National Geographic March 2016, Part 2

This post should launch on the day when I’ve been telling my friends and co-workers that I’m going to be eaten by a grizzly bear. Alex and I will be on our first day of two in Yellowstone on Friday, July 15 (Leap Year is so weird; last year, Friday was July 17 so the corresponding Friday this year should be the 16th, but because of Leap Year, it becomes the 15th). We fully intend to leave the path and go at least 100 yards into the backcountry. The official statistics say that something like 5% go farther than 100 yards from a paved path. So, since I like to live on the edge, I fully intend to go at least 101 yards from a paved path.

However, I’m not an idiot. At least, I hope I’m not. We’ll have fruit and water and probably something salty (because passing out from hyponatremia’s not my idea of a good time) with us and I fully intend to tell the park rangers that we’re relative newbies and ask where is a prudent place to experiment with the backcountry.  I won’t have a keyboard with me, so I won’t be writing any new posts until I get back. You’ll know on or around July 21 where we ended up going.

Now, on to the issue:

The Other Iraq, by Neil Shea, photographs by Yuri Kozryev

In 1970, Iraqi Kurdistan achieved an autonomous status within Iraq. Iraqi Kurds had their own capital, Hewler/Erbil (depending on if the language is Kurdish or Arabic), their own President and Prime Minister (I’m not entirely sure how that works in practice), even their own army (the Peshmerga).

Since the deposition of Saddam Hussein in 2003, Iraqi Kurdistan has had a sort of Renaissance. The Kurds sold the oil under their land and used the money to build universities, to establish a health care system, and to upgrade their cities with malls and skyscrapers.

In The Other Iraq, Shea follows two Iraqi men, Kurdish Botan Sharbarzheri, who dropped out of school to join the Peshmerga, and Arabic Sami Hussein, who joined ISIS. Through the tales of these men, we see how Iraqi Kurdistan has suffered from the forces of ISIS.

By Shea’s final visit to Iraqi Kurdistan, Sharbarzheri has returned to school to study international relations and Hussein has most likely been executed. The of Iraqi Kurdistan is a shadow of its former self, with much of its population gone to join family in other parts of the world or just become straight-out refugees.

Tsunami Memories, by Jeremy Berlin, photographs by Alejandro Chaskielberg

Tsunami Memories discusses Chaskielberg’s photographs of the people of Otsuchi, Japan, a town that was destroyed by the 2011 tsunami. Inspired by faded photographs that Chaskielberg saw in a waterlogged photo album, Chaskielberg took black-and-white photographs of the residents of Otsuchi in the places where they lived, worked, or played.  He took his photos at night with a long exposure so that the images turn out slightly blurred and then added colors on his computer using a palette based on the colors in the damaged photo album.

National Geographic July 2013, Part 2

Last Song, by Jonathan Franzen, photographs by David Guttenfelder

Last Song is about songbird hunting and/or poaching in countries near the Mediterranean (primarily Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Egypt, Croatia, Iraq, Jordan, Kosovo, Morocco, Romania, Spain, and Syria). One of the nice things about this article is that Franzen is against this poaching and he isn’t afraid to admit that he’s emotionally affected by the things he sees in the article.

Albania might be of the worst countries for hunting of songbirds.  At one point, Franzen says that almost none of the songbirds that enter the country ever leave it.  I did a little digging and the government of Albania finally did something about it in 2014, when they forbade all hunting in the country.  It was a pilot program that was supposed to last two years, but in February of 2016, it was extended for another five. While this has lessened the hunting somewhat, it has, obviously, only increased the level of poaching and Albania doesn’t have the resources to really crack down on poaching. Of course, what this means is that eventually only songbirds whose ancestors took migratory routes around Albania will survive to reproduce, and eventually Albania will lose all of its songbirds.

6/13/2016 Note: We went on a road trip yesterday and I finished reading July, 2013 and February, 2016.  I didn’t finish this post last night because I was exhausted when I got back.  I will, however, be able to knock out those three posts pretty quickly once I have some time to sit down and write (some of which will be after I finish today’s road trip). Now on to get started reading June 2013 . . .

The Case of the Missing Ancestor, by Jamie Shreeve, photographs by Robert Clark

In the 18th Century, a hermit named Denis supposedly lived in a cave in Siberia. Around three hundred years later, a piece of a pinkie bone was found in that cave, known as “Denisova.” When the scientists examined the DNA of that bone, they found that the owner of the bone, a girl estimated to have been around eight years old, had been of a species distinct from, but related to, modern humans.  They now call her people the Denisovans.

The Case of the Missing Ancestor goes into the discovery of the phalanx along with the discovery of two Denisovan molars, a Neanderthal toe bone, and part of a stone bracelet that, at press time was deemed probably too recent to have been made by a Denisovan or a Neanderthal, but may actually have been made by a Denisovan after all.

Speaking of things that have changed since press time, Shreeve says that the only living descendants of the Denisovans live in Oceania, including on the Aborigines of Australia and the Melanesians of Papua New Guinea. DNA studies done later indicate that there are also descendants of the Denisovans living in Tibet, including the Sherpa.