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22 March 2017

Camp BKB: An Earth Day Festival

A festival to save the world...
Brooklyn Boulders, an indoor rock-climbing and mixed-use lifestyle facility is hosting a 3-day festival at facilities in Chicago, NYC, and Boston in celebration of Earth Day, from Friday April 21 through Sunday April 23.  Clif Bar & Company and High Brew Coffee will be our national presenting sponsors presenting their green philosophies and sustainable practices at all four BKB locations.
Camp BKB will be an interactive, experiential and educational event and will feature live performances by Small Black, Tanlines (DJ Set), Santah, and Bearstronaut; green workshops and demos focusing on sustainability, eco-fashion, and zero-waste from partners Clif Bar, High Brew, Boxed Water, and Lush Cosmetics, vegetarian dinners and happy hour sponsored by Sierra Nevada, family and youth workshops in activism and more.
VIP ticket-holders will experience an overnight sleepover with campfire stories, s'mores from Whole Foods, a quiet meditative climb in the morning, and a Bluegrass Brunch the next morning.  Other activities include presentations by March for Science, sign-making events for the march, and sign re-purposing workshops post-march. 10% of all ticket sales are going directly to The National Parks Foundation.
Presenting sponsors Clif Bar and High Brew will present their green and environmental philosophies and practices through our Climb for Sustainability (Clif) and For Those Who Do Good Clean Up Park Activation (High Brew). The Clif Bar Climb for Sustainability initiative will plant trees to American Forests for each climber that gets to the top of their routes.  The "For Those Who Do Good" campaign spotlights the do-gooders, creators, and innovators of the High Brew community.  High Brew is expanding that concept and getting our attendees out in the field cleaning up the following local parks: Thomas Greene Park (Gowanus location), Mary Bartleme Park, and Hunters Point Park. 
National Events Manager Tim Ryan has stated that: "Camp BKB was conceived to connect our community through an indoor camping experience, story-sharing, and sleepover.  As the political climate has been changing, we were compelled to tie the event with a greater cause: to promote the outdoor industry and improve our community's lives outside our walls. At the end of the day - we hope our engaging activities and this experience will be a first step towards saving the world and making it a better place." 

Get Out: Why Racism Really Is Terrifying


Image 20170320 9114 1ghdzf0
© Universal Pictures
By Victoria Anderson, Cardiff University

Warning: this article contains spoilers The Conversation
Get Out is a comedy-inflected horror story about what it means to be black in America. It’s Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, and until now he has been more widely recognised as one half of comedy duo Key and Peele. But as a director, he makes this movie work – even a little too well. In fact, the only thing more scary than the film are some of the reviews.

To summarise: a talented young black photographer called Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) goes on a trip with Rose, his white girlfriend (Allison Williams) to visit her parents. Having already worried that the parents might be racist, Chris is disturbed to find that the seemingly-liberal family has a number of black “servants” who behave like zombies, seemingly controlled and manipulated by an unseen force. He is further unsettled by (mostly white) visitors to the house who make gauche, racially-charged and fetishising comments, crooning over Chris’s “frame and genetic make-up” and announcing “Black is in fashion!

Chris’s fears are realised, and worse. The Armitage family turn out not just to be racist, but to be pathological “negrophiles”. They have developed a horrifying system of abducting, brainwashing and ultimately brain-swapping black people, to use them as pets, sex slaves or repurposed body substitutes.

Rose’s hypnotherapist mother mesmerises Chris to make him believe that he is trapped at the bottom of a deep pit. And while Chris wonders how to escape without appearing rude, Rose’s neurosurgeon father auctions him off – to be stripped of his brain – to a blind art critic who wants nothing less than to “see through [his] eyes”.

Meet the parents. © Universal Pictures

Seasoned horror buffs will know that the standard resolution to a survival-horror film of this type (police turn up at the final hour, villain is dispatched, hero is saved, all’s well that ends well) is not to be anticipated. The “black guy always dies first” has become a self-reflexive horror-movie trope. And if Facebook Live videos have taught us anything, it’s that this uneasily applies to the real world as well.

Then again, we might also recall that other classic horror that happens to feature a black male protagonist. In George Romero’s 1968 film Night of The Living Dead the hero gets all the way to the end of the film, only to be shot dead by the authorities – just in time for the end credits.

