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East Africa

Norman Miller, Wilmington Daily Record, Google Chrome, More: Tuesday Afternoon ResearchBuzz, August 6, 2019

NEW RESOURCES

University of Wisconsin-Madison: New Online Archive For Africanist Norman Miller. “The Norman Miller Archive is a new open multimedia resource featuring selected research, photos, films, journals, books, and field notes from the library of Norman Miller, an academic researcher, journalist, and film producer who worked extensively in East Africa from 1960-2015.”

TWEAKS AND UPDATES

DigitalNC: The Daily Record Project: “Remnants” of a Pivotal Paper in North Carolina’s History. “About two years ago, we had the honor of hosting a group of students from Wilmington who were studying one of the most politically and socially devastating moments in the state’s history–the Wilmington Coup and Race Riots of 1898. Their efforts centered around locating and studying the remaining issues of the newspaper at the center of that event, the Wilmington Daily Record. Owned and operated by African Americans, this successful paper incited racists who were already upset with the political power held by African Americans and supporters of equality. During the Coup, the Record’s offices were burned and many were killed. Thanks to these students, their mentors, and cultural heritage institutions, you can now see the seven known remaining issues of the Daily Record on DigitalNC.”

The Register: Googlers hate it! This one weird trick lets websites dodge Chrome 76’s defenses, detect you’re in Incognito mode . “A week ago, Google released Chrome 76, which included a change intended to prevent websites from detecting when browser users have activated Incognito mode. Unfortunately, the web giant’s fix opened another hole elsewhere. It enabled a timing attack that can be used to infer when people are using Incognito mode.”

AROUND THE SEARCH AND SOCIAL MEDIA WORLD

CNBC: How Facebook failed to break into hardware: The untold story of Building 8. “Building 8′s experience highlights Facebook’s central quandary as it seeks to diversify beyond mobile ads, which account for 93% of revenue, and expand into the costly business of developing, manufacturing and selling consumer devices. Coding is Facebook’s DNA, but the company’s hacker culture clashes with the realities of hardware development, which demands longer time horizons and relationships with a wide swath of manufacturers and resellers, all issues well beyond Facebook’s core.”

The Atlantic: Where Everyone’s an Influencer. “The occasion was Instabeach, an exclusive, invite-only annual party hosted by the photo-sharing platform for 500 top creators along with plus-ones, talent representatives, managers, and—for the first time—press. The goal, according to Justin Antony, Instagram’s head of creators and emerging talent partnerships, is to help influencers meet one another, mingle, and form friendships. But what started three years ago as a casual beach party for a class of people that was once maligned by the traditional entertainment industry has become a who’s who of young Hollywood, a sun-soaked declaration of just how completely enmeshed Instagram has become with the teen-entertainment world.”

TechCrunch: Facebook still full of groups trading fake reviews, says consumer group. “Which? says it found more than 55,000 new posts across just nine Facebook groups trading fake reviews in July, which it said were generating hundreds ‘or even thousands’ of posts per day. It points out the true figure is likely to be higher because Facebook caps the number of posts it quantifies at 10,000 (and three of the ten groups had hit that ceiling).”

SECURITY & LEGAL

ZDNet: Microsoft: Russian state hackers are using IoT devices to breach enterprise networks. “One of Russia’s elite state-sponsored hacking groups is going after IoT devices as a way to breach corporate networks, from where they pivot to other more high-value targets. Attacks have been observed in the wild said the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center, one of the OS maker’s cyber-security divisions.”

New York Times: Legal Shield for Websites Rattles Under Onslaught of Hate Speech. “When the most consequential law governing speech on the internet was created in 1996, Google.com didn’t exist and Mark Zuckerberg was 11 years old. The federal law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, has helped Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and countless other internet companies flourish.”

RESEARCH & OPINION

TechXplore: Study explores interactions between world leaders on social media. “Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) have recently carried out a study investigating the interactions among different world leaders and influential political figures on social media. Their findings, pre-published on arXiv, provide interesting new insight about how government actors use social media, which could help to better understand the role of new technologies in diplomatic exchanges.”

