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A genetic study found that modern elephant species don’t interbreed, unlike their ancient predecessors.
Thanks to a recent DNA analysis, researchers discovered that interbreeding among ancient species of mammoths and mastodonts was a common occurrence. According to them, this may have served an evolutionary purpose in the survival of the species.
As part of their study, the researchers sequenced the genome of several species of elephants. Not limited to living one, the team also sequenced DNA from extinct elephant species. This led to their surprising conclusion that while today’s living pachyderms do not interbreed, their ancient relatives actively did it.
What Are the Benefits of Interbreeding?
As these ancient relatives of elephants chose to interbreed, it allowed the different species of mammoths and mastodonts to survive in a variety of environments over multiple centuries. The diversification of the gene pool created by the interbreeding allowed these species to expand and adapt to the changing climate and environmental conditions.
Based on the results of the genome sequencing, scientists determined that modern elephants (primarily forest and savanna elephants) evolved in isolation from one another. These seem to have had a very different evolutionary track from that of their predecessors.
The lack of hybridization has implications for the conservation of modern elephants. Namely, as the climates and environments they inhabit change, they are less likely to incorporate new genes that allow them to adapt. At least not as their earlier counterparts could.
Conservation efforts could now also include a push to treat the modern elephant species as entirely distinct species that require different approaches.
Prior to this study, there was limited knowledge of the genetics of elephants. Sequencing their genomes and the subsequent analysis helped open up a whole new understanding of the evolutionary progress of such species.
This new understanding of the elephant genome will allow researchers to adjust their approach to the conservation of modern elephant species and their three living branches.
Toys R Us may close 200 additional stores due to poor holiday sales.
American toy store chain, Toys R Us, is struggling to keep itself afloat and the odds of reversing bankruptcy are growing slimmer, claim bankruptcy and restructuring experts. Now, the toy retailer is reportedly planning to close an additional 200 stores.
The news comes nearly after a month since Toys R Us announced it would be closing down 182 stores, following lackluster holiday sales.
Toys R Us filed for bankruptcy just before its crucial holiday fourth-quarter was about to begin, hoping to break even by the end. That decision will spell disaster, according to experts.
The company had reportedly violated the terms of its bankruptcy financing due to lower than expected holiday sales. This was followed by Toys R Us’s announcement that it was going to double the number of stores it would be closing, racking up the tally to 400 stores. The major cut would translate to roughly half of the US store fleet.
Before filing for bankruptcy, Toys R Us reportedly had over 11 thousand full-time employees and over 21 thousand part-time workers.
November and December sales declined 9 percent, making it the biggest holiday drops on record for the company.
Ted Gavin, a managing partner of restructuring at consulting firm Gavin/ Solmonese, said that retailers usually file for bankruptcy in January, after the holiday season, as this is the time when they have available cash to fund the restructuring.
However, a Toys R Us representative said that the potential store closures are pure speculation and that the company is currently looking to reinvent itself as to emerge from Chapter 11. According to the representative, the retailer’s organizational structure and overall store footprint will rely on the needs of its new business model. Thus, the company believes that it would be too early to announce such a drastic downscale.
USCIS has updated its mission statement to no longer refer to America as a nation of immigrants.
America is no longer a country of immigrants, according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The Homeland Security component changed its official mission statement on Thursday.
USCIS, which is responsible for granting visas and US citizenship, is now describing itself as an organization that “administers the nation’s lawful immigration system”. More so, the updated mission statement forgoes the term “customers” when referring to visa applicants.
According to a letter to his employees, USCIS director, L. Francis Cissna, explained that the changes were a “straightforward statement that clearly defines the agency’s role in our country’s lawful immigration system and the commitment we have to the American people.”
Cissna also explained why the new mission statement no longer refers to visa applicants as “customer”. According to the director, using this term would lead to the “erroneous” notion that applicants and petitioners for US citizenship are the parties for which the agency serves rather than “the American people”.
