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Bird watchers of the West Bank navigate a fraught political climate

first_imgIn the challenging climate of the West Bank, one regionally prominent conservationist named Anton Khalilieh says there is a general lack of conservation knowledge among residents about birds in the area.In an effort to change that, in 2017 Khalilieh founded a non-profit conservation organization called Nature Palestine.Khalilieh is also working to build a comprehensive database of the birds who specifically live in the West Bank. RAMALLAH — Anton Khalilieh is the premier Palestinian birdwatcher in the West Bank. The 37-year-old from Bethlehem has all the traits of a great birder: an encyclopedic knowledge of bird qualities and calls, insight into the ins-and-outs of the best birding sites — and the reflex to suddenly stop in his tracks and identify a speck flying in the sky.Khalilieh is well-schooled in the splendors of the birds found in the West Bank’s four distinct bio-geographical regions, which range from leafy mountains and coastal plains, to the rocky slopes of the Jordan Rift Valley, to the dry Dead Sea, and cultivated fields along the way.Arabian babbler (Turdoides squamiceps). Photo courtesy Anton Khalilieh.There are at least 370 bird species to see in the West Bank, a wide array despite the small space, ranging from the eagle owl, among the largest owls in the world, to the Palestine sunbird, a nectar-eating songbird whose males have glossy blue and green feathers that shimmer in the sun.But amid a fraught political climate, Khalilieh says opportunities for Palestinian birders are fewer than those for Israelis.“Bird watching is a luxurious hobby,” Khalilieh said. “But because of the political situation and the lack of funds and money and experience, we don’t [bird watch].”The West Bank is sandwiched between Jordan and Israel. Israel captured the West Bank in the Six-Day War of June 1967; Palestinians claim the land is theirs, and the U.N. International Court of Justice maintains that the area is an occupied territory. Peace agreements in the 1990s slated the West Bank as a part of a future Palestinian state and created an interim, semi-autonomous Palestinian Authority in part of the territory. But in the conflict-ridden years since, a final-status peace agreement hasn’t happened. Israeli settlements in the West Bank, considered illegal under international law, have in the meantime continued to grow. Today, the Israeli military guards these Jewish communities where many nature reserves and the best birding sites are located.Woodchat shrike (Lanius senator). Photo courtesy Anton Khalilieh.Khalilieh says there’s a general lack of conservation knowledge among Palestinians about the birds in the area. He says more people should be trained as birdwatchers to systematically track things like nesting habits. It’s something he says Palestinians can and should be leading in, and he’s trying to change that, one bird at a time.Since founding his own non-profit in 2017, Nature Palestine, Khalilieh has worked as a consultant for the Palestinian Authority and Palestine Nature Museum on bird and conservation issues. He’s also working to build a comprehensive database of the distribution of birds specifically in the West Bank. To do so, he’s drawing on Israeli data and research on birds throughout the region, as well as other resources like “The Birds of Israel,” the most comprehensive book on the subject to date. And, most importantly, he’s going out into the field to bird and document as much as he can.“Birds of the Middle East,” another bible of birders here, recently came out with a mobile app for Android that includes Arabic content. “So Arabs will be more interested in bird watching, hopefully,” Khalilieh said.Desert finch (Rhodospiza obsoleta). Photo courtesy Anton Khalilieh.In the last 15 years, he’s learned about the migratory and resident birds to look for, and where and when. His favorite periods are the twice-yearly migrations in the spring and autumn, when 500 million birds pass through from Europe to Africa and back again. It is the world’s second-most important flyway.Birdwatchers here can stay busy all year long. One of the West Bank’s iconic landscapes is classified as Mediterranean mountain region, exemplified by hills covered in vegetation or rocky slopes and cliffs. These areas are a haven for songbirds. Then there are the deep valleys famed for being where some desert species breed.Khalilieh says protecting birds is a hard sell for Palestinians struggling and working hard just to make ends meet. About one-third of Palestinians in the West Bank are unemployed, according to the World Bank. Many more are underemployed and just getting