The horrors of slavery
Coming in the wake of a slew of slavery-themed dramas such as Roots, Underground and Twelve Years a Slave, Get Out is a transparent nod to the genre. The slavery subtext is hinted at early on when we find that Rose’s liberal, professional mother goes by the name of “Missy”: a common appellation for the Mistress of a slave-holding. Yet the film’s subtle genius lies in its ability to trace almost invisible, yet indelible lines of continuity from the centuries-long slavery period to the present day.

Historically, anti-slavery rhetoric – which traces its own history back to the late 18th century – tended to focus on the inhuman physical conditions of the slave ship, and the moral incongruity of human chattel. There remains a cultural tendency to view the “horrors of slavery” in the same concretely objective terms, but it bears stating that white abolitionists were not necessarily of the opinion that blacks were equal to whites. They saw the practice of slavery as dehumanising and degrading to all those who participated in it. During the 19th century, slavery increasingly became both a liability and an embarrassment to what purported to be civilised societies.

Lobotomised. © Universal Pictures

This residual sense of embarrassment, shame and disavowal arguably persists in Western liberal democracies, where the recollection of slavery and its role in Western history is a source of discomfort. But this easy sense of revulsion doesn’t require one to address slavery’s underlying ideology of racial supremacy, much less the sexual fetishism and sadism that characterised much of its practice, as contemporary accounts will attest. What Peele’s film forces viewers to consider is whether such underlying power relations and warped desires remain wholly intact in our modern society.

What has often been missed in the discourse around slavery, and the persistence of post-slavery power relations, is the strategic and enduring psychology of slavery. It is this elusive quality that Peele’s film manages to capture.

The institution of slavery necessitated not just sailing and ironmongery skills, but a systematic regime – embedded in law, and lasting for centuries – of unrelenting terror, torture and dehumanisation resulting in absolute control over a cowed and docile workforce. Peele’s film parodies this on a micro-level. Rose’s family mentally break their victims using a multi-stage process that begins with hypnosis and ends with lobotomy. It is no accident that both Mr and Mrs Armitage are professional brain specialists.

Check your privilege
But what about those reviews? Variety calls it a “searing political statement” disguised as an “escape-the-crazies survival thriller” – where “the crazies are the liberal white elite, who dangerously overestimate the degree of their own enlightenment”. Since the “crazies” in question are complete psychopaths, I’d argue that they have very little investment in their own “enlightenment” – unless that term was intended as a pun.

Many reviews – this one included – describe Get Out exclusively as a satire on white liberal elitism, one which asks (white) viewers to “check their privilege”. But they are, perhaps, reading it from just such a privileged perspective. In so doing, they unwittingly repeat the dynamics parodied in the film, invalidating the black experience and ignoring the possibility that the film might not be primarily about the experience of whiteness, nor created specifically for the edification of white audiences.
But the Variety review gets worse. Besides a dubious comment about “love [being] color-blind”, the reviewer describes Chris as “a dark-skinned black man” – at which point I started making the same side-eyed facial expression that Chris makes when he first meets the liberally-racist parents. Why the need to doubly-emphasise his “darkness”?

This is a minor point, to be sure – and the comment was no doubt made innocently. But the effectiveness of Peele’s film plays on the very real fear that behind every throwaway racial remark lies something of an entirely more sinister magnitude. This, by the way, is what makes the “n” word so explosive.

That is to say, each of these uncomfortable moments threatens to reveal a deeply-entrenched racial ideology that some would say has both underpinned and facilitated the cultural and economic development of Europe and America during the past 400 years. Success relied not just on forced labour and territorial expansion/exploitation, but on the carefully-wrought ideologies that enabled it: crucially, the ideological conceit and pseudo-science of race and white supremacy. Colonialism, slavery and Nazi Aryanism evolved from the same fundamental set of beliefs.

The terrorism of white supremacy is that it is not only an extremist movement. It is the spectre haunting Get Out, just as it is the spectre that continues to haunt our modern, liberal societies. And in the gaslight of Trump’s America it is, quite literally, terrifying.

About Today's Contributor:
Victoria Anderson, Researcher/Teacher in Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, Cardiff University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. 

16 March 2017

Update On Campaign To Stop Rupert Murdoch Taking Over Sky [Hint: It's Good News!]


