Wednesday, April 24, 2024

A microbial community, the tomb of the King of Kush and Curiosity the land rover that always can

 Science post.  PHYS.ORG reports:

In a finding with implications for the search for extraterrestrial life, researchers have discovered microbial life 13 feet below Earth's most inhospitable desert. The research is published in the journal PNAS Nexus.
The Atacama Desert in northern Chile is the driest hot desert in the world. Higher life forms are almost entirely absent, but the hyper-arid soil, rich in salts and sulfates, does harbor bacteria.
The first 80 centimeters of soil is thought to be a possible refuge from harsh UV light, a place where some water might be found. But what of deeper horizons? Dirk Wagner and colleagues sought to extend understanding of the desert's biota to the deep subsurface world. The authors dug more than four meters down in a playa of the Yungay Valley to collect soil samples.

The authors devised a novel extraction method to ensure that the sampled DNA was from living organisms.

Loose DNA was first washed out, then DNA inside intact cells was extracted for sequencing. In the upper 80 cm of playa sediments, microbial communities were dominated by Firmicutes. Below 200 cm, a different microbial community was discovered, dominated by Actinobacteria.

I'm like a dog wanting someone to toss me a ball.  I read the above and it was the most interesting story to me in the world and I was thinking, a couple of hundred years from now, that discovery might play into time travel and -- Stop!  I found a new article and got all excited over it.

Archaeological discoveries are always exciting, but especially when they come in the form of exploring a tomb that hasn't been entered in a century. For Kristin Romey and Pearce Paul Creasman, their finding was made only more intriguing by the fact that they were investigating the flooded tomb of an ancient King of Kush, Nastasen. The pair began their incredible investigation by, literally, diving in. Do the same to this article to keep learning more!

The pyramid of Nastasen is located in Nuri, modern Sudan. In this location, there are over 20 pyramids that were built for the ancient Nubian kings and queens. It was created serve as the royal necropolis for the nearby city of Napata, the first capital of the Kingdom of Kush. The number of remaining pyramids pales in comparison to how many there were at Nuri's peak - likely over 80.

Modern Sudan?  From WIKIPEDIA:

Nuri is a place in modern Sudan on the west side of the Nile, near the Fourth Cataract. Nuri is situated about 15 km north of Sanam, and 10 km from Jebel Barkal.

Nuri is the second of three Napatan burial sites and the construction of pyramids at Nuri began when there was no longer enough space at El-Kurru.[1] More than 20 ancient pyramids belonging to Nubian kings and queens are still standing at Nuri, which served as a royal necropolis for the ancient city of Napata, the first capital of the Nubian Kingdom of Kush. It is probable that, at its apex, 80 or more pyramids stood at Nuri, marking the tombs of royals. The pyramids at Nuri were built over a period of more than three centuries, from circa 670 BCE for the oldest (pyramid of Taharqa), to around 310 BCE (pyramid of king Nastasen).

Map of Jebel Barkal and Nuri.

The earliest known pyramid (Nu. 1) at Nuri belongs to king Taharqa which measures 51.75 meters square by 40 or by 50 metres high.[2] The pyramid of Taharqa was situated so that when observed from Jebel Barkal at sunrise on Egyptian New Year's Day, the beginning of the annual flooding of the Nile, the sun would rise from the horizon directly over its point.[3]

Tantamani, successor of Taharqa, was buried at el-Kurru, but all following Napatan kings and many of their queens and children until Nastasen (Nu. 15) (about 315 BC) were buried here, some 80 royals.[4] The pyramids at Nuri are, in general, smaller than the Egyptian ones and are today often heavily degraded (caused by both humans and nature), but often still contained substantial parts of the funerary equipment of the Kushite rulers who were buried here. During the Christian era, a church was erected here.[5] The church was built at least in part from reused pyramid stones, including several stelae originally coming from the pyramid chapels.

The pyramids were partially excavated by George Reisner in the early 20th century. In 2018, a new archaeological expedition began work at the site, directed by Pearce Paul Creasman.[6]

The pyramids of Nuri, together with other buildings in the region around Gebel Barkal, have been placed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Site since 2003.[7]

With the disintegration of the New Kingdom around 1070 BC, Kush became an independent kingdom centered at Napata in modern northern Sudan.[28] This more-Egyptianized "Kingdom of Kush" emerged, possibly from Kerma, and regained the region's independence from Egypt. The extent of cultural/political continuity between the Kerma culture and the chronologically succeeding Kingdom of Kush is difficult to determine. The latter polity began to emerge around 1000 BC, 500 years after the end of the Kingdom of Kerma.[citation needed]
Jebel Barkal was venerated as residence of Amun and became an essential symbol of Kushite kingshipThe pyramids of el-Kurru after Carl Richard Lepsius, 1859

