Daily Archives: December 18, 2019

Human Genome Recovered From 5700-Year-Old Chewing Gum – Smithsonian.com

Posted: December 18, 2019 at 9:44 pm

Modern chewing gums, which often contain polyethylene plastic, could stick around for tens or even hundreds of years, and perhaps much longer in the right conditions. Some of the first chewing gums, made of birch tar and other natural substances, have been preserved for thousands of years, including a 5,700-year-old piece of Stone Age gum unearthed in Denmark.

For archaeologists, the sticky stuffs longevity can help piece together the lives of ancient peoples who masticated on the chewy tar. The ancient birch gum in Scandinavia preserved enough DNA to reconstruct the full human genome of its ancient chewer, identify the microbes that lived in her mouth, and even reveal the menu of a prehistoric meal.

These birch pitch chewing gums are kind of special in terms of how well the DNA is preserved. It surprised us, says co-author Hannes Schroeder, a molecular anthropologist at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. Its as well-preserved as some of the best petrous [skull] bones that weve analyzed, and they are kind of the holy grail when it comes to ancient DNA preservation.

Birch pitch, made by heating the trees bark, was commonly used across Scandinavia as a prehistoric glue for attaching stone tools to handles. When found, it commonly contains toothmarks. Scientists suspect several reasons why people would have chewed it: to make it malleable once again after it cooled, to ease toothaches because its mildly antiseptic, to clean teeth, to ease hunger pains, or simply because they enjoyed it.

The gums water-resistant properties helped to preserve the DNA within, as did its mild antiseptic properties which helped to prevent microbial decay. But the find was also made possible by the conditions at the site, named Syltholm, on an island in southern Denmark, where thick mud has perfectly preserved a wide range of unique Stone Age artifacts. Excavations began at the site in 2012 in preparation for the construction of a tunnel, affording the Museum Lolland-Falster a unique chance for archaeological field work.

No human remains have yet been found at Syltholmunless you count the tiny strands of DNA preserved in the ancient gum Schroeder and colleagues described today in Nature Communications.

The discarded gum yielded a surprising amount of information about its 5,700-year-old chewer. She was a female, and while her age is unknown, she may have been a child considering similar birch pitch gums of the era often feature the imprints of childrens teeth.

From the DNA, researchers can start to piece together some of the ancient womans physical traits and make some inferences about the world she lived in. We determined that she had this striking combination of dark skin, dark hair, and blue eyes, Schroeder says. Its interesting because its the same combination of physical traits that apparently was very common in Mesolithic Europe. So all these other ancient [European] genomes that we know about, like La Braa in Spain, they all have this combination of physical traits that of course today in Europe is not so common. Indigenous Europeans have lighter skin color now but that was apparently not the case 5,000 to 10,000 years ago.

The gum-chewers family ties may also help to map the movement of peoples as they settled Scandinavia.

The fact that she was more closely related genetically to people from Belgium and Spain than to people from Sweden, which is just a few hundred kilometers farther north, tells us something about how southern Scandinavia was first populated, Schroeder says. And it looks like it was from the continent. This interpretation would support studies suggesting that two different waves of people colonized Scandinavia after the ice sheets retreated 12,000 to 11,000 years ago, via a southern route and a northeastern route along todays Norwegian coast.

The individual was part of a world that was constantly changing as groups migrated across the northern regions of Europe. We may expect this process, especially at this late stage of the Mesolithic, to have been complex with different groups, from south, west or even east, moving at different times and sometimes intermingling while perhaps other times staying isolated, Jan Stor, an osteoarchaeologist at Stockholm University, says via email.

Additional archaeological work has shown that the era was one of transition. Flaked stone tools and T-shaped antler axes gave way to polished flint artifacts, pottery and domesticated plants and animals. Whether the regions turn to farming was a lifestyle change among local hunter-gatherers, or spurred by the arrival of farming migrants, remains a matter of debate.

This is supposed to be a time when farming has already arrived, with changing lifestyles, but we find no trace of farmer ancestry in her genome, which is fairly easy to establish because it originated in the Near East. So even as late as 5,700 years ago, when other parts of Europe like Germany already had farming populations with this other type of ancestry present, she still looked like essentially western hunter-gatherers, like people looked in the thousands of years before then, Schroeder says.

The lack of Neolithic farmer gene flow, at this date, is very interesting, adds Stor, who wasnt involved in the research. The farming groups would probably have been present in the area, and they would have interacted with the hunter-gatherer groups.

The eras poor oral hygiene has helped add even more evidence to this line of investigation, as genetic bits of foodstuffs were also identifiable in the gum.

Presumably not long before discarding the gum, the woman feasted on hazel nuts and duck, which left their own DNA sequences behind. The dietary evidence, the duck and the hazel nuts, would also support this idea that she was a hunter-gatherer and subsisted on wild resources, Schroeder says, noting that the site is littered with physical remains which show reliance on wild resources like fish, rather than domesticated plants or animals.

It looks like in these parts maybe you have pockets of hunter-gatherers still surviving, or living side-by-side with farmers for hundreds of years, he says.

Scientists also found traces of the countless microbes that lived in the womans mouth. Ancient DNA samples always include microbial genes, but they are typically from the environment. The team compared the taxonomic composition of the well-preserved microbes to those found in modern human mouths and found them very similar.

Satisfied that genetic signatures of ancient oral microbes were preserved in the womans gum, the researchers investigated the specific species of bacteria and other microbes. Most were run-of-the-mill microflora like those still found in most human mouths. Others stood out, including bacterial evidence for gum disease and Streptococcus pneumoniae, which can cause pneumonia today and is responsible for a million or more infant deaths each year.

Epstein-Barr virus, which more than 90 percent of living humans carry, was also present in the womans mouth. Usually benign, the virus can be associated with serious diseases like infectious mononucleosis, Hodgkins lymphoma and multiple sclerosis. Ancient examples of such pathogens could help scientists reconstruct the origins of certain diseases and track their evolution over time, including what factors might conspire to make them more dangerous.

What I really find interesting with this study is the microbial DNA, Anders Gtherstrm, a molecular archaeologist at Stockholm University, says in an email. DNA from ancient pathogens holds great promise, and this type of mastics may be a much better source for such data than ancient bones or teeth.

Natalija Kashuba, an archaeologist at Uppsala University in Sweden, and colleagues have also extracted human DNA from ancient birch gum, from several individuals at a 10,000-year-old site on Swedens west coast. Its really interesting that we can start working on this material, because theres a lot of it scattered around Scandinavia from the Stone Age to the Iron Age, she says, adding that gums may survive wherever birches were prevalentincluding eastward toward Russia, where one wave of Scandinavian migration is thought to have originated.

The fact that the discarded artifact survived to reveal so much information about the past isnt entirely due to luck, Kashuba says. I think we have to thank the archaeologists who not only preserved these gums but suggested maybe we should try to process them, she says. If it hadnt been for them, Im not sure most geneticists would have bothered with this kind of material.

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ARCH-backed biotech emerges with $85M and a bold claim: A new human hormone can reverse a key effect of aging – Endpoints News

Posted: at 9:43 pm

The elderly patients muscles didnt look right beneath the microscope.

He wasnt just old. He had diabetic myopathy, a complication where muscles degrade faster than normal. The mitochondria die, fibers weaken, and the tissues become so broken up they resemble crackedDust Bowl earth. Like cottage cheese, offers Russ Cox, a Genentech and Jazz Pharma alumn.

But now they looked healthy. Mitochondria were firing. The fibers perked and stretched.

