Friday, September 25, 2015

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

“A Pope for All Species.” [Nicholas Kristof, NY Times] Excerpt:
We all know that Pope Francis cares deeply for the marginalized, but did you realize that his compassion bridges the species barrier? He suggests that animals will go to heaven and that the Virgin Mary “grieves for the sufferings” even of mistreated livestock.
    “Eternal life will be a shared experience of awe, in which each creature, resplendently transfigured, will take its rightful place,” he has written.
    I share his conviction that dogs go to heaven — indeed, heaven would be diminished if there were no dogs. And it’s exhilarating to see a spiritual leader whose empathy goes beyond the widow and orphan to, say, the parrot (Francis once blessed a parrot belonging to a former male stripper).
    More on Francis’ empathy for animals in a moment. In a larger sense, it is this boundless compassion that has made him such a popular figure, even among non-Catholics....
    ...To me, one of the most striking shifts that go beyond tone is one that has commanded almost no notice: his calls for animal rights.
    “We must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures,” he declared in his encyclical on the environment. “The Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism.”
    There are many such passages, including a warning against unnecessary experiments on animals....
    The pope’s sweeping empathy will benefit the poor, the refugees and, perhaps gradually, animals we abuse in factory farms. But it does more; his humility and compassion also benefit the reputation of Christianity itself, by helping to recast it from pointing fingers to helping hands. [read more]
Spinner Dolphin
“Navy Sonar Settlement Brings Historic Win for Whales.” [Jessica Knoblauch, EarthJustice] Excerpt:
For the first time ever, the Navy has agreed to put vast swaths of important habitat for numerous marine mammals off limits to dangerous sonar training and testing.
    The blue whale is one of the largest animals ever known to have lived on Earth, but despite its heft, this magnificently oversized marine mammal can’t withstand the biological blows caused by Navy sonar training and testing.
    Today, the blue whale got a break from these harmful sounds. For the first time ever, the U.S. Navy has agreed to put vast swaths of important habitat for numerous marine mammals off limits to dangerous mid-frequency sonar training and testing and the use of powerful explosives.
    The significance of this victory cannot be overstated. Ocean noise is one of the biggest threats to the health and well-being of marine mammals, which rely on sound to “see” their world. For years, scientists have documented that high-intensity, mid-frequency sounds wreak havoc on the aquatic environment, causing serious impacts to marine mammals, such as strandings, habitat avoidance and abandonment, and even death. [read more]
When we saw this headline, we knew we had to share this story with you. “Desperate Elephants Shot With Poison Arrows Travel To Humans For Help.” [Ameena Schelling, The Dodo]
    Last month, three wild elephants were attacked by poachers with poisoned arrows. Rather than give up, they trekked across the African landscape to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust [DSWT].
    Why? They knew these humans would help.

Elephants have remarkable spatial reasoning abilities and are able to craft detailed mental maps that help them navigate their territory. Considering their intelligence and high sociability, it's possible that former orphans or elephants who have been treated by DSWT could have communicated that it was a place of safety.
    “Every day, we are awed by Kenya's wildlife,” DSWT said.
    Fortunately, these elephants wound up in exactly the right place. Over several hours, the veterinary team sedated the three bulls and treated their arrow wounds, cleaning out the poisoned areas and filling them with antibiotics and protective clay.
    And according to DWST, they've done quite well after their surgeries — and seem to be thankful. [read more]
“How the U.S. Can Welcome Refugees” is a good article in the NY Times by David Miliband on the current resettlement program and organization in the United States, a public-private endeavor, similar to the postwar settlement of displaced persons which helped our family.
    Presently, America is shamefully shirking by not providing any real help to solve a tidal humanitarian problem that George W. Bush's war in Iraq unleashed.
    Neither is Britain doing its job. Cameron provided Obama a bad example of shirking. Shouldn't Miliband, a Brit, have first addressed his own country with demands to help the Syrian refugees with numbers that exceed what the City of Munich handles over one weekend?

