Saturday, December 08, 2018

Guest Post: We found grizzly, black and polar bears together for the first time

Douglas Clark, University of Saskatchewan

North America’s three bear species — black bears, grizzly bears and polar bears — don’t typically live in the same place. But in Wapusk National Park, on the west coast of Hudson Bay, in northern Manitoba, we caught all three bears on camera — for the first time.

My colleagues and I began studying the bears in Wapusk in 2011, after more polar bears than expected began visiting new field camps in the park. We used remote cameras — a widespread, economical and non-invasive tool for studying wildlife — to find out why and when the polar bears were visiting these camps.

The cameras picked up more than 366 visits by polar bears to the camps in five years. They also detected other bears.

A bevy of bears


Wapusk is best known for its polar bears. They come ashore in the summer and autumn when the sea ice in Hudson Bay melts. Some stay for the winter to den in the permafrost where they give birth. What we see on the cameras reflects that pattern.

But Wapusk also lies along the northern edge of the boreal forest, where black bears are well established. We saw them too, but we were surprised that their visits to our most southerly cameras, on the Owl River, were almost as numerous as those by polar bears.




Grizzly bears Wapusk National Park.

Grizzly bears visited all three study sites along the coast of Wapusk National Park.
(Douglas Clark), CC BY-ND



What was new to us were the grizzlies. It wasn’t just one or two transient bears, but several, and we suspect at least one of them may be denning there.

Barren-ground grizzly bears have been expanding their range across the Arctic in recent decades. In Wapusk, they’ve been increasingly frequent since the 1990s, and have even shown up in the nearby town of Churchill.

Ecosystem convergence


There’s much our observations don’t tell us, but they are significant for conservation efforts and, more fundamentally, for understanding what to do with these new ecological insights.

Three dynamic ecosystems — forest, tundra and ocean — converge at Wapusk, and all are changing quickly as the Arctic warms.

What we’ve seen in Wapusk is consistent with how researchers expect northern carnivore populations to respond to climate change. The waking life of all bear species is governed by their need to accumulate fat stores for the next hibernation, so this overlap is most likely a response to changes in the availability of bear foods. Which foods, however, we don’t yet know.




polar bears Wapusk National Park

Three polar bears walk past a camera trap in Wapusk National Park.
(Douglas Clark), CC BY-ND



We also don’t know how these species interact with each other, but we predict that grizzlies will benefit most since they dominate both other species elsewhere.

Grizzly bears have displaced and eaten black bears and polar bears in other places, and polar-grizzly hybrids have been documented in the Northwest Territories. It’s clear that the potential for hybridization exists in western Hudson Bay too.

Polar bears and grizzly bears face conservation challenges in many parts of Canada. Learning more about they way they interact with each other — and their surroundings — would probably tell us more about why they are now inhabiting the same place.

Controversial change


But how might we use this information?

When environmental changes occur in national parks, they often become controversial. People often assume the conditions present when the park was established, or the status quo, are “baselines” that must be protected, even though they may just be snapshots in ecological time.

Change has become increasingly central in ecological theory, and its implications have produced heated debate within the conservation community.




Black bears boreal forest Wapusk National Park.

Black bears are well established in the boreal forest of Wapusk National Park.
(Douglas Clark), CC BY-ND



This matters for the grizzly because its expansion into the Arctic has been portrayed as a threat to polar bears. Some argue such a threat should be removed.

In 1998, when I worked in Wapusk, I was told by a manager to get rid of the first grizzly we saw. (I didn’t.)

Such actions might not be wise since the long and complex evolutionary relationship between grizzlies and polar bears suggests their populations have, at times, benefited from the other.

Instead of looking at this new range overlap as a risk to any of the bears, my colleagues and I think it should be viewed as an ecological response to environmental change that needs to be better understood.

What’s at stake?


While locals may not be surprised by this scientific observation of the three bears, it is a novel situation that we can learn from — and one that matters beyond northern Manitoba.

Climate change will continue to move species around and create new combinations of them. It’s no easy task for wildlife or park managers to determine which environmental changes are desirable and which aren’t.

Wapusk, however, is a co-managed park that aims to integrate scientific and traditional knowledge with human values. It is equipped for addressing these hard questions. And the question of how to navigate increasing environmental variability more effectively — while recognizing the stakes local people have in these conservation decisions — is the biggest challenge environmental managers face today.

