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 61 
 on: May 25, 2016, 06:02 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Dozens of Syrians forced into sexual slavery in derelict Lebanese house

Victims were tortured and only left house for abortions and treatment for venereal diseases in case that has shocked country

Kareem Shaheen in Beirut
AFP
May 25 2016 07.00 BST

Tucked in a leafy suburb of the Lebanese town of Jounieh, a short drive from the sparkling Mediterranean, stands a monument to human cruelty.

In this derelict two-story house, 75 Syrian women were forced into sexual slavery, the largest human trafficking network ever uncovered in Lebanon.

Here, the women were imprisoned after arriving from their war-torn country, sold for less than $2,000, and forced to have sex more than 10 times a day. Here they were beaten and tortured and electrocuted, and sometimes flogged if they didn’t get enough tips.

The windows and balconies are barred – giant cages where windows are painted black, depriving the women even of sunlight.

The women left the house to get abortions, of which they had about 200. They also left to be treated for venereal diseases, contracted after being forced to have unprotected sex with customers, or to be treated for skin ailments, brought on by their lack of exposure to the sun.

The house, called Chez Maurice, is now empty and sealed with red tape. Underwear and dirty clothes are strewn by the entrance, coffee spilled on the ground from the police raid.

Some windows have been left ajar, offering a glimpse into the lives of women held here for so long, some of whom were underaged when they arrived in Lebanon. The stench of rotting fruit rises from the dark interior, where clothes and half-empty cigarette packs are scattered about dingy rooms and beds with metal bars.

“These 75 women were saved from slavery, real slavery in this day and age with all the meaning of the word,” said Col Joseph Mousallam, spokesman for the Lebanese police. “They had lost every aspect of their freedom, over their bodies and even their thoughts. It was real slavery.”

Details of how the women were trafficked, the abuse they suffered, the architecture of the network and how it was eventually brought down were gleaned from interviews with Lebanese police and security officials, and a copy of the indictment in the case obtained by the Guardian. The names of some women were provided in the indictment, but their identities have been withheld.

The indictment charges 23 individuals with the crime of forming a human trafficking network, physically and psychologically torturing the women, imprisoning them and forcing them into prostitution.

It details the roles of the individuals accused of running the human trafficking network, including Fawaz Ali al-Hasan, the head of the network, and Imad al-Rihawi, a Syrian man alleged by police officials to be the enforcer of the group and who officials say is still on the run. Al-Akhbar, a Lebanese newspaper with close ties to the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad, said he was a former interrogator in the feared Syrian air force intelligence service. A security source familiar with the investigation later confirmed the claim to the Guardian.

The Lebanese authorities have requested Rihawi’s extradition if he is arrested in Syria, hinting that he may have returned to his home country following the crackdown on his network.

Police and judicial officials say the women were trafficked from war-torn Syria and Iraq, recruited by agents of the network for supposedly legitimate jobs such as restaurant workers, before being imprisoned at Chez Maurice.

“They were perhaps looking for weaker families, where nobody is going to ask about the woman, such as if her father died in the war,” said Mousallam. “They are hunters. They did not for a moment treat them as humans.”

Those who resisted working as prostitutes were raped and beaten, and then forced to have unprotected sex with customers. They were sometimes electrocuted or whipped, in an environment that judges described as “a journey to hell”.

The indictment said the women were forced to have sex with customers more than 10 times a day, making between $30-70 per session, all of which was taken away by the guards, including any tips, in effect making them sex slaves.

One of the women was “sold” by her husband to an agent in the network for $4,500. The others were bought by the agents for $1,000-$1,500. The agents would send pictures of their prospective catch by WhatsApp to the network’s top echelons, earning $2,500 per woman if the deal went through.

According to police those women who became pregnant were taken to a clinic in the northern Beirut suburb of Dekwaneh, run by a well-known doctor in the area called Riad Bulos. Bulos is alleged to have performed some 200 abortions on women in the network over four years, earning between $200 and $300 for each operation. He has been charged with carrying out abortions, a criminal offence in Lebanon. The Lebanese health minister said Bulos ought to “rot” in prison.

Male guards stood watch outside the house, female guards inside, keeping the women under a strict timetable. They reported the women if they failed to bring in sufficient tips, or if a customer complained, if their makeup or dress wasn’t up to standard, or if they did not perform well enough to convince the customers to stay for an extra hour. They would then be beaten.

The women would sometimes work for up to 20 hours a day, from 10am until 6am the following morning, barely catching some hours of sleep before they were called upon again.

They escaped on Easter Friday. Taking advantage of the fact the house was lightly guarded on the holiday, eight of the women overpowered the guards. Four were too scared to leave, conditioned for years to distrust all, and the other four fled. Three of the four took a minibus travelling to south Beirut, and told their story to a minivan driver, who called the police. Officers who had been trained to identify human trafficking networks arrived, interrogated the women and then planned the sting that brought an end to the tragedy.

Some of the women had been there for two or three years. The Internal Security Forces, Lebanon’s police, is conducting an internal investigation to determine how the network escaped detection for so long.

The women are now in a number of local shelters, shielded from the eyes of the media and given a chance to recuperate. The shelters are expected to provide them with social, legal, medical and psychological support, and are studying options to resettle them in another country. But first, they will be given a chance to rest away from any questioning, to come to terms with what they have suffered.