These muscles were really looking as if they were muscles of a person 20 years younger, Sundeep Dugar, the J&J and Bristol-Myers Squibb vet on the other end of the microscope, told Endpoints News.

The patient and others had been injected with a form of flavanol, the metabolites found in grape skins and wine and dark chocolate that lead nutritionists to sometimes recommend those foods for heart health. Its considered an antioxidant. But the results that Dugar and his collaborator George Schreiner saw, along with earlier animal studies, led them to a bold idea: Flavanoid was actually following biological pathways normally used by a yet undiscovered human hormone, the first of its kind discovered in over 50 years.

Its a big deal, Dugar said. I think its a big deal.

That was in 2012. Dugar, Schreiner and Cox are now forming a company called Epirium around that finding and the subsequent work they did confirming the new hormone. Its a rejig of an older, poorly funded group the trio had worked on called Cardero, but now theyve managed to convince a fleet of topflight investors: Longitude, Arch, Vertex and Adams Street have joined in an $85 million Series A.

Theres also an investor called Longevity Fund, a group focused on extending human life, and Arch head Bob Nelsen has made no secret of his desire to live forever. The two hint at an idea the new biotech isnt particularly shy about: That while they will begin with trials in rare neuromuscular disorders, namely a form of muscular dystrophy called Beckers, they have ambitions that are much broader.

They made the investment not just because they think we can do something meaningful in Beckers muscular dystrophy, but primarily because some of these larger diseases could benefit as well, Cox, the CEO, told Endpoints. Theres no question we will evolve.

Epirium isnt yet revealing what their claimed new hormone is. They say the long delay has been in trying to secure the intellectual property and that a scientific paper is coming early next year.

It has to do, though, with mitochondria biogenesis, or the creation of new mitochondria. These organelles are often called the engine of the cells but they break down with age or with certain diseases and bring the muscles down with them. Exercise is one of the only ways to make more.

You and I lose 10% of our mitochondria every decade, so by the time you get to my age, youre underwater as opposed to when youre 18, said Cox, a former track and cross country athlete now approaching 60.

Dugar and Schreiner, who founded Scios before it was bought by J&J for $2.4 billion in 2003, had been enlisted at UC San Diego to investigate why flavanol had biological effects. To emerge from that research claiming to find a new human hormone is bold, particularly without publishing the work. Researchers have long studied flavanol for its cardiovascular impact without arriving at similar conclusions. The hormone would be the first mitochondrial steroid since cortisol was described, they said. That was 1949.

But the pair conducted 11 proof-of-concept trials on 110 patients and say they saw profound results that appeared to work along each of the three well known mitochondrial pathways. They didnt follow up on the diabetic myopathy patient long term, but he walked and stood better and that, combined with his muscle slides, was overwhelming.

This told us that while everyone classifies flavanol as an antioxidant, that couldnt be true, said Dugar.

The two set up the parameters for a human equivalent that must operate along the same metabolic path as flavanoid, and soon found it. Cox said that in early meetings, investors were mystified by Epiriums presentation, but eventually came around.

Of course, they all went to google it, and couldnt find a publication on it and said how can that damn b?' he said.

Epirium will start out with a clinical trial on Beckers muscular dystrophy patients, one of the groups they studied in the early proof-of-concepts. Beckers is akin to a less devastating form of Duchennes. When patients muscles fire, they release toxins that kill mitochondria and deplete overall muscle tissue. Cox said their hormone should be able to slow or even reverse that muscle loss.

Beckers may seem an odd starting point given the gene therapies nearing market for muscular dystrophy, but Cox said that their hormone might be used in combination with the flashier approach. For the company as a whole, though, rare diseases are primarily places they already have data and think they might place a foothold for a much larger project, one that includes neurodegeneration and other age-related disorders.

Mitochondria deplete as we age. Epirium says theyve found a way to make them grow, a chemical exercise.

Im not saying I want to call it anti-aging, said Dugar. But the question is, if you can really have a separation between your biological age and your chronological age, then, hey 80 years olds who have healthy mitochondria, will look like they were 60 years old or act like they were 60 years old. Maybe thats what anti-aging is.

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ARCH-backed biotech emerges with $85M and a bold claim: A new human hormone can reverse a key effect of aging - Endpoints News

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AI Is Central To The Longevity Financial Industry – Forbes

Posted: at 9:43 pm

150 financial institutions advancing the Longevity financial industry

There are over 1 billion people currently in retirement. New types of financial institutions are evolving to satisfy the needs of the aging population. Investment banks, pension funds, and insurance companies are developing new business models, and are using AI to improve the quality of the analytics used to formulate them. In the near future, the synergy between innovative AI and wealth management will lead to the creation of a new financial institutions optimized for the aging population and age-friendly Longevity banks will make banking easier and safer for seniors.

Over 150 financial companies are already developing innovative WealthTech and AgeTech products and services and AI is central to the process. AI drives Longevity, Longevity enables AgeTech, AgeTech enables WealthTech, and WealthTech supports interest in Longevity as an industry. This makes the ongoing growth of AgeTech and WealthTech inevitable.Many innovative financial institutions are in development such as Longevity-focused venture funds, Longevity-AgeTech banks, Longevity index funds and hedge funds, and even a specialized stock exchange for Longevity-focused companies and financial products.

The 7th Continent - 1 billion people in retirement globally.


AgeTech refers to technologies and services optimized for people over 60. AgeTech services enable older people to conduct banking with less difficulty and also helps protect them from financial fraud. AgeTech products for seniors include tablets, smartphones, computers, banking interfaces, medical alert systems, and phone amplifiers. AgeTech is not limited to the financial industry. For instance, theres a growing demand for smart homes for older people. Age friendly smart homes provide AI products and services that make it possible for people to stay in their own homes even if they require special care. The AgeTech segments potential is forecasted to reach $2.7 trillion by 2025, showing 21% annual market growth.


WealthTech companies produce products and services that simplify and enhance the creation and maintenance of wealth. WealthTech companies, which offer advice based on AI and big data, are adapting existing products and services to enhance the financial situation of people over 60. These companies are implementing innovations to address the financial challenges that many seniors face. The following are four examples of WealthTech.

Top 150 pension funds, banks, insurance companies, reinsurance companies, and asset management firms ... [+] advancing Longevity, AgeTech, WealthTech

Longevity Stock Exchange

Although there are hundreds of Longevity startups in the UK, EU, US and Asia, 99% of them are not publicly traded. This means that they are limited to seeking funding from angel investors and venture investors, which represents a very small fraction of available global wealth. This situation creates an extreme funding deficit and a major illiquidity problem.Almost all DeepTech sectors are facing this situation, but the negative repercussions are particularly bad for the Longevity industry, as it leads to reduced quality of life and unnecessary suffering for many older people. It also threatens to inflict crippling economic effects on national healthcare systems, pensions, social security systems, and national economies. Furthermore, in many cases investors exploit the gross illiquidity for their own financial advantage, to the detriment of Longevity and DeepTech startups.

In the future a Longevity Stock Exchange will be developed to deal with specialized derivatives. This will be a means by which investors can provide increased liquidity to the Longevity industry, and will lead to a self-sustaining cycle of growth in the Financial Longevity Industry whereby the effect of aging on GDP is repeatedly offset and the wealth created is reinvested into technologically reinvigorated human capital. The increased liquidity will enable greater flexibility and growth for companies listed on the exchange, and will help advance the Longevity industry as a whole. Setting up a Longevity Stock Exchange will require the public listing of at least 100 Longevity focused companies to create enough diversity and potential volume for trading.

