Month: December 2019

When it rained stones in Darjeeling

first_imgOne dead as violence escalates in Darjeeling It was a beautiful cloudy morning in Darjeeling with the occasional drizzle that makes the hills look even greener. With shops, commercial establishments and schools remaining closed on the third day of the indefinite shutdown called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha ( GJM), it seemed like a day of usual protests. There was no hint of that the situation would spiral out of control and blood would stain the streets of Darjeeling.When I reached the GJM headquarters at Singamari, I observed that there was a modest deployment of security forces. At about 11.15 a.m., a group of about 200 women emerged, carrying a huge national flag and shouting pro-Gorkhaland slogans. Soon another group of several hundred women protestors joined them. As the chants for Gorkhaland became louder, it became evident that the security forces were vastly out numbered.As the situation began to turn violent, the police resorted to a lathicharge and then tear gas to control the crowds. The protest broke up with people running in panic. A tear gas shell exploded very close to where I stood, forcing me to join the running protesters. I managed to find a small alley to escape. The doors of all the houses were shut. I was joined with another journalist from an English daily.And that is when I saw the hundreds of young men and women with their faces covered, who had taken position on the undulating hill road above the party office. Armed with stones and other projectiles, they were attacking the trapped police contingent below. Police once again resorted to tear gas shelling and lathi charge. As smoke filled the locality, I could neither breathe nor see. Sounds of bricks falling on vehicles and the bursting of tear gas shells filled the air.Also Read  No mercyThe protesters were in no mood to show any mercy to anyone who was not on their side; not even to journalists. When a few tried to threaten me with bricks, another protester intervened. “Our fight is not with you,” he said. “It is with Mamata.” But rescue from the mob was not easy. The young man knocked on several houses, before a door opened and we were quickly pulled in. The house owners, who offered paying guest accommodation to students, allowed both of us to stay till the violence raged outside.Later, when we stepped out, the entire stretch resembled a war zone. Stones and bricks lay all over; cars stood with shattered windscreens and windows.Three overturned vehicles were burning.Another protester asked me who I was, and offered to take to me to safe place. He convinced a house owner, a young gym instructor, to offer us shelter for a while.“Please give us good coverage. We are not terrorists, you know. ,” the protestor kept repeating. After staying put there for half an hour, the gym owner opened a gate. As we left, and he quickly shut the gates.last_img read more

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Gehlot calls Raje’s campaign ‘helicopter yatra’

first_imgAICC general secretary Ashok Gehlot on Monday asked Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje what account of herself was she giving by travelling in a helicopter for her ‘Gaurav Yatra’.“She should apologise to the people for not doing any work in these five years, even though they gave her a massive mandate,” he said. Mr. Gehlot arrived in Jodhpur on Monday, two days ahead of the ‘Sankalp Rally’ of the Congress which will be held in Pachpadra village of Barmer district. Calling Ms. Raje’s campaign a “helicopter yatra”, Mr. Gehlot asked “why was the Chief Minister scared of mingling with the common people of the State”.The former Chief Minister accused Ms. Raje of “spreading terror through her Gaurav Yatra and creating a curfew-like environment in the State by stopping protesters from raising black flags at the campaign venues”. Reportedly, people were barred from staying on roofs and balconies of their houses when Ms. Raje’s meetings were being held in the vicinity. Mr. Gehlot called it a“curfew-like environment”. “People wanted to see her, meet her. Why is she so scared? What kind of democracy is this,” Mr. Gehlot asked. He also held her responsible for “delaying the refinery project for four years in the name of reviewing it” and slammed her for relaying the foundation stone. “Today there is only a wall in the name of refinery construction. Had it not been delayed, the refinery would have taken full shape by now,” Mr. Gehlot said.last_img read more

