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Ivory Price in China dropped sharply as the country plans to end the legal trade in Ivory later this year

The Chinese government has taken steps to stop the trade in ivory; Chinese demand for tusks has been driving African elephants toward extinction

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Confiscated ivory statues stand in front of one of around a dozen pyres of ivory, in Nairobi National Park, Kenya, April 28, 2016. A leading elephant conservation group said Wednesday, March 29, 2017 that the price of ivory in China has dropped as the country moves toward a ban on the legal trade of ivory this year, VOA

Nairobi, March 30, 2017: The price of ivory in China has dropped sharply as the country plans to end the legal trade in ivory later this year, a leading elephant conservation group said in a new report Wednesday.

Chinese demand for tusks has been driving African elephants toward extinction, experts say. The Chinese government in recent years has taken steps to stop the trade in ivory, which is used for ornamentation and souvenirs. China’s ivory factories are to be shut down by Friday, followed by the closing of retail outlets by the end of this year.

The new report surveys the price of ivory in markets across China between 2014 and early this year. It found the price dropped from $2,100 per kilogram in early 2014 to $730 in February.

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Conservationists say tens of thousands of elephants have been killed in Africa in recent years as demand for ivory in Asia, particularly China, increased. Past estimates of Africa’s elephant population have ranged from 420,000 to 650,000. Some conservationists estimate that up to 20,000 elephants are killed by poachers every year to meet demand.

“This is a critical period for elephants,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, president and founder of Save the Elephants, which carried out the research.

“With the end of the legal ivory trade in China, the survival chances for elephants have distinctly improved. We must give credit to China for having done the right thing by closing the ivory trade. There is still a long way to go to end the excessive killing of elephants for ivory, but there is now greater hope for the species.”

Other factors behind the drop in the price of ivory include an economic slowdown in China resulting in fewer people being able to afford luxury goods, and a crackdown on corruption that has dissuaded business people from buying expensive ivory items as “favors” for government officials, the new report says.

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“Findings from 2015 and 2016 in China have shown that the legal ivory trade especially has been severely diminished,” said Lucy Vigne, a researcher with Save The Elephants. The 130 licensed outlets in China gradually have been reducing the quantity of ivory items on display for sale, and recently have been cutting prices to improve sales, the report says.

By 2015, some of China’s main licensed retail ivory outlets were closed at the time of the researchers’ visit due to slow sales. In other cases, vendors were replacing elephant ivory displays with mammoth ivory dug out of the Russian tundra.

China continues to be the largest consumer of mammoth ivory, whose price also has dropped from $1,900 per kilogram in 2014 to $730 this year, the report said.

Wildlife authorities in Kenya, the main conduit of ivory smuggling in the region, welcomed the news of a price reduction in China.

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“Once they don’t have an appetite for ivory it will no longer be attractive to kill elephants. We are hopeful that China will meet this deadline (to ban the ivory trade) and we will see our elephant populations restored in the parks,” said Patrick Omondi, the deputy director in charge of species at the Kenya Wildlife Service.
-(VOA)

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Chinese Government Offers Free Removal of Intrauterine Devices Forced Upon Women Under the “One-Child Policy”

Documentary film-maker Ai Xiaoming, now 63, said she was forced to have an IUD fitted, but then left with it for decades with no further check-ups

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Removal of intrauterine devices
Women of China. Wikimedia
  • Partial relaxation of China’s family planning controls last year prompted the government to offer free removals of intrauterine devices forced upon a millions of women
  • Women of childbearing age have been offered free IUD removal under the new rules
  • Some 114 million women were registered as using IUDs by the Chinese government in 2006

New Delhi, August 23, 2017: The partial relaxation of China’s draconian family planning controls last year has prompted the government to offer free removals of intrauterine devices (IUDs) forced upon millions of women under the policy.

The offer has highlighted decades of state-enforced contraception and the failure of proper follow-up care under the “one-child policy,” which gave way to the “two-child policy” at the start of 2016.

Now, women of childbearing age have been offered free IUD removal under the new rules, but there are caveats.

The medical fee waiver only applies to women who are allowed to have another child or who cannot continue to have the IUD for health reasons.

Everyone else will have to pay their own medical bills.

Some 114 million women were registered as using IUDs by the Chinese government in 2006, the most recent year for which figures are available, state media reported.

Nearly eight million IUDs were fitted in China between 2000 and 2009 alone, but many women say they were never offered a check-up or replacement every 10 years, as is recommended with the devices.

A report from the country’s state family planning council showed at least 23 percent of IUDs were defective, leading to problems that could require surgical removal or hysterectomy.

