Archive | September 11, 2016

Genetic Engineering to Clash with Evolution, Naturally*

Genetic Engineering to Clash with Evolution, Naturally*

By By Ricardo Bessa for Quanta Magazine


By Brooke Borel

In a crowded auditorium at New York’s Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in August, Philipp Messer, a population geneticist at Cornell University, took the stage to discuss a powerful and controversial new application for genetic engineering: gene drives.

Gene drives can force a trait through a population, defying the usual rules of inheritance. A specific trait ordinarily has a 50-50 chance of being passed along to the next generation. A gene drive could push that rate to nearly 100%. The genetic dominance would then continue in all future generations. You want all the fruit flies in your lab to have light eyes? Engineer a drive for eye colour, and soon enough, the fruit flies’ offspring will have light eyes, as will their offspring, and so on for all future generations. Gene drives may work in any species that reproduces sexually, and they have the potential to revolutionize disease control, agriculture, conservation and more. Scientists might be able to stop mosquitoes from spreading malaria, for example, or eradicate an invasive species.

The technology represents the first time in history that humans have the ability to engineer the genes of a wild population. As such, it raises intense ethical and practical concerns, not only from critics but from the very scientists who are working with it.

Messer’s presentation highlighted a potential snag for plans to engineer wild ecosystems: Nature usually finds a way around our meddling. Pathogens evolve antibiotic resistance; insects and weeds evolve to thwart pesticides. Mosquitoes and invasive species reprogrammed with gene drives can be expected to adapt as well, especially if the gene drive is harmful to the organism — it’ll try to survive by breaking the drive.

“In the long run, even with a gene drive, evolution wins in the end,” said Kevin Esvelt, an evolutionary engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

On an evolutionary timescale, nothing we do matters. Except, of course, extinction. Evolution doesn’t come back from that one.”

Gene drives are a young technology, and none have been released into the wild. A handful of laboratory studies show that gene drives work in practice — in fruit flies, mosquitoes and yeast. Most of these experiments have found that the organisms begin to develop evolutionary resistance that should hinder the gene drives. But these proof-of-concept studies follow small populations of organisms. Large populations with more genetic diversity — like the millions of swarms of insects in the wild — pose the most opportunities for resistance to emerge.

It’s impossible — and unethical — to test a gene drive in a vast wild population to sort out the kinks. Once a gene drive has been released, there may be no way to take it back. (Some researchers have suggested the possibility of releasing a second gene drive to shut down a rogue one. But that approach is hypothetical, and even if it worked, the ecological damage done in the meantime would remain unchanged.)

The next best option is to build models to approximate how wild populations might respond to the introduction of a gene drive. Messer and other researchers are doing just that.

 “For us, it was clear that there was this discrepancy — a lot of geneticists have done a great job at trying to build these systems, but they were not concerned that much with what is happening on a population level,” Messer said. Instead, he wants to learn

“what will happen on the population level, if you set these things free and they can evolve for many generations — that’s where resistance comes into play.”

At the meeting at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Messer discussed a computer model his team developed, which they described in a paper posted in June on the scientific preprint site The work is one of three theoretical papers on gene drive resistance submitted to in the last five months — the others are from a researcher at the University of Texas, Austin, and a joint team from Harvard University and MIT. (The authors are all working to publish their research through traditional peer-reviewed journals.) According to Messer, his model suggests “resistance will evolve almost inevitably in standard gene drive systems.”

It’s still unclear where all this interplay between resistance and gene drives will end up. It could be that resistance will render the gene drive impotent. On the one hand, this may mean that releasing the drive was a pointless exercise; on the other hand, some researchers argue, resistance could be an important natural safety feature. Evolution is unpredictable by its very nature, but a handful of biologists are using mathematical models and careful lab experiments to try to understand how this powerful genetic tool will behave when it’s set loose in the wild.

