Monday, February 23, 2015


The Lemuria myth
How it permeated the Tamil tradition through folklore and writings as the lost continent of Kumari.

THE LEMURIAN AS conceived by W. Scott Elliot, a staunch Theosophist who published, in 1904, 'The Lost Lemuria'.
THERE is an old, persistent Tamil tradition about a land that existed south of India called Kumari kandam (continent), a belief that is linked to the myth of the lost land of Lemuria, a figment of Western imagination. Accounts of the lost continent vary, but the common theme is that a large area went under the ocean as a result of geological cataclysms, a theory that geologists of today do not subscribe to.
The last Ice Age had a profound influence on the prehistory of humankind. So in prehistoric studies of coastal areas, it is crucial to understand the consequence of changes in the sea level. About 14,500 years ago, the sea level was lower by 100 metres. With subsequent global warming and melting of large masses of ice, the level started rising, in stages.
As the sea level rose, the low-lying lands in the coastal region and the exposed continental shelves were inundated. This phenomenon gave rise to the stories and legends of deluges that permeated the African, Amerindian and Australian aboriginal folklore and Greek, Roman and Hebrew legends, and the Indian puranas, which referred to pralayas. The coastal areas south of India that were submerged in ancient times evidently gave rise to the Tamil myth of the lost continent of Kumari, while myths of the lost continents of Atlantis and Lemuria were generated in the Western world.
Lemuria is the name of a mythical continent purported to have been in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The lost continent derives its name from the primate lemur belonging to the group prosimians. Lemurs now inhabit Madagascar island, the surrounding smaller islands and Comoros island.
The term “lemur” comes from the Latin word lemures, meaning “spirits of the night”, a reference to many species of lemur that are nocturnal and so have large reflective eyes. Their distribution once extended from Pakistan to Malaya. The English geologist Philip Sclater (1864) coined the term Lemuria in his article ‘The Mammals of Madagascar'. Trying to explain the presence of fossil lemurs in Madagascar, he proposed that the Indian Ocean island and India had once been part of a larger continent, Lemuria. His theory was put forward before the concepts of continental drift and plate tectonics provided the explanations for the similarity and distribution of formations and fossils in different strata and continents.
During the 19th century, scientists frequently postulated the presence of submerged land masses in order to account for the present distribution of species. As Lemuria gained some acceptance within the scientific community, it began to appear in the works of scholars such as Ernst Heinrich Haeckel (1834-1919), a German biologist who promoted the work of Charles Darwin in Germany. Haeckel suggested that there was a land bridge that remained above water long enough to facilitate the migration of prosimians from Africa into India and the Malay peninsula.
To explain the distribution of species across Asia and the Americas, certain other scientists hypothesised that Lemuria had extended across parts of the Pacific Ocean. But advanced research and geological findings have made clear that continents did not submerge or disappear and that Lemuria never existed. The Lemuria theory disappeared from practical consideration after the scientific community accepted the theory of plate tectonics and continental drift.
Esoteric theories
However, certain occultists adopted it. In 1888, Helena Blavatsky, a founder of the Theosophical Society, incorporated the concept of the lost continents of Lemuria and Atlantis in her controversial book The Secret Doctrine. Her information, it was claimed, was based on esoteric ancient books from the east and messages received through mystical transference and clairvoyant trances.
While explaining the evolution of man, there is a subtle but conscious attempt in the book to establish the superiority of the Aryan race. Later, some members of the Theosophical Society published essays, presented in the garb of scientific writings, on Lemuria and Atlantis. Thus the myth of Lemuria was perpetuated.
According to the teachings of the Theosophical Society, human beings evolved through seven successive root races, each of which populated and occupied different continents. Lemuria was occupied by the third root race called Lemurians, who were primitive beings. Subsequently, the more advanced inhabitants of Atlantis, called Atlanteans, replaced them. Aryans, the descendants of Atlanteans, were the fifth root race and were considered the pinnacle of evolution.

