Wednesday, 30 October 2019

DISCRIMINATION AND MIND SETS


Blog 205                                                   30 October 2019
Discrimination and Mind Sets
      A human flaw, discrimination ranges from mild to deadly with millions humiliated, denied equality, persecuted, expelled, or murdered. We are one species with billions of co-operative members who are harassed by far too many groups of discriminators against parent-child, rich-poor, young-old, male-female, religious-agnostic, natives-immigrants, whites-non whites, bi-polar politics, straight-LGBT+, and numerous other categories.
     We live in a confusing era of rapidly-changing, lingering, shallow, and deeply-rooted mind sets. Today, I am surprised and repelled by prejudices I thought we had outgrown.
Personal Background: Growing up in 5 towns and cities in Ontario, Canada, and attending co-educational schools that were Catholic, Protestant, and Agnostic oriented with both boys and girls sharing the top grades. My friends and associates were mixed with, in order of numbers, Irish, Scots, English, French, Italian, Jewish, Aboriginal, Negro, and German. There were likable Americans in there among all us Canucks but we disliked United Statesians hogging the term that actually belonged to all of us from Arctic Ellesmere Island to Antarctic Terra Del Fuego. Negro was, and still is to me, an innocent generic term. Talents, from brilliance to idleness, were evenly distributed.
     Like most students in the early grades, I had to live with school bullies. One day my very Irish mother turned the hose on a bully chasing me home. Another older boy, when he found my younger brother and I playing alone in an empty field would attack us, sending both of us home crying. One day while in a large group of students walking a city street to school, he attacked us. I had never used force before but I plunged my fist into his jaw, expecting a hurtful retaliation. What a surprise when he simply walked away, never to bother us again. I learned that, sometimes, justified force was necessary. I was quite athletic but avoided contact sports in fear of bruising others, so I used my talents in track and field contests and basketball. I did like hockey but only when no body contact was allowed.
      The groups I associated with saw only humor in such events as the annual 12 July Orange Protestant parade with the local Catholic parish priest tolling the funeral bell as it passed his church. The Orange Lodge still commemorated the 1690 victory of the Protestant Dutch William of Orange over the Catholic James II for the British throne at the Battle of the Boyne in Ireland. We left such differences for parents and grandparents who still thought them important. My sister would boast that the 12 July parades were to celebrate her birthday.
     There was never any friction among my associates because of the various religions to which they adhered. We knew Blacks as descendants of escapees from slavery in the USA and as very pleasant porters on Canadian trains. So it puzzles me today when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is forced to apologize and confess to alleged huge errors in judgment made during his school years simply for coloring his face just to play innocent racial roles. It is healthy, educational, and entertaining for us humans to make fun of each other in such a way as to inflict no harm. My numerous associates disagree with each other but never in harmful ways. A quick look at harmful discrimination:
      Racial: Now in the USA I am troubled by the necessity for such as this essay:
Prejudice by Kayla Dickey. Colorado Springs;
     “To the lady who held her purse a little tighter when my husband walked down the grocery aisle: What you did not know is he would be the first to help you pick up a pack of heavy water or grab an item from the top shelf for you. To the guy who got tense when my my husband was walking behind him in the store parking lot and kept looking back. What you failed to realize is he was parked next to you with his family in the car. Yes, that car that seems too nice for him to drive. To the cashier who assumed he would be paying with food stamps. Little did you know that he has a good job and works long days to support his family. At one point he had two jobs. That means two different shifts a day. To the guy who followed him around the store, down every aisle. He was just looking for band-aids for his daughter,
     To the lady who did not grab her purse a little tighter when I walked down the grocery aisle. Did I
not come off as intimidating to you? To the guy who did not even care that I was walking behind him in the parking lot. Why did you not get tense? Am I not threatening enough? To the cashier who did not think I would be paying with food stamps. Is it because I am wearing scrubs? To the guy that did not follow me around the store: Why did you not assume I would be shoplifting? Because I am white!
     I will never know what it feels like to be racially discriminated against. I only know how I feel when it happens to my husband. It is heart breaking and sickening. For anyone who says this is not true is in denial or has not seen it happen first hand.” . . . . .
     It hurts me when I find from Blacks they still suffer resentment from old and new discrimination.
Discrimination remains part of the flawed US penal system. With 5% of world population, the United States has 25% of world’s prisoners: 2.3 million of which 19% are held in privately-owned-and- operated-for-profit jails. Incarceration rates are: Whites 1 in 17, Latino I in 6, Black 1 in 3 = more in prison today than were slaves in 1850. Discrimination, while declining, still infects associations, education, housing, employment, and remuneration. Consider a few areas:
     Parenthood is a vital responsibility criminally neglected. Qualifications need to be taught and permits need to be established and enforced. Some schools have courses on the subject but much more is essential. Today enormous harm is being done to children born to girls with multiple ignorant and disinterested partners. We all require love and many girls offer sex hoping to get it only to find the father flees child responsibility. It has been a shock to me to find how widespread this harm is. Let me describe just one example. A caring nurse friend of mine learned of a couple who had 7 highly-neglected children. The parents constantly fought each other with blows and foul language. They used their money more on booze than food and child care, The father is now in jail for family abuse and the children farmed out to foster homes. My friend, in spite of many problems of her own, has accepted custody of the 9-year old diabetic daughter who is a talented, likable, caring, helpful, well behaved person desperately needing love and attention but so full of resentful 9-year anger that she erupts, usually monthly, screaming loudly, cursing and attacking her new benefactors, throwing things necessitating taking her to hospital hoping to find curing medications. These episodes can last 3 days after which she apologizes but only partially remembers them.
