Bear Hunt–“No” Vote

Article is excerpted here.  Read entire article here.

Florida’s growing bear population will be out of the hunting crosshairs for this year.

But a one-year pause may simply help the state build a better case for a hunt in 2017.

After hours of objections from animal-rights advocates and support from hunters, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted 4-3 late Wednesday against a staff recommendation to hold a hunt in October that could have been smaller — in terms of permits and hunting grounds — than the 2015 event in which 304 bears were killed over two days.

The commission agreed to accept a recommendation for there to be no hunt this year.

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The call for the hunt came as the number of bears annually killed by vehicles has steadily increased the past quarter century. There were 243 bears killed by vehicles last year, up from 241 a year earlier. In 1990, the state recorded 33 bears killed by vehicles. In 2000, the number was 109.

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Over the same time, the number of phone calls to the agency related to bears has grown from 99 in 2000 to 6,094 last year. The 2015 number marked a drop from the 6,688 calls in 2014.

Commission officials have said the decline could be due to ongoing efforts to reduce bear-human interactions, such getting more people to use bear-proof trash containers.

Critics of the hunt said the road-kill and incident numbers are due in large part to humans moving into traditional bear habitat.



In Case of Shooter . . .


Basics on how to survive a shooting

Training focuses on what to do in case of an attacker

The Florida nightclub shooting fits the pattern in recent years that one’s chances of survival depended on initial reaction. ( Spencer Platt/Getty )

By Joel Achenbach     The Washington Post,    Chicago Tribune 6.22.16

WASHINGTON — The mass shootings that have terrorized the country have led to a new focus on how to survive them. Though far from an exact science, these efforts are based on a disturbing amount of data — including case studies, the body counts from these tragedies and the personal narratives of people who somehow got out alive.

A number of private companies now train office workers in how to respond in an active-shooter event.

The experts agree: Following a few simple rules can help boost a person’s chance of survival. Being mentally prepared to take action in a crisis — or simply knowing where a building’s exits are — can make the difference.

The recent massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., fits with the general, horrifying pattern in recent years, in that life and death pivoted to a large degree on how the people there reacted in the initial minutes.

Research shows that it usually takes about three minutes for police to arrive at an active-shooter situation — although the Orlando club had an extra-duty uniformed police officer working security, and he engaged the shooter.

The best move for civilians, as always, was to get out of the place immediately by any possible route. Many escaped through rear and side doors onto a patio. Less fortunate were those who went into the restrooms, a dead end, and became trapped when the gunman came in after them.

“When you go somewhere, you don’t want to put yourself in a situation where if you get found, you don’t have any options,” said Pete Blair, executive director of the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center, based at Texas State University.

Blair co-authored “Active Shooter: Events and Response,” which includes guidance for civilians. The book’s mantra is “Avoid, Deny and Defend.”

The Department of Homeland Security has endorsed a similar concept, built around the words “Run, Hide, Fight.”

The latter option gained attention after Washington, D.C., Police Chief Cathy Lanier said on “60 Minutes” last year that people should be prepared to take out an attacker before the police arrive.

Blair said that kind of action is a last resort: “When we do our training, we always stress that it’s ‘avoid, deny, defend,’ and they’re in that order for a reason.”

He said he’s not entirely comfortable with the “hide” concept; killers can find people under a desk, for example.

“Hide is a passive action. As opposed to ‘deny,’ where I try to keep you from getting to me,” Blair said.

The more active response is to barricade a door, or ideally lock it; his organization does not know of a case in which an active shooter breached a locked door.

He also cautioned against playing dead as a strategy: Although news reports have suggested that some of the Orlando victims survived by pretending they were dead, that often has not worked, Blair said.

“When you play dead, we see time and time again in these situations the shooters continue to shoot people who are down and who they think are dead,” Blair said.

Blair’s book warns against people with concealed handguns trying to engage a killer except as a last resort:

“The last thing you want to do in an active shooter event is to pull your gun out and go hunting for the shooter. If there are other concealed gun carriers in the attack location, they may shoot you. If the police show up, and you are running around with a gun, they will probably shoot you. Remember that no one knows who you are. The responders are looking for someone with a gun, and you match that description.”

Research on active-shooter events, as well as other mass-casualty incidents, including the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, reveals the many mental and physical challenges that arise when a person is suddenly plunged into an unfamiliar, unexpected and terrifying situation.

Few people have ever experienced anything like this. As a result, most people are slow to grasp that something terrible is happening.

In the Pulse nightclub, people heard the initial gunfire from the shooter, Omar Mateen, but many assumed it was firecrackers or part of the music.

In a crisis in a confined space, people often instinctively behave in ways that do not boost their survival chances. For example, people typically try to leave a building through a main entrance rather than a secondary exit. That can create a bottleneck.

The classic example, involving a fire and not an active shooter, happened in the Station nightclub in West Warwick, R.I., on Feb. 20, 2003. A heavy metal band’s pyrotechnic display led to a fire in the wood-frame club. At first people thought it was part of the show. The fire spread rapidly and people stampeded toward the main entrance, where firefighters later found 25 bodies. A hundred people died in the fire.

That leads to one obvious tip to increase your chances of survival — know your secondary exits.

As a routine matter, people should understand how to get out of a building through emergency exits or back doors in case some event takes place that demands speedy evacuation.

All buildings have these exits — they’re required by fire codes. The point of fire drills is to train the mind to know where to go, without having to ponder the issue, in a situation that might be confusing and when people might not be think clearly.

A building may have more exits than people realize at first glance.

