Tiny huntsman found in Czechia?

Tiny huntsman found in Czechia?

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I found this spider today and I'm curious to know what it was.

Discovered today at 14:27 CEST, about 200 meters from Hamr pond, Prague, Czech Republic. It may have been carried all the way from the pond.
Body length cca 5mm (cf. photo #2 - reference object is a 5 CZK coin, 23mm in diameter according to Wikipedia)

Initially swept off my shoulder (white T-shirt), to which it succeeded in attaching, and began descending on a thread. After it was placed on a small ledge, it began climbing the adjoining wall. After some convincing to stay in place (using my finger as an obstacle and a little physical contact with its legs), it lifted its four front legs, so I left it alone.

I didn't manage to get good sight of its eye pattern, but it did appear to be consistent with the eye pattern of huntsman spiders - the sides of its face were black with a brighter region between. I was unable to determine the quality of its eyesight either, though it did not object to placing the coin nearby to it.

Wikipedia page on huntsmen living in Europe lists nine species, but none of those that had photos included matched in appearance.

The spider in question is actually Xysticus Cristatus, also known as the common crab spider.

From Wikipedia:

The adult female reaches a length of 8mm and the smaller male 5mm. The colour varies from light cream, dark brown to greyish with a dark triangle on the carapace which ends in sharp, defined point. The abdomen has a broad middle band fringed by two darker rows of triangular marks which extends back to about two thirds of the carapace length from the posterior row of eyes… Active adults have been recorded from February to December, with a peak of male activity in May and June… The species has a Palearctic distribution, being found throughout Europe, including Iceland. provides several photos of the species. The image below is a perfect match.

Copyright by Rudolf Macek; published at; page viewed in May 2019

A genome sequence from a modern human skull over 45,000 years old from Zlatý kůň in Czechia

2–3% Neanderthal ancestry in their genomes, originating from admixture with Neanderthals that took place sometime between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago, probably in the Middle East. In Europe, the modern human expansion preceded the disappearance of Neanderthals from the fossil record by 3,000–5,000 years. The genetic makeup of the first Europeans who colonized the continent more than 40,000 years ago remains poorly understood since few specimens have been studied. Here, we analyse a genome generated from the skull of a female individual from Zlatý kůň, Czechia. We found that she belonged to a population that appears to have contributed genetically neither to later Europeans nor to Asians. Her genome carries

3% Neanderthal ancestry, similar to those of other Upper Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers. However, the lengths of the Neanderthal segments are longer than those observed in the currently oldest modern human genome of the

45,000-year-old Ust’-Ishim individual from Siberia, suggesting that this individual from Zlatý kůň is one of the earliest Eurasian inhabitants following the expansion out of Africa.

Only three genomes have been recovered from individuals that fall close in time to the settlement of Europe and Asia more than 40 thousand years ago (ka) 1,2 . A complete genome has been produced from the

45,000-year-old remains of Ust’-Ishim, a Siberian individual who showed no genetic continuity to later Eurasians 3 . This contrasts with the

40,000-year-old East Asian individual from Tianyuan whose genome is more closely related to many present-day Asians and Native Americans than to Europeans 4 . From Europe, only the partial genome of an individual called Oase 1 and dated to

40 ka has been recovered, and this showed no evidence of shared ancestry with later Europeans 5 . However, Oase 1 carried more Neanderthal ancestry (6–9%) than other modern human genomes sequenced to date, owing to admixture with Neanderthals that occurred within the six generations before the individual lived.

Here, we study genome sequences generated from a largely complete ancient skull that was discovered alongside other skeletal elements in 1950 inside the Koněprusy cave system in present-day Czechia 6,7 (Fig. 1, Extended Data Fig. 1 and Supplementary Section 1). All skeletal elements were found to originate from one adult female individual called Zlatý kůň (Golden Horse) after the hill on top of the cave system. Archaeological investigations ascribed the stone and bone tools retrieved from the cave to the early Upper Palaeolithic. However, the artefacts in association with this individual could not be confidently assigned to any specific cultural technocomplex 6,8 . The remains were first thought to be at least 30,000 years old in accordance with morphological and stratigraphic information and the type of associated faunal remains 8,9 . Moreover, damage on the left side of the frontal human bone was interpreted as biting and gnawing by hyenas, which went extinct from central Europe around 24 ka 10,11 . Whereas direct radiocarbon dating resulted in a much younger date of

15 ka (12,870 ± 70 years bp GrA-13696) 12 , a recent craniometric analysis that included a virtual reconstruction of the Zlatý kůň skull supports that the individual lived before the last glacial maximum 13 .

a, Locations of the Koněprusy cave, where the Zlatý kůň human remains were found, and of other fossils with an age of at least

40,000 years that yielded genome-wide data (Ust’-Ishim, Oase 1 and Tianyuan) or mtDNA (Fumane 2 and Bacho Kiro). b, Micro-computed tomography-based virtual reconstruction of the Zlatý kůň skull in frontal and lateral view. The map in a was created with QGIS 47 using Natural Earth 48 vector data.

