Sunday, September 3, 2017

World's oldest man, Auschwitz survivor, Yistrael Kristal dies in 2017

Yisrael Kristal sitting in his home in the Israeli city of Haifa in 2016

Image copyrightAFP
Image captionYisrael Kristal, the world's oldest man, has died at the age of 113
The world's oldest man - the only member of his immediate family to survive the Holocaust - has died at the age of 113.
Polish-born Yisrael Kristal died on Friday, a month before he was due to turn 114, Israeli media reported.
Mr Kristal, who lived in Haifa, Israel, hit the headlines last year after deciding to celebrate his bar mitzvah a century late.
The original celebration had not taken place because World War One broke out.
Mr Kristal was born in the village of Zarnow, about 90 miles (146km) south-west of Warsaw, in 1903.
The son of a religious scholar, Mr Kristal lost his mother and father during World War One, according to reports. He later moved to Lodz to work in the family confectionery business.
After the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany in 1939, Mr Kristal and his family were moved into the Lodz ghetto.
His two children died there and Mr Kristal and his wife Chaja Feige Frucht were sent to Auschwitz in 1944 after the ghetto was liquidated.
Marco Frigatti, of Guinness World Records, presenting Yisrael Kristal with his certificate of achievement for oldest living man, in the presence of the Kristal's daughter, her son and grandchildren.Image copyrightAFP
Image captionMr Kristal remarried after the Holocaust and had two children (pictured in 2016)
Mr Kristal's wife was murdered in Auschwitz but he survived, performing slave labour in that and other camps. When he was found by the Allies in May 1945 he weighed just 37 kg (5 stones 11 lbs).
According to Tablet Mag, he thanked the Soviet soldiers who rescued him by making them sweets.
The sole survivor from his family, Mr Kristal emigrated to Israel in 1950 with his second wife and their son, where he continued to run his confectionery business until his retirement.
Mr Kristal was officially recognised as the world's oldest man by the Guinness Book of Records in March 2016.
Speaking at the time, he admitted he did not know the secret to a long life, saying: "There have been smarter, stronger and better looking men than me who are no longer alive."
He is survived by two children, as well as grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.
His daughter Shula Koperstoch said he had died on Friday afternoon after becoming ill on Thursday.
She told Israeli news website Ynet [in Hebrew] she had had a "great father", adding: "Despite all that he went through, and he lost the whole family in the Holocaust, he had a lot of optimism, and he always saw only light and good in everything."

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Georgia's Forgotten People

In pictures: Georgia's forgotten people

  • 19 September 2016
  • From the sectionMagazine

Marium Gabisonia, aged seven-years-old, looks out the second story window of the room she shares with her sisterImage copyrightJACOB BORDEN

Twenty-five years after the fall of the USSR, many people struggling to find a home and a job in the former Soviet republic of Georgia have made their home in abandoned buildings.
Some are refugees from Abkhazia, a Georgian region which fought a war of secession in 1992-93. A quarter of a million people were internally displaced in the conflict. Others became homeless after simply falling on hard times.
Approximately 400 are living in harsh conditions in an abandoned Soviet-era military hospital in the capital, Tbilisi. Photographer Jacob Borden captured what life is like for these people living on the margins of society.

Maia Daiauri, aged 45, begins to prepare a former hospital room into a liveable environmentImage copyrightJACOB BORDEN

Maia Daiauri, aged 45, works to turn one of the rooms in the former hospital into a liveable space. All of the occupied rooms have windows, and almost all of the residents have a small gas canister and burner to cook on. Most rooms have small wood-burning stoves, used as heaters in the winter. Those who do not have access to heating or plumbing share with their neighbours. There is a strong sense of community. As one resident says: "We don't have much, all we have is each other."

A view of the building and courtyard as seen from an adjacent buildingImage copyrightJACOB BORDEN

The derelict hospital is unsafe, and utilities such as electricity are diverted through a patchwork of wires and pipes, while raw sewage often trickles down walls because of broken plumbing. In 2015, a young boy died in a fire caused by faulty wiring.

Nikoloz Beriashuili, aged two-years-old, sleeps in the one room he shares with his mother, father and sisterImage copyrightJACOB BORDEN

About 80 children live in the building and the majority are under six years old, like Nikoloz Beriashuili, aged two, who sleeps in the same room as his mother, father and sister. Some of the children who live in the building skip school, saying they do not find it useful. Older children who have also dropped out of school often take care of their younger siblings.

Residents walk through the first floor hallway at duskImage copyrightJACOB BORDEN

Most of the residents rely on state benefits. They prefer to spend the 300 Lari (£97.99) they receive each month on food, rather than use it to rent poor-quality housing, and they avoid taking official jobs for fear of losing this cash lifeline.

