World politics explainer: the Iranian Revolution

To understand what caused the Iranian Revolution, we must first consider the ongoing conflict between proponents of secular versus Islamic models of governance in Muslim societies.

It all began with the British colonisation of India in 1858, which precipitated the collapse of classic Islamic civilisation. By early 20th century, almost the entire Muslim world was colonised by European powers.

Neighbourhood noise

What is music to your ears may just be noise to your neighbour. Try to make sure that your activities at home do not become a nuisance to others by showing them some consideration. Here are some things you can do to keep the peace in your neighbourhood:

World politics explainer: the assassination of John F. Kennedy

Lloyd Cox, Macquarie University

This is the third in our series of explainers on key moments in the past 100 years of world political history. In it, our authors examine how and why an event unfolded, its impact at the time, and its relevance to politics today. You can read parts one and two here.


At precisely 1pm on November 22, 1963, the 35th president of the United States was pronounced dead at Parkland Hospital Trauma Room 1 in Dallas, Texas.

John F Kennedy’s personal physician stated the cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head. This was officially announced to a stunned public half an hour later. The shock waves of the president’s assassination, the fourth in US history, continue to reverberate today.

What happened?

While the events of that day have been the subject of numerous conspiracy theories, the basic facts are now widely accepted. The president’s motorcade was making its way through Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas when, five minutes from its destination, three shots rang out from behind and above the presidential limousine.

Two of those shots found their mark, with the second being fatal. Texas’s Democratic governor, John Connally, who was seated immediately in front of the president, was also hit, though he would recover from his injuries.

Kennedy funeral procession, November 1963.
JFK Library/Wikicommons

Seventy minutes after the attack, Dallas police arrested Lee Harvey Oswald, a former US marine who had spent three years in the Soviet Union. However, before Oswald could be properly questioned on his motives, less than 48 hours after the assassination of the president, Oswald himself was also dead.

He was gunned down on live television by Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner with links to organised crime. This inspired generations of conspiracy theorists for whom the Kennedy assassination was an expression of unidentified malevolent forces threatening the United States.

The impact of the assassination – speculations about a second gunman?

One of the most ubiquitous and apparently plausible of the conspiracy theories floating around was that there was a second gunman, and that both he and Oswald were part of a wider circle of conspirators.

Despite the Warren Commission, which had been set up by new President Lyndon Johnson to investigate Kennedy’s murder, stating in September 1964 that Oswald was a “lone gunman” and was not part of any domestic or international conspiracy, this conclusion was not widely accepted until the mid 1970s.

Several developments that cast doubt on the lone gunman thesis include a Senate Select Committee established to investigate “Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities” in 1975. It asserted that investigations of the assassination by both the FBI and CIA had been deficient, and that some fundamental evidence had not been forwarded to the original Warren Commission.

Furthermore, Abraham Zapruder’s now famous 26-second silent home movie of the killing was also released to public scrutiny in 1975.

Warning: the video below contains graphic imagery

The heavily scrutinised final moments of Kennedy’s life.

To the untrained eye, the film seems to show that the fatal second shot came from the front of the president’s car. His head snaps back and bodily matter is projected to the rear. Viewed in conjunction with conclusions from the Senate and House Committees, this was presumed by many to validate the claim that a second shooter had fired from the infamous “grassy knoll” to the right and front of the presidential cavalcade.

Subsequently, the theory that a second assassin fired a fourth shot was conclusively falsified. The United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) had acquired a police radio channel dicta belt recording of a motorcycle officer who had been part of the cavalcade. When this evidence was reexamined by independent acoustic research experts, they unanimously agreed that the apparent fourth shot was not a shot at all.

Similarly, after reviewing the evidence, ballistic, forensic and medical experts have repeatedly drawn the conclusion that the entry and exit wounds on the president were consistent with having been shot from the rear rather than the front.

So we can conclude with a very high degree of certainty that Oswald was the sole gunman who shot Kennedy. But it does not follow that the conception and planning of the assassination was that of Oswald’s alone.

The JFK Act

As a result of renewed interest generated by the Oliver Stone film, JFK, Congress passed the JFK Act in 1992. This led to the public release of over 4 million pages of documents pertaining to the assassination.

It was on the basis of an exhaustive analysis of this material, in conjunction with all of the earlier government reports and secondary literature, that David Kaiser published the first book about the assassination written by a professional historian with all of the archival evidence available to him.

The Road to Dallas: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy cites archival evidence that firmly links Oswald to a network of organised crime figures, anti-Castro Cubans and far-right political activists, all of whom had motives for wanting the president dead. While its conclusions are not watertight, the book’s judicious judgements provide the most compelling account yet that Oswald acted as part of a broader conspiracy.

Kaiser’s essential argument is that a cabal of organised crime figures and anti-Castro Cuban exiles most likely recruited Oswald to be the trigger man in an attempt on the president’s life.

The interests of organised crime figures, many of whom had had commercial operations in Cuba disrupted by the revolution, coincided with those of wealthy anti-Castro Cubans who had been exiled to the United States.