The first Kushite king known by name was Alara, who ruled somewhere between 800[29] and 760 BC.[30] No contemporary inscriptions of him exist.[29] He was first mentioned in the funerary stela of his daughter Tabiry, the wife of king Piye. Later royal inscriptions remember Alara as the founder of the dynasty, some calling him "chieftain", others "king". A 7th century inscription claimed that his sister was the grandmother of king Taharqo.[31] An inscription of the 5th century king Amanineteyerike remembered Alara's reign as long and successful.[32] Alara was probably buried at el-Kurru, although there exists no inscription to identify his tomb.[29] It has been proposed that it was Alara who turned Kush from a chiefdom to an Egyptianized kingdom centered around the cult of Amun.[33]

Back to the report:

It took a period of roughly three centuries for these pyramids to be built, with the first constructed around 670 BC, and the last around 310 BC. This last pyramid was made for King Nastasen, who began his rule around 335 BC and is best known for defending his empire against an Egyptian invasion. Despite being one of the country's ancient rulers, there is relatively little known about this king, which is part of the reason his tomb was designated for excavation.

So the scientists put on diving equipment and . . . 

In the final chamber was a stone sarcophagus, believed to contain the remains of King Nastasen, located below the water level. This was a major finding, as so little is known about this ruler's history. As they swam through the various chambers of the tomb, they also made smaller discoveries along the way. They took the time to fill buckets with sediment from the ground as they swam through each area, sifting it out when they had the chance.

What they found was pure gold foil, which would have dissolved from figurines and other artifacts. This meant that grave robbers had not, in fact, looted the tomb. Romey, Creasman, and the team were left with the difficult task of removing the sarcophagus from the tomb, which will surely be a difficult task due to the water and the small size of the entrance. Creasman believes it's possible, saying, "I think we finally have the technology to be able to tell the story of Nuri."

So do you think that was fascinating?  I do. 

And I have saved the best for last.  Curiosity is back in the news.  Other land rovers have been splashier and fascinated the press, but Curiosity has delivered results on Mars for years now and continues to do so.  Ryan Whitwam (EXTREME TECH) reports:

NASA's Curiosity rover has spent the past twelve years trundling around Mars, and it has been so successful the Perseverance rover uses the same underlying design. It doesn't have the rock sampling hardware of its younger twin, but Curiosity has made progress examining the red planet's unique geology as a way to understand its watery past. Curiosity recently arrived at a new region of Gale Crater, which may feature an ancient river.

Curiosity landed on the floor of Gale Crater, and it spent the next two years making its way toward Mount Sharp, the central peak of the crater. Since 2014, Curiosity has been climbing up the foothills toward the summit, angling toward the edge of the Gediz Vallis channel. Scientists believe this "snake-like" feature was once a roaring river that carved a path through the rock. In the image above, you can follow Curiosity's path (in yellow) as it sidles up to the edge of Gediz Vallis.

If Curiosity can confirm Gediz Vallis was once a river, that might prompt scientists to revise the timeline for events in Gale Crater. The sides of the channel are quite steep, which suggests water or wet sediment carved the canyon rather than wind. However, this would have taken place after the sedimentary layers of lower Mount Sharp were eroded over long, dry periods. Only after that process could Gediz Vallis have formed. The canyon is also filled with small boulders and other debris that likely tumbled down from higher on the mountain, which could give the rover a chance to examine rocks from regions it cannot reach.

Yea, Curiosity!  

"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):

Wednesday, April 24 2024. On campuses across the US students demand an end to the assault on Gaza while the US government turns a blind eye to all War Crimes carried out by the government of Israel which includes ignoring the newly discovered mass graves.

 About 100 pro-Palestine students at the University of Texas at Dallas held a sit-in along the hallway that leads to the school president’s office late into Tuesday.

The students’ main demand is for the university to pull investments from companies that “are producing the jets, the missiles and the bombs that are being used in Gaza right now,” said Noor Saleh, a third-year student.

[. . .]

At UTD, a student protest began on campus about 1 p.m. Social media posts showed classmates linking arms and some praying for those in Gaza. Later in the afternoon, many marched into the administrative building.

The students sat on both sides of a long hallway that leads to President Benson’s office with a UTD police officer standing in front of the door.  

This movement sweeping US campuses kicked off last week at Columbia University and it spread -- fast and wild -- due to the decision to attack the protesters.  Minouche Shafik, university president told the police that the students were "a clear and present danger." She's an idiot as is the mayor of New York and other so-called adults who keep attacking the students.

