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USA And Other Countries Pledge To Eradicate Illegal Wildlife Trade

The real test is how quickly they will act on those words.

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illegal wildlife trade
Thai Navy officers and forestry officials display seized dead tigers, leopards and pangolins in That Phanom district of Nakhon Phanom province, northeastern Thailand. VOA

The United States and dozens of other countries have pledged to work together to tackle the illegal wildlife trade and treat it as a “serious and organized crime” following a two-day conference in London that ended Friday.

Trade in endangered wildlife, such as elephant tusks, rhino horns and tiger bones, is worth an estimated $17 billion a year and is pushing hundreds of species to the brink of extinction.

Speaking to heads of state from across the world, Britain’s Prince William, a passionate conservationist, said he recognized that law enforcement resources are already stretched in many countries.

illegal wildlife trade
Britain’s Prince William gestures as he makes speech at the Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference in London. VOA

“But I am asking you to see the connections, to acknowledge that the steps you take to tackle illegal wildlife crime could make it easier to halt the shipments of guns and drugs passing through your borders,” the prince told delegates.

Worldwide, the illegal wildlife trade is booming.

Illegal ivory trade activity has more than doubled since 2007, while over 1,300 rhino were killed in 2015. Asian tigers have seen a 95 percent decline in population, as their body parts are in demand for Chinese medicines and wine. In the last year, more than 100 wildlife rangers have died trying to tackle poachers.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the conference the U.S. will give $90 million to programs that fight illegal wildlife traffickers.

illegal wildlife trade
Seized wild birds are seen inside a cage at a news conference by police officers following a bust on illegal wildlife trade, in Kunming, Yunnan province, China. VOA

“Their criminal acts harm communities, degrade institutions, destabilize our environment and funnel billions of dollars to those who perpetuate evil in the world. These criminals must be and they can be stopped,” Sessions said.

It is not only big mammals at risk.

For example, a critically endangered water frog from the remote Lake Titicaca in Peru has seen its numbers plummet in recent years, as thousands have been trapped and taken to make a juice that some believe has medicinal properties, despite no scientific evidence.

Delegates at the conference applauded progress made, including China’s decision at the beginning of this year to close its domestic ivory market, hailed as a major step in safeguarding the world elephant population.

Aron White of the Britain-based Environmental Investigation Agency says other animals need similar protection.

“This market was both stimulating demand for ivory and also enabling illegal ivory to be laundered through this legal trade,” White told VOA. “But that same issue still exists for big cats. You know, there’s a trade in leopard bone products [for example], large-scale commercial trade.”

Campaigners say existing United Nations Conventions on transnational organized crime offer firepower for tackling the illegal wildlife trade, but they are not being used effectively.

In the closing declaration, conference attendees pledged to work together to tackle the illegal wildlife trade and recognize it as a serious and organized crime.

Also Read: Salman Khan Sentenced to Five Years In Poaching Case, Others Acquitted

The real test is how quickly they will act on those words. (VOA)

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Democrats Decide Investigation Topics To Look Into Donald Trump

The Oversight and Reform committee will look at a host of other domestic issues, including the use by Trump daughter Ivanka Trump of a private email account

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USA, Trump
Flags fly in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Jan. 1, 2019. VOA

When the Democrats took control of the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this month, the new committee chairs said they would use their role of oversight to begin investigating the controversies and scandals regarding President Donald Trump’s businesses, campaign and administration.

Russia inquiry

*At least four House committees plan to look into aspects of the Russian election interference investigation — Intelligence, Financial Services, Foreign Affairs, and Judiciary. However, none plan to reopen a full-scale investigation, since Democratic officials say special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe is already doing that. House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler says he will wait for Mueller to conclude his investigation before considering any possible impeachment inquiry.

The lines of questioning by the committees reflect their particular purview. For example, the Foreign Affairs Committee will look into what Trump said to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their private meeting last summer in Helsinki, Finland, while the Financial Services Committee plans to seek financial records relating to hundreds of millions of dollars in loans from Deutsche Bank to the Trump Organization.

USA, trump
Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 24, 2017. VOA

Trump’s taxes

* Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal says he wants to try to build a public case for why Trump’s tax returns should become public before he makes any formal request for the returns to be released. He says he will hold hearings on the matter and will propose legislation that would require all presidents and candidates for the office to make their returns public. If Neal does request the tax returns from the Treasury Department, he has the authority under the tax code to be granted them as chairman of a House committee, however it is not clear if the Trump administration would challenge the matter.

Immigration policies

* Top Democrats have made clear they want to investigate the Trump administration’s immigration policies, with several committees planning to look into the matter of family separations and detentions at the border.

* The House Judiciary Committee plans to investigate the recent deaths of two migrant children held in detention — Jakelin Caal, 7, and Felipe Gomez Alonzo, 8. Three committees have ordered U.S. Customs and Border Protection to preserve evidence related to their deaths.

USA, Trump, North Korea
A man looks at a TV screen showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, and U.S. President Donald Trump shaking hands before their meeting in Singapore, in Tokyo, June 12, 2018. VOA

Foreign issues

* In addition to Russia, the Foreign Affairs Committee plans to investigate issues involving several countries, including North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Syria. The committee plans to look at Trump’s relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as well as his family’s close ties with the Saudi crown prince.

* It also wants answers to why Trump abruptly announced in December the withdrawal of 2,000 U.S. forces from Syria, which led to the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis.

* The new chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel, says he plans to create an entire subcommittee devoted to investigating Trump.

Domestic issues

* The House Judiciary Committee wants to look into Trump’s decision to fire former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and what his acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker knew about the decision.

Trump
President Donald Trump speaks at the American Farm Bureau Federation convention in New Orleans, Jan. 14, 2019. VOA

* It also wants to investigate Trump’s involvement in payments before his 2016 election to two women who claim to have had affairs with Trump, a possible campaign finance violation.

Also Read: FBI Probes Into Donald Trump’s Relationship With Russia

* The Oversight and Reform committee will look at a host of other domestic issues, including the use by Trump daughter Ivanka Trump of a private email account for government business, the Trump administration’s response to hurricanes Irma and Maria, and some Trump Cabinet officials’ use of government jets for personal travels. (VOA)