Jan 4, 2018

Ancient DNA provides clues of first migration to Americas

The site where Upward Sun River infants were discovered. Photo: Ben Potter / University of Alaska Fairbanks

A team of international scientists announced Wednesday that the remains of a six-week-old girl found in Alaska in 2010 yielded "the second-oldest human genome ever found in North America" — and one corresponding to a previously unknown lineage of humans, according to the New York Times.

Why it matters: The finding gives researchers some of the first archaeological evidence for how people came from Asia to the Western Hemisphere and supports the idea that Siberian migrants settled the Americas, per the Times.

  • The girl, given the name Xach'itee'aanenh T'eede Gaay (which means "sunrise girl child" in the local dialect), was more closely related to Native Americans than other people living today, NYT reports, though she "belonged to neither the northern or southern branch of Native Americans."
  • She is a descendent of the Ancient Beringians, named after the land bridge across the Bering Strait during the most recent ice age. The researchers suggest Ancient Beringians split from Native Americans' ancestors about 20,000 years ago.

But, but, but: There's debate among scientists on when Native Americans' ancestors split into different branches, per the Atlantic.

  • One possibility is that they split into two lineages in Beringia, where the Ancient Beringians stayed, and the other side eventually "gave rise to the other Native Americans." This would mean there was only one migration.
  • Others argue that the Ancient Beringians diverged from other Native Americans while still in Asia, and that both groups "independently traveled into Beringia and subsequently into the Americas," the Atlantic reports.

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A pause button for debts

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Governments have forcibly put much of the U.S. and the global economy on pause in recent weeks, for very good reason. Factories, offices, sporting arenas, restaurants, airports and myriad other institutions have closed down. But one thing hasn't been paused: monthly debt-service obligations.

The big picture: The less movement and activity there is in an economy, the more the coronavirus curve is flattened. But the obligations in bond and loan contracts can't be paused. That's worrying CEOs who fear a wave of business failures if economic activity doesn't pick up next month.

U.S. has expelled thousands of migrants under coronavirus public health order

Photo: Jinitzail Hernández/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

The U.S. has expelled more than 6,000 migrants using new powers enabling the federal government to almost immediately turn back border-crossers under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention emergency public health order that went into effect March 21, according to new Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data.

The big picture: The order has drastically lowered the number of immigrants in CBP custody to fewer than 100, the agency's acting commissioner Mark Morgan told reporters on Thursday. The number of people coming into the U.S. overall has plummeted due to coronavirus-related travel bans in place at both the northern and southern borders.

U.S. coronavirus updates: 16 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

About 16 million Americans have filed for jobless benefits over the past three weeks due to the economic repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic.

The big picture: Both the federal government and individual states are surveying different models of when it will be safe enough to reopen some parts of the economy and allow Americans to return to work. President Trump is preparing to launch a second coronavirus task force focused on reviving the U.S. economy.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 27 mins ago - Health