This particular story of the three bears isn’t over, and we don’t know how it will end. Consequently, we need to bring a heavy dose of humility to answering the scientific and societal questions the three bears have handed us.The Conversation

Douglas Clark, Centennial Chair in Human Dimensions of Environment & Sustainability, University of Saskatchewan

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Guest Post: Why adult video stars rely on camming

Sophie Pezzutto, Australian National University

With pirated and amateur pornography widely available online, porn no longer provides a steady income for many working in the adult industry. During my research interviewing transgender porn stars in Las Vegas, the overwhelming majority of those interviewed said that now, more than ever, they rely on a variety of other income streams beyond the traditional porno shoot with a studio.

Being a porn star today typically involves a range of sex work, from selling self-produced clips, to offering phone sex services, being an escort, taking care of “sugar daddies” (i.e. rich, usually older men), or “camming” on the internet. Previously regarded as not worth the time for many porn stars, using a webcam from the comfort of one’s home to broadcast oneself masturbating or having sex has emerged as a popular choice.

Indeed, while just 15 years ago, pre-recorded porn such as DVDs, pay sites, and clips generated twice as much revenue worldwide as camming, today that ratio has been reversed. In 2018, the camming industry is estimated to generate US$2 billion in annual revenue worldwide, according to Stephen Yagielowicz, a spokesperson for XBIZ, the adult industry’s leading business publication.

The daily life of a cam performer


porn star coming out “Camming” can be likened to an online strip show where the cam performer uses the webcam on their computer to put on a show for anyone in their chat room. The performer usually sets tipping goals and the more people tip by pledging tokens, the more happens on screen.

Typically, it involves numerous sex toys and ultimately orgasm, but many of the shows get very creative. They can feature anything from fortune wheels and costumes, to “couple shows” with partners and guest appearances from other cam performers.

During the show, viewers get to chat with the cam performer, often requesting sexual acts and sometimes simply asking them questions about their life. There are no fixed rules on length and format of a cam show, but it usually takes anywhere from one to four hours. Many of my informants in Las Vegas cam anywhere between two to six hours a day, multiple times a week.

Cam performers usually run sessions in intervals, timing them to coincide with office hours in big cities on the east coast such as New York and Chicago: one cam show in the morning just before offices open, one during lunch break, and one just before people head home to their families.

While not all cam models shoot studio porn, many porn performers are increasingly camming. Established trans porn stars can make anywhere around US $100 - $200 an hour through camming: “As porn performers we are able to leverage our already existing fan base”, one of my main informants explained to me. For last year’s Christmas special her chat room peaked at 30,000 viewers – the average size of a Mets baseball game.

The changing structure of porn


Porn performers in the industry are generally contracted and paid on a shoot by shoot basis. Trans women in porn generally make anywhere between US$800-1,200 for a sex scene that involves penetration (which is slightly higher than the average cisgender performer, but lower than the highest paid cisgender stars). The number of shoots however, fluctuate a lot. A performer can get booked up to six times a month (in some instances even more), but other months they might not get booked at all.




Read more:
Explainer: what does it mean to be 'cisgender'?






“After they’ve shot you a bunch of times, there usually is a month or two where you don’t get any shoots”, one research participant told me. As a consequence, performers may go several months without a single shoot, which makes budgeting extremely difficult.

In addition to this income insecurity, there are numerous expenses not covered by the companies hiring the performers, such as wardrobe, STI testing, transportation, and accommodation costs. “Factoring in all my expenses and the money I lose from not camming, porn does not really make me money”, said one of my informants. “I see porn mainly as a marketing tool for myself.”

Camming is booming and here to stay


Camming has proven itself more resilient to piracy than studio pornography primarily due to the personal nature of cam shows. “For many viewers it is a unique opportunity to interact with their favourite porn star on a regular basis,” one participant remarked. “That’s something they don’t get from regular porn”.

As a consequence the camming industry has boomed and income from it can make up most of even a well-known porn star’s earnings. Work is not only more consistent, but also much safer: “If I focus on making my money with solo shows then I don’t even have to worry anymore about HIV scares in the industry,” one of my participants pointed out after a recent incident.

At the same time however, camming can be very tough work. One informant told me: “some days I end up crying because people either don’t tip you for hours at a time or tip you just to say nasty things”. Further, cam companies, which host web cam performers, take incredibly high commissions of anywhere between 50 – 70% on every dollar earned by the cam performer.

