China’s Gruesome Dog Meat Festival Has Been Canceled, Say Activists

Dogs for sale are kept in a cage in Dashichang dog market on the day of local dog meat festival in Yulin

By Charlie Campbell

Could the barbarity be at an end? It just might according to jubilant animal rights activists, who say this year’s Yulin dog meat festival — where 2,000 to 3,000 canines are rounded up, forced into cramped cages, bludgeoned to death and eaten — has been canceled by authorities in the southern Chinese city.

Citing local sources, campaign groups say the sale of dog meat has been banned from a week prior to the June 21 annual festival, with offenders facing arrest and fines of $15,000. The move was apparently ordered by Yulin’s new Chinese Communist Party Secretary Mo Gong Ming in a bid to reform the city’s image after a sustained international outcry. A petition calling for the festival to be abolished gained 11 million signatures last year.

“Even if this is a temporary ban, we hope this will have a domino effect, leading to the collapse of the dog meat trade,” says Andrea Gung, executive director of Duo Duo Project, an anti-dog and cat meat campaign group. “This ban is consistent with my experience that Yulin and the rest of the country are changing for the better.”

However, it is unclear how any ban can be enforced, especially when the annual festival brings a healthy injection of cash to the city of 7 million. As the event has never been officially sanctioned, some advocates doubt the government’s ability to prevent individuals from partaking.

“Eating dog has been Yulin people’s tradition for quite a long time,” Ms. Tan, the owner of Three-Six Delicious Meat Restaurant in Yulin, tells TIME by phone. “I haven’t heard our government will stop the festival, or stop the selling of dog meat.”

While eating dog and cat has historic cultural roots in China, like many Asian nations, activists say the Yulin festival was only concocted in 2010 by dog meat traders and tenuously linked to the summer solstice. In fact, dog meat is much more common in China’s rural north, even as the nation’s burgeoning urban middle class increasingly keep well-preened pedigrees as pets.

“More people like dogs now, and especially in Beijing a lot have pet dogs,” says housewife Cheng Jie, while walking her four-year-old Pekingese by Beijing’s Houhai Lake. “But because there is rabies, a lot of people are still afraid of dogs and many parents teach their children to be wary of dogs.”

Activists say most of the 10 million dogs and around four million cats killed for meat each year in China are strays and stolen pets. The unregulated nature of the trade helps the spread of rabies and cholera, according to the World Health Organization. China has the second highest number of reported rabies cases in the world, with an average of 2,000 deaths per year for the past 10 years. About 90% of cases are due to dog bites.

“Most dog meat currently on the market doesn’t have a legal certificate,” says Li Weimin, a lawyer based in Beijing who has worked on the legality of dog meat. “It’s hard to tell the enforcement of the new rule in Yulin, but it’s progress. Other cities will watch Yulin closely and may follow its example.”

Even so, economics means the wider dog meat trade will likely continue. Because the majority of dog meat comes from stolen pets, there are no rearing costs, making it much cheaper than pork, chicken or beef, for example. Activists want stricter enforcement on existing prohibitions on the transportation of live animals to stamp out the trade for good.

“The Yulin dog meat festival is not over just yet,” says Peter Li, China Policy specialist at Humane Society International. “But if this news is true as we hope, it is a really big nail in the coffin for a gruesome event that has come to symbolize China’s crime-fueled dog meat trade.”

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Endangered vaquita marina porpoise could be extinct by 2018: WWF

The tiny vaquita marina porpoise, native to Mexico, may soon be extict if drastic conservation measures are not taken, the World

The vaquita marina, a tiny porpoise native to Mexico, could be extinct by next year if urgent action including a ban on gillnets is not taken, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature warned.

Fewer than 30 of the rare mammals (Phocoena sinus) still live in the wild, all in the upper Gulf of California, the WWF said in a report Monday.

The vaquita population has plummeted 90 percent in less than six years, down from 250 in 2011.

“If we don’t do something today, the vaquita could be extinct by 2018,” said Maria Jose Villanueva, director of strategy and science for WWF Mexico. “Losing it would be like losing a piece of Mexico.”

Villanueva told reporters that the only known threat to the survival of the vaquita—”little cow” in Spanish—are gillnets, long walls of netting hung vertically that trap fish by the gills when they swim through.

The nets are meant to illegally catch totoaba, an endangered fish about the same size of the vaquita.

