Posts Tagged ‘Pakistan’

Ancient Harappan Civilization a Victim of Climate Change

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Climate change isn’t new. A recent study found that it destroyed an ancient civilization approximately 4,000 years ago. The gradual eastward movement of monsoons across Asia at first supported the formation of the Harappan civilization in the Indus Valley by allowing large-scale agricultural production, then wiped out the civilization as water supplies disappeared.  This the initial reasoning behind why the Indus valley flourished for 2,000 years, became home to large cities and an empire the size of modern Egypt and Mesopotamia, then dwindled to small villages and isolated farms.

The Harappan civilization, named after its largest city, Harappa, evolved approximately 5,200 years ago and reached its pinnacle between 4,500 and 3,900 years ago, occupying what is now Pakistan, northwest India and Eastern Afghanistan.  An urban society with major cities, a distinctive style of writing and extensive trade, the society accounted for roughly 10 percent of the world’s population at its height and equaled Egypt in its power.  The Harappans’ downfall came because they did not attempt to develop irrigation to support agriculture but relied on the yearly monsoons.  The civilization was largely forgotten until the 1920s when researchers began studying it in depth.

Antiquity knew about Egypt and Mesopotamia, but the Indus civilization, which was bigger than these two, was completely forgotten until the 1920s,” said Liviu Giosan, a geologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.  “There are still many things we don’t know about them.”

Nearly 100 years ago, researchers found many remains of Harappan settlements along the Indus River and its tributaries and in a vast desert region.  There were signs of sophisticated cities, sea links with Mesopotamia, internal trade routes, arts and crafts, and writing that has not yet been deciphered.  “They had cities ordered into grids, with exquisite plumbing, which was not encountered again until the Romans,” Giosan said.  “They seem to have been a more democratic society than Mesopotamia and Egypt — no large structures were built for important personalities like kings or pharaohs.  Until now, speculations abounded about the links between this mysterious ancient culture and its life-giving mighty rivers,” Giosan said.

“Our research provides one of the clearest examples of climate change leading to the collapse of an entire civilization,” Giosan said.  The researchers first analyzed satellite data of the landscape influenced by the Indus and neighboring rivers.  Between 2003 and 2008, the researchers gathered samples of sediment from the Arabian Sea coast, the irrigated valleys of Punjab and the northern Thar Desert to find their source and ages and create a timeline of landscape changes.  “It was challenging working in the desert — temperatures were over 110 degrees Fahrenheit all day long,” Giosan said.

After collecting the necessary data, “we could reexamine what we know about settlements, what crops people were planting and when, and how both agriculture and settlement patterns changed,” said researcher Dorian Fuller, an archaeologist with University College London.  “This brought new insights into the process of eastward population shift, the change towards many more small farming communities, and the decline of cities during late Harappan times.”

The insolation — the solar energy received by the Earth from the sun — varies in cycles, which can impact monsoons,” Giosan said.  “In the last 10,000 years, the Northern Hemisphere had the highest insolation from 7,000 to 5,000 years ago, and since then insolation there decreased.  All climate on Earth is driven by the sun, and so the monsoons were affected by the lower insolation, decreasing in force.  This meant less rain got into continental regions affected by monsoons over time.”

For the next several centuries, Harappans seem to have fled along an escape route toward the Ganges basin, where monsoon rains remained reliable.  “We can envision that this eastern shift involved a change to more localized forms of economy — smaller communities supported by local rain-fed farming and dwindling streams,” Fuller said.  “This may have produced smaller surpluses, and would not have supported large cities, but would have been reliable.”

Will Anyone Collect Osama bin Laden’s $50 Million Bounty?

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Now that the nearly 10-year-long manhunt for Osama bin Laden has ended, the question remains of what to do with the $50 million reward on the Al Qaeda leader? New York Representatives Anthony Weiner and Jerry Nadler have introduced a bill in Congress that would direct the money to groups that have helped those affected move on with their lives.  “If the bounty isn’t paid, Osama bin Laden’s victims should get it,” Weiner said, noting that “families and groups who helped deal with survivors of 9/11” should “benefit.”  Nadler added that the money “was allocated for 9/11 victims in effect, and this is simply saying to use it more effectively for the purpose that it was set up for in the first place.”

The State Department offered up a $25 million reward for bin Laden in 2001; in 2004, then-Senator Hillary Clinton of New York led the effort to pass a bill that would give the secretary of state the discretion to raise that total to $50 million.

The Obama administration appears to oppose Nadler’s and Weiner’s proposal.  White House spokesman Jay Carney said that no one took the necessary steps to make themselves eligible for the sum.  “As far as I’m aware, no one knowledgeably said, oh, Osama bin Laden’s over here in Abbottabad at 5703 Green Avenue,” Carney said.  “My sense is that the requirement for any kind of reward is to say that — not to accidentally, through intelligence gathering, provide information that leads to the whereabouts of somebody like that.”

Gary Faulkner, an American who went to Pakistan last year to hunt for bin Laden  — albeit unsuccessfully — thinks he deserves a share of the $50 million.  Several petitions and websites think the money should go directly to the Navy SEALs team that caught bin Laden, even though as government employees they are not entitled to reap the reward.  A third option would be for the government to keep the money, sparing the deficit another $25 million-$50 million dent.  In fact, there is no money set aside for the bin Laden reward.  But while the State Department maintains a broader fund that is used to pay for these kinds of rewards, there is no designated bin Laden reward money waiting to be collected.  Officials have said the information that pinpointed bin Laden’s location came from multiple sources and intelligence gathering efforts.  No single source was responsible for the intelligence that led to the end of the hunt for the terrorist leader.

John Feal, a Ground Zero construction veteran and advocate said 9/11 rescuers still bear the scars of that day, and could use the funds.  “If it was up to me it would be called the ‘No Responder Left Behind Act’ because my attitude now is we will not leave anybody behind who’s affected by 9/11,” Feal said.  His FealGood Foundation helped finance the funerals of five Ground Zero responders and workers in the past two months.

Australia Rules In Market Transparency

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Australia’s office market is the most transparent, according to report.  Jones Lang LaSalle and LaSalle Investment Management have noted reasonable improvement in global market transparency, according to their recently released 2010 Commercial Real Estate Transparency Index.

According to the Index, Australia ranks as 2010’s most transparent market.  Canada is next in line, and improving markets include China, India, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Greece and Hungary.  Market transparency had fallen in Pakistan, Venezuela, Dubai and Bahrain.

“The 2010 Global Real Estate Transparency Index reveals a notable slowdown in the progress of real estate transparency over the past two years,” said Jacques Gordon, LaSalle Investment Management’s global head of strategy.  “It suggests that the recent turmoil in global financial, economic and real estate markets has impacted on market behavior, with real estate players focusing on survival rather than market advancement.”