Friday, May 26, 2017

Special Ops Veteran Now Fights Scourge of Child Exploitation

Special ops veteran Kevin Tillman retrained as a computer forensic expert and now fights child exploitation for ICE Homeland Security Investigations in New York. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

There is in fact a hard solution to all this.  It is the ending of anomimity.  You will be wlecome to use handles as we all do, but it must be always possible to right click in order to review the individuals profile which needs to be independently authenticated.

That rule also needs to apply to securities tading and many other commercial transactions.  

What this does is that it does not stop viewing porn per se but it stops material whosesource cannot be tracked.

The internet has made simple criminalzation an exercise in futility.  Yet it can all be reduced to the crime of criminal impersonation in most cases if the system is made such that this becomes the only way to move forward.


Special Ops Veteran Now Fights Scourge of Child Exploitation 

The Internet Effect
A Growing Threat
International Cooperation
Disturbing Images
What Parents and Children Need to Know

Apps and the internet make children more vulnerable to online predators

NEW YORK—Kevin Tillman doesn’t consider himself a hero. But to many young girls and boys, he is their champion, an unsung hero in a dark world. His work takes pedophiles and child pornographers off the streets. And he helps save kids from nightmare scenarios.

Tillman is a computer forensics expert working for ICE (Immigrations and Custom Enforcement) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New York. He is a 29-year military veteran who retrained as a Human Exploitation and Rescue Operative (HERO) after retiring in 2015. The HERO program gives veterans, especially those who are wounded, a chance to retrain and fight crime in a different way.

Tillman is the first HERO in the New York HSI office, and he brings his special operations experience to his new role.

“It was very humbling to get involved in this and see that there’s this hidden society of people that’s so massive. I was unaware that pedophilia was such a large society,” Tillman said on April 28.

“I mean, who can question [cracking down on] child pornography or human trafficking—those are things most people want to see diminished, or at least depleted.”

A recent successful case involved an individual who visited a website that was being monitored. During a subsequent search at his home, child pornography was found on one of his computer systems. Tillman’s job was to meticulously sort through all of the evidence on the hard drive.

He discovered compromising photos between a young girl and her grandfather, who lived at the home with the father.

“The granddaughter was removed from the home,” Tillman said. “And it appears that the father didn’t know that the grandfather was involved with the child.”

Military veteran Kevin Tillman, a rescue operative in the child exploitation and human trafficking unit for ICE Homeland Security Investigations in New York on April 26, 2017. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

Military veteran Kevin Tillman at his desk at ICE Homeland Security Investigations in New York on April 26, 2017. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

The internet and social media have thrown open the door to exploitation on a whole new level. The days of plonking a child in front of the television to passively watch are gone.  

“Now you’re talking about a computer and the internet, you sit them down in front of that, and that’s interactive,” Tillman said.

“If it’s not closely supervised, it’s an insurgency of evil,” he said. And it’s taking the time that people used to spend watching “Three’s Company” or “Howdy Doody,” he said.

Perverts operate in the shadows of the so-called darknet—often using the Tor network, which is an open network on the internet where users can communicate anonymously through “hidden service” websites, according to the FBI.

“Most of these guys don’t have any criminal history, and no one has any idea of what they were doing until we catch them,” said Special Agent Eric Campbell, who investigates violent crimes against children in the FBI’s Phoenix Division, in a statement.

Perpetrators are most often white, middle-aged men, and it’s very common that the victim is known to the perpetrator, said Tillman.

A quick scan through the FBI’s list of most wanted for crimes against children elicits average-sounding names like Gregory Whitehead, Bruce Sawhill, and Roger Parham.

As with rapes and sexual assaults—of which only about 30 percent are reported to police—child exploitation and child pornography are vastly underreported.

New York college student Robert Garneau, 22, was arrested last May, the day before his graduation, in an alleged “sextortion” scheme. He had allegedly chatted to three boys aged between 12 and 16, through the apps Instagram and Kik. According to court records, Garneau pretended to be a young girl and enticed the victims to send him a sexually explicit photo of themselves.

Once Garneau received the compromising photos, he allegedly threatened the victims that if they didn’t send a video of a more explicit sexual activity, he would go to the police with the photos or blast them out to the victims’ Instagram followers.

