Friday, November 17, 2017

The Bo$ton Globe's Big Game Hunt

It's my front-page feature:

"Wildlife defender Jeff Corwin sued in hunting ground dispute" by Bob Hohler Globe Staff  November 17, 2017

Jeff Corwin is one of America’s most popular wildlife advocates and conservationists, featured on television embracing threatened species such as an orphaned spider monkey in Belize and a rescued Atlantic puffin in Iceland.

Yet in Norwell, where he grew up and still hunts to this day, Corwin — who has spoken to the United Nations on rainforest preservation — is accused of trespassing on an elderly couple’s property, chopping down woods to create a hunting ground, and hunting deer illegally.....

They bagged a hypocrite!


"Trophies from elephant hunts in Zimbabwe were banned in the US; Trump just reversed that" by Darryl Fears and Juliet Eilperin Washington Post  November 17, 2017

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration announced late Wednesday that the remains of elephants legally hunted in Zimbabwe and Zambia can now be imported to the United States as trophies, reversing a ban under former president Barack Obama.

African elephants are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, but the US Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that large sums paid for permits to hunt the animals could actually help them ‘‘by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation,’’ according to an agency statement.

We had to destroy the village in order to save it.

Under the Obama administration, elephant hunting trophies were allowed in countries such as South Africa but not in Zimbabwe because Fish and Wildlife decided in 2015 that the nation had failed to prove that its management of elephants enhanced the population. Zimbabwe could not confirm its elephant population in a way that was acceptable to US officials, and did not demonstrate an ability to implement laws to protect it.

Just another lever to use against Mugabe.

The Fish and Wildlife Service’s new statement did not specify what had changed in that country — where the African elephant population has declined 6 percent in recent years, according to the Great Elephant Census project — to allow hunting trophies. A spokeswoman said an explanation will be published in the Federal Register on Friday.

The shift in US policy comes just days after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke established an ‘‘International Wildlife Conservation Council’’ to advise him on how to increase Americans’ public awareness of conservation, wildlife enforcement, and the ‘‘economic benefits that result from US citizens traveling abroad to hunt.’’

‘‘The conservation and long-term health of big game crosses international boundaries,’’ Zinke said in a statement announcing the group’s creation. ‘‘This council will provide important insight into the ways that American sportsmen and women benefit international conservation from boosting economies and creating hundreds of jobs to enhancing wildlife conservation.’’ 

Look at him sling the elephant dung!

Safari Club International, a hunting advocacy group that has consistently opposed any restrictions on importing trophies from abroad, broke the news of the rule change a day ahead of Fish and Wildlife. Its statement included a detail that the agency omitted: A Fish and Wildlife official made the announcement at a forum the Safari Club cohosted in Tanzania, from which elephant trophy imports remain banned. An agency spokeswoman declined to confirm that account.

A representative of the group, along with several other hunting activists, joined Zinke in his office on his first day as he signed one secretarial order aimed at expanding hunting and fishing on federal lands and another reversing an Obama-era policy that would have phased out the use of lead ammunition and tackle in national wildlife refuges by 2022.

This week’s rule change applies to elephants shot in Zimbabwe on or after Jan. 21, 2016, and to those legally permitted to be hunted before the end of next year. A similar rule has been put into place for Zambia. Zimbabwe is currently in turmoil, with President Robert Mugabe under house arrest as a military coup unfolds.

In criticizing the decision, the Humane Society of the United States called the ban on Zimbabwean elephant imports reasonable because Zimbabwe is ‘‘one of the most corrupt countries on Earth.’’ The organization noted that Mugabe celebrated his birthday last year by dining on an elephant.

More on him in the article below.

‘‘It’s a venal and nefarious pay-to-slay arrangement that Zimbabwe has set up with the trophy hunting industry,’’ said Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the Humane Society.

‘‘What kind of message does it send to say to the world that poor Africans who are struggling to survive cannot kill elephants in order to use or sell their parts to make a living, but that it’s just fine for rich Americans to slay the beasts for their tusks to keep as trophies?’’ Pacelle added.

I don't give a f*** what kind of message I'm being sent anymore. I've stopped receiving the mind-manipulating garbage, sorry.

Safari Club International president Paul Babaz said in a statement, ‘‘These positive findings for Zimbabwe and Zambia demonstrate that the Fish and Wildlife Service recognizes that hunting is beneficial to wildlife and that these range countries know how to manage their elephant populations.”

