Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Face to Face With A Silverback Gorrilla


It was the last thing I expected to see in my face, and I’ll bet Etombi, the 400-pound lowland gorilla was just as surprised.
With his cage door accidentally opened he stepped out and pushed me to the ground at the primate center where he was caged in Franceville, Gabon at the International Medical Research Center.
He knocked the center worker down the corridor where she hid under a cage of noisy chimpanzees.
She screamed at me to go get help.
First, I had to figure out how to lock the prison-like gate. And then I had to decide whether I could abandon her.
We don’t know what Etombi was thinking. He probably wasn’t interested enough in the biologist to go near the chimps to get her.
He paid no attention to me.
I ran up the hill to get the American veterinarian, Dr. Robert Cooper, shouting in French that the gorilla had escaped.
Meanwhile, somehow Etombi had managed to figure out how to explode some fire extinguishers.
Cooper dashed down the hill from his lunch. He had tranquilizer darts at the site but didn’t have to use them. He tricked Etombi back into his cage.
Other than a nasty bruise on my chest I was unarmed, as was the biologist who had been guiding me around.
I was going a story for Associated Press from my base in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on AIDS research at Franceville.
I had asked that the back of the cage be opened because there was more light there for photos.

This week Cooper, a graduate of the University of California-Davis, and his wife, Dr. Sian Evans, who has both a Master’s Degree in biology and Ph.d in Zoology, and is from Wales, mourned the death of Harambe in the Cincinnati Zoo when a three-year-old fell into the gorilla pit and was being dragged around until a guard shot the animal.
Cooper said, “I just can’t think of them (gorillas) as being aggressive. Gentility better describes them. I would have tried to find another method and I think I would have.
A firehose might have worked. Even though a tranquilizer would have taken five minutes to knock the Etombi out, it probably would have been distracted the dropped the child, Cooper said. Even a pellet gun might have worked.
Evans said, “As most of the world is aware of the tragedy that happened at Cincinnati Zoo over the weekend where a young boy entered a gorilla enclosure and resulted in the silverback being shot and killed.  On two previous occasions boys (interestingly all the "intruders" were male) have fallen into gorilla enclosures but with much happier outcomes.
The first involved a young boy who fell into the gorilla enclosure at Jersey Zoo in 1987.  The silverback, Jambo behaved protectively to the child and kept the other troop members away.  The keepers were able to lure the other gorillas into their night house as Jambo continued to watch over the child.   The child who had been knocked unconscious (he fractured his skull) as a result of the fall regained consciousness and cried.  The crying appeared to "rattle" Jambo and he moved away from the child.  As the keepers were letting him in to the night house a young blackback ran out into the enclosure.  At this point two keepers and a medic jumped into the enclosure.  One keeper wielding a large stick kept the blackback at bay until the boy and medic were lifted to safety but all "apes" survived.   
“The second incident occurred at Brookfield Zoo in 1996 when another young boy fell into the  gorilla enclosure. A female Binti Jua approached the boy and carried him to a door where he was retrieved by a keeper.  There were six other gorillas in the enclosure at the time. 
“Interestingly Binti Jua had been raised by humans and trained in how to be a good mother.  The training seemed to have paid off.
Jane Goodall said, “It looked as though the gorilla was putting an arm round the child — like the female who rescued and returned the child from the Chicago exhibit,” she said. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Egyptair: One Tweet Trump Missed

There is a new theory on why Egyptair crashed, and Donald Trump was in such a hurry he missed it.
Numerous media outlets around the world have reported that a meteor fell apart and bits of it may have hit Egyptair. Russian military advisers warned aircraft it was coming.”
“A TERRIFYING new theory tragic Egypt Air flight MS804 was hit by fragments of a disintegrating meteor has been put forward,” the Daily Expess and others report.
“A massive space rock weighing up to 10,000 tonnes, and travelling at a startling 67,000 mph broke up in the Earth's atmosphere on Tuesday and fragments of it were still falling to Earth at around the time air traffic controllers lost contact with the doomed Paris to Cairo plane carrying 66 people last Thursday,” the Express said.
A Russian unofficial publication said: “An intriguing Ministry of Defense (MoD) report circulating in the Kremlin today is strongly suggesting that the 19 May crash of EgyptAir Flight 804 over the Mediterranean Sea was due to its being struck by a debris fragment from a large meteorite that first encountered our Earth’s atmosphere on 17 May over North America, broke into numerous parts with one large piece falling on South American on 18 May, and left a debris field so large the Aerospace Defence Forces (ADF) issued a warning to all S-400 missile commands operating in Syria to be on the alert for “false positive readings”. [Note: Some words appearing in quotes are English language approximations of Russian words/phrases having no exact counterpart.]”
Some reports say data detectors were alerted to smoke and the pilot radioed that he was trying to fight a fire. There is no way of knowing, at least not now, whether a fragment of the meteorite could have caused the crash.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Message to Sanders’ Supporters