According to an HSI forensic search of the text messages, one of the victims alluded to suicide if Garneau sent the video out, writing, “Why I’m killing myself” and “Goodbye I’m blaming you.”

An FBI analysis in 2015 of 43 sextortion cases involving child victims revealed at least two victims committed suicide and at least 10 more attempted suicide.

Garneau was charged with three counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, each carrying a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

“Robert Garneau’s alleged crimes are the nightmare of every modern parent,” said Preet Bharara, then-U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. “Using everyday social media websites, Garneau allegedly exploited minors for his own sexual gratification.”

Timothy McCullouch Jr., 28, a juvenile probation officer, is arrested by HSI and FBI special agents on federal sex trafficking charges, in El Paso, Texas, on Jan. 17, 2014. (ICE)

Timothy McCullouch Jr., 28, a juvenile probation officer, is arrested by HSI and FBI special agents on federal sex trafficking charges, in El Paso, Texas, on Jan. 17, 2014. (ICE)

Sextortion is “by far the most significantly growing threat to children,” a 2016 DOJ report stated, and sextortion cases tend to have more victims per offender than all other child sexual exploitation offenses.

“Offenders create and share ‘how-to’ guides that discuss how to groom children to be sexually exploited,” the report stated.

Sextortion offenders typically threaten minors aged 10 to 17, the report said, but increasingly the threat is extending to even younger and more vulnerable victims, as the offender manipulates the victim to abuse younger siblings or friends.

Tillman said parents should not underestimate their child’s knowledge of technology. The first line of defense is for parents to have better control over what their kids are doing online and who they are talking to.

Tillman recommends that parents and children learn how to combat child sexual exploitation through the information on ICE’s iGuardian website. He also educates groups of children about the pitfalls of the internet and messaging apps, and the danger of lurking predators.

“I start off the iGuardian brief by saying, ‘My name is Jessica and I’m 12 years old and have blonde hair,'” said Tillman.

Then he asks the kids, “Do I look 12 and do I have blonde hair?”

“And all the kids go, ‘Nooo!’ and I say, ‘But you don’t know that.'”

Tillman said his fun introduction is to get children to understand that the person on the other side isn’t always who they say they are.

“I tell the students: ‘Never communicate with anybody you haven’t met in person; never give your phone number out to anybody; never enter into a chat or communicate with anybody that you haven’t already met in person.'”

Pedophiles can be crafty and methodical, and Tillman described an example.  

“So you have a 12-year-old daughter who plays on a soccer team, and she’s got a Kayak chat Facebook account and she gets a message from another 12-year-old girl, who says, ‘Hey, I play for the opposite team, but I’m new in town and I don’t have any friends. Can we just chat online?'”

They develop a friendship.

Eventually, up to a year after they’ve been chatting, the other “girl” says, “Hey, I was up in the stands and I saw you at your game—you weren’t playing my team, but I came to watch you play. You were wearing number 7, you were wearing a blue shirt, you looked great.”

This person’s watching her. A year later, they want to meet in real life and want to meet at the pizza place. The other “girl” says “her” father is going to be there, and so the daughter’s parent says, “Well, as long as there’s going to be an adult there, I’ll drop you off.”

“That’s how meticulous pedophiles are in grooming,” Tillman said.

Tillman said the cooperation between local law enforcement, HSI, and the FBI is very effective and the agencies share information through the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). The cooperation extends internationally, especially as so much exploitation happens on the internet, which is essentially cross-border.

If HSI in New York finds a child pornography site and a credit card used on the site traces back to London, the agency calls the HSI attache agent in London, who can then pass the information to Scotland Yard to make an arrest.

A hard drive duplication system at the ICE cyber crimes center in Fairfax, Virginia. The center supports Homeland Security Investigations cases. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

A hard drive duplication system at the ICE cyber crimes center in Fairfax, Virginia. The center supports Homeland Security Investigations cases. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Steven Chase, 58, of Florida, was just sentenced for creating a website called “Playpen” in August 2014 on the Tor network, the FBI said in a statement on May 5.

Members used the website to upload and view tens of thousands of postings of young victims, “indexed by age, sex, and the type of sexual activity involved,” the FBI said.

The takedown of Playpen resulted in the arrest of almost 900 suspected pedophiles globally, and almost 300 children were identified or rescued from their abusers, the FBI said.