These draw-backs notwithstanding, camming is set to grow with more and more porn stars relying on it to provide a regular income. Given the various risks of much other sex work, this might not necessarily be a bad thing.The Conversation

Sophie Pezzutto, PhD Candidate in Anthropology, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

From the Archives: Virginia politicians rush to remember Nelson Mandela, pay tribute on Twitter

Virginia politicians rush to remember Nelson Mandela, pay tribute on Twitter
December 5, 2013 6:05 PM MST

Nelson Mandela ANCNobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela, the first non-Afrikaner president of the Republic of South Africa, died on December 5 at the age of 95.

Within hours of the announcement of Mandela's death, Virginia politicians issued statements of remembrance and appreciation.

In a press release, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell called Mandela “one of the true giants of history.”

McDonnell went on to say that the man known by his Xhosa clan name, Madiba, “lived a life that broke down barriers, tore down walls, and lifted up a nation, a people, and a world. All Virginians can learn from his example, and I encourage the citizens of this state, especially our young people” to study his life.

Mandela, the Virginia governor added, showed “us the incredible good one person can do; he has demonstrated the unique, positive power each life contains... This is a better world for the long and uplifting life of Nelson Mandela.”

Facebook and Twitter

Former Governor Jim Gilmore posted on his Facebook page that his “heart is filled with grief after hearing the news that one of the most celebrated leaders of our time, President Nelson Mandela of South Africa, has died. My heart goes out to the nation he helped transform, to all of those who lives he touched and the generation of activists he inspired.”

Former Richmond Mayor L. Douglas Wilder, who was the first African-American governor elected in any state since reconstruction, paid tribute by retweeting a video of Mandela's speech to a joint session of the U.S. Congress.

Other Virginia political leaders also took to Twitter to pay their respects.

Senator Mark Warner said “Few people in history have represented such a positive, lifelong force for change.” His colleague, Senator Tim Kaine, added that the “world has lost a great leader & advocate for equality [with the] loss of Pres. Mandela & I join millions across the globe in mourning his passing.”

'Inspirational'

Congressman Rob Wittman (R-VA1) tweeted that “Nelson Mandela brought together a nation divided. He was an inspirational & uniting leader during time of challenge and disunity in [South] Africa,” adding that “today we remember his efforts in bringing a country together.”


Virginia politicians remember Nelson Mandela
Representative Scott Rigell (R-VA2) offered his “prayers for the Mandela family and those mourning in South Africa,” a thought echoed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA6), who said he was “saddened to hear of the passing of Nelson Mandela. Prayers with his family and the people of South Africa.”

So far alone among Virginia Members of Congress to do so, Representative Morgan Griffith (R-VA9) issued a press release that said, in part, that “the world has lost one of its great leaders. Nelson Mandela was a leader of courage who led South Africa after apartheid. While he could have done like so many other leaders in emerging nations have done and created a country where he became a president or ruler for life, he did not turn his back on the principles of representative government. Nelson Mandela’s journey is over on this earth, but his ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ will never be forgotten.” (“Long Walk to Freedom” is a reference to Mandela's best-selling autobiography.)

'Transformative'

Eighth District Representative Jim Moran (D) said that the “world lost a great man today in Nelson Mandela. What an incredible life filled with courage and hope,” while his Eleventh District colleague, fellow Democrat Gerry Connolly, tweeted that “Nelson Mandela's passing reminds us that one transformative individual can make a profound and positive difference in this troubled world.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA7) praised Mandela for his “lifelong commitment to justice and human rights,” adding that “his legacy should serve as an example for all of us.”

The dean of Virginia's congressional delegation, Frank Wolf (R-VA10), wrote that “Nelson Mandela’s unyielding fight against apartheid was heroic and evidence of an unyielding belief in the basic dignity of every person.”


Publisher's note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com on December 5, 2013. The Examiner.com publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to Examiner.com since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

Guest Post: How Hanukkah came to America


Dianne Ashton, Rowan University

Hanukkah may be the best known Jewish holiday in the United States. But despite its popularity in the U.S., Hanukkah is ranked one of Judaism’s minor festivals, and nowhere else does it garner such attention. The holiday is mostly a domestic celebration, although special holiday prayers also expand synagogue worship.

So how did Hanukkah attain its special place in America?