A lone Soviet era car sits in a parking lot outside the buildingImage copyrightJACOB BORDEN

A Soviet-era car sits in a parking lot outside the building. Some older residents remember the communist era with nostalgia, as they say they had homes, jobs and stability then. Most are embittered and feel they have been left behind by Georgia's shift to a market economy.

Matiko Pirtskhulava, aged 46, stands in her two room unit. She lives alone while her two teenage children attend seminary schoolImage copyrightJACOB BORDEN

Matiko Pirtskhulava, aged 46, stands in her two-room unit. She lives alone while her two teenage children attend a seminary. In the building there are many women who live by themselves or with children, some have been widowed and subsequently left homeless.

A conch shell provides shelter for the lone minnow in a fish tank in a bedroomImage copyrightJACOB BORDEN
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A pet dog is kept chained in the kitchen of one of the unitsImage copyrightJACOB BORDEN

The residents do their best to improve the building and make the rooms they live in comfortable. Wallpaper and flooring scavenged from the neighbourhood are used to transform the concrete rooms into a home. A large conch shell provides shelter for a solitary minnow in the fish tank of one bedroom.

Marium Gabisonia, aged seven-years-old, pauses during a game of tag with her siblingsImage copyrightJACOB BORDEN

There are approximately 150 families living in the building. Marium Gabisonia, aged seven, shares a room with her sister and plays childhood games like tag in the corridors of the former hospital.

Ia Ochiauri, 42, a mother of two lives with her husband and his brother . They do odd jobs when they canImage copyrightJACOB BORDEN

Ia Ochiauri, 42, a mother of two, lives with her husband and his brother, doing odd jobs to get by.

Matiko Pirtskhulava, aged 46, says: “I do not feel like I am a part of [Georgian] society"Image copyrightJACOB BORDEN

Matiko Pirtskhulava, aged 46, says: "I do not feel like I am a part of [Georgian] society." Many residents feel they have been overlooked by modern society, and watch while the echoes of Georgia's past crumble before their eyes.
All photographs by Jacob Borden. Additional reporting by Tbel Abuseridze.

DNA hints at earlier human exodus from Africa

DNA hints at earlier human exodus from Africa

Rock art from southern AfricaImage copyrightSCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Image captionThe early migrants were hunter-gatherers, like the people depicted in this much more recent rock art from South Africa
Hints of an early exodus of modern humans from Africa may have been detected in living humans.
Present-day people outside Africa were thought to descend from a group that left their homeland 60,000 years ago.
Now, analysis of nearly 500 human genomes appears to have turned up the weak signal of an earlier migration.
But the results suggest this early wave of Homo sapiens all but vanished, so it does not drastically alter prevailing theories of our origins.
Writing in the academic journal Nature, Luca Pagani, Mait Metspalu and colleagues describe hints of this pioneer group in their analysis of DNA in people from the Oceanian nation of Papua New Guinea.
After evolving in Africa 200,000 years ago, modern humans are thought to have crossed through Egypt into the Arabian Peninsula some 60,000 years ago.
Until now, genetic evidence has shown that every non-African alive today could trace their origins to this fateful dispersal.
Yet we had known for some time that groups of modern humans made forays outside their "homeland" before 60,000 years ago.
  • Fossilised remains found at the Qafzeh and Es Skhul caves in Israel had been dated to between 120,000 and 90,000 years ago.
  • Then in 2015, scientists working in Daoxian, south China, reported thediscovery of modern human teeth dating to at least 80,000 years ago.
  • An additional piece of evidence recently came from traces of Homo sapiens DNA in a female Neanderthal from Siberia's Altai mountains. The analysis suggested that modern humans and Neanderthals had begun mixing around 100,000 years ago - presumably outside Africa.
Child in Papua New GuineaImage copyrightARIS MESSINIS/GETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe faint signature of an earlier out of Africa migration may be found in people from Papua New Guinea
In order to reconcile this evidence with the genetic data from living populations, the prevailing view advanced by scientists was of a wave of pioneer settlement that ended in extinction.
But the latest results suggest some descendents of these trailblazers survived long enough to get swept up in the later, ultimately more successful migration that led to the settling of Oceania.
"The first instance when we thought we were seeing something was when we used a technique called MSMC, which allows you to look at split times of populations," said co-author Dr Mait Metspalu, director of the Estonian Biocentre in Tartu, told BBC News.
His colleague and first author Dr Luca Pagani, also from the Estonian Biocentre, added: "All the other Eurasians we had were very homogenous in their split times from Africans.
"This suggests most Eurasians diverged from Africans in a single event... about 75,000 years ago, while the Papuan split was more ancient - about 90,000 years ago. So we thought there must be something going on."
It was already known that Papuans, along with other populations from Oceania and Asia, derive a few per cent of their ancestry from Denisovans, an enigmatic sister group to the Neanderthals.
The researchers tried to remove this component, but were left with a third chunk of the genome which was different from the Denisovan segment and the overwhelming majority which represents the main out of Africa migration 60,000 years ago.
Qafzeh remainsImage copyrightSCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Image captionFossil evidence from Israel, like this individual from Qafzeh cave, suggests modern humans were already living outside Africa at least 90,000 years ago
Daoxian teethImage copyrightS XING, X-J WU
Image captionTeeth from Daoxian suggest Homo sapiens had reached southern China by at least 80,000 years ago
"This third component had intermediate properties which we concluded must have originated as an independent expansion out of Africa about 120,000 years ago," Dr Pagani told BBC News.
"We believe this makes up at least 2% of the genome of modern Papuans."
In a separate paper in the same edition of Nature, Prof David Reich and Swapan Mallick, both from Harvard Medical School, along with colleagues analysed 300 genomes from 142 different populations around the world.
They found no evidence of substantial ancestry from an early African exodus in Papuans and other related populations such as indigenous Australians. They conclude that, if the genetic legacy of such a migration survives in these populations, it can't comprise more than a few per cent of their genomes.
A similar conclusion is reached in a third study on the genomes of indigenous Australian by the University of Copenhagen's Eske Willerslev and Anna-Sapfo Malaspinas, along with colleagues.
Commenting on the Reich Lab study, Dr Metspalu told BBC News: "They do not detect an early Out of Africa, but they also do not reject it as long as it is just a few per cent in modern humans."
Dr Pagani added: "All three papers all reach the same conclusions. That in Eurasians and also Papuans - the majority of their genomes come from the same major migration."
Prof Chris Stringer, from London's Natural History Museum, who was not involved with the genomic studies, commented: "The papers led by Mallick and by Malaspinas favour a single exit from Africa less than 80,000 years ago giving rise to all extant non-Africans, while that led by Pagani favours an additional and earlier exit more than 100,000 years ago, traces of which they claim can still be found in Australasians.
"Unfortunately, the signs of past interbreeding with a Denisovan-like archaic population which are found at a level of about 4% in extant Australasians, according to the Malaspinas paper, complicate interpretations, as well as the possibility that there may have been yet other ancient interbreedings which are so far poorly understood."

