Paabo has spearheaded the development of new techniques that allowed researchers to compare the genome of modern humans and that of other hominins — the Neanderthals and Denisovans.
While Neanderthal bones were first discovered in the mid-19th century, only by unlocking their DNA — often referred to as the code of life — have scientists been able to fully understand the links between species.
This included the time when modern humans and Neanderthals diverged as a species, determined to be around 800,000 years ago, said Anna Wedell, chair of the Nobel Committee.
“Paabo and his team also surprisingly found that gene flow had occurred from Neanderthals to Homo sapiens, demonstrating that they had children together during periods of co-existence,” she said.
This transfer of genes between hominin species affects how the immune system of modern humans reacts to infections, such as the coronavirus. People outside Africa have 1-2% of Neanderthal genes.
Paabo and his team also managed to extract DNA from a tiny finger bone found in a cave in Siberia, leading to the recognition of a new species of ancient humans they called Denisovans.
Wedell described this as “a sensational discovery” that subsequently showed Neanderthals and Denisovan to be sister groups which split from each other around 600,000 years ago. Denisovan genes have been found in up to 6% of modern humans in Asia and Southeast Asia, indicating that interbreeding occurred there too.
“By mixing with them after migrating out of Africa, homo sapiens picked up sequences that improved their chances to survive in their new environments,” said Wedell. For example, Tibetans share a gene with Denisovans that helps them adapt to the high altitude.
“Svante Pääbo has discovered the genetic make up of our closest relatives, the Neanderthals and the Denison hominins,” Nils-Göran Larsson, a Nobel Assembly member, told the Associated Press after the announcement. “And the small differences between these extinct human forms and us as humans today will provide important insight into our body functions and how our brain has developed and so forth.”
Paabo, 67, performed his prizewinning studies in Germany at the University of Munich and at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. Paabo is the son of Sune Bergstrom, who won the Nobel prize in medicine in 1982. According to the Nobel Foundation, it’s the eighth time that the son or daughter of a Nobel laureate also won a Nobel Prize. Only once has a father-son duo shared the same Nobel Prize: in 1915 when Sir William Henry Bragg and his son William Laurence Bragg won the physics award together.
Scientists in the field lauded the Nobel Committee’s choice this year.
David Reich, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School, said he was thrilled the group honored the field of ancient DNA, which he worried might “fall between the cracks.”
By recognizing that DNA can be preserved for tens of thousands of years — and developing ways to extract it — Paabo and his team created a completely new way to answer questions about our past, Reich said. That work was the basis for an “explosive growth” of ancient DNA studies in recent decades.
“It’s totally reconfigured our understanding of human variation and human history,” Reich said, adding that Paabo “was, more than anyone, the pioneer of this field.”
The medicine prize kicked off a week of Nobel Prize announcements. It continues Tuesday with the physics prize, with chemistry on Wednesday and literature on Thursday. The 2022 Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on Friday and the economics award on Oct. 10.
Last year’s medicine recipients were David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian for their discoveries into how the human body perceives temperature and touch.
The prizes carry a cash award of 10 million Swedish kronor (nearly $900,000) and will be handed out on Dec. 10. The money comes from a bequest left by the prize’s creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, who died in 1895.
Jordans reported from Berlin. Ungar reported from Louisville, Kentucky. Maddie Burakoff contributed from New York.
Follow all AP stories about the Nobel Prizes at https://apnews.com/hub/nobel-prizes
David Keyton, Frank Jordans And Laura Ungar, The Associated Press
US Virgin Islands reach $105M settlement with Epstein estate
By Dánica Coto in San Juan
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The U.S. Virgin Islands announced Wednesday that it reached a settlement of more than $105 million in a sex trafficking case against the estate of financier Jeffrey Epstein.
The settlement ends a nearly three-year legal saga for officials in the U.S. territory, which sought to hold Epstein accountable after he was accused of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls and of causing environmental damage on the two tiny islands he owned in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The islands will be sold as part of the agreement.
“This settlement restores the faith of the people of the Virgin Islands that its laws will be enforced, without fear or favor, against those who break them,” Attorney General Denise George said.
Epstein’s estate agreed to pay the territorial government $105 million in cash and half of the proceeds from the sale of Little St. James island where Epstein owned a home and authorities allege many of his crimes took place.
The estate also will pay $450,000 to repair environmental damage on Great St. James, another island Epstein owned where authorities say he removed the ruins of colonial-era historical structures of slaves.
The money from the sale of Little St. James island will be placed in a government trust to finance projects, organizations, counseling and other activities to help residents who have been sexually abused, officials said.
“We owe it to those who were so profoundly hurt to make changes that will help avoid the next set of victims,” said George, who added that she met with three alleged victims who were trafficked and sexually exploited on Little St. James island.
A real estate company is listing the island for $55 million, noting that its features include three beaches, a helipad, a gas station and more than 70 acres (28 hectares) of land that offer “an array of subdivision possibilities” and “a comprehensive, discreetly located, infrastructure support system.”
The company also is offering Great St. James for $55 million, an island of more than 160 acres (65 hectares) with three beaches.
In addition, the estate will return more than $80 million in economic tax benefits that U.S. Virgin Islands officials say Epstein and his co-defendants “fraudulently obtained to fuel his criminal enterprise.”
The government previously accused an Epstein-owned business known as Southern Trust Co. of making fraudulent misrepresentations to qualify for the benefits.
Daniel Weiner, an Epstein estate attorney, sent a statement to The Associated Press saying that the settlement does not include any admission or concession of liability or fault by the estate or anyone else.
