Football Unites: US Player Comforts Iran Opponents at World Cup

0
US Iran
USA full-back Antonee Robinson Credit: Video screenshot/Twitter/ Karim Sadjadpour

The animosity between Iran and the US was not reflected on the pitch of the World Cup game on Tuesday between the national teams who fought hard to advance to the knockout stage of the completion.

After the Americans sealed a tense 1-0 victory, the USA full-back Antonee Robinson took time to comfort Iranian players, as they took in their exit from the tournament.

The Fulham player embraced fellow defender Ramin Rezaeian, who was in tears and spent time with Abolfazl Jalali. Jalali had slumped to the turf at the final whistle.

Images and footage of Robinson and the Iran players quickly went viral on social media, where he won praise for his empathy.

Iran players under pressure at the World Cup before the US game

Iran’s players had been under huge pressure at the World Cup due to issues off the pitch. In their first match of the tournament against England they failed to sing the national anthem in an apparent show of support for anti-regime protests in Iran, which began after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody in September.

Conservative figures in the country have warned the players they may face consequences for their actions when they return home, and the players sang the anthem—albeit half-heartedly—before their games against Wales and the US.

Some fans in Iran celebrated the team’s World Cup exit, as they believed the government would use any success as a propaganda tool.

According to a human rights group, Iranian authorities shot and killed a man celebrating the country’s elimination from the 2022 World Cup.

The Oslo-based Iran Human Rights said 27-year-old Mehran Samak was one of many citizens celebrating the loss of Iran—the national team symbolizes the regime to many Iranians—across the country after the United States claimed a one-nil victory in Qatar.

“He was shot in the head by state forces when he went out to celebrate the Islamic Republic’s loss…in Bandar Anzali,” the organization said on Twitter.

Tax Returns of Donald Trump Handed Over to House Committee

Trump tax returns
Trump’s tax returns were handed over to the House Ways and Means Committee. Credit: Gage Skidmore CC BY-SA 2.0

On Wednesday, the IRS provided the House Ways and Means Committee with six years’ worth of former President Donald Trump’s federal income tax returns.

After a three-year legal battle, last week, the Supreme Court rejected his effort to block that Democratic-controlled panel from getting those records from the IRS.

The committee had been seeking Trump’s tax returns since 2019, when the Republican was still president.

A Treasury Department spokesperson told NBC News, “Treasury has complied with last week’s court decision.” The Treasury Department is the parent of the Internal Revenue Service.

Trump broke the tradition of sharing tax returns

The Ways and Means Committee has said it wanted copies of Trump’s returns and the tax returns of several Trump legal entities for an inquiry into how the IRS audits presidential tax returns. By law, the tax agency audits the returns of a sitting president every year.

As a presidential candidate and then as president, Trump broke decades of tradition by refusing to publicly release his tax returns. He claimed that he was withholding them from the public because they were being audited. However, there is no legal bar that prevents tax filers from releasing their returns to the public.

The committee will not publicly disclose the returns, either.

It is a felony for federal employees to disclose the contents of a tax return. Members of Congress are federal employees, as are congressional staff.

The long legal battle for Trump’s tax returns

When the committee first asked for Trump’s returns three years ago, the Treasury Department refused to turn them over. The panel then filed a lawsuit seeking to obtain the records.

The department dropped its resistance to the committee after President Joe Biden took office. Trump then sued to block the release of the records.

The former president lost that effort at the federal district court and appeals court levels, where judges ruled that the Ways and Means Committee had a clear-cut right under federal law to obtain the records and had stated a legitimate legislative purpose for the request.

He then asked the Supreme Court for an emergency order blocking the committee from getting the returns.

A temporary block was granted by the Supreme Court.

On November 22nd, however, that nine-member court, without any dissents, rejected Trump’s request to keep the block, setting the stage for the IRS to deliver the returns to the Ways and Means Committee.

Trump, who had appointed three of the justices who make up the court’s six-justice supermajority, blasted the decision.

“Why would anybody be surprised that the Supreme Court has ruled against me, they always do!” Trump wrote in a post on his Truth Social account.

“The Supreme Court has lost its honor, prestige, and standing, & has become nothing more than a political body, with our Country paying the price,” he insisted.

“Shame on them!” he wrote.

First Drug Slows Brain Destruction in Alzheimer’s Patients

Brain Inflammation from Alzheimer's Disease
First drug Slows Brain Destruction in Alzheimer’s Patients Credit: NIH Image Gallery CC BY NC 2.0 / Flickr

Researchers have announced the very first drug that slows brain destruction in Alzheimer’s patients, thought it is still in the early stages of development.

The drug known as lecanemab is part of a new era of drugs for treating Alzheimer’s, a common form of dementia. These drugs remove clumps of protein called beta amyloid that builds up in the brain.

Lecanemab is now attaining credibility after decades of failure in the field. Encouraged experts note that Alzheimer’s, which affects over thirty million people worldwide, could finally be treatable.

Although the drug has a notably small effect and its impact on people’s daily lives is still questionable, some see these trial results as a triumphant turning point for Alzheimer’s patients.