Having worked for Bobby Kennedy’s campaign, including being in California when he was assassinated, grief clouded my mission.
I was at the funeral and wakes in Washington dominated by his campaign staff.
I overheard them talking about how they probably were going to offer their services to Hubert Humphrey.
So a 21-year-old was angry telling his former bosses that there was no way he could work for anyone associated with President Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam War.
I didn’t vote. I doubt I was alone. Richard Nixon became president.
It is hard to describe how evil Nixon was, and how much harm he caused. But he didn’t get us in a nuclear war or destroy our economy.
Who knows what Donald Trump would do. On Thursday morning, shortly after an Egyptair Airbus disappeared off radar between Paris and Cairo, Trump tweeted that it was an act of terrorism.
No wreckage had been found. No terrorist group claimed responsibility. There wasn’t even cheering on a radio station operated by terrorists.
Trump tweeted Thursday morning, according to CNN: "Looks like yet another terrorist attack. Airplane departed from Paris. When will we get tough, smart and vigilant? Great hate and sickness!"
Incidents have occurred throughout the history of the U.S. that could have led to war but careful presidents have avoided spilling more American blood.
President Lyndon Johnson used a phony incident off the coast of Vietnam, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, to send more than 50,000 soldiers to their deaths in a war we lost. There is no indication that it was necessary and cannot be shown to have contributed to our victory in the Cold War.
It may have been a domino, but it was not on the same board.
Perhaps even scarier, in regard to the possibility of a Trump presidency, is his friendship with President Vladimir Putin even as Russians have buzzed dangerously close to U.S. Navy ships and air force jets.
Trump admires a man whose nation was caught cheating in the Olympics and has stolen land from the Ukraine.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Trump is a War Waiting to Happen

President Lyndon Johnson wanted to step up the war in Vietnam, and the U.S. Navy gave him exactly what he needed.
An alleged attack by the North Vietnamese Navy on Aug. 2, 1964 justified sending hundreds of thousands of American military to Vietnam.
Questions were raised about what really happened and later historians determined the North Vietnamese had done nothing.
Imagine what a President Donald Trump’s Tweet would have been like.
“Commie North Vietnamese attack brave American sailors. Nuke them. Show them what real power is.”
And it would probably have gotten the same reaction LBJ’s phony declaration did.
Just this week shortly after an Egyptian Air Airbus crashed en route from Paris to Cairo a tweet was posted by Trump, or more likely one of his Twitter staff.
CNN reported Trump said: "Looks like yet another terrorist attack. Airplane departed from Paris. When will we get tough, smart and vigilant? Great hate and sickness!"
Hillary Clinton waited six more hours before saying the Egyptian government feared it was a terrorist attack.
“It does appear that it was an act of terrorism — exactly how, of course, the investigation will have to determine,” Clinton told CNN.
President Obama made no immediate statement, though his spokesman said the U.S. would provide any help it could.
American TV media met to praise Trump, including Chris Matthews, perhaps the most popular MSNBC anchor.  They said that even though there was no information to back up his claim he showed his willingness to say what people are thinking.
Some people may be wondering if Trump supports Vladimir Putin when the Russian's jets buzz U.S. Navy ships.
How things have changed in 50 years. We used to fear “the finger on the button would be German…” That lyric appeared in a song, the “MLF Lullaby by Tom Lehrer, after the creation of NATO.
Now the fear is that the button-pushing finger will be a reality show host who has never served in the military, not even in government.
He dodged the draft during the Vietnam to spend time with girl playthings while married.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Hillary Leads Popular Vote by Millions

While the media focuses almost exclusively on how many delegates the presidential candidates have won, little attention is paid to the big lead in popular votes by Hillary Clinton.
Rachal Maddow of MSNBC even boasts that Trump has gotten more votes than any previous Republican presidential nominee, bout 11,312,000. Yet Hillary Clinton has gotten 1.2 million more votes than Trump in Democratic primaries pundits claimed were lightly attended.
Of the roughly 33 million votes cast Clinton has 3.2 million more votes than Bernie Sanders.
Clinton has 12,519,006 votes.
Yet Sanders has enlisted the media to make the fight over controversial “super delegates” that give Clinton an edge she already holds by winning the popular vote.
Does the Democratic party want to do to Clinton what the Supreme Court did to Al Gore in 2000, when he won the popular vote but the presidency was handed to George W. Bush because of the arcane electoral college vote?
Gore only led by 500,000. Clinton’s lead is six times that over Sanders.
The count in this story does not include a few thousand votes collected in small caucus states. Some states with larger caucus turnouts were included.
What is going on now – trying to stop the Democratic nomination from Clinton – could be reprised in the national election.
The Gore fiasco was not a unique event.
“…in four of the nation's 56 presidential elections, the current system has permitted candidates to win a majority of the Electoral College (and hence, the presidency) without winning the most popular votes nationwide. That's one in 14 times.”
As it stands now, the U.S. government’s election practices are in conflict with Supreme Court rulings that say are vote should guarantee one-person, one-vote.
Allowing a cabal of rural states, or even urban states, to decide who should become president on any other basis than one-person, one vote violates our principles as they have evolved. When the U.S. first become a country a complicated system, the electoral college, was set up because no one knew if the average person could be trusted to elect the government.