Robert (left), Ted and John Kennedy posing for a photo together.
Wikicommons

Both groups were profoundly hostile to Kennedy and his brother, Attorney-General Robert Kennedy. Their administration had not only failed to invade Cuba and restore mob and Cuban private property, it had also waged a relentless campaign against particular organised crime figures.

There is solid evidence that Oswald had direct or indirect contact with at least two such figures, while also being in contact with a wider group of anti-Castro activists.

Kaiser surmises that the overlapping networks of mobsters and Cuban exiles hoped that the assassination of Kennedy, for which Oswald would be paid handsomely, would provoke a US invasion of Cuba and the restoration of their private property and commercial operations.

This, of course, did not happen. Instead, there was a very different set of short and long term consequences.

Contemporary relevance

In the short term, the new president, Johnson, seized the opportunity offered by a nation’s grief to crush the Republican challenge at the 1964 election. He used that result as a mandate to vigorously pursue his liberal, Great Society programme and civil rights agenda, which greatly expanded the role of government and advanced the rights of African-Americans and other ethnic minorities.

Longer term, it was Johnson’s liberal programme that provoked a conservative, white backlash that would gather strength under the presidencies of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

Lyndon Johnson taking the oath of office as Jacqueline Kennedy looks on.
Wikicommons

In the 1968 and 1972 presidential elections, Nixon adopted his infamous “Southern strategy”. It deployed the coded racial language of “states’ rights” to split away white southerners from the Democratic Party whom they had traditionally supported.

Nixon’s law and order rhetoric simultaneously appealed to the anxieties of what he claimed was a “silent majority”, who had been shaken by urban turmoil and the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr. Respectable fears and the politics of race converged with paranoia stoked by conspiracy theories involving all of these assassinations.

This white backlash and the realignment of many white working and middle class Americans to the Republican Party accelerated in the 1980s under President Reagan, and was consummated in the 2000s during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

A significant sub-section of white America could not reconcile themselves to the legitimacy of a black president after 2008. This expressed itself in the “birther” backlash against Obama, and the generalised hatred that greeted the new president from the political right.

It is that same backlash, albeit taking new forms, that we today witness in the strange spectacle of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Trump had been a central protagonist in the birther controversy, and has consistently played on race-based fears and prejudice to energise his supporters.

Where once Nixon and Reagan spoke in the coded racial language of states’ rights, Trump now speaks in the forthright language of stopping Muslim immigration, kicking out Mexican murderers and rapists, and building walls between us and them.

The vindictive, emotional politics of fear and rage is his standard currency. He has concentrated in his rhetoric and actions the most noxious elements of American politics in the half century that has passed since Kennedy’s untimely death.

The political reverberations of the Kennedy assassination, then, continue to be felt in all sorts of unlikely ways.

The paranoid, racialised and faux anti-elitist politics of the American right did not begin with the backlash against Kennedy and his administration. But his presidency and assassination, and the anxious political forces it set in motion, are an important milestone in their development. The American right today, with Trump as its figurehead, is the direct political descendant of this dark chapter in American history.The Conversation

Lloyd Cox, Lecturer, Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations, Macquarie University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

World politics explainer: The Great War (WWI

This is the first in a series of explainers on key moments in the past 100 years of world political history. In it, our authors examine how and why an event unfolded, its impact at the time, and its relevance to politics today.

Over four long years, the world collapsed in what was then the largest industrial war ever fought. The conflict left over 10 million soldiers and 6 million civilians dead.

Aboriginal traditions describe the complex motions of planets, the ‘wandering stars’ of the sky

The five planets we can see by naked eye were known to the ancient Greeks as “asteres planetai”, meaning “wandering stars”, due to their wandering journey across the sky relative to the fixed stars. This is where we get the word “planet”. But knowledge of the planets and their movements goes back much further, being prominent in the traditions of the oldest continuing cultures in the world.

‘One of the most profound experiences of my life’

Sometimes, in order to learn, you need to slow down and shut up. Which is exactly what my TV crew and I were told to do when we entered the sacred ceremonial grounds at Gulkula in North East Arnhem Land, the home of the Yolgnu clan for more than 50,000 years.

While flying along the red dirt road to the campsite for the Garma festival, I carefully read the “behaviour protocols” provided by the Yothu Yindi foundation. They state: “Remember you are on Yolngu land and entering Yolngu time.

Original Article

When did Aboriginal people first arrive in Australia?

Many Aboriginal Australians would say with conviction that they have always been here. Their ancestors and traditional learnings tell them of this history, and their precise place within it.

Our review of the scientific evidence, published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that for all practical purposes, this is indeed the case.

Their ancestors arrived shortly after 50,000 years ago – effectively forever, given that modern human populations only moved out of Africa 50,000-55,000 years ago.



Read more:
DNA reveals Aboriginal people had a long and settled connection to country


Long connection to country

Earlier genetic analysis of historic Aboriginal hair samples confirmed the incredibly long and deep relationships between individual Aboriginal groups and their particular country. The small locks of hair were collected during anthropological expeditions across Australia from the 1920s to the 1960s.

