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Tue, 18 May 2021
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BBC leaked files: UK's state media engaged in anti-Moscow information warfare operations in Eastern Europe

BBC Media Action Russian flag
New documents raise serious questions about how well-deserved British state broadcaster BBC's 'unimpeachable' reputation is, and also what impact its relationship with the UK government has on its supposedly 'impartial' output.

Within a tranche of secret UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) papers, recently leaked by hacktivist collective Anonymous, are files indicating that BBC Media Action (BBCMA) - the outlets 'charitable' arm - plays a central role in Whitehall-funded and directed psyops initiatives targeted at Russia.

American journalist Max Blumenthal has comprehensively exposed how, at the FCDO's behest, BBCMA covertly cultivated Russian journalists, established influence networks within and outside Russia, and promoted pro-Whitehall, anti-Moscow propaganda in Russian-speaking areas.

However, the newly released files reveal BBCMA also offered to lead a dedicated FCDO program, named 'Independent Media in Eastern Partnership Countries' and targeted at Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. This endeavor forms part of a wider £100 million ($138.9 million) effort waged by London to demonize, destabilize and isolate Russia, at home and abroad.


Scythians also settled down and practiced agriculture says new study

Scythians are ancient people that lived in the steppes of Eurasia from approximately the 7th century BC until the 3rd century BC. They're often portrayed as nomadic peoples who moved along as they traded and raided — but a new study challenges this notion. Using isotopic analysis, researchers have shown that, at least sometimes, the Scythians also settled down and practiced agriculture.
Bronze Mirror
© Svetlana Andrukh
Bronze mirror found at one of the researched sites.
Scythians were excellent horse riders and carried out frequent raids on both European and Middle-Eastern civilizations, but also facilitated trade along the legendary Silk Road. For these reasons (and because they couldn't prove otherwise), many archaeologists considered Scythians to be nomads. But in a new study led by Dr. Alicia R. Ventresca Miller, the evidence suggests otherwise.
"The Scythians are often imagined as nomadic warriors roaming the steppe, but our finds suggest that most people remained local to their settlements and only a few moved long distances," Miller tells ZME Science.
Miller is a bioarchaeologist and stable isotope analyst at the University of Michigan. Her work focuses on populations in the steppe, focusing on nomadic cuisine and the rise of urban economies. Along with her colleagues, she measured isotopes of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and strontium in human teeth and bones from several Scythian-era burial sites in Ukraine.

Star of David

Biden should end U.S. hypocrisy on Israeli nukes

Biden Netanyahu
© Debbie Hill/AP
US President Joe Biden • Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu
Until Feb. 17, U.S. President Joe Biden had delayed making the usual post-inauguration ceremonial call to the Israeli prime minister. Washington insiders concluded that the apparent cold shoulder meant Biden had not yet signed "the letter," which Israel routinely demands of U.S. presidents to ensure the United States doesn't mention Israel's nuclear weapons when discussing proliferation in the region or pressure the Israeli government to reduce its formidable atomic arsenal.

As described by Adam Entous in a 2018 New Yorker article, every U.S. president since Bill Clinton has, at Israeli insistence, signed a secret letter upon entering office that effectively pledges the United States will not "press the Jewish state to give up its nuclear weapons so long as it continued to face existential threats in the region."

Whatever policy the United States adopts toward Israeli nuclear weapons, it's time it stopped this demeaning rite.

The consequence for U.S. policy has been that the United States does not press Israel to give up its nuclear weapons — when doing so would have been the only course consistent with U.S. nonproliferation policy. However, Washington actively assists Israel, both diplomatically by quashing discussion of its nuclear weapons in international forums and materially by looking the other way at nuclear-related Israeli violations of law, including some within the United States.

This included pretending in 1979 that what was almost certainly an Israeli nuclear test in the South Indian Ocean, which was observed by a U.S. satellite, didn't happen. Former President Jimmy Carter's White House and its successors classified documents and debunked what was known, but the signal evidence is extremely compelling, as we and others have detailed in Foreign Policy.


Space, spies & suicide: How Roscosmos adviser and ex-journo Ivan Safronov crash-landed at the centre of NATO-linked espionage drama

composite blackboard items
© RT
By all accounts, Ivan Safronov was set for a stellar career at the heart of Moscow's political establishment. Aged 30, he'd left a prestigious journalistic role to become an aide to the head of Roscosmos, Russia's answer to NASA.

That changed dramatically in July last year, when he was arrested by agents from the FSB, the country's top domestic security agency, and charged with treason. In a statement, officials said that he was suspected of passing state secrets to spooks from a NATO nation. On Tuesday last, a Moscow court extended his arrest, meaning he will languish behind bars until at least May, while prosecutors prepare the case against him.

Safronov's lawyer, Ivan Pavlov, revealed after his arrest that, in files shared by investigators, "the Czech Republic is the state that is mentioned as receiving classified information," allegedly transferred over the internet. "Prosecutors believe that the US has become the ultimate recipient," the advocate added. His client continues to maintain his innocence.


Africa's lost Empire - The Kingdom of Aksum

Northern Stelae Park in Aksum
© A.Savin
Northern Stelae Park in Aksum.
The Aksumite Empire was an ancient kingdom that existed in Ethiopia from 100 CE to 940 CE.

Centred on the ancient city of Axum/Aksum, the nation grew from the proto-Aksumite Iron Age period around 400 BCE to its height around the 1st century CE.

