Words Words Words

Links to many online dictionaries for many professions.


Many English lessons and English-Mongolian side-by-side PDF books


Learning English and Buddhism in Mongolia


Learning Medical English for doctors, nurses and dentists in Mongolia

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

NEWS: Nyam-Ochir Sainjargal gets first medal in the 2012 Olympics for Mongolia

Olympics judo: Russia's Mansur Isaev takes -73kg gold
Originally posted on BBC on July 30, 2012

Nyam Ochir Sainjargal of Mongolia reacts after beating Dex Elmont of Netherlands in their bronze medal during the men's 73-kg judo competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 30, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Mansur Isaev of Russia won gold in the men's -73kg final by beating world champion Riki Nakaya of Japan.

Isaev, 25, was an outside favourite for the title after only finishing seventh at last year's World Championships.

The bronze medals were won by Nyam-Ochir Sainjargal of Mongolia and Ugo Legrand of France.

Mongolia's Nyam-Ochir Sainjargal (white) celebrates after winning the bronze medal against Netherlands' Dex Elmont in the men's -73kg judo contest. JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/GettyImages
Great Britain's Daniel Williams lost his opening fight by ippon throw from the 2008 Olympic bronze medallist, Rasul Boqiev of Tajikistan.

Disappointed Williams, 23, left without speaking to reporters but his coach, Luke Preston, said: "Danny did everything right really and he just got caught when the guy got his chance, but that is judo.

"He was fighting an Olympic bronze medallist and just got caught that one second and it was all over."

Fourth seed Isaev overcame world number one Wang Ki-Chun of South Korea before seeing off Nakaya to secure gold.

Word List:
  • "outside favorite": could win but probably not

Monday, July 30, 2012

NEWS: CSU Grad heads to Mongolia

Originally posted on Reporter Herald July 23, 2012
By Jessica Benes

CSU (Colorado State University) Grad heads to Mongolia. Loveland's Lisa Dompier will teach English at a university after earning a Fulbright scholarship.

LOVELAND, COLORADO, USA - Lisa Dompier of Loveland is about to spend 10 months in a place of tradition, with a strong sense of family, and a mixture of modern homes and nomadic gers. Mongolia is a land slowly modernizing after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Dompier has been awarded a Fulbright scholarship to live for 10 months in the capital city, Ulanbataar (also spelled Ulan Bator), teaching English as an assistant at a university. She leaves Aug. 5.

Dompier met her Mongolian friends when she worked at Yellowstone Park two summers ago. Later, she looked for opportunities to go abroad and had the chance to spend 10 days in Mongolia as a pre-service teacher teaching English to adult students in 2011. That gave her just a taste of the country.

Lisa Dompier shows off souvenirs and photos from her last trip to Mongolia including a little box that looks like a ger.
"I loved it there," Dompier said. "It's such a beautiful country. The people I met were so warm and such kind people."

Dompier stayed with a family in the capital during her weeks in the country and taught an English conversation class made up of English students and adult professionals from the community.

The historical lifestyle of the Mongolian people was nomadic, Dompier said. People lived in a round, warm structure called a "ger." While many people now live in apartments or houses, there are still ger districts in the capital and country of Mongolia. The dwellings are constructed from wooden beams and a felt-like wool material.

She visited relatives of her friend and met the sheep that are one of the major products produced in Mongolia. She then watched two of the men with her buy a couple of sheep and load them into the back of their truck for breakfast the next morning.

"Coming from a city all my life, that was a different experience," Dompier said.

Dompier finished a degree in English Education from Colorado State University in May. She grew up in Loveland with her parents, Lynn and Wane, and two sisters, and went to Walt Clark Middle School, then Ridgeview Classical High School in Fort Collins.

When she found out there was a new English teaching assistantship through Fulbright in Mongolia for 10 months, she was excited to apply.

Dompier submitted her application in November 2011 for the scholarship. And then she waited. Twice as many students apply to Fulbright as get in, she said.

She was told in April that she had been awarded the grant.

"This is the language that's used internationally and it's an empowering thing for people to have access to," she said.

This time around, she will be an assistant and will be able to learn from the teacher and follow structured lessons.

The first time she was in Mongolia, she had to get used to the traditions. The men don't put their hats or belts on the floor. You enter a ger and go to the left. You never put trash in the fire in the center of the ger. The thing that struck her most about Mongolia is the connection to family. You respect the elder members of the family and use formal word conjugations.

"Meat is very important," Dompier said. "My friends would tease me for eating salad every day. 'Why are you eating those leaves'?"

Word List:
  • grad;: short form of "graduate", someone who has graduated from university
  • to head: to go in a particular direction
  • empowering: to give someone more control over their life or more power to do something

Sunday, July 29, 2012

NEWS: How the Sparsely Populated Land of Genghis Khan Succeeds at the Olympics

Originally posted on Olympics.Time.com on July 27, 2012

A Mongolian woman discharges an arrow from a bow at an archery competition during the Naadam Festival in Ulan Bator, Mongolia Wednesday, July 11, 2012. Mongolians celebrate the anniversary of Genghis Khan's march to world conquest on July 11 with the annual sports festival featuring traditional Mongolian events including wrestling, archery, and horse racing.
When their most famous native son is a 13th century conqueror who amassed the largest land empire in history, it’s not surprising that Mongolians have evolved into a rather sporty bunch. The land of Genghis Khan is populated today by fewer than 3 million people. Yet in Beijing 2008, Mongolia’s athletes brought home four medals, two gold (judo and boxing) and two silver (shooting and boxing). In London, 29 Mongolians will be competing, and the team expects to at least equal its Beijing medal haul. “Come watch us in London,” said Mongolian National Olympic Committee Secretary-General Jugder Otgontsagaan, as he slurped down a bowl of lamb-bone soup in the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator. “You won’t be disappointed. I promise.”

Like Jamaica and Australia, Mongolia punches well above its weight at the Olympics. The reasons for its success are simple. Mongolia is a country where one-third of citizens still roam the steppe and semi-desert as nomads. It’s a harsh life that develops muscle and fortitude. “When you get up at dawn to milk the camels or grab the cattle by their horns, it builds natural fitness,” said Otgontsagaan. “Mongolians, I think we’re tougher than anybody else.”

Case in point is Bundmaa Mukhbaatar, Mongolia’s medal contender in the 52 kg women’s judo event. Born in the fabled western Mongolian region of Karakorum (as in the famous ancient highway), Bundmaa grew up wrestling—and beating—her three older brothers. At 12, she discovered judo and pleaded with her parents to allow her to train in Ulan Bator. Since then, she’s racked up a slew of world cup and grand prix titles. “Sports is in Mongolian genes,” said the 26 year old. “Nature is harsh, and its breeds endurance in us.”

The country’s athleticism has been further honed by the legacy of a Soviet-style system that provides ample state funding for promising young athletes like Bundmaa. Each summer, Mongolia celebrates Naadam, a sporting festival of epic proportions. Three so-called “manly sports” are contested nationwide: wrestling, horseback riding and archery. The whole country stops for days to watch the games. No surprise, then, that Mongolian athletes excel in pugilistic Olympic sports like freestyle wrestling, boxing and judo. Mongolia also regularly sends archers to the Olympics. The one exception to the Naadam rule is equestrian, in which the thundering of hooves across Mongolian steppes just can’t be tamed into an Olympic dressage or jumping competition.

Even though Mongolia is one of the sparsest populated countries on earth, its citizens love to get together to watch sports. Satellite television often reaches the most remote ger, as the Mongolian circular felt tent is known. While in the Gobi, the forbidding semi-desert in the country’s south, I met several nomads who had a working knowledge of the NBA and the NHL. Sumo is a popular sport, since Mongolian wrestlers have risen to the top ranks of the Japanese sport. After the 2008 Olympics, judo outfits and boxing gloves sold out in Ulan Bator. And curiously, Tiger Woods appears to have a strong fan base in Mongolia.

