"We are the only country in history that ever deliberately changed its ethnic makeup, and history has few examples of 'diversity' creating a stable society." - Richard Lamm, former governor of Colorado
A sick woman in eastern India was beaten to death by her in-laws because they suspected she had AIDS and feared she would infect the rest of the family, a newspaper said today.
Sabita Behera, a 30-year-old widow from a village in Puri district in Orissa state, was suffering from a fever for several days which her in-laws believed was due to the deadly virus, the Asian Age reported.
There was no test conducted to determine the cause of her illness, the newspaper said.
The woman's husband died three years ago of a liver-related disease which his family believed was also linked to AIDS, the daily said.
Fearing that the rest of the family would contract the disease, her in-laws killed her late on Saturday, the newspaper quoted police officer G.S. Nanda as saying. Two members of the husband's family have been detained.
AIDS activists say a lack of awareness and widespread stigma and discrimination has contributed to paranoia about the virus and also forced thousands of patients to hide their infection and shy away from social life.
According to the United Nations, an estimated 5.7 million Indians are living with HIV/AIDS, the world's largest caseload.
A mystic rabbi has called on thousands of Jewish children to say prayers to prevent Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from harming Israel.
Rabbi David Batzri, a famous Jewish mystic, launched his nationwide campaign Sunday by leading hundreds of students at an elementary school in Jerusalem in prayer. He said he intends to eventually get 10,000 children to participate.
Israel fears that Iran's nuclear program is intended to produce weapons that could be used against Israel. Iran says its program is for civilian purposes only.
Batzri's idea came from the biblical story of Purim, whose protagonist Mordechai organized mass prayers to stop Haman, a royal counselor, from killing all the Jews in the ancient Persian kingdom. In the end, the king hanged Haman instead. Purim starts the evening of March 3.
When asked what the purpose of the current prayers was, Rabbi Menachem Bassi, head of the school, said: "You know what happened to Haman."
With schools under increasing pressure to improve test scores, Mt. Diablo High School has resorted to a new way to motivate students: by race.
The Concord campus on Friday held separate assemblies for students of different ethnicities to talk about last year's test results and the upcoming slew of state exams this spring.
Jazz music and pictures of Martin Luther King greeted African-American students, while Filipino, Asian and Pacific Islander students saw flags of their foreign homelands on the walls. Latinos and white students each attended their own events, too, complete with statistics showing results for all ethnicities and grade level.
"They started off by saying jokingly, 'What up, white people,'" said freshman Megan Wiley, 14. Teachers flashed last year's test scores and told the white crowd of students to do better for the sake of their people.
"They got into, 'you should be proud of your race,'" Wiley said. "It was just weird."
Several parents later told MediaNews that the meetings smacked of segregation resurrected.
"Why did they have to divide the students by race?" said Filipino parent Claddy Dennis, mother of freshman Schenlly Dennis. "In this country, everybody is supposed to be treated equally. It sounds like racism to me."
Principal Bev Hansen said she held the student assemblies by ethnicity to avoid one group harassing another based on their test scores. The 1,600-student campus, one of the most ethnically diverse high schools in the Mt. Diablo school district, is roughly half Hispanic, 30 percent white and 15 percent black, with Asian nationalities rounding out the mix.
Last year, the school improved its academic performance index score, largely based on test scores, to 613 out of 1,000. Among the races, Asians scored highest. Whites earned a 667. African Americans scored a 580, while Hispanics earned a 571.
"I don't want students being teased," Hansen said.
Ultimately, however, Hansen said she did not know why parents seemed so concerned. The state has reported scores based on race for years. The school assemblies simply reflected those same categories in reporting the numbers to students, she said.
"In this country, race is a very uncomfortable topic and it's time we got over it," Hansen said.
The best day of Varsha Hitkari's life was her wedding day when, dressed in a red sari with a gold veil and hennaed hands, she was presented to her new husband, Rakesh Kumar.
The ceremony eight years ago, accompanied by much festivity, featured a bride with a beautifully sculpted face who possessed degrees in sociology and law. The groom was a government official.
The bride's parents had to agree, as part of the dowry arrangement, to pay all the expenses of their grandchildren's births. The husband also demanded 100,000 rupees -- worth about $2,200 -- so he could buy an acre of land. Her parents refused to pay up, but they did provide a motorcycle.
As for the bride's in-laws, they wanted her to produce sons. In that, Mrs. Hitkari failed. Instead, she had two daughters: Himadri, now 5-1/2, and Pari, 18 months. Her husband began berating her, demanding more dowry. When Mrs. Hitkari put Himadri into a school, her mother-in-law criticized her for educating a girl.
On July 23, Mrs. Hitkari's parents say, the mother-in-law and husband beat the woman senseless, then hanged her by a noose from a shower head. The bride's brother, Navneet Chandra, happened to drop by the home and, glancing through an open door to the bathroom, was horrified to see his sister hanging there.
While the brother was trying to free his sister from the noose, Mr. Kumar was pulling on his wife's legs to try to tighten its grip. Only when Mr. Chandra's shouts roused the neighbors did the tug of war stop.
Mrs. Hitkari remained in a coma for six weeks, her story the stuff of local newspaper headlines. She came home to her family Sept. 18, able to sit up but not stand. Her movements were feeble; she could not speak and appeared to have suffered brain damage.
The 30-year-old woman now sits in a stark bedroom at her parents' home, a blank expression in her brown eyes. Her daughters mill about, trying to attract her attention.
Her father, Ramesh Chandra, is retired and cannot afford $4,500 for the kind of physical therapy she will need to recover.
And despite widespread publicity, local police have not made any arrests.
Uttar Pradesh, India's largest state with 166 million people, is one of the country's poorest and most-illiterate regions. Its largest city, Kanpur, is a fetid industrial metropolis of 2.6 million on the Ganges River, known for its leather tanneries, cotton mills and a military base. It has no public transportation, no middle class, no city garbage collection, no sidewalks and dismal air quality.
Even worse is the violence perpetuated on its women and unborn girls.
Neelam Chaturvedi was 16 when she first noticed the way women in her neighborhood were beaten by their husbands. Then she read that a woman had been gang-raped by four men -- and the blame was placed on the victim. Miss Chaturvedi's father, a trade union organizer, encouraged her to organize a women's group and, in 1981, she founded Mahila Manch, or Platform for Women.
Later, she co-founded Sakhi Kendra, or Circle of Friends, and turned it into a charity that occupies a three-story building not far from the town garbage dump. Sixty to 70 women contact them every day with horror stories.
First, there are the baby girls who, simply because they are female, are put on piles of dry grass and burned. Or they are placed in bags and fatally stabbed.
Then, there are the acid attacks. If a woman refuses a man's advances, he may throw sulfuric acid in her face, disfiguring her and rendering the woman unfit for marriage. Women are defenseless against such attacks as criminal prosecution is rare.
"The father doesn't kill the man who rapes his daughter; instead, they dispose of her," said Dr. Veronica Jacob, a volunteer with Sakhi Kendra. "The thinking here is warped. Even if India has advanced far in technology, the mind-set has not changed."
Britons considering making a fresh start in New Zealand might find a less than warm welcome awaiting them after Maori politicians demanded curbs on immigration to the islands.
