Dancing Bears

      January 1, 2007, was a dark day for many Gypsy families living in Bulgaria, for that was when their country joined the European Union. The livelihood of these individuals was suddenly threatened because, as a condition of membership, Bulgaria was required to outlaw the keeping of bears in captivity.

     For centuries, young bears were captured by circuses and entrepreneurs from the Roma community, domesticated, and then taught to dance, perform tricks, and even imitate celebrities. While to the uninitiated observer this might seem little different than teaching an elephant to stand on its hind legs, it was undeniably cruel.

The Dancing Bear, by William Frederick Witherington, England, 1822
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The Unexpected

      In the early 1950s, the Karnaphuli pulp and paper mill, one of the earliest large-scale industrial enterprises in the recently established country of Pakistan, commenced operations. For raw material, the plant drew almost exclusively upon the vast bamboo forests along the upper reaches of the Karnaphuli River in East Pakistan. The suppliers of the bamboo and residents of the region, in addition to the venture‚Äôs founders, had high hopes for the project.

      During the start-up phase, the business had its fair share of managerial difficulties and other troubles, but by the end of the decade it had begun to prosper. Then disaster struck. The bamboo began to flower.

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