Monday, April 25, 2022

Shark Finning Still Continues


Hundreds of illegal shark fins seized at Texas restaurant

Wardens conducting a search last week at a restaurant in San Antonio, Texas, discovered 381 whole shark fins and an additional 29.2 pounds of frozen shark fins inside a commercial freezer.

Because the case is pending, Texas Game Wardens, of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, did not identify the Bexar County restaurant or its owners in a news release issued Monday.

A K-9 unit assisted in the search of the property. The fins were seized as evidence.

Texas in 2016 joined the list of U.S. states and territories to ban the sale and possession of shark fins.

ALSO ON FTW OUTDOORS: Rarely seen wolverines anything but shy in trail-cam footage

Shark fin soup is considered a delicacy in some Asian communities. Shark finning entails catching sharks solely for their fins. Fishermen often toss sharks back to die a slow death after their fins have been removed.

By some estimates, more than 70 million sharks are killed annually by shark finning.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

China internet censors scramble as lockdown frustration sparks ‘creative’ wave of dissent


China internet censors scramble as lockdown frustration sparks ‘creative’ wave of dissent

Experts say volume of dissent from Shanghai over zero-Covid measures challenging attempts to control information

Wed 20 Apr 2022

China’s strict system of censorship is struggling against the onslaught of complaints from Shanghai, as residents find creative ways to get around bans on words, hashtags and even lyrics from the national anthem.

As the weeks-long lockdown in the city of 25 million prompted widespread food shortages, delivery failures and fatal healthcare disruptions, the government has urged residents to harness “positive energy”. Dystopian banners warn people to “watch your own mouth or face punishment” and drones admonish apartment dwellers. But far from inspiring residents to fall in line, the methods have made tensions grow.

On WeChat, groups have shared the names and stories of people who died, either with Covid or because the lockdown delayed their access to healthcare. They have criticised local authorities and China’s continued commitment to zero-Covid as the world opens up, shared videos of residents detained, bundled out of their apartments, or treated roughly by pandemic workers.

Much of these posts have been quickly deleted, including an article by a leading Chinese health expert, Dr Zhong Nanshan, that cautiously urged China to move away from its zero-Covid commitment. Platforms have also censored videos of protests and outrage over the separation of Covid-positive children from their parents. A Caixin investigation on unreported deaths quickly disappeared.

In one video shared online, pandemic workers appeared to be forcing their way into a man’s flat to demand he remove a critical post, while others claim to have been visited by police over their tweets. Weibo censored the term “buying vegetables in Shanghai” as people complained of food shortages (although one resident wryly noted you could still post about buying cake). By Sunday, even the first line of China’s national anthem – “Stand up! Those people who refuse to be slaves!” – had been banned as a hashtag.

But the volume of forbidden posts appears to be challenging the censorship system and workers.

Last week, for a few pre-dawn hours on Weibo, criticism of the state flowed unusually freely, as users flooded top two trending – and therefore sanctioned – hashtags with complaints. Under the topics “the US is the country with the largest human rights deficit” and “Shanghai handled several rumours regarding Covid”, the posts were often sarcastic or satirical, evading bans by replacing “China” with “US” in their criticism. Posts stayed online for hours, prompting one person to joke the censors must have escaped the pressures of China’s ubiquitous ‘996’ culture of overwork.

empty supermarket shelves in Shanghai
Food shortages are among the factors leading to discontent in Shanghai amid a long-running Covid lockdown. 

‘People have lost trust’

“We went from the [February story of a Chinese woman found chained in a shed], to the war in Ukraine, to Covid in Shanghai in pretty rapid succession. How far do they allow people to discuss these topics in depth?”

“They can’t fully censor those topics, and then the constant blaming of the US for everything seemed to break the camel’s back, so netizens turned the tables, and now the censors are scrambling.”

Dong Mengyu, a journalist focused on internet censorship, said the mechanisms of censorship were the same as always but “the creativity of dissent does pose challenges for censors”.

“The volume of dissent reminds me of what we saw during the early days of the Wuhan lockdown, particularly following the death of doctor Li Wenliang and the censorship of an essay about Dr Ai Fen,” said Dong. Both had been punished for speaking out about the emerging virus. Following public outcry after his death, Li was later officially lauded as a hero.

Challenge to Beijing

In a possible sign that they needed more tools, on Friday several social media platforms announced they would soon be publishing the IP addresses of users, in order to combat “spreading rumours”.

In a post from Friday, still online at the time of publication, one person hijacked the US human rights hashtag to deride a planned Chinese state media broadcast intended to “inject positive energy” by highlighting “good” elements of the lockdown. The event was later cancelled after online backlash.

