The Beluga’s Culture Shock

By Diane Walsh

Seeing the world through the ‘Bubble’— Musings from East Scotland

Culture shock is something usually associated with a human being feeling a sense of alienation or confusion when arriving in a place that is strange and new. It would be no surprise then, if difficulty in adapting cropped up as a culture-shock after-effect.

But what if the concept of culture-shock was applied to, say, placing the Beluga whitewhale in a ‘Bubble’ such as an Aquarium setting — whose ancestors had lived in the Ocean Wide for thousands of years?

Without falling into a debate about anthropomorphism, I would like to us to ‘problematize’ the idea of the ‘strangeness’ of having a huge Whitewhale in, arguably, a fishbowl.

An Arctic and sub-Arctic cetacean, this Whitefish is also occasionally referred to, as the melonhead or sea canary.

I do not wish to be delving too deep into a discussion of Anthropology. If you would like to read more on the topic, ‘Beyond the Human’, Samantha Hurn (2012) researches the idea of animal exploitation, animal-rights theory and the anthropological implications of the evolving cultural ideas and concepts about animal personhood. She asks us to think about our own attitudes towards ‘other’ animals on earth (i.e. other-than-human) and relate this to what it might mean to be human. Perspectivism (e.g. Kohn; Descola; De Castro) asks us to take up seeing the world from the point of view of the ‘other’ in the natural world, while at the same acknowledging our thoughts as being, from a human standpoint (Key words; post-humanist, human exceptionalism).

With this all in mind, try and understand the example I have suggested, of ‘the foreignness’ of the fishbowl (Aquarium) from the perspective of the Beluga.

Granted we can never get into a cetacean’s mind, per se, but we can entertain the idea of ‘seeing the world from the perspective of the ‘Beluga’.

Here is an analogy. We’ve all likely observed the poverty and resignation of people who are on the wrong side of the ‘economic divide’. At times I have been there myself. What if this conceptualization of reality was applied to thinking about the Beluga? ‘Seeing’ the Beluga as being on the wrong side of the ‘divide’— whose fate is unlucky enough to have been captured — whose awesome and glorious natural-habitat nature/subjectivity modified into a mere object of money-making and gawk? Might I be able to force an argument that the Beluga is ‘ecologically impoverished’ i.e. trapped in a container?

Is this the Beluga’s ‘Bubble’ reality? It would be no surprise to see the ‘resignation’ of the Beluga in this scenario. I argue that there doesn’t seem to be a concerted effort to connect the ‘poverty’of the Beluga in the Aquarium setting. I mean the poverty of the identity of the Beluga in the Aquarium setting. Is the Beluga not powerless over its fate, resigned to its working conditions?

Applying social theory to an understanding of the captive Beluga might actually prove useful. I could even push for a focus on the idea of ‘discrimination’ against Belugas. Why not? The fate of Beluga has been shown to be ‘poor’. We need to consider Maris’ recent death in Atlanta.

Keeping Belugas in captivity is really more about controlling the population in order to allow money to be made. It is about the circuits of capitalism reaching the Beluga as an object of profit. We don’t hear much of this phenomena at the moment but it underlies much of what is happening. If a Beluga dies, it is always ‘a complete mystery’. Whether it’s Vancouver or Atlanta.

On October 24, 2015, I read, while in Scotland, that “Maris the beluga whale dies suddenly at Georgia Aquarium [emphasis mine] (Source: Faith Karimi, CNN).

We are told that Maris, who was born in the New York Aquarium, in 1994 lived for 10 years at the site in Atlanta and died on October 22, 2015.

It’s well known that Maris had given birth to two babies, both of whom died. The first baby died in 2012 only days after birth, and the second, after less than a month. There are two Belugas left at the Georgia Aquarium – Grayson and Qinu.

Karimi, the reporter from CNN, obtained this quote from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). “Maris was denied her freedom her entire life. She was transferred from one facility to another, and her babies died, one after the other. Whether or not she had a physical ailment that went unnoticed, she was killed by captivity, plain and simple.”— PETA senior vice president Lisa Lange.