Lured by the attractive climate, majestic scenery, a high standard of living and the use of English, thousands leave the United Kingdom each year to make new lives on the other side of the globe.
But yesterday Maori nationalists called on the government in Wellington to limit the number of migrants from Britain.
They accused the government of running a secret campaign to prevent the "browning of New Zealand" by encouraging large numbers of white immigrants so that they outnumber those of Pacific and Asian origin who would align themselves with the Maori minority.
The proportion of Maori in the population, currently 13 per cent, is expected to grow rapidly over the next few decades because their birthrate is more than twice that of white New Zealanders.
The number of non-Maori New Zealanders would be falling without the net gain from immigration, mainly because tens of thousands leave for Australia every year.
Tariana Turia, the founder and co-leader of the Maori Party which holds four seats in parliament, said: "What we are talking about is the number of people coming into this country and what that means for Maori political representation. The prediction is that we are going to see a considerable browning of New Zealand with Maori, Pacific islanders and Asians, and maybe this is the way the government combats it.
"We aren't playing the race card because we are not talking about Asian immigration."
The demand by the Maori Party is significant because it could hold the balance of power in the proportionally elected parliament after the general election due next year.
The number of Britons moving to New Zealand has soared since the Lord of the Rings films gave the country's majestic scenery a high profile, boosted by the government introducing a minimum English language requirement that effectively cut arrivals from Asia. Britain represents by far the biggest source of migrants, with 22,400 entering the country last year to take up permanent residence.
Attractions cited by British migrants, apart from natural beauty, include more sunshine and the country's relaxed way of life. Martin Rowley, 39, and his partner, Jane Doble, who emigrated with their son George, six, from Marlow, Bucks, five years ago, are typical recent arrivals from Britain.
They have a baby daughter, born since they settled in the coastal resort of Tauranga, where they run their own office cleaning business. "We love it here and would never want to go back," Mr Rowley said.
"There is so much space, with only four million people in the whole country, and the climate means we enjoy an outdoor lifestyle that we could never hope for in England."
Although the Maori Party demanded curbs on migrants from other mainly white countries such as the United States, Canada and Australia, their numbers are dwarfed by those from Britain.
The level of British migration is at its highest since New Zealand, like Australia, ended a policy of assisted passages for settlers known as "Ten Pound Poms" in the early 1970s.
Businesses and civil authorities increasingly recruit in Britain in an effort to counter a crippling shortage of skilled staff.
Helen Clark, the prime minister, dismissed the Maori Party's demands as "ridiculous". She said: "Our country has been built on migration, you're part of it, I'm part of it."
A ring of gangsters who traded in the bodies of women they murdered, selling them as brides to keep dead bachelors happy in the afterlife, has been arrested in China.
The arrests have exposed a trade that places a higher value on women when they are dead than when they are alive.
Yang Dongyan, 35, was arrested on January 4 in Sha’anxi province as he played cards with his children. In his prison cell, Mr Yang showed little remorse for committing two murders. He told the Legal Daily: “I just wanted to make money. It’s a quick way to make money. I was arrested too soon otherwise I had planned to do this business a few more times.”
Two accomplices, Liu Shengbao and Hui Haibao, were also arrested, as was Li Longsheng, a self-styled undertaker who traded the bodies to bereaved families.
The men preyed on the superstitions of ill-educated farmers eager to ensure that a dead son was happy in the afterlife. It is not uncommon in rural parts of China for a family to seek out the body of a woman who has died to be buried alongside their son after the performance of a marriage ceremony for the deceased pair.
Ancestor worship is a tradition that runs through many aspects of Chinese life. One of the main Chinese festivals is Tomb Sweeping Day, when families visit graves of their forebears to clean them and burn incense. The spirit is believed to live on in the afterlife and at funerals families burn offerings of paper money and models of houses, cars and other little luxuries that the dead may need.
Mr Yang chanced upon the trade in dead bodies when he paid 12,000 yuan (£800) for a mentally handicapped woman whose family hoped to marry her off for a price. The trade in women as wives is a common practice in rural China and a woman may be sold several times by intermediaries before meeting her eventual husband.
Mr Yang arranged for the woman to stay in a guesthouse in Yanchuan county where Mr Liu offered him £666 for her. Mr Yang refused, until Mr Liu told him that the woman would be worth much more dead than alive. The next morning the two men set out across the Yellow River to meet “Old Li” in Xixian County, Shanxi province. Old Li agreed to buy the woman’s body for £1,050 and to complete the deal late at night on the Yanshuiguan bridge.
The next day Mr Yang killed the woman and took her body by taxi to the bridge where Mr Li was waiting and handed over £1,000 for her. For his part in the deal, Mr Liu received £300 and Mr Yang came away with a loss of £200 after his expenses.
Back at the guesthouse, Mr Yang told an old acquaintance, Mr Hui, that he had found an easy way to make money. The two men agreed to go into the body business together. Last November they sought out a prostitute they knew in nearby Yan’an — the city where Chairman Mao began his Communist revolution — but she threw them out after they said that they could not afford to pay her £20. They returned the next morning and killed her.
On December 3 they completed a similar body handover with Mr Li on the bridge. This time they made only £530 because the buyer was unhappy with the quality of the body and, after costs, Mr Yang and his two friends each earned £100 on that deal.
Old Li had made a name for himself in Xixian county by selling clothes to outfit the dead and by handing out cards that offered to help families in need of a spirit marriage. They want young and good-looking dead brides for their sons and regard the family of the girl as “in-laws”. Police discovered that Mr Li paid between £530 and £660 for a body and sold it on for as much as £2,300.
Zhang Yanjun, chief of police in Yanchuan county, said: “It’s lucky that the case was cleared up in time or we don’t know how many women would have been killed by them. These people thought they had found a short cut to wealth.” Instead, they face the death penalty.
Tailgaters, take heed. Flustered motorists these days are packing more than middle fingers, police say.
In what may have been an extreme example of road rage, Macomb County Sheriff's deputies say a commuter was so irked by a rush-hour driver Thursday that she pulled out a pistol and shot at the tires of a pickup truck that got too close. No one was hurt.
Questioned by authorities after her arrest, Bernadette Headd's defense was short and sweet, Macomb County Sheriff Mark Hackel said.
"She said she was tired of people tailgating her," he said.
The trouble began when Headd, 39, of Macomb Township drove her Chevy Cavalier onto westbound Interstate 94 near M-59 about 8 a.m. and moved into the fast lane. Shortly afterward, a 46-year-old New Baltimore man in a Dodge Ram loomed behind her, said Sheriff's Capt. Anthony Wickersham.
"The man apparently got pretty close to her bumper, then pulled into the center lane," Wickersham said. "She then pulled out a 9 mm handgun and fired one round at the truck's tires."
The man in the pickup again navigated his vehicle behind Headd and followed her as she exited the freeway at 16 Mile.
He flagged down a deputy who stopped Headd and found the gun, Wickersham said.
The gun was registered and Headd had a concealed weapons permit, but police couldn't find the shell casing, Wickersham said. She confessed to deputies, he said.
She was charged in 41-B District Court with assault with a deadly weapon, a four-year felony; discharge of a firearm from a motor vehicle, also four-year felony; and felony firearm, a two-year felony. Bond was set at $50,000 cash or surety.
