Sunday, June 24, 2012

DNA clues to Queen of Sheba tale

Clues to the origins of the Queen of Sheba legend are written in the DNA of some Africans, according to scientists. Genetic research suggests Ethiopians mixed with Egyptian, Israeli or Syrian populations about 3,000 years ago.  This is the time the queen, mentioned in great religious works, is said to have ruled the kingdom of Sheba.  The research, published in The American Journal of Human Genetics, also sheds light on human migration out of Africa 60,000 years ago.

According to fossil evidence, human history goes back longer in Ethiopia than anywhere else in the world. But little has been known until now about the human genetics of Ethiopians. Professor Chris Tyler-Smith of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, UK, a researcher on the study, told BBC News: "Genetics can tell us about historical events.  "By analysing the genetics of Ethiopia and several other regions we can see that there was gene flow into Ethiopia, probably from the Levant, around 3,000 years ago, and this fits perfectly with the story of the Queen of Sheba."

 “Start Quote

This paper sheds light on the very interesting recent and ancient population history of a region that played an important role in both recent and ancient human migration events” End Quote Dr Sarah Tishcoff Department of Genetics and Biology at the University of Pennsylvania  Lead researcher Luca Pagani of the University of Cambridge and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute added: "The genetic evidence is in support of the legend of the Queen of Sheba."

More than 200 individuals from 10 Ethiopian and two neighbouring African populations were analysed in the largest genetic investigation of its kind on Ethiopian populations.

About a million genetic letters in each genome were studied. Previous Ethiopian genetic studies have focussed on smaller sections of the human genome and mitochondrial DNA, which passes along the maternal line.   Dr Sarah Tishcoff of the Department of Genetics and Biology at the University of Pennsylvania, said Ethiopia would be an important region to study in the future.

Commenting on the study, she said: "Ethiopia is a very diverse region culturally and linguistically but, until now, we've known little about genetic diversity in the region. "This paper sheds light on the very interesting recent and ancient population history of a region that played an important role in both recent and ancient human migration events.

"In particular, the inference of timing and location of admixture with populations from the Levant is very interesting and is a unique example of how genetic data can be integrated with historical data."  The scientists acknowledge that there are uncertainties about dating, with a probable margin of error of a few hundred years either side of 3,000 years. They plan to look at all three billion genetic letters of DNA in the genome of individual Ethiopians to learn more about human genetic diversity and evolution.   Source ( BBC)

Government slammed reports that ban Skype

“The draft should not be interpreted to mean any prohibition has been imposed on computer to computer or computer to phone communication as long as it is IP based,” Deputy Spoke’s person Shimeles Kemal told journalists from his office located off Bole Road. He said that the bill is meant to keep with the latest technological advances and related fraudulent activities. According to his explanation, all IP based voice communication will no way be banned by the new bill.

But, many ask how come the interpretation of the law ended up being far-off? According to legal experts, the phrasing of the draft proclamation should have been more explicit in the sense that it would not have any ambiguous meanings in the end.

“Especially, when a proclamation criminalizes a certain act, the wording should be as precise and as clear as possible,” a lecturer at Addis Ababa University’s Law School, who prefers to stay anonymous, explains. And considering that the law is at its first reading stages, it should take in the response as necessary feedback and improve on it, he says.
Following the announcement of a new legislative bill regarding telecommunications operation in Ethiopia, a wave of confusion and havoc is raging across internet users. Considering the intent of the bill that is to prevent telecom fraud and that it is still in its draft stages, one wonders if the response is really appropriate. Yet again, given past experiences in ratifying legislative bills, especially the controversial ones, the temporary stir about the possible interpretation of the bill could be comprehensible, observes Asrat Seyoum.

For Solomon Alemu, a young entrepreneur and businessman in his mid-thirties, doing business in Ethiopia has come very far since the last few decades. Now, business requires constant e-mail correspondence, internet surfing, checking business related news updates and much more.

