Tag Archives: TV

The late great Sam Simon

By Ingrid Newkirk

There’s a black ribbon hanging outside PETA’s Sam Simon Center in Norfolk, Virginia, this week, and a group of sad people inside it. The building’s namesake—TV producer, writer and director Sam Simon—beat the odds: He lived two whole years past the few months his doctor gave him when he was first diagnosed with terminal colon cancer in 2012. He spent those years living life to the fullest—and helping animals live life to the fullest, too.

Shortly after being diagnosed, Sam asked me to come to the hospital to help him draw up a “bucket list” of ways in which he could help animals.

I had first met Sam back in 2002 when he donated his fee for directing an episode of The Drew Carey Show to PETA because the plot involved greyhound racing and he felt that he could not in good conscience keep the money. He was funny and kind and didn’t mince words if he thought children or animals were being abused.

Sam’s first order of business was to work with PETA to close two dismal, dungeon-like concrete bear pits in North Carolina and Georgia and send the bears to a sanctuary. Despite being gravely ill, he personally traveled to the sanctuary to let the bears out of their transport cages and watched them gallop through the grass for the first time in years with a wide little-boy grin on his face. “I just wanted to have some days where I get to see animals walk in grass for the first time,” he said. “Through PETA, we rescue animals in roadside zoos and circuses. They are some of the most abused animals in the country.”

But Sam was just getting started. During the next two years, which he called the happiest of his life, he helped PETA rescue hundreds of animals, including two chimpanzees who had been held in solitary confinement in cramped, barren cages at (separate) roadside zoos. Sam paid to send them to a spacious tropical sanctuary, where they can now interact with others of their own kind for the first time in decades, climb on “jungle gyms,” lounge under palm trees and do other things that chimpanzees love to do.

He paid to transport Sunder—an elephant who had been chained by all four legs at a temple in India for seven years—to a 122-acre sanctuary, and he paid to build a new fence around it so that Sunder and the other elephants could roam freely 24 hours a day. He purchased an injured racehorse, saving him from a catastrophic breakdown. He bought more than 400 chinchillas from a California breeder, saving them from electrocution and shutting the fur farm down. As he walked through the facility’s cramped rows of cages, Sam whispered to the chinchillas, “This is your last day of abuse. This is your first day of freedom.”

An outspoken opponent of the cruelty that occurs in circuses and marine parks, Sam lived to see the tide of public opinion turn against SeaWorld after the release of the riveting documentary Blackfish. And the last piece of good news he received was that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which he had protested in person, had vowed to take performing elephants off the road by 2018.

A longtime vegan, he set up his own charity, The Sam Simon Foundation, to provide homeless people with vegan meals as well as to sponsor spay and neuter surgeries in low-income areas of Los Angeles. The foundation also rescues dogs from shelters and trains them to assist deaf people and war veterans who suffer from physical and mental trauma.

Funny to the last, Sam was a fabulous friend to all living beings, from children in Nepal to veterans in America to animals the world over. May he rest in peace.

Ingrid Newkirk is the president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

Comcast is coming to Worcester! And it’s all about $$$$$$$$$

By Edith Morgan

There has been a lot of talk about the upcoming merger between Charter and Comcast, and the general feeling is that it is a “done deal.”

How is it that we the viewing public have been sold , apparently without previous input, to what several Worcester city councilors at the October 14th city council meeting described as “the worst company in the U.S.”?  And in a couple of months, the local and public access stations will be moved to the back of the bus – the educational channel (now #11) will become 191; the government channel, where we watch council and school committee and subcommittee meetings, and receive news about things of interest to residents in Worcester (now #12), will become #192 …

Our public access channel, WCCA TV 13, now # 13, will become #194.

Why??? you ask.

Because the lower numbers will become lucrative commercial channels, selling things.

Because, of course, it is all about the bottom line. And service to the public is not what this is all about.  (Disclosure: I am especially concerned, as I host a TV program called “SeniorSpeak” on the present WCCA TV 13.)

How did we get to this point?

When I came to America in 1941, the airwaves belonged to the public.

The communications act of 1934  was quite clear about how our air was to be used: stations had to be licensed, and had to renew their licenses every three years, and they were required to offer proof (testimony, letters, etc..) that they were serving the public interest. There were lots of stations, offering a variety of programs, serving varied populations all over the U.S.

But a set of trends was slowly let loose, which increasingly took away what used to be services for us, the people, and put them into the hands of the “bottom-line crowd”. Service became an incidental sideline, and all that mattered was the bottom line – enriching the investors and providing just enough to keep the company alive and growing. And so, much of what I remember as “services” became “businesses”. Banks, health care, schools, postal service – local newspapers, your corner drugstore, your grocery, your butcher, your hardware dealer –  all were our friends and neighbors, and were not totally consumed by the pursuit of the almighty dollar.  Of course, the monopolists were busy trying to consolidate, eliminate the competition, drive down wages and benefits, but antitrust laws were in effect and by and large were not allowed to grow “too big to fail.” (Where is Teddy Roosevelt when we need him?)

I was really proud of our City Council on Tuesday, October 14th: even though it was already pretty much out of their power, they discussed the ramifications of this merger, the track record of Comcast, and the whole history of our service here, and voted to oppose this merger. They took a moral stand on behalf of us, the public, whom they are pledged to serve.