Novel Financial Institutions for the Longevity Economy

AgeTech Longevity Banks

The growth of the aging population will be accompanied by a proliferation of other products including new types of savings accounts, specialized retirement plans, and specialized financial advising. As a consequence, new types of financial products, new asset classes, new investment strategies, and longer-dated bonds and securities will be developed. Traditional banks, as opposed to challenger banks, are taking the first steps in AgeTech and adapting their infrastructure for people over 60. For example, HSBC has partnered with the Alzheimers Society to create dementia-friendly products, and Barclays is actively developing software for seniors to make their customer experience more comfortable.

Over the next few years, it is likely that WealthTech and AgeTech will come to be regarded as complementary functions and AgeTech Longevity Banks reconfigured specially for seniors will emerge. Rising life expectancy is creating new opportunities for the financial sector and as the proportion of people in retirement continues to grow, an increasing number of products and services will be offered. New financial institutions optimized for people 60+ will help transform the growing aging population from a global threat into a global opportunity and will spawn a whole new industry the capitalization of which could exceed anything ever conceived of by financial markets.

Click here to preview a new book that I co-authored with my colleague Dmitry Kaminskiy Longevity Industry 1.0 - Defining the Biggest and Most Complex Industry in Human History.

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200 Years of Experience, and Still Learning Onstage – The New York Times

Posted: at 9:43 pm

I am rarely cast as an ingnue anymore, Lois Smith was saying on Monday afternoon. It was a joke, obviously, and her fellow actresses Estelle Parsons, 92, and Vinie Burrows, who recently turned 95 but rounds that up to 96 burst into laughter.

At 89, Smith was the baby of this bunch. Between them, they have more than 200 years of performance experience, including the film Lady Bird and the title role in Marjorie Prime (Smith), the movie Bonnie and Clyde and the sitcom Roseanne (Parsons), the American premiere of Jean Genets The Blacks and experimental work with the director Rachel Chavkin (Burrows).

Theyre still busy adding to their rsums: Parsons currently at the Public Theater in Tony Kushners A Bright Room Called Day, as a character whose name translates to The Old One; Smith on Broadway, with a talky role in Matthew Lopezs The Inheritance; Burrows back Off Broadway next month in Chekhov/Tolstoy: Love Stories, at the Mint Theater Company.

In the room with them, youd never guess their ages from their appearance, only from the discussions vintage details as when Burrows and Smith tried to figure out what they might have worked on together, and the closest they got was a play each of them did on Broadway with Helen Hayes. (Burrows was in the original 1950 production of The Wisteria Trees, Smith in the 1955 revival.)

The shyest of the group was Burrows, while Parsons and Smith had the comfort of old acquaintance. Gathered around a table in a Midtown restaurant, they spoke about perseverance, longevity and improving with age. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

So many people count down to retirement. Was that ever a goal for any of you?


ESTELLE PARSONS I dont think people in the theater are like that. Edward Albee said the reason we live so long is because we never retire.

VINIE BURROWS The work satisfies us, recharges our batteries.

PARSONS Also, when youre an actor, youre like retired a lot of the time because youre waiting for the jobs to come along. Theyre always talking about women have jobs when theyre young and then theres this trough.

BURROWS It was slightly different with me because as a young black actress, I didnt have the quality or the quantity of roles that I wanted, so I created my own one-woman show, had a New York Times review that said I was a magnificent performer. It was in the 60s. I went on the college market. More than 6,000 performances, booking them myself.

And you started as a child actor?

BURROWS On radio.

PARSONS Were they parts for black people on radio?


PARSONS Nobody could see you, so

BURROWS Nobody could see, so.

PARSONS I didnt start acting till I was 32. Well, I was one of eight people who started the Today show. Back in the 50s.

But you were also on Broadway in the 50s. You all were.

PARSONS My first thing with Ethel Merman, yeah, after I left the Today show because I didnt want to go to the Grace Kelly wedding. I hated interviewing people. (laughter)

SMITH My first professional job was in a Broadway play that ran all season, in 1952. Time Out for Ginger. And Melvyn Douglas was my father. It was a nice way to begin.

Whats gotten easier and whats gotten harder about acting?

PARSONS What has gotten easier for me is that when you start out, your work is kind of erratic. Now my work is of a standard. Its not wonderful one night and terrible the next night. Listen, Im 92, but I feel (laughs) that Im finally in command of my work.

BURROWS Im 96, and I feel as if Im better now than I ever was.

SMITH Whats harder is my body is not as agile as it used to be. Im very grateful that Im mobile and can do it. Its true I get bed parts sometimes, or wheelchair parts oh, boy! but I also get standing-up-all-the-time parts, like I have right now.

PARSONS I dont like parts where people are self-pitying old. I dont take those.

SMITH (laughs) I know what you mean. Probably 15, 20 years ago, I began to find I was getting all these offers to do play readings where the memory was gone. And I thought, Not yet!

PARSONS I dont really get a lot of offers, though, do I? Do you get as many offers as you did when you were younger?

SMITH At least. Maybe more.

BURROWS I dont have an agent, so when I hear of something, I go, but then they dont want to see you. I dont belabor what is; I go out and find.

How is it learning lines?

SMITH Its about the same. Ive changed methods along the way. I grew up learning my lines in rehearsal, on my feet. And I began to think I wanted to learn it ahead of time. Ive really enjoyed it, the time with myself and the script alone.

PARSONS In my late 70s and 80s I began to worry about whether I could really do it anymore. I was doing this play down at La MaMa. Id gone offstage at the wrong time. Id have an experience like that, or where Id forget a line, and I would blow it up into a very big thing. As I got toward my 90s (laughs), I got my confidence back. People say, Oh, I want to be just like you, and I think, Ive never been different from anybody else. I just keep on going. Thats just luck.

Luck plays a part, but so does perseverance.

SMITH Theres another thing, I think: that we get to do it together. That means a lot to me. It seems to me thats a good part of the production of longevity.

BURROWS Community.

SMITH And a constant exchange. Its growthful.

What difference might a level playing field have made in your careers?

BURROWS Oh-ho-ho. Its not level.

PARSONS Its never level for women. I dont think men and critics think of women as artists. I mean, everybody thinks of men as artists, men actors. And look at the jobs men actors have. I dont even want to think about that.

BURROWS Well, they are definitely privileged. I should be able to use my talents more. And I can say that at 96 I should have been able to use them more when I was 20 or 25 or 35 or 45 or 65 or 75. There were limitations. There are still limitations. But I do my work. When I can. And I support every baby born having the opportunity to develop to his or her potential.

When you think about having a long career, whats your greatest wisdom to offer?

BURROWS Gratitude. Gratitude for the chance to work and develop.

PARSONS Im amazed that more people arent interested in our wisdom. Its a funny thing, because we are wise in so many ways. Even solace that we could give to some people on the long journey. There are some, like probably us, who persevere. And there are some who dont.

SMITH Maybe some of these people say, I dont want to do that anymore.

BURROWS I cannot imagine myself saying that. Give me the chance, Ill leap at it!

PARSONS Im worried about staying on longer than I should. I had a time in our rehearsal period here where I thought, Maybe I should get out, maybe I should understand when is my time to get out. You know what I mean?

SMITH I guess I do. I also feel that in just about every rehearsal process there are times where you think, Well, this is impossible. It isnt going to work.

Is there anything you want to know from one another?

BURROWS (to Parsons and Smith) Where do you get your strength from?

SMITH I do get it from working, partly. Im stronger if Im working.

PARSONS I just said to my husband yesterday, when I do a really good performance, or (laughs) what I think is a really good performance, I feel so fulfilled and confident and all those good things, the way you want to feel.

