Non-human rights: Update on Happy’s case

This is straight from the e-mail I received:

Today, Justice Alison Y. Tuitt of the Bronx Supreme Court today issued a decision in the Nonhuman Rights Project’s New York elephant rights case that is powerfully supportive of our legal arguments to free Happy from the Bronx Zoo to a sanctuary.

While Justice Tuitt “regretfully” denied the habeas corpus relief the NhRP had demanded because she felt bound by prior appellate court decisions in the NhRP’s chimpanzee rights cases, she essentially vindicated the legal arguments and factual claims about the nature of nonhuman animals such as Happy that the NhRP has been making during the first six years of our rights litigation.

Deeply encouraged by Justice Tuitt’s embrace of the merits of the NhRP’s case following 13 hours of oral argument over three days, we already begun working on our appeal.

In her analysis and conclusion, Justice Tuitt agreed with New York Court of Appeals Justice Eugene M. Fahey’s conclusion that an elephant, like a chimpanzee, is not merely a “thing.” Instead, Happy “is an intelligent, autonomous being who should be treated with respect and dignity, and who may be entitled to liberty.” Further, Justice Tuitt rejected the Bronx Zoo’s claim that its continued imprisonment of Happy is good for her, stating that “the arguments advanced by the NhRP are extremely persuasive for transferring Happy from her solitary, lonely one-acre exhibit at the Bronx Zoo” to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.

In late 2018, Happy—currently held alone in an industrial cement structure lined with windowless, barred cages (the zoo’s “elephant barn”) while the elephant exhibit is closed for the winter—became the first elephant in the world to win a habeas corpus hearing intended to determine the lawfulness of her imprisonment after the NhRP filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus on Happy’s behalf. Such world-renowned elephant experts as Dr. Joyce Poole and Dr. Cynthia Moss supported Happy’s rights case while making clear that the Bronx Zoo cannot meet the needs of Happy or any elephant.

While we lament Happy’s continued imprisonment, we thank Justice Tuitt for breaking ground on the long road to securing liberty and justice for Happy and other autonomous nonhuman animals. Happy’s freedom matters as much to her as ours does to us, and we won’t stop fighting in and out of court until she has it.

Anyone who’s become curious should look into the story of Guida, who’d become so severely mentally ill in her confinement that there were serious doubts about the potential for recovery.

Upon release to the Global Elephant Sanctuary in Brazil (sister of that in Tennessee), Guida bounced back remarkably. When having the choice of taking an easy path toward food or picking a difficult one, she was often observed selecting the more challenging path, which required her to climb up an edge (a small straight cliff), which took some effort.

She rejoiced in having the choice and in being able to conquer the cliff.

(I have seen something similar in a pigeon, to my utter astonishment, the animal setting herself a goal, a challenge. Also, pigeons are able to recognize individual human faces, whereas humans generally have a very hard time recognizing individual pigeons.)

Sadly, Guida is no longer with us, but at least she lived the last part of her life in friendship with another elephant and doing the kinds of things that she enjoyed doing.

In defence of Dominic Cummings…

I never expected to write the above words as I don’t particularly hold Tory sympathies, but The Guardian did such a stupid disappointing mud-slinging job with this article that I feel I have no choice but to speak up.

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/feb/19/sabisky-row-dominic-cummings-criticised-over-designer-babies-post

 

First of all, Cummings was thinking out loud. More people should do that as it’s very useful and it’s impossible to have good ideas if you don’t allow yourself to have bad ideas as well. He’d been to an event, in 2014, and he rambled on about what he had heard and what he thought. There is nothing wrong with that per se.

People object to (talking about) “designer babies” but nobody defines it.

I define a designer baby as any baby that is chosen over any other baby or embryo or zygote that would have been viable and would have been able to live into adulthood.

We’ve been making designer babies for decades!

In some countries, people with Down syndrome no longer occur because they’ve been eradicated from the population while they become city councillors and get degrees in other countries.

We used to lock people up and deprive them of normal life experiences because they were different (and we still do, in fact, also in the UK). That kind of treatment would hold anyone back.

