Saturday, March 14, 2009

Multiply this Worldwide...Who Got Suckered?

Story from the Guardian.co.uk Fred Goodwin netted £10k extra a year for one month's work Jill Treanor guardian.co.uk, Monday 9 March 2009 15.28 GMT Sir Fred Goodwin, the former chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland, received a £10,000-a-year boost to his annual pension for working an extra month at the bank in January. He was entitled to a £693,000 annual payout, according to the annual report published today, but this was lifted to £703,000 for working one month beyond the end of the financial year. Goodwin's additional retirement income is two and a half times the typical £4,000-a-year pension earned by most local authority workers over their entire career. Goodwin was paid £1.4m for his last year at the helm of the state-controlled bank. He stopped being a director on 21 November when he handed over to Stephen Hester, who is earning £1.2m a year and has received £277,423 from the first tranche of an award of 10.4m shares which were granted to him when he was lured to RBS from property company British Land. Sir Tom McKillop, the former chairman, was paid £787,000 while the annual report shows that his successor Sir Philip Hampton is receiving £750,000 a year and has been awarded share options worth £1.5m - double his annual fee. The chairman of the bank's remuneration committee, non-executive director Colin Buchan, apologises for the impact of the bank's near-collapse on employees' welfare. He also makes it clear that the early retirement scheme that applied to Goodwin - and Johnny Cameron another former executive director - will no longer be implemented at the bank. [Yeah, right.] Goodwin and Cameron were allowed to retire early under an RBS pension arrangement which allows them to take an "undiscounted pension" - permitting them to have their pensions topped up. The annual report shows that 50-year-old Goodwin's was increased by £8.2m during the year to provide a pension pot of £16.6m while Cameron has retired on £62,000 a year from a £1.3m pension pot. Neither of their pensions is as large as Larry Fish, the US executive who ran the Citizens operations in the US, and received $2.2m a year as a result of his retirement aged 64 on May 1 2008. [Note - he retired before the "crash", although the Bush government officially declared that the "recession" began in December, 2007]. Buchan notes that the performance of RBS -which slumped to a £24bn loss in 2008 - has had an impact not just on shareholders and customers, but also on staff. "The board deeply regrets that our employees' trust had been eroded and their welfare affected during the last year," Buchan. [Oh yeah, I'm sure they really feel your pain]. The bank has rewritten its pay structure, at the instruction of the Treasury, so that no cash bonuses will be paid in 2008 and that all bonuses for 2008 are paid in subordinated debt and spread over three years starting in 2009. The bank will be able to claw back awards if the results turn out to different to what they appeared. By 2012, the group hopes to be "well on its way to standalone financial strength". The annual report shows that Goodwin was allowed to keep 2.5m share options - all of which are underwater and worthless unless the share price returns to £2.18 by the end of January 2010. While he has waived his entitlement to awards of shares under a medium term performance plan that were made in 2008, Goodwin still holds 454,612 shares awarded to him previously. These were worth £2.1m when he received them but are now valued at £81,000 at today's share price of around 18p. Guy Whittaker, the finance director, received almost £1.5m if shares awarded to him when he was hired from Citigroup three years ago, are included. Hester is on an initial 24-month contract that reduces to the standard 12-month after a year. The annual report shows that Mark Fisher, a former executive director who is leaving in March to take up a senior position at Lloyds Banking Group, received total pay of £1.3m - including £441,000 to relocate to the Netherlands following the takeover of Dutch bank ABN Amro that ultimately led to RBS needing the help of the taxpayer. *************************************************************************** Well, with articles like this, I do understand why some folks believe in conspiracy theories. For my part, I've not been a particular fan of conspiracy theories because they generally defy basic logic. But lately, I've been wondering whether the current American economic crash wasn't engineered by - name your picks - to solve two pressing government funding problems that hae been well publicized over the past several years, problems that the U.S. government has consistently failed to address: (1) the Social Security dilemma for the [formerly] soon-to-be retiring baby boomer generation - with the system supposedly "going bust" in 2017; and (2) the Medicare system going bankrupt about 2042. If you were a career politician in the employ of the U.S. government, making your living off of taxes, how would you solve these problems in such a way as to make yourself bullet-proof so that you would not be voted out of office in the next election by passing into law obviously unpopular remedies to solve funding issues (that is, alleged funding issues)? Imagine - by wiping out billions (trillions?) of dollars in wealth built up by average working Americans in 401(k) and pension plans, how much the government would save by not having to pay out all those benefits that all those baby-boomers had planned on collecting in Social Security and Medicare benefits by taking the retirement they were promised. It's now economic reality: millions of working-class baby-boomers who had thought about retiring or planned to retire sometime between ages 62 and 67 now find themselves with devasted 401(k) plans, depleted by 50 to 60% and, if they had pensions, wiped out values or companies threatening bankruptcy or already bankrupt. How many millions of people who had thought they could retire and adequately fund their retirement with 401(k) money and pensions are now facing WORKING FULL TIME UNTIL THEY DROP DEAD? This economic crisis also solves the much-publicized problem about the projected shortage of qualified and experienced workers and the brain-drain that would occur as all of the baby-boomers started retiring. With the ever-shrinking middle class no longer being able to afford to retire, the qualified worker/brain-drain problems are solved! And with built-in age discrimination that, historically, is extremely difficult to prove in court cases, the employers who survive this "recession" can now command the best and the most experienced workers for slave-wages and pick from thousands of out-of-work candidates, and employees who still retain jobs have that ax constantly hovering over their heads. China - why are you worried about the security of the U.S. debt you hold? All of the U.S. problems have been solved by this economic crisis. Meanwhile, the fat cats continue to just get fatter.

This Is NOT Good

Oh crap. From The Los Angeles Times Low-level ozone exposure found to be lethal over time An 18-year study shows an increased annual risk of death from respiratory illnesses, depending on the pollution level. It goes beyond studies that linked brief ozone spikes to short-term effects. By Thomas H. Maugh II March 12, 2009 Ozone pollution is a killer, increasing the yearly risk of death from respiratory diseases by 40% to 50% in heavily polluted cities like Los Angeles and Riverside and by about 25% throughout the rest of the country, researchers reported today. Environmental scientists already knew that increases in ozone during periods of heavy pollution caused short-term effects, such as asthma attacks, increased hospitalizations and deaths from heart attacks. But the 18-year study of nearly half a million people, reported today in the New England Journal of Medicine, is the first to show that long-term, low-level exposure to the pollutant can also be lethal. Current standards for ozone pollution cover only eight-hour averages of the colorless gas, but even with that relatively relaxed rule, 345 counties with a total population of more than 100 million people are out of compliance. The Environmental Protection Agency "has already said that it will revisit the current ozone standards in the country," said Dan Greenbaum, president of the Boston-based Health Effects Institute, one of the study's sponsors. "Undoubtedly, when it happens these results are going to be a very important part of that review," said Greenbaum, who was not involved in the study. The EPA may need to implement an annual standard, said University of Ottawa environmental health scientist Daniel Krewski, one of the paper's authors.Coauthor Michael Jerrett of UC Berkeley said the findings could have profound implications because they show that ozone worsens conditions that already kill a large number of people. Deaths from respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema and pneumonia, account for about 8.5% of all U.S. deaths, an estimated 240,000 each year. Worldwide, such conditions account for 7.7 million deaths each year. Ozone is what is known as a secondary pollutant. It is not formed directly by the burning of fossil fuels. Rather, nitrogen oxides produced by such combustion react in the presence of sunlight to form ozone. It is thus the biggest problem in areas that are sunny and hot, Jerrett said. As an oxidizing agent, ozone reacts with virtually anything it comes into contact with. In particular, it reacts with cells in the lungs, causing inflammation and a variety of other effects that lead to premature aging. Jerrett and his colleagues studied 448,850 people over age 18 in 96 metropolitan regions who enrolled in the American Cancer Society Cancer Prevention Study II in 1982 and 1983. The subjects were tracked for an average of 18 years. During that follow-up period, there were 48,884 deaths, 9,891 of them from respiratory diseases. The researchers found that every increase of 10 parts per billion (ppb) in average ozone concentrations was associated with about a 4% increase in dying from respiratory causes.Riverside had the highest ozone average (104 ppb), and the risk of dying from respiratory causes was 50% greater than it would have been if there were no ozone. Los Angeles had the second-highest ozone level and a 43% increase in risk. In contrast, San Francisco had the lowest average ozone level (33 ppb) of the 96 regions studied and only a 14% increased risk, probably because of the fog and prevailing winds, which reduce ozone formation. The Pacific Northwest also had low levels of ozone, again because of rain and cool weather.Cities in the East like New York and Washington had an average increased risk of about 25% to 27%. The researchers found no increase in deaths from cardiovascular disease associated with ozone levels -- those deaths are caused primarily by the fine particulates present in air pollution. They also found no increase in overall mortality, suggesting that ozone is causing deaths in people who were probably going to die in another year or two anyway, according to epidemiologist Joel Schwartz of the Harvard School of Public Health, who was not involved in the study. "We do know that ozone is particularly dangerous for people living with existing asthma or lung disease," Jerrett said. And it didn't matter what someone's weight, income or education was. "It seems to affect a lot of people relatively equally."

