Unpaid rent behind sacking of 100 cement workers

first_imgUnemployment woes…NICIL defends role in fallout with Caricom CementFollowing the sacking of 100 workers in the Caricom Cement factory, the unemployment woes in Berbice have taken a turn for the worse. But the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) is defending its role in the controversy.NICIL owns the Everton, East Bank complex, formerly belonging to the Berbice Mining Enterprise Limited (BERMINE), on which the factory operates. NICIL Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Horace James on Wednesday told Guyana Times that Caricom Cement was more than two years behind in its rent payments.NICIL CEO Horace James“They (Caricom Cement) owed NICIL for over two years. NICIL terminated their contract and the matter is in court,” James related, in an interview on Wednesday. “So, we had terminated the contract and we had taken possession of the property, but the matter is now in court.”He related that all this happened late in December, but that attempts are being made to reach arbitration. According to James, the company’s argument against NICIL is that termination of their lease was unlawful.“They started to pay rent and then they just stopped for two years; that’s the fact,” James, who took over the helm of NICIL in March of last year, stated. Efforts to contact Caricom Cement management were futile.UnemploymentGovernment had long announced plans to close the Enmore and Rose Hall Sugar Estates, sell the Skeldon Sugar Factory, reduce the annual production of sugar, and take on the responsibility of managing the drainage and irrigation services offered by the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo).Since then, Berbice has been thrown into turmoil with the divestment of a number of sugar estates, also being undertaken by NICIL’s Special Purpose Unit (SPU). This process has been accompanied by the retrenchment of thousands of sugar workers, who are yet to receive their severance payments.In August 2017, after much discussion on unemployment on Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne), Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan had promised that Caricom Cement would employ 400 of the workers who were to be sent home from the Rose Hall Sugar Estate. However, the Rose Hall Estate has now closedThe Caricom Cement factoryand so has the Caricom Cement factory.More than 100 persons attached to the cement company reached out to this publication on Monday, saying they were sent on the breadline some three months ago. According to the workers, they left work on October 8, 2017, as per normal and when they turned up for duty on October 9, they found a padlock on the gate. According to the workers, they were later informed that NICIL had padlocked the gates.An employee of Caricom Cement, Moses Jaipaul, told this newspaper that the terminated employees all have bills to pay, but up until Monday they had not heard anything from either of the companies. Jaipaul had been employed with the company for three years.The company had hired overseas experts and had developed a formula of making high-quality cement from a mixture of clay, paddy husk, sea shells, and bauxite overburden. In October 2017, the cement company was testing the local formula when the gates were locked, leaving the workers jobless.The production of cement locally could have added growth to the Berbice economy in the manufacturing sector. Cement production would have put little strain on foreign exchange reserves, but would have added value to the agricultural industry.last_img read more