This happened in the sixties and only helped students.  That will be the case today.  It also reveals the glaring lack of parenting skills of the adults involved.  

You don't get into a power struggle.  You also need to grasp that children grow into adults and part of that growth is their standing on their own and making their own decisions.  They aren't your little robots.  

But bad parents think they can bully and you can see what happens when bad parents are given positions of authority as various officials try to frighten and beat down students who are participating in peaceful protest and showing a sense of civic duty.

The bullying and intimidation tactics only helped spread this movement.  Amy Goodman (DEMOCRACY NOW!) notes, "Student encampments are now in place at numerous other schools, including the University of Michigan, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Maryland, MIT and Emerson College in Boston. Yasser Munif is a professor at Emerson."  And to that growing list, you can add California State Polytechnic University at Humboldt.  Tavleen Tarrant (NBCS NEWS) adds, "Students at the University of Sydney in Australia have established a pro-Palestinian encampment, similar to the ones set up at colleges across the United States. "  NDTV notes, "These protests are part of a broader wave of student activism in response to Israel's continued assault on Gaza after the October 7 attack on a music festival in the country's southern region. Over 1,200 Israelis lost their lives in the Hamas attack, while over 34,000 Palestinians have been killed, and all schools and hospitals in Gaza have been reduced to rubble in the retaliatory strikes."

More than four dozen labor unions across numerous industries on Tuesday signed a letter expressing solidarity with students who have been suspended and arrested in recent days for protesting at Columbia University, including members of the on-campus labor group Student Workers of Columbia.

Unionized student workers in SWC-UAW 2710 were among the hundreds of picketers who have been protecting the Gaza Solidarity Encampment, which students set up at Columbia on April 17 to pressure administrators to divest from weapons manufacturers, tech companies, and other entities that benefit from Israel's apartheid policies in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The Ivy League institution, protesters say, will remain complicit in Israel's bombardment and blockade on Gaza, the killing of at least 34,183 Palestinians in the enclave since October, and the intentional starvation of dozens of people, until it entirely divests from Israel.

"As workers, we stand in solidarity with our union siblings in SWC-UAW 2710 who were arrested and face suspension," said the unions, including the Mother Jones Staff Union, Irvine Faculty Association, and Cleveland Jobs With Justice. "We call for their and their classmates' immediate reinstatement and for Columbia to drop all charges against them, both legal and academic. We deplore [Columbia president Minouche Shafik]'s actions and call for Columbia to immediately end the repression of protest." 

Around the country, around the world, people are standing with the students.  Sabrina Ticer-Wurr (COLUMBIA SPECTATOR) reports:

Over 1,400 academics from around the world have signed a letter committing to an academic boycott of events “held at or officially sponsored by Columbia University and Barnard College” in solidarity with protesters demanding that the University divest from companies with ties to Israel.

As part of the boycott, signatories commit to not participating in “academic or cultural events” held at or sponsored by Columbia or Barnard, which include but aren’t limited to “workshops, conferences, talks, screenings, and invited lectures.” They also commit to not collaborating with Columbia or Barnard administrators who hold positions in the faculty, such as “invitations to academic events at our universities; collaboration on any new grants and workshops; co-authorship of papers.”

The signatories include professors, lecturers, graduate students, postdoctoral workers, and academic staff from universities across six continents and in various academic disciplines. The list includes notable scholars such as Judith Butler, distinguished professor at the University of California, Berkeley; Marc Lamont Hill, professor of anthropology and urban education at CUNY Graduate Center; Wendy Brown, UPS Foundation professor at Princeton University; and Robin D.G. Kelley, professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The boycott follows calls from Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine at Columbia, Barnard, and Teachers College to initiate an “academic boycott of all events,” including the upcoming Commencement ceremonies, until demands are met. The collective held a walkout on Low Steps on Monday in solidarity with the 108 protesters who were arrested on Thursday and the students who were suspended for their involvement in the “Gaza Solidarity Encampment.”

“We reject the false language of ‘safety’ President Shafik has invoked to justify these actions. Likewise, we reject as ludicrous the idea that the Columbia administration was forced to call in the NYPD because of the need to ‘protect students from rhetoric that amounts to harassment and discrimination.’ Indeed, it is the University’s own decision to arrest, intimidate, criminalize, and punish students that has endangered their safety,” the letter announcing the boycott reads.

Let's drop back to yesterday's DEMOCRACY NOW!