Resistance Isn’t Futile

Gene drives aren’t exclusively a human technology. They occasionally appear in nature. Researchers first thought of harnessing the natural versions of gene drives decades ago, proposing to re-create them with “crude means, like radiation” or chemicals, said Anna Buchman, a postdoctoral researcher in molecular biology at the University of California, Riverside. These genetic oddities, she adds, “could be manipulated to spread genes through a population or suppress a population.”

In 2003, Austin Burt, an evolutionary geneticist at Imperial College London, proposed a more finely tuned approach called a homing endonuclease gene drive, which would zero in on a specific section of DNA and alter it.

Burt mentioned the potential problem of resistance — and suggested some solutions — both in his seminal paper and in subsequent work. But for years, it was difficult to engineer a drive in the lab, because the available technology was cumbersome.

With the advent of genetic engineering, Burt’s idea became reality. In 2012, scientists unveiled CRISPR, a gene-editing tool that has been described as a molecular word processor. It has given scientists the power to alter genetic information in every organism they have tried it on. CRISPR locates a specific bit of genetic code and then breaks both strands of the DNA at that site, allowing genes to be deleted, added or replaced.

CRISPR provides a relatively easy way to release a gene drive. First, researchers insert a CRISPR-powered gene drive into an organism. When the organism mates, its CRISPR-equipped chromosome cleaves the matching chromosome coming from the other parent. The offspring’s genetic machinery then attempts to sew up this cut. When it does, it copies over the relevant section of DNA from the first parent — the section that contains the CRISPR gene drive. In this way, the gene drive duplicates itself so that it ends up on both chromosomes, and this will occur with nearly every one of the original organism’s offspring.

Just three years after CRISPR’s unveiling, scientists at the University of California, San Diego, used CRISPR to insert inheritable gene drives into the DNA of fruit flies, thus building the system Burt had proposed. Now scientists can order the essential biological tools on the internet and build a working gene drive in mere weeks.

 “Anyone with some genetics knowledge and a few hundred dollars can do it,” Messer said.

“That makes it even more important that we really study this technology.”

Although there are many different ways gene drives could work in practice, two approaches have garnered the most attention: replacement and suppression. A replacement gene drive alters a specific trait. For example, an anti-malaria gene drive might change a mosquito’s genome so that the insect no longer had the ability to pick up the malaria parasite. In this situation, the new genes would quickly spread through a wild population so that none of the mosquitoes could carry the parasite, effectively stopping the spread of the disease.

A suppression gene drive would wipe out an entire population. For example, a gene drive that forced all offspring to be male would make reproduction impossible.

But wild populations may resist gene drives in unpredictable ways.

 “We know from past experiences that mosquitoes, especially the malaria mosquitoes, have such peculiar biology and behaviour,” said Flaminia Catteruccia, a molecular entomologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“Those mosquitoes are much more resilient than we make them. And engineering them will prove more difficult than we think.”

In fact, such unpredictability could likely be found in any species.

The three new papers use different models to try to understand this unpredictability, at least at its simplest level.

The Cornell group used a basic mathematical model to map how evolutionary resistance will emerge in a replacement gene drive. It focuses on how DNA heals itself after CRISPR breaks it (the gene drive pushes a CRISPR construct into each new organism, so it can cut, copy and paste itself again). The DNA repairs itself automatically after a break. Exactly how it does so is determined by chance. One option is called nonhomologous end joining, in which the two ends that were broken get stitched back together in a random way. The result is similar to what you would get if you took a sentence, deleted a phrase, and then replaced it with an arbitrary set of words from the dictionary — you might still have a sentence, but it probably wouldn’t make sense. The second option is homology-directed repair, which uses a genetic template to heal the broken DNA. This is like deleting a phrase from a sentence, but then copying a known phrase as a replacement — one that you know will fit the context.

Nonhomologous end joining is a recipe for resistance. Because the CRISPR system is designed to locate a specific stretch of DNA, it won’t recognize a section that has the equivalent of a nonsensical word in the middle. The gene drive won’t get into the DNA, and it won’t get passed on to the next generation. With homology-directed repair, the template could include the gene drive, ensuring that it would carry on.