Bart De Strooper, director of the UK Dementia Research Institute at University College London, said, “This is the first drug that provides a real treatment option for Alzheimer’s patients.”

Professor John Hardy, one of the world’s leading researchers behind the whole idea of targeting amyloid thirty years ago also said it was “historic.” He is optimistic “we’re seeing the beginning of Alzheimer’s therapies.”

Professor Tara Spires-Jones of the University of Edinburgh said the results were “a big deal because we’ve had a 100 [percent] failure rate for a long time.”

Current drugs for Alzheimer’s presented no change on patients

Although patients with Alzheimer’s are currently being administered other drugs to help manage symptoms, none has posed any change to the course of the disease.

However, lecanemab is an antibody—much like those the body makes to attack viruses or bacteria. It has been engineered to tell the immune system to clear amyloid from the brain and has portrayed decline—albeit slow—in a large-scale trial.

In fact, results from trials involving 1,795 volunteers with early stage Alzheimer’s, which were presented at the Clinical Trials on Alzheimer’s Disease conference in San Francisco and published in The New England Journal of Medicine, indicated that the drug reduced the decline in patients’ overall mental skills by twenty-seven percent over eighteen months.

Nick Fox, professor of clinical neurology and director of the Dementia Research Centre at UCL, said, “I believe it confirms a new era of disease modification for Alzheimer’s disease.”

“An era that comes after more than 20 years of hard work on anti-amyloid immunotherapies, by many, many people, and many disappointments along the way,” he added.

The data, however, is already being assessed by regulators in the US who will soon decide whether lecanemab can be approved for wider use. Lecanemab developers, the pharmaceutical companies Eisai and Biogen, are planning to begin the approval process in other countries next year.

Magnitude at which Alzheimer’s affects the world

According to statistics, Alzheimer’s accounts for nearly two-thirds of the fifty-five million people living with dementia worldwide, and the disease is projected to exceed 139 million people by 2050.

Actually, it is the leading cause of death in the UK, and it amounts to a cost of over thirty billion dollars a year, with patients typically dying within seven years of a diagnosis.

The most common early sign is memory problems, but, as the disease progresses, people can find themselves lost in familiar places, having trouble with decisions, struggling with simple tasks, and ultimately unable to eat or move without help.

According to David Essam, a 78-year-old from Kent in the UK who took part in the international trial, his Alzheimer’s meant he had to give up work as a joiner because he could no longer remember how to build a cabinet or use his tools.

Essam is currently using a digital watch because he can’t tell time using a clock face.

“He’s not the man he was, he needs help with most things, [and] his memory in general is almost non-existent,” said his wife, Cheryl. But she said the trial had given the family hope.

David said, “If somebody can slow [Alzheimer’s] down and eventually stop it all together that would be brilliant…[because] it’s just a horrible nasty thing.”

Alzheimer's Disease
Alzheimer’s Disease Credit: BruceBlaus CC BY SA 4.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Is the drug a fully dependable remedy to brain destruction?

According to Dr. Susan Kohlhaas from Alzheimer’s Research UK, lecanemab had a “modest effect…but it gives us a little bit of a foothold,” and the next generation of drugs can be expected to be better.

Dr. Kohlhaas’ observation adds to the huge debate among scientists and doctors about the “real world” impact of lecanemab.

The slower decline with the drug was noticed using ratings of a person’s symptoms. It’s an eighteen-point scale ranging from normal through to severe dementia, and those getting the drug were 0.45 points better off.

Spires-Jones also noted that it has a “small effect” on the disease, but “even though it is not dramatic, I would take it.”

However, in brain scans, certain side effects were detected. These included a risk of brain bleeds in seventeen percent of participants and brain swelling in thirteen percent of individuals. Hence, overall, seven percent of people administered the drug had to stop taking it because of these side effects.

Furthermore, questions have been raised about the drug’s safety after the deaths of two individuals on the trial were linked to the drug by some researchers.

According to the published report, thirteen people died on the trial. Six of them received the drug, while seven received the placebo. The report states that none of the deaths were considered by investigators to be related to the drug.

Jonathan Schott, professor of neurology at UCL and chief medical officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said, “Lecanemab is not a panacea, but it provides proof of concept that Alzheimer’s is not an impossible problem: it is potentially treatable and perhaps one day even preventable.”

“We need to expand our research, and to continue to investigate different drugs targeting different aspects of the disease,” he said. “Ultimately it is likely that combination therapies will be needed.”

Other shortfalls to the Alzheimer’s drug

Besides the medical shortfalls currently attributed to this Alzheimer’s drug, it is uncertain when and even whether it will be approved by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

Even prior to approval, the drug is expensive, costing between twelve to sixteen thousand dollars per patient a year in the United Kingdom.

Another issue is that the NHS is not equipped to deliver the drug because it lacks sufficient diagnostic tests to identify those most likely to benefit. There is also low staff turnover which would make administering drug infusions to patients every two weeks challenging.

Lastly, the NHS apparently cannot provide the multiple MRI scans needed throughout treatment to check for side effects, such as brain swelling and hemorrhages.