At this time, the empire extended across most of present-day Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Sudan, Eritrea, Yemem and even Saudi Arabia.

Aksum became a major commercial player in the trade routes between the Roman Empire (Later the Byzantine Empire), India and the Mediterranean - exporting ivory, tortoiseshell, gold, emeralds and minerals.

The Manichaein Prophet Mani (216 CE - 274 CE) even regarded Axum as one of the four great powers of his time, alongside Persia, Rome, and China.


Ancient settlements associated with 'Polish Pyramids' discovered

Kujawy Mounds
© MOs810 – CC BY-SA 4.0
Kujawy Mounds.
Archaeologists conducting a detailed study of the area near the Kujawy megalithic tombs, dubbed the "Polish Pyramids", have identified the associated settlements of the tomb builders.

The Kujawy megalithic tombs are a cluster of 130-metres-long elongated trapezium shaped tombs located in the Kujawy region of Poland that were constructed during the 4th millennium BC.

Archaeologists used a combination of exploratory non-invasive methods such as drone and aerial surveys, geochemical, and geophysical studies to discover individual houses and larger settlement networks.

Dr. Piotr Papiernik from the Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum in Łódź said to Nauki W Polsce: "All this allowed us to indicate with certainty the places where people lived at the time when the megalithic tombs were erected. The villages were small - up to 10 families lived in each of them and they covered an area of 1-1.5 hectares."


Laos mysterious plain of jars

Plain Jars Laos
© Jakub Hałun – CC BY-SA 4.0
The Plain of Jars is a megalithic archaeological landscape attributed to the late Iron Age of Southeast Asia from 500 BC to AD 500, consisting of thousands of large stone jars placed on hills within the central plain of the Xiangkhoang Plateau in Laos.

According to local Lao legend, the jars were created by a race of giants after winning a great victory in battle. The giants used the jars to brew and store lau hai, loosely translated to mean 'rice wine' or 'rice beer'.

Up to 120 jar sites have been identified, each containing stone jars hewn from either sandstone, granite, conglomerate, limestone, or breccia at nearby quarries or from boulders extracted from riverbeds.

The cylindrical shaped jars have a lip rim to support a lid, and range from one to more than three metres in height, weighing up to 14 tons. Very few examples of stone lids have been recorded, suggesting that the jars were most likely capped with perishable material.


Ex-CIA chief gives JFK assassination some QAnon-style spin

James Woolsey
© Getty Images
James Woolsey, Former Director of CIA under President Clinton
Over the last four decades I have navigated the murky shoals of the JFK assassination, seeking to ascertain the truth with an open mind to all possibilities. The multitude of theories that have crossed my transom over all these years range from the ludicrous (Jackie did it) to the most plausible (Oswald did it.) On these treks, and in literally thousands of interviews, I have come to admire — with some exceptions — the men and women of our intelligence services.

So it was with a degree of shock that I recently learned that former CIA Director R. James Woolsey had co-authored a new book that posits a conspiracy theory that resides much closer to the ludicrous side of the JFK spectrum than the plausible, i.e. Khrushchev did it.

In Operation Dragon, co-authored with a former head of Romanian intelligence, the writers channel Qanon-style nonsense by contending that the Warren Commission concluded that Khrushchev hired Lee Harvey Oswald to kill Kennedy, and the proof is in the secret "code words" embedded in the report.

Seriously? Please, Mr. Woolsey, say it ain't so.


Neanderthals possessed ability to perceive and produce human speech

Modern Human and Neanderthal Skull
© Mercedes Conde-Valverde
3D model and virtual reconstruction of the ear in a modern human (left) and the Amud 1 Neandertal (right).
Neanderthals — the closest ancestor to modern humans — possessed the ability to perceive and produce human speech, according to a new study published by an international multidisciplinary team of researchers including Binghamton University Associate Professor of Anthropology Rolf Quam and graduate student Alex Velez.

"This is one of the most important studies I have been involved in during my career," said Quam. "The results are solid and clearly show the Neanderthals had the capacity to perceive and produce human speech. This is one of the very few current, ongoing research lines relying on fossil evidence to study the evolution of language, a notoriously tricky subject in anthropology."

The evolution of language, and the linguistic capacities in Neanderthals in particular, is a long-standing question in human evolution.

"For decades, one of the central questions in human evolutionary studies has been whether the human form of communication, spoken language, was also present in any other species of human ancestor, especially the Neanderthals," said coauthor Juan Luis Arsuaga, professor of paleontology at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid and co-director of excavations and research at the Atapuerca archaeological sites in northern Spain. The latest study has reconstructed how Neanderthals heard to draw some inferences about how they may have communicated.


Pompeii's House of the Ceii restored revealing Roman frescoes glowing with color


Pompeii's most amazing fresco returns to its former glory! Scientists use lasers to remove stains on stunning 2,000-year-old painting of a hunting scene in the garden of the House of the Ceii
A stunning fresco in the garden of Pompeii's Casa dei Ceii (House of the Ceii) has been painstakingly laser-cleaned and touched up with new paint by expert restorers.

The artwork — of hunting scenes — was painted in the so-called 'Third' or 'Ornate' Pompeii style, which was popular around 20-10 BC and featured vibrant colours.

In 79 AD, however, the house and the rest of the Pompeii was submerged beneath pyroclastic flows of searing gas and volcanic matter from the eruption of Vesuvius.

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