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Powell boosts Scorpions for Red Force clash

first_imgIn a bid to address the poor batting fortunes of the Jamaica Scorpions, the national selectors have made two changes heading into the team’s fourth-round clash with Trinidad and Tobago Red Force at Sabina Park, starting today.In comes recent West Indies one-day international recruit, all-rounder Rovman Powell, and former captain and batsman Paul Palmer Jr, while out goes opener Trevon Griffith and wicketkeeper Chadwick Walton.The 23-year-old Powell and Palmer Jr are yet to see any action this season, with Powell recently returning from Zimbabwe with the West Indies team, having toured Sri Lanka with West Indies ‘A’ a month earlier.Palmer Jr, in the meantime, who was entrusted with the leadership position last season, but who was overlooked at the start of this year’s campaign, has been named in various Scorpions 13-member squads since the start of the tournament three rounds ago but is yet to make his seasonal debut.The Robert Samuels-led Scorpions will enter the contest one place above the Red Force in the six-team championship.Jamaica are fourth on 28.6 points, 1.6 points ahead of Trinidad, who are fifth. The table, which sees a mere 6.6 points separating the top five teams, is being led by two-time defending champions Guyana Jaguars on 33.6 points.They are followed by early-season pace setters Barbados Pride on 33.4 points and surprise package thus far, the Leewards Hurricanes, on 29.4.CRUCIAL GAME”Based on the position of the teams in the standings, it will be a very crucial game,” said Jamaica batsman AndrÈ McCarthy.”Trinidad is always a tough team and has rivalry with us, so it is always our intention to beat them. This match is no different, and it is for us as a team to get our game together, including our batting, which has been struggling a bit.”The Scorpions, who are hoping to better their third-place finish last season, has so far registered a win, a loss, and a no-result, the same as the Red Force.They are, however, slightly ahead of their opponents based on points awarded to fast bowlers as per a new West Indies Cricket Board regulation.Jamaica will look to in-form opener John Campbell, who is third in the batting charts, Jermaine Blackwood and Andre McCarthy to lead their batting, which, with the absence of Walton, could see young Brandon King, who has been part of the squad, making his seasonal debut.As for their bowling, it is again likely that it will be spearheaded by captain and spinner Nikita Miller, along with fast bowler Raynard Leveridge and Powell.Trinidad, in the meanwhile, will welcome the return of new West Indies batsman Jason Mohammed, who also played in Zimbabwe, with the diminutive right-hander set to lead their batting, while bowling-wise, much will be expected of Jamaica-born fast bowler Sheldon Cottrell, who was drafted in the off-season.SCORPIONS (from): Nikita Miller (captain), Fabian Allen, Jermaine Blackwood, John Campbell, Derval Green, Damion Jacobs, Brandon King, Reynard Leveridge, Andre McCarthy, Paul Palmer Jr, Rovman Powell, Devon Thomas, ShacayaThomas.RED FORCE (from): YannickOttley (captain), YannicCariah, Sheldon Cottrell, JydGoolie, Kyle Hope, Jon-Russ Jagessar, Steven Katwaroo, Imran Khan, Jason Mohammed, Khary Pierre, Roshon Primus, Isaiah Rajah, Marlon Richards.last_img read more

Divining Darwin’s Tree Is a Never-Ending Task

first_imgSome scientific papers brag that Darwin’s universal tree of life is coming into sharper focus, but as the data increase, so do the problems.Evolutionary TopiaryCase in point: Maximilan Telford in Science Magazine presumed to write about “The Animal Tree of Life” as if one such tree exists, but ended up showing that results of tree-building are highly dependent on the methods used.  He spoke of a “strengthening consensus” emerging 150 years after Darwin moaned to Huxley that he would not live to see his tree of life established.The earlier disagreements derived from varying interpretations of the morphological and embryological characteristics of animals. Many of these characters have evolved repeatedly in unrelated lineages as adaptations to similar selective pressures or have been lost from certain groups through disuse. Today’s strengthening consensus is almost entirely thanks to the use of molecular genetic data in reconstructing trees. Heritable changes in nucleotides and amino acids are abundant and generally much less prone to the problems of convergent evolution and loss than are morphological characters.Some morphologists may disagree with that assessment, but Telford basically confessed long-standing disputes between the morphologists and the molecular evolutionists, despite his apparent favoritism for the latter.  A distant view appears to show a tree, but the devil is in the details.  