The Cornell model tested both scenarios.

“What we found was it really is dependent on two things: the nonhomologous end-joining rate and the population size,” said Robert Unckless, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Kansas who co-authored the paper as a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell.

“If you can’t get nonhomologous end joining under control, resistance is inevitable. But resistance could take a while to spread, which means you might be able to achieve whatever goal you want to achieve.”

For example, if the goal is to create a bubble of disease-proof mosquitoes around a city, the gene drive might do its job before resistance sets in.

The team from Harvard and MIT also looked at nonhomologous end joining, but they took it a step further by suggesting a way around it: by designing a gene drive that targets multiple sites in the same gene.

“If any of them cut at their sites, then it’ll be fine — the gene drive will copy,” said Charleston Noble, a doctoral student at Harvard and the first author of the paper.

“You have a lot of chances for it to work.”

z-dna_orbit_animated.gifThe gene drive could also target an essential gene, Noble said — one that the organism can’t afford to lose. The organism may want to kick out the gene drive, but not at the cost of altering a gene that’s essential to life.

The third paper, from the UT Austin team, took a different approach. It looked at how resistance could emerge at the population level through behaviour, rather than within the target sequence of DNA. The target population could simply stop breeding with the engineered individuals, for example, thus stopping the gene drive.

“The math works out that if a population is inbred, at least to some degree, the gene drive isn’t going to work out as well as in a random population,” said James Bull, the author of the paper and an evolutionary biologist at Austin.

“It’s not just sequence evolution. There could be all kinds of things going on here, by which populations block [gene drives],” Bull added.

“I suspect this is the tip of the iceberg.”

Resistance is constrained only by the limits of evolutionary creativity. It could emerge from any spot along the target organism’s genome. And it extends to the surrounding environment as well. For example, if a mosquito is engineered to withstand malaria, the parasite itself may grow resistant and mutate into a newly infectious form, Noble said.

Not a Bug, but a Feature?

If the point of a gene drive is to push a desired trait through a population, then resistance would seem to be a bad thing. If a drive stops working before an entire population of mosquitoes is malaria-proof, for example, then the disease will still spread. But at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory meeting, Messer suggested the opposite:

“Let’s embrace resistance. It could provide a valuable safety control mechanism.”

It’s possible that the drive could move just far enough to stop a disease in a particular region, but then stop before it spread to all of the mosquitoes worldwide, carrying with it an unknowable probability of unforeseen environmental ruin.

Not everyone is convinced that this optimistic view is warranted.

“It’s a false security,” said Ethan Bier, a geneticist at the University of California, San Diego. He said that while such a strategy is important to study, he worries that researchers will be fooled into thinking that forms of resistance offer “more of a buffer and safety net than they do.”

And while mathematical models are helpful, researchers stress that models can’t replace actual experimentation. Ecological systems are just too complicated.

“We have no experience engineering systems that are going to evolve outside of our control. We have never done that before,” Esvelt said.

“So that’s why a lot of these modelling studies are important — they can give us a handle on what might happen. But I’m also hesitant to rely on modeling and trying to predict in advance when systems are so complicated.”

Messer hopes to put his theoretical work into a real-world setting, at least in the lab. He is currently directing a gene drive experiment at Cornell that tracks multiple cages of around 5,000 fruit flies each — more animals than past studies have used to research gene drive resistance. The gene drive is designed to distribute a fluorescent protein through the population. The proteins will glow red under a special light, a visual cue showing how far the drive gets before resistance weeds it out.

Others are also working on resistance experiments: Esvelt and Catteruccia, for example, are working with George Church, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School, to develop a gene drive in mosquitoes that they say will be immune to resistance. They plan to insert multiple drives in the same gene — the strategy suggested by the Harvard/MIT paper.

Such experiments will likely guide the next generation of computer models, to help tailor them more precisely to a large wild population.

