Meet Svante Pääbo. Who is he and why is he interesting? He’s the Neandertal Hunter, and he’s uncovering some fascinating new information on what makes up modern humans – at least those of us of European, Asian and Middle Eastern descent.
That information? Neandertal DNA. Excerpt:
Fired by his early success, Pääbo announced, in 2006, his group would sequence a full Neanderthal genome made of nuclear DNA within two years. In the end, the project was beset by tribulations – contamination, dastardly tricks by rival geneticists, dwindling supplies of Neanderthal bone – and Pääbo was more than a year late in completing the project.
His results provided a shock for both researchers and the public. When he compared his newly created Neanderthal genome with those of modern humans, he found a small but significant overlap in many of them. About 2% of Neanderthal genes could be found in people of European, Asian and far eastern origin. People from Africa had no Neanderthal genes, however. “This was not a technical error of some sort,” Pääbo insists. “Neanderthals had contributed DNA to people living today. It was amazingly cool. Neanderthals were not totally extinct.”
Most scientists, including Pääbo, now account for this result by arguing that modern humans – when they first emerged from Africa – encountered and mated with Neanderthals in the Middle East. Their offspring carried some Neanderthal genes and as modern humans swept through Asia and Europe they carried these genes with them.
Just what that input of Neanderthal DNA has done for Homo sapiens’s evolution is less clear. Pääbo speculates that changes in sperm mobility and alterations in skin cell structure could be involved. In addition, US researchers have recently proposed that Neanderthals passed on gene variants that may have had a beneficial effects in the past but which have now left people prone to type 2 diabetes and Crohn’s disease. “This is work that is going to go on for years,” he adds.
So what’s the upshot of these findings, when we seek to get a little insight into human behavior? That’s simple:
Humans like sex. And sometimes – maybe much of the time – they aren’t too picky about who they have sex with.
The Neandertal were a controversy for many years. Initially the preponderance of opinion was that smarter, more adaptable H. sapiens crowded the Neandertal out of Europe and the Levant. A few enigmatic skeletons seemed to combine modern human and Neandertal features, but none of them were conclusive.
But now we have genetic evidence. If your ancestry is European, Asian or Middle Eastern, you likely have some Neandertal DNA. Interesting stuff.
Oh, and Pääbo’s work also uncovered an entire new species of early human – the enigmatic Denisovans. (To be fair the discovery was made by Russian archaeologists from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of Novosibirsk, but Pääbo did the genetic analysis that established them as a distinct form.)
It’s a fascinating time to be working in paleoanthropology – or even have it as a particular interest.
This is absolutely chilling: The FCC Wades Into the Newsroom. Excerpt:
But everyone should agree on this: The government has no place pressuring media organizations into covering certain stories.
Unfortunately, the Federal Communications Commission, where I am a commissioner, does not agree. Last May the FCC proposed an initiative to thrust the federal government into newsrooms across the country. With its “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs,” or CIN, the agency plans to send researchers to grill reporters, editors and station owners about how they decide which stories to run. A field test in Columbia, S.C., is scheduled to begin this spring.
The purpose of the CIN, according to the FCC, is to ferret out information from television and radio broadcasters about “the process by which stories are selected” and how often stations cover “critical information needs,” along with “perceived station bias” and “perceived responsiveness to underserved populations.”
What. The. Bloody. Hell.
This has absolutely horrifying implications. To put it plainly – the Imperial Federal government proposes to monitor the gathering, analysis and reporting of news by the nation’s hitherto independent media. What’s next?
This kind of thing should be squashed, hard and fast. Unfortunately, there seems to be a spine shortage in Congress.
I normally really try to resist indulging in Godwin’s Law, but the temptation here is too strong.
Uh oh. Crash of 2014: Like 1929, You’ll Never Hear it Coming. Excerpt:
Through much of 2013, pundits warned how bad the market really was. Then in December the Wall Street Journal revealed that after 13 years in negative territory, Wall Street’s “Lost Decade” (which lasted from the 2000 crash to the end of 2013), finally broke even on an inflation-adjusted basis.
And here we are panicking again, fearing that 1929 will repeat in 2014: Wall Street, Main Street, tens of millions of Americans, the Fed, SEC, all of Washington. Yes, outward calm. Inside? You guessed it, total Panicville. Especially following Mark Hulbert’s thought-provoking: “Scary 1929 market chart gains traction.”
But even scarier? That “consensus,” the “predictably irrational” defense the bulls countered with in “Consensus on ‘scary’ 1929 chart: Enough already, it’s not happening.” For one thing, that so-called “consensus” actually proves Hulbert’s point: Investors really are worried he’s onto something, afraid the market may indeed be close to repeating the 1929 crash.
So what would happen now, today, in 2014, were a 1929-style market crash happen and the resulting depression ensue?