He digressed into various “surprises” and taxonomic tricks to get the trees to match up:If we consider a summary of the trees produced from these data…, we find some familiar groups (arthropods, chordates, and echinoderms), as well as some surprises. For example, almost all premolecular phylogenies supposed a close link between the brachiopods (lamp shells) and the deuterostomes (chordates and echinoderms). Yet in Field et al.‘s tree, the brachiopods are placed far from the deuterostomes in the Lophotrochozoa, which include annelids and mollusks. This major rearrangement suggests that certain “deuterostomian” characters of brachiopods may have evolved more than once….Other surprises in the tree were less welcome. Probably the most striking result, and the one that provoked the strongest reaction at the time, was the conclusion that the multicellular animals evolved on two separate occasions from unicellular relatives…. It quickly became clear that this conclusion was incorrect and that it resulted from the cnidarians being misplaced in the tree. A second error—the placement of the flatworm Dugesia (Platyhelminthes) as a branch outside of the main groups of animals… took longer to resolve. We know now that its correct place is within the lophotrochozoans…. Both errors arose because the 18S rRNA genes of the misplaced groups evolve at an unusually high rate, resulting in “long branch attraction,” whereby rapidly evolving species are incorrectly placed close to the long branch leading to the species used to root the tree….In other words, the resolution of the tree depended on human choices made in forcing the data to match expectations.  It’s like the tree was in the mind, and the methods had to be adjusted to force “surprises” to cooperate.  A gardener can trim a bush to look like a giraffe (an artform called topiary); that doesn’t mean the plant would grow that way naturally.Telford went on to describe newer fit-forcing methods, such as “probabilistic methods that can accommodate the systematic biases present in real sequences, such as unequal rates of evolution.”  Who could know, though, the rates of evolution without already having in mind a picture of how the evolutionary saga was supposed to unfold?Skeptics might complain that tree-building exercises like this do not “carve nature at its joints” but rather confirm a preconceived bias.  They might also point out that confirming that bias required radical reorganizations of earlier visions of the tree, casting doubt on the lasting credibility of version 2013 that relies more heavily on molecular data than how the animals actually look:These studies have led to a widely accepted phylogeny of all animal phyla that has radically changed our views of animal evolution. Premolecular phylogenies generally envisaged a gradual increase in complexity from the earliest animals without a body cavity or coelom (acoelomate flatworms) via pseudocoelomate worms (such as nematodes and rotifers) to coelomate protostomes (annelids, arthropods, and mollusks) and deuterostomes (echinoderms and chordates) with a sophisticated mesoderm-lined coelomic body cavity.In contrast, today’s tree divides bilaterally symmetrical animals into protostomes and deuterostomes…. Within the deuterostomes, the simple urochordates (sea squirts) are closer relatives of the vertebrates than the more fishlike cephalochordates (amphioxus); a third phylum of deuterostomes, the hemichordates (acorn worms), are the sister group of echinoderms and not of the chordates.A view that “radically changed our views of animal evolution” does not indicate scientific progress.  Just because something is “widely accepted” (by whom?) does not make it scientifically valid, either.  Alchemy was widely accepted for centuries.  An explanation that requires believing that features as important as the coelomic body cavity has been “gained and lost multiple times” should raise eyebrows.In conclusion, Telford appealed to the “future research” escape clause to clean up today’s messes:Although much of the animal tree is now resolved, a number of problems remain. These problems tend to involve relationships either of taxa with extreme systematic biases or among groups that seem to have originated in a rapid radiation, resulting in a lack of signal supporting individual nodes. Future progress will depend on increasing useful signal with larger “phylogenomic” data sets from the widest possible taxonomic sample and on continued improvement in the correspondence between real data and the models used when reconstructing trees.Thus Telford confessed a lack of correspondence between models and the real data.  Are the “extreme systematic biases” in the data or in the scientists’ world views?Evolutionary TrackingIn “Following the footprints of positive selection,” a press release from the Broad Institute of MIT promised to showcase examples of real evolutionary progress: “genetic changes [that] have conferred an evolutionary advantage” if such an oxymoronic phrase has any meaning (i.e., only a rational mind can determine what is advantageous).Surprisingly, it took another radical rethinking to figure out how to find positive selection.  