by, so have little time or money for a hobby like birding.Palestine sunbird (Cinnyris osea). Photo courtesy Anton Khalilieh.For Khalilieh and other Palestinians, access to the nearest post-secondary ornithology education requires a special permit to enter Israel. After earning his bachelor’s degree at Bethlehem University, in the West Bank, Khalilieh went on to get a doctorate in ornithology and ecological physiology from Ben Gurion University in southern Israel. He also studied at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in Israel, which brings together Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians to work on shared conservation issues.Scientific studies on birds of the West Bank are included in Israeli bird databases, says Jonathan Meriav at the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI). Meirav is director of birding tours for the SPNI’s International Ornithological Center.The SPNI is the largest environmental non-profit in Israel, but the center doesn’t organize birding events in the West Bank. That’s in part because of complicated logistics, given the territory’s disputed status, Meirav said. Overall, the center facilitates birding tourism and birding fund-raisers and festivals, including a yearly international race in the south, called Champions of the Flyway.Through several birding and conservation projects, though, Meirav has connected with Palestinian colleagues like Ikram Quttainh, 31, an ecotourism expert from Jerusalem. Quttainh became interested in learning about ecotourism and then birding in the West Bank as part of her master’s degree studies. She’s now participated twice in a joint Israeli-Palestinian team at the Champions of the Flyway race.“As a Jerusalemite, I didn’t know anything about what was happening [elsewhere] in the West Bank,” Quttainh said. “We would always go to shopping areas, but never to the nature areas.”Now Quttainh is a project coordinator at the Hanns Seidel Foundation, a German outfit, where she helps to organize West Bank ecotourism trips, including for birding. The foundation, in coordination with the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, has put together the first online database of Palestinian nature reserves. In addition to ecotourism and education, the foundation has funded signs for nature reserves under Palestinian control that urge people not to shoot the wildlife and explain what birds they can see.In places like the Wadi Qana Nature Reserve, a beautiful expanse of natural caves and springs in the West Bank, both Khalilieh and Quttainh said they love to bird watch but feel they have to tread carefully as Palestinians so as not to raise suspicions about what they are doing or veer into the settlements by accident.White-throated kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis). Photo courtesy Anton Khalilieh.A spokesperson for the Israeli Civil Administration, the governing body for the West Bank, said Israelis and Palestinians have the same right to access nature reserves and national parks, which they said were open to all people. They also denied that military zones or nature reserves were in any way connected to political plans to expand and sustain Israeli settlements.But nature reserves in the West Bank’s Area C, which constitutes 61 percent of the region’s territory, are “part of a patchwork of corridors of controlled areas that Palestinians can’t use,” according to Adam Aloni, a researcher with B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization.Khalilieh, meanwhile, is still working to map out how all of the politics impacts his birding and conservation efforts. As part of his research, he’s tracking what’s happening with birds in the West Bank that are on Israel’s “red list” of conservation concern. He also has dreams of one day organizing birding festivals and institutions in the West Bank, like the ones already happening in Israel.In the meantime, he can be found forging ahead in his jeep down the bumpy roads of nature reserves, stopping suddenly to raise his binoculars and record the lives and ecosystems that most others overlook.Banner image: Griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus). Photo courtesy Anton Khalilieh.Miriam Berger is a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem. You can find her on Twitter at @MiriamABerger.FEEDBACK: Use this form to send a message to the author of this post. If you want to post a public comment, you can do that at the bottom of the page. Article published by Genevieve Belmaker Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsoredcenter_img Archive, Birding, Birds, Birds Of Prey, Community-based Conservation, Conservation and Religion, Happy-upbeat Environmental last_img read more