The case has shocked many in Lebanon. Maameltein, the suburb of Jounieh where the women were imprisoned, has long been known as Lebanon’s red-light district, the seaside resort’s streets peppered with casinos and “super-nightclubs” frequented by foreign visitors and Lebanese.

Many of the women who work there come into the country either through land crossings with Syria or through a loose entry scheme known as an “artist visa” that allows them to be employed formally as barmaids and performers in nightclubs, though most end up working as prostitutes.

The network’s downfall has sparked a broader conversation about prostitution – formally illegal in Lebanon according to the penal code – human trafficking and the exploitation and vulnerability of Syrians in the country, as well as broader societal attitudes towards sex and gender equality.

Lebanon passed a law to combat human trafficking in late 2011 under pressure from the US, and the police has renamed its vice squad the “human trafficking and vice team”, and trained officers to handle such cases.

Prior to that, human trafficking networks were prosecuted under the penal code criminalising prostitution, which equated the women in the network with their pimps. The new law treats the women as victims, though they are required in the law to prove that they were forced into prostitution. Since both laws are on the books and contradict each other, more efforts are required to train judges and law enforcement personnel to understand how to handle human trafficking cases, and rights workers believe the penal code article ought to be rescinded.

Anti-prostitution laws were never really a deterrent – people involved would be released after a month in prison – whereas the new trafficking law mandates sentences between five- and 15-years depending on the severity of the harm to the women.

Police officials and human rights workers acknowledge that the problem grew much worse with the war in Syria, which left many women vulnerable to the machinations of human traffickers. Not all of the women in the network were refugees, but came from dispossessed families in Syria. Still, one in five refugee households in Lebanon are headed by women, who are left vulnerable by having to care for their children and provide for them even though it is illegal for them to work. There are more than a million refugees from Syria in Lebanon, and two-thirds are women and children. Child workers are common in Beirut and the Bekaa valley, the agricultural hinterland.

“These women are completely destroyed by the fact they were in prostitution and that they were abused in a very extreme way,” said Ghada Jabbour, a co-founder and head of the anti-trafficking unit at Kafa, a feminist group working on issues of violence and exploitation of women and providing support to victims of such abuse.

Kafa has also trained members of the Lebanese police force on how to handle human trafficking cases.

Jabbour said the psychological support would help the women address feelings of self-esteem and stigma as well as the scars of daily torture and violence and humiliation, as well as helping them to rebuild the ability to trust.

But she also called for a refinement of Lebanon’s human trafficking law and greater awareness among judges and law enforcement on how to apply the law. So far, there have been no sex trafficking convictions in Lebanon since the law was passed in late 2011.

Jabbour said she hoped the Chez Maurice case would act as a model for similar situations in the future, with women treated as victims rather than being on par with those who run any network.

But she said there would also have to be a cultural shift in the way Lebanese society looks at prostitution. Kafa is not in favour of legalising prostitution, saying it legitimises exploitation and the treatment of women as commodities. Instead, it advocates punishing human traffickers and sex buyers.

Though Lebanon is one of the more liberal Middle Eastern societies, domestic violence and gender inequality are still pervasive. A one-of-a-kind survey carried out by Kafa, which interviewed sex buyers in Lebanon, found that many thought that if prostitution was completely prohibited, rates of rape would increase, and so it was necessary to have a sub-class of women who would shield the rest of society from male sexuality. Most of the interviewees felt entitled to have sex whenever they pleased, and also believed that the prostitutes enjoyed having sex with them, on top of being reimbursed.

“Everything evolves around the sexuality of men,” she said. “We raise boys and men with the idea that it’s very normal to buy sex and to have sex whenever they want, not to control their sexuality.”

 62 
 on: May 25, 2016, 05:58 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Human traffickers 'using migration crisis' to force more people into slavery

EU report warns that children have become preferred target for criminal gangs amid concern over thousands of minors disappearing from official view

Jennifer Rankin
AFP
Thursday 19 May 2016 07.18 BST

Criminal gangs are taking advantage of Europe’s migration crisis to force more people into sex work and other types of slavery, according to an EU report on human trafficking.

Children have become a preferred target for traffickers, the report warns, amid growing concern over the fate of unaccompanied child refugees who have disappeared from official view since arriving in Europe.

Almost 96,000 unaccompanied children claimed asylum in Europe in 2015, about one-fifth of the total number of child refugees. But at least 10,000 unaccompanied children have dropped off the radar of official agencies since arriving in Europe, the EU police agency reported in January. German authorities reported earlier this year that 4,700 children had been lost to officials, while up to 10 children a week are reported missing in Sweden.

The report from the European commission, which will be published on Thursday, does not attempt to estimate how many may have fallen victim to criminal gangs, but warns that the phenomenon of child trafficking “has been exacerbated by the ongoing migration crisis”. Children are at high risk of being doubly victimised, it says, because they are treated as perpetrators of crimes if they are found by the authorities.

“Organised crime groups choose to traffic children as they are easy to recruit and quick to replace, they can also keep under their control child victims relatively cheaply and discreetly,” states an EU working document seen by the Guardian. Trafficked children aged between six months and 10 years are bought and sold for sums ranging from €4,000 (£3,000) to €8,000, although amounts of up to €40,000 have been reported in some cases.