Straight from my email inbox: here is the update on the petition organised by the peeps at 38 Degrees I've received today... proving, once again, that online petitions do work.

(For those of you who've missed it, the petition was posted on here, by the way.)

This is great news (but not for Rupert Murdoch, obviously) and definitely worth a read.

Enjoy and stay safe!

Loup Dargent

The Email:

"Dear Loup, 

This is huge. You - along with thousands of other people - have helped throw a major spanner into Rupert Murdoch’s plans to take full control of Sky. Karen Bradley, the Culture Secretary, just announced an investigation into the takeover. [1] 

This means that instead of getting waved through, Murdoch’s plan faces a fresh obstacle. Ofcom, the media watchdog, now has to look into Murdoch’s dodgy media empire. Spoiler alert: Rupert Murdoch probably won't like what they say. [2] 

Here’s how we helped make this happen: 
  • When news broke about his takeover back in December, we sprung into action. Over 319,000 of us signed a petition asking Karen Bradley to refer the deal. [3] We delivered it straight to the government - and it was covered in national newspapers! [4]
  • When we found out Karen Bradley was on BBC Question Time, we all chipped in to drive a huge mobile billboard to the studio, so it was right in front of her as she arrived. 38 Degrees-ers took to Twitter, sending thousands of tweets asking her to refer the deal. [5]
  • Next, we crowdfunded an advert in a national newspaper with the total petition signatures, asking Karen Bradley to stop the deal - even when other papers refused to publish it because it was so controversial. [6]
  • And on the same day, we parked the mobile billboard outside Karen Bradley's office, the Department of Media, Culture and Sport - and delivered hundreds of leaflets to her staff as they arrived for work. [7]

Last time Rupert Murdoch made a bid to take over Sky, it was public opposition to the phone hacking scandal that stopped him. [8] Today's news proves that if enough of us get involved we can stop him again. [9] 

It's not everyday you can say that you've helped stop someone as powerful as Rupert Murdoch. So please take a moment to give yourself a pat on the back. 

Today's news is a huge step towards stopping the takeover. In the next few weeks, we will have more to do. But for now, why not take a minute to watch this video on all we’ve done - then share it with your family and friends? 

Thanks for being involved, 

Maggie, Holly, David, Jo and the 38 Degrees team 

[1] BBC News: Fox takeover bid for Sky to be reviewed Department of Culture, Media and Sport: Statement from Culture Secretary: Sky/21st Century Fox merger: 
[2] The Culture Secretary, Karen Bradley, has asked Ofcom to investigate the Sky deal on two grounds, plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards: Department of Culture, Media and Sport: Statement from Culture Secretary: Sky/21st Century Fox merger 
[3] 38 Degrees petition: Stop Murdoch taking over Sky 
[4] The Guardian: Murdoch Sky bid is ‘serious threat to our democracy’ 
[5] 38 Degrees blog: Tweet Karen Bradley!
[6] The advert ran full page in the Daily Mail, on Page 32. The Daily Telegraph refused to run it! 
[7] 38 Degrees blog: Karen Bradley - Stop Murdoch taking over Sky 
[8] 38 Degrees blog: Victory - Murdoch withdraws BSkyB bid 
[9] Together we’ve been working with our friends at Avaaz, the Media Reform Coalition, Hacked Off, and others to stand up against the deal. "

Our Hope Beat Geert Wilders' Hate [Thank You, Netherlands!]


Dear friends, 

One small European country just struck a bright, beautiful blow for hope and unity!

After Brexit and Trump, everyone said the nationalist, racist Prime Minister candidate Wilders would win in the Netherlands. But the Dutch people overwhelmingly rejected his hate AND chose instead a beautiful diversity of environmentalists, progressives and decent democratic leaders.

We can make this the wall that stops the march of the far right. Let's celebrate the Dutch vote from every corner on earth and take the wind out of the sails of Trump-style politicians everywhere!

Add your name to the open thank you letter -- it will be published in newspapers in the Netherlands, the US and across Europe: 


To the people of the Netherlands:

Thank you for choosing hope, unity, and dialogue over hate, fear and old fascist rhetoric. By rejecting Geert Wilders you've helped stop the rise of the far right everywhere, and shown the world that what unites us can overcome the bigotry and lies used to divide us.