At this time, it is crucial to think about what comes after the eighteen month-trial, as this remains unclear.

Two Alien Minerals Unknown to Earth Found in Meteorite

0
Meteorite minerals
Two alien minerals found in a meteorite in Somalia. Credit: Image of a Meteorite at Auckland Museum, CC-BY-2.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Geologists have discovered two alien minerals unknown to Earth in a meteorite in Somalia. A small, 2.5 ounce (70-gram) fragment of the fifteen thousand kilogram fallen comet known as El Ali revealed the alien ore.

Scientists stumbled upon the unknown mineral in the meteorite while sampling a slice. It was only after analyzing the segment in a lab that they realized they had discovered something completely new.

Alien minerals in El Ali meteorite

Researchers, scientists, and geologists are excited by the revelation, as it might help them understand more about asteroids and how they form as well as the possibility of locating more.

Live Science magazine reports the curator and professor in the Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Alberta Chris Herd as having stated:

Whenever you find a new mineral, it means that the actual geological conditions, the chemistry of the rock, was different than what’s been found before. That’s what makes this exciting: In this particular meteorite you have two officially described minerals that are new to science.

Herd named one of the alien deposits ‘elaliite’ after the El Ali meteorite. The other he termed ‘elkinstantonite’ after Professor Lindy Elkins-Tanto, the vice president of the Interplanetary Initiative at Arizona State University. Elkins-Tanton is also the chief investigator of what they call the ‘Psyche’ mission, part of the NASA operation to reach the Asteroid Psyche 16 by 2023.

How asteroids form

Elkins-Tanton is famous for her work on the formation of asteroids, which the foreign elements may help in deciphering. For that reason, Herd named one after her, saying that:

Lindy has done a lot of work on how the cores of planets form, how these iron nickel cores form, and the closest analogue we have are iron meteorites. So it made sense to name a mineral after her and recognize her contributions to science.

Asteroid-Earth
Asteroid-Earth. Credit: Sebastian Kaulitzki/Science Photo Library/Corbis, CC-ZERO / Wikimedia Commons

The El Ali meteorite is composed of more than three hundred unfamiliar IAB meteorite and iron. Nevertheless, the discovery of something non-native to Earth came as a surprise to all. This is something that Herd’s colleague, Dr. Andrew Locock, affirmed.

“The very first day he did some analysis he said ‘You’ve got at least two new minerals here,'” Locock said.

Herd called upon his colleague, Locock, to study the segments they found. Locock is an expert in identifying formerly unknown minerals and possesses a wealth of knowledge on how asteroids form.

Nightfall

Researchers came upon the El Ali meteorite in 2020. That, apparently, was when most of the world found out about it.

According to IFLScience, however, it had had a long history in the oral culture and ancient folklore of the Saar people of Somalia eons before Western scientists learned about it.

The Saars sung songs of its mystery, mightiness, and magic for over five centuries. They also glorified it in poetry and dance and even used it to sharpen their knives, perhaps out of practicality.

Cyborgs v ‘Holdout Humans’: What the World Might Be Like If Our Species Survives for a Million Years

0
humans
Modern humans, Homo sapiens, have been around for roughly 300,000 years. So what will happen if we make it for a million years?. Credit: Public domain

There may be humans who look more or less like us in the year million, but they won’t be alone. 

By Anders Sandberg

Most species are transitory. They go extinct, branch into new species or change over time due to random mutations and environmental shifts. A typical mammalian species can be expected to exist for a million years. Modern humans, Homo sapiens, have been around for roughly 300,000 years. So what will happen if we make it to a million years?

Science fiction author H.G. Wells was the first to realise that humans could evolve into something very alien. In his 1883 essay, Man in the year million, he envisioned what’s now become a cliche: big-brained, tiny-bodied creatures. Later, he speculated that humans could also split into two or more new species.

While Wells’s evolutionary models have not stood the test of time, the three basic options he considered still hold true. We could go extinct, turn into several species or change.

An added ingredient is that we have biotechnology that could greatly increase the probability of each of them. Foreseeable future technologies such as human enhancement (making ourselves smarter, stronger or in other ways better using drugs, microchips, genetics or other technology), brain emulation (uploading our brains to computers) or artificial intelligence (AI) may produce technological forms of new species not seen in biology.

The future of humans: Software intelligence and AI

It is impossible to predict the future perfectly. It depends on fundamentally random factors: ideas and actions as well as currently unknown technological and biological limits. But it is my job to explore the possibilities, and I think the most likely case is vast “speciation” – when a species splits into several others.

There are many among us who want to improve the human condition – slowing and abolishing ageing, enhancing intelligence and mood, and changing bodies – potentially leading to new species.

These visions, however, leave many cold. It is plausible that even if these technologies become as cheap and ubiquitous as mobile phones, some people will refuse them on principle and build their self-image of being “normal” humans. In the long run, we should expect the most enhanced people, generation by generation (or upgrade after upgrade), to become one or more fundamentally different “posthuman” species – and a species of holdouts declaring themselves the “real humans”.