There was no specific explanation as to why USCIS stopped describing America as a nation of immigrants.
Cissna became USCIS’s director in October 2017, after President Trump’s election. Trump has been pushing for harder immigration rules, as to prevent illegal aliens or other undesirables from reaching the US. He intends to admit only 45 thousand refugees this year. President Obama had originally set 2017’s cap at 110 admissions, however, Trump lowered that to about 50 thousand.
According to State Department data, over 6 thousand refugees have been admitted in the US this year, currently.
Eleanor Aces, director of refugee protection at Human Rights First, said that removing the language that refers to America as a nation of immigrants does not eliminate the country’s identity. Aces criticised President Trump and immigration extremists for their attempts to “dehumanize” immigrants and refugees.
Land plants may have appeared on Earth 100 million years earlier than previously established.
Earth wasn’t always this green, or at least it’s land wasn’t. Scientists believe that our planet’s first four billion years was devoid of life, with the exception of microbes. It was when the first land plants blossomed that continents became greener, produced habitats and allowed animal life to flourish. Scientists have been trying to figure out an approximate date for the birth of land plants for decades. Now, a new study, suggests that plant life began to thrive on Earth over 100 million before the 420 million years that scientists previously estimated.
According to the research paper, published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the ancestor of land plants existed in the middle of the Cambrian Period, and age similar to that of the first known terrestrial animals.
Researchers made the find by using the so-called “molecular clock” method, in which they analyzed genetic changes over time and linked them to their predecessors. The process essentially overlapped genetic differences found in plant fossils with living species to find a common ancestor’s age. By doing so, researchers were able to establish an evolutionary timeline that could fill in the blanks in their fossil records. The results revealed that previous assumptions as to when plant life first took root on our planet were wrong.
Co-author of the study, Dr. Jennifer Morris, said that the spread of plants and their adaptation to life on land eventually led to a dramatic decrease in “greenhouse gas” carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere as well as global cooling. She claims that initial efforts to model these atmospheric changes have accepted the plant fossil record “at face value”.
“…our research shows that these fossil ages underestimate the origins of land plants, and so these models need to be revised,” said Dr. Morris said.
The Boring Company received digging permits for a Hyperloop tunnel in Washington DC.
Tesla and SpaceX founder, Elon Musk, is once again proving that an idea can go a long way as long as you stick to it. One of his other endeavors, The Boring Company, has received a written permit for preliminary preparation and excavation for a potential Hyperloop transportation system in Washington DC. The line would link Washington DC to New York, with stops at Philadelphia and Baltimore.
The total trip time between DC and New York would be a mere 29 minutes, something which would no doubt revolutionize transportation. Imagine ending your shift in Washington DC and going back to your home in New Jersey on the same day.
The permit is reportedly for a spot at 53 New York Avenue NE, located next to a McDonald’s and near the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
According to a Boring Company spokesperson, if a Hyperloop were to be constructed at the New York Avenue location, it could become a station “ as part of the Hyperloop network of ultra-high-speed main lines and slower city ‘loops’ “.
However, the project is still in its early stages and the bigger picture is yet to be fully explored, according to DC Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s chief of staff, John Falcicchio.
Elon Musk already has clearance from the White House and the state of Maryland to start preparing the Hyperloop site.
Back in July of last year, Musk tweeted that he had received verbal approval from the government to build an underground Hyperloop network along the East coast. While there weren’t any formal agreements in place at the time of the tweet, it has since been confirmed that The Boring company has had positive conversations with the White House over the Hyperloop network.
Just received verbal govt approval for The Boring Company to build an underground NY-Phil-Balt-DC Hyperloop. NY-DC in 29 mins.
A small chunk of an ancient Mars meteorite will be returned to the Red Planet by NASA in 2020.
Space agency, NASA, will send a million-year-old Mars meteorite back to the Red Planet via its rover, which is scheduled to leave Earth in 2020.
The ancient Martian rock, called ‘Sayh al Uhaymir 008’ or ‘SaU008’, was once part of a meteorite that crashed on Earth after it separated from its home planet millions of years ago.
