An amazing documentary about a crow named Canuck. Worth a watch.
An amazing documentary about a crow named Canuck. Worth a watch.
Daniel Vaughn reviews barbecue for Texas Monthly. Here he describes the bodily costs to him for his constant intake of meat.
I know this sounds terrible in a world full of hungry people, but to finally be hungry again is a welcome feeling. It’s not like I get chest pains while I’m driving around the state or anything, but I certainly take cholesterol medicine and I’ve put on about ten pounds since I started the job. (Let’s be honest, it’s fifteen, and it’s not coming off.) I get heartburn every time I’m sleeping in a hotel after eating barbecue all day. You wake up tired, so you drink a lot of coffee, so you get dehydrated, and then you’re driving all day, and you get hemorrhoids.
Cheers to the Lucky Peach, David Chang’s new excellent food magazine.
One of the most productive commentators about so-called gamergate is Katherine Cross. Her recent post on Feministing is so on point that it deserves some archival / expansion work.
1. There is an autoblocking program for twitter that removes most of the posts from gamergate trolls. For anyone out there interested in civil space, this is a big improvement. Cross describes it this way:
What offends GamerGaters about the autoblocker, aside from the fact that a woman found a technical solution to a social problem, is that it denies them the ability to impose themselves on targets. The idea that the women, people of colour, and queer folk who’ve comprised the majority of GG’s targets might be able to curate their online spaces and have certain discussions only with those of their choosing is repugnant to many GamerGaters. In the absence of genuine legal recourse, the worst thing you can do to a bully, harasser, or troll is ignore them after all.
2. Underscoring much of the gamergate vitriol is a toxic anti-trans politics. Much of the visibility of the violence seems to have a direction. Again Katherine Cross gathers enough targeted tweets and message board quotes to rile me up. For those who are trans-inclusive, trans-positive, or simply kind human beings, it is worth marking gamergate as a particularly anti-trans moment in time.
3. Katherine Cross introduces me to the idea of “sealioning” — a refined bullying tactic. Cross explains:
“Polite” GGers, defined as those who do not explicitly swear or use slurs, nevertheless harry the people they target because they do not take no for an answer and come in packs. The phenomenon of “sealioning”– barraging a target with politely worded but interrogating questions asked in bad faith– gained a name under GamerGate because of how common the tactic was.
Also provided is this nice comic!
I ran across a Boing Boing post where they point out that two American missionaries who contracted Ebola appear to have saved by an experimental treatment. CNN describes the situation:
Its a story that could have come from a cinematic medical thriller: Two American missionary workers contract Ebola. Their situation is dire. Three vials containing a highly experimental drug are flown into Liberia in a last-ditch effort to save them. And the drug flown in last week appears to have worked, according to a source familiar with details of the treatment.Dr. Kent Brantlys and Nancy Writebols conditions significantly improved after receiving the medication, sources say. Brantly was able to walk into Emory University Hospital in Atlanta after being evacuated to the United States last week, and Writebol is expected to arrive in Atlanta on Tuesday.
1. Starting in March 2014, Ebola started to be seen in West Africa. More than 1600 Africans have shown up sick with more than half of those infected dying. None of these people got a last-minute salvation.
2. Everyone in the world has to be terrified of Ebola. It is one of the most scary diseases I’ve ever heard about. The notion that a pharmaceutical company in San Diego had a treatment that seems to have worked that was never shared with dying African people is offensive.
3. I can only imagine what this looks like to people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
4. The cure had to be pried out of the hands of a for-profit pharmaceutical corporation. Turns out the months of Africans dying wasn’t sufficient incentive to release the treatment. So how did these two white American missionaries find out about this miracle treatment? CNN explains that the missionary charity (Samaritans Purse) made the connection:
As the Americans conditions worsened, Samaritans Purse reached out to a National Institutes of Health scientist who was on the ground in West Africa, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.”The scientist was able to informally answer some questions and referred them to appropriate company contacts to pursue their interest in obtaining the experimental product,” NIAID said.The experimental drug, known as ZMapp, was developed by the biotech firm Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., which is based in San Diego. The patients were told that the treatment had never been tried before in a human being but had shown promise in small experiments with monkeys.
5. You might call these Americans vampires. Back from the dead saved by the magical blood of the sacrifices of those who came before them:
The medicine is a three-mouse monoclonal antibody, meaning that mice were exposed to fragments of the Ebola virus and then the antibodies generated within the mices blood were harvested to create the medicine. It works by preventing the virus from entering and infecting new cells.
The rush of resources and last-minute miracle part of this narrative is worth talking more about. But also the sacrifices of the mice, monkeys and the dead Africans have to be considered when thinking about these two saved missionaries.
I think this makes visible the hierarchy of human bodies — the idea that some people count more than others.
Worth noting that the Wall Street Journal reports that one of the Americans was also given a blood transfusion from an African Ebola survivor.