The article calls it a “turning point” and a “shift” to try this new method: “the genome itself can be used as a starting point to guide scientists to important genetic locations, leading to hypotheses about human health and disease.”As much as this might sound like following the evidence without bias, in fact, nothing has been accomplished yet.  The press release merely states that researchers are “poised” to make great discoveries with their chosen tools and datasets.  Some candidate high-level findings were put forth: “Several important categories of pathways emerged from the team’s analysis, including pathways tied to metabolism, skin pigmentation, and the immune system.”  Only the last one got any elaboration.  Alas, the elaboration only mentioned suggestions and possibilities for counter-intuitive observations, like the fact that “The particular variant that the researchers uncovered makes the immune system respond less dramatically to invaders, which, paradoxically, seems to help in the fight against them.”  How is that evidence of positive selection?  With imagination, the data can be made to fit the theory:We were thinking, ‘Why would decreasing the signal be important?’” Grossman recalls. “One possibility involves the role of TLR5 in facilitating certain bacterial infections. It turns out that in order for these bacteria to enter the host organism, they have to invade activated immune cells and hitch a ride to the lymph nodes. If the receptors are never activated, the bacteria have much more difficulty infecting the host.”It would be hard to defend a loss of function as evidence of positive selection.  Even so, this represents only “one possibility” to explain a conundrum – not a signal of positive selection that jumps out of the data.  The article concluded with more promissory notes.  “With this new data, we – and others – can examine numerous mutations and search for biologically meaningful outcomes,” one researcher hoped.  No clear-cut example came from this hunt intended on “Following the footprints of positive selection.”Squeaky AnswersElizabeth Pennisi’s article in Science Magazine, “How Did Humans Evolve? Ask a Mouse” is another example of a headline that fails to deliver.  She discussed a Harvard study celebrated by the previously-cited press release about positive selection: a mouse study at Harvard that focused on a gene for hair and sweat glands:Mice carrying human disease genes have proved valuable for learning what goes awry in people. Now, researchers have tapped the rodents to understand human evolution. Mice with a human version of a gene called EDAR have more sweat glands than normal, providing clues to how East Asians adapted to a humid environment 30,000 years ago.Certain people groups, such as Native Americans and East Asians, have thicker hair, Pennisi said, but it should be obvious that there’s a lot of difference between living members of ethnic groups that do not necessarily tell anything about “human evolution” from mice.  Since mice and humans already have sweat glands and hair, what’s the point, Darwinly speaking?Then we find that the Harvard team cheated: they used intelligent design to insert the human EDAR gene into mice.  Then they bred the resulting mice for several generations:The mice had thicker hairs in their fur, as expected. But they also had more sweat glands, denser mammary glands, and smaller fat pads around those mammary glands. “This study was able to show there are other, more subtle effects” beyond hair thickness, says Joshua Akey, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Washington, Seattle, who was not involved with the work.But why would this be surprising?  They were grown with a human variant of a gene.  This only provides a mouse model of a possible evolutionary change that might have helped certain people in certain habitats.  Pennisi boasted that the study “pushes the field in novel ways,” but no matter the wishful thinking among the evolutionary biologists, she confessed at the end that the implications of this study are not at all clear:The group’s analyses and computer simulations looking at how 370A arose and spread indicate that the mutation creating the variant gene happened more than 30,000 years ago in central China. China had been relatively warm and humid between 40,000 and 32,000 years ago and then got cooler and drier. But Kamberov thinks that summer and winter monsoons still created high enough humidity that those people who were able to cool their bodies with extra sweat glands would have done better. Alternatively, or in addition, the increased branching in the mammary glands could have provided an advantage for raising infants. “It’s not clear which one of those [traits] resulted in differences” in survival and reproductive ability, Akey says.Surely easterners know from experience that more sweat glands do not help in areas of high humidity; and if the rest of the year were drier and cooler, the people would have had other worries on their minds than sweating.  