Saturday, 21 February 2015

Training Africa's Law Enforcers, Targeting Illegal Ivory Trade

Law enforcers from Malawi and Zambia gathered in Lusaka this week to participate in a high level training exercise aimed to ensure their success in targeting ivory retailers and thus disrupting the grisly ivory supply chain.

The training was funded by IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) and conducted by INTERPOL in cooperation with the Zambian Wildlife Authority (ZAWA).

During the five-day course law enforcers were taught key competencies aimed to help them successfully investigate and prosecute illegal ivory trade at the retail and wholesale level.

"We're delighted that this training has turned out 14 highly skilled law enforcers, who now have the specialized, professional standard enforcement skills needed to combat the ivory trade," said Kelvin Alie, Director of Wildlife Trade for IFAW.

"As a result they will be able to plan and coordinate law enforcement operations to identify and target ivory buyers, wholesalers and ivory carving factories in their home countries – Malawi and Zambia. If you disrupt these operations at this level, it contributes significantly to disrupting the illegal ivory trade more broadly."

As one of the world's most lucrative criminal activities, valued at US$19-billion annually, illegal wildlife trade ranks fifth globally in terms of value, behind the trafficking in drugs, people, oil and counterfeiting. Up to 35,000 elephants lose their lives to poaching for their ivory each year.

Most illegal ivory is destined for Asia, in particular China, where it has soared in value as an investment vehicle and is coveted as "white gold." Availability of legal ivory in China purchased from the stockpile sale in southern Africa in 2008 has, in turn, boosted demand encouraging illegal ivory trade and the poaching of elephants to meet market needs.

As part of a worldwide capacity building initiative IFAW trains law enforcement officers in wildlife trafficking prevention in several countries throughout Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Oceania, and the Caribbean. The organization has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Interpol, the first ever signed by Interpol's Environmental Security Sub-Directorate with an NGO. IFAW and Interpol have collaborated on numerous projects since 2005 including Interpol's largest-ever illegal ivory trade operation in 2012.

The IFAW report, Criminal Nature: The Global Security Implications of the Illegal Wildlife Trade, documents the threat the illegal trade poses to animals like elephants and rhinos, and also people. The learn more about the illegal ivory trade, download IFAW's digital magazine Unveiling the Ivory Trade

SOURCE International Fund for Animal Welfare


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Thursday, 19 February 2015

Canada: First Nation Chiefs say: "Oil May Go, But Not by Rail"

Northern B.C. First Nation leaders who this week agreed to consider an alternate oil-pipeline proposal say they will block any attempt to move oil through B.C. by rail.

Chief Dan George of Burns Lake Band; Chief Archie Patrick of Stellat'en First Nation; Larry Marsden, Head Chief, on behalf of the Gitsegukla hereditary chiefs; Art Mathews, Head Chief on behalf of the Gitwangak Hereditary Chiefs; and Wes Sam, Business and Economic Development Lead, Burns Lake Band have committed to exploring how Eagle Spirit Energy could address the concerns identified by Northern First Nations regarding oil by rail. Currently, a plan is in place to organize a meeting of northern Chiefs (likely in the 30-45 days) to discuss how to stop or block oil by rail.

First Nations in B.C. have overwhelmingly rejected Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, which would transport bitumen across the province and on to Asia through Kitimat. As a result, however, oil companies are now shipping oil by rail in record and growing volumes, increasing risks to the environment and northern communities.

Current rail capacity exceeds 1.1 million barrels per day and CN and CP Rail are investing in new infrastructure to handle this growth. Rail is now the dominant transport strategy for some oil companies.

The tragedy in Lac-M├ęgantic two years ago illustrated the dangers posed by oil shipment by rail. In 2013, there were 110 train derailments in B.C. alone. As in Lac-M├ęgantic, a significant number of First Nation communities are located on the railroad, which often splits the community in two.

Three more derailments occurred over two days illustrating the First Nation Chiefs' concerns. Valentines Day saw the derailment of 12 cars carrying Oil in the Crowsnest pass, leaving two cars overturned. Later that day, a CN train derailed south of Timmins, Ontario involving 29 of the 100 rail cars, leading to a fire. Add to that, the catastrophic derailment one day later on February 15th, and the subsequent state of emergency declared in West Virginia, as bomb-like explosions and fire resulted, and oil began flowing into the Kanawha River.

According to Chief Patrick, "These derailments are not the exception; they represent our new reality, with a derailment occurring on average, every 60 minutes."

According to Hereditary Chief, Larry Marsden, "Are we expected to sit back and wait until this [a derailment] happens in our community or along our rivers? The railway and oil companies have put us in position where we are forced to do nothing, or take action. As stewards of the land, and protectors of the environment, we will not sit by, idle".