Okay, we know the drill. Aquariums argue that belugas in captivity (modified, with the phrase ‘belugas in human care’) enable scientists to better comprehend them in the wild. Latest ‘ethical’ research, needless to say, focuses on how ‘underwater sounds’ affect belugas — including the human-created noise-pollution created by industrial or military activity? The Aquarium is a lab, effectively. Biologists from respected universities are involved in this project and do not have to wrestle with any sort of conundrum relating to ethics. It is taken as a given that this is, ‘good’ research – no questions asked.

Karimi continues to explain that “The data can be combined and applied to help conserve and protect wild belugas from threats in their natural habitats”, according to the Georgia Aquarium website.

It’s clear that the Georgia Aquarium has been very careful to maintain the position that Maris, 21, “showed no signs of illness before her death. She ate and interacted normally with Grayson and Qinu, the other two beluga whales at the aquarium.This is a case of sudden, acute animal death. Our animals receive exceptional care, and our dedicated team of experts responded to her within minutes to render aid.”— Dr. Gregory Bossart, Chief Veterinarian at the Georgia Aquarium.

All the public is told is: “An autopsy is underway”.

End of discussion.

What is curious is that only recently we heard of one Beluga death and then another at Vancouver Aquarium in Canada. It would not have been difficult to put a sentence about that. The second one was said to have been due to pneumonia.

Care2care.com reports “In 2012, the aquarium filed a controversial petition to bring 18 wild-caught belugas here from Russia who would be split up at different facilities under breeding and loan agreements. Unfortunately for those supporting the effort, in September a federal judge shut down the effort”. We’re told there’s pressure on “The National Marine Fisheries Service to declare the population of belugas, suffering from captures in Russia, as depleted, under the Marine Mammal Protection Act”.

In the context of another published CNN news article, “SeaWorld can expand its tank but not breed whales, board rules” all eyes are likely now focused on the Georgia Aquarium’s desire to ‘grow’ belugas.

I have reflected briefly on ‘animal/human’ interaction and the assumptions humans make when beginning to use models of observation. I have asked that readers reconsider the idea of Belugas in labs. I suggest here, that there may be a benefit in actually applying human social theory to the fate of the captive Beluga.

I will leave you with this final thought.The light/colour/frequency spectrum experienced by humans, that, compared with the receptors that cetaceans/animals/birds experience, confines us to a uniquely human world. We can never enter the complete experiential world that enables the ‘others’ in the animal kingdoms and the seas, to exist on the same planet. Technology will never enable us to ‘see’ the colours/frequencies that non-humans experience – not even with Hubble style magnification. To that extent we should understand an inherent disability — so is this the anthropological blind leading the blind?

If we see that our ways of seeing are blind to the ways that the Beluga sees — just one ‘animal’ example — we might be able to better understand their deaths in the aquarium setting. To understand if the Beluga and the baby beluga experiences culture-shock in the Aquarium fishbowl, the ‘Bubble’must first be burst.

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GA_FGM_UNGeneva May 2015
FGM News update
Elisabeth Wilson, Co-founder of the Global Alliance against FGM (GA-FGM), and Canadian component of this Canadian-German initiative made this announcement today:
“Since May 11, 2015, The United Nations Director General, His Excellency Michael Møller officially supports our awareness campaign against FGM called YES YOU CAN SAY NO-PICTURE IT
You may consult Facebook page (UN Geneva), twitter and flicker accounts and the United Nations official website in New-York for more information.
As you may have already observed there are Canadian First Nations leaders proudly stepping into uncharted territory. In assisting GA-FGM they’ve heard with their heart, their sisters of the southern hemisphere cry for help and responded to it. Even though they themselves by their own tradition are not directly impacted by FGM.
In picture above, UNOG’s DG (middle), the co-founders of the GAFGM,  Holger Postulart and Elizabeth Wilson (right), 2 of GAFGM Goodwill Ambassadors, Captain Christine de St Genois GA-FGM’s Ambassador to the United Nations and Pat “Halfmoon” Bruderer,  GAFGM’s Ambassador in Canada (left). Pat is the first Aboriginal woman to step into the cause.
Also, since Februrary 5, 2015, Great Chief Constant Awashish (PQ), became the first Aboriginal Chief to support the global fight against FGM.
Elisabeth Wilson is the Director of Communications. #GAFGM is Global Alliance Against FGM Website is www.global-alliance-fgm.org