2009 European Individual Women's Chess Championship

Some surprises in the 2009 European Individual Chess Championship (Open – 306 players) (after 8 rounds): GM Vladimir Akopian (2700) in 51st place with 5.0 GM Sergei Tiviakov (2685) in 53rd place with 5.0 GM Vallejo Pons Francisco (2702) in 70th place with 5,0 GM Nisipeanu Liviu-Dieter (2675) in 117th place with 4,5 GM Caruana Fabiano (2646) in 149th place with 4,0 Current tournament leader: GM Inarkiev Ernesto RUS 2656 6,5 How are the chess femmes doing in the Open? Here are their current standings after Round 8: 66 IM Dembo Yelena GRE 2456 5,0 211 WIM Vojinovic Jovana MNE 2331 3,5 252 WFM Berke Ana CRO 2081 3,0 256 WIM Drljevic Ljilja MNE 2244 3,0 258 Pantic Ivica SRB 2193 3,0 260 WIM Solic Kristina CRO 2203 3,0 266 Kruljac Petra CRO 2052 2,5 268 WIM Franciskovic Borka CRO 2261 2,5 271 Papp Petra HUN 2134 2,5 276 Simic Vladica SRB 2064 2,5 305 Kanceljak Dalia CRO 1917 0,5

2009 Isbanc Ataturk Women's Masters Tournament

Standings after Round 7: 1 GM HOU Yifan 2571 CHN 6½ 2 GM ZHAO Xue 2508 CHN 6 3 GM KONERU Humpy 2621 IND 5 4 IM DANIELIAN Elina 2496 ARM 4½ 5 GM STEFANOVA Antoaneta 2557 BUL 3½ 6 GM CHIBURDANIDZE Maia 2516 GEO 3½ 7 IM FIERRO Baquero Martha L. 2403 ECU 3½ GM SEBAG Marie 2529 FRA 3½ 9 WGM SHEN Yang 2448 CHN 2 10 GM CRAMLING Pia 2548 SWE 2 11 WGM MAMEDJAROVA Zeinab 2362 AZE 1½ 12 WIM YILDIZ Betul Cemre 2214 TUR ½ Hou (W) defeated Koneru (B) today to take sole possession of the lead, with 4 rounds to go. It appears Hou is going for a repeat of her Isbanc title.

Clever One Word Puns

Normally I don't even read email forwarded to me by others, but what follows here was forwarded from someone I know generally doesn't do that sort of thing, so I took the time to read what she forwarded. It's great stuff. Is there such a thing as the Washington Post Mensa Invitational? I've no idea - but these one word puns are very clever and had me chuckling at my desk this morning. Here are the winners of this year's Washington Post's Mensa Invitational, which once again asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition: 1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time. 2. Ignoranus: A person who is both stupid and an asshole. 3. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with 4. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly. 5. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future. 6. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid. 7.Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high. 8.Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it. 9. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late. 10. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.) 11. Karmageddon: It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's, like, a serious bummer. 12. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you. 13. Glibido: All talk and no action. 14. Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly. 15. Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web. 16. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out. 17. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating.

Friday, March 13, 2009

2009 Isbanc Ataturk Women's Masters Tournament

Standings after Round 6: 1 GM HOU Yifan 2571 CHN 5½ 2 GM KONERU Humpy 2621 IND 5 3 GM ZHAO Xue 2508 CHN 5 4 IM DANIELIAN Elina 2496 ARM 4 5 IM FIERRO Baquero Martha L. 2403 ECU 3½ 6 GM STEFANOVA Antoaneta 2557 BUL 3 7 GM CHIBURDANIDZE Maia 2516 GEO 2½ 8 GM SEBAG Marie 2529 FRA 2½ 9 WGM MAMEDJAROVA Zeinab 2362 AZE 1½ 10 WGM SHEN Yang 2448 CHN 1½ 11 GM CRAMLING Pia 2548 SWE 1½ 12 WIM YILDIZ Betul Cemre 2214 TUR ½ I'm in shock - seeing Cramling, Stefanova and Chiburdanidze down in the standings, wow! Are we witnessing here a passing of the guard among women chessplayers, so to speak, just as we are seeing a passing of the guard to the young guns (Carlsen, So, Caruana, etc.) among the men? Stay tuned. where is Victoria Cymilyte these days???

Gag Order Issued for Iranian Archaeologists

Report from CAIS: CAIS NEWS © Latest Archaeological and Cultural News of Iran and the Iranian World Iranian Archaeologists are Banned from Interviewing 13 March 2009 LONDON, (CAIS) -- In an unprecedented move by the Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicraft and Tourism Organisation (ICHHTO), all the active Iranian archaeologists are banned to partake in any interview or reveal any information about the organisation or the status of Iranian archaeology. Since 1979 Iranian archaeologists not only have carried out their duties as the ‘explorer’ to shed light on Iran’s past through their scientific works, but also voluntarily they have taken the task of protecting Iranian heritage from destruction. As the result of their endeavours today, most of Iranian newspapers, have an archaeological or heritage section dealing with the latest archaeological discoveries in Iran – and by doing so, they succeeded to bring the heritage matters to Iranian homes. “The heritage matters have been taken seriously by the Iranian media for past few years, and Iranian archaeologists have become the bridge between the ICHHTO and the media – they as the educators have illuminated the significances of “heritage” and “archaeology” in today’s Iran”, according to a report by the Persian service of CHN. The imposed interview ban has raised the suspicions and swayed the public’s mind that the authorities in charge of the organisation and subsequently the government want to censor and filter the news to cover up their incompetency in doing their jobs. Despite this the ICHHTO’s claim that the news would still be available to the public and media via their public relations office. The banning of the archaeologists who are considered to be the heralds of the Iranian archaeological news is in contradiction with the Islamic Republic’s constitution and the move is considered to be illegal. Nonetheless, this is not the first time that the Islamic Republic’s ignores its’ own constitution. By implementing such a ban the regime tries to close the only avenue of obtaining the accurate news about the status of Iranian archaeology. ICHHTO’ Incompetency & the Censorship ICHHTO have unsuccessfully tried to silence archaeologists in past, by channelling the news through the public relation office. However, since last year they stepped up their offensive behaviour towards archaeologists who choose to put themselves on the line of fire to protect their nation’s heritage and since then any experts who have criticised or exposed the ICHHTO misconduct have either received warnings or faced harsh reprimands and dismissals. “Giving an expert view [of the heritage matters] is an absolute right of the archaeologists. Also issuing statements regarding a particular organisation’s internal affairs is the responsibility of their public relation offices, since the individuals including the experts are not fully aware of the protocols – therefore organisations nominate a speaker to execute the task”, said Mohammad-Mehdi Forqāni, lecturer of Media Science at Tabatabai University. “As the experts cannot fulfil the speakers’ job – the speakers and public relation offices are also incapable of commenting about the culture and heritage matters, as it is the experts’ field”, said Forqāni. He added “the banning law not only is revoking the archaeologists’ rights in expressing their expertise views, but also it is the abuse of the freedom of speech.” He concluded “the media generally prefer to obtain the news directly from their sources, by interviewing the experts rather than via a [filtered] liaison office.” ICHHTO executives in defending the banning decision have issued a number of contradictory statements, starting by: “experts are not aware of the cultural matters, and therefore they are providing wrong information.” This is while the majority of organisation’s executives are non-educated elements, who occupied the posts just because of their legions to the regime, connections or being the relations of the ruling clerics. Following the above organisation has changed the statement and alleged: “since there is no difference between the experts and non-experts working for ICHHTO, the ban makes sure the prevention of any contradictory news.” And the statement changed again to: “some news dealing with the Iranian heritage [in trouble] is being politicised and since the experts are not aware of the situation, they influence the process of resolving the problems, therefore the news should not reach the media directly.” And in the final disdainful statement ICHHTO stated: “this ban is to ensure the job security of the archaeologists!” The implementation of such censorships and news filtering demonstrates that people in charge of the organisation consider archaeologists as whistleblowers who expose ICHHTO’s incompetency in safeguarding the Iranian heritage. ICHHTO which is responsible for protection of the Iranian heritage have failed in its’ responsibilities, and even have caused damages beyond salvation to Iranian heritage, in particular pre-Islamic sites. One of the most devastating examples was issuing a permit to a construction company to build a hotel over a Partho-Sasanian (248 BCE – 651 CE) cemetery, which resulted in destruction 10,000 sq.m of the ancient site. The permit was issued by the head of ICHHTO provincial office, and endorsed by Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei the director of ICHHTO and the vice-president of current government in power. As the result of pressure from public ICHHTO forced to terminate the construction permit and in a public deceiving interview in July 2008, Rahim Mashaei who himself was one of the collaborators in destruction of the heritage site, tried to distant himself from the case by promising an inquiry, and claimed the wrongdoers will be prosecuted. The case was closed and no one brought to justice – including Rahim Mashaei. Hamid-Rezā Hosseini a veteran Iranian journalist regarding the ban said: “this move in essence is pointless, sine we have well over ten thousand archaeological and historical sites throughout the country, which most are in a devastating and critical status. A significant number of these sites for past three years have suffered immensely and are on the verge of complete destructions, however, by a visiting those sites and simple observation we independently can inform the public about their statues and therefore we don’t require archaeologists to tell us anything.” He added “this ban is demonstrates that there is a rift between the organisation’s management and their experts. ICHHTO’ management is well aware that the archaeologists do not follow most of the organisation’s [irrelevant and bureaucratic] protocols – and in a way the management want to cover up this partition.” “ICHHTO management are imagining that their public relation office is capable to dealing with the cultural news bulletins. They want impose and decide for us what news is to be published and who we can talk to”, said Maryam Khorsand, journalist and the chief editor of Persian daily E’temād. According to her, there is possible connection between the upcoming presidential election in Iran and ICHHTO’s banning of interviews. Today Iranians journalists in cooperation with archaeologists have reached a level of independency and sophistication that the ICHHTO is incapable of controlling and filtering the news – such action is further damages to public’s trust in ICHHTO. “Journalists will continue their relationships with the archaeologists – and archaeologists will continue informing us [in clandestine]”, said Monā Qāsemiyān, a cultural journalist with Persian daily E’temād. Original News bulletin published in Persian by CHN , and translated and modified by CAIS [*] Copyright © 1998-2008 The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies (CAIS)