The plight of minorities is being ignored amid the constant news of carnage in Iraq, Minority Rights Group International says.
Its report claims that some groups risk being eradicated from their homeland. Iraqi minority members have been abducted, tortured or killed, or forced to assimilate.
The study says some communities - many of whom have lived in Iraq for more than 2,000 years - are suffering terrible violence as a result of their religion or ethnicity.
Figures from the United Nations suggest that of the 1.8 million Iraqis seeking refugee status across the world, almost a third are from smaller minority groups.
According to the report, these minorities - which include Turkmen, Christians, Shabaks and Bahais - have survived a long history of persecution, but there is a real risk that they might not see out the current conflict.
Much of the violence against them, the study found, is based on faith.
Some groups are negatively perceived as supporters of the West or as disrespecting Muslim values.
As they do not have the tribal or militia protection afforded to the majority groups, they can do little to defend themselves.
The authors say the situation is steadily deteriorating and they are calling on the international community and the Iraqi government to recognise the special vulnerability of the country's minorities.
Mexican men who display extreme jealousy or avoid sex with their wives could be tried in court and punished under a new law, the special prosecutor for crimes against women told a local newspaper on Friday.
Men who phone their wives every half hour to check up on them, constantly suspect them of infidelity or try to control the way they dress are committing the crime of jealousy, special prosecutor Alicia Elena Perez Duarte told Excelsior newspaper.
Those who stop talking to their wives, avoid sex or try to convince suspicious spouses they are "crazy" even if they are caught red-handed having an affair, are guilty of indifference, she said.
Men found guilty of jealousy or indifference could face up to five years in prison, the newspaper said. Mexico's individual states will determine the punishments, it said.
The progressive new law was passed this month to protect women from domestic violence.
In Mexico, about 75 percent of all murdered women are killed by their husbands, Perez Duarte said.
"If we do not stop this from the beginning, it turns into beatings, and the beatings turn into more beatings and rape, until it gets out of hand, and whoops, she died," she told the paper.
Perez Duarte said the law would be a weapon that women could employ to level the playing field with abusive men.
"Men ought not to feel discriminated against," she told Excelsior.
Perez Duarte said indifference, jealousy or lack of love were crimes against women just as much as physical violence.
"Jealousy produces a particular type of stress in the person that comes up against it," she said. "It is exactly the same. They are wounds, psychological scars identical to physical scars."
Once hailed as an untouched Shangri-La, the mist-shrouded highlands of Papua New Guinea are undergoing a dramatic resurgence in sorcery and witchcraft.
Age-old beliefs in black magic and evil curses are back with a vengeance in jungle-clad mountain valleys which were unknown to the outside world until the 1930s.
Suspected witches – mostly women but including some men and even children – have been subjected to horrific torture before being hanged or thrown off cliffs.
A growing Aids crisis and the collapse of health services have sapped villagers' faith in Western medicine and prompted a return to ancestral beliefs.
Barely educated villagers living in remote mountain valleys are blaming the increasing number of Aids deaths not on promiscuity or a lack of condom use but on malign spirits.
When Raphael Kogun's uncle died two years ago, his family blamed a middle-aged married couple who they were convinced had become possessed by evil spirits. "We chopped their heads off with an axe and a bush knife," said the 27-year-old farmer from Goroka, in Eastern Highlands province.
"I felt sorry for them but they were witches, they deserved to die. If they were still alive they could hurt people with their magic. We buried the bodies but then the police found out and started digging them up."
Two of Kogun's brothers were arrested under the Act of Sorcery incorporated into PNG's criminal code, but the case collapsed because witnesses were too afraid to testify. The number of witch killings has been estimated at 200 a year in the neighbouring province of Simbu alone, although definitive figures are impossible to come by.
A report by Amnesty International in September found there was a "conspiracy of silence" surrounding the murders. Belief in evil spirits is ubiquitous throughout Papua New Guinea, where more than 850 languages are spoken by 5.5 million people.
In the highlands they are known as "sangumas" and can assume the form not only of humans, but animals such as dogs, pigs, rats and snakes.
A surge in the illegal growing of marijuana in the emerald green valleys has contributed to black magic paranoia, experts say.
"We're seeing a big rise in witchcraft cases. We hear of a killing almost every week," said Hermann Spingler, a German Lutheran pastor who heads the Melanesian Institute, a cultural study centre in Goroka. "They take the law into their own hands and torture people to make them 'confess'. They drag women on ropes behind vehicles, burn them with hot wire, chop off hands, fingers. People have been buried alive."
He expects more witch murders as PNG's Aids crisis worsens. The country has the highest rate of Aids in the Pacific region, with the government estimating that around two per cent of the population is HIV positive.
That is almost certainly an under-estimate. "The problem is far worse than the official statistics show. In some ante-natal clinics 30 per cent of women are positive," said Claire Campbell, an Australian Aids campaigner working for the World Health Organisation.
"It's only 75 years since the first white man walked over the hills," said Mal Smith-Kela, PNG's only white provincial governor.
"I've flown into villages where they tried to work out what sex the helicopter was by looking at the exhaust pipes." Last month police in Goroka uncovered the grisly killings of four women accused by villagers of using sorcery to cause a fatal road crash.
After being tortured with hot metal rods and made to confess, they were murdered and buried upright in a pit.
"The villagers believe they have to kill the 'witches', otherwise the whole clan is at risk from black magic," said Jack Urame, 38, a member of the Dom tribe who has researched sorcery killings for the Melanesian Institute.
"What is disturbing is that children are witnessing these things – the belief in sorcery and witchcraft is being passed on to the next generation."
If you're particularly good with puzzles or chess, the reason may be in your genes.
A team of scientists, led by psychiatric geneticists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has gathered the most extensive evidence to date that a gene that activates signaling pathways in the brain influences one kind of intelligence. They have confirmed a link between the gene, CHRM2, and performance IQ, which involves a person's ability to organize things logically.
"This is not a gene FOR intelligence," says Danielle M. Dick, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and lead author on the study. "It's a gene that's involved in some kinds of brain processing, and specific alterations in the gene appear to influence IQ. But this single gene isn't going to be the difference between whether a person is a genius or has below-average intelligence."
Dick's team comprehensively studied the DNA along the gene and found that several variations within the CHRM2 gene could be correlated with slight differences in performance IQ scores, which measure a person's visual-motor coordination, logical and sequential reasoning, spatial perception and abstract problem solving skills. When people had more than one positive variation in the gene, the improvements in performance IQ were cumulative. The study's findings are available online in Behavioral Genetics and will appear in an upcoming print issue of that journal.
IQ tests also measure verbal skills and typically include many subtests. For this study, subjects took five verbal subtests and four performance subtests, but the genetic variations influenced only performance IQ scores.
"One way to measure performance IQ may be to ask people to order pictures correctly to tell a story," Dick explains. "A simple example might be pictures of a child holding a vase, the vase broken to bits on the floor and the child crying. The person taking the test would have to put those pictures into an order that tells the story of how the child dropped the vase and broke it and then cried."
The researchers studied DNA gathered as part of the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA). In this multi-center study, people who have been treated for alcohol dependence and members of their families provide DNA samples to researchers, who isolated DNA regions related to alcohol abuse and dependence, as well as a variety of other outcomes.