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Mughal-era bridge to live on

first_imgThe iconic 17th-century bridge, Oont Kadal, shaped like the hump of a camel and located in the middle of the picturesque Dal Lake in Srinagar, will be restored through a conservation project with the help of Germany. Going under the bridge — which features in old film hits such as Arzoo, Jab Jab Phool Khilay, Kashmir Ki Kali and Phir Wahi Dil Laya Hoon — on a shikara treats one to the expanse of the Zabarwan Hills, amid which nestle the famous Mughal-era gardens like the Nishat and Shalimar.“Historical images from the 1890s to 1960s show the structure as part of a causeway with a series of poplar trees lining its edges. This unique frame created a picturesque setting for many international photographers of the time. Later, it became a fascination for Bollywood,” said Saleem Beg, head of the Kashmir chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH). Stone masonry suffers The passage of time saw severe deterioration in its rare stone masonry. Mr. Beg said that in a few years, the structure would have succumbed to the external agents of erosion. Now, on October 1, the German Embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission Dr. Jasper Wieck and its Cultural Officer Thomas Schmidt will finalise a conservation contract with the INTACH to restore and conserve the bridge.The bridge, dating back to the 1670s, is on a north-south axis, with the grand archway facing the Nishat Bagh, one of the six heritage gardens.“The restoration of Oont Kadal will bring back the focus on the global, cultural and natural heritage of the Dal Lake,” said Mr. Beg.last_img read more

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Congress leaders welcome Priyanka, Shiv Sena downplays dynasty angle

first_imgMaharashtra Congress president Ashok Chavan on Wednesday welcomed Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s official entry into politics saying her appointment as a general secretary of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) signals the arrival of good times for the party in Uttar Pradesh. The Congress on Wednesday morning announced the appointment of Ms Gandhi-Vadra as general secretary in-charge for Uttar Pradesh East. She would take charge of the new assignment in the first week of February.“Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is a good administrator and experienced leader,” said Mr. Chavan, while referring to her role in handling parliamentary constituencies of Raebarelli and Amethi over the last few years.He said Ms Vadra’s contribution was also instrumental in Congress’s successive victories in the two seats held presently by former Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi. “We are happy Priyanka has been given a wider responsibility in Uttar Pradesh politics. It is a heartening moment for all Congress workers. Under her able leadership, Congress will definitely register an outstanding victory in U.P.,” he said.Mumbai city unit Congress president and former Lok Sabha MP Sanjay Nirupam said Ms Vadra’s entry into politics will “strengthen” the hands of Rahul Gandhi.“Great decision by Hon Congress President @RahulGandhi to appoint Priyanka ji and @JM_Scindia as general secretary in charge UP east and west. It will strengthen the hands of CP (Congress President). Congratulations to both of them,” he tweeted.Former minister and sitting MLA Naseem Khan said this will boost the morale of Congress workers. “Lakhs of Congress workers and office-bearers have been demanding that Priyanka be brought into active politics. She is a good orator and her active participation in the party affairs will further boost the image of Congressand bring the party back in power after LS polls,” he said.Opposition Shiv Sena said that every individual has a right to enter politics and every party can chose its leader. “Ultimately people decide who will win. It doesn’t matter whether it is a dynasty or not. People are supreme in an election,” said Sena Lok Sabha MP Arvind Sawant. Congress ally, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) said her entry will enthuse party workers. NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said Congress will reap “special benefits” in Uttar Pradesh.“The SP-BSP alliance will not be affected much because they have a fixed vote bank of Yadavs, Dalits and Muslims. However, her (Priyanka’s) clout will charge up the party workers,” he said.last_img read more

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Vande Mataram singing at M.P. Secretariat back in new avatar

first_imgThe newly elected Congress government in Madhya Pradesh reintroduced the ‘Vande Mataram ritual’ at the State Secretariat in a novel way with much fanfare on Friday.The practice, which had been started by the previous BJP government for State government employees to be held at regular intervals, was stopped last month by Chief Minister Kamal Nath who had promised to hold the event in a “new form” on the first working day of every month.Keeping his word, Mr. Nath opened the event to common people and other officials besides the State government employees and made it much grander by introducing a police band and a road procession from Shaurya Smarak to Vallabh Bhavan, the Secretariat.Addressing the event, the Chief Minister launched a scathing attack on the BJP, which had criticised his order to discontinue the practice last month, by asking it to refrain from “teaching us patriotism”. “Patriotism runs in our blood and we don’t need lessons in patriotism from those who never took part in the country’s Independence movement,” said Mr. Nath while speaking to media persons after the conclusion of the programme.Large gatheringA large number of officials, State government employees and general public assembled at the Shaurya Smarak on Friday to take part in the event. From there they proceeded to Vallabh Bhavan to the beats of the police band which played several patriotic songs. The previous BJP government used to hold the national song singing programme at Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel Park in the vicinity of Vallabh Bhavan.last_img read more