How absurd.


"Zimbabwe military is discovering that removing Mugabe may not be so easy" by Kevin Sieff Washington Post  November 17, 2017

HARARE, Zimbabwe — On Thursday, President Robert Mugabe, 93, entered into talks with both the military commanders who placed him under house arrest, and officials from neighboring South Africa. His motorcade streaked through the city without any army escort, indicating he had at least some freedom of movement. In a photo from Thursday’s talks released by the government newspaper, he was smiling with his arm around the army commander responsible for the military takeover, appearing untroubled.

One wonders how he can do that when he is such a feeb

I'm inclined to believe the U.S. is behind the coup attempt, but others are saying something different.

For the 37 years he has ruled Zimbabwe — from independence to near-economic collapse — Mugabe has outwitted his opponents at every turn, using intimidation, electoral fraud, and purges of his own party. Now Zimbabweans are wondering: will he find a way to survive a coup?

By Thursday night, there were hints that Mugabe had at least bought himself some time. In meetings with a high-profile Zimbabwean Catholic priest and with military commanders, Mugabe resisted requests to step down, according to interviews with officials and press reports.

Many people would be happy to see him leave office. Mugabe has become deeply unpopular at home due to his repressive tactics and the country’s steep economic decline during his rule. Abroad, he has been criticized for his authoritarian rule and his seizure of farms owned by the white minority. He has regularly denounced the West for many of his nation’s ills.

And yet the military’s role in detaining Mugabe has become a flash point for a region that has attempted to enshrine democratic values in its charter.

Zimbabwean military leaders were aware of the sensitivities; after troops detained Mugabe and took over the state television station, a top general said early Wednesday morning that it was ‘‘not a military takeover.’’ The military leaders were prompted to act after the former vice president and one-time defense minister Emmerson Mnangagwa was fired earlier this month, paving the way for Mugabe’s wife, Grace, to succeed him.

Where is she now?

At least publicly, the military has said it won’t push Mugabe to leave — even though it effectively took control of the government.

‘‘The elephant in the room is the constitutional issue,’’ said Ibbo Mandaza, a well-known Zimbabwean academic, referring to the illegality of the military takeover. ‘‘This is a region where coups are not tolerated.’’

See why I titled the post as I did?

While some countries in southern Africa have evident democratic shortcomings, there have been few coups in recent decades. Many are still led by the parties that fought for independence from colonial rule.

The Southern Africa Development Community, a regional body of 15 nations, met in Botswana on Thursday to discuss the situation and seemed to tilt toward Mugabe, and against the military takeover.

In an outline of issues discussed in the meeting, the body described the ‘‘unconstitutional removal of democratically elected governments.’’

The African Union also has taken a hard line against unconstitutional changes of government. Its bylaws require it to sanction countries that have undergone a coup and bar them from participating in the organization’s activities.

Further complicating the situation is the question of who might succeed Mugabe.

Many of those close to the military are hoping that Mnangagwa becomes the head of a transitional government once Mugabe resigns. That prospect is worrying for many Western observers, who consider Mnangagwa to be corrupt and abusive. He was sanctioned by the United States in 2003 as one of several officials ‘‘who undermine democratic processes and institutions in Zimbabwe.’’

On Thursday, 115 civil society groups called on Mugabe to step down and a range of opposition leaders, including Morgan Tsvangirai, once considered his main political rival, said it was time for Mugabe to go.

As Zimbabweans debated their country’s future in conversations and on messaging apps, Mandaza offered his own prediction: he expected Mugabe to resume the work of the presidency within days....



"China says it hasn’t dropped its plan for Korean de-escalation" by Simon Denyer The Washington Post  November 16, 2017

BEIJING — China said on Thursday it will stick by its ‘‘freeze-for-freeze’’ proposal to de-escalate tensions in the Korean Peninsula, contradicting a suggestion by President Trump that it had turned against the plan.

The apparent Chinese contradiction of Trump’s statement, coming just two days after the president’s return from his East Asia trip, highlights the lack of coherent policy put forward by the United States to actually usher North Korea along the path of denuclearization.

James Acton, co-director of the nuclear policy program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the Trump administration deserved credit for raising the profile and urgency of the issue, and for pushing China to impose stricter sanctions than in the past, but he said there was a lack of unity and clarity coming from the US administration itself, over what actions from North Korea might open the door to negotiations, what an acceptable path was to de-escalation, and even whether its ultimate goal was still regime change.

