Archaeologists hope to get DNA from last slave ship in US – National & International News – TUE 28Dec2021

Two iron nails from the wreckage of the Clotilda, a ship that transported the last known African slaves to the US. The wreckage was found submerged in the mud of Mobile Bay in 2019.



Archaeologists hope to get DNA from last slave ship in US. Fauci: Mandate vaccines for domestic air travel. Iran nuclear talks resume, again.



Archaeologists hope to get DNA from last slave ship in US

In 1860, Timothy Meaher, a wealthy lumber merchant from Mobile, AL, wagered another businessman that he could successfully import a cargo of slaves into the U.S., despite the practice having been outlawed in 1807. Meaher owned a two-masted schooner called the Clotilda, which he normally used to ship his lumber. The Clotilda’s captain William Foster sailed her to the Kingdom of Dahomey, modern-day Benin in West Africa, and took on a cargo of 108 slaves. Foster succeeded in transporting the slaves to Mobile Bay. There he ushered the slaves onto a steamboat, then set fire to the Clotilda to destroy the evidence of his crime.

The Clotilda only burned down to the water line, and the rest sank into the deep mud of the bay. And there it lay undiscovered for 160 years. Researchers have now located the ship and found that the mud has preserved much of the ship’s hull and its contents to an astonishing degree. Barrels containing food are remarkably intact, as is the cramped hold where the slaves endured the hellish trans-Atlantic journey.

A long shadow

After the Civil War, the slaves transported on the Clotilda established a settlement called Africatown, north of Mobile. Their descendants have kept the otherwise undocumented story of their journey alive for generations. Archaeologists hope that the ship’s remarkable preservation will enable them to answer some lingering questions about their ancestors.

Researchers believe that they may be able to extract DNA from the caulking between the planks of the slave hold, where feces and other bodily fluids would have been trapped. By doing so, they may be able to determine where in Africa the slaves hailed from. Some say they were from Ghana, but some think Nigeria is more likely. An answer to this question would allow the descendants of Clotilda’s survivors to reclaim links to their ancestral identities.

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Fauci: Mandate vaccines for domestic air travel

Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Monday, but not for the first time, that President Biden should consider requiring proof of COVID vaccination for passengers on domestic flights. Although Fauci is one of the President’s leading science advisors, sources say he has not so far made a formal recommendation on the issue. The idea has been floated before, but so far, the White House has resisted implementing it, fearing that it may meet legal and logistical snags. 

But the spread the more transmissible omicron variant and the fear that hospitals may soon be overwhelmed, the idea may be gaining steam once again. When the hectic holiday travel season passes, there may be more room to test how a requirement would work.

Fauci touts the requirement as a further inducement for vaccine holdouts to finally get the jab. It would also have the benefit of making air travel safer. 

It’s difficult to know what support the mandate has from the airlines. From their point of view, it might create some problems but would also solve a few. Verifying vaccination status may cause delays and some friction for passengers. But airline workers are already dealing with headaches from passengers refusing to obey masking rules on board flights. Airlines have filed nearly 5000 reports of unruly passengers with the FAA this year. Most of these had to do with masking disputes and many have resulted in violence.  

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Iran nuclear talks resume, again

An eighth round of talks to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear deal are underway in Vienna, Austria. Iranian delegates have refused to meet directly with U.S. negotiators, but are working with intermediaries from other countries. The West hopes to restore access for UN inspectors to Iran’s nuclear facilities and reduction in Iran’s uranium refinement. In exchange, Iran wants guarantees that the punishing sanctions that former President Trump unilaterally re-imposed in 2018 will be lifted.

One of Iran’s key demands is for the U.S. to lift the embargo on Iran’s crude oil exports. Much of Iran’s economy depends on oil exports, and the reinstatement of sanctions essentially shuttered their market. Iran wants these sanctions lifted and a set volume of transactions completed before returning to compliance with the agreed curbs to its nuclear program. This has previously been a sticking point with the U.S. position, which insisted on compliance before sanctions relief.

Israel’s stance has also been a wild card in the negotiations. Israel is not a direct party to the negotiations, but has reserved the right to carry out military strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities if they believe Iran is not complying with the deal to Israel’s satisfaction. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has said he would not oppose a “good” Iran deal, but insists that he would only accept a more hardline stance than the one the U.S. is currently pursuing.

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