Nikolay Alexandrovich Alexeyev, the face of Russian LGBT rights, retires.

In an email sent to supporters last week, the 34-year-old said he would no longer head Moscow Pride and GayRussia.ru but gave little reason for his decision.

In a Facebook post, he wrote:

Dear friends … today on 21 October 2011, one year anniversary of the European Court of Human Rights verdict in the case of illegality of Moscow Pride bans, I decided to resign from the positions of the head of Russian LGBT Human Rights Project GayRussia.ru and head of Moscow Pride Organizing Committee. From midnight 21 October 2011 in Moscow and up to the decision on the new leadership, Project GayRussia.ru will be headed by Nikolay Baev and Moscow Pride Organizing Committee by Alexander Naumchik.

Speaking to UKGayNews.org.uk, he added:

It is true that I am fed up, and that is why I decided to step down. I also decided not to give any further comments on my decision.

Mr Baev, who will take over GayRussia.ru, said:

The reason [for Alexeyev’s resignation] is totally personal. He just decided to change his activity and lifestyle, and he has a full right to this.

Alexeyev, a former journalist, turned his attention to full-time gay rights campaigning in 2005, setting up GayRussia.ru and making plans for a Pride march in Moscow.

He has appeared regularly on Russian television and has been honoured for his work by LGBT organisations worldwide.

He has been arrested on numerous occasions for holding illegal Pride marches and gay rights demonstrations and launched lawsuits against Moscow authorities for banning the events.

Last September, the campaigner was arrested at Domodedovo Airport in Moscow while boarding a plane to Geneva.

He says he was kidnapped and possibly drugged by Russian security forces who detained him for more than two days and used his phone to send fake messages claiming he was dropping his legal challenges.

Related:
Russian judge: Court ruling on gay pride ban culturally insensitive.
The Army of One – Nikolay Alexandrovich Alexeyev

Update: Nepal Constitution Aims High.

Update relevant to Nepal Constitution Aims High.

Prime minister Jhalanath Khanal resigned last Sunday due to several conflicts in the constitution writing process. So far no replacement have been announced, and the fact that it took seven months to choose prime minister Khanal – it might take some time to find a new one. There are still some political unrest in Nepal, but it´s on the right track.

Nepal Constitution Aims High.

A draft constitution for Nepal would enshrine LGBT rights advances as breathtaking as the heights of Mount Everest if lawmakers are willing to adopt the document.

Following centuries of monarchy and a decade-long civil war that ended in 2006, Nepal has emerged as a democratic republic with one of the world´s most progressive stances on LGBT rights, which could be promulgated in a new constitution this year unless the government further delays its implementation.

Extended once last year, the constitution´s deadline was put off by three months more in late May. Lawmakers disagree on broad questions of government structure, not the LGBT content – some of the most inclusive language of any nation.

The LGBT issues are pretty well formulated in the draft, and there is no opposition, so we don’t need to worry about that. Our concern is about how long it will take to have the constitution, says Sunil Pant, Nepal´s first openly gay elected official and a member of the interim constituent assembly writing the document.

Pant, who is pushing for adoption of the constitution this year, says the draft proposes citizenship rights for “third gender” individuals, who identify as neither male nor female; bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; calls for government affirmative action in support of LGBT people; and proposes gender-neutral language on the rights to work, health, education, and marriage, the latter also being drafted in a separate law directed by a supreme court ruling.

Pant, founder of the LGBT network the Blue Diamond Society and the tourism company Pink Mountain Travels and Tours, attributes the success to a receptive private sector, lack of sensational media, and the Hindu religious tradition, which has  deities that challenge binary gender norms. He also cites the movement´s organizational acumen, and he believes the pace and quality of change will allow Nepal to implement its constitution whenever it is finally adopted.

Nepal´s situation is likely to differ from that of South-Africa, which has a notably progressive constitution, but a disconnect between law and reality.