“I think it’s been interesting because there is this sort of going back and forth between theory and empirical work,” Unckless said. “We’re still in the early days of it, but hopefully it’ll be worthwhile for both sides, and we’ll make some informed and ethically correct decisions about what to do.”


Related Topics:

Bertrand Russell on the Manipulation of Society*

Eugenics in the United States Today*

Eugenics and the World’s First GM Babies!

Australia’s Eugenics Agenda *

Black Women Targeted with Eugenics Drug*

The Eugenics of HPV Vaccine*

The Genetic Legacy of Stress*

Why Gene Therapy and Designated Genetic Disorders is Tinkering and not Science!

Eugenics: The Genetic Engineering of Ebola in the 1980s*

Rockefellers Funded Eugenics Initiative to Sterilize 15 Million Americans*

Eugenics of the UN, WHO and World Bank in Mexico*

Repackaged Eugenics for Modern Times*

Bishop Badejo: U.S. won’t fight Boko Haram because of their Eugenics Agenda in Africa*

U.S. Experts Call for Ban on Genetic Modification of Children*

The Clinton’s Eugenics Agenda in Haiti*

Eugenics Originated In California, Not Nazi Germany*


Obama Pipeline Plot Twist Is Not a Victory—and Could Erase the Struggle*

Obama Pipeline Plot Twist Is Not a Victory—and Could Erase the Struggle*

By Kelly Hayes

By toasting the illusion of victory, we could undo what we have built at Standing Rock, this unprecedented act of collective resistance. By celebrating too soon, you’re helping to build a pipeline.


All Native struggles in the United States are a struggle against erasure. The poisoning of our land, the theft of our children, the state violence committed against us — we are forced to not only live in opposition to these ills, but also to live in opposition to the fact that they are often erased from public view and public discourse, outside of Indian Country. The truth of our history and our struggle does not match the myth of American exceptionalism, and thus, we are frequently boxed out of the narrative.

The struggle at Standing Rock, North Dakota, has been no exception, with Water Protectors fighting tooth and nail for visibility, ever since the Sacred Stone prayer encampment began on April 1.

For months, major news outlets have ignored what’s become the largest convergence of Native peoples in more than a century. But with growing social media amplification and independent news coverage, the corporate media had finally begun to take notice. National attention was paid. Solidarity protests were announced in cities around the country. The National Guard was activated in North Dakota.

The old chant, “The whole world is watching!” seemed on the verge of accuracy in Standing Rock.

And then came today’s ruling, with a federal judge finding against the Standing Rock Sioux, and declaring that construction of the pipeline could legally continue. It was the ruling I expected, but it still stung. I felt the sadness, anger and disappointment that rattled many of us as we received the news. But then something happened. Headlines like, “Obama administration orders ND pipeline construction to stop” and “The Obama Administration Steps Into Block the Dakota Access Pipeline” began to fill my newsfeed, with comments like, “Thank God for Obama!” attached to them.

Clearly, a major plot twist has occurred. But it’s not the one that’s being sold.

To understand that this isn’t the victory it’s being billed as, you have to read the fine print in the presently lauded joint statement from the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior:

“The Army will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws.”

Note what’s actually being said here, what’s being promised and what isn’t.

What is actually being guaranteed?

Further consideration.

But this next section is a little more promising, right?

“Therefore, construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe will not go forward at this time.  The Army will move expeditiously to make this determination, as everyone involved—including the pipeline company and its workers—deserves a clear and timely resolution.  In the interim, we request that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahu.”

So things are on hold at Lake Oahe until the powers that be think it through some more—with no assurances about how they’ll feel when it’s all said and done. The rest is a voluntary ask being extended to the company.

Let’s reflect on that for a moment: A company that recently sicced dogs on Water Protectors, including families, who stepped onto a sacred site to prevent its destruction, is being asked to voluntarily do the right thing.

But the thing is, they probably will. For a moment. Because what’s being asked of them isn’t an actual reroute. Right now, all that’s being asked is that they play their part in a short-term political performance aimed at letting the air out of a movement’s tires.

