Monday February 18, 2019
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Evolution and falling levels of human intelligence: Learn from cats!

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By Nury Vittachi

A new island appeared off the coast of Japan and scientists are watching it to see evolution at work.

So I was told. I was a bit dubious. Doesn’t evolution take a while? The reader who sent me the report, Sunita Chau, admitted that the only biological entity on the island of Nishinoshima so far was bird poop.

I suppose one can imagine bird poop evolving into extremely primitive live forms such as bacteria, single-celled micro-organisms, and Fox News viewers, for example. She said she reckoned that nationalist politicians in some countries probably shared 99 percent of their DNA with bird poop. I think she was joking, but either way, no offence is intended to any bird poop which might be reading this.

A Wikipedia check showed that organic communities develop fast. Scientists observing Surtsey, an island which appeared suddenly in the sea near Iceland in 1963, noticed that by 1964 it had insects, by 1965 a plant, and by 1998 a slug. In evolutionary terms, a slug is a long way from being a human, but in terms of intelligence, is perhaps not that far from nationalist politicians, supermodels and the like.

To do my due diligence, I phoned a scientist, who castigated me for making the common assumption that human intelligence was the pinnacle of evolution. Intelligence is an anti-evolutionary trait, he said, quoting numerous studies. Stupidity improves efficiency (Journal of Management Studies), boosts productivity (University of Texas), and increases happiness (University of Edinburgh).

That makes sense, if you think about it. The most powerful people in human society are rock stars, builders, footballers, supermodels, stockbrokers et al, folk whose intelligence levels are too often roughly level with that of an average novelist’s colonic microfloral bacteria.

In contrast, people who actually have big brains are writing novels or teaching math and not earning enough money to rub two coins together to keep warm, let alone marry and spread their DNA.

If humans are not evolution’s zenith, what is? One colleague nominated sharks. They do nothing at all except eat, sleep, reproduce and occasionally star in movies. (My dream schedule)

A second said it was domestic dogs. “We feed them and clean up their poop in return for nothing but love and affection.” A third said cat-owners feed and clean up the poop of cats “in return for nothing but disdain and aloofness”. Cats win.

Retreating to my inbox, I found a reader had sent a web link to a news report about a woman who accidentally shot herself when trying to take a “selfie” while holding a gun to her head. It was followed by a report about officials in India asking pet-owners to paint their dogs blue to differentiate them from wild dogs. A web-search led me to a New Scientist report that several studies showed that human intelligence was falling rather than rising.

All this could be good news for the long-term survival of the human race. So let’s all do our bit. Avoid the natural temptation to overthink things. Create balance by drastically under thinking every decision you make.

Step one is to stop worrying about what’s evolving on Nishinoshima and learn from cats. Feed me. Love me. In return, I promise disdain and aloofness.

(Vittachi is an Asia-based frequent traveller. With inputs from IANS)

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Nissan’s Former Chairman Seeks Bail

Ghosn and Kelly have denied all charges. Nissan said it regretted any concern caused to its stakeholders

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A court sketch, drawn by Nobutoshi Katsuyama, shows ousted Nissan Motor Co Ltd chairman Carlos Ghosn during an open hearing at Tokyo District Court in Japan, Jan. 8, 2019.(voa)

Nissan’s former Chairman Carlos Ghosn has requested his release on bail after being indicted in Tokyo Friday on two new charges, his lawyers said, as the once-feted auto executive awaits a lengthy criminal trial that could be as long as six months away.

Ghosn was the overlord of an alliance that included Nissan Motor, Mitsubishi Motors and France’s Renault, until his surprise November arrest and removal as chairman of both Japanese automakers sent shockwaves through the industry.

The former executive, lauded for rescuing Nissan from the financial brink two decades ago, was charged with aggravated breach of trust for temporarily transferring personal investment losses to Nissan in 2008.

Ghosn, former Representative Director Greg Kelly and Nissan itself were also charged for understating Ghosn’s income for three years through March 2018. The three parties have been indicted for the same charge covering the years 2010-2015.

Ghosn and Kelly have denied all charges. Nissan said it regretted any concern caused to its stakeholders.

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Bail is rare

It is rare in Japan for defendants who deny their charges to be granted bail ahead of trial. Kelly posted bail on Christmas Day and is unable to leave Japan without special permission.

Ghosn’s lawyer, Motonari Otsuru, expects his client to be held until trial, which he said could begin in about six months.

If bail is granted, Ghosn, who is suffering from fever, according to his lawyer, would not likely be released until Tuesday given that Monday is public holiday.

Kelly, a Ghosn ally, was hospitalized for treatment of a pre-existing neck problem after his release and has since been discharged, said his lawyer Yoichi Kitamura.

“This second indictment for Kelly comes as no surprise as it merely makes what was a five year period for the first into eight years,” Kitamura said.

Kitamura said he expects Ghosn and Kelly to be tried together on the two charges of understating income, and that he will work closely with Ghosn’s legal team.

Nissan complaint

Also Friday, Nissan said it had filed a criminal complaint against its former leader.

The automaker, in a statement, said it filed the complaint “on the basis of Ghosn’s misuse of a significant amount of the company’s funds. Nissan does not in any way tolerate such misconduct and calls for strict penalties.”

Ghosn, 64, appeared in court Tuesday for the first time since his arrest, looking thinner and grayer. He denied the allegations, calling them “meritless” and “unsubstantiated.”

He said he had asked Nissan to temporarily take on his foreign exchange contracts after the 2008-2009 financial crisis prompted his bank to call for more collateral. He said he did so to avoid having to resign and use his retirement allowance for collateral.

Also Read-Travel Ban Imposed on Pakistan Peoples Party Leaders Continues

Ghosn’s lawyer Otsuru on Tuesday said Nissan had agreed to the arrangement on condition that any losses or gains would be Ghosn’s. Ghosn said the contracts were transferred back to him and that Nissan did not incur a loss.

On Thursday, the boards of Nissan and controlling shareholder Renault, where Ghosn remains chairman, met for an update on the matter. Nissan later said it remained committed to the alliance. (VOA)