“The epidemic has made the Chinese see a lot more clearly,” they posted. “Chinese people are obedient, but they’re not stupid”.

Smith said Chinese authorities used to fear simultaneous street protests breaking out across different cities would be what challenged Beijing’s hold on the population. “I’m not sure if they ever thought something similar could happen online, but it is happening.”By Monday complaints still littered the hashtag about US human rights, as people posted photos of surveillance cameras installed in female university dormitories as a “pandemic measure”, of mocked up polls claiming people were living a harder life than anyone in Russia or Ukraine, of a dog beaten to death by epidemic workers, of the removal of all residents (without pets) from a village north east of Pudong to disinfect it after a cluster of cases.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Chinese trafficking of exotic animals flourishes in Bolivia’s Amazon

Chinese trafficking of exotic animals flourishes in Bolivia’s Amazon

Trinidad, Bolivia — Under the intense humidity and hustle and bustle of everyday life in the Amazon region of Bolivia, a river of exotic smuggled exotic animals flows towards Asia.

In collaboration with the local prison system, Chinese citizens have created a thriving industry that forces prisoners to manufacture products such as wallets, hats and wallets. Threatened Exotic animals.

In Bolivia, it is illegal to kill, consume or traffic wild animals. Crimes can be punished with up to 6 years in prison.

Members of Putian, a Chinese crime syndicate, traffick and sell jaguar teeth, fur, and body parts in several Amazon towns in the Beni and Santa Cruz divisions.

The operation was initially exposed during a 2018 undercover investigation by the Earth League International and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The study revealed how Chinese immigrants living in Bolivia worked with members of Putian to buy Jaguar for the sale of teeth, organs and skins in China.

An estimated 130,000 jaguars remain in the world and are considered endangered. In Bolivia, the number has dropped to 2000-3000.

IUCN figures reveal that between 2014 and 2016, 200 creatures were killed by traffickers. By 2018, an additional 140 were killed by criminals, which could be as high as 340.

Five Chinese were arrested in the city of Santa Cruz after a three-year investigation by the Bolivian Ministry of Public Affairs and the Forest and Environmental Protection Police. Trio was arrested for selling Jaguar parts from behind a fast-food chicken restaurant.

However, despite these efforts, exotic animal trafficking continues in Bolivia, creating a difficult battle for conservationists.

“The law is on our side, but it’s difficult to enforce,” Jorge Eisa Laposo Karau, director of wildlife and natural resources at Beni, told The Epoch Times.

Epoch Times Photo
Wildlife director Benihorhera Posokalau (R) and two staff members will showcase the illegal black caiman and jaguar fur confiscated in Trinidad on April 11, 2022. 

By the skin of their teeth

Karau’s office has a banner behind the desk that says “No Wildlife Trade or Capture” and a free hotline number for calling and reporting on animal trafficking. increase.

“It wasn’t always the case,” Karau gestured to the banner.

“Until recent years, the only reason locals hunted jaguars was to protect cattle and children when trying to attack the village.”

Karau says China’s business interests are driving demand for wildlife, especially Jaguar parts. As of August 2018, Bolivian authorities have confiscated a staggering 684 Jaguar fangs from Chinese smugglers. Of that number, Customs intercepted 119 at the border crossing.

Illegal wildlife exports $ 19 billion annually It is an industry around the world and offers too much profit for the underfunded locals to refuse.

This is evident in the stalls of black market sellers on the outskirts of Trinidad. At the end of the dusty road is the country market. Fruit and vegetable stalls line up with locals selling products made from illegally procured wildlife pieces.

A local woman named Brenda exhibited a variety of purses, hats, belts and purses made of jaguar fur, in addition to Puma, Anaconda and Caiman.

“Only foreigners buy this item,” she told The Epoch Times, taking down a man’s wallet made of jaguar fur and scrutinizing it.

Products made from illegal animal parts on display at Brenda’s stalls were sold at retail prices. Prices ranged from $ 16 for a small men’s wallet made of anaconda or black caiman leather to $ 150 for a Jaguar pelt cowboy hat or women’s handbag.

Epoch Times Photo
April 11, 2022, Trinidad Black Market stalls exhibiting products made from jaguars, anacondas, ocelots and other wildlife. 

Brenda recognizes that customs may seize products made from wildlife parts when leaving the country, and that it is illegal to sell her goods at stalls. But he said he didn’t seem to care.

After all, demand already exists, and Brenda argues that she is just one link in a series of symptoms that represent the fast-growing animal trading industry that China has brought to the region. I am.