“Treat people as if they were what they should be, and you help them become what they are capable of becoming,” Goethe is supposed to have said or, more likely, written a long time ago. Hold someone back and you condemn the person to a life of limitations.

We’ve also seen this happen for women. One of the two founders of the British-born philosophy of utilitarianism considered women “disabled” by society.

Not that long ago, women were not allowed to go to university and not allowed to do many other things, such as have a bank account, own property or run a business.

In March 2017, expert Wendy Savage (a gynaecologist and professor at Cambridge University) allegedly stated in an interview with the Daily Mail that a pregnant woman should always be told the sex of the fetus and should be allowed to abort the fetus if she does not like the baby’s sex.

That too is about designer babies, about picking the pink handbag, not the blue one.

The British celeb who flew to Cyprus because she could pick her baby’s sex (gender) there and was not allowed to do that in the UK, she wanted a designer baby on the basis of her mistaken belief that sex is an either/or switch.

There are several countries in the world in which male children are currently preferably allowed to come into the world at the expense of female children and it’s already changing these countries’ populations too. (That is how we know it is happening.)

Back to Cummings.

At one point in that blog post, he wrote very clearly that he did not have the required knowledge to be able to assess some of what he was writing about:

“There is a great deal of Hsu’s paper – and the subject of IQ and heritability generally – that I do not have the mathematical skills to understand.”

He wrote the word “egg” when he clearly meant “zygote” or “embryo”, and he did not mention that IQ is a relative measure.

But he did mention “junk DNA” which was once mistakenly believed to be just that. Useless junk.

And he also wrote:

“If the poor cannot do the same, then the rich could quickly embed advantages and society could become not only more unequal but also based on biological classes. One response is that if this sort of thing does become possible, then a national health system should fund everybody to do this. (I.e. It would not mandate such a process but it would give everybody a choice of whether to make use of it.)”

He did write:

“The latter will rightly make people deeply worried, given our history, and clearly require extremely serious public debate. One of the reasons I wrote my essay was to try to stimulate such debate on the biggest – and potentially most dangerous – scientific issues. By largely ignoring such issues, Westminster, Whitehall, and the political media are wasting the time we have to discuss them so technological breakthroughs will be unnecessarily  shocking when they come.”

I am sure that there is a lot about Cummings’ thinking that I don’t agree with, but neither am I pleased with this childish article in The Guardian.

All over the world, bioethicists are talking about these kinds of topics and you can’t do that effectively if you don’t consider all the angles.

The old eugenics is still continuing. The new eugenics has been with us for a while but is really accelerating now with CRISPR.

I participated in an EDX course by Harvard Law School professor Glenn Cohen who also heads the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics, in which we all (about 200 of us) thought hard about these difficult matters.

I have a course on Udemy in which I also challenge people to come up with positive effects of doing something as well as negative effects, in terms of the new eugenics.

If you want an example of this kind of thinking exercise, then consider that eradicating all women from society would eradicate menstrual pain and the majority of breast cancers whereas others might say that women are defective humans anyway, hence that society doesn’t need women and if you couple the latter with continued technological progress, which would make even the biological requirement for having women drop away, you can see a world without women in the future.

If you find this upsetting, then maybe you should remind yourself that we have had no problem applying the same kind of logic with regard to for example people with Down syndrome.

We need to talk about this because we are all biased by definition and unless we are all willing to ponder and discuss these very difficult topics and from all possible angles and reach a consensus, a handful of highly biased people will make up our minds for us.

That could be people like Julian Savulescu at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, whose ideas may even be more extreme than those of Cummings (which sadly sometimes obscures the fact that Savulescu also occasionally has brilliant ideas that are much more in line with Michael Sandel’s take on these issues).

It’s why I wrote a book about this stuff. Not because I have all the answers but because I don’t.

Instead of criticizing Cummings over this post, people should follow the example of Cummings and start thinking about this stuff and weighing in.

NOTE: When I say that we need to reach a global consensus regarding the new eugenics, I don’t mean “this month” or even “this year, or decade” but am thinking longer term.

Dammit

Read this:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/16/they-yelled-coronavirus-first-british-attack-victim-east-asian-man

He must be in so much pain!

