Monday, 25 June 2018

Flying to US: Powdery substance over 350 grams not allowed in hand bag from next Saturday

From next Saturday (June 30) passengers flying to the United States may not be allowed to carry more than 12 ounce or about 350 grams of powdery substance in hand bags. The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has enacted this rule after a foiled attempt to put an improvised explosive device using powder explosives on a Gulf carrier in Australia last year. Airlines are advising US-bound flyers to put such things in check-in bags to avoid extra screening of the same and possibly being thrown if the security personnel are not sure what it is.

Air India has a number of daily nonstops from Delhi and Mumbai to US destinations + like New York, Newark, Chicago, Washington an San Francisco. United has a daily direct from Newark to Delhi and Mumbai. Delta will start flights to Mumbai next year. From next Saturday everyone traveling with powdery substances including dry spices, talcum or cosmetic powders will need to check them in if carrying more than 350 grams that stuff.

TSA says “powder-like substances greater than 12 ounce/350 ml must be placed in a separate bin for X-ray screening. They may require additional screening and containers may need to be opened. For your convenience, we encourage you to place non-essential powders greater than 12 ounce in checked bags.”

Airlines have accordingly started advising passengers.

Singapore Airlines says on its website in a June 18 post: “Additional security measures for non-stop US-bound flights: TSA may require customers travelling on non-stop flights to US to undergo enhanced security measures. Such checks may include the inspection of powder-like substances where powder-like substances that are 12 ounce (350ml) or larger will not be allowed for carriage in the cabin. Customers are advised to place such items in their checked baggage.”

“Medically-prescribed powder-like substances, baby formula, human remains and duty-free powder containers inside a properly sealed secure tamper evident bag (STEB) may be brought into the cabin. Customers are advised to proceed to the boarding gates early to allow sufficient time for the enhanced security measures,” Singapore Airlines says.

American Airlines’ website says: “Carry-on restriction: powder-like substances. For international travel to the US, powder-like substances over 12 ounce/350 ml should be placed in checked bags. Powders over 12 ounce/350 ml in carry-on bags may be prohibited. Effective June 30, 2018.”

(Source: ToI)

Laser pointer burns hole in boy's retina

A 9-year-old boy in Greece permanently injured his left eye when he repeatedly gazed into a laser pointer's green beam, doctors say.

Examination revealed a large hole in the macula, a small area in the retina that helps with discerning detail in faces and while reading or driving, the doctors said in a case report published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. Further imaging revealed two more injured areas below the macular hole.

Macular holes are typically treated with surgery that is accompanied with an almost 100% risk of cataract formation, Dr. Sofia Androudi, a physician involved with the case, wrote in an email. Cataracts cause blurry vision by clouding the eyes' clear lenses.

However, in this case, because the macular hole resulted from the laser burn, the nerves in the eye that absorb light were totally damaged, said Androudi, an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the University of Thessaly in Greece. "This means that even if the surgery would be successful, the boy would not be able to see."

The boy's vision was measured at 20/20 in his right eye and 20/100 in his left, according to the report. A person with a visual acuity of 20/100 would have to be within 20 feet of a point of focus in order to see what a person with normal vision can see at 100 feet.

A large hole and other injured spots were visible in the boy's left eye.
Children are often reluctant to report eye injuries or symptoms, Androudi said, and she suspected that the patient had injured his eye at least a year before coming in for treatment. But even if he had come in earlier, there was no available therapy for his case, she said. Eighteen months after he came in, there were no changes to the boy's vision.

"When you have something as powerful like a laser, it's so powerful that it is converted to heat like a burn," said Dr. Thomas C. Lee, director of the Vision Center at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, who was not involved with the care of this patient. "That can leave scar tissue behind and can cause bleeding. The patient can actually get a blind spot right in the middle of the eye. ... It's like a magnifying glass burning a piece of paper. It's the same thing."

The United States Food and Drug Administration restricts the sale of laser pointers with more than 5 milliwatts of power throughout the US. However, the restrictions are not enforced or regulated and pointers are very easy to purchase online, Androudi said.

"Typically, they're less than 5 milliwatts, and those are relatively less harmful, but they're often mislabeled. The power output, rather than being 5 milliwatts, can be 10, 50 or even higher," said Dr. Peter Gehlbach, director of the Wilmer Echography Center and professor of ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute, who was not involved in this patient's care. "And these are particularly dangerous powers, and there's no way for you to know as a user that this laser pointer that you got off the internet has the right power."