In an attempt to clarify the age of Zlatý kůň, we radiocarbon dated a cranial bone fragment, resulting in a significantly older date of

27 ka (23,080 ± 80 years bp MAMS-36077) compared with the first direct date. A third date, comprising a solvent pre-wash treatment followed by ultrafiltration on the same bone fragment, produced a younger date of

19 ka (15,537 ± 65 years bp OxA-38602) 14 . The large discrepancies between the three direct dates suggest that the Zlatý kůň specimen is highly contaminated and that radiocarbon dating on bulk collagen may be unreliable (Supplementary Section 2 and Extended Data Fig. 2). We therefore extracted the amino acid hydroxyproline from leftover collagen to attempt to date a compound-specific fraction from the bone 15 . This yielded the oldest determination of

34 ka (29,650 ± 650 years bp OxA-38022). However, we suspect this is also artificially young due to the presence of trace exogenous contaminants derived from animal glue, as supported by genetic analysis (discussed below and in Supplementary Section 2). We therefore conclude that the hydroxyproline determination reflects a minimum age, with the true age likely to be much older.

15 mg bone powder from the Zlatý kůň petrous portion of the temporal bone and first enriched for and sequenced the mitochondrial genome (mtDNA) to

150-fold coverage (Methods). Around 4% of the mtDNA sequences were estimated to stem from human contamination (Supplementary Section 3). The reconstructed mtDNA belongs to haplogroup N and its branch length, measured as the number of accumulated substitutions, is similar to those of the currently oldest sequenced modern human mtDNA genomes (Fig. 2a and Extended Data Fig. 3), including the recently published mtDNAs from Bacho Kiro, a cave in Bulgaria with remains dating to 43–47 ka 1 . Bayesian tip dating suggests that Zlatý kůň lived

43 ka (95% highest posterior density = 31.5–52.6 ka).

a, mtDNA haplogroup N of a maximum-parsimony phylogenetic tree of mtDNA from Zlatý kůň (red font), Upper Palaeolithic individuals

40 ka or older (blue) or between

24 ka (orange), and present-day individuals (black) (the entire tree is presented in Extended Data Fig. 3). b, Analysis of nuclear sequences showing that Ust’-Ishim shares more alleles with European and Asian hunter-gatherers and later Eurasians than does Zlatý kůň. The error bars represent two standard errors. c, Admixture graph of the relationship inferred from the nuclear capture dataset. Zlatý kůň diverges earlier than Ust’-Ishim and the ancestors of later Eurasian populations represented here by the Upper Palaeolithic Tianyuan and Sunghir genomes (highest outlier |Z| = 3). A single gene flow event from Neanderthals into the ancestor of all tested modern humans fits the data. Colours for individuals follow the same scheme as in panel a.

To study the nuclear genome, we sequenced

20 million DNA fragments after targeted enrichment with oligonucleotide probes for 1.24 million single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) 16 . A total of

678,000 targeted SNPs (54%) were covered at least once after genome-wide enrichment (capture dataset). In addition, we sequenced

4 billion random DNA fragments from the same DNA library of Zlatý kůň, resulting in

3.8-fold genomic coverage (shotgun dataset). In line with the sex assignment based on morphology 13 , the X chromosome and autosomes showed similar coverage, indicating that Zlatý kůň is female (Extended Data Fig. 4). The presence of Y chromosomal sequences suggested that up to 4% of the nuclear DNA sequences in the shotgun dataset originate from male contamination. Estimates based on linkage disequilibrium 17 suggest that nuclear contamination is <1% in the capture dataset and

2% in the shotgun dataset (Supplementary Section 4). The majority of the Zlatý kůň shotgun sequences (

3.8-fold total) have been generated from a single-stranded DNA library that allows for the quantification of contamination with an explicit model of DNA damage in the DNA molecules 18 . This model yielded an estimate of contamination of 0.1% (s.e. = ±2.0%) (Supplementary Section 4).

We used the non-human fraction of the shotgun data to further investigate whether the use of animal glue could have influenced our attempts at radiocarbon dating of the Zlatý kůň skull. Searching a metagenomic database, we found that the highest proportion of non-human mammalian shotgun sequences aligned to bovids (Supplementary Section 2). We were able to reconstruct

95% of the bovid mtDNA from the shotgun sequences of the single-stranded library and found that it falls within the most common modern European cattle haplogroup 19 in a phylogenetic analysis (Extended Data Fig. 5). Low levels of substitutions that are indicative of ancient DNA damage suggest that the cattle sequences do not derive from present-day laboratory contaminants (Extended Data Fig. 5). Taken together, these results suggest that the Zlatý kůň skull has been preserved with glue from cattle that penetrated into the sequenced petrous bone.

To gain insight into the genetic relationship of Zlatý kůň to present-day and ancient individuals, we calculated summary statistics based on the sharing of alleles (f3, f4 and D statistics 20 ) with our capture and shotgun datasets. We first compared Zlatý kůň with present-day European and Asian individuals using an African population (Mbuti) as an outgroup and found that Zlatý kůň shares more alleles with Asians than with Europeans (Extended Data Fig. 6). A closer relationship to Asians has also been observed for other Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic European hunter-gatherers compared with present-day Europeans and can be explained by ancestry in present-day Europeans from a deeply divergent out-of-Africa lineage referred to as basal Eurasian 21 . European hunter-gatherers generally do not carry basal Eurasian ancestry, whereas such ancestry is widespread among ancient hunter-gatherers from the Caucasus, Levant and Anatolia 22,23,24 . When we tested European hunter-gatherers without basal Eurasian ancestry against ancient and present-day Asians, we found that none of these comparisons indicate a closer relationship of Zlatý kůň with either group (Supplementary Sections 5 and 9 and Extended Data Fig. 7). This suggests that Zlatý kůň falls basal to the split of the European and Asian populations.