Some of the participants in the study also took the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised, a traditional IQ test. In all, members of 200 families, including more than 2,150 individuals, took the Wechsler test, and those results were matched to differences in individuals' DNA.
By comparing individual differences embedded in DNA, the team zeroed in on CHRM2, the neuronal receptor gene on chromosome 7. The CHRM2 gene activates a multitude of signaling pathways in the brain involved in learning, memory and other higher brain functions. The research team doesn't yet understand how the gene exerts its effects on intelligence.
Intelligence was one of the first traits that attracted the attention of people interested in the interplay of genes and environmental influences. Early studies of adopted children, for example, showed that when children grow up away from their biological parents, their IQs are more closely correlated to biological parents, with whom they share genes, than adoptive parents, with whom they share an environment.
But in spite of the association between genes and intelligence, it has been difficult to find specific variations that influence intelligence. The genes identified in the past were those that had profoundly negative effects on intelligence — genes that cause mental retardation, for example. Those that contribute to less dramatic differences have been much harder to isolate.
Dick's team is not the first to notice a link between intelligence and the CHRM2 gene. In 2003, a group in Minnesota looked at a single marker in the gene and noted that the variation was related to an increase in IQ. A more recent Dutch study looked at three regions of DNA along the gene and also noticed influences on intelligence. In this new study, however, researchers tested multiple genetic markers throughout the gene.
"If we look at a single marker, a DNA variation might influence IQ scores between two and four points, depending on which variant a person carries," Dick explains. "We did that all up and down the gene and found that the variations had cumulative effects, so that if one person had all of the 'good' variations and another all of the 'bad' variations, the difference in IQ might be 15 to 20 points. Unfortunately, the numbers of people at those extremes were so small that the finding isn't statistically significant, but the point is we saw fairly substantial differences in our sample when we combined information across multiple regions of the gene."
Dick says the next step is to look at the gene and its numerous variants to learn what is going on biologically that might affect cognitive performance. Presently, she says it's too early to predict how small changes in the gene might be influencing communication in the brain to affect intelligence, and she says it's nearly certain CHRM2 is not the only gene involved.
"Perhaps as many as 100 genes or more could influence intelligence," she says. "I think all of the genes involved probably have small, cumulative effects on increasing or decreasing I.Q., and I expect overall intelligence is a function of the accumulation of all of these genetic variants, not to mention environmental influences ranging from socio-economic status to the value that's placed on learning when children are growing up."
In a study, published in the journal 'PNAS', the team shows that the gene that controls our ability to digest milk was missing from Neolithic skeletons dating to between 5840 and 5000 BC. However, through exposure to milk, lactose tolerance evolved extremely rapidly, in evolutionary terms. Today, it is present in over ninety per cent of the population of northern Europe and is also found in some African and Middle Eastern populations but is missing from the majority of the adult population globally.
Dr Mark Thomas, UCL Biology, said: "The ability to drink milk is the most advantageous trait that's evolved in Europeans in the recent past. Without the enzyme lactase, drinking milk in adulthood causes bloating and diarrhoea. Although the benefits of milk tolerance are not fully understood yet, they probably include: the continuous supply of milk compared to the boom and bust of seasonal crops; its nourishing qualities; and the fact that it's uncontaminated by parasites, unlike stream water, making it a safer drink. All in all, the ability to drink milk gave some early Europeans a big survival advantage."
The team carried out DNA tests on Neolithic skeletons from some of the earliest organised farming communities in Europe. Their aim was to find out whether these early Europeans from various sites in central, northeast and southeast Europe, carried a version of the lactase gene that controls our ability to produce the essential enzyme lactase into adulthood. The team found that it was absent from their ancient bone DNA. This led the researchers to conclude that the consumption and tolerance of milk would have been very rare or absent at the time.
Scientists have known for decades that at some point in the past all humans were lactose intolerant. What was not known was just how recently lactose tolerance evolved.
Dr Thomas said: "To go from lactose tolerance being rare or absent seven to eight thousand years ago to the commonality we see today in central and northern Europeans just cannot be explained by anything except strong natural selection. Our study confirms that the variant of the lactase gene appeared very recently in evolutionary terms and that it became common because it gave its carriers a massive survival advantage. Scientists have inferred this already through analysis of genes in today's population but we've confirmed it by going back and looking at ancient DNA."
This study challenges the theory that certain groups of Europeans were lactose tolerant and that this inborn ability led the community to pursue dairy farming. Instead, they actually evolved their tolerance of milk within the last 8000 years due to exposure to milk.
Dr Thomas said: "There were two theories out there: one that lactose tolerance led to dairy farming and another that exposure to milk led to the evolution of lactose tolerance. This is a simple chicken or egg question but one that is very important to archaeologists, anthropologists and evolutionary biologists. We found that the lactose tolerance variant of the lactase gene only became common after dairy farming, which started around 9 thousand years ago in Europe.
"This is just one part of the picture researchers are gathering about lactose tolerance and the origins of Europeans. Next on the list is why there is such disparity in lactose tolerance between populations. It's striking, for example, that today around eighty per cent of southern Europeans cannot tolerate lactose even though the first dairy farmers in Europe probably lived in those areas. Through computer simulations and DNA testing we are beginning to get glimpses of the bigger early European picture."
AUSTRALIA'S disadvantaged young Muslims are so directionless and fearful of being excluded by the broader community many are turning to drugs and contemplating suicide.
Ninety-eight per cent of 150 Sydney-based young Muslims surveyed had considered suicide as a "way out" of the conflicts in their life as a Muslim in a non-Muslim society.
The All Eyes On Youth study found eight out of 10 young Muslims aged between 12 and 25 considered the education system of no assistance "in making lifetime choices", and 94 per cent lacked a clear goal in life.
The findings emerged from a conference for young Muslims organised by the Independent Centre for Research Australia in Sydney last November.
ICRA president Fadi Rahman told The Australian yesterday he was alarmed that almost all the 75 males involved in the survey had experimented with drugs such as cannabis, ecstasy and cocaine.
"We're talking about cocaine, and some of them have even got to a point where they've tried heroin," said the Muslim community leader from Auburn, in Sydney's southwest.
"If we're raising a generation where such a high percentage are contemplating suicide and such a high percentage of drug use exists, I think we're heading for a disaster as a nation. Because what this is doing is tearing the very fabric of our society."
Mr Rahman said many young Muslims felt alienated by the wider community, especially since the September 11 attacks on the US, which had placed Islam under the microscope.
Young disadvantaged Muslims were worse off than other young people with problems because they lacked aspirations and possessed no vision of hope.
"Most disadvantaged teenagers would at least tell you what they would like to be," Mr Rahman said.
"Our kids did not have goals at all - nothing. As far as they were concerned, it was a dead end and that's that."
The strain had been reported in all nine provinces of South Africa, expanding from an outbreak at one local hospital to a nationwide threat.
"We still do not have a very good idea of how widespread this extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis is," said Dr. Karin Weyer, director of tuberculosis research for the South Africa Medical Research Council in Pretoria.
"We believe that there are about 6,000 cases of multi-drug resistant TB in South Africa, and when we treat these patients about 10 percent fail to get better. Extrapolating from that, we calculate that there are about 600 cases of patients with extensively drug-resistant TB in South Africa."