He plays alto saxophone, by the way. Won’t be able to do that for a while. He also plays the piano, but as he was lead alto in a jazz band, he probably focuses on that.

I’ve already posted updates to the petitions, have e-mailed Matt Hancock again. I also just contacted Sadiq Khan, but he’s probably already taken some action.

Update: no, he plays mainly piano these days.

Covid-19 response in the UK

I’ve muttered a bit about that in previous posts.

This morning, I read that some hospitals have set up assessment pods, presumably with very clear signage. If they all do that – have a consistent response – it would limit the amount of guessing and waiting to see that members of the public have to do. (“Will they have pods or will I have to go to the ambulance bay?”) But that may not always be doable.

GP practices should have clear posters on their doors to STOP people from walking in if they suspect they have the Covid-19 virus.

What you don’t want, indeed, is to expose people who may have lower immunity, and you find those in higher proportions at A&Es, pharmacies and doctors’ practices. As the virus seems to hit people over 60 the hardest, old folks homes – homes that house older adults – need to take some steps too, but likely already have.

Now all they still might need to do is cover members of the public who do not have access to the internet – because their phone broke or they have no signal – and those who don’t understand English or don’t access English media.

That said, I assume that most people will know what to do now, as most websites now have a link “what to do if you think you have the coronavirus”. This boils down to “stay home and call 111” (though in some areas, you may need to call a different number for whatever reason). (Some of those sites make you wade through a lot of waffling before you get to the important bit, about what to do if you suspect you have the virus. LOL!)  I am sure that it’s been said on TV and radio too.

By the way, should you get this virus and experience shortness of breath when it strikes, then it may help to know that coffee (caffeine) is a bronchodilator. It may help you breathe easier, in other words, and that can help you feel better. Works for about 2, 3 hours, I think, off the top of my head. What better excuse can you think of to have a large mug of delicious coffee while, say, you wait on the phone for advice?

(Tea has a compound that does that too – theophylline – but I suspect that a cup of tea may not contain enough of it, while coffee has many more health benefits.)

 

 

The first local suspected case…

About 500 meters from where I am (and that is all I am saying). 🙂

https://www.portsmouth.co.uk/news/people/coronavirus-health-secretary-has-been-informed-suspected-outbreak-says-portsmouth-north-mp-penny-mordaunt-1741763

It would be REALLY USEFUL if they would say a little more than this. Does it concern a pharmacy worker? A customer? This raises more questions than it answers. Was someone taken into quarantine or not at all? What?

Oh, here is more (I searched the web):
https://www.portsmouth.co.uk/health/coronavirus-suspected-portsmouth-case-came-woman-who-had-been-gatwick-airport-1741740

“The practice manager has urged anyone else who has symptoms to call 111, as per NHS guidelines.”

So, either the news is not getting through or the number is not working the way it should. Been very tempted to test the latter, in the past couple of days, but I reckon they’re busy enough without me calling in to see whether it’s working. 😉

We’ll need a massive local flyering action, then. We can go door to door and put a leaflet with instructions in the letterbox. Heck why not? If we all team up on that, it can be done quickly, and locals know where all the front doors around them are, which helps a lot. (We have some really weird addresses here.)

Is Covid-19 a biological defence mechanism?

If you consider that toxicity in plants and animals is either a defence mechanism or an attack mechanism, and if you consider that our over-the-top attempts to kill certain bacteria have made them resistant and led to superbugs, and consider that many of the new diseases we’re seeing have either an overlap with habitat destruction of another species (us infringing) or with the ruthless exploitation of sometimes quite rare or unusual animals (trading of live animals), you can’t escape the thought that diseases like the Covid-19 virus – for which humans have no immunity yet – could be a biological (natural) defence mechanism.

If so, then there are important lessons to be learned.

The immunity that develops in the animals could then render the combination of such a virus and the animal into a defensive symbiosis.

How scare-mongering works (Covid-19)

16:10 “With two frontline health workers already infected” is a total BS spin because those two contracted the virus on a skiing holiday in France.

Twilight Zone music in the background…

The remark “Washing hands, not exactly cutting edge” is disgusting too, because washing hands and cleaning surfaces touched by hands IS effective. Washing hands very thoroughly is what surgeons do before they head into the operating theatre.