Museum head admits falsifying taxes

first_imgFounded in 1983 by Berman and a partner who later left, the museum has no building, not even a Web site – only a Beverly Hills post office box and rental space in a West L.A. storage facility. Berman is the sole employee. He works out of his North Hollywood apartment and travels the country acquiring art, making connections with academic leaders and signing up members who support the museum with annual dues – $40 for an individual membership and $1,000 for the Pharaoh’s Circle – similar to public radio. Noted speakers During the past 20 years, though, the nonprofit museum has hosted dozens of lectures by some of the world’s top Near East scholars. Last month, it hosted Marvin Meyer, a Chapman University professor who translated the controversial “Gospel of Judas” into English, at an event at Wilshire Boulevard Temple. “It was always a very marginal operation,” said David Noel Freedom, an eminent biblical scholar at the University of California, San Diego, who was on the museum’s advisory board. “And I used to wonder how this guy did what he did. I always felt like the less I knew, the better.” Even after the plea agreement was filed in January, Berman went about his business of promoting the museum. “The California Museum of Ancient Art is redefining what a major art museum should be,” reads a glossy membership brochure. Berman didn’t mention his legal woes when he visited the Daily News office later that month to drum up editorial interest about the museum. “West of the Mississippi, there are very few serious collections of Near Eastern art. We are trying to fill that gap,” Berman said at the time. “People here should know where this civilization comes from, who we owe our debt to.” Museum 5 years off When asked about the museum’s prospects for acquiring a physical location for the first time in 24 years, Berman said a museum edifice was at least five years away. “We need an angel – or more than one,” he said. “But what we are putting together would be a world-class museum.” In his quest to obtain ancient art – the museum had about 2,600 pieces from Anatolia in Western Asia, Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Levant, on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea – Berman discovered a way to encourage art donations. Under U.S. tax laws, if a person owns a piece of art for more than a year, he can donate it and write off its appraised value. But if he owns it for less than a year, he can claim only the purchase price. The purchase price of artifacts was often only one-third the appraised value in cases involving the California Museum of Ancient Art. So between 1997 and 2001, Berman helped museum donors falsify purchase dates on at least 11 income tax returns, plus his own. “It became a scheme of backdating,” said Michael Moriarty, a spokesman for the Internal Revenue Service, which worked with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in L.A. to investigate and prosecute. Moriarty said he did not know whether other charges were planned. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sandra Brown did not return calls seeking comment. Berman, who pleaded guilty to one count of filing a false tax return and one count of aiding and abetting the preparation of a false tax return, also could not be reached Tuesday. He is scheduled to appear before U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper for sentencing June 18. brad.greenberg@dailynews.com (818) 713-3634 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! NORTH HOLLYWOOD – What began as a scheme to buoy his beloved California Museum of Ancient Art has Jerome Berman facing up to six years in prison and a $500,000 fine. Berman, who has spent the past 2 1/2 decades nurturing the little-known art collection as executive director, pleaded guilty Monday to defrauding the federal government of $263,000 by helping art donors, including himself, claim charitable contributions to which they weren’t entitled. “Whether you call it misguided or not, he was doing this to help the museum,” said his attorney, Jason D. Kogan. “And now he is going to pay for his mistakes. “This is his life’s work. He lives, eats and sleeps this museum.” last_img read more

Southgate excited about Croatia rematch at Euro 2020

first_img0Shares0000England coach Gareth Southgate shakes hands with Czech Republic coach Jaroslav Silhavy, with Croatia’s Zlatko Dalic in between © AFP / Daniel MIHAILESCUBUCHAREST, Romania, Dec 1 – England manager Gareth Southgate waved away suggestions Croatia will be afraid of playing his team at Wembley in their opening game at Euro 2020 after they came out in the same group at Saturday’s draw in Bucharest.The teams will face off on June 14 in Group D in what is likely to be a pivotal game in determining who tops the section, which will also include the Czech Republic and a play-off winner. Southgate was told Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic feared the prospect of going to Wembley right at the beginning of the tournament, with London one of 12 European cities chosen to host matches.“I think he’s been tactically economical with the truth there,” was Southgate’s response.England beat Croatia 2-1 at home last year in the Nations League, having drawn 0-0 away.However, the most significant recent meeting of the nations came in the 2018 World Cup semi-final in Moscow, when Croatia won 2-1 in extra time.– ‘Interesting contrast’ –“We have had three really good games, really tight games with them, with very little between the teams all three times,” Southgate added.“I think in the last game in their midfield they left (Chelsea’s Mateo) Kovacic on the bench which tells you a little bit about the quality of the players that they have, and it’s quite an interesting contrast really.“They have hugely experienced players, right throughout the team, who have played big matches.“We are at the other end of the scale, very young, a lot of energy, but still learning and improving.”Southgate was also asked if the match offered a real chance to exact revenge for that painful World Cup exit as England missed out on a first major tournament final since 1966.“I think you can never make up for losing in a World Cup semi-final unfortunately.“We felt that after the Nations League. It was great to win that game but it didn’t in any way redress it — if I was the Croatians, I know which game I’d rather have won, so I think that will be long gone, but it is a really attractive fixture for everybody.”England’s second game will be on June 19 against a team to emerge from the play-offs next March, either Norway, Serbia, Israel or Scotland.They will then have a final home group game against another familiar opponent in the Czechs, whom they trounced 5-0 at Wembley in qualifying but lost to 2-1 in Prague.“They are two teams who we have had really good results against and also poor results, so it is not a group we can be complacent about,” Southgate added.The Czechs will be returning to Wembley, the scene of their defeat by Germany in the Euro 96 final. Southgate will also be forever linked to that tournament after missing a penalty in the semi-final shoot-out loss to the Germans.England is now preparing to host games at a major tournament for the first time since then, with Wembley also having a last-16 game as well as both semi-finals and the July 12 final.“The tournament was a brilliant experience in ’96, that’s the thing that is in my mind. For the players to experience that, for our fans to experience that, and for the three group matches to start with is going to be extra special,” Southgate said.The problem for England is likely to come further down the line, however.If they win their group, they will face the Group F runners-up, probably Germany, France or Portugal, in the last 16 in Dublin.Victory in that game would take them to a Rome quarter-final, possibly against Spain. Finishing second in their group may actually be the preferable path.“In the end you want to try and win every game you play and at least have control of your destiny,” Southgate insisted.0Shares0000(Visited 8 times, 1 visits today)last_img read more