Last August researchers sent shudders through the World AIDS Conference when they reported an outbreak of extensively drug-resistant TB killed 52 of 53 patients who were co-infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS. Those cases were reported in one rural hospital in KwaZulu province in South Africa.
Since then the disease has made its way across the African nation, and it has not lost its virulence. "We have a person who came to the hospital with this co-infection and died before we even can get our laboratories to identify the organism," Weyer told United Press International at the 14th Retrovirus Conference being held in Los Angeles.
"Most of the patients who are co-infected with the extensively drug-resistant TB and HIV die within a month," she said. She also said that when the disease is spread to others -- six healthcare workers were infected -- it is spread as a virtually untreatable disease. Four of those six healthcare workers also had HIV infection, she said, and all of them died.
"Extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis represents the failure of tuberculosis control at the global level," Weyer said.
"These outbreaks of this scary form of tuberculosis and its spread underscore that the healthcare infrastructure is largely unprepared for the aerosol transmission of such a pathogen," said Dr. John Mellors, professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh and vice chairman of the scientific program at the retrovirus conference.
The outbreak of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis is not limited to South Africa, said Dr. Paul Nunn, director of the Stop TB program of the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.
Nunn said nearly 9 million people in the world have tuberculosis, and the disease kills 1.6 million people a year -- roughly the same number of people who live in the nation of Botswana in southern Africa. He estimated that worldwide there are likely 16,000 deaths among those that are caused by infection with the extensively drug-resistant organism.
He said the WHO defines extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis as a form of the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis that is resistant to standard oral drugs, to newer fluoroquinolones and to one of three injected drugs.
Such strains now have been reported in 28 countries, Nunn said, including the United States. However, the bulk of the resistant strains are found in China, India and Russia.
"Extensively drug-resistant TB is a wake-up call for strengthening basic tuberculosis and HIV care, prevention and control and scaling up the management of drug resistant tuberculosis," Nunn said. He estimated that a worldwide expenditure of $650 million a year will be required to control extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis.
The organisers are calling for the repatriation and rehabilitation of victims of child trafficking.
They want the Indian government to pass laws that prosecute those who supply children for forced labour and sex.
The marchers, including many children who have been trafficked, will also stop in Bangladesh and Nepal en route.
The march has been organised by the Save the Childhood Movement and the Global March Against Child Labour in India and is supported by several UN agencies.
Kailash Satyarthi, chairman of the Global March Against Child Labour, says South Asia is a major source, destination and transit area for child trafficking of all forms.
"Children are being taken for forced labour and bonded labour," he says.
"Children are being used for child marriages. Child prostitution is of course there, then a lot of children are taken as camel jockeys."
Some children, he says, are kidnapped and sold so their organs can be harvested for transplant operations.
One of the young marchers is a boy of 13 who says he was lured from his village in Bihar by a man with sweets, kidnapped, and taken to Punjab where he was made to work 12 hours a day, every day.
The organisers say one of the goals of the march is to publicise the issue.
"Trafficking of children for forced labour is a hidden issue, with the people in the rural areas still being ignorant and thus being vulnerable to being trafficked for forced labour," said Nandita Das, a film actor and social activist, at the media launch for the march on Friday.
Mr Satyarthi wants India to enact laws against child trafficking for forced labour.
Of the eight million children the International Labour Organisation estimates are involved in forced labour worldwide, more than a million have been trafficked, many of them in India.
Stray bullets and sharp twine were among the causes of the deaths during the annual Basant festival.
The Pakistan Supreme Court banned kite-flying in 2005 after nine people were killed during festivities in 2004.
But the ban was lifted for 15 days in 2007 after the Punjab government promised to take preventive measures.
More than 700 people were arrested over the past two days for using illegal weapons and sharpened twine during the festival, police officials in Lahore told the Associated Press news agency.
While the Supreme Court had lifted the ban between 24 February and 10 March, the Punjab government only allowed the festival to be celebrated on 24 and 25 February.
Lahore Mayor Mian Aamer Mahmoud told AP that permission ended on Sunday and the ban would then be reapplied.
Despite this, there were numerous incidents in which people were killed or injured during the two-day long celebrations.
Dozens of people had been hurt in addition to at least 10 people killed, Lahore's police chief Malik Iqbal told the BBC.
Fatalities included an 11-year-old boy, who had his throat slashed by sharpened twine, Pakistan's leading English newspaper, Dawn reported.
A 16-year-old girl also suffered a similar fate, AP reported.
The youngest victim was a six-year-old boy who was struck in the head by celebratory gunfire outside his home in Lahore, the Dawn newspaper said.
Celebratory firing and use of sharpened twine had been strictly prohibited by the Supreme court in its conditional repeal of the ban on the festival.
They remained the principal cause of the deaths and injuries, which were also caused by electrocution and falls.
Police chief Iqbal said deaths caused by gunshots would be treated as murder.
Basant, which means saffron, is usually celebrated on rooftops and the fierce competition has led to the use of twine with metal and glass to have the extra edge.
The festival, an annual low-key tradition to herald the approach of spring in the Punjab, has become a high-profile money spinner involving celebrities, corporate sponsorships and much media attention.
The home secretary welcomed the ruling, seen as the first test of a policy that seeks assurances deportees in terror cases will not be abused on return.
The alleged al-Qaeda figure's lawyers said he could face torture at home but the UK said he was a security threat.
Qatada, who has been convicted in Jordan for terror attacks, is to seek leave to appeal the deportation ruling.
Human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce said it was a "profoundly important appeal" that could have ramifications across the world.
Qatada, 45, has spent most of the past five years in prison in the UK under anti-terrorism and immigration laws.
The judgment by Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) chairman Mr Justice Ouseley said members had concluded there was "no real risk of persecution of [Qatada]" on his return.
The case is significant because the government has been trying to secure deportations to countries accused of torture by securing special agreements that deportees will not be abused.
The agreement - called Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) - signed between the UK government and Jordan in 2005, aimed to guarantee that anyone deported to the country would not face torture or ill-treatment.
The women of Tecalpulco, Mexico, want the U.S. government to enforce its immigration laws because they want to force their husbands to come back home from working illegally in the United States.
They have created an English-language Web page where they identify themselves as the "wetback wives" and broadcast their pleas, both to their men and to the U.S. government.
"To the United States government -- close the border, send our men home to us, even if you must deport them (only treat them in a humane manner -- please do not hurt them)," it reads.
In poignant public messages to their husbands, the women talk about their children who feel abandoned, and worry that the men have forsaken their families for other women and for the American lifestyle.
"You said you were only going to Arizona to get money for our house, but now you have been away and did not come back when your sister got married," one woman writes to a man named Pedro. "Oh how I worry that you have another woman! Don't you love me? You told me you love me."
It's a stark reminder of an often forgotten voice in the U.S. immigration debate -- the wives, children, parents and villages left behind as millions of workers come to the U.S., many of them illegally. The plea also underscores the dual effects of migration on Mexico: Its economy needs American jobs as an outlet for workers, but determined, able-bodied workers get siphoned out of Mexico.
More than 10 million Mexican-born people, or nearly one out of every 10, was living in the United States in 2005. And as a percentage of the work force it's even higher: One in seven, or 14 percent, were here, according to the Migration Policy Institute. The institute said 77 percent of Mexican workers in the U.S. were younger than 45, and 70 percent were men.
