Friday, October 2, 2015

Fish for Friday

Edited by Morris Dean

[Anonymous selections from recent correspondence]

U.S. President Barack Obama and People’s Republic of China President Xi Jinping agreed Friday to end the domestic commercial trade of ivory in their respective countries. This historic accord comes at a time when as many as 35,000 elephants are poached each year for their tusks to supply the world’s growing ivory demand. “We are seeing an important, public commitment from the world’s two largest economies to work together to bring an end to the elephant poaching crisis,” says Dr. Patrick Bergin, African Wildlife Foundation CEO and member of the White House Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking. “President Obama and President Xi are sending a clear message that they intend to throw the weight of their countries behind the elephant crisis.” As part of this agreement, the two governments will cooperate in bringing additional training, technical expertise, information sharing and public awareness to the wildlife trafficking crisis.
    Find out what this means for Africa’s elephants: “China, U.S. Agree to Halt Ivory Trade,” African Wildlife Foundation]

It’s like something out of a horror movie: lions in Zimbabwe are being killed not only for their skin, but their bones are now being dug up and sold to make “lion bone wine” sold in China and Vietnam.
    This disgusting product poses a real threat to lions: now, in addition to hunting males for trophies, poachers have incentive to kill female lions and their cubs to get ahold of their bones, which sell for thousands of dollars.
    According to the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Conservation Taskforce, the illegal trade of lion skeletons began in 2012, but has recently picked up steam. Lion skeletons are sold to Chinese traders for up to $2,100. The bones are then boiled, bottled, and processed into wine.
    Poachers will continue to hunt the dwindling population of lions as long as there is demand for their skeletons. The best way we can stop this gruesome cycle is to get the authorities involved and cracking down on the wine, so people will stop buying it.
    Fortunately, lion conservation has come into the public spotlight in recent months and we may have a unique opportunity to pressure authorities to stop a trade in lion bone wine.

Huge news! Shell just announced that they are abandoning their plans to drill for oil in the Arctic!
    This is one of the biggest environmental wins of the year — one that would not have been possible without the massive public outcry against Shell, including over 87,000 League of Conservation Voters supporters...spoke up against Shell’s risky Arctic drilling operations this year.
    But the fight isn’t over yet. Just as Shell has terminated their plans to drill in the Arctic, Exxon Mobil is now publicly promoting Arctic drilling. We’ve defeated Shell, but there are still oil companies out there anxious to make a profit at the expense of our environment. Don’t let the momentum we have now die — tell President Obama to block all oil companies from ever drilling in the Arctic Ocean.

“Emma Thompson celebrates as Shell pulls out of drilling in the Arctic.” [Lancashire Telegraph] Excerpt:
Emma Thompson has joined activists outside the headquarters of Shell to celebrate news that the oil giant is pulling out of drilling in the Arctic.
    Greenpeace has been protesting against the company’s attempts to explore for fossil fuels off the coast of Alaska, including parking a double-decker bus-sized polar bear puppet outside the company’s London HQ for the last month.
    The company said it would cease exploration in the region for the foreseeable future after failing to find sufficient signs of oil and gas to make further exploration worthwhile, blaming high costs and a “challenging and unpredictable regulatory environment”.
    Environmentalists claimed Shell had also suffered huge reputational damage as a result of its activity in the Arctic, with protests in the US and around the world, including activists scaling the Shard in London. [read more]
The village of Bagan – Burma

Wouldn’t it be great if someone built a Wikileaks for bankers with a guilty conscience to blow the whistle on Wall Street’s biggest crimes? Well, someone did. Us.
    Say hello to, a secure server designed to preserve the anonymity of the witnesses to Wall Street’s crimes who are willing to take action.
   We're launching on Monday to be a safe, secure place for anyone working on Wall Street - from personal assistants all the way up to CEOs - to anonymously submit information about bankers behaving badly. We have a team of volunteer lawyers ready to review submissions, educate potential whistleblowers on their rights, and even represent whistleblowers in court.