Domestic Violence: An unacceptable global crime, it is highest among low-income and indigenous groups. In the USA awareness usually starts in the 7th grade at ages of 11-13. From 10 to 20% of children witness abuse of a parent or caregiver. Both sexes are attacked, including same-sex marriages but women suffer the most serious wounds and deaths. Australia reports that an average of one wife a week is killed by her husband. In 2017 in the USA over 1,500 women were killed by their partners. The percentage of women who were ever physically assaulted by an intimate partner varies among and within countries, and is rated by one study as: South Africa 80, Nigeria 75, India 70, Turkey 42, New Zealand 35, Egypt 34, Canada 39, USA 33, Switzerland 21, Philippines 15. In 2016 in Diepsloot, South Africa, 56% of the men surveyed admitted to raping or beating a women in the past year. The rate of domestic violence on indigenous women in Australia may be 40 times the rate for non-Indigenous women. In Alaska it varies from 10 to 80. In Canada it is 7 times. Much of this is due to European colonists changing strong matriarchal tribes into patriarchal. Thousands of women have also been beaten during pregnancy.
Women: After a long history of discrimination and abuse, women today are taking over the world with high talent in many fields previously denied them except in wartime when their abilities were needed to replace the men being slaughtered in wars. During WWII, I watched women piloting aircraft from factories to squadrons in the UK. As a POW I mingled with Mongolian female soldiers captured in battle. Yet, women still complain that male employers hire women for their looks rather than their ability.
     Blessed with a devoted mother and five wonderful, talented daughters, I have devoted efforts to promote female activities. It was so gratifying to rush home from school to tell a waiting mother all the happenings in my school day. When I achieved positions of authority I ensured that girls had equal access
with boys to team leagues, other sport and entertainment facilities, and employment slots.
     Numerous employers were hesitant in hiring women as their retention could be temporary, giving way to Always burdened with the highly important and all-embracing chores of motherhood, employers were hesitant in hiring women. Charlotte Elizabeth Whitton, 1896-1975, and first female mayor of a major Canadian city (Ottawa 1951-56 and 1960-64) put it so well To succeed in business a woman must be many times as capable as a man. Fortunately that is easy.”
     Back in 1938 I was offered permanent employment in a bank, paying $400 a year, increased to $500 when they immediately transferred me to another branch 70 miles away where I would have to pay $7 a week for room and board, leaving me with $136 the first year to squander on girls, clothing, and entertainment, yet I enjoyed life. Remuneration increased at $100 annually with another $100 for passing a university course in accounting. I worked in or with 10 branches in 3 cities, all with only one female – the denied-promotions secretary who usually was the most informed person on the staff of 6 men. Several became pregnant, so had to leave as motherhood was a full time, more important job, so the prevailing mind set was that women would be far more tuned to home rather than world affairs and could not be efficient in such jobs as reporters, world news analysts, or editors. Today my top in-depth, honest reporters are female, but do share the role with several men. Women invented agriculture and for 25,000 years before the Christian era we were ruled by female Sun Goddesses, the majority quite good yet with two societies that used us men as studs continually replacing us for younger studs.
      Several highly-talented women tell me they prefer working for men to avoid female cattiness.
Educational Discrimination: During my RCAF career that demanded frequent moves it seemed that every educational system was superior to and disdainful of all others. Many times I had to fight officials to avoid losing credits or having my daughters put back a grade. I succeeded and each time my daughters ended up leading their classes in the new schools. One example: When I was transferred from 426 Squadron near Montreal (among other chores it completed 600 Korean War Airlift flights minus a fatality) to NORAD HQ in Colorado Springs, the University of Colorado denied my oldest daughter’s application to transfer from McGill in Montreal as her grades were only 75%. I drove to Boulder but failed to convince the registrar that grade inflation had not infected McGill University so 75% was a high grade. I had to enlist my wartime buddy, the registrar at McGill, whose strong reaction got her accepted where she ended up leading her classes.
     Similar set-backs still plague professionals moving from one state, province, or country to another. And then there are dangerous flaws among cheaply-recruited and inadequately-trained employees in the rapidly-expanding companies that provide services such as health care. Profits can prevail over care.
Ethnic Cleansing continues its long, bloody, cruel, and widespread criminal history. It has brought immense sufferings and death to millions, leaving strong retribution desires. Wikipedias descriptions of 125 worldwide incidents screams that humans have not earned survival. Where to start? The 3-year battle that saw Rome completely destroy Carthage, selling the 50,000 survivors into slavery 2,265 ya? The extermination 1,169 ya of the 200,000 Wu Hu by the Chinese? The numerous expulsions and executions of Jews initiated by Edward I in England in 1290 AD and spread to France, Spain, and German states to the Israeli expulsion of 700,000 Palestinians in 1948 and still continuing? The Turkish massacres of Greeks and Armenians? WWI when Germany planned to remove 3 million Poles and Jews, replacing them with German settlers? The forced repatriation of up to 2 million Mexican-Americans during the Great Depression 1929-1936?, The extermination of 8 million Ukrainians by Joseph Stalin’s deliberate famine, 1932-33?, The 100,000 whites who fled the Congo after Belgium granted independence in 1960?
     We even have a case of ritual beheading including children.One shameful example is the current forceful expulsion by Turks of Kurds who were of vital help in the US fight to destroy Daesh in Syria. Some 250,000 Kurds hope to flee to Iraq from Syria where the US still protects the oil but has abandoned its effective allies. The 28 million Kurds are dispersed, 12 million in Turkey, 6 million in each of Iraq and Iran, and 1.8 million in Syria.
     Today, we have numerous aspirants for top political office. We must select and support those most capable of promoting encouraging rhetoric into actions that will ensure a safer, kinder, more equitable planet.

