When a massive earthquake rattled Soviet Armenia in 1988, entire towns imploded, killing an estimated 25,000 people. Survivors' stories are well known in Armenia, but now it seems that their genes also have a story to tell. A University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) study of the DNA of 200 Armenian earthquake survivors has revealed a connection between gene types and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), The Los Angeles Times reports.
People with two gene variants (TPH1 and TPH2) which affect production of the “happiness hormone” serotonin tend to display more severe PSTD symptoms, found ULCA psychiatrist Armen Goenjian, an Armenian-American who headed the research group. Believed to contribute just 3 to 4 percent each to PSTD's intensity, the two variants appear to pack a tiny punch, but identifying their role could lead to more effective treatment for PTSD, the BBC reports.
Goenjian said that further studies are required among a more heterogeneous population to consolidate the findings.
Two big news topics involving Azerbaijan recently have been a report about its alleged military cooperation with Israel against Iran and, of course, the ongoing saga of its preparations for next month's Eurovision in Baku. It didn't take long before the two topics merged.
A senior Azerbaijani government official has announced that Baku will neither help Israel attack Iran, nor will it need Israeli assistance to provide security for the international pop singers who will be in town for the Eurovision Song Contest. In response to media reports that claimed Mossad will be lending a hand at Eurovision, Ali Hasanov, the presidential administration's front-man for matters political, clarified that “Azerbaijan does not need the help of foreign special services, including the special services of Israel."
He went on to repeat denials that Azerbaijan is collaborating with Israel against Iran, saying that "Mossad does not have any secret or special chapter in Azerbaijan . . . "
"All of Azerbaijan's relations with other countries are transparent, and they are not and will not be directed against some other country, especially Iran,” he claimed.
Georgians have long laid claim to being the first winemakers in the world, but could they also be pioneer beekeepers? After a thorough examination of some five-millennia-plus-old jars unearthed in Georgia, archeologists have declared that the artifacts contain the world’s oldest honey.
The honey stains found in the ceramic vessels, found 170 kilometers west of Tbilisi, are believed to be made by bees that buzzed around in Georgia 5,500 years ago -- some 2,000 years older than the honey found in Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamen’s tomb, which had been considered the oldest before, Rustavi2 proudly pointed out.
As in ancient Egypt, in ancient Georgia, honey was apparently packed for people's journeys into the afterlife. And more than one type, too -- along for the trip were linden, berry, and a meadow-flower variety.
The honey vessels, two human teeth and other artifacts were found in the tomb of an apparent female noblewoman, which was discovered in 2003 during the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline.
Armenia has joined the band of Caucasus explorers headed to Singapore in search of a holy grail that supposedly transforms developing economies into developed.
Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan will be in Singapore until March 31 to ease bilateral visa rules and attract investment from the Southeast Asian country, but also to learn how the island state turned from a malarial swamp (as one writer for The Economist put it) into one of the world’s most developed economies.
Sargsyan received a warm welcome. First, an orchid was named after him. Then, his counterpart, Tony Tan Keng Yam, took him out to dinner. The Singaporean leader kindly offered to share the Singaporean recipe for economic success, which, members of Sargsyan's Republican Party of Armenia hope, after being mixed with a few local ingredients, can help fast-track the Caucasus country into the developed world.
Tan also remembered the good old 1810s, when the British established a free trade port in Singapore, which attracted many traders from all over the world, including Armenian merchants. “Armenians were among the first traders to arrive,” Tan reassured Sargsyan.
Culinary connoisseurs around the world, have we got news for you. A brandy-like drink will soon cascade from a fountain in the city of Batumi, Georgia's up-and-coming party town on the Black Sea coast.
And we are not talking about just any kind of booze here. No less than Georgia's national hard liquor chacha -- sometimes defined as grape brandy or grappa, sometimes as grape vodka, but always no less than chacha -- will gush once a week from a tower in the central part of town. "Once a week, for 10 to 15 minutes, chacha will flow from this fountain instead of water. Tourists will have an opportunity to taste the traditional drink," Mayor of Batumi Robert Chkhaidze told Georgian television.
Georgia has been going out of its way to attract tourists and Batumi, its star tourist project, now offers wonderfully tacky attractions ranging from wedding-cake buildings to Dubai-style glass towers and an upcoming aerial tramway.
The price tag for this latest addition -- described, with a straight face, as "Georgia's first chacha tower" -- has not been released, but the city government hopes that the fountain will attract an ever larger crowd of visitors.
To paraphrase Jean-Paul Sartre, politicians, like all dreamers, sometimes seem to confuse disenchantment and truth. This time round, it's the turn of billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, dreamer-in-chief of the opposition Georgian Dream movement, who refuses to accept a reported truth -- at least, in the form of an opinion poll -- which portrays him as number two on Georgians’ list of favorite politicians.
