Ankara’s controversial mayor erects huge robot statue

ANKARA (AFP): A massive statue of a “Transformers” style robot has gone on display in Ankara not, as some of residents suspected, as an elaborate April Fool’s joke but erected by the city’s mayor.

The mass of metal and polyester, which now towers over a busy road junction in the centre of the Turkish capital, went up on Thursday to promote the new Anka theme park. which mayor Melih Gokcek is having built despite a court injunction over complaints it breaks city planning rules, local press reported.

Gokcek, who has been mayor of this city of five million people since 1994, is one of the more colourful members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Turkish prosecutors last month launched an investigation into both him and Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc after the two politicians traded angry accusations as a row within the ruling party widened.

Public prosecutors in Ankara were looking into Arinc on charges of misconduct and covering up a felony while they accused Gokcek of embezzlement and misconduct, private Dogan news agency reported.

Nicknamed “Mad Melih” by his detractors, the mayor had promised voters ambitious projects such as the theme park, with giant replicas of dinosaurs and robots, as well as a channel to “bring the Bosphorus in Ankara,” an arid Turkish city.

The giant robot statue, resembling something out of the US Transformers sci-fi film series, did not impress all Ankara residents. Twitter user “Brgn” called it nothing but a “late April fool’s joke”.

Cleaners accused of sweeping up elderly sisters’ fortune

LYON, FRANCE (AFP): Two cleaners who worked for a pair of elderly sisters have been accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of euros the women kept in cash in their home near Lyon in central France, a judicial source said Saturday. The cleaners, men aged 41 and 44, were charged with theft on Friday and detained after a two-year police investigation which began shortly after the bodies of the sisters were discovered in their home in the suburb of Bron in April 2013. An autopsy concluded that they had died four months earlier, but no foul play was suspected, according to the regional newspaper Le Progres.

One sister was a retired teacher, the other a former postal worker. But stashed in the house was 397,985 euros (nearly $437,000). But that, it turned out, was just the tip of their treasure.

Living alone with no heirs, the sisters had designated neighbours as executors of their estate. In going over the papers of the elderly women, they discovered the sisters had amassed an even greater fortune. But a total of nearly 1.9 million euros was missing, the judicial source said.

A police investigation into the missing money found some suspicious bank deposits made by the house cleaners. They were arrested Thursday along with three others, two of whom were released without charges while the third, a woman, was charged with receiving stolen goods and released.

Some of those detained said the money was found in two bags in the sisters’ bedrooms.

Police said they have recovered “several hundred thousand euros” at the homes of the accused. But it is still a mystery how the sisters became so rich, with Le Progres claiming that it could have been from property sales.

 Why humans have chins

LONDON (DM): The mystery of why humans are the only animals to have chins may have been solved by scientists who suggest that it is linked to the invention of cooking.

A number of different explanations have been put forward for the apparently useless appendage, including the idea that it helps humans attract a mate. But new research pours cold water on that theory - pointing instead to the way the jaw evolved and shrank to deal with the fact that cooking was making food softer.

A paper from the University of Florida is the latest attempt to explain exactly why humans - unlike all other primates - have chins.

Author James Pampush points out that the fact that apes and monkeys do not have chins proves that they must have evolved after the ancestors of man split off from other branches of the primate family.

Some have argued in the past that the development of the chin could be a purely random example of ‘genetic drift’, with no evolutionary purpose whatsoever.

However, the new research - published in the Journal of Human Evolution - says that because the evolution of the chin happened 77 times faster than the average genetic change, it is highly unlikely to have been random.

Dr Pampush calculated that the chin began to emerge some time between 6million and 200,000 years ago, with the most likely estimate being around 2million years ago.

This would coincide with the enormous leap forward in human intelligence, which led to breakthroughs including the invention of cooking.

The evolution of the chin came about as a result of humans’ teeth and jaws shrinking, because they no longer needed to chew through raw meat and plants, Dr Pampush told the Independent on Sunday.

‘My guess is that it happened around two million years ago when there was a jump in brain size,’ he said. ‘We had a soft diet, and we no longer needed big teeth.

‘I’m guessing the changes which ultimately lead to the chin are directly related to cooking, and indirectly related to larger brains and bodies.’

Because the chin is a by-product of an evolutionary change, rather than being selected for directly, it is what scientists call a ‘spandrel’.

Dr Pampush’s new theory goes against previous suggestions that the chin was an example of sexual selection, with prominent chins marking out men who are likely to make good mates.

The fact that both men and women have chins means the sexual selection theory is unlikely, because such developments usually apply only to one of the sexes, not both.

Another theory put forward in the past claimed that the chin was a way to balance out the stress put on the jaw by the action of chewing, but Dr Pampush also cast doubt on that idea.

Turkmenistan pledges to curb water use

BISHKEK (AFP): The leader of Turkmenistan on Sunday pledged to streamline water use, a huge problem in the isolated desert nation believed to be among the world’s top water wasters. Some 80 percent of ex-Soviet Turkmenistan is covered by the Karakum desert, one of the driest places on earth. Addressing Turkmens on the Day of Water, a national holiday, President Gurbangly Berdymukhamedov pledged to curb waste. The government would oversee the “systematic introduction of conservation technologies in the construction of water facilities and systems, the application of best practices and the latest scientific achievements”, he was quoted by state media as saying.

The post-Soviet states of Central Asia - which have mostly failed to repair outdated irrigation networks but keep producing water-intensive crops such as cotton - are among the world’s worst water wasters.

The scientific weekly Nature said last year that Turkmenistan was the world’s top consumer of water per capita. Households in Turkmenistan do not pay for water consumption.

While water use was centrally managed under the Soviets, tensions have brewed between states upstream and downstream of the famous Amu and Syr Darya rivers since independence.

In 2012, Islam Karimov, the veteran leader of Turkmenistan’s neighbour Uzbekistan, warned that disagreements over water sharing could spark war in the region.