Inbreeding Not Such a Good Idea

http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/science/2009/04/royals-prove-inbreeding-is-a-bad-idea/

April 16, 2009

Royals Prove Inbreeding Is a Bad Idea

Those jokes about inbred royals might have some basis in fact, according to a  new study in the journal PLOS One .

The Hapsburg dynasty ruled Spain from 1516 to 1700, reigning over the height of the  Spanish empire. The dynasty ended when the last king, Charles II, who suffered  physical and mental disabilities, died without issue despite two marriages.  Inbreeding had been thought to play a role in the family’s extinction.

A young Charles II, c. 1673, via Wikimedia Commons

A young Charles II, c. 1673, via Wikimedia  Commons

A group of biologists from Spain developed an extended pedigree of more than  3,000 individuals over 16 generations so that they could calculate the  “inbreeding coefficient” of the Spanish Hapsburg kings. The inbreeding  coefficient is a measure of relatedness between two individuals. Here’s an example:

Take a first-cousin mating. First cousins share a set of grandparents. For  any particular gene in the male, the chance that his female first cousin  inherited the same gene from the same source is 1/8. Further, for any gene the  man passes to his child, the chance is 1/8 that the woman has the same gene and  ½ that she transmits that gene to the child so 1/8 X ½ = 1/16. Thus, a  first-cousin marriage has a coefficient of inbreeding F =1/16  [0.0625].

The six kings of Spain married a total of 11 times. Nine of the marriages  were “consanguineous unions in a degree of third cousins or closer.” There were  even two uncle-niece unions (eww). Over time, the biologists calculated, the  inbreeding coefficient rose from 0.025 for Philip I, the founder of the dynasty,  to 0.254 for Charles II. His inbreeding coefficient–0.254–is as high as that  expected from a parent-child or a brother-sister relationship (double eww).

In addition to the high inbreeding coefficients, the biologists cited two  other lines of evidence that inbreeding was the cause of the Spanish Hapsburgs’  demise: First, the family experienced a high rate of infant mortality, with half  of the children failing to reach age one (compared with 80 percent survival at  that time in Spanish villages). Second, many of Charles II’s disabilities and  illnesses–short stature, weakness, intestinal problems, sporadic hematuria,  impotence/infertility–could be explained by two genetic disorders, combined  pituitary hormone deficiency and distal renal tubular acidosis. The probability  that an individual would inherit two recessive traits would be extremely low,  but inbreeding made that much more likely.

This wouldn’t seem to have much relevance here in the present, except as an  interesting side story in the history books. However, the authors note that  consanguineous marriages account for 20 to 50 percent of all unions in certain  populations in Asia and Africa and reach as high as 77.1 percent among army  families in Pakistan. In those families, more than 60 percent of marriages are  between first cousins.

Read more:  http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/science/2009/04/royals-prove-inbreeding-is-a-bad-idea/#ixzz2TaIXYT4H

My Favorite Photographs N°15: Indira Mateta

Africa is a Country (Old Site)

Indira Mateta is a young Angolan photographer who is taking her first steps in professional photography, transforming her hobby into a promising career. In 2008 she won the BESA Award for Photography in Luanda and has since had her work appear at the Teatro Elinga, the Catholic University of Angola, Oscar Ribas University, Instituto Camões de Maputo and the União de Artistas Plásticos Angolanos, among others. She was also featured in a documentary by Angolan photographer Kiluange Liberdade and writer Ondjaki, ‘Oxalá crescam pitangas’. Indira is the first Angolan photographer in this series: 

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Feb 11—-Land Grabs in Ethiopia

http://www.africadaily.net/reports/Ethiopians_driven_out_in_land_grabs_999.html

FARM NEWS

Ethiopians ‘driven out in land grabs’ by Staff Writers Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (UPI) Feb 8, 2013


disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

Thousands of Ethiopians are being driven off ancestral lands that the government’s selling to foreign investors buying vast swathes of farmland, a U.S. watchdog reports.

Amid a new rash of land grabs in Africa by foreign governments or business groups seeking to produce food for export, the Oakland Institute of California says that Ethiopia, one of the world’s poorest states, has leased 1.5 million acres of prime farmland to companies from India, Malaysia and elsewhere.

