Lesson 20: JSOC-talk; When Less Is More: “For God and country: Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo.”
The military tends to talk in signs and numbers—and, perhaps most famously, in code. The use of abbreviations and alphabetical systems is efficient. In this week’s New Yorker, we learn a little bit more not only about what happened in the last hours of the bin Laden raid, but also about how the soldiers who carried it out talked amongst themselves, and communicated back to those at home. The language is riveting because the story is riveting. Yet we can learn from its lyrical economy.
Historically, military-speak has been mocked; Joseph Heller’s novel spawned a genre. But that was another time. Do we see something different when we look at how soldiers speak today? Can we learn how to describe events in our own lives without always calling on dramatic language, and emoticons?
Nicholas Schmidle writes:
A second SEAL stepped into the room and trained the infrared laser of his M4 on bin Laden’s chest. The Al Qaeda chief, who was wearing a tan shalwar kameez and a prayer cap on his head, froze; he was unarmed. “There was never any question of detaining or capturing him—it wasn’t a split-second decision. No one wanted detainees,” the special-operations officer told me. (The Administration maintains that had bin Laden immediately surrendered he could have been taken alive.) Nine years, seven months, and twenty days after September 11th, an American was a trigger pull from ending bin Laden’s life. The first round, a 5.56-mm. bullet, struck bin Laden in the chest. As he fell backward, the SEAL fired a second round into his head, just above his left eye. On his radio, he reported, “For God and country—Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo.” After a pause, he added, “Geronimo E.K.I.A.”—“enemy killed in action.”
The contrast between the drama of the action and the choice of words to describe it lends the former breadth. (Although “For God and country” at once respects cliché and explodes it) The literary equivalent of “less is more,” the communications—those of which we are aware—hew powerfully to form.
The SEALs that went into Abottabad that moonless May night have historical predecessors: the UDT teams that secured the beaches at Normandy. Those swimmers knew their goal, too. And talking up action ex post facto was culturally verboten then, too. Unlike a memoirist detailing trips abroad to find meaning, questions posed by soldiers who have eaten, prayed, and fought are usually posed to an audience of one. “[He] wore a noise-cancelling headset, which blocked out nearly everything besides his heartbeat,” Schmidle writes of a Team member on the helicopter lifting off from Jalalabad. This image is a finer symbol for service than one of a gun.
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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.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
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