late grandmother, and of his childhood and the family still in Bulga, and his laughing politely, not understanding, as I chattered to him in English with children’s jokes I had learned in New York.

    Thus I grew, within and outside Ethiopia, celebrating all the different identities and cultures that are woven beautifully into the tapestry of my identity as an Ethiopian. To my parents, always , we were Ethiopian and that was something to be deeply proud of, recognizing and cherishing all of our different ethnic strands. I never knew until much later, nor did it matter, which particular ethnic group I should claim. In my extended family, my aunt married a man from Wollega and my uncle married a woman from Asmara, my great aunt married into the Abba Jifar clan in Jimma, and the list goes on. So the Ethiopia I knew growing up with my cousins was a kaleidoscope of identities bound together in one Ethiopia.

    This is my Ethiopian story, and it is unique to me, as each Ethiopian would similarly have. It is the story of my Ethiopia, the Ethiopia for which I have enduring love and to which I have returned after thirty years to contribute in the best way I know how. This is my Ethiopia to which I bring all the global experiences which have shaped me, as I have lived my adult years in Mali, Switzerland, and the United States, trained and worked in some of the best institutions, and traveled and explored dozens of countries around the world. This is my Ethiopia that represents all of my heritage, the strong and courageous women and men in my family through the ages whose blood flows in me. This is my Ethiopia for which I am willing to work, fight, and believe all things are possible. This is my Ethiopia to which I have brought my US-born sons, to instill in them the pride and love of all that we are as Ethiopians. I would like to teach them that in our increasingly inter-connected world, they are Ethiopians but also global citizens.

    Ethiopia is ours, to claim, to build and to restore. Rather than engage in destructive ethnic bigotry, far better to embrace all of what we are and to build together a better future for our children. My personal identity is irrelevant to my choice or ability to lead an initiative to bring a better marketing system for all Ethiopians, regardless of their ethnic roots or which corner of the country they claim. A market is above all a connection between humans, an exchange of goods and money that links two sides. The market is neutral as to who is on either side, it is the connection that counts. I have always

    found traders to be the most pragmatic people in the world. Let us too live by this market principle: we are far richer and far stronger if we build on our connectivity to each other in meaningful ways, and that much weaker if we seek isolation and succumb to narrow divisiveness. Let us be like the market. I believe it is our only hope

    By Eleni Zaude Gabre-Madhin, PhD

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