Sociability in the genes
Are you a social butterfly, or do you prefer being at the edge of a group of friends? Either way, your genes and evolution may play a major role, researchers reported on Monday. “Some of the things we find are frankly bizarre,” said Nicholas Christakis of Harvard University, who helped conduct the study. “We find that how interconnected your friends are depends on your genes. Some people have four friends who know each other and some people have four friends who don’t know each other. Whether Dick and Harry know each other depends on Tom’s genes,” Christakis said. “We found there appears to be a genetic tendency to introduce your friends to each other,” Christakis said. There could be good, evolutionary reasons for this. People in the middle of a social network could be privy to useful gossip, such as the location of food or good investment choices. But they would also be at risk of catching germs from all sides — in which case the advantage would lie in more cautious social behavior, the researchers wrote in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Giant Xmas tree stranded
The international financial crisis and its devastating impact on state revenues has stranded a 40m Christmas tree in the central square of the capital Kiev, the Interfax news agency reported on Tuesday. Near-empty city hall accounts and outstanding debt have left the Kiev city government without funds to dismantle the evergreen, said Oleksandr Brihinets, a Kiev city deputy. The tree is still standing, is shedding needles and becoming barer by the day, eyewitnesses said. The tree’s trunk is a steel pole some 40m high, onto which workers bolt dozens of live firs to form branches. Kiev mayor Leonid Chernovitsky faced with a deficit budget at the end of last year ordered the tree built on credit, but falling tax revenues have left city hall unable to pay, forcing contractors to refuse to take down the structure, Brihunets said.
Thieves target shoes
Thieves managed to evade four security guards and six guard dogs to break into the home of a former Cabinet member, only to make away with three pairs of shoes, a news report said yesterday. One of the security guards at the home of former finance minister Daim Zainuddin noticed the missing shoes late on Sunday and lodged a police report, the Star daily said. Police said nothing else was reported missing from the home.
Ships to join piracy fight
The government yesterday ordered its ships to join the international fight against pirates off the shores of Somalia — a move that has drawn criticism from opposition lawmakers who fear it could draw the country into military operations prohibited by its pacifist Constitution. Ruling party members have argued that the battle against piracy is more a crime-fighting operation than a military one. But opposition lawmakers have expressed concern that Japanese ships could be pressed into protecting foreign ships in an emergency.
Athens pledges museum aid
Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyanni said on Tuesday that Athens will give Iraq financial aid and expertise to help reconstruct its looted and war-stricken museums. “Greece, with its great sensitivity to this issue, will offer its expertise and financial help to Iraq to restore its museums,” Bakoyannis said, according to a ministry statement.