More on the Discovery of the Gold Jewelry from Egyptian Tomb

A name! We have a name of the owner of the tomb! From Bloomberg.com Ancient Egyptian Gold Found in Luxor by Spanish Archaeologists March 10 (Bloomberg) -- Spanish archaeologists digging on the west bank of Luxor, Egypt, have discovered jewelry in a tomb of a state treasurer who lived some 3,500 years ago under the reign of Queen Hatshepsut. The team found five gold earrings and two gold rings that probably belonged to Djehuty -- the so-called overseer of treasury, who supervised works under Hatshepsut -- or his family in a newly discovered burial chamber in his tomb, the Egyptian Culture Ministry said in an e-mailed statement today. The chamber, the second in the tomb, is the fourth dating to this period that has been found with painted walls, the statement said. Two of its walls are decorated with texts from the Egyptian Book of the Dead and the ceiling bears a mural of the goddess Nut (image, above). Jose Galan of Madrid’s National Research Center and his team have been excavating at the site in Dra Abu El-Naga on the west bank of Luxor since 2002 and discovered a 3-meter shaft inside Djehuty’s tomb at the end of the 2008 archaeological season. The new burial chamber was then discovered earlier this year, the statement said. While the names of Djehuty, his father and mother, were erased from the first upper burial chamber found, their names are intact in the recently discovered lower burial chamber, it said. Hatshepsut, one of the few women to rule Egypt, was pharaoh from 1479 B.C. to 1458 B.C. To contact the reporter on this story: Mahmoud Kassem in Cairo at mkassem1@bloomberg.net Last Updated: March 10, 2009 10:19 EDT

2009 Mediterranean Flowers WGM Tournament

Thank you to Goran at Chessdom.com for sending me the link! Here you can find the record for this all women and only women tournament since its inception in 2001. This year's tournament is taking place March 7 - 15, 2009 - conflicting with the dates of the 2009 European Individual Chess Championships (Open and Women's), the Isbanc (or Isbank) Ataturk Women Masters Tournament which is the ignaugural event in the newly-launched Women's Grand Prix series, and the 41st International Women Chess Tournament (March 3 - 11, 2009). Here is the line-up: 1 wGM Pokorna Regina 2384 SVK 2 wGM Milliet Sophie 2364 FRA (photo, above, from the 2008 French Championships) 3 wIM Nikolova Adriana 2310 BUL 4 wGM Medic Mirjana 2303 CRO 5 wGM Ionica Iulia-Ionela 2279 ROU 6 wIM Jelica Mara 2222 CRO 7 wFM Videnova Iva 2193 BUL 8 Purgar Ivona 2088 CRO 9 Vujnovic Patricija 1832 CRO 10 Jacimovic Sara 1791 BIH Here are the current standings, after Round 8: 1 WGM Pokorna Regina SVK 2384 6,5 2 WIM Nikolova Adriana BUL 2310 6,0 3 WGM Medic Mirjana CRO 2303 6,0 4 WGM Milliet Sophie FRA 2364 5,5 5 WIM Jelica Mara CRO 2222 5,0 6 WGM Ionica Iulia-Ionela ROU 2279 4,0 7 WFM Videnova Iva BUL 2193 3,0 8 Purgar Ivona CRO 2088 1,5 9 Jacimovic Sara BIH 1791 1,5 10 Vujnovic Patricija CRO 1831 1,0

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Malaysian Ruins that Predate Angkor Wat by 1,000 Years?

Story from Australia Network News: Ancient pre-Angkor kingdom unearthed in Malaysia Last Updated: Thu, 5 Mar 2009 23:20:00 +1100 Malaysian archaeologists say they have found the site of an an ancient kingdom in northern Kedah state, which predates Cambodia's Angkor temples and may be one of the oldest civilisations in Asia. Lead researcher Professor Mokhtar Saidin says the discovery could lead to the rewriting of history books on the region. He says buildings found in two palm oil plantations in northern Kedah last month appear to have been part of the ancient Hindu kingdom of Bujang, which existed in the area around 300AD, long before Cambodia's Angkor civilisation which flourished from the 12th to 14th centuries. Rest of story. This satellite imagery, dating from 1994 (!!!) suggests an unexplored and much larger complex to the north of Angkor QR. Just how old - and how large - are we talking about here? No one knows...

A Challenge to the N.Y. States Filipino Chess Community

This is an intriguing idea: Story from asianjournal.com Ayala FD USA challenges Filipino community to Chess Challenge Thursday, 12 March 2009 12:42 PCG-NY The Ayala Foundation USA New York Tri-State Team, the Philippine Consulate General of New York and volunteer Nonoy Rafael have challenged the Filipino community in the area to a Chess Challenge on Saturday, March 28, at the Philippine Center on Fifth Avenue in New York City. 2008 NY State Chess Champion, Nonoy has dared the Filipino community to play against him to promote and benefit the GILAS Project. He will play up to 20 players at the same time. GILAS is private/public partnership led by Ayala Foundation, aimed at wiring all Philippine public high schools to the Internet. The goal is to build PC labs in all 6,300 public high schools in the Philippines. Over 2,100 schools have been connected, serving over 1,000,000 students meet the challenge of the 21st century. In addition to the 2008 title, Nonoy was 2007 NYC Inter-Bank League Team MVP, World Open Champion, NY Open Champion, five-time De La Salle University Champion, NCAA Board 1 Gold Medalist, Philippine Junior Finalist. He is Chief Tournament Director of the NY Fil-Am Chess Club for the past 20 years. He has more than 30 years of competitive chess experience. He is currently a Program manager for an aerospace company. Nonoy is a graduate of De La Salle University in the Philippines and Columbia University in New York. He is also the NY Chapter Vice President of the Filipino American Association of Engineers and was Vice President of the De La Salle Alumni Association – East Coast. “There's almost a two-decade of hiatus in my competitive chess career primarily due to change in priorities in my life, family and career. However, I never really left the game,” Nonoy said, “Indeed, I was actually still playing chess during my spare time on-line which is very convenient nowadays and saves a lot of my busy time. Also, I was a team captain and tournament directors of various Fil-Am chess activities in the area.” Chess players, family, friends, students and colleagues are invited to play Nonoy! He may even give you pointers on your game! There's prizes to those who beat Nonoy. Registration fee to play is $25 per person. FREE Admission to attend the event and cheer on your favorite player (the challenger or Nonoy). Brunch/Merienda will be served. Pass the word along. We also welcome sponsors to back challengers to play Nonoy. For more info to play, visit: http://webdmdrleo.googlepages.com

All India Chess Federation Selectively Enforces Stupid Rule

Can you say SUCKS SUCKS SUCKS three times quickly? Do other national chess federations have this rule in place - that is - its top rated players MUST play in the national championship? I can tell you right now, the USA does not have such a rule! Neither does England, and I'm sure Russia does not! Various reports from around the internet: GM Susan Polgar's blog reported on this on December 17, 2008 Chessdom.com The Hindu DNAIndia: Players' Body Backs Barred Gopal Now the All India Chess Federation decides to change the rule for all players rated below 2650. Is it REALLY going to tell GMKoneru Humpy, the second highest rated female player in the WORLD, that she MUST now play in the National Championship??? But what about GM Vishy Anand, the current WORLD CHESS CHAMPION? Hey - what's sause for the goose is sauce for the gander, why should Anand not be compelled to play in the National Championship too? In a democracy, both sexes are treated equally - or should be. Will the AICF step up to the plate now and lead the way to a new era of equality???