Through brain emulation, a speculative technology where one scans a brain at a cellular level and then reconstructs an equivalent neural network in a computer to create a “software intelligence”, we could go even further. This is no mere speciation, it is leaving the animal kingdom for the mineral, or rather, software kingdom.

There are many reasons some might want to do this, such as boosting chances of immortality (by creating copies and backups) or easy travel by internet or radio in space.

Software intelligence has other advantages, too. It can be very resource efficient – a virtual being only needs energy from sunlight and some rock material to make microchips. It can also think and change on the timescales set by computation, probably millions of times faster than biological minds. It can evolve in new ways – it just needs a software update.

Yet humanity is perhaps unlikely to remain the sole intelligent species on the planet. Artificial intelligence is advancing rapidly right now. While there are profound uncertainties and disagreements about when or if it becomes conscious, artificial general intelligence (meaning it can understand or learn any intellectual problems like a human, rather than specialising on niche tasks) will arrive, a sizeable fraction of experts think it is possible within this century or sooner.

If it can happen, it probably will. At some point, we are likely to have a planet where humans have largely been replaced by software intelligence or AI – or some combination of the two.

Utopia or dystopia?

Eventually, it seems plausible that most minds will become software. Research suggests that computers will soon become much more energy efficient than they are now. Software minds also won’t need to eat or drink, which are inefficient ways of obtaining energy, and they can save power by running slower parts of the day. This means we should be able to get many more artificial minds per kilogram of matter and watts of solar power than human minds in the far future. And since they can evolve fast, we should expect them to change tremendously over time from our current style of mind.

Physical beings have a distinct disadvantage compared with software beings, moving in the sluggish, quaint world of matter. Still, they are self-contained, unlike the flitting software that will evaporate if their data centre is ever disrupted.

“Natural” humans may remain in traditional societies very unlike those of software people. This is not unlike the Amish people today, whose humble lifestyle is still made possible (and protected) by the surrounding United States. It is not given that surrounding societies have to squash small and primitive societies: we have established human rights and legal protections and something similar could continue for normal humans.

Is this a good future? Much depends on your values. A good life may involve having meaningful relations with other people and living in a peaceful and prosperous environment sustainably. From that perspective, weird posthumans are not needed; we just need to ensure that the quiet little village can function (perhaps protected by unseen automation).

Some may value “the human project”, an unbroken chain from our palaeolithic ancestors to our future selves, but be open to progress. They would probably regard software people and AI as going too far, but be fine with humans evolving into strange new forms.

Others would argue what matters is freedom of self-expression and following your life goals. They may think we should explore the posthuman world widely and see what it has to offer.

Others may value happiness, thinking or other qualities that different entities hold and want futures that maximise these. Some may be uncertain, arguing we should hedge our bets by going down all paths to some extent.

Dyson sphere?

Here’s a prediction for the year one million. Some humans look more or less like us – but they are less numerous than they are now. Much of the surface is wilderness, having turned into a rewilding zone since there is far less need for agriculture and cities.

Here and there, cultural sites with vastly different ecosystems pop up, carefully preserved by robots for historical or aesthetic reasons.

Under silicon canopies in the Sahara, trillions of artificial minds teem. The vast and hot data centres which power these minds once threatened to overheat the planet. Now, most orbit the Sun, forming a growing structure – a Dyson sphere – where each watt of energy powers thought, consciousness, complexity and other strange things we do not have words for yet.

If biological humans go extinct, the most likely reason (apart from the obvious and immediate threats right now) is a lack of respect, tolerance and binding contracts with other post-human species. Maybe a reason for us to start treating our own minorities betters.

Anders Sandberg is a James Martin Research Fellow, Future of Humanity Institute & Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford. This article was published in The Conversation and is republished under a Creative Commons License.

Missing Daughter Reunited With Family After 51 Years

0
Alta Apantenco, Melissa Highsmith and Jeffrie Highsmith .Missing Daughter Reunited With Family After 51 Years
Alta Apantenco, Melissa Highsmith and Jeffrie Highsmith. Missing Daughter Reunited With Family After 51 Years. Credit: Highsmith Family

The missing daughter of a family in Texas has been reunited with them after being kidnapped by a baby sitter at only 22 months of age 51 years previously.

Melissa Highsmith, now aged 53 years, rejoined her long-lost family after DNA samples sent to an ancestry website produced a match.

After years of searches that yielded nothing, the Apantenco family worked with an amateur genealogist to help use DNA results to find records of her.

Babysitter kidnapped Apantenco’s daughter from her home

At the time of the kidnapping, Highsmith’s biological mother Alta Apantenco had separated from the girl’s father and moved to Fort Worth, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The single mother had placed an ad for a babysitter in a local newspaper, and the woman who answered it for a job said she preferred watching the girl from her own house. Ms. Apantenco agreed however, on a fateful August 23 1971, when the purported babysitter picked the girl up and never brought her back.

Melissa Highsmith. Missing Daughter Reunited With Family After 51 Years
Melissa Highsmith. Credit: Melissa Highsmith / Facebook

Reports from ABC affiliate WFAA said she simply vanished with the baby, sparking a decades-long hunt by the Highsmith family, police and federal authorities.