Deadly gillnets

Smugglers ship dried totoaba swim bladders to China, where they fetch up to $20,000 per kilo. Totoaba bladder is consumed in soup or used for medicinal purposes.

Gillnets also catch a large number species that are not targeted. The WWF says the nets accidently kill some 700,000 marine mammals and birds around the world each year.

Some 374 gillnets have been removed in the Gulf of Mexico between February 2016 and April 2017, but the vaquita population continues to drop—six have been reported to have died this year alone, Villanueva said.

Nets up to two kilometers long have been removed in the area, Villanueva said.

The Mexican government’s two-year ban on gillnet use is set to expire in less than two weeks.

Mexican environmental authorities and conservation groups are working on an emergency plan expected to begin around September to move the vaquitas to a “temporary sanctuary” where they can safely reproduce.

The WWF experts support the measure, despite reservations.

‘Desperate measure’

“We see it as a desperate measure,” said Jorge Rickards, the interim director general of WWF Mexico.

“We consider this a high-risk measure because nothing like this has ever been done before,” he said, fearing the death of even a single vaquita.

Rickards called on the Mexican government for “an urgent plan of action” that includes a permanent gillnet ban in the Gulf of California.

He said the government must also help area residents whose livelihoods depend on fishing.

The Gulf of California, which was officially listed as a World Heritage site in 2005, is a source for half of Mexico’s fisheries production.

A broad array of species live in the area, including over one third of the world’s marine mammal species, five of the world’s seven sea turtle species, and almost 900 fish species, the WWF says.

In its report, titled “Vanishing Vaquita: saving the world’s most endangered marine mammal,” the WWF called on the government to clamp down on the totoaba trade, and to commit to a plan “for the recovery of the vaquita within its natural habitat that includes specific population increases and timelines.”

The conservation group also called on the US and Chinese governments to collaborate with Mexico “to halt the illegal fishing and trade of totoaba” by increasing efforts to “intercept and halt the illegal transport, entry and sale of totoaba products.”

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Two experts resign from EPA posts to protest the agency’s science committee shake-up

By Chris Mooney

In an expanding controversy over the role of science in the Trump administration, two expert advisers to the Environmental Protection Agency resigned Friday in protest at the dismissal of half of the members of a key science committee.

Carlos Martín, an engineer with the Urban Institute, and Peter Meyer, an economist with the E.P. Systems Group, an environmental and economic research firm, posted a joint resignation letter on Twitter, saying they were standing down to protest the agency’s decision to remove the scientists.

“We cannot in good conscience be complicit in our co-chairs’ removal, or in the watering down of credible science, engineering, and methodological rigor that is at the heart of that decision,” they wrote.

Martín and Meyer had advised the EPA science’s branch on research related to environmental contaminants and spills, the disposal of waste, and techniques for environmental cleanups.

The Trump administration has proposed to cut the budget of that branch, called the Office of Research and Development, by $233 million in 2018.

In their letter, Martín and Meyer cited in particular the failure to renew the terms of Courtney Flint, a sociologist at Utah State University, and Robert Richardson, an environmental economist at Michigan State University. Those researchers had served on the EPA’s 18-member Board of Scientific Counselors, and had co-chaired a subcommittee on “sustainable and healthy communities” whose membership included Martín and Meyer.

Martín and Meyer called the loss of their group’s leadership “a shock from which we cannot easily recover nor which we readily accept.”

View image on Twitter

Just resigned from EPA subcommittee to protest removal of @ecotrope & Courtney Flint. Painful professional decision.

“This current context suggests there is going to be an unfair amount of manipulation,” Martín, an engineer and architect who conducts social science research on built environments at the Urban Institute, said in an interview. “From the chairs themselves, to the proposed budget, to the general discussion around the fact that there might be different views put on these subcommittees and boards that aren’t scientifically rigorous.”

Martín was referring to scientists’ concerns that the EPA’s federal advisory committees under Trump will shift away from academic scientists and toward industry.

Last week, the agency decided not to renew the three year terms of half of the Board of Scientific Counselors, although the dismissed researchers said they had had previous assurances from EPA staff that they would be staying on. EPA spokesman J.P. Freire countered at the time that “no one has been fired or terminated” and that the scientists could reapply for the posts.

Members of EPA advisory committees tend to be outside academics or other types of specialists who play a part-time role.

In a statement, a spokesman for the EPA said: “EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors serve three-year terms and are reviewed every three years. Because advisory panels like BOSC play a critical role reviewing the agency’s work, EPA will consider the hundreds of nominations through a competitive nomination process. Individuals who have previously served one term can, of course, apply through the competitive process.”