The ring-tailed lemur. The term “lemur” comes from the Latin word lemures, meaning “spirits of the night”, a reference to many species of lemur that are nocturnal and so have large reflective eyes. Their distribution once extended from Pakistan to Malaya.
W. Scott Elliot, a staunch Theosophist, published, in 1904, The Lost Lemuria with two maps showing the distribution of land areas at different periods. There is mention about Lemurians who domesticated reptiles resembling the Plesiosaurus, which places Lemurians in the era of dinosaurs, an obvious anachronism. This writing, which uses scientific terminology extensively, is basically esoteric.
In 1931, Harvey Spencer Lewis, the founder of the mystical society called the Rosicrucians, wrote on the evolution of Lemurians in his book Lemuria: the Lost Continent of the Pacific. Maps of the lost land were produced by taking the idea from the palaeo continent of Gondwana, which existed long before the advent of humanity.
The total confusion of chronology of geological epochs and a lack of understanding of the evolution of humankind is evident in the book he wrote under the pseudonym Wishar S. Cerve. He gave details of their lifestyle and advanced technology and also wrote about floating continents, such as California and the west coast of the United States, being parts of Lemuria and of their subsequent destruction. It was claimed that the survivors of Lemuria were living in Mount Shasta in northern California (F.S. Oliver, Dwellers of Two Planets, 1894) under a network of tunnels and could be seen occasionally. This belief is repeated by certain other groups and cultists.
Lost land of Tamils
The narratives about Lemuria found their way into colonial India about the time when folklore began to permeate historic knowledge as though they were fact. The writings of Wishar Cerve and the maps of Scott Elliot were brought into Tamil writings by K. Appadurai, in his book Kumari Kandam Allathu Kadal Konda Thennadu (Kumari Continent or the Submerged Southern Land, 1941). The term Lemuria found its way into certain Tamil textbooks and was given the Tamil name Kumari kandam, or continent of Kumari. Names from Tamil classics were given to the mountain ranges, rivers, places and areas. For example, the puranic geography of an axial mountain called Meru as the centre of Jambudvipa (Sanskrit) or Navalan Theevu (Tamil) was accepted, and, later on, these names were attributed to certain parts of Lemuria, giving it acceptability among Tamil readers. In the 1920s, with Tamil revivalism and the efforts to counter the “Aryan” and associated Sanskrit dominance, the concept of Lemuria was wedded to the notion of the lost land referred to in Tamil literature.
There are a few references in Tamil Sangam classics to a landmass that was swallowed up by the sea. Historians consider the first three centuries A.D. as the Sangam period. The reference to the tradition about three Tamil Sangams (assemblies or academies) is noted in Iraiyanar Kalviyalurai, attributed to Nakeerar. According to this commentary, the Pandya kings patronised Tamil poets in their capital, where the Sangam was located. According to tradition, the Mudal Sangam (first assembly), was located in Thenmadurai. When the sea swallowed Thenmadurai, the capital was shifted to Kapatapuram and the second or Idai Sangam was established. The Idai Sangam functioned until a deluge destroyed Kapatapuram. After the deluge, the Pandyas shifted their capital to the present-day Madurai where the last or Kadai Sangam was established.
Some of the important references from Tamil Sangam classics are as follows: 1) in Purananuru 9, verses 10-11 are interpreted as a reference to a Pandya king who ruled a part of the lost land where the river Pahruli flowed. 2) in Silapathigaram (Kadu Kaan Kaathai) (11:17-22) is a reference to a Pandya king who won over kingdoms in Imayam (the Himalayas) and Gangai (the Ganga) to compensate for his land lost to the deluge. Tamil scholars such as Devaneya Paavaanar consider the deluge under reference to be the one that destroyed Thenmadurai. 3) According to Adiyarku Nallar, poem 104:1-4 from Mullai Kalithogai indicates that the Pandya king resettled the survivors of the deluge in certain Chera and Chola territories. It is portrayed by certain Tamil writers that the series of deluges destroyed the Tamil civilisation and the survivors spread out and civilised other parts of the world.
The Tamil tradition about a lost land was committed to writing after the 10th century by commentators like Nakeerar in his commentary on Iraiyanar Akapporulurai. Nachinarkiniyar and Adiyarku Nallar followed him. Those who wrote the commentaries exaggerated the extent of land that was submerged by the deluges referred to in Silapathigaram and Kalithogai. According to the commentators, there were 49 countries ( nadu) in the lost land of Kumari and the distance between the river Kumari and the river Pahruli that flowed in the lost land was 700 katham, which according to one calculation is about 770 km.
The crucial question is whether the land referred to as Kumari was as large as a continent? The advocates of Kumari kandam interpreted the term nadu to mean country. In Tamil Nadu and Kerala many small towns and villages have in their names the term nadu, which basically referred to a settlement, as opposed to kadu, or forest. In the above Tamil references there is no mention of the term kandam, referring to land the size of a continent.
According to Pingala Nikandu, a lexicon of ancient words, k andam means country. In the words of the historian N. Subrahmanian (1996), “It is possible that a small area of land (to the extent of a present-day district) was lost by sea erosion and Pahruli and Kumari were parts of that territory and that the king shifted this capital to some other place. But in all probability that event occurred only in the 5th or 4th century B.C. Such erosions on a limited scale were not unknown to the southern and eastern seaboards of Tamil Nadu. If the fiction is removed from the fact, the entire romantic superstructure called the theory of the Kumari kandam will stand exposed, as non-history” ( The Tamils - Their History, Culture and Civilisation; pages 26, 27).
If the oral traditions and the subsequent writings exaggerated the size of the submerged land called Kumari, what was the background to the lost land referred to in Sangam literature?
Sea-level changes
Geology emerged as a scientific discipline in the late 19th century when both scientific and popular imagination was dominated by Biblical accounts of creation and deluges. Dramatic geological events were attributed to catastrophes like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Eventually, the understanding of phenomena such as plate tectonics, continental drift and sea floor spreading dismissed the catastrophe theories. The speculation about land bridges and lost continents faded into obscurity elsewhere in the world but not quite so in Tamil Nadu.
Since the early part of the last century major strides have been made in the geological and geophysical understanding of the earth. For instance, in 1912 Alfred Wegener, a German meteorologist, explained the concept of continental drift; in 1924, the British geologist Arthur Holmes explained that the convection current in the mantle could cause continents to drift; in 1962, the American Geologist Harry Hess pointed out that continental drift could be explained by sea-floor spreading; in 1966, the concept of sea-floor spreading was established by independent oceanographic data involving microfossils, sediments of the sea floor, measure of heat flow from the earth's interior and palaeo-magnetic and seismic studies.

