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Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Thursday issued a last-minute reprieve for a death row prisoner who hired a gunman to kill his family after his father, whom he sought to murder, pleaded for his son's life. Thomas Bartlett "Bart" Whitaker, 38, had been one of three men awaiting execution Thursday in three different US states. "Mr Whitaker must spend the remainder of his life behind bars as punishment for this heinous crime," Abbott wrote in a proclamation explaining his decision, shortly before the scheduled execution.
Ancient sketches of Ice Age animals, stenciled hands, and symbols painted on walls inside three Spanish caves were long suspected to have been left by humans. But with enhanced dating techniques, scientists now believe our thick-browed and extinct evolutionary cousins, Neanderthals, were truly responsible for the art. This would mean that we've been giving our hominid ancestors too little credit for their abilities. Researchers found these paintings are at least around 65,000 years old, predating the arrival of humans in Europe by some 20,000 years. Assuming the dating is accurate, then these paintings would be the earliest known cave art in the world. SEE ALSO: The accidental library: Why Elon Musk launched books to space that could last 14 billion years The research, published Thursday in the journal Science, concludes that in the absence of humans, Neanderthals must have created the advanced art, underscoring that these hominids were quite smart — perhaps even matching our own intelligence. "These papers simply confirm what has been evident in other aspects of the archeological record and their biologies, that there are no evident differences between the Neanderthals and modern humans in terms of basic cognition, symbolic behavior, sociality, or communication," said Erik Trinkaus, a biological anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis who was not involved in the study. Red ochre painting on a La Pasiega cave wall in Spain.Image: P. SauraIn another Spanish cave, detailed in a related study also released Thursday, researchers dated marine shells that had been dyed and then stored in larger shell containers. These artifacts were dyed some 70,0000 years before humans ever stepped foot in the region. Some scientists might disagree that it was Neanderthals who painted such humanistic, advanced art, said Wil Roebroeks, a paleolithic archaeologist at Leiden University who was not involved in the study, in an email. But the evidence in favor of Neanderthal artwork is strong. A replicated drawing of some of the cave art. It's more difficult to see the symbols, animals, and detail on the calcified cave wall, shown in the image above.Image: Breuil et al.The cave painting "dates are solid," said Roebroeks. The researchers dated calcite minerals both below the paint and the calcite that had crusted on top to establish a window in time for when the painting likely was done. Roebroeks noted that the sample and dating work was done "carefully" by experienced archeologists. "Neandertals made 'cave art' — deal with it," he said, using a spelling popular in the scientific literature. The Neanderthals used a red ochre paint on the cave walls, "an activity hitherto thought to be an exclusive 'modern human' phenomenon," noted Roebroeks. In fact, it seems that by the time humans finally arrived in Europe, "indigenous Neandertals had been producing red ochred motifs on cave walls for at least a thousand generations already," he said. This cave art might provide compelling evidence for Neanderthals' advanced intellect, but anthropologists already knew that Neanderthals were culturally advanced, even fashioning their own jewelry. David Frayer, an anthropologist at the University of Kansas, suspects Neanderthals caught eagles and used their sharp talons to make this jewelry. The talons, discovered near a rock shelter in Croatia, had been smoothed out around 130,000 years ago, long before other Neanderthal clans painted the walls of Spanish caves. Three hand stencil drawings in Maltravieso Cave. The hands can be seen in the top left, center (facing down), and center-right of the image.Image: H. ColladoEven having held and inspected these Eagle talons, Frayer, who had no role in either study, finds the cave art impressive. "Yet, even me as a Neanderthal appreciator, would not have predicted they could have done these," he said via email. Of course, once humans arrived in Europe, they too began ornately painting cave walls. Lascaux Cave, in France, is covered in hundreds of detailed animals, including horses, deer, and bulls. But before Neanderthals went extinct — for unknown reasons — they proved their artistic and cultural prowess was similar to ours, even though their skulls were flatter and shaped differently. "This does not mean Neandertals were identical to modern humans, just behaviorally and mentally equivalent," said Trinkaus. "And it should put to rest the paleophrenoloigcal arguments about Neandertal abilities derived from their skulls." WATCH: This beetle "farts" inside a toad's stomach to escape
A package containing white powder and an allegedly racist message sent to Prince Harry and his fiancee Meghan Markle is being treated as a hate crime, police said on Thursday. Officers from the Metropolitan Police's counter-terrorism command were called in after the package was received on February 12 at a sorting office in St James's Palace in central London. Contacted by AFP, Prince Harry's press service at Kensington Palace declined to comment on the report.
New York University has issued a public apology and fired their director of food service after students pointed out the watermelon-flavoured water and collard greens the school was serving during Black History Month were racially insensitive. College of Arts and Science sophomore Nia Harris noticed the offensive meal when she walked into Weinstein Passport Dining Hall - before alerting the deans of the school and NYU’s President Hamilton of the insensitive and “stereotypical” meal. “Not only was this racially insensitive, this was just ignorant.
India has handed Canada a list of nine people in Canada who are suspected of trying to revive a Sikh separatist movement in the Indian state of Punjab, a state official said on Thursday. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is visiting India and on Wednesday he traveled to Punjab where he told state leaders his country would not support anyone trying to reignite the movement for an independent Sikh homeland called Khalistan.