FBI Special Agent Dan Alfin said the investigation is ongoing.

“It’s the same with any criminal violation: As they get smarter, we adapt, we find them,” he said, in the statement. “It’s a cat-and-mouse game, except it’s not a game. Kids are being abused, and it’s our job to stop that.”

Most child pornography and pedophile cases don’t go to court due to overwhelming evidence, but in the ones that do, Tillman’s work is critical.

The images and videos that Tillman has to ferret out of suspects’ computers are disturbing, and it takes a special person to be able to handle it. Part of special ops training is learning how to compartmentalize, and Tillman said it helps him.

“You can get to the end of the day seeing horrific things that can’t be unseen,” he said. “I may not try to put it out of my head, I just try to focus on what’s next or what’s present.”

Tillman plays the saxophone, does some catering on the side, and leans hard on his faith to help keep balance in his life.

“Every time a new case comes through, it’s [even] more horrifying. I can’t believe it.”
73 percent of teenagers aged 13 to 17 have access to a smartphone, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center study.

46 percent of 10- to 17-year-olds admit to having given out their personal information to someone they did not know, according to a NCMEC survey.

Social networking websites often ask users to post a profile with their age, gender, hobbies, and interests. While these profiles help kids connect and share common interests, individuals who want to victimize kids can use profiles to search for potential victims.

Sextortion and livestreaming of child sexual abuse are evolving threats, according to the Justice Department’s 2016 national strategy on child exploitation. Apps can be used to target, recruit, groom, or coerce children to engage in sexual activity.

Obama Officials Admit to Receiving ‘Unmasked’ Intelligence Reports During Election Campaign

We are in severe need of the application of the proper federal laws established to take down politicians who believe they are somehow above the law.  This activity is beyond outrage and represents a directed war against political opposition with malice aforethought.

There is actually no other reason for this directed curiousity and the defense is clearly an exercise in legal parsing as if that could excuse the inexcusable.  Stop it already.  You could and you did and used every trick to deftly stp around safeguards.  The motive is obvious.  That it was futile is quite another matter and that is why we now know about it.

2016 must result in serious charges been laid and most certainly not against the winner who ran a novel but not a criminalized campaign.  Think about that.  We are talking about a political culture of treason that needs a true cleansing. I suspect that a lot of activity is brewing back stage now.   I know what i would be doing and it is not more of thesame...


Obama Officials Admit to Receiving ‘Unmasked’ Intelligence Reports During Election Campaign 
Questions have been raised on whether spying was politically motivated, and who leaked classified information to The Washington Post

May 9, 2017 AT 5:52 PM

Two high-profile officials who served under the Obama administration told a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on May 8 that they had reviewed classified information in which Donald Trump, his associates, or members of Congress had been unmasked.

When an intelligence agency gives transcripts of intercepted communications, it often seals the names of U.S. citizens. When a recipient of an intelligence report requests to have the name revealed, it is referred to as “unmasking.”

The testimonies by Sally Yates, the former acting attorney general, and James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence (DNI), raised the question of whether communications of the Trump team were gathered for legitimate purposes or for political purposes.

Last month, White House lawyers discovered that under President Barack Obama, national security adviser Susan Rice requested unmasking names on dozens of occasions—starting in July 2016 and increasing in frequency after the elections—of members of the Trump team.

The Obama administration tripled its unmasking requests in the election year, jumping from 654 requests in 2015, to 1,934 requests in 2016. The information was included in an April report from the DNI.

At least some of the requests appear to have been related to an investigation ordered by Obama in July 2016 into potential Russian interference in the election and collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

During his testimony, Clapper reaffirmed that the investigation by the DNI as well as the CIA, FBI, and NSA did not find any evidence of collusion.

General Michael Flynn

In her testimony, Yates said that she had warned the Trump administration that former national security adviser Michael Flynn had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his communications with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The Trump team confirmed Flynn had lied and fired him on Feb. 13, after he’d spent just 24 days on the job.

During the hearing, Yates declined to answer most questions about unmasking, on the grounds that it’s classified.

However, both Yates and Clapper confirmed that they received classified information in which Trump, his associates, or members of Congress were unmasked.

When asked if they personally requested unmasking in these cases, Clapper said he did in one instance, and Yates said, “I can’t give you the details.”