Mongolia’s Olympic success contrasts with countries like India and Indonesia, which fare poorly when population figures are factored into medal counts. A nation of more than 1 billion people, India only won its first individual Olympic gold in 2008 when Abhinav Bindra shot his way to glory in the 10 m air rifle. (A field hockey powerhouse, India has won the men’s team gold multiple times, most recently in 1980.) Even China, when its 51 gold medals in 2008 were divided by its 1 billion-plus population, ended up ranking 47th out of 55 nations in a tally compiled by Australian researcher Simon Forsyth. That put the People’s Republic between Uzbekistan and Argentina, not nearly as impressive as the absolute figure in which China topped the gold-medal charts ahead of the United States.

According to Forsyth’s calculations, Mongolia ranks sixth when its gold medal haul is factored together with its population. Further brightening the country’s prospects is the fact that Mongolian gold has been used to make the London medals. Last year, Mongolia’s economy was one of the fastest growing in the world due to a mining boom. “Gold is where our heart is,” said Otgontsagaan. “Both at home and at the Olympics.”

Word List:
  • to discharge: to fire a weapon
  • to slurp: to make loud sucking noises as you eat or drink something
  • gene: a pattern of chemicals within a cell that carries information about the qualities passed to a living thing from its parents
  • to hone: to improve a skill or talent that is already well developed
  • pugilistic: like boxing
  • sparse: existing in small amounts, or a large distance apart
  • haul: the number of points, wins, or successes that someone gets

Saturday, July 28, 2012

NEWS: Mongolian self-coached swimmer enjoys Olympic show

Originally posted on English.news.cn July 25, 2012

The Mongolia Olympic team and delegates enter the athlete's village during a welcome ceremony with a performance by the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain at Olympic Park on July 22, 2012 in London, England.
BEIJING, July 24 (Xinhua) -- For Mongolian self-coached swimmer Tamir Andryei, a berth at London Olympics was just like what eight gold medals means to U.S. prodigy Michael Phelps.

"I'm really excited to be here, and I'm relishing the opportunity to swim in the Olympic pool," said the 26-year-old on Tuesday, who will swim the 100m freestyle in London.

Andryei is coaching himself and teammate Oyungerel Gantumur, the only two swimmers from Mongolia to compete in swimming events.

Though never qualified in reaching any semifinal at Olympics or World Championships, the happy-go-lucky seemed never discouraged. "We are training six days a week and five hours a day. We do enjoy the preparations for Olympics."

Andryei had participated in the 100m freestyle at Athens Games, and failed to secure a berth in semi-final. Without a place at Beijing Olympics, he experienced the 2011 Shanghai Championships by competing in the heats of 50m and 100m freestyle.

His teammate Oyungerel Gantumur, who will swim in women's 100m breaststroke in London, was earlier a butterfly specialist. She competed in 50m and 100m butterfly at Shanghai World Championships last year and the 2009 Rome worlds, both finished at heats.

"One big problem for us is our tumble turns, which we have to improve in order to go further," said Andryei, who coached a number of Mongolian swimmers in the past years.

"In Mongolia, we don't have a 50m pool to practise in," he said, citing one of the factors affecting their results.

The swimming events is slated for July 28 to August 4 at London Olympics, with 496 swimmers competing for 34 gold medals including 32 in pool and two in open water.

Word List:
  • berth: added to a list of competitors to compete
  • to relish: to get great pleasure or satisfaction from something
  • freestyle: a fast style of swimming in which you lie on your front and move one arm over your head and then the other while kicking your legs
  • butterfly: a way of swimming in which you lie on your front and move both your arms together above your head in a circular movement while moving your legs up and down together
  • "tumble turn": or "flip turn" is a technique of turns in swimming, used to reverse the direction in which they are swimming.
  • to slate: to arrange for something to happen

Friday, July 27, 2012

NEWS: How the Search for Genghis Khan Helped the United Nations Map Refugees in Somalia

Originally posted on National Geographic July 23, 2012
by Patrick Meier

National Geographic has been exploring new worlds for well over a hundred years. In the present century, these new worlds include digital worlds—the next frontier of exploration. Take National Geographic’s recent digital expedition in Mongolia. The “Valley of the Khans Project” represents a new approach to archeology that gives us each the opportunity to be a digital Indiana Jones by searching for the tomb of Genghis Khan using the World Wide Web. The very same technologies can also turn us into digital humanitarians in support of the United Nations (UN). Here’s a story about how National Geographic’s digital expedition in Mongolia inspired the UN during their humanitarian response operations in Somalia.

National Geographic digital exploration of Mongolia.Credit: National Geographic.
More than 3 million square kilometers of satellite imagery is produced every single day. The total surface area of the moon is about 35 million square kilometers. So every week, there is a new moon’s worth of exploration to be done in the digital world of satellite imagery. Question is, how can we possibly explore an entire new moon every week? Do we need to build the digital equivalent of the Millenium Falcon? Do we even have a pilot good enough for this mission? The software to automatically and accurately analyze this vast amount of satellite imagery is still not good enough. So what to do? Turns out National Geographic had the answer all along: crowdsource the expedition.

In their phenomenal project, Valley of the Kahns, National Geographic crowdsourced the analysis of high resolution satellite imagery in the search for clues to an 800 year old mystery, the location of Genghis Khan’s tomb. Welcome to my world, the world of intrepid digital exploration. The answer to the 3 million kilometer question wasn’t one pilot and one Millennium Falcon. No! The answer was hundreds of thousands of pilots from all around the world flying their own X-wings over the vast virtual landscape of Mongolia in search of Genghis Khan.

I blogged about this awesome project when it was launched and described how we could take this same approach in humanitarian crises. A few months later, the crisis in the Horn of Africa began to escalate, displacing a massive number of peoples West of Mogadishu. So the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) asked me if we could use the same approach as National Geographic’s to estimate the displaced refugee population in Somalia. Why? Because due to Al Shabbab’s terrorist activities, humanitarians could not do this kind of survey on the ground, they too were being targeted and kidnapped. So we needed to take it to the skies and the UN was in dire need of pilots.

Tomnod was customized to support
the United Nations in Somalia.
Credit: Tomnod.
So we used the same technology that was used for the Mongolia expedition. Called Tomnod, the platform is designed to crowdsource and crowdtag satellite imagery. We obtained free imagery from DigitalGlobe, which was then “sliced up” into thousands of smaller pictures. Each of these, like the one below was then analyzed by digital explorers looking for signs of permanent and temporary shelters.

The satellite imagery was sliced up
into small pictures.
Credit: Tomnod.com.
Whey found such shelters, they would simply tag the feature with the appropriate icon, just like in the Valley of the Khans. Only when a shelter was tagged by at least three individual volunteers would that data point be shared with the United Nations. This was a great way to ensure some quality control in the process.

The result? Within 120 hours, volunteers created over a quarter million tags after analyzing close to 4,000 individual images, thus yielding a triangulated count of some 47,000 shelters in the Afgooye corridor of Somalia, which the UN could use to estimate the population in the area. To provide context, it took two UNHCR staff over an entire month to do this back in 2010. We did the equivalent in 120 hours.

Tomnod uses a consensus based algorithm
to triangulate the tagging. Credit: Tomnod
But who do I mean when I say “we did this”? I mean the Standby Volunteer Task Force (SBTF), a global network of some 800+ volunteers in 80+ countries who support humanitarian and human rights organizations in times of need. They were the pilots who flew the Somalia Mission for the United Nations after being inspired by National Geographic’s search for Genghis Khan in Mongolia.

Digital expeditions like these can democratize the next frontier of exploration. So I look forward to collaborating with my colleagues at National Geographic to support future explorations into the digital unknown. Onwards!

Word List:
  • humanitarian: someone who helps people who live in very bad conditions or receive unfair treatment
  • to inspire: to give someone the enthusiasm to do or create something
  • imagery: pictures, photographs, or objects that represent an idea
  • intrepid: not afraid to do dangerous things
  • to escalate: to become much worse or more serious, or to make something do this
  • "dire need": very severe or serious need
  • to triangulate: determine the measurements of something or somebody, take measurements of using a minimum of 3 data points
  • democratize: to change the way of running a government or organization so that the people in it are more equal and can share in making decisions
  • to collaborate: to work with someone in order to produce something

Thursday, July 26, 2012

NEWS: Clinton in Mongolia

Originally posted on Voice of America 07-16-2012

"The heart of our strategy, the piece that binds all the rest of it together, is our support for democracy and human rights."