THE LOST LAND of Lemuria. This representation is from the book 'Lemuria: the Lost Continent of the Pacific' by Wishar S. Cerve, which was the pseudonym of Harvey Spencer Lewis, the founder of the mystical society called the Rosicrucians.
Since the first oceanic sounding in 1840, the study of oceans, including their chemistry, biology, geology and physics, has advanced in the last century. Improved coring devices have enlarged our knowledge of the oceans, and deep ocean floors have been mapped by echo-soundings and ultra-sonic signals. In the 1940s, seismic methods were also used to study the ocean floor.
Evidence of former glaciations on a wide scale became overwhelmingly conclusive in the last century. During the past two million years, there have been five major glacial advances and five glacial retreats as the globe began to warm. The last of such periods is the present period known as Holocene. The last Ice Age caused the fragmented distribution of Homo sapiens, and the enormous environmental changes that took place with global warming had a profound influence on the prehistory of humankind.
Extensive studies were done to understand global warming during the interglacial periods; sediments were subjected to meticulous analyses to establish the age and palaeo-geographical conditions in many parts of the world.
For instance, about 18,000 years ago, during the time of the last Ice Age, ice sheets in the poles spread much wider and the sea level was more than 100 metres lower than it is today, exposing a large area of land along the continental shelf. Then Siberia was connected to Alaska and along this land bridge, the peopling of the Americas and migration of animals happened over a long period. At this time, the landmass of present-day Papua New Guinea, Australia and Tasmania were joined together as were the British Isles with Europe. After the last Ice Age the level of the Indian Ocean, like the rest of the oceans, fell. Sri Lanka was connected to the Indian peninsula by a landmass, which now lies under the Gulf of Mannar. In the following 8,000 years, global warming continued and large masses of ice and glaciers melted, raising sea levels in stages and inundating low-lying lands. The portion of the continental shelf of the south Indian peninsula and the land that connected it to Sri Lanka also went under water as the sea level rose.
Records of sea-level fluctuations and related climatic changes are preserved in the layered sediments of the seabed. These can be studied through data such as faunal contents and nature of sediments. Rajiv Nigam and N.H. Hashimi of the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Goa, have done extensive work on sea-level rise by analysing sediments for microfossils such as pollen and foraminifera to determine palaeo-climate and by dating corals from the continental shelf in the west coast of peninsular India. The team studied marine sediments to generate proxy climate records through which changes in palaeo sea levels could be deciphered.
Nigam and P.J. Henriques, also of the NIO, have developed a regional model for palaeo depth determination on the basis of percentage of foraminifera in surface sediments of the Arabian Sea. The significant results of the study on palaeo sea levels are that the sea level was lower by 100 m about 14,500 years ago and by 60 m about 10,000 years ago and that during the last 10,000 years there had been three major episodes of sea-level fluctuation. These sea-level changes had affected human settlements and peopling of the coastal areas and had left their signatures on archaeological events.
Once the status of the periodic sea-level rise was established, it was easy to decipher the configuration of the coastline, giving allowance wherever applicable to tectonic activities and deposition of silt at the confluence of rivers. The Naval Hydrographic Office, Dehra Dun, has produced hydrographic charts (INT 717071-1986 to the scale 1:10,000,000 and INT 7007706-1973 of scale 1:3,500,000) pertaining to Cape Comorin-Gulf of Mannar, where it surveyed the depth of the sea floor with echo-sounders, which measure the sea floor contours with great accuracy.
Changes in southern India
It is possible to demarcate the land lost to the sea in the south of India from postglacial inundation maps that indicate the significant changes in the coastline.
The author has prepared inundation maps on the basis of bathymetric contours and the sea-level curve for the central west coast to work out the configuration of the coastline south of India since the last Ice Age. This study shows that about 14,500 years ago the sea level was lower by approximately 100 m than the present sea level. The land between the present coast and the bathymetric contour of 100 m roughly was the land that was exposed during that time.
In other words, hypothetically, if a 100 m column of sea water were to be removed, the land that went under water would be exposed. At that time the present Gulf of Mannar was a landmass of 36,000 sq. km connecting Sri Lanka with peninsular India and the coast was wider by about 80 km to the east, south and west of present-day Cape Comorin exposing a triangular mass of 6,500 sq. km adjoining the Cape. The coastline was 25-35 km wider than the present near Cuddalore and about 25 km wider near Colombo.
Global warming
The increased rate of global warming between 12,000 and 10,000 years ago saw the sea level rise almost 50 m, inundating low-lying lands and covering a major part of the exposed continental shelf. About 10,000 years ago, the sea level was about 50 m lower than the present sea level. At that time, the land extended about 25 km south of the Cape and the coast was about 40 km broader than the present coastline along the east and the west, which exposed about 1,000 sq km of land near Cape Comorin. Rameswaram and Mannar were joined by land and the land that extended in the present-day Gulf of Mannar was a 2,500-sq km stretch marked by sedimentary formations and coral reefs.