We stand with you in fighting extremism, and pledge to do the same in our own countries.

Yours sincerely,

Recent signers -- Add my name


Dutch Avaazers marched and travelled the country to encourage citizens to vote for unity. This victory sends a message of warning to the white nationalists trying to grab power in upcoming elections in France and Germany that when we come together our hope will beat their hate.

With deep thanks for this community, 

Loup Dargent

On behalf of Emma, Mia, Antonia, Christoph, Anneke, Lisa and the whole Avaaz team.

Bonus pic:
Apologies for the mispelling of his name... it was one of "those" days ;-)
Click here to see tweet on Twitter...

8 March 2017

The Love Witch: A Film About The Perversities Of Desire That Will Soon Be A Cult Feminist Classic


Image 20170308 24226 yo1z0v
The Love Witch
By Marion Gibson, University of Exeter

Elaine is a gorgeous witch who has been abandoned by her husband. She tells us that she is looking for new love: she wants a manly man, someone who will be fascinated by her womanly charms (witchy puns intended) but remain the strong, silent type, pay no attention to her needs, and generally treat her as a trophy. A specific and peculiar desire, perhaps, but attainable. This may not sound like the premise for a thought-provoking film about feminism, but Anna Biller’s latest movie, The Love Witch, is just that: and it’s odd, shocking and beautiful to boot.

The Conversation
Elaine (Samantha Robinson) goes out looking for love: seducing a man she meets in the park, ensnaring her neighbour’s husband. But even when she finds what she wants and is appropriately adored, lusted after, and treated as an object, her love affairs tend to end fatally. It quickly becomes clear that “love” is not what she really wants – she seems more interested in power, or exploitation, or revenge. As we follow her on her quest, things get bloody.

Out for love … or revenge? (Icon)

But of course, Elaine is not a realistic character, and The Love Witch isn’t about real men and women. Instead, it’s about the pursuit of fantasy, especially unreasonable fantasies of the perfect man or woman. And it’s also heavily influenced by its director’s interest in the pleasures afforded by genre films: the Hammer horror, the 50s romantic comedy, the hey-nonny-nonny musical, the film noir.

By slowing down the action, quoting from lots of classic movies, and making her actors ham up their roles, Biller pushes us beyond the simple story of a lovelorn witch. The audience is encouraged to laugh at the plot and its stereotypes. What we end up with is a sophisticated reflection on the way old films offer us gendered pleasures, especially those involving the square-jawed cop and the soft-focus pussycat.

Even the critical vocabulary The Love Witch conjures up (as you can see) reeks of the mid-20th century, when men were men and women were women, or pretended to be. At times, you expect Cary Grant or Grace Kelly to walk into the frame, smoking without guilt or ash, grimly flirtatious, a walking stereotype of the debonair playboy or the femme fatale. Why, viewers might ask themselves, do we still enjoy these films? What do we get out of looking at these actually quite harmfully unreal heroes and heroines?

A dream wedding. (Icon)

This makes The Love Witch sound like a joyless argument for censoring cinema. But in fact it’s the reverse. By all means, it suggests, let’s enjoy the ludicrous gender politics of mid-century Hollywood, so long as we know it’s ludicrous. Let’s play at being Doris Day or Victor Mature or Rock Hudson – after all, they were “playing” themselves in every sense of the word. Let’s pretend we’re fairytale princesses, and knights on white chargers. And, of course, witches.

The film goes all out to help us enjoy playing with these ideas. Its colours and textures are delicious, filled with scarlet lipsticks, creamy cakes, pastel veils and blushing roses. Samantha Robinson, as Elaine, goes from one breath-taking outfit to another, moving between 1955 and 1975 with equally gorgeous results. And the sets that surround her are crammed with design classics: cars, lamps, hats, bags, chairs, rugs that you immediately want to buy on eBay.

Out for tea. (Icon)

But there’s also the odd jam jar of urine, and splash of menstrual blood. Although it is broadly a romp, the film tips delicately from romantic comedy to exploitation horror, quoting every witchcraft film and TV show you could name: The Wicker Man, Charmed, Bewitched, Practical Magic, To the Devil a Daughter, Suspiria, Season of the Witch as well as a host of others.

