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 person feeling a sense of alienation or confusion when arriving in a new place that is strange or unfamiliar.

It would not be surprising if having difficulty adapting (to such a new environment) translated into a kind of after-effect. In this example, culture shock could be loosely defined as an experience disorder, a severe reaction to unusual surrounding. The human in turn feels that well-being is negatively affected.

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.

News update: Jan. 20, 2018

“Vancouver aquarium won’t keep whales or dolphins captive after public outcry” by Ashifa Kassam

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jan/20/vancouver-aquarium-wont-keep-whales-or-dolphins-captive-after-public-outcry

additional reading:

https://www.academia.edu/16408468/Are_some_animals_more_equal_than_others_Animal_Rights_and_Deep_Ecology_in_environmental_education

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/laws/events/2022/may/living-sustainability-higher-education-connecting-people-places-and-learning

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.

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 a major uproar on Twitter.

From the hidden depths of the #EndFGM twitter movement to the ears of Melinda Gates of the Gates Foundation is an outcry of complaint. Melinda Gates is said to have wholly endorsed Olga Khazan’s article in a misjudged tweet and this is continuing to reverberate across Twitter and perhaps understandably so. FGM survivors (using hashtags #NoFGM #EndFGM) are gobsmacked by The Atlantic publication’s language-usage for a start.

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. (Including the Clitoris and inner two labia lips). Artistic rendition here.

All this ‘fuss’ has had the effect of galvanizing efforts on Twitter for a united front which presses 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 any and all the efforts to justify it. Spearheading much of the unified response is one of the movers and shakers on the anti-FGM front. Hibo Wardere is a formidable anti-FGM activist based in UK London. She is FGM coordinator for Waltham Forest and a 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 this post for details.

Having covered the subject and worked in the field myself, I too chimed in. Re-coining and revitalizing the term, anthro-apologists, 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 too join in challenging any apologist-anthropologist bleating on about the female genital cutting (FGC) as female circumcism (FC) and so-called ‘choice’. It’s Female Genital-Mutilation for goodness sake.

FGM is everyone’s fight. Here is the battle line:

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

Activists ask rather directly:

Is The Atlantic guilty of a subterfuge?

Condoning the use of overt apologetic language…defending FGM as circumcism…describing it as ‘choice’…holding water for the ‘choice’ defense… participating in the antic by publishing nonsense.

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 2014 article “We are the ones who can’t be ignored” on #GAFGM #AntiFGMGlobal global activists and the migration of FGM on Western soil and my 2013 UN Special Magazine article about the global context of the UN 2012 Resolution, UN Special.

————

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 is also included here below. Since then, The Atlantic responded in agreeing to post a blog re: concerns. Contact @hilaryburrage for more details on what was agreed.

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.

Washington DC FGM Walk - Nov 8 2014 - GWPF (c) mediageode 2014 with permision (98)

Walkers took to the U.S. Capital to raise awareness about Female Genital Mutilation November 8 2014

By Diane Walsh – Washington DC

A momentous event took place in the U.S. capital city last weekend 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 the G.W.P.F. for the Walk’s bounding success.

Its courageous aim was designed specifically to have Walkers circle the paths around the Washington Monument in an 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 based in Fairfax, Virginia. With its strong organizational reputation and 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, and as one of the proud walkers I can say it was not only an incredible experience but 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 specific emphasis on the US situation.

The event urged that immediate action be taken on U.S. soil to ensure complete prevention of FGM. Included in this commitment is the understanding of it never being able to take place in the U.S.

The Walk also emphasized the need to secure the goal of a U.S. commitment to complete eradication worldwide in partnership and solidarity with the 2010 UN resolution against FGM activists. The Walk, itself, on the day of, may have been missed by (a seemingly sleepy) Washington Post who failed to provide coverage of the event despite told told of 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) The Walk was 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 the G.W.P.F.’s aim to open a Crisis Centre right in DC. Guaranteed preventive action against FGM for girls living in the U.S. and medical provision for women who have undergone FGM, is, key.

More pictures of speakers and walk attendees can be found here.