THE evidence from Europe in recent weeks is that many citizens are ahead of their governments when it comes to responding to the tide of human misery coming from the Middle East. Soccer clubs in Germany are setting up training academies. Austrians have turned out at railway stations. In Iceland, more than 15,000 people joined the “Syria is calling” Facebook page, many of whom apparently offered to house a refugee.
    In the United States, the Obama administration’s response has been cautious. While Turkey is hosting approximately 1.9 million refugees from Syria, Jordan has received more than 600,000, and Lebanon over one million, America has taken only just over 1,500 people during four years of the Syrian civil war.
    The president first promised this month to increase the number who will be resettled to 10,000 in the fiscal year beginning in October. This was paltry.
    With more people fleeing conflict and disaster than at any time since World War II, renewed leadership is required. No country is better placed than the United States to offer it....
    There are very many generous, civic-minded Americans who stand ready to welcome thousands more Syrian refugees to this country. So, too, should the United States government. That effort will not only save precious lives, but will also confirm the nation’s commitment to its moral and international responsibilities.[read more]
David Crittenden, guitar: "Between Two Places" [3:02]

Only in Australia
I said: It’s sad they thought that kid had a bomb.
    She said: They didn’t think he had a bomb.
    I said: yes, they thought he made a bomb and even called the police.
    She said: They just wanted to humiliate a little Muslim boy. They didn’t think he had a bomb.
    I said: Don’t be a conspiracy theorist. They might be a little prejudiced, but I’m sure they thought he had a bomb.
    She said: Okay. But they didn’t evacuate the school, like you do when there’s a bomb. They didn’t call a bomb squad – like you do when there’s a bomb. They didn’t get as far away from him as possible – like you do when there’s a bomb. Then they put him and the clock in an office – not like you do when there’s a bomb. Then they waited with him for the police to arrive, and then they put the clock in the same car as the police. Then they took pictures of it.
    I said: Damn.....They never thought he had a bomb.
    Background: “Muslim teen Ahmed Mohamed creates clock, shows teachers, gets arrested.” [ABC News]

Many years ago, I worked in a school environment and got a taste of school personnel's smoke-and-mirror, knee-jerk reactions. Its struck me that it was mostly show, void of any real or true meaning. And, dare I say, arising out of fear. But always the paramount motivation was to shape public perception. The “good of the school” was not the focus, but avoiding possible negative fallout. Cover your ass no matter what. Doing the right thing was secondary to staying in power. Oh! – is there a similarity to governments? Imagine that!
    I have said for years that American adults generally have never turned loose of junior-high manipulations and self-preservation. Just a bunch of Richard Craniums walking around in big britches. [The editor had never hard of “Richard Craniums” some readers might want to check this out too.]

To Sua Ocean – Samoa

“Why the Rich Are So Much Richer.” [James Surowiecki, New York Review of Books] Excerpt:
The fundamental truth about American economic growth today is that while the work is done by many, the real rewards largely go to the few. The numbers are, at this point, woefully familiar: the top one percent of earners take home more than 20 percent of the income, and their share has more than doubled in the last thirty-five years. The gains for people in the top 0.1 percent, meanwhile, have been even greater. Yet over that same period, average wages and household incomes in the US have risen only slightly, and a number of demographic groups (like men with only a high school education) have actually seen their average wages decline.
    Income inequality has become such an undeniable problem, in fact, that even Republican politicians have taken to decrying its effects. It’s not surprising that a Democrat like Barack Obama would call dealing with inequality “the defining challenge of our time.” But when Jeb Bush’s first big policy speech of 2015 spoke of the frustration that Americans feel at seeing “only a small portion of the population riding the economy’s up escalator,” it was a sign that inequality had simply become too obvious, and too harmful, to be ignored. [read more]
Children in Greenland
Hmm, maybe those fish oil capsules are a waste: “Inuit Study Adds Twist to Omega-3 Fatty Acids’ Health Story.” [Carl Zimmer, NY Times] Excerpt:
As the Inuit people spread across the Arctic, they developed one of the most extreme diets on Earth. They didn’t farm fruits, vegetables or grains. There weren’t many wild plants to forage, aside from the occasional patch of berries on the tundra.
    For the most part, the Inuit ate what they could hunt, and they mostly hunted at sea, catching whales, seals and fish. Western scientists have long been fascinated by their distinctly un-Western diet. Despite eating so much fatty meat and fish, the Inuit didn’t have a lot of heart attacks.
    In the 1970s, Danish researchers studying Inuit metabolism proposed that omega-3 fatty acids found in fish were protective. Those conclusions eventually led to the recommendation that Westerners eat more fish to help prevent heart disease and sent tens of millions scrambling for fish oil pills.
    Today, at least 10 percent of Americans regularly take fish oil supplements. But recent trials have failed to confirm that the pills prevent heart attacks or stroke. And now the story has an intriguing new twist.
    A study published last week in the journal Science reported that the ancestors of the Inuit evolved unique genetic adaptations for metabolizing omega-3s and other fatty acids. Those gene variants had drastic effects on Inuit bodies, reducing their heights and weights. [read more]
The Inuit people are an example of the resiliency of the human body. Living in the arctic on the extremes of the environment with a most extreme diet (mainly whales, seals, and fish), they have survived for thousands of years. But to survive all they have to do is live long enough to reproduce. However, the Inuits hardly thrive – rarely living longer than 55. They could live longer, however, by simply adding significant amounts of starches with some fruits and vegetables to their diet.

