2A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, December 10, 1998
oldest complete skeleton
AROUND THE NATION
* JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) -
Researchers announced yesterday that they had dis-
covered the oldest complete skeleton of a human
ancestor, a four-foot-tall ape-human dating back 3.2
to 3.6 million years.
The find could shed light on a pivotal debate
about human origins: Did early human ancestors
live only on the ground, or did they also inhabit
Ron Clarke, a British paleo-anthropologist at the
University of Witwatersrand who made the find,
and his colleague Phillip Tobias, announced at a
news conference that they had uncovered the skull
and leg bones from a skeleton whose foot and ankle
fragments Clarke discovered in 1994.
Three years after the 1994 find, Clarke and his
team found more bones belonging to the skeleton
while rummaging through animal bones at a univer-
sity cupboard. This sent them back to the cave near
Johannesburg, where the latest discovery was made.
The skull and legs are still in the cave, embedded
in rock that is expected to yield the pelvis, vertebrae
and other limb bones as workers chip away at the
material around them, Clarke said.
v, "It's one of many missing links from ape to man,
z, He said the skeleton is "closer to the ape end"
..than the modern human end of evolution.
Human ancestors developed after an evolutionary
split with the ancestors of apes, and Clarke and
Tobias contend that a large articulated big toe on the
1994 find implies that human ancestors, as they
evolved from apes, walked upright like humans and
climbed trees like some primates.
Other paleontologists argue that early human
ancestors lived only on the ground.
Once the bones are pried from the rock - a
process expected to take another year - they will
be examined to see if the hip and leg structures bear
out the tree-climbing theory.
In a telephone interview from London, a top
expert on human origins said the finding of a com-
plete skeleton is rare in the study of early human.
"It's wonderfully preserved ... and potentially
very important, but until it's really out of the
ground, it's difficult to assess how important;' said
Chris Stringer, head of the human origins research
group at the Natural History Museum in London.
The skeleton was discovered underground at
Sterkfontein, a former lime quarry cave that has
yielded a number of hominid skulls since the 1930s.
The creature's date of origin was determined by
examining the rock.
Fragments of older hominid fossils have been
found in Kenya, where Meave Leakey discovered a
four-million-year-old Australopithecus afarensis.
Clinton supports stock investments
WASHINGTON - President Clinton, in private talks with lawmakers, said for
the first time that he supports using stock market investments to try to inject money
into the financially troubled Social Security system.
The president's candid comments during yesterday's talks came after months of
declining to be specific about his preferences on how to safeguard Social Security.
Lawmakers left the closed-door meetings saying they have new optimism the*
can reach compromise on action to bolster the nation's retirement program next
"It's a good starting point," said House Ways and Means Committee Chairperson
Bill Archer (R-Texas).
However, Clinton has not decided how the stock market investments
should be made - by individual Americans in private accounts or by the
government investing their payroll tax contributions in bulk, his advisers
That will remain one of the more contentious issues as lawmakers continue to
seek compromise on action that could be taken next year to shore up Social
This skull is believed to be part of the first complete skele-
ton of a human, researchers said yesterday.
Pinochet fit to stand trial
LONDON (AP) - Gen. Augusto
Pinochet is fit to stand trial on charges
of genocide and Spain can start extradi-
tion proceedings against him, Britain
ruled yesterday, delighting human
rights groups and setting the former
Chilean dictator up for a long legal bat-
Chile immediately withdrew its
ambassador in protest, and already-
strained relations with Britain, a long-
time ally, fell to a new low.
In announcing his decision, Home
Secretary Jack Straw rejected com-
plaints that a judge who cast the key
vote in the 3-2 court ruling against
Pinochet was biased because he heads
the fund-raising arm of the human
rights organization Amnesty
General gets fourth
star in promotion
WASHINGTON - Nearly three
decades after retiring from a military
career spent fighting enemies abroad
and racial barriers at home, Benjamin
Davis put on a brand new Air Force
uniform bought for the occasion and
received the one promotion that had
been denied him. He got his fourth star.
In a ceremony yesterday culminating
several years of lobbying by Davis' sup-
porters, President Clinton pinned the
military's highest peacetime rank on the
aging general. The decision to advance
Davis in grade was unusual even as a
largely symbolic gesture, but it was
hailed by Davis' former colleagues and
by present-day Pentagon leaders in
attendance as a deserving tribute.
Recalling the general's feats leading
the first black fighter squadron of
Tuskegee Airmen into battle during
World War II, Clinton saluted Davis for
persevering against prejudice and prov-
ing that black aircrews were as capable
as white ones. He said Davis' success
served as a catalyst for the eventual racial
integration of the U.S. armed forces.
"Gen. Davis is here today as living
proof that a person can overcome
adversity and discrimination, achieve
great things, turn skeptics into believ-
ers; and through example and persever-
ance, one person can bring truly extra-
ordinary change," Clinton said.
Crew ventures out
to install antennas
SPACE CENTER, Houston - Two
astronauts ventured out on another space-
walk yesterday and installed antennas on
the international space station under con-
struction nearly 250 miles above Earth.
For the second time this week, Jerry
Ross and James Newman floated out the
hatch of the shuttle Endeavour to work
on the seven-story, 35-ton station taking
shape in the open cargo bay.
Their No. 1 priority was to attach twO
100-pound antennas to Unity, the
American-made side of the space station.
Their other job, time permitting, was
trickier- trying to open a stuck antenna on
Zarya, the Russian-built control module.
The planned seven-hour spacewalk
was not nearly as difficult or crucial as
Monday night's outing, during which
Ross and Newman hooked up 40 con-
nections between Zarya and Unity. 0
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Clash over arms
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi officials
blocked U.N. arms monitors from
holding a surprise inspection yester-
day at the Baghdad headquarters of
the ruling Baath Party, a key site in
Saddam Hussein's government. U.N.
officials immediately denounced the
The inspectors withdrew after an
Iraqi official demanded that they first
provide a written declaration of what
they were looking for, the official
Iraqi News Agency said.
"This was an absolutely legal, no-
notice inspection and they blocked
us," Richard Butler, head of the U.N.
Special Commission that oversees
inspections, told The Associated Press
in New York.
Later yesterday, however, an Iraqi
official suggested the standoff
occurred because of a mistake by an
Iraqi escort in declaring the site sensi-
The incident - which has the
potential to blow up into another U.N.-
Iraq crisis - came two days after
Butler announced that he was ordering
the resumption of surprise inspec-
tions. On Tuesday, the inspectors visit-
ed 32 sites and yesterday, 10 more.
Palestinian killed as
Clinton plans visit
RAMALLAH, West Bank -
Enraged by Israel's refusal to release
security prisoners, Palestinians stoned
Israeli troops yesterday in the most
widespread West Bank clashes i
months. A 17-year-old was killed b
Israeli gunfire and scores of oth
Palestinians were injured.
The violence came despite U.S.
appeals for calm and raised new con-
cerns that President Clinton's visit to
the region next week is triggering
unrest, rather than reassuring Israelis
and Palestinians about their troubled
peace accord, as was intended.
Thousands of Palestinians fired
slingshots at helmeted Israeli soldiers
who responded with tear gas and bu
- Compiled from Daily wire reports.
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