AN INUNDATION MAP by S.C. Jayakaran. He prepared the map on the basis of bathymetric contours and the sea-level curve for the central west coast to work out the configuration of the coastline south of India since the last Ice Age. It shows that about 14,500 years ago the sea level was lower by about 100 m than the present. The land between the coast now and the bathymetric contour of 100 m was the land that was exposed then.
As the research of Rajiv Nigam indicated, sea levels continued to rise and reached the present level around 6,000 years ago. This is about the time Sri Lanka evolved as an island. Between 4,000 and 3,500 years ago, heavy rains, in addition to melting of snow, also contributed to the sea level rise. It rose by a couple of metres and fell to the present level about 2,000 years ago.
It is scientifically uncontested that the earliest Homo sapiens developed in Africa 100,000 to 200,000 years ago and migrated to Europe and Asia. Genetic evidence and fossil records of early human beings indicate that they came out of Africa as early as 100,000 to 60,000 years ago. Their descendants migrated to the Far East, probably along the coastal areas adjacent to the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal around the Indian peninsula, Sri Lanka and then north into China and south into Sumatra.
As the sea levels rose, resulting in periodic flooding and deluges, prehistoric settlements that were located in the low-lying coastal lands and the exposed continental shelf were inundated. The people who lived in the coastal area of the Indian peninsula and Sri Lanka and who escaped the deluges perpetuated the oral tradition of a lost land. It is my considered opinion that it is this development that gave rise to the legend of Kumari kandam.
1. Barnett T.P.; ‘The estimation of global sea level change: A problem of uniquness'; Journal of Geophysical Research, 1984.
2. Blavatsky H.P.; The Secret Doctrine, Vol 12; Theosophical University Press, online edition, 2001.
3. David Shulman; ‘The Tamil Flood Myths and the Cankam Legend'; The Flood Myth; Berkeley, 1988.
4. Geiger, Wilhelm (translated by); ‘The Mahavamsa or The great chronicle of Ceylon'; Asian Educational Services, New Delhi, Madras, 1993.
5. Hashimi N.H., Nigam R., Nair R.R. & Rajagopalan G.; ‘Holocene sea-level fluctuation on western Indian continental margin: An update'; Journal of the Geological Society of India; Bangalore, 1995; Vol.46; pages 157-162.
6. Jayakaran S.C.; ‘Lost Land and the Myth of Kumari Kandam'; Indian Folklore Research Journal; Vol.1 No.4.; National Folklore Support Centre, 2004; pages 90-108.
7. Stephen Oppenheimer; ‘Out of Eden: The peopling of the World'; Constable and Robinson Ltd., London, 2003.
8. Scott Elliot W.; ‘The Lost Lemuria' (1904); Kessinger Publishing Company, Montana, U.S., 1997; paperback.
9. Subrahmanian, N.; ‘The Tamils, their History, Culture and Civilisation'; Institute of Asian Studies, 1996.
10. Sumathi Ramaswamy; ‘Catastrophic Cartographies: Mapping the Lost Continent of Lemuria'; Representations 67; The Regents of the University of California, U.S., 1999.
11. Wishar S Cerve; ‘Lemuria – The Lost Continent of the Pacific' (1931); Supreme Grand Lodge of the Ancient & Mystical Order Rosae Crucis; published by the Grand Lodge of the English Language Jurisdiction, AMORC, Inc., 1997.
12. Personal communications with K.H. Vora and Rajiv Nigam of the National Institute of Oceanography, Goa.
1. Hydrographic chart, Sheet no. INT 709 7706 of scale 1:3,500,000 (1973); hydrographic chart, sheet no. INT 717071of scale 1:10,000,000 (1986).
2. Cochin to Vishakhapatnam (hydrographic chart), Scale 1:1,500,000 (1974) – all the above three charts produced by Naval Hydrographic Office, Dehra Dun.
3. Hydrographic chart, Sheet no. INT 709 7706 of scale 1:3,500,000 (1973); hydrographic chart, sheet no. INT 717071of scale 1:10,000,000 (1986).