41st International Women Chess Tournament

Full report at Chessdom.com Thank you, Chessdom, for reporting this event. 41st International Women Chess Tournament 3-11th March in Belgrade, Serbia The 41st International Women Chess Tournament took place on 3-11th March in Belgrade. One of the longest running chess tournaments in the world, established back in 1963, is celebrating 8th March - International Women's Day. Following the last decade's decline in sponsorship, the event is slowly losing on significance, and the calendar is already seized by the Ataturk Tournament, now even raised to Grand Prix level by FIDE. In addition, the ECU has scheduled European Women Chess Championship in the same time frame. [Way to go, FIDE - IRONY INTENDED] Thus, even Serbian Champion WGM Andjelija Stojanovic decided to play in St. Petersburg [at the European Women's Chess Championship], in the tournament which is a qualifier in the world championship cycle. Final standings: 1-2. WGM Benderac Ana 2304 SRB and WGM Chelushkina Irina 2359 SRB - 6.0 3-5. WGM Maksimovic Suzana 2284 SRB, IM Petrenko Svetlana 2251 MDA and Rakic Marija 2284 SRB - 5.5 6. WGM Cosma Elena-Luminita 2343 ROU - 4.5 7. WGM Voiska Margarita 2339 BUL - 4.0 8. WGM Meenakshi Subbaraman 2327 IND - 3.5 9. Djukic Sandra 2196 SRB - 2.5 10. WFM Eric Jovana 2126 SRB - 2.0

Gold Jewelry Discovered in 3,500 Year Old Egyptian Tomb

Ohmygoddess - almost unbelievable, given the extent of ancient looting that we know took place as the fear of the priests' and priestesses' curses receded in the Egyptian population. Of course, there is Tut's spectacular tomb - discovered more than 80 years ago now. This discovery doesn't approach the splendor and awe of Tut's tomb, but it's awesome in its own right! Dating to the reign of Hatshepsut! Archaeologists Find Ancient Jewelry in Egyptian Tomb By VOA News 10 March 2009 Egypt says archaeologists have found ancient golden jewelry in the tomb of a senior official who died about about 3,500 years ago. Culture and antiquities officials say an excavation team found five golden earrings and two rings in the tomb of the state treasurer who served during the reign of Queen Hatshepsut. The walls of his burial chamber are decorated with texts from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Archaeologists made the discovery while digging in Luxor, along the banks of the Nile River. Luxor is one of Egypt's most popular tourist sites. It is famous for the Valley of the Kings, which contains several pharaohs' tombs. Earlier this month, Egyptian officials announced that Egyptian and European archaeologists in Luxor had discovered two statues of an ancient pharaoh. Egypt's archaeology chief Zahi Hawass said those statues were of King Amenhotep III, who also ruled about 3,500 years ago. Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters. Why was the name of this treasurer not published???

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

2009 Isbanc Ataturk Women's Masters Tournament

High drama! Can you tell the Indian press is upset with Humpy's current standing at the Ataturk? Koneru Humpy draws second chess tournament March 11, 2009 Top seed women grandmaster Koneru Humpy of India again settled for her second draw against Shen Yang of China and on the trot to slip to the joint third place in the IS Bank Ataturk Women Grand Prix chess tournament. Now Humpy and Zhao Xue of China share the third place with three points apiece. Humpy will now have to work harder in the remaining seven rounds of this 12-players round robin tournament which is a part of the next world championship cycle.

World's Oldest Religion is Dying Out

Again to the Persian Plateau... From Time On Line.com Postcard from Yazd The Last of the Zoroastrians By Deena Guzder Tuesday, Dec. 09, 2008 Far removed from Tehran's bustling tin-roofed teashops and Isfahan's verdant pomegranate gardens, the deserts known as Dasht-e Kavir and Dasht-e Lut meet at the city of Yazd, once the heart of the Persian Empire. Walking across the wind-whipped plains of the forgotten city, a young Iranian woman dressed in colorful floral garbs points out a sand-dusted tower hovering in the distance like a dormant volcano under a relentless sun. "This is where we put tens of thousands of corpses over the years," she explains with a congenial smile. The funerary tower is part of the ancient burial practice of Zoroastrianism, the world's oldest monotheistic religion. Zoroastrians (known in India as Parsis) regard sky burials, in which the bodies are exposed to natural elements including vultures in open-topped "Towers of Silence," as an ecologically friendly alternative to cremation, consistent with their religion's reverence for the earth. A Zoroastrian priest clad in a long, cotton robe explains: "Death is considered to be the work of Angra Mainyu, the embodiment of all that is evil, whereas the earth and all that is beautiful is considered to be the pure work of God. We must not pollute the earth with our remains." The priest believes that open burials are a fulfillment of the central tenet of his religion, which is to practice good deeds. With a forlorn expression, he notes that, 3,000 years after the tradition of open burials began, there are not enough Zoroastrians left alive to keep the tower in Yazd open. Instead, today's Zoroastrians who want to observe traditional burial practices must request in their will that their body is sent to a forested suburb in Mumbai, India, where the last Tower of Silence still operates. In the alabaster prayer room of the Zoroastrian temple in the center of Yazd, a handful of adherents sway to the cadence of ancient Persian prayers recited as a priest feeds sticks of sandalwood and sprinkles of frankincense into a blazing urn. Zoroastrians wear hand-woven wool cords as external symbols of their faith, and almost always pray in front of a fire, which represents purity and sustainability. In Yazd, the holy flame has burned for 1,500 years without ever being extinguished. While Zoroastrianism was once the dominant religion in a swathe of territory spanning from Rome and Greece to India and Russia, the number of adherents has dwindled exponentially over the centuries. Although Yazd is the birthplace of the religion, only 200 of its 433,836 people still practice Zoroastrianism because migration, forced conversions, and centuries of oppression have diminished the population. Worldwide, there are 190,000 Zoroastrians at most, and perhaps as few as 124,000 by some estimates. Although Zoroastrians are few in number, their faith has influenced Judaism, Christianity and Islam with its teachings of a single deity, a dualistic universe of good versus evil, and a final day of reckoning. The religion professes that humankind is designed to evolve toward perfection, but is complicated by evil forces such as greed, lust and hatred, explains Mehraban Firouzgary, the head priest of the Zoroastrian temple in Tehran. According to Zoroastrians, these evil forces must be challenged proactively by developing a "good mind" that embraces a life of good thoughts, good words and good deeds. Despite their shrinking population, Zoroastrians remain fiercely divided over whether to recognize interfaith families, let alone accept non-generational Zoroastrians. Tens of thousands fled Persia during the Islamic incursions in the 10th Century and were granted refuge in India under the condition they did not marry outside their faith or proselytize to the Hindu majority. Ramiyar P. Karanjia, principal of a Zoroastrian religious school in Mumbai, India, insists, "Conversion is not part of our religion." Yet, in India, home to the majority of Zoroastrians, the community is declining by about 10% every decennial census, according to a report released by UNESCO. Today, Zoroastrians remain a tight-knit and self-secluded community that strongly encourages marriage within the faith. According to Parva Namiranian, a Zoroastrian medical student at Tehran University, the community in Iran preserves its identity by learning the Persian poetry of the Shah Nameh and holding religious classes and celebrations. She says Zoroastrians are accepted in Iran because they "represent a proud history" and all Iranians, regardless of religion, enjoy celebrating the Zoroastrian New Year, Nowruz, because it's an excuse to buy clothes and eat sweets. Mehraban Firouzgary, the head priest in the Zoroastrian temple in Tehran, agrees that most Iranians regard the Zoroastrian minority favorably, but he worries about the community's survival. "Zoroastrians have lived in Iran for over 3,000 years," he says, "but there are so few left today."

The Rubaiyat in Medieval Jerusalem!

The pottery and ceramics created by the peoples of the Persian Plateau throughout the ages have always been striking. This beautiful fragment demonstartes yet again their mastery of a craft honed over thousands of years. From Art Daily March 11, 2009 Jug Inscribed with a Persian Love Poem Discovered in Excavations of the Israel Antiquities Authority JERUSALEM.- A fragment of a pottery vessel of Persian provenance that dates to the Middle Ages (12th-13th centuries CE) was discovered in an archaeological excavation directed by Dr. Rina Avner, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, in the Old City of Jerusalem, prior to construction by a private contractor. The fragment is treated with a turquoise glaze and is adorned with floral patterns and a black inscription. While studying the artifact prior to publication, Rivka Cohen-Amin of the Israel Antiquities Authority discerned that the inscription on the neck of the vessel is written in Persian. The inscription consists of a line that was taken from a quatrain. The inscription, which was translated by Dr. Julia Rabanovich of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, reads: “Was once the embrace of a lover that entreat”. The inscription will be published by Dr. Nitsan Amitai-Preiss of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, within the framework of the final excavation report. According to Rivka Cohen-Amin the words are from the Rubaiyat, by the poet Omar Khayyam. Omar Khayyam was an astronomer, mathematician and one of the most famous Persian poets of the Middle Ages (11th-12th centuries CE). The following is the complete translation of the poem: Rubaiyat, by Omar Khayyam این کوزه چو من عاشق زاری بوده است This clay pot like a lover once in heat در بند سر زلف نگاری بوده‌ست A lock of hair his senses did defeat ایندسته که بر گردن او می‌بینی The handle that has made the bottleneck its own seat دستی‌ست که برگردن یاری بوده‌ست Was once the embrace of a lover that entreat The phenomenon of a Persian pottery vessel inscribed with a poem is known elsewhere in the world; however, this is the first occurrence of such a vessel in Israel. The question of how the vessel came to be in Jerusalem is a mystery – was it brought here by merchants or could it possibly have been a gift someone presented to his Jerusalemite lover?