Villages devoid of men between 20 and 50 are common in many parts of the country. The stories of single mothers struggling to raise their children are just as frequent.
The women of Tecalpulco have come up with one way to cope. They run an artists' cooperative to sell traditional-style jewelry, including through the Internet. The page where they make their personal pleas, www.artcamp.com.mx/venga/, is a part of their Web site.
One of the women writes to "Ruben" telling him their children haven't seen him in three years and ask where he is.
"I know we agreed you should try your fortune in the United States, but I didn't know that it would be so lonely and that you would be gone for such a long time, please return to us," she writes.
In most places in the world, a mother can find out the sex of her unborn child, but in India, it's illegal to do so. That is because if she's a female, there is a good chance she will never be born.
Roughly 6.7 million abortions occur yearly in India, but aborted girls outnumber boys by 500,000 -- or 10 million over the past two decades -- creating a huge imbalance between males and females in the world's largest democracy.
Ratios of men to women are being altered at an unprecedented rate in India and neighboring China, two countries which account for 40 percent of the world's population.
According to UNICEF, India produces 25 million babies a year. China produces 17 million. Together, these are one-third of the world's babies, so how their women choose to regulate births affects the globe.
Female infanticide -- whereby tiny girls were either poisoned, buried alive or strangled -- has existed for thousands of years in India. But its boy-to-girl ratio didn't begin to widen precipitously until the advent of the ultrasound, or sonogram, machine in the 1970s, enabling a woman to tell the sex of her child by the fourth month of her pregnancy.
That coupled with the legalization of abortion in 1971 made it possible to dispose of an unwanted girl without the neighbors even knowing the mother was pregnant. In 2001, 927 girls were born for every 1,000 boys, significantly below the natural birth rate of about 952 girls for every 1,000 boys.
In many regions, however, this imbalance has reached alarming levels and it continues to grow. In 2004, the New Delhi-based magazine Outlook reported, sex ratios in the capital had plummeted to 818 girls for every 1,000 boys, and in 2005 they had slipped to 814.
The issue is highly sensitive for the Indian government, which had given the nation's sex imbalance scant attention until this month.
"It is a matter of international and national shame for us that India, with [economic] growth of 9 percent still kills its daughters," Renuka Chowdhury, the Cabinet-level minister of state for women and child development told the Press Trust of India news agency in an interview that was widely published in the national press.
Mrs. Chowdhury announced plans to set up a nationwide network of orphanages where women can drop off unwanted daughters with no questions asked.
"We will bring up the children. But don't kill them because there really is a crisis situation," she says.
Yet the practice of "female feticide" is so widespread and deeply ingrained in the nation's psyche, scholars and activists fear that even the most vigorous attempts to combat it would require a lifetime or longer to restore nature's balance.
"There has always been a deficit of women: Infanticide, neglect or they're left to die if they are sick, but technology has accentuated it," says Prem Chowdhry, a New Delhi-based scholar and specialist on male-female relations in India. "The volume has grown. Culturally, these things are not new, but now they're taking a new shape."
Early this year, the British medical journal Lancet estimated the male-female gap at 43 million. Worldwide, Lancet said, there are 100 million "missing girls" who should have been born but were not. Fifty million of them would have been Chinese and 43 million would have been Indian. The rest would have been born in Afghanistan, South Korea, Pakistan and Nepal.
China gave an even bleaker assessment last month, with the government saying that its men will outnumber women in the year 2020 by 300 million.
One Geneva-based research center, in a 2005 update on the phenomenon, termed it "the slaughter of Eve."
"What we're seeing now is genocide," says Sabu George, a New Delhi-based activist. "We will soon exceed China in losing 1 million girls a year."
The date may already be here. In a report released Dec. 12, UNICEF said India is "missing" 7,000 girls a day or 2.5 million a year.
Although India has passed laws forbidding sex-specific abortions, legions of compliant doctors and lax government officials involved in India's $100 million sex-selection industry have made sure they are rarely enforced.
Several companies, notably General Electric Corp., have profited hugely from India's love affair with the ultrasound machine.
As a result, a new class of wifeless men are scouring eastern India, Bangladesh and Nepal for available women. India, already a world leader in sex trafficking, is absorbing a new trade in girls kidnapped or sold from their homes and shipped across the country.
As sex-specific abortions increase, the destabilizing effects on Indian society are bound to greatly impact a country with expanding economic and strategic ties to the United States.
Korean-American community leaders said they plan to launch a protest against the publisher of a popular South Korean comic book that contains anti-Semitic images.
One comic strip in the book shows a man climbing a hill and then facing a brick wall with a Star of David and "STOP" sign in front. "The final obstacle to success is always a fortress called Jews," a translation says.
Another strip shows a newspaper, magazine, TV and radio with the description: "In a word, American public debate belongs to the Jews, and it's no exaggeration to say that U.S. media are the voice of the Jews."
Yohngsohk Choe, co-chairman of the Korean American Patriotic Action Movement in the USA, said, "I don't have words to describe the outrage I feel."
The group met Friday with Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish advocacy group. Cooper said he would travel to Seoul on March 15 to raise concerns about the book.
The book, written by South Korean university professor Lee Won-bok, is part of a series called "Distant Countries and Neighboring Countries," which is intended to teach youngsters about other countries. The series has sold more than 10 million copies.
And when the world needs a Germany that can live up to its reputation as a tough, nationalistic state, that nation no longer exists. They have become a nation of sheep… as have the Dutch, the French, the Italians, the Belgians, the Scandinavians, and yes, even the British.
There was a time, in the past century, when the Germans and the British were warriors. That is no longer true of the Germans. And in Great Britain, where the government struggles mightily to play a major role in the fight against Islamic fascism, radical leftists threaten to overthrow even a socially liberal Labor government.
In an interview with a Brussels newspaper (De Standaard, October 23) Dutch author, Oscar Van den Boogaard, described what appears to be the attitude of most post-WWII Europeans. He said, “I am not a warrior, but who is? I have never learned to fight for my freedom. I was only good at enjoying it.”
As John Stuart Mill has said, “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. A man who has nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety is a miserable creature who has no chance at being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”
It is a sad picture, a Europe where so many of the people have never learned to fight for their freedom… where people were only good at enjoying it. But it is sadder still to realize that nearly half the American people – liberals, Democrats, the anti-war radicals with the loudest voices – agree with them… relying for their freedoms on the exertions of better men than they.
So what is it about the term “miserable creatures” that liberals, Democrats, and anti-war radicals find so appealing?
A Florida sheriff expressed optimism Sunday that authorities would arrest the suspect in the kidnapping of a 13-year-old Florida boy by the end of the day.
Manatee County Sheriff Charlie Wells said the boy, Clay Moore, gave police an accurate description of Vicente Ignacio Beltran-Moreno, 22, which resulted in the issuance of an arrest warrant and led authorities to the man's home.
"He was right on the money with the information that he gave us," Wells told reporters.
Police recovered the red pickup truck allegedly used in the kidnapping at the suspect's home in Bradenton.
Police said they believe Beltran-Moreno has fled Florida, but provided no information on his possible whereabouts.