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Disneyland News — Week of December 22, 2018

first_imgHoliday Magic Fireworks1111111 Share This!Christmas crowds are here, the Festival of Holidays at California Adventure marches on, and the whole resort is full of holiday cheer! Read on to find out about this and more in this week’s Disneyland news.Special Events and NotesIt’s Christmas week at Disneyland, and that means you can expect really high crowd levels.  For those of you that are planning to be at the parks on Christmas Day, several restaurants will be featuring special menus for the occasion. If you’re looking for a festive feast on Christmas, Disney’s PCH Grill, Storytellers Café, Goofy’s Kitchen, and Napa Rose will all have seasonal buffets and/or menus for the occasion. Reservations are recommended.In the parks, you will of course find seasonal decor, character costumes, and treats celebrating Christmas, in addition to Hanukkah, Diwali, Kwanzaa, and other winter holidays. Make sure you check out our photo tour of the resort, and Guy’s recent write up of the best seasonal treats to be found throughout!There are a couple of special holiday events at Disney’s California Adventure. Disney’s Festival of Holidays includes the Festive Foods Marketplace, a collection of kiosks serving small bites of all manner of seasonal food and drink. You can check out some edible highlights here.  Additionally, Disney’s ¡Viva Navidad! is a cultural holiday celebration leading up to Three Kings’ Day that includes authentic music, dance, decor, and food. Passholders, make sure you stop by the AP Corner for special freebies and opportunities as well!Disney’s parades and evening shows also get a holiday overhaul, with A Christmas Fantasy Parade and Believe… in Holiday Magic Fireworks taking place regularly throughout the season. Several attractions also get a seasonal overlay for the holidays.  This year, in addition to perennial favorites like Haunted Mansion Holiday and it’s a small world Holiday, a couple of Radiator Springs attractions get a transformation. You’ll find Mater’s Jingle Jamboree and Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl along with the wonderful holiday decor in Cars Land.Finally, the reboot of Mary Poppins, Mary Poppins Returns, is finally here, and you can see a special exhibition of the Art of Mary Poppins at Disneyland. It’s in the lobby of Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.CrowdsEveryone is off of school for Christmas break, and that means we’re going to see mammoth crowds this week, especially after Christmas. Only Saturday has crowds that are predicted to be lower than level 8, and Thursday and Friday are both predicted to have level 10 crowds.Full details, including park-by-park crowd levels, are available on our Crowd Calendar.WeatherThe weather gurus are predicting a relatively chilly week in Anaheim for the holiday, and there’s even a decent chance of rain the latter part of the week.  Lows will dip into the 40s on most days, so make sure you plan accordingly.As always, it’s wise to double check the weather as the day of your visit approaches. Check out the most up-to-date forecast here.ShowsDisney has a full slate of shows all week long. Detailed show schedules, including smaller diversions like The Disneyland Band can be found here. ShowSatSunMonTueWedThuFri Fantasmic!2222222 Admission and HoursPassholder blockouts are in full effect this week; basically, unless you have a Signature Plus Annual Passport, you’re blocked out all week. For those of you buying tickets as day guests, single-day tickets are Peak Price ($135/$127) all week.Regular park hours (excluding Extra Magic Hours/Magic Mornings) are as follows this week: PricePEAKPEAKPEAKPEAKPEAKPEAKPEAK Disneyland8-128-128-128-128-128-128-12 SatSunMonTuesWedThurFri California Adventure8-108-108-108-108-108-118-11 Christmas Fantasy Parade2222222 Early entry is being handled differently this week for the holiday. Early entry at 7 a.m. is available at both parks every day this week starting on Monday (normal rules apply to the weekend — Disneyland on Saturday, DCA on Sunday) for eligible guests. Resort guests can take advantage of these hours every day of their stay for Extra Magic Hours, while guests eligible for Magic Mornings can use that benefit one day at Disneyland Park only. Full park hours can be found by clicking on each date in the Crowd Calendar.RefurbishmentsMost everything is running at Disneyland! With the exception of World of Color at California Adventure, which remains offline until further notice with technical issues related to the redo, everything else that would normally be operating is operating. As always, be aware that refurbishments can pop up unexpectedly, so check out our refurbishments page to make sure your favorite ride is still running, and for details on exactly what will be down and for how long.That should do it for this week’s news. Check back next week and every week to find out what’s coming down the pike. Got questions? Aware of anything else that prospective guests should know about? Let us know in the comments.last_img read more

