Nestle’s Sins

We eat/use lots of Nestle products, candy bars to dog food, and don’t often think about the evil that company has done.  In one bright move, they sent a sales force into Africa to dress as doctors and persuade women to stop breast-feeding and give their babies a Nestle formula which had to be prepared with questionable local water.  They ran a marketing campaign among the poor in Brazil by setting local people as dealers to push junk food

Here’s the story.

Maggi advertisement in Senegal  Wikipedia

 Why Nestle is one of the most hated companies in the world  

Child labor, unethical promotion, manipulating uneducated mothers, pollution, price fixing and mislabeling – those are not words you want to see associated with your company. Nestle is the world’s largest foodstuff company, and it has a history that would make even hardcore industrialists shiver. We’re gonna look at why Nestle has such a bad reputation and whether or not it deserves it.

Introduction

Nestle company

Just some of Nestle’s more well-known brands. Image via Rasica.

People love to hate, and they really love to hate on big companies – whether or not they have a reason to. I especially dislike it when the latter happens. Companies (big companies included) are the very backbone of our economy, and they often get a bad rep for little or no reason. But sometimes there is a reason, or as in this case, several solid reasons, as we’ll see below. Which brings me to the next point: why are we writing this article? ZME Science is a science website (crazy, right?), and this is not strictly science, at least not in the way our regular articles are. But we also write about environmental issues, especially when they affect many of us, and especially when we can make a difference.

Nestle is a Swiss multinational food and beverage company. According to Wikipedia, their products include baby food, bottled water, breakfast cereals, coffee and tea, confectionery, dairy products, ice cream, frozen food, pet foods, and snacks. Twenty-nine of their brands have sales of over $1 billion a year and have over 8,000 brands. They have 447 factories across 194 countries and employ around 333,000 people. They truly are what you would call a giant. They’re also considered to be one of the best employers in Europe with six LEED certifications and sponsor numerous activities and sustainable projects. Looking at only these stats, it would seem that Nestle is one of the “good guys”… but then why are they so hated? Let’s take it step by step.

Baby Formula and Boycott

We’re in the ’90s, and this is a sad story about poverty, breastfeeding, and greed. Nestle aggressively pushed their breastfeeding formula in less economically developed countries(LEDCs), specifically targeting the poor. They made it seem that their infant formula was almost as good as a mother’s milk, which is highly unethical for several reasons.

Nestle ad. Image via Unlatched.

The first problem was the need for water sanitation. Most of the groups they were targeting – especially in Africa – didn’t have access to clean water (many don’t to this day), so it was necessary for them to boil the water. But due to low literacy rates, many mothers were not aware of this, so they mixed the formula with polluted water which put the children at great risks. Nestle seems to have knowingly ignored this and encouraged mothers to use the formula even when they knew the risks. Breastfeeding, one of the most important aspects for an infant, especially in unsanitized areas, was cast aside. Baby formula was “the nearest thing in the world”, and this “splendid triumph of care and science” is “so like mother’s milk that the tiny stomach won’t notice the difference”. But the tiny stomach did notice the difference.

“Breastfeeding is unparalleled in providing the ideal food for infants.The optimal way to feed a baby is exclusive  breastfeeding for the first six months followed by breastfeeding combined with complementary foods until the child is two years old…” –  a 2007 Save the Children report.

Many mothers were able to read in their native language but were still unable to read the language in which sterilization directions were written. Even if mothers understood the need to boil the water, they might not have had the facilities to do so. UNICEF estimates that a formula-fed child living in disease-ridden and unhygienic conditions is between 6 and 25 times more likely to die of diarrhea and four times more likely to die of pneumonia than a breastfed child. Another problem was that mothers tended to use less formula than needed – to make the jar last longer, resulting in many infants receiving inadequate amounts.

But even if the water was boiled, and even if the formula was administered in the right proportion and in the right quantity, it is lacking in many of the nutrients and antibodies that breast milk provides. Breast milk contains the required amount of the nutrients essential for neuronal (brain and nerve) development, and to some extent, protects the baby from many diseases and potential infections. According to the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), Nestle used unethical methods to promote their infant formula to poor mothers in developing countries. But it gets even worse.

boycott nestle

Rachael Romero, San Francisco Poster Brigade
Boycott Nestle, 1978
poster
Courtesy Inkworks Press Archive, Berkeley, CA

IBFAN claims that Nestle distributes free formula samples to hospitals and maternity wards; after leaving the hospital, the formula is no longer free, but because the supplementation has interfered with lactation, the family must continue to buy the formula. Nestle denies those allegations… sort of.

“Nestlé takes reports on non-compliance with the WHO Code very seriously and we have endeavored to investigate all allegations brought to our attention, despite the fact that in many cases we are not provided with accurate details substantiating the accusations. This makes it difficult for us to investigate how, where and when the alleged infringement could have occurred. Some of the allegations are several years old before they are brought to public attention, which also could complicate the investigation.”

Back then, Nestlé’s response was that their critics should focus on doing something to improve unsafe water supplies, which contributed to the health problems associated with bottle feeding. They also later used this approach to promote their bottled water. As The Guardian puts it, “its huge marketing budgets clearly influence peoples’ behaviour, even if direct causality can’t be demonstrated.”

Today, several countries and organizations are still boycotting Nestle, despite their claims to be in compliance with WHO regulations. There’s even a committee, the International Nestlé Boycott Committee that monitors their practices. Several universities and student organizations have also joined the boycott, especially in the UK.