The patient's father had bought the laser as a toy from a street merchant, Androudi said. Green-blue lasers are typically considered more dangerous than red-orange lasers because they emit a light that is very close to 550 nanometers, the wavelength to which the human eye is most sensitive. Put simply, it's easier to see green light than red, she explained.

Although awareness about the dangers that lasers can pose has increased, experts recommend that parents who use laser pointers for work should keep them away from their children. That means no playing with them like they're light sabers or aiming them in front of cats to get them to chase the little dot.

"Fundamentally, lasers should never be considered toys," Lee said.

(Source: CNN)

Saudi women can drive, but here’s the real roadblock

With her bubble-gum pink hair and stylishly ripped jeans, Doaa Bassem goes a long way to redefining what it means to be a Saudi woman these days.

At age 14, she learned how to change the oil of her father’s car and dreamed of owning a classic Trans Am. Although she assumed she would be barred from driving the sleek, loud muscle car, she wanted the fun of taking the engine apart and rebuilding it.

By 17, she had entered into an arranged marriage. Within a year, she had given birth to a child, divorced, then remarried and divorced again.

Now, at 29, she is a single mother who works, lives on her own and plans to be among the first women who take to the streets on Sunday, the first day they will be legally permitted to drive in Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy that is the last country in the world to bar women from driving. Ms. Bassem won’t be behind the wheel of a sports car, though. She will be riding a Harley.

Hanan Iskandar, on the motorcycle, and Doaa Bassem, second from left, received training this month to prepare for this Sunday, the first day women will be legally permitted to drive in Saudi Arabia.CreditTasneem Alsultan for The New York Times
“I’ve always been a tomboy and a rebel,” she said. “Now, others are thinking more like me. Parents have started to understand that marriage isn’t everything, that girls might want a different life. And society is starting to accept this, too.”

According to the Saudi ruler, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and their many supporters, the monarchy is verging on a great feminist leap forward. The change reflects the tectonic shifts in a society that have helped women reach the pinnacles of academic and professional success, combined with the effects of globalization, which have brought more openness to the kingdom than at anytime in its recent history.

The new law allowing women to drive removes a lightning rod for critics and allies who have long derided the Saudis, a bastion of conservative Islamic orthodoxy, for following a repressive practice embraced by groups like the Taliban and the Islamic State. The new law also dovetails with the monarchy’s ambitious economic changes that aim to wean Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s top producer, from dependence on oil and to diversify the economy — shifts that require women to be workers and consumers.

However, while the joy shared by tens of thousands of Saudi women over the right to take the wheel is undeniable, a bright red line keeps them from equality — the restrictive guardianship system. It is a mix of law and custom under which women remain dependents of male relatives — a father, husband, brother, uncle or son — their whole lives.

Ms. Iskandar, right, and Ms. Bassem, second from right, celebrated the success of one of their practice sessions with Rami Shanaa, second from left, and Sami Bukhari.CreditTasneem Alsultan for The New York Times
Guardianship ensures that the gender balance of power at home, work and perhaps even on the roads favors men by allowing them to consent — or not — to letting their women work, travel or receive medical care.

Beneath her free-spirited life, Ms. Bassem is legally tied to the consent powers of her brother, her current guardian, who has respected her choices. He helped find a progressively minded landlord to rent an apartment to her and acts as her guarantor. “People get nervous when ladies live alone,” she said.

The rulers have announced that Saudi women will not need a guardian to apply for driver’s education or receive a driver’s license. But that is one of the rare exceptions where men have no role over women’s lives.

Saudi citizens still need to contend with the top-down system of governing in which they all are vulnerable to royal commands, whims and punishments.

Saudi women practiced with a driving simulator this week at a government-sponsored event in Riyadh, the Saudi capital.CreditTasneem Alsultan for The New York Times
Among those women who will not be celebrating on the streets this Sunday are the pioneers who broke social and legal taboos decades ago with their protests demanding the right to drive. Last month, Saudi officials arrested a group of well-known feminists, among them some veterans of a 1990 protest, in what was seen as a warning to them not to take credit for the end of the driving ban.

Eight leading women’s rights activists remain behind bars, according to Amnesty International. They are facing serious charges, including spying and sedition.

“There is no doubt that there is a deep transformation happening in Saudi now,” said Kristin Smith Diwan, the senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. “But we are also witnessing a horrible crackdown on some of the people that made these changes possible. What’s not changing is the nature of authority.”

