Geneticists trace original organism, The Guardian, Ian Sample, March 3, 2006 ... Geneticists have drawn up the most accurate tree of life [click to enlarge] yet and pinpointed what they believe to be the organism from which all other life on Earth evolved. Scientists construct tree of life "maps" to show how different organisms evolved over millennia, and split into the myriad species that have emerged on Earth. But previous versions have been beset with uncertainties, not least because microbes near the bottom of the tree swap DNA, making them hard to classify. The new tree uses genetics to work out for certain where on the tree different organisms should be. In creating it, the researchers were able to cast back to see what lay at the bottom of the evolutionary tree, an organism dubbed the "last universal common ancestor" from which all other life sprung. The researchers found that our oldest ancestor was very similar to disease-causing bugs of today. It lived in a much hotter environment, had a single membrane to keep it intact, and falls into the same group of well-known pathogens, Bacillus, Listeria, Staphylococcus, Enterococcus, Clostridium and Streptococcus. The tree will help researchers classify unnamed organisms and reveal how they evolved. "It's the first time all three domains of life have been brought together," said Francesca Ciccarelli of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory. "You can compare the speed of evolution of different organisms and you can easily see that the pathogens evolve very fast, which makes sense because they have to adapt to the host's defences." Dr Ciccarelli and her team created the tree by first identifying 36 genes that are common to species in each of the three categories of life: bacteria, single celled organisms called archaea and the eukaryotes, which includes multi-celled organisms such as animals, plants and fungi. By combining the set of common genes with information from the genomes of 191 fully sequenced species, the researchers were able to work out precisely how one species was related to another, they report in the journal Science today. ... [See also Science Daily. Note that this "organism" represented by this molecular `tree' was the "last universal common ancestor" (my emphasis), not the first universal common ancestor. That is, it represents the common ancestor of all living organisms, not necessarily of all organisms. It is noteworthy that one line of bacteria went on to become the ancestor of all living things today, while its `cousins' are still here going nowhere. It is also worth considering that without the progressive addition of new features to that one line, neither we, nor any other plant or animal, would be here. Finally, starting with a pool of bacteria way back then, would naturaliastic`blind watchmaker' evolution have predicted that one line would go on to be all the multicellular organisms and all the rest would remain the same?]
Expert doubts 'Gospel of Judas' revelation, USA Today/AP, March 2, 2006, Richard N. Ostling ... NEW YORK - An expert on ancient Egyptian texts is predicting that the Gospel of Judas- a manuscript from early Christian times that's nearing release amid widespread interest from scholars - will be a dud in terms of learning anything new about Judas. ... James M. Robinson, America's leading expert on such ancient religious texts from Egypt, predicts in a new book that the text won't offer any insights into the disciple who betrayed Jesus. His reason: While it's old, it's not old enough. "Does it go back to Judas? No," ... The text, in Egypt's Coptic language, dates from the third or fourth century and is a copy of an earlier document. The National Geographic Society, along with other groups, has been studying the Judas text. The society said Thursday it will release its report on the document "within the next few weeks" ... Robinson ... assumes it is the same work assailed by Bishop Irenaeus of Lyons around A.D. 180. Irenaeus said the writings came from a "Cainite" Gnostic sect that jousted against orthodox Christianity. ... Robinson ... says the text is valuable to scholars of the second century but dismissed the notion that it'll reveal unknown biblical secrets. He speculated the timing of the release is aimed at capitalizing on interest in the film version of The Da Vinci Code ... "There are a lot of second-, third- and fourth-century gospels attributed to various apostles," Robinson said. "We don't really assume they give us any first century information." .... In The Secrets of Judas, a HarperSanFrancisco book on sale April 1, Robinson will describe secretive maneuvers in the United States, Switzerland, Greece and elsewhere over two decades to sell the "Judas" manuscript. ... [Robinson's comments apply to all the gnostic `gospels': "they [don't] give us any first century information." It is the original first century New Testament Gospels which do that. But then as St. Paul predicted, in 2 Timothy 4:3, "... the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear."]
Forecast shows Africa to face river crisis, The Guardian, Ian Sample, March 3, 2006 ... Africa's rivers face dramatic disruption that will leave a quarter of the continent severely short of water by the end of the century, according to a global warming study published today. In the first detailed assessment of climate change on the continent's waterways researchers found that watercourses on the continent are highly sensitive to shifts in rainfall patterns. Even modest decreases in rain in western Africa will see rivers lose as much as 80% of their water, triggering a surge of what the scientists call "water refugees". Maarten de Wit, a climate expert at the University of Cape Town who led the study, said the redrawing of Africa's waterways will pose serious political problems as people displaced by droughts are forced into other countries to be near water. "In those areas where people have little water as it is, it's going to have a devastating effect," he said. "If you're already walking 5km to the nearest stream to get water it's going to mean walking 30km or moving your whole household. The study, which appears in the journal Science today, is the first to identify how Africa's rivers will respond to climate change over the century. The extent to which slight changes in rainfall could impact on rivers had never been realised. The researchers used a computer to divide the continent into 1,000km wide squares (about 620 miles) and worked out the total length of streams and rivers in each block. They used climate change models to calculate the expected changes in rainfall across the continent and the effect they would have on river levels. The scientists found that in 75% of the countries, those that received between 400mm and 1,000mm of rain a year, shifts in rainfall caused larger than expected rises or falls in river levels. In Harare a 10% drop in rainfall is expected to lead to an 81% drop in fresh water from rivers, a situation the scientists believe will be mirrored in Madagascar, eastern Zambia and Angola. South Africa, which is experiencing a prolonged drought, can expect far less water from the Orange river. A 10% fall in rain over Johannesburg and Bloemfontein will lead to a 70% drop in river levels. The study predicts rain will increase over east Africa. Climate change is expected to bring 10% more rain to Tanzania before the end of the century, boosting water course levels by 136%, while Somalia faces a 20% rise in rainfall, leading to more than a 1,000% increase in the water it receives from waterways. However, increased rainfall could lead to more standing water, more mosquitoes, and widespread malaria. ...
Africa could face more droughts, BBC, 3 March 2006 ... Roland Pease ... Africa could be faced with 25% less water by the end of the century because of global warming, scientists have warned in a new report. The research, published in the journal Science, shows geographical factors will amplify changes in rainfall patterns resulting from climate change. Semi-arid areas such as southern Africa would be the most vulnerable. The authors add that water shortages could provoke conflicts over rivers that cross borders. ... Either way, the study ... shows adjusting to the effects of climate change could be even harder in Africa than previously realised. ... [There already is a prediction that there "will be as many as 50 million environmental refugees in the world in five years' time." As these millions flee to neighbouring countries, they will overwhelm their already inadequate economies. I interpret this as the start of the Great Tribulation [Gk. thlipsis "pressure"] predicted by Jesus in Mat 24:21 (KJV), "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be," immediately after which Jesus will return: "Immediately after the tribulation of those days ... then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." (Mat 24:29-30 KJV). ]