Vinie, whats your answer to that question?

BURROWS My strength comes from those who came before me, as a black person. Those who survived that Middle Passage, across the Atlantic, some who died in the holds of the ship. It definitely comes from that human experience that belonged to my great-grandparents, men and women, kidnapped from their home. Their struggle gives me my strength.

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What Happened to Homo Erectus? | Science – Smithsonian

Posted: at 9:43 pm

Homo erectus was a very successful early human, spreading across the ancient world and surviving Earths changing environments for nearly two million yearsat least five times longer than our own species has been around.

Now scientists may have pinpointed where and when Homo erectus made a final stand. The youngest known fossils of the long-lived species were identified on the Indonesian island of Java, where a dozen skulls found before World War II have finally been definitively dated to between 108,000 and 117,000 years ago.

Those dates mark the end of a long run. Homo erectus was the first known human species to evolve modern body proportionsincluding shorter arms and longer legs that indicate an upright walking lifestyle that permanently traded the trees for the ground. The close relative to Homo sapiens was also the first hominin known to leave Africa, and Homo erectus spread more widely than any other human species except our own. The fossils of H. erectus have been found in Western Asia (Georgia), Eastern Asia (China), and, thanks to a land bridge during a glaciated era of low sea levels, the islands of Indonesia, where the species persisted longest.

The new dates from Ngandong, Java, place the species end days in context. When Homo erectus was living at Ngandong, Homo sapiens had already evolved in Africa, Neanderthals were evolving in Europe, and Homo heidelbergensis was evolving in Africa, said co-author Russell Ciochon, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Iowa. Basically, Homo erectus sits back there as the ancestor of all these later hominins.

In a new study in Nature, Ciochon and colleagues have written what, at least for now, appears to be the hominins final chapter. Of course it would be presumptuous for us to say weve dated the very last Homo erectus, he says. Weve dated the very last evidence that we have, the last appearance of Homo erectus. We dont know if on some neighboring island Homo erectus existed for a little longer after our date.

The fossils in question have their own long and complex history. They were unearthed near the muddy banks of the Solo River in the early 1930s by a Dutch team that spotted an ancient rhino skull sticking out of the eroding sediments of a riverside terrace.

The bones puzzled scientists over the succeeding years. Along with thousands of animal remains, a dozen human skull caps were found, but just two lower bones, which made experts wonder how the skulls came to be isolated without their attending skeletons.

Because the bones were excavated nearly a century ago, it has been difficult to date them. The team tackled the problem by dating the wider geological context of the river system and the bone bed where the skulls were found, which sits some 20 meters above the current river thanks to thousands of years of erosion.

Ciochon and colleagues began excavations in 2008, launching the comprehensive study more than a decade in the making. Weve dated everything that was there, the river terraces, the fossils themselves, the bone bed, and the stalagmites that formed in the karst caves, he says.

The geological work suggests that the dozen Homo erectus individuals died upriver and were washed downstream by monsoon flooding, then were caught in debris jams where the ancient river narrowed at Ngandong. At that spot, they were further buried by channels of flowing mud.

At least their skulls were. The research team also offers an explanation for why the rest of the Homo erectus skeletons went missing

Where burials were in terraced deposits, once water eroded them out the skulls seemed to separate from the limb bones, Ciochon says. Limb bones are heavy and they dropped to the bottom of whatever water was moving them, but the skulls float. That may be why the skulls at Ngandong ended up separated from all but two of the long bones.

Although most of the ancient skeletons were lost to the river, the skulls strange journey and fortunate discovery provided plenty of evidence for the team to examine.

Theyve done some extensive excavations and geological studies, and theyve done a tremendous job integrating a variety of dating techniques to show very tight age constraints for that fossil bed and by inference the last appearance of Homo erectus, says Rick Potts, a paleoanthropologist and head of the Smithsonians Human Origins Program. We have evidence for terrace formation, we have evidence for these flood deposits and rapid deposition, all the fauna is coming from that bed, and so its most likely that Homo erectus did, too.

Homo erectus survived so long in present-day Indonesia that the species ended up sharing the planet with new groups of humans. Our own species is among these, but the new dates suggest that that we never lived side by side. Homo sapiens lived in Africa 117,000 years ago, but theres no evidence they reached Java before about 73,000 years agoat least 35,000 years after the last known Homo erectus died out. (African H. erectus are thought to have vanished some 500,000 years ago.)

What finally finished Homo erectus off after nearly two million years of survival? Ciochon and colleagues theorize that climate change played a role. The bone bed at Ngandong was also filled with animal remains, especially deer and the large bovid ancestors of water buffalo and Javas banteng wild cattle. These large mammals thrived in open woodland ecosystems like the African homeland of Homo erectus.

Ngandong was an open country habitat, with a little woodland, somewhat like the savannas of East Africa, Ciochon said. Then around 120,000 or 130,000 years ago, we know that there was a change in the climate, and this rainforest flora spread across Java. Homo erectus was not able to adapt. Other than Homo sapiens, no other early human was adapted to living in a rainforest.

Though Homo erectus did finally fade away, it will always retain a prominent place on the family tree of human ancestors.

Homo erectus is one of the iconic species in human evolutionary history, Potts says. Its perhaps the most important species that indicates how branchy the human family tree is, because Homo erectus persisted through all of those other species, including eventually Homo sapiens, coming into being from earlier populations of Homo erectus.

Though this branch of our ancestral tree survives only in the distant past, the dates of Homo erectus last stand show the species enjoyed a longevity that only we might matchif we can survive another 1.5 million years.

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Cats Reviews: What the Critics Are Saying – Variety

Posted: at 9:43 pm

After its official trailer debuted in November, many were equal parts horrified and enraged by the litany of humanoid cats preparing for the Jellicle ball and Jellicle sacrifice in Cats. Based on Andrew Lloyd Webbers musical of the same name, said outrage came to no ones surprise.

Unfortunately for director Tom Hopper and team, the rage has extended into the films debut, with critics effortlessly tearing the film to shreds.

The almost 40-year-old tale of the Jellicles has been no stranger to condemnation, annoyance and outright shame. Despite a star-studded cast including James Corden (The Late Late Show), Dame Judi Dench (Skyfall), Jason Derulo, Idris Elba (Thor: Ragnarok), Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls), Ian McKellen (The Hobbit), Taylor Swift (The Lorax) and Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect), the film looks to receive no different fate.

However based on the Broadway musicals unprecedented commercial success and longevity we cant rule out a box office smash fueled by pure hatred.

Cats debuts in theaters Dec. 20. Heres what critics have to say about the fantastical spectacle:

Varietys Peter Debruge:

The Kings Speech director Tom Hoopers outlandishly tacky interpretation seems destined to become one of those once-in-a-blue-moon embarrassments that mars the rsums of great actors (poor Idris Elba, already scarred enough as the villainous Macavity) and trips up the careers of promising newcomers (like ballerina Francesca Hayward, whose wide-eyed, mouth-agape Victoria displays one expression for the entire movie). From the first shot of just such a blue moon, distressingly fake, flanked by poufy cat-shaped clouds to the last, Cats hurts the eyes and, yes, the ears, as nearly all the musical numbers, including Memory, have been twisted into campy, awards-grubbing cameos for big-name stars in bad-CG cat drag.

From the moment a teaser trailer hit the web last summer, the studio has been reeling from the ridicule, seemingly blindsided by harsh attacks on the character designs, the visual effects and the very notion of adapting the hit show. Truth be told, it should have anticipated the backlash. None of it would have mattered if the movie were halfway decent. Sadly, this uneven eyesore turns out to be every bit the Jellicle catastrophe the haters anticipated, a half-digested hairball of a movie in which Hooper spends too much energy worrying about whether the technology is ready to accommodate his vision and not enough focusing on what millions love about the musical in the first place.