Year after year as the search went on, Mrs. Highsmith was unaware that anyone was looking for her, in fact, she suspected it was a scam when the family contacted her through Facebook.

In a meeting filled with long-overdue hugs and joyful tears, now plans to change her name from ‘Melanie Brown’ back to Highsmith.

Family finally reunites

In September, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received an anonymous tip from someone who reported a possible sighting of Melissa in South Carolina.

On November 6, a breakthrough in the case finally came, connecting Mrs. Highsmith, her birth parents and two of her siblings. They all met on November 26 for the first time.

The family wrote in a Facebook post that they conducted “further official and legal DNA testing” and are awaiting “official confirmation for the naysayers in this world”.

Melissa Highsmith with her mother Alta Apantenco. Missing Daughter Reunited With Family After 51 Years
Melissa Highsmith with her mother Alta Apantenco. Credit: Sharon Rose Highsmith / Facebook

Melissa’s family is nevertheless absolutely certain Melissa is their missing daughter because she has the same birthmark and birthday.

The family further posted on Facebook, “Our finding Melissa was purely because of DNA. Not because of any police or FBI involvement, podcast involvement, or even our family’s own private investigations or speculations.”

Ms. Apatenco said she “just couldn’t believe” that the family had been reunited after so many years. “I thought I’d never see her again,” she said.

She furthermore told WFAA, “I’m just elated; I can’t describe my feelings. I’m so happy to see my daughter that I didn’t think I would ever see again.

Highsmith expresses joy at homecoming

“It’s overwhelming,”  Highsmith told BBC’s US partner CBS. “But at the same time, it’s the most wonderful feeling in the world.

Melissa Highsmith with her father. Missing Daughter Reunited With Family After 51 Years
Melissa Highsmith with her father. Credit:
WE FOUND MELISSA!!! / Facebook

“My heart right now is just full and bursting with just much emotion. I’m just really, really happy. I feel like I am dreaming and I keep having to pinch myself to make sure I’m awake,” she added.

“It was just a mixture of joy and terrifying,” Melissa Highsmith told KDFW-TV, “being terrified and excited and just trying to understand, you know, make sense of everything.”

Whereabouts of kidnapper of missing daughter still unknown

When asked about the kidnapper who raised her, Highsmith admitted to knowing she was not her biological mother.

Alta Apantenco and suspect image. Missing Daughter Reunited With Family After 51 Years
Alta Apantenco and suspect Credit: Ginger Petersen / Facebook

No other information has been given at this time about the person who pretended to be her mother for decades. “That just made it real,” Mrs. Highsmith said.

The Fort Worth Police Department said in a statement that it will continue the investigation  in order to piece together what happened.

The Highsmith family explained that they are making up for that lost time now by getting to know one another, while the police continue with to look into the abduction.

Sisters couldn’t hide their happiness

Melissa’s sister, Victoria Garner wrote on Facebook, “I couldn’t stop crying, I was overjoyed and I’m still walking around in a fog trying to comprehend that my sister is right in front of me and that we found her.”

Sharon Rose Highsmith with her mother Alta Apantenco. Missing Daughter Reunited With Family After 51 Years
Sharon Rose Highsmith with her mother Alta Apantenco. Credit: Sharon Rose Highsmith / Facebook

“It’s overwhelming and incredible to me,” said Sharon Highsmith, Melissa’s younger sister.

“For 50 years, my mom has lived with the guilt of losing Melissa. She’s also lived with community and nationwide accusations that she hurt or killed her own baby.

Family never gave up hope

“I’m so glad we have Melissa back. I’m also grateful we have vindication for my mom.”

On their Facebook group page, the family wrote: “The joy is palpable amongst all family members … Thank you for your support over the years!”

“We had several tips,” Mr. Highsmith said. ” We would go off to other states. We would go off and talk to different girls, have DNA made, and our hopes were dashed, It was hard.”

They also expressed their amazement that she had been living only a half hour away from them in Fort Worth all those years.

Newly Established Thessaloniki-Izmir Ferry Route Suspended

0
The Smyrna di Levante ferry travels from Thessaloniki to Izmir or Smyrna
The Smyrna di Levante ferry will provide a maritime link between Thessaloniki and Izmir. Credit: Levante Ferries Group

Levante Ferries Group has announced that its ferry route between Thessaloniki in northern Greece and the city of Izmir (Smyrna) on Turkey’s western coast will be temporarily suspended until the Summer of 2023.

The Smyrna di Levante’s maiden voyage was on October 10th of this year. The company hopes that the link will become popular with tourists, owing to the immense cultural and historical attractions offered by both cities.

The Thessaloniki-Izmir link

The Thessaloniki-Izmir ferry link is the first of its kind. The journey between the two coastal cities lasts for approximately 14 hours. Services to Izmir occur every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Voyages to Thessaloniki take place on the alternating days of Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday.

Passengers can obtain a ticket for €81. A 10 percent discount is available for return tickets. It can accommodate 948 passengers, 300 cars, and 55 trucks.

Levant Ferries Group has said that “the precise date for resuming the service in the summer of 2023 will be specified in a later announcement.”