Interest in witchcraft is at an all-time high in popular culture, with Harry Potter on the one hand and American Horror Story: Coven on the other: one a satisfying empowerment fantasy for children and teenagers, the other an adult festival of sex and violence dramatising female power and the strengths and limitations of sisterhood. The Love Witch is closer to the latter.

But because it’s not tied to a week-by-week suspenseful plot or ratings data, The Love Witch can wander off in absurdist or Brechtian directions whenever Biller wants it to. Bertolt Brecht’s drama aimed to show audiences the political facts behind personal stories, drawing attention to capitalist exploitation by breaking down the audience’s ability to invest in the characters he put in front of them. When characters started singing or directly addressing the audience with political statements, viewers couldn’t hide behind enjoyment of the plot or speculation about their fictional motives, but had to confront bigger economic truths.

The Love Witch works in a similar way at times, although its focus is gender, not economics. The result is that viewers who don’t know what to expect might sometimes be taken aback by sections where the acting is deliberately wooden or the plot is put on hold for a sing-song or a lecture on feminism. But if you know something about mid-20th century theatre, you should be greatly entertained.

There are also reflections on witchcraft as a pagan religion in the film, which will interest contemporary witches, and perhaps enrage some modern pagans. Scenes set in a Wiccan coven suggest that far from liberating women, witchcraft as it was imagined in the 1960s and 1970s simply replicated patriarchal exploitation. Elaine strips and submits to sex with the cult leader in a way that looks more like abuse than empowerment. Her witch friends are creepy pseudo-feminists, and she herself a “bad witch”, trailing madness and death in her wake. This depiction is more about paganism in film than in reality.

Modern witchcraft. (Icon)

The Love Witch is a sophisticated collage of filmic history and as part of that it plays with stereotypes of the witch in popular culture. It’s funny and sad, but above all it is a visual delight and it makes you think. If that sounds like your chalice of hellbroth, then The Love Witch is for you. I enjoyed it, and I suspect before long I’ll be discussing it in the classroom as a cult classic.

About Today's Contributor:
Marion Gibson, Professor of Renaissance and Magical Literatures, University of Exeter

This article was originally published on The Conversation. 

Getty Images And Partner To Promote Positive Images Of Modern Muslim Women

Muslim Women via Getty Images
Getty Images, a world leader in visual communications, and, the largest Muslim women's online platform in the United States, today announced an exclusive content partnership that aims to tackle misrepresentation of Muslim women in marketing and advertising. Together, they've created an offering of high quality images that authentically represent Muslim women in a fresh and contemporary light.

The partnership seeks to diversify the depiction of Muslim women online and flood the internet with positive imagery to push back against broad misconceptions of the Islamic community. Joining the Getty Images community as a contributor, aims to provide a collection of images that seeks to take back the narrative and raise the profile of the young modern Muslim woman.

Available for commercial use to encourage a more positive depiction of Muslim women, images feature girls with and without a hijab, are shown doing every day activities, at home, with friends, and in the workplace, and their style and strength is front and center. In each photo, they are portrayed as the protagonist to project and normalize a modern view of Muslim women today.

"Getty Images has a deep belief in the power of visuals to incite change and shift attitudes," said Pam Grossman, Director of Visual Trends at Getty Images.  "Visual literacy is so prolific with today's generation, that photos are now absorbed and processed with unprecedented immediacy. Positive imagery can have an impact on fighting stereotypes, celebrating diversity, and making communities feel empowered and represented in society.  We're so proud to partner with to increase the visibility of these kinds of images in the world."
"One of the ways I open up my talks is by asking the audience to search 'Muslim women' images on their phone browsers, which is always met with their awe at the unsettling results," says Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, founder and editor-in-chief of "I don't want to be able to use that example anymore, and I could not be prouder to partner with Getty Images on finally taking on such an important and influential task."
Pam Grossman adds: "Keyword searches for Muslim have gone up 107% on over the past year, so it's even more important to ensure images like these are surfaced at the top of our results."

>> View the images here <<


3 March 2017

UK: Stop Rupert Murdoch Taking Over Sky! [Petition]

Rupert Murdoch - image via

Fresh from my email's inbox: Rupert Murdoch is at it again!

Read the following email that was sent to me by the peeps at 38 Degrees and, as usual, act accordingly. Thanks in advance.

Stay safe!