Large New Exhibit of Mummies

Mummies collected from around the world - wow, wish I could see this: The Dream of Eternal Life. From BBC News: World mummies go on show in Italy Page last updated at 09:27 GMT, Tuesday, 10 March 2009 One of the biggest exhibitions of mummies ever staged is opening in the northern Italian town of Bolzano. The show, called the Dream of Eternal Life, features more than 60 mummies from Egypt, Asia, Europe and South America, assembled from 27 museums. They include animals as well as humans, and the artefacts connected with them. Among the mummies will be the world-famous 5,300-year-old "Iceman" known as Oetzi, a mummified Neolithic hunter who was unearthed in the Alps in 1991. Preserved in a specially built refrigerator, Oetzi is known as the oldest "wet mummy" in the world because of the colouration and texture of his skin. He was named after the Oetz Valley where he was discovered by hikers, still wearing goatskin leggings and a grass cape. His copper-headed axe and a quiver full of arrows were lying nearby. At first, it was thought he died from cold and hunger, but researchers were eventually able to establish that he died from injuries sustained in a conflict. Like Oetzi, some of the other mummies underwent natural mummification in deserts, peat bogs or ice, while the others were mummified artificially. The world's top palaeontologists will hold a series of lectures to mark the exhibition at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology and talk about the mummies' history and significance.

Sobekhotep's Tomb

Here is one of the partial wall paintings excised from Sobekhotep's tomb: As much as the beauty of the painting, what caught my eye was the obvious game board carried on the shoulder of the first fellow in this procession! Why do I call it a game board? Because it's checkered! I think it must represent a Senet board (30 squares) which, during this time period in Egyptian history, was often depicted as checkered in other tomb paintings. However, it was not mentioned in the description of the scene, which is in the possession of the British Museum (with several other scenes). Here is what the British Museum says: Fragment of painted plaster from the tomb of Sebekhotep From Thebes, Egypt 18th Dynasty, around 1400 BC Africans bearing gold and other items Sebekhotep was a senior treasury official of the reign of Thutmose IV (1400-1390 BC). One of his responsibilities was to deal with foreign gifts brought to the king. This fragment was a small part of a scene that showed Sebekhotep receiving the produce of the Near East and of Africa on behalf of Thutmose IV. Three men (probably Nubians) carry luxury items characteristic of their country: gold rings, jasper, ebony logs, giraffe tails, a leopard skin, a live baboon and a monkey. The variation of the colour of the men's skin may represent their different skin types, though it could have been done for aesthetic reasons, to make the individual figures stand out more. Such scenes represented Sebekhotep's importance as an official, and his relationship with the king; Sebekhotep enjoyed the privileges of office in death as in life. E. Dziobek, Das Grab des Sobekhotep. Thebe (Mainz, Zabern, 1990) S. Quirke and A.J. Spencer, The British Museum book of anc (London, The British Museum Press, 1992) I don't understand why this game board was not mentioned by the specialists. As it was carried by the lead member of this Ethiopean (?) party, it must have been specially made for Pharaoh - perhaps out of precious woods, ivory, alabaster and inlaid gold. The image is small so it's hard to tell, but it also appears that there is one, and possibly two, pieces OF - SOMETHING - on the board. Thanks to dondelion for pointing out the second piece at the far left end of the board, the part that is chopped off at the end of the image. I was not sure whether they represent game pieces or flowers (lotuses), but I am leaning toward game pieces. Perhaps they represent "little green men" game pieces, which were depictions of the god Horus as an infant, made out of blue/green faience or, perhaps, turquoise or malachite if it was gift to Pharaoh. I confess - my first impression was of a dancing Buddhah in a blue robe! Is there someout out there who can provide more information on what those items are on top of the game board?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Auction Results: Antique Chess Sets

Christie's Auction, Amsterdam, December 15 - 16, 2008: Lot 588/Sale 2808 A TURNED IVORY CHESS SET LATE 19TH CENTURY Price Realized: €3,500 ($4,798) Price includes buyer's premium Estimate: €1,500 - €2,000 ($2,020 - $2,694) Sale Information Sale 2808 furniture and works of art 15 - 16 December 2008 Amsterdam Lot Description A TURNED IVORY CHESS SET LATE 19TH CENTURY The opposing sides carved as busts on baluster-turned supports and on ring-turned moulded feet, the whites modelled as Europeans, the blacks modelled as Africans and orientals -of which two bishops European; associated-white king 8.3 cm. high; black king 8.7 cm. high Special Notice Christie’s charges a premium to the buyer on the Hammer Price of each lot sold at the following rates: 29.75% of the Hammer Price of each lot up to and including €20,000, plus 23.8% of the Hammer Price between €20,001 and €800.000, plus 14.28% of any amount in excess of €800.000. Buyer’s premium is calculated on the basis of each lot individually. Wow! Those are gigantic buyer's premiums! Let Christie's sell your lot that fetches less than 20,000 Euros and pay them a whopping 29.75% of your purchase price right off the top. Ha! I don't even own anything transportable that is worth 20,000 Euros! That old saying is right: The rich are different...

Unbelievable Chess Cheating Accusation

Do people cheat? -- Yes. Do people cheat at chess? -- Yes. Within the past few years, there have been reported instances where electronic transmission devices have been discovered physically on players or wired into players' clothing (such as a baseball hat) who were accused of cheating. That being said, unfortunately it is far too easy today to whip up "cheating hysteria." All a chess player has to do is make the allegation. Even in cases where no physical proof is discovered (i.e., electronic devices or some other kind of device or set-up capable of transmitting moves to the accused player -- does transmission of moves via ESP count? - that was a big bug-a-boo of Bobby Fischer and the Kasparov camp), the stigma of having an unproven accusation of cheating hanging over one's head is there for a long, long time. Topalov accused Kramnik of cheating during their world championship match in Elista - from the bathroom ("toilet" as Topalov's mouthpiece crassly stated). No evidence of any cheating was found despite extensive and embarassing searches, but the ugly accusation has hovered over Kramnik ever since. Most recently, Shakriyar Mamedyarov accused Russian GM Igor Kurnosov of cheating at the huge and richly rewarding Aeroflot Open in St. Petersburg. Charges, response/rebuttal and more detailed charges have been thrown out since. It is very sad. These days, it would not surprise me to find out, if it could ever be discovered and substantiated by actual evidence, that an accuser is actually guilty of cheating him (or her) self, and uses the accusation to cover the tracks of his (or her) dishonorable crime. But who would accuse a 6 year old of cheating at chess??? From the Sault Star LETTER — Six-year-old child should not have been accused of cheating at chess challenge — COMMENT Posted By Letters Posted 9 hours ago I was fortunate to be a spectator at the terrific Regional Canadian Chess Challenge Tournament over this past weekend. Unfortunately I witnessed a situation where a pair of overprotective parents blamed a six year-old child of cheating. In reality they witnessed him castling, which is one of the basic moves in chess. While even Sidney Crosby has spent time in the penalty box, the same cannot be said about chess. Chess is a game of honour. Players for the most part officiate themselves, and cheating is a terrible offense. I hope that parents like this would learn the rules of a game before questioning the integrity of a child. Brian Bengert, Sudbury

Chess Club on Chopping Block - This Sucks

Chess club and intramural sports to be cut One person speaks at public hearing By Rajah Maples Monday, March 09, 2009 at 8:37 p.m. QUINCY, IL -- Only one person spoke in front of the Quincy School Board Monday night in light of looming budget cuts. The school board held a public hearing to gather input on tentative decisions to cut certain extra-curricular activities. You'll recall the Quincy [Illinois] Public School District faces a $2 million deficit and is looking to make cuts. Superintendent Lonny Lemon revealed only two extra-curricular activities that are on the chopping block so far -- the chess club at Quincy High and intramural sports at Baldwin. The latter would affect about a hundred students. Michelle Eberlin, a reading recovery teacher and president of the Quincy Federation of Teachers Local 809, was the only person who spoke at Monday night's public hearing. She asked the board to consider finding community alternatives for students involved in those activities. Eberlin also voiced her concerns about class sizes, which were a big concern at the start of this school year with the closing of Irving. KHQA's Rajah Maples caught up with her after the public hearing and asked her what she'd like to see happen. Eberlin says, "Having teachers who are dedicated not have to go from year to year with the fear of being downsized or cut because this is going into our second year, and it's going to be hard for us to recruit and retain staff members if this continues." Eberlin also passed out information to the board about the economic stimulus package. On Saturday, the U.S. Secretary of Education announced $44 billion in stimulus funding will be available to states in the next 30 to 45 days. But we're not quite sure yet how much money is on the way to area schools. The board also considered this summer's slate of life safety projects. The state approved all but two of them. The state rejected the proposed re-alignment of the Senior High School parking lot entrance with 33rd Street as a life safety project. As a result, the board tabled the rest of the $1.6 million dollar parking lot project temporarily. The board approved the remainder of the life safety projects, which will be completed this summer. Bud Niekamp was the lone "no" vote, saying many of the projects were not urgent and could be delayed.