The Guardians Peter Bradshaw:

As they gaze at the greenscreen and sashay and crawl,Its weird to behold them all gurning and acting,And why do so many resemble Darth Maul?Did director Tom Hooper intend this appearance?Did it make him feel happy or cause him some stress?We have to assume that he gave it his clearanceBut THE MAN HIMSELF KNOWS and will never confess.These are the Jellicle felines of legend,All elbows and shoulders and undulant arms.Each male in the cast looks a bit of a bellend,And those bizarre whiskers dont add to their charms.

Vanity Fairs Richard Lawson:

The real villain here is Hooper, who has conceptualized a movie that claims to honor its performers while smothering them in digital makeup. Why even bother hiring the elastic, fluid dancers if their bodies were going to be rendered so inhuman? Or, rather, so unnaturaltheyre not supposed to be humans, after all. In doing so much to make the world of Cats something approaching credible, Hooper completely fails imagination, ignoring the disbelief happily suspended for decades by the millions of fans of the stage musical. Nothing is accomplished by turning Cats into a garish CGI experiment, and just about everything is lost. The wacky texture of Webbers surreal creation is made too literal, and is thus forsaken. As is the charm of Eliots weird little odes to neighborhood kittiesI much preferred when Mr. Mistoffeleess magic was a joke to explain missing household items instead of actual magic.

Entertainment Weeklys Leah Greenblatt:

The plot, essentially, could be written on a slip of blotter acid: A scampering throng of spandex-y, alley-stalking strays assemble in the late-night streets of London for a sort of tomcat talent show, deciding which among them they will ritually murder sorry, send to the Heaviside layer by dawn.

Voxs Alissa Wilkinson:

Now Ive seen it, and my own brain feels turned to glitter, much like the sequined blue cat ears on a headband I was handed at the press screening. It is ludicrous and kind of divine, furry and flabbergasting, absurd and, in some moments, weirdly touching. It is a film that resists ordinary treatment and, especially, ordinary reviews.

I left without any idea of what I thought, only that I was exhilarated and baffled and kind of impressed, all at once. I had no idea what to say, only observations and questions written in my notebook, many of which conflict with one another. I present them now, with a whisker of editing, for your contemplation.

Slates Marissa Martinelli:

I suspect that Hoopers version of Cats will be met with the same amount of gleeful bafflement as the stage show, if the (overblown) horror over the movies digital fur technology when the trailer was released in October is any indication. Hooper responded to the criticism by dialing back the fur so the characters look more human, and the movie is better off for it, though still a little unsettling. (Just when you think youve reasonably settled into the uncanny valley, Idris Elbas coat comes off and youre sucked even deeper into a void of horny confusion.) The hoopla over the trailer put Hooper in an awkward position, because if Cats is not completely weird, can it rightfully still be called Cats? Its not my favorite musical by a long shot, nor is it even Lloyd Webbers best. But Cats uncoolness, its willingness to be silly and self-serious and spectacular at the expense of taste, is its greatest strength, and Hoopers version understands this.

The New York Times Manohla Dargis:

I could go on and must go on yet how to explain the seemingly unexplainable, beginning with a narrative and language that borders on the gnomic? A doctoral thesis could be written on how this misfire sputtered into existence, though theres nothing new about the movies energetic embrace of bad taste. One problem is that Cats was directed by Tom Hooper, a well-behaved journeyman (The Kings Speech), who is nowhere near vulgar enough for the challenge he was hired for, which is to translate Andrew Lloyd Webbers money-printing musical to the big screen.

IndieWires Eric Kohn:

Hoopers Cats adaptation delivers on those expectations and then some, which makes it a fascinating mess of exuberant musical numbers and scintillating digitized sets. Those human-cat terrors already looked ridiculous slinking about a giant junkyard set in body-suits; who thought that closeups would actually improve the show?

But theres the rub: The argument against Cats also makes the case for its existence, because everything ludicrous about the show has been cranked up to 11, with a restless artificial camera and actors so keen on upstaging one another with excessive song-and-dance numbers they may as well be competing for a Heaviside Layer of their own. It takes some ambitious swings and works on its own terms in fits and starts, all while not really working at all. Like the T.S. Eliot poems that inspired it, Cats is an elaborate lark.

CNNs Brian Lowry:

Ultimately, Cats feels like a conspicuous waste, in what the studio is describing as an epic musical. If the goal was to provide a holiday musical event thats fun for the whole family, its a good idea in theory, packaged in the wrong litter box.

Critics and skeptics of the movie, admittedly, have been waiting to pounce, and the catty remarks wont be charitable. Then again, when you put together a target as ripe as Cats, it stands to reason that people would unleash the hounds.

Cats Reviews: What the Critics Are Saying - Variety

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6 Skills That Wise Companies Harness for World-Changing Innovation – Harvard Business School Working Knowledge

Posted: at 9:43 pm

As a boy, Soichiro Honda, the eventual founder of Honda Motor Co., was infatuated with airplanes. At age 10 he biked 20 kilometers to see American pilots performing aerobatics near his home in Japan, climbing a tree to watch the show.

It would take about 70 more years, but Hondas namesake company eventually evolved from manufacturing motorcycles to inventing a revolutionary light business jetfulfilling a lifelong dream to improve mobility and exemplifying the longevity and continuous innovation that characterizes so many Japanese businesses today.

What is the secret recipe that has sustained the roughly 700 Japanese companies that are still in business after more than 300 years? How do they survive and adapt?

These are the questions Harvard Business School Professor Hirotaka Takeuchi and coauthor Ikujiro Nonaka set out to answer with their classic 1995 management tome, The Knowledge-Creating Company. Now, the books recently published sequel, The Wise Company: How Companies Create Continuous Innovation, elevates their original ideas, outlining six practices that enable leaders to steer their companies through the ceaseless process of creating and applying knowledge in pursuit of innovation.

When you peel back the layers of these companies, you find that these six qualities are practiced, and often they have family edicts that are passed down from one generation to the next, says Takeuchi, a professor of management practice in the Strategy Unit.

The book expandson the authors original theory that companies build organizational knowledge by turning tacit knowledge, which people learn through personal experience, into explicit knowledge that companies can document and codify, and vice versa. They describe this as a process of socialization, externalization, combination, and internalization (SECI) that takes place in progressive phases to generate innovations over time.

Published in October by Oxford University Press, The Wise Company offers a framework for knowledge practiceapplying SECI more dynamically. The book also presents the concept of phronesis, a kind of practical wisdom that benefits not only the organization, but also society at large.

From ancient Greek, phronesis is translated as practical knowledge, so its a higher level of tacit knowledge, Takeuchi explains. It has two components, one of which is doing things for the common good. The other is the here and nowmaking judgment calls and taking action here and now.

Based on the authors study of more than 20 Japanese companies, the following six practices can help business leaders get unstuck during the SECI process and broaden their leadership and purpose beyond traditional business borders. Takeuchi uses Hondas founder as an example to explain how each practice can be applied toward the goal of continuous innovation.

1. Learn to judge goodness, not only for the company but for society.

Hondas purpose was always to improve mobility, and he did so through his companys engine innovations. After coming up with the companys trademarked CVCC engine, Honda declared that his company had pulled ahead of the top three car companies, but his engineers said, 'We didnt do it to beat the competition; we did it for our children,' Takeuchi says. When he heard this, thats when Honda himself decided it was time for him to retire.

