Taino ancestry in Puerto Rico, other islands

This video says about itself:

My Ancestry DNA Results! – (Puerto Rican)

1 January 2016

My Ancestry DNA results are finally in! Here they are from highest percentage to lowest:

Spanish/Portuguese – 27%
British – 26%
Native American – 20%
Middle Eastern – 7%
Nigerian 4%
North African – 3%
Senegalese – 3%
Italian – 3%

Trace regions under %1 are not listed.

From St John’s College, University of Cambridge in England:

Researchers have produced the first clear genetic evidence that the indigenous people whom Columbus first encountered in the New World still have living descendants today

February 19, 2018

Summary: A thousand-year-old tooth has provided the first clear genetic evidence that the Taíno — the indigenous people whom Columbus first encountered on arriving in the New World — still have living descendants today, despite erroneous claims in some historical narratives that these people are extinct. The findings are likely to have particular resonance for people in the Caribbean and the US who claim Taíno ancestry, but have until now been unable to prove definitively that such a thing is possible.

A thousand-year-old tooth has provided genetic evidence that the so-called “Taíno”, the first indigenous Americans to feel the full impact of European colonisation after Columbus arrived in the New World, still have living descendants in the Caribbean today.

Researchers were able to use the tooth of a woman found in a cave on the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas to sequence the first complete ancient human genome from the Caribbean. The woman lived at some point between the 8th and 10th centuries, at least 500 years before Columbus made landfall in the Bahamas.

The results provide unprecedented insights into the genetic makeup of the Taíno — a label commonly used to describe the indigenous people of that region. This includes the first clear evidence that there has been some degree of continuity between the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean and contemporary communities living in the region today.

Such a link had previously been suggested by other studies based on modern DNA. None of these, however, was able to draw on an ancient genome. The new research finally provides concrete proof that indigenous ancestry in the region has survived to the present day.

Comparing the ancient Bahamian genome to those of contemporary Puerto Ricans, the researchers found that they were more closely related to the ancient Taíno than any other indigenous group in the Americas. However, they argue that this characteristic is unlikely to be exclusive to Puerto Ricans alone and are convinced that future studies will reveal similar genetic legacies in other Caribbean communities.

The findings are likely to be especially significant for people in the Caribbean and elsewhere who have long claimed indigenous Taíno heritage, despite some historical narratives that inaccurately brand them “extinct.” Such misrepresentations have been heavily criticised by historians and archaeologists, as well as by descendant communities themselves, but until now they lacked clear genetic evidence to support their case.

The study was carried out by an international team of researchers led by Dr Hannes Schroeder and Professor Eske Willerslev within the framework of the ERC Synergy project NEXUS1492. The findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Lead author Schroeder, from the University of Copenhagen who carried out the research as part of the NEXUS1492 project, said: “It’s a fascinating finding. Many history books will tell you that the indigenous population of the Caribbean was all but wiped out, but people who self-identify as Taíno have always argued for continuity. Now we know they were right all along: there has been some form of genetic continuity in the Caribbean.”

Willerslev, who has dual posts at St John’s College, University of Cambridge, and the University of Copenhagen, said: “It has always been clear that people in the Caribbean have Native American ancestry, but because the region has such a complex history of migration, it was difficult to prove whether this was specifically indigenous to the Caribbean, until now.”

The researchers were also able to trace the genetic origins of the indigenous Caribbean islanders, showing that they were most closely related to Arawakan-speaking groups who live in parts of northern South America today. This suggests that the origins of at least some the people who migrated to the Caribbean can be traced back to the Amazon and Orinoco Basins, where the Arawakan languages developed.

The Caribbean was one of the last parts of the Americas to be populated by humans starting around 8,000 years ago. By the time of European colonization, the islands were a complex patchwork of different societies and cultures. The “Taíno” culture was dominant in the Greater, and parts of the Lesser Antilles, as well as the Bahamas, where the people were known as Lucayans.

To trace the genetic origins of the Lucayans the researchers compared the ancient Bahamian genome with previously published genome-wide datasets for over 40 present-day indigenous groups from the Americas. In addition, they looked for traces of indigenous Caribbean ancestry in present-day populations by comparing the ancient genome with those of 104 contemporary Puerto Ricans included in the 1000 Genomes Project. The 10-15% of Native American ancestry in this group was shown to be closely related to the ancient Bahamian genome.