Analysis of maternal genetic lineages revealed that Aboriginal populations moved into Australia around 50,000 years ago. They rapidly swept around the west and east coasts in parallel movements – meeting around the Nullarbor just west of modern-day Adelaide.

Map of the original colonisation of Australia showing different genetic markers carried by Aboriginal populations (in red), and the vegetation zones at the time. Archaeological dates are shown in black, with 1 kya = 1,000 years ago.
Nature, Tobler et al.

Archaeological sites and dates (shown above) closely match the genetic estimates. This indicates a very rapid movement throughout Australia 48,000-50,000 years ago.

Out of Africa

It was only a few thousand years earlier that a small population of modern humans moved out of Africa. As they did, they met and briefly hybridised with Neandertals before rapidly spreading around the world.

They became the genetic ancestors of all surviving modern human populations outside of Africa, who are all characterised by a distinctive small subset of Neandertal DNA – around 2.5% – preserved in their genomes.

This distinctive marker is found in Aboriginal populations, indicating they are part of this original diaspora, but one that must have moved to Australia almost immediately after leaving Africa.

How to get to Australia 50,000 years ago

The movement from Africa to Australia culminated in a series of hazardous sea voyages across island southeast Asia.

Recent studies suggest the last voyage, potentially between Timor/Roti and the northern Kimberley coast, would have involved advanced planning skills, four to seven days paddling on a raft, and a total group of more than 100 to 400 people.

The possibility that earlier waves of modern human populations might have moved out of Africa before 50,000 years has also been raised.

But in our review of these events, we point out that there is no convincing fossil evidence to support this idea beyond the Middle East.

One of the most important claimed potential early sites is in northern Australia, at Madjedbebe, a rock shelter in Arnhem Land. Human presence here was recently declared at more than 65,000 years ago.

This 65,000-year date has rapidly become accepted as the age for colonisation of Australia. It has appeared widely in the media and elsewhere, in political statements and comments by the Prime Minister.

But there is good reason to question a 65,000-year date, and the extent to which this contrasts with the sudden wave of archaeological sites that sweep across Australia shortly after 50,000 years ago.

These sites include Barrow Island and Carpenters Gap in the Kimberley, Devils Lair south of Perth, Willandra Lakes in NSW, and Warratyi rockshelter in the Flinders Ranges.

This rapid archaeological manifestation at 50,000 years is a perfect match for the genetic evidence from Aboriginal maternal, paternal, and genomic lineages, and a far better fit with the extinction of Australia’s megafauna around 42,000 years ago.

An age limit for human migration

One of the most interesting ways we can date the dispersal of modern humans around the globe, including Australia, is through that original interbreeding event with Neandertals as we left Africa.

About a decade ago, an ancient human leg bone was found on the banks of a Siberian river by an ivory hunter. Radiocarbon-dated at 43,000-45,000 years ago, the entire genome of this individual, named Ust’-Ishim after the site, was sequenced using the latest ancient DNA technology.

The genomic sequence revealed the bone contained the standard 2.5% Neandertal DNA signal carried by all non-Africans. But it was still present in large continuous blocks and had yet not been dispersed into fragments around the genome as we see in more recent ancestors and ourselves.

In fact, the size of the blocks showed that the 43,000-45,000-year-old Ust’-Ishim specimen could only be a maximum of 230-430 generations after that initial Neandertal liaison, dating our movement out of Africa to no more than 50,000-55,000 years ago.

50,000 years, or more than 65,000 years?

Given the evidence is so strong that the ancestors of modern human populations only started moving around the world 50,000-55,000 years ago, could the human activity at Madjedbebe really be more than 65,000 years old?

One of the major limitations of the Madjedbebe study is that the stone artefacts themselves weren’t dated, just the surrounding sand layers.

As a result, over time, even the slightest downward movement of the artefacts within the unconsolidated sand layers at Madjedbebe would make them appear too old.

We identify a range of factors which are common around the site, such as termite burrowing and heavy rainfall, that could cause stone artefacts to sink.

Many archaeological signs suggest activity at Madjedbebe is actually much younger than 65,000 years, and overall, the extent to which the site is an outlier to the rest of the Australian record should raise a red flag.

Connection to country

Either way, Aboriginal Australians have effectively been on their country as long as modern human populations have been outside of Africa.



Read more:
How to get to Australia … more than 50,000 years ago


How does this help us better understand Aboriginal history? By appreciating the enormous depth of time that Aboriginal groups have been on their own particular country, and the extent to which all their history, knowledge, and ancestors form part of that country.

It is this gulf between a European history of constant migration and global dispersal, and the profoundly deep Aboriginal connection to one particular part of the world, that leads to failures to comprehend why being on country is not simply “a lifestyle choice”, but a fundamental part of their identity.


The ConversationDr Graham Brown, a research associate from the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, was a contributor on this article.

Alan Cooper, Director, Australian Centre for Ancient DNA, University of Adelaide; Alan N Williams, Associate Investigator, ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, UNSW, and Nigel Spooner, Adjunct professor, University of Adelaide

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.