In fact, the evolution of social media and various chat and communication mechanisms appears to be the cherry on top for private businessmen in Addis. It is becoming common to correspond with customers and/or suppliers abroad via the internet; and the IP based Skype software which has grown to be very popular in this respect.

Running a small used cars dealership business, Solomon looks worried about the a new draft bill criminalizing telecom and internet based fraud in Ethiopia, which by the way he did not get chance to read. Like his peers, he is a loyal user of Skype that he downloaded on both his smartphone and laptop and uses it for personal and business related matters. But, what appears to worry him is the business aspect.

“I was able to communicate easily with my suppliers in Europe,” he says nervously as he started to ask around looking for a thorough explanation as to the stipulation of the draft bill, if ratified. Unfortunately, few people in the group of friend seemed to agree as to the full interpretation of the draft bill; better yet, there were few who were convinced that the bill has already been passed.

After few minutes of heated debate; however, many inclined to view that it is better to take the safe way out and uninstall the program from their devices.

Partly, the same was true for small circles discussing the matter during the past few weeks in the capital. However, much of the deliberation became ineffective after the announcement by the government, which was made yesterday wiped clean the confusion regarding IP based voice communication. It is not the first time when a draft bill created havoc in Ethiopia. In fact, it looks more frequent these days citing the case of the Urban Land Lease Proclamation, Antiterrorism Proclamation and the Charities and Civil Societies Proclamation. From this instance, however, one wonders why commentators both local and foreign are more sensitive to draft bills in Ethiopia. As thousands of bills make it before the legislature in the US each year, draft bills do not seem to instigate the response that is observed in Ethiopia at present. According to commentators, the recent ordeal could offer some explanation.

The recurrent controversy over draft bills

Nevertheless, experts go far beyond the level of ambiguity or the phrasings of the drafts in explaining the reason behind controversies surrounding draft bills in Ethiopia. In fact, they refer to the level of maturity of the legislative process of the country as being rather reactive to problems than being farsighted.

According to experts, the levels of maturity of legislative process follow three distinctive phases. The less developed or traditional of the three is the customary (Unwritten law) which the society upholds among one another as common practice and value. More evolved from the traditional law is the enactment of laws in response to challenges observed on the ground. According to legal experts, this is known as laws that are regulatory in nature. Whereas, the third phase involves setting the systems and procedures by observing trends and assessing needs before it poses a problem. The last one is better in sense that enactments of laws would be well tailored to alleviate possible problems, before it presented itself as a challenge.

Most recent legislative processes indicate that Ethiopia is at the second stage, the anonymous expert explains. And he argues that the whole purpose of instituting a legal framework in the first place is to shape public opinion into forming a system. It should not be backwards, that it should not be sourced from the behavior and public opinion; which is the basic nature of regulatory laws the like practiced in Ethiopia.

“Regulatory laws are punitive in their nature,” he argues, and that is partly why, the response from the public is exaggerated and defensive at times. “Almost all of the bills being sourced from the executive body are formulated mainly to overcome its administrative problems and the tendency of the public to perceive it as being coercive is much higher, he concludes. Source ( Reporter)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Verdict in Ethiopia terrorism trial delayed

An Ethiopian judge has again delayed the verdict in the case of 24 people charged with terrorism, including a prominent journalist and an opposition member, a defence lawyer said Thursday.
The verdict is now expected to be delivered on June 27, in order to give the judges time to "evaluate and pass a decision", lawyer Abebe Guta said. Among those charged are prominent journalist Eskinder Nega and opposition member Andualem Arage. Both appeared in court in suits and smiled and waved to friends and family as they filed into the courtroom.
The courtroom was packed with family members, journalists and diplomats, including US Ambassador Donald Booth.
This is the second time the verdict has been delayed. Judges were expected to deliver a ruling on May 11, but said the defendants' case had not been transcribed in full.
Eskinder was honoured in New York last month with a "freedom to write" award from the US-based media watchdog PEN.
He was arrested last year after publishing articles asking whether the Arab Spring uprisings could have an influence in Ethiopia and questioning the arrests of Ethiopians under the country's anti-terrorism law.
He is one of 11 independent journalists and bloggers charged with terrorism since 2011, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which says Ethiopia's media is one of the most restricted in the world.
Rights groups have accused Ethiopian officials of using anti-terrorism legislation to stifle peaceful dissent.
The 24 on trial were charged with terrorism in September 2011, and could face the death penalty if found guilty.  Source ( AFP)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Why Does Ethiopia Want to Give People 15 Years in Jail for Using Skype?