According to NASA ‘Sayh al Uhaymir 008’ was discovered in Oman in 1999 and is one of 200 similar rocks that’s strong enough to withstand the journey back to Mars.
Scientists believe that the Mars meteorite separated from the Red Planet during one of its numerous collisions with other large bodies, something that regularly occurred during the planet’s early days.
NASA is currently building the rover which will carry out the task inside the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. Once the rock lands on Mars, the rover will then use the chunk as target practice in order to calibrate a high-precision laser named ‘SHERLOC’. The laser will be located on the rover’s robotic arm.
NASA will use ‘SHERLOC’ to analyze rock and chemical features as small as a human hair, something which will also help the rover know where to navigate the planet. The agency had used rock, metals, and pieces of glass in the past to adjust similar technology to its new surroundings.
However, this time, NASA thought that the Martian rock would be a great starting point for the rover to test its laser capabilities.
“By studying how the instrument sees a fixed target, we can understand how it will see a piece of the Martian surface.” Luther Beegle, NASA’s principal investigator, said.
NASA scientists will first analyze the Martian rock here to establish whether SHERLOC can produce correct analyses.
The rover will also carry with it several materials from Earth, including those that could be used to make spacesuits from. This will allow NASA to observe whether these materials can withstand the conditions of Mars.
President Trump reportedly asked James Comey to publicly exonerate him in the Russia probe.
President Donald Trump reportedly asked the White House counsel, Donald McGahn, to call on the Department of Justice and convince then-FBI director, James Comey, to publicly exonerate the president in the Russia probe.
According to several news sources, McGahn then called then- Deputy Acting Attorney General, Dana Boente, and asked him to persuade Comey to clear president Trump of any wrongdoings. That request was reportedly not followed through.
Aside from Trump’s alleged pleas to the Justice Department, the president also personally attempted to convince Comey to exonerate him. President Trump also tried to convince Comey to drop the FBI’s investigation into former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, on numerous occasions in early 2017.
While Comey claims to have told Trump that he wasn’t under investigation privately, he did not do so publicly as to keep the right to amend or retract his statement in the future. After Comey declined to drop the Flynn investigation or exonerate president Trump, he was fired.
The latest news comes amid special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, which looks into possible ties between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin during the 2016 election. One of the probe’s key interests is whether president Trump sought to obstruct justice when he fired Comey last May. This revelation will most likely contribute to the Mueller’s case against Trump.
According to the White House, Comey’s firing was due to his poor handling of the FBI’s investigation into former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who had used a private email server to conduct government business. However, Trump would later add that another factor in Comey’s departure was “this Russia thing”.
Trump also reportedly told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, that Comey was a “nut job” and that firing him had taken “great pressure” off of him.
US Gunmaker, Remington, will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Remington Outdoor Company Inc, one of the oldest and most recognized gun companies in the world, announced on Monday that it will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The move will slash its $950 million debt load and would allow the company to stay in business while it restructures. According to Remington, the agreement with lenders will allow the company to reduce its debt by $700 million and injects $145 million of new capital into its subsidiaries.
Remington has faced backlash by gun control lobbyists as the company is known for being the maker of the Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle, which was used to kill 20 first-graders and six educators in Connecticut in 2012.
The bankruptcy is also due to a decline in sales, caused by growing fears that guns will become heavily regulated by the US government.
President Donald Trump assured the public that he would not infringe on “the right of the people to keep and bear arms”. Since Trump won the 2016 election in November, gun manufacturer, American Outdoor Brands Corp, lost nearly two-thirds of its stock market value. Sturm Ruger & Company Inc also saw its stock fall by approximately one quarter.
Remington said it will benefit from $145 million in the bankruptcy filing which will fund the company through the Chapter 11 process.
The bankruptcy will sever ties between the company and its private equity firm, Cerberus Capital Management LP. Remington’s creditors, which include JPMorgan Asset Management and Franklin Templeton Investments, will exchange the company’s debt holdings for equity in the company.