Note: In French, GAFGM is AGFGM Alliance Globale contre les Mutilations génitales féminines

 

May 1, 2015 – Dr. Morissanda Kouyate’s statement here.

Battle lines and battle scars – FGM Education 101

The last two weeks of April 2015 saw the ground break in the global fight against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

The regressive and regrettable article in The Atlantic entitled ‘Why Some Women Choose to Get Circumcised‘ is causing an uproar.

From the hidden depths of the #EndFGM twitter movement to the ears of Melinda Gates of the Gates Foundation, who endorsed the Olga Khazan article in a tweet – the outcry of complaint is continuing to reverberate. Understandingly so, FGM survivors are gobsmacked by The Atlantic publication language-usage.

An angry firestorm across twitter explained it was felt that the content of the article was more than questionable; it was believed to have had a hand, in glamorizing FGM. According to the undisputed definition by the World Health Organisation, FGM is all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or injury to the female genital organs for non-therapeutic reasons. (AKA Clitoris, labia lips). Artistic rendition here.

All this has had the effect of galvanizing efforts for a united front to press for FGM Education specifically in the U.S. We can find comfort in that the United Nations 2012 Official FGM Resolution is unequivocal. The goal is total eradication of FGM including all the efforts to justify it.

Spearheading much of the unified response is one of the movers and shakers on the FGM front. Hibo Wardere is a formidable anti-FGM activist based in UK London. She is FGM coordinator for Waltham Forest and mediator-educator. Integrate Bristol Charity @FGMSilentScream and thousands of others in Europe, the U.S. and Canada also present themselves in solidarity, taking the bull by the horns as the United Nations has done, tackling the practice as an FGM with no excuses.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists @RCObsGyn has issued a statement about their concerns over The Atlantic article (see end of post).

Having covered the subject and worked in the field myself, I too chimed in, on twitter. Coining the term, anthro-apologists and shouting out, saying No to Anthro/Apologists, this very second!  Please see a more detailed discussion here.  Credit: Hilary Burrage FGM not FGC-FC - image credit Hilary Burrage Blog

I join in challenging any apologist anthropologist bleating female genital cutting (FGC)/female circumcism (FC)-messaging. It’s Female Genital Mutilation, for goodness sake. FGM is everyone’s fight.

On the damaging and poisonous message that the article-title ‘Why Some Women Choose to Get Circumcised‘ communicates – The Atlantic was advised to issue a response.

Is The Atlantic seen to be guilty of a subterfuge in condoning the use of overt apologetic language and using the ‘choice’ defence antic?

Is one of the most insidious of human-rights violations when the mainstream media posits the practice of FGM as a ‘choice’ and calls it cutting and circumcism? In my view, yes. No worst evil than, condoning the practice, in this, sneaky, way.

Why did a longstanding, high-currency American publication in Washington DC brazenly publish disinformation? Sheer ignorance or something more sinister?

The UN Resolution against FGM passed in 2012 and the breath of the world-wide movement is moving against justifying slicing off girl’s private parts. Using ‘choice’ rhetoric as means of suggesting, a deeper-understanding, is beyond the pale.

When you click the Twitter share-button for The Atlantic article, it then takes you to this sentence, “What many people don’t understand about [Female Circumcism] sic”. A nuance, noticed by careful watchers concerned about the title of article in the first place; which still remains as ‘Why Some Women Choose to Get Circumcised despite survivor’s protestations.

