On “Hope”: Khodorkovsky’s Letter From Jail
It is Kafka-esque, the Letter from Krasnokamensk Jail, circa 2010: The New York Times has run the Russian oligarch’s statement, the statement he delivered in front of his judge, and in front of the Times’s Joe Nocera, yesterday. It is bone chilling. It has precedence. The man who has spent time considering not only his own fate but that of a nation while sitting in jail alleged to have done one thing or another: this has precedence. It is not necessary to compare Khodorkovsky, or his letter, to other human and civil rights leaders; in fact, to do so would be incorrect. Khodorkovsky is not a peacemaker; he is a businessman. But the historical and literary parallels his letter draws on are compelling.
It is not the color of his skin. It is not the religion he practices. In Khodorkovsky’s case, the crime is that a man has been put in jail for having been an entrepreneur; a man with an idea. In his letter he condemns a mind-set, one he feels keeps his country behind in the world. Is it valid? Here is an excerpt from his statement/letter; it falls a few paragraphs after the line, “I want to talk to you about hope. Hope—the most important thing in life.”
I will not be exaggerating if I say that millions of eyes throughout Russia and the world are watching this trial. They are watching with the hope that Russia will still become a country of freedom and law, where the law is above the bureaucrat. Where supporting opposition parties is not a cause for reprisals. Where special services protect the people and the law, and not the bureaucracy from the people and the law. Where human rights no longer depend on the mood of the czar, good or evil. Where, on the contrary, power truly depends on the citizens and the court, only on law and God. Call this conscience, if you prefer.
I believe this will be. I am not a perfect person, but I am a person with an idea. For me, as for anybody, it is hard to live in jail, and I do not want to die there. But if I have to, I will. The things I believe in are worth dying for. I think I have proved this.
And you, my opponents? What do you believe in? That the bosses are always right? Do you believe in money? In the impunity of “the system”
Khodorkovsky claims what was done to him is a symbol, one that will go down in history as something actively suppressing the “hope” of the Russian people. The best line of all was his last, one that could have come as easily from Ibsen as from Kafka, and which both writers would have appreciated. With only the subtlest hint of threat, the prisoner confronted his Judge:
Your Honor, I can imagine perfectly well that this must not be very easy at all for you, perhaps even frightening, and I wish you courage!
According to The Moscow Times, they were crying in the courtroom. The verdict will be delivered on December 15th.
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If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
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