It is a ‘‘question of preconditions.’’ 

Yanmei Xie, an expert on China and North Korea at Gavekal Dragonomics, said China’s announcement Wednesday that it is sending a special envoy to Pyongyang to brief the North Korean leadership ‘‘appears to give the lie’’ to Trump’s assertion that he had convinced Xi to use his influence to press Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons, but a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry said Beijing insisted that dialogue was the only solution.

That is pretty strong stuff.

The plan has been rejected by Washington for a number of reasons, experts said: partly because it would undermine South Korea’s defenses at a time when the threat is higher than ever and potentially spook a key ally, partly because a similar idea was tried in the early 1990s and failed, and partly because it implies some kind of moral equivalence between the actions of the United States and those of North Korea.

Didn't stop them from reintroducing bilingual education here. 

Maybe we should all be learning Chinese, huh?

The proposal also lets China off the hook, and plays into its attempts to portray the issue as solely a problem between headstrong governments in Washington and Pyongyang. Experts say the risks of backtracking are also asymmetrical: the United States might cancel its annual military exercises, but if North Korea reneged on its side of the deal in subsequent weeks or months, those exercises would be very hard to reschedule.

China is the main economic backer of the North Korean regime, accounting for more than 80 percent of its official foreign trade.

It says it is strictly implementing sanctions agreed to by the United Nations Security Council, but experts say it is unwilling to go further, refusing to take action that might destabilize or bring down the regime, or simply turn a nuclear-armed Pyongyang into an enemy of Beijing.....


China just found another ally in the region:

"Cambodia’s Top Court Dissolves Main Opposition Party" by Julia Wallace   November 17, 2017

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Cambodia’s highest court on Thursday dissolved the main opposition party, eliminating the most popular and viable challenger to the country’s authoritarian leader before elections next year.

Human rights groups and the United Nations said the decision to shutter the Cambodia National Rescue Party, or CNRP, would render the country essentially a one-party state, ending its post-Khmer Rouge experiment with pluralistic democracy.

The ruling followed a lawsuit filed last month by the government against the opposition, asserting that it was involved in a US-backed plot to overthrow the Cambodian People’s Party and its leader, Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Naaaaaah, we never do that!

In announcing the ruling, Dith Munty, the chief judge of the Supreme Court, said, “It is a serious crime, so the party will be dissolved according to Article 38 of the Law on Political Parties.” The judge is also a high-ranking member of the governing party and a close associate of Hun Sen.

There is no right to appeal.

The decision, which will see scores of opposition officials barred from politics and their party stripped of its parliamentary seats, was the culmination of a crackdown in which the opposition leader was jailed, media outlets closed, and activists harassed, with a particular focus on groups linked to the United States. 

Looks like everyone is catching on to the CIA cover organizations, 'eh?

The International Commission of Jurists, a nongovernmental rights group, said the hearing and Munty’s role in it made “a mockery of justice.”

“The Supreme Court is irreparably interfering with the rights of potentially millions of Cambodians to freely choose their political representatives and vote for them in the upcoming elections,” said Kingsley Abbott, the group’s senior legal adviser in Southeast Asia.

The United Nations’ special rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia, Rhona Smith, warned last month that the dissolution of the opposition would be a dangerous move toward one-party rule, saying it “would affect Cambodians’ voice and choice at all levels of government.”

The opposition has insisted that the charges of sedition are spurious, and that its activities have been aimed only at winning national elections and forming a legitimate government. It did not send a lawyer to Thursday’s hearing, saying that there was no use contesting what appeared to be a foregone conclusion.

Hun Sen has spent the past month publicly boasting about the opposition party’s imminent elimination. In an address last week, he set odds of 1 to 100 that the CNRP would be dissolved, and urged Cambodians to place cash bets.

The push to eliminate the opposition has also coincided with a turn away from the West, which had long kept the Cambodian government in check with aid that carried conditions for democratization.

I wonder what Morris has to say about it.

Nonetheless, Hun Sen has expressed a personal affinity for President Trump that seems to transcend his antipathy for the United States. On Monday, at a summit in Manila for Southeast Asian leaders, the two posed for a photograph — Trump giving a big thumbs-up — and Hun Sen gave a gushing speech in which he said, “I don’t know if you are like me, or I am like you.”