“Many are enduring another painful process trying to have the device removed in order to have more children under the new policy,” the Global Times newspaper said in a recent report.

China's family planning policies hurt women, children and families. Click To Tweet

Some women have expressed outrage, saying the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s offer is too little, too late.

“The Chinese government has really acted shamelessly in doing this,” Annie Zhang, president of the U.S.-based group Women’s Rights in China, told RFA in a recent interview.

“They treat Chinese women as sub-human; you can have a baby if they say you can have one, but not if they say you can’t,” she said. “Even the spacing of the children is dictated by the party.”

“China’s family planning policies hurt women, children and families,” she said. “So many women have been sterilized; the figures are quite shocking, and that’s not including the women who died on the operating table or from infection.”

“And there has been no apology whatsoever from the government,” Zhang said.

Documentary film-maker Ai Xiaoming, now 63, said she was forced to have an IUD fitted, but then left with it for decades with no further check-ups.

“In the eyes of the Chinese government, women are seen as having a job to do,” Ai said. “If they tell you to have a baby, then you have to have one. If they don’t need babies, you can’t have one.”

Ai said her own IUD developed complications, meaning that she was forced to have a hysterectomy when it couldn’t be removed.

In Guangdong, the first province to implement the new population controls in January 2016, couples are still expected to accept sterilization after their regulation two children are born.

Also read: China scraps one child policy, to allow two children for all couples

And women who have had one child are still required to have an IUD fitted after the first birth, even if they plan to have a second under the new rules.

The Global Times newspaper quoted Nanjing-based population expert Sun Xiaoming as saying that around 25 percent of the women living in rural areas never had their IUDs removed at all, in spite of guidelines requiring their removal within six months of menopause.

They were never told that this was necessary, the paper said.

It quoted specialists as saying that some 26 million Chinese women will need to have an IUD removal operation in the next 10 years after hitting menopause, costing them a total of 2.6 billion yuan in medical bills. (RFA)

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Can Flourishing Islamic State (ISIS) be Stopped in Afghanistan?

The truth about IS and Afghanistan is definitely no picnic

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Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016.
Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016. The rise of IS in Afghanistan has become such a priority that U.S. and Afghan forces sometimes support the Taliban while battling IS, VOA
  • Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups
  • Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops
  • In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS

June 25, 2017: The Islamic State group is rapidly expanding in parts of Afghanistan, advancing militarily into areas where it once had a weak presence and strengthening its forces in core regions, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.

Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups.

Attacking IS has become such a priority in the country, that disparate forces sometimes join together in the ad-hoc fight, with Afghan and U.S. forces finding themselves inadvertently supporting the enemy Taliban in battling IS.

Confusion leads to mistakes

All too often, officials say, mistakes are made due to confusion on the ground.

Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops, provincial police chief, Rahmatullah Turkistani told VOA. The supplies were meant to help Afghan forces that are countering twin attacks by IS and Taliban militants but were used instead by IS.

“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of IS,” U.S. Chief Pentagon Spokeswoman Dana White told VOA this week. “We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem.”

Reinforcements for the IS cause reportedly are streaming into isolated areas of the country from far and wide. There are reports of fighters from varied nationalities joining the ranks, including militants from Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia and Central Asian neighbors.

Confusing scenarios

Still, the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISK) as IS is known in Afghanistan remains a fragmented group composed of differing regional forces with different agendas in different parts of the country.

“IS-K is still conducting low-level recruiting and distribution of propaganda in various provinces across Afghanistan, but it does not have the ability or authority to conduct multiple operations across the country,” a recent Pentagon report said. But where it operates, IS is inflicting chaos and casualties and causing confusing scenarios for disparate opponents.

In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS. IS regained ground after a few days, leading to U.S. military air attacks on IS positions in conjunction with Afghan intelligence instructions and army operations.

IS fighters reportedly have fled from mountain caves of Tora Bora, where al-Qaida’s leader Osama bin Laden hid from U.S. attack in 2001.

Families displaced

IS fighters were also reportedly advancing in neighboring Khogyani district, displacing hundreds of families, according to district officials. It is one of several areas in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border, where IS has been active for over two years.

Fierce clashes in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar last month left 21 Taliban fighters and seven IS militants dead, according to a provincial spokesman. At least three civilians who were caught in the crossfire were killed and five others wounded.

“IS has overpowered Taliban in some parts of Nangarhar because the Taliban dispatched its elite commando force called Sara Qeta (Red Brigade) to other parts of the country, including some northern provinces to contain the growing influence of IS there,” Wahid Muzhda, a Taliban expert in Kabul, told VOA.