It’s hard to say; predictions are notoriously difficult to make, especially about the future. Of course, things are a lot different now than in 1929; in those days, when my Old Man was six years old, charity was just that, administered mostly be churches and social organizations. Now the social “safety net” has become a hammock. So, unlike during the Great Depression, we won’t see people starving to death here in the United States; obesity will instead be a leading health problem among the cash-challenged.
But we do have in place an Administration which, like the FDR Administration during the Depression, will almost certainly meet any such crisis with actions that will prolong the crisis. In fact, the Obama Administration has shown a breathtaking propensity for spending taxpayer dollars with a profligacy that would make FDR gasp in shock.
One wonders, if the White House were to catch fire, would the current residents attempt to solve the problem by pouring gasoline on the blaze? That makes about as much sense as trying to spend our way out of debt. Oh, and while we’re on the subject of debt, the GOP – supposedly the party of fiscal sanity – has rolled over like a dead carp on the debt limit, effectively handing the President a blank check and getting nothing – not a single concession, not even a decrease in the rate of increase on any spending issue.
Right now there’s damn little evidence of any intelligent life in Washington.
Ganked from our blogger pal Theo. A good take from the pre-WW1 era on how we should prudently be prepared for the worst.
Everyman Should Have a Rifle.
So I sit and write and ponder, while the house is deaf and dumb,
Seeing visions “over yonder” of the war I know must come.
In the corner – not a vision – but a sign for coming days
Stand a box of ammunition and a rifle in green baize.
And in this, the living present, let the word go through the land,
Every tradesman, clerk and peasant should have these two things at hand.
No – no ranting song is needed, and no meeting, flag or fuss –
In the future, still unheeded, shall the spirit come to us!
Without feathers, drum or riot on the day that is to be,
We shall march down, very quite, to our stations by the sea.
While the bitter parties stifle every voice that warns of war,
Every man should own a rifle and have cartridges in store!
Henry Lawson (1907)
Remember that old saying about blind hogs and acorns? Well, the Ninth Circuit Court found an acorn. Here are a few stories:
Here is the actual ruling – read it for yourself. Source documents should always be examined, as the media rarely gets the whole story right. This is the money quote from that document (emphasis mine):
We are well aware that, in the judgment of many governments, the safest sort of firearm-carrying regime is one which restricts the privilege to law enforcement with only narrow exceptions. Nonetheless, “the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table. . . . Undoubtedly some think that the Second Amendment is outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of our Nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security, and where gun violence is a serious problem. That is perhaps debatable, but what is not debatable is that it is not the role of this Court [or ours] to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.” Id. at 636. Nor may we delegate the bearing of arms to a “second-class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Rights guarantees that we have held to be incorporated into the Due Process Clause.” McDonald, 130 S. Ct. at 3044. The district court erred in denying the applicant’s motion for summary judgment on the Second Amendment claim because San Diego County’s “good cause” permitting requirement impermissibly infringes on the Second Amendment right to bear arms in lawful self-defense.
There are a few things that make this ruling significant:
- The liberal Ninth Circuit has affirmed a Supreme Court precedent, namely that the Second Amendment enshrines an individual right to keep and bear arms, and further, that for that right to have any meaning, it must encompass the carrying of arms outside the home.
- Requiring the demonstration of “good cause” represents an unconstitutional infringement of that right.
- No other requirements – say, an unreasonable fee – may be imposed to place the exercise of that right beyond the reach of an average citizen.
It’s entirely possible the entire Ninth Circuit will overturn this decision; that Court is notoriously liberal on issues of this sort. It is, however, by some wide margin the Circuit Court most often reversed by the Supreme Court, which is plainly where this issue will be headed, one way or the other. And the Supreme Court, as currently comprised, will almost certainly rule in favor of the right to bear arms.
The plight of California, the once and former Golden State, has been the topic of many a blog post – so here’s another one. This just in from the always-worth-reading Dr. Victor Davis Hanson: Let’s Save California Now!
It’s a brilliant piece of political satire. Dr. Hanson is always excellent reading, but he’s outdone himself on this list of “solutions” for California. Two examples stand out:
5. The California Firearms Safety Act
The “No Guns for Grandees Act” would forbid private security details to be armed with handguns or semi-automatic long guns. It would allow private security personnel to be armed only with paintball, BB or pellet guns. Aim: To prevent unnecessary armed deterrence by private security units in the hire of the affluent.
11. The Petroleum Fair Use Act
The “Pump What You Use Act” establishes a state board to ensure
California gasoline consumption matches state oil production. It collates daily refining outputs of California-produced petroleum with daily state sales of gasoline. It cuts off all daily state sales of gasoline that exceed daily state refinery production of state-produced petroleum. Aim: To ensure that Californians only consume the gasoline they produce and thereby do not promote a larger carbon footprint by subsidizing out-of-state oil production not overseen by California resource legislation.