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Play Your Part by saving electricity

first_imgOne way of saving electricity in households is to switch off any plug that you are not using.Eskom’s power supply remains extremely constrained so South Africans are still dealing with load shedding. The national power utility has called on South Africans to save electricity.Load shedding – when there is not enough supply capacity to meet the demand – allows Eskom to control power usage and keep the system stable. This allows the utility to avert the scary prospect of a system wide shut down – a blackout.The utility has also urged citizens to play their part by saving electricity at home and at work.These are seven tips to conserve electricity at home:Use less hot water. Shower instead of bathing and install an energy efficient shower head;Switch off lights you are not using and use natural light whenever possible;Boil only as much water as you need at a time;Switch to a solar geyser if you can because the geyser uses 40% of your monthly electricity consumption;Change your light bulbs to energy efficient CLFs;Turn off TV, DVD and computer at the power button while also unplugging your charger; and,Keep the temperature at the golden zone if you are using an aircon.Use the cold water tap instead of engaging the geyser every time;When you leave the office remember to switch of the lights;Only fill kettles with as much water as you need;Do not leave your computer on stand-by, switch the power button;Switch light bulbs to energy efficient CLFs;Before leaving the office make sure you turn off copiers, printers and fax machines at the switch and avoid sleep mode; and,Keep the office temperature at the golden zone.Most of the day is spent at work, so think of the difference you can make by saving electricity in your workplace. Follow these easy tips to reduce your office electricity consumption and encourage all your colleagues to be electricity-wise.EYEWITNESS INVESTIGATIONAn investigation by Eyewitness News (EWN) set out to find out whether parastatals, corporate’s and government where adhering to the call to save electricity.Standard Bank’s headquarters in Rosebank were brightly lit and illuminated with neon staircases. A representative of the bank explains, the building is energy efficient and non-reliant on Eskom’s power supply after hours. “From about 8pm in the evening until about 5am in the morning, in general, we’re totally reliant on our gas plant.”At the same time, Transnet’s offices in Braamfontein appeared strangely illuminated, with multiple floors brightly lit while other levels were in complete darkness. While unable to comment on the specific Braamfontein offices, Transnet’s Sandile Simelane says the parastatal has introduced motion detector lighting systems to many of its buildings.“They sense physical movement. So if there’s no physical presence, there then it automatically switches off after a while.”last_img read more

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Poll: Will Your Mom & Dad Ever Use Twitter?

first_imgTags: #Polls#web Top Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hosting 8 Best WordPress Hosting Solutions on the Market richard macmanus A Web Developer’s New Best Friend is the AI Wai…center_img Why Tech Companies Need Simpler Terms of Servic… Related Posts We’ve been very bullish on Twitter here at ReadWriteWeb. We named it our Best Web LittleCo of 2007, because it “has captured the imagination and become a new hybrid of chat, social networking and blogging.” Twitter also received the Best mobile start-up award at the Crunchies in January. And as RWW’s Josh Catone pointed out recently, Twitter has become a platform for serious media discourse. But even with all these accolades, the fact remains: Twitter is still largely used by geeks. Are your family members using it? If so, what for?I’ve already asked this question on Twitter itself and am getting some great responses (my Twitter id is rww). Several people have suggested that their family members may use a Twitter-like messaging system embedded in a social network. On this point, Andrew Baisley noted that “the barrier to entry must be much lower”. However, said Andrew, if family members “could update Twitter from their Facebook status” then yes it might be used.What do you think? Participate in our poll below and leave a comment if you wish. p.s. thanks Polldaddy for the flash-looking new poll!last_img read more

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Brad Bullock Named Corporate Loss Prevention Manager for The Home Depot

first_imgBrad Bullock has been named Corporate Loss Prevention Manager for The Home Depot. Brad was most recently a Regional Logistics Loss Prevention Manager with Sears Holdings Corporation. He began his loss prevention career at Sears Holdings as a Loss Prevention Manager in 2006, and also served as Area Logistics Loss Prevention Manager. Brad also served as an Infantry Officer with the U.S. Army, and has worked with the Loss Prevention Research Council in the Supply Chain Protection working group since 2013. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminology from The Ohio State University.Congratulations Brad! Stay UpdatedGet critical information for loss prevention professionals, security and retail management delivered right to your inbox.  Sign up nowlast_img read more