The institute, an independent policy think tank that specializes in food and land issues, says the crisis is likely to worsen as the foreign companies move in and start operations.

It said the Addis Ababa government plans to lease as much as 15 percent of the land in some regions of the land-locked East African country, which has long been beset by drought, famine and war.

The institute says that in the Lower Omo Valley, where the government has earmarked 1.1 million acres for plantations to grow palm oils, cereals and other crops, human rights abuses are rampant among the 200,000 pastoralist farmers with tribal leaders imprisoned and dozens of people killed.

Mass relocations are being carried out because the government’s building the $2 billion Gibe hydroelectric dam on the Omo River to irrigate the plantations, part of major irrigation plan to boost agriculture.

Ethiopia also plans to invest $12 billion in hydropower projects on the Blue Nile, which rises in the Ethiopian highlands, and its tributaries to boost electricity generation to 40,000 megawatts by 2035.

Some 2,000 troops reportedly have been deployed in the Omo region to clear out the villagers.

Addis Ababa denies human rights abuses and says the plantations will create 150,000 jobs but Oakland Institute researchers said they found little evidence to substantiate that.

British relief organization Oxfam reported last week that foreign investors were “deliberately targeting the weakest-governed countries to buy cheap land” across Africa.

“Poor governance allows investors to secure land quickly and cheaply for profit,” said Barbara Stocking, Oxfam’s chief executive.

“Investors seem to be cherry-picking countries with weak rules and regulations because they’re easy targets.

“This can spell disaster for communities if these deals result in their homes and livelihoods being grabbed,” she declared.

Oakland observed that the Ethiopian government has extended generous tax breaks and other incentives to the investing companies, as well as some of the cheapest land on the planet.

Oakland says the Ethiopian “land rush” is part of a global phenomenon in which sales in Africa, Latin America and Asia have been led by farm conglomerates back by Western hedge and pension funds, speculators and even universities.

Many Middle Eastern governments, burdened by water problems and little arable land, have supported the sales with loans and guarantees to ensure future food supplies for burgeoning populations.

The head of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization warned in 2012 that the “land grabs” of vast tracts of African farmland by foreign governments and investors is like the “Wild West” and threatens the continent’s food security.

Graziano da Silva said the FAO is powerless to stop the stampede that began several years ago, and declared that a “sheriff” is needed to restore order before the phenomenon gets out of control.

At a time when food shortages are becoming more common as the world’s population keeps swelling, da Silva told Britain’s Guardian newspaper: “I don’t see that it’s possible to stop it.

“They’re private investors. We don’t have the tools and the instruments to stop big companies buying land. Land acquisitions are a reality.

“We can’t wish them away but we have to find a proper way of limiting them. It appears to be like the ‘Wild West,’ and we need a sheriff and law in place.”

The land grabs were triggered by the 2007-08 world food price crisis, with countries like oil-rich Saudi Arabia and South Korea buying or leasing vast tracts of land in Africa, Asia and Latin America to grow food for their own populations.

Oxfam says much of the land taken over is being used by speculators, including U.S. banks, hedge funds and other high-profile institutions, to grow biofuels to sell for hefty profits rather than produce food.

Cuba reveals the secrets of the saints

Repeating Islands

82-cuba

The African-influenced religion of Santería has long been part of life on this idiosyncratic island. Lydia Bell explores its legacy in this article for London’s Independent.

Rain is beating down on steaming asphalt in central Havana, a hard-bitten patch of town. I am looking for a street-corner rumba and know my destination will call me by the 12/8 slap of a palm on the Cuban batá and cajones – wooden boxes – that distinctive clave sound. Finally I find Callejon de Hammel, a graffiti-plastered alley where, at noon on Sundays, Havana’s Afro-Cuban community worship their gods with bewitching dance and song.

Rumba is more than music and dance – it is the expression of Cuba’s creole identity. The music is a hybrid, blending Congolese percussion and flamenco-style soul-baring singing in the Yoruba language. It is rhythmic, dark, intense – one of the island’s first and enduring sounds, and one…

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