There is no clear, public number of lives that were lost due to this aggressive marketing campaign, and of course, Nestle is not directly responsible for their tragedies. But it was easy for them, as it was easy for everybody to see the risks and the negative effects their formula was having. It was easy for them to save many lives, but they chose the money instead. Profits before children – check. Let’s move on.

Nestle and Water

Brown admitted that Nestlé currently wastes about 30% of the 700m gallons of water a year it draws from the ground in California. Image via Sum of Us.

Few people know it, but Nestle is actually the world’s largest producer of bottled water. In fact, they’re so keen on their water business (which also involves many of their other products), that they believe water isn’t a universal right. Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe said:

“There are two different opinions on the matter [or water]. The one opinion, which I think is extreme, is represented by the NGOs, who bang on about declaring water a public right. That means that as a human being you should have a right to water. That’s an extreme solution.”

Having access to water is not an extreme solution. It’s what we have called a basic need for centuries. Even Brabeck, after the media attack that followed, backed down. He said that he “believes that water is a human right” and “advocates for universal access to safe drinking water”. But his actions, as well as Nestle’s actions, show that that’s just greenwashing.

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At the second World Water Forum in 2000, Nestle pushed for making access to drinking water from a “right” to a “need,” a defining change. Meanwhile, Nestle drains the aquifers it controls as much as possible, without any regards to sustainable usage or environmental concerns. A recent case is the California drought – an issue without precedent in the past 1,200 years. But Nestle doesn’t care. Even as Starbucks recently announced they would transfer their Ethos water bottling facility from California to Pennsylvania, Nestle CEO Tim Brown said: “Absolutely not. In fact, if I could increase [water bottling operations], I would.”

Yes, if he could, he’d increase water bottling operations, even though Nestle has been working without a permit since 1988. Inhabitat reports that the company has been sourcing its water from the San Bernardino National Forest without a permit and they’ve been recently been bumped to the front of the queue for permit renewal (which will take around 18 months), and they can keep working in the meantime as long as they pay a laughable $524 annual fee. Also, California doesn’t know how much water Nestle uses, because they have no legal grounds for making the company divulge this information, and Nestle hasn’t published any reports. An independent analysis puts all their water usage at 1 billion gallons a year.

Arguably, that’s not much when you considering that 500 billion gallons of water that will be saved under Gov. Brown’s new water restrictions, but there’s something absurd and immoral about a private company using as much water as they want while the rest of the state is facing severe restrictions.

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LATE BULLETIN
Richard,

We just beat Nestlé!

For nine years, we’ve worked with the community in Hood River County and people across Oregon to stop Nestlé’s plan to grab their water and build a water bottling plant.

The community never gave up the fight against Nestlé’s attempt to take their water — and they won.

After years of building opposition locally, the issue was finally put on the ballot last year. Voters in Hood River County overwhelmingly voted to ban water bottling in the area and keep Nestlé out. But the state still tried to move forward with a deal that would give Nestlé access to the area’s water. After more pressure from the community, Oregon Governor Kate Brown directed her Department of Fish and Wildlife to stop the deal!

This is your victory, too. Food & Water Watch supporters like you stood in solidarity with the community in Oregon, and many pitched in to help win the ballot fight last year.

This win is also a testament to the power of people standing together to stop corporations more interested in record profits than protecting our communities.

Forward this email or click here to share the good news on Facebook.

Victory over Nestle

We never doubted that a victory like this was possible. We’ve seen time and again that when communities stand together in the face of corporate interests, they can win. It’s not always easy, but it’s always possible, and we wanted to share this good news with you right away.

We know there will be more fights in other places, and we’ll be ready for them. But I wanted to let you know that your support makes victories like this possible.

Thanks for everything you do,

Sarah Spooner
National Email Program Manager
Food & Water Watch
act(at)fwwatch(dot)org

_________________________________________________________________________

But other areas in the world have it even worse than California.In the small Pakistani community of Bhati Dilwan, a former village councilor says children are being sickened by filthy water. Who’s to blame? He says it’s bottled water maker Nestle, which dug a deep well that is depriving locals of potable water.

“The water is not only very dirty, but the water level sank from 100 to 300 to 400 feet,” Dilwan says. (source)

water nestle

The small village of Bhati Dalwan is suffering a water crisis following the development of a Nestle water bottling facility. Image source.

Indeed, unsustainable usage of aquifer water can lead to a significant decrease in water levels, and can even exhaust the aquifer. That’s right, underground water isn’t the inexhaustible source many people believe it to be. In the case of Bhati Dilwan, people are getting sick because if the community had fresh water piped in, it would deprive Nestle of its money source – bottled water under the Pure Life brand. Greedily using natural resources for profits? Check.

But when Nestle isn’t trying to privatize water or use it without regards to the environment, it’s simply bottling… tap water. A Chicago-based business has sued the company (again), claiming that the five gallon jugs of Ice Mountain Water they bought were nothing else than tap water. It may come as a shock to you, but nearly half of the bottled water in PET plastic bottles is actually from a tap – though Nestle never advertised this. They know what’s likely going to happen though, as this is almost a dress rehearsal of a previous scandal. Twelve years ago Nestle Waters was sued over allegation of false labeling, and ultimately settled for $10 million in charitable contributions and discounts.