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Monday, December 01, 2014

Today I turn sixty, Sixty, 60, for Christ sake's how the hell did that happen.
That’s when people turn old and gray, then they slowly become shadows and disappear
Not me Bucko. Ain’t happening, I was an angry young man for Forty years.
Now I aint’t young or angry now I am liberated once again. I am free to express myself, without worrying about how my employer might be impacted.
I am pleased to say after my recent experiences with diabetes, losing my foot and losing my teeth you would think that would mellow me well think again they gave me a cane to wave around. And dentures, I have a mouth and I must scream at injustice where ever it may be found. And beside my hair has been white since I was Forty.
At 15 I took on the world or at least the EPSB when I was a student radical in solidarity with striking public school custodians members of my future union local 474.
At 25 I was working for the EPSB as a Head Custodian, at Garneau School planning to use my retirement savings to go to Europe before I turned 30. Well that never happened and today I am glad it didn't because now I can retire with a decent income.
At 35 I was a member of my union executive, yep good old Local 474 which we transformed into a militant organization promoting our role as professional indoor environmental health workers and power engineers, fighting contracting out and the ideology of school based management. Yep I was in the same union I walked a picket line for at their first strike.
At 45 it was the end of the world, or at least YK2, 1999 my father had passed away, I was head custodian at the top academic high school in Canada; Old Scona, I had helped end the threat of contracting out of our jobs with EPSB, I was outed as a pagan, witch magickian by Alberta Report which came to Old Scona to expose me in 1997.
My father passed on in December 1997.
Those years were one of many challenges as our union worked to create a new dynamic within the school system to recognize the importance of custodial work.
At 55 I could have taken early retirement. My pension with the LAPP a province wide pension plan for the MUSH sector allowed me to with 85 points, birthday plus thirty years work. Wow thirty years later and my five year plan had turned into a pension.
I didn't retire because in 2001 I became the first Custodial Consultant responsible for Custodial Training, Professional Development and Best Practices responsible for developing the districts custodial training program.
I held that position until September of this year when it was eliminated by school board management.
So now I am Sixty and on medical leave for the loss of my foot,
When that extended benefit ends I will then take my well deserved Retirement.
I am planning my career as a Independent Custodial and Indoor Environmental Health Consultant. Including going back to school to get some more credentials.
I am working through the Hanged Man formula of the Master of the Temple whose oath I took as I transformed with my operation.
Those of the shamanic tradition will know the meaning of the loss of a limb and the ritual of the sacrifice of the shaman.
I have been lucky to have two biographical interviews done on my Anarchist politics and on my Magickal practices here in Edmonton.
I am damn luck to be alive and it is because of my priestesses past, and present who gave me their energy when I needed it most to insure I stayed here to continue the great work and kick ass.
I am Sixty holy shit. How did that happen. I was radical who was going to shake up the world, live life fully and never gave a thought to what I would do when I got here.
So I have at least another twenty five years to go, if not thirty or forty.
I have had the opportunity to think about that deeply over the past year as I recovered and dealt with learning how to walk again.
Looking back ‘I can say what a long strange trip this has been’ 

And I look forward to the next forty years not with trepidation or sorrow or regret but with optimism, and a touch of well earned skepticism to balance it out.
After all I am a Sagittarius the most philosophical of the signs, a Wood Horse in Taoism, and an ENTJ personality type,
I can truly say I know myself and I am a Hell of nice guy when ya get to know me.
It’s my birthday and I am looking forward to many more.
Thanks to everyone who has wished me happy birthday, to those who deliberately didn't, its ok I know who you are.