EU authorities registered 15,846 victims of human trafficking in 2013-14, including 2,375 children, but the report’s authors believe the true number of victims is far higher. More than two-thirds (67%) of people were trafficked into sex work; about one-fifth (21%) were put into forced labour, often as agricultural workers, a form of slavery that disproportionately affected men. The remainder of trafficking victims faced an equally grim catalogue of exploitation, ranging from domestic servitude to forced begging.

The authors sounded the alarm about the “worryingly sharp increase” in Nigerian women and girls arriving in Italy from Libya. The Italian authorities have reported a 300% year-on-year increase in the number of Nigerian victims of trafficking.

Traffickers are increasingly exploiting legal migration routes by persuading non-EU nationals to apply for asylum or a residence permit.

More than two-thirds of the identified victims were EU nationals, with the largest numbers coming from Romania, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Hungary and Poland. The remainder came from all over the world, with Nigerians, Chinese and Albanians especially prominent.

Catherine Bearder, a Liberal Democrat MEP, said official statistics on this “vile trade” were just the tip of the iceberg. Victims of trafficking come to official attention when they are arrested or escape, she said. “Very, very few are rescued by the authorities and for me that is shocking.” Too often, police forces “see the crime, not the person, they see them as illegal immigrants”.

The MEP, who spearheaded an anti-trafficking resolution in the European parliament last month, said EU authorities needed to do more to rescue victims and help them recover.

EU law requires countries to provide victims of trafficking with at least 30 days of recovery, including accommodation, medical treatment and legal advice. The UK offers a 45-day “reflection period”, when the person cannot be deported.

The MEP would like to see a longer period for recovery. Highlighting the plight of people sold into in sex slavery she said: “We are much better now at treating people who are raped and give them the protection of the law, but these girls have been raped night after night after night. I think we should be prepared to give them longer support of reflection and more support in rebuilding their lives.”

She also urged governments to get to grips with the migration crisis. “When the migrants land on Europe’s shores, when they are not properly looked after, they are absolutely ripe victims for the traffickers.”

Yvette Cooper, chair of Labour’s refugee task force, said the EU played a central role in the fight against human trafficking: “Being in the EU gives our police the tools they need to bring evil human trafficking gangs to justice, including vital cooperation through Europol.”

In the past year, 250 suspected human traffickers have been arrested in joint operations supported by Europol, the EU police agency.

Cooper said: “Leaving Europe would be a gift to criminals that would weaken our efforts to stamp out this evil trade.”

 63 
 on: May 25, 2016, 05:56 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Children working in Indonesia's tobacco fields risk poisoning, says report

Human Rights Watch says that thousands of children continue to work in tobacco fields across the country, despite labour laws

Annie Kelly
AFP
Wednesday 25 May 2016 03.00 BST

Children working in Indonesia’s tobacco fields are being exposed to acute nicotine poisoning and serious safety hazards as child labour continues unabated in the industry according to a new report by Human Rights Watch.

The world’s fifth-largest tobacco producer, Indonesia has more than 500,000 tobacco fields feeding the national and international tobacco markets. While international and domestic laws prohibit minors from performing hazardous work, thousands of children continue to work in tobacco fields says Human Rights Watch, which interviewed 130 children about working conditions on small-scale farms across the country.

Indonesia’s national labour laws prohibit children under the age of 15 from working and children under 18 from performing hazardous work, including work where they might be exposed to harmful chemicals.

Despite this, Human Rights Watch says that its researchers found children as young as eight being routinely exposed to nicotine, toxic pesticides, extreme heat and other dangers as a result of their work cultivating and harvesting tobacco leaves.

Children interviewed for the report in four of Indonesia’s tobacco growing regions complained of vomiting, nausea, headaches and dizziness – side-effects that the group says are consistent with acute nicotine poisoning, which occurs when nicotine is absorbed through the skin while handling tobacco, and could have lasting adverse effects on a child’s brain and physical development.

As well as exposure to nicotine poisoning, children interviewed by the human rights group came into regular contact with pesticides, fertilisers and other chemical agents without adequate protection. Only a few children said they wore any protective equipment while handling tobacco or using dangerous chemicals.

Indonesian tobacco companies and multinational firms purchase tobacco grown in Indonesia. Although the majority of tobacco grown in Indonesia is used for domestic production, in 2013, Indonesia exported tobacco worth about $200m (£137m).

Tobacco grown in farms across the country often enters domestic and international supply chains through a complex chain of middle-men, tobacco leaf-buyers and farming co-operatives.

Human Rights Watch says that the failure of domestic and international buyers of Indonesian tobacco to monitor and track their supply chains meant that it was impossible for them to ensure that their products were not made with hazardous child labour.

“Tobacco companies shouldn’t contribute to the use of hazardous child labour through their supply chains,” says Margaret Wurth, children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “When tobacco companies don’t even know where the tobacco they purchase has come from, there’s no way they can ensure children haven’t put their health at risk to produce it.”

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) defines hazardous work as “work which … is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children”. The UN body estimates that there are up to 1.5 million children working in Indonesia’s agricultural sector, which includes tobacco as well as rubber and palm oil.

According to the World Bank, just under 12% of Indonesia’s rural population lives below the national poverty line. Many of the children interviewed by Human Rights Watch for its report said that they worked in the tobacco fields to contribute to the family income.