Jorge Estevez, a Taíno descendant who works at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York and assisted the project team, said that as a boy growing up in the United States, he was told stories about his Taíno ancestors at home, but at school was taught that the same ancestors had died out. “I wish my grandmother were alive today so that I could confirm to her what she already knew,” he added. “It shows that the true story is one of assimilation, certainly, but not total extinction. I am genuinely grateful to the researchers. Although this may have been a matter of scientific inquiry for them, to us, the descendants, it is truly liberating and uplifting.”

Although indigenous Caribbean communities were island-based, the researchers found very little genomic evidence of isolation or inbreeding in the ancient genome. This reinforces earlier genetic research led by Willerslev, which suggests that early human communities developed surprisingly extensive social networks, long before the term had digital connotations. It also echoes ongoing work by researchers at the Faculty of Archaeology in Leiden and others indicating the connectedness of indigenous Caribbean communities.

Professor Corinne Hofman from Leiden University and PI of the NEXUS1492 project, said: “Archaeological evidence has always suggested that large numbers of people who settled the Caribbean originated in South America, and that they maintained social networks that extended far beyond the local scale. Historically, it has been difficult to back this up with ancient DNA because of poor preservation, but this study demonstrates that it is possible to obtain ancient genomes from the Caribbean and that opens up fascinating new possibilities for research.”

See also here. And here. And here.


Puerto Rico hurricanes changed animal sounds

This 22 September 2017 video is called Student Saves Birds From Hurricane Maria.

From the American Geophysical Union:

Hurricanes Irma and Maria temporarily altered choruses of land and sea animals

February 15, 2018

Audio recordings of Hurricanes Irma and Maria’s passage over Puerto Rico document how the calls of coastal critters changed in response to the deadly storms. The hurricanes caused a major disruption in the acoustic activity of snapping shrimp, a reduction in insect and bird sounds, and potentially an intensification of fish choruses, according to new research presented at the Ocean Sciences Meeting Friday.

In March 2017, researchers set up acoustic monitoring sites in coastal forests and coral reefs on Puerto Rico’s southwest coast to continuously record the area’s ambient sounds. Their goal was to capture the region’s land and sea soundscapes — especially the cacophony of sounds created by animal vocalizations — and document how and why they change over time.

But the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria over Puerto Rico in September gave the researchers an unexpected look at how coastal soundscapes change in response to natural disasters. Although the hurricanes did not directly hit the study area, audio recordings reveal the storms had noticeable short-term effects on fish choruses, snapping shrimp activity in coral reefs, and bird and insect calls on land.

The recordings show fish increased the intensity of their nightly choruses in the days following Hurricane Irma. The clicking of snapping shrimp, which are among the loudest animal noises in the ocean, plummeted during Hurricane Maria, and the daily snapping rhythm was disrupted for several days.

In nearby dry forests, Maria had longer-lasting effects on the soundscape. There was a marked reduction in insect sounds during the three weeks after the storm. Listen to time-lapse recordings of changes to insect sounds, fish choruses and snapping shrimp activity here.

The results show how scientists can use the soundscape as a measure of biodiversity and environmental change, according to the researchers. Capturing responses from a variety of species at the same time can help scientists better understand how the ecosystem is affected as a whole, according to Ben Gottesman, a PhD candidate at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, and lead author of the new research.

“Sometimes you can’t visually assess an impact, but you can certainly capture that through changes in the soundscape,” said Felix Martinez, an ecologist and Program Manager at the NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science in Ann Arbor, Michigan, who will present the new findings Friday at the 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting, co-sponsored by the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography, The Oceanography Society and the American Geophysical Union. “We really need to understand when those changes are natural versus due to some kind of stressor, whether it’s human or natural.”

Similar to birds and frogs, fish call to find mates and defend spawning territories, producing choruses at specific times of day and specific times of the year. Gottesman suspects one reason the fish may have chorused more after Hurricane Irma — which coincided with the full moon — was because the water became very turbid, making it harder for them to be seen by predators.