Ye Olde Scribe
georgesweanor@comcast.net




















Saturday, 19 October 2019

THE 7th MASS EXTINTION - CAN HUMANS POSTPONE IT?

     Yes we can!
    We homo sapiens do suffer crippling faults including many deniers who worship the God of Greed, putting short-term gains ahead of long-term survival. But, remarkably, we are very unique species, the sole known one ever capable of recognizing, planning, and effecting needed changes. The empathy of billions now plunging into the vital remedial task needs, deserves, and must have our support.
     The Press labels this current extinction the 6th, ignoring the first cyanobacteria one, so let me call it the 7th. This blog is an update of Blog 192 “Climate Change War Mobilization” of 16 December 2018.
     We cannot escape unpleasant sacrifices, but, as this time we humans have and are causing the problem, we must all accept the remedial cost. Bright as we are, we do need much help from all the data we can unearth. Open, co-operative minds are essential. We humans are one fragile species; we have one fragile home. To differ peacefully is progressive; to militarize differences is suicidal.
     Cruelly, the odds against Life are staggering. Continuous care must be a top priority. A brief summary: Recently, we re-computed that our universe of over 1,400,000,000,000,000, stars started with a Big Bang 3.5 billion not the 4.5 billion years ago (bya) we calculated just a few years ago. But now Australians tells us they have hard evidence that their oldest rocks dating back to 3.48 bya contain well-preserved fossilized microorganisms. Life arrived so soon?
     Among all of the septillion (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 planets) in our Milky Way Galaxy (1 of 100 trillion galaxies), ours is the only yet-known one with a biome that permitted the origin and growth of Life. This precious biosphere extends over 19 km down in seas and rock and 64 km into the atmosphere, Here, some 5 billion species evolved of which 99% are now extinct, yet we estimate that from 10 to 14 million species exist today. We still seek a meaning and purpose for all this.
     The first mass extinction of life started about 2.5 bya when cyanobacteria evolved to manufacture a poisonous gas – oxygen - but took 100 million years to pollute the atmosphere enough to kill off most of those teeming prokaryotes, eukaryote, archaea, and bacteria species that were single-celled without a nucleus. Survivors still exist in deep, oxygen-free seas and rock. Enough carbon was also inserted into the atmosphere to plunge the world into an extended ice age.
     This current 7th extinction is already threatening a million species, yet it really is not due for a few million years as many other cyclical factors contribute such as continental drift, shape of orbit, tilt of earth, volcanic activity, asteroid impacts, and sea levels. Carelessly, our species has excelled in creating the factors, such as excessive carbon, methane, contaminant emissions, overpopulation of humans and cattle, and misuse of water that are accelerating its deadly attack.
     The beginning of the explosion of life based on oxygen is placed about 542 million years ago, (mya) during the Cambrian period at the start of the Paleozoic era, the same time the Ediacarans (earliest known complex multi-cellular organisms, 635-542 mya) disappeared from the worldwide fossil record.
      The first mass extinction of oxygen-based life came 443 mya at the end of the Ordovician period when 85% of all species were lost. The second was 359 mya at the end of the Devonian period when 75% perished, the third was 252 mya at the end of the Permian period, the 4th was 200 mya ending the Triassic period, the 5th was 66 mya at the end of the Cretaceous period, killing 76%.
     Additionally, Nature has persecuted humans: Chronic pain infects 1/5th of the world humans. Some 322 million suffer from depression. Annually, 7.9 million human infants (6% of all births) are born with serious birth defects. Almost 800,000 adults die annually by suicide which is 1.4% of all deaths. So cruel!
     Heaven, hell, and purgatory are all here together, created by Nature, numerous life forms, and humans. Evolution, we could presume, favours selfish genes to promote survival. Why, then, do so many species exhibit empathy? Warm blooded birds, cats, chimps, dogs, dolphins, elephants, lambs, marmosets, rats, voles, wolves will all make sacrifices to feed, assist wounded, or just befriend others including other species. Humans, especially the young, are now accelerating empathy, so there is hope But, we need to correct many areas where we are falling short of steering this planet towards the paradise it is in a few small areas that need global enlargement.
       Far too many humans have joined Nature in harboring indifference to Life. They have concluded
that we are doomed because we cannot win against powerful vested interests controlling us throughout history, so have resigned themselves to grabbing what they still can from life for the immediate future. We must not allow this attitude prevail. Our task is all encompassing and starts with the vital, time consuming, job of parenting that implants loving bonding, and respect for other things, animate and inanimate.
     Our 7th Mass Extinction: With the main exemption of the Trump administration in the USA that considers the environment a source of profit, most of the rest of the world including most of the USA, with varying degrees of dangerous foot dragging, are embracing actions to delay the pace.
Activists and Organizations fighting Climate Change continue to grow. Wikipedia lists 516 organizations fighting climate change (16 governmental, 83 non governmental, another 21 continental, then another 396 national).
     Added to my blog 192 on Climate Change are: The United Nations’ International Panel On Climate Change, the UN Environmental Programme, and the World Meteorological Organization that lead the fight, ably assisted by a multitude of others including: The Green Climate Fund, designed in 2014 with the goal of raising $100 billion by 2020 to help developing countries fight climate change. Its HQ was built in Incheon, South Korea. Led by the EU and USA, 48 countries joined and promised funds. Obama pledged $3.5 billion of which the $2 billion still pending was withdrawn by Trump who complained it was a scheme to drain money from rich to poor countries. Some other pledges: Japan 15.4b, Sweden $4b, Norway $1.7b, Germany 1b, Hungary $1b, France $775m, UK $720m, Canada $277m, Australia 200m.
     One case, typical of the inaction that 16-year-old Swedish Greta Thunberg is leading the world to rectify is: The Grand Banks off Newfoundland teemed with cod and haddock discovered for the world in 1497 by John Cabot. (Giovanni Caboto a Venetian explorer employed by England). Settlements from England grew with shipbuilding and other fish industry jobs as well as trawler visits from other European countries plus Japan and China. harvesting 200,000 tons annually. World War II ceased attempts to regulate larger trawlers. By 1968 swarms of trawlers were taking 800,000 tons annually. All knew this was unsustainable but the government procrastinated fearful of losing jobs. By 1974 the take fell to 300,000 tons. Canadian jurisdiction was extended from 12 to 200 miles offshore but did not prevent a total collapse in 1993 forcing a total shutdown. Only now are stocks recovering to permit very limited fishing. Many of the 40,000 who left the area went to work in the tar sands of Alberta thus increasing the setbacks to controlling global climate.
     Greenpeace deserves high praise, Founded in Vancouver, BC, in 1971 it has offices in over 39 countries and over 3 million volunteers with international HQ in Amsterdam. As it accepts no funds from political parties, governments, or corporations, it relies on foundations and followers to finance its goal of helping our Earth nurture life in all its diversity. It has operated 4 ships to discourage, and bring world attention to, over fishing, commercial whaling, deforestation, nuclear proliferation, and genetic engineering, but Greenpeace also revealed the need to police members. It prompted 100 Nobel laureates to demand it moderate its stand after 3 members destroyed in 2011 a test plot of modified wheat near Canberra, Australia. Greenpeace activists outraged Peru by damaging delicate Nazca Lines (alien navigational aids?) when performing a publicity stunt during Dec 2014 climate talks in Lima.
     The United Nations 2019 Ranking of 57 Nations on Climate Protection used 14 indicators within 4 categories: Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Total Energy Use, Renewable Energy Use, and Climate Policy. It reveals the enormity of what needs to be done.
     Sweden leads with a score of only 76.28, Saudi Arabia is last with a 8.62 score. Other rankings;
    70’s:   Morocco, Lithuania.
    60’s:   Latvia, UK, Switzerland, Malta, India, Norway, Finland, Croatia, Denmark, EU, Portugal,                   Ukraine,
    50’s:   Luxembourg, Romania, France, Brazil. Italy, Egypt, Mexico, Slovakia, Germany,
              Netherlands, Belarus, Greece, Belgium,
 40’s:     Czech Republic, China, Argentina, Spain, Austria, Thailand, Indonesia, South Africa,                          Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, New Zealand, Estonia, Cyprus, Algeria, Ireland, Japan, Turkey,
  30’s     Malaysia, Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, Canada, Australia,
  20’s:    Taiwan, Korea, Iran,
  10’s:    United States,
  00’s:    Saudi Arabia.
     It is sad, shameful, terrifying, unbelievable, and many other adjectives that the United States ranks second to last in spite of its millions of informed, intelligent, and activist citizens. How can they be so ineffective? In spite of all the increases in numbers and ferocity of floods, fires, droughts, storms, and with almost all scientists warning we have only 12 years to contain the steady rise in temperatures that can kill all life, just 70% believe the climate is changing and only 60% believe it is due to human activity.
     Far too many are lured into distrust of government and its ballot box. They claim politicians are all talk, avid fund raisers, controlled by vested interests, but with no meaningful action on vital issues, The Democratic debates revealed over a score of presidential hopefuls united in their promises to enforce positive climate actions. Needed election reforms: compulsory voting, voting day a holiday, no fund raising, candidates granted equal stipends from taxes,
     A current Reuters poll finds that almost 70%, including a majority of Republicans, want the US to take aggressive action to combat climate change - but only a third would support an extra tax of $100 a year to help. It will cost far more than that whether we survive or perish.
    Many have spent large sums in taking environment-friendly actions in acquiring fuel efficient appliances, homes, cars, and travel. Greta Thunberg led us again by taking 2 weeks to sail across the Atlantic via boat instead of flying to officiate at climate activities in North and South America. She met with the mayors of Calgary and Edmonton to argue the need to replace the tar sands industry so vital to the economy while they pointed out the increasingly high environmentally-friendly restrictions in place, higher than other world fossil fuel sources. Healthy compromises are urgently required. An example of small, but rapidly growing, action is the fact that 7.3 million (3.2% of population) have given up meat. 
     Gross inequality is yet another unacceptable thorn. For instance: In 10 seconds, Jeff Bezos, the owner and founder of Amazon, makes more money than the median employee of Amazon makes in an entire year. We live in a time when millions of Americans, including many Amazon employees, are working 2 or 3 jobs to feed their families while the three wealthiest people in this country own more wealth than the bottom half. How do we ensure the inevitable revolution is orderly and peaceful? Thanks partially to Trump, Amazon will pay no taxes this year.
     The enormity of fighting climate change and maintaining a life style worth living also demands we cease such inhumane crimes as are waging, especially in Hong Kong, Palestine, Spain, Syria, Yemen, as well as corruption, control of oligarchs, inappropriate behavior, discrimination, Mexican drug wars, and so on.
     The price is high but necessary.     On with the task!
PS I have just learned that the next G7 summit meeting will be held in 2020 in a Trump hotel in Florida and that mention of climate change will not be included. This is abject surrender and must not be tolerated. This 46th meeting of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and US represents 58% of the world’s wealth. The rotating head of the group will be the USA in 2020, so it gets to host the meet, but should never dictate the agenda.
                                                                                                                         Ye Olde Scribe
                                                                                                  georgesweanor@comcast.net