Meyer suggested that process could be disruptive. “Having to start over again with brand new leadership, and leadership that, given the way our leadership has been removed, I’m not going to trust particularly, that creates a fairly substantial problem,” said Meyer in an interview.

Dakota Access pipeline has first leak before it’s fully operational

The Dakota Access pipeline inspired huge demonstrations in 2016.


The Dakota Access pipeline has suffered its first leak, outraging indigenous groups who have long warned that the project poses a threat to the environment.

The $3.8bn oil pipeline, which sparked international protests last year and is not yet fully operational, spilled 84 gallons of crude oil at a South Dakota pump station, according to government regulators.

Although state officials said the 6 April leak was contained and quickly cleaned, critics of the project said the spill, which occurred as the pipeline is in the final stages of preparing to transport oil, raises fresh concerns about the potential hazards to waterways and Native American sites.

“They keep telling everybody that it is state of the art, that leaks won’t happen, that nothing can go wrong,” said Jan Hasselman, a lawyer for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which has been fighting the project for years. “It’s always been false. They haven’t even turned the thing on and it’s shown to be false.”

The pipeline, scheduled to transport oil from North Dakota to Illinois, inspired massive demonstrations in 2016 and was dealt a major blow when the Obama administration denied a key permit for the project toward the end of his presidency. But shortly after Donald Trump’s inauguration, the new administration ordered the revival of the pipeline and worked to expedite the final stage of construction.

The Standing Rock tribe, which has fought the pipeline corporation Energy Transfer Partners and the US government in court, has argued that the project requires a full environmental study to assess the risks of the pipeline. But under Trump, who has close financial ties to the oil company, the project recently completed construction by the Standing Rock tribe’s reservation in North Dakota and has been loading oil in preparation for a full launch.

The April spill, which was first uncovered this week by a local South Dakota reporter, illustrates the need for the more robust environmental assessment that the tribe has long demanded, said Hasselman.

“It doesn’t give us any pleasure to say, ‘I told you so.’ But we have said from the beginning that it’s not a matter of if, but when,” the Earthjustice attorney told the Guardian on Wednesday. “Pipelines leak and they spill. It’s just what happens.”

Brian Walsh, an environmental scientist with the South Dakota department of environment and natural resources, said the spill was relatively minor and was caused by a mechanical failure at a surge pump.

“It’s not uncommon to have a small release at a pump station,” he said, adding that the company responded immediately and cleaned up the liquid petroleum. The spill occurred inside a “secondary containment area” and there were no environmental impacts, he added.

Standing Rock Sioux tribe chairman Dave Archambault II said the spill is another sign that the courts should intervene.

“Our lawsuit challenging this dangerous project is ongoing, and it’s more important than ever for the court to step in and halt additional accidents before they happen – not just for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and our resources but for the 17 million people whose drinking water is at risk,” he said in a statement.

The company and the state made no announcements about the spill after it occurred.

Walsh said the department only releases public notices of spills when there is an imminent threat to a waterway or public health. This was the pipeline’s first spill in the state, he said.

Energy Transfer Partners did not immediately respond to the Guardian’s request for comment. A spokeswoman told the Associated Press that the corporation maintains that the pipeline is safe and that the leak was contained in the proper manner. The Associated Press also reported that no other Dakota Access spills have been documented in any other states.

The company has fought in court to keep information about the status of the project confidential.

Hasselman said these kinds of spills should be immediately disclosed.

“What kind of oversight and accountability is there if no one even finds out about these things until weeks later?”

Study finds Amazon River carbon dioxide emissions nearly balance terrestrial uptake

Study finds Amazon River carbon dioxide emissions nearly balance terrestrial uptake

Forests have always been considered huge carbon stores, helping to absorb greenhouse gas emissions, but new research in Brazil has found that rivers in the Amazon emit far more carbon dioxide (CO2) than previously estimated, suggesting that the Amazon Basin is closer to net carbon neutral. The results increase the most recent global estimates of CO2 emissions from rivers and lakes by almost 50%, with potentially huge implications for global climate policy.