Dr. Brantly and Ms. Writebol began receiving supportive care as soon as they were diagnosed, according to their respective charities. Dr. Brantly also got a blood transfusion from a 14-year-old boy who survived Ebola under Dr. Brantlys care, in the hope that antibodies would help him, too, fight off the virus. Both Dr. Brantly and Ms. Writebol received an experimental serum, the charities said, though they didnt specify what the treatment was.
6. Some people might ask: ‘don’t you think it’s worth it? Having a potential cure for Ebola is more important than any of these complaints about how the drug got made or released?‘
I would respond that the harm is done. Any attempt to justify this kind of hierarchical violence is probably worth noting in itself as evidence of a pernicious desire in the questioner to defend the pharmaceutical company.
Of course I wish for a cure for Ebola and am glad that a treatment seems to be in the works. I hope for an immediate and full distribution of this new treatment to everyone who has Ebola.
I haven’t seen any leader or press report advocating that the drug should be shared with other dying people.
It is always worth thinking about how we do things. Few would deny that injustices are done in the name of best intentions. And we should examine how CNN and the Wall Street Journal write about a phenomenon.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the death rate of those who get Ebola is one reason why researching a cure isn’t a priority:
There are several vaccines and drug treatments in development and testing for Ebola, but none have been approved by regulators. Commercializing them is a challenge given that Ebola is a rare disease, said Thomas Geisbert, who works on potential Ebola vaccine platforms as a researcher at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.”Ebola is very rare—there is not a financial incentive for large pharmaceutical companies to make vaccines for Ebola,” he said. “Its really going to require government agencies or a foundation.”
7. I’m glad that someone helped to save these two people’s lives. Here is hoping that same impulse counts for everyone else in the world.
Grotesque and cruel. To enslave an animal in a zoo for viewers to consume for pleasure. To ensure that the captive animals represent the happy animal fiction they are drugged.
After their experiences at the zoo in Boston, Murphy and Mufson were curious about the use of psychopharmaceuticals in other captive gorillas, so they surveyed all U.S. and Canadian zoos with gorillas in their collections. Nearly half of the 31 institutions that responded had given psychopharmaceutical drugs to their gorillas. The most frequently prescribed were Haldol haloperidol and Valium diazepam, though Klonopin, Zoloft, Paxil, Xanax, Buspar, Prozac, Ativan, Versed, and Mellaril had all been tried.
Thanks to Dan Weiss’s daily coffee from the Rumpus for the link.
Jody Rosen writes:
And, well, there’s a cat. It’s a nice-looking cat, of the gray-and-black tabby variety, and while I assume it’s Joni Mitchell’s pet, I hope it was a Hollywood stunt cat, because Mitchell subjects the poor thing to a series of spine-wrenching contortions not seen since Ferdinand II of Aragon sent my converso forbears packing off to the strappado. She dances a kind of pas de deux with the cat, see, which sounds cute, but in practice involves stretching and distending the feline’s extremities, twirling it in circles, lifting it overhead, etc. I can’t decide whether to contact the ASPCA about the statute of limitations on animal torture, or to make a bunch of GIFs and ROTFLMAO. In any case, I think we all can agree that “Dancin’ Clown” is the worst song ever, and the greatest video ever made. And that Joni Mitchell has no business owning a cat.
Thanks to Soul-sides for the link.
National Geographic videographer Paul Nicklen gets an incredible story and series of images from his time with an instructive leopard seal. A few thoughts:
1. Nicklen could have moved on after the first day when it was obvious that the Leopard Seal was taking care of him. The choice to stay suggests that Nickelen was overjoyed to get this particular interaction with the seal — as a means of telling a story.
2. It is cool that we get a contrast to the usual story of brutal nature, but the cute nature is just as toxic to the animals that live out there. Global warming, pesticides, chemical run-off, garbage, and general intrusion into a low-human area are all recent human contributions to the arctic. I sincerely love the video and the suggestion of care from a predator is distinctive. It seemed like there was a lot of food around for the seal. I wonder if the leopard seal would be as generous when food is scarce.
3. I feel bad for the penguins.
Scientific knowledge comes from inquiry into the natural world. It is a valuable and important part of human existence. As we learn and invent, it is equally important that we constantly reflect on how we do science — it is just as important to refine — to do science better.
I believe that using animals for experimentation is unethical.
I have a brief pause, reading the old articles about Felicia the ferret, who helped to clean the tubes at the National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois. There is something sweet about Felicia’s work that belies my understanding of animals in research laboratories. Here are a few examination of the 1971 newspaper descriptions of this ferret used for science.
1. Natural aptitude
It seems as though each article describes the natural skills that make Felicia the ferret particularly capable of the tasks she is given (running a string through 300 foot tubes). David Anderson’s article highlights the role of Robert Sheldon, the scientist who suggested that the lab try a ferret.
