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Scientists find dinosaur ancestors ‘may have been tiny’

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(Last Updated On: July 8, 2020)

Dinosaurs are usually thought of as these giant creatures, but the results of new research released this week outline a different view and find that they might have actually started out small.

This evidence comes from newly described fossils found on Madagascar island, off the east coast of Africa, which indicates the creatures lived about 237 million years ago and stood just 10cm tall.

Scientists say the specimen may also help clarify the origins of pterosaurs, which were winged dinosaurs that ruled the skies during the time of dinosaurs.

Co-author of the research study, Christian Kammerer, from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences told Science Daily this week that “there’s a general perception of dinosaurs as being giants.”

“But this new animal is very close to the divergence of dinosaurs and pterosaurs, and it’s shockingly small,” she said.

The specimen, named Kongonaphon kely, or “tiny bug slayer”, was found in 1998 in Madagascar by a team of paleontologists, led by John Flynn from the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Dinosaurs and pterosaurs both belong to the group Ornithodira. Their origins, however, are poorly known, as few specimens from near the root of this lineage have been found.

The description and analysis of this fossil and its relatives, published on Tuesday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may help explain the origins of flight in pterosaurs, the presence of “fuzz” on the skin of both pterosaurs and dinosaurs, and other questions about these charismatic animals.

“This fossil site in southwestern Madagascar from a poorly known time interval globally has produced some amazing fossils, and this tiny specimen was jumbled in among the hundreds we’ve collected from the site over the years,” Flynn said.

“It took some time before we could focus on these bones, but once we did, it was clear we had something unique and worth a closer look. This is a great case for why field discoveries — combined with modern technology to analyze the fossils recovered — is still so important.”

“Discovery of this tiny relative of dinosaurs and pterosaurs emphasizes the importance of Madagascar’s fossil record for improving knowledge of vertebrate history during times that are poorly known in other places,” project co-leader Lovasoa Ranivoharimanana, professor and director of the vertebrate paleontology laboratory at the University of Antananarivo in Madagascar told Science Daily.

“Over two decades, our collaborative Madagascar-US teams have trained many Malagasy students in paleontological sciences, and discoveries like this helps people in Madagascar and around the world better appreciate the exceptional record of ancient life preserved in the rocks of our country.”

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Concerns raised around peace talks after journalists have Qatar visas rejected

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(Last Updated On: August 12, 2020)

The Afghan media on Wednesday voiced concern over the upcoming intra-Afghan peace talks in Doha after Qatar visas for local journalists were not approved.

Members of the public also objected to the move saying talks should not be held behind closed doors and that the people of Afghanistan have the right to be kept up-to-date on the details of negotiations.

A group of local journalists was expected to travel with the official Afghan negotiating team to Qatar this week for the start of the intra-Afghan negotiations on Sunday.

However, the government has not yet commented on the visa issue.

A member of the Access to Information Commission meanwhile said that this was a serious concern.

“The presence of journalists should be a condition for negotiations so that they bring any decisions made about the fate of the people to light,” he said.

Initially reports indicated the Afghan talks team, led by Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, would leave Kabul, along with the group of journalists, on Wednesday.

However, the negotiating team will now only leave Thursday.

The Afghan negotiating team met with President Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday to discuss issues around the upcoming peace talks with the Taliban.

Stanekzai briefed Ghani following the Loya Jirga’s decision on Sunday in favor of releasing the final 400 Taliban prisoners – which had been a stumbling block in the way of kick-starting negotiations.

Stanekzai stated Tuesday they will sit around the negotiating table with the Taliban as a united team in favor of “the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan” and they will consider the interests of the people.

Meanwhile, Ghani said the Loya Jirga had drawn a peace roadmap for government, and that they are “committed to the implementation of that.”

“We are committed to peace, the goal is to end the war in a fundamental way,” Ghani added.

He said the peace talks team will negotiate a suitable and fair peace deal with the Taliban as it is in the best interests of the people.

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China’s Tencent profit beats estimates on strong games demand

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(Last Updated On: August 12, 2020)

Chinese gaming and social media giant Tencent Holdings Ltd said second-quarter net profit rose 37%, beating market estimates, on higher demand for its video games as coronavirus put a dent in other entertainment options.

Revenue from online games, which accounts for one-third of total sales, jumped 40% in the quarter, primarily driven by smartphone games including Peacekeeper Elite and Honour of Kings. That offset a continued decline in desktop games.

Social networks, fintech and business services, and social advertising revenues all grew by nearly 30%.

Media advertising revenues fell by 25% however, “as a result of weak brand advertising demand amid the challenging macro environment”, and delayed content production and releases.

The world’s largest gaming firm by revenue booked a 33.1 billion yuan ($4.8 billion) profit for the three months through June. That was ahead of an average analysts’ estimate of 27.56 billion yuan, according to data from Refinitiv.

Revenue rose 29% to 114.88 billion yuan, versus market expectations of 112.76 billion yuan.

The results come a few days after the United States said it would ban WeChat-related transactions in the country.

Tencent, which owns the Chinese messaging app, is under pressure to address concerns about the impact of the ban and outline its plans to mitigate any fallout.

Source: Reuters

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COVID-19: AFC 2022 World Cup qualifiers postponed to 2021

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(Last Updated On: August 12, 2020)

FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced Wednesday that the qualifying matches in Asia for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 have been postponed due to COVID-19 pandemic.

FIFA and AFC in a joint statement said that the Asian qualifiers matches scheduled to take place in October and November 2020 will be rescheduled to 2021.

“In light of the current COVID-19 situation in many countries, FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) have jointly decided that the upcoming qualifying matches for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023, originally scheduled to take place during the international match windows in October and November 2020, will be rescheduled to 2021,” the statement said.

According to the statement, the matches were postponed to make sure all participants are protected from contracting the Coronavirus.

“With the aim of protecting the health and safety of all participants, FIFA and the AFC will continue to work together to closely monitor the situation in the region and to identify new dates for the respective qualifying matches,” read the statement. 

The AFC further said that it will announce new dates for the next round of the qualifying matches for the FIFA World Cup 2022 and the Asian Cup 2023 in the coming days.

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