Consider the case of a food court: There may be only a couple of primary entrances and exits, but the food vendors probably have their own exits, via their kitchens. If trapped in a food court, Blair said, he’d jump a counter and flee through a kitchen.

Research suggests there is little hope of reasoning with a mass killer, Blair said.

The better move, if there’s no way to flee or find protective cover, is for multiple people to swarm the attacker. They should use whatever they have at hand as a weapon — coffee cups, car keys, anything.

“In general, this person has already shown a desire to murder people. To murder a lot of people,” Blair said. “Is there a chance you might be able to talk him down? There might be a chance. That chance is probably small. We just don’t see it happen in these cases.

“But we do know that in about 1 out of 5 cases we’ve seen people successfully stop the attacker.”

– See more at:

Pit Bull–Friend or Fiend ?


Note:  We have gentle, friendly pit bulls in our family.    rjn

Image result for pit bull photos


MONTREAL — Less than two weeks after a woman died following a dog attack in her backyard, Montreal’s mayor has announced a plan to ban pit bulls and other breeds that are deemed to be dangerous.  source   The Huffington Post   


NPR logoFresh Air



Friend Or Fiend? ‘Pit Bull’ Explores The History Of America’s Most Feared Dog

 Interview with author of book The Battle over an American Icon  by Bronwen Dickey

montreal pit bulls

A pit bull named Athena goes for a walk at the SPCA, on Tuesday in Montreal. (Photo: Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)


Author Bronwen Dickey says the idea of pit bulls as predators is based on myth and misinformation. In the early Hollywood era, Dickey says, the dogs were often chosen to appear in comedies.


This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross. Pit bulls are probably the most feared dogs in the U.S. They’re associated with dogfighting, attacking people and serving as guard dogs for drug dealers. Their bite is feared as being more dangerous than the bites of other dogs. Many cities and towns have passed laws making it illegal to own pit bulls. But in the new book “Pit Bull,” my guest Bronwen Dickey says that a lot of the popular beliefs about pit bulls as predators are based on myth and misinformation.

Today’s profiling of pit bulls contrast with the dogs’ image in the first half of the 20th century when pit bulls were often cast in films as trick dogs and comic sidekick rolls. Luke the bull terrier performed tricks and comic stunts in Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, and Fatty Arbuckle films. A pit bull co-starred in the “Our Gang/Little Rascals” film comedies. A pitbull starred in the Buster Brown comic strips and appeared in the logo for Buster Brown children’s shoes.

Bronwen Dickey’s book is a history of pit bulls and our changing preconceptions of them. She is the daughter of the late writer James Dickey, who is most famous for his novel “Deliverance,” which was adapted into the film of the same name.

Bronwen Dickey, welcome to FRESH AIR. So first of all, let’s get it on the table that you say most dogs that we think of as pit bulls probably aren’t pit bulls. So why is there so much confusion about what kind of dog is actually a pit bull? What’s officially a pit bull? And that’s important to know because you have all these stereotypes about pit bulls, and in some cities and towns, pit bulls – you’re not even allowed to have a pit bull. It’s important to know what is a pit bull?

BRONWEN DICKEY: Right. And that’s the biggest misconception is that the term pit bull refers to one distinct breed when really it refers to at least four pedigreed breeds of dogs and then all these other dogs that get lumped into the category. So you have the American pit bull terrier. You have the American Staffordshire terrier, the Staffordshire bull terrier, and a newer breed called the American bully.

But increasingly because those dogs are kind of generic looking and they share these characteristics with at least 25 other breeds of dogs, such as smooth coats or blocky heads, then anything becomes a pit bull. And so the category just grows and grows and grows. And when people ask, well, why are there so many pit bulls in the news? It’s because at this point almost anything is considered a pit bull.

GROSS: So there are a lot of commonly held beliefs about pit bulls. Let me ask you about a couple of them. One is that they’re natural fighters and they’re hardwired to kill. Is that true?

DICKEY: No, there is absolutely no credible scientific evidence of that. You have specific subpopulations that have been used over time in the illegal pursuit of dogfighting, but they really can’t be held up as the standard for all pit bulls in America. That would be – in the book I kind of say it would be like using the Navy SEALs as a standard for all American men. There’s no evidence at all that this entire huge group of dogs – that there is anything different about them whatsoever.

GROSS: OK, and people believe that their bite is more lethal because once they bite their jaws kind of, like, lock. So, like, you are in the teeth of that dog and it’s a stronger and more longly held bite.

DICKEY: Yeah, that’s not true at all. And once again there is no credible scientific evidence to that. All the evidence we have shows that the biggest determinant of a dog’s bite strength is actually its body mass and not its breed.

GROSS: So, like, the bigger the dog, the…


GROSS: …The worse the bite?

DICKEY: The bigger the dog, yes.

GROSS: But you say that dogs learn to calibrate their bite when they’re in the litter and when they’re trained by their mother.

DICKEY: They do.

GROSS: But of course sometimes they’re taken away kind of soon.

DICKEY: Exactly. There’s a lot of individual variation. And I think with all of these things it’s really important to remember that we think of breeds as being these static categories when in fact they aren’t. There’s tremendous variation within every single breed. And in fact the studies that have been done have shown there’s more variation within breeds than between breeds.

GROSS: But weren’t pit bulls initially bred to be fighters?

DICKEY: Yes, that is true. The original bull and terrier dogs in the 19th century – or, you know, you can even trace it back further than that – but the original American pit bull terrier that started in 1889 in Massachusetts, it was originally a fighting dog, yes.

GROSS: So doesn’t it – wasn’t it kind of bred to have fighting abilities?