Please also read my 2013 article on migration of FGM on Western soil and the global context in UN Special.

https://indydianewalsh.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/un-special-article-by-diane-walsh-foreign-correspondent-fpa-london.pdf

Update: Dr. Morissanda Kouyaté is one of the signatories for 2012 UN Resolution. He is Executive Director of Inter-African Committee and a UN Expert. Given his strong diplomatic mediation skills and connections internationally, it made sense that the details of the uproar about The Atlantic article were communicated to him. He agreed to make a formal statement. Dr. Morissanda Kouyate’s statement here. Since then, the magazine responded in agreeing to post a blog re: concerns.

Tweet to The Atlantic - follow up on Dr. Morissanda's statement_May 1-2015 Dr. Morissanda Kouyate _IAC - response to The Atlantic Article _2015

Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

– @RCObsGyn

Joint statement on story about women choosing to be circumcised

News 23 April 2015

The Intercollegiate FGM Group, along with the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) and International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) have read the article on why some women choose to be circumcised published on 8 April 2015. We are extremely concerned by the way FGM is treated in the article.

While we welcome new social scientific research into the complex reasons why FGM occurs across societies, since it helps us to better understand the phenomena and thereby enable us to prevent it, articles such as this are retrograde.

This is our collective position:

  • We agree that FGM is child abuse and a severe form of violence against women and girls.
  • We agree that FGM is a violation of the rights of the child and a violation of the rights of women and girls.
  • We agree that the medicalisation of FGM must stop.

We know that in some communities, FGM occurs because it is regarded as a tradition, a rite of passage. On the surface, it may appear that the girls themselves willingly subject themselves to be circumcised, with their families’ blessing.

However, this does not make the practice acceptable. It is wrong to suggest that children can chose to undergo FGM. Many of these girls are underage and therefore they are not in a position to give informed consent to a practice that has lifelong physical and psychological consequences. Similarly, they may be under intense social pressure to have FGM and may also be unaware of what the procedure truly entails and the long term impact on their sexual and reproductive health.

There is no compelling argument to excuse FGM. The long-term physical, psychological and emotional trauma from FGM (not fully addressed in the article, some of which are transgenerational) which healthcare professionals and the women themselves are only too aware of, mean that there are no benefits but significant harm attached to the practice.

Notes – The Intercollegiate FGM Group comprises the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Royal College of Midwives, Royal College of Nursing, Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association (CPHVA) and Equality Now.

Diane’s suggested links to peruse in conjunction with the above FGM News update

UN 2012 United Nations Official FGM Resolution https://indydianewalsh.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/resolution-unga-english2.pdf

Global context: post by highly respected anti FGM activist Dr. Morissanda Kouyaté, one of the signatories http://www.morissanda.com/mgffgm.htm

Florence Ali now sadly has died; worked with Inter-African Committee with Dr. Kouyté. Highlights the steep uphill battle fighting FGM and the apologists. http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/fgm-in-ghana-what-local-african-organisations-are-doing-to-eliminate-female-genital-mutilation-8537898.html

International-migration factor: FGM in Western-countries

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-politics/10980268/FGM-affects-137000-women-in-England-and-Wales-reveals-shocking-new-study.html

(DW coverage)

UN Geneva/New York http://www.unspecial.org/2013/02/change-the-fate-of-girls-it%E2%80%99s-in-our-hands/ covers

U.S.A. context https://indydianewalsh.com/2014/11/17/we-are-the-ones-that-cant-be-ignored/ U.S.A context

University of Geneva first University FGM Chair 2015 http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/female-genital-mutilation_university-of-geneva-chair-to-fight-fgm/41256858

Canada http://thelasource.com/en/2014/03/03/canadian-artists-at-the-un-say-no-to-fgm/

With special emphasis now on Western soil, the UK is said to be leading the movement: “Tackling FGM in the UK: Intercollegiate recommendations for identifying, recording and reporting” provides overview https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/news/tackingfgmuk.pdf

The strongest leadership we’ve seen to date; the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists allies with FGM activists/survivors. The ill-considered article in The Atlantic  ‘Why Some Women Choose to Get Circumcised gets a response which can’t be ignored. Read statement above or at @RCObsGyn on twitter.