UNESCO World Heritage Bucket List

After reading an article about the 25 new inscriptions to the UNESCO World Heritage List I decided to visit the places on the list that seems the most interesting before I die, so here it goes, my UNESCO World Heritage Bucket List:

Afghanistan
– Minaret and Remains of Jam

Algeria
– Djémelia
– Tassili n’Ajjer

Argentina
– Iguazu National Park
– Cueva de las Manos, Río Pinturas
– Ischigualasto / Talampaya Natural Parks

Australia
– Great Barrier Reef
– Lord Howe Island Group
– Gondwana Rainforests of Australia
– Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
– Fraser Island
– Sydney Opera House

Austria
– Prehistoric Pile dwellings around the Alps

Azerbaijan
– Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape

Bangladesh
– The Buddhist Vihara at Paharpur

Barbados
– Bridgetown and its Garrison

Bolivia
– Fuerte de Samaipata
– Noel Kempff Mercado National Park

Botswana
– Tsodilo

Brazil
– Serra da Capivara National Park

Cambodia
– Angkor

Canada
– Canadian Rocky Mountains

Chile
– Rapa Nui Island

China
– The Forbidden City
– Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor
– The Great Wall
– Temple and Cemetery of Confucius and the Kong Family Mansion in Qufu
– Leshan Giant Buddha
– Longmen Grottoes
– Wolong, Mt Siguniang and Jiajin Mountains (Giant Panda sanctuaries)

Columbia
– Los Katíos National Park

Croatia
– Palace of Diocletian (check)

Egypt
– Memphis and its Necropolis – the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur
– Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae

Ethiopia
– Tiya
– Fasil Ghebbi
– Aksum

France
– Chartres Cathedral
– Caves of the Vézère Valley
– Cathedral of Notre-Dame
– Fortified City of Carcassonne

Gambia
– Kunta Kinteh Island

Greece
– Acropolis
– Meteora
– Olympia

Guatemala
– Archaeological Park and Ruins of Quirigua

Honduras
– Maya Site of Copan

India
– Taj Mahal

Indonesia
– Prambanan Temple Compounds
– Sangiran Early Man Site

Iran
– Persepolis
– Tchogha Zanbil
– The Persian Garden

Italy
– Piazza del Duomo
Venice (check)
– Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre Annunziata

Japan
– Himeji-jo
– Yakushima
– Genbaku Dome
– Shrines and Temples of Nikko
– Hiraizumi
– Ogasawara Islands

Jordan
– Petra
– Quseir Amra

Kazakhstan
– Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi

Korea, North (Democratic People´s Republic of Korea)
– Complex of Koguryo Tombs

Korea, South (Republic of Korea)
– Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple
– Hwaseong Fortress
– Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes
– Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty
– Hahoe and Yangdong

Lao People´s Democratic Republic
– Town of Luan Prabang
– Vat Phou

Lebanon
– Anjar
– Baalbek
– Tyre
– Ouadi Qadisha (the Holy Valley) and the Forest of the Cedars of God (Horsh Arz el-Rab)

Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
– Archaeological Site of Cyrene
– Archaeological Site of Leptis Magna
– Archaeological Site of Sabratha

Luxembourg
– City of Luxembourg: its Old Quarters and Fortifications

Madagascar
– Tsingy de Bemaraha Nature Reserve
– Royal Hill of Ambohimanga
– Rainforests of the Atsinanana

Mali
– Old Towns of Djenné
– Cliff of Bandiagara (Land of the Dogons)
– Timbuktu

Malta
– Hal Saflieni Hypogeum
– Megalithic Temples of Malta

Marshall Islands
– Bikini Atoll Nuclear Test Site

Mauritania
– Ksour of Ouadane, Chinguetti, Tichitt and Oualata

Mexico
– Historic Centre of Oaxaca and Archaeological Site of Monte Albán
– Pre-Hispanic City and National Park of Palenque
– Pre-Hispanic City of Teotihuacan
– Pre-Hispanic City of Chichen-Itza
– El Tajin, Pre-Hispanic City
– Archaeological Monuments Zone of Xochicalco
– Ancient Maya City of Calakmul, Campeche
– Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California
– Agave Landscape and Ancient Industrial Facilities of Tequila
– Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve
– Camino Real de Tierra Adentro