To date, only two ancient Eurasian genomes have been produced from individuals who, like Zlatý kůň, appear to fall basal to the split of Europeans and Asians: Ust’-Ishim and Oase 1. To test whether Zlatý kůň derives from the same population as Ust’-Ishim, we tested for a closer relationship to it compared with other ancient Eurasian hunter-gatherers 24,25,26 . Interestingly, we found that Ust’-Ishim shares more ancestry with later Eurasian individuals (Fig. 2b). This suggests that Zlatý kůň was part of a population that split earlier from the population that later gave rise to Ust’-Ishim and other Eurasian populations (Fig. 2c). Due to the limited data for Oase 1, we are unable to clarify whether Zlatý kůň and Oase 1 derive from the same or separate populations.

Around 6–9% of the genome of Oase 1 is derived from Neanderthals, compared with 2–3% in present-day and ancient Eurasians 5,27,28 . To test whether a higher contribution is also present in Zlatý kůň, we calculated Neanderthal ancestry on the shotgun dataset as the excess of shared alleles with a Neanderthal as opposed to an African and normalized this quantity by the expected sharing between two Neanderthals as opposed to an African (f4 ratios 20 Supplementary Section 6). Zlatý kůň is estimated to carry 3.2% (s.e. = ±0.32%) Neanderthal ancestry, which is the highest value among six Upper Palaeolithic and one Mesolithic Eurasian hunter-gatherers with genome-wide data (range = 3.0–2.1%). However, this difference was not significant at a level of two standard errors for five out of seven comparisons (Fig. 3a).

a, Estimate of Neanderthal ancestry in ancient Eurasian hunter-gatherer genomes. The error bars indicate two standard errors. Individuals whose names are marked with an asterisk fall outside of the error bars for Zlatý kůň. b, Segments of Neanderthal ancestry in Zlatý kůň. The blue box shows the location of a desert of Neanderthal ancestry in present-day non-Africans. c, Length of the 100 largest Neanderthal segments in the genomes of Zlatý kůň and other Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Eurasian hunter-gatherers. The y axis is logarithmic and the lines indicate a linear fit. The colours are as in a.

To study the distribution of Neanderthal ancestry along the genome, we first determined 430,075 sites on autosomes where the genome of a high-coverage European Neanderthal carries on both chromosomes a variant that is not observed in more than 99.9% of present-day Africans and great ape outgroups (Supplementary Section 7). Of the 166,721 sites that are covered by Zlatý kůň shotgun data, 4,480 (2.7%) carried the Neanderthal allele. Neanderthal sites in the Zlatý kůň genome cluster into segments where they occur at high frequency (

50% Fig. 3b) and we used this clustering to label segments of likely Neanderthal ancestry with a hidden Markov model (Supplementary Section 7). One of the Neanderthal segments falls within a large region on chromosome 1 that shows little to no evidence of Neanderthal ancestry in present-day humans 29 (Extended Data Fig. 8). This suggests that this desert of Neanderthal ancestry had not been fully formed at the time Zlatý kůň lived.

Recombination will break long Neanderthal segments into shorter segments over time. To gain more insight into the timing of Neanderthal admixture in Zlatý kůň, we scaled the length of the Neanderthal segments using either an African American map (AA map) 30 or the Decode recombination map (deCODE map) 31 and compared the genetic length of the 100 longest segments in Zlatý kůň with those identified in other early Eurasian hunter-gatherers using the same method (Extended Data Fig. 9). We found that Zlatý kůň carries segments that are on average longer than those of all other Eurasian hunter-gatherers (Fig. 3c). Assuming that recombination breaks Neanderthal ancestry into shorter segments every generation (see ref. 5 and Supplementary Section 8), we estimated that the last admixture with Neanderthals occurred

70–80 generations before Zlatý kůň lived (AA map: 74 generations (95% confidence interval (CI) = 61–89) deCODE map: 78 generations (95% CI = 64–94)). In contrast, the genome of the currently oldest sequenced modern human, Ust’-Ishim, yielded significantly higher estimates of 94 generations (95% CI = 77–113) and 99 generations (95% CI = 81–119) using the AA map and deCODE map, respectively. Estimating ages using segments called by admixfrog (a software for inferring local Neanderthal ancestry 32 ) yielded comparable results (Supplementary Section 8).

To estimate the time of admixture independent of calling Neanderthal ancestry segments, we applied a previously published method that is based on the correlation of the state of Neanderthal informative sites over increasing distances 33 . Applying this method to the Zlatý kůň shotgun dataset yielded an estimate of 63 generations since admixture (s.e. = ±0.6), whereas Ust’-Ishim was estimated to have lived 84 generations after the admixture (s.e. = ±1.3).

Most of the Neanderthal ancestry in present-day and ancient humans probably originates from a common admixture event with a group of Neanderthals who were more closely related to European Neanderthals than to a Neanderthal from the Altai Mountains 28 . To test whether the Neanderthal ancestry in Zlatý kůň shows the same relationship, we used D statistics to compare the sharing of alleles with the high-coverage genomes of a European and an Asian Neanderthal in addition to five published low-coverage genomes from late Neanderthals from Europe 34 . Zlatý kůň showed no significant difference compared with Ust’-Ishim in its sharing of alleles with late Neanderthals, in line with the similar proportion of Neanderthal ancestry in these two hunter-gatherers (Supplementary Section 6 and Extended Data Fig. 10).

Assuming a common Neanderthal admixture event, these results suggest that Zlatý kůň is of approximately the same age as the

45,000-year-old Ust’-Ishim individual or up to a few hundred years older. However, if a second Neanderthal admixture event affected Ust’-Ishim after the initial common Neanderthal admixture, as was previously suggested 33 , Zlatý kůň could be even several thousands of years older than Ust’-Ishim. We have not found support for a second Neanderthal admixture event in the Zlatý kůň data (Supplementary Section 8).

