Saturday, October 13, 2012

A Neanderthal Who Votes

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The postman brought two very important pieces of mail over the past two days.  Yesterday he delivered the genome kit that I ordered from the National Geographic Society last month.  I will have to take two cheek swabs and mail them in, and the NGS will do a laboratory analysis of my DNA and issue a report.  The Society states in the pamphlet that came with the kit:

"We will run a comprehensive analysis to identify thousands of genetic markers on your mitochondrial DNA, which is passed down each generation from mother to child, to reveal your direct maternal deep ancestry.  In the case of men, we will also examine markers on the Y chromosome, which is passed down from father to son, to reveal your direct paternal deep ancestry.  In addition, for all participants, we will analyze a collection of more than 130,000 other markers from across your entire genome to reveal the regional affiliations of your ancestry, offering insights into your ancestors who are not on a direct maternal or paternal line.
"Included in these markers is a subset that scientists have recently determined to be from our hominid cousins, Neanderthals and the newly discovered Denisovans, who split from our lineage around 500,000 years ago.  As modern humans were first migrating out of Africa more that 60,000 years ago, Neanderthals and Denisovans were still alive and well in Eurasia.  It seems that our ancestors met, leaving a small genetic trace of these ancient relatives in our DNA."

That's right, sports fans.  If your ancestors came through Europe, chances are they boinked a few Neanderthals during their migrations.  In fact, the National Geographic Society states that most non-Africans have about 2.5 percent Neanderthal in their genetic make-up.   (Indigenous sub-Saharan Africans did not migrate through Europe and thus kept their lineages free of Neanderthal and Denisovan markers.)

I have read other sources that state that European lineages often contain 2.5% to 4% Neanderthal in their ancestry.  (If my percentage of Neanderthal is substantial, that would go a long way to explaining our large skull sizes.  I wear a size 8 hat!)

This morning the postman brought my general election ballot which I will fill out and have in the return mail on Monday.    This year in Arizona the Republicans are listed first.  I will, of course, slide past Romney-Ryan and cast my vote for Obama-Biden.  The President made some significant strides with the economy despite the prolonged and extreme opposition of the Republican members of Congress whose only objective was to stall and kill any initiatives put forth by the administration.  I applaud the President's successful efforts to save the American automobile industry, his initiatives to make health care affordable and available to all Americans, his support of young Latinos as they try to achieve the American dream, and his support of gay marriage.  Yes, I would have liked to have seen more progressive measures enacted into law, but considering what President Obama had to work with in the way of a Congress, his first term has been successful.

I will be supporting Richard Carmona for the United States Senate.  Carmona, the Democratic candidate, is running a surprisingly close race against Republican Jeff Flake in the effort to take the seat of retiring Senator Jon Kyle.  Kyle needed to retire, and I commend him on his decision to do so.  Bill Clinton was in the East Valley earlier this week and gave a barn burner of a speech in favor of Dr. Carmona.

I will be voting against my incumbent congressman, Republican Trent Franks.  While Franks is not the worst member of Congress - he has not, for instance, sent around email photos of himself in his underwear (that I am aware of), tried to become a citizen of Switzerland (that I am aware of), or tried for force a pregnant girlfriend to get an abortion (again, that I am aware of) - he is definitely somewhere down toward the bottom of the congressional barrel.   Mr. Franks does not like social programs or allowing women to make decisions regarding their own bodies.

I will also be proudly voting against the re-election of Sheriff Joe Arpaio.  The eighty-year-old Arpaio has cost Maricopa County and its insurers millions of dollars through his office's mistreatment of prisoners, political games, and dereliction of duty.  The old windbag has accumulated a war chest of millions - almost all of it collected out-of-county and out-of-state, but even with all of that money, he is in a tight race.

Sadly, in Arizona, votes are often cast against something rather than for something.  But I can do that - it must be the Neanderthal in me!

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