Hun Sen also praised what he called Trump’s lack of interest in human rights and interventionism, and suggested that the State Department and the US Embassy in Phnom Penh, were not appropriately implementing the Trump “policy line.”


Makes you forget all about Duterte, huh?

Time to catch the train to Japan:

"Japanese Train Leaves 20 Seconds Early. Cue the Abject Apologies" November 17, 2017

TOKYO — It may have been the most profusely regretted 20 seconds in history.

Living up to Japan’s reputation for being precise as well as contrite, a train company in Tokyo delivered a formal apology Tuesday because one of its trains left a station 20 seconds early.

In a country where conductors will beg forgiveness when a train is even a minute late, the Metropolitan Intercity Railway Co. posted an apology on its website Tuesday for “the severe inconvenience imposed upon our customers” when the No. 5255 Tsukuba Express train left Minami-Nagareyama station in Chiba, a suburban prefecture east of Tokyo, at 9:44:20 a.m., instead of as scheduled at 9:44:40 a.m.

According to the statement, the train arrived at Minami-Nagareyama on time, at precisely 9:43:40 a.m. But when it came time to leave, the overeager crew closed the doors prematurely and pulled out of the station ahead of schedule. According to Metropolitan Intercity, no passengers missed the train or complained about the jump-start.

The effusive apology was in keeping with a culture where an ice cream company ran a television advertisement to express regret for raising the price of an ice cream bar by 10 yen last spring.

As foreign media began to cover the news Thursday, observers abroad expressed envy on Twitter at the trainspotting exactitude.

The Japanese were bemused by the foreign fascination.


Also see:

"Indonesian farmers work in a field as Moung Sinabung volcano spews thick smoke in the background in Karo, North Sumatra on November 16, 2017. Mount Sinabung roared back to life in 2010 for the first time in 400 years, after another period of inactivity it erupted once more in 2013, and has remained highly active since."

That was the photo on page A3 of my printed paper.


"Russia, Iran, Turkey to meet over Syria amid US tensions" by Henry Meyer and Taylan Bilgic Bloomberg News  November 16, 2017

Russia, Turkey, and Iran will hold summit talks on Syria next week as Ankara threatens a possible attack on US-allied Kurdish forces and tensions rise between Moscow and Washington over the future of the war-torn state.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will host his Turkish and Iranian counterparts, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hassan Rouhani, on Nov. 22 in the Black Sea resort of Sochi to discuss Syria and regional developments, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news service said Thursday. The three powers are key players in Syria, where they’ve spearheaded a cease-fire initiative and are now cooperating on a political settlement.

As the battle to defeat ISIS nears its end, Russia is stepping up criticism of US military involvement in Syria after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said this week that American forces could stay on to ensure a political transition in the country. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Thursday branded the US-led coalition as ‘‘practically occupying forces’’ because they’re operating in Syria without the agreement of the government in Damascus.

Meaning U.S. forces are there illegally.

Putin, whose military campaign in Syria since 2015 has reversed the course of the civil war and shored up his ally, President Bashar Assad, is at odds with US policy that calls for the Syrian leader to leave power eventually as part of any peace agreement. Iran is also a major supporter of Assad, deploying troops and sending Iranian-backed militias to fight in Syria against opposition forces.

Thus the goal is still REGIME CHANGE, and so much Trump being different.

With the end of the campaign against Islamic State, which the United States and Russia fought on separate fronts, disagreements over the future of Syria are taking center stage as the Trump administration seeks to hang onto territory as a means of influence, said Elena Suponina, a Middle East expert at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, which advises the Kremlin.

‘‘Moscow believes that the Syrian government should get control over the entire territory of that country and then there should be political reforms,’’ she said by phone. ‘‘But it seems that the US, even after achieving its goal of smashing Islamic State, isn’t planning to leave Syria.’’

Putin and President Trump agreed in a joint statement at last week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vietnam to support a political reconciliation in Syria with the participation of Assad. The United States doesn’t see a future for Assad in Syria at the end of the process, a State Department official said.

Turkey, which backed rebels seeking to overthrow Assad, warned this week that it may undertake a military operation against Kurdish forces in the northwestern Syrian town of Afrin, who are allied with the United States against Islamic State. ‘We’ve discussed joint steps with Russia,’’ Erdogan said before flying to Sochi on Monday for talks with Putin.