DICKEY: Well, fighting abilities are extremely complicated and rare. So the dog fighting investigators that I have spoken with over the years who have studied this, who have studied hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of these dogs and some have even gone undercover as dog fighters themselves, they stressed to me that if one dog in a litter – and this is a litter that has been actively selected for these certain traits – if one dog in a litter actually possesses the traits necessary to be a fighter then that’s considered a very high success rate. So fighting is not just one static thing. It’s a whole suite of very complex behaviors. And each one of those is different. And each dog will or will not display those at a different level.

GROSS: When the American pit bull terrier was bred to be a fighting dog in Massachusetts in the late 1800s, what were dog fights like then compared to what dog fights are like now?

DICKEY: My understanding, at least from the historical literature, is they were tamer. And I use that kind of hesitantly because no matter what you’re talking about, this is the torture of animals. But they were shorter. They were not as bloody and brutal. Dogs did not die very often, and in fact it was kind of rare for a dog to die in the pit. And then in the kind of ’70s and ’80s and ’80s and today things got much more brutal. But fortunately…

GROSS: And more amped up – right? – with, like, steroids…


GROSS: …And amphetamines.

DICKEY: Exactly. With drugs, cattle prods, things just kind of reached a new level of sadism, unfortunately, which isn’t to excuse the fighting of the past. It was always pretty harrowing. But it definitely got worse.

GROSS: So it’s interesting how, as you put it, the pit bull went from America’s mascot to a symbol of, like, the fighting dog. And, you know, it was like the dog on the RCA logo and the dog in the Buster Brown logo and the dog in “Our Gang,” you know, in the series of short films.

So what changed and when did it change to make the image of the pit bull, like, the fighting dog, the guard dog, the vicious dog?

DICKEY: Right. Well, there’s always been a kind of subset of people who didn’t like the dogs because of what they represented. And it is again – it is true that they did originate as fighting dogs. But throughout the 19th century, there were increasingly bred as pets and kept as pets by people all over the social spectrum but predominantly people in the working class.

And so the dog with the patch over his eye became kind of this branding symbol of pure tenacity and American fortitude and individualism. And then in the 1950s, there was more of a push for more genteel pedigree dogs – dogs like Labrador retrievers and golden retrievers and Irish setters that were more associated with kind of the genteel lifestyle that went more with what American families in the 1950s were trying to cultivate.

And then you had the ’60s and ’70s, there was a time of much more social upheaval. And there was a very well-intentioned move made by the humane movement to eradicate what was left of professional dogfighting because it was growing so brutal and sadistic. And because they operated in different states, they were very hard to catch.

So in order to make that crime a felony, the humane movement enlisted the help of the media. And there was this kind of media blitz to bring dogfighting to the forefront of the American mind and make people care. But it turned into kind of a speculative free-for-all, and the dogs really got caught in that.

And so once people started reading stories about these dogs called pit bulls that had these supposedly horrific characteristics, all the people who were already selecting dangerous dogs then just basically switched which dog they wanted.

GROSS: So you think the pit bulls were demonized instead of the people who were training them and fighting them?

DICKEY: Yes. Yes. They were almost presented as though they were kind of willing participants in their own torture, which was terribly sad and wrong-minded.

GROSS: So what did you hear from people in the humane movement about how they now think they got it wrong?

DICKEY: I heard a lot of regret. People who have been in the movement for a long time expressed to me that if they had it to do it over again, they would be a lot more careful with the things they said. They wouldn’t allow wild speculation about the behavioral characteristics of the dogs because so little was known back then.

We just didn’t have the understanding of animal behavior that we have now. And they certainly would not have presented all pit bulls as fighting dogs when really that’s just such a small percentage.

GROSS: So what changed in the ’70s, which is the decade that you cite as being the decade when pit bulls became popular guard dogs and did start being used as fighting dogs, though not to the extent that the popular imagination has thought that they’d become fighting dogs?

DICKEY: The culture of dogs changed a lot during the 1970s. As crime rose in American cities, people became basically terrified of being victimized. And this is the age before alarm systems. So it was increasingly popular during the 1970s to get guard dogs.

A huge number of guard dog businesses sprang up. And with that you had people very fly-by-night people kind of selling unstable dogs.

Bites escalated I believe in New York City. In 1974, there was something like 35,000 bites reported, whereas recently that was down to something like 3,500. So the whole culture of dogs changed.

GROSS: You suggest in your book that you think a lot of racism was projected onto pit bulls because they became popular in African-American urban communities not just as fight dogs and guard dogs but just as popular dogs to have at home and as dogs that could reliably help protect you if you needed protection. So in what ways do you think that, like, race entered into perceptions of pit bulls?

DICKEY: I think especially when kind of the stories about them started to spiral out of control in the late ’70s and then into the Reagan ’80s, they became kind of proxies for a lot of the racial tensions that were brewing in America.

And I think as people felt these tensions – yet it was increasingly unpopular to voice them out loud about other groups of people, I think gradually those just got shunted onto the dogs. And so the dogs became proxies for human prejudice really because when the dogs were kind of working-class, average Joe, all-American dogs in the 1920s, that was one thing.

But when the dogs became associated with the urban poor, then there was this move to ban them and to eradicate them and to portray them – as we know, I mean, you think about kind of Hillary Clinton’s unfortunate superpredator comment, the dogs were also called superpredators.

GROSS: You have a pit bull.

DICKEY: Yeah. Well, I have a shelter dog who may or may not be a pit bull.

GROSS: What do you mean may or may not be a pit bull?