Morocco
– Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou
– Archaeological Site of Volubilis

Namibia
– Twyfelfontein

Nepal
– Kathmandu Valley
– Sagarmatha National Park
– Lumbini, the Birthplace of the Lord Buddha

New Zealand
– Tongariro National Park
– New Zealand Sub-Antarctic Islands

Nicaragua
– Ruins of León Viejo

Nigeria
– Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove

Norway
– Bryggen in Bergen (check)
– Urnes Stave Church
– Røros Mining Town (check)
– Vegaøyan
– Geirangerfjord (check)
– Nærøyfjord

Oman
– Bahla Fort

Pakistan
– Archaeological Ruins at Moenjodaro
– Buddhist Ruins of Takht-i-Bahi and Neighbouring City Remains at Sahr-i-Bahlol
– Taxila
– Rohtas Fort

Peru
– Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu
– Lines and Geoglyphs of Nasca and Pampas de Jumana
– Sacred City of Caral-Supe

Poland
– Auschwitz Birkenau

Romania
– Villages with Fortified Churches in Transylvania

Russian Federation
– Kremlin and Red Square, Moscow

Saint Kitts and Nevis
– Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park

San Marino
– San Marino Historic Centre and Mount Titano

Saudi Arabia
– Al-Hijr Archaeological Site (Madâin Sâlih)
– At-Turaif District in ad-Dir’iyah

Senegal
– Island of Gorée
– Saloum Delta

Seychelles
– Aldabra Atoll
– Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve

South Africa
– Fossil Hominid Sites of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai, and Environs
– Robben Island

Spain
– Monastery and Site of the Escurial, Madrid
– Royal Monastery of Santa María de Guadalupe
– Pyrénées – Mont Perdu
– Ibiza, Biodiversity and Culture
– Teide National Park (check)
– Tower of Hercules

Sri Lanka
– Ancient City of Polonnaruwa
– Ancient City of Sigiriya
– Golden Temple of Dambulla

Sudan
– Gebel Barkal and the Sites of the Napatan Region
– Archaeological Sites of the Island of Meroe

Switzerland
– Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Landscapes

Syrian Arab Republic
– Ancient City of Damascus
– Ancient City of Bosra
– Site of Palmyra
– Crac des Chevaliers and Qal’at Salah El-Din

Tajikistan
– Proto-urban site of Sarazm

Tanzania, United Republic of
– Serengeti National Park
– Kilimanjaro National Park
– Kondoa Rock-Art Sites

Thailand
– Historic City of Ayutthaya
– Historic Town of Sukhothai and Associated Historic Towns
– Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuaries

Tunisia
– Amphitheatre of El Jem
– Archaeological Site of Carthage
– Punic Town of Kerkuane and its Necropolis
– Dougga / Thugga

Turkey
–  Great Mosque and Hospital of Divriği
– Hattusha: the Hittite Capital
– Nemrut Dağ
– Hierapolis-Pamukkale
– Xanthos-Letoon
– Archaeological Site of Troy
– Selimiye Mosque and its Social Complex

Turkmenistan
– State Historical and Cultural Park “Ancient Merv”
– Kunya-Urgench
– Parthian Fortresses of Nisa

Uganda
– Tombs of Buganda Kings at Kasubi

Ukraine
– Residence of Bukovinian and Dalmatian Metropolitans

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
– Durham Castle and Cathedral
– St Kilda
– Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites
– Studley Royal Park including the Ruins of Fountains Abbey
– City of Bath
– Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey and Saint Margaret’s Church
– Tower of London

United States of America
– Mesa Verde National Park
– Yellowstone National Park
– Everglades National Park
– Grand Canyon National Park
– Independence Hall
– Redwood National and State Parks
– Mammoth Cave National Park
– Great Smoky Mountains National Park
– Statue of Liberty (check)
– Yosemite National Park
– Chaco Culture
– Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
– Monticello and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville

Uzbekistan
– Itchan Kala

Vanuatu
– Chief Roi Mata’s Domain

Vietnam
– Complex of Hué Monuments
– My Son Sanctuary

Zambia
– Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls

Zimbabwe
– Great Zimbabwe National Monument
– Khami Ruins National Monument
– Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls
– Matobo Hill

Sex with time-travellers might kill you.