A voter in Mongolia
“We have all come to Mongolia to reaffirm our support [for] democracy in the region and the world, and in particular, to highlight the role and opportunities for women in democracies,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said recently at the International Women's Leadership Forum held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

“Democracy without the participation of women is a contradiction in terms. Whenever we talk about how to support democracy, we must be sure that women are not just a part of the discussion, but at the table to help lead that discussion, and to remain committed to helping more women worldwide gain roles in their governments, their economies, and their civil societies.”

Secretary Clinton said she had been inspired by the Mongolian people’s commitment to democracy when she visited Ulaanbaatar 17 years ago as First Lady. “Against long odds, surrounded by powerful neighbors who had their own ideas about Mongolia’s future, the Mongolian people came together with great courage to transform a one-party Communist dictatorship into a pluralistic, democratic political system,” she said.

After 10 years focusing on the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States is rebalancing toward Asia by increasing diplomatic, economic, cultural and strategic investments in the region.

“We want to help build an open, stable, and just regional order in the Asia Pacific based on norms and institutions that benefit all nations and all peoples,” Secretary Clinton said. “Our strategy incorporates three broad dimensions of America’s engagement – security, economic, and common values ... [but] the heart of our strategy, the piece that binds all the rest of it together, is our support for democracy and human rights.

“Those are not only my nation’s most cherished values; they are the birthright of every person born in the world. They are the values that speak to the dignity of every human being. They are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, making clear that these are not to be given by a government to any individual, because every individual already owns them.”

“We need to make the 21st century a time in which people across Asia don’t only become more wealthy,” Secretary Clinton said in conclusion. “They must also become more free.”

Word List:

  • to reaffirm: to formally and officially state something again
  • contradiction: a difference in two or more statements, ideas, stories etc that makes it impossible for both or all of them to be true
  • pluralistic: Pluralism is used, often in different ways, across a wide range of topics to denote a diversity of views, and stands in opposition to one single approach or method of interpretation
  • norms: standards of behavior that are accepted in a particular society
  • enshrined: to officially record something such as an idea or principle in a document so that it cannot be ignored

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

NEWS: Harumafuji takes historic showdown over Hakuho on final day

Originally posted on The Asahi Shimbun on July 22, 2012

Ozeki Harumafuji (Davaanyamyn Byambadorj) won the first final-day showdown between an unbeaten ozeki and yokozuna--and the first duel of unbeaten wrestlers on the final day in 29 years--by pushing Mongolian compatriot Hakuho (Mönkhbatyn Davaajargal) out of the ring at the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament on July 22.

Ozeki Harumafuji (Davaanyamyn Byambadorj, left,
pushes yokozuna Hakuho (Mönkhbatyn Davaajargal)
out of the ring to win the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament.
(Yuta Takahashi)
The win gives Harumafuji his third championship title and ends one of the most exciting 15-day rivalries in recent memory. Harumafuji won his first tournament three years ago and his second last year. Hakuho had been aiming for his 23rd title, and if he had won on July 22 that also would have been his ninth perfect finish, a summit that no one has ever reached before.

Though evenly matched at the face-off, Harumafuji got inside first and took a hold on Hakuho's belt with both hands. Hakuho never quite recovered from that, as Harumafuji bulled forward and thrust him over the edge with a surge of victorious gusto.

The last time that two unbeaten wrestlers had squared off to decide the title 29 years ago was between two yokozuna and this was the first such showdown between a yokozuna and an ozeki. Seeing the excitement the wrestlers were creating as they kept piling on the wins, sumo officials deliberately put off their showdown, which could have been fought as early as July 20.

"I put everything I had into the match,'' Harumafuji said, as his family looked on from the spectator seats. "I owe my win to my fans and all the people who have supported me.''

The ozeki said he would devote himself "wholeheartedly'' to winning again in September, which would earn him promotion to yokozuna.

Though overshadowed by the Mongolian winning streaks, the other ozeki fared pretty well on the final day.

Slamming out with his head first, Bulgaria's Kotooshu pounded Kisenosato hard at the face-off, lost his momentum momentarily and then charged ahead once again to finish at 9-6. The face-off was possibly the most energetic of the whole tournament. Kotooshu hit Kisenosato so powerfully that the sound of the impact echoed throughout the arena. Kisenosato ends with an impressive 10 wins.

Mongolia's Kakuryu (Mangaljalavyn Anand) also ended on a high note with a fine throw that sent fellow ozeki Kotoshogiku onto his back. While the two ozeki had a spotty record that kept them from being contenders for the title, they both close with strong numbers. Kakuryu, in his second tournament at sumo's second-highest rank, marked nine wins and Kotoshogiku got 10.

Baruto benefitted from a relatively easy draw on the final day, taking out Russian No. 5 maegashira Aran (9-6) with his much more powerful and better placed thrusts. Despite coming in with high expectations, the Estonian ozeki came up short this tournament after starting off extremely well--he won his first seven bouts, but then won only two more.

Sekiwake Tochiozan, fighting with a heavily taped left shoulder, drove out No. 5 maegashira Takayasu (6-9) for his fourth win. The injury sucked away Tochiozan's will to fight and he is likely glad this tournament is over. He will still have to fight his way back up the ranks, though, since a demotion is almost certain.

Komusubi Myogiryu kept the pressure on No. 4 maegashira Takekaze (7-8) to get his all-important eighth win, along with the special technique prize. Myogiryu was struggling earlier on at his new ranking, but managed to keep it together well enough to get by. He's never won more than three bouts in a row, however, so that's something he can work on.

Demotion-facing komusubi Toyonoshima goes home with five wins after defeating lowly No. 10 maegashira Tamaasuka, who closes out at 2-13. Top maegashira Kyokutenho, who shocked sumo fans by taking the championship the last time as the better wrestlers melted down, won his second bout in a row, but that of course was also only his second victory of the whole 15-day competition. That goes down in the sumo books as one of the worst performances ever to follow a championship effort.

Lower down, No. 2 maegashira Aoiyama won his eighth bout, over No. 9 maegashira Tokitenku. That puts him in good position for a promotion into the titled ranks come September.

Word List:
  • showdown: an important match between two great players or teams
  • compatriot: someone who is from the same country as you
  • rivalry: Competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field.
  • thrust: to put something somewhere with a quick hard push
  • surge: a sudden increase
  • gusto: with a lot of enthusiasm
  • overshadow: to make someone or something seem less important compared to someone or something else
  • winning streak: a series of wins following one after another in a game or sport
  • spotty record: not consistent or uniform; irregular or uneven, often in quality
  • draw: a way of choosing which teams or players will compete against each other
  • demotion: to give someone a lower rank or a less important job

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

NEWS: Tradition 'Wrestles' With Modernity at Mongolia's Naadam Festival

Originally posted on Huffington Post 07/16/2012

It's a warm July afternoon in Ugtaal County in central Mongolia, and a crowd gathers on the open steppe under a rickety bandstand. I'm here with the Vanishing Cultures Project and videographer Lauren Knapp to document the traditions of Mongolian nomadic herders. In our efforts to research the effects of globalization on this traditional culture, we've found ourselves here this afternoon to record one of Mongolia's centuries-old surviving traditions.

As a Mongolian flag flaps lazily in the breeze, men on horseback and women bouncing babies in their arms gather on either side of a grassy causeway created by two lines stretched between wooden stakes. Suddenly, dark dots appear on the horizon, rapidly cresting the hill one after the other. The crowd's excited chatter rises by a few decibels, and as the dots come closer, their shapes become distinguishable against the electric green of the valley -- they are horses, and this is Ugtaal County's race of stallions. The crowd at the finish line begins to cheer the winners home.