The genetic identity of the modern humans who colonized Eurasia before

40 ka remains largely unknown. Here, we sequenced and analysed the genome of an early European and determined that she was part of a population that formed before the populations that gave rise to present-day Europeans and Asians split from one another. Our estimated age of

45,000 years or even older could make Zlatý kůň the oldest European individual with a largely preserved skull 13 . As for Ust’-Ishim and Oase 1, Zlatý kůň shows no genetic continuity with modern humans who lived after

40 ka. It is possible that this discontinuity is linked to the Campanian Ignimbrite eruption

39 ka that severely affected the climate in the Northern Hemisphere and that may have reduced the viability of Neanderthals and early modern humans in large parts of western Eurasia 35,36 . Whether the modern humans who lived before the turnover event, such as the Oase 1 and Bacho Kiro individuals 3,5 , belonged to the same early European population can only be resolved with further genome-wide data from those individuals 37 . Future genetic studies of these and other early European individuals will thus help to reconstruct the history of these first modern humans who expanded into Eurasia after the out-of-Africa event and before the major dispersal that gave rise to modern-day non-African populations.

Note added in proof: We refer readers to related work by M. Hajdinjak et al. 37 who analysed nuclear sequences from Bacho Kiro individuals that dated to around 45,000 years ago.

Meet the tiny machines in cells that massacre viruses

When viruses infect the body's cells, those cells face a difficult problem. How can they destroy viruses without harming themselves? Scientists at University of Utah Health have found an answer by visualizing a tiny cellular machine that chops the viruses' genetic material into bits. Their research shows how the machine detects the intruders and processes them for destruction to protect cells and prevent the spread of infection.

"Fighting viruses is essential for survival," says Brenda Bass, Ph.D., distinguished professor of Biochemistry at U of U Health who co-led the study with assistant professor Peter Shen, Ph.D. "It is fascinating to see how biology has evolved to solve this problem." Their findings will be published online in the journal Science on Dec. 21.

Bass, Shen and their colleagues examined one such specialized machine, a protein from the common fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. Now that scientists know how the fly protein works, they may be able to use some of the same tricks to overcome viruses that cause human disease.

At first glance, the "L"-shaped protein, aptly named Dicer, doesn't look like anything special. But put it next to virus, and its machete-like properties spring to life. Viruses spread infection by replicating and copying their genomic material inside the cell, and during this process make double-stranded RNA (dsRNA). Dicer rids the cell of the offending intruder by grabbing hold of the rope-like dsRNA, chopping it into pieces as it reels it in.

One small difference between viral and cellular dsRNA is responsible for giving the virus away as an unwanted intruder. The ends of both strands of viral dsRNA are even, while one strand of cellular dsRNA is a tad longer at the end.

"Dicer has to be careful about what it destroys because otherwise it would shut down the cell," explains graduate student and first author Niladri Sinha. "Seeing how Dicer works answers a long-standing question of how antiviral-receptors can discriminate between 'self' from 'non-self'."

This property is important for more than one reason. As a part of normal cell function, Dicer slices dsRNA made by the cell, too. For the first time, this study shows that this single machine processes dsRNA from viruses using a completely different mechanism.

In a way, this new view of Dicer has been nearly 20 years in the making. When Bass first started investigating the protein, she noted it had a region known as the helicase domain. But for all those years, no one knew why. It was pure curiosity that led her to collaborate with Shen to determine whether seeing the protein could help them answer that question.

To do so, they flash-froze and analyzed Dicer using cryo-electron microscopy, this year's Nobel prize winning technology. Despite using advanced methodologies, it was not easy to get a picture of the protein interacting with viral RNA. Dicer is tiny even by cryo-EM standards. Plus, it bends and moves, making it difficult to pin down.

The scientists overcame these difficulties by using biochemistry to trap the pair in defined poses, and then taking hundreds of thousands of images. They discovered that the mysterious helicase domain defines the previously unknown mechanism for destroying virus: it recognizes the intruder and reels it in just before the kill. Importantly, once the helicase grabs hold of the viral material, it doesn't dare let go, improving its chances for eradicting infection.

"What I love about this is that we had no idea how the enzyme was working. Just by looking at it, we came upon something unexpected," says Shen.

It's possible that Dicer only functions this way in flies. But biology has a habit of reusing tools that work well. "I'm sure people will be thinking that perhaps under certain conditions, or in the presence of additional protein factors, human Dicer could act like the fly's." Such a discovery could give scientists new ways to control viral infection, and our body's response to infection.

This research was supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health and the H.A. and Edna Benning Presidential Endowed Chair, and will be published as "Dicer uses distinct modules for recognizing dsRNA termini" in Science on Dec. 21, 2017.

In addition to Bass, Shen, and Sinha, Janet Iwasa, a research assistant professor also in the Department of Biochemistry at U of U Health, is a coauthor. Bass is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Human Genetics and is a member of the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.

A “quite boring” theory

Terberger's group first revealed the results of their work on Tollense in 2011. Since then, they’ve published several papers on the site, including one that confirmed its status as a battlefield through analysis of the lesions on victims’ bones and another that speculated the conflict started on the causeway. Over time, the team became increasingly convinced that the battle took place between two groups of warriors. One group of “locals” originated from the area, they speculated, while a second was made up of a heterogenous group of fighters who may have gathered from hundreds of miles away for a Trojan War-style standoff on the riverbanks.