DICKEY: Well, we know that lots of dogs that are identified as pit bulls in shelters are identified based on just kind of someone’s guess as to what the dog’s heritage is. And we know that recent studies have said that visual identification of breeds is really not reliable.

In fact, it’s not reliable over 80 percent of the time. So the fact that she may look a certain way, who really knows what’s in her genetic background? We can only guess.

GROSS: Well, you know – you actually had her DNA tested...


GROSS: …Didn’t you?


DICKEY: Yes, right.

GROSS: So tell us…

DICKEY: And they’re actually – yes, we did have her DNA tested. And statistically speaking, there were a quarter of Australian shepherd genes floating around there. So, you know, again, she looks very much like a type E (ph) pit bull, and yet there’s more going on there underneath the surface.

GROSS: So she’s part German Shepherd?

DICKEY: Australian Shepherd…

GROSS: Australian shepherd, OK…

DICKEY: But what’s important about the DNA tests though because they haven’t been scientifically verified in labs – they’re consumer products – they really are dealing in statistical probabilities and not metaphysical certainty.

GROSS: So from the way you describe your dog, it sounds like your dog loves to snuggle (laughter).

DICKEY: She does. She does. She does.


DICKEY: She’s probably one of the most affectionate pets I’ve ever had.

GROSS: If you’re just joining us, my guest is Bronwen Dickey. She’s the author of a new book “Pit Bull.” Let’s take a short break, then we’ll talk some more. This is FRESH AIR.

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR, and if you’re just joining us, my guest is Bronwen Dickey, author of the new book “Pit Bull: The Battle Over An American Icon.” So a lot of pit bulls were euthanized without the shelters giving them a chance to find a home. You said that at some facilities, the bodies of dead pit bulls were piled so high that they resembled a sandbag fortress. You even have a picture like that in the book. Did you see evidence of this?

DICKEY: No, I didn’t take that photograph. That photograph was given to me by someone who had seen it. But I certainly attended euthanasias of shelter pit bulls, and it was very sad. The dogs that I saw that were euthanized were, to my untrained eye, just completely normal, happy-go-lucky pets that would’ve been fine in any home. But the shelters were so crowded with them, they had to be put down.

GROSS: So some animal lovers say there’s no bad dogs, there’s just bad owners. But you point out that there are some dogs with chemical imbalances or neurological problems that aren’t from abuse and they’re not from training. So can you talk about those kinds of problems and the subsequent problems that they create, you know, when a dog has a chemical imbalance or a neurological problem?

DICKEY: Sure. I think it’s really important that people don’t paint with any broad brushes. And so when people have said to me, you know, the, quote, “pit bull problem” is all about X, such as there are no bad dogs, there are only bad owners or it’s all how you raise them, that’s just as inaccurate as saying that they are all kind of biologically hardwired to kill. But And that’s not something that a certain amount of love or training can help with. That requires the help of trained professionals and medical professionals.

GROSS: So one of the stories that really brought pit bulls to the attention of the American public was the story of football star Michael Vick’s 49 fight dogs that he had. And I think all those dogs were confiscated and then many were retrained, rehabilitated and found good homes afterwards. So how do you interpret that story? What does that story mean to you?

DICKEY: For me, especially when I first read about it, it was an incredibly powerful reminder of, one, how resilient dogs are, and, two, that even dogs from the most dire and severe circumstances deserve a full behavior evaluation and a full shot. That doesn’t mean that every single dog from a severe situation, such as a fight bust, can necessarily come through that. Just like humans, we all deal with trauma differently. And some people handle it better than others. But they certainly deserve a fair shot. Writing them all off is a real missed opportunity.

GROSS: Pit bulls aren’t the only breed that’s faced discrimination. For instance, you say after World War I, dachshunds faced discrimination because they were German dogs – or considered German dogs.


GROSS: So tell us about the dachshund after World War I.

DICKEY: Yes, after – during and after World War I, the dachshund was widely persecuted because they were thought to be sneaky and treacherous. And so in wartime propaganda posters, they were also often seen wearing kind of pickle helmets and marching behind the Kaiser. And people took to stoning them in the streets while breeders in the U.S. actually scrambled to rename them liberty pups and liberty hounds. So, yeah, that was quite a trend.

GROSS: How did that change?

DICKEY: I think just over time, people moved on to other breeds and just realized that this was nationalistic silliness, that it really didn’t have to do with the dogs at all. It had to do with groups of people.

GROSS: Did German shepherds face any kind of discrimination after World War I or World War II?

DICKEY: They did, but, ironically, a number of servicemen brought German shepherds home with them and thought that there would be wonderful possibilities to use them here as police dogs, which, obviously, there were, and they became popular here. But there was a certain movement to brand them as sneaky and treacherous as well – also, much like the pit bull, to brand them as explosive and unpredictable and savage. And in New York City at one point, there was a move to ban them here.

GROSS: So did Rin Tin Tin change things around ’cause Rin Tin Tin was a German shepherd?


GROSS: And he was a hero.

DICKEY: Yes, Rin Tin Tin…

GROSS: He saved lives every week.

DICKEY: …and Strongheart. Yes – and Strongheart, his predecessor. Yes, once they became phenomenal movie stars, things changed for them quite a bit.

GROSS: My guest is Bronwen Dickey, author of the new book “Pit Bull.” After we take a short break, we’ll talk about dogs in her life and we’ll talk about her late father James Dickey, who’s best known for his novel “Deliverance,” which was adapted into a film starring Burt Reynolds and Ned Beatty. I’m Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross, author of the new book – no, I’m not (laughter). My guest is. My guest, Bronwen Dickey, is author of the new book “Pit Bull.” It’s a history of the dog and how the popular image of pit bulls was transformed from family pet, comedy movie sidekick and popular mascot to America’s most feared dog. And she says many of those fears are based on misconceptions.