We are the ones who can’t be ignored

Posted: November 17, 2014 in US

Washington DC FGM Walk - Nov 8 2014 - GWPF (c) mediageode 2014 with permision (98) We are the ones who can’t be ignored – Walkers took to the U.S. Capital to raise awareness about Female Genital Mutilation By Diane Walsh Washington DC – A momentous event took place in the U.S. Capital city last weekend (Nov. 8) which, I can confidently describe as, nothing other than ground-breaking. A first of its kind in the Washington DC area was this remarkable ‘Walk against Female Genital Mutilation’ at the Washington Monument, hosted by the Global Woman P.E.A.CE Foundation. Full credit and accolade is due to GW-PF for the Walk’s bounding success. Its courageous aim was specifically designed to have Walkers circle the paths around the Washington Monument in the effort to raise profile, of the growing problem of FGM on Western soil. Washington DC FGM Walk - Nov 8 2014 - GWPF (c) mediageode 2014 with permision (89) The evidence of Female Genital Mutilation, as the imported but ‘unseen’ underground practice occurring as a result of international migration, continues to mount. Global Woman P.E.A.C.E Foundation is a well-vetted woman’s rights and peace organization with registered U.S. charity status and is based in Fairfax, Virginia. With its strong organizational reputation and with its links to the worldwide movement against FGM, the Walk was successful in being able to attract a diverse group of participants from all over U.S. (including Canada) agreeing to participate as Sponsored Walkers. Walkers raised their own sponsorship and joined in the cause on the freezing cold but sunny Saturday morning of November 8 2014 and, as one of the proud, I can say it was an incredible experience and a worthy measure to create globalized action with American leadership. Washington DC FGM Walk - Nov 8 2014 - GWPF (c) mediageode 2014 with permision (10) I met up with the tightly knit group of international anti-FGM activists who gathered together at the NW corner of the Point to raise needed awareness with a specific emphasis on the US situation. The event urged that immediate action be taken on U.S. soil to ensure complete prevention of FGM; the commitment of it never being able to take place in the U.S. Furthermore the Walk emphasized the need to secure the goal of a U.S. commitment to complete eradication worldwide; in concert with the 2010 UN resolution against FGM and associated solidarity activists. The Walk itself on the day of, may have been missed by, a seemingly sleepy, Washington Post, seen omitting to provide coverage of the event despite its global importance – but that’s not to say they can’t make up for it! Washington DC FGM Walk - Nov 8 2014 - GWPF (c) mediageode 2014 with permision (85) Nevertheless the Walk was indeed picked up repeatedly by the international press and news spread on social media with exuberance. Here in this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fIJBdzv2ISU, is one the speakers invited as a key note, Barbara Mhangami. She is a feminist poet and researcher who travelled from Michigan. She, among others, is an example of the shinning talent and commitment of the some of the ‘Activist Walkers’ who sought to promote GW-PF’s aim to open a Crisis Centre right in DC. Guaranteed preventive action against FGM for girls living in the U.S. in addition to service provision for post-FGM women, is, key. More pictures of speakers and attendees here. Global Woman P.E.A.C.E Foundation is committed to real action on the ground and has now raised leading awareness in the Capital. The Walk succeeded in pushing strongly against Female Genital Mutilation, focusing on exposing incidents of the practice on U.S. soil and, importantly, recognizing working in collaboration and in solidarity with a global alliance of activists against FGM to build identification and response services (#IDRS on twitter) to address the problem. FGM has spread to Western soil, this is undisputed in Europe. It has also leaked out recently that FGM has occurred in the U.S. – this must not be allowed to go unnoticed and unrecorded. Information is that family groups have joined with other family groups to raise money to ‘import the cutter’ to perform FGM in secret. No one can dispute that this is heinous and frankly ghastly that it happens in the West. The Walk’s acute profile is being recognized worldwide and is galvanizing efforts to put this issue at the top of the U.S. political agenda. Washington DC FGM Walk - Nov 8 2014 - GWPF (c) mediageode 2014 with permision (87) More information can be found on twitter, using hashtags #DC #FGM #GAFGM or follow me @dwalshmedia, hashtag #IDRS (Identification and Response Services) including #GAFGM #UN to learn more about global alliance anti-FGM solidarity links. Follow more updates on twitter @1GlobalWoman GW-PF’s Press Release is provided below: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE http://www.globalwomanpeacefoundation.org GLOBAL WOMAN P.E.A.C.E. FOUNDATION “WALK TO END FGM” A GREAT SUCCESS! November 12, 2014: Fairfax, VA. – Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation (GWPF) was joined by its partners and supporters on Saturday, November 8th on the Washington National Mall to “Walk to End FGM”.  