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"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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Updated 3 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director says number of U.S. Omicron cases "likely to rise" — Two years of COVID-19 — Prior coronavirus infections may not protect well against Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Data demonstrates most-vaccinated counties less vulnerable to worst of COVID — Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate.
  4. World: Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles downWHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Bipartisan tributes flood in for "giant of the Senate" Bob Dole

Then-Vice President Joe Biden and former Sen. Bob Dole at an event put on by the World Food Program where he was awarded the first “McGovern-Dole Leadership Award” in December 2013. Photo: Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call

Republican and Democratic politicians, including former Senate colleagues, are sharing condolences and memories commemorating the life of Bob Dole, who passed away at 98 on Sunday morning.

The big picture: Dole, the Republican presidential nominee in 1996, was the longest serving Republican leader in the Senate until 2018, when current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell surpassed his record.

Former Sen. David Perdue to launch bid for Georgia governor

Photo: Megan Varner/Getty Images

Former Senator David Perdue (R) plans to announce a campaign against Georgia's incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp Monday, according to a source familiar with Perdue's thinking.

Why it matters: Perdue's challenge to his former ally Kemp sets up an unprecedented "scorched earth" battle between Georgia Republicans fueled by former President Donald Trump, in the battleground state. The news was first reported by Politico.