This piece, of course, is facetious. But where Californey politics are concerned, one should be cautious; there is no idea so nutty that some California pol might not find it to be a good idea and attempt to introduce a bill. Hoisting California voters on their own petards, as most of these proposals attempt to do, is entertaining. But there is an enormous disconnect in the Golden State between the wealthy coastal elites and, well, the rest of the state; it is that disconnect that Dr. Hanson attempts to address here.
There have been numerous proposals to break California up in to as many as five separate states. Given the size of the state, the size of its population, and the disparity of social, economic and cultural attitudes of its residents, maybe a breakup wouldn’t be a bad idea. At the very least, a separation of the LA and San Francisco metropolitan areas from the rest of the state would contain most of the California legislature’s more extreme nuttiness.
California is not, after all, too big to fail. Nothing is.
This is interesting; 11 Features You No Longer See in Cars. Excerpt:
It’s hard to picture what today’s teenagers will wax nostalgic about 30 years from now when they reminisce about their first car. (It still required gasoline, perhaps?) Who knows how automobiles will change in the future; what we do know is how different they are today from 30 or more years ago. If you fondly remember being surrounded by two or three tons of solid Detroit steel with a whip antenna on the front from which you could tie a raccoon tail or adorn with an orange Union 76 ball, and enough leg room that you didn’t suffer from phlebitis on long road trips, then you might also miss a few of these.
A few of these features were really great, and it’s a bit baffling why they are no longer offered. Tail fins may be a matter of taste, but wing windows were great, as were audible turn signals and big, easy-to-hit horn rings.
Crank windows and manually locking doors aren’t mentioned, but they are highly desirable if you do a lot of banging around on jeep trails. In a truck that sees hard use, power windows and locks have a way of breaking. And anything that can break, will break at the
worst possible moment. Maybe auto manufacturers will start offing these basic, no-frills options again if enough people complain?
Maybe someone (hopefully Ford) will even start making a real utility again.
A couple of tidbits to accompany some warming totty on this frigid Midwestern Friday; first: Boulder (CO) Considers Banishing People Who “Make Trouble.” Excerpt:
Taking inspiration from Shakespeare, a Boulder city councilman has suggested “banishing” chronic scofflaws creating a nuisance in parks around the city’s municipal buildings.
Councilman Macon Cowles said in an email to his colleagues that the idea came to him while “my mind wandered” and he wondered what The Bard had to say about crime and social misbehavior.
Quoting extensively from Romeo and Juliet, Cowles makes the argument that banishing people from Boulder for the same amount of time they might be incarcerated for minor crimes would not only save taxpayers money, but might be more effective at preventing future crimes.
“It seems a double hit that citizens should have to endure repeated acts of criminal behavior that are peculiarly offenses against the people who live here, and then, adding a financial penalty to the insult that has been afflicted, to pay the high expense of incarceration,” he wrote.
In Colorado, for at least the last 25 years that yr. obdt. has resided in that state, Boulder is commonly referred to as “seven square miles surrounded by reality.” (Also “the People’s Republik of Boulder,” for different reasons.) This is a good example of Boulder’s own particular style of wonderful nuttiness; the city never ceases to amuse.
But there’s a darker side to the Councilman’s thinking. Consider it; Councilman Cowles isn’t terribly worried about solving the problem of society’s chronic misbehaviors; he’s just concerned with exporting them. It’s the NIMBY attitude taken to an illogical extreme.
Now, while we’re on the subject of nutbars: Iran: We’re Ready for ‘Decisive Battle’ with Israel, U.S. Excerpt:
In the latest in a series of warnings against the US, Iran’s chief of staff Hassan Firouzabadi warned the Islamic republic’s foes that Iran is prepared for a “decisive battle” if attacked.
“We are ready for the decisive battle with America and the Zionist regime (Israel),” Fars news agency quoted Firouzabadi as saying Wednesday.
“We do not have any hostility toward regional states, but if we are ever attacked from the American bases in the region we will strike that area back,” he said.
Let’s be honest; the only thing decisive about a battle between Iran on the one hand and the United States and Israel on the other would be the decisive speed in which the Iranians get their collective asses handed to them – in thin slices.
Even after two rounds of severe military draw-downs from our Cold War height, the United States still has a unilateral dominance on military power not seen on the planet since the collapse of the Roman Empire. Iran’s leaders are good at making bombastic pronouncements for the benefit of regime loyalists, but they aren’t complete imbeciles – the last thing they’ll do is to engage the U.S. head-on. They will continue in their role as the leading national sponsor of Islamic terror; they will continue developing nuclear weapons, and odds are better than even that they’ll use those nukes, somewhere, one way or another, at a time of their own choosing.
That’s the scenario that we should be preparing for.