Horse racing is part of the trifecta of "manly sports" that make up Mongolia's annual Naadam, a nationwide sports festival that is seeing a recent resurgence in popularity. The "three manly sports" of horse racing, wrestling, and archery are all ancient military arts that have been practiced for centuries as a requisite part of Mongolian warrior culture. Today, these sports are celebrated during Naadam -- named after the verb naada, "to play" -- as cornerstones of Mongolian heritage.

Like Ugtaal, every county and province hosts its own Naadam in early July to select finalists to compete at the national Naadam, which takes place on July 11-13 each year in Mongolia's capital, Ulaanbaatar. As a national holiday, shops close, workers head home, and people refer to it as the best time of the year.

"The three manly sports are a source of pride for Mongolians because they're such old traditions, and they've been happening for so many centuries," says Battulga, the mayor of Ugtaal. "Everyone waits the whole year to see these sports, and once Naadam is over, people start waiting eagerly for next year's Naadam."

The tradition of Naadam can be traced back to the 13th century, when Chinggis Khan threw them as celebrations of successful military campaigns. Returning warriors marked their victory by drinking, eating, wrestling, and showing off their manly skills. Eventually, this also became a way to train young men in the military arts. Centuries later, after Mongolia's socialist revolution of 1921, Naadam became institutionalized as the official celebration of the people's army, and it took on the organized form of competition that is seen at modern Naadams today.

"I have always participated in Naadam, every year," says Gantumur, a lifelong resident of Ugtaal. "There was a time when not many people participated in Naadam. But now it's getting better, more people are becoming involved."

Mongolia is experiencing a cultural revival: while an economy estimated by the International Monetary Fund to be the fourth-fastest growing in the world launches Mongolia onto the world stage, feelings of nationalism are driving people to reclaim a Mongolian heritage and identity that were actively effaced during the Soviet Era of the 20th century. And Naadam, as a direct line to Mongolia's rich cultural past, is a natural choice for a celebration and show of cultural pride.

Each of Naadam's three manly sports is steeped in historic tradition. Wrestlers wear an age-old costume of leather boots, open-front jacket, and briefs, all embroidered with traditional patterns. Archers compete in silk and brocade deels, the traditional Mongolian robe. As is the ancient practice, Mongolian horse races require child jockeys, and before each race children aged seven to twelve gather on horseback to sing the Giigoo, a folksong of praise, to their horses to urge them to do well.

But amidst the throwbacks to ancient culture, signs of modernization dot the holiday landscape both locally and nationally. Food trucks set up shop around the Naadam stadiums, selling Coca-Cola, plastic toys, and ice cream bars to the revelers. Teenagers on horseback chat on cell phones, and mothers in traditional deels strut by on spiked heels. All across the countryside, harbingers of an economy growing at break-neck speed make their appearance in Western commodities, fashions, technologies, and tastes. But as Mongolia ushers in this new market-economy culture, perhaps the traditions of the past will continue to inspire pride in the generations to come.

See more video at the Vanishing Cultures Project.

Word List:
  • rickety: a rickety structure or piece of furniture is likely to break if you put any weight on it, often because it is old
  • causeway: a raised road or path across ground that is wet or is sometimes covered by water
  • chatter: to talk continuously in a fast informal way, usually about unimportant subjects
  • stallion: an adult male horse, especially one kept for breeding. An adult female horse is called a mare.
  • trifecta: A run of three wins or grand events.
  • resurgence: the start of something again that quickly increases in influence, effect etc
  • requisite: necessary for a particular purpose
  • to efface: to make something disappear
  • harbinger: a sign that something will happen soon, often something bad
  • "break-neck speed": very, very fast (fast enough to break your neck in an accident)
  • to usher in: to make an activity or process begin

Sunday, July 22, 2012

NEWS: The Answer to Mongol Expansion is in the Wood

Originally posted on WVUToday on July 17, 2012
By Gerrill Griffith & Diana Mazzella

For WVU researcher, the answer to Mongol expansion is in the wood

Amy Hessl hoped it hadn’t all been for nothing.

It was at her insistence that she and her colleagues drove for hours, carried supplies through an ancient lava field and traveled back to the nearest town for a replacement chain saw. One of her colleagues was sick, and they were truly in the middle of Mongolia.

This side trip on a research project wasn’t based on a hunch. It wasn’t belief. And it wasn’t all luck. Hessl was an experienced scientist who saw a lava field covered in trees that she knew told an important story. She wanted to have the slices of old, tangled wood examined in a lab to see what their message might be.

She had no idea that the team had picked the winning combination in the scientific lottery.

This summer, Hessl and the team will be going back to continue what they started.

What Hessl, a West Virginia University researcher, and her group found that day in the summer of 2010 was evidence that Genghis Khan had a valuable ally in his conquest of the largest contiguous empire in history. That ally was the weather, and this weather was rainy.

It’s all about energy. ... Abundant rain made the grasses grow and grass powered the horses that grew the cavalry that conquered the region.
—Amy Hessl, WVU geographer on her Mongol discovery

For hundreds of years, historians have examined and wrangled over just what motivated the Mongol hordes of the 13th century. But theories about the Mongol conquests have sparked almost as many questions as answers.

Were they migrating in search of food? Were they behaving like landlocked pirates? Or were they satisfying a thirst for power in a wave of warfare that led to an empire straddling Eurasia?

Mongol leader Genghis Khan forged an empire that eventually stretched from Asia’s Pacific coast to Eastern Europe and south into Persia and Southeastern Asia – a feat that may have cost more than 40 million lives.

One of the most popular theories for the Mongol expansion was that the hordes started taking from their neighbors when they were forced to flee drought conditions.

But Hessl, a WVU associate professor of geography in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, made a discovery that upsets conventional wisdom. She’s proposing that the spark behind the great Mongol empire expansion may have been rain, not drought.

Hessl is a dendrochronologist – a trained expert in analyzing past climate conditions by studying the growth rings in trees. It is an activity that requires skill, patience, powers of observation on a microscopic level and a keen interest in the past.

Journey to Mongolia

In the summer of 2010 Hessl had the opportunity to work as the principal investigator on a National Geographic-sponsored project in Mongolia focused on how climate change might have affected the region’s risks of wildfire. She teamed with colleague, Neil Pederson of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and Baatarbileg Nachin, a professor at National University of Mongolia, and a squad of his undergraduate students before heading out into a remote Mongolian countryside in search of tell tale wood samples.

They journeyed to a high-elevation site that other researchers had found to contain trees that were hundreds of years old. They found that the site had burned, which gave them valuable data on the fire cycle in the region.

But on their way back, they stopped at an overlook and Hessl got an idea.

“We looked out across this lava field and I said, ‘Oh, that looks like this place called El Malpais,” Hessl said.

A colleague of Hessl’s had discovered ancient wood with an extensive fire history in El Malpais, a conservation area in New Mexico.

She wanted to cross the river and explore immediately, but the rest of the group wasn’t as enthused. She made the case for returning to Mongolia’s capital for a few days of rest and then traveling back to the promising site.

So they packed up their laptops, chain saws and survival gear and headed into the old lava flow near the ancient seat of the Mongol empire, the Orkhon Valley.

The idea was to find tree samples dating back 500 years or so to fit in their fire history study.

But it became hard to stay on track as equipment broke down, a colleague fell ill and dehydration became a problem. This spur of the moment excursion seemed less and less worth it.

“It was this really long drive to get back to the lava flow and by that time everybody was sort of thinking, ‘Why are you wanting to go there?’” Hessl said.

Morale improved as the slices of wood appeared useful. They didn’t seem too special but were salvaged trophies from the dramatic trip.

That was until Pederson got the samples into the lab and started looking at them on a whim almost a year later. The wood fragments were not a few hundred years old. They were more than 1,300 years old, from 658 C.E.

The team’s time in the 7,000-year-old lava field went from wasted trip to gold mine within moments.

“We realized it was one in a million,” Hessl said. “I mean if you’d asked me five years ago if I would ever find anything like this, I would say ‘no way.’ It’s literally a needle in a haystack.”

“We had all this environmental history all of a sudden that we never expected to have,” Hessl said. “It’s all about energy. What we are seeing in the rings is that around the time of the rise of the Mongols, there was abundant rain. Abundant rain made the grasses grow and grass powered the horses that grew the cavalry that conquered the region.”