first_imgTHE attire of Donegal’s conquering heroes has certainly been turning heads this week.And when Jim McGuinness and his triumphant men returned home to Donegal Town last night, everyone wanted to know where they got this cool outfits.Evolve Menswear in Letterkenny say they are “proud” to have fitted out the Ulster Champions this week. Above is the offical photo of the Ulster Champions all fitted by the one and only Evolve Menswear.“We are just proud to be assosiated with such fine footballers, talent and the with the Donegal GAA as a whole,” said Evolve’s JP McCloskey.“We want to pass on a massive congratulations to all players, management backroom staff, members of the county board and the very excellent suppoters who were as good as the extra man on the day.”   THE SECRET BEHIND DONEGAL SQUAD’S SHARP-DRESSED MEN was last modified: July 23rd, 2012 by BrendaShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Tags:THE SECRET BEHIND DONEGAL SQUAD’S SHARP-DRESSED MENlast_img read more

Raiders report: Five things we learned Tuesday

first_imgCLICK HERE if you are having problems viewing photos on mobile deviceALAMEDA — What we learned Tuesday as the Raiders began their work week a little earlier with the prospect of a Week 6 “home” date in London against the Seattle Seahawks:Kelechi Osemele was present at practiceWearing a knee brace, Osemele didn’t appear to be doing much during the media viewing window. He did not make the trip to Los Angeles for the Chargers game, the second game Osemele has missed since joining the Raiders …last_img

Court Backs Smart Meters

first_imgJudge disagrees but leaves a door openJudge Lee tossed out the group’s Fourth Amendment arguments, ruling the citizens group showed no evidence that the city planned to do anything with the data that would amount to an unreasonable search or an invasion of privacy.“NSMA incorrectly equates possibility with plausibility,” the judge ruled. “NSMA’s attempt to hinge a Fourth Amendment claim on theoretic possibilities without presenting any allegations about what the City is actually doing with the data is futile.”By agreeing to user city-supplied electricity, Lee said, NSMA members have agreed to share data about how much they use.Lee, however, seems to have left one legal door slightly ajar. NSMA had claimed that the city denied its members equal protection under the law by refusing requests by members to keep their old analog meters for medical reasons when granting similar requests from non-members, the website reported. That amounted to a violation of the 14th Amendment.Because the city did not explicitly object to that argument, the judge said he would allow the group to file an amended complaint making that claim. A bid to stop the installation of smart electric meters in a west Chicago suburb has been blocked by a federal district court judge.Judge John Lee ruled that the installation of smart meters by the city-owned utility in Naperville does not violate a homeowner’s constitutional rights against a warrantless search, no matter how much data the meter collects about a homeowner’s use of electricity, a post at the CookCountyRecord.com said.The ruling, reported on July 13, is the latest salvo in a messy legal dispute pitting the city of Naperville against a group called Naperville Smart Meter Awareness (NSMA). The group was launched after two Naperville women were arrested for filming the installation of a smart meter over their objections.In 2012, Naperville began installing meters that record how much electricity has been used every 15 minutes and transmit the information wirelessly to the public utilities department. They replaced old-style analog meters that have to be read manually once a month.NSMA filed a complaint in federal court, claiming the recordings revealed “intimate details about the personal lives and living habits of NSMA members,” the CookCountyRecord said. The group complained that smart meters are capable of collecting data in intervals as short as 5 minutes, allowing the utility to know which appliances a homeowner was using. That level of detail would allow police and city officials to intrude on privacy, the group said.Further, NSMA said that radio waves emitted by the smart meters could lead to health problems such as heart palpitations, sleep disorders, and headaches.last_img read more