Human Rights Watch is calling for the Indonesian government to update its list of hazardous occupations for children to explicitly prohibit any work that involves direct contact with tobacco.

*************

Virginia GOP Halts Bill To Stop Child Labor On Tobacco Farms

By LeftOfCenter
5/23/16 5:00pm

This is a new low, even for the GOP. Virginia's House Republicans voted to block restrictions on child labor, in the perilous tobacco industry.

It's true, these legislators have fought AGAINST laws protecting children from some very dangerous work. Last week, these Republicans in a House committee tabled (essentially defeating) a bill to put limits on the practice of protecting children from working in the tobacco farm industry.

    A growing coalition is getting very vocal about the use of child workers on tobacco farms across Virginia. Virginia House Bill 1906 would have made it illegal for minors to work directly with tobacco plants or their dried leaves. The bill would have made an exception for children working, as part of a tradition, on family farms.

    "One of the refrains we hear from kids who do this kind of work is, when they get the tobacco sickness, they say, 'I felt like I was going to die,'" said Reid Maki, Director of Social Responsibility and Fair Labor Standards Coordinator, Child Labor Coalition for National Consumers League.

    "The overwhelming majority of children interviewed reported experiencing symptoms consistent with acute nicotine poisoning," said 49th District Delegate Alfonso Lopez (D).

    Some of the opponents (aka Republicans) of the bill feel the conclusions made in the Human Rights Watch (see below) report are unfair to make at this point.

    "My grandmother raised tobacco," said 14th District Del. Daniel Marshall III (R). "I grew up in a tobacco family...My whole life I had been exposed to tobacco."

Aw, that's adorable. Since Marshall's granny exposed him to tobacco growing up, it's no matter that we now have so much scientific evidence that proves the harmful effects of tobacco. Marshall is a typical anti-science Republican who has no use for those pesky facts when charming plantation-inspired memories can pose as legislative testimony.

HumanRightsWatch provides some background on this seldom publicized atrocity:

    Child labor is common on tobacco farms in the United States, where children are exposed to nicotine, toxic pesticides, and other dangers. Child tobacco workers often get sick with vomiting, nausea, headaches, and dizziness while working, all symptoms consistent with acute nicotine poisoning. Many work 50 to 60 hours a week without overtime pay, often in extreme heat. They may be exposed to pesticides that are known neurotoxins. Many also use dangerous tools and machinery, lift heavy loads, and climb to perilous heights to hang tobacco for drying.   

    The largest tobacco companies in the world purchase tobacco grown in the US to make popular cigarette brands like Marlboro, Newport, Camel, Pall Mall and others. These companies can't legally sell cigarettes to children, but they are profiting from child labor. US law also fails these children, by allowing them to work at much younger ages, for longer hours, and under more hazardous conditions than children working in all other sectors. Children as young as 12 can work legally on tobacco farms and at even younger ages on small farms.

The insurance industry, not exactly known for its philanthropy, has divested themselves of tobacco investments.

    The world's largest insurer is ditching tobacco assets worth $2 billion, saying it can't continue to invest in an industry that kills six million people per year.

    AXA (AXAHY) said it would sell 224 million euros ($250 million) worth of stocks in tobacco companies immediately. The French insurer, the world's largest by non-banking assets, will also stop buying bonds issued by tobacco companies and gradually wind down its existing bond holdings worth 1.6 billion euros.

    According to AXA, smoking poses the biggest threat to public health. The company said tobacco consumption is the major cause of long term non-infectious diseases including cancer, heart disease and chronic respiratory illnesses, which are together responsible for 68% of all deaths worldwide.

Is this really happening in the 21st Century? Apparently so!

If the Republicans have their way, sentimentality over the old South and the economic demands of big Tobacco will trump the health and safety of children. If you think children shouldn't be treated as indentured servants exposed to carcinogens, make sure that you vote against electing these inhuman miscreants to office. Although far from perfect, we know that Democrats aren't in favor of turning the labor law clocks back to the 19th Century!

    Do you think child labor in the US is over? #tcot #UniteBlue #ImWithHer https://t.co/s7WocFRxTz pic.twitter.com/V1AmvcyYAH

    — The Vicious Babushka (@viciousbabushka) May 23, 2016

 64 
 on: May 25, 2016, 05:51 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
ExxonMobil tried to censor climate scientists to Congress during Bush era

Exclusive: 2001 intervention adds to evidence that oil company was aware of the science and its implications for government policy and the energy industry

Suzanne Goldenberg
AFP
Wednesday 25 May 2016 11.00 BST

ExxonMobil moved to squash a well-established congressional lecture series on climate science just nine days after the presidential inauguration of George W Bush, a former oil executive, the Guardian has learned.

Exxon’s intervention on the briefings, revealed here for the first time, adds to evidence the oil company was acutely aware of the state of climate science and its implications for government policy and the energy industry – despite Exxon’s public protestations for decades about the uncertainties of global warming science.

Indeed, the company moved swiftly during the earliest days of the Bush administration to block public debate on global warming and delay domestic and international regulations to cut greenhouse gas emissions, according to former officials of the US Global Change Research Program, or USGCRP.

The Bush White House is now notorious for censoring climate scientists and blocking international action on climate change by pulling the US out of the Kyoto agreement.