Tuesday, 6 August 2019

GUN VIOLENCE - DOMESTIC TERRORISM


In a country where too many are content to relax in the belief that it is the world’s best, it is outrageous to read, or tune into, news outlets, to learn, on a daily basis, of yet more killing and wounding of innocent humans by one or more deranged, usually white male, humans.
We can be grateful where in many cases our police, risking their own lives, rapidly rushed to the scenes to limit the slaughter – but this is not enough, nor the solution.
One example in a long string of crimes came on Sunday, 04 August, 2019, when headlines in the morning newspaper reported that 27 had been killed and 26 wounded yesterday in a busy shopping area in El Paso, Texas, by a lone gunman who was taken into custody. I had barely finished reading the paper, that also included details of another local murder, when I learned that 9 more had been killed and 27 wounded on Sunday, just 13 hours later, in Dayton, Ohio. This time the police arrived within a minute to kill the shooter whose victims included his own sister.
This makes 251 mass shootings in 216 days so far in 2019. 2016 also saw more than one mass shooting per day. All told there have been over 8,000 dead and 17,000 wounded in mass shootings, defined as 4 or more deaths per incident, not including the shooter. Sufferings are multiplied many times over by all the friends and relatives.
In the same time period Canada suffered one mass shooting and Mexico three.
Much of the blame is hurled at President Donald Trump whose rhetoric and actions are hostile to the environment, to immigrants, and to humans not of the wealthier classes.
The White race, dominant in Europe, Western Russia, North America, and Australasia, has contributed much it can brag about, but it does have its share of dangerous faults such as a history of massacres of and thefts from indigenous tribes plus slavery of humans considered inferior. Improvements have been impressive, but they remain a work in progress.
Blessed by geography, the United States has created a world-leading country, providing many benefits for humanity, Currently embracing other cultures, it can boast of millions of its citizens striving for a better world for all.
But it also shelters many thousands who worship Greed and are indifferent to the sufferings of other citizens, be they soldiers in far-off conflicts or poorly-rewarded common workers. Some fear their world of dominance is eroding and they must fight back. An easily-available assault rifle is the cheapest means of broadcasting their anger while presidential rhetoric convinces them they have backing at the highest level.
So, banning assault weapons is an obvious first, and popular, step. After each shooting there has been a fervent call for federal gun-control action. A poll of registered voters shows that 93% would support universal background checks for all gun buyers. Some states, impatient with federal lethargy, have imposed their own restrictions.
So far the gun industry has been successful in fighting meaningful lasting controls. Actually, mass shootings are profitable for them as gun sales increase after each.
And, we can extend this cancer to the world where an unscrupulous few employ Fear and Hate to surpass Love and enhance Profits.
Temporary as it might be, our species has evolved on a planet that offers beauty and contentment in exchange for Care and Co-operation. The failure of many of us to recognize, and react to, the many threats, especially global warming, leave us with a mere 12 years to take the actions vital to avoiding our demise.
While corrective actions on gun control are vital and long overdue, it is futile to concentrate on them without including the other threats to our survival. We do need to heed the cover-the-waterfront proposals of such presidential candidates as Berni Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Ye Olde Scribe