In Florida, A War of Words Over Solar’s Future

first_imgAttacking out-of-state interestsFor its part, Consumers for Smart Solar is waging a war of insinuation. It claims the amendment opening up the Florida solar market is “designed to benefit out-of-state solar companies” and would leave consumers “vulnerable to fraud and abuse.” The plan would prohibit consumer protection regulations and ultimately mean higher utility costs for non-solar homeowners, the group’s website says.“Built to benefit the biggest solar companies, the Shady Solar Amendment lets out-of-state corporations skirt consumer protection laws and play by their own rules, paving the way to predatory business practices and fraud,” the website says.The group professes to back solar energy, and adds: “Moreover, we don’t think Floridians should have to sacrifice basic consumer protections just to enjoy greater access to solar energy. That’s why we created the Smart Solar Amendment.”Glickman said the group’s campaign amounts to an effort to confuse Floridians, not advance solar energy.“And why can they do that?” she asked. “Because utilities have all the money in the world.”To date, Floridians for Solar Choice has collected 145,650 validated signatures, less than one-quarter of the 683,000 needed to put the amendment on next year’s ballot. Consumers for Smart Solar, she said, has gathered 18,786 signatures. The groups have until February 1.The state Supreme Court must still rule on the wording of the Solar Choice amendment in what Glickman said is a routine review. The ruling is expected soon, and Glickman said she was optimistic that the court would give the group a green light.Consumers for Smart Solar lists no telephone number. Florida voters are facing competing petition drives over the future of residential solar electricity, and the contest has touched off a PR kerfuffle between opposing camps.Floridians for Solar Choice is collecting signatures for a proposed constitutional amendment that would permit solar power purchase agreements (PAA) in the state for the first time. Consumers for Smart Solar says its amendment would give Floridians the constitutional right to own and lease solar panels — a right the group’s critics say state residents already have.If the groups can collect enough signatures, the measures would be on the 2016 ballot — and in a presidential election year, turnout is likely to be very high. In the meantime, Floridians can look forward to a windy political season.One way of keeping score, an article in the Orlando Weekly suggests, is to keep track of where the two groups are getting the money to run their campaigns.Recent campaign finance reports show that nearly $300,000 of the $799,045 taken in by Consumers for Smart Solar has come directly from some of the state’s largest utilities, including Duke Energy, Florida Power and Light, Gulf Power Company, and Tampa Electric, the report said. An additional $125,000 was donated by the Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition, run by someone with links to jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Another $100,000 came from an association supported by the Koch brothers, wealthy conservative activists.Floridians for Solar Choice has raised about the same amount of money — a total of $759,078 — but most of it has come from the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy Action Fund, an arm of a non-partisan, non-profit group advocating clean energy options. The Orlando Weekly report said the group is tied to billionaire Tom Steyer, a California environmentalist and philanthropist. Who you can buy power fromAt the heart of the dispute is who gets the right to sell electricity to state residents. Under increasingly common PPAs in other states, a homeowner agrees to buy electricity from a third party — a company such as SolarCity, for example — that installs and owns the panels. In Florida, state law currently does not permit state residents to buy power from anyone other than an electric utility, so PPAs are illegal.Third-party ownership has been a key factor in the steady increase in installed solar capacity around the country. A Greentech Media report earlier this year said that 72% of all residential solar capacity installed in 2014 was owned by someone other than the homeowner.“Florida is one of only four states where the law expressly prohibits a third party to come and sell or even give away a single kilowatt hour of energy,” Susan Glickman, the Florida director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said by telephone. “Let’s just say you’re a landlord and you put solar up and include it in the rent. You can’t do that, either.”In a move supported by the state’s utilities, Florida’s Public Service Commission late last year voted to reduce energy-efficiency goals on the grounds they were not cost-effective. Glickman said that’s part of a longstanding pattern in the state.Florida is ranked third in the nation for rooftop solar potential by the Solar Energy Industries Association but 13th for cumulative installed capacity. The association says that the state’s energy policies “lag behind many other states in the nation.” In addition to barring power purchase agreements, Florida also has no renewable portfolio standard, a state policy elsewhere that requires utilities to provide a certain percentage of power from renewable sources.“The utilities historically have gotten everything they want,” she said. “We don’t have energy efficiency. We don’t have solar. They’re building power plants. They’re planning on adding another 10,500 megawatts of new power and it’s big gas plants, they’re looking to build a big gas pipeline. It’s all about putting major assets into the rate base.“We don’t do smart utility planning,” she added. “But what we do do is whatever it is the utilities deem is going to make them the most money, which in this case is to put major assets on the rate base that the citizens of Florida will be paying off for decades.”last_img read more