AMY GOODMAN: As Israel’s assault on Gaza enters its 200th day, Palestinian solidarity protests and encampments are spreading on college campuses across the United States, inspired by the Gaza Solidarity Encampment at Columbia University. Here in New York, police raided a student encampment at New York University Monday night. Police arrested more than 150 people, including students and 20 faculty members. Earlier on Monday, police at Yale University arrested 60 protesters, including 47 students who had set up an encampment to demand the school divest from weapons manufacturers.

At Columbia, the student encampment has entered its seventh day. On Monday night, about 100 Columbia student protesters and faculty took part in a Gaza Liberation Seder to mark the start of the Jewish holiday of Passover, or Pesach. On Monday, hundreds of Columbia professors held a mass walkout. This is Columbia history professor Christopher Brown.

CHRISTOPHER BROWN: Thursday, April 18, 2024, will be remembered as a shameful day in Columbia’s history.


CHRISTOPHER BROWN: The president’s decision to send riot police to pick up peaceful protesters on our campus was unprecedented, unjustified, disproportionate, divisive and dangerous.


PROTESTER 2: Shame on her!

AMY GOODMAN: Student encampments are now in place at numerous other schools, including University of Michigan-Ann Arbor; University of California, Berkeley; University of Maryland; MIT and Emerson College in Boston.

We’re joined now by two professors. Joseph Slaughter is associate professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University. He is the executive director of the Institute for the Study of Human Rights, which put out a public statement condemning the repression of student protests at Columbia and the calling in of the New York police, who made over a hundred arrests. Also with us, New York University professor Helga Tawil-Souri. She’s a leading Palestinian American scholar of media, culture and communication, co-editor of the book Gaza as Metaphor.

OK, we’re going to begin with New York University, with professor Tawil-Souri. You have been at the encampment since it began at NYU Monday morning at 4:00, and you just came from jail support, where, what, over 140 people, including 20 of your peers, NYU professors, were arrested. Can you explain what’s going on at NYU?

HELGA TAWIL-SOURI: Yeah, sure. So, the students decided to start an encampment yesterday early in the morning in support of Gaza, in support of Palestine, also kind of in support, obviously, of other students, at Columbia and otherwise. And very early on already, from the very beginning of the first tents being set up, the NYU security guards came and NYPD came. But quickly, kind of a sort of deescalation, if you want, kind of took place between faculty members and security guards, and NYPD left. And it was peaceful all day long. And, you know, there was a lot of sort of negotiation back and forth between the faculty and the security guards on behalf of the students.

And at some point in the afternoon, kind of, you know, things — like, police presence was kind of escalating, and the negotiations kind of stopped. And at some point, the NYU security guards were like, “All right, well, we’re just” — they made it pretty clear that NYPD presence was just sort of imminent at that point and kind of started coming up with all kinds of reasons as to why they were going to show up and so on, kind of kept pushing the bar in different directions. And then the NYPD came.

Faculty kind of had made a sort of frontline kind of buffer zone at the very beginning. They were arrested very quickly, and then the police force kind of forcing their way into the sort of plaza where the students had their tents set up, and extremely violently kind of took down all the tents, were throwing chairs around, and then arrested all of the students that were there, and then also had a third wave of arrests of other people that were kind of still in that area, as well. So, yeah, 20 faculty members ended up in prison — or, sorry, were arrested. And I think the number of total arrests was around 140, 145.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Professor Tawil-Souri, at any time were the students in any way disrupting the classes in the university or the business of the university?

HELGA TAWIL-SOURI: I mean, not really, I mean, in the sense that, you know, they got there pretty early in the morning, and very quickly NYU security guards decided to kind of barricade that area. So, if anybody was disrupting, it was actually NYU security and not the students, because they’re the ones who kind of set up all the barriers and would forbid students from — students, whether they were coming for the encampment or just trying to get to class — would not actually let them access that way, so they had to kind of go all the way around and so on. And so, there was very little movement in terms of letting people in or out of the encampment. And we had to sort of negotiate, like for bathroom breaks and stuff like that.

And, you know, the disruption — I mean, we’re told that, “Oh, the disruption was part of the protest — right? — and the chanting and the singing.” But, you know, it’s New York City. It’s really loud. There was construction right across the street, so it’s really hard for me to understand that that was a sort of disruption. So, really, the disruption, I think, was much more on the part of the security guards who really sort of blocked off that entire area.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And to your knowledge, did the administration or the president have any discussions with the NYU faculty before calling in the police?

HELGA TAWIL-SOURI: So, I, myself, and a number of my colleagues, in terms of like NYU faculty, sort of went back and forth numerous times with a couple of the deans and a couple — and the head of NYU security, and so kind of negotiated sort of back and forth about, you know: Can we let the kids out to the bathroom? Can we come in? Can we go out? Can we bring more people in? Can we bring more people out? But not directly with the president of the university, but just mostly the head of security, and a couple of times with the NYPD, certainly early in the morning.