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Ohio State Football: Former OSU GA Alters Twitter Photo To Show Himself Bodyslamming Mark May

first_imgMark May gets slammed in twitter photo.Mark May ClownFormer Ohio State graduate assistant Anthony Schlegel made headlines last September when he body-slammed an OSU student who had rushed onto the field during the Buckeyes’ game against Cincinnati. The image of Schlegel throwing the student to the turf went viral in no time, and the former Ohio State linebacker decided to incorporate it into his Twitter profile picture. With a humorous edit, of course.Schlegel’s Twitter Avi features former ESPN analyst Mark Mary photoshopped as the streaking student getting taken down. It’s no secret that OSU fans don’t like May, who will not be brought back as part of ESPN’s “College Football Final.”schlegelEven though Schlegel, a former OSU linebacker, doesn’t play or coach at his alma mater anymore, his Buckeye spirit obviously remains intact.last_img read more

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MOL Joins Research on Advanced Navigation Support System

first_imgJapan’s shipping major Mitsui O.S.K. Lines has unveiled a wide-ranging research partnership aimed at developing an advanced navigation support system.The company said it jointly agreed on the project with MOL Techno-Trade, National Institute of Maritime, Port and Aviation Technology, and Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology.In the joint study, all parties will conduct basic research on advanced navigation support system, which is indispensable for safe navigation of conventional ships as well as the autonomous ships of the future.Specifically, the study aims to develop a navigation support system that introduces the concept of Obstacle Zone by Target (OZT), one of the ship collision risk index, leading to the application of technologies such as Automatic Radar Plotting Aid (ARPA).last_img read more

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5 reasons why environmental reform matters after Canadas controversial pipeline purchase