The oil company is under investigation by 17 attorney generals for misleading the public about climate change, and is facing a shareholder revolt at its annual general meeting on Wednesday by investors pressing Exxon for greater disclosure about the effect of climate change on its profits.

In early 2001, however, after Al Gore lost the White House to George Bush, Exxon officials apparently saw a chance to influence the incoming administration, according to former officials of the research program.

The government agency was set up in 1990 and charged with producing definitive reports to Congress every four years on the effects of climate change on the US. In the mid-1990s, as part of its legal mandate, USGCRP began organizing monthly seminars on climate science for elected officials and staffers in Congress.

On 29 January 2001, nine days after Bush’s inauguration, Arthur Randol, a former senior environmental advisor at Exxon, telephoned Nicky Sundt, then communications director for the research program, to inquire about the future of the lecture series.
ExxonMobil moved to squash the well-established series just nine days after the presidential inauguration of George W Bush, a former oil executive.

A few days earlier, Sundt had emailed a survey to congressional staffers seeking suggestions for the next lecture series. Exxon had not been on his distribution list, and Sundt said he was surprised to receive a call from Randol.

“I thought it was very unusual, if not inappropriate, for a fossil fuel lobbyist to be calling me directly days after the administration was sworn in only directly to instruct me on how we would be communication to the Congress on climate change,” Sundt told the Guardian. “This is ExxonMobil reaching into the federal government science apparatus and seeking to influence the communication of science.”

Sundt, who now directs the WWF-US climate science programme (although he said he was not speaking on behalf of the organisation), said he made notes of the phone call.

The briefings had then been running for a number of years and were well regarded by Republican as well as Democratic staffers, according to Bryan Hannegan, a Senate staffer and scientist who went on to work for the Bush administration and is now at the National Renewable Energy Lab.

But the Exxon lobbyist saw it differently. “I very specifically remember him suggesting that the seminars were what he called ‘agenda-driven’, and he indicated that with the new administration and the Congress that – if the seminars continue – he hoped to see a different balance of viewpoints,” Sundt said.

That was Sundt’s only encounter with Randol. He told his USGCRP colleagues about the telephone call but did not speak out publicly until now.

In retrospect, Sundt said the telephone call was the first sign of the energy industry’s efforts to squash the agency’s reporting about climate change, and the broader debate about global warming, during the George W Bush era.

Bush went on to pull the US out of the Kyoto climate change agreement, and White House officials were later found to have played down scientists’ warnings about the dangers of climate change.

Randol, who left Exxon in 2003 after 25 years with the oil company, was known to have played a key role in such efforts – even before Sundt came foward.

On 6 February 2001, not long after his phone call to Sundt, Randol wrote a memo urging the Bush administration demand seek the removal of Bob Watson, a well-regarded climate scientist, as head of the UN’s climate science panel, the intergovernmental panel on climate change.

Randol describes Watson as “hand-picked by Al Gore”. “Restructure the US attendance at upcoming IPCC meetings to assure that none of the Clinton/Gore proponents are involved in any decisional activities,” the memo reads.

In the same memo, Randol also recommended sacking three US climate officials.

The Exxon lobbyist was extraordinarily successful. At the IPCC, Watson was replaced by Rajendra Pachauri, an Indian engineer who stepped down from the science panel last year after being accused of sexual harassment.

Following Randol’s recommendations, a number of climate sceptics were appointed to the administration, including Harlan Watson, a then Republican congressional staffer, who went on to lead the US climate negotiating team.

Meanwhile, Randol sought to put Exxon’s stamp on the blockbuster US climate reports. On 22 March 2002, Randol forwarded a company memo to the White House council of environmental quality suggesting an overhaul of the USGRCP’s national climate assessments.

The memo, which extolled Exxon’s qualifications in climate science, recommended the agency focus more on “gaps and uncertainties” in climate science.

Exxon and Russol did not respond to requests for comment.

However, Mike MacCracken, a former chief scientist at the USGRCP, said Sundt’s account of the phone call fits in with his recollections of Exxon’s efforts to influence government climate science research. “I don’t recall the call directly but they were objecting to all sorts of things as the new administration came in,” he said. “I guess the Republicans were sort of pushing from Congress. They were taking over and they had their views.”

 65 
 on: May 25, 2016, 05:49 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Poland starts logging primeval Bialowieza forest despite protests

More than 180,000 cubic metres of forest to be cut down in area that is home to Europe’s largest mammal and tallest trees

Agence France-Presse
5/25/2016

Poland has started logging in the ancient Bialowieza forest, which includes some of Europe’s last primeval woodland, despite fierce protests from environmental groups battling to save the World Heritage site.

“The operation began today,” national forest director Konrad Tomaszewski said of the plan to harvest wood from non-protected areas of one of the last vestiges of the immense forest that once stretched across Europe.

He said the goal was “to stop forest degradation” – by combating what the environment ministry says is a spruce bark beetle infestation – and protect tourists and rangers from harm by cutting down trees that risk falling on trails.

But environmental campaigners warn that the tree chopping will destroy an ecosystem unspoiled for more than 10,000 years that is home to the continent’s largest mammal, the European bison, and to its tallest trees.

“We’re calling on the European Commission to intervene before the Polish government allows for the irreversible destruction of the Bialowieza forest,” Greenpeace Poland activist Katarzyna Jagiello said in a statement.