 

Child labor, abuse, and trafficking

Most people love chocolate, but few know the dirty deals behind chocolate production. The 2010 documentary The Dark Side of Chocolate brought attention to purchases of cocoa beans from Ivorian plantations that use child slave labour. The children are usually 12 to 15 years old, and some are trafficked from nearby countries – and Nestle is no stranger to this practice.

child work Nestle

Children labor was found in Nestle’s supply chain. Image via Crossing Guard Consulting.

In 2005, the cocoa industry was, for the first time, under the spotlight. The International Labor Rights Fund filed a lawsuit against Nestle (among others) on behalf of three Malian children. The suit alleged the children were trafficked to Côte d’Ivoire, forced into slavery, and experienced frequent beatings on a cocoa plantation. In 2010, the US District Court for the Central District of California determined corporations cannot be held liable for violations of international law and dismissed the suit – a controversial decision which has since been appealed. But even if Nestle wasn’t legally liable for these abuses, they are, at least morally. But that wasn’t the only case of this kind.

A report by an independent auditor, the Fair Labor Association (FLA), says it found “multiple serious violations” of the company’s own supplier code. It was reported that Nestle hadn’t carried out checks against child labor and abuse. Additionally, many injuries caused by machetes, which are used to harvest cocoa pods, have been reported. Nestle’s excuse can be summed up broadly as ‘everybody does it’:

“The use of child labour in our cocoa supply chain goes against everything we stand for,” says Nestle’s Executive Vice-President for Operations Jose Lopez. “No company sourcing cocoa from the Ivory Coast can guarantee that it doesn’t happen, but we can say that tackling child labour is a top priority for our company.”

The FLA reported that Nestle was fully aware of where their cocoa was coming from and under what conditions, but did little to improve conditions. Child slavery and abuse? Check.

Health Threats

In July 2009, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned consumers to avoid eating any varieties of prepackaged Nestle Toll House refrigerated cookie dough due to risk of contamination with E. coli O157:H7 (a foodborne bacterium that causes illness). In the US, it caused sickness in more than 50 people in 30 states, half of whom required hospitalization. In particular, one woman had a fatal infection before the batch was reclaimed.

“The fact that our product was implicated in Linda Rivera’s 2009 illness and tragic passing was obviously of grave concern to all of us at Nestle,” the company said in a statement. “Since then, we have implemented more stringent testing and inspection of raw materials and finished product to ensure the product meets our high quality standards,” which sort of makes you wonder – why weren’t stringent testing and inspections implemented in the first place?

But this is just a minor incident compared to the 2008 Chinese Milk Scandal. Six infants were killed and 860 were hospitalized with kidney problems after Nestle products were contaminated with melamine, a substance sometimes illegally added to food products to increase their apparent protein content.

In October 2008, Taiwan Health ministry announced that six types of milk powders produced in China by Nestlé contained low-level traces of melamine and were removed from the shelves.

The scandal quickly escalated, with China reporting over 300,000 victims, raising concerns about the security of major food companies operating in China. Two people were executed and several life prison sentences were issued, with the World Health Organization (WHO) referring to the incident as one of the largest food safety events it has had to deal with in recent years.

Nestle denied implication and claimed that all its products are clean, but the Taiwan government linked their products to toxic melamine. As a response, Nestle says it has sent 20 specialists from Switzerland to five of its Chinese plants to strengthen chemical testing.

Nestle’s CEO, Peter Brabeck.

Pollution

As with any “respectable” large company, Nestle has been involved in several incidents regarding pollution. A 1997 report found that in the UK, over a 12 month period, water pollution limits were breached 2,152 times in 830 locations by companies that included Cabdury and Nestle. But again, the situation in China was much worse.

While people in the US and Europe are slowly becoming more environmentally concerned and some are opting for more sustainable sources of water, Nestle has moved to another market – Asia. Alongside companies such as Kraft or Shell, Nestle made several environmental violations.

Nestle Sources Shanghai Ltd’s bottled water manufacturing plant also made the list for starting operation before its wastewater treatment facilities had passed an environmental impact assessment.

“These are only some of the water pollution violations committed by multinational companies in China, since our website has yet to cover information about air and solid waste pollution,” said Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs. “The parent companies in their home countries are models for environmental protection. But they have slackened their efforts in China.”

Another article claims that Nestle capitalizes on China’s already-polluted waters to make a good profit, while Corporate Watch highlights the fact that Nestle continues to extract water illegally from Brazil for their Perrier brand. Although Nestlé lost the legal action, pumping continues as it gets through the appeal procedures, something which can take ten years or more.

Ethiopian Debt

Ethiopia was going through a nation-wide famine. Image via Wikipedia.

In 2002, Nestle made what turned out to be a colossal error: demanding that Ethiopia pay them back a debt of US$6 million. There’s nothing wrong with that per se… if Ethiopia wasn’t facing extreme famine at the time. For a company that has 29 brands that make over $1 billion a year, asking a famine-stricken country to pay you back 6 million seems questionable, to say the least.

Nestle’s claim dates back to the 1970s when the military regime in Addis Ababa seized the assets of foreign companies.

The public roar came almost overnight; with the company receiving 40,000 letters from outraged people, in one of the most famous cases of public opinion beat corporate greed. In the end, Nestle took a U-turn, settling for a partial debt which was also invested in the country’s bouncing back from famine. For Nestle, who initially insisted that the compensation issue was “a matter of principle” and that it was in the best interest of Addis Ababa to settle the demand to repair its record with foreign investors, it was a huge moral defeat. For analysts, it was an exciting case which showed that even giants can falter in the face of public opinion.

