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4 Times as Many Rhinos Killed for Their Horns in 2014 as in 2010
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=81"><span class="small">Reuters</span></a>   
Saturday, 03 January 2015 14:41

Excerpt: "South Africa lost a record number of rhinos in 2014 as big animals across Africa were relentlessly poached to meet rising demand for horn and ivory in newly affluent Asian countries or to provide meat to fighters in the bush."

South Africa is home to nearly 20,000 or over 90 percent of the world's rhino population. In the country, more than three rhinos are poached every day. (photo: Mike Hutchings/Reuters)
South Africa is home to nearly 20,000 or over 90 percent of the world's rhino population. In the country, more than three rhinos are poached every day. (photo: Mike Hutchings/Reuters)


4 Times as Many Rhinos Killed for Their Horns in 2014 as in 2010

By Reuters

03 January 15

 

outh Africa lost a record number of rhinos in 2014 as big animals across Africa were relentlessly poached to meet rising demand for horn and ivory in newly affluent Asian countries or to provide meat to fighters in the bush.

From South Sudan, where conservationists say elephants are being slain by both government forces and rebels, to South Africa, where more than three rhinos are poached every day, there is an arc of illegal animal slaughter across the region.

South Africa is the centre of the rhino crisis as it is home to close to 20,000, or over 90 per cent, of the world's population of the animals.

Government figures for 2014 show that by mid-November 1,020 of the animals had been killed for their horns.

That tops the previous record of 1,004 from 2013, and experts say it will probably hit at least 1,200, an almost four-fold increase over 2010, when 333 were killed.

Pelham Jones, chairman of the Private Rhino Owners Association, told Reuters that his group believed that 1,171 rhinos had been illegally killed in South Africa by mid-December.

"It is a very safe, but sad assumption that we will exceed the 1,200 mark in 2014," he said.

Rhino horn considered more valuable than gold

There is legal hunting by permit of rhino, elephant and other big game in South Africa. But the numbers refer to illegal killings and trade in rhino horn is prohibited globally.

It's likely more elephants are being killed for ivory in Africa than are being born, conservationists say.

Rhino horn is coveted in Vietnam and China as an ingredient in traditional medicine. Conservationists say it fetches up to $65,000 a kilo on the street, making it more valuable than gold.

The toll often rises in December, possibly because poaching syndicates want to stock up ahead of the Chinese New Year in February.

Many of the rhino poachers in South Africa come from neighbouring Mozambique, one of the world's poorest countries where villagers are tempted by the promise of quick money.

Poaching centres on South Africa's flagship Kruger National Park, which borders Mozambique and is a major tourist draw, making the issue a state priority, with the Department of Environmental Affairs saying in November that over 340 arrests had been made so far in 2014 in connection with the scourge.

Rhino horn, which only weighs a few kilos, is relatively easy to smuggle and its price has spawned a web of routes, with 16 members of a syndicate suspected of involvement in the trade arrested late last year in the Czech Republic.

'Tipping point' of African elephant population decline

Final estimates for elephant poaching across Africa in 2014 will not come out for some time, but conservationists say the number of the animals being slain for ivory — valued for decorative purposes in China — is likely exceeding the number being born.

This suggests a "tipping point" of population decline is in prospect for Africa's 500,000 elephants.

"2015 will be key, possibly the most significant yet in the battle to save the world's iconic animals," said Richard Thomas, spokesman for TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network.

'2015 will be key, possibly the most significant yet in the battle to save the world's iconic animals.' - Richard Thomas, a wildlife trade monitoring network spokesman

"If the resources now being directed at this fail to put a big dent in the poaching figures, we need to find out what went wrong and why and amend our approach," he told Reuters.

At least 20,000 elephants were poached annually from 2011 to 2013, according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), a United-Nations-linked agency.

Killing elephants and smuggling ivory from their tusks is a trickier business than rhino poaching and selling horn. Elephants are bigger, warier, and more dangerous, and their tusks can reach lengths of a metre or longer.

