Artist Nancy Spero dies

This video from the USA is called Art:21 | Nancy Spero.

On October 18, 2009, United States artist Nancy Spero died.

From Wikipedia:

Nancy Spero (August 24, 1926 – October 18, 2009) was an American artist. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, she had long been based in New York City. She was married to and collaborated with artist Leon Golub (1922–2004).

As both artist and activist, Nancy Spero’s career has spanned fifty years. Her continuous engagement with contemporary political, social, and cultural concerns is renowned. She has chronicled wars and apocalyptic violence as well as articulating visions of ecstatic rebirth and the celebratory cycles of life. Her complex network of collective and individual voices was a catalyst for the creation of her figurative lexicon representing women from prehistory to the present in such epic-scale paintings and collage on paper as Torture of Women (1976), Notes in Time on Women (1979) and The First Language (1981). …

Spero and Golub returned to New York in 1964, where the couple remained to live and work. The Vietnam War was raging and the Civil Rights Movement was exploding. Affected by images of the war broadcast nightly on television and the unrest and violence evident in the streets, Spero began her War Series (1966-70). These small gouache and inks on paper, executed rapidly, represented the obscenity and destruction of war. The War Series is among the most sustained and powerful group of works in the genre of history painting that condemns war and its real and lasting consequences.

An activist and early feminist, Spero was a member of the Art Workers Coalition (1968-69), Women Artists in Revolution (1969), and in 1972 she was a founding member of the first women’s cooperative gallery, A.I.R. (Artists in Residence) in SoHo. It was during this period that Spero completed her “Artaud Paintings” (1969-70), finding her artistic “voice” and developing her signature scroll paintings: Codex Artaud (1971-1972). Uniting text and image, printed on long scrolls of paper, glued end-to-end and tacked on the walls of A.I.R., Spero violated the formal presentation, choice of valued medium and scale of framed paintings. Although her collaged and painted scrolls were Homeric in both scope and depth, the artist shunned the grandiose in content as well as style, relying instead on intimacy and immediacy, while also revealing the continuum of shocking political realities underlying enduring myths.

In 1974, Spero chose to focus on themes involving women and their representation in various cultures; her Torture in Chile (1974) and the long scroll, Torture of Women (1976, 20 inches x 125 feet), interweave oral testimonies with images of women throughout history, linking the contemporary governmental brutality of Latin American dictatorships (from Amnesty International reports) with the historical repression of women. Spero re-presented previously obscured women’s histories, cultural mythology, and literary references with her expressive figuration.

HERE WE go again. Another study is out to show how the women’s movement ruined women’s lives: here.

Protest against Bush administration torture enabler

This video from the USA is called Protesters Disrupt John Yoo’s Return to Classroom UC Berkeley Law Boalt Hall 8-16-10.

And this video is Part 2.

From Crooks and Liars in the USA on this video:

October 20, 2009

PBS News Hour

The tenure of Berkeley law professor John Yoo has come under fire amid a backlash over the role he played in the Bush administration, advising on the legalities of now-controversial interrogation tactics used on terror suspects. Spencer Michels reports.

Update May 2011: here.

“Guidebook to False Confessions”: Key Document John Yoo Used to Draft Torture Memo Released. Jason Leopold, Jeffrey Kaye, Truthout: A key document that describes the origins of the Bush administration’s torture program was just released by the Department of Defense under the Freedom of Information Act. The so-called Pre-Laboratory Operating Instructions was a manual used to teach US servicemembers how to withstand torture if captured by an enemy. The document was shared with top Bush administration officials during White House meetings in May of 2002 as they discussed an “alternative interrogation methods” for high-value detainee Abu Zubaydah. Seven of the techniques in the manual ended up in the August 2002 torture memo drafted by former Justice Department attorney John Yoo: here.

Squirrel-sized dinosaur discovered in Colorado, USA

Fruitadens haagarorum

From Discovery News:

Tiny Dinosaur Lived Among Giants

Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News

Oct. 20, 2009 — Though only as big as a squirrel, Fruitadens haagarorum — a recently identified dinosaur from Colorado — coexisted with enormous other species.

With the largest Fruitadens specimens weighing less than two pounds and measuring around 28 inches long, the North American dinosaur comes close to being the world’s smallest, but not quite, according to a new study.

This diminutive dinosaur is, however, now North America’s smallest known dinosaur. The 150-million-year-old creature is also the world’s smallest known ornithischian dinosaur, a group that included horned, duck-billed and armored dinosaurs, along with many other diverse species.

“The smallest known dinosaurs — just slightly smaller than Fruitadens — are from China and they represent some of the closest relatives of birds,” co-author Luis Chiappe told Discovery News.

“(The new dinosaur) may look bird-like because of its size, but in fact it isn’t very closely related to birds or Archaeopteryx (the world’s first known bird),” added Chiappe, who is director of the Natural History Museum’s Dinosaur Institute in Los Angeles.