Global Woman P.E.A.C.E Foundation is committed to real action on the ground. It has now raised leading awareness, publicly, in the U.S. Capital which can’t be denied. The Walk succeeded in pushing strongly against Female Genital Mutilation, focused on exposing incidents of the practice on U.S. soil and at the same time recognizing the importance of working in collaboration and in-solidarity with a global alliance of activists-against-FGM to help build identification and response services to address the problem.

FGM has spread to ‘Western soil’, this is undisputed in Europe. It leaked out just recently that FGM has occurred in the U.S. – and 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 argue that this isn’t heinous. Frankly it’s ghastly that it happens in North America at all.

The 2014 Walk again FGM in the U.S. Capital is being recognized worldwide on social media and is beginning to galvanize efforts to put this issue at the top of the U.S. political agenda. 

More information can be found on twitter, using the hashtags #GAFGM later #AntiFGMGlobal and you can follow me @dwalshmedia to learn more about Identification and Response Services, the Global Alliance activists and anti-FGM solidarity groups.

@1GlobalWoman Press Release is copy provided here:

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.

— Lydia Sherwood, Presto Public Relations

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.

Amtrak is doing its best in the face of challenges presented by fracking boom in North Dakota and beyond. https://harpers.org/archive/2013/03/bakken-business/ 
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”.

Further reading:

https://www.grandforksherald.com/news/3875858-bnsf-helped-lead-fight-delay-train-safety-technology

https://www.npr.org/2014/02/06/272150321/oil-transports-gum-up-passenger-route-across-northern-plains

Following the tracks of the Empire Builder

My twitter address to reach me:  @dwalshmedia

If you have any queries, story tips or would like to add a comment you can email  mediageode AT yahoo DOT com and reach me directly.

Social schism, journalistic angst

Posted: December 14, 2007 in Toronto, Canada, U.S., UK
Tags:

2023 The Guardian January 15, 2023

This preamble is a blog post about what happens behind the scenes to unpublished stories.

Green Party leader speaks to Anglican same-sex issues from a human rights perspective

This summer 2007 — on the heels of the Winnipeg Anglican Synod vote that, narrowly, defeated the call, for same-sex marriage acceptance — Elizabeth May spoke in an interview with me.

I dare say Elizabeth May did so candidly on this hot-button controversy still bedeviling the Anglican Church.

May is herself a declared Anglican and a gay rights advocate.

When asked about the ‘Anglican’ issue she was inspired to take a brief moment (away from answering questions about her party’s commitment to gay rights from a governmental standpoint) to describe — in fascinating detail ( as you see below ) the underlying history behind the old Anglican church’s position.

As you see from the interview excerpt (scroll down) it demonstrates that her ‘speak’ was intended not only for the ears of Anglican followers but equally all Canadian people interested in the larger more universal human rights debate.

Unfortunately no publication picked it up, albeit the piece was, as Ms. May herself described it, a tangent.

My personal thoughts, aimed for this blog post, are as follows:

As onlooking Canadians we’ve witnessed the United Church ‘come into being’ on gay rights and we’ve long seen the Unitarian Church accepting the gay community, unequivocally.

The problem I encountered with such a lengthy Anglican-focused quotation is it read as too religion-focused for alternative weeklies and gay magazines and too hot for religion-based publications — so in effect it fell between two stools.

At the time, I have to admit, I thought her informal speech was a journalistic gem. I was disappointed it didn’t fly as worthy of publication. The journey taken by the Anglican Global Communion over the last few years is part and parcel of the Canadian big-picture cultural landscape.

The Anglican Church in Canada is moving forward as a result of public insistence, though slower than many gay people say they would like.

The content is valuable and still current since the Synod vote has left everyone in limbo.

From a journalist’s perspective, where should one pitch such a piece?, I ask myself.

If one can’t find a home, how can one constructively open a discussion about the obstacles?

Where is multi-dimensional contentious journalism best suited for publication appearance, if it even is?

These are the sorts of questions J-Source readers may pose, for instance, and here are the steps I took:

A popular gay publication in Toronto was willing to take the time to read about the Anglican controversy from May’s perspective, but in the end explained that since (they) were primarily a gay men’s lifestyle magazine it just “didn’t quite suit”.

A city-weekly and a relatively new progressive magazine in Victoria BC were not moved to ask for a read, based on my pitch (that’s of course assuming my letter was read; the uncertainty of which frankly threw me because anything on Ms. May usually gets an acknowledgement at the very least, I would have thought).

