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How bizarre! How bizarre!
by Thanos Kalamidas
2011-08-28 10:57:56
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Neanderthal sex boosted immunity in modern humans

bizarre01_23Sexual relations between ancient humans and their evolutionary cousins are critical for our modern immune systems, researchers report in Science journal. Mating with Neanderthals and another ancient group called Denisovans introduced genes that help us cope with viruses to this day, they conclude. Previous research had indicated that prehistoric interbreeding led to up to 4% of the modern human genome. The new work identifies stretches of DNA derived from our distant relatives. In the human immune system, the HLA (human leucocyte antigen) family of genes plays an important role in defending against foreign invaders such as viruses.

The authors say that the origins of some HLA class 1 genes are proof that our ancient relatives interbred with Neanderthals and Denisovans for a period. At least one variety of HLA genes occurs frequently in present day populations from West Asia, but is rare in Africans.  The researchers say that is because after ancient humans left Africa some 65,000 years ago, they started breeding with their more primitive relations in Europe, while those who stayed in Africa did not.

"The HLA genes that the Neanderthals and Denisovans had, had been adapted to life in Europe and Asia for several hundred thousand years, whereas the recent migrants from Africa wouldn't have had these genes," said study leader Peter Parham from Stanford University School of Medicine in California. "So getting these genes by mating would have given an advantage to populations that acquired them."  When the team looked at a variant of HLA called HLA-B*73 found in modern humans, they found evidence that it came from cross-breeding with Denisovans.

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Flooding becomes deadly threat


bizarre02_400_11At least four people have died, more than 400,000 homes and businesses are without power, two piers have been seriously damaged and flooding has become a deadly threat as the centre of Hurricane Irene finally moves out of North Carolina. In Goldsboro, a 15-year-old girl died when her father's car collided with another at an Ash Street intersection where traffic signals were out due to a power outage. Four other children were ejected from the car and taken to Wayne Memorial Hospital.    Also, in Goldsboro, the roof of the 911 operations centres and an unoccupied mall were ripped away.

Dozens of families were trapped in Pamlico County near Oriental as flood water pushed 2 feet higher than its crest during Hurricane Isabel in 2003. The National Guard was trying to free people using high-water vehicles, and swift-water rescue teams were on the way. Spotty communications and high wind hampered their efforts.   "Phones come and go, cell phones come and go, the Internet comes and goes," said Emergency Management Director David Spruill. "It all depends on how you hold your head."

Emergency officials in Beaufort County said they think a tornado touched down near Belhaven. Nearby in Washington, a man was rescued in waist-deep water after the walls of his mobile home collapsed, said Jim Chrisman, interim county manger. A second tornado touched down early today in Tyrrell County, destroying several homes. Winds were still too strong in the afternoon to get a complete count, but Emergency Management Director Wesley Hawkins said two or three people with minor injuries were evacuated. Flood waters from the Scuppernong River threatened downtown Columbia.

 

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Hurricane Irene: ‘Photo’ of shark swimming in street is fake


bizarre03_400_21Google “shark,” and up pops a great photo of a shark stalking a kayak from a 2005 issue of Africa Geographic... Commenters on Reddit, where the photo seems to have originated, quickly noted this and the very real similarities between the two sharks (note the small circular shadow just below the shark’s belly.)

Some sites have since realized their error. Neatorama, for example, has removed its story with the photo called “Thank you, Hurricane Irene: Shark in the street.” We’ve asked Channel 7 in Miami, which broadcast the user-submitted photo, if it plans to inform viewers about its fakeness. We will update this post if we hear back.

This phenomenon is nothing new. After the death of Osama bin Laden, a fake photo of his body circulated on Arab news outlets. When the earthquake hit Japan, photographs of a damaged church started circulating. The church was located in Christchurch, New Zealand. What’s the lesson here? If you see a picture of a dolphin hanging out in Central Park after Irene moves through the East Coast this weekend, you may want to investigate it further.

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West Allis braces for neo-Nazi rally


West Allis police continued to urge local businesses Friday to consider locking their doors during a rally planned by a neo-Nazi group for the Labor Day weekend. The afternoon rally Sept. 3 at the West Allis City Hall is in reaction to black-on-white violence, such as the attacks that occurred earlier this month on the opening day of the Wisconsin State Fair, according to a local representative of the National Socialist Movement, which is organizing the event. The representative, who lives in New Berlin and would identify herself only as Harriet P., said it is unfortunate that the "In Defense of White America Rally" has caused West Allis merchants to worry. "It's a shame," she said. "We want to have a nice, peaceful rally."

The group's website, however, is sounding a more combative tone. "On Sept. 3 there will be a mobilization of battle hardened White Men in the Milwaukee area, to welcome any flash mob, and stand in defense of the American way of life," a letter on the website says. The letter is signed by "Jeff Schoep/Commander." Reached by phone, Schoep said: "Yes. There has been some violence at some rallies. But it is never provoked by our side. "We are coming in behalf of the white people who were attacked," he said. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups and domestic terrorists nationally, the Detroit-based National Socialist Movement "is one of the largest and most prominent neo-Nazi groups in the United States."
"Schoep's group is known for the crudeness of its propaganda, the violence it works hard to support, and the faux SS outfits that have caused many other neo-Nazis to deride NSM members as 'Hollywood Nazis,' " the law center's website says.

The local representative said she hopes that 50 to 100 members and sympathizers of her group will be present at the rally and said all participants have been told not to bring guns or any other weapons. She said, however, that if push comes to shove, members will have no problem "returning to the good old days of duking it out." Charles Padgett, deputy chief of the West Allis Police Department, said local businesses were being warned about the event because an NSM rally "tends to attract large volumes of people, and sometimes they are highly emotional." He said he did not know how many NSM demonstrators and anti-demonstrators might show up. He said the West Allis police will be working with other law enforcement agencies to "maintain the constitutional rights of everyone." "We have devised a plan to maintain control," he said. Padgett would not elaborate on that plan or list the other agencies West Allis police are partnering with.



   
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