The crown prince has sent mixed messages about the guardianship system. In interviews with American media, he has declared Saudi men and women absolutely equal. Last year, a royal decree commanded government agencies to allow women access to many services without their guardians — and to list those services to thwart bureaucratic abuses. The lists, however, have not yet been made public.

Men and boys on their way to a mosque in Riyadh last year. The lifting of the driving ban for women has not diminished sexism in Saudi society.CreditTasneem Alsultan for The New York Times
The structure of the guardianship system, which in many ways mimics the ruler’s power over his subjects, means that individual freedom for women is precarious. Last year, a chilling case came to light when a 29-year-old woman, Maryam al-Otaibi, ran away from home, where she claimed male relatives had abused her. She fled to Riyadh, the capital, but her father — her legal guardian — filed a criminal complaint, saying she had been “disobedient” after he commanded her to return home. She was jailed for more than 100 days before she won the right to break free from him.

Many women in the fields of social work, women’s empowerment and family law prefer to focus on the gains women have achieved, not the limitations that remain.

Since the crown prince took power last year, judges who once would have automatically given fathers custody of children in divorce cases have started allowing some mothers custody instead. Women no longer need a guardian to register a business. More private companies are hiring women for technical and manual labor jobs, helping pull poor families or single mothers up the socio-economic ladder.

Salma al-Rashid, the chief programs officer at Al Nahda Philanthropic Organization for Women in Riyadh, which for more than 50 years has been working with disadvantaged women and families, pointed to recent legal changes that have improved financial and emotional security for a majority of Saudi women, whose lives bear no resemblance to the stereotypical wealthy Saudi resident.

During a government-sponsored media event this week at the driving school at the Princess Noura Bint Abdul Rahman University, employees gathered in front of a driving simulator screen.CreditTasneem Alsultan for The New York Times
A catalyst of social change, Ms. Rashid said, is the growing number of Saudi women who are graduating from college, traveling abroad on scholarships and entering the work force.

“Saudi Arabia is not black and white,” she said. “We are incredibly diverse. The biggest engine that has driven these changes is economical. History shows this is the case everywhere in the world.”

In the eastern province city of Al Khobar, Seham al-Amri, 39, is one of a significant number of Saudi women who have capitalized on the changes to make a better life.

From the time she was young, she was the clever one in her family. She attended a public university and studied Arabic literature, married at 19, raised five children and taught at a girls’ school.

A Saudi driving instructor, Munerah al-Shahrani, right, and a student, Rana al-Musabbahi, at the media event this week.CreditTasneem Alsultan for The New York Times
Three years ago, however, when the kingdom was pushing businesses to hire more Saudi citizens, she sought work in the private sector, where pay was much higher and opportunities for women were growing. A leading telecom company offered her a sales position, but Ms. Amri’s husband — her guardian — refused to consent.

Ms. Amri went behind his back. She took her brother to the company to act as her guardian, and she got the job. Her stellar sales record made her a standout candidate this spring when car companies were seeking Saudi women to help sell vehicles to the rush of new drivers they were expecting.

Her husband still disliked the idea, she said, but her new company, the Saudi owner of the Range Rover franchise, did not ask her for a guardian’s approval.

She sold seven cars in her first three weeks. Her husband, she said, likes the larger paycheck she brings home. He also has grudgingly accepted her work because relatives and neighbors have not gossiped about it. “He didn’t want any shame on the family,” she said. “As for my family, they are all as proud as can be.”

Seham al-Amri, right, a sales consultant at a newly integrated workplace at a Saudi car dealership, sold a car to a customer this week.CreditTasneem Alsultan for The New York Times
A Saudi public opinion poll, commissioned in February by Uber, showed that more than 90 percent of respondents felt positively about lifting the driving ban.

That has not diminished the sexism. A popular preacher last year strongly opposed letting women drive, saying their brains were half the size of men’s. Several men said this week that they would stay home on Sunday, convinced that car accidents — already a problem in the country — would surge.

The planned rollout for women drivers, despite months of buildup, has hit several bumps, partly because of insufficient driver’s education programs and the overlapping bureaucracies needed to fulfill the royal decree.

The government has said that women with valid licenses from abroad may obtain a Saudi license with minimal fuss. Several hundred will be ready to drive on Sunday.