Hessl said energy was a motivation years later when the Mongols, after already establishing a massive empire, suddenly moved their capital. More evidence from the tree rings indicates that at the same time they moved their capital from Mongolia to Beijing, there had been a rapid decline in moisture in the Orkhon Valley.

“The move was all about energy again,” she said in her Morgantown lab where a Mongolian flag hangs on the wall between shelves and shelves full of tree trunk slices. “The Mongols were forced to diversify when the grass became scarce. That had traditionally been their energy source for their horses.”

She said that when the Mongols moved, the empire became less dependent on grass and used other energy sources instead: they developed a navy, raised rice products and pursed energy resources that were less grass- and horse-power based.

“That’s where we learn from the history of past civilizations,” Hessl said. “Just as they diversified and switched energy sources in response to changing water quality and other environmental changes, we are seeing changes in our own civilization too. Right now we use fossil fuels but we will eventually have to find something else and adapt.

“Exploring how the Mongols adapted might shed light on current challenges.”

In an article about her work that appeared in the March 21 edition of Scientific American, Hessl stressed that she and her colleagues are not claiming that climate was the main factor in the rise and fall of the Mongols.

“Genghis Khan was really the key to uniting many tribes together and spurred them to expand in a way that’s never been repeated,” she told Scientific American writer Charles Choi. “We just argue that it takes energy to create an empire, just as it does today and rains may have helped provide the grass that powered their horses. After Genghis Khan died, the empire became somewhat factionalized with most historians arguing that it became too large to effectively administrate. We’re saying maybe climate change may have made managing the empire difficult also.”

Right now we use fossil fuels but we will eventually have to find something else and adapt. Exploring how the Mongols adapted might shed light on current challenges.”

The research continues this summer.

Hessl is going back to the Orkhon Valley with an expanded team and a refocused mission. National Geographic has awarded her another $20,000 grant as principal investigator to expand on the initial discovery. Recognizing the uniqueness of the work, its global significance, and its connection to the institution’s strategic goals of global engagement, exchanges of knowledge, and acceleration of quality research, West Virginia University Faculty Senate has also made a financial commitment of $12,000 to support the work and enable a return visit to Mongol territory.

Hessl said that in addition to her graduate student John Burkhart of Morgantown, the team will expand to include researchers from other U.S. universities who can use Hessl’s tree ring data to estimate how many animals and resources the Mongols could have secured from the landscape. Hessl said historian Nicola Di Cosmo of the Institute for Advanced Study will join the effort to uncover written references to climate that coincide with the tree ring data.

Avery Cook-Shinneman at the University of Washington will join the team to collect cores of sediment from lake bottoms in the region.

“Her samples can show the history of the region in sediment,” she said while sitting at a microscope in the Montane Forest Dynamics Lab, the neatly organized research facility she operates in WVU’s Brooks Hall.

“They will look for something called Sporormiella which are spores that thrived in livestock dung. The presence of Sporormiella in the samples can give us an idea of how much livestock the Mongols may have been able to accumulate in the time periods we are looking at.”

The addition of a historian to the team makes sense because Hessl’s field of study has many implications for understanding the past. Matching the pattern in trees whose age is known to the pattern in wood found at an archaeological site can establish the age at which the wood was cut and thus the approximate date of the site. By comparing living trees with old logs and finding overlapping ring patterns, scientists have established chronological records for some species that go back as far as 9,000 years.

WVU professor Amy Hessl is a dendrochronologist – a trained expert in analyzing past climate conditions by studying the growth rings in trees.
Hessl and her graduate students have studied the influence of climate and land use history on fire regimes in the Appalachian Mountains, the Pacific Northwest and have developed millennial-length climate reconstructions for the Mid-Atlantic Region using the tree rings of ancient eastern red cedar collected in West Virginia. Her lab has also explored the relative impacts of climate variability and harvest strategies on carbon sequestration. In collaboration with the National Park Service the lab is exploring plant diversity on the cliffs of the Mountain State’s New River Gorge.

“Earth’s citizens are faced with a host of environmental problems,” Hessl told National Geographic. “By looking at how the Earth has changed in the past and how peoples have responded to those changes, we can better find our way today.”

Word List:
  • hunch: a feeling that something is true or will happen, although you do not know any definite facts about it
  • tangled: parts are twisted around each other in a messy way
  • to wrangle: to argue about something for a long time, especially in an angry and unpleasant way
  • hordes: a large number of people
  • to flee: to escape from a dangerous situation or place very quickly
  • squad: a small group who do a particular job
  • "tell tale": sign that clearly signals that something else is true or is about to happen
  • enthused: very interested in something or excited by it
  • "spur of the moment": sudden and not planned or thought about carefully
  • excursion: a short visit to an interesting place
  • morale: the amount of enthusiasm that a person or group of people feel about their situation at a particular time
  • cavalry: soldiers who fought on horseback.
  • diversity: the fact that very different people or things exist within a group or place
  • "shed light on": to provide new information that helps you understand something
  • unique: only existing or happening in one place or situation
  • "carbon sequestration": process of removing carbon from the atmosphere and depositing it in a reservoir.
  • collaboration: the process of working with someone to produce something

Saturday, July 21, 2012

NEWS: Mongolian Mining for More Gold

Originally posted on Yahoo.com on July 21, 2012
By Reuters | Eurosport

Mongolian judoka Naidan Tuvshinbayar begins the day jogging through the glistening grasslands he says helped make him the country's first Olympic gold medallist.

Tuvshinbayar Naidan of Mongolia celebrates in Beijing in 2008 (Reuters)
Back in the training centre, set in verdant hills 1,400 metres above sea level, he wiggles his hefty frame to thumping house music, as he slams younger athletes into the ground one-by-one with a sly grin, occasionally giving them a playful headlock for good measure.

The media-friendly showman became a national hero when he earned the country's first ever gold medal in the men's -100 kg class at the Beijing Olympics, 44 years after Mongolia first competed in a Games.

A burly 28-year-old with a slight squint and cauliflower ears, Tuvshinbayar is now hoping to repeat that success in London, likely to be his last Games as a serious competitor.

"Of course, we athletes are competing for our country. And I'm competing to be an Olympic champion again, and have my country's name heard across the world," he told Reuters.

Tuvshinbayar only took up judo at the age of 18, after seeing the Asian Championships on television.
But like many of Mongolia's nomadic herders raised on the vast steppe, he grew up wrestling, as a young child with his family's livestock, and later in matches at traditional festivals.

He even refers to his chosen sport as 'judo wrestling,' which may account for a certain heavy-handedness in his style.

"In Mongolian families, there is nobody who is not interested in traditional wrestling. Since I was a young child, I wrestled, and that's where the preparation for becoming a judo wrestler started," he said.
"There are a lot of similarities. Wrestling is just wrestling," he added with a lop-sided smile.

Almost 400 contenders from 134 countries, up from 96 in 2008, will battle it out in the seven weight categories for men and women during seven days of competition at London's ExCel exhibition centre.
Khashbaatar Tsagaanbaatar has high hopes for the men's -66 kg class, while Munkhbaatar Bundmaa is pitted for a medal in the women's -52 kg class, having taken golds in both Paris and Moscow Grand Slams in 2011.

Despite traditional heavyweights like Japan looming large, petite 26-year-old Bundmaa is unperturbed.
"I'm confident in myself. Going to the Olympics is not a small thing, and I will come back with a medal," she said.

Mongolia is also throwing its weight behind freestyle wrestling, boxing and shooting, all of which involve the traditional combat and hunting skills that 800 years ago helped build an empire that stretched as far as Europe.

"In our country, four kinds of sports have developed well: judo, boxing, shooting and wrestling," said Demchigjav Zagdsuren, president of the National Olympic Committee.

"At the last Olympics and in previous games, it was in these sports that we won medals. Our goal for London is to get at least four medals in these."

Once-impoverished Mongolia saw its economy grow by over 17 percent in 2011, thanks mainly to foreign investment in the huge mineral resources lying beneath its grasslands and deserts.