While the fish increased their activity following Hurricane Irma, shrimp snaps declined steeply during Maria and rebounded in the first few days after the storm. Snapping shrimp make a loud cracking noise with their claws to stun and catch prey. The snapping shrimp recorded in Puerto Rico displayed a very precise¬ schedule of when they snapped the most, almost like clockwork, Gottesman said. After the storms, peaks of snapping activity at dawn and dusk were less pronounced, and it took several days for them to recover to pre-storm levels.

The researchers suspect the shrimp could have snapped less for several reasons. During the storms, the intense current and turbidity likely dissuaded the shrimps from seeking prey, or else the extreme turbidity muffled the high-frequency shrimp snaps. After the storm, Maria may have disturbed their rocky coral habitats, the shrimp could have been spending time cleaning out their burrows, or they may not have been able to see their prey when the water became turbid.

Post-storm recordings show the land and sea animals’ vocalizations in this part of Puerto Rico, which was not in the eye of the storm, did eventually rebound to pre-storm levels. Maria was a catastrophic disaster, causing an estimated $90 billion worth of damage, but the new findings show how resilient this coastal ecosystem was in response to the storm, according to the researchers.

Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria

This 2 February 2018 video is called How many Puerto Ricans will die due to criminal government indifference?

A FEMA contractor supposed to deliver 30 million meals to Puerto Rico only managed to deliver 50,000.

See this video on that.

Let them eat wax: Puerto Rico first lady sorry for ‘misinterpreted’ candle gift. Governor’s wife sorry for ‘misinterpreted’ present to Puerto Ricans. 400,000 people without power five months after Hurricane Maria: here.

A million Puerto Ricans still without electricity

This video says about itself:

23 October 2017

Hurricane Maria destroyed the Puerto Rican village of Salinas. Local residents are being housed in a school building. Most people have no electricity, water, or working telephone line. The mayor and the survivors are trying to rebuild the village.

The village of Salinas in Puerto Rico was famous for its beaches and restaurants. It was popular with tourists – until hurricane Maria left the village devastated. A number of people were killed. 90% of the population of Puerto Rico still have no electricity, and about half don’t have running water. In Salinas, residents who’ve lost their homes are being housed in a school. It’s not clear how long they’ll have to stay there. The local phone network and the infrastructure are heavily damaged, so it’s taken aid supplies a long time to reach the area. Reporter Carolina Chimoy travelled to Salinas to meet the mayor and local residents who are trying to rebuild their village.

By Daniel de Vries:

Why are a million Puerto Ricans still in the dark?

2 February 2018

When Puerto Rico’s governor Ricardo Rosselló announced last week his plan to privatize the nation’s largest electric utility, he justified the move as a remedy to the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe being inflicted upon the population. “The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) has become a heavy burden on our people, who are now hostage to its poor service and high costs”, he said. “What we know today as [PREPA] does not work and cannot continue to operate like this.”

The present electrical blackout in Puerto Rico is without precedent in modern American history. More than four months after hurricane Maria triggered the collapse of the already failing grid, over 30 percent of residential and commercial customers remain without power—equivalent to approximately a million people. Even where power has been nominally restored, the system remains extremely unstable and subject to outages at any time.

The initial goal set by governor Rosselló of 95 percent restoration by December 15, which even if achieved would have been extraordinarily slow, quietly passed with restoration rates half that. The current assessments expect large scale outages to continue for months into the future.

US Army Corps of Engineers Col. John Lloyd, who is overseeing power restoration for the federal government, recently told PBS Newshour, “I think by the middle of March, end of March, we’re going to see the majority of customers with power.” Governor Rosselló acknowledged some areas may remain off the grid for an additional four months.

The impact on the residents has been devastating, particularly for working class Puerto Ricans, who have discovered through experience the innumerable aspects of modern life that depend on access to power, including health care services, basic sanitation, transportation, communication, education and employment.

Those without power have been thrown back a century, with simple tasks like storing perishable foods, accessing drinking water and maintaining contact with loved ones a daily struggle. Generators and rigged car batteries have become the temporary power suppliers, at least for those who can afford the high cost of gasoline. Hundreds of thousands have simply fled the island, seeking refuge on the mainland, in no small part because of the lack of power and other basic necessities of contemporary life.

