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Over 200 black bears killed in US

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Miami: More than 200 black bears were killed in the first day of an authorised hunt in Florida, a state where hunting the animals was banned for 21 years, officials said.

A total of 207 bears were killed on Saturday, the first day of the seven-day season, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, or FWC, said on Sunday.

Hunters killed nearly two-thirds of the maximum of 320 black bears authorised by the FWC for the entire state of Florida in just one day.

The limits were reached in two of the four districts approved for hunting in the first day of the hunt and no more bears would be allowed to be killed in those areas.

Hunting will continue on Sunday in the southern and northern parts of the state.

Environmentalists and animal rights groups oppose the planned hunt, which the FWC justified on the grounds that black bears had become a nuisance in many areas, attacking people and pets, and scavenging for food around homes.

The FWC said hunting would be allowed for at least two days, with officials evaluating the results on the third day before deciding whether to continue or call off the one-week hunt.

Officials estimate that about 3,100 bears live in Florida, with the animals moving into areas where they did not have a presence in the past.

Some 1,900 hunters obtained permits from the FWC, raising concerns among environmentalists that the hunt would get out of control.

The permits, which allow hunters to kill only one bear, cost just $100 for Florida residents and $300 for non-residents.

The hunt will stabilise Florida’s bear population, which was nearly wiped out in the 20th century and has recovered from about 300 animals in 1974 to 3,100 today, making the big predators a conservation success story, the FWC said.

Conservation groups and animal rights organisations criticised the hunt but were unable to keep the 1994 ban on bear hunting in place.

(IANS)

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Pakistan In U.S. Blacklist For Religious Freedom Violations

Russia has increasingly drawn concern in the United States over its treatment of Jehovah's Witnesses

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Pakistan, Religious Freedom
Members and supporters of the Muslim Student Organization (MSO) chant slogans during a protest after the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy against Islam, in Islamabad, Pakistan. VOA

The United States said Tuesday it has added Pakistan to its blacklist of countries that violate religious freedom, ramping up pressure over its treatment of minorities.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he had designated Pakistan among “countries of particular concern” in a congressionally mandated annual report, meaning the U.S. government is obliged to exert pressure to end freedom violations.

Pompeo a year earlier had placed Pakistan on a special watch list – a step short of the designation – in what had been seen as a U.S. tactic to press Islamabad into reforms.

Human rights advocates have long voiced worry about the treatment of minorities in Pakistan, including Shiites, Ahmadis and Christians.

Sikh, Religious Freedom
A Sikh pilgrim visits the shrine of their spiritual leader Guru Nanak Dev in Kartarpur, Pakistan. VOA

But the timing of the full designation may be jarring as it comes after Pakistan moved to resolve its most high-profile case, with the Supreme Court in October releasing Asia Bibi – a Christian woman on death row for eight years for blasphemy.

The government recently charged a hardline cleric, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, with terrorism and sedition after he led violent protests against Bibi’s acquittal.

“In far too many places across the globe, individuals continue to face harassment, arrests or even death for simply living their lives in accordance with their beliefs,” Pompeo said in a statement.

“The United States will not stand by as spectators in the face of such oppression,” he said.

Nine countries remained for another year on the list of Countries of Particular Concern – China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

pakistan,Sikh, Religious Freedom
Pakistani activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, center, arrives along with her father Ziauddin Yousafzai, second left, brother Atal Yousafzai, left, and the principal of all-boys Swat Cadet College Guli Bagh, during her hometown visit, March 31, 2018. VOA

The United States removed one country from the list – Uzbekistan– but kept it on the watch list.

Pompeo also put on the watch list Russia, adding another item of contention to the relationship between the two powers.

Also Read: The Hindu Temple of Gulyana and Sikh Samadhi in Pakistan

Russia has increasingly drawn concern in the United States over its treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the heterodox Christian group known for proselytization.

Also on the watch list was the Comoros, the Indian Ocean archipelago that is almost exclusively Sunni Muslim. (VOA)