The oligarch-turned-politician says that there must be something wrong with a recent opinion poll by the National Democratic Institute, the American non-governmental organization, which apparently does not put him in first place in terms of popular support, but rather behind President Mikheil Saakashvili and his ruling United National Movement Party (UNM).
Leaked ratings of political parties, part of a broader public opinion survey, reportedly show that if Georgians were to vote for a president tomorrow, 28 percent would support a UNM candidate and 12 percent would cast their votes for Ivanishvili, Interpressnews reported on March 27. Similarly, 47 percent said they would support the UNM over the Georgian Dream in this October's parliamentary election, Civil.ge reported. NDI has not responded to the reports.
Few people may think that Eurovision, an unbridled celebration of European pop music, is all about family values. But when the glitzy annual music contest due arrives in Baku this May, the Caucasus tradition of looking out for one's relatives quite literally will take center stage. Emin Agalarov, the 32-year-old son-in-law of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, has been recruited to entertain the Eurovision audience before or between the contestants' acts.
Not to belittle the talent of a First Son-in-Law (married to Aliyev's older daughter, Leyla), but, to many, this looks almost like a classic move for a country renowned for liking to keep things in the family; the Aliyev family, that is.
The Eurovision organizing committee is headed by Agalarov's mother-in-law, First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva.
Agalarov, who sings in English and was raised partly in New Jersey, said he is humbled by the honor bestowed on him and hopes that Eurovision will be “an incredible showcase” for Azerbaijan that will prompt outsiders to Google the country's name and drop by for a visit.
European pop beats will hit Azerbaijan soon, but, before that, looks like the police are doing the hitting. Just like almost anything from Azerbaijan these days, the recent beatings and arrests of protesting youth rappers are being weighed against the Eurovision Song Contest, an annual pop-music romp to be hosted by Baku in May .
Singer Jamal Ali and brass player Natiq Kalmilov, both 24, were reportedly brutally beaten and then arrested after they hurled verbal abuse against Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev at a sanctioned March 17 protest rally in Baku. The event’s organizer, 25-year-old Etibar Salmanli, was also detained. Their lawyer and relatives are worried that the three continue to suffer abuse in police custody.
In a statement, human-rights watchdog Amnesty International*, a frequent Azerbaijan critic, condemned the reported police violence against the anti-government rappers. “It is deeply ironic that only two months before Baku takes the world stage for Eurovision, Azerbaijani authorities are using force to break up and silence musicians performing at peaceful protests on the city’s streets,” said Europe and Central Asia Director John Dulhuisen.
Amnesty urged the government “to give a greater voice to all its citizens in the run-up to the Eurovision Song Contest.”
There appears to be ample cause. Last week, Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova, who works for both RFE/RL and EurasiaNet.org, became a target of an ugly smear campaign while investigating a Eurovision story, and thinks that the government could have a hand in it. Earlier on, two youth activists were beaten by police. The two, just as the rappers, were charged with hooliganism.
Eight hundred million rubles -- part of the aid dished out by Moscow for post-war rehabilitation -- simply has disappeared, South Ossetia’s de-facto state auditors said last week. The who, where, when, why and how remain unknown. While eyes popped in Russia, South Ossetia’s de-facto official news agency reported the epic steal as casually as if a ballpoint pen had gone missing.
Whether a culprit will ever be found for Russia's missing millions, however, remains anybody's guess.
Gennady Ryabchenko, the de-facto official tasked to audit the breakaway territory's public finances, charged that prosecutors failed to act on reports of embezzlement. The de-facto Security Council requested the region’s tiny 34-seat parliament to probe into what's been going on exactly in the prosecutor's office.
Widespread and reportedly roughshod questioning of Georgian billionaire opposition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili's supporters by state audit agency employees has sparked concerns by US Ambassador John Bass and human rights group Amnesty International that Georgia, already limbering up for its October parliamentary elections, is crossing the line between enforcement of campaign finance regulations and political intimidation.
Bass, an influential figure in staunchly pro-American Georgia, weighed in via Facebook late last week with a comment that the Chamber of Control’s recent activities do not “increase public confidence in this institution or in a competitive campaign environment.”
In a March 16 press release, Amnesty International* took a tougher stance, saying that “selective examination of only opposition of only opposition members party members and presumed supporters, the manner in which many examinations took place, the nature of many questions being asked and sheer number of those called in for questioning suggests that the operation is politically motivated and aimed at intimidating current and potential opposition party sympathizers.”
Georgia's ruling United National Movement on March 19 agreed to revisions in campaign-finance laws, Civil.ge reported , but details are not yet available.