News That Matters

19/05/2023 ---- 24/05/2023

A groundbreaking study published in the journal Nature on May 17, 2023, challenges previous theories on human evolution by suggesting that Homo sapiens arose from multiple closely related populations across Africa. This new model has significant implications for the interpretation of the fossil record.

Using genetic data from present-day African populations, including 44 newly sequenced genomes from the Nama group of southern Africa, researchers found that the earliest detectable split in early human populations occurred between 120,000 and 135,000 years ago, after prolonged periods of genetic intermixing. The study also discovered that contributions from archaic hominins were unlikely to have significantly affected Homo sapiens' evolution.

The origin of Homo sapiens has been a topic of debate among scientists, with Africa widely accepted as the birthplace of our species. However, uncertainty surrounded specific models of divergence and migration. This study employed linkage disequilibrium and diversity-based statistics for demographic inference, allowing researchers to evaluate a wide range of alternative models.

The 44 new genomes from the Nama people provided valuable data for the study, revealing weakly structured stem models that explained patterns of polymorphism previously attributed to contributions from archaic hominins in Africa. Consequently, fossil remains from coexisting ancestral populations should be genetically and morphologically similar. The study also found that only 1-4% of genetic differentiation among contemporary human populations could be attributed to genetic drift between stem populations, making it difficult to reconcile the tree-like model of recent population divergence from a single ancestral population in Africa with the fossil and archaeological records.

Researchers used geographically and genetically diverse populations across Africa to infer demographic models, confirming the inadequacy of tree-like models and allowing for the evaluation of alternative models. Demographic histories were inferred from 4x-8x whole-genome sequencing data for four diverse African populations.

The earliest divergence among contemporary human populations differentiates the southern African Nama population from other African groups at 110-135 thousand years ago. The study also found high gene flow between eastern and western Africa, as well as back-to-Africa gene flow at the beginning of the Holocene epoch, primarily affecting ancestors of Ethiopian agricultural populations.

Models allowing for migration between stem populations outperformed those without migration between stems, providing further evidence for the new model of human evolution. The study also suggests that population structure extends back to more than 1 million years ago.

In conclusion, this groundbreaking research offers a new perspective on human evolution, suggesting that Homo sapiens arose from multiple closely related populations across Africa. The findings challenge previous theories and have significant implications for the interpretation of the fossil record. As our understanding of human evolution continues to grow, it becomes increasingly clear that the story of our species is a complex and fascinating one, with many more discoveries yet to be made.


Recycling is an essential practice to save our planet. However, a recent study reveals that recycling plants may inadvertently release large amounts of hazardous microplastics. These tiny plastic particles, less than 5 millimeters in size, pose a significant threat to both the environment and human health, as they can enter the food chain and accumulate in living organisms.

Led by Erina Brown from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, an international team of scientists sampled wastewater from a UK recycling plant and discovered that microplastics in the water amounted to 13% of the plastic processed. This means the facility could release up to 75 billion plastic particles per cubic meter of wastewater. The findings were published in the Journal of Hazardous Material Advances.

The plant's water filtration system managed to reduce the microplastic concentration from 13% to 6%. However, the majority of the particles were smaller than 10 microns, with 80% being smaller than 5 microns. These tiny particles can easily infiltrate the environment and pose a risk to human health, as particulate matter less than 10 microns has been linked to various human illnesses.

High levels of microplastics were also found in the air around the recycling facility, emphasizing the potential dangers of these particles. The recycling plant discharged up to 2,933 metric tonnes of microplastics per year before the water filtration system was implemented. After its installation, this number was reduced to 1,366 metric tonnes per year, highlighting the need for better management and monitoring of microplastic pollution in recycling facilities.

Globally, only 9% of the 370 million metric tonnes of plastic produced gets recycled, with the majority of plastic waste ending up in landfills or the environment, where it can take hundreds of years to decompose. Recycling is a crucial component of waste management, but this study reveals that even recycling facilities can contribute to the growing microplastic pollution problem.

Judith Enck, a former US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official and current leader of the Beyond Plastics lobby group, emphasizes the importance of addressing this issue. With growing awareness of microplastics' harmful effects on the environment and human health, it's essential for recycling facilities to minimize their release of these particles.

In conclusion, while recycling is a vital practice in our fight against plastic pollution, this study sheds light on the hidden dangers of microplastics generated during the process. It serves as a reminder that there's still much work to be done to improve recycling processes and minimize the release of hazardous microplastics. Addressing this lesser-known threat within our recycling plants is crucial as we strive for a greener future.