2009 Isbanc Ataturk Women's Masters Tournament

Standings after Round 4 (tomorrow is a rest day): Rank SNo. Name Rtg FED Pts Res. SB. Koya 1 4 GM HOU Yifan 2571 CHN 3½ 0 3,75 1 2 3 IM FIERRO Baquero Martha L. 2403 ECU 3½ 0 2,50 ½ 3 12 GM KONERU Humpy 2621 IND 3 0 4,50 1 4 5 GM ZHAO Xue 2508 CHN 3 0 3,25 ½ 5 7 IM DANIELIAN Elina 2496 ARM 2½ 0 4,25 1 6 11 GM STEFANOVA Antoaneta 2557 BUL 2 0 3,75 1 7 6 GM SEBAG Marie 2529 FRA 2 0 1,50 0 8 9 GM CHIBURDANIDZE Maia 2516 GEO 1½ 0 4,25 1½ 9 8 WGM SHEN Yang 2448 CHN 1½ 0 3,75 1½ 10 1 GM CRAMLING Pia 2548 SWE 1 0 0,50 0 11 2 WIM YILDIZ Betul Cemre 2214 TUR ½ 0 1,50 ½ 12 10 WGM MAMEDJAROVA Zeinab 2362 AZE 0 0 0,00 0 The starting ranks of Koneru and Cramling are not correct.

More on the Discovery of Isisnofret Tomb Chamber

From The National Geographic: Ancient Cult Chapels, Egyptian Noblewoman's Tomb Found Andrew Bossone in Cairo for National Geographic News March 6, 2009 A 3,000-year-old noblewoman's tomb complex has been uncovered in Egypt, archaeologists announced Tuesday. The tomb has been identified as belonging to a woman named Isisnofret—possibly the granddaughter of Pharaoh Ramses II, who reigned during the 13th century B.C. Hieroglyphics on a sarcophagus in the tomb identify Isisnofret as a spst, or noblewoman—an honorific reserved for women of the royal family or of otherwise exceptional status. Long hidden by sand and rubble on a rocky outcrop on the outskirts the ancient royal burial city of Saqqara, the complex measures 89 by 34 feet (27 by 10 meters). The tomb complex includes the base of a pyramid, a monumental gateway, a colonnaded courtyard, and an antechamber with three cult chapels, according to the team from Japan's Waseda University that has been excavating the site since 1991. Dining With the Dead Common in New Kingdom (1539 to 1075 B.C.) tomb complexes, cult chapels frequently hosted the deceased's family on feast days. Relatives would often eat and make offerings of food and other items to be used by the dead, according to Ray Johnson, director of the University of Chicago Oriental Institute's Epigraphic Survey, who was not involved in the project. Though Isisnofret's chapels are in ruins, partly due to looting, archaeologists have found fragments decorated with hieroglyphics. In general, cult chapels were painted with scenes of daily life and offerings—in case the family failed to provide the real thing. Inside Isisnofret's tomb building, a limestone sarcophagus was found holding three skeletons—degraded mummies whose ages and sexes have yet to be determined, according to the preliminary Waseda University report. The team is unsure why the sarcophagus holds three bodies, or even what the original state was. The sarcophagus is missing its internal, wooden coffin—perhaps stolen during the ancient pillaging that seems to have stripped the tomb of funerary objects. CSI: Saqqara? Isisnofret's identity remains a mystery, though Egyptologists see clues in the tomb's close proximity to a monument for Pharaoh Ramses II's son Prince Khaemwaset. The prince had a daughter named Isisnofret—a granddaughter of the pharaoh—though the name was common at the time. Or this Isisnofret may have been one of Ramses II's daughters or one of his approximately 200 wives, the archaeologists said. Genetic tests may help unlock Isisnofret's identity. "After making DNA tests, we will realize who it is … ," said Mohamed El Ashry, an Egyptologist who works with the Waseda University team. Khaemwaset's "mummy is at the Egyptian Museum, and Ramses II's mummy is also at the Egyptian Museum" in Cairo, El Ashry said—making both readily available for DNA testing. The University of Chicago's Johnson believes Khaemwaset built tombs for his whole family in the area and expects the Japanese team to find other family members.

70,000 Year Old Artifacts Found in Orissa

Story from the Hindustan Times: Cultural remains of 70,000-year-old civilisation found in Orissa Priya Ranjan Sahu, Hindustan Times Sambalpur, March 08, 2009 First Published: 01:30 IST(8/3/2009) Last Updated: 12:08 IST(8/3/2009) In a major breakthrough, researchers from Sambalpur University recently discovered the cultural remains of a civilisation that is supposed to be more than 70,000 years old. The discovery was made at Barpadar village in the upper Jira river of Bargarh district in Orissa. "The site has tremendous potential for further research to unravel the Palaeolithic life in this part of the sub-continent," said the head of the research team P.K.Behera of the university’s History department. The Palaeolithic period is the second part of the Stone Age, beginning about 750,000 to 500,000 years BC and lasting until the end of the Ice Age around 8,500 years BC. The archaeological excavations were conducted near Barpadar village by the bank of the Jira river. The work was also assisted by Prakash Sinha of the Department of Archaeology, Allahabad Central University. The team, including history students of the university, found stone tools like axes, cleavers and scrapers at the site. The stone tools, used for food processing -- cutting, chopping and scraping -- were manufactured on par with European and African models. Behera and Sinha are of the opinion that the site was inhabited by the Palaeolithic band for food processing purposes. However, in the absence of evidence of on-site manufacturing of processing tools, the experts observed that these tools were manufactured elsewhere -- where suitable raw materials such as fine-grained quartzite was available. The raw materials were brought to the site in finished forms for use. "Future excavations will reveal the nearby manufacturing sites also," Behera told HT. Behera said the geomorphological situation of the area indicated that the site must have provided an ideal environment with rich bio-diversity and a perennial water supply to the Palaeolithic settlers for prolonged inhabitation at the site. Plant phytolith samples were collected from the excavated deposit for further study, which will reflect the type of plants exploited by the early Hominids.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Gee - Ya Think?

Too tired to carry on tonight - daylight savings time has thrown my poor system for a loop. I HATE losing that hour of daylight in the morning during this time of year. It was DARK when the alarm went off at 6 a.m. this morning, yech! I found this rather amusing: Sail Like An Egyptian It turns out the oldest seafaring ships ever found actually work By Jeremy Hsu Posted 03.09.2009 at 2:10 pm Well gee - ya think? DOH I found this rather disgusting: Medieval Vampire Skull Found The remains of a woman's skull with a rock thrust into its jaws is evidence of the mediaeval fear of vampires, Italian anthropologists have claimed. By Nick Squires in Rome Last Updated: 11:16PM GMT 08 Mar 2009 Oh please. I found this rather intriguing: Christopher Columbus was actually Pedro Scotto, a blonde, freckle-faced fella of Scottish ancestry Last Updated: 10:42PM GMT 08 Mar 2009 I found this rather uplifting: Whoa! Must be some kind of record - a 10 year old squirrel not in captivity!?! FYI, average life of a squirrel out there is 4-6 years. So this is truly a story of a mini-miracle in the world of nature, and a story of hope for the future for post-Katrina traumatized lands: March 9, 2009 (KATC TV) Songbirds, critters making post-hurricane comeback Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.timespicayune.com Tired and dragging as I've been all day, I was heartened on my trek to the bus stop this morning to hear my first robin song of the season - it sounded like a young male just trying it out for the first time :) And tonight on the even longer and tireder - ur, that's not a word, but it's how I feel (more tired than before) - trek from the bus stop back home, I heard the trills of both male and female red-winged blackbirds. And just about half a block from home, in one of my neighbor's large blue spruces, I spied a flash of purplish-red on the breast of a tiny bird - a male house finch! They are back! So, even if the weather is crappy and tomorrow night my entire house may be crushed by the giant tree in the back yard that finally succumbs to forecast gale-force winds out of the northwest, the birds know - spring is here! There is hope -

GM Susan Polgar Appointed to FIDE Commission

An announcement earlier today at Susan Polgar's website: Susan Polgar has been appointed a co-chairman of the FIDE Commission for Women's Chess (GM Alexandra Kosteniuk, current Women's World Chess Champion, is the other co-chairman). The Commission is filled with the names of illustrious female chessplayers as its members: Stefanova, Chiburdenadze, Xie June, Garprindashvili, etc. It is an interesting match-up of personalities in the co-chairs. While both of these GMs have been active in promoting chess among females, GM Kosteniuk has not hesitated to use her looks and sex appeal to advance her goals and this has caused some groans among her female peers. GM Polgar's approach has been to promote girl-only events at which girls from gradeschool to high school can feel comfortable, playing in a congenial atmosphere which, nonetheless, does not lack for competitiveness, without having to deal with their male counterparts. Personally, I don't find anything objectionable in Kosteniuk's using her looks to advance her objectives; on the other hand, I do understand the objections of female chessplayers to being objectified in sexual terms by male chessplayers. It takes a strong-minded female to put up with the slings and arrows flung about by testosterone-charged boys (and grown men who act like boys). It adds an extra layer of distraction that has to be dealt with, until one learns how to shrivel a male with a look at his crotch and a disdainfully raised eyebrow.

2009 U.S. Women's Chess Championship

An announcement at Chesslife Online (right side column) states that the Women's Championship will be held October 2 - 12, 2009 at the St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center. The link at Chesslife Online, however, takes one to a press release from October, 2008 that does not set forth the playing dates for the Women's championship. I checked the St. Louis Chess Club website this morning and could not find it, but the information had to come from somewhere, so until I see otherwise, I accept October 2 - 12 as the dates for the USWCC.

