In Other News

Death, as usual, abounds in the news, and, what’s more, it never seems wanting for unusual ways to strike at us. Consider the unfortunate death of the one week old panda cub at the National Zoo today:

“Panda keepers and volunteers heard a distress vocalization from the mother, Mei Xiang, at 9:17 a.m. and notified the veterinarian staff immediately,” the statement read, in part. “The panda cam was turned off and the staff were able to safely retrieve the cub for an evaluation at 10:22 a.m. Veterinarians immediately performed CPR and other life-saving measures but the cub did not respond.”

Dennis Kelly [elaborated,] “[Mei Xiang] got up and moved from where she was holding the cub and made a honk. The keepers and scientists tell me that a honk was an unusual sign to make, and we surmised that it was a distress call.”

“It was just beautiful,” said the zoo’s chief veterinarian, Suzan Murray. “Beautiful little body, beautiful little face, the markings were beginning to show around the eyes. [The cub] could not have been more beautiful.”

The zoo believes that it may have a cause of death pinpointed by Monday. On Tuesday, Cleve Foster is scheduled to die. For the third time.

[T]wice over the past year and a half, Foster has come within moments of being [executed by the state of Texas], only to be told the U.S. Supreme Court had halted his scheduled punishment.

On Tuesday, Foster, 48, is scheduled for yet another trip to the death house…

Pal’s relatives haven’t spoken publicly about their experiences of going to the prison to watch Foster die, only to be told the punishment has been delayed. An uncle previously on the witness list didn’t return a phone call Friday from The Associated Press. Foster, however, shared his thoughts of going through the mechanics of facing execution in Texas — and living to talk about it.

The process shifts into high gear at noon on the scheduled execution day when a four-hour-long visit with friends or relatives ends at the Polunsky Unit outside Livingston.

“That last visit, that’s the only thing that bothers me,” he said.

Giving death row inmates four hours in which to say goodbye to their loved ones face to face is an inadequate but humane gesture in an otherwise inhumane process. Making them relive that trauma for the third times very nearly approaches what should be universally recognized as torture. Cruel and unusual though it is to be brought repeatedly to the brink and then snatched back, all totally against one’s will, it is hardly the only form of cruelty humanity has devised and mastered.

Poachers are escalating their assault on Africa’s elephants and rhinos, and conservationists warn that the animals cannot survive Asia’s high-dollar demand for ivory tusks and rhino horn powder. Some wildlife agents, customs officials and government leaders are being paid off by what is viewed as a well-organized mafia moving animal parts from Africa to Asia, charge the conservationists.

Seeing a dire situation grow worse, the animal conservation group WWF is enlisting religious leaders to take up the cause in the hopes that religion can help save some of the world’s most majestic animals.

…The poaching numbers are grim. The number of rhinos killed by poachers in South Africa has risen from 13 in 2007 to 448 last year, WWF says. Last year saw more large-scale ivory seizures than any year in the last two decades, it said. Tens of thousands of elephants are being killed by poachers each year.

There is nothing quite like slaughter for profit to get humanity back in touch with its roots. Thankfully, conservationists are trying “new strategies.” Long recognizing that poaching is a moral problem, apparently the WWF is only just realizing that religious leaders should be part of the solution. “Faith leaders are the heart and backbone of local communities. They guide and direct the way we think, behave and live our lives,” Dekila Chungyalpa, the director of WWF’s Sacred Earth program, said, adding later: “I think this is the missing piece in conservation strategies. … WWF can yell us much as we want and no one will listen to us, but a religious leader can say ‘This is not a part of our values. This is immoral.'”

As far as death goes, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

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