“This is a welcome result because it shows that Nestle is not immune to public pressure,” said Phil Bloomer, a senior policy analyst.

A Deal With Mugabe

Striking dubious partnerships to make a profit seems to be a recurring theme. The Swiss multinational made a deal with the wife of the infamous dictator from Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe, buying 1 million liters of milk a year from a farm seized from its rightful owners by Grace Mugabe

Grace has taken over at least six of Zimbabwe’s most valuable white-owned farms since 2002, building a farming empire from illegally confiscated farms, which led to an international boycott, as well as EU and US sanctions. She is known for her ridiculously lavish lifestyle, which includes overseeing the construction of two luxuriant castles. In 2014, she was given a doctorate diploma only three months after signing up for the program. Nestle went forward with the deal though, even as the country’s agriculture-based economy was collapsing and inflation was reaching unheard of levels.

Price Fixing

The price fixing was arranged for Kit Kat and other chocolates. Image via Wikipedia.

In Canada, the Competition Bureau raided the offices of Nestlé Canada (along with those of Hershey Canada Inc. and Mars Canada Inc) in an investigation on price fixing. Nestlé and the other companies were subject to class-action lawsuits and ultimately settled for $9 million, without actually admitting liability. Furthermore, former president and chief executive officer of Nestle Canada is facing criminal charges.

In the US, another, larger trial was rejected, because even though it was plausible that the same thing happened in the US, there was no clear evidence of any foul play. The suspicion remained however and still lingers with the company.

Promoting Unhealthy Food and Mislabeling

That Nestle is promoting unhealthy food should come as no surprise, but the level at which they operate it is simply staggering. A recent report by the UK Consumers Association claims that 7 out of the 15 breakfast cereals with the highest levels of sugar, fat, and salt were Nestle products.

“Nestlé claims to be ‘the world’s leading nutrition, health, and wellness company’, but when it comes to food marketing to kids, Nestlé is a laggard, not a leader,” said CSPI nutrition policy director Margo G. Wootan.

Nestle dismissed all responsibility in promoting healthy food. To pour even more salt in the foods wound, mister Brabeck came out with a dismissive interview in the Telegraph, claiming that he is not obese yet ‘every morning I have a tablet of dark chocolate as my breakfast’ and that it is the perfect balance and contains everything he needs for the day. Hey, after all, who would actually think that Nestle’s cereals are healthy, right?

Image via Vevivos.

But while Nestle’s labels aren’t simply misleading, they have also been downright false. In November 2002, police ordered Nestle Colombia to decommission 200 tons of imported powdered milk, because they were falsely relabeled, not only as a different, local brand, but also with a different production date. A month later another 120 tons suffered the same fate, causing uproar among the Colombian population.

Nestle bringing old powdered milk from a different country and labeling as local and new is not only unethical and illegal, but it poses health hazards for consumers.

Drawing the Line

All major companies have incidents, accidents and scandals. When you have so many people working for you, it’s virtually impossible to maintain a clean sheet. Someone will eventually screw up, someone will eventually do something they should. As I was preparing to write this article, a friend actually asked me if other companies don’t have a similar record, and advised me to look at Mars, for example. What I found was that Mars and other big companies have indeed had their share of scandals (sometimes the same ones as Nestle), but not nearly on the same scale. Nestle has shown, time and time again, that they have few ethics and little interest in a real social responsibility. From promoting their formula to uneducated African mothers to lying about production dates, to using water without a permit to dealing with ruthless dictators, they have often gone the extra mile to make an extra profit – even when the extra mile meant hurting people, directly or indirectly.

 

 

Comments

Oh, oh.  I discovered this morning that friends of the blog had made several comments to which I hadn’t replied.  Usually I get an email  “comment alert” and I reply. For those I missed I hadn’t been alerted by the blog system, but I have now replied.

Please do reply to blog posts.  I enjoy comments very much and intend to answer all but the ones selling sunglasses and “make money with your blog” rackets.

Love, RJN

Image result for photos sunglasses

Nurse Arrested

Nurse dragged out of hospital, arrested for doing her job

A nurse in Utah was forcibly arrested after she refused to draw blood from an unconscious patient, screaming “I’ve done nothing wrong” as an officer dragged her out of a hospital.Video footage of the interaction between nurse Alex Wubbels and Salt Lake City police Detective Jeff Payne on July 26 at University Hospital in Salt Lake City shows the nurse calmly explaining to the detective that blood cannot be taken without a warrant from an unconscious patient unless he or she consents or that individual has been arrested.

“This is something that you guys agreed to with this hospital,” Wubbels says while showing Payne the policy in writing. “The three things that allow us to do that are if you have electronic warrant, patient consent or patient under arrest … and neither of those things … the patient can’t consent, he told me repeatedly that he doesn’t have a warrant and the patient is not under arrest. So, I’m just trying to do what I’m supposed to do, that’s all.”

A 2-minute video of the interaction then cuts to Wubbels holding a phone, as a man’s voice warns that a “huge mistake” is being made by threatening a nurse. That sets off Payne, who then places Wubbels in handcuffs and leads her out of the hospital as the woman shrieks in agony.

