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Monday, Nov 20, 2017
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Things to Know in the World for Nov. 1

World

What doomed Neanderthals?

What killed off the Neanderthals? A new study says no matter the answer, they were doomed anyway. Our close evolutionary cousins enjoyed a long run in Europe and Asia, but they disappeared about 40,000 years ago after modern humans showed up from Africa. It's a big debate as to why. Many theories include climate change, epidemics or inability to compete with the modern humans. The new study isn't intended to argue against those theories but rather show they're not needed, said Oren Kolodny of Stanford University. He and Marcus Feldman presented their approach Tuesday in Nature Communications. They based their conclusion on a computer simulation on extinction that represented small bands of Neanderthals and modern humans in Europe and Asia. There was one crucial difference: The modern humans were supplemented by tiny trickles of people from Africa. If survival was a game of chance, "it was rigged by the fact that there's recurring migration," Kolodny said. "The game was doomed to end with the Neanderthals losing." He said the evidence that such migrations occurred is suggestive rather than conclusive. Experts in human origins said the paper could help scientists pin down the various factors that led to the Neanderthals' demise.

Papua New Guinea

Ordered to leave Manus Island, refugees fear for their safety

Australia moved forward with plans to close its Manus Island detention center in Papua New Guinea on Tuesday, cutting off access to food, water and electricity as more than 600 refugees and asylum-seekers resisted relocation. The migrants — some of whom have waited four years to be resettled — said they were safer at the detention center than they would be in nearby Lorengau, calling the city unwelcoming. Tensions over the fate of the refugees on Manus have grown since the governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea agreed in April to close the site by Tuesday. Australia doesn't resettle refugees who approach the country by boat, a law intended to discourage dangerous ocean crossings and human smuggling.

Belgium

Catalan leader takes fight to EU

The deposed leader of Catalonia said Tuesday that he had traveled to Brussels to guarantee a fair trial for himself and other separatists who declared independence from Spain last week, but they were not seeking asylum. Instead, Carles Puigdemont said he had left Catalonia as Madrid took over his region to put Spain's territorial conflict "in the institutional heart of Europe." "This is a European issue, and I want Europe to react," Puigdemont said in his first public remarks since Spanish authorities called Monday for him and 19 other separatists to be prosecuted for rebellion. His wishes are unlikely to be granted. Brussels is the headquarters of the European Union, but the bloc is a group of sovereign states in a time of increased nationalism. Some EU leaders have urged dialogue, but all have fully supported the Spanish government and show no sympathy for Catalan secession.

Britain

'Great British Bake Off' blunder: Judge tweets of winner early

A judge on the popular Great British Bake Off show apologized after revealing the winner hours before the final episode was scheduled to air. Prue Leith tweeted the name of the winner while traveling in Bhutan, which is six hours ahead of Britain, thinking fans had already seen the last installment. Leith, 77, later tweeted: "I am so sorry to the fans of the show for my mistake this morning. I am in a different time zone and mortified by my error." The Great British Bake Off has a strong hold on the public — last year, nine of the country's top 10 TV programs were episodes of the series.

Japan

Police find severed heads

A police search for a missing Tokyo woman who had sought a suicide partner led them to a town house with nine mutilated bodies and coolers containing heads covered in cat litter, Japanese media reported Tuesday. A 27-year-old man identified as Takahiro Shiraishi was arrested on suspicion of murder in an investigation that escalated into fears that he was a serial killer. Accounts by the national broadcaster NHK and leading newspapers described Shiraishi's home southwest of Tokyo as something out of a horror movie. Neighbors said a smell that resembled sewage had been wafting from the residence. The decomposing remains of eight women and one man were found. Shiraishi admitted to investigators that he had killed nine people since moving into the apartment in August, dismembered them in the bathtub and threw some body parts in the garbage to hide the evidence. Grisly crimes are rare in Japan, which has one of the lowest murder rates in the world. In 2014, it recorded 0.3 intentional homicides per 100,000 people, compared with 4.4 for the U.S., according to World Bank data. — tbt* wires

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