During Trump’s transition into office, someone who received the reports with unmasked names of Trump team members then leaked the classified information to The Washington Post—violating U.S. law.

Mike Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 9 that in the case of Flynn, in which his unmasked communications were leaked to the media, “that is illegal.”

The statements from Yates raised additional questions on how she received the information on Flynn, and whether this fits into the broader investigation of whether the Obama administration violated the law with the surveillance and with the transmission of classified information.

The Senate subcommittee is now also investigating who was behind the leak and who, in turn, provided them with the information. Both Clapper and Yates said they were unsure who was behind it.
It was confirmed during the hearing that someone requested unmasking the surveillance reports, and then spread the documents with the names revealed. Yates confirmed she had received such reports.

Rogers said the intelligence community has a “very strict process” for handling the unmasking of names. He said if someone’s name is unmasked in a report, that report is given only to the individual who requested it and “they are specifically told and reminded” not to share it.

This brings further questions onto Susan Rice, who said she had requested unmasking, yet said in an interview with MSNBC in April that she did not do it for political reasons.

Rice was asked to testify before the Senate committee, but she declined to appear.

The findings may also expand the investigations into whether the Obama administration spied on members of Congress, and again whether it was done with a political motive.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) wrote a letter to Trump on April 10, obtained by news and entertainment website Circa, in which he said an anonymous source alleged that “my name, as well as the names of other members of Congress, were unmasked, queried, or both, in intelligence reports of intercepts during the prior administration.”

On May 5, Paul wrote on Twitter, “I have formally requested from the WH and the Intel Committees info on whether I was surveilled by Obama admin and or the Intel community!”

Madeleine McCann Detective Accuses ex-PM Gordon Brown and MI5 of Epic Cover-up — The Podesta Connection

 I am posting this item for one simple reason.  The informant could not be better.  Efforts have been made to diminish his effect and it is likely that his initial take on circumstances must be partially wrong, but then they usually are.

Far more certain is that the Podestas had opportunity and were with a now convicted pedophile.  This is circumstantial but this is enough to provide a person(s) of interest with obviously no competitors.  It also explains the ability to engage M15 and the British Prime minister.  Those claims are hardly going to be made up out of full cloth by the lead detective without triggering repercussions if they are false.

What is certainly described here is an aborted investigation with the suspects unquestioned.  Easily fixed of course by the Podestas submitting to interrogation at the least as if that is going to happen..

Madeleine McCann Detective Accuses ex-PM Gordon Brown and MI5 of Epic Cover-up — The Podesta Connection

A former detective who led the initial investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann has sensationally claimed that MI5 helped cover up her death.

Portuguese former police chief Goncalo Amaral, 56, told an Australian documentary that British secret agents “for sure had an involvement” when Maddie vanished at the age of 3 in 2007.

Mr Amaral also astonishingly claimed that former Prime Minister Gordon Brown was involved in the cover up.

The former cop worked on the case when Maddie went missing from the apartment the McCanns were staying in in Praia da Luz while Kate and Gerry ate dinner with friends.

He resigned six months after being removed from the case but wrote a book using police files as he put forward a theory she had died in the apartment.

The McCanns have dismissed this comments and Mr Amaral produced no evidence to support his claims about either the former Prime Minister or the British security services.

The documentary, billed as a “landmark television event”, also suggested that a new key witness – who worked at the Praia da Luz resort at the time of Maddie’s disappearance – was being sought.

The Podestas were staying close-by, at a pedophile friend's villa and match Police sketches of kidnappers

Police sketches of two suspects believed to be involved in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, that took place in Portugal on May 3rd, 2007, have made their way around the Internet recently, and they depict what appears to be a drawing of the Podesta brothers.

The Podestas were in Portugal the day of Madeleine McCann’s disappearance and Clement Freud’s villa in which they were staying, was in fact only a third of a mile from the exact location from which Madeleine was taken.

Clement Freud is now a known pedophile who raped at least three young girls (10, 11 and 14 years old) and, during the investigation, he invited the McCann's many times over to his villa.

One of the women to accuse Freud, Sylvia Woosley, claims Freud kidnapped and began molesting her at the tender age of 10 years old.

Read more on the subject here.