2009 European Individual Chess Championship

Not to be forgotten, there are some women playing in the 10th EICC: Starting Rank: 166 IM Dembo Yelena GRE 2456 234 WIM Vojinovic Jovana MNE 2331 250 WIM Franciskovic Borka CRO 2261 256 WIM Drljevic Ljilja MNE 2244 266 WIM Solic Kristina CRO 2203 268 Pantic Ivica SRB 2193 275 Papp Petra HUN 2134 281 WFM Berke Ana CRO 2081 284 Simic Vladica SRB 2064 287 Kruljac Petra CRO 2052 300 Kanceljak Dalia CRO 1917 You may recall that last year, GM Marie Sebag earned her 3rd and final GM norm by her play in the EICC. (This year Sebag is playing in the Isbank Ataturk Women Masters, which is the ignaugural event for the Women's Grand Prix, taking place at the same time as the EIWCC). Can Dembo earn a GM norm???

2009 European Individual Women's Chess Championship

Standings after Round 2: 1 GM Dzagnidze, Nana 2.0 GEO F 2518 3028 +0.43 1 1 2 GM Lahno, Kateryna 2.0 UKR F 2488 3020 +0.48 1 1 3 GM Hoang Thanh Trang 2.0 HUN F 2483 3015 +0.48 1 1 4 WGM Romanko, Marina 2.0 RUS F 2451 3006 +0.54 1 1 5 IM Gaponenko, Inna 2.0 UKR F 2450 2996 +0.51 1 1 6 GM Socko, Monika 2.0 POL F 2449 3004 +0.54 1 1 7 IM Kovalevskaya, Ekaterina 2.0 RUS F 2442 2992 +0.52 1 1 8 IM Lomineishvili, Maia 2.0 GEO F 2437 2998 +0.55 1 1 9 IM Ovod, Evgenija 2.0 RUS F 2430 2985 +0.53 1 1 10 IM Melia, Salome 2.0 GEO F 2422 2989 +0.56 1 1 11 IM Foisor, Cristina-Adela 2.0 ROU F 2412 2973 +0.55 1 1 12 WGM Zawadzka, Jolanta 2.0 POL F 2385 2959 +0.58 1 1 13 IM Turova, Irina 2.0 RUS F 2379 2950 +0.57 1 1 14 IM Zaiatz, Elena 2.0 RUS F 2364 2894 +0.48 1 1 15 IM Zimina, Olga 2.0 ITA F 2363 2939 +0.59 1 1 16 WGM Demina, Julia 2.0 RUS F 2361 2873 +0.43 1 1 17 WFM Gritsayeva, Oksana 2.0 UKR F 2341 2870 +0.48 1 1 18 WGM Aginian, Nelly 2.0 ARM F 2335 2862 +0.47 1 1 19 WFM Girya, Olga 2.0 RUS F 2315 2992 +0.88 1 1 20 WIM Daulyte, Deimante 2.0 LTU F 2278 2910 +0.80 1 1 21 WIM Iljushina, Olga 2.0 RUS F 2269 3093 +0.62 1 1 22 WFM Brunello, Marina 2.0 ITA F 2106 3071 +1.58 1 1 23 IM Muzychuk, Anna 1.5 SLO F 2540 2419 -0.22 ½ 1 24 IM Arakhamia-Grant, Ketevan 1.5 SCO F 2500 2449 -0.10 ½ 1 25 IM Ushenina, Anna 1.5 UKR F 2499 2479 -0.04 1 ½

Sunday, March 8, 2009

2009 European Individual Women's Chess Championship

Standings after Round 1 (top 25 only) (Round 2 plays on 3/9): 1 GM Dzagnidze, Nana 1.0 GEO F 2518 2996 +0.18 1 2 IM Ushenina, Anna 1.0 UKR F 2499 2991 +0.20 1 3 GM Lahno, Kateryna 1.0 UKR F 2488 2981 +0.20 1 4 GM Hoang Thanh Trang 1.0 HUN F 2483 2980 +0.20 1 5 GM Peng, Zhaoqin 1.0 NED F 2461 2975 +0.22 1 6 IM Mkrtchian, Lilit 1.0 ARM F 2460 2966 +0.21 1 7 IM Paehtz, Elisabeth 1.0 GER F 2455 2966 +0.22 1 8 WGM Romanko, Marina 1.0 RUS F 2451 2962 +0.22 1 9 IM Gaponenko, Inna 1.0 UKR F 2450 2962 +0.22 1 10 GM Socko, Monika 1.0 POL F 2449 2960 +0.22 1 11 IM Kovalevskaya, Ekaterina 1.0 RUS F 2442 2959 +0.22 1 12 IM Lomineishvili, Maia 1.0 GEO F 2437 2957 +0.23 1 13 IM Ovod, Evgenija 1.0 RUS F 2430 2954 +0.23 1 14 IM Muzychuk, Mariya 1.0 UKR F 2427 2953 +0.23 1 15 IM Matveeva, Svetlana 1.0 RUS F 2422 2949 +0.23 1 16 IM Melia, Salome 1.0 GEO F 2422 2943 +0.23 1 17 IM Khukhashvili, Sopiko 1.0 GEO F 2416 2938 +0.23 1 18 IM Foisor, Cristina-Adela 1.0 ROU F 2412 2917 +0.21 1 19 IM Rajlich, Iweta 1.0 POL F 2399 2910 +0.22 1 20 WGM Zawadzka, Jolanta 1.0 POL F 2385 2903 +0.22 1 21 WFM Bodnaruk, Anastasia 1.0 RUS F 2384 2900 +0.22 1 22 IM Turova, Irina 1.0 RUS F 2379 2896 +0.22 1 23 IM Gvetadze, Sopio 1.0 GEO F 2377 2888 +0.22 1 24 WGM Cherednichenko, Svetlana 1.0 UKR F 2367 2869 +0.21 1 25 IM Zaiatz, Elena 1.0 RUS F 2364 2866 +0.21 1

Iranian Treasures on Display

From the Daily Star of Lebanon: Treasures of imperial Iran: UK exhibition highlights 'Golden Age' of Persian art Tuesday, March 03, 2009 LONDON: While the fate of the British Council's operation in Tehran remains in limbo, a new show at the British Museum signals a strengthening of cultural diplomacy between Iran and the United Kingdom. It features work from the time of the reign of Shah Abbas, a ruler full of contradictions: brutal and tolerant, ruthless and generous as it suited him. "Shah Abbas: The Remaking of Iran" is the first major exhibition to explore his rule of the Safavid Dynasty from 1587 to 1629 which coincided with what is referred to as the "Golden Age" of Persian art. It explores how the shah ruthlessly cemented his position as ruler, forged trade ties with Europe and India, commissioned grand architecture and repelled neighboring enemies like the Ottomans and the Uzbeks. "This king transformed Iran from an inward-looking realm, riven by tribal strife and threatened by powerful enemies on its eastern and western flanks, to a secure, prosperous center of international trade and cultural exchange," curator Sheila Canby wrote in the exhibition catalog. Abbas also had a reputation both for an explosive temper and an ascetic, informal style of living. The exhibition includes carpets, illustrated manuscripts, watercolor paintings and metal work and pieces of Chinese pottery illustrating a type of gift Abbas made to religious shrines in Iran. While largely devoted to the art and architecture of Abbas' reign, the exhibition includes two large paintings that highlight connections between Iran and England. The paintings are of Robert Sherley, an Englishman who became a European ambassador for Shah Abbas, and Sherley's pistol-packing wife Teresia. Sherley's exploits were well known in Elizabethan England, and are thought to account for the references to "the Sophy" - the shah - in Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night." The exhibition builds on the success of a collaboration in 2005 between the British Museum and the National Museum of Iran to stage "Forgotten Empire: The World of Ancient Persia" in London. The shah consolidated Shiism as the state religion through the rule of law and sometimes violent suppression of radical dervish orders, turned Isfahan into an impressive capital and donated huge collections of art to important shrines. "He's the man who reshapes Iran," said British Museum director Neil MacGregor at a press preview of the new exhibition, which draws on artifacts seen outside Iran for the first time as well as on loans from Europe and the United States. "He gives the Iranians security territorially, he gives the country legal systems and a firm footing in the Shia identity." Iran, and more specifically Isfahan, placed itself at the "crossroads of the world" by exploiting its location along increasingly important trade routes linking Europe and Asia. The shah forcibly relocated the population of the Armenian city of Julfa to Isfahan in order to expand the trade of silk, and allowed the settlers to continue to practice their Christian faith. But when he felt that the predominant Shiite Muslim denomination and his own authority was under threat, he was less understanding. The exhibition says that when a group of Sufi dervishes called the Nuqqtavi predicted the end of his reign in 1593, he ordered the execution of their leader. He displayed the same ruthlessness with relatives, forcing his father out of power in a bloodless coup when aged 16 and going on to kill or blind members of his own family to avoid suffering the same fate. He was succeeded by his grandson, Shah Safi, in 1629. Shah Abbas also displayed great piety, making fabulous donations of art and treasure to important shrines and walking nearly 1,000 kilometers on a pilgrimage to Mashhad, the burial site of Imam Reza and Iran's holiest Shiite Muslim shrine. But economic interests may have been a motivating factor, the exhibition suggests - the shah saw it as an opportunity to promote Mashhad, and to encourage people to stay in Iran and spend money there rather than go on pilgrimages abroad. And an intimate and suggestive portrait of Shah Abbas in a near-embrace with a page boy points to a man who observed religious rules only when it suited him. - Agencies, with The Daily Star "Shah Abbas: The Remaking of Iran" runs from February 19 to June 14.