“OK, no, we’re done, we’re done — you’re under arrest,” Payne says. “We’re going, we’re done, we’re done, I said we’re done!”

“You can’t put me under arrest, this is not OK,” Wubbels says while backpedaling before being led out of the hospital. “Somebody help me. Stop! You’re assaulting me, stop! Stop — I’ve done nothing wrong!”

Two hospital officials then try to intervene, but Payne warns them not to interfere or they will be arrested as well.

“I’m leaving now — with her — anybody who wants to prevent that, that’s your option,” Payne says. “So, take your hand off her, please.”

Payne then leads Wubbels to a waiting police vehicle as the woman claims the officer is hurting her.

“Then walk!” the officer responds.

“What is going on?” Wubbels tearfully asks another employee at the hospital.

Parts of the footage were shown Thursday during a news conference held by attorney Karra Porter, who is representing Wubbels, the Salt Lake Tribune reports. Wubbels, who was not charged, told the newspaper that she’s watched the footage about five times.

“It hurts to relive it,” she said.

Hospital officials, meanwhile, said they supported Wubbels’ actions.

“She followed procedures and protocols in this matter and was acting in her patient’s best interest,” according to a statement obtained by The Post. “We have worked with our law enforcement partners on this issue to ensure an appropriate process for moving forward.“

No notice of claim or lawsuit had been filed as of Thursday, but Porter had discussions with the department, which will provide better training to its officers, she said.

Payne, meanwhile, has been suspended from the department’s blood-draw program, but remains on duty as an investigation is conducted, Salt Lake City police Sgt. Brandon Shearer told the Salt Lake Tribune.

Inside German Bomber

 

An Inside Look at the Germans’ Deadly Bomber

Cutaway diagram shows a German Gotha bomber.CreditB. Corvinus/The New York Times Mid-Week Pictorial, Aug. 9, 1917

Awful though it was, some good came of a German air raid on London in July 1917. Twenty-two Gotha bombers had flown in for the attack, but only 19 returned, Prime Minister David Lloyd George told a secret session of the House of Commons a few days later. The incursion had not been made with impunity, he said.

“A stalwart American fighter now in active service at the American camp ‘somewhere in France.’” (Censors would permit no more specific identification.)CreditThe New York Times Mid-Week Pictorial, Aug. 9, 1917

The downing of the bombers allowed an artist working for The Times Mid-Week Pictorial to render the airplanes’ general structure and arrangements in a cutaway diagram, including the racks and chutes in which 14 60-pound bombs were carried over the target, and the bombardier’s sighting window on the underside of the fuselage. The diagram also showed the biplane’s 260-horsepower Mercedes engines, manufactured by Daimler Motors.

(This was the month in which King George V restyled the British royal family as the House of Windsor, and dropped the names Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, for fairly obvious reasons.)

More at Source

Talking Chimps etc. (video)

 

What Are The Planet’s Real ‘Talking’ Chimps And Gorillas Saying?

NPR’s Skunk Bear YouTube

The modern Planet of the Apes reboot begins with a research chimpanzee being raised in an American home. It’s a pretty plausible premise — that exact scenario has played out in the real world many times.

On June 26, 1931, for example, Luella and Winthrop Kellogg pulled a baby female chimpanzee away from her mother and brought her to live in their home in Orange Park, Fla.

The Kelloggs were comparative psychologists. Their plan was to raise the chimpanzee, Gua, alongside their own infant son, Donald, and see if she picked up human language. According to the book they wrote about the experiment, Luella wasn’t initially on board:

… the enthusiasm of one of us met with so much resistance from the other that it appeared likely we could never come to an agreement upon whether or not we should even attempt such an undertaking.

But attempt it they did. The Kelloggs performed a slew of tests on Donald and Gua. How good were their reflexes? How many words did they recognize? How did they react to the sound of a gunshot? What sound did each infant’s skull make when tapped by a spoon? (Donald’s produced “a dull thud” while Gua’s made the sound of a “mallet upon a wooden croquet ball.”)

Chimpanzees develop faster than humans, so Gua outshone Donald when it came to most tasks. She even learned to respond to English phrases like “Don’t touch!” and “Get down!”

But unlike the apes in the movies, Gua never learned to speak.

Donald, on the other hand, began to imitate Gua’s screeches. “Whenever an orange or other desired food was observed and barked for by Gua,” the Kelloggs reported, “Donald would usually take up this imitative call.”

The Kelloggs decided to end the experiment after 9 months. But the era of ape language research was just beginning.

In the decades that followed, scientists kept on trying to get apes to talk to them. That usually involved taking an intelligent, wild animal and forcing it to live out its life in an unnatural setting. No ape ever spoke, but some (perhaps most famously Koko — “The Gorilla Who Talks“) learned to employ hand signs. Did those apes understand what they were signing? Were they really using language?

Skunk Bear’s latest video explores footage and findings from decades of research. It might leave you questioning some of the more breathless claims about some of our closest, cleverest animal cousins.


You can ask Skunk Bear your science questions here. To find the answers, subscribeto our Youtube channel.

Barbara J. King, who consulted on this video, has written a lot about ape cognition over on NPR’s 13.7: Cosmos and Culture blog.