Being British, Sheldon remembered the use of ferrets by poachers who sent them into burrows after rabbits on English estates. Gamekeepers could hear the shooting of guns, but never the silent ferrets.
“Felicia is ideal for the work,” Pelczarski said. “The ferret is an animal filled with curiosity and seeks out holes and burrows. Its instinct is to find out what’s at the other end of a burrow, or, for that matter, a tube or a pipe.”
2. Feminizing Felicia
Felicia the ferret is feminized at a number of points in the articles. Consider Peter Vaughn’s Minneapolis Star essay. The introduction begins:
It is one of those success stories you read about: A small-town girl fresh off the farm finds fame and fortune.
Well, Felicia, who spent her early years on the farm of Stan Fredin near Gaylord, Minn., isn’t the average Minnesota farm girl.
In the first place, her hair is three different colors – brown, white and black.
Also, she is small as Minnesota girls go, barely topping 4 inches when on all fours.
Felicia is a ferret and left Fredin’s farm early this summer for a job with the National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, IL.
Several of the articles suggest that Felicia be rewarded with a mate — each time the suggestion was denied because if she became pregnant she might not fit through the small holes she was being trained to run through.
She has her own special set of weight watchers, including Sheldon, who just doesn’t intend to let her get too big for the job.
Asked why there was only one ferret, Sheldon laughed and said, “If you think she needs company, you’re not really thinking ahead. We have to. Motherhood might just put her out of a job. Her career depends on her size. She’s important to us, but one is enough.”
3. Memorializing Felicia to justify the use of animals in science.
Many of representations in these four articles are justifications for breeding, enslaving and using an animal for someone’s gain.
Part of the problem is that Felicia is a particular case — her work didn’t involve being cut open or enduring a painful series of experimental drugs. Everyone can be sold the bogus particular story of a cute rodent running through the tubes bravely helping the scientists. Contrast that to the 13 million animals being used in research. The American Anti-Vivisection Society note that most of the test subjects are mice, rats and other rodents . . . like cute little Felicia!
Though the scientific value and ethics of animal research are increasingly being questioned, it is estimated that over 13 million animals are still being used in a wide variety of research projects every year in the United States. Purpose-bred birds, rats, and mice, as well as fish and other cold-blooded animals, make up the vast majority of the animals used in research (over 90 percent), yet are specifically excluded from the Animal Welfare Act. As a result, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not keep records of the use of these animals, nor is there any legal requirement to afford these animals even the minimal standards of care provided by the Animal Welfare Act.
Which makes the particularizing and justifying of this individual animal’s story so worthy of amplification. Kathryn Winslow’s plaintive profile of the ferret is a pretty stark contrast to the usual life of a ferret in a research laboratory.
Felicia turned out to be a virtuoso at her work. She carried whatever was fastened to her harness for long distances, sometimes around many obstacles on the course. Those working with her were so pleased that they wanted to reward her at the open end of her journey, but they could not find a tidbit she particularly longed for. She was happy enough to see her cage at the end of the journey, the only lure that was ever used to bring her out at the other end.
She was soon famous. She has been talked about on radio, seen on television numerous times, and been written up in magazines and newspapers with national and international coverage. She stars in a television film to be released soon in Europe. Her personal “manager” at the laboratory is Walter Pelczarski, who lives in Clarendon Hills.
This particular article notes that Felicia became famous for her participation in the cleaning of the tubes — an animal celebrity. Why would this ferret get it’s own movie? From an anthropocentric perspective this cute furry animal that solves a little problem in this giant scientific endeavor grounds the abstract science in a narrative that is comfortable.
Felicia didn’t want to go through those tubes, she was bred and raised particularly for this task. She was trained and rewarded, and of course kept in a cage for most of her life.
When Felicia’s job running a string down the particle accelerator tubes was given to a small robot, the romantic save-the-particular-animal trope becomes more visible. Again Kathryn Winslow in the Tribune:
This good life may soon end for Felicia. The laboratory scientists have designed and built a mechanical ferret, a device activated by compressed air and controlled by wires. They don’t need Felicia anymore. This was always the plan, with Felicia to be used only temporarily, while they built her robot.
But now Felicia is famous and she has a following of people concerned for her welfare; people who do not want to see her sent to a museum as an exhibit, which is what the laboratory may do with her two weeks from now.
They are thinking of sending her to Oak Ridge, Tenn., where there is a live museum of animals and creatures that have made a contribution to science. There are mice, guinea pigs, and snakes there, among other exhibits.
But it’s no place for Felicia, who is a pet and needs the affection of human beings. Will it take an act of Congress to save Felicia?
Here is to an act of congress that frees all animals in captivity being used for experimentation. If it’s good enough for Felicia, I bet it’s good enough for the ferret getting injected with Influenza virus down the road.
(Thanks to Boing Boing for the link to the Fermilab history and Archives project!)