White Tower and beach front Thessaloniki.
White Tower and beachfront Thessaloniki. Credit: Dokashi, CC-BY-SA-4.0 / Wikimedia Commons

A ferry route of diplomatic value

In recent years, Greece and Turkey have been experiencing a period of heightened tensions, particularly in the geostrategically important Aegean Sea. Nevertheless, it is hoped that the new maritime link will play a small role in helping to foster more positive bilateral relations.

It took over two decades of negotiations to make the Aegean route a reality amid a deteriorating diplomatic situation. Former Thessaloniki mayor, Yiannis Boutaris, was a firm believer in the project and championed the economic and cultural benefits it could bring the two cities.

Levant Ferries Group has likewise promoted the Thessaloniki-Izmir link’s diplomatic qualities. The firm said that it had “created a bridge of communication between Greece and Turkey, which are now coming closer on a trade, social and cultural level”.

Izmir Clock Tower
Izmir Clock Tower. Credit: Ferit Baycuman / CC BY-SA 4.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Two desirable destinations now joined together

Both Thessaloniki and Izmir boast illustrious histories and have a lot to offer visitors in terms of culture, cuisine, and tourist attractions.

Thessaloniki is Greece’s second-largest city. King Cassander of Macedon founded the city in around 315 BC, naming it after his wife Thessalonike, a half-sister of Alexander the Great. Today, it is known for its gastronomy and as an important business center in Greece. The picturesque White Tower Tower and Byzantine-era Rotunda are well-known historical attractions.

The city may also hold special significance for Turkish visitors arriving by ferry. Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish state, was born in Thessaloniki in 1881. The house where he was born has now become a museum and attracts thousands of Turkish tourists annually.

Izmir is the third most populous city in Turkey. Notable attractions include the marble Clock Tower, the remains of a Roman-era agora (market), and the Kemeraltı bazaar established by the Ottomans. Like Thessaloniki, Izmir is well regarded for its culinary contributions.

Its past is closely linked with the Greek presence in Asia Minor as Izmir is a Turkish rendering of the Greek name Smyrna, which was one of the oldest ancient Greek cities in Asia Minor. It was founded by the Aeolian Greeks in the 11th century BC and maintained a strong Greek presence until the Great Fire of 1922.

Ancient Ruins of Smyrna
The ancient Greeks founded Smyrna in the 11th century BC. Credit: Carole Raddato / CC BY-SA 2.0 / via Wikimedia Commons

A Rat Without a Y Chromosome Could Reveal Human’s Genetic Future

Ferreira's spiny Tree Rat
A Rat Without a Y Chromosome Could Reveal Human Genetic Future Credit: Antoine Baglan CC-BY-4.0 / Wikimedia Commons

A spiny rat  that has lost its Y chromosome has been discovered by researchers in the Amami Islands. The finding could reveal the future of human genetics.

The rattus – its scientific name – from the island in the Ryukyu archipelago of Japan, perplexed biologists for decades as the loss of Y chromosome implies the loss of males and with, the species demise.

According to the researchers, the Y chromosomes in many mammals including humans has, over the past tens of millions of years, drastically reduced, which could possibly lead to extinction.

Asato Kuroiwa from the Hokkaido University in Japan stated that the spiny rat shows how such an event might happen which, by consequence, indicates that humans may be prone to the same fate. Kuroiwa and her colleagues have also determined that one of the rat’s normal chromosomes has effectively evolved into a totally new male sex chromosome.

What is the Y chromosome?

A sex chromosome pair is composed of a combination of X and Y chromosomes. The X chromosome is the female sex-determining chromosome and the Y the male sex-determining chromosome.

Y chromosome
Y chromosome. Credit: Christinelle Miller, CC-BY-SA-4.0 / Wikimedia Commons

The Y chromosome contains a gene called SRY that activates the “male” genes on other chromosomes and, most importantly, the SOX9 gene that triggers the development of testes.

The Amami spiny rat (Tokudaia osimensis) is one of just a handful of mammals that lack Y chromosomes. What’s more, females as well as males have only one X chromosome. However, the existence of female mammals shows that the shrunken Y doesn’t contain any crucial genes, so cells and individuals can survive its loss.

In fact, recent studies show it is often lost from cells as men age, although the loss of the chromosome from an entire population should have resulted in their eventual eradication due to the fact that there were no more males.

How male spiny rats still exist without the Y chromosome

Whiteheads Spiny Rat
Spiny Rat Credit: Konstans Wells CC BY 4.0 / Wikimedia Commons

In order for the researchers to identify how male spiny rats still exist, the team first sequenced the genomes of several males and females, which didn’t reveal any variants unique to males. Kuroiwa and her team then looked more closely, and found that one of the two copies of chromosome 3 in the male rates has a duplicated region that is right next to SOX9.

They therefore carried out several experiments, including adding the duplicated region to mice – to show that this duplication boosts the activity of SOX9 and thus effectively replaces SRY. What this implied was that during duplication, the chromosome 3 becomes a “proto-Y”, while the version without duplication a “proto-X”.