Segregated Cemeteries

 

The Persistent Racism of America’s Cemeteries

Not only is segregation still an issue but also America risks losing important history in its forgotten graveyards.

article-image
 A view of Greenwood Cemetery in Waco, Texas. (Photo: © Google 2016)

IN 2016, THE CITY OF Waco, Texas issued an order to remove a fence in the city’s public burial ground, Greenwood Cemetery. But it wasn’t just a cosmetic change: Using a forklift and power tools, City of Waco Parks & Recreation staff cut apart the chain-link fence that had been used to divide the white section of the cemetery from the black section.

The cemetery had been racially segregated since it opened in the late 1800s. It was operated by two sets of caretakers, white and black, until the city took over the cemetery about 10 years ago.

Waco is not the only Texas community to struggle with the surprisingly robust ghost of Jim Crow: This spring, the cemetery association of Normanna, Texas, about an hour outside Corpus Christi, was sued by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund for barring a white woman from burying the ashes of her Hispanic husband there. Although the cemetery association later relented, the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating. No Hispanic people are buried within the Normanna cemetery—there is one sole tombstone with a Spanish surname, located just outside the cemetery’s chain link fence.

San Domingo Cemetery, Normanna Cemetery, Bee County, TX

San Domingo Cemetery in Normanna, Texas. (Photo: © Google 2016)

Until the 1950s, about 90 percent of all public cemeteries in the U.S. employed a variety of racial restrictions. Until recently, to enter a cemetery was to experience, as a University of Pennsylvania geography professor put it, the “spatial segregation of the American dead.” Even when a religious cemetery was not entirely race restricted, different races were buried in separate parts of the cemetery, with whites usually getting the more attractive plots.

Some white Americans did fight against this policy. Abolitionists, such as Thaddeus Stevens, a radical Republican and chair of the House Ways and Means Committee during the Civil War, insisted on being buried in a non-segregated burial ground. Stevens chose to be buried in an interracial cemetery in Lancaster, Pennsylvania after his death in 1868. The issue of interracial eternal repose was so important to him that he wrote it into his own epitaph. His tombstone read: “I repose in this quiet and secluded spot, not from any natural preference for solitude; but, finding other cemeteries limited as to race, by charter rules, I have chosen this that I may illustrate in my death, the principles which I advocated through a long life, equality of man before the Creator.”

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Thaddeus

Abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens. (Photo: Library of Congress/LC-USZ62-63460)

From the 1920s through the 1950s, courts did not consider cemeteries to be “public accommodations,” so cemeteries did not qualify for special civil rights protections. But in May 1948, the Supreme Court ruled in Shelley v. Kraemer that state enforcement of racially restrictive covenants in land deeds violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. This had a major impact on the ability of blacks to buy houses in white neighborhoods, but it also affected the de-segregation of cemeteries. Whites-only restrictions on cemetery plots could no longer hold up in court. As a sign of the slowly-changing times, several interracial cemeteries appeared in the 1950s. Charles Diggs, Sr., a black undertaker and florist in Detroit, bought land to create an interracial cemetery just outside the city in 1953. Mount Holiness Cemetery in Butler, New Jersey, also promoted itself as an interracial cemetery in black newspapers like The New York Age in the 1950s.

But since blacks and whites continued to live and worship separately, such initiatives were few and far between.

Arlington National Cemetery was desegregated in 1948. (Photo: Sergio TB/shutterstock.com)

Just a few weeks after SCOTUS ruled in Shelley v. Kraemer, President Harry Truman issued Executive Order 9981, which officially desegregated the military. Although it took years to desegregate battlefield units, the order went into immediate effect at Arlington National Cemetery. One of the first black veterans to be buried in a formerly white section of Arlington was Spottswood Poles, a star of Negro League baseball who enlisted with the infamous Harlem Hellfighters, an all-black unit that fought in the trenches of France during World War I. Poles earned five battle field star decorations, as well as the Purple Heart, for his military service. He was interred at Arlington with full military honors in 1962.

As the racial composition of communities changed over time, many black cemeteries became neglected and forgotten, and the resting places of countless unsung heroes of America’s black past quietly disappeared. In 2014, U.S. Senator Bob Casey called on the Veterans’ Administration to establish a public database listing where all black Civil War veterans were buried, because few such cemetery records exist. Since many black graves are unmarked, recording and cataloguing their locations requires ground-penetrating radar and high-precision GPS. Several months ago, over 800 unmarked graves were uncovered using this technology at a black cemetery in Atlanta, demonstrating the potential for similar discoveries in cemeteries and forgotten burial grounds across the country.

Spottswood Poles in 1913. After serving in World War One, Poles was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in 1962 with full military honors. (Photo: Library of Congress)

Like the city councilors of Waco, many community groups and civic associations are currently engaged in the difficult, lengthy, and expensive tasks involved in unearthing black history. In the process, they are discovering that addressing the wrongs of the past is often more complicated than simply removing the physical reminders of Jim Crow that haunt our landscape. The traces of the past are sunk deep into the earth, but with the right tools, it’s possible to make them visible.

Coyote Baby Saved

 

Note: I was visited by a coyote as I sat on our deck one night. Looked like a youngster, but nearly full-grown.   It came up on the steps and stood there looking at me, seemed uncertain, so I said, “HAH !”, and it turned and trotted away.  I’ve had  similar visits from a raccoon and a small skunk.  I didn’t try to startle the skunk, just let it check out the length of the deck.  RJN
____________________

Reward raised to $8,000 as surviving Barrington Hills coyote pup recovers

The two-pound coyote pup looked every bit like a small domestic puppy Wednesday at the Penny Pond Forest Preserve in Barrington Hills while being held by animal rehabber Dawn Keller of Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation.