A CITES report two years ago noted that for smuggled ivory, "Trade patterns have shifted to Indian Ocean seaports," and the sheer quantities of cargo moving through Asian ports "makes detection of concealed ivory a severe enforcement challenge."

There have also been allegations of official complicity. In November, Tanzania denied allegations by a campaign group that Chinese officials smuggled out large amounts of illegal ivory in diplomatic bags during a state visit by President Xi Jinping.

Foreign Minister Bernard Membe acknowledged that Tanzania — where conservationists say 10,000 elephants were killed in 2013 — was among the world's major sources of smuggled ivory, but denied that the Tanzanian and Chinese governments were involved in the internationally banned trade.

In Africa's newest state, South Sudan, the current onset of the dry season may trigger more poaching in a country where the elephant population has fallen from 80,000 to 2,500 over the past four decades.

The U.S.-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) says that eight of the almost 30 elephants it had radio-collared in the country for monitoring purposes were poached last year amid fighting between government forces and rebels.

Aside from poaching for illicit ivory sales, elephants and other animals are also being killed by both sides for their meat, WCS said.

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Last Updated on Monday, 05 January 2015 11:33
 
Economist Thomas Piketty Refuses France's Highest Honor
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=265"><span class="small">Agence France-Presse</span></a>   
Friday, 02 January 2015 16:38

Excerpt: "France's influential economist Thomas Piketty, author of 'Capital in the 21st Century,' on Thursday refused to accept the country's highest award, the Legion d'honneur, to criticise the Socialist government in power."

French economist Thomas Piketty says it is not for the government to decide who is 'honorable.' (photo: AFP)
French economist Thomas Piketty says it is not for the government to decide who is "honorable." (photo: AFP)


Economist Thomas Piketty Refuses France's Highest Honor

By Agence France-Presse

2 January 15

 

rance's influential economist Thomas Piketty, author of "Capital in the 21st Century", on Thursday refused to accept the country's highest award, the Legion d'honneur, to criticise the Socialist government in power.

"I refuse this nomination because I do not think it is the government's role to decide who is honourable," Piketty told AFP.

"They would do better to concentrate on reviving (economic) growth in France and Europe," added Piketty, who was once close to the Socialist Party but has distanced himself from the policies of President Francois Hollande.


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6th Annual Vigil Marks Oscar Grant's Shooting Death in Oakland
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=34001"><span class="small">Riya Bhattacherjee, NBC</span></a>   
Friday, 02 January 2015 16:31

Bhattacherjee writes: "Hundreds gathered Thursday at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland to remember Oscar Grant III who was shot to death at the station on New Year's Day in 2009 by a BART police officer."

'Young, Gifted and Black' perform at Oscar Grant Vigil in Oakland. (photo: Shadi Rahimi)
'Young, Gifted and Black' perform at Oscar Grant Vigil in Oakland. (photo: Shadi Rahimi)


6th Annual Vigil Marks Oscar Grant's Shooting

By Riya Bhattacherjee, NBC

02 January 15

 

undreds gathered Thursday at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland to remember Oscar Grant III who was shot to death at the station on New Year's Day in 2009 by a BART police officer.

Grant's mother, the Rev. Wanda Johnson, spoke at the 6th annual vigil for Grant, which was organized by the Oscar Grant Foundation. People held signs that read "We Are All Oscar Grant," and "Grant Station" and "Black Lives Matter," which has become a fixture in recent demonstrations protesting grand jury decisions not to indict police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, New York.

"I'm saddened but I'm excited because I know Oscar will be looking down and smiling to see this whole sea of people gathered together to celebrate him and his life," Johnson said. "We don't know what's going to happen when we leave this place and go to our respective homes, but one thing we can do while we are here is share the love we have for one another."