By Malini Menon NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau traveled to the holiest site of Sikhism in northern India on Wednesday where government leaders said he assured them his country won't support anyone trying to revive a separatist movement in India. Canada is home to an influential Sikh community and Indian leaders say there are some fringe groups there that are still sympathetic to the cause of an independent Sikh state called Khalistan, carved out of India. Trudeau visited the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the holiest Sikh shrine, and later met Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and addressed the concerns of his hosts, the state leader said.
A fourth fortune hunter has died in the pursuit of a treasure chest containing more than $1 million worth of gold coins and jewels which is reputedly hidden somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Jeff Murphy, 53, perished in June but the details of his death were only revealed eight months later. He was looking for Fenn's Treasure and died after going hiking up a trail within the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park, and falling 500ft down a rocky slope. Fenn's Treasure is said to have been deposited in 2010 by Forrest Fenn, an eccentric, octogenarian millionaire art dealer and former Vietnam fighter pilot. Mr Fenn, who is still alive, has said he set the task of finding it in order to encourage people to "get off the couch" and see nature. According to him the bounty is inside a 22lb Romanesque bronze chest and includes 265 gold coins, diamonds, emeralds and ancient Chinese figurines. He published a 24-line poem which contains the clues to locating it. Jeff Murphy, 53, perished in June but the details of his death were only revealed eight months later. Over the last eight years tens of thousands of people are believed to have searched for the loot, mostly in New Mexico where clues have pointed. However, Mr Murphy, a vice president of the International Housewares Association, had headed for the Wyoming-Montana border area. When he went missing a huge search operation was launched including rescuers on horseback, others with dogs, and a helicopter. Erica Murphy, his widow, said he had first read about Fenn's Treasure in an airplane magazine. He then read Mr Fenn’s book The Thrill of the Chase, which contains the full 24-line poem. The poem includes lines like "Begin it where warm waters halt. And take it in the canyon down". Mrs Murphy told the Albuquerque Journal: "It was his pastime. He loved anything that caused him to use his brain, and he loved being out in nature." The death was expected to lead to renewed calls to end the controversial treasure hunt. But Mrs Murphy said she did not blame Mr Fenn, and her husband knew the risks. She said he "would not have wanted to hinder" others from searching. As rescuers looked for her husband Mrs Murphy emailed Mr Fenn to say: "I hope your quest won't be adversely affected by these current events." According to a report by Yellowstone National Park into his death Mr Murphy had also emailed Mr Fenn before setting out. When he went missing Mr Fenn then offered to pay for a helicopter to look for him. Mr Fenn also said he had never been to the area where Mr Murphy was searching, so he was looking in the wrong place. Last summer, fortune hunter Paris Wallace, 52, a pastor from Colorado was found dead north of Santa Fe, New Mexico after trying to traverse a river. Separately, Eric Ashby, 31 died after his raft overturned on the Arkansas River. In 2016, Randy Bilyeu, 54, died on the Rio Grande while looking for the treasure. His former wife Linda Bilyeu has called the hunt "madness". Mr Fenn has previously indicated the treasure is hidden somewhere not hard to reach and that, even at his advanced age, he could himself go back to the spot. Supporters of the treasure hunt have argued that it has achieved its aim of getting Americans into the Great Outdoors, and has led to people meeting spouses and parents bonding with their children.
By Patricia Zengerle WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Democratic leaders called on Congress on Wednesday to give the Federal Bureau of Investigation $300 million to fight foreign efforts to interfere in congressional and state elections in November, amid growing concerns about potential Russian influence on the polls. Citing warnings from intelligence agencies that Russia is trying to influence the upcoming vote, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House of Representatives Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi asked that the additional funds be included in a bill to fund the government which Congress aims to pass by March 23.
A garbage truck was on the tracks despite lowered safety gates when it was struck by a train carrying Republican lawmakers in a fatal crash last month in rural Virginia, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said on Wednesday. Data from a camera mounted on the front of the chartered Amtrak train showed the gates were down at the crossing at the time of the crash, according to a preliminary NTSB report on the Jan. 31 accident. A passenger on the garbage truck was killed and two others on the truck were injured.
Officer Justin Billa, a former officer of the month, was fatally injured in the city of Mobile, after trying to detain a man wanted in connection with a murder. The dead officer joined the force in January 2016 and won the Mobile Police Department’s Officer of the Month award in June 2016, Mobile Police Department Chief Lawrence Battiste told reporters, according to the Associated Press. The suspect was identified as Robert Hollie.
While Florida's lawmakers refuse to consider banning assault weapons following the Parkland school shooting, some local politicians say they want to act. Florida’s statute gives the state sole authority to regulate firearms. Towns, cities and counties have been banned from making their own gun laws since the 1987, but it was only seven years ago that the state’s Republican-controlled House introduced the threat of penalties.
Emergency teams on Wednesday began recovering bodies from a plane crash in Iran's Zagros mountains but the operation had to be suspended due to bad weather, officials said. Search helicopters located the crash site after a break in the weather on Tuesday at a height of around 4,000 metres (13,000 feet) in the Dena range. Helicopters were unable to land but officials said a recovery operation had begun on Wednesday, with emergency personnel carrying bodies on their backs to a road at the foot of the mountain.
Ten suspected Islamic militants who were trying to establish a Malaysian cell of a Philippine kidnap-for-ransom group have been arrested in Borneo island, police said Wednesday. The alleged extremists, mostly Filipinos, are also accused of trying to help fighters linked to the Islamic State (IS) group travel to the Philippines to join up with militants there, they said. The southern Philippines has long been a pocket of Islamic militancy in the largely Catholic country.