“The co-executors deny any allegations of wrongdoing on their part,” he wrote. “The co-executors ultimately concluded that the settlement is in the best interest of the estate.”
Weiner also noted that the estate has paid more than $121 million to 136 individuals via a victims’ compensation fund.
Epstein killed himself at a federal jail in New York in August 2019 while awaiting trial. He had pleaded not guilty to charges of sexually abusing dozens of girls, some as young as 14 years old.
Several had sued Epstein and accused him and his longtime companion, Ghislaine Maxwell, of pressuring them into sexual trysts with powerful men.
Maxwell, who was convicted on sex trafficking and other charges, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in June.
Chinese Rise Up Against Lockdowns that Elites Advocated in the US
From the Brownstone Institute
Mainstream headlines are alight with stories about protests of unprecedented proportion that have erupted across China in response to Xi Jinping’s draconian Zero Covid lockdown policies. I post these with the caveat that, owing to both the unique restrictions on information from China and our media’s false pretense of hawkishness in order to retain the public’s trust, stories about protests and instability in China are perennially exaggerated.
That there have been protests against the Chinese Communist Party’s lockdowns is not surprising, however, given how horrendous those policies have been. Exaggeration aside, during China’s lockdowns, most residents haven’t been allowed outside their homes even to get food. Meal deliveries are frequently inadequate and rotten and medical care is often inaccessible. Covid health status apps are strictly enforced. Those who test positive for Covid are taken to sparse, overcrowded quarantine camps resembling prisons. Infants are separated from their parents. Pets are killed.
I post these, too, with the caveat that stories of the CCP’s Zero Covid policies are often exaggerated as well, owing to both the establishment’s pretense of hawkishness and the consistent media narrative that during the response to Covid, at least we didn’t have it as bad as those poor Chinese who had to experience a “real lockdown.”
Wow, that’s some bad stuff. It’s an open question why the CCP remains so obsessively dedicated to this policy of Zero Covid; theories range from bureaucratic inertia to “saving face,” to a test of loyalty for Party members, to keeping “the science” alive, to simply putting on a show to reassure international onlookers that the CCP really does believe in what it sold them and at least they don’t have it as bad as in China. It remains to be seen whether these protests will result in any real change in the country’s direction.
But in the meantime, it’s worth remembering who it was exactly who advocated these insane Zero Covid lockdown policies and urged us to emulate them: Our own media elites and health officials.
Here’s the New York Times touting the Chinese “version of freedom.”
Here’s the Washington Post wishing the US was more like China.
Here’s the New Yorker on the secrets to China’s “success.”
Here’s Salon whining about America’s failure to “learn” from China’s success.
Here’s CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on the incredible results China was able to “achieve” with their “really strict lockdowns.”
Here’s former CDC Director Robert Redfield on China’s “control of their outbreak.”
Here’s former CDC Director Tom Frieden on how China used lockdowns to “crush the curve.”
Here’s Anthony Fauci advising India to “learn from China” as late as 2021.
Here’s Bill Gates praising China’s “authoritarian response” and blaming America’s failure on “freedom.”
Here’s WHO Assistant Director-General Bruce Aylward rubber-stamping the CCP’s lockdowns into global policy.
Here’s former Surgeon General Jerome Adams toeing the line.
Here’s Neil Ferguson on how China led the way.
Here’s Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief of the once-esteemed medical journal the Lancet, touting China’s response.
Here’s Devi Sridhar urging the UK to copy China’s “early and hard lockdown.”
Here’s professors Gavin Yamey, Gregg Gonsalves, and Angela Rasmussen defending China’s data.
Here’s the Financial Times attributing China’s “success” to Xi’s “strict lockdowns.”
Here’s Canada’s former Health Minister Patty Hajdu defending China’s data.
Here’s Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam on the “key lesson” to be learned from China.
Of course it’s no accident that Matt Pottinger and Deborah Birx, arguably the two most important officials behind lockdowns in the United States, got their idea of virus containment from China as well. As did Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza, who signed the first lockdown orders in the western world.
In 2020 and 2021, these calls for Western nations to emulate China’s lockdowns reached a fever pitch. But you don’t even need to look that far back. In fact, just yesterday, Washington Post journalist Taylor Lorenz defended the CCP’s Zero Covid policy amid the widespread protests that had erupted among the Chinese public.
Even some Covid “moderates” like professor Francois Balloux continue to toe the line that China’s lockdowns were effective.
And two days prior, Anthony Fauci gave a sworn deposition describing how China had inspired the advice on Covid containment that he issued to the United States.
As protests continue to erupt across China and Zero Covid is lain bare as the moral and intellectual catastrophe that is always was, it’s worth remembering that if we’d taken these officials and media elites seriously, the entire free world would look very much like China does today. Moreover, not a single one of these officials or media elites has been held to account or even lost their position. On the contrary, several of the most important pro-lockdown officials have had their exploits glorified in hagiographic memoirs, and some, such as UK SAGE advisor and 40-year British Communist Party member Susan Michie, have been given big promotions.
This in sharp contrast to the countless professionals who lost their positions due to noncompliance with Covid mandates, or those—as I found out the hard way—who’ve been censored for the mere suggestion that we may need an inquiry into why all these elites suddenly felt it appropriate to advise their countries to adopt one of the CCP’s most ruthlessly totalitarian policies.
It’s possible that when we get to the bottom of this story, we’ll find that these elites had perfectly good reasons for treating China’s data as real and treating Xi Jinping’s lockdowns as a legitimate public health policy, and a perfectly good explanation for why they couldn’t share those reasons with the public. But somehow, that doesn’t seem likely.
Republished from the author’s Substack
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