2. Rely on intuition tograsp the essence of people, things, and events.

3. Create informal andformal shared contextcalled ba in Japanconstantly in order to construct new meaning through human interactions.

Takeuchi likens the Japanese concept of ba to a pub in the United Kingdom. Its open and interactive, he says. Leaders should be conscious about creating these contexts to foster a wise company. Honda knew how to create this kind of buzz. In the old days, Takeuchi says, it was OKto have drinks after work, and he would create ba everywhere he would go and let people fight with each other verbally over sake At Honda, they called this waigaya.

4. Use metaphors and stories to helppeoplewith different experiencesunderstandthe essence of thebusiness strategy.

5. Use all possible means, including Machiavellian ones, if necessary, to bring together people with conflicting goals and spur them into action.

6. Encourage the development of practical wisdom in others, especially employees on the front line, through apprenticeship and mentoring.

Takeuchi and Nonaka use many other examples to illustrate the application of these practices in The Wise Company. They conclude the book by examining the future of innovation, in light of their contentions about the importance of knowledge creation and practice.

Takeuchi says hes hopeful that Japanese firms will start to take advantage of machine learning and other technologies that Western companies are embracing. But as large companies begin to take greater social responsibility, he also sees a place for the practical, human wisdom that has enabled Japanese firms to endure.

In this day and age, people are so in love with machines and thinking that machines are going to take over the world, he says. The fundamental message here is that humans are still at the center of innovation. Humans have tacit knowledge and the higher order of tacit knowledge, which is wisdom. Lets dont forget mothers wisdom and use it to our advantage.

Kristen Senz is a writer and social media editor for Harvard Business School Working Knowledge.[Image: iStockphoto]

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The World The Economist Made – The New Republic

Posted: at 9:43 pm

A senior editor once told a nervous new recruit that to write likeTheEconomist, you just pretend you are God.

Wilson, who died of dysentery in 1860, is less remembered than his son-in-law and successor asEconomisteditor, Walter Bagehot. Zevin does not share a sentimental view of this prolific writer and editor as the greatest Victorian (as the historian Jacques Barzun described him). More pragmatic than Wilson, Bagehot did favor a permanent graduated income tax and, in his 1873 book Lombard Street, the idea of a central bank as a lender of last resort. But his love of finance clashed with democratic demands. He wanted a government that was maximally compatible with the needs of finance. (When he was feeling sad, Bagehot is reported to have made a habit of going to the bank to run his hands through heaps of coins.) The thesis of his bookThe English Constitution, written in 1867, was that the British government worked not because of the separation of powers, but because the real work of governing was done by the Cabinet while the monarchy put on a performance of governing to please what he called the vacant many. Every person has a right to so much power, wrote Bagehot, as he can exercise without impeding any other person who would more fitly exercise such powera view far more aristocratic than libertarian. In all cases it must be remembered, he declared, that a political combination of the lower classes as such and for their own objects, is an evil of the first magnitude.

Bagehots belief in the British ruling classs special fitness also extended to questions of empire. Both Wilson and Bagehot were broadly believers in liberal empire, and Wilson approved, for example, of the opening of China by violence. (In 1857, the paper wrote, We may regret war but we cannot deny that great advances have followed in its wake.) Bagehot, for his part, thought the British the most enterprising, the most successful, and in most respects the best, colonists on the face of the earth.The Economistcelebrated British imperialism above others, assuming its good intentions and that it worked to promote trade. But it rarely criticized: It stayed silent on the discovery of British-run concentration camps in the Second Boer War, for example. Zevin argues that TheEconomists pro-finance position necessarily made it a cheerleader for empire, since empire was the framework within which wealth was being created.

But liberalism has many currents, and in response to imperial abuses and demands for social reform, in the early twentieth century The Economist entered a new period.Its editorial line acted as a kind of barometer of liberal conventional wisdom, responding to the atmospheric pressure of world events. Editor Francis Hirst, who took the top job in 1907, held, much like Hobson, that the scramble for Africa was the result of financial imperialism, rather than the means to pass on the supposed blessings of civilization. Hirst condemned military aggression, arguing that reducing spending on arms was the only way to carry out needed social reforms while keeping taxes low. Perhaps Hirsts statement that the British Constitution was only a mask over the face of plutocracy was not so analytically distinct from Bagehot, but Hirst at least meant it as a criticism.

Hirst was ultimately let go for his opposition to World War I, but the publication continued to reflect the rising influence of the Labour Party, and the more radical demands of its time. Many students of Keynes wrote for the paper during the Great Depression, and Douglas Jay, later a Labour member of Parliament, even wrote a book calledThe Socialist Casein 1937 while on staff.The Economisthardly abandoned its free-trade principles: It felt that, under the circumstances, it was essential to help ensure that the Labour Party understood the needs of the bankers, and how they might be properly integrated into a mixed economy.The Economisteven endorsed the Beveridge Report in 1942, which laid the foundations for the postwar welfare state and the National Health Service in Britain. It was in this period, from 1938 to 1956, under the editorship of Geoffrey Crowther, that the readership expanded significantly, and the paper developed its signature style: witty and pragmatic, staking out what Crowther described as the extreme center.

The World The Economist Made - The New Republic

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Mailbag: Looking Back on the 2010s Decade in Tennis and Ahead to the Future – Sports Illustrated

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Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Hey everyone, its our final Mailbag of 2019. A rare departure into sentimentality but here comes the cut and paste from years past: If you get half as much pleasure (guilty, to be sure) from reading this column as I get from writing it, we're all doing pretty well. Your questions and observations are, reliably, thoughtful and informed and passionate, and please know that every last oneeven the ones wishing me incurable cold soresare read. Think of this as a sincere invitation to belly up to the bar in 2020 and we can resume the conversations. Happy holidays, Happy New Year.

I am flattered and humbled by how many of you have requested to receive the column via email each week, newsletter style. Offer still holds.

A few of you asked about Sundays 60 Minutes piece. Heres a link.

If youre interested in a holiday-time contribution, consider:

a) Andrea Jaeger Little Star Foundation b) the MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation c) NYJTL


Have a question or comment for Jon? Email him at jon_wertheim@yahoo.com or tweet him @jon_wertheim.

Jon, I heard you mention on the podcast that this was the end of the decade, the 2010s. Maybe because weve all been distracted with so many world events, I hadnt really thought of that. Overall, do you think it was a good decade for tennis?Charles, London

Imagine its December of 2009 and, after putting on your Carnac hat, you said, Behold! I can see into the future. In ten years from now.

Serena Williams will be the womens tennis center of gravity.Nadal, Djokovic, and Federer will be 1-2-3.The field will be getting increasingly older....More and more minorities, especially on the womens side, will follow the lead of the Williams sisters and break through.Tennis will be subject to relentless global forces, a net positive, but it will mean power will not be concentrated in one place. The U.S., for instance, will go 0-40 on the mens side.Rampant conflicts of interests and self-interested turf wars will stunt the sports growth. Your audience would doubtlessly have heard these pronouncements and responded, So, in other words, nothing changed.

Now imagine another soothsayer. Wait, I can see tennis in December 2019! Canada will be a superior tennis power to the U.S.! Top players will compete into their late 30s without an appreciable dropoff.Pete Sampras will be ranked fourth on the all-time Slam list. There will be a doping scandal involving a top player, and though more about sloppiness than ill-intent, it will still be damaging to the brand. And that player will be: Maria Sharapova.Spain will have won the Davis Cup in Madrid: and what a spirited weeklong, single-site competition it will have been. All of which is to say: plenty changed in ten years.