So let’s talk about a little bit about dogs in your life. Your father is the late writer James Dickey. Your mother was, I think, his second wife. And he was a heavy drinker. She had become a drug addict. You had nine dogs growing up. And you write, none of them lived with us longer than a few years. Most roamed the neighborhood where one was hit by a car, some were chained in the backyard, where one strangled and died, all of them howled long into the night. And because of all of this, your neighbors viewed you all with contempt and thought of you as being irresponsible in terms of how you treated your dogs. So what was your relationship to dogs growing up with these nine different dogs who neighbors thought your parents treated irresponsibly?

DICKEY: I always wanted to have close relationships with dogs when I was young. And I think – I watched a lot of television. I watched “Lassie.” I looked at my neighbors and their children and the relationships they had with their pets, and that was something I wanted very badly. But because there was so much chaos in my family, that was very, very hard to have.

And I think that kind of alerted me early on to the fact that love is one thing but life is very complicated and people have a lot of layers to them. And just because you might not be able to provide for an animal in the way you would like to doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t love it. And I saw that a lot when I was reporting out in the streets, looking at people with their pit bulls for sure.

GROSS: Why did your parents want so many dogs? I assume they didn’t have nine at one time, but that…


GROSS: …That they were…

DICKEY: No, I think probably for me. I think – I really loved animals, and I think sometimes they probably bought me a puppy here and there because it was something that I really wanted. But the dogs just got lost in a very tumultuous and chaotic family cycle.

GROSS: So were these child-friendly dogs?

DICKEY: Yes, very much so, even despite their hard and deprived existences. They were all wonderful.

GROSS: You write that you were 6 when your mother told you she had a drug problem. You were 9 when your mother was arrested for cocaine possession. You were 12 when your father’s liver failed from years of drinking and 15 when he died of liver failure. How did they take care of you when you were young if they couldn’t take care of the dogs?

DICKEY: That’s a good question. They did the best they could. And I think that’s really all I can say. They did the best they could. I never felt that I was unloved at all. And fortunately we had the financial resources – which many American families don’t have – that I was always looked out for by someone at some point. But my parents, just because they had problems doesn’t mean they were bad people. And just because they couldn’t provide certain levels of care, whether, you know, it was for our pets or even for me, it certainly doesn’t mean they were bad. They were just complicated and their lives were very chaotic and troubled.

GROSS: At some point, Christopher, who was the son of your father’s first marriage, intervened and arranged for you to attend boarding school. Was that helpful for you?

DICKEY: It was. My parents had separated at that point. And I was 14 and I think he saw that my father didn’t have much time left and wanted me to be in a place that was safe and relatively stable when my father passed away. So, yes, that provided a level of structure that I really needed at that point in my life.

GROSS: And I should mention that in addition to James Dickey’s poems and novels, what he’s probably most famous for is writing “Deliverance,” which was adapted into the film with Burt Reynolds and Ned Beatty. There was a long stretch of his life, you say, during which he believed that nothing really counted but his great poetic project. What was that project?

DICKEY: His desire to create and surpass his own talent, I guess – to keep striving for poetry that could attain something he previously thought unattainable. And so everything for – I would say probably for most of the ’70s, everything in his life was devoted to that. And unfortunately I don’t think he cared much who he alienated during that time in his life.

GROSS: Does that include you? Did you feel like you came in second to the great poetic project?

DICKEY: No. No, no. And that was what was really interesting about my upbringing versus Chris’s. And that by the time I was born in 1981, a lot of that had kind of burned itself out. And he was very, very present for me as a father in terms of his attention, in terms of reading to me, spending time with me, listening to my questions, teaching me to ask others. He was very, very devoted in a way that he unfortunately wasn’t for Chris and my brother Kevin – or he was for Chris early on but then kind of the “Deliverance” fame shoved that to the side a bit.

GROSS: Yeah, and I should mention your brother Chris is Christopher Dickey, who was a longtime Newsweek correspondent and is now often seen on MSNBC, has an international affairs blog. He has covered the Islamic world for a long time. He is based in France. So did your father, James Dickey, make writing seem like torture or like something really wonderful?

DICKEY: For him it was wonderful. It was difficult, but it was wonderful. He got up at 6 a.m, played guitar every morning and then went straight to his typewriter. And he always instilled in me the idea that if you work hard enough at it, things will get so much better. He would take a poem through perhaps a hundred drafts if he had to. But he always put the work in. He did not believe in what he called the Mozartian (ph) flights of the imagination. Not to say he didn’t believe in talent, but he worked at his writing every day and he worked very hard. But he never felt that writing was a burden and he never conveyed that to me.

GROSS: Since your family dogs had several misfortunes and since your parents weren’t considered to be very responsible owners of those dogs, how old were you when you felt like you could get a dog and take care of it well?

DICKEY: I was 21. And for a long time I think it was kind of a really powerful statement as to how much I carried that shame with me, that I didn’t really feel I deserved the love or companionship of a dog until I was probably 21 years old. And even then it was filled with a lot of doubt and fear and worry that somehow I would screw things up or that I wouldn’t do a good job. And so I really felt so much for the people I met while reporting this story. The kids that I saw out in the neighborhoods who so wanted that relationship with a dog and just didn’t have the right resources to be able to have it, it really kind of pulled at my heart pretty strong.

GROSS: Tell us something about your first dog.