Hanukkah’s back story


The word “Hanukkah” means dedication. It commemorates the rededicating of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem in 165 B.C. when Jews – led by a band of brothers called the Maccabees – tossed out statues of Hellenic gods that had been placed there by King Antiochus IV when he conquered Judea. Antiochus aimed to plant Hellenic culture throughout his kingdom, and that included worshipping its gods.

Legend has it that during the dedication, as people prepared to light the Temple’s large oil lamps to signify the presence of God, only a tiny bit of holy oil could be found. Yet, that little bit of oil remained alight for eight days until more could be prepared. Thus, each Hanukkah evening, for eight nights, Jews light a candle, adding an additional one as the holiday progresses throughout the festival.

Hanukkah’s American story


Dianne Ashton Hanukkah in America Chanukah historyToday, America is home to almost 7 million Jews. But Jews did not always find it easy to be Jewish in America. Until the late 19th century, America’s Jewish population was very small and grew to only as many as 250,000 in 1880. The basic goods of Jewish religious life – such as kosher meat and candles, Torah scrolls, and Jewish calendars – were often hard to find.

In those early days, major Jewish religious events took special planning and effort, and minor festivals like Hanukkah often slipped by unnoticed.

My own study of American Jewish history has recently focused on Hanukkah’s development.

It began with a simple holiday hymn written in 1840 by Penina Moise, a Jewish Sunday school teacher in Charleston, South Carolina. Her evangelical Christian neighbors worked hard to bring the local Jews into the Christian fold. They urged Jews to agree that only by becoming Christian could they attain God’s love and ultimately reach Heaven.

Moise, a famed poet, saw the holiday celebrating dedication to Judaism as an occasion to inspire Jewish dedication despite Christian challenges. Her congregation, Beth Elohim, publicized the hymn by including it in their hymnbook.

This English language hymn expressed a feeling common to many American Jews living as a tiny minority. “Great Arbiter of human fate whose glory ne'er decays,” Moise began the hymn, “To Thee alone we dedicate the song and soul of praise.”

It became a favorite among American Jews and could be heard in congregations around the country for another century.

Shortly after the Civil War, Cincinnati Rabbi Max Lilienthal learned about special Christmas events for children held in some local churches. To adapt them for children in his own congregation, he created a Hanukkah assembly where the holiday’s story was told, blessings and hymns were sung, candles were lighted and sweets were distributed to the children.

His friend, Rabbi Isaac M. Wise, created a similar event for his own congregation. Wise and Lilienthal edited national Jewish magazines where they publicized these innovative Hanukkah assemblies, encouraging other congregations to establish their own.

Lilienthal and Wise also aimed to reform Judaism, streamlining it and emphasizing the rabbi’s role as teacher. Because they felt their changes would help Judaism survive in the modern age, they called themselves “Modern Maccabees.” Through their efforts, special Hanukkah events for children became standard in American synagogues.

20th-century expansion


By 1900, industrial America produced the abundance of goods exchanged each Dec. 25. Christmas’ domestic celebrations and gifts to children provided a shared religious experience to American Christians otherwise separated by denominational divisions. As a home celebration, it sidestepped the theological and institutional loyalties voiced in churches.

For the 2.3 million Jewish immigrants who entered the U.S. between 1881 and 1924, providing their children with gifts in December proved they were becoming American and obtaining a better life.

But by giving those gifts at Hanukkah, instead of adopting Christmas, they also expressed their own ideals of American religious freedom, as well as their own dedication to Judaism.

After World War II, many Jews relocated from urban centers. Suburban Jewish children often comprised small minorities in public schools and found themselves coerced to participate in Christmas assemblies. Teachers, administrators and peers often pressured them to sing Christian hymns and assert statements of Christian faith.

From the 1950s through the 1980s, as Jewish parents argued for their children’s right to freedom from religious coercion, they also embellished Hanukkah. Suburban synagogues expanded their Hanukkah programming.

As I detail in my book, Jewish families embellished domestic Hanukkah celebrations with decorations, nightly gifts and holiday parties to enhance Hanukkah’s impact. In suburbia, Hanukkah’s theme of dedication to Judaism shone with special meaning. Rabbinical associations, national Jewish clubs and advertisers of Hanukkah goods carried the ideas for expanded Hanukkah festivities nationwide.