And, you know, I mean, one of the things that, you know, I mean, we’ve seen sort of the — we’ve seen the response of the president of the university, saying that, “Oh, there was a breach in the barrier.” And, I mean, I can tell you — I was there all day — that breach in the barrier was really not a breach in that sense. I mean, there were a couple of students who sort of went in. I think the concern was as to whether or not we could control whether the people that were going onto the plaza were NYU students. And so we offered numerous times, like, “Well, we’re happy to go around and kind of ask all the students for their ID cards.” And at some point, the security guards said, “OK, fine, we’ll do this.” And then, suddenly they said no, and they sort of came up with all sorts of reasons as to why we weren’t kind of following rules, and, ultimately, you know, claimed that we were trespassing on our own campus, right? I mean, it was a presumably private part of the university, and it was NYU students and NYU faculty that are then charged with trespassing and then violently kind of thrown out from that space.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to bring professor Joseph Slaughter into this conversation. You’re at Columbia. You’re associate professor of English and comparative literature there, and you’re the executive director of the Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University. It was your president, President Minouche Shafik, who called out the New York Police Department. This was a day after she testified before Congress. Can you talk about your response to the encampment and then the arrest of over a hundred students?

JOSEPH SLAUGHTER: Thank you, Amy. I certainly can.

So, the response that we had at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights was that we immediately recognized the infringement of student rights to protest peacefully and freedoms of speech on campus and the threat, the dramatic threat, it raised, that the bringing in the police, the university president calling in the police, raised immediately, of course, the specter of '68, which I'm glad you’ll be talking about — you’ll be talking about a minute later.

There are a number of things I would like to say about the bringing in of the police. We have, actually, in the wake of 1968, a very strong set of university statutes that include things like protections for speech and protest on campus. They effectively are the constitution of Columbia University. They are the product of — the good product of 1968, establishing systems of shared governance between faculty, students and the administration. And there are emergency powers that the president has to protect faculty, students, the Columbia community, in the case of imminent threats to people and property on campus that are spelled out in the — loosely in the university statutes.

The president, however, has an absolute obligation — it’s spelled out very clearly — to consult with the Executive Committee of the University Senate, which includes students and faculty, before bringing any police — external police forces onto campus. In this case, she approached, on the very first day of the Columbia encampment, which was a peaceful, nonviolent protest, not disturbing, in my opinion, the Columbia environment, the Columbia campus, and certainly posing no threat to persons or property. She approached the Executive Committee of the University Senate, asking for their permission to invite the NYPD in to shut down, to squelch the protest. The Executive Committee — the faculty and the students on the Executive Committee voted unanimously to reject her request to bring in New York police. She did it anyway, thus violating not only the statutes, in my opinion, certainly the long traditions of shared governance, the long traditions of protest and protections of speech on campus, as well as the compact between students, faculty and the administration, to act unilaterally, essentially throwing out the rulebook and throwing out the constitution, the statutes of the university.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Professor Slaughter, this whole issue of within 24 hours students receiving notices of suspensions? What kind of due process occurred here?

JOSEPH SLAUGHTER: That’s a great question, and I think it’s something that’s extremely important for people to understand. In the letter that President Shafik sent the NYPD, the chief of police, asking them for their intervention, she claimed that the students were being suspended for violations of the university policies and that, therefore, they were trespassing on Columbia property. The students, the 108 students who were arrested, were charged with trespassing. However, in fact, the vast majority of those students — there were a number of exceptions from Barnard, apparently, but the vast majority of those students were in fact not suspended until 24 hours after the arrests. The suspension notices that the students received now cite the arrests themselves as part of the cause for suspension. In other words, the logic was circular. They called in the New York Police Department on the premise that the students were trespassing, when they hadn’t yet been suspended. And they are now suspended on the premise that they had violated trespassing — New York trespassing laws, and therefore needed to be suspended and were guilty. In my opinion, the NYPD were called in under false pretenses by the president of the university.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to get your response to the New York police chief. John Chell said that President Shafik identified the demonstration as a “clear and present danger,” but that officers found the students to be peaceful and cooperative.