Presidential contender Hillary Clinton was beginning to take a bit of heat for her silence on the Standing Rock struggle. Between Jill Stein’s participation in a lockdown action, broadening social media support for the cause, and the beginnings of substantial media coverage, #NoDAPL was on the verge of being a real thorn in Clinton’s side. And with more than 3,000 Natives gathered in an unprecedented act of collective resistance, an unpredictable and possibly transformational force was menacing a whole lot of powerful agendas.

So what did the federal government do? Probably the smartest thing it could have: It gave us the illusion of victory.

As someone who organizes against state violence, I know the patterns of pacification in times of unrest all too well. When a Black or Brown person is murdered by the police, typically without consequence, and public outrage ensues, one of the pacifications we are offered is that the Department of Justice (DOJ) will investigate the shooting. It’s a de-escalation tactic on the part of the state. It helps transition away from moments when rage and despair collide, creating a cooling off period for the public. “Justice” is still possible, we are told. We are asked to be patient as this very serious matter is investigated at the highest level of government, and given all due consideration.

The reality, of course, is that the vast majority of investigations taken up by the DOJ Civil Rights Division end in dismissal – a batting average that’s pretty much inverse to that of other federal investigations. But by the time a case gets tossed at the federal level, it’s probably not front page news anymore, and any accumulated organizing momentum behind the issue may have been lost — because too many people, the mere announcement of a federal investigation means that the system is working. Someone is looking into this, they’re assured. Something is being done. Important people have expressed that they care, and thus there is hope.

So how is this similar to what’s happening with Standing Rock?

It’s the same old con game.

Federal authorities are going to give a very serious matter very serious consideration, and then… we’ll see.

The formula couldn’t be clearer.

As the joint statement says,

 “This case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects.”


How many times have marginalized people been offered further discussion when what they needed was substantive action? And how often has the mere promise of conversation born fruit for those in a state of protest?

But this is a great moment for the Democrats. A political landmine has been swept out of Hillary Clinton’s path, and Obama will be celebrated as having “stopped a pipeline” when the project has, at best, been paused. After all, an actual pause in construction, outside of the Lake Oahe area, assumes the cooperation of a relentless, violent corporation, that has already proven it’s wiling to let dogs loose on children to keep its project on track.

But Dakota Access, LLC probably will turn off its machines — for a (very) little while. They’ll wait for the media traction that’s been gained to dissipate, and for the #NoDAPL hashtag to get quieter. They’ll wait until the political moment is less fraught, and their opposition is less amped. And then they will get back to work — if we allow it.

Here’s the real story: This fight has neither been won nor lost. Our people are rising and they are strong. But the illusion of victory is a dangerous thing. Some embrace it because they don’t know better, some because they need to. We all want happy endings. Hell, I long for them, and I get tired waiting. But if you raise a glass to Obama and declare this battle won, you are erasing a battle that isn’t over yet. And by erasing an ongoing struggle, you’re helping to build a pipeline.


Arrest Warrant Issued for Journalist Amy Goodman After Covering Dakota Access Pipeline Protests

Related Topics:

An Important Message From Chief Arvol Looking Horse*

Palestinians back Standing Rock Sioux in “struggle for all humanity”*

Federal Government Halts Construction of Pipeline Project*

North Dakota Governor Activates National Guard against Biggest Tribal Protest Since Little Big Horn*

G4S Guards Dakota Pipeline as Protesters Get Attacked*

Drones That Shoot Tasers Are Now Legal for Police Use in North Dakota*

Eugenics: Kidnapping of the Indigenous Sioux in South Dakota*

Obama Changes Mountain’s Name to Its’ Indigenous Name, but Continues to Steal Indigenous Land*

The Illuminati’s 2016 Summer Of Chaos! Race War, Martial Law, Obama 3rd Term?