Addana al-Hugail, left, Razan Ben Hassan, second from right, Noor al-Gadheb, second from left, and Sufana al-Hugail are eagerly awaiting their first opportunity to drive legally on Sunday.CreditTasneem Alsultan for The New York Times
Yet for tens of thousands of others, the path to driving has been full of obstacles. Only a limited number of training courses have opened for women — and given the strict gender segregation in effect in schools and government agencies, it is challenging to staff them.

Earlier this year, pilot driver’s education programs were scrambling to find qualified women to instruct their Saudi sisters. That is how Sheikha al-Kadeeb, 29, who had been looking for work in finance, was recruited to teach driving.

Ms. Kadeeb learned in Los Angeles, where she earned an M.B.A. She loved cruising California freeways in her Jeep Wrangler and jumped at the opportunity to impart her enthusiasm at home. “I feel like I’m on a mission,” she said. “I get a chance to help my country.”

Parents and family members, meanwhile, have worried about what would happen to women if their cars broke down or the police pulled them over. Casual encounters with strange men are discomfiting to many Saudi women. Nor are some willing to risk the physical threats of being stuck alone.

After a practice session this week, the Saudi women moved to the back seats of their cars so their male drivers could drive them home.CreditTasneem Alsultan for The New York Times
Another problem is the cost of driver’s education for women, which is four to five times as expensive when compared with what men pay.

Mohammed al-Ghanami, a diving instructor for the Saudi Marines, has been giving his wife lessons in remote areas where the police or other motorists will not disturb them. He moonlights as an Uber driver and wants his wife to be able to drive their child to the doctor or anywhere else in an emergency, given his extended absences.

“She can do it,” he said. “She’s a careful person and a good driver.”

Groups of girlfriends, meanwhile, are making celebratory plans for their first drive. Rezan Ben Hassan, 29, learned when she was 16 on desert camping trips with her family. She intends to take the keys to the family vehicle on Sunday and cruise to a cafe.

In Al Khobar, Ms. Bassem, the motorcycle lover, plans to hit the road with friends from the local Harley Davidson club. Of their roughly 700 members in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, a handful of women love Hogs.

In what appears to be an attempt to dissuade unqualified drivers on Sunday, the Ministry of Interior announced that the police would be fining drivers caught without a license 900 riyals, or approximately $240.

The lack of an official license, however, is not discouraging Ms. Bassem. “This is going to be one of the most exciting days of my life,” she said.

(Source: NYT)

Sunday, 24 June 2018

‘I want to see Cambridge University breaking the silence on race’

Academic at the centre of bitter racial-profiling row involving college porters gives the Observer a walking tour to illustrate the problems she says she encounters

Exams in Cambridge are over, and although the sun is blazing down on the spires of King’s, Trinity and St John’s, many of the students are still in bed, recovering from the formal May balls the night before. But while its students were spending every night last week celebrating until the break of dawn, the university has become embroiled in an acrimonious internal row that threatens to damage its illustrious reputation.

The academic at the centre of the controversy is the Cambridge lecturer Priyamvada Gopal, and today she is showing me what happens when you walk with her around the university’s most exclusive colleges – and encounter the “porters” whose job it is to keep unwelcome visitors out.

Priyamvada Gopal, a Cambridge academic who is refusing to teach classes at King’s college. Photograph: Richard Saker for the Observer
Gopal is leading the tour but, as we walk together along a cobbled street in the sunshine towards Gonville and Caius college, she confides she feels nervous. The 49-year-old – a senior academic who has been teaching English at the university for 17 years – has never been inside this particular college before, which is one of the oldest and richest in Cambridge. “Most of the older colleges I don’t try to enter because I just don’t want to go through any argy-bargy with the porters.”

We pass through without incident but later, as we enter the First Court of St John’s, a porter suspiciously asks Gopal which college she lectures at – as though he doesn’t believe she is a member of the university. But it is when she enters another college, King’s, that she typically worries most. “At times, and other people of colour have reported this too, my Cambridge University ID card has been peered at as though I might have forged it.”

Last week she suffered what she says was the 13th incident of racial profiling and aggression towards her by the porters and gatekeepers of King’s. In response, Gopal announced on Twitter she would stop tutoring King’s students. “I have been complaining formally and informally about this behaviour at King’s for at least a decade now, and I have heard over 20 to 30 testimonies from students past and present about how they have been treated, too. I thought: enough warnings, enough attempts to discuss, enough being ignored. I decided to take what symbolic action I could, that other people of colour are not in a position to take.”