DICKEY: My first dog was a shelter dog that I rescued. Her name was Roxy. And she was a beautiful, beautiful dog. I had always wanted a German Shepherd when I was a kid because I watched reruns of “Rin Tin Tin.” And my mom had a German Shepherd when she was a child. And I was – I think also growing up in a situation of turbulence and chaos, I was very drawn to the idea of having a dog that was a protector. I wanted to feel protected.

And so I adopted a dog when I was 21, 22 named Roxy. And she was some kind of mixy-something (ph), but she looked kind of like a German Shepherd. But she was really way too much dog for me to handle. I didn’t know my limits. I didn’t – she was too large. I didn’t really know how to properly train and manage her, so I had to give her back to the rescue, unfortunately, after a few weeks. So then…

GROSS: Oh, that must have felt so terrible.

DICKEY: It was. It was. It was actually crushing. I felt that I had failed again. So then I kind of went to the other end of the spectrum. And my first dog that I raised successfully was a pug.

GROSS: Why did you want a pug?

DICKEY: Oh, I think I probably…

GROSS: Small.

DICKEY: They’re, yeah, small, easy to walk and frankly just adorable. And so he was my little buddy. And he just turned – he just turned 12.

GROSS: So you still have him?

DICKEY: I do. And he’s declining as he ages. But, yes, I still have him – Oscar. He’s my buddy.

GROSS: How does he get along with your pit bull?

DICKEY: Oh, they get along fine. They’re complete polar opposites of one another, but they work quite well together.

GROSS: Bronwen Dickey, thank you so much for talking with us.

DICKEY: Thank you so much for having me.

GROSS: Bronwen Dickey is the author of the new book “Pit Bull.” After we take a short break, rock historian Ed Ward will profile Clarence Carter, who he describes as one of soul’s great singers and songwriters. This is FRESH AIR.


Pit bulls were created by breeding bulldogs and terriers together to produce a dog that combined the gameness and agility of the terrier with the strength of the bulldog.[3] In the United Kingdom, these dogs were used in blood sports such as bull-baiting, bear-baiting and cock fighting. These blood sports were officially eliminated in 1835 as Britain began to introduce animal welfare laws.

Pit bulls successfully fill the role of companion dogs, police dogs,[10][11] andtherapy dogs.   Wikipedia


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Elderly Hero

Jo Cox

77-year-old former miner was named today as the pensioner who was stabbed as he bravely tried to tackle Jo Cox’s killer.

Bernard Kenny was waiting outside Birstall library in his car, after taking his wife there to return a book, when he saw the MP being attacked and got out of his car to help her.

He was stabbed in the abdomen by the gunman, and remains in hospital being treated for serious injuries, which are described as “non life threatening”.

 West Yorkshire’s Acting Chief Constable, Dee Collins, praised Mr Kenny’s actions today, saying he had “bravely intervened to assist Jo”.

Friends said Mr Kenny’s selfless act was typical of his character, as he had risked his life as one of the rescuers involved in a colliery disaster 40 years ago.

(I haven’t been able to find a photo of Kenny.  rjn)

Warming Kills Off Little Critters

Image result for melomys photosSmall critter’s absence on Aussie isle leaves a big hole

Rodent may be 1st mammal wiped out by climate change

By Ben Guarino    The Washington Post,  Chicago Tribune 6.17.16

At first glance, the Australian island of Bramble Cay is unremarkable except for the lighthouse at one end. Otherwise, the small isle is dotted with a few grass clumps, shorebirds and nesting sea turtles.

Years ago, however, anglers who visited the island in the Great Barrier Reef could also spot little, ratlike rodents scurrying over the sand and coral rubble.

As mackerel fisherman Egon Stewart told scientists in a new report, around 2009 there had been “a heap of sticks and a smashed up dug-out canoe at the north-western end of the island.”

When Stewart flipped over the pile, a few of the furry critters took off.

This was the last time, researchers believe, anyone saw a living Bramble Cay melomys, a rodent round in body, long in whisker and lumpy in tail. The creatures are probably the first mammal casualty of man-made climate change, University of Queensland researcher and study author Luke Leung said in a statement.

Despite subsequent search efforts, there is no evidence the animals remain on the island, the only place they were known to live on the planet.

The first recorded Bramble Cay melomys sightings date to the 1800s.

In 1978, researchers estimated several hundred rodents lived on the island, but the numbers dropped to double digits by 1998. Twelve of the rodents were caught in 2004; in 2011, scientists looking for them turned up empty-handed.

“The results reported here, from thorough survey, confirm that the Bramble Cay melomys no longer occurs at the only site from which it has ever been reliably reported,” the scientists wrote.

It was, in all likelihood, death from lack of resources.

In the decade between 2004 and 2014, the amount of leafy plants on Bramble Cay shrunk by 97 percent, the authors say. Without plants providing food and shelter, the scientists believe rodents succumbed to local extinction.

And the lack of plants, in turn, was probably caused by a rising sea that swept over the island during storms and high tides — ocean inundation, as the scientists call it.

Bramble Cay rises no more than 9 feet above sea level at its highest point.

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Based on observations of erosion, scattered driftwood and dead plants, the authors concluded, “Bramble Cay has been subjected to repeated episodes of seawater inundation.” The scientists also noted that data from tides and satellites indicate the average sea level in the area has risen a quarter-inch per year.

University of California at Berkeley climate change expert Anthony Barnosky told The New York Times the apparent fate of the Bramble Cay melomys is a “a cogent example of how climate change provides the coup de grace to already critically endangered species.”