However, she revealed that China is the main buyer of these items, but China is not the only player in illegal export games.

“Recently, I had a buyer from Spain and bought two Jaguar hats for a friend of a doctor at home,” Brenda said.

She added that a local prison in Trinidad, run by the Bolivian government, fuels the animal trading industry. A prison called Mokobi participates in a program that forces prisoners to buy leather goods from a variety of animals, including illegal wildlife.

During ~ Live broadcast From BTV on September 26, 2021, a reporter interviewed a prison leather goods seller and revealed footage of a hat and purse made of illegal Jaguar fur.

In an interview, the seller claimed that the program was aimed at helping “rehabilitation of prisoners” and preparing for normal work after being released from prison.

And, ironically, this is done by forcing a convicted criminal to commit another crime, from the perspective of Bolivian law.

When contacted by The Epoch Times, officials from the Directorate General of the Prison System declined to comment.

Prior to the 2018 bust, Chinese traffickers were able to export small parts from Jaguar, especially Fang, fairly easily via the national international airport. However, as customs officials have begun to crack down on practices, opportunist smugglers are looking to alternative routes to get the coveted exotic animal items out of the country.

Some of these methods include the transfer of smuggled goods across borders to Brazil and the infamous “Death Corridor” in the desolate section of the Atacama Desert between Bolivia and Chile.

Epoch Times Photo
April 13, 2022, a cargo ship on the Ibare River. 

One of the biggest problems for conservationists is the size and relatively small population of the country’s wilderness. Bolivia’s population density is only 26 per square mile compared to neighboring Brazil, which is 62 per square mile.

This leads to a lack of law enforcement, especially in national parks where many of the country’s wildlife and endangered animals live and poachers are free to operate.

“We are doing what we can, but we need more people,” Karau said.

Dangerous myth

Jaguar hunting has grown with the tourism industry in the mountain river town of Rurrenabaque.

Adela Jordan, a local eco-lodge operator and landowner, has seen the mindset of locals change over the years as China’s money and influence permeate the region.

“They are predators [China], They consume everything they see. Land, animals, rivers, trees, everything, “Jordan told The Epoch Times.

She explained why ranchers in the area began aggressively hunting jaguars after the Chinese people showed an interest in buying teeth and other body parts.

About 20 miles away is the city of Reyes, and Jordan said another black market thrives, offering products made from wildlife, including jaguars.

“Very many [locals] I’m a poacher here, “she lamented.

Epoch Times Photo
Jaguar fur was confiscated on April 11, 2022 from an animal trafficker detained by Beni’s director of wildlife, Jorge Karau. 

The thriving undercurrent of trafficking is in contrast to Rurrenabaque’s international fame, Madidi National Park.

Crouching on the edge of the last expanse of the pristine Amazon wilderness, the town’s tour operators offer a three-day to one-week deep jungle adventure and wildlife spotting tour reminiscent of an African photo safari.

However, this money has proven too attractive for locals to let go, as Chinese criminals are offering Jaguar fangs $ 100 to $ 400 per tooth.

The myths surrounding good luck, good luck, protection and vitality allegedly provided by Jaguar’s teeth are an extension of the existing Chinese belief that the Asian tiger piece offers the same benefits and are at the heart of demand.

In addition, there have been deliberate but unplanned rescue attempts, and many released animals, including jaguars, live in cages for the rest of their lives.

Jordan described one such animal shelter near the town of Rurrenabaque. The shelter shot wild jaguars that invaded the premises and attempted to attack one of the captive animals of the rescue center.

“So what was the point if they had to shoot one of the animals they were trying to protect?” Jordan asked rhetorically.

Meanwhile, the multi-million dollar Amazon wildlife tourism industry exists in a strange juxtaposition with Chinese wildlife traffickers. Jaguar fangs are sold in the Chinese black market at prices of $ 2,000 to $ 3,000 per piece.

In 2018, a statement from the Chinese Embassy in Bolivia pleaded with citizens of South American countries to respect and “adher” to both Chinese and Bolivian laws and regulations against illegal trafficking of wildlife. Was issued.

The Minister of the Environment of Bolivia did not respond to the request for comment.

 Jeanine Áñez

A blast from the past: Corrupt owner of hotels & Insurance company gets major jail sentence'

 A blast from the past: Corrupt owner of hotels & Insurance company gets major jail sentence'

Founder of insurance giant that owns Waldorf Hotel sentenced to 18 years in prison

SHANGHAI — A court in Shanghai sentenced the founder of the Chinese insurance company that owns New York City’s Waldorf Hotel to 18 years in prison Thursday after he pleaded guilty to fraudulently raising billions of dollars from investors, state media reported.