Rio Tinto, which runs the country's massive Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold project, sponsors the Mongolian Olympic team, and is providing Mongolian gold for the medals at London.

The country's growth has meant dramatic increases in sports funding, filling a vacuum left by near economic collapse following its split from the Soviet Union in 1990.

"Mongolia is now growing faster and sports are developing in step with the country," said Zagdsuren.
With considerable national pride resting on his broad shoulders, and a generation of younger athletes stepping up to fill his shoes, Tuvshinbayar is philosophical.

"If you think of it as pressure, it's pressure. If you don't, then it's not. Athletes should free themselves from that kind of thinking and try to find the joy in what they do," he said.

"If I had any doubts, I wouldn't be able to succeed."

Word List:
  • glistening: shines because it is wet or covered with oil
  • verdant: green because of all the plants and trees that grow there
  • to wiggle: to make short quick movements from side to side
  • hefty: large and heavy
  • frame: the particular shape or size of someone's body
  • thumping: pounding; throbbing
  • "house music": Named after the Warehouse, a popular gay dance club in Chicago, it was a style of techno dance music. Many house recordings were purely instrumental, with elements of European synth-pop, Latin soul, reggae, rap, and jazz grafted over an insistent dance beat
  • to slam: to put, move, or hit something against or onto a surface with great force
  • sly: Showing in an insinuating way that one has some secret knowledge that may be harmful or embarrassing
  • grin: to smile showing your teeth
  • headlock: a position in which someone holds their arm around another person's neck so that they cannot move
  • "for good measure": as a way of making something complete or better
  • burly: large and strong; heavily built
  • squint: to close your eyes slightly and try to see something
  • "cauliflower ears": An ear that has become thickened or deformed as a result of repeated blows, typically in boxing
  • "heavy handed": not showing delicate, graceful, or skilful qualities
  • to pit against: make someone compete or fight against someone or something else
  • petite: a petite woman is small and thin in an attractive way
  • unperturbed: not worried or upset by something that has happened
  • impoverished: person or place is very poor
  • vacuum: situation in which something is missing
  • collapse: suddenly fail or stop existing

NEWS: Mongolia Goes for the Gold with the London Olympics Medals

Originally posted on Montsame 2012-07-20

In the sand dunes and dirt tracks of the Gobi Desert, Mongolia is staking its place at the heart of the Olympics by providing metal for the medals that will be handed out in London.

Copper and gold that was extracted in a remote corner of the fast-developing country has been transformed into medals, the heaviest ever made for the Olympics--that are currently being stored at the Tower of London.

And while they will become an individual symbol of achievement for the 4,700 athletes who make it to the podiums, sports officials in Mongolia see each and every medal as a source of national pride.

"It is a great honour for the Mongolian people, and an example of our involvement with the Olympics and our commitment to the Olympic movement," Mongolian National Olympic Committee president Demchigjav Zagdsuren told AFP.

Success in Beijing in 2008, when Mongolia won its first two gold medals, had already ramped up enthusiasm for the Olympics. Steeped in the traditions of their conquering hero Chingis Khaan, Mongolians have for centuries favoured traditionally "Manly" sports of archery, horse racing and wrestling displayed every year at the country's sports festival, Naadam.

The 800-year old event--which was originally held to test military skills--continues to produce sporting heroes for Mongolians, so it was no surprise that the country's first gold medals four years ago were in judo and boxing.

However, the traditional nomadic lifestyle from which Naadam developed is beginning to be eclipsed in Mongolia, as the country undergoes rapid change on the back of a spectacular mining boom.

Foreign investment, which mainly comes from the huge mining companies such as Rio Tinto, quadrupled last year to nearly $5 billion, according to government data. The boom is transforming parts of Mongolia, most visibly in the capital of Ulaanbaatar where a surge of construction is underway and the new rich showcase their wealth with the latest luxury cars and fashion accessories.

However, many of the poorest of Mongolia's 2.8 million people complain that little of that money has trickled down to them, and there are concerns among some that mining is having a damaging effect on the vast country's environment.

The focal point of the mining frenzy is the Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine, located in South Gobi, Omnogobi Province, two hours' drive from the Chinese border. The biggest economic undertaking in Mongolia's history, the mine accounted for more than 30 percent of the nation's total gross domestic product in 2011, a year when the country's economy grew by 17.3 percent.

Oyu Tolgoi, which is controlled by Australian mining giant Rio Tinto, will not become fully operational until next year, with about 15,000 construction workers currently on site.

Exploratory works carried out during the construction phase have provided gold and copper used for the Olympic medals. Rio Tinto supplied the metals for the medals from two of its mines, one in Mongolia and the other in the United States as part of a sponsorship agreement with the Olympic organisers.

The mining giant supplied eight tonnes of gold, silver and copper for the medals from both Oyu Tolgoi and the Kennecott Utah Copper Mine in Salt Lake City, Utah. The metal was transformed into flat discs known as blanks, at a range of plants in Europe before they were delivered to the Royal Mint in Wales.

The blanks were then moulded to meet the designs specified by London 2012 and the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The medals are the heaviest ever made for the Olympics, weighing 375-400 grammes. They are 85mm in diameter and 7mm thick.

There are high hopes that some of the 29 Mongolia athletes going to London will return with metal originally dug out from their homeland, helping Mongolia make its mark on the international stage through sport as well as economics.

"We hope to win more medals in the four kinds of Olympic sports that Mongolia excels in, judo, shooting, wrestling and boxing. And we want to defend our two gold medals that we won in London," said Zagdsuren.

Indeed, the level of expectation in Mongolia for the nation to take its place on the world stage is revealed in a memorandum erected in the tiny Olympic museum in Ulaanbaatar.

The document, signed by IOC chief Jacques Rogge and Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj, outlines ambitions for the country to stage its first East Asian Games by 2017, Asian Games by 2018, and its first Olympics by 2040.

Breakneck development has seen the remote and sparsely populated country set its sights high. "I think that Mongolia is already an Asian tiger in that it has one of the fastest growing economies in the world, but the medals definitely add some more spice to the story," said the president of the Oyu Tolgoi mine, Cameron McCrae.

Word List:
  • to extract: to remove something from a particular place
  • to ramp up: to increase something such as a rate or level, especially the rate at which goods are produced
  • to eclipse: a time when someone or something starts to seem less successful or important, because another person or thing has become more successful or important than they are
  • breakneck: very fast, almost too fast (as if fast enough to break someone's neck)

Friday, July 20, 2012

MV: Snow White and the Huntsman

2012 – Snow White and the Huntsman

Snow White, imprisoned daughter of the late king, escapes just as the Magic Mirror declares her the source of the Evil Queen's immortality. The Queen sends her men, led by a local huntsman to bring her back. But upon her capture, the huntsman finds he's being played and turns against the Queens men, saving Snow White in the process. Meanwhile, Snow's childhood friend, William, learns that she is alive and sets off to save her.