Kenya overturns Hijab Ban*

Kenya overturns Hijab Ban*

By Magdalene Mukami

A Kenyan court on Thursday overturned a ban on students wearing headscarves, saying they should be able to wear religious attire. The ban had been imposed by Justice Harun Makau of the High Court in March 2015.

“Kenya’s education minister should facilitate urgent consultations and formulate appropriate regulations for the better protection of the fundamental right to freedom of religion and belief and freedom from discrimination under Article 27 of the Constitution for all students in Kenya’s educational system,” said the ruling by a three-judge panel.

The panel, led by Justice Phillip Waki of the Court of Appeal of Kenya, rejected the argument that headscarves should not be allowed as they are not part of the official school uniform.

The judges also called on schools not to discriminate against students who wear headscarves and to embrace the fact that Kenya is a country of diverse religious faiths.

The ruling comes as a reprieve for many female Muslim students in Kenya, who had been forced to abandon headscarves after the law was passed, especially those studying at Christian-sponsored schools.

Hammad Mohammed Kassim, Kenya’s chief kadhi (Muslim official), had previously argued before a court that wearing headscarves is a religious obligation for women.


Related Topics:

Ramadhan in Kenya*

Kenyan Leaders to Obama: Don’t Lecture us on Gay ‘Marriage’*

Kenya: The Right to Question Those Who Represent You!

As France Lifts Municipal Burkini Ban, Let’s Ask Why We Should Care What Other People Wear*

Why a Christian Woman is Wearing Hijab For Lent*

The aql is not Reason – it’s Consciousness*


A Way of Life in the Mountain Meadows of Kyrgyzstan*

A Way of Life in the Mountain Meadows of Kyrgyzstan*

 By Elita Bakirova, Erlan Bakirov

Horseman overlooking mountain scenery in Kyrgyzstan. All photos by Elita Bakirova or Erlan Bakirov


Kyrgyzstan marked this week the end of its much-heralded World Nomad Games by topping the medal table in its very own equivalent of the Olympics and hosting Hollywood hard man Steven Seagal splendidly attired in nomadic warrior garb.

But flashy international sporting tournaments aren’t the only way that people in the Central Asian country of six million people recall their heritage.

Although very few Kyrgyz in Kyrgyzstan lead a nomadic lifestyle year-round, nomadism is alive and well in the summer where the country’s summer pastures play host to felt dwellings, magnificent horses and thousands of families that abandon their homes in the valleys below for the majesty of the countryside.

By Elita Bakirova or Erlan Bakirov


The jailoo is an integral part of the Kyrgyz experience, and to spend time on these elevated plateaus is to breathe the culture and history of the non-sedentary Turkic peoples.

The sharp mountain air, the perfect clarity of the spring water that flows in the glacial streams and the snow-capped mountains in the near distance mean home for many of the country’s citizens.

In total, some 3.9 million hectares of territory in the Kyrgyz Republic is occupied by officially recognised summer pastures.

By Elita Bakirova or Erlan Bakirov

Once on the jailoo, traffic jams, high-speed internet and other trappings of the country’s urban life disperse into an ocean of green grass, punctuated by the occasional mountain lake and circles of smoking yurts.

The city routine is gone, and while the gradual growth of alternative energy in Kyrgyzstan means most tourist yurts feature a lightbulb, that may be all they feature. So long to the so-called digital age!

The bucket of life-affirming kymyz comes out. All photos by Elita Bakirova or Erlan Bakirov


While jailoo life is unhurried it is also full of strenuous tasks. At sunrise women milk cows, while men might tend to packs of horses grazing further up the mountains.

From the milk, women produce various dairy products including kurut (salty milk product made from cow’s milk), kaymak (clotted cream), and boorsok (traditional doughnuts). The latter go wonderfully well with a dollop of kaymak when hot.

Assuming a special cultural significance, however, is kymyz, an explosively tangy fermented dairy drink reputed for its health benefits and ever-so-low alcohol content.