According to Robin Lovell-Badge at the Francis Crick Institute in London, one of the researchers who discovered the SRY gene, the team deleted the duplication in the rodents to show that no males develop in order to prove it beyond doubt.

Yet because they are an endangered species, such experiments are not allowed. Nevertheless, Lovell-Badge said, “…the evidence they have is all quite convincing.”

That being said, since duplications of that type are difficult to spot, it could explain why previous attempts to explain how male spiny rats became male had been futile. One theory is thus that duplication must have started to arise sometime 2 million years ago when the mammals diverged from a related species that still had the Y chromosome.

What it implies if so is that once the duplication has happened, the loss of the Y chromosome would no longer result in the loss of all males. Still, it is the belief of Kuroiwa  that a mixed population of males with and without Y chromosomes probably existed together on the island for some time.

The chromosome controversy in humans and rats

During the study, Kuroiwa noted that the male rats with the Y chromosome were fewer on the island, though that fact was most likely due to rising seas. This left only the males without.

“At some point in the past, the sea level rose and the land area was much smaller,” she said.

“I think this is a brilliant piece of work. The evidence is very compelling,” Jenny Graves at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, stated. “There’s no reason to think our Y chromosome is any more robust than the spiny rat’s.”

In 2002 however, Graves controversially claimed that the human Y chromosome would eventually fade out in around 10 million years.

XY Chromosomes
XY Sex determination chromosomes. Credit: Yassin Mrabet, CC-BY-SA-4.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Kuroiwa also concurs with Graves. In her words,  “I absolutely agree with Jenny, I also believe that the Y chromosome will disappear.”

Kuroiwa further noted that because both sexes in the Amami spiny rat now have only a single X chromosome, it’s possible that they could as well vanish over time.

“Since it is unstable and mutations are accumulating, I think that X will eventually disappear.”

There is though the chance that, if the descendants of the Amami spiny rat survive long enough, its proto-X and proto-Y chromosomes are likely to evolve along the same lines as the X and Y, with the proto-Y shrinking and becoming distinct from the proto-X.

In contrast, Lovell-Badge points to a number of studies which suggest that the Y chromosome is doing just fine and is in absolute yno danger of disappearing from either humans or other mammals.

“I think the paper makes it pretty clear that the loss of a Y chromosome in mammalian evolution is a very rare event,” he declared.

World’s Wealthiest Female Billionaires in 2022

0
Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, 2022’s World’s Richest Woman
Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, 2022’s wealthiest female billionaire. Credit: Françoise Bettencourt Meyears @MeyersFrançloise / Twitter

The world’s wealthiest female billionaires are quite diverse. Some were born into wealthy families, while others produced their own fortunes.

The “Forbes List of Billionaires” and the “Bloomberg Billionaire Index” each provide regular insights into who the five hundred most affluent individuals are, including both men and women. This November, it is no different, as both have provided a list of real time billionaires, and women are moving up on that list.

World’s richest women in 2022

The world’s real time female billionaires are from quite different backgrounds, countries, cultures, and lifestyles. Together, however, they have amassed an astounding $1.56 trillion dollars in economic resources, capital, and assets.

Françoise Bettencourt-Meyer, who inherited the L’Oréal conglomerate after the death of Liliane Bettencourt in 1982, is the wealthiest female billionaire in the world. Currently, her cornucopia of richness has reached $74.8 billion.

Rihanna
Rihanna, the youngest female billionaire in the world. Credit: Rihanna / Facebook

The youngest on the Forbes 2022 list is Rihanna, the American singer and self-made billionaire who today is worth $1.4 billion. Ana Maria Brescia Cafferata, worth $1.5 billion, is the oldest at ninety-two years of age.

There are, nevertheless, another twenty-four extremely wealthy women on the whole list.

Female billionaires according to rank

As previously stated, Françoise Bettencourt-Meyer comes out of the starting block in the number one position.

The cosmetic’s heiress is closely followed by Alice Walton, daughter of Sam Walton, who founded Walmart, at $65.3 billion. This is a staggering figure—up by $3.5 billion from the previous year, according to Forbes.

Next is Julia Koch, whose affluence stands at $60.1 billion after inheriting her fortune from David Koch, her husband. In fourth position at $39.1 billion is Jacqueline Mars, the owner of one-third of the Mars Incorporated candy conglomerate.

Alice Walmart
Alice Walton. Credit: Wesley Hitt, Hitt Photography for Walmart, CC-BY-2.0 / Wikimedia Commons

In fifth is Miriam Adelson, the former wife of Sheldon Adelson, a casino magnate. Upon his death, she inherited nearly half of the Las Vegas Sands, which garnered her immense power in addition to the monetary means to invest in other resorts.

The list of the next five include Gina Rinehart ($27.8 billion), Mackenzie Scott ($27.7 billion), Susanne Klatten ($24.5 billion), Abigail Johnson ($21.5 billion), and Iris Fontbona ($19.7 billion). CEO World Magazine recently provided the whole updated list.

Ranking global riches

How does ranking global riches work? Forbes states on their website that their methodology for “crunching the numbers” involves consideration of “all types of assets,” “debt and charitable giving,” and “documentation” provided by the relevant individuals. Earlier this year, Forbes named Vicki Safra the wealthiest Greek woman in the world.

