Tuesday 20 March 2018

Sex, war and meditation on the evolution of man

A former IMF chief went on trial for 'aggravated pimping', Jordan upped the ante in the fight against IS, and ancient bacteria confirmed Darwin's theory

Bucolic bliss: A top-secret Pentagon report concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin has Asperger’s syndrome. The 2008 study was only based on videos of him. Photo: Reuters
Bucolic bliss: A top-secret Pentagon report concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin has Asperger’s syndrome. The 2008 study was only based on videos of him. Photo: Reuters
Jody Corcoran

Jody Corcoran

On Monday, nearly four years after he was removed from an airplane at JFK airport to face sexual assault charges, former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was in court in Lille, France, to fight accusations that he was part of an international prostitution ring.

The charge that he and 13 others face is "aggravated pimping," which is complicated by the fact that sleeping with prostitutes is not illegal in France.

The accusations revolve around alleged sex parties and a prostitution ring called the Carlton Affair, a reference to a hotel in the French city of Lille, where, allegedly, some of the orgies took place.

Strauss-Kahn is accused of using his contacts and possibly the funds of others to procure prostitutes for sex parties in not only Lille, but also in Paris and in Washington DC, which is where the criminal aspect of the prostitution charge takes hold.

Nafissatou Diallo, the hotel housekeeper who accused Mr Strauss-Kahn of attacking her in his suite at the Sofitel Hotel in New York four years ago, was last week reported to have opened the storefront restaurant, Chez Amina, which serves burgers, salads and soups along with savoury West African specialties like fish and rice stew.

The European Commission (EC) last week said the controversial EU-IMF Troika supervising Greek finances could be replaced. Greece's new left-wing government does not accept the Troika's agenda. Instead it aims to renegotiate the bailout, to get a huge reduction in Greece's debt. Last year, Greece paid €8bn to service debts of €315bn and Ireland paid €7.5bn to service debts of €214bn.

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton welcomed the latest Live Register figures, showing a continuing fall in the numbers of people signing on, the 38th consecutive month of decrease.

The figures also show signs that the positive trends are accelerating, such as the drop in January 2015 was approximately 1,300 larger than the drop in January 2014 and the drop during 2014 was 10,000 larger than the drop during 2013.

ISME, the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association, cautioned the Government that the creation of jobs was being impeded by loose talk and promises of wage increases from ministers more intent on re-election than economic stability. The association called on the Taoiseach to rein in the "guilty" ministers and insist on restraint in announcements that negatively affect job creation.

The IMF queried the strength of Ireland's economic growth, suggesting it was being exaggerated by offshore manufacturing conducted on behalf of multinationals in the pharma sector.

But the EC forecast that GDP here will grow by 3.5pc in 2015, the fastest growing economy in the EU, and by 3.6pc for 2016. The figures for 2014 showed an increase of 4.8pc in Irish GDP, well ahead of all other EU countries. On unemployment, the Commission forecast a continuing decline for Ireland, from 11pc for 2014 to 9.6pc in 2015 and 8.8pc in 2016, bringing unemployment rates below the EU average this year and next.

In a swift and decisive response, Jordan authorities executed at dawn on Wednesday two Iraqi terror convicts just hours after Islamic State militants released a video showing a Jordanian pilot being burned to death in a cage.

The hangings underscored the hardening stance by officials in Jordan, a key US ally in the fight against Islamic State, after street protests calling for revenge against the militant group. The backlash from the video threatened to draw the usually cautious monarchy toward ever more direct confrontation with radical Islamists.

Far beneath the ocean's surface, meanwhile, buried in a layer of murky sludge, communities of ancient bacteria have existed virtually unchanged for nearly half of Earth's history. In what researchers call the "greatest absence of evolution ever reported," these deep-sea creatures have taken a pass on the chaos of biological progress for the past 2.3 billion years.

But the fact these particular organisms successfully avoided evolving for billions of years doesn't disprove the theory of evolution - quite the opposite.

Dawin's theory states that species evolve through natural selection in response to environmental changes, but the inverse is also true: If there is no change in the environment of a balanced ecosystem, the organisms that constitute it should remain similarly unchanged.

A mummified monk found preserved in Mongolia last week has been baffling and astounding those who uncovered him. Senior Buddhists say the monk, found sitting in the lotus position, is in a deep meditative trance and not dead. Forensic examinations are under way on the remains, found wrapped in cattle skins in north-central Mongolia. Scientists have yet to determine how the monk is so well-preserved, though some think that Mongolia's cold weather could be the reason. But Dr Barry Kerzin, a physician to Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, told the Siberian Times that the monk was in a rare state of meditation called "tukdam". "If the meditator can continue to stay in this meditative state, he can become a Buddha," Dr Kerzin said. The monk was discovered after being stolen by a man hoping to sell him on the black market.

A top-secret Pentagon report has concluded that the Russian President Vladimir Putin has Asperger's syndrome. The study from 2008, which was based only on videos of Putin, claimed that the Russian president's mother had a stroke while pregnant with him, which resulted in the condition.

As a result his "neurological development was significantly interrupted in infancy," the report says.

Putin's authoritarian style and obsession with "extreme control" is a way of overcompensating for his condition, the researchers concluded.

Putin's actions have been under particular scrutiny since last year when he ordered Russian troops to annexe Crimea.

Meanwhile, the leaders of Germany and France flew to Kiev and Moscow with new Ukraine peace plan as Nato bolstered eastern Europe against Russia and EU agreed new sanctions.

Sunday Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News