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Farmers lift blockade from Amritsar-Delhi railway track

first_imgFarmers squatting on the Amritsar-Delhi rail tracks on Wednesday called off their agitation following the intervention of the High Court, which asked the State government to look into their demands. During resumed hearing on a PIL filed by Patiala resident Mohit Kapoor, the court of Chief Justice Krishna Murari and Justice Arun Palli asked the farmers’ leaders to submit their demands within 24 hours to the Advocate General, Punjab, and posted the matter for March 19. A petition seeking removal of farm protesters under the banner of Kisaan Majdoor Sangarsh Committee from the Amritsar-Delhi rail track was filed in the court on Tuesday. “The State government has been directed to look into the demands of farmers and file its status report within 10 days,” Advocate Arun Gupta, counsel for the petitioner, said. The court initially heard the demands of farmers’ leaders during in-camera proceedings and asked them to first withdraw their agitation and clear the rail tracks. The court told them that their reasonable and genuine demands would be looked into and would be complied with, said farmers’ leaders counsel Mohinder Kumar. Three farmers’ representatives including Satnam Singh Pannu who was spearheading the protest, appeared before the court on Wednesday. Assurance to courtThey assured the court that they would lift the blockade by 12:30 p.m. Senior Superintendent of Police Parmpal Singh said in Amritsar that the agitation has been called off after two days. On March 4, farmers had blocked the Amritsar-Delhi rail track in Amritsar in support of their demands including full loan waiver, implementation of the Swaminanthan Commission report and payment with 15% interest for sugarcane bought by the mills. The Patiala-based resident had filed a petition on Tuesday, seeking appropriate directions for the clearance of the railway track from protesting farmers as the blockade led to cancellation or diversion of trains causing inconvenience to passengers. On Tuesday, Punjab Advocate General Atul Nanda had informed the court that about 85 trains had been cancelled or diverted, affecting about 85,000 passengers because of farmers’ protest. On Wednesday, 38 trains remained cancelled, the Railways said.last_img read more

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Astronomer: Shutdown Could Waste a Year’s Worth of Work

first_imgMore than a year’s worth of expensive data used to trace the shape of the Milky Way galaxy could become worthless as a result of today’s closure of U.S.-based radio telescopes because of the government shutdown.“Holy cow, this is really bad,” radio astronomer Mark Reid said when informed by ScienceInsider that the telescopes were going offline. “If they don’t operate the telescopes, it could mean a year’s worth of data becomes useless.” And it would be a costly loss, he adds, estimating that the data cost $500,000 to collect.Reid is a U.S. government employee who works for the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, part of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Like hundreds of thousands of other federal workers, he’s been at home since the shutdown began on Tuesday. Meanwhile, he’s been trying to use some of his time off productively, thinking about his collaborative work with an international team on measuring and mapping the great spiral arms of the Milky Way.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Twice a year, Reid and his colleagues use the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA)—a string of 10 sensitive radio telescopes stretching 8600 kilometers from Hawaii to the Virgin Islands and New England—to help make measurements from Earth to massive gas clouds surrounding about 50 newborn stars in the galaxy. The VLBA measurements, made in the spring and fall, allow the team to calculate distances to the stars and construct a map of the galaxy. The map’s accuracy, however, depends on comparing three sets of VLBA measurements taken over 18 months.Today’s shutdown of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), a National Science Foundation-funded organization that runs the radio telescopes, threatens that accuracy. “If you miss one of these observations, you basically have to start over the next season,” Reid says.About one-half of this year’s data has already been collected, but the team had been expecting to use the VLBA to measure the distance to 25 other stars this month. “The VLBA is really the only array we can use,” so if they can’t take the data this month, the team won’t be able to compare the data with the past two cycles.All is not lost if the U.S. Congress can agree on a way to fund the government by the middle of October. It will take several days to get the telescopes up and running,  NRAO officials say. Then, astronomers may be able reschedule some of their planned VLBA measurements, Reid says, but with some loss of accuracy because Earth will have passed an optimal point in its orbit around the sun.Reid says he’s stunned by the development. “I thought NRAO was safe” because it was not a government agency, he says. “I never even thought about this, but there’s nothing I can do about it either.”You can see our complete shutdown coverage here.last_img read more