Overall, Id contend that it was a terrific decade for the sport. It took advantage of globalization, of the great virtue of both genders, and of star power. The four thoroughbredsthe Big Three and Serena, of coursewere still high in the saddle as the decade drew to a close. And everyone benefitted from the longevity.

In many ways, tennis is so well-poised for the future. Its already penetrated markets other industries arent even sniffing. (An Australian just beat a Ukrainian to earn $4.5 million by winning a tournament...in China.) The sport benefits from changes to media and technology and communications. The sport benefits from two genders playing simultaneously. But in this star-driven world, tennis also needs to consider a future without the four mainstays in the workforce. In a mobile world it needs to consider how to compete not just with other sports but with other entertainment. In a world where inefficiency gets punished, it will pay a bigger price than ever for conflicts and sloppy governance and dinosaurs in the executive offices.

All of which is to say.tennis breezed though the 2010s without much sweating. Now it needs to come back strong for the 2020s, prepared to get its serve broken a few times and take some setbacks but still prevail.

Whats your favorite Wozniacki memory?! Australian Open in 2018 comes to mind, but Im also tempted to go with her 2014 U.S. Open win against Sharapovaa year in which Sharapova was playing very well (won French) and Wozniacki was back on the uptick. That win underscored Wozniackis grit and ability to run forever. Her performances in the 2017 (won) and 2014 (finals) year-end championships were also pretty epic. I really like her. She has a great vibe about her from a fans perspectiveboth on and off the court. Would love to hear your thoughts!Damian, Melbourne, Australia

Obviously the 2018 Australian Open, a career highlight that enabled her to shed dreaded the Best player never to have won a Major costume. But you know what story was underrated? Her running of the New York City Marathon. She was in the middle of her career25 years old and ranked in the top tenand trained to run a marathon that she completed in 3:26:33! A) what a strong message this sends about the athleticism and durability and conditioning of WTA players; B) what a strong message this sends about independence and autonomy. Sometimes we can do things because we want to; even if they fly in the face of conventional professional wisdom.

A personal story, that I fear is going to sound unseemly and humblebraggy, but here goes. Wozniacki and I are not friends, but friendly. I think I mentioned that her apartment in New York is a few blocks away from mine. We run into each other in the neighborhood and, of course, at events. Last year, she popped into my office at CBS and I showed her around. After she left, a colleague asked nervously, Are we going to hire that woman?

What woman?

The woman you were interviewing.


That blond woman.

Oh, no. Shes a tennis player. She already has a job.

Tennis player? Shes came across so professional and was so friendly, I figured she was gunning for a job here.

Nope, shes a tennis player.

Is she any good?

Jon: A few weeks ago, you wrote, "Sports are predicated on the idea that the competition is honest. If not, if the integrity is being undermined, the whole Jenga tower collapses. Mostly this means doping and paying college athletes and stealing signs and, generally, being the Houston Astros."

After I stopped cracking up at the Houston Astros, I noticed the college athlete comment. I guess this means you're against paying college athletes? Care to share your reasoning? I'm still trying to make up my mind about the issue. Paul

No, no, noI am fully, squarely, unambiguously in favor of paying college athletes. College sports have become morally indefensible. You have assistant coaches in college football making seven-figure salaries. Yet the athleteswho are the ones generating the revenue, putting themselves at risk and often the least likely students on campus to graduateare not being compensated? One day, we will be telling our grandkids about this economic injustice and shrugging when asked how this was allowed to persist.

My point was this: if one athlete is doping and the other is not, the tower collapses. If one team is paying its athletes and the other is not, the tower collapses. If the Patriots are secretly video-taping and the other teams arent, the tower collapses. We can debate which rules are fair and unfair and should be changed. But if one side complies with the rules and the other doesnt, the integrity of fair competition is undermined.

I happened to run across a video on YouTube of Gabriella Sabatini and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario. Looking back, it seemed like Sabatini came out of the gates faster and should have had the more successful career of the twowasnt she the only player to defeat Graf three times in 198889? Sabatini didnt have a slouch of a careerone Slam and some Slam finals. But no No. 1 ranking or multiple slams like ASV, who seemed to have a more limited game. What do you attribute to the difference in their careers? The power of hyphenated last names? Do you see any parallels to a couple of players today?PN

If it were about the power of the hyphenated name, a junior player named Rafael Nadal-Parera would have made a splash. As for your question, its an interesting comparison of contemporaries who came with very different skill sets and governing principles. As is the case in most contexts, style versus substance is too crass. But ASV played at an uncommon level of competitive resolve, which enabled her to have the superior career, both to Sabatini and to everyone else in her era, save Steffi Graf and Monica Seles.

I just read an extraordinary article on Federer. Extraordinary to me, because I had no idea of all these hidden machinations and power brokering by my favorite current player. So, my question is this: is this article being fair? Is it correct? Can Federer really not "even drink tea without a stratagem?"

Or, are the arguments just correlations leading to causation? "2 + 2 = 11" types?!! In other words, is Federer's goody-goody persona a mere smokescreen, or, is the article just smoke without a fire? Insider perspective needed! Arun Narayanan, Lappeenranta, Finland

Is none of the above an option?

Know that Im in the tank for Simon Briggsa journalist who does rigorous and unimpeachable workand think the story is completely legitimate and fair. I also think Federer is well within his rights to take a stake in the sport. In fact, I would almost take the opposite angle: if Federerage 38 and armed with moral authorityDID NOT wield his moral authority, it would be deeply disappointing.

Tennis is in desperate need of conflicts disclosure. It would be great if everyone in the sport revealed where their proverbial bread was buttered and simply spoke the truth. (In Federers case: The Davis Cup and even, to some extent, this cockamamie ATP Cup are both trying to take my market share; so the idea that I would play either is as preposterous as my wearing jorts to the Met Gala.)

But I dont read that story and see anything inconsistent, much less unethical. Just a guy, nearing the end of his career, exerting some well-earned authority, and taking the equivalent of equity stakes in some ventures.

My first time writing to you. I am intrigued. There is a tennis lineswoman, she looks Asian and is short, whom I see at many big matches. She is the only tennis linesman or woman I recognize from year to year. I first noticed her when she called the footfault on Serena Williams in the semifinal of the U.S. Open in 2009, was threatened by Serena, and reported it to the chair umpire. Serena lost the match to Kim Clijsters as a result. I have seen this lineswoman on TV many times since, at big matches (I guess because those are televised), including matches in 2019.Marika in Maryland

Here comes Gayle Bradshaw of the ATP, one of tennis good guys, to explain:

Officials, including line umpires, are not allowed to speak to the press unless permission is granted by the governing authority for that event. This would rarely be authorized, but when it is the subject matter would be limited to how they got into officiating or a human interest angle. Nothing about players, matches, controversial calls, other officials is allowed even if an interview was authorized. They can have social media presence but the same prohibitions would apply to anything they post. Speaking about these prohibited subjects would place the official in violation of the Code for Officials and could face sanction ranging from a warning to a loss of their certification. They could also fall afoul of the Tennis Integrity Program if they were to post anything that could be interpreted as inside information.

Who hires them? It is the responsibility of the tournament organizers. They hire a chief of officials who in turn hires the line umpires and additional chair umpires needed for the event. In the US for ATP events, the tournaments contract for their officials through the ATP and we have a Chief we keep on retainer who manages this program. Line umpires are selected on a rating system where they are graded on their performance at every match and then are given an overall grade. Acceptance to events is based similar to the way players are accepted to events based upon their ranking. We also give the USTA a few spots (wild cards) to place up-and-coming officials who would not have an established rating yet.