Tuesday, 23 July 2019

DAUGHTERS and NON-HUMAN WILDLIFE



Parents of daughters worry about navigating them through the dangers of human male wildlife, but my wife and I were to discover an also-dangerous form of wildlife that two of our 5 daughters were to embrace. They, Trish and Linda, our two youngest, were often flown, trucked, or hiked in, to remote, isolated areas in Canada, Sweden, and the United States to be left alone among the likes of eagles, elk, moose, reindeer, grizzly and brown bears, bighorn sheep, and mountain lions to conduct studies using their own ingenuity, surmounting storms, deep snow, and hostile terrains.   During her time in Sweden, Trish learned the language and worked with Swedish, Norwegian, Polish and Soviet biologists. During their 10-year study of mountain lions in New Mexico Linda earned her MA, MS and her husband, Ken, his Phd.          They published a 464-page definitive study "Desert Puma".
This blog continues my family’s love of animals, starting with Blog 194, published 21 January 2019, on Magna Terra Smoky, the high-spirited Arabian colt whom daughter Barbara rescued, trained, loved, and published a multi-award-winning book on his life, including 120 races, of which he won 50. 
Trish tells me:    "My career in wildlife ecology may seem of short duration to you since it didn’t start until you were 60. Yet, if time is measured in change, it began long ago, when black-footed ferrets were thought to be extinct, and it continued as gray wolves came back to Yellowstone, and of course to Sweden as well. In Sweden, the reappearance of the wolf was not intentional, it was an invasion from the Soviet North. I remember photos in the Stockholm newspaper ‘Aftonbladet’ with front page photos of wolves being chased across the agricultural fields of southern Sweden by the Svensk Polis (Police). Many surprising events occurred during my time behind binoculars.   Black footed ferrets now roam in prairie dog colonies mere miles from my home, and individual gray wolves  have cautiously ventured south into Colorado seeking the opportunity to establish packs. There are now almost 500 wolves in Sweden and Norway, a big increase from zero when I arrived there in the 1980’s. There are also new threats like Climate Change and the associated wind turbines with blades slicing through the air, killing birds and bats and insects in a place that we never really categorized as habitat before, The sky. The sage-grouse that I banded on legs in the early morning darkness during college are now in danger of being listed as threatened with extinction across their vast range. The whitebark pine, growing in the high mountains in large expanses through Canada and the United States, has survived for millennium and individuals can live 1,000 years, but the species could become extinct in our lifetimes. This is the situation for too many species. I think a lot about loss these days, especially since the office of the Fish and Wildlife Service where I work, focuses on species threatened with extinction. There is a lot of work in the business of extinction these days. I have dabbled in many faucets of this strange profession. Perhaps I have mainly been an observer without much power to change the course of events. At first I spent many hours at night surveying for black-footed ferrets that weren’t there, and I spent many days surveying plant and bird species in areas destined to be transformed by oil exploration or coal mining. Later I spent hours recording the social dynamics of mustangs in the Pyror Mountains; even though my profession does not consider them wild, and more recently I have spent many days picking up eagles from the ground, often torn in pieces, as they are jettisoned off the blade of a wind turbine. Management of Wildlife is controversial. I didn’t know about that so much at the beginning of my career. I knew wildlife could be exploited by over hunting and consumption, but perhaps more importantly, I learned they compete with us for space and resources, and by their very presence limit ways we can make money. I spent some of my career working on projects involving ungulates that were hunted species. That work is popular and better supported. I worked with the National Park Service identifying locations to translocate bighorn sheep to the Rocky Mountains for 3 years, after I returned to Colorado mid-career. That lasted until I busted-up my leg in a ski accident and could no longer hike in rugged country. Before that, and before my son Lee was born, I worked in Sweden to study the burgeoning moose population. I watched and then I wrote articles published in International Science Journals. Including the Canadian Journal of Zoology, about what I saw. (Like nobody had watched moose before.  But it is surprising how much more there always seems to be left to see and understand.
I  saw their migration routes with telemetry, I saw how they competed for food in winter, I saw them during the rut in the  tundra and in the mountains of Sarek.   I also  saw the brown bear and d mountains of Sarek. I also saw the brown bear and reindeer the wolverine.  I spent a lot of time seeing but it is the feelings that have stayed with me the most. The entrancing clickity-clack of the reindeer hooves as the moved like a wave across the tundra, the ominous crunching sounds of the brown bear moving in the brush as it foraged on berries as it  traverses the slope above my observation tent, the adrenalin released by the crashing of vegetation from    the cow moose and her twin calves as they attempted to incapacitate me from ever getting so close again, and the sense of loss in the splash of my camera gear landing in the mud as I threw it at them.  I still hear the laughing of the Sámi helicopter pilot as he would clatter up a tree every time we landed to tag a bear or moose so that he would not be the one to face their revenge. I have experienced other fear too. Fear of the wolf tracker that was sent to keep me safe in my cabin in the roadless wilderness of Sarek; fear of the late night demonic rattling of my cabin that only in the morning did I find out was caused by reindeer licking and gnawing at the foundation to pull salt from the pee of the Sámi herders who use the cabins during the summer; and always the fear of the weather with storms that tear down a tent at midnight leaving me with a 10 mile hike,walk on a muddy trail leading up valley through whipping snow, and my desperate hopes of getting to a cabin. Sometimes I don’t know what my career has meant.  Perhaps I have been paid to simply be an observer.  I see myself in a continuum of people who attempt to resist or balance or compensate for the insatiable desires of humans to consume the Earth whole, while realizing that I am one of the insatiable. I participate in an unending duty to guard wild things, as an effort both driven and limited by the current values of our society. It was only a few years ago I worked to support the prosecution of an industry for indiscriminately killing eagles, and now that same industry has come back, under the rules of a new administration, to find out whether the guard still stands strong where we now stand. The guards in formation vacillate. My career will soon end but with this recurrence of a recent challenge, perhaps I will learn if I have done more than bear witness. "