Cowboy Catches Bike Thief



Rancher on horseback lassoes would-be bike bandit in Walmart parking lot

Robert Borba mounted his horse and chased down the thief, according to police who responded to the 911 call about the Oregon bicycle theft

The cowboy crusader.
The cowboy crusader. Photograph: Image courtesy of KTVL

An attempted bicycle theft in a Walmart parking lot was foiled by a cattle rancher on horseback, who chased the thief down and lassoed him until the local police in southern Oregon could arrive.

The bicycle was stolen from a bike rack outside a Walmart in Eagle Point, a town about 170 miles south of Eugene, Oregon, at around 10amon Friday morning. The woman who owned the bike and several others gave chase on foot but were unable to catch him.

Then a rancher named Robert Borba brought his horse out of its trailer, mounted up and chased the thief down, according to Chris Adams, an officer with the Eagle Point police who responded to the 911 call about the theft.

“When we arrived, there was a large crowd standing around a younger gentleman who was on the ground, the rope around his ankle, hanging on to a tree,” Adams said. Victorino Arellano-Sanchez was arrested and charged with theft, the police said.

The suspect clings to a tree after being lassoed.
The suspect clings to a tree after being lassoed. Photograph: David Stepp

“I seen this fella trying to get up to speed on a bicycle,” Borba told the Medford Mail-Tribune. “I wasn’t going to catch him on foot. I just don’t run very fast.” He added: “I use a rope every day, that’s how I make my living. If it catches cattle pretty good, it catches a bandit pretty good.”

Not a lot is known about Borba because he is new in town, Adams said, but “it appears he will be a good fit. Eagle Point is a small city, and people watch out for each other. That’s exactly what he did.”

David Stepp said that he had been sitting in his car nearby when he saw the cowboy trotting across the parking lot on his horse after the thief, who was trying to escape on the stolen bicycle.

When the thief dismounted and tried to flee on foot, Stepp watched as the cowboy lassoed him by the ankle. The thief then grabbed a tree and held on to it until the police arrived. “Best day of my life,” Stepp said.

“I was laughing too hard to intervene,” he said. “I’ve seen it all, but I’ve never seen anything like that in my entire life.”

Stepp said he would love to buy the cowboy a beer. “This guy should be our next president.”

“The guy was just hanging back like ‘you ain’t gonna steal no bike in front of me’,” Stepp said about Borba. The owner of the bike was “just happy to have her bike back”, he added.

Sails in the Sunset


One of the pleasures of living high over Belmont Harbor on Chicago’s lakefront was to see the boats come home after a day’s racing out in Lake Michigan.  They sailed in line, their colorful spinnakers full and glowing in the late sun.


These boats represent a different kind of racing–millions of dollars invested in design, construction, and sailing toward the America’s Cup on an ocean course.

Anthony Souffle/Chicago Tribune

Sailing teams practice near Navy Pier for the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series. Chicago is the sixth stop in the competition, essentially qualifying races for next year’s main event in Bermuda. Six teams from around the globe, including defending America’s Cup champion Oracle Team USA, are competing on Saturday and Sunday in the first freshwater races in the event’s history. The others are Emirates Team New Zealand, Softbank Team Japan, Team France, Land Rover BAR (Britain) and Artemis Racing (Sweden).



– See more at:


Eliminate Zoos ?


To zoo or not to zoo?

By Lara Weber and Michael Lev  Chicago Tribune 6.10.16

Boo to zoos? After the unfortunate shooting death of a gorilla named Harambe at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanic Gardens — a necessary action taken to protect a young boy who had climbed into the animal’s enclosure — our discussion led to a debate over the merits of zoos. Good? Bad? Read on.

Lara to Michael: So, let’s recap: A 3-year-old boy wriggles into a gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo and tumbles into a moat. Gorilla scoops up boy. Zookeepers shoot and kill gorilla to protect the child. Outrage ensues! And all I can ask is: Why do we even have zoos anymore?It’s time we phase out this anachronistic idea that it’s OK to keep wild animals captive for our human enjoyment. Down with zoos!

Michael to Lara: And replace zoos with … an app? I feel disconnected enough from the natural world. Very few people have the chance to venture beyond their own native habitat to see animals in the wild. For a Chicagoan, that means great familiarity with squirrels, rats and red-tailed hawks and no experience with apes, lemurs or ocelots beyond zoos. Seeing a selection of the world’s diverse animal population means appreciating and valuing our fellow travelers, and thus I hope, protecting them. So the idea of the zoo — a destination to observe the world’s creatures — works for me. What specifically are your concerns?

Lara: You mean you don’t enjoy a good face-to-face rat encounter in a dark alley? Seriously, the Chicago area has such a rich diversity of native wildlife, and there have been tremendous efforts in the past few decades to protect and nurture it. Imagine how much it would do for conservation to teach kids to notice and appreciate what lives in their own ecosystem — instead of rushing past all of that to get into a zoo. I love strolling around Brookfield Zoo as much as anyone, but it was kayaking along the Chicago River — and spotting great blue heron and baby red foxes — that made me care about cleaning up that water. Zoos had their time, but wouldn’t you like to see smarter ways to introduce people to wildlife?

Michael: Cavorting with nature in Chicago’s waterways is a wonderful experience, but it’s an awfully narrow window on the planet. The concern you and I share with so many people is that our world is under environmental stress, putting many species at risk of extinction. There, I just communicated an important message in the dullest possible way. So let’s shift that conversation to an Arctic enclosure at a modern zoo and watch in awe as the spectacular polar bears cavort as in the wild. It’s a scene no kid forgets. Instant conservationist!