If “increased branching in the mammary glands” could have provided an advantage, why do infants survive outside China?  Why didn’t the genes revert after the climate change?  At best, these “evolutionary advantages” are of a very meager sort, considering the major overhauls Darwinism requires to get from mouse to human.The requirements of natural selection are very stringent.  Only what promotes immediate survival counts.  The advantage has to be so great that all the other members of the population must die so that the favored variant proliferates — this is called the “cost of selection.”  This issue was not addressed in the article.  Instead, Pennisi ended with a quote that says evolutionary theory can never solve it:The work “pushes the field in novel ways, Akey adds, as very few studies have pinned down the functional consequences of genetic changes that have been selected for. Although “the mouse model brings you closer” to understanding how modern humans have changed through time, Enard says, “without a time machine we will never get all the relevant data.“One might expect then, that to “ask a mouse” how humans evolved, the only answer would be, “Squeak, squeak.”We can dub this last story (the tale of a tail) the “Mighty Mouse Theory of Evolution” – not because the mouse is mighty (it’s only hairy and sweaty) – but because it Might help bring evolutionists closer to their coveted “understanding” of how humans evolved.  But even if evolutionists think with all their might about their mighty mice, they might, instead, never understand anything about evolution, because it’s not a mouse with a human gene injected into it they need, but a time machine.The next best thing to a time machine is an Eyewitness who was there who can tell us how mice and humans “emerged” (and it wasn’t by a blind, unguided process of natural selection).We hope these three articles expose to the world the shenanigans of the Darwin Party: imagination, suggestion, and empty promises.  Find one clear evidence supporting molecules-to-man evolution (or even a clear-cut case of “positive selection”) in any of these studies or models, or any any of the hundreds of other examples we have reported since fall of 2000.  Time’s up.  If this is the best the Darwiniacs can put forward after over 150 years of hunting for a magic tree that emerges by chance, they lose.  Let them get out of the way of the researchers who have the resources to understand the origin of “complex things that appear to have been designed for a purpose,” as Dawkins described life. 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Kenya to circumcise 1m men

first_imgAn Aids-awareness mural in Vosloorus township, south of Johannesburg. (Image: Chris KirchhoffMediaClubSouthAfrica.com. For more free photos, visit the image library.) The provinces of Kenya MEDIA CONTACTS • The Kenya Aids NGOs Consortium kanco@kanco.org • Nyanza Reproductive Health Society info@nrhskenya.org RELATED ARTICLES • HIV in SA improving slowly • Ridding Africa of HIV in 10 yearsThe government of Kenya is expanding services to meet the growing demand for voluntary medical male circumcision after the launch of a national campaign a year ago.Results of three random trials in South Africa, Kenya and Uganda in 2005 and 2006 demonstrated that circumcision reduced the risk of HIV infection among men by up to 60%.“We believe the launch of a rapid results initiative to scale up what we are already offering will help meet the demand,” said Jackson Kioko, director of medical services in Nyanza province. “Our target is an ambitious one to see to it that at least 1.1-million of the uncircumcised men in this country get the cut by the end of five years.”According to the Kenya Aids Indicator Survey 2007 (PDF, 2.8 MB), 85% of men in the East African country are circumcised. HIV prevalence is three to five times higher in uncircumcised men.There are about 1.2-million uncircumcised men between the ages of 15 and 49 in Kenya. Most of these are in Nyanza, in the west of the country, where fewer than 50% of men are circumcised.Since the launch of the national campaign in November 2008, an estimated 40 000 men have been circumcised and 124 sites opened and equipped with facilities and personnel to offer the service. The government has trained 700 health workers in the province to offer the services in various health facilities.“The trained health workers will ensure people who demand these services get them in a safe and timely manner and the training of others is ongoing across the various provinces within the country,” Kioko said.The government also plans to roll out mobile medical circumcision. “We do not want people to opt out simply because the services are not near them and we are making arrangements that we go to them rather than them coming to us,” Kioko said.