No evidence yet to support sedition charge against AMU students: police

first_imgPolice on Thursday said they had so far not found any evidence to support the sedition charge levelled against 14 Aligarh Muslim University students after protests broke out on the campus earlier this week.The AMU authorities suspended eight students late Wednesday night in connection with the protest during which a motorcycle, allegedly belonging to a member of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, the BJP’s youth wing, was set on fire.Police had booked the students on sedition charge after BJYM activist Mukesh Lodhi filed a complaint alleging that he was assaulted by the students amid chants of ant-India and pro-Pakistan slogans on Tuesday.Senior Superintendent of Police Akash Kulhari said all pieces of evidence, including video clippings of the clash at the university circle between AMU students and those belonging to the ABVP, had not revealed anything to suggest sedition. They are collecting further evidence, including videos, and if they fail to get anything to substantiate the sedition charge, it would be dropped, the SSP said.Owaisi visit protestThe ABVP, the BJP’s students’ wing, had launched a protest against reported plans by AIMIM lawmaker Asaduddin Owaisi to visit the AMU campus. The BYJM members held a separate demonstration against the visit, demanding that the MP be banned from the campus. There were counter-protests then by the AMU students. Mr. Owaisi did not come to the university.When contacted, AMU spokesman confirmed that Mr. Lodhi, the complainant, was the same person who had issued an ultimatum to the Vice-Chancellor last week, warning him that if land for constructing a temple on the campus was not allotted within 15 days, they would themselves “begin the construction”. The SSP confirmed that the police are preparing a list of 55 AMU students against whom non-bailable warrants would be issued shortly. He said the police would then ask the university authorities to take disciplinary action against such students.last_img read more

2 journalists assaulted in Assam

first_imgAssam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Friday asked Director-General of Police Kuladhar Saikia to take prompt and stern action against those who had assaulted two journalists 540 km apart on Thursday night.Armed with sharp weapons, the assailants attacked Rajen Deka, a correspondent of the Assamese daily Dainik Asom, at Mukalmua in western Assam, while a group of inebriated youth assaulted News18 Television reporter Upasana Barua Goswami and her husband at a restaurant at Tinsukia. Mr. Dekawas admitted to the Guwahati Medical College Hospital. His condition was said to be stable. One of Mr. Deka’s neighbours, who has been absconding, is suspected to have orchestrated the attack over his election coverage.last_img