Once upon a time, in deep winter, a queen was admiring the falling snow, when she saw a rose blooming in defiance of the cold.
  • defiance: refusal to obey a person or rule
You possess a rare beauty my love.
  • to possess: to have a quality or ability
The next winter was the harshest in memory.
  • harsh: harsh conditions or places are unpleasant and difficult to live in
The king was inconsolable.
  • inconsolable: so unhappy or disappointed that no one can make you feel better
What devil spawned this army?!
  • to spawn: if one thing spawns something else, it creates it
What is your name milady?
  • milady: used in the past by a servant or ordinary person for talking to a woman of high social status
The night that king died, we were told all in the castle were slain.
  • slain: killed
Magic comes at a lofty price.
  • lofty: very high
Shut your ugly mug Huntsman. If you had any pennies you'd have pissed it away on mead by now.
  • mug: someone's face
  • mead: a sweet alcoholic drink made from honey
Your father was a good man, the kingdom prospered, our people prospered.
  • to prosper: to grow and do well
I know I'm a bit cheeky, but...
  • cheeky: showing a lack of respect, but in a way that seems lively and attractive rather than rude
And now we just pilfer, drink and dream about when we didn't.
  • to pilfer: to steal things
When I came back from the wars I carried with me the stench of death and anger of the lost.
  • stench: bad smell
Your grief clouds your judgment, my son.
  • cloud your judgement”: to make someone less able to think clearly or make sensible decisions
Those embers must turn to flame.
  • embers: a piece of wood or coal that is still hot and red after a fire has stopped burning
So, you're back from the dead and instigating the masses.
  • to instigate: to urge, provoke, or incite to some action or course:
I have been given powers which you could not even fathom.
  • fathom: to understand something complicated or mysterious

Past Movie word lists can be found
at Movie Vocabulary link at the top of the page

Thursday, July 19, 2012

NEWS: First-ever Videos of Snow Leopard Cubs in Mongolia

Originally posted on Scientific Computing July 18, 2012
More Videos and Pictures at Panthera.org
For the first time, the den sites of two female snow leopards and their cubs have been located in Mongolia's Tost Mountains, with the first-known videos taken of a mother and cubs, located and recorded by scientists from Panthera, a wild cat conservation organization, and the Snow Leopard Trust (SLT). Because of the snow leopard's secretive and elusive nature, coupled with the extreme and treacherous landscape which they inhabit, dens have been extremely difficult to locate. The researchers consider this to be a tremendous discovery that provides invaluable insight into the life story of the snow leopard.

Dr. Tom McCarthy, Executive Director of Panthera's Snow Leopard Program stated, "We have spent years trying to determine when and where snow leopards give birth, the size of their litters, and the chances a cub has of surviving into adulthood. This is one of those exceptional moments in conservation where, after years of effort, we get a rare glimpse into the life of an animal that needs our help in surviving in today's world. These data will help ensure a future for these incredible animals."

A short video of the female and her cub who were bedded down in a partially man-made den was recorded from a safe distance by Örjan Johansson, Panthera's Snow Leopard Field Scientist and Ph.D. student, using a camera fixed to an extended pole.

The team, which included a veterinarian, entered the two dens (the first with two cubs, and the second containing one cub) while the mothers were away hunting. All three cubs were carefully weighed, measured, photographed and other details were recorded. Two of the cubs were fixed with tiny microchip ID tags (the size of a grain of rice) which were placed under their skin for future identification. The utmost care was taken in handling the animals to ensure they were not endangered, which was the top priority of the team at all times. In the following days, the team monitored the mothers' locations to ensure that they returned to their dens and their cubs, which they successfully did.

"Knowledge about the first days and weeks of life is vital to our understanding of how big cat populations work, and how likely it is for a newborn to reach adulthood and contribute to a healthy population. A valid conservation program requires such information, which this new development in snow leopard research provides," said Dr. Howard Quigley, Panthera's Executive Director of both Jaguar and Cougar Programs.

Referred to by locals as 'Asia's Mountain Ghost,' knowledge of snow leopards in general is quite limited due to the cat's elusive nature, and even less is known about rearing cubs and cub survival in the wild. Until now, what is known has been learned mostly from studying snow leopards in zoos. Although snow leopard litters typically consist of one to three cubs in a captive zoo environment, no information exists regarding litter size in the wild. As wild snow leopard cubs are subject to natural predators, disease and also human threats such as poaching or capture for the illegal wildlife market, the percentage of cubs that survive to adulthood has, until now, only been speculated.

The use of PIT tags and observations of snow leopard rearing in the wild will allow our scientists to learn about the characteristics of a typical natal den and speculate how a den is selected, how long snow leopard cubs remain in dens, when cubs begin to follow their mothers outside of the dens, how often and how long the mother leaves the cubs alone to hunt, how many cubs are typically born in the wild, and other valuable data.

All of these data and more, gathered through camera-trapping and GPS collaring, help to inform effective conservation initiatives undertaken by Panthera across the snow leopard's range.

Word List:
  • den: the home of some wild animals
  • elusive: an elusive person or animal is difficult or impossible to find or catch
  • treacherous: very dangerous, especially because the dangers are not obvious
  • to poach: to illegally catch or kill an animal, bird, or fish on someone else's property
  • natal: Of or relating to the place or time of one's birth
  • to speculate: to consider or discuss why something has happened or what might happen

Monday, July 16, 2012

NEWS: Wealth Rises in Mongolia, as Does Worry

Originally posted on the New York Times July 15th, 2012

A view of Ulan Bator from Monet, a fine-dining restaurant. Amid the crumbling Stalinist apartment blocks and rising skyscrapers, a debate is raging over mining’s impact, with those who praise the industry for sweeping away decades of decay opposing others who see materialism and corruption polluting Mongolia’s traditional way of life.

ULAN BATOR, Mongolia — Three kinds of foreigners, they say, prowl the world’s energy frontiers: missionaries, misfits and mercenaries.

Howard Hodgson, a weather-beaten Australian drilling executive with the mouth of a sailor, is proud to say he is in it for the money.

When he landed here more than a decade ago, Mr. Hodgson found an economic wasteland still reeling from the fall of Mongolia’s Communist overlords in 1990. The few other expatriates on the scene were mostly busy proselytizing, and there was little to do during the brutal winters but develop a taste for fermented mare’s milk.

Yet to Mr. Hodgson, a veteran of the wilds of Papua New Guinea, Myanmar and Pakistan, the young democracy was a welcome change of scenery. “I’d had enough running around in the jungle,” he said recently.

What made him stay, he said, aside from a nascent mining sector, was an advantage particularly irresistible to a man who had spent a career dodging cannibals, rebels and terrorists: “Here you won’t get shot.”

These days, the perks are far plusher. Mongolia, it turns out, sits atop a treasure trove of copper, coal and gold that is changing the fate — and the face — of this mostly empty country, thanks to China’s insatiable demand for natural resources. The surging mining trade has made Mongolia the world’s fastest-growing economy, transforming Ulan Bator into a city where Soviet bust meets Chinese boom.

And now the mercenaries in finance, attracted by a frenzy of deal-making, have joined in, too. “It’s a bit of a gold rush,” Mr. Hodgson said as he worked a booth at a coal industry conference packed with tailored suits and foreign accents.

For locals, their gentrifying capital, home to half of Mongolia’s 2.7 million people, has become a petri dish for their hopes and fears. Amid the crumbling Stalinist apartment blocks and rising skyscrapers, a debate is raging over mining’s impact, pitting those who praise the industry for sweeping away decades of decay against others who see materialism and corruption polluting Mongolia’s traditional way of life.

Like it or not, mining is changing Ulan Bator. Until a few years ago, the skyline was dominated by a pair of cooling towers. These days, the city’s tallest building is a gleaming 25-story hotel with $300-a-night rooms and unreliable heating.

Its glass sheath overlooks Mongolia’s economic and political nucleus, Sukhbaatar Square, which is surrounded by a telling collection of buildings: the Mongolian Parliament, the stock exchange, the headquarters of the Mongolian Mining Corporation and a billboard for the country’s first British private school, which is to open in September. Across the street, a new mall beckons the nouveau riche with name-brand stores like Burberry and Emporio Armani.

“If it wasn’t for mining, this place would look just as it did 50 years ago,” said Haydn Lynch, who moved here in April from Sydney, Australia, to take an executive position with the exploratory mining company Xanadu Mines.

First-world profits are colliding with third-world problems. A series of flock-devastating winters and the lure of mining riches have attracted thousands of herders from the grasslands. They live on the city’s outskirts in crowded yurt slums some locals refer to as Mongolia’s favelas. Unemployment is rampant there; electricity and drinkable water are not. The less fortunate take shelter in the sewers, where they huddle beside hot-water pipes when the temperature plunges to 40 below.

“At the moment people are waiting for the mining wealth to somehow spill over to them,” said Sumati Luvsandendev, director of the Sant Maral Foundation, a nonprofit organization. According to the foundation’s recent polls, 96 percent of Mongolians think corruption is widespread and 80 percent say they believe their country’s oligarchs have too much power.