The three leaders are to discuss the efforts to reduce violence and to see what they can do to help the UN-led talks on a political transition in Syria, Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said according to Anadolu.

Turkish relations with Russia plunged into crisis after its air force downed a Russian fighter plane on the Syrian border in November 2015. The two countries have since repaired ties and have grown increasingly close, with Putin and Erdogan meeting five times already this year.

‘‘Russia, Turkey, and Iran are cooperating very effectively and this summit will demonstrate that they will pursue their cooperation,’’ said Suponina. ‘‘The three countries have set out a road map for Syria.’’

How come peace always gets lost even with a road map?



"Lebanon’s absent prime minister has accepted an invitation for an official visit to France, French and Lebanese diplomats said Thursday. The announcement added another layer of mystery to the circumstances of Hariri’s shocking decision to quit his post earlier this month....."

Also see:

"Suicide bomber strikes Kabul political gathering, killing at least 12" by Sayed Salahuddin and Pamela Constable The Washington Post  November 17, 2017

KABUL — A suicide bomber detonated a blast Thursday near a political gathering of supporters of one of Afghanistan’s most powerful factional leaders, killing at least 12 people in the latest attack in the country’s capital.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility in a statement carried by its Amaq News Agency, but the group often asserts links to attacks without offering proof. The Taliban denied any role.


Was there any TV coverage (not that I would believe it anymore)?

The bomber triggered explosives on his body after police stopped him outside the entrance of the hotel where the Jamiat-i-Islami party members were meeting, police said. The gathering was called to show support for a senior party member, Atta Mohammed Noor, a former militia leader and longtime governor of northern Balkh province. 

Isn't that Hekmatyar's party?

Oh, no, that's the Hezb-e Islami.

Atta has criticized the National Unity Government led by President Ashraf Ghani. Abdullah Abdullah, the government’s chief executive, is a senior member of Jamiat.

Atta was not at the hotel and had not been expected to attend the function, party officials said. He has made many enemies and been accused of abuses, but he commands a loyal following in the north.

He's one of the brutal warlords that the U.S. supports.

Hours later after the attack, Atta appeared on his private TV channel to say that ‘‘some circles within the government’’ were behind the attack. He did not elaborate.

Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN representative for Afghanistan, called the attack totally unacceptable. It was ‘‘an act of terror and a serious violation of international law,’’ he said in a statement. ‘‘The use of explosive weapons in civilian-populated areas must stop.’’

A number of former Jamiat militia commanders and a former cabinet minister, Abdul Sattar Murad, were at the event. It was not immediately known whether senior party officials were among those killed.

A security official said the death toll was at least 12. A spokesman for Kabul police said the dead included police officers and civilians, but he gave no figure.


The U.S. may not be behind the coup in Zimbabwe, but they are certainly involved in destabilizing Venezuela:

"Ousted Venezuelan prosecutor seeks probe into Maduro" Associated Press  November 17, 2017

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Venezuela’s ousted chief prosecutor on Thursday asked the International Criminal Court to open an investigation into President Nicolas Maduro and four other senior officials for alleged crimes against humanity.

Luisa Ortega visited the Hague-based court accompanied by aides carrying large files of papers. She said she turned over to the court more than 1,000 pieces of evidence — including forensic reports, witness interviews, and expert testimony — linking security forces to more than 8,000 murders since 2015.

‘‘Nicolas Maduro and his government should pay for these crimes against humanity just as they must also pay for the hunger, misery, and hardship they’ve inflicted on the Venezuelan people,’’ she told reporters outside the court.

Ortega said she was taking her complaint to the international tribunal because ‘‘it’s not possible to punish these people’’ in Venezuela, where she said the judiciary has been taken over by the ruling socialist party.

Venezuela is one of more than 120 nations that have ratified the treaty creating the International Criminal Court. It is not certain the court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, will take up Ortega’s request. Bensouda’s office receives hundreds of such filings each year.

The prosecution office has received communications alleging crimes by Venezuelan authorities against political opponents since 2002. In 2006, prosecutors declined to open an investigation but added that the decision ‘‘can be reconsidered in the light of new facts or evidence.’’

More than 120 people were killed and hundreds more jailed and injured during months of antigovernment unrest that rocked Venezuela earlier this year.


He's the biggest game in this hemisphere as far as the U.S. is concerned.