JOSEPH SLAUGHTER: I think this is also something that’s absolutely important for people to know. In fact, John Chell, the chief of patrol, said that the — disavowed the language of “clear and present danger.” The president had used the language, in the exact language taken from the university statutes, of “clear and present danger to the substantial functioning of the university.” She did not, however, say that the students posed a clear and present danger to persons and property, which are the two primary criteria for bringing in police onto campus to protect the Columbia community. In other words, at the moment in which she was making a speech for which she could be held legally responsible — that is, writing to the police department to call in the police department — she refused to use the — to say that the students were a clear and present danger to Columbia faculty and persons and property. In other words, while she was sending messaging out, while the university administration was sending messaging out through all of its channels, by email and public announcements, saying that these students posed a danger, that’s not the language they used to talk to the — to invite the police in. The chief of patrol said, in fact, that the students posed no danger, disavowed the language of clear and present danger, saying that’s President Shafik’s words, not his, and that the students were protesting peacefully, saying what they wanted to say peacefully, and in no way resisted arrest.

AMY GOODMAN: What happened yesterday? Talk about the — you have the student encampment on the South Lawn, and then you have the professors going into Low Library for a meeting.

JOSEPH SLAUGHTER: So, the university is being run as a sort of ad-hocracy at this point, the senior administration making up policies and procedures and prohibitions on the fly, changing them in the middle of the night. One of those prohibitions was that no protest could take place on the steps of Low Library. I assume you will be showing images later about protests in 1968 of Low Library. The faculty, in response — a broad coalition of faculty, in response to the student arrests and to the bringing of police onto campus, chose yesterday to walk out at 2 p.m., in full regalia for many of us, to stand on the steps of Low Library in front of the statue of Alma Mater, a heralded tradition of protest on campus, to defend our students, to defend the rights of students, to denounce the police actions and the president’s sanctioning of the police actions, to call for the immediate repeal of the suspension of our students, the restoration of all of their rights, the expungement of their records, and to submit an appeal for a vote of censure in the University Senate of Minouche Shafik and her senior administration.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Professor Slaughter, not only at Columbia, but at universities across the country, we are repeatedly hearing that these protests in support of the Palestinians who are being attacked in Gaza, that this is making life unsafe, these protests are making life unsafe for Jewish students on these campuses. What’s your response to that?

JOSEPH SLAUGHTER: So, I have multiple responses. The messaging out of Columbia has consistently emphasized the dangers of these protests in particular to Jewish and Israeli and pro-Israeli students. In fact, the messaging has been one of fear towards those students explicitly. The messaging, at the same time, has been one of fear to students — to pro-Palestinian students, to anti-Zionist Jewish students, to other students who want to think about and talk about and discuss the questions of Palestine, the questions of Israel, which is the duty of a university to think about these hard problems. The message to those students have been — is also fear, but a fear by omission, the university not ever acknowledging any of the fears, the Islamaphobic actions that are taking place on campus, any of the attacks that have taken place on campus. And so, in some ways, the university itself, it seems to me, in its public messaging since October has ginned up fear both among Jewish students and pro-Palestinian students.

The campus, in fact — the kind of impromptu and improvised policies that the administration has unilaterally imposed, without consultation from the University Senate, without the traditions of shared governance, have, in fact, in my opinion, chilled speech, not just of pro-Palestinian protesters, but also of pro-Israeli protesters, and has absolutely chilled speech in classrooms and in other kind of forums on campus to be able to even talk about the problems that lie at the bottom of all of this — that is, Palestinian rights to self-determination, Israeli rights to security.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Professor Tawil-Souri, what do you see happening in the coming days at NYU?

HELGA TAWIL-SOURI: Well, it’s hard to say. But maybe, quickly, if I could just add one thing? I mean, you know, a lot of the students and the faculty at NYU who were part of the encampment, and in general are part of sort of, like, SJP and FJP and so on, are actually Jewish, right? So, that’s number one.

The other thing that I think is — you know, I mean, I don’t know how much news has sort of come out since yesterday about what happened, but when the NYPD finally came in and sort of broke the encampment apart, it was in the middle of Muslim Maghrib prayers, like the evening prayers, right? So I think that kind of speaks a little bit to what you’re saying — right? — in terms like the way that it’s not really about sort of one group or the other, but also how different groups are kind of treated.

In terms of what happens at NYU from this point on, I mean, I can tell you the students feel very sort of spirited, in the sense of, like, they want to kind of continue. You know, for them, it’s about, “OK, fine, you took us down, but we’re going to continue. We have the right to protest. We have the right to academic speech. We have the right to free speech. And we have the right to kind of stand up for our pro-Palestinian voices, basically.” I’m not quite sure — I mean, I can’t sort of say how the university is going to respond, but, you know, I think the students are going to sort of have to figure out, like, how are they going to be able to protest. So, unlike Columbia, NYU is this kind of a somewhat urban kind of campus, right? So there is no lawn, if you want, to kind of go and protest on. And so I think that’s part of what we saw yesterday, is this plaza where the encampment took place is private property, but, you know, the moment you step off of the steps, it becomes New York City property, right? So, there’s a very sort of blurry line as to where does the NYPD kind of sort of stop its sort of jurisdiction, if you want to call it that, versus where does campus security stop. So I think that’s a little bit different in terms of NYU, and I think that’s a sort of challenge, if you want, that is faced by the students. But I think the students kind of are very resolved, in the sense of, like, “We’re going to keep going with this.”

