Hobbits walked out of Africa

THE identity of the tiny human-like creature discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2004 has become clearer -- and more astonishing -- thanks to a new analysis by Australian and Indonesian scientists.
According to a team led by Australian National University doctoral student Debbie Argue, not only is Homo floresiensis, nicknamed the hobbit, not a deformed modern human, as a handful of critics claim, but the small-brained, long-armed biped was the first human-like creature to walk out of Africa.
And it did so nearly two million years ago, roughly 100,000 years before a species most scientists believed was the first migrant. That was a somewhat more modern hominin -- a member of a group including humans and their ancestors -- that was discovered in Dmanisi, Republic of Georgia, variously identified as H.georgicus, H. ergaster or H. erectus.
"We're looking at a very archaic being indeed, one that appears to have gone its own evolutionary way long before our species emerged," Ms Argue said.
She noted that a population of hobbits lived on Flores from roughly 76,000 to about 13,000 years ago, seemingly unbothered by the emergence and expansion of modern humans.
"I think it's incredible that it lived until so recently," Ms Argue said. "Humans came down through Asia but missed Flores. It's lucky that Flores was hard to get to."
The findings, recently reported in the Journal of Human Evolution, back a similar argument made in the journal Science in 2007 that the hobbit's unique wrist anatomy suggested the 1m-tall creature came from a lineage that lived long before the common ancestor of people and Neanderthals.
Previously researchers suspected hobbits descended from H. erectus but had shrunk because of their confinement on an island.
In her study Ms Argue collaborated with discovery team co-leaders Mike Moorwood at the University of Wollongong in NSW and Thomas Sutikna at the Jakarta-based Indonesian Centre for Archeology. With ICA colleagues they compared 60 skull and skeletal features obtained from two individual hobbits to those of hominins, chimps and gorillas.
The technique, cladistic analysis, revealed hobbits probably took one of two evolutionary paths from Africa to Flores. One began 1.66 million years ago, the other 1.9 million years ago.
Three years ago a group headed by the University of Sydney's Richard Wright, including Ms Argue, reported complementary results in Journal of Human Evolution. They used a separate procedure, multivariate analysis, to determine which species the hobbit most resembled, not to tease out evolutionary relationships, as did Ms Argue's team.
Professor Wright said: "Before I did my analyses, I had an open mind about whether H.floresiensis was a deformed modern human or an early hominin.
"My analysis forced me to concluded that H.floresiensis was an early hominin in shape, like well-known fossils of H.erectus.
"So different methods and different data lead to the same result (ancient hominin, not deformed human).
"That's compelling science."

Sheriff Fires Deputy, Suspends Three Others, Over Photo Of Scantily-Clad Waitress

In this photo provided by the Midland County, (Texas) Sheriff, an unidentified waitress at Twin Peaks Restaurant and Bar posses for a photo in Round Rock, Texas, Aug. 10, 2009. Midland County Sheriff Gary Painter fired one deputy and suspended three others without pay for the photos of a waitress holding a rifle sitting on a Midland County patrol car. Round Rock officers were dispatched to the restaurant after someone reported the waitress with the weapon, which had been given to her by one of the deputies who had been attending a training session near Austin. (AP Photo/Midland County Sheriff)

MIDLAND, Texas — An embarrassed Sheriff Gary Painter fired one Midland County deputy and suspended three others without pay after a scantily dressed waitress holding a rifle posed for photographs on the hood of a patrol vehicle. Round Rock officers were dispatched to the restaurant after someone reported the waitress with the weapon, which had been given to her by one of the deputies who had been attending a training session near Austin.
The incident occurred last week in the parking lot of a Twin Peaks restaurant, which promotes its "fun, friendly and sometimes flirty atmosphere!"
The deputies told Painter that they had about three to five beers each.
A fifth deputy who remained inside the eatery got a letter of reprimand.

Afghan wives to go hungry if refuse sex to hubby

London: Afghanistan has enacted a new legislation empowering men of Shia sect of Islam to deny their wives food and sustenance if they refuse to obey their husbands' sexual demands, a media report said on Saturday.

The new final draft of the legislation also grants guardianship of children exclusively to their fathers and grandfathers, and requires women to get permission from their husbands to work, The Guardian reported.

