Sad - July 3
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For Poor Families, an Added Burden of Too Many Pets
Erik Eckholm, NY Times
Phillip Swetman is an accidental owner of 13 dogs. Most, Mr. Swetman said, came from "drive-bys."
"They hear a dog bark and they throw theirs in the ditch," he said. "Then for us, it's either let them starve or get hit by a car, or take them in."
Midnight dumping of unwanted dogs is common here on the southern tail of the Appalachian Mountains, where large numbers of poor people are attached to multiple pets but cannot afford to sterilize or vaccinate them, and where impoverished county governments do not maintain animal shelters, require licensing or enforce requirements for rabies shots.
The combination of pets and poverty, veterinary experts say, brings similar results to many rural areas: unhealthy conditions for oversized animal populations, desperate efforts by often-overwhelmed individuals to help and a lurking threat to human health.
Dr. Bob Sumrall, a veterinarian in nearby Henderson, in Chester County, estimated that more than 75 percent of the thousands of dogs in the county alone have not had rabies shots. "This poses a definite health risk," he said.
Excess animals, dropped on dark roads that wind through oak and pine forests and cornfields here, tend to end up in the care of people with bigger hearts than bank accounts.
(30 June 2007)
How Did It Come To This? (eco-sabotage trials)
Bill Bishop, The Register-Guard (Eugene Register-Guard)
No other book club could approach its diversity.
There was a trust fund kid and a Dumpster diver. There were potheads, growers and dealers. There were anarchists and longtime social activists. There was a straight-A student, a high school dropout, a computer geek and a young father reportedly addicted to heroin.
Their "Book Club" was anything but typical. It was where many of them met - not to share literature and poetry, but to study arson, sabotage and subterfuge. Most went on to radical activism in a group that referred to itself as "The Family."
Before the group disbanded in 2001, it had become the focus of the nation's all-time largest investigation of arson and sabotage by underground environmental radicals - at least 20 crimes in five states with estimated property loss of at least $20 million.
...Character sketches have emerged from court records and hearings about the conspiracy.
(1 July 2007)
Echos from trials of the 60s/70s and from the anarchist and labour movements in the first part of the 20th century. Before signing up for violent direct action, it's wise to see what it has meant for those who have previously gone that route. -BA
Also in the news: White House Won't Rule Out Pardon for Libby. (AP)
The new age of ignorance
Tim Adams, The Observer (UK)
We take our young children to science museums, then as they get older we stop. In spite of threats like global warming and avian flu, most adults have very little understanding of how the world works. So, 50 years on from CP Snow's famous 'Two Cultures' essay, is the old divide between arts and sciences deeper than ever?
...I was reminded of Snow's test [for scientific literacy] when reading the new book by Natalie Angier, science editor of the New York Times. Angier's book is called The Canon, and subtitled 'A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science'. It is not a long book and it contains, as the title suggests, a breathless Baedeker of the fundamental scientific knowledge Angier believes is the minimum requirement of an educated person.
In many places, I found myself cringeing all over again. I've read a fair amount of popular science, tried to follow the technical arguments that underpin debates about global warming, say, or bird flu, listened religiously to Melvyn Bragg's In Our Time, but still I discovered large black holes in my elementary understanding of how our world works. Angier divides her book into basic disciplines - biology, chemistry, geology, physics and so on - and each chapter offers an animated essay on the current established thinking.
The result is the kind of science book you wish someone had placed in front of you at school - full of aphorisms that help everything fall into place. For geology: 'This is what our world is about: there is heat inside and it wants to get out.' For physics: 'Almost everything we've come to understand about the universe we have learned by studying light.'
...Angier also gives as clear an insight as I have read of CP Snow's culture-dividing Second Law of Thermodynamics, the law of entropy, the one that states that in any system inefficiency is inevitable and eventually overwhelming. 'Entropy,' Angier writes, 'is like a taxi passing you on a rainy night with its NOT IN SERVICE lights ablaze, or a chair in a museum with a rope draped from arm to arm, or a teenager.'
Entropy, unusable energy, leads to the law that states that everything in time must wear out, become chaotic, die. 'The darkest readings of the Second Law suggest that even the universe has a morphine drip in its vein,' Angier suggests, 'a slow smothering of all spangle, all spiral, all possibility.' No wonder CP Snow thought we should know about it.
For all of its infectious analogies and charged curiosity, the most telling fact about Angier's book is that it seems to have been written out of sheer desperation. It is something of a cry from the wilderness; impassioned, overwrought in places. It is written in the voice of someone who has spent her whole award-winning career evangelising about this amazing stuff and is facing up to the fact that most people have not even begun to 'get' any of it.
...One of Angier's interviewees, Andrew Knoll, a professor of natural history at Harvard's earth and planetary sciences department, suggests that 'the average American adult today knows less about biology than the average 10-year-old living in the Amazon, or the average American of 200 years ago'. I spoke to Angier to find out why she thought that this might be the case.
(1 July 2007)