LINDA:   My story follows my sister’s, just as I followed her path to a career in wildlife sciences. Dad had thought I might go into Art – another field sure to secure my future- but I had no gift for it and my heart was where the wild things are. My initial goal was simple, or so it seemed at first. To try to give back, if even just a little, to the world that inspired and gave such joy.    I fumbled a lot, trying to learn and find my way. A seasonal job with Wyoming Game and Fish, counting big game, getting my truck stuck in a slick snot of clay, the snowmobile broken and buried in snow far from the nearest road, realizing how much I’d rather trust in my own two feet or my cross-country skis than in the “past due date” mechanical beasts that temporary employees were usually provided. Had my first real experience with controversy and competition… when I was asked to use a snowmobile to haze pronghorn from a rancher’s field during one of the worst winters on record. There was a stint in California, during a spell when I couldn’t find wildlife work, fighting wildland fires – cutting line, hauling hose, breathing smoke, and once even helping carry out a severely burned civilian. I lived in the barracks with a couple of the men on our engine crew. They looked out for me. I remember Bill filling a sock with marbles the night that the Hot Shots came to party at the barracks… in case anyone got the wrong idea (guess those are the human wildlife Dad was talking about). 
Then my lucky break. A friend mentioning a possible job helping with a bighorn study in the Absorokas near Yellowstone – I should apply. It was physically demanding work, but I was in my element.  Backpacking trips, often solo, into the wilderness to find, count and watch bighorn sheep. I have a selfie I took (yes, back in 1983!) while sitting atop a boulder on Jim Mountain, wearing my puffy blue down coat (July mornings were still very cold). That was before wolves had returned, and the void was palpable – making the land feel a little more lonely and empty. But there were bears!  Grizzlies weren’t doing all that great then – the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee had just formed to assist with the bear’s recovery – but there were enough around to make solo pack trips a little extra special, though admittedly spine-tingling.  The Absorokas rewarded me with a second gift – it’s where I met Ken.  My path changed course. Although accepted at the University of Wyoming to potentially study pine marten for my MS…
I decided to back out and join Ken in New Mexico, instead. He was to start a mountain lion study on a long, skinny mountain range surrounded by deserts, one with a name that made you take notice: Jornada del Muerto –  Journey of Death. It was one of my best decisions, choosing to go to those desert mountains to learn about lions. 
     The study area was large, encompassing about 800 square miles, and it required a small team of us, working long days out of different camps, to capture and track the cats that lived there. When we started our research, only a handful of studies had been done on the lion (the first being landmark work in Idaho by the man who hired us – Maurice Hornocker). Maurice’s work likely helped with a pendulum shift in attitudes towards this big predator; most Western states began giving the cat some protection in the form of hunting seasons and bag limits. Before that, they were typically considered “varmints” and could be shot, poisoned and trapped ad libitum.  There were still concerns about how to best “manage” lions (for example, how many do we kill, how many do we protect?) to ensure there are enough prey (such as deer and elk) for both the cat and the human predator, that lions aren’t threatening vulnerable prey populations such as desert bighorn sheep, and that the lion is still a vital component of the ecosystem. There is something about predators, cats especially, that I find appealing. Some of it is the desire to stand up for an animal whose reputation is often unjustly maligned. Then there’s the desire to know more about such a secret, solitary beast, one that is capable of pulling down an animal 6 times its own size using only stealth, claws and teeth. Rocky was my first lion. I mean, he’s the first wild lion I got to see up close and personal. We caught him in a padded leg-hold trap and he wasn’t happy about it. At 125 pounds, he wasn’t exceptionally large for a male, (our largest cat during the study weighed 158 pounds), but he made an impression on me. 
We went on to capture cats hundreds of times after that first time, and on some occasions I handled the cat on my own. In most cases, the only fear I experienced was for the cat. We were responsible for the animal’s safety and captures with leg-hold traps or snares involve risks – possible cuts or broken bones from the cable holding its foot, adverse effects from the immobilizing drugs we administered, heat stress from the mix of being captured and drugged (it gets hot in those desert mountains!). Just because I wasn’t often afraid doesn’t mean I threw common sense out the window. Knowing you were alone in lion country…. And rattlesnake country for that matter – the mountains supported 3 species and on some days I encountered all of them – helped to keep your mind sharp. And you do little things to make yourself feel safer, such as placing your trap basket behind you for “protection” while you set snares around a fresh mule deer kill. We also learned as we went. No one before had found a lion’s nursery and then gone in to mark the kittens. We did this close to 80 times. At first, we hazed the mom from the nursery so as to get to the cubs. After a few instances of encountering very protective mothers, we rethought our technique (see, learning!). Subsequently, we’d locate a nursery, try to get a head count, and then quietly leave. We’d come back every day after that (sometimes this meant hiking MILES in and out) in hopes mom would be away hunting so that we could sneak into the nursery and round up the kittens. We broke this rule with one particular female, aptly named “Spitfire”.  She was on to us. Every time Ken and I would find her nursery, she would move the cubs.  They were approaching the age of being too fast to catch, so when we found her and the kittens again, we made the decision to try to haze her from them. Short story, it worked and we marked the cubs. Longer story was she came (at a run) to within 12 feet of Ken before finally veering off and vanishing over the hill. In all instances of aggression, we instigated it…. Oh, and the only inflicted injury I can recall is when a 3-month-old cub, cornered by our hound, Spotty, bit Maurice… and that was because Maurice was trying to extract a prickly pear pad from her mouth.  I  think that says a lot for an animal that could easily kill us. 
We faced much greater dangers from the weather and the other wildlife inhabitants.    I  remember many times during the monsoon season, reaching the ridgeline with my telemetry gear and metal antenna (captured cats were fitted with radio-collars for tracking) just as a storm hit.  Lightning would be crackling all around as I dashed downhill, trying to become the lowest thing on the landscape .  Then there was the time we caught a collared peccary in a snare by accident.  What did it weigh – 50 pounds maybe?  It had me more flustered than any lion, especially when it “popped” its teeth at me.   SCARY! 
And there were incidents of being butted off a ledge by a snared buck deer before we could wrangle and release it, driving off the edge of the road with the back tires spinning in space….
Was it all worth it? I like to think so.   We know so much more about mountain lions now than we did when we started that study – 34 years ago!   Our biggest challenge now may be applying this information to improve the mountain lion’s management and conservation. There are signs that the pendulum is swinging back, with predators (lions, bears, wolves) once again becoming less tolerated or accepted, and sometimes branded as the bad guy for doing something they evolved to do.