The day began with music, as the crowd gathered to get outfitted in warm clothing and t-shirts.  Families and their children assembled in the chilly early morning sun but the atmosphere was positive.  Everyone was there to be a part of a memorable occasion; they were there to participate in the first annual walk to end female genital mutilation (FGM).  No other organization has ever held a walkathon against the practice of female genital mutilation in Washington, D.C. As the temperature began to rise, 14 teams of walkers lined up after bananas, granola bars, peanuts and water had been distributed to the crowd by many volunteers. The teams of walkers made their way up Constitution Avenue toward the memorials of World War II, Vietnam Veterans, Lincoln, Korean War, Martin Luther King and the Washington Monument.  The crowd returned with enthusiasm to the National Mall to listen to a series of speakers tell them about female genital mutilation.  Participants came from as far as Canada, Massachusetts, Florida, Arizona, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, Richmond, Virginia, Hagerstown, Maryland, etc. CEO and President of IMA World Health, Rick Santos shared stories of violence against women and girls in various countries he had visited. Dr. Martha Allen, Director of the Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press read a list of FGM survivors and activists around the world, while David Rawls, In-Country Director of Hope 2 Liberia recounted his trips to Liberia where his organization is building a school to help end FGM through education.  UniteWomen.org’s Board Member, Shannon Fisher told the crowd, “Female genital mutilation has been illegal in the United States since 1996, and transporting girls out of the U.S. for FGM is now punishable by five years in jail. But the procedure is still performed in private, and it has gone largely underground.”  Vice President and Co-Founder of We Are Woman, Alaina LaTourette talked about the violation of the female body and FGM, while Summer Pearson, Global Woman’s Board Member read a special message from Dr. E. Faye Williams, President and CEO of the National Congress of Black Women, “It is said that the civilization of a nation is determined by the way it treats its women and its children.  By that measure, most nations have a long way to go to be considered civilized.  Certainly no nation that permits mutilation of the genitals of its young girls can be called civilized.  This is one of the worst forms of violence against women.”  Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende, a Public Health Practitioner shared a special poem she and wrote and dedicated to all of the mutilated little girls, “Imagine a girl suddenly thrust onto a mat on a floor, in a hut in the forest, or on an operating table in a doctor’s office.  Imagine the shock, confusion and horror as she watches her mother, aunt and grandmother turn and walk away.”  The crowd did not expect what came next, when the President of Change Agent Network, Annie Wright took the stage and told her personal story through tears about how her mother died in childbirth as the result of FGM, and she too was taken at 7 years old to the ‘bush’ and was mutilated.  Annie stood tall on the stage and divulged to the public for the first time, “I can stand here today and say that I am a survivor of FGM.  I was told never to tell anyone, and I never told anyone until Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation invited me to their focus group meeting.” Entertainment was provided by local groups, the Liturgical Dance Group and the Chosen Generation Dance Group.  Media coverage was provided by PressThePresident, BRITE Radio, Loudon Woman Magazine, Diane Walsh and Alexandra Gerard. The program continued with Angela Peabody, President of the host organization reading a speech sent from Liberia by an FGM survivor, Eva Flomo. Flomo wrote, “America, do you want to be labeled as the nation that stood by and watched countless little girls get mutilated or die simply because it doesn’t affect you directly? You lead the free world; make it freer for little girls and women in Africa and other parts of the world actively practicing FGM.” In conclusion, Peabody announced the 3 winning teams.  The Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press team took the first prize for raising the most money, the FGM No More team walked away with the 2nd prize, while the BRITE Peace Walkers team took 3rd prize. The proceeds raised from “Walk to End FGM” will help establish a special support center in the Washington, D.C. metro area, expected to open in 2015.  The support center is expected to include a hotline with trained phone counselors, career assistance and capacity building for the girls and women affected by FGM. To learn more about Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation and future events or to make a donation, visit http://www.globalwomanpeacefoundation.org.  Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation is a registered 501c3 non-profit organization with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.  As such, your donations are tax deductible to the maximum extent required by law. — Lydia Sherwood, Presto Public Relations