The coyote, now named Peace, snuggled into Keller’s arm adorably, and when she placed him on the ground for a second, he made a dash despite the fact there was a cast on his right rear leg.

Keller has teamed with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Conservation Police, Cook County Forest Preserve Police and the Humane Society of the United States to try and bring attention to the May 11 incident that injured the pup at the Penny Pond preserve in Barrington Hills.

“It was a heinous wildlife crime,” said Sgt. Jed Whitchurch, IDNR’s supervisor for this region, referring to how a fisherman found a burlap bag in Penny Pond, and when he fished it out of the water, there were seven one-pound coyote pups just a few weeks old that all looked dead.

The fisherman called Cook County Forest Preserve Police, and an officer arrived to pick up the coyote pups, according to Lambrini Lukidis, communications director for the forest preserve. She said they are not sure how long the bag was in the water, but six of the pups were found to have water in their lungs, a sign of drowning.

“The police officer put them into a bucket and that was when he noticed one was still alive,” she said. The surviving coyote, just over a pound and two to three weeks old, was taken to Golf Rose Animal Hospital in Schaumburg. Staffers there in turn called Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation in Barrington because they don’t have a permit to keep wild animals.

Say hello to Peace, who has doubled in size and is recovering better than expected, according to Keller.

“The leg was shattered — it was dangling and misshapen, and it was sticking out slightly because of a hip fracture,” she said. Flint Creek staff started treating it with fluids, anti-inflammatory and pain medication. On the second day, it opened its eyes. Nine days later, the leg was set in a cast, and the coyote was eating well and stable at that point.

“Coyotes are really misunderstood. We really struggled with a name because he had such a horrible life so far,” Keller said, adding that Flint Creek staffers turned it around and settled on Peace because they advocate for the peaceful coexistence of coyotes and other wildlife and humans.

“He broke my heart when he was rescued,” Keller said, adding that rescuers were not sure the pup was going to make it through the first 24 hours because it suffered from hypothermia. Its shattered leg was either the result of blunt-force trauma or someone swinging the animal around by it leg, Keller said after consulting with a veterinarian.

The IDNR gave Keller special permission to show off the coyote pup to media in the hopes of garnering more attention about the incident and hopefully more leads, according to Whitchurch.

“Cold-case wildlife cases are tough. We’re hoping with the financial reward someone with information will come forward and tell us,” he said. Whitchurch added that the news of the vicious incident is still spreading, so he is hoping more media attention will inform more people.

“It’s been quieter than we were hoping for. Some people are just hearing about it,” he said, noting that there are two leads received by investigators that could be promising, but it is hard because there is no description to work with yet and it happened in May.

Some people have wondered what difference it makes, since coyotes are one of the few animals in Illinois that can be hunted year round.

“This was not a humane act,” said Whitchurch. “This is an unusual case — it’s not the norm.”

According to the IDNR, about 7,000 coyotes are harvested each year in Illinois with 75 percent taken by hunters and 25 percent by trapping, which is restricted to fall and winter months. The liberal hunting season allows landowners to remove problem animals without having to obtain a special permit. IDNR biologists monitor the populations.

The IDNR also reports that coyotes are Illinois’ largest wild predator and were nearly extinct after the state was settled. They’re most abundant in the southern, southeastern and west-central parts of the state. Their numbers increased dramatically during the 1970s and early 1980s.

While they occasionally take livestock, poultry or pets, their diet consists of animal matter, but they often eat insects, fruits or berries. Rabbits and mice are important food sources, according to the IDNR.

A study in the Chicago area showed the following percentages of food groups occurring in coyotes’ diets: 43 percent small rodents; 22 percent white-tailed deer; 23 percent fruit; 18 percent eastern cottontail rabbit; and 13 percent birds. The presence of human-associated foods, like garbage, was rare, coming in at 2 percent, as was the presence of domestic cat, at 1 percent.

Wildlife experts say coyotes are valuable members of the wildlife community and do more good than harm where humans are concerned, and the IDNR believes trying to eliminate all of the coyotes in an area is not a realistic goal because voids will be filled quickly. Fortunately, removing individuals with “bad behaviors” usually solves a problem even when other coyotes continue to live in an area, according to the IDNR.

A reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the Barrington Hills case has been steadily climbing from just a few thousand dollars to $8,000 this week. Tips can be left on the IDNR police tip line at 1-877-236-7529.

The grisly incident attracted the attention of the Humane Society of the United States, which has put more than half of the reward money. It had doubled its standard cruelty reward from $2,500 after a board member for the organization agreed to fund the increase, according to HSUS.

“Anyone who could so callously maim and kill defenseless coyote pups and then toss them away like trash is a danger not only to animals but to the community at large,” said Marc Ayers, the society’s Illinois state director.

“We are hopeful that this reward will bring forward anyone with information about this heinous crime,” Ayers added. Getting the serious attention of law enforcement, prosecutors and residents in cases involving allegations of cruelty to animals is an essential step in protecting the community, according to a statement from the group.

The connection between animal cruelty and human violence is well documented, according to the group. Studies show a correlation between animal cruelty and all manner of other crimes, from narcotics and firearms violations to battery and sexual assault, Ayers said.