She says she is sick and tired of hearing her university deny that Cambridge is a hostile place for people of colour. “People here hide and don’t speak up, even when they know something is wrong. I want to see the university breaking the silence on race. I want colleges to hold their hands up and say: yes, we have a problem around race and diversity. We will document it and we will address it and we will be seen to do so.” That would be a very modest first start, in her opinion. “Denial just makes them seem dishonest.”

 Priyamvada Gopal was refused entry to King’s by a gatekeeper. Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian
She decided to speak out after being refused entry to King’s, which was closed, by a gatekeeper who she felt treated her “like a complete moron”. When she complained about this treatment to a white male college porter, she found him “incredibly belligerent and hostile from the get go”. He continued to address her as “madam”, even after she identified herself and asked to be called by her name, Dr Gopal.

She left the porter’s lodge feeling sullied. “It was incredibly humiliating.” In her opinion, the behaviour of the porters reflects a wider Cambridge problem with race and diversity that begins much higher up in the institution, and she went public to encourage King’s, and the university as a whole, to address this. Two of her colleagues in the English department have since followed her lead in refusing to teach King’s students.

Cambridge students have also come forward with their own experiences of racial profiling. “I was once asked for my college ID in the fellows’ garden at King’s, which is very unusual because it is somewhere you can only access with a college key,” said one black recent graduate of the college, who wished to remain anonymous. “I worried that, if I reported such incidents to the college as racial profiling, it would have repercussions for me – and be a waste of my time. I believe it’s an unconscious bias on the part of the porters, but it is there.”

Another black Cambridge graduate, Rianna Croxford, spoke out about how she had been denied entry to King’s last year, despite showing a range of different Cambridge University ID. After being told the gatekeeper did not believe she was truly a student at the university, she eventually arrived at Gopal’s lesson in tears. She reported it to a tutor at her college, who complained about it to King’s but expressed scepticism about whether there were any racial undertones to the incident.

Tega Akati-Udi, black, Asian and minority ethnic officer of King’s college student union, said she and her predecessor had collected a significant number of similar testimonies about racial profiling incidents at King’s over the past two years. After the union presented these testimonies to the college, unconscious bias training was eventually given to porters and gatekeepers in January. “Although progress has been slow, fewer people are coming to me now with complaints, and I find the college does act to address them. But they cannot act on complaints they don’t know about – we need to do some work to make sure people feel comfortable coming forward,” she said.

The Observer interviewed four students from black, Asian or ethnic minority backgrounds who had never encountered or observed any racism at King’s or any other college, while four other students and one academic gave accounts of racial profiling by Cambridge porters.

Donna Ferguson during her walking tour of Cambridge with Priyamvada Gopal.
Photograph: Richard Saker for the Observer
On Friday, undergraduate students of English at King’s issued a statement of solidarity with Gopal, urging the college to offer her a “proper apology”: “The many testimonies from black and minority ethnic students that have come in the wake of Dr Gopal’s statement make apparent that her treatment is not unique or isolated. We strongly condemn the actions of the college and fully support Dr Gopal in her decision to boycott it.”

A King’s spokeswoman said it only had a record of one complaint from Gopal in the past three years and receives fewer than three complaints annually, which “almost always relate to people being denied access”. “Our visitor guides and porters have a very challenging job during the tourist season, with literally thousands of visitors per day. It is thus very important that they behave in a professional manner at all times, which is why they have had comprehensive customer service training, including unconscious bias training.”

She added that the college had examined CCTV of the porters’ interaction with Gopal and concluded that there was no wrongdoing on the part of staff. “We acknowledge that Dr Gopal’s perception of this exchange was ‘racial profiling’, but this was simply not the case. We deny claims that our staff were rude or aggressive. The college abhors racism or discrimination of any kind and would seek to stamp it out wherever it might be found.”

(Source: The Guardian)

Vanished ape found in ancient Chinese tomb, giving clues to its disappearance

Swinging from branch to branch with loud and often melodic calls, gibbons are a dramatic presence in forests they inhabit. Eighth century Chinese poet Li Bai described their haunting voices: "While on the cliffs of the Yangtze Gorges, gibbons ceaselessly cry/Ten thousand folds of mountains, my skiff has slipped them by."