When time travel finally becomes possible, we might want to think twice about getting it on. According to a new study on tiny shrimp (Artemia franciscana), sex with partners from a different time could kill you.

Researchers at the Center for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology (CEFE) in Montpellier, France, collected preserved brine shrimp eggs from various generations, and then reanimated them with water. Nicolas Rode and colleagues mated pairs of brine shrimp that had been reanimated from eggs preserved since 1985, 1996 and 2007, a period representing roughly 160 generations. They found that females that mated with males from the past or future died off sooner than those that mated with their own generation. The longer the time-shift, the earlier they died: The 22-year time difference shortened female lifetimes by 12 percent; the effect was 3 percent for the 11-year time-shift.

Interestingly, this didn’t affect the females’ reproductive success. Those that lived shorter lives produced the same average number of offspring, they just did it at a faster pace. “Females’ life histories are complex and are constantly adjusted,” explains study co-author Thomas Lenormand. These adjustments reflect the trade-offs between survival and reproduction in nature.

Brine shrimp are part of an interesting class of animal whose eggs can survive decades of drought in a form of dormancy known as cryptobiosis. Once the eggs are reintroduced to water—either in nature or in the lab—they hatch. The species therefore makes an ideal subject for a time-traveling experiment like this one.

What makes time-shifting sex hazardous to health is something called antagonistic coevolution, a way that different species (parasites and hosts, for example) or members of the same species (males and females) adapt to each other to promote their own individual reproductive interests. In nature’s sex wars, males campaign for more offspring—the proverbial seed-spreading—while females play hard-to-get because they bear most of the burden of reproduction and parenthood.

Evolutionary biologists say these conflicts are common in nature, and could occur either as an arms race, with each side’s weapons getting bigger and better, or as a fluctuation, where the two sides take turns dominating each other over time with novel adaptations.

If males and females coevolve their sex organs in tandem, mating with a partner from a different time could leave you unprepared—sort of like heading into modern war with 17th-century armor. The brine shrimp experiment shows just this.

Unfortunately, the researchers couldn’t determine whether there were arms-race-style or fluctuation-style adaptations at work in this experiment. They’d need a longer time-shift to figure that out, which would test the limits of brine shrimp cryptobiosis. They also don’t know what traits made the time-shifting males more deadly. Lenormand and Rode say they’d like to investigate these traits in the future. It could have something to do with amplexus, in which male brine shrimp grasp their partners for hours or even days after sex to keep them from mating with others. A byproduct of this so-called mate guarding is that the females can’t feed, which could shorten their lifetimes. The researchers would also like to flip the experiment on its head, studying the effects of time-shifting sex on males instead of females.

So what does shrimp sex have to do with us? Sexual conflicts and antagonistic coevolution are “probably central to understanding male/female behavior,” Lenormand says. In fact, it turns out that antagonistic coevolution is hard at work in humans today. I’ve previously written about the possible antidepressant properties of seminal fluid. But there’s a dark side to semen, too. Gordon Gallup, an evolutionary biologist as SUNY Albany explained it thus:

“At the level of semen chemistry and vaginal chemistry, there’s competition. The vagina is a very hostile environment for sperm. When a female is inseminated, the presence of the semen triggers an immune reaction, so semen—and particularly the sperm—are treated as pathogens. Male seminal plasma contains all kinds of chemicals that are designed to take this into account. Seminal plasma is alkaline, and a couple seconds after ejaculation the pH of the vagina approaches neutrality, which makes it a friendly environment for sperm. Sperm also contains a lot of immunosuppressants that suppress the female’s immune system and counteract this immune reaction to semen.”