Eugene Plawiuk

American Prayer
Jim Morrison and the Doors

Jim: “I don’t know how many of you believe in astrology…” 
Random Chick in Audience: “JIM! JIM! I do!” 
Jim: “Yeah baby, I’m a Sagittarius, the most philosophical of all the star signs…” 
RCIA: “Me too Jim! I’m a Sagittarius too!” 
Jim: “Well I don’t believe in it myself.” 
RCIA: “Neither do I Jim!” 
Jim: “I think it’s a bunch of bullshit.

Past musings about my birthday 

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Friday, November 07, 2014

Economic integration and FTAs in Asian

Asian economies in the past three decades have experienced a market-driven economic integration, characterized by a dramatic surge in bilateral investment treaties, foreign direct investments, and a series of voluntary and unilateral tariff reductions. Integrated supply chains within Asian economies made trade barriers much more costly, which provided incentives for the voluntary removal of trade barriers. Economists have labeled the Asian economic integration as a “spontaneous cooperation” because it has progressed so far without a region-wide Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

Instead, a series of bilateral FTAs have helped to accelerate economic cooperation and growth. In 1993, only 14 FTAs had been implemented by Asian countries, 6 of which were signed by countries currently negotiating in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). As of 2013, Asian countries implemented 109 FTAs, and 67 of these agreements were entered into force by RCEP countries. Meanwhile, intra-regional trade within RCEP countries steadily increased from 34.4% in 1990 to 44.5% in 2011. Intermediate goods accounted for 57% of intra-RCEP trade in 2011, which suggests a significant amount of goods are being made in “Factory Asia.” Asian economies have increased its global share in both intermediate and final goods trade, become an essential part of global supply chains, and better integrated within its own region and the external global market.
Asian FTAs vary widely in quality, and South Korea stands out in particular as an active seeker and beneficiary of ambitious trade agreements. As of 2013, South Korea successfully implemented 9 FTAs with 47 countries. There are also currently 7 under negotiation, and 7 more for proposed consultation and study. The scope of South Korea’s FTAs with the U.S. and the EU has been particularly comprehensive, providing for short tariff phase-outs, not to mention the extensive coverage of trade issues with “WTO-plus” quality provisions.

The obvious benefit of these FTAs has been improved market access. While South Korea itself only accounts for 1.6% of the world GDP, its FTAs under implementation have allowed South Korean businesses to gain preferential access to 56.2% (nominal GDP) of global markets. In comparison, China and Japan have fairly limited FTA access of 16.2% and 17.1%, respectively. The proportion of South Korean trade with FTA partners has grown from 13.8% in 2009 to 35.3% in 2013. It is expected to increase further once FTAs that are currently under negotiation are concluded and implemented, most notably the South Korea-China FTA and the RCEP.

Comprehensive regional FTAs

Despite successes, the limitations of market-driven integration and inefficiencies of overlapping Asian FTAs have led to proposals of comprehensive region-wide integration policies. Opinions diverge on the prospects of regional policy initiatives. For example, Fred Bergsten of the Peterson Institute viewed that East Asia is clearly moving towards regional economic integration. On the other hand, Razeen Sally from Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore and ECIPE has warned that ambitious regional integration initiatives are inadvisable and unachievable. Despite differing views, policy efforts are unmistakably geared towards consolidating integration through FTAs. Hence, rather than debating whether Asia should attempt integration policies, discussions are now being focused on whether ambitious regional FTA negotiations, particularly the region-wide initiatives of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and RCEP, will lead to rivalry or convergence.

The two initiatives differ in many aspects, including the progress of the negotiations, but one thing is clear: there is a recognition that meaningful FTAs must concentrate not only on tariff reduction, but also on more comprehensive trade norms—including investment, services, intellectual property, and state-owned enterprises (SOEs)–to ensure high levels of international trade rules. The scope and comprehensiveness of FTAs determine their benefits.

Some comparisons of Asian FTAs may be useful for demonstrating this point. The Korea-US FTA(KORUS FTA) eliminated 80% of tariffs immediately and will almost completely remove tariffs within 5 years, while the China-New Zealand FTA signed in 2008 call for its tariff agreements to be slowly phased in over 12 years, fully entering into force in 2019. The ASEAN Free Trade Area so far covers 44% of goods in trade, but has seen little progress in services, investments, non-tariff barriers and standard harmonization. In contrast, 100% of goods are covered in the KORUS FTA, and 81% are covered under the Korea-Singapore FTA. South Korea’s pursuit of ambitious and comprehensive FTAs has enabled significant economic integration with its FTA partners.