What I find much more concerning is that “self-isolation” is hard in a country that is home to the loneliest people of Europe (possibly of the entire western world) and where so many millions are living in deep poverty and cannot afford to have firms like Ocado deliver supplies.

 

What may be lacking in the UK’s response to Covid-19?

The public’s perspective.

By that, I mean that it sounds as if the response is mainly along the lines of “What do WE need to do when someone shows up at the right door at the right hospital and says that he or she may have the virus?” and “Do we have enough face masks and other supplies?”

It sounds like they forgot to signpost at (some) hospitals where people should go if they think they have the virus, for example.

You need to put yourself in the shoes of the public.

I searched “what to do if you suspect you have the coronavirus”?

You’re supposed to self-isolate for 14 days if you’ve just been to China and/or other areas with a higher incidence of the virus.

But when you’ve just come home from abroad, you’re not likely to have much food in the house.

So unless this recommendation to self-isolate goes with a dedicated service that brings people whatever products they need, putting self-isolation in practice is not necessarily as simple as it sounds.

What if you’re a young woman and your period arrives and you’re cramping and you have run out of painkillers and tampons?

Just one scenario.

Not everyone will have the funds to order deliveries from services like Ocado.

This temporary dedicated service to help people in quarantine in their own homes would need to be free, with payment for only the products. You can simply leave a box at the door so that you don’t have to come in contact with the person in question and you can contact him or her by mobile phone.

It would have to be a dedicated service, also to ensure that all deliverers stick to hand-washing etc.

Communities should set this up for their own, with volunteers. Heck, why not?

The Chinese are volunteering to look after pets in Wuhan:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2020/feb/14/catman-of-wuhan-the-man-rescuing-pets-abandoned-amid-coronavirus-outbreak-video

Will we have a dedicated phone number for anyone with questions to do with this virus?

Is there an option to choose right now as in “Press 4 if you think you may have the Covid-19 virus”?

Passport rendered invalid, allowed to leave the country, not allowed to return?

Passport silently rendered invalid, allowed to leave the country without a word, not allowed to return:

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/british-man-blocked-uk-home-office-passport-brussels-a9332311.html (with video)

But I, an EU citizen, am supposed to trust that the UK will let me in again if I go abroad, even though UK Customs already made clear it had a problem with me on my previous two returns?

When activism works

Dillan is a bear who many others and I have been sending e-mails and signing petitions about. It finally worked.

More animals need to be freed from the Union County Sportsmen’s Club in Millmont, PA and I’ve tried to call the facility a few times, but couldn’t get through. I’ve sent e-mails about it and I can’t rule out that I may have missed an update on the other animals, that they’ve been released to a sanctuary too. I sure hope so!

This is Dillan now:

Advantages of being tracked in the digital era

If you know me well, you know that I am not too keen on companies like Amazon tracking and recording every minute of our lives and now adding facial recognition software to that arsenal, wanting to become our bank, our doctor, our police and our insurance company, on top of selling us food, home security and anything else we can think of.

I am even more opposed to the lack of ethics displayed in the ruthless operation of Facebook (read this for details) and I am not too happy with Google and YouTube either.

Yesterday, however, while I attended a webinar on the use of AI in the medical practice, I had to admit that if you were able to track everyone’s whereabouts, you might be able to identify individuals at risk for having encountered the Covid-19 virus much quicker.

Covid-19 was also mentioned at the end of the webinar. (If you want to know more, you’ll need to get in touch with Jon Braun at Children’s Hospital Boston.)

This would need very rigorous legislation, to avoid stigmatization, for example. Don’t balk instantly. Yes, there are obvious downsides to the loss of privacy but there are also upsides. The problem with privacy issues lies in those doing the tracking and using our data having to be 100% transparent.

Openness – loss of privacy – also protects against abuse, but only if it’s 100% (not one-sided).

PS
With regard to AI being unable to replace empathy, it can make up for a lack of empathy (stigmatization and ridicule) coming from certain health care professionals and it also will not molest or abuse you the way a handful of medical professionals have done. (There’s a current case in the UK of a doctor who not only molested some patients, but also told some they had cancer when they didn’t and amputated their breasts and, in other cases, deliberately left tissue behind that led to reoccurrence of breast cancer.)