"It also effectively allows a rapist to avoid prosecution by paying 'blood money' to a girl who was injured when he raped her," the report said quoting US charity Human Rights Watch.

In early April, US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown joined an international chorus of condemnation when the earlier version of the law legalised rape within marriage.

Although Afghan President Hamid Karzai appeared to back down, activists said the revised law still contained repressive measures and contradicted Afghanistan's constitution and international treaties it is signed up to.

According to the report, the new law has been backed by the hardline Shia cleric Ayatollah Mohseni, who is thought to have influence over the voting intentions of some Shias, who make up around 20 percent of the population.

Karzai has assiduously courted such minority leaders in the run up to next Thursday's election, which is likely to be close, a poll indicated today.

Chinese cops catch identical triplets using one driving license!

Chinese cops in Taizhou, Zhejiang province, have caught a set of identical triplets using one driving license.

The case came to light after Su Wei, one of the three brothers, was caught last Tuesday driving an overloaded truck with a suspicious driving license, which belonged to his older brother.

His lack of confidence prompted traffic enforcers to continue their initial line of questioning.

With his hands shivering, Su immediately confessed that he was carrying his brother''s license.

He also described how he and his brother Si Haiyong always used their elder brother Su Haichang''s license, reports the China Daily.

All three are said to have similar physical appearances.

'Dead' baby wakes before funeral

A premature baby declared dead by doctors at a hospital in Paraguay was found to be alive hours later when he was taken home for a funeral wake.
Jose Alvarenga said he had discovered his son was alive after he heard crying from the box in which he was placed.
The baby is now back at the same hospital's intensive care unit and reported to be in a stable condition.
The head of paediatric care at the hospital said a doctor had not properly checked the infant's vital signs.
"This is a very unusual case," Ernesto Weber told the AFP news agency, adding that an investigation into the incident would be carried out.
A doctor who works at the hospital's maternity unit said staff had tried to revive the baby for an hour before declaring him dead.
"His pulse was so low that it was undetectable," Aida Notario said.
According to medical records, the baby weighed only 500g (17.6oz).
The smallest on record was an American baby who weighed just 280g (10oz), born at less than 22 weeks.

Kamloops yoga instructor told his shorts are too short

Mohd Abdullah in a pair of his short shorts, which have led to complaints.

Mohd Abdullah in a pair of his short shorts, which have led to complaints.

Photograph by: Handout photo, The Province

A taste for short shorts has landed a Thompson Rivers University lecturer in hot water with Kamloops City officials, who say his outfits are too revealing for the city's largest recreational complex.
Mohd Abdullah, a pilates and yoga instructor who also teaches computer science at TRU, says he's been warned twice by officials at the Tournament Capital Centre that the shorts he wears when working out there are too short.
But the 48-year-old has refused to heed the warnings -- and says he'd rather rescind his membership at the centre than toss out the six to eight pairs of short shorts he owns, one of them purchased from a Montreal Wal-Mart in 1997 for $5.
"I think it is discriminating and at the same time, I think it is a double standard," he said. "Here you have women that are wearing shorts that are half my size and with, excuse my lingo, the boobs half falling [out] -- and that's acceptable."
Clint Andersen, sport development supervisor with the City of Kamloops, said there have been a series of attire-related complaints lodged about Abdullah since he began working out a year ago.
They have centered on the length of Abdullah's shorts, as well as their "looseness" and revealing nature, he said.
Andersen said Abdullah keeps wearing them despite the warnings, the most recent on Wednesday.
When asked what actions the centre will take if Abdullah continues to ignore the requests, he said: "I'm not going to speculate on something that is not a reality."
Andersen said a "user guidelines sheet" posted inside the centre offers a rough outline of what's acceptable to wear.
"It definitely doesn't get into specifics, nor do we want it to get into specifics -- because the last thing we want to be is attire police," Andersen said.
Meanwhile Abdullah, who said he's getting moral support from his wife and colleagues at the university, is prepared to take his shorts elsewhere if necessary.
"I'm not going to change my style, not when I'm half a century old," he said. "I'm just going to keep wearing what I wear."