She told NBC Bay Area that one of the things that has changed her "is a fight to bring about an awareness that black lives — all lives — matter ... That all lives should be treated equally."

Local politicians, artists, community leaders and youth speakers attended the event, speaking out against violence. Grant's friends and family remembered him, thanking the crowd for "keeping his name alive." The young men who were with Grant the day he was shot, were also present at the vigil.

"The abolitionists in 1850 were doing what you're doing today. They were saying, 'No justice, no peace,'" Oakland City Councilwoman Lynette Gibson McElhaney said. "This movement is to say let that be history that will not repeat itself."

Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson said he came out of respect.

"It is a multi-dimensional approach — yes, we are focused on police but we also have to look at the conditions under which people live," he said.

"Fruitvale Station," by writer and director Ryan Coogler, tells the story of how 22-year-old Grant was shot by former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle on Jan. 1, 2009.

Mehserle said that he meant to use his Taser gun instead of the service revolver he used to shoot Grant. Mehserle faced murder charges but was ultimately convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2010 and sentenced to two years in prison. He was released from custody in 2011.


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Duluth Case Shows Police Body Camera Footage Is New Legal Battleground
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=33958"><span class="small">Jessica Glenza, Guardian UK</span></a>   
Friday, 02 January 2015 16:34

Glenza writes: "Official reluctance to release images of the police shooting of a Minnesota man in his own home has raised issues about transparency, privacy and mental health."

A police officer wears an on-body camera. (photo: Damian Dovarganes/AP)
A police officer wears an on-body camera. (photo: Damian Dovarganes/AP)


Duluth Case Shows Police Body Camera Footage Is New Legal Battleground

By Jessica Glenza, The Guardian

02 January 15

 

hen a man in Duluth, Minnesota, barricaded himself in a garage at his home and threatened to kill himself with a knife, police officers shot him twice. The incident, which happened in August, was captured on police body cameras.

Months later, city officials who want the body camera video kept secret are in a battle with advocates of police accountability that many believe will be fought out in the Minnesota legislature.

The man who was shot by police, 34-year-old Joe Zontelli, survived. The two officers involved were cleared of wrongdoing. But the incident made news in the midwest city of 86,000, and after an investigation was completed by the St Louis County attorney Mark S Rubin, reporters expected the video to be released. It was not.

“The state crime lab kind of takes over the investigation and we just kind of waited out the results,” said Tom Olsen, a reporter for the Duluth News Tribune who filed a public records request for the police body camera videos. He said that under normal circumstances, reporters would have received their information requests after an investigation was complete and a press conference held.

The county prosecutor reviewed body camera footage, but authorities didn’t release the videos. Gunnar Johnson, the Duluth city attorney, instead used a legal maneuver to try to temporarily classify the video – and future videos from other cases

Duluth requested the state clarify what body camera footage is public and what should be kept private, through an unusual request to Minnesota’s information policy analysis division. The office denied Duluth’s request, in what will be the final word on the issue unless the legislature picks it up this spring.

Johnson said his office was now “working” with the decision, “with the support of other municipalities”.

“It’s a difference between a piece of paper and a videotape,” he said. “[Body camera footage] can span for, you know, an hour, two hours, there can be multiple cameras and, administratively, it’s a whole different world.”

The city requested that blanket secrecy be applied to body camera footage taken in schools, hospitals and “private places”. The city also wanted footage from mental health crises, suspected juvenile crimes, and response to domestic and sexual assault to be classified as private. Summaries of many of the same law enforcement activities are publicly available through police reports.

Privacy experts and law enforcement alike issued warnings about situations like that in Duluth. Transparency programs are politically popular, but in practice, many governments seek veto power over what is public.

Given that Duluth police officers entered Zontelli’s home, followed him to the garage and saw blood beneath the barricaded door while he threatened his own life, it is understandable that releasing body camera video of the incident might be seen as invasive. Typically, a home is considered a private place and health issues a private matter.