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Did Modern Jews Originate in Italy?

first_imgModern Jews may traditionally trace their ancestry to the Holy Land, but a new genetic study finds otherwise. A detailed look at thousands of genomes finds that Ashkenazim—who make up roughly 80% of the world’s Jews, including 90% of those in America and half of those in Israel—ultimately came not from the Middle East, but from Western Europe, perhaps Italy.  Most mainstream historians regard Ashkenazim as the descendants of Jews who moved into central Europe from the Middle East sometime before the 12th century C.E. Ashekenazim, like most members of this religious, cultural, and ethnic group, traditionally trace their ancestry to the ancient Israelites. The Israelites, in turn, arose between 3000 and 4000 years ago in the Middle East, according to both Biblical sources and archaeological evidence. They dispersed after the Romans destroyed their Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 C.E.Recent genetic work has supported this traditional view. Two studies, one led by geneticist Harry Ostrer of the New York University School of Medicine, and the other by geneticist Doron Behar of the Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa, Israel, traced the three main Diaspora groups—Ashkenazim, Sephardim from Spain and Portugal, and Oriental Jews from the Middle East—to people who all lived in the Middle East about 2000 years ago. The Ostrer study used DNA from the nucleus of the cell in its analyses, and the Behar study used both nuclear and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA); the latter comes from tiny bodies in the living cell that provide it with energy. Many other researchers considered these results to be definitive at the time.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Yet there were lingering questions. Ostrer and Behar had samples from only a couple of hundred Jews, for example. And while the Behar group identified four major mtDNA “founder groups” for the Ashkenazim, all supposedly with roots in the Middle East, it was able to trace only about 40% of Ashkenazi ancestry overall.So a different team of scientists, led by geneticist Martin Richards at the University of Huddersfield in the United Kingdom, embarked on a new search for the origins of these four founder groups. The team focused on mtDNA, which is often employed in genetic studies because it is easier to sequence and allows analysis of huge population samples. However, mtDNA is inherited through the mother and not the father, so it reveals the history of maternal lineages only.Geneticists have identified certain mtDNA markers that define lineages in different parts of the world. Behar’s group had traced the Jewish founder groups to two mtDNA genetic lineages called haplogroup K and haplogroup N1b. The Jewish lineages were nested within these two larger groups, which include both Jews and non-Jews. So Richards and his colleagues first set out to understand the history of these broader lineages. They analyzed about 2500 complete and 28,000 partial mtDNA genomes of mostly non-Jews worldwide, plus 836 partial mtDNA genomes of Ashkenazi Jews, to see where the Ashkenazim fit into the overall history.The result was very clear-cut, the authors say: As reported online today in Nature Communications, more than 80% of Ashkenazi mtDNAs had their origins thousands of years ago in Western Europe, during or before Biblical times—and in some cases even before farming came to that part of the continent some 7500 years ago. The closest matches were with mtDNAs from people who today live in and around Italy. The results imply that the Jews can trace their heritage to women who had lived in Europe at that time. Very few Ashkenazi mtDNAs could be traced to the Middle East.The results not only conflict with the Ostrer and Behar results, but also with widespread assumptions about Jewish identity. Jews have traditionally considered that the mother determines the ethnic identity of her children. If being Jewish is defined as genetically descending from the Israelites through the maternal line, then many Ashkenazi Jews fail the test, according to this data.Richards acknowledges that the work is likely to be controversial. “I’d anticipate some resistance to our conclusions in certain quarters,” he says. One way to reconcile his team’s findings with those of other researchers, he says, is to assume that the founders of the male Ashkenazi lineages were indeed originally from the Middle East, but that the maternal line arose in Europe much earlier. The European women then converted to Judaism after male Jews moved into the continent, establishing the Ashkenazi lineages that we see today. That suggestion fits with the contention of some historians that many women converted to Judaism across Mediterranean Europe during the so-called Hellenistic period between about 300 B.C.E. and 30 B.C.E.“The data are very convincing,” says Antonio Torroni, a geneticist at the University of Pavia in Italy and a leading expert in the genetics of Europeans. He adds that recent studies of DNA from the cell nucleus have also shown “a very close similarity between Ashkenazi Jews and Italians.”The new data also put the nail in the coffin of another, highly controversial, hypothesis about Jewish ancestry: that the Ashkenazim actually descend from the Khazars, a Turkic people in Western Asia’s Caucasus region whose rulers are known to have converted to Judaism in the 8th century C.E. That idea was promoted in a 2008 book by historian Shlomo Sand of Tel Aviv University in Israel. Ostrer and Behar found no such link, however, and Richards’s team, which sampled mtDNAs from Asia and the Caucasus specifically to test this idea, also found no evidence for it.Behar remains unconvinced. He says it’s “clear that Ashkenazi maternal ancestry includes both [Middle Eastern] and European origins,” but he does not agree that the deepest roots of the Ashkenazi Jews can be found in prehistoric Europe. He says that he and his colleagues will be submitting their critique of the Richards study soon to a peer-reviewed scientific journal.*Correction, 9 October, 12:40 p.m.: The photo that originally accompanied this story has been replaced, as the original photo was unrealistic.last_img read more