first_img(William George (centre), Tsleil-Waututh member and spokesperson for Kwekwecnewtxw-Protect the Inlet, leads a song at the ‘No Buyout, No Kinder Morgan’ rally in Vancouver, on May 29, 2018. Photo: Julia-Simone Rutgers/The Discourse)Trudeau campaigned on a promise to make environmental assessments credible again — then he spent $4.5 billion on the Trans Mountain Pipeline. What does this mean?LAUREN KALJURTHE DISCOURSE The federal government is buying the Trans Mountain pipeline and infrastructure from Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion, pledging to “immediately restart construction” on the project, which was halted by the company in April.During the May 29, 2018, announcement, Finance Minister Bill Morneau called the environmental assessment process for the project — which would triple the amount of bitumen carried from Alberta’s oil sands to B.C.’s south coast — “the most rigorous process in environmental assessment in our country’s history.”But right now, the Canadian government is in the middle of overhauling the environmental assessment process after Justin Trudeau campaigned on the idea that a “new, fair process” was needed. In February, Bill C-69 was released for parliamentary review. Among other things, it outlines a new Impact Assessment Act which would replace the current environmental assessment process and change the standards for making decisions on major projects.The feds have said that no project proponent will be asked to “return to the starting line” when it comes to applications for environmental approval, so the new act won’t apply to Trans Mountain. But as Canada takes full ownership of the controversial pipeline, it seems what happens with environmental assessment matters more than ever.Over the past few months, I’ve been interviewing people involved in shaping these changes. I’ve also read through recommendations for reforms from the government’s expert panel, based on hundreds of submissions from stakeholders on all sides. While Canadians continue to debate whether Trans Mountain should move forward, here are five of the Liberal government’s campaign promises that scientists, researchers and policy makers have highlighted as key to helping mitigate uncertainty for future projects:1. Independent scienceCampaign promise: “ensure that decisions are based on science, facts, and evidence, and serve the public’s interest.”When it comes to Trans Mountain, scientists outlined a series of gaps in the evidence used by the National Energy Board to make its recommendation on the pipeline expansion. Yet, federal cabinet approved the pipeline in 2016. Now a series of court cases including the province of British Columbia are building arguments around those gaps.Trans Mountain isn’t the only project that’s caused a stir about evidence. The National Energy Board has faced numerous accusations of bias in its use of evidence and energy projections to make its decisions on major projects.Part of the issue is that most of the evidence used to assess projects must be put forward by the industry group that wants the project to happen. This is an unfair burden on industry, as a leading environmental assessment consultant points out (TransCanada said it lost $1 billion in its application to build Energy East). It also puts government scientists and independent researchers on the defensive in a context of dwindling resources for public science.These criticisms are why the government built new rules to make decisions “based on robust science, evidence and Indigenous traditional knowledge” in the new bill.Martin Olszynski, a law professor at the University of Calgary, says this matters because, in environmental law, bad evidence compromises every level of decision-making that follows, leading to a bad assessment, and conflict.On top of that, much of this evidence isn’t public. It can take freedom of information requests just to get the basic information needed to check if the evidence is sound and conditions are met, Olszynski points out.In their submissions on the reforms, experts recommended assessment decisions be based on independent oversight, transparency and cross-examination of evidence (as is standard in academic research). The more airtight the evidence, the less likely a project will be challenged in court for that reason.The verdict so far? Olszynski says it’s ill-equipped, as written, to handle evidence in an independent way.For its part, if the bill is passed, the National Energy Board would be replaced by another body, the Canadian Energy Regulator. The government says the new regulator would “reflect Canadians’ priorities in areas such as greater certainty, more transparency, enhanced public participation and an expanded role for Indigenous peoples.”2. Meaningful consultation with Indigenous PeoplesCampaign promise: “We will undertake, in full partnership and consultation with First Nations, Inuit, and the Métis Nation, a full review of laws, policies, and operational practices.”When the government announced the new bill in February, it articulated a clear focus on developing a new relationship with Indigenous Peoples. In May, a second draft of the bill included a commitment to implementing the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).One of the things the new rules say is that the new agency must consider the impacts on Indigenous groups in its assessment.This matters because Indigenous nations are rights and title holders. The government has a legal obligation to meaningfully consult before and throughout the construction of major projects like pipelines through their territory. If courts rule the consultation wasn’t adequate, an entire pipeline proposal can be brought back to square one, as we saw with the Northern Gateway project.In  announcing the Trans Mountain deal, Minister Morneau referenced “extensive and ongoing consultation with Indigenous communities.” The government also previously launched the Indigenous Advisory and Monitoring Committee made up of 13 members from communities affected by the proposed pipeline expansion to monitor developments.As of April 2018, Kinder Morgan said that it had signed agreements with “43 Aboriginal groups” of the more than 133 that they consulted with. But six First Nations are challenging Canada’s environmental regulator arguing that they were not adequately consulted prior to the government’s approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, as required by Canadian and international law.As our Tracking Trans Mountain database shows, even among the First Nations that have signed agreements with Kinder Morgan, there is criticism that the consultation process was inadequate.