Quick recap:

— The Podestas stayed one third of a mile from the spot where young Madeleine was abducted.

— The police sketches depicting the possible kidnappers show striking resemblances to the Podesta brothers, including a depression on John's nose from wearing glasses and a mole above Tony's eyebrow:

— The villa where the Podesta brothers stayed belonged to Clement Freud, a now-known kidnapper and pedophile, who raped at least three young girls, according to their own statements.

— Mr Freud invited the McCann's many times to his villa during the investigation of their daughter's disappearance. Why?

— Madeleine McCann detective accuses ex-PM Gordon Brown and British secret service MI5 of epic cover-up.

— The Podestas have been recently put in the spotlight after Tony Podesta's emails (published by Wikileaks) have been found to contain pedophile code-words.

The evidence speaks volumes and a serious investigation into the possible role of the Podesta's in relation to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann's is long overdue.

Kolbrin - The Book of Gleanings - Chpt 16 - Spirit of GOD

This can be read slowly.  It can be read one phrase at a time with a pause for contemplation. Here we have the aspects of GOD laid out in human words.

This text can be read in preparation for the practice of meditation.  It can be read in order to venerate GOD.  It can be read in part or in whole in preparation for prayer.

It can be read while contemplating love.



"I am the immortality latent in all things mortal. The light filling all things with radiance, the power holding all things to their form. I am the pure, invulnerable stream untouchable by evil, the supreme fountain-head of thoughts, the unfailing well of consciousness, the light of eternity. I am that to which the soul of man is related. I am its power, its life, its strength. I am that to which it responds".

"I am the sweet coolness in refreshing waters and the comforting warmth in the sun. I am the calmness of peace in the radiance of the moon and the delicacy in the moonbeam. I am the sound heard in the stillness, the companionship felt in the solitude and the stirring in the hearts of men. I am the cheerfulness in the laugh of a youth and the gentleness in the sigh of a maiden. I am the joy in the life of all living things and the content in the hearts of awakened souls. I am the beauty in the beautiful and the fragrance in the fragrant. I am the sweetness in honey and the scent in perfume. I am the power in the strong arm and the wistfulness in a smile. I am the urge in good and moderate desires. I am the gaiety in gladness, the restlessness in Hfe, the refi-eshment in sleep. Yet though I am in all these, I am not contained in them and they are in me rather than I am in them. How pitiful are the words of men to depict sublime things! With the souls of men asleep, enwrapped in clouds of delusion, how can I be known to them?"

"I am of the Supreme, the Eternal, of God and from God, yet not God. As heat to fire, as fragrance to flowers, as light to a lamp, so am I to God. I am the power of God operating in matter. I am the first created of creation, I am the eternal thread upon which all creation is strung. I am the effective thought of God. I am that brought forth by His creating command, wherein all things share life. I am the Lord of forms holding all things together".

"I am the power giving form, I am the comforting companion of the way. I am that which gives substance to the hopes and desires of men. Think of me therefore in any way you will. I am the companionable one, the comforter. 1 am the waters of inspiration springing from the Eternal Fount. I am the glory of love shining forth from the Central Sun. I am in all things".

"I am the root of the tree of life, the words written in the Book of God. I am the guardian of knowledge, the wisdom of the soul. 1 am the harmoniser of sound, the controller of power, the keeper of matter and the sustainer of shapes. I unroll the scroll of time and record its changes. I am the reader of past and present, the scribe of change, the chooser of chance".

"I am victory and the struggle for victory, but I am more, I am that which defeats defeat, for 1 am the victory in defeat. 1 am the goodness of those who are good, but I am more, for 1 am the success that arises out of failure. I am the achievement remaining when all else has gone".

"I am the sublime veiling secret mysteries. I am the guardian who jealously discloses hidden things. I am the knowledge of the knower. I am the seed within the seed from which all things spring. I am the bricks of which all things are built. I am more, I am the clay and water within the bricks. I am the motion in all things that move, without me there is no movement. I am the stability in all things stable, without me no thing holds to its shape".

"I am the craftsman with innumerable shapes, the artist with countless colours. My labours are outside the knowledge of men, my works beyond their sight. My masterpieces will never be seen by mortal eyes".