The official response to the catastrophe has been a collective shrug. President Trump uttered but a single contemptuous reference to Puerto Rico during his State of the Union address Tuesday, professing love for those still struggling to recover. Trump’s silence has been matched by the Democrats, who refuse to make an issue of the continuing humanitarian crisis, and instead focus their political energies on seeking to damage Trump with an anti-Russia campaign

The US Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency responsible for the re-electrification of the island, has blamed the slow return of service on a supposed shortage of materials and logistical challenges. The damage is extensive; FEMA estimated Hurricane Maria damaged 80 percent of the power grid, which consists of 2400 miles of transmission lines, 30,000 miles of distribution wire and 300 electrical substations.

Nonetheless, the logistical capacity and resources of the US are potentially immense, yet directed elsewhere. Over the past 25 years the American government has organized massive deployments of hundreds of thousands of soldiers and bureaucrats to invade and occupy countries on the other side of the globe. The government’s inability to organize the distribution of equipment and workers just 1,000 miles off the coast of Florida reflect political, rather than technical or logistical, motivations.

These political motivations have come into sharper focus this week with the announcement by Governor Rosselló of the impending privatization of PREPA. The utility is $9 billion in debt, accounting for the largest share of the territory’s $70 billion obligation.

PREPA’s course toward privatization has been long planned. Four of seven Obama appointees to the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico, which is granted broad powers to seize public assets and break pension obligations, advocated the utility’s privatization in an article in the Wall Street Journal three months before the hurricane hit. “We believe that only privatization will enable PREPA to attract the investments it needs to lower costs and provide more reliable power throughout the island,” they wrote.

More recently, the board’s general counsel, Jaime El Koury, suggested at a New York Bar Association event last week, that Latin American governments in the 1980s should be used as models for the current debt crisis in Puerto Rico. “In the ’80s Latin America did something about it”, he said. “It was very difficult. It extracted a lot of sacrifice from the population but they did something about it.” El Koury specifically mentioned Chile, which was led by the brutal dictator Augusto Pinochet, who carried out a wave of privatizations following the bloody repression of political opponents.

The situation in Puerto Rico has deteriorated sharply in the past decade, with regards to both the electrical infrastructure and the economy as a whole. The territory’s economy has always been dictated by the needs of US imperialism, which most recently translated into the development of a manufacturing base for pharmaceuticals and other goods. Relatively cheap labor and tax exemptions for US companies generated profits for a time, while much of the population remained poor.

However, by the mid-2000s, with American companies well established at even cheaper offshore locations, the tax exemptions were repealed. Investors responded by simply withdrawing from Puerto Rico. By 2016 investment dropped to 7.9 percent of the island’s GDP from 20.7 percent in 1999. Unemployment reached double the rate as the mainland US. Poverty rates rose to near 50 percent, and a mass exodus ensued.

Faced with a shrinking and impoverished consumer base, increasingly unable to afford what are among the highest electrical rates in the country, PREPA took on more and more debt. The agency deferred its own investments, allowing the generating stations and grid to decay. Over the past five years they reduced the workforce by 30 percent, mainly through attrition.

By the time Maria approached, major outages had become commonplace, including a major three-day outage in September 2016. An independent report to the Puerto Rico Energy Commission published in November 2016 noted that PREPA records show outages at rates five times higher than the norm for the country.

PREPA was deliberately run into the ground, starved of resources, and allowed to mire in corruption. Meanwhile American capital, abstaining from investment in the productive forces of Puerto Rico, instead offered indebtedness, fully conscious that this would lead toward default and set the stage for the looting of public property.

The combined disasters of bankruptcy and Maria have provided the pretext the ruling class has been seeking to implement a wholesale restructuring of social relations to benefit powerful corporate and financial interests. The precedent was set in places like New Orleans following Katrina and Detroit with the municipal bankruptcy, and internationally in countries such as Greece.

The working class needs its own response. The privatization of the electrical system must be stopped and instead brought under the democratic control of the working class. Access to power is a fundamental social right—it should not be a source of profit for the hedge funds and bankers who dictate the course of economic policy and investment. This right can only be asserted as part of a common struggle together with the millions of workers throughout the United States and internationally, independent of all the capitalist political parties, to bring the levers of the economy under the command of the working class.