Loup Dargent 

The Email:
"Dear Loup,

Urgent: Rupert Murdoch has just submitted his bid for a total takeover of Sky TV. [1] If this deal goes ahead he’ll control what’s beamed into 22 million homes - making him the most powerful media owner in the UK. [2]

We have just 10 days to push the government to block the bid. [3] Karen Bradley, the minister in charge of newspapers and TV, has the final say. She could refer the bid to OfCom - an independent body with the power to stop Murdoch. [4] Or, she could wave it through.

Last time he launched a takeover bid in 2011, public opposition sank Murdoch's chances, thanks to the phone-hacking scandal. [5] Now he’s hoping we’ve forgotten his past dodgy dealings. A huge petition, delivered on Monday before time runs out, will prove that he’s wrong: the public don’t want Murdoch to get more power.

Loup, please add your name now. It only takes a minute:


Murdoch’s power grab will give him even more control of what news we see. One man's personal opinions and politics would skew the news that million of us watch and read. Democracy only works if voters can get at the facts - fake news, biased reporting, and Murdoch's media power grabs all add up to a big threat to democracy.

10 days is all we have to convince Karen Bradley, the media minister, to tell OfCom to investigate. Right now, she'll will be huddling with her advisors, trying to figure out what to do. And you can bet that Murdoch’s lobbyists will be throwing everything they can at influencing her. All of our signatures, added together, are our best bet for outweighing that pressure.

Please add your name to petition now:


Thanks for being involved,

Tom, Amy, Maggie, David and the 38 Degrees team"


25 February 2017

Virtual Reality Calling for Humanity

RCS Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Calling supporting Video, Voice and Chat by Summit Tech (CNW Group/Summit Tech)
Summit Tech  has launched real-time RCS virtual reality and augmented reality calling –  The solution allows wireless carriers to add support for RCS services such as IR.92/94 from within VR/AR environments.
Whereas many VR experiences isolate users from real life, Summit begins by connecting real people through real-time 360° live video streams including support for virtual environments.  Users connect through globally standardized communication services such as RCS and VoLTE ensuring mass reachability by allowing VR users to share their experience with, well, virtually anyone with a smartphone.
Oculus Rift, HTC Vive or Gear VR users connect to live VR streams, then by simply VRcalling their friends on RCS or ViLTE enabled devices, users share their experiences in real-time – no app required. Additionally, while connected to streams, users can publish their social presence allowing for communication between any user connected to the stream. VR calling enables new, high-value experiences such as:
  • Immersive live-streaming entertainment - by connecting to 360° streams from sporting events or music concerts, carriers can put their subscribers in the center of the action, allowing them to look around and experience the location like a physical attendee while sharing the stream with friends through RCS.
  • Immersive meetings/trainingby giving visual context and 360° views of attendees and location, immersive business meetings bridge the divide between flat telepresence sessions and physical attendance.
  • Immersive edutainmentstudents can explore educational locations like museums, galleries and observatories and interact with students in distant locations through overlaid video calling and group chat.

RCS is the next generation communication and conversation platform being deployed by operators with services ranging from enriched calling to chatbots. Not limited to RCS smartphones, users access VR calling through VR headsets or AR glasses for immersive experiences, or tablets and web browsers as easily accessible alternatives.
Alido Di Giovanni, President of Summit commented: "We want to empower operators to rapidly launch VR/AR services and secure new revenue streams. To facilitate carriers in piloting RCS VR, we are also demonstrating a white-label IMS cloud service."
Summit Tech will also demonstrate the innovative IMS-enabled connected car and operator-managed connected living services supporting Cat M1 and NB-IoT.

SOURCE: Summit Tech

24 February 2017

Shocking Footage Reveals Reality Of Cruel Trade In Russian Beluga Whales

Shocking footage reveals reality of cruel trade in Russian beluga whales. (c)International Fund for Animal Welfare

The cruel trade in Russian beluga whales (the white whale), captured in the wild for sale to aquaria and travelling shows, has been condemned by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) as shocking new footage reveals the true depth of the animals' suffering for human entertainment.
The hard-hitting documentary, Born to be Free, follows 18 beluga whales captured from the wild in Russia in 2013 for display at the Georgia Aquarium in the US, who are stuck in tiny holding tanks for years while their ultimate fate is decided. Public outrage led to an import ban, which started long judicial proceedings and left the belugas in limbo. At least one of the whales featured died and the surviving whales were finally sold and transported to aquariums in China.
The film, showcasing the first investigation of its kind in Russia, shines a light on the secret and often murky international trade in marine mammals. Examining all aspects of the supply chain, it gives a revealing and distressing insight into the reality of a life in captivity for the animal victims.
Masha Vorontsova, IFAW Russia Director, said: "Beluga whales are highly intelligent animals with a very complex and social family structure. IFAW believes that belugas and all whale species are not suited to a life in captivity and belong in the wild.