Amtrak is doing its best in the face of challenges presented by fracking boom in North Dakota and beyond.

In Wisconsin, there have been previous reports of freight train crews coming to the end of their shift and simply abandoning a train on the rail line when done their shift with – no one scheduled to take over from them.

A parked train! All rather frustrating to Amtrak. The effect of this kind of brazen blockage is that Amtrak’s passenger train (honourably trying its best to keep to schedule) is simply unable to pass, left hostage to the theatrics of industry giants.

One wouldn’t think that freight-train shortage-of-staff would be Amtrak’s problem but there have been instances of Amtrak actually having to call someone and plead to get a parked freight train moved so its passengers can get by.

Further reports, only very recently, are that more freight staff have since been hired.

On Saturday, Nov 1st, 2014, just before midnight, there was another rather odd incident. 10-15 minutes out of Spokane going east, en route to Idaho, Amtrak’s Empire Builder was delayed behind a freight train which had collided with an unoccupied SUV. The freight train was going about 60 miles an hour needless to say demolishing the vehicle right its track. It is unclear why it the vehicle was on the track and what the circumstances were around the incident.

The Amtrak passenger train, the Empire Builder, was behind the freight train and therefore was halted for three hours while emergency services, the Sheriff and 20 BNSF staff swarmed the area. Cleaning up a big mess of debris enabled both the freight train and the Empire Builder to then continue.

Incidents off this nature are apparently not that uncommon.

Even more troubling however is the impact of – 3x more freight trains running on the tracks in the last two years on – Amtrak’s ability to gauge how long any particular journey is going to take. Amtrak is beholden to, freight priority traffic.

The boom is North Dakota is creating enormous freight traffic. Doubtless Warren Buffet who owns BNSF is delighted; mounds of money are pouring in – with a cool $1000/a car to move oil and up to 100 oil cars per train.

Capitalism steals the day as wheat farmers – are taken – second priority. It’s $200/ a car to move wheat. So it seems right at the moment it’s tough times for the wheat farmer.

The bottom line means that ‘choice’: oil brings in more money.

Amtrak passengers are delayed by the increased freights traffic be it CSX, BNSF or whatever, industry freight has the right of way. Amtrak is paid a fee for any delay; which is part of the contract.

No incentive on the part of Warren Buffet to support alternate routes for moving the oil because the numbers *are working* in the current situation.

Some Williston North Dakota landlords who see dollar signs bouncing everywhere have reportedly racked up rents and are housing fracking boom-business workers whilst uprooting long term residents in favour of those whom can pay exorbitant rents.

Still 300+ men to one woman, isn’t much fun for barmaids!

The damage that can be measured is the boom’s impact on Amtrak schedules. Amtrak trains have for years and years been able to say that they’ve had a 90% record of being on-time. But now through no fault of their own, they are late more often than not as a direct result of the freight cars moving oil tripling in the last two years.