Preliminary aDNA results fueled speculation that the massive battle was regional, not local. In 2016, Joachim Burger, a population geneticist at the University of Mainz, told Science that initial aDNA analysis suggested a “highly diverse” group of warriors with genetic links from as far as southern Europe.

Isotope analysis of the remains seemed to bolster that conclusion. In 2017, researchers published their analysis of the strontium, carbon and nitrogen isotopes in the teeth of 52 of the over 140 victims whose remains have been recovered so far. They found two groups of fighters: one group of northern German locals and another, more diverse group from somewhere in Central Europe (Bohemia, a historical region located southwest of Germany that covered the western portion of what is now Czechia, is the strongest contender).

But now, more complete DNA results obtained by Burger’s team earlier this year throw water on the theory, at least from a genetic perspective. “We don't see any sign of two different groups fighting against each other from our sample,” he tells National Geographic. (Burger is not an author of the current paper.)

Back in 2016, says Burger, one of the bones he was given to analyze actually ended up being from the Neolithic age, which predates the Tollense battle by between 8,750 and 3,250 years. A larger sample size and longer analysis revealed a more homogenous population, DNA-wise, than he initially thought. “They just look like Central and Northern Europeans,” he says.

The new DNA analysis did rule out the possibility of the battle being among family members. But it didn’t make a compelling case for the two-group theory.

“It is the opposite of spectacular,” says Burger. “It’s actually quite boring.”

KB Jones Lab Research

Sarcomas are the cancers of flesh and bone. They arise from what are termed connective tissues, or mesenchyme, primarily derived from cells in the mesodermal layer in embryogenesis. Such tissues comprise the majority of the human body, but are apparently resistant to malignant transformation—or the process of turning normal cells into cancer cells—because sarcomas represent only one percent of all cancers.

 Although rare in the population, sarcomas have been at the very center of cancer discovery. The first two major types of genetic drivers of cancer were both initially identified through investigation of sarcomas. Tumor suppressors, the genes that a developing cancer must shut down in order to continue growing out of control, were found in families that had a dangerous propensity to develop bone and soft-tissue sarcomas. Oncogenes, the genes whose activation enables a cancer cell to grow rapidly and ignore stop signals from the outside, were initially identified in a virus that caused sarcomas in chickens. Further, the concept that a patient’s immune system might be capable of fighting cancer arose from observations that infections in sarcoma patients occasionally eradicated their tumors.

Sarcomas also provide ideal model cancers for the study of oncogenesis, cancer initiation, or transformation, because they do not derive from a person's behaviors or exposures as far as we can tell. One does not generally develop a sarcoma due to a history of smoking, eating too little broccoli, or avoiding exercise. Sarcomas just happen, apparently at random, but not in an unpatterned way.

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Bad Business Under Jon Huntsman

Stephanie Mencimer

2012 Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman. Tim Dominick/The State/Zuma

If being a good governor means serving as a cheerleader and chief booster for local industry, then Utah’s former chief executive, Jon Huntsman Jr., did a solid job. He has been touting his stewardship of the state’s economy on the campaign trail. But one thriving industry in Utah that Huntsman helped&mdashand which supported him financially in return&mdashrelies on dubious practices.

Utah is home to the nation’s largest concentration of companies built around the practice of multilevel marketing, which is widely considered to be a type of pyramid scheme. While Huntsman was governor, he did his part to keep them in business.

Known as MLMs, these companies often sell overpriced nutritional supplements or other health products, not through retail outlets but rather through networks of individual distributors. Among the signature companies in Utah are Nu Skin, Usana, Tahitian Noni Beverages, and Nature’s Sunshine Products. Instead of relying on consumer sales, they make their real revenue from constantly recruiting more salespeople, who usually have to “invest” in the opportunity to sell the products and then must recruit their own network of distributors to make money. Most distributors at the bottom of the pyramid never make the big bucks promised by the company. Because of this structure, these types of companies are frequent targets of law enforcement, federal regulators, and consumer lawyers.

As governor, Huntsman was cozy with these folks, who have claimed that their businesses bring the state more than four times as much revenue as the vaunted ski industry. Usana donated $20,000 to Huntsman’s political action committee in 2006, one of the largest contributions he received that year. Nu Skin’s political action committee donated $7,000 to his 2004 campaign.

In 2006, Huntsman took representatives of both companies on a trade mission to China, which has largely banned MLM companies from operating because of their business practices. Huntsman lobbied the Chinese to open their markets to MLMs. He also did the industry an important regulatory favor that year. At the behest of the Direct Selling Association, the trade lobby for multilevel marketing companies, the state Legislature passed a bill that essentially gutted Utah’s anti-pyramid-scheme law. The bill Huntsman then signed into law may have sanctioned the practices of at least 20 companies in the state thought to be illegally operating a pyramid scheme under the old statute, according to Jon Taylor, the head of the Utah-based Consumer Awareness Institute. Taylor, a retired former Brigham Young University professor, became a critic of the industry after a friend pressured him to become a distributor for Nu Skin.

Taylor actively lobbied against the pro-MLM bill, bringing in consumer experts from other states who were dealing with the wreckage created by Utah’s lucrative cottage industry. Bruce Craig, a former Wisconsin assistant attorney general, warned in a letter to Utah senators that the bill was “a package deal set up by those who want to legalize pyramids&hellipIf you want to pass the bill, do it. However, you shouldn’t be allowed to pretend that you were unaware of the adverse economic consequences that will be visited upon Utah citizens by this legislation.”

Taylor said he also sent pleading leaders to Huntsman begging him not to sign the bill, to no avail.