The South Korean experience with high-standard and comprehensive FTAs have critical implications for the region and its integration policy efforts. The benefits of comprehensive and high-level FTAs are easy to observe. Positive outcomes include better access to promising markets, improvements in regulations, harmonized standards on automobiles and food quality, and so forth. High-quality regional FTA efforts can make Asian economies more competitive and better positioned in 21st century global value chains.

Revolutionary Feminist Kurdish Guerrilleras: 

Female “State” vs. Islamic State

This is a new documentary produced by 60 Minutes Australia that simultaneously explores the hardship imposed on Kurds of Western Kurdistan (Rojava) at the hands of the fascist Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) as well as the revolutionary resilience of the Kurdish self-defense forces (YPG), particularly as expressed by the female-led Women’s Protection Units (YPJ).  Though the program is nominally made by 60 Minutes, it is in actual fact less than half of that in length; additionally, its given title, “Female State,” is rather problematic, given in the first instance that the Kurds–like the Palestinians–have no State to speak of, and especially in light of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) significant reorientation in recent years from a traditional Lenino-Stalinist political perspective stressing national independence to one that approximates social anarchism through autonomous means, or what the revolutionary Kurds themselves call “democratic confederalism.”

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Ancient seal sheds light on Persian prophet 


Ancient seal sheds light on Persian prophet
Crystal seal of Mani [Credit: Northern Arizona University]


The rock crystal is flat on one side and rounded on the other, with a sunken carving on one half creating a positive image on the opposite side. Mani is flanked by two people, possibly disciples, and an inscription reading 'Mani, apostle of Jesus Christ' forms the perimeter. "The drills of the time used wound strings to spin a point to create an even carving," Gulacsi said.
 Gulacsi thinks Mani wore his crystal seal as a pendant, a practice of that time. The prophet's only known surviving artifact is about the size of a quarter; the thin quartz seal was likely once encased in gold to facilitate its use.
When a personal artifact of a religious leader is discovered nearly 1,700 years after its use, the object provides invaluable historical insights. Zsuzsanna Gulacsi, professor of Comparative Cultural Studies, has been studying an ancient crystal seal used by prophet Mani, to provide new interpretations and prepare the seal for further research
 Mani, a Persian born in 216, established Manichaeism, a religion drawing from the era's dominant religions, including Zoroastrianism and Christianity. Mani stood out among religious leaders of the time, Gulacsi said, because he wrote his own doctrine, compared to Jesus, Mohammad and the historical Buddha who were not known to read or write.
The engraved crystal seal was used to authenticate Mani's writings and correspondence. According to Gulacsi, Mani believed other religious leaders had their teachings distorted because they could not write themselves. "Their disciples did not have the capacity of a prophet, whose clarity of religious insight was believed to surpass that of ordinary human beings," Gulacsi said.

 Ancient seal sheds light on Persian prophet

The Prophet Mani [Credit: WikiCommons]

In 274, Mani died in prison after being persecuted for his religious teachings. His belongings were likely passed to his successor, but the fate of the crystal seal is not known until it turned up in Paris in 1896, where it was purchased and housed in the gemstone section of the National Library of France. Despite its historical significance, Mani's engraved crystal seal had escaped attention until recently. Gulacsi has researched and written about the seal, including an article just published in the Bulletin of the Asia Institute. 

Source: Northern Arizona University [October 30, 2014]

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Friday, October 31, 2014

Researcher explores the truths 

behind myths of ancient


Hippolyta, Antiope and Penthesilea. These are the names of Amazonian women warriors made famous in folklore, thanks in large part to male Greek storytellers like Homer and Herodotus. In some archaeological digs in Eurasia, as many as thirty-seven per cent of the graves  contain the bones and weapons of horsewomen who fought alongside men 

 [Credit Erich Lessing/Art Resource] 

They were huntresses, founders of cities, rivals and lovers of adventurous men. They battled the Greek hero Heracles and fought alongside the Trojans in the final hours of Troy. And yet, they are widely held to be little more than figments of Greco-Roman imagination. But warrior women actually existed, according to Stanford's Adrienne Mayor, a research scholar in the Department of Classics. In her new book, "The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World," Mayor explains the real-world underpinnings and history behind the Amazonian folklore. In Hellenic legends, as Mayor learned, Amazons often faced defeat and death at the hands of male Greek heroes. Yet the storytellers also described these female foreigners as exceptionally heroic, civilized and worthy counterparts to the Greek champions. "Amazons were modeled on stories of self-confident women of steppe cultures who fought for glory and survival and enjoyed male companionship," but, as Mayor puts it, "on terms that seemed extraordinary to the ancient Greeks." The hereditary stories left quite a mark on the Greeks. "The popularity of Amazon stories and images suggests that Greek women and men enjoyed imagining heroes and heroines interacting as equals and seeking adventure and glory in hunting and battle," Mayor said. 