Cornell Chronicle: Study finds racial bias in tweets flagged as hate speech. “Tweets believed to be written by African Americans are much more likely to be tagged as hate speech than tweets associated with whites, according to a Cornell study analyzing five collections of Twitter data marked for abusive language.” Good afternoon, Internet…

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Out of North Africa

I had previously called Irhoud 1 “The Father of Mankind” and proposed a “two deserts” theory of human evolution whereby our species originated in North Africa, and was pumped out of it to both the Middle East (and especially Arabia, the 2nd desert) and Sub-Saharan Africa during periods of Saharan aridity. This Out-of-North Africa theory (together with the secondary Out-of-Arabia expansion ~70kya) is responsible for the spread of Homo sapiens around the world.

The discovery and re-dating of modern human remains from Irhoud of course adds support to this theory and places North Africa as the most probable cradle of our species, with a comfortable 100kya buffer to the next place where modern humans are detected (the Omo remains of East Africa), and another comfortable 100kya buffer to the next place (Israel and the Skhul/Qafzeh hominins).

The interpretation of these findings in terms of Homo sapiens emerging out of a sort of multi-regional evolution involving all Africa is of course wrong. There is no reason to think of a single species evolving across the huge African continent. The early distribution of sapiens remains are in North Africa, East Africa, and the Near East, and such remains are absent in West/Central/South Africa.

The multi-regionalists lost the game in Eurasia, as it turned out that Eurasians only have ~2% archaic admixture, and they are inventing Multiregionalism-in-Africa.

Whatever finds we do have from Sub-Saharan Africa, some of them quite late (such as the Iwo Eleru remains from Nigeria), others of similar age as Irhoud (such as Florisbad and the recently described H. naledi from South Africa) did not belong to our species. The first modern humans appeared in South Africa with the Later Stone Age (probably associated with the migration of Y-chromosome haplogroup E into Africa), and the Hofmeyr skull (which resembled Eurasians and not the eternally romanticized Khoe-San). Even in East Africa the advent of modernity was not clear-cut (see Omo I vs. II and the more archaic later Herto specimen).

It seems that people were misled into thinking of Sub-Saharan Africa as the origin of our species by the genetic observation of greater genetic diversity of Sub-Saharan Africans. But, this diversity could have come about by admixture between people from North Africa and pre-existing people of Sub-Saharan Africa (both early waves of AMH and non-AMH).

It’s not certain that North Africa will be the end of the story. Fashions shifted from the Near East to East Africa, to North Africa, with every new find. But, the fact that we do find the earliest modern humans in these areas, while we find non-AMH elsewhere (e.g. Europe or South Africa) is gradually constraining the solution to the problem of our origins. My bet remains North Africa; time will tell.

Human pigmentation mega-study

A great new study on the genetics of human (including African) pigmentation. I would love to see a future study that would reconstruct what ancestral modern humans looked like pigmentation-wise, as this trait is tightly correlated with sun exposure (and thus latitude), and may thus pinpoint a narrow latitudinal zone where ancestral modern humans may have lived.

From a related story:

The most dramatic discovery concerned a gene known as MFSD12. Two mutations that decrease expression of this gene were found in high frequencies in people with the darkest skin. These variants arose about a half-million years ago, suggesting that human ancestors before that time may have had moderately dark skin, rather than the deep black hue created today by these mutations.

Science 12 Oct 2017: eaan8433 DOI: 10.1126/science.aan8433

Loci associated with skin pigmentation identified in African populations

Nicholas G. Crawford et al.

Despite the wide range of skin pigmentation in humans, little is known about its genetic basis in global populations. Examining ethnically diverse African genomes, we identify variants in or near SLC24A5, MFSD12, DDB1, TMEM138, OCA2 and HERC2 that are significantly associated with skin pigmentation. Genetic evidence indicates that the light pigmentation variant at SLC24A5 was introduced into East Africa by gene flow from non-Africans. At all other loci, variants associated with dark pigmentation in Africans are identical by descent in southern Asian and Australo-Melanesian populations. Functional analyses indicate that MFSD12 encodes a lysosomal protein that affects melanogenesis in zebrafish and mice, and that mutations in melanocyte-specific regulatory regions near DDB1/TMEM138 correlate with expression of UV response genes under selection in Eurasians.

Link