Monday, June 5th - Sunday, June 11th
Stories from Motherboard, Broadly, The New York Times, The Wild Hunt, and The Bold Italic.
I have made it three solid months and I'm celebrating every milestone I can think of so this is the quarter year anniversary! Yay! This week is a little more dense and serious, but I wanted to really stick to good stories and limit the fluff (see The Shortlist).
As I often ask, while you're busy being magical (I know it's a demanding job!) consider telling everyone about this stellar newsletter you've been reading.
Thank you again for reading. I really do appreciate it. And send me your feedback cus it's easily the best part of this for me.
And now, the stories:
Asgardia, the first ever space-based nation may also be a tax haven.
Later this year, the group behind self-proclaimed space nation Asgardia will launch a satellite into orbit with a hard drive on board. It’s an important step towards their goal of creating a sovereign nation in outer space.
The group, an international team of scientists and researchers led by Russian businessman and computer scientist Igor Ashurbeyli, announced the founding of Asgardia in October 2016. They hope to eventually launch inhabited space stations, protect Earth from asteroids and create a freely accessible base of scientific knowledge permanently in orbit.
Anyone can apply for citizenship without sacrificing their existing nationality, and so far 180,000 people have taken the leap. This week they will vote online to ratify their constitution and choose a flag, insignia and national anthem.
However, there are many technical and legal challenges ahead. "A state has a permanent population; a defined territory; a government,” Joanne Irene Gabrynowicz, Editor-in-Chief Emerita at the Journal of Space Law told Motherboard. "So the premise that Asgardia is a nation is debatable."
And some suspect an underlying motive is creating an off-planet tax haven. "If they were to achieve statehood, they could create domestic laws to protect their nationals from any subpoenas requesting bank information,” said Mark Sundahl, a professor of space law at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. “But they would become a rogue banking nation."
The initial step is sending a 512GB solid state hard drive in a housing which will keep it orbiting Earth for five years, and will allow data to be updated and accessed using communications satellites. But when Asgardia-1, slated for a September launch, piggybacks on a resupply mission to the ISS, it will hit another snag: a UN treaty defines the nationality of a spacecraft as that of the state procuring or launching it. So, it’s American.
First Nations millennials are preserving native languages through technology.
Indigenous app developers Lydia Prince and Gabe Archie are building an open source platform that aims to preserve and revitalize First Nations languages, the majority of which are endangered as many speakers are aging and often live in remote areas.
Prince, who is Cree and Tl’azt’en Nation Carrier, became one of the first to complete Bridging to Technology, a web development bootcamp for Indigenous learners where she met Gabe Archie, Tsq’escenemc from the Shuswap Nation. Together they are building Goozih, a free and open source iOS app which will work as a cross-language dictionary with English words appearing in all the Indigenous languages they’re able to incorporate.
First Nations languages have been under assault since the late 19th century when the Canadian government began forced assimilation, most notoriously with its residential schools which tried to eradicate Indigenous children’s culture and connection to family, and included a language ban.
Between 1951 and 1981, the number of Indigenous people reporting a native language as their first dropped from 87.4 percent to 29.3 percent. The last residential school didn’t close until 1996, the same year 47 of around 50 native languages were considered vulnerable or endangered. "It's an epidemic," Prince told Broadly. "We're scrambling to save our endangered languages."
Prince believes Goozih, which allows speakers to become administrators and add their own languages, will encourage transformation. “We are confident that just having this app out there will be a huge catalyst for people to go see their elders and take the initiative to learn their language,” she said. “After all, using technology like this is completely new for Indigenous people.”
Homo sapien fossils rewrite story of human origins to include entire African continent.
Fossils discovered in Morocco are the oldest ever examples of Homo sapiens, pushing the date back from 195,000 to 300,000 years. The finding includes flint blades that show signs of having been burned and a treasure trove of bones including five complete skulls. While their brains were fundamentally different from ours, they looked almost exactly like modern day humans.
“The face is that of somebody you could come across in the Metro,” paleoanthropologist and lead researcher Dr. Jean-Jacques Hublin, told the New York Times.
The site, called Jebel Irhoud, was first discovered in 1961 when miners found a few pieces of skull, initially estimated to be 40,000 years old. It wasn’t until the 1980s when Dr. Hublin took a closer look at a jawbone that the fossils’ true age was noticed.