"The railroad systems were built to avoid steep climbs, which means they often follow lakes, rivers and other vulnerable ecosystems" says Stellat'en First Nation Chief Archie Patrick, "and these rail cars are carrying many toxic products: crude oil, bitumen, jet-fuel, sulfuric acid, ammonia, ethanol, chlorine, etc., yet there is no environmental assessment, consultation, or permitting processes".

Nor is First Nation consent or consultation required, in spite of the landmark Tsilhqot'in decision, which reinforced the fact that First Nations have rights and title over their land and must be consulted. "The railway is allowed to function with impunity, and is under no obligation to consult, disclose or collaborate with anyone," says Wes Sam.

Chief Dan George of the Burns Lake Indian Band says oil by rail is a serious threat. "We are obligated as leaders in this province, as First Nation chiefs, to be on the defensive and to explore and study alternatives. This is why we are currently exploring the Eagle Spirit Energy Project as an alterative to oil by rail."

Hereditary Chief Art Mathews agreed. "If industry spent more time working with us, and ensuring that they have our support for any project on our land, and less time working around us, they would find out that we are willing to look at all business opportunities. We cannot and will not leave the protection our pristine, food and life giving waters [the Skeena River] to the railway and oil companies. We will take action to ensure that they are never put at risk, or the very future of our land and our people is put at risk".

The chiefs understand that oil will move across the province, but Chief George is clear when he says, "Before, our opposition was our only way to assert our rights and title, and now it's about the safety of our families, children and environment. And if my community is any indication of the concern about oil by rail, and the conviction that they have to stop it, the rail and oil companies had better take notice and begin to talk with us".

SOURCE Northern B.C. First Nation Chiefs

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Tuesday, 17 February 2015

South Carolina: British Members Of Parliament attend Teamster Forum to learn about the state of student transportation in Charleston

Teamster school bus drivers and monitors were joined by members of the British Parliament, parents, community, political and faith leaders, as well as representatives from Teamsters Local 509 at tonight's Community Forum on School Bus Transportation, hosted by S.C. state representatives Wendell Gilliard and David Mack.

School bus drivers and monitors from Charleston shared their concerns over ongoing serious workplace safety and service issues with Durham School Services, the contractor for Charleston County Schools. The forum was hosted at the International Longshoremen's Association Local 1422 hall in Charleston.

Ian Lavery and Jim Sheridan, visiting members of the British Parliament, took part in the forum to learn about the state of student transportation in Charleston. Durham is a subsidiary of National Express Group PLC (NEX: LN), a United Kingdom-based multinational transportation company, and the second-largest school bus company in the United States, holding contracts with three South Carolina school districts.

"If anyone can tell me why hardworking people in the United States should be treated different from hardworking people in the U.K. at the same company, I'll listen. All school bus workers should be treated with respect and have workplace protection to protect the kids," Lavery said. "We will be looking at the issues and taking all concerns back to this company's shareholders in the United Kingdom."

Kathy Richardson, a nine-year Durham driver and shop steward with Columbia, S.C.-based Teamsters Local 509, spoke out about continued concerns with Durham's operations.

"We have serious issues with the school buses that Durham is responsible for maintaining. I deserve better, my fellow school bus drivers and monitors deserve better, and certainly the reason we do this job—the children we transport—deserve better," Richardson said.

"A child in the United States of America is just as important as a child in the U.K. What we've heard from the drivers leaves a lot to be desired and the company needs to sit down with the unions because it is every worker's fundamental right," said Sheridan, who in addition to his parliamentary duties serves as chair of Unite the Union's parliamentary group. Unite the Union is the Teamsters' sister union in the United Kingdom.

"This is about our children and appreciating the drivers and monitors for what they do for our community. We stand together on these issues," said Rep. Wendell Gillard (District 111).

"I'm so impressed by everything you do. What's more important than what you do for our children?" said Rep. David Mack (District 109) to the school bus drivers in the room. "We will be fully on board with whatever needs to be done to fix this situation."

Dot Scott, President of the Charleston chapter of the NAACP, was among the long list of community, political and faith supporters who participated in the discussion.

"I'm here to reinforce the understanding that the NAACP is here to support the workers, their union and make sure kids are transported in a healthy environment," Scott said.

Scott has worked with a contingent of community leaders over the past several years to raise concerns over school bus transportation in Charleston.

In April 2014, the Charleston County School Board voted unanimously (9-0) to conduct an investigation into safety practices by Durham School Services.