But when officers broke down the door, saw Zontelli had a knife, shot him twice and then claimed they had feared for their lives, some say the line between public and private vanished. Advocates say any officer-involved shooting is a matter of public interest.

“One of the reasons for the body cam is to have the availability to see if law enforcement is doing their job,” said Rich Neumeister, a long-time privacy and freedom of information activist in Minnesota. “When I look at it in balancing the public interest weighs out, because this is where [residents] are shot by officers. There’s no ifs, ands or buts. It’s fact.”

City police disagree. “I’m a huge proponent of cameras,” the Duluth police chief, Gordon Ramsay, told the Duluth News Tribune. “But we need to figure out how to balance the need for transparency while respecting the privacy expectations of our citizenry.”

In June, Duluth became the first major police department in Minnesota to roll out body-worn cameras. But as the cameras are pushed by politicians – in the aftermath of this year’s civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama proposed $263m in federal funding to put 50,000 more cameras on the streets – Duluth is unlikely to be the only department facing policy questions.

Leading privacy and anti-surveillance advocates at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are cautiously optimistic about the deployment of body cameras, but cite the lack of policy on the subject as worrisome. The organization recently asked 30 leading departments for their body-worn camera policies.

“A large percentage of them simply don’t have them,” said Chris Rickerd, policy counsel for the ACLU. “The idea of rushing out something that is so important for accountability if the right policies are in place without these complicated, thorny issues thought through … is really irresponsible.”

Olsen provided a copy of Duluth’s body camera policy, after Johnson told the Guardian a public records request would need to be filed to obtain a copy, a process that typically takes weeks.

The policy requires officers to turn the cameras on during “crimes in progress” and “use of force”. But the policy does not answer more detailed questions about privacy, such as whether to record when interviewing children or whether residents can opt out of recording.

“That’s a good question,” Johnson said.

The state’s response to Duluth’s request was cut and dried – public records law is there, follow it. But the agency’s director said she understood that following the law was not.

“Duluth didn’t have to request this temporary classification,” said Stacie Christensen, director of the Minnesota information policy analysis division, which handled the request. “I think the city attorney was speaking to the new technology and just the fact that the law hasn’t kept up with technological advances.”

“We certainly understand the difficulties in trying to redact a videotape, that’s something that will never be easy,” said Christensen. “When you actually have to deal with a request, and deal with what is public and what is not public, that is certainly where it gets complicated.”

However unnerving the situation is for officials in Duluth, it may soon come to a head. Olsen said he senses the city may be “preparing right now to release that particular video”.


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Last Updated on Saturday, 03 January 2015 11:10
 
The Good Ship CIA Sails On
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=1363"><span class="small">Mark Mazzetti, The New York Times</span></a>   
Sunday, 28 December 2014 14:57

Mazzetti writes: "Over a lunch in Washington in 1976, James J. Angleton, for years the ruthless chief of counterintelligence at the C.I.A., likened the agency to a medieval city occupied by an invading army."

CIA director John Brennan. (photo: Chris Maddaloni/Getty Images)
CIA director John Brennan. (photo: Chris Maddaloni/Getty Images)


The Good Ship CIA Sails On

By Mark Mazzetti, The New York Times

28 December 14

 

ver a lunch in Washington in 1976, James J. Angleton, for years the ruthless chief of counterintelligence at the C.I.A., likened the agency to a medieval city occupied by an invading army.

“Only, we have been occupied by Congress,” he told a young congressional investigator. “With our files rifled, our officials humiliated, and our agents exposed.”

The spymaster had cause for worry. He had endured a public grilling about his role in domestic spying operations by a select committee headed by Senator Frank Church, a Democrat from Idaho, that spent years looking into intelligence abuses. And the Central Intelligence Agency, used to doing what it wanted while keeping Congress mostly in the dark, was in the midst of convulsions that would fundamentally remake its mission.

READ MORE


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