Sadly little thought is given to welfare in this trade driven by profit. A captured beluga, once it has been trained to eat dead fish instead of hunting live prey in the wild, can fetch up to US $1million. When I heard that three daring young Russian women wanted to document this issue I was very pleased that IFAW could help them tell the story and bring it to public attention. Anyone who doubts the suffering of these animals need only watch this film.

IFAW urges the Russian government to ban all future wild capture of belugas and other cetaceans. We also ask members of the public not to support shows involving belugas or whales, which fuel this lucrative and unacceptably cruel trade."
IFAW has worked for more than 20 years to protect Russia's beluga whales from commercial exploitation for the whale meat trade, aquaria and harmful tourism activities. Since 1995, IFAW and researchers from the Shirshov Institute of Oceanology have operated a non-invasive research station monitoring belugas off the coast of the Solovetsky Islands in the White Sea and assessing threats to the species. In 1999, IFAW successfully campaigned for a ban on the commercial hunting of Russian belugas to supply whale meat to Japan.
The film, directed by Gayane Petrosyan, will premier in Russia on February 24 at the ECOCUP Green Documentary Film Festival. It is being distributed by Reflexion Films and Dogwoof International and will be available on Netflix starting March 21

Born to Be Free Movie Trailer:

About IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare):
Founded in 1969, IFAW rescues and protects animals around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats.

Mr. President & The First Lady Are Egg-Specting Two Eaglets!

World-Famous Bald Eagle parents, Mr. President & The First Lady, have welcomed their second egg of 2017 into their Washington DC nest.

On February 19, The First Lady laid her first egg of 2017 LIVE on the DC Eagle Cam ( The world has been watching and waiting to see if she and her faithful eagle companion, Mr. President, would have the chance to raise two eaglets again in 2017, and now that opportunity has arrived.
On February 23 at around 4:26 pm EST, almost 4 days after the first, the mother eagle laid her second egg! (But, don't worry if you've missed it... you can watch the video at the end of this post.)
From this point forward, both parents will take turns diligently and vigilantly incubating and protecting their future-eaglets. Be it rain, hail, snow, thunder, lightning, predators, or even hurricanes, eagle parents are very protective and will weather all types of situations to keep their eggs safe and warm.
The approximate 35-day incubation countdown to hatching has now begun, which means the American Eagle Foundation (AEF), its DC Eagle Cam Project partners, and viewers will be on "hatch-watch" the last week of March.
In 2015, these eagle parents raised one eaglet (deemed DC1) in their nest at the top of this Tulip Poplar Tree in the U.S. National Arboretum. In 2016, they raised two eaglets (which were deemed DC2 & DC3 before the public officially nicknamed them Freedom & Liberty).
"If all goes well, we will be inviting DC4 & DC5 into the world in about 5 weeks! The fact that we only have two years of previous nesting data on these birds, however, still begs to question whether it's possible that The First Lady could lay a third egg this week, especially since their nest is slightly larger this year," says AEF representative Julia Cecere. "All we can do now is watch and wait. We are more than ecstatic about these two eggs...but watching three eaglets raised in one nest would be such a thrill for viewers everywhere."

For all of the DC Eagle Cam fans who have fallen in love with watching this eagle pair, there is now a beautiful hardcover book documenting the pairs' first two nesting seasons in the National Arboretum. The book can be purchased on or by visiting
"Eagles have been the proud and majestic symbol of freedom for the USA for 235 years," says AEF Founder and President Al Cecere. "During our second season online, we hope this American Eagle family reality show will again captivate, inspire, and educate many millions of animal and nature lovers, as well as die-hard patriots and Bald Eagle fans. This is certainly a wonderful experience that all Americans can rally around, embrace and feel united about."

The Video:

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