Saturday, May 15, 2010

Humans are cavemen

Women have always said it. Now it is confirmed, only that we are all Neanderthals, including women. After four years of work, the Neanderthal genome has been sequenced, though not quite completely, but sufficient for scientists to compare it with those of homo sapiens, us.

Apparently, according to these early studies, human and Neanderthal genome is almost identical at the protein level, our building blocks, and most people can trace some of their DNA to Neanderthals.

“The Neanderthals are not totally extinct. In some of us they live on a little bit,” says Svante Paabo, evolutionary geneticist at the Max Planck Institute. Cool. And that includes women, too.

A working sequence was assembled from the DNA in the bones of three 38,000-year-old Neanderthal women, found in Croatia’s Vindija Cave. The sequence now covers about 60 per cent of the entire genome. Although incomplete, researchers were able to compare the Neanderthal genome to the human at 14,000 protein-coding gene segments that are different between humans and chimpanzees. Researchers have linked these proteins to changes in humans’ cognitive development, physiology and metabolism.

Researchers also compared the Neanderthal genome to genomes of five people from China, France, Papua New Guinea, southern Africa and western Africa. Among non-Africans, between one and four per cent of all DNA came from Neanderthals. Many studies have suggested a Neanderthal-human inbreeding.

Paabo  gave comfort to people of African descent disappointed that they lack Neanderthal ancestry by saying that they probably had contributions from other archaic humans.

Macmillan faces World Bank ban

We thought this only happened in Malaysia; book publishers sewing up the school text-book market. It is said to be the ‘rice bowl’ of the politically connected, the road to riches. That’s where the market is. Many don’t even have to try to get their books adopted by schools and libraries. The public does not even get to see them, because conventional marketing is too much trouble, and sales unpredictable.

British publisher, Macmillan is facing a six-year ban from taking up any educatioal book contracts financed by the World Bank in Sudan after the publisher admitted to “bribery payments” to secure a deal. Dumb. First of all, never admit. Lie. Lie like hell, even under oath. Second of all, call them “kow-thim” payments. Obviously, the Brits can learn a thing or two about corruption from Malaysians.

The Multi-Donor Trust Fund is run by the World Bank on behalf of international donors for development projects in the African region. Macmillan said it is "deeply shocked" at the discovery, another sign of an amateur, and that it will not tolerate improper behaviour as a company. Right.

The ban has already been reduced from eight years because of the speed with which Macmillan admitted the "corrupt payments", and further reduction could be offered for “cooperation” in getting to the bottom of the affair -- whether that involves a scapegoat is unclear.

Truth is, one would be shocked if there are no bribery payments involved, no?


Author rejects Hollywood

First it was Jonathan Franzen rejecting Oprah, now Victoria Hislop has rejected a USD300,000.00 Hollywood offer to make a movie out of her debut novel, The Island. What ? An epidemic of integrity?

News has it that she has preferred to sell her book, about a leper colony off Crete, to a Greek television network for much less money. Apparently, she was worried how Hollywood would handle the movie. Surely a few singing teapots are harmless, even if they are stupid. How about a high-speed car chase while the British woman traces her ancestry through the island of Spinalonga.

Anyway, the Greek company, Mega, will produce a 26-part series with 300 local actors, probably following her book closely.

The Independent quotes Hislop: "I was simply not happy with the approaches from America. I was worried what might happen to my story and my characters ... I feel much happier ... knowing that the Greeks, who took the book to their hearts, will care about making the series and keep loyally to the plot."

Now, her book will sell, and she will be taken seriously.

The Independent

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Random House’s New Approach in Asia

Random House chairman, Markus Dohle, has named the managing director of Random House Australia, Margie Seale, to explore business opportunities in Southeast and Northern Asia on behalf of Random House worldwide.

Seale takes on these new responsibilities in addition to her existing ones. This is a new effort by Random House to publish in the region after it ended its Japanese joint venture (which started in 2003) in September 2009, and in February divested its four-year ownership of Random House Korea that was established two years earlier.

A statement from Random House says, "we continue to believe in the great publishing and business-development potential in the Asian market for Random House, and Margie is perfectly placed to identify and to advise us about opportunities there for us."

Random House, Inc. is the world's largest English-language general trade book publisher. It has been owned since 1998 by the large German media corporation Bertelsmann. Random House also has a movie production arm, Random House Films, and is currently developing a division responsible for creating story content for media including video games, social networks on the web, mobile platforms, in print and on film.
Interesting to see what they find in Malaysia.

Publisher’s Weekly

Reading as an aphrodisiac

A Daily Mail report says ‘there now a novel way to woo your lover: Read to them in bed’.

Apparently, one can ‘forget the scented candles and silky lingerie. A bedtime story is the perfect aphrodisiac’.

And then it gets even more bizarre. ‘Seven in ten men regularly read to their wives and girlfriends to help them relax before going to sleep, a study found.” On which planet did they carry out that survey?

‘And two in three women say they are more affectionate to a partner who reads aloud in bed.’ So Sufian was right all along: books are great chick magnets. However, one suspects Borges and Cortazar are not what one should be reading to a lover in bed (though they should look great on your table in the mamak shop, wrapped in plastic, of course -- curry stains are so unsexy.).

The study found that the best books in bed for men are Romances (makes sparks fly). Women prefer Romantic classics, travel guides and restaurant reviews (huh?). 81% of Scottish men ‘use the power of words to improve their relationships’, but ‘only 64% in the South-West of England do’.

The survey of 1,000 people was carried out by coffee brand Carte Noire. Maybe Perpustakaan Malaysia (the National Library) would like to carry out a similar survey in Malaysia.

The Daily Mail

US$300,000 library book fine for George Washington

A report in the BBC says that the New York Society Library, the oldest library in the city, has uncovered a “surprising book thief”: George Washington. “The first president of the United States of America borrowed two books from the New York Society Library in 1789 but failed to return them” the report says, or let us say that he is 220 years late.

The library says they will not pursue the fine. Hmmm.

Legend has it that George Washington never told a lie. Obviously, no one asked him about library books. The first president apparently borrowed the two books from the library -- at the time the only library in the city -- on the 5th of October 1789. The two tomes -- Law of Nations, a dissertation on international relations, and a volume of debate transcripts from Britain's House of Commons -- now appear to have vanished.

BBC News