Peep the oldest-known Brit
DNA from a 10,000-year-old skeleton found in an English cave suggests the oldest-known Briton had dark skin and blue eyes, researchers said Wednesday. Scientists from Britain’s Natural History Museum and University College London analyzed the genome of "Cheddar Man," who was found in Cheddar Gorge in 1903. The researchers say analysis indicates he had blue eyes, dark curly hair and dark to black skin pigmentation. "Cheddar Man subverts people’s expectations of what kinds of genetic traits go together," said Tom Booth, a postdoctoral researcher who worked on the project. "It seems that pale eyes entered Europe long before pale skin or blond hair, which didn’t come along until after the arrival of farming." It’s thought ancient humans living in northern regions developed pale skin because it absorbs more sunlight, for vitamin D. Cheddar Man shares a genetic profile with several other Mesolithic-era Western Hunter-Gatherers found in Spain, Hungary and Luxembourg whose DNA has already been analyzed. The group migrated to Europe from the Middle East after the last Ice Age, about 12,000 years ago.
Earthquake toll rises to 8 dead, with dozens still missing
Rescuers searched badly damaged buildings early today looking for scores of people missing after a powerful earthquake hit Taiwan’s east coast. The magnitude-6.4 quake struck late Tuesday and was centered near the coastal city of Hualien. The shaking was felt across Taiwan, but in Hualien the force was disastrous, collapsing walls and leaving buildings resting at alarming angles. On Wednesday, a clearer toll emerged: eight dead, and 63 others missing, officials said. "We will not rest until all are found," President Tsai Ing-wen said. In all, 196 people have been rescued from four buildings that nearly toppled. About 800 people went to bed in shelters Wednesday. Their homes had been destroyed or damaged, or they were fearful about the frequent and occasionally strong aftershocks that have jolted the area.
Over 300 child soldiers released
More than 300 child soldiers were released Wednesday by armed groups, the second-largest such release since civil war began five years ago in South Sudan. Over 19,000 children are thought to have been abducted and recruited by all sides. The "laying down of the guns" ceremony for 87 girls and 224 boys was the first step in a process that should see at least 700 child soldiers freed in the coming weeks, said the United Nations, which has helped release almost 2,000 child soldiers so far. More than 10 percent of them have been under age 13. Human rights groups say child recruitment continues, even as the government says it has committed to ending the practice. The released children will be reunified with their families and given three months’ worth of food assistance and psychosocial support, along with the opportunity to go to school.
Someone tried to mail a tiger cub
Inspectors have found tigers in all sorts of situations: on leashes, in neighbors’ yards and wandering the streets. But the office for environmental protection announced a new twist Wednesday: Someone tried to express-mail a tiger cub. The cub was sedated and packed into a plastic container. Nobody realized it was there until a sniffer dog looking for contraband detected it. The cub was mailed in the western state of Jalisco to an address in the central state of Queretaro. It was dehydrated but otherwise well, and the cub was handed over to an animal management center. The tiger’s papers were apparently in order, but it was seized because the mailing constituted mistreatment. The agency says the case is under investigation.
Sex-crimes expert to interview victim of Chile priest in person
The Vatican’s sex-crimes expert is changing plans and will fly to New York to take in-person testimony from a Chilean sex abuse victim after his pleas to be heard by Pope Francis were previously ignored, the victim told the AP. The switch from a planned Skype interview came after the AP reported that Francis received a letter from Juan Carlos Cruz in 2015 saying one of the Rev. Fernando Karadima’s proteges, Bishop Juan Barros, was present for his abuse and did nothing. Cruz also and questioned Francis’ decision to make Barros a diocesan bishop. Barros has denied seeing or knowing of any abuse by Karadima, a charismatic priest sanctioned by the Vatican in 2011 for sexually abusing minors. Francis sparked an outcry during his January visit to Chile by strongly defending Barros, describing the accusations against him as slander, and saying he never heard from any Barros victims. The AP report belies the latter claim. — tbt* wires