Patricia Sweanor                                                                                              Linda Sweanor

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECTS

Long with us, numerous, mysterious, intriguing, yet ridiculed, UFOs deserve the increasing attention they are now getting.  With us for at least 5,000 years, they, as far as we know, have never harmed us.  Our fighter jets have fired on them to no known effect.  They refrain from harmful retaliation.
This blog is sparked by one of my daughters, Trish, who used the current renewal of interest in UFOs to admit she has kept to herself since 1966 the fact that, while returning home from school, was terrified by seeing a large flying saucer hovering over the hills just north of us as though trying to land.  She ran home, becoming quite embarrassed because the saucer had vanished, there was no panic, and everything was normal.  Today, she describes it as having a solid round simmering-blue deck with  a lower  deck shining yellow-orange lights.
In my own flying career, with much night flying, I have only two incidents of unexplained phenomena.  One was in 1943 over the North Sea en route to bomb Germany. I watched numerous large spherical rotating blobs of orange fire swarming up at us.  I had graduated from a month-long course that described all known varieties of enemy flak but these were strange and unique.  Coils of rotating wire?  My second mystery was in 1948 when on a 20-hour flight over the Northwest Territories in northern Canada we saw, about 30 nautical miles west of us, a large area brightly lit amid the surrounding dark sparsely-populated expanse, an area usually all dark.
While serving at NORAD, Colorado Springs, 1963-1966, as a controller working shifts at a long communications counter facing a wall screen depicting current activities, one of my tasks was to record and forward on UFO-sightings calls to the Blue Book Project.   Interpretations in both locations ranged from deep skepticism to deep interest.  Personally, I was intrigued, I was also surprised that many who took these calls lacked curiosity and that responses to our reports were few and inadequate.  Explanations even included  that the visual and radar sightings we reported were merely reflections from snow melting on the mountains.  It was easy to infer a cover-up, especially when I learned the good 1952 criteria of Captain Ruppelt had lapsed.   Our military is paid to detect and protect us from genuine threats.   Too often investigative findings are restricted to a select few thus hindering further research and readiness.  It results in dangerous ignorance among the rank and file and those who get to do the suffering and dying because of mistakes made by a dominant few.   
In our tiny and lonely speck of intelligent life, we can marvel at the staggering amount of knowledge we have acquired, more than enough to support seeking more with open minds.  Skeptics argue that UFOs must have terrestrial explanations.  We have found no other home base for intelligent life.  If any does exist in our time frame, it must be so many light years away that, even with worm holes, it would be impractical for them to expend the effort to study us, Or, are they actually in our space and time but on different vibration frequencies?
     Reported aliens and their ships come in different forms.  Different origins?  Multiverses in the same space?
     Through recent decades reported sightings are increasing.  At least ten countries have set up official organizations to investigate.  One of these is the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), formed in 1969 in California, now with over 4,000 members worldwide.
       Wikipedia details 242 sightings from 23 countries plus outer space.
Are Abductions real?  Why are reported aliens so concerned with our sexual organs, human and cattle?  Perhaps, a search for DNA that could help their own species?   The number of those involved in investigating and helping abductees  is awesome. Their abductee counts range from a few thousand to 6% of our population. Australia, Canada, and the USA have set up facilities to ease return to normal life those suffering from symptoms similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  The stories of numerous humans admitting to have been abducted include many similarities: lack of power to resist, a medical examination of those at reproductive ages, with emphasis on sexual organs, intercourse, nervousness and business-only attitudes of aliens until examinations are finished, then a tour of the alien ship, return to, or near to, their homes where they describe the aliens as humanoid but smaller with large heads and eyes.  Two  incidents report metre-tall aliens of  praying mantis build. 
      The UFO study is too vast and complicated for one blog, but here is a very brief summary:
China:    2,300 years ago (ya), texts recorded a ‘moon boat’ that returned to hover every 12 years.
Lower Egypt: 3,440 ya, the Tulli Papyrus of Pharaoh Thutmose III recorded fiery discs floating across the skies.
Rome:      2,200 ya, Livy recorded phantom ships gleaming in the sky.    2,080 ya, Pliny the Elder told of a spark that fell from a star, became the size of the moon, then shot back to be a small light.
Phrygia, Roman Republic: 66 AD, Plutarch reported that, at the start of a battle, the sky burst asunder, and a huge, flame-like body was seen to fall between the two armies. It was shaped like a silver wine-jar, 
Jerusalem, Roman Empire:   66 AD:   Tacitus and others reported that, as Romans attacked Jerusalem,  chariots with armed angels filled the sky.
World War 2 "Foo Fighters": Many aircrews reported strange objects infiltrating their formations. 
Current worldwide, wide-scale interest was sparked with several incidents three of which were:
Canada:  04 October 1957: Shag Harbour, Nova Scotia: Many people saw 4 orange lights off shore, moving at tremendous speed, then plunging into the ocean just offshore.  They alerted the coast guard who found no wreckage or bodies.  Nor could the crews of 3 RCN ships that searched the area for 3 days.  No known aircraft were in the area at the time.  Meanwhile, a sonar submarine-detecting station had tracked underwater movement from the crash site to 25 miles NE followed by a second underwater object.  Both sat motionless for a week when a Soviet submarine was detected in the area, so naval attention increased.  The underwater objects then moved off faster than they could be followed by investigating ships.  They then shot into the air and vanished.
Brazil:   16 October, 1957:   Near São Francisco de Sales, Minas Geraisms, farmer Antonio Boas, working in his fields at night, claims an egg-shaped vehicle landed and aliens took him aboard where he was examined then had sex with  a female alien.
United States: September 1961: Betty and Barney Hill claimed that, in a late evening, driving home near Lancaster, New Hampshire, they were abducted and medically examined by small aliens from a landed large flying disk.  Wide publicity spawned interest but the story was later shown to be fabricated.
Skepticism: Some roots lie in the Battle of Los Angeles 24-25 Feb 1942 when nervous anti-aircraft artillery crews fired on a lost weather balloon.  Fragments caused 5 deaths and extensive damage to Los Angeles buildings.  Later, in December 1953, Joint Army-Navy-Air Force Regulation number 146 made it a crime for military personnel to discuss classified UFO reports with unauthorized persons. Violators faced up to two years in prison and/or fines of up to $10,000.  This increased suspicions of government cover-up. And the world became more interested in UFO research:
Russia: Billionaire Yuri Milner has invested $100 million in searching for extraterrestrial life.
Canada:   In 1950 a UFO investigation unit, Project Magnet, was established in Shirley Bay near Ottawa by Transport Canada under the direction of Wilbert Brockhouse Smith, senior radio engineer. It was formally active until mid-1954 and informally active (without government funding) until Smith's death in 1962. He had concluded that UFOs were probably extraterrestrial in origin and likely operated by manipulation of magnetism.  A parallel study of scientists and military, Project Second Storey was initiated in 1952
Smith believed UFOs were linked to psychic phenomena and believed himself to be in contact with extraterrestrial beings who communicated to him through telepathy. Smith wrote a number of articles for Topside, the publication of the Ottawa New Sciences Club which he founded, outlining the philosophy of the "Space Brothers" with whom he claimed to be in contact.  The articles were later published posthumously in 1969 under the title The Boys from Topside.
In 1952-61 Avro Canada built, and experimented with, a  Top Secret Flying Saucer, sharing the technology with the United States.
The United States:   In 1947 numerous published UFO sightings prompted Gen Nathan Twining, Chief of the USAF Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio, to form Project Sign, the first of a long line at that base.  Sign’s 1948 report was sent to the Pentagon. Its initial intelligence estimate concluded that the flying saucers were real craft, were not made by either the Soviet Union or United States, and were likely extraterrestrial in origin.  This was destroyed by Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg, USAF Chief of Staff, citing a lack of physical proof.  Project Sign was succeeded at the end of 1948 by Project Grudge which was criticized as having a debunking mandate.  Captain Edward Ruppelt referred to the era of Project Grudge as the "dark ages" of early USAF UFO investigation. Grudge concluded that all UFOs were natural phenomena or other misinterpretations, although it also stated that 23% of the reports could not be explained.
In 1952 high-ranking, influential USAF generals were so dissatisfied with the state of UFO investigations that they replaced Grudge with Project Blue Book headed up by Ruppelt, a decorated WWII airman with an aeronautics degree.  He coined the term "Unidentified Flying Object" to replace the many terms such as flying saucer and  flying disk.  He designed a standard witness questionnaire that eliminated stigma and ridicule.
It also included questions to serve scientific and statistical studies.  Ruppelt left Blue Book in February 1953 for a temporary reassignment, returning a few months later to find his staff reduced from more than ten, to two. Frustrated, he resigned from the USAF, then wrote the book “The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects”  which described the USAF study from 1947 to 1955.  Scientist Michael D. Swords wrote that "Ruppelt would lead the last genuine military effort to analyse UFOs"
Knowing that factionalism had harmed Project Sign, Ruppelt sought the advice of many scientists and experts, and issued regular press releases along with classified monthly reports for military intelligence.  Each U.S. Air Force Base had a Blue Book officer to collect UFO reports and forward them to Ruppelt. He and his team were authorized to interview all personnel who witnessed UFOs, and were not required to follow the chain of command. This unprecedented authority underlined the seriousness of Blue Book's investigation.
Under Ruppelt, Blue Book investigated a number of well-known UFO cases, Astronomer Dr. J. Allen Hynek was the scientific consultant, as he had been with Sign and Grudge. He worked for the project up to its 1969 termination and created the categorization “Close encounters”. He was a pronounced skeptic when he started, but  his feelings changed to a more wavering skepticism during the research, after encountering a minority of UFO reports he thought were unexplainable.
     In July 1952, after a build-up of hundreds of sightings over a few months, a new series of radar and visual sightings were observed near the National Airport in Washington, D.C.  Senator John McCain saw one.  The Central Intelligence Agency set up a panel of scientists headed by Dr. H. P. Robertson, a physicist of the California Institute of Technology, which included various physicists, meteorologists, and engineers, and one astronomer (Hynek). The Robertson Panel first met on January 14, 1953 to formulate a response.
Blue Book's critics erupted on learning its reactions to the 17 Apr 1966 report of two Ohio police officers, who reported they were able to follow for 30 minutes and 85 miles a disc-shaped, silvery object with a bright light emanating from its underside, at about 1,000 feet in altitude. Police cars from several other jurisdictions joined the pursuit. The chase ended in Pennsylvania, some 85 miles away.  This made national news,  Five days later, following brief interviews with only one of the police officers (but none of the ground witnesses), Blue Book's director, announced their conclusions: The police (one of them an Air Force gunner during the Korean War) had first chased a communications satellite, then the planet Venus.  This conclusion was widely derided, and police officers strenuously rejected it. Trust in government plummeted.  This lack of trust is compounded when scientists from other fields are denied support for projects counter to government interests.
  But, world UFO interest had been aroused, prompting the growth of a jungle of fact and fiction articles, books,  movies and organizations pursuing the mystery, fertilized by continued strange sightings.
    Among many serious UFO investigators is Nicholas (Nick) Redfern, a British best-selling author of 124 books and numerous articles,   He urges government disclosure of UFO information, and has found thousands of pages of previously classified files on UFOs dating from the WWII.  He is an editor for Phenomena magazine.  His 2005 book, Body Snatchers in the Desert: The Horrible Truth at the Heart of the Roswell Story, purports to show that the Roswell crash may have been military aircraft tests using Japanese POWs, suffering from progeria or radiation effects.
Between 1996 and 2000 Redfern published: “The British Government’s UFO Top Secrets  Exposed”,  “The FBI’s UFO Top Secrets Exposed”, and “Cosmic Crashes: The Incredible Story of the UFOs  That Fell to Earth”. They were published in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, and the UK.
Redfern’s appearances on the History Channel, National Geographic, lecture circuits, and the like  keep the human worldwide quest for answers current and alive.
Could all these ongoing UFO investigations help us to uncover a link to the Quantum World to give us more understanding of what we are, where we are, and why we are?
Stay curious.
Ye Olde Scribe
                                                                     
www.yeoldescribe.com georgesweanor@comcast.net