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Tawil-Souri, The New York Times subheadline was “Dozens were arrested on Monday at N.Y.U. and Yale, but officials there and at campuses across the U.S. are running out of options to corral protests,” they said. What are the options that officials have at these universities, besides arrests and suspensions?

HELGA TAWIL-SOURI: That’s a great question. I mean, maybe first to kind of have a discussion, right? Like kind of, you know, be sort of very open about, like, “All right, well, let’s sort of sit down and talk about these things. Let’s host a number of different events. Let’s host a number of different speakers. Let’s allow for these kind of speakers and events to happen.” I think what we see is also a sort of shutdown of certain kinds of things, right? Let’s allow for whether it’s classes or teach-ins or all of that.

And in terms of the protesters, I mean, yesterday there was a sort of — you know, I think part of what happened, certainly at NYU, is that there was a kind of compression, if you will, right? So, people in support were coming to sort of demonstrate and speak with the students and so on, but couldn’t kind of access, right? So they bleed into the streets, and the students can’t get out. And so it’s sort of a bit of a sort of pressure cooker, in the sense that, you know, of course you’re creating this kind of barricade that becomes very difficult to manage, but it’s also becoming a way that the barrier itself is actually creating part of the problem, right? So, I think if you kind of have a way to kind of figure out how to sort of allow people to move around, to not necessarily prevent them from moving, I think a lot of problems would kind of not exist to begin with.

AMY GOODMAN: Same question, Professor Slaughter.

JOSEPH SLAUGHTER: Thank you. One of the things that President Shafik said in response to a question at Congress last week that I found most disturbing that hasn’t been commented on at all is that what she’s learned over this last six months is that our rules weren’t made for this moment. And this justifies in some ways the administration throwing out the rulebook and coming up with impromptu policies on how to police speech.

In fact, the rules were made exactly for this moment. They were made for 1968 — they were made from 1968 and to prevent a repeat of 1968. We have an extremely robust rules for the protections of speech and protest on campus. We have an extremely robust system for protecting due process rights for students when they have violated or are accused of having violated those protections. If this administration had chosen to lean into the statutes of the university and the rules that have kept our community together for 50 years, we would be in a much better place, with faculty and students on board.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I’m glad you went back in history, because that’s where we’re going right now, Professor Slaughter of Columbia University and Professor Helga Tawil-Souri of New York University.

This morning, Nick Perry and Karen Matthews (AP) report, "Standoffs between pro-Palestinian student protesters and universities grew increasingly tense on both coasts Wednesday as hundreds encamped at Columbia University faced a deadline from the administration to clear out while dozens remained barricaded inside two buildings on a Northern California college campus."   Bernd Debusmann Jr & Alexandra Ostasiewicz  (BBC NEWS) note, "A deadline that was given by the university on Tuesday for protesters to disband by midnight has now been extended by 48 hours, with officials reporting 'important progress' in talks to reach a deal. "  

The students are calling for an end to hypocrisy.  The assault on Gaza equals War Crimes and the students aren't going to ignore everything they've been taught to pretend otherwise -- they'll instead leave that to members of Congress and the White House.

The United Nations notes:

Disturbing reports continue to emerge about mass graves in Gaza in which Palestinian victims were reportedly found stripped naked with their hands tied, prompting renewed concerns about possible war crimes amid ongoing Israeli airstrikes, the UN human rights office, OHCHR, said on Tuesday.

The development follows the recovery of hundreds of bodies “buried deep in the ground and covered with waste” over the weekend at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, central Gaza, and at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City in the north. A total of 283 bodies were recovered at Nasser Hospital, of which 42 were identified. 

“Among the deceased were allegedly older people, women and wounded, while others were found tied with their hands…tied and stripped of their clothes,” said Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

While the United Nations is calling for an investigation,  Congress and the White House are ignoring this.  Into their wall of deceit and silence, the students have stepped in.  Don't blame the students, blame the adults in positions of authority who refuse to rebuke these War Crimes and instead continue to fund the killing.