Lara: Yes, the polar bears! You bring up some important issues. Endangered species certainly benefit from the research and attention of zoologists and other wildlife experts — but why not put that effort into developing true wildlife sanctuaries, rather than public exhibitions? Even as zoos have designed more open, “natural” enclosures for their animals, the fact is that zoo animals are not in their natural habitats. Before we had so many multimedia tools, it made sense to round up a menagerie of animals so that people could see and hear — and smell — them up-close. But in today’s world, zoos send a mixed message to children about wildlife conservation. If ever there was a reason for live-streaming and virtual reality video, technologies that are advancing rapidly, experiencing the world’s wild habitats is it. No, it wouldn’t be the same as seeing an actual polar bear loping around Lincoln Park Zoo, but what is it teaching us to have a polar bear loping around Lincoln Park anyway?


A western lowland gorilla looks around her enclosure last week in Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo. (Anthony Souffle/Chicago Tribune)

Michael: You frame it well: Smelling is understanding. So is hearing. One of the most remarkable scenes of nature I’ve ever witnessed was watching and listening as howler monkeys unleashed their demonic screams from the treetops of the Belize Zoo. I’ve watched them strut their stuff on YouTube, and it’s not the same. The role zoos play goes beyond educating and entertaining the public. The research aspect of zoos — captive breeding, for example — is a powerful weapon in the fight to maintain eco-diversity and understand the animal world.

Lara: Well, if you’re already in Belize, then it wouldn’t be a stretch to visit the jungles and experience those howler monkeys (and their demonic screams) in their natural habitat. Lucky you. But you’re right: For the millions of people who don’t have the opportunity to travel, YouTube is a poor substitute. That’s why I’m hopeful about new technology that, at least, will create a better experience than a basic video. I think you and I are heading in the same direction, though. The research and conservation aspects are essential. And the experiential aspect of a good zoo can influence young (and not-so-young) minds to think seriously about our planet. I know we’re unlikely to abolish zoos any time soon (even though I still think we should), but I believe we’re at a turning point and can start thinking differently about how to accomplish the important things they do.

Michael: It is certainly true that zoos are not the ideal habitat for wild animals. We’ve all seen sad enclosures and restless lions. But the best zoos can provide most species with an appropriate and adequate space to live. If we’re very lucky, maybe zoos will one day outlive their usefulness, but more likely, sad to say, they may be the only place future generations see many of the wild kingdom’s greatest citizens.

Lara Weber and Michael Lev are members of the Tribune Editorial Board.

The Real Muhammad Ali


Image result for muhammad ali photos

What Happened To The Muhammad Ali I Idolized, Blackistone Asks

Growing up, sports commentator Kevin Blackistone idolized Muhammad Ali. With Ali’s death last week, he wonders why the man he sees in the obituaries is so different than the Ali he remembers.


Muhammad Ali will be laid to rest this Friday in his hometown of Louisville, Ky. And all the remembrances since the passing of this legend have left commentator Kevin Blackistone wondering – what happened to the Ali he idolized?

KEVIN BLACKISTONE: What I remember most about the 1996 Olympics, when Muhammad Ali lit the Olympic cauldron in Atlanta, wasn’t Parkinson’s shaking him as he stood on what appeared a precarious perch with a flaming torch in one hand.


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Instead, it was Bob Costas later telling the millions watching on NBC that Ali would receive a gold medal to replace the one from the 1960 Rome Games that he lost. Lost, not that he chucked into the Ohio River, as he recounted many times, after being slighted because of his skin color, no matter the pride he’d won for his country.

It wasn’t Costas’ intent, of course. But it did accelerate the disfiguration of the Ali narrative. It began when Parkinson’s increasingly muted his righteous audacity 20-plus years ago. It is all but being cemented in the days since his death last Friday. Everybody loves the post-black power, post-anti-war movement, not-so-militant Ali who was being highlighted.

Image result for ali photos


But this is what happens to transcendent, radical, black figures. Image-makers, accidentally or intentionally, reconstruct their radicalism into something more digestible.Nelson Mandela becomes an avuncular figure rather than the mastermind of Spear of the Nation, the armed wing of the African National Congress. Jackie Robinson is no longer the strident race man who was court-martialed for refusing to surrender a bus seat in the Jim Crow South. And as Harriet Tubman moves onto our $20 bill, it will be for the Underground Railroad, not for leading armed freedom fighters on attacks against Confederate slave states.

The remembrances of Ali in the immediate wake of his death remind me that he must be reclaimed for what made him – for being defrocked of his first world heavyweight championship because he dared exercise his religious freedom, reject his given name Cassius Clay as a slave name and openly taking counsel from Malcolm X; for becoming a target of Hoover’s FBI; for mustering the boldness April 29, 1967, to refuse conscription into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War and saunter from the Houston induction center despite threat of imprisonment; for suffering reams of defilement from media like the Los Angeles Times, which refused to call him by his name and denounced him as a black Benedict Arnold.

And still, Ali stood.

Most observers since Friday noted Ali as a singular personality, unique in our history. But he was part of a lineage of militant, black athletes. These include athlete-turned-activists Paul Robeson and Jack Johnson, the first black man allowed to fight for and win the heavyweight championship. Both wound up exiled for their boldness in challenging majority American, that is to say white, societal norms. And like Ali, most importantly, they came to inspire and energize radical activism, particularly among people of color, here and abroad. This is their story. It shouldn’t be so hard to tell.

MONTAGNE: Commentator Kevin Blackistone is a columnist for The Washington Post and teaches journalism at the University of Maryland.

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