Published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science, the paper led by Dr. Henrique Sawakuchi from the Center of Nuclear Energy in Agriculture, at the University of São Paulo, the research provides the first detailed evaluation of CO2 concentrations and fluxes along the lower Amazon River and its major tributaries, the Xingu and Tapajós rivers. This focus on the lower Amazon River is important because, currently, it represents around 13% of the total drainage basin area and is not included in estimates of basin-scale CO2 outgassing – emissions derived from the decomposition of terrestrial and aquatic vegetation. Original CO2 outgassing estimates for the Amazon presented in 2002 were based on a conservative upscaling of measurements made in the central basin, which have since been revised with more detailed observations.

For the first time, between 2014-16 direct measurements of CO2 outgassing were made in the tidally-influenced lower river using floating domes during different hydrologic periods (i.e., low, rising, high, and falling water). Measured outgassing rates were similar to those measured previously in the central Amazon River despite the fact that CO2 concentrations slightly decrease towards the river mouth. This is because wind and wave conditions become more turbulent as the river widens and becomes exposed to the coast, expediting gas transfer between the river and the atmosphere. Another consequence of the widening river channel is that the river’s surface area rapidly expands, resulting in the massive overall outgassing flux for this region relative to upstream.

One of the study’s co-authors, Dr Nicholas Ward, from the Marine Sciences Laboratory at the US Pacific Northwest National Laboratory says this research shows that global estimates of CO2 emissions from inland waters have not in the past been properly accounted for, “we typically ignore the lower reaches of rivers that become influenced by tides because they are highly complex; in the case of the Amazon this represents a 1000 km reach of the river that has been ignored in global carbon budgets.”.

The researchers combined their new CO2 emission estimates for the lower Amazon with an updated evaluation of the entire Amazon Basin, resulting in a 43% increase in the latest global estimates of CO2 outgassing from rivers and lakes.

“These increasing emission estimates in the Amazon alone, which still don’t consider the tidal reaches of other large rivers, suggest that the terrestrial biosphere does not absorb as much anthropogenic CO2 as previously assumed”, says Dr Ward, with serious implications for global climate policy, “Politicians and policy makers should recognize that the presence of a tree does not imply carbon sequestration, per se, we must track the history of carbon as it moves from land to sea”.

The study’s authors, who have just returned from further exploration of the unstudied mouth of the Amazon River, hope that this study will catalyze further research into our understanding of earth systems and the global carbon cycle.

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Climate-Denying Group Led by Trump Strategist Lobbied for Dakota Access, Keystone XL

Tony Fabrizio

By Steve Horn and Itai Vardi

The Center for Individual Freedom (CFIF), a conservative advocacy, lobbying, and electioneering group led by a strategist for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, has lobbied for both the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines.

Tony Fabrizio, a veteran Republican tactician and lead pollster, chairs CFIF’s Board of Directors, according to its 2017 incorporation filings, submitted in Florida. Documents from the state show that Fabrizio signed off on CFIF’s forms back in 2004.

According to federal lobbying disclosure forms, the group’s team of lobbyists, at the end of 2016, engaged with then-President Barack Obama’s staff to express “concern with ongoing violent protests and obstruction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and [to urge] allowance of construction to continue without any further delay.”

U.S. Federal Election Commission filings show that Trump campaign’s latest payment to Fabrizio’s polling firm occurred in March, in the sum of $450,000. The New York Times reported that Fabrizio has worked sporadically as an adviser to President Trump since 2011, when Trump first began considering running for the office.

Fabrizio did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Dakota Access Push

In September, about a month before officially filing to lobby for Dakota Access, CFIF wrote a blog post criticizing those protesting the pipeline at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota.

“When is enough enough?” wrote CFIF’s Timothy Lee, who is listed as a lobbyist for Dakota Access on its disclosure form. “When a rational person knows they aren’t going to win, that their point isn’t going to be heard, that they came up short — they throw in the towel. Sure, a toddler may continue to whine and cry, but an adult moves on.”

At the time, current U.S. Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry, served on the Board of Directors of Dakota Access co-owner Energy Transfer Partners. Fabrizio served as an adviser for Perry’s 2012 Republican Party presidential campaign.

After President Trump gave Dakota Access the green-light in January, CFIF sang his praises.

“Today, President Trump signed executive actions advancing the Dakota Access Pipeline, thereby helping restore faith in due process of law,” Lee said in a press release. “Company officials followed the letter of the law in their completion of the approval process, and it is a relief to see that diligence recognized by President Trump.”

A spokesperson for Energy Transfer Partners told DeSmog she was not familiar with CFIF and the company did not retain the group to lobby on its behalf. Reached by email, CFIF told DeSmog that it lobbied for Dakota Access independently of Energy Transfer Partners and was not hired by the company to do so.