Kaymak, or clotted cream, is good with almost anything. All photos by Elita Bakirova or Erlan Bakirov


Specifically kymyz is said to fortify the immune system and ward off any number of fatal diseases, which explains the existence of kymyz “treatment centres” in different parts of the country. Peak consumption of the drink coincides with peak jailoo season, from around May until late July.

Jailoo folk are invariably kymyz masters, and different jailoos even compete to make a better brew. The country’s highly diverse flora — differing from meadow to meadow — is just one factor said to impact the taste of the drink.

More fermented goodness. All photos by Elita Bakirova or Erlan Bakirov


Jailoo men, in their spare time, entertain themselves by playing the Kyrgyz national game ulak tartysh, or Kok-Boru to avoid everyday problems such as unemployment, which is widespread.

Ulak is considered quite a dangerous game, wherein anything from 24 to over a hundred men on horseback compete for possession of a goat carcass that can weigh up to 45 kilograms. This game, known as Buzkashi in Afghanistan, is one of the more brutal sides to life on the pastures.

Horsemen rally to play Ulak Tartysh, or Kok-Boru. All photos by Elita Bakirova or Erlan Bakirov.


Partly on the back of jailoo stays promoted by the massively popular Community Based Tourism initiative, Kyrgyzstan has one of the world’s fastest-growing tourism sectors. For tourists from the West or the surrounding former Soviet region, taking on for a few days at a time the life of a simple shepherd untroubled by Whatsapp is both exotic and enriching.

And then, after the sun sets on the happy jailoo and night appears like a vast, black velvet blanket studded with a billion bright stars, so too does the idea that the Kyrgyz people don’t just own their land beneath their feet, they own the sky above it, too.

The yurt, a home for the summer. All photos by Elita Bakirova or Erlan Bakirov

The yurt, a home for the summer. All photos by Elita Bakirova or Erlan Bakirov



Related Topics:

An Important Message From Chief Arvol Looking Horse*

That Driving Passion

Reliving the Art of Communication

Gonzalo Rojas: To Live a Dream

Creating Art Out of Life

Fire in the Heart

To Stand With Pride and Compassion

Time – Out of The Crazy Pace of Modern Life

Modern Lifestyles, Thought and the Nature of Alzheimer

The Right to Life and Mother Earth

The Guarani: Reclaiming One’s Conditions of Life

Colombia: Manifesto for the Land and Peace

The Land of Truth


M5.9 Earthquake Hits Tanzania*

M5.9 Earthquake Hits Tanzania*   A strong and shallow earthquake registered by the USGS as Mww5.9 hit near Lake Victoria, Tanzania, Africa at 12:27 UTC on September 10, 2016. The agency is reporting a depth of 40 km (24.8 miles). The quake caused serious damage to property, killed at least 15 people and injured more than 200. According to the USGS, the epicenter was located 22.3 km (13.9 miles) NE of Nsunga (population 20 049), 29.1 km (18.1 miles) NNE of Kyaka (population 13 810), 41.4 km (25.7 miles) N of Katoro (population 11 926), 42.6 km (27.1 miles) NW of Bukoba (population 70 628), and 45.2 km (28.1 miles) NNW of Katerero (population 18 430), Tanzania. There are about 3 494 786 people living within 100 km (62 miles). An expert from the Geological Survey of Tanzania, Mr. Gabriel Mbogoni, said it was one of the most intensive earthquakes ever experienced in the country. The quake was felt as far away as western Kenya and parts of Uganda, which share the waters of Lake Victoria. Tremors were also felt in Kigali, Rwanda. Most of the casualties were in the town of Bukoba who lived in brick structures. USGS issued a green alert for shaking-related fatalities and economic losses. Overall, the population in this region resides in structures that are vulnerable to earthquake shaking, though some resistant structures exist. Recent earthquakes in this area have caused secondary hazards such as landslides that might have contributed to losses. Estimated population exposure to earthquake shaking Historical earthquakes have been recorded in the region within 150 km (93 miles) of the epicenter, however, only a few damaging events have occurred in the last 117 years according to CATDAT. In March 1945, 5 people were killed in the Masabe earthquake, just north of where this one occurred. Similarly, in 1947 and on May 4, 1960 shocks have caused damage in the area. June 30, 1952 (M6) and 1994 (M4.5) had shocks closer to Bukoba. The catalogs show that there has been very few earthquakes in this region in general (within 100 km / 62 miles), with other parts of Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi usually affected by earthquakes. Source* Mt. Ol Doinyo Lengai, Tanzania Mt. Ol Doinyo Lengai is a sacred place. Pronounced ol doyn-yo len-guy, meaning ‘Mountain of God’ in the Masai language, it has long been a place of pilgrimage for Tanzania’s pastoralists, who pray for the most important things in their world: rain, cattle, and healthy children.   Related Topics: Rare ‘ring of fire’ Solar Eclipse puts on Spectacular Show over Africa* Italy, the Philippines and Oklahoma get an Earthquake* Pope Francis and the CERN – Earth Grid Ley Line*