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sri Varavimada Kalimman temple in Toa Payoh (1860s)

Image result for Sri Vairavimada Kaliamman temple toa payoh

The Sri Vairavimada Kaliamman temple in Toa Payoh can trace its roots to the 1860s, when it was a resting spot in the Orchard area for Indian plantation workers and dhobis (washermen). It then evolved into a place for Hindus to pray and sing devotional songs.

This nugget of historical information, part of the Toa Payoh heritage trail, is one of thousands that online users can uncover in a new Web portal launched by the National Heritage Board (NHB) yesterday.
Called, the site is a mammoth repository of information on more than 120,000 cultural treasures and historical artefacts from the national collection.
It also includes 85 heritage trails, 72 national monuments, and about 1,000 heritage resources such as research papers and activity sheets.
The portal "presents heritage resources in a much more dynamic manner", Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth Baey Yam Keng told Parliament. "Whether you are a serious researcher, or just a curious young student, will provide a new dimension for you to explore and learn more about our history and heritage," he added.
Produced by NHB's digital team, it was budgeted in 2014 as part of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth's digital engagement strategy. It took seven months and cost about $400,000 to piece together. It is targeted at educators and the general public.
The senior manager of NHB's digital team, Mr Shaun Wong, said the portal is one way to better showcase the historic gems under its care. For instance, the team wove an early 19th-century painting from Tanjore, South India, of a dhobi and his wife, into the write-up of the Sri Vairavimada Kaliamman temple.
NHB's existing website, which draws about 300,000 views annually, will now be its corporate site.
Overall, the board chalked up a digital reach of more than 3.07 million views across its digital platforms, including its museum websites and social platforms, last year.
During the debate on the ministry's budget, Mr Chen Show Mao (Aljunied GRC) raised the importance of implementing heritage impact assessments. Minister Grace Fu said NHB adopts a "calibrated and sensitive approach" to balance heritage preservation and development needs. The assessment frameworks of several countries were studied but these were not fully applicable to Singapore, she added.
"We have decided not to adopt such frameworks wholesale at this point of time, but to evolve an approach suited to our local context."
She also said NHB will be able to identify Singapore's heritage assets and better advise on their historical significance when the nationwide survey on the country's tangible heritage is done by mid-2017.