Comcast has deep pockets, and has spread money around in Washington, but for some strange reason I am beginning to feel hopeful that from moves like this will grow a groundswell of opposition to these takeovers. Now, let’s really get on the media and force the FCC , FTC and Justice Department to do their jobs on our behalf.

Worcester has a long history of revolting – and starting something …

No double standard for captive endangered animals

By Julia Gallucci

Those concerned about the present and future conditions of chimpanzees—humankind’s closest genetic relative—have been given reason to feel optimistic: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) recently proposed a rule that would, if adopted, finally close a loophole in the Endangered Species Act (ESA) regulations that has allowed these intelligent and social primates to be bought, sold and traded, then harmed, harassed and wounded in captivity.

An immediate benefit of the rule change, if the ESA is properly enforced, would be that chimpanzees could no longer be torn away from their mothers as babies, physically abused and forced to “perform” in television shows, ads and movies.

On the same day that the FWS announced its proposal (and following a vigorous PETA campaign), authorities in Nye County, Nev., voted unanimously to deny notorious exhibitor Mike Casey a permit to keep four chimpanzees in their county when he is not renting them out for use in TV, films, ads and events. Casey has reportedly kicked and punched chimpanzees, struck them with wooden rods and doused them with hot water.

Undercover investigations have documented that the physical abuse of chimpanzee “actors” is a common practice behind the scenes. Systematic abuse causes animals to become perpetually anxious; indeed, the chimpanzee “grin” so often seen in movies and on television is actually a grimace of fear.

With equitable and meaningful ESA enforcement, chimpanzees would also be spared the pain and misery of being imprisoned in laboratories to endure invasive experiments that offer no benefit to their species—or to our own. As the Institute of Medicine (IOM) declared in 2011, “[M]ost current biomedical research use of chimpanzees is not necessary.”

Following the landmark IOM report, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) formed a committee to reassess its support for the use of chimpanzees in experiments. In addition to echoing the findings of the IOM regarding current experiments, it concluded overall that “research involving chimpanzees has rarely accelerated new discoveries or the advancement of human health for infectious diseases.” Last month, the NIH announced that it will cut funding for most invasive biomedical experiments on chimpanzees and grant sanctuary to at least 310 of the 360 federally owned chimpanzees currently imprisoned in laboratories.

In recent experiments funded and conducted by the NIH, chimpanzees were intentionally infected with malaria and fed upon by thousands of mosquitoes placed on their shaved skin. Baby chimpanzees were exposed to norovirus by injection or by forcing liquid filtered from human stool down their throats and then subjected to months of painful biopsies and other invasive procedures. Norovirus and malaria are two of the many disease areas in which the IOM and NIH have determined that the use of chimpanzees is unnecessary, but the experiments continued simply because they had easy access to them. That’s now going to change.

If the FWS rule is implemented and properly enforced, it would also offer vital leverage to efforts already underway to defend other endangered animals against harm and exploitation. It could herald an end to similarly unjustified exemptions from legal protections for other endangered animals held in captivity, including the improper exclusion of Lolita, the sole captive orca at the Miami Seaquarium, from the ESA listing of Southern Resident orcas. The FWS proposal reinforces the petition submitted by PETA, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Orca Network to the National Marine Fisheries Service calling for Lolita to receive the same protections as the Southern Resident orca family that she was torn from more than 40 years ago. The unjust exclusion from the safeguards against harm and harassment afforded by the ESA has allowed the Miami Seaquarium to hold Lolita in the smallest orca tank in North America.

The ESA must protect all endangered animals equally—whether they are in captivity or their natural environments—and thankfully, the FWS is finally recognizing this.

Parents: ways you can help your child flourish in school

By Worcester School Committee member John Monfredo

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.” – Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Study after study shows that parental involvement is the key to how well all children, regardless of their financial background, succeed in all areas of life, especially school. But it takes work on many fronts: physical, emotional, social and more. Let’s start off with some high-quality health ideas:

• Get in good shape: It’s no secret that we are an overweight society and obesity is a problem. Encourage your child to exercise for about 30 to 60 minutes each day. These activities can be as simple as taking walks to putting on some music and having your children dance.
• Make Healthy Choices: As parents you control the environment at home so start by insisting that the family eat together at least four times a week or more. Eating together leads to good conversation and makes family togetherness a part of the daily routine. Continue reading Parents: ways you can help your child flourish in school

Obesity: a problem for Worcester’s kids – and the entire nation

By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee member

Schools must work on having a balance between wellness and academics as we address the needs of our children. With so much emphasis on MCAS scores, wellness has taken a back seat to achievement. The question is: why can’t we do both – academics and wellness? “If our children aren’t healthy, their learning suffers, and research shows that children who eat high sugar, high fat meals may have poorer cognitive skills, higher anxiety levels, and problems with hyperactivity,” stated Jerry Newberry in an article in the NEA magazine.

Let’s look at a health issue that is affecting our children – obesity. For more than four decades, obesity rates in the United States have more than quadrupled among children ages 6 to 11 years, more than tripled among adolescents ages 12 to 19 years and more than doubled among children ages 2 to 5 years, according to the Committee on Prevention of Obesity in Children and Youth. Today, almost one third of the children in this country are either overweight or obese. The percentage of young people who are overweight has tripled over the last 25 years. Preventing obesity during childhood is critical because habits formed during childhood and adolescence frequently persist into adulthood.

Are you concerned yet? Continue reading Obesity: a problem for Worcester’s kids – and the entire nation