The Manatee County Sheriff's office released two photographs of Beltran-Moreno. Police said he has short dark hair and brown eyes, is 5 feet 5 inches tall, weighs 140 pounds, and goes by the nickname "Nacho."
Clay told police he was abducted at gunpoint around 9 a.m. Friday from a school bus stop in Parrish, about 30 miles southeast of St. Petersburg.
He was taken to a wooded area and tied to a tree, but managed to escape some five hours later, walked a "considerable distance" and borrowed a farm worker's cell phone to call his mother, Wells said.
After talking to Clay, police identified the suspect as Beltran-Moreno and set up surveillance at his home at around 4 p.m. on Saturday, Wells said.
Sunday morning, they secured a warrant to search the premises.
During their investigation, police recovered a handwritten ransom note less than a page long, possibly intended for Clay's parents, that contained unspecified threats, Wells said.
"It was his intention, the suspect's intention, to leave Clay Moore tied in the woods until he got his money," Wells said.
Wells said he was "shocked" after reading the note, which he did not detail.
Wells said Clay "was just at the wrong place at the wrong time."
Citing the teen's ability to recall details about the suspect and where he was taken, Wells said "the bottom line is that the man kidnapped the wrong kid."
Beltran-Moreno, who is from Mexico, is believed to have fled Florida in the wake of the manhunt, Wells said. Police noted no activity during their surveillance of his house.
Wells said law enforcement authorities in other states, which he did not name, have been notified.
The sheriff thanked his deputies for putting in long hours in the ongoing investigation, but noted that "our work isn't over."
"We've just got the arrest warrant, we've got the evidence, but we want him," Wells said. "I think we do have a sporting chance to bring him back to Manatee County and have him stand trial for this crime."
Beltran-Moreno works in Manatee County as an aluminum contractor building screen enclosures, the sheriff said.
The suspect once worked as a "contract picker" on a farm near the wooded area where Clay was bound to a tree for several hours before his escape, Wells said.
That familiarity with the area helped the suspect maneuver difficult back roads without getting lost, Wells said.
During Sunday's news conference, the sheriff showed a photograph of the red Ford Ranger pickup truck now in police custody.
Sheriff's department spokesman Dave Bristow said parents should keep close tabs on their children, especially while the suspect is at large. Anything suspicious should be reported, he said.
"We're extremely concerned, [but] I don't think it's time for anybody to panic."
Islanders who once criss-crossed the world's largest ocean are now barely able to fit into their canoes, let alone paddle them vast distances.
A new survey has found that of the top 10 most corpulent countries on the planet, eight are in the South Pacific, including holiday destinations such as Samoa and the Cook Islands.
The survey, The World's Fattest Countries, by the Forbes organisation, shatters the romantic image of slim-hipped island maidens and muscular warriors, presenting instead a picture of a paradise lost.
A traditional diet of fish, vegetables and coconuts has been replaced by tinned meat, junk food, high-fat snacks and notorious "mutton flaps", fatty off-cuts from sheep which islanders relish when fried. Imported from New Zealand, they are so unhealthy that they were banned by Fiji.
Where once Pacific peoples ate reef fish and yams, they now gorge themselves on corned beef and "turkey tails" — cheap, highly fatty pieces of skin imported from the United States.
The change in diet has been exacerbated by a drift towards towns, lack of exercise and, in some cases, a cultural belief that physical bulk is a sign of beauty and wealth.
It has led to dramatically increased rates of diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. More and more people are going the way of the late King of Tonga, who until his death last year was listed by the Guinness Book of Records as the world's heaviest monarch, weighing in at 33 stone.
The Forbes survey found that the tiny island republic of Nauru has the portliest population in the world.
A sun-baked rock that once grew rich on its phosphate reserves, nearly 95 per cent of its 13,000 people are overweight, based on information supplied by the World Health Organisation.
The micro-nation is struggling with a diabetes epidemic which is affecting a third of its adults. The next bulkiest people are to be found in the Federated States of Micronesia, then the Cook Islands, Tonga, Niue, Samoa and Palau.
Kuwait, at number eight, is an exception to the South Pacific rule, as is the United States, in ninth place, where 74 per cent of adults are considered overweight.
"Many Pacific islands are not conducive to increasing levels of physical activity — there are not enough sporting facilities and in some cases there are not even places where you can swim," said Jenny MacKenzie, a healthy living consultant with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.
Genetics also plays a part — Tongans, for instance, are believed to be predisposed to weight gain and are poorly equipped to deal with processed food.
The WHO defines an overweight person as someone with an individual body mass index (weight relative to height) greater than or equal to 25. Obese is defined as having a BMI greater than or equal to 30.
There are currently 1.6 billion overweight adults in the world. The WHO predicts that number will grow by 40 per cent in the next decade.
British business is not convinced of the value of having a multi-cultural workforce, according to a study based on interviews with nearly 300 small and medium sized UK businesses.
While a third agreed that ethnic diversity contributed to performance, slightly more disagreed.
The CBI-backed survey by the Policy Research Institute on Ageing and Ethnicity also found that although 45 per cent said their management had policies for making older workers feel more included and 42 per cent ran similar practices for female staff, only 25 per cent did so for ethnic minority staff.
Small and medium sized businesses make up the majority of the UK's four million companies. The findings follow a Financial Times/Harris poll which revealed that British citizens are now more hostile to immigration than any other western European country despite evidence that the UK has benefited from the arrival of workers from eastern Europe.
More than three quarters of the companies surveyed by the institute had workforces with less than 10 per cent from ethnic minorities and 35 per cent had no such workers.
Police are working with universities to clamp down on "aggressive conversions" during which girls are beaten up and forced to abandon university courses.
The Hindu Forum of Britain claims hundreds of mostly Sikh and Hindu girls have been intimidated by Muslim men who take them out on dates before terrorising them until they convert.
Sir Ian spoke about the problem at a conference organised by the forum.
A Met spokesman said: "Neighbourhood officers work with university authorities in London and we would encourage anyone targeted in this way to seek help and support and where necessary use third party reporting facilities if they do not want to contact police directly."
Ramesh Kallidai, of the Hindu Forum of Britain, said: "Some girls are petrified because they are constantly being phoned up, having their door knocked.
"One girl was beaten up on the street and others have been forced to leave university."
The traditional story of the peopling of the New World holds that ancient migrants out of northeast Asia slipped into the Americas bearing finely shaped stone projectiles, so-called "Clovis points," after the town in New Mexico where they were first uncovered. This Clovis culture rapidly spread throughout the empty continents and by 1,000 years after their arrival had reached the southernmost tip of what is now South America, making them the original ancestors of indigenous Americans. A number of controversial archaeological sites have challenged this theory and now, by using more advanced dating techniques, researchers may have killed it, throwing the original population of the Western Hemisphere into question again.
Geoarchaeologist Michael Waters of Texas A&M University and radiocarbon specialist Thomas Stafford of Stafford Research Laboratories reexamined 22 Clovis sites that had previously been dated. Half proved suspect because they lacked direct evidence or had other conflicting data. "Over the years, scientists, if they have a site that dates 11,000 years ago, even if they just found a few flakes and a scraper, they automatically called it Clovis," Waters explains.