He and an international team of experts describe the new species in the latest Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The dinosaur’s name was not inspired by edible fruit, but instead by the Fruita Paleontological Area, northwest of Grand Junction, Colo., where its remains were discovered.

Fruits were probably on its menu, however, along with eggs and almost anything else it could get in its mouth.

“The shape of Fruitadens’ teeth suggests it was probably eating both plants and small animals — i.e. insects,” co-author Laura Porro told Discovery News.

She explained that in addition to being an ornithischian dinosaur, it was also a member of a family of dinosaurs called heterodontosaurids, meaning “different-toothed lizards.” The teeth of these dinosaurs, like those of fellow omnivore humans, erupted in different shapes, with some resembling canines, others looking like molars and so on.

Most modern reptiles, such as alligators and iguanas, have more uniform teeth.

Relatives of Fruitadens, which have been found in England, South Africa and other countries, lived when “all continental land masses were connected into a single, giant continent called Pangea,” Chiappe said. Some of these dinosaurs probably then traveled to North America, explaining how the bones of the tiny dinosaur wound up in Colorado.

“Colorado is the place where the rocks containing the fossils of Fruitadens are exposed, but presumably the species lived elsewhere in North America,” he added, mentioning that it would have coexisted with other, much larger dinosaurs, such as Diplodocus and Brachiosaurus.

The presence of such gigantic herbivores may even help to explain why heterodontosaurids shrunk over the years and became omnivores. Not able to compete with the giant sauropods, “heterodontosaurs evolved to become small, ecological generalists. Think modern raccoons,” Porro said.

“Dinosaurs were once thought of as large, lumbering plant or meat eaters,” she added. “We now know there were lots of small dinosaurs about, that some dinosaurs were specialists that ate primarily fish or insects, that different species of plant-eating dinosaurs may have specialized in different types of plants, and that some dinosaurs may have climbed trees or even dug burrows.”

She concluded: “We can now envision the world of the dinosaurs as a much richer, fuller place.”

Visitors to the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles can soon view a display featuring the tiny Fruitadens next to the 70-foot-long dinosaur Mamenchisaurus, which also lived during the Late Jurassic.

Little cavegirl’s rock art

Mammoth painting in Rouffignac cave

By Jennifer Viegas:

Most scholars have assumed that all prehistoric artists were male, but new evidence suggests women and even young girls produced at least some cave drawings, according to a study in the latest Oxford Journal of Archaeology.

The study focused on finger flutings made on the walls and ceiling of Rouffignac Cave in the Dordogne, France.

The flutings — lines drawn with the fingers on soft surfaces — as well as other art in the cave are thought to be 13,000 to 14,000 years old, based on stylistic considerations.

The figures pictured here were likely created by a 5-year old girl. The researchers came to this conclusion based not only on her hand dimensions but also on the height of the places where she had been able to reach.

Cave lions: here. And here.

South Africa: Engraved Ostrich Eggshell Fragments Reveal 60,000-Year-Old Graphic Design Tradition: here.

Southern African Rock Art: here.

An ar­chae­o­log­i­cal site dis­cov­ered three years ago was ap­par­ent­ly a work­shop in which ear­ly hu­mans made, mixed and stored ochre, the ear­li­est form of paint, re­search­ers are re­port­ing: here.

British spy boss defends torture

This video from Sky News in Britain is called Binyam Mohamed released from Guantanamo Bay.

By Chris Marsden in Britain:

British secret service chief justifies torture

21 October 2009

With efforts by the Labour government to suppress evidence of collusion with the United States threatened with collapse, the head of Britain’s secret service, MI5, last week made a public defence of the use of torture to obtain evidence against alleged terrorists.

MI5 Director General Jonathan Evans spoke at Bristol University on October 15, even as Lord Justice Thomas and Mr. Justice Lloyd Jones were preparing to issue a judgment on whether the Labour government should release a CIA briefing detailing the 2002 interrogation of British resident Binyam Mohamed.

The Times of London noted that Evans’s statements could be interpreted as commenting on a case that was sub judice. One MI5 officer, known as Witness B, is currently being investigated by the Metropolitan Police for “possible criminal wrongdoing.”

Ethiopian-born Mohamed was arrested in Pakistan, rendered to Morocco and then detained in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. He was released in February without charge and is suing the British government on the grounds that MI5 was complicit in his torture.

MI5 is accused of supplying questions to be asked, as well as personal information about Mohamed. Mohamed also alleges that an MI5 officer, Witness B, visited him while he was imprisoned in Morocco.

The government has been pilloried for influencing the findings of the Court of Appeal in the court’s judgement in the case of Binyam Mohamed: here.

The Court of Appeal has rejected the government’s last-ditch attempts to suppress seven paragraphs from a previous court judgement relating to the kidnap and torture of Binyam Mohamed: here. And here. And here.

British judges: MI5 complicit in torture: here.