Campaigners have taken issue with the government rationale for the project, saying the beetle’s presence does not pose any threat to the forest’s ecosystem.

“The minister does not understand that this insect is a frequent and natural visitor, that it has always existed and the forest has managed to survive,” Jagiello said.

Greenpeace said its patrols had come across the first signs of logging between the eastern town of Hajnowka on the border with Belarus and the village of Bialowieza to the north.

The Bialowieza project is the latest action by Poland’s new rightwing government to draw criticism at home and abroad, including an overhaul of the country’s top court and legislation strengthening state control over public broadcasters.

The environment ministry has said loggers will chop down more than 180,000 cubic metres (6.4m cubic feet) of wood from non-protected areas of the forest over a decade, dwarfing previous plans to harvest 40,000 cubic metres over the same period.

Last month, seven groups including Greenpeace Poland and the Polish branch of WWF lodged a complaint with the European Commission over the logging.

EU environment spokeswoman Iris Petsa said at the time that the Commission “is concerned” about the project.

Will no one stop Poland destroying Europe’s most precious forest?

Bialowieza, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979, covers about 150,000ha (370,650 acres) in Poland and Belarus.

It is home to 20,000 animal species, including 250 types of bird and hundreds of European bison, plus firs towering 50m (160ft) high and oaks and ashes of 40m.

In Belarus the entire forest is protected as a nature park, but only part of the Polish section is protected.

Warsaw has vowed that the logging would not take place in the protected areas.

Tomaszewski said forest management would refrain from logging in two “reference areas” to allow “nature to fend for itself”.

Environment minister Jan Szyszko said the operation was aimed at protecting sites of great heritage value that are part of Natura 2000, an EU network set up to preserve Europe’s most valuable and threatened species and habitats.

But the non-profit environmental law organisation ClientEarth said it was “surprised that Szyszko had invoked EU law to justify the logging”.

“The decision to multiply the cutting is not compliant with EU law because it was not preceded by an environmental impact study of the species and the protected sites,” said ClientEarth lawyer Agata Szafraniuk.

“A case before the EU court is unfortunately becoming more and more likely.”

A delegation from Unesco is due to visit Bialowieza between 4 and 8 June to assess the situation.

 66 
 on: May 25, 2016, 05:46 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Great Barrier Reef: advisers call for cap on farm pollution

Taskforce head reportedly tells Queensland government ‘we’re stuffed with a capital S’ if water quality isn’t improved

Michael Slezak
AFP
Wednesday 25 May 2016 05.39 BST

A cap on pollution from farms close to the Great Barrier Reef has been proposed by advisers to the Queensland government.

The Great Barrier Reef water science taskforce, which advises the Queensland government on how to meet pollution targets on the reef, said sugar cane, grazing and other sectors should be given pollution load limits for their industries in each catchment. It also called for incentives such as auctions for pollution reduction, greater monitoring and regulation, along with “significantly more investment” in the problem.

The Labor state government said it would adopt some of the recommendations immediately, and use the recommendations to guide $90m the government committed to spend on reef water quality before being elected.

The report was hailed as a “game changer” by some conservationists, while others called for the costings behind it to be released immediately.

Steven Miles, the Queensland environment minister, said: “There are a number of actions recommended by the taskforce that we can begin to implement immediately.”

Among them, the government would spend $33.5m on two projects to limit fertiliser and pesticide runoff from the northern wet tropics, and to limit sediment from the southern Burdekin region.

They would also spend $20m to support changes in land management, which would limit pollution, and $11m on greater water quality monitoring, which could provide information to farmers.

The majority of water pollution hitting the Great Barrier Reef comes from farms along the rivers that feed into the Queensland coast. Land clearing also increases the amount of sediment pollution.

Minimising water pollution would make coral and seagrass more resilient to the biggest problems the reef faces, as a result of climate change.

At a press conference, Queensland’s chief scientist Geoff Garrett, who led the taskforce, reportedly said “we’re stuffed with a capital S” if water quality isn’t improved.

    — Shane Doherty (@ShaneDoherty9)
    May 25, 2016

    'We're stuffed with a capital S' if we don't manage run off on the reef says Qld Chief Scientist #greatbarrierreef pic.twitter.com/M8AzPmlk7q

In a statement Garrett said: “While we acknowledge the efforts to date, it is abundantly clear that more widespread and rapid action is required.”

“Achieving the water quality targets in the timescale proposed is likely to be well beyond the funds currently allocated by the Queensland and Australian governments.”

The Queensland government had targets of reducing reducing nitrogen pollution by up to 80% and sediment by up to 50% by 2025. The cost of achieving that was the subject of another report, which has been completed but is undergoing review.

Jon Brodie, a reef and water quality expert from James Cook University, said the recommendations on water quality were sensible.

Imogen Zethoven, the Great Barrier Reef campaign director for the Australian Marine Conservation Society, said that report needed to be released immediately so voters could properly evaluate the commitments parties were making in the federal election campaign.

“The public deserves to know what investment is needed to save the reef,” she said.

WWF spokesman Sean Hoobin hailed the report as a “game changer”.

“A catchment cap on pollution which reduces over time, is needed to ensure the reef gets the clean water it needs to restore its health,” Hoobin said.