The change essentially legalized business practices that are considered unfair and deceptive in many other states and by the Federal Trade Commission. The prior law had defined a pyramid scheme as, among other things, a business where people involved derive their compensation primarily from recruiting people into the sales scheme, rather than from retail sales themselves. But with a few small wording changes to the law in 2006, now as long as a Utah company’s salespeople sell something like noni juice or acai berry supplements&mdashto anyone, regardless of whether they are simply other salespeople roped into the scheme&mdashthey can’t be prosecuted or sued for running a pyramid scheme. Virtually all of the companies these days operating as pyramid-schemes-in-disguise sell some such product, even though most of the buyers are the companies’ own distributors. The law effectively immunized the companies from lawsuits or regulatory actions in the state.

Utah had never been particularly aggressive about prosecuting pyramid schemes perpetuated by its homegrown companies. The state’s longtime attorney general, Mark Shurtleff, was elected with lots of money from MLM companies, and he supported gutting the anti-pyramid scheme law that he was charged with enforcing. But the old law, at least, had allowed private lawyers to bring class actions against companies headquartered in Utah, which loomed as a threat to their bottom line.

Nu Skin, for one, has a provision in its contracts with distributors requiring them to bring any lawsuits against the company into Utah courts, where the Utah law applies, rather than in their home states, which might have more stringent consumer protection laws. The new law ensures that ripped off distributors don’t have a prayer of holding the company accountable in a Utah court.

The 2006 bill signed by Huntsman benefited some of his biggest backers, including Usana Health Sciences and Nu Skin, publicly traded companies that have good reason to want extra insulation from consumer protection regulation and lawyers.

Both companies have questionable track records. The Provo-based Nu Skin, which purportedly sells vitamins and skin care products, has a long and troubled history with regulators dating back to the early 1990s, when several states were investigating the company for operating a pyramid scheme. In 1992, it settled a threatened lawsuit with the Michigan attorney general’s office and four other states, promising to clean up its business practices and paying $25,000 to cover the cost of the investigation. It’s worth noting that during that time, when Nu Skin was under fire from state consumer protection officials, its official spokesperson was Jason Chaffetz, who now represents Utah in Congress. In 2004, Chaffetz managed Huntsman’s gubernatorial campaign, and he went on to serve as his chief of staff.

Nu Skin also got into hot water with the Federal Trade Commission for making false claims about its products, including weight loss supplements and baldness cures, and for misrepresenting the earnings new individual distributors would make. (Most, according to Taylor, who has reviewed Nu Skin&rsquos SEC filings, are likely to lose money, not make it.) In 1994, the company settled a case with the FTC and signed a consent order promising not to engage in false advertising and to stop misleading potential distributors, among other things. In 1997, the FTC fined Nu Skin $1.5 million for violating the consent order.

Usana has had similar run-ins with investigators and has been the subject of numerous lawsuits accusing the company of being a pyramid scheme. The company’s founder, Myron Wentz, renounced his American citizenship in the 1990s, reportedly to avoid paying taxes. In 2007, he owned 45 percent of the company’s stock, which he held in the off-shore tax haven Isle of Man. Usana has been the subject of SEC probes, stemming from irregularities in its financial reporting.

In 2007, several of Usana’s board members had to step down after revelations that they’d misrepresented their credentials in SEC filings. As it turned out, the company’s chief financial officer wasn’t, as he’d said, a CPA, nor was its “audit committee’s financial expert.” Another board member had to quit after the news broke that his Ph.D. was in forestry, not biology, as he’d claimed. Meanwhile, a “doctor” on its medical advisory board was forced to resign after the discovery that he had actually surrendered his medical license in 2004 to avoid disciplinary proceedings in Georgia. The company’s accounting firm quit and Usana was threatened with delisting from NASDAQ.

Consumer advocates have called on the FTC to investigate the company based on information showing that the company’s earnings are based almost entirely on recruiting new distributors rather than selling anything. (The Wall Street Journal found in 2007 that only 14 percent of Usana’s products were sold retail. The rest were sold to the company’s distributors, the hallmark of a pyramid scheme.) A Salt Lake Tribune study found in 2010 that distributors for Usana earned commissions of, on average, about $600 a year, while a tiny percentage of top sellers made more than $800,000.

The Consumer Awareness Institute’s Taylor says that while Huntsman may have thought he was helping the local business community when he went to bat for these sorts of firms, he was instead furthering a scam that hurt thousands of people, both in Utah and far beyond its borders.

The Huntsman campaign did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

Taylor says he thinks Huntsman is a good man, but that the MLM industry is awash in money and has outsized political influence. Utah has the dubious distinction, he notes, of serving as home to more MLM companies per capita than anywhere else in the country. “When money controls the decision making” for politicians, including Huntsman, he laments, “this is just what happens.”

Back to the future: breast cancer reprises pathways found in fetal cells

LA JOLLA--(August 7, 2018) Using just a microscope, Italian surgeon Francesco Durante was struck by the similarities between cells in the most malignant cancers and the embryonic cells of the organ in which the cancer originated.

More than a century later, scientists at the Salk Institute have uncovered a reason for the uncanny likeness: cells in human basal-like breast cancers share features with the embryonic mammary (breast) stem cells that are the progenitors of all cell types in the mammary gland (of a mouse). The insights leading to this conclusion are published in the journal Cell Reports on August 7, 2018.