That now appears in doubt, as Stafford and Waters have succeeded in dating five of the remaining sites more accurately thanks to improvements in the technology of radiocarbon dating. Using atomic accelerators and collagen purified in molecular sieves, the two found that the Clovis artifacts they dated all occurred within 11,050 radiocarbon years to 10,800 radiocarbon years before present. "Just a duration of about 200 years with a maximum duration of 350," Waters says.
That means Clovis sites are contemporaneous with some undisputed sites in South America and younger than some in North America. It also makes it difficult to understand how an ancient people could have spread so far in such a limited amount of time, let alone how the Clovis point [see image above] people could have spread throughout the U.S. "That raises the question: Is it a people or a technology?" Waters asks. "That kind of rapid spread of technology is almost unprecedented. Metallurgy moved very quickly, gunpowder and things like that, but that was a different time."
"This revives the old concept of a technology spreading across a population base," he continues. New evidence seems to point to humans populating the Americas as far back as 25,000 years ago and it may be that the Clovis points were simply a superior weapon that spread rapidly from people to people. But scientists need to come up with a new explanation for the original American settlers that incorporates this new archaeological data as well as genetic and geologic evidence. "I think we need to stop thinking about the peopling of the Americas as a singular event and start thinking about it as a process," Waters says. "I think there's enough evidence now to say that there were pre-Clovis people in the Americas."
A federal civil jury awarded a $254,000 verdict to an Hispanic lieutenant with the Inkster police Wednesday, ruling the department discriminated against him because he was not black.
Thomas Diaz sued the city in 2005, alleging the department promoted less qualified black applicants ahead of him when he was passed over for promotions to commander in 2004, deputy chief in 2006 and chief in 2003.
"Naturally I'm very pleased," said a teary-eyed Diaz before embracing his lawyer, James Fett of Pinckney.
Fett said the verdict is bittersweet. "I'm delighted that my client prevailed and he's vindicated," Fett said. "There were a lot of nice people we were at war with. Tom still works there and it's been very stressful for everybody."
A development that Fett said had an impact on the jury was the city's agreement that Deputy Chief Gregory Hill testified falsely last week when he said under oath that he attended and obtained a degree from Western Michigan University. Hill could not be reached Wednesday.
Fett said both he and Diaz like and respect Inkster Police Chief Gregory Gaskin, who has held the top post since 2006.
Diaz, who was Inkster police command officer of the year in 2002, alleged that the city "promulgated and continued a policy of discriminating in employment against non-African-Americans."
An all-white jury agreed after deliberating for a day and a half. The weeklong trial was held before Chief U.S. District Judge Bernard A. Friedman. The jury rejected Diaz's claim that the city retaliated against him for filing his lawsuit.
Gaskin could not be reached for comment; nor could the city's attorney, Michael Weaver.
The city denied in court pleadings that it favored blacks in promotions.
Fett, who has successfully litigated similar reverse discrimination lawsuits against the Michigan State Police and others, said Inkster's policy was unwritten but well-known.
It's the type of policy Proposal 2, which voters approved in November outlawing public sector affirmative action, was intended to prevent, he said.
Operation Trident has investigated murders, convicted killers and taken weapons, cash and drugs off London's streets. The Trident squad tackles "black on black" gun crime and has secured life sentences for scores of Jamaican "Yardies" or British-born gangsters, encouraging terrified witnesses to come forward and protecting them.
What Scotland Yard, the black community, the Government and wider society have all failed to do, however, is prevent the growth of a small but lawless sub-group of youths for whom guns, crack cocaine, violence, violent rap lyrics, and Yardie-style gangster culture, have become a way of life.
The absence of fathers or any positive male role models in many cases have meant that young street thugs — frequently excluded from school — have aped the desperado lifestyles of the older generation.
Trident was launched by the Metropolitan Police in 1998 in response to pressure from London's black leaders for action against gunmen terrorising their community. The Trident squad is now more than 300-strong.
Because it has taken older players off the streets, the young criminals no longer need to fear that adult gunmen will curb their activities.
This may be why for the first time Trident has found itself charging 15-year-olds with murder and why, in the past two weeks two 15-year-old boys have been shot dead in their homes.
Shots were fired not in a darkened nightclub, or from a car driving by, but in the victims' houses. Police have already warned that a youngster with a gun — real or replica — will one day be shot by officers.
The two killings are part of the sequence of five murders in the past three weeks in south London — four shootings and a stabbing — which may turn out to be a largely unconnected cluster of attacks with differing motives. However, they are all born out of a youth environment in some inner London boroughs which has led police to warn that guns and knives are "fashion accessories" and a means of settling disputes between gangs, or over drugs, turf or simply perceived "disrespect". The same view has been expressed in Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Nottingham and other areas.
Trident insiders have frequently counselled against trying to explain the "disorganised crime" they face in terms of traditional notions of disciplined gang organisations.
There are, undoubtedly, dozens of extremely dangerous youth gangs — "crews"— in London and elsewhere. Before Christmas some schools were closed in the Southwark and Lewisham areas because of violence between the Peckham Boys and the Ghetto Boys. A Home Office study of the market in illegal guns recently noted that, whatever the source of a dispute, "gang or crew structures escalate and perpetuate violence, which may transcend individual incidents and become generalised." Two gangs in a nightclub can be a recipe for lethal violence.
However, the violence, volatility and immaturity of many of the hoodlums creates chaos: gang structures fall apart and re-form regularly. Drugs, particularly crack cocaine, pour high octane fuel on the flames.
Drugs lie at the heart of many shooting incidents, according to Scotland Yard. Those selling crack or cocaine carry guns to protect themselves against other criminals who want to steal it from them at gunpoint. Turf wars erupt over drugs markets and control of supplies in local areas.
However, the culture of "disrespect", and the willingness to initiate a "beef" at the slightest provocation, are also a central feature of the violence. To glance at someone in a nightclub can be to invite an attack. The Home Office study, Gun Crime: the market in and use of illegal firearms, noted: "Nightclubs and other public social venues are significant here. Violence can escalate in shared social spaces where rivals meet. An individual's status may be publicly challenged which necessitates retaliation."
Guns can be cheap. The Home Office research pointed out that an imitation firearm could be bought for £20 and a shotgun for £50.
A military-quality handgun will go for around £1,000. An automatic weapon sells for between £800 and £4,000. However, the reality, according to Trident officers, is complex. Real, "made for purpose" guns and ammunition are difficult for the young hoodlums to obtain.
Scotland Yard officers say they are more frequently seen in the hands of the older, more mobile and "serious" criminals — the roughly 10 per cent of Trident targets who try to sell cocaine around Britain or hire out their violence to other gangs in the regions.
The other 90 per cent are much more "local". Most Trident shootings happen in the borough where the gunman and often the victim live. If they travel, it is to nightclub. There have been 13 Trident "black on black" murders since April, a level for 2006/07 which is slightly up on 2005/06. Total fatal and non-fatal Trident incidents have fallen from 209 to 179. This may be a result of Scotland Yard's success in seizing 909 firearms since April, a major increase on the haul of 117 guns in the previous year.
However, there is a deeply disturbing set of statistics underlying this apparent success. In 2003 the proportion of victims of Trident murders or shootings who were under 20 was 16 per cent. In 2005, it was 27 per cent and, so far this year, it is 32 per cent.
Not only is the younger generation perpetrating violence, it is killing its own age group in increasing numbers.