The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 72.0°F | Overcast

News Briefs, part 2

Allied Presence in Berlin Ends With Torchlight Parade

Los Angeles Times

With concerts, speeches and a torchlit military parade through the richly symbolic Brandenburg Gate, the people of Berlin said a long, ornate goodbye Thursday to the American, British and French troops who have occupied much of this city since the end of World War II.

The Western Allies came as conquerors in the early summer of 1945, but came to be seen as vital protectors by Germans living outside the city areas administered by the Soviet Union. The departure of the Western soldiers Thursday was seen by many here as a closing of the final, triumphant chapter in the history of the Cold War.

The last Russian troops left one week ago.

"We thank our American, British and French friends," said German chancellor Helmut Kohl in one of many speeches made over the course of the day by Kohl, U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, British Prime Minister John Major, and French Defense Minister Francois Leotard.

"We will always remember that it was the presence of your soldiers that made it possible to breathe freely in Berlin," said Kohl. "They paid for the freedom of Berlin, and thus for the freedom of the whole of Germany. For this, they deserve our lasting gratitude. Today, as you leave Berlin, we can definitely say: Freedom has won."

Quayle Calls for an End To Subsidizing Illegitimate Births

Los Angeles Times

Former Vice President Dan Quayle, gearing up for a likely presidential run in 1996, returned Thursday to the scene of his attack on television character Murphy Brown to call for an end to government subsidies of illegitimate births.

Challenging both the traditional welfare system and new programs that put welfare mothers to work, Quayle called on government and society to make fathers more responsible for their children.

He also suggested providing public assistance through churches and synagogues as a way of ending what he calls "the poverty of values."

"Too often, fathers walk away from their children or, worse yet, they don't even know who their children are," he told the Commonwealth Club of California. "Raising a child is not just a mother's responsibility, it is a father's responsibility too."

Speaking before the same group two years ago, Quayle raised a storm of controversy when he criticized the fictional Murphy Brown for "mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone."

Researcher Finds that Thumbs Enabled Prehumans to Use Tools


A new look at the fossil record suggests a facile, powerful thumb - not a big brain - is what allowed humanity's early ancestors to take up the use of tools, an anatomist reported Thursday.

Randall Susman, of the State University of New York at Stony Brook School of Medicine, said the fossil record shows at least two tool-making prehuman species (Homo habilis and Paranthropus robustus) existed at the same time in ancient Africa, but with very different brain sizes. What they had in common were human-like thumbs.

The findings suggest that tool use "is not related to brain size," Susman said. "Brain size doesn't tell you anything about whether the animal was a tool-maker or not." What is important is whether the creature was able to grasp and use tools with precision.

"Today's apes are power-graspers, and the very first hominids - Australopthicus afarensis - were also power-graspers, but not precision-graspers," he said. The oldest hominid known, 3.5-million-year-old H. afarensis (Lucy), was apparently not a tool-maker, and "there are no tools in the fossil record" at that time, Susman said.

The recent findings, Sussman said, indicate that tools were likely to have been used by early hominids at about 2 million years ago.

His findings, published in Science, will probably be controversial; "there will be a lot of people who will take awhile to digest this. It goes against the traditional dogma," Susman said.