ALSO READ: Flashback to Terror: 1993 Mumbai Blasts Judgement to Hail on June 27 After 24 Years

Recruiting unemployed youths

IS has also expanded in neighboring Kunar province, where, according to provincial police chief, it has a presence in at least eight districts and runs a training base, where foreign members of IS, train new recruits.

Hundreds of miles from Nangarhar, IS is attempting to establish a persistent presence in several northern provinces where it has found a fertile ground for attracting militants and recruiting unemployed youths, mostly between the age of 13 and 20.

IS has been able to draw its members from the Pakistani Taliban fighters, former Afghan Taliban, and other militants who “believe that associating with or pledging allegiance” to IS will further their interests, according to the Pentagon report.

Hundreds of militants have joined IS ranks in northern Jouzjan and Sar-e-Pul province where local militant commanders lead IS-affiliate groups in several districts.

Darzab district

Qari Hekmat, an ethnic Uzbek and former Taliban militant who joined IS a year ago, claims to have up to 500 members, including around 50 Uzbek nationals who are affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — previously associated with al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan.

IS and Taliban are reportedly fighting over the control of Darzab district in Jouzjan which they stormed this week from two different directions and besieged scores of government forces. The Taliban has reportedly captured the center of the district while IS militants control the city outskirts.

Afghanistan faces a continuing threat from as many as 20 insurgent and terrorist networks present or operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, including IS, the Pentagon said.

“In areas where the government has limited influence and control, IS attempts to emerge and expand there,” Ateequllah Amarkhail, an analysts and former Army general in Kabul told VOA.

Hit-and-hide strategy

IS has also claimed responsibility for several recent attacks in urban areas, however, with a hit-and-hide strategy that is proving effective. And it is engaging too in more skirmishes with U.S. forces that initially were sent to the country to help Afghan forces halt the spread of Taliban.

Three American service members based in eastern Afghanistan were killed in April during operations targeting IS militants, according to the Pentagon.

“ISIS-K remains a threat to Afghan and regional security, a threat to U.S. and coalition forces, and it retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks in urban centers,” the Pentagon said. (VOA)

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Satellite sends First Quantum Signal to Earth

This is a big step towards achieving a secure and developed way to encrypt communications because ever-improving computer algorithms can not crack them

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Micius
Micius satellite. wikimedia
  • An orbiting satellite has sent the first entangled pair of photons to Earth
  • It is a big step towards achieving a secure and developed way to encrypt communications
  • They can not be cracked by ever-improving computer algorithms

June 18, 2017: It was reported by scientists today that an orbiting satellite has sent the first entangled pair of photons to Earth. It is a big step towards sending quantum keys from satellites — an approach that has been heralded as a secure and developed way to encrypt communications because ever-improving computer algorithms can not crack them.

A laser on China’s Micius satellite, which was launched last year and is dedicated to researches related to quantum satellite communications, spit out pairs of entangled photons from its position, 500 km above Earth. Then two telescopes on Earth – about 1200 km apart — had 5 minutes each day to look for them as the satellite passed over both telescopes. It was found that paired photons survived the journey through Earth’s atmosphere. They detected 1 entangled pair per second out of the 6 million sent in that time.

So how exactly does all this work?

A quantum key needs to be generated first by two people who are looking to communicate. Then, one person receives one of the entangled photons in the pair, the other person receives the other. When the received photons have measured the photons, they obtain bits of information strung together to create a key that they both have. That key can be used to encrypt and decrypt a message. The users can also share a portion of the key publicly to check if it has been compromised. In case if someone tries to intercept the communication at any point, they would then notice a difference between their strings.

Also read: NASA’s Curiosity rover finds a Wide Variety of Minerals in Martian Rocks

There is a certain set of problems as well. Caltech’s John Preskill believes even though it is an important proof of concept, the feat doesn’t address one of the biggest problems with quantum communications. Currently, these messages can’t be sent long distances. Photons, using an optical fiber to carry a quantum signal, can only make it about 100 km before the dissipation of the light.

Quantum systems are similar to optical telecommunications here on earth and need repeaters that are able to amplify the message so it can be passed long distances. But amplifying a quantum message in the same way optical ones are done would effectively result in the destruction of the information. That is why satellite-based communication are being eyed by researchers. The reported 500 km from space is an improvement over optical. Quantum signals were measured in another study published today from a satellite 38,000 km away to a single point. But in deploying a global network which would likely be able to combine optical fiber and satellites, the repeater problem still stands.

Preskill has predicted that it is more likely we will first come up with another form of encryption for communication. “There will be other ways of doing classical public key cryptosystems that we won’t know how to break with quantum computers,” he added.

– prepared by Durba Mandal of NewsGram. Twitter: @dubumerang