Shanghai’s No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court also ordered the confiscation of $1.6 billion in assets from smiling Wu Xiaohui, the former chairman of Anbang Insurance Group.

Wu, who founded privately owned Anbang in 2004, has been accused of misleading investors and diverting money for his own use. He was detained last year and regulators seized control of Anbang in February. He was shown on state TV in March admitting guilt.

Wu initially had denied his guilt at his one-day trial, according to an earlier court statement.

According to Xinhua, Wu concealed his ownership of shares in companies controlled by Anbang, filed false statements with financial authorities and lured investors by offering rates of return above that offered elsewhere.

It said he used more than 100 companies under his control to manage funds and authorities later recovered bank savings, real estate and other assets. Wu used his position to misappropriate $1.5 billion in Anbang’s deposits, according to Xinhua’s lengthy report.

Xinhua said the court determined the length of the sentence according to the facts of the case, the severity of the crime, and its “degree of social harm.” It said more than 50 people were present at the sentencing, including Wu’s relatives and journalists.

Anbang last month said it was receiving a $9.6 billion bailout from a government-run fund. That would mean the government fund owns 98 percent of the company, wiping out most of the equity stake once held by Wu and other shareholders.

The company engaged in a global asset-buying spree, raising questions about its stability. Anbang discussed possibly investing in a Manhattan skyscraper owned by the family of US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner. Those talks ended last year with no deal.

The negotiations with Kushner Cos. about 666 Fifth Aveprompted members of the US Congress to raise ethics concerns.

The Anbang case is one of a string of scandals in China’s insurance industry. The industry’s former top regulator was charged in September with taking bribes, and other insurers have been accused of reckless speculation in stocks and real estate.

Monday, April 18, 2022

'India Will Not Spare Anyone': Indian Defence Minister Sends Veiled Warnings to China, US


'India Will Not Spare Anyone': Indian Defence Minister Sends Veiled Warnings to China, US

India’s Defense Minister Rajnath Singh participates in a joint news conference during the fourth US-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue at the State Department in Washington, DC, on April 11, 2022. - Sputnik International, 1920, 16.04.2022

"India has never adopted this kind of diplomacy. India will never opt for this (kind of diplomacy). We don't believe in the zero-sum game in international relationships", he said.

Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has delivered a strong message to the United States amid tensions between New Delhi and Washington.      Rajnath's remarks come amid US pressure on India over Prime Minister Narendra Modi's position on Russia's special military operation in Ukraine.

Despite growing pressure from Washington, Delhi has maintained a neutral stance on the matter, having abstained from every UN vote since Russia launched its operation in Ukraine on 24 February.
What's more, India has purchased discounted oil from Russia, stressing that it's putting the country's national interests and energy security first, this ignoring a US-led sanctions campaign against Moscow. India and Russia are also exploring ways to find an alternative payment mechanism to SWIFT where they would be able to do trade in their own currencies, the rupee and ruble respectively.
In March, US President Joe Biden described New Delhi's response to the Russian military operation as "shaky".
President Joe Biden listens to reporter's questions during a meeting on efforts to lower prices for working families, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 12.04.2022
'A Bully': Biden Slammed in India for Telling Modi That Buying Russian Oil Not in Delhi's 'Interest'
This was followed by US Deputy National Security Adviser (NSA) for International Economic Cooperation Daleep Singh warning India of "consequences" if Delhi were to deepen its commercial ties with Moscow.

Aside from sending a veiled message to the United States, the Indian defence minister apparently issued a stark warning to China, too.
Without naming China directly, Rajnath said that no country could think about hurting India anymore as its soldiers were giving a fitting response to any incursions at the border.

"I cannot say openly what they (Indian soldiers) did and what decisions we (the government) took. But I can definitely say that a message has gone that India will not spare anyone, if India is harmed", he added.

The military stand-off between India and China began in May 2020 after troops of both countries had skirmishes on the border in Ladakh's Pangong lake area. But the actual escalation in the face-off took place in June, when the two sides engaged in violent clashes that left 20 Indian soldiers and four Chinese troops killed.
The two countries have had 15 rounds of negotiations to end the stalemate in Ladakh. While disengagement was accomplished in certain border areas, they are yet to resolve the matter completely.
Rajnath was on an official visit to the United States where he attended the 2+2 ministerial dialogue, featuring the foreign and defence ministers of the two countries in Washington. He was accompanied by India's Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar during the trip.