“A cap is best achieved through federal laws and we are calling for the major parties to announce they would legislate pollution limits to deliver clean water to the reef by 2025.”

 67 
 on: May 25, 2016, 05:42 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Body Shop 'bio-bridges' to regenerate forests and connect wildlife habitats

Programme in partnership with World Land Trust will create corridors of natural habitat to prevent threatened species from being cut off from each other

Press Association
Tuesday 24 May 2016 17.09 BST

A programme to regenerate thousands of acres of forest and link habitats in wildlife-rich parts of the world has been launched.

The “bio-bridges” scheme, which creates corridors of natural habitat to prevent threatened wildlife populations being cut off from each other, is being run by the Body Shop in partnership with the World Land Trust.

Every customer purchase will help to restore and protect one square metre of habitat, the company pledges, with aims to protect 75 million square metres, or more than 18,500 acres of land.

The first project is in Vietnam, in the Khe Nuoc Trong forest, which is home to rare wildlife including an endangered primate, the red-shanked douc, the critically endangered saola, or Asian unicorn, the Bengal slow loris and the Burmese python.

Roger Wilson, head of conservation at the World Land Trust, said one of the biggest threats to wildlife was fragmentation of their habitat, leaving isolated populations that were too small to be viable.

“Animals have to be able to move from A to B, there has to be flow between them, otherwise they are divided up, they become isolated individually, they are far away. The bridges allow that to happen.”

He said the “bio-bridges” were located in the most important areas, with rich biodiversity, and it was important to ensure communities felt the benefits of preserving the wildlife corridors.

In Vietnam, the area of forest being targeted by the scheme is degraded, with much of it converted to plantations, Wilson said.

“The remaining natural forest suffers illegal logging because of the high value timbers that make rich oriental furniture. The other thing is immense hunting pressure.”

The scheme will involve regular patrols and utilising camera traps to protect the area and its wildlife, and working closely with the local community and schools to encourage using forest resources, farming sustainably and getting involved with the project.

There are also plans for a second bio-bridge project launch in the Garo Hills, India, which has one of the biggest remaining wild Asian elephant populations.

Christopher Davis, director of corporate responsibility and campaigns at the Body Shop said: “Bio-bridges are an innovative way to create protected corridors of biodiversity that allow the wider forest to flourish and its inhabitants to breed and thrive.

“In Vietnam, within five to 10 years we hope to be able to see endangered species multiply.”

 68 
 on: May 25, 2016, 05:40 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
UN calls for overhaul of national laws to tackle wildlife crime

Countries urged to outlaw possession of wildlife and timber illegally harvested or traded elsewhere
Illegal wildlife trafficking

Arthur Neslen
Tuesday 24 May 2016 13.00 BST

Governments around the world need to pass national laws outlawing the possession of wildlife and timber that has been illegally harvested or traded elsewhere, a new report by the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) urges.

At present, unlisted but endangered flora and fauna can be legally sold in other nations, even if it was illicitly taken from the countries of origin, due to a lack of coverage in the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites).

As the Guardian revealed last year, conservation authorities believe that the survival of many endangered species is being threatened as a result.

The level of concern is such that the UN is now calling for “each country to prohibit, under national law, the possession of wildlife that was illegally harvested in, or illegally traded from, anywhere else in the world.”

“Domestic environmental laws should be expanded to provide protection to wildlife from other parts of the world,” the report adds.

Draft laws could be prepared nationally, regionally or internationally, to give a legal basis for contraband seizures by customs officers, without having to refer to international protected species lists, according to the UN paper.

Theodore Leggett, the study’s author, told the Guardian there was a good chance for the idea gaining traction in the international community.

“There is tremendous international goodwill on this right now. No one is going to stand up and say that wildlife trade should be less regulated,” he said.

“An additional wildlife protocol to the transnational organised crime convention has been proposed before. You could have an international agreement dealing with wildlife crime. You could also do it in national regulations, or on a regional basis with blocs effectively saying: “‘If it is illegal in your country, it is illegal in my country’.”

However, there is currently no internationally agreed definition for “wildlife crime” and the transnational organised crime convention’s assessment of a “serious crime” – carrying a prison sentence of four years or more – may be contentious for some.

A survey of 131 countries in the report shows that while 26% favour putting wildlife offences in the “serious crimes” category, 43% say infractions should be punished by less than four years in prison, and 31% want violations of Cites codes to merit fines only.

At present, the 182 Cites signatories can set their own punishments for violations of the agreement and these vary widely.

The Liberal MEP Catherine Bearder said: “Organised criminal gangs are exploiting the minor penalties against wildlife trafficking in some European countries to accrue massive profits. Time is running out for many of our most beloved species. The penalty of wildlife trafficking must fit the seriousness of this crime.”

The paper suggests considering wildlife trafficking a theft of state property in countries that offer national protection to endangered species. Anti-corruption statutes could also be used to prosecute traffickers.

Public authorities should also be obliged to alert other countries when they know that contraband shipments are taking place, the paper says.

Dr Dan Challender, a species programme officer for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which advised the UN on the report, said that it had drawn from analyses of 164,000 wildlife product seizures in 120 countries.

He said: “The report reinforces wildlife crime as a truly global issue, and in calling for legislative reforms, including laws recognising the illegal status of wildlife products that have been illegally harvested or trafficked from another country, offers potential solutions, which are needed as part of a multi-faceted strategy to combat wildlife crime.”