“It’s clear that there wasn’t enough effort to work with these Indigenous communities,” says Sara Mainville, who is a partner at OKT law and on an advisory committee for the environmental assessment review.Mainville says she was among those who pushed for UNDRIP to be included in the second draft of the bill and she’s happy to see that addition. But she’s concerned that final decisions go to ministers. “We’re still relying on the sort of ‘trust us,’ that the agency will listen to Indigenous perspectives prior to making decisions.”Along with many others, Mainville says she’s alarmed there’s very little language around consent and how UNDRIP will actually be implemented within the new Impact Assessment Act. “That’s the sad thing about this consultation,” she says, ““You’re being asked to give information and to participate in a process that is so void of real protection of your interests and your rights.”The government is “doing the absolute minimum that they have to do and applauding themselves for it.” she says.3. Big picture thinkingCampaign promise: “We will also ensure that environmental assessments include an analysis of upstream impacts and greenhouse gas emissions resulting from projects under review.”Canada’s most recent submissions to the United Nations show that we have a ways to go to meet its national carbon targets. We’ve promised the U.N. that we want to reduce economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by a 2030 deadline.The government says its climate change plan to “reduce emissions across all sectors of Canada’s economy,” stimulate growth and build climate change resilience will support efforts to meet these targets. But many scientists and people tracking Canada’s progress say the country’s on track to miss this target regardless of measures set out in its national climate plan. In Alberta and Saskatchewan, greenhouse gas emissions are currently going up.The concern with the current environmental assessment process is that carbon-pumping projects like pipelines are assessed on an individual basis — with no systematic way to assess their combined impacts. One fossil fuel project alone will not break the carbon budget, but a bunch of them could.The government’s expert panel, appointed to review suggested reforms and recommend changes, heard that the environmental assessment process should not be a substitute for good policy. But they near-unanimously recommended the government should use big-picture tools like strategic and regional assessments to address combined impacts like climate change.The verdict so far? Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna assured a new, proposed Impact Assessment Agency and Canadian Energy Regulator will take climate change into account.How exactly this will work isn’t clear, but so far, there’s nothing stopping a project that seriously limits Canada’s ability to meet climate targets from being approved, explains Anna Johnston from West Coast Environmental Law. And the use of the broad assessments in the first place remains, like before, up to the discretion of ministers.4. Focus on overall sustainabilityCanada’s assessment laws are written to address “significant adverse environmental effects,” an approach dubbed “making bad projects a little less bad,” by Bob Gibson of the University of Waterloo. But the government’s expert panel recommended that a new agency review not just narrow environmental impacts, but whether or not the project can enhance the well-being of Canadians in the long term. For instance, critics of the Trans Mountain pipeline assessment were frustrated the National Energy Board refused to explore possible energy alternatives to the project.The verdict? The new agency would look at a project’s “contribution to sustainability” as promised. But a close read of Bill-C69 reveals it’s not a firm condition. Instead, it’s one part of a list of “considerations” by the new agency to determine if the project satisfies the “public interest.”As Olszynski and others point out, a lack of substantive rules and clear lines in the sand means the proposed agency continues to be “tilted toward private development.” Environmental lawyers often point to data from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency showing that of the 25,000 natural resources projects assessed by the agency between 1995 and 2000, 99.9 per cent were approved.“As someone who has been participating in the efforts to make Bill C-69 better, this is proof that this test of public interest is always going to favour economic interests over anything else,” explains Mainville. “The big disappointment is how far the government is going to make sure a project happens.”5. Distance from politicsCampaign promise: “We will end the practice of having federal ministers interfere in the environmental assessment process.”Cabinet ultimately gave the green light to the Trans Mountain pipeline, citing “national interest” and standing firm in its authority to ensure the pipeline is built. In February, freedom of information requests filed by the National Observer revealed public servants faced pressure to approve the pipeline before they did. As the federal government hedges all bets on the pipeline, the province of B.C. is challenging the feds’ authority to do so in court.Experts recommended the best way to ensure sound decision-making reigns above politics is to create an independent, tribunal-style assessment agency.They argue that a tribunal could better address implications for Indigenous rights, keeping disputes out of expensive courts. “First Nations do not have money to go to court,” Mainville says. “They are giving up something to go to court.” An independent tribunal could also reduce uncertainty for investors, which sits at an all-time high.Instead, just as before, the last word on a project assessment would still go to cabinet. When asked generally about concerns that the new act leaves too much discretion up to the government, a representative from the Environmental Assessment Agency wrote in an email: “The proposed impact assessment process would touch upon a wide variety of projects over a broad range of settings. For this reason, some discretion is necessary to allow for flexibility dealing with the circumstances of individual projects.Mainville hasn’t lost sight of the potential in proposed reforms. “I haven’t given up. It’s too vague and way too discretionary, but I’ll continue to work to make it better.”Bill C-69 will soon move to third reading and has a ways to go before royal assent. The public can submit comments until June 1. I’ll continue to watch the reforms closely — what amendments are made, and how it’s all implemented. You can follow my environmental reporting here. Send me your questions on Twitter @laurenkaljur or email me at [email protected] This story was produced as part of #TrackingTransMountain, a collaborative reporting project from The Discourse, APTN, and HuffPost Canada that aims to deepen the reporting on Indigenous communities affected by Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion project.  This piece was edited by Lindsay Sample with fact-checking and copy editing by Jon von Ofenheim. The Discourse’s executive editor is Rachel Nixon.last_img read more