[Two weeks ago], environmental activist Rigoberto Lima Choc was murdered in northern Guatemala. This happened just after a court upheld charges he filed denouncing massive pollution caused by a palm oil company called Reforestadora de Palma de Petén (REPSA).
    Rigoberto was a 28-year old schoolteacher and indigenous activist. He was shot outside of a courthouse just one day after a court ordered the palm oil company to suspend operations due to a huge spill of palm oil waste. He had been among the first to report a massive fish die-off from the polluted water.
    The spill killed hundreds of thousands of fish, putting at risk the livelihoods of thousands of people in riverside communities. Experts call it an “ecocide” and among the largest single environmental disasters in Guatemalan history. By reporting and denouncing the spill, Rigoberto did the only responsible thing.
    [Background: “Guatemalan Activist Murdered Protesting Chemical Leak from Palm Oil Plant,” ActionAid USA]

Edward M. Kennedy (1962)
You have to read this! What Kennedy had to do to get on subcommittees: “Edward Kennedy’s Scotch-Infused Senate Job Interview.” [Adam Clymer, NY Times] Excerpt:
Senator Edward M. Kennedy always managed to get along with James O. Eastland of Mississippi, the arch-segregationist and chairman of the Judiciary Committee for his first 16 years in the Senate. But the first time they met, Mr. Kennedy paid an 80-proof price.
    In oral history interviews released Wednesday, Mr. Kennedy talked about how he got subcommittee assignments early in 1963.
    Mr. Eastland summoned Mr. Kennedy to his office at 10 a.m. He greeted the freshman by asking, “Bourbon or scotch?”....
    Mr. Eastland said he supposed his guest wanted to be on the immigration panel because “you’ve got a lot of Italians up there in Massachusetts.” Mr. Kennedy said he did indeed want that subcommittee. His host replied, “You drink that down, and you’re on the immigration committee.” [read more]
Dr. Esserman before performing a surgery in July,
holding a sheet of song lyrics
“A Breast Cancer Surgeon Who Keeps Challenging the Status Quo.” [Katie Hafnew, NY Times] Excerpt:
Dr. Esserman, 58, is one of the most vocal proponents of the idea that breast cancer screening brings with it overdiagnosis and overtreatment. Her philosophy is controversial, to say the least. For decades, the specter of women dying for lack of intervention has made aggressive treatment a given.
    But last month, her approach was given a boost by a long-term study published in the journal JAMA Oncology. The analysis of 20 years of patient data made the case for a less aggressive approach to treating a condition known as ductal carcinoma in situ, or D.C.I.S., for which the current practice is nearly always surgery, and often radiation. The results suggest that the form of treatment may make no difference in outcomes....
    One recent Sunday afternoon, she stood in the large, art-filled kitchen of her house in the Ashbury Heights district of San Francisco, rehearsing the song “Defying Gravity” from the musical “Wicked.” It was a request from a patient.
    For nearly two decades, Dr. Esserman has sung to her patients as they go under anesthesia. With enough notice, she takes requests. [read more]

Portia Simpson Miller, the Jamaican prime minister
Downing Street says David Cameron does not believe compensation is the right approach ahead of his first official visit to Jamaica: “Jamaica calls for Britain to pay billions of pounds in reparations for slavery” [Guardian] Excerpt:
Ahead of his trip, Sir Hilary Beckles, chair of the Caricom Reparations Commission, has led calls for Cameron to start talks on making amends for slavery and referenced the prime minister’s ancestral links to the trade in the 1700s through his cousin six times removed, General Sir James Duff.
    In an open letter in the Jamaica Observer, the academic wrote: “You are a grandson of the Jamaican soil who has been privileged and enriched by your forebears’ sins of the enslavement of our ancestors ... You are, Sir, a prized product of this land and the bonanza benefits reaped by your family and inherited by you continue to bind us together like birds of a feather.
    “We ask not for handouts or any such acts of indecent submission. We merely ask that you acknowledge responsibility for your share of this situation and move to contribute in a joint programme of rehabilitation and renewal. The continuing suffering of our people, Sir, is as much your nation’s duty to alleviate as it is ours to resolve in steadfast acts of self-responsibility.”....
    “The PM’s point will be he wants to focus on the future. We are talking about issues that are centuries old and taken under a different government when he was not even born. He wants to look at the future and how can the UK play a part now in stronger growing economies in the Caribbean.” [read more]
Slavery on an industrial scale was a major source 
of the wealth of the British empire
David Cameron's ancestors were among the wealthy families who received generous reparation payments that would be worth millions of pounds in today's money: “Britain's colonial shame: Slave-owners given huge payouts after abolition.” [Independent] Excerpt:
The previously unseen records show exactly who received what in payouts from the Government when slave ownership was abolished by Britain – much to the potential embarrassment of their descendants. Dr Nick Draper from University College London, who has studied the compensation papers, says as many as one-fifth of wealthy Victorian Britons derived all or part of their fortunes from the slave economy....
    ...A John Austin, for instance, owned 415 slaves, and got compensation of £20,511, a sum worth nearly £17m today. And there were many who received far more....
    Among those revealed to have benefited from slavery are ancestors of the Prime Minister, David Cameron, former minister Douglas Hogg, authors Graham Greene and George Orwell, poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and the new chairman of the Arts Council, Peter Bazalgette. Other prominent names which feature in the records include scions of one of the nation's oldest banking families, the Barings, and the second Earl of Harewood, Henry Lascelles, an ancestor of the Queen's cousin. Some families used the money to invest in the railways and other aspects of the industrial revolution; others bought or maintained their country houses, and some used the money for philanthropy. George Orwell's great-grandfather, Charles Blair, received £4,442, equal to £3m today, for the 218 slaves he owned.
    The British government paid out £20m to compensate some 3,000 families that owned slaves for the loss of their "property" when slave-ownership was abolished in Britain's colonies in 1833. This figure represented a staggering 40 per cent of the Treasury's annual spending budget and, in today's terms, calculated as wage values, equates to around £16.5bn [billion]. [read more – and there is much, much more]
Only in Australia:

A rather contaminated piece of fish, but interesting, if your stomach can take it:

Our National Zoo, in Washington, DC, has a Panda cam!

“Faith is an oasis in the heart which will never be reached by the caravan of thinking.” —Khalil Gibran

The next time you hear a politician use the word “billion” in a casual manner, think about whether you want the “politicians” spending YOUR tax money.
    A billion is a difficult number to comprehend, but one advertising agency did a good job of putting that figure into some perspective in one of its releases.
    A billion seconds ago it was 1959.
    A billion minutes ago Jesus was alive.
    A billion hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age.
    A billion days ago no one walked on the earth on two feet.
    A billion dollars ago was only 13 hours and 12 minutes, at the rate our government is spending it.

The female attendants who historically cleaned the city’s free toilets may be relegated to the past by a company promising an elegant bathroom experience, at a price: “Paris Looks to Depose Keepers of a Different Throne.” [Alissa J. Rubin, NY Times] Excerpt:
“Dames pipi,” as the ladies who clean public toilets here are known, have been a fixture of Parisian neighborhoods, alongside the proprietors of corner cafes, since the days when many buildings lacked indoor plumbing....
    But as the number of “chalets de nécessité,” as the public toilets were quaintly called, have dwindled, so, too, has the presence of the ladies, who now teeter on the verge of extinction.
    Today, the dames pipi number barely a dozen, mostly older women who are first-generation immigrants from places like Guinea, Togo and Vietnam. And, unless they win a lawsuit to give them back their jobs, they will be a casualty of the city’s new effort to turn the remaining public bathrooms into moneymaking ventures....
    This summer, the city government contracted with the French subsidiary of an upscale toilet company based in the Netherlands with the catchy name 2theloo. The latter operates spiffy, clean pay toilets at a number of places around Europe including Covent Garden in London. Its French subsidiary, named Sarivo, goes one step further and purports to offer “luxury toilets” that also sell items like toilet paper printed with images of the Eiffel Tower. [read more]
Limerick of the week:
Trevor Noah’s shown daily all his first week –
his smiles are so pretty you think that they’re sleek;
    he runs through the news,
    and when a line skews,
he smiles a bit more to squirt oil on the squeak*.

* The editor wrote the limerick after having seen only Mr. Noah’s first two nights on The Daily Show. As of the writing of this footnote, he has seen the third night and can happily report that Mr. Noah was much, much improved. He had slowed his delivery, he was smiling less, and there were no squeaks at all as far as the editor is concerned. And his interview skills improved perceptibly from the first night with Kevin Hart to the second with Whitney Wolfe to the third’s near-perfection with Governor Chris Christie (who’s not bad himself). Bravo!

Copyright © 2015 by Morris Dean


  1. Tasty! U.S. ​& China end domestic commercial trade of ivory​, lions in Zimbabwe killed for “lion bone wine,” Shell Oil abandoning the Arctic, Burmese village,​ Wikileaks for bankers, danger for environmental activists, Ted Kennedy's Senate job interview, singing breast-cancer surgeon, slave trade haunts Britain, kangaroos & golf, American right questions Pope Francis, National Panda cam, road to an oasis, be nice, billions in perspective, Parisian pipi women, Trevor Noah’s first week of dailies....

  2. Good Friday fish on a Saturday morning with my CR coffee.