The Teamsters Drive Up Standards campaign is a global campaign to improve safety, service and work standards in the private school bus and transit industry. Since the campaign began in 2006, more than 38,000 North American school bus and transit workers have become Teamsters.

For more information on Drive Up Standards, go to

Founded in 1903, the Teamsters Union represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Visit for more information. Follow us on Twitter @Teamsters and "like" us on Facebook at

SOURCE International Brotherhood of Teamsters


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Saturday, 14 February 2015

European MPs Demand Fair Trial for Men Jailed in Armenian-Occupied Nagorno-Karabakh

Members of Parliament from 24 European nations have signed a motion calling for two men jailed by an internationally unrecognised court in Armenian-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh to be given a fair trial under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The two, Russian citizen Dilgam Asgarov and Azerbaijani citizen Shahbaz Guliyev, were apprehended by the Armenian Army in the Armenian-occupied Kalbajar region of Azerbaijan in June last year and then convicted of murder by a "court of first instance of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic".

The motion, before the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, was signed by 46 MPs and calls for their fair trial, given they were convicted in a "Republic" that is an "unrecognised separatist regime", which is not a signatory to any international treaties that "guarantee either human rights or the rule of law".

The 46 signatories include MPs from Ireland, Spain, Italy, Finland, Ukraine and Croatia.

The motion was tabled on February 5th by Azerbaijani PACE delegate Elkhan Suleymanov, who said the two men could only be legally tried by an Azerbaijani court, given the alleged offence took place in internationally-recognised Azerbaijani territory. He said the additional charge of illegally entering Nagorno-Karabakh is void for the same reason.

Asgarov was sentenced to life imprisonment and Guliyev to 22 years. A third man, Hasan Hasanov, was shot dead at the scene.

Suleymanov has questioned the actions of the Armenian Army who, despite answering to Yerevan, chose to hand the men over to the so-called "Nagorno-Karabakh Republic", which has not been recognised by any United Nations member state, including Armenia.

"This is a deliberate action, not a coincidence. The Armenian side wants to insure itself from being involved in any international responsibility by distancing itself from this issue," he said.

Had the men been able to access the Azerbaijani legal system, there would have been no "first instance" court and they would have had the protection of the European Convention on Human Rights, which was signed by Azerbaijan in 2001. At the time Baku warned that "it is unable to guarantee the application of the provisions of the Convention in the territories occupied by the Republic of Armenia until these territories are liberated from that occupation."

That occupation continues to this day, despite numerous resolutions calling for Armenia's immediate withdrawal by the United Nations, European Parliament, the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and other international bodies.SOURCE Azerbaijan Monitor

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Friday, 13 February 2015

New Report Shines Light on the 100 Most Overpaid CEOs in S&P 500

A new report from nonprofit As You Sow looks at the executive compensation packages at S&P 500 companies, highlighting the 100 most overpaid CEOs and examining the trend of ever-increasing CEO pay. CEO pay has grown nearly 1,000% over the past four decades, far exceeding growth in median worker pay or company share prices.

"Skyrocketing CEO pay packages represent a misallocation of assets that is detrimental to investors, and a driver of wider social inequality," said Rosanna Landis Weaver, report author and Program Manager of As You Sow's Executive Compensation initiative. "This is an issue that effects everyone – the pay packages analyzed in this report are from companies that the majority of retirement funds are invested in. If someone has a 401(k) through their employer, it's likely they are invested in a company with an overpaid CEO."
The report found widespread consensus on the worst actors. Nabors Industries, Oracle, Freeport McMoran, and CBS emerged as some of the worst offenders, showing a large gulf between CEO pay and shareholder returns.

The 100 Most Overpaid CEOs: Executive Compensation at S&P 500 Companies also examines the voting records of mutual funds, identifying those that are uncritically rubber-stamping the recommendations of the compensation committees. Members of the committees that recommend these excessive pay packages are highlighted, focusing on those that serve on multiple committees of companies on the 100 most overpaid list.

"Excessive CEO pay packages don't just take money from shareholders and pose a risk for the destruction of shareholder value, they also prevent corporations from paying decent wages to their employees," said investor Steve Silberstein. "Now that we've identified the most overpaid, institutional investors and compensation committee directors should be re-examining their assumptions and advocating for more reasonable CEO pay."

"We cannot look to the government to solve this problem. And we cannot expect members of the board, selected, informed, and paid by insiders, to solve it," said Nell Minow, journalist and noted corporate governance expert. "Shareholders are in the best position to put pressure on directors – and replace them, if necessary – to make sure that CEO pay promotes sustainable, long-term growth of share value, instead of unsustainable, long-term growth of CEO net worth."


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