Before now, the oldest known sites of Homo sapien remains had both been in Ethiopia. Researchers discovered a skull estimated to be around 160,000 years old at a site called Herto and another find at a place called Omo-Kibish has been dated at around 195,000 years old. Findings like these had suggested that Homo sapiens evolved in a small part of the continent and then spread out across Africa.
The findings at Jebel Irhoud fundamentally rewrites that narrative. “We did not evolve from a single ‘cradle of mankind’ somewhere in East Africa,” said Philipp Gunz, a paleoanthropologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and a co-author of two new studies on the fossils, published in the journal Nature. “We evolved on the African continent.”
Pagans struggle to distance themselves from Portland attacker’s Odinist-influenced rants.
When two men were fatally stabbed and another injured on a Portland train defending two teenage girls wearing hijab against an assailant shouting an anti-Muslim rant, the attacker’s references to Odinism on Facebook has further associated heathenry with white supremacy.
In the days after the May stabbing, people began to connect the attacker’s posts on Facebook over the last year, which frequently refer to Vinland, an Icelandic name used by Vikings to describe a region between Newfoundland and New England, with Odinism, a branch of Neo-paganism that has been embraced by white supremacists.
“I Hereby Solemnly swear to Die trying to Kill Hillary (Herself a filthy Murderess) Clinton and Donald Trump should they be elected to the post of President in my faire country on Vinland,” Jeremy Christian wrote in a post last fall. “Vinland” has become a rallying cry for white supremacist groups who see the Viking name as representative of their European origins. One even calls itself the Wolves of Vinland.
In response, organizations like The Troth, an inclusionary American-based international heathen association, and Heathens United Against Racism issued statements condemning the attacks. “Portland Killer is our community’s responsibility, and we must do everything we can to prevent it from happening again,” read HUAR’s statement.
But others, like Wild Hunt writer and author of The Norse Mythology Blog Karl E. H. Seigfried, reject the idea that the attacker is legitimately pagan at all. Seigfried says that Christian muddles together Norse, Hindu, Egyptian, Christian, and Jewish figures in his various posts on social media. “To pick one thread out of this insane tapestry and declare it to be the religious determiner of […] hate would be nonsensical,” he told a reporter.
The attack has also shone a spotlight on a larger issue which has dogged heathens for years. Christian was radicalized, at least in part, during stints in prison where white supremacists use Paganism as a way to intimidate other inmates and attract members. A situation which now has many pagan groups fighting a constant public relations battle to defend their religion from those using Norse mythology as a cover for hate.
“We will not give up and we will not give in,” said Mallory Brooks, program coordinator for the The Troth’s In-Reach Heathen Prison Services.
Marijuana-infused and Michelin-starred fine dining is hitting the Bay Area.
Gourmet chef Michael Magallanes has teamed up with Barron Lutz, the founder of a company which produces cold-water-extracted hash, to infuse cannabis into an eight-course fixed menu meal using cooking oils, purees and powders. Unlike cannabis-infused meals in Los Angeles, the meal is micro-dosed for each eater.
“The trick is to frontload,” Lutz explained, “because it takes up to an hour and a half to feel the effects.” Each of the 30 guests submit tolerance levels before attending the dinner, and their unique dose is spread across the eight courses.
Magallanes, a chef who helped bring another Bay Area restaurant its Michelin stars and who built a reputation for balancing flavors and assembling beautiful plates, found cannabis-infused cuisine by chance. He quit his fast-paced job after working for three months with no days off. In the time that opened up, he met Lutz and came up with the concept.
Marijuana powder in a rice cracker. Weed flavors balanced with avocado, Fresno chili peppers and cilantro. Oysters and sea urchin on a French toast stick. Braised beef plated on wheatberry, peas, endive and seeds. Strawberry angel cake and sablé. The universal response of the diners: we want more.
“If we do this now, we’ll be a step ahead of everyone,” said Magallanes who looks at the whole experience as “a journey the chef takes you on” which is full of “peaks and troughs.” As permits for serving marijuana recreationally become available to restaurants, Magallanes is pioneering a whole new form of fine dining.
“I don’t just want to be a cannabis chef,” he adds.
That’s all for this week. Look out next Monday morning!