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Jungle Highway Plan Spurs Security, Eco Fears in Panama

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A boatman on Rio Tuira, Darien, Panama

It is a unique piece of biodiversity, a 60-mile-wide (100-kilometer- wide) emerald wilderness bordered by two oceans. It is the Darién Gap of Panama (see pictures), a landmass linking North and South America and straddling the Panama-Colombia border.

The Darién got its name because it is the only gap in the 16,000-mile (26,000-kilometer) Pan-American Highway, which stretches from Alaska to Patagonia.

But Colombia’s President, Alvaro Uribe, says he wants that gap closed and has requested that Panama pave a road through the Darién to complete the Pan-American Highway.

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Inside Voodoo: African Cult of Twins Marks Voodoo New Year

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View a photo gallery by Chris Rainier here.

Reporter Lorne Matalon’s African assignment was part of the National Geographic Society’s ongoing Ethnosphere Project, a five-year series of expeditions to study cultural diversity. Watch for related coverage on the National Geographic Channel, and tune in to National Public Radio’s Morning Edition this week for related broadcasts on Radio Expeditions on National Public Radio (NPR).

A 38-year-old subsistence farmer, Koffi Ameko lives with his wife and four children along the Mono River in Benin, West Africa. Together with the 20 families of his small village, Ameko shares a genetic predisposition to produce twins and a fervent belief in their special place in the vodun, or voodoo, religion.

Like other indigenous peoples in this part of West Africa, Ameko, a devout follower of voodoo, believes twins are living deities that symbolize fertility. He worships them as a member of what is known as the Cult of the Twins.

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