Once retired from officiating, an official would be free to write a book and several officials have done so. Charlie Beck, former MTC Supervisor; Alan Mills, fmr Wimbledon Referee are some of the more well-known but there are others also. Both of these books were released after the officials retired from officiating.

Robin Montgomerya 15-year old from D.C.and Argentinas Thiago Tirante triumph at the Orange Bowl. Colette Lewis has you covered. Of course she does.

Hold your nose, here comes a match-fixing scandal.

Thanks,reader Cesar Torres.Heres an interesting academic read on the WTAs family leave policy.

Who double-bageled Roger Federer?

From Chris Jordan: I noticed you posted about a book about pro tennis by Peter Underwood. A few months ago, I released a book on pro tennis, which contains the largest collection of pre-open era pro tennis results ever assembled (it contains over 420 pages of results, plus a narrative section of over 110 pages). It took me many months of detailed research. It is called The Professional Tennis Archive and is available from amazon worldwide. The Tennis Hall of Fame library and Wimbledon library have copies of it. I would be grateful if you could post a link to it.

International Tennis Federation (ITF) President, David Haggerty, has been nominated as a candidate by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to become an IOC member as an International Federation representative. The elections are due to take place on 10 January 2020 in Lausanne, Switzerland.

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It’s time to trash recycling – GreenBiz

Posted: at 9:43 pm

Traditional recycling is the greatest example of modern-day greenwashing.

Recycling is championed as the strategy to enable a cleaner, healthier world by those businesses that have profited the most from the extractive, take-make-waste economy. In reality, it is merely a cover to continue business as usual. Corporations espouse the efficacy of recycling via hollow "responsibility commitments" in order to avoid examination of the broader negative consequences that their products and business models have wrought.

Recycling is good for one thing, though it helps us dodge the responsibility of our rampant and unsustainable consumption.

Now is the time to challenge our core assumptions of the global waste management and recycling industry. After nearly 50 years of existence, recycling has proven to be an utter failure at staving off environmental and social catastrophe. It neither helps cool a warming planet nor averts ecosystem destruction and biodiversity loss.

This house of cards is beginning to tumble. In the past two years, several end markets for materials thought to be readily recyclable plastics, glass, cardboard even low-quality aluminum have evaporated. Chinas recent ban on foreign waste imports places the unsustainability of our material management markets front and center. Other countries have followed Chinas lead: Malaysia and the Philippines shipped thousands of tons of waste back to the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, shattering any illusion of the useful blue bin.

After nearly 50 years of existence, recycling has proven to be an utter failure at staving off environmental and social catastrophe.

Why is this happening? Simply put, the global recycling markets have relied on aggressive and disingenuous marketing, exploitative labor practices and global energy prices to remain competitive. At risk of oversimplification, recycling cannot work if it is more profitable to produce goods from virgin materials than recycled ones. As Stiv Wilson from the Story of Stuff put it: "if you want to stop plastic going into the ocean in Indonesia, you need to ban fracking in the Ohio River Valley." The low price of petroleum, coupled with stricter international material management policies, means that ineffective recycling markets are here to stay unless systemic change occurs.

Not only is recycling completely ineffective, it is directly contributing to global health degradation and associated societal injustices.

Where recycling is conducted, the aggregation, separation and reconstruction of materials and products is primarily done using low-cost labor in China and Southeast Asia. This workforce is consistently exposed to dangerous working conditions and toxic chemicals for minimal pay. The injustices of the exploitative labor system that powers the global waste and recycling system are rarely (if ever) factored into the equation. The result is that the true cost of our current material management system is hidden.

Even in the United States, recycling workforce conditions are bleak. During my time inspecting a U.S. material recovery facility (MRF), I was almost severely injured by an improperly locked out piece of machinery called a downstroke baler. The machines massive metal door burst open with the kinetic force of an elephant as I was standing in an unmarked blast zone. Luckily, just as the 1,000-pound hunk of metal started to swing, I took a half a step back and ended up only feeling wind on my face. I was lucky to come away physically unscathed and am privileged to no longer inspect such facilities for a living.

Not everyone has the ability to opt out. The top global waste management corporations purposefully shift these environmental and social risks off their balance sheet to those that cannot afford to say no, a practice reminiscent of food brands refusal to take responsibility for the factory farms that supply their packing operations. The recycling industrys foundation has been built on an opaque, inequitable labor system that consistently exposes a global work force and its communities to dangerous and toxic conditions. This alone should call into question its efficacy.

Perhaps most important, recycling has become a distraction during a time in desperate need of collective urgency and focus. It continues to perpetuate the faade that society can consume with abandon and without consequence. The IPCC estimates we have 10 to 30 years to act if we are to stave off the worst scenarios of global climate change and biodiversity loss. In this all-hands-on-deck moment, recycling initiatives continue to siphon a disproportionate amount of public goodwill, entrepreneurial focus and investment dollars away from meaningful solutions.

We need to implement strategies and invest in existing technologies that can help solve the root causes of climate change and pollution. These solutions fit into two buckets: circular design and green chemistry.

Circular design

Lets not mince words we have a consumption problem. We must dramatically reduce the number of materials and products we consume through design and education and rid ourselves of our reliance on the blue bin. Products should be designed for longevity, advanced disassembly and reuse rather than obsolescence. Complementary policies need to protect a consumers right to repair while enacting attainable extended producer responsibility.

As a society, we need to untether happiness from the act of purchasing goods and embrace business models that promote higher resource use, reuse and true repurposing. Product manufacturers can take inspiration from the natural world to create products designed to optimize for human happiness and environmental health using resources such as IDEOs Circular Design Guide and MBDCs Cradle-to-Cradle protocol. Several organizations are putting these ideas into practice including Metabolic, Fashion for Good and ReFED. Technologies such as Algramo, Vessel, Yerdle, Trumans and Loop can help consumers participate in this journey as well.

Green chemistry

Recycling materials that are inherently toxic means that were simply giving a dangerous substance another chance to poison the environment and our bodies. We must endeavor to make products from safer materials using non-hazardous chemicals and restorative manufacturing processes.

The "bio-economy" aims to make use of chemicals and materials that are readily found in nature, improve ecosystem health where production occurs, and eliminate toxic pollutants regardless of how materials and products are managed at end of use. Organizations such as GC3, Materiom, SaferMade and The Biomimicry Institute are leading the transition.

Unfortunately, corporate responsibility strategies continue to be dominated by traditional recycling initiatives and little else. It is less risky to double down on recycling rather than invest in the strategies outlined above.

The Alliance to End Plastic Waste, an NGO created by the major petrochemical manufacturers in 2018, is an example of how organizations are muddying the waters. The organization will commit to anything other than those solutions that target the root causality. They're simultaneously promising beach cleanups, while its key members including Shell, ExxonMobil and SABIC announce plans to build new multi-billion-dollar polyethylene and petrochemical plants that produce the inexpensive, toxic products that wash up on those same beaches.

The organizations that profit from exploitative recycling business models have a massive economic conflict of interest in shifting toward a fundamentally different system that promotes circular design and green chemistry. Their shareholders will not allow it, so theyll continue investing in peddling the lie that is modern day recycling.

Unfortunately, we have run out of time to entertain business as usual. If we infuse this discussion with the urgency that our polluted ecosystems demand of us, it becomes apparent that squeezing efficiency from the ineffective and exploitative system that is recycling is utterly absurd.

To borrow from Ellen MacArthur, one of the most prominent voices in the circular economy: "Were not going to recycle our way out of this."

Lets stop acting like it.

It's time to trash recycling - GreenBiz

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