Researcher explores the truths behind myths of ancient Amazons

An ancient Greek vase depicting an Amazon female warrior  [Credit: Colin/WikiCommons] Real women warriors

 Mayor began her investigation by amassing all the surviving ancient Greek and Latin accounts she could find that told of encounters with Amazons as well as "warlike, barbarian" women who behaved like Amazons of myth. The texts described them as members of nomadic tribes roving the territories that the Greeks collectively called "Scythia" – a vast expanse between the Black Sea and Mongolia – from the seventh century B.C. until the fifth century A.D. She proceeded to research the Scythians – Eurasian steppe peoples who cultivated a mastery of horseback riding and archery for thousands of years. Mayor consulted early European travelers' reports and ethnographical materials as well as contemporary descriptions of steppe life, comparing the latter to ancient Greek knowledge and speculation concerning the identity of the Amazons. Mayor also analyzed physical evidence – including "actual battle-scarred skeletons of women buried with their weapons and horses" – and she corresponded with the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg to learn how researchers there used infrared cameras to reveal invisible tattoos on frozen female Scythian mummies from more than two millennia ago. "Their tattoos of deer and geometric designs resemble the tattoos and patterns on Amazons depicted in ancient Greek vase paintings," Mayor said. Furthermore, Mayor was able to collect and verify lesser-known tales and reports (such as a newly translated Egyptian papyrus in Vienna) that showed warrior women were the subject of much fascination in cultures beyond Greece – Persia, Egypt, Caucasia, Armenia, Central Asia, China and among the steppe peoples themselves. Examining the corroborating evidence, Mayor found that "real women warriors lived at the time that the Greeks were describing Amazons and warlike women of exotic eastern lands." She even determined that there was even more respect and exaltation for women warriors in the non-Greek traditions that stretched from the Black Sea to China. In these non-Greek stories, she said that male and female enemies were so equally matched that neither could win: "Instead of ending in doom for the woman, the former foes declare their mutual admiration and decide to become companions in love and war." 

A battle between Amazons and Greek warriors is depicted in a marble sarcophagus  on display at the Pio Clementino museum in the Vatican  [Credit: Colin/WikiCommons]

 Gender dynamics While Greek heroes usually defeat Amazon women in their mythic narratives, the triumphs are depicted as hard-won from worthy rivals. As Quintus of Smyrna described the tragically slain Queen Penthesilea in The Fall of Troy, "All the Greeks on the battlefield crowded around and marveled, wishing with all their hearts that their wives at home could be just like her." "After Heracles, Amazons were the single most popular subjects in vase paintings of myths," Mayor wrote. Artistic Greek objects of all sorts, crafted for men, women, boys and girls, underscored that admiration for the Amazons transcended gender and age groups. Mayor's exploration of the subtler gender dynamics within the Scythian culture is reflected in her linguistic analysis of the Greek name for this people, Amazones antianeirai. Homer's Iliad offers the earliest reference to the Amazons in the eighth century B.C., using the full designation Amazones antianeirai. 

Researcher explores the truths behind myths of ancient Amazons

Mayor counters the popular modern translations of antianeirai as "opposites of men" or "against men," pointing out that in ancient Greek epic diction, the word would more ordinarily translate to "equals of men." Scythian culture, she explained, was not a purely female-dominated society. Instead it afforded a greater range of roles to women and promoted parity between genders. Scythian women often dressed in the same clothes as their male brethren and often joined them in battle – helping them thwart forces such as those of Cyrus the Great and Darius of Persia. For example, the "Nart" sagas, Scythian oral traditions of the Caucasus passed down to their descendants, hold great praise for their women warriors, as led by the valorous Queen Amezan: "The women of that time could cut out an enemy's heart … yet they also comforted their men and harbored great love in their hearts." The sagas point to the possibility of a Caucasian etymology for the Greeks' nomenclature of "Amazon." Mayor's work also clears up confusion over whether the word signifies women who sacrificed a breast to become better archers: "The single most notorious 'fact' often used to describe Amazons is wrong … The origins of the 'single-breasted' Amazon and the controversies that still surround this false notion are so complex and fascinating that Amazon bosoms have their own chapter,"  Mayor said. 

Author: Fabrice Palumbo-Liu | Source: Stanford University [October 29, 2014]