One of Africa's biggest economic success stories, the country is also one of its least wired. This new law and other, increasingly draconian restrictions are a sign of how far it still has to go.
A new law in Ethiopia criminalizes the use of Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services such as Skype or Google Talk, the latest in this East African country's increasingly tough Internet restrictions. Getting caught can carry a prison term of up to 15 years, the severity of which is perhaps meant in part to deter Ethiopian web users from trying to simply get around the ban, for example with proxy servers.

The two commonly cited
explanations for the law are "national security" (read: tough to monitor) and to protect the Ethiopian government's state-owned telecommunications service. Ethio Telecom is a monopoly, and much-despised for its expensive calling rates, especially internationally. Skype and Google Voice provide cheaper, or often free, ways to place calls. Ethiopia's Internet penetration rate is the second-lowest in Sub-Saharan Africa, but the country's economy is booming, its cities expanding, and its middle class growing.

Those factors tend to coincide with higher rates of Internet access -- both because more people can afford it, and because internal migration (moving from a town to a city to find work, say) make long-distance communication more important -- but not yet here. Criminalizing a popular Internet service isn't likely to do much to make Ethiopia more wired, nor will it likely attract many of the foreign investors who are otherwise
blanketing Africa and accelerating its rise.

Ethiopia's odd ban, and the draconian punishment for violators, is in some ways symbolic of the rising African power's challenge: to continue its growth into the new Ethiopia -- wealthier, freer, more peaceful -- and leave the old, autocratic, militarized, Ethiopia behind. Government officials may or may not have had anything more than Ethio Telecom's profit margins in mind when they implemented this new law, but whatever the motivation, it is symptomatic of the tension in Ethiopia between the new ways and the old.

Africa's second-biggest country by population, Ethiopia has had a tough few decades. It was devastated first by a
brutal 17-year civil war, exacerbated by outside meddling when it became a Cold War proxy fight, that ended only in 1991. As with so many civil wars, it weakened the economy greatly and filled the government with whoever could best enforce order. The country began to democratize, then fell back again during a 1998-2000 border war with neighboring Eritrea.

The past decade of peace and stability has allowed Ethiopia's economy to flourish, with an amazing, almost China-like growth rate of 8.4 percent annually from 2001 to 2010, making it the world's fifth fastest-growing economy over that period. It's
estimated to continue growing at 8.1 percent annually from 2011 through 2015. But Ethiopia has also been re-adopting its old, China-style political restrictions, including crackdowns on political dissent (a 2010 Economist Intelligence Unit report announced it had started classifying Ethiopia as "an authoritarian regime" as it has become "a de facto one-party state"), free speech, and, yes, Internet freedom.

A recent Reporters Without Borders
investigation found that Ethiopia had started blocking access to the Tor Network, a popular tool for using the Internet anonymously, something the NGO says is only possible with "Deep Packet Inspection (DPI), an advanced network filtering method" that is "widely used" by countries "such as China and Iran ... to easily target politically sensitive websites and quickly censor any expression of opposition views." Al Jazeera English, in reporting the VoIP service ban, noted that the Ethiopian and Chinese governments recently held a "media workshop" conference in the former country's capital, where "Internet management" was allegedly among the topics discussed.