“It takes a special person to brutalize an animal, especially babies,” Keller said. “That’s not normal. It’s really sad.”

Whitlock said the cooperation between the various groups and agencies has been heartening.

“It’s nice to see the stakeholders coming together,” he said. “It’s great to see people care about our natural resources and Illinois wildlife.”

fabderholden@tribpub.com

Twitter @abderholden

Copyright © 2017, Lake County News-Sun

Horse Thief ?

 

He Was Once Labeled a Horse Thief; Now He Wants to Save Them

A South Carolina man who was mistakenly arrested for stealing horses has leased 4,000 acres of Kentucky land in the hopes of turning it into a horse sanctuary.

| May 15, 2017,  Associated Press

He Was Once Labeled a Horse Thief; Now He Wants to Save Them

The Associated Press

In this Monday, Jan. 23, 2017 photo, cockleburs fill the mane of a wild or abandoned horse left on 4,000 acres of land in Jackson, Ky. Curtis Bostic, an attorney from South Carolina, has leased the land and is attempting to turn it into a horse sanctuary. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley) THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

By ADAM BEAM, Associated Press

JACKSON, Ky. (AP) — Curtis Bostic is an attorney, a politician and — for a few weeks in 2016 — an accused horse thief.

On a cold December day in the rugged hilltops of Breathitt County, Bostic was trying to rescue some horses he said had been abandoned and were malnourished. But he was arrested by a sheriff’s deputy, who said the horses belonged to two men who follow the local custom of setting them free in the winter to wander the wilderness of the county’s abandoned coal fields.

The charges were later dismissed after the sheriff’s department said it didn’t have probable cause to make the arrest. But during the night Bostic spent in jail, he came up with an idea: A few weeks later, he leased the land where he had been arrested. He sent a letter to the two men who had pressed charges against him. Now, they were the trespassers, and Bostic ordered them to come get their horses before he put them up for adoption.

“I can’t change the full county. But I can say you are not going to come to my property and drop your horse off in the cold winter,” Bostic said.

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Bostic wants to turn 4,000 acres of former coal mines into a horse sanctuary. It’s the latest idea on how to tackle the growing horse population in the mountains of Kentucky, a state known more for pampered thoroughbreds on pristine farms than bony horses roaming free.

Bostic’s descriptions of thousands of horses suffering at the hands of cruel owners have offended the locals who say he doesn’t understand their culture.

Clifton Hudson, 30, owns five horses that he sets free to wander land he doesn’t own near his home in Breathitt County. He said he provides 600 pounds of salt each month for the horses. He stopped hauling hay bales to the land because the horses were not eating them, a sign he says means they have plenty of grass to graze. The locals often bring their children to the mountains on the weekends to pet and feed the horses.

“It’s just really it’s more of a pastime than anything else with the people of the county,” Hudson said. “So far the only person really had an issue with it has been Mr. Bostic.”

Wild horses have been a familiar sight in the Kentucky mountains for decades. But following the Great Recession and the thousands of jobs lost because of the disappearing coal industry, more horses have been set loose.

Just how many and whether they have enough food is up for debate.

Dumas Rescue, a local animal rescue organization, told a legislative committee last fall that Floyd County alone had 1,000 horses. Owner Tonya Conn said they took in 22 horses last year but had to turn away requests for 100 others.

“Some of them have never been touched by human hands,” she said.

Debby Spencer, a board member for the Appalachian Horse Center, said Floyd County has just 44 free-roaming horses, based on a census she conducted in 2014 across nine eastern Kentucky counties. She found 440 horses in eight of them, a number she said has since grown to 584.

“There is more than enough food up there,” Spencer said.

Bostic lives in South Carolina, where he’s a former member of the Charleston County Council and once ran for Congress, losing to former Gov. Mark Sanford in a 2013 primary. He’s the general counsel for Kinzer Drilling Co., which owns the land Bostic has leased. He and his wife run an orphanage in Burma and own a private retreat in Charleston that has horses.

“We kind of enjoy being saviors of the world,” he said.

But some don’t see it that way. Hudson said a lot of owners will breed their horses in the wild, collecting and selling the offspring for side income. Bostic’s lease threatens to disrupt that practice.

Breeding of free-roaming horses is tricky. Male horses, once banned from free-ranging based on an unwritten rule among local owners, are running free and mating with female horses without owners’ knowledge. In September, Johnson County sheriff’s deputies discovered 20 to 30 horses at a former coal mine. Three of the horses, all males, had been shot in the head.

“It looked like they were trying to thin the herd by killing the males,” Deputy Terry Tussey said. “It’s still an open case. We never found out anything.”

Animal aid groups have hosted free gelding clinics in eastern Kentucky, but they depend on owners bringing their horses — and many lack resources to do so.

Local government leaders see the herds of wild horses galloping through the mountains and dream of tourists flocking to watch them. Such efforts have worked elsewhere, including ponies on Assateague Island in Virginia and mustangs at the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary in South Dakota. But in Kentucky, a group trying to build the Appalachian Horse Center in Breathitt County has struggled to raise money.

The group has land not far from where Bostic was arrested. It plans to build a visitor center, offer guided tours and treat people with equine-assisted therapy. Local leaders hoped the group would partner with Bostic, but he isn’t interested in tourism.

“I don’t know how that would ever work,” he said. “What I want to do is help the animals that are here.”

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Tags: Kentucky, South Carolina


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