Just as a side note: every other (non-Anglican related) word I recorded from my interview with Ms. May was published. Check out Outlooks Magazine, October 2007 Issue in Calgary, Xtra!West, July 19th 2007 in Vancouver.

My confidence had begun to sink. I tried to believe it was ‘the Green Party leader theme’ connection to the Anglican controversy which was making for an odd marriage. Pardon the pun.

I should point out that I initially approached the Anglican Journal .

The editor was interested. A British Columbia Primate Representative of the Diocesan wrote, in a comment in support, saying that the “depressing mood” resulting from the Synod aftermath should be explored. I was asked for the piece.

This is what I heard back from Anglican Journal: “Ms. May’s views are not particularly controversial, so that is not the reason we are declining the piece. We are doing so because it doesn’t suit us”.

Okay. I had offered the article on the assumption that there was a good chance it could be published there.

As a freelance journalist I worry about the danger of allowing a read, thereby giving up direct quotations on the mere hope for publication. It was a good fishing expedition for the other side in this case, anyway.

The obvious question: What have I learned?

Honestly, I’m mystified. I’ve learned that all I have is the motivation in me to ask more questions of myself and my society. What steps should I take on my journalism path?

Are contentious issues worth pursuing in the long run, if in the process one’s credibility is damaged, hence weakening opportunity for publication in a prestigious media outlet?

A independent journalist might believe it is critically important that the public hears about a specific issue from a particular perspective.

But that doesn’t mean editors will agree since the bigger picture might dictate a need not to publish the content for one undisclosed reason or another (e.g. simply deem it not worthy for printing). Such a decision could cynically be viewed by the journalist as a unilateral decision to block readers from hearing from a high-profile person on a contentious issue.

Perhaps the actuality is that the perspective, however it is perceived by an editor, simply isn’t worth any political currency at a particular time. Indeed, I’m willing to accept this point.

More generally I’m asking if there is a chilly climate for journalists in these strange political times. I hope you take the time to read the interview and enjoy it, folks. I have the following interview-article which I’d still like to share even though I personally was never able to find it a home. Hopefully this journalism story will promote discussion.

—starts here—

Liturgy, the Old Anglican Church and the never-ending controversy — Gay rights

Will the traditional train and gay twain ever meet? Many gay Anglicans feel a little askew at the moment — not really knowing how and what to feel since the Synod meeting results in Winnipeg.

In fact many progressive Anglican parishes in Canada empathize with the modern day cultural struggle for gay acceptance. Being the country’s model for spiritual acceptance, these distinct parishes are cohesively standing against homophobia.

The current cultural mood in Canada favours gay rights, even accepting the fact that the stand being taken by certain progressive Anglican parishes may be creating a possible permanent schism within the Global Communion as a whole. This is too high a price to pay. Some Canadian Anglicans are saying out loud they are touched by the spiritual and social struggle of gays seeking to choose to be “out” while at the same time deserving of being blessed by their preferred church, which may or may not support them.

Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party, is one of these people. Sitting down with freelance journalist Diane Walsh, Ms. May (herself an Anglican) gives her take on the issue, not only for the “ears” of Anglican followers — all Canadians invested in this larger human rights debate. She is the only political leader who dares to speak out loudly in favour of gays while at the same self-identifying as a Christian.

Diane Walsh: Some Priests are choosing not to marry “gays” as a matter of “personal preference”.  It would be helpful if you could give an overview of the issues of today affecting gay Anglicans and other gay citizens seeking to marry within their Anglican parish of origin – be it liberal or conservative.

Elizabeth May: Speaking as a federal political leader, I have to say that it’s up to an individual church to figure out how they handle internal matters, because the Charter of Rights extends to rights in the state context and we don’t dictate to churches. But speaking as a practicing Anglican, it’s very distressing. We have at the international level the communion at the Anglican Church; but we have the potential for a serious rupture in a religion that’s already, let’s face it, dwindling in terms of the number of people that fill the pews every Sunday.

When you look at it globally, the fastest growth to the Anglican Church anywhere in the world is in Africa, where the bishops are extremely intolerant to the idea of women as priests and also to the marrying of same sex couples. Canada’s Anglican community for the most part is entirely accepting of women as priests and of same-sex marriages. So the debate as it happens is less within Canada than it is within say the US where there an openly gay bishop.