“We will, in the near future, offer infant medical circumcision; this has the potential to help people in time before their sexual debut.”Not the total solutionBut experts stress that male circumcision must not be viewed as a complete prevention tool. “It is refreshing to see that research is being put to use,” said Kawango Agot, head of the Nyanza Reproductive Health Society.“But we should take precautions to ensure that we constantly give information that male circumcision must work along with other HIV infection prevention strategies to be effective.“We have plans to launch a study to look into the sexual behaviours of men who have been circumcised to find out if they are engaging in risky behaviours due to the fact that they have been circumcised,” she added. “We hope this will ascertain if indeed people are engaging in [risky sex].”A 2007 study in Kisumu, provincial capital of Nyanza, found that circumcision did not result in more risky behaviour. Nonetheless, it found that as male circumcision became more widely promoted, there would be a need to monitor “risk compensation” associated with the procedure.Source: Irin PlusNewslast_img read more

Jairam Thakur to take oath as Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister on December 27

first_imgThe newly elected members of the Himachal Pradesh Assembly on Sunday elected Jairam Thakur as their new leader paving the way for him to take oath as Chief Minister of the Bharatiya Janata Party government on December 27.The 52-year-old, five-time MLA from Siraj constituency in Mandi district is going to be the sixth Chief Minister of the hill State.Sauvé and soft-spoken, Mr. Thakur first got elected to the State Vidhan Sabha in 1998 during the first Prem Kumar Dhumal government from Chahiot, which has now been renamed as Siraj after the delimitation. A former RSS pracharak and ABVP activist from the local college in Mandi, he is going to be the first CM from Mandi district, which is the second largest district after Kangra, sending 10 MLAs to the Assembly. This time he has helped make the district totally ‘Congress-mukt (free)’ as the party won nine seats out of 10, with a party sympathiser winning the tenth seat of Jogindernagar.His name was announced by the party’s central observers and Union Ministers Nirmala Sitharaman, Narendra Tomar and JP Nadda in the presence of State party in-charge Mangal Pandey, all MPs and other senior leaders at a meeting in Shimla.His name was proposed by the former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and seconded by sitting MP Shanta Kumar, Mr. Nadda and State president Satpal Satti.On Saturday, Mr. Dhumal had made his position clear that he would no longer be a contender for the top post. It was then believed that Mr. Nadda would be the high command’s choice.However, the high drama and suspense going on since December 18 ended when Mr. Thakur’s name was unanimously accepted by the elected MLAs and the high command.It is believed that the Prime Minister did not want to spare Mr. Nadda from his duties at the Centre and his organisational role at the top.A relatively younger leader, Mr. Thakur having the required RSS backing became the automatic choice for the top post.An agriculturist by profession, he had also remained State BJP president and a Minister of Panchayati Raj and Rural Development in the second Dhumal government of 2007-12. He has two daughters and his wife Sadhana Thakur is a practicing government doctor.First Chief Minister from MandiThere is strong wave of jubilation going on in his home district of Mandi from past many days after the party’s Chief Minister designate Prem Kumar Dhumal lost the elections from his own constituency of Sujanpur in Hamirpur district. The people in Mandi were confident this time that they would get the first ever Chief Minister from this district since they had given such a lead to the party.Earlier also Mr. Karam Singh Thakur from Chachiot in Mandi who came close to become the Chief Minister in early sixties remained a number two in the first Dr. YS Parmar cabinet. Then it was Mr. Sukhram in 1993 who was the high command’s candidate for the chief ministership but he was not accepted by Mr. Virbhadra Singh and his supporters here. Later in 2012 it was Mr. Kaul Singh from Drang in Mandi who was the Congress president but was replaced by Mr. Virbhadra Singh again when the party came into power.In his first reaction Mr. Jairam Thakur thanked the entire party leadership and expressed gratitude towards the people of the State and Mandi district. He met the Governor along with other senior leaders and staked the claim to form the next government. Jairam Thakur is greeted after his election as BJP Legislature Party leader at a meeting in Shimla on December 24, 2017.  | Photo Credit: The Hindulast_img read more