 

How Covid-19 is affecting the local economy

There is a highly popular Chinese eatery here that is always so crowded that I’ve actually never been there.

Yesterday, I walked by twice to see the place almost empty.

It normally seems to get frequented a lot by local foreign students as well as locals.

I don’t know if they do deliveries or are part of Deliveroo etc and can’t tell whether might be an increase in deliveries.

I also walked by a Chinese buffet restaurant. It was closed. That could have been a coincidence.

Who is taking some action with regard to how some businesses will be affected? Does their insurance cover this kind of thing? I doubt it (force majeure, acts of nature), but I hope I am wrong.

Covid-19 and Brexit

Looks like the UK is on its own on that too now, exactly the way it wanted it.

I haven’t seen the UK’s Covid-19 cases mentioned on the foreign media sites that I normally visit.

The EU Health ministers are meeting in Brussels to confer.

Matt Hancock won’t be there because Britain wanted out and Brits wanted Britain back. Okay then.

My e-mail to The New European

Hello,

This evening, as I dashed out of Sainsbury’s, I glanced at the newspaper- and-magazine stand and saw a Daily Mail/Express-like front page. My eyes went up to the heading, but it said “The New European”. “Could be interesting”, I thought, as I had heard of the organization.

As I paid for it, I was asked where I was from and was told that people were not very happy with the image on the cover. “You don’t do that to the leader of a country. You wouldn’t do that to the president of France either.” The person in question was very friendly, and I said that I agreed with her, because I do. I also said that I would let you know.

When I came home, I discovered that this is a magazine by Brits for Brits, but Brits think that it is by foreigners and for foreigners (as I, a Dutchwoman did too) and your cover is apparently being blamed on us foreigners in the UK. I can’t say that I am pleased with that.

Apart from that, the cover lowers you to Boris Johson’s standard of “letterboxes”, “tank-topped bum boys”, “piccaninnies with watermelon smiles” and the like. Is that the best you can do?

Best regards,

Angelina Souren
Dutchwoman in the UK

Continue reading

I applaud Steve Walsh, the “gas salesmen” from Hove near Brighton

A few days ago, I set up a petition to nip any further discrimination of Asian people in the bud here in the UK, after I saw what was happening in my home country the Netherlands.

Of course, nobody’s interested.

Thankfully, Steve Walsh, the unlucky dude – it could have happened to anyone – who went to Singapore and then to France, having no idea he carried the Covid-19 virus – and then came back to England spoke out, which helped. I am very grateful that he did this, this very healthy-looking blond Englishman.

I just read in the Guardian that he is currently

feeling “very harassed” and “scared that [he’ll] become a scapegoat”

 

which he apparently said in the Times, but the Guardian did not link to the article and I haven’t been able to find it yet.

If he does become scapegoated, blame super wimp Matt Hancock who’s always been super-good at super-blaming super-innocent people and spreading lies in a very subtle way.

The wimp – Hancock – should speak up and tell his disciples that his kind of blame game is not on before it gets to that point. But he can’t, can he, because he’d have to quit playing it too, then.

The other problem? The English see themselves as super-calm and in control, but they can actually be total drama queens who love making mountains out of molehills. That’s because of the gossip aspect of the culture, methinks.

 

PS
For the record, this gentleman from Hove works in the area of the supply of gases for scientific use, such as argon, in labs like the ones I used to work in a long time ago etc. He does not go door to door to sell gas for cooking stoves.

Cultural differences

After I moved back from the US, a long time ago, someone in the Netherlands – a female friend – got really annoyed with me one day and accused me of having adopted the American way of kissing people on the cheek.

It thoroughly confused me, having no idea what she was talking about.

I ended up wondering for a while if I subsequently made a fool of myself when I tried to “correct” my ways.

Fortunately, nobody’s ever complained since then.

The coronavirus – and discrimination of Asian people in the UK

What a misnomer. There is no such thing as “the” coronavirus. Coronaviruses are common and most are harmless.

I am in the tail end of a common garden-variety cold.