"Durante was prescient," says Professor Geoffrey Wahl, holder of the Daniel and Martina Lewis Chair and senior author of the work. "He anticipated the relatedness of cells in the embryo to those in malignant cancers--and that dormant cancer cells could be 'reawakened' by exposure to 'persistent irritations' that we now recognize as inflammation. We can use the insights gained from our work to develop better diagnostic and treatment strategies."

For example, human breast cancers share some peculiar metabolic features with early embryonic mammary stem cells, which may be possible to target therapeutically. Additionally, proteins specifically expressed in the embryonic cells that are also expressed in the cancers may be used to develop new diagnostic agents or tools for immune therapies.

Cancer has been called a "caricature of development," reprising features of the embryonic stem cell state for their own perverse purposes. So Wahl and his research group at Salk, along with investigator Benjamin Spike of the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah, used cutting-edge techniques to generate an atlas of the genes expressed in each breast cell from very early in development until adulthood, a process that required an analysis of many thousands of cells. They used this "single-cell-transcriptome atlas" to compare genes expressed in human breast cancers. This led to an understanding of how the stem cells of the breast arise in early development and how they turn into the two different types of cells that comprise the mature gland.

"There has been intense interest in determining how rare cells in tumors can fuel tumor growth and resistance to therapies," says Spike, who is an assistant professor of oncological sciences at the University of Utah and the paper's co-corresponding author. "Much of the molecular machinery they use to do this appears to be co-opted and corrupted from stem cells and progenitors that used this machinery to build the normal tissue during development. Our study provides an atlas of the responsible genes that can be tested for their potential as therapeutic targets."

"This work shows the diversity of ways that cells can enter the stem state, which is characterized by their plasticity, or developmental flexibility," adds first author Rajshekhar Giraddi, a Salk research associate in Wahl's lab. "This suggests that cancer cells may gain their plasticity by many strategies, similar to those we are discovering in normal development."

This developmental plasticity likely explains how the cells within a single tumor can appear so different from one another and likely underlies the uncanny ability of malignant cancer cells to become resistant to most therapies.

Now, armed with this knowledge of the genetic signatures of different cell states, the lab is developing new ways of looking at the reprogramming of adult cells into states associated with cancer.

"What would be great is if we can figure out how to prevent the reprogramming of cancer cells to become so developmentally plastic." says Wahl. "This plasticity will likely preclude development of a single 'magic bullet' to treat cancer. Rather, cancers are very adaptive diseases, requiring attacking them from multiple directions."

Other authors included Chi-Yeh Chung, Christy L. Trejo, Christopher Dravis and Luo Wei Rodewald of Salk Richard E. Heinz, Ozlen Balcioglu, Berhane Hagos, Elnaz Mirzaei Mehrabad, Jae Hwang and Katherine E. Varley of the Huntsman Cancer Institute Mark Novotny and Roger Lasken of the J. Craig Venter Institute and Cheng Fan and Charles M. Perou of the University of North Carolina's Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The work was funded by the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the Susan G. Komen foundation (SAC11003), the National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute (R35 CA197687), the Salk Institute Cancer Center (NIH-NCI CCSG: P30 CA014195), the Chapman Foundation, the Helmsley Charitable Trust, the Huntsman Cancer Institute Cancer Center (NIH-NCI CCSG: P30 CA42014) and the Huntsman Cancer Foundation.

About the Salk Institute for Biological Studies:

Every cure has a starting point. The Salk Institute embodies Jonas Salk's mission to dare to make dreams into reality. Its internationally renowned and award-winning scientists explore the very foundations of life, seeking new understandings in neuroscience, genetics, immunology, plant biology and more. The Institute is an independent nonprofit organization and architectural landmark: small by choice, intimate by nature and fearless in the face of any challenge. Be it cancer or Alzheimer's, aging or diabetes, Salk is where cures begin. Learn more at:

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.

Sex between humans and Neanderthals was way more common than realized

Thousands of years ago, the lives of two different species of humans were forever changed by two distinctly different events.

During the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition, anatomically modern humans — Homo sapiens (that’s us) — started to migrate across Eurasia. Neanderthals, meanwhile, started to disappear.

“For a very long time, it has been intensively debated on how these processes exactly occurred,” Mateja Hajdinjak tells Inverse. Hajdinjak is an associate researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and an expert in ancient genomics.

A study co-authored by Hajdinjak and published Wednesday in the journal Nature — alongside another ancient humans study also published Wednesday in Nature — finally provides much-needed insight into what happened nearly 45,000 to 35,000 years ago.

Together, the separate teams present evidence of the oldest Homo sapien remains ever found in Europe. Genetic analyses of these remains reveal a relationship between these ancient individuals and present-day humans — and suggest that mating between modern humans and Neanderthals was dramatically more common than scientists previously thought.

The background — Here’s what we do know:

  • Modern humans appeared in Europe at least 45,000 years ago
  • Neanderthals disappeared from Europe around 40,000 years ago

What’s not well-understood is the extent of interactions between Neanderthals and modern humans, and how exactly these early Europeans form part of the greater story of human expansion outside of Africa.

Adding to the conundrum is the rarity of Homo sapien remains dating to this time period. Even if a scientist uncovers a bone or a tooth belonging to an ancient human, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a helpful specimen. After the death of an organism, DNA degrades, “becoming shorter over time and accumulating modifications,” Hajdinjak explains.

After tens of thousands of years of degradation, scientists are excited if a specimen has even a small amount of DNA left to analyze.

What’s new — Five of the seven ancient humans recovered from Bacho Kiro Cave in Bulgaria, are very, very old. Radiocarbon dating conducted by Hajcdinjak and his colleagues suggests these humans existed between 45,930 and 42,580 years ago.