Forbes list of America’s richest self-made women, 2015
Forbes list of America’s richest self-made women, 2015. Credit: Forbes / Facebook

As for Bloomberg, they calculate their billionaire’s Index daily based on net worth. According to their website, their index is a:

…dynamic measure of personal wealth based on changes in markets, the economy and Bloomberg reporting. Each net worth figure is updated every business day after the closing of trading in New York. Stakes in publicly traded companies are valued using the share’s most recent closing price. Valuations are converted to U.S. dollars at current exchange ratesWhen ownership of closely held assets cannot be verified, they aren’t included in the calculations.

Turkish Airstrikes in Syria Jeopardize War Against ISIS, US Says

Turkish F-16D
The US is concerned that Turkish airstrikes against targets in northern Syria will negatively impact operations against ISIS. Credit: Aldo Bidini / GFDL 1.2 / Wikimedia Commons

The rising intensity of Turkish airstrikes on targets in Syria has jeopardized operations against ISIS, according to US officials.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which are mostly bolstered by units from the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG), have said they have had to scale down anti-ISIS patrols due to concerns over Turkish airstrikes and a possible ground incursion.

US special forces work closely with the YPG on the ground in Syria, but the Turkish government has designated the group a terrorist organization.

Airstrikes

On Tuesday, November 29th, the commander of the SDF, General Mazloum Abdi, said that Turkish airstrikes were making it difficult for the group to maintain a high frequency of operations against ISIS. The SDF and YPG frequently conduct patrols with Western partners like the US.

“Our joint work alongside international coalition forces here have been…temporarily paused against ISIS because of the recent airstrikes,” the general said during a virtual press conference.

US Brigadier General Patrick Ryder echoed Gen. Abdi’s remarks and confirmed that the pace of operations had slowed.

“We have reduced the number of patrols because, again, we do these in partnering with the SDF, and so they have reduced the number of patrols that they’re doing…[which] therefore necessitates us to reduce the patrols,” Brig. Gen. Ryder said.

The airstrikes intensified earlier this month when the Turkish air force bombed towns in northern Syria on November 26th. Artillery and drones were used in addition to aircraft.

Last week, Brig. Gen. Ryder released a statement on behalf of the US Department of Defense (DOD) calling for “immediate de-escalation.”

The statement reads: “This escalation threatens the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS’s years-long progress to degrade and defeat ISIS. Recent air strikes in Syria directly threatened the safety of U.S. personnel who are working in Syria with local partners to defeat ISIS and maintain custody of more than ten thousand ISIS detainees.”

The Pentagon added that it was “concerned by reports of the deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure,” but that it recognized Turkey’s “legitimate security concerns.”

A Turkish F-16, pictured in 2019
Turkish airstrikes and artillery bombardments were carried out in retaliation for a bombing in Istanbul this month that killed six people. Credit: CeeGee / CC BY-SA 4.0 / via Wikimedia Commons

Turkish operations in Syria

This month, Turkish officials blamed the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) for a terrorist attack in Istanbul that killed six people. The Turkish government considers the YPG to be the Syrian branch of the PKK.

Recent airstrikes were conducted as retaliation. “Payback time! The scoundrels are being held to account for their treacherous attacks,” read a tweet by the Turkish defense ministry, accompanied by a picture of an F-16 fighter jet.

 

Turkey has conducted a number of military operations in Syria since the civil war began. These military operations target ISIS but have also been increasingly directed against the Kurdish militia groups.

“Ankara started to feel threatened by the emergence along Turkey’s southern border of an increasingly autonomous Kurdish entity that could, to an extent, count on Western support,” wrote Carnegie Europe analyst Francesco Siccardi.

Analysts like Siccardi argue that Turkish military operations in northern Syria are largely motivated by fears that the successful establishment of a de-facto autonomous Kurdish government in the region will encourage Kurdish nationalists in Turkey.

Turkish and US soldiers on patrol in Syria, 2019.
The Turkish armed forces have been involved in fighting against both ISIS and Kurdish militias in Syria. Credit: Staff Sgt. Andrew Goedl / Public domain / via Wikimedia Commons

Possible ground offensive

Reports suggest that Turkish forces may now follow up airstrikes with a ground offensive against the YPG/SDF. However, opposition from the US, Russia, and Iran may be preventing Ankara from going ahead with the move.

The US and other NATO allies fundamentally disagree with Turkey’s position on the YPG/SDF. US-led coalition forces have worked closely with the Kurdish militias against ISIS and do not consider them to be a terrorist offshoot of the PKK.

Meanwhile, Russia and Iran continue to pursue their own objectives in Syria by supporting the Assad government. Moscow has reportedly requested that Ankara refrain from launching a ground offensive.

However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said that the airstrikes were just “the beginning.”

“While we press ahead with air raids uninterrupted, we will crack down on terrorists also by land at the most convenient time for us,” he told the Turkish Parliament. It remains to be seen whether Turkey will launch a ground offensive in the near future.