Ancient Cat May Reshape Feline Family Tree

first_imgThe world’s first big cats may have arisen millions of years earlier than previously thought. That’s the conclusion researchers are drawing from a newly discovered species of feline, similar to today’s snow leopard, that lived in the ancient Himalayas. Though the creature doesn’t have any living descendants, it may force researchers to rethink the cat family tree.Much of our knowledge about the origin of ancient cats comes from the DNA of living ones. In an extensive 2006 study, researchers made a rough sketch of the evolutionary history of pantherines, the lineage that includes today’s tigers, lions, leopards, and jaguars. They used overlap between the DNA sequences of modern species to backtrack to when various cat lineages likely diverged. According to this picture, the first pantherine evolved from an unknown ancestor, probably living in Central Asia, 10 million to 11 million years ago. Later research suggested that the big cat lineage didn’t start branching into other species—ancestors of modern tigers, for example—until roughly 2 million years ago.But paleontologists have been reluctant to accept this DNA-based picture, says Julie Meachen, a vertebrate paleontologist at Des Moines University who specializes in carnivores. “We want to actually see the fossil,” she says. Until now, the oldest pantherine fossils were 3.8-million-year-old teeth and jaw and skull fragments found in East Africa, not Asia.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)For 8 years, vertebrate paleontologist Z. Jack Tseng of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City has been part of a team searching for fossils in the cold, dry Tibetan Plateau—a landscape he says is reminiscent of South Dakota’s Badlands. In 2010, the group discovered a fossil-rich spot in an area called Zanda Basin: 120 fragments from more than a dozen mammal species were crammed into about one square meter of ground.Among the limbs of extinct antelopes, horses, and rhinos, the researchers turned up a few rare fragments—a skull, several jaws, and teeth—that seemed to belong to a species of cat. Based on the area’s geography, they suspected it would be a relative of the uniquely cold-adapted snow leopard. They soon discovered that the fragments came from at least three individuals of a never-before-seen species dating back 4 million to 6 million years—older than the oldest African find.In a paper published online today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Tseng and his colleagues introduce Panthera blytheae, named for the daughter of avid supporters of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, with which several of the authors are affiliated. The creature, which they believe to be a sister species of the snow leopard, was a dwarf compared with modern lions and tigers. With an estimated weight of about 20 kilograms, it was roughly 10% smaller than the snow leopard. But it appears to share some of that cold-dwelling carnivore’s features, such as a wide forehead, believed to represent an expanded sinus cavity where frigid Himalayan air warmed up with each inhale.The Himalayan finding is “a nice surprise,” says Andrew Kitchener, a mammalogist at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh whose team uncovered a primitive member of the tiger lineage in China in 2011. “It’s given us a new part of the world to look at for the evolution of the big cat lineage.”  The group constructed a new evolutionary tree by combining physical features of the blytheae bones with features of other fossils, plus DNA data from living species. Its analysis pushes back the emergence of big cats to roughly 16.4 million years ago. This number has a wide margin of error, Tseng cautions. But more importantly, he says, by 6 million years ago (when previous research claimed big cats had not yet diversified), at least three separate lineages likely roamed Asia: one containing P. blytheae and the snow leopard, one containing the clouded leopard, and another leading to the modern tiger. (The ancestors of jaguars and lions probably arose later.) The team suggests that when shifting tectonic plates forced the Himalayas upward, many mammals—including, according to their new tree, the emerging pantherines—diversified in this snowy refuge. Some species then spread out across the continent during the Pleistocene ice age.The research gives new support to the idea that the first big cats radiated from Central Asia, says William Murphy, a molecular geneticist at Texas A&M University in College Station and an author on the 2006 study. But he is skeptical of the claim that P. blytheae is a sister species of the snow leopard. With only a few pieces of the skeleton, the group determined this relationship using a limited number of subtle features of the teeth, skull, and jaw, he says, which may not be reliable.“It’s possible that this fossil species might have a deeper ancestry in the Panthera tree,” he says, in which case they weren’t a part of the more recent diversification that Tseng and his colleagues link to the rising Himalayas. Rather than being nestled among the lineages that led to modern-day cats, it may have been an outlier, which happened to evolve snow leopard-esque features to survive at the top of the world. If P. blytheae actually belongs somewhere else on the tree, this would change the estimates for important splits in the big cat lineage. The only way to clear up these relationships: Dig up more complete fossils.last_img read more