I know that you and some of your readers are interested in sex & spirituality. You gotta check this out: “2 Views of Sex Spirituality.” [Peggy Payne, Novels of Sex & Spirituality] Excerpt:
A Hindu friend – who also admires philosophies of the controversial teacher of Tantra Osho, formerly known as Rajneesh – asked me recently exactly what I saw as the connection between sex and spiritual experience.
    Pleased to have a succinct answer (my sound byte) to that question, I said that I see both as a way....[read more].
With respect to last week's fish about Sprezzatura, here’s a picture of Italian Sprezzatura in a list of liked Italian words in Germany: The caption [in English] says: “In shorts sitting on a bridge at sunset while looking downright casual? Just go with the direct measure Sprezzatura.”

“Prison vs. Harvard in an Unlikely Debate.” [Leslie Brody, The Wall Street Journal] Inmate debate team is part of Bard College program helping give prisoners a chance for a better life. Excerpt:
NAPANOCH, N.Y.—On one side of the stage at a maximum-security prison here sat three men incarcerated for violent crimes.
    On the other were three undergraduates from Harvard College.
    After an hour of fast-moving debate on Friday, the judges rendered their verdict.
    The inmates won.
    The audience burst into applause. That included about 75 of the prisoners’ fellow students at the Bard Prison Initiative, which offers a rigorous college experience to men at Eastern New York Correctional Facility, in the Catskills.
    The debaters on both sides aimed to highlight the academic power of a program, part of Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., that seeks to give a second chance to inmates hoping to build a better life.
    Ironically, the inmates had to promote an argument with which they fiercely disagreed. Resolved: “Public schools in the United States should have the ability to deny enrollment to undocumented students.” [read more]
Students at Oxford University
“The Prime Minister Did What with a Pig’s Head?” [Hari Kunzru, New York Times] Excerpt:
This week, the unpalatable image of the future prime minister performing what the British tabloid press, with fake prudishness, likes to call a “sex act” on a dead pig’s head was — thanks to an unauthorized biography of Mr. Cameron, “Call Me Dave,” by a spurned Conservative Party donor, Lord Ashcroft — planted firmly in the popular imagination. The fact that the allegation is anonymously sourced and unsupported by evidence is almost irrelevant. It is in our minds. We cannot unsee it....
    In Evelyn Waugh’s comic novel “Decline and Fall,” published in 1928, the hapless Paul Pennyfeather is “sent down” from (the imaginary) Scone College, Oxford, after getting caught up in the drunken antics of a dining society called the Bollinger Club, a thinly veiled version of the Bullingdon Club, known to initiates as the “Buller,” to which Mr. Cameron belonged during his undergraduate days at Oxford. The alleged incident with the pig’s head, gleefully dubbed #piggate by social media users, took place at a time when Waugh’s Oxford was undergoing a fashion revival....
    Oxford’s ancient rights and privileges provided a layer of protection against the legal consequences of the more boisterous kinds of fun. Until 2003, the university had its own police force: Bowler-hatted officers, often old soldiers, known colloquially as “bulldogs,” kept order in the colleges, allowing transgressions to be handled without involving outside authorities. Arrestable offenses for “the town” (drug possession, assaults, public nudity) were youthful high spirits for “the gown.” What happened behind college gates stayed behind college gates, a formative lesson for future members of the establishment. [read more]
“NIH addresses the science of diversity.” [National Institutes of Health] Excerpt:
In a new co-authored perspective, NIH Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity, Hannah Valantine, M.D., and NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., offer a fresh take on scientific workforce diversity – approaching it as a scientific opportunity rather than as an intractable problem. They posit that diversity is a research challenge that can be pursued through the scientific method.