The new Ethiopia is a much better place than the war-torn Ethiopia of the 1960s, '70s, '80s, and early '90s. But the bad habits of the old Ethiopia -- declaring pro-democracy parties such as Ginbot 7 to be a "terrorist organization," say, or imposing jail terms for using Skype so that people will stick to the easily monitored state-monopoly services -- are still around.  Source ( the  Atlantic)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Al Shebab offers ten camels bounty on US President Barack Obama

First, the US State Department offered up to $33 million for help in catching the leaders of radical Islamist group Shabab, which controls much of Somalia. But Shabab has made a counter-proposal: a bounty of 10 camels for Barack Obama. On Thursday, the State Department said that Shabab “is responsible for the killing of thousands of Somali civilians, Somali peace activists, international aid workers, journalists and African Union peacekeepers.” Individual rewards were offered for tip-offs about various leaders depending on their seniority, with the founder Ahmed Abdi aw-Mohamed valued at $7 million. The group has claimed responsibility for mass suicide bombings and prides itself on its connections with Al-Qaeda.
It was, therefore, no surprise that Shabab was defiant in the face of a new US manhunt.
"I can assure you that these kind of things will never dissuade us from continuing the holy war against them," posted Fuad Mohamed Khalaf (bounty: $5 million) on a propagandist website.
He then referred to an incident in Koran, when a bounty of 100 camels was offered on the prophet Mohammed. The US President was then priced at one tenth of that.

Perhaps reflecting Shabab’s view of women, Hillary Clinton fetched an even lower reward: “10 hens and 10 roosters.”

Despite the fighting words, Shabab has suffered a series of setbacks in its quest to turn Somalia into an Islamist land. A coalition of the government, the African Union and Ethiopian troops has recaptured several key settlements and bases from the hardline Islamists since the turn of the year.  Source ( Russia Today )

Friday, June 8, 2012

US put $7M bounty on Al-Shabab founder

The United States is to offer millions of dollars in rewards for information leading to the capture of leaders of the Somali militant group al-Shabab. It is the first time the US has offered money for specific members of the group, which announced its allegiance to al-Qaeda earlier this year.
It has put a price of $7m (£4.5m) on al-Shabab's founder and commander, Ahmed Abdi aw-Mohamud Godane.  It comes as African Union forces make key advances against the group.

Al-Shabab still controls much of the country but is under pressure from Ethiopian troops, pro-government militias and the African Union force, which has US and European funding. African Union and Somali government forces last week captured the town of Afmadow, a strategic militant base in the south of the country.  Source ( BBC Africa )

Friday, June 1, 2012

” I would like to become Member of Parliament, “Says Haile GebreSelasse

Ethiopian athletics legend Haile Gebrselassie failed to qualify for the London Olympics here on Sunday as he could only finish seventh in the 10,000 meters. The 39-year-old two-time Olympic 10,000m champion — who had already failed to post a qualifying time for the marathon — admitted his hopes had been dashed after his disappointing performance against 12 of his compatriots.  “The Games in London, is over for me,” he told AFP.

“I ran a good race till the last lap. I felt good but I manifestly didn’t have the speed to compete against my rivals. That’s life. I am not disappointed,” added Gebrselassie, whose epic defeat of Kenyan great Paul Tergat at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, his second Olympic title, is one of the great finishes of all time. Indeed for the ever cheerful Ethiopian great it is to be his last track race.  The ‘spikes’, it is finished for me. I am 39. I have failed to qualify for the Olympics. And there is a very strong younger generation in Ethiopia now. “I tried to qualify for my fifth Olympics. And I don’t regret trying to do so. I simply came up against stronger rivals on Sunday.” Tariku Bekele and Leleisa Desisa Benti finished first and second respectively — with the former posting the best time in the world this year of 27min 11.70sec — to book their tickets for London. “These next months, I will devote solely to marathons and half marathons. In three years, I envisage a political career. I would like to become a member of parliament.”  Said Gebersellaase.   Source ( AFP)