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Thousands seek that special someone in Shanghai

SHANGHAI: The odds favored the men as thousands gathered to look for love in Shanghai at the eastern Chinese city’s largest-ever matchmaking party, paying for the privilege of searching for their other half.

Census data shows a rise in the percentage of older single women over the last decade, while the percentage of older single men has fallen, according to the China Daily — which experts said might be due to increasingly choosy women unwilling to settle for men with inferior education and living standards.

Organizers said there were three women for every two men, with 6,000 tickets sold to single woman and 4,000 to men.

“These days, girls are much more self-sufficient and independent,” said Zhou Juemin, president of the Shanghai Matchmaking Association, which organized the two-day event at the weekend.

“Also, there’s a lot of work pressure in society nowadays, so many girls are busy with their jobs and perhaps tend to consider career advancement above marriage — so some of them are no longer young.”

Long queues of singles waited for their turn for five-minute chats with the opposite sex in the ultimate blind-date event.

“If your standard of living is lower than mine in every aspect, but if we can relate well to each other, I wouldn’t mind — because if we relate well, there would be good chemistry,” said 27-year-old Zue Tianwei.

“Then the issues of social order would no longer be a problem. I guess it depends on how strong my feelings are.”

Many men, for their part, said they were willing to shrug off traditional thinking that once made marrying a woman of higher educational and living standards unacceptable.

“Regarding girls who have a higher education level or standard of living, I wouldn’t mind pursuing them because this is a two-way thing,” said Li Jianxun, a 27-year-old native of central China who has lived in Shanghai for two years.

“As long as the feelings are mutual, it is still possible to interact and get to know each other.”

Hopefuls from nearby provinces travelled to Shanghai to take part, among them some who had already married and divorced.

A few, bolder than others, held up signs to distinguish themselves from the crowd. One said, “I wanted to fall in love early, but it’s already late.”

Around 3,000 parents also tagged along, with Organizers allocating a special corner for them to advertise information on their unmarried children. Some kept an eye out for suitable future in-laws.

Qi Xiong, who helped his son by taking pictures to keep track of potential matches, said he still felt that men should not look for wives with higher social status than themselves.

“Generally speaking, if you are a girl and your education level or income is too high, we’re more likely to oppose it,” he said, noting that a simple university degree was sufficient.

“A huge difference in education levels would make it difficult to communicate. If both parties begin at the same starting line, and want to achieve success in the future, they can work at it together.”

Scientists crack Black Death’s genetic code

Scientists crack Black Death’s genetic code

Scientists have mapped out the entire genetic map of the Black Death, a 14th century bubonic plague that killed 50 million Europeans in one of the most devastating epidemics in history.

The work, which involved extracting and purifying DNA from the remains of Black death victims buried in London’s “plague pits,” is the first time scientists have been able to draft a reconstructed genome of any ancient pathogen.

Their result — a full draft of the entire Black Death genome — should allow researchers to track changes in the disease’s evolution and virulence, and lead to better understanding of modern-day infectious diseases.

Building on previous research which showed that a specific variant of the Yersinia pestis (Y. pestis) bacterium was responsible for the plague that ravaged Europe between 1347 and 1351, a team of German, Canadian and American scientists went on to “capture” and sequence the entire genome of the disease.

“The genomic data show that this bacterial strain, or variant, is the ancestor of all modern plagues we have today worldwide. Every outbreak across the globe today stems from a descendant of the medieval plague,” said Hendrik Poinar, of Canada’s McMaster University, who worked with the team.

“With a better understanding of the evolution of this deadly pathogen, we are entering a new era of research into infectious disease.”

Major technical advances in DNA recovery and sequencing have dramatically expanded the scope of genetic analysis of ancient specimens, opening up new ways of trying to understand emerging and re-emerging infections.

Experts say the direct descendants of the same bubonic plague still exist today, killing around 2,000 people a year.

A virulent strain of E. coli bacteria which caused a deadly outbreak of infections in Germany and France earlier this year was also found to contain DNA sequences from plague bacteria.

For this study Poinar’s team analysed skeletal remains from Black Death victims buried in London’s East Smithfield “plague pits,” which are located under what is now the Royal Mint.

By focusing on promising specimens from the dental pulp of five bodies, which had already been pre-screened for the presence of Y. pestis, they were able to extract, purify and enrich the disease’s DNA and at the same time reduce the amount of background non-plague DNA which might interfere.

Linking the 1349 to 1350 dates of the skeletal remains to the genetic data allowed the researchers to calculate the age of the ancestor of Y. pestis that caused the mediaeval plague.

Poinar, whose work was published in the journal Nature, said the team found that in 660 years of evolution, the genetic map of the ancient organism had only barely changed. “The next step is to determine why this was so deadly,” he said.

Johannes Krause Of Germany’s University of Tubingen, who also worked on the study, said the same approach could now be used to study the genomes of all sorts of historic pathogens.

“This will provide us with direct insights into the evolution of human pathogens and historical pandemics,” he said in a statement.

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