30,000-year-old girl's pinkie points to PNG

Excavation works inside the Denisova cave, where archaeologists found part of a finger bone in 2008

By the CNN Wire
December 2010
(CNN) -- An overlooked female pinkie bone put in storage after it was discovered in a Siberian cave two years ago points to the existence of a previously unknown prehistoric human species, anthropologists say. And the lineage of that species may survive today in some people in Papua New Guinea and nearby islands, scientists say.

A report on the discovery of the finger was published in the December 23 edition of the scientific journal Nature. Anthropologists say the 30,000- to 50,000-year-old finger is evidence of a new population of hominids they call Denisovans. The name is derived from the southern Siberian cave in which the finger bone was found.

Geneticists say the finger probably belonged to a 6- or 7-year-old girl.
"The whole story is incredible. It's like a surprising Christmas present," said Carles Lalueza Fox, a Spanish paleontologist not involved in the research who was quoted in the online article.
The 3 billion-letter nuclear genome derived from the child's finger shows that the ice-age population of early humans was more diverse than previously thought. Also, a comparison of the genome to modern humans indicates that Melanesian inhabitants of Papua New Guinea and various South Pacific islands inherited as much as 5 percent of their DNA from Denisovans.
The genome research was conducted at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

The Denisovans, the scientists say, were more closely related to Neanderthals than modern humans. The discovery in Siberia suggests they may have lived across a wide swath of Asia and are likely to have intermingled with the ancestors of modern humans who migrated eastward from Africa.

Cat ordered to court for jury duty

A pet cat has been ordered to report for jury duty, despite being "unable to speak and understand English".
If the matter was not resolved, Sal the cat would have to report to Suffolk Superior Crown Court in Boston, United States, on March 23.

Owner Anna Esposito said she had told authorities that Sal could not speak or understand English. The cat's vet had even written a letter explaining that Sal was a "domestic short-haired neutered feline".
"Sal is a member of the family so I listed him on the last census form under pets, but there has clearly been a mix-up," Mrs Esposito said.
"When they ask him guilty or not guilty? What's he supposed to say - meow?"
Mrs Esposito said Sal was not suitable for jury duty because he could not understand English, one of the 10 statutory disqualifications preventing people from serving.

Her husband, Guy, said the summons for juror service was a surprise.
"I said, 'Sal, what's this?' I was shocked," Mr Esposito said.
"He likes to sit on my knee and watch crime shows with me but even so he's still under-qualified for jury duty if you ask me."
It is understood that Sal was inadvertently included on the juror list when paperwork was misread at the last census.

Towoomba floods

I spent 10 days in Towoomba visiting my cousin Maureen just before Christmas. It was a shopping stop for me as well as a goodwill visit to see Maureen who was not coming home to Popondetta for Christmas. Back in Port Moresby and watching the deluge and heavy rains on TV, I struggled to get her on the phone and email as the reception kept breaking. I even tried the Helpline being advertised on Channel 9. Eventually a text came through from her saying "situation is totally scary. I'm still indoors , at least for this week." A couple of days later she and a fellow PNGn had to go out in search of food. She said later, "just came back from Coles. Shelves are empty. Have to go elsewhere to check for food."  And later with much relief: "picked up noodles, rice and tinned fish. No milk. No frozen food. One loaf of bread only."   But there are so many people who are worse off than Maureen who have lost their homes and livelihood. Their resilience, I'm sure will instinctively drive them to rebuild. 

Ms Winnie Kiap, candidate for the next Governor General post

In 2007, I had the privilege of interviewing Ms Winnie Kiap, the Cabinet Secretary to the government of PNG. The below interview was published by Islands Business, the authoritative monthly magazine of the South Pacific. Ms Kiap is currently the only female candidate for the Governor General post to be appointed in 10 days.

" As custodian of state information and secrets she is the most powerful woman in Papua New Guinea. Yet she is a very private person. A pioneer in her field of expertise, Winnie Kiap has moved with ease into an enviable position of status and authority.

As Secretary to the National Executive Council of Papua New Guinea, she has the ear of the Prime Minister.

She is the first woman to have served in this office in PNG and one of only a handful in the Commonwealth. In anyone’s books, that position would yield the highest accolade. But she states, that is a privilege “no-one can put a price on”.

Think Positive for the New Year

Walking through freshly cut lawn deep up to my ankle, delighting in the tingling sensation of the soft prickly grass wondering what the new year will bring, I came across this bottle tree located in the heart of Towoomba Park in Queensland. I thought, what an awesome tree - with a supple, generous waistline strong enough to withstand the forces of nature! My cousin Maureen and I had just been to see a new display at the Cobb & Co Museum where a collection of butterflies including from PNG were on show. Maureen is a PhD student at the university in Towoomba completing her studies on the 'effects of climate change on endangered species'. One such species is the  birdwing butterfly; the largest in the world is found in my province, Oro.Only a couple of days after I left Towoomba, the rains and the floods began with nearby town Chinchilla going under. What I did experience though while I was in Towoomba, was a storm with hails as big as golf balls. I hope and pray that the devastating floods in Queensland will subside soon and normalcy will return. 

Some wishes for 2011

Was it really the year of the "noughties"? I began to wonder before Christmas.Then I realised there were highlights as well as some lowlights. Below is my list and what to look forward to in 2011.

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