Today, no gibbons live anywhere near the Yangtze River gorges Li traversed, and the apes that remain elsewhere in China have fur patterns different from those often depicted in classical Chinese paintings. But given their prominence in art, researchers assumed the animals must once have swung through the treetops of central China. Now, physical evidence of a vanished gibbon has turned up in an unexpected place: a tomb that may have been built for the grandmother of China's first emperor, nearly 2300 years ago. The skull and jaw found in the tomb are so distinctive that scientists conclude they belonged to a member of a now-extinct gibbon genus.

The skull "is really a fantastic find," says Thomas Geissmann, a gibbon expert at the University of Zurich in Switzerland who was not involved in the research. "I don't doubt for a second that it's a new species, and probably a new genus. … We can assume that this vast area of central China [once] had many other species" of gibbon. With surviving gibbons also facing extinction, the new find could boost motivation to protect them by highlighting how much has already been lost, says Samuel Turvey, a conservation biologist at the Zoological Society of London who, with his colleagues, describes the ancient skull in this week's issue of Science.

Turvey, who studies human-caused extinctions, combs historical records and museum collections for evidence about past biodiversity. In 2011, at the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology in Xi'an, China, he came across artifacts from the tomb, which was discovered in 2004 on the outskirts of Xi'an, the capital of Shaanxi province and once a powerful imperial city. Based on the tomb's location and the artifacts it contained, archaeologists Ding Yan and Zhang Tianen of the Shaanxi institute, who helped lead the excavations, dated it to the Warring States period, about 2250 years ago. They concluded it may have been built for Lady Xia, the grandmother of China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huang. Qin ruled from 256 B.C.E. until 210 B.C.E., united much of China and was buried near Xi'an with his famous terracotta army.

Gibbons are a common motif in classical Chinese artworks such as this 15th century painting. FREER GALLERY OF ART AND ARTHUR M. SACKLER GALLERY, SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION, WASHINGTON, D.C.: GIFT OF CHARLES LANG FREER, F1911.272 (DETAIL)
The collection's primate bones caught Turvey's attention. "Historically there are accounts of gibbons" in central China, he says, "but it is very, very far from any gibbon populations today." The tomb also contained skeletons of leopards, lynx, black bears, cranes, and a range of domestic animals. The wild animals were all from the region, so the gibbon probably also lived nearby, says archaeologist Hu Songmei of the Shaanxi institute. Gibbons were common high-status pets, and burial chambers were often arranged so that the deceased "could continue to enjoy the life they knew when still alive," Hu says. Because the emperor was presumably involved in his grandmother's funeral preparations, Turvey says, "It's not a total flight of fancy to think that he might have seen this specific gibbon."

Chinese authorities did not let the team sample the bone for DNA, which could have helped determine the animal's kinship with existing gibbons. Instead, Turvey worked with Helen Chatterjee, an expert on gibbons at University College London, and colleagues to measure key points on the skull and teeth and compare the dimensions with those of the four living genera of gibbons. Their statistical analysis found both the skull and molars were so distinct from all of today's gibbons that the fossil belonged to a separate genus.

That fits with what we know of gibbons, Chatterjee says. Gibbon populations can easily become isolated from each other because the apes spend their lives in the treetops and can't cross gaps in the canopy created by rivers or other barriers. That has spurred extreme genetic diversity—the four genera alive today have different numbers of chromosomes, she notes.

The team named the new species Junzi imperialis. "Junzi" is a Chinese word for scholar-officials, who were often associated with gibbons because the animals were considered wiser and nobler than mischievous monkeys. The animals' arms were thought to help them channel chi, "a bit like Jedi masters," Chatterjee says.

As for what J. imperialis looked like, classical paintings may hold some clues. They depict gibbons with a wide variety of colors and facial markings, frequently different from any of today's gibbon species. Turvey says J. imperialis "may be the tip of the iceberg," and a whole suite of gibbon species that were common across China in previous centuries have already gone extinct.

The Imperial Chinese reverence for gibbons apparently didn't extend to preserving their habitat. The razing of forests for agriculture in recent centuries, and perhaps the onset of a cooler, drier climate in central China, apparently spelled disaster for J. imperialis. The same dynamic is at play for today's gibbons, says David Chivers, a primatologist who retired from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. One species, on China's Hainan island, has only two dozen individuals left. "Remove the forest and they're gone," he says of the apes. "We've got to stop the forest being cut down. That's the only way to save them."

(Source: Science)