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Podcast: Tracking Depression, Transforming Your Gut, and How Earthquakes Are Like Forest Fires

first_imgCan regularly monitoring your mood combat depression? Do extreme diets alter your gut bugs? And how are earthquakes like forest fires? Science’s Online News Editor David Grimm chats about these stories and more with Science’s Sarah Crespi.Listen to the full Science podcast.Read the transcript.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Hear more podcasts.last_img read more

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In search of Kenya’s elusive wild dogs

first_imgMPALA RESEARCH CENTRE, KENYA—Most visitors to Africa come for the lions, elephants, and rhinos. But for the tourists who helicoptered into this somewhat remote region of central Kenya last month, wild dogs topped their list. Once so common in Africa that they were shot as vermin, the elusive canines are becoming poster children for conservation: Fewer than 7000 are left in Africa, their native range.A reporter visiting the center, I love dogs and so jumped at the chance to track some down in advance of the tourists’ arrival. It was a dusty, bumpy ride into the bush, for a fleeting view of animals that aren’t really dogs after all. But along the way, I came to appreciate their incredible story. They are full of wanderlust, and their packs show camaraderie and coordination to rival the best military unit. Yet they are quite vulnerable, and even though several teams of researchers have dedicated large chunks of their lives following these animals, much about them remains mysterious.Despite the name, Lycaon pictus is a distant relative of household canines. Dogs, wolves, and coyotes can all interbreed but not with wild dogs, which are sometimes called painted wolves because of their colorful and variable coat patterns. Compared with their domesticated namesakes, wild dogs have bigger ears, lack the fifth dewclaw on the front feet, and have a distinctive musty smell like the badger that they are distant cousins with. 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It should have been an easy task. For the past 3 months, Stefanie Strebel, project manager for the Kenya Rangelands Wild Dog and Cheetah Project, based at the Mpala center, has monitored the movements of these animals, continuing an effort begun in 2001. Wild dogs had disappeared from that part of Kenya in the early 1980s. But one day in 1999, three females jumped out of the bush onto the road in front of Rosie Woodroffe as she was driving back to the center. “I burst into tears,” recalls Woodroffe, a conservation biologist at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).At the time, she was studying how people coexist with lions, but 2 years earlier she had co-authored a species survival plan for wild dogs, and the prospects hadn’t looked promising. “Wild dogs are victims of their own wide-ranging behavior—they wander so far that most reserves are too small to contain them,” she explains. When she realized wild dogs were back in the area, she and her colleagues immediately began to look into how these carnivores might coexist with people outside reserves. “By working on a community conservation area rather than a centrally protected national park, they have extended our understanding of wild dog ecology,” says Scott Creel, a behavioral ecologist at Montana State University, Bozeman.In contrast, Creel and his wife, Nancy Creel, and independently Robert Robbins and Kim McCreery, who founded the African Wild Dog Conservancy in Tucson, Arizona, have studied wild dogs in reserves. During their 9 years watching wild dogs in Zimbabwe, Robbins and McCreery tracked known individuals to learn how packs formed and changed through time and cataloged the range of vocalizations. “Wild dogs sound like birds, cats and dogs,” they say. “They are complex social carnivores very similar to human families.”In 1990, very little was known about why wild dogs were always found at low densities—averaging between 300 to 1200 square kilometers per pack—and the Creels spent 5 years in the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania trying to find out, leaving only after their infant daughter got very sick. They wrote a book about wild dogs, and ultimately concluded that the animals were rare when lions and hyenas were common, as those larger predators could steal the wild dogs’ prey and sometimes prey upon them as well. Today, they study wild dogs and other large carnivores in reserves in Zambia.Another team, led by J. Weldon “Tico” McNutt, has a similar