Remington said that it will continue its business operations in addition to keeping its workforce on the payroll.
“We will emerge from this process with a deleveraged balance sheet and ample liquidity, positioning Remington to compete more aggressively and to seize future growth opportunities,” said Anthony Acitelli, Remington Chief Executive Officer.
Wall Street saw modest gains as global markets recovered from a lackluster week.
Global stock markets managed to lift themselves on Monday after suffering a series of sharp losses last week on Wall Street.
Germany’s DAX index surged 1.7 percent to 12,318.15 and the CAC index in France followed suit with a 1.2 percent increase. On Friday, the DAX shaved off 1.2 percent, while the CAC 40 lost 1.3 percent and London’s FTSE index 100 dropped 1.1 percent. In early trading on Monday, the FTSE 100 was up 1 percent to 7,166.86.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average saw an increase by 0.7 percent while the Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 0.6 percent.
In Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index added 0.8 percent to 3,154.13 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 0.2 percent to close at 29,459.63. Seoul’s Kospi index was up 0.9 percent to 2,385.38. The Japanese market was closed for a public holiday.
Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 dropped 0.3 percent to 5,820.70 while India’s Sensex index gained 0.6 percent to 34,192.50. Taiwan, Singapore, and Bangkok also reported a stock increase.
Wall Street attempted to recover from its Friday losses and increased the Dow Jones industrial average over 300 points. The Dow was up 1.4 percent to 24,190.90 while the Standard & Poor’s 500 surged 1.5 percent to 2,619.55. The Nasdaq composite rose 1.4 percent to 6,874.49. All three indexes closed lower than 5 percent for the week.
“The severity of the falls globally… suggest we may have already seen the worst, but with bond yields likely to go back up… further weakness cannot be ruled out in the short term,” said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy and chief economist of AMP Capital.
US legislators have issued a $400 billion budget measure amid conflicts over immigration and other issues that have led to the second temporary government shutdown in almost a month. The budgetary measure was approved Friday and it increases military spending as well as provides $89 billion for disaster relief.
Benchmark US crude was up 81 cents to $60.01 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It closed at $59.20 on Friday after dropping $1.95. The international Brent crude gained 82 cents to $63.62 in London.
The South Pole of the Moon is the ambitious target of the ISRO.
Recently, India revealed its involvement in a very ambitious lunar project that might become a point of reference in space history. The country wants to land a lunar probe on the Moon’s South Pole. This would mean that India will be the first country ever to achieve this goal.
An Unprecedented Target: the South Pole of the Moon
This is an unprecedented moon landing, the first of its kind in the entire current history of space missions. ISRO (the Indian Space Research Organization) plans to send a lunar probe to the South Pole of the Moon.
Until now, this has been an unchartered territory, yet to be reached by humanity’s satellites. The vehicle that will achieve this wears the name Chandrayaan -2, and it is scheduled to take of on its trip in April 2018.
If successful, it will be the first probe to land on the South Pole of Earth’s natural satellite. Meanwhile, all the other probes have landed next to the satellite’s equator.
The Indian space agency took another shot at this back in 2008, when it launched the Chandrayaan -1 into space. However, scientists later lost any kind of contact with the spacecraft, thus marking the mission as failed.
What Does It Mean?
Naturally, you may be asking what the implications of such an ambitious project are. Landing on the Moon’s South Pole is a scientific milestone, as well as a breakthrough in what concerns lunar exploration.
Thanks to it, scientists could reach rocks that are 4 billion years old. Naturally, this would lead to an immense amount of research and data. It is indeed a goldmine of information, and no craft has tried to take up this challenge, until now.
K Sivan, the ISRO chairman, declared that they are performing various landing simulations. The team of scientists is working on this project at the Liquid Propulsion System Center in Mahindra Giri, Tamil Nadu. Soon, a prototype of the lander will reportedly simulate a soft landing from a height of 80 meters.