Wildlife protection debates are often clouded by tension between advocates of trade as a means of conservation – because of the added utility this provides – and environmentalists who object to any financial commodification of animal species, particularly endangered ones.

“Both these people love animals and want to save them but they have incompatible points of view,” Leggett said. “One side wants to promote the elephant trade. The other says that is not possible as it gets infiltrated by poachers.”

In broad terms, the UN approach is to monitor the legal wildlife trade and give an assessment of sustainable offtakes. “That way countries can take out every last fish that can be sustainably farmed, and then allow the ocean to replenish itself,” Leggett said.

The UN study calls for new industry standards based on technologies such as “track and trace”, which identify where, when, how and by whom a product was caught. In Germany, the mechanism has proved popular and workable for the wild-sourced fish industry.

Cites members could also detain those caught in possession of suspect products, shifting the burden of proof onto the importer, the report says.

 69 
 on: May 25, 2016, 05:39 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
UN calls for overhaul of national laws to tackle wildlife crime

Countries urged to outlaw possession of wildlife and timber illegally harvested or traded elsewhere
Illegal wildlife trafficking

Arthur Neslen
Tuesday 24 May 2016 13.00 BST

Governments around the world need to pass national laws outlawing the possession of wildlife and timber that has been illegally harvested or traded elsewhere, a new report by the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) urges.

At present, unlisted but endangered flora and fauna can be legally sold in other nations, even if it was illicitly taken from the countries of origin, due to a lack of coverage in the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites).

As the Guardian revealed last year, conservation authorities believe that the survival of many endangered species is being threatened as a result.

The level of concern is such that the UN is now calling for “each country to prohibit, under national law, the possession of wildlife that was illegally harvested in, or illegally traded from, anywhere else in the world.”

“Domestic environmental laws should be expanded to provide protection to wildlife from other parts of the world,” the report adds.

Draft laws could be prepared nationally, regionally or internationally, to give a legal basis for contraband seizures by customs officers, without having to refer to international protected species lists, according to the UN paper.

Theodore Leggett, the study’s author, told the Guardian there was a good chance for the idea gaining traction in the international community.

“There is tremendous international goodwill on this right now. No one is going to stand up and say that wildlife trade should be less regulated,” he said.

“An additional wildlife protocol to the transnational organised crime convention has been proposed before. You could have an international agreement dealing with wildlife crime. You could also do it in national regulations, or on a regional basis with blocs effectively saying: “‘If it is illegal in your country, it is illegal in my country’.”

However, there is currently no internationally agreed definition for “wildlife crime” and the transnational organised crime convention’s assessment of a “serious crime” – carrying a prison sentence of four years or more – may be contentious for some.

A survey of 131 countries in the report shows that while 26% favour putting wildlife offences in the “serious crimes” category, 43% say infractions should be punished by less than four years in prison, and 31% want violations of Cites codes to merit fines only.

At present, the 182 Cites signatories can set their own punishments for violations of the agreement and these vary widely.

The Liberal MEP Catherine Bearder said: “Organised criminal gangs are exploiting the minor penalties against wildlife trafficking in some European countries to accrue massive profits. Time is running out for many of our most beloved species. The penalty of wildlife trafficking must fit the seriousness of this crime.”

The paper suggests considering wildlife trafficking a theft of state property in countries that offer national protection to endangered species. Anti-corruption statutes could also be used to prosecute traffickers.

Public authorities should also be obliged to alert other countries when they know that contraband shipments are taking place, the paper says.

Dr Dan Challender, a species programme officer for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which advised the UN on the report, said that it had drawn from analyses of 164,000 wildlife product seizures in 120 countries.

He said: “The report reinforces wildlife crime as a truly global issue, and in calling for legislative reforms, including laws recognising the illegal status of wildlife products that have been illegally harvested or trafficked from another country, offers potential solutions, which are needed as part of a multi-faceted strategy to combat wildlife crime.”

Wildlife protection debates are often clouded by tension between advocates of trade as a means of conservation – because of the added utility this provides – and environmentalists who object to any financial commodification of animal species, particularly endangered ones.

“Both these people love animals and want to save them but they have incompatible points of view,” Leggett said. “One side wants to promote the elephant trade. The other says that is not possible as it gets infiltrated by poachers.”

In broad terms, the UN approach is to monitor the legal wildlife trade and give an assessment of sustainable offtakes. “That way countries can take out every last fish that can be sustainably farmed, and then allow the ocean to replenish itself,” Leggett said.

The UN study calls for new industry standards based on technologies such as “track and trace”, which identify where, when, how and by whom a product was caught. In Germany, the mechanism has proved popular and workable for the wild-sourced fish industry.

Cites members could also detain those caught in possession of suspect products, shifting the burden of proof onto the importer, the report says.

 70 
 on: May 25, 2016, 05:37 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Do you know your wild species at risk? – in pictures   

New research by WWF as part of the Wear it Wild campaign has revealed that millions of Britons are unaware of how many of the world’s animals are vulnerable, endangered or even critically endangered

Wednesday 25 May 2016 06.00 BST

Click to view all: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2016/may/25/do-you-know-your-wild-species-at-risk-in-pictures

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