"That which abides in breath and yet is other than breath, which breath itself cannot know or influence, which controls it from within itself, that am I. That which is behind the voice, which voice itself cannot know or influence, which controls it from behind itself, that am I. That which is in the eye yet is other than the eye, which the eye itself cannot know or influence, which controls it from within, that am I. That which is behind the touch and yet is other than touch, which touch itself cannot know or influence, which manipulates it from behind itself, that am I. Yet this you must know: I am not you, nor are you me, though I abide in you as you abide in me. Let wisdom disentangle these feeble words set down through the hands of mortal men".

"The glory that shines from the Lord of the Day, the gentle gleam radiating from the Misfress of the Night, the comforting glow from the hearth fire, all these are of my substance. I penetrate Earth with love. I raise up the seed. 1 am the breath within the breath of all living things. 1 am the sweet scent of flowers and the bitter tang of vinegar. I am the differentiating essence in all things". 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Kim Dotcom News Release on Seth Rich

Not so fast here. He confirmed that he has specific knowledge that Seth Rich was the source of those leaks.  His lawyers have quite rightly then said slow down already and try to do this right. Like do not muddy the water by talking to the press before you have made a proper statement to investigating authorities.

This man may be an important first hand witness to this case. Or he may have nothing as well.

What has to happen now is to see if what he knows can be turned into acceptable form to make it through a court process.  Things like call logs matter and all that. This is the hard part and it is best done well.

Quite bluntly if you have evidence, sharing it prematurely with the press is not going to go well for the investigation or yourself.

I think that this is all shaping up to be historic on a level with Watergate and will reach deep into the Democratic party.  The Russia cover story may also allow Mueller to extend his mandate to possibly tackle this and the whole remarkable kill trail surrounding Hilary Clinton.   And yes he needs to go there.

Kim Dotcom Disappoints: Offers Full Seth Rich Testimony But Only To Special Counsel Mueller

by Tyler Durden

May 23, 2017 4:46 PM

As promised over the weekend, Kim Dotcom has delivered his official 'statement' on the Seth Rich murder.  Unfortunately, it's a bit light on the details and more of a teaser along with a promise to disclose full details of his relationship with Seth Rich to Special Counsel Mueller in return for safe passage to and from the United States.

Here is the full statement as posted to Kim Dotcom's website:
I know that Seth Rich was involved in the DNC leak.

I know this because in late 2014 a person contacted me about helping me to start a branch of the Internet Party in the United States. He called himself Panda. I now know that Panda was Seth Rich.

Panda advised me that he was working on voter analytics tools and other technologies that the Internet Party may find helpful.

I communicated with Panda on a number of topics including corruption and the influence of corporate money in politics.

“He wanted to change that from the inside.”

I was referring to what I knew when I did an interview with Bloomberg in New Zealand in May 2015. In that interview I hinted that Julian Assange and Wikileaks would release information about Hillary Clinton in the upcoming election.

The Rich family has reached out to me to ask that I be sensitive to their loss in my public comments. That request is entirely reasonable.

I have consulted with my lawyers. I accept that my full statement should be provided to the authorities and I am prepared to do that so that there can be a full investigation. My lawyers will speak with the authorities regarding the proper process.

If my evidence is required to be given in the United States I would be prepared to do so if appropriate arrangements are made. I would need a guarantee from Special Counsel Mueller, on behalf of the United States, of safe passage from New Zealand to the United States and back. In the coming days we will be communicating with the appropriate authorities to make the necessary arrangements. In the meantime, I will make no further comment.

Homo Naledi

 What is slowly emerging is that the genus of primates produced ample twigs in every available niche that they got into.  They had millions of years to do just that.  

It is the advent of modern man that over ran those populations which were always scant on the ground even when they became dominant over a large region.  This process of homogenization is continuing to this day and will clearly continue into the future.

What is quite clear is that morphology was diverse and was fed into the ultimate model of modern humanity..

This ancient skull, uncovered in a new cave system, gives Homo naledi a nearly complete face.

This mysterious human species lived alongside our ancestors, newly dated fossils suggest

By Ann GibbonsMay. 9, 2017 , 4:00 AM 

Just as a high-profile expedition to retrieve fossils of human ancestors from deep within a cave system in South Africa was getting underway in 2013, two spelunkers pulled aside paleoanthropologist Lee Berger. They had found what looked like an ancient thigh bone in a completely different cave. “Can we go get it?” they asked.