New York City is sinking under the weight of its own buildings while simultaneously grappling with the climate crisis that leads to more frequent and extreme rainfall events, according to a new study published in the journal Earth's Future. With sea levels around NYC rising more than twice as fast as the global rate, projected to rise between 8 inches and 30 inches by 2050, the city faces a daunting challenge.

The study, led by Tom Parsons, a research geophysicist at the US Geological Survey, calculated the mass of 1,084,954 buildings in NYC, weighing about 1.68 trillion pounds (762 billion kilograms). Using simulations and satellite data, they discovered that the city is sinking at an average rate of 1 to 2 millimeters a year, with some areas sinking up to 4.5 millimeters a year. Subsidence, the sinking or settling of Earth's surface, is a global issue affecting 44 of the 48 most populous coastal cities, including lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island, which are sinking at a faster than average rate.

Sophie Coulson, a geophysicist, emphasizes the importance of understanding landscape changes and identifying vulnerable areas for flood mitigation and sea level rise preparation. The study suggests that subsidence can pose an earlier flooding threat than sea level rise, not just in NYC but globally.


As the conflict in Ukraine escalates, with Kyiv experiencing its ninth attack this month, the G7 leaders have taken a united stand against Russia's aggression and economic coercion. In response to the violence, which has seen one person killed and two wounded in Odesa, Ukraine's Air Force has managed to shoot down 29 out of 30 Russian missiles overnight. Meanwhile, Ukraine's army remains in an "increased state of readiness" for a counter-offensive, and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has rejected a peace plan that would involve giving up territory to Russia.

The G7 has agreed on sanctions against Russia during a summit in Japan, aiming to "starve Russia's war machine." The US has cut off 70 companies from exports and imposed 300 sanctions against individuals, entities, vessels, and aircraft. The G7 also imposed a $60 per-barrel price cap on Russian oil and diesel last year, while the UK has banned Russian diamonds and imports of metals, targeting 86 individuals and companies.

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy attended the G7 summit in Hiroshima on Sunday. US President Biden has already agreed to allow the training of Ukrainian pilots on American F-16 fighter jets, with training taking place outside Ukraine at sites in Europe in the coming weeks.

The conflict has seen the eight-month-long battle for the city of Bakhmut, the longest and bloodiest battle in the ongoing war. Analysts believe that Bakhmut's fall would give Russia tactical advantages but not decide the war's outcome. The G7 Hiroshima summit concluded on May 21, with the communiqué released a day before the closing. In addition to targeting Russia, the G7 communiqué also targets China, mentioning the country 20 times.

Critics argue that the G7 is serving US strategic interests rather than international welfare and that cooperation with China is the true path of "derisking" for the Western world. G7 leaders reaffirm their support for Ukraine in their final communique. The White House has permitted allied countries to supply Ukraine with US-built F-16 fighter planes.

In a united stand against economic coercion, G7 leaders have agreed on an initiative to counter such tactics from actors like China and Russia. They have committed to deepening cooperation on hardening supply chains and have established a new body to deal with "economic coercion."


Imagine a world where an apple a day genuinely keeps the doctor away, providing all the essential vitamins and minerals we need. It may soon be a reality, thanks to the revolutionary field of gene editing. Recent techniques, such as CRISPR/Cas9 and TALEN, have made it possible to modify and enhance various crops, paving the way for a new generation of superfoods – foods with improved nutritional value, flavour, and overall appeal. This powerful technology holds the potential to transform our diets, contribute to better health outcomes, and support sustainable agriculture. Gene editing offers a faster, cheaper, and less controversial alternative to traditional breeding techniques and genetically modified (GMO) foods. CRISPR/Cas9, one of the most popular gene-editing tools, uses RNA to target a specific DNA sequence within the genome. Once the target is found, the Cas9 enzyme acts as a pair of molecular scissors, cutting the DNA at the precise location. This break prompts the cell to repair the DNA. Scientists can insert, delete, or modify the DNA sequence as desired during the repair process. TALEN, another gene-editing technique, works similarly but uses a custom-designed protein to bind to the target DNA sequence and create a break, allowing for the desired modification.

