Jan 10, 2018

The last days of Kazakh cowboys

"Audaryspak" in Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan. (Photo: Stanislav Filippov /  AFP / Getty)

One of the planet's vanishing jobs is wrangling — herding cows and sheep while athwart a horse. In the U.S., cowboys are mostly for show. But in Central Asia, where horses are thought to have originally been domesticated, the job is in its last throes, too, writes the NYT's Andy Higgins.

Quick take: After the 1991 Soviet collapse, the Kazakh government sent local cowboys to North Dakota for training, and had some 5,000 head of breeding cattle flown from Canadian ranches to Kazakhstan. With that as a base, Kazakhstan signed a memorandum of understanding in November under which it would raise and ship up to 240,000 cattle to China.

  • But while this is superb for industrial-size ranches, it hasn't meant a new day for cowboys, Higgins writes. One reason is that neither parents nor their kids want the next generation to carry on such a hard life.

The background: Before Russian colonization starting in the 1860s, the Kazakhs and Kyrgyz were largely nomads, herding sheep, camels and cattle, and living in yurts amid vast stretches of steppe and the soaring Tien Shen mountains. The Russians and then the Soviets forcibly settled them.

  • The best account I've read of the final period of nomadism is in Alone in the Forbidden Land, by Gustav Krist. He spent a winter in the 1920s with a group of free Kyrgyz horsemen before they slipped over the border into China ahead of the Red Army.
  • My wife, who is Kazakh, grew up settled in the former capital of Almaty. She recalls as a 4-year-old visiting a cousin who was a shepherd and climbing on the back of a sheep. "I was bored," she said. "They were kind to me."

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Coronavirus dashboard

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  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 11:30 p.m. ET: 1,347,803 — Total deaths: 74,807 — Total recoveries: 277,402Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 11:30 p.m. ET: 368,196 — Total deaths: 10,986 — Total recoveries: 19,828Map.
  3. Trump administration latest: President Trump's economic adviser Peter Navarro warned White House colleagues in late January the coronavirus could take over half a million American lives and cost close to $6 trillion, memos obtained by Axios show.
  4. 2020 update: Wisconsin Supreme Court blocks governor's attempt to delay in-person primary voting delayed until June.
  5. States latest: West Coast states send ventilators to New York and other states with more immediate need — Data suggest coronavirus curve may be flattening in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
  6. World update: U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson moved to intensive care as coronavirus symptoms worsen.
  7. Stocks latest: The S&P 500 closed up 7% on Monday, while the Dow rose more than 1,500 points.
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Docs: Navarro memos warning mass death circulated West Wing in January

Image from a memo to President Trump

In late January, President Trump's economic adviser Peter Navarro warned his White House colleagues the novel coronavirus could take more than half a million American lives and cost close to $6 trillion, according to memos obtained by Axios.

  • By late February, Navarro was even more alarmed, and he warned his colleagues, in another memo, that up to two million Americans could die of the virus.

Driving the news: Navarro's grim estimates are set out in two memos — one dated Jan. 29 and addressed to the National Security Council, the other dated Feb. 23 and addressed to the president. The NSC circulated both memos around the White House and multiple agencies.

Wisconsin Supreme Court blocks governor from delaying state's primary

Tony Evers. Photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Wisconsin's Supreme Court on Monday blocked an executive order by Gov. Tony Evers (D) that attempted to delay in-person voting for the state's primary election — currently scheduled for Tuesday — until June 9.

Driving the news: Judges ruled 4-2 along ideological lines that Evers does not have the power as governor to unilaterally postpone the election, despite the fact that the state has a stay-at-home order in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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