The Marib Narratives
Gregory Johnsen, a former Fulbright Fellow in Yemen, is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. Johnsen has written for a variety of publications on Yemen including, among others, Foreign Policy, The American Interest, The Independent, The Boston Globe, and The National. He is the co-founder of Waq al-Waq: Islam and Insurgency in Yemen Blog. In 2009, he was a member of the USAID's conflict assessment team for Yemen.
There are now three conflicting narratives about what exactly happened in Marib last week in the fighting between al-Qaeda and the Yemeni government. There is a media narrative, a government narrative and now al-Qaeda has weighed in with its own version of the events.
First, the media narrative claims that three soldiers were killed - in this version they are from the 101st division and at least seven were wounded.
The government has denied this, claiming that one soldier was killed and three wounded.
Al-Qaeda has just put out its own narrative of events claiming that it killed a number of soldiers - in this version they are from the National Security Bureau, which is headed by President Salih's nephew, 'Amar Muhammad Salih - including one officer and took seven prisoner. (Waq al-waq has a policy of not linking directly to al-Qaeda statements, but one can read a summary in Arabic at News Yemen here.) Al-Qaeda also denies claims that one of its members, 'Aydh al-Shabwani was killed or even that any were killed. Al-Qaeda also claims that it shelled the place where 'Amar was staying although there has not been independent confirmation that 'Amar was even in Marib or that the NSB was involved in the fighting.
Parsing these statements it is not clear who initiated the fight. Al-Qaeda claims that the government did while the government claims that al-Qaeda attacked a truck - at this point it is probably impossible to know. Al-Qaeda's statement makes it clear that the group believes it was attacked following visits to Yemen by an American general - I'm assuming they must mean David Petraeus - and Muhammad bin Nayif the Saudi Deputy Interior Minister.
The al-Ghad piece by Muhammad al-Ahmadi, which I linked to above, mentions two other names of al-Qaeda suspects besides al-Shabwani: Ali Said Jamil and Nasir bin Doha - for those eagle-eyed readers, or really for those following Yemen and al-Qaeda affairs for the past few years this last name should ring a bell. Given the name and the area this is almost certainly a relative of one of the individuals that Yemen killed in August 2007.
Also of note is the fact that in this most recent statement al-Qaeda makes a plea for the loyalty of the soldiers, asking them to switch sides and combat the war on terror, which it says is really a war on Islam. It also warns them to stay out of Marib and the 'Abidah tribal areas.
There was a quick turnaround with this statement, but that begs the question as to where is the latest issue of Sada al-Malahim, which was due to be released this past week.
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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.
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