ALJAZEERA notes this morning:

Gaza could surpass famine thresholds of food insecurity, malnutrition and mortality in six weeks, said the Geneva director of the World Food Programme (WFP), Gian Carlo Cirri.

“We are getting closer by the day to a famine situation,” Cirri said, speaking at the launch of a report by the Global Network Against Food Crises, an alliance that includes UN agencies, the World Bank, the EU and US.

A UN-backed report published in March said famine was imminent and likely to occur by May in northern Gaza and could spread across the Strip by July.

Also this morning, THE GUARDIAN reports:

Some Palestinian civilians were fleeing their homes in northern Gaza on Wednesday just weeks after returning because of an Israeli bombardment which they said was as intense as at the start of the war.

“We don’t know why this is all happening. Is it because we returned home and we finally got some aid through after months of starvation and the Israelis didn’t like that?” said Mohammad Jamal, 29, a resident of Gaza City, near Zeitoun, one of Gaza’s oldest suburbs.

“It is as if the war started again. As if it is just happening, they burnt up the place,” he told Reuters via a chat app.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society also reported injuries from Israeli attacks in central Gaza.ts:

Gaza remains under assault. Day 201 of  the assault in the wave that began in October.  Binoy Kampmark (DISSIDENT VOICE) points out, "Bloodletting as form; murder as fashion.  The ongoing campaign in Gaza by Israel’s Defence Forces continues without stalling and restriction.  But the burgeoning number of corpses is starting to become a challenge for the propaganda outlets:  How to justify it?  Fortunately for Israel, the United States, its unqualified defender, is happy to provide cover for murder covered in the sheath of self-defence."   CNN has explained, "The Gaza Strip is 'the most dangerous place' in the world to be a child, according to the executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund."  ABC NEWS quotes UNICEF's December 9th statement, ""The Gaza Strip is the most dangerous place in the world to be a child. Scores of children are reportedly being killed and injured on a daily basis. Entire neighborhoods, where children used to play and go to school have been turned into stacks of rubble, with no life in them."  NBC NEWS notes, "Strong majorities of all voters in the U.S. disapprove of President Joe Biden’s handling of foreign policy and the Israel-Hamas war, according to the latest national NBC News poll. The erosion is most pronounced among Democrats, a majority of whom believe Israel has gone too far in its military action in Gaza."  The slaughter continues.  It has displaced over 1 million people per the US Congressional Research Service.  Jessica Corbett (COMMON DREAMS) points out, "Academics and legal experts around the world, including Holocaust scholars, have condemned the six-week Israeli assault of Gaza as genocide."   The death toll of Palestinians in Gaza is grows higher and higher.  United Nations Women noted, "More than 1.9 million people -- 85 per cent of the total population of Gaza -- have been displaced, including what UN Women estimates to be nearly 1 million women and girls. The entire population of Gaza -- roughly 2.2 million people -- are in crisis levels of acute food insecurity or worse." THE NATIONAL notes, "The Gaza Health Ministry on Wednesday said 34,262 Palestinians have been killed and 77,229 injured in Israel's military offensive on Gaza since October 7.  The ministry added that 79 people were killed and 86 injured in the 24 hours to noon."  Months ago,  AP  noted, "About 4,000 people are reported missing."  February 7th, Jeremy Scahill explained on DEMOCRACY NOW! that "there’s an estimated 7,000 or 8,000 Palestinians missing, many of them in graves that are the rubble of their former home."  February 5th, the United Nations' Phillipe Lazzarini Tweeted:


April 11th, Sharon Zhang (TRUTHOUT) reported, "In addition to the over 34,000 Palestinians who have been counted as killed in Israel’s genocidal assault so far, there are 13,000 Palestinians in Gaza who are missing, a humanitarian aid group has estimated, either buried in rubble or mass graves or disappeared into Israeli prisons.  In a report released Thursday, Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor said that the estimate is based on initial reports and that the actual number of people missing is likely even higher."

As for the area itself?  Isabele Debre (AP) reveals, "Israel’s military offensive has turned much of northern Gaza into an uninhabitable moonscape. Whole neighborhoods have been erased. Homes, schools and hospitals have been blasted by airstrikes and scorched by tank fire. Some buildings are still standing, but most are battered shells."  Kieron Monks (I NEWS) reports, "More than 40 per cent of the buildings in northern Gaza have been damaged or destroyed, according to a new study of satellite imagery by US researchers Jamon Van Den Hoek from Oregon State University and Corey Scher at the City University of New York. The UN gave a figure of 45 per cent of housing destroyed or damaged across the strip in less than six weeks. The rate of destruction is among the highest of any conflict since the Second World War."

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