In the 21st century, Hanukkah accomplishes many tasks. Amid Christmas, it reminds Jews of Jewish dedication. Its domestic celebration enhances Jewish family life. In its similarity to Christmas domestic gift-giving, Hanukkah makes Judaism attractive to children and – according to my college students – relatable to Jews’ Christian neighbors. In many interfaith families, this shared festivity furthers domestic tranquility.

In America, this minor festival has attained major significance.The Conversation

Dianne Ashton, Professor of Religion, Rowan University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

From the Archives: Arlington schools need history bridge (1996)

This article appeared in The Washington Times on December 4, 1996, under the headline "Arlington schools need history bridge." At the time, I was serving on the Social Studies Advisory Committee for the Arlington County Public Schools. The committee monitored and made recommendations about the teaching of history, government, economics, sociology, and other social sciences in elementary, middle, and high schools.


- - - - - - - - - - - -

In his 1978 essay, "Teaching History Backwards," Ernest Lefever noted that "most high school seniors probably know more about ancient Greece and Rome and the voyages of Columbus than about the recent events that have shaped the outlook of their parents."

Mr. Lefever went on to say that learning history "is vital for any people. It is especially so for the United States, which is a democracy, a superpower, and the leader of the free world. The exercise of U.S. power and influence or the failure to exercise it has global reverberations. A responsible American citizen must understand this and must also be aware of the external dangers that threaten our freedom or that of our allies."

Richard Sincere Ernest Lefever Teaching History Backwards
Rick Sincere and Ernest Lefever
The global scene has changed tremendously in the past 20 years - symbolized vividly by the fall of the Berlin Wall - but this perspective is still valid today.

To address the problem of how the recent past affects our present more saliently than the distant past, even while schools often fail to teach about recent events, Mr. Lefever suggested "teaching history backwards," starting with the past 30 years, then moving on to more distant developments that have affected the United States and world affairs.

For the past several years, the Social Studies Advisory Committee has recommended that the Arlington Public Schools add a fourth year of social studies to the required high school curriculum.

Specifically, we have recommended that a second year of world history be offered in grade 10, largely to compensate for the phenomenon that many of us have experienced - one year of world history is simply too short to cover all of the developments in the 20th century. We commonly experience this as "not getting past World War II" in a typical history course.

Arlington schools now face an additional problem: The new state Standards of Learning require an assessment at grade 11, which may become a barrier to graduation, just like the "literacy passport." We felt that something should be done to prepare our students for that test in a way that also would fulfill our long-held desire for a fourth required course in social studies.

In response, the curriculum development staff has recommended a new 10th-grade course called "The World Since `The War to End All Wars.'" This staff proposal, which has been forwarded to the School Board for final approval by Superintendent Arthur Gosling, meets the criteria set by the Social Studies Advisory Committee. The course is precisely what our committee members had in mind when we made our repeated recommendations for a fourth year of social studies. As envisioned, it combines history, geography and political science and brings students up to date in regard to the important events and trends of our own era.

A course like this builds a conceptual bridge to the 21st century and helps students find a common language to communicate with their parents and grandparents, who lived through these events and trends.

Some parents and students object to this change in the curriculum - which would begin in the 1998-1999 school year - because it reduces elective opportunities for students, particularly art or music courses. True, the number of electives available during 10th grade would fall from three to two, but the negative impact - if there is any at all - would fall on students taking social studies electives, primarily psychology (359 students), sociology (173), advanced placement European history (143) and economics (25). Out of 1,100 10th-grade students, only a few dozen - if any at all - would have to forgo art or music classes.

One reason the School Board is considering this curriculum change now is precisely to give fair warning to parents and middle school students that in two years they will have to meet this new requirement, and that they should plot out their course of electives with this in mind. Those desiring to take art, music or advanced placement European history can plan on taking them in later grades, or can use one of the other two 10th-grade elective slots for these courses.

If the Virginia Board of Education makes the 11th-grade social studies assessment a barrier to graduation, but the School Board fails to make this curriculum change, we could face major problems down the road. Should any Arlington students fail the test because no preparation was available in 10th grade, our whole school system will be poorer for it.

In designing this new course and considering all other options, the staff aimed for minimal disruption to the current curriculum, as well as the lowest cost to taxpayers.

The new 20th century history course is being added to the high school program of studies with almost surgical precision, designed to meet both state-mandated requirements and the desire of Arlingtonians to prepare our students from the classes of 2001 and beyond to be better, more informed citizens.

* The writer is co-chairman of the Social Studies Advisory Committee for Arlington Public Schools.