That’s also caused by a coronavirus. Nothing to do with the virus that the media are freaking out about.

The Guardian asked for comments. I sent a few. The only thing they did with it was correct a typo I had pointed out and that may well have been pointed out by other people.

In my fifteen years in the UK, I have gotten to know the Brits English as drama queens, in general.

It seems to go with being English.

In Southampton, I was once told with a great deal of fuss that I was in the local newspaper. I bought the paper but couldn’t find anything. What did the big fuss turn out to be about? There was a list of businesses that were going to participate in some event and my business name was included. Nothing more. Duh. Drama queens.

In past decades, too, they have often responded with highly unscientific fearmongering rather than with efficiency to all sorts of health-related issues, also if it only concerned the health of animals and had no potential of affecting the health of humans. The badger cull, for example.

This weekend (9 February), I read

Chinese in UK report ‘shocking’ levels of racism after coronavirus outbreak”

in The Guardian.

This morning, the Department of Health and Social Care declared a ‘serious and imminent threat’ to public health.

Next, I read that Chinese and Asian people in my home country the Netherlands were also experiencing abuse and that people there had already started a petition to stop this kind of abuse in the Netherlands.

So I too started a petition.

I am hoping to nip this stupid stuff in the bud in the UK before it gets out of hand.

Of course, no one has signed it yet. Because there isn’t enough drama involved?

How would people respond to my stupid cold if I were Chinese?

As it was the Department of Health and Social Care that declared a ‘serious and imminent threat’ to public health over this particular coronavirus on Monday 10 February 2020, it should also inform the public of THIS.

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/p/coronavirus

 

Do me a favour and sign it, please, not because things are getting out of hand but before they get out of hand.

It’s not true that only rich indigenous Brits are entitled to normal human respect.

The Dutch petition has already been signed 24,000 times:

https://nos.nl/artikel/2322380-online-petitie-tegen-discriminatie-aziaten-vanwege-coronavirus.html

 

In the Netherlands, Matt Hancock’s counterpart has already made a statement and called for the discrimination to stop. This is not what one does in a civilised society, he said. Apologies are being issued.

Is the UK, by contrast, okay with it? Surely not. Sign the petition. Thanks. I’ve also set up a petition on change.org, so now you have no excuse left for not signing.

https://nos.nl/artikel/2321843-minister-roept-iedereen-op-niet-discrimineren-om-coronavirus.html

Amazing how memory works (Lily was here)

Something YouTube recommended…

“Lily was here” by Candy Dulfer and Dave Stewart is based on the soundtrack to a Dutch film (“De Kassière“, which means “the checkout girl” or “the cashier”).

I saw that film, but it is a pretty depressing one, so I forgot all about the film, until I just saw it mentioned.

“Lily was here” was the perfect tune to end that film with. I don’t know how to explain that in words. The tune has an everyday harshness to it that compliments the film so well, that says “Life goes on” or “Life sucks and then you die. Get over it.” You don’t realize that until you hear it in combination with the film. You may be walking out of the cinema with a few tears hiding in your heavy heart, but you know that life will go on because the tune says so.

The tune later also became the basis for the intro and outro to the brilliant TV series “Candy meets” in which she travels, talks and jams with people like Sheila E and Maceo Parker. All of it used to be online, but I can only find the episode with Maceo Parker these days.

 

 

And in the video below, look at how different these two women play… The blond one and the darker one, with the slightly more curly reddish hair, in between. The blond one clearly looks much more confident and competent, right?

(It reminds me of a recent communication on LinkedIn.)

She played North Sea Jazz at 12 years old, it says.

 

To brighten up anyone’s day!

A charity shop find. An original watercolour. It came in a frame that I’ve just removed so that I could scan the artwork.

It was one of those instances when I am walking down a street and something catches the corner of my eye and I automatically take a few steps back to see what it was.

I then looked at it, stepped into the shop and bought it, for the price of a very cheap bottle of wine. £4.

It’s been brightening up my office since. It’s lovely!

Below is an image of another original that I used to own. I am still mourning its loss, but having this image helps tremendously. It was painted on wood, and I found it in a thrift shop in Florida.