There is within Canada a retired bishop who performed a same-sex marriage ceremony within the church. He faced some ruptures locally. So within the Canadian Anglican church there are debates. I have an approach to this that I hope will work, and that is that I think even people who are opposed to same sex marriage in the church quite often aren’t actually homophobic, they’re just traditional.

Now, I know that may sound like I’m making apologies for them. But since I go to church with them, these lovely old people who can’t quite get their head around it – they’re not bad people but they’re old. And what I want to do is find a way to discuss it and bring them around. I don’t want to draw battle lines and start calling them names; I want them to understand.

This is a matter of the Anglican context again; I’m not speaking as a federal political leader. I know I have to draw these lines. Not speaking as the leader of the Green Party but speaking as a practicing Christian, there is no evidence whatsoever that Jesus Christ wouldn’t have done anything but embrace any loving couple that wanted to love each other, stay with each other and be faithful to each other: that is a good Christian relationship.

There is nothing in the Scriptures that says Christ would have felt otherwise. So it’s a question of education: working people through it and making them realize that this is really just a matter of treating people equally. And that’s what we should do.

Now beyond that, as a political leader in a political context I want to make sure that the Charter is observed, and that comes down to recognizing that we exist in a secular society. Whether you go to a justice of the peace or a priest, as a same-sex couple you have a right to have that wedding performed. If you go through your Rabbi or your parish priest you can’t argue that you have a Charter right [to be married by them], but you do have the hope that people will evolve and that the idea of gay marriage will be accepted.

DW: So if you’re gay and you want to get married and you’ve always been part of a conservative Anglican church is it your opinion that gay couples should simply go to city hall?

EM: Or they can find a different Anglican parish. The history of the church shows that it takes some time for it to get used to things. There’s a wonderful church in a community I love in Sydney, Nova Scotia called the African Orthodox Church, and when you go back to try to find out what on earth is the African Orthodox Church you find this very unhappy history.

The first blacks to live in Sydney NS were brought in from the Caribbean to work in the steel plant, and they were Anglican – real interesting little digression I’m going on here, but you’ll get the analogy. Most of the black population around Halifax were escaped slaves who came in the 17, 1800’s and were Baptists. But this little branch of Anglicans from the Caribbean moved to Sydney to work in the steel plant and they weren’t “allowed” by the Anglican priests in that community to sit anywhere but at the back of the church. They couldn’t get married at the church, they couldn’t sit in the front of the church. And they fluttered off and they formed their own church the African Orthodox Church.

Now, that’s a shameful period for Anglicans to imagine, that fellow Anglicans from another part of the world had been so grossly discriminated against.

I think this time in history will be seen similarly as a shameful period. You might have to do a little parish shopping to find a priest who will perform a same-sex marriage. Of course, bear in mind that most of the debate in the Anglican Church right now is about the blessing of same sex unions, not the actual marriage.

To put the blessing of same sex unions in context, bear in my mind that Anglican priests bless tractors, bless farm animals, there are blessings of inanimate fishing boats – there’s a tradition in my part of the world in Nova Scotia to have a blessing when you go out at the beginning of a fishing season, it’s a good idea bless the boats to make sure fishermen are safe.

But for the love of god, the blessing of same sex unions is already a significant level below the actual performing of the actual liturgy used in a marriage ceremony. Yet we’re talking about the blessing of same-sex unions being controversial in an Anglican church? I feel as a practicing Anglican that we’re going to look back at this and say, “Oh, that’s awful!” and try to imagine that there was ever a parish in Sydney NS where Caribbean Anglicans were told they should sit in the back of the room and not be allowed to go where weddings were performed. Ahhh, Interesting!

We will evolve, and my own view on that debate is moving along, and for the most part I think that Canadian Anglicans will be in a leadership role in fixing the problem – attitude problems and discrimination in the church.  Whether that leads to a rupture in the church globally is a worry but not so much that we shouldn’t move forward in the cause of human rights.

-30-

Article from UK

Read the rest of this entry »

Geodes have always been a fascination on earth, let alone in outer space. This article caught my eye. 


https://www.esa.int/Science_Exploration/Space_Science/Hubble_peers_inside_a_celestial_geode