Berger was overseeing a team of 60 people, some of whom were 18 meters below ground gathering fossils. “This was day two. Lives were in danger. This was the beginning of my hair turning really white,” says Berger, of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. “I said ‘No, and don’t tell anyone. I don’t want anyone distracted.’”

But on the last day of the expedition, which retrieved 1500 fossils of a mysterious new species of hominin named Homo naledi, Berger gave the spelunkers the go-ahead. They came back with the thigh bone plus photos of a skull poking out of the dirt in a second chamber of the cave system. “I couldn’t believe it,” Berger says.

He and his team present the nearly complete new cranium plus 131 H. naledi fossils from the second cave in a series of papers in eLife this week. The new fossils reinforce a picture of a small-brained, small-bodied creature, which makes the dates reported in one paper all the more startling: 236,000 to 335,000 years ago. That means a creature reminiscent of much earlier human ancestors such as H. habilis lived at the same time as modern humans were emerging in Africa and Neandertals were evolving in Europe. “This is astonishingly young for a species that still displays primitive characteristics found in fossils about 2 million years old,” says paleoanthropologist Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London.

First announced in 2015, H. naledi was a puzzle from the start. Fossils from 15 individuals, including fragile parts of the face that are preserved in the new skull, show that the species combines primitive traits such as a small brain, flat midface, and curving fingers with more modern-looking features in its teeth, jaw, thumb, wrist, and foot. Berger’s team put it in our genus, Homo.

But where it really fit in our family tree “hinged on the date,” says paleoanthropologist William Kimbel of Arizona State University in Tempe. Dating cave specimens is notoriously difficult because debris falling from cave walls or ceilings can mix with sediments around a fossil and skew the dates. And these fossils likely were moved over time by rising and falling groundwater, so identifying the sediments where they were originally buried is a challenge, says geologist Paul Dirks of James Cook University in Townsville, Australia. He enlisted 19 other scientists and several labs to independently test samples using several methods. They dated cave formations deposited atop the fossils using a technique called optically stimulated luminescence, which provided a minimum age of 236,000 years for the fossils. The radioactive decay of uranium in three teeth of H. naledi provided a maximum age of 335,000 years

A timeline of the human family

Homo naledi, now dated to 236,000 to 335,000 years ago, joins a half-dozen members of our genus that lived during the past half-million years or so, as seen in a timeline of their first appearances. Yet H. naledi has some primitive features that hark back to early Homo, which lived about 2 million years ago.

Geochronologist Warren Sharp of the Berkeley Geochronology Center in California cautions that the maximum age may be off if the team didn’t accurately estimate how much uranium the teeth absorbed from groundwater over time. But Dirks points out that the results from several methods all point to fairly recent dates. “There is a little play in the upper limit, but it certainly isn’t going to shift to 1 million years,” he says.

National Geographic leaked the dates in a brief Q&A with Berger in April, but without presenting the evidence. Now that he has seen the paper, geochemist Henry Schwarcz of McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, calls the dating effort “an impressive tour de force.”

The recent dates suggest that like the 60,000- to 100,000-year-old fossils of tiny H. floresiensis (the “Hobbit”) in Indonesia, H. naledi was a “twig off the mainstream of Homo—some little relic of a relatively archaic population,” Kimbel says. It was “a lineage that existed for 1 million years or more and we missed it,” says co-author John Hawks, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

Researchers remain skeptical, however, of some of Berger’s other claims, such as that H. naledi might have made Middle Stone Age tools found in the region. That would imply surprising sophistication in a small-brained hominin. “Yes, that hand could make and use tools,” says paleoanthropologist Bill Jungers of State University of New York in Stony Brook. But he agrees with paleoanthropologist Rick Potts of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., who says the idea is a nonstarter because no tools, fire, or other signs of culture have been linked to the fossils.

Ditto for the claim that H. naledi purposefully buried the bodies of its fellows in both caves, or that it might have acquired some of its modern traits by mating with other early members of Homo. “It’s just sheer speculation,” Kimbel says.

Berger says the search for stone tools and other evidence to test whether H. naledi was capable of modern symbolic behavior is his top priority. “We’re going after all these critical questions—is there fire in there, is there DNA?” he says. His team began new forays into the caves last week.
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