“The Center for Individual Freedom is an independent advocacy organization and the direct lobbying we do is on behalf of our mission. Consequently, CFIF has never been retained by anyone,” said Jeffrey Mazzella, president of CFIF and member of the organization’s Dakota Access lobbying team. “Tony Fabrizio is not a registered lobbyist for the organization, and does none.”

Oil Export Ban, Keystone XL

In 2015, CFIF deployed lobbyists in what ended up being a successful push to repeal the U.S. crude oil export ban that had been in place since the oil crisis of the 1970s.

Harold Hamm, lead energy adviser for Trump’s campaign and CEO of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) giant Continental Resources, led the way in funding the public relations campaign to repeal the export ban. Oil from the Bakken Shale is now being exported to Asia, and the opening of the Dakota Access pipeline, which carries Bakken oil, is expected to boost the flow of oil for export. As previously reported by DeSmog, Continental Resources — which has its sights set on shipping crude oil to South Korea — has oil flowing through Dakota Access.

“There seems to be increasing demand for light quality crude in Asia,” Michael Cohen, head of energy commodities research at Barclays, recently told Reuters. “I think with Dakota Access coming online, it makes the pipeline route from the Bakken to the Gulf Coast more economical.”

During the second quarter of 2012, CFIF also lobbied for Keystone XL, which President Trump has recently approved. CFIFadvocated by “urging that Keystone XL Pipeline approval language be included in the final version of the Highway Bill,” according to lobbying disclosure forms.

Previously, CFIC has also lobbied against renewable energy tax credits and President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which was set to regulate carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The firm Mercury Public Affairs, where Fabrizio works as a senior counselor, currently maintains fossil fuel industry clients. These include New Jersey Natural GasPenn East Pipeline Company LLC, and the Government of Qatar, which co-owns with ExxonMobil the Golden Pass Liquified Natural Gas export terminal, which Perry’s Department of Energy recently approved.

Bryan Lanza, communications director for President Trump’s transition team, was recently hired by Mercury as well.

Tobacco Past, Climate Denial Present

CFIF’s roots trace back to the tobacco industry, with the group founded in 1998 by Thomas Humber, who was then a public relations professional for the National Smokers Alliance (NSA). The Smokers Alliance was created and funded by tobacco giant Philip Morris, according to documents housed in the University of California-San Francisco’s (UCSF) Truth Tobacco Industry Documents archive.

A 2013 study published by the British Medical Journal revealed that marketing efforts for the Smokers Alliance were led by public relations firms such as Burson-Marsteller and Ailes Communication, the latter the namesake of former Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes. Ailes served as an adviser to Trump’s presidential campaign.

The paper also highlights that the Smokers Alliance closed its doors in 2001, handing off some of its cash to CFIF.

“We regret that the [Smokers Alliance], as an organization, must end, but that does nothing to diminish the commitment to Individual freedom that has driven the NSA,” reads a 2001 memo written by Humber, also published by UCSF.

“’The effort to disenfranchise and marginalize smokers is, in reality, only one facet of a much broader assault on individual freedoms that has begun to infuse this society. Consequently, upon dissolution, the NSA will contribute some remaining assets to the Center for Individual Freedom, a 501(c)(4) corporation that supports the constitutional freedoms that all Individuals must enjoy.”

Today, CFIF is active in denying the scientific reality of climate change, calling it “political science” as recently as January 2016.

“When we talk about global warming, or global cooling, or global climate change broadly, we’re not talking about science so much as ‘political science,’” wrote CFIF in a blog post. “Science so far hasn’t been able to say with certainty why the earth’s climate may be warming. Many of the computer models predicting, for example, a precipitous decline in Antarctic sea ice have been wrong.”

This climate denial–tobacco connection is not unusual. Many present-day climate deniers, such as those at CFIF, formerly worked on the payroll of Big Tobacco, which is explored in depth in the 2010 book Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming.

Squamish Nation files new lawsuit against Kinder Morgan pipeline

Province’s environmental approval challenged by Brent Richter / North Shore News, May 1, 2017 The Squamish Nation has launched another lawsuit in an effort to stop Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline, this time targeting the provincial government. The petition filed in B.C. Supreme Court on April 20 asks for a judicial review of the province’s […]

via Squamish Nation files new lawsuit against Kinder Morgan pipeline — Warrior Publications