US, Russia Agree to Syria Cease-Fire Followed by Joint Airstrikes*

US, Russia Agree to Syria Cease-Fire Followed by Joint Airstrikes*

After Syria, Russia, Iran and Lebanon have done most of the work, iIs this another U.S. ploy, or are they trying to save face?

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meet in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss the crisis in Syria. | Photo: Reuters


The Russian foreign minister said the deal was supported by the Syrian government.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced Friday a week-long ceasefire in Syria beginning Sept. 12, to be followed by joint airstrikes with Russia against Islamic State group and Nusra Front fighters.

The deal, which has been in the making for weeks, ostensibly entails the Syrian government stopping indiscriminate bombing and limiting its airstrikes to areas agreed upon by the U.S. and Russia. Kerry said that Russia managed to convince Syrian President Bashar Assad to all of the conditions of the deal, for which the Syrian government has previously expressed support.

After the “cessation of hostilities,” which will begin on the Muslim holiday Eid on Monday, the U.S. and Russia will cooperate in a Joint Intelligence Group to go after the Nusra Front, which recently claimed to have broken from al-Qaida, renaming itself Jabhat Fateh al-Sham in a last-ditch effort to stave off joint U.S.-Russian airstrikes.

“We must go after these terrorists,” said Kerry. “Not indiscriminately, but in a strategic, precise and judicious manner.”

“Going after Nusra is not a concession to anybody,” said Kerry.

“It is profoundly in the interests of the United States.”

Indeed, the U.S. began bombing Syria in September 2014 explicitly due to the presence of Nusra, which it claimed was planning attacks against the West.

Both parties will provide humanitarian aid with improved access to all besieged areas during the cease-fire. A plan on moving toward a political solution will be announced later, Kerry said.

Hours after the deal was announced, fighting raged between the Syrian army and rebels in the south of Aleppo, as both tried to gain an advantaged before the cease-fire begins. A number or air raids were reported to have taken place on early Saturday, with at least two people killed and 20 people who were killed in a market attack in Idlib, according to the Middle East Eye.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that despite continuing mistrust, the two sides had developed five documents that would enable coordination of the fight against terrorism and a revival of Syria’s failed truce in an enhanced form.

Lavrov also emphasized that the Syrian Air Force will still be able to conduct raids in certain agreed-upon areas.

Rebels groups however were sceptical that the cease-fire would contain violence. Syria’s Free Syrian Army, or FSA, rebels said that Russia and the Syrian army had only continued their bombing during earlier truce periods.

The Nour al-Din al Zinki Brigades said they believed that the cease-fire would give the Syrian army time to gather its forces and provide reinforcements to large battles in Aleppo.

Unless rebel groups that currently cooperate with Nusra militants immediately end that cooperation, they will become legitimate targets in the eyes of the U.S.

Both parties will provide humanitarian aid with improved access to all besieged areas during the cease-fire. A plan on moving toward a political solution will be announced later, Kerry said.


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