long-term project in Africa’s Okavango delta called the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust.”Surprisingly, we do not yet have good, reliable estimates of the size of many important wild dog populations,” Creel says. Nor do researchers know what controls wild dog numbers in many places.All of these researchers are awed—and challenged—by the nomadic life of these animals. “There’s very little you can do to predict where they are going,” says Joshua Ginsberg, incoming president of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York. Over 24 hours, they can roam many or few kilometers, depending on how hungry they are. During the day, they settle down for 4 to 6 hours of napping in the shade of an acacia tree, staying within 300 meters of each other. Credit: Elizabeth PennisiHer purple sneakers leave a footprint in the dust on the hood. The dogs seem to be on the right side of the road, back a little ways, so she turns around and looks for a place where the banks are low enough to breach.We bushwhack, stopping frequently to take another reading. But Strebel no longer gets out of the car and instead sticks the antenna out the roof hatch. The animals let cars come really close, but they shy away from people on foot. The tree density thickens and we reach a point where no amount of obstacle course driving will help. Strebel wiggles the car back toward the road and tries twice more from two different directions to get to the source of the beeps. Her frustration is palpable. Her nostrils flare, and she shakes her head. “Usually they are such good dogs and don’t go into difficult places to get to,” she apologizes. “They are right in front of us.”Blocked on all sides with bushes and trees, Strebel decides we should hike the rest of the way. We’ve now been searching for 3 hours. We soon hear a short, deep bark and a lot of twittering. They know we’re here, and they quickly leave. There are 24 adults in this pack, 10 of them pups, but all I catch is a fleeting glimpse of the side of one pup and the legs of one adult as they take off. We’ve driven 70 kilometers total. Eventually a pack was tracked down for the tourists to see, but for me, it was a wild dog chase.At Mpala, these elusive animals seem to be doing better. “They appear to be in better shape now than I would have thought 20 years ago,” Ginsberg says. Yet there’s still a lot to be learned about what makes them thrive, as there are many places in Africa where they are still missing or are in dire straits, say Robbins and McCreery: “Some key challenges are to get researchers to start thinking in novel ways to address wild dog conservation questions and the people that live with them to understand we are all part of the great web of life.”If that happens, many wild dogs won’t be so hard to find.Postscript: Two weeks later, driving through Tsavo East National Park, I did finally see wild dogs—twice by the side of the road. They were in the bushes when my husband and I and a Kenyan scientist drove by in the morning and then resting in the road as we returned that afternoon. The scientist said we were quite lucky, as they were a rare sighting in that park.For more on man’s best friend, see the Science News team’s latest coverage of doggy science. Credit: Mohammed Boru, Zeitz FoundationAlthough the wild dogs can be a menace to livestock, they represent a draw for tourists and, in the end, the herder comes to realize there are steps he can take so he can coexist with these animals.The play reflects the changing view of wild dogs. “Also, 25 years ago, they were not considered something tourists would want to see, says the Cary Institute’s Ginsberg. “That is not true anymore.” Tourists are charmed by the doglike nature of these animals. And researchers find them extraordinary. “Watching a wild dog move is to see the perfection that arises from eons of natural selection to perform an exceptionally difficult task,” Scott Creel says. “Everything unnecessary has been whittled away, leaving only a perfect running machine.”But first one needs to find them. At one point we get stuck in a traffic jam of camels, kept as livestock on the ranch. Credit: Elizabeth PennisiBut at last, Strebel hears beeping coming from the radio, so she stops the car and pulls out a directional antenna, circling with it held high. The dogs are still down the road, and as she drives, the signal gets stronger, then weaker. She pulls over, hops onto the roof, and tries the directional antenna again. Mohammed Boru, Zeitz Foundation Stefanie Strebel Credit: Stefanie StrebelTypically, siblings will sleep with each other; the top male will rest with his head on the alpha female. “They don’t like to be alone,” Strebel says, and this close proximity seems to reinforce the cohesiveness of the pack.As sunset approaches—about 5:30 p.m.