Rather than inserting whole genes from external sources like in GMOs, gene editing enables small, targeted changes to the genetic makeup of existing crops. It allows for the creation foods with altered properties, such as improved nutrient levels or modified taste profiles. Many crops have been produced using gene editing, including soybean and rapeseed with healthier fat profiles, bananas and rice with extra vitamin A, and other crops enriched with vitamin E, iron, and zinc. Gene-edited foods could surpass current nutrition-boosting methods, such as supplements, meal replacements, and fortified foods, which often need more satisfaction and social aspects of eating. Furthermore, fortification can add extra nutrients to everyday staples.

One of the exciting possibilities offered by gene editing is the design of whole foods that function as medicines for better physical and mental health. Researchers have used gene editing to enhance levels of GABA (gamma amino butyric acid) in tomatoes, which may contribute to improved heart and mental health outcomes. At the same time, they have also reduced the levels of oxalic acid in tomatoes, which can trigger flares in people with gout, a painful inflammatory condition. Gene editing can also enhance sweetness, reduce bitterness, and dial-up flavour and aroma, encouraging people to eat healthier plant-based foods.

However, the complexity of foods means we cannot simply create new nutrient-dense foods and assume that higher contents translate into more significant benefits. Striking the right balance between adding nutrients and bioactive and maintaining taste is crucial. One challenge will be ensuring we do not edit out healthful compounds, as negative attributes like bitterness often come from beneficial bioactive compounds.

Gene editing offers numerous advantages for food production and human health. It has the potential to create superfoods with enhanced nutritional content, improve food taste and quality, and reduce the environmental impact of agriculture. However, it also comes with challenges, such as ensuring that the edited foods maintain their healthful compounds and balancing the addition of nutrients and bioactive without compromising taste or introducing extra calories. As we continue to explore the potential of gene editing in food production, ongoing research and responsible development will be crucial to realizing its full potential and benefits for human health and the planet. Personalized nutrition and "prescription foods" could also become a reality, allowing individuals to consume foods tailored to their specific dietary needs and health conditions. Moreover, gene-edited crops could contribute to more sustainable agriculture by improving crop yields, reducing the need for harmful pesticides, and enhancing resistance to environmental stressors, ultimately benefiting the planet.


The skies over Kyiv have been filled with missiles as Russia continues its relentless assault on Ukraine, with the latest attack leaving casualties in the Black Sea port of Odesa and blasts heard in Vinnytsia, Khmelnytsky, and Zhytomyr regions. Despite the intensity, Ukraine's Air Force has managed to shoot down the majority of Russian missiles. As the frequency of attacks increases, Ukraine's army is now at "an increased state of readiness" for a counter-offensive.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has rejected a peace plan involving territorial concessions to Russia, while the G7 leaders have agreed on sanctions to "starve Russia's war machine." A summit was recently held in Hiroshima, Japan, where the G7 nations issued a joint statement on imposing further sanctions and measures. The United States plans to cut off about 70 companies from Russia and other countries from US exports, and the UK Prime Minister has announced a ban on Russian diamonds and imports of metals, with Britain targeting additional individuals and companies involved in Putin's "military-industrial complex." The G7 is also expected to announce restrictions on the export of rough diamonds from Russia.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will attend the G7 summit in Hiroshima on Sunday. Germany has announced a new military aid commitment worth €2.7 billion ($2.91 billion) to Ukraine, and US President Joe Biden has authorized the training of Ukrainian pilots on American F-16 fighter jets. The training will take place outside Ukraine at sites in Europe and will run for several months. Some NATO members have already begun training Ukrainian pilots.

As sanctions on Russia have thus far failed to deter Putin's aggression, Zelenskiy has been visiting London and European capitals, seeking logistical support and additional economic sanctions on Russia. The inflationary costs of sanctions have weakened the western alliance behind Ukraine.

As G7 leaders meet in Hiroshima, Japan, to discuss Ukraine and China containment, European powers have unified their military strategy in Ukraine. Zelenskiy has been visiting Italy, Germany, France, and the UK to discuss a counter-offensive. The G7 plans to tighten sanctions enforcement and debate Russia's total military humiliation and convincing the global south to join the containment effort. New Europe hawks argue for Russian military defeat and Ukraine's NATO membership, while French President Emmanuel Macron argues against humiliating Russia, calling for a European security architecture.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida focuses on the relationship between the G7 and the global south, promising $75 billion for infrastructure by 2030. As the global south resists US domination and seeks influence in global affairs, Ukraine opens dialogue with non-aligned states, focusing on post-Soviet diplomacy. To succeed, the G7 needs to share the world stage and regain the global south's trust. As tensions escalate and the world watches, the future of Ukraine and global diplomacy hangs in the balance.