Thousands of black stealth oil cars are dominating the railway line. Amtrak merely gets to ‘use the railway line’ and be at the behest of industry’s priority needs. And there is nothing customers of Amtrak can do about it. The oil boom may actually be said to be culpable in the unintended consequence of virtually ending on-time-commitment passenger rail travel. Amtrak has to tell its passengers it has to play it by ear. Literally.

How slick is the oil boom after all?

Maybe Warren Buffet should be made to be stuck behind a freight train and told “too bad sir, sit and wait.”

© mediageode For Immediate Release  28/04/2014

CAPTIVITY – Raul Julia Levy and Richard Grieco – new reality series to set whales free 

LOS ANGELES—Raul Julia Levy of Julia Productions is the Hollywood producer behind this bold concept of a Reality Show on Whales in Captivity, and, to no surprise to many of his supporters, by all accounts Captivity is attracting several offers for advancement to screening, starting with a 4-episode series launch.

Due to the controversial sensitive nature of the subject as a social issue, the preliminaries are being handled carefully through the Law Office of Brian G. Raymond in Los Angeles. Julia-Levy is conducting the project in business partnership with co-actor Richard Grieco. They are in the midst of negotiations and are looking forward to planning filming. Still yet to be finalized is an agreement for production with a significant U.S. network. To date, Julia-Levy and Grieco report they have received more than 1 offer.

The executive producers say they have received interest from Relativity Media LCC one of the major players in the industry, in both November 2013 and, February 2014. Relativity produces avant-garde programming to TV. The strategy of soliciting offers from other companies is on-going. “We are looking to enhance visibility of whale captivity as a social issue worldwide” says Julia-Levy. The timing of the series is prescient. A petition is circulating in the State of California seeking “to enact the Orca Welfare and Safety Act to make it illegal to hold orcas in captivity for performance and entertainment purposes.”

Aquariums claim, as a fundamental motivation, that the captivity of orcas serves valid scientific and research purposes. A reality show that seeks to verify these claims is of enormous value and will examine nuances in the law and the complexities of the issues surrounding the captivity industry. One of the central issues is the size of the tanks where orcas live. Reports indicate that there are 54 known orcas in captivity worldwide but this number may not include the ‘soon to be born in captivity’ orcas. Current number of facilities with orcas in captivity is believed to be 13. There may be more. Captive orcas exist in in Argentina, China, Japan, and Russia. Note this is not to say [other] closely related cetacean mammals such as dolphins, or Beluga Whales (e.g. White Whale living at Vancouver Aquarium in Canada) don’t count and aren’t also a subject of concern.

The three SeaWorld locations in California/Florida/Texas combined, have a total of 24 orcas. Miami Seaquarium has 1, and Marineland in Canada has 1. Julia-Levy and Grieco’s Captivity RealityTV series will focus on each of these American locations as well as as Loro Parque in Spain and Marineland in Antibes, Cote D’Azur in France.

Freedom of information and freedom to gather information and photographs is what enables the series. With a team of experts already geared up, the project will team together prestigious marine biologists and researchers, in addition to learning from former trainers who have since joined the anti-captivity movement. With the help of social media, activists from Britain, Spain, Canada and the US as well as in Mexico and Argentina, are proliferating information with intensity and are watching developments.The cameras literally go in to record the raw truth about the conditions under which the orcas live.

The series will attempt to demonstrate the need for the public to become more engaged in pushing for the release of captive cetaceans into whale sanctuaries as suggested by the acclaimed documentary Blackfish.

Captivity RealityTV follows the themes developed in Blackfish. Doubtless the show will further galvanize members of the movement against whale captivity. Julia-Levy says “I am moving it with a renowned marine biologist along with leaders and activists. This movement is for the people who have been fighting and never lost the hope of seeing this creature free.”

For more information: Contact Diane Walsh, liaison Press at mediageode AT yahoo DOT com. Follow #Captivity on twitter

Information of Proliferation: (in order of chronological publication)

Canada (Vancouver Is.)

U.S. (California)

update: as of July. 1, 2014.
Any and all offers to begin filming yet to be accepted. Please contact for current update.

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