Last common ancestor of Neanderthals and humans lived about 660,000 years ago

Washington, August 8: The complete Neanderthal mitochondrial genome sequenced from a 38,000-year-old bone has shown that the last common ancestor of Neanderthals and humans lived about 660,000 years ago, give or take 140,000 years.

Analysis of the new sequence confirms that the mitochondria of Neanderthals falls outside the variation found in humans today, offering no evidence of admixture between the two lineages, although it remains a possibility.

The findings open a window into the Neanderthals’ past and help answer lingering questions about our relationship to them.

Mars clay “layer cake” adds to evidence of the red planet’s watery past

MarsWashington, August 8: A new study has suggested that a Martian “layer cake” of clay minerals sliced open by an ancient channel adds to evidence of the red planet’s watery past.

According to a report in National Geographic News, a deposit of four-billion-year-old clays—some of the oldest exposed minerals on the planet—extends over a wide area in the western part of the channel, suggesting that a large body of water once covered the region.

The clays could be key to determining which areas of Mars, if any, were habitable and how long life-sustaining conditions might have lasted.

US suspends aid to Mauritania

US suspends aid to MauritaniaWashington  - The United States has suspended all non- humanitarian aid to Mauritania in the wake of a military coup in the West African nation, the US State Department said Thursday.

The freeze applies to more than 20 million dollars in aid this year, including 15 million dollars in military funding, Gonzalo Gallegos, the department's acting deputy spokesman, said.

"At present, all non-humanitarian US foreign assistance is suspended and under review," Gallegos said, adding the United States condemns the coup in the "strongest possible terms."

US regrets Iraqi failure to complete election law

US regrets Iraqi failure to complete election lawWashington  - The United States regrets the decision by Iraq's parliament to adjourn for a month without completing work on a provincial election law, a shortcoming the could delay balloting previously scheduled for October.

"We regret that the Iraqi parliament adjourned yesterday without finishing its work on a local elections law," State Department acting deputy spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said Thursday.

Detroit mayor jailed

Detroit mayor jailedWashington  - Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was jailed on Thursday for violating the terms of his bond, the latest twist in a long-running political scandal that has rocked one of the largest US cities.

Kilpatrick already faces eight charges brought against him in March including conspiracy, perjury, misconduct in office and obstruction of justice. He was released on bond.

But a Detroit judge revoked the bond Wednesday after Kilpatrick admitted and apologized for making an unauthorized trip across the river to Windsor, Canada on city business.

Forecasters increase likelihood of above-average hurricane season

Forecasters increase likelihood of above-average hurricane season Washington  - US forecasters on Thursday increased their predictions for an unusually active Atlantic hurricane season, noting the number of storms so far and atmospheric and oceanic conditions that favour hurricane development.

There is an 85-per-cent chance of an above-normal hurricane season, an increase from a May prediction of a 65-per-cent chance, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Centre said.