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Pak govt believes USD 11 billion stashed abroad by Pakistanis Report

first_imgIslamabad: Pakistani nationals having more than 152,500 offshore bank accounts could have stashed away a hefty sum of USD 11 billion abroad, a “mind-boggling” amount half of which is undeclared, a top minister was quoted as saying in a media report Tuesday. Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar told businessmen at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) that the number of offshore accounts was “mind-boggling”. “So is the amount involved and the names of account holders,” Azhar was quoted as saying by the Dawn newspaper. Also Read – Saudi Crown Prince ‘snubbed’ Pak PM, recalled jet from US “All of these offshore account holders are resident Pakistanis and more than half of the hard currency stashed away by them is undeclared,” he said. The minister said many of these offshore account holders did not have legitimate, documented business. “That should be enough to underscore the scale of tax evasion (in the country). We wouldn’t have to beg if we could bring this money back home,” he said. Azhar said the offshore account holders were under the watch of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR). Also Read – Record number of 35 candidates in fray for SL Presidential polls The information about the offshore bank accounts of Pakistani nationals was shared with the government by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Azhar said the government had “deployed technology” using database of the National Database and Registration Authority, Federal Investigation Agency, State Bank of Pakistan and the FBR to profile potential taxpayers in Pakistan. “Almost half the work is already done and by the end of April the profiling of such tax evaders will be completed,” he said. Last week, Chairman of the FBR Jahanzeb Khan told a parliamentary panel the board had neither set any tax recovery target from the holders of these accounts nor seen any tax potential from the Panama Papers leaks. The tax recovery target could not be given on the basis of information received about the offshore accounts because the account holders might have transferred money through legal channels or have plausible justification, he was quoted to have told the panel. Around 400 account holders are believed to have cash of USD 1 million or above in their accounts and the FBR has so far been able to recover USD 1.2 million from one individual as tax since the OECD shared the information with the country’s top tax agency. Several years ago, former finance minister Ishaq Dar had claimed that Pakistani nationals had parked a whopping USD 200 billion in Swiss accounts, but he never disclosed the source of his information. Based on his claim, the ruling Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf promised to recover this money after coming to power. The prime minister has also set up the Asset Recovery Unit for this purpose.last_img read more

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Narrow escape for 16 newborns as ceiling of govt hospital collapses

first_imgGurugram: There was a narrow escape for 16 newborns after the part of ceiling of government hospital came off. Even though there were no injuries, the incident once again raised the risks to the patient in a hospital that has already been deemed dangerous by various agencies that have surveyed it.For long Civil, Hospital has remained in poor shape. Such has been the condition that on multiple occasions the slabs have fallen off in the Government hospital. To reduce the burden of the hospital a new hospital was set up in Sector-10. Also Read – Meeting: Issues related to handling of Airport Entry Passes discussedYet, that has not reduced the number of patients coming to the Civil Hospital at Sadar where daily more than 1000 patients are being attended to the OPD. Even after a substantial amounts of money has been spent by the Government for the maintenance of the 43-year-old building, it has not improved the situation. Having formally taken a decision to expand the Civil Hospital located in Sadar Bazaar area of Gurugram a major challenge for the state government is to accommodate the 900 students of the 100-year-old- government school. Also Read – Man murdered his friend In order to increase the capacity of patient beds, a new 100-bed hospital had to be constructed in the area presently occupied by the government school. The coming up of the new structure will, however, result in the demolition of the Government school which was constructed in 1899. This plan has been stalled after protests by the teachers and the students. The plan however as of now has been put on hold and the officials are still mulling over the new locations where the structure can come up. Facing immense infrastructure crisis, the management of the government hospital is now forced to consider the option of public-private partnership route for better medical services.last_img read more

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