Head of MI5 Jonathan Evans may have been personally involved in British complicity in the torture of Binyam Mohamed, a leading civil rights lawyer has suggested: here.

British collusion in Irish loyalist atrocities: here.

Chatham Islands tui back on main island


From Forest & Bird in New Zealand:

Popular songbird nests on Chatham Islands mainland

New Zealand’s fifth most popular bird, the tui, has started breeding on the Chatham Islands’ main island after a successful transfer of 14 Chatham Islands tui to the main island earlier this year.

“The locals are over the moon because some of them have never seen a tui – soon they might have these songbirds gracing their gardens,” Chatham Islands resident & conservationist Liz Tuanui says.

“The last time tui were seen in any numbers on the Chatham islands’ mainland was 25 years ago, so anyone under that age is unlikely to have seen or heard tui.”

In what has been described as a world first, tui were transferred from offshore nature reserve Rangatira Island to the Chatham Islands mainland after a grant was given to the Chatham Island Taiko Trust by Forest & Bird’s international partner, Birdlife International.

The Chatham Islands archipelago holds almost 20 per cent of New Zealand’s threatened species and 160 endemic species of insects. Most of these species, however, live on three inaccessible predator-free islands.

Research conducted in the late 1990s estimated the adult Chatham Islands tui population to be about 350 birds.

Liz and husband Bruce started planting areas of their farmland 16 years ago, fuelled by a desire to create a refuge for the Chatham Islands’ threatened bird. More recently, they began intensive pest control.

Pest control is also done in the nearby Tuku Nature Reserve by the Department of Conservation.

Their property is now “dripping with flowers and fruit”, which nectar-eating birds like tui need to breed successfully.

The new immigrants were last seen on the mainland 25 years ago, and have been welcomed with open arms by the locals. Many have even started planting their gardens with fruity and flowery delights to help aid the baby-making process.

“It would be wonderful to have them back in the kind of numbers that people like my mother took for granted. Our Moriori karapuna were known to wake early and sing in high piping voices with the dawn chorus of the birds,” Shirley King from the Moriori Trust says.

Translocation Co-ordinator Mike Bell says that community-led projects like this help to empower people to get involved in conservation.

“The problem with conservation in the Chatham islands is that you’re protecting things you can’t see,” Mike Bell says. “Projects like this require locals to come on board to help with planting and pest control. Since the transfer, I’ve had locals come up to me, and ask me: ‘What can I do to attract tui? What can I plant?’ It’s fantastic.”

Birdlife International recently gave the Chatham Island Taiko Trust funding to transfer another feathery immigrant – the Chatham Islands tomtit – to one of Bruce and Liz’s covenants.

And if everything goes to plan and approval is given, 40 of these endangered birds will be heading for the Chatham Islands mainland next February.

“The Taiko Trust has done such a good job of preserving our unique taonga ,” Deborah Goomes, from Ngati Mutunga O Wharekauri Iwi Trust, says.

The Chatham Island Taiko Trust is a community-based conservation group established more than 10 years ago to help protect the endangered taiko (magenta petrel) and other indigenous wildlife on the Chathams. The group aims to help islanders conserve habitats and birdlife on their properties.


* This transfer was the first time tui have been translocated, in the Chathams or in New Zealand.
* Research by Peter Dilks from the late 1990s estimated the adult tui population on those islands at about 350 birds.
* Chatham Islands tui are one-third bigger than tui found on New Zealand’s mainland.
* Tui were voted the fifth most popular bird in Forest & Bird’s 2009 online poll.
* Breeding of Chatham Islands tui is triggered by flax flowering. In each clutch, 2-4 eggs are laid, and 2-3 broods can be raised in a good year.
* Chatham islands tui were last seen on the mainland in the early 1980s.

Publication Date: October 20, 2009

See also here.

Chatham Islands: Rare birds: here.

A fundamental prediction of life-history theory is that individuals should reduce their reproductive investment per breeding attempt when the risk of nest predation is high. We tested this trade-off in two species of exotic Turdus thrushes in New Zealand (Common Blackbird (T. merula) and Song Thrush (T. philomelos)): here.

Mottled petrel: here.

The largest of the genus, the Antipodes Island parakeet was described as far back as 1831 from a specimen that had been taken to England alive and placed in the Zoological Society’s gardens. After it died, the skin was preserved in the British Museum. According to Oliver, it was this bird which Edward Lear portrayed in his famous folio monograph published in 1832, Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae, or Parrots: the greater part of them species hitherto unfigured: here.

Pakaha, the fluttering shearwater: here.

Westland petrel: here.

The New Zealand storm petrel, thought to be extinct for more than 150 years, has been seen in the Hauraki Gulf and off the Coromandel Peninsula. According to newspaper reports, one of the birds was seen in January and last month (November, 2003) two British ornithologists saw a flock of up to 20 of the birds near Little Barrier Island: here.

Cook’s Petrel: here.

Black petrel: here.