This makes them the “oldest Upper Palaeolithic modern humans that have been recovered in Europe,” the study team writes.

The other Nature study, also conducted by Max Planck Institute researchers, presents a genome sequence pulled from a skull that belonged to a female Homo sapien who lived in the modern-day Czech Republic (Czechia in the study). In this case, it’s the length of the Neanderthal segments in her genome that suggest how old she is: at least 45,000 years.

All of these ancient humans represent some of the earliest Homo sapiens in Eurasia after the migration out of Africa.

Both studies showcase how closely entwined the lives of these individuals were with the fate of the Neanderthals. The DNA of the woman found in Czechia was at least 3 percent Neanderthal. Meanwhile, the genomes of three of the ancient humans found in the Bacho Kiro Cave suggest they had Neanderthal ancestors only a few generations back in their family tree.

This suggests mixing between humans and Neanderthals was more common than previously thought. Before now, evidence of relatively recent Neanderthal ancestry came down to one 40,000-year-old human found in Romania. His DNA suggested to researchers that “Neanderthals and modern humans mixed on more than one occasion and in Europe, as well as at a later point,” Hajdinjaksays. Beyond this individual, the best evidence of Neanderthal-Homo sapien mating was in the DNA of living people.

“Crucially, all IUP [Initial Upper Paleolithic] Bacho Kiro Cave individuals have Neanderthal ancestors around 5 to 7 generations before they lived, suggesting that the admixture between these first humans in Europe and Neanderthals was common,” Hajdinjak says.

The big takeaway — Hajdinjak and colleagues were also able to examine the relationship between the Bacho Kiro Cave individuals and later human populations.

Comparing the genomes of these individuals to other ancient and present-day humans revealed these individuals are more closely related to humans which contributed ancestry to East Asians, rather than to West Eurasians. This doesn’t mean it was these exact individuals who contributed to later populations in East Asia, but it does mean they are closely related to the humans who did.

Ultimately, the findings build on a fundamental human truth: We move. We move a lot and we always have. The Bacho Kiro Cave individuals contributed to later populations with Asian ancestry, but it can be assumed other ancient individuals contributed to the DNA of subsequent Eurasians and Europeans. These ancient peoples met and mated with other ancient human species and continued to spread, like ripples on a pond.

With each new discovery, we better understand what it means to be human.

“I have always been fascinated with human prehistory where no written records exist,” Hajdinjak says. “Ancient DNA provides us with an invaluable window to the past — literally like our very own time machine.”

2–3% Neanderthal ancestry in their genomes, originating from admixture with Neanderthals that took place sometime between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago, probably in the Middle East. In Europe, the modern human expansion preceded the disappearance of Neanderthals from the fossil record by 3,000–5,000 years. The genetic makeup of the first Europeans who colonized the continent more than 40,000 years ago remains poorly understood since few specimens have been studied. Here, we analyse a genome generated from the skull of a female individual from Zlatý kůň, Czechia. We found that she belonged to a population that appears to have contributed genetically neither to later Europeans nor to Asians. Her genome carries

3% Neanderthal ancestry, similar to those of other Upper Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers. However, the lengths of the Neanderthal segments are longer than those observed in the currently oldest modern human genome of the

45,000-year-old Ust’-Ishim individual from Siberia, suggesting that this individual from Zlatý kůň is one of the earliest Eurasian inhabitants following the expansion out of Africa.

Huntsman (HUN) Rebrands Spray Polyurethane Foam Business

Huntsman Corporation HUN has branded its leading spray polyurethane foam (SPF) Business as Huntsman Building Solutions (&lsquoHBS&rsquo). It is a global platform under the company&rsquos Polyurethanes unit.

In February, Huntsman formed the SPF Business by acquiring the leading North American SPF company, Icynene-Lapolla, and combining it with Demilec. Notably, Huntsman acquired Demilec in 2018.

The company expects HBS to consume considerable volumes of its lower margin polymeric MDI &ndash another key ingredient in SPF formulations &ndash to produce high margin specialized SPF systems.

Huntsman's shares have lost 14% in the past year compared with the industry&rsquos 25.1% decline.

The company recorded adjusted earnings per share of 29 cents in the first quarter, down from 36 cents in the year-ago quarter. Nevertheless, the figure surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 19 cents.

Revenues fell nearly 5% year over year to $1,593 million. However, the top line surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1,536.3 million.

In first-quarter 2020 earnings call, Huntsman stated that it remains focused on protecting its balance sheet amid the global economic crisis. The company reduced unnecessary inventories and is also trimming capital spending this year by 30% or around $90 million by delaying discretionary spending.

Huntsman has also resorted to reductions and suspension of share repurchases. It will accelerate plans to realize synergies with its recent and pending strategic acquisitions.

Zacks Rank & Key Picks

Huntsman currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

Some better-ranked stocks in the basic materials space are Agnico Eagle Mines Limited AEM, The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company SMG and Barrick Gold Corporation GOLD, all carrying a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today&rsquos Zacks #1 (Strong Buy) Rank stocks here.

Agnico Eagle has an expected earnings growth rate of 75.3% for 2020. The company&rsquos shares have surged 66.2% in the past year.

Scotts Miracle-Gro has an expected earnings growth rate of 17.7% for fiscal 2020. Its shares have returned 58.5% in the past year.

Barrick has an expected earnings growth rate of 64.7% for 2020. The company&rsquos shares have surged 131.9% in the past year.

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Watch the video: My experience living in Czechia. Czech Republic as a black woman #czechia #czechrepublic (August 2022).