    In their piece, Collins and Valantine outline four challenges facing the biomedical community’s efforts to diversify the scientific workforce: the impact of scientific workforce diversity on the quality and outputs of biomedical research itself; evidence-based approaches to recruitment, retention, and career advancement; psychosocial factors like unconscious bias and stereotype threat that influence who joins biomedicine and who leaves; and scalable strategies to disseminate and sustain scientific workforce diversity nationwide for the long term. Collins and Valantine welcome more basic and applied research on the science of diversity.
    Beyond ensuring fairness in scientific workforce representation, recruiting and retaining a diverse set of minds and approaches is vital to harnessing the complete intellectual capital of the nation. It is abundantly clear from research – much of it in the business, social sciences, and educational literature – that diversity improves team performance and has many other positive benefits. What is less clear – and where we need more research – is how diversity plays out in scientific settings. [read more]
“Leonardo DiCaprio Joins Divestment Call as Fossil Fuels Could Lose Billions in Investment.” [David Kirby Take Part]. Excerpt:
Over the past year, investors holding $2.6 trillion in assets have pledged to divest from companies that produce coal, oil, and natural gas, according to a report issued Tuesday....
    “One year ago today, exactly, we announced that the total [divestment] at that point was $52 billion, and committed to tripling that amount before the U.N. Climate Conference in Paris in December of this year,” said Ellen Dorsey, executive director of the Wallace Global Fund, at a press conference Tuesday in New York.
    “That means we’ve seen a fiftyfold increase in the total combined assets of those committed to divestment from fossil fuels, and with it, we’ve seen a growing number of commitments to invest in climate solutions,” Dorsey said....
    ...[A]ctor Leonardo DiCaprio...said on Tuesday that he would divest all of his personal assets from the fossil-fuel industry, as would the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation...In a statement, he said: “Now is the time to divest and invest to let our world leaders know that we, as individuals and institutions, are taking action to address climate change, and we expect them to do their part.” [read more]
Limerick of the week:
Said Zig Ziglar, “It’s not your aptitude
(your talents or smarts), “but your attitude
    (your way of thinking –
    rising, not sinking –
slinking?), “that determines your altitude.”
Copyright © 2015 by Morris Dean


  1. Please forgive the delay in the fish delivery: A pope for all species, historic win for whales, ​elephants travel to humans for help, not welcoming refugees, David Crittenden between two places, the kid with the "bomb," ​Richard Craniums, in Samoa, why the rich are so much richer, fish capsules good for non-Inuits?, sex & spirituality, Italian Sprezzatura as seen in Germany, Prison 1 - Harvard 0, a prime minister and a pig's head, the science of diversity, Leonard DiCaprio does good, another Zig Ziglar limerick

  2. Just got around to reading it anyway. The Pope was fun to watch in Congress. The right wing Christians are going nuts. One post I saw on fb said the end is coming as the anti-Christ stood at the seat of power. Other said for a supposed man of God he never said the name Jesus. My guess is they couldn't understand Spanish.

    1. Ed, it's pretty incredible that anyone could think that Pope Francis is "the anti-Christ." People who think that have to have a really, really weird concept of Jesus Christ. (I guess they do – weird like the two-four dozen members of the House of Representative who aren't in Congress to govern but to say NO to things they won't compromise on).
          I may claim to be an atheist (and admit that I can only, technically, claim to be an agnostic), but Pope Francis is one of my heroes, and more power to him.

    2. Had a moment on this two popes ago:

      His Holiness: "One who has not submitted to the Holy Mother Church is in a gravely impaired state of grace".

      The leader of the Southern Baptist Convention: "All Catholics are going to hell."