—young dogs will start to chase each other and they and others begin to twitter, sounding like a flock of birds instead of a pack of dogs. A romp and greet session ensues. As young dogs race around, older ones nuzzle. There’s lots of licking of noses and mouths (as in this video). They set out, the direction often determined by the alpha female, first trotting and then running full speed when prey are spotted, silent until a prey is killed, often through the coordinated action of the pack. Then they “hoo” as a dinner call. Older dogs ensure that pups eat first, then they chow down. If there’s nothing left, the latecomers beg food from the well-sated, who may regurgitate some. Once it gets dark, they settle down for a few hours, regrouping just before sunrise for a hunt that lasts until about 9 in the morning.ZSL’s Woodroffe discovered that given the right circumstances, wild dogs can thrive in human-dominated landscapes. “This was a huge surprise and a rare piece of good news,” she says. Coexistence worked in Laikipia, the local county, for three reasons. The local Maasai and Samburu people focused on raising sheep, goats, and cattle and rarely hunted antelope and other ungulates, leaving them fair game for the wild dogs. At the same time, shepherds kept close watch on the livestock, protecting them from wild dogs and therefore reducing the likelihood that people would kill wild dogs in retaliation for livestock losses. Finally, these communities often set aside the hillier and less accessible land for dry-season grazing, leaving the areas free for wildlife to use. Wild dogs prefer these areas, further reducing contact between them and people and their dogs. Today, the area supports the sixth largest wild dog population in the world.By the time Strebel joined the Mpala project, Woodroffe was following eight packs including three with radio-collared individuals, of the 30 in Laikipia and the surrounding region. Strebel is systematically photographing each wild dog in those packs, so the researchers can pick out coat color patterns and other characteristics that enable them to identify each individual. In this way, they can build a more detailed picture of their movements. She knows her animals well. “If you love dogs, you associate with them right away,” she says. With their big ears, “they look pretty goofy.”To track down the pack this morning, she climbs into a dusty Toyota Land Cruiser equipped with an omnidirectional antenna on the roof. Strebel attaches a radio to the antenna so she can hear any beeps indicative of contact with a radio-collared animal—each pack has one or two animals with tags. As she goes to leave the research center compound, a security guard comes up, and there’s an excited exchange in Swahili. She beams as she translates: Two wild dogs were sighted running past the nearby campsite. She heads that way first but soon decides they belong to one of the packs without a collared animal and so will be hard to track down. She turns on to a different bumpy road.We speed at 30 km per hour or less along dirt tracks that wind around the countryside, past giraffes, zebras, and tiny antelopes called dik-diks. We’ve traveled 40 kilometers, but so far, there’s only static on the radio. She frets that perhaps the two wild dogs spotted earlier this morning may have been a better quarry. But by now, they are well out of range.Because the wild dogs do not respect boundaries, they often cross from conservation areas to community land, where children tending goats tend to run away from the wild dogs, leaving the animals vulnerable. Strebel and Woodroffe spend a lot of time trying to convince locals that adults should care for the animals and that when they stand their ground, the wild dogs will move on.As part of their community outreach, the Kenya Rangelands Wild Dog and Cheetah Project has teamed up with the Zeitz Foundation, which has programs to encourage sports in developing nations. During halftime at Zeitz-sponsored soccer tournaments, a theater group performs a play about the dilemmas presented by wild dogs and cheetahs. The play begins with a herder who loses several goats to wild dogs and wants retribution. A meeting of the elders ensues in which the herder’s, dogs’ and cheetahs’ points of views are aired. Elizabeth Pennisi Elizabeth Pennisi last_img read more

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