Lost Languages

Book review from The Times Online. The image is from the article, and I find it totally fascinating - notice the representations of "white," "brown," and "black" people, and the checkered game board with a little game piece on it - looks like a little dude waving his arms in the air - being carried by the white guy (he's got the gold links dangling from his elbow). From The Sunday Times March 8, 2009 Lost Languages: The Enigma of the World's Undeciphered Scripts by Andrew Robinson The Sunday Times review by James McConnachie The writings left on tombs and tablets by the great civilisations of the ancient past have mostly now been read. This intriguing book on the strange art of “decipherment” focuses on those scripts that remain mysterious. It is a potent mix of academic esoterica, codecracking and controversy — the same giddy cocktail that made The Da Vinci Code such a success, but with much greater scholarship. (And splendid illustrations: the pages crawl with jaguar heads, ox’s feet and curlicues.) [Okay, quit dissing The Da Vinci Code - it got millions of people around the world reading, and wondering - quite a feat!] Andrew Robinson begins with the stories of the three great decipherments: Egyptian hieroglyphs, Linear B and the weird glyphs of the Maya. Hieroglyphs famously resisted decipherment for centuries, and were cracked only after a squad of Napoleon’s troops in 1799 came across the bilingual Greek/Egyptian Rosetta stone, set into an old wall in the Egyptian desert. Linear B was discovered in the 1900s, when clay tablets etched with scratchy letters started turning up on Minoan digs. It took 50 years, though, for the 3,500-year-old alphabet to fall to the logical assault of the architect Michael Ventris, who devised a brilliant system of frequency analysis to work out which letters occurred where, and what parts of speech they might represent. Even then, the final conquest only came when Ventris began guessing at ancient Cretan place names. This “leap in the dark” paid off when he realised the underlying language was none other than Greek. Linear B, unfortunately, turned out to do little more than list names and goods. This is the great peril of decipherment: you might spend years working out how to read a shopping list. The impact of the Mayan glyphs, Robinson shows, was very different. When they were cracked in the 1970s, they allowed a new world civilisation to speak for itself, rather than through the mouths of priests and conquistadors. The Mayan glyphs look impossibly outlandish: cartoon-like animal figures squashed into geometric shapes and piled up like totems. Their decipherment owes much to the 16th-century Franciscan friar Diego de Landa who, despite torturing Maya and immolating their “diabolical codices”, bothered to quiz a nobleman about his writing system and jotted down some phonetic equivalents in Spanish. The resulting key wasn’t entirely reliable — one transcription was revealed to be the Mayan phrase for “I don’t want to say” — but it would help unlock the script four centuries later. The decipherment of the Mayans’ glyphs meant that their civilisation could be studied as seriously as that of ancient Egypt or Greece. Such a potential reward explains the allure of other, still undeciphered scripts; Robinson devotes a chapter each to eight of the most significant. The Nubian or “Black Pharaohs” of Kush, for instance, ruled Egypt during the 7th century BC, but the language of their texts (dubbed Meroitic, after the place of discovery) is unknown. If a modern linguistic descendant could be traced, it might not only fill a gap in the history of Egypt but could help restore to black African history the dignity of serious antiquity. The intractability of Etruscan writings, similarly, is a matter of the unknown language, not the alphabet (the Etruscans used a variant of Greek characters). When bilingual Etruscan-Phoenician gold plaques were discovered in 1964, there was great excitement — among those who could read Phoenician, at any rate. But with awful bathos, Robinson confesses that only one identifiable Etruscan word emerged from the find: ci, meaning “three”. Yet with ingenuity, decipherers have put even this to use. With the help of a precious set of Etruscan ivory dice, whose numbers were written out in words rather than numerals, and with the knowledge that opposite faces on ancient dice add up to seven, this gave scholars the Etruscan words for one through to six. But reading the longest Etruscan texts — including one discovered, bizarrely, printed on the linen bandages of a mummy bought in Egypt by a 19th-century Croatian tourist — is still a long way off. To solve Etruscan or Meroitic (or Linear A or proto-Elamite) will probably require a new Rosetta stone. Lucky finds do happen, though. The hugely significant La Mojarra stela — one of only two important examples of the Isthmian script, which died out in Central America about AD500 — was stumbled upon by a group of barefoot Mexican fishermen laying log piles for a jetty. Before the new enthusiast for decipherment thinks of “having a go” him- or herself, Robinson’s analysis of expert attempts should serve as a warning. Decipherment requires not only a rare blend of flair and diligence but a deep understanding of frequency-analysis modelling and a firm grasp of, say, Middle Nilotic of central Africa or perhaps Mixe-Zoquean from Mexico. Not to mention an appreciation of the niceties of reverse boustrophedon. Robinson’s technical terms, his allographs and ligatures, only occasionally risk blending into a murky hieroglyphic soup, but this is surely the most recondite of terms. It is a technique used in the Rongorongo script of Easter Island — a script as baffling as the island’s better-known giant sculptures. For the record, boustrophedon means writing left-right and right-left on alternate lines, as if ploughing a field; reverse boustrophedon also requires the text to be flipped through 180 degrees after each line. Robinson closes his book with the notorious Phaistos disc, a rather lovely clay artefact that today lies in Crete’s Heraklion museum in lonely splendour, the only example of a language that is otherwise totally unknown. It makes an excellent coda, as an object that has drawn the most outrageous speculations as to its use and meaning yet remains maddeningly mute. Its very silence helps explain decipherment’s appeal. It is not just about puzzle-solving or history-making, but about the beauty of writing. Telling the story of Linear B, Robinson describes how the “mute signs” were suddenly “compelled to speak after more than three millenniums of silence”. He makes it sound as if Ventris’s solution were a spell — as if writing were some kind of magic. Which, this book elegantly reminds us, it is. Lost Languages: The Enigma of the World's Undeciphered ScriptsThames & Hudson £16.95 pp352 Available at the BooksFirst price of £15.26 (including p&p) on 0845 271 2135 ******************************************************************** [Not mentioned: The Indus script. Of course, there is dispute as to whether it is "writing" in the usual sense of the word! And there is that elusive Southwest Script I recently posted about - until I read that article I did not know it existed. What a fascinating subject. Perhaps when I retire I shall go back to school and pursue the study of linguistics.]

Charlemagne's Puzzle?

What? Guess my education has not been as well-rounded as I thought, for I had no idea hat Charlemagne's Puzzle was until I read this article! Article from The New York Times: The Tierney Lab "Putting Ideas in Science to the Test" March 3, 2009, 2:12 pm — Updated: 4:25 pm --> A Prize for Solving Charlemagne’s Puzzle By John Tierney You might think that founding the Holy Roman Empire would be enough of a challenge for one man, but Charlemagne wanted more: to conquer mathematical puzzles! If you have the same ambition, you could win a prize here at the Lab. The emperor hired Alcuin, a renowned English scholar of the eighth century, to compile a collection of puzzles. Titled “Problems to Sharpen the Young,” the book was intended to get the youth of the day more interested in mathematics (a perennial challenge, obviously). Two of Alcuin’s puzzles are included in a new collection, “The Total Brain Workout,” compiled by Marcel Danesi, a professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto and an expert on puzzles. One of them is a river-crossing brainteaser that’s been found in other collections and cultures, but Dr. Danesi says that Alcuin’s may be the oldest known version: A traveler comes to a riverbank with a wolf, a goat and a head of cabbage. To his chagrin, he notes that there is only one boat for crossing over, which can carry no more than two passengers — the traveler and either one of the two animals or the cabbage. As the traveler knows, if left alone together, the goat will eat the cabbage and the wolf will eat the goat. The wolf does not eat cabbage. How does the traveler transport his animals and his cabbage to the other side intact in a minimum number of back-and-forth trips? Once you’ve solved that one, Dr. Danesi offers what he calls a modern classic devised by Boris Kordemsky: A detachment of soldiers must cross a river. The bridge is broken, and the river is deep. The officer in charge spots two boys playing in a rowboat by the shore. The boat is so tiny, however, that it can only hold two boys or one soldier. All the soldiers succeed in crossing the river in the boat. How? You submit answers to both puzzles as comments to this post, and you’re welcome to suggest another puzzle for Lab readers. If you get both correct and come up with most intriguing new challenge, you’ll win a prize of Dr. Danesi’s book, “The Total Brain Workout,” which has 450 puzzles designed to stimulate different parts of the brain. [UPDATE: If you're submitting a new puzzle, don't include the answer in the comment -- you can email it to me separately (tierneylab@nytimes.com). We've already gotten some intriguing new puzzles among the comments. You're welcome to try them and post answers, and to vote for any favorite. And, spoiler alert: In the comments you'll find lots of correct answers to Dr. Danesi's two puzzles.]
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