Discontent over corruption and the government concessions to foreign mining firms were the major campaign issues in last month’s parliamentary elections. Those now in power face high expectations to spend the mining windfall on health care, infrastructure and economic development.

Still, some wonder whether Mongolia can avoid the familiar demons of political instability, corruption and widening poverty that plague other mineral-rich developing nations. Government officials say they are working hard to avoid the “resource curse” that bloats the bank accounts of a corrupt elite at the expense of the wider public. They say they are also mindful of the potential for the so-called Dutch disease, the strengthening of a nation’s currency that often accompanies a surge in natural resource exports, making its other industries less competitive.

“Mongolia is at a crossroad,” said Saurabh Sinha, an economist with the United Nations Development Program in Ulan Bator. “Will the government use the mining wealth sustainably and equitably for improving the lives of all its people? Or will it become a Nigeria?”

Some Mongolians are starting to feel the benefits. This year, civil servants received a 50 percent pay increase. Or consider the improved fortunes of Uuganbaatar Nyamdeleg.

Stuck in Ulan Bator’s perpetual gridlock one evening, Mr. Nyamdeleg, a mop-haired 26-year-old, recounted how he left his $500-a-month job as a hotel bellboy in 2011 to become a mining safety inspector, earning $1,000 a month. Today he has offers from two mines willing to pay him $1,500 a month. “Only mining pays that kind of big money,” he said.

Mongolia’s boom has also been a magnet to some who left years ago in search of greater fortunes. Zolboo Bataa, 34, spent nine years in Ireland, where he obtained a business degree and built a promising corporate career. But with Ireland in deep recession, Mr. Bataa returned home in March, quickly landing a job with a mining equipment company.

“If you don’t see the opportunity in Mongolia now, you’re a fool,” he said over a pint of beer one night at Hennessy’s Irish pub, an expatriate haven tucked into a dingy hotel.

Gantuya Badamgarav, 44, agrees. The embodiment of Ulan Bator upward mobility, Ms. Badamgarav taught herself English 14 years ago using a Russian-English dictionary and went on to become one of Mongolia’s highest-paid executives.

But she gave it up on the expectation that she could do even better seeking a piece of the new wealth flowing through town. In April, Ms. Badamgarav opened an art gallery in a new mall, filling it with abstract oil paintings and metal sculptures. Wearing skinny jeans and biker boots, Ms. Badamgarav said she expected Mongolia’s mining boom to fuel a Chinese-style cultural renaissance, and she plans to be ahead of the curve.

“In China, once they had luxury cars and Louis Vuitton bags, art came next,” she said.

With the country on the brink of prosperity, Ms. Badamgarav is betting her future on her nation’s soaring aspirations. “Mongolians are like dogs just let off the chain,” she said. “We’re hungry to afford the good stuff.”

Word List:
  • to prowl: to move around an area in a quiet way, especially because you intend to do something bad
  • "mouth of a sailor": using foul language as if they were a sailor
  • to reel: to feel very shocked, upset, or confused
  • to proselytize: to try to persuade people to share your Christian religious beliefs
  • nascent: beginning or formed recently
  • plush: expensive, comfortable, and attractive
  • "treasure trove": a collection of valuable, interesting, or useful things
  • frenzy: a state of uncontrolled activity or emotion
  • to gentrify: the process by which an area of a city where poor people live becomes an area where middle-class people live, as they buy the houses and repair them
  • petri dish: [slang] a place to grow a new culture
  • "nouveau riche": people who have recently become rich, especially people who buy expensive things to impress other people
  • rampant: existing, happening, or spreading in an uncontrolled way
  • oligarch: a member of a small group that runs a country or large organization
  • to bloat: [slang] to increase too quickly
  • perpetual: happening so often that you become annoyed as a result
  • gridlock: traffic jam: a situation in which there are so many cars on the roads that traffic cannot move
  • haven: a place where people or animals can feel safe and happy
  • dingy: a dingy place or object is rather dark in an unpleasant way and often looks dirty

Monday, July 9, 2012

NEWS: Clinton Digs at China From Neighboring Mongolia

Originally posted on New York Times on July 9, 2012

ULAN BATOR, Mongolia – In an unmistakable message to China delivered in a speech from this neighboring country, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday that economic success without meaningful political reform was unsustainable, an equation that would ultimately lead to instability.

Her remarks, couched in unequivocal language at an international forum of democracy advocates, came at a particularly sensitive point in China, when a leadership transition at the top of the Communist Party is proving more messy than usual, and as criticism against the government spreads from environmental concerns to social issues, such as forced abortion.

“You can’t have economic liberalization without political liberalization eventually,” she said. “It’s true that clamping down on political expression or maintaining a tight grip on what people read, say or see can create an illusion of security. But illusions fade – because people’s yearning for liberty don’t.”

Mrs. Clinton arrived in this mineral rich nation on the border of China on the second day of an Asia tour. Her appearances are designed to broaden the Obama administration’s renewed focus on the region beyond an early emphasis on American military strength.

The administration now wants to stress American interests in economic and social issues, an effort to ease up on drawing a confrontation with China.

Mrs. Clinton did not mention China, but her target was clear. “Countries that want to be open for business but closed to free expression will find that this approach comes at cost: it kills innovation and discourages entrepreneurship, which are vital for sustainable growth,” she said, in a particular dig at China as it wrestles with an economic downturn after a decade of double-digit growth.

The notion that democratic values were for Western societies only, an idea spawned in the 1990s by the leader of Singapore, Lee Kwan Yew, was incorrect.

This was an antiquated idea, she said: “In the last five years, Asia has been the only region in the world achieve steady gains in political rights and civil rights, according to the N.G.O. Freedom House.”

But in contrast to those that had made democratic gains, there were governments “that work around the clock to restrict their people’s access to ideas and information, imprison them for expressing their views, usurp the rights of citizens to choose their leaders, and govern without accountability, closed off from public view.”

Mrs. Clinton is well known to the Chinese as a critic of their model of government, a fact that she recalled on Monday by referring to her visit to Beijing 17 years ago as First Lady.

On that occasion, in 1995, she addressed a United Nations conference on women and created a firestorm when she declared that “human rights are women’s rights – and women’s rights are human rights.” Immediately after that conference, she visited Mongolia for the first time and was struck, she said, by the emerging of a democracy, a contrast that appears to have left an indelible impression.

Formerly aligned with the Soviet Union, Mongolia has been held up by the administration as a model of how democracy can be born from authoritarianism.

The country’s democratic credentials were tarnished in April when the government arrested the former president, Nambaryn Enkhbayar, on corruption allegations; it has held him in jail without charges since then.

Mrs. Clinton did not refer to the arrest, choosing to praise parliamentary elections last month in which nine women were elected to the 76-member parliament, a tripling from the previous legislature.

She met President Tsakhia Elbegdor in a ceremonial yurt, the traditional abode of nomadic herders, that featured a finely carved wooden ceiling, elaborate chairs and a glistening chandelier.

With President Elbegdor seated on the stage at Government House, a Soviet style building from the 1950s, Mrs. Clinton extolled Mongolia as an excellent example of how freedom and democracy were not exclusively Western concepts. To those who doubted, she said: “Let them come to Mongolia.”

The Obama administration has taken a particular interest in Mongolia, largely because of its position adjacent to China. Mr. Elbegdor visited the White House last year, and Vice President Joe Biden came to Mongolia last year, as well.

Washington is backing an American company, Peabody Energy based in St. Louis in its contest to win a contract to mine a massive coal deposit at Tavan Tolgoi. The other main contender, Shenhua Energy, is a state-owned Chinese enterprise.

Word List:
  • to couch: to be expressed a particular way
  • unequivocal: clear, definite, and without doubt
  • to clamp down: to make a determined attempt to stop people from doing something bad or illegal
  • to yearn: to want something a lot, especially something that you know you may not be able to have
  • dig: to try to find out information about someone, especially when they do not want you to
  • notion: knowledge or understanding of something
  • antiquated: too old or too old-fashioned to be useful
  • to usurp: to take a job or position that belongs to someone else without having the right to do this
  • indelible: permanent
  • yurt: ger
  • abode: the place where you live